Archive for the ‘Monday’s Friends’ Category

Monday’s Friend: Maxine Douglas

Today I am pleased to have romance writer Maxine Douglas as my guest. Welcome, Maxine!

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

MD: I think in high school when I took creative writing and had several poems published.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

MD: I’ve always loved Heather Graham, but I would have to say it was Jessica Barkley who really got me to start writing. She is the sister of a good friend of mine.

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

MD: Finish the book! Don’t stop. Keep writing. Join your local writing group and attend as many workshops, classes, meetings, conferences as you can.  Learn your craft and grow a thick skin.

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

MD: Hmmmm….I plead the 5th! LOL

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

MD: I think I’m a bit of both really. I get a good sketch of my characters and then let them develop the story. Sometimes, not always mind you, I come to know the ending before I even get to the dreaded middle. It gives me something to shoot for.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

MD: Roseanne “Rose” Duncan, witnesses her employer push his sickly wife down the staircase. Fearing she’ll have to testify against a prominent man in town, she’s given ad for a mail order bride in Dodge City. Believing this is a way for her to escape the possible danger of her employer, she travels to Dodge City and marries under the name of Abigail Johnson.

Logan Granger, is a Pinkerton Detective assigned to Dodge City area as an undercover bartender. When his mail order bride, “Aggie,” steps off the train she doesn’t fit the description of a matronly woman who has agreed to his marriage contract of no emotional attachments. There’s no time to reconsider the preacher is waiting to marry them.

Rose hadn’t expected the handsome man waiting for her to be an undercover bartender with a six shooter on his hip and a badge on his chest. Logan hadn’t expected his soon to be wife to be young, beautiful, and a runaway murder witness.

The Reluctant Bride is available both domestic and internationally through Amazon, Google Books/Play, Kobo, B&N, most German outlets. As well as in the four book boxset Wanted: One Bride with Callie Hutton, Peggy McKenzie, and Heidi Vanlandingham.

The Reluctant Bride is the first in a three book series, Brides Along the Chisholm Trail in honour of the 150the Anniversary of The Chisholm Trail. The idea was presented to me last fall by Mark Rathe who is the President of the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce. I wasn’t sure how I’d like writing in the western genre, but once I found I rather enjoyed it The Marshal’s Bride (due to come out this Spring) and The Cattlemen’s Bride (late summer) were born. As were two others outside the series.

Buy THE RELUCTANT BRIDE from Google Books, Google Play and Amazon now.

SJT: Your website bio says you’ve rekindled your love for Western heroes. What’s the story behind that?

MD: My good friend, and mentor, Callie Hutton invited me to join the Wanted: One Bride boxset and I jumped at it. Problem was I was just finishing up a cozy mystery and would have about 2-3 months to write the project. It made me delve back into the Western genre by watching the old black and white movies I grew up with.

SJT: Any new projects in the works?

MD: Several, as it happens:

The Marshal’s Bride

Heroine, Abigale “Abby” Johnson, comes to Dodge City to see her friend remarry Logan Granger, the man who Abby was originally supposed to marry. Abby hadn’t expected that a lawman of the Wild West would ignite something in her she’d thought died along with her husband. Abby never thought she’d leave the life of a servant until she met Gabe Hawkins. Now he wants to marry her and take her into the Indian Territory.

Hero, Gabe Hawkins, deputy marshal in Dodge City, never expected to fall in love until he laid his eyes on Abigale Johnson. There’s a fire deep inside the matronly woman and Gabe aims to find what lies further beneath Abby’s facade. When an opportunity for a piece of land in Oklahoma presents itself, Gabe grabs it and Abby to start a new life away from law enforcement.

 The Cattlemen’s Bride

Hero, Cyrus Kennedy drove his herd into Dodge City, dirt and trail dust coating him from head to toe. He needed a bath, shave, and a good meal after he visited the Pinkerton agent assigned to his case.

Heroine, Montana Sue grew feverish watching the cattle bawling and stomping their way through the middle of Dodge. It wasn’t the longhorns making her insides on fire, it was the cowboy covered in dried mud and layers of dust sitting tall in the saddle.

 Red River Crossing

The Midwife’s Husband

 And I sold that cozy mystery, Simply to Die For, in February which is the first of a 3-4 book series called Black Horse Canyon. The series is contemporary romance and I have the books in that series to write next year.

I keep a spreadsheet of ideas that is a few pages long, so I won’t be running out of stories for a while. 🙂

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

MD: Clear my head usually by just vegging. I watch tv, read, babysit by youngest grand-daughter sometimes, and of course spend time with my husband. We have horses, but our schedules are so crazy that they are enjoying being pasture ornaments at the moment. I hope to get out there and ride sometime before the heat of summer hits Oklahoma.

AUTHOR BIO:

An avid horse lover and reader, Maxine Douglas loves spending time in the saddle, curled up with a good book, catching up with her oldest grand-daughter, or chasing her youngest grand-daughter around the house. Wisconsin natives and high school friends, Maxine and her husband now reside in Oklahoma, where she has rekindled her love for western heroesLearn more about Maxine and her books at Goodreads, her Author Blog, on Facebook and  Twitter. You can also sign up for her Newsletter and Mailing List.

