The Other Side of the Other Side
Guest Post by Starr Gardinier Reina
Green grass as far as the eye can see to the left of me, bright skies all around, calm blue waters such as one would see in Hawaii to the right of me. It all sounds so glorious. A place worthy of a long, relaxing vacation. It is, it’s beautiful here. It was the sight I was faced with five years ago when I arrived. I couldn’t have been happier.
That is, until I found out that it’s not all sunshine and smiles. The Other Side is not always what people may think. There is another side to the Other Side. It can be formidable and dark, filling a soul full of anguish and anxiety. After the first month, I learned that the Other Side is what you make of it, what you perceive. And how you lived your life on Earth. That latter being the more decisive of what your after world is going to be like.
Integrating back into the perfect, happy place is possible, but one must work hard to rid themselves of the evil they breathed on Earth. Doing penance does not consist of just promising to be good. To appease the ‘higher ups’ you must collect souls—hungry, rampant souls smacking of pure immorality—from Earth as they are about to die. Without going into detail, I will say collection is not the end of it. No, you must also stop the last act that mortals are trying to play out on Earth, safely without harm coming to the humans. You may think that’s easy, but remember, we’re talking about the most malevolent entities that exist within human forms.
I’m still trying to get myself back to the good side, to be worthy again of the thriving brightness I remember. I haven’t seen it in almost five years. I’ve only one soul to go.
I’m looking over to Earth now. I see one! That one will work just fine. And before you get upset, remember: I didn’t pick your soul. You showed the blackness the first time you acted out without even trying to force the evil side away. You are the one who allowed temptation to drive you over the edge to the other side.
The Other Side: Melinda’s Story
by Starr Gardinier Reina
Publisher: Suspense Publishing, an ITW approved publishing company
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery
212 pages ebook/paperback
Released April 9, 2013.
Melinda James has a problem. She’s in Skyview Haven because her entire family and best friend are dead. Did she kill them? Does she belong in the asylum keeping her from harming herself and others?
Her father Paul James is killed in a car accident. She attends his funeral and she does see him lying in the casket. Or does she? It turns out her best friend Beth is the one who is dead and her father is there to console her. What is going on?
She thinks she’s going crazy, especially when she discovers both are actually gone from this earth and they talk to her from…‘the other side.’ Are her father and Beth actually speaking to her from beyond? Why? What do they want?
Soon, Melinda finds the answers and they aren’t what she wants to hear. Paul insists he was killed and his whole family is in danger.
This is part of Melinda’s story that she shares with Dr. Alex Leever, the psychiatrist who is assigned her case. All she wants is someone to hear her story—and believe. Melinda slowly begins to trust Dr. Leever and steadily reveals her long, complicated, intricate tale.
While at Skyview, Melinda meets Trent and they become friends, until she learns something about him that rocks her world. Is he there to hurt her? Does he want what her father was killed over?
Problems mount quickly and she discovers that there are people who want something only she can give them. Is Trent one of those people?
Her family tries to help from beyond, but Melinda is running out of time. She needs to give them what they want or die. Can the dead protect the living? Will they be enough to protect her?
I tried to tell them it was going to happen, but nobody would listen. They all said I was just having bad dreams, or that I was crazy.
It started at my father’s funeral. It’s been so long since it first began, about eight years ago. Sometimes though, it seems like yesterday. My father was there. No, I don’t mean just in the casket. He was there. He talked to me, begged me to tell Mom that we all needed to run and hide. He said we were all in danger.
I asked him why he didn’t tell Mom himself. He said he tried, but she wasn’t listening. I heard him fine. But I didn’t believe him. Why would we be in danger? We can’t just up and leave. My friends are all here in Beaumont. When I told him this, he said it was important, that it was a matter of life and death. He seemed so worried, but I was so confused, I blew him off.
I guess when it first happened I didn’t pay any heed to his warning. We went on with our lives. Mom was grief stricken, my brother Kyle was in his own world playing videos and I was trying to shut my father out of my mind. Was I going crazy? What was wrong with me? Dad was dead, but I could still see and hear him.
If I tell you the story, will you believe me?
A paralegal by day, she’s an author by night. Apart from being an award winning author for her short story “Cut”, Reina has appeared in a blaze and made her mark on the literary world with her Ivanovich Series. The first is “In the Name of Revenge”, the second, “Deadly Decisions” and the third, “One Major Mistake” was released July 10, 2012. Having studied and obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Literature/Creative Writing, she has found her unique style and is known for her works’ distinctive voice, making every character stand out.
