CHAT WITH JENNIFER JAYNES

headshots, kids, portraits children

Jennifer Jaynes is the USA Today bestselling author of Never Smile at Strangers and Ugly Young Thing.

What is your latest book?

Ugly Young Thing. It’s about Allie, a disturbed sixteen-year-old orphan, who was raised by her serial killer brother. After he commits suicide, a very kind older woman named Miss Bitty takes her in and promises to give her a brighter future.

It takes Allie a while to open up and trust Miss Bitty, to even believe that it’s possible she could ever be happy since death and unhappiness have always been such a big a part of her life.

Eventually Allie learns to trust the old woman—she even learns to love her—but with women in the area turning up dead and Miss Bitty suddenly growing cold and distant, Allie begins to wonder if death has found her yet again…or if it ever really left her at all.

Ugly_Young_Thing

Is your recent book part of a series?

Ugly Young Thing includes some important crossover characters from my first book, Never Smile at Strangers, and picks up where it ends, so it will be familiar to those who have read the first book, but it can definitely be read as a standalone.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’d say it chose me. Mysteries, particularly thrillers, are the genres that grabbed me most as a young reader.

What else have you written?

Never Smile at Strangers. It’s a serial killer thriller that begins with the disappearance of a nineteen-year-old girl in a rural Louisiana town. What I really love about this book is that we’re able to really get into the killer’s head to see his thought process and understand why he kills.

Never_Smile

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That they aren’t as talented as traditionally published authors. Some may not have had the opportunity—or perhaps have rejected the opportunity—to traditionally publish. Today, many indies are rejecting contracts. I interviewed Barry Eisler a few years back. He turned down a $500,000 contract from a Big 5 publisher in order to publish independently and has never looked back.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I like when my mind suddenly works out a story problem… or comes up with a great idea for a plot line. Those times are the best.

The least: Getting started and working through the first couple of drafts. That’s when I really have to make myself stay on task.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I’ve never written scenes in order. I generally start with the first and last scenes. I also spend weeks on the outline, filling in information as it comes to me, or transcribing notes that I’ve previously made.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Yes, I always know the ending before I actually start. I like to know the beginning as well. The title is unimportant.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I try not to edit as I go. I want to keep the thoughts coming fast and fluid, and to keep using the left side of my brain.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Yes, I really despised a couple of characters.  One was Tom Anderson in Never Smile at Strangers. He was the philandering husband of a college professor I was really pulling for. There’s also a character in Ugly Young Thing, but I can’t mention the person’s name here. 😉

Authors, especially indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well, while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

I think a lot of authors go wrong in their packaging. Their stories may be well written, intriguing, and meticulously edited, but then they choose to create their own book covers, or settle for covers that aren’t attention grabbers.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Learn how to market yourself.

Write every day.

Never rely on memory.

I can kick myself for all the times I didn’t write down an idea, a plot twist, some fantastic imagery, or some other important note about a character or his world when it came to me. Thoughts often fly into my mind, then dissolve—and are later completely irretrievable. Don’t make the same mistake. Carry a notepad, use an app on your phone; do whatever it takes to preserve your ideas. You never know what might turn into gold.

Don’t be afraid to self publish. It took many years for me to finally make the jump, but I am so incredibly glad that I finally did.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

I work from a To Do List and break tasks down to 30-minute chunks (or sub-tasks). My timer goes off all day long, and I’m sure my husband (who also works from home) hates it, but the timer helps me stay focused and productive. By doing this, I’m able to produce much more in three hours than most people generally produce in an entire day.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I don’t keep it a secret, but I certainly don’t let people read my first or second drafts. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. 😉

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My twin sons. Hands down.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Loyalty, a good heart, honesty, and passion.

Care to brag about your family?

I have a supportive husband and the most wonderful four-year-old twins in the world. My sons are completely different, but both are extremely loving. They amaze me and fill me with wonder every day.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to sing well. I find that to be such a beautiful expression of the soul.

What makes you angry?

Mean-spirited people. Hatred. There is too much of that in the world today.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

A comfy couch with fluffy pillows, candles, a bottle of wine, and my iPad (with my Kindle app open).

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

The Shawshank Redemption (Movie)

Silence of the Lambs (Book)

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People talking with their mouths full, smacking while eating, chewing gum with their mouths open, popping gum. (Eewww.) Whatever happened to good manners?

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be more kind and less judgmental.

What simple pleasure(s) makes you smile?

My sons telling me they love me, making someone else smile, writing a really good scene, completing the final draft of a novel, reading a good book, discovering a new favorite author, fluffy slippers, sleeping in, sushi, coffee, wine, martinis, vanilla bean candles.

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CONFESSIONS OF A SHORT-STORY VIRGIN

 

Short stories have always been elusive to me. Despite the countless number that I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, I never finished writing even one of them. Although there wasn’t a name for it back then, I was basically writing flash fiction, though purely for my own enjoyment. Apparently, though, nothing I wrote interested me enough to finish it.

At age nineteen, I had 150 pages of a novel added to my repertoire of incomplete stories. Stories, novels—it didn’t matter: I was an equal opportunity non-finisher.

As I later learned through introspection, it was a combined fear of success and failure that kept me from finishing my work, coupled with the age-old issue of having no idea where I was going with my many WIPs. Eventually, I resolved the reasons for my unproductiveness, and with those fears no longer holding me back, I began to write. In the early days, I wrote four screenplays (still collecting dust somewhere) and two plays. Years later, my deep desire to be a novelist was liberated. I began writing books—and finishing those, too.

I first wrote three standalone novels in different genres (Crooked Moon; Squalor, New Mexico, & Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!), and then began a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series. Mind you, I was still a short-story virgin. I never even thought about popping the short story cherry.

Short stories were alien beings to me. They really were.

I didn't have time-revise

The above quote, which is attributed to Mark Twain, has been attributed to others as well. I’m not sure who said it or even if Twain did. But what I do know is that it packs a whole lot of truth.

It’s usually much easier to ramble on than it is to take an idea and express it in few words. Plus, there are still so many novels in my head waiting to be written, and I couldn’t grasp the concept of having an idea that could be … dare I say it … a short story! (Rather ironic coming from someone has tweeted every day since 2009.)

So how did I lose my short-story virginity?

It was after I finished edits for the first book in my YA paranormal trilogy, Mystical High, and was writing book 2, Desert Star, that I found myself longing to write without any language restraints. It was time to release the pent-up literary fiction writer in me. I quietly did the deed, then gave birth to my first short story, and then to another. (I’m slowly putting together a collection for some time down the road.)

When fellow author Maria Savva asked me to write two short stories for the Triptychs, the third book in The Mind’s Eye series, I was eager to join my fellow authors in being a contributor for this fascinating anthology.

TriptychsDualCover

In the first two books of the series, Reflections and Perspectives, each author wrote a short story inspired by a unique photograph. In Triptychs, the same photo was given to three different writers who were asked to write a short story or poem inspired by the image. Authors were neither able to choose the photos nor given any information to jumpstart their imagination.

