I want to extend a hearty welcome to thriller writer Mary Deal, my guest blogger today! Mary is a native of Walnut Grove in California’s Sacramento River Delta, has lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Kapaa, Hawaii. (I’m insanely jealous). She has published three novels: The Tropics: Child of a Storm – Caught in a Rip – Hurricane Secret, an adventure suspense; The Ka, a paranormal Egyptian suspense; and River Bones, a thriller, which was a winner in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition. A sequel is being written. Down to the Needle, her next thriller, is due out early 2010. Mary is also a Pushcart Prize nominee. Read More
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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
MA: I am pleased to have visit with me today, Australian author Diana Hockley. Diana lives in a southeast Queensland country town, surrounded by her husband, Andrew, two 19 year old cats and four pet rats. She is a dedicated reader, community volunteer, and presenter of a weekly classical program on community radio. She and her husband once owned and operated the famous Mouse Circus which travelled and performed for ten years throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales. Now that the circus is sold, she is the mouse judge for the Queensland Fancy Rat and Mouse club shows!
Diana and Andrew also bred Scottish Highland cattle. Prior to 1995, her last occupation was medical transcriptionist specializing in Radiology at a major Brisbane hospital.
They have three adult children and three grandchildren.
Diana has had articles and short stories accepted and published in a variety of magazines, among them, Mezzo Magazine USA, Honestly Woman (Australia) the Highlander, Austin Times and Austin UK, Australian Women’s Weekly, It’s A Rats World, Solaris UK, Literary Journal of University of Michigan USA, Foliate Oak, children’s website Billabong. She was awarded Scenic Rim Art Festival prizes for poetry and fiction. Since that time she has published two crime novels, The Naked Room and The Celibate Mouse.
Now, that’s one of the most diverse – and interesting – backgrounds I’ve ever seen. How did you go from the circus to novels?
DH: I wrote a novel in 1971 which was rejected but deemed “worthy of merit.” After this, I didn’t write anything more until I attended university when I was in my 30s. Raising children was a fulltime occupation for a widow, so I didn’t write anything more until 2005, by which time I was living on a small farm in rural Australia, married again and on my own a great deal in the show season. I started off with articles about our animals – always a rich source of amusement for city magazines, then ventured some short stories and had some success there as well. It was a short step to novel writing after that.
MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
No, my professional life – from which I retired in 1993 – didn’t inspire my writing, but I think some of my characters couldn’t help being heavily disguised as some people I know!
MA: I won’t ask which of them resemble rats! Tell us about your stories.
DH: My debut novel, The Naked Room, fits into the crime genre, the idea for which came to me one night when I was in the studio at the radio station. What would happen if the pianist didn’t turn up for the big concert? There would have to be a very good reason why not. So I set about creating one!
MA: How did you develop your protagonist?
DH: I allowed Ally Carpenter’s character to develop in response to her abduction and the personalities of her kidnappers. I once read that you have to listen to your characters, rather than trying to force them to do what you want (within reason of course) so that is what I tried to do and it seems to have worked.
MA: Is there a hero in addition to a heroine in your story?
DH: It’s hard to say who is the hero in The Naked Room. Is it her boyfriend who takes it upon himself to investigate the crime? Is it her father who holds himself together and works on the ransom money? Or are they both the hero? My heroine’s strength is that she refuses to give in. My hero’s strengths are neither of them are about to give up searching for Ally Carpenter.
MA: I understand you have more than one antagonist in the book. Tell us about them.
DH: Oh yes, there are three bad guys and one bad woman in this – but they too have an agenda other than money.
MA: Any real life experiences that flowed over into your stories?
DH: No, not really. I psyched myself into standing behind each character, listening to them speaking and the reaction of those around them – like reading a newspaper over someone’s shoulder. And I am sure they got a bit cranky with me sometimes (chuckling).
MA: So who migrates over from The Naked Room to your other novels?
DH: I have taken the main female detective from The Naked Room and given her the starring role in The Celibate Mouse. In this novel, the reader finds out what is happening to three of the protagonists from The Naked Room. For After Ariel, my next story, I have taken one of the characters from The Naked Room and made her the character. We find out what is going on with some of the Naked Room characters who were not in Celibate Mouse (some have moved on, it’s two years later) and Susan Prescott turns up again, now an Inspector. I don’t want to over-use the same characters beyond giving continuity to the series.
