Monday’s Friend: SS Hampton, Sr

I’m pleased to welcome Stan Hampton back to the blog for his second appearance this year.  His new book, SHARING RACHEL, an erotic romance, is rather different to his last release. Let’s find out more about it.

SJT:  Your new novel is a bit of a departure from your previous work. How did the concept come about?

SH:  Yes, SHARING RACHEL is different from my first story, BETTER THAN A RABBIT’S FOOT, both from MuseItUp Publishing (MIU). During research for my writings (horror, fantasy, science fiction, erotica, and military fiction) I often come across information that I think would make a good foundation for a story. SHARING RACHEL is the first contemporary erotic romance novel that I have written, and that is a far cry from my previous MIU writing, BETTER THAN A RABBIT’S FOOT, which is a military short story. One thing about writing that I do not care for is the necessary evil: editing. Editing a novel is more time consuming and requires even more attention to detail than a short story.

Sharing Rachel coverSJT:  When is SHARING RACHEL released, and where can we find it?

SH:  The novel will be released before the end of 2014, and it can be found in the MuseItHOT bookstore of my publisher, MuseItUp Publishing.

SJT:  Who would you cite as your influences?

SH:  Various influences, fiction and non-fiction authors. They include Frederick Forsyth (The Odessa File, The Dogs of War), Jean Larteguy (The Centurions, The Praetorians), James Michener (Centennial), and those whose works are too many to mention, HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Cornelius Ryan, and Bernard B. Fall.

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

SH:  Recognize and understand the importance of marketing and public relations. More and more unless you are a successful big name writer, getting the word out about yourself and your writing has become the writer’s responsibility. The various small publishers help to a certain extent, depending on the publisher, but first and foremost, it is on the writer’s shoulders. In some ways this has become more important than the actual writing.

SJT:  Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

SH:  No. Fictional characters in different times or places were never based on anyone I knew, just because. Fictional characters represented in current military fiction—stories taking place during the Global War On Terrorism—will not represent anyone I know. It may sound a little superstitious, but though I may add a trait or two from various people I know, no character is based on a real person. If I write that a character is killed or crippled in combat, I would feel like I had cursed the real person to such a fate. And I know plenty of people who still serve, and will serve overseas in a combat zone. So, no.

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

SH:  I would have to say more of a “framework planner.” I start out with an outline and characters, but as my story progresses I will readjust as necessary. Sometimes a story (or even a character) needs to progress in a different direction than I had planned. I learned a long time ago (though I do not always pay attention, usually to my regret) to listen to my “gut feeling.”

SJT:  Have you got any works in progress on the go?

SH:  Plenty of story/novel ideas and outlines with research—the problem is I cannot make my mind up as to which one to start on. Additionally, I am still unpacking from my move, and recovering from the financial devastation visited upon me because of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service sitting on the 3-months military retirement backpay I was owed. I could start on the second sequel to SHARING RACHEL (the first sequel has been submitted, but no word of acceptance or rejection yet). There is a story about a haunted German Tiger tank in North Africa during World War II; a science fiction writing that asks what makes a man “great” in the eyes of others; an “alternate history” or perhaps fantasy visit to the Crusades, and more stories about the Global War On Terrorism, most being military-supernatural based (one of my favourite combinations).

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

SH:  Have a beer or Smirnoff Ice Screwdriver, watch Netflix or YouTube, and listen to music. Sometimes I meet a friend or two for drinks and dinner. After I have my 16-year old car looked over and worked on (very reliable foreign made car), go for drives and listen to music while exploring what lies over the horizon, around that bend in the road, or at the end of the old, narrow Las Vegas street—all of which are useful for scouting locations for my photography. Okay, add some painting and drawing. And, that’s about it.

SHARING RACHEL – Blurb

Sometimes people choose to live life to the fullest…

Burt and Rachel Markham are ordinary small business owners of a seed & feed store in a small Kansas farming and ranching community. Many years before, as young university graduates eagerly anticipating exciting overseas employment, a lifetime in Kansas was the furthest thing from their minds, particularly Rachel who was raised overseas and dreamed of going back. By July 2013 their twin 18-year old daughters, having graduated high school several months before, go east to attend a university. Burt and Rachel settle into their new life of an empty house and a predictable and unchanging routine that threatens to stretch far into the future. One summer evening Burt has an idea—but will Rachel accept the idea? If she does, will the idea add new excitement to their marriage, or destroy it?

 EXCERPT:

She stood and grasped his hand. “It’s a little windy out, but it looks like there’s only a slight drizzle. We won’t get too wet walking home.”

Burt glanced at the steaming dancers again and smiled. “It’s been a long time since we walked in the rain.”

