Category Archives: interview and an excerpt

Interview and an Excerpt – Jonathan Gould

Interview and an Excerpt is a feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Jonathan Gould.
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1.) How long have you been an indie author?
I’m not sure at what point I became an indie author. I’ve been writing for over 15 years now. I started off writing comedy sketches for university revues and independent radio – I guess I was trying to emulate one of my heroes, Douglas Adams. I began working on novels about a year later – my first couple are at the bottom of the drawer and I suspect they’ll stay there. I actually have 2 children’s books published in Australia by real publishers – I was hoping that would be my entry into the wonderful world of publishing but it wasn’t to be. I began to seriously think about going alone (indie?) a couple of years ago, culminating in my first self-published ebook early last year.

2.) How many books have you self published?

At this stage, a grand total of three:

  1. Doodling – the story of a man who fell off the world (because it’s moving too fast). It’s a humorous fantasy – Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll
  2. Flidderbugs – this one’s a bit of an odd mixture – one part political satire, one part fable, and one part funny little story about a strange bunch of insects.
  3. Magnus Opum – my newest release. An epic fantasy with a twist. Tolkien meets Dr Seuss

3.) Are you a panther or a plotter?

Normally I’m a total plotter. I’m pretty anal about getting everything mapped out, writing lists and chapter outlines and character descriptions, etc… However, every so often, I’ll go the other way and begin writing with no end in mind and no idea where it would take me. My first book, Doodlingwas written in this way, hence the title – I referred to the process as “literary doodling”. It was a lot of fun and actually rejuvenated my interest in writing at the time. I’m currently writing a sequel to Doodling for which I’m following a similar approach.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

I’m not sure you could even call it a process. I work full time and have a family so it’s really about stealing whatever time I have – evenings, weekends. To be honest, I tend to go through peaks and troughs. I’ll get really motivated and do a heap of writing for several months. Then I can get into a trough that can sometimes go for over a year. I’ve just reached the high point of one of my peaks, so will definitely have to focus on keeping up there.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Again I get to mention my hero, Douglas Adams. He said that writers should not be in business of reinforcing stereotypes – it’s in a book called Last Chance to See– he met some German backpackers and was really distressed at the fact that they so conformed to the stereotype of German backpackers. So he decided they weren’t German, they were Latvian, and described them as such for the rest of the book. A wonderful read so please check it out.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Don’t do it??? Seriously (and funny you should ask because I have been talking to a teenager with writerly ambitions), I would advise them to be realistic and aware of how difficult it is to break through. I would suggest that they really focus on getting their writing to the best standard that it can be – do courses, road test and get feedback. Try to make sure that what they have to say is something interesting and new. And to make a start on building up social networks before they publish – wish I’d had someone to tell me that.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

Hah – that’s pretty funny. I recently got paid for the first time for my self-published books. I’m not going to say how much it was because I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Mind you, my day job also involves writing, so I could say that I earn a living through writing. But it’s not exactly the sort of writing I really want to do.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

Mainly just time, and a bit of space in my brain to work through my ideas.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

Nothing too fancy – just good old MS Word. And html when it comes to producing my ebooks (with a bit of help from Mobipocket and Calibre).

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

Gee, I’m really the wrong person to ask about that. When I think about my promoting efforts, the words I that come to mind are “scattergun”, “erratic”, and “totally uninformed”.
After a year of this, I really don’t have much of a clue. I guess the main challenge I face is because my books don’t easily fit into genres, it’s really hard to know where and how to best place them. What I find is when people discover them (mainly when I’ve plonked them in their faces) they say things like “This isn’t what I’d normally choose to read but I really enjoyed it.”
So to summarize, I’ve basically tried it all – giveaways, guest posts, interviews (obviously), twittering, my own blog, a blog tour, Goodreads, large organized events, cross-promoting with others. The main thing I haven’t tried so far is KDP select – I have very mixed feelings about it, but figure at this stage I might as well give it a go.
What is effective? The best thing for me was pure luck – getting a free feature on Pixel of Ink. I guess that’s the thing – you need to get out onto the sites people use to find new books, and the good ones cost a pretty penny. I’m considering my budget to decide what I think is worthwhile.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

Again hard to answer because of the irregularity of my writing process. When motivated, I can get a novel length work drafted in 6 months –but I’ve also been stuck on things for years.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I use a bunch of different readers to road test, trying to look at people who might represent different types of audiences. I also have a couple of editors I’ve met through various jobs who are happy to charge mates rates (or sometimes just a box of chocolates) which is really helpful – a good editor is an absolute essential. The main financial expense has been the cover designer who was also someone I found through work. But he’s definitely been worth it – the covers he does are fantastic.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

As mentioned above, I’ve invented a new genre to describe my writing – Dag-Lit. Dag is Australian slang for a person who doesn’t quite fit in, but usually in a fun way – someone unselfconsciously uncool. That’s kind of how I see my stories – they’re hard to pin down into a single genre. They’re kind of funny and kind of strange and a bit different. Maybe “comic fantasy” if we’re getting reductionist. Or sometimes I just describe them as modern fairy tales for the young-at-heart. The first time you see them, you may think they look like children’s books, but once you start reading, you’ll hopefully find that there’s something there for all ages.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

At the moment, the main WIP is the sequel to Doodling– the tentative title Scribbling. I’ve only just completed a first draft so it still needs a lot of work. I’m hoping to have ready for release by the end of the year.
There’s also a longer novel I’ve been working at for a few years now – a young adult fantasy/comedy/adventure set in a universe where the laws of physics bear more resemblance to the laws of human behavior, i.e. completely unpredictable and immeasurable in every way.
Beyond that – I’m never short of ideas.

To connect with Jonathan, you can find him here:

Blog, Dag-Lit Central – http://daglit.blogspot.com
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/jonno_go
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/jonathangouldwriter
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Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.
Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

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Flidderbugs is a political satire, a fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of bugs with some very peculiar obsessions.

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

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Magnus Opum is a story about a little person in a very big world – an epic fantasy with a twist – Tolkien meets Dr Seuss.

Available exclusively from Amazon.

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Interview and an Excerpt- Natasha Larry

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Natasha Larry.

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1.) How long have you been an indie author?

Well, I was first published in 2007 by a vanity press I’d rather not mention, blech. My newest title has been out for about a week now. So, I’ll go with a week =)

2.) How many books have you self published?

Technically, I’m not self-published. I signed with a independent, royalty paying e-publisher. I have a lot of the same challenges as self-published authors have.

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I actually have no idea what that means. LoL.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

Hmmm, well. Darwin’s Children started with a cup of coffee, a journal, and a daydream. Usually when I write, I sit down and have coffee, and then I set out my action figures (well, my daughter’s, but hey) and my sharpie markers. Then I’ll put on something good on TV, usually Monty Python of the X-men, and start writing. There have to be sharpies…I have no idea why. I know I can’t write on the computer, it makes the process longer than it has to be, but when you have something that works, you stick to it.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Whatever you’re writing about, be passionate, lack of passion is easily detected in readers.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

I would not let them go out there without having someone other than the author edit the manuscript. This is my biggest downfall and something I quickly had to get over. You will miss something, in my case, several something’s… Revise more than once. Always.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

I do some ghostwriting and freelance, so I do okay. I wouldn’t call it a living, if my fiancé didn’t work, we’d be in the poor house probably, LoL. Still, I’m looking for good opportunities to pop up in the near future.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

Coffee, ipod, sharpies and my muse.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

Good ole Microsoft Word. I’ve also started to utilize goggle docs. Wonderful invention.

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

Umm, not many as of yet. I use face book and sometimes twitter (I’m still learning twitter). Mostly word of mouth. Next mouth I’m touring with the fantastic Book Loving Bitches, so that’s exciting.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your books? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

I’ve written four books in the Darwin’s Children series, each took about three weeks. I spend a lot of time editing because I don’t pay any attention to any kind of rules of grammar during the first draft, it’s all about the story. So I spend the bulk of my time re-writing. In terms of daily hours, it ranges from the “in the zone” twelve hour day to the slightly less manic 2-4 hour day.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I didn’t pay anything for the publishing process. I did pay to book my blog tour.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Sure, here is a brief blurb:

Life can get pretty complicated for any seventeen-year-old girl, but for a home-schooled telepathic girl trying to survive in a prestigious private school in small-town Jonesborough, Tennessee, it can be maddening – especially when her telepathic father keeps eavesdropping on her thoughts!

Jaycie Lerner’s family isn’t the usual mom-dad-kid setup. Jaycie’s mom’s MIA, but Allison, her personal live-in ‘trainer,’ is more than a mom, with her own special abilities, like being able to lift cars and run incredibly fast. And Jaycie’s godfather John is more than persuasive – he can literally convince anyone to do anything.

As far as the rest of the world’s concerned, Jaycie’s on the outside looking in. The townsfolk love Jaycie’s pediatrician father, but she doesn’t fit in with ‘normal’ kids, and she doesn’t really want to. Most of her free time is spent training to keep her telekinetic and telepathic powers under control. But there’s one thing she can’t control – and that’s her feelings, especially when her best friend Matt is nearby. If only he knew what she was truly capable of…

Everything seems to be status quo for Jaycie until she receives a cryptic message from a stranger and meets a very unusual girl new to Jonesborough. Then all hell breaks loose!

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

Right now I am in my third round of revisions for the second title in my current series. The Working title is Blood Magic, but I don’t think it will stick. I’m also toying around with the idea of starting a new series…my muse is the goddess Hectate, because she rocks.

You can find Natasha online here:

Blog:http://www.paranormalwire.blogspot.com/ and http://www.natashalarry.com

Twitter: @natashalarry

You can find Darwin’s Children at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

Enjoy this excerpt from Darwin’s Children:

 

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*****

PROLOGUE

From the other side of the glass, Mason Lerner watched Haylee Mitchell circle the monster like an aerial hunter while Sasha Gray stood like a statue, waiting. The revulsion Haylee felt was visible in the air around her. Mason had to stop himself from going in there and killing the man himself – his perverted and cowardly thoughts were sickening.

Mason watched Haylee’s mouth move. Her eyes were cold and unforgiving. She leaned over the man who’d stolen her very soul and whispered something that filled his face and thoughts with terror. Then silence filled the room. Mason could tell that Haylee had said everything she needed to say. He stuck his head in and met her eyes. There was something there he couldn’t place … something that worried him. “Haylee,” he entreated, trying to keep the emotion out of his voice. “I don’t think…”

Haylee glared him to silence. He already knew she wanted to be there in the room when it happened. He hesitated until he saw the need in her mind. She had to do this her way. It was her battle to fight.

