Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘novel’

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.

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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Coming Into Her Own

The Buddha of Lightning Peak: Cycle of the Sky
By Yudron Wangmo
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A lot of authors, agents and publishers say their story is “unique”, but rarely does the tale turn out to be that different or “special”. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an exception. The characters in the story are like many people I know, and experiences they have lived, but I’ve never read something that combined them all into one tight, believable and well-crafted novel such as this.

Denise “Dee” is a teenager who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also black, lesbian and part of a meditation group. She has a variety of friends, including Leslie and her BFF, Shanti, as well as her mentor/teacher, Sandy. She isn’t a strong environmental advocate, until she learns of a mining operation about to start up next to her beloved summer camp and mountain.

The author reveals life through Dee’s eyes and perspective, and reveals the thoughts, emotions and experiences that many teens go through, especially teenage girls. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an insightful and entertaining story that reveals Dee coming into her own strength, realizations, and sense of connection and community. I rarely read stories twice, even good ones. This will be the exception.

(The author provided me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.)

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Dante Interviews Gabriel

Gabriel Constans Interview on writing and Loving Annalise.
Interviews by Dante 10 November 2015

Guest author for today on Interviews by Dante is Gabriel Constans. He is an author of Contemporary Erotic Romance. His latest is Loving Annalise.

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Please tell us a little about yourself.

Raised in a lumber town in Northern California, where father worked in the mills for over 40 years. Mother worked as a bookkeeper, later remarried and took in 9 foster sisters and 1 foster brother. Biological sister lives and works in same town.

Been writing since first publishing an alternative newspaper in high school against the Viet Nam war, for civil rights and sex education, for which I was threatened with arrest. Am practicing parent for 5 adult children (2 adopted) and 4 grandchildren.

Tell us about your latest book.

Loving Annalise is based on a true story for a woman I used to work with at hospice. She was kind enough to sit down with me for extensive periods of time and tell me about her life, which I then made into a fictional romance (keeping many of the actual events that took place).

What do you have coming out in the future?

I’ve been teaching about mindfulness meditation and mental health for loss and trauma for almost 40 years, and will start to put together a book about it next year.

Is your book a stand-alone or a series?

Loving Annalise is a stand-alone romance.

Why romance and what makes your particular brand of romance special?

Love and sex are two wonderfully pleasurable aspects of living. Loving Annalise is not only unique, because a lot of it is true, but also because it involves a lot of background and insight into the characters and how Annalise eventually has the courage to stand on her own and be the person she chooses.

Is romance the only genre that you write in or do you write in other genres? If so what other genres do you write in?

All of my romances, Loving Annalise, The Last Conception and Buddha’s Wife, have twists and turns that are not usually found in most romantic genres. I also write children’s fiction and non-fiction for adults, that include books about grief, loss and trauma, sexuality and smoothies. I also write screenplays.

From where do you draw your inspiration?

The primary inspiration for my stories come from personal and family experiences and people I admire, some publicly known and other’s close friends and role models (such as my Judo and Jiu-Jitsu teacher Prof. Jane Carr).

Do you ever base your characters on real people in your life?

All the time. Observing people I’ve known in the past and present, and situations and families I’ve been involved in through work in hospice, hospital, coroner’s office, prisons, etc., are a big part of what brings my character’s to life and makes them realistic, flawed and believable.

What authors inspire your writing?

A variety of writer’s have, and do, inspire me. Bell Hooks, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Isabelle Allende, Ruth Ozeki, Pat Conroy, Chitra Divakaruna, and Zora Neal Hurston are the first that come to mind.

How have your real life experiences influenced your writing?

I’ve been married three times, once when I was very young. Each marriage, and other relationships in-between, have influenced who I am and how I see the world. Each partnership provided emotional, physical and psychological experience that shaped who I am and how I write.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Some of the things I enjoy are film, reading, playing music, gardening and sculpting stone.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

Loving Annalise captures both the reality of other people wanting Annalise, as well as her learning to love herself.

