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My journey as one of the Dames of Dialogue has been more than four years long, and rich in interesting interactions with other authors.
Parting ways does not really mean goodbye, as I’ll be popping in from time to time, to see what the other Dames are doing, and contributing my two-cents worth in comments.
During the time I have spent here, I have also kept myself busy blogging, which has turned into something of an obsession, with numbers reaching twenty sites at one point, but now down to eleven.
In 2010, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and reached the goal of the challenge with 52,000 words toward a now completed manuscript, Interior Designs. It continues the story begun in Embrace the Whirlwind, but focuses on one of the supporting characters from that novel.
Meet Martha Scott Cummings: an interior designer, an abandoned wife, and a newly single mother to her daughter Meadow. Now she must begin an interior journey to reexamine the life she had, the choices she made, and to find the strength to begin again.
The manuscript has been through the usual edits, as well as Beta reads. Now I have to arrange for formatting, book cover design, and publication. Sometime this next year, I hope!
At the same time, I’ve also completed another manuscript I have called Defining Moments. A story that follows one middle-aged woman through the new life she is forging after her husband’s betrayal. And his betrayal is not the usual kind. Not another woman, but a financial skirmish that leaves her reeling.
What moments in our lives define us? Do our choices determine our future? When unexpected events derail her life, Jillian McAvoy realizes that she now has an opportunity to carve out a whole new beginning. But something happens to her along the way that threatens everything she hoped and dreamed about. How can the obsessions and compulsions that seemingly take over her life lead to her newly redesigned world?
This story has also been through its edits, readers, etc., as well. I have enjoyed my journeys with these characters and will definitely share my progress when they are out there in the world.
My five published novels are available on Amazon, with the latest one, Web of Tyranny, on Kindle, available there as well.
Here’s a blurb about Web of Tyranny:
Web of Tyranny by Laurel-Rain Snow is a proud, if poignant tale of Margaret Elaine Graham, a woman entangled in the trenches that epitomized her abusive childhood home only to flee into a stultifying marriage with Bob Williams. Seduced by the hope of achieving her goal of a college education and a life free from domination, she is blinded to Bob’s true qualities—and in a very real sense jumps from the pan into the fire. Oppression begets oppression and as Meg walks a thin line of human betrayal, she learns to stake her own claim to happiness—no matter how high the cost. Her fight leads to politicking during the radical antiwar movement of the 60s and 70s, which manifests as a near-compulsion, which will turn her world on end. Enticed by the possibilities open to her and chafing at the strictures of the marital ties, Meg bolts from the marriage with her toddler son in tow where a whole myriad of troubles await her.
To find out more about each of my books, check out my website at http://laurelrainsnowauthor.com/
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Welcome, Elaine Orr, and Merry Christmas, too! Thanks for joining us today to chat about your work.
1) What kind of writing do you most enjoy?
Humorous essays or columns. It seems to be my natural voice. When I started my current mysteries (Jolie Gentil series, set at the Jersey shore), I created a couple of character with a similar senses of humor to mine. I like writing a cozy mystery series in part because the characters can continue (and change) in future books. I describe cozies to guys as murders without maggots. (Women seem to know what they are.)
2) I love reading a series, too, to revisit favorite characters. Where do you find ideas for your writing?
Buried in my devious mind. My mom used to say things like, “If you got eggs delivered to your house it would be a good way to pass secret messages.” That probably got me started. Most of my ideas start from something in current events, even if that doesn’t end up being what the story is about. One news article talked about a school getting hydroponic growing equipment that police seized in a drug raid. I created a school that received some computers, also confiscated because of a crime, and “my” computers had a secret buried on one of the hard drives.
3) I like that! What is a typical writing day like for you?
If I’m starting a book there is more reading than writing, mostly on the Internet these days. I still wander library shelves, especially when I used Prohibition as a setting for an older murder in Rekindling Motives. I now can write when I want, which is every day, usually late morning and early afternoon. When I held other jobs, I often wrote for half-an-hour or an hour before I went to bed. It was kind of a reward.
4) There is a wonderful freedom in writing when you like. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know, and are they in control, or are you?
I create characters to perform a function in a book. They are never based on someone I know, though I have occasionally used a phrase someone I know used—especially for the character Lester Argrow in the Jolie Gentil series. I constantly make lists of things my characters need to do, even on the order of service in church.
As I write, characters become more fleshed out and I may use them differently than originally intended. However, I’m not a writer who says, “My sleuth let me know she had to do [whatever] a certain way.” I don’t see it as a matter of control, because a character only exists in my imagination. That said, if I create a flat character, my imagination is not working well.
5) Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
My brain is muddled with possibilities. Now that the sixth Jolie Gentil book is out (Behind the Walls), I have the idea for a seventh and write notes on things like grocery receipts if I’m not at my desk. I’m working on a piece of nonfiction that’s a part-humorous, part-serious look at the art of complaining. That idea came from a whiner in Starbucks. I wrote a thriller in the late 1990s and was still revising on September 11th. A publisher was interested, but I decided not to publish it because a couple of the bad guys were Arabs and I didn’t want to promote stereotypes. I want to rework it, because I liked the basic plot and I had a lot of fun with the research.
6) Who are the authors you read when you should be doing something else?
My mind strays to varied interests. I’ll read anything Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler writes (Accidental Tourist may be the best known), and hers are very character-driven stories. If Harper Lee writes another book I’ll fight folks to be at the front of the line. I’ve recently read through M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series, and a few of Jinx Schwartz’s Hetta Coffey mysteries. Both have humor, with Beaton’s being more understated.
7) Why do they appeal to you?
Somewhat because there is humor in the writing, but also because of what they don’t write. I don’t like sadism or detailed descriptions of mutilated people, and I get bored when a thriller just goes from one tough spot to another. You know the hero always survives, so unless it moves the plot along briskly it does not hold my interest. I would compare this to car chases in a movie. Who cares how many things they wreck? Let’s just finish and get back to the story!
8) Why do you self publish?
Because I can. I shopped around other fiction in the mid-1990s, had some good feedback, took some really busy consulting jobs, and am thrilled some of the work was never published. I spent five years writing the first two Jolie Gentil books, and when they were done I wanted them out. I am sixty-two and healthy, but it’s a fact that any day could be a person’s last. I was just plain lucky that electronic and on-demand publishing were available when I wanted to put my work out there. I’ve published non-fiction with traditional publishers, and will likely go that route again for some historical fiction.
9) Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
a) I send an email about my projects to a large number of friends and acquaintances about every six weeks. There is always one non-writing piece of information; nothing too personal. These are people I know, not names I grabbed from somewhere. In each email I say that anyone who does not want to receive the emails should be sure to say so.
b) I have a Facebook Fan Page in addition to my personal page. Almost every month I boost a post, which means I write a note about something I’m selling and pay about $20 for FB to distribute this post to people who meet a couple of demographics I pick (usually women who say they like to read, as I have a female sleuth).
c) I tweet to a number of hashtags (#mysteryreaders, #cozymysteries, etc.), though these seem to be less effective than a couple of years ago. There are too many tweets out there. I did not have international sales until I used hashtags such as #kindleuk. If you do this, make sure the link you provide is to a site where people from that country can purchase your book. Also make sure you tweet about all web sites that sell your work — #kindle, #nook, #Smashwords, etc.
d) I do some press releases myself and send them to media where I’m known, and I’ve used various (inexpensive) services to send releases to broader media audiences. I doubt anyone reads the latter, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to reach a new audience.
e) There are two short talks I do for libraries or service clubs, and I’m developing more. These draw in people to hear the talk, and a few may buy books. Most important, it gets my name in the media. I’m in a new town now and about to start this again. It should be a good way to meet people.
f) There are lots of other things I do in bits and pieces. I keep photos on Pinterest, a few of which relate to my books. Guest blog posts are fun, and writers’ workshops or conferences let me learn as I market (there are usually sales tables). I write occasionally for Yahoo Voices, again just to get my name out there. There is never enough time!
10) Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
My dad wrote stories, and that let me see that writing was an option. Books I liked were the biggest influence. My mom read authors such as Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney so they were my first mystery authors. I have learned a huge amount more recently by reading J.K. Rowling’s books. She is a master at foreshadowing.
11) What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Finishing something that I created. Writing is obsessive for me, and I like to read the finished products. I also like talking to other writers.
12) What is an important piece of advice for aspiring writers?
Besides the “just do it” guidance, I’d say putting aside your work for a good while before you begin to revise, and then reviewing it as a reader who has never met your characters. You cannot think of showing a book to anyone besides your best friend or a critique group until you revise (probably a few times). When you have distance from a piece you can see inconsistencies and recognize parts of a story that may be hard for a reader to follow. And pay a copyeditor. I can create more typos in one paragraph than the average fourth-grader. You’ll never see most of your own errors because you know what you meant to write.
