Joe is a television sportscaster turned novelist and speaker. Before shifting his focus to fiction he had dozens of articles published in a variety of small and mid-sized magazines and wrote a screenplay that placed 7th in the Writers Digest Competition. His debut novel, The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride, is set for release on May 10. Learn more about him by visiting www.joesiple.com.
Longing For The Golden Age
by Joe Siple
I recently returned from a trip to Barcelona, where a hundred-twenty years ago, artists of all stripes—painters, sculptors, writers—met at Els Quatre Gats, a little cafe in El Gotic, to sip espresso, discuss their art, and to create.
Walking through the streets and cafes, the cobblestone roads and narrow alleys, I was struck by a sense of beauty and purity. More than anything, it was a sense of ease. This was a place where an artist could work and struggle, develop and grow. This was a place where the most idealistic, most romantic idea of what it means to be a writer still floated on the breeze, along with chocolate pastries and midday wine. The challenge artists faced was the only challenge that mattered: developing their chosen form to the very heights of their God-given potential.
In no way did my walk through El Gotic make me consider publishing. I never pondered the best way to self-promote. Which contest I could enter for free and which required more of the money I was supposed to be making, not spending.
I certainly don’t live in early-twentieth-century Barcelona.
On this side of the pond, things were also simpler, not so long ago. Either you broke through that steel curtain of agents and acquisitions editors to be published by a large, New York-based house, or you pulled books off the shelves of Barnes and Noble, or your library, or Boarders (remember them!?!) and wished enough authors would die off so you could get your shot.
Today, we’re faced with yet another version of the world of writing. And a lot of it seems to be about publishing as much as creating. Gone are the artists struggling in the cafes, with the highest goal being nothing more than the quality of their art. And gone are the days when the big New York publishers held complete sway over the American publishing industry. And like all sea-changes, this one has come with both good and bad.
The good? Anyone with a computer and a dream can be published.
The bad? Anyone with a computer and a dream can be published.
If my preference is to be back in the “Golden Age” of Barcelona, 1904, my second choice would be the old way we did things here. A smoky back room filled with bearded men (and maybe a couple women) deciding the fate of each of us, based, we hoped, on the quality of our work. You might reasonably be asking, “Why in the name of Shakespeare’s Quill would you prefer that?”
Simply put: Simplicity.
I used to say, “I want to be a writer, not an entrepreneur.” What I meant was I longed for the days where artists were focused solely on their art, not how to get it distributed and how to convince people to buy it. Because that’s not art, and that’s not writing. That’s something completely different, and an aspect of our society I don’t particularly enjoy taking part in.
I also worry about the quality of writing in the world getting “dumbed down,” which is inevitable when you go from 1% of the aspiring writer population getting published to nearly 100%, in a single generation. The truth is, writing is hard, and writing well is nearly impossible for most of us. And now we’re able to take a story that would have been nowhere near good enough to be published fifty years ago, and not only publish it, but make it look, aesthetically, almost identical to those that are worthy of publication. The dilemma this presents to readers is no small issue.
And yet, here I am, about to have my debut novel published by a small publisher that wouldn’t have been able to exist fifty years ago. Meaning my book wouldn’t have been able to be published fifty years ago.
Is this good, or is this bad? I’ve struggled with that question a lot recently.
Because I don’t want to contribute to the “dumbing down.” I don’t want to shift my focus from writing to promoting. I honestly couldn’t care less if a single person visits my website. You want me to take a selfie at a book signing and post it on Facebook? Please tell me you’re kidding.
But then there’s the other side. My story, on which I spent so many hours and emotions, will be shared with people who are looking for stories like mine. I’ll be able to use the experience as motivation to create more, hopefully even better stories. Most importantly, I can do it however I want to do it. If I don’t want to do social media, fine. No social media. If I don’t want to tell everyone to buy my book, who cares? I won’t do that either. My sales might be lackluster, but so are the sales of many people who do the things they’d rather not simply because they feel they have no choice.
So I figure I’ll go with it. I’ll embrace this new world of writing and publishing—I’ll even enter into it. But I’ll do it my way. In a way that’s true to myself and allows me to sleep at night.
And part of me, always, will long to be in 1904, elbow-to-elbow with other writers in a cafe in Barcelona.
