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For some writers—and I’m one of them—writing a synopsis seems more difficult than writing a book.
With a book, there’s plenty of “room to roam,” dozens of pages on which to flesh out characters and enlarge themes. There are opportunities to slow the action to provide sequels to follow tense scenes and add description to set the mood and foreshadow action to come.
But a synopsis must be pithy, a neat progression of plot points, thumbnail sketches, tight but evocative description. It must be a distillation of tone, theme, and character arc.
So when writing coach Elizabeth Lyon suggested I write two versions of the synopsis for An Uncertain Refuge, I came as close as I ever have to giving up on my writing dream and getting out that failed knitting project (Who knew a scarf would be so difficult?) from 1970.
To her credit, Elizabeth’s logic was sound. She felt the synopsis I’d labored over for two weeks (Fourteen days! Long days!) didn’t do justice to the emotional journey of the protagonist. She said my synopsis didn’t fully illuminate where Kate Dalton was when the novel began, the challenges she faced, the ways in which she grew, changed, and adjusted her attitudes, and where she was at the end.
Not wanting to break my perfect record of resisting good advice, I fought Elizabeth’s suggestions the way a feral cat fights a bath.
There came a point, however, when I realized I was expending more time and energy avoiding the project than I would if I just did it. So, after kicking over a wastebasket or two, punching out a family-sized bag of corn chips, and downing an adult beverage, I got right to work.
“Easy” is not a word I’d use to describe the process. Neither is “painless.”
“Time-consuming?” Sure. “Frustrating?” You bet. “Worthwhile?” Yes.
When I was finished, I presented both versions to Elizabeth. She reviewed them and gave me a lukewarm “Okay.” Then she dropped the bomb. “Now put them together into one synopsis.”
Combining the two meant boiling down 10 pages into 5. That involved tough choices and hard decisions and (Gasp!) deep thought. I punched out a giant-sized sack of pita chips, kicked a footstool, and found a dozen reasons to delay or ditch the project entirely.
But then I got down to it and, after a solid week of work, had a polished product I could send out. Over the next two years, that synopsis went to hundreds of agents and editors. It raked in a few dozen requests to view the first chapters, but no one wanted to take a chance on it. Eventually I published the novel myself. (E-sales to date: 16,000+)
Given all of that frustration and time spent, was the synopsis exercise worthwhile?
I developed more discipline and focus. I learned how to refine my thinking, strengthen description, and capsulate characterization.
Would I do it again?
I don’t know. But one joy of self-publishing is that I don’t have to.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.
She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com
Over the past year my husband and I revised and self-published four jointly written books previously with small publishers. He blogged about that experience for The Dames of Dialogue a few months ago, so—with the exception of saying that the process was tedious, time-consuming, and tense—I’ll skip to the revisions I don’t intend to make.
The three-book Casey Brandt TV news series (Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death) is out of print and no longer available for download. The series came out through Deadly Alibi Press a dozen years ago. When Deadly Alibi folded, the books were picked up by SynergEbooks. When my contract expired, I gave away the print copies on my shelves, put my notes and files in a closet, and closed the door.
Despite the possibility of reaching readers through these early books, I don’t intend to open that door and release these titles once more.
• TV technology has changed
• I’ve changed
• My feelings about those books have changed
First, the technology. When I wrote the books, in the 80s and early 90s, a huge wave of change had yet to hit most TV news operations. Reporters still used typewriters. Wire service machines chattered in corners. Photographers hauled around bulky cameras and if they didn’t get to the fire or crash on time, viewers didn’t e-mail in cell-phone video. Editing was far more complex. Actual humans ran studio cameras. As an assignment editor, I communicated with news teams in the field through a radio system or landlines.
Bringing the stories into this century and this decade would take many, many hours. Not updating them, but simply trimming, tweaking, and tightening as we did with The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma, would require everything to be “true to the times.” That may sound easy, but times (styles, expressions, technology, TV programs, car models) change so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up—and more difficult to remember how it was back in the day. In the process of rewriting a clunky paragraph I could slip in an anachronism that alert readers would spot and call me out on. (If you’ve ever been called out by an alert reader, you know why I don’t want to risk this.)
Second, I’ve changed. I’m not getting any younger, but I like to think that age and experience have made me a better writer. If I opened those books again, I have a feeling I’d be embarrassed by stilted dialogue, pointless descriptions, and drifting points of view. That embarrassment would be magnified because these were once the state of my art and I was proud of them.
Third, although I consider the characters to be old friends, they aren’t as well-rounded as they could be and they’re stuck in the past. I don’t relish a reunion, especially because I’m to blame for that “stuckness” and I feel a little guilty about abandoning them.
I’d rather spend time with characters from my Catskill Mountains Mysteries series and with those who populate the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series. Those characters are evolving. They’re filled with energy and exuberance. They wake me up in the night with ideas for scenes and interactions and bits of dialogue for their next adventures. And—perhaps selfishly—they urge me to write the books piecing themselves together in my mind instead of taking a detour into the past.
If you have books you won’t revise—or books you intend to get to soon—please share your thoughts and comments.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.
She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com
A few days ago I watched a group of high school seniors struggling to write two-page essays about their lives and their plans for the years after graduation.
These were kids who spend untold hours sharing information—sometimes what I consider to be way too much information—in conversations and phone calls and text messages. This was a topic that required no research or attributions. The assignment seemed like a no-brainer.
And yet, after putting down their names and the date and the class period, most of them came to a full stop. Hung up on how to begin, they stared at that blinking cursor.
I felt their pain. Hoping to hook readers who happen across my books but aren’t familiar with my name, I labor long and hard on first sentences and leading paragraphs. Years ago I learned to delay the stress of crafting that opening and leapfrog into the story by leaving a blank space and writing this: Something brilliant goes in this space and I know I’ll think of it later.
I passed along that advice and saw a few kids catch fire and start hammering their keyboards. Others, though, sat like statues. I offered another piece of time-worn writing advice. “Don’t worry about getting your sentences and paragraphs in order. You have that cut-and-paste function. Move things around and clean up transitions later.”
More fingers prodded the keys, but about a third of the class was still floundering. I hit them with the ever-popular first-draft dogma. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be great or even good. It just has to be done. You’ll fix it later.”
That was enough incentive for a few to suck in deep breaths and tap hesitantly at the keys. But there were still three staring at their screens with expressions of fear, loathing, panic, and/or soul-searing anxiety. Trotting to their sides, I did a quick survey: “What are you having trouble with? What would help you?”
If you’re a writer, their responses won’t surprise you. They felt that what they wrote—in this first draft or any other—wouldn’t be good enough.
Thanks to that critical little voice in my head, I know Not-Good-Enough Territory well. In fact, I take up residence there every time I sit down to write.
The terrain is riddled with sinkholes and quagmires and quicksand. If a map exists, it’s not accurate. Storms swirl across the landscape and a sudden freeze is always imminent.
