My guest today is Margie Church, AKA Churchlady, author of romance/thriller novels with “SASS.” She tells me that stands for Suspense, Angst, Seductive Sizzle. Margie is a married mom of two children, and a Minnesota native. He writing career began early when she published in “McCall’s Magazine” in the sixth grade. Margie describes her professions as a mother and author whose guilty pleasures are great beer, real vanilla ice cream, and lobster. I couldn’t agree more with that list! Read More
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MA: My guest-blogger today is Norah Wilson. Norah lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada with her husband and two adult children (both in university), a Lab-Rotti mix dog and five rats (the pet kind). She has been writing romance a long while, and has finalled multiple times in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest. She also won Dorchester Publishing’s New Voice in Romance contest in 2003. Norah writes, among other things, sensual romantic suspense. Currently, three of Norah’s four books are among the Top 10 highest rated romances at Smashwords. She was also mentioned by Smashwords CEO Mark Coker as one of the Top 50 indie authors to watch on Smashwords. Norah loves to meet fans and make friends on Twitter and Facebook.
Welcome, Norah! Tell us what you did before jumping into the literary world.
NW: I went to work as a legal secretary before I was legally old enough to witness documents. The work was fascinating and varied, but it didn’t pay very well. So after 9 years of that, I got licensed as an official court reporter, thinking I would launch a private business. But before I got serious about that, another opportunity came up in a completely different field. I switched streams to go to work for a provincial hospital association as executive assistant and secretary to the board of directors. Twenty years later, I’m the organization’s administrative officer.
MA: Congratulations on your successful career. How did you make the transition over to writing?
NW: I’ve always been fascinated by communication and by the challenge of persuading people with the written word. If I’d actually gone into communications or ad copy writing or some such career where that need was being fulfilled, I probably never would have written that first novel. But as it was, I had a burning need to write something and write it so convincingly that the reader would be transported. Since I’d been reading romance novels all my life, I naturally tried my hand at a straight contemporary romance. It was a disaster. Oh, I could string words together in very readable way, but the plots were boring, even to me. I needed something more. Then I discovered romantic suspense. The suspense plot finally gave me the “clothesline” on which to hang my story.
MA: Smiling. How did the romantic suspense realm progress for you?
NW: After years of writing and not selling, I’d gotten a little jaded about an industry that seemed to want only babies, brides and cowboys. Since I knew babies and brides would bore me to tears, I settled on cowboys. Because paranormal was starting to gather steam, I tossed in a psychic heroine. Thus I set about very cynically to write a book that New York might buy. Except when I started to research cowboys, I fell in love with them. That’s probably what rescued the book (LAUREN’S EYES)! In any case, New York did buy it. It won the New Voice in Romance contest in 2003 and was published by Dorchester Publishing in 2004. Since then, I’ve written a series of connected romantic suspense stories featuring cops. Again, my stories didn’t impress New York publishers overly much, so in the fall of 2010, I self-published them. They’re currently doing very nicely. I may not be topping anyone’s bestseller list yet, but three of them are consistently in the top 10 most highly rated romances on Smashwords, and all have been well reviewed. I’ve also written two paranormal romances (dark vampires) which my agent has. As well, I write with a writing partner, Heather Doherty, who is published in dark literary. Together, Heather and I have written half a dozen young adult (YA) books and two humorous cozy mysteries, all of which our agent is shopping around.
MA: Congrats on the Dorchester Publishing award! How do you develop your protagonists in the romantic suspense genre?
NW: Because I’d love for people to dive into my Serve and Protect series, I’ll focus on the first book in that series, GUARDING SUZANNAH. I should explain that because this is primarily a romance, it doesn’t have just one protagonist. It has a hero and a heroine who get equal play. When casting characters in a romance, it’s good to begin with two people who should, at least on the face of it, be each other’s worst nightmare. So I created a heroine who is the daughter of a former chief justice. She has an impeccable pedigree, but left lucrative private practice to be a public defender working with Legal Aid clients. She’s very good at what she does, and earns the undying enmity of the local police force (and the nickname She-Rex) for shredding officers on the witness stand. She has zero interest in forming any kind of social relationship with a cop. I then had to pair her with a cop from much more humble origins who delights in emphasizing their differences and making her feel like a snob. One whose physicality calls out to her in a way that doesn’t mesh with her self-concept as a self-possessed and reserved woman.
MA: Earlier you told me about Quigg. Explain who he is to my readers.
NW: Det. John Quigley (Quigg) is probably the least Alpha hero I’ve ever written. Not to say he’s not strong and completely worthy of the hero title. But his strength is a little quieter and he’s more reflective and self-aware than most heroes I’ve written. He’s strong enough to think for himself rather than blindly toeing that thin blue line. He’s also got a strong protective streak. With most of my characters, I find that at least one of their strengths is also a weakness for them, and I think that’s true here with the protective thing. He also has a bit of an issue with their divergent social statuses. As quietly confident as he is, he’s still got some niggling issues there.
MA: Do you feature any kind of nemeses to torture your heroes and heroines?
NW: I don’t use a recurring nemesis. Rather, each book has its own brand of bad guy. The villain in GUARDING SUZANNAH is your basic (though far from garden variety) stalker, but in the other novels, the bad guys are considerably more high powered. Which means the other novels carry much higher public stakes in addition to the personal stakes for the hero and heroine.
MA: With your background in legal services, have any of your personal experiences factored in to the stories?