He nodded to Sasha Gray and retreated from the room, closing the door behind her. He watched her move with an unsettling grace, like an undead ballerina preparing for the hunt. Her alien blue eyes flashed with thirst.

Sasha gave Haylee one last questioning look. Haylee nodded, and Sasha went to her victim. It looked as if the vampire was simply giving him an intimate kiss, but Mason could hear her razor-sharp teeth ripping the flesh away from his neck. Mason had deliberately shut himself off from the man’s mind, but he could still see the utter agony in his eyes. Being burned alive by his own daughter would have been a serene death compared to this. Mason knew the pain accompanying a vampire’s bite was so incomprehensible that the living world held no equivalent to it. No one had even given voice to it. It was the physical equivalent to Haylee’s internal pain. Possibly even worse.

The man’s face twisted in agony and, despite his psychic defense, Mason still heard a whisper of the scream inside his head that never escaped his lips. His body offered no relief. The pain was trapped inside. He couldn’t go into shock or pass out. He felt every ounce of his blood being sucked out of him. His organs gave out, one by one, and he quickly went mad from the pain.

The dying man looked up at Haylee smiling down at him sadistically. As his body fell to the floor with a dull thud, he finally understood Haylee’s pain. His body was drained, and his life was over.

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Interview and an Excerpt- Patti Larsen

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Pattie Larsen.

 

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1.) How long have you been an indie author?

I really only decided to commit fully to the indie process not too long ago. I was clinging to that dream of THE AGENT and THE CONTRACT, all the while selling myself short. I chose to take a couple of novels that hadn’t made it past the querying step and self-published them. It was mostly out of curiosity. I’m the type of person who wants to understand the process, how the industry works. It was very illuminating. I loved being able to control every step, but I also realized it was an incredible amount of work. The first one dragged me through a steep learning curve. I went ahead with the second and discovered that, while it was easier in theory, it was much more work than I was willing to do at this point in my career.

2.) How many books have you self-published?

Two: Cat City (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/27519) A Middle Grade novel about a girl who adopts a stray only to discover he is no ordinary cat

And

Curiosities, Inc (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/36574) a Young Adult novel about a teen girl who is given an enchanted ring only to discover it is haunted.

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Plotter. Big time plotter. I actually teach a structure class called Get Your Book Done all about how to outline your novel from start to finish. I know pantsers say that plotting kills the creativity, but I find the outlining just as creative as the writing itself and frees me up to just listen to the voices once I start actually writing. Yes, some things change along the way, but I find it so much more liberating if I know how the book ends (and the series, for that matter).

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

I start with a core idea—can be a title or an image or a phrase. Even a character. I think it’s important to understand where your ideas come from—what type of thinker you are. I’ve had a variety of inspirations appear that I wouldn’t have recognized if I wasn’t paying attention.

From there, I plot the basic outline—I call it a onepage. I also write screenplays, so this technique borrows heavily from that. It gets me in the process—who are the characters? What’s the title? The core idea of the book? Some conflicts that can get the juices flowing? How do I want it to start? And, most importantly of all—how does it end? None of this is set in stone, mind you, just creates a springboard for me to continue from.

Then I start thinking about truly horrible things to do to my MC. I love this part—I list out all the tragedies, comedies, conflicts and issues that could possibly happen in the run of the book. Specific instances that can create tension and/or disruption in that person’s life. I write out as many as I can think of and usually end up with quite a list. I don’t stop until I’ve exhausted all the things that could go wrong (love Murphy’s Law!)

Once that’s done, I bring out my index cards (old school, I know—but I love this part of the process as well and you’ll see why in a second). On each I write out in a sentence or two those very instances, then set them in a pile until they are all done. Then, the fun happens. I start sorting them by tension, building the conflicts from small to so massively huge my MC is having a breakdown (I’m so cruel…). This gives me the arc of my story. If there are any issues that come up while I’m doing this arranging, I add them in. It’s very easy from this perspective not only to move things around to my liking, but to see any holes that need to be filled. It’s very clear if there are gaps, inconsistencies or even if there is too much story there for one book (I’m typically a series writer). If that’s the case, some of that story fodder gets transferred to the sequel.

That done, I start connecting the dots. How do I get from my MC having a fight with her boyfriend in a café to her stumbling over a dead body in the woods? I follow the natural progression: She leaves, furious. He goes after her with his car, harassing her. She goes into the woods to get away from him. She finds the path and follows it. She is crying so she doesn’t notice there is something in her way until she trips over it. She falls on her face next to that thing and looks into the face of a dead man.

You get the idea.

Once the connective tissue is added, I read through the (huge) stack of cards and make sure everything flows. Then I go to my trusty computer and start plotting out chapters. I find this fascinating as the breaks for chapter endings seem to flow very naturally. Once that’s done, the outline is complete and I’m ready to write. And once I’m writing, the words gush out of me. Writer’s block is non-existent, the fear of the blank white page not even remotely intimidating. It’s like my prep has opened the flood gates for the voices to emerge. I love it. In fact, once I get going at the actual writing, I can get a first draft out in less than two weeks.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Just write. Don’t talk about it. Sharing ideas are great, but the thing itself has only a finite amount of energy attached to it. If you waste it all talking about it and don’t act, you’ll lose momentum and the idea will die. If you act, take control of the idea, develop it and accept it no matter what your ego tells you, it will come out and usually better than you imagined. Trust the inspiration.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

This is a huge question, far bigger than most writers think. When I teach, I try to guide my students to trust themselves and their instincts. To be cautious of who they choose to beta for them—only to pick those who share their interests and never someone they want to impress. I also teach them to do their research into the three publishing models and be honest about what they want. The DREAM of big publishing is just that—a fiction created by Hollywood and the media. The truth of it is far different. I’m not knocking it, just being truthful and realistic. If they still decide to go that route, fantastic. But not being educated on the realities of this business (and it is a business, as much as some writers wish it wasn’t) is a recipe for failure as in any other industry. Honestly there is so much more but it’s a whole post all on its own.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

I’m lucky to say I am. Although not with my books just yet—I write freelance for a web TV series—but I am writing for a living and that makes me very, very happy.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

I need total silence, although I have tried it all out of curiosity. I can write with other people around but once I’m inside the story with the characters talking to me I get quite cranky if I’m interrupted (fair warning!). I can write with music but choose not to. And I’ve written in coffee shops, at retreats… but I prefer just me and my MC. I’m also a sugar addict but I’ve been trying very hard lately not to indulge that habit while I write.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

My onepage document, pencils, markers, index cards. Microsoft Word and/or Open Office. I’ve tried Scrivener but I do the same thing on my own that the software does so I figure I’ll stick to my system since it works so well for me.

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

I haven’t done a great deal as of yet, although I’m still building my platform. I have the first book of a new series coming this summer from an indie publisher, Etopia Press (http://etopia-press.net) and will be actively promoting then. But since both self-pubbed books were experiments, I didn’t bother doing much about sales and marketing.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

I write full time and have now for about a year and a half. My day starts about 8am when I do my networking and platform building. After lunch I usually plot new outlines or, if I’m writing, work on chapters. When I’m in writing mode, I’m very prolific—my record is 16,000 words in a day (and they didn’t suck!) but most days while I’m focused on getting a book finished I average between 6,000 and 9,000 words in about eight hours. I write about a book every two months and use the rest of the time in developing ideas, writing short stories and editing. The fastest book I wrote was eight days and the longest was a month. Editing a novel usually takes three full days—the first for fleshing out anything that needs more detail, showing instead of telling, dialogue improvement, that type of thing. Days two and three are about find and replace—locating words I’ve repeated over and over (that, had, could, really, just, etc.) and correcting typos. Then I let it go to betas and move on. Any big edits happen with my editor on her suggestions as well as the suggestions of my betas. I’ve been pretty lucky so far—only one of my books needed an overhaul but it was all about adding content, not removing it.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

When I self-published, I did everything myself. It was a great deal of fun, but I don’t recommend it. Pay an editor. It’s important. Now that I’m with an indie press, I’m loving how much help I’m getting, from editing to cover art to marketing. I’ve also recruited someone to help me with my trailers. I’m fortunate in that my publisher pays for all of the book related costs while the film makers helping me are friends.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

Are you kidding? Favorite topic…

Cat City is a Middle Grade novel, the first in a series about a magical city hidden under Susan’s house. She is taken there to save her life and helps her friend, the butterscotch tabby Tucker, save his city from an invasion of the evil rats.

Curiosities, Inc. is a Young Adult paranormal novel about Danica Harper, left to live with her crazy grandmother for a year. She discovers she has psychic power triggered by an enchanted ring all the while being haunted by an evil demon spirit who wants to use her energy to return to the mortal world.

The Ghost Boy of MacKenzie House (Acorn Press, Spring 2012) is a Middle Grade story about Chloe who is forced to leave her home after her parents die and move into her aunt’s house only to discover it is haunted. In her quest to help the Ghost Boy move on she heals her own heart.

The Diamond City Trilogy (Fresco, Wasteland, The Diamond City-Etopia Press) is a YA series about Fresco, an ordinary teenager who has his normal life turned upside down when he suffers a psychic breakout and is purposely hooked on a drug by the corporation that created him. The first book comes out this summer.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

I have a number of books in the queue at the moment. Right now I’m focused on finishing the third book of The Diamond City Trilogy but meanwhile I’ve finished outlining a YA based on New Orleans voodoo, a three-novel run about a teen boy who is being hunted, another YA called Gypsy and a short story horror anthology.

Patti Larsen is a 39-year-old novelist and independent filmmaker. A writer of fiction and screenplays, she began her writing career at a tender age and had her first typewriter by the time she was twelve. Choosing to develop her skills in journalism, her passion for storytelling eventually led her back to fiction. Her love for Young Adult and Middle Grade books drives her to write full time and sometimes even through the night. She lives on the East Coast of Canada, with her very understanding and patient husband Scott, and four massive cats.

You can find Patti online here:

Blog: http://wovenstrands.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @PattiLarsen

*****

Exerpt from Fresco (coming this summer from Etopia Press):

“Jen,” Justin smirked. “Wants to know what I’m doing after the game.” His new conquest was firmly in hand. Fresco rolled his eyes. He preferred to hang out with the girls, not tear them apart one by one.

Justin punched buttons, texting her back. Fresco saw the stop sign approaching, felt the acceleration of the truck and knew Justin didn’t see it or the car with the right of way. Before he had a chance to shout a warning, the headache took him over and fire filled his vision.