One trick to traversing this hostile land is to get moving and keep moving. If you write fast enough, you may outdistance the inner critic or develop enough momentum to leap across or plow through obstacles it throws in your path.
Another trick is to be your own BFF and make plenty of positive noise to drown out snarky comments that could bring you to a halt. If you can’t shut the inner critic up, then shut it down. Congratulate yourself on every simile and bit of dialogue. Cheer the completion of each paragraph. Reward yourself for every chapter.
I shared that philosophy and saw one boy take it to heart. In a few moments he was pounding away. Ten minutes later he had a full page. One of the others managed a paragraph before the bell rang. The third said she couldn’t work in a room filled with people, but made notes.
As for me, when I got to my keyboard, I took my own advice, shut the little voice down, and cranked out eight pages. They might not be good. They might be barely this side of dreadful. But they exist.
What are the tricks you use to get the job done? Leave a comment and share your strategy.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), and the Catskill Mountains Mysteries (Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood). She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website
June 12, 2013 in Author & Celebrity Interviews | Tags: A "Real" Man's Guide to Divorce, author interview, Broken Promises, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, Joe Perrone, Jr., Matt Davis Mystery Series, mystery, mystery series, nonfiction, Opening Day, The Twig is Bent, Twice Bitten, writer, Writing | by CTHodges | 5 comments
Today the Dames are pleased to shine the spotlight on multi-genre author Joe Perrone, Jr. Hi, Joe, and welcome. Tell us about your latest book, Twice Bitten: A Matt Davis Mystery.
My latest release is Twice Bitten: A Matt Davis Mystery, which is set in Roscoe, NY. When a local meth dealer is found murdered in the cab of his pick-up truck, it appears at first glance as if it is nothing more than a drug deal gone south. However, after the actual cause of death is determined, the investigation takes a decided turn toward the bizarre, and eventually the focus of the investigation centers on an itinerant preacher who dabbles in snake handling – the venomous kind – and his attractive assistant. Ron Trentweiler is an ex-convict who has found religion, and Winona Stepp is a young woman with a very murky past. The devil, as it is said, is in the details, and Matt’s investigation of the pair takes him as far away as the coal mining area of Pennsylvania in an effort to get to the truth about his two suspects. The ending will leave you gasping for breath.
Sounds great. I love books that leave you gasping for breath at the end. They always make me want to read more so you can be sure Twice Bitten is going on my TBR list. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I am currently at work on the fourth Matt Davis Mystery called Broken Promises. In it, an 88-year old woman is found dead on the grounds of an old burned-out hotel, shot once through the heart. If that’s not mystery enough, there is no apparent motive and there are absolutely no suspects. But, as Matt’s investigation progresses, a steady drip of information from numerous sources begins to lead him in a most unlikely direction: back to the hotel itself. The action is divided between the ongoing investigation in the present, and a description of the series of events that led up to the killing, dating as far back as early in World War II. This one is a true murder mystery.
Ah, a series, that’s even better! What is a typical writing day like for you?
No two writing days are exactly alike for me, but they all have one thing in common: they are draining. On a good day, I’ll awake around 7 a.m., traipse downstairs to my computer, check my emails, and then go back upstairs to have my breakfast. After breakfast, when I sit down to write, I will go over whatever it was that I last wrote and re-read and re-edit it until I’m fairly happy with it. Then, hopefully, I will begin to write new “stuff.” After anywhere from one to three hours, I will either stop for the day or take a break, because I am exhausted. I may do some research on the Internet or answer some emails or check my book sales. Then, I will have lunch. If the spirit moves me, I might go back to work for another half hour or hour, and then I’ll quit for the day. That’s a good day! On a bad day, I might just re-read and re-edit the work from a previous session and then just sit there praying for something to happen. If I’m lucky, I might have a publishing project that I’m doing for another author that I can put my energy into; if not, I’ll probably go to the gym.
Okay, you hit on the one thing that would probably make me force myself to write on a bad day; going to the gym. I’d much rather write—even on the hard days. When you’re re-writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
For the most part, I would say that I am in control—that is, until they start to speak. Then, I listen for their voices and write down what they say. The same is true for storyline. When it’s working right, I have a germ of an idea and then it kind of goes where it needs to go – which is not always where I had planned for it to go.
I absolutely love the times when my characters “speak to me” and wish it would happen more often. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I am embarrassed to say that I don’t really read that much. I have some physical problems with my eyesight – and I have ADHD, which has always made it difficult for me to read at length. I also have a dread of co-opting someone else’s work subconsciously, and that keeps me from reading any murder mysteries – especially when I am at work on one of my own. As a result, I have taken to reading mostly non-fiction books about such subjects as travel, exploration, mountain climbing, and politics. I also enjoy reading biographies.
I—and I think most other authors—live with that same fear and like you, I tend to stick to nonfiction when I’m writing fiction. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I spend at least an hour or more per day at promotion. I utilize all forms of social networking, including Facebook, Twitter, and various sites that cater to writers and readers. I also maintain an aggressive advertising campaign, both through Google AdWords and Microsoft Bing. I maintain a website, and blog about once a month on it.
I haven’t tried Google AdWords or Microsoft Bing yet, but I’ve been hearing good things from authors who have. Maybe one of these days I’ll check them out and see if I can figure out the process. How long have you been writing?
I guess I have been writing since around the third grade, which would make it about 60 years. My “serious” writing career began in 1969-70, when I was a sportswriter for a major New Jersey newspaper. From there I went on to write advertising copy, free-lancing with two ad agencies. Then, in the late 70s, I wrote feature articles for local newspapers, as well as fishing articles for local magazines. I started my first book in 1987 while working three jobs, one of which was as a limousine driver, which gave me ample opportunity to write. For three years, I filled up spiral notebooks (six in all) with the memoirs of my time coming of age in the 60s. Somewhere along the line, I came to the realization that no one really gave a damn about my memoirs, so I morphed them into a novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, which I eventually published nearly twenty years later after completely re-writing it at least three times.
Wow, 60 years, that’s a long time. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t start writing seriously until about 10 years ago, although I played around with it for most of my life. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
That would definitely have to be: “Well, bless your heart.” My mother was a native North Carolinian, and she used that phrase all her life. Since I was born in “The Capitol of the Confederacy,” I feel obliged to follow in her footsteps.
One of my favorites, too. And Southerners are very adept at using that phrase in a multitude of ways. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
My favorite authors as a child were Mark Twain and Edgar Alan Poe; one would be hard pressed to find two more diverse writers, I suppose. I loved Twain’s humor, and I loved Poe’s darkness.
I love Twain and Poe, too. In fact, when I was much younger than I am now, I went through a serious Poe fan-girl stage. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?
I would love to meet Truman Capote. He is one of my favorite authors – and one of the most fascinating individuals to ever put pen to paper. He was a true character, and his major work, In Cold Blood, is probably my favorite book.
