Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Laurel Osterkamp

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author Laurel Osterkamp

 

laurel osterkamp

 

Are My Books Literary Fiction?

The other day I entered a contest with my most recent book, November Surprise, and I had to pick a genre. None of them really fit, but I was torn between romance and literary fiction. November Surprise is a love story, but it’s also about self-discovery, set against six recent presidential campaigns. Does that make it literary instead?

When I think literary, I think James Joyce, Jane Austen, or Louise Erdrich. I think of a novel that is made to challenge and enlighten the reader. I certainly wouldn’t classify my own books as literary. I’d like to believe they are quality work, and hopefully they occasionally challenge and enlighten whoever has picked them up. But ultimately they are meant to entertain. They’re not timeless, as literary fiction ought to be. But they are relevant.

So here’s my question: What ever happened to popular fiction? To me, a book that is entertaining, easy to read, and relevant should fall into the “popular fiction” category. But I don’t see many books advertised as popular fiction anymore.

Around a year ago independent author, Darcie Chan, rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list with her novel, The Mill River Recluse. She was one of the first independent authors to achieve this feat, and she received a lot of press. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (12/9/11) Chan described her early challenges with marketing her book.  “It didn’t really fit any genre. It has elements of romance, suspense, mystery, but it falls into the catch-all category of literary fiction, and of course that’s the most difficult to sell.”

I haven’t read Ms. Chan’s novel, so my aim here is not to disparage it. But since reading that article I have noticed a lot of authors have classified their own work as “literary.” Whether that’s by choice or because they aren’t able to classify it as something else, I’m not sure. But I do have a theory. Mainstream authors who are published by big name publishers often don’t want to be branded as “literary fiction” because it makes their work sound boring. But indie authors welcome the title, because it gives them an air of credibility. Like it or not, there is still a bit of stigma in being self-published, but calling our work “literary” makes it sound more impressive.

I teach English at a public high school, so I could talk for hours about what is literature and what is not. But when it comes down to it, I think the whole concept of “literary fiction” is over-rated. If an author has something to say, and he or she says it well, then it’s worthwhile even if it isn’t literary. Yet I also hesitate to brand November Surprise as a romance. I don’t have a shirtless guy on the cover, there are no real sex scenes, and while love is a theme, it doesn’t follow the formula of a “romance”.  I know there are a ton of well written (perhaps even literary) romance novels out there, but there are certain expectations that come with romance novels that November Surprise just doesn’t meet.

In the grand scheme of things, classifying my books into a genre is not a huge problem. But as self-published works continue to grow both in amount and in esteem, independent authors will have to realize some sort of system for labeling their work. It’s the first, and probably the most important step in marketing our books to readers.  And finding readers is way more perplexing than writing the book itself, whether it’s literary or not.

 

Thank you, Laurel!  You can check out Laurel’s Amazon Author page and check out her books if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/laurel into your web browser, her blog at http://www.laurelosterkamp.blogspot.com/, and her personal website at http://www.laurelosterkamp.com/

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Lisa Grace

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author Lisa Grace; make sure you read it all the way as you might find a free Kindle book offer in the text!

lisagrace

My Past

Like many authors I think writing is actually a part of my DNA. I remember riding in the car when I was about three and looking at the passing billboards lining the highway. I knew they communicated something, if I could just learn the secret code. I begged my parents to teach me to read at the age of three and shortly after, I was reading.

The year I turned five, I asked for a typewriter for Christmas, (yes, I know that dates me) so I could write Star Trek scripts. Little did I know it was cancelled and in reruns by then.

In high school my friends and I would hang out at the various places teens do, and they would ask me to make up stories about the people passing us by. Story telling is something I’ve always done.

What was relatively new was the urge to seek publication. It started off as one of those bucket list things. Sitting around with my soon-to-be-in-kindergarten daughter, I thought about what I would like to accomplish once she was in school. At the time I was working as a musical theater director for a dance studio, and volunteering at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I also taught Bible study for teens at my church. My life revolved around teens. The good, and the conflicted.

One of the hundreds of ideas I had that wouldn’t let me go was—what if I wrote a series of books for teens about the real-life problems I saw them experiencing, but set it with what I believed to be the real supernatural world. No fake vampires or werewolves, but real angels (several varieties) and all the other supernatural creatures mentioned in the Holy Scriptures? What if the “rules” for this world, were the ones we knew of from the Bible?

This is the premise of the Angel Series. Buffy without the vampires. The difference between vampires and angels? Angels are real.

I wrote Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 and signed a joint contract with Strategic Publishing where I still owned all the rights to my book. They would print the book as a hardcover, and pay me quarterly royalties.

In May of 2010, my hard cover through Strategic, was named the Christian alternative to Twilight in this article: http://shopping.aol.com/articles/2010/05/07/top-ten-most-challenged-books

I was thrilled.

I then ran across a site where I found other authors were self-publishing and having some success with it. So in May of 2011, a year later after putting the hardcover out through Strategic, (where I was named one of their top fifty selling authors), I decided to self-publish the ebooks.

Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 shot to the top of the Amazon Kindle teen horror charts and stayed there for seven weeks. I then released Angel in the Storm, Book 2 a book I’d been writing while waiting for an agent to shop the series around. It also sold well.

Meanwhile the producer for Motion Picture Pro Studios saw my ebook at the of the teen horror charts, read Book 1 & 2, loved the concept, and contacted me about optioning the rights for a major movie.  When the contract came, I hired Elaine P. English to work as an entertainment lawyer on my behalf.  The studio “exercised” the option and the project is currently in development.

Immediately after, I published Angel in the Ice, Book 3.

Back in July of 2010, I’d read an article about the missing 15th star from the Star Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. I researched the mystery surrounding the missing star, and wrote my novel. Two years later, I completed my first novel in my new history mystery line, The 15th Star (A Lisa Grace History – Mystery).

Ideas vs. Time

Like most writers, I have more ideas than time. Frequently they come to me in the middle of the night. One way I get them out of my system (so I can get to sleep), is to write flash fiction pieces (stories under a thousand words). I did put together some of my best, and released them as 30 Minutes of Flash Fiction. In this collection I included a short story written by nephew who is an excellent story teller. The great thing about flash fiction is every word counts. Condensing a story to a thousand words and creating a twist at the end helps hone a writer’s skills.

Plus, I can explore concepts that don’t fit nicely into the two genres I’m currently writing novels in. I love science fiction and the big “what if” concepts such as, what if other worlds know God, and He has already returned to them? What if zombies are really demon possessed bodies? What if a man has found a way to jump back into the past of his life desperately trying to keep his current life, yet escape his death?