Read entire interview and much more at: Interviews by Dante.

Witty & Spicy Story of Love

zoenorthbook-new-2Here is a short love story from the same publisher (Melange Books) who published my novel, The Last Conception. It’s called Zoe North and is written by Joanne Rawson. It is a categorized as contemporary, women’s, and mainstream romance. The heat level is rated “Steamy”.

This is a witty, spicy, story of love, friendship and never expecting the inevitable. A night dancing at a salsa club leads to more than Zoe bargained for – an ultimatum that could change her life forever and a honeymoon she will never forget!

Excerpt:

The church organist hit the first chord to the bridle march, whereupon the congregation instantly reared from their pews and turned around trying to catch their first glimpse of the leading person for todays’ show. That would be me by the way, Zoe North, and giving the finest performance of my life.

Walking down the aisle, aware that all eyes were on me, I knew I should be savouring this moment; the smiling faces of approval of my couture gown; tears of joy from my mother, who thought that this day would never arrive; laughing at my friends, acting like teenagers as they pulled silly faces and gave me the thumbs up sign, as if it were my first date. Yet all I could focus on was the man at the altar the man that, in a few minutes from now, would be promising to spend the rest of his life with me.

I turned to pass my bouquet to my matron of honour. Is this really happening? Am I really getting married today, or is it all just a dream? God knows I have dreamt of this moment for what seems like a zillion years.

The vicar smiled at me and then addressed the congregation. “God is love, and those who live in love live in God.”

This is it; this is usually the moment I wake up. Feeling a hand clasp mine, I turned just to be sure, he was real. Sure enough, standing next to me, smiling nervously was the man who had asked me to marry him.
Oblivious to the organist striking up the hymn, Love Divine, all I could think about was how it all started two years ago.

About the Author:

Joanne Rawson was born and raised in Derbyshire England. In 2005, Joanne and her husband gave up their hectic lifestyle, after ten years of managing branded restaurants around London’s M25, and now spends her time in England, Goa, and Malaysia, writing romantic novels and short stories.

Available at:

Satin Romance (Melange Books)
http://www.satinromance.com/authors/joannerawson/zoenorth.html

Amazon US
http://www.amazon.com/Zoe-North-Joanne-Rawson-ebook/dp/B00NG8YNFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411035243&sr=8-1&keywords=Joanne+Rawson

Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoe-North-Joanne-Rawson-ebook/dp/B00NG8YNFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411034457&sr=8-1&keywords=Joanne+Rawson

All Romance eBooks
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-zoenorth-1631543-177.html

Lost Her Husband

BuddhasWifeExcerpt from the novel Buddha’s Wife. Yasodhara was Siddhartha’s wife before he became known as The Buddha. Pajapati was Siddhartha’s step-mother (Yasodhara’s mother-in-law) and the only mother Siddhartha ever knew. His birth mother died shortly after he was born (as did Yasodhara’s mother).

***

I dreamed of my visit to find Siddhartha in Uruvela after leaving Rajagaha and our meeting with Davidia.

Pajapati was reluctant to go out of our way, not because she didn’t wish to listen to Siddhartha’s teachings and learn more about the freedom he claimed to have discovered, but because of the pain and agony she knew it would cause me. But I insisted, and Pajapati had learned long ago that I am not easily swayed once I’ve made up my mind.

Though the Ordained Followers of the Teacher from Sakya, as they were called by villagers, already numbered in the thousands, it took some time to find them in the vihara (sanctuary) on the outskirts of Uruvela. The vihara had been donated by Siddhartha’s devotees Anathapindika and Jeta. The area was called Jetavana and the followers called themselves the Union of Bhikkhus. They were protected in Jetavana, yet seldom remained there long and often slept out in the open.

I was taken aback to see women at the camp, as I had always been under the impression that they were forbidden. Pajapati asked a woman carrying water to a group of men if she was with the Buddha.

“I am a lay disciple,” she replied. “We follow our husbands and sons who have been called to live a life of renunciation and seek liberation from desire and suffering.” She continued walking and we followed.

