Author Wednesday – Andrew Lennon

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Andrew Lennon whose novel, A Life To Waste, follows the life of a middle-aged man named Dave. A tragic accident when he was younger caused him to give up on life. Now he spends his days drinking and mooching off his mother. One night his world is turned upside down when his mother is taken away. Dave tried to track down this “thing” and embarks on a horrifying and gruesome adventure.5103I9SsH+L__SY346_

Andrew, I’m so glad you could visit my blog today. Your novel sounds intriguing as well as frightening. I’m always interested in how authors find their voice. Do you remember when you discovered your voice as a writer?

I have always enjoyed writing stories, and I used to write a lot when I was younger. I stopped for a while when I reached my late teens. Not long ago I gave up drinking and found I had so much more free time on my hands. I began to read a lot more, and then thought I would start writing again. I was shocked at how easily the words spilled onto the pages. I didn’t have to stop to think about what I should write next because it all just seemed to come naturally. So now I try to do it as often as possible; it’s fun for me.

Congratulations on finding that voice again and on your new sobriety. Who has most influenced your writing and why?

My biggest influence has to be Stephen King. I think anyone who writes horror would probably agree that he is the best out there and any author should aspire to be that good. Another very big influence is Ryan C Thomas. It was while reading his book The Summer I Died that I decided to give it a go myself. I even sent him messages asking advice, and he was kind enough to respond which gave me a lot of motivation.

That’s wonderful that he replied to your inquiry. I’m sure that gave you a good amount of motivation to begin your book. Good for you and for Ryan C. Thomas. What’s going on in your writing life now? 

I have a few things going on right now. I have  written a few short stories which at some point I hope will go into anthologies. I also have another book which I’m a couple of chapters into.

Do you have a favorite character that you created?

My favorite character is probably Trevor in A Life To Waste. He only plays a small role, but he reminds me a lot of an old friend so I have a great feeling of nostalgia when reading about him.

What’s the best thing said about your writing by a reviewer?

One review said that I was “the Lowry of the written word.” I know that Lowry is made famous for making the simple, quite beautiful so I took this as a huge compliment!

That is a great compliment. Since another writer gave you the motivation to begin writing, what advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

The same advice I was given when I received mine. You can’t please everyone because people have different tastes, so it is impossible for everyone to enjoy your work. If you are fortunate enough that the reviewer has highlighted what it is they didn’t enjoy then take those points on board and try to improve on that in your next project.

That’s very good advice, and I agree. It’s important to learn from reviews if they’re constructive. One of the most difficult things for writers is crystallizing the topic of their book into one succinct sentence. What’s your one sentence pitch for A Life To Waste?

Dave has wasted his life away, now he has to fight an unknown horror to try and win it back.

How did you choose the title? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

No, the title was originally Out of Time but it got changed along the way. A Life To Waste seems more fitting for the main character.

Based on the short description of the book, A Life to Waste seems to be a better suited title. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published product?

In total it was probably about four months. I tried to write for an hour each night without fail so it all came together quite quickly.

That is amazing. Is the book traditionally or self-published?

It’s self published. It is so quick and easy to get your work out to the world right now I don’t see why not.

What is the message conveyed in your book?

Appreciate what you have because one day it could all be taken away from you.

What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

That they couldn’t stop reading it and would recommend it to friends.

Explain how this book was conceived in your imagination.

I heard neighbours fighting one night. They are always fighting and screaming. I thought, one day they’ll be getting killed and everyone will ignore them.

Who is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

The antagonist is this book is a bit of a mystery character. You don’t learn an awful lot about him. Just that he is there and should be feared. I did quite enjoy creating him yes.

Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

OK, read the book and you’ll understand, but when the ice cream van turns up. I can’t say more than that, sorry.

That’s a good teaser. What else do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s my first book so it is a relatively easy read. I think it’s a scary read and most people would enjoy it. It also sends quite a psychological message about how easy it is to waste your life away. This story goes a fair bit deeper than just horror.

If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose?

Stephen King and Ryan C Thomas, my two biggest influences. It would be awesome!

Is there one book or author with whom you identify or hold up as your standard-bearer?

Again, Stephen King. Probably The Shining being my favorite book of his.

Do you have any particular rituals or good luck charms in your writing process?

Does eating chocolate count? If it does then that is my writing ritual.

Chocolate always counts. If listen to music while you’re writing, what is it?

Usually quite heavy, I usually just put Kerrang on in the background.

Where do you write?

In bed mainly.

That’s where I like to write sometimes, too. How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

They all are very supportive and enjoy my writing.

What do you do during your down time?

I read a lot and I spend a lot of time with my family.

What book are you reading right now?

Poe’s Children – A Horror Anthology put together by Peter Straub.

Do you set your books in the place you live?

No, I live in England. I usually imagine my writings in a suburban Amercian neighbourhood. I don’t know why, just seems to happen.

If a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you?

Hmmm, I’d like to be hopeful and say someone like Brad Pitt, but  I don’t know, maybe a not-so-funny Adam Sandler?

