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Award-Winning Novels!

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Snack runs in Utah just got deadly

Bold Satire Crimes of Convenience:

  • Grand Finalist of 200 entries in the 40th annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
  • A Blue Collar Conspiracy!
Jessica has become just psychic enough to get herself killed

YA Speculative Mystery Too Much Information:

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Feckless Fate

Authors have a choice between Fate and Suspense

Yawn

Into his or her arms she or he runs. Their love has overcome every obstacle—every racist or homophobe or job offer in Houston—to bring them back to each other, where we all know they should be. Fate is victorious again.

And that’s exactly the problem.

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Alyssa Milano stops her wedding to be with her perfect love—her imaginary friend—in James Patterson’s Sundays at Tiffany’s

There are so many familiar tropes in romance fiction: the race to the airport, or the interrupted wedding. The last-minute defiance of a controlling parent to be with a lover who means so much more. All of these are fun, but even variations of them are predictable, because the characters acting them out are running their race over a generic green-screen called Fate.

And relying on Fate is a sure way to remove a key element of a story’s conflict: suspense. As romance readers, we know that if two characters love each other, their love will conquer any complication an author throws in their path. We’re like gods who can see the predestined future that Fate has in store for them. It’s impossible for us to take the journey with our lovesick protags, because we’re always waiting at the end of it, impatiently tapping our omniscient feet.

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Diane Carey’s Rise Defiant inverts the tropes

Of course, there are those spotty favorites that invert the genre to bring back some suspense. D.L. Carey’s Distant Drums and Rise Defiant set up multiple romances during the American Civil War that all seem impossible. Several of these involve a legal slave, one a Madam’s daughter posing as a schoolteacher, and at least one is a bromance that borders on passion. Because Carey foregrounds uncertainty over Fate, we’re left to hope for our favorite romance and cheer when it blossoms. On the screen, The Sixth Sense (though hardly a romcom) literally made me gasp when I realized that Bruce Willis could never return to his fated love. Of course, the biggest romantic inversion might still be The Taming of the Shrew, because it seems so impossible that he could love her ‘then,’ or that she could love him ‘now.’ Somehow, Ol’ Bill always pulls off a surprise.

Is that enough, though? When two people we don’t expect fall in love, Fate’s success is still comforting, and I’m not sure that comfort is what we find romantic. It’s failed love that really pounds our hearts. It’s denying Fate that makes us recognize love.

So let’s see more of those stories: stories about colonials turning their backs on natives, or same-sex lovers walking away to protect each other from intolerant times. Let’s see the story about the girl whose family is actually more important than her favorite barista—about the race to the airport that ends with a career move to Houston.

Let’s get our fiction to say Happy Valentine’s Day to the loves near us now, and to the forgotten friends we still love.

YA Fiction Runner-up!

WOWAnother season has passed for the WOW: Women on Writing Flash Fiction contest, and it’s a privilege to announce that my story linked here, Weak as Tissue, was not so weak after all. In fact, it rated as a runner-up. It’s a light coming-of-age story, told from a teen girl’s perspective, which might give my dozen fans a taste for my more involved novel, Olivia Tames Olympus.  Click here to visit the stories of the well-deserved winners and my fellow runner-ups… runners-up… run-uppers (or however that’s pluralized). I like to read one every day.

The Magic of the Mundane

It’s not the magic that makes a story. It’s the ordinary guy who makes it magical.

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The Power of Three needed a fourth…

I’ve been watching a lot of Charmed lately. No, not the stylish reboot, but the original white-girl series that helped make way for a better deal than girls had back then. My discovery of the series is thanks to a beloved student whom I’ll call TLT, who insisted that I watch at least the first three seasons. Since the show is older than she is, I thought I had better see what kept her coming back.

But here’s my shameful little secret: I’m now into Season Six.

The question, then, is what kept me coming back? I guess it was partly the much-needed replacement of hard-hearted Shannen Doherty with her surprisingly funny successor, Rose McGowan. Maybe it was partly the development of Leo, the witches’ own personal Great Gazoo who would appear inside sparkles to save their lives and sire their spawn. Maybe I just like watching those stained-glass windows shatter. What it wasn’t, though, was the magical powers or the nasally delivered rhyming couplets. It wasn’t the interminable series of failed dates with mannequin co-stars, nor the increasing density of Alyssa Milano’s makeup.

Mostly, what kept me coming back was a supporting character named Darryl. Continue reading

Putting the ‘Wealth’ back in ‘Commonwealth’

GCCommonwealth_GamesAs the Commonwealth Games wrap up here on the Gold Coast, it’s easy to feel proud of our city. Not only did we manage to host athletes and other visitors from around the world, but we managed to do it in an atmosphere that was all at once festive and civilized. We celebrated the spirit of friendly competition between nations, and looked on in awe at the persistence that it takes to succeed. As so often when athletes gather, they modelled the values of hard work and respect.

Here’s the thing, though: why do we so often notice those values mostly in athletes?

After all, everyone must know a store manager who was promoted because he was willing to work a double shift. We all must have heard stories about an entrepreneur who kept her business solvent by promoting it online late into the night. Surgeons pull marathon shifts in theatre to keep us alive, and teachers go bleary preparing feedback to keep us educated.

Dare I say it? Writers, especially, have to push and push themselves just to get a novel into the marketplace: even a beloved bestseller. Continue reading

3 Day Novel Finalist

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Yesterday, satirical adventure Crimes of Convenience became a Top Ten Finalist in the 40th Annual International 3-Day Novel Contest, in the running for a grand prize that includes publication. Geist chose the novel out of over 200 entries.

When a convenience store’s customers are repeatedly poisoned by factory-sealed snacks, the manager must choose whether to protect himself or investigate the conspiracy theories of a paranoid homeless Australian and a gluten-free Vegan activist. Will Cosgrove play along with the suspicious lawyer who is protecting him, or cooperate with the only cop who seems concerned for the victims of the Chomp-n-Pump? One of the Blue-Collar Conspiracies set in Provo, Utah by K. Alan Leitch.

Five Ways to be Badly Published

About a year after I began submitting my writing, I was offered a contract on one of my satirical thrillers, Driven. Because I felt at the time that it was the least polished of my efforts, I began asking advice, and I will never forget one of the earliest and wisest things that anyone has told me to date.

Victoria Strauss wrote, “Being unpublished is better than being badly published.”

At first, I thought that maybe managing the blog at Writer Beware had made Victoria paranoid. I wasn’t even sure what she meant by “badly published.” If someone was willing to print and sell my first novel on my behalf, how bad a publisher could they be?

Of course, Victoria’s mission is to protect a writer’s work and reputation to future publishers, so I knuckled into some research. I quickly learned a few ways to spot a publisher that even new writers don’t want, and have been learning more and more of those ever since.

The Contract

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We all want friendly relationships, but make sure your contract is binding.

Every publisher should offer a clearly worded contract. Some do not. I learned the hard way that ticking a box on a submissions manager is a very poor substitute for a real, big-boy’s contract… and that a real, big-girl’s contract should be about fifteen pages long. Continue reading