Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Time to Make the Cookies... I mean Write the Story

This weekend was our annual cookie baking get together. Three families have been getting together for about 15 years now, and baking cookies with the kids. Over time we (the mothers) have learned that the best way to make this productive is to make it easy. Store-bought dough, ready made icing, and lots of decorations to go with it. It's the getting together that's the fun part. And eating the cookies.

And I bet, if I try, I can relate this to writing. The fun part often is the writing - and even better, having written and getting others to read your story. But it takes a lot of work to get to that point.

We can't write a story with store-bought ingredients. We have to make it from scratch. But, if we do a bunch of the work ahead of time, it makes the story-writing go much smoother. This can mean writing an outline or doing character sketches.

Decorating your story comes during revisions. And while doing revisions are generally not as fun as putting icing and sprinkles on cookies, revisions can yield amazing results. A story without revisions is like a cookie without sprinkles.

And in the end, if you put the work in, you can end up with a scrumptious product - whether it be cookie or story.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recent YA/Children books come to the big screen

This Thanksgiving I was able to see not one but two movies based on popular children/YA books.

First off I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.  I wasn't a big fan of the book but the producers and directors did a great job adapting the book to the screen.

What worked for me?

First, this is mostly a movie that explores Bella and Edward's relationship.  I really enjoyed the set-up to the wedding(Bella's expressions and conflict of emotions were so real), the honeymoon, and yes, even the imprinting.  I hated the whole premise of imprinting in the book but it really works in the movie.

Some are saying they think Breaking Dawn could have been done in only movie.  I disagree.  I think showing us the relationship of Bella and Edward before her change will help when the second part comes out.

Now what didn't work?

Oh, Jacob.  Poor, poor Jacob.  Why the stiff acting?  I really love Jacob in all the Twilight books but in the movie?  He wasn't very convincing until the imprinting and then wowza.  They do a great job giving the audience a 'hint' of what will be in the next movie.

Some of the dialogue during the honeymoon was almost cheesy bad.  The teens behind me must have agreed as they giggled throughout it.

 I do have one question.  What happened with the sparkly vampires?  I don't remember seeing Edward sparkle even once.  And sorry but it does it sunny in Brazil, where they honeymooned.

**Also do check out the very ending.  That image was burned into my mind.


Where do I even begin?  My ten-year-old's verdict of the movie?  He loved it.  He was excited to see if the movie followed the book, which he did read.  He said it did.

Me?  I loved the images and the story of a young boy that feels his dead father is trying to communicate to him through an old automobot.

The movie is filled with colorful, rich images and even has a steampunk feel to it though it takes place in Paris, France around 1925.

I usually don't think it's worth the extra cost to see a movie in 3D but this one I feel is worth it.  It's an amazing  experience.  I'd highly recommend watching.

Friday, November 25, 2011

In the Service of Samurai - revamp!

First off - hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving!

Hopefully you're not out there killing yourself on Black Friday but are instead taking life at a leisurely pace as Thursday's culinary indulgences continue to make their way through your system. I know I am! lol. :)

Anyway... NEWS!

In the Service of Samurai was the first book I ever published. It was accepted by Zumaya Publications back in 2000 and finally saw print in 2002. In the last several years, Zumaya has been broadening their stable of cover authors and some books have gotten a revamp.

I was lucky enough to be one of those chosen for this. I've never been so in love with one of my covers as this new incarnation for samurai. Not only did Charles Bernard do a super beyond fantastic job, he actually did like six covers for me and the publisher to choose from.  He even took some of the colors from the original cover and similar font and used them here. I am in love love love with this cover. (Oooo my precious!)

Then Liz did me one better - she actually used a re-edited file I'd done a few years ago when I thought the publisher might do a re-edited volume and then she added her expertise and growth as an editor to the manuscript as well (she was my original editor back in 2002 so re-vamped for us both! lol). So in this new edition, we both get to flex and show off the muscles we've developed over time which have hopefully made us both better at the craft.

And now I get to share it with you! The new release was official on 10/31/11. (Which with the book having undead ninja and samurai was a perfect fit! Huzzah!)

So here's a little info on the book itself and links to the revamped sample chapters. There's even a prequel story on my website as well. Oh yeah and an updated book trailer. Bwahahahahaha!

I definitely had many things to be thankful for this year! Yay! Hope you did too.

The choice: Serve the undead or become one of them.

Toshi never expected the strange visitor who one evening stepped foot inside his master's shop. A samurai smelling of the sea, dripping on the ground, algae strung from his armor. For the first time in his life, he discovers that monsters do roam the earth. And this one has been specifically looking for him.