Elaine L. Orr writes fiction and nonfiction. She began writing plays and novellas and graduated to longer fiction by the mid-1990s. In 2011, Elaine introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, which now has seven books, including a prequel. She loves to read mysteries with a bit of humor.
Elaine L. Orr
Behind the Walls
Sixth of the Jolie Gentil Series–November 2013
Phone: (641) 455-3257
I’m happy you could join us today, Elaine. I hope you’ll stop in and visit regularly.
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Welcome, Marilyn Meredith! Today we’re going to chat a bit about your books and your creative process.
–-Tell us about your latest book, Spirit Shapes.
Spirit Shapes is the latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. Ghost hunters discover a young man’s dead body in a haunted house. When Tempe is called to investigate she immediately is confronted by many spirits. Besides trying to find who is responsible for the present day crime, she is confronted by unsolved crimes from the past.
—What is a typical writing day like for you?
I try to write every day, though that doesn’t always work. Mornings are when my creative juices flow most freely, but I have to battle against the lure of email and Facebook. I begin each day with a cup of Chai latte—believe me that seems to help.
—I am a fan of mornings, too. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I love too many to list, but I’m finding many of the authors published by small independent publishers are leading the pack. One of the reasons is they seem to be more creative and are allowed to write shorter books without any obvious filler. Something I’ve seen too often in some of the major publishers’ books.
—Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
Actually I enjoy promoting and I do all sorts of things: the usual Facebook and groups on Facebook, and I have blog that I enjoy writing and hosting other authors on and have a good following. I love doing blog tours and being a guest on others’ blogs, like this one. I have a quarterly newsletter. I really enjoy doing in-person promoting: library talks, craft and book fairs, and I love going to writers’ and mystery cons. I have cut down on my airline traveling though—it is just getting more and more difficult.
–-I think many of us are finding social media to be a good place to promote our work. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Hands down it’s the critique group I’ve belonged to for over 30 years. In the beginning there was one writer named Willma Gore who taught me so much about writing in general. And she’s still writing and publishing at 91—and I hope to do the same. I still faithfully attend the same critique group, though the members have changed over the years. I now consider them my first editor.
–-That’s amazing! What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I love writing. I love spending time with the characters I’ve created. However, the most satisfying is when someone writes a great review about one of my books or comes up to me at an event and tells me how much they loved one of my books.
—Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in the foothills of the Southern Sierra. To those of you who have no idea where that is, Sierra means mountain. The mountain range is the one dividing Nevada and Arizona from California. I’m on the California side in what is called the Central Valley. The little town I live outside of is much like Bear Creek in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series though I moved it 1000 feet higher in the mountains for better trees and more weather.
—You live in a beautiful part of our state. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
Of course I have to say Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew books. But what really got me started on writing mysteries were all the mystery shows on the radio when I was a kid. I listened to them all. I also loved to read about crime in the newspapers. Back when I was a kid, we got three newspapers at our house and anything exciting or lurid was described in great detail.
—I was also a fan of Nancy Drew. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Because I write two series, my major inspiration is curiosity about what is happening in my characters’ lives, what crimes they might be confronting, what personal problems they are dealing with. The only way I can find out is to write about them. I keep a file of interesting articles I find in the newspaper or on line and it really doesn’t take much to send me off answering the “What if?” question.
—I like the idea of the file for interesting articles. What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
I write short. Once I’m finished, I’m finished. I certainly do go back and edit and make sure I’ve added necessary details. What I don’t do is add unnecessary fluff just to add to my word count. This has cost me being published by some major houses. Do I care? No, I’m happy with both of my small publishers.
—What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I’d change that to write what you can find out about or imagine.
–-A great twist on the familiar saying. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I’m definitely a fiction writer, and all my latest books have been mysteries. My Deputy Tempe Crabtree series has touches of the supernatural and Indian lore along with the crime to solve. Writing is my main occupation, besides being a wife, mom and grandma.
Thanks for joining us today, Marilyn, and here are some links:
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Tell us about your latest book.
Murder by Syllabub, the fifth in the Ellen McKenzie mystery series, has been recently released. Ellen lives in a small town on California’s central coast, but in this book her Aunt Mary’s closest friend has inherited a Colonial plantation, or what’s left of it, from her recently deceased husband, and is having a few problems. It seems there is a ghost, dressed as a colonial gentleman, prowling the upstairs hallway and he tried to kill her. Aunt Mary is skeptical; ghosts, if indeed there was one, don’t usually push crates over on people, but she’s going to help her friend anyway. She’s not going alone, though. Ellen insists she’s going with her. They arrive to find the “ghost” dead on the dining room carpet, an empty glass of syllabub in his hand. The police suspect Elizabeth, Aunt Mary’s friend, who not only has a strong motive but a bowl of syllabub in her refrigerator. If Ellen and Aunt Mary are to prove Elizabeth innocent, they have to solve a murder whose roots lie in the eighteenth century.
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Aunt Mary has been a strong character in all of the Ellen books, and it seemed time to give her a series of her own. I am almost finished with what is to be the first in the Mary McGill Helping Hands mysteries. I am not, however, planning on abandoning Ellen McKenzie and her now husband, Dan Dunham. They’re just too much fun.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day. The way I’d like it to go is, get up, let the dogs out and turn on the coffee, read over what I wrote the day before while I sip the first cup, feed the dogs while I mull over what I like and don’t like and get started on the day’s project. Afternoons are reserved for promotion, which means internet postings, trying to set up signings or appearances, answering emails, etc.; then the late afternoons are devoted to running grandkids to soccer, flute lessons, etc. Somewhere in there I catch the news and start dinner. The evenings are mine. Sort of, because it never quite works out that way.
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
I love this question because that is such a fluid thing. To start off, I am. I have the main characters, protagonist, antagonist, some of the “sidekicks” in my mind, and have an idea of where I want the story to go. Once we get going, and the writing starts to flow, people I do not know keep coming in, and my carefully thought out characters turn on me. Once I had the murderer wrong. I person I had set up (I thought) as the murderer kept telling me “I didn’t do it.” It wasn’t until I finally listened and got the right murderer that the book came together.
I hear this answer often, and I think this process is true for many of us. How long have you been writing?
That depends. If you mean all that stuff I used to write and hide in the cedar chest, a really long time. If we’re talking about the things I wrote after I actually got up the courage to let someone see something I’d written, a little over ten years. The first thing I wrote was an article about my five children’s eventful careers in 4-H. We were a city family and knew nothing about farm animals. We learned. My, how we learned. That article was purchased by Family Fun who actually paid me. I was on my way.
I think we can also count the things you hid. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
I would love to say Nancy Drew, but my mother wouldn’t let me read those books. I’m still not sure why, but I read all of the Pollyanna books, any book I could get my hands on about animals (I still have a copy of Beautiful Joe on my book shelf as well as Lad, a dog) all of the Louisa May Alcott books, and systematically read my way through the library. I’m not sure how they influenced my writing, except when you read a lot of books that have clearly drawn characters, interesting and intelligent plots, and are well written, it is bound to influence you, even if you don’t realize it at the time. I grew out of those book to read Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey. Also Rex Stout and Agatha Christie.
Louisa May Alcott was one of my favorites, too. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
Again, it depends on what you mean when you give that advice. I think way too many times people interpret it writing about a place, a job, a sport you have been involved with. If so, it’s a way to start. But there’s so much more to that statement. Take Walter Mosley. He writes about Easy Rollins, a black man who lives in LA in the 50’s. Mosley takes us through the black districts of LA with a deft hand. He knows that area, but its not the geography that matters. Anyone can tell us what freeway off ramp to take, can describe the houses, the grafitti-covered store fronts, but Mosley knows the people who live in those houses, knows what their lives are like, what their frustrations are, what their dreams are like. I couldn’t write their story. So I choose not to try. I write about people in small towns, no less tight knit communities, no less frustration, lots of dreams, plenty of drama, but from a different perspective. I think that’s what that statement means.
Yes, I agree. Whatever we know that allows us to bring the characters to life…that’s important. Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
They were probably the most important thing in our household. I can remember the day I got my first library card. After that, there was no time I didn’t have a stack of books by my bed, waiting to be read. My father and mother were both avid readers and passed on to my brother and me. My father often read aloud to us and he was a great story teller. Maybe that’s where I got my love of story. Or, it could be the Irish in me.
Love of stories is a familiar theme for us writers. Any teacher who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged you?
I’ll tell you about one who discouraged me. I was in the first grade but read at a much higher level, so was put into a first-second combo class. I could read but my hand writing (they had penmanship classes back then) spelling and math skills were still very much at the first grade level. The teacher had a shelf of books for first grade and another for second grade and you had better not deviate. I had already read all of the second grade books. The fiction ones. I’m quite sure I hadn’t read the math. She used to make fun of me, tell the class how smart I thought I was because I could read, but couldn’t do math or write a paper in cursive. What she taught me was to keep my head down, volunteer nothing and make sure I sat in the back of the class where no one could tell that I had a library book tucked into the social studies book I was supposed to be reading. It took many years before I had any confidence in my abilities to speak out in class again. I share this because sometimes it’s easy to forget how fragile a child’s ego can be.
