Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘story’

A Multi-faceted Ruby

NairobiBloodstarNairobi Bloodstar by Carole Hall
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

You know a good writer when you read one. Carole Hall is such a writer. Nairobi Bloodstar pulls you into Kenya in the late forties, as if you were just there yesterday. The characters (Charles, Karl, Annalisa, Nils, M’tebe, Michael) are flesh and blood men and women that could have been historical figures, though this is a work of fiction.

Starting at Karl and Annalisa’s mining operation in Kenya, the story follows each individual, at the points where they are related and intersect, and there individual lives, thoughts and feelings. It is like a great ensemble cast in a play, when they are all believable and well played. Ms. Hall’s writing style also reminds me somewhat of Agatha Christie, who was one of the most adept of all time at describing her character’s appearance, emotions, thoughts, traits and personal history.

The story takes place as a number of countries are seeking independence in Africa from the English, Portuguese and French, and at the same time Jews are fighting to establish Israel in Palestine, and protect their new nation from assault. There are romances and alliances throughout, but in many ways (to its credit), they are the background and not the main entre. Individual and national independence, as well as finding personal happiness, are at the crux of this tale. Choices are made, with many unexpected results.

There are no pat answers, conclusions, or moral certitudes in Nairobi Bloodstar, much to its credit. There are people from a variety of cultures who are genuine and will have you caring about each one.

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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Review of Tell Me a Secret

TEll-Me-a-Secret-by-Ann-Everett>Review of Tell Me a Secret by Ann Everett. Narrated by Sarah Pavelec.

He spun the chair around and straddled it like he was doing it a favor.”

That is the effect Jace Sloan has on women at college, and is one of the many wonderful metaphors used throughout this love story. His charm works on everyone accept Maggie, who is in graduate school and works as a nurse and tutor. Jace and Maggie’s personalities are like oil and water, but they must find a way to work together when she is assigned by her professor to be his tutor for anatomy.

Just when you think this story is following the usual boy meets girl, girl losses boy, and then they get together again, plot line, there is a twist. Actually, there are a number of twists that will keep reader’s wondering about the character’s futures. The dialogue shifts from chapter to chapter, between Maggie’s perspective and Jace’s, providing an intimate microscope into their internal thoughts, emotions and perceptions. Author Ann Everett did a good job keeping the dialogue and situations real, as well as the couple’s reactions.

As an avid reader, and past reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, I must confess that this is the first audio book I’ve listened to and reviewed. Though it was quite long, the narrator’s voice, Sarah Pavelec, was pleasant and engaging. Her tone for both the male and female characters was spot on, as well as the intonations for specific dialogue and action.

Tell Me a Secret is a good book to take on a long trip, or listen to for a period of time each day. It is a sweet romance that shows opposites can not only be attracted to one another when the pheromones are intense, but may also stay together through misunderstandings, tragedy and jealousy.

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.

The First Treehugger

A tall tale from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

The redwoods in Asia, being especially tall, were a favorite of Abbott Tova. She loved to climb as high as she could and observe life from above. She saw wildlife, people in the village, travelers on the road, and her sisters in the community below. Seeing that her excursions climbing the ancient ones were made in secret, she often witnessed events and scenes that others were not aware of.

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One day, she saw a herd of rampaging river otters approaching the village and was able to scamper down the tree and go warn people of their approach just in time. Many lives were saved. Some thought the Abbott must be clairvoyant for knowing of the approaching otters, not knowing of her climbing feats.

On another day, the Abbott watched a bandit attack a lone farmer on the road and steal his money. She knew who the bandit was and was later able to assist in his capture and testify at his trail, as to what he was wearing that day and at what time it had taken place.

There was the time Abbott Tova saw Sister Kiva sneaking off with Sister Bhakti to make love in the meadow. In that case there was no need to do anything, other than turn her attention elsewhere.

As was the case with Abbott Tova’s ability to remain still and blend in with her surroundings in the garden for hour upon hour, so it was in the trees where she often lost track of time and became so engrossed and selfless that she could feel the sap flowing through her veins and her limbs transferring the sun’s light into energy through her skin.

Without it being called so at the time, Abbott Tova was the first known tree hugger. Her actions gave rise to a long line of environmentalists and forest advocates, including, Pocahontas, Johnny Appleseed, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Chico Mendes, Wangari Maathai, and Julia “Butterfly” Hill. It also gave her a great advantage in “seeing” the future, making predictions, and others believing she was omnipotent, which she would never deny, nor confirm.

More vast and small stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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