Great choice. I, too, loved In Cold Blood. Mine would be Harper Lee who was a good friend of Capote’s. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to talk to both of them at the same time? What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
Without a doubt, my biggest weakness when it comes to writing is my inability to create a plot; doing that is definitely the hardest part of writing for me. On the other hand, my greatest strength is my ability to write realistic dialogue, something that I take pride in doing. Perhaps I like dialogue because I love to talk to people and to tell stories. I am probably a natural born story teller.
Yeah, I’m better at dialogue than plotting, too—or maybe I should say my characters are better since I’m one of those authors who allow them to take full control when I’m writing. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know?”
I don’t know who coined the phrase, but he or she really knew what they were talking about. When I am at my best is when I am writing about something I really know, like fly fishing – and my relationship with my wife. Both of these subjects find their way into my writing with regularity.
I always enjoy hearing the answer to that last question. Unlike the plot driven or character driven question which tends to lean toward “character driven,” I think we may be about 50-50 on the answers to that one.
Thanks so much, Joe, for joining us today. I enjoyed learning more about you and hope you’ll come back to visit the Dames often!
Readers, to find out more about Joe and his books, visit his website at: www.joeperronejr.com or follow him on Twitter: @catsklgd1.
The first two books is Joe’s Matt Davis Mystery Series:
(presented by Dame Betty Dravis)
I was born with a passion for books that started at a young age. One day, when I was about three, my mother caught me scribbling lines under each sentence of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. She was appalled. She thought I was defacing the book. When she asked me what I was doing, I said, “I’m writing the story.” I think even then I realized how important books would become in my life.
About ten years passed and I had a book collection that was the envy of my friends. I had every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book, plus numerous Bobbsey Twins novels and others. Every word was like gold to me―something to be treasured. While my mother read her romance novels and my father read his science fiction tomes, I slipped away into the world of youthful investigations, following clues and solving mysteries―often with a flashlight under my blanket. I was captivated by these authors’ golden words and often stayed way past my bedtime.
Reading is very therapeutic and can take your mind off stress and pain, so my books became my best friends, always there when times were rough. What better way to escape the mundane life of a pre-teen and forget about chores, school and low self-esteem issues than to bury oneself in an intriguing book? These stories took me away to other worlds, to ‘live’ other lives, if only for an hour or two.
As a young teen, I collected Barbara Cartland and Harlequin romances and other adult fiction. One day I was offered a job as a journalist for a small BC newspaper. I was thrilled. Masset Meanderings became my column and I was paid about $5.00/week. Years later, I wrote a health and beauty column for another newspaper. But my deepest passion rested in fiction and books.
At fifteen, I had a growing collection of Stephen King, John Saul and Dean Koontz books and was fascinated by stories of suspense and horror. Inspired, I began to write my first novel. It took me a year to complete and I was proud of that accomplishment. Yearning for someone to tell me it was good, I brought the typewritten manuscript to school and kept it in my locker until I could show it to my language arts teacher. However, when I returned to my locker, someone had broken in and my manuscript was gone, and since this was well before home computers and laptops, it was my only copy. I was devastated. This time, they were my golden words. And someone had stolen them. That day I learned that there is a deeper connection to the words we write. We own each word. If we have written something, those words have stemmed from our thoughts and feelings.
As a bestselling author of Canadian suspense novels who went from avid reader to avid writer, I have been blessed by words. I am not only a woman who loves to read, but an author who loves to impact other readers. After growing up reading books of every genre, I have learned to appreciate and respect those golden words as gifts given by an author. Books educate, motivate, inspire and enrich, and every one you read has the power to stretch your mind and imagination in ways that challenge you. A good book can make you shake with fear and check your doors and windows, make you question ethical practices, or make you feel better about yourself. Books can make you laugh out loud…or reach for a tissue. Words have power and reading is an investment, one that I believe is worth more than gold.
~ * ~
From Cheryl Kaye Tardif, the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG, comes a terrifying new thriller that will leave you breathless…
“Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.”
—Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds
Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…
After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn’t the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.
Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger’s calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.
Enter Cheryl’s March Giveaway – 59 Prizes! http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Today I’d like to welcome Lillian Brummet who, along with her partner, offers services through the Brummet Media Group.
Q: Tell us about your latest book.
Purple Snowflake Marketing – How To Make Your Book Stand Out In A Crowd (378 pages) is the latest release – now in the 3rd edition. This book acts like a step-by-step guide for writers, helping them see their career as a business, avoid common pitfalls, create an efficient marketing plan for each book they write, and closes with a thousand or more resources.
Q: Sounds like a valuable guide for writers! Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I just finished revising the Jumpstart For Writers booklet (roughly 40 pages), that offers encouraging tips, inspiring quotes, and links to incredibly helpful interviews – all mixed in with an array of articles that we have written on the world of writing. Jump Start for Writers can be considered a precursor to the Purple Snowflake Marketing book. We’ll soon have this booklet available in e-book format on our site for .99 cents, and intend to use it for contests and giveaways.
I have 3 other manuscripts on the back burner waiting for me to have the time. These are: a 2nd book of poetry, a gardening book that offers 3 generations of gardening advice, and a recipe book based on harvests from the garden.
Q: You’re going to be very busy for awhile, so what is a typical writing day like for you?
When working on a manuscript, so much of myself is poured out on to those pages that I feel absolutely exhausted at the end of the day. I need distractions to be at a minimum – so Dave will be sent to the downstairs office, both the phone and the TV are turned off (we’re not big TV people), and any demanding chores have to be done first. I can’t be working on something and thinking about the bread I have to bake next, guilt from neglecting the dogs, or piles of dishes needing to be done. At the same time, one has to find a balance and let some things go undone. I like to have some ambient music going in the background sometimes – no beat, no rhythm, or lyrics. I tend to have herbal tea or coffee beside me, but it often goes ignored as I disappear into words and has to be rewarmed in the microwave at least once. I’m definitely a morning person and tend to burn out by 2-3 in the afternoon, so I try to get my writing projects, interviews, blog posts, etc. completed before then.
Q: Your plan to achieve balance certainly takes commitment. As for inspiration, who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
A difficult question to answer as there are so very many outstanding books in our personal library. However if I had to pick one single book it would be Shibumi, an outstanding epic novel. Friday, which had an amazing and capturing style from the first sentence on. Shadow of an Indian Star, Second Eden, Second Innocence, Lucifer’s Hammer, Let The Drum Speak, On Stranger Tides, The Sea Of Trolls, and Ovum Factor are other favorites that come to mind. Some of my all-time favorite authors are Tolkien, Trevanian, and Agatha Christi.