“It has been,” she said and leaned against him.

“I always liked walking in the rain. A light rain that is. A slight drizzle is better.” They stepped into the cool twilight. “Anyway, when your blouse is soaked your nipples really stand out.”

“Oh God,” Rachel giggled. Silent lightning lit the wet road as if showing the way home.

Burt slipped his arms around her and kissed her cheek.

“Hi,” he whispered in her ear. She responded with a little sigh and reached back to place her hands on his hips.

The greeting was their signal when in public that one or the other was horny. They began whispering “hi” to each other shortly after they became lovers; now they also whispered it after he slipped into her or when she seated herself on him and they were looking into each other’s eyes.

The storms passed and the humid summer heat returned. The feed store remained busy. The trains rumbled past Four Corners, past their home, as they had done for the past two decades. Burt always thought that the late night train whistle that echoed across the moonlit prairie was one of the loneliest sounds he ever heard.

One night during their dinner walk they passed by the dark school. Rachel paused and stared at the small wooden building. Twinkling fireflies floated through the schoolyard.

“Are you going to volunteer this year?” he asked. Classes would start in a few days.

She was silent for a few moments before shaking her head. “No. I enjoyed being a volunteer teacher’s aide, but with the girls gone…” Her voice trailed into silence. “It wouldn’t be the same.”

Burt brushed her long hair away from her face. “What about soccer?”

“They asked me and I said I’d help on special occasions, like the end of season awards banquet.” She folded her arms around herself as if she were cold, though a warm breeze blew across the moonlit prairie. “But otherwise, no.”

“It wouldn’t be the same?”

“Jah, jah,” she whispered.

“Well, okay. I mean, there’s been a big change in our lives, but it doesn’t have to mean cutting most ties.”

When they returned to the farmhouse Rachel announced she was going for a swim. She poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for herself and picked up a CD player. She usually listened to classical music, waltzes, and operas when floating in the pool. There was a chakra wind chime hanging near the pool for the times when she felt like floating in near silence except for the chimes and the sound of the prairie wind.

A few moments later Burt followed with beer in hand. Maggie trotted behind him, rawhide bone in her jaws. Classical music floated through the night; fireflies played hide and seek among the neatly trimmed hedges along the perimeter of the yard. Others drifted in and out of the nearby cornfield, while the insects of the night droned on in disharmony.

He saw Rachel drop a dark robe to her feet. In the silvery light of the moon her nude fleshy form had a ghostly white sheen to it. She glanced over her shoulder, flashed a lusty smile at him, and dove into the pool. He stood by the edge of the pool and watched her gliding beneath the sparkling moonlit water. Then she surfaced, rolled and floated on her back with closed eyes. A pair of fireflies circled above her face.

It was the second time she was skinny dipping. It was like she was shedding the older, busy exterior of motherhood so that her younger carefree personality could reassert itself.

He sipped his beer and watched her face with Bettie Page bangs plastered to her forehead, surrounded by a fan of long hair and the glimmering water. She looked so content.

A thought was born.

A surprising thought.

A thought he never entertained before about his wife of 21 years—and the mother of his children. He walked unsteadily to a wooden chair with thick cushions and sat down heavily. He gulped his beer. A warm breeze flowed through the night; the trees rustled and the field of corn swayed like watery currents. Fireflies sailed past him.

“Dammit,” Burt whispered to himself in disbelief…disbelief and excitement. And trepidation. What would her reaction be? What would she say? Could he even find a way to suggest it?

“Burt?”

He returned to the poolside. Her eyes were open. Moonlit water droplets on her beautiful face sparkled like tiny diamonds.

The thought wouldn’t let go. It took root…

SHARING RACHEL will be available from the MuseItUp hot bookstore later this year.

 

SHampton

Author Bio:

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

SS Hampton can be found at:

Melange Books
Musa Publishing
MuseItUp Publishing
Amazon
Amazon UK
Goodreads Author Page

Monday’s Friend: Rosemary Morris

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow MuseItUp author Rosemary Morris to the blog.

 Rosemary Morris - Small photo (2)RM: Thank you for inviting me to be your guest.

SJT: You have travelled widely, and are now settled back in the UK. Any stories about cultural differences picked up on your travels that you’d like to share?

RM: With regard to marriage there are distinct cultural differences in the East and West. In the U.K., even if a couple decide to be partners instead of marrying, women their priority is their relationship often to the exclusion of everyone else. In Hindu communities with a modern outlook arranged marriages in which the husband-to-be and prospective wife have not met are uncommon – although, I am told, this is still usual in India. Duty to family is very important and it is usual for couples live in a joint family.