NW: I do tend to use real-life stuff, but more to build a believable world than to fuel any key turning points. I do have some experience of the justice milieu from my earlier work life, which I draw on. I also consulted with a lawyer, a crown prosecutor and a cop on this one (thanks Peggy, Hilary and Matt!). However, there is one very real element in this book – the dog, Bandicoot. Bandy was the name of my dog at the time. He was very senior and I knew he wouldn’t be with me forever, so I immortalized him in the book. Every quirk and bizarre behavior displayed by the fictional Bandy was lifted directly from my dear, sorely-missed friend. He slept at my feet for thousands of hours while I wrote that and other books, and his portrait and his ashes sit here beside me still.
MA: That’s a nice story. Being a dog lover myself, I’m glad you managed to find a place in your stories for Bandy to live on. So what’s next?
NW: I had thought I’d finished with this Serve and Protect series, but I’ve had a lot of readers ask for more. With the success the books are enjoying, I’ve had to rethink my position. So I’m slowly working away on another. However, with all the other projects I have on the go, it likely won’t be released soon. My principle focus will be on the YA paranormal collaborations. Though my partner and I tend to be slow in our original genres, we write very fast together, and hope to break through into that YA market. But we’ve also written what we think is a very strong dystopian romance for the adult market. Diversification without dilution – that’s the goal!
MA: Since you are a series writer – certainly with the Serve and Protect line – will you feature many of the same characters in future stories?
NW: I will definitely keep employing the current characters in secondary roles with future books. Readers love to get glimpses of the hero & heroine from the previous book. And because many of them are cops in the same station house, it’s easy to keep them involved. That said, each story stands very well on its own. You don’t really need to have read #1 & #2 to understand #3. I must say, I would love to someday write a recurring protagonist over several books, but as long as I’m writing romantic suspense with the emphasis on the romance, I’ll just have to keep trading them in for new characters and new chemistry.
MA: We follow the same philosophy about series and standalones. My Child Finder Trilogy flows from one book to the next, yet each can be read out of order as a standalone. I like that. Anything else you’d like to add?
NW: Only a huge thank you for having me! I’m very aware my stuff is somewhat … fluffier … than the usual fare in this very masculine lair! I’m kind of betwixt and between. Some romance readers might find my work a little too gritty and graphic, while your thriller-reading audience might find it a trifle soft. But I do think there’s crossover potential for both audiences. I’ve had quite a few men message me on Twitter or Facebook to tell me how much they enjoyed the stories and how well they do hold up against traditionally published authors. In fact, if any of your reader base take the plunge and read one or more of my stories, I would love to hear what they think on this point.
Again, thanks so much for having me!
MA: It was my pleasure. Thanks for guesting with me, Norah. I encourage my readers to visit Norah’s blog for more information about her stories: http://www.norahwilsonwrites.com/
MA: Today I am pleased to interview Brian Bianco, author of Dressed for a Kill. Brian began writing in 2000, and he’s presently working on books two and three. He says they are not part of any trilogy, and they not in the same genre. Brian spent 20 years is in the insurance industry, but he’s not visited it again, for which he is grateful! Brian has lived in Vancouver and surrounding communities all his life.
So, Brian, tell us why you made the transition from insurance to writing.
BB: Since the late nineties, I had been itching to do something else with my life, rather than continue on in the insurance field, having worked for some of the biggest brokerage firms in the world. It was no longer gratifying. I’ve always considered myself to be creative by nature, drawing (representation under ‘author’ on my website) being a part of that creativity when I was younger but not so much younger. On my website under the link ‘inspiration’ you will find the true reason behind me deciding that I wanted to write. The story is true even if it sounds a little corny.
MA: Why novels? Why not Insurance for Dummies (chuckling)?
BB: Writing novels was something I thought I could do and be good at it. After writing my first novel, if I thought it wasn’t good enough, the book, along with me would never have seen the light of day. I liked the challenge that writing presented to me personally—to be able to create something out of nothing other than what we as writers can think of and then somehow put it all together. Wow!
MA: What is Dressed for a Kill all about?
BB: My story revolves around a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who aside from working on the biggest story of his life, is also confronted with problems at home. The following is what can be found on the back cover:
To Chicago Trib reporter Miles Fischer, it was just another rape and murder trial, until the two convicted felons are found dead in the muddy parking lot of a rundown bar just days after their surprising acquittal. His curiosity turns to suspicion after searching the archives where he discovers two more cases similar to the one in Tweeksbury. Is it a coincidence? Miles doesn’t think so. In fact, he believes he knows who the killer is after a chance encounter. Miles draws the ire of the FBI and becomes tight-lipped when confronted to disclose what he knows after publishing an article connecting all three. He wants the story and the glory that goes with it, and believes he is the only one who can identify the killer. He sets his sights on Seattle and creates a game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI and an ex-cop turned private investigator, who is after the same thing but for different reasons. What he and the private investigator don’t realize is just how deadly this game is about to become.
MA: That sounds exciting! So did you mold any characters from people you knew in real life, perhaps from your years in the insurance biz?
BB: I actually used some of the characteristics from me personally and transferred them over to the main character, Miles Fischer. I’ve had one person who reviewed the book call him, “a character you love to hate”, which took me aback somewhat, believing Miles is a good guy. I’ve had others who read the book say they loved the character, Miles Fischer, but then again, the book is really not about me. It’s about the fictional character, Miles Fischer. I would say the main character is both of these, ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’.
MA: Hmmm, so a protagonist who may not or may not be so likeable…tell us more about his personality.
BB: His strengths are his beliefs in the truth and finding out what those truths are, no matter what the cost, even though at times he skirts the truth in order to get what he wants. I would also have to say he’s not one to give up, again, no matter what the cost may be to both his family and his own personal safety. He’s opinionated (but aren’t we all?) and it’s those opinions (beliefs) that keep him going while around him, his marriage falls apart. He sees things as black and white, no grey areas, so I would say this trait can be construed as both positive and/or negative.
