Got Thrills?

I’m popping the champagne. I completed three novels this year. Two horror, and one mainstream thriller. All timely and exciting. All reviewed by two critique groups, multiple beta readers, and professionally edited. My ten year professional writing journey has been a blast. Four novels (two sold so far), ten produced stage plays, and two published short stories. Not bad for a recovering engineer. Now, I’m off to pitch my latest books and see if any literary agents / editors are interested.

June 24th, 2019

Posted In: The Lamia, The Lust Gambit, The Night Hag

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LitUp! OC on Tuesday, August 21st. Three exceptional short stories read from the short fiction anthology featuring California, “It’s All in the Story.” Honored to be among these two great authors, Madeline Tighe Margarita (“Earth Angel”) and Anne Moose (“Solving for X”). My story, “Life Dies, and Then You Suck” was fun to read. Seeing a smile or two from the audience reminds me why I write.

August 23rd, 2018

Posted In: Short Stories, Steven G. Jackson

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The latest top thriller restaurant lists are now available at Thriller Restaurants. If you’re planning a foodie-themed getaway, you won’t want to miss this.

January 3rd, 2018

Posted In: Steven G. Jackson, Thriller Restaurants

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IT’S ALL IN THE STORY

A Short Story Anthology From the Southern California Writers Association (SCWA)
DP Lyle, Editor and Contributor
Release date: 10-21-17.

Grab your copy today from your local independent bookstore or online at:


SUSPENSE RADIO
:

Join Maddie Margarita, Steven Jackson, and DP Lyle on Suspense Radio
Saturday, October 7, 2017, at 9 a.m. Pacific
https://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine


LAUNCH PARTY:

Saturday 11-2-17 at 7 p.m.
Book Carnival
348 S. Tustin Street
Orange, CA
714-538-3210
Book Carnival: https://www.annesbookcarnival.comSCWA: http://www.ocwriter.com


IT”S ALL IN THE STORY: CALIFORNIA

INTRODUCTION

Everything begins with an idea.

Whether it’s building a skyscraper, walking on the moon, or creating a work of art, the idea comes first. The dream, the vision. Then the hard work of bringing the idea to life begins.

So it was with It’s All in the Story.

The idea to publish an anthology began in late 2016 when the Southern California Writers Association (SCWA) Board of Directors approved this project, and the work began. When I was asked to serve as editor for this anthology, I was honored and enthusiastically accepted.

The SCWA provides a forum for encouraging and promoting the welfare, fellowship, spirit, and continuing education of published and unpublished writers in the Southern California area. Monthly meetings feature world-class instructors of all genres, experience, and skill levels who share their knowledge and expertise with the members.

And now, an anthology.

Sixty-four stories were submitted for evaluation. The quality of these submissions was exceptional. An editorial committee read and ranked each manuscript, and though each was worthy of inclusion, ultimately 24 were chosen for publication in this edition. During the ranking process, author identities were carefully hidden from the committee, and all rankings were based solely on merit. The result is an amazing collection of stories.

Everything begins with an idea.

This is particularly true in storytelling. It’s the classic What If? What if this happened? Or maybe that? What would happen next? How would this, or that, affect the protagonist? What responses would it invoke? What feelings and emotions would it stir? What pressures, complications, and obstacles would test the hero? This is the stuff of great fiction.

This is how every story begins, and develops.

Many believe that writing a short story is easier than writing a novel. I mean, doesn’t creating 3000, 5000, or 10,000 words require less effort than hammering out 100,000? In many respects, this is true. A novel takes more time, there are more elements to weave together, and characters and plots must be developed more deeply.

But, with longer fiction, the writer has more “room.” Room to thoroughly explore characters, to devise more complex plots, to offer brighter descriptions, to write longer dialog exchanges, and to craft more exposition that deepens and cements the story.

In shorter fiction, there is much less room to maneuver. Each of the above elements must also be addressed but the reduced word count puts significant limitations on the author. Developing empathetic characters, interesting plot twists, sparkling dialog, and vivid settings is no less important but in shorter fiction, the telling must be economical, concise, and chiseled. No easy task.

