Meet Author Chautona Havig

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, let me introduce you to bestselling independent author Chautona Havig

 

chautona havig

 

What’s with the Serial Novels?

Almost ten years ago, I started writing a story—never intended to be a book. I just had ideas and wanted to get them down “on paper.” I also shared with friends in an online forum I manage, and that’s where things got interesting. People loved it and wanted more.

When I hired my publicist, Ashley, one of the first things she said was, “Take Past Forward, edit it, flesh it out, and let’s release it as a serial novel. I blinked, choked, and blinked again. I mean, serial novels died with the master of them, Charles Dickens, right? Apparently not. The series was a hit, with several episodes (and a volume or two, I think) hitting Amazon’s Bestseller lists in the first weeks. I’m still flabbergasted.

What I love about the serial novel is something you can’t do in a regular novel. You can explore things in greater depth, have multiple storylines that further the series without exactly furthering the (basic) plot, and you can let it go as long as you (and your readers) like. That’s also a drawback. When you’re “done” with the story, your readers may not be. I’ve received more emails begging me for new “Willow episodes” than almost anything else. Only requests for the fourth “Aggie book” have beaten it. When I announced last week that the sister series to Past Forward, HearthLand, finally has an end in sight, the cries of disappointment filled my Facebook page.

But, this isn’t explaining quite why I do it. Like I said, it all began with Ashley. She suggested we give away an episode per week. I love to give gifts, so a weekly episode as my thank you to readers who share the word about my newest books, my giveaways, and such resonated with me. As I say on my website page about my serial novels, “Enjoy the serial journey with us. Just consider it a literary diet… portion control for those like me who tend to glut on books instead of read in moderation.”

My current serial novel, HearthLand, is a spin-off of Past Forward. I didn’t know how well it would be received. I mean, who wants to read about a retired guy trying to start an intentional community? Yeah. Considering several episodes have hit bestseller status, and I get almost daily, “What’s Ralph doing?” emails and Facebook posts, I guess people do! When I get behind, I get joking offers to do my laundry so I can write. When I get sick, readers assure me they’re praying for me… and that I can get to work, because they want to know what’s going on with Annie!

And that’s probably the most exciting part of all—seeing people rally around my characters and become invested in them. They interact on my Facebook page, talking about what they think is going to happen next. Between Past Forward and HearthLand, I did a single book serial novel, Confessions of a De-cluttering Junkie. I didn’t expect it to be as popular, but I had it written, and it did lend itself to the episodic layout. It became popular enough that it now has its own website with occasional short stories and giveaways in the organization/de-cluttering theme.

As I said, our current serial novel, HearthLand, is winding down. We’re down to our last volume and a half. Each volume of HearthLand is a full-length novel and contains six episodes (Past Forward was a little less predictable). After that my assistant, Christy, and I will be co-writing the next one—Innkeeper. I’m excited to move onto this one. We’ll take you on a strange journey into the hearts and minds of a woman abandoned after a troubled marriage and a man who desperately desires a deep connection with the woman he’s falling in love with.

That’s another thing I love about these serial novels—well, most of my books, really. I weave characters from other novels in and out of them. So while Past Forward is about a young woman who steps out of isolationism into community, it also brings in characters from my most popular series as well. And though HearthLand focuses on a different kind of community—one striving to be more like Willow from Past Forward—it features characters and plots from my suspense novels as well as characters from many of my other books intertwined in it.

After Innkeeper, we’re considering making my turn-of-the-20th Century series, Meddlin’ Madeline the next serial novel. The more I plot out Madeline’s story, the more I like her. She’s a bit of a young Miss Marple set in an earlier time when her “help” isn’t always appreciated. Madeline also has a secret that only one other person knows!

Of course, that is yet another genre. I’m known for dancing through multiple genres in my writing. Most of my books fall under the heading of “The Rockland Chronicles,” and so far all of my serial novels have been under that covering as well. But while Past Forward and HearthLand both have their feet firmly rooted in romance with a sprinkling of suspense now and then, De-cluttering Junkie is comedy. This is normal for my books. The Rockland Chronicles has a mystery and a suspense series, romance and comedy. Outside that heading, I also have a small Regency series, medieval fantasy, historical, and with Madeline, historical mystery. I tend to be unable to limit myself. If the story told needs a specific setting or genre, it gets it—even if I have to learn to write an entirely different genre to do it.

