Archive for the 'Guest Posts' Category

Guest Post: Virginia King, author of The First Lie

Friday, May 16th, 2014

first lieAnother guest post!

You might remember that a short time back, I ran a link to a survey run by author Virginia King. Well, she decided on a title and she put together a great guest post for us on why she always cries at the end of her novel…

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Crying at the End

 

I always cry at the end of my novel. Always. Even though I know every word, every aching resolution of the themes as they tumble into place. Why?

“Crying at the end” doesn’t have to be taken literally. It’s a metaphor for feeling deeply satisfied and moved but also a little surprised, and challenged to join a few dots. It describes the ending that continues to play out in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed.

Obviously the ending of The First Lie isn’t surprising to me. Not any more. I’ve read it and tweaked it a thousand times. Do I cry because I’m in love with it? All authors need to be wary of this one – the blind belief that every phrase is as perfect as a newborn baby – but the end of my book has been edited within an inch of its life by my editor, so there must be something else going on.

The answer may lie in the way the ending evolved:

  1. No Plot. Many writing workshops concentrate on plotting as the key to a well-structured novel but for me it’s the death of creativity. I’m in good company. Stephen King says in On Writing: “I distrust plot for two reasons: first because our lives are largely plotless … and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” In The French Lieutenants’s Woman John Fowles abandons the story to tell the reader that his characters have minds of their own: “It’s only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they start to live.” The First Lie began as one sentence with no character profiles and no plan. Writing it has been an act of daily discovery, where the unexpected has breathed life into the developing story, leading inexorably to the final unknowable scene.
  2. Beats and Consequences. Borrowing from screenplay writing, every “beat” or event in the story is related to a later “consequence”. Nothing is wasted – no glimpse in the mirror, no cockroach on the windowsill. The writer constantly asks: “this happened, therefore …” or “this happened, but …” so that every beat contributes to the unfolding chain of events. In a psychological mystery like The First Lie, the beats must drip-feed suspense right up to the last scene. Hitchcock called it making the audience “suffer as much as possible”! Many of the beats that popped into my head as I was writing gathered momentum and formed thematic strings as the story evolved, showing their surprising – and satisfying – consequences at the end. For example, my heroine is running away from her past so I gave her a small African sculpture to hearten her with its crude power – only to find the sculpture inspiring whole scenes later in the book and playing a role in the final denouement.  It was a beat poised to create a consequence.
  3. The Influence of Other Writers. Ruth Rendell has famously said that she often changes the murderer she’s had in mind throughout the writing process, because if she’s surprised at the end, the reader will be too. Ian Rankin recently told an audience that he usually doesn’t know the identity of the perpetrator until the last couple of chapters. This tension gives his writing an edge – he’s riding the same trajectory of wonder as the reader. These authors gave me the courage to dive into the last chapter of The First Lie with no idea of what might happen – and to allow the “beats” I’d created throughout the book to create their own consequences. I was also emboldened by Haruki Murakami – particularly Kafka on the Shore – to explore a touch of “magic realism”, allowing the ending to soar beyond the real with startling results.
  4. Tie Up Loose Ends – But Not in Bows. A friend told me she loved the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because all the events in the book were resolved. She wasn’t left with any unanswered questions. It’s true that the reader needs to have all that suspense and suffering satisfied, but not with a neat bow. And not in ways that can be predicted. If the reader feels they are being led by the nose, the tension evaporates instantly. It’s what’s not spelled out but hinted at that allows the satisfaction that comes from joining your own dots. It shows ultimate respect for your reader’s intelligence to give enough but not too much. Then there’s the balance needed if the book is part of a series – to make it mysterious enough to allow for reader interpretation but also leave room for another story to emerge.

If you’ve already written the ending of your novel, give it the “cry” test.  If it doesn’t move you, I’d encourage you to “flip it”. It’s an exercise from my Catch the Whisper workshop: (a) put the final dialogue into the mouth of the other character and see what happens, or (b) change one or more crucial verbs to the opposite action and allow the scene to play out beyond your planning, or (c) turn any clichés upside down to break the pattern of your thoughts. The outcome might make you cry.