Each of the authors who submitted stories for this anthology faced this challenge head-on and all acquitted themselves well. Whittling the 64 submissions down to the 24 selected was a difficult process. But, in the end, the result is a compelling collection.

Each included story roots itself in California—-the history, geography, culture, and the wonderfully quirky folks who inhabit the “Left Coast.” The stories span from 1812 San Juan Capistrano to the California gold rush to the modern-day Newport Coast.

In this collection, you will find heroism, tragedy, humor, and both realized and broken dreams. You will “hear” many voices, and meet a host of memorable characters, each facing unique personal challenges.

A young woman, struggling with her past, unsure of her future, and looking for that interpersonal connection that will allow her to smile again. A couple, both damaged. She by abandonment and a fractured heart; he by war, a broken body, and undeserved guilt. Can love survive that? A would-be photographer who shoots aging surf musicians and a famous-for-being-famous star, each making their own “California Promise.”

We will meet three Cal Tech nerds as they plan to break Vegas; a concert pianist who is damaged both physically and emotionally; a pair of bank robbers who get much more than they bargained for; siblings who take their high desert “full service” gas station to an entirely new level; and even William Randolph Hearst, the vampire.

You will encounter star-crossed lovers divided by culture, race, and social standing; a fallen angel on a quest, and on the run; a demon who devours souls; and a “Kick The Bucket” tour operator as she ferries tourists past famous LA murder sites. You will meet a young boy who seeks the impossible pot of gold at the end of the rainbow only to cross paths with a digger of long-forgotten Orange County graves and a killer who must dispose of a body in a Disneyland motel. Who’s the real victim here? And so many more wonderful characters and fascinating tales.

So, I invite you inside. Get comfy, sit a spell, and enjoy these remarkable stories. Each is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and will linger with you long after the last page.

Welcome to It’s All in the Story.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction by D. P. Lyle

After the Wave Breaks—-Jo Ellen Pitzer

Angel of the Morning—-D. J. Phinney

House at Pooh Corner—-Julie Wells

California Dreamin’—-Casey Pope

Christmas in Santa Ana—-Biff (Harold D.) Baker

Earth Angel—-Maddie Margarita

Filthy Lucre—-Andrew R. Nixon

Full Service—-Steven G. Jackson

I Love California, Except for the Flakes—-Wanda Green

Just for Fun—-Glenda Brown Rynn

The Kick the Bucket Tour—-Jo Perry

Life Dies and Then You Suck—-Steven G. Jackson

Magdalena—-Lani Forbes

Solving for X—-Anne Moose

Splash—-D. P. Lyle

Steps—-Phyllis Blake

The Inevitable Avocado—-Jeffrey J. Michaels

The Quest for Avalon—-Catheryn Hull

The Unpleasantness in Room 27A—-Dana Hammer

The Untimely Death of Sweet Mims—-David Putnam

Verity’s Truth—-Maddie Margarita

You Can Bank on the Breeze—-P. J. Colando

Zolota: Another Gold Rush—-Rose de Guzman

The Mighty and Me—-Janis Thomas

BOOK DETAILS: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/its-all-in-the-story.html

October 5th, 2017

Posted In: Short Stories, Steven G. Jackson

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It’s All in the Story is on schedule for an October publication. Published by the Southern California Writers Association (SCWA), this collection of short fiction is edited by bestselling author D. P. Lyle, and features twenty-four stories from twenty-two authors. You can pre-order it now at: https://www.amazon.com/Its-All-Story-California-Anthology/dp/0999124331/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498164331&sr=8-1&keywords=It%27s+all+in+the+story.

I am blessed to have two stories included: “Full Service” and “Life Dies and then You Suck.” All proceeds go to SCWA, the perennial writers conference, for support of its talented membership.

I’ve read all twenty-four stories, and I believe you’ll find them entertaining. After all, it’s all in the story.

