Tag Archives: town

Jul 29

Australian Author Diana Hockley Visits with Mike Angley

MA: I am pleased to have visit with me today, Australian author Diana Hockley. Diana lives in a southeast Queensland country town, surrounded by her husband, Andrew, two 19 year old cats and four pet rats. She is a dedicated reader, community volunteer, and presenter of a weekly classical program on community radio. She and her husband once owned and operated the famous Mouse Circus which travelled and performed for ten years throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales. Now that the circus is sold, she is the mouse judge for the Queensland Fancy Rat and Mouse club shows!

Diana and Andrew also bred Scottish Highland cattle. Prior to 1995, her last occupation was medical transcriptionist specializing in Radiology at a major Brisbane hospital.

They have three adult children and three grandchildren.

Diana has had articles and short stories accepted and published in a variety of magazines, among them, Mezzo Magazine USA, Honestly Woman (Australia) the Highlander, Austin Times and Austin UK, Australian Women’s Weekly, It’s A Rats World, Solaris UK, Literary Journal of University of Michigan USA, Foliate Oak, children’s website Billabong. She was awarded Scenic Rim Art Festival prizes for poetry and fiction. Since that time she has published two crime novels, The Naked Room and The Celibate Mouse.

Now, that’s one of the most diverse – and interesting – backgrounds I’ve ever seen. How did you go from the circus to novels?

DH: I wrote a novel in 1971 which was rejected but deemed “worthy of merit.” After this, I didn’t write anything more until I attended university when I was in my 30s. Raising children was a fulltime occupation for a widow, so I didn’t write anything more until 2005, by which time I was living on a small farm in rural Australia, married again and on my own a great deal in the show season. I started off with articles about our animals – always a rich source of amusement for city magazines, then ventured some short stories and had some success there as well. It was a short step to novel writing after that.

MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?

No, my professional life – from which I retired in 1993 – didn’t inspire my writing, but I think some of my characters couldn’t help being heavily disguised as some people I know!

MA: I won’t ask which of them resemble rats! Tell us about your stories.

DH: My debut novel, The Naked Room, fits into the crime genre, the idea for which came to me one night when I was in the studio at the radio station. What would happen if the pianist didn’t turn up for the big concert? There would have to be a very good reason why not. So I set about creating one!

MA: How did you develop your protagonist?

DH: I allowed Ally Carpenter’s character to develop in response to her abduction and the personalities of her kidnappers. I once read that you have to listen to your characters, rather than trying to force them to do what you want (within reason of course) so that is what I tried to do and it seems to have worked.

MA: Is there a hero in addition to a heroine in your story?

DH: It’s hard to say who is the hero in The Naked Room. Is it her boyfriend who takes it upon himself to investigate the crime? Is it her father who holds himself together and works on the ransom money? Or are they both the hero? My heroine’s strength is that she refuses to give in. My hero’s strengths are neither of them are about to give up searching for Ally Carpenter.

MA: I understand you have more than one antagonist in the book. Tell us about them.

DH: Oh yes, there are three bad guys and one bad woman in this – but they too have an agenda other than money.

MA: Any real life experiences that flowed over into your stories?

DH: No, not really. I psyched myself into standing behind each character, listening to them speaking and the reaction of those around them – like reading a newspaper over someone’s shoulder. And I am sure they got a bit cranky with me sometimes (chuckling).

MA: So who migrates over from The Naked Room to your other novels?

DH: I have taken the main female detective from The Naked Room and given her the starring role in The Celibate Mouse. In this novel, the reader finds out what is happening to three of the protagonists from The Naked Room. For After Ariel, my next story, I have taken one of the characters from The Naked Room and made her the character. We find out what is going on with some of the Naked Room characters who were not in Celibate Mouse (some have moved on, it’s two years later) and Susan Prescott turns up again, now an Inspector. I don’t want to over-use the same characters beyond giving continuity to the series.

MA: Any last thoughts?

DH: It’s said that you should always write what you know, so my novels will always be set in small towns/rural/Australian city/UK or Wales and they will feature people whose lifestyles I understand and whose point of view I can put across. My stories will never feature high finance, spies or sophisticated political themes because I have no knowledge of these genres. I do know, however, how people keep secrets!

I tend to write my main characters in first POV and the rest in third, with the exception of The Naked Room which is very different, darker and more violent than The Celibate Mouse.

MA: Thanks, Diana! Please visit Diana Hockley’s website for more information about her writing: http://www.dianahockley.webs.com. Read More

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Jun 03

Back for Her THIRD Visit with Mike Angley: Julie Achterhoff!