Virginia King
www.selkiemoon.com

 

Guest Post: Deborah Crombie, author of The Sound of Broken Glass

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

broken glass2I’ve got a great guest post for you today from the author of a mystery series I really enjoy! Deborah Crombie, author of The Sound of Broken Glass has a post for us and I learned something surprising – she’s not British! I wouldn’t have guessed, reading the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James stories, that they were written by an American. So, for today, a little about how an American Writer Writes Brit:

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Readers are always curious as to how an American writes about England, and the English. I have an advantage in that I’ve lived in both England and Scotland. But I fell in love with Britain long before I lived there–in fact, it was the other way around. (Or the other way round, in Brit speak.) I’ve never been able to explain just how this dream of Britain crept its way into my subconscious. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by British books and stories and history, although I can cite some influences, in retrospect. Many of them were an ideal Britain translated into fantasy; C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Alan Garner’s haunting Cheshire, T.H. White’s wild Avalon. Then came the immersion in Christie and Sayers and Allingham, the Britain of the Golden Age mystery. And how could I leave out Holmes? There were English sagas, Delederfield and Winston Graham. Then James Herriott’s Yorkshire. And wonderful romantic suspense by writers like Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

I’m sure I can blame a good bit on public television, too, as Masterpiece Theater and British comedies and even Doctor Who introduced America to language and culture that was similar enough to seem familiar but different enough to be enchanting. When I visited England for the first time in my early twenties, the stage was already set. I’m still surprised, years later, by the sense of identification I felt. Homecoming. Weird and wonderful and scary all at once.

Living there a few years after that first visit, I found things often not nearly as cozy and romantic as the Britain of my imagination, but somehow that didn’t change my attachment. If anything, living with Britain-unvarnished made the feeling stronger. When I came back to live in the US I longed for Britain with a physical ache, a sort of psyhic missing limb syndrome. So I wrote the first Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel out of homesickness, and out of a desire to use the patterns of language I heard in my head. (Writers have an excuse for hearing voices…)

I placed my detectives in London, with jobs at Scotland Yard, so that I could send them to the settings in more rural Britain that so fascinated me. But a funny thing happened. I fell in love with London just as passionately, maybe even more so, than with that other England. London is a country in itself–there is always something new to learn, to do, to see.

So that’s the history of how an American came to write British. How does it work now, this writing from a distance thing? I go to England a couple of times a year. I almost always spend time in London, and if a story takes me (and my characters) out of London, I go there, too. When I stay in London I let (Brit speak) a flat, so that I can walk the neighborhood and go to the shops and pubs and supermarkets, and do all the everyday things that my characters do. I watch a lot of British television, because you see (and learn) things there that you never see in the US. I go out with English friends and do all the ordinary things that people do–it is in an odd way a separate life.

When I’m not in the UK, I keep up with British newspapers and telly and films and, of course, books. The Internet has been a huge research blessing (can I say how much I love Google Maps?) It has made it so much easier to be virtually if not physically there.

And I am still, always, when I am not in Britain, a little homesick, and that keeps the stories going in my head.

Deborah Crombie

Guest Post: Alison Morton, author of PERFIDITAS

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Perfiditas - Front Cover_intermedJust about a year ago, I hosted a guest post from Alison Morton, author of Inceptio. Now the second book in the series, Perfiditas, is on the shelves at your local bookstore, so I thought it would be good to have it on the Shelves here!

First, a little about the new novel, the second in the Roma Nova series:

Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’etat thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country. 

Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova, and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…    
And now, a little from Alison Morton about the challenges of writing historical fiction…
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Reaching back into the past to write the alternative present

Thank you so much for asking me back, Lisa. In my previous post, I outlined the concept of alternating reality where the line of history changed in the past to make our present different. This time I want to be more “hands on”.

Like any straight historical fiction, alternate history stories need good research behind them. Well, unless you are writing a ”rule of cool” no-holds-barred, fantasy story like the film “Inglourious Basterds” which is fun, but not exactly historically logical!

Once you have decided on the point of divergence in the past, I.e. where history as we know it (our timeline, or OTL) splits and an alternative line emerges (alternative timeline, or ATL), you need to research that divergence point so that you have a firm basis for taking your story forward. If you don’t know where you start from, you run the risk of the dreaded credibility gap.

As writers, our job is to make things up, but readers get so much more out of a book if they know the author has done that job properly. Alternative history is imagined, but should follow “da rulz”. So what are they?

1. Identify the point of divergence and make it logical. It doesn’t have to be a grand event or have a grand cause. In history, there are many hair’s breath events caused by, for instance, weather, e.g. Washington’s crossing the Delaware River in 1776. On 26 December, the weather became progressively worse, turning from drizzle to rain to sleet and snow, plus very strong winds and floating ice in the river. Just suppose the blizzard had intensified, throwing all those boats and troops to their death in the freezing river…

My books are set in Roma Nova in the 21st century, but the country’s origin stretches back to a divergence point in AD 395 when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius issued the final edict banning all pagan religions. Religious persecution often changes history: Protestant Huguenots were thrown out of France which caused the collapse of the French silk and weaving industries and destruction of a prosperous mercantile and professional class from which the French economy took years to recover.

