Tag Archives: Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: The Story With In A Story


‘It all started when the phone rang that afternoon.’ Kyle stared into his glass of bourbon as if it were a crystal ball replaying the past. ‘Most everyone in the office, including the secretary, was at lunch so I answered. The voice on the other end, a woman’s voice, sounded desperate for help. She wanted to speak with Mr. Strauss, the firm’s best corporate lawyer, but he was downtown with the other partners enjoying an expensive meal at a haughty restaurant.’

‘Is that what you told her?’ The bartender scratched his gelatinous chin.

‘It should’ve been,’ Kyle said. ‘Though the situation was obviously over my pay grade, I couldn’t just send her voicemail. That voice was so sultry; I was compelled to talk to her. I had to know more.’ Kyle tipped the glass back and downed his drink. ‘Biggest mistake of my life.’

The bartender poured another without prompting.

‘If you don’t mind my asking, what the hell happened?’ He asked Kyle with a hushed tone.

‘That’s what I keep asking myself,’ Kyle said.

A simple but effective technique is the story within a story approach. In the example above we learn about the events of a story as Kyle speaks of them while at the same time a second story is told of the bartender and his reaction to the first story. This gives the reader more information than would be available if the scene only described the events at the office. Kyle’s melancholy attitude and the bartender’s interest show the reader the emotional impact that those events will have on Kyle thus building tension.

Another form of the story within the story concept is the confessional. This is a pause in the main plot where a scene about a character’s past is included. It can be either narrative or dialogue, but the purpose is to take a look at an important point in the character’s past and learn something of the character that explains why they are the way they are or what motivates them. It is fun to drop a familiar character in a whole new set of circumstances and take a break from the current story. It allows the reader to see more aspects of them and keeps the story fresh.

Story with in a story is a simple idea and is used a lot in a myriad of forms. It will add a dimension to your writing that will give your plots and characters depth they didn’t have before.

Until next time- happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Final Touches


I think back to the beginning of my latest manuscript that I start over three months ago when there was only a title and one blank page. Though I knew where to go with the story there was no predicting quite how it would turn out or what it would take to get there. Now twenty six thousand words and a hundred and ten pages later I have my newest manuscript almost ready to go. If you are new to writing I would like to share a few things with you about this stage of the process.

Though the story is done and the editing complete there is still a remarkable amount to do. My first bit of advice is to go over again. Trust me, there will be more corrections to make than might think. After that the details of the next few steps depend on the publisher you are submitting to. If you don’t know whom you are going to submit to then this is the time you want to do an Internet search for an appropriate publisher and look up their guidelines.

There are several things a publisher is likely to want in addition to the manuscript.

The first is a summary and my least favorite thing to do. A summary is a present tense outline of the manuscript. It should name all the main characters, cover all the major plot points and include the end. If you find that you are submitting a story to several publishers then you are likely to need a different summary for each because they all have different length requirements. I have written summaries anywhere from one page to ten pages for the same story.

Another common requirement is the blurb. This is like the teaser on the back cover to induce the reader to purchase the book. It is two or three paragraphs in length that should grab the readers attention and leave them wondering what happens next. Blurbs are also written present tense and are fun to do. Read the backs of a couple dozen of books and find which ones get your attention. What did those authors say and how did they say it? Blurb writing isn’t the same as novel writing, but once you get a knack for it, it’s a blast.

The excerpt, in theory, should be the simplest requirement. A publisher wants the writer to provide a bit of the manuscript for the reader to sample. Obviously this should involve an intriguing section, but I find choosing an excerpt difficult. What I keep in mind is that it should always include the main character, be mostly dialogue, and like a blurb end with the reader wondering what will happen next. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not so much.

The real pain in the arse about submitting comes from various publishers’ quirky requirements. Most of the requirements make sense such as length, font size and file types. However a few publishers want specific margins, no use of italics, no spacing other than chapter breaks (such as no * * * between sections), no use of the tab for indentations, and some want headers and footers with certain information. At this point it is more about jumping through hoops than the writing and the author spends significant time creating a specific versions of the manuscript for various publishers. It would make more sense to have the publisher decide if they liked the material and then make the changes for the accepted manuscripts, but I imagine the requirements are used to deter submissions.

In many cases a query letter, or cover letter, is sent as well. A basic three-paragraph format is used and it should be addressed to someone specific whenever possible. The first paragraph contains the basic facts about the manuscript including length, genre, title, and intended audience. The second paragraph is a very brief blurb about the story. The final paragraph is about the author. It should list relevant background, previous published material and experience. It is important to keep a query letter one page in length.

It is vital that an author is always polite when dealing with publishers. There is no call for being rude and it won’t change their minds in the case of rejection. Also, don’t bother being cutesy either. They are busy people and don’t have time for that sort thing. With all your communications be sure to get to the point, relay all the information required and thank them for their time.

My experience has been that E publishers tend to be more about the work. They will require the manuscript, blurb and excerpt with few complications. Paper publishers on the other hand often have more stringent needs. It is almost ceremonial the process of submitting to a conventional publisher and they expect all the bells and whistles. Whatever the requirements, be sure to meet them no matter what type of publisher you submit to. The submission stage is highly competitive and you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Conform to the requirements and let the work do the talking.

So, good luck to all of us who send our books off to publishers as if they were our children attending their first day of school.

Until next time— happy writing.

Almost forgot, happy father’s day to all of us dads!

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: New Horizons


Today I find myself with one chapter left to write on my latest manuscript. There is something satisfying about completing a story. It is difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t write, but it is a sense of fulfillment followed by a bit of sadness at the void it leaves behind. The characters become like friends as you imagine them speaking and doing things each in their own way, and like friends, you miss them when they’re gone. It’s been three months of labor and twenty two thousand words to tell this particular tale, but I am proud of what I’ve come up with.

