Archive for the ‘Reference’ Category

Anne K. Edwards gets interviewed on Advice Radio on the slippery subject of book reviewing. Listen slippery_smallto the live interview here.

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Visit: www.slipperybookreview.wordpress.com for blurbs, excerpts, reviews, interviews, and purchasing information.

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Hi all,

slipperyThe Slippery Art of Book Reviewing garners another rave review. This time from Lillie Ammann’s blog, A Writer’s Word, an Editor’s Eye.


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Hey there,
This month I’m off again touring the blogosphere, this time to promote my nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.
On the first day of the tour, Nov. 4th, I was at Donna McDine’s wonderful blog, Write What Inspires You. Donna posted the prologue of the book and we had a very succesful first day with lost of comments from visitors. Thanks again, Donna, for allowing me to be a guest on your blog!
Today on the 2nd day of the tour my co-author and I are off at Book Pleasures for an interview with Editor in Chief Norm Goldman.

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Dear Readers,

My co-author Anne K. Edwards and I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Norm Goldman of www.BookPleasures.com.

We talked about our book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, and writing and reviewing.

You may read the interview here.

Mayra Calvani

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The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
By Mayra Calvani & Anne K. Edwards
Twilight Times Books
Twilight Times Books
POB 3340
Kingsport TN 37664-3340
Phone/Fax: 423-323-0183
ISBN: 1-933353-22-8; 978-1-933353-22-7
Release Date: June 15, 2008
Trade Paperback
188 pages, $16.95
First printing: 5,000 copies
Foreword by James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review

*Currently used as a text book for book writing course in Loyola College, Maryland.

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will serve as an excellent reference tool and amalgam of resources for both beginning and experienced reviewers.

• How to read critically
• How to differentiate the various types of reviews
• How to rate books
• How to prevent amateurish mistakes
• How to deal with the ethics and legalities of reviewing
• How to tell the difference between a review, a book report, and a critique
• How to start your own review site
• How to publish your reviews on dozens of sites and even make money while you’re at it, and much more

If you’re an author, publisher, publicist, bookseller, librarian, or reader, this book will bring to light the importance and influence of book reviews within a wider spectrum.

Distributors: Midpoint and Florida Academic Press. Also available from Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

Visit the authors’ websites: www.MayraCalvani.com, www.MysteryFiction.net

What reviewers are saying:

“There’s not a reviewer out there that wouldn’t benefit from this review of reviewing… this is a great reference book for libraries…”
–Heather Shaw, Editor-in-Chief, ForeWord Magazine

“The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing should be considered mandatory reading for novice and aspiring book reviewers, as well as having a great deal of enduring value as a reference for even the more experienced reviewer. Additionally, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing will provide to be informed and informative reading about the book review process for authors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and the general reading public.”
–Reviewed by James Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review.

“This book from Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards is the first ‘Reviewer’s Desk Reference’ for book reviewers at all levels.”
–Reviewed by Ernest Dempsey, The World Audience

“As an experienced reviewer I learned that I do not know it all and will keep my copy of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing for reference. It is not a book I will loan out because it won’t be returned…If you want to break into book reviewing, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a must-have reference. Heed the author’s advice and you can write reviews that will get you and the books you review noticed.”
–Reviewed by Sharon Broom, Armchair Interviews.

“The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing is a useful took for both amateur and professional book reviewers, as well as book review editors. There should be no doubt that the good tips, thoughtful perspective and resource information can be of considerable value to anyone wishing to practice this art.”
–Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Allbooks Reviews.

“I do recommend The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing as a must-have resource guide. Calvani and Edwards present a well-written gold-mine to potential reviewers as well as a source of information for experienced reviewers and authors.”
–Reviewed by Irene Watson, Reader Views.

“The Slippery Art… is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in book reviews – writers, reviewers, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers and readers.”
— Reviewed by Francine Silverman, Editor of The Book Promotion Newsletter

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How do you actually begin a novel – by working out the plot, or starting with a character? And which is best?

The answer is probably pretty much what you expected: no one method is “best”. In fact, many authors have begun their first novel by working from a plot idea, then switched to starting with a character for their second. Here, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both methods.

Starting With Plot

FOR: You know where the story is going and what all characters have to do next. You don’t have to sit there wondering how on earth your character is going to get out of the pickle you’ve put him in – because you planned all that in Week 1. Even if you have to make some changes, you know your story well enough to compensate.

AGAINST: A highly structured plot can become sterile and flat. Characters are too ‘locked in’ and fail to excite the author, let alone the reader. Because ‘plot is all’, your characters never really come to life. They go through the motions – but you’re all too conscious that you’re a puppet master. Pinocchio ain’t got nuthin’ on YOUR wooden characters. Gloom, gloom.

