A New House and Other Updates

New homeI haven’t posted in a while due to my family’s move this summer. Nothing interrupts a writer’s flow quite like selling one house, buying another, and relocating a family of four (plus our dog) and all of our stuff. It was a huge undertaking. Our new house (originally built in 1931) remains a work-in-progress, but we are all unpacked and my home office is set up. We now live in Ann Arbor, MI, where my husband and I both went to school at the University of Michigan. After living in a small town for the last seven years, it has been amazing to return to a city with so much to offer, especially when it comes to the arts. Just yesterday, I participated in the Kerrytown Bookfest where I got to mingle with readers and fellow writers while selling and signing my books. Sitting next to me was none other than Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos. So cool! I got to chat with him about writing and publishing, and bought a signed copy of his book for me and my kids to read. Obviously, he was selling way more books than me, but seeing his success and the way readers flocked to his book inspired me to keep going.

 

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A few scenes from the Kerrytown Bookfest

Now that we’re all moved in and our kids are back in school, I’m finally getting back to writing. What’s next? The idea for my newest project has been percolating in my brain all summer:  an adult suspense/thriller novel involving a woman who lives in a tiny house, her dead husband, a missing hotel worker and lots of secrets. I’ve developed the characters and written a general outline to give me a roadmap to follow. Now all I need to do is write the darn thing! I was going to wait until November (NaNoWriMo), but I may not be able to wait until then. There will be many updates to come…

 

Speaking of updates, it’s time for me to check in with the results of my Summer Reading List. Here we go…I read 8 of the 12 books on my list (plus two that weren’t on the list):Summer Reading Images

The Girls by Emma Cline, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman, Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman, Showdown by Brittney Joy, and The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster.

The two extras were:  The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Oddly, the last two that weren’t on my list were my favorites, but I also devoured Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I found all of the books I read to be enjoyable. There weren’t any major disappointments, but I didn’t love The Girls by Emma Cline as much as I thought I was going to. While it was beautifully written, the subject was too disturbing for me. As for the four books I didn’t get to yet, I’m still going to read those, too. I ran out of time! For more on what I’m reading, feel to friend or follow me on Goodreads. It’s always fun to see what others are reading.

Until next time, keep reading (and writing). I’ll be checking in a lot more often in the coming months!

 

Author Spotlight: D.G. Driver

I’m pleased to welcome Donna Driver (writing under the name D.G. Driver) on my Author Spotlight this month. I met Donna through our mutual publisher, Fire and Ice, and read the first book in her Juniper Sawfeather series, Cry of the Sea, last year. While fantasy books usually aren’t my genre of choice, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with Cry of the Sea. I found it to be a fun YA read featuring real and likeable characters, a suspenseful storyline, an ever-important (and timely!) message about the importance of protecting our planet, and–of course–mermaids. Like the first book, the second and third installments are sure to appeal to fantasy-lovers and environmentally conscious teens and adults, alike. As it just so happens, TODAY IS RELEASE DAY for the third book in the Juniper Sawfeather trilogy, Echo of the Cliffs!

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In addition, Donna and I both have short stories included in the Kickass Girls of Fire andKickAssGirlsOfFIYA Ice (April 2017) anthology compiled by our publisher. Her story, Beneath the Wildflowers, is great and provides a sample of her writing. The best part? The anthology is FREE!

Now, here’s more about Donna and her books…

SAMSUNGD.G. Driver loves writing about diverse characters dealing with social and environmental issues. She has been writing and publishing for 22 years and has won awards for her fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She mostly writes contemporary fantasy like the Juniper Sawfeather Novels and her romantic ghost novella Passing Notes. However, she has also written a middle grade contemporary novel about bullying and autism called No One Needed to Know, and she has short stories ranging from romance to horror in several anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching or performing in a community theater show somewhere around Nashville.

Learn more on D.G. Driver’s WEBSITE and BLOG.

echo[7605]Back Cover Blurb for Echo of the Cliffs:  The mermaids are back, and they’ve got a message for Juniper Sawfeather.

Juniper knows American Indian mythology connects the mermaids she rescued from the oil company to the ancient spirit trapped forever in a tree. The third part of that myth is about a man turned into stone, but where could he be and what will he be like? While on a quest to find the answers, her boat is attacked by a killer whale. It appears to have been led by mermaids. So, are the mermaids trying to tell her how to find them? Or are they warning her to stay away?

