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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

$120 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Ends December 18th


A few of my favorite authors invited me to be a part of this awesome holiday giveaway. So we're giving away one $120 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner. This giveaway ends December 18th. All you have to do is sign up to be on one or more of our newsletter/mailing lists. Each author's newsletter counts as an entry. So if you sign up for just mine, you're entered to win the gift card once. If you sign up for six newsletters, you'll be entered six times. Plus, each author is giving away some of her ebooks to some lucky readers! This giveaway runs till December 18th so please enter and share the word!



Go HERE to enter!

Below you'll find a bit about the lovely ladies hosting this giveaway!




Katie Mettner writes inspirational and romantic suspense from a little house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. She's the author of the four part epic family saga, The Sugar Series, Sugar's Song being runner up for sweet romance in the eFestival of Words contest. Her other romance series, The Northern Lights Series and the Snowberry Holiday Series, are both set in Minnesota and are a mix of new adult and romantic suspense.







MK has always been a voracious reader. After hitting a dry spell of reading material, she decided to write the kind of book she'd like to read. This resulted in the creation of her debut novel, Intentional. (Award for Best Sweet Romance - eFestival of Words- August 2014) Unintentional, the second book in the series, is based on the life of one of the characters in Intentional (Cade - an engineer/rock star). Unintentional was written as a stand-alone book.Breaking Braydon, another stand-alone book, is now available on Amazon. Taking Tiffany (A spin-off) is available now.When she's not writing novels, she likes to spend her free time traveling the world, splashing in mud puddles (She lives in Seattle, what can she say?), watching movies and reading.





Dana Mason is happily settled in a small valley amongst the California grapevines with her husband and three children. Author of the romantic suspense, Embrace Series, she's written about a group of friends from Northern California who learn just how short life can be when you don't hold on to what's important. Second chances don't come easy...but sometimes love is worth the risk. When not writing, Dana specializes in professional development and training. She's also a board member on the local Art's Council and does what she can to support the art community.





Nancy S. Thompson is the double award-winning author of two dark romantic thrillers, The Mistaken, her debut, and Leverage, the sequel. She is a California transplant currently living in Seattle, Washington with her husband and son, their giant snow dog, Jack, and his kitty, Skye. Besides moonlighting as a freelance editor, she also has her own interior design business within the model home merchandising industry. When she's not writing, editing, reading, or designing, Nancy keeps herself busy by cooking and baking.

                                                      

Lisa Regan was born in Philadelphia, a product of two large Irish Catholic families whose roots run deep in her neighborhood. From the moment she was able to put words onto the page, she was writing: poems, stories, and even novels. In 2002 she finally finished her first adult novel, which remains on a flash drive in her nightstand. In 2006, she finished what would become her first published novel: Finding Claire Fletcher. After being passed over by more than 150 agents and then more than a dozen publishers, her first novel was published in December 2012, followed by her second novel, Aberration, in June 2013. Finding Claire Fletcher won Best Heroine and was runner-up for Best Novel in the 2013 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards. It was a finalist for the Kindle Book Review's Best Kindle Book Awards in 2014. In December 2013, the novel reached number one on Amazon's Bestselling Kidnapping Crime Fiction list; in the same month, her second novel, Aberration reached number one on Amazon's Serial Killer Crime Fiction Bestseller list. Lisa currently resides in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter where she works full time and works on her future novels while waiting in line at the local post office.




Julie writes romance from her home in Melbourne, Australia where she lives with her hot romance hero husband and two sons. She loves a good story, pumpkin pie and lots and lots of coffee.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

A $120 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

A few of my favorite authors invited me to be a part of this awesome holiday giveaway. So we're giving away one $120 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner. All you have to do is sign up to be on one or more of our newsletter/mailing lists. Each author's newsletter counts as an entry. So if you sign up for just mine, you're entered to win the gift card once. If you sign up for six newsletters, you'll be entered six times. Plus, each author is giving away some of her ebooks to some lucky readers! This giveaway runs till December 18th so please enter and share the word!



Go HERE to enter!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Taking the Leap Into The Romance Genre: Nancy S. Thompson's STIRRED



I am thrilled to welcome Nancy back to my blog as part of her blog tour. Today she'll be discussing transitioning from the thriller genre to the romance genre with her new book, STIRRED. I really loved her new one. I think it has a little bit for everyone and I hope you'll check it out. You can read my review of it on Goodreads here.

And now, Nancy:


I’m so excited to be here to chat with you all about my newest book, Stirred, a contemporary erotic suspense and my first foray into real romance. My first two novels, The Mistaken and Leverage (books 1 and 2 of The Mistaken Series) are dark romantic thrillers, and although they revolve around the romance between the male and female protagonists, both books are thrillers at their core.

