Guest Blog Post: George Benay

Let The Story Unfold

by

George Benay

When I do readings or book signings, I’m often asked how do I go about writing my novels. Do I prepare an outline? Are all my characters well-defined before I start writing? How about the plot, is it clear in my mind and well thought out? In short, do I know what I’m going to write about before I start writing my piece?

To all these very important questions I’ve one and only one good answer which I borrowed from a good friend fellow writer. You see, he once told me fiction authors fall into two general categories: the “Plotters” and the “Pantsers.” The Plotters’ answer to all the above questions is a simple “yes”. They spend countless hours, if not months thinking about plots, characters, storyline, setting etc. and when they are done and have carefully researched and documented their thoughts, they start writing the novel. It’s a laborious task and many good authors swear by it.

I like to think that I fit more in the “seat of the pants” writer category. Indeed, for the most part I’m a genuine Pantser. I do start with a very general idea of what the book is going to be all about but a) I don’t document my ideas in great details beforehand and b) I remain totally flexible about the storyline and any other issue concerning the novel as a matter of fact. I let my characters take over and guide me to where they want me to go. I feed off the mood of the moment to mold the plot and storyline. I allow my characters to decide whether they want to play a bigger part in the story or not. I’m afraid to admit it but when I’m totally immersed in my writing, I take dictation from my characters more than create ideas on my own. The best way I can describe my writing process is what some might call it stream of consciousness with a definite purpose to entertain.

So next time you pick up a book try to guess the kind of author who wrote the novel. A useful tip is to look for cliff-hangers at the beginning of the book. Sometimes it’s done to mislead you ( in the murder/ mystery genre for instance), other times to keep you hooked on to the storyline. But the key in most cases is that the author had a game plan in place before hand. A cautionary note, however, this so-called telltale sign does not always work. After all good writers are skillful teasers.

The story in The Nomad’s Premonition came to me in a news article about speed traders. I immediately thought that this subject was a perfect fit for my protagonist Eric Martin, a former investment banker caught in a dead-end job. As soon as I sat down in front of my computer, Eric kept shouting in my ears “I love it, keep writing”. (What a pain I thought he was at the time, but I’m now glad that he pushed me so hard). The other characters just popped in when the story needed them. I had no idea they existed in my mind or anywhere else for that matter. The plot line emerged out of some unfinished business with my first novel in the Nomad series–Nomad on the Run.

The Nomad’s Premonition took almost two years to write and rewrite, and I did not know from day-to-day where I was going with it. I just had to trust my characters and my intuition that something good would come out of it. What one might guess, I’d a premonition that I was on to a great story. But above all, I’d so much fun writing this thriller as a ‘Pantser’.

 

You can purchase the Nomad’s Premonitions and Nomad on the Run at:
www.amazon.com/author/georgesbenay

About The Author:
Georges Benay is a former international banker who is now working as a Toronto-based writer and award-winning freelance photographer. He is the author of the Nomad series, including the recently released thriller The Nomad’s Premonition and a collection of short stories. His  award-winning pictures have been featured in several magazines and book covers.
Author Links:
Websites :www.georgesbenay.com
www.georgesbenayphotoart.fototime.com
Twitter: @NomadG8

http://www.ireadbooktours.com/

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Nomad On The Run

Eric Martin was making a good living as managing director for a major international bank in Toronto. Everything changes as he receives a mysterious job offer from a financial firm in Morocco. Having been born in Morocco and wanting to visit his ancestral home, he decides to meet with firm’s president Jeff Offenbach. He finds out that we are at the beginning of a global financial crisis which this firm may be trying to capitalize on.

Eric now finds himself over his head in a world where no one can be trusted and everyone has their own agenda. From Valarie who seems to be keeping big secrets to  Jeff Offenbach who knows more about the crisis than he’s telling anyone. Eric is up against a dangerous cast of characters all motivated by power and money. Can he build a team of financial wizards to help stop the crisis or will he become a victim to the disaster that is coming?

Nomad On The Run by Georges Benay is a thriller about money, greed and power set in exotic locations. The most interesting part of this book was trying to figure out what everyone’s agenda is. One of my favorite scenes in this book was when Eric was deciding to join Jeff’s firm and does it by remembering how his father became successful. His father didn’t have an education and trusted his instincts to become rich and he tried to teach his son to do the same.  To be like his father Eric has to know how to read people and figure out what makes them tick and it’s not always easy.

