Posted in authors, books, characters, fiction, friends, humor, Indie, mystery, novels, womens fiction, writers, writing

Shannon Danford writes “Mystery Blues”

Shannon Danford

Welcome Shannon Danford to Author Interview Friday. I have met Shannon twice now in author events such as Marco Island’s AuthorFest. It is a pleasure to have her on my blog today.

Shannon, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading to me, reading whatever they happened to be reading.  Not surprisingly, I became intrigued with the magic of the written word.  Then, in the fourth grade, my teacher published some of her students’ stories and after seeing my story in ink, I knew writing was in my future.   That future turned into a circuitous journey that ultimately provided the stories that needed a voice.   I saw my first book in print at age 49.  It’s been a long road.

I know the feeling.  Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication?

I have an undergraduate degree in marketing, so I have a basic understanding of the pipeline from creator to end user.   And since I’m not a fan of traditional marketing, I’m employing a strategy that makes more sense to me – place a high value on creativity throughout the product cycle; it keeps things fresh and authentic.  To that end, I think the wordsmith/creator has to reinvent herself to adapt to a new literary world where she has to escort the book from concept all the way to the end reader and employ her creativity in ways that defy traditional marketing.  At this point, if a major press became interested in my books, I don’t think I’d sell out the flow and process I’ve forged.  I like being a rebel.

What does finding your “Voice” mean to you?

I think part of the human experience is coming to understand your authentic self which naturally includes the discovery of your own voice.  Whether you play an instrument, dance, cook, paint or write, that spark that animates us wants to be known.  For me it happened while working in a nursing facility.  Watching people die (often without any family around) and handling things like adult briefs that no one wants to touch, takes a toll on you.  To get through the day, I started imagining I was on the set of a sitcom.  If I didn’t figure out how to laugh about my situation, I would be too depressed to function.   That humorous perspective allowed me to survive and ultimately flourish.   Back then, finding my voice was liberating.  Today, writing in that voice keeps me grounded.

What was  your biggest challenge in learning to write or in the industry?

For me, the hardest part of writing is changing hats from writer to editor, to publicist, to publisher, to marketer.  But the literary world is in flux and I believe to survive it, one must adapt.  On a positive note, I have to think that with every book the obstacle course gets more familiar and easier.  I look forward to the day when I can take off my training wheels.

Do you have any advice for new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Believe that you can’t fail.  You are the only person who can speak in this voice; you have a story to tell.  The only way you can lose is to stop writing!  When you have a finished manuscript, get as many people to read it as possible and listen to their feedback with an open mind.  Then buy the best editing you can afford.

Complete this sentence……. My favorite place to write is …..

My favorite place to write is at my desk with a cup of coffee on my right and a lighted fragrant candle on my left.  Celtic music plays in the background and it is raining outside.  Ahhhh

What’s your next big writing challenge?

Everything I’ve written to date has been humorous and I plan to continue in that genre for at least two more books; however, my sister writes screenplays and encouraged me to give that a try.  So I’m working on a story that is told largely through pictures.  It is a challenge that I think will help sharpen my dialogue skills and allow me to explore another writing medium.  Beyond that, I’ll go where the muse leads.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?

This excerpt is from my third book in the blues series – Chinese Takeout Blues.

“What the hell is this?” Bucky knelt down and picked up the script. He began to read the questions out loud. When he looked up, Bucky’s mouth hung open, unhinged; his eyes were black pinpoints of malice.

Mo collected the rest of the pages and tucked them away. Then he stood and faced his colleague. “I would like to say I’m sorry, but I’m not, Bucky. You don’t deserve to serve the people of this county.”

Fern made no move to turn off the camera when she left the sound booth. Hiram followed behind and they entered the chamber where the two commissioners were still facing off.

“You did this!” Bucky shook the paper at Fern, spittle flying from his mouth.

Fern nodded. “Yes. I had to do something before you hurt anyone else.”

Bucky stormed toward her full of enmity and rage. “Are you trying to shake me down?” He drew up to within a foot of Fern and stood, nostrils flaring with each breath, oblivious to the fact that his entire comb-over hung free, dangling from his barren pate down to his shoulder like a threadbare beret. Buell closed the gap between them to inches. “This is setup!” He held the script under her chin and then released it. It floated harmlessly to the ground.

“No, sir, this is justice.” Fern said the first words that came to her. She stood toe-to-toe with the man, daring him to push her further. Buell flinched first, turning to the sound of the chamber doors opening. After several very tense seconds, all of which were being recorded, Fern knelt and picked up the paper, turned on her heel, and left him seething in his Kenneth Cole loafers.

Thank you Shannon.  Where can readers buy Chinese Takeout Blues or your other “Blues” mysteries?

To purchase my books at the best price, go to my website:  www.mamasluckymojo.com

There are also available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Shannon%20Danford&search-alias=books

 

Posted in authors, characters, conflict, faces, fiction, Florida, ghosts, mystery, novels, thriller, writers, writing

Bitter Secrets by Patty Brant

Patti Brant

Today we have my friend with us on Author Interview Friday. I first met Patty last year at a book event in Mt. Dora and had the privilege of spending some time getting to know her.  Welcome Patty.  Why don’t you tell the readers how you got started in writing.

I always enjoyed writing but I never did anything about it until I went to work for the Caloosa Belle, local newspaper in LaBelle. That was in 1985 – so I’ve done a lot or writing since then, all with a journalistic approach. There were times when I thought “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book?” That was followed immediately by “You’ve got to know something to write a book!” So that was always the end of it.

A lot of people could relate to that. The hard part is pushing past that.

It wasn’t till about ten years ago that I seriously thought I could do it. That’s when an idea hit me for a story. I was just driving home, nothing on my mind in particular. Then it was like someone opened up my head and dropped the words “I see faces” into my head. I thought, “You could write a story around those three works. Heck, you could write a whole book around just those three words.

So for the next couple weeks I was thinking about who these faces might be; what their circumstances were; Where in time they were as well as place. It became a mental exercise. When I wasn’t thinking about something else, I was building my little framework for these faces. I actually had the first several paragraphs in my head when I thought I should probably get them down in writing, and it all just grew from there.

They say there is a story inside all of us. Did you have any friends or mentors to help you?

I happened to know a very wonderful published writer named Barbara Oehlbeck who had written a book on roses, one on the sabal palm tree and many poems. A couple of years ago she wrote a wonderful memoir called Mama; Root, Hog, or Die. Barbara had always been very complimentary of my writing and even asked me once if I ever thought of writing a book!

I showed her what I had and she was very supportive. Every so often I’d show her what more I’d done and she would encourage me to keep going.

Finally, I had it done – but I finally finished my first book, Bitter Secrets, a mystery about a missing family with an otherworldly twist.  It took me at least three years – probably more.  I write off and on when I have the time. I can write all day, all night and all day again, but I have to be alone and have quiet. That just doesn’t happen.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

Just with the newspaper – 29 years now. I have an AA degree in liberal arts and did well in writing classes there. Funny, though, I went to Catholic schools for 12 years – starting elementary school in 1955. I can still remember things the nuns said about writing.