The title Triptychs-revise

But when I was given these two photographs, although pretty, they’re not ones that I would have chosen to inspire me to write a story. I really had to think outside of “the box.” I had to find a flicker of something in these photos that resonated with me so that I could build a story I felt passionate about telling.

This exercise fascinated me because for years, I had considered writing stories centered around famous paintings, especially some by Edward Hopper. For example, this is Edward Hopper’s, A Room in New York, one of the many paintings I thought would be a great starting point for a story or a novel.

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I have been imagining stories in my head for a lifetime, but I have always done so when looking at photos, paintings, people, cities, or just about anything that inspires me. Never before had I written stories based on what someone else felt passionate about. The challenge of writing these stories for Triptychs really stretched my imagination in new and extraordinary directions.

It’s interesting, too, that while viewing one of the photographs, it took me about a minute to conceive the story “I Wish…”

Sunset(Credit: Helle Gade)

When viewing the second photograph, however, my story, “May Twenty-Fourth,” took weeks. Creativity is endlessly fascinating, don’t you think?

SONY DSC(Credit: Martin David Porter)

Triptychs is now available at a pre-order price of .99 until the book is published on March 16, 2015.

Amazon U.S.

Amazon U.K.

The other contributors to the book include:

Eden Baylee

Ben Ditmars

Jay Finn

Helle Gade

Darcia Helle

Jason McIntyre

Marc Nash

Martin David Porter

Julie Elizabeth Powell

J. Michael Radcliffe

Maria Savva

Geoffrey West

 

 

CHAT WITH JULIE STOCK

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Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance novels and short stories. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and an Associate Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors.

When she is not writing, she works part-time as a teacher. She is married with two teenage daughters and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

What is your latest book?

My latest book is also my debut novel and it is a contemporary romance called From Here to Nashville. It tells the story of Rachel Hardy, who dreams of being a country music singer in Nashville, 4,000 miles away from her life in Dorset in the UK, and Jackson Phillips who is in the UK for his cousin’s wedding and scouting for talent for his record label, back in Nashville.

From_Here_To_Nashville

Is your recent book part of a series?

No, it’s not part of a series, although there could definitely be more books about the characters in From Here to Nashville.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’ve always loved reading romance stories of all kinds so it made sense to me to write in that genre. The story of From Here to Nashville kind of presented itself to me, fully formed so I went from there.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

I am just about to self-publish From Here to Nashville. It will be available w/c February 16th, 2015.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

‘I Love You From Here to Nashville.’

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

There is still the belief that if you self-publish, your book won’t be as professionally produced as if you were traditionally published. Most indie authors I know are working really hard to have their books professionally edited and proofread, as well as organising professional cover design. The Alliance of Independent Authors is doing lots of work to show how much pride indie authors place in their books, along with a number of other organisations around the world.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love the freedom you have when you’re writing your first draft. I find the rewrites after that very draining. I hope this is something I will get better at as I become more experienced.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I write a first draft, without editing and when it’s finished, that’s when the editing and rewriting starts.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

I think you have to try and write every day, in some form or another. This could mean working on your current work in progress or it could mean writing your blog. My blog has been such a source of pleasure for me since I started it in 2013. I write a post every Monday and I take part in #MondayBlogs which has helped me make many new friends on Twitter, some of whom have become writing partners. I have interacted with a whole host of writers on Twitter and via the organisations I’ve joined and this has helped me to improve my writing as well. In addition, you should go on as many writing courses as you can afford and read everything you can lay your hands on to help make your writing better. I clip all my useful articles into Evernote and can then go back and refer to them whenever I want. You need to try and keep learning all the time.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I started writing my debut novel nearly two years ago. I had an idea for the story and just wrote until I reached the end. During this time, I joined Twitter and found out about National Novel Writing Month in November. I took part that year and also used some of their Camps to help me finish writing From Here to Nashville. I heard about the New Writers’ Scheme run by The Romantic Novelists’ Association and decided to try and join at the beginning of 2014. I was lucky enough to get on to the scheme and had my book read and critiqued by a professional author. That gave me the confidence to push on and finish my rewrites. By this time, I was pretty much decided on self-publishing and so I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors as well, after hearing one of their members speak at the RNA Conference. Since September, I have sourced my own cover, had my book edited and I expect it back from the proofreader’s this week. It is very hard work to self-publish, there’s no doubt about it but I am pleased that I’ve had the freedom to do what I wanted to do for the first book and to understand how everything works.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I did invite a few close friends and family to read my first thirteen chapters before I’d even finished the first draft. They all loved it, of course! I found my first proper beta reader via NaNoWriMo/Twitter. She read my very first draft and gave me lots of detailed feedback. I also sent it to the RNA for a professional read-through. I then asked another RNA friend to read the final version after it had been professionally edited. I don’t think I would show my next book to anyone before the first draft is finished.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

My cover design was very important to me. I’d had a provisional cover for a long time and I wanted the actual cover to be very similar to it, just much more professional! I was lucky that my cover designers were very patient with my lack of knowledge about cover design and although it took a while to get there, I’m so pleased with the final result.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in a small, rural village in Bedfordshire in the UK. I would like to live by the sea, either in Norfolk or in Cornwall. I don’t think I’d like to move country, although I love to travel, especially to France. I did live in France for the best part of a year when I was at university and that kind of convinced me that as much as it’s wonderful to travel, it’s always great to come back home.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats

I don’t mind travelling by train, plane or car but I really don’t like boats that much. I can manage a ferry across the English Channel but you would never catch me on a cruise! I have a bit of an irrational fear of large expanses of water – Titanic syndrome perhaps.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I learnt the piano for a few years when I was young but I gave up. I really wish I hadn’t so that I could play confidently now and accompany other people. It’s so much harder to pick up when you’re older though.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

My degree was in French and I also learnt Spanish and Italian. My love of languages came from my grand-dad who was born in Czechoslovakia but moved to France during the war. I have kept my spoken French going all my life and as a result, I still speak it pretty fluently. I love speaking the language when I’m there. I hope to go there again this summer to the Alsace region. My next book will be set there.

What music soothes your soul?

I love all kinds of music but my favourite band of the moment is Lady Antebellum. I have all their albums and often listen to them on a constant loop! I was lucky enough to see them in a small gig in the UK last October and I’m seeing them again in March. My character, Rachel, sings one of their songs in ‘From Here to Nashville,’ along with a number of other country music songs and some of her own songs.

Music has always been an important part of my life. I have always loved to sing and in fact, I met my husband when we were singing in the same London choir nearly thirty years ago!

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

My husband and I are knee-deep catching up with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones at the moment. We really enjoy them both. We also love the TV show Nashville which inspired my book but we’re not sure yet if the UK will get the third series. We’d be really disappointed if we didn’t get it!

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

One of my favourite films is Truly, Madly, Deeply with a very young Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson. I can hardly ever watch it without crying my eyes out. One of my favourite books is The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which has exactly the same effect on me!