The Five Wishes of Dr. Murray McBride
With all his family and friends gone, one-hundred-year-old Murray McBride is looking for a reason to live. He finds it in Jason Cashman, a ten-year-old boy with a terminal heart defect and a list of five things he wants to do before he dies. Together, they race against the limited time each has left, ticking off wishes one by one. Along the way, Murray remembers what it's like to be young, and Jason fights for the opportunity to grow old. But when tragedy strikes, their worlds are turned upside-down, and an unexpected gift is the only thing that can make Jason's final wish come true.
Where to Pre-Order The Five Wishes of Dr. Murray McBride
Kristen Lepionka is the author of the Roxane Weary mystery series, starting with The Last Place You Look (Minotaur Books, 2017). She grew up mostly in a public library and could often be found in the adult mystery section well before she was out of middle school. Her writing has been selected for Shotgun Honey, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Grift, and Black Elephant. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner and two cats. Her next book, What You Want to See, releases in May.
A question I get asked pretty often is, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is pretty disappointing, I think, but I usually say that I wish I knew. Because if I knew, I’d be able to go to that place, wherever it is, and get a new idea whenever I wanted--essentially, I could recreate inspiration on command. Ideas come from everywhere, and nowhere. My characters are everyone I’ve ever met, but at the same time, they aren’t based on specific people. Ideas are tricky things that come and go without rhyme or reason.
Now, all of that is not to say that my writing process is mostly just sitting around, waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ve tried it and can report back that it absolutely doesn’t work. There’s a Jack London quote that I love--“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”--and I really think that’s true. So how do you go after ideas with a club if you don’t know where they come from in the first place? It’s all about knowing what excites you as a writer. Brainstorming is the metaphorical “club” here. When I need an idea, or when I have a baby idea that needs to be combined with something else before it can become a big, strong, book-length idea, I like to make scribbly lists until I come across something I like. I can’t generate the perfect idea on command, but I can usually get into the right neighborhood this way. A full-fledged idea often exists at the intersection of two or three seemingly disparate things--MacBeth meets outer space, for example. (Please, somebody, write that!) I consider time spent working on ideas as “writing” time, even if I am not actually typing out words that find their way into a manuscript.
That brings me to another question I’m asked a lot: how long does it take to write a book? The answer, again, is complicated. It takes precisely as long as it takes. For me, the process of actively typing the words into a manuscript usually takes two to six months, but “writing” also involves hours of brainstorming, character sketches, daydreaming, procrastinating, research, redecorating my office (that’s a joke!), outlining, etc. I can only focus on typing one manuscript at a time, but I’m often kicking around ideas for several at once. And because I write a mystery series, my ideas for character arcs tend to overlap, affect each other when they change, etc. Basically, I’m always writing, even if I appear to be browsing office furniture online (again, a joke! Sort of).
If there’s anything I’ve learned about being a writer, it’s that everyone’s process is different. What works for one writer won’t work at all for someone else, and that’s okay. It’s really a matter of figuring out what works for you and owning it. Lee Child, author of the brilliantly suspenseful Jack Reacher series, and whom I was lucky enough to meet at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England, last summer, has a writing process that absolutely terrifies me: he starts a new book every September 1st with no outline and no plan--and he only writes one draft. He just sits down and writes it, and then it’s done. I think that’s absolutely marvelous. It would kill me, but I love it. On the flip side of that, I’ve read that Jeffrey Deaver pens super-detailed outlines before he starts writing--think 100+ pages of just outlining. This, too, would kill me. I’ve learned that I like to have a little bit of a plan, but not too much of a plan, and that it’s best not to fight it. You don’t have to be a certain kind of writer to be a “real” writer. Writers write, and it doesn’t matter how--just that you do it, and keep on doing it until you get where you want to go.
The Last Place You Look
Nobody knows what happened to Sarah Cook. The beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton―black and from the wrong side of the tracks―was convicted of the murders and is now on death row. Though he’s maintained his innocence all along, the clock is running out. His execution is only weeks away when his devoted sister insists she spied Sarah at an area gas station. Willing to try anything, she hires PI Roxane Weary to look at the case and see if she can locate Sarah.
Brad might be in a bad way, but private investigator Roxane Weary isn’t doing so hot herself. Still reeling from the recent death of her cop father in the line of duty, her main way of dealing with her grief has been working as little and drinking as much as possible. But Roxane finds herself drawn in to the story of Sarah's vanishing act, especially when she links the disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl.
The stakes get higher as Roxane discovers that the two girls may not be the only beautiful blonde teenagers who’ve turned up missing or dead. As her investigation gets darker and darker, Roxane will have to risk everything to find the truth. Lives depend on her cracking this case―hers included.