MA: Any last thoughts?
DH: It’s said that you should always write what you know, so my novels will always be set in small towns/rural/Australian city/UK or Wales and they will feature people whose lifestyles I understand and whose point of view I can put across. My stories will never feature high finance, spies or sophisticated political themes because I have no knowledge of these genres. I do know, however, how people keep secrets!
I tend to write my main characters in first POV and the rest in third, with the exception of The Naked Room which is very different, darker and more violent than The Celibate Mouse.
MA: Thanks, Diana! Please visit Diana Hockley’s website for more information about her writing: http://www.dianahockley.webs.com. Read More
MA: I’m joined today by author Shelley Workinger. Shelley was born in Maine, educated in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. She’s here to talk about her latest release, Settling. She has a few websites I want to recommend my readers check out where you can discover more about her and her novel series.
What did you do before jumping into the world of writing?
SW: I graduated magna cum laude from Loyola double-majoring in English and Sociology – majors I initially chose to avoid math, which I detested and thankfully placed out of. However, I ended up running a small real estate office and doing all of the accounting – a job I actually loved. What I love even more is how many people think they know everything about the world, when most of us don’t even know our own selves.
MA: With a degree in English, I imagine you had a burning passion to write someday…was this a path you set out to be on some day?
SW: I would never have chosen this path! For me, writing is all-consuming; I can’t sleep, I lose interest in eating, and I can’t quiet my mind enough to ever relax. But the idea behind the “Solid” series was one I couldn’t let go of, and that, combined with my concern that early teens become so overwhelmed with required reading that many lose the love of leisure entirely, made me sit down and expand my idea into a fun, fast read that would be approachable for reluctant readers.
*In choosing to write to the tween age group, I also committed to keeping “Solid” clean – i.e., no drugs, cursing, sex, or gratuitous violence – and I’ve been commended by sites like Reading Teen and Litland for doing so.
MA: What’s your elevator pitch?
SW: The briefest synopsis is: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop “super-abilities,” and even unearth a conspiracy.
Many readers have called it an “X-men” for girls, focusing more on the relationships than the superpowers.
MA: Probably a good thing you didn’t call it “X-Girls,” then! How did you go about creating your characters?
SW: I began with a tagline – What if you discovered you were the product of a secret government experiment? – and then looked at my premise through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl to create what I felt would be a natural reaction/path.
The second layer to developing Clio’s character was my concern for her actual character values; as a mother of small children and a product of American society, I had a few “requirements” for a female character I’d introduce to young readers:
1. She had to eat real food. (No dieting, unhealthy body issues.)
2. Her life would not revolve a boy. (There is a romantic interest, but Clio can function without him.)
3. She *gasp* had to have a great relationship with her mother. (Specifically, a mutual respect.)
MA: Those seem like healthy traits, so what are Clio’s strengths and weaknesses?
SW: I believe her biggest strength is her weakness – that she is not worldly and experienced, so her actions and reactions are real and relatable. She makes mistakes, she sometimes trusts too easily, but she learns from them.
MA: And does she have to do battle with any particular bad guys or girls?
SW: There isn’t one antagonist per se; it’s really the unknown that challenges the characters. They’re trying to find answers without even knowing where to begin; the revelation of the experiment done on them before birth not only throws their entire pasts into question, but they can no longer even be sure of their own bodies. There are also “bad guys,” but the self-discovery is the bigger hurdle in book one. (There’s a killer on campus in book two, but that has not been released yet.)
MA: I understand you were a military brat (raising three of my own!). Did that experience inform your writing?
SW: My father was a career Army officer, but not in the traditional sense – we never moved. I absolutely romanticized the life of the constantly-moving Army brat since I didn’t get to experience it, so my characters are “living the dream” in that sense.
MA: So what’s next?
SW: I have two very different ideas (from “Solid” and from each other) – a futuristic dystopian YA novel and a football-related horror for adults – but I can’t put any time into those until “Solid” is complete.
MA: I am currently waiting for the release of my third novel, Child Finder: Revelation, so I know what its’ like to write a series. I assume many of your characters migrate from book to book?