Once again, June is on a heroic mission, the most frightening and magical adventure yet. A thrilling ending to this award-winning young adult fantasy trilogy.

Author Interview:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

I guess I’d like to spend the day with Juniper herself. She’s kind of lonely, and her best friend Haley never really gets her. I’d like to just hang out with her at the beach, taking nature photos and drawing pictures together while talking about big dreams and adventures we’d like to go on.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I’d like to see Chloe Bennet from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. play Juniper. I think Dylan Massett from Bates Motel would be a gorgeous Carter if he grew his hair out a little. It wouldn’t hurt my feeling to see Lou Philip Diamond as Peter Sawfeather and Julia Roberts as Natalie Sawfeather.

Great choices! What attracts you to writing in the contemporary fantasy (or urban fantasy) genre?

I’m a sucker for plot-heavy books. I know a lot of my author friends cringe at that, but I like adventure stories, whether they are fantasy, historical, mystery, contemporary or what-have-you. I do like character-driven stories – I just like to see those interesting characters do stuff and not sit around having feelings. I also like it when unusual things happen to normal people. These are my favorite kind of fantasies. I enjoy them much more than epic or high fantasies set in other worlds.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

No. I work full-time as a teacher at a learning development center in Nashville where we help special needs children alongside their typically developing peers. I’ve been there 12 years.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love reading and watching movies and TV. I also am a singer/actress and try to get on stage at least once a year in a community theater musical or play – usually alongside my husband or one of our kids. I used to perform a lot more (my degree is in theater), but I’m trying to devote more time to writing.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

Rejection has been harder for me than negative reviews. So far (knock on wood) the criticisms I’ve had of my published books have all made sense to me. I mean, there are trolls who give one stars for no reason, but usually a person who takes the time to write something has a valid point to make. I don’t always agree, but I understand what they’re saying. Rejection is harder, and I’ve dealt with it all my life as an actress and author. The thing that hurts the most about it is that I often never know exactly why my work has been rejected, just that it wasn’t “what they were looking for”. I often get very ‘nice’ rejections complimenting me on my skill but not loving the story I’m telling.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I usually write on the weekends in blocks of time. My weeknights tend to be about marketing, as I have less time to get anything done because I have to feed my family and spend time with them. When I’m under a deadline, my family eats a lot of fast food and is ignored to a certain extent.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two YA projects right now. I’m cleaning up an old manuscript to get it ready for submission. It’s an adventure/ghost story. The other project I’m working on is adding 2 related stories to my novella Passing Notes in order to create a full-length book. Fingers are crossed that Fire and Ice YA Books will like both of these projects and take them on.

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

Yes. I set this series in Washington. I wanted the oil spill that starts off the first book, Cry of the Sea, to be in the Pacific Northwest, similar to the Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989. I used real cities and places in that book. In book 2, Whisper of the Woods, the forest is set in the location of a real American Indian reservation, but I purposely never gave the name of the reservation.

A large part of book, 3, Echo of the Cliffs is set at the very top corner of the continuous United States. I knew that I needed a magical stone or rock or cliff for this book to go with the legend, and I researched a few different places. What finally won me over were these magnificent sea stacks, the tallest among them called Fuca Pillar, that exist right where the Strait de San Juan meets the Pacific Ocean at the most northwestern point of Washington State. The Fuca Pillar, at the right angle looks a bit like a big face. I knew the story had to wind up there, but I won’t tell you why or what happens.

Sounds like the perfect setting for your story, Donna. Thanks for being a part of my blog, and best wishes on your book release!

 

What is a Thunderclap?

Secret confession:  I sometimes find marketing my own books tedious and frustrating. (Shocking, isn’t it?) I’ve made full use of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out, but my reach is limited and I’ve had to face the cold truth that not all of my friends and family want to read my books, much less help me with marketing. I decided to try something new with the recent release of my second YA novel, Barn Shadows. Enter Thunderclap

You might be wondering, what is a Thunderclap? Basically, it is an online crowdspeaking platform that allows you to connect with other people’s social media accounts in order share a message. First, you have to create a campaign. (For example, my campaign was the Book Launch for Barn Shadows.) Within your campaign, you can post photos, write some backstory, and link to a website. Next, you invite people to join your Thunderclap. They will receive a message informing them of the date and time that your Thunderclap message will go out and they can choose whether to authorize their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) to share the message. I timed my Thunderclap to go out on the day of my book release. It’s fun to watch your social reach grow as each person joins your Thunderclap.

