Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Author Hank Quense offers insights on Scene Design

Some of my guests are more than fiction or non-fiction writers.  they are also teachers and share their know how through great books that can help anyone become a better writer.

Fantasy Author Hank Quense shares his knowledge and routine about Scene Design.  Visit Hank online at Hank Quense.com

One process that is rarely explained in depth in fiction writing books is scene design.  I'll briefly describe several aspects of scene design in this post.  These come from Chapter Nine in Build a Better Story which explores this topic in more depth

As part of the structure, scenes must have a goal that should be satisfied or, at a minimum, show progress before the scene ends.  This goal must be designed to advance the story toward the ultimate aim of solving the plot problem and demonstrate how the characters are going about it.

The structure of the scene restricts it to a specific time and place with a defined set of characters. Thus, if the scene is set in Manhattan during the morning rush hour, a different scene will be necessary to show any action taking place in Baltimore late at night.  A different scene may also be necessary to show a character in Manhattan's evening rush hour.  The point here is to demonstrate that the scenes have geographical and temporal boundaries.

A scene usual starts with the scene's main character, almost always the scene's viewpoint character, facing a situation with a definite goal that appears to be attainable.  This goal, once achieved, must move the story toward the ending, but achieving this goal doesn't necessarily have to take place in this single scene.  There may be quite few scenes delineating the struggle to attain this goal.
A scene must contain conflict of some sort.  It doesn't have to be a ferocious fistfight, but the conflict, physical or emotional, must be real to the characters.

A basic requirement for a scene is to include an emotional change in the POV character.  If the character's emotion is positive at the beginning of the scene, then it should be negative at the end.  As an example, Character A feels good a the start of the scene.  By the end of the scene, he must be in a funk because an unexpected obstacle arose and derailed his scheme to fix things.  Similarly, if the character's love life is grand at the scene opening, it should be on the rocks at the end of the scene.  Or if the couple starts out fighting or arguing, they should be smooching by the end of the scene.
A scene that goes emotionally from plus to minus should be followed by a scene that goes emotionally from minus to plus.  The point is to put the reader's emotions on a roller-coaster so that those emotions are never stable very long.

Great tip!  Thanks so much for sharing this great info Hank.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dino's Story, Review by Sandra Sanchez

Dino’s Story, A Novel of 1960s Tuscany
By Paul Salsini
iUniverse, Inc.

Having lived in Tuscany (although not in Florence) the summer & early fall of 1966  and having fond memories of harvesting grapes during the day and sitting around the dinner table at Il Mullinaccio Della Strega trying to follow several conversations in Italian and two kinds of English (British and American) I looked forward to this book with eager anticipation and it did not disappoint.  I was, as I had hoped to be, transported to Italy in the sixties.

The book opens with the leisurely pace and cadence of the small Tuscan village of Sant Antonio and lays the foundation for Dino’s journey from boyhood to manhood. The pace picks up when he moves to Florence to study art and at the end moves along at the same fast and furious pace as the torrential rains and flooding Arno River. In this way the story builds in intensity like a symphony.

Dino (short for Aldebrandino) is at the hub of several heartwrenching stories. It is his task to find a long missing uncle but when he does he wants to shelter his mother from the sad truth of the man’s alcoholic and impoverished life. He meets an urban priest who does his best to help the poor of the city, working at a soup kitchen and providing shelter and inspiring Dino to want to do the same. Dino can’t decide whether or not to mail letters he writes to a young girl back home who also writes and hides letters to him. He tries to understand other young women he meets in Florence. He discovers that in addition to his talent for painting he has a talent for music.  He works various jobs and thereby meets a future friend and mentor with his own mysterious story, a gentle giant of a football player who is the beloved of a wealthy, oft married and widowed  principessa who hosts “salons” for working people as well as sophisticated art collectors in her palazzo promptly at 7:38pm (a reason is rumored).  