SJT: I was interested to learn you’ve spent time in an ashram in France. What did you take away from that experience?

RM: First of all – according to the teaching of The Bhagavadgita, otherwise known as The Song of God, my belief in reincarnation strengthened. To put it simply, for every action there is a reaction. For example, I do not believe Adolf Hitler is condemned to eternal hell, but he will suffer throughout many, many, births before he has even the slightest chance to redeem himself. However, someone such as Mother Teresa – if she has not gone to heaven – will reap the reward of her piety.

Something else which I took away is the power of daily meditation, which brings peace and the ability to deal with whatever life throws at me.

SJT: Most of your books seem to be set in the past. Do you enjoy the research, or is it an attraction to a simpler time that draws you to bygone eras?

RM: I enjoy the research but do not think that time was simpler in bygone eras. The majority of people were ‘dirt poor’ and lived in appalling conditions and slaved for the basic necessities of life.

However, I enjoy writing about the upper classes, their customs, clothes, the food they ate and their religious and political beliefs. (Perhaps I should add that I am planning a novel about a young girl from a humble background who the heroine of Sunday’s Child has ‘taken under her wing.’ Three of my novels are set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart – 1702-1714 a period of political and economic change which affects the modern day United Kingdom. The Act of Union between England and Scotland was passed in 1706. To this day, many Scots resent it and say they were not consulted about the Act, and now there will be a referendum to decide whether Scotland will choose to separate from the rest of the U.K. It is also interesting to note that if Marlborough had not won the War of Spanish Succession the history of Europe would be very different.

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

RM: Obviously, to write historical fiction a novelist needs a good imagination, which is something that cannot be taught. However, when I wrote my first novel, compelled to write the story of my imaginary characters, I knew little about the craft of writing. I wish that I had known about books on How to Write and courses on writing. Of course, in the past there was less help to the aspiring novelist. Nevertheless, I wish someone had pointed me in the right direction.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

The Captain and The Countess 200x300 (2)RM: THE CAPTAIN AND THE COUNTESS set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart is more than a love story between a younger man and an older woman. It is the story of a widow cruelly treated by her late husband in an age when men had complete authority over women.

The following is a *5 review, on http://www.amazon.com, which covers the subject matter of THE CAPTAIN AND THE COUNTESS.

“I’ve really become a fan of Rosemary Morris’s books because I feel she sets out to write much more than a romance. Her new historical did not disappoint me with its hero who is a young Captain in Queen Anne’s navy, marooned at the time of the story on half-pay, and the widow nine years his senior. It is set in the time of Queen Anne, 1702-1714, so quite a bit earlier than the Regency offerings we get so used to.

I particularly enjoyed the way the politics, lifestyle and beliefs of the age were woven in quite seamlessly, and loved the tender manly hero and the somewhat damaged heroine. Though he is the younger, his naval service has brought him maturity. Though she is older, she has been very badly used by the men in her life and has a shocking secret.

The research is truly immaculate but I felt as though I were in Kate’s drawing room rather than reading a history book. Rosemary has explored some of the folk customs and superstitions current in this period and also written a great love story.

Suitable for those who enjoy a well-written, well-researched historical novel; a sensual love story with no explicit sex and a happy ending. This book is downloadable to kindle and other e-readers and is therefore suitable for many with a visual disability.

Well done,

J Pitman”

SJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

RM: Neither real life historical characters nor people I know feature in my historical fiction. However, like all novelists I am a people watcher and my mind buzzes with eccentricities, accents and the people’s faces. Sometimes, while I’m out and about I see a face that inspires me.

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

RM: I am neither. Before I begin a novel I need a working title, which might change later. I also need to name my main characters and fill in detailed profiles. Much of the information might not be used in the novel but it serves to make them real in my imagination. When I write the first paragraph I know what the plot and theme will be and how the novel will end, but I don’t plan every detail. Although I like my characters to surprise me but I let them know I am in charge.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

sundays-child-200x300 (2)RM: At the moment, I am writing Monday’s Child, the sequel to Sunday’s Child, a traditional Regency novel set in the Regency era, and am planning to continue the series.

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

RM: Most important of all I enjoy spending time with friends and family. Apart from this, I am a keen organic gardener. I grow 50 or 60 percent of my own herbs, soft fruit, stone fruit and vegetables. I am a vegetarian so my garden produce is very important. At the moment, I’m planning to write a book about my garden that begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st and incorporates recipes. When I have time I enjoy knitting, patchwork and other crafts. However, whatever I’m doing I never switch off completely from writing. I like reading historical fiction and non-fiction and visiting places of historical interest.

 SJT: Thank you for being my guest today, Rosemary.

