Category Archives: Awesome Authors

Awesome Authors–Yvonne Hertzberger

photo of the authorWelcome back to Awesome Authors! My guest today is the lovely epic fantasy author Yvonne Hertzberger. Yvonne and I met a couple of years back as minions of the inimitable death star blog known as Indies Unlimited. She shared her gruel with me which should tell you something about her–Yvonne has got to be the nicest person on the planet, bar none. I don’t think I’ve ever read a negative word from her about anyone. And THAT’S rare, especially online where people tend to hide behind their anonymity. Since I’m firmly in the “mean people suck” camp, knowing Yvonne has been quite a breath of fresh air. Here’s her bio:

(From the author): Yvonne Hertzberger lives in Stratford, Ontario with her spouse, Mark. She calls herself a late bloomer as she began writing at the ripe age of 56. Her Fantasy/ Magic Realism trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received and she is working on a new novel not related to the trilogy. She loves to sing, garden and spend time with like-minded people and family.

 DV: Welcome, Yvonne! Thank you for being here today 🙂 Tell us a bit about yourself.

YH: I was born in Holland, a ten minute bike ride outside of Gouda – you know, where they make that famous cheese – at home in a house with a thatched roof. The property was across a narrow street from a canal. You can’t get much more Dutch than that. 😀 I was able to go back and see that house in 1974 and met the couple that bought it from my father in 1950 before we emigrated to Canada.

Now I live with my other half in a tiny brick cottage built in 1883, in Stratford, Ontario. He has his office at the back of the house and I have my writing nook at the front, because he likes music and I need silence to write. It’s perfect.

I love to sing and belong to the Stratford Concert Choir, which gets invited to sing in England and other venues in Europe. Unfortunately I can’t afford to go with them but I hope some of the luster rubs off on me anyway. I also love to garden and of course read.

“…my characters made it very plain they weren’t finished…”

DV: We have something in common–my heritage is Dutch, as well 😀 What made you decide to become a writer? Why did you choose epic fantasy as a genre?cover for Back from Chaos

YH: That was almost a fluke. I was seeing a therapist for a bit who wanted me to journal. When I told him that wasn’t really my cup of tea he challenged me to “Write anything. Just write”. I banged out a couple of short stories and began what I thought would be another. However my characters made it very plain they weren’t finished with it. It ended up becoming a trilogy and I ended up calling myself a writer.

DV: Your books are part of a series called Earth’s Pendulum—currently a trilogy (Back from Chaos, Through Kestrel’s Eyes, The Dreamt Child). Do you envision more books in the series or are you contemplating a different path?

YH: That’s an interesting question, mostly because I don’t know the answer. I have a couple of ideas that could expand the series, one of which is a prequel, but at the moment it isn’t calling to me. So, until it does I’ll follow my muse in a different direction.

DV: Tell us about your latest book, The Dreamt Child. What was your favorite part about writing it?

cover for The Dreamt ChildYH: The third book [The Dreamt Child] was both easier and harder to write. My world had already been created and some of the characters were back. But I knew this would complete the story and so I had to make sure that I didn’t go way off track.

One of the returning characters was Merrist. In the second book [Through Kestrel’s Eyes] he was less important but in this one he became a major protagonist, along with the seer Liannis. So he had to change and grow quite a bit. Characters are, I think, my strong point, so it was fun having him go from a devoted, immature hired man, loving Liannis but not expecting to be involved with her, to her equal and partner in all aspects. The boy had to become a man.

Merrist has one peg leg. He lost the leg as a result of a battle injury in the second book. So one of my favourite scenes deals with what happens when he is caught by the bad guys and they take away his wooden leg and throw him in a dungeon-like cell. They taunt him with it and hang it where he can see it but not reach it, making it swing and clack against the wall. His fear that they will break it and leave him helpless makes him even more endearing.

I still let my characters show me where they want to go but have a beginning, a few key scenes
and an end in mind.

DV: Do you outline or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer? How long does it take you to finish a novel?

YH: When I began I was a total pantser. My characters led me around pretty much by the nose for the first book. With each book that became more balanced by a plan of where I needed to go. I still let my characters show me where they want to go but have a beginning, a few key scenes and an end in mind. Each book seems to become more planned and less spontaneous.

DV: Interesting. I’ve found that to be true, as well. What are you working on now?

YH: The story I am presently working on is quite different from the trilogy. The setting is much more primitive. It has fewer characters and looks like it will be a stand-alone. The idea for it came to me in a dream. That’s quite unusual for someone who rarely remembers her dreams. Since I remember it so vividly I decided there must be a reason. It will be a grittier story but still a cross between Magic Realism and Fantasy, just as the trilogy is, depending on how you define those. Because I want to stay somewhat close to the dream, and also want to make it even better than my previous work, it is proving to be challenging.

“Recent changes lead me to believe that self-published authors will gain respectability, and that the largest trad publishing houses, in contrast, will lose it.”

DV: Ooh. That sounds intriguing! Dream books are such a gift.
Give us a ‘day in the life’ of author Yvonne Hertzberger.

YH: Oh, boy. It’s not terribly exciting, I’m afraid. My books are much more interesting than I am. After shower, coffee and a bite to eat I spend most of the morning catching up on e-mails and networking. I love the friends I’ve made on-line and the way we support each other on this writing journey. It’s also nice to see some personal tidbits, too. On the days that I get some real writing done it usually happens in the afternoon. I don’t sit for hours at a time but tend to take frequent breaks, getting a coffee, looking for a snack, picking beans in my garden. But I still view these things, not so much as diversions or distractions, as thinking time. Mark and I watch the news over dinner and most evenings are spent watching TV, spending time with a few close friends, or, if I’m lucky, playing with my sixteen month old grandson. When he’s around nothing else gets done and I don’t care. He lights up my life.

DV: I like the frequent breaks thing and calling it thinking time. I’d have to agree. In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you see the industry heading?cover for Through Kestrel's Eyes

YH: I am much more optimistic about this than I used to be. Recent changes lead me to believe that self-published authors will gain respectability, and that the largest trad publishing houses, in contrast, will lose it. The result will be a greater balance. We will begin to see more Indie books reviewed by major publications. The other part of this is that Indie writers will find themselves under pressure to get their work properly edited and formatted before publishing, so that the dross that has contributed to the stigma against self-publishing will drastically diminish. I have no idea if that will help me, personally, but it is good for the industry in general.

“Knowing what I know now I have no desire to be trad published.”

DV: 🙂 What made you decide to go indie rather than traditional?

YH: When I was close to finishing my first book I researched what it takes to become published. I learned that I would have more chance of winning a major lottery. Someone suggested I look into self-publishing “companies”. In spite of my research I still got caught by a vanity “assisted publisher”. While I will never see the return of the money they got from me it was still a good learning experience. Since I had never studied creative writing this was where I learned much of my craft. Since then I have reclaimed my rights and self-published. Knowing what I know now I have no desire to be trad published. I am a bit of a control freak. There is no way I will give that up when I will still be expected to do all of the “other” work myself anyway, such as editing, promoting and marketing. I may never become a “best seller” but I know that what I put out there is true to what it ought to be and is the best I am capable of.

DV: Good for you! (I also find painful/expensive learning experiences particularly effective…) What was the worst advice you ever received about writing? Best?

YH: The worst advice was given to me twice, by two separate, well-respected trad published authors. They told me my dialogue ought to be written the way we speak today. My story takes place in a pseudo-medieval society. I chose to make my dialogue more formal and a little old-fashioned sounding. I believe that it will work fifty or a hundred years from now as it stands. Had I taken that advice it would be obsolete in less than twenty as speech patterns evolve and change so quickly.

The best advice was by one of those same authors. He told me to rewrite the section he had read and critiqued in the first person. I think that was a good strategy for the second book.

DV: What advice would you give to new writers?