Everything was gray as time moved in slow motion. The car, a mid-sized blue sedan, sped in quarter time toward him as they cleared the stop and entered the intersection. Fresco watched, detached, as the pretty blonde woman behind the wheel opened her mouth in a large ‘O’ he guessed backed a scream. Her eyes were huge and stared into his. Just as her bumper touched the passenger door of the truck, time stopped.

Fresco looked around. Justin grinned, checking out his phone, the open box of cookies beside him. Over his friend’s shoulder, through the glass, Fresco saw a robin paused in flight, preparing to land on the street sign. He looked down at his hands. He seemed transparent to himself, ghostly and unreal. He looked up again at the woman. Such naked fear shone in her eyes he wanted to call out to her, to reassure her, but there was nothing he could do. It wasn’t until he dropped his eyes from her that he noticed the toddler secured in the back.

In a flash of terror, Fresco reached out with his mind and grabbed the child.

He had a heartbeat to register he now stood on the sidewalk next to the stop sign. The sun beamed down on him, warming his face. The world was silent, a jolting change from the blaring music. Justin’s black truck roared past in the next breath, careened into the intersection, t-boned by the blue sedan. The impact rippled the air, rushing over, through and past him in a shockwave. He felt it before he heard metal shriek and clash, the deep thrum of humming tires, the sharp bellow of shattering safety glass, the thrum of releasing airbags. The two vehicles melded together with enough force to spin them 180 degrees and come to a screeching halt against the opposite curb. Smoke billowed from the front of the blue car, bits of yellow and red plastic scattered as though tossed with casual disdain. Something within the crippled four-door hissed and sputtered its way down to death, its bonnet compressed, embedded in the passenger side of Justin’s four by four. The truck bent inward where the cab met the box but appeared almost intact compared to the crumpled mess of the family midsize.

People rushed from houses, from hastily parked cars, pouring over the scene. Fresco heard voices, harsh with shock, calling for help on multiple cell phones. An older woman, a stranger, hovered in front of him. Her mouth moved, face lined with concern, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying. He stood frozen, lost and empty of emotion. How…? Where…? He tried to make sense of what happened. The woman gestured to Fresco, but he was still having trouble understanding her. She reached for him, tugging on him, on something he held. His arms tightened reflexively. He could not, would not let go.

It was hard to think. Someone cried, and the crying distracted him.

Fresco looked down.

The boy from the back of the car bawled in his arms.

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Interview and an Excerpt- Tara Benwell

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Tara Benwell.

1.) How long have you been an indie author?

I had an agent for a number of years, but decided at the end of 2010 to take things into my own hands. I had received yet another "we just don’t have enough room on our list" note from an interested editor (see attached image), and I was beginning to feel tied down to a story that I had spent almost a decade working on. I was ready to concentrate on book #2 and #3 and I knew that if I didn’t let my first novel go, I’d never get on with the life of being a writer. I let my agent go, hired a professional editor, and worked with a professional photographer to create the perfect cover design (one of the bonuses of self-publishing). Seth Godin’s blog and Gene C. Hayden’s book, "The Follow-Through Factor," helped me come to my decision to brave it alone. I published "The Proper Order of Things" on CreateSpace first. I wanted a few friends and family members to be able to buy the print version, but I knew that an eBook would be the best way to get the story out there to an international audience, so I’ve also made it available for Kindle and Kindle app users (making it available to most people who have a smart phone or mobile device).

editor quote

2.) How many books have you self published?

The Proper Order of Things is my first novel, but I have two others that are in second draft form (one novel and one memoir). I don’t think it will take me ten years to publish the next one, but I certainly won’t rush it. Even though anyone can publish a book these days, I don’t think I fall into that category. My agent still believed we would place The Proper Order of Things with a good Canadian literary press, and she discouraged me from self-publishing. I respected her advice, but ultimately I got tired of waiting. Life’s not perfect, and you can’t always wait for everything to fall into place. Besides, I have more twitter followers and social media know-how than most of the little guys. Why settle?

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I was definitely a pantser with my first book, at least for the first few years of writing it. I’ve always kept a journal, and this is what feels most natural for me. On the other hand, I would never publish or even post a blog until I’ve had plenty of time to work out which details deserve to remain in a piece of writing. My second novel was plotted out much more formally, and I think I learned from my amateur mistakes. But sometimes polished writing drives me a bit crazy. There’s nothing better than writing that comes out right the first time.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

My writing notebook is my most important tool. The inside covers are full of quotes from the books I’m reading. On the last page of each notebook I have a list of all of the books I’ve read during that writing period. I love brainstorming. Whenever I’m feeling blocked or confused I always do as my elementary teachers taught me to do. I make a little bubble with the scene or character’s name and write out all of my related thoughts. I also use this method for work-based writing and blog writing. My biggest problem as a writer (and human) is that I have too many ideas. Brainstorming helps me to sort through which ones are worthy. I read tons of books, though when I’m working on fiction I find it hard to read novels. For the past few years I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction, including memoirs, biographies, self-help, and books on writing and parenting.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Julia Cameron’s advice about writing morning pages helped me when I was first discovering that my passion for writing was going to turn into a career. She advises writers to write three longhand pages of random writing before doing anything else each morning. I’ll never forget the notebook I used when I was studying the Artist’s Way. I highly recommend her classic book for any writer who is starting out. It’s also a great way to dive back in (though I have to admit I often did my morning pages in the evening). I think there are plenty of writers like me who have completed a project and need a nudge to throw themselves into something new. A good writing book, like John Gardner’s "On Becoming a Novelist" always helps.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

I’d warn writers not to get so wrapped up in the finding an agent thing. Yes, it was very difficult to find a good agent, and I celebrated like crazy when I finally signed the contract with the agent that offered to represent me. My agent took me on with enthusiasm, but warned me that I shouldn’t think that this was going to change my life. It was her gentle way of telling me not to quit my day job, and she was right and I didn’t (‘nor did I want to). For me, the most important thing about getting an agent was the confidence it gave me that my writing was worth reading by "book people" standards. But in the end, I think it slowed me down.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

Yes, I’ve been earning a living from my writing for about ten years now. I write materials for the English language teaching industry, and teach writing to online English learners. I’ve always imagined myself sitting on a hilltop patio writing books for a living, and hopefully one day this vision will come true. For now, I’ll be thankful that I earn an income (and support a family) on my writing.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

I love writing in coffee shops. This is where I feel most inspired. Since having children, I’ve had to adapt. The stolen hour here or there to get out of the house just doesn’t cut it. I have learned to write with kids’ movies on in the background, with a husband practising his golf swing in the sunroom, and with the noise of the modern conveniences of a dishwasher, a dryer and the next door neighbour’s central vac. A Room of Mom’s own would be a dream come true, but at this point in my life, it’s not a priority.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

I switched to a Mac last year, and would never think of writing on any other machine. First drafts of scenes and a lot of my brainstorming (the most important part of my writing process) usually happens in my notebooks. It’s the one thing I’m picky about. When I get close to the end of a notebook I begin hunting for the next one. I don’t buy expensive wine or jeans, but I rarely look at the price of notebooks. It has to feel right, and if that means paying $40 for a notebook that I fall in love with, I’ll do it. I’ve found that I need books/blog posts on the craft of writing close at hand to keep me on task.

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

I only published my book a few weeks ago, and I’m just learning about promotion. I am the social media director for my main clients, so I am very aware of the power of twitter and Facebook and blogging, and I do these things from my own personal accounts as well. I’ve just signed up for a page on IDOLVine, and have been publishing short videos on self-publishing tips that I’m learning along the way. So far Facebook has been the most effective for me, and I belong to a group called Fellow Writers that is very useful. As far as gaining a readership, I’m ready to move beyond friends and family. BookCrossing is a fun way to get started! http://tinyurl.com/3vatrzs

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

I spent about a decade working on this book. This may sound like a lot of time, but I also gave birth to two children and started my own freelance writing career during this time. I wrote two other books as well, but they are both in rough draft form. I am blown away by stories of writers who complete a novel in a year or two. Maybe one day I’ll have more time to devote to my craft without some of the other distractions. I spend about 6 hours a day doing writing that I get paid for and a few more on whichever personal project I’m involved with (blogging, recording, editing, social media etc.).

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

As I mentioned in a previous question, I had an agent for quite a few years. Many of the revisions I worked on came from suggestions and tips from editors at various publishers, including an extensive one that I did for an editor at HarperCollins. When I found out that the editor was on maternity leave and my agent was not going to resubmit my book there, I began to think about how to take back the control of this project. I did quite a bit of research before hiring an editor. Hiring an editor cost me more than a bay window, but I know it was worth the money, and hopefully I can build up a relationship with this editor for future projects. I bartered with a photographer for my cover design. I chose the image myself after viewing her work and she did all of the formatting and touch ups needed to get it the right size for CreateSpace. She also blended the front cover photo with another photo to make a wicked back cover related to the theme of my novel. In exchange for a week of her services, I proofread her website. You’d never guess that she is a wedding photographer! Yes, I got the better deal, but I’ve promised to make up for it in babysitting services. I was very close to hiring someone to format my book to Kindle, but I pushed through and got the job done on my own, thanks to many writers who have struggled before me. (http://tinyurl.com/3tsvrpn)

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

The Proper Order of Things-A Novel

My novel was inspired by a circus fire that took place in Connecticut in 1944. It’s about a young family that starts out in a remote region of Ontario. The narrator (Caroline) and her many siblings are named after Neil Diamond songs. The mother has obsessive compulsive disorder. Despite being pregnant at all times, Caroline’s mother longs to adopt a nearby neighbor when his parents abandon him. The family divides itself in half and Caroline moves with her dad to Kitchener, where she attempts to cover up an embarrassing family secret. My writing voice was compared to Miriam Toews, and I’m ashamed to say I had to look her up and read her books. If you haven’t read "A Complicated Kindness," go buy it today!

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

Right now I’m working on a memoir about losing my mother to leukemia. She died on Christmas Day almost ten years ago. This book may always be a work-in-progress, though I’m feeling more drawn to it now that my novel is finally out in the world. No thanks to cancer, being a motherless mother is a reality I think many women are faced with. I’m also busy recording an audio version of Peter Pan for my children and English learners. Peter Pan (one of my favourite stories) is in the public domain now, but I couldn’t find a good audio version online, so I decided to make it myself.