Here’s what my Thunderclap page looked like a few days prior to my set date…

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Thunderclap is free, as long as you reach the required number of supporters (100). There are also paid versions for people who can’t reach up to 100 supporters. I joined a Facebook group where people supported each other’s Thunderclap campaigns. Between the Facebook group and my friends, family and writing colleagues, I easily reached 100 supporters by my end date. Here’s what my final numbers and social reach looked like…

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So I reached 230,672 people, instead of just 3,000 of my own Twitter followers and 250 of my Facebook followers. I was happy I took a chance on Thunderclap. It worked out for me, as I saw a big spike in sales on the first day my book was released. I have to assume at least some of those sales were generated by the increased exposure from the Thunderclap campaign. It was easy to use and FREE. I recommend giving it a try to any of my fellow authors who have a book release coming up. What do you have to lose?

Author Spotlight: Nina Mansfield

I’m so pleased to feature Nina Mansfield on my blog for this month’s Author Spotlight! Nina and I share a mutual publisher (Fire and Ice), and her YA mystery, Swimming Alone, was released on the SAME DAY as my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets. It was an instant connection! I read Swimming Alone last year and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and mysterious read that will transport you to a quaint, New England seaside town. Now here’s more about Nina and Swimming Alone

NinaMansfield2016[2854]Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE, a YA Mystery, was published in 2015 by Fire & Ice YA. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, MYSTERICAL-E, KINGS RIVER LIFE MAGAZINE, and anthologized in FAST WOMEN AND NEON LIGHTS: EIGHTIES-INSPIRED NEON NOIR. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION (illustrated by Leyla Akdogan) will be published in installments online by PlumeSnake.com soon. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been published, and produced throughout the world. Visit her website at: www.NinaMansfield.com.

SwimmingAlonefrnt (2)[2855]Back Cover Blurb:  The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe). Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

View Swimming Alone on Amazon.

 

Author Interview

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I wrote and illustrated my first “book” when I was five years old. It was called CINDY AND SALLY IN POLKA-DOT LAND. I wish I knew what happened to it! So I guess I’ve wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember, but I started to take my writing seriously about 12 years ago.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?

I write mysteries because I have always loved reading mysteries. I am intrigued by the criminal mind. I also believe that all human beings are capable of both tremendous evil and tremendous good, and I love delving into what might motivate that evil side to come out.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love seeing theater. I also write plays, and I was in actor once upon a time,  so I try to see as much theater as I possibly can. Luckily, I am a short train ride from New York City. I see everything from thought-proving dramas, to experimental theater, to Broadway musicals.. Lately, since I have a toddler, I have also been enjoying a lot of children’s theater.

What are you working on now?

I have a couple of short mystery stories in the works, and I have been revising and rewriting a young adult paranormal romance/thriller for quite some time. I hope to finish it soon! I also recently had my graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION start coming out in installments at PlumeSnake.com, and I am working on promoting that as well!

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Last year I attended a number of writing conferences and met so many wonderful people. One of the most amazing things I got to do was participate in Malice Go-Around at Malice Domestic, which is like speed-dating for authors. I got to “pitch” SWIMMING ALONE to over 200 mystery fans. It was so much fun!

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

SWIMMING ALONE is set in Beach Point, Rhode Island, a fictional location inspired by my childhood memories vacationing in Rhode Island. Every summer, my grandparents would rent a cottage near the beach. There’s something about being near the ocean—that salty sea air, the feel of sand on my skin, the sound of the waves—that has always relaxed and inspired me. Luckily, no serial killers were ever on the loose when I was vacationing there!

Yes, that’s a good thing! Thanks for participating, Nina. We look forward to reading more from you in the future.

In the meantime, stay tuned for next month’s Author Spotlight with YA fantasy writer, D.G. Driver!

