Tag Archives: daughter

May 06

Norah Wilson, Romantic Suspense Writer, Guest-Blogs with Mike Angley

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/

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Mar 06

Stepping Away from Fiction for Something Real: Help Find Nadia Kersh

Sometimes in our lives tragedy strikes in ways we could never contemplate in advance. The terrible news we read about everyday always seems to be about someone else. When similar events happen to us, we are always caught off-guard, never prepared, and we struggle to make sense of it.
God has His plans. We all know that, and we cherish Him when His works seem to fit our plans. When the unthinkable happens, we are always left to wonder where God was at the time. Was He looking the other way? Did He not see evil coming and try to stop it? We may never know the answers to these questions, but we must rely upon our faith to sustain us.
I spent a career in the United States Air Force as a criminal investigator, and while I saw plenty of tragic things, none ever came too close to home. I was always affected by the cases I worked, and I knew with each sad story I investigated, that I would never be the same. Every victim of every crime has had a place in my heart. My inspiration for writing fiction comes from them. But they were all people I never knew in their lifetimes. Our introductions came with terrible news.
One of my friends from my Air Force days, Kevin Kersh, is going through a tough time. For two years, he and his family have been seeking answers to their daughter’s disappearance. Nadia Kersh disappeared on November 3, 2008 in Alabama. Kevin and his family have been searching for her since, with few clues to guide them. She left behind her son, Kevin’s grandson.
While Nadia has never been found, a person in Alabama will stand trial soon for her murder. That is important, but not nearly as important as finding Nadia and bringing her home. The Kersh’s have not given up their search. What parent could? I hope that by writing about their story, someone with information about Nadia’s whereabouts will come forward and do the right thing. You can learn more about Nadia and her family’s determination to find her here: Help Find Nadia.
I urge my readers to visit the Kersh’s website and help out if you can. If anyone has information about Nadia’s disappearance, now is the time to speak up. Thank you.
Mike Angley
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Dec 17

All the Way from the UK, Mike Angley Welcomes Author Ian Barker

MA: All the way from the UK, please help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Ian Barker! Ian has always dabbled in writing since leaving school. However, he spent almost 20 years working in IT before he discovered that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He is now editor of PC Utilities magazine and lives and works in Greater Manchester, UK. Fallen Star is his début novel. Tell us more about your background.
IB: I was a voracious reader as a kid and have always been interested in writing. I repressed this for quite a long time, however, and it expressed itself in the odd comic poem for birthday cards but not much else. It was only once I’d turned 40 that I started to take writing more seriously and that led me to combining career and interest and getting a job on a computer magazine. The idea of writing a novel came around the same time. Maybe it comes of a desire to leave something permanent behind.
MA: Why did you choose to write novels, and not poetry?
IB: I’m not sure you ever choose to write novels. The call of the story simply becomes too strong to resist. I’d done the usual thing of writing a semi-autobiographical first novel and consigning it to the bottom drawer. The initial idea for Fallen Star I thought might make an interesting short story but it quickly turned into something bigger.
MA: Tell us about Fallen Star.
IB: It’s about the shallowness of celebrity culture, the price of fame and how, almost inevitably, we find ourselves living in the shadow of our parents and often repeating their mistakes. It’s an adult/young adult crossover – the protagonist is 21 – and at its heart it’s a love story.
Karl has been a member of a boy band since leaving school and at 21 knows no other life. When another band member dies of a drug overdose he’s forced to readjust to real life. To further complicate things he falls in love with Lizzie, but she’s the daughter of an IRA terrorist and that makes her someone Karl’s ex-soldier father is bound to hate.
All of that might sound a bit grim but there’s a lot of comedy in the book. Although it’s been described as a modern day morality tale it doesn’t hit you over the head with a message, it’s an entertaining, fun read.
MA: Where did the idea for the story come from?
IB: Appropriately enough the idea came from watching a reality TV show. Around 2003 the BBC ran a series called Fame Academy with a group of would-be pop stars trained and forced each week to ‘sing for survival’ to stay on the show. It was around the time that digital TV began to take off and this was one of the first shows to have live ‘round the clock feeds. I started to think about what would happen if you reversed the situation – what if you removed someone’s fame when they were at their peak? The story grew from there.
The terrorism angle came later but I think it adds an extra dimension to the book and makes it more relevant to today’s world.