While chock full of suspense, Stirred is definitely a romance at heart. The plot is centered around the relationship between Eden MacLaird—a wealthy, forty-one-year-old owner of an elite Montessori school, as well as a newly-minted best-selling author of dark erotica—and Sean Bennett—a whip-smart, twenty-four-year-old grad student on the cusp of finishing law school.



Though Eden is sent reeling after discovering her husband’s lurid affair, she balks at getting even by equal measure. Sean’s persistent though, and shows her what she’s been missing for the last twenty years while married to a controlling sociopath. What starts out as an impulsive, one-time hook-up soon evolves into a full-fledged affair of the heart, until the unthinkable happens. Then, not only is Sean and Eden’s affair exposed, their lives and freedom are at stake. With so much on the line, can either of them be sure the other hasn’t set them up to take the fall?

With two dark romantic thrillers under my belt, I was nervous about changing genres, but the heat level in Leverage was considerably high and well-received, so I thought, why the hell not? I will admit, I was a bit uncomfortable at first as some of the language often seen in erotic romance is a little on the vulgar side for me, but I adapted. And while Stirred is erotic, it’s not erotica, where typically, the only plot is for the characters to have sex—not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just prefer more substance.

I think readers will appreciate how the progression of the relationship between Sean and Eden drives the suspense and plot forward, that although the love scenes are explicit, they are also tasteful, and, most importantly, directly affect the story and overall theme of trust. So I feel pretty comfortable with my shift from thriller chick to romance debutante, and I hope you do, too!



***
About Nancy:

Nancy is a California transplant currently living in Seattle, Washington with her husband of 23 years, their son, a student at Seattle University, their giant snow dog, Jack, and his kitty, Skye. She works as a freelance editor for her publisher and writer friends and also has her own interior design business within the model home merchandising industry. When she's not writing or editing, Nancy keeps herself busy by cooking and baking.

***
Get it here:

 Paperback
***
Find out more about Nancy here and check out STIRRED on Goodreads:

***
GIVEAWAY!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Shameless Promotion of My Fellow Authors: Nancy S. Thompson's New Release, STIRRED

I'm so very excited to tell you about STIRRED by Nancy S. Thompson. Nancy is one of my favorite authors. Period. (Disclaimer: Yes, we are good friends but it was actually Nancy's writing talent and her first novel, THE MISTAKEN that drew me to her in the first place. It was that book that made me feel like, "Wow! I need to know more about this lady!" A friendship developed.)

Anyway, her first two novels, which are brilliant, were dark romantic thrillers. They are two of my favorite thrillers. Her latest, STIRRED is a bit of a departure from those two in that it is more focused on the romantic and sexual relationship between the two main characters but it had more than enough suspense, mystery and intrigue to keep a finicky suspense/thriller reader (me) satisfied and turning pages well into the night.

So I say unto you: Go forth and buy STIRRED! It's out TODAY!!!!!



I will have Nancy back here on December 1st for a guest post. But until then, here's the skinny on this awesome book:

I’m Eden MacLaird, and Fate screwed me good at the age of twenty-one, stole my first love, then my first child. Twenty years later, I still haven't found my happily-ever-after. Sure, from the outside, I have it all, including Declan, my gorgeous, rich-as-sin husband. But things aren't what they seem, and catching Declan in bed with my best friend destroys any dreams I harbor for love, much less sexual fulfillment. 

Then in walks Sean Bennett...

Just months away from earning his post-graduate law degree, Sean's smart, driven, and serious, but an unexpected encounter between us in a bar one night changes everything. His best friend, Trinitee, warns against getting too involved, but the heat between us is beyond intense, and neither of us are willing to walk away. 

With my marriage in shambles, I'm eager to make a go of it with Sean, despite our sixteen-year age difference. But while I relish my sexual reawakening, I fear giving up the posh life I've grown accustomed to. That life, however, and everything in it, comes crashing down as bodies start piling up around us, and all clues point to me and Sean. 

Secrets, betrayal, and revenge threaten to destroy not just my carefully-crafted reputation, but my very life. With our freedom at stake, Sean and I join forces to uncover those plotting against us. But as doubt and evidence mount, I must choose: give in to my suspicions and save myself, or trust our new-found love and save us both.



***
About Nancy:

Nancy is a California transplant currently living in Seattle, Washington with her husband of 23 years, their son, a student at Seattle University, their giant snow dog, Jack, and his kitty, Skye. She works as a freelance editor for her publisher and writer friends and also has her own interior design business within the model home merchandising industry. When she's not writing or editing, Nancy keeps herself busy by cooking and baking.

***
Get it here:

 Paperback
***
Find out more about Nancy here and check out STIRRED on Goodreads:

***
GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shameless Promotion of Fellow Writers: R. Mac Wheeler's Newest!

Book 3 of the 6 Ways Series

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.