“Join support and information sites such as Indies Unlimited and The Book Designer.”

YH: Read voraciously, both in your chosen genre and in other genres. Learn all the “rules” so that you can choose when and how to break them and can do so with awareness and intent. Join support and information sites such as Indies Unlimited and The Book Designer. They are chock full of information and can become a wonderful place to receive support and make friends.

DV: If you could time travel (backward or forward), where would you go and why?

YH: Assuming that I will know then what I know now I would begin singing much sooner – say forty years sooner. My father told me I couldn’t sing worth a lick and it undermined my confidence to the point it paralyzed me. I love it so much and have discovered, to my joy, that he was wrong, so very wrong. Had I pursued it at that time I believe I’d be singing on stage on a regular basis.

DV: I’m so sorry, Yvonne. Parents can have such a huge impact on us—young or old. I’m glad you’ve found your voice 🙂 . Thank you for stopping by today–I enjoyed our talk!

YH: Thank you so much for inviting me for this chat. Each time I do one I find out something I hadn’t thought of before. They can be revealing in ways you’d never expect.

DV: And now for an excerpt from The Dreamt Child

BEGIN EXCERPT:

Still, he was a healer and could not let the man die. And he might need the man’s assistance later if he wanted to escape. By the time he had thought all this through he had already begun sending healing energy into the man’s leg to remove the festering and the pain. When he sensed that the wound was clean, and the man pain-free, he forced himself to stop. But he knew that, given time and energy, he could heal the man completely and help him walk again. Just not yet. He needed to rest.

The man groaned and opened his eyes before Merrist finally removed his hands. “Wha?”

Merrist reached for the bucket and held it so the man could drink, which he did with great gulps until Merrist pulled the bucket away and took another long draught himself, noting when he stopped that there was not much left. “Can you eat?” Merrist pulled the bowl within the man’s reach. “I’ll help you.” He broke off a chunk of bread and dipped it into the water to soften it. “Here.”

The man managed three bites, then lowered his head to the floor and tuned away. “No more.”

“Are you in pain?”

At that the man turned back to him, a slow look of surprise crossing his face. “Nah, it be gone.”

“Good, I have healed the wound and removed the pain. You will regain your strength, now.”

The look of surprise turned to awe, then puzzlement and lastly, disbelief. “Tha’ be na’ possible.”

“Yet, it is so.” Merrist waited for that to sink in then added, “I am a healer. I have examined your wound and I can restore your leg so you will walk again.”

The man roused himself so that he could reach his wound and began to probe it with great care, sending Merrist suspicious glances several times as he did so. “Where be th’ cut?”

“I healed it.”

The man pulled up the blood crusted leg of his trousers so that he could examine his leg more closely. Finding no cut and not even a scab he lowered himself back down, his energy spent, and gave Merrist a long, probing look. “You ha’ done this?”

“Yes.”

“An’ ye say ye c’n make me walk?”

“I can, though it will be difficult.”

“Wha’ sort o’ magic be this? Be it ev’l?”

“No, it is a gift from Earth. She has made me a healer.”

The man looked at Merrist again, as though trying to make up his mind. After several moments he said, “Then make me walk. If ye’ be false I lose nought.”

“I will, but I must ask something in return.”

When the man did not answer, his face darkening again with suspicion, Merrist added. “When I heal it weakens me. I need food and drink. Will you make certain that I drink the rest of the water and eat some of that bread and cheese?”

The man looked at the bowl. “I c’n do tha’.”

END EXCERPT

You can find out more about Yvonne by clicking on the links below:

Smashwords
Twitter
Facebook Author page
Amazon author page
Amazon. UK
Goodreads
Website/blog
LinkedIn


Awesome Authors– Polly Iyer

picture of the authorToday on Awesome Authors I get to interview the lovely and talented Polly Iyer.  As fellow suspense authors, Polly and I have crossed paths through the years and tend to be members of many of the same groups/forums. In that time if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Polly, you definitely know where you stand with her–and believe me, in this biz that’s tres refreshing 😀

Here’s her bio (from the author): Polly Iyer is the author of six suspense novels: Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and two books–soon to be a third–in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games and Goddess of the Moon. Her books contain adult language and situations with characters who sometimes tread ethical lines. She grew up on the Massachusetts coast and studied at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. After living in Rome, Italy, Boston, and Atlanta, she now makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. She spends her time thinking of ways to make life difficult for her characters. Learn more about her at PollyIyer.com and feel free to email her at PollyIyer at gmail dot com. She loves to hear from her readers.

“The best way for me to develop a character is to become her/him. Really.”

D: Hi Polly! It’s great to have you here. Please tell us something about yourself.

P: Thanks for having me, D.V. I started out as fashion illustrator when department stores actually employed people to draw their ads. I worked for Fairchild Publications out of New England, which included Women’s Wear Daily and W. Then I switched to commercial art when I moved to Atlanta and drew storyboards for television commercials. When my husband and I started an import/design business, I stopped drawing. I’m really not sure artists do what I did back then anymore. Computers have taken over that field. The import business led to a home furnishings store, along with a custom frame shop. So I still worked in the arts. Then the writing bug hit, and goodbye store. I promise this is my last career.

D: Sounds familiar 🙂 Tell us about your latest release in two sentences.cover for threads

P: Threads took 13 years for me to write and publish. It’s about a woman’s worst nightmare.

D: You write in a few different genres, including mystery/suspense and erotica. How difficult is it to switch gears between the different genres? How do you handle writing under a pseudonym as well as your own name (e.g., marketing, fans, etc.)?

P: This is a tough one, because my erotic author persona is the forgotten stepchild. I started out paying attention to her, but after three books I really haven’t promoted her as much as I should. Actually, I kind of let her go. I do have another book half-finished, and I may start bringing her back. She doesn’t feel like me, so that’s a problem. Besides, she’s cuter and younger and makes me jealous.

D: LOL. Why did you decide to “go indie”? What was your road to publication like?

P: I wrote my first erotic romance because I thought it might be a way to break into publishing, though I’d never read the genre. I was right and found two great epublishers for my books while my agent tried to find publishers for a couple of my suspense novels. When that didn’t happen, I decided to publish them myself. It was a good decision, and I’ve never looked back. I now have six books on Amazon with a couple of others on the way.

“Last year, I pulled all my books off Amazon KDP Select and put them with a distributor.”

D: What kind of marketing has worked best for you?

P: I’m really not sure I can pinpoint what works and what doesn’t. I love Facebook for the camaraderie, but I try not to pimp my books unless I have a reason. I don’t like Twitter. I do it, but I don’t like it. Does it work? I have friends who swear by it. Of course, they have 40K followers. That would take too much time for me. Last year, I pulled all my books off Amazon KDP Select and put them with a distributor. That meant my books would be on all the platforms—B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc.—libraries, and foreign wholesalers. I wish I could say that worked, but it didn’t. I gave it a year and feel now that I lost a good bit of revenue by doing that. I went back on Select. I made more on borrows in the first month than I made in any month with the distributor. I offered a couple of free books, and my sales have definitely increased. So that has worked for me better than all the social media, and I didn’t have to do much pushing my books or me down anyone’s throat.

D: I totally get not wanting to force books down people’s throat. Readers don’t like it.

What’s your process like? Do you sit down with an idea and just go with it, or do you plot the story, do character sketches, etc., or something in between?

P: I get an idea and just go with it. I don’t plot, but I know where I want to end up. The best way for me to develop a character is to become her/him. Really. I get into their heads as if I were them. I had wanted to be an actress when I was young, so maybe that’s my way of acting. All I know is it works. I edit as I go because as the story develops, earlier plot points have to be changed, and I’m afraid I’ll forget to do that. I don’t trust myself to do it later. Things come up in my stories that I know I never would have thought of if I’d plotted. I’ve written ten books that way and a few I haven’t finished, so it works for me.