MA: Julie Achterhoff was born in Michigan, but brought up mostly in the big city of San Francisco and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. Her imagination was sparked by experiencing these different ways of life. She grew up reading very adult horror, mystery, and thriller novels passed to her by her mother. When reading she would get as excited about the writing of the books as the reading. She ended up becoming a home birth midwife with five children of her own. Still, with every book she read there was that gnawing urge to write something of her own.

Julie – welcome BACK! This is your third visit to my blog, and while I’ve had a few authors guest with me twice, you are the first with a triple visit.

My readers can go back and read the original posts Julie did with me, first on January 1, 2010, and then again on September 10, 2010.

Please remind my readers what you did before beginning your writing journey.

JA: I was a midwife raising a family for about 17 years, but when the oldest got big and responsible enough to watch the younger ones I started taking a couple classes a week at the local college. Of course I picked writing and English classes. I didn’t even dare hope to actually write anything. It was this deep, dark secret I kept even from myself! I started getting addicted when teachers and other students told me what they liked about my writing. That gave me more confidence. I suddenly realized the authors of every book I’d ever read were just regular people like me who probably started out not knowing if they could write. So I allowed my deeply buried creativity out and gave it full rein.

MA: I know you didn’t start writing novels right away, but you actually began with plays, is that right?

JA: My first major effort after some short stories and essays was actually a three-act play called Angel in the House. I really got excited about seeing my work performed. I eventually hoped against hope that I could work in the movie industry. But the structure used in plays and screenplays was very stilting for me. I had to pay so much attention to form that I felt it took away from the writing. I enjoyed just writing away without a care like I could with the short stories I’d written. I just couldn’t imagine putting enough words down to make up a whole darned book. But I decided to give it a try. I figured if others could do it, so could I.

MA: So how many books are you up to at this point?

JA: I’ve now written four books. I still can’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. I just kept writing and writing, and somehow the word count kept climbing until finally it was the end and I had a whole book in my hands. The first was Quantum Earth. It’s about a team of metaphysical scientists racing to find out why we’re having more natural disasters of a higher degree leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and if our own human thoughts are actually creating this reality. Deadly Lucidity is a thriller about a woman trapped in her nightmares and dreams. Then she meets someone who tries to help her find a way out of her own mind. He seems to be another part of her imagination, but he is also so real. Native Vengeance is a novella about a woman who meets a friend on the internet and eventually goes to visit her during the town’s main event of the year. Of course, this annual “event” isn’t what it seems. The town has an old Indian curse on it because of something that happened a long time ago. The new friend needs her so she can escape the evil that occurs each year to punish the residents of the town.

Then there’s my latest book, Earthwalker- Earth can be Hell for a Vampire. I’ve always loved vampires the most of any of the beasts around. Maybe that’s why it took me this long to write my own kind of story about them. Plus, I hate doing anything that’s “in.” So I figured I’d have to write the book so different and far from the main crowd that it would hardly resemble any vampire story from the past. I think I achieved this. Earthwalker is a book about a vampire. And there is a passionate love story. But from there on out it is different in almost every way from any past works of its kind. I think I was successful in finding a fresh new way of presenting it. It’s all in the writing, though, anyway, isn’t it? I mean if you like my writing, you’ll definitely like this book. It barely gives the reader a moment to take a breath. I write tight and lean. There’s not a lot of flowery prose or descriptive overload in my stuff. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your style of writing with each new attempt. I would call Earthwalker my dissertation.

MA: Are you the kind of writer who starts with a hero and then builds the story, or do you start with a plot and develop the right man or woman to fill the need?

JA: Whenever I begin writing a book I already have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is. I have the framework in my mind and then let them develop and grow on the page. I say “let” them because that’s how it seems to happen. They become alive to me. I think that’s how I’m able to write a whole book at all. The characters kind of take over and tell me what could possibly happen to them that would be thrilling and exciting, but also believable to the reader.

MA: Can you give us an idea of one of your heroes or heroines?

JA: In Earthwalker, for example, Willa is the so-called heroine. In the beginning of the story she is pretty weak. She’s recently gone through some tough life situations and is worn out emotionally. But she’s basically a strong young woman with emotional reserves that she calls on from the beginning. She’s good at dealing with emergency situations, it doesn’t take much for her to catch on when something outside her past experience happens, and she has the capacity to be courageous if need be. She is also willing to sacrifice herself for a greater good. As most of us do, though, she tends to think of herself first. She does sense this about herself and ends up putting herself last. With Willa, it’s like she moves ahead two steps then one step back and so on.

MA: Where do you draw from to create your “bad guys?” I’m always intrigued by antagonists in supernatural stories.