 

Monday’s Friend: Margaret Mendel

Today I’m pleased to have Margaret Mendel as my guest on the blog. Welcome, Margaret!

Imaginary Friends
by Margaret Mendel

How cool! Today, I’m a guest blogger on Sara Jayne Townsend’s Monday Blog. I love the subtitle of her website, ‘Imaginary Friends’. My first response is, well, of course, writers have imaginary friends. Ah, but how far back do imaginary friends go? I do not believe they are the creation of adult minds. In fact, I think they have their origins in the imaginary play when authors were children.

When I was a kid, I didn’t think I was living with imaginary friends, I was just playing. Though looking at my childhood with a backstory angle, that’s exactly what I was doing, living in an imaginary world whenever I could. I grew up in the country. Schoolmates did not live close. My father worked all the time; mom didn’t drive, so that left my sisters and I to fill our world with the bits and pieces that tumbled out of our young minds.

The concept of imaginary relationships has frequently surfaced in my writing.  It’s not the actual imagined people from my childhood that I remember, but the experience of living in another world, for an afternoon, for a few minutes, for long enough to have the situation resonate even many years later. Children take for granted their imaginary worlds. Make-believe is their play. Here is an excerpt from one of my short stories, “If I Die Before I Wake.” This story gives a brief look into where fantasy and reality mixed together in my childhood.

In the farthest corner of our backyard, on the border between our land and a quiet neighbor, a Maple tree thicket grew with long branches that jutted out like feather fans from a cluster of rotting stumps. The branches parted at one edge of the thicket, leaving an opening just big enough for my sister and I to squeeze through.  Inside the thicket, the ground, soft and sunken like a huge bird nest, made a space sufficiently large enough for us to sit. Everything was exactly the right size. My sister and I would sit in this thicket, a magical hideout of leaves, branches, and secrets.

From this hiding place, we spied on Mom as she hung the wash or picked the dead leaves from her dahlias. A thin woman, Mom always looked as though she carried a load equal to her own weight in her arms, either the laundry, one of our two younger sisters, or the bushels of vegetables she dragged in from the garden for canning. She worked like an ant, always dragging, lifting or pushing something.            

The dahlias were a different matter. To tend them she would actually tiptoe into her garden. My sister thought she did this to be quiet, but Mom said she did it to keep from packing down the soil. Once I saw Mom lift a blossom slowly, cupping the giant flower in both hands, as though she was looking into a face.  She smiled. I thought she intended to kiss the bloom. A couple of times I saw her talking to her flowers. My sister didn’t see this, and said that Mom wouldn’t talk to flowers. My sister may have been right Mom did not have time to spend talking to flowers. She hardly had time to talk to us girls.

 My sister and I never fought when we were in our hideout. We took turns cooking the twigs and leaves, serving these dinners in the palms of our grubby little hands. Usually, outside of this magical place, I wanted to tell my sister, who was fourteen months younger than I, what to do. In our hideout, I felt different; I felt softer and I could be taken care of, instead of having to be the boss. I could be the baby, my sister could be my mother, or we could both be lost children, huddled together, trying to outwit the wicked pretend witch in the gingerbread house.

The air inside our retreat smelled sweet with the juicy bark of twigs, dusty leaves, dead bugs, and rotting stumps. It was a perfume that made us feel welcomed. It was our air.            

When I grew older — or maybe it began to happen when I grew taller and kept bumping my head on the low branches of the thicket — I began to feel as though I had become an intruder. About this same time my sister and I became bored with our make believe world. So I abandoned the hideout, my sister came with me, and our younger sisters took command of the retreat. We saw them poke their heads out through the branches, watching us as we walked down the road to run errands for Mom.           

By the time I left the thicket, the musty odor of our make-believe world still in my hair, with my long skinny legs and low-slung, gangly arms, I looked more like a spider creature from the woods than a girl. My sister and I walked away from our childhood and headed towards our father’s world. It was a dark scary place. He listened to the news on the radio every night, informing us of every detail. The world was in a cold war, he said. No one was actually shooting at each other. “That,” he told us, “is just a matter of time.”

When I left the thicket, I began to seek other means of solitude. There was an apple tree on our property, a gnarly old thing that produced misshapen, but deliciously juicy fruit. It had a low-slung limb, perfectly situated to help hoist me up into the cradle of branches. I sat in that old tree many afternoons daydreaming. Those days of youthful solitude, of playing pretend worlds with my sister in the Maple tree thicket and sitting in an apple tree was probably the beginning of my writing life.

I have a sense of longing when I look back on those days. Nostalgia reinterprets the past and those alone times away from parents and siblings now seems magical.

pushing-water-200x300-2As I write my novels and short stories I often wonder where the characters I create come from. My latest novel, PUSHING WATER, about an American woman in Vietnam in the late 1930s, came to me as I was reading about the history of Vietnam. But I wonder was there a seed of my protagonist, Sarah, growing many years ago in that Maple thicket where my sister and I lived in a magical world of our own? Some times I greet the characters that join me in my quiet moments at the computer as though we were old friends. There is something familiar about many of the characters that find their way into my writing. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s as though we were old friends. I wonder could the characters that now step into my short stories and novels be the characters that kept me company when I sat in that old apple tree? I like to think so. Are some of your characters really old friends from a childhood’s imagination?