To find out more about Rosemary Morris, see her book covers and read extracts from her novels please visit her website. www.rosemarymorris.co.uk.

E-books by Rosemary Morris published by MuseItUp Publishing:

Sunday’s Child
False Pretences
Tangled Love
Far Beyond Rubies (also available as a print book)
The Captain and The Countess

Monthly Round-up: August 2014

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

We’re over halfway through August already.  Where is this year going?  This means it’s time for another report on what I’ve been up to writing-wise over the last month.

COMING SOON

I now have release dates for both the forthcoming Shara Summers novels.  DEATH SCENE is to be released on 22 September, and DEAD COOL on 25 November.  Though both books are e-book only, they will be available for pre-order through the MuseItUp website.

PROMOTIONAL NEWS

I’ve made a couple of guest appearances online since the last update. Details below:

13 August – I appeared on Kat Holmes’ blog as part of her Summer Bash, talking about cultural displacement.
20 August – I was on Anne Stenhouse’s blog with Five Fascinating Facts.  Well, I hope they were fascinating…

Con-wise, I went to the fabulous Geekfest, and had a fine old time.  Next up, FantasyCon in York, which will also be the last Con in my calendar.  At least for this year.  I’m already lining up my Con schedule for next year.

WORK IN PROGRESS

I have made a start on what I will hope be the final rewrite of the new horror novel, which is entitled THE WHISPERING DEATH.  I’ve worked out what I need to do with this, and feel happy with the way the rewrite is going so far.

September is looking like a horrendously busy month, with a lot of personal and day-job related stuff going on.  But with the release of DEATH SCENE on the horizon, there’ll be plenty of writing-related stuff going on as well.  Catch you next month!

Monday’s Friend: Mary-Jean Harris

Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow MuseItUp author Mary-Jean Harris to my blog.

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

MJH: I can’t think of any specific time, but I have loved to write ever since I was in elementary school. In high school, I started to write novels, and I realized that I wanted to continue to write even if it wasn’t my full-time job. I wouldn’t want to be a full-time writer (currently I am a student in theoretical physics and philosophy, and hope to pursue a career in that area), but I always want to write on the side, and in this way, what I do as a career can give inspiration for my writing.

 SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

MJH: Mary Stewart, David Farland, and Tolkien are all some of my favourite authors, and have influenced a lot of my work. All of them write beautifully, and the plots and characters of their novels are crafted really well. I also include a lot of things from philosophy I’ve read, especially ancient philosophy and esoteric traditions.

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

MJH: Be inspired. Most writers say you just have to sit and force yourself to write, which is definitely true, but I find that you can’t get real inspiration by just forcing yourself through it. You have to dream about your story, look up in the clouds (literally!) and let your imagination take you on an adventure. I think if you love to write and you have fun with it, then anyone can write good stories, because if you love to do it, you’ll find the time and make it work, just as we find the time to do things like eating and sleeping because if we didn’t, we’d be miserable (or dead!).

 SJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

MJH: Yes, I do that a lot actually. I don’t put people in that I know really well, because I want to create a new character for them, and it’s harder to do when you already know how they “should” behave. So what I do is “snatch” people I don’t know really well or just see on a walk or something, and make them into a character in my book. I basically just use how they look and a few general observations to make a character out of them. I find it difficult to imagine a character’s face unless I have something to base it off of, so using someone in real life is helpful for this.

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

MJH: I’m a mix of both. When I wrote Aizai the Forgotten, I started it out without any knowledge of where it was going to go. In fact, I thought it would just be a short story, something fun to do after I had finished writing a long novel (that wasn’t published). But it grew and grew, and I eventually realized that this was going to be a novel, so then I went and planned some of it. Though even with some planning, I modify things a lot as I write. I make up new plans and don’t fit in some of my original ones because the events and the characters lead me elsewhere. For short stories though, I try to plan them more so that I can keep them to a reasonable length. Though it’s fun to sometimes just start writing and see where it goes without any planning whatsoever!

 azaitheforgotten333x500SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

MJH: I’ve recently released Aizai the Forgotten, which is my first published novel. It’s the first novel in The Soul Wanderers series. Aizai is a young adult historical fantasy novel that takes place in the seventeenth-century, following the adventures of a boy named Wolfdon who tries to discover magic and the lost realm of Aizai, and in doing so, plays an important role in the land of Aizai that he couldn’t imagine was possible.

 SJT: Any other writing projects in the works?

MJH: I’m writing the sequel to Aizai, which takes up where the first book left off. This is slightly different to the first book in that there is an extra point of view character, as well as different time periods (the seventeenth century in Spain and the twelfth century in Scotland). This involves much more research, but since it is fantasy, most of my books are only loosely historical, so I make up a lot of things myself.