This is a big part of what this novel is about, Eric is having to deal with different types of people and decide if he can trust them by listening to his gut feelings. This book is light on action but it makes up for it by having characters with very detailed personalities that all have secrets to hide. Another thing I liked in this book was how Eric chooses the team he works with by trying to find people whose agenda is in sync with his.

Nomad On The Run is the kind of thriller that is meant for intellectuals, because there is a lot to think about.  Some of the financial terminology used and the details on economics went over my head but it added a sense of realism to it. I liked the descriptions of Morocco and its history, the setting truly comes to life and is like a character itself.  This is not your average suspense novel, Georges Benay does not talk down to his audience and he uses his knowledge of being an international banker to bring this book to life. If you want to get away to a different country and experience a different way of life without going anywhere, then give this one a look.

http://www.georgesbenay.com/

http://www.ireadbooktours.com/

Face The Change

Face The Change by Samantha Bryant is the third book in the menopausal superhero series and gets deeper into the lives of the world’s newest heroes. In the last book we discovered that the menopausal superheroes weren’t the only ones with power. Jessica and Fuerte have joined the department which is now gone public and is being called  the UCU, the unusual cases unit.

Patricia is still on the fence about joining but she does do some contract work with them. Leonel is still having issues with David, Jessica is better at handling her powers and is also in love with a member of the department. As the story goes on we still have the UCU trying to track down Cindy and her father plus a new enemy that is using mind control to take over parts of the city.

The third book in the series is the same as the other two books. The first and second didn’t have an ending and neither does this one. This novel series is a lot like reading a comic series where the main story never ends. Some things get resolved but some stories keep going. The reason I like these books and want to read more is that I enjoy the characters, you don’t normally get superhero stories about women in their late fifties and sixties and the issues they deal with you wouldn’t find in other stories similar to this.

What I enjoyed most about this story is that we learn a little more about how Cindy thinks. Cindy isn’t a bad person, she just puts science before people. I though it was interesting how she was thinking of Patricia as a villain, even though Patricia was trying hard to save Cindy from herself.   Also I liked when Cindy was noticing how her new body felt so much better than her old body and was wondering if she could get her life right this time.

The other character that fascinated me in this book was Helen. She’s a woman who seems to be loosing her mind, is it due to her flame throwing power? Symptoms from menopause? or is she just bipolar with her condition making it worse. Helen is a villain but you feel a lot of sympathy for her, you get the impression that she hasn’t had much good in her life and in her mind her fire power changes that. In the past she felt weak and unimportant, now she has power but she doesn’t use it for good. She is out for revenge against anyone who has ever harmed her.

My main problem in this book was that I was expecting a little more action this time around. The action scenes seemed short and like they were there just because it was expected. Since this superhero trilogy is geared towards a different audience, it doesn’t need a lot of action but I still felt that the two fight scenes towards the end could have been better. My other complaint was that Agatha the psychic should have had a bigger role. It seemed like throwing her in as a villain was just a way to show that the UCU does more that just chase after Cindy, but her story seemed unimportant compared to what else was going on. I would still recommend this series. It’s an original spin on superhero stories and it has a lot of great characters.

Change Of Life

The last time we saw the characters of Going Through The Change they were involved in a climactic brawl at the end of a search for answers. Change Of Life by Samantha Bryant begins several months after the events of book one. Patricia who can turn into a lizard like creature is still trying to find her former friend and scientist Cindy Lu who has changed from a 67-year-old woman to a young girl. We also have Leonel who changed from a woman to a man and Jessica who can now fly. They have joined a top-secret organization called The Department and are training to be super spies

Jessica and Leonel believe they are using their powers for something greater and Patricia feels abandoned by them. Things start to get more complicated as Patricia gets kidnapped and the clues to what happened point to a dead man. Jessica, Leonel and the Department lead a search for her that raises more questions than answers.

