Monday’s Friend: Joan C Curtis

My guest today is fellow mystery writer Joan C Curtis, whose book THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT, is released by MuseItUp Publishing tomorrow. Welcome, Joan!

Joan CurtisSJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

JCC: My guess is I knew I was destined to be a writer when I wrote the short story for Reader’s Digest about the summer after my father’s death. I had been thinking about that story for a long time. When I put it to paper, it felt right. That story won second place in a national competition and was later published. My journey as a writer began in that moment.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

JCC: One of my greatest influences is my mom. She doesn’t consider herself a writer, but she certainly taught me about reading. She never is without a book and she reads everything. Furthermore she has written some wonderful poetry. Influences come in different ways. My mom’s support and her love of books influenced me to pursue a literary career. I’m sure that was not her intention!

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

JCC: Writing is a craft. It is not something that you can do just because you know how to pick up a pencil or type on a keyboard. My first (practice novel) novel taught me how little I know about the craft of writing fiction. Had I known that ahead of time, I would not have written an entire manuscript to find out. Pursuing a career as a writer means learning the craft, going to classes, listening to feedback, writing and re-writing, exploring new genre, practicing, reading with a writer’s eye, and finally understanding that learning never stops.

SJT: You have said in earlier interviews that you are more a ‘pantser’ than a ‘plotter’. How did the plot for ‘The Clock Strkes Midnight’ develop?

JCC: I wish I could tell you that the plot came to me and poof there it was. Instead it was more of developing characters that acted in certain ways, given their circumstances, and allowing the story to evolve. I put the reins in the hands of the characters. I knew I wanted the story to move forward and there was an end result. If a character got stuck, I’d ask myself what can she do to move the story along? That often brought out a new plot point.

SJT: The story revolves around two sisters, Marlene and Janie, each of which is dealing with her own demons. The rivalry between these two siblings is very effectively written. Do you have siblings of your own from which to take inspiration of sibling rivalry?

JCC: That’s a great question, Sara Jayne. Yes, I have two sisters. I’m the middle child. My older sister basically removed herself from the sib ship. She is my half-sister and I think she always felt separate, even as a very young child. She pushed me away and created her own friends. My younger sister was born when I was 18 months old. As my mom describes it, as soon as she was born, I latched onto her and took care of her. We became inseparable, similar to Marlene and Janie as young children. As teens, we clashed as all young teenagers do. There were big arguments over clothes, boyfriends, and chores. But, the foundation of trust and love was created in our early years, and eventually when the teenage craziness abated, we became close again.

SJT: The sisters both harbour resentment over their mother Eloise, who they both seem to regard as a weak-willed alcoholic. But the second section of the book gives us some insight into Eloise’s early life, and paints a very different picture of her. How did you see Eloise when you started writing about her? Did you see her as a villain, and a bad mother, or someone you felt deserved sympathy?

JCC: I’m afraid I always saw Eloise as a narcissist. Yes, she engenders sympathy, but her core character is not so much a villain as a person who cannot love anyone but herself. You will note that there are two sisters in the Eloise generation as well. Eloise’s older sister, Sarah, plays an important role in the development of Marlene and Janie. She is also a stark contrast to Eloise. I can’t say too much more about Eloise without giving too much away. I would be interested in learning how readers saw her. They may have gotten a very different picture than I did and that would be great.

The Clock Strikes Midnight (2)SJT: Where can readers buy THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT?

JCC: This is the question all my friends are asking me! You can buy the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and MuseItUp Publishing. Right now it’s still on pre-order for $2.99. I’d also like to invite your readers to our Facebook Launch Party on 25 November from 3:00 pm-5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. There they can join in the fun and maybe win a free copy of the book along with many other prizes.

SJT: Any works in progress you’d like to tell us about?

JCC: My second mystery will be published by MuseItUp in the Spring, 2015. The title, e-Murderer, is about a serial killer who sends anonymous emails to a young woman working for a psychiatrist. The descriptions of the murders sound ominously similar to the deaths of co-eds in the college town where the story takes place. The e-Murderer is the first in a series starring Jenna Scali.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

JCC: My favourite pastime is reading. But that sounds a bit boring. I also love tennis. I played for years and now prefer to watch. Going to the US Open is a special treat. I tend to spend a lot of time exercising. I swim, spin, do Pilates and walk many miles a week. I also love to entertain and travel. Italy is my country of preference.