Reina is the artistic creator of the Ivanovich series featuring Pavel Ivanovich. Flanking Ivanovich’s side in “Deadly Decisions” is Teresa Mancini, who vies with Ivanovich for readers’ attention. According to J.M. LeDuc, who was “raised in an Italian family”, Teresa “is perfect…like all your characters”. Reina is also the author of young adult novella “Cruel Whispers” and its sequel novel “Cruel Past”.
Reina is an executive editor for Suspense Magazine. She has been interviewed in the newspaper and on the radio with relation to her fiction work. She has been a co-host on Suspense Radio.
Reina is a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) and of Sisters in Crime, Los Angeles Chapter and nationally. She has won three Best Speaker awards as well as Best Evaluator at the Voice Ambassadors chapter of Toastmasters. She has always been active in events. As co-chair and main coordinator for the West Coast Author Premiere, she arranged the weekend-long event to help authors from all over network, learn and share their work with the public. Reina has also been instrumental in compiling authors and planning a local author event at Barnes and Noble in Ventura, California along with the store’s event manager.
Welcome to 10 Things You’re Too Scared To Ask, the author interviews for Lizzy’s Dark Fiction. If you’re an author and interested in answering questions most reviewers are too scared to ask, then email me at lizzylessard (at) gmail (dot) com. If I think your answers are the best of the batch, then I’ll pay for a giveaway of your book. Even if you don’t win, if you’re willing to host a giveaway, I will post your answers. But you have to be CREATIVE. The questions change every month! Remember, there is NO GENRE RESTRICTION.
10 Things You’re Too Scared To Ask Coral Russell
1) Imagine your characters are on Survivor. They have to vote one character out of your book. Who votes for who and why?
Roberta, Luis, Frankie, Alicia and Duke are on Survivor. The person everyone wants to vote off is Duke because they realize he is not dealing from a full deck. He’s loyal to friends and family but he’s just found out that his family has kept a secret. Duke is a charismatic leader so he convinces Roberta and Luis to join him in voting off Frankie who is a detective. They agree because they think Frankie is the strongest player. When that happens Duke can have alone time with Alicia who is part of Duke’s family secret.
2) Your main character has committed a crime. What is the crime and how do they do it?
Duke, Roberta and Luis within the course of the story have committed various crimes in the story. Duke uses a pillow and smothers someone close to him in the hospital.
3) You have to fight zombies. What is in your arsenal?
The Chaneco gang’s favorite weapons are machetes and baseball bats. When the zombies come they see no reason to change.
4) What character in your book do you wish you could switch places with?
I wish I could be more like Frankie. Secretly I’ve always wanted to be a detective but I know deep down I’m too naive to ever be a good one.
5) Write the most ridiculous death scene possible.
Epilogue for one of the minor characters in Sacrifice -
Scooby liked to gamble and participate in cockfights. He found the roosters easier to handle than pitbulls. It was also easier to explain having the roosters and hens around than a lot of penned up dogs. The cold desert air cut across the night sending animals for cover. A halo of lights marked the arena in the surrounding darkness. Scooby picked up his rooster, Pito, and secured the three-inch, razor-honed,curved knives to the legs. He stroked the rooster’s feathers while he waited for the whistle that would start the match. The favorite to win was a jet black rooster named, Chum. The whistle blew and a small puff of feathers decorated the inside of the fighting area. The battle raged back and forth with each owner in the ring egging their bird on to fight. The was a sudden rip sound and Chum lay gutted on the sand. Scooby jumped up pumping both fists in the air and bent over to pick up the bird. He felt a numb sensation across his inner thigh. He glanced down and watched in disbelief as blood pumped out of his leg at an alarming rate. He sat down in the sand. The on-lookers not wanting to take him to the hospital to explain a knife wound tried to bandage him up but he bled out several hours later.
6) Reveal the darkest moment in your life.
The first and only time I’ve had a panic attack is when my daughter was diagnosed with a valve problem and there was no way to treat it. After two years she turned out just fine and healed completely. The doctor didn’t have an explanation for the turn around and said, “Have a good life.”
7) One of your favorite authors agrees to go on a date. Who is it and how do you woe him/her?