I once attended a writer’s seminar and an accomplished author, Michael Stackpole, offered a bit of advice that every writer should think about. He said that each new work should challenge the writer in some way. An author should push their boundaries and attempt something new with each book they write. If a writer doesn’t expand their horizons they will simply repeat themselves and not only lose the interest their readers, but are at risk of losing their own passion for writing.

In the story I’m wrapping up, I broke my tendency to portray my characters as flawed people. In all my works my character’s behavior and morals land in a gray area. The plot has as much to do with understanding those characters as it does the sequence of events that unfold. By seeing first hand their motives, even if the reader doesn’t agree with the character, they should relate to the character. This approach is great for gritty science fiction, but not so much for romance. The goal in romance is focus on the fantasy; make it less complex and more colorful.

I have learned so much from this exercise. A friend of mine, and fellow science fiction writer, teased me for my endeavors into romance writing. I told him it may sound easy but romance is a delicate genre and requires a lot of planning. The reason is that everyone knows where the story is going, but you still have to make the journey fun. Honestly, romance is significantly more difficult to write in a lot of ways than other genres. In romance the heart of the story is about two people falling in love. If the reader doesn’t care for the characters then it doesn’t matter what else in the book is done well, it is fundamentally flawed. While in every other genre an author still has to have good characters and characterization, that isn’t necessarily at the heart of the story. In fantasy books it is often the setting, in a mystery an intriguing case is the framework for a great plot, in science fiction it is the science fact behind the fiction— but romance it is the relationship between two people.

There is nothing more complicated in life than a relationship.

With all this in mind I have come up with a love story that has pushed me as a writer, uses some intrigue, a little action and a memorable cast of characters. Thanks to the advice of another writer on this blog, I have written something to be proud of and hope to be able to share it soon. Here’s a blurb to give you a taste.

In High Heels & Hexes three witches go in search of a forth member of their coven after she is kidnapped by the demon Vaciro. This tantalizing tale follows the charming trio of Shelly, Annabel, and Jasmine, as they become entangled in lustful encounters while they unravel the mystery of Caroline’s whereabouts. The naughty witches make allies with a surprisingly cordial demon named Nezel, whose only experiences on Earth was during the mob days of Chicago. They also meet Jack, a hunky half demon and half man, whose motives are unclear. Though Jack has a vendetta with Vaciro, Shelly finds the inscrutable half demon as dangerous as he is delicious.

Until next time— happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: In the Mood for Love


Last week I received a comment on my blog from a pleasant lady, Robin, which concerned the crafting of a love scene. She mentioned that some authors have to be in mood for writing such a scene, although the act of writing can produce such a mood. It becomes one of those situations that will leave you asking; which came first; the chicken or the egg?

Well the whole issue got me wondering and so instead of writing I thought about this enigma. Typically if I’m feeling randy my body’s need will influence my thoughts. That heightened sensitivity inspires the imagination and the ‘mood’ will manifest itself. If I have the opportunity to write at such a time I crank out some descriptive passages— not necessarily well written, but it’s a start. However, if the reverse is true and I’m lost in carnal fantasies about a beautiful exotic woman in need of rescue, my body will respond with increased blood flow and once again the ‘mood’ will materialize. When the brain initiates the mood it produces more interesting scenarios in my stories and most of the love scenes come about in this manner. The curse is when the physical and mental drives for sex does not fall into sink.

As a healthy male teenager I suffered, as all boys do, from the physical drive popping up without provocation— often. It didn’t matter when or where; in school, riding in the car, going to the bathroom, or watching television, at any time the physical need could rise regardless of my thoughts. This form of imbalance can be embarrassing.

Now that I’m significantly older I have the opposite problem from time to time. The mental drive is there, but the body can’t always keep up for long. I consider my libido intact, after all I still have my fantasies– often, but the physical reaction to such thoughts has lessened.

That’s really interesting Mike, but what does it all mean?

I’m glad you asked. The take away on this is that fictional depiction of sex is healthy for both writer and reader. While reading or writing love scenes may or may not cause a physical response it should promote a mental one. As adults we require an outlet for those impulses even if it is only in our head. Often it can be called upon later for fuel when we do have the opportunity to be intimate. Quality romance or erotica will create characters we can identify with on some level and experience vicariously their exploits, good or bad, moral or not, and they take us on journey of wanton endeavors.

Until next time— happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Anatomy of a Love Scene


One day I would love the opportunity to sit down with a group of romance or erotica writers and hear the creative process that each goes through to develop a sex scene. Whether the story uses graphic or suggestive styles the art of novel writing doesn’t get any more personal than the subject of lovemaking. Everything from the details chosen to depict, the acts the characters engage in, and the level of description utilized all says a lot about the author. The love sequence is always a challenge to craft and that’s why I want to share my experience with you.

In the rough draft of my novel Savage Worlds I handled the consummation of the relationship between Jaron and Sheri, the principle two characters, with a short paragraph that simply noted that they indulged each other’s desire throughout the night. When I reread the draft I decided that something was definitely missing. After all there were nearly two hundred pages of how Jaron wanted her and how Sheri realized that there was more to this dangerous, uncultured man than she thought. The two overcame not only their own preconceived notions about each other’s race and culture, but also a myriad of external pressures that kept them apart. Now stranded on a harsh world, their survival in question, I decide to represent their expression of love by jotting a couple of sentences about how they pleased one another.

Weak!

The process of writing an appropriate scene began immediately. Though nervous about my first attempt at a sexual encounter, I opted to emulate the same method I use for developing a violent scene. I clearly described the mindset of the character; why they were at this heightened state and how it affect them. In a conflict I will use key details to relate the physical interaction while blending in emotional changes to the stimulus. In this scene I did the same thing.