 AUTHOR BIO:

Joan C Curtis is an award-winning writer who has published 5 books and numerous stories. In her newest mystery/suspense novel, The Clock Strikes Midnight, scheduled for release by MuseItUp Publishing on 25 November 2014.

Joan has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember.  She reads all kinds of books, including women’s fiction, mysteries, biography, and memoir.  Her passion as a reader lies closer to literary writing with a commercial bent. She writes books she would love to read.

“I write about characters who remind me of myself at times and my sister at times, but never fully so. My stories are told from a woman’s point of view. Characters drive my writing and my reading.”

Having grown up in the South with a mother from Westchester County New York, Joan has a unique take on blending the southern traditions with the eye of a northerner.  She spent most of her childhood in North Carolina and now resides in Georgia.

 

Monday’s Friend: Cheryl Carpinello

Today I am pleased to have Cheryl Carpinello as my blog guest. Welcome, Cheryl!

First PersonWhy It Works
by Cheryl Carpinello

Choosing the point of view for a story is not an easy choice. All writers wrestle with the decision of which point of view will make their story connect with readers. If you choose the wrong POV, then your story is doomed to failure before it is ever finished. If you choose the correct POV, then your story is flying out of the starting gate before it ever hits the publication stage.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Young Adult Award Winning BookFor Sons of the Sphinx, I struggled with POV for nearly a year. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but couldn’t decide how to best bring my story to life. I tried Third Person, but that just didn’t bring across the emotions of the characters the way I wanted. The Omniscient POV kept me the writer in the story too much. So, I went back and looked at my characters again, focusing on their motivations. That’s when I decided on First Person POV.

My story was to be Rosa’s story first and foremost. The stories of the other characters would also be told, but through Rosa’s innocent eyes. In addition, I wanted Rosa’s sarcastic humor to help define her and her struggle with Nana’s gift. The only way to do that was to have Rosa tell the story. Here’s a couple of snippets. Hopefully you’ll agree.

Rosa upon learning that Tut’s father was given an elephant for a gift:

Your father got elephants for gifts? I cant believe what I heard. An elephant, an elephant? All I got for my last birthday was a blue sweater, a couple of books, and some gift cards.

 Rosa on her arrival in Egypt:

I pause with each step to breathe in this exotic atmosphere. Here and there small stands of treesoases reallyoff to the side provide some relief from the sun. Might be nice to stop. How people live in this oven is beyond me. Even the sweat pouring down my back is hot. So much for the premise that a persons body perspiring cools them off. I keep wiping the stinging saltwater from my eyes. My feet slide in my soggy shoes making it hard to walk. Be lucky if I dont have blisters. Never knew a person had this much water in them.

And who better to describe the feeling of a 15-year-old girl being scolded than a 15-year-old girl:

I walk around behind the shrine. You were one of the richest pharaohs in Egypt.

He looks at me and frowns. I see something in his eyes, briefly, that mirrors the disappointment in my dads eyes the day the cops brought me home. I ditched school after one of those talking ghost episodes. They picked me up at the shopping mall an hour before school was out. An hour! I have all the luck. I cough as my throat tickles in an irritating way.

I hope you enjoyed this peek at the personality of Rosa which only works with First Person POV.

Blurb for SONS OF THE SPHINX

Armed with what she considers her grandmother’s curse, 15-year-old Rosa agrees to help the ghost of King Tut find his lost queen Hesena. Though Hesena’s ba inhabits part of Rosa, finding the whole spirit of Hesena so that she and Tut can be together for the first time in over 3300 years proves to be a harder task than Rosa first thinks. Thrust back into Ancient Egypt with Tut, Rosa discovers that finding Hesena is not all she must do. She must keep out of the reach of the living Horemheb—who crosses mortal boundaries using Seth’s evil magic—if she is to stay alive to make it back home.