Calling All #KICKASSGIRLSOFYA

This month, I’ve been honored to participate in a promotion sponsored by my publisher, Fire & Ice, to celebrate strong female characters in YA books–including my own Brynlei Leighton! I posted the calendar of events a week or so ago, but today I’m posting a reminder about a few exciting things…

SaleFirst, the epic 99-cent eBook Sale is happening now! This is such a great opportunity to try out some great new authors and their books in a variety of YA genres. The full list of books offered in this sale is HERE. (Note: Trail of Secrets is on the list!)

Not sure which books to buy? Eight Fire & Ice authors (including yours truly) have written short stories featuring our kickass female characters! Download our FREE Kickass Girls of Fire & Ice anthology on Amazon, B&N or Smashwords, and test the waters with a variety of characters, genres and authors.KickAssGirlsOfFIYA

Second, there’s an exciting Rafflecopter Giveaway also happening now! Just click HERE for your chance to win and eBook bundle from Fire & Ice (you choose which books you win!)

Next, please join the Kickass Girls of YA Facebook Party on Saturday, April 22nd. I’ll be hosting between 10-10:30am, but the party lasts from 10am-2pm with different authors hosting every half hour. Check it out to win entries for great prizes and swag, including autographed print books!
Finally, don’t forget our Twitter chats on Friday nights from 9-10pm EST. Use the hashtag #kickassgirlsofya to connect! Good luck and have fun!

TwitterChat

 

Author Spotlight: Carly Kade

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to my blog! Carly is one of those people who bursts with positive energy (interact with her on social media and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Although she resides in sunny Arizona, she’s actually a Michigan native (like me!) I read her romance novel, In the Reins, last year and recommend it to anyone who enjoys gorgeous horses, western riding or handsome cowboys.

Carly_Kade_Author_Photo_Web_ITR_Sequel[2742]About the Author:  Carly Kade is an author of equestrian fiction. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two! Her books are for people just like her…crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys! In her free time Carly enjoys competitively showing her registered Paint Horse and works on her next novel. In the Reins, Carly’s cowboy romance novel inspired by the equestrian lifestyle has been an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and is an EQUUS Film Festival literary award winner for Best Western Fiction. The novel is available now in paperback and eBook.

Connect with Carly Kade Creative on Facebook or Twitter, or on her website: www.carlykadecreative.com.

3D Book Cover All[2744]From the back cover:

McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly.

Cowboy McKennon Kelly was the last thing Devon Brooke wanted to focus on after finding herself suddenly single. Looking for a fresh start to life, city girl and journalist Devon just wanted to go back to her country roots and focus on building a relationship with her newly acquired equine partner Faith.

Devon finds companionship in handsome bull riding ranch hand JD and delicate Green Briar horse farm owner Sophia, both who advise Devon to keep her distance from McKennon and “mind her p’s and q’s” around the quiet and eerily peaceful stables. Devon thinks it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid the Adonis cowboy, but after noticing his skills and expert ways with training horses, she figures it couldn’t hurt to get to know him a little bit … right?

Devon follows the guarded cowboy to a horse show, where she is unprepared to learn she may not be the cowgirl she thought she was. After a near-tragic incident, Devon begins to realize that the more time she spends with McKennon, the less she really knows about him (or horses, for that matter), and his mystery just keeps getting bigger. Who is he really, what is it that everyone doesn’t want her to know, and why is this tight-shirted, spur-jingling, weather-eyed cowboy all she can think about now?

Interview with Carly Kade:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

If I could spend the day with any character from my novel, I’d take a riding lesson from my horse training cowboy McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly came to me (like lightning) in the form of a poem.  I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal.  I didn’t want to miss a thing, a thought, or a moment of his inception.  Thank heaven that I always keep a journal with me.  That poem ended up being the intro to the book.  McKennon Kelly comes from the part of me that is in love with love.  My imagination had so much fun creating him.  As I turned my words into a man, I took the best from the ones I once knew (and those I still know), the ones I’ve read about in my favorite books, all the ones I’ve imagined, and mixed those qualities with all the things I wish men could be then sprinkled in a little of what I imagined a cowboy who can make the eight on the back of a raging bull would be like …  McKennon is the best little pieces of everything and everyone I’ve experienced in life.  My heart was a flutter as I created him.  I am proud of McKennon Kelly.  I hope he sparks a smile across readers’ lips as they turn the pages of In The Reins. He certainly makes me smile as I continue to write his story in the sequel.

What attracts you to writing in the equestrian fiction genre?