If you haven't read Book 1 or 2, and like to start at the beginning...

BOOK 1
Alcoholic parents treated Margarite as an unwelcome stranger, then left her at fourteen with her thirty year old autistic brother. At sixteen, things really sour, thanks to her brother. A medical researcher, Reggie engineers the ultimate plague. Fanatics seek to control him. The government pursues them as terrorists. Margarite witnesses ruthlessness, compassion, and competence she couldn't imagine from her brother, but the world needs a miracle. The best she and Reggie can do is wing it.


BOOK 2
Nightmares. Panic attacks. Depression. Margarite is hammered by the typical issues of a seventeen year old loner, whose parents sympathized with insane people intending to collapse civilization. The few who care about Mar have more concerns. Her drinking. Fighting. Jumping out of airplanes.

Her brother engineered the plague that’s breaking out across the globe and she holds a little guilt for not stopping it. Or being one of the first to die. Still, conspirators behind what they call The Correction are not done with her.


The Author
R. Mac Wheeler writes about characters with a lot of baggage, men who make many men look like wimps, tough chicks that can whip most men...puts them in situations that push them to the edge...in worlds that don’t overly stretch the imagination.

A former IT professional,  he now focuses full time on suspense, paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy  that leverages the quirkiness and baggage of real life more often than the far fetched.

Visit his Home Page: WWW.RMACWHEELER.COM

Friday, September 18, 2015

Writing Tips from Author, Donna Huston Murray: The Best Advice You'll Ever Hear

I'm really excited to welcome author, Donna Huston Murray to my writing tips segment today. I met Donna at meetings for our local chapter of Sisters In Crime. She is so wonderfully gracious and kind and never gets annoyed with me for asking all kinds of questions. She is also immensely talented. I had the pleasure of reading her latest, What Doesn't Kill You earlier this year. It is truly fabulous. I love Donna's writing and to be honest, whenever I see her, I do have a little fangirl moment (on the inside, I don't want to embarrass myself!). Anyway, her post really resonates with me so I hope you'll find it useful as well.

Here's a bit about Donna:



Donna Huston Murray is the author of 10 mystery and suspense novels, including WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, the upcoming GUILT TRIP, and FINAL ARRANGEMENTS, which achieved #1 on Amazon in the Cozy Mystery and Female Sleuth categories.

Find out more at her website: http://www.donnahustonmurray.com

And here's Donna:

The Best Advice You’ll Ever Hear

Waiting at a stoplight, I amused myself by watching a guy saunter down the opposite sidewalk. He wore camouflage pants and was bow-legged as if he rode a motorcycle. When smoke blew into his eyes, his chin lifted with an attractive, alfa-male defiance. He seemed bemused, pleased with himself. I felt sure he was thinking about the night before, and it made me smile.

Since I write fiction, whether I was wrong or right really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was deliberately listening to my own thoughts. I recommend that you cultivate that habit, too. Here’s why:

Someone I know got married because he decided the woman he was dating would make a good wife. Yes, he may have had an inkling his reasoning was suspect; and yes, they are divorced. Clearly, this person talked himself into a bad decision. He could have prevented a lot of heartache had he been more inclined to acknowledge the nagging thoughts he allowed himself to ignore. We’ve all done it. Bought a dress we never wear. Sent an email we wish we could get back. Left that awful description in Chapter 3 just because it took so long to write.

Teaching yourself to avoid that sort of mistake is both difficult and easy. To start you simply tune into yourself as if you were a radio station, but instead of letting what’s going on in your head become mental wallpaper, you train yourself to notice what you’re thinking—whatever it is—more often.

The hope is that by recognizing more of your honest impressions, even if they are frivolous, you’ll be better prepared to acknowledge those uncomfortable or inconvenient thoughts—the ones, like it or not, you know to be true. And if that becomes a lifelong habit, theoretically you’ll be better equipped to make good decisions. Marry the right person, for instance. Choose the right career. Name your dog something you won’t mind shouting out the kitchen door for the next ten years.

In other words, the best advice you’ll ever hear just might be your own.

***
Please check out Donna's latest book, WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU


Lauren Beck’s friends, phone, home, credit and credibility are gone, severed with surgical precision by an enemy intent on framing her for murder. Is it one of the insureds she was hired to investigate? The fellow employee she upstaged? Does the daughter of her landlady and dear friend, Corinne Wilder, hate her even more than she thought? Whoever targeted her should beware. A former cop and cancer survivor knows how to fight for her life.

Get it on Amazon now for only $2.99!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing Tips Part 3 from Augustus Cileone

I'm thrilled to welcome back author, Augustus Cileone to my blog today for his third post in my writing tips series. Today he will be discussing the allure of mysteries, a topic I find quite fascinating myself. Although this isn't a straight writing tips-type of post, I think it does speak to the issue of what draws readers, particularly to the mystery genre.