I want to go out with Emma Holly only I’m not a lesbian and neither is she but she writes really really steamy romance for all genders and was the first author blog that I’ve came across that posted helpful links and resources for aspiring writers. So I would woe her by hiring people to act out a scene from one of her books. It would be optional if she wanted to participate or just watch.
8) Pick a popular book with an ending you didn’t like. What’s the new ending?
Atonement – the fake ending where the lover and protagonists sister DO live and end up together while hating the protagonist of the story for lying and causing such a scandal instead of the real ending where they died apart, never having reconciled because of WWII.
9) You are a misunderstood monster (like Shrek). Briefly write about what your life is like.
What do you mean pretend? I am a misunderstood monster who loves video games (RPG, MMORPG, strong story line), all things that require lounging, HIIT workouts, good food that I cook myself, and questioning the standard propaganda that is delivered through our institutions.
10) Name one culturally “taboo” thing you wish would be accepted.
In the US we have ‘personal space’ issues and I would like to see the taboo loosened. It should be perfectly fine to aim a flying hug at a perfect stranger anytime you want.
Sacrifice by Coral Russell
Publisher: Self published
Released March 1st, 2013
When Mexican drug cartels fight for control along the border, Juarez becomes the murder capital of the world. In El Paso, Texas it’s drug business as usual: a grifter sets out to buy her freedom, a car salesman runs drugs to make his fortune, a gang leader battles to rise among the ranks of the cartel, and a detective and his wife are ripped apart by a family secret. Everyone’s fate lies in the hands of an old woman. Will she let the past die with her or take revenge the only way she knows how? Sacrifice is a fast-paced, gritty story that’ll keep you guessing, gasping, and gripping your eBook.
Coral Russell lives in the southwest with her hubby, baby Godzilla sized kid and an adorable dog with which she shares a oneway thermal dynamic relationship. She blogs off and on at alchemyofscrawl. There you can find links to her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, and email. Along with her brain buddy, Donna, she volunteers at The Indie Exchange a group of authors, readers, and book bloggers who post reviews, articles, and giveaways. Listen in Fridays to their radio show. Ms. Russell won the 2003 McCaleb Peace Initiative which produced the nonfiction articles Peace on the Peninsula. All profit from the sale of that eBook go to rebuilding Joplin, MO.
- Amador Lockdown
- Playing with Fire (Devil of a Ghost Tour and Key to a
- Peace on the Peninsula (profit goes to rebuilding Joplin, MO)
- The DIY Guide to Social Media Marketing and eBook Publishing
- Sweet Trade of the Red Coral and Twelve Worlds (profit goes
- to Reading is Fundamental)
So what is 5 star review? Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not. This week’s topic: characters.
Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.
There’s so much I could write about characters, so I picked just a few things. Characters in books I rate 5 stars are likeable, evolving, and complex. Characters are the “who” of the story. We typically think of them as people, but animals, and even objects can be personified and become characters.
- You could describe an ant as hardworking and persistent. You could write a story about how an ant overcame seemingly impossible odds to find food and feed its colony.
- You could write a story about a train that wants to take a trip off of the tracks – oh, wait…that’s called The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper.
But there needs to be someone or something that is the center of the story. Someone that we can connect to as a reader. Someone that is likeable. This would be your POV (point of view) character. The reader needs to be able to “feel” and “care” for the people telling the story. Would you go to a random person’s wedding or high school graduation? Do you cry when you read the obituary section in the newspaper? If you have nothing invested in these people, then no…you don’t care. The closer you become with the people, the more you are affected by what happens in “their” life.
I love You. I hate You. Either way, I care enough to notice you.
Now, don’t confuse “likeable” with good. Sometimes the villain is more likeable than the hero – like Hannibal Lector vs Will Graham in Red Dragon by Thomas Harris or Megamind vs Metroman (yes, I know…a movie!). Sometimes the hero is horribly flawed like Sherlock Holmes – socially inept. Humpert Humpert in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – pedophile. And if you can make both the villain and the hero likeable, that’s even more awesome.
And likeable certainly does not mean perfect. Think about it. Would you want your best friend to be rich beyond belief, gorgeous, athletic, brilliant, and extremely lucky? And why don’t we also make this person have a few supernatural powers and be the Chosen One. No, I don’t think you want to be friends with Mary Sue. Besides the obvious jealousy, readers have trouble relating to a character like that. You have flaws, therefore your characters should have flaws.