Buy Links:

 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MVGC96Y/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/469860

 Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sons-of-the-sphinx-cheryl-carpinello/1120481788?ean=2940046213232

iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sons-of-the-sphinx/id925912370?mt=11&uo=4

Author Bio:

I love the Ancient and Medieval Worlds! As a retired English teacher, I hope to inspire young readers to read more through my Quest Books. Please follow me on this adventure. On Carpinello’s Writing Pages, I interview other children/MG/Tween/YA authors. At The Quest Books, I’ve teamed up with Fiona Ingram from South Africa and Wendy Leighton-Porter of England/France/Abu Dhabi to enable readers to find all of our Ancient and Medieval quest books in one place.

Author  CarpelloLearn more about Cheryl and her writing at her Blog, and at the following links:

Beyond Today Educator
The Quest Books
Facebook
GoodReads
Twitter
Amazon Author Page

Other Books by Cheryl Carpinello

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend – Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0025KUJ36

Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom – MuseItUp Publishing book page:  http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museityoung/action-adventure/the-king-s-ransom-detail

Tutankhamen Speaks – Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E18KH46

My Life in Books: Restoration

RestorationTremainOne of my first jobs was in a book shop (1989-1991), and at the time each employee was allocated particular publishers, and part of their job was to see the publishers’ rep when they came to the shop and listen to the pitch for new releases. Sometimes the reps arrived armed with free copies of these new books, and this is how I ended up with a copy of Rose Tremain’s ‘Restoration’, because in 1989 I had the Hamish Hamilton list.

Surprisingly, because I wouldn’t have thought it was my sort of thing, I really enjoyed this book.  It revolves around the escapades of one Robert Merivel, favoured physician in James II’s court. He’s not a terribly nice character at the start of the book – a self-centred, womanising rogue – but there’s a charm to him that makes you empathise with him anyway.  The King orders Merivel to marry his favourite mistress, the idea being that he can keep her close to hand without rousing the suspicions of his other mistresses, confident in the concept that Merivel is too fond of ladies in general to get attached to just one.  When Merivel commits the unpardonable sin of falling in love with his wife, he is banished from court, and the rest of the book is a story of his journey back to respectability.  He learns how to put aside his philandering ways and gains respect for women, and also discovers respect for himself.

Perhaps it is Rose Tremain’s writing style that endeared me to this character, but he changes and matures throughout the story in a way that I found engaging.  Merivel’s indiscretions include a dalliance with an attractive young woman in a mental hospital, and when she dies giving birth to his baby, he is left with a daughter to take care of and that is one of the key things that makes him re-assess his priorities.

I read this book once, over twenty years ago, but it stayed with me.  I was pleased to learn recently that Rose Tremain has written a sequel to ‘Restoration’, set seventeen years on, with Merivel an older (though probably not much wiser) man and his daughter Margaret grown and ready to make her own way in the world.  This book is now in my To Be Read pile, and I am looking forward to visiting Robert Merivel again.

Friday Fears: Two Sentence Horror #6

It’s Hallowe’en, and it’s Friday! Seems a good time to post some more two sentence horror.

 

Here is a contribution from Jim King:

It’s always so hard to pick a dress for the party. The blue is so pretty but black hides the blood better.

 

And here is one from me:

This morning I woke up with the sound of the alarm, like I always do, and began my usual routine. It was a perfectly ordinary day until I looked in my shaving mirror and realised I had no reflection.

 

Anyone else want to write a scary two-sentence stories for Hallowe’en?  Leave yours in the comments, and I’ll put it up on the blog next week!

Happy Hallowe’en!

Happy-Halloween-Vector

Monday’s Friend: Christopher Mannino

Today I am pleased to welcome back to the blog fellow MIU author Christopher Mannino, to talk about the inspiration for his novel SCHOOL OF DEATHS.

WHAT INSPIRED ME TO WRITE MY BOOK
By Christopher Mannino

The idea for SCHOOL OF DEATHS emerged when I was finishing my graduate degree at Oxford University. I spent four months abroad, far from everyone I knew. Every week, I traveled somewhere I had never been before. I would climb castle ruins in Wales and visit cathedrals in England. One of my favorite trips was to Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. After misjudging the time it’d take to get there, I became stranded. The tourist office was closed, and I couldn’t find a hostel. I walked from pub to pub asking if I could sleep above their bar.

