Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Dianne Harman

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post by NY Times and USA Today best-selling author, Dianne Harman

 

dianne harman

 

The first thing people seem to want to know is if I’ve been an author for a long time. The answer is a resounding no! I’d never published a book until 2 ½ years ago or written one until 3 ½ years ago, and it was certainly nothing I’d planned on doing.

My husband and I were at a small boutique hotel in Palm Springs, California, for a wedding where our son was the best man. It was in October, usually a beautiful time in the desert. Not this time, the temperature was 107 degrees. I made an off-the-cuff remark which changed my life. The hotel had recently been renovated, and the air conditioning was almost silent. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if something was put in the air conditioning that made people feel good all the time?”

He looked at me and said, “There’s your book.” I started writing Blue Coyote Motel that afternoon. The name came “Blue Coyote” came from the restaurant where we had lunch. Writing your first book at age 68? That’s crazy! If I’d thought about it, I probably never would have done it. Instead, I just did it. I’d been an English major in college and have been a voracious reader all my life, but never an author. I wrote in bits and pieces, and the thing took on a life of its own.

My son read several of my first chapters and said, “Mom, this is really good. I didn’t know you wanted to be a writer.” Truth be told, neither did I, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. I finished the book and stuck it in a drawer. A couple of weeks later my husband asked if he could take a look at it. He read it for two days and then said, “It’s got to be published.” Now when you’ve been married as long as I have and your husband says something like that, it’s pretty exciting! He was a California Senator at the time, and one of his colleagues had published a book, and he set up a meeting for me.

His friend was adamant that I self-publish because he had a bad experience with a publishing house that had gone bankrupt. I began the self-publishing process with Amazon. He told me I had to become active on social media. At that time I didn’t have a Facebook account and barely knew what twitter was. It still amazes me that I have about 40,000 followers on twitter now and am also very active on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

Blue Coyote won a number of awards. A screenwriter who read it urged me to write a sequel and thus, Coyote in Provence was born, followed by the third in the series, Cornered Coyote. These are suspense novels, ranging the globe.

I’ve always loved to entertain and cook and when my husband was in the Senate we had everyone from staffers to Governors to dinner. Another love of mine is dogs. We’ve rarely been without one. At the moment we have an adorable five month old boxer puppy that is happiest when she’s discovered I’ve left the door to my office open, and she can get my mouse pad and run through the house with it!

Someone suggested because of my love for dogs and food that I write a cozy mystery. I wasn’t very familiar with the genre and spent some time reading books in it. From the first few pages of the first book, I knew I’d found my home. I’d really liked writing the suspense books, but this new genre was an even better fit for me.

My husband and I had met our son and his wife at a resort in Arizona in September of 2014. I remember drinking a cup of coffee in bed and playing with my iPad one morning. I jotted down the bones of a cozy mystery plot. We got home on October 2nd and I started writing Kelly’s Koffee Shop. I have no idea where the name came from, the characters, or the plot. It was as if the characters dictated what would happen next. That was the first book in the Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Series. Four more quickly followed I’m editing the sixth in the series. Yeah, lots of dogs, food, and even recipes.

The instant success of Kelly’s amazed me. It went to the 100 best seller list on Amazon and six months after being published, I’m still selling hundreds a day. Murder at Jade Cove, White Cloud Retreat, Marriage and Murder, Murder in the Pearl District, and the one I’m working on now, Murder at the Bar Double X Ranch are the others in the series. The published ones have all been at the top of the charts for cozy mysteries and all have been Amazon All-Stars. I’ve even been named by Amazon as one of their most popular authors. Woohoo!

Kelly, who owns Kelly’s Koffee Shop, is the amateur sleuth protagonist. Her now husband, a sheriff, and her faithful guard dog, Rebel (a boxer), have prominent roles in the books.

I was curious to see if that series was a fluke, so I undertook a new series, the Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series. The first book, Murder in Cottage #6, was an instant success, as is the second in the series, published recently, Murder and Brandy Boy (I mean who wouldn’t love a slobbering St. Bernard who prevents a murder!).

It’s pretty exciting to have a new career and have it be successful at this time in one’s life. I never could have predicted this. My husband’s telling people we made a very good retirement plan – “Dianne’s going to write best sellers, and we’ll live off of that!”

Who woulda thunk? Not me. So, if you’ve got a dream, go for it. You just never know what might happen!

 

Thank you, Dianne!  You can check out Dianne’s Amazon Author Page at and check out her books if you click here or type in http://www.smarturl.it/harman into your web browser, sneak a peek at her website at www.dianneharman.com, or visit her on Twitter: @DianneDHarman

 

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Mimi Barbour

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post by NY Times and USA Today Best-selling author, Mimi Barbour

 

mimi barbour

 

Recently, I’ve been looking back on my journey as an author and was shocked at just how little I’ve progressed in those ten years.

When I first started, I was being published with a wonderful e-publisher called Wild Rose Press. Talk about being a newbie, I was so fresh; I absolutely beamed with energy, cheery enthusiasm and adoring dumbness. Those were the days that I just knew I was going to be big – hit the lists – write the ultimate best-seller. It makes me smile now. I loved that goofy me.

I’m sure you’ve guessed that it didn’t happen in quite that way.

But… it’s also not true that my journey has been slow or uneventful. In fact, I’m absolutely astonished at what I’ve learned in those years. When I break it all down, you’ll see what I mean.

Back in the beginning, a computer was just the Word program to me where I wrote the books. Sure, I could check e-mails and answer them but not much more. Nowadays, I’m on virtually hundreds of sites in a month and with complete understanding of what I’m doing and why. That’s big! I mean, we all know what it’s like to stumble through a quagmire of perplexity to get to that lightbulb moment, don’t we? It’s lovely when you have full knowledge of where to go and what to do once you’ve arrived.

Nowadays, when I look at my Amazon author page and see over 25 books that I’ve personally written, formatted and published, it astounds me. The little lady who had no doubts of her abilities has actually managed to accomplish a great deal.

