Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fantasy & Fangs: Paranormal Romance Author Susan Hanniford Crowley

Vampires are such hot property right now that this is my third vampire romance writer. Guest number fifteen is Paranormal Romance Author Susan Hanniford Crowley.

Tell us about yourself, Susan.

I am a writer and editor. Being an Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine is a passion of mine. I have also been a writing teacher for over twenty years. Currently I teach workshops from time to time at conventions. I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author and an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). I'm also a new paranormal romance author. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and recently became RWA Pro. I've written a variety of work including reviews on books and movies, political speeches, poetry, short stories, news articles, radio and television commercials, grants, brochures, and fiction and nonfiction manuscripts. I've also edited for writers in a variety of fields including academia.

Susan’s first full-length novel has just been released by Tease Publishing LLC on November 15, 2009. It’s a vampire romance, The Stormy Love Life Of Laura Cordelais.

The Stormy Love Life Of Laura Cordelais is the story of David meeting and trying to win the love of a tormented woman, Laura Cordelais. Laura possesses an extraordinary gift among supernaturals, a power that others envy and will do anything to possess. If you love vampires, you'll love Laura and David's passionate love affair and their struggle to stay together against amazing odds. Being descended from an ancient race blessed by Zeus doesn’t help Telkhine Laura Cordelais when she's desperate and standing between life and death. Her destiny looks bleak. Every choice leads to death, and there is no winning door. Or is there? Begging God for love, Vampire David Hilliard finds his request answered in the form of the tormented and dying Laura. In saving her, he falls in love and dooms them both to a dark underworld of voodoo and sorcery from which nothing can escape. For David to save her, he must kill her, and by loving her, he could lose her forever. When plunged into a dark underworld of voodoo and sorcery, will they escape? Together?

Ooh, definitely a spine-tingling romance in store for Vampirephiles! Let’s find out more about Susan.

1. Your most recent books are romance with the paranormal (i.e. vampire angle), yet you say you began with sci-fi. Is your attraction for the eternally undead just a natural progression from sci-fi to romance?
When I was growing up, in my view the writers who were always on the cutting edge were the science fiction and fantasy authors. That's what I wanted to be and I accomplished that by earning the professional sales needed for active (full professional) membership in SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc. Even though I love and wrote fantasy and some science fiction, I always loved vampire tales. When a convention asked me to speak on a panel on vampires, I began what would be 25 years of research and many panels to follow speaking about the undead. I only began writing about vampires about three years ago.

2. You began writing at age 8. What did you write and what was published at age 16?
When I was 8, I wrote about squirrels. When I was 12, I wrote a spy novel widely praised by my classmates. When I was sixteen several of my poems were published in a local paper. At the same time, I wrote a play about the Drive-In, booed by my classmates as being too real and revealing about what went on there. I also sent also sent a teenage romance novel around to all the big publishers and was rejected by form letters. I never said in my cover letter that I was 16.

3. Paranormal is very hot right now—what sets your books apart from the veritable tidal wave of vampire related themes dominating the market? I have had the pleasure of interviewing a couple of vampirephiles already on my blog and it would be nice to compare comments.
I write about the Arnhem Society, a secret society of vampires in New York City. The mission of the society is to provide a refuge for vampires and promote a civilized lifestyle, preferring bagged, bottle, or donor blood. The Arnhem Knights, their enforcement arm, defends humans from death by vampire and assists supernaturals in trouble.

I write about the vampires and their interactions with the other supernaturals in the city, especially the rare ones like Telkhines and Harmonies. Telkhines are an ancient race that used to inhabit the isle of Rhodes. They were famed for their craftsmanship with metal and the ability to control the weather. Laura Cordelais for The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais is one of their descendants. A Harmony is a human being with a very unique supernatural quality. I can't tell what it is. You'll just have to read A Vampire for Christmas. After you do, you'll be looking around and the people you know and wondering.

My books are filled with all sorts of supernaturals dwelling in the human world. Your florist could be a werewolf. The college student that just walked by could be half leprechaun/half elf. And even though my books are Manhattan-based, the adventures often include other locales. You don't know what supernatural is standing beside you on the subway.

I believe that's what makes me different. LOL

4. Tell us about your heroines.
My heroines range from the insecure like Laura Cordelais who at the beginning of her story doesn't know she's one of the most powerful supernaturals on Earth to shape shifter Lorraine who keeps forgetting to morph on her clothes much to her brother's chagrin and a certain man's delight. Lorraine is a divorced shifter in my upcoming, not yet released novella Vampire in the Basement. My heroines usually need to learn more about their abilities. Some of distrustful of men like Georgia in A Vampire for Christmas. Trevor is so tongue-tied that she thinks he's a stalker, which makes it very difficult for him to protect her from demons. Regina is just trying to get to the internship her advisor at the college set up for her and disaster strikes in When Love Survives.

5. Tell us about your heroes.
I always start with tall dark-haired David Hilliard with his dark fathomless eyes. He asked God to end his loneliness and ends up diving into the East River to save a despondent Laura Cordelais in The Stormy Love Life of Laura Cordelais. But Laura has some intense baggage which dooms their love, plunging them into an underworld fighting dark forces. David is passionate, loyal, inventive, incredibly handsome, and devoted to every inch of Laura's body and more.

Gregor is a stand-up guy, a financial advisor who looks out the coffee shop and sees the woman of his dreams. What does he do? He grabs her and pulls her in, of course. One look at this big, dark-haired, Maine sky blue eyed, bear of man would melt any woman's heart. Meet Gregor in When Love Survives.

My heroes are good-looking. Most are financially well off. Some of them are Arnhem Knights, but they have issues that range from convincing a woman whose heart has been broken by some bum that love can be real to even talking to the woman of their desire. The test of course is if they're secure enough to give love.

6. Have any classic vampire or paranormal writers influenced or inspired you (Bram Stoker/Mary Shelley/Anne Rice?)
Mary Shelley is the mother of science fiction. Her Frankenstein is brilliant. Bram Stoker's Dracula is written in the most personal style of letters. Both inspired me early on but so did fantasy's Marion Zimmer Bradley and science fiction's Ursula LeGuin and Ray Bradbury.

7. Have you a favorite vampire movie in mind when you browse the video store shelves?
The standards to beat are "Queen of the Damned" and "Lost Boys."

8. Will you ever change genres or try writing something else as a challenge—for example, a romance between two mortals?
You never know. Everything I write comes from my dreams. Right now I have several years of vampire book summaries written in my notebook, as well as books for some other supernaturals. I want to do steampunk too.

9. Gag question: How do vampires keep their love life interesting if they live for ever...
Gag answer (not really): I explore that a bit in the soon to be released Vampire in the Basement. I don't think I should give all their secrets away. You know just because a vampire lives forever doesn't make them boring. The ones that have survived this long are incredibly inventive sexually and often more sensitive emotionally. I think one thing that keeps them going is finding their life mate. This is a very hard task and a vampire might live for hundreds or thousands of years before finding that one person who makes their barely beating heart sing.

10. Do you have any upcoming events or book signings?
I will be participating in the Authors After Dark Romance Unlimited Convention in Secaucus, New Jersey, September 16-19. There's still time to register. There will be tons of fun events, panels, workshops, parties, a charity auction, and giveaways. Here's the link.
For those that are attending Authors After Dark Romance Unlimited Convention, come up to me and say “I saw you on Fiona Ingram's blog” and I will give you a small gift, while my supply lasts.