CONNECT WITH JULIE

Website / Blog

Twitter

Facebook

From Here to Nashville (Amazon UK)

From Here to Nashville (Amazon US)

 

 

CHAT WITH PAUL CUDE

Paul_Cude

Paul Cude was born in Southampton, Hampshire. As a small child he moved to Salisbury, and as a much older child he developed a fanatical interest in playing hockey, something he is still obsessed with to this very day. He has the privilege of being a full-time house husband, watching and shaping his two fantastic children as they progress in life. He likes days out with his family, taking computers apart (sometimes even putting them back together again, occasionally successfully) and, of course, writing.

Time to chat with Paul!

What is your latest book?

Currently I’m just editing the third book in the Bentwhistle series, Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy, while at the same time writing the fourth in the series, Bentwhistle the Dragon in Earth’s Custodian. Both books continue the series, following the adventures of a group of dragon friends who spend most of their time disguised in human form and, like the rest of their race, they are tasked with protecting and guiding humanity.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes. The books are as follows.

Book 1 Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past

Book 2 Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation

Book 3 Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Twisted Prophecy

Book 4 Bentwhistle the Dragon in Earth’s Custodian

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What are the special challenges in writing a series?

For me I thoroughly enjoy it. I’m constantly thinking and dreaming about the direction of the story and the characters. The only thing I find challenging is linking up all the little details, something that becomes harder, the longer the series goes on. I’m constantly looking back to make sure all the little things are right, to provide continuity.

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How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

Fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read so that, combined with everything else in my life, tends to lead to me having rather vivid and surreal dreams, mostly about the characters and plot lines in my books. I think it’s safe to say that the fantasy genre definitely chose me. The whole story is part of everything that makes me who I am. Hockey plays a big part in the story and the plot, and has probably been the biggest influence on my life. I started playing when I was eleven years old (old by today’s standards, but young back then). I’m hesitant to tell you how long ago that actually was. But through that sport I have met some of the most amazing people, most of whom I can count as friends, and had the best time on and off the field. I still play when I can, despite being more than a little long in the tooth, and I’m proud to say both of my children play. I help coach them every Sunday during the hockey season.

As well as the hockey, I suppose the other influences come in the form of the books that I read, and the computer games that I play. I love the Harry Potter books, I’m a great fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe and love the books of Terry Goodkind. But my favorite author in the whole world has to be Terry Pratchett. His books are fantastic and I’ve been an avid reader of them for as long as I can remember. The worlds and the characters he creates are amazing and can easily be pictured in your mind. The twists and turns are something akin to a whirlwind, but it’s the humor that I find most compelling. I can name three or four books that have made me cry with laughter at what’s been written, and just thinking about one book, The Fifth Elephant, is making me laugh as I write this. All of these things zip through my tiny little mind, and in so doing are responsible for everything that fills the pages of my book. If you want to know all about me as a person……..read my book.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

A small part of me would like to rewrite my first book, Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From The Past. Not because I dislike it, but because I feel now I have the skill and experience as an author to do better. I love the book, for many different reasons, and so most of me wouldn’t want to change a thing. The more I think about it, the more I go round in circles. I’m sure at some point in the future I’ll think the same about my later books. I do hope all authors feel the same kind of conflict.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Use every last second of your time. Even a few minutes here and there… do social media work, or anything that needs catching up on. I find I use all these little segments of time to buy myself a bigger block of time at some point during the day, in which I can just write undisturbed. Get your work up on Smashwords as soon as it’s ready. You can hunt about for agents and publishers after it’s already up there, with readers already able to get a feel for your work. It’s such a good site and allows you fantastic control over your work. As well, I feel interacting on Twitter can do a great deal to promote your book, as well gaining valuable advice from other authors, and meeting some great new people from across the globe.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I love to lose myself in the story and the characters. Twists and turns are always a must for me. I’m constantly trying to guess what’s coming next in my mind, and always love it when things go in a totally different direction. Depending on the book, I do like some humor injected into it. Books from my favorite author, Terry Pratchett, have some of the most side-splitting comedy woven into their intricately written fantasy plots, that at times I’ve cried with laughter

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I’m pretty good. Before deciding to write my first book, I could only type with two fingers. I taught myself to type with a computer program, which took about three months, in what little free time I had. After that, things only got better and faster. The only thing I regret, a little, is that I taught myself to type on a Microsoft shaped, split keyboard. While I have no problem sitting at my desk and typing on my keyboard at my own computer, I struggle if I have to use any of the other computers (laptops) in the house.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

The older I get, the earlier I seem to get up. I still go to bed quite late (11 pm or so), but more often than not, I’m awake early, and just know that I’m not going to get back to sleep. Normally I choose to get up and either write, or get on with some social media tasks. This at least buys me some time later on in the day to write, or do something else book related, such as research, or updating my blog or website.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I currently live in the beautiful city of Salisbury, in Wiltshire, England. If I had to move anywhere, I think it would be to Swanage in Dorset, England. It’s a place the Cude family often goes to, especially in the summer – we all love nothing more than frequenting the stunning beach, fabulous shops, and going on the fantastic steam railway.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

From the answer to the last question, I’m sure you can guess I’m going to say trains, trains, trains. TRAINS! Just like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory………I love trains! (I also have my own spot on the sofa. Don’t tell anyone though.)

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

Last year I received a fantastic camera for my birthday. That was only in December, and so far, life and fate have conspired to make sure that I’ve had very little time to use it. I love taking pictures, especially of my kids, but of all sorts of things as well, and plan to start practising with it as soon as possible.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I don’t drink alcohol. That’s why my blog is called “thesoberhockeyplayer”… it sums me up perfectly. I’m the only sober hockey player I’ve ever met… and I’ve met loads, on tours, playing alongside and against. It makes me unique and is something I’m very proud of. I’m not against people drinking by the way… it’s just not for me. Also, I think this is up there with my sense of humour as one of my best character traits.

I once got the words “pottery” and “hockey” mixed up… and in that instant, it totally changed my life, forever.

I always endeavour to treat people how I would hope to be treated, but more than you would expect, find myself let down.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

In no particular order: The Big Bang Theory, Arrow, The Flash, Marvel’s Agents Of Shield, NCIS Los Angeles, Hawaii Five-O and The Musketeers.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Other than spending time with my family, I love to play hockey (field hockey). I can only imagine I have the biggest smile in the world on my face when I play.

CONNECT WITH PAUL

Website

Blog

Twitter

Bentwhistle the Dragon Facebook Page

Amazon Author Page U.K.

Amazon Author Page U.S.

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat From the Past (Amazon U.S.)

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation (Amazon U.S.)

Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat From the Past (Smashwords)

Bentwhistle the Dragon In A Chilling Revelation (Smashwords)

Bentwhistle the Dragon (BN)

Goodreads

CHAT WITH DIANA HOCKLEY

DianaHockleyDiana Hockley is a prolific reader, animal welfare advocate, classical music nut and community volunteer from South East Queensland, Australia. She is married to Andrew, mother of three, granny of three.

Time to chat with Diana!

What is your latest book?

