How growing up in a female-dominated family influenced my stories, characters, and the overall inspiration for writing the Fair Fae Trilogy.” By Patricia Bossano





How growing up in a female-dominated family influenced my stories, characters, and the overall inspiration for writing the Fair Fae Trilogy. ” 

By Patricia Bossano

In general English, Matriarchy is a form of social organization in which descent and relationship are reckoned through the female line. It is also defined as a social system in which females hold primary power, predominate in roles of leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.

Present day matriarchal societies include: the Mosuo (near the border of Tibet), the Minangkabau of Indonesia, the Akan people of Ghana, the Bribri in Costa Rica, to name a few, but there are also the legendary Amazons, scores of fabled early feminists, mythological sisterhoods, and of course, Faerie, which in my opinion is the ultimate form of a matriarchal clan.
Each community of troop faeries is ruled by a Faery Queen, the first of them originating in Italy—where the sun is said to shine at its loveliest. From there they spread to different parts of the world during the expansion of the Roman Empire, seeking remote locations to set up their underground realms, learning the language of their host countries and adopting the more intriguing customs practiced there, as an act of silent diplomacy.

Being that the smallest structure of society is a family unit, I looked to my own in order to write what I know. On my mother’s side, women are in the majority so I say the beauty, the experiences, and the paradoxical personalities of the females in my family, directly influenced me and inspired the magic of Faery Sight, Cradle Gift and Nahia—true story!

Through my novels, I hope to give you a heartfelt snapshot of the life-journey of my characters who, like me, are part of a grand matriarchal clan celebrating not only the onward, dynamic spirit of the family but also the magical relationship between mothers, daughters and sisters. My dreams of publication became a reality through their support and encouragement, so in return, I feel compelled to be at best, an inspiration to them, and at a minimum, a source of entertainment.
I’m doing my utmost to paint for them a realistic picture of the magical world inside of us—the realm of faerie is the place where mundane abilities can be magnified through perspective and attitude. Sure, a full-fledged faery can fly and shape shift at will, but there is no less magic in the human dimension—I think faerie is an achievable state of being we can aspire to. In the human dimension, our spirits can soar and we may reinvent ourselves as we navigate each day. Buoyed by confidence, we are driven to accomplish ordinary feats and transform them into astonishing ones—such as waking up in the morning with a word of gratitude to the cosmos, thus creating a positive mood for the day ahead. Simply smiling to cause your brain to release endorphins, because we all know how life-altering those little neurotransmitters are…

Clean out your desktop and see how clearheaded you feel afterward—seriously, Feng Shui is practical magic at its best!
Whenever I feel discouraged and like I’m a rookie at life, I choose to see the ordinary as extraordinary and focus on the brightest aspect of any given situation. That seemingly insignificant shift in attitude gives me the satisfaction of knowing I’m doing the right thing, which in turn makes me smile (see above for what smiling does), and enthusiasm bubbles up inside me.

I believe faeries are due to surface all over the planet as nurturing forces of creation and restoration. I think my troop of full-blooded, hybrid fairies is part of a worldwide movement to explore the new, unlearn some of the old, and carry on with heightened awareness.

Author Interview with Kristi Saare Duarte about Her Novel The Transmigrant






ULM: What was it in the ancient scriptures that inspired you to write The Transmigrant?
The idea of Jesus as a holy man rather than the Messiah had been brewing in my mind for a long time. For me, the New Testament story didn’t quite add up. If Jesus were of God, then certainly he would be loving, inclusive and kind, right? Yet, in the stories we hear and the movies we see, Jesus pretty much says, “believe in me, or go to hell,” which sounds like something a bully would say. 

So, when I happened upon a book about Jesus in India, it all started to make sense, the pieces fell into place. I’m not saying this is the truth, or the only truth, but for me it was the logical explanation for who the man Jesus had been, and what he had done during those eighteen years not mentioned in the bible.

I started researching old scriptures and found the Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of scrolls unearthed in Egypt in 1945. These manuscripts date from the third and fourth centuries, and are believed to be based on scriptures from around 80 AD or earlier, which would make them earlier than most of the Gospels of the New Testament. In the Nag Hammadi texts, Jesus is a kind and holy man, but he is not the Messiah. 

The more ancient sources I studied, the more I found scriptures that supported my theory. I did also read the bible, several times, and underlined sections that aligned with my thoughts. There are plenty of jewels to pick from the New Testament if you really look.

ULM: How long have you had a fascination for historical things? 

I grew up in Sweden and went to school in the Old Town of Stockholm, a city that dates from the 13th century, and I guess that has something to do with it. Whenever I travel, I like to visit ancient locations and meditate in the presence of old buildings and ruins and absorb the energy of the past.

I don’t believe people who lived thousands of years ago differed so much from us. They still loved and laughed, were vain and greedy, girls were attracted to boys, etc. I feel like we sometimes forget and believe that everyone was prude and correct, like in the Middle Ages. But before then, the people were perhaps even more promiscuous than we are today. Maybe.

ULM: You mentioned that the Russian traveler, Nicolas Notovitch’s 1894 book, “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ”, also inspired you. What really stuck out to you from this book?

This was the book about Jesus in India that started my thought process and made me want to write The Transmigrant. This was the seed that, many years later, has blossomed into a novel. In the “Unknown Life,” which is based on scrolls found in a Tibetan monastery, Jesus travels across the Middle East and ends up first in Sindh (Pakistan), where he studies Buddhism, and later in Jagannath (Puri, India). 

He makes his way back home via Kapilavatthu (Nepal), the Himalayas, Kashmir, Persia, and Syria. Along the way, he studies Hinduism and Buddhism, among other local religions. The fascinating this is that when you start looking closer, all these religions have common threads. Most of the core beliefs are the same, or every similar. And also, when I looked at the distances and the time it would have taken Jesus to travel from one place to another, the calculations in the book were correct. Remember, there was no Google Earth in 1894. How could Notovitch have made up the story and have gotten it so right? To me, the book is very believable.

ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?

Sly, spiritual, and sexy.

ULM: What was the research like for writing The Transmigrant?

At times, it was overwhelming. I started with The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, the New Testament, and the Nag Hammadi Library. I watched Robert Beckford’s Channel 4 documentaries on YouTube. But the more I read, the more books I found that I just had to read. My apartment in Harlem is packed with books about Jesus. I also tried to read different point of views, different opinions. 

I didn’t want to follow anyone’s lead, I wanted to form my own theory. Finding information about the common man in Galilee, Syria, India, etc. in the first century, was difficult. What did they really eat? What kind of sandals did they wear? There are almost no drawings of poor people from that era. And of course the majority of people couldn’t read or write, and those who could wrote for hire or wrote from a political perspective. I did travel to Israel, Syria, India, and Nepal to see the places with my own eyes. It made a huge difference. 

ULM: What process did you use to help you outline your book?

To be honest, I just started writing. I didn’t know almost anything about Jesus when I started. For example, did you know that none of the gospels, perhaps not a single word in the New Testament were written by Jesus’ disciples? It was a steep learning curve. 

Once I had written my first draft, I went back and forced in a plot line. At one point, the book was 125,000 words long. Now it’s 95,000. I cut out more than a quarter that just didn’t fit. Still, I couldn’t have done it a different way. I think Historical Fiction is like that, you learn as you write, and you don’t know what the story is until you have written the last page.

ULM: What other projects do you have in mind after releasing, The Transmigrant?

I have written the first draft of the follow up, which starts six months after Jesus’s death. His disciples, who have been in hiding, get together and decide they need to keep spreading his message to the world. 

They don’t want him to have died for nothing. I’m at the point now that I need to clarify the plot line, but the bare bones are there. After that, I might write about Jesus’s brother Thomas, who brought Christianity to India. I wouldn’t mind going to India again for research.

ULM: For readers, who haven’t yet read, The Transmigrant, can you share with them briefly about it?

The story follows Yeshua, a somewhat presumptuous young man who thinks himself wiser than everyone else, on his journey to adulthood. It’s focused on the eighteen years not mentioned in the bible.

Yeshua can’t be a priest in his home country because he’s not born in a priestly family, so he travels via camel caravan along the Silk Road to India, in search for a guru. In the novel, Yeshua is an ordinary man who struggles with his ego, falls in love, yearns to be wise, and ultimately dedicates his life to becoming wise.

The book shows the similarities between Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism, and how Christianity can very well be a product of them all combined. It’s not a heavy novel with a hammered-in message, it’s more of a travelogue with some steamy scenes, too. It’s not really a religious book, even though it’s about Jesus, as strange as it may sound.

ULM: What are some books, movies, and or other articles that you enjoy that pushed you into writing this book?

Apart from the research, I mentioned earlier, I don’t think any specific books or movies influenced me. But I did like The Last Temptation of Christ, and I think The Transmigrant might have some parallels with the movie. 

ULM: What are your other hobbies besides writing an entertaining yet stunning book?

I read a lot, of course. But I guess my passion is travelling. I’ve visited a third of the world’s countries, and although I can’t reach them all in my lifetime, I can still dream about it. The more difficult the place seems to be, the more I want to go there. Tibet and Ethiopia are my favorite countries thus far. 

But I don’t mind a weekend on the beach with a good book, either. I also enjoy live music shows. I’m lucky I live in New York City, because there’s free music everywhere. We often go to a jazz dive bar in my neighborhood, Paris Blues. And in the summer, concerts at Central Park Summer Stage and Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect park.

ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?

The Transmigrant is on pre-sale on Amazon.com until July 13 when it will be published more broadly. My web site is: www.KristiSaareDuarte.com. I also have a blog with funny travel stories at www.AmongBuddhasAndBabas.wordpress.com. And if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to email me at: KristiDNYC@gmail.com or contact me on twitter: @kristisaare.

Guest Post: Should an Author Stick to One Genre? by Kayl Karadijian



Should an author stick to one genre?
Most authors tend to stick to one genre. Fantasy writers typically only do Fantasy. Scifi lovers focus on the future and whatifs and nothing more. Romancers can’t get enough of John Smith, and on and on. As an author who started with fantasy, then did a nonfiction memoir, now doing a scifi romance, and will go back to fantasy, I wonder if more authors should explore different stories?

To give some better insight as to what I’m getting at, I want to describe my own foray into new lands. So far, I’ve written five books. Three are from my epic fantasy series Tales of Ashkar. One is from a YA Fantasy trilogy called Dragonsoul. The last is a nonfiction memoir of my great grandfather, who survived the Armenian Genocide. My sixth, which I am currently working on, is a scifi romance inspired by Nic Pizzolatto (the guy behind True Detective) that contains a giant monster rampaging through San Francisco.

So far, I can say that I am glad I’ve ventured out into the dark. Going from fantasy of the utmost caliber to nonfiction in a personal and historical sense has developed my skills as a writer in two ways. The first is that I’ve gone from making up my characters and their story to writing about a real person and his real struggles, allowing me to understand different ways to approach human emotion and conflict. The second benefit is that from taking my eyes away from writing fiction after fiction, I switched to nonfiction and am now switching back. In other words, writing the nonfiction has given me the chance to refresh my skills as a writer, and as I come back to fiction I won’t be dogged down because I’ve just written four fantasy novels prior.

It’s also nice from a voice perspective. Writing fantasy is amazing, but it can also be a challenge when trying to convey a more archaic and specific voice with your characters. For example, my scifi romance is contemporary, and the dialogue and prose is going to reflect that.