I am happiest when I am in the saddle so it’s probably no surprise I was interested in writing a story about the bond between horse and human.  Also, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my book.  Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became an equestrian romance.  I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I write in the morning before life has an opportunity to get in the way. I get up at 5:30. My husband and I start the day by walking our dogs then return home to meditate. Quieting my mind really prepares me for creativity!  After I pour my first cup of coffee, I settle into my home office for my scheduled morning writing session. I am not a morning person but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach.  It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.

What are you working on now?

McKennon and Devon’s story continues. Currently, I am working on the sequel to In The Reins and planning its release in 2017.  The crazy thing is that the third book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper!  I am writing the second and third book simultaneously. I have having so much fun with the journey that this series is taking me on! I’ve learned that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m already developing a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob too!

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

There is so much research that goes into finding the right category for your book.  I loved that Amazon had a section for equestrian books.  I was happy to be able to categorize In The Reins alongside other horse books that I had read and fell in love with.  These are the books that helped me realize I could write my own horse book.  When I learned that In The Reins had broken into the top 100 (and then the top 12) my heart grew a thousand times its size because it meant that my writing was resonating with the audience I wanted to identify with and write for.  I put together a promoted post celebrating my readers on Facebook to acknowledge their contribution to helping my book get there.  I couldn’t have done it without them. Since then, In The Reins has gone on to be an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and has won the Best Western Fiction Literary Award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. I’m so grateful and my spurs couldn’t be jingling more over my book’s success!

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why?

I love writing equestrian fiction. I am a horse lover and a horse owner. When I am not riding a horse, you’ll find me writing about one. I was inspired to write In The Reins because I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I haven’t found many that focus on competitive horse showing at breed shows like the Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.  In my writing I am particularly interested in showcasing the western pleasure discipline and creating stories that provide an honest depiction of the bond between horse and human.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Carly. It’s been great getting to know more about you and your books!

Stay tuned for my April Author Spotlight with YA thriller author, Nina Mansfield!

 

BARN SHADOWS Release Day!

Today is the Day for my Book Release!

barnshadows42737The second book in my YA mystery “Dark Horse” series–BARN SHADOWS–is now available in PRINT and KINDLE and on KOBO!

While BARN SHADOWS can stand alone, I recommend reading Book One–TRAIL OF SECRETS–first because the second book gives away the ending of the first book.

BARN SHADOWS Back Cover Blurb:

A year after her tumultuous exit from the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy, seventeen year-old Brynlei returns determined to confront her demons and win Foxwoode’s elite Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll at the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to question whether her condition as a “Highly-Sensitive Person” is to blame or if something more sinister is at play.

As Brynlei becomes consumed with discovering the history of the unearthed doll, the bizarre happenings escalate to dangerous levels. She soon realizes that someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the threatening events at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

Watch the BARN SHADOWS Book Trailer on YouTube!

Thanks for stopping by and supporting my books!

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The Surprise Benefits of Journaling

quotes-writing-virginia-woolf-600x411I organized my thoughts on journaling a few weeks ago for a guest post on another blog. Here is a revised version of that post…

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On my recent birthday, my seven year- old daughter handed me a few tattered horse stickers, a purple pencil, and a blank notebook that she’d salvaged from her bottom desk drawer. I must have given her a confused look because she pointed to the notebook and told me it was for me to practice my writing. How cute! I thought as I hugged her and thanked her for the thoughtful present. It wasn’t until later that I realized what a powerful gift she had actually given me.

I kept that notebook next to my bed where it lay untouched for several days. Before falling asleep one night, I decided to open it and give journaling a try. At first, writing down my thoughts felt awkward and strange. Why did I need to write a note to myself about what I’d already experienced? What if someone read this? Why was my handwriting so horrible? By the third entry my handwriting was still illegible, but the words started flowing easier. Now, two months—and dozens of pages—later, I’m hooked on journaling. I’ve outlined some ways journaling can help writers below:

