Tag Archives: partner

Aug 05

Larry Moniz, Award-Winning Author, Journalist, and Publicist Guests with Mike Angley

MA: Today’s guest is Larry Moniz, an award-winning author, journalist, and publicist. His background is so varied, that I’m going to let him tell us all about it.

LM: I’m a seasoned journalist and publicist transitioning to fiction writing.

I have 14 years experience as a senior public relations executive in the development and implementation of successful, goal-oriented communications and marketing support programs for major national corporations. I wrote the first public relations program for Coleco’s Cabbage Patch Kids and that program subsequently won the Silver Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America. The Silver Anvil is recognized as the most prestigious award in public relations.

My public relations skills are augmented by being an experienced journalist and winner of 12-business writing awards for articles in 2000 through 2003 competitions. I was the founding editor of a highly successful new weekly newspaper, building from inception “the best newspaper to cover West Milford since the 1960’s” according to one long-time resident.

I also have 12-years prior experience as a skilled radio and daily newspaper editor and reporter for major media outlets in New Jersey, New England and Europe. I also published and edited a weekly newspaper serving Northern Ocean and Southern Monmouth Counties. Unlike many weeklies, this newspaper, The Progress, concentrated on real news, and regularly scooped far-larger dailies and weeklies with news events in the towns we serviced.

My experience also includes nearly five years as a crime and courts reporter and being a full-time sheriff’s deputy, thereby bringing a depth of firsthand knowledge about crime and law enforcement possessed by few other writers.

MA: Tell us about that transition to fiction.

LM: I’ve been an avid book reader since I was a child and always fascinated by words. I’ve been a journalist and writer for more than 45 years. Disabled due to COPD stemming from undiagnosed asthma and hence hard to hold down a full-time job, books were the logical alternative for me to keep busy and hopefully earn a living.

MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing?

LM: Yes, my career as a journalist and publisher set the stage for my creating the Inside Story: Murder in the Pinelands investigative team to investigate major crimes.

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

LM: The dead sailor found in the pinelands was based on a similar situation I covered in another state. Like one of the first cops on the scene, I didn’t believe the crime was a suicide because witnesses saw him walking without a rifle yet he died before he could reach and get his rifle, the weapon that killed him. Using that isolated incident I built up a plausible story line that would explain things that were known and much else that was secret.

As to other characters, if I were a newspaper publisher today I would be very like Manny Bettencourt, publisher of Inside Story.

Murder in the Pinelands is the first in a planned police procedural series dealing with the way different ensemble members encounter various criminal, corruption and other illicit activities and bring the perpetrators to the bar of justice.

MA: How did you develop the character of your protagonist?

LM: My investigative team is loosely based on law enforcement personnel I’m met over the years. The protagonist just sprang from my brain. He and his wife were just there one day, begging to be transcribed.

My hero’s greatest strength is his conviction that his take on the sailor’s death is correct. His weakness is that the conviction becomes a compulsion that keeps him awake at night and unable to concentrate on his daytime job as a police sergeant and SWAT team leader. The stress leads to his making a mistake and his patrol partner nearly dies in a shootout with bank robbers.

MA: Do you have just one antagonist or several?

LM: Actually, there are a couple. As the book evolves, they begin to seek a shadow figure, an assassin from Saddam Hussein’s regime sent to this country to avenge the death of Saddam’s kin by this Navy sailor.

But no one can find this shadow figure until investigation in several states leads to positive proof the man exists and he’s been hiding in the U.S. with political support from entrenched Washington politicians.

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

LM: Yes. I was at the suicide previously described. I also have covered politics and cover-ups for many years. Like the reporting team, I also have prior law enforcement experience as a sworn deputy sheriff.

MA: So what will be next on your fiction plate?

LM: I’m putting finishing touches to a resurrected novel involving time travel into the past by two former military special operatives endeavoring to head off the kidnapping of Thomas Jefferson before he can complete the Declaration of Independence.

I also am working on an outline for a 1930s era detective novel in which millions of dollars and an entire railroad train vanish.

MA: Oh my! They both sound interesting. Please visit Larry’s website for more information about him and his stories: http://www.larrymoniz.org/ Read More

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Jun 17

“Deadly Focus” Co-Authors Carol and Bob Bridgestock Guest with Mike Angley

MA: Today I will change up my format a bit. Instead of a series of Q & A with my guest authors, I am going to let them tell their story in their own words. All the way from England, please welcome Carol and Bob Bridgestock!.

Carol and Bob Bridgestock have spent almost half a century between them working for the West Yorkshire Police in the North of England. The force is the fourth largest in the Country.

Bob was born in West Yorkshire in 1952. He attended local schools – the last one being Morley Grammar School. He had a weekend and holiday job working at the local butchers, and when the offer of an apprenticeship came he left school and commenced work before the exams. The apprenticeship was for five years after which he became qualified and competent. Bob decided after a while that the career wasn’t the one he wanted to pursue and took up a job in a dye works, only because of the money and he had a young family. This, however, was a complete contrast to what he had done before and over the next two years he considered his future.

The next 30 years he spent as a Police officer, working as a detective at every rank and spending less than three of them thirty years in uniform. During his distinguished and exemplary career he received recognition for his outstanding detective work by way of ‘commendations’ from judges and chief constables. A total of 26 is an unusually high figure. As well as being a senior detective for over 17 years, he was also an on call negotiator for kidnap, hostage and suicide intervention incidents.

He achieved the rank of Detective Superintendent and became one of a very small number of Senior Investigating Officers in the force. As ‘the man in charge’ in his last three years alone he took charge of: 26 murder investigations, 23 major incidents including attempted murder and shootings, over 50 suspicious deaths, and numerous sexual attacks.