In case you forgot, here's a little bit about my guest: 



Augustus Cileone won the Dark Oak Mystery Contest sponsored by Oak Tree Press, for the novel, A Lesson in Murder, about homicides associated with a Philadelphia Quaker school. His second novel, Feast or Famine, a satire, deals with a traumatized man dealing with his Catholic Italian American upbringing in the 1960's and 1970's. His latest novel, Out of the Picture, published by Sage Words Publishing, is a mystery loaded with movie references, and deals with social outsiders. He has been honored for his writing by Annual Art Affair, Hidden River Arts, the annual Writer’s Digest writing competition for two plays, The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, the Montgomery County Community College’s Annual Writers’ Club Poetry and Fiction Contest, Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards, and the Annual StoryPros International Screenplay Contest.  His short stories appear in the anthologies entitled South Philly Fiction and Death Knell V, and in the literary periodical Schuylkill Valley Journal.


And now, Mr. Cileone: 

The Allure of a Mystery

Many people have heard the phrase, “Everybody loves a mystery.”  William G. Tapply, who wrote The Elements of Mystery Fiction, and is the author of the Brady Coyne mystery series of novels, stated in the March, 2007 edition of The Writer magazine the following:

What sets mystery novels apart from other types of fiction and makes them particularly appealing to fans are their whodunit puzzles. Mystery readers want to detect clues, to sniff out red herrings … to finger suspects. In other words, they want to play detective.  

The derivation of a red herring, which is where the writer leads the reader astray, comes from the English practice of dragging a red herring along a path to fool hunting dogs.  I don’t know why anyone would want to fool hunting dogs, but I guess you would have to ask the British to find out. Mr. Tapply goes on to say how readers like to match wits with the sleuth of the story, but the readers will be disappointed if they figure out the mystery before the main character does. You may get satisfaction from guessing some parts of the mystery correctly, but you get a charge out of a story that fools you, and then you look back and say, oh yeah, there were the clues, and that was clever how I was fooled. I still can’t believe I didn’t guess the ending of The Sixth Sense.

But I think the appeal of the murder mystery goes even further.  Patricia Cornwell, one of the biggest best selling mystery novelists, said in the same edition of The Writer:

"I cannot fully explain my fascination with violence, but I suspect it has to do with my fear of it … my writing is dark, filled with nightscapes and fear. Isolation and a sense of loss whisper throughout my prose like something perpetually stirring in the wind.  It is not uncommon for people to meet me and find it incongruous that I write the sort of books I do."

I think what she says speaks to the old idea about why we want to look away from a car accident, but can’t. We are both drawn to and repelled by the horrible. We want to understand, and are fascinated by, the killer who crosses the boundaries of society. But, at the same time we desire safety from and ignorance of terrible acts.

Patricia Cornwell’s quote also addresses the concept of our double nature. Outwardly she may seem the last person to deal with violence, but inwardly she can explore the dark side of a character in her writing. This concept brings up the theme of surface appearance versus inner reality. A big influence on me was Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs.  A brilliant psychiatrist, very sophisticated culturally, is in fact a murdering cannibal. This duality may also explain the popularity of the serial killer character Dexter in the books and TV show featuring him. He appears to be a normal person working at his forensics job, and is a dedicated brother. In fact, he is a serial killer. The extra twist is that he is someone meting out justice against vicious killers. 

On a personal level, I became interested in mysteries through films. My father took me to see Alfred Hitchcock movies. I especially liked Psycho, so I became interested in exploring the dark side of characters. I then started reading Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen novels. I love a complicated mystery because it is fun to try and solve the puzzle and be surprised by the twists in the plot. Two movies that influenced me in this way are The Last of Sheila (written by Anthony Perkins of Psyhco fame and Stephen Sondheim) and the original Sleuth, based on the Anthony Schaffer play. Wanting to explore complex stories is probably why I was addicted to the TV series Lost, and loved the 1960’s TV show The Prisoner, which may be the two most enigmatic shows ever written.

Some classify the mystery as some type of second rate genre. I think this criticism is a disservice. The very act of wanting to find out the solution to mysteries is basic to humans:  it takes place in science, mathematics, social sciences, psychology, in fact in just about every discipline. People vary on how much they thrive on answering questions and solving problems in their lives: some love it, doing crossword or picture puzzles, while others find questing after answers very taxing. But, we can’t escape it. Mystery stories at the very least provide an entertaining outlet for this primal drive; at the most, they help us to explore complex themes of what it is to be human.