 AUTHOR BIO

Margaret Mendel lives and writes in New York City. She is an award-winning author with short stories and articles appearing online and in print publications. Her debut novel, “Fish Kicker” was published in 2014. Margaret’s latest novel “Pushing Water” was published in February 2017. She is a staff writer and photographer with the online magazine Kings River Life. Many of her photos have appeared in websites, online travel journals and book covers. Several of her photos have been exhibited in Soho Photography Gallery in New York City. Check out her photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/margaretmendel/ You can read more about Margaret and her writing at: Pushingtime.com.

Her latest novel, PUSHING WATER, is now available from MuseItUp Publishing.

Monday’s Friend: Kevin Hopson

My first guest author of 2017 is Kevin Hopson. Welcome, Kevin!

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

KH: I think it was when I went through several career changes and I eventually chose writing over everything else. I had an interest in writing as a child, and it blossomed again while in college. Looking back, though, I really didn’t have a clue about what it took to be a writer. Now that I do, and I have willingly accepted those responsibilities, I’m fully committed to the craft.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

KH: I’m a huge fan of Michael Crichton, David Baldacci, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly. I think these authors have influenced me the most in recent years, especially Lee Child and Michael Connelly. I read Child’s Jack Reacher series and Connelly’s Harry Bosch series almost religiously now. I love their characters, dialogue, pacing, plot, etc., and I’ve noticed their writing styles creeping into my own Jacob Schmidt series.

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

KH: I remember getting dejected early on in my writing career. I knew it would require a lot of practice to get where I wanted to go, but it took me a while to realize this. Even the best authors were rejected at some point, and I always used this as motivation. However, it never occurred to me the type of investment that’s needed to pursue a writing career. I’m not referring to the financial commitment, though this can still be significant for some depending on how they choose to market themselves. Instead, I’m talking about the time commitment. Outlining, plotting, character creation/development, research, editing, promotion/marketing, submissions, contracts, etc. It’s something I was kind of thrown into and had very little knowledge of. Because of this, anyone starting out in writing should do the proper research before diving in. Knowing what to expect will make the road much smoother.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

khopson-72dpi-1500x2000-2KH: CHILDREN OF THE SNOW is a short story that was released by MuseItUp Publishing on January 3. It’s the second book in my Jacob Schmidt series, which revolves around an Atlanta police officer. This story was initially written for a themed anthology so it can act as a stand-alone apocalyptic tale, but I still consider it part of the series. In fact, we meet a new character in this story that ends up being a major player in future instalments. Below is a blurb for the book.

“A historic snowstorm decimated an American Indian tribe in the nineteenth century. Thousands died, some ultimately eating their own in order to survive. Now the snowstorm has returned, and something sinister hides within it. Something detective Jacob Schmidt will witness firsthand.”

It is now available from Amazon.

SJT: Your character Jacob Schmidt lives in Atlanta, Georgia – a place where this Brit didn’t think there was much snow. Do you have a fondness for the snow or are you more a sun worshipper?

 KH: I’m assuming you’re referring to the cover for Children of the Snow. Even though Jacob Schmidt lives in Atlanta, I make no mention of this in Children of the Snow. I did this on purpose so the historical fiction aspect of the story would remain somewhat believable. For example, I don’t think there are any federally-recognized Indian tribes or reservations in Georgia, so the setting could be another state in the U.S. South or U.S. Southeast. This is fiction, however, and the story does have a “soft” apocalyptic setting, so Atlanta could still be a feasible location. In reality, the city doesn’t get a lot of snow. Personally, I loved the snow as a child. In fact, I still do, but I only like to see it once or twice a year. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more of a sun worshipper.

SJT: What are you working on at the moment?

KH: I just finished another Jacob Schmidt story (the fifth in the series), but I haven’t decided what I want to do with it yet. It deals with domestic abuse, and I want to use it as a charity story. My only issue is deciding whether to self-publish it, keep it with my publisher, or try to market it elsewhere.

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

KH: In addition to writing, I really enjoy making book trailers. I also love to read and watch movies. All of these things keep my creative juices flowing and act as stimulants for my writing.

Author Bio:

Prior to hitting the fiction scene in 2009, Kevin was a freelance writer for several years, covering everything from finance to sports. His debut work, World of Ash, was released by MuseItUp Publishing in the fall of 2010. Kevin has released nearly a dozen books through MuseItUp since then, and he has also been published in various magazines and anthology books. Kevin’s writing covers many genres, including dark fiction and horror, science fiction and fantasy, and crime fiction. His website can be found at http://www.kmhopson.com.

Monday’s Friend: Chuck Bowie

Today I’m pleased to be doing a blog swap with Canadian writer and fellow MuseItUp stable mate Chuck Bowie.When you’re finished here, hop on over to his blog to see what I have to say about re-writing.