MA: How hard did you find it to write the two main characters?
IB: I found Karl relatively easy to write. I don’t think men ever grow up much beyond the age of eighteen anyway! It was much more difficult to get inside the head of a 25-year-old woman for Lizzie’s parts. I was constantly hounding female writer friends to read sections and tell me if they rang true.
MA: How does the hero’s develop through the book?
IB: A key part of the book is Karl’s growth as a character. At the start he’s shallow, immature and somewhat vain, the world has always come to him. That made for a tricky first few chapters as in the beginning he’s not especially likeable. As the story progresses he comes to realise that he must take responsibility for his own actions and take control of his own life. He also finds that he has more in common with his father than he ever thought possible.
MA: Does Fallen Star have its own unique bad guy?
IB: Not in the usual melodramatic sense. Patrick, the closest the book gets to a bad guy character, is dishonest rather than outright bad. He’s also a rather peripheral character. His impact is felt in its effect on other characters but he only actually appears in a few scenes.
The real villain here is the way that terrorism affects people’s lives even one generation removed.
MA: Did any of your real-life experiences influence the plot?
IB: In terms of the main plot points no, but as always there are certain incidents and conversations that are rooted in things that have happened to me or to friends. There are also the inevitable snippets of overheard conversations and such.
MA: Beyond this novel what are your future writing plans?
IB: I’m working on a sequel which picks up Fallen Star’s characters a few years on from where this book ends. I don’t see it turning into a long series, however, there probably won’t be a third book on this theme. I’d like to revisit the idea of my bottom drawer novel. I think the premise – a coming of age tale set in the mid 1970s – still works but I know that I could write it much better now. One of Fallen Star’s characters does appear as his younger self in my original version though so it wouldn’t be a complete break.
MA: Would you do it again?
Yes. Writing a novel and getting it published is a long and often frustrating experience but you only appreciate that when you’ve tried it. If I’d known at the start what I know now I might have done a few things differently but it wouldn’t have stopped me.
MA: Ian, thanks for traveling so far to visit with me today (wink). I recommend my readers check out Ian Barker’s website for more information about him and his novel: www.iandavidbarker.co.uk.
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Nov 12

Just a Little Jet-Lagged, Help Me Welcome Back Australian Author Sylvia Massara

MA: I’m delighted to welcome back to Mike Angley’s Blog, Sylvia Massara. Sylvia first guested with me on September 3, 2010, and you can go back and read her original post here: All the Way from Australia Comes Romantic Comedy Author, Sylvia Massara to Guest with Mike Angley

I won’t repeat her biography here, but you can find it at the link above, or visit her website for even more information about her: www.sylviamassara.com

MA: Tell me again what you did before becoming a writer.

SM: Prior to embarking on my writing career, I spent many years in the corporate world being a HR Manager, a Trainer/Lecturer, and most recently I started a business, Tudor Writing Services, where I provide proofreading/editing/website and social media services. Having said this, my true love has always been acting. I can remember wanting to be an actress since the age of 5. I was in lots of school productions, and later in amateur theatre. I also did a stint (when I was in between jobs) as an extra in some Aussie soapies, where I rubbed shoulders with actresses such as Melissa George and Isla Fisher, whom I believe made a bit of a name for themselves in the US. I was also in TV commercials and a couple of documentaries.

MA: You are a self-proclaimed day dreamer…is that one of your fiction influences?

SM: Well, I always lived my life in what you might call a ‘world of make believe’. Even now I do this. Ever since I can remember I always caught myself day dreaming; and I usually run several plots through my head at any given time. So I guess it was natural for me to progress to a career as a writer. I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and always loved it. Besides, you can write till you’re 90, whereas an acting career may not last that long.

MA: The last time you visited with me, you talked about your novel, The Other Boyfriend (which my daughter thoroughly enjoyed, by the way!). What are you here to tell us about today?