Recently, I started up a group called Authors’ Billboard and have dipped my big toe in the Social Media side of the business in a big way. As you might have already gleaned, that area is a HUGE part of any author’s world today. Having an understanding of what works and where your promotion dollar is best spent can be the difference in decent royalties or not.

Because I’ve taken on the promoting for all the Brides Collections (the newest is called Ten Brides for Ten Hot Guys), I’ve been forced to learn what works as far as the promotional end and what doesn’t. Some think it’s all a crapshoot. But one needs to know the odds. That knowledge has come in handy for the new direction I’m heading. It’s not like I intend to compete with others as much as guide the group in ways to help them get the best chance to sell books, mine as well as theirs.

Is it easy guiding my author friends through these channels? Think herding cats!! It’s kinda cute but quite true. Do I like it? Oh yeah! Another challenge once overcome that will add to my repertoire of new things I’ve learned.

As for the rest of my goals, they’re always ahead of me, a place to aim for and heady challenges to keep me on track. With the industry constantly changing, we’ve all been forced to embrace new strategies and directions—sometimes to the detriment of the author, sometimes not.

Has it been an exciting ride?

This overworked, underpaid and completely happy author has only one honest response…. Absolutely!!

 

Thank you, Mimi!  You can check out Mimi’s Amazon Author Page and check out her books if you click here or type in http://www.smarturl.it/mimi into your web browser, check out her website at http://www.mimibarbour.com, and be sure to take a peek at her blog at http://mimibarbour.blogspot.com

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Dean Murray

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post / interview from best-selling author Dean Murray

 

 

dean murray

 

Hi, Dean. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

This is supposed to be the easiest question, but it always throws me for a loop in any kind of interview. I’m an accountant turned writer who has been writing full time for nearly three years. So far I’ve accumulated a couple dozen novels to my name and have more than half a million copies of my work in circulation.

How did you get started writing?

I’m a life-long reader. I started serious recreational reading (Can I say that? It makes me sound like I’m in denial about some kind of drug problem) in the second grade, and never really looked back. I think most of us avid readers contemplate writing at one point or another—there’s just something incredible about an expertly-crafted story and it’s natural to wish that we could do something similar to what our favorite authors do.

It’s interesting as we’ve done interviews in the past to see just how many of the writers we talk to started out reading at a relatively young age. There definitely seems to be a common denominator there. It’s starting to sound like if someone wants to write the first thing they should focus on is becoming an avid reader.

You know, I think there is a lot of truth to that. I think that being exposed to lots of great stories—especially in written form—helps internalize the ability to tell a story, but I think there is a lot more to reading than that.

What do you mean?

In college I had a fellow student—someone I really respected—tell me that he’d seen a common trend in all of the people he’d met that he considered really intelligent. They all read voraciously.

I sense that you’d like to expound on that…

At the very least, I’m willing to expand on it. :) I think that the more advanced the world around us gets, the more information there is to learn. One of the best skills for being successful in nearly any field is to be able to rapidly and effectively learn new information, and reading is one of the best—if not the best—way to do that.

Instructional videos seem to be quite popular.

Sure, but the problem with an instructional video is that I oftentimes find myself wishing there was a way to consume the videos at a more variable speed. They lend themselves really well to certain kinds of learning—mostly things that you need to see in order to understand what’s being taught, but you have to consume them at a particular rate.

With books, I can skim the lead material that isn’t really very important, and then slow down for the stuff that’s critical. Even better, the average reading speed is 200-300 words per minute, which is nearly twice as fast as an audio book or a video. Becoming a good reader means that you go into the world with a competitive advantage when it comes to learning, and that’s a huge advantage.

So based on that, you’re a big fan of people reading just about anything if it helps them develop their reading skills?

By and large, yes. It’s always interesting to me when someone starts bashing one of the really well-selling children’s or young adult authors. I hear a lot of ‘so and so can’t write’ which I think is usually way off base.

Usually, those authors have really good (astounding) storytelling skills. Their sentences may not be quite as pretty as the commentator’s favorite author, but so far in every instance I’ve tried out for myself, those authors definitely had something going for them. More importantly though, they found a way to make reading fun—usually for a huge block of the population who doesn’t typically read very much.

I think that’s quite the accomplishment. Someone like Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling doesn’t just entertain, they skill up, as it were, the next generation so that they will be more successful—both academically and professionally—than they otherwise would have been.

Is that what you’re trying to do with your books?

Sort of. :) I’m really happy to just be able to entertain my readers, but I do like knowing that along the way I’m helping me readers pick up or maintain a skill that’s useful in other areas of their lives.

What kind of books do you write?

Character-driven young adult stories. Currently I’ve got an epic fantasy series (The Guadel Chronicles), a couple of paranormal romance series (The Awakening, and Reflections), and an urban fantasy series (Dark Reflections), which as you may have guessed from the name is related to the Reflections Series.

I’m scheduled to release a 4-novel dystopian series still this year, along with part of a new paranormal romance series featuring a kind of supernatural creature different from anything I’ve explored so far.

You said that Reflections and Dark Reflections are related to each other. Related how?

I wrote the first few books in the Reflections Series first, and then realized that there were aspects of the story that I wanted to explore,  but which weren’t going to be possible with how I’d constructed the series up to that point.

I had villains who really were bad guys, but who I knew came really close to ending up heroes instead, and there wasn’t a good way to show that—especially once I’d killed them off—so I decided to write an alternate timeline version of the Reflections novels.

Dark Reflections is a…well, darker place, so it crosses over to more of an urban fantasy than a paranormal romance, but it’s still mostly the same characters just in very different circumstances and I’ve seen really good crossover between the two series because once people get attached to Adri and the Sanctuary Pack, they want to see what happens in the other timeline.

You’re not going to tell us what the new creatures are, are you?

