Thursday, May 24, 2018

In Case You Like Fantasy

I know all of you like mysteries and thrillers, but if you're like me you also love a good fantasy story. And since both of my series involve a strong female protagonist, you probably also enjoy that in a story as well. So you will certainly enjoy this book by a fellow indie writer, Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain.
 
   Mishi and Taka live each day of their lives with the shadow of death lurking behind them. The struggle to hide the elemental powers that mark the two girls as Kisōshi separates them from the other orphans, yet forges a deep bond between them.
   When Mishi is dragged from the orphanage at the age of eight, the girls are unsure if or when they will find each other again. While their powers grow with each season-cycle, the girls must come to terms with their true selves--Mishi as a warrior, Taka as a healer--as they forge separate paths which lead to the same horrifying discovery...
   The Rōjū council’s dark secret is one that it has spent centuries killing to keep, and Mishi and Taka know too much. The two young women have overcome desperate odds in a society where their very existence is a crime, but now that they know the Rōjū’s secret they find themselves fighting for much more than their own survival.

The book normally sells for $4.99 in the US, but it's currently 99¢ from now til the 9th of June. You can find it here at this link.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A New Project

Recently my girlfriend's adult son and his girlfriend, Tess, moved in with us. One night Tess and I were chatting, and I began describing for her the conspiracy theory I made up as the foundation of my novel, Five Secrets. I explained how I rooted the conspiracy in the same historical "theories" that form the basis of the plot of The Da Vinci Code and the National Treasure movies, how the geography and the landmarks and history I borrowed to flesh out my concept are all true to reality, and how a video I made several years ago describing the theory (complete with a skeptic's note at the end) had made its way onto several conspiracy chaser websites.

When I finished, she told me that even though I explained that the conclusion I drew was nonsense, the evidence was so compelling that it left her with a feeling of "Maybe though."

This got me to thinking that I should write another non-fiction book debunking my own fictional account in the vein of The Da Vinci Hoax, a book put out by Catholics concerned that the Dan Brown novel's premises might lead their flock astray. My take, however, would be broader in scope. I plan to first describe the evidence for my own "theory" in earnest, only debunking it afterward in the broader context of the need for skepticism and the dangers of earnest credulity.

I also hope to construct a PowerPoint/Ted-Talk-style presentation in which I lay out the evidence in context, and then challenge the audience to tear it apart, finally concluding with my own dismissal of the theory I invented and a challenge to any audience members who have bought into such ideas as: false-flags, Cryptids, science denialism, trutherism, etc; with a skeptical eye, because if I can invent a compelling conspiracy theory from scant evidence and wishful thinking anyone can.

I'm working on the PowerPoint now, and when finished I'll create a video of it to share with followers of my newsletter. So sign up now. Link in the sidebar.

So that's my current project. I'll keep you all updated in future installments on this blog.

P.S. For a limited time you can download Five Secrets, the novel that started it all, from Amazon for just 99¢

Monday, May 14, 2018

Author Interview: Shari Lopatin: Author of The Apollo Illusion


Shari Lopatin tells stories that matter. An award-winning journalist in her earlier years, she now writes complex and stimulating suspense novels that tie into modern-day social issues. Shari has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, public relations professional, social media manager, and earned the title of “Cat Mom of the Year.” Her debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, is coming out May 19, 2018. Digital copies are now available for pre-order. Learn more at www.ShariLopatin.com/books.

The Apollo Illusion 
The year is 2150, and bullied nineteen-year-old Flora can no longer ignore the burning curiosity to learn what’s behind the towering Wall surrounding her home state of Apollo. Citizens still read books, discuss philosophy, and send text messages, but questioning The Other Side is forbidden.
When Flora’s naïveté accidentally reveals a dark secret about Apollo, she’s forced into an isolated web of truth, lies, and survival. Fearing for her life, she leaves behind a clue for her childhood friend, Andrew, placing her last hope in their special bond.

Who are your influences? 
My primary influences in creative writing have been George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, and more recently, Junot Diaz.

When did you begin writing? 
I've been writing for as long as I can remember! I wrote my first short story when I was seven years old about a group of aliens who befriended a girl on earth; they all had names of food items, such as "Butter." However, I began writing professionally in 2005, after I graduated from college with my bachelor's degree in Journalism. I started my career as a daily newspaper reporter.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc? 
I tend to write about things for which I feel passionately, or a topic that really gets my blood flowing (in either a good or bad way). For example, I came up with the idea for my current book, "The Apollo Illusion," while having dinner with my mom, sister, and boyfriend. My mom commented on a news story she'd watched that reported how babies are learning the swiping motion of a tablet before they learn to speak. We started discussing the societal repercussions of a generation brought up with that foundation, and the idea for my book sparked. I'd been watching the effects of social media on my beloved profession of print journalism as well, and had been contemplating issues around the rapid advancement of technology. That conversation with my family was the prompt I needed to finally start writing. On the other hand, I developed the idea for my second book, which has been completed but not yet published, after years of working in healthcare communications and witnessing certain scenarios that upset me.