Fascinating stuff! Fangs for the interview. Susan. Vampire lovers can purchase any of the above books at this link.
Thanks for having me on your blog. It's been exciting. For more information, visit my website, my romance blog, or visit Tease Publishing.

21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services

Today’s blog post is how to market your writing services. Many an author cannot live by book sales alone, that’s why marketing one’s writing skills can bring in the extra bacon, especially if book sales are down or you’re (still) waiting to get discovered and famous. People need words: they need stories, articles, speeches, press releases, Web content, and a dozen or other forms of communication that someone (you!) with writing skills can easily provide. But how do you let people know you’re skilled and available?

I have a very interesting guest today with loads of advice to offer: Carol Tice. Carol has written freelance for more than 15 years, as a business journalist, copywriter, blogger and Web-content author. Her blog Make a Living Writing focuses on the business of freelance writing. Carol’s accolades include a "Best in Business" award from the Society of Business Writers and Editors, and multiple first-place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Besides writing, copywriting and blogging, Carol also enjoys teaching, coaching and mentoring in two separate fields. She teaches businesses and nonprofits how to get their stories into the media, and she mentors other writers and teaches them how to make a living as a freelance writer. Carol also gives free advice on the business of writing at her Make a Living Writing blog. Read on and learn more!

21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services

In my mentoring work, I often find myself introducing my mentees to a basic fact of life for freelance writers: If you want to earn more, you’re going to need to market your business aggressively. Answering Craigslist or Kijiji ads is unlikely to get you $1 a word or $100 an hour gigs. To find really good-paying work, you will have to prospect.

This often produces a reaction along the lines of, “I’m shy! I’m no good at networking.”

But there isn’t just one marketing strategy in the universe, there are many. So today I’d like to kick off a two-part post highlighting some of the multitude of ways to market yourself as a freelance writer. Today, it’s 11 different 3-D-world marketing approaches. Somewhere in here, there’s a strategy that would be a fit for who you are and the kind of writing work you want to find.

1. In-person networking. I know you don’t want to hear it. But in-person networking is not only very effective, it can actually be fun. Just think — you get out of your writing cave, have a drink and a nibble, and meet new people who could help you make more money. Unless you are catastrophically shy, I want you to try it.

Bring business cards. Walk around and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Overcome any shyness you have about plugging yourself by spending most of your time asking others why they came, what they do, and if appropriate what they’re looking for in a writer. If that description doesn’t fit you, try to recommend them someone. Networking is about learning others’ needs and helping each other succeed, not shoving yourself down other people’s throats. You don’t have to be pushy–be helpful. Personally, I have been to two in-person networking events and got great connections that led to wonderful paying clients both times.

Experiment with places to network–I’ve had good success with MediaBistro events here in Seattle, but your city may be different. I’m told the Linked:Seattle in-person events rock, too. Find your networking sweet spot and visit it as often as you can.

2. Direct mail. I’ve never tried this, but many of the top copywriters in this field develop a prospect list, and then audition by sending direct mail–makes sense, huh? One of them is Pete Savage-he sent one DM letter and got $64,000 of new business, and he sells a kit that describes how he did it. I don’t usually plug products, but if you’re interested in copywriting work, this may be worth a look. I can vouch for Pete–he’s the real deal. I can give you one tip I’ve gleaned from Pete’s newsletters–I gather he advocates including a bumpy novelty item in the envelope. Makes it irresistible to recipient…apparently they feel compelled to open it to learn what’s making the bump.

3. Cold calling. That’s right–just pick up the phone, call a company you’d like to do copywriting for, and ask for the communications or marketing manager. Or call the editor of a publication you’d like to write for. Ask them if they use freelance writers. Be ready to pitch your ideas for stories to editors, or your copywriting services to companies. Many will say no, but persistence can really pay off here. Everyone who tries it reports they get new accounts, and that every 10 or 20 calls, they get a “yes.” Give yourself an edge and check out their existing Web site or other materials before you can call, so you can point out specific weaknesses in their current marketing and describe how the materials you’d create would bring address their needs and bring in new customers.

4. White papers. Create a white paper about the value of your copywriting service, demonstrating the benefits to companies that use you. Much like the direct mail strategy, this one’s especially great if you want to write white papers for companies. If you haven’t written white papers, you should learn about them because they’re the hottest sales tool in copywriting right now, and they pay very well. Michael Stelzner’s your expert here, and he has a free training on this topic you can read online.

5. Free or paid seminars. They can be in-person, over the Web, over the phone, you name it. But holding a class in a topic such as “How copywriting can help your business” can put you in touch with many good prospects in one fell swoop. Some like charging a little for the class as you screen out looky-loos and get more qualified, highly interested leads who are more likely to become clients.

6. Free downloads. Create a helpful article with advice or tips on how to communicate your business’s value or some other related topic, which ultimately leads to a conclusion that hiring a professional writer will help your business. Put it on your Web site as a free download in exchange for which you capture their email address. Presto, you’re building a great marketing list and exposing your name to prospective clients while presenting yourself as an expert. (OK, this tip involves a computer…but it’s not social media, so here it is in the 3-D list.)

7. T-shirts and car decals. That’s right, think of yourself like any bike shop or car wash would, and promote the fact that you’re a freelance writer everywhere you go!

8. Contests and polls. Hold a contest for the worst business Web site and give the winner free home-page content, or write their bio page, or whatever you want to offer. Or take a poll on the most important thing to say on a business Web site, and give the winner a free consultation. Entrants will, of course, have to submit their contact information, giving you an instant list of companies that need copywriters. This one doesn’t just get you prospects and a great before-and-after sample, you could tell the local papers and get written up, too.

9. Charity donations. Doesn’t your kids’ school have an annual auction? Donate an article for a business, or a free brochure. Great way to let the whole town know you’re a writer.

10. Put out a press release. Have you expanded into a new field? Hired a virtual assistant? Moved your office? Many local papers have business columns that publish these news tidbits, along with your photo in some cases. If not your local paper, try your Chamber newsletter (you belong, right?).

11. Partner or reciprocal deals. Do you know a business whose products or services you use, who could use Web content? Make them a barter deal–you do their site over in exchange for free stuff, including a free plug on their home page that you wrote the content.

Yes, I know I only listed 11 tips here. Follow this link for the final 10 marketing tips in 21 Ways to Market Your Writing Services: The Social Media Edition.

The good part about this advice is that when people get to know about you and your writing skills, they also get to know about your books. You can connect with Carol on her Make a Living Writing blog, or her website for more fantastic tips. Don't forget to subscribe to her great and informative blog ... I just did!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Passion for Writing: Author Tasha Wright

Say hello to my VBT guest number 14, Tasha Wright. Her passion for writing began at an early age and drives her ever onward to create and publish more books. Tell us about yourself and your work, Tasha.

I was born in a small Texas town, so I had to find creative ways to occupy my time. At a young age I discovered my passion for writing. I have always embodied what my mother preached, anything in life is possible! In holding on to her words I’ve had the chance to publish my work, Carelessness of the Heart and When a Tattered Past Catches You, with many more to come. I write to allow people to drift into another world, if only for a moment.

Tasha’s latest book sounds interesting. Here’s more on it!