The first time a couple gets nude together is a monumental experience. By concentrating on that identifiable experience the reader can feel the same anticipation as the characters with the aim of creating a level of believability. Also, instead of Jaron and Sheri having a practiced perfect performance they have a moment where they bungle their attempts to undress one another. They giggle at their clumsy efforts and continue with great enthusiasm.

The sequence then broke up into three general parts.

The first was a foreplay section where they both explore each other’s bodies. Though the races in Savage Worlds are all ‘near’ human, they possess physical differences and there was a mild curiosity factor as they learn about the other. The second was the initial lovemaking that reflected the emotional satisfaction that their being together brought them. This spotlighted the awareness one gets when first with someone new— the Oh my God, I can’t believe this happening factor. The last part of the love scene was the animalistic stage. When the lust is so great a person forgets his or her own name. At this point Jaron and Sheri become so enthralled with the act that they are no longer aware of where they are. Making that point was critical because in my estimation it is the goal of a sexual encounter to reach the inner basic instincts and let go of whom we pretend to be.

As it turned out this template became my formula for writing such interaction. While there are variations to each, it is the heart of every sex sequence I write.

If anyone else would care to share their thoughts I’d like to hear them. Drop me a line at m.bingamon@att.com and I’ll write a summary of these comments for my next blog.

If you are new to writing then I hope you found this inspirational and don’t balk at letting loose on your own love scenes. Be honest. That will be your greatest tool to pull the reader into the passion shared between your characters.

Until next time, happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: A History of Women Authors in Science Fiction


Women authors, outside of romance, were not common in early science fiction. For a long time the most successful female writers were romance novelist. As romance books grew in popularity here in the U.S. during the fifties and sixties women writers expanded into other fields. I imagine a heavy influence for many of these bold writers was the romance genre and this influence was fortunate.

Romance and the romance style have had a significant impact on our culture, not only in television and movies but other types of books as well. Whether a reader enjoys intrigues, flashing swords or star ships in their stories, a heart felt need for love will always make any setting better. Romantic writing has had an impact on all manner of other genres.

Male writers dominated early science fiction publications. Armed with an interesting view of the future and some talent they wrote tales like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Doc Savage. These stories were typically entertaining, over the top and short. Of course those with deeper insights such as H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradburry and Isaac Asimov defined hardcore science fiction writing, however science fiction still had a limited audience.

In the nineteen sixties while the top selling science fiction was inhabited by the giants, new writers were also appearing. Harry Harrison, Robert Heinlein, and Piers Anthony made their debut, but so did Anne McCaffrey and Ursula K Le Guin. Not only were they science fiction writers, but also as women authors they brought a new point of view to the genre— along with new readers.

By the seventies women were much more prevalent in science fiction and fantasy writing. Kate Wilhelm, Martha Randal, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Mary Lee Stettle (who gained a National Book Award for Blood Tie) all had best selling books in that decade. Not only were women writing more in other genres, but also there was a boom in women publisher and magazine editors.

With the changes in audience, writers and publishers for science fiction it allowed for a new type science fiction. The science fact in these stories can be used as tool for characters with more humanized goals. For example, traveling to Mars or through time just to do it isn’t as interesting as doing it for love. With a romantic motivation to a fantastic setting it brings a level of believability that would otherwise be missing. As a writer I certainly fall into that category. I’ve never written a story where the character doesn’t fall in love. It is by far the most dramatic, life changing, wonderful event that can happen to a human being and should be told and retold as many ways as possible. Thanks to women in the field of science fiction, and writing at large, I have book that has a place in today’s market.

Until next time, happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Life Lesson From Literature


I want to share an epiphany I had recently. During a conversation with an acquaintance of mine we were discussing the nature of human beings, politics and the world in general. One particular point that came up was the idea that man is inherently good. That people as a whole, in any civilization, are fundamentally decent folks no matter what rules of that society maybe. To my own surprise I found that I argued that most of us are worthy individuals when separated from exterior influences. In short, I believe that people from any society and any era all have a fundamental desire to be good— and I can prove it.

Great fiction from any culture, from any point in history, has certain elements in common. The reason they have elements in common is that some concepts have a universal appeal to us and hold our attention. Books that retain a reader’s attention do well; books that speak to us about the human experience are the ones that endure. Such as the Odyssey, Lord of the Rings, and any Shakespeare play are epic examples. Each culture and time period has it’s own hallmark writers that capture the imaginations of many readers, but follow the same rules of success. Even those stories that are never famous that touch us in someway usually do so because they reflect something we admire.

What is it these stories all have? Heroic characters faced with incredible obstacles.

Even if the book doesn’t depict the Cyclops trying to prevent the hero from completing his journey home, there are always barriers the main character must deal with. Sometimes a tale of someone falling in love, battling cancer or surviving a disaster is more moving because it we can identify with it. Whatever the situation, we enjoy reading about a noble cause.

For the sake of my argument it doesn’t matter what genre appeals to you, what matters is these stories feature someone overcoming his or her circumstances. That is how people learn and we all have a need to see others succeed by becoming more than what they were. No one cares to read about a character that doesn’t learn anything and merely acts for their self-interests.

Allow me to phrase it another way.

I once attended a writing conference and the speaker explained that heroes are always more interesting than villains. Villains never grow. They seek power or to do wrong because they believe they are entitled to whatever they want. They are villains because they will do anything to obtain their goals. They don’t learn or change and that makes them a poor choice for a lead character. Heroes on the other hand must overcome adversity by learning about themselves and those around them. Exciting drama is the unfolding struggle, both internal and external. What captivates a reader is venturing through that process with the heroic character and experiencing their adventure through them— it always has and it always will.