The next morning, having slept none, since I’d found a room over a noisy pub, I crept to Barras Nose before dawn. Barras Nose is a stone peninsula, or rocky outcropping jutting into the Celtic Sea, just north of Tintagel. Tintagel itself is a small island with castle ruins on its cliffs. Some believe it to be the birthplace of King Arthur.  When I reached Barras Nose, the winds howled so fiercely that I had to crawl on all fours to keep from being blown into the ocean below. Then dawn broke.  No other humans were in sight. I struggled to keep my balance, but watched the sun rise on the ruins of the ancient castle, listening to the thunder of waves pounding the fifty foot cliffs I clung to. Wind battered me with ferocity, and I imagined a character being buffeted by winds, completely alone. I envisioned  Suzie, alone in a world of men, buffeted by sexism.

CoverSchoolofDeaths (2)EXCERPT:

She looked around. They stood in an alley, with gleams of starlight visible above them. Flies buzzed over a trash can, overflowing with pizza boxes. A cool breeze blew candy wrappers across the pavement, to graffiti-covered walls. Behind her, a cement building rose, with barred windows. In front of them, a larger street met the alley, with part of a neon sign glowing around the corner. It smelled like urine.

She heard shouts in Spanish from a dilapidated cement building with iron bars. More shouts and someone pleading. Then a gunshot and the shouts moved away from them.

A young girl staggered into the alley. Suzie was about to speak, but Frank shook his head.

The girl fell onto her face, a pool of blood leaking out from under her. In the distance, Suzie heard another gunshot.

“We have to help her,” said Suzie.

“It’s too late,” said Frank.

The girl lay motionless. Time seemed to stop. Suzie had never witnessed someone’s death. Who was this girl? Who had shot her?

Even as the questions started to form in her mind, the girl sat up and stared at them. Suzie started to move, but Frank grabbed her arm, holding her.

“Where am I?” said the girl.

She was sitting up, but she was also laying face first on the ground. The sitting girl looked at Billy with terrified eyes and struggled to her feet. Suzie realized they were each wearing black robes; even with their training badges, they must look frightening. Billy still held the scythe.

“Is this a joke?” said the girl. “I’m not dead—”

“You are,” said Billy.

The standing girl had no gunshot wound in her chest. Her dress seemed to shine as she moved a step away. She never looked down at her own body, or the blood continuing to run.

“Who are you three?” asked the girl.

“We’re in training,” said Billy. Suzie admired how calm his voice was. He was cool and collected, while she wanted to yell.

The girl took another step back and tripped on something. She tried to get up again but Billy held up a hand.

“Please,” he said. “Allow me.”

He raised the scythe and let it fall. The girl screamed, and Suzie screamed as well.

withscytheedited (2)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christopher Mannino’s life is best described as an unending creative outlet. He teaches high school theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to his daily drama classes, he runs several after-school performance/production drama groups. He spends his summers writing and singing. Mannino holds a Master of Arts in Theatre Education from Catholic University, and has studied mythology and literature both in America and at Oxford University. His work with young people helped inspire him to write young adult fantasy, although it was his love of reading that truly brought his writing to life.

Mannino is currently working on a sequel to “School of Deaths” as well as an adult science fiction novel.

BLURB:

Thrust into a world of men, can a timid girl find bravery as the first female Death?

Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.

Scythes hungry for souls, Deaths who subjugate a race of mysterious magicians, and echoes of an ancient war with Dragons.

As her year progresses, Suzie suspects her presence isn’t an accident. She uncovers a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths. Now she must also discover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.

SCHOOL OF DEATHS has an awesome book trailer! Watch it here:

 

Learn more about Christopher and his books here:

AUTHOR SITE: http://www.christophermannino.com/

AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K2GC12M

MUSE IT UP: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/now-available-in-ebook/school-of-deaths-detail

Monthly Round-up: October 2014

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s October already. Tthis month is mostly known as being Hallowe’en season. And for me it’s also the month of my birth. I was born a week before Hallowe’en - fairly appropriate for a horror writer.

And it’s time for another update, so here is the news for this month.

COMING SOON/OUT NOW

Death Scene is available at a 60% discount until the end of the month, as part of MuseItUp Publishing’s fourth anniversary celebrations. If you haven’t bought it yet, now might be a good time, before the price goes up.

Dead Cool is released on 25 November, but it can be pre-ordered if you want to get your order in now.

