Monthly Archives: October 2011

Oct 28

Shadow Series Author Ashley Dawn Joins Mike Angley for an Interview

MA: Author Ashley Dawn was born and raised in rural Arkansas where she developed her love for writing while helping in her parent’s office. She graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Central Arkansas but is currently working as a legal assistant. Ashley has been writing professionally for the past seven years and has two published books. Her first book, Shadows From The Past, was originally published by Tate Publishing and is considered more of a traditionally published book while the second, Shadows of Suspicion, was published by self publication using AuthorHouse. She is currently working on multiple projects including the third in her ‘Shadows’ series entitled Shadows of Pain and also a standalone mystery about a serial killer that remains untitled.

Ashley also has a review blog to share her love of reading, Ashley’s Bookshelf, where she reads and reviews books of all genres. (http://ashleysbookshelf.blogspot.com) She and her family make their home in Texas.

Tell us about what you do when you’re not writing.

AD: Well, I wrote my first book at 19 so there isn’t a WHOLE lot of background. I was a college student studying Biology and enjoying life. Now, I’m a legal assistant at my husband’s law firm and wound up getting a degree in accounting instead of biology…neither of which I would use in this job! I bring my children to work with me every day (ages 3 & 1) and deal with mainly criminals throughout the work week. It’s a blast!

MA: Between that job and those degrees, how did you end up writing novels? There has to be something I’m missing…a passion, perhaps?

AD: Honestly, I think it was a way to control something in my life. The move to college from high school was a bit surprising because I went to a small school where everyone knew everyone and the teachers went out of their way to know you and help you. From that to college where you are just in a sea of students and more than likely your professor has no idea who you are; it was shocking! I found that I was in LOVE with writing. Telling someone else’s story and sharing my faith through it just seemed perfect for me!

MA: Does your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?

AD: I know my professional career now inspires different stories for me to write. I get a lot of material through my work, things you just can’t make up, and using things I know happened (even if it is just a variation of it) makes my stories all the more real to me. I do base my characters off people I know. Mainly they are family and friends. Their attitudes and physical descriptions are combinations of different people and my family loves guessing who they ‘are’.

MA: Tell us about your books. What genre do you write?

AD: My latest book Shadows of Suspicion is the sequel to my first book Shadows From the Past and focuses on Kerry Reiley and Luke Reeding. Kerry is supposed to be the ‘safe’ one of her family as she is a second grade teacher but because of who her brothers are, she is kidnapped by a madman. Her brothers bring in Luke to rescue her and the two of them meet in a less than pleasant way but have an instant attraction. They have to elude the madman, figure out why he is chasing her and try to understand the pull that brings the two of them together. The genre for this book is Christian Romantic Suspense.

MA: How did you develop Luke’s character?

AD: Luke is a combination of several of my male family members. I see my brother, father, grandfather, nephews and even a couple cousins in him! I think he is the best of each of them and a bit more added to it :) He needed to be strong to keep up with Kerry (who incidentally is a big mix of my female relatives) and he needed to fit in with the rest of the characters, not remain an outsider.

MA: I assume then, that you pulled the strengths from each of your family members who make up Luke’s composite, and imbued them in him?

AD: I think Luke’s main strength is he knows what he is good at and excels in it. No matter if it is rescuing a friend’s sister or disarming a bomb, he is going to get the job done. His weakness is not understanding his past and how it affects his outlook on life and holds him back. He isn’t open or really even in touch with his feelings and that is detrimental to him as a person.

MA: And the madman (or men?)?

AD: Well, in my first book, Shadows From The Past, the bad guy was Charles Deveraux. Shadows of Suspicion kind of picks up that thread and uses Charles’ son Chris and his second in command Jim as the bad guys. They operate a drug ring that the police have been trying to shut down for years and they are very good at evading all the ‘traps’.

MA: What’s next in the Shadows series?

AD: I’m currently editing my third book in my Shadows series and it is titled Shadows of Pain. Hopefully I will have it out later this year. I’m also working on a book that is a different story line all together. It doesn’t have a title and is about an attorney and a doctor trying to save a young girl and find a serial killer.

MA: I wonder if your husband will make an appearance in that last book…what about characters from the first two, will any of them surface in the subsequent series books?

