Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Tour and Guest Post: Cracked by Janine A. Southard

Guest Post by Author Janine A. Southard:

For Writers: “Show, Don’t Tell” and Writing the Book YOU Want to Write

I took a writing workshop two years ago in which the instructor asked the class to name each of the five narrative modes. We started off strong: dialogue, action, description. Hmmm. Oh, thought!

But what’s the fifth one?


If you’re a modern writer, you’re recoiling right now. These days, we excise exposition from our manuscripts with the harshest of delete keys. We are forever reminded to show, not tell.

But if you’re old school, like 100-300 years old, you’re nodding along. Back in the day, third person omniscient narrators (with strong expository natures) were the “in” thing to write. To illustrate this point, the instructor read some Dickens aloud. Dickens is one snarky dude.*

Now, I’m like you. I’ve been an advocate of “show, don’t tell.” And I love my tight third or first person. But there comes a point when an author needs to take stock of her book ideas. She needs to ask “Am I being a little too harsh on exposition?” And possibly she needs to wonder, “Am I talented enough to take it on?”

I came away from this class (which was not a class on narrative modes, btw) with a deep desire to test myself. Could I write something fun this way? Would it sound too old fashioned?

I took the chance, and it worked! I’d been sitting on the Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story concept for years before it fell into place when I gave myself permission to add an omniscient narrator.

Whenever I got stuck on Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, I’d write something astoundingly expository, like “It is a peculiarity of our modern world that a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi and numerous power outlets is full of patrons, each possessing only one coffee and one pastry in order to rationalize five hours’ rent on one little table.” (This sentence actually made it into the final novel. It’s the first line of Chapter Two.)

If you’re a writer who eschews omniscient POVs and exposition, you might want to give it a try. If you’re a reader, can you think of any other modern novels that use these styles?

* If you’re in doubt about Dickens’ snarkiness, try reading A Tale of Two Cities with a California accent. You can’t miss it. Schoolteachers may tell us to be reverent of this classic, but yeah. Snark all the way.

About the Book:

Title: Cracked! A Magic iPhone StoryAuthor: Janine A. SouthardPublisher: Cantina PublishingPages: 265Genre: Contemporary Lit/HumorFormat: Paperback/Kindle
What can your phone do for you?

This is the story of a girl and her iPhone. No, that’s not quite right. This is the story of a middle-aged statistician and her best friend. Though she didn’t consider herself middle-aged. And the best friend was more of a roommate-with-whom-she’d-developed-a-friendship. And this description completely ignores the 6,000-year-old elf with whom the woman and her best friend enjoyed story gaming.
So let’s try this again.

This is the story of a woman who wished to find love, but who would rather play story games than actively look for it. Especially in the wake of a horrid break-up six months before from a man who had never sent her a single gift.

Until this Valentine’s Day, when she received a brand new iPhone in a box with his name on it.

Between story gaming and succumbing to the phone’s insidious sleekness, she learns that friendship trumps romance.

Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, award-winning author Janine A. Southard (a Seattle denizen) shows you how the geeks of Seattle live, provides a running and often-hilarious social commentary on today’s world, and reminds you that, so long as you have friends, you are never alone.