What else can you tell us about yourself?

I’m from Canton, Ohio. Lived in Virginia Beach for two years (my husband was in the Navy at the time), moved to Florida (my husband’s home) in 1969. My husband was in law enforcement for 40 years. He’s retired now and keeps wondering when I’m going to retire.

We have two grown daughters, a son-in-law, and three grandchildren.

Do you always write in the same genre?

Not sure how to answer that, but I think so – so far anyway. I’m putting the finishing touches on my second book now – Full Circle – which is a sequel to Bitter Secrets. It’s a little different, though. The mystery of what happened to the Parker Family has been solved, of course, and Full Circle picks up the lives of my protagonist and several other characters from that point. There is another mystery to solve and other threads in this new story as well.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

Both my books are in first person. I chose that originally because everything I write for the paper is in third person, so I figured it might be a nice change.

I had several publishers try to steer me away from first person. I’ve never understood quite why.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

My stories alternate in time. The original mystery in Bitter Secrets actually occurs in the 1940s. It isn’t solved until the 1980s, so I kind of straddle those four decades in that story.

There are several story lines in Full Circle, so I do more alternating of the story line in that one. That can be a little tricky because you still need the action to flow.

I also don’t want to get stuck into formula writing, I know that’s what a lot of publishers want, and it might sell, but that’s not my idea of what I want to do.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

I guess it would have to be Mystery. Like most things in my life, I find it hard to categorize.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

I checked companies out online and sent many, inquiries to traditional publishers. I got a few nice letters, but no takers. Talked to people who said yes, you need an agent; others who say no you don’t After going on this way for several years, I finally took the plunge and decided on iUniverse.

They have been very professional and very helpful. I know you have to be careful about “add on” services that you may not really need from any self publisher. I have used several of these services for my second book Full Circle, They were quite expensive but I also think I have learned a lot from them and I think the developmental editing service has made my book much better than it otherwise would have been.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Well, I didn’t do an outline – maybe I should have but I really didn’t know where Bitter Secrets was going. I just kept coming up with scenarios and wrote some more. I was probably about half way through when I knew my ending, so then I could head for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I really hate trying to do a synopsis or query.

I have to laugh at that. “the dreaded synopsis and query.” Every writer’s worst nightmare. What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

First of all, know your English – grammar and spelling do count to professional writers and to serious readers. The best story in the world can be ruined by lack of attention to basic English rules. It doesn’t have to make your work stuffy.

Beyond that, I think you need a good story to tell. I think my problem for a long time was that I just didn’t have a story I wanted to tell. When I found one, I went with it!

Tell us a little more about your current work in progress.

As I said, it’s a sequel to Bitter Secrets called Full Circle and it takes up my protagonist’s life where Bitter Secrets ends. Actually, in some ways it’s an extension of Bitter Secrets. At the end of Bitter Secrets Molly (my protagonist) was given a job to do by her friend and other main character in Bitter Secrets so she must find a way to carry it out in Full Circle. Full Circle also incorporates a little romance and a good old fashioned cop story.

I’m doing the final rewrite of Full Circle now (wish I had a nickel for every time I said that!). In a week or two I should be sending it back to the publisher and the race will be on.

We must have you back on Author Interview Friday when that book comes out. I loved Bitter Secrets and look forward to the sequel. Can you tell the readers  the premise of  Bitter Secrets,  the  novel we are promoting today?

Bitter Secrets

Molly Martindale came to Oxbow, Florida, (a fictional town in Southwest Florida’s inland area) as a scared and lonely 13-year-old orphan to live with an aunt she barely knew. Sixteen years later she is a reporter for her hometown newspaper when she becomes interested in a family that “moved away” 40 years earlier. She’s never heard of this family before – in a small Southern town that prides itself on its roots, that’s hard for her to understand – and even more perplexing is that no one will talk about them much. She’s also the focus of visits by bone-chilling “faces” that seem to be begging her for  . . . something. So Molly’s reporter instincts are roused and she starts poking around in old matters some folks would rather be left covered with dust.

In her quest for the truth, she gets help from the town drunk, a wheelchair-bound Viet Nam veteran, a savvy old black man and, of course, her faces.

A little bird told me you won an award for Bitter Secrets. Congratulations. Tell us about that.

Yes, quite an exciting surprise. Bitter Secrets was a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Book Awards. 

Please share a few paragraphs from Bitter Secrets.

 

Excerpt from Bitter Secrets by Patty Brant

I see faces.

I can’t quite remember when I first started seeing them. They were so faint, so unobtrusive, like mist gliding above the sand. More like a sigh, really, flitting just at the periphery of vision, or tangled among leaves like low-lying clouds. At some point, they began to register in my consciousness like little feathers gliding across the bottoms of my feet. Almost imperceptible, but not quite.

I had been in this small town since high school, coming as a brokenhearted thirteen-year-old orphan to live with a widowed great aunt I barely knew. Now a reporter with the Oxbow Independent, our local mullet wrapper, I, Molly Martindale, had settled quite comfortably into my life. This town had become my own.

I remember quite clearly the day I could no longer ignore these faces. I had just spent the better part of my day wrestling with an absentee boss—you know, the kind who rarely shows her face and still manages to give you grief. As I finally hung up the phone for the last time and switched off the light, it was just about dusk. When I pulled the key from the front door lock and turned to the darkening street, it must have been bedtime for the birds. They were swishing through the air, calling to each other, making quite a ruckus. At first I hoped the waning light was playing tricks on my strained eyes.

But no, I was certain. There really was something up in the branches of that old orchid tree. All my instincts said there was.

 

Thank you so much for this opportunity to connect with other writers and readers. It’s always encouraging when someone shows an interest in your passion.

My Blog: http://bittersecrets.authorsxpress.com

 My Web site: http://pattybrant.com/

Online sales: http://www.amazon.com/Bitter-Secrets-Patty-Brant/dp/1462071562/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398340649&sr=1-1&keywords=bitter+secrets

Posted in fiction, friends, novels, thriller, writers, Young Adult

“A murder and burial in the California Desert”

I am pleased to have author, Vanessa Covington with us today on Author Interview Friday.  Originally from Philadelphia, Vanessa moved to Los Angeles in the 1980’s where she was inspired to write “The End of the Rainbow.” Vanessa currently lives in Bonita Springs with her husband Kevin and children Regina and Kent.  Tell us about your novel Vanessa.

Vanessa Covington

 My novel is based on real events, inspired from my exposure to life in the big cities of Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The story is about two young girls who travel from Philly to L.A. in search of a new beginning but finds themselves involved in a murder. It takes place in the 80’s.

I had the idea to write “The End of the Rainbow” almost twenty five years ago when I lived in Los Angeles.  Life took me into other directions at the time so I didn’t focus on writing. In 2007, I finally started my outline and kept at it until I published my novel in March, 2013. I love writing thrillers and writing in narrative form.

That is impressive that you stuck with it for six years. I’ve heard people say that is is easy to start a book, it is finishing it that takes the real work. What does “finding your voice” mean to you?