But for now let’s give a big welcome to Chuck!

Oh, Those Oh-So Predictable Lines!.
By Chuck Bowie

‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’
Benjamin Franklin

You’ve had that first sniff at success, be it a completed story or a published novel and now, armed with confidence, you open a blank screen and begin:

Chuck‘It was a dark and stormy night.” So far, so good. That familiar ring upon re-reading those six words suggests you’re onto something, so you proceed. The words flow, and you get your thousand words on that first day, and it feels good.

That evening, watching one of those Sunday evening movies, you put on your writer’s cap and analyze each scene as it unfolds. You nudge your partner. “Behind the door is the librarian. She’s gonna be holding a gun!” And Lo! That is exactly what happens. With a tone of admiration, your partner says “I can’t wait until your story is written. You won’t be as predictable as this show, right?” And you nod your head. Of course you won’t.

The next day, you write another thousand words, and by Friday, you have five thousand words in your story. It’s very exciting. On Monday, you begin the day by reviewing the twenty written pages, and you realize something. Those first six words sound familiar, because you’d read them, a long time ago. From someone else’s work. Concerned, you speed through the paragraphs, noting tired lines, too-familiar lines, and ‘lazy’ lines: the ones you wrote because they were ‘good enough’.

Well, good enough isn’t good enough.

With that having been said, do you throw up your hands and give it up? Should you chuck it and start over? Perhaps. But, hidden within the dross, is there a really fine sentence, or line? Does one (or more) of your paragraphs really push your story along? Does one of your sentences, however awkwardly it was constructed, reveal something true about your character, or the scene, or the description?

Well, then. You now have options. You can begin to fix things, cutting lines like a machete through tangled Amazonian greenery. Or you can, of course, always purge and recreate. Might I suggest a third option?

Keep going.

Writing is re-writing, to coin a phrase. But just before re-writing, is the writing part. That’s where you are right now, staring at your twenty pages of not-good-enough work. If your plot is intact, your characters are unfolding, and your setting has been set, keep on going. Make minor adjustments as you travel down this path, but keep up your pace. All too soon, you’ll get to the re-writing phase. Engineers have this expression: ‘First direction, then velocity.’ Let this be your mantra. Get your plot rolling before worrying too much about details you can refine later.

Unless.

Unless everything you’ve written is derivative, too familiar or just plain old copied from somewhere. This is not good. Shakespeare says there is nothing new under the sun, but this does not give the writer license to take whatever they want and call it their own. So be tough on yourself, once you’ve entered the rewriting phase.

You may recall me mentioning to keep going. And I also noted there’s not much about the human condition that hasn’t already been experienced (and in some way documented). With these in mind, it is absolutely critical to have an interesting story to tell. If it isn’t worth telling, or if it’s been told to death—and by better writers than you and me—then perhaps this isn’t your story to tell.

StealItAllCover180116 (2)Writing is hard work. The average book of fiction takes 80,000 words times twenty re-writes totaling 1.6 million carefully studied words. Do not put yourself through this if you aren’t going to commit to the best possible effort. This includes offering the best plot you can imagine, and a strong re-write can help. Do not, above all else, be predictable. Samuel Johnson wrote the most scathing review I ever read. It went like this: ‘Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.’

Don’t be that writer.

Author bio:

Chuck Bowie writes international suspense-thrillers from his Fredericton, New Brunswick home. His third novel, STEAL IT ALL drops in paperback this fall.

Find out more about Chuck from his website, or by following him on Twitter.

 

 

Monday’s Friend: Adam Lawrence

This week I’m pleased to have debut author and fellow Kensington Gore writer Adam Lawrence as my guest on the blog. Adam is also a keen gamer and a fellow Resident Evil fan. Welcome, Adam!

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

AL: When I was little I always enjoyed creating my own versions of monsters and characters that I liked. For instance, I liked Top Trumps but I didn’t like the subjects so I created my own with my own characters and stories. That grew into wanting to make my own comics, but I guess I find typing a lot faster than drawing now! I get very passionate about the stories I enjoy, but often find there’s things missing or things I feel could have been improved on. My stories and ideas are a product of their inspirations.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

AL: I think he’s reliably cited as almost every writer’s influence but the first person I’d say would be Stephen King. The variety in his ideas I find pretty amazing but I also enjoy hearing about his struggles as a writer, especially the most negative of them.

magic boxSJT: Tell us about THE MAGIC BOX, your debut novel.

AL: The story is about Felicity and Tremayne, two shop workers in a supermarket who have no idea where their lives are going – until they find a witch living in the woods. The witch, Alexia introduces them to the world of magic – a world that has been hidden for thousands of years. Naturally a witch with so many years behind her has secrets and one of those secrets begins to threaten the safety of the world – and it falls to two unprepared and out of their depth shelf stackers to save it.

SJT: What inspired you to write this novel?

AL: I have always enjoyed the little characters – the ones that are plainly average or horribly flawed in their own way, usually floating to the side of the story and not taking centre stage. The idea was to have the world in peril and saved by two people that were distinctly average – to show that even the most ordinary of people can be extraordinary when they need to be.