If that is what makes a successful story, if that is what has always made a successful story, then it is my assertion that this universal attraction to overcoming adversity through the betterment of an individual means we all have the basic moral principals. What is considered admirable qualities among the ancient Greeks is admirable to modern America and everyone in between. This goes for all cultures, for I’m certain that if you were to read ancient Chinese tales, American Indian legends, or ancient Egyptian stories they would feature characters that performed great deeds against evil forces. In the end literature reveals the soul of a culture and mankind as a whole.

Happy writing!

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Words to Know part II


More wonderful words to use whenever possible when writing.

jubilant(adj.) extremely joyful, happy (The crowd was jubilant when the firefighter carried the woman from the flaming building.)

knell (n.) the solemn sound of a bell, often indicating a death (Echoing throughout our village, the funeral knell made the grey day even more grim.)

lithe (adj.) graceful, flexible, supple (Although the dancers were all outstanding, Joanna’s control of her lithe body was particularly impressive.)

lurid (adj.) ghastly, sensational (Barry’s story, in which he described a character torturing his neighbour’s tortoise, was judged too lurid to be published on the English Library’s website.)

maverick (n.) an independent, nonconformist person (John is a real maverick and always does things his own way.)

maxim (n.) a common saying expressing a principle of conduct (Ms. Stone’s etiquette maxims are both entertaining and instructional.)

meticulous (adj.) extremely careful with details (The ornate needlework in the bride’s gown was a product of meticulous handiwork.)

modicum (n.) a small amount of something (Refusing to display even a modicum of sensitivity, Magda announced her boss’s affair to the entire office.)

morose (adj.) gloomy or sullen (David’s morose nature made him very unpleasant to talk to.)

myriad (adj.) consisting of a very great number (It was difficult to decide what to do on Saturday night because the city presented us with myriad possibilities for fun.)

nadir (n.) the lowest point of something (My day was boring, but the nadir came when my new car was stolen.)

nominal (adj.) trifling, insignificant (Because he was moving the following week and needed to get rid of his furniture more than he needed money, Kim sold everything for a nominal price.)

novice (n.) a beginner, someone without training or experience (Because we were all novices at archery, our instructor decided to begin with the basics

nuance (n.) a slight variation in meaning, tone, expression (The nuances of the poem were not obvious to the casual reader, but the teacher was able to point them out.)

oblivious (adj.) lacking consciousness or awareness of something (Oblivious to the burning smell emanating from the kitchen, my father did not notice that the rolls in the oven were burned until much too late.)

obsequious (adj.) excessively compliant or submissive (Donald acted like Susan’s servant, obeying her every request in an obsequious manner.)

obtuse (adj.) lacking quickness of sensibility or intellect (Political opponents warned that the prime minister’s obtuse approach to foreign policy would embroil the nation in mindless war.)

panacea (n.) a remedy for all ills or difficulties (Doctors wish there was a single panacea for every disease, but sadly there is not.)

parody (n.) a satirical imitation (A hush fell over the classroom when the teacher returned to find Magdalena acting out a parody of his teaching style.)

penchant (n.) a tendency, partiality, preference (Fiona’s dinner parties quickly became monotonous on account of her penchant for Indian dishes.)

perusal (n.) a careful examination, review (The actor agreed to accept the role after a three-month perusal of the movie script.)

plethora (n.) an abundance, excess (The wedding banquet included a plethora of oysters piled almost three feet high.)

predilection (n.) a preference or inclination for something (James has a predilection for eating toad in the whole with tomato ketchup.)

quaint (adj.) charmingly old-fashioned (Mary was delighted by the quaint bonnets she saw in Romania .)

rash (adj.) hasty, incautious (It’s best to think things over calmly and thoroughly, rather than make rash decisions.)

refurbish (v.) to restore, clean up (After being refurbished the old Triumph motorcycle commanded the handsome price of $6000.)

repudiate (v.) to reject, refuse to accept (Tom made a strong case for an extension of his curfew, but his mother repudiated it with a few biting words.)

rife (adj.) abundant (Surprisingly, the teacher’s writing was rife with spelling errors.)

salient (adj.) significant, conspicuous (One of the salient differences between Alison and Helen is that Alison is a couple of kilos heavier.)

serendipity (n.) luck, finding good things without looking for them (In an amazing bit of serendipity, penniless Mark found a $50 bill on the back seat of the bus.)

staid (adj.) sedate, serious, self-restrained (The staid butler never changed his expression no matter what happened.)

superfluous (adj.) exceeding what is necessary (Samantha had already won the campaign so her constant flattery of others was superfluous.)

sycophant (n.) one who flatters for self-gain (Some see the people in the cabinet as the Prime Minister’s closest advisors, but others see them as sycophants.)

taciturn (adj.) not inclined to talk (Though Magda never seems to stop talking, her brother is quite taciturn.)

truculent (adj.) ready to fight, cruel (This club doesn’t really attract the dangerous types, so why was that bouncer being so truculent?)

umbrage (n.) resentment, offence (He called me a lily-livered coward, and I took umbrage at the insult.)

venerable (adj.) deserving of respect because of age or achievement (The venerable High Court judge had made several key rulings in landmark cases throughout the years.)

vex (v.) to confuse or annoy (My boyfriend vexes me by pinching my bottom for hours on end.)

vociferous (adj.) loud, boisterous (I’m tired of his vociferous whining so I’m breaking up with him.)

wanton (adj.) undisciplined, lewd, lustful (Joanna’s wanton demeanor often made the frat guys next door very excited.)

zenith (n.) the highest point, culminating point (I was too nice to tell Emily that she had reached the absolute zenith of her career with that one top 10 hit of hers.)

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Word Selection


The next couple of weeks my wife and I are preparing to compete in a mounted orienteering events. We will be loading up the horses and hitting the trails with our maps and compasses in some thrilling competition.  I have not forgotten my responsibility of my blog and will leave you with following.