Tough willed, strong as nails Willa will do whatever it takes to provide for her family even if that meant putting her life in danger or on hold. Living the street life meant not allowing anything or anyone to get close enough to hurt or destroy her. But, after the death of her mother she is forced to return home and confront a past she tried to erase from her memory. As Willa confronts a tragic past she also has to confront something else, her long lost love, Damon. Living the street life and becoming the head woman in charge was something Willa did with ease but there was always something or someone missing in her life. Will Willa let down her guard and allow Damon back into her life again or will she continue to live the street life?

Q&A with Tasha Wright.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
That is a funny story. When I was 16, I turned into a drama queen. My mother grew tired of me having meltdowns and fabricating things. So, she bought me a computer and made me sit down and write. From that day on, anytime I would come out of my room and start an argument with my brothers, she would simply tell me to turn around and go write something. Lol, I’ve never stopped writing. As I touched on earlier, my mother really allowed me to be creative and she would read the things I wrote. Writing was the one thing I set for my life goal and I am doing it. I live on cloud nine each passing day.

How long does it take you to write a book?
If I dedicate the time needed to write, I can write a book and determine where I am going with it in about six months. Now, to get it exactly where I want it to be I would complete it totally in eight to nine months. But, I also write at least two or three books at one time.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Well, I am not a New York Best Seller YET. I still work full time and I am also a full time College student.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I would say my humor. When I write, somewhere in my work I want my sense of humor to shine through. I would like to believe I’m quite the character.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
When I write, I do not brainstorm and chose one certain thing I would like to write about. When I write, I take the first sentence and let it flow. By the end of the chapter I will see where I want to take it or scrap it. Remember, if you write bored and it bores you. Either fix it or get rid of the entire thing.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wasn’t intending to write my first book. It was just a short story I had written because I was a bored housewife. My sister-in-law read what I was writing and she became excited and told me she had to read more. So, I gave her more and it keep going until I noticed I was about to complete an entire book.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I am not writing, I love to just relax and sit at home. Now, that I have accomplished my goal of publishing I have so much on my plate. So, when I am home and I do not have any commitments that would be my relaxation time.

What does your family think of your writing?
My family is very supportive and they are my biggest promotion. I love that my family is excited for me. They make me feel like I am already that bestseller I strive to be. When I call home, there is always that excitement and love. There is nothing that could beat it!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The most surprising things would be my imagination. My books are very different and they all hit a different aspect of life. I feel that is what will keep my readers intrigued on what I will write next.

Do you have any suggestions to help other authors become better writers? If so, what are they?
Learn the basic structures and grammar. I thought I had it down until I signed with Passionate Writers. They were hard on me but I also learned a great deal. They understand a character will have their own way of speaking but when it comes to my writing and my narration, I have to be on point or I will have to fix it. But, they only work with quality work and that will help both the writer and the publishing company in the end. Your readers deserve quality work.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do hear from people who have read my work and the majority always say they enjoy not knowing what is going to happen next. Every time they thought they had me figured out, I took a different route.

Do you like to create books for adults?
I do have adult scenes but I have not written a book that is designed specifically for adults only. Maybe one day I will create a hot steamy romance but that is a very particular craft and has to be written well to evoke passion and feelings in your readers.

What do you think makes a good story?
Life makes a great story. Many things that occur in relationships and daily life can be pushed to the limit to create something so huge and will always keep readers intrigued. Your readers will say, “I know someone who’s going through this right now. This is such a coincidence.”

Thanks for sharing so much information with us, Tasha. Readers can visit Tasha's author site and purchase her latest book from Amazon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Real Secret to Twitter

When I began marketing my book, I knew nothing. I always say I knew nothing and I don’t think anyone believes me, but truly I had no idea where to begin telling people about myself or my book. I happened upon one of Penny C. Sansevieri’s newsletters by accident and have been following her articles, Tweets, podcasts, and newsletters ever since. Penny is a book marketing expert. She has such an excellent grasp of the publishing industry that her advice and information are a boon to any author, either of fiction or non-fiction. Today I’d like to share her advice on using Twitter effectively. Actually, when I first created my Twitter account I had no idea what I would Tweet about. Talk about being terrified … I was Twerrified. If you’ve ever felt that way, or still feel that way, stop panicking. Advice to follow as Penny shares the real secret to Twitter!

If you've ever been impressed by the number of followers someone has on Twitter, I have a newsflash for you: it doesn't matter. The thing is, you can buy followers (no, I'm not kidding) sort of like buying mailing lists. How effective is buying followers? Well, let me ask you: How effective was the last mailing list you bought? Whatever your answer is I can guarantee you that buying Twitter followers will be far less effective. Why? Because social media does not favor automation, it favors engagement, interaction, and yes, being social.

You might be interested in knowing someone's Twitter-reach or you might be trying to determine if your campaign is effective. Here are some key things to look at when measuring anyone's Twitter-success:

1) How active is the person on Twitter?

2) How relevant to their market are their updates? For example did a mystery author just tell you she's washing her cat?

3) How much do they broadcast vs. communicate?

4) How often are they retweeted?

5) How many Twitter lists are they on?

One of the best ways to determine if your Twitter campaign is effective—or someone else's—is by gauging how often they are retweeted. Retweeting is an important factor in Twitter, possibly the most significant means to determine an effective Twitter person from an ineffective one. In fact, Twitter popularity lists aren't based on the amount of followers but rather on the amount of activity in a campaign. When I recently pulled up a list of the top 10 Twitter-ers in Southern California, I found that many in the top 10 didn't even break 10,000 followers.

How can you determine how active an account is? There are a few services that you might want to look into. The first is Retweet Rank. This service shows you (by user) how much someone has been retweeted as well as their most popular retweeted posts.

Twitter Analyzer is another great tool for determining how far tweets have traveled. You can isolate a user or a particular Twitter-stream. Very useful site!

How can you increase your tweet-ability? Here are a few tips to help you grow your Twitter campaign:

1) Know what your followers want: the first piece sounds simple but could take you the most amount of time. Candidly, it took me three months to finally get a handle on what my followers wanted and what seemed to rank high on the retweeting scale. If you don't know what your followers want, try following popular people in your market and see what they are posting about. Use this as a guideline to help you dig deeper into what your market wants.

2) Share useful advice: now that you've determined what your followers want to see on Twitter, make sure the information you are sharing is helpful. I know this sounds like an oxymoron. If you've determined what your followers want of course what you tweet on will be helpful, right? Wrong. Ask yourself what they need, not what you think they want. There is a big difference.

3) Don't overtweet: OK, full confession, I've been guilty of this from time to time but now I've found a good balance of between 4 and 5 posts a day. This may be a metric that works for you, but you'll need to determine that on your own. How do you know? If people start unfollowing you the reason may because you are overtweeting.

4) Balance broadcasting with communicating: this is a biggie for many of us. It's important to use any social media tool like a telephone. You would never call someone and just blast them with information, right? You'll give them something, wait for a response and then respond to their question and so a discussion ensues. Use social media as you would a telephone: communicate, don't broadcast.

5) Comment on current events that relate to your industry: becoming the go-to person for everything related to your industry is what most of us aspire to. Keeping apprised of what's going on in your industry is important and then, sharing the highlights or most significant items with your followers will go a long way toward growing your popularity.

6) Recommend helpful resources: much like current events, you want to offer helpful resources to your followers. This might not be appropriate to every market, but for the majority of us this works very well. Again, the more you can become a resource the more you will grow your popularity on Twitter or, for that matter, any social media site.