All the characters, no matter how brief  their sojourn in these pages,  have complex background stories that explain so much about them. This is masterful writing. And even better the book serves an important social function in its graphic description of how the poorest of the city are affected by natural disaster. It is very timely given the recent floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes that have similarly destroyed the lives of the poorest residents where these disasters have occurred.  In the wake of the flood, Dino and his friend Tomasso Nozzoli come up with a plan that will help a lot of people in a lot of ways.  Were Paul Salsini to run for a place in city gov’t I’d want to vote for him.   Meantime, I recommend  Dino’s Story  to lots of readers whether you are interested in Italy, the 60s, music, art, love, politics or all of the above.

Sandra Shwayder Sanchez
author of Stillbird and Three Novellas, A Mile in These Shoes

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TurboCharged by Dien Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel

Dian Griesel, Ph.D. & Tom Griesel

As a reviewer, I get certain genre(s) in cycles.  Right now I am in the Health/Weight Loss genre cycle.

In the past 4 months, I’ve read 4 books on these subjects.  One was actually more about mental health but physical health plays a role in that area, so the book reached out in that directions too.

But TurboCharged by siblings Dian Griesel, Ph.D. and Tom Griesel is one I would call a stand out.  In the introduction, the first statement is very bold, “The TurboCharged steps as presented in this book will out-perform any other diet or exercise program you may have tried in the past.”  I like bold statements like that. 

Every paragraph provides another piece to the puzzle, without overwhelming you with facts.  As explained, all of the information makes perfect sense.  The only “trick”?  You have to work the steps.

One point discussed focused on water consumption.  I’ve always been a sipper.  I carry my glass and plastic straw around all day, sipping.  TurboCharged explains why this is not enough to handle how much water my body really needs.  It took me a few days to get into the habit of drinking more each time I picked up my glass and after having tried the TurboCharged way for one week; I experienced quite a few changes.

Two other chapters I found to be worthy of a book alone, were #6 Muscle Power in 5…Minutes a Day! and the 100 calorie and under list in chapter #7.  I’m thinking a poster of each of these chapters would be great.  Lots of information at one glance. 

Another great chapter, #8 “See” the Prize.  I am a firm believer in visualization and meditation.  Here Dian and Tom discuss the importance of relaxing our minds and how doing so positively affects the body and our quest to be healthy.

I think that’s the main point here.  If we want to be healthy, it takes effort.  Start by making the effort to read this book. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Daughters of the River Huong, review by Sandra Sanchez

 Daughters of the River Huong
By Uyen Nicole Duong
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
9781935597315 $13.95

            “As a young girl, I did not feel the need to learn the mi origin of my name. It did not help solidify my sense of aesthetics, decorum or the business of the soul. I thought, instead, of a note on my piano.  Mi-mi-mi-mi. I equated the mi sound with pure, vibrating sounds that began with the closing and opening of the lips.  When the lips were gently brought together and then opened upon a breath, the air brushed slightly outward, and the sound was delivered with the softness of a caress.
            From the beginning of my existence, I was a child in love with sounds.” (p.152)

            As a reader in love with the lyrical qualities of language I found this book to be a feast of earthly and heavenly delights, a series of impressionist paintings, a symphony of sounds. Even when the tragic sacrifice of a deep and passionate love to the exigent circumstances of war and politics caused me to indulge in a vigorous cry, I rejoiced in the beauty of the story.  For life is like that, both brutal and sweet.  The author retells a portion of Vietnamese history from the perspective of four generations of women: women who are beautiful, women who sing, women who dream and see spirits, women who fight like warriors and a girl who dances the twist, sings Beethoven, plays Chopin on the piano and eventually studies law in America. On a business trip for her American law firm the narrator eventually returns to her homeland where she learns some harsh truths, confronts the magnitude of her loneliness and finds, where she least expects it, the promise of redemption for herself and the souls of the generations that went before her.