  1. Journaling sparks creativity – Stream of consciousness writing—or writing without thinking—brings forth thoughts you didn’t know you had. Journaling has no rules! There’s something freeing about filling a blank page with ramblings meant only for yourself. A journal allows you to explore crazy ideas and exercise your expressive muscles without the worry of what others will think.
  2. Journaling eases stress – Had a horrible day? There’s little worse for your health than keeping your emotions bottled up inside. Writing it down on paper can somehow contain the situation and make it seem manageable. You can even take it one step further and write a happy ending to your sad story. Now that’s my kind of plot twist!
  3. Journaling eliminates writer’s block —Journaling documents snapshots of your life which may eventually become segments of your novel. Drawing a blank? Look out the window and describe the weather. Describe the room you’re sitting in. Write a letter to a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Describe what you ate for lunch yesterday. You get the picture. The topics of journal entries don’t have to be life-changing. Revisit these seemingly mundane journal entries when you’ve reached a tough spot in your novel and see how they inspire you.
  4. Journaling transforms your emotions into words – When drama does occur in your life be sure to record your feelings while they’re fresh. Journaling preserves the sensations you experienced during times of intense emotions. Chances are good that the characters in your novel will experience similar periods of love, hate, despair, elation, anger, contentment, etc. Pull details from your journal to bring truth and authenticity to your writing.
  5. Journaling makes you more likely to achieve your goals – There is something about the written word that holds people accountable. Writing down a goal may prompt you to outline specific mini-steps for achieving that goal. The words may cause you to visualize and feel your own success. Make sure to take time to write down—and occasionally revisit—your goals while journaling.

As it turns out, my seven year-old daughter somehow knew  that a blank notebook sitting at the bottom of her desk drawer was just what I needed to jolt me out of my writing slump. Journaling has benefited me in all of the above ways and I’m happy to have rediscovered this simple writing tool. Do you have a birthday approaching? Perhaps you should ask for a journal!

 

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: D.M. Barr

It’s time to shake things up as Mystery Thriller Week draws to an end. Author D.M. Barr brings an unexpected and scintillating twist to the typical murder mystery. I was initially drawn to her novel because it centers around a morally challenged real estate agent (just like my work-in-progress.). After reading more about it, I think her novel may be the most fun book I’ve featured on my blog so far!  

dm-barr-headshotWho is D.M. Barr?  By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire. Her background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. She was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And she needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which she has no idea since they won’t friend her on Facebook) and she can spend her spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles her fancy. The main thing to remember about her work is that she is NOT one of her characters. For example, as a real estate broker, she’s never played Bondage Bingo in one of her empty listings or offed one of her problem clients. But that’s not to say she hasn’t wanted to…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]Expired Listings Back Cover Blurb: What if people were dying around you and you weren’t absolutely sure you weren’t their murderer? Someone is ‘deactivating’ the Realtors in Rock Canyon and almost no one seems to care. Not the surviving brokers, who consider the serial killings a competitive boon. Not the town’s residents, who see the murders as a public service. In fact, the only person who’s even somewhat alarmed is Dana Black, a kinky, sharp-witted yet emotionally skittish Realtor who has no alibi for the crimes because during each, she believes she was using her empty listings for games like Bondage Bingo with her sadistic lover, Dare. And yet, mysteriously, all clues are pointing her way.

Along with clearing her name and avoiding certain death at the hands of the ‘Realtor Retaliator,’ Dana has an even bigger problem: she’s inadvertently become a person of interest in more ways than one to Aidan Cummings, the sexy albeit vanilla detective investigating the case. While his attentions are tempting, Dana is torn—does she continue her ironically ‘safe’ but sterile BDSM relationship with Dare, or risk real intimacy with Aidan?

Kink, Suspense and Satire–Expired Listings masterfully combines all three while exploring the universal need for validation and the toxic nature of revenge.

BUY IT HERE!

Author Interview:

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

Pretty much when I read Harriet the Spy! It was fifth grade and we were all writing slam books (where you say “truthful” things about other people you know. Someone stole mine and I grabbed it back and ripped it up. Then I helped them put it back together so they could read it! (LOL) I also had some poetry published in the school newspaper that year and I realized how much I loved entertaining people and also being read.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I’ve thought a lot about this!

Dana Black: Mirielle Enos or Amy Schumer or even Jennifer Lawrence

Dare: Peter Krause

Cassandra Beckett: Glenn Close or Lauren Hutton or even Kathleen Turner

Melanie Wright: Constance Zimmer

Aidan Cummings: Orlando Bloom

Dr. Eleanor Lawrence: Ellen Degeneres

Endicott Coxswell: Jeffrey Bowyer Chapman

Lorelei Simpson: Kathy Bates or Rosie O’Donnell

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

I’m actually a former travel and business magazine writer/editor who now sells real estate (just like my character Dana Black, but that’s where the similarities end!) That’s how I was able to parody the real estate industry so well—I know where all the skeletons are buried!