SW: Clio and her circle are the whole basis for the “Solid” series, so all of the books will revolve around them. As their “world” continues to grow, new people do come in and/or take on larger roles – book two brings in four new characters, and book three will add at least that many more. I also initially only planned this to be a trilogy, but as I work through book three, I’m starting to think I may have to write a prequel to tie up some loose ends. I’ve also just decided to re-release a slightly-extended version of “Solid” at the same time “Settling” comes out, so I’m working furiously to put that together!
MA: It sounds like you are busy – a good thing to be! Thanks for stopping by to visit with me today and for telling us all about your stories.
SW: Thank you so much for your interest in “Solid” and giving me the opportunity to speak with your blog followers; I know we all have dozens of books on our TBR lists and I am so appreciative for your consideration of mine!
Staying in POV
Let’s say your story is being told from Sadie’s point of view. She’s your main character. As the story progresses, you have her friend approach and you write it like this:
Jeremy walked straight toward her. “Great to see you, Sadie.” His words couldn’t express what he was thinking. She had lost all that weight and bordered on having a model’s figure. Now he really wanted to bed her. He decided he’d treat her real sweet this time.
Notice that the above paragraph tells us what Jeremy is thinking. He is not the main character. Sadie is the main character. She cannot possibly know what Jeremy is thinking, so you cannot include it written that way.
You can, however, have Sadie read Jeremy’s facial expression and mannerisms and react to it from her point of view. She can show the reader what Jeremy does that will tell the reader what’s on Jeremy’s mind. What Jeremy may think and feel doesn’t have to be spelled out. It can be interpreted by the main character. Like this:
Sadie watched Jeremy walk toward her. His sauntering gait gave him enough time to notice her new figure and to feel his glands working as he eyed her from head to toe and back again. She knew him. He’d always made innuendoes about wanting to hop in bed again and renewing their sorry relationship.
“Great to see you, Sadie,” Jeremy said. His eyes had that hungry look. He always looked that way, as if sex was the only thing her image triggered in his mind. Maybe it was, but being used and cast aside was no longer part of her new image of self-respect.
Sadie stepped away when he reached for her. “Don’t try to touch me, Jerry. We washed up a long time ago and you’re still trying to own me.”
Jeremy’s expression went hollow. “You got me all wrong,” he said. The corner of his mouth twitched. That always happened when he was faced with the truth.
Staying in the POV character’s head gives you a chance to create a character with some smarts, at least, enough to intuit other characters’ actions and thoughts. It also gives you a greater chance of added detail and some interesting fleshing out of your prose that makes the action come alive. Notice that in the above short paragraphs, Jeremy actually confirms what Sadie has interpreted from him. It’s much more interesting.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
MA: I am pleased today to welcome co-authors Chris DiGiuseppi and Mike Force. Chris and Mike have penned a wonderful suspense novel, The Light Bringer. Both of these gentlemen are fellow former law enforcement officers, so I have a special place in my heart (and on my blog) for their service.
Chris has over nineteen years in law enforcement at various levels up to and including Assistant Chief of Police. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Northwestern University School of Police Staff Command. He is trained in various aspects of law enforcement and holds degrees in Human Resources and Business Administration. Chris lives with his wife and children in Missouri.
Mike has spent over 30 years in law enforcement, the last 19 as a Police Chief. Mike has numerous certifications in various areas of law, forensics, investigations and criminology. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and served 22 years in the U.S. Marines where he retired as a Captain. He oversaw operations for twenty-seven military installations worldwide. He holds degrees in Political Science and Human Resources. Mike lives with his wife in Missouri and has three grown children and a granddaughter.
Thanks for your LEO and military service, and welcome aboard! I’m going to fire questions at you both, so perhaps we’ll go back and forth for equal time. Chris, please tell us a little bit about your professional LE background.
CD: I’ve risen through the ranks from patrol officer up to Assistant Chief of Police for a small community near St. Louis, MO. I’ve experienced many different facets of police work during my tenure since starting in 1991 to include general patrol, public and community relations, support services functions and administrative functions over our Operations Division. Since our agency is smaller, 30 sworn officers and 10 civilian employees, we’ve had the luxury of building a team of professionals centering on good core values that we look for when recruiting people for our organizational family.