PROMOTIONAL STUFF

Two guest appearances this month.  I was on Jami Gray’s blog talking about the importance of a sense of place, and then on Margaret Fieland’s blog talking about why my characters never get ‘Happy Ever After’ endings.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I have been feeling decidedly under the weather for a good part of this month, struck with the lingering virus that seems to be hitting rather a lot of people at the moment. I end up feeling tired all the time, so getting up early to write has been rather difficult. I’m still working on the horror WIP, though have not made as much progress as I would have liked.

Time seems to be flashing by, and I haven’t done nearly enough writing. But there’s still a bit of time left before the end of the year.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Monday’s Friend: Amanda Faith

Today I am pleased to have as my guest fellow MuseItUp author Amanda Faith. Welcome, Amanda!

amanda faith (2)SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

AF: It was in the sixth grade. That was when I entered my first contest. We had to write a short story and design and make the book cover. The name of the story was “Tallahassee.” It was about a small colt who was an orphan and wanting to find a home where someone would love him. Although I didn’t win, I knew then I wanted to write.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

AF: I remember being so excited about the contest. Mrs. Clay, my English teacher in the sixth grade, really encouraged me to write. My grandfather was also a huge influence. He was a music ghostwriter for some really great artists in the Grand Ole Opry and I would sit and listen to his creativity for hours. He always wanted me to follow my dreams.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

AF: Read as much as you can in a variety of genres. Granted, you should read what is “hot” now, but also read classics. Read across the board. The more you read, the more you expand your horizons, the more your inner writer generates new ideas. Remember, you should not write about what is hot now. Write what you feel drawn to. That may become the next “hot” item.

SJT: When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?

AF: Probably some of both. It depends on what I am writing. For the academic work, I tend to plan more. There tends to be a lot of research in that. For the creative work, I usually have a general idea of where I am going. My outline is not massively detailed, but I do still use paper and pencil for that. I find that writing down my ideas on paper is my creative venue. Even with that said, sometimes my characters decide they want to go their own way. Sometimes I give in to that to see where it goes. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but if I don’t let them have their voice, I can’t get anything else done.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

AF: Strength of Spirit is centered on Velvet Moon. She never thought she would have an interesting life. It was ok, just not interesting.

Strength of SpiritNow her death is another story.

Her and her mother had no idea the day Wren Easton came into their shop would change their lives so much, or that he would involve them in his job with the government.

Did I mention he was like a Ghostbuster 007?

As a ghost, she has to solve her murder, protect her mother, and fight against an evil man that wants to rule the world.

Why not? She has nothing better to do.

This book won the 2014 Gold Global eBook Award for Paranormal Mystery. It’s also UP Author Approved 2013.

SJT: You were born in the North and now live in the South. My country is much smaller than yours but we still talk about a ‘North/South’ divide. What would you say are the main differences between these two halves of the US?

AF: I moved South my senior year in high school. It was a major culture shock for me. Granted, all of the US speaks English, but the South has its own “English.” It took me a little bit to get use to the common terminology here, but I love living in South Carolina. It’s friendly and a lot warmer than Ohio. I really don’t miss the snow and ice.

The term ‘Southern Hospitality’ is so true. I find that people are more friendly here than in the North. The lifestyle is more laid back. Here in the South, sweet tea and grits are staple food products and “y’all” really is a word.

I think one of the major differences is the schools. Unfortunately in the South, they tend to be behind the academic growth. I am not sure if it’s because of the slower paced lifestyle here or something else. I wish it were not that way. Our kids suffer because of it.

SJT: Your bio says you’re involved in Dragon Con, which is famous amongst geeks – even British ones – as The Con to attend. If you were to convince a British con-goer to part with her hard-earned cash and fly across the Atlantic to attend Dragon Con, how would you sell it?

AF: It is the geekiest place on earth. I am constantly amazed at the variety of events and panels available to everyone. It’s not your comic book special. There are so many panels to attend, gaming to play, art to see, stars to ogle over, parties to attend, gatherings to join, people to meet…it is a plethora of everything geek. You can make some really great friends. I have been going for years, even before I was on staff. I have yet to meet anyone nasty. There are so many people there of like mind, it’s like having a huge family. Last year, 62,000 attendees descended on downtown Atlanta, Georgia. That is so mind-boggling. It’s for the young and the young-at-heart. Even though I am 50, I have never been sneered at by the younger generation attending the Con. My students love the fact that I attend every year. They tell me they can see the joy on my face talking about it.