As every writer knows word selection is vital. It can be a challenge to at times to not write the way we speak. There is a wonderful book called 12oo Words You Should Know and I use it frequently. Here is one of two lists of the top fifty useful selections.

aberration(n.) something that differs from the norm (In 1974, Poland won the World Cup, but the success turned out to be an aberration, and Poland have not won a World Cup since).

abhor(v.) to hate, detest (Because he always wound up getting hit in the head when he tried to play cricket, Marcin began to abhor the sport).

acquiesce(v.) to agree without protesting (Though Mr. Pospieszny wanted to stay outside and work in his garage, when his wife told him that he had better come in to dinner, he acquiesced to her demands.)

alacrity(n.) eagerness, speed (For some reason, Simon loved to help his girlfriend whenever he could, so when his girlfriend asked him to set the table he did so with alacrity.)

amiable(adj.) friendly (An amiable fellow, Neil got along with just about everyone.)

appease(v.) to calm, satisfy (When Jerry cries, his mother gives him chocolate to appease him.)

arcane(adj.) obscure, secret, known only by a few (The professor is an expert in arcane Kashubian literature.)

avarice(n.) excessive greed (The banker’s avarice led him to amass an enormous personal fortune.)

brazen(adj.) excessively bold, brash, clear and obvious (Critics condemned the writer’s brazen attempt to plagiarise Frankow-Czerwonko’s work.)

brusque(adj.) short, abrupt, dismissive (Simon’s brusque manner sometimes offends his colleagues.)

cajole(v.) to urge, coax (Magda’s friends cajoled her into drinking too much.)

callous(adj.) harsh, cold, unfeeling (The murderer’s callous lack of remorse shocked the jury.)

candor(n.) honesty, frankness (We were surprised by the candor of the politician’s speech because she is usually rather evasive.)

chide(v.) to voice disapproval (Hania chided Gregory for his vulgar habits and sloppy appearance.)

circumspect(adj.) cautious (Though I promised Marta’s father I would bring her home promptly by midnight, it would have been more circumspect not to have specified a time.)

clandestine(adj.) secret (Announcing to her boyfriend that she was going to the library, Maria actually went to meet George for a clandestine liaison.)

coerce(v.) to make somebody do something by force or threat (The court decided that David Beckham did not have to honor the contract because he had been coerced into signing it.)

coherent(adj.) logically consistent, intelligible (William could not figure out what Harold had seen because he was too distraught to deliver a coherent statement.)

complacency(n.) self-satisfied ignorance of danger (Simon tried to shock his friends out of their complacency by painting a frightening picture of what might happen to them.)

confidant(n.) a person entrusted with secrets (Shortly after we met, he became my chief confidant.)

connive(v.) to plot, scheme (She connived to get me to give up my plans to start up a new business.)

cumulative(adj.) increasing, building upon itself (The cumulative effect of hours spent using the World English website was a vast improvement in his vocabulary and general level of English.)

debase(v.) to lower the quality or esteem of something (The large raise that he gave himself debased his motives for running the charity.)

decry(v.) to criticize openly (Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the Polish Self Defence party decried the appaling state of Polish roads.)

deferential(adj.) showing respect for another’s authority (Donata is always excessively deferential to any kind of authority figure.)

demure(adj.) quiet, modest, reserved (Though everyone else at the party was dancing and going crazy, she remained demure.)

deride(v.) to laugh at mockingly, scorn (The native speaker often derided the other teacher’s accent.)

despot(n.) one who has total power and rules brutally (The despot issued a death sentence for anyone who disobeyed his laws.)

diligent(adj.) showing care in doing one’s work (The diligent researcher made sure to double check her measurements.)

elated(adj.) overjoyed, thrilled (When he found out he had won the lottery, the postman was elated.)

eloquent(adj.) expressive, articulate, moving (The best man gave such an eloquent speech that most guests were crying.)

embezzle(v.) to steal money by falsifying records (The accountant was fired for embezzling €10,000 of the company’s funds.)

empathy(n.) sensitivity to another’s feelings as if they were one’s own (I feel such empathy for my dog when she’s upset so am I!)

enmity(n.) ill will, hatred, hostility (John and Scott have clearly not forgiven each other, because the enmity between them is obvious to anyone in their presence.)

erudite(adj.) learned (My English teacher is such an erudite scholar that he has translated some of the most difficult and abstruse Old English poetry.)

extol(v.) to praise, revere (Kamila extolled the virtues of a vegetarian diet to her meat-loving boyfriend.)

fabricate(v.) to make up, invent (When I arrived an hour late to class, I fabricated some excuse about my car breaking down on the way to work.)

feral(adj.) wild, savage (That beast looks so feral that I would fear being alone with it.)

flabbergasted(adj.) astounded (Whenever I read an Agatha Christie mystery novel, I am always flabbergasted when I learn the identity of the murderer.)

forsake(v.) to give up, renounce (I won’t forsake my conservative principles.)

fractious(adj.) troublesome or irritable (Although the child insisted he wasn’t tired, his fractious behaviour – especially his decision to crush his jam sandwiches all over the floor – convinced everyone present that it was time to put him to bed.)

furtive(adj.) secretive, sly (Claudia’s placement of her drugs in her sock drawer was not as furtive as she thought, as the sock drawer is the first place most parents look.)

gluttony(n.) overindulgence in food or drink (Helen’s fried chicken tastes so divine, I don’t know how anyone can call gluttony a sin.)

gratuitous(adj.) uncalled for, unwarranted (Every evening the guy at the fish and chip shop gives me a gratuitous helping of vinegar.)

haughty(adj.) disdainfully proud (The superstar’s haughty dismissal of her co-stars will backfire on her someday.)