Teachers like that one do all students a disservice. Thanks for sharing. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
Fiction. I grew up on stories, lots of them, stories I read, stories my father told, stories on the radio and later on TV. I love fiction, both writing it and reading it. I write mysteries. Why? I guess a number of reasons. I love the puzzle, but unlike the crossword I like the puzzle that people provide. What happened to that person that made him/her a murderer? What chain of events pulled our hero/heroine into this tragedy? What happens when their two worlds collide? No two people react the same way under the same circumstances, especially highly stressful ones, so I love to see how my characters react as one tries to solve a puzzle and the other tries to make sure the puzzle isn’t solved. For both of them, their lives will never be the same.
I agree that understanding what makes people behave the way they do is central to our characterizations. How do your people “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
First, I don’t consciously base my characters either loosely or closely on people I know. Having said that, I’m sure some characteristics from some creep in, but as my characters take form on the page, the less they are likely to be to “real” people. Two of my grandkids asked to be in one of my books, so, I put them in the book I’m currently writing. They were to have a walk-on only and I made it clear the children would have their names but they wouldn’t be THEM. They aren’t. Those two kids marched onto the page, refused to leave when they should have and just about took over the book. They are darling kids, so are my grandkids, but they aren’t the same. I have no idea why that happens, but it does all the time. I often have people turn up that I had no inkling were there when I started to write, but in they walk, full blown. Aunt Mary in the Ellen books was one. Where she came from, I don’t know, but she arrived one day, and five books later, she’s still there. She’s changed very little, which is a good thing. She’s a really neat lady.
I like that aspect of how the characters come to us. Any book on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?
When I first started to get serious about writing, actually about the time I found out that writing is a craft and like most things you have to learn how to do it, I started looking around for classes. I lived in California then and found that UCLA had extension classes, often on the week-ends. I went to a lot of them and they were wonderful. However, I also went to writers conferences, both big and small, for mystery writers and for general writing skills, and learned a lot from them. I bought, read and re-read many books on writing, some on technique, some on grammar, others on plot construction, dialog, character building, and got something out of each one. But the book that encouraged me the most, that challenged me to think about what I was doing, why, and what I wanted to get out of all this blood sweat and tears that I was expending, was Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird. I recommend it. I also recommend looking up online classes, conferences, creative writing classes at your community college, and some critic groups. But put your toe in those waters carefully. Some are wonderful, supportive and informative, some are okay but it’s the blind leading the blind, and a few will harm more than help. If you think you’re involved in one of those, you’re probably right. Go look some place else.
Thanks for joining us today, Kathleen…I am eager to read your books!
By Laurel-Rain Snow, with P. J. Nunn
–-Welcome, P. J. What can you tell us about your latest book?
Angel Killer is the first book in a planned series of Shari Markham Mysteries. Shari is a forensic psychologist and criminologist who takes the plunge and gets certified as a Texas peace officer and joins the Crimes against Persons team of the Dallas Police Department. She’s still a little green, but learning more every day. In this book, the team faces a crime nobody wants – a killer that targets children. As the case heats up and Shari gets a little too close, the killer’s focus turns to her granddaughter and the chase becomes very personal.
–-Oh, that is just the kind of story that draws me in. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I’m finishing up The Protector, which is the sequel to Angel Killer, due out from Dark Oak Mysteries in June 2014. Then I move quickly to finish No Such Thing as Ghosts, which is the sequel to Private Spies, a Jesse Morgan Mystery.
–-With several books coming out, I’m sure you are very busy. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I’m not sure there’s such a thing as “typical” around here. I work from home running BreakThrough Promotions, promoting other author’s books, which can be a 24/7, on-call job. That’s usually where I start my day, trying to catch morning show producers and other industry early birds by phone. I stay busy with the phone and then client work, mailing ARCs, following up previous contacts, etc. I have a disabled son who lives at home and he joins me in my office sometimes. I have an 18 year old son who’s getting ready for college and he’s in and out, along with my husband who’s retired but sometimes works with me. Once the day starts to wind down, we get supper then I turn to my own writing and promotion. Some days it works better than others, but I’m never bored.
—With such a schedule, it must be like a juggling act. So when you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
It can be either, but it usually goes a lot better when it’s them.
–Most writers enjoy reading, so who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Oh there are several. Always Robert Crais. Sometimes Janet Evanovich. A whole variety of others depending on the mood. As you might guess, I don’t have a lot of spare time for reading, but I do love to read and need to read to keep my own work fresh and to keep up with what’s being published so I can best represent my clients. I’ve recently joined a group on Goodreads and we read selected books each month. I don’t feel bound to finish something that just doesn’t appeal to me, but I’ve enjoyed meeting some new authors along the way.
—Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
Funny you should ask! As a book publicist for the last 15 years, you’d think I could do it in my sleep, but wow what a wake up call! I have no doubt I’ll be a better publicist for it, but it’s a challenge. I find it’s a lot easier to be on the scheduling end of things than the performing end. I do my best to put the reluctance aside and have embarked on a blog tour, am planning some select store appearances, have multiple review copies out and even have some radio spots coming up. It’s a good way for me to fine tune what works best for my clients.
—How long have you been writing?
Most of my life actually, but professionally since the mid-80s when I started freelance writing non-fiction articles about health and mental health issues.
—Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
My non-fiction career came of necessity when my oldest son became ill and I had to quit working and stay home with him. My fiction career started around the same time and was largely influenced by friends I met online. We were just talking about that today – those of us who are still around on one e-list or another who used to frequent the Hardboiled Message Board on AOL. I was privileged to meet so many wonderful authors there, including Bob Crais, Dennis Lehane, Les Roberts, SJ Rozan, Laura Lippmann and so many more I can’t name them all. Their availability to answer questions and willingness to be encouraging was priceless. I doubt I’d have ever finished my first manuscript if I hadn’t been able to spend so much time there.
–-What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Interesting question. It’s hard to pick just one, but probably the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer is knowing that my work and my words, arranged just so, can bring understanding or enlightenment, or just enjoyment to someone who reads them. That’s still amazing to me.
–-Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in a little historic town called Waxahachie just a little south of Dallas, Texas. It’s big enough to have the basic conveniences, close enough to Dallas to get to whatever you want, and yet still small enough to have things like a Gingerbread Trail of historic homes decorated for the holidays or the Scarborough Fair where you can step back in time and eat sausage on a stick and watch jousting.
—Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
There are so many.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.
My ‘Get up and go’ has got up and went.
—Oh, those are very familiar sayings to me. And Mark Twain was one of my favorite authors when I was young. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
My favorite books were Cherry Ames and Trixie Beldon. At the time I had no clue who the authors were, I just loved the books. I can’t say those particular authors influenced my writing at all, but I believe my love for the craft started right there in the Bookmobile I found them in.
I loved those books, too. Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts, your creative process, and what’s up next for you.
Welcome to Shalanna Collins (Denise Weeks), who shares with us her work, her inspiration, and special thoughts about her process.
By Laurel-Rain Snow
–Tell us about your latest book.
I have two that I’d consider fairly new, both available in trade paperback or on the Amazon Kindle. You can download a sample of each for the Kindle (sample chapters can be viewed on a PC or Mac using the free Kindle app) to see if they’re your sort of novels.
For mystery lovers, MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS is the first book in the Ariadne and Zoe French series. Marfa, Texas, is an artist’s colony town where the film GIANT was made in the fifties, but it’s mostly famous for the Marfa Mystery Lights. Ari French gets a phone call informing her that her (ex-? Or just AWOL?) fiance has died in Marfa and has left her everything. She goes to the West Texas town to find some answers (including why Aaron hadn’t sent for her once he’d found their ideal retreat, as he’d promised when he left almost a year ago) and finds the circumstances of Aaron’s death suspicious. Aaron had developed a new encryption scheme that is claimed to be three times faster than the one commonly used across the ‘net, and it seems that several bidders were on the hook for the rights. Could Aaron have been murdered for the algorithm? It turns out that to ask that question can be very dangerous. . . . It’s $1.99 for the Kindle.
My other mystery series was kicked off by winning the Oak Tree Press 2011 contest with NICE WORK, the first Jacquidon Carroll mystery. It is much lighter-hearted and less dark than the Ari series, even though it does deal with the BDSM community and a group of very angry people. (No explicit sex, though–it’s all played for laughs.) That one is still fairly recent and is now available on the Kindle as well.