“But surely, they have not allowed you to take orders and don robes like the men?” I asked, running to keep up.

“Oh no,” she replied. “Being of service to the followers of Gotama is reward enough.”

We watched the woman pour her jug of water into the cups of the men with robes and shaved heads. There were not many women present, but one or two I recognized. I saw Yasa’s wife and mother, who had left the province, unexpectedly, six months earlier. Rumors that they had gone to follow the Tathagata circulated freely, but I didn’t realize they had not only sought the Buddha, but had literally joined their husband and son as lay disciples. The realization that, unlike most practices of the day, one did not have to leave their family to follow a religious life threw a cold bucket of pain in my face. I stood as frozen as snow on the peak of a Himalayan mountain in winter. Pajapati was hit with the same realization. She saw the shock on my face and realized what I was thinking.

“Yasodhara,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”

I couldn’t move or reply.

“Come on.” Pajapati pulled at my sleeve. “Let’s go. The carriage is waiting.”

I remained immobile. My hands opened and closed stiffly. My fingers turned white and my face crimson red.

“That idiot!” I exclaimed, so loudly that Pajapati tried to hide inside her sari. “What a liar—a thoughtless, selfish liar!”

“Come on!” Pajapati pulled frantically at my sleeve. “Don’t make a scene.”

“How could he leave us?!” I said loudly, tears sliding down my cheeks. “He didn’t have to leave us!”

Pajapati wrapped her arm around me and lead me away as people watched and listened.

“He’s a demon!” I cried. “He’s destroyed every dream.”

“Come, come,” Pajapati soothed, her eyes wet with sympathy. “I understand.”

“Understand?” I stopped and stared. “How can you understand? He left me; he left Rahula. He discarded us like a sack of rocks. For what?” I motioned towards the followers. “Adoration for a coward—a man who talks about peace, but leaves his family in torment?”

“Stop it!” Pajapati shouted, dragging me into the waiting carriage. “That’s my step-son you’re talking about, and he’s the furthest thing from a demon I’ve ever known.”

Siddhartha had been informed later that day about a disturbance on the outskirts of the gathering. Something about a rich woman yelling obscenities and her mother escorting her out of the area. He wished them peace.

Embryo Mama

LastConception-CoverAn excerpt from The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans.

Savarna was the first to arrive at five that morning. She placed her bicycle in the storage room, washed and put on her scrubs. She checked all of the incubators, work surfaces and electronic readouts, to make sure everything was operating as close to body temperature as possible. The machines were on twenty-four seven and alarmed. After all, she and her colleagues literally held the possibility of new life in their hands day after day. If anything goes out of whack, emergency calls are automatically made until someone responds. They have backup systems for backup systems. So far, in her eight years of working at Conception Sciences, the alarm had gone off only once, and that turned out to be a faulty reading.

“Hey, Embryo Mama, how are our babies doing?”

Savarna had just started looking at the results from the previous day when her work partner Johnny Cranston walked in. She’d known Johnny for five years and trusted him completely. If she were ever in the position of their patients, she’d want Johnny to be her embryologist. He was very tech savvy and gave a damn. Personally, he’d been through the ringer, was divorced and had his adored teenage daughter living with him part-time. He’d recently moved to a nice neighborhood just twenty minutes from work. Johnny was handsome, and he knew it, but he never let his guard down, especially in front of beautiful women. He considered Savarna to fall in the category of beautiful, but she was an exception to his well-practiced defenses.

“Good morning Sperm Daddy,” she replied.

“Where we at, darling? Everything cooking at the right temp?”

“I was just checking yesterday’s records and laying out our schedule. Will you take a look and sign off?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

Savarna always noticed the contrasts between them when they stood side by side. He had big hands with long fingers, and his skin was darker than hers. She was brown, like a lightly baked brownie, and he was as black as dark chocolate. He stood a foot taller, had broad shoulders, a muscular chest and shaved head. She had long jet-black hair braided and tied up in a knot for work, a distinguished nose, and hips that seemed to trump everything else from the waist down.