SM: The Soul Bearers is a rather spiritual story which deals with courage, friendship and unconditional love. It was partly inspired by true life events. In terms of genre, I guess you could put it under ‘literary fiction’ ‘mainstream drama’, not sure where, but it does make a good read and you better have those tissues handy.

A bit more about the story: The story involves three people whose lives cross for a short period of time, and the profound effect which results from their interaction. Alex Dorian, freelance travel writer, and a survivor of severe child abuse, arrives in Sydney in an attempt to exorcise the ghosts of her past. She shares a house with Steve and the disturbing Matthew, a homosexual couple. Alex finds herself inexplicably attracted to Matthew and must battle with her repressed sexuality and her fear of intimacy.

I believe readers of The Soul Bearers will come away with a deeper understanding of human relationships and of what it means to truly love without condition.

MA: You did something interesting with your characters in this new book. Tell us about that.

SM: There are three main characters, and the story is told through their respective points of view. Even smaller characters have their point of view. This makes the story more intricate as we see the events develop through all the characters, but mainly the main three, being Alex, Steve and Matthew.

You ask how I developed the characters and all I can say is that in terms of the gay couple it wasn’t so difficult. Having come from a hospitality background, I made lots of friends who were gay and I socialized with many of them. So I knew what their way of life was like. For, Alex, it was a little more difficult as she is the victim of sexual abuse. I also have a good friend who was unfortunate enough to have been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and from what I learned through her, and my own research, I came up with Alex.

MA: Are your characters larger than life or are they flawed like us all?

SM: All my characters are flawed; even the very spiritual and wise, Steve. They all have something to learn and something to give to each other. But I guess Steve comes out as the strongest. He’s facing imminent death from AIDS and his only concern is that he leave his partner well provided for, both emotionally and financially. And he manages to do this through Alex (that is, the emotional part of it). I can’t say that Steve has any real weaknesses, except that he likes to ‘arrange’ the lives of others in some way.

Alex is strong in that she managed to survive her childhood ordeal and carved out a life for herself. But she must still face the ghosts of her past and fear holds her back from many an opportunity for growth. The same thing applies to Matthew, but in a different way; he’s living with the rejection of his parents, his partner’s illness and his fear of what the future will bring. Matthew is not so much strong as he is chivalrous and protective of those he loves.

MA: I suspect you don’t have a traditional antagonist in The Soul Bearers, and that perhaps life itself is the “bad guy.”

SM: There is no bad guy per se, but there are bad people in the past of all three characters. There is Alex’s stepfather, who sexually abused her; her mother, who lived in denial of it; then you have Matthew’s parents and their rejection of the only son they have. So you could say these people are the bad guys.

MA: What comes after this latest release? Are you working on anything new?

SM: I will turn back to more lighthearted novels; and I plan another ‘chick lit’ story, but this one will probably be a series featuring the same heroine.

MA: I believe you have a book trailer for your newest release. Where can people find it?

SM: For more on The Soul Bearers check out my website and blog (www.sylviamassara.com). There is a video I posted there that tells you a little bit about the story. The book released in September 2010 and is available in ebook format through Amazon and Smashwords, and sometime in the next couple of months it will be made available in paperback. Read More

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Nov 05

Mike Angley Interviews Best-Selling Author Frank Fiore

MA: Please help me welcome best-selling author, Frank Fiore. Frank has sold over 50,000 copies of his non-fiction books. He has now turned his talents to writing fiction. His first novel, CyberKill, is a techno-thriller that answers the question “How far will an artificial intelligence go for revenge”. CyberKill has garnered five star reviews on Amazon. Frank’s writing experience also includes guest columns on social commentary and future trends published in the Arizona Republic and the Tribune papers in the metro Phoenix area. Through his writings, he has shown an ability to explain in a simplified manner, complex issues and trends. He and his wife of 30 years have one son. They live in Paradise Valley, AZ.

It sounds like writing has been a passion for many years, and you’ve been quite successful at it. Is this something you’ve always done professionally?

FF: I started out as an entrepreneur. During his college years, I started, wrote and edited the New Times newspaper which is now a multi-state operation. From there I went on to start several business and retired to take on writing full-time.