D: As indies, we need to know about every facet of publishing from self-editing to marketing to formatting to cover design to accounting. Which of these do you tackle and which do you hire out, if any?

P: I mentioned self-editing, but when I’m finished, I turn it over to an editor who’s a writer and a grammarian, Ellis Vidler. She’s a critique partner and friend, so we keep in touch on a daily basis anyway, and we’re there for each other when needed. I also have another excellent critique partner, Maggie Toussaint. I don’t know what I’d do without them. I do my own formatting for ebooks and for paperback. I also do all my own covers. After a career in the arts, it’s one way of keeping my tired old hands in the visually creative part of writing. Besides, it’s what I did, and I doubt I’d be happy with anyone else’s vision of my books.

“Most writers starting out, unless they’ve gone through a master’s program, don’t know what they don’t know.”

D: What are you currently working on?

cover for BacklashP: I’m working on the third book of the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Backlash. This one has been especially difficult because I’m a stand-alone writer and love to develop the characters. That’s harder to do as a series progresses, which is why series get tired unless we can find something new to write about the characters. I’m almost finished. It’s also hard to keep the quality up to what readers of the first two books expect. I would hate to disappoint them.

D: Which writers have inspired you?

P: I’ve always been a reader of dark novels. I love Dennis Lehane, James Lee Burke, John Sandford, Karin Slaughter, Mo Hayder, early Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Robert Crais. For lighter fare, I love some of the writers of the 70s like Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Leon Uris, and Judith Kranz. They wrote good stories I loved reading.

D: What was the worst advice you ever received about writing? Best?

P: Worst? Write what you know. Why would I? Part of the fun for me is writing what I don’t know. Now if I were an ex-secret agent or an adventurer, maybe I would. But I’m not. I have a good imagination, and I use it. Best advice? Write what I want to write the way I want to write it. I can’t write to the market just to sell books. I don’t play safe, and that’s the way I like it.

“Part of the fun for me is writing what I don’t know.”

D: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

P: Get readers who will tell you the truth to read your manuscripts. And get an editor. Join groups. Keep up with what’s going on in the publishing business. Most writers starting out, unless they’ve gone through a master’s program, don’t know what they don’t know. I sure didn’t, not that I know everything now.

D: Where do you see yourself in five years?

P: Doing what I’m doing now. This is my most fun career because I can become so many other people.

D: Where do you think publishing is headed?

P: If publishers and Amazon can stop their silly power plays, the future of publishing should embrace both electronic and paper books. I’d like to see new respect to indie authors instead of the distinctions being made that separate us into two camps. I just went to a big conference and was barred from being on a panel because I wasn’t traditionally published. I saw first-time authors on the panels who had no portfolio of reviews and rankings. That should stop, and I hope it does.

D: My sentiments, exactly. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Polly–good luck with Backlash!

P: Again, D.V., thanks for having me. Your questions were fun and made me think.

D: Here’s an excerpt from Polly’s book, Threads:

(Begin EXCERPT:)

The artsy crowd packed the gallery’s opening night. Once inside, Alan grabbed two champagne flutes off the tray of a roaming waiter, giving him the eye and getting one back.

“Half the city’s here. Hey, check out that couple,” he whispered in Miranda’s ear. “I’ll tell you all about those two tomorrow. Scandalous. Clue―that’s not his wife. In fact,” Alan cupped his hand around her ear, “she’s not a she.”

“Huh? You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Oh, there’s Jeffrey. Mind if I go over and thank him for cluing us in on this?”

Miranda waved him on. “I’m a big girl, Alan. I can take care of myself.”

“Be right back.”

She stole another peek at the object of Alan’s gossip―sheesh, who’d’ve thought? After stopping to chat with a few acquaintances, she continued her stroll around the gallery, listening to varying reviews of the art.

The paintings, displayed on white walls with halogen spots, hung in three different abstract groups―figuratives, landscapes, and paintings the art world might describe as “what the fuck.” The artist had wielded his brush with thick, vibrant color, creating an impression of movement and energy. Miranda stood back, sipped her champagne, and squinted at each one. The portraits were easy to distinguish as were the landscapes, but she couldn’t for the life of her define the subject matter of the third category, and their titles didn’t help. Dream #1 was anything but dreamy. More like a nightmare.

“Well, what do you think?” a deep, slightly accented voice from behind her asked. “Do you like them?”

She turned to the tall, exotically handsome man who asked her opinion. He wore his dark brown hair long enough to partially cover a small diamond stud, and his smile revealed unnaturally white teeth. But his most riveting feature was his eyes―black and piercing and intensely focused on her. Heat rose on her face as those same eyes flashed with amusement at the obvious impact he had on her. She couldn’t help herself. The man could have been a movie-star idol.

“I haven’t had a chance to study them all,” she said, “but I like a few.”

“And the others?”

She stood back, deliberating, then faced him square on. “Suck.”

Gorgeous burst out laughing. People turned to see what happened. “I love it. A breath of fresh air.”

“Well, I mean, take that one.” She pointed to a large canvas with a black figure embracing a red figure. “Who are they supposed to be? Fred and Ginger?”

“The black figure is Medea.”

“What’s she doing? Is she―” Miranda stopped when she figured out the action in the painting. She shuddered. “Now I know I don’t like it. The artist―what’s his name, I forgot―must be a whack job.”

“Hmm, could be.”

“Where is he anyway? Point him out.”

A subtle bow accompanied his offered hand. “Stephen Baltraine, at your service,” he said with a playful smile. His gaze remained on her face, exactly where it had been throughout their conversation.

Miranda’s cheeks flamed. “My father always said anyone asking my opinion better be ready for it.” She forced a smile. “I should learn to keep my mouth shut until I know who I’m talking to.”

“I’m just glad you spoke softly.”

“I don’t suppose I could start over and say it’s fabulously frenetic and original, could I?”

He leaned into her. “Not a chance.

(End EXCERPT)

You can find out more about Polly Iyer at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Audible.

 


Awesome Authors–Peg Brantley

Peg Brantley photoToday’s Awesome Author is thriller/mystery writer Peg Brantley. I met Peg while swimming around in the Guppies (Great Unpublished) pond of the writers group Sisters in Crime and have heard great things about her work. She currently has 3 novels out: Red Tide, The Missings, and The Sacrifice. Glowing comments on her work include, “engaging characters,” “grabs you from the first page,” and “a definite page turner.” Hmmm. Sounds like an author to put on my TBR list… 😀

Bio (from the author): A Colorado native, Peg Brantley is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors’ League, and Sisters In Crime. She lives with her husband southeast of Denver. Peg’s third book, The Sacrifice, is a finalist for two 2014 Colorado literary awards.

DV: Welcome, Peg! Please tell us about yourself and your latest release.

PB: This is where I wish I could tell you about my fabulous past—reveal something notorious or incredibly brave. The truth is I’m only mildly interesting and that could be a stretch.

cover of The SacrificeTHE SACRIFICE was released at the end of 2013. I’ve had more than one reviewer say they were surprised they liked the book based on the back cover copy. Obviously that’s not where my strength lies. TS is about a man who lost his family and is working through associated depression, and a missing young girl and the religious cult she thinks of as her new family.

THE SACRIFICE was a finalist in one Colorado literary award presented last month, and a second literary award to be presented a few days before this blog post airs. I wrote a guest post at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog about what it felt like to lose.

DV: The novels you currently have available are stand-alone thrillers, correct? Have you considered writing a series?

PB: Well, bless your heart for asking. (No, I’m not from the south, but this really works here.)

cover and link for Red TideDue to reader’s requests (and because it’s really easy to do) RED TIDE and THE MISSINGS will be turned into the first two stories of a series set in Aspen Falls, Colorado. There was some carry-over of the characters between the books and I’m excited to spend more time with them.