 SJT: You are inspired by images. Do you already have an idea of an image in your head when you search for images to fit the character, or do you create characters around images that inspire you?

MJH: I usually base characters on pictures of people, or people I know only partially. Though when it comes to images of things within my novels, such as the scenes or special magical devices, I usually make them up as I go along, adding little neat elements to them as I’m writing along. It’s as much a discovery for me as for the characters going through the story!

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

 MJH: School! At least during the year. It’s quite busy because I am now doing physics and philosophy at Carleton University. I really enjoy it, and am hoping to do something in particle physics and cosmology when I’m finished. I also enjoy travelling, especially to places with ancient buildings like castles and with places I can go hiking and exploring. Someday I hope to live in the country or (ideally!) on an island in Scotland. I’ve been to the Isle of Skye last summer and it was beautiful there and very remote. The perfect place for a writer, actually.

SJT: Thank you for being my guest today, Mary-Jean!

Learn more about Mary-Jean and her writing at her blog The Soul Wanderers.

Her book AIZAI THE FORGOTTEN is available to buy from the MuseItup book store.

 

Friday Fears: Two Sentence Horror #5

It’s Friday, and time for more two sentence horror stories.

Here are two contributed by others

#9
This morning I woke up covered in blood. It wasn’t mine…
By Jez Thorpe

#10
The Storm driven wind was howling round the house like the moans of the restless dead. That was when I heard voices speaking my name.
By Jim King

And here’s one from me:

#11
This morning there was a note stuck on the fridge saying, “I love you. Dx”. My husband used to leave that note for me every morning, until he died five years ago.

Happy Friday. Don’t have nightmares…

Monday’s Friend: Jeff Chapman

Today I am pleased to welcome Jeff Chapman to the blog, revealing some of his plotting secrets. Take it away, Jeff.

Visualising your Plot
By Jeff Chapman

Jeff_chapman-headshot-small-221x300 (2)I spent a month this spring editing a thriller novella, fleshing out the characters, getting into their heads more, and tweaking the scenes to make the story more … thrilling. Not sure if I succeeded. I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher, but I did develop a technique that helped me to target my revisions.

Stories typically have scenes of low tension that build to high tension. You can imagine these as waves. A longer story will have more of these waves. I defined a high-tension scene as one involving violence or a dramatic change to a character’s status, either good or bad. Winning the lottery, being arrested, or a gun battle would be high-tension scenes. In low-tension scenes, characters might be planning their next move or discussing or contemplating what has happened. A medium-tension is somewhere in between. This is not an exact science by any means, so you’ll have to measure your scenes against each other.

I’ve never written a thriller before so I was worried the plot wouldn’t be exciting enough. I needed a way to see how the different parts of the story were working together. That’s when the idea came to create a graph. I listed the thirteen scenes on a piece of paper and wrote a few words to remind myself what happened in each scene. I then ranked the scenes as low, medium, or high. The story is about the kidnapping of the President’s daughter and how this event intersects the lives of an adviser and his family.

Here are the scenes and their ratings. (I’m being a bit vague in some of the descriptions so as not to give the whole plot away.)

M Scene 1: late night in oval office, introduction to problem
H Scene 2: kidnapper’s house, violence between hostage and kidnapper
L Scene 3: adviser’s house, he and wife discuss situation and their own daughter
M Scene 4: cabinet room, president receives call from kidnapper
M Scene 5: FBI raids a house
H Scene 6: oval office, adviser learns that the kidnapper requested his daughter’s involvement
L Scene 7: kidnapper contemplating past while watching the hostage sleep
M Scene 8: adviser’s house, the president has contacted the advisor’s daughter directly
H Scene 9: oval office, the adviser confronts the president, ends when the advisor throws a punch
L Scene 10: kidnapper’s house, feeding the hostage and tending her wounds
M Scene 11: adviser and wife plan to remove daughter; attempt fails
H Scene 12: someone dies violently
H Scene 13: months later, kidnapper confronts adviser in a bar
plot-graph (2)

 Note that low-tension scenes always follow a high-tension scene and there are never multiple low-tension scenes in a row. Initially, I ranked scene 9 as medium. When I saw how it related to the neighboring scenes, I revised it to raise the tension. The visual representation clearly paid off in that case.

Author bio:

Jeff Chapman writes software by day and speculative fiction when he should be sleeping. His tales range from fantasy to horror and they don’t all end badly. He lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space. His latest title is Last Request: A Victorian Gothic, available on Amazon.

LastRequestCover300x186 (2)

Find him online at the following links:

What Am I Doing at Geekfest?