More important than my professional background, I’m married with 3 children and 2 step children – and couldn’t be happier.
MA: Excellent, and I could not agree more with your assessment about the role of family. Mike, your turn. Tell us why you chose to write a novel, especially why you and Chris decided to co-author a project.
MF: Chris and I talked about writing a book for many years. The desire to write was sparked from the many tragedies we experienced over the course of our careers and our book relates to those instances. In my opinion, the initial reason that we wrote was basically therapeutic, as our story helped us make some sense of those things that often bothered us involving tragic incidents of death. Helping people through those times of despair and grief pushed us to question the complexity of life and why things happened, that seemed so wrong. The first half of our book is based on real incidents that Chris and I experienced in both our professional and personal lives. The last portion of our book delves into a supernatural explanation that takes the reader beyond life.
MA: Obviously, your professional careers inspired your story, but are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
CD: Our personal and professional lives definitely formed our writing, and our characters are based on real people and/or personalities we’ve encountered throughout our lives.
MA: Tell us about The Light Bringer.
MF: The Light Bringer is our first novel and is part of a trilogy. Our publisher, HCI Books, has it categorized as Suspense Fiction but it also has a paranormal/supernatural element as well as an inspirational theme.
MA: Who is the hero or heroine in the story?
CD: Our main character is an ex-military man who is now a police sergeant. His personality traits and overall characterization was developed as a mixture of our (myself and co-author Mike Force) background, habits and personal traits.
MA: This may be a tough question considering your protagonist is a composite of you both, but what are his strengths and flaws?
MF: I believe his strengths and weaknesses stem from the same thing. He’s a deep thinker and extremely empathetic where he spends a great deal of time fighting to stick to his core values.
MA: There’s a lot to be said about having strong core values, and I’m afraid not too many real people, let alone fictional characters, embody them. What about a bad guy – any unique antagonist you want to tell us about?
CD: There is one particular character that was developed who portrays a person of poor character and values who is continually doing what’s wrong. His constant dedication to victimize others leads to a much bigger plot and eventually reveals his involvement in something extremely evil and wrong.
MA: I suspected as much based upon your hero’s description. What better antagonist than someone who is the polar opposite? I take it there are some elements of real-life experiences and people in The Light Bringer?
MF: Absolutely – the first portion of the book centers around 16 different people who die – most of those incidents are based on real experiences that we’ve had in our professional and personal lives.
MA: Since The Light Bringer is the first in a trilogy, how close are you to getting the second book out?
CD: We have the second draft written and hope to further it within the next year or so. The second book bridges the first and the third. The third book will offer finality to the overlying plot and message. The main characters will continue through the trilogy with new characters being added as we go.
MA: Given the inspirational nature of The Light Bringer, what do you want your readers to walk away with after reading it?
MF & CD: The Light Bringer focuses on the question “Why do people die.” We’ve received many praises and endorsements from readers via advanced readers’ copies. The book seems to appeal to a diverse crowd from those who like a good paranormal suspense/thriller, to those who like a murder mystery with a supernatural twist or even those who are looking for an inspirational message of hope in dark times. It’s our desire that this book will not only entertain but also help people who struggle with grief and despair because of tragedy. We additionally aspire to challenge the reader to draw their own conclusions pertaining to the concept of how “doing what’s right” in life perhaps follows you after death.
MA: Gentlemen, it was a pleasure having you guest with me today, and thanks again for your public service. I encourage my readers to learn more about Mike Force, Chris DiGiuseppi, and The Light Bringer by visiting their website: http://www.thelightbringerbook.com/ Read More
MA: Julie Achterhoff was born in Michigan, but brought up mostly in the big city of San Francisco and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. Her imagination was sparked by experiencing these different ways of life. She grew up reading very adult horror, mystery, and thriller novels passed to her by her mother. When reading she would get as excited about the writing of the books as the reading. She ended up becoming a home birth midwife with five children of her own. Still, with every book she read there was that gnawing urge to write something of her own.
Julie – welcome BACK! This is your third visit to my blog, and while I’ve had a few authors guest with me twice, you are the first with a triple visit.
