Monday, June 24, 2013

A Tool for Writers—Organizing Your Thoughts!

I'm a techie, so when I find something that works for me to help organize my ideas, I not only use it, but also share with my friends. It's an easy free tool, and it is basically a mind map called Mindmeister. Here's a picture of one of mine I made. It's extremely easy to use, and you can use a limited free version or pay as little as $4.99/month:

If you'd use it regularly, it's worth it. I'll probably upgrade since I do like it. If you're interested in signing up for free, click here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Events Schedule for 2013/2014

This Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, I am planning on being at the following events, so please come out and say hello, get a book or two (or get them signed!), and enjoy!:

NECRONOMICON (Tampa, FL): Oct. 18 - 20, 2013.

BENT-CON (Burbank, CA): Nov. 8 - 10, 2013.

DITTERCON* (Orlando, FL): Jan. 18 - 19, 2014.

MEGACON (Orlando, FL): Mar. 21 - 23, 2014.

*Facebook link

Saturday, June 22, 2013

You MUST read this book—and it's not mine!

I just got off the phone with my very dear friend Randy, and we spent about an hour talking about Neil Gaiman's latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. We both are tremendous Gaiman-ites (is that a word?) and have read other works of his like Neverwhere, American Gods, and Anansi Boys. But, we both had agreed to read this latest novel as soon as it came out, and I read it in one sitting. Mind you, it's only 182 pages, but it's a read that could take you a few days to digest once you've finished it. The word that I keep using over and over when I talk about this book is that it resonates with me. My conversation with Randy simply solidified that idea as we both come from similar backgrounds in reading. I need to explain a little.

I have been a child of storytelling ever since I was a child, starting with my mother telling me stories of her childhood with my grandparents (her parents), and moving through my paternal grandmother's stories of her life in the 1920s and beyond. There's always someone telling stories to me, and I even have a good friend Kathy who has regaled me time and time again with stories about teachers and students that have left me crying from laughter. Aside from the real life stories, I'm also a child brought up with mythology and fictional characters. I've been a fan of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Celtic, and Norse mythologies since I left the womb, and that got me interested in comic books (and my interest in Wonder Woman, which is another blog post or more to be sure). But, getting back to storytelling...
The story is a frame narrative, beginning with the return of an adult man who goes back home for a funeral. While he's there, he sits by a pond (ocean?), and the past unravels like skein of yarn. This is a children's story, but it's for adults. It's an archetype wrapped in diaphanous folds of language. I would love to meet other people who have read this novel and just talk to them about their reactions to it. I'd love to find out who their favorite characters are, too. Mine are the Hempstocks. Read the novel and find out why.

Gaiman is the consummate storyteller; he doesn't just write novels. He engages his reader with glimpses of the past, of ancient archetypal ideas that ebb and flow like a literary tide. The Ocean at the End of the Lane has a firm grasp on my psyche, and it's because of my love of ancient mythologies. You see characters who embody the maiden-mother-crone archetype, and the moon/mother goddess, as well as primordial beings who have no discernible shape or substance beyond that which we ascribe to them. Gaiman's descriptions of certain predatory creatures that the reader encounters instill a fear of the dark (more of darkness incarnate, i.e. Erebus), but at the same time, a deep respect for the ancient powers that built the world. He masterfully grabs us by the throat long enough for us to feel the same trepidation of the narrator (who is unnamed), but yet, he allows us the ability of putting the book down and walking away from the images (as if we would!).

One of the things Randy and I talked about was the way this novel connected with us, and I explained that I brought other stories with me in my mind that helped fill in the nooks and gaps, the stories of ancient goddesses who mind destiny or the simple control a child can have over the natural world. Those who don't have a background reading mythology will certainly enjoy this novel as Gaiman doesn't weigh it down with specific names of entities; rather, he uses more everyday, common appellations that give the feeling of familiarity or simplicity. He puts the reader at ease. Sort of.

