Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guest Spot: Chris Pavesic

150 Years of ALICE by Chris Pavesic
Liddell & Boyd (Alice in the looking glass works)_by Karl Beutel 2011
2015 marks the 150th Publication Anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story itself originates in 1862 when a girl named Alice Liddell and her two sisters rowed from Folly Bridge, Oxford, to Godstow with Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) and his clerical friend, Robinson Duckworth. During this journey the girls were told the first version of the story to keep them entertained. Later the work was expanded and published in the version we now know and love.
Alice by Arthur Rackham 1907 Bridgeman Art Library
Alice by Arthur Rackham 1907 Bridgeman Art Library
For me, the character of Alice has always been a remarkable one in childhood literature. She displays an inner strength in every situation, no matter how bizarre it may be (and in Wonderland the situations are never normal!). In an interview for ScreenCrave, Tim Burton explains his attraction to the character of Alice:
It’s a story about somebody using this kind of imagery and this kind of world to figure out problems and things in their own life, and what’s fantasy and reality and dreams and reality — how they are not separate things, that they’re one thing. It’s how we use those things to deal with our issues in life.
For example, when she falls through the earth, Alice does not react with terror. She thinks, she talks to herself, and she analyzes what is actually happening and what may happen in the future. Even though it is a bizarre situation, Alice deals with it in a logical way:
'I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think--' (she was rather glad there WAS no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) '--but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand or Australia?' (and she tried to curtsey as she spoke--fancy curtseying as you're falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) 'And what an ignorant little girl she'll think me for asking! No, it'll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up somewhere.'
Alice retains this quality throughout the novel and its sequel. She is curious, logical, and prepared to give as good as she gets in arguments. It doesn’t matter if Alice speaks to a caterpillar, a rabbit, a footman, a grinning cat, or a queen; she works to make sense and to analyze the situation.
Warehouse 13 Character of Alice Lidell
It is this type of boldness that attracted me to the character and the tone I tried to emulate in my story, Wonderland, which is based on parts of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Wonderland is set in a version of modern-day America, but still maintains the fearlessness, strength, and curiosity of the original character. One reviewer on writes:
Chris Pavesic’s Wonderland is set in the U.S. and references modern events. You will see all of the characters that you know and love from Carroll’s work, but they are in relatable forms for those of us “across the pond.” For example, the Tea Party takes place at a sorority house during pledge week. The dormouse is a pledge from a near-by fraternity who has overindulged in alcohol. One of his “brothers” has used a Sharpie marker to draw a mouse nose and whiskers on his face.
There have been many versions of Alice’s story through the years, including (but not limited to) the Disney animated version, the Resident Evil franchise, and the most recent version by Tim Burton. The character of Alice has appeared in many different television programs, including Warehouse 13. The images of Alice and her Wonderland compatriots appear almost everywhere on household goods, clothing, and technology.
Salvador Dali Alice Adventures in Wonderland
Salvador Dali Alice Adventures in Wonderland
Artists have taken inspiration from the works to produce vivid and beautiful interpretations of the characters and the world. For example, the “Alice in Wonderland” works are considered to be one of the rarest and most sought after Salvador Dali suites. If you are interested in attending an event celebrating anniversary of this, please check out the following information at the Lewis Carroll website. The site lists 95 events in 11 countries. For a free copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, check out the Project Gutenberg edition online. Here is a brief introduction to Wonderland, the latest fantasy book by Chris Pavesic. Enjoy!
You may think you know her story. You don't. Throughout her life Alice has faced fear and isolation, but she has never given up hope. In the City by the Bay she has one last chance to find happiness; one last chance to find friendship; one last chance to find Wonderland. Click here to watch the YouTube video.
Read excerpts from all of the books written by Chris Pavesic on Amazon.
Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends. Learn more about Chris on her website. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Let me stress I mean no insult when I use the term amateur. Every new writer is a nonprofessional. Some have an advantage of a journalistic or similar writing background but they, like everyone, learned their craft. Stories follow certain patterns and by studying these layouts one learns how to produce effective narratives; even if wishing to alter these standards to create something new, it is a good idea to recognise plot. Understand the ‘rules’ to break them.

I’m not going to catalog all the errors editors pick out in many draft manuscripts, but I will list one of which almost every wannabe is responsible. Even the successful author can be guilty although often the story-teller will catch this error in self-edits. If the writer doesn’t, a good editor will.

Many new writers begin their stories with long-winded paragraphs of exposition and description. Trained authors do this, but with good purpose. In those instances, the writers in question set the first chapter aside to use for their own information, extrapolating the necessary particulars into the narrative of the book, breaking up the details and ‘peppering’ the facts between the pages.

