Here, There and Everywhere

Connect the Stories


Some writing “experts” once told me that the best way to write a novel is to first write short stories. They said, “If you can write a good short story, with a beginning, middle, and end, then a novel will easily follow. All you have to do is use the same characters in one short story after another and string them together.” Turns out that they were right, in most respects, but not always.

From my experience, it is extremely difficult to write a good short story, and more difficult to string a number of them together for a book. I’ve had some success with shorts, with some of mine appearing in Go World Travel, Listen, Los Angeles Journal, Japan Airlines/Wingspan, Omega, Enigma, and the Roswell Literary Review. As you can see from the following description of my collection of short stories, Saint Catherine’s Baby, which was released 7 years ago, I hadn’t yet figured out how to keep the same characters and storyline for a novel.

Saint-Catherines-BabyAn eclectic collection of short stories that include Ruthie and her obstinate elderly student from Germany (The English Lesson); Stephanie, who waits for the unorthodox return of her deceased father (Dressed In Black); Walter O’Brien, who discovers a young couple and their child in an abandoned monastery on the West Coast of Ireland (St. Catherine’s Baby); Shannon, on the run at a shoe store in Chicago (Sizing Up Shannon); Jacque, meeting Rosalita’s shocked parents in New Mexico (Framed); and Joshua Johnson, a school custodian whose mother may have interfered in his love life for the last time (The Sweetest Man).

It still rings true,  writing a good short story is a great beginning for a novelist, and also some of the most difficult writing to do. Character and scene development, crisis, insight, and/or conclusions, must all be created within a limited number of words. Some writers can also write great books, without ever having written a short, and vice-a-versa. To this rule, if you choose to call it that, does not apply to everyone.

The Truth of Fiction

If you read the story, Loving Annalise, without any knowledge of where the characters or events came from, it would appear to be an intriguing and loving romance that was complete fiction. In fact, it is taken from real life experiences of a friend from Austria, who married two brothers (not at the same time).

The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, is so often true, that it is no longer a cliche. Anything one can think of happening in someone’s life, probably has, is, or will take place. When they all come together, with some perspective and distance, these experiences can also make a great story.

When I first heard a few of the details from my friend’s life, about growing up on a farm in Austria, going to nursing school in Vienna, falling for an abusive man, then later realizing she was in love with his brother, it sounded like a movie. When I asked if she would sit with me for a few afternoons and tell me the entire story, and she said yes, I was surprised and delighted.

The result of her sharing her life resulted in Loving Annalise. It is more than a simple, or even complicated romance, and includes childhood mishaps, coming-of-age, family drama, first loves, big city expectations, erotic encounters, suspense, blackmail, and redemption. The majority of the story takes place in Austria, and Western Europe, with the climax coming home to The States.

If there was ever an example of a life that reads as fiction, Loving Annalise fits the bill, and goes straight to the heart.

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What A Year Its Been

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Last year we faced our program’s greatest challenge and you, Rwandan Orphans Project and Imizi Children’s Center supporters, came to the rescue and helped us secure our future for years to come. That achievement made 2015 ROP’s best year yet, but I’m very happy to tell you 2016 was an equally great year for us and those we support.

Why is that? Well, from the moment we settled into our new home we began making renovations and improvements around our property that have made our Imizi Children’s Center a better place for our children. But while those changes are important, what Imizi is really all about is helping vulnerable people, and this year we have been able to serve more than ever before.

And we’re not only helping kids anymore. Recognizing that adults can also benefit from our presence in our rural community we began hosting meetings and workshops for local people and the family members of children who stay with us, where they could learn about family planning, sexual health, positive parenting, gender equality and other topics. Our goal is to help solve domestic issues before they lead to a breakdown of the family. To us preventing a child from leaving home to live on the street is just as important as helping those who are already out there.

We’ve had many achievements this year, and we hope you are as proud of them as we are. In 2016:

We increased the total number of vulnerable children attending our school from 140 to 200. These are children from our community’s poorest families who cannot afford to pay for public school, so they attend Imizi’s school completely free of charge.

We completely renovated one of the boys’ dormitories, making it more comfortable and safe for them. We also constructed new toilets and an eco-friendly outdoor kitchen that is great for the environment and saves us money.

We began constructing a massive underground water storage tank with a rainwater collection system that should ensure our children and animals have access to water even during the long dry seasons.

We successfully reintegrated 11 children back into their families. Each of them will continue going to school with the support of ROP.

 We rescued 19 children from homelessness. Three of them were only five years old, while the others were all under 10 years old.

We have five boys who have completed secondary school, two who have finished vocational school and one who has graduated university with a bachelor’s degree. In 2017 we will be supporting 21 in secondary school and 8 in vocational training.

Eight – that’s right EIGHT – of our graduates have performed well enough to earn government scholarships to university starting next year. That is a record for ROP and a huge achievement for these amazing young men.

To all of those who have donated to us this year and supported us in other ways – thank you for your continued support. We are so grateful to have your support as we do our work. 

For those who wish to make a donation as we approach 2017, you can visit our website for details of how to do this.

Writing “Real” Sex

I enjoy writing about “real” sexual and sensual experiences, and including them in my fiction. Some of it is imagined, or fantasized, but most of my scenes are from personal experience. This isn’t true for all writers of erotica and romance. Many will include scenes and situations that are unbelievable or, literally, out of this world. This kind of sex writing is not better or worse than using, or exploring, “real” sexual situations, just different.

Setting, relationship, and feeling are vital ingredients in my erotic world. There’s nothing wrong with throwing in “pussy” “fuck” “lick” “suck” or similar words into a scene, but to do so without context tends to have them fall flat on their face, or someone else’s. Sometimes you just want to fuck, or read about a good fuck, without any emotion, romance, or preamble, but minus some setup or story, it ends up looking like a glut of sexualized words and actions randomly thrown onto the bed. The heat is missing.

Here is an example of intimate sensual sex from my erotic romance Loving Annalise.

41jh2yi72qlHis soft fingertips lightly scratched the skin as they moved towards the base of my spine, lighting a torch that licked my groin from the inside out, filling my body with the heat of the sun. As my legs wrapped him tightly into my cocoon, I heard a voice rise from my gut, screaming, “Tomas! Tomas!” My body shook and jerked on the wet sheet with gale-force winds, as my muscles contracted from my toes to the crown of my head. The candles danced, and my back arched towards an invisible force. I was conscious of nothing and everything; bathing in a river of sex, I swam in its smell, sight, sound, taste and touch.

I invite you to read Loving Annalise, if you enjoy realistic erotic fiction.

 

Writing Diverse Characters

BuddhasWifeOccasionally, someone at a book event will ask how I write diverse characters for my novels that sound so authentic, seeing that I am a predominantly straight European-American male. The books they are referring to are Buddha’s Wife, whose heroine is a woman who lived in India in the 5th century B.C., and The Last Conception, whose primary character is a lesbian Indian-American embryologist. 

This question is often asked of writers who move outside of their individual cultural background. The best answer is that a good writer can get under the skin of anyone, anytime, anywhere, and make their character’s dialogue, thoughts, feelings and actions realistic and relevant. I don’t claim to be that good of a writer.

My ability to write women character’s comes from a variety of sources and events. For Buddha’s Wife, I researched the heaven out of the time period and customs of India, and accumulated everything written in English that was known about Yasodhara (Buddha’s Wife) at the time. With Savarna, the lead in The Last Conception, I visited a fertility clinic and interviewed the head embryologist, spoke with Indian-American friends and colleagues, attended Indian festivals, and watched lots of movies (of Indians living in The States).

The main ingredient however, for both novels, was personal experience. One of our daughter’s is lesbian and had children, and our heterosexual daughter had children using IVF treatments. I also grew up with nine sisters, worked primarily with women, and been witness too, or assisted with, six different births. In addition, I worked with Hospice off and on for about thirty years, and observed hundreds of families from around the globe.

In my case, writing authentic and believable characters is a combination of good writing (hopefully), personal experience, asking questions, and looking at life through others’ eyes.

Spreading The Word

It takes a lot of time and effort, before and after one’s book is published, to get good reviews and interviews. Of course, it always helps if what you write is good in the first place! Assuming that it is, there are several steps that can be taken. These include: research which blogs review and feature work similar to yours, and contact them about a review and/or interview. Next, do the same thing with magazines, journals and online sites. Find out which ones are related to your topic (or story) and get a hold of the editor with a brief description (short paragraph) about the book, the cover, your publishing history, and contact information. The other folks to get ahold of are book reviewer’s at major newspapers, and producers of radio and TV shows that talk about books, and are looking for guests. These can include a variety of podcasts as well.

Here is a wonderful review I received for The Last Conception from the Extraordinary Bliss Mistress and author, Edie Weinstein.

“The Last Conception” is a bhakti-fest of love and loss, hope and courage that comes in unexpected packages. Take a peek into the lives of an Indian-American family faced with an unusual demand of their medical professional unmarried daughter whose job and personal life intersect in unanticipated ways. Although happy endings are never guaranteed, it seems that one is in the offing for this savory literary masala.
Edie Weinstein, author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here’s a brief description.

LastConception-CoverA successful embryologist (Savarna Sikand) must make difficult and life-changing choices. Should she continue devoting her soul to work and party with her girlfriend Magdalena or settle down with Charlemagne (Charley) and have children? If she decides to have children, how and when will they start the process and what will it take to convince her conservative East Indian mother to stop trying to marry her off to a “good man”? If that isn’t enough pressure, throw in the bomb her parents plant when they tell her she MUST have a baby because she is the last in line of a great spiritual teacher who reportedly never had children!

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

Moments Turns Into Years

My “brief” journey from story to screen.

Write down, or have a story idea, or concept, in mind.

Write the story. Rewrite and edit the book at least 10 million times.

Find a publisher who will publish the book, now known as The Last Conception.

Sign contract with Melange Books.

Obtain quotes and advance reviews.

Book published.

Book signings, promotions, connections and marketing for two years (year before and a year after novel is released).

Decide to write screenplay. One of my previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, was made into a film and another, Down On Earth, is optioned by Sybil Danning at Adventuress Films.

Work on screenplay for The Last Conception, continuing to revise and edit.

Workable, moving and entertaining screenplay completed.

Write up logline, summary of film and synopsis.

Research and obtain contact information for those who might be interested in script.

Start approaching executive producers, directors and production companies.

Elapsed time, from books inception to pitching screenplay (so far) is three years.

Presently, an award-winning and innovative director is attached.

Next step will be finding a producer and/or financing for film, and then festivals and/or distribution.

This timeline will be familiar to thousands of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers. Some take less time, and some take more (from page to screen).

I hope for those just starting out, or venturing to put your toe in the water, this provides a little insight into the amount of patience, persistence and ordered chaos that can await on the journey to bring your story to the screen.

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