Many people hop on to Twitter thinking it's a numbers game when it really isn't. You can have a Twitter-tribe of millions and not gain the same kind of social media success that you would with only 1,000 followers. The wisdom of the crowd knows that it's not always the size of the audience that matters but how engaged they are in you and your message. Find the balance that works for. You'll be glad you did.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. Visit Penny's Author Marketing Expert site for loads more articles and tips on book marketing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Master of the Macabre: Author David Fingerman

If you’re like me, you have to watch horror movies or read spooky books during the day. So guess what? I have as my 13th guest on the VBT, a master of macabre writing, David Fingerman. Do you think it’s mere coincidence that he is my thirteenth guest, as opposed to being another number guest? Maybe there’s something in this. (Shiver!) I mean, David scored Edgar Allen Poe as his crazy writer in a recent quiz…. David Fingerman, a master of the unforeseen and unpredictable, will take you on a number of seemingly ordinary journeys and then smoothly veer off course, surprising you with twists and turns that propel you toward destinations that are not only unexpected, but often terrifying.

Let’s have a look at David’s collection of shiveringly scary short stories.

Get ready to expect the unexpected when you read this collection of chilling short stories. The short stories of Edging Past Reality will take you to the precipice of reason and then push you over the edge. If you think you can always believe your eyes, and you're sure that what you believe is true, it's time to check your certainties at the door ... and start Edging Past Reality. In this collection of short stories, as you're warned in the introduction, ''the most common and familiar elements of life ... explode into a circus of horror.'' Imagine an inviting, lush meadow that turns shockingly deadly. A mirror that holds more than mere reflections. A trial where your life hangs by a call-in vote.

More about David:
You worked in the court system for 20+ years. Your experiences in the justice system have certainly given you lots of food for thought and many themes I am sure. Do you think that your work there influenced your choice of genre (horror, macabre/human condition etc) or is this something you just enjoy as a theme?
I've had a love of horror and the macabre long before I started working for the justice system. When I was young, my parents had a TV in their bedroom. After they sent me to bed, they'd go back downstairs and I'd sneak into their room and watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents, or The Twilight Zone, or Outer Limits depending on the night. So, as for my choice of genre, the courts had no bearing. That being said, my years working there has given me more fodder for ideas, plots, human behavior, etc. than I'll ever be able to write in this lifetime. I feel I've gotten to see the best and worst humanity has to offer. And what great stories that can create.

Apart from Alfred Hitchcock, what writers have influenced or inspired you?
Again, reverting back to childhood—I was an avid reader. The Hardy Boys were my favorites. As I got older I drifted more towards science fiction (which included speculative fiction). I couldn't read enough of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury (there were many others, but those were the top three. Then I went to college, and pfffftttt! I had no desire to read anymore until a couple years after I graduated when I saw a copy of Pet Sematary by Stephen King. He was my new fave until a friend of mine loaned me a book of short stories called Shatterday by Harlan Ellison. I really enjoy reading short stories and that book showed me there was a solid market for it. I've always loved to write, but it was mostly as something to do when I was bored. Reading Shatterday planted the seed of me wanting to become a serious writer.

Your first book, Edging Past Reality, is a collection of short stories. Now you have moved on to novels. What made you decide to write novels, and what was the experience like for you? Easy/hard/killing?
For me, novels are much harder to write than short stories but also more rewarding. (I'm still amazed when chatting with some authors that they find novels much easier to write.) One thing I love about writing short stories is that by the time I get sick of ever looking at it again, I'm done. During the editing and rewriting phase of the novels, I had to put them away for a while. I couldn't read a passage without hating the whole thing. Although I still write short stories, moving to novels was a natural progression. Like Stephen King's novels, my short stories were getting longer and longer anyway. My first inclination for Silent Kill (soon to be released) was a short story, possibly a novella. Once I got started I knew there was no way I could do justice to it as a short piece of work. Once that decision was made, the floodgates opened and that possible short story finished at 95,000 words.

Your Desert Island books, or what you read for pleasure?
On a desert island? Um, now I'm thinking Gilligan's Island and making an air conditioner out of coconuts—but you didn't say stranded, so never mind. Ahem, sorry. Pretty much anything by Harlan Ellison. I still have a couple books left in Stephen King's Tower series that I haven't read yet. I love horror, suspense, mystery, and occasionally I'll be in the mood for history and biography. If it's fast moving and lets me escape from reality, I'll probably enjoy it. There are also a number of authors I've met on this tour whose books sound fascinating and are now on my list.

Are you afraid (very afraid...) when you read your own scary novels late at night?
LOL. Yes, but in a little bit different context—when I'm reading something really sick and twisted and thinking, what disgusting and disturbed mind ever thought that up? Oh yeah, it was me. That's kinda scary.

Your favorite short story from your own collection—can you give me a paragraph?
Oohhhh, tough one. My favorites change with my mood. Okay, here's a short passage from "Marty's Toy" found in Edging Past Reality.

“Marty's bedroom stood right above the kitchen, but from the second floor he was able to see a small section of the vacant lot. Through the weeds, acting like a cloak, two blazing orange eyes stared back from the corner of the lot. Sparkling in the night, teeth shone like stars.”

Readers with nerves of steel who would like to win a copy simply post a comment. Visit David at his author site for more detail on purchase links and release dates for his next two novels.

Friday, June 18, 2010

So You Want to Write a Book? 10 Tips for New & Aspiring Writers

I love tips and advice. Of course, given the plethora of articles around, many writers have possibly read the advice a number of times. Hmmmm, how come we never seem to take it? Just think how rich and successful we’d be if we had… When I tumbled into the world of book publishing I knew absolutely nothing. No, really, I knew absolutely nothing. It’s embarrassing how naïve I was. I thought you just wrote a book and someone else would do all the hard work. Ha ha ha!

Lists of things to do are great. Writers often need lists to keep their heads in the right place. Sometimes we often use these lists as a means to avoid actually churning out the required number of words a day. But this is the kind of list you need as a writer. If you found my previous blog link about 50 Tips for Writers a trifle daunting, then this one's for you.

Here’s a fantastic list of 10 Top Tips by Nancy Ancowitz especially for writers who (like me used to) think that all you have to do is write a book and magically someone else does the rest of the hard work!

So You Want to Write a Book? - Excerpts from a blog on by Nancy Ancowitz

My advice: 10 tips for new and aspiring authors

1. Purpose. Get clear about why you want to write a book versus an article or something else. Is it to reach more people, build your personal brand, and hit the jackpot on the New York Times' Best Sellers list?

2. Money. Determine how you'll juggle making a living while writing your book. Will you save up plenty of money, go on sabbatical, work part-time--or work full time while writing your manuscript at night and just take catnaps while standing in elevators?

3. Self-publishing versus conventional publishing. Weigh the pros and cons of self-publishing and e-book publishing versus conventional publishing. If you decide to go the conventional route, find a literary agent who is passionate about your book idea. She will "shop" your manuscript around at publishing houses and help negotiate the best terms for you. For a list of agents, check out the Association of Authors' Representatives; also ask published authors for their recommendations.

4. Branding. Start building your brand long before your book is published by writing, speaking, using social media tools, organizing and/or joining special interest groups, and spreading the word through your network.

5. Product. Consider whether you want to offer a product or service in connection with your book. If so, set the wheels in motion now so that when your book comes out, you'll have more to offer your readers.