No way! So far I’ve written about demigods, werewolves, shape shifters, vampires, and a few other things that I don’t want to talk about for fear of spoiling the later books in one or more of my series, so you can pretty much count on this being something other than the run-of-the-mill urban fantasy or paranormal romance.

It sounds exciting.

I sure hope so! :)

Well, we’re out of time. Thanks for stopping by for this interview, we wish you great success.

Thank you for having me—it’s been an enjoyable interview.

 

Thank you, Dean!  You can check out Dean’s Amazon Author Page and check out his books if you click here or type in www.smarturl.it/deanwrites into your web browser, or check out his website at www.deanwrites.com

Guest Blog Post: Meet Author Christopher Meeks

Here’s something a little different, and a continuation of something I started at the end of 2012: it’s been about two years since we’ve had a “Meet the Author” post, and I thought it was more than time to start doing it again.  I’ve been corresponding with bestselling author Christopher Meeks and asked him if he would mind telling us a little about himself as a person, writer, or whatever he felt like he wanted to share.  His immediate response was “absolutely.”  Scroll on down to read more about Christopher Meeks…

 

christopher meeks

 

In the zone. Been there?

At times when I write, I may as well be sans body. I’m elsewhere. I could be a character on a gurney whose heart has stopped, and his spirit rises above the gurney, flows into the LED surgery lights above while he hears an echoey voice not unlike Sarah Jessica Parker’s saying, “Do you like black licorice?”

“Yes,” I say. “Red Vines that are black.”

“It’s time for the tunnel,” says the voice, “which is as black as black Red Vines.”

My character, you see, is having an out-of-body experience—while I am.

Writers, more often than not, tend to sail in their heads rather than on a real stormy sea. Hemingway? Okay, he was different. He liked boats and Buicks and running with the bulls. He’d say it was good. I’ve never found that good.

Thus, I had to ask myself a few weeks ago why was I standing on the white edge of the Cornice at Mammoth Mountain in California, skis on my feet, contemplating the edge? I’d never skied the Cornice before, which required taking a gondola to the top, over 11,000 feet high. The snow was fast up there. Perhaps one shouldn’t stand on the edge of such a steep drop, with fast snow, especially on skis. The Cornice required some courage.

Let me freeze frame me on that edge. The fact I still skied was nothing short of amazing. When my uncle took my cousins and me to Buck Hill outside of Minneapolis when I was twelve and threw me on skis, I was terrified. I hated heights. I hated being cold. I hated falling down.

For the next sixteen years of skiing, I remained terrified. I stayed on the gentle slops and kept it up mainly because I liked the idea of skiing.  I especially liked when the day was over and I’d survived. “It feels so good when I stop,” said a friend in high school, explaining why he was a long-distance runner.

In my late twenties, on my yearly Lake Tahoe ski trip with my college roommate, Stew, I finally found a run I really loved, and I kept skiing it over and over in a fog that enveloped it that day. I could only see about fifteen feet in front of me.  It was my kind of gentle slope. When the fog lifted, my eyes grew wide. My favorite run was actually long and steep. I realized then that my fear had been inside my head.

“It’s in your head,” I reminded myself on the edge of the Cornice. I pushed off, curious to see what’d happen. Could I really make that first turn? My heart flew when I did. I created a kind of dance on the way down, not falling but quickly turning, quickly observing, quickly avoiding ice and heavy bunches of snow.

I’m explaining this as a way to also explain how writing stories is for me. I might have a great idea for a story, but I don’t know where it’ll go, or what it’s about, or even why I want to write it. I push off into it to see what happens.

Skiing is of the moment. Sometimes things work smoothly, but there are always surprises—ice, rocks, turns that throw me off. Similarly, writing always surprises me. Characters say and do things I didn’t expect, and such moments can change my plans. I might zip off on a tangent and have to get back.

Like author Kurt Vonnegut, I often think I can’t do this again—either write or ski—but I try anyway as with this very piece. All I knew for this was I wanted to write about the mind/body experience. For my last novel, A Death in Vegas, all I knew was that my protagonist had his own company that sold beneficial bugs for organic gardening—ladybugs and the like. I knew he found a dead woman in his hotel room on the morning of a Las Vegas convention. He had nothing to do with it. The Las Vegas police suspected him. Who set him up?

Once I started writing the story, I paused to outline, following paths, adjusting, trying new things. That’s because I can think faster than I write, and brief notes in an outline lets me zoom quickly. Six drafts later, after I honed, adjusted, tried new things, I was done. My characters and story had grabbed me.

I’m not prone to exercise. I have to push myself. I swim because it gives me energy to write. Skiing takes me away from writing—yet I always return refreshed and energized. To write well requires being physical. I have to put my body into the world.

The skiing at Mammoth beyond the Cornice on my recent trip often made my thighs scream. The snow was heavy. I fell twice, not having fallen once in my previous nine days of skiing this season.  Yet I amazed myself that I could do this. Skiing requires precision. It requires stamina. It requires a belief that your body will know the way.

Philosophers often focus on three elements: mind, body, and spirit. If you push off into the white page as well as onto a white slope, that third element, spirit, seems to soar. You find yourself in the zone. I love the zone.

 

Thank you, Christopher!

Christopher first published short fiction in a number of literary journals, and the stories are available in two collections, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons. Soon, the audiobook of The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea will appear on Audible and Amazon. You can download three of his stories free by clicking here. He’s also published the literary novels The Brightest Moon of the Century and Love at Absolute Zero. Recently, he’s focused on crime novels.  His first, Blood Drama, had a graduate student, writing a thesis on David Mamet, in a struggle with a ruthless killer and bank robber. A Death in Vegas is a mystery based on the death of a young woman and the wrong man charged with it. You can visit Christopher online at www.chrismeeks.com.

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Laurel Osterkamp

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author Laurel Osterkamp

 

laurel osterkamp

 

Are My Books Literary Fiction?

