Interview with Amy Brock McNew

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Amy Back in the day

 

Nickname:  I have a few, most I haven’t heard in a while. “Sista Mildred” was one. (Came from the DC Talk song, “Free at Last”. Long story!) There’s also “Bigfoot” “Ski Feet” and “Ina C. Stein”.

Genre:   Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Personal Philosophy:  There are two principles I live by. Always remember that what you give, how you treat people, and what you put out into the world comes back to you, and always protect those weaker than yourself.

Favorite scripture: Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Favorite quote: “Even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

In high school I was a… bit of everything all rolled in one. Part jock, part nerd, part music/band geek, part grunge girl. I like to defy labels. And I had friends from all groups. I’ve never been in to excluding people.

Do you see yourself a Christian author or an author of Christian fiction? What do you think the difference is? I am a Christian author. The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles is definitely a Christian series. The next one I have planned is not. Again, not much on labels. I find them restrictive. I write what I feel; the stories that invade my brain and won’t let me sleep. The difference? An author of Christian fiction only writes what can be classified as Christian fiction, in that there is always a strong Christian element and usually a “come to Jesus” moment. A Christian author may write something that wouldn’t be labeled as Christian fiction, but their faith informs their writing.

How long have you been writing? Since I learned the alphabet. I’ve always loved to make up stories.

Rebirth is about spiritual warfare and select people who can see angels and fight with them against demons. What inspired you in this story?   I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural and paranormal. I’d read Frank Peretti’s books and they got me thinking. What if people had to actually physically fight demons instead of only fighting through prayer? What if there were a select few who had a gift that allowed them to see into the spiritual world? What if some of our greatest fears and biggest problems actually became corporeal? What would that look like? In dissecting the interactions between humans and spiritual beings and trying to figure out what that would be like, I learned a lot about myself and my own beliefs.

I wanted to bring the battles to life, give those issues a face, and show that they can be beaten. That you are never alone in your battle. That there is always hope. As I was writing, I found myself believing that even more than I did.

How are you like the heroine, Liz? How is Liz different? Our past is almost identical. We’re similar in appearance. We both have issues with anger. We’re both very protective of those we love. And the biggie, we both had a call on our life that we were running from. How we’re different? Liz sometimes has a hard time articulating her emotions, at least, the mushy ones. I have no problem in letting people know exactly how I feel. She tends to shut down and shut people out. Often. My inner circle is always in the loop. Though, sometimes they have to pry things out of me. All in all, we are more alike than not.

Who is your inspiration for Ryland? As far as personality, likes and dislikes, the way he “handles” Liz, and the fact that he drives a big Dodge truck, my husband, Brian. Everything else is bits and pieces of people I know or have known.

What is something you’d like for us to know (behind the scenes) about Rebirth?

A lot of the banter and even some of the arguments between Liz and Ry are actually based on interactions between me and my husband. There is a lot of us in that relationship! I can be bull-headed and a spastic mess, like Liz, and Brian is my calm, my rock. He knows just how to get me off the edge of the cliff or chill me out, just like Ry does for Liz.

Also, some of you may already know, but my husband has helped choreograph almost every fight in the book, and we’ve acted out every single battle scene. In the back yard. Our neighbors depend on us for free entertainment.

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Amy Brock McNew

Rebirth:  Book One of the Reluctant Warrior Chronicles
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Paperback: $16.99, eBook: $4.99 (Pre-order Price of $2.99)
Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC

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“An action-packed tale of classic good versus evil from the depths of human despair and heights of God’s grace. Filled with romance, betrayal, love, loss and ultimate triumph.”

—Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Legend of Sheba
Rebirth has the sweet and spicy that romance readers love, with the action and intensity of spiritual warfare—but it is ultimately the story of a flawed heroine struggling to hold on to her faith and find her self-worth through the eyes of Christ that will touch this book’s audience.”
—Kat Heckenbach, author of Finding Angel
“With crisp writing, relentless action, and breathless stakes, Amy Brock McNew’s Rebirth will grab readers from the first page and keep them riveted until the last. Liz Brantley is sure to claim a spot on the list of favorite kick-butt heroines right alongside Black Widow and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fans of gritty urban fantasy won’t want to miss this ride!”
—Evangeline Denmark, author of Curio
Rebirth is a heart-wrenching, intensely spiritual novel. It definitely lives up to Amy’s promise of guts on the page—she is refreshingly raw and honest with her story.”
—H. A. Titus, author of Forged Steel

 

Liz Brantley has a gift she wants to return. Able to see and fight demonic forces, she has spent her life alone, battling the minions of hell bent on her destruction, running from the

God who gave her this curse. Drawn to her abilities, the demon Markus unleashes havoc on her hometown and pulls Liz further into the throes of battle.