After Ariel

Who would have guessed that the world of classical music could be so deadly?

Asked what she would do on her last night on earth, Ariel may have rolled her eyes, giggled and said, “Listen to Miley Cyrus while, like, kissing red hot abs!” in one respect she would have been spot on.

DI Susan Prescott has a secret; Pamela Miller wants to find love.

Dingo just wants to play games.

Then it all goes wrong…

After Ariel Paperback.jpg customised 2

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes it is, but each book is a standalone story. The Naked Room was the first, second The Celibate Mouse.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

Remembering all the details about the characters used in each one and deciding exactly how much the reader would want to know about them down the track.

NakedRoom

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I love crime and romance so that is what I write – well, mainly crime with a tinge of romance!

What else have you written?

Short stories (six on Amazon), article, a little poetry over the years. I won a poetry prize in our town festival a number of years ago. I write articles and edit for Kings River Life, a free online California magazine.

Celibate Mouse Cover

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That we are so hopeless that no one will publish our work!

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Both are important and I know them before I start. However, I may not know who the killer is. In After Ariel I didn’t know his name until the moment he was captured. My next book is called A Dark and Lonely Place and is, of course, a murder mystery!

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

Oh yes, I’ll re-read a book when it comes out and think anything from “Wow, did I write that?” to “OMG, did really I write that?”

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

Sheer luck. If you think of the most notable – Fifty Shades of Grey – it was sheer luck that got that author her accolades. I’m very envious, but good luck to her!

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

DO NOT EDIT YOUR OWN WORK!!!! Do not ask Aunty Flo, Cousin Sue or Sister Petunia to beta read or to edit your work. Hire a human literary Rottweiler!

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Five years from when I joined the worldwide workshop site, The Next Big Writer, and then published the first book. I did over three thousand reviews on that site and was in turn helped by so many wonderful and kind writers.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Oh yes! Sentences that start with “and “ and “but,” the use of phrases such as “He done good” and the dropping of “ly” in words – e.g. “It works more effective.” Lack of knowledge of the language, e.g. many writers do not know the difference between “site” “cite” and “sight”!

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

The humour and including animals in my books. Worst – I loathe books where there is animal cruelty/killing and where the hero constantly calls the heroine “Babe.”

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I have a retired (2014) Detective Senior Constable who gives me lots of help, a retired Senior Sergeant and our local Station cops who are very generous with their time.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

A reviewer described After Ariel as “film noir”! Very exciting J The style of After Ariel was a gamble in that the reader knows the murderer from the start, but not WHO it is!

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

No, I learned on the workshop site to write drabbles (100-word stories) and droubles (200-word stories) Writing a synopsis is easy for me.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Yes! Go and look up your favourite book of all time – mine is that brilliant classic, The Wind in the Willows – and read the reviews. Yep, it has bad reviews as well as good. You don’t like every book you read, and that goes for readers of your work as well. Be as philosophical as you can – after you’ve had a good stiff whisky!

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

They were when the option was first put out there, but now there’s too much competition. The Celibate Mouse got 21 thousand + downloads and it still has only 44 reviews.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

VITAL!! That is your first line of defense, followed by the synopsis and then the first two pages. If they don’t like it by the second page, you’ve had it L

How would you define your style of writing?

Detailed and finicky. Very character oriented.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

Chocolate, wine and whine.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

A fellow writer, Kat Nove, lamented on the workshop site that she had found the remains of a mouse in her house and was thinking dark thoughts of her cats. I volunteered to be their advocate for the occasion and here is the statement they asked me to put to the court!!

“We’re innocent”, they purred with glee,
“The mouse remains were up a tree.
We brought them down for you to bury
To send them o’er the Styx by ferry.

But then we realised we were peckish
And we thought you had a fetish
For finding dead heads in the house
So for you, we hid some mouse.

We’re innocent, we promise you
We took advantage of the view
Of a dead mouse in the tree –
but we can fetch it for your tea!”

(c) Diana Hockley, Scribe. Hired by Nove Cats 2008

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

A successful cancer operation.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Loyalty.

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

Animal welfare organizations.

What music soothes your soul?

Classical

What makes you angry?

Abuse of animals.

Best subject at school

English.

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GATHERING MY FORCES (Why I relaunched my memoir) by Doreen (Dody) Cox

 

There have been several instances in my life when I’ve woken up from some stupor and realized that it’s time to take charge of something that is important to me. Instead of continuing to be swept along by events and conditions as they were, I’d gathered my own internal forces together in order to direct my own passage through the event. Such reversals are rarely done without the influence of others met along the way. Within this past year, my gathering forces converged and swept me into making some changes regarding writing and publishing.

DodyCox

Adventures in Mother-Sitting was my first published book. After my mother died, I threw my heart and soul into writing a memoir for family and friends, one that told our story. At the time that it was completed, it had only been six months since my mother had died. I wasn’t even online at the time, as I was not sure yet as to what direction to take beyond getting through each day. The world of publishing was foreign to me; I’d never heard the term “indie” author. And I hadn’t planned for the memoir to be published. But then I had an unexpected encounter with an old friend who had just published his memoir. He gave me the name of his indie publisher and the rest was history, or so I had thought.

I’m grateful for all the help that I received in order for Adventures to become a published memoir. It was important at the time that I honor my mother’s long-held wish: for me to write a book. But grief is a powerful force with which to reckon. Caught up in grieving and not knowing anything about publishing or promoting, I relied more on others than I did myself. I didn’t pick up my memoir again for a long time. I did set myself up to be online, but for a while, I merely did whatever I could to make it through my days. It took me over a year to once again feel my curiosity stirring, a surge that told me I was ready to tackle something new.

WhistlingDucks(Whistling Ducks perched on the dock by Dody’s Florida home)

Throughout that next year, I began to explore the world of promoting, signing up to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter plus some other writing sites. It was through my connections with authors on LinkedIn and Twitter, though, that I began to be educated. Tweeting became a lifeline, engaging me and connecting me with indie authors of all genres, some who wrote memoirs and others who wrote fiction. For the first time since my mother had died, I began to feel alive with excitement and purpose. Coincidentally, people were beginning to read Adventures and give me feedback on my story via reviews.

It had been easier to slip into a space of viewing my memoir only through my own eyes; that’s how it was for me after I finished writing Adventures. My memoir felt complete to me—family and friends gave me feedback that said it was. Even the initial readers gave it five stars. So I let it be. Truthfully, I really didn’t want to think about having to read the finished memoir much less do a revision. I didn’t even want to write a sequel about life after caregiving, as some had suggested. I wanted to move on with my life and continue to write, but this time, write fiction.

Because of my interactions with other authors and the fact that I was an avid reader, I began to pay attention to book covers. I’d always been drawn first to the cover of a book. If the cover caught my attention, I’d open it and read the first few pages to see if the author’s words engaged me. But I didn’t do that with Adventures. I was being like an ostrich, burying my head in the sand—it was a long while before I acknowledged an urge to take a good look at my memoir’s cover. Whenever I glanced at the cover, I’d only notice our smiles in the photo and remember the moment that this picture of Mother and I was taken. But I was gathering information, and concurrently, my inner force was stirring, preparing for the time when I’d recognize that the cover did not measure up to the quality I wanted readers to see.