JA: I’ve had pretty intense nightmares since I was very young, so I’ve got plenty of nasty people in my head. I actually tone them down for my books so they’re not totally evil. That would be boring. You’re always going to enjoy a story more when you can somehow relate to the bad guy/gal. It’s like your dirty little secret. It brings the reader in so they feel closer to the characters.

MA: I take it you’ve not had any real-life encounters with vampires or other such creatures, or have you (grinning)?

JA: Not at all. I like making it all up from scratch. You will probably never see a non-fiction book come out of me. The further away from reality the better. My writing is my escape. It takes me far away from this world. And that’s the way I like it!

MA: Okay, so four works of fiction down…how many more to go? Where are you headed in the near future?

JA: Just recently I had a very long and real feeling dream that inspired me to write another book. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so it’s great to know I haven’t dried up in the writing department. The next one’s about a reporter out to research the latest drug craze. And boy is it a doozy! What a crazy dream that one was.

MA: I can only imagine! I’ve had a few intense dream in my life, so I can relate. Will your allow any characters from past books to tag along in future stories?

JA: I have been asked by several readers if there will be a follow-up to Quantum Earth. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a time-bound novel in that it revolves around a particular time, the year 2012. But I guess it all depends on what actually does happen in 2012 to tell you the truth. Maybe these characters will have more to say and do at that point. Who knows?

MA: Let’s hope the Mayan “prophecy” turns out to be a whole lot of nothin’! After all, the Mayans simply stopped counting days, without actually saying what would happen beyond the calendar. So much about that calendar is super-hyped. Any parting thoughts?

JA: I would just like to encourage anyone who has a desire to write not to make excuses or let your inner critic stop you from doing something that could bring you a lot of joy. Don’t let anything stop you. And don’t do it for the money or fame. Chances are that won’t happen. You just have to love it. And then just do it. Get those words down on that page! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you do it this way it’s gonna show in your writing. Then you’ll have something to be proud of.

MA: Thanks again, Julie, for coming back. I want to encourage my readers to check out Julie’s blog (http://earthwalker.tk) and her books’ website (http://julieachterhoff.tk).

Read More

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Apr 20

Uggggh! Book Signing Failure! by Mary Deal

When a Book Signing Fails
by
Mary Deal

Many reasons exist for having a failed book signing event. Some reasons given below should prepare you for what is needed to be successful. Ways to save a failed book signing when no one shows up are also given.

1) The store did not advertise your event.

2) You did not take posters or advertising materials to the store to help with their promotion. This ties with #1.

3) Whether or not the store advertises widely, you should notify local papers and other venues that advertise events in that town.

4) If your event takes places in your hometown, you failed to advertise widely and on the Internet too.

5) You did not plan to give a presentation, speech or lecture that would draw people in. Most of us do not have an advertising budget that will draw lines of people out the doorway waiting for an autograph. It’s sad to see someone walk up to a table and hand the author their book. The author signs and says “Thank you.” The buyer walks away. No real connection was made.

6) Your table is not decorated appropriately. A table with your books is not enough. Have a nice table cover. Have a table sign or two; one with your Bio and photo, another with a photo of your book cover and the Synopsis printed on it.

7) Do you have post cards? Bookmarks? Business cards?

8) Are you sitting there reading while waiting?

These are some of the reasons book signings fail. Some things you can do if you have all the essentials in place but, still, no one comes.

1) Especially if the store is not busy, walk around the store offering your book marks. Do this if it looks like no one will be attending your signing.

2) The store should voluntarily announce that you are in the store and having a signing. If they have no PA system, ask how they might tell their customers that you are there.

3) If they have a way of making announcements and it looks like few will attend, ask the store to announce that you will have a drawing for a free copy of your book for all those who attend. You should always carry a brown paper bag for putting little slips of paper into with attendee’s names to be drawn after the signing.

4) Make sure your table attracts lookers. Even add a small bit of flowers if it helps make it look pleasant.

5) Have some items on your table that apply to the book. In the case of my Egyptian novel, The Ka, I had a small bowl of hand-carved scarabs waiting. Those who bought books were allowed to pick through and find two that matched.

6) If you can be an actor, dress the part. That is exciting! Do you write sword and sorcery? Dress in a costume of the time period. If the store is big enough, pre-plan a duel with someone. Of course, you will have permission from the store beforehand. Is your book about belly dancing? Wear that costume. Be daring, you wrote the book. A hard core crime writer whose signing I attended had herself carried in inside a body bag! Talk about getting people’s attention!