And as luck would have it, readers (and a particular endorser) for THE SACRIFICE have encouraged me to continue the series with the characters I developed in those pages.

My goal will be to continue to write each novel as a stand-alone, with the added strength of a series and longer character development opportunities.

My challenge will be to write faster. Two series? Are you kidding me?

DV: LOL. Yeah, I know the feeling 🙂 When did you realize you were a writer?

PB: I think at some level I’ve always been a writer. But life and responsibilities made me more of a reader for a very long time. About ten years ago, family circumstances played a huge role in affording me both the time and opportunity to begin to learn the craft of writing when my bonus son suffered a stroke at a very young age. After we moved him back home for his recovery, I finally had the time to explore my writing options.

“After about eight years, I had blown my way through some horrible manuscripts and was finally beginning to produce something worth reading.”

DV: What was your road to indie publication like?

PB: My road was probably not too different from many others. Several years ago, indie or self-publication was not on the table for me. Vanity publishing, as much of it was at that time, had a horrible reputation for producing inferior products. I was determined to find an agent I could work well with and a publisher happy to take a chance on an unknown.

I took workshops, read books about writing, went to writer conferences, joined a critique group—all of those things we do to learn how to string together effective words.

After about eight years, I had blown my way through some horrible manuscripts and was finally beginning to produce something worth reading. That’s when a friend of mine, L.J. Sellers, encouraged me to jump in the game rather than to continue to sit on the sidelines like a good girl and wait. With her help, I learned the right way to put together a novel people enjoy.

DV: What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a specific word count? Plotter or pantser?

PB: As much as I’d love to write every day, my life often has other things in store. However, yesterday while I was in the chair at my dentist’s office I was considering a character and particular plot-point in the manuscript I’m writing. I guess in a way, I do write every day.

Generally, I aim for 2000 words a day, and feel pretty good when I’m consistently hitting that target.cover and link for The missings

While I’m neither a plotter or a pantser, I do have to have a plan in mind. Crime fiction doesn’t leave a lot of room for going off the rails. For me, it’s a lot like taking a road trip. I know where my story is beginning and I have a good idea where it will end, with some planned stops along the way. What I do allow, just as on a road trip, are those little spur of the moment side trips. If they’re interesting and fit the flavor of the trip, I’ll explore them a little more. If they’re to some place boring and potentially confusing, I’m outta there.

If you’re interested in a little more detail, I wrote a post about it on my blog.

DV: Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?

PB: Deadlines, definitely. But deadlines I set. I work backward from a targeted publication date, including time for self-editing, beta readers, professional editing, endorsements, and cover and interior design. From there, I know when I need to have the first draft completed and how many words a day I need to write to meet the deadline.

“Next up on my list is to attend an autopsy.”

DV: How much research do you do when writing your books?

A lot! I’ve often thought being a fantasy or science fiction writer would be heaven. Not only are you making the story completely up, but you’re making everything about the world up as well. Everything.

I use Google, reference books, contacts and friendships. I’ve attended the Writers Police Academy and the Citizen Police Academy for my city. Next up on my list is to attend an autopsy.

DV: Which writers have influenced you and why?

PB: Oh, my. One of the things I admire about L.J. Sellers’s books is that she often takes a topical social issue and works it into the story. I’ve tried to do the same. Her writing is tight and spare while still providing just the right amount of description and emotion.

Dean Koontz can extend tension with fabulous skill, as well as say volumes in as few as eight words. The right eight words.

Michael Connelly builds layers and layers of character and drops them into some of the best plots ever.

DV: In light of the huge changes in the industry, where do you think publishing is headed?

PB: I think that for the first time in the history of publishing, it’s headed exactly where readers want it to go. Readers are in the driver’s seat, not publishing company CFOs.

Readers, with their new power, recognized rather quickly that they could find some wonderful new authors for very little financial investment, and scoffed at the old publishing models. Having said that, I believe they are rapidly tiring of some of the mindless slush pile garbage “authors” are throwing out simply to see what sticks, and can appreciate that the old publishing models took care of that gigantic pile that’s now available to everyone. Still, the cream will rise to the top as it always has, but this time, readers are in charge.

“I think that for the first time in the history of publishing, [publishing is] headed exactly where readers want it to go.”

DV: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

PB: I hope I’m still doing what I love—writing stories. But I’ll be thinner I’m sure. And better dressed.

DV: 😀 What advice would you give to new writers?

PB: If you can, find a good writers group and learn from them. Attend writer conferences, read books on craft. Treat this time as your college education.

It’s okay to write a story that needs work. We all do. It’s not okay to publish a story that needs work, at least if you want to make writing a career.

Read the books you love to read like crazy and then write and write and write some more.

Don’t quit. It’s only if you quit that you fail.

DV: What’s next for Peg Brantley?

PB: FLAME GAME will be out in late October (with a little luck) and then I’ll begin getting my characters in THE SACRIFICE in deep trouble once again.

Thanks, D.V., for allowing me to spend a little time with you and your readers. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

DV: Thank you for stopping by, Peg! I’ll definitely be checking out your books. They sound like they’re right up my alley 🙂 (For more information about Peg and her work, I’ve included links at the end of the post.)

Below is an excerpt from THE SACRIFICE:

EXCERPT:

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Dia woke with a start and listened hard. She’d heard a noise. Where had it come from? What was it? There. A thump and voices. Outside. She pushed the light blanket off, pushed aside the mosquito netting and stepped to look out the window.
Pilar, Luis, and Hector were swaying and chanting. Sparks from the fire they stood around flew off into the night. What were they doing? If this was a Santeria ritual Dia wanted to be there.

Where did she leave her shoes? Come on, Dia, she thought. You would think in this small room she wouldn’t lose anything. She dug around in her clothes bag. Nothing. Maybe if she stood on the deck it would be okay. She wouldn’t need shoes if she didn’t go down by the fire.

Dia padded barefoot to the door that led from the main area to the back deck and eased the screen open. She tried to be quiet, not because she was trying to be sneaky, but because she didn’t want to interrupt a religious ritual. Softly closing the door behind her, she moved to the edge of the deck where she could more clearly see and hear what was going on.
It was a ritual all right. But the words were different from any she’d ever heard before. She’d have to ask Pilar what they meant.

Luis held something in his hand and raised it over his head. Dia gasped out loud when she realized it was a dead rooster. The man spun in her direction, the firelight carving angry lines in his face as he looked at her.

“You! Leave at once!” The venom of the words stung Dia and pushed her back from the deck rail. She knew Luis had mostly just put up with her, but now he sounded like he hated her. She sought Pilar. Their eyes met and Dia could not understand the expression on her nanny-turned-friend’s face. Then Dia dropped her gaze down to what Pilar held in her hands.

My shoes.

END EXCERPT

You can learn more about Peg at her website or meet up with her on Facebook  or follow her blog. Her Amazon Author page is here.

 


Awesome Authors–Charles Ray

Author photoToday on Awesome Authors I’m pleased to interview prolific writer, former diplomat, journalist, and current intrepid world-traveler, Charlie Ray. I first became aware of Charlie through Indies Unlimited,where he’s a frequent commenter. He’s much more active online than I could ever hope to be, as he maintains several blogs, regularly posts on Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook, not to mention taking the time to stop by other blogs to show his support. Not only that, but he pens both fiction and non-fiction, is a fabulous photographer, and a fine artist. Whew. I wish I had that kind of energy and talent! Intrigued, aren’t you? Then what the heck are we waiting for? Let’s get to the interview:

(From the author’s bio): Charles Ray has been writing fiction since his teens. He won a Sunday school magazine writing contest when he was thirteen, and having his byline on a short story published in a national publication forever hooked him on writing. During his time in the army (1962-1982) he often moonlighted as a newspaper or magazine journalist, and was the editorial cartoonist for the Spring Lake (NC) News, a weekly newspaper, during the 1970s. In addition to his writing, he was an artist/cartoonist and photographer for a number of publications, including Ebony, Eagle and Swan, and Essence, and had a monthly cartoon feature and did several covers for Buffalo, a now-defunct magazine that was dedicated to showcasing the contributions of African-Americans to the country’s military history.