Finding my voice in this novel was easy because it was inspired by real events. To me, finding my voice would mean writing about what I know and expounding on it.

Marketing is difficult for all of us. What do you do to promote your book?

I’m trying to get as much exposure as possible by attending book signing events and marketing through my website and social media.  I had two booksigning events at Barnes & Noble Fort Myers and Naples stores. I recently joined the S.W. Florida’s Writer’s Group so that I can learn more about promoting and writing from other authors. My next goal is to write a screenplay.

New writers look to those that have been through the ropes, so to speak. If a new author approached you, what would you say to him/her?

My advice to new writers is to never give up. Writing can be extremely frustrating when you hit that block and can’t transition into the next paragraph or chapter. Remember, something will come to you eventually that will get you writing pages and pages afterwards.  Be patient.

The End of the Rainbow

 A tidbit from my novel:

TWO YOUNG WOMEN TRYING TO START A NEW LIFE IN LOS ANGELES BECOME EMBROILED IN A MURDER COVERUP.

. . . She waited, ready to knock him back down with the statue the moment he tried to stand. When he didn’t move, she thought he was unconscious and the worst that would happen was that he would sleep off the booze, wake up with a nasty headache, and apologize for what he had one to her.

Blood trickled down his face . . . she lifted his head to place a towel around it to keep the blood from reaching the Berber carpet. He wasn’t breathing.

Thank you Vanessa.  Readers, you can find Vanessa’s book on this link: http://www.amazon.com/End-Rainbow-Vanessa-Covington-ebook/dp/B00BTN26LS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394890708&sr=1-1   Visit her website at: thecallgirlchronicles.com

Posted in authors, characters, fiction, mystery, polticial, suspense, thriller, urban fantasy, Washington DC, writers

Political thriller author jd young brings us “The Woman on Pritchard Street”

Jean Young Author Photo

jd young, a displaced Bronx native, resides in Virginia with her husband. She has published three books. Scarlett’s Letters and The Butter Pecan Diaries are filled with laughter and wry humor – a combination of Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. Both have a five star review on Amazon.

Her latest offering, The Woman on Pritchard Street, opens the door to reveal her intense and often times darker view of life.

She believes her remote and heavily wooded haven with moonlight shadows and bumps in the night fuels her imagination to run the gamut from ordinary, to fearful, to bizarre.

You can  visit her at: www.ScarlettsLetters.comwww.jdyoung.net

Contact: literarylady@gmail.com

jd, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I had written “letters to friends for years stating:  I haven’t written because…..” After faxing a letter to former colleagues, a stray copy landed in a coworker’s inbox and she loved the tenor of my letter. It was her encouragement, that of her son – a VP at Merrill Lynch and the death of my oldest daughter that pushed me to publish.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I tried a writer’s course in Maryland, but was so heartbroken after the first three classes I almost stopped writing.  It was kismet that brought me to the Writers of Chantilly in Northern Virginia that truly encouraged me to continue and verified my writing was valid. Without their support and input I would never have published.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?  After initially putting it together, about a year.

Do you always write in the same genre?

Not now – my first two books, Scarlett’s Letters and The Butter Pecan Diaries are a cross between Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. Tongue-in-cheek “creative non-fiction.” My last book, The Woman on Pritchard Street and the upcoming second in the series, I Am Mira are urban fantasy with political undertones.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?   Political thriller, urban fantasy

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and  publisher?

My first book was self-published and the rest published through Young Lions at the Gate – a small, boutique company that edits, evaluates and publishes through Create Space and other media outlets. Found them on the internet. They are new and dedicated to support and hone the skills of new writers. They actually seem to care about the angst writers carry and the unrelenting issues of trying to get a “major” house publish their work. Great editors and very helpful people.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

I don’t believe mainstream publishing houses have any interest in “new” writers. Unless you can guarantee instant sales and readership – they ignore you. I would certainly recommend small boutique firms/indie publishing. After finding this group on the internet and corresponding with the owners, I found renewed vigor in going forward with my work. They were simply terrific. I would definitely recommend their services.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?  I always write in first person.

What does “finding your Voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?

I never considered “finding my voice.” Being a displaced Bronx native, my ‘voice’ was always there – putting my words to paper to adequately share the emotions with a reader was the only change in my voice I addressed.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s.

Simple answer – No. The first two books I wrote exactly what I knew – what was familiar – what was second nature. The second and third books were directed by my muse – Edgar Allen Poe

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Query most definitely, but when I let that go and self-published it was only paramount for me to ensure the reader would understand, enjoy and want to get involved in the story. Leaving the “business” issue aside allowed me to fully concentrate on the story. I had been told by two agents (one at Author House) I had written the best query letter they had ever received – but, they had no hopes for my first two books. They said, “humor was just not selling.”

 It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

I have a website, belong to several writer’s groups, and participate in many local book signings – however it is difficult. Blogs most certainly help – yet, does one continue to write or spend time blogging?

 What advise would you give to new writers just getting sta rted with their first manuscript?

Don’t worry about editing while you write – if the story is flowing – just brain dump on the page – the rest can be massaged and controlled when your creative thoughts have finished! Don’t stop writing because of punctuation. Paragraphs can be realigned, thoughts can be clarified – Just Get It Down on Paper! Everything can be fixed when you are done.

What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

My novel, The Woman on Pritchard Street focuses on Simon Gautreau, a 2nd rung newspaper reporter that stumbles into the political chaos of Washington, DC. He goes face-to-face with the dark underbelly of Congress, the Vatican, demon dark forces and Homeland Security.

TWOPScover by JD Young

My second novel, “I Am Mira” is the second in a trilogy dissecting the political underpinnings in Washington, DC. And takes up when the Vatican becomes involved in money laundering and political appointees in the US White House. Deaths attributed to dark, other worldy beings that infiltrate the halls of Congress with inroads to the White House, Homeland Security and “The Collective.”

I Am Mira by JD Young

The third in the series focuses on the connection of Irish demon slayers and the Knights Templars.

Readers, here is the Amazon link to get to JD’s books.  

http://www.amazon.com/jd-young/e/B004KE2WFI/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1388767213&sr=1-2-ent

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

 

Book 1 – The Vasile Chronicles

 THE WOMAN ON PRITCHARD STREET

Sometimes things just fall into your lap. Some make you smile and enjoy the ride. Others make you grab your balls and pray for redemption. When this job fell my way, the easy money clouded my senses. Though my balls ached, I ignored my gut. I figured, why not?

Another city, another job, another haphazard collection of notes to take up space in my luggage. I don’t know why I keep all these journals. Perhaps one day these chaotic impressions will come in handy.…Simon Nicolae Gautreaux

~ ~ ~

Book II – The Vasile Chronicles……Due out – March 2014

I AM MIRA

 

My name is Grace and I was murdered five months ago. My reason for coming back is to watch over Simon, the love and savior of my very short life. When I was murdered grief overwhelmed his soul and turned it to stone. It was his guilt and the insistent prayers of his Aunt DremaSue that pulled my spirit back into this life — to watch over and protect him.