Andrew, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you today. I’m so glad you stopped by for a visit.

author picAbout Andrew Lennon: Andrew Lennon was born in Maghull, Merseyside, in 1984. He works for his father’s company based in Warrington. Having always enjoyed writing, Andrew is now trying to get his stories out to the public. With influences such as Ryan C Thomas, Stephen King, and Jack Ketchum. A Life To Waste is Andrew’s first novella. Andrew enjoys reading, camping, watching TV, and spending time with his wife Hazel and their children.

 

 

Links:

UK site for A Life to Waste

 USA site for A Life to Waste

Facebook page

The Writers Room

 

Book Review Friday – Two Guys with Pen in the Sunshine State

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Disclosure: As I prepared to write a review on two of my favorite Florida authors, I realized something about the way I write reviews. I’m much tougher on the bestselling authors than I am on Indie Authors. Therefore, I’m filing this disclosure to let you know I am biased and guilty of conflict of interest as an Indie Author and reader. I am tougher on the traditional, popular, and talented authors because those big guys make a substantial living from book sales and peripherals; they have assistants and media relation gurus; they have editors, agents, and toenail clippers. So beware that I’m about to review two of my favorite—and successful—authors who happen to write wacky Florida fiction, and I’m going to be tough on them because with all the help they receive to write and sell their books, there’s very little allowance for error.Hiassen-Dorsey

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen and Hurricane Punch by Tim Dorsey both contain elements close to my own writing preferences, except I’m not as wild as these two. I met Hiassen twice and both times, he spoke about the outrageous characters and occurrences found in his novels. He said he simply reads the newspaper and sometimes doesn’t go as far as the real life loonies living in the Sunshine State. He received his education on all things crazy in Florida through his job as a reporter—and now columnist—for the Miami Herald. He’s funny in person and on the page. Bad Monkey is his latest offering and it’s full of Hiassen characters and demented plot twists as expected. Perhaps it’s a bit too expected by now. He’s written eight or so novels in this same vein, and I’ve read them all. He’s on the verge of becoming the dreaded formula writer. Despite witty and surprising plot convolutions, I found his new book predictable and slightly disappointing. As far as I’m concerned, the book could have ended 100 pages earlier than it did.

Hiassen breaks one of the rules I adhere to in both my writing and editing for other writers:  Don’t use dialect unless you’re very, very good at it. And despite Hiassen’s bevy of helpers, he just doesn’t pull off the Bahamian accent for several of his characters. To the end of the novel, I still struggled to figure out what the island folk were saying.

Here’s an example: “Yah, I hoyt ‘im putty bod but he ain’t dead. I saw ‘im utter night.”

Now here’s my problem. I had to stop and back up my reading to interpret what this actually said. “Yeah, I hurt him pretty bad but he ain’t dead. I saw him other night,” works just as well for me. It captures tone and dialect through word choice and placement without confusing the reader. As a writer and a reader, I value that simple concept the most.

Other than a few other areas of editorial weakness, the novel is pure Hiassen with an arm caught on a chartered fishing boat off the Florida Keys, a spooky medicine woman in the Bahamas, and a demented monkey who once appeared in a movie with Johnny Depp until he couldn’t keep his hands off his genitals. But as one of his greatest fans, I implore Mr. Hiassen to perhaps step out of his lovely Keys home and breathe in the fresh salt air and infuse his brain and fingers with something that stretches his very creative juices. I’d love to read one of his books without expecting and predicting the most demented of plot twists and turns.

Tim Dorsey is another reporter turned novelist, although Dorsey wrote for the Tampa Tribune on the other side of the side of the state. On the back cover of Hurricane Punch, which I just read, there’s a quote from the Boston Globe, “Tim Dorsey’s zany novels are invariable compared with Carl Hiaasen’s.” That’s true they are, but there’s a slight difference. Dorsey’s main character s often are murderous heroes, which makes about as much sense as George Zimmerman winning citizen of the year.

It had been years since I’d read a Dorsey novel because I found his first two books were far too similar. However, I wanted to introduce my husband to two of my favorite Florida writers so I bought three of Dorsey’s books I haven’t read yet and two of Hiassen’s. Hurricane Punch was the first one I read. At first, I wondered why I started reading Dorsey again. I found the plot confusing, and it jumped around quite a bit. But then something hooked me about the book. Perhaps the hurricane season Dorsey creates in this novel intrigued me since my latest work contains an out-of-control hurricane season as well. I also recognized the places he uses in the setting from Tampa to Sarasota to the Everglades and then on up to St. Augustine.

However, with both Hiassen and Dorsey, it’s their despicable and gross main characters who inevitably capture my attention as well as my heart. As unlikely as it seems, I adore Dorsey’s Serge whose murderous ways contain an element of morality—albeit a schizophrenic one—as Serge does what we all have imagined at some point. He makes the jackasses of the world pay, and he helps the victims. Hiassen’s Yancy harasses people in not so kind ways, but always his victims deserve the predicaments created by the former cop turned restaurant roach guard.