To think of this novel as a hero/villain novel would deprive it of the idea that in the grand scheme of the cosmos, true heroes and villains are more like adversaries vying for control, toying with humanity. This isn't a superhero comic book; it's Ovid or Hesiod, but through modern lens.

If you've never read anything by Neil Gaiman, this novel would be a great starting off point for his style and subject matter. Then, once you've become familiar with how he thinks, move on to American Gods or Anansi Boys. I'll most assuredly read The Ocean at the End of the Lane again some time soon.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Indie Writers Summer Solstice Sale—6/21 to 6/23

From Jun. 21 - 23, at Incandescent Phoenix Books, a select group of Indie authors will be selling their novels on Kindle for $.99! Whether you're interested in FantasyContemporary, Epic, Erotic, or Historical, or Magical Realism, Memoirs, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk, or Science Fiction, you'll find 22 authors whose novels are at this reduced price just for this weekend!

For this weekend only, Task Force: Gaea will be $.99! Get it now before the Memory's Curse comes out in the Fall!

You can visit the promotion page here and purchase directly through the site. Take advantage of this great savings while it lasts!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why New-Adult Fiction?

I had a few choices to make when I was writing Task Force: Gaea (TFG, henceforth)—I could tailor it to the Young Adult audience, or I could write to the type of reader I am. I have a pretty strong vocabulary and use what I would consider a sophisticated sentence structure. I'm not afraid to use polysyllabic words (see what I did there?) when I know a simpler word would do. If I happen to like the word 'tenebrous' to the word 'dark', then so be it. I like the mouth-feel of the word 'tenebrous'. It almost feels like 'tentacle' and wraps itself around your tongue.

I know that plenty of YA readers enjoyed books like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and I did, too. The thing of it is, I didn't want to add to what I perceive is a saturated market. I wanted my story (and, now, stories) to reach readers whose vocabulary and appreciation of some more mature themes would resonate. As I have said in the past, I write to tell stories, not to retire on my royalties. If people enjoy reading my novel(s), then that's all that matters.

As a teacher, I see nothing wrong with challenging my readers with a few vocabulary words or perhaps some mythological references that require Google. Having active readers means people pay attention to the story; I don't want to write books that people can skim and enjoy as much as if they read it in depth. I leave "gems" throughout the novel so some people will pick up on them and say to themselves, "Clever, Mr. Berger, very clever." Well, at least I try. For those whose knowledge of Greek mythology is extensive, some of the gems shine a bit brighter. I have learned a few lessons, though, and I'll be including a pronunciation key and glossary (of a sort) in the sequel, Memory's Curse.

Growing as a writer over the years, I've learned a bit about audience, and even just teaching English has taught me much as well. If you have an audience in mind, and the right people read your work, then they'll hopefully pass it on to like-minded readers. I just want people in the 18 - 30+ bracket to be able to enjoy a Greek mythology fantasy as much as the YA readers do.

I would love to know what you think. If you have comments or questions about this, please post them below!

Monday, June 3, 2013

I could use your help!

Above is a poll about how much Greek mythology you know and how that would affect your reading of Task Force: Gaea—Finding Balance or Memory's Curse. PLEASE take a few seconds and click the choice that best fits you and share this with other readers of fantasy fiction.

Having read a number of fantasy novels, I can tell you that I like learning new things, especially if they're related to the novel's story. In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien uses names of people and places, as well as Elvish and other languages, to establish his world. I don't find them to be a hindrance to my reading; what I don't understand, I accept as new knowledge.

The problem I think people have with Greek mythology is that they miiiiiiiiight know some of the basic gods, but beyond that, not so much. They might know what a centaur is, or who Medusa is, but they wouldn't know Typhon or Ekhidna from anyone. I do try to give context within the novel, but I know some readers have told me they have had to Google some info (most actually liked learning more that way, too). My advice to new readers of TFG is: just treat the names as you would treat names in LotR or another fantasy book—as author created. Some of the elements in TFG are tweaked by me or made up entirely, but most are found in source material.

Thank you for responding to the poll. I really do appreciate it!

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