Starting With A Character

FOR: You know your character so well that motivation is never an issue. The plot is never implausible. All action is driven by the character’s needs, wants and responses. Conflict works well because you know the secondary characters well too.

AGAINST: Your character never realizes his/her potential because the plot is too slight. The stakes aren’t high enough; the outcome is predictable; the storyline worn.

What To Do?

Either method can work – or either method can be a disaster. Start with whatever gets your creative juices flowing, then weave plot and character together as you write.

How to Weave Plot and Character

Not many aspiring novelists start a novel by sitting down at the computer with absolutely NO idea of where to start. (“Oh, I think I’ll write a novel today! Now let’s see… what can I write about?”)

Most writers have at least a vague sense of where they’re going. They may:

-have a vivid image of a character in mind
-be able to imagine a character in a certain situation that requires decisions and action
-have a general theme in mind
-have a definite beginning, middle and end planned
-have a vague idea based on a movie plot or an actor or a news item or a current affairs guest

… and so it goes on! Very, very few people start with a completely blank slate. So, given that you have either some idea of the plot, or some idea of the character, where do you go next?

3 Tips for Developing Plot Out of Character

a. What does your character DO?

You can build a plot from where your character is now, in his/her life or career. Some examples:

-If your character is a mother: what could threaten to turn her life upside down? What is her strongest drive? What does she want from life? What is important to her? What would make her risk everything she holds dear?

-If your character is a corporate high flyer: What is important to her? What could bring her down? Who might go down with her? What does she have to lose? How could you raise the stakes?

-If your character is a doctor: What might he see or do in the course of his work that could have an impact on his life? What kind of doctor is he? Who might be plotting against him? Who might he want to save, and how?

b. What is your character’s secret?

Does she have a secret life – e.g. teacher by day, psychic hotline contact by night? Does she have a secret baby in her past… or a secret lover?

Does he have a serious crime in his past that is about to catch up with him? What is it? Could it mean doing time? Was the character framed? Did he let someone else take the rap? Might someone be looking for revenge?

Does she have a secret yearning? Has she always wanted to be someone else or do something else? What happens if she shocks everyone by acting on her secret yearning?

c. Who does your character know?

Some examples:

An old school friend – once a ‘best friend’, now on a slippery slope in life – in trouble, and involving our lead character.

A workmate who asks the character to cover for him. A lie grows out of all proportion and leads to serious repercussions. The character is caught up by events and can’t stop them.

A corrupt politician or police officer who mistakenly sees the character as powerless and a good ‘fall guy’. What happens?

3 Tips for Developing Character Out of Plot

a. Choose a character with traits that are necessary for the kind of growth you need

If your plot requires a character who will develop ‘courage under fire’, and show great character growth – then choose that character carefully. Think about the *qualities* your character needs rather than worrying about looks. What particular skills/traits will he or she need to have?

b. Choose a character that will surprise the reader

If you have a screwball character in mind – or perhaps a mild-mannered desk jockey – think about how their lives are about to change, and how their reactions might surprise the reader. Perhaps link their actions to a secret in their past, a secret threat, or a secret yearning.

c. Choose a character with a fatal flaw

Your plot demands swift and decisive action. The stakes are high; many lives will be lost or a country/city faces ruin. You need a character with a fatal flaw so that near the climax of the story, all appears lost. What is that flaw? At what stage of the story will the revelation of this flaw have the most impact?

Which particular fatal flaw will work best with the kind of plot you’ve created? A gambling addiction? An inability to admit he’s wrong? A weakness for beautiful women?

These are just a few tips. A couple of hours brainstorming will give you pages of ideas and fend off the dreaded writer’s block.

Whether you start with a character or start with a plot, you need to have vivid, strong characters or all your hard work will be for nothing. I’ll leave you with a few words from New York literary agent Don Maass about the importance of strong characters (from his book Writing the Breakout Novel):

“What do folks remember most about a novel? I have asked this question many times, of all different kinds of people. Your answer is probably the same as that of most readers: the characters. Great characters are the key to great fiction. A high-octane plot is nothing without credible, larger-than-life, highly developed enactors to make it meaningful…. Hot plot devices may propel a protagonist into action, even danger, but how involving is that when the action taken is what anybody would do?

“Indeed, it is a common fault of beginning thriller writers to slam an Everyman, your average Joe, into the middle of something big and terrible. Such stories usually feel lackluster because the main character is lackluster. A plot is just a plot. It is the actions of a person that makes it memorable or not. Great characters rise to the challenge of great events.”

Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers’ tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/

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Editor, teacher and Pagan priestess Elizabeth Barrette writes articles, essays, short stories, reviews, interviews, and poetry. She’s the author of the reference book, Composing Magic, a must-read for fantasy authors. In this interview she talks about magic spells, Paganism, and writing fantasy, among other things.