Check out Kristen on social media below:
Where to Buy The Last Place You Look
Karin Gillespie is the national-bestselling author of seven novels. She has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post and Writer Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Converse College and lives in Augusta, Georgia. She writes a book column for the Augusta Chronicle, and a humor column for the Augusta Magazine and was a recent recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year award.
I’ve been a novelist now for over sixteen years, and people occasionally ask me, what do you think it really takes to make it in this business? Most writer fret over whether they have enough talent. In my experience, talent is as cheap as bag of candy conversation hearts on Feb. 15. Talent is lovely, but if talent is coupled with unhealthy mind patterns, you won’t get very far in the writing world.
Let’s begin with one of the biggest bugaboos on your way to success: Fear. What comes to mind when you hear the word artist? Starving? Ramen noodles? Have you ever heard this discouraging ditty: People who write novels, live in hovels?
Society is constantly telling budding artists the same thing: Keep your day job. Being an artist is impractical. Only a talented few should dare to travel along the creative path.
These messages come fast and thick, like propaganda. They twine their way into the artist’s mind, choking off all inspiration to write a short story or pen a poem. Spiritual teacher Allan Watts wrote a powerful lecture called, “‘What if Money Is No Object?” and encouraged people to pursue their creative dreams, saying they’ll eventually make money from it. He also chides society for not encouraging young people to go after what they desire. Watts said, “We’re bringing up children and educating them to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch, and no vomit. It never gets there.
Too many artists are stalled before they even begin. Along with fear of censure comes fear of failure and fear of looking stupid. If any of these fears are keeping you from pursuing what you love, it might be useful to embark on an artistic recovery plan. I recommend reading and following the directives in The Artists Way. This book has helped thousands dislodge the limiting beliefs that keep them from their work. (Including myself; I wrote my first novel after reading it.) Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Without The Artist’s Way, there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.
Have you had some publishing successes and now consider yourself an expert? Not so fast. When my first novel was published, other writers were continually soliciting my advice, and I was tapped to lead workshops. After a while, I felt like I knew what I was doing, when the truth was I’d barely made a dent in the knowledge base. My false clarity cut off new insights at the knees, and I nearly lost my beginner’s mind.
Beginner’s mind means you retain a wide-eyed openness and eagerness for a subject, and you don’t harden yourself with preconceptions. For instance, among writers there’s an ongoing debate between those who write organically (so called “pansters” because they write by the seat of their pants,) and those who write with an outline. Many people have their minds set in cement, and they cut themselves off from any information that deviates from their point-of-views. That’s a mistake. Artistic practice can teach you more than you could ever learn in a lifetime. Don’t be such an expert that you quit evolving.
Speaking of lifelong learning, the other day I was reading Donald Maass’ Fire in Fiction, and he distinguishes between writers who are status seekers and storytellers. To succeed as a writer, you need to be the latter.
As artists we often daydream about winning awards or creating high demand for our work, but a diet of success won’t sustain a lengthy career. In fact, more often, success gets in the way. A mind constantly focused on rewards tends to create work that reflects its limited state: cramped, derivative, stale. Readers call it “phoned-in” and can sense that the author’s attention is elsewhere. On the other hand, when you have a mind filled with love of craft and generosity to reader, these positive mind states infuse your writing and are bound to infect the reader.
Sixteen years as a published writer and I can’t imagine any pastime more satisfying. Writing is like an account that earns compound interest, the more you deposit, the greater the riches you receive. Enid Bagnold said it beautifully:
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
Love Literary Style
A stuffy lit professor and would-be novelist hooks up with a self-published romance writer from Decatur, Georgia who adores all flamingo-patterned attire. Literary Journal calls it, “Deceptively thought-provoking and addictive.”
Check out Karin on Facebook or check out Karin's website
Where to Buy Love Literary Style
A blog post by ex-police officer, former psychotherapist, and award-winning, New York Times Best Selling Author, Michael McGarrity.
I’m not sure my fans and readers give a hoot about my journey to become a writer. If they do, they can easily research me on the Internet, or read the author’s bio on my website. Either way, it won’t be complete because there’s a whole lot about my life that simply isn’t anybody’s business. What I do believe is that good fiction writers are invisible and they never show up raw and naked on the pages of their books. That’s the way it should be. Readers really only care about the story. And it’s either good or it isn’t. That’s what counts. Being famous or a celebrity writer doesn’t mean a thing. Storytelling is everything.