7) So you’ve sat there and no one attended. Get up and walk around the store carrying your book. Pass out your book marks and business cards. It may seem like a feeble last resort gesture, but at least you will have placed something into the hands of potential readers.

8) Stand at the entrance and hand out your book marks to buyers exiting with their packages. If not your books, use every moment to get something of yours into the hands of book buyers.

Many ways exist to prevent a failed book signing. Likewise, many ways exist to redeem the moment. If you have had a failed signing, you should see it as a valuable lesson in how to prepare for your next event.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Jan 12

Mary Deal Dishes Up 10 Book Signing Essentials!

10 Book Signing Essentials

When I began to have my own book signings, I found it fortunate in that the larger stores, Border’s Books and B. Dalton, provided not only tables but white cloth covers as well. Not till a little later did I realize that this did not hold true for all stores. I began to make a list of essentials a writer needs in order to present themselves in a professional manner.

1) Even larger stores sometimes have no table cloths. Carry your own. One store had an ample sized table but the cloth only covered the top. I prefer to tuck my travel bag of promotional materials under the table when possible for an easy grab when I need them. Therefore, my larger cloth was thrown over what the store provided, hung all the way down in front, and I was able to keep my bag out of site.

2) Carry a letter-sized plastic picture frame with your photo and book cover for display on your table. Sometimes, but seldom, stores will have their own stand-up table sign already made. I found these to be lacking. In addition to my photo and book cover, I also include a brief Bio of two to three small paragraphs. It’s amazing how many perspective buyers like to read about the author. It seems to draw them closer emotionally. They feel they know you and didn’t have to spend time asking you about yourself. Instead, they ask about your book.

Something extra I do is put a full-sized book cover photo on the back side of the clear plastic frame as well. The book cover can then be seen from various directions.

3) Have another stand to place your book in an upright position. Books lying flat on the table top can only present their edges to viewers. You want your cover showing in all its magnificence.

4) The major book stores have their own signs made and hanging on the front of the table cover, in addition to other areas in the store. However, for those shops that do not have posters, hopefully, you will have had some made. If your book signing is in your area, take some posters to the store to have those hung at least a week prior to your arrival.

5) Postcards. You can mail postcards to friends and even store and business owners in the area where your book signing will take place. When I run out of bookmarks, I use these cards instead.

6) Bookmarks. I often run out of bookmarks because people want to take one as a reminder to buy the book later. It’s unfortunate that they don’t buy it right away, but if a bookmark helps them remember, give it freely. This has worked for me. Too, at your table, every book should have a bookmark stuck into it.

7) Business cards. Though I’m not intending to show favoritism, I use vistaprint.com for all my cards. Wherever you prefer to buy them, Kinko’s maybe, make sure to have enough. Try to put your book cover on the card. If that’s not possible, make it something related to writing or to your Web site. Have these on your tabletop too.

8) Brochures. If you have a Web site and books to sell, you might consider having some brochures made – or make them yourself. Make them professional looking and not looking like a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy. If a signing is in your area, pass them out to people you meet in your daily routine of shopping and such. Ask local stores to display a few. If in a town outside your locale, arrive early and hand out some brochures to people in the area. This works well in malls. Have some of these on your table top. People will pick up anything to learn more. That means they spend more time at your table.

9) Flyers. Store managers are grateful for any help you can offer. Ask them if they would like some flyers to display around the store. Your flyers should be professional in appearance and not something you threw together and printed out on a bad printer. No Xerox copies as mentioned in #8 above.

10) Many other items can be given away to those who purchase your books. This is a simple way of saying thank you and building rapport with a reader who potentially will look for your next book. Too, one good item is pens or pencils with the book’s title, or your Web site URL. For promoting my Egyptian suspense novel, The Ka, I purchased huge quantities of tiny hand carved Egyptian scarabs in real colored stones. I allowed those who bought books to sort through the bin to find two that would match, possible to make earrings or whatever. Giving out little inexpensive extra items produces an aura of fun too.

Any or all of the above items serve to enhance your professional appearance and express to the store managers and prospective book buyers your sincerity, intention and commitment to your craft.

In today’s economy, when people cannot afford little luxuries, even one or two of these items will serve you well. Stand up at your table and get a lively conversation going with those who come to see you. It’s amazing what a smile can do.

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Sep 15

Mary Deal Outlines “Outlining a Story”

Outlining a Story

Writing a novel, even a short story, and keeping details and action in some semblance of order can be a daunting task. A loose outline, even a simple list of occurrences, can be the best aid to keep you writing on track.

I began using a structured outline but have since been able to keep facts in order by making a running list of plot points and anything else I need to remember.

