Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dear Reader, Love, George A Bernstein

Dear Reader…

The two most asked questions I get are: “How did you decide to write a novel?” and “What is you process in writing that novel?”
As to the first question, I was able to retire fairly early, and my wife, Dolores, said, “What are you going to do with your time? You don’t love golf or playing cards. Why don’t you write a novel?” That just seemed like the thing to do at the time, as I’ve always been an imaginative story teller. That’s a skill I used as a kid to avoid trouble at home.
Typically for me, I set out to get educated, knowing just a flair for writing wouldn’t be enough. So I attended several writers’ conferences and a few top seminars, and in the process learned how to style riveting fiction and develop a unique “voice.” If I set out to do something, I planned on doing it very well. Now it’s become a full time avocation … something I do because I love it, not something to do to earn a living.
So, here’s my novel-writing process I’ve developed over the years, and it really works for me. It is how I wrote my latest Detective Al Warner suspense, The Prom Dress Killer. I seldom suffer writer’s block, because I always know where I’m going.
First I envision a story, trying to find a unique plot-line, something I seem very good at. Then I imagine my characters: the heroine (in my first 2 novels. Warner becomes a hero in my 3rd and subsequent novels); who will be her hero; an anti-hero or villain (sometimes more than one); and various enablers (both good & bad). Each character has their own 4 x 6 index card, with physical appearance, likes, dislikes, traits, and backgrounds. As the story develops, anything new gets added to their card, like what car they drive. New characters that appear get their own cards.

Next, I outline the entire story, chapter by chapter - just a few sentences for each, as a guide. Then the writing begins, and soon the characters magically take over the action, often plunging off into uncharted directions of their own. They often speak to me at night, while I await sleep, telling me things about themselves I never expected. The outline becomes a flexible tool, not an iron cast mold. I pretty much write the entire story straight through, only reviewing each chapter for glaring mistakes and to be sure of where I’m headed, before I move on to the next one.

After I complete the 1st draft, I begin several edits. First, I correct spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. I always find something I missed, no matter how often I do this. Next, I look at overall flow & pacing. Often, chapters are moved around to improve structure and increase tension. Then I go back and look at prose for more powerfully descriptive words. It can take many minutes for me to find the right way to say something in an elegant way, and I’ve been rewarded with praise by my peers as being a superb wordsmith.  This requires a balance between too terse and too flowery.

Next I review each scene to be sure it’s as tense as I can make it. In Donald Maass’ seminar, he asked “What’s the worst thing that can happen to your protagonist?” After coming up with that, he then asked “What can be even worse than that?” and then, after some serious head-scratching, “What can be even worse than THAT?” Without tension, no one stays interested in your novel very long. Traumatic events need to be much more than just a half-page long.

On a final edit pass, I often break longer chapters and paragraphs into shorter ones, a trick I learned from, among others, Dean Koontz and James Patterson. It keeps the reader more engrossed.

Finally, it’s reviewed by my small critique groups of fine published authors who always supply great input, and then it goes to a copy editor to double-check for spelling and grammar. It always amazes me that, even after that, any subsequent edits will find things missed on previous passes.

So dear readers, I hope I’ve managed to give you some interesting insight as to what goes into writing a novel. There’s a lot more involved than just sitting down at a computer.

Thanks for your time and interest.

George A Bernstein

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dear Reader, Love Lee Matthew Goldberg

Dear Reader…

I hope you like my new novel The Mentor. For fans of suspense thrillers filled with twists, but also for those who enjoy a good literary tale, this book should be a great read that blends the two genres. The initial idea came from my editor Brendan Deneen who pitched the book as Cape Fear set in the publishing world. I added a Wonder Boys plot about a guy who goes to extreme measures to get the opus he’s been working on for a decade published and the    
unfortunate book editor who makes the fatal mistake of not publishing his mentor’s book. Finally, a subplot of a cold case helped to heighten the stakes.

I enjoy writing thrillers because it’s challenging in a good way to constantly keep the story moving forward as fast as possible. And while the book can be gruesome and violent at times, I wanted it to read as a satire of the sensationalism that we seem to crave in terms of our media and even of our real world politics these days. It was important for me to show different characters’ POVs throughout so we get in the heads of not only the heroes but the villains as well. In terms of thrillers, they can often veer toward caricature so it was important that despite the subject matter, there is humor throughout the novel too. I’m naturally funny, and even if some of my plots are super serious, elements of humor are necessary to pepper throughout.

Lastly, since the book is coming out this June, it’s the perfect read to take to the beach with you. There is something about thrillers that work really well in the heat. I think we look for escapism during summer days so I hope you enjoy escaping with this dark and twisted tale of a book editor, his mentor, and the depraved manuscript that nearly tears them both apart.

About the Author

Lee Matthew Goldberg’s novel THE MENTOR is forthcoming from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press in June 2017 and has been acquired by Macmillan Entertainment. The French edition will be published by Editions Hugo. His debut novel SLOW DOWN is out now. His pilot JOIN US was a finalist in Script Pipeline’s TV Writing Competition. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his fiction has also appeared in The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, Verdad Magazine, BlazeVOX, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series. He lives in New York City.



Dear Reader, With Love, Philip Kimble

Dear Reader…

I was watching my daughter struggle with a life decision about a college major, and I wondered why it was such a difficult challenge for her, why she couldn’t use decision models I have used in my professional career.  On the other hand, I saw in my professional career many instances where the only thing that was considered was the metrics of the choices, and wondered why the people involved couldn’t be more intuitive.  On both sides of the coin, it appeared that way too much time and emotion was invested in the struggle of a decision because of their narrow approaches.  If there was a way both the subjective and the objective could be wrapped together in the decision process, such an approach would be beneficial to both the individual and the organization.  The quantitative principles in the book are simplified and easy for the subjective person to apply, and the subjective principles are flags for even the most rigid organization.  Hopefully both will benefit. 

With love, 
Philip Kimble 

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