So to all the other authors out there who may want to venture into other genres and have cold feet, I say go for it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and I guarantee that your writing skills will improve in some capacity.

 

You can find Dragonsoul, my YA Fantasy, here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCVJVIP and Remembering Avedik: The True Story of a Genocide Survivor, my nonfiction memoir, here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072526BGS



Author Bio

Kayl Karadjian’s bio: Kayl Karadjian is a lifelong fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy books, Manga, and Role-playing games. He is the author of multiple books in the Tales of Ashkar and Dragonsoul series.
Catch updates and follow me on social media here: 
https://talesofashkar.com

https://twitter.com/talesofashkar

https://facebook.com/talesofashkar

Joys, Fears, and Frustrations of Being an Editor by Danita Moon

Joys, Fears, and Frustrations of Being an EditorBy Danita Moon

 

​I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. When I read, things that may be incorrect have always popped out at me. I make a note of what I find and then go back to see if there was an actual problem, whether it be an incorrect character name, character description or timeline issue. It’s hard for me to finish a book if I find that there are many typos or spelling errors. I’ve always asked myself what it would be like to be an editor. Would I enjoy it? What would it be like to work with authors?

​I started working with New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak as her assistant a little over two years ago. I’ve learned a lot from her about the process of writing and editing. So I decided to start proofreading manuscripts, but when I saw what others were charging, I was afraid I wouldn’t get any business because I wouldn’t charge a competitive enough rate. Most were charging so much per word, but I couldn’t see doing that as most authors are now self-publishing. I decided I was just going to charge a flat rate for a manuscript, but because I wasn’t familiar enough with grammar and sentence structure I limit my editing to everything but that.

​The frustrating part is when you are reading a story and see something that just doesn’t make sense. You try to explain that from a reader’s point of view, but it is written from a whole other perspective. I do understand that there is a structure in which a book is to be written and format that it must follow, but I just get a little frustrated when it doesn’t make sense or it isn’t consistent with another area of the story.

​When I first started proofreading or making suggestions to an author, I was fearful of how they would take what I was saying. I mean, here I am, just a reader pointing out something that they spent months writing, and they are the professional, but I eventually realized that it takes several eyes to make a book successful.

​To help in the editing process I took a course to become a certified proofreader and copy editor which I completed last year.

​The editing I do isn’t what I call a standard proofreading service. I’m very detail-oriented and a perfectionist, so when I work on a project, I do a line-by-line edit. If the book is part of a series, then I will research the other books in the series to make sure everything is consistent. This is the author’s life work, and they depend on those who read their drafts to help them polish the manuscript.

​The one thing I’ve learned in my adventures in proofreading is that you can’t catch all errors. It took me awhile to get used to that fact and is still a huge frustration.

​The major joy of being an editor is the fact that I’m a part of such a magical world. These authors have a craft that very few have. They weave stories that draw so many of us in and take us to places that we can only dream about. To be a part of the process that gets these books out to the reader in as perfect a format as possible is a magnificent feeling.

Author Interview with Anita Kulina




Interview With Anita Kulina 

ULM: How would you describe your main character, Mrs. B?

Mrs. B has lived in Burchfield since she and her late husband Albert bought their little house when they first got married. She has two children, but both of them livethousands of miles away. Every morning Mrs. B plays pinochle at the Senior Center in the basement of St. Mary’s Church, where she gets to see her closest friends, Myrtle, Anne and Rose. Dinner used to be a quiet meal watching the classic movie channel, but Mrs. B sometimes has company now that her new neighbors moved in across the street. Burchfield is a city neighborhood that feels like a small town. It’s a very rooted neighborhood, where people live in the same house for generations. Mrs. B and herfriends sometimes struggle to get by, but they have each other and, to them, that’s the most important thing.

ULM: What inspired you to write, A Question of Devotion?

I write what I know. The character of Mrs. B came first, based on the strong women I knew growing up. Then I developed the town of Burchfield, which I based on the world I knew as a child. Most of the characters in A Question of Devotion are based on people I knew, or are composites of people I knew. After I had the characters and the town, I knew right away it would be a series. Theidea for the plot of A Question of Devotion was based on a newspaper article I ran across a long time ago. I had set it aside, thinking, “I might want to do something with this someday.” When Mrs. B was born, that someday had come.

ULM: What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

I love writing, it’s lots of fun for me. Other than being with family and friends, it’s really the way I like to spend my time. I do have to take a break once in a while, though! When I do, you can usually find me walking through my city neighborhood, or in my kitchen baking scones.

ULM: Will there be another Mrs. B novel?

I’m halfway through the second novel and have an outline for the third. So the answer is yes!

ULM: How would you describe your writing?

If you’re looking for a serious, dark book full of dead bodies and mayhem, you need to look elsewhere. But if you want to curl up in a comfortable chair on a cold afternoon with a cup of cocoa and a cozy read, A Question of Devotion might be just what you’re looking for.

ULM: What other books have you written, if any?

A Question of Devotion is my first mystery. I also have a nonfiction book, a historyof Western Pennsylvania. Now that may sound dull, but I assure you Millhunks and Renegades is not a typical history book. It’s told through the lives of the residents of Greenfield, which was once part of Squirrel Hill, home of the notorious Girty family. There are lots of scandals and the book is chock full of tidbits of fascinating information. Did you know Andrew Carnegie once belonged to a street gang, and that he dated Stephen Foster’s wife? 

You can read excerpts of Millhunks and Renegades at: http://www.brandtstreetpress.com/millhunks.html. 

ULM: Where can readers find you and your book online?

A Question of Devotion is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or you can ask for it at your local bookstore. 

I probably should learn more about social media, but the truth is I’d rather be writing. If you’d like to contact me, I’d be happy to hear from you. 

Send me an old-fashioned email at: anita@brandtstreetpress.com

Brandt Street Press is my publishing company. http://www.brandtstreetpress.com/ 

Author Interview with Vicki Righettini

Author Interview with Vicki Righettini


ULM: What inspired you to write your debut novel, The Blue Hour?

As a kid I was fascinated by stories of the pioneers. In fact, there’s a history of pioneering in my family: my mother’s side came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the 1700s, then moved to Kentucky and Illinois, then finally to California by train in the 1940s. Growing up I always imagined myself as one of those hardy pioneers. But after researching The Blue Hour, I’m not so sure! But the idea for The Blue Hour started with a trip my husband and I made to Eastern Oregon in the late 1990s, where we visited the newly-opened Oregon Trail Interpretive Center outside Baker City at Flagstaff Hill. Nothing brought the Oregon Trail to life for me like that exhibit. I didn’t just learn about the Trail, I were there. During that same trip, we drove around the spectacular Blue Mountain area, seeingthe wagon ruts that still exist, and exploring old homesteads and settlements. 

That got my mental wheels turning: why did people settle here? Why not go the rest of the way to the Willamette Valley, where farming is easier and the weather is much milder? They’d already traveled nearly 2,000 miles; the worst of the trip was over. So why did they stop at the Blue Mountains, instead of going all the way to the endof the Trail at Oregon City?I wanted to know the answers, so I wrote – and researched – the book to find out.

ULM: What lead you to use Oregon as your book’s setting?

In 2002, after twenty-odd years living in Oregon, my husband was offered a job in the Boston area. He’d been out of work for a while, a casualty of the dot-bomb, andmy acting career had stalled, so we said “Why not?” and moved lock, stock, and barrel to New England. I was prepared for it to be different, but I couldn’t have predicted the culture shock: the unfamiliar food in the stores; the thick North Shoreaccent which I could barely make sense of; the crazy weather; and the even crazier,hard-to-navigate roads, all of which made me feel as if we’d made a wrong turn and landed in a foreign country. I was so confused by the winding streets in our neighborhood, I didn’t leave our driveway for the first two months!

Once the unpacking was done, I found myself terribly homesick for Oregon. I’d started the novel before we left, and since I had no job yet, and no prospects of one, I went back to the manuscript, and spent a good portion of every day with the state I loved and deeply missed. It was a wonderful year of writing and research, and a great feeling when it was done.

ULM: You mentioned that you love the land of Oregon. What is there to love?

First and foremost, it’s a beautiful state. Oregon is sparsely populated with spectacular natural scenery; there are mountains, desert, and coastline all within driving distance of the major cities. And Oregonians seem to have an almost innaterespect for the land. Practically every person I knew had a serious vegetable garden, and for years I was an avid gardener myself (which came in handy the yearmy husband was out of work). The great outdoors is simply a part of life, whether you’re a hiker, bicyclist, or walker. 

Not every Oregonian is an eco-warrior, but pretty much everyone loves the state they live in. Of course, there’s the rain, but the gorgeous summers more than make up for the nine months of drizzly, gray weather (which is why Oregonians drink so much coffee). Add to that a dedication to fresh, local food, and a growing number of local breweries, and you have a winning combination. If the winter weather weren’ta migraine trigger for me, we would have happily gone back when we left New England. Though I know for certain we’re not the only former Oregonians to have headed for sun-drenched San Diego!

ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?

Vivid, visual, and heart-centered.

ULM: The Blue Hour is a historical romance tale. Why choose the historical route for writing it?

The historical part was easy. As I said above, I’ve always been interested in the Oregon Trail and the pioneers who traversed it. What wasn’t clear was the romancepart, which I never set out to write. But once I started asking myself the story questions of who, what, when, where, and why, I immediately saw two characters (who turned out to be Emily and Cole), in two different scenes. Which sparked the final question: how did they get there? Answering that question brought the romance aspect into play.

I could probably have told the story of Emily and Cole in any era, but by choosing the 1860s and the Oregon Trail, I was able to introduce conflicts and hardships thatwouldn’t have been available to me had I set it in modern times. Setting the story in the Victorian era allowed me to explore current issues (women’s rights and gender roles, for example), from a friendly distance. Historical perspective filters current issues and events in a way that makes them accessible to modern readers. I’m interested in how we’ve progressed as a society – where we began, and where we’ve come to. By following the journey of an individual from the past, we can seethose issues more clearly than if we viewed them through the muddied lens of our own time.

ULM: Which of your characters was the hardest to create?

It’s a tie between Samuel and Emily. They were both challenges, but in different ways. Samuel is based largely on my father, which made his behavior familiar to me, painfully so, but it also made him fairly easy to write. After all, I’d had years ofdirect experience and observation to draw from. But I’d never tried to understand his actions; to me, like it or not, that’s just the way he was. Not until my editor told me she had a tough time understanding his actions, did I go back and look at his motivations. She pushed me to show the reader why Samuel did what he did; not tomake him more likeable, but to make him more believable. Justifying and understanding my father’s behavior wasn’t a place I necessarily wanted to go, but itwas good that she made me do it. As a result I understood my father better, and it improved the book enormously. 

My problem with Emily was that she was too internal. I knew what she wanted andwhat she was thinking, but it didn’t come across on the page. She was absent in her own story. I realized if I didn’t communicate her thoughts and desires to the reader, the story would be dead in the water. In the process of bringing Emily’s inner self to light, she evolved into a stronger, more sympathetic character than the one I’d originally imagined, someone with toughness and heart. She was still a reluctant heroine, but much more relatable. And those qualities have resonated with readers. 

ULM: What would you like readers to take from reading The Blue Hour?