For More Information

  • Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
“Oh my god, woman.” Morena slapped an ineffectual hand against Suzyn’s shoulder. “What are you doing?”
Suzyn played with the iPhone while, as usual, slouching in a broken chair. The steam from her chai wafted past her wrists where they pointed toward the roof, her head thrown back so that the ceiling lamps backlit the phone’s screen. “Finding you a new guy,” she said. She would have shrugged, but it was hard enough to worm her body into a slouchy sprawl that included the broken back of a wicker chair without adding extraneous movement into the mix.
“Oh my god,” said Morena again, this time in a hissing whisper. “You can’t just use that thing. What if it’s forcing people?”
For that piece of apparent stupidity, Suzyn sat up and looked her best friend straight in the eye. “Morena. It’s an iPhone app, not a satanic love spell.”
Morena’s vertebrae slumped, and she waved a permissive hand back at the phone. “Yeah, I know. I just got worried for a minute there. Like, what did Vadim see in me to get him started, you know?”
Suzyn arched her spine and wedged it against the spikey pale wicker once again. “Dude, that guy was so into you.” She forced out a laugh.
Trying to make any talk of Vadim into a joke was harder than romcoms made it seem, Suzyn found. Not that she watched romcoms much. Except at Christmastime when Disney, the WB, and even the Hallmark channel made some horrible but funny ones.
A choked-off sob came from the other woman, but Suzyn refused to look away from the phone. (She was too unsympathetic to be a good friend when the messier emotions got involved, so she prudently avoided them.) She set the age range for 21-26, then thought the better of it and went for 27-35. That was still a little younger than Morena, but not so young that it’d be weird.
“I’m going to be single forever,” moaned Morena. “Why don’t guys want me?”
Magic Guy finally came back with his hot apple cider and one of their Wash Bagels. “Because other men are morons who don’t appreciate you.”
Suzyn kicked her feet up onto Morena’s lap to provide her friend with more tactile reassurance and to increase the area of her own sprawl. “Don’t worry, Ems.” Sometimes, especially after guiltily watching Gossip Girl, Suzyn was taken by the desire to give people diminutives based on the initial letter of their first name. She didn’t do it often. “I’m gonna find you a hottie in a point-three-mile radius.”
At this point, Suzyn and Morena devolved into some good-natured bickering about whether or not to increase the radius to 1 mile or reduce it to 0.1 miles, with a tangent wondering why people who made geo-relevant apps didn’t think 0.5 or 0.75 seemed like a good increment. Those were still walkable in the snow. One mile was pushing it. And three miles as the next level up? That was where cars started. There was no difference between three and ten miles, really.
But Magic Guy didn’t notice this conversation, even if he might have been interested by its insight into the casual city-dweller’s psyche. No, he was too busy reeling from the vibrations in the air. Not the auditory vibrations from JACK-FM playing over the speakers, or the imperceptible (to humans) spray from the milk steamer. Not the shivering air currents from the people setting up Pathfinder miniatures at the table next to them, nor the emotions focused in his direction by the woman with an impeccably styled gray bob from the writers’ table in the back.
No, these were bad vibrations he was picking up. They were the opposite of the Beach Boys song.
His lungs lurched, and his heart contracted as the vibrating sensation strengthened, then washed over and through him. He grabbed the table to stay upright and was half-offended that his companions hadn’t noticed. (The other half of him was relieved he wouldn’t have to explain anything.)
Someone was performing dangerous magics nearby.
The dark power made his thighbones quake with the urge to run somewhere safe. But this was his place, and his story game circle didn’t deserve to have him abandon them with no warning. He sent out his magic senses through the room, trying to follow the unfriendly wave that had so jarred him. He turned, following a ripple in the ambient magic. There! He slammed his eyes open when he pinpointed the vile practitioner, the better to catch them in the act.
His quarry was Suzyn. Suzyn, whose feet still warmed Morena’s lap and whose fingers still tripped over the touchscreen of a sexy new iPhone. She was saying, “No, I haven’t liked any of the guys it’s sent you. I’m changing your underlying search settings.”
Morena grabbed for the phone, but she couldn’t reach the full length of Suzyn’s body and seemed disinclined to shift her best friend from a supposedly comfortable position for such a little thing. “You figured out how to get an options dash?” She made frustrated wavy motions with her fingers. “Show me!”
And Suzyn obligingly sat upright, tilting her chair in such an alarming manner that Magic Guy was sure she’d fall over. The two women crowded around the phone, and Suzyn poked at an icon while Morena jittered with anticip—
Magic Guy swooped in and scooped the iPhone out of their hot little hands. Well, little compared to his own hands, anyway. Well, Morena’s were. Suzyn had extremely long fingers for a female of the human species.
“Hey!” Suzyn objected.
“What gives?” Morena’s slang was more out of date.
In his hand, the phone felt oily and wrong, and not because it had one of those strange military-grade cases (it didn’t) but more as though it had been molded out of some unethical putty which had never once attended sensitivity training and didn’t think it was important to discuss consent or permissible acts with a new sex partner. This phone was the worst kind of PUA (pick-up artist), and he didn’t know why such beautiful people (soul-speaking) as Morena and Suzyn would own it.

About the Author

Janine A. Southard is the IPPY award-winning author of the Hive Queen Saga, as well as other science fiction and young adult novels and novellas.
The Hive Queen Saga books blend cultural experimentation with epic as they follow a formalized Hive of teenagers on a voyage to new lands and new cultures where their own ways seem very strange. The first novel in the saga, Queen & Commander, has been described as “like Joss Whedon’s Firefly but for teenagers” by the YA’s Nightstand. The second book, Hive & Heist, is a classic heist tale set on a space station.
Queen & Commander received an IPPY (Independent Book Publishers) Award for science fiction ebooks in 2013. Outside the Hive Queen Saga, the science fiction novella These Convergent Stars was selected as the short ebook recommendation of the week at Tungsten Hippo on 29 January 2014.
All Southard’s books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.
From her home in Seattle, she is currently working on a half-contemporary, half-fantasy novel for adults, Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, which releases in early 2015.
For More Information
  • Visit Janine A. Southard’s website.
  • Connect with Janine on Twitter.
  • Find out more about Janine at Goodreads.

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