This is what I’ve learned: writing is an art, and like all creative activities, it requires study and loads of practice. Writing a novel or a memoir requires different skills than those I’d used previously when writing technical manuals. In order to hone one’s skills for writing books, an open mind to hear feedback from readers and other authors is a key ingredient. I comprehended this while writing my first piece of fiction, a short story titled A Sacred Journey. It was gratifying to get feedback from others, especially from an author whose novels were favorites and whose writing skills I’d come to admire: Julia Hughes. It was very exciting to watch my story go through changes as I rewrote passages that came even more alive for me. The experience was exhilarating. When it came time for me to decide on a book cover, I chose carefully, exploring until my gut centered on Laura Wright LaRoche of LLPix Designs. After receiving such a marvelous cover from Laura, the comparison in quality to my memoir’s cover began niggling at me.

SacredJourney

After my short story was published, I began working on a new story. I was over 10,000 words into it when the niggling thought regarding my memoir wouldn’t leave me alone. Laying aside the new story, I gave in to my gut feeling to flip through Adventures and grade my writing skills against what I’d recently learned. It did not surprise me to see that my memoir didn’t measure up to the level I wanted it to have, neither the cover nor the writing. I knew that the memoir told my story well enough to engage readers; their reviews told me so. But the writing itself no longer satisfied me.

I’ve always been intrigued by the flavor that comes with recognizing some encounters as serendipitous. Two events happened concurrently with my dissatisfaction. The first was a four-star review that honored the story itself yet offered suggestions to clean up the writing. I took notice of those suggestions because I’d noted them myself while perusing my memoir. The second was what I consider to be a prominent serendipitous encounter with an indie author whose novel I’d just read. It wasn’t just that the story in Crooked Moon moved me so deeply—it was the high level of skill with which this author wrote, particularly the dialogues between characters. I wanted Adventures to measure up to the high standard of writing that I’d noted in this novel and in the subsequent novel I’d read by this exceptional author. Could I write as vividly, take a reader as deeply into my mother-sitting story as this author had taken me into hers? I wanted to try but was hesitant to even begin.

It was the unwavering encouragement from Lisette Brodey, Crooked Moon’s author, which stoked my spark into a flame for the revision of Adventures in Mother-Sitting. She became the wind beneath my wings; I’m convinced that my mother gave her an angelic nudge from heaven to help me. Even before my part-time GED teacher job ended for the summer, I cracked open my memoir to begin putting into practice all that I had learned.

The storyline itself did not change. I deleted some redundant passages, particularly ones that were too detailed with regard to my care of Mother. I also refined some of the more poignant experiences that I’d had relative to our changing relationship. I’m told that the descriptions of those are more vividly expressed in this new version because of the way that I’ve learned to craft my words. There were two chapters regarding my spiritual focus that just didn’t fit in the memoir. I removed them though didn’t toss the chapters away. They’re in a separate file because I felt that the chapters were well-written and convey my outlook on spirituality quite succinctly. Also, I’ve been learning to temper my habit of writing long, lofty sentences. This style is great for writing prose, but not appropriate for this memoir. I’d like the reader to stay with me in the story, not go off with me on some tangent.

Reading through Adventures and doing the revision was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. It was intensely cathartic for me, taking me back through the experiences I’d had while taking care of my mother. It brought back the joy, the richness embedded in our final few years together. I’ve just completed the upload to Amazon and am ecstatic for what I’ve accomplished.

Midway through the rewrite, an unexpected gift came from Charles Roth of CMRdesign. He created the loveliest book cover. Using the same photo that was on the initial book, Charles skillfully removed the birthday confetti that was draped over our faces, leaving an observer to focus only on our joy. Every time I look at the new cover of Adventures, my heart expands, reminding me that the love shared between my mother and me still remains. This new cover from Charles is priceless—I’m deeply grateful.

MothersittingBlog

In concert with my decision to rewrite Adventures, a surge of desire to become my own publisher set in—I’d done my homework. Making this change in direction happened accordingly. Honesty and respect is a great policy. To this end, Charles came to my rescue once again. The logo for Whistling Duck Books is exquisitely designed—I love looking at it. Every morning when my local whistling ducks wake me up, I think of Charles and this striking logo he designed, one that reflects my decision to follow my heart’s desire.

New_Color_WhistlingDuck_logo 2

I’m thankful to many authors I’ve met in the stream for their friendship, their example, and their support of my efforts. My connection with these wonderful people adds such richness to my life, personally and as an author. In particular, I’m immensely grateful to Lisette Brodey and Julia Hughes, authors extraordinaire, for their unwavering guidance, helpfulness, and encouragement. It is my hope that readers will find that this second edition of Adventures in Mother-Sitting is written in a way that invites them to step into my story with me. Although it’s a hard one to experience, the story is one in which compassion, humor, and love overshadows every tough moment.

 * * *

After a somewhat convoluted career path in various business-related and mental health endeavors, Doreen (Dody) Cox has settled into a later-in-life passion: writing. Her first book, Adventures in Mother-Sitting, is a memoir of her three years as a full-time caregiver to her mother, coping with dementia. It has just been released as a second edition. A Sacred Journey is a short story with themes inspired by her love for nature, curiosity regarding spirituality, and respect for dignity in death.

Dody resides in Florida and is a part-time GED teacher of multicultural students. The class is held offsite in one of her favorite places: a library.

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CHAT WITH CAROL ROSE

Carol_Rose

Carol Rose is an award-winning author of contemporary romances. She has written twenty books, including Always and Forgotten Father. Her books have won numerous awards, including a final in the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award.

Her husband and she married when she was only nineteen and he was barely twenty-one, proving that early marriage can make it, but only if you’re really lucky and persistent. They went through college and grad school together. She not only loves him still, all these years later, she still likes him—which she says is sometimes harder. They have two funny, intelligent and highly accomplished daughters. Carol loves writing and hopes you enjoy reading her work.

Time to chat with Carol!

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I am a word freak and I love the characterization in writing. I write romance because relationships are most vital to me. I am, however, plot-challenged. This part is vitally important to how stories unfold, but I rely a lot on my critique group to assist me with this.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I’m also a consecutive kind of person. I like order and writing scenes in sequence is most natural for me.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I need to know the ending of my books before I can functionally plot them out. If I don’t have this in sight, I tend to wander astray. Not a good thing.