Having been a teacher, I rejoice when readers say they learned something they didn’t know before, especially if it’s some tiny detail I geeked-out over! But I didn’tset out to educate anyone other than myself. I like sharing stories, and in this case Iwanted to tell a readable tale about one woman and the obstacles she had to overcome, both imposed from the outside, and coming from within. Of course, I hoped that readers would be inspired by Emily’s story, just as I was by the pioneer accounts I read, but I also know you can’t inspire someone who isn’t engaged. I did my best to tell a gripping story that keeps the reader turning pages, wondering whathappens next to the characters they’ve come to care about. In other words, I wrote the kind of book I like to read.

ULM: Do you have any other writing projects that you can share with us, readers?

Readers have been clamoring for a sequel to The Blue Hour, and it thrills me that they care enough about the characters to want more. I made a stab at it, and have about forty manuscript pages, but the story wasn’t grabbing me. If I’m going to spend five or more years on a book, it has to be something I’m obsessed and in lovewith. 

Also, in writing The Blue Hour, I set many family and personal issues to rest.Now that I’ve battled those ghosts, I feel the need to move on. Perhaps with the passing of time, I’ll miss Griffin Gulch and its denizens enough to revisit it.So…I’m doing the unthinkable and switching genres. I’ve always loved mysteries, and I’m working on a cozy mystery series that takes place in Portland, Oregon, a quirky, beautiful city, and a great place to set a story. 

My amateur sleuth is Camilla Reed, a free-lance singer and voice teacher. Camilla is a transplanted Texan: funny,earthy, and smart, with a heart as big as her home state. But she can’t get her love life together, and she repeatedly falls for the wrong men. 

Her next-door neighbor, Ted Sullivan, a retired Boston cop and fellow transplant, would like to be more than a friend, but he mainly ends up helping her with espionage and house repairs. 

An added detail is that Camilla is prone to migraine headaches. This puts her at a disadvantage, but it also grants her unusual powers of perception. Her heightened sense of smell, hearing, and other sensitivities, especially right before an attack, turn out to be remarkable sleuthing tools. This fits into the category of “write what you know.” As a chronic migraineur myself, I have years of personal experience at my disposal. It’s a pleasure turning this affliction around and showing it in a positive light. 

In all, I’m planning a series of three books. The first manuscript is finished, and thesecond is underway. I’m having a blast writing these stories, so stay tuned…

ULM: What else besides writing do you enjoy doing?

I love reading! I read approximately a book a week, plus I subscribe to a number ofwriting and arts journals. I also love to cook: I’m the weeknight chef at our house, and I find it relaxing and creative. Then, I’ve also started my first vegetable garden in a good long while; my seedlings must be tired of seeing my face peering at them. I still love theatre and music, even though I’m no longer performing, and my husband and I are avid theatre-goers, taking in about three shows a month. I’m also a rabid Red Sox fan. Following the team was the best thing about living in New England; in a word, the Red Sox are habit-forming!

ULM: You have mentioned being an actress. What was that like? 

Also, did that career influence your writing?As a performing artist and teacher, I was lucky to work in a field I’m deeply passionate about. I’ve traveled to places and met people I would never have been incontact with any other way, and who deeply influenced my work and my career. I was beyond fortunate to be able to make a career doing something I loved. But after forty years, with the onset of early menopause, I developed devastating, chronic migraines. 

Because they could strike at any time without warning, I was suddenly no longer reliable. I tried gutting it out, and I did everything I could thinkof to continue to work. But the performing life is chaotic and unpredictable at the best of times; it’s a recipe for constant pain. Eventually it was clear: I had to let thatlife go. I’d had a forty year run, and a good one. I did pretty much everything I’d wanted to do – played coveted roles, traveled, made some great friends, and grew tremendously as an artist. I left without regrets. Acting influenced my writing without question. 

One of my favorite exercises for character development was to write a biography or a journal as the character I was playing. It was my favorite part of the process, and it wasn’t unusual to find me stillwriting on closing night! That process taught me how to step into the shoes of any character, no matter how evil or unsympathetic, and see the world through their eyes, an invaluable tool for any writer. But beyond that, I learned about scene structure, language, and story line. I developed the ability to create huge desires for my characters, devising ways to getthose desires met, and to deal with the success or failure of the pursuit. I learned to look beneath the text for secret desires, to fill in the blanks in the script. And I learned invaluable lessons about dialog, rhythm, and pacing. Without a doubt, my writing would not be what it is today had I not learned those lessons in the theatre. 

ULM: Where can readers find you and your debut novel online? 

Excellent question! I love hearing from readers, and I personally respond to every message I receive. I can be reached through my website and blog  http://vickirighettini.com/

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 There is also an order page for the book on my website: http://vickirighettini.com/buy-the-book/; or you can purchase the book online at Amazon http://amzn.to/2i7Gn6M; Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/2mKgX2j; or order it from any bookseller of your choice.

I also have author pages at: Facebook: http://bit.ly/2lHPUqZ; Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1UtgcEu; and Twitter: https://twitter.com/VRighettini 

I look forward to hearing from your readers soon! 

Author Interview with Shirley Rose Webb



ULM: What was like writing this memoir?
It was fun but extremely painful and at the same time very therapeutic.
ULM: How would you describe My Sister, My Daighter, and Me using only three words?

Crazy, fun, ridiculous.

 

ULM: Which scene from your memoir would say was the best time shared among the three of you, ladies?

Our cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, It was crazy fun from the beginning to the end. We all laughed and laughed until we could laugh no more.

 

ULM: How did finishing the memoir feel?

It was a comforting feeling of letting go, leaving some anger and pain behind as well as finding some closure after five years of suffering.
ULM: What advice would you give to others who went through similar situations? 

Seek the assistance of a professional therapist to help you take one step at a time. Keep a sense of humor, a positive attitude with friends and family and, most of all, laugh all you can!
ULM: Did you ever think your memoir would be published by a publisher?

I always knew I had a great story to tell.
ULM: Are their any other future writing projects that you can share with us, readers?

A future writing project will be about a troubled teenager living with the HIV virus.

ULM: What would you say to someone who is struggling?

Don’t give up. Stay strong and positive and follow your dreams.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your memoir online?

inkwaterbooks.com/shirleyrosewebb 

Meet, Poet, June Marie Davis…


 



ULM: What inspired you to write Reflections of a Soul?

 

 JMD: I was told that I couldn’t and that I wouldn’t amount to much by a close relative. So I did it, I wrote a book.

 

ULM: How long have you been writing poems?

 

JMD: Since I was a teenager, 12 or 13 years old.

 

ULM: Which of your poems inside Reflections of a Soul was your favorite?


JMD: They all have a special sentiment to me, but if I had to choose I would say there are two that are my favorite. “I AM”, which is the last poem in the book is an empowering poem about being who you are, being proud and accepting of that.  

 

“Daddy’s Little Girl” is the first poem to open the book and I chose that poem because it was something that I never experienced as a child. My mom did an amazing job raising my brother and I as a single parent, but the not knowing what my father was like was always a curiosity to me.

 

ULM: Are there more poems you have written besides the ones inside your latest book?

 

JMD: I do have more poems, and I try to write often. Writing is cathartic for me, most times I just write down what or how I’m feeling and I wont go back to it for days or weeks later.

 

ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?

 

JMD: Simple, Contemplative and Flawed. 

 

ULM: Do you have more works coming out soon? If so, can you share with us, readers, what those will be and when they’ll be published?

 

JMD: I have some works in progress. I’m working on a children’s book and another book, but I’m not quite sure of its format just yet. I am hoping by the end of the year to have one or both books published.

 

ULM: Have you published other volumes of poetry?

JMD: My first poem was published when I was 16 years old in a book with varies poets, but Reflections is my first book.

 

ULM: What advice would you give to other poets?

JMD: I would say to never give up on yourself and never let any one person keep you from your destiny. If you want to write, write. Your words are worthy of being read.

 

ULM: Where can readers find your work online?

 

JMD: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Inkwater Books

 

 

Author Interview with Michael Scott Curnes






COPING WITH ASH by Michael Scott Curnes

Inkwater Press, January 26, 2017

(Reviewed and given 5 stars by Danielle Urban)

Author Interview

 

ULM: What would you like readers to take from reading your book, Coping with Ash

MSC: Loss and grief are universal human elements but how we cope with these is uniquely individualized. There isn’t a handbook for this. This story is meant to be a gift from the narrator (the deceased) to the survivors he leaves behind and a guide to helping them cope with the loss of their lover, brother, son and friend, who was a gay man they loved, named Ashton Taylor. This story is a reminder to not take a day, a person, or moment for granted. Our breathing days are finite and our chances to love and be loved are brief.
 

ULM: The emotional journey of your book was powerful. What did it feel like as your wrote it?

MSC: This story is personal for me and so I wrote it to be personal for the reader. There were many moments when I would write a passage through tears as I put myself in that vulnerable place of someone suffering from loss and abandonment and unspeakable loneliness. Every other page asks the question: how would I cope with this if I were the one left behind?

 

ULM: Coping with Ash is written through the dead character’s point of view. Why did you choose Ashton’s point of view versus his lover’s?

MSC: The overly detailed plan to distribute the cremated remains (cremains) of the deceased is a plot the deceased put into motion. In other words, he started it. It just made sense to me that he should be the one to tell the story he started, posthumously. The deceased was a novelist—a storyteller, in fact had his third novel set to be published and then he died in the middle of his morning shave, unexpectedly. He believed he understood how the news of his death would be received and his cremains managed by those around him so I made him the narrator so that he could witness the execution of his instructions.
ULM: I noticed your book held a racial and LGBT theme. What was your purpose for inserting these into your novel?
MSC: For me, the novel’s main characters just happen to be Native American and gay. I didn’t construct this to be thematic or to make any particular statement. I suppose I could say I made a point of using these characteristics as a reminder that Native Americans and gay men have life experiences and stories to tell and that they love, they mourn and they figure out how to overcome unfathomable loss—just like everyone else. My previous novels, Val and For the Love of Mother also both featured central characters that were gay. Is this because I am a gay writer or that I have a duty to increase the number of gay characters in modern, published literature? Sure.  

 

ULM: How would you describe your writing using only three words?

MSC: Intentional. Personal. Exploratory.

 

ULM: What other books have you written besides Coping with Ash?

MSC: ​Val, 1996 Brownell and Carroll Publishers

For the Love of Mother, 2011 Inkwater Press

My writing also appears in two published anthologies:

Writing the West Coast: In Love with Place, 2008

Living Artfully: Reflections from the Far West Coast, 2011

 

ULM: Any future works that you can share with us, readers?

MSC: I always have a novel or two percolating. Stay tuned.

 

ULM: Where can readers find You and your work online?

MSC: ​www.copingwithash.com 

​www.Amazon.com

Special Guest: Joe Cosentino 



LAUGHING ALL THE WAY CREATING NICKY AND NOAH OF THE NICKY AND NOAH COMEDY MYSTERIES
Book Three: Drama Cruise, published by Lethe Press

by Joe Cosentino

As a college professor/department head, I have always been aware that colleges are rife with mystery, romance, and humor. I remembered back to my days as a junior faculty member in the theatre department. Using combinations of various people I’ve met, I created Nicky Abbondanza, Associate Professor of Play Directing, and Noah Oliver, Assistant Professor of Acting, at fictitious Edwardian style university Treemeadow College in Vermont. I patterned their department head, Martin Anderson, after myself. Hear that television producers?