The other day I entered a contest with my most recent book, November Surprise, and I had to pick a genre. None of them really fit, but I was torn between romance and literary fiction. November Surprise is a love story, but it’s also about self-discovery, set against six recent presidential campaigns. Does that make it literary instead?

When I think literary, I think James Joyce, Jane Austen, or Louise Erdrich. I think of a novel that is made to challenge and enlighten the reader. I certainly wouldn’t classify my own books as literary. I’d like to believe they are quality work, and hopefully they occasionally challenge and enlighten whoever has picked them up. But ultimately they are meant to entertain. They’re not timeless, as literary fiction ought to be. But they are relevant.

So here’s my question: What ever happened to popular fiction? To me, a book that is entertaining, easy to read, and relevant should fall into the “popular fiction” category. But I don’t see many books advertised as popular fiction anymore.

Around a year ago independent author, Darcie Chan, rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list with her novel, The Mill River Recluse. She was one of the first independent authors to achieve this feat, and she received a lot of press. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (12/9/11) Chan described her early challenges with marketing her book.  “It didn’t really fit any genre. It has elements of romance, suspense, mystery, but it falls into the catch-all category of literary fiction, and of course that’s the most difficult to sell.”

I haven’t read Ms. Chan’s novel, so my aim here is not to disparage it. But since reading that article I have noticed a lot of authors have classified their own work as “literary.” Whether that’s by choice or because they aren’t able to classify it as something else, I’m not sure. But I do have a theory. Mainstream authors who are published by big name publishers often don’t want to be branded as “literary fiction” because it makes their work sound boring. But indie authors welcome the title, because it gives them an air of credibility. Like it or not, there is still a bit of stigma in being self-published, but calling our work “literary” makes it sound more impressive.

I teach English at a public high school, so I could talk for hours about what is literature and what is not. But when it comes down to it, I think the whole concept of “literary fiction” is over-rated. If an author has something to say, and he or she says it well, then it’s worthwhile even if it isn’t literary. Yet I also hesitate to brand November Surprise as a romance. I don’t have a shirtless guy on the cover, there are no real sex scenes, and while love is a theme, it doesn’t follow the formula of a “romance”.  I know there are a ton of well written (perhaps even literary) romance novels out there, but there are certain expectations that come with romance novels that November Surprise just doesn’t meet.

In the grand scheme of things, classifying my books into a genre is not a huge problem. But as self-published works continue to grow both in amount and in esteem, independent authors will have to realize some sort of system for labeling their work. It’s the first, and probably the most important step in marketing our books to readers.  And finding readers is way more perplexing than writing the book itself, whether it’s literary or not.

 

Thank you, Laurel!  You can check out Laurel’s Amazon Author page and check out her books if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/laurel into your web browser, her blog at http://www.laurelosterkamp.blogspot.com/, and her personal website at http://www.laurelosterkamp.com/

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Lisa Grace

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author Lisa Grace; make sure you read it all the way as you might find a free Kindle book offer in the text!

 

lisagrace

My Past

Like many authors I think writing is actually a part of my DNA. I remember riding in the car when I was about three and looking at the passing billboards lining the highway. I knew they communicated something, if I could just learn the secret code. I begged my parents to teach me to read at the age of three and shortly after, I was reading.

The year I turned five, I asked for a typewriter for Christmas, (yes, I know that dates me) so I could write Star Trek scripts. Little did I know it was cancelled and in reruns by then.

In high school my friends and I would hang out at the various places teens do, and they would ask me to make up stories about the people passing us by. Story telling is something I’ve always done.

What was relatively new was the urge to seek publication. It started off as one of those bucket list things. Sitting around with my soon-to-be-in-kindergarten daughter, I thought about what I would like to accomplish once she was in school. At the time I was working as a musical theater director for a dance studio, and volunteering at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I also taught Bible study for teens at my church. My life revolved around teens. The good, and the conflicted.

One of the hundreds of ideas I had that wouldn’t let me go was—what if I wrote a series of books for teens about the real-life problems I saw them experiencing, but set it with what I believed to be the real supernatural world. No fake vampires or werewolves, but real angels (several varieties) and all the other supernatural creatures mentioned in the Holy Scriptures? What if the “rules” for this world, were the ones we knew of from the Bible?

This is the premise of the Angel Series. Buffy without the vampires. The difference between vampires and angels? Angels are real.

I wrote Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 and signed a joint contract with Strategic Publishing where I still owned all the rights to my book. They would print the book as a hardcover, and pay me quarterly royalties.

In May of 2010, my hard cover through Strategic, was named the Christian alternative to Twilight in this article: http://shopping.aol.com/articles/2010/05/07/top-ten-most-challenged-books

I was thrilled.

I then ran across a site where I found other authors were self-publishing and having some success with it. So in May of 2011, a year later after putting the hardcover out through Strategic, (where I was named one of their top fifty selling authors), I decided to self-publish the ebooks.

Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 shot to the top of the Amazon Kindle teen horror charts and stayed there for seven weeks. I then released Angel in the Storm, Book 2 a book I’d been writing while waiting for an agent to shop the series around. It also sold well.

Meanwhile the producer for Motion Picture Pro Studios saw my ebook at the of the teen horror charts, read Book 1 & 2, loved the concept, and contacted me about optioning the rights for a major movie.  When the contract came, I hired Elaine P. English to work as an entertainment lawyer on my behalf.  The studio “exercised” the option and the project is currently in development.

Immediately after, I published Angel in the Ice, Book 3.

Back in July of 2010, I’d read an article about the missing 15th star from the Star Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. I researched the mystery surrounding the missing star, and wrote my novel. Two years later, I completed my first novel in my new history mystery line, The 15th Star (A Lisa Grace History – Mystery).