6. Public speaking. If you're not already comfortable with public speaking, which is an important skill for an author, take a course, hire a coach, join Toastmasters International, and get some practice, even at small, approachable venues. Down the road, closer to the time of your book launch, also consider investing in press training to buff up your skills at answering questions on the spot for media interviews.

7. Published authors. Meet them. Buy their books and review them on Amazon. Gain from their insights. Build relationships with them and ask for their advice about your book.

8. Publicity. Save up now to hire a publicist, but don't rely on him to do all the work. You're the engine; start building relationships with journalists and organizations where you can speak that are interested in your topic.

9. Information for authors. Read books, magazines, blogs, social networking sites, and other resources to become an informed author. Check these out: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published by Sheree Bykofsky (whose literary agency represents me), Jennifer Basye Sander; Poets & Writers magazine and (of course Jerry D. Simmons web site).

10. Support. Get the support you need to write your book. Join or form a group of other authors, turn to a mentor, hire a coach, start a Meetup or Tweetup, and read, comment, and post questions to authors' blogs. You'll benefit from having a community of authors and can learn a lot from one another.

There you have it, writers! With so much advice, you cannot go wrong.

Excerpt taken from Jerry D. Simmons newsletter and web site All written material Copyright 2010 Jerry D. Simmons. Readers can access additional information free at his web site - the SOURCE FOR INFORMATION ON PUBLISHING for WRITERS and AUTHORS where we take pride in Preparing Writers for Success.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A New Kind of Eden with Author Louise Wise

Say hello to Louise Wise who hails from Northampton, United Kingdom. Louise is guest number 12 on my Virtual Book Tour.

Louise, tell us a bit about yourself: I am the author of Eden, my first published novel. It's a sci-fi romance—Beauty and the Beast for grownups. My second novel, A Proper Charlie, is going through its paces with my editor, and I'm busily working on my third, which I haven't named at the moment. I have written many short stories for People's Friend, Best, Take a Break etc and enjoy entering short story competitions where I can. I am a mum of four boys, happily married to Dave and live in damp England.

JOURNEY TO THE PAST... A tale of romance and survival as three people travel from 2236 to the beginning of time. Jennifer Daykin joins the three-man crew to explore the newly discovered planet, Eden. All was going well until Jenny found herself deserted...She listened for an answering shout - there was nothing. In the distance, Jenny was transfixed with horror as the space shuttle rose into the blue sky of Eden. 'No...Don't leave me here!' Only the pounding of her heart answered her...but not alone The instant she hit the floor she curled into the foetal position. Finally, the bare feet walked away. A Native American warrior, had been her first thought, but it was his eyes that had alerted her he wasn't an Indian or even human. They were completely black; black, dry orbs in a battered face. Ordinary people with ordinary emotions, fears and insecurities. Only this isn't Earth, and he isn't human. A modern day Adam and Eve.

It sounds fantastic! What inspired you to write Eden?
I had a dream, cliché, I know. I was stranded on the moon as my fellow travelers left me (I think I was Buzz Aldrin in the dream), such an odd dream and it stuck with me. I “romanced” it and turned the moon into a habitual planet, added an alien and crazy co-travelers. I started writing it about six or seven years ago, but the manuscript has been in my bottom drawer for several years.

How did you find the publisher?
I received many rejections, which stated that the novel was just too original for the current market. An agent took it on but failed to find a publisher for it. This urged me into believing in the novel and myself as a writer. Again, I put the manuscript away and concentrated on other things. Then I heard about (a review website) and uploaded Eden to the site. It received brilliant reviews, and then YWO offered a fantastic publishing deal I just couldn’t say no to, and it went from there.

Your second novel, A Proper Charlie, can you tell us a bit about it?
This is a chick lit. I loved writing sci-fi/romance with Eden but it’s almost impossible to find a publisher for cross-over genres. I like comedy (there’s a bit of comedy in Eden), and really love reading chick lit myself and so I thought I’d give it a bash. I think I’ve found my niche.

Now that you have one novel under your belt, was the second easier to write? Did you make the same mistakes?
Because I took my time with Eden it seemed easy to write. Charlie (I’m editing it now) has taken 18 months, and it seems harder. It’s frustrating because chick lit is something people think is easy, almost badly written, but jokes have to be strategically placed, people have to be realistic yet still be “characters” and there has to be a plot. I made mistakes with Eden, and hopefully I haven’t repeated them with Charlie.

How do you juggle a writing schedule with a husband, four boys, and the English weather?
I write when the kids are at school and after my housewifey jobs, and again at night when they are in bed. The weather doesn’t bother me—I don’t like the heat so I’m suffering at the moment because it’s hot here. Love it cold and the sound of rain—guess I’m in the right country! I don’t think my husband understands my need to write. He’s proud of Eden, but thinks a book is something you “knock up” in between supermarket shopping and collecting the kids from school. It’s frustrating when I’m trying to concentrate and he keeps coming over to me to talk, then he gets all hurt when I’m snappy! Men!

What do you look for in a novel when reading for pleasure? Your Desert Island books? I'll let you choose three.
1) False Memory by Dean Koontz has stayed in my mind. It was really interesting, but as with all his books, they end a bit too abruptly.
2) Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella which is a chick lit but was sort of a cross-over to a ghost story. I thought it was very well written, and the author really knew her 1920s!
3) A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson, another chick lit. This had a multi viewpoint, and as writers we’re always told to avoid that, so it was interesting for that aspect. It had a good storyline and a nice “feel good” feel to it.

Who has/does inspire you with their writing? Anyone you've learned a lot from by reading their works?
I suppose Dean Koontz has inspired me the most. Even though he’s a thriller/horror writer and I’m a comedy/romance I love the way his novels are fast paced and hope that I have imposed some of that tension in my books. When I was a child I read a lot of Enid Blyton, and in hindsight now, think maybe the trigger for writing was then.

What made you decide to become a writer instead of a world-famous, filthy rich tennis player or a reality show star?
I think being famous would freak me out. I wouldn’t turn down filthy rich though. I generally think writers are born. Then they either hone their craft or fail.

What's the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best is for me is meeting other writers and be able to talk about my passion and them understanding. I used to write before the Internet on a little battered Amstrad and thought I was the only writer in the world struggling.

The worse is editing or rewriting when you thought you’d finished! You send it off to the editor, and get on with something new. But then it comes back with this, this and this that needs to be changed and you don’t want to do it because your mind is full of new characters and plots.

Do you eat chocolate to break writer's block or do you eat chocolate anyway?
I love chocolate, especially Cadbury, but I’m on a diet at the moment. Have you heard of the Ducan Diet? It’s a carb free diet and unfortunately chocolate is full of carbs. I’m excited though, I found a website that sells low carb chocolate (probably tastes disgusting!), and I’ve ordered a box! I shall stay in that day when it arrives.

If you'd like to read more about Louise and her books, please visit her blog. You can purchase her fascinating debut novel Eden on Amazon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

50 simple rules for making it as a writer - The Writer Magazine

50 simple rules for making it as a writer - The Writer Magazine

Yes, we've all read all the rules and tips on the art and craft of writing, getting an agent, dealing with rejection, marketing, persevering etc. But here is one of the best and simplest list of tips by Harvey Rachlin to help any writer, aspiring or established, get on track and stay there. Often we become distracted, confused by advice on what to do, how to do it, and other angles we feel might be worthwhile. A lot of time can be wasted chasing the wrong rainbows, hoping they will turn into great leads (or pots of gold!).