My readers can go back and read the original posts Julie did with me, first on January 1, 2010, and then again on September 10, 2010.
Please remind my readers what you did before beginning your writing journey.
JA: I was a midwife raising a family for about 17 years, but when the oldest got big and responsible enough to watch the younger ones I started taking a couple classes a week at the local college. Of course I picked writing and English classes. I didn’t even dare hope to actually write anything. It was this deep, dark secret I kept even from myself! I started getting addicted when teachers and other students told me what they liked about my writing. That gave me more confidence. I suddenly realized the authors of every book I’d ever read were just regular people like me who probably started out not knowing if they could write. So I allowed my deeply buried creativity out and gave it full rein.
MA: I know you didn’t start writing novels right away, but you actually began with plays, is that right?
JA: My first major effort after some short stories and essays was actually a three-act play called Angel in the House. I really got excited about seeing my work performed. I eventually hoped against hope that I could work in the movie industry. But the structure used in plays and screenplays was very stilting for me. I had to pay so much attention to form that I felt it took away from the writing. I enjoyed just writing away without a care like I could with the short stories I’d written. I just couldn’t imagine putting enough words down to make up a whole darned book. But I decided to give it a try. I figured if others could do it, so could I.
MA: So how many books are you up to at this point?
JA: I’ve now written four books. I still can’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. I just kept writing and writing, and somehow the word count kept climbing until finally it was the end and I had a whole book in my hands. The first was Quantum Earth. It’s about a team of metaphysical scientists racing to find out why we’re having more natural disasters of a higher degree leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and if our own human thoughts are actually creating this reality. Deadly Lucidity is a thriller about a woman trapped in her nightmares and dreams. Then she meets someone who tries to help her find a way out of her own mind. He seems to be another part of her imagination, but he is also so real. Native Vengeance is a novella about a woman who meets a friend on the internet and eventually goes to visit her during the town’s main event of the year. Of course, this annual “event” isn’t what it seems. The town has an old Indian curse on it because of something that happened a long time ago. The new friend needs her so she can escape the evil that occurs each year to punish the residents of the town.
Then there’s my latest book, Earthwalker- Earth can be Hell for a Vampire. I’ve always loved vampires the most of any of the beasts around. Maybe that’s why it took me this long to write my own kind of story about them. Plus, I hate doing anything that’s “in.” So I figured I’d have to write the book so different and far from the main crowd that it would hardly resemble any vampire story from the past. I think I achieved this. Earthwalker is a book about a vampire. And there is a passionate love story. But from there on out it is different in almost every way from any past works of its kind. I think I was successful in finding a fresh new way of presenting it. It’s all in the writing, though, anyway, isn’t it? I mean if you like my writing, you’ll definitely like this book. It barely gives the reader a moment to take a breath. I write tight and lean. There’s not a lot of flowery prose or descriptive overload in my stuff. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your style of writing with each new attempt. I would call Earthwalker my dissertation.
MA: Are you the kind of writer who starts with a hero and then builds the story, or do you start with a plot and develop the right man or woman to fill the need?
JA: Whenever I begin writing a book I already have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is. I have the framework in my mind and then let them develop and grow on the page. I say “let” them because that’s how it seems to happen. They become alive to me. I think that’s how I’m able to write a whole book at all. The characters kind of take over and tell me what could possibly happen to them that would be thrilling and exciting, but also believable to the reader.
MA: Can you give us an idea of one of your heroes or heroines?
JA: In Earthwalker, for example, Willa is the so-called heroine. In the beginning of the story she is pretty weak. She’s recently gone through some tough life situations and is worn out emotionally. But she’s basically a strong young woman with emotional reserves that she calls on from the beginning. She’s good at dealing with emergency situations, it doesn’t take much for her to catch on when something outside her past experience happens, and she has the capacity to be courageous if need be. She is also willing to sacrifice herself for a greater good. As most of us do, though, she tends to think of herself first. She does sense this about herself and ends up putting herself last. With Willa, it’s like she moves ahead two steps then one step back and so on.
MA: Where do you draw from to create your “bad guys?” I’m always intrigued by antagonists in supernatural stories.