Daphne’s henchmen walked into our 10th floor apartment and threw me off the balcony. She thought she was teaching Simon a lesson, but she did not realize it was a fatal mistake.

Daphne is in an alliance with Mel, owner of Beckett’s, and they rule over the dark souls of the universe. Mel is malevolent and far superior because he dominates a cadre of demons. He was the source of my pain and anguish and dragging me into his pit of depravity, but it is also what brought Simon back to me.

Simon changed when he met with his grandmother, Anastas, in Budapest. He understood and accepted his birthright and she opened the door to his power and responsibility. Time spent with Anastas brought him peace. And her gift to him, a Vizsula dog of Hungarian descent she had named Mira, is a fierce protector that would be with him against the evils he will face.

When Simon rescued me, I was weak, naïve, mentally and physically broken. That is no longer the case.

The strength and knowledge of the ages are now available to me to guide and protect him. Infinite resources abound to ensure his safety.

Soon he will know – I Am Mira

Posted in authors, characters, conflict, fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, writers, writing

Author, James Usavage presents “Footsteps in the Attic”

Usavage author pic

James Usavage has led a life as interesting as the characters he writes about in his books. On his way to a career in medicine, James came to the realization that the life of a doctor was not the one for him, and that understanding set him out on a journey of exploration that spanned the entire United States.

Accompanied by his equally adventurous wife Judy, James spent a number of years criss-crossing the country working odd jobs (everything from car salesman to musician to construction worker to teacher) and experiencing people and situations that would all ultimately lend to the characters, places, and adventures that make up his books.

Influenced by many of the masters of classic modern literature (Wells, Conan Doyle, Dumas, London, Steinbeck, Hemingway, et al), James even writes longhand as many of them did, and although that may have resulted more from an injury involving a broken glass rod severing a nerve in James’s hand in a chemistry class accident, the fact that the feeling has finally come back to his fingers yet James still continues to write instead of type may shed some light on a love for the classic way of creating worlds with nothing more than pen, paper, and imagination.

“Footsteps in the Attic” is James Usavage’s third published novel and his wife Judy’s favorite of the three. More than just a spouse with a loving recommendation, Judy is also the official transcriber of James’s books from print to type. Together, they have brought the worlds that James Usavage has created to life.

James lives with his wife Judy, an artist, in Southwest Florida, and they are the proud parents of two grown sons.

From the author:

– I do a lot of research for each book. I don’t believe in cardboard characters and I make an effort to personalize them. When people that have read my other novels comment about seeing a little piece of themselves in the characters, I greatly appreciate it and know that I’ve done my job as a writer. No matter what, though, I have to say there is no sense of accomplishment and pleasure like having a family.     James P. Usavage

Footsteps in the Attic by Usavage

Joanne:  It is a pleasure having you on Author Interview Friday. How did you get started in writing and why?

James:  I actually started writing when I was in third grade which was also when I read my first novel ( Jack London ), I did some short stories for school and experimented with prose, poetry, rhyme, meter and so on. I enjoyed it. But I went on in school, eventually majoring in science and pre-med ( My Dad wanted me to become a doctor which didn’t happen ) I read many of the classics ( e.g. Steinbeck, Sartre, Camus, Hemingway ). I liked Tennyson, Jules Verne and so on. I have been asked why I started writing seriously so late in life.   I had other things to do, some of which I wouldn’t trade for anything.  One could say ” Life gets in the way “.  I like  the challenge of writing novels. There is the outlining, plotting, characterization and, in my case, much research. I never wanted to write a boring book so I chose novels and, in particular, thrillers. I enjoy writing my books. So, at least one person likes them. But seriously, I would not put them out there if  I thought they were not good enough ( I have waste-basketed a few manuscripts ).

Joanne:  Have you had any formal education or training in writing?

James:  I have never taken any special writing courses. I studied works by some of the best novelists and derived some of my own methods. As far as editing . When I got the galleys back from those who edited my first two books,  my wife and I found that there was very little change done to them.. That said, we decided to do the next novel  ‘ Footsteps in the Attic ‘ on our own. We hired a printing company and did the rest. ,       The results are bearing out that we did a pretty good job.

Joanne: Do you always write in the the genre?

James:  I believe that a well written novel transcends genre. You could say that my first two novels are of a different genre than my third and upcoming fourth novel.  However, the elements of suspense, mystery, adventure, human interaction and mainstream interest are in all of them to some degree. Anybody can read them. There is something for everybody. It’s a lot of work, but readers deserve something good for investing their time. If I didn’t enjoy writing it, why should I expect somebody to enjoy reading it.

Joanne:  Do you write in a particular POV, say first or third person and why?

James:  I like writing in third person. I think it works best with thrillers.

Joanne: A lot of us read to study the structure of books. I know that since I started writing, I see structure that I never paid any attention to as a casual reader. What do you do to improve your craft?

James:. I have studied other novels for structure. Depending on the novel, I’ve probably done all of these things. The thing that might have been trickiest-in my first novel A.C.E. Vanguard, was having 4 fugitives being pursued-with each experiencing diverse circumstances- weaving this into the story without missing a beat where each is concerned-and then interfacing this to meld into the last part of the book.

Joanne:  Do you follow a plan when you write, i.e., always commit to a word count or finishing a scene  or do you write as the “muse” strikes you?

James:  For me there are days when I might do one sentence or 10 pages. I look at novel writing conceptually. One day it might be a particular sentence or action or chronology I’m dealing with which is the foundation for the next chapter or character or a particular twist in the storyline. If I resolve a problem whether it be with one word or one chapter or a dozen, I’ve done a days work and I’m satisfied with that.

Joanne: Can you tell us the premise to the book we are featuring today, Footsteps in the Attic.

James: Briefly, Footsteps in the Attic ” is about the search for a fortune-teller who suddenly vanished. The story follows a young girl who possesses this talent. We follow her as she grows up, goes to college, gets a job, and meets a man whom she starts dating. He invites her to attend the wedding of his niece. They go up to the north woods with a group of friends from work. The marriage and celebration take place and then Rita vanishes. John, the boyfriend along with his brother ( with whom there has to be some healing  ) take off to find her. They pursue her from Arizona to Louisiana to Central Park N.Y. The story is full of twists and turns and —I’ll stop there. I will say one more thing. When I’m asked about the first chapter-it is similar to the neighborhood where I grew up. Here is the first chapter.

Chapter One of Footsteps in the Attic

I. Rita

When she was a girl growing up, Ouija Boards were considered a fun thing, a party thing. At first, Rita and others played with it, but as she became more intrigued by it, Rita moved it from under her bed to the attic to use for her own amusement. The attic was dark. There was a very narrow, curving, tunnel-like staircase which took her there; since there was no light over it, Rita brought a candle with her.  She had lighted candles in her room continually because she liked the atmosphere and the aroma they created. So it wasn’t unusual for her to take one with her when she went to the attic.

There was an old rocking chair in the attic that was covered with a once white sheet which, itself, was covered with dust. It was said that the previous owner of the house had died in the chair and that immediately afterwards, it was covered and put in the attic. When the neighborhood kids came over, they would listen for the chair to rock, especially on a stormy day when it seemed the whole house shook. Some thought they heard it, others pooh-poohed the notion, dismissing the noise as being that of tree branches brushing against the roof. But Rita heard it at night, the creaking noise  made by the rocker’s rails on the wooden floor of the attic. She heard it at night, as she lay in her bed waiting to fall asleep.

After climbing the stairs to the attic, she would lift the trap door, leaving it open, putting the candle on a nearby box and grabbing the drawn handle of a heavy old wooden dresser to brace herself as she took the final step to the top. Then Rita would walk over to the rocking chair and remove the sheet covering it. This she did carefully to prevent too much dust from flying in her face. She would then push a large wooden trunk, which was her table, in front of it. Next, she placed the candle on the trunk and walked toward the mounds of sheet -covered antique treasures.  She lifted one sheet and removed her Ouija Board from under an ornamental serving tray.

Sitting in the rocker, Ouija Board spread flat in front of her, Rita asked it to speak to her. “What do you want to show me, today?”

“E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G   Y-O-U   D-E-S-I-R-E,” it spelled, as she believed the pointer moved her hand to these letters. Some of the kids laughed and said Rita was the one who controlled the pointer. Rita told them it wasn’t so. With the other kids it was a game, but Rita took it seriously. Still, they were fascinated every time they played with it.

One stormy day–it seemed like there were a lot of them in the Midwest where they lived–Rita asked the Ouija Board what she should call it, and it gave her a name.  N-O-M-M.

“Nomm,” she said, repeating it a few times to hear how it sounded. From then in she called it that–Nomm. It became familiar to her, and she considered Nomm her friend and guide. One day, Nomm told her to go stand at one particular spot in the attic where she felt a chill.

“I don’t like this, Nomm,” she said, and Nomm never asked her to stand in that particular place again. Instead, Rita brought a few of the kids up to the attic the next day. Wanting to see what they would do, or if they would be scared, she told them to go to the spot. They stood on the spot and felt a chill, just as she told them they would, and they ran off frightened. After that, she didn’t bring anybody else up to her attic hideout. They wouldn’t have come, anyway. In fact, as word spread that the house was haunted, most of the kids stopped playing with her, let alone coming to the house.

There was a woman in the neighborhood  who was a known fortune teller–one who gazed into crystal balls, read tarot cards and palms. Rita knew that her mother went to this woman’s house, as did Molly, the next door neighbor lady. Mother never mentioned where she was going when she went to the fortune teller’s house, saying only “I’ll be right back.” In fact, she never mentioned ever having gone there; and when Rita asked, she would skirt around the issue. The other women in the neighborhood acted the same way. They all went to the fortune teller’s house, yet they wouldn’t admit it, even to each other. When they got together and talked, it would always be “somebody else” who went over there. “Oh, Irma goes to the fortune teller. Didn’t you know that?” would be a typical comment or gossip. This piqued Rita’s curiosity. One day when she eleven years old, she decided to see for herself what everyone else was doing, so she took a walk down the block, and when she thought no one was looking, she stopped by the old, dark brick house, went to the back stairs and cautiously proceeded to climb them. It was a wooden stairway which needed paint, and Rita held firmly onto the railings as she moved slowly toward the screen door. The stairs creaked with each step she took. The back porch was a screened area. It looked dark inside. Rita peered through the screen and was about to knock when she saw that the door inside the porch was slightly open. She knew somebody was watching her through the crack. The door opened a little more and soon a gaunt figure, dressed in dark clothes, came slowly toward her.

Rita met the woman’s intense gaze with a shy one of her own. Rita looked into the woman’s eyes. They were dark, distant, yet irresistible. The woman was wearing a long, black skirt and a black, long-sleeved blouse, with the sleeves being shear.

“You’re Norma’s daughter,” she said, facing Rita from behind the screen door.

“Yes–yes,” Rita replied, nervously.

The woman unlocked the screen door. “Come in. Would you like some cookies and tea?”

Rita didn’t reply.

“What can I do for you?”

Rita still didn’t reply.

“Oh, I know, Come inside.” Rita slowly followed her into the living room. The drapery was dark, as was the hue of all the old Victorian-style furniture, yet Rita felt drawn toward it and plopped down on a burgundy-colored sofa.

The woman brought in a tray adorned with cookies and a floral-patterned teapot, setting it on the table in front of the sofa. She poured some tea into a cup for Rita. Before she sat down, she took Rita’s hand and gazed at her palm.

“I can see, now, why you are here,” she said, soberly.

“You can?” Rita’s eyes were wide with surprise.

“Oh, yes,” she replied in a slow drawl. “You couldn’t resist coming, could you?”

“Umm,” Rita didn’t answer, but knew what the woman was talking about.

“I was born under a veil. Do you know what that is?”

Rita just shook her head. She had never heard of such a thing.

“You were also born under a veil. Your mother told me.”

Rita looked at her, perplexed.

“It-uh-means you are a very special girl, and you, too, have the gift.” A disturbed look came across the woman’s face, and then, as quickly as it came, it disappeared. “Does your mother know you are here?”

Rita shook her head , as she ate her cookie.

“Maybe you had better get back home before she misses you.”

Rita finished her cookie and got up from the sofa. ”I don’t have any money,” Rita had heard that the neighborhood women would pay five dollars for their readings.

“Oh,” the woman waved her hand and smiled. “You don’t have to pay me. Don’t worry about it.”

As Rita walked through the house, she glanced back to see a strange look coming across the woman’s face like the expression she had when she was talking about the veil, or whatever it was. The woman stood there in her living room, wringing her hands, as Rita took one last look back and scurried down the back stairs.

Rita ran home, thinking how strange the woman was. She had expected a real fortune-telling session with a crystal ball, yet the woman didn’t seem to do much except to look at Rita strangely. Maybe she could ask Nomm about it, later.

When Rita arrived home, her mother was waiting, wondering why Rita’s room had not been cleaned, as it was summertime and Friday–room cleaning day. So Rita quickly began cleaning her room and afterwards, helped her mother grocery shop for the week.

Rita was not unattractive, but she was shy, and as she went through high school and had at least a boyfriend each year, she forgot about her Ouija Board and the other things that had previously occupied her time. She felt, somehow, she was “different” and sometime into her second year of college, she began to evaluate herself in terms of what boyfriends and others had said to her. More than one had called her “odd” or “different”. Rita’s introversion and shyness was often misinterpreted.

So, on a Thanksgiving break from college, Rita returned home and went up the tunnel-like stairway into the attic, carrying a candle, as she used to do. Everything looked the same, and she felt something come over her-a familiarity she experienced as a girl a long time ago. The rocking chair was still in its place. She pulled out the trunk as she performed what seemed a distant, yet comfortable, ritual, and placed the candle upon it. Then she went to the covered pile of old things, reached under the sheet and under the tray and pulled it out. It was still there, the Ouija Board. She opened it on top of the trunk and inquired of it, as she lad many times before. It spelled out “Nomm- y-o-u-r   f-r -i-e-n-d.”