Do you work from an outline? 
No! I cannot work from an outline. I always have a general direction that I'm running toward as I'm writing, and I may have some plot points in my head, but I let the characters (and therefore the plot line) develop organically. Sometimes, my characters surprise me by their actions or the things they say! I've actually come up with some exciting plot twists this way. I need to allow my creative energy to flow without too much structure. I can always fix things later, perfect the character development, or improve the story arc during the editing process.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel. 
My favorite scene in my novel, "The Apollo Illusion," is actually one of the surprise plot points, so I cannot talk about it! But it's a very emotional discovery in the book, one that I cried while writing. Without giving away spoilers, this scene deals with a theme that I value deeply: family. And I think in a way, I was writing a "wish" that I have for someone in my life who I love, and this was my way of waving my magic wand and giving this person something in my story that I know will not happen in life.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy? 
Maybe it's the journalist in me, but I aim to tell stories that matter. I like to say that a great story can change the world, and I think solid writing should aim to convey a higher truth and prompt readers to think deeply about their views on a subject. I like reading books that are not only entertaining, but explore aspects to life or issues that help me understand them from another's perspective. I like writing and books that challenge me, connect me to their characters, and force me to think on a multidimensional level. For these reasons, I prefer to write about topics that tie into modern-day social issues.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres? 
I sort of fell into writing suspense by default, but my second book is closer to a literary/contemporary suspense or dramatic work, than to a dystopian suspense/science fiction. So I guess the answer to this question is yes!

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share? 
Hahaha! I don't think so; I probably "talked" my head off with anecdotes already, in my answers above. I just really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my writing and share the love of this craft with other fellow writers!

To Connect with Shari:
Instagram: www.instagram.com/sharilopatin (@sharilopatin)
Twitter: www.twitter.com/sharilopatin (@sharilopatin)
Blog and website: www.sharilopatin.com 
"The Readers Club" email list: http://eepurl.com/c_M_0L

Friday, April 20, 2018

Author Interview: Christopher Bardsley: Author of Jack Was Here


Christopher Bardsley lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. He undertook his studies at the University of Melbourne, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Teaching. In 2012, he was the recipient of the Above Water prize for fiction. While he is primarily an author of novels, his interests also include modern and ancient history, with a particular focus on interpreting extremism. Christopher teaches literature and history at independent schools in Victoria. Jack Was Here is his first novel.


 Jack Was Here
 Hugh Fitzgerald is losing control. In the aftermath of a traumatic end to his military career, his life has disintegrated. Hugh is approaching the end of his tether when a desperate plea for help arrives from a most unexpected quarter.
Nineteen-year-old Jack Kerr, halfway through a coming-of-age trip to Thailand, has disappeared. He has left few traces, little information, and absolutely no answers. As the days turn into weeks, his parents grow increasingly frantic.
They approach Hugh with a simple request; do whatever it takes to find their son, and do whatever it takes to bring him home. It sounds easy enough. The money is right. More importantly, it’s something to do–something useful.
But as soon as Hugh touches down in Thailand, the illusion of control begins to slip through his fingers. Jack’s warm trail is easy to find, but it leads somewhere unimaginable. Finally, as he closes in, Hugh is forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures.
Jack Was Here is an intoxicating glimpse into Thailand’s underworld.
A startling debut from Christopher Bardsley.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc? 
I’m always on the hunt. Anybody spending too much time in my vicinity is likely to have their personality harvested for interesting quirks. Character names are plucked from here and there, and mashed together until they seem reasonably plausible. My imagination is a bit of a blender. To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually know where it all comes from. I don’t need to know, either, and it’s not something that I spend too much time contemplating. In terms of point-of- view, most of my work has been in the first person. That’s not a rule by any means, but I do prefer the subjective to that omnipotent third-person voice-of- god that can be so difficult to manage.

When did you begin writing?
As soon as I could, really. If the question is when I began properly focusing on writing, I would say that was around the age of nineteen or twenty. Since then, I’ve constantly had some sort of long-form project on simmer. Most of the early work is wedged safely at the bottom of a drawer, of course, but the apprenticeship in this trade is probably not something to be rushed. I’ve always been vaguely suspicious of the how-to- write industry, and I’ve never had any formal training in writing fiction. 