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

AL: Oh, lots. I have one completed horror story called ‘Sleepwalker’ that needs editing and tidying up and another called ‘Evil Never Dies’ that is five chapters off completion. Also I started writing out four new stories to play around with so I have a lot of things to be focussing on! Perhaps I’ve bitten off more than I can chew but time will tell. I think the only way to improve is to push yourself so that’s what I’m aiming for.

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

AL: I’m a big fan of gaming, so I’m often playing Resident Evil to get my horror fix but lately I’m running about in Overwatch the most. I also follow Formula One a lot and try to catch as many of the races as I can – that always stops me writing. I also enjoy drawing, which can be both fun and stressful but it can help a lot to visualise ideas I have.

Adam LawrenceAuthor bio:

Adam Lawrence lives in Croydon and is a keen artist and writer. He particularly enjoys writing horror, fantasy and sci-fi, and loves gaming. He’s also a huge fan of sushi.

Adam’s first novel THE MAGIC BOX is available in print and Kindle format from Amazon (UK and US). Learn more about him and his writing by following him on Twitter.

Monday’s Friend: Judy Penz Sheluk

Today I’m pleased to welcome mystery writer Judy Penz Sheluk to the blog.

SJT: So you hail from Canada, like my amateur sleuth. What do you think makes Canadians stand out from other nationalities?

Judy Penz Sheluk (2)JPS: I don’t know that we do, or perhaps if we do, we’d rather not, preferring to keep a low profile (although our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, don’t seem to be particularly camera-shy!)

Canada, and by definition, Canadians, are changing, especially in the major urban centres, which have become very ethnically diverse. Toronto, where I grew up, has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Once quite one-dimensional, it’s now a huge International melting pot. If there’s a food you’re hankering for, you’ll find the real deal in Toronto, from Vietnamese to Indian and everything in between. I’m not sure if that’s so different from any other major city. Probably not.

I think, though, as Canadians we are often compared with our neighbours to the south, and there is a difference. One thing that always makes me laugh is the way we look at travel. A Canadian going to the U.S. will say, “I’m going to Chicago or New York, or Miami or Dallas.” An American will say, “I’m going to Canada.” Doesn’t matter if that’s St. John’s, Newfoundland or Vancouver, British Columbia. I suspect the same would hold true for travel to the UK. A Canadian would say, “I’m going to London or I’m going to the Cotswolds.” An American would probably say, “I’m going to England.”

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

JPS: Destined? I’m not sure if it was destined, but always knew I wanted to write (although it took me years to do anything about it). As a kid, I used to make up stories in my head all the time. I’d have a storyline going on for a couple of weeks, like a TV series, until it came to an end. Then I’d start another one. I always thought everyone did that. I found out later that’s not the case. Part of it is because I was an only child of very strict immigrant parents (they emigrated from post-war East Germany (mom) and then-Yugoslavia (dad) to Nottingham, England, where they met…and then to Toronto in the 1950s, when they married). They were both teenagers during the war, and I think the memories made them a bit overprotective. Anyway, I spent a lot of time in my room, reading Nancy Drew and L.M. Montgomery, and making up stories in my head. Put like that, I suppose it sounds quite horrid, but it wasn’t. I loved going to my room and sometimes I’d purposely get into trouble so I could go there to be by myself. I still value my alone time. I can be social, but I’m happiest in my office, writing stories, my dog under my desk.

hanged mans nooseSJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

JPS: Agatha Christie had a profound impact on me. I read every one of her books (including her six romances penned under the name of Mary Westmacott) during my teens/early twenties. I always knew I’d want to write a mystery, when I was ready to start writing.

Truman Capote. His book, In Cold Blood, was nothing short of spectacular. In a time when there were no 24/7 news cycles, Capote captured the horrific murder of the Clutter family, and he humanized murderers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock while doing so. I can remember reading it as a young girl and thinking, “Wow, that’s how you paint a picture with words.” I’ve reread it as an adult, and while it doesn’t pack the same punch today (we’re so desensitized to violence), it’s still beautifully written. One of my favourite movies is Capote, starring the late Seymour Philip Hoffman. Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Capote and it was well earned. If you haven’t seen it, you must.

SJT: Have you always written mysteries, or have you ever ventured into other genres?

JPS: I wrote a few “literary” stories in the early 2000s. That’s when I first started trying to write and started taking workshops. Three of those flash fiction stories were published in THEMA, a literary publication out of New Orleans. I self published the collection on Kindle (Unhappy Endings) earlier this year.

Once I started to write mystery, however, I never looked back. It’s my go-to genre to read, and reading is the best teacher. I also want to write stories that I’d like to read.

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

JPS: I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this. “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” It’s the best advice I can offer. If you decide to wait for the muse to pay you a visit, you’ll grow old without a single word on the page!

SJT: Tell us about the new book.