            The plot is complex and the author reveals it in layers, creating then relieving suspense in a rhythmic pattern. Her characters are both real and ethereal. She lets us see their faces, hear their voices and smell their fragrances. She lets us into their dreams. She also describes the land itself in a way that transports the reader to the time and place of each chapter.  I recommend the reader begin this book with plenty of time ahead for once you begin you won’t want to put it down  and there are portions you will probably want to reread.  Also after you’ve finished you’ll need some time to recover from the emotional impact, the feeling that you’ve just lived through something both beautiful and tragic.

 Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, reviewer

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sandra Sanchez review of Sherry and Narcotics by Nina Marie Gardener

Sherry and Narcotics
By Nina Marie Gardener
Future Fiction London
ISBN# 978-0-9827928-2-7
As the mother of women roughly the same age as the protagonist  Mary, I found this novel both a compelling and a heartrending read.  It opens with  graphic narrative scenes of Mary, drunk and drugged,  participating in sexual acts with random partners. Later there is a flashback to an actual rape and beating. Throughout I wondered what was the childhood history that propelled this young woman to put herself in such danger.   

The novel soon moves into a pattern of dialogue carried on via emails and texts between Mary and  her new, sweet love, Jake. Mary is a playwright so carrying the story forward this way makes sense and the author is extremely good at it. The emails and texts between Mary and Jake bring a smile to the face and a flutter to the heart.  The time spent waiting for those emails and texts inspires anxiety.  The reader feels each moment along with the character. There is also the undercurrent of tension between Mary and her mother.  A brief telephone conversation between them is particularly poignant, giving the reader a hint of a painful and complex history in very few words. In fact, the entire book moved along like a film in my mindâ•˙s eye and  I think it could be easily  transformed into an excellent film.  

Jake, not a bad guy but an indecisive one, ultimately lets Mary down and I donâ•˙t think Iâ•˙m spoiling the story by disclosing that since the end of their sweet affair is skillfully foreshadowed throughout.  Then, when it seems Mary has hit bottom, two miracles occur at the very end: she rescues a dog from a cruel and  brutal death and two strangers turn out to be kind and help her in this endeavor. Of course she is overwhelmed in a good way by this kindness from strangers who in the past she had learned to fear, so the book ends on an upbeat note that begs for a sequel.  In fact, since the details of  Maryâ•˙s family and childhood history are never explained and given the enticing nature of this book,  I would like to see both a prequel and a sequel because the author made me care deeply about what past moved Mary into this particularly painful present,  as well as what her future holds: hopefully sobriety, self awareness and appreciation, and the unconditional love of dogs. I recommend this book be read when the reader has time to read it start to finish, you wonâ•˙t want to put it down.
Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, reviewer

Monday, May 9, 2011

Frank Alessandra and The Six

Frank Alessandra joined me on Page Readers Radio to discuss his new book "The Six," the story of child hood friendships and the true meaning of male bonding.

Frank has a very exciting event coming up May 17th, 2011 at 8pm Eastern.  He will be featured in a live author video chat - meaning he'll be right there on your screen and available to answer your questions about this book and anything else you care to ask.  It's like being at a bookstore signing without having to leave your home.  For your backstage pass, visit the Frank Alessandra Feature page.

Be sure to visit Frank online at www.thesixbook.com

Page Readers Cinch Cast May 9 2011

Hi Everyone! Still giving this Cinch Cast a try, always working to gain more publicity for the authors who share their work and time with me.