Welcome to the Dark Phantom Review, Elizabeth. For those readers who are new at this, I’d like first to start with the basics. What is a magic spell?

A “magic spell” is a combination of tools, actions, and words by which the caster seeks to influence reality. It provides a better grasp on subtle energies, so that they may be directed with greater precision and power to achieve the desired effect, much as the handle of a hammer increases the usefulness of the striking surface. As such, a magic spell is a working of human Will.

What is the difference between a magic spell, a ritual, a blessing, a chant, and a prayer?

“Magic spell” has been defined above.
In magical/spiritual context, a “ritual” is a formal activity with specifically prescribed steps (often repeated identically on subsequent occasions) used as a frame for magical or spiritual processes. A ritual can involve casting a spell, but can also involve other goals such as worship, rites of passage, meditation, etc.

In a “blessing,” someone calls on a Higher Power to bestow some benefit(s) upon a person, place, goal, or other recipient. Usually the person giving a blessing is a priest or priestess, but can be a parent or someone else. Typical blessings include health, fertility, prosperity, happiness, and good fortune. This is a request for divine energy, not an application of human Will.

A “chant” is a heavily rhythmic, usually rhymed vocal performance which may be spoken, declaimed, or sung. Chants have many purposes, from timing oar strokes to worship to raising or directing energy in a spell.

A “prayer” is any communication addressed from a mortal person to a divine recipient. Types include daily, thanksgiving, propitiatory, and intercessory prayers.

A key difference between magic spells vs. prayers and blessings is that they are two separate ways of producing change. Magical workings such as spells require the caster to control and direct energy through force of Will. Spiritual workings such as prayers and blessings require the priest/ess to keep their Will out of the way so that divine energy can flow through them to work divine Will (hopefully in accord with the human request).

What is the difference between Wicca, Paganism, and witchcraft?

Wicca is a specific denomination of the wider religious family of Paganism, with its own subdivisions including Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, and others. Wicca descends from European Pagan traditions; it remains one of the most popular and structured Pagan religions. Wiccan beliefs include honoring the Goddess and the God, celebrating the passage of seasons, protecting the Earth as sacred, and rejoicing in human sexuality as a sacred gift of life and love. “The Charge of the Goddess” and “The Wiccan Rede” are widely held liturgies.

Paganism is an umbrella term for Earth-based belief systems and nature religions in general, although it most often refers to such systems descending from European or contemporary American origins. Pagan religions are typically polytheistic, often animistic, with beliefs in the sanctity of the Earth, human fertility, and personal experience of the divine. Pagan religions include Asatru, Druidry, Eclectic Paganism, and Wicca.

Witchcraft can be either a synonym for “Wicca” as a religion (when capitalized as religions are: Witchcraft) or the name of a magical system (when not capitalized: witchcraft) used by Wiccans and other Pagans. The latter use includes the casting of spells, charging of magical artifacts with energy, creation of protective barriers, and other beneficial applications of subtle energies. Wicca and some other Pagan religions prohibit the use of magic for destructive purposes. Some other traditions have different rules which allow magic in combat and other offensive uses considered appropriate by their home culture.

What is the origin of Paganism?

Paganism in general originates from the Earth, its plants and animals, its cycles, and its natural processes. This is a religion which honors life and the world around us. Most religions commonly considered Pagan have their roots in ancient Europe or modern America. Indigenous religions in the Americas, Australia, Africa and elsewhere share many similar tenets and practices; but those religions often don’t describe themselves as Pagan. The term “pagan” comes from Latin, originally meaning “rustic;” Paganism thus referred to the old nature religions surviving in rural areas, while the newly fashionable Christianity swept through the cities.

When did you first become involved with Paganism?

I’ve always practiced Paganism of one form or another. I discovered the modern Pagan community in 1988 or thereabouts.

I found your book, Composing Magic, to be a wonderful reference work for those authors who write fantasy. When you read fantasy novels, or other works of fiction with Pagan elements, do you encounter a lot of mistakes as far as the ‘real’ magic goes?

That depends a lot on the author, the magic, and the Pagan content. Some authors are excellent. Jean M. Auel, Mercedes Lackey, Anne Bishop, and M.R. Sellars have all written stories with different, respectful portrayals of Pagan or similarly flavored religion and/or magic. Other authors are less respectful and accurate. Frequent flaws include equating Paganism with devil worship and using magic to cover deficiencies in plot, characterization, or worldbuilding. Magic has its own parameters, but is not devoid of consistent behavior.

For fantasy authors (or game masters) wishing to present a plausible, realistic, and plot-solid system of magic, the essential sourcebook is Authentic Thaumaturgy by Isaac Bonewits. His mastery of nonfiction in the magical field allowed him to explain the many different types of magic, magical laws, techniques, and so forth in terms useful for creative applications. However, this is also one of the secondary audiences for my book, because I’ve had writer-friends ask me for help in devising a prophecy or other important tidbit of poetry to support their fiction. If your characters are casting incantations or bestowing blessings, and you want them to sound like experts, reading Composing Magic can help you understand how those things work and figure out what your characters would say.