Carol was also born in West Yorkshire in 1961 and the majority of her schooling was also in West Yorkshire, although for four years she lived in Milford-on-sea in Hampshire. She ended her school days, however, at Sowerby Bridge Grammar School. On leaving school Carol became a hairdresser and opened her own salon before going on to College to teach the subject. Later she worked in the Police in a number of support roles and was ultimately a supervisor in the administration department. During this time she also was commended for her work with the community, inspiring children to highlight crime prevention work.

When Bob completed his service Carol also retired from the force and they both headed to the south of England where they now live on the Isle of Wight. They had often holidayed on the Island and fell in love with the way of life and the tranquillity of the Island. The Police service behind them, they got on with enjoying life without a pager or a mobile phone. Carol had always told Bob he should write a book, but he had no incentive to do so. Their new group of friends on the island with no police connections also suggested that he write due to the fact he relayed so many stories about his career; some happy, others sad, many macabre. He resisted until a cold damp morning in 2008 he saw an advert in the local paper advertising a college course ‘Write your first novel’. As sudden as it was out of character, he booked them both on it to Carol’s amazement.

Thereafter their new joint career as co-authors took off.

Crime fiction was the answer to Bob’s reluctance to write. This way he could use his real life experience in a way that would not be connected to the original events.

Deadly Focus, the first novel, introduces Yorkshire Detective Inspector Jack Dylan and the clandestine love of his life Jennifer Jones. This is a fast moving story that allows you to travel with Dylan to a series of murders, seeing through his eyes the stark reality of death and its fallout. It allows the reader to feel as he does the highs and lows of an intense murder investigation. The reader through the ‘eyes’ of Jen also gets to know how it feels to be the partner of the ‘man in charge’.

Dylan’s strengths lies with his persistence and experience, but will the pressure have a dire affect on his health? Jen is his ’norm’ a safety net for his turmoil of emotions after the distressing sights he has to endure. Deadly Focus continues to receive 5 star reviews on Amazon, WH Smith etc. In May it was resurrected as the first crime novel in the RC Bridgestock series published by Caffeine Nights Publishers. It is also live on eBooks via Smashwords and Amazon as well as many other e Book outlets.

People often ask the question, ’How do you write together? Does one of you write the odd, the others the even?’

We enjoy working together at last! Our police ‘working life’ often meant spending hours apart. Bob writes the plot and the storyline from start to finish. Carol then takes this first draft and develops the scenes, the story line and importantly the characters. Carol teases out of Bob the true feelings of what it is really like to deal with these gruesome crimes. The novel is then passed back to Bob for the re-write to be checked. Then they both sit down together and go through every word, sentence and chapter to ensure it works. Then and only then is it ready for the publishers to scrutinise the draft.

As we said before, May this year sees the resurrection of the original Deadly Focus and it is also being published this time as an eBook. We have been fortunate to be taken into Caffeine Nights Publishers stable of authors who will also publish book two in the series this summer. We have called this book ‘Consequences.’ The third book in the series is ready for scrutiny by the publishers and book four is ready for the re-write stage. Others in the series are also being penned.

As can be seen, the writing is industrious, as well as being addictive and enjoyable. Both Carol and Bob are members of a local writing group called Wight Fair Writers’s Circle that Carol chairs. This group evolved from the college course and we remain a group who also runs competitions to inspire others to write, especially children. All proceeds go to local charities. Bob and Carol also do talks about Bob’s career for schools and colleges as well as other adult groups to raise money for the local hospice which they support. Certainly exciting times and a new career which they never considered when they retired,

To learn more about Carol and Bob and their writing visit their website. www.rcbridgestock.com. A must is also www.caffeine-nights.com. On both these sites you can download the first two chapters of Deadly Focus FREE! Carol & Bob are also on Facebook – Carol Bridgestock and RC Bridgestock and we Twitter – RC Bridgstock

The support from our readers around the globe is extremely satisfying and spurs us on. Read More

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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/

Read More

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Apr 06

Sex…with Finesse by Mary Deal (Contains Adult Content: That Ought to Bring in a Few Extra Visitors!)

Sex…with Finesse
by
Mary Deal

(Adult content)

One way to ruin a good story is with a lackluster sex scene or bedroom scene.

As I edit writers, one of the most important problems I find is that fledgling writers have great difficulty writing the obligatory sex scenes, love scenes, bedroom scenes, whatever. Men and women have different types of difficulty. Some women seem afraid to put their feelings and emotions on paper for the entire world to see. Men write withholding or censuring words, or they express the idea of sex without emotion.

What I tell both men and woman is to secretly write down – commit to paper in longhand – everything they know about sex – everything beautiful or every lewd act they know of. Writing with pen and paper keeps a person connected to their concentration. These can be quick notes or the whole scene in paragraphs. Write every dirty word that comes to mind. (Are there really any dirty words anymore?) In committing to paper, something they must do is to additionally write from the POV of the opposite gender. Too, the writer should describe the sex act from the first gleam in the eye all the way to orgasm. Since no one will ever see what is being written, they are to use any words or any language to describe the scene they wish to express.

Another exercise is to write a column of one-word descriptions. When finished, begin again at the top. Only this time, write a complimentary word from the POV of the opposite sex. This provides not only an idea of how well you understand the opposite gender’s POV but also provides a measure of how well you’ll be able to write a response from the opposite sex into the story.

Write everything you know about sex. Take the time to do the exercise just once. When I once ask a guy how much he knew of his real life partner’s ability to respond to him, his response was, “I just keep trying to —- her. She’ll come around.” Needless to say, he wrote some of the most worthless and incomplete sex scenes I have ever read.

One writer reached a point of having finally written a sex scene so well that she went on to write more. I know what her motivation was, considering when you write thorough love scenes, it has the potential to keep you rocking on the edge of your seat!