If you haven’t read Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite Mystery, Crime, Humorous, Contemporary novel of 2015) and Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) published by Lethe Press (and you should!), the series is a cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning. Along the way, Nicky and Noah fall in love with each other, as I’ve heard the readers fall in love with them.

In Drama Queen, college theatre professors are dropping like stage curtains and amateur sleuths/college theatre professors Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. Reviewers called Drama Queen “hysterically funny farce,” “Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys,” and “a captivating whodunit.” One reviewer wrote Drama Queen was the funniest books she’d ever read! Who am I to argue?

In Drama Muscle, Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out why bodybuilding students and professors are dropping faster than barbells. Nicky and Noah’s relationship reaches a milestone by the end of the novel available in paperback and e-book. Again reviewers praised the humor, fast pace, and engrossing mystery calling it “hilarious,” “a brilliant masterpiece,” and “a stunning series.”

Now in Drama Cruise, it is summer on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back (which I took with my spouse). Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from across the US. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple. Martin Anderson (Nicky and Noah’s department head) and his bickering husband are also along for the rocky ride. As in the first two books, there are a slew of colorful, hysterically funny victims and suspects like the cruise director who talks endlessly about her glory days as a theatre major in college, the ship’s doctor who is looking for the secret of life, Nicky and Noah’s porter who wants them to adopt him, and the captain of the boat who insists he has seen the ghost of his former sea captain. The theatre professors are equally as colorful, including an alcoholic who believes he has seen a mermaid, a hypochondriac looking for love, a comic with a cat of nine tails in her closet, and a Shakespearian actor who can’t keep his hands off his volume of the Bard—or off anyone else. Reviewers said the series is getting better with each book. Again, no arguments here.

It is my joy and pleasure to share these stories with you. So take your front row seat. The boat is leaving from port. Lights up and ahoy matey! Alaska here we come!

P.S. – Drama Luau, the fourth Nicky and Noah, mystery releases in six months!

 

DRAMA CRUISE (a Nicky and Noah mystery)

a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO from Lethe Press

purchase links:

http://www.lethepressbooks.com/store/p405/Drama_Cruise%3A_a_Nicky_and_Noah_Mystery.html

http://myBook.to/DramaCruise

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/686512

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Drama+Cruise+JOe?_requestid=1795262

 
Theater professors and couple, Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, are going overboard as usual, but this time on an Alaskan cruise, where dead college theatre professors are popping up everywhere from the swimming pool to the captain’s table. Further complicating matters are Nicky’s and Noah’s parents as surprise cruise passengers, and Nicky’s assignment to direct a murder mystery dinner theater show onboard ship. Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is bringing the curtain down on vacationing theatre professors before it is lights out for the handsome couple. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining third novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and ship ahoy!

Praise for DRAMA CRUISE, the third Nicky and Noah mystery:

 

“I have been an avid reader of Joe Cosentino’s books for some time and he has yet to let me down. His ability to write highly original, yet somehow realistic, characters is one of his greatest strengths as a writer. Their quirks and personalities fill the pages in a way that makes for a fabulously entertaining and totally engrossing read. I loved this book and highly recommend it to lovers of farce, humour, murder mystery and sweet MM love stories.” Divine Magazine

 

“Superb fun from start to finish, for me this series gets stronger with every book and that’s saying something because the benchmark was set so very high with book 1.” Three Books Over the Rainbow

 

“Joe Cosentino does it again with Drama Cruise, the third Nicky and Noah mystery. I loved the humor, drama, and theater work inside. Plus, the romance and murder investigation keep readers turning the pages. Absolutely, must read this latest book in the series.” Urban Book Reviews

 

“If you are looking for a good, funny book to shake the blahs, love mystery, humor and romance, and a story with a twist or two, you’re bound to love this.” Cathy Brockman Romances

 

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of 2015 by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle and Drama Cruise (Lethe Press); In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out Cozzi Cove series (NineStar Press); Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries; and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015, and has won many Rainbow Award Honorable mentions including for Drama Muscle. Upcoming novels are Drama Luau (fourth Nicky and Noah mystery) and Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings (fourth Cozzi Cove beach novel, NineStar Press).

http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoeCosentinoauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeCosen

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4071647.Joe_Cosentino

Amazon: Author.to/JoeCosentino

 

Excerpt of DRAMA CRUISE, the third Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino, Lethe Press

 

The stunning movie star’s long jet-black hair created a silky fan on the

cold marble floor. Surrounding her were a crowd of guilt-ridden faces: her

possessive husband and producer, her handsome young paramour and co-star,

her aggressive agent and female lover, her jealous sister and stand-in, and her

makeup man who knew all her secrets (and she knew his). A detective arrived

on the scene, took one look at the murdered beauty, and fell in love.

 

“Nice job, people! Let’s take ten.”

 

That was me, Nicky Abbondanza, Professor of Directing at Treemeadow

College, a white stone Edwardian-style private college in the quaint and

picturesque village of Treemeadow, Vermont. And how did I become the director

of a murder mystery dinner theatre show on a ten-night June cruise from San

Francisco to Alaska and back? I spotted an online ad seeking theatre professors to

present theatrical workshops for passengers on a cruise, culminating in a murder

mystery dinner theatre presentation on the last evening. Okay, technically my

colleague and fiancé Noah Oliver, Professor of Acting at Treemeadow, spotted

the ad in an educational journal, but I applied for my department head and

mentor, Martin Anderson (producing the show), my Noah (acting in the show),

and me (directing). Martin’s husband, Ruben, came along for the ride.

Martin and Ruben are a sweet, elderly couple (don’t tell them I said that)

who have been together forever and have two grown daughters. For our part,

Noah and I are both tall, but the similarity ends there. I have dark hair, long

sideburns, a Roman nose, and a pretty pumped body thanks to the gym on

campus. Noah has exquisite curly-blond hair, sky blue eyes, a smooth build, and

the most loving heart on land and sea. I am just a tad older than Noah—but

what’s seven years? A lot when you are thirty-six and your lover is twenty-nine.

Oh, there’s one other little thing. Actually, it’s not so little. I have a thick

nine-and-a-quarter inch penis—flaccid. Luckily, Noah is very open (pardon the

pun) to my anatomical quirk.

 

After flying from Vermont to New York to San Francisco and waiting on

endless security lines in the airports, the four of us got to the boat, where we

waited on a long security line to come onboard. After unpacking in our cabin then

getting a quick lunch at the bountiful buffet, Noah and I made our way through

the sea of polyester, and somehow remained awake during the life boat drill.

Then we dodged photographers, dollar signs shining in their eyes like paparazzi

at a closeted gay movie star’s mansion, and headed to our first rehearsal. As the

dining room was occupied with guests eating lunch, we rehearsed in a nautical

themed lounge onboard ship.

 

After an hour and a half of rehearsal, it was break time. While the other

professors scattered like televangelists near an IRS building, Noah and I sat on a

cozy loveseat next to a gas brick fireplace. Noah looked amazing in an aqua polo

shirt and white pants, while I was a bit more toned down in yellow slacks and a

cranberry hoodie. I took Noah’s soft, warm hand in mine, and said adoringly, “I

can’t believe we’re here.”

 

Noah responded, “My first cruise.”

 

“My little virgin.” I kissed his cheek.

He looked out of the porthole and kissed the cleft in my chin. “The sky and

the water are gorgeous.”

 

“I hope we get to the deck to see them.”

 

“We won’t be rehearsing all day, Nicky.”

 

“Don’t you need a break, handsome, young paramour character?”

 

Noah snuggled his shoulder into my chest. “I’d rather wallow away the

minutes with my intended.”

 

We shared a warm kiss.

 

 

 

 

Author Interview with Jerome Gleich (Some Thoughts on God and Other Things)


Me: What are some messages that you hope readers will take with after reading your book? 

I hope that they may come to believe that maybe there is a better place, a better existence out there, waiting for us when we die.

That it is inhabited by a being most wonderful in every way.

If we lead a good life here on earth (because that is his will), that we may in so doing make ourselves better people and the earth a better place.

 

Me: Do you think that there will ever be a time when Americans will truly forget/abandon God?

 

I pray that that will not happen and my book is an effort to try to stem and reverse that trend.

A lot of my book contains thoughts that are not really my own, that is, they just came to me, in the middle of the night, on the train, or at work (and I believe that these are inspired by God).

And I also think that things may be better than we think.

Unfortunately, the main stream news media only think that bad things are news and that there is an awful lot of good stuff going on to, whether it be with Religion or just things in general.

 

Me: If Americans continue at the rate that they are going now, what are your predictions for the future?

 

While we are a very long way from it, if we continue down the road of selfishness, division and partisanship, we could be heading for an implosion, perhaps a violent one.

And no matter what your position or beliefs, no one but crazy people can want that to happen.

And again I see signs of change and good things happening, good people happening (of all types) and that keeps my hopes alive.

 

Me: You mention that many religions have a lot in common. What are some common grounds that they seem to share.

 

That there is just one supreme being, one God and for many of us that is the God of Abraham.

That there is a heaven or paradise awaiting us.

That we all require purification and need to work on that while we are here in this world.

And as part of that, that we need to help others, especially the less fortunate.

 

Me: Would you say that your degree in Economics has greatly affected your thoughts when writing this book?

 

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, which means that while Economics was my major, I really have a Liberal Arts degree.

And that means that I had classes in Philosophy, History and Literature and those were more instrumental than Economics in writing my book.

 

Me: If you can give others advice what would it be?

We are physical beings, be more into doing than showing and/or sharing.

Try to enjoy your life as best you can (it goes by so very quickly).

You need to work but try and find something that you can take some enjoyment and pride out of and develop more proficiency and expertise (those last will help you to stay employed).

Find activities that you enjoy.

And find out what your talents are and pursue and develop them.

Travel!

 

Me: After reading your book, I am curious. Where do you see the millennials leading our country?

It is a very difficult question to answer on different levels.

First of all, I do not look at Millennials as a homogeneous group of people.

They define a generation as roughly twenty years but the truth is, that there are generational differences between people born even several years a part.

So I look at Millennials as being split into a least two groups, those being born at the being of what is considered Millennial and those born later (I am at the head of the baby boomers and my brother born five years later has some different values).

I know many of the early Millennials and probably very few of the later ones.

Those early ones seem to have values similar to mine but I have concerns about the later ones, whom seem to be to be too immersed in technology but that perception is likely more based upon their portrayal in the general Media, than personal interactions on my part.

Those I do know, whether early or later, again seem to have good values, so I do not have any concerns and feel that they will lead our country in the proper direction.

 

Me: What other hobbies besides writing do you enjoy that you can share with us readers?

You know I am an older guy and played and participated in pretty much every sport and activity you can think of when I was younger.

When I was Fifty-five, I bought a large motorcycle and was privileged to take some cross country trips, which were great adventures (unfortunately I just very recently had to sell my motorcycle – just getting to old and felt that I was maybe pushing my luck, as a very dangerous activity to partake of).

So now that leaves me with singing.

I sign (karaoke) two to three times a weeks and have sung with bands and professional performers and have actually made two CD’s and have plans to do another.

 

Me: Do you have any future writing projects at the moment that you can tells us about?

I am working on another book and it is about America.

The concept of America and what exactly it means to be an American.