We all remember learning about outlines in school. To me, they were rigid with a lot of requirements and I spent more time trying to remember how to title the information than getting the data on paper.

As a writer, you will have had more experience with keeping an accumulation of facts in your mind as you pound the keys. Or maybe you’ve gotten lost in all the twists and turns of your story. Here’s some easy help. For example, let’s say your story is about a woman searching for her abducted daughter.

Keep in mind that all stories need the following:

Setup (want)
Rising Action
Reversals
Recognition
Climax
Denouement

Here’s a simple outline to keep the plot on track. My notes in parenthesis are for your understanding and need not appear in your outline unless they further help you.

Title at the Top

1-Abi’s daughter was abducted (told in present time, with some back story (SETUP)

2-Abi learns of a young woman her daughter’s age on Death Row (Rising Action)

a-The inmate faces lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit

3-Twenty-three years have passed but similarities exist between the inmate and Abi’s daughter

a-Abi begins an intense investigation, including DNA, to learn if the inmate is her daughter
b-Abi pays to restore the sight of the only eye witness.

4-While Abi investigates; her home is torched, as is the sole witness’s home (Reversals)

a-With restored sight, the sole witness skips town.
b-Abi discovers an undercurrent, one to get the inmate to pay for crimes of others

5-DNA proves the inmate is Abi’s daughter (Recognition)

a-Abi fights to prove the innocence of the inmate

6-The case goes all the way down to the needle (Climax)

a-The lethal injection chamber

7-How the story ends after all the action plays out; how the characters’ lives are affected by the climax. (Denouement)

For the sake of this newspaper column, everything begins on the left margin. When you make your list, you can indent the a and b lines to set them off to detect them easily.

It’s as simple as that. The Setup should be brief, intense so the reader is drawn into the plot and can’t leave. The bulk of your story will be contained in Rising Action, Reversals and Recognition. The Climax should be unexpected, brief and stunning, or stinging. The Denouement is a wrap up and should never be more than one or two very short chapters. It can also be handled with anything from a few lines to a paragraph or two.

As you work with your outline, you can lengthen any area. I make more notes for the middle portions because that comprises the bulk of the story.

Another form of outlining: Many people prefer to put each new scene on a 3×5 card and write each scene before going on to the next. I prefer to have a running outline which I sometimes print out so I can see the whole story at a glance.

By the way, the story I’ve just outlined is from my latest thriller, “Down to the Needle.” If you read it, you will see most of the book is NOT included in the outline. Outlines are merely the main plot points but can be as detailed or as simple as you can work with. My outline here is simple. The story itself has so many twists and turns that could only happen by not tightly structuring the creativity of my muse. Read More

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Aug 20

Keith Smith, Author of “Men in My Town,” Guests with Mike Angley

My guest author today is Keith Smith. Keith is a Vice President with Fiserv, a Fortune 500 technology services company based in Jersey City, New Jersey. He has extensive experience in Capital Markets and Wealth Management, experienced gained from career assignments in Chicago, Dallas, New York, Princeton, London and Zurich.

He was a Vice President with Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, working with institutional investors in the United States and overseas; a Regional Vice President working with Fidelity’s institutional clients in Manhattan; a Senior Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch Global Private Client Group working with individual investors in Princeton; and a First Vice President with Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management overseeing Trading Services for more than 16,000 financial advisors worldwide.

He holds the Investment Management Consultants Association’s Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) designation, graduating from the program administered by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He received a BA in Political Science from Providence College. He has completed the Advanced Management Program plus the Securities Industry Institute at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and holds FINRA Series 7, 24 and 65 licenses.

Active in his community, Smith is a Trustee of a Lawrenceville-based social service agency which provides crisis intervention counseling services to children who are victims of sexual assault.

I know by now most of my readers are wondering why someone with your impressive business credentials chose to write a novel. It doesn’t seem like a logical fit, but I know there is much more about you that inspired your writing. You have a compelling, personal story that is behind your novel. Tell us in your own words.

KS: Men in My Town is my first novel and I needed to write it for a number of reasons. First, it’s a good story worth telling. It’s a gripping suspense novel with a storyline that includes characters based on real people, real places and real events. It’s a glimpse into the street hustle hiding in the peaceful suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island in the 1970’s, complete with gamblers, bookies, car thieves, petty criminals, organized crime, hard-working honest men, a twice-convicted sex offender and a murderer or two.

Secondly, Men in My Town is my personal story. I am the 14-year-old boy in the story and only a few people, very few people, know what really happened to me on that cold winter night in 1974. I wrote Men in My Town to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family.