When these ideas come, I write them out in less than hour as flash fiction pieces. I then go back and edit them at a later date.

Blogging

I don’t blog, I guest blog.

When I decided to get serious about publishing, I didn’t sign on to blog, too. Come up with something interesting to say, besides the stuff in my novels, daily? About what? Writing? Just what the world needs, another author writing about their writing experience. It’s boring. I sit down, play out scenarios in my head, and write them down. Then rewrite—lots. Improve the idea, the scene, the characters, the emotions, the subplots. It’s work, and I love it. I just summed up what I do, and I don’t want to waste my time trying to make it sound interesting. It’s the story that will be interesting, not the process. Readers never ask about me. They do ask, “When is the next book coming out?” And that’s why I write my novels and don’t worry about blogging regularly.

Eye on the Paranormal, asked me to be a regular guest contributor which fits right in with my supernatural books, so I write articles twice a month based on the basic premise that science is proving the Holy Scriptures (Bible) are correct.

I’ve also been on the author panel for the last year on the Indie Authors Show with Host Jason Matthews for the Hangout Networks. You can catch past episodes on Youtube. Show #16 is an interview with me on the movie deal. So that’s it for me and blogging.

Free, Free, Free

I’ve chosen to give Angel in the Shadows, Book 1 away free as an ebook, not because I don’t think it’s good, but because I believe I can’t out give God. The books are aimed at young teens so they won’t be everyones’ cup of tea. If a reader isn’t hooked by the end of book 1, they can delete it off their ereader, and that’s fine with me. I give it away free to find those who will enjoy the five books planned for the current story arc.

I go in a library and there are only about ten genres or so that interest me. There are hundreds of thousands of books I won’t ever want to read, and that fact has nothing to do with how well the author writes and everything to do with what appeals to me. The relationship between an authors’ voice and the readers’ taste is personal. I get that, so I’m not insulted when someone says they couldn’t get into it. Try before you buy.

I write because it’s part of who I am. I publish because it’s flattering to have readers and a paycheck. I write what I would want to read.

At the present I’m finishing the last two books in the angel series, outlining the second book in my history mystery line, and working on the first in my new teen series, FEUDAL Land.

Flash fiction pieces are still my preferred form for getting other ideas on electronic paper.


My Personal Life

I’m married to my husband Todd, and we have a beautiful daughter, Cammy, who is nine now. We live on the water along the Gulf of Mexico. I love rehabbing wildlife. I’ve included an opossum in Angel in the Storm, Book 2 because we had one as a beloved pet for four years. It still irks me that there is open season and no bag limit on America’s only native marsupial. They’re intelligent and loving.

God, family, friends, teens, the water, and animals, are all things I love. I live a full and blessed life. In the book of Ecclesiastes 2:24, King Solomon comes to the conclusion: “[There is] nothing better for a man, [than] that he should eat and drink, and [that] he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it [was] from the hand of God.”

This verse reminds me that being able to take pleasure in the everyday things like food, drink, work, the people in your life, is the ultimate. You don’t need wealth or a high position to enjoy your life, just the right attitude.  This keeps me grounded in enjoying the now and I hope you can, too.

Thank you, Lisa!  You can check out Lisa’s Amazon Author page and check out her books if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/lisagrace into your web browser.

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Seb Kirby

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author in the Science Fiction and Thriller categories, Seb Kirby

 

seb kirby

What attracted you to writing?

I was raised with books but not in the way you might expect – my grandfather ran a mobile library in Birmingham and my parents inherited a random selection of the books. They weren’t much interested in them; they were piled up in a spare room, gathering dust. I would disappear in there and resurrect much read classics. I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s always seemed a natural thing to want to do – to write. 

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I write thrillers and I write sci fi. That’s probably because those are the genres that I get the most enjoyment reading. I’ve written quite a lot of non-fiction, as yet unpublished. I have a hankering to write comedy one day but that’s a hard call since you don’t know if what you write will be funny until you try it out on an audience.

Any advice to others on how to write?

Well, first I think that’s a very personal thing and that every author will have their own take on this. There’s no right or wrong way. As W. Somerset Maugham said: ‘There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no-one knows what they are.’

Basically, I prefer the Stephen King approach as set out in his ‘On Writing’. That’s the book he wrote after he was hit by a truck when he was out walking to clear his mind after a writing session. You get the idea that he felt he had to put it all in that book, just in case.

I take his approach to be something along the lines of: If you’re not surprising yourself when you’re writing your book, how can you hope to surprise your readers when they’re reading it? So, I try to be excited at what’s coming out as I write and let the novel plan itself to some great extent. With this approach, you don’t start with a detailed, worked-out plot or anything more than a part-glimpsed plan, you really do let the characters and the interaction between them tell you what should happen next.

There are two of Stephen King’s aphorisms that I take seriously. The first: ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’ So, where at all possible I don’t use them. The second: ‘Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.’ I never use a dictionary or a thesaurus.

Within that context, I think brevity is important. As Alfred Hitchcock said: ‘Drama is life with the dull bits taken out.’ The more the writer can leave to the imagination of the reader the better.

Generally, I don’t believe in heroes. I wouldn’t want to trust one. I get more from ordinary, flawed, people in situations that take them out of their normal lives. Then things get interesting as you see how they struggle with what seems for them the impossible. And I want to resolve things in the end in their favour.  My way, if you like, of righting some of the wrongs, albeit in a small way.

Finally, I’d emphasize the importance of the ‘polishing’ stage in the writing process. Once the words have formed themselves out of the characters’ wishes, once the story has been told, the real work begins. Writing and rewriting, working and reworking the text to give it as much shine and polish as you can muster. And there’s then always the hope in discovering another of the goals suggested by Stephen King – that seldom achieved ‘gem’ where you contribute a striking and novel turn of language that lights up the whole show.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

I had a tough upbringing in Birmingham. I think that gave me a lifelong understanding of what really matters in everyday life. But I received a good education that gave me a grasp of cultural tradition and the importance of maintaining it. I try to address both these aspects in my writing.

Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?

Ray Bradbury put it best: ‘My stories run up and bite me in the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs away.’ I feel the same. The best ideas come when a story is in full flow and the characters take on a life of their own.

Do you have any writing rituals or listen to “mood music” when you write? Where is your favourite place to write?

I carry a notebook. I write whenever it feels right – on trains, on a flight, in a hotel room, at home.  I listen to jazz a lot but I’ve never been able to do that while I’m writing. I prefer silence and I’m lucky to live in a place that has real silence.