You can find Tara online here:

Website and blog: http://www.tarabenwell.com

Twitter: @tarabenwell

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tara.benwell

IDOLVine: http://idolvine.com/profile/TaraBenwell

 

 

Enjoy this excerpt from The Proper Order of Things (You can also listen to the first two chapters on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/4axo9dg):

 

Tara's ebook cover

 

*****

 

THE PROPER ORDER OF THINGS

By Tara Benwell

CHAPTER 1—MOTHER

Mother always said there was nothing special about being called a sweetie pie. All pies are sweet, she would say, and not one of us would disagree. It wasn’t that we didn’t know about the chicken pot or mincemeat kinds. We had seen them in the grocery store flyers that lined the ditch along Whirl Creek. It’s just that we weren’t allowed to talk about things like trash in our family, so we didn’t.

Mother didn’t like names like honey or pumpkin either. She said those were for people who didn’t put enough thought into their own babies’ names—either that or men who didn’t even have babies of their own. The worst thing a man could do around Mother was to call her child a babycake. Mother didn’t sit around for hours sorting through Neil Diamond lyrics to find the perfect names for us just so some stranger could call us whatever he damn well pleased.

Dad said my name came from the song about the good times. Sweet Caroline. I knew when he said it that the good times came before I was born.

"Just tell me one thing, Mother. Why do I get to pick and the others get to do as they’re told?" I asked.

"It’s just that you’re special, Caroline," Mother told me from the floor inside her bedroom closet. We looked like freaks, Mother and I, sprawled among the shoeboxes eating strawberries and fake cream. Whipped Dream. The kind that squirts out in waves and never goes bad for seven more years.

Mother had called me to her bedroom, hissing my name from the wedge in her half opened door, jiggling the coiled stopper until I looked up. All I could see through the crack of light were the red treats and her index finger motioning me away from my favourite episode of Family Feud. September Baby. The one where the host asked, "During what month of pregnancy does a woman begin to look pregnant?" and the contestant answered, "September." I don’t think any of us kids got why it was funny back then, seeing as those were the days when Mother looked pregnant almost every month of the year. Just watching the game show host crack up that much got us every time, though. Besides, there was nothing better than seeing a grown-up laugh harder than a kid.

You’re gonna miss it! Desiree had said as I got up off the floor and walked towards Mother and Dad’s room. We all knew the baby question was coming up right after the commercial. I told her it wasn’t even funny anymore, but Neil shushed us and waved me away, meaning that everyone better laugh as hard as usual even without me in the room. When I got closer to the bedroom I knew I had to wash my hands because Mother was doing that thing where she wiggled her fingers in front of her chin as if there was something hot in her mouth.

"How do you mean special?" I asked. I knew the others would never let me forget about this day. This wasn’t about getting to pick what flavour of frosting Mother used for some movie star’s birthday cake. This was about how I wanted to grow up, or more importantly, who I wanted to grow up with.

I licked the red fuzz from my front teeth, careful to collect any evidence of seeds while I waited for her answer Why me? I wished she’d use the word small instead of special, or even petite like Chester’s mom had called me the time she braided my hair right from the top of my head, pulling small bits from each side as she worked her way down. Mother had ripped out the braid the moment I got home, saying it hurt her eyes the way it went all crooked like a broken bone. It was true that the braid went off to the left almost right from the start. Chester’s mom had shown me how to look at the back of my head using two mirrors. She said if I kept the braid in all night I would have waves in the morning, like her. I never got the chance to tell her that your hair goes crinkly like French fries if you only leave it in for a few minutes.

Mother showed me her teeth, and I nodded to say there were no strawberry seeds showing.

"You know, like the special that means a good kind of different," Mother said. She picked out one of the larger berries and filled her mouth with it. As she chewed, she took all the green strawberry tops and arranged them in perfect rows in the lid of a shoebox. Her tongue licked her whole mouth clean before she spoke. Then she told me I had a few hours to decide where I wanted to do the rest of my growing up. I could stay in my own home with her and the little ones, or move with Dad and the others to a flat in stinkin’ Waterloo.

"Kitchener," I said. "Waterloo is where Chester moved, Mother. You keep mixing them up. Maybe you need to say it over a bunch of times or something. Kitch-en-er. Just remember kitchen. Not water."

"Same difference. They’re both the city, Caroline."

I knew it was a divorce even though Mother and Dad never gave it a name. Divorce was one of those invisible words that didn’t exist until it suddenly mattered. It popped up everywhere the summer before it happened. You had to turn the page or hum a loud tune to get rid of it. Sometimes even the clouds looked like a divorce.

The others had been assigned a home the night before. In the morning, Desiree had pulled me up into the kids’ room and asked me which envelope had been on my pillow.

"What do you mean which envelope?"

"Mother’s or Dad’s?" she wrote on her palm with her finger. She always whispered her secrets in finger writing. Even though it looked like it was only us in the room, you could feel at least one other kid hiding nearby, and you could never tell for sure who was siding with Neil.

"I didn’t get any envelope," I told her, but she didn’t believe me.

I sat on the floor by the book tower Rosie had made before breakfast and watched Desiree hunting through all seven beds, pulling off the pillows and sheets and then putting them back, smoothing the creases and wrinkles as best she could.

"I told you, I didn’t get an envelope," I said again after Desiree wrote Neil in capital letters on the ticklish part of my back. We both knew the book tower would come toppling down if she called Neil in. If the sound woke up Melinda, we’d have to scrub walls in wide circles to help put her back to sleep.

"Come on, Caroline. Even the baby got one," Desiree said out loud.

Desiree took me into Mother and Dad’s room to show me the mini envelope that was still inside Melinda’s crib. Inside was a tiny slip of paper that said in Dad’s handwriting: You’ll live with Mother. Desiree had already told me that her note was written by Mother.

"I’m sure Neil is playing a stupid joke. What’d you do to him this time?" she asked, shaking her finger up and down as if she were older than me. Desiree was a year and a half younger than me, but people thought she was the older one. She was only an inch or so taller for most of grade school, but Neil always made us compare our hand sizes. The top joints on Desiree’s finger curled right over mine even when our palms were lined up perfectly. Mother said there would come a day when I would be thankful that I looked younger than my age. The queen still hasn’t lost her baby face, Mother always said. If you took me out of the family, the others all lined up properly, tallest to shortest, oldest to youngest, according to their birth month. When the midwife had trouble remembering who came first, Mother reminded her how to use her knuckles and count out the months, like teachers taught us to do to find out which months had thirty-one days. Start with the knuckle on your left pinkie and work your way across.

"Don’t use the thumbs," Neil liked to remind Marie. "And don’t include Carolswine. She screwed everything up by coming in July."

January. February. March. Whenever she introduced us to someone, Mother would nod for us all to hold out our knuckles before she went through our names, showing how we came out like a magazine subscription. Neil. The twins. Desiree. Simon is my April baby. Rosie, Magdelene, and Melinda are May, June, July. I never saw her do it that way after Melinda was born, even though Shilo came along in August, just as Mother would have planned for her youngest. I was the only one who didn’t fit into Mother’s birthday plan. Whenever Neil commented about how I messed things up, Mother jumped in and blamed the twins. She said Les and Lee were more work than one baby, and she needed extra time between them and Desiree. Especially for a special baby like Caroline, she liked to say. During the introductions, she always skipped me and then came back to my hands at the end. She’d say my whole birthday while holding her own fists close to her heart. Let’s not forget our Sweet Caroline. July sixth. Whenever she said my birthday, Neil would automatically whisper Sith to one of the twins. She’s from the dark side.

"I hate when you say that, Mother."

"What, special?"

"Yes."

"Well you are, Caroline."

"It sounds like Special Ed." I switched hands before dipping another

berry into the cream. It felt awkward eating with my left, but I was sure Mother had noticed me lick one of the fingers on my right by accident. The berry dissolved under my tongue while I played with the pen that hung from a plastic spring on the knob of the closet door. It wasn’t a normal pen for a house. It was the kind you see in banks, only the words were scratched off from old age. Mother once said that the pen was one of those things that came with the house, like the fireplace Dad had wallpapered over, or the fence that once had pigs in it. It was one of those pens that never ran out of ink no matter how many letters you wrote. I wondered if other people’s closets had pens inside.

"I told you, it’s a good special. Not that kind you kids think of. I want to tell you why," she said, taking the pen away from me and watching it snap back, trapped with us on the inside.

"Then why?"

"Just promise you won’t tell your dad."

The your dad and your mother were new since the d-word.

"Pinky swear."

I held my pinky out for her to lock onto, but she was too busy fiddling with the fruit. It was left at that until the berries were gone and there was nothing left to occupy our mouths. Mother hugged her knees and rocked against the indoor shoes for a minute before the story came spewing out.

"You were baptized, Caroline. The day you were born. The very hour. You are the lucky one."

"Lucky? Why? What’s baptized?"

Mother bit her lip with one of her pointy teeth. She despised it when people asked more than one question at once. She felt that if the first question wasn’t important then there wasn’t a point in asking it. Mother hated pointless things. I waited for her other teeth to show.

"Blessed by God," she said. Her eyes crossed as she stared too hard at the pen.

"What’s blessed?"

I wished she’d say that I was so small I could sneak into heaven without anyone seeing me, but I knew that wasn’t it. Simon said God probably had some kind of equalizer, anyway. Some machine he dropped dead people into so we’d all be the same size when we passed through the gates.

"I mean to tell you everything, just not all at once. You’re too young to know everything, Caroline."

"I’m nearly thirteen."

Mother winced when I said that number. She told me to shut up. She’d wash my mouth out. She spoke quickly, in a whisper that was vicious like a scream. She said life wasn’t going to suddenly get easier by moving to the city, if that’s what I thought. Then her voice got different again. It was like a fairy godmum. She said it would make God happy if I picked her. She called me Sweet Caroline, like when I got perfect on windows or mirrors, like she did when she looked into my eyes and sang her favourite Neil Diamond song between sips of fizz from the neck of Dad’s too-warm beer.

I sucked hard on my empty mouth a few times and then whispered that I didn’t know God had feelings.

Mother took my right hand and forced me to rub her head. Front to back, back to front. Her naked scalp was sweating, and my fingers, stained with strawberry juice, left faint pink trails as they walked. I counted up to two minutes until she pushed my hand away and began to part my hair instead, tucking it behind my ears again and again. The way it was supposed to be. The mother-daughter way. I counted in my head another minute before Mother stood up and put the empty fruit bowl in my hands. Mother had once caught Chester and I putting peanut shells in the fruit bowl and she had made us wash and dry it seven times. Which one of you is allergic? Chester had asked while he waited to dry the fruit bowl the final time. I told him Mother was allergic to peanuts and Dad was allergic to popcorn, which was why we weren’t allowed things like Cracker Jacks in the house. Allergic was the only way I knew how to say it, and I hoped he never saw Mother dip chocolate chips in the peanut butter jar.