His weaknesses are he can be drawn to a pretty face (some called him a ‘womanizer’) that can lead him into making the wrong decisions to his own detriment. He can also be sarcastic to a fault when the situation suits him. He hates rules when they tie his hands. He thinks highly of himself, but he’s not as smart as he thinks he is, alas, the final chapters in the book which expose his failings with regard to his pursuit of the killer.
MA: Do you also have an antagonist who is as likeable/unlikeable as Miles?
BB: On the question of an antagonist, I would have to say it could be and probably is more than one. Bruno Carboni, the PI, is certainly the main one, since both he and Fischer are after the same thing. Agent Donlon is also an antagonist, since Fischer has no regard for the FBI as he pursues the killer with Donlon on his back. His wife, Erin, could also be considered in the same mode since she is against him in his pursuit of the story, wanting him to give it to someone else so that he can be at home with her while she delivers their first child. The problems going on in the marriage between Miles and Erin were taken from real-life. Mine to be exact.
MA: You told me you are working on two new projects. Tell us about them.
BB: Presently I’m working on two books; both are completely different from my first novel. One is written in the first person, my first attempt at what I think is harder to write. Therein lies the challenge.
MA: Thanks, Brian, for swinging by and chatting about your novel, Dressed for a Kill. To my readers, please stop by Brian’s website for more information: http://www.brianbianco.ca
MA: My guest today is Susan Whitfield, a life-long resident of North Carolina and the author of the Logan Hunter Mystery series. She also authored a unique cookbook, Killer Recipes, after inviting many mystery writers across the country to submit recipes in exchange for publicity. She lives in eastern North Carolina with her husband and near her two sons. Susan, welcome! Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background.
SW: I taught English for 13 years and moved into high school administration once I completed my doctorate. I retired in 2005 after a 30-year career.
MA: I see, so I take it writing has been a part of your life for some time?
SW: I have been writing since I was a child and actually still have a 40-page outline I wrote in high school. I never wrote that book, but thought about it for years. When I finally got serious about writing a novel in 2004, I decided to start fresh.
MA: I dabbled in short stories and poetry in high school. My short stories seemed well-received back then, but my poetry…not so much! Tell us about your novels.
SW: I wrote Genesis Beach about a strong woman whose name is Logan. She’s over 6 feet tall, determined, and doesn’t take any crap. Her first murder case was on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. I have to admit I liked her so much, I started Just North of Luck before I finished Genesis Beach. I set that novel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, because by that time I’d decided that this would be a series of books, all set somewhere in the state I love. Hell Swamp took Logan and me back to where I grew up along Black River. The most recent book, Sin Creek, is set along the Cape Fear River at Wilmington, where I cruised as a teenager. My publisher is L&L Dreamspell, based in Houston, Texas. They are in the process of printing a second edition of Genesis Beach, which was previously self-published. I look forward to seeing the new edition.
MA: You’ve received some excellent reviews, and I thank you for bringing them to the interview. I have them posted at the end of our interview, and I encourage my readers to look over them all. Now, I am burning with curiosity about Logan. Tell us more about how you crafted this woman.
SW: That’s a great question. I physically patterned her after a super tall, rail thin literary agent I’d met. I wanted her to be smart, quirky, determined and have a little baggage she carries around with her. Fans of the series say Logan shows her “human-ness” when she makes mistakes or blurts out occasional profanity. She does manage to solve her own problems though, and I admire that.
MA: You told me that you really imbued in her genuine human traits, strengths and weaknesses. Tell us about them.
SW: Logan is intelligent and determined to be the best investigator on the force. She does make mistakes in judgment occasionally, but as I’ve said, she works everything out and gets the bad guys to boot. She is a loyal friend, tries to be a good daughter to a demanding mother, and has no life outside the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. She basically works 24/7. She has no love life at all in Genesis Beach. Perhaps that’s because she was a victim of date rape in high school. In Genesis Beach, she has sleep terrors and eventually realizes she may have been molested as a toddler. I love the way she deals with this problem near the end of the book.
MA: While Logan is a constant in the series, what about her antagonists? Do you have a returning, pesky nemesis she must contend with?
SW: While Logan remains a tough and more experienced agent throughout the series and some of the Genesis Beach characters move along with her, the cast of villains changes with each book. For example in Just North of Luck, Logan chases a serial killer who is targeting teachers. In Hell Swamp, deer hunters are prime suspects, and Sin Creek takes Logan into the porn industry, quite uncomfortable for her and for me.
MA: Any of your real life in your stories?
SW: Yes, there’s a little real life in each book, but I’ve never been involved in porn. LOL. I’d rather let readers try to figure out what came from my personal experience.
MA: Fair enough. So what’s next?
SW: Currently I’m writing a non-series book entitled The Goose Parade of Old Dickeywood. It’s about two middle-aged women with weight, marital, and health problems. I do plan to write more Logan Hunter though. My fans have already chewed me out for trying something else. They love Logan as much as I do. Isn’t that a wonderful compliment?
MA: That’s a fantastic compliment and a great affirmation of your work. Besides Logan, will you carry other Logan Hunter characters over to new stories?
SW: Pepper Ellis, a chef, is in three of the four books. I’ve thought about building a book around her, but Logan won’t leave me alone. I also like Taryn Kosterman, an artist, very much and she’s a colorful character, but not sure I’ll build a book around her either. I’ll probably continue with Logan and have them tag along for support and adventures.
MA: Will you ever write anything other than the mystery genre?