If you’re interested in my writing and are new to it, what you need to know is that regardless of the genre, be it crime or historical fiction, all my stories are about family. If you get into my books, you’ll soon find out what I mean.
Don’t forget to patronize your local independent bookstore. They are a big part of the cultural bloodstream of your communities. Thanks, and keep reading!
An editorial note: I had the pleasure of working with Michael McGarrity on several programs for our local library in Alamogordo, NM. His warm and engaging personality, along with a pocketful of irreverent stories from both his writing career and prior law enforcement work, make him an entertaining speaker. His support for libraries is tremendous. If you haven't had a chance to read McGarrity's work, now's a great time. He's got a new book coming out for all you mystery buffs, and his family saga starting with Hard Country is a fascinating exploration of ranching life in New Mexico, and in particular, the Tularosa Basin where I was born.
Michael's next Kevin Kerney novel "Residue" will be out this fall. You can keep up with Michael and his books on both his website and his Amazon author page!
Other Titles by Michael McGarrity
The Kevin Kerney Novels
THE JUDAS JUDGE
UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW
THE BIG GAMBLE
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
DEAD OR ALIVE
RESIDUE (Coming October, 2018)
The American West Trilogy
THE LAST RANCH
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is very fond of chocolate and is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world. She is the author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes (September 2016) and Dreaming in Chocolate (February 2018).
I’m not one of those authors who’s always known I wanted to write. When I finally stumbled my way into fiction in college, I couldn’t fathom ever writing something longer than a short story. My undergrad creative writing program was an incredible intro into the literary world. I learned craft rules and studied theme and symbolism. I even graduated with departmental honors in creative writing.
Then I stopped writing. For years. It’s not that I didn’t want to write anymore, but the kind of writing that was lauded in school—high-brow literary fiction—didn’t feel like me. The kinds of stories I wrote didn’t live up to that. Not by a long shot. And it left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough to keep at it.
But the stories wouldn’t leave me alone. And the voices in my head insisted I pay attention to them.
So, I decided to write a story for me. One that felt true to who I wanted to be as an author, not what I thought other people thought I should be. That changed everything. I started with a short story I’d used as part of my honors thesis and turned it into my first novel. It wasn’t some great work of literary genius, but then it wasn’t meant to be. It was a way to fall back in love with writing and to show myself that I could craft a story that spanned a few hundred pages instead of stopping after ten or fifteen.
I’ve written six novels since then, with a seventh more than half way completed. Through these stories and characters, I’ve refined my voice as an author into something that’s whimsical and commercial and a little quirky. And it’s about as far from what I was writing in college as I could get. But my books are one-hundred percent me. They’re the kinds of stories I like to read, all magical and sweet and hopeful. They’re full of family and fate and food. (So much food!)
When I first started writing these kind of stories, I wasn’t sure they would appeal to anyone. (I freely admit they’re a bit odd.) Then I read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and realized there was indeed a market for my brand of magical southern fiction. Now that I have two books out in the world, I know I’ve found my heart as a writer. I’m still learning and growing with every new book I write. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Dreaming in Chocolate
With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope Dalton runs alongside her mother, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest request: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father who’s back in town for a few months – and as charming as ever.
Noah broke Penelope’s heart years ago, but now part of her wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to protect Ella from the same heartbreak. Now Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.
Where to Buy Dreaming in Chocolate
Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family. The Promise Between Us, which shines a light on postpartum OCD, launched in January, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com, or follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.
As someone who has lived in the shadow of mental illness since childhood, I’m fascinated by the stigma, shame, and misinformation that surround invisible disabilities. I grew up in a family that hid both my aunt’s untreated schizophrenia and my father’s decade of alcoholism; now I’m part of a family that talks openly about mental health (my son and my husband both struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder). I’ve been an enabler, an advocate, and a mental health coach for people I love. My learning curve continues, but the ongoing journey also feeds into the fiction I write—hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. I guess that was inevitable, but it was also unexpected.
With one manuscript in the drawer, I was deep into my second manuscript when a character called James Nealy appeared fully formed in my brain and refused to leave. James has OCD, and he came from my darkest fear as a mother: What if, when my young son grew up, no one could see beyond his obsessive, anxious behavior to love him for the incredible person he is? When I met James, I thought I was writing love stories with a dark edge. My hero and heroine were tortured souls who shared a truckload of emotional baggage, but mental illness wasn’t even a blip in a subplot.