Join us this summer for a “rerun” of my two most popular serial novels, Past Forward and HearthLand. We’re giving away two episodes per week of each novel from June-August. I’m so excited about this. For news as each episode goes free, sign up for my newsletter.

Thanks, Michael, for the opportunity to share my work with your readers! I really appreciate it.

 

Thank you, Chautona!  You can check out Chautona’s Amazon author page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/havig into your web browser, or visit her website at www.chautona.com

Meet Author Anna K. Sargent

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, let me introduce you to bestselling independent author Anna K. Sargent…

 

 anna k sargent

 

Fiction is a mirror, reflecting back the author’s true self

Who is Juan Miguel? Who is he based on? People often ask me about the main character of my fiction series. They look puzzled when I have to tell them that I am Juan Miguel. As writers, we just cannot escape ourselves. All of the characters, the motives, the feelings, the thoughts, and the language belong to the author.

The trick is to reveal yourself to yourself and everyone else while telling someone else’s story. Then it’s interesting. Then somebody cares.

Some people discover their authentic selves through therapy, others through art and music. I found myself through writing and studying the place where I live. Lucky for me, Texas has an amazing history, full of characters and adventure and extremes of weather and landscape. How people dealt with this place—and how they still deal with it—is the interesting part.

Because I am Texan through and through and part of every person, battle, tall tale, and twist of history that led us to where we are, I want to explore Texas’ mythical past. I do it while looking through the eyes of Juan Miguel del Valle, the son of a wealthy Tejano rancher who falls in love with the wrong woman and goes on a wild and bumpy ride.

Juan Miguel is no ordinary hero. He is a shape shifter, a man who has the uncanny ability to change identities and make others believe. In spite of his ability to change, he always remains true to himself. He is always in character, so to speak, no matter what disguise he employs or mask he wears.

We’re all familiar with the traditional Texas hero. He is straightforward, plain spoken—the strong, silent type. He steps out front and faces the music like a man, stands up for what he believes, tells it like it is and saves the day, taking the weak and stricken along with him. Juan Miguel turns part of that formula on its ear. He is without a doubt strong and brave as all good heroes are, but he’s also smart, articulate, urbane, sensitive, and in touch with his feminine side.

There’s an old saying in writing, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” And that’s certainly true when writing fiction. You learn early on that motivation is revealed through action and dialogue and your characters’ motivations are often yours. Their problems and solutions mirror your own in an eerie way. You also learn that a character can think about his motivation all he wants but it has to be revealed by what he does and what he says. There’s a disconnect if the character isn’t truly who we’re told he is. So it is in stories. So it is in real life.

Yes, we want what’s real to come shining through but we also want heroes and villains. We want stories that teach. We want suspense and we want the good guy to come out on top. We’re rooting for the hero. The hero’s journey, however, often begins with a misstep.

When he is only seventeen, the young Juan Miguel takes an earth-shattering misstep. He falls in love with the older wife of a rich Anglo rancher, his father’s principle rival. In spite of the dangers, Juan Miguel and his love, Marguerite, embark on a relationship destined to create havoc in their world. Their fatal attraction triggers Juan Miguel’s tortured journey of passion, love, loss, and redemption.

The story begins in Texas in the late 1800s, at the height of Texas’s border wars with Mexico, when competition was fierce between Anglo ranchers who arrived after the Civil War and the Spanish noble families who had been there for decades. The Legend of Juan Miguel is a hero’s journey that plays out against the backdrop of the emerging West where it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between reality and myth.

Unjustly deprived of his family’s rancho and his good name, the hero seeks revenge by conning the very people who took them from him. He fools even the most powerful and wins back his position and his good name with his charm and intelligence. In a classic story of love, betrayal and revenge, the clever hero takes on an array of personas to pull off an elaborate con. He becomes an early-day superhero, a charming chameleon who uses his powers of persuasion to conquer Texas’ most prominent rancher and win back his birthright and the woman he loves.

In The Passion of Juan Miguel, the hero’s journey continues nine years later. Not only has Juan Miguel lost his love, Marguerite, but he also has buried several of his identities. Primo the bandito is dead and he no longer uses his real name, Juan Miguel. But he has found it useful to climb back into the skin of Martin Zamora, a worldly dandy, whose smooth, elegant exterior provides a haven in his time of grieving.