Dragged from his home and all he has ever known, Toshi must now use his acquired skills in foreign maps to help the creatures who have taken him. Yet at every turn there are problems. There are even those seeking to terminate his very life, not wanting his new master to succeed in his assigned task. And when they do find it, Toshi discovers his new master's enemies have prepared for their eventual arrival, leaving him the only one capable of recovering what has been lost. Can he do what even the undead cannot? Or will he fail and be forced to wander the world as one of them?

Sample Chapters

Prequel Story - Appeasement

Available at:

Amazon - Trade Paperback

Amazon - Kindle

Barnes and Noble - Nook

Happy Reading!

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No Gobbling, Just Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so writing a blog related to the holiday seemed like a no-brainer. Until I tried to think of a topic. Turkey recipes? Not so much. Pilgrims and the first feast? Done so many times and better than I could manage. The craziness of prep for a family get-together? ...Yawn.... Since everyone has too much to do and not enough time, I figured I would make this short and very short-winded. Here are my top reasons for being thankful I am a writer, and other related blessings.

I am thankful ... have been published. That way when I say I write and that snarky new person I just met asks in THAT tone of voice "But have you ever been published?" I can say Yes.

... that so many things: music, smells, sounds, tastes, cute guys, can trigger a story in my head faster than I can blink.

...that I am inherently curious/nosy about everyone and everything. I've learned a lot of weird things due to that.

...that my hearing is still good enough to eavesdrop in restaurants and elevators.

...that I can make friends up in my head and have entire conversations.

...that characters sometimes come to me in dreams. Well, maybe not. That tends to happen when the writing is going badly, actually.

...that my chosen genre is YA because I have good reason not to grow up entirely.

...that a lot of my memories get preserved in my stories.

...that I have a good time playing with words and when I get it right, others like reading the result of my playtime.

...that I get to meet so many great people, a lot of them writers themselves, who are so fascinating.

Writers are a quirky, sometimes neurotic, wonderfully sensitive, always entertaining bunch of people and I am so glad I get to count myself in that number.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The need for Conflict in stories

During a session of the critique group that I belong to, one of the members was reading her ten pages and what struck me was her book for me had ended whenshe was only 30 pages into the story. The writing was wonderful, and really drew you in because she is a mistress of putting words together. The senses were there. I could see the setting. Her characters were believeable -- almost. That night while trying to find sleep I kept puzzling over what was wrong with the story.

One of those flashes hit me. There was no real conflict in the story. I'm not talking about there being physical confrontations but as soon as the problem in her story arose and there was a great potential for conflict. The heroine was from a different background from the hero. The heroine and the hero both had secrets. But they were hiding the secrets not from each other but from themselves.

I called her the next morning and gave her my take on the story. Her response was "I don't like conflict." I shook my head. "Without conflict there can be no story." Just because a person avoids it in life doesn't meant the characters in their stories should avoid conflict. Solving the problems of the characters too easily makes the book fall flat. If the characters in a story don't have to fight either something inside themselves or something from the outside the story falls flat.

While you and I may not need conflict in our lives, the characters in our stories do. Without this element what you have may be brilliantly written but will leave the reader wondering what the story was about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"The Day in the Life of a Not-Yet-Best-Selling Author" by Mike DiCerto

It begins before I awaken. I'm drifting in a hypnogogic state and I decide to see if I can tap into the akashic records for the holy grail of author info. I set my intention and send out query: In my next dream please provide a sure fire promotional method to ensure major league book sales.

I drift into deeper sleep and somewhere in my nocturnal altered state a Samurai Warrior approaches me and offers small, round black box. Surely the answer lies within the ebony container. I try to open it but the world shimmies in a cliche manner and I awaken and cannot find the box anywhere in my sheets. Cosmo, our cat, plops on my chest and kisses me with a wet kitty kiss. I hear coffee beans being ground in the kitchen. As usual my wife, Suzy, is up first. I really need to get up an hour earlier I think to myself. I get up.

I turn on my Mac and go to the kitchen to get a glass of juice and a cup of coffee. I mumble to Suzy and kiss her and plop back down at my desk which sits beside a window overlooking a nice upper east side street.  A breeze blows in through the screen and I can feel the autumn chill in the air. Cosmo races by me to watch a black bird perched on the fire escape and comes inches from a coffee disaster.

I open Facebook. I used to to go to the Daily News first but I got so fed up with depressing news I decided getting a few free chickens from Farmville farmers was a nicer way to start the day. I am in the middle of my Virtual Tour with my middle grade fantasy THE DOOR TO FAR-MYST so I check the schedule to remind myself where on tour I am today. If its Tuesday it must be review day. I check the review and beam. Yes! They loved it. I post the link to my Facebook personal and book pages. Then I run over (relatively speaking) to Amazon to see if any sales came from this early morning good news.