She’s desperate for a normal life. When she meets a mysterious man who seems unaware of the mystical realm that haunts her, the life she’s always wanted moves within reach. But her slice of normal slips from her grasp when an old flame, Ryland Vaughn, reappears with secrets of his own. Secrets that will alter her destiny.

Torn between two worlds, Liz is caught in an ancient war between good and evil. And she isn’t sure which side to choose.

Bio:

Amy Brock McNew doesn’t just write speculative fiction, she lives and breathes it.

Exploring the strange, the supernatural, and the wonderfully weird, Amy pours her guts onto the pages she writes, honestly and brutally revealing herself in the process. Nothing is off-limits. Her favorite question is “what if?” and she believes fiction can be truer than our sheltered and controlled realities. Visit AmyBrockMcNew.com to learn more about this intriguing author.

Social Media Links:
Website: http://amybrockmcnew.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmyBrockMcNewAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyBrockMcNew
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/26955721-amy-mcnew
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/AmyBrockMcNew/
Purchase Links:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Sm5pNZ
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1So45GY
iBooks: http://apple.co/1So4l8S
Kobo: http://bit.ly/213uz67

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Write Your Novel From the End?

sunset  It’s not something planned, but I always imagine the end of a story I’m writing before settling on the beginning. How do I want my protagonist to have changed for the better? Which other characters do I want to appear with her in the final chapter and scenes? Just how bittersweet do I want the ending to be, and who or what do I want her to have lost when the end comes?

My personal library of books on the writing craft has grown to include several by James Scott Bell. The latest is Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, and it’s a great tool for someone like me who is a “tweener.” I don’t write by the seat of my pants, but neither do I outline. Chapter summaries work best for me because I like to write the beginning, middle, and end and then fill in to tie them all together.

That’s where Mr. Bell’s book has been helpful. He describes the middle of a good story (novel or movie) as having a “magical midpoint moment.” The main character looks at herself “in the mirror,” either literally or figuratively. This is a hard look, one in which she reflects on the kind of person she is or has become, how she might (or might not) be responsible for some of her own troubles, and what she might have to do to overcome her challenges. In a plot-driven novel, that mirror moment must show the protagonist considering the awfulness of the antagonistic forces against which she must fight and risk death of some sort–physical, professional, or psychological.

“Mirror moment” is so descriptive, it’s one of those elements of story that I will probably never forget now that I’ve heard the term used. I will look for it in others’ work as well as my own.

If I know why and how, and at what cost, I want my protagonist to change by the end of my novel, it makes sense to set up a “mirror moment” for her somewhere in the middle as soon as possible. It’s the place where I should see (and later the reader will see) the entire narrative pulled together in one character. If my writing has somehow failed to place the reader in deep point-of-view with the protagonist anywhere else in the story, I certainly don’t want to fail with this opportunity!

Do you recall a mirror moment from a favorite book or movie? Have you ever created an ending for a story before writing the rest of it?

 

 

 

Does your novel need a Teacher’s Guide?

One of my few fond memories of the junior high years occurred in seventh grade English class. Together we read Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

Our teacher seemed to have a lot of knowledge of the story, and she made it come alive. But I never noticed her referring to notes. She reviewed new vocabulary words with us and asked an occasional question to spark discussion, but otherwise we simply read. It didn’t feel like school at all! It was reading, something I did for pleasure at home when I had the opportunity to get books from the library. (My parents didn’t have the budget for purchasing books at the time.)

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By eighth grade, my family moved. Organized reading at my new school consisted of the SRA Reading Laboratory.

Laboratory? That was enough to discourage me right there. It was a color-coded system of cards containing segments of stories, at least in its early stages when I encountered it.

And I hated it.

“Why can’t we read a real book?” I asked my teacher, and she ignored the question.

I’ll admit that the top reader in my class said she enjoyed using the system. (In case you’re unfamiliar with the SRA Reading Laboratory, it adjusts to students’ reading abilities by starting them at a color/level they’re capable of and allowing them to work through and upward into higher levels at their own speed.)

But back then I wondered if these dissected stories were real literature. At thirteen years old, I hadn’t been exposed to enough books, particularly the classics, to recognize them. And I wasn’t fond of having to stop reading after each segment/card to answer questions before I could continue. Talk about interrupting the flow of a story.

I’m sure the SRA Reading Lab has improved since my day, and if you or your child loves it, that’s great. If you’re a teacher, and it helps assess and place students at the appropriate reading level and encourages their reading, I think that’s wonderful.