There are a number of tips I have read before, but I hadn't given much thought to them. An example is the possiblity of foreign rights.

Tip #15. Write books with international appeal. Foreign publishers buy books they believe will be of particular interest to their countries’ readers, so keep that in mind when planning or writing your book. (Harvey Rachlin)

Is your thriller/romance/mystery/adventure set in a foreign country or an exotic location? Does your story have an interesting French/Italian/other culture flavor? An overseas publisher might just open the right door for your work.

This is just one tip that sparked my interest.

As for the rest? This is a list I shall print out and stick on my wall!

Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of a dozen books. His most recent book, Scandals, Vandals and da Vincis (Penguin), was published in June 2010 in Poland, following other foreign editions in Korea, Spain and the U.K.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Rhythm of Life, Music and Poetry with Mary Muhammad

Please welcome guest number eleven on the Virtual Book Tour. My special visitor today is author and poetess Mary Muhammad who has written books of poetry and two children's books.

Poetry and children’s books are an interesting combination. I’ve asked Mary to tell us in her own words where her inspiration comes from, and what her aims and goals are in sharing her emotions and messages with readers.

Mary on Poetry
My love for poetry stems from two areas in my life—jazz music and recitation. Music, just like life, is poetry in a rhythmic form. When you are a lover of words, and someone recites to you words that capture rhythm, you automatically form your own rhythm, your own song so to speak, and this is how poetry became my love of expression. I'm inspired by children and life in general when it comes to poetry. Everything has its own rhythm and song; this opens a whole world to me when it comes to writing. The process is awkward for me, I guess, because the majority of my writing has to have a title in order to be; it's not easy for me to just write without a face to what I'm writing, and the title is a face for me. As my writing matured, my biggest influences came from a totally different era than today. It came from the early writers who seem to draw on the real issues of life, the deep intimacies of the early century. I was fascinated with this form of expression, the dialogue and many fashions of it. I just love reading it. Jazz is my second love of expression because of the diversity. I enjoy the instruments and how each of them voices their own sound while being just as important as the next in a piece. Yet without each one, the whole sound changes in a particular song. Jazz has melody, it's the real music expression for me, it's like body language without a lot of hoop and holler.

Mary on Writing for Children
My love for children comes from my upbringing. I came from a very large family and children were everywhere you turned. With six sisters and four brothers came many nieces and nephews, many of whom I baby sat, so my love of children has always been there. When I first started to hear and read of children being abused, I just couldn't fathom the reasoning; it just didn't make sense to me. I mean here you have an innocent being, and you have this happen to them! Every parent has the right to protect their children and should be an advocate for their protection. When seeing and hearing all this negative activity with small and older children, I couldn't sit still, I hoped with God blessing me to write, I could be an advocate for the children. I hoped I could be the voice they hold quiet, and bring awareness to this awful act. I pray more parents and family members will become more active on children’s behalf and learn of the seven steps to help protect the children. They need to know how serious and life changing this issue is for the children. They need to love them enough to stop and pay attention to changing behavior, because it changes their lives forever. They see life and people totally different than most. I don't know for sure if my message is working, but I pray it will save a child's life, at least one each day. If I can do that by making this as open as I can, my heart is happy, a child is happy, a child is safe. People don't have to take my word for it; they can go straight to the mouth of the predator committing the acts. They can hear it from them by visiting my website and going to the media room, where they are speaking about this, where they themselves warn the parents about what, how, when, where and why they do these things. How much more warning and proof do parents need to help protect the children? It's because of this activity Hugs and Kisses was written.

Mary’s Motto; "The love we say we have for another becomes a fallacy the moment judgment enters in."

Please visit Mary's blog post and jazz and poetry connections for more details and book purchase details.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Escape to An Enchanted World with author Danika Dinsmore

No, there's no mistake. Please follow the link below to my great interview with Danika Dinsmore, author of Brigitta of the White Forest. Danika is an award-winning writer, spoken word artist, and educator. Danika has been working with children of all ages for 18 years. Faerie Tales from the White Forest is her first novel series. Brigitta of the White Forest is Book One of Faerie Tales from the White Forest.

Danika grew up in Northern California. She earned her MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (founded by Allen Ginsberg). Her early writing career was built on experimental poetry and collaborative spoken word performances. While living in Seattle, she organized and performed with the 12-person Word Orchestra as well as the performance group FourWord FourTete. Her inspired performances earned her the Washington Poets Association award for Performance Poetry. After moving to British Columbia she turned her attention to film, television, and new media. She has worked as an artist-in-the-schools and media literacy educator for Learning Through the Arts and has taught screenwriting courses in the Writing Department at Vancouver Film School and at Capilano University. She blogs about her multi-disciplined writing life as The Accidental Novelist. She currently lives with her husband and their spoiled cat in Vancouver.

My good friend Shelly  Burns is away for a day and asked me to fill in the gap in her blog schedule. So please hop over to Write for a Reader and browse this fascinating article. Plus you can get to know Shelly as well!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Art of Murder (Writing)

I love murder! I should qualify that statement by saying I love a good mystery and if it includes a dead body or two in the library, so much the better! From Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canny detective to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, to Midsomer Murder’s Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, to the slew of murder and mystery thriller writers on the shelves today, each writer has something fascinating to offer in the way of (dare I say that word again?) murder. But how about the authors of murderous writing? Do they all write the same? Are all murder mysteries the same? No, there are rules and shades of differentiation. Here’s the opinion of an expert who is my guest today. Please welcome Shelia Lowe, author of the Claudia Rose Forensic Handwriting series. Her titles are compelling, just demanding to be read: Poison Pen, Written in Blood, Dead Write, and Last Writes.

What makes Sheila an expert is her more than 35 years experience in the field of handwriting. The author of Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis, her analyses of celebrity handwritings have appeared in Time, Teen People, and Mademoiselle. Her articles on Personality Profiling and Handwriting Analysis for the Attorney have been published in several bar association magazines. Her expertise in forensic graphology makes her the perfect author for her Forensic Handwriting series.

I was fascinated to find that Forensic Graphology is the study of handwriting especially that found in ransom notes, poison pen letters or blackmail demands. Although this is a recognised and called upon scientific technique Forensic Graphology cannot tell a person's age or sex from the handwriting. What it can do however is give indications as to the person's state of mind at the time of producing a particular document, be it a blackmail letter, a poison pen letter or a suicide note. In addition, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they write—or more importantly—in the words they write. It has become commonplace now for us as individuals to write in the same manner as we speak, using abbreviations, slang and colloquialisms that vary from person to person and indeed place to place. These are important and a Graphologist can make good use of these things during the investigative process. So the next time you’re writing that blackmail note… be afraid … be very afraid!

Let’s hear it from Shelia Lowe about The Art of Murder (Writing)

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? With six of the top ten hardcover fiction books on the New York Times bestseller list in the mystery/crime genre, clearly, many readers do. And since my own mystery series has been published over the past four years, I’ve learned that a very large number of people are interested in getting their own mysteries published, too.

I’ve heard it said that there are three rules in mystery writing...but nobody knows what they dum bum. Seriously, all fiction requires plotting, characterization, setting, dialogue, and point of view, but the mystery genre has some other special stuff of its own. But before you even get to those things, you’ll need to know what subgenre you are writing. Subgenre affects who your audience—your all-important market is going to be. The subgenres include soft-boiled cozy (traditional) mysteries, medium-boiled psychological suspense, and hard-boiled gritty noir, police procedurals, thrillers. Who knew it could get so complicated?