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s nearly time for the Nineworlds Geekfest con! Last year was the first time this London-based convention – celebrating all things geeky – ran, and it was a fabulous event. This year sees it a bit more streamlined, but with just as packed a schedule, and I have no doubt it will be just as much fun.

Saturday I and other members of the T Party writers’ group will be running an ideas-generating workshop entitled ‘How to Beat Writers’ Block’. This will be a series of exercises designed to trigger story ideas. Don’t really want to say much about it at this stage (spoilers!) but we hope it will inspire people to go away and start writing something. In order for this to work we’ve limited it to 30 people so if you are attending the Con and fancy it, turn up early – it’s on at 3:15 pm in the County A room.

After that I hope I get a chance to catch some panels before I am appearing on one myself – the intriguingly-entitled ‘Noir – the Dirty Streets of Fiction’ panel at 6:15 pm in County C&D. The only description we’ve been given of this is a quote from Raymond Chandler: “it seemed like a nice neighbourhood to have bad habits in”. I’ve been thinking about this since I was asked to do the panel and I’m really looking forward to it. With noir finding its way into so many other genres, I think I can find a lot to say on this subject – assuming I don’t get tongue-tied from the impressive line-up of Serious Writers on this panel (which include John Connolly, Will Hill, Daniel Polansky and Francis Knight).

I am also quite impressed with the Con’s online schedule app, which not only allows each Con-goer to highlight individual sessions to create their own personal programme, but allows participants to see all of their activities all at once (here’s mine).

There’s also going to be a table for independent authors and small presses in the dealer room, so I shall take along a pile of SOUL SCREAMS to (hopefully) sell.

If you’re at Geekfest do come and say hello – it’s going to be a Con to remember.

 

Cover Reveal: DEAD COOL

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)
Dead Cool 200x300
I am happy to be able to reveal the cover for the forthcoming Shara Summers mystery DEAD COOL, once more designed by the talented Charlotte Volnek.

Unlike DEATH SCENE, which was a re-release, DEAD COOL is a brand new title and the cover was previously uncharted territory. Trying to imagine what should be on the cover of a new book is always a challenge. You want something eye-catching, which will attract readers, and which will give a hint of what the story is about. I liked some of the features Charlie came up with for the DEATH SCENE cover and wanted some of the same things on this one – the clapperboard with ‘Shara Summers mystery’ on, and the same font for the title, for instance.

I wasn’t initially happy with the first cover model. I was rather hoping for the same model as on the DEATH SCENE cover, in a different pose, but apparently that’s not always possible with stock images. So on this cover Shara looks different than she does on the first cover. I am trying not to fixate too much on this. It’s sort of like changing actresses for the same character in a soap. But that always bugged me, too.

Anyway, despite that it is a cool image. Shara has an appropriately ‘rock chick’ look in this, and I like the purple-tinted empty drum kit and microphone in the background, looking stark and sinister under the single spot.

DEAD COOL is scheduled for release by MuseItUp Publishing in mid-October. Woo hoo!

Monthly Round-up: July 2014

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

And I’m back for a look at what’s been going on writing-wise in my world for the past month.

COMING SOON:

Edits continue apace on both DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL – in fact these have been keeping me extremely busy for the last few weeks. DEAD COOL is currently at a more advanced stage than DEATH SCENE.

It is looking likely at this stage that DEATH SCENE will have a mid-September release, and DEAD COOL will follow a month later. The good news is, pre-orders will be able to be placed and logged ahead of release date. The bad news is, I think this facility is only available to people in the US & Canada. My British fans are going to have to hold off until Autumn.

PROMOTIONAL NEWS:

I’ve been rather busy making guest appearances over the Internet over the past month. Here is a list of where you can find me, along with the links.

16 June – Susan A Royal (interview & blog swap)
17 June - Heather Fraser Brainerd & David Fraser (interview)
24 June – Heather Greenis (guest post)
25 June – The Poet’s Fire (interview)
8 July – Helena Fairfax (guest post)
10 July – Mary Waibel (interview)

Convention-wise, I went to the Theakstons Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate earlier this month. I met up with a lot of other crime writers, and handed out postcards with the cover image of DEATH SCENE on. I also left a pile of them on the book swap table, where everyone seemed to be leaving their promotional cards, and I was happy to note that they all disappeared. Whether or not this interest will manifest into sales I don’t know, but I am happy that the cover is attracting people’s interest. That’s the first step, anyway.

Next up is the Nineworlds Geekfest convention in London in August, where the writing group is running a workshop of writing exercises designed to beat writers’ block, and I will be participating in a panel on ‘Noir’ fiction in all its forms.