What I liked most about this book was how Samantha Bryant makes her characters realistic. First of all who ever heard of a superhero going through menopause? The subplots are what made this book stand out for me, the characters may have superpowers but they are dealing with real world issues too. Leonel has a new career as a department spy and now doesn’t have time to be the housewife and mother she use to but she doesn’t want to give up her job. Jessica is dealing with a failed marriage, two young kids and a possible new love interest and Patricia is dealing with retirement and her new body. Also the reason these women have powers in the first place is because they were all taking something to help them with their aging bodies. Change Of Life may be about superheroes but a lot of depth and detail goes into each character.

There are some great action sequences in this book also, I loved the part where  Jessica takes  her test to join the department. Her mission is to retrieve a package from a building full of armed spies, she completes her task and manages to beat up on two department operatives in the process. I found myself cheering for Jessica as she went through her test, this is a woman who is a cancer survivor and mother who has now gained new powers and mastered them. Even the minor characters have a lot going on, I loved the reaction of her new boss Sally Ann who has some interesting powers herself. I’m hoping to see a lot more of Helen and Cindy Lu in book three, they have small roles in this book and I liked seeing how different they are from book one.

Change of Life takes what happens in the first book in a new direction. While the first one was an orgin story this one builds on that and adds a spy element to the superhero storyline. Think Agents of Shield meets The X files or at least that’s what I was thinking as I read it. Above all else this is a human drama disguised as a superhero spy story. I love these characters and watching them deal with the changes they are going through and I’m looking forward to the next book.

 

Going Through The Change: (Menopausal Superheroes #1)

As women enter menopause their bodies go through a lot of changes. They have to deal with such things as hot flashes, itchy skin, mood swings and hormonal imbalances. For the women in Going Through The Change: (Menopausal Superheroes #1) by Samantha Bryant these changes lead to superhuman strength. It all started with four women taking supplements made by Dr. Cindy Liu for their menopause symptoms.

Now we have Linda who has become a man, Helen who can throw fire, Jessica who now flies and Patricia who is bullet proof. None of the women understand why these changes happened and now they’re trying to find Dr. Cindy Lu to get some answers. What they don’t know is Cindy Liu is going through some changes herself and the answers they seek will change their lives forever.

As soon as I saw the cover for this book I thought of it as a must read. I’m a fan of superhero fiction but I’ve never seen a superhero story that deals with women going through menopause and I don’t know of a lot of superhero stories written by women. Going Through The Change is not your average superhero novel, the opening line even says “dedicated to any woman who has ever felt betrayed by her own body.” If you are expecting lots of action then look elsewhere but If you want a story about women dealing with their changing bodies then this book is for you.

Going Through The Change is a character driven superhero origin story. This is a first book in a series where the author gives you a foundation of five characters dealing with massive change. The attention to detail in each character shows that Samantha Bryant  has a real passion for what she is writing about and that’s what makes this book so good. For instance we have Jessica who is recovering from cancer and who can now fly making the realization that her marriage looks good on the surface but in reality isn’t that great. She sees that her husband publicly shows his support but emotionally is not there for her. In Linda’s case her body is breaking down but when she starts taking Dr. Liu’s supplements she has to deal with a new life as a man and we get to see how her relationship with her husband and family changes. The other character whose story I liked was Cindy Liu who finds that life as an old woman doesn’t suit her but what she does to fix the problem leads to side effects that are even worse.

One of my favorite scenes in the book was when Patricia performs her first act as a hero saving a beauty queen from a deranged gunman. As she saves the young woman she says to her: “See what pretty gets you, try for smart next time.” This is a superhero story that is not geared towards a young audience, this is a story written with older people in mind and since I’m an old comic book geek I loved it. My one complaint about it is that the story has no ending, If you’re going to read this be prepared to buy the second book. What you have in book one is an introduction to some well written superheroes with real life problems that have never been dealt with in comic books.

Sovereignty

In the 23rd century the world is a very different place. The population has dropped from 9 billion to 3 billion and the whole planet is controlled by one government. There are no cell phones or personal computers and everyone has a chip inserted into their arm so the government knows where they are at all times. People work at jobs assigned to them by the powers that be and if anyone breaks a law in this new world, it is dealt with harshly. There is no more religion or personal choice, there is just the Sovereign Regime or SR.