And finally, I wrote the story to raise awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help all victims of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

MA: Tell us about the story.
KS: Men in My Town is a suspense novel based on the true story of the abduction, beating and sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy in Lincoln, Rhode Island in 1974 and the brutal unsolved murder of his attacker in Providence in 1975.

The story focuses on the young boy’s relationship with a few men in his town, men who are close to the boy and his family, men who watch over him, men that protect him after he’s been assaulted. They’re good men with the capacity to do bad things. It’s a story that causes the reader to revisit their position on the question, “Does the end ever justify the means?” and vividly juxtaposes the good and evil that can exist simultaneously in every man.

MA: Who are the heroes in the novel?

KS: The hero, and other characters in Men in My Town have been described as Runyonesque, after Damon Runyon’s depiction of street life in Brooklyn and midtown Manhattan in the 1930’s and 40’s. Their strengths and weaknesses? They’re moral men with personal flaws, driven by their own sense of right and wrong which at times is at odds with the law.

MA: Obviously your novel is based upon real people and real events. Care to tell us more about how these factors affected the story development?

KS: Absolutely. The plot is based on actual events. I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. It wasn’t a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quiet suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island.

I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. He was arrested and indicted but never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 36 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime. Someone got away with murder.

Men in My Town is my personal story, a story told from my heart, about the emotion, fear, guilt and horror I experienced, and the silence I’ve maintained since I was abducted, beaten and raped on that dark, cold winter night in 1974.

MA: Yours is such a compelling story. Do you have any writing plans beyond Men in My Town?

KS: I’m not writing right now but I am speaking publicly about what happened to me hoping to help others make the transition from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor.’ I’ve done newspaper interviews, talk radio, college campus events and I’m active in the RAINN Speakers Bureau. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at rainn.org. RAINN leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

MA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

KS: Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.
Out of fear, shame and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, sharing my story with very few people. No more. The silence has to end. What happened to me wasn’t my fault. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other survivors know that they’re not alone and to help survivors of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience.

MA: Keith, thanks so much for sharing your heartfelt personal story. I wish you the very best with your writing as well as with your advocacy on behalf of victims of sexual assault. My readers can learn more about Keith and Men in My Town at his website: www.MenInMyTown.wordpress.com

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Aug 13

“Big Sick Heart” Author, Mike Markel, Guests with Mike Angley

MA: Please help me welcome my guest-blogger today, Mike Markel. Mike has published a number of short stories and nonfiction books. His collection of stories, Miserable Bastards, is on Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2509786. Big Sick Heart is his first novel. During the day, he is a writing professor at Boise State University.
Welcome, Mark. Please tell us more about your background.

MM: I’m a writing professor at Boise State, specializing in technical writing. I’ve published seven other books, mostly textbooks and scholarly books about writing and ethics. I’ve also published a bunch of short stories, some action-based, some more literary.

MA: With that background, and those non-fiction credits to your name, why did you decide to write fiction?

MM: I wanted to try my hand at another kind of writing. I’d like to be able to make the transition from mostly non-fiction to fiction. Fiction writing is simply more fun for me as a writer. The challenge, of course, is the familiar one: figuring out how to get my novel noticed and read, so that I can keep writing more. My blog, Fears of a First-Time Novelist (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com), chronicles my thinking about this challenge.

MA: I think all writers experience those fears as they approach the business end of writing – getting published! Tell us about your debut novel.

MM: Big Sick Heart is a police procedural set in the small town of Rawlings, Montana. Karen Seagate, the Chief’s least favorite detective, is currently imploding. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she is drinking way too much. Her new, young Mormon partner, Ryan Miner, has just arrived from another century and another planet. Their latest crappy assignment is to provide security to a couple of guys debating stem cell research at the local college. But when one of the debaters, Arlen Hagerty, is murdered that night, what had been a boring job becomes a high-profile case.

There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to kill Hagerty. His wife and his mistress each had motive, means, and opportunity, as did his debate opponent. So did the man whom Hagerty pushed from his job as he clawed his way to the top, as well as the local politician whom Hagerty had been blackmailing.

Seagate and Miner are closing in on the murderer. The question is whether they can get him before Seagate destroys herself.
MA: That’s intriguing, especially the science fiction and fantasy elements of time and space travel. Tell us more about Karen Seagate.

MM: I didn’t think of her the way most writers would: as the best detective in the department, the best at this or that. I conceived of her as a character who might appear in a non-detective fiction book, a 42-year old woman with the normal set of family and identify and personal problems, who just happens to have a considerably more dangerous and stressful job than most people have.
Her strength is that she an intelligent, sensitive person with a strong moral compass and a willingness to risk everything for what she believes is right. Her most obvious flaw is that the stresses in her life, including a failed marriage, a kid in trouble, and an alienation on the job, have led her to a serious drinking problem.