My interests in future patterns and trends range over many years and many projects. I co-wrote the Terran Project, a self-published book on community futures design processes, and worked as a researcher for Alvin Toffler on a series of high school texts on the future. I designed and taught courses and seminars on the future of society, technology and business and was appointed by the Mayor of Phoenix to serve on the Phoenix Futures Forum as co-chairperson and served on several vital committees.

MA: I’ve always enjoyed reading the Tofflers’ works. When I was in the USAF, Alvin and his wife visited the Air Command and Staff College when I was a student there to talk about future trends. Fascinating stuff! With your background, why the transition to novels?

FF: I’ve always wanted to be novelist. I wrote my first novel in high school then another when I was in my late 20s. Both were not very good. Like many novelists, I write to entertain but also to make a point – to try and educate the reader in something they might not have been aware of.

MA: Tell us about CyberKill.

FF: My first novel is CyberKill. Fans of Tom Clancy, James Patterson and Clive Cussler, would enjoy this twist on the Frankenstein myth.

A brilliant programmer, Travis Cole, inadvertently creates “Dorian,” an artificial intelligence that lives on the Internet. After Cole attempts to terminate his creation, Dorian stalks his young daughter through cyberspace in an attempt to reach Cole to seek revenge. When cyber-terrorism events threaten the United States, they turn out to stem from the forsaken and bitter Dorian.

In the final conflict, Dorian seeks to kill his creator – even if it has to destroy all of humanity to do it.

MA: Where did you come up with the idea for the story?

FF: Many years ago I read an article in Time magazine about a young artificial intelligence (AI) programmer. He had created a series of AI agents and sent them out over the internet to see if they would evolve. I thought to myself, what if the programmer terminated his experiment? If the Artificial Intelligence evolved into a real intelligence, would they take his act of shutting down the experiment as attempted murder? From there, I thought “How far would an artificial intelligence go for revenge?” and stalk Travis Cole, my protagonist, through cyberspace to kill him. The end result was CyberKill. (cyberkill.frankfiore.com)

MA: Tell us more about Travis Cole.

FF: Travis is an intelligent and gifted programmer but he’s into shortcuts. That provides the opening that AI agent can exploit and reach Cole.

Readers are not interested in a main character that can do or know everything. It’s not only unreal but it makes for boring story telling. The main hero has to have his sidekicks – people who know what he doesn’t know – and that builds a relationship and makes the characters feel more real to the reader. It also lets the author play one off the other to create interesting dialogue and an interesting story.

I try and combine the male and female leads into what one character would be. Between them, they know enough to drive the story forward with the help of secondary characters. Besides a little flirting and possible love interest adds to the story.

MA: I take it that Dorian is the antagonist?

FF: The ‘bad guy’ is the AI software agent he created. The AI agent becomes super-intelligent and names himself Dorian.

MA: I don’t know if you’ve dabbled with AI at all, but from your background you’ve certainly had an interest in related studies. Any real life influences in the story?

FF: All my life I have been interested in many, many subjects – from the social sciences to the human sciences to science itself. All of this interest has helped me develop interesting and believable characters and stories. Also, CyberKill is speculative fiction with a science bent. That means the technology the geographic locations, government and military installations and organizations, information warfare scenarios, artificial intelligence, robots, and the information and communications technology in this book all exist.

As for the genetic weapon, pieces of the technology are either in existence or in the research and development stage. Now, according to the Department of Defense, it doesn’t exist. But the Fars News Agency of Iran reported otherwise last year.

I wanted to show the reader that what happens in the book could very well happen today. So I had to take what was known, combine it with other knowns and then stretch the facts a little.

MA: (chuckling) That pesky Department of Defense! So what’s next in your writing journey?

FF: I’ve just completed the first two novels of a three book series called the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash.

The Chronicles of Jeremy Nash is a new thriller series about a noted debunker and skeptic of conspiracy theories, urban legends and myths. Jeremy Nash is pressed into pursuing them by threats to himself, family and reputation. The Chronicles of Jeremy Nash capitalizes on the continuing interest of the reading public in conspiracy theories, unsolved mysteries, urban myths, New Age beliefs and paranormal events. I also feeds the growing appetite of the public for ‘puzzle stories’ in the vein of National Treasure and Indiana Jones with a little of the X-Files thrown in. The formula of the chronicles consists of a conspiracy theory, unsolved mystery, urban myth, New Age belief or paranormal practice that Nash is forced to pursue; combined with an underlying real world event, organization or persons that is somehow connected to what he is pursuing. This provides the thriller aspect of the stories.