SW: I have plans to write an historical novel about an ancestor of mine, a Knight of the Bath. I’ve already started research but I know it will be a while before I get to it. That will be my biggest challenge yet.
MA: Where can readers learn more about you?
SW: I have a web site at www.susanwhitfieldonline.com and there’s a PayPal account for those who want to purchase books there. I also blog and interview authors and industry experts at www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com
MA: Susan, thank you for guesting with me today. I encourage my readers to visit Susan’s websites and stick around to read her wonderful book reviews that follow.
Susan Whitfield Book Reviews
~~Just North of Luck–Whitfield’s excellent writing skills transport you into a hellish movie from which you cannot close your eyes, even through the most gruesome and scary scenes. Whitfield’s skill at “expectation and reversal” will leave you saying “OMG!” at the unexpected ending. Excellent read. Bravo Susan. This second book is most definitely a must-read.
~~Hell Swamp– I could just about feel the humidity and almost taste the vinegar-based barbeque. And her usage of colloquialisms (expressions such as “dang nabbit” or “dadgum”, and “yonder”) are scattered perfectly. Logan, the protagonist, is tough and competent, yet feminine, romantic and vulnerable. And the supporting cast of colorful characters literally leaps off the page. One’s body is described as “a corpse of corn”, another has a “navel mouth”, and yet another has “piranha teeth and a nose like a bull’s hairy gonad”. Someone grins ”like a mule eating briars”. Whoa! Is that vivid imagery or what? We’ve got a well-written, suspenseful mystery with a likeable protagonist, vivid imagery, a taste of horror, a little tongue-in-cheek humor and even romance. What’s not to like?
~~Hell Swamp solidifies Whitfield’s status as a true master of mystery. Her prose is tight and engaging, and her suspenseful writing style leaves the reader no choice but to turn page after page in anticipation of the latest unexpected twist. Followers of Susan Whitfield will surely not be disappointed with her latest effort, and it will most certainly be successful in drawing even greater numbers to her ever-growing fan base. An enjoyable, recommended read.
~~Hell Swamp–Peculiarities abound as you meet the suspects. Whitfield has drawn a cast of characters from ‘down by the Black River’ that rings delightfully true, scary and injected with just enough humor to make HELL SWAMP stand out from the pack. Read this book. It’s a good ‘un.
~~Sin Creek-I’ve followed SBI Agent Logan Hunter as she tracked down killers in Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, Hell Swamp and now in Sin Creek. Author Susan Whitfield has created an amazingly `normal’ character with Hunter. She has feelings and isn’t afraid to cry, she takes on danger and doesn’t mind showing her fears, but when she takes on the world of porn, she shows a caring side that has been glimpsed in all of her stories but with more strength than ever in Sin Creek. Read Sin Creek as a book of murder and suspense but also read it as a book that opens your eyes to the problems our young adults are faced with, where these problems can take them and what the end results can be. It opened my eyes and I believe it will yours too. It has helped to educate me to the underworld of the Internet.
~~Sin Creek follows Logan Hunter’s murder investigation of college student, Maeve Smoltz, through many twists and turns as she sifts through a college town chock full of colorful and morally shallow characters, all with something to hide. This includes the victim herself, not innocent at all.
~~Whitfield offers a strong commentary on some of the dangers of college life. Her character, Logan Hunter, gives a strong telling of the story from the initial meeting with the dead girl’s parents to ending up on “The Fearless Ferry,” a happening spot that would bring shivers to any parent with a kid in college. Lickety-split pace and effective descriptions give the reader the feeling that they are conducting the investigation right along with Logan. If you’re a fan of mysteries, this one is guaranteed not to disappoint. If Mystery’s not your genre, make an exception with Sin Creek. Like the Cyclone at Coney Island, Sin Creek is gripping and intense, yet an enjoyable ride.
~~Sin Creek, new in the Logan Hunter mystery series by Susan Whitfield, is an eye-opener and a heart-breaker, but with the sweetest redeeming ending. Having had a long-standing friendship with a detective, when reading Sin Creek, I felt a sense of déjà vu about events I know to be true. These foul crimes do exist and are proliferating all over the world, both promoted by and brought to law enforcement attention by the Internet. Whitfield portrays the underpinnings of one man’s vile world of pornography with researched accuracy. Though this story is fiction, the very same types of exploitation continue to happen and escalate. If you never understood how lewd and dangerous the world of porn is, read Sin Creek. It’s fiction but true to life. It’ll make you shudder.
MA: It’s always fun to have authors make return visits to my blog, and today I am joined by one such previous guest, Cynthia Vespia. Cynthia first posted with me on January 8, 2010, and you can read her original post here: Cynthia Vespia, Demon Hunter Author, Guests with Mike Angley.
Cynthia’s first novel, a medieval fiction entitled The Crescent (iUniverse) was published in August 2005. The novel was unanimously praised as “an engaging, descriptive read” which prompted a sell-out at Borders Bookstore in less than one hour during the first official autograph signing.
In 2009 she released Demon Hunter: The Chosen One (AspenMountainPress.com) which quickly reached number 3 on the Fictionwise.com bestseller list. The success of Demon Hunter was followed up by the sequel, Demon Hunter 2: Seek & Destroy which takes the characters and the reader on a journey that begins on the high seas and ends in Hell. Both novels (published in e-book format) were nominated for Best Series in 2009 by LRC Cafe.
Cynthia’s latest release returns to the contemporary side of thrillers but still contains that special “twist” that her novels are fast becoming known for. Life, Death, and Back (WeavingDreamsPublishing) delves into the paranormal when a man’s life is tragically cut short and he remains on Earth in the spiritual form to tie up loose ends.