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I plan to kill them all off in my next novel (haha). Actually I have, what I hope, is a pretty rational attitude about all this. I figure that no matter what I do, half the people in the world will love it and the other half will hate it.  Then, when I get a 1-star review—so rated not because of bad writing but because the reader didn’t bother reading the sales blurb and realized it wasn’t ‘their type of book’—I look at reviews from books I loved, like ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn and realized that if great books like that have received bad reviews, why shouldn’t I? All it means is that people out there have different tastes and preferences.

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Two things. First, attending Thrillerfest/Craftfest in NYC this past summer. I’m an author groupie and to be able to meet and chat with people I’ve long admired, such as Marshall Karp, Linwood Barclay, John Lescroart, John Sanford, Gillian Flynn, Karin Slaughter, and to hear about how they write and edit their books, was enormously helpful and fun.  The other highlight was receiving a really good Kirkus review.

Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?

So, so many. Probably Carolyn Keene when I was younger (I loved Nancy Drew) and then later Ayn Rand (for the sheer persistence of writing long books in a second language as well as incorporating philosophy into a novel), Harlan Coben (great layering), Marshall Karp, Jeff Strand, Jennifer Crusie and again, Harlan Coben (for incorporating humor into other genres) ad Anne Allen for her amazing and helpful blog.

Those were great answers! Thank you for sharing your story with us today.

Stay in contact with D.M. Barr via her WEBSITE , or leave a comment for her below!

 

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Sarah Key

Today is the first official day of MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK and I’m pleased to welcome thriller author Sarah Key to my blog. I’m sure you’ll find Sarah’s unique background as fascinating and impressive as I do. Please read more about her and books…

sarah-14-of-182644Sarah Key’s working life has followed many paths; English teacher, Adult Educator, HIV and AIDS activist, mentor to apprentice jockeys and writer. She holds a Masters Degree in Adult Education and her research report focused on perspective transformation for tolerance education.

Sarah is passionate about the rich cultural diversity of her country and has gathered many powerful narratives from a range of personalities including Apartheid resistors, Holocaust survivors, initiates from a rural circumcision school and survivors of sexual abuse.

Her novels are gritty, grisly psychological thrillers set in Southern Africa with its blends of old and new, mystical and modern, city and country. Aside from being entertaining and exploring deviance in its many guises, they attempt to challenge notions and shatter taboos surrounding sensitive cultural issues.

In 2011 Sarah began her journey writing fiction and is published by Rebele Publishers (Detroit). She is currently completing the final book in The Sisters of Light trilogy.  Sarah is married and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and two daughters. Connect with Sarah on FACEBOOK and GOODREADS.

cover-weeds2645Back Cover Blurb:  When lives collide, and time runs out, will there be a final chance for redemption?

Aden Cassalotti, damaged by childhood trauma, tragedies and disappointments, is financially and emotionally insolvent and seeks solace in a crack pipe.

Volatile Noel Schuurman, Aden’s lifelong friend and business partner, feels neglected living out of town running their marijuana and magic mushroom operation. The brooding recluse has killed before and, with escalating pressures, not even his mother and sister are safe on their isolated plot.

Aden takes a job with a ruthless criminal enterprise in an urban slum where dope and flesh are pedaled. He encounters Mandipa Ndlovu, who is being held with other sex slaves waiting to be sent to work.

Kgotso Shelile and his cousin, Senatla, search for Mandipa, Kgotso’s abducted girlfriend. In the underbelly of Johannesburg, they encounter Aden. Having grown up together, the men share an immediate bond and, when fate throws the three together in a Hillbrow strip club, the potential for peril is fraught with danger.

Key’s debut psychological thriller, Tangled Weeds, is sure to get your pulse racing.