Do you work from an outline? 
I do work from an outline, but it’s a very nebulous one. I never know exactly how my stories will end when I begin writing them. I think it’s important to give your characters enough room to make their own decisions. The outline evolves as the novel progresses, and the plot can often veer off in wildly unexpected directions. I think the danger of having too much structure in your planning is that you can fall into the trap of designing a story around what you see as its message. Whatever meaning a work of fiction might generate is a rather private interaction between the novel and its readers. This is not something that the writer should curate too deliberately, lest the plot descend into a clunky parable. 

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel. 
I do particularly like the scenes that revolve around the full-moon party on Koh Samui. This is perhaps the most lurid and violent section of a lurid and violent novel, and I hope the atmosphere does tribute to this fairly remarkable spectacle. Anybody who has ever had the dubious pleasure of attending one of these parties might agree that it makes for an arresting backdrop. I found it both ugly and compelling, doubly so when I made the mistake of returning to the scene of the crime in later years. 

The southern islands of Thailand have been so thoroughly ruined by the tourist industry that it is impossible not to feel a little nostalgia for what they might have been before, even if you were never there to see it for yourself. A reviewer recently (and correctly) speculated that Jack Was Here is unlikely to be endorsed by the tourist board of Thailand. I sincerely hope that the novel doesn’t read as an indictment of the country. I love Thailand, and I have spent a lot of time there over the years. Enough time, though, to get a sense of the dangers particular to the backpacker scene. Westerners have been coming to untidy ends in the tropics for centuries. There is something underneath all that white sand and neon that can send otherwise sensible people unstuck. I’ve seen it myself more than once. 
This is a fairly violent novel.

What are your thoughts on violence in fiction? 
I did have to deploy a certain amount of violence in order to realise the plot of Jack Was Here. Personally, I don’t necessarily object to violence in a work of fiction, but I do think that it has to be there for a reason. I am not interested in bloodshed and suffering as a form of entertainment in and of itself. I think that it’s irresponsible to celebrate or glamorise violence, and I can think of more than a few famous writers and directors who are guilty of this. It must serve a purpose. This novel is ridden with conflict, and killing has completely defined the life of the protagonist. Hugh is already a profoundly traumatised character at the beginning of the novel, and I would hope that readers understand that each act of violence he commits actually takes him further and further from his goal. In certain circumstances, good people are capable of perfectly dreadful acts. This is one of the great conundrums of human nature, and makes compelling subject matter for any author. 

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres? 
I wouldn’t consider myself overly bound to any genre in particular. I have a secret yen to write a sci-fi novel. This would be an undertaking to be approached carefully, though. Science Fiction is a wonderful genre, but terribly uneven. If you’re planning to create an entire universe, then your technique has to be on par with your imagination. Managing exposition is enough of a challenge in the real world. 

What advice would you offer to a young writer? 
Stubbornness is a deeply underrated quality for any writer. To paraphrase Vonnegut, talent is actually surprisingly common. What is rare is the ability to endure the life of a writer. Writing novels is not a pleasant or glamorous pursuit. It can be frustrating, lonely, and there are no guarantees in this business. Your motivation cannot depend on external validation. There will be a million opportunities to quit. Real writers push forward, treat their trade seriously, and believe in themselves. You have to keep the fire burning on your own. 


Christopher's Author Page on his agent's website: andrewlownie.co.uk/authors/christopher-bardsley
Christopher's Twitter: @chriscoburg

Friday, April 13, 2018

April Promo

This weekend only, Renée Pawlish brings us another great 99¢ eBook promo featuring over 35 fantastic mystery and thriller novels for your Kindles®. You can find the promo by clicking here.

My own novel, Common Sense, is included. It's the second novel in the Lupa Schwartz Mysteries series, and if you haven't grabbed one yet, this is a perfect opportunity. Here's the book description:

Common sense tells Cattleya Hoskin that her reporter ex-husband wouldn't have gone out night-fishing by himself in the middle of an investigation. The unaccommodating local authorities see it differently. In an effort to prove them wrong, Cattleya enlists the help of her private investigator friend, Schwartz, to follow through with Dave’s investigation—theft from the power grid in a small Ohio town.
The inquiry is complicated by crooked contractors, a menacing white van, and some long-abandoned coal mines and antebellum tunnels. Aggressively loud church bells and the amorous advances of a bounty hunter Schwartz brought in to help add to an already convoluted situation. Yet Cattleya feels she owes it to Dave to figure out what happened to him, for better or for worse.

The promo ends Sunday at midnight, but I'll be leaving my book on discount for a few extra days in case you don't see this post over the weekend.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Author Interview: Shaun Baines: Author of Woodcutter

  Shaun didn't always live in a damp cottage in Scotland.  He once lived in a flat that permanently smelled of pizza. He wasn't always a writer, either. He worked in a factory, a government institution, as a manager in a purchasing department and later as a gardener.
  He has had a gun levelled at him and been threatened by a man with 'Bad Joe' tattooed on his neck. He doesn't knowingly associate with criminals.
  Shaun comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.
  Woodcutter is his debut novel published by Thistle Publishing. It is based on the criminal underworld of his native home, available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback will be published 7th June 2018.
  These days, he keeps chickens and bees, grows his own fruit and vegetables and wonders where it all went so right.
  You can find him at shaunbaines.com, on Facebook as Shaun Baines Writer or Twitter as @littlehavenfarm

Woodcutter
On the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.But his family have problems of their own. Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.Betrayed by his parents. Despised by his brother. In love with his sister-in-law. Home has become a dangerous place to be.Daniel wants his daughter safe. And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.

Who are your influences?
There are a lot of writers I've admired over the years. The list is achingly long, but includes James Herbert, Jeffrey Deaver, Thomas Harris, Martina Cole, Stephen King and more. They're all very different, but they've worked hard at their craft. Whether you like them or not, that effort comes across in their writing.
The people who influence me the most aren't writers. I live in a rural community where farmers work around the clock just to keep up with the payments on their farm. My Dad had a series of grisly jobs when I was growing up, but he went in every day without complaint. When I grumble about how difficult writing can be (and I do. Bitterly.), I remember there are people out there working twice as hard for half as much.
If that doesn't squeeze another paragraph out of you, nothing will.

When did you begin writing?
I think everyone enjoyed writing stories when they were a kid, but some of us never grew up. I have a vague memory of writing a Christmas play for my parents when I was six-ish. I persuaded my sister to play an elf while I played Santa Claus returning to his Grotto from the pub. I'm not sure why Santa was drinking on Christmas Eve, but I was very judgemental about it. He certainly shouldn't have been flying his sleigh. The narrative arc started and ended there, but we received rave reviews from our parents. Forty years later, we are still hoping to tour the play at some point.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I have to come clean. I am terrible at naming my characters. Conventionally, names should encapsulate the characters in some way, but I'm so eager to get the story finished, I don't stop long enough to give them much thought. Where I write, I am faced by rows of DVDs. There is a direct correlation between my character's names and actors in my favourite films.
Or names simply surface from my murky subconscious.
It wasn't until the third draft of Woodcutter that I realised I'd named the main villain after my wife's uncle, a mild mannered optician. Or the conniving matriarch figure after my best friend's wife. I changed them, of course, lest Christmas get-togethers got awkward, but name-checking has become an important part of my writing process.
I don't want to get cut out of anyone's wills.

Do you work from an outline?
One of my favourite authors John Connolly plans out his first few chapters and uses them as a springboard for the rest of the novel. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me and it worked a charm for the first draft of Woodcutter, but the rewrites were a massacre. Huge swathes of innocent words were cut and I was left with a story with more holes in it than a British road.
So I embraced the Post-It note and plotted things out properly. I have since adopted this as my go-to method. Maybe it's a safer option, but it's a lot easier tearing down a Post-It note than deleting whole chapters.
I admire fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers, but for me, it's like jumping off a roof and then attempting to avoid a sticky mess at the end.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I approach writing as a job. There isn't enough time to wait for the Muse to show up, if it does at all. And there's nothing you write that can't be fixed later so it's about head down, words down. This works best in the first draft stage where I'm carried away with creative fervour. As I progress through my drafts, I pay less attention to word count and it becomes more about replacing quantity with quality.
For a lot of people, money is hard to come by. I owe it to readers who spend money and time on me to take that seriously. I put a lot of hours into getting something right. Readers deserve it.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I write a lot of short stories and hope to put a collection together some time. It's mainly dark fantasy with shades of folklore. I've tried writing science-fiction, but I can barely work the TV so it always falls flat. I'm way too cynical to write romance and too English for erotica. But I am passionate about commercial crime fiction. I love it. I love the darkness and the light of it, the joy of a red herring, the theatre of the denouement and the complicated characters.
My goal as a crime writer is to put my reader on a rollercoaster, warn them the brakes are faulty and press Go.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Two Sales For St Paddy's Day



It's March madness if by madness you mean free books featuring female sleuths. Anne R. Tan is hosting a book funnel giveaway with 37 titles available. Visit this link from now 'til March 31 for the details.

Meanwhile, this weekend also marks the return of Renée Pawlish's monthly promo. 38 mystery and thriller titles for 99¢ are available from Amazon for your kindle at this link.

Enjoy.