What compelled you to write this book?

There was a gap in available materials; I have a knack for spotting such things. The Pagan/magical books widely recommended writing your own spells and rituals, but none of them explained in detail how to do that. The writing books detailed many types of writing, but few spiritual types and no magical types. I’m good at figuring out how I do what I’m doing, and explaining things step-by-step so someone else can follow suit; so I wanted to fill the gap. It wasn’t until I saw the reviews for Composing Magic that I realized this is apparently not that common a skill. I’m trying to make more deliberate and frequent use of it, now that I know how high the demand is.

How important is the power of words in a magic ritual?

First, the space must be reasonably safe and comfortable. Precarious footing, bloodthirsty insects, etc. reliably kidnap people’s attention.

Second, you must create a powerfully moving effect – that means it excites people’s sense of wonder and gets the energy moving as desired.

Words are among the most powerful tools for doing that. Some rituals don’t have words, relying instead on music or dance or other nonverbal methods. But almost all rituals do use words, and for them, words are vital. The right words can make a ritual that people will remember forever; the wrong words can bore or offend people. Worse yet, poorly chosen words can make the ritual misfire or cause undesired side effects. If you talk about “the rains of the West,” don’t complain if you get wet!

Harry Potter created a lot of controversy, with many people wanting to ban the film. Why do you think some people are afraid of portraying young protagonists in children’s books as witches or wizards?

Some people follow a religion or philosophy that discourages free thinking in favor of faith and obedience; that inclines towards child-raising practices which maximize control. If people want their children to be like them, and they believe that magic and/or other religions are evil – and they know that many children enjoy reading those kinds of books, and that reading encourages thought in general – their best bet is to attack the books and keep children from reading them. Adults are free to believe what they wish, but it is harmful to force their beliefs on children who cannot freely choose otherwise. Children should be free to learn and explore and read. Adults should be grateful that children are eagerly reading anything in an age more given to video games and television.

What are your favorite Pagan authors or novels?

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
The Pillars of the World by Anne Bishop
Harm None by M.R. Sellars

I understand you’re a student of obscure languages. What languages are those?

First, I’m a hobby-linguist, and thus a student of all languages. I have some formal education in Spanish, Russian, and Japanese. Privately I’ve browsed Gaelic, Cherokee, Lakota, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Tlingit, Quechua Mayan, and many others. I’m especially interested in Native American, Australian, and African languages.

Second, I’m a xenolinguist. I study and invent artificial languages – model languages made for fun, auxiliary languages of sizable construction, alien and fantasy languages in fiction. There I’ve gone through Klingon, Tenctonese, Sindarin, Láadan, Esperanto, and many others. Of those, I probably know Láadan (from Native Tongue and A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan by Suzette Haden Elgin) the best, having written a class about it … though there’s also Ai-Naidari, and I’ve done three classes on its contextual fiction (The Aphorisms of Kherishdar by M.C.A. Hogarth), which contains a handful of very enlightening alien vocabulary.

I’ve also constructed numerous alien and fantasy languages of my own. Seshaa is the oldest and largest of those; I’ve been writing about it and its home culture, the Whispering Sands desert, since I was in junior high or high school. Glimpses of it appear in my story “Peacock Hour” slated for publication in the anthology Taking Flight. I’ve also posted some samples of Seshaa on my blog and in the LiveJournal community “conlangs,” where it’s very popular. Other languages have smaller files – the tongues of elves, centaurs, aliens, and other folk.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

The best option is my blog, “The Wordsmith’s Forge,” where I talk about writing, Paganism, magic, speculative fiction, gender studies, gardening, nature, current events, and many other topics: http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com

My old website, “PenUltimate Productions,” is no longer updated but still visible; it contains archives of my earlier work. There’s a lot of Pagan poetry and articles, some speculative fiction, and other things.

For the editing half of my wordsmith work, see “Academic & Clerical Editing.” The ACE site is here: http://www.acediting.com

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

1) I host a poetry fishbowl every month on my blog. Drop by “The Wordsmith’s Forge” and give me ideas for writing poetry. The next one will be June 11 with a theme of language, linguistics, and linguists.

I collect quotes. I also make my own, and I’m a memetic engineer interested in building and promoting healthy memes. Here are a few of mine:

“You can’t keep spending water like money.”
“Meditation isn’t something you do when your mind is quiet. It’s something you do to make your mind more quiet.”
“Don’t borrow trouble. The interest is a killer.”
“If you’re not making any mistakes, then you’re not learning, you’re coasting.”

Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth! It was very enlightning!

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