He’s been traveling the world for a year when he lands in Galveston to see a performance by the great actor, Edwin Booth, where he runs into an old friend who talks him into helping striking dockworkers in their struggle against the greedy and corrupt shipping magnates. Taking on the identity of a Cajun fisherman, he is soon embroiled in the fight. The story of the uncommon hero continues with Juan Miguel’s love of opera, his exploits with a rowdy fishing crew, and his struggle to keep his real identity a secret.

As time goes on, Juan Miguel finds it more and more difficult to juggle his many identities, especially after Marguerite’s death. He reveals to a priest that his identities are really just different sides of his persona. He is “split up into parts,” he says. That is true of all of us. Those of us who write fiction have the privilege of exploring motivations and identities and what they reveal about us.

Thank you, Anna!  You can check out Anna’s Amazon author page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/annaksargent into your web browser, or visit her website at www.annaksargent.com.

Meet Author Lara Reznik

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, let me introduce you to bestselling independent author Lara Reznik

 

 lara reznik

 

 

In 1983 I completed my first novel, Glorietta. My sister, Rita, was the only human who read and edited the manuscript from cover to cover. Bless her heart.

With the naiveté of a Chihuahua taking up residence with a pack of wolves, I soon began submitting my “baby” to agents. Like so many novice writers, I was convinced my semi-autobiographical novel would be hailed as the new great American novel followed by fame and fortune.

A good friend had an in with a Big-Shot agent, so I sent the manuscript to him. For the next few weeks, I checked the mail each day waiting for the ticket to my dreams. Weeks turned into months, and at some point, I lost hope of ever receiving a response. The question became should I call him? I agonized for another few weeks. To call or not to call.

Then one day a letter arrived from Mr. Big-Shot Agent. One sentence: “Too right on for me.” That was it. A summary of my life’s work in five words. Time for margaritas with my always-supportive husband.

It didn’t get better. After numerous other rejections, I finally received an offer with a caveat. I had to “pay” them to publish it. In those days, that was like telling someone their father cheated on his taxes. Mine worked for the IRS.

I stopped shopping the manuscript and wrote another novel. Many rejections later, I moved on to novel three. One day a fellow author showed me her screenplay. I’d never seen one before and had always thought screenwriters, weren’t real writers. However, after reading my colleague’s screenplay, I decided to give screenwriting a whirl. Heck, I could knock one out in a tenth the time of writing a novel.

I began reading Chris Vogler, Syd Field, and Michael Hauge, the gurus of how-to-screenwriting. Three months later, my first screenplay was born. Within two years, number two and three were added to my résumé.

If you think New York agents screw with your head, try Hollywood. In the next ten years I had three option agreements, two agents, and one manager, (don’t ask what’s the difference between an agent and manager). But did one of my scripts make it to the screen? Well, no. Did I see any $$$? Let’s just say, I didn’t quit my day job in I.T.

However, I received a lot of “this is the best thing I’ve read in years, awesome, fabulous,” etc., followed weeks later by receptionists responding to my calls with, “Lara who? No, Mr. Blankety Blank, (who formerly thought you walked-on-water), is on a conference call.”

Not even the courtesy of a response. How hard is it to write an e-mail and say, “Sorry, Lara, no longer interested?” I became quite depressed and completely stopped writing for two years. Then in 2010, with the encouragement of an author friend, I began writing novels again. I completed a psychological thriller, The Girl From Long Guyland, in November 2012. Without so much as sending out one query letter, I indie-published the novel on Amazon. The book ranked #1 overall in both Suspense and Contemporary Fiction during its Amazon promotional days with over 125,000 e-books downloaded. I marketed the book utilizing social media, online interviews, blog tours, and by promoting it on media sites such as the Free Kindle & Tips blog

Set against a 1969 psychedelic love-in backdrop, The Girl From Long Guyland is shared through the eyes of Laila Levin when decades later, an unsolved murder pulls her reluctantly into her past. A dramatic collision of then and now entwining family, marriage, profession and ethics. The novel has resonated with baby boomers who are now reflecting on different periods of their lives.

After the breakout success of Guyland, numerous author friends asked me to help them indie-publish their novels. Within months, I accepted a corporate severance package for my I.T. manager job, and created the predecessor to my current company, Enchanted Indie Press (EIP) established to guide other writers through the complicated maze of indie-publishing. I hired some of the best editors and graphic designers in the industry and personally focused my own efforts on marketing. Most indie-writers fail because they have no idea what to do after they launch their book on Amazon. That’s where EIP fills in a much-needed gap.