It will include historical details on our founding fathers (I don’t think people understand what a brilliant group of people they were (most of them were geniuses) and what they personally risked in leading the revolution).

And it will also delve into what the Constitution really means.

 

Me: Where can readers find you and your work on line?

My work is available on Amazon, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, I-Tunes and I believe also Kindle.

I can be contacted at jeromeg7814@comcast.net.


 

 

 

Author Brittany Weekley – The Secret Life of Thomas Commons

Author Brittany Weekley – The Secret Life of Thomas Commons
I never thought I would be writer. I wrote poems and attempted a novel at the age of 14, but it quickly ended when I entered high school. I wouldn’t write again until I was in my mid-20s.

​I viewed a writing career as many others did, unpractical. I worked low paying jobs, quit college, and focused on a future that seemed so bleak. Then, something in me changed. I broke the chains that society had me trapped in, and I started my first novel, The Secret Life of Thomas Commons.

​From the moment I began writing Thomas, I have found it difficult to explain his story. I can never do his story justice through a simple five minute explanation. The themes and the issues that my characters go through in this book simply have to be read from Thomas’s perspective to be fully appreciated. Although I am the creator, it felt like I was falling away from that position. My characters seemed to take on a life of their own; they became their own person with my help.

​The idea for this book came to me after seeing the changes taking place within our society. The hardships endured today made me curious about the hardships people would have faced centuries ago. The more research I did, the more horrified I became. There were days I would weep for the innocent lives lost because of a lack of understanding and compassion.

​How the ending of this book is interpreted depends on the reader. It’s not the traditional happily ever after. I chose to do this because it’s crucial to highlight the importance of the reality of their situation as well as those who lived through it centuries ago. To put it plainly, life is cruel. We don’t always get what we want, and in the end, that can shatter the human spirit. However, not all is lost. As we have all heard more than once, with the bad comes the good. Things may not turn out exactly how we wish them to, but those hardships can lead us down a path of learning, acceptance, and necessary change.

Lessons learned and happiness shared: a teacher turned writer talks about her books…

Do you remember the last time you had one life-changing, earth-shaking realization? A piece of insight that came to you like a thunderbolt and changed you forever. In moments like that, we remember the event in great detail, through all of our senses. For me, it was the spring of 2015. I was sitting at home on the couch in the living-room. My son was pushing some trains around in my husband’s office and I could hear the wrenches and the hammers and I don’t know what else making noise in the garage as my husband was changing the oil in my car. It was the perfect morning. I had the perfect life, the perfect partner and the perfect child. But I myself felt far from perfect. I struggled with dark thoughts of anger towards myself and others, profound insecurities about myself and a sense of powerlessness that felt awfully close to depression. I was filled with fear and worry about all kinds of things – some real but mostly imaginary. The irony was that I had been waiting for a morning just like that for decades, thinking that when I had everything in place “just so”, those dark clouds would dissipate and I would live happily ever after. The revelation that I had that morning on the couch was this: I had had my “happily ever after” and I still was not happy. I finally understood, right then and there, what they mean when they say that happiness is an inside job. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had to find a way to feel happy. The outside circumstances were there. I just could not feel good anymore.

I spent many years reading whole libraries of self-help and psychology. I even saw a shrink for a couple of years. While all of that helped, somehow I found myself bouncing back into my old insecure, mildly (or moderately… or more…) depressed and powerless sense of self. I had good reasons, mind you… or so it seemed. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 10, after which my mom became severely depressed and later on sent me away from home to live with strangers. I had a sliver of self-esteem left and not much help in battling the dragons back then. Somehow though, I found my way to a lot of goodness. I went to school. I explored passions like writing and music. I had life-long friends. I became a teacher. Then, after what seemed like a very long search, I found my way to my husband and then my son. The dark clouds followed me there too though.

That morning on the couch, when I understood that I had to find a way to feel happy, I also understood something else: I had forgotten (for lack of a better word) how to literally feel happy. It had become a habit to “feel bad”. My body was used to it. I was literally addicted. But I say “forgotten” because I could remember a time when I felt happy: it was very, very far back and I was very, very small.
“What do I need?” I asked myself. If literally feeling good was what I needed, how did I go about feeling good on purpose? I had tried faking it before… pretending to be joyful and hoping that it might stick. But pretending did not work. It had to be genuine. So then… what next?

I felt tired, exhausted even. I felt like a rat that had been running on the treadmill for decades, trying to chase away unhappiness. Perhaps I could just stop for a few minutes… give up the struggle altogether. I settled into that comfortable couch of ours and tried to think of nothing but this: comfort. I wanted to be comfortable and enjoy it just a bit. My mind wondered. I thought about all the ways in which I had comfort on my life… in our lovely home, in the car that I drive and all the modern appliances that help make life so much easier. I thought about the blessing of having a bit of comfort for someone who is in pain. It was so very close to happiness… and so was I. Modest, ordinary comfort.. The comfort of a soft pillow, of running water and of having a fork to eat with.
I felt a bit better and left it at that. I was done struggling. But I had liked my little “comfort meditation” so much that the next day I tried “curiosity”. I love that feeling. I love the searches, the wild trips into the imagination, the explorations of the world. I love looking at curious children or curious animals. I love curious people and watching them explore. Curiosity, as it turned out, was part of happiness too.
That week and the weeks that followed I tried some other feelings: adoration, satisfaction, tenderness and more. At times I had to stretch myself, because I had run out of “good feelings”. My “good feelings muscles” had atrophied. But they were coming back to life. My life transformed. It inexplicably transformed.
In the months that followed I realized that somehow I had found my way to being well inside my head – and body too. I had discovered how to “be happy” – in a very real way. I had taught myself how to feel good on purpose and whenever I wanted. I felt good a lot of the time and then most of the time and then… the dark clouds became as rare as rain in the desert. 

I wrote “The Happiness Switch” to teach others about all this – about the emotions that make up “happiness” and how to cultivate them on purpose.. Depression and anxiety hit everyone at some point. I really wanted to share my process in order to help others who struggled. Personal experiences are inspiring.  
But this is not the first book that I wrote.
You will forgive me if I use the word “revelation” too much, but as it happened, I spent a lot of time contemplating my life and trying to make it work during those days, so I had some other insights that helped me find my balance. They came from my experiences as a teacher. 
I have worked with hundreds of kids as young as 4 and as old as 16. I have worked with hundreds of adults from all walks of life. I seemed to have a knack for putting them at ease. Sometimes I had to deal with difficult ones (children and adults) – but they have taught me the most about what they need in order to heal. They have also taught me much about all the ways in which we are all the same: we are born healthy and whole, filled with love and enthusiasm and without a trace of “dark clouds”. Self-love and self-esteem are non-issues. They are so much there, in the very beginning, that they seem ordinary somehow. 
There is a “sap” inside humans that guides us towards what is good and nourishing for us. A “sap” that loves us and wants all the goodness in the world for us. If the flow of the sap is restricted, the problems start. Harsh environments would do that. A lack of love or proper care would do that. But the connection can never be completely severed. It’s just impossible. This is why it was possible for me to go back to the “happiness juice” – to all those lovely feelings. This is how “Your Inner Child is a Winner” came to life. That was the foundation, in a way, for “The Happiness Switch”.

Those two books describe a way of life. My way of living happily. In health and in love and in joy. I live very differently in my head now – and in my body too. I am not only happier, but also more connected to life. I feel more loved. I feel more loving too – there is more of “me” available and present and capable of giving. There are other things too. Procrastination just dropped away – it was really only fear in disguise. My writing career took off. It feels as if the sap inside of me is flowing freely. I can feel it in my veins. It is so very good…
I have seen a lot of suffering in my life – and I have suffered a lot. I wrote those two books to share my experiences and to say to others: “There is a way out. You were built with a well of goodness and of love inside, that can guide you to your best life. You can always find your way back to it. You can feel good – simply because you decide that you are going to. Love and goodness were never lost. They are only a thought away.”
————————-

Christine Ellis is a teacher and writer. She lives with her husband and young son in an enchanted forest close to Brussels, in the chocolate-filled kingdom of Belgium. You can find all of her books on Amazon or through her blog, http://www.findgoodfeelings.wordpress.com

Author Interview with Scott Burn

Author Interview with Scott Burn


Me: How did it feel when you finished your debut novel, The Enemy Within?

The idea of finished is something that’s hard to get my head around. I remember about a year into the process I thought it was done. I showed it to my literary agent who thought it was great – and now it was time to roll up our sleeves and really get to work. I think it was another year before I was finally ready to put the pen down. But months later, I still sometimes find myself thinking about the story, about a character I might have added, about a moment that the lead character might experience. So I think it’s one of those things like a great relationship in the past that always keeps a tiny hold in your head even long after you’ve moved on to other things. That said, when I finally did stop working on it, it felt amazing and the story was what I had always wanted it to be.

Me: What led you to writing comics?

I’m a screenwriter first and foremost, and while I had always enjoyed the comic world, I had never looked to break into it. But the opportunity to do so pretty much fell in my lap. Film producers that had sold a project of mine came to me because they were working with a comic book company developing a new sci-fi project called AGON. They were looking for a screenwriter to shape the idea and frame it in a way that it could be reverse engineered into a feature film. The comic book company let me run with my approach and we did a 5 book mini-series. Hopefully one day the movie gods smile on it and the story finds its way to the screen.

Me: Can you share with us, readers, what your science fiction comic series Agon, is about? 

AGON is story about what happens when an alien herald comes down to earth and tells us that we’ve reached a stage of enlightenment that has impressed their hierarchy of advanced civilizations. We’re invited to participate in their next series of games. But what they’re impressed by is not our technological or spiritual enlightenment, but our propensity for mass violence. The competition requires each emerging civilization to send 10 of their greatest warriors. The winning planet is gifted incredible rewards. The losers’ are wiped out. Our lead in the story isn’t a warrior, but is among them trying to discover a way to prevent the imminent destruction about to take place.

Me: What is it like going from comic book writing to writing screenplays?

I really enjoyed my experience in the comic book world. It’s a different way of thinking, where you literally have to map out frame by frame what your story is going to be. And it’s also a remarkably efficient form of writing where you have to find ways to express the story as minimally as possible while still maintaining the greatest impact. It’s a challenging adjustment and the writers who do it well are really gifted at that. Once I got my head around thinking that way, the stories came together well. Screenplay writing has certain similarities in that you want to enter each scene as late as possible and leave as early as you can so the story has a brisk pace. And while I don’t picture the way every single scene will look, I do like to have the way the basic frame will work and imagine it playing out in my head. So the comic book way of thinking helps to string those series of images together.

Me: Can you share with us, readers, some of the screenplay titles that you have done?

The interesting thing about Hollywood is you can make a living as a writer even if your projects haven’t yet been made. I have several projects in development at different studios. Hopefully one day one or all of them will wind their way through the maze into production. One of them is called COUNTDOWN – it’s about a group of astronauts who land on a distant planet and find their own dead bodies. The script is based on an old Richard Matheson short story called DEATH SHIP. Another is called Arena, about a group of Navy Seals about to die in a battle who suddenly find themselves transported to an arena where there are warriors from all different time periods. They have to figure out who brought them there and why while trying to escape. Another is called ORIGIN. It’s about what happens when a primordial black hole begins disrupting the time/space continuum around earth and the team that has to go up and find a way to destroy it.