Welcome back, Cynthia, and congratulations on your new release. Tell us a little more about you and what drives you to write.
CV: I believe we are all born with an innate talent and desire, something that drives us above anything else. Whether we develop and pursue that talent is up to us in the end. I’ve been interested in writing since I was a little girl and I’m fortunate enough to have realized my dream of publication. Most people never ever see their dreams realized. Sometimes life becomes what happens to you while you’re busy making plans. That is why my new release Life, Death, and Back is so special to me.
MA: And you mean it just released, as in two days ago, I believe! What do you enjoy most about the writing experience?
CV: Story telling. I like the escape novels bring. Creating worlds, characters, it’s always juiced me. I used to read alot as a kid and I loved the way writers like Piers Anthony, Robert E Howard, and C.S. Lewis used to draw me in to their stories. It’s been a passion of mine for years.
MA: You have to tell us all about Life, Death and Back.
CV: In the wake of his death Bryan Caleb begins to realize how precious living is and how much he’d taken for granted. Now he has unfinished business. In exchange for more time on Earth, Bryan has been granted guardianship. Even as he struggles with his own mortality Bryan must find the compassion within himself to help guide Lisa Zane, an emotionally and spiritually drained young girl, through her troubled life to find her true purpose. For it is only with Lisa’s help that Bryan can rescue his very own son from the life of crime he has fallen into before Kriticos Caleb’s fate mirrors his father’s…in death.
Life, Death, and Back was written in the spirit of all classic thrillers and suspense novels, but it carries with it crossover appeal. The phenomena of ghosts and angels is a widely discussed topic spreading to many channels. There are many who have seen and experienced things not completely explainable. This novel is intended for them as well.
MA: How risky was it for you to develop your protagonists’ character?
CV: Usually when writing a contemporary thriller you can push the boundaries but it needs to stay based in reality otherwise you lose your audience. But I had alot of freedom in the development of Bryan Caleb because you tell me how someone who comes back from the dead is going to act! It did present a challenge though. I wanted Bryan to be ethereal but remain emotional at the same time. Without emotion you can’t drive the story and Bryan needed to draw from his heart and soul to take on some of the obstacles that I put in his path.
MA: I like obstacles. They make thrillers…well…thrilling! What makes Bryan “tick?”
CV: Bryan’s a guy who’s had a blessed life but it has been cut short so he’s pretty bitter about it. He’s caught between worlds unable to contact his loved ones and presented with a task of helping this troubled girl Lisa Zane get out of the trouble and danger she’s found herself in. So his current predicament represents both strengths and weaknesses at the same time.
MA: So who is the main character that torments Bryan? Who’s the bad guy?
CV: I have my antagonists such as Cyrus Houston the criminal mastermind holding Lisa against her will. And also Kriticos Caleb, Bryan’s own son, who poses a very real threat and detriment to Bryan’s causes. But I’d say the nemesis in Life, Death, and Back is really Bryan’s ability to cope with everything that is being presented to him. From being tragically killed and walking the second plane as a ghost to being resurrected and having to relearn life skills, it’s all alot for one man to deal with…how does he do it? Well you’ll have to pick up your copy to find out!
MA: How did you come up with the idea for the story?
CV: The idea to write Life, Death, and Back came from a need to delve into the mysteries of death and the afterlife. At an early age I had to overcome some tough losses to my immediate family. Dealing with such tragedy sticks with you, it becomes part of your soul, and is probably reflective in this story. The novel is a fast-paced thrill ride that asks and answers alot of questions. How will we be remembered? Who will we leave behind? What is our legacy? And most importantly how can we make a difference while we still live? Not often in life do we get second chances. We make our mistakes and must continue on, hopefully a little wiser having learned from the experience.
MA: Some lofty questions, indeed! What are your future writing plans? Any new ideas?
CV: I have many. At the moment I’m seeking a home for my suspense novel Lucky Sevens which captures the spirit of my hometown Las Vegas and focuses on the raw human emotions unique to the people who live, work, and play there. In correlation with that I’m going to be focusing on more contemporary thrillers and suspense novels…and as always they will be real life situations you could find yourself in but hope to God you never do.
MA: Will you continue to feature the same protagonist in future stories? Will any other characters migrate over to future books?
CV: That’s an interesting question and I’m filing it into my subconscious right this minute. I can’t really say what the future will hold except that I will continue to bring you more exciting reads so stay connected via my website. By the way, Life, Death, and Back is available through WeavingDreamsPublishing.com and your local retailer. Look for me on Facebook and Twitter.
MA: Thanks, Cynthia. Folks – visit Cynthia’s website for more information about her and her stories: http://www.cynthiavespia.com/
A Halloween Treat: “Wanted Undead or Alive” Authors Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry Descend to the Child Finder Trilogy Blog
MIKE ANGLEY: No trick, just some treats this Halloween! I’m delighted to take a departure from my norm (fiction authors) and host Janice Gable Bashman and Jonathan Maberry today. They have co-authored a non-fiction book, WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, an ideal topic for today. Let me introduce them first, then jump into the interview.
Janice Gable Bashman has written for THE BIG THRILL, NOVEL & SHORT STORY WRITER’S MARKET, THE WRITER, WILD RIVER REVIEW, and many others. She can be reached at www.janicegablebashman.com.
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestseller, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winner and a writer for Marvel Comics. He has written a number of award-winning nonfiction books and novels on the paranormal and supernatural, including THE CRYPTOPEDIA, VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THEY BITE, ZOMBIE CSU and PATIENT ZERO. He can be reached at www.jonathanmaberry.com.