Q: Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
Another difficult question – since as a writer every day we’re promoting in a different way. Personally, I enjoy promotion activities except for public appearances. Generally speaking I have about a dozen social networking sites and a few writers’ online groups that I’m a member of and manage regularly. I also have a daily blog where the sidebars contain links to my work, networking opportunities and services, and I place a signature at the bottom of every post. My radio show, which airs 3 times a week, has audio ads promoting my books. I have a beautiful website with nature photos and good copywriting content that people seem to really enjoy. I’ll occasionally take out ads, appear as a featured guest on radio shows, do interviews on blogs or provide free filler content for blogs, e-zines, newsletters and the like. There are a lot of other marketing activities, but these are the standard daily ones.
Q: It looks like a very balanced marketing plan. How long have you been writing?
I’ve always been drawn to writing since I can remember and in fact English classes were one of the reasons why I wanted to stay in school. Poetry was a tool I used to express all the shame and anger, hate and frustration that victims of violence, abuse and neglect often endure. After winning some poetry contests I started to dream of one day being good enough to be a ‘real’ writer. But it wasn’t until a life-changing accident in 1999 (3 car pileup, I was in the middle) interrupted my life and shook me up enough to make the dream a reality. However, I didn’t just want to write anything, I wanted to make a difference – to make my life have some kind of value, some reason for being.
Q: I agree that a traumatic event can be a defining moment in our journey. Besides your life-changing accident, who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
I suppose that would be the encouraging English teachers that I had in public, private and correspondence schools. Earliest memories are when teachers would read my work out to the class, post it on the wall, send it to contests or begin to cry over something I wrote. I didn’t know how to handle that – it kind of overwhelmed me at the time and scared me too. Yet, when I was reinventing the focus of my life, these were the moments that shouted out to me saying I need to pursue writing as a career.
Q: That must have been a powerful experience. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
The concept of being able to make a difference is the most gratifying part of writing. I can highlight something I care about, influence people to make positive and proactive changes in their lives, I can interview people and help them leave a legacy, and create conversation about non-profits and volunteering.
Q: Sometimes, where we live can have an impact on what we write. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
Creston, BC (Canada) a city of about 15-20,000 people (including the outskirt subdivisions) is in the heart of the Kootenay region of BC – best known for the artists, agriculture, wineries, wildlife, stunning mountain and lake views, outdoor activities, bird watching and tourism. We vacationed out here annually and always dreamed of moving to the Kootenays, but after we lost a few family members we realized that waiting for retirement could be too late. So we sold our house, packed up and moved out here a year ago… and have never regretted the decision. That move caused the office to virtually close down for about 7 months allowing us the time to settle in and start up the business again.
Q: Grabbing those dreams when you can is a great way to live. Sometimes these experiences can fuel our creativity as well. What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
I love to work with the media, network, run my radio show and blog – but these activities tend to take up most of my time and then I have so little time or energy left to work on a manuscript or paying article project. I am tenacious, dedicated, determined – and this can lead to having a hard time taking time away from the office.
Q: How many hours a day do you write; where do you create; and what, if any, specific circumstances help or hurt your process?
Well, I write the blog posts about a week in advance, which takes about 4 hours to do. I also write free filler content for blogs and newsletters, etc. – totally a few a week, or 3 hours writing time. When I am able to break away and work on a manuscript I can go all day if there aren’t any obligations interrupting me. Being a morning person, I am in the office between 7-8 AM and tend to leave by 3PM.
Q: What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
Well it is a good place to start, but the real joy of writing is being able to research new topics, cultures, era’s, personalities and create something inspiring to you and the reader. I love interviewing people and spent many years as a staff writer having discussions with people I would have never thought to speak to before; everything from wild pig farmers and wolf rehabilitation centers to mushroom growers and artists. I learned so much from this, and I suppose that led to my passion for the radio show that I host and produce.
Q: Beside “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
Outside of writing, which is my full time career, I am the host and producer of the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show, the manager and writer of the Brummet’s Conscious Blog, housewife, assistant to my drum teacher husband and dog companion. I love gardening – especially composting, saving seed and sharing produce.
Q: Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
There are a number of things I look into when writing a book is: First – what do I know that can help others with their issues in that genre, and what can I offer that is unique? The second thing I will look at is determining the individuals or organizations that I can utilize from our existing contact list for both marketing and as resources. One must write for an intended audience and knowing exactly what you can provide those readers is the key. Being clear about the initial marketing efforts for each project and having a general marketing plan outline, makes all the difference as to whether a publication or publisher will be interested in a project. It will also help determine the type of publisher or magazine that is best for that project, and save lots of pitfalls in things like designing book covers, choosing images, and what format to publish in.
Q: Many authors describe how they find their characters and plots from the world around them. Where do you get your ideas?
I look for a need in the marketplace, and also what inspires me – if I don’t feel excited about the topic then it will read as a dry and dead piece of work.
Q: Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
Although I grew up in a broken home environment, often spending time away and was on my own at 13 ½… I do recall that books were very important in the home. I certainly saw the passion my mother had for her books – she cherished them like treasures. I have early memories of going to the library with her and leaving with stacks of books.
Q: Print books and libraries are part of a changing world lately. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
No, but I would certainly love to have one, one day. Right now I have so many books sent to me in print and e-book format from people who want to be guests on the radio show or blog, and contacts who drop off their used books for us to read that I haven’t found a need for going out to look for something else. Once I’ve read the print books I receive, they are added to the donations we send over to the local literacy organization. However I think the idea of being able to take those e-books that I am sent along when camping or spending time by the lake would be an amazing experience.
Q: At one point or another, many of us face that bugaboo of writer’s block. Any good suggestions for overcoming this challenge?
Sometimes we have to grow as writers to be able to finish a story or manuscript, so I think it is OK to set it aside while we work on something else until we are ready to step into that project again. Getting some fresh air, do a work out, walk the dog, go to the lake or hike in the park to clear the mind of the office. Find someone you can talk to and sometimes, just by talking it out we can find the answer.
Award winning author and marketing guru Lillian Brummet is the author of 5 books, she also produces and hosts the Conscious Discussions Talk Radio show, and manages the Brummet’s Conscious Blog. Although it seems like a lifetime of scribbles and notes have led up to this, Lillian has been professionally involved in the realm of writing since 1999. She began writing poetry as a teenager, which allowed her to express the issues and emotions from a broken home, abusive childhood and being on her own at 13-years old. Through poetry she learned how to see beyond these hurts and discover a world outside of herself, where she learned that her life really did have value and that she had a purpose to fulfill.
Lillian has fond memories of an early childhood in California and Nevada (USA) and grew up in the south-central region of BC, Canada. Dave was born and raised in Kelowna (BC) where he met up with Lillian in 1990 and they have been together ever since. Their favorite activities involve gardening, photography, and modifying their home. Whenever the mood strikes them the pair can be found enjoying low-impact outdoor activities (hiking, biking, canoeing, camping, snowshoeing) or playing with and training their two dogs.