SJT: Any works in progress you can tell us about?

AF: I have 2 more books completed, a third more than half done, and another idea I am outlining.

I am trying to finish the edits on the second book in the Velvet Moon series. It is complete. I just need to polish it before I send it out. It has an Alice-in-Wonderland element in it. Velvet definitely has her hands full with this one.

The other I have finished is a science-fiction piece. A young woman discovers her power in art and the control she may have over others for justice to prevail. Again, it’s complete, but I have to do the edits.

I hate editing…lol. I have to get it in gear, though.

SJT: I think we all hate editing, but it has to be done! What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

AF: I’ve had to recently give up scuba diving and motorcycle riding (due to degenerative arthritis). I loved doing those things. I am an amateur radio operator. I go for walks in the woods and on the beach. I love reading and traveling. I have been to several countries. (The UK is on my list. I can’t wait to go). I am one to try new things. Although I love quiet time, I can’t imagine being in a rut.

AUTHOR BIO:

Amanda Faith was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, but has lived in the South since 1980. Teaching high school English by day, college English by night, writing, and doing paranormal investigations doesn’t slow her down from having a great time with a plethora of hobbies. Her published credits include short stories, poetry, several journal articles, her doctorial dissertation, and her award-winning book Strength of Spirit. She is a staff writer for The Daily Dragon at Dragon Con. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Masters in Education-English, and a Doctorate in Education-Teacher Leadership.

Learn more about Amanda at her website.

See the book trailer for Strength of Spirit below:

 

Strength of Spirit is available now in all e-book formats from the MuseItUp book store.

 

Monday’s Friend: Charles Bowie

Today I am pleased to welcome Charles Bowie to the blog to talk about why the number three is so significant to his writing.  Take it away, Charles!

The Power Of The Three
By Charles Bowie

Charles BowieThree. It’s the second prime number, not even the first one. Yet it holds sway over us with a mystical power that cannot be denied. It’s big in religion, just ask The Father or The Son or…you know. It’s big in the corporate world. Every director and manager knows, or think they know their staff can only retain three main facts from any meeting. And it’s massive, when writing.

Earth, wind and fire. Food, clothing and shelter. The Earth, the skies and the heavens. I could go on but, well, I’ve used up my three examples. Suffice it to say, in the human mind, the application of three to develop a concept has been employed through the ages. This is never truer than when telling a story.

Beginning, middle and end. Have I not just described, simply, every story you’ve ever heard, seen or read? (There I go again; sorry.) Let’s say you agree with me. What can you do with this revelation? There are simple and complex applications to this, from a writer’s perspective.

To start, let’s look at the beginning, middle and end aspect of writing. It occurs to me if one was to divide their story into three elements, each one had better hold a special significance. There’s a saying that originated from Western movie writers. ‘What’s the secret to a great duster? Shoot the sheriff in the first five minutes.’ Did you get the viewer’s attention? You bet. You have a beginning. Now take the middle. Is it filler? Is it okay to go straight from the beginning to the climax (end)? No. Not good enough. You have to have massive amounts of goodness in the middle, in the form of character development, exposition, dialogue, atmosphere, not to mention a damn good plot. Fill up the middle with meat, you have my permission. Now for the end. I was chatting with my friend Victor this morning. He’d read a manuscript that contained no climax, and felt robbed. If you’ve taken the reader that far, shouldn’t there be a crisis, perhaps a culmination of the journey being taken? All three elements of the story—any story—have to be respected.

What else can we writers use this numerical phenomenon for? I personally adore working with three distinct storyline arcs, when writing my thrillers. This isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. If you think about the classic love triangle: two guys and a girl; a man, a woman and her career; the power of the three cannot be denied. In classic writing, you have the protagonist, antagonist, and something called nemesis. Nowadays, writers have great success having the protagonist, as well as his or her antagonist, also known as the bad guy. It can be helpful to have someone—the nemesis—arrive on the scene, solely as a catalyst for action. They could be the tech guy who delivers the critical information. They can be the wise mentor, who imparts something to the hero. They can be the comic.

Next time you read a book—hopefully later today—look for the power of the three within it. See how you can exploit this in your writing. I did. I do, and I will.