I once read an excellent piece of advice: Write your story and begin at the second chapter. Many writers, but particular ‘new’, will describe their characters from their height, hair, eye, and skin colour, to the checked pattern on their garments. This over description doesn’t end at the character but extends to the environment. These details may be important, but are best passed on as an ‘impression’. Study a book bearing this in mind. Examine how the author presents the main character. Is he or she described as being six feet tall, with brown eyes, and long brown hair swept over his or her shoulders? Of does the author describe this person through someone else’s impression of them? EG:

“His eyes were the same deep brown as the colour of his hair. Such eyes should have made her feel welcome. The way his full lips twitched suggested his gaze would be twinkling with amusement. Alas, when she risked straining her neck to look up to his face, his expression appeared taut, his lips tight, his gaze narrow.”

Fine, not the greatest paragraph. I haven’t put much effort into it, but the piece is more entertaining than a list of characteristics. As an alternative to saying he’s tall, she’s having to gaze up to such a degree she may strain her neck. The section indicates brown eyes and hair, but instead of stating the man is unhappy, the reader notes his expression may be hostile, is at least far from welcoming. Is he displeased about something, or with her? Right away, questions will likely keep people reading to discover the answers.

Likewise, it is never a good idea to include an information dump whether at the beginning or later in the book. On rare occasions, this is necessary. A rather tedious chapter exists in James Herbert’s The Fog. However, the data is necessary and is presented to the reader as a meeting. Do not begin by introducing a character, describing the room he or she occupies, and listing the background of how, when, where, and why the person came to be there, who their relatives are and what they are all thinking of having for lunch. Too much explanation slows narrative, can be boring, and also requires the reader to take in a great deal of information too fast. An editor will grow weary even faster. The manuscript will go straight to the slush pile.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reads of 2015

If I thought my reading list the last couple of years was pitiful, 2015 was atrocious, but there were a few worth mentioning.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes is a must for any fan of The Princess Bride if only for the many reminiscences and stories behind the scenes of the cast. I finally read J.K.Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy with high hopes, yet I’m unsure how I feel about this book. I can appreciate the story, but the style was a little too much tell rather than show for me. I didn’t watch the television series because I have heard they insisted on a rather more upbeat ending. Not having the series to compare to the book, all I can say is I have no reservations about the end. It’s a consistently bleak book, but not all stories need to be promising.

I read all the Dexter volumes being a fan of the series and had no problem separating the stories from the show. As many things are similar as they are different. I’m making the rare choice here in preferring the show. The series did far more with the character.

 I cannot recap on this year’s reads without mentioning The Forgotten Son by Andy Frankham-Allen, the first of a series of Lethbridge-Stewart books ‘The Brigadier of Doctor Who fame’. A good opening setting for a well-loved character. I have reviewed the book and will repost that review sometime.

The Fault in Our Stars was a surprising read, far more poignant than I expected it to be while A New York Winter’s Tale left me wondering whether I’d read something incredible, audacious, or ultimately aimless and futile. I’ve such mixed feelings over the book that I really cannot decide and maybe in that the book served the writer’s intention. It’s neither a romance nor a steampunk fantasy though it put me in mind of one. The only recommendation I can make is to read the book and discard the movie that is a truly poor adaptation of a far-more-complex story.

I finally caught up on George R.R.Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ novels and like so many await more releases. Daughter of Ashes, by Esther Mitchell, is worth a mention for the world-building.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading, L.Joseph Shosty’s book Old Wine and Black Hearts. The title and the cover had me already, appealing to the Dark Fiction themes I enjoy. The contents were an odd but pleasant surprise because there’s no way to anticipate these stories. The book is divided into two sections. Old Wine contains an eclectic mix of the bizarre and disturbing. I thought the first story in the collection the weakest, but it proved to be a more gentle introduction into an unorthodox selection of unpredictable tales. A couple of favourites are Strings, which has a deeper layer and could mean different things to different people while They Burned Old Ben has a thread of dark humour that’s unsettling.

A Sincere Warning About The Entity in Your Home, by Jason Arnopp, is a short release of a semi-predictable horror story but told in a way that captured my interest. I’d never heard of the writer before, but his resume and style will have me looking up more of his work.

 So I ended the year on Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn…another book that has left me with mixed feelings. I don’t like books told in the first person as much as third especially when more than one viewpoint is used and perhaps owing to this for the first third of the book it didn’t really work for me. The character presented in her early diary entries was so instantly unlikable I didn’t care what had happened to her, was merely curious. Perhaps the writer in me kept me reading because I had several theories. I don’t want to give away the story so it’s easier to keep to the impression I’m left with. This is a story about two complex but unlikable people who deserved each other, which doesn’t seem like the basis for a good novel; however, it’s clever and thought-provoking. Definitely, one that when read you want to discuss. Unfortunately, it also has one of the worst sentences I’ve come across in such an acclaimed book; had I written such a sentence and not edited it out, any one of my editors would have had me walking on hot coals. I keep thinking it has to be an error, but I have a sad feeling it’s not.