Dave and Lillian have been recognized as Community Heroes by the LiveSmart BC program. They have also been presented with an award for “outstanding use of various media in ongoing outreach work to reduce waste in our environment” by the Recycling Council of British Columbia. Seeds of Diversity awarded them with a Certificate of Appreciation for volunteer contributions and Boundary Family Read Columbia Basin Alliance For Literacy recognized them for their support. Dave won an award for his nature photography through Cottage Magazine; his photos grace the cover of both Towards Understanding and Purple Snowflake Marketing. His work also appears on the graphic design work for the Place in Time CD. In 2010 the Canadian Wildlife Federation acknowledged the Brummets with Backyard Habitat Certification for their efforts on their property, and both the Brighter Planet and the Green Providers Directory organizationshave also recognized their work.
The main focus of everything the Brummets do is to inspire hope in individuals, helping them realize the value of their efforts and encouraging them to become more positive, proactive in life. –
Thanks for joining us today, Lillian, and I enjoyed our chat.
Welcome author Carol Kilgore.
Carol Kilgore is a Texas native who has lived in locations across the U.S. as the wife of a Coast Guard officer. Back under the hot Texas sun in San Antonio, Carol writes a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance she calls Crime Fiction with a Kiss. She and her husband share their home and patio with two active herding dogs, and every so often the dogs let them sit on the sofa.
Learn more about Carol and follow her here:
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/author/ckilgore
Tell us about your latest book, In Name Only. How did the characters and plot line come to you?
First I’d like to thank you for having me here on your blog. I’m looking forward to blogging with all of you.
In Name Only is about Summer Newcombe, a woman caught up in the Federal Witness Security Program, and how she fights back. She’s just been relocated to Padre Island and has no real home, no family or friends, and no place to hide from those seeking to do her harm.
Summer was a character from a previous short story titled “Never Say My Name.” I wanted to pick up her life five years later inside WitSec and plop her down near where I was living at the time, which was on the South Texas Coast. Padre Island seemed the perfect place for her to land.
Plot was a different story. When I started writing I was a total pantser. I’ve progressed to having a full timeline, turning points and plot points on the plotting side. And knowing more about my main and secondary characters than I know about myself, including goals, motivation, and some of the conflicts for the main characters before I ever begin to write.
In Name Only was written somewhere between those extremes. I knew Summer fairly well. I knew basics about most of the other characters. A few didn’t show up until I was writing. I knew I wanted Summer to meet a firefighter. I knew a few of the plot points. And I knew how the story would end. The rest grew organically as I wrote and rewrote.
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
My next novel, Solomon’s Compass, will release in March or April. In it, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell returns to the Texas Coast to handle her uncle’s estate and becomes his killer’s next target. When she learns the mysterious Jake Solomon is not the man he’s portrayed himself to be, Taylor takes matters into her own hands to find her uncle’s killer. Jake Solomon has other plans.
Secrets of Honor will release after Solomon’s Compass, hopefully in fall or winter of 2013. It’s written but not yet edited. Following Secrets of Honor will be my current WIP, Amazing Gracie.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
Maniacal laughter followed my reading this question. The only thing I can count as typical in my life is that I never know what each day will bring. Ever. I continually adjust and readjust plans in order to fit things in. So this year I’ve begun writing first thing in the morning. Since I’m not a morning person, I set the alarm to get up somewhere around seven. I use a timer and write for one hour. Then I walk for about a half hour. When I return, I write for another hour. To be fair, it sometimes takes me two hours to get that second hour of writing in because by that time, the interruptions have begun. The walking break lets me process where I am and where I need to go when I return to the manuscript. My daily goal is 2000 words. I usually hit between 1500-2000 words in this two-hour span, but I’m striving to bump my goal to 2500 words. I have different goals if I’m editing, and they vary depending on where I am in the process. The rest of the day, I work on other writing-related tasks.
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
When I start writing, I’m firmly in control. That lasts maybe through the first sentence. Once the characters begin to interact, the power shifts. But when the editing begins, I wrest it back.
Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Lisa Scottoline. I love her humor and how she weaves the whole family into the story.
Books by my blog friends. Many of these are in genres I wouldn’t normally read, and none are cookie-cutter books. I love them all!
Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I promote a little through groups either I or my husband belong to. Face-to-face interaction is always good. I’ve been blogging at Under the Tiki Hut for three and a half years, so I promote there. I ran contests for three weeks before my book came out and did book giveaways. And I’m winding up a six-week blog tour that averaged two guest posts each week. I’ve had fun meeting a lot of great new people. Other social networking—Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads—has been and still is a huge learning curve for me. I’m not consistent in knowing what will connect with readers. Something that works one day may tank the next. I post things that have some connection to me as a writer or to some aspect of my current novel or the ones I know will come after. I also promote other writers, which is much easier!
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in 1999. I had a little success with short fiction. I freelanced. Then I tried my hand at a novel. Due to some family issues, I had little time for writing anything at all from about 2004-2007. When I again had the time to write, it was almost like starting over. I dove straight into writing novels.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
The biggest influence in my writing career is my husband. He encouraged me to write, and has been my rock and my cheerleader since Day One. He’s adept at helping me with plotting problems, and he always provides support and reassurance when I need them. He usually sees when I need recharging before I realize I do and drags my butt out of my chair and gets me into real world activities.
Tell us a little bit about where you live. I see you’ve lived in a variety of places, and San Antonio looks like a fascinating place.
I love San Antonio! It’s a dynamic city with a unique history and friendly people. The Riverwalk is fun, especially at Christmas. The missions are a don’t-miss for anyone, especially history buffs. Two theme parks. Excellent shopping. Lots of music and nearby festivals. The coast and the Hill Country are day trips. And much more. Winters are mild, and summers are HOT! But we have the longest and best springs and falls ever. There’s an email thingie that goes around periodically that says, in part, Texas has Spring, Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and Fall. We have about six to eight weeks of mild winter weather and maybe a few cold, nasty days in between fall and spring.
We’re a Coast Guard family and have spent much of our time stationed at the ocean. I love the coast and thought I would miss it. But we’re only two to three hours away, depending on traffic, and we visit often enough that I only miss it a little. I think that’s because I love San Antonio so much.
What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I’m a firm believer in “write what you know” up to a point. This includes the emotional side of a novel. We have to take the emotions we know and translate those into what our characters would feel in their situations. I know Texas well, and I love it, warts and all. One of the reasons I set most of my stories at least partially here is because I want to share that love with readers. But I write crime fiction. In novels that means writing about things like murder and other crimes. I’ve never killed a person or burglarized a house or run a con or committed any other felony. But I’m a great researcher. So I write what I know, learn what I can by researching, and use my imagination for the rest.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
Currently I have two critique partners, and the only rule is to be honest. I have been in several critique groups. All but one of these groups was very good. In the groups I was part of, and still with my critique partners, I learn as much or more from critiquing their work as I do from the critiques I receive in return. In my experience, if you find yourself in a critique group that doesn’t work for you, exit gracefully as soon as possible. Sticking around will only make you miserable.
Can you tell us a little about your pets? We love animals.