Me: Which would you say is more difficult to do, comic books, screenplays or writing a novel?

I don’t think any of them are easy. And on different days each of them would win when I’m hitting my head against the wall on a given story. But I do tend to find that novel writing takes a certain kind of endurance I wasn’t expecting when I first set off on the journey. It’s exhausting, and if you think you can sprint through it, you find yourself spent long before you reach the finish line. It really is much more like marathon running and I had to train myself to think that way. In each of them you want there to be little treasure gems on every page that continue to pull the reader in, but never distract from the story. I found creating that balance most challenging in the novel world, but it’s also one of the reasons I’m such a proponent of rewriting. You work at a scene or chapter in a story over and over and keep finding new elements to make it better. I tend to have a greater sense of clarity about how to do that in the screenwriting world a little quicker than in the novel arena – which I found was much more about exploration and wandering down the wrong corridors until I found the right one.

Me: Do you enjoy writing comics or screenplays more?

The best thing about the comic book world was that within weeks of writing the final draft I was seeing art work connected to it. It was a pretty awesome feeling to see the words brought to life. But I tend to enjoy screenwriting more just because movies have been woven into my DNA since I was little. I don’t think there’s any better feeling than sitting in a theater and being blown away by a movie. It’s why I became a writer to begin with.

Me: Science fiction fantasy is a tough genre to write. What led you to writing a novel for the young adult category?

I had been wanting to do a story about teenage alienation for some time, and to stretch my wings on novel. One day I came across an interesting story about how NASA knows precisely how many satellites are orbiting earth at every moment of the day. I thought what would happen if we found one more than there should be. The outline for the story THE ENEMY WITHIN came together pretty quickly from there. I was familiar with some of the YA sci-fi novels out there and didn’t want mine to feel like a soap opera or a love triangle, but much more about what it’s really like to be teenagers who have always been on the outside looking in for different reasons. And I think that’s what’s led to people responding to it so well.

Me: What are your future works, if any, that you can share with us?

I’ve been working on the feature side about a story of convergence between the world of science and faith – how to the two are woven together in ways most people wouldn’t imagine. And I’ve been working on another novel whenever there’s time about a town that makes a Faustian deal, and the price they pay when they break it. Creepy fun.

Me: Using three words, how would you describe your writing style?

Pensive, playful, unexpected.

Me: Out of curiosity, how did you go from being a lawyer to a full-time writing career?

I had always wanted to write when I was young. I loved movies and novels and pretty much consumed my life with both. I started writing short stories. Most were awful, but some were just mediocre – I didn’t know about rewriting in those days. In college I started a literary journal and in law school had a secret underground newspaper. But being a lawyer seemed like a safer bet. And it was. While I never loved it, the work was perfectly fine. But I knew that I never would wake up and love it – eventually that feeling became too strong. I wrote a indie feature that got optioned for a few bucks. When that happened, I decided to take up writing full time. And fortunately I’m able to make a living at it.

 Me: Inside the, The Enemy Within, which characters did you enjoy creating the most?

He’s a satellite character, but I really enjoyed a character named Kitamura, an attache to a Colonel. Although the spotlight isn’t on him, he has a wry sophistication and rare moments of humor that really came together in my head very quickly. His voice continually wanted to be heard and I found myself trying to find other ways to explore his character because he was so interesting (to me). 

Me: As a professional writer, would advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The most important thing is make sure you have something to keep you going financially through the long journey. I knew more than a few writers who wanted to do it full time in Hollywood, went into debt and paid a really steep price. As much as time is important, I’ve found when you’re focused you don’t need many hours a day in a coffee shop.You can accomplish an incredible amount of work in 2 hours a day. But it’s really important you find a way to set those 2 hours aside, ideally at the same time each day. You need to train yourself that that’s writing time. Not writing and email time, not web surf and writing time, just writing. And whether the pages are good or bad, keep going. Don’t get caught up in the rewriting process until you’ve finished the draft, otherwise, you may never finish.

Me: When you write, what are your first thoughts when engaging a new project?

I don’t necessarily think this is the best way to do it, but for most of the projects I write, it all begins with a What if question. What if X happened or what if Y happened. From there I start to build out characters that might be the ones dealing with it. The first draft choices are usually obvious and terrible, but the more I chisel away at it, the world slowly comes together.

Me: Where can readers find you and your work online?

My website is: scottburn.xyz 

THE ENEMY WITHIN is my first novel. They can also find my comic book AGON at some comic book shops. Unless they work in development, they probably won’t get to know my screenwriting until something gets made. I’m thinking about writing a single for Amazon at some point, but I’m not quite sure when that will be. Hopefully sooner than later. I have a What if percolating… 

Guest Post: So You Wrote a Screenplay by Scott Burn

SO YOU WROTE A SCREENPLAY

By Scott Burn

Awesome! Now here’s the sad news. Nobody cares.
Let me take a step back – every agent, manager and producer I know is desperate for good material. They would love to have that near perfect script that will become the next mega-hit or Oscar winner. They are also convinced that your script isn’t it. And the truth is, they are right 99% of the time.

I’m by no means a big writer. I’ve sold and optioned several projects at different studios. I’ve been hired to rewrite other people’s projects, and I’m fortunate enough to make my living solely as a writer. But I’ve never had a film made – the movie gods just have not smiled yet. Or another way to think of it – something was missing from the model.

And what is the model? That is the big question. One studio exec told me he’d much rather have a script with a big idea and a great ending than a script with a mediocre idea where every page was flawlessly written. What makes for that big idea, it’s something that an exec can go into his bosses office and say, “It’s about a group of astronauts that land on a planet and discover their own dead bodies…” His boss immediately gets the idea – he can see the movie in his head and boom, off to the races. That was one I sold years ago with my old writing partner based on a Richard Matheson short story. Perhaps one day it will find its way to the screen.

While there are all kinds of paths to getting to that movie premiere, the system of Hollywood is designed to keep you as far from that path as possible. Let me start with the challenges then we’ll get into solutions. I had lunch with an agent friend not too long ago. He shared with me how countless writers and directors were on him to make something magical happen with their projects. But the reality of Hollywood is fewer films are getting made, many are remakes or based on pre-existing material (book, TV show, game, etc)… The last thing any manager or agent want to do is take on a another mouth to feed when he doesn’t have something he thinks he can sell.

That’s the key – as much as we all love movies, if you don’t have anything they can sell (and my focus here is strictly on Hollywood, not the indie world), then they will pass you by without a second glance. So what are the steps to getting in?  

1. Come up with an idea that you’re excited by and people love when you describe it in 30 seconds. If it takes you 5 minutes to try and explain it, move on. Picture the movie poster. If you can’t see it with a cool tag line, don’t bother.

2. Write the first draft. Don’t stop, don’t slow down. Try to write at the same time each day so you get in a rhythm. Most importantly, don’t go back and edit. Just finish. “But Scott – I have a great idea to add to the first act.” Awesome, make a note of it and keep moving on.

3. It’s great that you finished your first draft – most people don’t. Take a moment, raise a glass and enjoy that feeling. Now here’s the hard thing to accept – it’s awful. Don’t worry. Everyone’s first draft is awful. Now go back in and rewrite again and again until it’s as great as you can make it. The next hard thing, it’s isn’t great yet. Don’t give it to friends and family – give it to nasty, bitter writers who will tear it apart. That’s good – you want that, painful as it is, because until that script has been seen by the brutal side, its still your first draft. Now pull up your big boy/big girl pants and do it all again. And again.

4. Once you’ve gotten it to a point where every page glimmers, now comes the hard part. Ultimately there’s a saying in Hollywood – a great script finds a home. But that only happens after banging down every door you possibly can. That means reaching out with query letters to every worthwhile agent and manager in Hollywood or NY. Most won’t respond. Of those that do, most will say no. But if the idea is great enough, you might slip through the cracks and some assistant will take a glance and give to his boss. And then… they’ll have notes. 

Leave no stone unturned: you have a friend who knew someone in the mailroom at CAA? Reach out. Your plumber’s brother is an assistant at Industry Entertainment? Reach out. But, and I can’t stress this hard enough, don’t reach out until that script is as perfect as you can make it. That’s not days or weeks, it’s months and sometimes years. And when the rejections come, don’t be deterred. “Onward” is your new slogan. Nothing may happen with that script in the end. I would be surprised if it did. That’s OK, now take that approach and do it again with your next project. And then again. Most people I know who break through do so somewhere around their 6th or 7th script. In other words, years of toil. Writing screenplays is a craft and it’s one that needs to be studied to have any chance. 

And remember this – many wanna-be writers disparage Hollywood movies, usually while complaining that their project is so much better. Don’t mock the hand that you want to feed you. If other projects are succeeding, look at why, try to understand what made them work such that tens or even hundreds of millions are spent on them. Then create your own…

Guest Post: Deceiving Bella 


Ethan Cooke Security and their bodyguard team return to action in Deceiving Bella – book eleven in Cate Beauman’s Bodyguards of L.A. County series. 

With over 7700 reviews and a 4.4 rating for the entire series, see why the Bodyguards of L.A. County is a multi-award winning series.

 

Buy It Now! Available on the following: Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

 

New to the series? No problem! Each book in the “Bodyguards” series is a stand-alone title. Although reading the books in order is preferred, it is not necessary. Each title features brand new primary characters and limited overlapping secondary characters. Don’t hesitate to jump right in!

Isabella Colby has always yearned for normalcy. Now that she’s settled in LA, she finally has it. Good friends, a pretty home, and her thriving career as the Palisades’ top skincare specialist are a dream come true. Bella is content until she meets her hunky new neighbor, but her attraction to the blue-eyed cutie is the least of her worries when contacting her long-lost father threatens to destroy her happy life.

Reed McKinley is more than ready to forget the past. His seven-year stint as an NYPD detective nearly got him killed. His wounds have healed and he’s starting over as Ethan Cooke Security’s latest recruit. With sixty-hour workweeks and little time to himself, the last thing on his mind is a relationship. Then he bumps into the gorgeous woman next door.

Reed and Bella become fast friends. Before long, Reed discovers that Bella is keeping dangerous secrets. Bella may have the answers to decades-old questions he’s been searching for. Reed will risk it all to uncover the truth, but he soon realizes that the deeper he digs, the direr the consequences.

Long Story Short: Grow From Rejection

 I often hear others in the industry mention their love of the written word or how they knew they wanted to write stories for as long as they can remember. In my case, neither of those statements quite rings true. I hated reading as a young girl. It wasn’t until I was twenty that I had any desire to pick up a book and read for pleasure. I also never knew I wanted to be a storyteller until five short years ago.

For most of my adult life, I worked with children with moderate to severe special needs. I loved it. Then we moved to a new state and the career I had chosen turned into a nightmare. My new job was awful and I resigned after a month of coming home in tears every day. For about two weeks, I binge ate chocolate and reread my favorite Nora Roberts novels. And then an idea clicked. I decided I was going to be a writer and tell fascinating stories just like my most favorite author.

My husband came home from work and I shared my new ambition. I think he thought I had lost my mind, but he supported me anyway and has continued to be my biggest champion. 

For weeks I sat at my computer, typing away, having no real idea of what I was doing, but I loved it and how hard could it be, anyway? For a long time, I thought I was a storytelling genius—that one person who could write down their words and would instantly be picked up for a writing contract as soon as I got my work into the right hands. Wrong!

