Monthly Archives: July 2011

REVIEW WALKING THROUGH WALLS

As part of the “High Tech GooseBlog Tour,” we showcase author and tour host Karen Cioffi…

Wang bound the last bunch of wheat stalks as the sun beat down on the field. Sweat poured from the back of his neck drenching the cotton shirt he wore.

I hate doing this work. He hurled the bundles on a cart. “Father, the bales are stacked. I am going home; it is too hot.”

Twelve-year-old Wang longed to be an Eternal. He craved wealth . . . and power….

So opens Walking Through Walls, Karen Cioffi’s retelling of a classic Chinese fable. In just a few sentences of this 40-page children’s book, she establishes the main character, a disgruntled twelve-year-old boy, and the conflict, his dreams of a life away from unending hard work on his family farm. She also hints at a mystery: what is an Eternal?

In short order, Coiffi-Ventrice also introduces us to a bit more of Wang’s personality. Like any 12-year-old, he fights with his sister and his father. He knows his father wants him to work on the farm rather than daydream about learning magic and being “the richest man in all of China”.  When he receives a dream visitation from the dragon illustrated on the cover—think ERAGON set in China—Wang decides his father can’t keep him on his peasant farm any more.

After Wang goes to the Elder of his village, a lemon-loving mystic, and asks the way to the Eternals’ home, he ends up more confused than ever. In typical martial-arts movie fashion the Elder speaks in cryptic messages before scolding Wang for seeking wealth and power for their own sake: “I cannot give you the information you seek. Your heart has already spoken. Go home and set your sights on learning patience and virtue.”

Oddly, Wang’s younger sister helps him, because of her sweet nature—or perhaps she wants to teach the arrogant Wang about a girl’s worth. The true value of a person—character, kindness, integrity—is a common theme in this story and Cioffi-Ventrice brings it out quite well. She also subtly highlights the Confucian society of the time, where “respect your elders, especially males” is paramount, and the Asian ethos, in which the group is much more important than the individual. Wang, like many child heroes, rebels against his family and society to seek his own way—and learn a lesson. You have to give Wang credit for pursuing what he wants and for undertaking his perilous journey to the distant mountaintop to find the Eternals (This is what you want: you must follow through, he thinks). While Wang’s journey may seem reckless, he shows some guts and courage in leaving his family to pursue his dream.

There’s a lovely moment in which Wang’s father gently touches him and asks him to stay. It’s an understated and in-character way of showing that Wang’s father is concerned, for the first time, about his son leaving home—a deeply human emotion.  Wang does not understand until much later—he is too excited about seeing the mystical temple of the Eternals materialize after his long perilous trek.

Wang’s impressions of the temple capture my own awe whenever I visit Asian temples such as Wat Pho, Senso-Ji, Sanjusangendo, and shrines in Taiwan, even though in keeping with a fable like this, the temple’s plain exterior belies its grand interior (representing, perhaps, the richness of the Eternals’ spiritual life). Although I have never met an Eternal Master, I imagine he (she?) would be just like the one in Walking Through Walls (many of the Buddhist rimbans and reverends I’ve met have senses of humor to package their lessons). The Eternal Master is the equivalent of a magical drill sergeant—not what Wang expected. Everything about the Eternals, from their strict regimen of simple food and hard work to their habit of appearing and disappearing, confounds Wang—although he begins to understand a bit more of the world when he meets his roommate Chen and hears of Chen’s quest to help his village and rescue his sister by becoming an Eternal. Chen’s story kindles compassion in Wang’s heart, but not enough to make him gain patience. With all the magic around him, Wang is hungry to become an Eternal himself, especially after he sees the more advanced students walking through walls after a midnight feast. Is it a dream? Is it a test? Wang decides he must learn to walk through walls.

Wang endures his peculiar education for a year before deciding to leave, despite his best friend Chen’s hope of having an ally in his quest. The Eternal Master teaches him the longed-for spell of walking through walls, even though he lectures Wang about not being pure of heart or worthy of the Eternals’ great power. Of course, Wang does learn the spell—and faces a test of his character once he returns home. During that test, I bit my nails and then screamed, “Don’t do it,” when Wang was about to make the wrong choice. Cioffi-Ventrice makes us care about Wang in spite of, or perhaps because, of his character flaws. In addition to the magic of the storytelling, the sense of wonder never lets up—enchanted snakes and other creatures follow Wang as he chooses his destiny, and we learn that the Eternal Master is even more extraordinary than he appears…

In addition to the story, Cioffi-Ventrice provides dragon lore, a brief, easily readable history (and cultural facts) of the Ming Dynasty during which the story is set, and activities and questions for young readers.

 

 

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Guest Blogger: Karen Cioffi–Is Your Character One, Two, Or Three Dimensional?

Ghost Blogger Kristin Johnson’s Note: As we announced, Walking Through Walls author Karen Cioffi is one of the hosts for the “High-Tech GooseBlog Tour”. She is also honoring us with a post that speaks to the advice my fellow Ghost Bloggers and I have provided previously. If you read Karen’s book, which I will review in a subsequent post, you will glimpse her 3D Character System at work…and you don’t even need 3D glasses!

Thanks for this wonderful article, Karen.

Is Your Character One, Two, Or Three Dimensional?

By Karen Cioffi

Between your characters, the plot, and the other writing elements, you develop a story. If the mix is right, and the characters are believable, you can create a story worthy of publication.

Creating believable characters is an essential part of writing, and they need to be as life-like as possible. To accomplish this, you need to have a three dimensional protagonist.