Author Interview:

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I was about 11 and walking in the bushveld with my father. We came across an abandoned tumbled-downed house. My imagination took flight and I told him that I wanted to write a book filled with villains, robbers and smugglers. That realisation has never left me.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

My antagonists are downright twisted and malevolent so if I had to spend a day with a character it would be one of the Sisters of Light and probably Joanie Parks, a young artist whose background story is fully explored in The Butterfly Wind. Joanie is complex, confrontational and feisty and harbors a shameful secret. She’s also fiercely loyal and grapples with her own insecurities and need to be loved. Joanie is fun and fearless. I would have to be twenty five years younger, though, to keep up with her antics!

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I feel that my debut novel, Tangled Weeds would translate well into a mini-series.  It is a graphic thriller set between Zimbabwe, the fertile farmlands of the then Northern Province of South Africa known for its cultivation of mangoes and litchis, and Hillbrow, an urban slum.

Aden Cassalotti is a complex character who becomes addicted to crack cocaine. To support his drug dependency he takes a job with a deadly sex trafficking ring and gets much more than he bargained for…

I’m not very up to date on movies and movies stars, preferring to read books. The South African accent is one that presents actors with a huge challenge. In Invictus, a 2009 sports drama about Nelson Mandela and events surrounding the 1995 rugby world cup, Matt Damon did a fair job. With his blond good looks and ability to portray emotion he could give Aden a bash!

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

We didn’t have television until I was 12 so I grew up listening to dramas on the radio.  My father studied psychology when I was a pre-teen and I was fascinated by his textbooks and poured over pictures of people with anorexia, catatonia and other disorders. I have always been fascinated by the aberrant human mind and have an overactive imagination.

Thrillers are supposed to do just that – thrill. I do not enjoy reading or writing books that are uber violent or horrific having learned that the power of suggestion can just as successfully heighten tension.

With the help of my editor, I have worked hard to incorporate techniques that ensure my readers are gripped and find the experience electrifying. A fast pace and using varied perspectives that allow events to be understood from disparate characters’ points of view (particularly perverse antagonists) keep the pages turning. Enjoyed from the safety of one’s armchair, exploring the dark hearts of humans gone bad can be an exhilarating ride that is far removed from the mundanity of regular life.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I enjoy cooking and socialising greatly and keep fit attending a woman’s outdoor bootcamp programme most weekday mornings. I derive great pleasure from my two cross-breed dogs and am kept busy with family responsibilities. I read widely and enjoy travelling particularly locally – South Africa is an amazing, diverse country.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I haven’t focused much on marketing my books until recently. For the past years I have concentrated on raising our two daughters and getting the stories that are inside me down. I received two or three rejections from local publishers for my first novel, Tangled Weeds. Reading rejection letters is not pleasant – it’s like someone telling you that you have an ugly child!

Writing is a high point in my life’s journey and I had blind faith that my books would be published. Fortunately, I was accepted in 2011 by Rebele Publishers and have never looked back. I have three books published by them and am close to finishing the final book in my trilogy.

My books are enjoying a positive response. Reading is highly subjective so it is unrealistic to expect everyone to like your work and constructive criticism is necessary for improvement. Being a writer, like most jobs in this day and age, requires resilience, determination and a personal passion that drives you to continue.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

In a block in the morning from about 10.00am – 13h00 and then for an hour in the early evening around five or six.

What are you working on now?

I am completing the final book in my Sisters of Light trilogy. It is called The Starlight Tide and follows The Dandelion Clock and The Butterfly Wind.

Which well-known authors have inspired your writing?

I studied English at university and, for a short while, I was an English teacher so I have read  many books that have had a bearing on my writing. For a while I read a glut of Scandinavian crime; Jussi Adler-Olson, Camilla Lackberg, Lars Kepler. I found them atmospheric and try to effectively create mood in my books. Stieg Larsson’s incredible trilogy inspired me to write one.

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why? 

The essential themes I explore in my writing are the conflicts between good and evil. I believe that all people have the choice to take certain life paths. Circumstances and pre-dispositions will, of course, influence their decisions. If a character decides to try drugs, commit a murder or indulge in dark crafts and fantasies, there will be consequences to. Morality, or lack thereof, is a personal decision.

Living in a multicultural society in South Africa – which has an extraordinary history – I use my novels as a lens to explore diversity and different cultural belief systems. I believe that by presenting readers with different perspectives and practices, wrapped in the guise of fiction, a greater level of understanding and tolerance can be achieved.

Thanks for reading! Leave your comments and questions for Sarah here, and stay tuned for my next MTW Author Spotlight with Linda Kane!