MA: Fascinating. Anything else you’d like to add?

FF: I watch movies because I write my novels as movies. Movie scripts have a structure that is shared by novels. Both have a similar 3 or 4 act structure (spine/skeleton) that involves a hook, generally with the main character involved, then the ordinary world (who they are, etc) the first turning point, tests and trials, reversals, black moment when all seems lost, climax, the epiphany and reward. This is not a formula, it’s classic mythic structure and it’s used in both mediums. Current contemporary commercial novels are much faster paced than in the past, no matter what genre. Some genres (action and thrillers) move faster than others but the whole market has shifted. We are a USA Today society that deals in sound bites and Tweets, and that doesn’t bode well for the slow moving novel. Read More

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Oct 08

Fellow Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Author Erin Rainwater Swings by to Visit with Mike Angley

MA: It’s a real treat for me today to have as my guest a fellow member of the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), and Rocky Mountain neighbor, Erin Rainwater. Erin is a Pennsylvania native who says she probably should have been born in the 19th century but somehow got flash-forwarded into the 20th. There was never any question that she would be a nurse when she grew up, regardless of which century she was in. And beginning in about the seventh grade, there was no question that she’d launch that nursing career in the military. The daughter of a WWII intelligence officer, she entered the Army after graduating from nursing school. That was during the Vietnam War era, and she was privileged to care for the bodies and spirits of soldiers and veterans, including repatriated POWs and MIAs. Her military experience has helped in writing parts of her novels. Her support of the military has been life long and is ongoing, and one of her favorite pastimes is volunteering at the USO in Denver. She participated in Operation Desert Swap, having “adopted” a soldier in Iraq to whom she sent a copy of her novel for reading and swapping with his fellow troops. Erin now lives in Colorado with her husband of 35 years, has four children and the four most adorable grandchildren on the planet.

Erin, thank you for your service. Please tell us a little more about your background, especially your military service.

ER: My “back story” consists of being born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, attending nursing school there, and going directly into the Army Nurse Corps upon graduation. I served for three years during the Vietnam War era, including duty stations at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, the 121st Evac Hospital in Korea, and at Walter Reed in D.C. I got married while still in the Army, and after my discharge I worked part time—mostly in ICU—while raising our four children. I only started writing when I was in my thirties.

MA: I’m familiar with the 121st from my two tours in Korea…a huge facility. Nursing and writing – how did you end up becoming an author?

ER: I’ve always loved fiction, especially historicals, so it was natural for me to migrate toward that genre when I began writing. As for novel length versus short stories, it’s not so much a choice as a lack of ability on my part to write shorter tales. I just plain lack the capacity to spin a yarn in less than 45,000 words. My new release, Refining Fires, started out as a short story, but there was just too much story to tell, and my attempts to limit it failed miserably. My critique group hounded me into telling the full story, so the three-part novel was born. I consider the term “short story” an oxymoron.

MA: Tell us more about your latest release.

ER: Refining Fires is unique in format and storytelling approach. It’s three-stories-in-one format, beginning with “Refining Fire.” Clare Canterbury is a nurse with a tarnished professional reputation seeking work. Any work. She answers an ad for a live-in nurse situation, caring for a disabled Korean War veteran. Little does she know what she’s in for. He tosses her out of his home. But his anger is no match for her pluck, and she finagles her way into his employ, his home, and eventually his heart. As she ministers to Peter’s body, his soul develops a raw yearning for a life and a love he’d long ago thought hopeless. Theirs is quite a romance, but “Refining Fire” is only the beginning of their love story. In the second story, a little girl named Susannah shows grit beyond her years as she faces her biggest fear. She must go it alone on a treacherous journey down a mountain to save her mother’s life, then faces harder times yet to come. The love that Peter and Clare share has an immense impact on this extraordinary child who is filled with “Blind Courage.” Finally, you’ll meet the “Kept Woman” bent on self-destruction until a child and a man from her past teach her about who has been keeping her all along. Refining Fires is not your prototypical romance. It’s made up of three stories of people seeking redemption in one form or another, whose paths cross, showing how God’s hand is ever on us, leading and refining as we go.