Mother balanced the shoebox lid with the green stems under her palms like a serving tray, and wiggled the closet door open with her feet.

"Do the right thing, Caroline Quartz," Mother said. She took one hand away from the shoebox and pinched the skin on her left knuckles with her teeth as she finished her instructions. "Feel what’s in your bones. That’s when you know you’re following God’s plan."

"Yes Mother."

"And remember, you can’t have a swing at an apartment. There are other rules than just no pets, you know. You can’t take your thinking chair to the city, Caroline. I don’t know where you’ll do your thinking with no trees around. You’ll disappear in the crowd, you know. The damn city’ll stunt your growth even more. Besides, your dad’s never even baked a stinkin’ birthday cake."

The last thing she told me was to leave an envelope with my decision under one of their pillows by five o’ clock that day.

"You know which pillow is which," she reminded me, pointing to herself as she said it.

I did. We all did. Mother’s was the only pillow in the house without any brown circle stains underneath the case.

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Filed under interview and an excerpt

Interview and an Excerpt- Leanne Beattie

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Leanne Beattie.

1.) How long have you been an indie author?

I published Cage of Bone on May 16, 2011.

2.) How many books have you self published?

This is my first self-published book.

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

A bit of both. I write a very loose outline but then my characters take a life of their own and things happen that I didn’t expect.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

The idea for my novel came from a line in the Jann Arden song Will You Remember Me which says, “I’ve got a junkie heart in a cage of bone”. The phrase “cage of bone” stuck with me and I began to wonder what that might mean. I then wrote a poem about my interpretation which I later incorporated into the novel. I am always trying to figure out why a person might do the things they do—personality is the primary focus for me, which then dictates what a person might do in a particular situation. I love writing narrative most of all, staying inside the character’s head.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

The best advice I ever received was from the Anne Lamott classic, Bird by Bird: it’s okay to write a shitty first draft.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Writing the novel is the easy part—marketing it is hard. Using social media to promote your book is absolutely essential but the key is to be social, to build relationships. You can’t just talk about your novel all the time, you have to get to know people and share information. You do have to be able to talk about yourself though, to promote yourself when the time is right. If you can’t, you will struggle getting the word out about your book.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

I’m not making a living with my book sales yet. I could pay for a few cups of coffee at this point.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

I like to write to appropriate music. My novel is set in the 1980’s so I listened to a lot of music from that decade for inspiration. I get distracted by conversations so I can’t write with the TV on or in a coffee shop.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

I just use Microsoft Word, nothing fancy.

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

I have been actively growing my Twitter list for the past year and have developed some very good relationships with writers and readers. My Twitter friends have been great at sharing my work with their followers and I do the same for them. It’s a very cooperative community. I also have a Facebook author page and a blog and I have listed my book on Goodreads. I will also be doing guest blog postings with other writers. So far, Twitter has been the most effective for me.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

Oh, the hard question. It took me 5 years to complete the book: 6 months of writing and 4 ½ years of procrastination. I would write a chapter, sit on it for months (or longer!), then pick up the book again. At most, I would write 1000 words a day. I think a lot about my work before I actually write it but I’ve never been the type of writer who can bang out thousands of words a day.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I’ve been meeting with a writing group for six years and my friends there did the editing for me as I went along. I would write a chunk and give it to them for critique. I bought the cover photo from iStockphoto.com and my daughter put the text on the image with Photoshop. All in all, it was very inexpensive to get the book up on Kindle.

13.) Cage of Bone has the most eye catching cover and it sounds like an amazing story of personal growth. Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Cage of Bone is a young adult novel about a 16 year-old girl, Ronnie Campbell, as she tries to cope with her sister’s suicide. It’s an emotional story because Ronnie is very confused about the death. Her sister was the quintessential “golden girl” in high school: popular, smart and going places, so her suicide leaves Ronnie struggling to find answers. On top of everything, Ronnie’s parents are getting divorced and her father is starting a new family with another woman, so Ronnie feels abandoned and pushed aside. At an age when other kids are dating and going to parties, Ronnie is facing some pretty heavy burdens.

Once I had the basic story idea, I got an image of a girl who seems tough on the outside but is really hurting. Her toughness is all a façade. I think a lot of people can relate to that, that everybody is suffering in some way. Griffin McNay, her love interest, is the ideal boy for Ronnie: cute, creative and understanding. He shows her there is more to life than what she is experiencing right now. Her best friend, Danielle, accepts Ronnie as she is, flaws and all, and has great faith in her.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

I am working on a piece called The Pigeon King. At this point it may be a short story or it might grow into a novella. It’s essentially about betrayal and shame. The main character befriends the town weirdo but then hurts him to gain approval with the group of boys he wants to be part of. I want to create something with the feel of Stephen King’s novella, The Body.

You can find Leanne online here:

Blog: http://www.leanneardellebeattie.wordpress.com

Twitter: @joymagnet

You can find Cage of Bone at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

Enjoy this excerpt from Cage of Bone:

Cover 2

 

*****

Mom’s screaming woke me up. I ran to the sound, sliding to a stop at the bathroom door. Katherine was lying in the bathtub, blood and water mixing until you couldn’t tell where my sister ended and the nothingness began.

Long blonde hair fanned out around her face. A razor blade sat on the edge of the tub, gleaming under the harsh fluorescent lighting. Mom’s blouse was drenched with bloody water.

“I tried to help her”, she whispered, rocking back and forth on the toilet, unable to take her eyes off Katherine. “Call the ambulance.”

The phone was heavy in my hand as I dialed. I dropped it once, the receiver banging against the kitchen cupboard and twirling madly on its twisted cord before I could grab it again and finish the call. My fingers were shaking and it was all I could do to punch in the numbers. I couldn’t think straight. Didn’t I just call them? And already a whirl of lights and sirens roared down our street. I opened the front door and pointed the way to the bathroom, too afraid to watch.

I heard the sick sloshing when they lifted Katherine from the tub, the counting as they performed CPR, the creaking and banging of the stretcher over our hardwood floors as they wheeled her away.

My father met us at the hospital. Somehow he found out but I don’t remember calling him. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Dad said something to me but I couldn’t make out his words. Nothing sounded right, like I was underwater. A wash of red blurred across my eyes every time I blinked.

Dad wrapped his arms around me, squeezing me close."Leave me alone.” I pushed him away. “You don’t belong here.”

“How can you say that? You’re my daughter. Katherine’s my daughter. Of course I belong here.”

“You should have thought of that before you left.”

His shoulders drooped and the air seeped from his lungs in defeat. “Not now Ronnie, please. I love you. You need me.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I don’t need anybody.” I sat down on one of the orange plastic chairs that lined the hallway in the hospital. Mom was coming down the hall, crying and raking her hands through her blonde hair. Just like Katherine’s.

“It’s over,” she told us, wiping her eyes. “Oh God, I can’t do this.” Dad took her by the hand and they went back down the hall to see Katherine. I should have gone too, but my feet wouldn’t move. I just sat in that chair with my back sticking to the hard plastic. I didn’t feel anything at all.

Lines of friends and classmates shuffled past her coffin, heads down, reverent. I screamed inside my head. People, are you blind? She never looked like that. She never wore pink lipstick. Wipe it off.

But I didn’t cry. Not even when my father and my barely recognized cousins picked up the coffin and carried it to the hearse. I watched it all from a distance. It was the only way I could cope without falling apart. My sister loved me. She was perfect, everybody knew that. So why did she do it?

The house reeked of stale cigarette smoke and tension. Mom was still asleep on the couch. She hadn’t stumbled up to bed yet. I took the granny square afghan off the back of the couch and stretched it out over her. A thin string of saliva hung from her bottom lip, her mouth open and slack in sleep.

Her empty glass was stuck to the coffee table and I had to tug to get it off, leaving a ring of rye and ginger ale behind. I would wipe it up in the morning. I hated coming home to a mess. If everything was neat and clean, at least for a little while, I could act like nothing had ever happened. After the drinks kicked in and Mom got bitter, I left the house for as long as possible.

Books were my only real friends, so I spent a lot of time in the library. It only took me a half an hour to get there, even if I walked really slowly. Owen Sound was pretty small, only twenty thousand people, so it never took me long to walk anywhere. In the winter I rode the city bus, but now I walked all the time, my skin sticky and flushed from the summer heat.

I liked getting lost between the tall racks of books. Nobody noticed me at all. They didn’t know that Katherine was dead and I only slept a couple of hours a night. I got my best sleep here in one of the overstuffed reading chairs tucked way back in the corner.

My intentions were always good. I would pick an interesting book, something by Graham Greene maybe, open it, my fingers smoothing out the pages just so, but after the first few lines the words would dance together in an endless stream of letters. I’d wake up with a jerk some time later and then go and sign out the book. I could read it after midnight when Mom finally crashed for the night.

Nobody knew how messed up my home life was and I didn’t have much of a social life outside of school. In a town like Owen Sound, if you didn’t fit into the blonde Farrah Fawcett hair and skin tight jeans mold, you were an outcast. While everyone else in my class was listening to Journey (yawn) and Styx (double yawn), I was into Siouxsie and the Banshees and Kate Bush. The most mainstream I went was Blondie and that was only their pre-Heart of Glass stuff. After that everybody liked them, so what was the point?

I didn’t want people to like me anyway. Katherine was the popular one and what did it get her? A big smile in the yearbook and a funeral at 18.

The weight of her stare pulled me. I could feel her outside, across our deep back yard, waiting for me under the pear tree in the moonlight. I closed the back door and tip-toed down the cedar steps onto the grass, careful not to make a sound, even though there was no chance of being heard. The grass was wet with dew and a few loose blades stuck between my bare toes. I liked the squishy feeling beneath my feet as I took off running, each stride bringing me closer and closer to her.

"Where have you been?" I asked. “I haven’t seen you in days.”

Katherine sat down under the pear tree, stretching out her long, thin legs on the damp grass. "I hang out a lot downtown, at the arcade. Or at Kresge’s. I see a lot of people. Ran into Mr. Osbourne, the math teacher. You had him last year for Grade Nine, right? Anyway, I saw him a couple of days ago at the lunch counter at Kresge’s. Eating a mile a minute, just shovel, shovel, shovel. What a fucking pig."