After retiring from the army, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service, and served as a diplomat in posts in Asia and Africa until his retirement in 2012. He has worked and traveled throughout the world (Antarctica is the only continent he hasn’t visited), and now, as a full-time writer, continues to globetrot looking for interesting things to write about, draw, or take pictures of.

DV: Hi Charlie! Thanks for being here. Please tell us about yourself and what you write.

CR:  I grew up in a small town in rural East Texas and fell in love with books at an early age. I wrote my first fiction (a short story for a Sunday school magazine) when I was 13, and it won first place and was published, so I became hooked on writing as well at an early age. I write like I read – in a variety of genres. I’ve done books on leadership and management, a couple of books of my photographs (I’ve done newspaper and magazine photography, and taught it at an L.A. City College overseas program in Korea in the late 1970s), and several books of fiction. I do a mystery series (starring a PI based in Washington, DC) and a western/historical series about the Buffalo Soldiers. I’ve also done fantasy and comedy, and did a sort of dystopian sci-fi bit about the confluence of political/religious extremism and climate change (The Culling). My wife says my problem is twofold – I have a short attention span and I refuse to grow up.Cover for Death and Taxis

DV: 🙂 You’ve had quite the storied career in the U.S. Army as well as the State Department. How have these experiences influenced your writing?

CR: As you might imagine, a lot of the things I’ve experienced naturally find their way into my writing – including people and places. In the main, though, having spent nearly 50 years traveling around the world has taught me to be observant and store impressions that can later be called up in the stories I write. Everything, including what I see and hear on my subway commute here in DC, is grist for the creative mill. I got the idea for my first book on leadership watching an old lady chastise a couple of loud teen girls on the subway one day (Things I Learned from my Grandmother about Leadership and Life).

DV: Obviously, you’ve done a LOT of traveling. Which places are foremost in your memory and why? Do you plan to use them in future writing projects?

CR: The only continent I’ve never visited is Antarctica. As to which stand out – they all do in one way or another. I’ve visited the Taj Mahal and Stonehenge, walked the Great Wall, and flown over Colombian and Panamanian jungles. Angkor Wat is one of my favorite places, but so is the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. I once flew from Cape Town, South Africa to Copenhagen, Denmark in the middle of December – that was an unforgettable experience – and have lived in the German Alps. I’ve been all over the U.S., and loved every inch of it. Little bits of places and people I’ve encountered find their way into almost everything I write. I’ve lived in Washington, DC off and on since 1982, and a lot of my current work (except the Buffalo Soldier series) is based mainly in the DC area. Long answer to a short question, but the short version, is, yes I do.

“…having spent nearly 50 years traveling around the world has taught me to be observant and store impressions that can later be called up in the stories I write…”

DV: I’ve always wanted to visit Angkor Wat. I’ll have to pick your brain about it later 🙂 Please describe your latest release.

Cover for Frontier JusticeCR: I just finished Frontier Justice, a fictionalized account of the first two years of the service of Bass Reeves the first African-American deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. Even though the accounts are fictitious, they’re based on historical research.

DV: That sounds intriguing. What prompted you to write Frontier Justice?

CR: After reading a couple of my Buffalo Soldier novels, my daughter, Denise, suggested that I should do more western/historical stories about the Old West because of the distorted images of the period by popular media. In my research for the Buffalo Soldier series, I’ve learned that a lot of what I thought growing up watching western movies in cinema and on TV was wrong. Ten percent of the cavalry on the frontier, for instance, was African-American, as well as the infantry units. After the Civil War, most of the U.S. Army was deployed west of the Mississippi to support the country’s westward expansion, so if the movies were accurate, many times the cavalry coming to the rescue would be men of color. Moreover, many of the cowboys and outlaws were minorities. So, I’m just trying to use my fiction to fill in some of the blanks.Cover for Buffalo Soldier: Yosemite

DV: We definitely need more historical accuracy in our educational system. I always found it odd that no one questioned what we were taught in school. You’re definitely a prolific writer having written both non-fiction and fiction, including the Al Pennyback mystery series and the historical Buffalo Soldier series. What do you enjoy about writing in each genre? What do you find challenging?

CR: I like mysteries and westerns – always have – because they’re action oriented and usually have a sort of Aesop-fable moral to them. I like mysteries because of the puzzle factor, and westerns because of the way the world is seen in simple terms. The challenge is to take the formulas of these two genres and create fully fleshed, interesting characters and less-than-simple plot lines, and tell an interesting story. The other challenge is to keep from sounding too similar when I switch from one to the other.

“I’m just trying to use my fiction to fill in some of the blanks.”

DV: How long does it take you to write a novel?

CR: Depends. The mysteries take a month or two because of the need to work out clues and red herrings and the like. The westerns I can do in about three weeks as soon as I’ve decided on the opening and ending.

DV: Do you research before the start of each book or while you write?

CR: Both. I do basic research before starting, but as I write, I’m constantly looking up things like weapons capability, date of events, etc. Research never ends.

DV: Do you outline or make it up as you go along?

CR: I do a chapter by chapter sketch. Main action and characters involved. But, I leave space between chapters, because sometimes as I’m writing, something new will come up and things get changed. I don’t do excessively detailed outlines because that constricts the creative flow. What I do is end each day’s writing session by starting the next chapter. Then, I visualize in my mind the action, get a feel for smell, sound, etc., and then start writing.

“I don’t do excessively detailed outlines because that constricts the creative flow.”

DV: Great method. I think Hemingway worked like that. Do you edit as you go or wait until you’re finished and then go back through the manuscript? Do you hire a professional editor for your work?

CR: I correct gross and obvious mistakes as I work, but wait until I’m done – let it cool off a few days, and then go back over it from page one. I thought about paying for a professional editor, but from what I’ve seen of many traditionally published books, errors will still creep in. As long as they don’t interrupt the flow of the story, or are just so numerous they indicate carelessness, I don’t think it makes a great difference. I’m more concerned with getting the layout looking smooth and professional.

DV: What made you decide to “go indie”?

Cover for The CullingCR: I worked as a freelance journalist for decades. Pay was low and slow, and only the few best sellers had any control over their work. I was also curious about the mechanical side of publishing.

DV: What kind of marketing works best for you?

CR: I’m still experimenting. I do a blog and a lot on social media, and that does generate a few sales. In the highly competitive world of today, I don’t expect a 50 Shades of Gray response, just modest, regular sales, with increase over time as word gets around. I also do speaking, keep spare copies of books with me to hand out when I travel, and get the word out through a couple of professional associations I work with. I worked with an organization at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, for instance, and got a spot in their magazine about my Buffalo Soldier series. Leavenworth happens to be home to the Buffalo Soldier monument. After the article appeared, my sales shot up over a thousand percent for three or four months, and that series continues to do relatively well.

DV: Nice. Niche marketing is a great way to do it. What advice would you give to a new writer?

CR: Write – write every day. Don’t let self-doubt or naysayers turn you off from it if writing gives you a thrill. Read a lot, and not just the genres you write. You can learn a lot from what others have done. Don’t have a thin skin about criticism.

“I don’t expect a 50 Shades of Gray response, just modest, regular sales, with increase over time as word gets around.”

DV: In light of the huge changes in the publishing industry, where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think publishing will change in the future?

CR: Hopefully in five years I will still be writing, only to a larger audience. I think the e-book and Indie revolutions have changed publishing, making it more democratic, and as it matures it will become more ‘traditional.’ Unlike many, I don’t think physical books will be completely replaced by e-Books. I think the prices of books will go way down, so anyone looking to become rich by writing should perhaps look for another occupation.