Ideas vs. Time

Like most writers, I have more ideas than time. Frequently they come to me in the middle of the night. One way I get them out of my system (so I can get to sleep), is to write flash fiction pieces (stories under a thousand words). I did put together some of my best, and released them as 30 Minutes of Flash Fiction. In this collection I included a short story written by nephew who is an excellent story teller. The great thing about flash fiction is every word counts. Condensing a story to a thousand words and creating a twist at the end helps hone a writer’s skills.

Plus, I can explore concepts that don’t fit nicely into the two genres I’m currently writing novels in. I love science fiction and the big “what if” concepts such as, what if other worlds know God, and He has already returned to them? What if zombies are really demon possessed bodies? What if a man has found a way to jump back into the past of his life desperately trying to keep his current life, yet escape his death?

When these ideas come, I write them out in less than hour as flash fiction pieces. I then go back and edit them at a later date.

Blogging

I don’t blog, I guest blog.

When I decided to get serious about publishing, I didn’t sign on to blog, too. Come up with something interesting to say, besides the stuff in my novels, daily? About what? Writing? Just what the world needs, another author writing about their writing experience. It’s boring. I sit down, play out scenarios in my head, and write them down. Then rewrite—lots. Improve the idea, the scene, the characters, the emotions, the subplots. It’s work, and I love it. I just summed up what I do, and I don’t want to waste my time trying to make it sound interesting. It’s the story that will be interesting, not the process. Readers never ask about me. They do ask, “When is the next book coming out?” And that’s why I write my novels and don’t worry about blogging regularly.

Eye on the Paranormal, asked me to be a regular guest contributor which fits right in with my supernatural books, so I write articles twice a month based on the basic premise that science is proving the Holy Scriptures (Bible) are correct.

I’ve also been on the author panel for the last year on the Indie Authors Show with Host Jason Matthews for the Hangout Networks. You can catch past episodes on Youtube. Show #16 is an interview with me on the movie deal. So that’s it for me and blogging.

Free, Free, Free

I’ve chosen to give Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 away free as an ebook, not because I don’t think it’s good, but because I believe I can’t out give God. The books are aimed at young teens so they won’t be everyones’ cup of tea. If a reader isn’t hooked by the end of book 1, they can delete it off their ereader, and that’s fine with me. I give it away free to find those who will enjoy the five books planned for the current story arc.

I go in a library and there are only about ten genres or so that interest me. There are hundreds of thousands of books I won’t ever want to read, and that fact has nothing to do with how well the author writes and everything to do with what appeals to me. The relationship between an authors’ voice and the readers’ taste is personal. I get that, so I’m not insulted when someone says they couldn’t get into it. Try before you buy.

I write because it’s part of who I am. I publish because it’s flattering to have readers and a paycheck. I write what I would want to read.

At the present I’m finishing the last two books in the angel series, outlining the second book in my history mystery line, and working on the first in my new teen series, FEUDAL Land.

Flash fiction pieces are still my preferred form for getting other ideas on electronic paper.


My Personal Life

I’m married to my husband Todd, and we have a beautiful daughter, Cammy, who is nine now. We live on the water along the Gulf of Mexico. I love rehabbing wildlife. I’ve included an opossum in Angel in the Storm, Book 2 because we had one as a beloved pet for four years. It still irks me that there is open season and no bag limit on America’s only native marsupial. They’re intelligent and loving.

God, family, friends, teens, the water, and animals, are all things I love. I live a full and blessed life. In the book of Ecclesiastes 2:24, King Solomon comes to the conclusion: “[There is] nothing better for a man, [than] that he should eat and drink, and [that] he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it [was] from the hand of God.”

This verse reminds me that being able to take pleasure in the everyday things like food, drink, work, the people in your life, is the ultimate. You don’t need wealth or a high position to enjoy your life, just the right attitude.  This keeps me grounded in enjoying the now and I hope you can, too.

Thank you, Lisa!  You can check out Lisa’s Amazon Author page and check out her books if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/lisagrace into your web browser.

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Seb Kirby

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author in the Science Fiction and Thriller categories, Seb Kirby

 

seb kirby

What attracted you to writing?

I was raised with books but not in the way you might expect – my grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham and my parents inherited a random selection of the books. They weren’t much interested in them; they were piled up in a spare room, gathering dust. I would disappear in there and resurrect much read classics. I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s always seemed a natural thing to want to do – to write. 

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I write thrillers and I write sci fi. That’s probably because those are the genres that I get the most enjoyment reading. I’ve written quite a lot of non-fiction, as yet unpublished. I have a hankering to write comedy one day but that’s a hard call since you don’t know if what you write will be funny until you try it out on an audience.

Any advice to others on how to write?

Well, first I think that’s a very personal thing and that every author will have their own take on this. There’s no right or wrong way. As W. Somerset Maugham said: ‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no-one knows what they are.’

Basically, I prefer the Stephen King approach as set out in his ‘On Writing’. That’s the book he wrote after he was hit by a truck when he was out walking to clear his mind after a writing session. You get the idea that he felt he had to put it all in that book, just in case.

I take his approach to be something along the lines of: If you’re not surprising yourself when you’re writing your book, how can you hope to surprise your readers when they’re reading it? So, I try to be excited at what’s coming out as I write and let the novel plan itself to some great extent. With this approach, you don’t start with a detailed, worked-out plot or anything more than a part-glimpsed plan, you really do let the characters and the interaction between them tell you what should happen next.

There are two of Stephen King’s aphorisms that I take seriously. The first: ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’ So, where at all possible I don’t use them. The second: ‘Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.’ I never use a dictionary or a thesaurus.

Within that context, I think brevity is important. As Alfred Hitchcock said: ‘Drama is life with the dull bits taken out.’ The more the writer can leave to the imagination of the reader the better.

Generally, I don’t believe in heroes. I wouldn’t want to trust one. I get more from ordinary, flawed, people in situations that take them out of their normal lives. Then things get interesting as you see how they struggle with what seems for them the impossible. And I want to resolve things in the end in their favour.  My way, if you like, of righting some of the wrongs, albeit in a small way.