Despite some flaws in dialogue choices, plot contrivances, and point of view, both novels made me laugh and created a fan in my husband who’s currently reading his second Dorsey novel. Then he’ll start Bad Monkey. I’ll make a Floridian out of him yet.  alligator

A Lethal Legacy Interview

P.C. Zick: “A Lethal Legacy” (via http://www.christophfischerbooks.com)

“A Lethal Legacy” by P.C.Zick was a real surprise-find and treat for me. Knowing this superb author from her award nominated environmental novel “Trails in the Sand” I was not prepared for a psychological thriller so incredibly well written…

Continue reading

Author Wednesday – Cate Beauman

typewriterWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Cate Beauman, author of The Bodyguards of L.A. County series. She’s published four books in the series and the fifth will soon be available.All-Book-Covers-Side-by-Side

Welcome to Author Wednesday, Cate. I’m very happy to introduce you and your series today. I love to hear from fellow authors about the moment they first realized they were writers/authors. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

Honestly, I still have a hard time calling myself an “author.” The past year of my life has been incredibly surreal. When I released Morgan’s Hunter, Falling For Sarah, and Hailey’s Truth last October, I had no idea the books would go bestseller, especially not as quickly as they did. When Forever Alexa did the same in May, I was ecstatic. I often read of people’s dreams coming true, but you always think that will happen to someone else. I never planned on being a writer—and a successful one at that. I’m thrilled and blessed that I get to wake up and do what I love every day.

Congratulations on a very quick rise to success. Is there someone who’s influenced or inspired your writing? 

Hands-down, Nora Roberts. I want to be Nora when I grow up! The woman’s a machine! She’s written more than two hundred amazingly entertaining novels. I’ve read just about every one. Ms. Roberts manages to create compelling characters you can’t help but fall in love with while she immerses her readers in a great story.  If I entertain my readers even half as much as she’s entertained me over the years, I’ll be a very happy lady!

Ms. Roberts’ work ethic is also inspiring. She’s the epitome of ‘how bad do you want it?’ Her dedication to the craft keeps me going when I’m certain I can’t possibly type one more word.

Tell us a little bit about your next release.

I’m currently getting ready for the November 3 launch of Waiting for Wren, the fifth novel in The Bodyguards of L.A. County series. I’ve also started writing the sixth book, Justice For Abby, which will be available in spring 2014.

Since you’re writing a series, I assume all of the books have a common thread. Is that true?

The Bodyguards of L.A. County series is about the close protection agents of Ethan Cooke Security. Each novel chronicles a different guard and the woman he meets along the way. Technically, the books can be read as standalones, but most fans enjoy reading them in order since past characters show up in future stories.

Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

I’m a Romantic Suspense girl all the way.  I love creating complex plots that weave love and danger together.  I think the romance in a story is heightened considerably when your characters have so much more to lose. I can’t imagine writing any other genre.

What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Oh, the bad review. Unfortunately negative reviews are inevitable. Not everyone is going to like our work. Some readers will love the stories and characters we create, and others will hate them. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Honestly, I choose not to read my reviews—positive or negative. I don’t feel as though reviews are written as a personal message to me but as someone’s guide to helping others choose a quality book to read. I think the path to peace lies in knowing you’ve given each story everything you have. If that’s the case, then it’s easier to shrug your shoulders and move on to writing of the next great adventure.

You’re very wise. It’s so very true that reviews are subjective and are not personal laurels or attacks. Are your books traditionally or self-published?

I’m proud to say I’m an Indie Author. I love self-publishing. I’ve truly never been interested in going the traditional route. After doing lots of research, I knew self-publishing was right for me. I like that I set my own schedule, my own word counts, deadlines, and promotions. I work with a great editor, cover artist, and formatter. My business manager does an excellent job of helping me keep everything together. I truly love what I do and wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

One last question: Do you listen to music while you’re writing?

I can’t imagine NOT listening to music while I write. I’m a huge fan of Pandora and YouTube. I enjoy all kinds of music—Top 40, classical, oldies. Usually my selections depend on my mood and where my characters are in their stories.

Cate, it’s been a pleasure to host you today, and I hope you’ll come back to promote your new books.

Cate profile picAbout Cate Beauman from Cate Beauman: I currently live in Tennessee with my husband, two boys, and our St. Bernard, Bear. I recently resigned from my day job to concentrate on this thing I refer to as ‘My Dream Come True’ career! I’m a pretty lucky girl; one day I woke up and my entire life changed. I saw the light, so to speak, and decided I was going to be a writer. Now, two years later, I’m working on the fourth novel in my best-selling romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards Of L.A. County.

Links to Cate and her books:

Amazon page with links to all books

Website: www.catebeauman.com

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/CateBeauman

Goodreads:  www.goodreads.com/catebeauman

Writer’s Write, and Then They Write Again

crazy author

writer writing

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Here I am with four books published on Kindle and in paperback through Createspace. I started this journey of Indie Author with the publication of Live from the Road in May 2012. It’s been sixteen months, and I’ve learned and suffered and fretted. I’ve also enjoyed being in control of my work. I still don’t have a formula for success, but I keep plodding along.

At the prodding of another fellow author and blogger, I decided it was time to check the figures on my books. All four books are enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program, which means every ninety days I’m given five days to offer one of the books for free. I decide what days and can split them up into different free days. The point of giving away the book is to get it into the hands of as many folks as possible, hoping for reviews and residual sales after the free event. The number of reviews on Amazon affects the sales or so the experts say. Also, with KDP Select, readers can “borrow” the book on their Kindle. Authors receive a percent of the KOLL fund for these borrowed books. The amount varies month to month. For instance, in June, five of my books were borrowed, and I received a payment of $11.19, in addition to my royalty for sold books.