If you are game to try some “literary chick lit with a paranormal twist,” the book of my heart is LITTLE RITUALS. Have you ever met someone who believes she’s cursed? The amusing quest on which Daphne Dilbeck embarks when she decides she needs to lift the curse that has ruined her luck and her life will entertain you and make you think about the nature of luck and whether we can control the winds or just trim our sails. The voice is somewhere between chick lit and your favorite blogger, but the subject matter isn’t shoes or shopping, but the coming of age of a nearly thirty-year-old naif who finds her way with a little help from her true friends. Again, $1.99 for the Kindle.
Will you like my books? Not everyone likes every writer. Maybe a little about me is in order. I prefer text to just about every other form of input, including motion pictures, plays, and comic books. (I do have a soft spot for comics!) Also, I like a BOOK book, one that doesn’t shy away from introspection and philosophical thoughts (although they’re not always lofty!) Movies can hit the sweet spot sometimes, but in general I can’t stand the SEQUENTIALness of film and computer games. You can’t skip around. You can’t linger on parts you enjoy and go back to check something to see if your guesses were right and you don’t get to savor great lines. You get a different experience. You can’t interrupt a film the way you can a book and “get back into it” after the trip to the store or on the next bedtime. It doesn’t work that way. Yes, you can back up the TiVo or run the DVD back a few tracks, but it’s tough to find a particular moment, and there’s no way to mark a particularly lovely line. With a film, you need to sit there and watch it sequentially so you’ll be immersed. I can usually get back into a book fairly swiftly.
I like to use my own imagination. I don’t want to be SHOWN everything from the POV of some director. Well, with some stories that’s the beauty of the film. But generally I like to create my own movie from the words.
My books are for readers who are kindred spirits. I prefer a book to a film just about any day. If you’re the same way, I invite you to sample my work!
–I love to savor a book, too, returning to favorite parts. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Coming soon from Muse Harbor Press (hi, Dave!) is APRIL, MAYBE JUNE, the first in a YA fantasy/adventure series. Unlike my book DULCINEA (which is more of a female Harry Potter thing, or like Diana Wynne Jones), this one is a shorter, faster-paced fantasy/adventure about a pair of preteen sisters who get mixed up with a magical grimoire left behind by their wicked cousin, and go on a grand adventure as a result. Train scenes! Magic! Kidnapping! Crazy family! And lots more. Great summer read, beach read, good for middle grade readers and young adults who can identify with the concerns of the girls as well as for grown-ups who have never lost the sense of wonder. If you liked HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING or the Millicent Min books with a first-person genius girl narrator, this is your cuppa.
–What is a typical writing day like for you?
I try to sit down early in the day to work on my current masterpiece. Usually, though, I can only get in an hour or so before I need to stop and do the things the family and household needs. Sometimes I get a block of free time during the day, but I’ll confess that I usually read my e-mail and surf the ‘net then; I don’t want to get into the book and then have to leap out to fix some crisis in real life. Later that night, sometimes even as late as nine or ten PM, I will generally get back to the computer and do a little more. I would love to spend the entire day writing, but right now my responsibilities prevent it. It’s best if you spend at least an hour at a time writing so that you can go into the flowstate as described in the book FLOW. When you’re constantly being interrupted, the Muse flees. So you should try to clear an hour on your schedule (or more) in order to serve your purpose. Lock the door and set the cell phone to voicemail.
But in another sense, I’m always working on something. It’s all fodder for the writing mill, and I carry a small notebook around so I can note snatches of dialogue that occur to me or sudden ideas for plot fixing. (Friends no longer get upset when I take notes during our lunches out, although many people roll their eyes.) One of my mottoes is that Talking Heads line: “There’s a party in my mind–and I hope it never stops.”
–When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
Hard to say, really–although we must bear in mind that the characters ARE you, or they’re part of you, or you’re channeling them as you channel the Muse, depending on your belief system. All of this stuff comes from the Girls in the Basement, and very little of it is planned consciously in advance, at least in my case.
My characters spring forth (usually) mostly formed and in some sort of intriguing situation, and in the process of writing about them, I learn what I need to know. This is completely at odds with those authors who fill out a complete “character profile and history” sheet before ever beginning to write, but oh well. The times I have done that I’ve ended up not being able to write the story because there was no mystery left–like someone who throws himself at you and tells you all about himself and strips down begging to be liked. That turns people off. You need to maintain a certain air of hidden-ness, let people sense that there are layers beneath these surface layers, a subtext that you may never fully grok. So I note things about my characters as I discover them (in order not to contradict what I’ve said later on), and I generally find that my subconscious mind knows a lot more and has planted whatever little factoid for use later as we come to the turning points of the story.
(But to actually answer your question.) I have a general idea about what’s going to happen, but in some sense the characters are in control and will say or do things that surprise and delight me. These “new” things lead to the next story question and plot development, and so they are acting out the story for me, as if it were a “vivid, continuous dream” that I am co-creating and weaving a tapestry of background visuals and smells and noises for. (The writing teacher John Gardner refers to a novel as a “vivid, continuous dream” that the writer weaves for the reader to step into and willingly co-create, and I love that imagery.)
A word of warning, though. You’ve heard that you shouldn’t act alongside children and animals because they’ll steal every scene? Don’t let minor characters take over the story, even if they are hamming it up and acting really cute. If they need their own books, write those later. Put that part of the scene into your “use later” file and go back to tell the story you originally intended.
–Ah, yes, the feeling that the characters are with us in the process is a familiar one. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Harper Lee, Connie Willis, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, C. S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, and Charles Dickens. These authors have distinctive voices and styles, and their books couldn’t have been written by anyone else. The sheer individuality of each voice is wonderful. You go into their worlds and come out changed. Their prose is cadenced and eloquent, but never impenetrable. If you haven’t read Philip K. Dick (whose oeuvre is actually one meta-novel, in my opinion) and Harlan Ellison, you should–even if you think you don’t like science fiction. Two guilty pleasures of mine are Sarah Bird’s _The Boyfriend School_ and Donna Tartt’s _The Secret History_.
I have a stack of comfort reads that I turn to now and then. Most of the authors I enjoy are on the literary side and explore a bit of philosophy while spinning a yarn. When someone has a command of the language and a way with the turn of a phrase as well as the ability to dramatize a story and have us believing that “this is really happening” and “these people are real,” it is a rare pleasure.
–-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 am the last person to ask about this. I know I am terrible at promotion. It turns me off when someone’s every Facebook post is about their next novel and how wonderful it is, or how their book is free today on the Kindle, or how they just did a great book tour. It makes me feel as if they’re an Amway distributor working the room and I’m just another mark, not a friend to share a life with.
I do have blogs for each aspect of my writing life. I love blogging; I was doing it before it became required for all authors. I have done guest posts on others’ sites as part of blog tours. I also have done book signings and interviews with various media people.
My “official” blog for my Denise Weeks books (including both mystery series):
The blog of NICE WORK’s main characters, Jacquidon and Chantal Carroll:
My personal blog (where you’ll read about all sorts of things)
See links to all my books (Shalanna Collins and Denise Weeks):
–How long have you been writing?
Since I could hold a crayon. I had chicken pox at age six and when I asked for more books, Daddy perched on the foot of my bed and told me that books didn’t drop from the sky fully formed, but were written by mortals. From then on, I resolved to take my stories to the next level and write novels that would live forever on library shelves so they might be discovered by future generations of little girls who love to read.
However, my first attempts at fiction were met with displeasure from my mother. She said my stories (verbal and written) counted as “lying,” so I was frequently spanked and shamed over these efforts. But it didn’t deter me, and soon my teachers were being charmed by my flights of fancy. Of course teachers are far easier to impress and please than New York editors, so my early juvenilia came winging back from the “New Yorker” offices with charming little rejection notes (I suspect from the tone of these notes that my correspondents knew they were dealing with an eight-year-old, and then with a twelve-year-old, and so on–my poems and stories weren’t exactly ARCHY AND MEHITABEL caliber.) For those of you born after 1990, this happened before personal computers, and everything I mailed out was done on my parents’ Royal portable typewriter. I’ll bet that many of today’s writers, if they had to insert the paper, straighten it out, press the carriage return at the end of every line, and retype any page with more than three corrections, would have given up as soon as they ran out of carbon paper! Word processing has truly reshaped the landscape.
–Isn’t it interesting how others and their reactions deeply influence us? Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Believe it or not, Robert Benchley and James Thurber have been major influences on me. When I was in fifth grade, there was a TV series called “My World and Welcome To It,” based on the life and work of humorist and New Yorker writer James Thurber. Scholastic Books reissued his memoir “My Life and Hard Times” around that time, and once I got hold of the book, I was hooked. When I ran out of Thurber, I went to the library’s humor section next to where his books were shelved and discovered Robert Benchley. Benchley was a man even closer to my heart, and HIM, I could write like. (I have taken second and third place several times in the annual Robert Benchley Society essay contest.) I ended up researching the Algonquin Round Table as a result of reading Benchley, and followed threads to several other authors I don’t think I would have discovered otherwise. Seeing how these people built writing careers gave me the impetus to keep trying and striving.