The simple rule is just once; write everything you personally know about sex. Every bad word and every phrase. When it’s all written down, for sure, you won’t want anyone seeing it or pre-reading some juicy love scene you’ve decided to include in your next story. Heaven forbid they might get to know you better!

This is only an exercise. To keep your thoughts private till you’re ready to do some serious writing, destroy your notes when the exercise is completed. But don’t just simply tear them up and flush them. Celebrate. Burn ’em! Tear them up into fine little pieces and burn them in a bowl much like a funeral pyre. Celebrate the end of frustration and inability to write about sex.

What one gains from the exercise is this: Once completed in privacy, with the repressed thoughts on paper, you will have brought yourself in touch with sex as you know it. You will have faced the fact that you’re either too shy about sex or too brazen, or anything in between. The simple act of committing your knowledge to paper in private seems to allow us to better write about the act when it must be included in stories. For once, you will have written all you know about sex. The initial reason for clumsily stumbling through the obligatory scenes is gone. Committing your views to paper that first time only once is, for the writer, like the first step on the moon. Once you take that first step, you overcome hesitation and apprehension.

You needn’t analyze your responses to these exercises and try to convince yourself that you understand yourself sexually. All this exercise accomplishes is to help you find easier ways of expressing sexuality through writing. It’s almost like saying, “Never mind who you are. Just get in touch with it.” The premise is that once you have written all you know about sex, you will not hesitate to write about it again.

You may not be happy with the very next love scene you write but now you will be able to examine and critique the scene in first draft. Having already written something you know conditions the mind, and the Muse. Now you’ll want to improve upon your scene and your Muse will happily comply. After all, you’ve already written out far more than you need.

Most critics say that in writing sex scenes that we are to suggest, or imply the action. Tantalize your reader with only suggestions of what people do in the sex scenes. Suggest. Writing out every last detail of the sex act becomes nothing more than pornography. That could ruin the image your story needs to convey. You will know exactly what you wish to include in your descriptions and what to leave out after having completed this simple exercise.

This is a good sex scene, leaving something to the imagination:

With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was already too excited when he slipped between the sheets beside her. He seemed hesitant. The moment she pressed her body against his, he pulled away suddenly and his breathing changed. He clutched a handful of sheet and drew it to himself as he struggled to maintain his composure. Then he said, “I-Im sorry. We’re going to have to wait a while.”

At first she was disappointed. Then she realized she had teased him mercilessly and kept him waiting right through coffee and desert and had herself, brought on his great embarrassment. She smiled, nibbled his ear then prodded his shoulder. “Roll over,” she said. “I’ll give you a feather massage.”

This, to me, is what I call porn writing:

With all the teasing they had done through dinner – subliminal foreplay – he was too excited as he slipped between the sheets. He pressed hard against her and his body felt coarse and clammy. He clutched at her buttocks and breathed heavily and immediately lost it on her thigh.

She felt dirty and frustrated. Her super stud was a dud. In disgust, she threw back the sheet and made a dash for a hot shower where one potential evening of good sex slid down the drain.

Did the coarseness of the second version destroy the sensuousness you felt from the first?

While I realize both versions will appeal to different audiences and that both versions have their places in appropriate plots, it’s still better to leave something to the imagination even if you have your character purging her disappointment in the shower.

Learn to write sex scenes with finesse. It’ll work in every plot.

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

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Jan 21

Fellow Air Force Veteran & Author, Alan Simon, Guest-blogs with Mike Angley

MA: My guest today is Alan Simon, the author or co-author of 30 books dating back to the early 1980s. His writing career began with the 1st edition of How to be A Successful Computer Consultant (McGraw-Hill) that sold approximately 200,000 copies in 4 editions over the next 15 years. He is the author of three titles in the “For Dummies” franchise series and has written extensively about technology and business topics. In 2009 Alan began experimenting in self-publishing with Blocking and Tackling Your Way to Management Success in which he set 40 fundamental management lessons against a backdrop of 40 stories from the history of his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2010, Alan branched out into fiction with the publication of his first two novels including The First Christmas of the War, set at Christmastime, 1941 – only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Alan currently lives in Phoenix and in the past has lived in Pittsburgh, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Denver, and northeastern Pennsylvania.

Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background…the prequel if you would to your writing career.

AS: The best way to describe my professional background is to quote The Beatles: “The long and winding road…” I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA until my family moved to Tucson, Arizona just before my 16th birthday. I attended college at Arizona State in Tempe and then went to graduate school at the University of Arizona back in Tucson before heading off to Colorado Springs where I spent four years as a U.S. Air Force officer stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. In the Air Force I wrote software for one of the real-life “War Games” systems, referring to the early 1980s movie in which Matthew Broderick breaks into Cheyenne Mountain’s computers to play “thermonuclear war.” After my Air Force days I worked for a series of technology and consulting companies in a variety of roles, including several as a national or global practice leader in business intelligence and data warehousing. I began my own firm – currently called Thinking Helmet, Inc. – in 2006.

In many ways my writing career began as an “accident.” When I was an Air Force officer in the early 1980s I started a small computer consulting business on the side mostly so I could stay up to date with the technology of the then-brand new “microcomputers” that were very different than the old-fashioned mainframes we used in the Air Force. One day I was thinking about all of the tasks I had to do to set up my company and learn about new technology and suddenly thought there might be a book in the making there. I wrote a proposal, sent it off to McGraw-Hill, and presto! Book deal! (Little did I know the publishing game wasn’t quite that easy…)

MA: Well, I definitely have a soft spot for fellow Air Force vets, and I am very familiar with Cheyenne Mountain during my work in Air Force Space Command nearby. With such a technical and non-fiction writing background, how did you end up writing fiction?

AS: I began “dabbling” in fiction approximately 25 years ago, sequestered in a near-deserted hotel in the mountains of Colorado in late May of 1985. I had gone there to spend a week finishing up the final manuscript for my first book, How to be a Successful Computer Consultant. (Thinking back, my long-ago writing getaway in the Rockies was sort of a combination of two works from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King: “The Shining” meets “Misery” !)