I do know sales have dropped since last summer. I’m disappointed in my sales record for Trails in the Sand, my latest release. I’m pleasantly surprised with the success of Live from the Road, a book I published simply to test the Indie Author waters.

Embarking on the Indie route requires an outlay of money for editing services (an absolute must) and cover design (another must unless you’re a trained graphic designer). Fortunately, I have a background in formatting so I did my own work there, but some folks may have to pay for that service as well. I’ve kept my advertising budget low. The biggest expenditure I made was for a book tour ($120, plus a giveaway valued at $50) for Trails in the Sand, and it was a bust as far as sales. I might have picked up a few blog followers as a result, but there was no residual effect for book sales. Next time, I’ll organize the tour myself and find blogs better suited for my platform. I’ve paid $5 and $10 here and there for advertising my free days, and I believe that works well. One time I paid out $80 for advertising after the free days on the advice of one of the biggest Indie Author support groups, and I didn’t see any benefit in networking or sales.

For my one nonfiction book on Kindle, From Seed to Table, I didn’t pay for editing, but I did have proofreaders on the project. I paid for a cover, and I haven’t converted it to paperback, and probably won’t because it contains so many images.

Here’s the breakdown of estimated cost to produce and advertise each book, along with sales, borrowed, and free “sale” figures:

FinalWebSizeLive from the Road (May 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $530

Sold – 430

Borrowed – 53

Free – 26,009

Politics Florida-styleTortoise Stew – (July 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $130 (reprint)

Sold – 28

Borrowed – 1

Free – 677

3-D1webTrails in the Sand (December 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $1,030

Sold – 46

Borrowed – 0

Free – 3,499

S2T-5From Seed to Table (May 2013 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $150

Sold – 43

Borrowed – 7

Free – 10,204

I’m still in the hole for three of the books, but Live from the Road has paid for itself and covered the cost of some of the other books as well. I’m getting reviews for all of the books, except Tortoise Stew (one did come in last week after the free days, so hopefully reviews will increase). In the beginning, I chased down reviewers for Live, but then became disillusioned with giving away books and never seeing a review in return. I’m up to forty-one reviews for that book – they keep coming in steadily even sixteen months after the book’s publication. So far, Trails in the Sand has garnered eighteen reviews. I hope the free days from this month will result in more.

I do know having the books available for sale is better than having them languish in a file cabinet. I’m constantly trying new things, but I don’t have any magical formula for you.

Right now, writing and selling books is my job. It’s a great luxury to have this time, but it’s not supporting anything quite yet.

I remain optimistic as I keep writing. It’s the best advice I can give anyone. When I get a bad or good review, I get back to writing. When I do get discouraged, I write. Usually by the end of the day, the cloud dissipates, and I’m back on the keyboard hacking happily away.

I’m definitely a writer in my heart, body, mind, and soul; therefore, I write.

I’d love to hear about your experiences or answer any questions you might have. It’s a whole new world out there for authors, and I’m content for now to be exploring the Indie Author gig.

Author Wednesday – Jae Dansie

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m delighted to host a guest post from Jae Dansie who writes one of my favorite blogs, Lit and Scribbles with Jae. Jae writes helpful posts about the writing process, and she always adds an element of whimsy to my morning blog reads. She’s also the artist of the only caricature (that I’m aware of) of myself as writer. One of the most surprising things about writing a blog has been the wealth of colleagues I’ve met and now call friend. Jae falls into that category. I hope you enjoy her post today on editing. She’s spot on with her advice.

Editing Smackdown

By Jae Dansie

A special thanks to P.C. for inviting me to post on Author Wednesday. She’s a person I always enjoy hearing from because she has much wisdom and experience to share when it comes to this writing business.

Editing. Is it a word you dread or embrace?

I thought editing meant finding typos and grammar errors. I didn’t realize that real editing and revising was about to smack me down, and smack me hard.

I’m making this sound a lot worse than it actually is — and yet at the same time, I’m not. Thick skin should be a requirement for a serious writer, but along with that, the humility to accept that gold liquid doesn’t drip out of our pens on the first draft.

SMACK #1

I got minor feedback from friends, worked hard on making my novel the best it could be, and queried it out. I received one or two partial requests, but in the end always rejection. I feared the idea of self-publishing, because I always thought traditional would be my path. But I had a few friends who self-published and had reasonable success. Maybe it was time to try that route.

I learned a coworker of mine did editing professionally and (thankfully) decided that if I was going to self-publish I should certainly put my novel through a professional edit. She definitely put me through the ringer, but I was hungry for improvement. Whatever it took to have the best story possible, I was determined to do it.

I learned a ton! I consider it one of the best experiences of my writing life.

When she and I were getting close to the end of my novel (at this point it was about 77,000 words) I made plans to attend the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC. I intended to give traditional publishing one more go and was especially eager to have a chance to interact with NY agents.