And CLUMSY is not a big enough game changer of a flaw to be the only flaw. Unless…you plan on your character tripping, smacking into the villain and the villain’s extended knife, which is perfectly positioned to plunge into the heat, and the character dies. If that happens, I can say, “Man, I’d rather be ugly than clumsy. At least no one ever died from being too ugly.” Then, and only then will you get full points in the character department with an otherwise completely Mary Sue character.
The Story of Evolution
There are two types of characters: those that change over the course of the novel (dynamic) and those that stay the same (stagnant). Most novels have both characters. The key to having dynamic characters is to make their evolution from the starting person to the end a very believable transition. The change in the characters need to be proportional to the situation for it to be believable. You can either have a lot of minor events that contribute to the change or you can have one major event that triggers a change.
Character trait: Character is a loyal wife. Then she has an affair.
- Believable: Scene after scene we have the wife doing things without her husband. He spends no time with her and she grows increasingly lonely, until she meets someone to fill the void – a neighbor.
- Not-believable: Husband forgot take out trash. Wife screws her neighbor when she sees him at his trash can next door.
Character trait: Character used to love spending all her time with animals. Not anymore.
- Believable: Character quits veterinarian job after own pet dies and there was nothing she could do to save Fluffy. Every animal she sees reminds her of her dead dog and she can’t bear it.
- Not-believable: Character quits veterinarian job because ants have invaded her kitchen and THIS MEANS WAR! Every animal is a potential enemy now.
A thousand faces
Do you act the same way in front of your parents or your boss as you do your friends? Your lover? If the answer is yes, then please find the nearest exit and “get a life”. teenagers especially treat different people differently. They might be more joking around their friends. Quieter around someone they like. And more conservative (both in dress and speech) in front of their parents. There might be conflicting information for the reader.
Example: Suzy tells John that she can’t stand Bobby, but Suzy then tells Bobby that she likes hanging around him.
What does this mean? It means that either Suzy is hiding her true feelings from John about Bobby or Suzy is hiding her true feelings from Bobby about himself. To one of these guys, Suzy is honest. To the other guy, Suzy is a liar. She is still one person, but has conflicting character traits. She is complex and that’s how I like my characters.
Readers: What do you think makes a character likeable?Read More
So what is 5 star review? Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not. This week’s topic: pacing
Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.
Since we’re talking about good pacing this week, I promise that I won’t ramble on like I have with these topics before. I’ve read quite a few books that suffer from a lack of good pacing. I think one of the biggest amateur author mistakes is including too much non-relevant information. There has to be a point to every scene. Worse is when the pacing slows on the “boring” parts of the characters’ stories and speeds up when the “exciting” stuff happens. It’s frustrating to read four or five pages about Mindy drinking her morning coffee and then two sentences about how she ran over a guy last summer. Why couldn’t there be five pages about the hit and run instead? Even as a flashback, it is much more entertaining than reading about someone eating or driving a car or sleeping.
So, what is the pace of a story? It is how fast the plot advances in the story. The plot advances much faster in action scenes than in narratives and the writing on the page should reflect this change. Let’s start by focusing on this post. The top section of the post is wordy and the text takes up the entire page from left to right. It will take you, as the reader, double the amount of time to read these two paragraphs than to read the next two “sections”.
How to speed up the pace:
- - Shorter sentences
- - Less descriptions
- - More action
- - Back and forth dialogue.
How to slow down the pace:
- - Long, complex sentences
- - More descriptions
- - Minimal action
- - Monologues/narrative
Of course, there needs to be a balance. Too much white on a page is just as tiring as too little. I like a very fast pace “thriller” feel to the books I read. In my mind, if the characters aren’t talking or the characters aren’t moving, then it’s not important. Long narratives lose my interest quickly and so do long monologues, which tend to happen when the author is trying to “info-dump” through dialogue. Other readers might enjoy the slower sections of the novel to relax their mind and “take a breather” so to speak.
Reader: Do you like fast paced books, leisurely paced books, or something in between? Or does it depend on the genre?Read More
So what is 5 star review? Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not. This week’s topic: content rating
Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.
Content rating – What is appropriate for each age group?