hypocrisy(n.) pretending to believe what one does not (Once the politician began passing legislation that contradicted his campaign promises, his hypocrisy became apparent.)

impeccable(adj.) exemplary, flawless (If your grades were as impeccable as your brother’s, then you too would receive a car for a graduation present.)

impertinent(adj.) rude, insolent (Most of your comments are so impertinent that I don’t wish to dignify them with an answer.)

implacable(adj.) incapable of being appeased or mitigated (Watch out: once you shun Grandmother’s cooking, she is totally implacable.)

impudent(adj.) casually rude, insolent, impertinent (The impudent young woman looked her teacher up and down and told him he was hot.)

incisive(adj.) clear, sharp, direct (The discussion wasn’t going anywhere until her incisive comment allowed everyone to see what the true issues were.)

indolent(adj.) lazy (Why should my indolent children, who can’t even pick themselves up off the sofa to pour their own juice, be rewarded with a trip to Burger King?)

inept(adj.) not suitable or capable, unqualified (She proved how inept she was when she forgot two orders and spilled a pint of cider in a customer’s lap.)

infamy(n.) notoriety, extreme ill repute (The infamy of his crime will not lessen as time passes.)

inhibit(v.) to prevent, restrain, stop (When I told you I needed the car last night, I certainly never meant to inhibit you from going out.)

innate(adj.) inborn, native, inherent (His incredible athletic talent is innate, he never trains, lifts weights, or practices.)

insatiable(adj.) incapable of being satisfied (My insatiable appetite for blondes was a real problem on my recent holiday in Japan !)

insular(adj.) separated and narrow-minded; tight-knit, closed off (Because of the sensitive nature of their jobs, those who work for MI5 must remain insular and generally only spend time with each other.)

intrepid(adj.) brave in the face of danger (After scaling a live volcano prior to its eruption, the explorer was praised for his intrepid attitude.)

inveterateadj.) stubbornly established by habit (I’m the first to admit that I’m an inveterate cider drinker—I drink four pints a day.)

I’ll give the second half of the list next week. Until then happy writing!

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: What our writing says about us


Writers are observers. We take in the world around us and fill our pages with the images that make an impact. As artists we want to share with everyone what it is about life that moves us, excites us or holds our attention. Like a painter, we are invisible once the canvas is completed and it is up the individual viewing the work to decide how to interpret it. But we are not invisible once the writing is over. We have left behind a large part of ourselves for all to see. Just as you can tell a lot about someone by what they read, you can discover a lot about an author by what they write.

People’s personalities are reflected in their actions, clothes, words, cars and homes. An observer of details can mine a wealth of information just by walking into another person’s front door for a look around. Personally I check out the DVD collection, what pictures are hanging prominently on the walls, which random odds and ends are stashed next to the recliner and, of course, the book collection. All these are clues as to the personality of the owner of the house. We authors leave similar clues in our writing.

While our writing represents the world we experience around us, it also depicts who we are as well. Based on what we write about, how real or fantastic the subject matter, and the details we use to describe our stories all tell the reader who we are.

As a whole, romance writers are an optimistic bunch. It doesn’t matter if the author claims that they don’t believe in true love outside of novels, the fact that they write about it means they fantasize about true love. So, on some level they do believe in it. It is that belief that makes the reader believe. Let me say that again. It is the belief in true love by the romance author that makes it real to the reader. When we open ourselves up to our strongest convictions, most terrifying fears and deepest thoughts that is when the connection with the reader is established.

That was the thought that drove me to examine my writing to determine what about my personality comes through, and determine what it is I say to the reader. This is what I came up with.

Death. Death is something I don’t use much, if at all, in my work. It is not something that fascinates me and it is such a powerful writing tool that it should be used sparingly. If the author frequently knocks off characters the reader will be hesitant to become attached to them. An unattached reader, as you well know, is something you don’t want to cultivate.

Violence, on the other hand, I use often. Many of my characters hit each other or otherwise have physical altercations. This is from my fondness for its honesty. Violence, like sex, is a pure form of communication— no deception. As a kid I used to fight with my friends all the time because that was how we settled things. No one was usually angry afterwards and the matter was resolved. Its simplicity is appealing.

I tend to have my characters eat a lot. In a 120,000-word book I wrote I had no less than six scenes with references to characters eating. Even in my short story, Who’s the Boss? which was less than 4,000 words, I still manage to have characters grab a bite.  In a fantasy story of mine that was only 12,000 words, I had the main character take time out from saving his people to chow on some bread and cheese. Mind you, I just realized my food fetish while writing this entry so I’m not entirely sure what it means other than the obvious— I like to eat. Unless it is has to do with my characters satisfying a basic survival drive and creating a level of realism for me.

Fighting boredom is another thing I include. There is almost without a doubt a scene in anything I write where a character is bored and waiting for something to happen. The quiet reflections of those moments, before things get ugly, are when you can learn plenty about a character. I tend to use these sequences to establish mindset for that character.

Sex. Physical intimacy is the ultimate expression and logical conclusion of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman. The excitement of two people exploring each other is powerful for many, many reasons. It is a basic drive that everyone has and its portrayal grants our characters another level of realism.

I invite other writers to take a few minutes and think about what they feel their books say about them. It is educational and a fun. You may find that you’re saying more than you thought.

Until next time – happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Self-Publishing


Everyone wants to be published! Despite what we may say the fantasy of every novelist is to receive a fat advance for a book we’ve labored over, which is then placed by the dozens on shelves throughout bookstores across America. The cherry on top of this double scoop ice-dream come true is the chance to host book signings that line fans out the door and the blockbuster movie deal that makes your work a household name.