JA: I’ve had pretty intense nightmares since I was very young, so I’ve got plenty of nasty people in my head. I actually tone them down for my books so they’re not totally evil. That would be boring. You’re always going to enjoy a story more when you can somehow relate to the bad guy/gal. It’s like your dirty little secret. It brings the reader in so they feel closer to the characters.
MA: I take it you’ve not had any real-life encounters with vampires or other such creatures, or have you (grinning)?
JA: Not at all. I like making it all up from scratch. You will probably never see a non-fiction book come out of me. The further away from reality the better. My writing is my escape. It takes me far away from this world. And that’s the way I like it!
MA: Okay, so four works of fiction down…how many more to go? Where are you headed in the near future?
JA: Just recently I had a very long and real feeling dream that inspired me to write another book. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so it’s great to know I haven’t dried up in the writing department. The next one’s about a reporter out to research the latest drug craze. And boy is it a doozy! What a crazy dream that one was.
MA: I can only imagine! I’ve had a few intense dream in my life, so I can relate. Will your allow any characters from past books to tag along in future stories?
JA: I have been asked by several readers if there will be a follow-up to Quantum Earth. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a time-bound novel in that it revolves around a particular time, the year 2012. But I guess it all depends on what actually does happen in 2012 to tell you the truth. Maybe these characters will have more to say and do at that point. Who knows?
MA: Let’s hope the Mayan “prophecy” turns out to be a whole lot of nothin’! After all, the Mayans simply stopped counting days, without actually saying what would happen beyond the calendar. So much about that calendar is super-hyped. Any parting thoughts?
JA: I would just like to encourage anyone who has a desire to write not to make excuses or let your inner critic stop you from doing something that could bring you a lot of joy. Don’t let anything stop you. And don’t do it for the money or fame. Chances are that won’t happen. You just have to love it. And then just do it. Get those words down on that page! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you do it this way it’s gonna show in your writing. Then you’ll have something to be proud of.
MA: Thanks again, Julie, for coming back. I want to encourage my readers to check out Julie’s blog (http://earthwalker.tk) and her books’ website (http://julieachterhoff.tk).
MA: My guest today is Steven Jay Griffel. Steven was born in the Bronx, 1952. He tells me he, “met a beautiful blue-eyed art student in my junior year at Queens College (BA, Creative Writing, 1973) and married her in 1976. We’re still holding hands.” Steven studied American Literature at Fordham University, and he and his wife have two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Julia, grown and on their own. He spent his professional life in publishing, and he still works as a publishing consultant, though most of his time is now spent writing novels and talking about them. Steven is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer and especially enjoys leading book club discussions about his novel, Forty Years Later.
You told me you thought writing was a part of your DNA. How did you describe that, again?
SJG: I’m a born storyteller: sired by a father who never met a fact he couldn’t spin into fancy, and by a mother whose bitchin’ neuroses could make a grudge match of any relationship. From my father I learned there is no division between truth and fancy, just a wonderful gray area where imagination and ego could thrive. From my mother I inherited a genius for nursing regrets and grudges, so I’m never at a loss for reasons to rant.
I was raised on the colorful streets of the Bronx, where home plate was a manhole cover; where there was a pizzeria and deli on every other block; where there were always enough kids for a ball game; where it was okay to be Jewish, so long as you didn’t piss off those who weren’t.
MA: Well, that’s a colorful life! How did you decide to write novels? Was it always something you longed to do?
SJG: I wasn’t cut out to be a scientist or movie star or athlete. But I always had lots to say—and a talent for saying it well. In college I considered a career in journalism—until I learned I’d have to stick to the facts. I like facts, but I much prefer the novelist’s god-like sense of entitlement. As a novelist I decide the facts. I decide who rises, who falls. If I need a perfect line I create it, rather than relying on interviews and research for my gold. Thus I prefer fiction, where the music and meaning of words have primacy over facts. . . . I just remembered a pair of wonderfully relevant quotes:
“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” –Matthew Arnold
“Literature is news that stays news.” –Ezra Pound
I like to think that my writing is meant for the long haul.
MA: Well said! So tell us about Forty Years Later.