Rita felt like she was home.

Thanks James. Your books sound intriguing. Readers, here are other  books by James Usavage. they include  Miocene II and A.C. E. Vanguard.  You can order his books though his website at

http://authorjames.bigcartel.com/

Miocene II ‘ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Miocene+II&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AMiocene+II and ‘ A.C.E. Vanguard ‘  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=A.CE.+Vanguard 

other book cover by Usavage        A[1].C.E. Vanguard cover by Savage

Posted in characters, fiction, novels, sci-fi, technology, thrillers, writers

Sci-fi catches up with today’s world to become a modern day thriller in The Janus Code

It is my pleasure to have my friend, Judy Loose with us today on Author Interview Friday. I love the tag line to her book – which always gets eyebrows raised at book events.  “What if the ultimate computer firewall protection turned out to be the ultimate computer snooper?”

Tell us when you first knew that you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

JudyLoose72 (2)

I started making up stories practically when I started talking. I started writing them down when I learned to write.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I had a teacher in high school who made me write a 2000 word essay every time I acted up in class. He was meticulous in his grading and editing of what I wrote.

I took an adult-education writing course at the age of fifty, which got me back on track with writing after not writing anything except business and technical for many years. Most of the members of that class ended up on a writers critique group that stayed together many years. Critique groups and writers groups have been very helpful in keeping me writing and hopefully doing it well.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

My first published novel, The Janus Code (self-published on Create Space in August 2013), was written in 1995 as science fiction or speculative fiction. Technology has caught up; much of what I predicted in the novel is happening today. So I dug out the manuscript, rewrote it for today, and published it.

Shortly after taking the adult-ed. writing course, I started publishing poetry and short stories. I wrote five complete novels before trying to publishing one.

Do you always write in the same genre?

No, I write across various genres and I use two different author names. The Janus Code is an international tech thriller published under my maiden name, J.C. Ferguson. The next novel I plan to publish, Mangrove Madness, is a humorous female PI adventure that I have sent to publishers as Judy Loose. One of my unpublished novels is a romance, one is women’s fiction.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

I believe it would be on the mystery or thriller shelf.

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

I have another novel, Mangrove Madness, which has been with an agent and a couple of publishers for a long, long time with no answer as to whether or not it will ever be published. I found my agent by sending out many (close to 100) query letters. My agent contacted the publishers.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route this time in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

One of the reasons I decided to self-publish is because of the length of time it takes to get a response from traditional publishers. I decided to use Create Space after researching the options and listening to the stories other authors tell of their experiences in self-publishing. To me, Create Space is the easiest, most flexible, and least expensive way to self-publish. I would recommend using them to any author.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I wrote The Janus Code in third person past. I do switch POV for different stories. I like to write in first person present (Mangrove Madness for example). I have not yet written a novel with multiple points of view. Maybe I’ll try it with my next one.

What does  finding your “voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think “voice” has to do with a writer’s personality and view of the world. I’m not sure I could say how I found mine. I just start writing and the characters in my stories take over.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

I write from beginning to end and then go back and fix what doesn’t work, editing many times. Structure? What’s that? The books seem to be coherent when I finish. The closest thing to structure that I use is  –  try to make every chapter end so that the reader wants to continue with the next chapter.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Building the story is the fun part. All those other things that come after (for me at least) trying to write a synopsis, query, outline, summary for the back of the book, a tag line, etc., are difficult for me. I still have problems with a 30-second elevator speech for The Janus Code, and I know the book inside and out.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

I’m a lousy marketer, so I’m not the one to ask. I need to hire someone to market my book. I have a friend who is a great salesperson and she does some marketing for me. I build websites, so I have a few that I created to promote my book.

www.judyloose.com

www.jcferguson.net

www.januscode.com

www.amazon.com/author/jcferguson

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. I may not have the slightest idea where I’m going when I start writing. I guess that makes me a “pantser.”

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Just sit down, write, and keep writing. Don’t look back. You can always go back and edit or fix after you’ve finished.

Was there a mistake you made in your writing process you could share with us?

My biggest mistake was not bothering to publish what I wrote for a long time. I think it was because I hated the thought of marketing. Don’t wait. It’s such a thrill to see your book in print.

What in your background gave you insight for writing your current book?

The Janus Code plot is based on technology. I worked in the high-tech industry, designing, installing, and managing computer systems and IT departments for 30-plus years. Even though I dropped out of the industry to work for myself a number of years ago, I still work with computers every day. I stay current with technology out of necessity. I try to write so that anyone, even those with NO computer savvy, can follow the story and don’t feel overwhelmed by techy talk.

Another aspect of the book is its international flavor. I have visited or lived in all the locations in the book. I love to travel.

I based the protagonist in the book on a friend who was bi-polar (although the character took on his own completely different personality as I wrote).

Please share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

Janus-frontcover72 (2)

The Janus Code

By J.C. Ferguson

Traffic was light but steady through the Schwarzwald at two a.m. Headlights cut the black ribbon of the Autobahn at a steady speed of two hundred and forty kilometers; flashing each time they approached other vehicles that moved quickly out of the path.

Maurice Vivant drove the Lamborghini Gallardo on instinct, his body an extension of the controls, his conscious mind barely aware of the wheel in his hands or the pedals beneath his feet, leaving him free to review and strategize.

–  –  –

A dark Mercedes blocked Maurice’s path in the high-speed lane, drawing his attention back to the road. He swerved into the slower lane, pulling ahead and around. The other car picked up speed, moved to his right, matching pace. Maurice peered at the Mercedes but couldn’t see the driver through the tinted windows. He imagined the driver as his opponent, taunting him. Maurice stepped hard on the gas and the Lamborghini leaped ahead. When the lights faded in the rear view mirror, he dropped back to the original two-forty.

–  –  –

Lights approached from behind, snapping him out of his reverie. He had crossed the border into Switzerland, slowing to accommodate the curves through the Alps. He increased speed to stay ahead of the oncoming lights, but they continued to gain. Allowing the other car to overtake him, he played with the driver on the mountain bends to see what he was made of, forcing him to stay in the oncoming traffic lane as they moved into a series of sharp turns. The view of approaching cars would be obstructed for several miles. He glanced at the vehicle to his left, recognizing the Mercedes that had raced him on the Autobahn.

Adrenaline pumping, he concentrated on the road and watched for the flicker of approaching lights. A glow appeared on the roadway, warning of a car around the bend. The Mercedes swerved into his lane, bumping the side of the Lamborghini. In the oncoming lights, Maurice caught a glimpse of the other driver, grinning at him, as the heavy Mercedes pushed the lighter car sideways. In the shock of recognition, he lost control. His car jumped to the right, front tire exploding as it dropped off the edge of the pavement.

He pulled hard on the wheel, but the gravel held the blown-out tire. Still speeding forward, the Lamborghini crashed through the guardrail and flew over the embankment, spewing gravel and vegetation as it launched into air. Time suspended for Maurice. The thrill of flying down the mountain into the black night consumed him, and he laughed out loud at this last challenge.