Finally, I’d emphasize the importance of the ‘polishing’ stage in the writing process. Once the words have formed themselves out of the characters’ wishes, once the story has been told, the real work begins. Writing and rewriting, working and reworking the text to give it as much shine and polish as you can muster. And there’s then always the hope in discovering another of the goals suggested by Stephen King – that seldom achieved ‘gem’ where you contribute a striking and novel turn of language that lights up the whole show.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

I had a tough upbringing in Birmingham. I think that gave me a lifelong understanding of what really matters in everyday life. But I received a good education that gave me a grasp of cultural tradition and the importance of maintaining it. I try to address both these aspects in my writing.

Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?

Ray Bradbury put it best: ‘My stories run up and bite me in the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs away.’ I feel the same. The best ideas come when a story is in full flow and the characters take on a life of their own.

Do you have any writing rituals or listen to “mood music” when you write? Where is your favourite place to write?

I carry a notebook. I write whenever it feels right – on trains, on a flight, in a hotel room, at home.  I listen to jazz a lot but I’ve never been able to do that while I’m writing. I prefer silence and I’m lucky to live in a place that has real silence.

What’s your favourite place in the entire world?

That’s a tough one. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to travel and find places that resonate and that I want to return to as often as I can. With the exception of Ambleside (The English Lake District) all are cities: Florence, London, Venice, San Diego, Paris, San Francisco (in no particular order).

Give your readers fun three facts that they may not already know about you.

Not sure how many of these are fun but here goes: I try to walk at least 20 miles each week; I think Miles Davis was a musical genius; I’m a lifelong vegetarian.

Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

It’s just got to be chocolate. I’m a chocoholic, so ‘more than 70% cocoa solids’ is the kind of off the wall talk that appeals to me!

If you could invite any 6 people to dinner who would you choose?

Being a writer, I wouldn’t expect all to be living right now, so I could delve back into history as much as I like. That would make things interesting! I’d like to meet Pythagoras, the guy who invented music, mathematics and vegetarianism amongst much else. I’d like to hear him bounce ideas off George Gershwin, the guy who just about invented modern jazz. Then, I’d like to introduce them to H G Wells, one of the forbearers of modern science fiction (who, long ago now, had a profound influence on my grandfather when they met and talked in the bookish circle surrounding my grandfather’s lending library). I think they should have some female company and that would have to be Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein and all round woman ahead of her time. That would leave just two places and one would have to go to Leonardo Da Vinci. I’d like to hear how a man like him could have done so much in so many fields of endeavour in such a short time. My last invite would go to Albert Einstein. Where would modern science be without the great man? Some dinner party!

So what’s next for you as an author?

I’m ready to develop my sci fi novel DOUBLE BIND with a sequel but the next thing on the list is to complete the James Blake trilogy. The full extent of the corruption merging from the Landos in Italy is a story yet to be told. The working title is FEAR NO MORE. I’m hoping to complete this before the end of the year, or sooner if the creative process goes well.

Thank you, Seb!  You can check out Seb’s Amazon Author page and check out his books if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/sebkirby into your web browser.

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Vicki Tyley

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from international best-selling author in Mystery & Suspense, Vicki Tyley…

 

vickityley

 

Born and raised in New Zealand, I traveled to Sydney, Australia with my boyfriend when I was nineteen years old and boarded a train to the other side of Australia– my first overseas adventure. We fell in love with Australia – the people, the climate, the lifestyle, the wildlife, the wide-open spaces, everything – so much so that we didn’t want to leave.

Seven years later and still there, we purchased backpacks, Eurail passes and a round-the-world airfare each. After an amazing year spent traveling and exploring, we returned “home” to Western Australia.

In 2000, an old boss of mine offered me the position of Finance Manager with a Victorian toy company he’d just bought into. I jumped at the chance to work with him again and at the same time experience a part of Australia I hadn’t visited. (The victim’s home in Brittle Shadows is based on the inner city apartment where we lived.)

Unfortunately, two years later I became quite ill. It was while recovering from surgery at a country holiday property that I decided that if I didn’t follow my dream of becoming a writer then I never would. Not long after that I resigned my job and much to the consternation of many friends who saw it as dropping out of society, we moved to a rural property ninety minutes north-east of Melbourne.

When I started writing, my dream – like most new writers’ – was to be a published author and to make a living from writing. I didn’t expect it to take so long. I was naive, but in hindsight, I don’t think that’s a bad attribute to have when you start out. If I’d known that I’d write two novels only to consign them to the bottom drawer, would I have even started? I don’t know. Would I have given up everything to write if I’d known that my third novel, Thin Blood, even though agented, would fail to sell to a publisher in large part because most of the publishers refused to even look at the book? (“Americans don’t want to read Australian mysteries,” my agent was told.) I don’t know.

But would-haves don’t matter. It’s what I did that’s important. I just kept writing and my agent kept pitching my work to publishers. Six novels later, I’m still writing. Thin Blood, the novel rejected by publishing house after publishing house peaked at #1 Mystery in the Kindle Store (#6 All Paid Kindle Books) and was named an Amazon 2010 Customer Favorite.

I often say that all my life experiences are brought to bear in my writing, but it wasn’t until my last novel, Bitter Nothings, that I delved into my own family experiences. And that’s probably because enough years have passed that I can now talk openly about it. In Bitter Nothings, the protagonist’s mother had committed suicide on what would’ve been her and her estranged husband’s thirtieth wedding anniversary. In one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twists, my mother committed suicide on my parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Obviously the details and motives are different and my parents were still married, but the emotion and questions are still the same.

The two brothers in Bitter Nothings are loosely modeled on my own two brothers (except my brothers can tolerate each other even less than the brothers in the story). But that’s as far as the similarities go to my own situation. Dervla, the sister in the story, is nothing like myself or any of my three sisters.

My next novel is very much at the plotting stage and I’m still getting to know my characters, which for me is one of the most exciting aspects of writing.