This brings me to…

SMACK #2

New York City. Bustling, beautiful, and big. A fantastic place to hold a conference! I felt confident, knowing I’d had my book edited, and I’d worked hard on polishing it. I was ready to dominate this conference. Dominate, I tell you!

Only I didn’t.

If you ever need an ego smackdown, go talk to NY agents about your book. They aren’t purposefully mean, just profusely honest. It hurt. I had to go into the ladies’ room immediately after the session to let tears fall I had desperately held in. I attended a couple more one-on-one sessions that pointed out the same mistakes. The bottom line: I wasn’t ready for publication, and I knew it.

I learned a lot from the conference. I took home many gold nuggets of wisdom. The problem was I still thought I was in control of my timeline. I wanted to be published. Yesterday, please! But my story just wasn’t ready. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with that. I played video games like crazy, leaving my novel locked in a drawer until I was ready.

SMACK #3

I know, you were hoping I only had two major smacks to endure. Remember what I said about thick skin and humility? The first two smacks gave me humility and I came to appreciate the feedback I received.

I spent the whole summer after the conference rewriting my novel. It got a serious makeover, with major changes in plot, character, and structure. It was still the story I wrote, and yet not. But it had evolved to something greater and it made all that pain from NYC worth it.

I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars. The “winner” would be mentored by either a published author or industry professional. The mentor would read the whole thing, give feedback, and work to help the entrant polish a pitch and the first 250 words for participating agents. Elation! I got selected!

Then came the feedback. Encouraging, but very thorough. My mentor is a particularly fantastic editor. She found weaknesses I’d been blind to and once I’d carefully considered her words, I realized I had a slightly ominous task before me. I had a month to make revisions before the contest deadline.

Did I get any agent requests? I did. A full. Ultimately she passed, but I still came home a winner. I had a much stronger story than I had both before the NYC conference and after. Success!

THE SMACK CONTINUES

A more naive version of me would love to tell you that you’ll outgrow this pesky need for editing. That at some point you won’t have to edit anymore, because your skill will be so great. But the more seasoned me knows that isn’t true — at least it shouldn’t be, not if you’re fully committed to your craft.

I’m currently in the midst of more revisions. I had a good friend critique my whole book and guess what? She found more weaknesses. But I’m not discouraged. In fact, I think this time will be the version ready for publication.

Instead of fearing feedback and change, I embrace it. I enjoy the editing process. I’ve enjoyed seeing what the story has become and how much stronger it now is. I could no more separate it from the writing process than I could cut all sleep from my life. It is necessary and the sooner I learned to embrace it, the happier my writing life became.

Embrace the editing. Do it for your readers, but above all, do it because your story deserves to be the best it can possibly be. After all, it chose you to tell it. Tell it well.

And that’s why I love Jae Dansie so much. She’s honest, and she understands what it takes to be an author. I can’t wait to see her final work  after all the smackdowns. Thank you, Jae, for sharing your experience with us today.

Jae

About Jae Dansie: Jae is a graphic designer, doodler, and writer.  Jae wrote her first novel when she was 14 and has probably written a dozen or so in between which she calls “practice.”  She’s in a love/hate relationship with her current novel SHADE but knows it’ll all be worth it in the end.  When Jae isn’t doodling (she calls it scribbling) and obsessing over her WIP, she likes to karaoke, travel, and tantalize her tastebuds with tasty new treats.  You can find Jae on her blog at Lit and Scribbles, or out patrolling the streets for truth, justice and the American way.

Author Wednesday – David Lawlor

typewriterWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I interview David Lawlor, the author of two historical novels published as eBooks. Tan is set during the Irish War of Independence, and its sequel, The Golden Grave,  is set in the old battlefields of WWI.

RESIZED TANTHE GOLDEN GRAVE

Welcome to Author Wednesday, David. I love something I read about the writer and scientist Rachel Carson (Silent Spring). She said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.

When I started out as a journalist I heard the story of how the Choctaw Indians in Oklahoma had raised money for the Irish famine relief fund in the 1840s. Their generosity always stayed with me, and I knew that someday I would write about that story. It took ten years or so before I got round to it, but that became my first book.

That’s a subject that clearly chose you. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

My first published book, Tan, told the story of Liam Mannion, an Irishman who served as a Black and Tan during the Irish War of Independence. The Tans were ex-WWI servicemen brought to Ireland as Temporary Constables. They became notorious for their cruelty.  It was a time of great violence and brutality on all sides.

My grandfather was heavily involved in the War and the subsequent Civil War. He was actually tortured by the Tans and had a finger nail pulled out during interrogation. He was also a member of a firing squad during the Civil War so this period is close to my heart. I felt Liam had a much larger story to tell than just the one in Tan so I have now written about him again, in The Golden Grave, returning to the battlefields of France in search of lost treasure. I am working on a third book involving Liam, which is set during the treaty talks with the British in 1922. After that, I think Liam is bound to see more action in the Civil War that followed the treaty.

How incredible that you could take the seeds of your own family’s history and create several novels. You must have a great affinity for Liam. Explain how this book was conceived in your imagination.

A documentary about the excavation of a WWI bunker set the ball rolling. I wondered what you might find down there. From that, I developed the story of five war-scarred veterans returning to the crucible of the battlefield to dig for lost treasure and of how the ghosts of their wartime experiences haunt them.