Only a few of the talented writers in this world obtain such fortune and fame while the rest of have to settle for more realistic fates. Perhaps your experience is less fantastic, but a publisher opts to put your manuscript into print and you sell a few copies. Or maybe a magazine publishes some of your work, which is no minor accomplishment either. The pay is modest, but the exposure is great. E-books are the newest media format for novels and with their accessibility is a legitimate form of publication. It lacks the prestige of printed books, however sell enough of them and that can change!

The bastard child of the publishing game is self-publishing. The author pays to have a publisher print their book, which is typically made available on Amazon.com and other Internet sites. Self-publishing companies use a print on demand model and only create copies as they’re sold. There are advantages to this approach and it offers a lot, but also there is a significant cost that accompanies it. Besides, when you do it yourself it creates mixed emotions. On the one hand the author took a short cut but on the other they have an honest to goodness solid book filled with their words to place on the mantle. The phrase, it’s like kissing your sister, describes it well.

My novel, Savage Worlds, is self-published and at the time I felt that was the only option available to me. The publishing business is not an easy one to navigate, especially when you’re a part-time writer with a regular job. After multitudes rejections from publishers and agents it appeared to be the only guaranteed path to see my brilliant story transformed into a book. While I don’t regret the decision, I do wish I had known a few details before I started. Allow me to elucidate the key points of self-publishing.

First and foremost is edit. If you can, have someone else go over your manuscript as well, but edit. Then edit, edit, edit, and edit some more. Self-publishers do not touch it. It doesn’t matter how obvious the oversight they will not correct a manuscript and that is how it will go to print.

Several self-publishers offer ala cart services and I highly recommend such a publisher. It saves money and you get only what services you need. The type of book and the author’s circumstance will determine what services will be of benefit. On the assumption that an author reading this blog has written a novel the only services required are printing, Internet availability, and copies for the author.

The cost of the marketing packages offered by self-publishers is disproportional to their effectiveness. The expense would be worth it if it yielded any results. The avenues in which they promote books are so saturated with other self-published works there is no impact. I was willing to take a loss on my promotional budget, but after seven hundred dollars of their promotions I sold no books. Zero. Nada. None.

What is effective is for the author to advertise the book on his or her own. In many American fiction magazines the cost is in the neighborhood five hundred dollars for a quarter or third of a page advertisement. Canadian, British, and Australian periodicals are much more reasonably priced— for thirty-five dollars (or less) you can purchase a half page advertisement. The results vary, but it will move a few books. While the money spent isn’t likely to be completely recovered; take great solace in the knowledge that there are people out there reading your work.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking options have reduced the role the publisher plays to a less vital one. An individual has fantastic access to self-promotion and it is a wondrous point in history to be a writer. As entertainers we can expose our works to a greater a number of people than ever before and allow skill, talent and lady fortune to determine our success rather than a handful of large publishers.

If you’re enjoying success with an e-publisher then the self-publishing industry has little to offer. However, if you’re dead set on having your book in print and cannot obtain the attention of a traditional publisher then it is an option you may want to seriously consider.

Until next time— happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Finding the Zone


I find myself set up at my dinning room table with my laptop in an attempt to decide what to post for tomorrow’s blog. With tomorrow being Easter it brings up a variety of random thoughts that are difficult to herd. However, this is sort of challenge that is very much a part of writing, so we’ll explore these thoughts together.

First of all Easter has always been one of my son’s favorite holidays after Christmas and Halloween. Christopher enjoyed the egg hunts in the yard and of course all the goodies that he received. There was always a delicious ham dinner at his grandmother’s house where Christopher would acquire additional gifts and booty. Every year he made out like fox in a hen house with money, chocolate, and toys! However, at the tender age of twenty he’s grown up and is currently overseas serving in the United States Marine Corps. Hunting for colored eggs is likely the furthest thing from his mind today as he goes about his duties. This Easter, as we did last year, we will have our dinner without Christopher. We will gather together, speak fondly of him and pray for his safe return.

Besides the melancholy reflections of a father I am concerned with the progress of my current writing endeavor. I have a great start, but have noticed that I’ve fallen into some habits that I was looking to break. My awareness of this is a positive. I still can go through and rework certain sections to accomplish my goals. The real boost has been reading the other posts on this blog. Inspiration, humor and useful hints have assisted me in pushing my limits as a writer and I do feel fortunate to be a part of A History of Romance.

That is enough of my self-indulgent ramblings. It is time to offer something on the subject of writing.

One bit of advice I can offer to other authors is the importance of choosing good conditions in which to work. If you acknowledge that you write better under the correct circumstances then you can arrange to have those conditions. It creates an atmosphere of productivity that you can focus your efforts in.

For me, I write best at night. It is ten o’clock, the breeze is wafting through the window and a world of infinite possibilities is churning in my mind. The darkness outside holds mystery and I can see whatever I want within it. I’m not sure what my fascination with the nocturnal hours is, but I’ve always felt more alive and more myself during its passing. When I write at these hours it flows from me without pause, the character’s voices are loud and the scenes are crystal sharp in my mind. It is a powerful vision and I loose all sense of time while within it.

Editing is another story. I do best during the morning with corrections, rewrites and fixes. The burden of the day hasn’t worn down my mind and the fiery chimerical images that spur my writing at night aren’t distracting me.

So be aware of what works for you, roll with it and don’t fight it. You’ll be more productive and a lot happier. In the meanwhile I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter and until next time, happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Keep It Real


Writing is series of balancing acts. The decisions range from how much dialogue compared to narrative to use, how strong or timid to depict the characters, what emotions to try and evoke from the reader, should a particular chapter be fast paced or slow, and so on and so on. Well adding to that list is realism versus the fantastic. No matter the setting it is an important consideration that a writer decides how much realism to use in their story.

There is no one right answer and a multitude of variables go into the decision, but the author should consider a few key elements. Obviously a paranormal writer will use more fantastic elements than in a historic romance. Or a devoted science fiction author will use legitimate science as opposed to a fantasy writer portraying magic. However, all fiction is merely a story and therefore has some degree of the fantastic, so how much is too much?

The number one rule of thumb in writing is; less is more.

A writer should carefully choose what fantastic elements they require to tell their story and establish their world. Any other whimsical displays of the unbelievable would be best dropped no matter how unusual setting or what the genre is.

Here are three reasons why.

First, the more fantastic elements in a novel the more time the writer spends explaining them. This diminishes the focus on the characters and will grind the plot to a halt. It would be easy to fall into the trap of using page after page to describe a menagerie of creatures or detail a catalog of cyber enhancements that don’t have anything to with the story.

Secondly, bountiful fantastic elements will alienate the reader. Even the most hardcore paranormal fan will become bored with a world that is inhabited by a prolific number of demons and vampires that each have a unique inhuman appearance, abilities, and mannerisms. All that fabricated detail will be lost and the characters become a jumble of weird names and confusing descriptions.

Lastly, the more fantastic elements in a story the less of an impact they have individually. If a writer picks his battles with reality and is conservative with his use of the surreal, supernatural, paranormal, magical, cybernetic, or alien elements then he or she can deliver a powerful, but believable effect.

This is the appeal of paranormal stories as well as hard science fiction and subtle fantasy. The reader is presented with a world that is very much like the one they live in only with an imaginative twist. The fun is discovering how the fantastic interacts with the mundane and learning the way the characters fit into that dichotomy.

Even in high fantasy, Lord of the Rings for example, the characters use swords, ride horses, smoke, and do everyday things that make them real to the reader. While every genre may use a varying amount of the fantastic it is imperative that the writers not abandon all references to the world we know.

Remember to keep it real and happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Setting and Romance


A young couple kisses under a full moon nestled on the stone bench before the three hundred year old Italian statue. The summer breeze brings with it the crisp air from the Mediterranean and the lovers can taste a hint of salt on each other’s sweet lips.

 

In the above we know absolutely nothing about the young couple and yet the image brings a sense of love and romance. This is the power of setting.

The writer should treat the setting of a story like a character. They must describe the environment in context to the story, decide how it will interact with the other characters and give it a purpose. Overlooking the environment is one of those errors that can cause a story to feel flat without ever knowing why. There are many ways to use environment depending on the genre and the scene.

Once in an erotic story I used an office setting to contrast the sexual nature of the plot. The idea was the workplace made the feelings and behaviors of the characters more taboo. Another contrast example; in a science fiction setting I wrote about two survivors stranded on a harsh world and their love for each other was counter to the racial differences, social imbalances, and life threatening circumstances. Their lovemaking wasn’t a result of a grand romantic locale, but rather an act of overcoming a terrible environment.

Currently I’m trying my hand at a more traditional romantic approach and I want the setting to serve as an enabling factor. The characters and the readers should both come to the same conclusion; that for the characters involved there couldn’t be a more appropriate place for them to consummate their relationship.

To this end I’m calling upon my personal experience in the Mojave Desert. The vast sky and rocky beauty of the American West is breath taking. Two people under the blanket of night out there can loose themselves and forget that anyone else even exists! The spiritual affirmation a person receives looking up at that mass of stars, while with the one they love, has been an unmatched experience for me. The flipside of that coin is that the desert is dangerous. This will serve for the adventurous portions of my story and the isolation will enhance the peril.

Meanwhile, I invite everyone to look over your favorite books and see how the author used setting to tell their story. How did the where affect the mood or influence the behavior? Think about that and introduce more of it into your writing and you won’t regret it.

Until next time— happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon

ONE MAN’S THOUGHTS: Results of the First Page


I am proud to announce that I’m underway with my new story and it is going well. While I don’t have near enough time to write as I want, it is going better than I could have hoped. Now you are likely thinking, ‘Good for you Mike, but who cares?’

Fair enough.

The reason I mention this is because while determining what I to write this week I glanced over my previous blog entry. As some of you know, last week I discussed the first page of a romance novel. I read a dozen first pages from a variety of romance books for some insight as to what makes a strong start. My goal was to discern how to construct a first page that would entice the reader to want to read the second. I know when I read, if I make it to page two, I’ll at least check out the first ten pages to determine if the book is going anywhere.

Now for the disclaimer: This is the first draft and I’m not expecting to blow anyone’s socks off. I’m just shooting to hold the readers attention to page two. The title of the story is High Heels & Hexes; it is about a witch from New Zealand.

So, here it is.

            Shelly followed the voice that called to her, but the dense trees made it impossible to locate the elusive sound. Blinded by the foliage-covered branches she pushed ever deeper into the woods with no regard for what may lurk within. With each menacing whisper of her name Shelly altered direction, though she drew no closer to the taunts that beckoned her.

            Out of the brush stepped the petite figure of her younger sister, Caroline. With an abrupt tone she drowned out the mysterious voice.

            ‘Shelly, wake up!’

            Shelly gasped and sprung into an upright position. Caroline stood with her arms’ crossed and peered at her from the door.

            ‘About time you listened to me,’ she said. ‘You gave me a fright.’

            There was a dull thud as Shelly slammed her hand onto the comforter. ‘What have I told you about infiltrating my dreams, Caroline. It’s an invasion of my privacy.’

            ‘Ha! Running through the woods after a disembodied voice is not something most people would want to dream about. It’s more like a nightmare. Why were you so desperate to track down that awful man?’

A page-turner? We’ll see.

It was helpful having so many defined goals for my first page. It gave such a strong start to my story that I had no trouble writing the next two thousand words!

Until next time—happy writing.

Michael Matthews Bingamon