2. Research the divergence point thoroughly. Find sources, buy books, visit places, museums, conferences and ask questions. Check you have the correct clothing, food, armour, currency etc. for the time you are writing about. The Roman civilisation lasted over 1,200 years; things were significantly different in AD 395 from how they had been in 100BC. Serstertii, the archetypal silver Roman coin, had disappeared by AD 395 and the gold solidus served as the standard unit, so my 21st century Roma Novans use solidi.

3. Reinforce the divergence point story to anchor the time you are writing about. People often refer back to their country’s foundation story and Roma Novans are no different and often quote the courage of how over four hundred Romans loyal to the old gods trekked north out of Italy to find refuge in the semi-mountainous area near modern day Austria.

4. Use elements from the historic record carefully, but not fearfully. In my books, the hero is kind of spy/special forces operative, so I reached back into history and plucked the Praetorian Guard forward more than thousand years into the 21st century. Not only does this build on the thoughts of toughness, a dash of ruthlessness and a sense of duty and glamour that we may already have about them, it uses their historic name to anchor them as archetype Romans guarding the ruler and the state. I’m aware they became corrupt in real history, but as in straight history, in alternative history you can bend the rules a little.

5. Think through the setting that has formed your characters. No country can survive without a functioning government, an economic, social and political system, food, law and order and income. You don’t need to mention these as such, unless it impacts on the plot, but you need to have it all worked out in your head, or in a notebook or a file on your hard disk or in the cloud.

How do people make their living? How are they educated? What kind of industry is there? Is the government representative? Are laws authoritarian, permissive or strict? What is the food like? Are there markets, little shops, big chains? What does the money look like?

One big thing to think through apart from its history is what your alternative world looks like. If it’s a country we already know, has transport developed beyond the horse and cart to steam trains or electric trains? Is it safe to travel from one town to another? If it’s an imaginary country, are there mountains, seas and rivers? What’s growing in the fields, does the countryside consist of plains, valleys or mountains?

And two general writing tips…

6. Ensure your story is essentially gripping and page-turning whatever its setting. Creating an exotic world will not save a weak story however original and detailed you make it. Can you grab the bones out of it, e.g. trap – conspiracy –on the run – confronts bad guy, and see if it would work in another genre?

7. Make sure your characters live naturally within their world. You have to get the essence and detail across to the reader without any info dumps. No reader wants a detailed history lesson in the middle of an action scene. Pare these to a minimum, just enough to take the narrative forward. Imagine explaining somebody’s entire life story to your best friend when you’re relaxing over a drink. All your friend wants are the bare facts of what that person has been doing to cause you to mention them.

Now you’re armed with these tips, why not try alternating time yourself?IMG_3906_face2

Best wishes,
Alison

www.alison-morton.com   @alison_morton

Guest Post: Rudy Mazzocchi, author of Storytelling: The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Storytelling 7Okay, time to let the authors do the work…today I’ve got a guest post from Rudy Mazzocchi, entrepreneur and author of Storytelling: The Indispensable Art of Entrepreneurism. Mazzocchi established a career buying, building and selling multi-million dollar companies, and he has taken that experience and applied it to his fiction. In Storytelling, Mazzocchi “takes you on a journey which reveals how the development, progressive modification and adaptation of your story is the golden thread and foundational core management practice which ties together all the others.” Today, he’s talking about why he writes. Check this out:

Who Cares?

By Rudy A. Mazzocchi

It’s not my nature to be cynical, but does it really matter that I published two novels and a non-fiction business book? I mean… really? Does the world need a couple more thrillers and yet another book about being an entrepreneur? Am I any better off having spent the last three years of my life researching, writing, editing, pushing and promoting these three books? Is the world a better place now that I’ve told my stories to the couple of thousand readers who picked up these books? I don’t think so. So why do we do it?

It’s actually amazing how the human brain continually needs to consume data. Data for the sake of knowledge, for entertainment, and even for self-gratification. The overweight husband sitting on the couch might feed that need by watching Monday Night Football… fascinated by not only the action, but by the flurry of statistics flashed on the screen that helps supplement the story of the game. Meanwhile, his wife might be off on an adjacent lounge chair, absorbing the massive amount of insignificant data provided by her People Magazine. We all have that innate need for mental stimulation.