At the moment, books don’t have content ratings like movies or video games on the cover. The debate as to whether they should is split evenly according to this poll on Hellum. So how do readers know whether or not there is offensive material within a book without these ratings? Are there sex scenes? Graphic deaths? Make outs or just kissing? Lesbian/Gay relationships (which I don’t find offensive, but some people do)? Animal cruelty? Drugs?
Books don’t have content ratings. Or do they? Bookstores separate books by more than genre. In fact, genres are a subcategory when searching for the book you want. The primary division in a bookstore is age.
There is a section for children’s books, middle grade, young adult, adult, and erotica. Although there are some books that bend the “rules” of an age group like Go the F*** to sleep, most adhere to what is and what isn’t appropriate for a particular age. As a reviewer, I mention in my reviews whether I feel like a book is geared towards a particular age group or if it would fit better somewhere else. I think practically any topic can be in any age group, but I do think that it needs to be handled very differently for each age group. Please note that what I think is appropriate might be different that what you think is appropriate. This topic, however, has impacted what I rate a book in the past. So, let’s break this down, shall we?
Although I don’t typically review picture books on this blog, I will rate them on Amazon. Picture books are meant for children under five and usually read out loud. Sensitive topics like death, abuse, divorce, and sex need to be handled with care. You shouldn’t have a character “die”. Children don’t understand the concept of someone never coming back. If they see someone die, then they think that the person is sleeping and not waking up. Children want to be reunited someday with this person, so probably the best way to handle death is to say that the person went to Heaven, on vacation, or a special place.
As far as sex goes, I really don’t think that any parent wants to explain the physics of sex and making babies to a child. Kissing is about as hardcore as you can get with this age group without having your book thrown into a fireplace or on the banned books list. Abuse is a difficult topic but one that I’ve seen handled very well for this age group. I don’t think that you should ever have the abuse “on screen”. This is better told and not shown. The most important thing when handling this topic is to emphasis that abuse is WRONG and the victim (whether a child or adult) is never to be BLAMED. Like abuse, the important thing to remember when talking about divorce is BLAME. It is not the child’s fault and parents shouldn’t badmouth each other “on screen”.
There isn’t much difference between what is appropriate for picture books and what is appropriate for middle grade books, except when dealing with death. By this age, children understand that the deceased won’t be coming back. Children this age still see the world in black/white, so convincing them that a murderer is the good guy or that a parent is evil is a hard sell. They understand the simple equation that guy + girl = baby and even the parts required to make babies, but keep everything off screen but the kissing. No naked people. No touching the nether regions. Sometimes there are four letter words in this age bracket, but the person who speaks these obscenities is always casted in a negative light or punished for speaking like that. Likewise with drugs and alcohol. Don’t glamorize these vices in middle grade books.
I’m a real advocate for anything goes in this age bracket. Well, except hard porn. Soft porn is okay. Nipples. Crotch. Naked people. The major difference between young adult sex scenes and adult/erotica is the focus on the scene. In young adult the focus is on the emotion. The characters are in love and awkward. They worry. They think. There is more narrating about what the character is thinking than what the character is doing. In adult/erotica the focus is about performance and orgasms. The details are in the positions and not what the characters are thinking.
Violence and gore is something that I don’t have much of a problem reading, but many teens and adult fans of this genre don’t enjoy reading. So, I would say that it’s okay to have someone get shot in the head. It probably wouldn’t be okay to have the gray brain matter splatter all over someones else’s face and then start describing what it tastes like. (I do wonder how authors know what things like this taste like.) Also, animals and children are off limits. You can kill them, but no torture at all.
I’ve downrated books in this age bracket for being too safe. When writing a book for children and teens, you should be concerned about what topics to tread carefully with. When writing a book for adults, you should be concerned about telling the story and not about offending people. Fade to black during fight or sex scenes makes me feel like you were too lazy to write it. Sex is exciting. It is way more exciting that reading about your character’s morning routine after having sex. I also expect that the characters advance past first base – please don’t make the climax his tongue is her mouth unless this is chick lit. Obviously, if I were to read an erotica novel that didn’t have graphic sex scenes, the book would be rated poorly. A book about soldiers in battle should have detailed battle scenes. Show. Show. Show!
If the book is for people under 18, be careful how you write certain topics.
If the book is for people 18 and older, always show not tell.
Readers: What rating would you give a book that had teenage characters but detailed sex scenes? Would it be YA or Adult? Would you let your kid read Go the F*** to sleep?Read More