DV: And now, my favorite question: If you could travel anywhere through time (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?

CR: I’d actually do both. I’d like to go back to the post-Civil War period to see what it was actually like (my grandmother was born in 1895, and told interesting stories about growing up), and then I’d like to go forward a hundred years to see what the world will be like.

DV: Great idea! I’m certainly curious to see how everything works out in the future…

Thank you for stopping by today, Charlie, and good luck with your writing!

If you’d like to learn more about Charles Ray and his work, please see the links below. But first, here’s an excerpt from his newest release, Frontier Justice:

EXCERPT:

Bass Reeves was a big man.

At six-feet, two-inches, and weighing one hundred eighty pounds, he would have been an imposing figure even without the bushy black mustache that covered his upper lip and hung down to the edge of his square chin, the long, muscular arms, and hands, each of which was bigger than two hands on most men.

He had just returned to his farm from a scouting job with the U.S. Marshals over in the Indian Territory, and during his absence, many of the chores which were beyond the abilities of his young sons had remained undone. Dressed in a faded pair of brown canvas pants and a blue wool shirt, he was hoisting a fence pole into the hole he’d just finished digging when he saw the rider approaching along the road from the town of Van Buren.

His curiosity was aroused. It wasn’t often that people from town came out this way, most especially just before the middle of the day. Removing the battered brown Stetson, he took a cloth from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his broad, brown brow, and stood watching as the single rider drew nearer.

When the rider was about a hundred yards off, Bass was able to distinguish features. He saw that it was a white man with a long, dark brown beard that came to a point midway down the front of the black coat he wore. His hair, dark brown, almost black, splayed out from under the white hat he wore pulled down low over his forehead. Bass saw the butt of a Winchester rifle jutting out of the scabbard attached to the right side of the saddle, and assumed that the man also had at least one pistol in a holster. Few men, white or black, went anywhere this close to Indian Territory without a firearm. Bass’s own weapon, a Winchester repeating rifle, was leaned against a small tree about ten feet from where he stood. He’d left his Colt .44 pistols at the house, not figuring he’d need them just to mend a little fence. And besides, they’d just have been in the way.

Not that he was in any way worried. The stranger didn’t seem to pose any threat. He rode up, pulling his horse to a halt about ten feet away. Up close, Bass noted that he was almost as tall as he was, but considerably lighter, maybe a hundred fifty pounds or so. His expression, while not hostile, wasn’t particularly friendly either. There was something about the face that seemed familiar.

The man dismounted. He left his rifle in the scabbard and tied his horse to the fence post Bass had just an hour earlier planted in the ground. As he walked closer, his coat flapped open revealing a revolver high on his right hip.

“Don’t seem particularly friendly,” Bass thought. “But, don’t seem threatenin’ neither.”

The man stopped just beyond his reach.

“You Bass Reeves?” he asked.

END EXCERPT

Blog and Social Media Links:

http://charlieray45.wordpress.com
http://charlesaray.blogspot.com
http://redroom.com/member/charles-a-ray
https://www.facebook.com/CharlieRay45
http://www.linkedin.com/in/charlieray
https://plus.google.com/u/0/106101898215720668007/posts
https://members.nationalgeographic.com/55370966487/
http://www.viewbug.com/member/charlesray

Links to selected recent books:

Frontier Justice:
Kindle
Paperback

The Culling:
Kindle
Paperback

Death and Taxis:
Kindle
Paperback


Awesome Authors–Ellis Vidler

photo of the authorMy guest today on Awesome Authors is the fabulous mystery-suspense author, Ellis Vidler. I’ve known Ellis since I found the supportive writer’s group, Sisters-in-Crime, and their sub-group, the Guppies. Ellis is an author, editor, and speaker. She grew up in North Alabama, studied English and art at All Saints College for Women, and thoroughly enjoyed studying creative writing under the great Scott Regan. She also taught elements of fiction at a community college. Her home is now the South Carolina Piedmont with her husband and dogs.

(From the author’s bio): As a child in the South, Ellis spent long, hot days imagining herself an Indian or pioneer or musketeer. At night she (and her whole family) read. From Tarzan and D’Artagnan to Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew, she lived them all. No angst in her childhood. So what did she do as an adult? Write fiction, what else? She loves creating characters and making them do what she wants, but mostly they take off on their own and leave her hurrying to catch up.

Hi Ellis! Thanks for joining us 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and your writing:

EV: I grew up on everything from Tarzan to Nancy Drew and Jane Eyre, and I’ve always loved reading and writing. My career began with illustrating and morphed into editing and technical writing. Now I write fiction and love it.

DV: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

EV: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer.

DV: What compels you to write?

EV: The characters in my head—they want to have their stories told, even though the stories evolve and shoot off in new directions as I write them.cover for cold comfort

DV: What do you enjoy most about writing in the crime genre? Dislike? How much research goes into one of your books?

EV: Suspense is what I aim for, but there’s always an element of romance. Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer. I can’t stick with the required elements long enough for them to be called romances. For example, in Prime Target (coming out late this year) the main characters don’t meet until Chapter 10, a no-no in romance, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s a love story on my terms.

I research everything, trying to get the details right. It’s an obsession, but it’s also a good way to get sidetracked. One interesting fact can lead me down a lengthy detour.

“Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer…”

DV: Sounds familiar 🙂 In the McGuire Women series, your protagonists have psychic abilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your main characters? What were the challenges you faced?

cover for time of deathEV: My grandmother was psychic. I think hers was considered telepathy. She knew when any of her family was ill or injured, no matter where they were. I was there and saw it, so I know it was real. After Haunting Refrain came out, I found out her brother had the same ability. Psychic ability has always fascinated me, in spite of the charlatans. One of my cousins has some of it; however, none of the family “gift” passed to me.

DV: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?

EV: Yes, they do work their way in, but I alter them to fit the story. My main characters tend to like what I like and experience many of the same things. In Cold Comfort, Claire is with Riley in a small plane. The events of the flight and the storm actually happened to me and my husband—proof that ignorance is bliss.

DV: What are you currently working on?

EV: I just approved my first audio book, Time of Death (Note: see link at end of interview) Haunting Refrain will be out next month. I have two terrific narrators and can’t wait for the books to be released. Also, I’m trying hard to wrap up Prime Target and get it to my beta readers. I love it, but the story is different, and I don’t know how it will go over.cover for prime target

DV: That sounds intriguing! I can’t wait… What’s your process when you write? Do you outline or just get an idea and run with it?

EV: Until now I’ve been a pantser, running with a vague idea, but I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.

DV: I know that feeling 😛 Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?

EV: Study your craft and persevere. My first book, Haunting Refrain, was much more luck than judgment. I had no idea how little I knew. It’s amazing that a publisher actually wanted it. I’ve been both traditionally and self-published. There are pros and cons to each. Writers have to decide which one suits them. Personally, I like the control I have in doing it myself and intend to stick with “indie” publishing.

“…I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.”

DV: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?

EV: Ideally, I’d like to have several more books out. Ebooks are becoming more and more popular, but I don’t think print books are going to disappear. With the advent of earbuds and tiny players, audio is gaining too. It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story. That won’t change.

DV: What strategies work best for you when promoting a novel?

EV: Goodness, I’ve tried so many. Twitter, Facebook, freebies (I doubt if I’ll do any more of those), ads on certain reader sites… I have a blog with lots of articles, I but rarely post now.

Luck, timing, and word of mouth are the best, and you have no control over any of those things.

“It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story.”

DV: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go and why?

EV: I wouldn’t give up electricity, hot water, the microwave, or the Internet. I like my creature comforts. 🙂  I’d probably go back to my twenties (a long time ago) and get serious about my writing sooner.

DV: Hmm. Good idea. Now, if I could just figure out where I put that pesky Time Machine… Thanks so much for stopping by today, Ellis! Good luck on your new releases 😀

If you’d like to find out more about Ellis and her work, please check out the links below:

Amazon author page:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Blog

Buy links (Amazon):

Haunting Refrain

Time of Death

Time of Death Audio (NEW!)

Cold Comfort  (On sale for .99!)


Awesome Authors–Donnell Ann Bell

Photo of authorToday on Awesome Authors it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Sister-in-Crime member and bestselling romantic suspense writer, Donnell Ann Bell! Donnell and I have known each other a long time, having been members of the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), a sub-group of Sisters-In-Crime. Donnell grew up in New Mexico and has a background in court reporting and non-fiction writing. She’s also acted as coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier writing contest put on by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, which I had the good fortune to judge a few years back. She currently calls Colorado home.

Extra: Donnell is giving away a book to one lucky commenter today, so tell us something fun or leave a comment about the interview and you could win your choice of one of her fabulous romantic suspense novels 😀

(From the author’s website): Donnell Ann Bell is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart® from Romance Writers of America® in their unpublished formats. Also, in October Deadly Recall was nominated for an EPIC Award in the Suspense/Thriller category. Her third release, Betrayed, from Bell Bridge Books is now available (November 18, 2013).  Her website is www.donnellannbell.com

DV: Hi Donnell! Thanks for being here 🙂

Donnell: Hi, DV!  Happy to be here!  cover for Betrayed

DV: Tell us about your latest release, Betrayed.

Donnell: Thank you.  As I wrote above, Betrayed is my third release from Bell Bridge Books and this book, too, is written around my theme of SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME and the places I’ve lived.  All my books are stand alone, but they revolve around the places I’ve lived, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Betrayed takes place in Denver.  I write cop protagonists who encounter very strong women.

DV: You mention on your website that your debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was inspired by a country song. What else compels you to write?

Donnell:  I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished.  In The Past Came Hunting I was overwhelmed that a young girl who goes off with her bad news boyfriend could wind up in prison after being charged as an accessory to armed robbery and murder.  This bothered me so much that I had to make things right and give this poor girl her own happy ending.

I wrote an entire book after listening to a breaking news story about a man gunned down on the New Mexico capital steps.  These kinds of things don’t happen in Santa Fe very often.  I was on my lunch hour at the time and had to go into work.  That night I watched the news broadcasts, I scanned newspapers but I couldn’t find out why that man had been killed.  As I said, his story was unfinished, and it bothered me.  I wrote my first book based on that breaking news story.  If an idea resonates with me and I don’t like the ending, or can’t find the ending, I’ll finish the book.

“Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.”

DV: Gotta hate an unfinished story 🙂What was your road to publication like?

Donnell:  Long 😉  I started writing fiction in 2001, and used that time to hone my craft.  I never seriously submitted because I didn’t feel I was ready.  In 2005, I felt I was close with Walk Away Joe.  In 2007, Walk Away Joe finaled in the Golden Heart.  Deadly Recall finaled in 2010.  In 2010, my agent and I parted ways.  My manuscript was on a New York publisher’s desk, but I was so impressed at RWA National with BelleBooks aka Bell Bridge Books, I decided to submit.  I loved Deborah Smith’s response to my query.  She said, “Hey, this sounds good.  Send it.  Send Deadly Recall, too.”  I did and I’ve been more than happy I did.     

DV: Your books have an overarching theme of the past influencing the present—either from suppressed memories of witnessing a murder as a child, or from making bad choices as a teenager. Will your next books continue that theme? What motivated you to explore this subject?

Donnell: Oh, great question.  Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.  And I think our childhood shapes us.  The book I’m working on now has to do with cliques.  I’m not a fan.  I also detest bullies.  The tentative title of this book is called The Follower, and guilt will swamp my heroine over a childhood decision she makes that gets another killed.

“…everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉

DV:  What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write?

Donnell:  I try to write every day, and generally write the first draft in Greg shorthand.  (Yep, I’m that old <g>) Then I transcribe in a clean notebook, and eventually transfer it to the keyboard.  This helps because by then I have a comprehensive manuscript that is basically draft 3.  I have to get away from the computer to write and not get sidetracked by social networking.  I learned with the advent and now the onslaught of social media that I have ADHD.  I tried typing straight from the keyboard, but kept checking e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.  I can’t be trusted so I stick with my trusty notebook.

DV: Totally get that, Donnell 🙂  Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?

EPIC awardDonnell:  Oh, everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉  I’ve worked without them, but I kept editing and didn’t move very fast.  Is a book ever perfect, D.V.?  

DV:  Nope. Never 🙂 How much research do you do when writing your books?

Donnell:  Probably as much as you do, given what we write.  Gosh, it’s amazing how much I don’t know.  I’ll get on a roll and have to stop to check a fact or learn about a career, or check police procedure.  I find that every thread I create leads to more research.  Research follows me from draft all the way to the completed project.  I’m never done and I’m always double checking because technology is changing at such rapid speed.

“I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished…”

DV:  In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you think the publishing industry is headed?

Donnell:  I think self-publishing has opened doors for writers and readers. I think it’s shown traditional publishers that readers don’t want the same ol’ same ol’ and that is a huge blessing.  I’ve always written out of the box and I’m grateful my publisher took a chance on me. 

I think self-publishing is making agents broaden their scope, and publishers take notice of self-pubbed authors to see how they fare. Unfortunately, I don’t see publishers taking chances on debut authors as much, and this worries me.  I see a lot of writers publish before they’re ready (in my opinion.)  As I said above, I studied and entered contests to gauge whether or not my manuscript was ready. It took me years, and the learning process was well worth the wait. It’s tempting to put our work out there, but even though I came from a nonfiction background, when it came to writing fiction, I had so much to learn.     

DV:  What advice would you give to new writers?

Donnell:  It’s so tempting, but don’t rush.  Learn craft.  Study The Heroes Journey, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, enter contests to get feedback, and read, read, read.  Join a qualified critique group, and if writing is your passion, enjoy every minute.  Don’t believe every “rule” is gospel.  If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue. For every expert that tells you to do it a certain way, there are successful authors who prove him wrong.  Every writer develops a process.  Do what works for you.   

DV asked for an excerpt from my November 18, 2013 release, BETRAYED.  So I’ll just say thanks again, and hope your readers will check out BETRAYED.  I had a lot of fun writing it.

EXCERPT

Most of the team respected Kinsey and wanted to play.  And since she’d issued the unpopular decree, members of the male persuasion had tapered off.  But Cara had one beau who was certified trouble.  He was notorious for lurking in the distance.  He showed up constantly, much like the tall dude in baseball cap and sunglasses on the hill.

“He one of yours?” Kinsey asked.

Cara shaded her eyes and stared off in his direction.  “I wish.”

Kinsey kicked Cara a practice ball.  “Work on your dribbling.  Be right back.”

Trudging up the incline, prepared to set the kid straight, Kinsey stopped midway up the hill.  This was no high school student she was about to face.  This was an adult male watching her team.  He was too young to be one of their parents, and at the thought of a potential predator scoping out her girls, she pulled out her cell phone and prepared to call security.

“This is a closed practice,” she called moving upward.  “My players are on my clock now, so you’ll have to leave.”

“What if I’m not interested in the players?  What if I prefer the coach?” the wise guy asked.

Much like Cara had, Kinsey shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun.  She squinted some nice features into focus and stopped walking.  “Nate?”

“Hi ya, Kins.”

She gulped in disbelief.  She’d spent much of her high school career pining over this creep, and all he had to say to her was, “Hi ya, Kins?”

“I’m working.  Is there something I can help you with?”