Well, I could go on and on here, but I’ve probably gone on and on too much already. I’ve had an animal in my life for most of my life. Unfortunately I developed an allergy to cats during the time we had a Siamese, so since she crossed the Rainbow Bridge several years ago, I’ve had to enjoy cats on videos and LOLCats. Right now we have two dogs. The oldest is a rescue Border Collie. The youngest is a Blue Heeler, also called an Australian Cattle Dog. Both are amazingly smart dogs. Both are extremely vocal and have large, but different, repertoires. It’s like having two chatty toddlers in the house and underfoot 24/7.
Buy on Amazon
Back Cover Text: No home. No family. No place to hide. For Summer Newcombe, that’s only the beginning.
The night Summer escapes from a burning Padre Island eatery and discovers the arsonist is stalking her, is the same night she meets Fire Captain Gabriel Duran. As much as she’s attracted to Gabe, five years in the Federal Witness Security Program because of her father’s testimony against a mob boss have taught her the importance of being alone and invisible.
No matter how much she yearns for a real home, Summer relinquished that option the night she killed the man who murdered her father. But Gabe breaks down her guard and places both of them in danger. Summer has vowed never to kill again, but she’s frantic she’ll cost Gabe his life unless she stops running and fights for the future she wants with the man she loves.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Carol.
Join me in welcoming Karen Spears Zacharias, who has a powerful story to share with us today.
1. Karen, thanks for joining us at Dames of Dialogue. We are always curious about a writer’s creative process. What can you tell us about how you came to write A Silence of Mockingbirds?
Thank you for this opportunity to share A Silence of Mockingbirds, a story that I will never be able to extricate myself from. If you come at writing from a journalist background, as I do, and someone you know
is murdered, how can you not tell that story?
Writing is how I process my life’s moments, whether I’m writing about marriage or a murder. In the case of A Silence of Mockingbirds, it was the June 2005 murder of Karly Sheehan, the daughter of a close family
friend, which compelled me.
2. I can totally relate to the need to tell a story. As a journalist, you have a lot of experience interviewing subjects. But since you knew Sarah, the mother in this story, how was this process different for you?
The long answer to that question would require a bottle of wine and a late-night talk on a deck overlooking Mobile Bay or the Pacific Ocean.
I began my reporting career in the same Oregon community—Pendleton—where I had lived for over a decade, so it was not unusual for me to interview people I knew well. In many ways it gave me insights and an
institutional knowledge that others lacked. That knowledge cultivated fearlessness in me. I wasn’t afraid to tread into the intimate places, yet, I was always respectful about it. These, after all, were my neighbors, too.
Even so, Sarah was like a daughter to me. I purposely avoided her at first, knowing that our emotional entanglement would lead me astray, away from the facts of the case, if I wasn’t careful.
3. What, if anything, did you bring away from that experience that might inform future projects?
Every book I’ve written has taught me something about how to write the next book better. I’m not far enough removed from this project yet—I am still touring—to know how it will inform future works. But I’m confident that it will.
4. Your focus for this story was child abuse, and since April was Child Abuse Prevention month, do you have other projects along these same lines in your future?
My focus was on telling the truth. That is always my starting and ending point. I write books that educate and advocate. Those books cover a gamut of issues: women’s rights, veterans’ rights, and children’s rights. My next book, a novel titled MOTHER OF RAIN, addresses the issue of post-partum psychosis, the sort that Andrea Yates displayed. But even the novel is designed to educate and advocate.
5. That sounds like an intriguing story. And since your goal is to educate and advocate, what, if anything, have you been able to accomplish that will impact future legislation to prevent tragedies such as Karly’s?
By myself nothing, but as I’ve traveled around the nation, telling Karly’s story, others have taken up the cause and are working to get a law like Karly’s Law passed in their own states.
In Oregon, Karly’s Law requires that a child who has been abused will have those injuries documented via photographs within 48-hours of the report of injury. Then, that child must be seen by a medical professional trained in child abuse within that same time period. Common sense would tell you that such laws ought to already be on the books, but they are not. In many cases, those suspected of causing the injuries are allowed to determine what medical professional will assess the child, which happened with Karly. Her mother picked the doctor—her own—to do the assessment on Karly.
6. As a retired social worker, I could relate so completely with your story. I could point to a number of cases that evoked a similar emotion in our community. How did your involvement in this story affect you personally?
I am a person of resolve. We cannot change that which we don’t talk about, and child abuse repulses us. We draw back from it. I have noticed a significant silence among those who typically correspond with me. I know it’s because of this book. They don’t want to tell me that they haven’t read it, so they avoid me. I suspect it’s much like what anyone who works in this field experiences at a dinner party. All of sudden the person who asked the question sees someone else they must go speak to.
I am intentional about how I live my life. I am trying to do important things. I am trying to make the world a better place. I’ve no tolerance for those who simply want to be entertained. We have a real-life Hunger Games situation underway, where children are being led to their slaughter, while adults stand about gap-mouthed.
Abused children don’t need our tears. They need our voices. They need our votes. Speak up.
For pity’s sake don’t tell me you can’t read this book because it might make you weep. If I write a book about child abuse that doesn’t make you weep, doesn’t make you mad, doesn’t compel you to take action, then I need to quit writing and get a job at Dairy Queen.
7. Oh, I couldn’t agree more! And because we often tackle difficult topics, we do need to take care of ourselves. As writers, we often have rituals and routines that nourish our writing journey. Do you have a special writing space, or a routine you follow?
Much to my own chagrin, I am not a person of routine. I am a person of passion and, thus, obsessions. I work off a laptop that I carry with me from room to room, depending upon the weather, my mood, what the dogs—Portia and Poe—need at the moment.
I can most often be found in my office upstairs, overlooking fields of sagebrush and Russian Olives. Or downstairs in the red chair, next to a stained glass window of a garden scene that a local artist made. I
surround myself with bright art because the creativity of others inspires me.
8. What lovely views you have! Art and beauty do nourish the soul. What can you tell us about how you first decided to become a journalist?
It was not a profession I chose. It chose me. I majored in communications and education because I liked to talk and I liked kids. I made the choice to stay home and raise our family. But as a mother of four young children, I became engaged in the issues that concerned children. I became that woman—I am sure you have one in your community—who wrote letters to the editor all the time. I wrote well enough that the editor, who was a friend of mine, asked me to write for the newspaper. I started my first journalism job on my 40th
birthday. It seems all very surreal to me at times.
9. What were some of the defining moments along the way for you? Who or what inspired you?
Lewis Grizzard. I live in Oregon but was raised in Georgia. Every true Georgian adored Grizzard for his wit and wisdom. When I wrote my first book I tracked down Grizzard’s former agent, Tony Privett, and asked for his help. Tony and I struck up a delightful friendship. Bob Steed, another writing wit and dear friend of Lewis, also helped me get my first book published with Mercer University Press.
