And HAPPY NEW YEAR! May you be surrounded by people you don’t want to kill off in your books 🙂
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Today’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 I met Peg while swimming around in the Guppies (Great Unpublished) pond of the writers group Sisters in Crime and have heard great things about her work.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.
THE 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.)
Due 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.
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:
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.
7 Comments | tags: Peg Brantley, Red Tide, self-publishing, The Missings, The Sacrifice, thrillers | posted in Author Interviews, Awesome Authors, Interviews, self-publishing, writing advice, writing life
Happy Thursday, everybody! Today on Awesome Authors I get to interview mystery author and intrepid world traveler, Denise Hartman. Denise is a former journalist and has worked as a freelance writer, graphic designer, and video producer. She currently lives in Madrid, Spain. Here’s her bio (from the author)
“Denise’s background in journalism and television production has influenced her writing style and habits, while living overseas for several years, currently in Madrid, Spain, gives Denise’s imagination new sights and sounds for her mysteries. She has been a member of Sisters In Crime since 1996. Denise has a passion for reading, books, travel, dogs, tea, and teapots– not necessarily in that order.”
And now, heeeere’s Denise 🙂
DV: Hi Denise! Welcome to Awesome Authors. Tell us something about yourself.
DH: I’m short and that seems to be the first thing people want to talk about with me. I stopped growing vertically when I was 10, it’s been a horizontal journey ever since!
DV: LOL. When did you realize you were a writer?
DH: When I was in fifth grade (around the time I stopped growing!), I wrote a mystery play and the class performed it. I already loved stories but I realized I wanted to be a writer. When I started getting paid to write after college, I thought, “I’m really AM a writer.”
“This perspective of not just visiting but living day in and day out in and with another culture has forced me to consider other ways of doing life…”
DV: Don’t you just love that ‘aha’ moment when you know you’re a writer? Tell us about your latest book. What was your favorite part about writing it? Least favorite?
DH: Nosy Neighbors will be released on Dec. 1. I have loved spending time with these characters, many of them in their senior years in retirement in Florida. It’s an environment I’ve spent a lot of time in with my grandmother. It’s fun for me.
The hardest part of writing for me is editing. By the third or fourth pass, I know the story so well and it’s not as much fun. I also seem to always write when I’m somewhere else geographically, so keeping things accurate is a challenge too.
DH: I love new places. I grew up in Kansas City and now I’ve lived in Brussels, Belgium and in Madrid, Spain. This perspective of not just visiting but living day in and day out in and with another culture has forced me to consider other ways of doing life, whether I like it or not. This new way of looking at perspectives on life I take to my characters and my places in my stories. I hope it gives more authenticity to the various personalities and environments. It’s easier to step outside of my way of looking at the world and incorporate some other ideas because I’m forced to look at life differently than I naturally would by the common place every day situations of living in a foreign country.
DV: Totally get that, Denise. It’s one of the best reasons I can think of to travel. What inspires you and why?
DH: Exploring new spaces is really energizing for me. I see more detail in faces and imagine intrigue behind every new facade. It can be the simplest thing that triggers an idea, a look or a street corner. It just sets off my writer antenna and my mind starts whirring.
DV: What do you find most challenging about writing a novel? Why?
DH: I love to plot and that comes to me naturally. My first job was as a news reporter and we didn’t have space for description, so it is always a challenge to me to put enough detail and keep it consistent thru out the length of the book.
“It can be the simplest thing that triggers an idea”
DV: Tell me about your process: do you plot your novels or are you a “pantser”? What do you like best about writing?
DH: I have done two books and numerous short stories “pantser” style. I enjoyed the exploration of the characters and what would happen next. Nosy Neighbors which is coming out soon started life as a short story. The short story worked as an outline and I added to it as I had ideas. I enjoyed this and found the book came together better, so I’ve started “narrative” outline for my next idea.
DV: How do you develop your characters?
DH: Some characters are just whole in my mind after the idea strikes me. Others come from mutations of things I read or images I see or a mishmash of people I have met. I once saw a guy in an airport that was a dead ringer for a character in Killed in Kruger, my first novel. He wasn’t a nice character so I was a little creeped out.
DV: Do you do much research for your novels?
DH: I don’t start out doing so much unless you count trips I take to the places I write about before the ideas are fully formed. I do speed researching of individual facts while I write and also do more of a research-edit pass to get things as right as possible after the draft is done.
DV: Is there an underlying message in your books?
DH: I’ve thought about underlying messages or themes after the fact, not as a precursor to writing. One consistent theme I find in my short stories and novels is a strong woman protagonist which was never intentional on my part. I was happy to discover that learning contentment was also a theme in Killed in Kruger.
DV: I think if you’re a strong woman yourself, you tend to write them as characters. What advice would you give to new writers?