But each time the teacher passed out her copies of Around the World in Eighty Days, I felt such a thrill. I couldn’t wait to get that book into my hands again, and I was sorry when we turned them in at the end of class. I would’ve been extra sorry if I’d known how rare an experience reading a good book together as a class would be. I never again experienced a group read in school.

Do entire classes ever read a book together nowadays? I hope so. (And I don’t mean each student reading the same book on a computer screen.)

To encourage teachers to bring more classic and new literature in paper form into their classrooms for a group reading project, more and more middle-grade and young-adult authors are creating teacher’s guides.

I’ve looked online and found a few I like for some of my favorite debut novels. One was on the author’s website, another on the publisher’s. Everyone seems to do something a little different, but these guides are not simply a list of several discussion questions, as for a book club. They include a variety of activities and questions covering a number of subjects, from the arts to the sciences.

My Teacher’s Guide for Bird Face is on my website, www.cynthiattoney.com, listed under My Work on the home page as well as on others. It’s a reproducible PDF, so anyone is welcome to download and copy it as needed for use. It’s currently eight pages long, but each time I review it, I think of something I want to add.

I just came across a 45-page guide for using a novel to teach reading and language arts specifically: How to Teach a Novel. I wish I’d found it much earlier because it’s loaded with ideas for teaching any novel.

This is probably the longest post I’ve written for The Scriblerians, and there’s more I’d like to say about developing teacher’s guides! But I hope those of you who are familiar with them or who’ve begun creating one yourself will share some of your knowledge in the comments.

Thanks, happy reading, and happy teaching!

cynthia-toney Cynthia

My Head Hurts From All the Rules

freeimages.co.uk medical images I’m beginning to wonder if too many of us fiction writers are too closely following the same popular writing rules. And I’ll tell you why.

The openings of at least half the adult novels I’ve read lately were eerily similar. Each story started with an action beat. A character slammed, banged, or shoved something or other. Pages had few, if any, prepositional phrases and were devoid of adverbs and filter words. (Filter phrases such as “I/she thought” and “I/he felt” pull the reader out of deep point of view, or POV.) Narrative was minimal. Most description and background information was worked into the dialogue, which was the only place that had a distinctive voice. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading most of these stories. But I’d like to know if anyone else has noticed that some novels published today follow the same rules so closely that they appear to be written by the same author.

On the other hand, I’m reading a YA novel titled My Beautiful Disaster by Michelle Buckman. It breaks all the rules I try so hard to follow. Telling, not showing, makes up the first five pages. But I kept reading! The story is loaded with filtering. The main character felt, thought, doubted, imagined, etc., so I wasn’t in deep point of view. But I kept reading—because the story read as though a friend confided in me. Adverbs were sprinkled throughout. They didn’t bother me at all! They told me what I needed to know in a fraction of a second so I could move forward quickly (tee-hee).

My Beautiful Disaster was published in 2007, so maybe that was before these rules became widely enforced. You’d think this book might employ a high concept to keep the reader engaged in spite of breaking the rules, but that’s not the case. It’s just one of those stories about ordinary events that makes me care enough about a few of the characters to want to learn what will happen to them.

In general, YA fiction authors dare to break rules more often than others do. I’m not a fan of anything way out there, but as long as prose adheres to the precepts of good English and has an engaging story, I tend not to complain.

In my recently completed manuscript, The Other Side of Freedom, I started out using more prepositional phrases than I perhaps would use now. I knew firsthand from hearing my ancestors speak that the Italian immigrant characters, including my young main character, would’ve used a lot of prepositional phrases in translating Italian to English. I can still hear my grandmother and other relatives talking in my head today. Trying to follow the current rules, I wound up eliminating a good many prepositions in the manuscript, but did I damage the authentic voice in doing so?

I’m curious what other writers, readers, and publishing professionals think of this phenomenon–that following the same set of popular rules may destroy the unique quality of our writing. I wonder if the pendulum is about to swing in the opposite direction, away from the rules that many authors now follow and back to styles of writing found in previous decades.

Having said all that, I’m still a huge fan of deep point of view and also admire a clean writing style, often avoiding books that are too wordy.

Have you noticed a similarity in style between novels by different authors who obviously follow the same set of rules? Have you enjoyed a novel published in the last year or two that breaks many of the rules mentioned here?

cynthia-toney Cynthia

Why I Don’t Give 1-star Book Reviews

plasticstars  Have you noticed a disparity between the rating systems of Amazon and Goodreads?

On Amazon, a one-star rating is “I hate it.” On Goodreads, “Did not like it.”

Let me start by saying I seldom use the word “hate” in any situation, and if I do, it’s usually in anger over something profoundly evil. And books I don’t like are not necessarily evil.