Now let’s apply this to writers and readers. As a published author, I satisfy my needs by obtaining and processing new data and constructing it such a way as to create a unique set of characters and stories that may be appealing to someone seeking data to stimulate their own mind. It’s a way for us both (the writer and the reader) to detach from the reality of our daily lives. It’s not only a biological need, but one that applies the basic elements of economics. I produce a product, and someone buys it. This has been the essence of our human society since the beginning of time.

However, am I really making an impact in anyone’s life by writing a book? I suppose some folks out there might take away something of value from my stories, but let’s face it… once they’re finished, they’ll simply find another compelling book to read… one that may have a different impact on them that eradicates any morsel of data that may have been temporarily attained from my writings. So… who really cares?

Oh sure, once in a while a book comes along that everyone believes they need to read. Books ranging from Harry Potter to Fifty Shades of Grey will always somehow be picked up by the press and marketed aggressively, regardless of the quality of their content, while other spectacular literary works go undetected by the masses. So who cares how much heart, sweat and anguish might go into getting your novel published? Is it really worth it?

Well, for this author, it is worth every single stroke of the key board. Yes, it not only satisfies my needs to obtain, process and construct, but it provides great gratification of accomplishing a task. That couch-potato may obtain short-term gratification of watching his team play on Monday night, but what did he accomplish? Burning up another lost evening? The consumption of another thousand calories he really didn’t need? How about the reader who just finished another reading the trilogy of Fifty Shades of Grey? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, those readers have also accomplished a task. Completing the journey that any book or story provides is a true accomplishment.

Although my novels have won a few literary awards, and several readers have sent me their copies for signature, the only one who truly cares about this published accomplishment is me! Writers need to write for themselves, just as readers need to read a particular genre of personal interest. I can only hope that promotional efforts result in a greater awareness, and some sort of brand recognition, sufficiently to reach as many readers as possible so this writer, and you as the reader, can accomplish a shared journey together.

Rudy and his books:

You can learn more about both my fiction and non-fiction books here on my website: http://www.rudymazzocchi.com and my blog site:http://rudymazzocchi.wordpress.com.
In addition, I periodically post on my Author Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MazzocchiAuthor and Twitter as well: http://twitter.com/RudyMazzocchi.
And finally, for all the business folks out there, I’m also constantly expanding my network on LinkedIN: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rudy-mazzocchi/39/821/153

Guest Post: Elene Sallinger, author of Awakening

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

This should be a terrific guest post! When I received the information on Awakening from the good folks at Sourcebooks, I was intrigued. Elene Sallinger is an award-winning children’s author, so how did she end up writing BDSM erotica?!? Let’s find out…

 

awakeningWhat Do You Mean You Used to Write Children’s Stories?

By Elene Sallinger

When people find out that I started my writing career in children’s literature, the reactions are varied but always funny. It’s a classic “what the f@#$” moment. Somehow, this transition just doesn’t seem to compute for most people. Granted, children’s lit and erotica are much further apart on the spectrum than say mysteries and romance, but they are both still part of the fiction genre. And, the theme of my erotica – people overcoming their baggage – is only marginally different from the theme of my children’s stories – overcoming fear and doubt.

I began writing children’s stories after my then four-year-old daughter repeatedly asked for the same bedtime story which I’d improvised one night. She didn’t want more or less the same story, she wanted the details to match. With my memory being as full of holes as Swiss cheese, I began to write them down and illustrate them for her.

When he discovered this, her father encouraged me to take some classes. After much stalling, I finally did and a writer was born. Because my daughter was so young, children’s lit was natural for me. I found myself writing the stories I wished I’d had as a child. Stories that promoted facing fear, self-acceptance and overcoming doubt. All concepts I’ve struggled with throughout my life.

As my daughter grew and Dora gave way to Xbox and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was put away in favor of Artemis Fowl, I found I had no taste for writing for the young adult market. There were too many prolific authors already doing it better than I could.

Around this same time, I stumbled across my first tale of erotic fiction, Seducing Jane Porter by Dominique Adair. One taste and I was hooked. I devoured everything I could find. Sadly, I also found myself disappointed again and again by stories that lurched from one sex scene to another with no plot, no character development and laughable, unrealistic sex scenes.

I’d already picked clean the catalogs of my favorite authors and was frustrated with a lack of quality content. I wanted more and I didn’t want to sacrifice my reading standards. One night, after deleting a particularly bad story off my iPad, I decided to try and write a story that I would want to read. The rest, as they say, is history.

