His five non-fiction books include: KILLING CANCER (he's a two time cancer survivor), WRITE COMPELLING FICTION, an instructional work for aspiring authors, MYRTLE MAE & THE CREW, a book of cartoons, FROM THE PEA PATCH, a conservative political series of essays, COOKING WILD & WONDERFUL, a cookbook with story content, the CALIFORNIA COCINA, a historical cookbook, BUILDING A GREENHOUSE, a how to book He also does manuscript acquisition for Wolfpack Publishing, which has many other writers featured on it's publication and sales site.
L. J. and his wife Kat live in Montana in the Spring, Summer, and Fall and on the California coast in the Winter. His wife, Kat Martin, is a NYT bestsellling, internationally published, romantic suspense and historical romance author published in over a dozen foreign languages and in 2 dozen countries.
When not writing, L. J. is cooking and developing recipes for his webpage www.wolfpackranch.com, hunting, fishing, or hauling his cameras around the high country, or promoting their careers. He has two dozen novels and non-fiction works listed on Amazon and Kindle. Join him on facebook on his author page L. J. Martin, his cooking page The Kitchen at Wolfpack Ranch, and his personal page Larry J. Martin. Search youtube for ljmartinwolfpack to view one of the one hundred twenty five videos he has posted.
Books by L.J. Martin
Q&A with L.J.Martin
The opening of Nemesis:
It's been fifteen years since I've killed a man.
At least a man against whom I held a grudge, the recent unpleasantries excluded, as in the smoke and haze of battle you seldom saw the face of a man you dispatched. And that whole affair seemed President Lincoln's grudge and only my duty as a sworn soldier. Not that the taste in your mouth is any sweeter for the small difference. After all, killing is killing. But that man fifteen years ago, when I was a younger of only fifteen years, came against my family, and he was well known to me and mine.
I have now carefully cleaned and sighted my weapons again, and cast a few bullets, as I have a task before me.
What do we learn from this opening? He's been around, having killed a man fifteen years before. He fought in the Civil War. He has a task, a quest, before him. We know his age, as fifteen years ago, when he was fifteen...something of his character, the time and place, and that he's setting out to do something that causes him displeasure. That fact alone, displeasure, gives you a look at his character. This is easy to do the cheap way, looking in a mirror, having a third party describe, but hard in first person.
Do you have any mantras, rules, or guidelines for yourself as a writer?
Over the top of my computer, along the edges of bookshelves just over eye-high, I have taped the following reminders:
Filter all description though point of view!
Problem, Purpose, Conflict, Goal—Active Voice!
Hear, See, Taste, Touch, and Smell!
There is no scene without conflict!
Check for As, That, Was!
Each of these has been taped there at various times throughout my writing career. And I still glance at them regularly, and they are still crucial to good writing. Other writers, I’m sure, have dozens of other reminders, but these work for me.
Can you talk more about conflict?
Conflict can be man against man, man against the elements, man against animal, man against woman, or man against himself. Your story is about your hero overcoming one or all of them in your story. No one wants to read about a pleasant cattle drive across grass-filled plains dotted with water holes in wonderful weather where everyone gets along famously. Or, to be more succinct, where nothing happens! Boring!
Conflict and its resolution make compelling reading.
Every scene must have conflict of some kind or it shouldn't be in your story. If there's no conflict, then it's only a transition, getting your story from one place or another or from one time to another, and a transition deserves no more than a paragraph, usually at the beginning or ending of a scene.
We often hear writers use the word "scene." What is it?
A scene is an action sequence containing conflict. By action, I mean where something that moves the plot forward or shows characterization happens. It doesn't have to be a fist fight or a chase, it can be the hero having a conversation about going to the box social with the heroine and it can be in her P.O.V. or in his, or you can change P.O.V. in the middle of the scene—I don't recommend it, but you can. Except for scenes that dramatically reveal characterization, there's a rule—the scene's primary ingredient is conflict. If it doesn't have conflict, it's not a scene and should be trashed.
Your heroine tells your hero she would prefer he didn't bid on her basket, he says it's a free world. Besides, she makes the best apple pie in town. That's conflict. Not the most exciting conflict, but it will make a scene. If they talk about going to the box social and there's no conflict, it's one sentence of another scene or a transition.
Ethan took Maggie's hand and told her he would see her at the social.
That's a narrative sentence out of a scene or a transition. We can talk about transitions later.
How long is a scene? How long does it take? You can have one scene to a chapter or several scenes. You can break chapters in the middle of a scene (a Louis L'Amour trick). It makes for compelling reading because many readers put a novel down only when they've finished a chapter. It's hard to do in the middle of some kind of conflict, even if the chapter has ended. Louis L'Amour was a master of chapter endings and beginnings. He ended his chapters with a question many times, a question the reader wanted answered, so the reader read on. When the reader finished, he told his friend he couldn't put Louie's novel down.
One of the best writing tips I can give you, the one that will help make your writing more compelling, is to enter a scene late and leave a scene early. This is so important to good pacing, I'm again going to set it out in bold print, if I could put it in hundred point type, I would:
Enter late and leave early!
No one gives a damn if your characters greet each other! "Hello, how are you?" generally adds nothing to a scene. Neither does "goodbye." Enter the scene just before the conflict, or during the conflict, and leave the scene during or just after the conflict.
Now that you've decided how many main characters you're going to have, what P.O.V. you're going to use, and what constitutes a scene, charge forward.
That's my advice, charge forward, particularly for a first novel. Writing the novel will present you with those hard to anticipate questions we may have or may not have discussed. But you can't find the answers until you know the questions. Once you know the questions (which will raise their fuzzy little heads as problems when you write), you'll be able to find the answers.
How would you define theme? It can be a difficult concept to grasp for beginning writers. Is there an easy way to explain it?
Editors and readers want your novel to have a theme— and so do you.
Good triumphs over evil is probably the most common.
You can't keep a good man down.
A good woman is hard to find.
As ye sew, so shall ye reap.
Cheat me once, you're a fool; cheat me twice, I'm a fool.
Themes. It helps you plot your novel if you have a theme. It helps you sell your novel if you have a theme. It helps drive you throughout the novel; it's the road map that gets you where you're going, to The End. Stay with it throughout the story, and prove it with what you write.