In cozy mysteries there is little or no on-scene violence, bad language or, heaven forbid s-e-x. Cozies feature an amateur sleuth who is an ordinary person, such as Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote, or Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. The sleuth knows the people who are involved in the mystery and the story is typically set in a village or a small community where there is a limited pool of suspects. There’s generally a puzzle that has to be solved in order to get the bad guy or gal, which is why cozies are sometimes known as “locked room mysteries.” For example, how did the killer do his deadly deed when the door to the room where the body is found is locked from the inside and there are no other exits?

Police procedurals have a protagonist who works in law enforcement, usually a police detective, such as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. The detective follows police procedures (or doesn’t, and gets his butt kicked by his superiors as a result), and often has personal problems to deal with, such as alcohol or drug abuse, several troublesome ex-spouses, and run-ins with authority figures in the department.

Thrillers are fast-paced, action-oriented, and tend to be more graphically violent. Think Jason Bourne. The reader may know from the outset who the bad guy is—a spy or terrorist, perhaps—and we might see him plotting some horrible crime that is going to affect an entire population. The larger scale plot is the polar opposite from the setting of the cozy.

In stories of psychological suspense, character is emphasized more than plot. Thus, there may be less physical action, but a closer focus on who the various characters are and their reasons for doing what they do. My own Forensic Handwriting Series falls into this subgenre. My protagonist, Claudia Rose, is drawn into each plot through her clients. She doesn’t solve crimes with handwriting analysis, but she does learn about the motivations of the various people who populate the stories.

Once you’ve figured out your subgenre, you’ll have to figure out the crime, the precipitating event. Then, there are the subplots, the suspects, and the red herrings you’ll plant, making sure there is tension on every page. But those are subjects for another blog.

I will certainly be featuring Sheila again to learn more about those subgenres! Thanks for sharing those words of wisdom with us. Interested readers can visit Sheila’s site, and find the Amazon links to her books.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Review: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession by David Grann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspired by a review on Galleycat, and being a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes, I purchased this book with eager anticipation. I have mixed feelings about it because I really did want more of Sherlock Homes. Only the first story deals with the famous detective, but I already knew that from the review I'd read. However, the book is riveting adventure reading. An acclaimed New Yorker staff writer, David Grann does not disappoint when it comes to giving the reader electrifying reading material. This is a magnificent collection of spellbinding true stories about murder, madness, and the kind of obsession that grips the human psyche. Sherlock Holmes once said that "life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent." David Grann leads the investigation in a true spirit of discovery as he sets out to solve a dozen real-life mysteries. The stories are unforgettable, as are the true characters that populate them. Entertaining and compelling!

View all my reviews >>

Book Review: the Lost Ark of the Covenant

Lost Ark of the Covenant Lost Ark of the Covenant by Tudor Parfitt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tudor Parfitt's epic twenty-year quest for the lost Ark of the Covenant is a real page-turner! According to the Bible, the Ark contained the Ten Commandments given to Moses and possessed a divine, awesome power. It was used by the ancient Israelites in battle and, by Bible accounts, had the devastating powers of a modern-day weapon of mass destruction. Regarded as the holiest object in the world by the Jewish and Islamic faiths, the Ark suddenly disappeared from Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem over 2,500 years ago and was, apparently, lost forever. The author embarked on a long, arduous, and often dangerous journey in what became an obsessive quest to track down the truth behind this fabled artefact and discover its whereabout today.

I read Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, which claimed to have located the Ark in Ethiopia, it having been taken there by Menelik, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. So, it was with renewed interest that I tackled Mr. Parfitt's account of the link between the holy drum, or ngoma, of the Lemba tribe in Zimbabwe and the Ark. Tudor Parfitt's journey takes him on a trail of ancient documents and codes from Oxford, to Jerusalem, to Africa, and even to Papua, New Guinea. It encompasses not only his obsession with the Ark, but also the dreams and ambitions of friends, helpers, and other interested parties.

The author also takes the reader on some astonishing side paths - the discovery that the DNA of the Lemba, an African tribe, links them directly to the Jews of the Middle East and specifically to the priestly tribe that would have been the guardians of the Ark; the vision that they have of their lost city Senna, and their wish to be recognized. In addition, the strange link that the Gogodala tribesmen of Papua, New Guinea have with Judaism and Israel is also fascinating and makes for one of the funniest travel accounts I have ever read, putting me in mind of Gerald Durrell. That section alone is well worth the book because one feels 'in the author's shoes' (covered with Shoosnake) so to speak!

I enjoyed the author's theory that there were multiple arks, for multiple reasons. Dealing with ancient, biblical, and tribal history is difficult. Oral traditions become twisted as ancient authors sought to portray their particular traditions or holy objects in the best possible light. One only has to read medieval and older accounts of historical figures and events to realize just how much 'tampering' went on, and that history is surely written by the victors. The book left me with unanswered questions: what happened to the Lemba after their DNA links to Israel were confirmed, and what were the results of the DNA testing on the eager Gogodala who, by all accounts, appear to be more Jewish than the Jews?

In dealing with research in Africa, I, as someone living in South Africa, have a special appreciation of what Mr. Parfitt has endured in his search. Africa is a tragic story: a continent riven by corruption, nepotism, wholesale destruction of historical assets, criminality, lawlessness, and tribalism. It's a miracle he managed to find anything in Zimbabwe, given the present state of that country. In all, a fascinating read. With the plethora of investigations into ancient history and secrets, I think readers should enjoy what riveting nuggets authors such as Mr. Parfitt have uncovered.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Different Kind of Romance with Margaret West

Lucky me, my Virtual Book Tour authors are becoming more interesting with every post. Please say hi to my tenth guest, paranormal romance writer Margaret West.

Born in Croydon, Surrey, Margaret is married with two children. She has always found writing to be a creative as well as a cathartic process, especially during difficult periods in her life. She found her true writing voice after becoming a spiritualist. Her love for literature extends from writing to reading and she is always willing to embrace new ideas and philosophies. She likes nothing better than to sit with a good book in the quiet realms of the countryside, with her dogs, Milo and Chester. A true animal lover, Margaret’s warmth and sensitivity are reflected in her writing.

Let's find out more about Margaret and her genre of writing.

For those not in the know, what exactly is 'paranormal romance?' Does the hero/ine have special powers or rather a spirituality that sets them apart from ordinary people?

The paranormal romances are those that contain elements of the supernatural. It can be anything from the characters having certain gifts or the story containing ghosts, demons etc. In one of my paranormal romances, Abigail Cottage, that’s being looked at by a publisher as we speak, the paranormal elements are a demon and a shadow queen who rules the shadows of the physical world. The romance is between the characters that exist on the earth plane. So here you have a combination of two elements, paranormal and romance. My other paranormal romance, Spirit Intervention, which is also being considered by a different publisher, is about a woman who sees spirit people. One of these spirits is her dead mother, who tries very hard to fix her up with a husband. It’s a comedy romance, with paranormal elements i.e. the dead mother.

You only discovered your writing talents and urges later in your career. What was the spark that inspired you to suddenly say, "Today I am going to write my paranormal romance?"