JPS: I’m ridiculously excited by it, and it’s gotten some amazing advance reviews. It’s very different than The Hanged Man’s Noose (my first novel, July 2015), which is told in third person, multiple POV. Skeletons in the Attic is told in first person, one POV. Here’s a brief synopsis:

Skeletons in the Attic Front Cover (2)What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

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

dogJPS: I love being outdoors. In the summer, I golf in two ladies leagues. Only 9 holes, more because of time than anything else. I’m a runner. I’ve done four marathons, and a bunch of half marathons, 30ks, 10ks etc. These days, I’m not training for anything in particular, so I’ll run 5k three times a week. You can always ramp back up (though it does get harder as you age up!). I also enjoy walking my ten-month-old Golden Retriever, Gibbs. I’d like to get running with him, but his leash training needs to come a ways first. I’ve had Goldens most of my life. I can’t imagine life without a dog (although I would not miss the dog hair). I also enjoy going to our cottage/camp on Lake Superior in northern Ontario. It’s a far drive from where we live (8 hours) but it’s beautiful and a great place to write while my husband, Mike, does his man cave stuff (moving rocks, splitting firewood).

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

JPS: I’m currently working on the sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose and hope to have that into the publisher this fall. I’ve also been asked to write a sequel to Skeletons, so that is a priority. And I’m planning a new series, novella-length. Another mystery series, but a bit more light-hearted. To quote Erica Jong, “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.”

Thank you for having me.

Author Bio:

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Judy’s books on Amazon: Amazon UK

 

 

Monday’s Friend: Luke Walker

Today I’m pleased to have on my blog once more British horror writer Luke Walker, to promote his latest release.

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SJT: Tell us about the new novel, ‘Hometown’.

LW: A small group of friends who’ve drifted apart since the suicide of another friend come back together after they’re all haunted by her in various ways. When they meet in their hometown to try and work out what’s going on, they’re transported to another version of that town. This side of their city is their friend’s grief, anger and pain made flesh. The group are trapped in this hell and the only way out is to find out why she killed herself. At the same time, the wife of one of the characters is searching for him in this world, unaware that someone else is hunting her.

luke walker mirror of the namelessSJT: Setting is always important to add atmosphere to a novel, and the title of ‘Hometown’ suggests that the town itself is a character. Is the town based on a real-life one, or does it come from the depths of your imagination?

LW: Funny you ask as the town did end up feeling like another character the more time I spent writing the book. Geographically and layout wise, it’s more or less my own hometown. I just amended a few bits to fit the story and obviously made it a nasty, frightening place. For the mood and description of the rundown, burned out wrecked city, I was inspired by the look and feel of the film Escape From New York. Kurt Russell isn’t in my book, of course, but that atmosphere is what I wanted to go for.

SJT: Who’s your favourite character in this novel?

Luke Walker Author PicLW: I tried not to have a favourite character as it’s an ensemble piece for the most part. Stu Brennan is the guy who still lives in the hometown and the first of the group to be haunted and realise something is very wrong – he might be the character with the most to lose as his wife is in our world, looking for him, and she has no idea of the threat she and their baby daughter face if Stu can’t get out of the underside of the city.

SJT: Which scene was the most difficult to write?

LW: The reasons for the suicide plotline were obviously deeply unpleasant; I had to go dark for that angle of the story, but I wanted to make sure it was all dealt with as honestly as I could and with the seriousness it deserved. There’s plenty of threat, violence, gore and all that fun stuff but the issue of the suicide dwarfs it all, I think.

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

luke walker die laughingLW: I’m close to finishing the edits on a new book called Winter Graves. Once that’s done and it’s ready to submit, I’m either going to look at an older book that was published a few years ago by a now defunct ebook publisher and see about doing it myself, or starting a new book involving a family of cannibals in the aftermath of an alternate history nuclear war. So I’m keeping it light.

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

LW: I work full time and write a lot so there’s not a lot of time to do much else. If I’m not doing either, then I’m with my wife or friends, watching crappy horror films or trying to wade through my ever growing pile of new books to read.

BIO:

Luke Walker has been writing horror and fantasy fiction for most of his life. His novel Hometown will be published by Caffeine Nights in July 2016 while his novella Mirror Of The Nameless is published by DarkFuse. His collection of horror fiction, Die Laughing, is also available. Several of his short stories have been published online and in print.

Luke welcomes comments at his blog which can be read at http://www.lukewalkerwriter.com and his Twitter page is @lukewalkerbooks.

He is thirty-eight and lives in England with his wife and two cats.

HOMETOWN can be found on Amazon.

 

Monday’s Friend: Christopher Mannino

squareCM (2)Technically it’s too late in the week for Monday’s Friend. But I’m on Christopher Mannino’s blog today, and am reciprocating by promoting his Mythic Monday giveaways.

Sign up for Chris’s MythicMondays and you could win a 50 dollar Amazon GiftCard, a signed paperback, or an audiobook!

http://www.christophermannino.com/email-signup.html

All entrants receive a free short story.

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Who is Christopher Mannino?

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 and 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. His wife, Rachel Mannino, is a romance author at www.RachelMannino.com

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The Scythe Wielder’s Secret Trilogyis a YA Fantasy series about a girl forced to become a grim reaper. The trilogy has been hailed as “Too good to put down” a “Must read” and “Perfect for fans of books like Harry Potter.” Learn more at http://www.ChristopherMannino.com

The first two books in the trilogy, SCHOOL OF DEATHS and SWORD OF DEATHS are available now and the third, THE SCYTHE WIELDER’S SECRET, is coming soon.