***

Want to check out some of Mr. Cileone's brilliant work? His newest release, OUT OF THE PICTURE was released in February! You can check it out here


From the Amazon page: 



Vince Singleton, a writer, part-time English professor at Philadelphia Sacred Covenant University, and huge movie fan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He witnessed the accidental shooting of his wife by a policeman during a robbery. Vince, however, suspects that her death was intentional. Now, an old friend of his is found dead amid unusual clues. Vince helps the lieutenant working the case, despite his wariness of policemen. Faculty members associated with animal abuse are murdered and strange items are discovered near the bodies. Vince determines that the clues refer to movies, and, with the help of his daughter, his journalist brother, and a female professor, tries to find the killer before another person is taken … out of the picture.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Things I Want You to Know About

It's me! Just little old me. I just have a couple of things to bring to your attention. Then next week I'll have another awesome writing tips post for you!

This author is Karli Rush:


Don't know her. Never met her. Never had any dealings with her at all. But I saw a Facebook post floating around about her yesterday. It touched me in my core. Her husband just died suddenly. He was the primary income in the family. They have two children. One is Autistic and the other is on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. I cannot even imagine the stress that this woman is under. Losing your partner suddenly and unexpectedly is difficult enough without adding all of the tremendous financial burden that now falls squarely on her shoulders--and she has a very sick child. This story hurt my heart. My prayers go out to her and her family. I simply cannot imagine what she is going through or how she is getting out of bed in the morning. A fundraising page has been set up for her and her family. Please consider donating and/or buying one of her books. Every little bit counts. Even $5 or $10 will go a long way if many, many people contribute.

You can donate HERE.

You can check out and buy her book(s) HERE.

******

On a less grave note, I'm thrilled to tell you that FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER is finally available on AUDIO from Tantor Media. It's narrated by actress Amy Landon and let me tell you: she did an amazing job. Superb. Excellent. Awesome. I'm so incredibly happy with the way she brought Claire to life, I've been floating around on my own little cloud of euphoria since yesterday! Thank you, Tantor and thank you, Miss Landon.

So you can check it out on Amazon (CDs) or on Audible.

Or you can try to win a copy. Go to THIS LINK and comment on this photo, which is pinned to the top of the page:


On Friday evening, I'll draw a random winner and that person will receive one of the copies pictured above!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Writing Tips from Author, Tony Knighton

I am super excited to welcome fellow crime fiction author, Tony Knighton to my blog today with his 7 Suggestions for Writing Crime Fiction. Tony is not just a Philadelphia resident like myself, he is a Philadelphia firefighter and a former Marine! (Thank you, Tony, for your service to this great nation and our great city!) I actually read about Tony in my local, neighborhood paper and reached out to him to see if he would do a guest post for me. He graciously agreed. Here's a little more about my guest:


Tony Knighton is...

both an author and a lieutenant in the Philadelphia Fire Department, a thirty year veteran. Born in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, his family moved to Philadelphia when he was seven. With the exceptions of a short stay in Toronto, Ontario, and the military, he’s been in Philadelphia ever since.

He published the novella and story collection Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties with Crime Wave Press. His story “The Scavengers” is included in the anthology Shocklines: Fresh Voices in Terror, published by Cemetery Dance, and his story “Sunrise” is included in the anthology Equilibrium Overturned, published by Grey Matter Press. He has also published short fiction in Static Movement Online and Dark Reveries.

In addition to his work as a fireman, he has also worked on the side as a roofer for many years. Knighton served in the United States Marine Corps, and attends classes sporadically at Community College of Philadelphia.

And now . . . Here's Tony:

Seven Suggestions* For Writing Crime Fiction

I want to thank Lisa for graciously inviting me to post my ramblings on her blog.

1. Take Notes.

I find myself worrying about my characters – these people who don’t really exist – often while I am far away from my computer keyboard (a twenty-year old Mac clamshell).  If I don’t write down an idea at the moment that I have it, it will be gone.  Try this experiment: carry a pad and pencil with you for a week.  Write down story ideas as they occur, each on a separate page.  Don’t look at them afterward, just put the pad away until you have another thought.  At the end of the week, go through your notes.  If you’re like me, you’ll have forgotten quite a few.

2. Be flexible.

Plot is essential, but if you are too rigid, your story won’t be as much fun as it could be.  Write scenes.  See where things go.  The stories of mine that I am happiest with are those that started with a premise, or a situation, or a character, instead of those that I outlined from start to finish.

3. Get the details right.

Make it easy for your reader to suspend disbelief.  Get as much factual stuff as correct as possible.  The details sell the story.  One of the reasons that I love the Parker series of books by Richard Stark (pen name of the late, great Donald Westlake) is that Mr. Westlake was interested in things – how they are made, how they work.  Anytime Parker had to break into (or out of) somewhere, the construction details – of the wall, or the floor, or the roof that Parker needed to breach – were dead on.  The same with guns, cars, alarm systems, places – anything – Westlake nailed the details.  If you don’t know about something that you’re trying to write about, it will show.  Go see it.  Read about it.  Or talk to someone who knows.  Don’t be shy.  People like to talk about themselves and what they do.  They might thank you for asking.

4. Let your characters tell the story.

Make ‘em do stuff and say things.  Long, expository passages are dull.

5. Cut, cut, cut.

I was going to title this suggestion Re-write, but for me, that essentially means cutting.  My first drafts are bad.  I weed and prune until they are better.  I try for economy – to avoid a three-syllable word if there’s a one-syllable word that works as well, or not to say with ten words what can be said with five.  Everything should be pushing the story along.  If it isn’t, I cut it.

6. Avoid clichés.

This should be obvious, but writers who know better sometimes resort to lowest-common-denominator stuff – dialogue like this: “It’s way too late for that!” or “You’re out of control!”, scenes like: two tough guys, pointing guns at each other while they say tough guy stuff (more clichés), or characters like these: the detective with a fifth of whiskey in his file cabinet, the aging hippie, the lesbian who drives a Subaru wagon.  Don’t do it.  Please.

7. Trust your reader.

People who read fiction are smart.  Drop your reader into the middle of something.  As long as the writing is strong, she’ll hang in there.  If a detail is obscure, but the passage well written, your reader will figure it out through context.  One of my favorite books is The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by the late, great George V. Higgins (sad – all of these guys – whose work I love – are gone).  Writers and reviewers universally rave about the dialogue.  I agree, and also think that the strength of the book comes from the trust Mr. Higgins has in his readers. There is no set-up, and nothing is explained.  George knew that we’d get it.

That’s all I’ve got.  Have fun.

Tony Knighton

* I love the late, great Elmore Leonard’s “Ten Rules of Writing,” published by the New York Times.  Mr. Leonard was a master.  It would be presumptive of me to call these any more than suggestions.

***



A young grifter steals an overcoat. As he discovers forty-thousand dollars in its inside pocket, the coat’s owners come after him. The action never stops as his pursuers seem to be both ahead and behind him at all times, killing and destroying everything in their wake to catch up with their money and the young thief. 

Happy Hour is as breathless as writing can be.

Knighton’s debut novella is accompanied by a selection of short stories that can run with the best of American Noir literature. It’s cold out there, folks. 

Please check out Happy Hour HERE.

You can find out more about Tony at his WEBSITE or check out his AMAZON PAGE.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Writing Tips from Author, Marielena Zuniga

I'm excited to welcome Marielena Zuniga to my blog today for the writing tips segment. She'll be talking about using meditation to help your writing. I personally really loved this post because I have a lot of trouble focusing and staying on task.


Here is a bit about Marielena:

Marielena Zuniga is a creative writer and award-winning journalist of more than thirty-five years. She has been a staff writer for newspapers and magazines and worked in public relations in corporate and nonprofit environments. 

For the last ten years, her writing has focused on spirituality and women's issues and her feature articles have appeared in national and international magazines. She has earned prestigious journalism awards and her inspirational writing has won a few awards in the Writers Digest Magazine Annual Writing Competition. 

Her first novel "Loreen on the Lam: A Tennessee Mystery" (iPulp Fiction) http://www.ipulpfiction.com/indexLOREEN.html draws on her Southern roots. She was born in Texas and spent her summers as a child in Tennessee. Her book is a far cry from her inspirational writing and her quiet, spiritual personality and has been known to make people laugh, which still amazes her. She resides in Bucks County, PA. 

And now, here's Marielena:

How meditation can help your writing

I used to meditate. A lot. You know – that process where you sit down, light some candles or incense, and attempt to quiet your thoughts. Some days my “monkey mind” was all over the place with my to-do list, never in the present moment.

Other times I fell into a zone of deep peace and the comforting “now” where I focused on my breathing, forgetting past and future. Whatever happened was OK. No judgments. I simply allowed whatever was there – to be.

Now, I’m returning to mindfulness meditation as a daily practice for many reasons. And one of them is for my creative writing.

What is mindfulness meditation? Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, defined it as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

Now don’t let that scare you. Those are all ingredients to help your writing and enhance creativity. And I’ll let you in on a secret. You can’t fail at mindfulness meditation because it’s all about accepting WHATEVER is happening during the practice, no matter what it is.

So, how, can meditation help with the writing process? You’d be surprised.

A safe space to take risks. As a writer, I am always a little anxious. I am always putting myself “out there” – something that’s never been easy for me. When I quiet my thoughts, I can find a safe spot to land, a place that soothes the raw edges of my insecurities and helps me become a bit more of a risk taker in my writing.

Frees us from perfection. The mind loves to judge. As a writer, I am my own worst critic. I tend to feel what I’ve written is never good enough. But when I meditate, I give myself permission to be free of my own tyrannical judgments, as well as the opinions of others. I tend to be more gentle with myself. And while revisions are necessary, I reach a point of acceptance in my drafts. In one of my favorite books, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard writes: “The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.”

Being in the flow. Because meditation allows me to be open to my creative self, I find that words often flow more easily than they have in the past. Although writing my mystery “Loreen on the Lam” was hard work, the pieces seem to come together from another place within me. And I loved the process throughout.

Availability to new insights. When I still and quiet the mind, I am listening – not only to my breathing, heartbeat and the hundreds of senseless, random thoughts that run amok through my brain, but I am listening to what wants to be birthed and named. I am listening to the creative source that wants to have a voice. In that silence, insights, perceptions and ideas that may have been buried beneath the chaos of daily life begin to emerge.

So how do you meditate? Here are some simple pointers:

Set aside a time everyday. Try starting out for five minutes. Later you can add more time to your practice.

Find a place where you won’t be distracted. Sit upright, either feet on the floor or cross-legged, whatever is more comfortable. Close your eyes.

Focus on your breathing and only that. Breathe in; breathe out. Feel the breath entering your nostrils and going out.

Your thoughts WILL wander. This is normal. Meditation is NOT about emptying your mind of thoughts. It’s the opposite. You’ll be thinking about everything from what to make for dinner to revising your work in progress. When that happens, simply observe those thoughts, without judgment, let them go, and return the focus to your breath. Again and again and again. This is all part of the practice.

Ultimately, meditation, much like writing, is a discipline. And a practice. But it’s also about letting go and accepting whatever is happening in the moment. And as writers, we are constantly “holding on” to some aspect of our work.

But as artist/author Julia Cameron states so well, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” When we surrender in meditation to the present moment, we allow a source higher than ourselves to express in our writing – and that can be humbling and surprising!

**********


Loreen Thigpen has a history of making bad decisions. But stealing Josh Montgomery’s tour bus from the Texas prison garage to go see her dying mom in Tennessee might be the worst decision ever.

Loreen on the Lam is chock-full of colorful characters worthy of Elmore Leonard – an escaped con, a battered wife, a deaf-mute Bible salesman and more. You’ll love them or hate them, laugh at them or cry with them, but you’ll root for Loreen in the end.

The plot is a (not-so-) simple road trip. Loreen needs to get from Houston, Texas, to Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, to see her dying mother. The only problem is, Loreen’s in prison. Much of the action takes place in and around a bus Loreen steals – a bus owned by country superstar Josh Montgomery. The journey involves a family mystery, a murder plot, and a dash of mayhem.


Loreen on the Lam: A Tennessee Mystery is available through iPulp Fiction http://www.ipulpfiction.com/indexLOREEN.html and through Amazon and other outlets.

Facebook Author’s Page: http://www.facebook.com/Marielena.Zuniga

Twitter: @marielenazuniga

Blog: Stories for the Journey: Reflections on Writing, Life and the Spirit - https://mezuniga.wordpress.com/


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Writing Tips with Author, Sandra Carey Cody

I am thrilled to welcome author Sandra Carey Cody to my blog this week with a fantastic post about plotting one's novel. Sandy is an amazing writer and a wonderful person. I hope you'll enjoy this post and then check out some of her work!

Before we begin, here's a bit about your host:

Sandra Carey Cody was born and grew in Missouri, surrounded by a family who loved stories, whether from a book or told on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon. She attended Washington University in St. Louis, moved on to various cities in different parts of the country, and finally settled in Doylestown, a small town just north of Philadelphia. Wherever she's gone, books have been the bridge to her new community and new friends. 

She’s written six novels - five in the Jennie Connors mystery series and the standalone mystery, Love and Not Destroy. She is also the author of a number of short stories which are not mysteries - unless you consider (as she does) the day-to-day bump and jostle of ordinary life a mysterious thing. If you would like to know more about her work, you can visit her website: http://www.sandracareycody.com or her Amazon author page here

And now, here's Sandy!

 PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL OR STORY

For me, plot’s the … I was about to say the hardest part … but let’s be positive and call it the biggest challenge. What do I do when faced with a challenge? Break it down. Look at the basics. What is a plot? My trusty Webster’s defines it as:

“the plan of action of a play, novel, etc.”

Okay, now that we know what plot is, let’s break it down into manageable bits.

Come Up with a Plan:

It’s the planning that gives me trouble but, if I do a good job on the characters (a subject for another time), it’s a lot easier. I created these people. I know their secrets, what they’re afraid of, what they love and what they hate. So I should know how they will react in any situation, and those reactions are what move the story along. Sounds easy, right? All I have to do is give them something to react to, a problem to solve or a goal to achieve – and a reason to care about the problem or goal. Different characters have different goals - opposing goals. The antagonist (anti-hero) will do everything in his/her power to keep the protagonist (hero) from achieving his/her goal. This is the source of the tension that will drive the plot. When I know what problem the protagonist is facing, I’m ready to begin.

The Beginning - An Inciting Incident 

Something has to happen and it has to be strong enough to compel the protagonist to act. This is your inciting incident.  Place a major roadblock in your protagonist’s path, something that forces him/her to take action or make a choice. This is true not just for mysteries, which I write, but for all fiction. Think of your favorite half dozen stories in any genre. The first chapters may be wildly different, but they’re sure to have one thing in common: something happens or is foreshadowed as about to happen that will change life for the hero. He’s about to embark on a journey that will take him to places he never expected to go, to do things he never suspected he was capable of doing. In short, your protagonist is in trouble - facing a seemingly insurmountable problem. The plot is in motion. Things are starting to happen.

The Middle - Action, Overcoming Obstacles, Consequences, Cause and Effect
The middle is all about the hero’s response to the problem (the inciting action) placed before him in the beginning and the new problems resulting from that response. It’s about choices and the consequences of those choices. It’s about overcoming obstacles. By the middle of the book, the hero’s life is in chaos. Real life may be random, but in fiction, if the reader is to suspend disbelief, he needs to see the cause and effect behind the chaos. Events in the plot may (and at least sometimes should) surprise the reader, but once they occur, they should make sense. This doesn’t mean they are predictable. Your protagonist does something in response to the inciting action, expecting a certain result, but what happens is entirely different from what he intended. Things are worse instead of better. Someone (the antagonist) is doing his/her best to make sure the protagonist fails. So you need to write a series of scenes that show your character’s responses to the problems set in motion by the inciting incident and are linked by cause and effect.  Every time the hero responds to a problem, the anti-hero responds too, creating another problem for the hero to overcome. Forces of good and evil are at war. Your hero has new battles to fight, more obstacles to overcome. The battles become more intense, the stakes higher. Your protagonist has to become stronger, fight harder, to overcome them. These battles and the changes they create in the protagonist make up the middle.

The End - Resolution, Changes 

And, finally, after much travail and turmoil for both you and your hero, you come to the end. How is the problem resolved? How has the struggle changed your hero? Did he achieve his goal? Or come to accept that he could not and learn to live with it?  And, most important, have you been fair to the reader? Have you entertained him and made the time spent with your story worthwhile? That’s our goal as writers – always.

***
Check out some of Sandra's work on her Amazon page!




Thursday, June 25, 2015

Writing Tips by Author, K.A. Libby

This week I welcome author, K.A. Libby for a guest post in my writing tips segment. Here's a bit about Ms. Libby:


“Beware the Sleeping Dog” is Karla Reidinger’s (k.a. libby) first novel. It hibernated as a tiny germ of an idea for years before she actually started writing the manuscript. Much like George Bernard Shaw's quote above she had an idea. She imagined its growing into a novel. She studied her favorite authors and learned how they developed the goals, obstacles and stakes for their characters. She wrote her novel and re-wrote it. And re-wrote it. And re-wrote it one more time. And now it's ready for you to read. She hopes you will enjoy the experience of reading it as much as she has enjoyed the adventure of writing it. She is now working on her second novel in the trilogy.

And now, K.A. Libby:


1.Persevere. Writing a novel is hard. Very, very hard. Period. I’m writing my second novel and I’ve hit a wall. But because I succeeded once, I have confidence that this wall can be breached. I’ll keep picking (or pecking) away until I’m through it and on my way to a good (great?!) finish.

2.     Edit (and be edited). It’s laborious. Necessary. Painful. And all about deleting. Refining. Finessing. Again and again and again and again. Phew.

3.     Recognize your ending point. It’s never an easy decision! Any manuscript can always be made better, but at some point if you want closure, you need to say, “Done.”

4.     Be realistic. No one can possibly compensate me monetarily for my time and effort. My compensation is knowing that I have completed my task and that it is a ‘job well done’. But I joyfully embrace any and all kudos! Thank you to the kind and generous souls who not only bought and read my book but also spoke well of it.

For example, on Amazon.com for “Beware the Sleeping Dog” by K.A. Libby:

By Pauline M. Rowan
Format: Kindle Edition (Verified Purchase)
Good read. I like the fact that it was full of suspense and intrigue, but was not overly violent or gory. Looking forward to reading more books by this author!

And

By C. Becker
Format: Kindle Edition
Really liked the character development as well as the writer's descriptions of scenery, conflicted emotions, and untangling of old business.


5. Remember: many try, but few succeed. Hurrah to all who write, finesse, and publish. Keep up the battle. Word-by-word. Page-by-page. Chapter-by-chapter.

***

Here's a little about K.A.'s novel, Beware the Sleeping Dog:


A journey from guilt to retribution to forgiveness. Professor Mavis Walker has a stalker. Who would target her? And why? Her struggle to discover the answers and end the terror triggers closure of another kind as well.