I wrote Abigail Cottage when I was in my twenties (many moons ago!) It's a dark paranormal. So really, I've always leaned more to the supernatural side of things as it’s always been an influence in my life. My mother, grandmother and great grandmother were all mediums of some degree. I wrote the book because the characters were always rumbling around it my head to some extent. It was as if they needed to be brought alive. Hence the book.

You have your own spiritual talents - parapsychologist and angel therapist. What does this mean for persons not in the know; and a) how do you use these skills in your writing and b) how do you incorporate these aspects into your characters?

I am a person who likes to know the ins and out of everything. Because I had such an interest in the unknown I did a degree in parapsychology. That deals with everything from, the big bang, UFOs to ghosts etc. But it still wasn't enough for me. So afterwards I took more mind, body and spirit courses. I became a crystal therapist because I'm fascinated how crystals work. Angel Therapy, is working with angels for healing purposes. I'm hoping to do a course on becoming an Angel Reiki Master. Reiki is healing and the angels are the healing guides. I use my knowledge and understanding of the spirit world to mould my characters. But they grow and develop as the story does.

There are many paranormal writers around - why are you different? What sets you apart from the others?

I feel I'm a bit different, because I don't write about vampires or werewolves or mythical beings etc. I write about a place that really exists, that I have knowledge and understanding about from people who are on the other side of life. I feel that sets me apart from other paranormal writers.

What can people expect to discover or take away from your writing? What messages do you convey in your books?

Apart from one book, Abigail Cottage, all my books have an inspirational message. The Heart of a Warrior leaves the thought that nothing is insurmountable, even if it seems so at the time. In Two Faces One Life, the message is that a disability can be life changing, but never life ending. I hope readers take away those thoughts, rather than a memory of a story.

Well, I have learned a lot today from my guest. Thanks, Margaret, for visiting my blog. Margaret has a great website with loads of information for authors as well as readers.
Readers can purchase The Heart of a Warrior at Eternal Press.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Vampire Alert: Carpe Noctem!

Yes, it's true, I am knee deep in vampire writers it seems because my ninth Virtual Book Tour guest is vampire author Katie Salidas.

The youngest of four children, Katie has always had a desire to entertain. Since, early childhood, she's dreamed up fantastical characters and scribbled them into pages of various journals and notebooks. Taking an interest in vampires at an early age, she devoured every book, featuring those blood sucking creatures, in any genre she could find. She claims that, of all the monsters out there, vampires had always been the most interesting. It was only natural that a love of reading about vampires, and a love of writing, turned into a desire to write her own stories. A Las Vegas native, having grown up in the famed City of Sin, Katie loves to feature it as a recurring setting for many of her stories.

The book Katie would like to feature is Carpe Noctem, a riveting book in the Immortalis series.

Bleeding to death after brutal mugging on the campus of UNLV, Twenty-five year old Alyssa is rescued by the cold and aloof, vampire, Lysander. Taking pity on her, he shares the gift-and curse-of immortality. She awakens as a vampire and is soon devastated by harsh realities of her new way of life: the loss of her friends, her independence, and her humanity. As if having her humanity stripped away was not enough to make life interesting, Alyssa finds out her “turning”, did not go unnoticed by the rest of undead society. Old enemies; an ancient sect of vampire hunters, known as the Acta Sanctorum, as well as a powerful Vampire mistress, each set plans in motion to destroy both Alyssa and Lysander. Only by accepting her newfound immortality, seizing the night, will Alyssa hope to survive. She and Lysander must fight together against two sets of enemies bent on destroying them both.

Sounds like something one can sink one's teeth into ... er ... should I be saying that? Hey, let’s get into the mind of a vampire author with Katie.

You have always been fascinated by vampires. Big question: WHY? What is the appeal? (Tell me in dripping detail). What is it about them, or the concept of these undead underworld creatures that turns you on, inspires you etc.
Ahh, why is such a big question to answer. Ha! I guess I would have to break it down into levels to properly convey my love for the creatures of the night. For starters, my original interest stems from an age-old fear. Many of us fear death. It’s part of the human condition. Death is inevitable. The fear though is what lies on the other side. It’s a great unknown and that is where the real fear is. Growing up in a religious household, I was taught that it is heaven on the other side but can one ever really be sure what awaits us? It’s no secret that I fear death and always have. That is why I find the vampire so intriguing. They, though fictional, are immune to that mortal condition and thus, are able to escape that often scary unknown on the other side. Reading about vampires allows me, for a time to escape that worry too. To be able to fantasize about the ability to live forever is a pleasant thing. It’s the escapism that first attracted me.

While escaping from the mortal condition I am also able to indulge in fantasy too. Let’s not forget that vampires have an inherent sex appeal. In books, at least modern fantasy and romance, they always seem to be chosen and turned at the peak of their lives. They are at their most virile.
Males are hard bodied and don’t have an ounce of flab on them. (Every woman’s dream, right?) They have piercing eyes that can reach into your very soul and mesmerize the pants right off of you. Once they’ve got you in their strong, capable arms, you just want to melt. Their strength represents power and protection (once you know they want more than just your blood. LoL). They are the ultimate bad boy. And women, we cannot deny that somewhere deep down, there is a lingering desire for the danger and excitement they offer. That’s part of the fun of fantasy. We can put ourselves into the other characters shoes and have the bad boy for a time without the lasting negative effects. Let’s not forget the teeth either. They are part of the sex appeal. They are not only phallic on a subconscious level; they represent the very real danger that makes you tingle with anticipation. Think about it? Where do vampires typically bite? The neck. It’s a known erogenous zone. Need I say more? Vampires let us indulge in multiple fantasies all the safety of our homes via: books, movies, and TV.

What are your vampires NOT? What makes your set of characters unlike any others, given the plethora of vampire related themes right now?
My vampires don’t sparkle that is for sure. Though the sparkly vampires have come under great scrutiny, I have to applaud Mrs. Meyers for attempting to blaze her own trail. Let’s face it, vampires are everywhere. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Cheesy or not, she made a lasting impression with her interpretation. As for mine, I tried to keep their humanity. I wanted them to be real creatures who struggle with what they must do to survive. No one struggles more than Alyssa, whom the story of Immortalis follows. As a newly-turned vamp she is forced to make choices she hates. Think about it. Would you really be able to kill a person for their blood? Most people might say, “Oh, well if I was a vamp I would have to. So yeah.” Easier said than done. That’s what I wanted to focus on with my novel. Sure, you could probably do it if you had to but it would weigh heavy on your heart. Guilt over having to end someone’s life to keep yours is a struggle. Alyssa has to come to terms with this and other issues as a newly turned vamp. I wanted to really give readers the gritty reality of it. To show in full detail what “turning” could be like.

Have you a line/few words from one of your characters that truly defines your world of vampires.
Yes, absolutely. To quote my dear Lysander: “Becoming a vampire is easy. Living with the condition, that is the hard part.” That quote, really sums up the feel of my novel. It is all about the turning and living as a new-born vampire. Carpe Noctem, seize the night. To be a vampire you have to learn this and do it, otherwise, you might as well submit to final death. It’s certainly not Hollywood glitz and glamour but, in the end, it might not be as bad as you thought.

Are you married to a vampire?
Honestly I think it is the other way around. My poor husband is married to a nocturnal creature. I do most work at night and can often be found up at my computer till about 3 in the morning. That makes me a beast to deal with in the morning. Ha!

There you have it dear readers, the truth about vampires from the expert. You can visit Katie on her site and purchase Carpe Noctem on Amazon.