However, my biggest buzz comes when I receive emails from readers who’ve loved my stories (and even the odd one who hasn’t), many who’ve read every book I’ve written and are eagerly awaiting the next. And that is why I write.

My books are all standalones, but in order published:


Thin Blood
: Ten years after two juries fail to convict a stockbroker of the murder of his missing wife, retrenched journalist Jacinta Deller befriends the stockbroker’s new wife, the victim’s sister.

 

Sleight Malice: When a badly charred body is discovered in the remains of her best friend’s home, Desley James is devastated. Except the body is male and her friend is missing.

 

Brittle Shadows: Two months after finding her fiancé’s naked corpse hanging from a wardrobe rail in their apartment, Jemma Dalton’s sister takes her own life, leaving Jemma to probe the dark shadows of her sister’s life.

 

Fatal Liaison: The lives of two strangers, Greg Jenkins and Megan Brighton, become inextricably entangled when they each sign up for a dinner dating agency. But Greg’s reason for joining has nothing to do with looking for love.

 

Bitter Nothings: Half her family have been murdered in their beds. Her father is the prime suspect. And things are about to get a whole lot worse…

 

The inspiration for each of these came from news articles and true crime cases to which I then applied a series of what-ifs. It’s unlikely now anyone would recognize the true crimes that sparked them though.

Outside of writing and reading, my main interests are design and photography. I like to laugh, drink coffee, spend time alone, spend time in company, and get close to nature. I dislike crowds, hospitals and offal.

Vicki Tyley author website: www.vickityley.com

Vicki Tyley blog: vickityley.blogspot.com

Eucalypt Habitat – Living in rural Australia photoblog: http://eucalypthabitat.blogspot.com.au

 

Thank you, Vicki!  You can also check out Vicki’s Amazon Author Page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/vickityley into your web browser.  I have Thin Blood on my Kindle ready to read!

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Melissa Miller

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author Melissa F. Miller (as well as a chance to pick up a free Kindle book)…

mmiller

 

Two years ago this month, I published Irreparable Harm, the first book in my legal thriller series.  To celebrate that anniversary, I’ve discounted Irreparable Harm to free for a limited time.  I’ve also spent some time reflecting on my writing and publishing journey and the amazing opportunities to interact with readers and other writers that independent authorship has offered me.

I was one of those kids who either had her nose in a book or was scribbling stories.  So, it was no surprise that I majored in English literature (with concentrations in medieval literature and creative writing—poetry) in college.  Astonishingly, the job market for medievalist/poets was nonexistent, so, after graduation, I spent three years working in publishing as an editor of non-fiction books and journals.  Then, I attended law school, graduated, passed the bar, and began to work for a major international law firm (moving to new firms and cities along the way).

In 2009, my lawyer-husband and I packed up our sons (then four and two years old) and left our Washington, D.C. law firms, striking out for a tiny town in South Central Pennsylvania, which doesn’t even have one stoplight.  We opened Miller & Miller Law Firm four years ago this month and got busy spending more time with the boys and figuring out the ins and outs of running our small business.  And I started writing again.

There were some false starts—and one embarrassingly bad mystery novel, which served as my training wheels book and will never see the light of day.  But, then, in December of 2010, I put the finishing touches on Irreparable Harm, thanks to our new baby girl who was kind enough to wake me up to eat at all hours of the night.  I used those overnight sessions when the house was quiet to finish the book, and then I gave it to my husband to read.  Having suffered through my mystery novel, he was understandably apprehensive, but he gamely read it anyway.  When he finished it, he encouraged me to publish it.

At that point, I started researching the two options, traditional publishing and independent publishing, and decided going the indie route was a better fit for my temperament.  And, with the press of  the “publish” button, I uploaded Irreparable Harm.  My series protagonist, Sasha McCandless, struck a chord with readers almost immediately, and I started receiving emails asking if there would be more Sasha books.

Two years later, there are indeed more Sasha books:  Inadvertent Disclosure (No. 2) came out in February of 2012; followed by Irretrievably Broken (No. 3) in June of 2012; Indispensable Party (No. 4) in January of 2013; and Lovers and Madmen: A Sasha McCandless Novella (I call this one No. 4.5) in February of 2013.  And the series will continue—Book 5, Improper Influence, will be available later this Spring.

To date, more than fifty thousand readers have picked up one of my books.  That number boggles my mind, but it pales in comparison to the kind emails and Facebook posts that readers have taken the time to share. I can’t quite put into words how much I enjoy hearing what readers think of Sasha’s adventures and her growth as a character.  In fact, Lovers and Madmen was my Valentine gift to my readers, many of whom had contacted me to let me know they wanted to see more of Sasha’s budding personal relationship with Leo Connelly and that they had some questions lingering from the end of Book 3.

Two years after I taking the self-publishing plunge, I’m still a practicing attorney, mother of three young kids, and wife, but now I’m also a writer juggling projects and engaging with diverse, interesting people I’ve had the privilege to “meet” through email, Facebook, and Twitter.  I can’t imagine anything better!

 

Thank you, Melissa!  You can check out Melissa’s Amazon Author Page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/mmiller into your web browser.  Have a great rest of your weekend!

 

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Rebecca Forster

One of the neat things (to me, at least) I get to do as the publisher of this blog is to interact with some interesting characters and famous authors.  USA Today bestselling author of legal thrillers Rebecca Forster is one of those interesting and famous kind of people, and when I asked her if she would be interested in writing a guest blog post in our “Author Interviews” series, she immediately agreed.

I think it’s neat to hear how the authors hone and learn their craft, and hopefully you will find this as interesting as I did (and you might even find a free Kindle book offer)!