What other type of research did you do?

The documentary was a great help. I researched tunneling techniques and bunker building and read  accounts of what life was like in the trenches. I also studied photographs of the battlefields as well as maps of  France and Switzerland, which is where the finale takes place.

The documentary served as your starting point for the rest. Who or what is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

There’s a femme fatale in The Golden Grave called Sabine. She runs a soldiers’ bar near the frontline. She is beautiful, sexy, and knows how to wrap a man around her finger. She is also extremely devious and will do anything to further her own ends. She was great fun to write.

I understand. I love creating devious characters. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

I liked writing the opening scene, in which a train hurtles through Flanders at night. The scene focuses on the driver and his coalman as they try to outrun a German artillery barrage. I wanted to convey the fear and tension of their predicament. They are on a steam locomotive so it was fun trying to capture the workings of the train and placing it in the ruined backdrop of war.

Where do you write?

On my fifty-minute commute into work, during my lunch break, and on the journey home. I aim for one thousand words a day – sometimes I reach that figure, sometimes not.

That’s amazing, David. Your goal is ambitious. How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

My wife is resigned to it by now. I think that after I wrote my first novel she felt I had  it out of my system. It was quite the opposite – I had been bitten by the bug! We have four young children, who are unaware of their dad’s pastime. I published my first book in April 2012, as my mum lay dying in hospital. She got to see press clippings about it, which.was nice. I dedicated Tan to her and my dad.

That’s wonderful, David. I’m sure one day your children will be well aware of their father’s other passion. Thank you for stopping by today. I enjoyed getting to know you a little bit better, and I look forward to reading your books.

DavidAbout David: I’m no historian, but I do like the subject (I even managed to get an Honors degree in it after much sweat and tears). I also like to write historical fiction. The idea is to collate interesting snippets from the past, things which spark an interest and maybe even a story or two. My day job is as an editor with a national newspaper.

In the course of my research, I have come across what I think are interesting facts, which you might like to read.

Links
Twitter: @LawlorDavid
BOOKS:
The Golden Grave: http://goo.gl/qMCTa

Author Wednesday – Michele Shriver

typewriter.jpg

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I interview author Michele Shriver. Michele stays busy as a lawyer during the day, but in her spare times she’s managed to write several novels. After Ten, Sixth South, and Aggravated Circumstances fall into the category of women’s fiction. On Book Review Friday, I’ll be reviewing After Ten.AC Cover med2

Michele, I am so pleased to have you on Author Wednesday today. I’m always curious about an author’s voice. When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

Actually, that is something I am still working on and trying to improve all the time. Last year, I had an opportunity to attend a writer’s conference and one of the classes I went to was on finding and strengthening your voice. It was an amazing class, and it left me with a keen awareness that my voice was not yet as strong as it could be. I’ve taken a lot of steps in the past year to strengthen it, and I think I’ve had some success, but there’s still work to do. I think writers should always be actively trying to improve at their craft.

I couldn’t agree more with that philosophy. Describe your current projects.

I’ve got two that I am working on. The first is about a woman in a long-term marriage who wants to start over, so she files for divorce. She finds herself embroiled in a custody battle and then ordered into family counseling, forcing her on a journey of self-discovery. The second is a contemporary romance which is actually a sequel of sorts to my first book and will finally give one of the characters her happily ever after.

Your books fall into the category of women’s fiction. Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

Yes, I definitely plan to continue writing women’s fiction. It’s where my true passion lies. Lately, though, I’ve had an idea come to me for a book that might fall in the New Adult genre, so that is something I may be looking at in the future as well.

What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

That they truly felt as if they knew my characters and considered them friends. The most important thing to me is crafting believable characters that readers like and root for, because if people like the characters, they will want to read to the end to see what happens to them. If readers are able to connect with my characters, then I feel like I have done my job.

What’s your one sentence pitch for your newest release Aggravated Circumstances?

A family can be torn apart in an instant. Putting it back together is a harder task.

How did you choose the title? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

The book started out with a working title of The Line, which could have been either a reference to drug use or a reference to the line between right and wrong or ethical and unethical that sometimes is blurred. I was about halfway through the book, when the court case began to take center-stage with the pivotal question whether Devin would get another chance or not, when I began to think about maybe changing the title. Aggravated Circumstances is a legal term for one of the exceptions to the State’s obligation to provide reasonable efforts to reunify a family. With an aggravated finding, reasonable efforts are waived, effectively making it impossible for a parent to regain custody of their child. I asked a few of my critique partners, and their opinions weighed in favor of changing the title, so I did.

What is the message conveyed in Aggravated Circumstances?

Overall, I think it is a message of hope and second chances and that people can change. Sometimes they just need someone to believe in them.

 One of my favorite fantasies is to host a dinner party with several of my favorite authors.If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose and why.

I’d choose two famous authors who are always at the top of bestseller lists. Jodi Picoult, who writes upmarket women’s fiction and who I consider one of my inspirations. When I grow up, I wish I could be one-tenth the writer she is. It’s a dream that one day my books might be on a shelf next to hers. The second would be James Rollins, who writes in a completely different genre, but whom I had the chance to meet at a conference, and simply found him to be a wonderful person, down to earth, and very inspirational. And funny as heck!