He pulled aside his hand, revealing a badge clipped to his belt.  “Maybe.  I’m here on police business.”

An odd sense of disappointment clutched at her chest.  Somewhere she’d heard Nate had become a cop.  Of course he hadn’t had a secret crush on her all these years, awoken this morning, and come to his senses.

Really, Kins, he can still get to you? She’d been tied to celebrities, a man running for Congress had proposed.  Not that she’d accepted.  She was still incensed about Griff’s engagement ring comment in front of the Continental Miracles CEO.

Men.

Her inner lovesick teenager disappeared, and the unbendable coach returned.  “Does it concern one of my players?”

“It concerns you, Kins.”  He waved an arm around LBHS’s wide open space.  There weren’t a lot of students on campus after hours, but there were enough.  “Out here probably isn’t the best place to talk.”

END EXCERPT

DV: Thanks for stopping by, Donnell.  Good luck with your new book!

Donnell: Thanks so much for having me! 

DV: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Donnell is giving away a book (reader’s choice) to one lucky commenter, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask her, or if you’d just like to share your thoughts on the interview, comments are open!

Check out Donnell’s author page or follow her on Facebook or Twitter  She’s also on Goodreads


Awesome Authors–Marilyn Meredith

author Marilyn MeredithToday on Awesome Authors, please welcome prolific mystery author, Marilyn Meredith.  Marilyn writes two different series with which you might be familiar: The Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and, writing as F.M. Meredith, The Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

(From the author’s bio): Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Dangerous Impulses from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/

D: Hi Marilyn! Welcome to Awesome Authors. Please tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

M: I live in the foothills of the Southern Sierra (CA) near a place much like where my heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. I lived many years by the beach in Southern California which was the inspiration for my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.

I raised five children, have eighteen grandkids (raised some of them too), and now thirteen great-grands. I’m still married to the cute sailor I went on a blind date with years ago and when I’m not writing, we enjoy doing things with our family, and we’re avid movie goers.

D: How long have you been writing? Have you always written mysteries?

M: It seems I’ve written all my life—beginning when I was a child, however my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother. Though I wrote all through those years, I didn’t start sending manuscripts out until later, after the child rearing, PTAing, Camp Fire Girls, and many different jobs.

D: Tell us about your latest release. What was your favorite part of writing the book?

M: Spirit Shapes is number 12 or 13 in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series (depending upon whether or not you count the prequel). cover for Spirit Shapes

Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Though there is often a touch of the supernatural along with a mystery, Spirit Shapes is full of all sorts of otherworldly beings as well as Native American lore—and always a favorite of mine to write about.

“…I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other.”

D: What inspires you and why?

M: All sorts of things inspire me from all sorts of challenging weather to meeting a new and interesting person who might end up as a character in my book. I also love to hear people tell tales about their encounters with haunted places and ghosts. As for my other series, I know a lot of police officers and I am definitely thrilled to listen to their stories. The inspiration always leads my imagination on a new path to write about.

D: What do you find most challenging about writing two series? Why?

M: The most challenging is that I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other. Writing each one is easy because there are so many differences between the two. The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is written almost always from her point-of-view. Most of the action goes on in the mountains or on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is about many officers and their families so is written from several different points-of-view. The location is a beach community in Southern California. It’s like putting on a different mind-set for each series. One thing that helps me is I write the Tempe series as Marilyn Meredith and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F.M. Meredith. It’s a bit like changing my persona when I change author names.

“…my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother.”

D: Tell me about your process: do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

M: A tad of both. I always begin by thinking about the new characters I’ll be introducing whether it will be the murder victim or those who wanted this person dead. Or perhaps I’ll decide to do a different way of presenting the crime and what kind of twists I might use. I start making notes about what I want to happen. Most of my stories take place over a short period of time, so I start making a daily calendar. On Tuesday this happens, etc.

When I begin writing, the story starts telling itself. Ideas come in a jumble and I always write them down otherwise I’d never remember. And of course, when I think I’m through, I have to go through and make sure I’ve tied up loose ends and not left anything out.

D: What do you like best about writing mysteries?

M: In my mysteries, though not all the personal issues may be completely tied up, the bad guy or gal always is discovered in the end. Unfortunately, real life isn’t always that way. I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil, no matter what form it might be in.

“I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil…”

D: Do your books have an underlying theme or message?

M: When I’m writing, I don’t think in terms of theme or giving a message, though sometimes when I’m done I realize that I have. One of the early readers of Spirit Shapes said the story left her feeling hopeful.

D: What advice would you give to new writers?

M: My first advice is to not talk about writing or what you’re going to write, but put your bottom in the chair and write—and write—and write.  Second one is to never give up. No matter how many rejections you get, learn from them, rewrite and keep on learning and submitting. (I received nearly 30 rejections for my first book that was finally published.)

D: Which writers have influenced you the most?

M: Probably Tony Hillerman when it came to writing about Native Americans. I also love both of J. A. Jance’s series. There are many, many more.cover for Raging Waters

D: What practices have you found to be most effective in promoting your work?

M: I love blogging and going on blog tours—when I go on a tour my sales go up. But lately Facebook has also been effective. Also when you go to a mystery convention, I like to find readers and make friends with them. Some of them actually buy my books.

D: If you could time-travel (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?

cover for dangerous impulsesM: If I could take with me what I know now, I’d go backwards enough so that I’d handle my writing career a bit differently. I’d learn more about writing first. When I thought my work was done, I’d find a good editor. Once I was published, I’d do lots of promotion.

D: I like it—always committed to the craft 🙂 . Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Marilyn. Good luck with SPIRIT SHAPES.

Below is an excerpt for Marilyn’s latest release, SPIRIT SHAPES. For more information about the author, please see the links after the excerpt.

Excerpt from Spirit Shapes:

The icy atmosphere settled over Lorna Collins like a shroud, the spirits already making themselves known even before she stepped inside. She shivered but smiled. The haunts in this place, the Wilkinson House, should please her group of ghost hunters. The last two places she’d guided these enthusiasts had been a bust.

The evening began perfectly. Everyone arrived a few minutes before nine. Low clouds settled over the mountains. Looming up from atop a hillock, the two-story structure peered at them through darkened windows. The only light came from flashlight beams as the ghost hunters approached and climbed the rustic steps created from railroad ties.

Lorna gathered the group on the porch to give her instructions. Each person who came on this ghost hunt had been required to read and sign an agreement. The first rule was to keep an open mind. Participants could bring cameras and audio or visual taping devices. Phones could be on, since many used the cameras in their cells, as long as the ring tones were silenced. There were other rules, such as carrying proper identification in case someone noticed the lights in what was known to be an unoccupied structure and sent law enforcement to investigate. Since all other houses were located at least a half mile away, Lorna wasn’t worried about that kind of interruption.

“The quieter we can be as we move around, the more likely we are to hear or be able to tape any strange noises or voices. You can take as many photos as you like. There are two types of spirits we may encounter. One, someone who was alive at one time and has remained on this earthly plane for some reason. The ghost might not realize he or she is dead. Or perhaps it may have some unfinished business. These spirits could be good or bad, depending on what kind of person they were when they were alive.”

A slight murmur rose from the group.

“Don’t worry. They aren’t dangerous. You might also witness what is called a residual haunting. This is an echo of something that happened at another time.” Lorna paused. “I am obligated to tell you that though I’ve yet to encounter this kind of spirit, there are those that were never human. They are malevolent and some might call them demons.”

Again the group whispered among themselves.

“Because of that unlikely possibility, we’ll take a few seconds to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. If you are a religious person, say a prayer of protection.” Lorna bowed her head and counted to ten. “Okay. Here we go. Explore to your heart’s content.”

END EXCERPT

To buy Spirit Shapes in all formats directly from the publisher:

Mundania Press

And of course, it’s available on Amazon.

Website

Blog

Amazon Author Page

 


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