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Monday, April 2, 2012

Guest Post + International Giveaway w/ Dakota Banks! {Win Signed Books 1-3 in the Mortal Path Series + Swag Bag}

50 Lovely Comments!


I’d like to thank Larissa for the opportunity to visit her excellent blog. It’s a pleasure and a privilege for me!

Coincidences are a fact of life. They’re also a method authors sometimes use in plotting a book. Fantasy lends itself to invention, but the author can come to rely of coincidence as a way to get out of a situation in which she’s backed herself into a corner. I used to do critiques as a business, and this is one of the situations I’d run into with pre-published writers. Overuse of coincidence can make a reader feel cheated because the author hasn’t plotted the book carefully enough to avoid most of them.

“I just can’t imagine that it’s only a coincidence. I think they feel that it’s kind of getting out of their control, and they’re trying to tighten it back up.” – Ken Matson, Ohio University Professor
co·in·ci·dence, noun
A striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance.
There are two TV programs running now that depend heavily on coincidence, so much so that they wouldn’t exist without them. In “Awake,” a police detective has lost both his wife and son in a tragic car accident. He finds that he is spending time in alternate worlds, one in which his wife died but his son survived, and the other in which his son died but his wife survived. The switchover happens when he is asleep. Is he crazy? That’s yet to be determined. What is certain is that happenings in his professional life as a detective in one world affect events in the other world. For example, in world A, a crime scene brings him to a numbered parking spot. In world B, the number of that parking spot turns out to be the address important to solving the location of a crime. This type of coincidence happens in every episode, more than once. In the program, it adds to the eerie feeling that one or both (he could be dead himself?) of these worlds is beyond our understanding. In a book in which we aren’t questioning the sanity of the main character, repetition that often as a major plot device would get old—fast. You’d flip to a new chapter and think, “Here comes another whopper.”

Another program, “Touch,” is based entirely on what seem to be puzzling coincidences to the father of Jake, a mute, special needs son. The premise is that people are linked together and their lives intersect in ways that can be understood by the son. The father struggles to communicate with Jake to understand the knowledge the boy is attempting to pass on. Each program builds up actions we don’t understand when taken separately, but then links them together through Jake, and everything falls into place by the end of the hour. The message to take from this is that there is no such thing as coincidence; it only seems so when looked at by someone who doesn’t see the whole picture. With this idea, it’s okay to have a book that uses a lot of coincidences as long as they are explained and made to seem inevitable in the end.

What’s an author to do?

When I was beginning my writing career, I was told that the solution of your major plot probably shouldn’t hinge on a coincidence, but that you could use coincidences in a book as long as you didn’t overdo it. Vague advice, I’ll admit. In a fantasy, the author could be exploring coincidence as a supernatural event, so there might be quite a few of them in the book, as there are in the TV programs “Awake” and “Touch”. The more reality-based the fantasy is, such as in urban fantasy that mimics our world but with a twist, the less likely it is that readers will open their mouths wide and swallow a steady feeding of coincidences. That means maybe two or three per book, none of which resolve the main plot. In a story that isn’t exploring coincidences, if the only way the author can come up with to end the book is with a coincidence rather than something that logically flows from the events in the story—well, I’d say more thought is in order. A great tool for that is the synopsis, a five (or so) page summary that can be written before starting the book. When boiled down to a mere five pages, showing only the bones of the story, it will be clear whether coincidence is playing too large a role. The synopsis will also point out other broad weaknesses in a plot.

I was thinking about this issue as I wrote Deliverance. The opening action scene, where Maliha chases a bad guy, occurs by coincidence. She wasn’t actively hunting the guy at the moment; she simply spotted him when traveling to another city and the chase started. This is great for putting her at a disadvantage. She’s unprepared. The weather is icy outside and she’s running barefoot, in shorts and a t-shirt, straight from her hotel room. She doesn’t have her usual full complement of weapons. But she’s determined to go after the man and put a stop to his activities in the human slave trade. What does this provide in the book? Drama. Fear that Maliha is really going to mess up big time. Admiration for her motivation. An opportunity to run around on ice-covered rooftops, drawing the reader into the action right away. So after careful evaluation, I decided that this coincidence was worth it. I don’t think there are many, if any, other coincidences in the book. Besides, I take this to heart:

“Having no unusual coincidence is far more unusual than any coincidence could possibly be.” - Isaac Asimov, author of science fiction, fantasy, and a lot more. A crater on Mars is named for him.