MA: I understand you plan to use Karen in future stories, but what about an antagonist? Will you have a familiar nemesis in later novels in which Karen appears?

MM: No, there will be different nemeses in each book. Her real recurring nemesis is herself.

MA: Oftentimes when I have crime/detective fiction writers on my blog, they have backgrounds in law enforcement from which they draw to inspire their stories. How about you? Have you had any personal experiences with your storyline that influenced the plot?

MM: The murder at the center of the plot relates to ethical, political, and economic issues about stem-cell research, a subject on which I have strong views that derive from some personal factors.

MA: Interesting. Let me get back to Karen for a moment since you indicated there are more stories in the works featuring her. Tell us about your plans.

MM: I’m at work on the sequel to Big Sick Heart, which is tentatively called Unacceptable Deviations. Because Big Sick Heart is a series novel, the follow-up will feature Karen and her partner, Ryan. This time, the case relates to a murder of a state legislator by a lone wolf who has broken away from the patriot movement.

MA: Very good. I’m sure your readers will be looking forward to your sequels and new adventures for Karen and Ryan. Thanks for guesting today. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?

MM: I want to thank you, Mike, for giving me an opportunity to talk with your readers. I’d like to invite everyone to visit my blog (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com) and sample Big Sick Heart online, at BooksForABuck.com (http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/big-sick-heart.html). (While you’re there, you can read about the special offers and the “$100 for 100 Readers” contest.) The book is also available at Smashwords (at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/15261). For paperback, please visit Amazon (at http://www.amazon.com/Big-Sick-Heart-Detectives-Seagate/dp/1602151229/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279568281&sr=1-1) or Barnes & Noble (at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Big-Sick-Heart/Mike-Markel/e/9781602151222/?itm=1&USRI=big+sick+heart).
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Aug 06

Mary Slaby, Writing as Molly Roe, Pays a Visit to Mike Angley’s Website

MA: I’m delighted to introduce today’s guest-blogger, Mary Slaby (AKA Molly Roe), who hails from the same neck of the woods where I grew up: northeastern Pennsylvania. Mary’s stories use this region as their setting, and weave aspects of the local history and culture into their plots. I am intrigued by her focus on the Molly Maguires, a group if Irish immigrants in the early coal mining days of Pennsylvania’s history. The Molly Maguires fought for better treatment of the Irish community, sometimes using violence as a means of making that happen. My father was a coal miner in this region when he was a young man in the 1940s, and occasionally after a pint or two of ale, he’d spin a tale about the Mollies and the last remnants of the group he ran with back in those days. I was always fascinated by this history – a living history for my dad — so having Mary Slaby visit me and guest-blog about her writing is such a treat. Mary, thanks for coming by. Tell us about your background.

MR: I’ve lived most of my life in Pennsylvania, only about 60 miles from where my ancestors settled when coming to this country from Ireland during the 1840s and ‘50s. I had a wonderful childhood, growing up with an extended family in the old homestead. My husband John grew up in the same home town, but we did not meet each other until college. I attended Immaculata College and Penn State University as an undergrad, then Wilkes and Temple for graduate school. I’m currently a reading and language arts teacher at Lake-Lehman School Junior-Senior High School near Harveys Lake, PA. Read More

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Aug 04

Mary Deal Provides “8 Tips for Beginning Writers”

Tip #1 – Store Your Notes

Usually when I see great writing tips, I have a file set up in Word called – what else? – “Writing Tips.” I copy and paste the advice into my file to refer to when needed. Any handwritten notes I’ve made as reminders also get posted there.

Tip #2 – Be Prepared to Write

Keep writing materials handy no matter where you go. That one item you forgot to write down, and then forgot completely, could have been the one fragment that made your story memorable.

A true writer makes notes everywhere they go. If we’re without a laptop, as I am, we carry note pads and pens. JK Rowling used paper table napkins because she used to sit in her favorite cafe lamenting on her jobless plight – till a shift happened in her mind and she started penning the notes for her first novel.

Tip #3 – Beginnings

Avoid using empty words to start a story. Some empty words are:

There – refers to a place
They – refers to people
That – refers to a thing
It – refers to almost anything

Without first knowing the content your story, we have no idea to what each refers. For example, one person may write:

There were four of them. Without yet knowing the story, ask yourself: Where were they? Who were they? A better way to bring the action forward would be to say, Four of them appeared. Or get directly into the meat of your story and say, Four men dressed in black mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. You can write much more succinctly if you will use descriptive words, and not empty ones to start a story or sentence.