Nope. Ranking is lower. Crapola. Back to Facebook. WHAT? No congratulatory comments yet! It's been a whole forty seconds what is wrong with people? "Friends" my butt. The black bird tweets and so do I. Frugal prose and tiny urls later my few hundred followers are privy to my amazing review. Back to Facebook. Back to Amazon. HEY - my ranking moved from 767,900 to 55,546! That must mean I sold at least a zillion books. Reality check. Nah - probably one or two. Sigh. Oh  well at least a five digit number looks better.

Maybe I should write? Cosmo jumps on my lap and nuzzles my neck. I reach around his feline form and I open the file for book three of the Rupert Starbright series. I am six chapters in and feel good this is going to be a nice change of adventures after the first two books in Far-Myst.

I can't resist. I go back and re-read the review. A thought hits me: BLURBS! I scan the review and grab a tasty fragment Engaging and fun. Mike DiCerto weaves a fun and... I add it to my web page. I make it my Facebook status. I tweet it. I send the link to the review to everyone I know via old school email.

I go back to Amazon. Back to six digits. I go back to the review. No comments or "likes". IS ANYONE READING THIS BUT ME??? Cosmo races off to an emergency meeting in the kitchen then plops on Suzy's lap. I go back to Facebook where I get into a brief political debate with a filmmaker friend then watch a cute kitten meets Louis CK video and go get a second cup of coffee. Imagine if Hemingway had internet access...

I go back to my manuscript and write a sentence. Ok, someone must have commented on my review. Nope. Check Facebook. Sure enough my good buddy Joel has shared the review link. So has Suzy. My actor friend Paul has liked it. As do my sisters. I go back to Amazon. Maybe the site is down? Hell- I know my ranking is.

Blog. I have to do my blog for this week. I have an hour before I have to leave for work so I figure I can get it done. I juggle some blog ideas in my head and get to work on that.

I get a sneaking suspicion that all this preaching to the same audience - Facebook and twitter - is growing pointless and my mind wanders to come up with a new effective promotional idea. I ponder getting up to go search the sheets of the Samurai black box but decide against it.

I get a nice chunk of my blog done while a tiny devil in the back of my mind taunts me with his ditty Only five people will read it and they are all re-lated! Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah! I ignore that damned devil. He has taunted me for years so I am used to him.

I go back to my manuscript. Poor Rupert Starbright is sitting on a log waiting for me to make him and his world of Graysland move. I am his god. I have to act! I look at the clock. I have to take a shower and get dressed and leave for work in fifteen minutes. Oy. I check FB, Twitter and Amazon again. I close down the manuscript and promise Rupert I will get his adventure moving next session.

And I will. Book Three will get done. After all, I am a disciplined author.

I have to go check Amazon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This year in reviews

So far this year I have reviewed 24 books. I introduced readers to books from promising new authors and I featured new books from a few popular favorites. Not all the books I review come from a direct contact with the author. This year over half of them did. It’s what I enjoy most about reviewing books. I love connecting with other authors and the friendships we forge.

I reviewed picture books, middle grade fiction, nonfiction, and young adult crossover fiction, which simply means that adults would enjoy these books, too. With so many good books, it seems a shame to let the year end without shining the spotlight on them once more. I thought it would be fun to share my favorite books in each category. I posted the covers of my favorites. I have also included links to my reviews.

Picture books

In picture books, my favorite was not a book but an author/illustrator, Benrali. His illustrations are exquisite. His books are works of art. I feel like I discovered him.

Middle grade fiction

Alex Gonzo, Royal Spy by Jayde Scott
David and the Heart of Aurasius by R.J. Timmis
Elsbett & Robin Take On A-Nasty-Sia by Danai Sabrina Kadzere
The Mystery at Marlatt Manor by Anne Loader McGee
Saltwater Taffy by Eric DelaBarre
The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin
Two Little “Savages” by Ernest Thompson Seton

With this book, R.J. Timmis has created an exciting new fantasy/action series that I think is really going to catch on. She is also the fabulous illustrator.

Young adult crossover fiction

A Job From Hell by Jayde Scott
Blackbird Flies by Chynna Laird
Breaking Fellini by M.E. Purfield
Emory’s Gift by W. Bruce Cameron
How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain
Spaceship Earth by Tom Schwartz

Hands down. Emory’s Gift is a must read. Superb storytelling. My favorite book of the year.


Bad Dog by Martin Kihn
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
You Had Me at Woof by Julie Klam
You and What Army? by Lisa Bracken

I loved this book because I have a long personal history with Hawaii and thought I knew a lot about it. But Sarah Vowell showed me a wacky side to this beloved state’s history which endeared me to her and Hawaii all that much more.

I appreciate the opportunity I had to read and review these books. I wish these talented authors much success. These are the kind of connections that make the writing life so rewarding and a lot less lonely.

Coming soon: PFC Liberty Stryker

Letters to Juniper now available in ebook & paperback at