Posted in authors, books, characters, conflict, fiction, Indie, mysttery, novels, readers, real estate, womens fiction, writers, writing

“I took a timeout from being a real estate agent, got bored, and started killing people.”

I am so honored to have Nancy Jarvis with us today on Author Interview Friday. I can not wait to get my hands on The Widow’s Walk League. Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor for twenty-five years but decided she was having so much fun writing that it was time to retire as a Realtor.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.

She’s working on the next book in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mystery Series after putting Regan, Tom, and Dave on hiatus to write Mags and the AARP Gang, a comedy/adventure about a group of octogenarian would-be bank robbers.

Joanne:  Nancy, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Nancy:  I didn’t realize I wanted to write until I took a timeout from being a real estate agent, got bored, and started killing people. Maybe I better back up a bit. I’d been a Realtor in Santa Cruz, California since 1989 and had seen down markets with all their cruelty before, so when the real estate market tanked in 2008, I hung up my for sale signs and experimented with being retired. I got bored within a couple of weeks and decided, strictly as a game, to try and write a mystery.

I had the beginning and ending in mind and lots of stories I could use as background if I made the protagonist a real estate agent. I set the book in Santa Cruz since I knew the community so well. The protagonist, Regan McHenry, began her life as me, only younger, thinner, and more successful than I was. She didn’t stay me, though. Like a method actor who feels his role, I’m a method writer. Regan had to become her own person about the time she found a body because I couldn’t take being her any longer. I couldn’t keep up with her any longer, either. She’s much more daring than I am and eagerly gets herself into messes I would avoid.

Nancy Jarvis
Nancy Jarvis

Joanne:  As an active Realtor myself, I can relate to exactly what you are saying. But I am still plugging along – and I haven’t started killing people (yet), in my stories or otherwise. But someone (or two) always end up dead in my stories anyway. So tell us, do you always write in the same genre?

Nancy:  I don’t. I wrote three mysteries featuring Realtor and amateur sleuth Regan McHenry, but as I was finishing up The Widow’s Walk League, the fourth book in the series, this eighty three year old woman character started interrupting my concentration. She told me to put aside what I was writing and tell her story. The result was Mags and the AARP Gang written in first person, which is not how the mysteries are done. Mags as a one-off book, though, and I’m presently finishing the fifth mystery, “The Murder House.”

Joanne:  Love it. I’ve got to get it. The Widow’s Walk League. Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication?  How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

Nancy:  As I said, writing began as a game for me. I wanted to see if I could begin with a premise and carry it logically to a conclusion. I assumed, once I did ― if I could ― that would be the beginning, middle, and end of my writing career. I finished the first book, “The Death Contingency,” and consigned it to a shelf in my office, but I’d had so much fun with it that I began the book I really wanted to write, “Backyard Bones,” which is a traditional mystery with lots of twists in the plot.

I had been “caught” writing “The Death Contingency” by a visiting friend, a woman who always wanted to be a writer. She was angry at me for attempting to write a book the way I was. She said I needed to take classes, find a mentor and a critique circle, and suffer for my art the way she had. I don’t suffer when I write; I love it, and told her so.

She called while I was in the midst of writing the second book. She had a terminal brain tumor and was dying. She said her big regret in life was that she had never seen her name in print. My husband and I threw together a little publishing company ― which was surprisingly easy to do ― and printed one-hundred books dedicated to Charlotte Bridges so she could have her wish.

I expected ninety-nine of them would live in the garage in perpetuity, but when we took a few to a local bookstore to see what would happen, they sold. We sold them all and ordered more. Then Amazon came along and then e-books. We’ve never looked back.

Joanne:  Ahh, that was so nice of you. What a great tribute to her. I love writing too but like Charlotte, I have had to “suffer” a little along the way. Are you a pantser or a planner?

Nancy:  It depends on the book. With Mags, I was definitely a panster. I just listened to the character I’d created speak and wrote down what she said. I didn’t know where the book was going at any point in it.

With the mysteries I have to have a timeline and an outline to keep on track, but I’m open to being flexible within that framework. In Backyard Bones, I deliberately decided to wait until I was about half way through it to decide which of two characters had committed the murder. It was easy to do because their alibis supported one another so either alibi could be broken by the other character. But when I got to the decision point, I realized neither was the killer, that the murder had been committed by another character.

When I went back to insert clues pointing at my new murderer, I discovered that they were already there. So, does that make me a panster or a planner, or merely someone as mislead by the killer as my protagonist was?

Joanne:  Maybe your are a “plantser”. LOL  What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

Nancy:   Santa Cruz husbands are being murdered.  The local news media is buzzing because a dark-clad figure witnesses describe as Death has been seen lurking nearby each time a murder is committed.

When new widows start hiring real estate agent Regan McHenry to sell their houses, she discovers all the murdered men have something in common: their wives belong to a walking group called The Widow’s Walk League.  No wonder Regan is worried when the group’s leader starts paying special attention to her husband, Tom.

Regan invites you to attend Woodies on the Wharf and go to a séance with her as adventures unfold and she tries to keep her husband safe in the fourth book in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mystery Series. Her best friend, Dave Everett, Santa Cruz Police Community Relations Ombudsman, is back to lead a new cast of quirky characters and struggle with Regan’s amateur detecting.

Joanne:  Where can people go to buy your books?

Nancy:  Links follow for Amazon author page, Facebook page, and my website. If your readers would like a recipe for mysterious chocolate chip cookies that goes with the books, they can pick up a copy at the website. (You occasionally bake cookies at open houses to homey-up the house, don’t you?) They can also read opening chapters of all books at the website if they don’t have a Kindle that lets them.

http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1379289376&sr=1-2-ent

https://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries?ref=ts

http://www.goodreadmysteries.com/

Joanne:  Thank you so much for sharing. I am heading right to Amazon to get “Widows”   Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

Front-Cover-Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Regan has been invited to the séance by Tika, one of the widows, who hopes to contact her dead husband. She agrees to go, expecting to see a show put on by a con-man :

Regan might know the tricks; nevertheless, the show promised to be entertaining.

“Now let us all join hands and as a loving united body call upon our Charlie to come to us.” Sebastian closed his eyes and slowly swiveled his upper body in small circles.

Tika’s eyes were closed, as were Karen’s and Helen’s, but Linda, a fellow closeted skeptic, Regan guessed, was, like her, watching the performance.

Joyce’s eyes remained open, too, though probably because she was afraid Sebastian might actually raise the spirit of Charlie Smith.

“Come, Charlie, we are waiting for a sign from you.” Sebastian issued the invitation in a stage-worthy slightly wavering voice.

Joyce, who was holding Regan’s left hand, suddenly tightened her grip until Regan’s wedding ring became an instrument of torture. Sebastian’s polished invocation was interrupted by her chilling shriek. “Death!” Joyce screeched. “Death is here. He’s looking in at us!”

Regan followed Joyce’s terrified gaze, spinning her head toward the window. Death was indeed there, his bony face peering at them from its shroud through a haze of gauzy curtains, and though he dissolved a second later, she was certain she had seen him.