What’s your favourite place in the entire world?

That’s a tough one. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to travel and find places that resonate and that I want to return to as often as I can. With the exception of Ambleside (The English Lake District) all are cities: Florence, London, Venice, San Diego, Paris, San Francisco (in no particular order).

Give your readers fun three facts that they may not already know about you.

Not sure how many of these are fun but here goes: I try to walk at least 20 miles each week; I think Miles Davis was a musical genius; I’m a lifelong vegetarian.

Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?

It’s just got to be chocolate. I’m a chocoholic, so ‘more than 70% cocoa solids’ is the kind of off the wall talk that appeals to me!

If you could invite any 6 people to dinner who would you choose?

Being a writer, I wouldn’t expect all to be living right now, so I could delve back into history as much as I like. That would make things interesting! I’d like to meet Pythagoras, the guy who invented music, mathematics and vegetarianism amongst much else. I’d like to hear him bounce ideas off George Gershwin, the guy who just about invented modern jazz. Then, I’d like to introduce them to H G Wells, one of the forbearers of modern science fiction (who, long ago now, had a profound influence on my grandfather when they met and talked in the bookish circle surrounding my grandfather’s lending library). I think they should have some female company and that would have to be Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein and all round woman ahead of her time. That would leave just two places and one would have to go to Leonardo Da Vinci. I’d like to hear how a man like him could have done so much in so many fields of endeavour in such a short time. My last invite would go to Albert Einstein. Where would modern science be without the great man? Some dinner party!

So what’s next for you as an author?

I’m ready to develop my sci fi novel DOUBLE BIND with a sequel but the next thing on the list is to complete the James Blake trilogy. The full extent of the corruption merging from the Landos in Italy is a story yet to be told. The working title is FEAR NO MORE. I’m hoping to complete this before the end of the year, or sooner if the creative process goes well.

Thank you, Seb!  You can check out Seb’s Amazon Author page and check out his books if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/sebkirby into your web browser.

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Vicki Tyley

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from international best-selling author in Mystery & Suspense, Vicki Tyley…

 

vickityley

 

Born and raised in New Zealand, I traveled to Sydney, Australia with my boyfriend when I was nineteen years old and boarded a train to the other side of Australia– my first overseas adventure. We fell in love with Australia – the people, the climate, the lifestyle, the wildlife, the wide-open spaces, everything – so much so that we didn’t want to leave.

Seven years later and still there, we purchased backpacks, Eurail passes and a round-the-world airfare each. After an amazing year spent traveling and exploring, we returned “home” to Western Australia.

In 2000, an old boss of mine offered me the position of Finance Manager with a Victorian toy company he’d just bought into. I jumped at the chance to work with him again and at the same time experience a part of Australia I hadn’t visited. (The victim’s home in Brittle Shadows is based on the inner city apartment where we lived.)

Unfortunately, two years later I became quite ill. It was while recovering from surgery at a country holiday property that I decided that if I didn’t follow my dream of becoming a writer then I never would. Not long after that I resigned my job and much to the consternation of many friends who saw it as dropping out of society, we moved to a rural property ninety minutes north-east of Melbourne.

When I started writing, my dream – like most new writers’ – was to be a published author and to make a living from writing. I didn’t expect it to take so long. I was naive, but in hindsight, I don’t think that’s a bad attribute to have when you start out. If I’d known that I’d write two novels only to consign them to the bottom drawer, would I have even started? I don’t know. Would I have given up everything to write if I’d known that my third novel, Thin Blood, even though agented, would fail to sell to a publisher in large part because most of the publishers refused to even look at the book? (“Americans don’t want to read Australian mysteries,” my agent was told.) I don’t know.

But would-haves don’t matter. It’s what I did that’s important. I just kept writing and my agent kept pitching my work to publishers. Six novels later, I’m still writing. Thin Blood, the novel rejected by publishing house after publishing house peaked at #1 Mystery in the Kindle Store (#6 All Paid Kindle Books) and was named an Amazon 2010 Customer Favorite.

I often say that all my life experiences are brought to bear in my writing, but it wasn’t until my last novel, Bitter Nothings, that I delved into my own family experiences. And that’s probably because enough years have passed that I can now talk openly about it. In Bitter Nothings, the protagonist’s mother had committed suicide on what would’ve been her and her estranged husband’s thirtieth wedding anniversary. In one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twists, my mother committed suicide on my parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Obviously the details and motives are different and my parents were still married, but the emotion and questions are still the same.

The two brothers in Bitter Nothings are loosely modeled on my own two brothers (except my brothers can tolerate each other even less than the brothers in the story). But that’s as far as the similarities go to my own situation. Dervla, the sister in the story, is nothing like myself or any of my three sisters.

My next novel is very much at the plotting stage and I’m still getting to know my characters, which for me is one of the most exciting aspects of writing.

However, my biggest buzz comes when I receive emails from readers who’ve loved my stories (and even the odd one who hasn’t), many who’ve read every book I’ve written and are eagerly awaiting the next. And that is why I write.

My books are all standalones, but in order published:


Thin Blood
: Ten years after two juries fail to convict a stockbroker of the murder of his missing wife, retrenched journalist Jacinta Deller befriends the stockbroker’s new wife, the victim’s sister.

 

Sleight Malice: When a badly charred body is discovered in the remains of her best friend’s home, Desley James is devastated. Except the body is male and her friend is missing.

 

Brittle Shadows: Two months after finding her fiancé’s naked corpse hanging from a wardrobe rail in their apartment, Jemma Dalton’s sister takes her own life, leaving Jemma to probe the dark shadows of her sister’s life.

 

Fatal Liaison: The lives of two strangers, Greg Jenkins and Megan Brighton, become inextricably entangled when they each sign up for a dinner dating agency. But Greg’s reason for joining has nothing to do with looking for love.

 

Bitter Nothings: Half her family have been murdered in their beds. Her father is the prime suspect. And things are about to get a whole lot worse…

 

The inspiration for each of these came from news articles and true crime cases to which I then applied a series of what-ifs. It’s unlikely now anyone would recognize the true crimes that sparked them though.

Outside of writing and reading, my main interests are design and photography. I like to laugh, drink coffee, spend time alone, spend time in company, and get close to nature. I dislike crowds, hospitals and offal.