DH: Persevere and find ways to enjoy the journey. It’s easy as a writer to only look at a finished book or a sold book or a certain number of sales as “success” but if you enjoy the process, there’s less pressure.
DV: Which writers have influenced you the most?
DH: Sometimes it’s the last book I read is what is influencing me but I particularly like suspenseful, tight plots. Mary Higgins Clark, Edna Buchanan, Charlotte Bronte, Agatha Christie, and I could go on!
“One consistent theme I find in my short stories and novels is a strong woman protagonist…”
DV: What made you decide to go indie rather than traditional publishing?
DH: I have actually worked in the book publishing business, doing layout or interfacing with printers in my graphic design side of work. When self-publishing became common and it was clear that books were headed into the same sort of renaissance situation that music has experienced, I decided why not? I had the knowledge for much of the process already, and besides it’s more fun than asking agents to look at query letters.
DV: No kidding 🙂 What practices have you found to be most effective in promoting your books?
DH: Don’t stop. I have a busy day job and I’ve found that if I just keep pecking away at social media and blogging etc, I grow bit by bit. I’d love to have more marketing time but some is better than none.
DV: If you could time-travel (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?
DH: I think I’d go sci-fi. I don’t know how far in the future but I know I don’t want to go to less utilities and modern amenities. I’d be a pilot who could fly in outer space or a captain of star ship.
DV: That would be way cool 🙂 Thanks, Denise, for submitting to the interview today. To hear more about Denise’s travels or books check out her blog, her website, or find her on Facebook. An excerpt from her new book, Nosy Neighbors, can be found below.
Nosy Neighbors, a novel of suspense
Blanche pulled up short with her key in the door. Something was wrong. Blanche’s key flipped loosely in her apartment door. She stared at the tiny brass knocker and peep-hole. It didn’t feel right. It was like the door wasn’t locked. She knew she locked it. She always did even when she trotted down to knock on a condo neighbor’s door.
She crept inside and looked around. Footprints in the freshly vacuumed cream carpet pattern weren’t hers. She’d vacuumed this morning. The sliding patio door was open a crack. She knew she’d closed it after breakfast outside. Temp predictions for 90 made sure she popped the a/c on before she left.
“Burgled!” She said out loud when her eyes moved to the kitchen counter. Her last ATM withdrawal of cash was not on the counter where she left it. She’d taken the tip for Sammy, her hair dresser and left the rest lying on the counter.
She reached for her weapon of choice and pushed 911 on her telephone.
“All operators are busy. Please be prepared to explain the nature of your emergency.”
Right. Blanche knew that meant that officers were busy too and weren’t going to be dispatched to her tiny burglary in the Seaside Flats. She dialed Alice the condo secretary and explained the situation.
“Oh yeah. Sarah in 201 has missed some cash and the Achmeds in 420 reported some silver figurines missing.”
“What? Why haven’t you sent out a warning or something to the residents?”
“We’re getting one organized, but Klaud had problems with his duplication-thingee.”
“You guys are incompetent.” Blanche drummed her fresh red nails on the end table by the red phone appreciating how they matched.
“What are you all worked up about? Would you have put your jewels in the bank or something?” Alice knew how to dish it back. They’d been on the condo board together for years.
“Maybe.” No one needed to know that Harry had never been the jewelry buying type. He wasn’t really the buying of anything type.
“You coulda left your door unlocked. You should be more careful,” Alice said.
“I never leave my door unlocked. Not even when I go to the laundry room.”
“Well, we’re all getting older. Maybe you forgot.”
“I did not forget. And who are you calling old?” Blanche heard Alice snort on the other end of the line. She knew Alice was older than her. They always exchanged good-natured banter. “Anyway, I thought someone in the condo should know. I’m driving over to the police station now and talk to them.”
“To tell the truth, they haven’t been much help.” Alice complained.
“We’ll see what I can do about that. I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” Nobody walked off with $200 from Blanche Binkley’s kitchen and nobody was getting away with thinking she was an absent minded old lady either.
Leave a comment | tags: awesome authors, Denis Hartman, Killed in Kruger, self-publishing | posted in Author Interviews, Awesome Authors, guest blogging, Interviews, promotion, self-publishing, writing, writing advice, writing life
Whoa. A little over-reaction on the part of booksellers, me thinks. Interesting article on David Gaughran’s blog regarding the kerfuffle in the UK over erotic titles and children’s titles coming up in the same search. Sigh.
I’m over at Indies Unlimited today, blogging about going indie vs. traditionally published. Come on over and join the conversation! http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/09/18/fences-schmences-why-going-indie-was-easy/
Leave a comment | tags: Indies Unlimited, pros and cons of traditional publishing, self-publishing, traditional publishing | posted in guest blogging, promotion, pros and cons of self-publishing, self-publishing, technology, traditional publishing, writing, writing advice, writing life
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