So, which is your protagonist?

Is your protagonist flat – lacks any type of emotion and action, like the simple and safe kiddy rides at a children’s amusement park, the carousel horse that goes round and round, but does nothing else? Then you have a one-dimensional character on your hands.

Is your protagonist a little bumpy – he has some quirks, life and emotion, but no real depth of character or history, like the carousel horse that goes round and round and up and down at a steady easy pace? Then you have a two-dimensional character struggling to break into the world of believability.

Is your protagonist a full blown amusement park – a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, knowledge, emotion, character, quirks, life, and history? Now you have it; you have a believable three dimensional character that is strong enough to bring your story through to the end.

Now the question is: how do you create a wonderful, believable life-like three dimensional character?

There are a number of methods you can use that will help you create a believable character, here are two:

1. Create a character sheet or use an index card before you begin.

On your sheet, list all the characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, physical attributes, artistic attributes…you get the idea. Keep this sheet handy as you’re writing your story. If you tell the reader Pete has blonde hair in the beginning of the story, and then you describe it as black, unless he dyed his hair as part of the storyline, stay true to the character. Readers pick up on errors very quickly.

The more detail you add to your character sheet the easier it will be to know what your protagonist will do in any given circumstance. This will take the element of wondering out of your writing process and save time: Pete finds a bag of money next to his neighbor’s car. Hmm . . . will he keep the money or try to find out if it’s his neighbor’s? Oh, wait a minute, on your character sheet you wrote he’s an honest guy! Simple.

2. Add characteristics and attributes to your protagonist as you write your story.

Write your protagonist’s characteristics, quirks, moods, mannerisms, and so on, on a character sheet as your story evolves. There are some writers who use different methods to create a story. Maybe you’re using the ‘seat-of-the-pants-method’ and your character evolves as your story does. With this method, you want to be sure to note each new development in your protagonist’s character or being.

Let’s go back to Pete again. Pete scratches a car as he’s parking. Does he leave a note on the car he damaged? Does he quickly leave the scene? Does he just ignore the incident as if it didn’t happen? Whichever one of these actions he chooses will establish another element to his character – be sure to make note of it.

No matter which process you use, remember to add life-like qualities to your character. Readers need to develop a relationship with the protagonist. If they feel Pete is three dimensional and they are drawn to him, they’ll be sure to read to the end of your book.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Karen Cioffi is an author and ghostwriter. Her new MG/YA fantasy book, Walking Through Walls, is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Wang longs to be rich…and powerful. At twelve-years-old, he already knows more about the Eternals and their way of life than many of the adults in his village. Learning about these mystics takes his thoughts away from the possibility of working in the wheat fields all his life, like his father. Wang has far grander goals.

 

Walking Through Walls should now be available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book stores. If it’s not yet listed, it will be very soon!
You can also order the book today at:
http://4rvpublishingcatalog.yolasite.com/mg-ya-page-2.php

To learn more about Walking Through Walls, its touring schedule and contest, and purchasing information visit: http://walkingthroughwalls-kcioffi.blogspot.com

To learn more about Karen and her books, visit:

http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/p/karens-books.html

 

Please be sure to stop by Eylsabeth Eldering’ site http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com on July 19th for the next stop on the Walking Through Walls Tour.

 

 

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The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter Blog Tour–Christmas in July!!!

These Golfing Geese Are About To Ruffle Some Feathers

Meet Sami DeMani, a Canada gander with a legendary golf game. He’s on track to win the prestigious Waterfowl Tour — and put his nemesis, the ruthless Pete Swan Lake, in his place once and for all. But right as Sami prepares to take a critical swing, a surprise scare changes everything — ruining the shot and putting Sami in the hospital. What happens next dashes any hopes for golf glory — or does it? No longer able to play, Sami throws himself into coaching his nephew, Myles, in the game he loves. Then the golf pro hatches a plan to help his nephew win a tournament with the aid of the specially designed Gooseneck Putter. This breakthrough device has the potential to change everything — including the confidence of the golf prodigy who uses it. But none of them are prepared for what’s about to occur as the tension rises on the course. Along the way, Sami and Myles will learn a powerful lesson regarding sportsmanship, perseverance, love, and what really matters in the game of life. A heartwarming and inspirational tale, The High-Tech Gooseneck Putter is about the power of golf to boost self-esteem, change lives, and bring a community together.

This is the latest Happy Guy Marketing success–my collaboration with artist, singer and Laughter Yoga leader Samuel DiMatteo. I am excited that Sami listed me as co-author because Samuel is one-of-a-kind. He, along with the colorful cast of golfing geese, sportscasting squirrels and business-minded beavers in the book, has won over several lovely lady authors. Suzanne Drazic will host us for Christmas in July on her blog to kick off our tour! A schedule:

And of course any of these lovely ladies has a standing invitation on this blog.

Our tour has a special significance: each date corresponds to golfing events in honor of our hero. A sample of the events:

  • July 18, Karen’s stop–Ernie Els’s charity golf tournament Els for Autism Golf Challenge, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Illinois
  • July 24–Skins and Pins Shootout, Strategic Fox, Fox Hills Golf Club, Plymouth, MI
  • August 5–36th Junior PGA Championship, Sycamore Hills Golf Course, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • August 22–Las Vegas PGA Expo, also Boy Scouts of Omaha Invitiational
  • November 5–PGA Tour President’s Cup in Australia

We have teed and shouted “Fore!”

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