“Looks like we’ve got a lot of D1 and D3s to switch out today,” Johnny said, as he signed the checklist.

“Yes, and two D5s. I really hope Mrs. Shcneider’s takes this time and her Inner Cell Mass doesn’t get screwed up like her last two attempts. She was so devastated.”

“You got that right. Nothing we could do though. Hear what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, yeah. I know the mantra. Don’t beat ourselves up for what’s out of our control.”

“Well, well. You actually remember your own advice.”

They both chuckled underneath their masks.

Everything in the laboratory had to be done perfectly and on schedule. Mistakes were not allowed, though inevitable.

Day zero, which they referred to as DO, was egg retrieval day. That was when they retrieved eggs from the woman and sperm from the man and put them together in a dish. On Day Two, which they called D1, they checked to see how many of the eggs were fertilized. They looked through the microscope to see if there were two pronuclei inside. If they couldn’t see any or what they saw consisted of only one or three pronuclei, that meant it was a wash and they couldn’t be used.

Day Two is when the embryos start to divide. A healthy embryo consists of two to four cells. That is when Savarna and Johnny would start to grade or evaluate the embryos on a scale of one to five, with one being perfect and five being poor. It takes about one minute to look at fifteen embryos. They had to do it quickly, so they were not outside of the incubator for long.

Day Three should be showing six to eight cells per embryo. If some of these are healthy, they can transfer them on the same day or put them into an extended culture for a Day Five transfer. If they go into extended cultures, they need to move them into a new growth medium that is made for the next stage of development.

On Day Five embryos have grown much bigger and gone from six to eight cells to fifty to one hundred cells. The coating around the egg is very thin at this stage and each embryo has two cell types – the inner cell mass, which becomes the baby and the trophectoderm, which becomes the placenta. This is the day when transfer usually takes place. One to two embryos are transferred to the patient’s uterus. Any extras are frozen or cultured to Day Six. On Day Six, anything that is left is either frozen or discarded.

“You can have the honor of icing any leftovers today,” Savarna told Johnny.

“Thank you, great ice queen. It will be an honor to preserve someone who may one day be our next Albert Einstein or Maya Angelou.”

“Or Charlie Manson or Hitler,” she said, half-joking.

“Not possible. These children are too wanted and adored to turn out like that.”

Freezing embryos is no minor task, though it may appear to be a simple procedure. When a healthy and viable embryo is frozen, it is placed into a computer- driven freezer in liquid nitrogen and is slowly brought down to minus thirty-five degrees centigrade. When cells are frozen, they are made up mostly of water and have to be dehydrated before freezing or ice cycles can destroy them. They are passed through solutions that by osmosis move in and out of a fluid buffer. Freezing takes about an hour and a half. When they are thawed, it is important to get rid of the ice crystals right away, so they are pulled out, held in the air for thirty counts and put in a thirty-degree water bath for forty-five seconds until they are thawed. They are then placed in solutions that reverse the process and put water back in. Within forty minutes of being de-thawed, an embryo can be transferred. Some patients successfully use an embryo that has been frozen for over ten years.

Savarna and Johnny sent out the morning report to all the physicians and case managers by 7:30, so they would know which patients to call to come in for their procedures or which ones needed to change their medications. Then they started working on egg retrievals, sperm analysis and triple-verification with each, to make sure they had the correct specimen for each individual. Retrievals started around 8:00 a.m. and continued every forty-five minutes, while transfers generally began at 10:00 and took place every thirty minutes. By noon, they were inseminating the eggs. Somewhere in the controlled chaos, they tried to make their way to the bathroom and catch a bite to eat. At 1:00 they made a break for the small lunchroom squeezed into the back corner of the two-story medical building.

“What?” she asked, looking up from her salad bowl.

“Come on. I’m about to burst. Did you tell them?” Savarna smiled, took a drink from her homemade chocolate smoothie and sheepishly looked down at her Greek salad. “You’ve got to be kidding?”