I finished my first draft and joined an online writing community where I could trade critiques with other writers. I learned so much and realized I had a long way to go to improve my craft. I rewrote my novel twice before I sent it off for professional editing. And the editor emailed me the next day to tell me not to give up my day job and refused my manuscript.

For a good two weeks I went back to the chocolate and Nora books and was ready to give up, but my champion reminded me that an editor is just a human being with an opinion. Thankfully, I resubmitted my work to a new editor and he got started right away. While my editor helped me clean up my project, I got started on the next story, then the next. Within a year and a half, I had three completed novels on my hands and wavered on what I should do with them.

After doing much research, I decided I could spend months writing query letters or I could put my work out there on Amazon and the several other vendors available to indie authors and see what was what. This was the right decision for me.

One nail-biting weekend in October 2012, we made all three books—Morgan’s Hunter, Falling For Sarah, and Hailey’s Truth—live and by weekend’s end, they were climbing Amazon’s ranks and made the bestseller list.

Now, here I am less than three years later and I’ve begun work on my eleventh novel. I wake up everyday thanking my lucky stars that my new job in a new state had been truly wretched, that I had the courage to try something different, and that I have loyal readers that eagerly come back for each new adventure in the Bodyguards of L.A. County series.

With lots of hard work and a healthy dose of divinity thrown in, I’ve managed to become an international best seller, the runner up and winner of several very cool awards, and the writer of well-rated novels.

Long story short: never be afraid to learn, go after what you want, grow from rejection, and be thankful every single minute for your tragedies and triumphs.

  

The Official Soundtrack

 I love music! I can’t imagine a world without catchy tunes playing, especially when I’m writing. Music is inspiration. Melodies, beats, and the mood of each song help me portray emotions and feelings as I tell a story. It’s a rare day when I don’t have my headphones in place, bopping my head, while my fingers race across the keyboard. You can listen to the “soundtrack” for each book on my website http://www.catebeauman.com.

 

The soundtrack, of sorts, for Deceiving Bella:

• Favorite Song by Ben Rector

• Lay It All On Me by Rudimental w/Ed Sheeran

• Into You by Ariana Grande

• Cake by the Ocean by DNCE

• Truth by Steve Moakler

• Any Other Name by Thomas Newman

• Rock Bottom by Hailee Steinfeld

• All I Want by Kodaline

• Crash by Usher

• Stand By You by Rachel Platten

 

About the author:

 International bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. In 2015, JUSTICE FOR ABBY was selected as the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Gold Medalist, while SAVING SOPHIE took the Silver Medal. SAVING SOPHIE was also selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense and FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Awards.

 

Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on her twelfth full length romantic suspense novel.

 

SIGN UP FOR CATE’S NEWSLETTER TO BE NOTIFIED OF MONTHLY GIVEAWAY OFFERS

AND NEW RELEASE INFORMATION

 

http://www.catebeauman.com/getmyfreebooks

 

FOR A LIMITED TIME: NEW SUBSCRIBERS WILL RECEIVE A FREE COPY OF MORGAN’S HUNTER AND FALLING FOR SARAH, BOOKS ONE AND TWO IN THE BODYGUARDS OF L.A. COUNTY SERIES!

 

Follow Cate:

 Amazon Author Page

http://www.amazon.com/Cate-Beauman/e/B00A05KHVM/

BookBub

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cate-beauman

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/catebeauman

 

Social links:

Twitter: @CateBeauman

http://www.catebeauman.com

http://www.facebook.com/CateBeauman

http://www.instagram.com/cate_beauman_author

 
 

Special Guest: K.C. Willivee


I’m pleased to be talking some about the process of writing The Wrong Man. I was working as a therapist in a male prison and developed a long-standing interest in how people rebuild their lives after incarceration. Certainly, I was interested in the societal aspects, tasks like finding employment, obtaining stable housing, and seeking ongoing substance abuse and mental health treatment. But over time I became fascinated with how the reintegration looked on a personal level. Add a growing awareness of the problem of wrongful convictions, and I had a story I couldn’t wait to tell about love between an innocent man and his alleged victim’s sister. 

 While I wanted the book to be informed by my experiences working in the prison system, I wasn’t looking to write a book about prison. So I focused on Patrick’s life after his release, and on the ways that he and Natasha resolved their difficulties around the circumstances of his incarceration. Natasha had worked hard to put him behind bars, and that was something that they both had to live with and address. I wasn’t satisfied with that level of challenge, though, and created a shadowy conspiracy that was actually responsible for Natasha’s brother’s death and that now had her and Patrick in its sights. 

Because of that danger, Natasha had to make a very quick decision about whether or not to trust Patrick. Then they could work out the rest as they fled from their enemies and tried to unravel tangled loyalties. For me, a good romance novel is about equality and mutual support between partners, healthy conflict resolution, and overcoming obstacles together-in an entertaining, escapist way and with a heaping dose of sexual chemistry! 

 As a reader, I typically don’t want to take a break from the realities of daily chores and responsibilities to read about those same mundane things. Instead, I’m looking to be transported and to emerge from the reading experience recharged. And that’s what I hope I’ve provided with The Wrong Man. I love hearing from readers and would welcome your thoughts and comments. 

You can post on my page at Amazon (amazon.com/author/kcwillivee) or email me directly at kcwillivee@gmail.com. I’d like to take the time to thank Danielle again for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this post.

Research in Las Vegas by Jennifer Samson

Research in Las VegasBy Jennifer Samson

 Las Vegas has always fascinated me. There are so few cities on earth that have grown at the speed of Las Vegas. It’s history is full of the mafia, nuclear weapons testing, murders, reclusive billionaires, and amusement park-like casinos. What’s not to love?

 When I decided to set my book Sin City in 1960s Las Vegas, it was the perfect excuse for a trip to see “old Las Vegas”. Which was great until I’d seen the only 3 casinos on the Strip that still existed from that time (Tropicana, Flamingo, Caesars Palace).

 Downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street preserved a little more of that time, with casinos like Fremont, Golden Nugget, Binions, Four Queens, Golden Gate and the El Cortez still standing from another era. Granted, it’s hard to picture another era with a giant TV screen canopy stretched over blocks of Fremont, and people on zip lines overhead. Even the old school was shrouded in new.

 “Old Las Vegas” is things that happened five minutes ago, so I knew it was going to take some major research to get things right regarding what it was really like in the 1960s. The problem was where to research.

 It’s only been in the last 20 years that Las Vegas has made efforts to preserve its past with museums like the Neon Museum and Mob Museum.

 Founded in 2012, the Mob Museum (http://themobmuseum.org) is located in the former Clark County Courthouse, just a block from Fremont Street. Armed with my camera and a notebook, I spent one of the hottest days in July (note: aim to visit in spring or fall if you don’t like melting to death) on a self-guided tour through the blessedly air-conditioned museum to research.

 It was pretty overwhelming, and completely fascinating.

 From the early days of Las Vegas and the early days of the mafia in Chicago and New York, to recent criminal activity, the Mob Museum has it all. Artifacts included the wall the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened against (complete with bullet holes), Bugsy Siegel’s sunglasses and watch, and the headstone of mafia figure Meyer Lansky, along with weapons, photos, and stories from “the good ol’ days.” Artifacts and displays are regularly swapped out and reconfigured so every trip you’ll see something new.

 The amount of information was staggering, but it gave me such a great feel for the time period. Parts of what I learned made it into the first book and will make it into sequels – from the Sheriff’s Blue Book entries on local criminals, to the skim at the Stardust, and inspiration for mafia characters.

Recently the Mob Museum hosted a talk by former Chicago Outfit associate Frank Cullota about his days working in Las Vegas with Tony Spilotro. Cullotta testified against Spilotro after being caught as part of the “Hole in the Wall Gang” – a group that robbed local Las Vegas businesses by cutting holes in the roof to gain access. Cullotta was later a consultant on the movie Casino, and had a small part in the film. Mr. Cullotta runs mob tours in Las Vegas (http://www.frankcullottascasinotour.com), and my next visit is going to include his tour, which is very highly rated. A future book of mine is set in 1970s Las Vegas, and I think the tour will be a great source of info.

 Nothing really compares to doing in-person research when you can. I originally loved Las Vegas for its crazy mix of architecture and endless places to eat (I recommend the sticky toffee pudding at Gordon Ramsay Steak), but now I appreciate so much of what came before. I just hope I’ve captured a tiny slice of 1960s Las Vegas in Sin City.

 

 

 

The Spark That Lit My Writer’s Flame by Ed Duncan



The Spark That Lit My Writer’s Flame
 The first inkling that I might someday be able to write something worthy of publication came in the form of a few words penned by my eleventh grade English teacher, which she added to the end of a term paper I’d written. To her students she was plain Mrs. Shropshire but to me her first name, at least, was anything but plain. It was Sadie, an uncommon name then and now, which for me evoked the image of a seductive singer plying her trade in a bar on an exotic, far-away island somewhere in the South Pacific. That was because the only other woman named Sadie I’d ever heard of or seen was the temptress portrayed by Rita Hayworth in the movie, Miss Sadie Thompson.

 Mrs. Shropshire was no Rita Hayworth and I’m sure she had no desire to be. Probably it would have amused her to know that at least one of her students associated her with the fictional Miss Sadie Thompson. She was a comely, no-nonsense African-American woman I suspect in her mid to late thirties when I was one of her students. She was a stern disciplinarian with a caustic wit, but what was most distinctive about her was her absolute command of English literature and grammar. And so it was with great pride that I read the words at the end of my term paper she felt were warranted by my effort: “Your writing is seldom, if ever, equaled among our students.” Wow!

 I kept Mrs. Shropshire’s words tucked away somewhere in a corner of my mind because, you see, I wouldn’t need them for inspiration in the career I had chosen. In my senior year in college I had decided to become a lawyer. As such, I wrote an awful lot of letters, memoranda of law, and trial and appellate briefs. In the last years of my practice I even wrote a legal treatise for judges and lawyers called Ohio Insurance Coverage, which was the field of law I had specialized in. But none of this writing ever sparked my imagination or caused me to draw upon whatever it was that Mrs. Shropshire saw in my term paper now decades earlier.

 I also kept my term paper in a cardboard box with other memorabilia, and whenever the thought of writing fiction crept into my mind, I would refer back to Mrs. Shropshire’s words to make sure I remembered them correctly and that she had actually written them.

 At a high school reunion years ago I asked whether anyone knew what had happened to Mrs. Schropshire. Sadly, I learned that she had passed away. No one knew any of the details. We hadn’t kept in contact since I graduated from high school and moved away, but the news made me profoundly sad. Now that I have written my first novel, Pigeon-Blood Red, I’m doubly sad because I wish I could have told her that it was inspired by those few words of high praise she wrote on my term paper many years ago.

Pigeon-Blood Red is a fast-paced and suspenseful crime thriller by Ed Duncan. It was released in March 2016, published by Zharmae and is available for sale on Amazon.

 Duncan says, “It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I am a lawyer – as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man – and I’m excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally.”