SJG: A middle-aged man (smart, handsome, happy, successful) has a single, gnawing regret: a lost opportunity to make history. He has kept the regret alive for forty years, continually picking at the scab of its memory. A coincidence (Fate, if you believe in such things) reunites this man with a former teen sweetheart who is very much a part of his regret. The man is married with children, the woman is famously and formerly gay, and their reunion results in the kind of sparks that presage trouble. It is a tale of music, movies, murder—and madness too. It is also a story of love and redemption—except for those who are probably going to Hell.
MA: Oh my! So had did you develop your protagonist’s character? Sounds like there may be a little of you in him…
SJG: Until recently, I too had a gnawing, life-long regret. Like a cancer that does not metastasize, it was annoying but not life-threatening. A complicated coincidence reconnected me with someone I hadn’t seen in forty years: a successful screenwriter who is best known for writing about the subject that framed my regret: Woodstock. We met and hit it off—big time. Of course, I was happily married with children and wouldn’t think of getting involved with another woman—but I have a protagonist; an alter-ego; a doppelganger, I suppose, and this fellow (named David Grossman) has been known to explore roads I dare not travel myself.
MA: So, what are David’s strengths and weaknesses?
SJG: Like many people, the novel’s protagonist is a miracle of contradictions. He is clear-seeing despite his blind spots; confident when not suffering from crises of self-esteem. He is a man who misplaces loyalties and manufactures jealousies. He loves and is loved but sometimes loses his way. All of which is to say, he’s flawed enough to get himself into a royal pickle—and brave enough to see his way out.
MA: What about an antagonist … is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
SJG: There is a brilliant, formerly famous lesbian screenwriter with a blind lover and hip-hop son, who becomes a vengeful alcoholic with a particular fondness for dangerously sharp objects. Unique enough?
MA: (Smiling) Okay, so did any of your real-life experiences factor into the plot at all?
SJG: I also nurtured a life-long regret tied to someone I had not seen in forty years. We were reunited. Sparks flew. . . . Note: The real-life tale is private and tame and not worth the telling in this space. However, the novel it inspired is rip-roarin’. But it is not a story for the faint of heart or for those of unbending scruples. It is tale signifying: One is never too old to change; Beware what you wish for; There is no greater grace than tried and true love.
MA: Excellent! So what’s next for you?
SJG: I am working on a new novel called The Ex-Convert. It is, loosely speaking, a sequel to Forty Years Later. Though I am now in the enviable position of having a publisher waiting for my next book, I have no guarantee of publication. My publisher believes I hit a home run with Forty Years Later and demands I hit another one with The Ex-Convert. Batter up!
MA: An enviable position to be in…so will any characters from Forty Years Later migrate over?
SJG: David Grossman is the protagonist in each of my novels, and I haven’t sworn off him yet. Having said that, he is not quite the same character in each book. His voice and sensibility are pretty consistent, but his circumstances vary: he has a wife or not; he has a family or not; he lives in New York, or not, etc. Expect to see him again in the Ex-Convert.
MA: How do readers get a copy of your book?
SJG: Forty Years Later is available as an e-book on Amazon.com. The download is incredibly fast and easy. And no special reading device is required. Most people enjoy Forty Years Later on their computer, PC or Mac. But with each passing day more and more people are using e-readers (like the Kindle) or tablets (like the iPad) or screen phones like the Android, Blackberry, or iPhone. In fact, one of my first readers sent me the following text message from his iPhone: “Reading Forty Years later at 40,000 feet—and loving it!” I also encourage readers to friend me on Facebook and share their thoughts. It’s a digital dawn!
MA: Well, thanks, Steven. Folks, please visit these websites for more information about Forty Years Later and Steven Jay Griffel!
The letter S
Drop the s. If you believe that one letter couldn’t possible cause you to receive a rejection, I encourage you to think again, especially if the same mistake recurs throughout your manuscript.
Incorrect usage comes from the lax attitude about our English language. Most people speak in jargon or a brogue that comes from a certain locale. I also call it family hand-me-down language. Truth is, no matter from where you hail, your written grammar must be correct for a broader audience.
I’m speaking of the letter “s.” Check out these sentences:
She ran towards the garage.
The ball rolled backwards.
These sentences are all incorrect. That is, the use of the letter s is incorrect.
The letter s denotes something plural. In the first sentence, if you move toward something, you can only go in one direction. Toward.