As always, hoping to do better with my reading this coming year.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Book List 2014

The second of my re-posts of book reads for the last couple of years, a time when I usually look back and reflect on some of the books I read during the last 12 months. 2014 I consider a poor year for reading, being only approximately 30 books in total, a drop from my reads of 2013, which numbered 45. I plan/sincerely hoped to do better in 2015 (you’ll see in my next post I did worse), although the reason for my low read count was owing to circumstances outside of my control. We’ve had a lot of disruptions, not least of which finally reaching the decision we’ve been toying with and deciding to move.

So, a handful of the books I read are:
Under the Dome, Stephen King (started in 2013)
Birmingham Noir, Joel Lane and Steven Bishop
A Feast for Crows, George R.R.Martin
A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
Doctor Who Companions, Andy Frankham Allen
Lover Revealed, J.R.Ward
Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, Mark Hodder
Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
Shifting Hearts, Dominique Eastwood
Flesh and Blood, Jonathan Maberry
Fire and Ash, Jonathan Maberry
A Peach of a Murder, Livia J Washburn
Teacher, Teacher, Jack Sheffield
The Bride Wore Black Leather, Simon R Green
The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Deborah Moggach
Murder and Marinara, Rosie Genova
The Dance of Dragons, Part 1, George R.R.Martin
Thud, Terry Pratchett
Changes, Jim Butcher
Horns, Joe Hill
The Night Before Christmas, Scarlett Bailey

I also read and caught up with a number of books in the Space 1889 series, and if I were to list them all in order of preference they would be toward the top of best-reads of 2014. As you can see, many of the other titles were of lighter content this year–a sure sign of stress and a lack of concentration on my part.

Still, I usually choose my read of the year…only this year that’s extremely difficult. I enjoyed Under the Dome, and was exceedingly disappointed in the television adaptation. My advice would be stick with the book.

I continue to like the works of George R.R.Martin because I’ve always had a soft spot for fantasy and one thing Game of Thrones does is present a realistic world completely with fallible characters and the messiness of war. It doesn’t just present high fantasy, swords & sorcery, and doesn’t shy away from the realities of subjects like torture.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness was a pleasant find, but I didn’t realise it wasn’t entirely a standalone read and I’m not sure I can commit to another series just now so may not pick up the next book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is typical Neil Gaiman and I may like his work to various degrees, but I’ve never come across a story of his I didn’t like.

Doctor Who Companions by Andy Frankham Allen was another surprising read. I’m not what one could call a ‘dedicated’ fan of Who in the sense I would want to know all there is to know, but this book is written with a warm, comfortable tone that made the information interesting, and I discovered many things I didn’t know or had forgotten. It belongs in every Whovians home.

Charlaine Harris’s last books in the Sookie Stackhouse universe came under some controversy, and I have to admit I had learned who Sookie finished up with before I read the last book. I stand by the author’s right to decide the outcome for her characters, and at one point in the series, I had seen this might be on the cards; however, I didn’t ‘feel’ it at the end. There was a time when I did earlier in the series, and therefore I had already made the possible link in my head and heart, but when it came down to it I personally found it to be a letdown because the emotions weren’t there for me. Still, it’s been a good series, with some unforgettable characters, and no author deserves the kind of abuse that Ms Harris faced over the outcome of these books. I’m at least happy the series reached a conclusion.

I’ve read Jonathan’s Maberry’s adult and YA books, and not only do they entertain, but it’s interesting for me as a writer to see how another author handles the degrees of violence and horror for different age groups. If you like zombies, check out his work.

Horns was a surprising read. I was intrigued when I saw a trailer for the film, and not having tried Joe Hill’s work before thought I’d take a look. I had read some disparaging remarks quoting the book as not being very good, but I enjoyed the overlapping layers contained in the story, the way the facts were revealed, and while the subject of the book–a man who grows horns–may strike many as bizarre and fantastical, it served the purpose of the story well. I did feel the writing could have been tweaked in a number of places, but that’s the thing with books–it’s all personal opinion.

One book that could undeniably do with an edit was unfortunately the one I ended the year on. I don’t usually read what many would describe as chick-lit, but while Scarlett Bailey’s characters aren’t the most likeable in The Night Before Christmas, it does make them somewhat real. Alas, the book has so many typos and missing words it made the task of connecting with them even more difficult. I picked it up as a light read as we were on the move all Christmas and new year week, but feel this is one book that will end up going to the charity shop.

So from my least favourite book of the year to my favourite overall…the trouble is this year I don’t have one. Under the Dome, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Thud, Changes, Horns…these are all worth a look. If absolutely pushed…I guess I’d have to choose Thud. Nothing beats the genius of Terry Pratchett.