Here’s an excerpt of Chapter One of Deliverance, showing all those features I considered. Was the coincidence worthwhile in this case? What do you think about coincidences in general in books?

    "Maliha Crayne placed her feet carefully on the old clay-tiled roof. Freezing rain made the passage treacherous. Xietai, the man she was chasing, seemed as sure-footed as a gazelle. She had already sent a tile sliding to the street three stories below.

It was three in the morning, and although New York never sleeps, the residents of this neighborhood did. Most of them, anyway. As another tile clattered to the sidewalk, a window was flung open and a woman’s head appeared, her neck twisted to look up at the roof.

“What’s goin’ on up there? Think yer Santa Claus or somethin’? Get off my roof!”

     With flat roofs all around, he has to choose one with tiles. Should have gone around and picked up his trail on the other side. Maliha 0, Xietai 1.

Xietai had been in her sights twice before, and he’d eluded her. He ran a human trafficking ring, bringing Asian girls to America, and then sending American girls to Asia. Round-trip profits. Complicating matters was that Xietai was the son of one of Maliha’s dearest friends, Xia Yanmeng. Maliha planned to bring Xietai to justice but with his record of confrontation, it was possible she’d have to kill him.

Kill Yanmeng’s son. Not sure how he’d feel about that, even though the two of them are estranged. If my daughter Constanta had survived her birth and grown up evil, would I be hunting her?

Maliha came to the end of the tiled roof and paused briefly. Xietai’s footprints led her on into the moonless night. Using her ability to view auras, she could see the outline of his footsteps and the tendrils of red and black twining together, rising from them. Normally she used her aura vision for a few seconds at a time, a quick check to see if someone was lying or to make sure she faced a truly evil person before plunging her sword into him. Constant viewing, as she was doing now to track Xietai, was draining. His aura footprints were clear, but her surroundings were a little out of focus. As long as Xietai kept out of her normal sight, he had an advantage.

Maliha felt a touch on her shoulder, as soft as if she’d been brushed by a bird’s wing. Yanmeng was a remote viewer, and he was signaling her that he was viewing her now. He’d been trying to increase his remote presence to the point that he could move objects. He’d made some progress but it was erratic. She could extend her arm and make an L-shape with her fingers, the sign they’d agreed upon for him to withdraw, and he would immediately stop remote viewing her. At least, she trusted that he would.

She didn’t make the withdrawal sign.

It’s his son. Yanmeng’s not going to like this, but it’s not right to hide it from him.

She swung over the edge of the roof, hung briefly by one hand, and dropped down to an adjacent flat roof. Landing with a forward roll to break the momentum of the fall, she put out a hand to avoid sliding on the patchy ice. She scraped the side of her hand raw on the rough roofing material. She wasn’t an accomplished traceuse—tracer—so her hands weren’t calloused. The man ahead of her was a highly skilled practitioner of parkour, a method of crossing obstacles in the most efficient way and the shortest time.

She ran barefoot, with loose black shorts, a black t-shirt, a belly bag with a few throwing stars secured inside so they couldn’t shift and hurt her, knives strapped to her thighs, with her thick black hair flowing behind her. It was late November, and an icy rain pelted her face and other exposed skin. Maliha wasn’t prepared for this pursuit, but when Xietai crossed her path, she had to try it.

Maliha jumped to a building a dozen feet away. She rolled, then ran and dropped to the fire escape.

Could he be Ageless?

Her bare feet landed lightly on the fire escape’s icy stairs, and at each landing, she vaulted the railing to the next run of stairs. She dropped the last ten feet to the ground. Thin red wisps spiraled eerily up from slushy puddle he’d passed through. She cleared the puddle in a small hop. Ahead a wall loomed. He’d taken her down a dead-end alley. Using the momentum of her run, she stepped up the brick wall to a balcony, used a spring from the rail to power another couple of steps, and then muscled up to the roof.

No good. Blind corner...

Anticipating a trap, Maliha threw one of her knives, then ducked and rolled as a sword swung powerfully where her neck should have been. She lashed out with her second knife, scored a deep gash in Xietai’s calf, and felt the splash of hot blood on her hand.

That should slow him down a little.