MA: I understand you take a unique approach to developing your characters. Please talk about that.

ER: This might sound strange, but for me it’s never been so much about my developing my characters as it is my catching on to the nuances of their personalities. Although I begin with a concept of who I want the main characters to be and what they will be like, I honestly discover things about them right along with the reader as we trek further into the story. Take Peter Cochran in Refining Fires, for instance. We initially see his darker, angry side, but in time, as the walls of his internal fortress begin to crumble, we gain insight into what’s been there all along—astounding courage (even in the face of death, I later discovered), humility, a sense of humor, and the longing to be loved for who he is and not for what he has.

MA: What are Peter’s strengths and weaknesses?

ER: I mentioned his courage, which is one of his great strengths. His nurse Clare points out that not only did he show heroism in the war but during his recovery from his injuries as well—fourteen times he’s been through those operating room doors, plus he learned to walk again, every step he took a victory in itself. His greatest weakness is his lack of awareness that he possesses any of these strengths, or that any of it matters. He also had chosen a lifestyle contrary to his early Christian upbringing, then became embittered when consequence time arrived.

MA: What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

ER: Ooh, that is such a cool question. In my two previous books, I’ve had some really nasty villains (one reader told me every time the heavy in True Colors entered the scene it made her skin crawl). And there is one character in Refining Fires who definitely is the “bad girl.” But for the most part, Peter is his own worst nemesis.

MA: Given your nursing background, your service in the military, and your overseas time in Korea, I imagine a lot of your real experiences influenced your writing of Refining Fires?

ER: Yep, they sure did. Clare Canterbury is a former Army nurse, as am I. Some of our military experiences were similar. Read More

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Sep 15

Mary Deal Outlines “Outlining a Story”

Outlining a Story

Writing a novel, even a short story, and keeping details and action in some semblance of order can be a daunting task. A loose outline, even a simple list of occurrences, can be the best aid to keep you writing on track.

I began using a structured outline but have since been able to keep facts in order by making a running list of plot points and anything else I need to remember.

We all remember learning about outlines in school. To me, they were rigid with a lot of requirements and I spent more time trying to remember how to title the information than getting the data on paper.

As a writer, you will have had more experience with keeping an accumulation of facts in your mind as you pound the keys. Or maybe you’ve gotten lost in all the twists and turns of your story. Here’s some easy help. For example, let’s say your story is about a woman searching for her abducted daughter.

Keep in mind that all stories need the following:

Setup (want)
Rising Action
Reversals
Recognition
Climax
Denouement

Here’s a simple outline to keep the plot on track. My notes in parenthesis are for your understanding and need not appear in your outline unless they further help you.

Title at the Top

1-Abi’s daughter was abducted (told in present time, with some back story (SETUP)

2-Abi learns of a young woman her daughter’s age on Death Row (Rising Action)

a-The inmate faces lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit

3-Twenty-three years have passed but similarities exist between the inmate and Abi’s daughter

a-Abi begins an intense investigation, including DNA, to learn if the inmate is her daughter
b-Abi pays to restore the sight of the only eye witness.

4-While Abi investigates; her home is torched, as is the sole witness’s home (Reversals)

a-With restored sight, the sole witness skips town.
b-Abi discovers an undercurrent, one to get the inmate to pay for crimes of others

5-DNA proves the inmate is Abi’s daughter (Recognition)

a-Abi fights to prove the innocence of the inmate

6-The case goes all the way down to the needle (Climax)

a-The lethal injection chamber

7-How the story ends after all the action plays out; how the characters’ lives are affected by the climax. (Denouement)

For the sake of this newspaper column, everything begins on the left margin. When you make your list, you can indent the a and b lines to set them off to detect them easily.