Many of the world’s young people aren’t happy with this way of life but it seems pointless to resist the SR’s will since they know your every move. Eighteen year old Goro and his friends Alex and Cory have found small ways to annoy the SR, such as a wristband to block their control chip’s powers and setting off explosives in a park. Their actions bring them to the attention of a small grass-roots organization with the goal of over throwing the SR. The odds are against them but with their old lives a distant memory, Goro and his friends do what needs to be done to make life better.

Sovereignty by Anjenique Hughes is a YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic future with themes of loyalty, friendship and the importance of freedom. The story is told in a fast paced manner from Goro’s point of view. Each chapter begins with a historical quote and then gets into a short history of how we got to where we are in the 23rd century. The idea of telling the history behind the story in small segments rather than having a couple of chapters devoted to setting up the story was a great idea. Anjenique Hughes knows her audience and you never get a chance to get bored with this book as it gives a history lesson, throws in some action and gives you characters that you can relate to.

This brings me to my favorite part of the book which are the characters. All of the characters come across as someone you might meet in real life complete with flaws and a good side. Take Goro for instance, he comes across like a normal teenager with a big ego and issues with authority. He is the hero of the story but he is complex because he creates a lot of his own problems. He hates the SR and wants to rebel but some of the actions he takes hurts his family and friends as much as it hurts him, though in his mind he’s always doing what’s right.

There is a point where Goro’s father finds out some horrible secrets of the SR. Goro finds out and his actions  leads his family to greater danger with some drastic consequences. Even when Goro joins the resistance he still has problems with authority and questions their leadership. Even Goro’s friends complain about how he was acting. What I liked about this was it seemed like normal behavior for most teenagers. Goro has a good heart but his ego and attitude still make life harder for the people around him. Goro is a shade of grey and in the real world people have a good and bad side to them so Goro comes across as realistic.

Sovereignty is an excellent read for a YA audience or an adult audience. While reading this book I found myself comparing the SR regime to other governments throughout history, there are parallels to the Nazis and any dictatorship that has ever been. Even in the future history is always repeating itself with a crooked government rising to power and a rebel force attempting to bring them down. This is one entertaining thrill ride and the first book in a series, do yourself a favor and check it out.

http://www.sovereigntyseries.com/

amazon.com

http://www.ireadbooktours.com/

Guest Blog Post: Anjenique Hughes

Reaching YA readers

By

Anjenique Hughes

I particularly love writing for YA, because they are the future. Young Adults can be some of the most hilarious and fun people to hang around. They are insightful. They are intriguing. They keep things real. Therefore, books written for this population need to be relevant and somewhat applicable to their lives. YA are the best; I particularly like writing YA, because they don’t tolerate BS. Anything cheesy, corny, or downright dumb will receive immediate ridicule and relentless backlash. This is why it is so challenging and exciting to write a novel that stretches above the status quo for this age range.

When writing for the young adult population, it’s best to keep the conversations and dialogue interesting and realistic for this age group. With technology and video games constantly competing for their attention, a book really needs to be an exciting ride. If the book doesn’t take off with action from the get-go, they’ll be tossing it out the window in no time. I like to include nuances, witty cliché’s, and balance the humor with the serious. Developing strong characters and character relationships are important, as well as having a smooth, flowing plot. I have found that teens hate it when loose ends are not tied up in the end.

We underestimate the intelligence of YA a lot of times; they are plenty smart and can spot a phony a mile away. If the story is too predictable- that can be the kiss of death. Romance included, done tastefully, is always a plus. Coming up with a unique twist, something that hasn’t been written about or explored before can be a draw for YA as well. I also like to include a character that is somewhat rough around the edges, but who learns a valuable lesson in the end and concluding with their maturing and changing for the better. Of course, hidden positive messages and subliminal moral values never hurt!

With master’s degrees in education, special education, and counseling, Anjenique “Jen” Hughes is a high school English and math teacher who loves teaching and mentoring young people. She loves traveling and has worked with youth on five continents. Saying she is “young at heart” is an understatement; she is fluent in sarcasm, breaks eardrums with her teacher voice (students have complained when they were within earshot), and cracks sarcastic jokes with the best of her students. Her work with ethnically and socioeconomically diverse youth has inspired her to write books that appeal to a broad variety of students seeking stories of bravery, perseverance, loyalty, and success.

http://www.sovereigntyseries.com

http://www.ireadbooktours.com/