SCWA Anthology

June 22nd, 2017

Posted In: Short Stories, Steven G. Jackson

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The Southern California Writers Association is publishing an anthology of California-themed fiction short stories in October. The book will be professionally produced and available in bookstores nation-wide. If you are interested in submitting a story, here are the submission guidelines.

February 20th, 2017

Posted In: Steven G. Jackson

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Much is written about story structure. My novels utilize what I call a story timeline, which lays a foundation for all of the plot points and character arc transitions that are required in a  great novel.

Listed below are the nineteen unique timeline points I use when designing a story. Two of those listed – Complications and Fall from Grace – are actually multiple actions that get expanded into many specific timeline points.

  • Act I – Inciting Incident (1st 5 pages): initial problem begins; story arc begins
  • Act I – Call to Action: protagonist arc begins
  • Act I – Defining Moment – Crucible: protagonist has awakening and chooses to do something he/she wouldn’t normally do; fears and moral problem
  • Act I/II – First Turning Point / Awakening (~10% of story timeline): plot moves in new direction
  • Act II – 1st protagonist subplot begins
  • Act II – Secondary character arc begins
  • Act II – Complications – nothing works (as many as needed)
  • Act II – 2nd protagonist subplot begins (puzzle to solve, new problem)
  • Act II – Grace state (protagonist hasn’t changed – still trying to solve everything using usual beliefs)
  • Act II – Moment of Enlightenment (~50% of timeline) – the old stuff doesn’t work and protagonist changes course; Midpoint stakes
  • Act II – Fall from Grace – new ways leading to solution put the protagonist in more trouble (as many as needed)
  • Act II/III – The Big Gloom (~90% of timeline) – protagonist destroyed, everything has failed, pt. of no return – chooses to press on
  • Act III – Transformational Moment (things swing in protagonist’s favor)
  • Act III – 1st protagonist subplot resolved / twist
  • Act III – Secondary character arcs resolved
  • Act III – Final Obstacle
  • Act III – 2nd protagonist subplot resolved / puzzle solved
  • Act III – Climax – initial problem is solved
  • Act III – Conclusion – story arc and protagonist character arc complete

This blog post will go into the Act I timeline points.

The first point is the Inciting Incident. This is where the initial problem begins, and the story arc begins. It’s the reason the story is being told. It should happen right away as the novel begins.

Next, the protagonist arc begins, as he or she is Called to Action as a result of the Inciting Incident. Something has happened that forces the protagonist to react and do something about it.

When this action is ineffective in solving the problem, the protagonist has a Defining Moment, a crucible where he or she chooses to do something he or she wouldn’t normally do. The protagonist is now out of their comfort zone. Their internal fears and moral problems are now exposed.

The final timeline point in Act I acts as a transition to Act II. In this First Turning Point the protagonist has an awakening, and the plot moves in an entirely different direction, leading to multiple complications and rising action.

All of this should be accomplished in approximately ten percent of the story timeline (not number of words).

By structuring the start of your novel in this fashion, you greatly improve your chances of  giving the reader a comfortable and recognized flow.

Next up, Act II.

July 18th, 2016

Posted In: Steven G. Jackson, Techno Thriller Books

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Plots in thriller novels require careful planning. There is a structure to them that readers enjoy, and literary agents and publishers expect. Because thriller plots are often complex, with many twists and turns, it’s best not to start writing until you know how your plot starts and ends.

I think of thrillers as being written in three acts.

Act I is where you establish your main characters, hook the reader, establish goals and blind spots, define crucibles – what motivates characters to do what they normally wouldn’t – and establish what the book is about. The moral problems of the characters are demonstrated. This takes up about five percent of the story’s timeline.

Act I starts with an inciting incident – something changes in the life of the protagonist. This “something” is the reason for the story to be written. This needs to happen within the first five pages – the earlier the better. The inciting incident creates a call to action for the protagonist, and an internal crucible – a defining moment where the protagonist has to make a choice, and the story spins in a new direction. This is the transition point from Act I to Act II.

