Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Three Ways to Settle an Argument

Insults, silence, Olympian detachment – Hildegard Finkbottom had it all. The insults worked well with the Olympian detachment but the silence was deadly. You could ask her late husband, Broinkton Finkbottom about that, but, oh dear, he died. As did that pesky insurance salesman who refused to take his foot out of the front door and ended up disturbing Hidegard’s Olympian detachment. She started with insults, but names like “used car salesman” “dumb jerk” and “politician” proved ineffective. The silence of death worked, and he fit nicely into the garden next to her husband. The flowers that year were the delight of the neighborhood.


Speaking of Olympian detachment, the next great adventure of Jude Nerdworthy, Teenaged Monster Fighter, begins on this blog next week. The title is: No Space for Vampires or They Came From Out There. What happens when a vampire and his victim are kidnapped by a flying saucer? Find out next week. If you are new to the Jude Nerdworthy stories, please click here to read his most recent adventure.

For your immediate reading pleasure, may I suggest my October focus novel Hags? It has the demonology and witchcraft adventure necessary to make your Halloween reading scary without the chainsaws, long bloody knives or hockey goalie masks you see every year at this time. Click on the front cover of Hags on Amazon to read a lengthy chunk of it free. Please click here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How Fast is the Story Pace?

Do you prefer fiction that starts slowly and gradually speeds up the story pace? Or would you rather read a story paced to rush you through an exciting journey from the first sentence on?

I like to start my stories in the middle of the action. I’ll catch you up on the details later. I bring you into the drama like a person entering a room where a teenage girl is about to pull the trigger on a boy she has a crush on. Why would she do that? Well, you’ll have to wait for me to finish my current Work in Progress (WIP) to find out. You won’t know the answer for sure until you read the third book in this new madcap series.

Some stories need extra time to set up. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the slow introduction as seen in the movies Psycho and The Birds. But once the story is setup, it takes off at lightning speed. That’s because fantastic journeys are rarely languid. There’s simply too much to maintain a slow pace.

My other novels begin in medias res, which is the fancy way of saying in the middle of the action. Fulfillment opens the Christmas story in an unexpected place. Instead of starting with the Annunciation, it opens with Mary receiving a visit from the demons bent on preventing the birth of Christ. From the first sentence, you know this will be no goody-goody child’s story. It’s the frightening truth of the age old battle between God and his arch nemesis Satan.

Hags, my focus novel this month, opens with a young man who wakes up one night to discover a dead body in the dumpster behind his house. Steel Pennies opens with a teenager who discovers a human skull on the ground. By starting in the middle of the action, the author sets up a fast paced journey that carries you along from start to finish.

Check out Hags for only $.99 this month for your Kindle. It’s a great Halloween read. Please click here.

Novel Quote
“The man hovered about fifty feet above the parking lot behind Micah’s tiny backyard near the row of green dumpsters.”
Hags by Paul R. Lloyd

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Extraordinary Characters

It isn’t enough to make the characters real in speculative fiction. At least some of them have to be fantastic. For example, do you see that tall, thin man sipping black brew here in the coffee shop where you sit now reading this blog post on your tablet? He appears normal enough, doesn’t he? But he is a fairie with beautiful filigree wings hidden under that business-like collar shirt he’s wearing. Go ahead and follow him when he leaves. He doesn’t have a car in the parking lot. He’ll walk around the corner to that dark alley across the street where he’ll strip off his shirt, spread his wings and fly to the office.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, ordinary stories feature ordinary characters in ordinary situations. Speculative fiction may have its share of ordinary characters, but you also find a few extraordinary characters in extraordinary places doing extraordinary things. And like any good story, not all the characters survive.

My current work in progress (WIP) fits neatly into the speculative fiction box because it covers a wide range of storytelling with elements of science fiction when a space alien is marooned on earth and has to fit in with the other teenagers at the local high school, fantasy as a group of friends venture into time travel that leads them through an underworld of strange and amazing creatures, a romance as two star-crossed lovers seek to find their way, horror as the friends battle monsters as evil as any straight out of Hades, and historical fiction as the time travelers spend months in different periods.

My focus novel for this month is Hags. It’s the story of fantastic characters from the faerie like the one described above to the regular-looking guy who moved back to Naperville, Illinois, after 15 years in prison, to the girl next door who… well, we’re not sure at the beginning of the story… but could she be a hag as wicked as any from the Middle Ages? And what about the local high school principal? The principal is your pal unless you happen to be a teenage girl. Need I say more? As my focus novel for October, Hags is only $.99 for the Kindle edition this month. Click here to purchase.

Novel Quote
“The creature wore blue jeans and a red shirt tucked into his waistband as he flitted about from golden daffodils to blue forget-me-nots like a bee shopping for nectar.”
Hags by Paul R. Lloyd

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Where do you locate the monsters?

You can place a story in a real location as I did by setting Steel Pennies in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Hags in Naperville, Illinois. My other novel, Fulfillment, is set in the first century in ancient Israel. My Jude Nerdworthy short story series is set in Warrenville, Illinois.

Some authors like to make up their own world, either as a realistic place such as Winesburg, Ohio, or one of imagination such as the shire of the Hobbits. In my current work in progress, I have both the real and the fantastic. The novel is set in Wheaton, Illinois, but quickly takes the main characters on a journey into a fantastic underworld inhabited by a vicious group of trolls and other monsters.

Location sets the mood of the story. Hemingway wrote about seeking a “clean, well-lighted place” but his characters never quite find it until one goes fishing on the Big Two-Hearted River. Hemingway’s dark bars and apartments set a tone of decay and depression in a fallen world. That mood carries over into his brooding characters.

A happy place does the same thing. Oz sets a joyful mood to support a lighthearted scarecrow, tin woodsman and cowardly lion. But the location changes when the main characters have to face the wicked witch in a dark, scary castle.

My feature novel this month is Hags. It is set in a real location, the city of Naperville, Illinois, with side trips to Warrenville, Oak Brook and Chicago. The places may exist in the real world, but the story takes place in the realm of the fantastic as faeries, demons and hags populate a story filled with mystery as Micah Probert seeks two serial killers in a quest to clear his name. The Kindle version has been reduced to $.99 this month. For the Kindle or paperback versions, please click here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Passing the First Sentence Test

How do you decide which book to read? You’re browsing the shelves of the local bookstore or the electronic shelves of Amazon for your next read. How do you choose?

If a friend says, “Hey, you have to read this book,” I’m likely to check it out. As an author, I meet other authors online or at book festivals. I like to browse the Kindle shelves for the tomes these other authors produce.

No matter how I find a book, I make my purchase selection based on the first sentence. I enjoy reading the blurb in the Description section on Amazon and on the back cover if I visit a bookstore. But for me it’s about that first sentence. I call it the first sentence test. The big question is: Does the first sentence grab me.

A long time ago in a career far away, I wrote, “Quality writing grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until your message is delivered and understood.” At the time, I was writing about advertising copy, but the truth is it applies so well to fiction.

Now, it’s your turn to judge a first sentence. This is how I open my horror novel Hags:

From the mattress on the floor of the back bedroom of his antique Victorian fixer-upper, Micah Probert heard a far off scream.

Are you curious? Does this sentence make you want to know where the scream came from? If you do, then consider the second test of a good novel – the first paragraph test. Here’s the entire first paragraph of Hags:

From the mattress on the floor of the back bedroom of his antique Victorian fixer-upper, Micah Probert heard a far off scream. An equally distant clang of heavy metal followed. Then two muffled voices, a male and a female. The sound of feet scampering followed by a loud buzz made Micah picture a prehistoric dragonfly. Then came the silence.

Does the first paragraph of Hags snag your interest? Do you want to know what happens next? If yes, then Hags passed your first paragraph test.

While some authors prefer to set the stage for a few paragraphs or pages before the action begins, others, myself included, prefer to start in the middle of the action and then catch you up on the details as the story charges ahead.  It’s a matter of taste.

If you would like to know what happens next in Hags, click here. Only $.99 this month.