AD: All of my characters seem to make an appearance in my Shadows books in one form or another and I’m definitely going to continue to tell the characters’ stories. Each one seems so real to me that I think they deserve their own stories and in that way, a book. I’ll focus on a different set of main characters but I have no doubt there will be several more books come from my Shadows Series.

MA: Excellent, and thanks for stopping by! Read More

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Oct 21

Gothic/Horror Author Gemma Mawdsley Descends Upon Mike Angley’s Blog Today

MA: Gemma Mawdsley is a full time author living in Limerick. Though first published at the tender age of ten-years-old in a local newspaper, she wrote many stories over the years just as a hobby, and did not think about … Read More

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Oct 14

Diane Piron-Gelman is Mike Angley’s Guest Today

MA: D.M. Pirrone is the nom de plume of Diane Piron-Gelman, a freelance writer and editor with nearly twenty years’ experience in both fields. No Less In Blood is her first mystery novel.

A Chicago native, history buff and avid mystery reader, Ms. Piron-Gelman is a longtime member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She lives on the Northwest Side with her husband Stephen and two sons, David and Isaac.

Thanks for being my guest today, D.M. It sounds like you’ve always enjoyed writing.

DMP: I’ve always been into words, both written and spoken. I was a voracious reader as a kid (still am!), and I also got bitten by the acting bug way back in second grade. So telling stories is a huge part of who I am. The only thing that changes is the medium: onstage or on paper.

After I discovered the absolutely brilliant mystery writer Ruth Rendell, I decided I wanted to see if I could write that kind of book. So I tried my hand at it, and found I really enjoyed playing around in the mystery genre. Meanwhile, I was acting in non-Equity (union) shows in Chicago and working a day job as a staff writer and editor for FASA Corporation, an SF/fantasy roleplaying game publisher. There’s a lot of fiction in those games, so that job gave me plenty of practice in writing action-packed adventures and more atmospheric, “color” pieces designed to give players the flavor of the game universes. Plus, editing other people’s work let me see where certain flaws were in my own writing.

MA: What an interesting job! I’m not much of a gamer (does Pong sound familiar?), but my kids are. I have watched them play those RPGs and never really gave much thought to the writing effort behind them. What brought you to writing novels?

DMP: I like to say I write novels because I don’t know when to shut up on paper… More seriously, though, I chose to write novels because I like to write big, complex stories that need more words to tell than you typically have in a short story. I’m also a history nut, and so far everything I’ve written spends at least some time in a past era. To fully convey the nitty-gritty of earlier times, you need room as well.

MA: You’ve enjoyed a professional career in the writing business in various facets, so I assume this helped prepare you to be an author?

DMP: My professional career is as an editor, which I think helps my writing… Some of my characters are partly based on real people, though I tend to take bits and pieces of people I know and blend them. That way, I get enough real-life experience to let the character ring true, without actually depicting a specific person on the page.

MA: Tell us about your first novel!

DMP: My debut novel, NO LESS IN BLOOD, is a mystery with a strong element of suspense. It’s about Rachel Connolly, an adoptee who goes looking for her birth family and ends up a target for murder because of a hundred-year old legacy that she never knew existed. The legacy stems from the disappearance of a young rich girl, seventeen-year old Mary Anne Schlegel, who left her small-town home in northern Minnesota and vanished at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Rachel’s and Mary Anne’s stories unfold together throughout the book, which takes place partly in the present and partly in the past.

MA: A period novel, too. How did you craft Rachel’s and Mary Anne’s characters?

DMP: I’m an adoptee myself, so I used my personal experience to describe Rachel’s feelings about family and identity stemming from that. She’s not completely autobiographical, but there’s a lot of me in her. For Mary Anne, I drew on every teenager’s desire to break out and join the world on her own terms—an impulse given greater strength in her case by the realities of the time period in which she lived, where women’s roles were greatly restricted on the one hand, but there was also a sense of greater freedom just over the horizon.

MA: What are their strengths and weaknesses?