It’s as simple as that. The Setup should be brief, intense so the reader is drawn into the plot and can’t leave. The bulk of your story will be contained in Rising Action, Reversals and Recognition. The Climax should be unexpected, brief and stunning, or stinging. The Denouement is a wrap up and should never be more than one or two very short chapters. It can also be handled with anything from a few lines to a paragraph or two.

As you work with your outline, you can lengthen any area. I make more notes for the middle portions because that comprises the bulk of the story.

Another form of outlining: Many people prefer to put each new scene on a 3×5 card and write each scene before going on to the next. I prefer to have a running outline which I sometimes print out so I can see the whole story at a glance.

By the way, the story I’ve just outlined is from my latest thriller, “Down to the Needle.” If you read it, you will see most of the book is NOT included in the outline. Outlines are merely the main plot points but can be as detailed or as simple as you can work with. My outline here is simple. The story itself has so many twists and turns that could only happen by not tightly structuring the creativity of my muse. Read More

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Aug 25

“Any Way You Distort It” (It’s Still Plagiarism!) by Mary Deal

“How’d you like my story?” he asked, as I returned his edited manuscript.
We’d built up a good working relationship over the last few months but this was the limit. “C’mon, DH. You copied ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’,” I said. He and I have been through this act before.
“Not really,” he said. “I saw a way to make it better.”
I almost laughed. “There’s no creativity in rewriting someone else’s stories. You copied at least one line verbatim.” He looked sheepish but shrugged it off. “Your lady, Sable Erwin, like Lawrence’s Mabel Pervin, after having been saved from drowning herself in the pond asks, ‘Who undressed me?’”
“I liked that line,” he said.
“You even used the same staircase scene from Lawrence’s story.”
“No, my staircase is on the opposite wall.” He held up his manuscript. “This is my story. All mine. And it’s better.”
“These are not yours. You simply rewrite other people’s stories by wearing out your Thesaurus. You’ve used lines straight from original bodies of work. Like…like that.” I gestured toward his manuscript. I was sickened by what he’d been doing all along. Frustrated, too, because I’d been editing his work and since I’m not as widely read, didn’t catch on right away. “When you submit these around, professional readers spot the similarities.”
“With all the writers around today, no one knows who wrote what anymore.”
“The only thing your rewriting is getting you is a reputation as the person with the most rejections.”
By now, I knew I’d better be careful of what I said. I wasn’t going to convince him of the error of his ways but I, at least, wanted to make a point. “I can’t edit you anymore,” I said. “And you needn’t continue to edit my work.”
“That’s fine with me. Your POVs are always confused anyway.”
“That’s because you read from a man’s point of view. I am woman. If I begin a story with “I” and the antagonist (opposing character) is named Bobby, and the “I” and Bobby is married, then the “I” is female. So you shouldn’t ask me to clarify “I” in the first sentence of the story.”
“Women use “Bobby.”
“Most likely spelled ‘Bobbi.’ You know I don’t write from a male POV.”
“Creativity works in many ways,” he snapped. He evidently thought the conversation on points of view too hot. “I happen to get inspired by the better writers.”
“But you’re not creating your own masterpieces. You’re just reworking theirs. That’s plagiarism any way you distort it.”
His expression told me I had said the dreaded word. “What about you?” he asked from the hot seat. “You read Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and that’s what inspired you to write ‘Caught in a Rip.’ That’s plagiarism. The Old Man is out at sea alone talking to himself. Your Lilly character is out at sea alone talking. What do you call that?”
“Well, first of all, The Old Man is talking to his marlin and to the sharks. He’s always safe because he’s in a boat and can see the lights of Havana to guide him back to shore.” I suddenly realized I didn’t have to defend myself but it was too late. “My ‘Lillian’ is in the water, out of sight of shore and most likely caught in the North Equatorial Current with nothing to her benefit but snorkel, mask and fins. And since she’s alone, it took practiced writing skills to get the reader to know that the dialog is interior monologue that everyone probably goes through before they die.”
“Same story,” he said. “You copied Hemingway.” Now he was acting like a person who saw the end of something good and meant to have the last say, but I wasn’t through.
“I read Hemingway’s book three or four times over two decades,” I said. “While it inspired my plots, by the time I wrote “The Tropics,” it had been three years since I last read the ‘The Old Man.’ I didn’t pick up Hemingway again until I was into the third draft of my ‘Caught in a Rip’ story.” He said nothing. I couldn’t help but finish making my point. “When did you ever put a book aside and never open it while writing you own story?”
“Don’t have to,” he said. He rolled the manuscript he held into a scroll and tapped it against a palm. “My plots come right from what I’ve read. Gotta catch inspiration when it happens.” He was so in denial.
“DH,” I said. “It’s one thing to be inspired by great writers; another to write your own story without copying.”
“You think I’m not writing my own stuff?” he said, whining.
“When’s the last time you’ve written your own story to final draft without looking at anything that someone else has written?”
He fidgeted, tapped the scroll against his hand again, thinking. He honestly looked like he didn’t understand, a way of acting at which I’ve come to learn he was very good.
I was into this way over my head but I didn’t want to read any more of his copy cat stories. And I didn’t want him reading any more of my stuff. Had anything I’d written inspired him, he’d probably already rewritten it and sent it out, so my stories wouldn’t have a chance if read by a same editor. “DH,” I said. “What about your name? You admit your DH Harvey is a pseudonym. No one knows your real name.”
“You think I care?”
“Well, now that I’ve read this takeoff on ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,’ I think I know from where you derived your pen name.” I smiled pleasantly when I said that. I had wanted to end this conversation shortly but my curiosity prodded me onward.
“Oh, tell me, please.”
“My guess is you fancy yourself a Chekov or a Steinbeck or any of the others you’ve copied. Now that you’ve copied DH Lawrence, you’ve given away the secret of your pseudonym. Lawrence is both a first and last name. So is Harvey. Everyone knows your name is not DH Harvey or DH anything.”
Again he hedged. “One reason people use pseudonyms is that they don’t want their identities known.” So what did he have to hide?
“Let’s just end this, okay?” I tried to soften my words because when he tries he really does do a fine edit of my work. “I don’t want to exchange edits any more.”
“Okay,” he said and shrugged. “That leaves me more time to write. I found an opening chapter that I can rewrite for my next novel.”
I dared ask, “And what are you borrowing now?”
He looked smug. “I’ve just finished reading ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoyevsky,” he said. “And I know I can make it better.”
Read More