Diamonds_Deceits

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

I love names. I actually gave my two daughters four names each—in addition to their surname. I’m still apologizing for that. I tend to name characters early in the process and sometimes they come to me with names attached. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a primary character’s name, probably because I’m so focused on these in the first place.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

This is a tricky issue, but I have to say no. Not that all my characters are nice, upstanding folk without personal issues. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just happen to find people fascinating, even in their imperfections. We all have needs and wants and challenges. My awareness of this is probably tied in with my other profession of therapist.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

My favorite books are those written by word people. I like words and I’m fascinated by good—not to say literary—use of language. I have a doctorate, but I never wanted to write, nor do I like to read, academic works. I’m told that I’m told that I’m picky about characters being accurately depicted. I also like fiction that makes me laugh. It’s a weakness of mine that my husband is very grateful for—my love of laughter.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

Yep. I have a critique group that reads—and gives strong feedback–on every book, chapter by chapter, as I go along.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m a morning—not to say early morning—writer. I can write at night when I have to, but it’s not my preference. I like writing at my desk in the office I share with my husband. My half of the room needs to be uncluttered. Clutter distracts me. I like flowers and candles. They’re just nice, but I don’t always have these when I write. And water. I drink a lot of water. Go figure.

How would you define your style of writing?

Not long ago, I spoke with a marketing person about this and really struggled. We finally came up with the word “snarky.” I don’t think of myself this way, but I’ve come to realize that I naturally tend to be sarcastic and ironic. Sounds mean, but I never intend it that way.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

This is frustrating, but I don’t think readers realize how important reviews are, especially to indie writers. Our ability to advertise is based on reviews. On the writing side of this, I like knowing readers’ responses to the characters and situations I craft. Even if it’s not favorable, I still want to know. On the other side, really appreciative reviews have brought me to tears. Yes, readers. We writers want to hear what you think.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

My husband grew up in western New Jersey—the really pretty part. We love going to New York City. I’m a city girl through and through and I love visiting lots of cities, but NYC is my favorite. I currently have a daughter finishing her ER residency in Brooklyn, so going to visit is a wonderful coming together of good things. Naturally, I’ve lived my whole life in the hot South and my husband tells me that I’d die in the cold. (I think I’d like to try.)

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Pretty much anything sugar. Gonna be honest. I love cheesecake with every fiber of my being.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

When looking through some financial accounts one day, I realized one credit card had a huge balance of which I was unaware. When I called him about this, my lovely husband confessed that he’d found a low-interest card and borrowed a chunk on it. He then invested it in account that would make more money. This was even more of a shock because he and I had always taken joint responsibility for our money. Then he told me this money was to buy me the sports car after which I’d always hankered. Made me cry. I’d always driven boring four-door family cars to this point, but he promised me that from then on, I’d always have a car after my heart. You should see what I drive now.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

The year I graduated with my Ph.D. in counseling. It was my favorite because I never had to go back to school again.

What music soothes your soul?

I’m a fifty-six year old woman who drives a snazzy yellow sports car way too fast and the music blaring from the speakers isn’t classic rock. I like most current music, just not a lot of rap. Not typical by any measure.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Sounds cheesy, but I really like spending time with my husband. He makes me laugh and although we married young, I’ve learned a ton from being with him.

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MUSIC & MYSTERY – Guest blog by RJ McDonnell

The purpose of this blog is to show you how I relate my series theme to specific marketing and plotting efforts in hopes that fellow writers will find an idea or two that will help build readership. Most of these concepts apply to standalone novels as well.

I write a mystery series that features private investigator Jason Duffy, who worked as a club musician for 10 years before earning his PI license. Although he’s handled a diverse range of cases in his first few years of private practice, I focus exclusively on the ones relating to the music industry in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series.

Writing about music can be tricky business. In an ideal world most of my readers would be fans of the music I write about, enabling me to share insights that expand their understanding of one of their passions. Had I started my series when I was a child, that ideal might have been achievable. Rock & roll had a much more homogeneous audience during the American Bandstand era. Granted, there were those who favored rock and others who preferred Motown. But most radio stations of that period carried everything that appealed to a young audience, and most radio listeners were not inclined to abandon their favorite channel when a less desirable tune came on the air. Today, there are 51 subgenres of heavy metal alone. Music fans have grown accustomed to highly specialized programming.

For that reason I try to focus on common areas of the music business and the day-to-day life of musicians rather than attempt to capture the mindset and topical preferences of particular subgenres. In addition, I always try to include unique or cutting-edge plot elements to spark the interest of readers who are not fans of the genre portrayed.

For example, my first novel, Rock & Roll Homicide, featured a half-US, half-UK heavy metal band. Had I opted to delve into the inner workings of one of those 51 sub-genres, dropping clues that would be clear only to fans of that music, I would have alienated most of the readers I was trying to attract. Instead, I focused on a record company with an unhealthy tie to the Russian Mafia. The novel was written about 10 years after the breakup of the USSR. While the outline was being formulated I met a man at a college alumni association function who just closed an electronics manufacturing business in Russia because half of his UPS shipments were being hijacked. Prior to that day I had never heard of the Russian Mafia. The bent-noses of the Borscht Belt aspect of the book got a lot of attention in the pre-e-book era, enabling me to get placement in stores across the US. The fact that Rock & Roll Homicide has been on two Amazon Top 100 lists ever since June of 2014 tells me the subplot has held up well over time, even though the Russian Mafia is getting more exposure today than its Italian predecessor.

RR_Homocide

The 2nd book in the series, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, featured an emo band that failed to live up to expectations on its first album. I wrote the book on the assumption that most of my readers would be unfamiliar with the genre. Rather than spend time trying to get them to like or even connect with emo, I focused on something of interest to all music fans. The industry was forced into a sea change on how it made its money as a result of pirated MP3 files. Many record companies were struggling to stay alive. There was no money to give a high potential band a second chance after failing to gain traction on its first try. The rip-off noted in the title occurred to fund a record company executive’s bribe, which could have happened in any genre.

The whodunit was the unique element in that book. The reader learned in the opening that one of the members of The Tactile Tattoo engineered the rip-off. Careful clue analysis was needed to figure out which one. This is the darkest novel in my series. It’s also my least favorite. And, it’s the only one to win a Mystery/Thriller of the Year Award. Go figure.

RockRollRipoff

The next novel, The Concert Killer, is my favorite. A serial killer tried to shut down the concert industry by dropping bodies at venues throughout California. The concerts featured a variety of different genres. From a series arc perspective we saw an extension of the sea change mentioned above. Since pirated downloads cut heavily into album earnings, musicians now earn most of their livelihood from concerts. The Concert Killer built a dam across that earnings stream. Concert-goers stayed home in droves. The novel climaxed as the killer was about to expand his territory to a national audience.

Like with the emergence of the Russian Mafia in Rock & Roll Homicide, The Concert Killer featured a cutting edge element. Unlike its predecessor, this cultural phenomenon won’t get hot until later this year when the US begins exporting liquefied natural gas for the first time. I’m hoping it gains the same kind of lift that Rock & Roll Homicide experienced in June. One of the advantages to being an indie author is that we don’t have to limit our windows of opportunity to the six week shelf life afforded most traditionally published authors at chain bookstores. Theirs is a “do or die” situation where failure to sell five to ten thousand books in that period usually results in a parting of the ways with the publisher. The indie route enables us to build a platform before jumping into those shark-infested waters (or opt out altogether).