Act II is about complications and subplots. The protagonist tries to reach his or her goal, but obstacles mount up, complications arise, each more difficult than the last, the stakes always rising, building suspense and tension. One or two subplots are added, each revolving around the main character. Nothing ever goes right. This is also the time to show the story from the antagonist’s point of view – giving the reader insight into impending trouble the protagonist doesn’t see coming. It’s also the time to build suspension of disbelief for the reader, because the reader will need to buy into the heroic actions of the protagonist in Act III. At the midpoint of Act II (and the book) there is a moment of enlightenment for the protagonist – an awakening that the old stuff doesn’t work, which moves the story in a new direction and propels the protagonist into a downward spiral. There is conflict in every scene and piece of dialogue. The main character falls from grace until he or she reaches a point of no return, and must decide whether to quit or go forward, knowing that going forward has no chance of success. This is the Big Gloom, where everything the protagonist has tried has failed, and there is no path forward that can possibly work. The protagonist is destroyed. Act II takes up 90% of the book’s timeline.

In Act III, the protagonist rebounds and overcomes all obstacles – personal, emotional, get the bad guy, and get the love interest. The main character reaches his or her goal in the climax, subplots are resolved, and the main arcs conclude – both the story arc and the protagonist’s character arc. This is also the time to throw in a twist, and to solve puzzles.

There are no rules for writing a novel, and structure can’t guarantee success. But taking the time to put together the structure for a thriller – I spend at least nine months outlining, planning, and identifying the plot points before I start writing – will help you keep the story moving in ways that professionals will be looking for.

May 9th, 2016

Posted In: Steven G. Jackson

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Monkey C Media (MCM) is a top shelf company that builds websites that sells books. Led by Jeniffer Thompson, and staffed with helpful and creative people like Samantha Foster and a team of programmers, they can create a website for any business that will leverage the company brand and get results.

Jeniffer offers several packages for website development. The high end packages will have you go through a branding exercise, to find the best brand for your products. Then they’ll create a dynamic website for you based on your brand. Lower end packages are also available, and if you’re more interested in a static website, they can do that for you as well.

Another option they offer is to optimize your website for SEO success, assuring that search engines will find you more often. This is critical if you’re trying to make the first page of search engines.

They’ll use WordPress to create your site, and you’ll have a full suite of tools to modify, maintain, and analysis your site’s effectiveness. The process takes several months, so give yourself time to get your site up and running so it’s ready when you need it.

My new and improved site is up and running, and I’m very pleased with the results. Every serious business needs to have a serious internet presence. Monkey C Media, based in San Diego, gets my highest recommendation if you’re trying to look like a pro.

JenifferThompsonofMonkeyCMedia

 

February 23rd, 2016

Posted In: Steven G. Jackson

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Lit Up! A Conversation with Orange County Readers and Writers is a monthly gathering hosted by Maddie Margarita at Kean Coffee in Tustin, CA. Sponsored by Pure Fiction League, a critique group for fiction writers, the coffeehouse is transformed into a bastion for intelligent discussion and sharing amongst readers and writers on a Tuesday evening each month. The venue is intimate, and the conversation meaningful as writers read a passage of theirs, and then  answer questions from the moderator and the attendees. There are three writers featured at each meeting, and the questions run the gamut from the basics on the craft of writing, to publication and marketing, to behind-the-scene details about their life and stories.

The authors who appear are gifted and giving. Dozens of NYT Bestsellers have appeared. But LitUp! also provides a forum for the new and advancing writer, a safe haven for those in the early stages of their writing careers to be seen and heard.

I’ve read each of my completed novels in the last two years, and I might be back with a third novel one of these days. As a writer, the questions and discussion made me think about my work in new ways, and I am a better writer because of that engagement.

If you like reading, LitUp! is for you. If you like writing, LitUp! is for you. If you like learning, LitUp! is for you. The coffee is great, the people are smart and engaging, and it’s free. Come give it a try.

January 25th, 2016

Posted In: Steven G. Jackson

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