DMP: Rachel is a lot braver and tougher than she thinks she is, but those strengths haven’t been called on until the events in the novel. She sells herself short a lot and thinks of herself as a wimp because she’s nervous about what she calls “stupid things,” like talking on the phone to people she doesn’t know well or driving the S-curve along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. She’s very bright and funny, and she also takes things to heart—which can be a weakness or a strength depending on how it’s applied. As for Mary Anne, she’s stubborn—a weakness and a strength combined. She has a dream, and she’s going to achieve it… but the same stubbornness that lets her defy her father and leave home also gets her into serious trouble. She has a lot of courage too, but is more aware of it than Rachel is. Both of them have a lot of heart.

MA: And the antagonist(s)?

DMP: NO LESS IN BLOOD has a couple of bad guys, only one of which is an actual killer. That one, a con man with a violent streak, is largely based on a thoroughly unpleasant person I had the misfortune to know during my early twenties. He’s long gone from my life, thank goodness. The other bad guy is driven to what he does by a combination of greed and fear—specifically, fear of losing his shot at a sense of belonging that he’s never had. The legacy ties into that, hence the greed; but he’s less greedy for the money per se than for what else he thinks it will bring him.

MA: Other than helping shape Rachel’s character from your own life’s experiences, did any real world people, places, or events influence your story?

DMP: The small town of Birch Falls, where a large part of the story takes place, is a blend of two real towns up in Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range: Hibbing, where my brother and sister-in-law live, and Taylor’s Falls (where we visited Judy Garland’s house once). As to plot events, not really. I made those up out of whole cloth.

MA: So what’s next in your writing career?

DMP: My agent is currently shopping around the first of a planned series of historical mysteries, set in Chicago just after the Great Fire of 1871. The principal characters are Francis Hanley, a rookie Irish detective with a checkered past, and Rivka Kelmansky—the headstrong, misfit daughter of the rabbi whose murder in his own synagogue turns out to be Hanley’s first case. Hanley and Rivka form a strong emotional attachment in the book, though neither of them acts on it much (it being 1872, and with the cultural divide between them). I plan to develop that relationship throughout the series, which I’m hoping will run to at least 4 books. I’m about halfway through the second one now, which centers on the murder of a former Civil War soldier and abolitionist lawyer who knew one too many secrets about one too many people. Hanley has to figure it out, and the process is going to cost him.

MA: That sounds like an interesting series! Any plans to continue the story from your debut novel, perhaps a sequel?

DMP: I don’t as yet have any plans for sequels to NO LESS IN BLOOD, though a few people have suggested it. The Hanley/Rivka series will feature both of them throughout.

MA: Thanks, D.M., for being my guest today. I would encourage my readers to check out your website for more information about you and your stories: http://www.dmpirrone.net/ Read More

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Oct 07

Weyman Jones, Author of ‘Messages” Guests with Mike Angley

MA: My guest today is Weyman Jones. Weyman began his writing career with magazine fiction and then published three books for young readers. His historical novel for pre-teens, The Edge of Two Worlds, went to seven printings and earned the Lewis Carroll Shelf and the Western Heritage Awards. Reviews of MESSAGES, his fourth mystery/suspense novel published by Five Star/Gale, describe it as a “great thriller filled with action and misdirection.”A graduate of Harvard, he served as an enlisted man and a junior officer in the Navy and then had a career as a corporate public relations executive.

Welcome aboard, Weyman, and thanks for your service. Have you always enjoyed writing?

WJ: The writing virus got me as a child. My first published piece was a short story written in college. I wrote a couple of historical novels and a non-fiction book for children, and then my day job in corporate communications began to take all my energy. Retirement gave me the opportunity to focus on what I always wanted to do.

MA: Why did you choose novels to write?

WJ: I didn’t. My choice was short stories, but literary writing isn’t my thing and the popular market for stories disappeared soon after I broke into it. My first books, historical novels for children, were somewhat like extended short stories, but they forced me beyond incident into narrative structure.

MA: So tell me about your new book. You say you’re not a literary writer, so this is a genre novel?

WJ: Yes. I write what’s called mystery/suspense. There’s always at least one dead body in my books, but I subscribe to the James M. Cain doctrine that “all art is redemptive”. The real mystery is not whodunit, although that can be involved, but why, and how discovering that answer changes the people involved.

MA: What was your most interesting technical problem in developing this story?