James was a revelation from day one, but I was nervous about writing a character with OCD. Could I treat the OCD in a sensitive, accurate way? Would people question why his OCD didn’t manifest in the same form as Monk’s, the germophobic TV detective whom most people identified as the face of OCD? Would James’s quirkiness take over the story of a young mother trying to make peace with the guilt surrounding her husband’s death? And yet there was James, taking up prime real estate in my brain, saying, “Write me into your story.” (He’s quite persistent, my beloved James…)
Eventually, I tore the manuscript apart and rewrote it to include him. After a famous agent declared James “too dark to be a romantic hero” and rejected the story, I ripped it apart yet again and added chapters from James’s point of view, allowing readers to eavesdrop on his hidden battles with anxiety. I’m not sure whether this was a moment of chutzpah or my British war mentality shining through, but it was the best literary decision I’ve ever made. I quickly snagged the agent of my dreams and thanks to her, I now have five traditionally published novels.
I owe James everything. Excavating his layers helped me discover my passion for giving voice to characters who challenge stereotypes of disorders. He also set me on my path as a career novelist. By the time I’d created Felix Fitzwilliam, the unlikely hero of THE PERFECT SON, it was obvious I was writing about the impact of mental illness on families.
While my novels are standalones, my characters share common traits: they show extraordinary courage as they navigate the minefields of their everyday lives; they are never victims; and they are flawed individuals who are messy composites of personality, brain chemistry, DNA, upbringing, education, religion, etc. When they screw up, mental illness isn’t always the culprit, and they are never defined by—or reduced to—a label.
Okay, time to get off my soap box. The bottom line? I believe fiction matters and novels can educate and enlighten as well as entertain. When I visit book clubs, we tend to share wine, information, tissues, and group therapy, which I love. Many of the private messages I receive from readers are filled with stories of daily struggles without treatment or support. Community is such an important part of recovery and management, and a recurring theme in my novels.
Happy endings aren’t guaranteed in the worlds I create, but my stories all close with hope. Endless hope! Life in the trenches with mental illness can be dark and isolating, and yet each new day brings the possibility of a fresh start or what I like to call light through the trees.
Which leads me to Amy’s question: If I could meet one author, who would it be and why? I’m going to pick four giants who’ve been open about their own struggles with messed-up brain chemistry: Marian Keyes and J K Rowling (depression), John Green (OCD), and Stephen King (addiction and alcoholism). When celebrities share their struggles, it helps demystify mental illness and spread awareness. If I were to meet these guys, I would say thank you: as a niece, a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a writer.
The Promise Between Us
“This is an eye-opening and realistic exploration of mental illness—a topic that greatly deserves to be front and center.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Timesbestselling author of Small Great Things
Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.
But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?
To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.
Where to Buy The Promise Between Us
Becky Clark is the seventh of eight kids, which explains both her insatiable need for attention and her atrocious table manners. She likes to read funny books so it felt natural to write them too. She surrounds herself with quirky people and pets who end up as characters in her books.
Readers say her books are “fast and thoroughly entertaining” with “witty humor and tight writing” and “humor laced with engaging characters” so you should “grab a cocktail and enjoy the ride.” They also say “Warning: You will laugh out loud. I’m not kidding,” and “If you like Janet Evanovich, you will like Becky Clark.”
I'm lucky enough to be a full-time writer, which means I get to do my writing between 9:00am and noon every day, instead of 9:00pm and midnight. Which is good, because it's hard to write when you're fast asleep.
I started writing when my kids were very young and I had a childcare business in my home. The naptime rules were that they didn't have to sleep, but they had to stay put and read or otherwise silently occupy themselves.
That's when I went upstairs and wrote. At that time I wrote short personal essays about whatever was on my mind. I envisioned myself the next Erma Bombeck. I sold a few of those and it was extremely gratifying. It also gave me the writing bug.
Fast forward several years to my son and me at the public library. He wanted to find some historical fiction written for boys, but precocious as he was, he'd already read everything they had. As we left, he threw down the gauntlet. "Why don't you just write one, Mom?"
I didn't do everything my children wanted, but I did this. I had a lot of help, though. Several organizations and people came to my rescue: Colorado Independent Publishers Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and Pikes Peak Writers.
Many marvelous people taught me strange and wonderful things I didn't even know I needed to know and I got that book published, and into the hands of kids, one who told me he didn't like to read until he read my book.