Xietai took off into the night, running away before she’d come fully out of her roll. She retrieved her thrown knife from where it had landed. Her opponent took them down to street level. She was gratified to see a blood trail in the pale cone of light from a street lamp.

He bleeds too much to be Ageless.

Then she spotted Xietai on the roof of a run-down theater, standing next to the marquee with its hundreds of broken bulbs. His aura was blacker than the night sky washed by city lights, and the spidery electric red web of his anger had intensified since she’d wounded him."

Twitter: @dakotabanks or http://dbanks.me/DBtwit

Mortal Path

Deliverance (Mortal Path, #3)

A demon's assassin for centuries, Maliha Crayne has gone rogue, determined to save a life for every one she's destroyed in order to free herself from an eternity of enslavement, damnation, and excruciating torment. But as the powers that sustained her in the past fade, she is wary of trusting those closest to her-especially her lover, Jake. Should Maliha listen to her heart or the alarms going off in her head? Then her closest friends begin to disappear, one by one. Amid her anger, suspicion, and sorrow, she feels her life spiraling out of control. 

Worse still, a beautiful, Renaissance murderess is recruiting Maliha as her new assassin. Maliha is turning into a lethal puppet with an evil Immortal pulling the strings, forced to kill innocents or see her missing friends die horribly. Suddenly trapped in a moral no-man's land, Maliha is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't…and time is rapidly running out.

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Signed Books 1-3 in the Mortal Path Series by Dakota

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50 Responses so far.

  1. I always roll my eyes at people who complain about coincidences in books. I just wrote the Fall of Giants review and when I read other people's reviews, they were complaining that it was too weird that the characters kept bumping into eachother, that it wasn't usual and that it was too stretched, as a coincidence. I don't see the harm in it - if it fits the plot, then just do it!

  2. Nice to meet this author and this book sounds interesting to read. What a beautiful cover :)

  3. andie says:

    I'm currently reading Dark Time and I so love it. It kinda reminded me of Elektra at first :)))) Thanks for this awesome giveaway!

    Andrea K.

  4. Gisele says:

    I can't wait to devour this books!! Thanks for the chance!
    P.S Isaac Asimov quote! (Y)

  5. elaing8 says:

    Great post.Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. Congrats on the release of Deliverance. I haven't had a chance to start this series yet but I'm looking forward to doing so.

  7. Linda says:

    Coincidence rules more than i want to think about, and when i do think about how close it could have been, not meeting, not reading something, and so on, it gives me gray hairs, no kidding =) It just shows that it doesn´t matter how much you plan, coincidence occur anyway.
    Love the giveaway and i´m keeping my fingers crossed!

    Best wishes, Linda xo

  8. Thanks for the giveaway. This looks like a really great series and I wish you all the best with your future releases.

  9. Larissa, thanks again for letting me visit your blog. Great fun and great comments! ~♥~

  10. Interesting post about coincidences. I can't wait to read Deliverance!

  11. jc says:

    From the rave reviews, this is one series I wouldn't want to miss. Thanks for the giveaway.

  12. Carla says:

    This seems like an interesting story.


  13. I agree that sometimes coincidences can be way overdone. However, coincidences happen in real life too, so there should be some in fiction as well. I think they work as long as they are not overdone. I love the excerpt, and I'm adding the books to my TBR, thanks for the contest :) Book Savvy Babe

  14. great riview..cant make me wait to reading this books..
    thanks for the giveaway..
    congrats on your release book..

  15. June M. says:

    I have not read any of this series yet but it does look great. I would love to win copies of these books to read. Thanks so much for the chance!

  16. Eli Yanti says:

    yay.. really love to win dakota banks' book :)

  17. Thank you for a great guest post! I love Dakota's books and I'll make sure to watch "Awake"! It sounds absolutely awesome :)

  18. miki says:

    Thanks you again for such a generous giveaway and long book tour ^^. i'm very happy to meet you and chat with you ^^ ( a lot of my questiosn were answered but i still have some^^)

    all the best

    ps: in the rule it said the contest finish the 11th March instead of April ^^

  19. I am a bid fan of UF and I love Ms.Banks books! Thanks for this amazing giveaway!

  20. erin says:

    Thanks for a fantastic post and giveaway! I've been waiting for this book *forever* :)Can't wait to read it. Love this series!

  21. Melissa B says:

    Great blog, Dakota ~ and you know, never thought about it, but you are SO right about the coincidences. Ha, you made me think too hard this early in the morning, girl!