If the ball rolled backward, it can only go in one direction. Backward.
If you look upward, you can only look in one direction. Upward.
Strangely, an example of an exception is:
She leaned sideways.
The rule here is that when leaning, you can lean sideways in more than one direction, therefore the use of the s.
You’ll find many other words that are incorrectly used with s endings. When you find these, make note of them, maybe a running list. You’ll have the list to refer back to when you question your own writing.
This is but one of the finite idiosyncrasies of producing better grammar when writing stories and books that you hope to sell. Study your own language and speech. Watch how the s is used or omitted in books that you love to read. Get into the habit of listening to the speech patterns of others. Be critical of what you hear, but never critical of a person who speaks that way. Instead, mentally analyze what you have heard. Learn the right from the wrong of speech and your writing will reflect your knowledge.
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11 Must-haves for making Video Trailers
Video trailers help sell books. Just as a preview of a film or TV special can spark interest and make you impatient for the day you can see the show so, too, can trailers incite a potential reader’s interest.
If you are computer savvy, you will probably enjoy making your own trailer. If you are not knowledgeable in the way of putting written word, moving or still pictures and music together to make an exciting presentation, you should have the following items ready when you approach a professional to make the trailer for you.
1) Book title
2) Sub-title, if applicable
3) Name or pen name of the author(s)
Under this, you can include such phrases as “Award-winning novelist,” or
Author of ____(previous book title)_____
4) One or two brief blurbs from popular writers or well-known persons in the industry, if you have them.
5) A tagline: One sentence as brief as possible.
6) The story synopsis
7) 5 – 10 sentences that distill your story and/or synopsis without giving away the ending
This can be difficult. In order to distill, you need to keep your focus on your main
character and the main plot thread.
In my thriller, River Bones, I have a strong sub-plot about Vietnam MIAs which totally feeds into the main plot and that the story couldn’t be without. However, I never mentioned this sub-plot in any of the information used for the making of the trailer. See the trailer here (All four of my video trailers are on this page):
8) Places where the book can be purchased
9) A .jpeg image of your front cover. You will be told the size requirements.
10) You should plan to do a fairly thorough search for photos that fit your distilled description. If they do not match the description, they will make the trailer seems confusing to the viewer. For each line of description, try to find one or two good photos that represent that bit of information. You may not use all of the pictures but it will give your video maker a good selection from which to choose.
11) You can also do a search for music to accompany your video. Music, in my opinion, can make or break your project. Blazing Trailers, who made all my videos, found an exquisite bit of music by Kevin MacLeod for my novel, The Ka, that so fit the story that I can’t remember the music I originally suggested.
All of these items will be required in order to begin building your video. The maker will probably suggest other pictures that better suit the action. She or he may also suggest different music than you were able to find. Professionals have access to royalty free photos and music that writers may not. Your suggestions in all of this will guide them to find the best products that emphasize your vision of how your wish your story portrayed.
If the video maker makes suggestions, listen. Check out every detail they offer. Your suggestions of photos and music are just that. If they don’t fit, they give the video maker a good idea of what you hope to create. Having once read your synopsis and distillation into ten sentences, you will be told which sentences to use and which to omit. The maker may even reword your sentences to make them more exciting. That may also be required in order to overlay the words onto a picture.
As the process moves along….
The maker will send you a mock-up, like a first draft. You can change or correct anything. Make sure your verbiage is as exciting as possible. The pictures should be as close a representation to the story as possible, especially any characters. If your story is about a brunette, don’t use a picture of a blonde. The music should accentuate the action. Once you approve at this point, the video is made into its final format.
The finished presentation may start with your book cover, but not necessarily. With my novel The Tropics, the video starts with a sailboat way out in the middle of the blue ocean. This was to exemplify the feeling of aloneness.
From the order of information at the end of the trailer for my thriller, Down to the Needle:
~ The book cover, author name and Web site
~ A very brief one line blurb from a popular writer or other, if available.
~ A list of places where the book can be purchased
~ The logo of the person or company that created the video
~ A credit for the music composer
Having all of this information readily available before you seek someone to make your trailer will quickly speed things along and minimize time and expenses. You’ll have some changes along the way to tighten up the presentation but once finished, you should have an exciting clip.
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