She leaned against the side of the tree and crossed her legs in a mystic yoga move. I sat down beside her and reached out, wanting to touch her but holding back. She saw my hesitation.

"I don’t bite for God’s sake, Ronnie."

I traced the lace of veins on her hand, her flesh vulnerable and delicate. Her skin was cool against the August humidity.

Katherine moved her hand away and looked at me. "Don’t do this to yourself. Go back to bed and don’t worry about me. Get on with your life.”

"Can I see you again?"

She let out a long sigh and stared up at the sliver of crescent moon. Finally she nodded. "Don’t tell anybody though or people will think you’re crazy. Only psychos talk to dead people."

"Where’d you go last night?" Mom asked the next morning in the kitchen. "There’s grass all over the living room carpet."

"Why do you care?"

Mom stopped stirring sugar into her instant coffee. She dropped the spoon with a clatter onto the coral-colored arborite table. "I don’t need any crap from you this morning. I’ve got another damn migraine coming on and I’m going to be late for work. Charlie wants me in early today because he’s counting on a bunch of tourists stopping in for lunch and I’ve got to get the place ready for the rush.”

She shook a cigarette out of the open package at her elbow and lit it. Smoke filled the tiny kitchen. She slurped some coffee and set down her mug with a splash. A faded cartoon of Yogi Bear waved from the side of the mug. "Make your own supper tonight," she said, standing up to leave. "I don’t know when I’ll be home."

I opened up the windows over the sink to get rid of some of the smoke. The ashtray on the kitchen table was almost full again. I emptied it into the garbage can and then sprayed Lysol all over to kill the smell. Cleaning the kitchen took almost an hour but it was worth it. Dirt made me twitchy.

Dad had a new girlfriend named Meg just a few weeks after he left us. Maybe they were already together when he was still here. All I know is that Mom went ballistic when Meg got pregnant.

"That little bitch!" Mom cried, pacing the living room and throwing books and knickknacks at the wall. The little pottery duck I made her in Grade Two smashed into shards and scattered across the brown shag carpet. "What the hell does she think she’s doing? I’m still Mrs. Ray Campbell."

She continued circling the room in a panic, carrying a sloshing drink in her left hand and the next item to throw in her right. I was expecting her to screw up and pitch her glass against the wall but even drunk she wasn’t that careless. Forget about the family memories lying in shambles at her feet but for God’s sake keep the booze safe.

She finally stopped to catch her breath and sank down into the tattered sofa. "I always thought he’d come back someday. How can he do this to me after all these years?”

I looked around the living room at the mess and then met her eyes. Streaks of mascara lined her face and settled into the premature wrinkles caused by cigarettes and rye.

"I don’t know what to say, Mom. He’s been gone for over a year now."

"He’s coming back. I just have to be patient. I’m trying, I really am, but it’s so hard." She swirled the ice around in her glass and then swallowed the rest of the rye and ginger ale in one gulp. "If he would just talk to me, he’d see that I’m better and he’d want to come home. He still loves me, I know he does."

I started picking up the books that Mom had hurled across the room and the broken bits of pottery. Poor Mr. Duck. Maybe some Crazy Glue would put him back together.

"Why don’t you go lie down for a while?" I suggested. “Don’t even think about Meg or the baby. Who knows what might happen? Come on now, let’s go have a nap and forget about all this, okay?"

I helped her into bed, being careful to pull the blankets up to her neck the way she liked, then I tugged down the window shade to keep out the evening sun.

"Thanks," she mumbled, settling down into bed. "Who knows what might happen, right? Just like you said. He still loves me, you’ll see."

“Sure he does, Mom”, I answered, closing the door. Keep dreaming.

I really didn’t need this shit right now. Life was supposed to be all boys and fun with the occasional bit of schoolwork tossed in for good measure. I wasn’t supposed to have to babysit my mother.

The biggest problem I should have right now is deciding between Todd or Rob for the next big date. Just like The Facts of Life and all that Hollywood propaganda.

Who was I kidding? It’s not like I had any guys lining up to go out with me anyway. Molly Ringwald I was not.

I wash each night at the kitchen sink. I don’t go in the bathroom at all anymore except when it’s absolutely necessary because the tub is still there and I can’t look at it without picturing Katherine’s body. Even with the shower curtain pulled across, I can’t forget what I saw.

After Mom goes to bed for the night, I shampoo my hair under the kitchen faucet. It’s hard to get the temperature quite right, so I either freeze or get scalded. I strip in the dark and wash myself, shave what needs to be shaved and towel off quickly. It’s been two months since Katherine died and I’m used to doing things this way.

I still can’t sleep though. Every time I close my eyes I see her again, all cold and blank, looking out into nothing. I stretch out on my bed and hold my arms straight. I stare at my ceiling. I don’t breathe until I’m dizzy and can’t hold it any longer. Then I suck in great gasps of air and my vision clears. I’m still alive.

“Mom, I need money for school next week. I’ve got nothing to wear and I can’t go with my hair looking like this.”

Mom sighed and set down her coffee cup. “I guess I can I spare a bit of cash. Why don’t you ask your Dad to help you out? He’s got more money than I’ll ever have.”

“Whatever,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Just give it to me, okay? The less I have to deal with him, the better.” I shoved the money into the front pocket of my jeans and pulled on my combat boots. August or not, I didn’t leave the house without them.

Today I was going for my famous fuck off and die look, which was accomplished by mixing equal parts black eyeliner, ripped t-shirt and hairspray. Add an armful of black rubber bracelets and I was good to go. First stop: The Salvation Army Thrift Store.

Some people might have a problem with wearing used stuff but I was cheap—I valued wardrobe volume over newness any day. Getting ten t-shirts for ten bucks suited me just fine. And I picked up a tiny black and red plaid skirt as an added bonus. I was skinny, so it would fit no problem. Put it all together and I was ready for on the first day of Grade Ten.

Practically everything I owned was either black or red. No thought required, I just pulled something out of my dresser and away I went. I heard that Albert Einstein wore the same outfit every day. He had a closet full of the exact same jacket, shirt and pants and simply grabbed a clean set of clothes in the morning and that was that. Who was I to argue with a genius?

The hair salon around the block from the thrift store took walk-in appointments, so I went in. The place looked okay, no blue-haired ladies in any of the chairs. I figured it was worth the risk.

“I want to colour my hair,” I told the girl behind the counter. She looked about twenty-five with blotchy skin and a spiral perm. Not a good combination.

“How do you want it?” she asked, not bothering to look up from her National Enquirer.

“Bleach it out completely. And I need it cut too. Choppy, choppy layers.”

She glanced up at me and nodded. “Sure, come on back. Janet can do that. You got a while?”

“All day. Whatever it takes.”

Three hours later I was done and on the street again. Next stop: Sam the Record Man.

“Hey, cool hair,” the guy behind the counter said to me as I walked in the door. He must be new because I had never seen him before. Blue eyes, black spiky hair and a black Ramones t-shirt. Not bad looking at all.

I ignored him and walked to the new release section. I thumbed through the rack of albums but I didn’t find anything interesting. Just more stupid bands with stupid names. As always.

I could hear the guy whistling away to The Clash as London Calling cranked out over the P.A. system. At least he had taste, I’d give him that. “Hey,” I called out. “Got anything good?”

“That depends on what you consider good,” he answered, turning down The Clash a notch or two. “What did you have in mind?”

I walked up to the counter and drummed my fingers on its glass top. Badly photocopied concert advertisements were stuck beneath the glass. I had no way of getting to any of the shows, so there was no point in reading the ads.

“Anything at all. I’m so sick of bad hair bands shaking their asses in music videos.”

The clerk laughed. “That’s funny. You like New Wave? Punk? New Romantic?”

I shrugged. “Guess so.”

He walked over to the racks and started digging through. “Here you go,” he said finally, handing me an album. “See what you think of this.”

“The Cure?”

“Buy it, you won’t regret it.”

What did I have to lose? Nothing was forever and if I hated it, I could just toss it. “Sure,” I told him, handing him some money. “You new here? I don’t recognize you.”

“Yeah, I just moved here from Toronto about a month ago. My dad got transferred. He works for the Bank of Nova Scotia.”

“Wow, from Toronto to Owen Sound,” I replied. “That sucks.”

“Tell me about it. I had an awesome band happening and everything. Now I’ve got to start all over again from scratch. Any musicians in town?”

“Not that I know of.”

“What is there to do here anyway?” he asked.

“Nothing. I guess that’s why so many people party. See you around. I’ll let you know what I think of the album.”

“Hey, what’s your name? I’m Griffin McNay.”

“Oh don’t worry about me,” I said as I walked out the door. “I’m nobody.”

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Interview and an Excerpt- M. Leighton

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is M. Leighton.

1.) How long have you been an indie author?

Only a few months. I first published to Amazon on January 29th of this year (2011, for those of us who really need a watch) and my book, The Reaping, became available January 31st. I guess that’s when I began to first officially identify myself as an "Indie." Since then, I think, like so many other Indies, I wear it as a badge of pride.

2.) How many books have you self published?

4 so far and I’m working on my 5th now. And I can say that, despite my freakishly obsessive and competitive personality, it has been a lot of fun.

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Total pantser. To the extreme, I might add. Almost every aspect of writing and publishing comes as a complete surprise to me. Again, it’s a personality thang:)

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

I think my "process" is not really a process at all. I might come up with an idea for a character or a plot line or a particular scene or event and create an entire story around that. I think the only thing that really seems to be concrete about my process is that, by the end of the story, I have a notebook full of Post-Its, jots, scribbles and notes, a collection which I then tidy up and put away for future reference when I do the sequel. Other than that, it’s pretty much a new adventure (in every way) with each book I write.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Don’t just emote. I have a tendency to do that and I have to work at keeping my eye on the ball as my story progresses. Until I get about 2/3 of the way through, that is, then it just flows like water.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

From the perspective of the actual publishing process, I’d tell them to format their book simply and correctly from the very first page. It will save them hours of work and years of life.

From the perspective of being a published author, I would warn them about negative reviews and caution them against identifying themselves too completely with their books. It’s easy to see your work as a part of yourself and take criticisms very personally, but it’s a mistake. People aren’t criticizing you as a person, just you as an author or your work as a writer. Even though, to a writer, they feel like one and the same, they’re not. There’s a difference between your "who" and your "do."