Vicki Tyley author website: www.vickityley.com

Vicki Tyley blog: vickityley.blogspot.com

Eucalypt Habitat – Living in rural Australia photoblog: http://eucalypthabitat.blogspot.com.au

 

Thank you, Vicki!  You can also check out Vicki’s Amazon Author Page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/vickityley into your web browser.  I have Thin Blood on my Kindle ready to read!

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Melissa Miller

Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, here is a guest blog post from best-selling author Melissa F. Miller (as well as a chance to pick up a free Kindle book)…

mmiller

 

Two years ago this month, I published Irreparable Harm, the first book in my legal thriller series.  To celebrate that anniversary, I’ve discounted Irreparable Harm to free for a limited time.  I’ve also spent some time reflecting on my writing and publishing journey and the amazing opportunities to interact with readers and other writers that independent authorship has offered me.

I was one of those kids who either had her nose in a book or was scribbling stories.  So, it was no surprise that I majored in English literature (with concentrations in medieval literature and creative writing—poetry) in college.  Astonishingly, the job market for medievalist/poets was nonexistent, so, after graduation, I spent three years working in publishing as an editor of non-fiction books and journals.  Then, I attended law school, graduated, passed the bar, and began to work for a major international law firm (moving to new firms and cities along the way).

In 2009, my lawyer-husband and I packed up our sons (then four and two years old) and left our Washington, D.C. law firms, striking out for a tiny town in South Central Pennsylvania, which doesn’t even have one stoplight.  We opened Miller & Miller Law Firm four years ago this month and got busy spending more time with the boys and figuring out the ins and outs of running our small business.  And I started writing again.

There were some false starts—and one embarrassingly bad mystery novel, which served as my training wheels book and will never see the light of day.  But, then, in December of 2010, I put the finishing touches on Irreparable Harm, thanks to our new baby girl who was kind enough to wake me up to eat at all hours of the night.  I used those overnight sessions when the house was quiet to finish the book, and then I gave it to my husband to read.  Having suffered through my mystery novel, he was understandably apprehensive, but he gamely read it anyway.  When he finished it, he encouraged me to publish it.

At that point, I started researching the two options, traditional publishing and independent publishing, and decided going the indie route was a better fit for my temperament.  And, with the press of  the “publish” button, I uploaded Irreparable Harm.  My series protagonist, Sasha McCandless, struck a chord with readers almost immediately, and I started receiving emails asking if there would be more Sasha books.

Two years later, there are indeed more Sasha books:  Inadvertent Disclosure (No. 2) came out in February of 2012; followed by Irretrievably Broken (No. 3) in June of 2012; Indispensable Party (No. 4) in January of 2013; and Lovers and Madmen: A Sasha McCandless Novella (I call this one No. 4.5) in February of 2013.  And the series will continue—Book 5, Improper Influence, will be available later this Spring.

To date, more than fifty thousand readers have picked up one of my books.  That number boggles my mind, but it pales in comparison to the kind emails and Facebook posts that readers have taken the time to share. I can’t quite put into words how much I enjoy hearing what readers think of Sasha’s adventures and her growth as a character.  In fact, Lovers and Madmen was my Valentine gift to my readers, many of whom had contacted me to let me know they wanted to see more of Sasha’s budding personal relationship with Leo Connelly and that they had some questions lingering from the end of Book 3.

Two years after I taking the self-publishing plunge, I’m still a practicing attorney, mother of three young kids, and wife, but now I’m also a writer juggling projects and engaging with diverse, interesting people I’ve had the privilege to “meet” through email, Facebook, and Twitter.  I can’t imagine anything better!

 

Thank you, Melissa!  You can check out Melissa’s Amazon Author Page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/mmiller into your web browser.  Have a great rest of your weekend!

 

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Rebecca Forster

One of the neat things (to me, at least) I get to do as the publisher of this blog is to interact with some interesting characters and famous authors.  USA Today bestselling author of legal thrillers Rebecca Forster is one of those interesting and famous kind of people, and when I asked her if she would be interested in writing a guest blog post in our “Author Interviews” series, she immediately agreed.

I think it’s neat to hear how the authors hone and learn their craft, and hopefully you will find this as interesting as I did (and you might even find a free Kindle book offer)!

 

forster

 

When I graduated from college, the world of women was transitioning from Donna Reed to Gloria Steinem. I had my feet firmly implanted in both camps. On the one hand, my mother trained me well in the art of homemaking; on the other, I had a college education and was convinced that I would and should climb to the top of a corporate ladder. For fourteen years while I worked as an advertising account executive I supervised a team of writers and artists, wrote marketing plans, hired talent, earned an MBA, and budgeted my client’s money. I loved what I did because I had responsibility, I traveled (all the way to China in one instance), and I went to three martini lunches. What could be better than that?

The answer is nothing, until everything changed.

One of my clients requested a meeting at his home. My team and I went to his amazing house on a hill in San Francisco, but the meeting didn’t go smoothly; his wife interrupted us more than once. I seemed to be the only one bothered by this. Everyone else was extraordinarily understanding and deferential. It was only later that I learned that my client’s wife, the woman who flitted in and out of the living room with impunity, was none other than Danielle Steele. Sad to say, I had no idea who she was. It didn’t take long for me to find out that she was one of the world’s best selling authors. As often was the case, I spoke before I really thought about the consequences.

“I could write a book,” I quipped.

My associate dared me to do just that. She even upped the ante by telling everyone in the office that I was going to be an author. They all had a good laugh – except for me. I’ll never know what made me take that dare, but write a book I did. To my great surprise, it was published and a passion was born. It would be ten years and ten books later before I quit advertising to write full time. It would be another five years after that before I wrote the books of my heart.

I had been writing women’s fiction when my editor fired me in frustration. “You cannot,” he said, “keep killing people before they fall in love.” With that, I realized that I had been trying to conquer the wrong genre. On my bed stand were thrillers and true-life crime books, yet I was writing in a romantic genre. Thanks to that editor, I was forced to pursue a different avenue if I wanted to continue my writing career. Finally, I wrote what I loved to read. From my first thriller, Beyond Malice, my writing voice became stronger and more confident. That book went to two printings. I was writing what I loved –  specifically legal thrillers and police procedurals.  Therein lies the real story.

Soon after my book Keeping Counsel became a USA Today Bestseller, I was a panelist at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I was the only non-lawyer on the panel. When the time came for questions and answers, a perturbed woman stood up in the back of the huge UCLA auditorium stood up and demanded to know:

“How can you write legal thrillers when you’re not even a lawyer?”

To which I responded: “I sleep with one.”