10. What can you tell us about your family life?
I stayed in Oregon primarily because I married a wonderful Yankee. Tim and I met at Oregon State University. He’s a teacher, former coach and current law school student (the reason he’s a former coach). We have been married for 33 years and have four grown children, all who live in the Pacific Northwest. We are expecting our first grandchild, a boy, later this summer. And, yes, we are over the moon about it.
11. Congratulations! You are in for some wonderful experiences as a grandparent. We also love to learn about the settings where a writer lives and writes. What can you tell us about yours?
I travel a great deal. I actually wrote the first draft of A Silence of Mockingbirds while serving as writer-in-resident at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, Alabama. It was the perfect place to write this book because at the end of a long day of writing, I would walk down to the pier and watch the sun set over Mobile Bay. Surrounded by the beauty of Creator’s hand, I always felt a cleansing, a renewing, strength for the day and bright hope for tomorrow sort of thing.
12. We love animals…do you have any pets? If so, what can you share about them?
I have two pets. Poe, an AKC registered Beagle, yes, named for Edgar. He’s really my husband’s dog. The one the kids gave Tim to keep him company whenever I’m away on some writing jaunt. Poe bit me in 2010
and nearly took my entire nose off. I’m not kidding. It was a horrifying and very painful experience, but makes for a great dinner party entertainment. That Poe lives after that is only further proof that in this household we practice grace.
Portia is a chocolate-lab rescue dog. She is actually my son’s dog but he is spending his third summer working at Denali Park in Alaska so I informed him before he left that from this point forward Portia is mine. Portia seems delighted by the arrangement. She loves to go for rides and is quite content running errands with me. She often sleeps right under my feet, as she is now, while I write.
Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to share my stories with your readers.
Karen’s Website: http://karenzach.com/
You Tube Video Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNSu82y8Iek
Today, Andrew C. Hudson is joining us to talk about his novel, his anthologies, and the world he is creating through his books and short stories.
1. Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Andrew. I’m fascinated that you’re already doing revisions of your recently published book “Drift.” What led to that project, and what can you share about why you’re doing it now?
A major revision was not something I was expecting to do. I had done a few drafts and had my editor go through it before I published it. However, I did make the naïve mistake of publishing the novel right after I approved/disapproved the editor‘s changes. Looking back on it, I definitely should’ve marked up that manuscript and done another draft before publishing it.
Unfortunately, it was a lesson that had cost me a few stars from the reviewers. Most of them really liked my novel but felt it was a little too rough for them. So I’m going back and revising it with everything I’ve learned in the past few months. It’s a bit frustrating having to go back but it is also very exciting to be revising it. I have faith that the new edition is going to be light-years ahead of the first edition in terms of grammar and prose.
2. What would you like to tell us about your anthologies?
There are two anthologies I’m doing.
Strange Happenings is the first anthology coming out soon. All of the short stories in that one are done by me. It’s going to be quasi science-fiction. Science definitely has an impact on all of the short stories but it’s not the typical science-fiction that most people expect (outer space, ray guns, futuristic, etc.). Hopefully this one will be out by early July (or perhaps a little earlier).
The second anthology is going to be a horror anthology done by multiple authors. So far there are thirteen of us on the project. It’s very democratic in the sense that we split the responsibilities and royalties evenly. If anyone is interested in contributing, feel free to ask me about it.
Also, I have a short story (The Porcelain Man) in Saffina Desforges Presents… (The Kindle Coffee-Break Collection Vol. 2)
3. As an indie author, how would you describe your journey to publication? What have you learned from that process that you can share with us?
It’s been a very educational journey to say the least. Many of the aspects outside of writing (mainly marketing) are completely up to you. I’d imagine that would be very frustrating for some people but for myself, I find it all to be fun (for the most part). I try to treat the whole thing like a game and enjoy the process of learning.
As far as what I’ve learned from the process, there are so many lessons that have been learned post-Drift that I could write a series of articles on them. If I could only give three important lessons, it would be these…
a. Build a platform: Don’t just wait until your book comes out. Connect with writers/readers, grow your twitter account, and do everything else you can to promote yourself as a writer. A bigger following and presence will help take care of the legwork from the get-go and help you start your novel’s debut off with a bang.
b. Be careful when stating your influences: This may sound silly but if you casually and constantly state an influence, you might get pigeonholed. I often told critics that Stephen King was my greatest influence as a way to break the ice. Unfortunately, this has led both Drift and me being compared to Stephen King. Which is frustrating at times because even though Stephen King is a huge influence, I also have a lot more influences.
c. Do another final draft after the editor hands it to you: This will save you the headache of going back and revising it. However, if people complain about (insert typo) or you feel the novel could use a little nip and tuck post-publication, there’s nothing wrong with going back to the drawing board and improving it.
4. I see that you have a new novel coming out. What can you tell us about this story?
The novel is Poem for the Wolves and it’s different than Drift in several ways. It’s a science-fiction novel set in a very close future (2023), the writing style is more external than internal, and it’s much bigger in length (both story and page length). However, there are some key elements that remain the same. The biggest similarity is the fact that I try to make it very much human and heartfelt, especially towards the end.
PftW is kind of about an alien invasion but not the kind of alien invasion you‘d expect. It’s much closer to something like Saving Private Ryan or The Oregon Trail and almost polar opposite of something like Battle: Los Angeles or Skyline. The plot is about a young twenty-something named HC Diego, the “world’s worst poet” (at least in his own words) and a bulls eye with his M1 Carbine, who journeys with an 8-year-old named Aimée Dumont from Buffalo, NY to Dulce, NM. The journey starts off simple but along the way they run into danger, battles, friends, and newfound lessons. There’s going to be action, adventure, and plenty of poetry as well.
5. When did you decide you wanted to write?
Here’s the short version. I’ve always daydreamed about being some type of story teller. But I took the idea of writing seriously when I was twenty and began actually writing when I was about twenty-one. What set everything into motion was when I was a PA for The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I thought to myself, “Hey, I might enjoy being a writer.” And after trying different mediums, I eventually wound up loving prose writing.
6. In your writing day, do you have special routines, rituals, or processes you experience?
There’s no special thing I do. Usually I start writing about an hour after I wake up and don’t allow myself to write an hour before I sleep (basically, I don’t allow myself to write when I’m too tired). For me it’s pretty sporadic but I do give myself a goal to write for x amount of minutes on each project by the end of the day.
7. Tell us about your writing space. Do you have a special room where you create?
For my second and later drafts, I write on a computer. It’s a desktop which is on a desk cluttered with papers (not having to do with the project), CDs, and a bunch of other random stuff.
If it’s the first draft, I write it long hand. Rather than writing in a “space,” I walk around the house while writing. This is probably because I’m one of those people who hate sitting down for far too long. Not to mention that walking around makes for great, simple exercise.