Whenever I’d take a break from polishing that manuscript during that trip, I’d shift to write two or three more draft pages for an idea I had for a “potboiler” novel; something that in retrospect was heavily influenced by the writing style and typical plot lines from popular writers of the day such as Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon. I shelved that book for all eternity shortly thereafter, but over the next two decades spent thousands of hours – and wrote the proverbial million words of fiction – on any number of long-dormant projects, as fiction writing grew into a deep passion of mine.

MA: Speaking of The Shining, my kids and I once spent a night in the “Stephen King” room at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where King stayed and wrote the book. Sadly, nothing spooky happened during our stay there. So tell us about your novels.

AS: I wrote two novels in parallel with each other over a period of 6+ years; both were self-published this past year. The first is entitled The First Christmas of the War and is a family saga set at Christmastime, 1941…only weeks after Pearl Harbor. Beyond the overarching and terrifying news coming back from the war front, each family member has his or her own “mini-drama” going on, and the story interweaves the “macro” and “micro” plots in a day-by-day format beginning with the Saturday before Christmas and ending the day after Christmas.

The other novel is entitled Unfinished Business and just like The First Christmas of the War, it’s set in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I like to think of Unfinished Business as “a darker Bridges of Madison County story” that begins in flashback with a brief wartime affair that takes place in 1942. The plot of the story is based around the resumption of that affair nine years later, in 1951, when Roseanne DeMarco’s steelworker husband is called up from the Army Reserves and set off to the Korean War…just as her long-ago “friend” reappears in Pittsburgh as she’s struggling to make ends meet.

MA: I have a hard enough time writing one story, so I can’t imagine what two parallel ones must be like. Who are your protagonists?

AS: In The First Christmas of the War I’m fortunate enough to have a number of main characters who essentially are an “ensemble cast” as the book’s protagonist. The family’s patriarch – Gerald Coleman – is patterned after one of my grandfathers. He’s a shoemaker who is fortunate enough to have made a decent enough living during the Depression. His wife, Irene Coleman, is the classic homemaker of the day…she runs her household and her family and is always looking out for the best interests of every family member. The eldest son, Jonathan, is patterned after characters such as those played by Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage in the 1980s movie Racing with the Moon…he knows with certainty he’s headed off to war soon and is trying to come to grips with this sudden reality. The rest of the family members are all “demographically appropriate” for 1941 children and teenagers.

In Unfinished Business I tried my best to get inside the head of Roseanne DeMarco. Her husband is suddenly sent off to war, she has no safety net to fall back on, and in general she’s sleepwalking through life…and here comes this person from the past who was her “partner” in an illicit yet exciting brief period of her young life. Throughout the book she’s conflicted between the renewal of this excitement and her increasing guilt about what she’s doing while her husband is away at war.

MA: They both sound interesting. Who are the antagonists in the stories?

AS: The First Christmas of the War doesn’t have an antagonist…unless you want to think of Hitler and Tojo as off-the-pages antagonists who made the story (and the war) possible!

In Unfinished Business Frank Donaldson – the main with whom Roseanne DeMarco renews her affair – is very much an antagonist, but a carefully constructed one. I patterned his character after that of Noel Airman in Herman Wouk’s 1955 novel, Marjorie Morningstar. At first he seems suave, debonair, the man of Roseanne DeMarco’s dreams who has returned to her…but increasingly his fascination in the story with Jack Kerouac (then a brand new novelist) becomes symbolic of his own character flaws.

MA: How much of your real life’s story influenced your writing?

AS: When I moved from Pittsburgh to Tucson just before my 16th birthday, I was very homesick for my original city and spent many hours in the high school and public libraries reading books about Pittsburgh and its history. Since I planned to go into the military in one way or another, I was also very interested in the World War II era and the aftermath, including the boom years of the 1950s. So my fascination with mid-20th century Pittsburgh formed the foundation for both of these novels. I spent many hours researching the facts and tidbits for both stories, though when appropriate I took a bit of poetic license in the interest of moving the story along.

In both books – especially The First Christmas of the War – I did use my real-life great-grandfather’s produce business in Pittsburgh as a plot vehicle, and in First Christmas had eldest son Jonathan working side-by-side with my real-life great-uncles in a couple of scenes. I dedicated that book to those great-uncles, all of them gone now, as members of the “greatest generation” who (to use the words of the book’s dedication) “sacrificed much of their youth to the Second World War.”

MA: So what’s next for you? You are so versatile, I can imagine either a novel or some techno-geek book coming soon!

MA: The biggest challenge I have is getting my head and hands around a much-too-full list of to-be-written projects for 2011. In all seriousness, I have a list of about 15 business, technology and management topics; 25-30 ideas for novels and short stories; and another non-fiction, self-help oriented title based on my own personal close call on 9/11. (A schedule quirk put me in Pittsburgh for a speech that morning, scheduled to fly to San Francisco from there that afternoon; otherwise I almost certainly would have been on United Flight 93 since I was shuttling between projects and proposals in New Jersey and the San Francisco bay area for the consulting company I worked for then.)

MA: Wow! I’m glad you missed the original flight, and it’s nice to hear you plan to turn that experience into something good that may help others. With regard to fiction, would any of your future writing involve characters from your first two novels?

AS: The First Christmas of the War is actually the first of a series of four holiday-set, similarly-structured novels featuring the Coleman family. Next up is Thanksgiving, 1942, taking place – as one can tell from the title – eleven months after the initial book’s Christmas, 1941 setting. The next title is The First Christmas After the War, set at Christmastime, 1945. Finally, a concluding novel set in the 1970s takes a final holiday visit with the Coleman family.

MA: Sounds like a nice set of books. Anything else you’d like add before we wrap it up?

AS: Over the years, I’ve had many, many people ask me about the writing business and my own experiences in the context of book or story ideas they’ve had themselves. I always enjoy sharing my experiences with others and am always more than willing to help people navigate today’s publishing world, craft proposals…pretty much anything.

MA: Thanks Alan for appearing on my blog, and thanks for your military service. Please visit Alan’s websites for more information about this amazing author and his projects: www.alansimonbooks.com and www.thinkinghelmet.com.
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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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Sep 24

Dual Pen Named Author Alice Griffiths AKA P.A. Wilson Swings by to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: I’m joined today by an author with two pen names, Alice Griffiths and P.A. Wilson (I think for interview purposes I’ll use Alice’s initials to mark your responses). Please tell us about you and what brought you to the writing world.

AG: I’ve been writing for decades but I have been seriously interested in publishing for the last few years. I think the catalyst for the change was National Novel Writing Month. In 2008 I happened upon the site and impulsively decided I could write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It didn’t matter that I’d taken years to write previous manuscripts. I could do this.

When I typed ‘the end’, I had completed 82,500 words and my first full manuscript. I put it away for a month and then started the process of revision and polish. By April, I’d entered it into a contest and by June, I had created an indie e-publishing company with a partner. Off Track was published December 23, 2009 and I had graduated from writer to author.

I write in two genres with a pen name for each. I write romances under the name Alice Griffiths, and gritty mystery thrillers under the name P.A. Wilson. At first, I thought the lines would be clear between the two genres, but that’s not what happened. My romances have elements of violence and my mysteries have elements of romance.

Now, I work as a project consultant and managing editor, and author, my days are full but never boring.

MA: Tell us more about your background before becoming a writer.

AG: In the professional world I am a project management consultant. I worked in the corporate world for more than thirty years before I decided to go it on my own. I have to say that I have less time to write now than I did before, but more energy when I do write.

I’ve been working on projects for more than ten years and I have to say it’s taught me more about writing than anything else in my past. I get to meet so many different people that I can use to fill out my characters. I use project management methodology to get started on writing a book. I figure out what I’m going to write, investigate what I’ll need to learn to write the first draft, and then I plan out the different scenes. Writing for me is building the story up in layers.

MA: I’ve met many authors who use a methodical approach such as this. One thriller writer I met is an engineer by degree, and takes a disciplined design approach to crafting his stories. Why fiction?

AG: I have tried to write short stories and poetry but I don’t seem to have the talent for that. I guess I’d say novels chose me, rather than the other way around. I like having some room to build in secondary plots and more detailed richness. In shorts you have to keep it clean and precise and I don’t have that skill. I admire people who do, because when I’m in the middle of the third revision pass and wondering if I’m contradicting something that happened 60 pages ago, it would be nice to have a short story to handle.

MA: Tell us about what you write…I’m struck by the fact you write in what would seem like two very different genres.

AG: I haven’t yet found a genre I can stick with. I guess my constant is that there’s a romance somewhere in the story and that lots of people die.

I’ve written a fantasy romance, Off Track by Alice Griffiths, and that was my first National Novel Writing Month book. It’s the story of a lawyer on the track to partnership who finds herself pulled into a magical world as the result of a prophecy. Along with her easy going assistant, Madeline has to accept that she needs to fulfill the prophecy and figure out what it is exactly she’s supposed to do. While that’s happening, she meets and falls in love with a knight who really wants to be something other than a knight.

My serial killer novel, Closing the Circle by P.A. Wilson, is currently under review with my business partner in PaperBoxBooks.com. In this story Felicity Armstrong is the focus of a brutal serial killer who has taken her religion, Wicca, and twisted it in to something evil. The killer stalks and kills her friends, leaving their bodies in prominent sites around San Francisco as Felicity works with FBI special agent Sam Barton to identify and stop the murders.

I’m working on two other books, and planning out my NaNoWriMo book for this November. One book is a thriller set in Vancouver BC with gangs, human trafficking and teen hookers. The other a YA science fiction story with three heroes who raise a rebellion to save the humans.

Then my NaNo book will be an Urban Fantasy with a wizard, Sidhe, and Raven. That’s about as far as I am in planning.

MA: Well, sounds like you are keeping very busy with all those projects! I’m almost afraid to ask how you approach character development since you have such a varied writing style.

AG: I develop characters though a process of discovery. For Madeline, I sketched her out physically and gave her a flaw – she finds it difficult to trust people – and then I started to write some back story for her. I wasn’t happy with the lack of depth when I was done and I turned to something that romance writers use all the time. I read her Tarot. It sounds flakey (or at least it did to me at first) but by doing the Tarot reading I was able to push aside my own personal preferences and dig into Madeline’s psyche. I had to interpret the cards based on what I knew about her.

It turns out that Madeline doesn’t trust easily because when she gives her word it’s for life. She has difficulty making commitments as well because she wants to know she’ll stick with any commitment. Interestingly, this brought forth a habit that I could use. Madeline is a dabbler in learning; she takes courses, does well but gets bored and leaves. This means when she’s in the magical world, she has a bit of grounding in a lot of skills she’ll need. She learned how to ride horses, but still needs the knight to help her get better, and she has taken some martial arts, etc.

Madeline is highly competent and learns quickly; this allows her to integrate quickly – and saves me and the reader from having to wade through her learning curve. She’s also accepting of differences so she doesn’t judge people on first glance.

Unfortunately, despite her external image, she’s not confident in her own skills and talents. She focuses on the fact that she is a lawyer and doesn’t have any understanding that the prophecy brought her to the magical land for something else.

MA: Who did you throw into the story to stand in Madeline’s way? Who’s the antagonist?

AG: Madeline faces two antagonists. Throughout the story she is facing her own demons and is convinced she won’t be able to fulfill the task she was brought there to complete. She is used to being in control and finds it almost impossible to go with the flow and trust that it will all work out – as everyone keeps telling her.

The final antagonist she faces at the end is the enemy who must be killed. He is a marauding creature who is going to destroy the people Madeline is aligned with in fulfillment of an ancient feud. Madeline hopes her task isn’t killing the villain, but worries that it is.

MA: Considering how prolific – and disciplined – you seem to be with your writing, what are your future plans? Any sequels?

AG: I would like to be able to produce two books a year – I am certain I can do a first draft in a month other then November but I haven’t yet been able to prove it.

I also want to write a series, or a trilogy. I am fascinated by the idea of such a sweeping story and I want to explore the process.

The book set in Vancouver BC has always been a series concept. I need to finish this first story and then I already have a germ of an idea for the next one. I think the trick is going to be planting the seeds of the second book into the first, a great new challenge.

MA: Is there any particular challenge for you in writing?

AG: I find writing the romance difficult. The saving grace for me up to now is that the romance has been the secondary plot – important but can be dealt with in revision. I tend to write the story and clumsily insert the romance in the first draft and then thread it back into the story during the first revision pass.

And, my writing group will tell you I am not good with description. I have settings all worked out but I have difficulty putting it on the page. I have learned to insert some setting in as I go along and then each revision pass has a note – add description.

MA: Thanks, Alice, er, P.A.  Folks, please visit Alice Griffiths at: http://www.alicegriffiths.ca/, and visit P.A. Wilson at: http://www.pawilson.ca/

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Sep 17

Women’s Fiction Writer Audrey RL Wyatt Stops by to Visit with Mike Angley

MA: Audrey RL Wyatt is right brained to a fault, so she tells me! Before attacking prose, she exhibited photography in juried shows and worked in theatre; acting, teaching and creating children’s theater curricula. So it was surprising that her writing career began in the non-fiction realms of politics, environment and law.

Finally succumbing to her creative nature, Audrey now writes fiction. Her debut novel, Poles Apart, is a story of family inspired by Audrey’s childhood among Holocaust survivors in Cleveland. Whether it was their silence or the horrific stories they told, their presence left an indelible mark. It has been honored with five awards. Her essays and short fiction, often featuring strong-willed, quirky women, have been published in various forums, both print and online.

Always one to foster aspiring artists, Audrey founded Southeast Valley Fiction Writers near Phoenix, Arizona, and Bay State Writers in Southeast Massachusetts. She gives a good deal of time to area schools and also teaches Memoir Writing to seniors. She is a partner in LitSisters Publishing, a boutique house publishing women writers, as well as a founding member of LitSisters, a networking and support community for writers.

Audrey loves to travel and has enjoyed living all over the country, from the Rockies to Boston Harbor. She currently makes her home in the Valley of the Sun with her incredible husband, their two terrific teenage daughters, and their beagle-basset mix, the Artful Dodger.

(Smiling) So, tell me more about this right brain and how you ended up in the fiction realm.

AW: I’m as right brained as they come. I started in the theatre at the advanced age of six and by the time I finished high school I’d tried every art that didn’t require fine motor dexterity. I wrote a lot, mostly nauseatingly syrupy poetry, and I acted. My mother called me “Audrey Heartburn.” I spent a lot of time on photography after that, having my work exhibited in juried shows. I worked my way through college teaching children’s theatre and creating children’s theatre curricula.

I got my education – college and grad school – and after some time spent at Legal Aid and County Children’s and Family Services I decided to stay home with my kids and write.

MA: You’ve mentioned poetry, and of course I know you’ve written a novel, but is there anything else?

AW: I also write short stories and essays. I think the story finds the writer and dictates what form it will take. But I love the novel form most of all. You have the time to stretch out and relax, letting the story unfold like a beautiful flower.

For me, writing is an exercise of will. On one hand, I will the story to come. On the other, the story will haunt me until I give it voice.

MA: Well said! Tell us about your first novel.

AW: I am a women’s fiction writer. I feel passionately about the stories that resonate with women. Women wear so many hats that nothing is ever simple. I find that intriguing. Poles Apart, my debut novel, is a story of family, of secrets, and of the damage that secrets can do, even over generations. Here’s the book blurb:

CHAIM SCHLESSEL lost his family to the Holocaust more than sixty years ago. He vowed to embrace life and protect his own wife and children from his painful memories and harrowing experiences. Finding solace in his family, his painting and the healing effects of his wife’s cooking, he has kept his nightmares at bay. But when a new neighbor unwittingly triggers the terrors of his past, Chaim is faced with the horrors that increasingly haunt his soul and threaten his sanity.

DAVID SCHLESSEL, grown, married and successful, is plagued by the always taboo subject of his father’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis. As a second generation survivor, he struggles with his father’s unwillingness to discuss the past and his own inability to communicate with those he loves. With his marriage falling apart and his relationship with his own children deteriorating, David, after numerous false starts, ultimately vows to conquer his inner turmoil.

UNITED BY A HISTORY they cannot discuss, yet starkly alone in their private struggles, father and son confront their demons as well as one another in a stand-off that will change them both forever.

All my short stories and essays can be found on my website: www.audreyrlwyatt.com.

MA: The storyline sounds complex. I take it there is more than one hero?

AW: Mine is a parallel plot novel, so the father and son protagonists – Chaim and David – are based on an amalgam of people I knew growing up in Cleveland in the 1960s and 1970s. This is also true of the supporting characters in the novel. I find that once a character is created (and I do a very detailed character chart on each of my characters) they develop a mind of their own and take their story where they see it going.

MA: How about an antagonist?

AW: There is a nemesis in the story. But the bigger nemeses are in the character’s minds and hearts. Their struggles are both internal and external. This is an area where art imitates life. I think people struggle more with internal demons than the external forces that set upon them.

MA: You came to know Holocaust survivors early in your life, and their stories and experiences inspired Poles Apart. Please elaborate.

AW: Well, Chaim is a Holocaust survivor and I grew up around a lot of Holocaust survivors. I heard horrific stories when I was far too young to understand them/put them into context. In fact, it’s interesting how differently we interpret information at different times in our lives. I found the holocaust stories more horrific as an adult than when I initially heard them as a child. As a child it was information without context. But as an adult I had so much more experience and understanding to apply to the information.

MA: Are you working on any new projects?

AW: I’ve just started a new novel called Women’s Work. It’s about four women, life-long friends, who recreate their graduation road trip on its twentieth anniversary. Their lives are now complicated, their baggage much heavier. They have secrets – demons they need to exorcise.

I also have another project in the works called Happy Trails. I originally wrote it as a sitcom treatment and have plans to novelize it.

MA: It sounds like you write standalone novels, and nothing that necessarily lends itself to a sequel. Am I right?

AW: I tell a story until I’m done with it. It all happens in one novel. I don’t really envision any of my books garnering a sequel. As for migrating characters, I won’t completely discount it. But, having lived in a number of places, I set my stories all over the country so the characters are unlikely to meet.

MA: I don’t always ask this question, but why do you write?

AW: I was listening to NPR the other day and they were talking about why writers write. Talk about the coolest topic ever. Though I didn’t listen to the entire show (my work is a demanding taskmaster) I didn’t hear anyone talk about how social media effects the answer to that question. I think everyone wants to be heard above the din. That’s one reason why twitter and facebook are so popular. It’s a way for people to make a mark on the world. For me, writing is how I make my mark. It’s how I am heard above the din.

Along time ago I said, probably flippantly, that if I could affect another person – if my writing could speak to them in some way that benefited them – then I would consider myself a success. Well, like most writers I scan the reviews from time to time. On the Barnes & Noble site there is one lone review. In it, the reader said that he read the book and liked it but that he’d recently had a personal problem that caused him to return to the book. He read it a second time and found help for himself from the characters and story. In other words, something that I wrote helped him. It took my breath away. I spoke to someone through my story, through the characters I created. And that person benefitted. All I could think was that this is what success feels like. It still brings tears to my eyes. The point is that what we as writers do matters and success doesn’t have to be about the NYT best sellers list. Though that wouldn’t hurt.

MA: I second those sentiments. Thanks, Audrey. My readers can learn more about Audrey RL Wyatt and her stories at: http://audreyrlwyatt.com/
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Sep 03

All the Way from Australia Comes Romantic Comedy Author, Sylvia Massara to Guest with Mike Angley

MA: Today’s guest flew in all the way from Australia…seriously, just to be on my blog . Sylvia Massara has been writing since her early teens. She has written in a variety of genres, from stage plays to screenplays to novels. Since she can remember, she’s loved immersing herself in a world filled with characters of her own creation—so it only seemed natural that she would become a writer. But before she became a writer, Sylvia had a career in Human Resources and she also ‘tinkered’ in her other love – acting. For a full bio on Sylvia, please visit her website: www.sylviamassara.com
Tell us more about 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 a Business Consultant. 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: I can see how your acting and creative beginnings brought you to writing fiction.
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 I always loved it.
MA: Tell us how this daydreaming resulted in your new novel.
SM: ‘The Other Boyfriend’, which I have just released in ebook format, is a quirky romantic comedy in the style of ‘Bridget Jones’. My heroine is a little bit scheming, trying to get her man by any means possible, but she’s also naïve and rather impulsive in her approach – and this is what gets her into trouble. The whole premise of the story is that she’s in love with a guy who is already in a relationship (albeit a relationship that has been platonic for many years), and Sarah, the heroine, comes up with the idea to find a ‘boyfriend’ for her man’s partner. All Sarah wants is to get this woman out of her life and she’ll pretty much stop at nothing in order to do it. Sarah’s best friend comes to the rescue by suggesting a male friend of hers – a so-called ‘lady killer’ – to romance the other woman away from Sarah’s man, and Sarah goes along with it. What she doesn’t expect is that she finds herself inexplicably attracted to her ‘partner in crime’ or ‘the other boyfriend’ as he’s dubbed in the story, and suddenly her world is turned upside down.
I’d say this book is ‘chick lit’ or ‘romance’, if you’d like to call it that. But I’ve had feedback from several male readers, and they loved it. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill love story. It’s more a story filled with a bit of scheming, plenty of humor, witty dialogue, some wacky characters and a few very unexpected turn of events.
MA: I must confess I don’t know the chick lit or romance sub-genres well. How did you go about crafting Sarah’s character?
SM: I have to say that I was inspired to write this story because Sarah is based on a life experience of mine. Of course, the whole story is highly fictionalized. But the love triangle, betrayal and the lessons Sarah learns along the way are similar to what I (and probably millions of other women out there) went through. And, I have to add, that Sarah has just turned 40 in the story, so she’s not your typical ‘perfect female’ romance character. She’s a mature woman full of flaws, trying to capture as much time as possible before it’s all too late. She wants to have it all: everlasting love, a family and a business before the big M catches up with her (the big M being menopause).
MA: (Smiling, wiping brow). I got that. What are Sarah’s strengths and weaknesses?
SM: Sarah is determined, if anything, to go after her dream, but she’s also vulnerable and rather naïve. The positive thing about her is that she is able to face harsh reality when things don’t turn out as she’d planned, and she is able to acknowledge that she didn’t act in the most honorable way in relation to her man’s partner. Ultimately, however, Sarah learns a few good lessons, and she comes out of her situation a stronger and more mature woman who is ready for a serious kind of love and commitment.
MA: Who’s the bad guy – there has to be one!
SM: There is. Jeffrey is the guy Sarah is trying to land. He is the one who leads her to believe that he’s no longer interested in his partner, Moira. He’s the one who keeps Sarah trying to do a balancing act. Half the time she doesn’t know whether he’s serious or not; whether he loves her or not. And there are other things Sarah doesn’t know about Jeffrey … until it’s too late. But I won’t say anymore or I’ll give the story away. Let’s just say that Jeffrey is the ‘super rat’ or ‘the charming bastard’ of the story
MA: I know you mentioned there are some elements of your own personal life in the story, if not every woman’s story. Did I get that right?
SM: The answer is YES. I already said that Sarah’s situation reflects something of what happened to me (and to many other women out there). Of course, all the characters are fictional, as is the storyline, but I guess you could say that there are little things in this story that were inspired by real life events.
MA: So what’s next?
SM: Towards the end of August, 2010, I will be releasing a totally different novel to this one, entitled ‘The Soul Bearers’. This one a life drama, inspired by true life events. It’s a story about courage, friendship and unconditional love. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, really. So I advise having a box of tissues on hand.
I’m also in the process of planning my third book. This one will once again be a quirky romantic comedy, only this time the main character will feature in future stories.
MA: You have been an entertaining guest, and it’s not often that I blush during an interview. Is there anything you’d like my readers to know as we close?
SM: Both ‘The Other Boyfriend’ and ‘The Soul Bearers’ are available from Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu. In the next two months or so the books will also be available on paperback. I’ll be keeping readers up to date through my blog: www.sylviamassara.com.
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Aug 13

“Big Sick Heart” Author, Mike Markel, Guests with Mike Angley

MA: Please help me welcome my guest-blogger today, Mike Markel. Mike has published a number of short stories and nonfiction books. His collection of stories, Miserable Bastards, is on Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2509786. Big Sick Heart is his first novel. During the day, he is a writing professor at Boise State University.
Welcome, Mark. Please tell us more about your background.

MM: I’m a writing professor at Boise State, specializing in technical writing. I’ve published seven other books, mostly textbooks and scholarly books about writing and ethics. I’ve also published a bunch of short stories, some action-based, some more literary.

MA: With that background, and those non-fiction credits to your name, why did you decide to write fiction?

MM: I wanted to try my hand at another kind of writing. I’d like to be able to make the transition from mostly non-fiction to fiction. Fiction writing is simply more fun for me as a writer. The challenge, of course, is the familiar one: figuring out how to get my novel noticed and read, so that I can keep writing more. My blog, Fears of a First-Time Novelist (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com), chronicles my thinking about this challenge.

MA: I think all writers experience those fears as they approach the business end of writing – getting published! Tell us about your debut novel.

MM: Big Sick Heart is a police procedural set in the small town of Rawlings, Montana. Karen Seagate, the Chief’s least favorite detective, is currently imploding. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she is drinking way too much. Her new, young Mormon partner, Ryan Miner, has just arrived from another century and another planet. Their latest crappy assignment is to provide security to a couple of guys debating stem cell research at the local college. But when one of the debaters, Arlen Hagerty, is murdered that night, what had been a boring job becomes a high-profile case.

There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to kill Hagerty. His wife and his mistress each had motive, means, and opportunity, as did his debate opponent. So did the man whom Hagerty pushed from his job as he clawed his way to the top, as well as the local politician whom Hagerty had been blackmailing.

Seagate and Miner are closing in on the murderer. The question is whether they can get him before Seagate destroys herself.
MA: That’s intriguing, especially the science fiction and fantasy elements of time and space travel. Tell us more about Karen Seagate.

MM: I didn’t think of her the way most writers would: as the best detective in the department, the best at this or that. I conceived of her as a character who might appear in a non-detective fiction book, a 42-year old woman with the normal set of family and identify and personal problems, who just happens to have a considerably more dangerous and stressful job than most people have.
Her strength is that she an intelligent, sensitive person with a strong moral compass and a willingness to risk everything for what she believes is right. Her most obvious flaw is that the stresses in her life, including a failed marriage, a kid in trouble, and an alienation on the job, have led her to a serious drinking problem.

MA: I understand you plan to use Karen in future stories, but what about an antagonist? Will you have a familiar nemesis in later novels in which Karen appears?

MM: No, there will be different nemeses in each book. Her real recurring nemesis is herself.

MA: Oftentimes when I have crime/detective fiction writers on my blog, they have backgrounds in law enforcement from which they draw to inspire their stories. How about you? Have you had any personal experiences with your storyline that influenced the plot?

MM: The murder at the center of the plot relates to ethical, political, and economic issues about stem-cell research, a subject on which I have strong views that derive from some personal factors.

MA: Interesting. Let me get back to Karen for a moment since you indicated there are more stories in the works featuring her. Tell us about your plans.

MM: I’m at work on the sequel to Big Sick Heart, which is tentatively called Unacceptable Deviations. Because Big Sick Heart is a series novel, the follow-up will feature Karen and her partner, Ryan. This time, the case relates to a murder of a state legislator by a lone wolf who has broken away from the patriot movement.

MA: Very good. I’m sure your readers will be looking forward to your sequels and new adventures for Karen and Ryan. Thanks for guesting today. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?

MM: I want to thank you, Mike, for giving me an opportunity to talk with your readers. I’d like to invite everyone to visit my blog (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com) and sample Big Sick Heart online, at BooksForABuck.com (http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/big-sick-heart.html). (While you’re there, you can read about the special offers and the “$100 for 100 Readers” contest.) The book is also available at Smashwords (at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/15261). For paperback, please visit Amazon (at http://www.amazon.com/Big-Sick-Heart-Detectives-Seagate/dp/1602151229/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279568281&sr=1-1) or Barnes & Noble (at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Big-Sick-Heart/Mike-Markel/e/9781602151222/?itm=1&USRI=big+sick+heart).
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