–What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I think most writers would tell you that it’s the complete creative control. You are the Queen of Everything. You invent the people (or channel the archetypes as they are given by the Muse–but you have a lot of leeway as far as how they look and feel) and paint the setting and make up the events of the story, and you are the one whose subconscious inserts the theme and subtext and meaning. It’s kind of a power trip, I suppose. And you are always teaching, as well.
No, seriously. When someone reads your work, he or she should be learning something (or else isn’t it a waste of time?) People love to learn about a profession they’ll never pursue and all the little quirks and details of a setting they’d never visit. (And if your research is incorrect, Katy bar the door.) You are giving them vicarious experiences that enrich their lives. Your story should also illuminate some aspect of the eternal human condition and should have something to say (or at least to point out, or bring up as a question) about how we should live or what life is really all about. Not in a heavy-handed way, of course, but through subtext and through the interpretation of events.
Your character(s) must go through change and end up different people, preferably improved. Remember Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day” who had to learn his lesson before he could go on? And remember all those romantic comedies in which people were paired up with the wrong person and finally ended up with their soulmates? Readers feel a sense of closure, a sense that it could only have ended the way it did, and come away satisfied. That’s what I’m talking about.
This is related to theme. Whether your theme is “love conquers all” or “be true to yourself and don’t try to be who you’re not” or “justice will prevail,” it’s THERE. If your story says nothing . . . readers come away feeling cheated, and the book hits the wall and falls onto the stack of other popcorn reads that seemed fun at the time, but that didn’t deliver and made the reader angry because she just wasted several hours that she can never get back. She went on the rollercoaster ride, but before she could splash down into a satisfying conclusion, it all petered out. This is the worst sin a writer can commit: to do something hollow with no meaning, such that readers come away saying, “So what? Why did we go THROUGH all of that?”
–We love visualizing our guests in their surroundings. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I’m a native Texan and still live in a northern suburb of Dallas. Texas is a character in its own right. We’re the state that has everything and knows it. West Texas is the landscape of MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS, while LITTLE RITUALS and NICE WORK are set in the fictional village of Renner, Texas, just north of cosmopolitan Dallas. Texas has a Hill Country that’s as bucolic as they come, while east Texas is known as the Piney Woods for good reason. Note that most portrayals of Texas, especially those of Dallas itself, in the media are ridiculously off base. If you want to experience the greatness of the Lone Star State, you’ll just have to come here and see it for yourself. Next best is to read my books and those of Susan Wittig Albert (who writes mysteries set in the San Marcos area) and Earl Staggs (who sets his work around Fort Worth, where the West begins and the East peters out.) Oh, and Terry Southern (_Red Dirt Marijuana_) and the inimitable Larry McMurtry, of course.
–Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite Southern saying you can share with our readers?
“Bless your heart.” This does not always mean “oh, you poor little idiot,” but often this is the connotation. “He said if I would sleep with him and *censored* tonight, he’d marry me tomorrow!” “Oh, honey. Bless your heart.”
Related: “That boy ain’t right.” “His elevator don’t go all the way to the top.” “He couldn’t pour pee out of a boot if it had instructions on the heel.”
Sometimes I feel I’ve been “rode hard and put up wet.” (Think of horses and you’ll hear that one click.) Of course, in Texas, the higher the hair, the closer to Heaven.
Right now, I am also thinking of “what goes around, comes around.” I am seeing the circle of karma swallowing up some really bad types, and I keep thinking where they went wrong so I don’t get tempted to go that way.
–Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
I imprinted on the classics–Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pooh. I started reading the Bobbsey Twins series before I started school. Mother would bring me a new volume every time she went to the grocery store, about once a week. I also got hold of the Nancy Drew mysteries (before the expurgated editions of the 1970s), the Dana Girls, Encyclopedia Brown, and the Donna Parker series. That’s what got me hooked on mysteries. I adore THE EGYPT GAME by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, everything by E. L. Konigsburg, HARRIET THE SPY, and the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis. Their influence on me should be apparent when you read my work.
These are the people who made me want to write. When I ran out of their books and told my mother that I needed more, she said, “I guess you’ll just have to write more, then.” She was distracted and tells me she doesn’t even remember saying that because she was probably up to her elbows kneading bread dough, but the advice took hold.
I write the books I want to read. It’s the only way I can get them!
Thanks for joining us, Shalanna (Denise), and I am eager to pick up your books.
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Tell us about your latest book:
Status Quo, which is published through Penumbra Publishing revolves around Alex Copeland, a twenty-five-year-old rookie school teacher who is offered the opportunity of a lifetime—to join a small civilian crew and travel to outer space to investigate a mysterious wormhole presumed to have been created by an alien species. Alex is convinced that they are being sent as ambassadors of Earth in establishing first contact. Alex is immediately suspicious.
Meeting the crew only adds to his suspicions. Sara Maxwell, the daughter of the astronomer who made the discovery, has spent the last seven years in a mental institution. The ship’s pilot is a teenage boy whose only flight experience is on a simulator. The ship’s doctor is a novice who wants nothing to do with the mission. There’s also a convicted murderer, a troubled teenage girl on the brink of suicide and a kitten on board.
Absolutely no one chosen for this mission has any sort of astronaut training or experience. And worst of all, the project director’s agenda appears to be making sure that the ship and all aboard never return to Earth. This ragtag crew has to find a way to work together and figure out the true mission before it’s too late. Trapped in a foreign galaxy on a damaged ship and with both human and alien threats around, the odds are not in their favor.
Also, to let you know, partial proceeds from Status Quo will be donated to The American Cancer Society for breast cancer research through the Bosom Buddies organization. It’s a good read and it helps a great cause.
The first two chapters of Status Quo are available both on amazon.com and on my website, www.markrosendorf.com
How long have you been writing?
Whether it was online fanfic or novels that never got finished, I have basically been writing all my life. It was in 2009 when The Rasner Effect, a psychological suspense/thriller was published through L&L Dreamspell. This was followed by two sequels, Without Hesitation: The Rasner Effect part 2 and Rasner’s Revenge which wrapped up the Rasner series. This series revolves around Rick Rasner, a psychotic killer and part of the mercenary group, The Duke Organization. He is captured by the government and used for an experiment where a chip is put inside his head to suppress his emotions. Hypnosis is used to remove his memories. Can he change his nature, especially when placed in a residential facility as a therapist for angry and troubled teens? Also, what happens when The Duke Organization finds him? That’s just the beginning of the story…then the twists and turns come out. Along with The Rasner series, I also had a story featured in the anthology, Cat in a Dreamspell.
While I love The Rasner Effect series just as much as my readers, my dream growing up was always to write science fiction. I promised myself that if I could come up with a unique and interesting science fiction story which inspired me, I would write it. Status Quo is that story.
Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your day job?
At night, I am a writer of suspense and science fiction. However, by day, mild-mannered Mark Rosendorf is a high school guidance counselor in the New York City school system working with special needs students. I hold mandated therapy sessions for a diverse set of students with disabilities that include learning, mental and emotional. My job is to help them build their confidence, achieve their potential and prepare them on a life past the schooling stage.
Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
Believe it or not, the author who influenced my writing career at a young age was my mother. Although she was not a professional writer at the time (years later, she wrote computer textbooks which had been published), she used to write and illustrate stories for three year old me so I would learn how to read. Each morning, a new book about a girl named “Fat Pat” would wait for me by my bed. Looking back, the artwork was simple since my mother was not an artist, but the dialogue was all based on simple phonics. (“Fat Pat sat on a mat, Fat Pat had a cat. Fat Pat wore a hat”). Those books accomplished my mother’s goal, which was to teach me to read. With each book, she changed the phonics in the dialogue and they would all end the same way, “The End: Mark’s Book.” By the time I entered Kindergarten, my reading was a year ahead of the class. More importantly, I am sure this is the spark that led to my becoming an author in adulthood.
Have any teachers influenced, encouraged or discouraged you?
Encouragement came from a number of teachers who appreciated my writing ability, I specifically remember my seventh grade creative writing teacher predicting in front of the entire class that I would someday become a published author.
As far as discouragement, that award goes to my college sophomore English teacher. She loved persuasive and feminist analysis essays (even though 90 percent of the class was male). After earning nothing but “A’s” on any essay I had ever written, my first paper with her received a “C-. “ She called it too opinionated and that I tried too hard to persuade.
The next essay, I followed all of her instructions and worked hard to show her my writing ability. That paper also received a “C-.” She said it wasn’t opinionated enough and didn’t work hard enough to persuade.
The third essay assigned was a persuasive essay on ethics. Feeling I couldn’t do anything right with this teacher, I copied FDR’s speech on the importance of ethics. I figured if it was good enough to persuade the nation, perhaps it would be good enough for this crazy teacher. She gave it a “C+.” No explanation, but at least FDR helped raise my average a bit.
