Surfin’ on the Blog Hop

BunnyReadingWhen partner in pen Les Denton asked me to join a blog hop, I had a single thought. What the heck is a blog hop … and do I get to keep the bunny? Okay, that’s two. Well I’m pretty excited about Surfer Girls, so here goes.

1: What is the working title of your book(s)?
 Surfer Girls
 
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
Good question! Muse tends to drop in on me unexpectedly, and when she leaves, she’s usually given me a book, short story, song, whatever, almost fully formed. Such was the case with Surfer Girls. But I did have a few ingredients waiting when Muse showed up. I’ve always been something of a romantic, and “Surfer Girls” by The Beach Boys was one of my favorite songs when I was in high school.
 
There was a small college in the town I lived in, and one of the students drove a ’65 Chevy with California license plates and a surfboard strapped (I thought) to the roof rack on top. One day he had left the car in the parking lot of the restaurant where I worked, and while I was sweeping the parking lot I walked over to the car to check out the surfboard. That was when I discovered that the surf board wasn’t strapped to the roof rack, it was screwed to it. I don’t know if the guy actually surfed or not, but I knew he didn’t do it on that surfboard. He just had it on his car to impress the girls, hence the idea of faux surfers.
 
BunnyComputingThen, one day I was listening to “Surfer Girls” and started thinking about the girls I had known in high school. What had happened to them after high school? Did they stay in our small town, or did they go away? After they’d been away for a while, did they come back? How had they dealt with all of the societal changes that had come along such as the women’s liberation movement and the drug culture? As I thought through the characters in Surfer Girls, they started to become an amalgamation of all the girls/women who had passed through my life, some of whom were quite a bit younger than I was.
 
I began to realize that it was the life experiences of these younger women that would really make the women I was envisioning, and these life experiences simply could not have happened to the girls I went to high school with. And I wanted the women to be at a somewhat pivotal age at the time of the book. So, I created an Excel spreadsheet, put all of the important events and life experiences on it, then I started sliding a timeline up and down the events, trying to find the right age for the women.
 
Finally, I tried putting the women at age forty at the time of the book and everything worked; I had the surfer girls. The important events and life experiences fit the timeline, and for many women, hitting forty is somewhat of a transition year where they spend time evaluating their life so far, and deciding if they want to keep on as they are, or if they want to make some radical changes in their life.
 
After I had my characters formed, I figured out how I wanted the story to end, and then just wrapped the story around the events I wanted to include. And I had my Surfer Girls
 
3: What genre does your book come under?
I describe it as a contemporary suspense/supernatural, with a little horror for seasoning.
 
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m not a huge movie buff, and the genres that I like are somewhat limited, but here goes:
Nicole Pauline Bailey – Nicole is an over-the-top and not particularly deep person, so any number of actresses could do this role quite well. But I think it might be fun to have Naomi Watts play her. While most of Ms. Watts’ roles have been in a somewhat serious vein, I have seen flashes of an over-the-top part in her.
Barbara Ann Mason – I have to admit that Barbara is my favorite character, so deciding who should play her is difficult for me. Plus, she’s a redhead, and whoever plays her has to be able to come across as a natural redhead, which is not the easiest thing to do. Uma Thurman is a possible choice, but I would want to do a lot more thinking about it before making a choice.
Karen Lynn “Cairn” Dumont – Kathryn Erbe has done several roles where she was a strong character, but not necessarily the most prominent character. And this is somewhat Cairn’s place among the surfer girls.
 
5: What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Surfer Girls, three women getting even with the men who’ve done them wrong, with a little help from the supernatural.
 
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
The book is published by Panoptic Books, an imprint of Assent Publishing.
 
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I actually started writing Surfer Girls, both in my head and on the word processor, while I was still doing the editing on my first novel, Welcome to New Tipton. Consequently, while I worked on Surfer Girls for about two calendar years, the actual writing and editing took me about a year and a half.
 
BunnyThelmaAndLouise8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don’t know of any books quite like this one. It’s kind of like Thelma and Louise meets The Craft.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was presented with an opportunity where a wonderful woman offered to financially support me so I could focus on writing full time. Her belief in my writing ability inspired me to write two novels, Welcome to New Tipton and Surfer Girls, and a novella, Fortune Cookies. God gave me the talent, and this wonderful woman gave me the opportunity, and I will be eternally grateful to both of them.
 
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I have always loved the ending of Chapter One, and I believe any woman who reads that much of it will immediately be drawn to the rest of the story.

Well, it’s time to hop along. Next hops are military suspense author CN Bring on April 17, and fantasy author Paul DeThroe on April 24. Happy hopping!

CoverSurferGirlsKindle

Bill Denton

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A Woman’s Life (and Other Bits of Fictional Curiosities)

Welcome to the Assent Publishing’s Panoptic Imprint Blog! Today I’d like to explore women in fiction – Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction and Fictionalized Memoir.

We all know those women, the kind who live amazing lives, take startling risks and break ground … in small ways. I’m not talking about Dian Fossey with her gorilla friends, or Amelia Earhart with her charts, I’m talking about your mother, grandmother, aunts or nieces. I’m talking about women in our own lives who daily, quietly, pave the way for the future and manage to keep body, soul and family together  while doing it – the heroine next door who unfailingly serves Thanksgiving dinner at the shelter every year, and the lady in accounting who works long hours and organizes the Special Olympic fundraising events.

The more real these women are, the more intriguing their stories. I once knew a mother of two who taught the fifth grade English by day, and was a stripper/bartender under another name at night. She did it because her husband became seriously disabled and she was determined not to lose their house. In my eyes, she was a heroine, no different than the frontier woman who helped their men carve a life out of the wilderness.  I also knew an elderly woman who lived so simply, all I really recall about her was the blue tint of her hair, her shabby little house with sparkling clean windows … and the massive endowment she left to the Humane Society after she passed away.

Oh the amazing women I’ve known! Women who shifted their whole lives for deep rooted spirituality, women who turned their families upside down for love of the wrong man, woman who stepped apart from convention to follow their own drummer. Brave women. Giving women. Secretive woman. The kind of women whose real lives are so remarkable in so many ways, it feels like fiction. These are the main and supporting characters in really good Contemporary Fiction, exquisite Women’s Fiction and dynamic Fictionalized Memoir. These are the kind of characters I look for in a submission to Panoptic Books, and when I don’t see it, feel it or taste it in the writing, I wonder if the author has really stepped back to take a look at the women around them.

Sometimes we think that being female makes writing great women easier. Being a woman and trying to write a wonderful female character can actually be a detriment, because a major element of being a woman is becoming part survivor/part explorer. It’s a rather self focused existence at times. Did I give the kids’ lunch money? Did I thaw the chicken for dinner? Am I wearing the same sweater I wore yesterday? How can I get to work faster? Should I go back to school for my master’s degree? Did I collect enough canned goods for the Food Bank? The most unfortunate part of all this is, by being part survivor/part explorer, we forget to notice that it’s all heroic. To us, it’s normal. Some of the most powerful female characters I’ve read were actually written by men – the kind of men who didn’t imagine what a strong woman was like, they observed the strong women around them. It’s never stated in the writing, it’s all in the color and depth of the characters they create.

Men or women, whoever writes a powerful woman character into a great piece of fiction is a true witness of life’s crimes and triumphs. Like anything else in fiction, no matter how fantastical the surroundings or how dynamic the plot, strong characters come from real life.

I invite you to take a good long look at your mother, your aunts, and your daughters. It’s not a fictional curiosity that great women are developing and buzzing all around us, it’s a fictional curiosity when a writer doesn’t notice or use the rich wealth of research sitting at their side. Like a great cookie recipe, there’s always a secret ingredient.

Panoptic is seeking Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction and Fictionalized Memoir submissions. Please take a look at the submission guidelines and send your submission to editor@panopticbooks.com

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Women’s Fiction: Too Sad Means Not So Good

Welcome to the Panoptic Imprint Blog! Ohhh how I love a good book! Being here with Assent Publishing, and having the cool responsibility of participating in the acquisitions process for the Panoptic Imprint, brings a whole new light to the specific genres involved. We’re looking for Contemporary Fiction to Touch the Heart, wonderful and timely Contemporary Fiction, Fictionalized Memoir and Women’s Fiction. These can be great books – important books that reach people and change their point of view about the world and life – or they can be submissions that fall short of the imprint’s expectations. To help submitting authors understand this, today I thought I’d focus specifically on Women’s Fiction.

I have to confess that I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend in Women’s Fiction submissions lately and I think this would be a good place to start. First and foremost, a Women’s Fiction is the story of a woman’s journey – the trials and tribulations that take a woman from one point in her life to another, different and better place. Our symbol for the Panoptic Imprint is a kaleidoscope representing the lovely shifting of color and shape, and this perfectly describes what we’re looking for in a good Women’s Fiction submission.

Women’s Fiction is not ChicLit, it doesn’t laugh at the main character’s dilemmas nor does it solve the character’s problems through formulaic light romantic romps. Women’s Fiction has humor, but not silly, unsophisticated humor. We’re not looking for the next Bridget Jones. We are looking for rich, well developed, multi-dimensional characters dealing with adversity and conquering the odds. We’re seeking strong female characters facing difficulties with grace and dignity.

Now, for the BIG note … we are not looking for sad, unhappy stories about broken women with no hope or strength to go on. Too many Women’s Fiction submissions are loaded with page after page of sad, angry and unhappy women in hopeless situations. In other words, if the first fifty pages leaves me wanting to kill myself, we have a problem. It’s understood that Women’s Fiction begins with loss, divorce, unhappy or shocking events, but a reader must find something in the main character to root for and be intrigued by plot twists that pull them through the story. Make me WANT to know how it all turns out.

Establishing the “Sad” is important, but the key to powerful Women’s Fiction is that our heroine moves ahead toward better things. Yes, she stumbles and may get bloodied along the way, but her journey IS the story. Be sure your manuscript initiates that journey quickly, preferably within the first 25 to 50 pages.

Panoptic is seeking Women’s Fiction submissions that take into consideration the power of the human spirit, the warrior woman who acts and doesn’t just react. We want submissions that layer an excellent plot with the quiet heroes in the background. We are looking for inspiring, elegant stories of a women’s life. Send your submissions to editor@panopticbooks.com

Too sad means not so good … but too sad, taken to brilliant triumph with a few laughs along the way, now that’s the winning Women’s Fiction combination.  I can’t wait to see your submission! Check us out at http://www.assentpublishing.com/

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Contemporary fiction to touch the heart

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