WJ: The killer sends messages by murder, and one of the victims is just a message form, like a Western Union blank. I needed to make the reader care about her but I didn’t want to slow down the narrative with back story. I invented an email dialogue with a former lover. The bittersweet exchange to keep alive a failed romance reveals the value he still places on her, which makes her death significant. Writing this made me a little teary.

MA: Did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?

WJ: Messages involves a corporation under attack by an advocacy group. I’ve learned that the corporate response to a public relations crisis is usually to circle the wagons. The lawyers advise that every public utterance may show up in court, which of course is true. But a siege mentality invites a siege. Look at the way BP handled their blowout oil-well. There was no way they could have avoided damage to their reputation, and I think they eventually did a lot of the right things, but first they made so many defensive and blame-shifting statements that they dug their grave with their own corporate mouth.

MA: So you will continue to feature the same protagonist in future stories? Will any other characters migrate over to future books?

WJ: I think a novel shouldn’t just quit, it should end. Making that happen in a satisfying way that still grows naturally out of the characters is often the toughest part of the whole process. I have to do it one story at a time. I’ve never been interested in writing a series.

The working title of my next book is Evil in Return. That’s from Audin, “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.” It’s about a contemporary Cherokee who believes he should avenge his ancestors by killing descendants of those wronged them. The aboriginal Cherokee had a belief system like that. This guy wants to revive the ancient tribal values by posting videotapes of his payback on YouTube for the Cherokee to see.

MA: Very interesting, Weyman! Thanks for guest-blogging with me. I invite my readers to visit your blog to learn more: www.weymanjones.com. Read More

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Oct 05

Character Names: Be Astute About Them! An Article by Mary Deal

Be Astute About Character Names
by
Mary Deal

When choosing monikers for your fictional people, plan deliberately.

You wouldn’t put characters in your story with similar names, like Mary Barnes and Marion Burns. Avoid using not only the same letters more than once if it can be helped, but also avoid names that sound the same or which rhyme. An exception may be names for twins.

What follows are the names of characters in my latest thriller, Down to the Needle. Notice, too, that I have included brief descriptions of each character’s personality, which, I’m told, offers clues to the story plot.

ABIGAIL FISHER, Protagonist, heroine – has a lifelong obsession to find her daughter

JOE ARNO, Secondary Protagonist, Abi’s love interest – steady and supportive

Preston Fisher, Abi’s long-missing husband – secretive

Edith Armstrong, owns “The Beacon,” meals for the homeless – charitable

Becky Ann Fisher, Abi’s abducted daughter – artist

Megan Winnaker, Inmate – determined, brave, while facing death

Vance Winnaker, Megan’s father – Aryan

Rae Overland, gang member

Quincy Overland, Rae’s father – Aryan

June, homeless woman – confused

Margaret Griffin (Lady Griff), homecoming queen, Joe’s former obsessive love interest – quite the vamp!

Bertrand Thorndyke, III, Margaret’s husband – stiff, formal

Velma, Police sketch artist

Lindsay, Abigail’s store clerk – supportive, with business savvy

DeWitt, homeless man who protects June – has a sense of right and wrong

Chad Britto, Police Lieutenant – determined to crack the case before retiring

Stan Yates, blind man – egocentric, self-righteous

Hazel Yates, Stan’s sister – limited mentality

Dr. Gilda Sayer, Prison Psychiatrist

Emery Kenton, Megan’s attorney – hidden obsession

Jack Pierce, Fireman Captain

Dara Hines, Aryan girl – wild

Sling, Dara’s boyfriend – pathetic, fearful

Tess Ulrich, witness to Megan’s crime

Officer John Ryde, hospital guard

Lt. Donald Nater, retired, worked Megan’s case

Gary Croner, Arsonist

Twyla, Megan’s former cellmate

If you peruse the list above, note that seldom are the same alphabetical letters used in more than one name, except in the case of family surnames.

I once read a novella where four character’s name began with the letter M; three began with the letter R, and two with a T. Of the entire alphabet, and of the endless names and combinations that could be used, why must our characters seem similar in any aspect unless for a purpose? Our intention in creating likable stories is to give each character a different personality. That is further delineated by using names that look and sound totally different from one another.

Make a list of your characters’ names and their positions in the story. Try to use any letter only once. It may be an eye opener.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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