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

Heck no! If my books weren’t $0.99 I would be making a great living. But, alas, they are. Therefore, I’m not. I am hopeful, however, that that will be changing in the near future:D

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

I have to have complete silence, as in no music or television. I’m strange like that. I often use music to get in the mood or get some random inspiration, but when I’m actually writing, I prefer quiet. Better to hear all the voices in my head. *crazy eyes darting around*

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

I always have a notebook and several different color pens and I have PCs so I use Microsoft Word to compose.

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

I jumped into the deep end with absolutely no clue what I was doing, so the only thing I’ve done to promote my books is send them to bloggers. Many, however, have huge TBR piles so your book may not get a review for months, which I’ve run into more often than not. Recently, I’ve come across a few authors who had strategic marketing plans in place for their launches and it seems to have worked out very well for them, as opposed to "pantsing" it like I did. What did I tell ya? Pantser all the way!

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

I’ve seen a book through from start to pubbing in as little as 3 weeks and as much as 3 months. There are hundreds of variables that go into my production rate and, like the perfect storm, they rarely seem to all fall into place in the same way at the same time. I’d say average for me is about a month and a half. With a project like that, I would be writing probably 4 hours a day maybe 5 days a week, give or take an hour here and there. I have very little structure and I like it that way. I don’t force myself to write or perform to a certain level every day, like "I’m going to type 2,000 words today." That feels so stifling to me, I would abandon a schedule like that in no time. I do, however, give myself a week for my first edit. If it drags on beyond that (without a really good excuse), I get antsy.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I’ve done 100% (for better or worse) on my own. If I had the resources, I’d pay for a cover artist and editor, probably someone to do a book trailer and market the book for me, but right now I wear all those hats. And, trust me, I don’t look good in many hats!

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your book(s)?

I’ll be really quick since I have four. The Reaping is a YA paranormal romance about a girl who begins to see changes in her physical self that bring about a series of changes in her life that she never expected. Caterpillar is an adult paranormal romance that has a touch of horror in it. It’s about a woman who begins to find dead bodies at the houses she’s selling, bodies that lead her to startling discoveries about herself, her family history and her destiny. Wiccan is another YA paranormal romance, but it has a bit of the feel of a murder mystery. It’s the story of a girl who sees murders from long ago–usually. This time, she sees one before it happens, which is one of many indications that her blood is mature and that she is ready to take on the role for which she was fated. Blood Like Poison is my most recent release. It, too, is a YA paranormal romance, one about a girl who falls in love with a vampire (of course! right?), but she doesn’t realize that he has a death wish or that real vampires can die.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

I’m currently stepping into the editing phase of the sequel to Blood Like Poison. I’ve not written a true sequel yet, and I’m discovering that unless you wrap the story up in the second book, you are forced to plan to a much larger extent than what I’m used to. It’s been a learning experience, but I’ve mapped out how the story will end, an ending which will occur in the next book. Unless, of course, my characters throw me a curve ball in book #3, which wouldn’t entirely surprise me. My characters really do write my stories in most cases, not the other way around, and sometimes they can be quite headstrong *sigh* But, who am I kidding? I love it! Most of the time, endings and plot twists are just as much a shocker to me as they are to readers.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Wren. I really appreciate your time:)

You can find M. Leighton online here:

Blog: http://mleightonbooks.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @mleightonbooks

You can find Blood Like Poison at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The sequel, BLP: Destined for a Vampire is for sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Author Blurb

M. Leighton is a native of Ohio, but she relocated to the warmer climates of the South where she can be near the water all summer and miss the snow all winter. Possessed of an overactive imagination from early in her childhood, Michelle finally found an acceptable outlet for her fantastical visions: writing fiction. Four of Michelle’s novels can now be found on Amazon, as well as several other sites. She’s currently working on sequels, though her mind continues to churn out new ideas, exciting plots and quirky characters. Pick one up and enjoy a wild ride through the twists and turns of her vivid imagination.

BLOOD LIKE POISONBLP2

 

Blood Like Poison:

Like most seventeen year olds, Ridley Heller thought she had her future all planned out. What she wanted most in life was to get out of small town Harker. Her only goal was to keep her mouth shut and her grades high so she could win a cheerleading scholarship to Stanford. But that was before she met Bo.

In Ridley’s wildest dreams, she could never have planned for someone like Bo, for a love so intense it left her breathless. No human girl could.

A haunting stranger that watched her from afar, Bo stole Ridley’s heart from the moment she laid eyes on him. But he has secrets. Bo’s a vampire. Both his past and his present are a danger to Ridley, but the biggest threat is not her blood; it’s her heart. He’s feeding a thirst for revenge that will cost him his life, and it may already be too late.

The more darkness Ridley uncovers, the more she realizes that her life will never be the same—with or without Bo. Can she sacrifice her future and her heart for someone who has a death wish?

Excerpt BLP

The murmur of death, a dark shadow overcast,

Ringing long and eternal as life slips slowly past,

It breeds the unthinkable and touts the unknown,

It begins at the end, on a whisper, a moan.

PROLOGUE

Bo was on his knees in the center of the concrete floor, kneeling on a black towel. He was shirtless and covered in blood spatter. Under the slimy red sheen, I could see a sickly greenish black color seeping across his chest, radiating from the left side outward. It was darkest over his heart and it pulsed as if gangrenous death was being pumped throughout his body with every slow squeeze of the muscle. That, however, was not the most alarming part. The thing that caught and held my attention was his face.

As always, when I thought of Bo, my heart clenched painfully. I remember seeing him that day, the horror of it and how terrified I was. But even now, I can’t bring myself to regret stumbling upon him like that. I might’ve gone through the rest of my days in a selfishly numb state of hiding if I hadn’t met him, hadn’t known him for who and what he was. He taught me so much about a world I didn’t know existed and so much more about a life I hadn’t been living.

He taught me to stand up for what I believe in, to shout it out at the top of my lungs. He taught me to feel—the deep, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, soul-singing kind of emotion I had avoided for so long. He taught me about the importance of life. He taught me about the beauty of death. He also taught me about love.

This is our story.

Blood Like Poison: Destined for a Vampire

Ridley Heller thought that all her problems would be over if she could have Bo back—back from the dead. But what Ridley didn’t know was that her wish would come at a price.

Bo survived a condition that would have killed a lesser vampire, or any vampire for that matter. The only reason he didn’t die is because of who he is, someone Ridley doesn’t know at all. Someone Bo himself doesn’t know at all.

As Ridley gets closer to finding out Bo’s true identity, she discovers that loving him could also come at a price, a price much higher than she ever could have imagined. The question is: is there any such thing as a price too high to pay for Bo? For his love, for his safety, for eternity in his arms?

Excerpt BLP Book 2

     I was skirting the writhing mob of dancers when I felt a familiar tug in my belly.  I stopped in my tracks and looked around.  Immediately, my heart sped up, banging like a drum, keeping time with the erratic expansion of my lungs as I grew more and more breathless.

     I searched the faces for the one that occupied far too many of my thoughts, but I didn’t see him.  I could’ve almost convinced myself that I’d been mistaken, but the magnetism that I felt intensified with every breath, assuring me that it was no mistake.  Those invisible strings were pulling me, no dragging me into the middle of the crowd, where bodies were crushed together so tightly they moved as if they were one.

     Weaving my way through perfumed and cologned figures, I felt like I was getting lost in the fray when I saw a tall, darkly cloaked figure watching me through a break in the mob.

     He was dressed as Dracula.  His robe was ebony satin with a blood red lining and the hood that covered his head shadowed all but his mouth. 
My breath hitched in my throat and burned in my lungs.  My pulse thumped wildly and my skin tingled in response to a presence that I couldn’t forget.  It was Bo.  Beneath the hood that concealed most of his face and the cloak that concealed most of his body, I knew it was him.  I’d know him anywhere.  I’d love him always.”

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Interview and an Excerpt- Allie Burke

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Allie Burke.

 

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1) How long have you been an indie author?

I went “live” with Violet Midnight this past January. The book was “published” on Lulu in late December, but no one knew about it until it was alive and breathing, on my terms. So it’s been a few months now.

2) How many books have you self published?

To date, I have self published one book, Violet Midnight. Emerald Destiny, the second installment of The Enchanters Series, will be published within the week.

3) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Pantser. Undoubtedly.

Its how I wrote my first book. I had no idea what I was doing. All I had was this thing, this thing five minutes before I sat down, the moment when I saw this red-headed woman standing in my living room in a purple sundress, staring at me intently through perceptibly bright green eyes, like she was waiting for something. All I had was her unmistakable beauty. The power she wielded.

And I wrote her story. As she dictated it.

And then… I wrote Christian’s story. Evan’s. Abby’s. Daniel’s. Elias’s.

Amber Passion (the third and final installment to the series), which is not yet finished, has succeeded to surprise me. Though I went into it with some idea of how the series would end, the story had other plans for me, apparently. I will, as I have in the past, continue to rely on my own belief that every book in The Enchanters series is entirely different. Themes change. Elements (in the literal sense and beyond). Style. Violet Midnight and Emerald Destiny are not even written the same.

But, this… journey, that Amber Passion has embarked on, is unrelated to anything I ever dreamed that would bleed from this writer. I’m… intrigued. I’m excited. I’m also not so excited, because I don’t want it to end. But it will, and I think when it does, I might cry. An Epic cry, as one fellow writer and very good friend of mine would say.

My current WIP… no outline. No plans. I’m just writing. And, so far, I’m really connecting with the story on a level that, starting the novel, I’d assumed impossible. Really, I’m just going with it, and it’s… working. I’m loving it.

I mean, sure, there is some “thinking” involved. Which usually occurs in the car, or on my “inspirational walks” I take like, five times a day. I talk to myself. To the characters or my “imaginary friends” as I call them. But I like to think that any specific plan, where my writing is concerned, is pretty useless. Writing, for me, is like interpreting. I only translate the words for those without a voice. I don’t know from where they emerge, only that, that which they have to say, I cannot ignore.

4) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

My process. Do I have a process? I don’t know. If I do… it’s nothing exceptional, I don’t think.

I write. I sit down and I write. I try to get as much down in as little time possible, not because I’m in a rush to finish a book or a story, but because I have a fear of forgetfulness which gnaws at me constantly. I am afraid of my mind’s will to bury its thoughts, a fear so profound that I tend to repeat things out loud to myself as a reminder. Write it down, you might suggest. Yeah, I do that, too, but then I forget to go back and look at what I wrote and end up forgetting all about it until I’ve written the whole book. Yeah, I’m a little deranged, sometimes. Or… a lot… of the time.