She shook her head. “My Mom was–”

“This is crazy… after all these years. They’re adults. They’ll understand.”

“Let me explain.”

“What’s there to explain? You chickened out again.”

“No, I didn’t. We were interrupted. My mother was trying to get me married off for the umpteenth time and just as I was about to tell her why I would never marry a man, the rest of the family burst in. There wasn’t any good time after that. It was her birthday after all, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”

“Ruin it?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“In Indian culture marriage is the biggest and most important celebration there is.”

“And you don’t think that’s true for other cultures?”

“Well, yes, of course,” she replied, taking a deep breath and looking him straight in the eyes. “But in India it can actually be a matter of life and death. Women are still defined by whom, when and if they marry. I don’t care if this is California and my parents have lived here for decades. I don’t think they even realize how deep this tradition is ingrained in their psyches.”

“So, its fair to keep them in the dark and keep hoping?”

“Of course not, but I’m not always as strong or as confident with my family, as I am with you. I don’t want to hurt them.”

“I think you’re hurting them more, let alone yourself, by not standing up and letting yourself be counted. They just want you to be happy, and they see marriage as the means to attain that happiness. We both know it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be, but I don’t see anything wrong with them hoping it’s the answer for their spinster daughter whose childbearing clock is ticking.”

“Spinster, my ass.”

“Tell them I’ll take you off their hands, but only for a good dowry.”

Savarna raised her glass, as if to throw it in Johnny’s face. He backed up his chair in mock surprise. Savarna’s phone rang. She put down her cup, laughing, and took the call.

“Hi, Magdalena. What’s up?”

Johnny winked.

“Tonight? It’s only Monday.”

Savarna closed her eyes for a moment as she listened.

“Which club?”

She nodded, “OK. OK. Pick me up at nine.” She clicked her phone shut and put it on the table while Johnny went to the sink to put away his plate.

“She’s a wild woman,” he said upon returning to the table.

“It’s fun. Nothing serious.”

“Yeah, I know about fun, but is that all you want?”

Her phone rang again.

“Hey, Charley. How ya doing?” Johnny rolled his eyes. “This weekend? I don’t know, I’m usually pretty wiped out by then.”

She turned away slightly in her chair, as if to keep the conversation private.

“In that case, let’s do it. I’ll call you later. Take care.”

“Wish I had that many women calling me up,” Johnny wisecracked, as they stood and both prepared to re-gown and get back to work. “Where to this weekend?”

“Charley got a great deal on a bed and breakfast place in the redwoods over in Santa Cruz. She says it’s just what I need for some rest and relaxation.”

“So, you really prefer men after all.”

“You know Charley is–”

“I know, I know. Just goofing. You know my offer is always good. If you ever want to get turned around, I’ll show you what a real man is like.”

“Yeah.” They both laughed. “You and a thousand other men.”

“Hey, did you hear what one egg said to another when they saw millions of sperm on the horizon?”

“Only a zillion times,” she said. They made their way down the hall and entered the pressurized lab. “But if it floats your boat, go ahead and give me the punch line. I’ll act like I’ve never heard it before.”

“Now you’ve ruined it,” he said.

The automatic door opened and she went ahead. A cartoon they had taped on the door had two eggs and millions of sperm surrounding them. The caption next to the first egg read, “This doesn’t look good, I think the odds are against us.” The other egg said, “Looks good to me. It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

The Last conception:

Passionate embryologist, Savarna Sikand, is in a complicated relationship, with two different women, when she is told that she MUST have a baby. Her conservative East Indian American parents are desperate for her to conceive, in spite of her “not being married”. They insist that she is the last in line of a great spiritual lineage. In the process of choosing her lover and having doubts about her ability, or desire to conceive, Savarna begins to question the necessity of biology and lineage within her parents’ beliefs and becomes forever fascinated with the process of conception and the definition of family. Threads of Dan Brown (DaVinci Code), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Sister of My Heart) and the film The Kids Are All Right, are tied together in this colorful tale of awakening, romance and mystery.

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

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