Chuck Bowie’s latest book Three Wrongs is available right now as an eBook and it comes out this fall in print.

From MuseItUp: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mainstream/three-wrongs-detail

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Three-Wrongs-Donavan-Thief-Hire-ebook/dp/B00BACRDMU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1412866081&sr=1-1&keywords=Three+Wrongs

The second novel in the series, AMACAT, drops October 17th.

From MuseItUp: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mystery-thriller-suspense/amacat-detail

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/AMACAT-Donovan-Thief-Chuck-Bowie-ebook/dp/B00NMOMGWQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1412866128&sr=1-1&keywords=AMACAT

ThreeWrongsAMACATAd071014AUTHOR BIO 

Chuck Bowie is a Canadian writer who lets his experiences in wine and travel influence his taut, well-written suspense-thrillers. His first two: Three Wrongs and AMACAT have already set the scene for Sean Donovan, a thief for hire. His newest offering, Steal It All promises to keep you wanting more.

Chuck writes for MuseItUp Publishing. You can find him on Twitter as @BowieChuck. His website is http://chuckbowie.ca

 

 

Monday’s Friend: Matthew Peters

Today I’m pleased to welcome Matthew Peters to the blog, who has not one but two novels released this year.  He also has some frank things to say about mental illness, so let’s chat to him now.

Matthew Peters (2)SJT: Your biography refers to your own mental health issues, and this clearly influenced at least one of your novels. Did you ever use writing as part of the healing process in difficult times?

MP: Thank you for raising the issue, Sara. I have a dual diagnosis. And I’d like to take a moment to tell what that means.

Though there are some variations in definitions of dual diagnosis, the term generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine or heroin). For example, I have depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and I have alcoholism.

It is estimated that 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis. It is also estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem. Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Sigmund Freud. Robin Williams was also dual diagnosed.

And, to answer your question, yes, I have often used writing as part of the healing process, not only in difficult times, but in good times as well. My experiences with depression have led me to develop empathy for suffering, which I’m often able to use to understand the motivations and actions of my characters.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

MP: First, read the classics and as much good literature as you can get your hands on. Read widely, too, from poetry and plays to science and politics. If you don’t read well, you can’t write well.

Second, realize that you may have several stories or even novels in you that you must write to get out of your system. In many cases, these will not be salable. That’s okay. Most of us have a lot of bad writing inside of us that needs to get out before we get to the good stuff. Growth for writers is a process. Be patient with it.

Third, don’t be a perfectionist. I think perfectionism kills. Realize that unlike other professions, say neurosurgery, writers don’t have to get it right the first time. We have the luxury of being able to revise our product as much as we wish. Realize that, and let it free you up in the writing process. Write junk if you have to, but write. Anne Lamott talks about a “shitty first draft.” Indeed. Most first, second, and third drafts are pretty lousy. But that’s okay. Give yourself permission to write and to not be perfect. You can always revise later.

Fourth, it’s okay not to be in love with writing every second of every day. It’s natural to resent it at times. Don’t stuff these feelings. Take a break if you can, and then come back to it.

Fifth, join a writing group. Make sure others read and give you feedback on your writing. Make sure someone other than your parents or significant other reads your work. But also be wary of taking too much constructive criticism from too many people—too many writers can spoil the plot (among other things).

Sixth, before you submit your work to an agent/publisher or self-publish, make sure it is free from typos, grammatical, and factual errors. If you can afford it, have a content editor and a copy editor go through your work and polish it until it shines. Don’t submit anything for publication until it represents your absolute, best effort. I think you’ll be surprised how much that will help distinguish from among other writers.

Finally, write as often as you can, but don’t be afraid to take breaks.

SJT: Who would you cite as influences?

MP: Well, I’d love to write with the philosophical and psychological depth of Dostoevsky, the spirituality of Hesse, the soul of James Baldwin, the clarity of Hemingway, the plotting of Richard Wright, and the lyricism of William Styron. I consider them and many others to be influences.

SJT: Your novels are clearly well-researched. Have you ever had to do anything really strange in the name of research?