Exceptions are:

The Charles Dickens line: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I see no way to improve on that – or emulate it.

Also: It was a dark and stormy night, coined by the Victorian writer, Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Surely, you wouldn’t write: A dark and stormy night had overtaken us. Or would you?

Tip #4 – The First Word of a Story

The first word of the first sentence of the first paragraph under the story title must grab attention. The first sentence must sustain the attention, and on through the first paragraph. If the first word or sentence is boring, or says nothing in particular, the readers’ expectations of a good story are killed.

What if you wrote: It was a quiet town with quiet people. Does that give you any idea at all as to what the story might be about?

You can use the word “the” to begin anywhere, but what follows “the” then becomes the attention grabber.

Here’s an example of starting with “the” from my adventure novel, The Tropics: The jagged scar on Pablo’s belly wriggled like a snake when he ran.

Here’s the attention grabber from my Egyptian fantasy, The Ka: “Witch!” Randy Osborne said as he strode around the room wearing a contemptible smirk.

And from my thriller, River Bones: Blood-red letters filled the top of the monitor screen: Serial Killer Victim Identified.

Then from my latest thriller, Down to the Needle: “The perp torched himself…”

Start your stories with words and action that pull the reader in.

Tip #5 – Use of the Passive Voice

Passive voice should be used with serious consideration as to how it affects your story.

A bad example: The house was cleaned by someone else. Here, the object of the action is the subject of the sentence.

A good example: Someone else cleaned the house. “Someone else” did the action. They should be the subject of the sentence. Ask yourself who or what is doing that action. They are the subject of the sentence, not the action.

Passive voice can best be used, and sparingly, when writing in first person. Example: I was hit by the car.

Tip #6 – A Rejection for a Comma

My publishing house editor returned my manuscript again after I made most of the changes suggested in the first edit. The editor referred me to the Chicago Manual of Style and told me to get it right.

What’s wrong with this sentence? He mumbled as if confused, tried the knob, grunted and tried again.

The Chicago Manual of style says (Page 173 of the 14th Edition):

5.57 – In a series consisting of three or more elements, the elements are separated by commas. When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series, a comma is used before the conjunction.

Therefore the corrected sentence is: He mumbled as if confused, tried the knob, grunted, and tried again.

Did you spot the correction? Can you sense the difference as you read it?

In order to avoid rejections, the grammar in your story must conform to the rules if you know a certain publisher adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Tip #7 – Avoid Splitting Infinitives

Be conscious of any form of “to be.” A great example of a split infinitive is “To boldly go where no man…” Everyone knows that line. It just doesn’t sound right to use: “To go boldly where no man…”
Look at these two:

“To be, or not to be.”

“To be, or to not be.”

Though split infinitives are a matter of style, incorrect usage at the wrong time can ruin a good story.

Tip #8 – Edit and Revise

We MUST edit and revise as many times as necessary to get it right. Otherwise, what could we expect but another rejection? Knowing if a story is right comes with experience of editing our own work as if it were someone else’s.

Once writers think their stories are finished and polished, even though they may have had a great edit, they refuse to go through another rewrite. Then, I ask, what’s the sense of having the piece edited? I edited my entire “Ka” novel manuscript – 885 manuscript pages (410 book pages) – a MINIMUM of 30 times over four years and stopped counting after that. Point is, the story had to be right before anyone other than my personal editors saw it. All of that happened before the publisher’s editor saw it. Then there were two more edits following that person’s sage advice.

Most of us writers are not English majors or PhD’s. No matter how good we believe our writing to be, editing is the only means to perfecting our craft.
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Jul 23

Multi-Published Mystery Writer, L.C. Hayden, Investigates the Child Finder Trilogy

Harry Bronson, my series detective, made his appearance in Who’s Susan? but he wasn’t the featured character. Susan was. He did his job and that was the end of him, as far as I was concerned. When my second book When Colette Died came out, I received tons of emails all basically the same. “Where’s Harry Bronson?” they asked. That’s when I realized that Harry Bronson needed to make a comeback. He did in my third book, Where Secrets Lie. He was also featured in my fourth mystery, What Others Know, but by then, mostly due to reader input, I knew he had to be the main character and not a side character as he was in my first four mysteries. My fifth mystery Why Casey Had to Die was Bronson’s first book where everything centers around him. I suppose I made the right decision as Casey went on to become an Agatha Finalist for Best Novel and a Pennsylvania Top 40 Pick. The next one in the series When Death Intervenes will be released on April. Read More

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