For the fourth essay, I became relentless. I was determined to get an “A” from this crazy teacher. I wrote, rewrote, revised and followed everything she taught. I even included most of the outrageous personal opinions she spouted during lectures. I handed in the paper thinking she couldn’t possibly have issues with this one. When I received it back, there was no grade, just “see me after class” written across the top.
She told me that the essay was so well written it couldn’t possibly have been my work. I must have plagiarized it. After a long “difference of opinion,” I told her that the paper was, indeed, my work, and unless she could prove it was plagiarized (which she couldn’t since it wasn’t), she had to accept and grade it.
The next week, she informed me that she could not find proof of plagiarism. She apologized, then agreed to accept and grade the paper, which she did. She gave it a “C-. “ I, in turn, dropped the class.
Wow, what an experience! It sounds like you won that round, but she had to have the last word with that grade. That said, where do you get your ideas?
I’m not sure how they pop into my head, but when they do, I have to be ready. My ideas hit my lightning: one great bright blast, then suddenly, it’s gone. This is why I need to get them in writing just as soon as they hit. I keep notepads everywhere for this reason. There’s a notepad and pen by my bed, in my car and even hanging outside my shower.
If you could talk for thirty minutes to one author, living or dead, who would it be?
I would like the Mark Rosendorf, the guidance counselor, to have a session with Mark Rosendorf the author. Maybe he could find out how all these crazy ideas pop into my head.
Wouldn’t we all like to know more about the source of our creativity? What is your weakest area in the creative process?
Without a doubt, my weakest area is the editing. It’s a long, tedious process that grinds against my nerves even more than the actual writing. At least with the writing, I can express my creativity and turn the pictures in my head into words on paper. The editing is less creative and more technical. It’s practically the calculus of the writing process.
What’s your attitude toward the standard advice: write what you know?
I would add to it: write what you know, but exaggerate and sensationalize it. I’m sure almost every fiction story out there is an event the author went through in their life, but turned, twisted and exaggerated with a different backdrop.
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
FAN MAIL! There’s nothing I enjoy more than getting responses from readers wanting to discuss my work. Whether the letter is positive (“Wow, this should be a movie”) or negative (“I wouldn’t line my birdcage with the pages of your book”), it still gives me a sense of accomplishment to know that people have taken the time to read what I’ve spent time writing. This is why I answer every single piece of e-mail I receive…provided it’s not an advertisement.
Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
As a reader, I’m not a big fan of electronic readers. I prefer a real book in my hands with paper and a cover. As a writer, I can’t deny the direction that the publishing world is taking. E-readers are here to stay and I know this because two thirds of my sales come from e-books. (I expect that number will climb)
Despite this, I still prefer real books, even as an author, because I can’t personally autograph a kindle. I tried once and almost got punched for it.
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now of what’s coming next?
For now, my writing is about to be temporarily placed on hold. I’ve recently proposed to my wonderful girlfriend, now fiancée, and we are in the process of both getting a new place and planning a wedding. For the immediate future, my time will be spent putting together the next happy and romantic chapter of the story that is my life. But, be assured, the fiction world has not heard the last of Mark Rosendorf. I have two great stories on the burner that are waiting to be told. For updates or to send mail, check out www.markrosendorf.com/
Thanks for joining us, Mark, and we’ll be watching to see what you do next. And congratulations on your happy and romantic chapter.
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Welcome to Ruth Francisco, who is joining us today to talk about her latest book and her creative journey.
Title: Camp Sunshine
Author: Ruth Francisco
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
I tend to write novels that are a little controversial. I don’t intend to, but a question grabs hold of my mind—Do we have a right to say no to medical technology? What would it be like to be Jackie Kennedy? What would happen if you found out you were adopted as an adult? What would it be like to live with grizzly bears? Where is Islamic extremism taking us? What would it be like to live during WWII in America—and it won’t let go. I have to explore it, I have to write about it.I worked in the film industry for 15 years before selling my first novel “Confessions of a Deathmaiden” to Warner Books in 2003, followed by “Good Morning, Darkness,” which was selected by “Publishers’ Weekly” as one of the ten best mysteries of 2004, and “The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.” I now have nine novels, including the best-seller “Amsterdam 2012,” published as ebooks. Whenever I have a chance, I write a short story for “The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.” I currently live in Florida, U.S.A.
I read and loved the book about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Tell us about your newest book.
“Camp Sunshine” is based on the true story of Camp Gordon Johnston, a WWII amphibious training camp on Florida’s desolate Gulf coast. It is a tale about young men on the brink of war and a country on the brink of civil rights, a tale of soldiers and officers, daughters and mothers, death and redemption, and a man unyielding in his compassion and struggle for justice.
As the United States enters World War II, military commanders send their best officers to set up an amphibious training camp on the Gulf coast of Florida. Major Occam Goodwin anticipates challenges—swamps, snakes, alligators, hurricanes—and the daunting task of turning twenty thousand green recruits into warriors. But when his surveyors discover a murdered black family deep in the forest, he must dance delicately around military politics, and a race war that threatens the entire war effort.
Here, young recruits test themselves to the limit in love and combat; politicos and tycoons offer aid with one eye to profit; women patrol the coast on horseback, looking for German subs; a postmaster’s daughter, the only child on base, inspires thousands with her radio broadcasts; and a determined woman bravely holds together her family and the emotional soul of the camp. Amid tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the soldiers and their country hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to find his destiny.
I worked five years on this novel, doing research, interviews with WWII veterans, listening to 1940s blues, and spinning tales. There’s lots of great stuff about jook joints, Southern race relations, military politics, WWII color….and a mystery, of course.
What a fascinating journey! How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Since this book is based on fact, some of the characters are based on real people. The postmaster’s daughter is based on my interviews with Vivian Hess, who lived as a little girl at Camp Gordon Johnston. Yet, as I wrote about her, the character separated herself from the real person, becoming increasingly impish and inventive. I wanted Major Goodwin to be a man of absolute integrity, but as I wrote him, he took on depth, becoming a man of great sorrow and great compassion. Vivian’s mother was somewhat based on my own mother, but soon she became this incredibly strong woman who’d made great sacrifices, yet still yearned to be adventurous and free.
In my experience, you have a vision for your characters, but then, as the story unfolds, they become their own person. Some take on characteristics of friends and family. The imagination works from what it knows. It is a little odd. Like giving birth to children—you don’t really know how they’ll turn out. Inevitably, they turn out more interesting than you could possibly imagine.
I can relate to that….Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
This will make you laugh. I thought I should try my hand at comedy, some lighter fare, maybe boost my sales a bit. So I thought I’d write a spoof of James Bond—Jane Blond DD7. Well, I googled the title—turns out it’s a porno flick!!!
So, I don’t know what’s next. I originally envisioned “Camp Sunshine” as the first in a three-part series about the Florida Panhandle. I actually wrote and published Part 3 first, “Sunshine Highway,” about a corrupt sheriff in contemporary Florida. Now I have to write the middle volume about the “sixties.” It’s a stupid way to write a series, but that’s the way the stories came to me.
My readers of “Amsterdam 2012” also really want a sequel. I really want another trip to Europe. So perhaps that’s next.
I believe that the stories come to us in their own time. What is a typical writing day like for you? Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
I have a set schedule. I write from 7AM to 12 or 1PM. I write in my office, which overlooks a canal in the Apalachee Bay.
I do several months of research for a book, develop a story, and start writing, turning out a first draft in four to eight months. I set it aside for a while, then do extensive editing. Well, in this book, I got hijacked by the research. It was like I was transported to another time for a few years.
But apart from the research, I wanted to use an authentic period voice. So I read a lot of fiction from the era, which was loads of fun—authors long forgotten. Their fiction is most interesting from a sociological viewpoint, picking up the way people talked, their clothes, apartments, etc. And I listened to a lot of WWII era radio, G.I. Jill, Command Performance, all those great WWII shows.
Great ways to research for a book. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
It’s surprising how characters do have a mind of their own. And the more latitude you give them, the more original and unique your story becomes.
This book is definitely character driven—told from the voices of an officer, a soldier, a little girl, and the wife of the postmaster. However, there were some factual events—like the drowning of dozens of soldiers in a training incident—that I had to include in the plot. And there were other historical elements I wanted to include, like the Black Regiments, and the pre-civil rights movement Double V.
I outline a story as I go, with a general idea of plot points I have to hit. I let the characters tell me how they want to get there. And if they have a better idea than me about where the story should go, I listen to them.
I like the idea of the characters leading the way. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Some of my favorites are Philip Roth, Anita Brookner, and Patricia Highsmith, as well as Ruth Rendell, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King. I guess my tastes run to the dark side. Beyond being great storytellers, all of these writers have characters who yearn for something greater than themselves, who challenge standard ways of thinking and behaving. And they use language beautifully.
Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
You want my secrets? Just kidding. I’ve been incredibly supportive of writers, and have posted a guideline for self-promotion on Kboards. http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,42600.0.html
Even traditional publishers insist their writers do a lot of self-promotion. For my last traditionally published book, “The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,” my publisher asked me to hire a publicist, which would’ve cost around $20,000. I was astonished. So even if you have a big publisher, you have to do most of the self-promotion on your own.
Digital social media has made this easier. Twitter and Facebook. Start a blog. Do guest postings on other writers’ blogs. Find interest groups and pitch your book (e.g., if you have a book about dogs, pitching it to websites for dog lovers). Participate in various online writers groups and forums. Review other writers’ works. It’s very important to get reviews, and there are a lot of book review blogs out there. Do give aways. Blog tours.
Self promotion is extraordinarily time-consuming, time any writer would be rather writing. But if you do an hour a day, you can get a lot done. But do your writing first. Otherwise you risk getting sucked into the Internet.
I do enjoy the online world, and sometimes I get lost in it. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Since Roger Ebert died recently, I’ve been thinking how much he influenced me, which may seem strange because he was a film critic. But I remember listening as a child to his reviews, how he loved the story-telling aspect of film, how he explained the way technique enriched story telling. So naturally I wanted to write screenplays, which was my first love. Then I drifted into prose, where you have so much more control of the finished product. But even as I write prose, I see a movie in my head before I write. I think it makes my writing very visual.
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I have to admit, I love the lifestyle of being a writer. Setting your own hours. Lots of time alone. I worked many years in the film business, which is wildly hectic—everything is an emergency. I think writers are very privileged to live lives of contemplatives, a rare thing in our culture. I am very grateful for it.
Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I moved to the Florida Panhandle from Los Angeles five years ago. I was smitten by the unspoiled beauty of the place. Thousands of monarch butterflies flitted around my car as I drove down to Alligator Point. The next morning I woke to mullet jumping in the canal and screeching great herons. I looked out the window and saw snowy egrets and bald eagles. White squirrels jumping between branches of the pine trees. I went for a bike ride and saw bob cat, deer, and boar. I went kayaking and saw turtles, and dolphin, and dozens of different fish. I felt like a guest in a land ruled by animals.
I knew then I had to write about this place.
Settings for a story are so important. Visualizing is what I enjoy most when I’m reading. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Soon after I moved to Florida, I met a fisherman throwing a cast net into the water and asked him to show me how to do it. We got to talking. When he heard I was a writer, he told me about several dozen soldiers who lost their lives during a training exercise while at Camp Gordon Johnston in WWII, and how the tragedy was covered up.
So a few weeks later I visited the WWII museum in Carrabelle, Florida and started doing research and interviewing people. I got completely sucked into the research, spending hours in the museum reading old newspapers on microfiche. Everything fascinated me—especially the newspaper advertisements—from girdles to hair tonic.
I started interviewing locals. Everyone had something to add.
What are major themes or motifs in your work?
I always explore identity, trying to reconcile the physical and non-physical worlds. What is honor? Betrayal and sacrifice. My characters respond sensually to the world as I do, they question and doubt. They try to do the right thing, but don’t always manage it.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I’ve never joined a writer’s group. I bounce around ideas with one or two friends. When I finish a first draft, I give it to a few others. I think a group might take some of the loneliness out of writing. But there’s no way around it—writing is a solitary endeavor.
Where can we go to buy your book?
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I have a fun little cooking blog that I write for Mad Housewife Wine—little humorous essays with recipes attached.
and my author page is
Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/kayakruthie
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Join me in welcoming Colby Marshall to a chat today.
1. Colby, what can you tell us about your latest book, Chain of Command?
Chain of Command is a thriller about a reporter who discovers that the simultaneous assassinations of the president and vice president may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency.
2. Wow, that sounds exciting! Let’s segue into your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know:” How do you feel about that piece of advice?
Seeing as how I’ve written about everything from an assassination plot to a killer who sells babies to the black market, you could say I’m not the biggest subscriber to that theory. I’m more of the mind that you should write about things or stories that excite you or interest you. I love mystery and suspense, so those are the types of books and stories I tend to seek out. That’s why it only makes sense for me to write them. But while I don’t necessarily write about Navy SEAL operations or the mafia underground because it’s what I know, I do believe in doing my research to make sure that the details that go with what I’m writing sound like I’m writing about what I know.
3. Sounds like a lot goes into your creations. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
I have more preliminaries than I do process when I sit down. My preliminaries involve procrastinating, occasionally opening the story on my laptop to get my brain started on thinking about the story. Snacks are a must, as is the right white noise in the background, usually in the form of some TV show or movie. In fact, not being able to find a movie or show to play in the background that fits my current mood has stalled me when writing on more than one occasion. More than I’d like to admit, in fact!
4. I like to set the mood for my writing, too. Now let’s move on to the actual finished product and how changes in the industry have affected writers as well as readers. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I haven’t bought an e-reader, though I do have one downloaded onto my laptop for certain e-books. Overall, though, I read most everything I can in print format. I have a love/hate relationship with e-publishing. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunities it has given for more folks to publish their work and also for readers to have more convenience and choice when it comes to book purchasing. The other part of me worries that extremely low-priced or free e-books create a misperception about the value of books as a whole. That said, I’m willing to enjoy the phenomenon for what it is and watch it play out, always hoping that no matter what, people will always remember that a good book is worth as much out of pocket as a good meal, a good movie, or at least a good cup of joe.
5. One thing hasn’t changed in writing. The characters are still a big part of each story. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Generally my characters aren’t based on people I know, though occasionally I will name a character after a friend for fun. As far as the characters coming to me, that’s exactly it in some cases: certain characters just appear in my head fully formed as though they are old friends I’ve known all my life. Main characters in my stories tend to be that way. They just “are.” In the cases of characters that don’t show up like that but that I find the need to create during the course of the story, however, I tend to ask questions about them. What is this character’s purpose in the story? What kinds of traits can fill that need?
6. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
That’s an interesting question, since I actually don’t believe in writer’s block. Not in the sense in which most people think of it, anyway. I think there are always times when folks will be more creative than others, but for me, the trick is to sitting down and writing even when I’m not in one of those creative spurts. Inch out the writing sentence by sentence—heck, sometimes word by word. Inspiration may be how a story begins, but tenacity is how one ends. My theory is to write anything while you feel “blocked up,” then let editing take care of anything that might be a train wreck later. Usually, getting myself to start typing is half the battle. If I convince myself to sit down and write for just ten minutes, I typically end up looking up, finding out thirty minutes have passed, and am pleasantly surprised.
7. You’re definitely right about how important discipline is in this process. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
The Trade is the second book in the McKenzie McClendon thriller series, and it will be coming out this June. It’s about a brilliant and ruthless surgeon who is providing infants for the black market baby trade. When McKenzie’s ex informs her he thinks his wife and son may have been victims of the Cradle Robber, she launches a frantic search to find the killer and her ex’s son. I’m also working on a new series that follows Dr. Jenna Ramey, a forensic psychiatrist with grapheme-color synesthesia—a condition that causes her to associate letters, numbers, days of the week, people, and feelings with the experiences of colors. She uses this rare condition to solve crimes. The first of this series, Colorblind, is out on submission to editors with my agent, and I’m currently writing the sequel to Colorblind called Paint by Number.
8. Another exciting premise! Soon you’ll be promoting it, if not already; since 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 do a little bit of everything, from sending out personal e-mails to friends and family asking them to read and recommend the book to interviews like this one on blogs. I can say without a doubt though that one of the biggest things I do promotionally is to keep up with my presence on social media like Facebook and Twitter, and not just to shout, “Buy my book!” every ten seconds. I’ve found that folks that find an author on social media sites have usually already been introduced to the author, so they don’t need you constantly talking about your book. They come to your social media pages because they want to get to know you. That’s why it’s important to me to interact with readers on social media and get to know them, too. As an author, knowing your audience is so important for so many reasons, but one of those is the more you know your audience, the more you can learn what they enjoy and how to get your work out to more people like them.
9. I agree that we have to participate in the process of connecting with our readers. When we are at home, though, we also respond to our surroundings. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in the Deep South, where the tea is sweeter than a basket of Labrador puppies and in the summer you could bake bread in your garage. I live in a full house—I have so many cats that if I was a little older, I could legitimately claim the “crazy cat lady” title.
10. Ha-ha….I can definitely taste that tea just from your description. And speaking of the South, Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
Ha! I know so many of them, but funnily enough, having lived here my whole life, I tend to think I was meant to be born in the North, because I don’t use many of them. One of the few that brings up memories from my childhood with my grandmother though is, “Don’t have a conniption!” (For those of y’all who don’t live ‘round these parts, that is, “Do not have a fit of violent emotion such as anger or panic.” *wink*)
11. Even living in California, I’ve heard some of these expressions. My grandmother used to say the same thing! Our families do inspire and inform us, don’t they? Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
I get ideas from lots of different places. Sometimes, an event in the news might sparks a “what if” thought in my brain, other times I might be deep in thought about some personal question I have about life or death and decide to explore it in a story.
12. Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)
To be honest, some of the way the classics formed who I am as a writer was in that I didn’t like them very much! I loved stories that were fast-paced and action-packed, tales that kept me on the edge of my chair flipping pages because I couldn’t stand to not know what happened next. Many of the books considered classic today that were required reading in school simply weren’t my cup of tea, because I’m not a very patient person. I like for things to happen on the page I’m reading, not twenty down the line. I believe in the value of the classics, but for me, that’s why different genres and styles exist: what “does it” for one person might not for the next.
Thank you for chatting with us today, Colby, and best wishes on your books! I hope you’ll stop in from time to time and visit with us.
Here are some links:
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Today I’d like to welcome our guest, Alan S. Blood.
—Tell us about your latest book : ‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’
Originally published in the UK (1997) the book has been republished in the USA by GMTA Publishing (August 2012) under the ‘MYTHOS PRESS’ Imprint and classified as ‘Fantasy Novella’
‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’ BLURB Uncle Toby had said that there would be castles to explore, with ghosts and things. This helps to cheer up the glum twelve-year old Lovell twins, Tom and Mary, leaving their schools and loving parents to be evacuated to wild Northumbria during World War II. Then the adventure begins. They live with their Aunt Victoria and Uncle Leslie, meet the loveable ‘Mrs. M’, a strange dog called ‘Scamp’ and, worst, the terrible private tutor, Miss Urquart, from whom they run away to find a mysterious castle seen through an old telescope. Now they are drawn into bizarre supernatural events of a time-warp between the war itself and ancient warfare. They encounter dark forces, as the story twists and turns, and are even rescued by the Royal Navy. Yet, this is only the beginning of more unexpected tragedies before the twins begin to escape from it all.–
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
At the moment, I am writing a massive Historical novel set in 17th Britain about one of the greatest stories in English History which has never been fictionalized. Originally written as a Film Screenplay, I am converting it to a full-blown book – the details of which I am Keeping ‘under wraps’ until nearer the time when it will be published in the USA by my Publishers : GMTA Publishing.
–-How long have you been writing?
I was told I was very good at writing by an English Teacher and first started writing stories/articles for my own school newspaper (aged 14/15). I continued the writing of such throughout my life. I am sixty seven and and a half years old and have had an amazing, highly stimulating and extremely varied life – which apart from my 25 year Teaching Career, has included many diverse jobs (not in chronological order) – ranging from builder’s/farm labourer to postman to office work – including Advertising/PR – to being PA to a Naval Commander ! I was an industrial Journalist and edited the ‘House Magazine’ of an electronics’ company involved in the early US ‘Gemini’ Space Programme. Exciting stuff ! At University, I edited my College (Tabloid) newspaper ‘Tombull’. Teaching highlights include an ‘Exchange Programme’ (1983) in American Schools and organizing a 2 day Industry/Education Conference (following a ‘post-graduate’ course at Cambridge University). I was amongst the first Teachers to organise ‘Work Experience’ for students on a massive scale and addressed a London Conference on this.
–-Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I am very fortunate to live in a rambling Victorian (1873) house in a beautiful Welsh village by the famous River Severn below the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. It is modest place with deep traditions and a sense of ancient belonging, where relationships amongst people and respect for others is still of paramount importance. I am a keen wildlife photographer and there is an abundance of mammals and birds from badgers and foxes to red kites and buzzards. Otters live along the river but it is rare to see them !
–Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
My huge range of experiences has provided a reservoir of real places, people, situations and ideas that I still draw upon to this day.
I am of the opinion that a writer is always at work and, apart from direct ‘contact experiences’ I make observations and take note of many things as I walk the passage of life. It could be the way in which a man sits looking apprehensively on train or how a lady nervously (or joyously) sips tea in a café – all manner of little things unnoticed by most people – how they are dressed, for example, in relation to age, surroundings, time of year – trivial stuff to most – but the source, maybe, of a character (major or minor) in a future novel, short story or even a poem !
Widely travelling around the world has furnished me with unlimited (visual imagery) ‘recall’ of myriads of locations, events and the associated personnel from watching a crowd enjoying the spectacular, Hollywood, ‘Disneyland Parade’ to a lone Chilean guitarist serenading travellers on a Santiago funicular or the visible fear of people climbing some of the quite formidable two foot high steps on the Great Wall of China. Whilst teaching in America I was fortunate enough to meet the Astronaut Rick Hauk and shaking hands with a man who has been ‘out there’ is truly memorable !
My village in Wales is also a constant source of inspiration and I have a wonderful view of the hills from the window of my study where I write.
—When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
This is a question which I will attempt to answer with an interesting analogy. For a while, during a ‘subsidiary’ Art Course at University, I became hooked on ‘Sculpture’ and took myself to the Art Block where the opportunity and facilities enabled me to indulge in actually doing it.
I soon realized that what I had been told in Art lectures was actually true in that, with ‘sculpting’, the ‘end product’ is determined by a ‘battle’ between man and stone – in which neither is actually in control !
I feel that, when writing a novel, in particular, the same applies as the characters gain a ‘reality’ of their own in relation to the complex interaction between themselves, the Author and each other in the burgeoning (sometimes constantly changing) situations as the story develops – very often with fresh dimensions that were not originally envisaged ! As with the sculpting example, the result is often a ‘compromise’ in a kind of ‘battle’ between the Author (creator) and those that are created – where neither is in total ‘control’ – but the ‘end product’ is all the more exciting as a result ! Phillip Pullman has described this as going on an ‘adventure’ which makes the ‘unpredictability’ of writing so much more enjoyable for the Author – and, hopefully, in due course, for the readers !
—What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Writing for me has been a compulsion since adolescence. It is not ‘optional’ but something I continually have to do ! Given, therefore, that I seem to have no choice in the matter, the utmost satisfaction from becoming published is the sense of achievement by knowing that, potentially, innumerable people (sometimes worldwide) will read and hopefully enjoy my work.
The greatest pleasure I ever had was when my daughter (who was a ‘librarian’ at her school) told me that she had received a copy of my first novel into the Library for ‘classifying’ and was able to proudly show it to all of her friends. I felt ten feet tall, that day !
—How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Apart from general observations of people (previously referred to) many of my characters can be directly or indirectly based upon real persons I have known – or, in some cases a character might be an amalgam of a few people’s ‘characteristics’ combined into one !
–Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
Yes I do have an e-reader. I was opposed to the idea at first but when my novel ‘CRY OF THE MACHI…’ was also produced as an ebook I needed to purchase a ‘Kindle’. I find it invaluable for travelling, holidaying and reading in bed – whereby turning to pages of printed books, especially ‘large’ ones can (permit the ‘pun’) be a ‘nightmare’ ! I have previously split heavy books open and, therefore, the e-reader makes this so much easier – especially if you wish to turn pages back to reread them.
–-How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I am essentially a writer of fiction with the paranormal/supernatural genre being present in most of my work which ranges from short ‘ghost’ stories to full length novels. My novel ‘CRY OF THE MACHI A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ crosses two genres as a ‘Supernatural Crime Thriller’. It is described below :
‘Cry of the Machi A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ by Alan S. BloodPublished by THE BOOK GUILDLike all English villages, the quiet and charming Thorpe Amberley in the heart of the Suffolk countryside has its secrets, its mysteries and its legends. It also has its traditions, such as the Tamberley Morris Men, a dysfunctional band of ‘blow-ins’, mainly professionals, who rehearse every Thursday and drink in the local pub. Nothing much has served to disturb the tranquillity of Thorpe Amberley for centuries. Until now. A stunningly beautiful American woman comes to the village to teach at a nearby school, and her arrival coincides with the resurrection of deadly seeds of jealousy, evil and murder. When the village is rocked by a series of gruesome and apparently ritualistic killings, it soon becomes clear that the local police are up against dark forces which they are wholly unequipped to deal with. Unlikely help comes from the shamanistic connection with a Patagonian ‘Machi’ through the Morris Men’s ‘Squire’ and the unexpected assistance of an ex-NYPD policeman. A hunt for not one, but two serial killers, is on, and Thorpe Amberley will never be the same again.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I am a founder member of a small, democratically run Mid-Wales writers’ group that meets sporadically when we feel the need – contacting each other beforehand by email/phone. We take it in turns to get together in each other’s houses – one of which is an Elizabethan mansion !
The group is both mutually supportive and intimate where we talk about issues concerning writing and becoming published et cetera. In this, we also consider aspects/excerpts of everybody’s current work – which I have found extremely useful towards publishing my novels.
As well as myself and other Authors, the group includes two very successful poets.
HERE ARE LINKS TO MY SOCIAL NET WORKS ET AL :
I am also linked to the online literary magazine ‘Readers’ Shadow’
ALAN S. BLOOD
Thanks for joining us today, Alan, and best wishes for continued success in your writing.