Anyway, I don’t ever give fiction a one-star rating because if I think the work is poorly written or not a story I would like, I don’t read very far into it. And if I don’t read the whole story, I don’t rate it.

I can usually determine from the first few pages, first chapter, or a sneak peek of the middle that I won’t enjoy a particular book, but that doesn’t mean the next person won’t. With excerpts available in so many places online, including  author websites and reviewer blogs, I don’t think a reader needs my one-star rating of a novel or novella to decide whether to read it. For me, if an excerpt doesn’t grab me, I don’t buy the book — and probably won’t look for it at the library either.

I’ll often give an author a second chance if I reject the first of his or her novels I pick up (not always the first one written). Most of the time, I’m glad I did.

This brings me to the other rating levels.

On Amazon, two stars mean “I don’t like it.” On Goodreads, “It was okay.” To me, there’s a huge difference between them. I give two stars to a book on Goodreads if I was able to stick with it and read all the way through but it didn’t impress me in any way (therefore, it was okay). On Amazon, “It was okay” would be three stars, whereas three stars on Goodreads is “Liked it.”

The rest of the rating systems for Amazon and Goodreads compare as follows:

4 stars: Amazon – I like it. Goodreads – Really liked it.

5 stars: Amazon – I love it. Goodreads – It was amazing.

If I review a book on one site, I copy and paste the same review on the other, but my star ratings usually differ. For a book I “liked” on Goodreads (three stars), I “like it” (four stars) on Amazon. For a book I enjoy a lot, if I “Really liked it” on Goodreads (four stars), it’s probable “I love it” on Amazon (five stars).

Good books are like my friends. If I “really like” you, you can assume that I love you too (in a nonromantic way).

Do you rate books on either site? What are your personal rating criteria? Do you ever stop reading a book because you don’t like it, or force yourself to read one, and then give it a low rating?

cynthia-toney  Cynthia

Twins: Terrific or Terrifying

new moonfall cover

 

 

 

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have an identical twin.

Twins I’ve seen in real life or in photographs look like some of the happiest people on earth. To have someone at your side from birth who understands you better than anyone else must be a fantastic feeling.

However, the idea of having a twin of my own scares me a little. Would I see one or more character flaws I didn’t know I possessed reflected in my twin?

Movies and television have certainly portrayed the evil twin. But rather than a truly evil one, a sibling who starts out with the same genetic material as our own and then is influenced by its environment makes more sense. Twins don’t necessarily want the same things or go about getting them in the same way.

Vanessa Morton

Vanessa Morton

In Vanessa Morton’s Moonfall, the characters Rachav and Zaron are identical twin teenage girls living during the time of the fall of Yericho (Jericho). Each thinks the other should desire the same kind of life she does. Each sees the difference in her twin as a flaw. I think it scares them both. But the love is still there.

Moonfall will transport you to a time and place that is richly textured and historically fascinating.  And you will find that girls will be girls, and twins will be twins, even in 1406 B.C.

Have you ever wished for a twin? Are you one?

Hair Color of the Character That Bit You

cynthia-toneyI’ve often wondered why women and girls color their hair. And why, increasingly, men and boys do too.

I’m not talking about covering gray with a color close to your natural one. I mean a drastic change, which I admit to making every couple of years now. It didn’t start until long after I graduated from college, because it simply looked like too much work, when I already had a perfectly serviceable color. (Why do girls as young as middle-school age start altering their hair color–and why do parents let them? That may be a topic for another day.)

Highlighting, frosting/tipping, stripes of another color, all-out bleaching, Vampira black, and that burgundy color that’s found nowhere naturally on a human head. I personally haven’t tried them all, but they are so common that most of us don’t take a second look any more.

I tend to change color when: something major in my life such as employment, where I live, or a relationship changes; I feel my true personality isn’t reflected by my hair color; or I simply want to do it for fun.

I’ve been Marilyn Monroe blonde–short too. Was told I looked like Madonna, which I didn’t care for. I’ve been a fiery redhead when I had anger and aggression issues (no offense intended toward redheads). And when I wanted to look exotic or ethnic like Sophia Loren or the Native American women I saw on a trip to Santa Fe, I chose a dark brown.

So maybe I like playing a character when life becomes a little too ordinary or other changes get me down, and I use hair color to do it. I may even change color to become one of my characters in a future novel. Other writers, when attending writing events, deck out in costumes depicting their chosen genre. Some of my wonderful fantasy-writing friends enjoy wearing elf ears.

And there’s nothing wrong with us. Really.

Do you use hair color, makeup, dress, or anything else to escape from the ordinary or play a character from a book?