My flippant answer brought the house down. Maybe being married to a lawyer-now-judge didn’t count as credentials, but both the question and the response encompassed the truth about writing procedural thrillers. Those who read them want the authenticity; those who write them better have a way to deliver and my way was to research.

I have always been a justice junky. Even before I met my husband I was fascinated by crime. After we got married I was privy to the rigors of law school, the tension of passing the bar, his experiences as an assistant U.S. attorney specializing in terrorism and organized crime, and, finally, his terms as both a criminal and civil court judge. Whether he was involved in a high profile case or one that would never make the news, my interest in his work went beyond a wife’s curiosity. Eventually that curiosity became a professional necessity. While my husband was my in-house research, his help could only be given in response to my direction. That meant I had to know what questions to ask and how to use the information I received.

So how does a nonprofessional tackle a thriller based on a specific profession? I’m sure there are many ways, but I needed a plan. These are the rules I set for myself when I transitioned from writing women’s fiction to writing legal thrillers.

Read industry rags: I don’t just read professional journals I devour them. I find both story ideas but also character inspiration.

Understand the system: Sure, there are times I creatively tweak the system I’m writing about, but I don’t want to massacre it. It is one thing to explain why a trial was fast-tracked, quite another to ask my readers to believe a murder trial will start two days after an arrest.

Figure out the extra stuff:  For The Witness Series, the Josie Bates thrillers, I researched child protective services, theme park safety regulations, coroner’s procedures, will provisions, political campaigns, and fathers’ rights.  A procedural works best when all the pieces of the puzzle fit together believably.

Talk to a human or watch them work: I love real world research. Courts are open to the public, police departments have ride-along programs, college and university professors have helped me with forensics, anatomy, and police studies.

Learn the jargon: One of the biggest challenges I face is using legalese appropriately. If I don’t use it just right, I’ll end up with a thriller that sounds like a textbook or dialogue that is forced.

Walk a fine line: Too much procedure overshadows the story and slows the plot; too little and I’m not competing in the genre.

Above all, the biggest challenge in writing in my genre is to let the human mind, heart, and spirit of my characters triumph against a monstrous, unwieldy system that is stacked against them. Even as they fight the system, they know they can’t win. There is always loss. Sometimes the loss is simply money, sometimes it is freedom, and sometimes it is the ultimate loss of life. The drama and the challenge is in creating a character and a situation in which the loss is mitigated, a story in which the character’s heroism and even the smallest triumph make a difference.

It is precisely because of these high stakes involved in the justice system that I could never be a lawyer or police officer in real life. The pressure and responsibility put on the shoulders of one person who champions another is incredible. I sit in awe when I watch an attorney speak for their client in court or a cop who is persistent in their investigation. Not only do they have to draw upon a wealth of knowledge about our legal system, they often sacrifice personal relationships to protect someone they don’t even know.

I hope that my admiration for the justice system is evident in all my work but most recently the five books of The Witness Series and the stand-alone book, Before Her Eyes, reflect the growth I’ve experienced as an author. I realize that there are many books to choose from and that’s why I offer Hostile Witness free as a way to introduce my books. Silent Witness, Privileged Witness, Expert Witness and Eyewitness comprise this ongoing series to date and are my most ambitious works in terms of characterization and plot development.

My greatest hope when I write is that my stories spark a debate about how a character acted, what motivates their actions, or the point of law that inspired my books.

You can see all my work or learn more about me at http://www.rebeccaforster.com or reach me on Facebook at Fans of Rebecca Forster. I’m also on twitter @Rebecca_Forster.

 

Thank you, Rebecca!  As she mentioned above, Hostile Witness is free today in the Amazon Kindle store and you can pick up a copy if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/fox3vr into your web browser.  You can also check out her Amazon author page, and peruse her other titles, if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/forster into your web browser.

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post – Meet Author Beth Trissel

Yesterday, I told you about best-selling author Beth Trissel’s book, Somewhere My Lass, being free – it’s still free, and you can pick it up if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/giykos into your web browser.  I asked Beth if she would write a guest blog post telling us a little bit more about here and her writing, and she readily agreed…read on to learn more about Beth!

 

trissel

 

An ancient relic, a medieval crypt, a mad Highlander at their throats and time fast running out. Mystery, suspense, romance…Somewhere My Lass.

For inquiring minds, those of you who want to know, or are mildly interested, my suspenseful romance novel Somewhere My Lasswas an intriguing tale to weave and quite an adventure. It’s also one I had no intention of undertaking until the vivid dream that led to the startling intro: the hero, Neil MacKenzie, returns home from work to find his elderly housekeeper lying murdered at the bottom of the winding staircase and a young woman in full Scottish dress slumped at the top. She, however, isn’t dead.

‘What the heck,’ I said to self. And that’s all I had to go on at the start of this venture, but was so intrigued I had to learn their story and pondered all the clues given. An old Victorian house, check, I’m very familiar with those; man wearing modern suit, so the story opens in present day, got it, but the young woman came from the past. Scotland’s past. This will take some doing, I concluded. And did my usual obsessive research. I love gleaning more about the past and used an actual feud in 1602 between the MacKenzies and MacDonalds as a jumping off place.

Both Neil and the heroine, Mora Campbell, were so clear in my mind and a lot of fun to work with—send their regards—and definitely rank among my cast of favorites. The romance between them is one of the best I’ve written. The chemistry just took off. The story, though, is not super-hot, but seductively sensual.

Regarding the setting for Somewhere My Lassuntil this novel all my stories took place in America, past and present. This departure to Scotland was a challenge, but I drew deeply on my English Scots-Irish roots, which I’ve been doing all along. Apart from the prominent Native American characters in some of my work, the others are of English/Scots-Irish backgrounds, with a smidgen of French. My ancestors, too, have a smidgen of French in the meld, a Norman knight who fought with William the Conqueror, and some French Huguenots.

One unique aspect of the story, is that rather than beginning with the hero or heroine going back in time, I brought her forward (as was the case in the dream) before sending them back together. I also included kewl sci-fi features, new for me. I’ve learned a great deal from my journey into Bonnie Old Scotland. I fell in love with the characters, new ones nudge at my mind, and I’m at work (possibly forever) on the sequel. The colorful secondary, Neil’s quirky friend, Fergus, has a lot of fans.

In writing Somewhere My Lass, I was influenced by my beloved Author C S Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia that I grew up reading. I’m still looking for Narnia. Isn’t everyone? My love of old castles and the Scottish Highlands also lent inspiration. Many of the early Scots-Irish settlers in the Shenandoah Valley, my ancestors among them, chose to live here because of the resemblance the valley and mountains bore to Scotland and Ireland. As near to home as they were likely to find in the New World.