Hope you enjoy it! This was the first "Official" Cinch Cast that I plan to do every couple of weeks. This short audio recording will let me share what's going on at Page Readers with a whole new audience of listeners - and who knows, possibly your next fan!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Sisters Made Of Light review by Sandra Sanchez

My Sisters Made Of Light
By Jacqueline St. Joan
Press 53
PO Box 30314
Winston-Salem , NC 27130
9781935708063 $19.95

My Sisters Made of Light is a brilliant book made of beauty and an honest look at brutality, deep insights and soaring lyricism. It is fiction based on the harsh realities of the culturally and socially accepted  honor crimes against women in Pakistan .  We watch in horror as a father lights a disobedient daughter on fire. We read in disbelief as a mother escorts a hired assassin to a meeting with her daughter and watches as he shoots her child dead. We hold our breath as a Muslim woman escapes her family to marry a Sikh man whom she adores. Theirs is a love of historic significance.  The author encapsulates a long and bloody history into unforgettable images:
        In 1958 the air was still sour with the stench of the slaughters that had occurred eleven years earlier when the British ran like dogs and India cracked. The blade that slashed the map also partitioned the bodies of the people, etching fear in their bellies and revenge in their hearts. . . . . . If a trainful of Hindus was murdered by Muslims from Lahore (and they were), then a trainful of Muslims would be murdered by Sikhs and Hindus from Amritstar (and they were).  Entire families were butchered and their body parts were delivered by horseback to their villages. The people emptied baskets of breasts and pails of penises onto the ground  - even the stubs of baby penises with scrotums like tiny figs. The soil was soaked with all the lost futures and when it was done, when the trauma finally subsided to abide in the bodies of the people, they had to plant seeds in and eat the fruit of that same earth. Sikhs and Muslims alike knew the taste of each other’s blood well and they kept to their own.
        Kulrag and Nafeesa in London . Romeo and Juliet in Verona . A Muslim and a Sikh in Pakistan .  All of history conspired against them, but no matter. They would find a new way.
This book is about the courageous women who risk their lives to teach a new way to the young women of Pakistan .  Interspersed in the rich mix of their stories are passages of pure poetry:
I knelt before the shrine for long periods. I read no textbooks. Poured no oil on the doorstep. Took no milk in my tea. No tea. No dusty sandals. No laundry. No letters. No toothbrush. No prayers. No songs. No memories. No soft sisters. No tough sisters. No purpose. No me. For days and days I faded away.
The author has sought and achieved recognition and success in the fields of law and literature in order to further her agenda of making the world safer for women. She donates half the proceeds from sales of the book to a grassroots organization building a safe shelter for women and children escaping abuse. Even if it were not a great read, buying this book helps people in need. The bonus to you is that it IS a great read.
Sandra Shwayder Sanchez, reviewer

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Reviewer Sandra Sanchez joins Page Readers!

I’d like to introduce all of you to a new member of Page Readers.  Sandra Sanchez will be sharing her positive reviews of books from authors of her preferred genre(s).  I hope you all find her reviews informative and will take a moment to welcome her!

The best way to get to know someone is to let them tell you their story.  So Sandra, start us off by telling us a little about you. 

I am one of those baby boomers, born May 16, 1946. My parents were divorced when I was six and this was a sad time for me. I had learned to read early and it has been a comfort for me my entire life. After my Dad read me one of those alphabet books: A is for Apple, B is for Ball, etc. I figured it out from there. I was reading adult books by the time I started first grade although I kept that a secret and tried to act like a kid. I did attend one year of college at St. John's (the "great books school") in Annapolis but met and soon thereafter married my first husband whom I persuaded to go "back to the land" in the early seventies. We lived in a shack with an outhouse and grew our own food in a West Virginia holler for three years before he persuaded me to go "back to civilization" after our second daughter was born in the back seat of the car en route to Roanoke Community Hospital. Sara has been in a rush ever since! Not long after the move, we divorced, I finished a BA in Psychology with a minor in Women's Studies at University of Md. and then moved back to Colorado. After a year working as a hostess in a fancy restaurant I decided to go to law school. I was all set to change the world for women. That did not happen but I did manage to change a few women's lives for the better. I married Ed Sanchez in 1994 and we moved up to the mountains in 2005  

Tell us about your writing - why you write, the genre you prefer, what started your journey into being and author.