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Jul 09

Co-Authors Deborah Shlian & Linda Reid Talk about their Novel “Dead Air” on the Child Finder Trilogy

Deborah Shlian, MD, MBA practiced medicine in California where she also taught at UCLA. She has published nonfiction articles and books as well as medical mystery/thrillers. Her first two novels, Double Illusion and Wednesday’s ChildRabbit in the Moon is an international thriller and has won the Gold Medal for Genre Fiction from the Florida Book Award, the Mystery Book of the Year Silver Medal from ForeWord Magazine, an Indie Excellence Award, a National Best Books Award Finalist from USA Book News and First Prize in the Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association.

Yolanda “Linda” Reid Chassiakos, MD, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. After graduating from and completing her residency in Pediatrics at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. Reid Chassiakos served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, and as the Assistant Head of the Ambulatory Branch of Pediatrics at the Naval Hospital, Bethesda and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. She then moved to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and served as a medical editor and feature reporter for the evening Eyewitness news at the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. Dr. Chassiakos joined Lifetime Medical Television as a medical editor, writer, and host of educational programming for healthcare professionals and the public in Los Angeles, and developed and hosted programs and features for media such as the NBC Network Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll, Lorimar-Telepictures, and You TV.

During her thirteen-year tenure as an Associate Physician Diplomate at UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Health Center, Dr. Chassiakos also served as a staff writer for the television series, Family Medical Center. She is currently the Director of the Klotz Student Health Center at California State University, Northridge. Dr. Chassiakos’ features and essays have been published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Woman’s Day, Salon.com, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, and Tribune International. She has recently co-edited a text on Collaboration Across the Disciplines in Health Care. Dr. Chassiakos has also written a fantasy novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread, for imaginative young adult and adult readers. Dr. Chassiakos and her husband are the proud parents of three teenagers and live in Los Angeles. Read More

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