The concept behind my Somewhere in Time series, of which Somewhere My Lass is Book Two (though written to stand alone) is that the story opens in present day, so far my home state of Virginia, and then transports the reader Somewhere else. Either back in time to an earlier era in the same house, as in Somewhere My Love and Somewhere The Bells Ring, or another place altogether, as in Somewhere My Lass. The wonderful old homes I grew up in and visited over the years are an integral part of the inspiration behind this series. In Somewhere My Lass, I used a compilation of Victorian homes for the mysterious house in historic Staunton, Virginia where the story begins. How do they go back and forth in time, you may ask. Why through ‘the door to nowhere,’ of course, a portal to the past. I was acquainted with just such a door as a child.

Doors play a big role in this series. Behind every door lies a secret, an intriguing puzzle to be solved, so these romances are also suspenseful mysteries.

I came up with the idea for my Somewhere in Time series years ago while watching one of my favorite British mysteries, Midsomer Murders. I enjoy the historic setting of these modern day mysteries, but especially when the story flashes back to an even earlier time in an old manor house or church to get to the root of the mystery. So I thought, why not incorporate that with my love of romance and history.

Moreover, I’m intrigued by ghost stories, and Virginia has more tales than any other state. I find myself asking if the folk who’ve gone before us are truly gone, or do some still have unfinished business in this realm? And what of the young lovers whose time was tragically cut short, do they somehow find a way? Love conquers all, so I answer ‘yes.’  The theme behind light paranormal murder mystery, ghost story romance Somewhere My Love, the first in my ‘Somewhere in Time’ series.

“Know that love is truly timeless.” ~Author  Mary M. Ricksen

A bit about Beth: Married to my high school sweetheart, I live on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia surrounded by my children, grandbabies, and assorted animals.  An avid gardener, my love of herbs and heirloom plants figures into my work. The rich history of Virginia, the Native Americans and the people who journeyed here from far beyond her borders are at the heart of my inspiration. In addition to American settings, I also write historical and time travel romances set in the British Isles.

For more on me, my blog is the happening place: http://bethtrissel.wordpress.com/

Thank you, Beth!  Don’t forget, her book Somewhere My Lass is still free, and you can pick it up if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/giykos into your web browser.  You can also check out her author page on Amazon if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/trissel into your web browser.

Guest Blog Post: Meet Author Tom Winton

Yesterday, I told you in a post about Tom Winton’s Beyond Nostalgia being free through the end of the day today.  You can pick it up if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/ct7n88 into your web browser.

I asked Tom if he would be willing to write a guest post to tell us a little bit more about him, his writing, and anything else he felt comfortable enough to share…

 

twinton

 

Some writers have been stringing words together since childhood; others, like me, get their calling much later in life. It wasn’t until 1997, when I was forty-nine years old, that I started putting my ideas on paper.

I was in sales at the time, and after looking at the same blank page of a Spiral notebook for two full years, I finally wrote a sentence that seemed worthwhile. Then it started. After that I found myself writing my debut novel, Beyond Nostalgia, whenever I could find the time. Between appointments at work, I would park my van in distant corners of strip-mall parking lots and scrawl words into that notebook. Being a husband and father, time was tight at home, but whenever I could, I’d be sitting in my recliner or at the computer feverishly writing sentences that I hoped people would feel rather than just read. After two-and-a-half years of writing on a part time basis, I finally finished the seventh draft and sent out some query letters to literary agents.

Other than myself, the only other person who’d ever read a word of Beyond Nostalgia was my wife. She loved it, but I well knew how overly generous people can be when giving praise to something a loved one has poured their heart and soul into.

Three agents ended up asking to see the manuscript, but none of them opted to represent it. Disgustedly, I put the banded pile of paper into a closet and closed the door. Along with a piece of my soul, it sat there for eleven years. For all that time I wrote nary a thing and was no longer the same person I had been when I was writing regularly. I sorely missed the sense of achievement I used to feel after a successful writing session—a rewarding feeling that I call a “writer’s high.”

Though I hadn’t done what I loved for so long, I did still read, and one afternoon in December of 2009, while at my local library, I spotted a copy of Writer’s Digest on a shelf. As if the magazine had eyes, I could have sworn it was staring at me; trying to tell me something. Having a half-hour to kill, I figured what the heck; I’ll take a peek at the magazine that years earlier I had read so religiously. I sat in an upholstered chair, leafed through a few pages then came upon an article about online writing communities. Never even knowing that such groups had come into existence, I quickly jotted down the names of two, hustled right home then got my wife to help me upload my Beyond Nostalgia manuscript onto the Harper Collins’s Authonomy website.

When I got my first review, I was stunned. The person who’d read my opening chapters loved them. So did the next reader/writer and the one after that. Almost everybody who read my work said encouraging things about it. In no time at all, Beyond Nostalgia was way at the top of the monthly rankings in several categories and in the top ten on Authonomy’s all-genre list—out of 6,000 entries. A month or two later, I put my manuscript on Random House’s YouWriteOn site for writers, and six weeks after that, it was declared a Bestseller and in contention for their “2011 Book of the Year.”

Riding high by now—knowing that I’d been right all along in thinking my book had been worthwhile, I again sent out query letters to agents. Then I got another shock. In a month’s time, ten agents asked to see all or part of Beyond Nostalgia — four in one day.

That was it! In my mind I had chosen Martin Scorsese to direct the film version of my story. I had the cast of actors all picked out—with Brad Pitt playing the part of my main character, Dean Cassidy. I even had the soundtrack playing in my head. But then POOF, all my hopes and dreams ended as quickly as they had appeared. Not a single agent picked up Beyond Nostalgia.

You can easily imagine how devastated I was—no, check that, you probably can’t. One would have to live that disappointment to truly understand it.

Down as I was, it wasn’t long before a small publisher made me an offer and I took it. In no time at all, the Kindle version of Beyond Nostalgia hit Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list. After that it rose high on the “Top Rated 100” list and for months became a Contemporary Romance and Literary Fiction Bestseller.

Six months later I parted ways with my publisher, and along with Beyond Nostalgia I self- published my second novel, The Last American Martyr. Soon it became every bit as successful as my first book. In June of 2012 I put out my third attempt—Four Day’s with Hemingway’s Ghost, and all those good things happened all over again. Then, just recently, I was listed as one of Amazon’s “Most Popular Authors” in Literary Fiction.