ConcertKiller

The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death saw a major convergence of the story plot and the series arc. Jason’s father, Jim, is a retired San Diego Police detective. He opposed Jason’s career as a musician from day one, supposedly because of working too many musician OD cases. In this novel, Jason’s estranged Uncle Patrick from Pennsylvania asked for help after his former bandmate was murdered a few weeks before a reunion show for his ‘60s club band. Jason filled in for the slain rhythm guitarist as they prepared for the classic rock show. A 40-year family feud between Jim and Patrick played out while the murder was investigated.

My favorite part of writing that novel happened while researching the venue for the climax, which took place at the Scranton Cultural Center (formerly The Masonic Temple). I was given a two-hour tour of the ten story facility that was built in the late 20s by the Masons, and continues to serve as a Masonic Lodge. I was shown secret passageways, hidden staircases, spaces below stages, and enough intriguing architecture to inspire a Dan Brown novel. I used a “best of” selection for the climax, and saw a nice return from incorporating that fact into my local marketing efforts. I think it’s important to look closely at thematic and marketing possibilities after completing a novel’s first draft. Then, try to develop them during the editing process.

ClassicRockersReunion

My 2014 release, Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll, also featured classic rock music. I did that for two reasons. First, it took place at an undersea club that was part of a resort for billionaires and millionaires. Demographically, classic rock fits better than any other genre considering that most people accrue wealth over time, and classic rock is popular with the 50+ crowd. Second, I wanted to bring Uncle Patrick to San Diego and needed him to work undercover with Jason in the club’s house band. I’m thinking about starting a second series that features Uncle Patrick and felt that the additional exposure would help ensure crossover among my readers.

The music got a boost from an alternate source in this novel. When live music was not playing in the club, the sound system was synched to a holography show on the floor of La Jolla Cove.

Songs like “Barracuda,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Yellow Submarine” were synched up with what was happening outside the club and sometimes inside the plot.

DCRR_eBookCOVER_FINAL.indd

I’m a firm believer in the benefits of cross marketing. As a former band manager and musician, I do all that I can to bring a back stage pass to each murder mystery. My best newspaper exposure came from a library/bookstore tour AFTER I started bringing my guitar and PA system to the events. On site book sales quadrupled and feature articles appeared in four newspapers. The idea of including live music came after reading a social media post by a cozy mystery author who did knitting demonstrations during her tour. Authors with a particular theme would do well to brainstorm as many ways possible to engage readers with similar interests either in person or online. Hopefully, one of those ideas will help you chart in the Top 40.

Many thanks to Lisette Brodey for inviting me to pen a guest blog at her Writers’ Chateau. I am a fan of her novels, and of the effort she puts into helping her fellow writers. Hopefully, one of the marketing tips that I shared today will help you too.

RJMcDonnell

Thank you, RJ! It’s been a pleasure having you back at my writers’ chateau! I hope readers will check out your wonderful books, starting with a free copy of Rock & Roll Homicide.

(Links below)

Rock & Roll Homicide (FREE)

Rock & Roll Rip-Off

The Concert Killer

The Classic Rockers Reunion With Death

Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll

RJ’s June 2013 Writers’ Chateau Interview

CHAT WITH SHAYE MANN

 

Shaye Mann is a former comedian turned trial lawyer, and now author of the novel The Executive Graveyard. Born and raised in New York City, Shaye migrated west to follow his passion of exploring the mountains and canyons of the Southwest. Shaye currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and three boys, He spends his free time hiking, writing, reading, and following his beloved New York sports teams. 

Shaye

Time to chat with Shaye!

What is your latest book?
Right now, The Executive Graveyard is available on the market and I’m currently working on a legal thriller called “The Privilege.” I can’t wait until it’s finished! I’ve been excited about it since I conceived of the idea several years ago.

ExecGraveyard

You’re a former comedian. Although you’re not writing funny books, has your talent for comedy helped your writing in any way?

What? You don’t think my books are funny? Okay … you’re right, I’m writing crime fiction. But yes, my background in comedy has been invaluable. A good comedian picks up on the little things, the nuances of life and then creatively exaggerates their description to entertain others. So, from doing stand-up, I’m almost trained to find those nuances. Since they’re often the little things about life, or descriptions of characters or places, they only serve to enhance my writing.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No. It seems like everyone in the publishing industry thinks writing a series is the way to go. And they’re probably right, from a business standpoint. But to me, writing is about being creative and entertaining and the thing I love about stand-alone books is that each one requires a new, unique idea. That has always excited me as a reader, and now it excites me as a writer. That’s not to say you won’t see recurring characters but right now, I have a bevy of ideas for books and each one is it’s own entity.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’ve always been fascinated with the way intricate crimes are solved. The use of the intellect and deductive reasoning to solve puzzles with limited pieces, is something that still intrigues me. So I love writing and creating those kinds of stories.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Yes, thank you. I just saved 15% on my car insurance with Geico! Sorry Flo.

What else have you written?

Notes for my kids to skip school, classified ads, bad checks.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That we aren’t good or talented writers because, for one reason or another, we didn’t obtain a publishing deal. Some of the best and well-known writers started out this way and with all the changes in the publishing industry, with ebooks and print on demand, I anticipate we’ll see more and more talent deliberately pursue their careers as independent artists.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Not very often. If they do, I get worried that maybe I don’t have things figured out as much as I should. First thing I do for each character is make a laundry list of personality traits, and things that may have happened in their lives that may shape what they are on the page. Some or most of that won’t necessarily end up in the book but it allows me to get to know each character intimately. And once I know who the character is, I write their scenes with their actions being what a person in their shoes would do and say next. And so, if a character were to do or say something totally unexpected, I’d be concerned that maybe I don’t know the character as well as I should.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

This is going to be strange but for my first book, The Executive Graveyard, I started by writing only the scenes involving Wyatt Orr, the protagonist. And I did that because I had trouble with what my subplot(s) would be, and so rather than fighting a form of writer’s block, I wrote what I had already figured out. And once that was done, things magically started falling into place. I hope not to do it again, but for The Executive Graveyard, it worked out well.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The ending? No. I don’t yet know the ending of the The Privilege. I have some ideas of what it may be, but I won’t make a decision until I get there. The title, however, is extremely important for me to know early on. If I have a good working title, I can start to envision the book and the cover, and it adds to my excitement. And that pushes me harder to get it written!

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

Both. I’m nuts with editing. I did about seven drafts of The Executive Graveyard before I hired a professional editor to help me finish the manuscript. I hope not to need seven rounds with The Privilege, but I will definitely hire a professional editor when I’m ready. Readers deserve a well-polished, professional book and even though I’m an indie author, I feel an obligation to provide that.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

None whatsoever.