Michele, after reading your first novel, I feel safe in saying you stand a good chance of having one of your books (or all of them) on the same shelf as Ms. Picoult. Thank you for stopping by today. It’s been my pleasure to host you.

About Michele: Michele Shriver lives in the Midwest U.S. where she maintains her law practice, in addition to pursuing a writing career. In her free time, she enjoys Zumba fitness, bicycling, and the NFL and NHL.

Links:

Amazon/Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C479UY4

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/16xlk23

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Aggravated-Circumstances/book-x4_MarE7O0CtQInTYi4t_Q/page1.html?s=n-FXjxY1SEyjlbBvMTgzzw&r=1

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Aggravated-Circumstances-Michele-Shriver/dp/1483955087/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

 Website: www.micheleshriver.com

Email: micheleshriver@gmail.com

Twitter: @micheleshriver

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/michele.shriver?fref=ts

 

 

“I want to write a book.” Sigh . . .

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

People often say to me, “I or my [friend, cousin, father] want(s) to write a book.” The writer-in-waiting usually has no experience with writing. I also hear, “I told my [friend, cousin, father] that you might be able to help them get started.”

In the past, I’ve given either a weak two-cent reply or a lengthy discourse on writing and publishing. The last two requests I’ve ignored while I simmered on how to respond.

My hesitation comes from the frustration I feel when folks believe they are able to write a book just because they can put together a few sentences into a paragraph. It’s not fair for me to feel this way because fifteen years ago I might have asked a published author the same thing.

With that confession out of the way, I want to answer all those would-be-authors in this way:  I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll write a book today.” I’ve been writing stories for most of my adult life. I’ve been a life-long reader. I have some training and experience with the English language. I’ve worked as an English teacher, journalist, publisher, editor, and communications specialist. I have nearly thirty years of experience with writing and being paid for my expertise. I’m not saying a person can’t write a book without my experience, but I am saying that writing a book requires a bit more than simply thinking you have a great story to tell.

I’ve spent years studying the craft of writing fiction and nonfiction. I don’t mean through formal training – although I have some of that – I mean through self-educating myself by reading other novels, seeking out conferences, studying books on craft, finding websites and blogs with writing information, and interacting with my fellow authors. When I entered the new world of e-publishing, I sought out every source I could to teach me how to proceed. I’m still doing that because I haven’t met my goals for success . . .yet.

I don’t want to discourage anyone, but I do want others to understand that it’s impossible for me to teach anyone else what I’ve learned. I can only point in the direction and the rest must be done through hard work. I stress that you just don’t sit down at the computer and write the instant best seller. Perhaps the Shades of Gray author did that, but I’m not interested in writing a poorly written smutty novel. If you are, then you don’t need to read any further. Open the cover on your laptop and begin.

Now for some more practical steps for beginning the journey to writing a book, if I haven’t discouraged you so far.

Why do you want to write the book? Are you interested in publishing for public consumption or do you want to provide a memoir for your relatives? If you want to publish for your family, that’s fine. You don’t need much more than desire. But you’ll still have to decide how you’re going to publish the book. That’s for another post.

What’s your ultimate goal for writing a book? If making money is at the top of your list, then I recommend you seek employment elsewhere. Most writers I know write because they have to write. The stories don’t leave them alone. They write because there is no other choice. Chances are you won’t make a whole lot of money from writing a book no matter which method of publishing you choose. I remain hopeful that my passion will one day pay the bills

Are you willing to bare your soul on the page no matter what type of writing you choose? If you’re afraid of honesty, then perhaps you’re not ready to write. I don’t mean you have to confess the time you stole a cookie out of the jar. I’m talking about the type of honesty about life and people that makes your writing universal and enduring. I don’t ever give specific details of my own life in my fiction, but I do write about the emotions an event might have elicited. I choose different details to express it.

Are you willing to work hard learning and perfecting your craft with only the intrinsic satisfaction writing gives you? For many years in my writing career, I pursued the golden apple of success that grows from the limbs of those who read my books. I thought that would make me successful. In the past few years, I’ve left that type of temporary satisfaction behind and enjoyed success in a different way. That type of satisfaction and pride lasts longer than the time between good reviews.

Are you ready to put your work into the world for anyone to scrutinize and criticize? Here’s one of the dichotomies of being a writer. Most writers I know are rather reclusive at times and just a little bit shy in public. I know that some folks who know me might shake their heads and say I am not in the least bit shy. Those folks would be wrong. I may be sociable and even be the life of the party at times, but that behavior comes at a great cost to me either before, during, or after a social event. I’m much more comfortable attending one of the parties thrown by a character in a novel. But here’s the two-sided trouble. As authors, we usually want to publish, which means we’ve opened a bit of ourselves to public view. Over the years, I’ve had to develop a tough hide. It’s harmful when I start believing both the good and bad reviews. By far, the bad reviews – very few in comparison to the good reviews – stay with me and haunt me. However, they are easier to take now. I also stopped preening every time a childhood friend or colleague wrote a glowing review of my work. Now, I know the legitimate reviews from strangers are important, but not as important as the confidence within me that I’ve written a book just the way I envisioned it.