MIKE ANGLEY: Tell us about your book.
JANICE GABLE BASHMAN: WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE deals with the struggle of good vs evil in film, comics, pop culture, world myth, literature, and the real world. Everything from vampire slayers to paranormal investigators to FBI serial-killer profilers. It includes interviews with folks like Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Jason Aaron, Fred Van Lente, Peter Straub, Charlaine Harris and many more; and the book is fully illustrated by top horror, comics & fantasy artists.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Our book starts with good vs evil as a concept and then we chase it through philosophy, religion, politics, literature, art, film, comics, pop-culture and the real world. It’s such a complex topic, one that’s fundamental to all of our human experience, from evolution to the formation of tribes and society. We take a look at it historically, mythologically, in terms of storytelling from cave paintings to literature, we track it through pop culture and into our modern real world.
The book has a real sense of humor, too. We have fun with the topic as well as bringing a lot of information to the reader.
Plus the book is illustrated with forty black and white pieces and eight killer color plates. Artists like Chad Savage, Jacob Parmentier, Don Maitz, Francis Tsai, David Leri, Scott Grimando, Jason Beam, Alan F. Beck, Billy Tackett and more.
MIKE ANGLEY: Why did you decide to tackle the battle of good versus evil?
BASHMAN: The concept of good vs evil surrounds us. There’s just no avoiding it, and it’s been around for as long as man has walked the earth. Yet the definition of what’s good and what’s evil varies depending on who you’re asking—it’s not a black and white issue, so there are a whole slew of things to cover on the topic. In WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, we tackle the whole good and evil idea in a fun and exciting way—through its presence in movies, books, comics, pop culture, and real life.
MABERRY: I’ve done four previous books on the supernatural but they mostly focused on the predators (VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, ZOMBIE CSU and THEY BITE—all available from Citadel Press). I wanted to wrap that series with a book based entirely on the good guys. Now that we know what’s out there in the dark, who are we gonna call?
Also, times have become tough lately. Wars, racial tension everywhere, religious tension everywhere, the economy in the toilet…it’s nice to shift focus from those things that frighten us and take a look at what is going to save our butts. And, yeah, the book doesn’t deal entirely with real world problems (after all, most of us aren’t like to have to fend off a vampire or werewolf!) but it’s reassuring to know that at no time in our vast and complex human experience has mankind ever said: “Screw it, the Big Bad is too big and too bad.” We always fight back, we always rise. That, more than anything, is the heart of this book.
MIKE ANGLEY: You delve into fiction, movies, and comics, and interview so many great people in the book. Sounds like a ton of research, yet the book’s a fun read. How do turn all that material into something so exciting?
BASHMAN: What’s not fun about talking about good and evil? Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker. Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs vampires. Batman vs The Joker. Dracula vs Van Helsing. FBI profilers vs serial killers. Ghosts vs ghost hunters. It’s the ultimate showdown between opposing forces. We take a look at this concept from all angles and put it together in a manner that’s easy to read with lots of interviews, sidebars, and interesting facts. There’s something for everyone in WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE.
MABERRY: I’m a research junkie. I started out as a magazine writer and did a lot of that for a lot of years. I also wrote college textbooks that I wanted my students to not only read but ENJOY reading. That’s the challenge of writing for the mass market –you have to develop a set of instincts for what people want to know. At the same time you have to be able to craft what you write so that you can impart useful information in a digestible fashion, even with the notoriously short attention-span of the modern reader.
That said, having a Big Picture sensibility in the writing helps us to present the info in a way that is neither offense nor off-putting. Sometimes that means using a bit of snarky humor, and sometimes it’s taking off the disguise and allowing the reader to glimpse our own inner geeks. Once they know that we’re part of their crowd, the book becomes more of an act of sharing cool stuff with our peers than authors writing to a demographic. Much more fun.
MIKE ANGLEY: Vampires have been the subject of fiction and fantasy for many years, but what do you make of the current interest in them with such moves as the Twilight series?
BASHMAN: The enduring appeal of Vampires is one that seems to have no end. People are fascinated by beings that can live forever. The Twilight series moves that whole vampire idea into one that appeals to a generation of readers who want their vampires attractive and appealing. None of this bite your neck stuff and you become a nasty being. The idea of falling in love with a vampire, of being in love forever until the end of time, is one that many women (and men) find attractive. But what the interest in vampires really allows us do is to examine good vs evil in a way that is easily tolerated.
MABERRY: Vampires will always be popular, and there will always be new spins on them. Currently it’s the tween crowd with TWILIGHT and the urban fantasy crowd with Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks and that crowd. A few years ago it was Anne Rice, Stephen King and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough. Before that it was Hammer Films, and so on. Vampires are changeable characters who represent our desires to transcend the limitations and natural crudities of human physical existence. They are, to the modern pop culture era, what the gods of Olympus were to the Greeks: admirable, larger than life characters that we can idealize, lust after, want to be, and be entertained by.
There has been a lot of unfair criticism about the TWILIGHT books and movies. I don’t play into that. Those movies and books have done immeasurable good for the vampire as a pop culture commodity. And a lot of people are getting massive career boosts as a result, even though they are some of the loudest critics.
A Big Picture way to look at it is, if the readers get tired of sparkly pretty-boy vampires, then they’ll go looking for nastier horror-based vampires. That’s already happening—hence books like THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE. The so-called backlash is really just the process of people seeing one thing, deciding that it’s not for them, and seeking out something that’s a better fit. The contempt so many people throw at TWILIGHT is more than just snobbish, it’s ill-informed and short-sighted.
MIKE ANGLEY: How do you manage the writing process when there are two people writing one book?
BASHMAN: We each came into this project with our own strengths and that made it easy to decide who should tackle what part of the book. The most difficult aspect was finding one voice that worked for both writers so that the book read like one person wrote it. We accomplished this fairly easily, with some trial and error, since we had worked together on a number of articles in the past.
MABERRY: We also divided the book according to personal interest and existing knowledge base. I tackled stuff that played to my strengths –vampires, comics, pulp fiction, etc. Janice played to her strengths. She’s writing a book on thrillers, so she tackled serial killers, etc.
I agree that finding a single voice was a challenge. We’re different kinds of people and different kinds of writers, but now, even I have a hard time remembering who wrote what. Janice even picked up my smartass sense of humor—which means that I may have caused her some permanent damage. On the other hand, she’s an enormously disciplined writer, so I hope I picked up some good writing habits through osmosis.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s the hardest part about writing a book with someone else? The easiest?
BASHMAN: I can honestly say that I didn’t find any aspect of writing the book with Jonathan difficult. It’s important have an open line of communication with your writing partner and a willingness to view things from your partner’s perspective. Otherwise, you run into the potential to butt heads on some matters. We both came into this project with the attitude that we’re writing a book together and we’re going to do what needs to be done to write the best possible book we can. When both partners have the same goal in mind and both share an excitement for the subject matter, it makes it pretty easy to co-author a book.
MABERRY: I agree…this was a fun, easy, fast and very rewarding process. It helps that we’re friends and have a lot of mutual respect. That goes a long damn way in making the book fun to write and (I hope) fun to read.
MIKE ANGLEY: What’s next for you guys?
BASHMAN: I’m finishing up a proposal for my next non-fiction book; it’s still under wraps so I can’t share the details at this time. I can say that dozens of key players are already on board for the project and it’s sure to be a fun one. I continue to write for various publications, and I’ll also be shopping a young adult novel shortly.
MABERRY: This has been my most productive year to date. Between novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics (for Marvel), I’ve had something new coming out every month, and often multiple things coming out in a single week.
Next up is ROT & RUIN, my first young adult novel. It’s set fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse and kicks off a new series that will be released in hardcover by Simon & Schuster. Then I have my third Joe Ledger thriller, THE KING OF PLAGUES, hitting stores in March from St. Martins Griffin. I also have three mini-series from Marvel in the pipeline. MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER is already running, and it’s a post-apocalyptic existentialist adventure. Very strange, even for me. Next up is BLACK PANTHER: KLAWS OF THE PANTHER, kicking off in October; and then in January we launch CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, a five-issue Marvel Event that follows Cap from World War II to present day. And my graphic novel, DOOMWAR, debuts in hardcover in October.
I’m currently writing DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie novel to be release by Griffin in June.
MA: Please help me welcome my guest-blogger today, Mike Markel. Mike has published a number of short stories and nonfiction books. His collection of stories, Miserable Bastards, is on Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2509786. Big Sick Heart is his first novel. During the day, he is a writing professor at Boise State University.
Welcome, Mark. Please tell us more about your background.
MM: I’m a writing professor at Boise State, specializing in technical writing. I’ve published seven other books, mostly textbooks and scholarly books about writing and ethics. I’ve also published a bunch of short stories, some action-based, some more literary.
MA: With that background, and those non-fiction credits to your name, why did you decide to write fiction?
MM: I wanted to try my hand at another kind of writing. I’d like to be able to make the transition from mostly non-fiction to fiction. Fiction writing is simply more fun for me as a writer. The challenge, of course, is the familiar one: figuring out how to get my novel noticed and read, so that I can keep writing more. My blog, Fears of a First-Time Novelist (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com), chronicles my thinking about this challenge.
MA: I think all writers experience those fears as they approach the business end of writing – getting published! Tell us about your debut novel.
MM: Big Sick Heart is a police procedural set in the small town of Rawlings, Montana. Karen Seagate, the Chief’s least favorite detective, is currently imploding. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she is drinking way too much. Her new, young Mormon partner, Ryan Miner, has just arrived from another century and another planet. Their latest crappy assignment is to provide security to a couple of guys debating stem cell research at the local college. But when one of the debaters, Arlen Hagerty, is murdered that night, what had been a boring job becomes a high-profile case.
There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to kill Hagerty. His wife and his mistress each had motive, means, and opportunity, as did his debate opponent. So did the man whom Hagerty pushed from his job as he clawed his way to the top, as well as the local politician whom Hagerty had been blackmailing.
Seagate and Miner are closing in on the murderer. The question is whether they can get him before Seagate destroys herself.
MA: That’s intriguing, especially the science fiction and fantasy elements of time and space travel. Tell us more about Karen Seagate.
MM: I didn’t think of her the way most writers would: as the best detective in the department, the best at this or that. I conceived of her as a character who might appear in a non-detective fiction book, a 42-year old woman with the normal set of family and identify and personal problems, who just happens to have a considerably more dangerous and stressful job than most people have.
Her strength is that she an intelligent, sensitive person with a strong moral compass and a willingness to risk everything for what she believes is right. Her most obvious flaw is that the stresses in her life, including a failed marriage, a kid in trouble, and an alienation on the job, have led her to a serious drinking problem.
MA: I understand you plan to use Karen in future stories, but what about an antagonist? Will you have a familiar nemesis in later novels in which Karen appears?
MM: No, there will be different nemeses in each book. Her real recurring nemesis is herself.
MA: Oftentimes when I have crime/detective fiction writers on my blog, they have backgrounds in law enforcement from which they draw to inspire their stories. How about you? Have you had any personal experiences with your storyline that influenced the plot?
MM: The murder at the center of the plot relates to ethical, political, and economic issues about stem-cell research, a subject on which I have strong views that derive from some personal factors.
MA: Interesting. Let me get back to Karen for a moment since you indicated there are more stories in the works featuring her. Tell us about your plans.
MM: I’m at work on the sequel to Big Sick Heart, which is tentatively called Unacceptable Deviations. Because Big Sick Heart is a series novel, the follow-up will feature Karen and her partner, Ryan. This time, the case relates to a murder of a state legislator by a lone wolf who has broken away from the patriot movement.
MA: Very good. I’m sure your readers will be looking forward to your sequels and new adventures for Karen and Ryan. Thanks for guesting today. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?
MM: I want to thank you, Mike, for giving me an opportunity to talk with your readers. I’d like to invite everyone to visit my blog (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com) and sample Big Sick Heart online, at BooksForABuck.com (http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/big-sick-heart.html). (While you’re there, you can read about the special offers and the “$100 for 100 Readers” contest.) The book is also available at Smashwords (at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/15261). For paperback, please visit Amazon (at http://www.amazon.com/Big-Sick-Heart-Detectives-Seagate/dp/1602151229/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279568281&sr=1-1) or Barnes & Noble (at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Big-Sick-Heart/Mike-Markel/e/9781602151222/?itm=1&USRI=big+sick+heart).
I’m privileged to have as a guest-blogger, Sandra Beckwith. Sandra is a former publicist who shares her award-winning expertise with others as the author of two publicity how-to books, as a book publicity e-course instructor, and as a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. Her book publicity classes and free book publicity e-zine help authors learn how to be their own book publicist. Sign up for her free Build Book Buzz e-zine at www.buildbookbuzz.com.
In today’s article, Sandra addresses the reality of promoting works of fiction. I hope you enjoy her insight, and please be sure to come back to my website for future articles from Sandra with the “inside scoop” on book promotion.
Promoting Fiction: It Isn’t Easy
There’s no question that it’s harder to publicize and promote fiction than nonfiction – that’s why many book publicists won’t accept novelists as clients. But whether we write fiction or nonfiction, we have to make the effort to get the word out about our books. We have a responsibility to the people who need the information we’re offering to let them know our book is available.
What are you doing now to promote your book? Maybe you’ve got a Facebook fan page for it, maybe you’re tweeting to a good-sized following on Twitter, maybe you’re trying to cross-promote with other authors. There’s an effective tactic for every type of book and author personality – the challenge is finding what’s effective for your target audience and your own skills. In coming months, I’ll offer advice on how to promote your book to the people who are most likely to buy it. To get started, I’d like to offer some thoughts on the basics that often get overlooked. They will help you focus on what counts.
* Get as specific as you can about your target audience. Many of my “Book Publicity 101” students tell me that their target audience is “all women between 18 and 65.” In an ideal world, that would be true. The reality is that we can – and need to – narrow that down further so that we have a much better chance of getting the book title in front of the people who are truly most likely to buy it. (Here are tips on my blog on how to do that.)
* Think beyond book reviews. They’re great and we all love them, but if we limit our publicity efforts to getting reviews, we’re not letting our books enjoy their maximum promotion potential. Work to get your book title into conventional and online media outlets and into blogs on an ongoing basis. We’ll discuss how in coming months.
* Promote your book to your “warmest” markets first. Then move outward. A “warm” market is one that already knows and likes you or is most likely to help you spread the word about your book. For most authors, the warmest markets are friends and family, their e-mail lists, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and the memberships of organizations they belong to. It also includes the local media.
* Do what’s best for your book, not someone else’s. Your target audience might not see tweets – yours or anyone else’s – so don’t use Twitter just because “everyone else is.” Blogging might be a better fit for you than podcasting. Some people enjoy public speaking, many more don’t. The point is, use the tactics that you can execute and that will help you get your book title in front of the right people.
I’d like to hear from you about the challenges you face when promoting and publicizing your fiction books, or about topics you’d like to learn more about here. Please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Read More
“Hitler and Mars Bars,” an Intriguing Title by an Interesting Author, Dianne Ascroft, Who Visits the Child Finder Trilogy
Hitler and Mars Bars is the story of a German boy growing up in war-torn Germany and post war rural Ireland. Set against the backdrop of Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross initiative which helped German children after World War II, my novel explores a previously hidden slice of Irish and German history.
Erich, growing up in Germany’s embattled Ruhr area during World War II, knows only war and deprivation. His mother disappears after a heavy bombing raid leaving him distraught. After the war the Red Cross transports Erich and his younger brother, Hans, to Ireland, along with hundreds of other children, to recuperate from the devastating conditions in their homeland. During the next few years Erich moves around Ireland through a string of foster families. He experiences the best and worst of Irish life, enduring indifference and brutality and sometimes finding love and acceptance. Plucky and resilient, Erich confronts every challenge he meets and never loses hope. Hitler and Mars Bars is the tale of a boy who is flung into a foreign land to grow and forge a new life. Read More
MA: My very special guest today is the former host of Georgia Public Radio’s “Georgia Gazette,” Emilie P. Bush. Emilie has traded in writing the news for writing Steampunk. For those not familiar with this type of writing, it is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically takes place in the 19th Century, but features anachronistic technologies (like digital electronics during the industrial revolution).
Emilie’s debut novel, Chenda and the Airship Brofman, sends Chenda and her companions up in the air, across a desert, through a mountain and under the sea in a thrilling adventure. Emilie P. Bush lives and writes in Atlanta. Welcome to the Child Finder Trilogy! Read More