Like I said, I just write. It comes together as it will.

5) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Trust the process. Lol. After I just said I don’t even know if I have a process.

Whatever the process is, whether you’re like me and your process isn’t really a process at all, whether you outline every minute detail before you even think about writing, whether you have an idea of what will come of your story or if you have no idea at all, trust the process. Whatever it may be, you know your process. And if you don’t, you will. Trust that process. Because whatever it may be that works best for you, will work best for your writing, too.

6) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Discouragement. Overall, it comes with the territory. But, watch out for it. Discouragement, if you give into it, will beat you down until there’s nothing left of you.

Don’t get discouraged. Don’t BE discouraged.

“Easier said than done.” Yeah, I know.

It will happen. I’ll tell you right now. Writing can be overwhelming as it is. Add in the self-publishing process, the potential of bad reviews, lack of sales on any given day… it will get you to thinking… Why bother? If you’re like me, you might cry sometimes. (I cry about everything. Really, I do.)

Just don’t let it absorb you. Have faith. There is a reason you believed in your book at one time or another. And if you didn’t, you should. Because it’s yours. Because you’re a writer, and you have a story to tell. Because we, as your fellow Indies, as readers and as your friends, want to read it.

Be proud. You’re a writer! I’m proud of you. You should be, too.

7) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

No. I work full time as an International Case Manager.

When I sat down to write for the first time ever, it was for fun. I never planned to publish a single word. But, people liked it. Friends and family deemed it worthy. So, I published it. Shared it with the world. And I will continue to share my imagination, for as long as it loves me.

Then, it was for fun. Now, it’s something I can’t live without.

I’m a writer. It took a long time for me to realize this. To believe it. But, it’s what I do. Even if I can’t “make it” as a successful writer. I’m a writer. It’s what I am. Nothing… no one, can take that away from me.

8) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

Music. Though its’ more of a “living” must have than a writing must have, still, music. I don’t really—exist—without music. Truth is, I spend more time with my iPod than I do with my husband. Sad, but so undeniably true. But, yes, there are specific bands that I listen to while writing. And I’m not talking about hard rock during fight scenes, or alternative during the lovey stuff. While I agree this is a great strategy for many writers, I don’t do that. I listen to albums. As I write, I listen to a music genre that, the character from which perspective I am writing from, would listen to.

Other than my music, I usually have coffee or tea somewhere near. But I can do without it. Writing, for me, is writing. Regardless of the circumstances, I just… write. I have to.

9) What tools or software do you use to write?

Ordinarily I write at my desktop computer at home. But, sometimes, I really write. You know, with, like, a pen.

Yeah. A pen.

I like to go outside with my notebook and my favorite pen, sprawl out on the grass with my music and write. To me, this is an amazing experience. As my love for the outdoors seeps from me and into my writing, to experience the rich scent of earth, the breeze in my hair and the colorful landscape as I write, deeply inspires me. Though I realize this is possible with a laptop, it is not the same. There is a certain personal touch incorporated into my writing as those words, doodles and scribbles appear on the page in my own hand. Almost like… a signature. Even if at some later time I do have to type the words out, I can always go back to that personal touch and be inspired all over again.

10) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

I don’t think that there is one promotion that is most effective. It’s all promotions, really.

Twitter. Facebook. Goodreads. Reach your audience.

You’re a writer. So, write! An active blog is really important.

Give away some books. It’s not gonna kill you.

And don’t just promote your own books. You wanna be an Indie? Then be an Indie. Be an Indie, and support your fellow Indies! They are your audience, too. They read. Just as readers will, if writers like your book, they will spread the word. Why shouldn’t you do the same?

11) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

How many hours I spend a day writing or editing truly varies. Some days I don’t write at all. Others, I write for twelve hours straight. I’m very spontaneous with all my ventures, which includes my writing.

Having written a book, and having finished a book, are two very different things. I would say it was a few months, maybe, to “write” each of my books. Editing, is a different story.

When you go back and read the book you have written, do you like it? Do you love it? ‘Cause if you don’t, then that’s a rewrite. You haven’t even started editing yet.

Editing can be daunting for a lot of people. I have noticed, throughout my journey, that most writers despise it.

I don’t mind it.

I don’t know if I’m just weird, or what, but editing does not bother me. Spending the time to perfect the message, the insight and intellect that is your story and is you, is part of being a writer. Of writing.

Editing is writing. This is the moment that your style compels your story. The moment YOUR writing emerges. You emerge. And, as a bonus, you get to disappear into your story like you did the first time it entered your mind. Isn’t that why you wrote it in the first place?

12) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I didn’t pay… anyone… to do… anything.

I did it all myself. I do it all myself.

I write. I edit. I format. I design my own covers. I promote and I do… everything.

Admittedly, the computer programming certification under my belt and the graphic design experience I have… helps. However, even for those without this advantage, the book world is changing. Self publishing web sites provide templates. They have cover design software. E-books are converted for you.

This is not to say its easy peasy. It can be difficult. Frustrating, even. But, we’re here to help. I’m here to help. We’re Indies. Ask. Whatever it is that is giving you trouble, someone has done it before. Someone out there, has the answer you seek.

13) Violet Midnight explores the themes of love and destiny. Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Oh, wow. Um. This is so hard to do with a suspensish paranormal fiction without blowing it wide open.

Violet Midnight explores the world of The Enchanters. If you’ve seen the cover or read the blurb on the back, odds are you have no idea what an Enchanter is.

The Enchanters are a group of supernaturals that thrive off the element that shapes them, a gift passed on to only those who are deserving of their family’s energy. Elements like Wind. Fire. My own personal favorite: Earth.

One element.

But then… there’s Jane.

The story begins with Jane Wildes, a beautiful, very powerful Enchanter who lives in Jasmyn Lake, California, an area of Dare Forest that no human dares to step foot into. The trees are scary, and the water there has a bad attitude.

Waking up from the same erotic dream that never fails to invade her sleep, within hours Jane is thrust into the human world of Elias Linden, the celebrated painter who instantly falls deeply in love with her despite the frustrating fact that he cannot see her. He hears her melodic voice, smells the rosemary scent that accompanies her, feels her cool skin that soothes him with every touch, but he cannot see her. He cannot see her, until he does. For Elias, that moment was a definite turning point. There was no going back.

“Elias could not have prepared himself for the moment that he walked into that cottage and laid his eyes on her. Her emerald green eyes—the way they gazed upon him like there were no surroundings or time or sounds to distract her, like he was all that existed.” –Violet Midnight

And so there’s love and romance and sex and hate and jealousy and power trips and family relationships and death and grief and art and… destiny.

“Mysterious Paranormal Suspensey Romance Fiction That’s Sometimes Kinda Funny” as I like to call it.

I like it. I hope you do, too.

14) Violet Midnight is the first of a trilogy. Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now? The sequel perhaps?

The sequel is Emerald Destiny, and is set to release May 31st.

I’m actually working on two projects at the moment.

I have Amber Passion, the third and final installment to the series, about halfway done, and… waiting for me.

And then… there’s this other thing.

The WIP. Also known as, ThatBookWithNoName-Yet. Its official title at the moment.

The genre, is also unknown at the moment. Most likely, it won’t fit anywhere. But that’s okay. I’m used to it.

The story is told from the perspective of Brendan Tanner, a talented guitarist who makes his living as a studio musician by day and, with his best friend Will Young, indulges in the passion of his alternative rock band by night.

Enter Aline West. Beautiful. Talented, in more ways than one. And… a genius. Quite possibly the most intelligent person in existence.

And as Brendan yields to his desire for her and dives head first into her world, he finds there are, things, about Aline. Unnatural things. She can do, things, which are unexplainable. She is one of a kind.

Or… is she?

The book is about halfway done. And to think that I am in the process of writing a book that, in its entirety, has the potential to be unique and unlike anything I have ever read—I’m just, so excited.

You can find Allie online here:

Website: http://allieburke.blogspot.com

Twitter: @allieburkebooks

You can purchase Violet Midnight at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Emerald Destiny is for sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

320emeralddestiny

*****

The Prologue, from Emerald Destiny

He stood in the cold, wet room, across from a cluster of angry Enchanters, each dying to get their hands on him. Really, his beating heart, his lively soul, every passion, every memory and desire that was his life, was not relevant to them. He was just a body, only an obstacle that so stubbornly stood in the way of their impractical need.

A wooden door banged shut behind him, enclosing the room, and his foot reached back, blindly stepping his body against it. A few more seconds was all he needed to wait, as that impractical need, along with the most beautiful, talented, enchanting woman in the world, and the only  man strong and spirited enough to take care of her–the man that he himself would look up to even as he embarked on a world that was out of the scope of this earth–got away. Those crucial seconds that would equal distance, just enough distance for them to escape the chaos that would take place within these very walls.

Thankfully, his precious seconds were granted before the dark-haired leader charged at him. His arms lifted not out of fear, resistance or protection, but out of life’s habits. His aura shimmered around him. The woman’s body crashed to a halt as his bright protector electrocuted her, and she fell to the hard word floor with a thousand violent shudders wrecking her body.

His perseverance forgot her, and he zoned in on the rabid energy that charged through his veins. A live explosion burst through him as the color of his aura glowed vibrantly, its bright sparks flashing into his vision. He looked up at the shocked faces in front of him as they realized that his aura was better than theirs. A dark, evil smile tugged at his lips, its wrath instantly deepening the shock in each of their expressions.

He conceded to the fall of his eyelids, and unified his senses with the scent of wet dirt buried under the floor. The earth methodically filled his head, overpowering any thoughts or memories occurring before it. The ground below rattled slightly, but then, as if she herself realized she was weak, the earth shook herself into colossal tremors, jerking the structure side to side. His eyes lazily opened; his every sense unable to resist his well deserved vision of justice as each Enchanter’s aura flickered away.

He resigned himself to the power of his vigorous energy, let it pull him to his knees. One last time, the ground lurched savagely, whipping the structure and demolishing it into sharp, deadly fragments. He rolled from his knees to his back, disconnecting his soul from his body before this brutal end swallowed it.

Nature abandoned him, fire replaced it. His nose basked in the overpowering scent of smoke, imaginary heat burned his eyes, a silent roar charred in his ears.

He spoke softly. "Her heart belonged to you all along. I  never meant to steal what was yours to keep." He inhaled deep in his chest, welcoming the blaze to fill what was left of him.

"I’m sorry, Elias," he said, and he closed his eyes.

by Allie Burke

Copyright 2011 by Allie Burke

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