 Synopsis

 For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

 As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 Praise for Pigeon-Blood Red

 “Pigeon Blood Red has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader nodding his head with approval.” – Readers’ Favorite 

 “In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review

“This charming, classically-told crime thriller is a must for noir fans…refreshingly old-school pulp, inhabited by a familiar cast of gamblers, con men and hustlers found in Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard novels” – Best Thrillers 

About Ed Duncan

 Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/

 Readers can connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Big Flies Excerpt and More from Keith Hirshland

 

Excerpt:

THOSE DAYS

 

Chester was back at the Lander’s, in the dark. He had already stopped at the row that was home to the baseball-card box, knelt down, and for the dozenth—or was it hundredth—time (he had stopped counting), he grabbed a pack from the middle of the box and stuffed it into the back pocket of his black jeans. Next he straightened up, and like a dancer who had practiced a move across a stage until she could do it with her eyes closed, he made his way silently, mindlessly, toward the safe.

Standing before it, he mentally congratulated himself on how good he was getting at opening the little box full of cash. He wondered how much more quickly he could do it or if the Landers, or someone else for the matter, had a bigger, different safe. How long it would take him to open that one. Maybe it was because he allowed himself this brief moment of contemplation, or maybe it was because he had traced and retraced these steps so many times before that the nerve endings had dulled and the heightened sense of awareness had dipped to an all-time low. Regardless of the reason, he never heard Emmett Lander approach, and thus figuratively jumped out of his skin when the thirty-three-inch, thirty-two-ounce Louisville Slugger baseball bat the old man was wielding came to rest on his right shoulder.
He wanted to scream or run or piss his pants, but he did none of that. Lander had done nothing more than silently and effectively announce his presence. Why hasn’t he hit me? Chester wondered, and then the man who currently held Chester’s life in his hands, along with a wooden baseball bat, spoke.

“Hey, kid.”

He sounds almost friendly, Chester thought, trying like mad to read the situation.
“Watcha doin?” Lander spoke again, this time sounding more like the cat that caught the canary.

“Getting ready to open your safe,” the canary replied. Chester figured, Why lie? He was caught red-handed, breaking and entering probably the least of his problems—a Louisville Slugger to the knee, ribs, or temple more than likely the worst. What good would adding some mealy-mouthed lie to the current predicament do? Seconds that seemed like ticks on a forever clock passed, but no part of Chester’s body was forced to play the part of a Rawlings baseball. Finally, or at least it seemed like finally, Lander spoke again.

“Again?” was all he said.

“Sir?” was the question to the question Chester asked.

“You gonna pretend to rob me again?” Now Chester said nothing, but Lander was far from finished. “You are gonna open that safe in about ten seconds”—Seven, Chester thought, but didn’t interrupt by saying—“pull out all the cash, take it across the street, and set a spell looking at the baseball cards you also swiped”—he tapped the barrel of the bat on Chester’s right butt cheek—“and then you are gonna bring it all back, every dollar, and put it back in the safe just to do it all again in a couple of days or a week.”
Chester felt the weight of the bat on his shoulder again and wondered if the time for his beating had finally come.

“Turn around.” Chester noticed the order carried no anger. He turned and faced his captor.

“You’re good,” Lander said, looking squarely into Chester David’s eyes.

“You knew?”

“I knew.”

“All this time?”

“Not all this time, but for a long time.”

Chester looked at his shoes, toes pointed toward each other, then let out a soft whistle, and shook his head. He looked up at Lander, who now rested the bat on his own shoulder.

“You think I’m good?” It came out childlike, hopeful.

“I think you’re better than good.” Lander smiled and added, “And I can make you great.”


 Creating the Right Elements in Thrillers by Keith Hirshland

Big Flies is my first novel so going in, throughout the process, and as I reviewed the work, I did my very best to humanize the characters because those human qualities are the ones that make the characters relatable to readers.

I think you can have an interesting plot or a well-paced narrative but if you don’t have characters that are believable or relatable then your story suffers. Creating the right elements starts with the right characters.

While something might be possible, in my opinion, it has to be plausible. So it would be inauthentic for me to create suspense by using experiences or mechanisms that are inherently unfamiliar to me. Since I am not afraid of monsters it would come off as disingenuous for me to write a character who is afraid of monsters.

Another element I utilized in Big Flies was to incorporate actual, historical events. Again, I feel that goes to the heart of the matter of being relatable to a reader. Fiction based on fact is a time tested method and, as a reader, it is something that always draws me into a story and makes the reading experience, for me, that much more enjoyable. So it made sense to me to use that same technique in Big Flies. Four, notorious, unsolved robberies within a 15-year time span serve as building blocks for the book. It made sense to me that if this method is something I enjoy when employed by other authors it stood to reason that it would make writing the book more pleasurable for me and in turn more interesting for others to read.

Characters and circumstances go hand in hand. I want the reader to be able to give in to the story. To be able to relate to the character (that person is like me or I know someone like him or her) and then place that character in a place and time that is familiar as well. That, in my mind, gets the reader invested and then creates a comfortable place for them to completely immerse in the story.

 

Special Guest: Kari Anders

Hi everyone, please, welcome our special guest, Kari Anders.

Kari Andrews is a book cover designer. Below, you can find a photo of her work. 

BlogGraphic

 

Meet Kari Anders

Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs freeebookcovers.com. All of Kari’s covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.

Designing Your Own Book Cover: Elements of a Cover that Sells by Kari Anders

 

As an indie author, you’ve probably read about the differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. Some of you may have chosen to self-publish for the advantages it brings over traditional publishing: higher royalties, creative control, faster time to market, global rights retention, and more. Or you may have chosen to self-publish after rounds of unsuccessful queries. Either way, all indie authors need to understand the Elements of a Cover that Sells before finalizing their design and clicking that sweet button on Amazon that allows you to say, I am an author.

 

I’ve often heard traditionally published authors complain they have little to no say in cover photography or design. Authors begin to imagine what their cover looks like as they are writing their story. They feel they know their story best and therefore have the knowledge needed to design a great cover. Unfortunately, they link those two thoughts incorrectly. Knowing a story well is usually a fault when it comes to creating a cover, which is why traditional publishing houses usually keep authors far away from cover design.

 

Why? This is a problem best described through the cliché: it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. When authors are asked what their book is about, they often have a hard time answering. Their book is about so many things. They try to describe the main storyline, the subplots, the theme, the lesson, the story arc, the relationships between the characters, the character’s backstory, how the family got their dog, why they moved to San Francisco, all without giving away the ending. Has a friend ever asked you what your book is about? How hard was it to simplify your work into just a sentence or two?

 

Most authors are sentimental about their book, and rightfully so. They want the cover to do it justice. But they forget that the cover is packaging. It is intended to sell the product. It’s not intended to be the product. So, what sells a book? Does the cover need to intrigue readers? Does it need to have colors that pop against a white background? Does the text need to have high contrast? Maybe these are concerns if you are Stephen King or Nora Roberts. But if you are reading this, you are likely not already a New York Times Best Seller, and therefore, these details are secondary. You are trying to get your book read by readers looking through hundreds of thousands of titles in a similar price range in a world where a new book is published on Amazon every five minutes. The truth is, your cover needs to do one thing: give your story away.

 

The market landscape in books has been changing for a while now. Readers are left to choose from such a wide variety of books, and they usually spend just seconds on a cover or description to determine if they are going to buy it. This doesn’t mean you need to be intriguing or stand out from the crowd. It means quite the opposite. Creating mystery around your book by using a unique cover confuses readers; they don’t know what you are trying to communicate. Instead of being intrigued and ready to know more, they are ready to move on.

 

Catching readers’ attention starts with a good description. You want to set the scene very quickly and give as much away as you can while asking as few questions as possible. If your book asks five new questions every time it answers one, this keeps the reader turning pages! If you cover or description does that, it turns your potential readers off.

 

When you go to write your description, think about the Who, What, When, Where and Why. Who is the narrator? What is the biggest event that happens in the story? Is your book set in WWII? You readers need to know this. These are only some of the questions you need to ask yourself to write a good blurb. You don’t need to tell the entire story to catch a reader’s attention, but you need to make sure you lay out a clear introduction. You also need to make sure you give a few things away: is your book a love story, does it contain magic or is it considered sci-fi? Does your main character experience abuse, trauma or loss? Not everyone wants to read a book about murder or fairies. And that is okay; your audience is not everyone.

 

I was talking to a newbie author who was publishing her first book, a memoir about being raped at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. She didn’t want her description to give away that it was a book about rape, with the fear that this would turn off readers. She was convinced that if they were drawn into her book from the beginning, they would be so intrigued by her story, the content of the book would no longer matter. This is a common thread among new authors who were not traditionally readers of that genre before they began writing. Remember this if you remember nothing else: Readers are finicky. If you trick them into reading your book, they will remember and not in a positive way. It creates a breeding ground for poor reviews. Make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. Trust that there is an audience for your book. A broad description doesn’t reach a wider audience; instead, it stops you from finding yours.

 

So how do you write a good description? I can usually tell by the first few chapters what the book’s description should say. By then, I’m developing ideas about the cover image and the mood of the cover. Let me give you an example of a bad blurb versus a good one.

 

Bad Description: Meet Jenna Lucas, a young twenty-something fashion designer who seems to have life figured out. One day, a letter from a lawyer reveals an inheritance that Jenna wasn’t expecting. In a leap of faith, Jenna goes on an adventure of a lifetime in a last ditch effort to find out what this inheritance is really about. During the trip, she meets Pete, a quirky old man that won’t leave Jenna alone. Is he as crazy as everyone makes him out to be, or is he the key to uncovering the secret about Jenna’s family that’s been hiding for so long?

 

Image One

 

If you read the first description and look at the cover, it’s hard to paint a picture. You are given information that may or may not be relevant, and every sentence brings up a question without answering any. It’s not the specifics of the cover that are the concern, but the title, cover, and description do not work together to sell potential readers anything.

 

Good Description: Jenna Lucas was never really close with her aunt, Lauri. The day of her mom’s funeral was the last time Lauri came to visit; effectively separating herself from anything that reminded her of her sister. But when Lauri passes away, Jenna inherits a ticket on the Royal Maritime, a ship that circles the Arctic in an exuberate display of the Northern Lights that only shows itself once every nine years. But the trip was planned for Lauri, and during the cruise everybody Jenna meets was expecting someone else. Join Jenna on the trip of a lifetime, a last chance at knowing her aunt, and discovering the real reason why she left so many years ago.

 

Image Two

 

In the second description, we are given where the story takes place, what is happening during the book, the reason behind the story, and the important characters. It sets the reader up for really knowing what they are getting into, and in turn pulls them into the story. There is a little bit of mystery to the end, essentially offering up stakes for the reader (if you don’t read this book, you’ll never find out why Jenna’s aunt left!). And you can even picture Jenna on the cruise, hearing stories from the different passengers, and piecing together information about her family. But most importantly, the cover, description and title all work together to paint this single picture.

 

Here is a good test: If you read the cover of a book and you can’t describe it in once sentence, you are in trouble. How would I describe the second book? A woman inherits a ticket on a cruise ship, meets some interesting people and finds out more about her family along the way. I wouldn’t even know where to begin on the first one.

 

If you are designing your cover yourself, have a friend read the first three chapters and then tell you what they think your book about. Use this information to write a strong, descriptive blurb that really paints a picture of the story, and use that picture to create a cover. From there, your title should pop out. These three pieces should work together to sell your potential readers a single story. If you are hiring a book cover artist, make sure you write your description first and let the artist work to create a cover that fits.