WORK IN PROGRESS:

I’ve actually got three, and they are all at a bit of an impasse.

1) The Collaboration:

This is the 1960s crime thriller I am working on with hubby. We worked on the plotting together, and I have finished the first draft, which I have since passed to him to read. He is presently working on plot holes that we need to work out how to fix.

2) The horror novel:

I believed this one to be finished, and earlier in the year I was sending it out. But identical comments were coming back with the rejections, which made me realise it needs another polish. I have yet to sit down and redraft it.

3) The third Shara book:

This began life a number of years ago as the second Shara book, and lurched to a halt because I had not plotted it properly. I abandoned it and started writing the novel that would eventually become DEAD COOL. Recently I’ve hauled it out in an attempt to dust it off and give it another go. But I need to fix the plot problems first, and take into account the fact that Shara starts this novel in a different place than she original did, after the events of DEAD COOL. It has been calling out to me to get back to it. But I know that if I start writing it again without working out the plot problems first, I’m going to stall in the same place I did the first time around. I will say that it’s not that I don’t know who the murderer is, because I do. It’s the middle bit that’s giving me problems with this one, and the logistics behind how Shara solves the murder.

I am ashamed to say that in spite of having three works on the go, I haven’t done much work on any of them for nearly three weeks. My excuse is that having two books to edit has been keeping me busy. But that’s not a very good excuse.

I am setting a pledge to myself. By the time I come to you with August’s update, I must have made progress on at least one of these WIPs.

Till next time, then…

Monday’s Friend: Barbara Ehrentreu

Today I am pleased to welcome MuseItUp author Barbara Ehrentreu to the blog to talk about her latest release and why she writes about teens with problems. When I was in high school I used to devour books like Barbara’s – books about teens who think the most important things in the world are to be pretty and popular, especially with the boys, but who learn that there are other more serious problems to deal with. It’s been over 25 years since I finished high school but the years melted away when I read Barbara’s extract. Perhaps things haven’t changed all that much after all.

Take it away, Barbara!

Thank you Sara-Jayne for inviting me to your blog. I thought it would be interesting for your readers to see why I write in this genre and what you go through to write a problem YA story.

 Writing a Problem YA Story
By Barbara Ehrentreu

Barbara photo at Muse booksigning editedYou might wonder why anyone would want to write a problem story, especially for teens, who live with problems every day. I think the reason I did use the eating disorder as a problem here was my daughter’s experience. I had read many stories where the eating disorder was the main character’s problem, but I didn’t know enough about it to write that way. So I had to do a lot of research to find out the mind set of people with this problem. I asked people over the internet to send me their stories and people did that. I have included a lot of what they said to me in here. Plus I haunted the eating disorder sites and read some of the posts.

But having a problem isn’t enough. My main character, Carolyn Samuels, in If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor also has a problem that causes her embarrassment. It is the reason why she is being bullied by Jennifer Taylor. My main character hyperventilates when she is nervous to the point where in the beginning of the book she faints. Did I ever have this problem? No. But I read about this too and made sure it could happen. People who have this problem cannot control their breathing and have episodes similar to what my main character, Carolyn Samuels, has to go through.

In this story, though, the problems aren’t the main focus. They are the reasons why characters act the way they do. Jennifer’s problem causes a lot of complications and Carolyn’s needing to keep her problem a secret causes even more difficulties for her. She has to hide it all from both her parents and her friends and she has to juggle the lies so no one learns about anything. Her situation is not easy and as the book continues you can see the kind of person Carolyn really is. If you want to know what happens in the story you will need to read the book.

My second book, After, is also about a problem, but the main character has to deal with one more serious than Carolyn’s. Her father has had a heart attack and suddenly her whole life changes with one phone call. The reality is her father will need bypass surgery and Lauren Walstein, an athletic fifteen-year-old girl, has her world turned around so much it affects all of her relationships. She has to juggle school and her father in the hospital with her changing feelings for her best friend Joey. Her other problem is Joey is going out with her enemy Amber and this is added to her situation. My own husband had a heart attack and went through bypass surgery so this was very close to my own life. There are whole passages in this book that came straight from my own experiences. However, Lauren’s story follows a different path as she tries to make sense of what is happening to her father and what is happening to her. Why is she suddenly having feelings for the boy who has been her best friend since kindergarten? Though Jennifer Taylor was a mean girl, Amber is so much meaner than she was.

Many people who read my first book told me they identified with Jennifer Taylor. I wonder how these same people will feel about Amber? This book, After, is not available now, but it will be this fall. Keep checking my blog and my Author page for updates on its release date. It is so new it doesn’t even have a cover yet.