After getting some practice in with a few short stories, I submitted Awakening to Xcite Books’ contest for new writers at the 2011 Festival of Romance and won! I haven’t looked back since.

I love the erotic genre and nothing pleases me more than a good story where people explore their sexuality while overcoming the baggage we all carry at some level.

While, I may write other children’s stories – I’ve got one or two percolating – I’m officially hooked on erotica and plan to continue writing erotic romance for as long as I’ve got a story to tell.

For more information, check out Elene’s website: Elene Sallinger, Vocabulary Vixen

Guest Post: Mike Martin, author of The Body on the T

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Today, I’ve got a great guest post from Mike Martin, author of The Body on the T. It’s really timely because this is the middle of November, which is National Novel Writing Month. And if there is one thing that you have to do during NaNoWriMo is  keep on writing!

 

The Body on the T FC

Don’t Give Up: Just Keep Writing

Some people say that I just make stuff up, but I choose to say that I have a vivid imagination. That imagination and creativity was stiffled through the regimens of school and work, but somehow it still managed to get out. At first it was little, funny stories that I would make up for my friends. Later, it was bedtime stories for my own little prince and princess.

I have few regrets about the past, mostly because there’s little we can do about the water that’s already flowed under the bridge. But if I could go back, I would have pushed myself harder in my fiction and creative writing. Instead, I conformed and followed along the paths that had been laid out for me. That didn’t mean I stopped writing. Heck no!!

I just found outlets that were open to me at various times in my life. That meant writing three essays for English class and then fretting over which one to submit. It also meant finding work where I could write for at least part of the time, even if that writing was policy manuals or internal newsletter copy or just correspondence. And I did manage to find ways to spend more time writing. Over a number of years I eventually grew out of wanting to be part of a company or organization. Maybe I just grew up as a writer.

About fifteen years ago I took the plunge as a freelance writer. The waters were very deep and very cold. It is tough trying to make a living as a freelance writer, especially tough if you expect to eat on a regular basis. But what I learned from freelance writer is two things. First, rejection happens. Get over it. Second, keep writing. No matter what, keep writing.

When I finally got to the writing of my dreams, my fiction writing, these lessons were absolutely essential. So many times when I was writing my first book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, I wanted to give up. I’d hit walls, and I would just be stuck. At these times I remembered to keep writing, and I did keep on writing until I had a product that I wanted to show the world.

I thought I had succeeded. I had written a book. Except that it wasn’t near finished. Two years and reams of rewrites and an ocean of tears later it was done and my baby, The Walker on the Cape was born. Only it wasn’t really born yet, at least not out in the world.

The next challenge was finding a publisher, and I thought I could drop my manuscript off at a few publisher’s offices and then watch as they competed over my business. It didn’t happen that way. Almost all the big publishers will no longer talk to writers, they want to talk to your agent. I applied to seventy-five different agencies and got back twenty-two replies. Twenty were form letters that said ‘much too busy to talk to me, come back in about ten years’. The other two were nice little notes that said ‘thank you, but it’s not right for us.’

Now I was stumped. No publisher, no agent, no book. At this point I almost gave up, but I remembered the lessons from my freelance writing days. If your piece gets rejected one place, then try another. So I did. I wish I could tell you that I was at an event and I bumped into some famous author and they gave me the name of their agent and I got a six-figure advance and a contract for five more books, but that didn’t happen. It would make a good story, though!

No, I found a co-operative publisher right in my home town. I would pay some of the costs and do my own promo and they would print and sell the book. And so the first book was born. If the ‘industry’ would not help me then I would help myself. Since then I have used a P.O.D. publisher, Booklocker to release my books all over the world and have actually sold books in Britain, Australia and Germany. I wouldn’t hesitate either to self-publish or just publish in e-book format either.

To me, the important thing is to get the book written and then get it out to the world. You do what you gotta’ do to make that happen. I now have two books, two babies out in the world. The latest book, The Body on the T is now available both in print and in e-book format on Amazon.com. And I have my third book in the series out for clean-up by my helpful beta readers. It will be out early in the New Year.