Again, that writing bug chomped. Hard. And hasn't let go.
I wrote six or eight more manuscripts for kids, each one teaching me how much I still needed to learn. And then I made the leap to writing mysteries for adults. I became more involved in Pikes Peak Writers, and other writing organizations, teaching workshops to pay back the help I'd received over the years.
Getting involved in writing organizations is the advice I give everyone who asks me how to get started in a writing career. You meet fantastic and generous writers, some further along the path than you are, some further behind. You learn from both types. It's where I met most of my friends and many of my inspirations. Writer's conferences bring in editors, agents, and bestselling authors. And you get to chat with them.
As my mysteries found an audience, I was able to kick it up a notch, join Sisters in Crime (and help found my beloved Colorado chapter) and attend mystery fan conventions. Not put on for writers, but for readers. And I was able to hobnob with tons of mystery authors at conventions like Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, and Bouchercon.
Guess what! Even very famous ones are down-to-earth and generous! In fact, at Bouchercon 2017 I made a plan to stalk a bunch of authors to ask if they'd blurb my upcoming title FICTION CAN BE MURDER. I nervously clutched my ARCs, trying not to get them all sweaty, but I was nervous for absolutely no reason. To a person, they all said they'd be happy to read and blurb. Of course, it didn't work out for all of them in the end due to time constraints and their own writing deadlines. But I was never made to feel 'less than' or 'junior.' When asking, I always made sure to acknowledge that what I was asking of them was a huge imposition and that there really wasn't anything in it for them. They all pooh-poohed that, telling me, "People did this for me, and I want to do it for you."
Writers are inherently generous. I don't know why, but they are. I heart them.
I like the image of writers ahead of me on the career path stretching one hand back to me to help pull me along, while I have my other hand reaching back to help pull someone else along.
Because of all these helping hands, I have the first book — FICTION CAN BE MURDER — in my new Mystery Writer's Mystery series getting ready to launch in April 2018.
Fiction Can Be Murder
Mystery author Charlemagne Russo thought the twisty plots and peculiar murders in her books were only products of her imagination. That is, until her agent is found dead exactly as described in her unpublished manuscript. Suspicion swirls around her and her critique group. Which of her friends is a murderer?
Becky’s website …. https://beckyclarkbooks.com/
Follow Becky Clark on Amazon … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004NQO14I
on Facebook at Becky Clark Author … https://www.facebook.com/BeckyClarkAuthor/
and at Goodreads … https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4730815.Becky_Clark
Where to Buy Fiction Can Be Murder
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, she spends her time with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplantsand avoiding housework. She spent a few years as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 20 titles. Visit her website at jakazimer.com and sign up for her THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO MURDER Newsletter.
Thank you Amy, and readers, for allowing me much coveted space in this newsletter. Please forgive me if this is rambling and makes little sense, I’m flu-writing, which is, you guessed it, writing while whining about having the flu.
For those of you who haven’t heard of me, which is likely everyone but Amy, let me introduce myself. My name is Julie Kazimer, writing under J.A. Kazimer. I write mostly mysteries and romances, with the occasional divergence into urban fantasy, humor and YA. Oh, and adult-geared fairytales. Not Little Miss Muffet in web-bondage or anything. The series is called, F***ed-Up Fairytales, with CURSES! being the first book.
Overall, since 2012, I’ve had 20 or so books published.
Which really boils down to, I know very little about writing.
Seriously. When I sold my first book, I thought I knew a lot about it. Now I realize how little I understand about writing and the publishing world.
That’s what I wanted to chat about today (sounds like this will indeed be a short discussion).
The thing is, while I don’t know much about writing and publishing in terms of what makes it good or why something becomes a breakout hit, I do know about story. Story is why we read. Imagine a book that has zero story, just beautiful prose, would you bother reading more than the first page? I know I wouldn’t.
Even poets, whose word choice is all powerful, rely on convening some semblance of a tale.
Too many writers suffer over word choice, over whether to use an exclamation point or a period, or if they appropriately named a character…While these are important things to help convey story, they aren’t what readers will expect to find between the pages. It’s all about characters, plot, and pace.
Or I could be wrong. Happens more than I care to admit.
One last thing, if you love an author, then I urge you to reach out to them. Drop an email. It will mean more than you can imagine to them. My favorite author/best friend (I wish), Christopher Moore, is my idol when it comes to this.
Over the years, even before becoming an author myself, I would email him when my real best friend (who I’d throw over in a second if you’re interested in the position) and I would argue about a plot point in one of Moore’s books. Christopher always wrote back with amusing responses. It made me love him that much more. Authors are people too, but ones rarely allowed in polite society.
Haunted in Hollywood: The Adventures of Loey Lane
When a fashion magazine offers YouTube vlogger and model, Loey Lane, a cover shoot at the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, she jumps at the chance, flying from her small hometown in Kansas to the City of Angels . . . and ghosts.
Soon after arriving, speculation of a murderous ghost haunting the hotel reaches Loey’s ears. As the rumor goes, those that see the ghost will be the next to die. That very night, Loey watches, mesmerized, as the ghost materializes outside her poolside bungalow. Now she, along with her friends known as the LitSquad, will do anything in their power to save Loey from her supernatural fate. Of course, Loey’s best chance of surviving involves teaming up with a ghost-hunter from her past, a guy hot enough to melt away the promise that Loey made to keep him at a distance.
Social Media Links:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/JulieAKazimer
Twitter - @jakazimer
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/J.A.-Kazimer
Where to Buy Haunted in Hollywood: The Adventures of Loey Lane
Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of The Hanged Man’s Noose (Glass Dolphin Mysteries) and Skeletons in the Attic (Marketville Mysteries) for Barking Rain Press. In addition to writing mysteries, Judy has spent many years working as a freelance writer and editor, and is currently the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal.
Judy is a member Sisters in Crime International/Guppy Chapter/Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Judy was also elected to the 2017-2018 Crime Writers of Canada Board of Directors, representing Toronto and Southern Ontario. You can find out more about Judy at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she showcases other authors and blogs about her writing journey.
One of the first questions people tend to ask me is how long I’ve been writing, and the answer to that is, “for as long as I can remember,” albeit with this caveat: for many years, I wrote stories inside my head, on my way to and from elementary and high school, or later, commuting to and from work.
Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s impossible for someone to read a story that’s inside my head (at least I hope it’s impossible!) but let me plead my case. You see, for many years I thought everyone wrote stories in their head. And while I wanted to study journalism, circumstances led me to get a fulltime job in the credit department of an insurance company, while I took company-sponsored business courses at night. By age 23, I was the Canadian Division Credit Manager, the youngest Division Manager in the company’s history.
I followed that Credit Management path for several years, leaving the insurance company but finding success with others. And then one day I said to my husband, “I can’t do the corporate thing any more.” And he said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “I want to be a freelance writer.” He told me to try it for a year. That was 2003. I’ve never looked back, though I have taken a couple of online certificate programs in Fiction Writing and Creative Writing, and I’ve worked hard to build a reputation as a reliable researcher who consistently meets deadlines.
After 10 years of writing and editing for magazines and newspapers, I began writing my debut novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery. The premise was one I’d seen in my own small town: greedy developer comes with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby jeopardizing the small businesses on the town’s historic Main Street. As for the Glass Dolphin, it’s the name of an antiques shop, and I come by my knowledge honestly: I’ve been the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal since 2007.
It took a while to find a “home” for Noose, and when I couldn’t bring myself to write the sequel to a book that hadn’t found a publisher, I started Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville Mystery series. Both books are currently being published by Barking Rain Press, and can be found in print and e-book, as well as in audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
I’m also happy to say that the sequels to both books are scheduled. A Hole in One: A Glass Dolphin Mystery #2 is coming out Spring 2018, and Past & Present: A Marketville Mystery #2 is coming out early 2019. Which means, of course, that now I’m working on the sequels to the sequels. Sometimes I think it’s a problem, trying to write two series concurrently, but trust me, as problems go, it’s a very good problem to have.
When I left the corporate world I didn’t know if my life as a freelance writer would work out, but something inside me told me to try, and I never regretted the decision for a moment. That same voice told me to try writing a novel, and here I am, four books written and two more in the hopper.
Amy asked me to include a few lines about an author I’d like to meet, and why. I don’t know how to narrow it down. Every author I’ve read, whether I loved or hated the book, has impacted me, and in turn, my writing. Because all the writing courses in the world can’t change one simple fact: reading truly is the best teacher.
Skeletons in the Attic
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know he had. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who hopes to expose the Barnstable family secrets herself. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?