Now it’s 2013, and just days ago I released my fourth book. Entitled Within a Man’s Heart, it’s a novella, and once again, my hopes are high. I feel like I’ve come a long way as a writer over the past two years. My goals are much higher now than they were in December of 2009—and so are my spirits. But I have to keep myself in check. I can’t let my overactive writer’s imagination run away with itself. I’m no longer picking out directors or casts or soundtracks for films. Not yet, anyhow.

It has been said that, “Beyond Nostalgia captures the power of first love and stretches it painfully over a lifetime of regrets.” Likened to such classics as Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, it has been called, “A Gone with the Wind for the latter half of the 20th Century.” One publisher has said that, “It is a book that will someday be required reading in schools.”

My second book, The Last American Martyr, is the story of a fifty-nine-year-old unemployed man who, by writing a book, singlehandedly revitalized the all-but-dead international labor movement. One reader summarized it very well when she said, “This is the frightening story of a quiet, unassuming doorman from New York that is suddenly catapulted into fame and fortune. As a result of writing a book that may well start a revolution against the corporate elite, Thomas Soles and his wife Elaina find that they cannot return to their normal lives and must begin a life “on the run.” They encounter plenty of bad, but also enough good to keep faith in humanity.”

Four Days with Hemingway’s Ghost, my third novel, is not a story of spooks and goblins. It’s a powerful story about two men from two very different times. One man is mortal, the other is immortal. One is painfully ordinary; the other world famous.

Jack Phelan, a forty-two-year-old underachiever, gets into an unlikely accident and goes into a coma for four days. But somehow, minutes after he blacks out, he finds himself in Key West, Florida—rubbing shoulders with an aged Ernest Hemingway. Over the next four days, Jack and Ernest travel to the legendary author’s old haunts and meet up with many of his long gone friends. Some of these reunions are rollicking good times; others are highly emotional tests of strength for both men. Once their journey comes to a shocking end, the story is still not over. That’s when things really get interesting.

Lastly, my new novella, Within a Man’s Heart, is a poignant story about a man who four years after the death of his young wife, still can’t move forward with his life. Christian Crews wants to leave Manhattan—walk away from his job and the apartment that harbors so many memories of his beloved Elyse, but he thinks breaking away would be the same as abandoning her—an unforgivable act of betrayal he could never live with. But all that changes on the fourth anniversary of Elyse’s death. Chris makes two shocking discoveries, and a part of him begins to believe that Elyse would actually want him to go on with his life.

Two weeks later Chris moves to New Hampshire; and minutes after arriving in the small rural village of Mountain Step, he meets a beautiful local woman with mesmerizing gray eyes and a heart as big as the surrounding mountains. Beginning another emotional relationship may be the last thing on Chris’s mind, but he soon finds himself falling for Gina Elkin, every bit as hard as she has fallen for him.

Could there be a future for them? Will Elyse allow it? After all, she’s still deep within Chris’s heart—a place no one else has ever been.

 

Thank you, Tom!  You can check out Tom’s Amazon Author Page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/tomwinton into your web browser.

 

 

 

Guest Blog Post: Meet Author Russell Blake

This morning, I told you about best-selling author Russell Blake’s thriller, Night of the Assassin, being free for today only.  I asked Russell if he would like to write a guest blog post, and his immediate reply was “Absolutely – I’ll have something to you in a couple of hours!”  I think you will enjoy learning a little bit more about Russell and some of the influences on his writing.

 

rblake

 

It’s always a thrill to meet new readers – people who are just discovering my novels and aren’t sure quite what to expect. My job with this blog is to introduce myself and my work in a few bite-sized nuggets, so with that in mind, here it goes.

My first novel, Fatal Exchange, came out in June, 2011, and was a reviewer’s favorite pick that year with The Kindle Book Review. Since then, I’ve released 17 more novels, and have just put the next installment of my bestselling Assassin series in the can, for release in February. I write action/adventure thrillers, with a smattering of police procedural and conspiracy thrillers seasoning the blend, and I’m fortunate enough that they’ve been well received – in 2012, my books sold over 100,000 copies, not counting at least a half million free downloads, and I’m currently in discussions for one of my novels to be adapted for the silver screen, so it’s been a hell of a year, and I’m hopeful that 2013 raises the bar.

One of my most popular works is the aforementioned Assassin series, which is set in modern Mexico against a brutal backdrop of very real cartel violence. The books, King of Swords, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, and the prequel, Night of the Assassin, chronicle the story of El Rey, the most deadly assassin in the world, and his arch rival, Captain Romero Cruz of the Federal Police (Federales), who must stop him before he can commit unthinkable crimes. Night of the Assassin is free for a limited time, in the hopes that once readers get a taste of the writing style and the characters, they’ll be interested enough to want to read more of my scribbling.

The idea for the Assassin series came to me as I was writing a conspiracy theory thriller trilogy, The Delphi Chronicle, part of which also takes place in Mexico. As I wrote the bits that were south of the border, I started thinking, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to sort of do a Day of the Jackal kind of treatment, but set it present day in one of the most ominous settings I could dream up? I needed to look no further than out my window for inspiration, because I’ve lived in Mexico now for almost a decade, and I’m exposed to the cartel violence every day, as is the rest of the beleaguered nation. It’s a constant no matter where you go, and it claims over 10,000 lives every year, many of them women and children.

So with that in mind, I launched into penning the first book in the series, King of Swords, about the assassin whose calling card is the tarot card the book is named after. The reception was so positive that I next inked Night of the Assassin, as an exploration of how a monster is made – what circumstances had to come together to mold a ruthlessly efficient, cold-blooded killing machine. That question has fascinated me for a long time – is it nature or nurture that creates the world’s predators, and motivates them to pursue their dark deeds? Does circumstance determine how the beast manifests, or is it destiny?

Night is my stab at answering those questions, in a gritty, visceral, unflinching manner. It’s not for the faint of heart or those looking for a light-hearted romp to take to the beach. It’s controversial and dark, and pulls no punches, eschewing political correctness and happy endings for a slice of reality wrapped up in an action thriller package. Response has been overwhelming, with over 100 mostly rave reviews to date, so I managed to strike a chord that has resonated with quite a few readers.

The job of any good fiction author is to transport the reader to a new reality, to take them out of their head and put them smack down in the middle of a different world for a few hours. The best sort of fiction keeps you up far too late into the night and leaves you wanting more when the last page is turned. I strive to write intelligent, thought-provoking fiction that is still an escape, but leaves you with a nagging sense of lingering once it is finished – but what happens now? What’s the rest of the story? What is the next adventure, and what happens to the characters – how will they grow and change, and what do they want more than anything? The best fiction has that effect, and it is my hope that mine evokes that response.