I recently published The M&M Boys, a coming-of-age historical fiction novel about a troubled little leaguer who lives next door to Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in the summer of 1961 as they compete to break Babe Ruth’s home run record.

The Girl From Long Guyland is a suspense/thriller, while The M&M Boys is historical fiction. My new book, Bagels & Salsa, will be romantic suspense. Would I recommend for authors to write in different genres? Absolutely not! An eclectic reader, I consciously have chosen this path contrary to my own marketing advice. At this stage of life, I can afford the luxury of writing about things that inspire me and worrying about the genre later. If there were a commonality my readers share I’d say that most are baby boomers.  But not all. I’ve had reviews from millennial readers attracted to Guyland because of what my Kirkus Review called, “A timeless, universal tale of a woman’s journey toward self-acceptance. An exciting story of past crimes and dangerous friendships.”

My hope is if readers like my writing style they’ll try another one of my books regardless of genre. It appears to be working. My recent Amazon promotion of The M&M Boys resulted in over 35,000 downloads and 75 Amazon reviews.

My advice to aspiring authors: You’ll need a great cover, an engaging blurb and professional editing. In the end the work will speak for itself. Ultimately, talent and Lady Luck might not bring you fame and fortune. But for me, it’s brought the grand prize of connecting with thousands of readers. That’s this writer’s dream come true.

 

Thank you, Laura!  You can check out Laura’s Amazon author page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/reznik into your web browser.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Author Tim Tigner

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post by best-selling author, Tim Tigner

 

 tim tigner

 

What’s your most challenging job, mentally and physically?

That was me back in 1987, a college sophomore querying an Army recruiter at the height of the Cold War. The week before, a Marine recruiter had pitched me outside a theater showing Top Gun. He’d gotten me thinking about something I’d never seriously considered, and I’d decided to explore.

 

Soviet Counterintelligence in the Green Berets, Sergeant Spooner said. Of course you have to pass a few tests first, and the training is intense—it will take years.

I was just looking for a summer job before heading to the UK for a junior year abroad. This option would put college on hold. Unthinkable—yet irresistible. At age twenty, my adventurous life had begun.

Little events change the course of our lives, and before we know it, we’re looking back on a path we could never have predicted. That’s what happens in my thrillers. Ordinary people get swept into extraordinary situations, and end up struggling for the greater good as well as their lives.

 

Summarize your novels for us in a couple sentences.

My catchphrase is: Devious devices, international intrigue, and the deadly mistake of messing with the wrong guy. My promise is a gratifying rendering of justice, by heroes you’ll really like, against villains you’ll love to hate.

 

What can readers expect from Tim Tigner thrillers?

Structurally, I aim to give my readers an experience analogous to Disney’s Space Mountain: High-speed thrills packed with unexpected twists and turns and a satisfying ending that leaves you breathless, content, and longing for more.

Dramatically, my readers can expect fresh storylines. I accomplish this by building each plot around a fictitious but plausible device, and then putting it into devious hands. What if someone invented X? What if that someone were Y? To create these devices and situations, I draw from my Special Forces years, a career on the cutting edge of the biotech/medical-device industry, and a decade of living and working overseas.

Intellectually, my readers can expect to explore a What would you do if… question along with my villains. Everyone’s character is challenged and shaped by his or her circumstances, and my villains are no exception. They just begin with a moral compass that’s a bit twisted, so before they know it, they’re way off course.

 

Who will enjoy reading your thrillers?

I write for people who love mainstream thrillers, and find that my audience includes pretty much everyone old enough to vote. If you enjoy what these guys write (oddly, they are all guys) you’ll likely enjoy my novels as well: David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Lee Child, Nelson DeMille, Joseph Finder, Vince Flynn, Ken Follett, Brad Meltzer, James Patterson, Andrew Peterson, Daniel Silva, and Brad Thor, to name a dozen. It would be easy to name a couple dozen more.

 

Tell us about your creative process.

I start by inventing a devious device, and then I place it in the most dramatic circumstances I can imagine. Something with global impact. Something plausible. I outline the whole novel up front, so as to pack it full of twists and turns while still moving the reader quickly toward a satisfying end. This takes a month or two, but I still inevitably adapt the structure during the first draft, as better ideas come along, and the characters guide things.