MP: I haven’t had to do anything really strange for my research yet, though I’m sure I will at some point. Most of my research consists of poring over books from a local university library. In addition to books, I’m a fan of using YouTube and Google Earth J

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

MP: I’m promoting a religious mystery/thriller called THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS and a literary novel called CONVERSATIONS AMONG RUINS.

THe Brothers' KeeperHere is a brief description of THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS:

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?

Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.

Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.

How will it end? Read The Brothers’ Keepers … if you dare.

Here is a brief description of CONVERSATIONS AMONG RUINS:

 Conversations Among Ruins is a portrait of a descent into madness, and the potential of finding salvation there.

While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed professor meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter. But Mimi has secrets and, strangely, a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.

Drawn together by broken pasts, they pursue a twisted, tempestuous romance. When it ends, a deteriorating Stavros seeks refuge at a mountain cabin where a series of surreal experiences brings him face to face with something he’s avoided all his life: himself.

Though miles away, Mimi’s actions run oddly parallel to Daniel’s. Will either be redeemed, or will both careen toward self-destruction?

Conversation among ruinsSJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MP: You mean there’s something else? LOL I love reading and listening to classical music. I also enjoy hiking.

SJT: What writing project is next for you?

 MP: Currently, I am working on the next book in the Nicholas Branson series.

SJT: Thank you, Matthew, for taking the time to talk to me today.

To find out more about Matthew and his books, see the links below.

Website/Blog: www.matthewpetersbooks.com

Twitter: @MatthewPeters65

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.peters.79656

 The Brothers’ Keepers:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1rAmd7o 

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1qNxMnO

MuseItUp Publishing: http://bit.ly/1nACJCG

Conversations Among Ruins:

Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/1phAi7v

Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1oASGcG

Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/1t6Q31L

All Things That Matter Press Paperback: http://bit.ly/1rBiB1e

 

 

 

My Life in Books: The Stand

The-Stand-Stephen-King-UsedI never read The Stand in its original published version, but came across it when it was re-released as an ‘author’s extended version’ in 1990.  I was working in a book shop at the time, a job that was responsible for expanding my library quite dramatically – not just because I was around books all day and kept finding ones I wanted, but because we all got a staff discount if we bought books from the shop.  For some reason I had trouble finding an image of the cover of the 1990 release, which is the book that still sits on my shelf (along with quite a number of other Stephen King books), to include with this post.  The one I am including here is photo of someone’s copy of the book, not a JPG of the cover.

A huge doorstopper of a book, at over 1,150 pages, King allegedly put back in scenes that were cut from the originally published version, the reasoning being that people would be put off buying such a large book.  But I guess by 1990 Stephen King was such a mega-bestseller he had the freedom to do pretty much whatever he wanted.

Best described as a post-apocalyptic thriller, the plot of this book involves a super-virus, originally cultivated as a biological weapon, that effectively wipes out the population of the US, leaving handfuls of survivors that eventually band together, forming two camps – one clearly evil, the other fighting on the side of good.

The extended version, though a long book, is still one of King’s best in my view.  It’s a story of ordinary flawed people thrown into an extraordinary situation – what Stephen King does best.  The enduring appeal of post-apocalyptic novels is the study of how humanity behaves when the survival of the species is in crisis.  Modern post-apocalyptic stories generally feature zombies, but still study the behaviour of the human survivors – look at The Walking Dead, for example.  Though we’d like to think that when there are only a handful of humans left, everyone will pull together to save humanity, but sadly that’s not normally the way it is.  The surviving humans become extremely territorial, fighting each other.  This is the idea behind The Stand, and though there are no zombies to be found in this novel, the concept of what humanity is capable of in extreme survival situations is far scarier. The leader of the ‘evil’ camp is unquestionably a supernatural entity, evil for the sake of being evil, but his followers are all too human, and capable of some pretty despicable acts.  Like all King books there are truly hateful, but ultimately human, characters, who generally get what’s coming to them at the end, and likeable characters you root for and then get all upset over when they meet an undeservedly tragic end.

There are some passing observations about how our attitude to the things we take for granted shifts when the world as we know it has ended – using paper money as a book mark, for instance, as it has become worthless, and how a ruptured appendix becomes a fatal condition when there is no one around with medical knowledge to perform what is currently considered a basic and routine operation.

It’s not the first Stephen King on my list of memorable books and it will not be the last, but this book stands out for me as one of the best I ever read.

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