So if you’re struggling, keep on struggling. If you are a writer, keep on writing. And remember what Stephen King says about writing “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

Mike Martin is the author of the Windflower Mystery Series, set in small communities on the east coast of Canada. His latest book, The Body on the T SAM_0045, is now available in print and e-book formats from Amazon.com.

www.bodyonthet.com

Guest Q&A: Raymond Khoury, author of Rasputin’s Shadow

Friday, October 25th, 2013

rasputins-shadow-coverToday, I’ve got a special Q&A with Raymond Khoury, author of Rasputin’s Shadow. It’s a thriller with historical leanings, tying together the past and the future with twists and turns and plenty of intrigue. I knew this guest post was coming up, so I was especially tickled to strike up a conversation in the airport the other day with a young man reading the book! One of the reasons I started doing this website is that I love talking about books, especially about books I enjoyed reading, and it is always fun to chat with someone about the books I’ve reviewed or posted about here on the site. (My fellow traveler was really enjoying the book, for the record.)

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1.      RASPUTIN’S SHADOW is a great mix of technology, history, and action, but there is a little romance too. How do you work to balance these in the novel?

I guess it just comes from practice, really. I’ve been a storyteller for years, whether in screenplays of in my previous five novels, and I suppose it’s just a personal preference for how to tell a story, for the pacing, for having a gut feeling about when those different aspects should pop up and not jar or crowd each other out. It’s not something I consciously map out, I don’t outline the books; I just spend a lot of time setting up the characters and their motivations, the triggers of the story, then I let them loose and the story—and all the elements you refer to—come in when it feels right.

 

2.      In RASPUTIN’S SHADOW, there are two distinct storylines that are woven together: one in early Russia and the other in modern-day New York City. How important is it for you to have both the historical and contemporary storylines in your novels?

I’ve now done it in four our of my six novels (THE SIGN and THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR are the two only-contemporary books). So it varies. I do enjoy writing the historical storylines, though, and I feel the readers really love going back in time and living through a parallel (though secondary) storyline, especially if it feels very “real,” which is my aim. But in books like THE SIGN, for instance, it was never part of the plan, and I love that book (which is actually my longest to date) as much as its siblings.

 

3.      At this point in your writing career, what has been your most memorable moment as an author?

I guess I was spoiled early on. You have to remember that when I wrote THE LAST TEMPLAR (my first book), it was a personal challenge, I was just adapting the screenplay I had written in 1996 and I had zero expectation of it being a bestseller. So I remember vividly when, the week before it came out, my agent called and said “based on the numbers so far, we just might have a chance of breaking into the New York Times extended list (not the list itself). Which was amazing enough. Then that first Wednesday night after it came out, late at night, I got the call from Mitch Hoffman, my editor at Dutton, who told me we’re on the list, and #10. Which was surreal. Then the following week, I completely lost my voice from nervousness while waiting for the call which would inevitably tell me we were off the list. I was walking back from a football game when Mitch called again and said, “Guess what? You’re #5.” Which, I was told, never happens. And it just kept getting better from there.”

 

4.      What is next for you?

There are 4 stories fighting to make it to the blank page on my laptop screen, I wish I could write all 4 at the same time. I’m deep into one of them, it’s a standalone, a bit of a departure from the Reilly books. Then as soon as it’s done, the next installment of Reilly.

 

5.      What do you hope readers will take away from RASPUTIN’S SHADOW?

I hope they’ll have fun and not be able to put it down! I hope they’ll have enjoyed hanging out with Reilly, Tess, Leo, Rasputin, Misha, and the rest (maybe not so much Koschey). I hope they’ll be curious to find out more about Russian’s history in the first decades of the 20th century, the fall of the tsars and the brutal rise of communism. And I hope they’ll have learned a thing or two about how our brains work, what’s possible, what technologies are being researched out there and how horrific it would be if they were ever deployed…

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RK3For more on Raymond Khoury, check out his webpage.

A special thanks to Alissa at Meryl Moss Media Relations for bringing me this opportunity – I always love hearing about great authors and getting great books!

Special Excerpt: Chimera by David Wellington

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Today, I’ve got a special treat! I’ve got an excerpt from a great end-of-summer thriller - Chimera by David Wellington. Here’s a little about the story:

Ten years after wounded Special Forces veteran Jim Chapel returns home from Afghanistan, he is drafted into a new war soil.  A small band of fugitives has escaped from a top secret upstate NY military facility, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Four men are loose in America, men with superhuman speed and strength, men carrying a deadly virus, men with a mission: kill an innocent civilian. And they will not stop until their mission is complete.  Chapel is tasked with hunting down the group of escapees and unraveling the mystery behind their existence. Aided by a mysterious woman named Angel and a courageous, beautiful veterinarian, Chapel begins a cross-country hunt to stop the murders. But are the killers really rogues, or are they part of a sinister conspiracy that reaches the highest levels?

Now that sounds like a thriller!

Click below to read an excerpt from the story.

CHIMERA_excerpt

 

 

Guest Post: Ron Chepesiuk, author of Black Caesar: The Rise and Disappearance of Frank Matthews, Kingpin

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Hey, it’s Friday and I am letting authors do the work today! I’ve got a great guest post from Ron Chepesiuk, author of Black Caesar: The Rise and Disappearance of Frank Matthews, Kingpin. I asked about what it was like to research a book like this – digging up old stories, talking to reluctant witnesses – and here’s what Ron had to say…

 

Researching Black Caesar

By Ron Chepesiuk

My first encounter with the urban legend, Frank Matthews, came in 2006 while I was researching my book, Gangsters of Harlem, and looking for kingpins to profile. It did not take me long to decide to include a chapter about Frank Matthews.

Matthews had operated out of Brooklyn but spent much time in Harlem, and the narcotics he peddled had a devastating impact on the neighborhood. In 1973, Frank Matthews jumped bail with $15-20 million and a beautiful woman named Cheryl Denise Brown and has never been seen again.

I knew the story was the biggest mystery in organized crime. Indeed, the more I researched the Matthews story, the more intrigued I became with him. He was certainly bigger than life—a country kid still in his teens who headed to the big city in search of fame and fortune and overcame many obstacles before becoming history’s first African-American drug kingpin. Matthews dominated the New York drug before other big name kingpins Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas made their impact. His reputation as a gangster soared to such a level that people called—or hailed— him “Black Caesar.”

In researching a true crime story, the most importance source a writer can use is the court records. Matthews had fled but his crew was indicted two years later and a big trial ensued. Forty witnesses testified providing great material for the story. But when I checked with the National Archives, it could not find the records. The Archives did a thorough search, but never find the records. I had one hand behind my back, so to speak, as I began researching the book.

Over the next six years, as I looked for leads, documents and photos that could help flesh out Matthews’ remarkable story, I became, like everyone who delved into his life, obsessed. I thought surely there must be at least a few clues to tell us what happened to Black Caesar. Surely someone snitched for the reward and gave the authorities a credible lead on where he might be hiding. Surely, somebody must have bragged to authorities about having inside knowledge of Matthews’ fate. Yes, it was difficult to follow the money trail in the 1970s, but surely the authorities must have a lead to some of the $15-20 million Black Caesar was believed to have stashed away before jumping bond. Surely a young woman like Cheryl Denise Brown, the women Matthews ostensibly fled with, must have gotten a little homesick and tried to reach out to her family and friends. Surely,at least one time. And surely Matthews’ fingerprints, which are on file, must have shown up someplace, somewhere, sometime.

In researching the Matthews story, I got a good idea of the problems, frustrations and challenges that the DEA and USMS officials faced. Several sources I contacted thought, for whatever reason, that I was trying to find Matthews. I would explain I was merely documenting the Matthews story for the historical record while time allowed me to get access to the information, but many sources did not Some sources did have a good reason not talk to me. One source, for instance, had been a snitch and most likely he wants to forget about the past. When I approached his house to talk to him, he was on a walker and did not look particularly healthy. As he left the house and leaned on his walker, he kept repeating the mantra, “Dead man walking, dead man walking.” I don’t know if he was referring to me, the author, or to himself, the snitch.

Another potential source whom I approached through an intermediary and who reportedly had close ties to Matthews, refused to talk to me at first. Then a couple of weeks later, the intermediary told me the man was willing to talk now. I asked the intermediary why he had changed his mind. He explained that the man had received a phone call from Frank Matthews, who was supposedly calling from Chicago. The man told Black Caesar that a reporter (me) was snooping around and wanting to ask questions about him, but that he had told the reporter through an intermediary he didn’t want to talk to According to the intermediary, Mathews told the man, “You should talk to him. It’s about time my story was told.” Matthews must have changed his mind because the man who claimed to be in contact with Matthews never did talk to me. During my research, I heard my share of strange tales about Matthews’ appearances in Durham. One is the famous story about how, a few years ago, he appeared at a funeral dressed as a woman. Some local sources said that would be just like Pee Wee, the prankster, to dress like a woman and sneak into town. Other sources said, “Nah, Pee Wee was too macho to dress up as a woman, even for a joke.”

Two sources from Durham, North Carolina, Matthews’ hometown, even assured me that Matthews had had a sex change. A couple of homeboys claimed to have drunk booze and partied with Pee Wee at some of the liquor houses that still populate Durham, although how he could do something like that without it becoming common knowledge in a small town was never explained. And as one Durham source scoffed: “These dudes who claim to be with him weren’t close to Pee Wee. You never hear his home boys claiming to be in contact with him.”

When I finished the book I had to draw the sobering conclusion that no one really knows what has happened to Matthews. My guess is we will never know. With each passing year, it becomes less and less likely that any evidence will surface that tells for certain what happened to Frank Larry Matthews. The only sure thing we can count on is that the remarkable urban legend of Black Caesar will continue to grow and that we will not see a kingpin like him again.

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And there you have it! I love reading about how authors do their work, and this must have been a really fascinating case to research. A special thank you to Ron and the folks at Partners in Crime book tours for bringing this to us!

Guest Post: Jame DiBiasio, author of Gaijin Cowgirl

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

I am getting caught up today on some things that slipped through the cracks while I was dealing with other life-stuff. Today, it’s a guest post from Jame DiBiasio, author of Gaijin Cowgirl. When the tour first came through my email, I have to admit it was the title that made me laugh and suckered me in. After that, it was the author’s shift in careers — from financial journalism to writing crime fiction. What makes someone decide to make such a drastic change? Let’s find out…

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From journalism to fiction
Jame DiBiasio

Just about every hack I know is working on a novel, furtively sweating over the next chapter on nights or weekends. Writing is a skill or a passion that often drives people to journalism. But journalism and fiction are quite distinct; in fact, they have very little in common and too much of one can upend what you’re trying to do in the other.

My bio would describe someone who has been a financial journalist since 1995 who got his first novel published in 2013. That’s not how it unspooled; I’ve been writing little stories since I was a kid, and journalism stemmed more from my interest in world affairs; being a capable and fast writer has simply made it easier to do my job.

I did, however, grok that if ‘write what you know’ was how novelists got started, then maybe journalism would provide useful experience. Well, no – and yes.

Although a small number of writers have used finance in their work – Tom Wolfe, John Updike and Robert Harris come to mind – they got there through great ideas and talent, not because they were tied to the industry. Financial journalists produce excellent non-fiction books, such as Michael Lewis or Roger Lowenstein, but fiction ain’t their forte.

And besides, I didn’t really want to write about bankers anyway. That’s what the day job’s for, right?

On the other hand, in 1997 my career took me to Hong Kong, where I’ve been ever since. Although I had no Asia experience or knowledge prior to my arrival, I’ve soaked up as much as possible, through travelling, through reading, through interacting with people. And much of that has been a by-product of my journalism gig. Being a reporter puts you in the world.

I spent a lot of 2000 and 2001 in Japan, all on business, but over those weeks developed friendships with both foreigners and Japanese that gave me a little extra insight into the place. I read like crazy, especially Japanese novels (Murakami, natch, but also Mishima, Tanizaki, Ogawa, and many more), but also books on everything from Japanese baseball to political science to business histories.

Even the business helped. I was covering pensions. BORING. But not boring, because to understand the dry stuff requires understanding the nexus between government, business, foreign interests, the media, gangsters, everything. It exposes you to local mores, ways of doing business, how people carry themselves.

Somewhere between drinking till late in Roppongi and struggling through an interview with a hangover, I learned about a foreign woman working as a hostess who had disappeared; years later it transpired she had been murdered.

That was the seed of what became Gaijin Cowgirl, and my business travel and reading – not just on Japan, but on Thailand and other places involved in my novel – was the soil.

But the water to give life to the novel was not being a journalist. It was learning how to stop being a reporter. Early drafts of the novel contained way too much description. I was trying too hard to capture a ‘you are there’ feeling. I got sidetracked down little alleyways of local knowledge that just bogged down the story. Wartime histories of both Japan and the United States play important roles in Gaijin Cowgirl, but I had to work hard at weaving them into the narrative without getting preachy or dull. I had to unlearn journalism in order to become a novelist.

The water, then, was imagination. That’s the vital ingredient that separates journalism from fiction. You can’t just rely on faithful representations of people, places and events. You have to say sayonara to all that, hold on to the essential truth of things, take a deep breath, and start over.

 

About Jame DiBiasio:

Jame DiBiasio is an award-winning financial journalist and editor. He is author of the non-fiction The Story of Angkor (published by Silkworm Books in 2013) and blogs at http://asiahacks.com. He lives in Hong Kong.

Jame on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JameDiBiasio
Jame on Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/jamedibiasio.author
Website of Crime Wave Press: 
www.crimewavepress.com