Watch the trailer for SCHOOL OF DEATHS below!

Monday’s Friend: Susan A Royal

We’ve got something a bit different on the blog today. This week’s guest is not an author, but a character. Xander is the protagonist of Susan A Royal’s new novel XANDER’s TANGLED WEB, and I am interviewing him today. Susan and I are doing a blog swap and she’s interviewing Shara Summers on her blog today, so hop on over to there once you’re finished here!

SJT: Tell us a bit about yourself, Xander. Where do you come from?

xanders tangled web-Small (2)X: My wife, Suse, and I are both descended from a race of little people called Mipins. While she’s a pretty little thing, I’m not much to look at, that’s for sure. Honestly, I don’t know what she sees in me. I tend to squint a lot when I’m pondering over things. She says it makes me look like there’s a woolly caterpillar crossing my forehead.

I’ve lived in Battington my whole life. It’s located in Seren Valley in the Kingdom of Regal, cradled on three sides by the Heliotrope Mountains and to the south by the Azure Sea. The picturesque township boasts fine buildings of red or blue brick and streets paved with smooth stones, bordered on either side with willow trees.

However, it’s best known for its marketplace. People came from far and wide to shop for the merchandise offered. Sellers of exotic spices and exquisite cloth do business next to apothecaries and goldsmiths. Food courts offer tasty delights like funnel cakes or hot sausage on a stick while actors’ troupes entertain with impromptu performances.

SJT: What do you do for a living?

X: For the past year I’ve been trying my hand at farming. Without much success I might add. Before that I was constable for the township of Battington, a job I dearly loved. That is until Cymon, the mayor, and I had some differences which led to a parting of the ways. That’s how I got into farming…and found out it wasn’t for me.

A few days ago I rod into town for supplies, and along came Cymon with an offer I couldn’t refuse. It’s only temporary, but he wants me to investigate Princess Mena’s disappearance. At double my former wages. With any luck I should be able to locate her, collect my wages along with the reward, and be home before harvest. Easy peasy…

SJT: What’s your favourite food and drink?

X: I’m fond of ale, particularly the ale at Ardley’s tavern. And it’s a good thing, because the food he offers is enough to turn even the strongest man’s stomach. Then again I’m biased. When it comes to cooking, no one can hold a candle to my Suse. She could boil shoe leather and it would taste like roast. A good thing too. She hasn’t had much to work with lately.

SJT: I gather you are currently seeking a member of royalty.

X: As I said, I’ve been hired to investigate Princess Mena’s disappearance. She vanished without a trace from the Marketplace a few nights ago. The whole town is in an uproar. King Leander has called for an early curfew and there is talk about postponing the Spring Festival.

SJT: Battington’s marketplace seems an unlikely place for a princess to be hanging about. What was she doing there?

X: My thoughts exactly.  According to everyone I’ve spoken to, she went to see Mercury, the apothecary. Not just for some ordinary, run of the mill spell, either. She wanted a love potion. That complicates things.

SJT: Do you think the gypsies have anything to do with her disappearance?

X: When Emil’s bunch is in the vicinity, they tend to get the blame for any sign of trouble. While they’re no doubt responsible for things like freshly baked pies vanishing from the windowsill, a missing chicken or clothing off the line, they’re generally harmless. They are a secretive bunch, though.

SJT: When you’re not out investigating, what do you like to do to relax?

X: I’ve always loved making rounds, seeing Battington’s streets are safe and secure for its inhabitants. Especially on a crisp night with the moon shining down out of a clear sky, its light bright enough to cast shadows. While the town is sleeping, I can relax and unwind.

SJT: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Xander. Now I’d better let you get back to your investigations.

Blurb for XANDER’S TANGLED WEB

When Princess Mena vanishes without a trace, Xander must deal with gypsies, love potions and half-truths before unraveling the mystery.

After a late night visit to Battington’s marketplace, Princess Mena vanishes without a trace. Merchants are frantic, because King Leander has called for a curfew and postponed the Spring Festival until further notice. Certain his former constable is the man for the job, the mayor hires Xander to investigate, hoping he can solve the mystery in a hurry so things can go back to normal.

But Xander’s not so sure that’s possible, because there’s romance involved, and he knows when that happens folks who are normally very sensible seem to lose all reason. In addition to sorting out truths, half-truths and outright lies, he must deal with gypsies, love potions and an illegal moonshine operation before he gets to the bottom of things.

Author bio:

Bio photo (2)Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan shares a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town with a ghost who likes to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar.

Mother to three children and their spouses, she has five grandchildren who are all unique and very special. Her family is rich with characters, both past and present. Her grandmother shared stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century.  She learned about growing up during the depression from her father and experienced being a teenager in WWII through her mother’s eyes.

Susan loves taking her readers through all kinds of exciting adventures. So far, she’s written two books in her It’s About Time series, Not Long Ago and From Now On. They are time travel adventures about two people who fall in love despite the fact they come from very different worlds. In My Own Shadow is a Fantasy adventure/romance. Xander’s Tangled Web is a YA fantasy with romance. Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N.