As for my schedule, I start early in the morning, seven days a week, and keep going as long as my caffeinated neurons are still firing without faltering. I shoot for 1,500 to 2,000 words a day, but can get as high as 5,000 if the stars are aligned and the scenes are firmly in my mind. Of course thrillers aren’t written, they’re rewritten, time and again. My net output is about 500 words a day when all is said and done—that’s about 1.7 minutes worth of reading time.

Thomas & Mercer just published my latest novel, Coercion, on Tuesday.  Coercion is the story of one prescient man’s attempt to save his sinking nation. It’s the story of KGB guile coupled with devious invention, and the moral compromises that come into play during extended covert operations.

Set in 1990, between the Berlin Wall’s collapse and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Coercion plunges the reader into the world of Cold War espionage as experienced by both perpetrators and victims. It rips open a conspiracy that could have been, exposing one hero as he first falters, and another as he ascends.

 

Thank you, Tim!  Tim Tigner is the author of three #1 best-selling conspiracy thrillers. You can check out his Amazon author page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/timtigner into your web browser, and be sure to stop by his personal website at timtigner.com for more information and a free e-book.

 

Meet Author Billi Tiner

Continuing our “Meet the Author” series, let me introduce you to bestselling independent author Billi Tiner

 

billi tiner

 

 

My love of the written word began at a very young age. I was a voracious reader. I read anything I could get my hands on from fiction novels to the encyclopedia. I enjoyed a wide range of fiction, everything from Louis L’Amour to Shel Silverstein. As a young reader, my favorite books always had an animal playing a big role. Charlotte’s Web, Black Beauty, and The Incredible Journey were among my favorites. Of course, I also loved all the Jack London books. My love of animals drove my career choice of becoming a veterinarian.

In addition to reading, I also enjoyed writing. I wrote my first short story around the age of eight. Not a big surprise, it was about a puppy. I also began writing humorous poems, trying to imitate Shel Silverstein. English courses were some of my favorite as I knew they were going to be “easy A’s”, not because the coursework was simple, but because I loved writing and found the work fun.

My first attempt at a novel came a year after I graduated from veterinary school. One of my first patients was a black lab mix who was brought into the veterinary clinic where I worked. He had been struck by a car and was suffering from temporary paralysis due to a spinal injury. His recovery and adoption by one of our clients inspired me to write Welcome Home. The story centers around a young lab mix who has always dreamed of finding the perfect home. It follows his search for his dream and the adventures he encounters along the way.

Like many independent authors, I spent years attempting to gain the interest of an agent or major publishing house. Finally, I gave up and the Welcome Home manuscript was left unpublished. About ten years after the book was written, my husband heard about Amazon’s KDP program. He talked me into giving it a try. I published Welcome Home with the knowledge that I’d be lucky to sell a single copy. I was thrilled when the first one sold. Then shocked as they continued to sell. In addition, I started to receive some very positive feedback, and my love of writing was once again rekindled.

For my second novel, I decided to write a fictionalized account of a story my mother had been telling me since I was a young girl about her childhood dog, Lady. Lady was an Irish Setter who had served as a messenger dog during WWII. My grandfather adopted her when my mother was a little girl. He intended to use her as a hunting dog, but after discovering that she was gun-shy, due to injuries she’d sustained during the war, he gave her to my mom. The two of them became best friends. My mom still talks about Lady, and she’s been dead almost sixty years. I wrote Heart of a Hero from Lady’s point of view. It follows her life from a small puppy through to her death as an older dog. Once again, I was thrilled with the high praise the book received.

After Heart of a Hero, I published two more children’s books. Then I decided to try my hand at one of my favorite genres, westerns. I wrote a young adult trilogy about a young bounty hunter who tracks outlaws across the old west. The “Bounty Hunter” books were also very well received, and I made another genre leap into contemporary romance. I have since published three contemporary romance novels and two western romance novels. Animals have continued to have a strong presence in each of my novels. Writing has now become my full-time profession. I keep thinking there will come a day when the ideas for new novels stop coming, but so far, that hasn’t happened! I have been truly blessed to be able to enter into two professions that I love.

Thank you, Billi!  You can check out Billi’s Amazon author page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/tiner into your web browser.

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/