You can find my book here:

The Muse Bookstore

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Find me here:

My blog: Barbara’s Meanderings:  http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com

Facebook Author Page

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/barbehr

ICBLJT CoverBLURB

Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky junior quarterback, Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?

EXTRACT

Feeling my old hatred of gym, I glance across the locker room and see Jennifer in red designer shorts and a tight sleeveless shirt to match. She’s standing in front of the only mirror in the room turning back and forth.

Becky and I slide into our loose camp shorts and a T-shirt, and once they’re on, we race onto the gym floor. Always better to be early for gym the first day.  You never knew what kind of teacher you’d have. My athletic ability is zero, so I don’t take chances. Once I was a few minutes late, and the gym teacher in middle school made me run around the gym ten times. It took me the whole gym period.

Becky and I sit on the low seats in the bleachers, but Jennifer and her group saunter into the gym and choose the highest seats avoiding the rest of us. Miss Gaylon, the gym teacher introduces herself and gives us a few minutes until the last stragglers come from the locker room.  For those few minutes, I almost feel comfortable. My breathing returns to normal. I hear giggles from Jennifer and her group, but I ignore it.

“Maybe it won’t be so bad this year, Carolyn.” Becky always tries to cheer me up now. This wasn’t true a few years ago. I had to cheer her up a lot. Becky’s brothers are just turning five, and they’re both in kindergarten. Her mom remarried after being divorced for ten years. Becky was just getting used to her new stepfather when her mom got pregnant. I remember how miserable Becky was the first year of middle school when her mom spent so much time with her twin brothers and didn’t have enough time to help Becky with her homework. Luckily, Becky’s stepfather is a history teacher, so she got very interested in history and current events

“Right, Becky, and maybe I’ll learn to be a gymnast in ten minutes. Reality check, remember last year?”

“Okay, I’m hoping it won’t be so bad.”

“You mean like the dentist finding you only have one cavity and filling it the same day?”

“You’re so lame, Carolyn. Since we’re all older, maybe she’ll treat us differently. People change over the summer you know.”

“Look at her, Becky.”

Becky turns to look over at the group at the top of the bleachers and then turns back to look me in the eye. “You know you have to put that stupid day behind you.”

I pretend not to know what she’s talking about. “What stupid day?”

Like I don’t remember every detail.

“The zip line day.”

“Oh, that day,” I say with a combination grimace and smile. “The day I wound up having to climb off the platform. I wanted to bore a hole into the ground so I wouldn’t have to walk past them but couldn’t, and everyone screamed at me: ‘Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’”

“You have to admit it was funny the way the gym teacher ran up the ladder like a squirrel to rescue you. Everyone laughed at how stupid she looked. Jennifer got the whole class going with that ridiculous ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’” Becky looks behind her to Jennifer. “You know I wanted to run over and punch her, but I couldn’t because I was still on the platform, and it was my turn to go.”

“Yeah, if I had a few more minutes, I would have been able to get up the courage to grip the zip line and hook myself to it. Stupid teacher didn’t give me a chance. This not breathing thing when I get nervous really sucks.”

Becky nods because she knows me so well.

“So then Jennifer started with that horrible chant, and of course, the whole class followed her, like always.” My eyes fill with tears as I remember, and my breathing is getting worse by the minute.

“I thought it was a dumb idea to do ropes course stuff in school. We did it at my camp the summer before, and no one was forced to do it. Anyone could get nervous with Jennifer in front of them,” Becky comforts me.

I continue talking as if I’m in a trance. “Remember how last year whenever I ran into Jennifer she would whisper ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe,’ so no one could hear it except me. Once she did it just before I had to go up in front of the class in math.   Sometimes she would do it in front of everyone and, of course, get a big laugh while I wanted to turn into a piece of furniture.”

Becky grabs my arm.  “Do we have to go back over this again? You need to forget about it.” She takes her hand away from my arm as I continue to speak.

“Becky, I can’t. The thing is it’s this bad movie in my brain looping the same horrible scenes. The funny thing is, most of the time, she would ignore me. I would never know what she was going to do. You have to admire someone so single-minded she managed to get to me at just the right time.

You remember don’t you? And today did you see how she wore the same outfit as me? It’s spooky.”

My funny breathing returns as Miss Gaylon tells us to line up on the yellow line alphabetically. I hope there will be someone to go between Jennifer and me. No luck. Jennifer is going to be behind me all year. I hold my breath. I couldn’t stand more of the same this year. I pray for the day to end soon. A glance at my new watch shows me fifteen more minutes left of the period. Is Miss Gaylon’s voice getting lower?  What is that pounding in my ears?

Jennifer turns to face me, and I hear, “Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.” Then my world turns black.

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