Want to know more? Visit susanaroyal.wordpress.com or susanaroyal.moonfruit.com for a peek inside this writer’s mind and see what she’s up to. You never know what new world she’s going to visit next.

Learn more about Susan’s books here:

Xander’s Tangled Web (fantasy, mystery)
In My Own Shadow (fantasy, adventure, romance)

Not Long Ago (time travel, adventure, romance)
Not Long Ago book trailer

All books available at MuseItUp, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads.

 

Monday’s Friend: Barbara Ehrentreu

Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow Muser Barbara Ehrentreu to the blog, who’s going to offer us a view of writing from the pantser’s perspective.

Why I am a “Pantser”
By Barbara Ehretreu

People like James Patterson tell us that novels can be written according to a set outline and he makes a lot of money doing this kind of thing. Many people use outlines for their writing and for them it works. For me an outline is like a straight jacket. I only know the first sentence of my novel and then I write from there.

Barbara at Fairfield Bookstore signing headshotTo some people that would be a frightening experience. Imagine getting to the page and having no idea of what you are going to write. Well, I don’t quite have a blank mind about it. Before I have decided to write my novel I have an idea of my characters and I have developed them to the point where I pretty much know them. Of course as I am writing I get to know my characters better and better. Also from my characters I can pretty much get the plot of my novel.

So I sit down and write the first sentence and develop my characters and then write. Every time I sit down to write I never know what is going to happen. That is unless it is a complicated scene. I have had to stop and plot these scenes out so I won’t make a mistake. However, that is rare and usually I have the book at least halfway done before that happens.

I don’t know the ending to any of the books I write. For some this would put them in an anxious state the whole time they are writing. I know writers who write the ending before the book starts. For me the ending will come naturally and I’ll know it when it occurs. How do I know it? I just stop writing. The scene ends and I realize that is the ending. I do get a little nervous as the ending is getting closer. I can sense it and I want it to end, but I need to have accomplished all I wanted before the end. The characters need to have found some way to deal with plot complications and the ending needs to solve most of the major problems for them. For both of my published novels I cried for one and I was deliriously happy for the other.

AFTER333X555 (2)I’m not saying all writers should try this method, but if you are feeling like you are not writing in a fluid way and you want to have more freedom you might try it. It’s not for the faint of heart and you might need a lifejacket of an outline nearby for your first time. But if you are writing the second book in a series as I did, your characters know you so well they talk to you. Or rather, you know your characters so well it is like having a conversation with them. They whisper in your ear and oh, yeah, they add characters you had never thought would be there.

To sum it all up, writing as a pantser is something that you should do if you don’t care what your ending is going to be and you have a good set of characters developed. The characters will move your plot and you will find you will write more and be happier with what you write. But as I said it is not for those who are worried without an outline. To all the pantsers who are reading this, there are more of us than you think.
Blurb for AFTER:

After is a story about the struggles Lauren Walstein, a fifteen-year-old girl, has to go through when her father suddenly has a heart attack and undergoes bypass surgery. In one phone call her life changes completely. Lauren is a character with whom most teens will relate. Her best friend since kindergarten, Joey, is going out with her enemy and they have grown apart. Before the phone call all she thought about was getting a scholarship for softball, and the Mets. Suddenly she must deal with both her father’s illness and being in school. The demands on her from both ends complicate the story. In the middle of all this, she finds she is developing feelings for her best friend that are more than friendly. Is he feeling the same or is he just comforting her? In addition there is Joey’s mean girl friend Amber, who doesn’t appreciate Lauren being in the picture. Will Lauren’s father recover? How will Lauren cope with her new feelings for Joey?

ICBLJT Cover (2)Blurb for IF I COULD BE LIKE JENNIFER TAYLOR:

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?

Author Bio:

Barbara Ehrentreu grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Queens. She has lived and taught in Long Island, Buffalo, NY and Westchester, NY as well as a year in Los Angeles, CA. She has a Masters Degree in Reading and Writing K-12. Currently she is retired from teaching and living in Stamford, CT with her family. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor won second prize in Preditors & Editors as Best Young Adult Book for 2011. It was inspired by Paula Danziger for her children’s writing workshop at Manhattanville College. Her second book, After, considers what can happen to a teen when her father becomes ill with a heart attack. It is based on her own experiences when her husband had a heart attack and the aftermath of what she and her family experienced. She is preparing the sequel to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Barbara also writes poetry and several of her poems are published in the anthologies, World Poetry Open Mic, Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry, Beyond the Dark Room, Storm Cycle and Backlit Barbell. She has a blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, and she hosts a radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Radio Tales from the Pages, once a month. She is a member of PEN Letters and SCBWI.

Links:

After:
MuseItUp Publishing
Amazon
For Nook on Barnes and Noble
If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor: (print and ebook)
MuseItUp Publishing
Amazon
For Nook on Barnes and Noble

Blog: Barbara’s Meanderings
Facebook Author Page
Twitter
Goodreads