For an instant everyone at the table remained frozen in place, unable to speak or even release hands. Regan was the first to break their stupefaction. She bolted toward the living room and cleared the doorway before Sebastian, Linda, and Karen, all quick to their feet, collided there and jostled one another through the narrow opening. Tika, hoisting her skirt to move more quickly, came next. Even timid Joyce, still pale after her fright, and Helen, the last of the women to reach her feet, joined the rush.

Posted in authors, books, conflict, editing, favorite books, fiction, Indie, mysttery, novels, series, thrillers, writers

Rich Goldhaber talks about writing a series.

It is my great pleasure to have my first author of a series on my blog. Rich Goldhaber spent forty years in Research & Development in the medical product industry. He has leveraged his knowledge of science and Technology into a second career as a Mystery/Thriller writer. His five books, The Lawson Series feature his main characters; Dr. Sally Graff and Detective Dan Lawson.  Her skills as an emergency room physician, and his as an energetic detective, make them a modern-day Dr. Watson and Sherlock Homes. Trouble always seems to find this pair as they travel the world in pursuit of bad guys.

Rich Goldharbor
Rich Goldharber

Joanne:  From my limited understanding of a series, there are several formats it can work.

Spinoffs: A series of novels that take an existing minor character, setting, or concept from the first stand-alone story and create a new plot/situation for additional stand-alone stories. Spinoffs are very common in the Romance genre

Serials: A series of novels that follow one particular character throughout many different, mostly unconnected episodes. Each novel is self-contained and could be read as a stand-alone title, though each successive title reveals more about the continuing character(s). Serials are seen most often in Mystery/Suspense and Action/Adventure

Sequels: A series of novels that contain one continuing story in a finite number of volumes. While each volume has a beginning, middle, climax, and denouement, the main plot/conflict of the series continues throughout the series and finally comes to a climax and resolution in the final volume. This main plot/conflict must be introduced early in the beginning of the first book. Sequel series are most common in Science Fiction, Fantasy (just do a search for “trilogy” in the books section of amazon.com!), and Historical Fiction/Romance.

What style of series did you choose and why?

Rich: My five novels clearly fit into the serial classification.

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Joanne:  Did you plan out all of your books ahead of time before you started to write your first book?  What was the process?

Rich: Halfway through the writing of my first book in the series “The 26th of June”, I realized that the characters deserved more than just one story to fully tell their stories.

Joanne:  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Rich: I am an avid reader. About six years ago I was reading a New York Times bestseller. I thought it was terrible. I said to myself, even I could write better than this. That was a challenge I couldn’t refuse.

Joanne:  How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript? Also, did books two through five come faster?

Rich: Once I settled on going the self-publishing route, I began exploring various self-publishing companies. Create Space, an Amazon company seemed the best, and once that decision was made it took me only three months to see my first book in print. Now I’m an expert using Create Space, and once I finish formatting my text in Word, and creating a PDF for my cover using Photoshop, it only takes a week to get a proof of my new book.

Joanne:  Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

Rich: I tried going the classical route by trying to find a mainstream agent. It became clear to me after six months of trying that my query letters were for the most part not even being fully read. Feedback from my author friends indicated the general unhappiness of using second and third tier agents.

Joanne:  Do you think you have a distinctive “Voice” to your stories?  Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

Rich: My technical background has allowed me to always have a credible technical aspect to my stories. Whether it’s about terrorists making a neutron bomb or a biological weapon, I like the reader to learn something new about a technical subject that they never explored. The trick is to do so without it appearing too much like schoolwork.

Joanne:  What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Rich: Being a technical person during my business career, I was skilled in writing technical papers. Technical writing, however, is heavy on nouns, verbs, and numbers. Adjectives, adverbs, and emotion are out of the question. As a writer of novels, I had to learn to write with emotion. Easier said than done for a technocrat.

Joanne: What advice would you give to new writers that think they want to write a series. What factors are important for them to know before  they start?

Rich: Write the first story and then decide whether the main characters are worth additional exploration.

Joanne: One of my favorite series writers, Randy Wayne White always brings us exciting new stories but as a fan, I have my favorite characters that I would be so disappointed if they were not included. Do you have a favorite character that is in all your books?

Rich: Of course the main characters are my favorite, but one minor character, Benny Cannon is always exciting to write about. He’s the super-geek working at the FBI. He’s like the character “M” in James Bond movies. He always has a technical gadget to help Dan and Sally solve a problem. Also, I position him as a weird dresser (e.g. one green sock and one red sock).

Joanne: Do you have anything new in the works? If so, is it another book in the series or are ever planning on writing a new, totally different series?

Rich: After five books with the same people, my next novel moves to a new set of characters. It’s called “The Cure” and involves a young engineer who begins working for a start-up company that has found the cure to cancer. Is it really a cure or are there others factors at play? If it’s too good to be true is it always too good to be true?

Joanne:  Where should readers go to purchase your books?

Rich: My books are available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Book stores are also able to get this book through their normal distribution channels.

Joanne:  Can you share a few paragraphs from one of your book to wet out appetite?

Rich: The beginning of my second book “Succession Plan” follows:

I had been living with the guilt for almost a year. Disgrace began on the last day of my father’s life. I sat silently at the side of his bed in the nursing home waiting for what I knew was inevitable. As always, a potent cocktail of urine and Mr. Clean filled the air.

The special care facility where he had lived for the last six months was one of the finest in the city, but all of the Andrew Wyeth prints and brightly colored rooms could not alter one overriding fact. This place specialized in managing death. His cancer had slowly eaten away his self-esteem, and the frail man who now resided in what was once a fit athletic body, clung tenaciously to life.

He suddenly awoke, and his dark sunken eyes reached out to my inner soul. He searched for my hand, squeezed it tightly, and reminded me of my promise to take care of the ring. He then closed his eyes forever and left on his ultimate journey.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I bent over, kissed his forehead, held onto his now lifeless hand, and openly cried; not over his death, his passing had been a blessing. During the last six months, his life had been filled with miserable pain and suffering, dulled only by the increasing dose of prescribed narcotics. Instead, my tears were shed over his last words.

You see, the ring was the problem. He had given me the present on my eighth birthday.  The gift was bestowed along with one of his famous long rambling speeches, and as he held the cheap looking plastic gold colored object reverently in his hand, he explained it was an authentic Captain Video Secret Decoder Ring.  He wanted me to understand its true value lay far beyond its intrinsic worth. Rather, it was a symbol of the wonderful memories of his own childhood. Captain Video was a TV program from the early 50’s, and when my father was a young boy, he had used the ring to decode special messages from the Captain. Handing me the ring in front of the extended assembly of family and friends, he made me promise to save his most cherished possession and pass it on to my children when the time was right.

I didn’t know what to make of the gift or the ceremony, but I did hide the ring in the safest most secret spot I knew, a small shelf hidden from view behind a built-in bar in our basement.  To reach the special place, a person needed to crawl behind the bar and reach up inside a cabinet; a difficult set of physical maneuvers unless you were less than four feet tall and weighed under fifty pounds.