If my questions didn’t quell your thirst to write, then you’re probably ready, not to write the next Great American Novel, but to get busy educating yourself on the business of writing a book. I’ll save that for the next installment.

Besides doing research and study, keep writing. Start a blog if you don’t have one and set deadlines for yourself. Write down any ideas that come to you. Sketch out characters. Write dialogue. You won’t be wasting time. Some of the stuff you might use one day; some of the stuff may just serve as practice .

What other questions or issues should someone address before seriously embarking on writing a book?

Florida's sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Florida’s sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Author Wednesday – Jade Kerrion

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. It’s my pleasure to welcome author Jade Kerrion to my blog today. Jade writes science fiction. With an undergraduate degree in biology and philosophy, becoming a science fiction writer was a logical next step in a multifaceted career path. I hope you enjoy reading her post today about the importance of critique groups to the writing process.

Finding the Right Critique Group

By Jade Kerrion

A few weeks ago, I went on a date with three older women. We split a 16″ pizza with 8 toppings and talked about the men we had married (and in some cases, divorced.) We also talked about the novels we were writing. Through the entire meal, my heart pounded. I knew the three women were evaluating me. It was, in effect, a first date.

At the end of the meal, I had apparently passed muster and was deemed worthy. I was invited into their critique group – which was exactly what I’d wanted ever since I’d heard of the Attic Girls – a play off Stephen King’s reference to his muses, the “boys in the basement.” (Actually, my muse is male and looks like Orlando Bloom, but that’s not the point.)

I’d joined many critique groups before, but why did I want to join the Attic Girls so badly? What makes a critique group good? Obviously, you want to be with strong writers whose feedback can help you grow, but it turns out, the volume of work you can get critiqued over a realistic timeframe is equally important.

Before I joined the Attic Girls, I was part of a critique group that met once a month. The group was large, about twenty to thirty people. Given the size, you could only read about three pages of your work. Let’s see . . . I can write a novel of 85,000 words in three months, and in three months of the critique group, I’d be able to share nine pages of my novel? Out of 200+ pages? That’s hardly enough feedback to make a difference to the novel.

I then found another group. This one met twice a month, and it was about half the size of the first group. You were encouraged to bring five pages of your work. Much better. Even so, over three months, I’d be able to share only thirty pages of my work. Better than nine pages, of course, but still a far cry from 200+ pages.

The Attic Girls, on the other hand, meet every week. Each week, two days before the meeting, we send our work to each other by email. We read the documents on our own time, and then spend the meeting itself providing feedback. The volume of the work you send out is up to you. The Attic Girls didn’t seem to flinch at the fifteen-page document I sent out last week. Think about it, fifteen+ pages a week . . . sixty+ pages a month . . . 180+ pages in three months. That’s almost my full novel. The Attic Girls provide timely feedback that allows me to keep up with my publishing schedule of three books a year.

In addition, the beauty of a small and consistent critique group is that your fellow writers grow with you. They figure out your style. They know if you’re writing hard and trying to find the best turn of phrase or if you’re just coasting along with acceptable but mediocre sentences. Best of all, because we meet in person, we hold each other accountable. If someone doesn’t offer something up for a reading two weeks in a row, we call her out.

The Attic Girls don’t replace my faithful cadre of beta readers, but where my beta readers enjoy the whole story and are tasked with calling out major plot holes or character lapses, my critique group focuses on the details that well-trained novelists notice, like POV shifts. The Attic Girls are the people running beside me in that endless marathon instead of just cheering from the sidelines.

If you don’t already utilize a critique group, I strongly encourage you to join one. It doesn’t matter if it’s large or small, online or in-person. It’s important to connect with other writers and to learn how to give and receive feedback. Perhaps one day, you’ll head out, as I did, on a nervous first date with a fabulous critique group.

About Jade:JadeKerrion Jade Kerrion started out in fan fiction. She developed a loyal reader base with her fan fiction series based on the MMORPG Guild Wars, and was accused of keeping her readers up at night, distracting them from work, housework, homework, and (far worse), from actually playing Guild Wars. And then she wondered why just screw up the time management skills of gamers? Why not aspire to screw everyone else up too? So she made the transition to writing and publishing books that aspire to keep you from doing anything else useful with your time.

Jade unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series.DoubleHelixCovers Perfection Unleashed and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, have been described as “a breakout piece of science fiction” and drawn rave reviews for their originality and vision.

Her novel, When the Silence Ends, is a Young Adult spinoff the Double Helix series. WhenTheSilenceEnds

She is also the author of Earth-Sim, a compelling and whimsical view of Earth’s history through the eyes of the two students assigned to manage our planet.Earth Sim

She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her wonderfully supportive husband and her two young sons, Saint and Angel, (no, those aren’t their real names, but they are like saints and angels, except when they’re not.)

Social media and buy links:

Connect with Jade Kerrion: Blog / Facebook / Twitter

Perfection Unleashed: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

Perfect Betrayal: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

Perfect Weapon: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

When the Silence Ends: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords

Earth-Sim: Amazon / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords