Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Halloween at my house is all about watching the kids come up the driveway in their costumes especially the young ones.  There are all quite cute, but how can you compare to this?  I want to know who dressed these critters because I have 4 cats and there's no way any of them would ever let me put a costume on them.  So, I say bravo to the owners!  I wonder how many scratches they earned with these.

First we have our cheerleader:

Next up is the dalmatian puppy wannabe:

Let's go Mexican with taco kitty:

Don't know what to say about this one:

And finally, the gang is all here:

Friday, October 29, 2010

3 Book Giveaway Contests in November

November is book giveaway month on the blog.  My thanks to 3 fantastic authors who have agreed to offer their books for the contests.  It's easy to enter - click "follow" this blog and leave your email address in the comments section on the specific DATE for each author.  The winner for each contest will be randomly selected on Saturday of that week and will be notified by email.

Here's the schedule of author contests:

November 1 - Joel Arnold - giving away HARD COVER copies of both "Tales Held Hostage" and "Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse"

November 8 - David Dalglish - giving away DIGITAL copies of all 4 of his Half-Orc books, "Weight of Blood, Book 1," "The Cost of Betrayal, Book 2," "The Death of Promises, Book 3," "The Shadows of Grace, Book 4"

November 15 - Robert J Duperre - giving away a PAPERBACK copy of "The Fall, The Rift Book 1"

So, stay tuned for the chance to win some awesome books!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Panel Discussion - Releasing Your Emotional Investment

This is the last discussion in my series of panel questions.  It is an interesting one for authors.  With all the emotional investment an author pours into character’s soul, how do you manage to release yourself from that bond?

J.M. Pierce:
Having a full time job with a wife and two kids forces me to write after everyone has gone to bed. As I write, I definitely get wrapped up in my character’s emotions and then when I call it a day, it can be difficult to disconnect myself from those emotions. If I’m excited I’ll typically have a beer and watch a little bit of T.V. to settle down. If I’m sad or troubled, I will go into my kids’ rooms and sit with them for a bit. Regardless of my success or lack thereof, I’m a lucky man and my kids show me that every day.

Brendan Carroll:
This is a wonderful question and one that I have not heard before. Upon pondering the answer, I suddenly realized that I do not have to place myself into the souls of my characters, but rather the reverse. My characters all seem to be a part of my own soul. They are always there, waiting and watching for the opportunity to express themselves. My characters’ lives play out in black and white on the pages of my novels and if I disregard their opinions and feelings, their wants and needs, they are not averse to badgering me until I put pen to paper or, in most cases, put fingers to keyboard. As a series writer, it is my belief that I never really release the bond that exists between myself and my characters, but rather simply carry them with me everywhere I go. I am constantly seeing things from a variety of POV’s as I go through the daily rigors of human existence. In this way, I can bring my characters to life with very little effort. Since I have always cons idered myself first a writer and my mundane life an annoying secondary necessity, I am not overly concerned with making clean separations between the two. This could be perceived as a great advantage for me or it could be that I am suffering from a terminal case of the Walter Mitty Syndrome. Either way, my characters and I remain inseparable.

Olivia Darnell:
Whenever I write, I usually have to have some sort of background music and a prop or two to set the mood.  In Misguided Souls, I had a number of references to things from China including tea and blue willow dishes.  When I was writing or editing that particular novel, I would put on some soft music and fix a cup of hot tea in my favorite mug and burn a floral scented candle.  These would help put me into that trance-like state that authors often refer to as the Zone.  It can certainly be an all-consuming state wherein only you, the keyboard and the story exists.  Friends and relatives who happened to be around when I was busy writing would often tell me that they had tried to talk to me and I had completely ignored them.  I always explained that I was not trying to be rude, but that I was simply temporarily out of touch.  It is funny that Panel Question #7 includes the word ‘soul’ which is also in the title of my book.  My characters are certainly a part of my own soul and when I need to leave them behind and return to reality, I feel sad because it seems that they feel betrayed that I would leave them, but the real world is where I live most of the time.  When the tea is gone, the candle snuffed and the music finished, I have to mentally tear myself away with something in mind that needs my immediate attention, i.e.:  a chore or an errand that can no longer be delayed.  By plunging directly into something entirely unrelated to the book, I can bring myself out of the Zone with minimal emotional disruption; otherwise I might just go there and stay!

Laura Vosika:
Sometimes, it's easy.  I walk away from the computer and go about my business, whether that's picking up kids from school or teaching music lessons.  At those times, it's an abrupt switch.  At other times, it doesn't happen so quickly, and it can be a little disorienting to start piano lessons with half my mind still in a medieval Scottish forest.  So far, I have not found a solution except focusing on what's at hand, and in time, I find I'm fully the present...again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Interview with Philip Chen

Continuing my interviewing series, I would like to welcome Philip Chen to the blog.  Hi Philip!

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
In 1990, I had a series of disturbing nightmares about gangs of what looked like ordinary Americans wreaking apocalyptic havoc on our country's institutions and people.  About the same time (1990-1991), I was traveling to Europe on business on a regular basis and carried one of the first lightweight laptops, a Compaq Aero.  On the long red-eye flights, I started typing out a story about mysterious objects and gangs of spies who had been in deep cover in America for decades in plain view.  These spies used false birth certificates based on dead baby names, married innocent Americans, worked at normal jobs, and raised children.

Within one and one-half months, I had completed a 560 page book by augmenting my red-eye drafting sessions with weekends.  It was as if someone were sitting by my side telling me what to write.  I know it sounds freaky, but my characters spoke to me and I typed their stories for them.

In 1993, I copyrighted the manuscript and sent a copy to the Library of Congress establishing a time point.  In June 2009, I started posting excerpts on including excerpts about these deep undercover spies.  If anyone cares to, they can check out my excerpts at

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
My standard response to this is: "I have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous rejection by righteous literary agents and publishers for far too long."  I continually heard back that my book was "not strong enough" which I took to mean that the agents and publishers thought my story was preposterous.  After all, spies living in plain view for decades?  Something like that just couldn't happen in America; not here!  Not until June 2010, of course, when ten Russian spies were caught doing just that.  My book even has a beautiful spy who posed as a financial consultant; way too freaky to have been true.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
The discovery of a Russian spy ring doing exactly what I wrote about twenty-years ago was the moment that I decided to self-publish; just in case other elements of my novel, Falling Star, were to suddenly burst forth on prime time news.  In fact, the United Nations recently created an Office of Outer Space Affairs, ostensibly to deal with comets crashing into our planet.  Read my novel if you want to know the real reason; just keep in mind these words were first written in 1990-1991.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
If any traditional publisher wants to speak with me, I would be pleased to talk to them for this or any future works.  I am currently back to work on the sequel to Falling Star.  I also have a novel about growing up in America in the 1950s-1960s, but it needs a lot of work before I would be satisfied with releasing it.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I tried to do a cover for Falling Star, but was concerned about the use of copyrighted images etc.  I used a photograph that my wife had taken of me in my original cover design.  However, I regularly post on a community message board in my hometown where my book cover was roundly booed by everyone.  In an instant, the board's global moderator chimed in with a design that I knew was the right cover.  His name is David Ross and his day job is as a corporate branding designer at

If you used a graphic designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
Other than to put an amateurish cover on Maplewood On-Line; very little.  It was all David's work and creativity.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
I was excited when I got my first sale on Amazon.  The book has been out for two months now and has had 74 sales, which I am told is not bad for a first time author.  I realize that it will take time, but I need to get the word out about Falling Star to bring in significant sales.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I have a website for my novel, a blog on Goodreads, a page on Facebook, a YouTube book trailer, and I participate on the Kindle Boards.  I have not established a Twitter account for Falling Star.  The problem with Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook is that very few people are actually listening; they are too busy tweeting.  As I write this I am listening to Dangling Conversation by Simon & Garfunkel: the anthem of our age.

My sites are:

If anyone is interested, I posted my thoughts on "Originalism and the Constitution" on my Goodreads blog.  People might enjoy my particular take on how Originalism might actually work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Panel Discussion: Who is Your Favorite Secondary Character?

Noah Mullette-Gillman:
In the third act of The White Hairs, Farshoul finally climbs down off of the mountain, and there’s an old man that he meets there. He’s a simple farmer living in an agrarian society, taking care of his grandson who suddenly finds a gigantic furry man in his garden! He doesn’t panic, or get upset. He begins scolding the creature, as if he were a misbehaving child. The old man manages to get through the defenses of a character who had become very hard and cold and lonely at that point. He knows when to give Farshoul space, and when to demand answers out of him. He does a heck of a job manipulating him into getting his life back together!

I didn’t plan to create him. I didn’t know he was going to appear before he did. And he shocked me! I had no idea that I could write the sort of playful dialogue that comes out of his mouth. It was an unexpected visitation!

Have you ever heard of a game called “Alien intelligence?” All you have to do is have two people, and decide that one of you is possessed by a vastly more wise and advanced mind. The other person then asks them questions. The “possessed” player then just answers as if he were much smarter than he really is. It’s an interesting thought experiment, and if you try it you’ll see that the results are surprising! Writing the old farmer was a little like playing that mind game. He was/is smarter than I am! But I wrote him….!!??!!?!

Philip Chen:
Mildred, a sweet and kindly Norwegian grandmother, has to be my favorite secondary character. Mildred is a pleasant looking senior citizen who owns a hobby shop in Crookston, Minnesota, where she retired after a long career as a State Department researcher, work that often involved extended overseas travel.  Her long-suffering husband is glad that Mildred is finally home in the Red River Valley of the North where he can pursue his love of farming.  Mildred and her husband especially like to dote on the many grandchildren and their own four beautiful daughters. But Mildred has a secret. One that she keeps hidden, even from her beloved family. It has to do with a very special skill that made her very valuable to the government and she is once again called into action.

Although Mildred started out as a "fill-in," her character started to demand more attention in the story.  As you will learn on reading Falling Star, when Mildred starts asking for something in her sweet unassuming way; you'd better listen.  Listen, I did and soon this colorful character went from secondary status to being one of the principal characters in my ensemble cast. 

Dawn McCullough-White:
Of all my characters, it's got to be Black Opal.  He's complex.  He's a highwayman, notorious for his skill with a sword.  A fop with an eye for fashion, and a charming libertine.  Think of the perfect dinner party guest, someone fun and witty but probably not the person you would want to live with.  That's who he is... sort of. 

I adore this character because he's so human, he has some terrible traits, it's very easy to work this character up into a heated argument because of a perceived threat of a possible rival, and yet he is not faithful at all.  He is very sensitive about his appearance (he's been scarred by smallpox, something he contracted as a boy) and wears heavy makeup to try to hide his disfigurement and yet he's very vain, which can be a real problem for someone with scars and one working eye but he's charismatic and has no problem charming people.  He's also very optimistic, seldom bitter at all, and generally puts his life on the line to save his friends.  He's dashing.  Really, what's not to love?  He's a character who just keeps growing and showing me more interesting facets of his personality.

I enjoyed this character in my first novel Cameo the Assassin so much in fact, that much of the story in the second novel (Cameo and the Highwayman) is about him and explores his back story. 

L.C. Evans:
This is actually kind of a tough question because I like most of my characters, even the ones who are the most flawed. But for secondary characters, I'd have to say it's a tie between Mama in We Interrupt This Date and Joe Tremaine in Jobless Recovery. Mama is bossy, opinionated, gossipy, prone to melodrama, and stubborn. She's also a mama to the core. She'll fight a tiger for her daughters and her grandsons. Now that her daughters are grown, she adopts the babies--a couple of Chihuahuas she spoils rotten. And Mama is a lady. She likes flowers on the table and she goes out of her way to be polite to guests, even though she has no trouble gossiping about them after they leave.

Joe Tremaine, on the other hand, though he can be quite a charmer, doesn't hold back when it comes to speaking his mind. He's a survivor and bends the truth beyond all recognition when he has to. He'll do anything to protect and provide for his daughter Lark, even if he has to lie and steal. Or worse. At the same time, under that tough exterior he's terribly vulnerable, a fact he'll never admit, and Joe's a good friend to have in an emergency. 
Both Mama and Joe became real to me while I was writing about them. They also gradually revealed themselves to me in ways I couldn't predict, and to me that's one of the very best things about writing. 
Jobless Recovery, Second Edition

Consuelo Saah Baehr:
Secondary characters are a gift to the writer.  Often we create them with more freedom. They can be idiosyncratic and deeply flawed but somehow they are likable and stay with us.

Slivowitz, the banker, is a very minor character in my historical novel, Daughters.  He only appears half a dozen times in the story yet his impact on events and on me is indelible. We first meet him when one of the main characters needs a building loan. Jerusalem at the time was very cosmopolitan and branches of all the European banks were represented.  Nadeem goes first to Banco di Roma and Deutsche Palestina Bank.  Both turn him down for lack of collateral.  Then he goes to a private banker whose office is above one of the stores on Jaffa road.
The sign said Slivowitz Trust, a simple engraved brass square set discreetly at the side of the building next to a steep staircase.
“Slivowitz Trust?” asked Nadeem of the bespectacled man dwarfed by a large mahogany desk heaped with ledgers.
“Slivowitz Trust.  Trust Slivowitz.  I’m Slivowitz.”  He said this without lifting pen or eyes from paper and Nadeem, having no alternative, delivered his proposal to the top of Slivowitz’s head.
There is much more to Slivowitz than his conversational style. Even though his appearances are few, his persona stays with us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review - Postmodern Medicine by Trevor Price

Available for sale at Smashwords: 

3 of  5 stars

I received a digital copy of the book from the publisher for this review.

This quirky story opens with Yusuf duping his Turkish cousin, Mr. Mardin, into traveling to England to take a position with a fledgling company, FromBirth Ltd.  Yusuf is sketchy with the details about what exactly the position will be, the pay, the accommodations and this avoidance of details sets the stage for the rest of the book.  FromBirth Ltd harvests human organs, which is not a new idea, but FromBirth Ltd takes it one step further.  With the introduction of new immuno-suppressants from a partner company, they can now literally use every part of the donor body. 

Mardin is delegated to be the PR guy although he has no PR experience, and he must make a promotional video about a recent donor, Ayeshia Smith, on a shoestring budget.  In fact, everything about the company seems to be on a tight budget.  Mardin finds this out first-hand when his living arrangements turn out to be a cot in his office. 

Author Trevor Price speeds us along from one crazy situation to another mostly involving interviews with the recipients of the donor organs to a trip out to the Glynnebourne Organic Farm, a new “green” company.  The author has a flair for dialogue and I found myself chuckling at some of these interviews.  The story is filled with an interesting cast of characters including the kind of creepy, Dr. Groome who harvests the body parts, Mr. Stewart Wymer, the business partner who makes decisions on the fly no matter what the consequences, Yusuf, the cousin who isn’t exactly helpful to Mardin, and Debbi, the overworked, moody receptionist. 

Mr. Price presents us with a satirical commentary with this story, but it made me think about the state of modern medicine and perhaps that was his purpose all along or maybe it's just a dark urban fantasy after all.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Panel Discussion - Have places you've lived or worked shown up in your writing?

Laura Vosika:
I grew up in the military, and currently have several novels in various stages from drafts to complete, set in places I've lived: Virginia, Duluth, and Boston.  Ironically, however, the Blue Bells Trilogy, my first published novel, is set in Scotland, one place I have never lived.  The country club where I worked in high school makes a brief appearance in one novel, although it got moved from Minnesota to Boston.  My work in music shows up the most, with musicians in small groups or full orchestras, in performances and rehearsals, and in the green room waiting to go on.

Karen Cantwell:
When I write, I can't seem to prevent myself from choosing locales where I've lived or have visited.  Maybe it’s because they say "write what you know," but I also think it is often that those places inspire me. For instance, the town of Rustic Woods in my Barbara Marr novels, is in reality, my suburban town of Reston , Virginia.  I changed the name to protect the innocent. Actually, I fictionalized the name to give all readers a more visual feel for what this unique suburban town is like.  It is rustic and it is wooded. And it is filled with character, so I just knew when I wrote my first novel, I would have to set it in this funny, quirky little place I call home.  I also lived in Naples, Italy (far longer ago than I care to admit), and plan to set a novel or short story there one day, because it just screams to have its stories told.

Maybe I'm justifying my use of known settings, and I'm really just being lazy, but I prefer to think that I'm introducing readers to those places that I love so much.

Consuelo Saah Baehr:
They say write about what you know and it certainly is easier that way. My third book, “Nothing To Lose” was set in a large department store in New Jersey and was directly based on my experience as a copywriter for the Macy Corp. I knew facts about being a copywriter in a department store that I could not have gleaned any other way. It gave the book authenticity even though it was a book about a fat girl, not a department store.  One Hundred Open Houses, my latest book talks about work at a Film Festival (I worked for a film festival).  Report From The Heart, non-fiction, is literally about one day in my life as a wife and mother.  Best Friends is made up of whole cloth although it begins in a convent boarding school (Guess who went to a convent boarding school?)  Daughters, a family saga set in turn-of-the-century Jerusalem, was not based on my personal experience but loosely based on the lives of my paternal grandfather and grandmother who grew up in a small Christian village ten miles north of Jerusalem.  Even my short story:  What People Pray For, comes from a stretch in my life when I attended early morning mass and heard all of the petitions people called out.  Those sincere and poignant petitions made me want to write about an event in my life..  Bottom line, I have used “places” and “jobs” and my family shamelessly in my fiction and non-fiction.  And yes, all are still speaking to me.

PA Woodburn:
I think it is terribly difficult to write with conviction about places you've never been. I know people do that all of the time, but everywhere I've been has a distinct atmosphere. The inhabitants are shaped by their surroundings if they've been there any length of time. You can't pick things like that up from travel books.
My novel begins outside a hospital in Edinburgh. I worked there for almost a year. Then I burn down a house in North Queensferry where I lived for two years. The house still stands today. After that the characters move to Northern Ireland where I was raised. Then off to Washington state in USA where I've resided for more than twenty years. There is an incident in Alaska where I lived for seven years, and the incident is based on fact. Alex's mother works in a job I worked in for twenty-three years.  I did make up the Caribbean because I've not been there yet. I had to ask many questions and pour over travel books. The novel is not about me, but I bring as much real life into it as I can. Several of my characters have Irish or Scottish backgrounds. My next novel will be more American, but I worry about it.

LC Evans:
I grew up in SW Florida in a small coastal town and later moved back there from Central Florida. As a child I was fortunate enough to own horses and after we moved back, we bought acreage and got horses for my own children. When I wrote my first mystery, Talented Horsewoman, it featured Leigh McRae, a woman sleuth who lives in a small, SW Florida coastal town. The heroine owns horses and shows them with her daughter. I used what I knew of the area--heat, humidity, alligators. orange groves, etc.--as the backdrop for my story. I'd also had a word processing job for a while and this is the profession I gave to my heroine. Her boyfriend is a charter boat owner and fishing guide. This is a job some of my Florida relatives have had. I chose this career for him because it was a little out of the ordinary and it gave Adam some control over the hours he worked. After I left SW Florida, I moved to North Carolina and have lived here since 1992. My novels Jobless Recovery is set in North Carolina, though the background in this novel was less important than that of Talented Horsewoman and so is very generic.

I find it is much easier for me to visualize and write about locations and jobs that I'm familiar with than it is to research the unfamiliar. Little details that don't seem like much by themselves can really add atmosphere and authenticity to scenes and make them seem more real to readers. The best way I've found for me to actually bring out these details is to actually experience a place or a job. I'm not saying I can't do that when I write about places I haven't lived or jobs I haven't done. It just takes more work. 
Jobless Recovery, Second Edition

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview with R. Doug Wicker

In my continuing author series, today's interview is with R. Doug Wicker.  Welcome Doug!

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I’ve always been an avid reader and for many years I played around with the idea of trying my hand at writing.  In 1988 on a cruise to Alaska I met and chatted with James A. Michener, as well as attending his onboard lectures.  I found him to be a very charming man highly encouraging of other wannabe writers.  I stewed over that encounter for perhaps three years and finally started banging out my first novel.  It was dreadful.  But I found I enjoy writing and I’ve been honing my skills ever since.  I was even commissioned to write a small book for Rosen Publishing on the Pan Am 103 disaster.  It’s part of Rosen’s Terrorist Acts series and its in many school libraries.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
Not only have I gone the traditional literary agent route, I currently have a literary agent (my second) representing my books.  He’s worked diligently since around 1996 trying to sell not only my second through fourth novels, but also a nonfiction piece I wrote on the Federal Aviation Administration just a year or so ago.  That one was considered by many publishers too terrifying to print, which unfortunately tells you quite a bit about the state of mainstream publishing today.  At any rate, he still represents me to this day and has already expressed interest in my current work-in-progress, so I haven’t completely given up on that route . . . yet.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
Alas, being agented in this day and age in which publishers are far too risk adverse to try new ideas or new concepts from unproven authors does not guarantee a publishing contract.  I’m a damned good writer and a great storyteller.  I’ve had two very high-powered literary agents in my writing career, and the dramatic rights to my second novel were once shopped around and very nearly sold in Hollywood back in 1996 by two of the most powerful dramatic rights agents at that time.  Anyway, my point is that eventually an author has to decide if he believes in himself enough to get his work out there.  The fact that industry experts (literary and dramatic rights agents; Publishers Weekly; Rosen Publishing) take me seriously even if mainstream publishers don’t convinced me to go ahead and make the leap.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
Yes.  I’ll probably give traditional publishing another shot with my next novel, The Globe.  But I no longer feel I need that for validation as an author.  I’d do it for the exposure only.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I tried my hand at designing a cover and it was universally panned by fellow authors.  I then got an offer for help from a young graphics designer named Ronnell D. Porter, who’s an author in his own right.  I must say that I and many of my friends and associates really liked what you came up with, as it really captured the flavor of a murder mystery set on a tropical island resort.

If you used a graphic designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
Almost none at all.  I took the advice of others over trusting my own instincts on this.  Ronnell developed for me two completely different covers and fellow authors chose for me the one that was in fact my second choice.  Ronnell then listened to some criticisms from these same authors about the font and the arrangement of the title and author’s name.  He then submitted a second version of that cover, which is the version you see today.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
I was ecstatic.  I still am whenever I get a sale.  It means that somebody deemed my novel worthy of shelling out hard-earned money to obtain and trusted me to not only entertain them but to also give them their money’s worth.  That being said, I must admit that my sales to date aren’t anything about which to brag, but I’m told by other self-published Kindle authors that they are in fact not bad for my first month.  I’m hoping things improve around the third week in October, as that is when I have scheduled to run a sponsorship (advertisement) from Kindle Nations Daily.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I’m a regular on Kindle Boards.  I’ve also started back up on Amazon’s ABNA forum, which is geared toward past and future entrants into their annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  Decisions was a semifinalist in the first contest back in 2008, and that is where it obtained its rather glowing review from Publishers Weekly.  I also have an author’s page on both Amazon and Facebook, and I’m currently contemplating a possible author’s blog.  Beyond that I frequent a few other forums related to my past career (NATCA union website), handguns, and a few other forums on which I’m not shy about advertising my work.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Currently, no.  But I registered several months ago with Barnes & Noble’s PubIt site and it’s my understanding that they’re gearing up and sending out invitations to registrants to submit works for the Nook, which is B&N’s eReader.  Hopefully I can soon work something out to make Decisions available for that format as well.

What’s next for you?
My current project is another murder mystery titled The Globe.  It’s set aboard a rather unique cruise ship and the main protagonist is the security officer.  He an expatriate American who has a pretty complex love life, a past he doesn’t like to think about, and, as with the protagonist in Decisions, a lot of personal issues with which to deal.  I’m really enjoying this character.  After that I may go back to a sequel to Decisions I started a few years back but never got around to completing, as I rather enjoy the Donovan Grant and Kelly LaBrecque characters.  They’re quite lively and a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Agent Wendy Lawton talks about #agentfail

Wendy Lawton, an agent with Books & Such, recently blogged about a number of issues that agents face everyday.  I found the posts fascinating and instead of trying to recap each one, I am posting the link for each of the posts for her #Agentfail series.


If you frequent agent blogs or follow agents on Twitter you’ll see plenty written about the many ways writers fail. From terrible queries to brash behavior, from craft errors to marketing omissions, from lack of skill to lack of ideas– all have been skewered online. I figured turnabout is fair play.    More

#AgentFail: Requested Material Limbo  

Here’s where I get a huge #AgentFail. A number of times I’ve been impressed by an author and intrigued by the concept. I’ve asked the author to send the proposal. I receive it and put it in a folder that sits on my desktop. And in that folder it sits. And sits. And sits. Every time I look at that folder I cringe, but I’m caught between putting out a fire and reading a contract.    More

#AgentFail: The Logjam

Are you tired of me talking about the agent time crunch? Unfortunately, it’s the reason for much of the #AgentFail. Most of us have a set level of clients and, to keep them all going, it is more than a forty-hour work week. But we love it, and we wouldn’t do anything else. I’m guessing we’re not so different from anyone else reading this. Time is in short supply for all of us, and it causes us to have to make hard choices.   More

Agent blogs often talk about the writer’s side of finding an agent. We don’t often talk about the agent’s side–finding the perfect project, the perfect writer and offering representation. Much like an acquisitions editor, an agent is only as good as her instincts. We need to be able to spot a winning writer and a winning manuscript. We work hard to hone those skills, and we take great pride in our instincts.   More

’ve talked about agent limbo, logjams and brick walls. All part of the frustration of being a literary agent. I’m guessing those failures occur for all agents at one time or another. It doesn’t make us bad agents– just human. But I couldn’t talk about #AgentFail without talking about bad agents.
Yes, Virginia, there are bad literary agents.   More

Monday, October 18, 2010

Panel Discussion - How Do You Handle Pesky Interruptions?

Authors use all kinds of ways to carve out some private time to write.  How do you handle pesky interruptions when you're "in your zone" writing?

Consuelo Saah Baehr:
In the Paris Review interviews, it was always interesting to learn how writers structured their writing time.  Most of us have heard that Hemingway always rose at 6 a.m. and wrote standing up, in longhand, until he had fulfilled a certain number of words.  Probably no one would ever interrupt Hemingway, but for most of us who are wives, mothers, friends, etc, interruptions are inevitable. There is no sure way to take up the exact thread of true concentration once it has been broken. However, it is not productive to imbue “the zone” with so much power that we despair if we are interrupted. The mind reacts to our emotional commands. My advice is don’t send the command that interruptions will ruin your “zone.”  Often, it’s not the interruption, but the annoyance we feel that ruins the moment. Be matter of fact about interruptions. Keep reinforcing the message that while you might not get the exact thread back you will get something just as good or better. I wrote four books while my three children ran around tormenting each other. My mind did not receive the message that repetitive screams, shrieks and whining would disturb my train of thought. So, I just wrote.

Camille LaGuire:

I go to Taco Bell. I know, I know! But I'm serious. When I was a student many, many years ago, I had a long gap in my day and couldn't go home. Taco Bell was the first fast food restaurant in our area to offer free refills on pop - so I would sit there and write. Now I find that nothing stimulates the creativity like the smell of bad tacos.
Blog: The Daring Novelist,

J.M. Pierce:

Being a husband and father of two with a full time job can make it tricky to find quality writing time. When I'm at home, it NEVER happens while the kids are awake; it's just impossible. At work, I'm lucky in that I have my own office so on the days that I don't have to pick my daughter up from preschool, I can close the door and spend my lunch getting a solid hours worth of writing in. The people at work know that I'm an author so no one bothers me unless it is an emergency. So to answer the question, I completely avoid writing in situations that allow for interruptions.

John Hendricks:
I like to think I'm generally a nice guy, but I know I'm rude when it comes to my writing. I'm not sure I'd recommend rudeness offhand. I think it would look bad. However, it does work. I've perfected holding up my finger in that gesture that signifies very haughtily, "I will be with you in one minute." Most people won't bother persisting to talk to you once they've seen that. Do I like being rude? Not generally. I take no particular pleasure in snubbing people. At the same time, I think it's true that most people are more sociable than writers. Writing at length is a solitary task and it requires focus. People my age were often taught in school to believe sharing is this excellent thing and that anyone who didn't share all they had probably wanted to be a junkie when he or she grew up or, at least, wasn't a very good person. I'm selfish with my time when it comes to my work, but I had to learn to be selfish. If I hadn't, I'd never finish anything and, in the long run, frustration would have made me even more rude. So mild rudeness mitigates future extreme rudeness in my case. Not a bad trade off if you ask me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review - The Ways of Khrem by D. Nathan Hilliard

4 of 5 stars
I received a review copy of the book from the author.

THE WAYS OF KHREM is definitely an entertaining read.  The book contains three interconnected novellas featuring Cargill, the Bookseller and a supporting cast of fascinating characters. 

Cargill has left his criminal past behind him, or so he thinks, to become a respected bookseller, until a knock on his door one day turns out to be Captain Wilhem Drayton of the City Watch.  It seems that Captain Drayton knows all about Cargill’s criminal past, but is willing to overlook it for Cargill’s consulting services.  Cargill has no choice, of course, and a tenuous partnership is born.  Along with Drayton comes two City Watchmen, Heinryk, a veteran of the watch and the younger Poole whose most distinct characteristics are his single dark eyebrow and enough muscles for two men.  The author weaves this trio throughout the novellas and I found that with each story, Mr. Hilliard cleverly reveals a little more about each of them and their own secrets.

I have to say though my favorite character is Grabel, Cargill’s manservant.  Grabel’s main duty is to help Cargill “navigate the treacherous terrain of social intercourse” which he does with skill, efficiency and indifferent boredom.  The banter back and forth between these two men had me laughing out loud on several occasions – each of them trying their best to torture the other.  As Cargill says, Grabel “has the remarkable ability to roll his eyes without actually rolling his eyes.”  Even though on the surface their relationship seems argumentative and testy, I got the impression that each of them looked out for the other in their own way. 

I liked “The Ghost of Candlewalk Lane” the most of the 3 stories, but each story is quite enjoyable.  I would definitely recommend that you pick up this book and allow Mr. Hilliard to introduce you to the city of Khrem and all that inhabit it, both above and below ground.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Wedding Pictures!

Usually my blog posts are about my writing career, but every now and then I can't help but post some personal events.  For those who don't know, on Sunday, 10/10/10, my daughter, Amanda, married her fiance, John.  My husband Ron and I were so happy and proud.  It was a spectacular day!

It started off with the most beautiful sunrise at the beach:

How could anything go wrong with such a beautiful start to the day.  Next up was all kinds of preparations for the ceremony room and the reception hall.
These are the table centerpieces designed by Sandy and I.

There was also a candy table.  Had to keep everyone's sugar level steady.

Here's my son Josh, with Amanda, after she had her hair done.

Here's the arch for the ceremony.  All floral bouquets including the bridal and bridesmaid's bouquets were done by my best friend, Sandy, and I.

Here's my beautiful daughter, Amanda!

And the bridesmaids!

The proud mother with her daughter!

and the happy bride and groom!

Mr. and Mrs.!

My kids, Josh and Amanda

The proud parents with the bride and groom!

and finally the wedding cake!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Release - Guardian of the Mountain by David Dalglish

My author buddy, David Dalglish and I have a running joke – I’m the “unofficial David Dalglish.”  Not me personally, but my blog.  Because I've featured David on my blog a few times both with an author interview and a review of one of his books, the Two Ends of the Pen webpage consistently came up when readers did a google search for the “official website David Dalglish.”  We had a good laugh about that and then David figured it was time he had his own website.  It’s actually called “Official Website of David Dalglish” so I guess I can no longer claim that title, but I'm still happy to feature his new releases.  So without further adieu, here’s David to talk about his newest book:  “Guardian of the Mountain.”

Back in high school, I remember watching a top ten countdown of the best horror movies. Having never really read or watched much horror at the time, I was fascinated. I decided I wanted to try and write the best horror story ever by combining all the similar aspects that each movie had. Stranded in the middle of nowhere? Check. Vicious, unstoppable monster? Check. Lots of darkness? Check. Creepy young girl? Check.

Of course, I stuck the story in a fantasy setting, since that's what I *was* reading at the time. The story came out pretty good, and more importantly, it began what would later become my first novel. I was so proud of that story.

And then my hard drive crashed, and me being the brilliant man I am, had no backup. Gone. So now here I am, ten years later, thinking I've actually learned a few things (mainly back up your dang stories). So I took a stab at the story once more. An added bonus for anyone who's read my other works: Mira from my Half-Orc Series is first introduced here, giving some background on a character I probably failed to really do justice so far in my series.

But forget all that. This story is horror. And fantasy. The mountain is full of gold, but its Guardian won't let the riches be stolen so easily...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Panel Discussion 4: Beta Readers - Do You Listen to Them?

It seems the panel discussion idea has become quite popular among my fellow author friends.  Today our third panel of authors will lend their opinions on the role of beta readers.  Here’s the question:

How much of your manuscript are you willing to change/edit based on your beta readers comments?  Or do you just use your beta readers to check for grammatical issues?

I would like to start the comments for this panel question.  Both Dave and I take our readers’ comments very seriously especially if there is an issue of confusion surrounding a character or scene.  Because we know what happens in the story, sometimes we assume too much.  This happened with our first book and once we got the comments back from our readers, we were able to see that there was definitely a few plot holes that needed to be fixed.  Of course, we also want our readers to point out the typos because frankly, after you’ve read the same book so many times, your eyes automatically “put” the right word in the sentence.  Once the typo is pointed out, all you can do is a *face palm* that you didn’t catch it in the previous 99 times you’ve read it and then go fix it.

T.L. Haddix:
It depends very much on the nature of the comments.  If I am fairly confident that my book is good, well-rounded, no plot holes, I’m basically looking for grammatical errors or typos when I send the ‘script to beta readers.  If I have doubts about the book itself, I’m looking for guidance.  My second book was a challenge to get to the finish line.  I had lived with the characters for so long that even though I knew there were issues with the plot, I just couldn’t see them.  Once my betas had the manuscript in their hands and feedback started coming back in, I was able to see the book differently, and fix the problems.  So, to answer your question directly, anything from minor grammatical corrections to major plot issues, or more succinctly, whatever the story needs.

Camille LaGuire
I am happy to get any feedback a reader will give me.  If they want to check my spelling, they can.  But what I really need them for is to hold up a mirror and show me what my work looks like to the outside world.  I don't ask them to tell me what to do, I just want to know how they react as readers.  I then decide what to change or not based on their reaction.

Ellen O’Connell:
While I'm interested in anything beta readers have to say, I give them a book before final editing and proofreading and tell them that. My theory is that I'm probably going to change some things before finalizing the book, so there's no need to spend time proofing work that may be revised. The feedback I want from beta readers is: (1) does the story hold their interest? is the pacing good? and (2) do the characters seem real? are they sympathetic?  Needless to say I'm not willing to just throw a story away based on beta readers, but I have made major changes in the two books I have out now because of their opinions. The one that stands out is that for both my current books, beta readers said the heroines were too strong - bitchy. Even though I didn't see it, I toned both those characters down. Feedback from readers is that the main attraction for each book is the female protagonist. Readers see them as strong yet likable women. In particular Anne, the heroine of my romance, evokes very positive reactions from readers. Am I glad I listened to my beta readers and changed those characters? You bet! So I am willing to make major changes, not necessarily if one beta reader mentions something, but if all or several do. I hope to have at least four beta readers for the next book.

Daniel Pyle:
I have a pretty stinking fantastic group of beta readers, and I trust them a lot.  If they told me I needed to change 100% of my manuscript, I'd do it.  In fact, if they told me to run into a lion's den carrying an injured baby gazelle, I probably would.  They all have different strengths as readers and editors.  Some of them are great at picking up the grammar and proofing mistakes, some of them are plot hole finders, and some of them notice things like stagnant pacing and flat characters and bad dialogue and run-on sentences.  As a group, they've got it all.  Without my betas, I'd be lost.  I owe them each a lifetime's worth of drinks and hugs.