 

rebecca forster

 

When I graduated from college, the world of women was transitioning from Donna Reed to Gloria Steinem. I had my feet firmly implanted in both camps. On the one hand, my mother trained me well in the art of homemaking; on the other, I had a college education and was convinced that I would and should climb to the top of a corporate ladder. For fourteen years while I worked as an advertising account executive I supervised a team of writers and artists, wrote marketing plans, hired talent, earned an MBA, and budgeted my client’s money. I loved what I did because I had responsibility, I traveled (all the way to China in one instance), and I went to three martini lunches. What could be better than that?

The answer is nothing, until everything changed.

One of my clients requested a meeting at his home. My team and I went to his amazing house on a hill in San Francisco, but the meeting didn’t go smoothly; his wife interrupted us more than once. I seemed to be the only one bothered by this. Everyone else was extraordinarily understanding and deferential. It was only later that I learned that my client’s wife, the woman who flitted in and out of the living room with impunity, was none other than Danielle Steele. Sad to say, I had no idea who she was. It didn’t take long for me to find out that she was one of the world’s best selling authors. As often was the case, I spoke before I really thought about the consequences.

“I could write a book,” I quipped.

My associate dared me to do just that. She even upped the ante by telling everyone in the office that I was going to be an author. They all had a good laugh – except for me. I’ll never know what made me take that dare, but write a book I did. To my great surprise, it was published and a passion was born. It would be ten years and ten books later before I quit advertising to write full time. It would be another five years after that before I wrote the books of my heart.

I had been writing women’s fiction when my editor fired me in frustration. “You cannot,” he said, “keep killing people before they fall in love.” With that, I realized that I had been trying to conquer the wrong genre. On my bed stand were thrillers and true-life crime books, yet I was writing in a romantic genre. Thanks to that editor, I was forced to pursue a different avenue if I wanted to continue my writing career. Finally, I wrote what I loved to read. From my first thriller, Beyond Malice, my writing voice became stronger and more confident. That book went to two printings. I was writing what I loved –  specifically legal thrillers and police procedurals.  Therein lies the real story.

Soon after my book Keeping Counsel became a USA Today Bestseller, I was a panelist at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I was the only non-lawyer on the panel. When the time came for questions and answers, a perturbed woman stood up in the back of the huge UCLA auditorium stood up and demanded to know:

“How can you write legal thrillers when you’re not even a lawyer?”

To which I responded: “I sleep with one.”

My flippant answer brought the house down. Maybe being married to a lawyer-now-judge didn’t count as credentials, but both the question and the response encompassed the truth about writing procedural thrillers. Those who read them want the authenticity; those who write them better have a way to deliver and my way was to research.

I have always been a justice junky. Even before I met my husband I was fascinated by crime. After we got married I was privy to the rigors of law school, the tension of passing the bar, his experiences as an assistant U.S. attorney specializing in terrorism and organized crime, and, finally, his terms as both a criminal and civil court judge. Whether he was involved in a high profile case or one that would never make the news, my interest in his work went beyond a wife’s curiosity. Eventually that curiosity became a professional necessity. While my husband was my in-house research, his help could only be given in response to my direction. That meant I had to know what questions to ask and how to use the information I received.

So how does a nonprofessional tackle a thriller based on a specific profession? I’m sure there are many ways, but I needed a plan. These are the rules I set for myself when I transitioned from writing women’s fiction to writing legal thrillers.

Read industry rags: I don’t just read professional journals I devour them. I find both story ideas but also character inspiration.

Understand the system: Sure, there are times I creatively tweak the system I’m writing about, but I don’t want to massacre it. It is one thing to explain why a trial was fast-tracked, quite another to ask my readers to believe a murder trial will start two days after an arrest.

Figure out the extra stuff:  For The Witness Series, the Josie Bates thrillers, I researched child protective services, theme park safety regulations, coroner’s procedures, will provisions, political campaigns, and fathers’ rights.  A procedural works best when all the pieces of the puzzle fit together believably.

Talk to a human or watch them work: I love real world research. Courts are open to the public, police departments have ride-along programs, college and university professors have helped me with forensics, anatomy, and police studies.

Learn the jargon: One of the biggest challenges I face is using legalese appropriately. If I don’t use it just right, I’ll end up with a thriller that sounds like a textbook or dialogue that is forced.

Walk a fine line: Too much procedure overshadows the story and slows the plot; too little and I’m not competing in the genre.

Above all, the biggest challenge in writing in my genre is to let the human mind, heart, and spirit of my characters triumph against a monstrous, unwieldy system that is stacked against them. Even as they fight the system, they know they can’t win. There is always loss. Sometimes the loss is simply money, sometimes it is freedom, and sometimes it is the ultimate loss of life. The drama and the challenge is in creating a character and a situation in which the loss is mitigated, a story in which the character’s heroism and even the smallest triumph make a difference.

It is precisely because of these high stakes involved in the justice system that I could never be a lawyer or police officer in real life. The pressure and responsibility put on the shoulders of one person who champions another is incredible. I sit in awe when I watch an attorney speak for their client in court or a cop who is persistent in their investigation. Not only do they have to draw upon a wealth of knowledge about our legal system, they often sacrifice personal relationships to protect someone they don’t even know.

I hope that my admiration for the justice system is evident in all my work but most recently the five books of The Witness Series and the stand-alone book, Before Her Eyes, reflect the growth I’ve experienced as an author. I realize that there are many books to choose from and that’s why I offer Hostile Witness free as a way to introduce my books. Silent Witness, Privileged Witness, Expert Witness and Eyewitness comprise this ongoing series to date and are my most ambitious works in terms of characterization and plot development.

My greatest hope when I write is that my stories spark a debate about how a character acted, what motivates their actions, or the point of law that inspired my books.

You can see all my work or learn more about me at http://www.rebeccaforster.com or reach me on Facebook at Fans of Rebecca Forster. I’m also on twitter @Rebecca_Forster.

 

Thank you, Rebecca!  As she mentioned above, Hostile Witness is free today in the Amazon Kindle store and you can pick up a copy if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/fox3vr into your web browser.  You can also check out her Amazon author page, and peruse her other titles, if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/forster into your web browser.