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Where to Buy Skeletons in the Attic
William Nikkel is the author of seven Jack Ferrell novels, a Jack Ferrell novella, and a steampunk/zombie western series featuring his latest hero, Max Traver. A former homicide detective and S.W.A.T. team member for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department in Bakersfield, California, William is an amateur scuba enthusiast, gold prospector and artist, who can be found just about anywhere. He and his wife Karen divide their time between California and Maui, Hawaii.
The challenge and joy of crafting a novel came relatively late in life for me. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. Growing up in a small town in the fifties and sixties, I spent a lot of hours outdoors playing. Much of that play involved imagination and creativity. At an early age—actually for as long as I can remember—I immersed myself in my love of art, dreaming that one day I could become a famous artist. But after college, I chose a career in law enforcement and went to work for the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.
As a deputy sheriff, I worked the streets and then detectives, with special assignments in SWAT and Homicide. When health concerns brought about an early retirement, I once again turned to my love of art. After a couple of years and limited success as a profession wildlife artist, I discovered the joy of crafting a story. And once again, I drew on the imagination and creativity that was such an important part of my younger years.
My work fighting crime in the streets of Bakersfield provided me with extraordinary life experiences I bring into my writing to breathe life into my characters and scenes. But like any endeavor worth pursuing, the road to becoming a published author was paved with challenge and disappointment that required dedication and hard work. Having no formal writing background, there was much to be learned. Through the Maui Writers Conference I had the privilege of learning the craft from New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins, Tess Gerritsen, David Morrell, and author Gary Braver—not to mention a host of writers like himself. Since that time, my learning experience has continued to evolve at the International Thriller Writers conference in New York. And if I was only able to offer one piece of advice for the beginning writer, it would be to stress the importance of finding one or two good writing conferences to both inspire and enhance their writing.
In 2001, my wife Karen and I moved to Maui, Hawaii. It was after moving to the island that I decided to write a series of novels based on Hawaii’s many mystical legends and myths. The protagonist, I reasoned, had to love the ocean. Thus, Marine Biologist Jack Ferrell came to life in my stories. In 2008 I finished the first Jack Ferrell novel GLIMMER OF GOLD. Next I wrote NIGHT MARCHERS, and then CAVE DWELLER, a #1 Amazon bestseller. In 2011 I finished my fourth Jack Ferrell novel MURRIETA GOLD. All four books have since been re-released by Shannon Raab at Suspense Publishing, who went on to published BLOOD GOLD, SHIPWRECK, and my latest novel SAILOR TAKE WARNING, which released November 13, 2017. The entire series is available for order in e-book and trade paperback through Amazon as well as Suspense Publishing.
I believe it’s safe to say every writer is inspired by authors they have read and loved. For me, inspiration has come from many talented authors: in particular Clive Cussler (primarily his earlier novels), Jim Rollins, Steve Berry, David Morrell, Lee Child, Robert B. Parker, and especially John D. MacDonald whose character Travis McGee started it all. What a pleasure it would be if he were alive today and I had the great good fortune to be able to sit down with him and discuss writing over glasses of Plymouth Gin.
Sailor Take Warning
Jack Ferrell is spending time at Lake Tahoe. All he wants is a break from Hawaii to put Dana Mores death behind him. But a twenty-dollar gold piece, thrust into his hand by a dying man draws him into the enigma surrounding the coin.
But he’s not prepared to stick around. Then his brother Deacon asks him to help a lady friend out of a jam. A brief interlude of indiscretion has left pretty, dark-haired, Melissa Martinelli the victim of blackmail.
He’s ready to turn the fake coin over to law enforcement, bring about a quick end to the blackmail scheme, and return to Hawaii when he discovers a clue leading to a century-and-a-half old cache of stolen gold. A trail that entangles him in a web of violence and death in the seedy world of coin fraud, blackmail, and lost treasure. Making him the target of a vengeance-driven man named Ryan Chambers who wants the gold, and Jack’s head on a platter. But nobody wants that more than Chambers’ nephew, Paul Davidson.
USA Today Bestselling Author Jon Land says it best: “A darkly demented tale that’s utterly irresistible. The much-appreciated return of Jack Ferrell serves up a smorgasbord of deceit and duplicitousness across a landscape steeped in classic crime noir. Nikkel seems to be channeling his inner Don Winslow in crafting a book that is equal parts Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, and John D. McDonald. Travis Magee has nothing on Jack Ferrell and Nikkel is every bit the equal of the genre greats ‘Sailor Take Warning’ emulates. Be warned: You won’t be able to put it down!”
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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