Loving to read as much as I did I think it was inevitable that I would one day want to write. When I was in 6th grade I read Wuthering Heights and was transported to that time and place. When I read the last page I turned back immediately to the first and started all over again. I was not ready to leave the Yorkshire Moors. I think I had this vague idea that I wanted to write like that: transport myself and others to another time and place, but I didn't actually start writing stories until I was a senior in H.S and took a creative writing class. My teacher loved my stories, read them to ALL his English classes, and by the end of the day, kids were coming up to me to say they'd heard my story in class and really liked it and soon everyone was telling me "do something with your writing."  I had an opportunity because of a contest to write for Seventeen Magazine and I did write a column about books. By the time they were ready to run it and called me to say they needed me to cut it down to 800 words, I had started college and didn't take the opportunity with sufficient seriousness and didn't follow through. Needless to say I am sorry now. One funny thing is that I read adult novels when I was a kid but didn't discover fairy tales until I was an adult looking for Jungian undercurrents. I had discovered mythology however as a child in the Book of Knowledge. And my mom used to talk to me about dreams and dream interpretation. So it made sense that I would write magical realist fiction although when I first started doing it I didn't know that was what it was called. Gabriel Garcia Marquez did not influence my writing but reading his work validated my writing. It gave me a way to describe it. 

Now that we know how and when you started reading and writing, tell us about your work.

I write very short novels or very long short stories. Well I think it would be fair to say I write novellas with a very wide range. I feel like the story dictates the length. So my first novel, The Nun, published by Plain View Press in 1992 was only 127 pages and some of those filled with poems as the 20th century character is a poet. It is in two parts: a 10th century Nun who becomes a recluse and a sculptor and a 20th century incarnation of same character as a poet who also becomes a woodland recluse. My second novel, Stillbird is 124 pages and has been called "an epic in less than 200 pages". StillbirdStillbird with the help of Peter Burnham, the editor of The Long Story these past thirty years. We started The Wessex Collective together in 2005.  During this time I wrote a few short stories and have collected the ones I consider the best into a collection titled A Mile in These Shoes.  I also wrote novellas and collected my three favorites in another Wessex book: Three Novellas. My last novel (so far) The Road Home, a magical realist historical novel about crypto Jews in the southwest is supposed to be released by Floricanto Press in California this year but business is bad and they are not in a hurry to "rush to market". I am hoping to raise some money to publish a collection that would include a 2nd Ed. of The Nun, Stillbird, two of the three novellas and two of the nine short stories. In the meantime Three Novellas is still available as a real book (email me at sansan542000@yahoo.com if interested).  I have about a dozen copies left of Mile in These Shoes and Stillbird is available as an e-book at:

as are my other two Wessex books plus 17 titles by 10 other authors. Since we don' t have to pay to reprint e-books once they are out there in the cyber world (although we do have to cover commissions), we are all agreed that we will donate $3 for every $5 download to various charitable organizations. Different authors have different preferences. Mine will be donated to people doing dog rescue.

When did you start writing reviews?

I used to write reviews for the Boulder Daily Camera when they ran them: I'd be paid $50 per review plus of course getting free books. I started doing reviews for Book Pleasures after one of their other reviewers reviewed my book Three Novellas. Initially it was a way for me to get our Wessex link out there but of course it is wonderful discovering so many fine books by fine authors. Norm Goldman sends out the requests for reviews with the descriptions of the books and I only request those that I am pretty sure I will like. I did get one book that I thought I'd like based on the hype (published by Simon and Schuster) but after 60 pages I realized I wasn't going to have anything positive to say about it so I wrote the PR person and just told her in all sincerity I could not give this book a good review. I see no point in posting a negative review. Someone else will like it and apparently a lot of people are already fans of this author so she doesn't need my opinion.

Good to know!  

I'm so happy to welcome Sandra and her positive input here at Page Readers!