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

It’s paramount. I try and choose names for characters that will help the reader envision a certain character. And of course, if I have, say a killer, and I want it to be difficult to figure out who it is, I might be inclined to give the character a name one wouldn’t normally associate with a hardened criminal. So the saying “What’s in a name?” means a lot to me. And yes, in The Executive Graveyard, I did change a character’s name because the first name I gave the character just wasn’t right.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Of course, that’s my job! Writing crime fiction or murder mysteries, if you don’t write characters you truly despise, then it’s probably not good enough.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

If you can find out for me why that is, I would be ever so grateful. I wish I knew. But it goes to show you that there can be a market for just about anything. And that’s why the best advice for writers is to keep writing. And with that comes the next question…

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Sure. Follow your dream and put pen to paper. Now is the best time in history to do that. Can’t get a publishing deal, you can always self-publish. That also means you’ll have full control over your book. And as long as you’re willing to deal with sleepless nights, maybe on … say a park bench, you’ll be fine! But seriously, so long as you’re willing to market and promote yourself, it’s a worthwhile venture.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

It took me ten long years to write and edit the book. I pitched it to a bunch of agents and had a fair amount of interest. But I realized that it could take a very long time, to get an agent and then a publishing deal. And even then, it could be several years until your book is printed. So, I decided that I couldn’t that long and grabbed the proverbial bull and published it myself. I haven’t looked back.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

Trial and error, and lots of (sometimes horror) stories from other authors. I’m a part of several author groups on Facebook and if there’s an issue I need help with, I’ll call on other members for advice.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I use Twitter and Facebook. I’m not a big fan of Facebook, but I do like Twitter. I like the creativity required to fit a message into a small box (140 characters). I don’t, however, like the fact that it isn’t easy to see your efforts translate into book sales!

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

Not really pet peeves but I’m a big fan of the comma and semi-colon. I think the semi-colon is highly misunderstood and deserves a wider role in American literature!

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

A ton. I had to study police procedure, and park procedure since The Executive Graveyard takes place in Zion National Park. I had to have my landmarks correct, and my descriptions on target. I also needed to learn the interplay between the various law enforcement agencies. I visited the park numerous times and interviewed as many rangers, employees, and local law enforcement as I could. In the end, one of the local Sheriffs read the book, and posted a review on Amazon expressing how accurate the interplay between the various agencies was. That was very gratifying.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?

Okay, how about: Do you think there’s anything special or unique about your voice or your writing? The Answer is yes. I try to include a life message in each of my works, something that the reader can take and apply to his or her daily life. The Executive Graveyard has a life message, something I think all of us overlook and take for granted. Is it earth shattering, or something you never knew before? I’d say no. But to read and enjoy a story, and then be able to apply what you’ve read to your own life is very special. So I strive to achieve that in each of my works.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

My wife is the only one who reads or hears about each chapter as I write them, and that’s because she’s too impatient to wait until the book is done! Otherwise, I don’t want anyone reading piecemeal work since he or she won’t know where I’m going with the story. Thus, their input won’t be of much help and if they don’t like it, I could see that playing head games with me and affecting my confidence. So, no.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the feedback I’ve received for The Executive Graveyard. I mean, I’m confident in myself and I know The Executive Graveyard is an excellent story. But I guess I always thought there’d be plenty of critics eager to pounce. So far, that hasn’t happened, but I’m sure it will at some point. Trying to thicken my skin…

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

Jokes and legal pleadings. In fact, some judges have considered my legal pleadings a joke, but those are stories for another time!

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

Oh God yes!!! That gave me fits when I was pitching to agents.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

Pursue the traditional route. Being an indie author is very challenging and I think all of us, deep down, wish we had a big publishing company behind us. Do everything you can to get an agent and publishing deal. The good thing is that, if you can’t, there’s a whole indie underworld filled with us writers just waiting for you to join us. You’re always welcome here!

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m definitely a night owl. And I have three wonderful boys whom I love to death. But I need there to be quiet in order to write so it’s usually after they’ve gone to bed. Since their ages are 12, 10, and 6, my writing time seems to be getting later and later these days!

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

It’s the single most important piece of marketing you will ever do. And I’m guilty of it every day. If I see a book with a dull cover, I have a hard time picking it up or getting into it. Your cover doesn’t have to be conventional, it can be unique, but make sure it’s attractive and pleasing to the eye. Otherwise, you could be sitting there a year later with no sales thinking, “Maybe I should change the cover?”

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

I believe that if you ever have complete control of your characters then your novel will end up stale. Part of writing is to develop a character and watch as they live their lives and in my case, wreak havoc of others’.

Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?

No. Characters are like Doritos, “crunch all you want, we’ll make more.” When I’m done with a book, it’s time to start another story and create new friends

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I don’t press people for them, and I don’t tend to use reviews in marketing the book. The problem is the perception out there that not every review is genuine. But I want as many reviews of my work as possible because they are extremely important. And so, I would say the following: Would you stay at a hotel or eat at a restaurant if Yelp or Trip Advisor had it rated very low? Probably not. Well those ratings are from customers. The same applies to books. Our work contains blood sweat and tears, and if you enjoyed it, or if a story resonated with you, by all means please share the word so others can have the same experience. You can’t deny that when you look at a book online, you look to see what others have said about it. Ultimately, reviews will drive sales.

Do you know anyone who has ever received any auto DM on Twitter (with a link) who was happy about it?

God no. They should get rid of it altogether, or only allow messages actually typed by a live person. I mean, what do attractive women looking for sugar daddies send in their automated DM: “Thanks for following me. Can you take me shopping for some expensive new threads tonight?” Let’s get rid of it.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. If I had to move it would be to Hawaii.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Who were John Candy and Steve Martin, for 200, Alex.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Love Sloppy Joe. I hate anything that’s green.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My three boys. They’re loving, precious, and supportive. I couldn’t ask for better kids.

Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?

You’re asking a former comedian, and one who loved sketch comedy? My pre-lawyer life was essentially daily practical jokes! I’ve had a few played on me and I’m afraid to share them here!

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Compatibility/sense of humor. I prefer one on one to being in a group. So I look for friends that are like-minded, good, compassionate people, with warped senses of humor. Life has so many challenges that you have to be able to laugh at just about anything. There’s very little that I take seriously.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to print money.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That I hated English, grammar, and writing in high school. I’m sure my teachers, wherever they are, are shocked that I’m writing novels!

What music soothes your soul?

Are you looking for “Old Time Rock and Roll”? I’m a rock and grunge guy. I used to work in the music business (for Sony Music and Capital Records) and went to a lot of concerts. I love grunge and alternative rock. Put on some Pearl Jam, 311, or Collective Soul and I’m good. But, having grown up on Long Island, my absolute all-time-favorite artist is Billy Joel.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

Negotiations. It’s not just what I do for a living as a lawyer, but it’s the one skill you utilize every day, with just about everybody.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

I am, and there are four shows that I absolutely love and can watch endlessly. Taxi, The Honeymooners, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Favorite film is a tie between Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, and Back to School with my comedy idol, Rodney Dangerfield. My favorite Book is either The Poet by Michael Connelly, or The Partner by John Grisham.

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

The most recent one I walked out of was the End of the World, with Seth Rogan and all his friends. I love comedies and enjoy Seth Rogan’s work but I found that one unwatchable.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream. But don’t share that with Phoenicians, it’s not always easy to find!

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