    BIG hugs, and thanks for the awesome giveaway! Love the excerpt!

  22. I have read this series as yet, but I must find out what I have been missing! Thanks so much for the giveaway and the opportunity to win! And on a side note, just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog, Larissa! I love the Sunday post and look forward to getting them in the mail!

  23. Melliane says:

    thank you so much for the guest post and the giveaway, I'm very curious about this series, it sounds very interesting!

  24. I haven't read these books yet but after reading the excerpt of Chapter One of Deliverance, I'm sure going to! Thanks so much for the awesome giveaway:)

  25. Kassandra says:

    I am all for random coincidences throughout a book. Our lives are made up of them everyday. It is when the same thing occurs time and time again with the same results that starts to get to me. The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind had that effect on me. LOVED that series until about book five. Then the same things are happening just with different locations and the characters are reacting the same exact way they did in book 1-4 as if they haven't learned anything along the way. Just my take on it. *shrug*

    Wonderful giveaway!!


  26. jkrowyn says:

    I believe there are more coincidences in life than most people realize. I've really been looking forward to reading these, thanks for the giveaway!

    Artesia at comcast dot net

  27. I appreciate your comments! Larissa's Bookish Life is a great place to visit--spread the word. ~♥~

  28. Tore says:

    I really want to read this series. It sounds very good. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

  29. This is a series I've had on my wishlist for awhile now.

  30. Bex says:

    This series sounds awesome. You've gotta love a kick-ass assassin on a personal mission! All 3 sound pretty amazing. Even I don't win, I'll be purchasing. Thanks for the intro!

  31. Leev says:

    Thanks for the giveaway. This looks like a really great series

  32. marybelle says:

    If the coincidence moves the story along to my satisfaction I have no problem with it at all. I do want the coincidence to be credible.

  33. Dakota -
    Great post. I'll definitely be getting your book too. Thanks for the contest/giveaway!

    Lea Ellen {night owl in IL}
    P.S. To Larissa - On the Rafflecopter, I don't understand what the Linky thing is. Can you explain? And I'm already subscribed to your blog by email, so I hope I don't get duplicates of everything now. Can you also explain what link you're supposed to put in the "Follow the blog via Networked Blogs" thing? Thanks.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I don't know this series, but it sounds like a fun to read :-)
    Zuzana Axia

  35. Wow very interesting post! You obviously put a lot of thought into the idea of "coincidences". It is especially interesting because there are many that believe there is no such thing as coincidence and that everything happens for a reason and if we never know what that reason is.

  36. Na says:

    I've had some strange coincidences so I know it's possible for them to be simply that. However if one comes after another in such a short time then that might be harder to believe. Great giveaway, thank you.

  37. traci16 says:

    Hi again Dakota!!!! Always love your posts!!! See ya at the next stop!!!

  38. What a great giveaway. Dakota is a new author for me and would love to win and read this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

  39. Sinnaye says:

    Thank you for this blog entry and giveaway! I must admit I never heard of these books before, but I am def. going to read them for they seem pretty much right up my street!

  40. Birgit says:

    I must say that this insight from an author in coincidences and how they work (or not) in a book is really interesting. I guess we all read out fair share of books where there are simply too many coincidences vs authors who find just the right balance.

  41. Reading says:

    I Love AWAKE! Such an interesting series =)
    Thank you for making the giveaway international!

  42. Tal says:

    Sounds interesting. LOVED the cover! :D

  43. lingeorge says:

    I haven't read Dakota's books, this series seems like a good way to start

  44. Awesome!! Soo need to read this one! Have read the first two and really like em!

  45. donnas says:

    Great post. I am really looking forward to this one. Its a great series!!

  46. Mel says:

    The more I hear about this series, the more I want to read it! It sounds like such a journey of redemption. :-)

    Mel S

  47. Mel, you're right about the redemption. What is different about the books is that the whole redemption story that people relate to so strongly is based on Sumerian mythology. To me, that seems to mean that redemption goes beyond the common religions of today.

  48. This review is good because it has helped build up the suspense of what next! Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for making the giveaway international.

  49. Great post!

    I don't mind coincidences in books as long as they fit the storyline.

    Thanks for the amazing giveaway!!!

  50. wanda f says:

    Great post .Have a fantastic weekend

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