If you, as a reader, can discover a book that does that for you, then you’ve discovered a treasure. If I, as an author, can come even close to transporting you into my admittedly unusual world and immersing you in it, then I’ve done my job – which is the best job in the world, as far as I’m concerned, and one that I couldn’t imagine not doing. My love for the written word and for storytelling is all-encompassing, and I wake up every day enthused about the next adventure, the next scene, the next opportunity to hone my craft and do it all just a little bit better.

I grew up on a steady diet of Forsyth, Ludlum, Harris, Trevanian and Grisham. If you like that style of fiction, you might be interested in my novels. As good a place as anywhere to start would be with Night of the Assassin. I mean, it’s free today, so you can’t beat the price of admission, and one never knows what one will find until one turns the pages and reads a few chapters. There are diamonds out there among all the lumps of coal, and perhaps this will be one of those finds that has you coming back for more. You never know until you try, and with this deal, I’ve tried to make it so you have nothing to lose.

In the end, how do you beat that?

Thanks for taking the time to meet me, and I’m hopeful you find the premise of Night of the Assassin intriguing enough to give it a whirl. Part of my joy as a reader is when I find a new author whose work excites and electrifies me. My hope is that today is your day to find a new one that does the same for you.

 

Thank you, Russell!  I don’t know about you, but I just downloaded Night of the Assassin and will be starting it after I finish what I am reading now.  You can check out Russell’s Amazon Author Page if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/russellblake into your web browser, and you can follow his blog (and check out his interesting New Year’s Resolutions) at http://russellblake.com

Guest Blog Post: Meet Author C.J. West

Yesterday, I told you about author C.J. West’s suspense book, Sin and Vengeance, being free: it is still free through Friday and you can pick it up if you click here or type in http://smarturl.it/qc80rp into your web browser.  I’ve corresponded with C.J. for a couple of years now (as well as read a couple of his books), and in addition to being a pretty good author he’s also a really nice guy. 

I asked C.J. if he would like to write a guest blog post telling the readers of the blog a little about himself and his writing, and his immediate response was “when do you need it?”  I thought what he sent to me was interesting and I also learned a little bit more about him…

 

cjwest

 

 

My Hollywood Rollercoaster Ride

 

In October 2008 I received a Myspace message that made me stand up, pace around my office, and consider that my writing life had changed forever. I Googled “Marla Cukor” and discovered she was an award-winning journalist who worked for In Touch Weekly and wrote short films that starred actors whose names I knew.

You might think I’m easily excited and you might be right, but this was big news.

Marla had discovered my book Sin & Vengeance and liked it so much, she wanted to write a movie script based on my work! Plenty of readers had raved about the book, one guy grabbed my arm at a Christmas party and didn’t let me go for an hour, but that was nothing like the validation of Marla investing months of time and money into a project because she thought my book had merit.

I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.

By the time Marla optioned Sin & Vengeance for film, I had been writing every day for nine years. I wrote because I was addicted to the sheer joy of writing. Bestsellerdom was beyond my wildest expectations, but suddenly the idea of writing success was thrust upon me. What if the movie was made?

Marla’s offer to write a script that could bring my book to the big screen ratcheted me up the first hill on my rollercoaster ride one clink at a time, but the drop came quickly. Once the paperwork was signed, we talked about how the book would be adapted to the screen. The uninitiated might think the screenwriter simply takes the book and reformats it for the actors.

I wasn’t that naive, but I had no idea what Marla had planned until she started asking questions like, “What happens if we get rid of the money?” The money in Sin & Vengeance is a major subplot that ties much of the book together.  I felt queasy after our first consultation. I owned the book, but Marla owned the screenplay. There were going to be changes. Big changes.

Marla explained to me that on screen the story needs to be told in pictures and dialogue. In novels we spend lots of time in characters’ heads. Doing so, it’s easy to convey abstract ideas. In film, abstract ideas are much harder. If you’ve ever played Pictionary, you know it is really difficult to draw an abstract word like “economy” or “inflation” as opposed to a simple action or an object. The challenge with Sin & Vengeance is that the plot is multi-layered, which makes for great surprises at the end of the novel, but huge difficulties for a screenwriter to convey in 120 minutes.

Luckily Marla wanted the screenplay to be true to the book and went to great lengths to capture the relationship between Randy Black and Charlie Marston. She dialed in and listened while I spoke with two book groups so she could ask what elements of the book the women wanted to see on the screen. One of the book club members came up with an idea that is still in the script.

When Marla was done with her second draft, we brought together a focus group of readers who loved the book and were curious about the movie. They read the screenplay and came to my home with pages of notes. Marla listened to their ideas and the screenplay reached a new high.

The next hill came when we “went out” in Hollywood and got immediate interest. “Going out” is when the screenplay is sent to producers and studios. The screenplay went to top-tier studios first. Then to producers the agent knew would be interested in a suspenseful action film.

We waited for an offer but the phone didn’t ring. Finally after a few months Marla told me about the owner of a small production company who previewed an early version of the script and loved it. I met with their director and approved an option to send the film into development. They weren’t a big Hollywood studio that could bring high impact special effects to my story, but they truly loved the script.

A few months later the company called to tell me they’d upped their budget from $1 million to $3.5 million. That meant better special effects, better actors, a better film. I was jazzed. All we needed was an investor with $3.5 million and I could watch a film based on my book.

Over the next two years we had a few close calls. Marla and I were asked to prepare material for interested investors. Respected directors expressed interest. Actors wanted to play Randy Black. With the film on the edge of being made, each piece of good news got my blood pumping, but in the end the pieces never came together and the option expired. Even though my ride had come to an end, the experience transformed the way I think about my writing. So many people invested their time and money in this project that I can’t help but be proud of what I created in Sin & Vengeance and hopeful that one of my future books may make the leap to the screen or even better, the bestseller lists.

A few weeks ago I got a call to let me know an “important” Hollywood producer was reading the script. It seems once you get on this ride you can’t get off, you’ve just got to enjoy the breeze in your hair.

 

Thank you, C.J.!  C.J. West is the author of seven suspense novels including The End of Marking Time and his latest novel, Dinner At Deadman’s; you can see his other titles at his Amazon Author Page at http://smarturl.it/cjwest

C.J. blogs at www.cjwestkills.wordpress.com, and you can also find him at www.22wb.com or at www.facebook.com/cjwestfans