8. That sounds like a great idea. I should try that! What are some of your favorite books and authors?
My favorite books are Christine (Stephen King), The Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), Neuromancer (William Gibson), American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis), All the King’s Men (Robert Penn Warren), Bright Lights, Big City (Jay McInerney), Selected Short Stories of Philip K Dick (Philip K Dick), Class Reunion (Rona Jaffe), Dune (Frank Herbert), and I am Legend (Richard Matheson).
My favorite authors are Stephen King, Bret Easton Ellis, Philip K Dick, Neil Gaiman, Mickey Spillane, William Gibson, Elmore Leonard, Jay McInerney, Ira Levin, and Robert E. Howard
Movies, video games, and comic books have also influenced me a great deal.
9. Of all the books you’ve read over the years, are there any special quotes that have stayed with you?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
Yes, I know that some people might consider this to be the most overused quote. But I think it’s one of the best quotes of all time. It can capture so many moments and eras. Not to mention that it’s still popular even though it’s over one hundred fifty years old, which proves how powerful it is.
10. I like that one, too. I notice that you also review books on several sites. What are your favorite genres to review?
I’m pretty much open to any genre. I don’t have any specific tastes and I don’t understand people who only read one or two types of books. With that being said, my favorite genres are John Hughes styled films, heroic bloodshed, and horror. What I ultimately look for in a book, though, are memorable characters and interesting relationships.
11. What can you share about where you live?
I live in the north-west side of the San Fernando Valley (California), close to Calabasas. The Valley is an odd mixture of people from the lower middle-class to the rich. It would be almost impossible to describe the social aspect of it, since it’s not one of those “Anytown, USA” communities. I guess the closest thing to describe The Valley would be Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero and many Judd Apatow films (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, etc.). The Valley also has a lot of people from the movie industry. I thought about writing a book that takes place in The Valley and deals with the movie industry (since my family is a part of it). And perhaps one day I will…
12. We love pets. Do you have any?
I have two dogs. One is a two-year-old mix of Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, and Shih-Tzu and the other is a fifteen-year-old mix of Cocker Spaniel and Wheaten Terrier.
Thanks for joining us today, Andrew, and we all wish you success in your creative endeavors.
Andrew’s Website: http://andrewcyrushudson.com/
November 23, 2011 in Author & Celebrity Interviews, Author Speak, Tribute, Writing | Tags: Amrita Publishing, Author Central, authors, Betty Dravis, books, Brian Bianco, Dames of Dialogue, Dr. Niamh Clune, fiction, Orangeberry Books, Writing | by Betty Dravis | 9 comments
presented by Betty Dravis
I recently met two fantastic authors, Brian Bianco and Dr. Niamh Clune, who belong to Author Central, a group of “authors helping authors” founded by Daniel L. Carter. Bianco and Clune are also co-founders of Orangeberry Group which promises to be an invaluable marketing site for up-and-coming authors. I thought our Dames of Dialogue readers would enjoy meeting them, so I asked Niamh if I could share the following story she recently wrote about Brian. (To balance the slate, I hope to interview Niamh for a future issue of DOD.)
Meet and Greet Brian Bianco
by Niamh Clune
When Brian Bianco puts pen to paper, he begins a marvelous journey into creating a story of make believe. He becomes completely involved with the lives of his characters. Creating them and weaving a story that brings them to life is as magical and fulfilling to him as Disneyland is to kids. Writing is Brian’s passion. So when I asked him what makes a good novel, he answered immediately: realism. He believes passionately that a writer must win the hearts and minds of his readers. The only way to do that is for the reader to believe in what they are reading. They must believe that the events in the story could happen; that they are real.
When he first started reading John Grisham’s book, The Pelican Brief, the story instantly engaged him because Grisham wrote about characters and a story-line that was completely plausible. Brian was present with Grisham inside the conference room listening to FBI Director Denton Voyles. Brian was with Gray Grantham in the newsroom of the Washington Post. Brian was in the lecture hall when Darby first appeared in the story. And Brian was sitting next to Grantham’s buddy taking camera shot after camera shot of the victim. The point is, Brian was there because John Grisham put him there. Grisham’s ability to convey realism through his writing style made Brian Bianco believe.
As far as Brian is concerned, writing style is the make or break point where a writer either engages a reader or loses them. Brian offers an example of this. Recently, he started reading a novel, but put it down after the first chapter. The writer lost him because the dialogue was smothered in over-description. The characters had so many internal feelings clamoring for attention all at once, that as a reader, Brian lost contact with them. He found himself continuously trying to pick up the dialogue, but failing and remaining lost in the hole into which the author had put him.
As far as Brian is concerned, dialogue is what moves the story along. It tells the reader about the true feelings behind a character. Descriptive wording, when used rightly, paints images of the visual aspects of a story. From the words they have chosen, we should be able to see who the characters truly are. Once a point has been made through the use of descriptive narrative, the writer needs to move on. Otherwise, Brian fears, a reader will find the story boring. He thinks it far better to write a shorter novel than to write a longer one filled with unnecessary descriptive wording that ultimately drives the reader to search for another book.
When Brian started writing Dressed for a Kill, the three main points to which he tried to adhere were: realism, dialogue and not being overly descriptive. He wanted the dialogue to tell the story and not have the characters interact with unrelated conversation. He wanted the descriptive wording to fill in the blanks and make certain the story was a real possibility in time—that it could happen. He also wanted his characters to be human, with real flaws just like the rest of us, and not make them like those seen on movie screens who are neither plausible nor real.
Brian thought hard about what kind of a story he wanted to write. To which genre did he belong? What kinds of stories did he personally enjoy reading? What attracted him as a reader? Most importantly, would he be a story-smith, able to tell it well? Brian questioned himself on all of these issues; not for him to start writing without a clear direction.
Murder/mysteries intrigue him. As a reader moves through a book, he or she must always keep an eye open for the one little clue, the one tell-tale sign that might lead to the right conclusion before the author has had a chance to tell us. Brian loves being able to outsmart the author. To Brian, writing is a challenge. The scent of the challenge is what inspired him to write Dressed for a Kill.
He labored at his task, as first impressions are lasting impressions. It took him a year to write and longer to edit; until finally, he was pleased with his labor of love. Brian knows it is good. He trusts what his gut tells him. And his positive reviews reinforce his belief in himself. Some of these can be read on his website, some on Amazon.
He wanted a unique storyline that incorporated twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the very end. Even at the end, he wanted to leave the reader unsure as to whether the real killer was caught, or if others were involved.
Brian believes that those who like John Grisham will like him, also. And John Grisham had to start somewhere. Readers must always take a punt. As a new writer, all that Brian asks is that readers do likewise for him. It might be a risk. But Brian is a risk-taker and believes the price of discovering a new author is well worth it. After all, there is nothing better in life than discovering something new. And he guarantees, readers won’t be disappointed
Endnote by Betty Dravis: Dr. Niamh Clune resides in the UK and is best known for her metaphysical book Orange Petals in a Storm. She can be found at: