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An Unexpected Interview on Writing

November 13, 2012 1 comment

I was contacted out of the blue recently by a young lady we’ll call Becky (mostly because that’s her name). She was in university (she’s English) working on a report and wondered if she could ask me a few questions since I was a writer. Maybe I’ve been swayed by my recent fantasy series I’ve been writing but I felt the urge to help a damsel in distress. Okay, flowery language aside I always respond to readers, fans, and random strangers that aren’t trying to sell me something. It’s not nearly as exciting to hear that I’m usually a nice guy though.

Becky had some questions for me. Questions that Twitter just couldn’t handle. I invited her to email me and sure enough, the next morning an email was waiting in my inbox. As questions go, they were really pretty easy. Thoughtful though, and possibly helpful to other writers. Heck, for that matter, they might be of use to just about anyone. So in proving the answer to one of her questions about seeking inspiration, I used her conversation with me as inspiration to write this blog post! Read on for the Q&A session.

Becky: How long does it take me to write a book?
Jason: These days I usually take about 3 to 4 weeks to write a book. I can manage anywhere from 2000 to 5000 words a day on most days and that allows for a novel in the time span of a month. That’s just the rough draft though, from there I have to self edit it (another couple of days), then send it off to e content editor (approximately 3 – 4 weeks time), and then to a copyeditor / proofreader (another 2 – 3 weeks). While that’s going on I arrange to have cover art created for it so that when it comes back from the editors and I go over it a final time, it’s ready for publication. All told it takes approximately 2 months from word 1 to publication.

Becky: How do I get my inspirations?
Jason: Ooh, that’s a surprisingly tough question. The simple answer is everywhere. The not so simple answer is that it varies. Sometimes an idea just pops in my head while I’m driving in to my day job in the morning. At other times it happens while I’m writing a different book. Maybe I’ll be watching a movie and see something that I think deserves to be spun in a different way. I’ve been inspired by songs (Megadeth and Evanescence in particular, believe it or not), and I’ve been inspired by pictures. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve been inspired by my kids and my wife a few times as well. Inspiration is all around us, the tricky part is recognizing it!

Becky: What genre do you prefer to write in?
Jason: For perhaps the first time in my writing career I just released a book (Child of Fate) that is strictly high fantasy. We’re talking sword and sorcery, dragons and maidens kind of fantasy. Last night I started book 2 in that series (Victims of Fate). These are wonderful books, but a slight deviation from the norm for me because I’m a cross-genre kind of guy. By that I mean I write stories about characters. The backdrop and the setting flexes and changes to meet the needs of the story. From a higher level view my stories usually fall into science fiction or fantasy genres, but that’s not important to me. I don’t write about specific places or events, I write about people and how the feel, grow, and overcome the challenges presented to them by their environments.

Having said that, I’ve also written a couple of books that fit inside the romance genre more than anything else. I do not consider myself a romance writer, but when the characters speak to me and tell me they’ve got a story for me to tell, I listen.

 

And that, my friends, is it. Nothing too long or drawn out, just three simple questions that provide some great answers or data for other writers getting into the craft. She didn’t ask anything about what happens after a book is written and published, but to her credit I never thought about that until I had to either. That’s when the promoting and market awareness takes place, and it can be a daunting and exhausting task that is every bit as much work as writing and editing the books is. Definitely fodder for another post at another time though!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

The Talk – Every Parent’s Worst Fear?

April 14, 2012 5 comments

What follows is an official write-up on a very entertaining story my friend, fellow writer, and publishing partner J.E. Taylor shared with me recently. Officially this is a stop on her blog tour to promote her new book, Crystal Illusions (a Steve Williams novel). Unofficially, it’s highlights a downright amusing story about that awkward moment in every parent’s life when their son or daughter asks that question…

Earlier in the tour, I spoke about my son and his interest in scary movies.  Well, he’s surprised me again.  Remember as you read on that my boy is only twelve.  Well, we seem to have the damnedest conversations on our way to his Jukido class – for those that don’t know what Jukido is – it’s a form of martial arts that’s derived from Jujitsu.

Now, he knows that along with my thrillers, I also write things he is forbidden to read until he’s at least eighteen because they include some extremely explicit sex scenes.  Well maybe this is the reason he asks questions but I was not fully prepared for having THE TALK just yet. But as you well know, life doesn’t always wait until you’re prepared.

Anyhow, he said something akin to me being a virgin – and, um, no, I didn’t immaculately conceive my kids.  J  I couldn’t help but laugh at the comment and inform him that no, honey – I’m not a virgin. Then it occurred to me, perhaps he didn’t understand exactly what a Virgin was.  So I asked and he told me what he thought. His explanation was a hoot and a half and I really couldn’t help but laugh no matter how hard I tried.  When I got a hold of the giggles, I explained a virgin is someone who hasn’t had sex. Obviously I don’t fall into that category – after all, I got pregnant and had both he and his sister.

Then the question comes – you mean you can get pregnant from kissing?

Perhaps I should have said yes and left it there – then it would be a few years before the reality of what sex is would come to light  – but then again, he asked a logical question for a twelve year old and deserved a truthful answer of sorts.  However, trying to explain sex to a twelve year old was like dancing on hot coals – awkward and a little painful – but finally we arrived at the analogy of puzzle pieces and when those particular puzzle pieces are put together – that could end producing a baby. I then went on to say he wasn’t to put his puzzle piece anywhere that it didn’t belong until he was out of school and old enough to take responsibility for a child.

I’m sure the conversation was even more painful for him, but honestly, I’m glad this is something we can discuss – albeit on an awkward basis, but at least he’s not afraid to ask questions.

Still.  It really brings home the fact that my boy is growing up faster than I’m truly prepared for.

So, those of you with children – Is this anywhere near the realm of how your TALK went?  And for those not yet in the market for having kids, do you remember having THE TALK with your folks?

Thanks for swinging into this stop on my Blog Tour and I hope you’ll swing in to Bitten By Books on the 20th for a chance to win a $50.00 Amazon gift certificate and if you’d like to check out Crystal Illusions, you can purchase it here on Amazon.

Crystal Illusions

Assistant D.A. Carolyn Hastings has an uncanny knack for putting away criminals. With one of the best prosecution records in recent history, her future as Manhattan’s next District Attorney looks certain. But her sixth sense for winning cases threatens to work against her when she starts seeing a string of murders through the eyes of the killer.

With suspects piling up as fast as bodies, and the motives of those closest to her questionable, Carolyn doesn’t know who to trust. When the FBI assigns Special Agent Steve Williams to the case, Carolyn discloses her deepest fear – that the man she loves may be the one responsible for the city’s latest crime spree.

The only thing Steve knows for sure is Carolyn has an inexplicable psychic connection with the killer, and all the victims have one thing in common…a striking resemblance to Carolyn Hastings.

And he knows it’s only a matter of time before this psychopath knocks on her door.

Taylor has a strong thriller where every single character has reasonable doubt flashing like a neon sign hanging over them, and right from the beginning you are trying to guess who the killer really is. Gripping, rich and magnificent – crime whodunnits don’t get any better than this!Author Poppet / Gemma Rice – Author of Quislings, Blindsided, Djinn and Dusan

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Crystal-Illusions-Steve-Williams-ebook/dp/B007JBWCIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331505187&sr=8-1

Until next time,

Ciao.

JET

A Rare Quiet Moment With J.E. Taylor

November 11, 2011 4 comments

I cornered Jane recently and forced her to answer the questions. It wasn’t really under duress but then again, history is written by the conquerors… Of particular note I have personally read her book, Vengeance, and it was a very captivating read. I highly recommend it (and her others).

Tell us about your books – share some of your misery with other would-be writers to give them hope.

My publishing journey has been a bumpy rollercoaster ride to say the least.  I started writing in 2007 and by this, I mean every waking moment when I wasn’t at my day job or attempting to feed my kids and get them to their activities – I wrote.  For eighteen months, I plunged head down into this alternate world of fiction, fantasy, sex, violence and crime.

When I submerged from my writing stint, I had eight novels – eight full-length novels.  Of course, those first drafts sucked.  But I didn’t know that – I thought they were the next best selling phenomenon – the best thing since sliced bread, you know – I thought they rocked.  Wrong!  So very wrong!

I also didn’t know the first thing about querying agents.  So, by the time I had figured out the right way to approach the query-go-round, I had burned the bridges of my “most wanted agents” list and I just wanted to hide under the dining room table in embarrassment.

After a litany of rejections and some shrewd advice from a wonderful writing group I joined, I took some writing and editing courses and honed my craft, applying what I learned to my manuscripts.  Then I started searching for a home.

The first three books I wrote were not mainstream. Nope, they were edgy erotic thrillers. A serious blend of steamy scenes and violence along with a paranormal twist that no one expects.  The first book in the series – Survival Games – either people LOVE it or they can’t get through it.  There’s no middle ground on this one and I was floored when I got a publishing contract from a small erotic press and Survival Games went on to get great reviews and even a Grade A Select rating from Romance At Heart.

So my next hurdle focused on getting my FBI thriller series out the door.  The first in this series had the original title of Mirror Lake and I attempted the agent route again, getting a couple full manuscript requests that really didn’t lead anywhere outside of some decent feedback.  I took what those agents said to heart and dove in with new edits.  I also rebranded it under the title Dark Reckoning.  So with the re-tooling of both the book and the blurb, and re-branding under a more appropriate title that fit more readily with the other two in the series, I started getting more read requests from agents.  But by this time, my erotic publisher announced the opening of a sister company that would focus on mainstream fiction.  I veered from the agent search and jumped at the opportunity – and Dark Reckoning – the first in the Steve Williams series – found a home.

Why self-publishing?

Well, after going through the publication process for the Games Series as well as Dark Reckoning and Vengeance, and working for my publisher formatting and uploading to distribution sites as well as editing manuscripts for the better part of a year, I decided to step out on my own for Hunting Season.   About that same time, my publisher announced she was reverting to a co-op, which meant they’d still collect a cut off the top – but offer no other services.  The author’s were on their own for cover art, editing, formatting and uploading as well as requesting reviews.  I didn’t see an upside to this and I had enough experience under my belt, so I opted out and pulled my books with me.

About that same time, another author under the same publishing umbrella approached me about a venture – starting our own publishing house.  Novel Concept Publishing, LLC was born and you guessed it – my partner in crime is none other than Jason Halstead (Editors note: Jason Halstead is a great guy).

And my latest release through our publishing house is the fourth book in the Steve Williams series: Georgia Reign.

What advice can you give to other writers trying to be published?

Here’s a check list that may help you before you begin the submission process:

  1. Do you have too much back-story in the beginning?
    1. Back-story dumps can slow the pace and bore the reader, so make sure your back-story is limited to what the reader NEEDS to know.  You as the author should know far more about your character – but limit the information to a need to know basis.  If it does nothing to move the story forward, kill it.
  2. Do you have a consistent point of view?
    1. If you head hop – it will dilute the impact of the story and create an emotional abyss between your characters and your reader.  They won’t connect and will likely put the book down.  Think of Point of View this way – what can you see, hear, feel and think? – you’re not seeing things behind you – unless you’re an alien with eyes on both sides of your head – so your characters shouldn’t be able to see someone rolling their eyes or approaching them from behind.  Sounds of someone approaching – yes, but sight – no.  Unless your character is a mind reader – he can’t know for certain what anyone else is thinking – but he can deduce it from the other character’s body language, which means showing the reader the body language too.
  3. Do you show your readers your character’s physical reactions to stimulus?
    1. Visceral reactions – someone jumps from behind a tree and yells boo – do you tell the reader that your character is startled? Or do you show them the sudden jar to the heart, the gulp of breath – or yelp that escapes, the step back – or in some cases, stumbling fall back and then the startled expression or the shift in emotional state when they realize it’s someone they know just trying to scare them.   If you don’t show the reactions – go back and fix this – especially in the scenes that are pivotal in your story where emotional hits make or break the scene.
  4. Have you gone through every sentence, paragraph and scene and validated that it moves the story forward or gives the character more depth?
    1. If it does not add to the story, take the sentence, paragraph or scene out.  Objectivity is one of the hardest things to come by with your own work – but it is a necessary evil.  Do the right thing and trim the fat.
  5. Do you have a great hook/blurb/pitch?
    1. This is necessary to get an agent or publisher to look at your work – this is your foot in the door and without boiling your book down to a marketable slogan, you’ll continue to have a hard time selling your manuscript. This takes practice and some feedback, so find a writers group like the Backspace forum or a Yahoo group in your genre that offers feedback and put the blurb you have up for comment.

I think that’s enough of a start for those writers trying to publish.

Ebooks vs. print books, your preference for writing AND reading?

E-books lately, especially when I’m at the beach.

Kindle, Nook, or something else altogether?

Kindle – and loving it.

How do you find your readers and how do you interact / relate with them?

The main places where I’ve connected with readers are my networking sites: facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Kindle Boards to name a few.  I also have a website and people are free to contact me on any of these platforms to let me know what they thought of my books or to say hi in general.

I know you’re a busy girl, what’s your near to mid future road map look like?

Publish.  Publish. Publish.  J  Not just my novels, but those of authors that we’ve taken under the Novel Concept Publishing wing.

Finally – share a little dirt. I know you figured out a way to balance family, day job, editing, and writing, so what’s your kryptonite?

5 Hour energy drink.  Not kidding.

Actually, I haven’t figured out a practical way to juggle all my obligations.  Something always has to give.  In the past, it has been the family.  Sure I’m sitting in the family room with the lap desk – in the middle of the action, but I’m not really here – and this year, the kids have given me a little grief about it.  Balance is key – and I’m still searching for the perfect balance of business and family life.

Where can anxious readers find you on the web?

Website: www.JETaylor75.com

Blog: http://jetaylor75.blogspot.com

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/JETaylor/190872939774

Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/#!/JETaylor75

Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3153969.J_E_Taylor

Kindleboards Page: http://www.kindleboards.com/book/?asin=B004WOY07E&sample=N

Amazon Author Central Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003FER8M6

Smashwords Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JETaylor75

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Never Give Up!

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

As a first time published writer, share some of your misery with other would-be writers to give them hope. How long have you been trying to break into the industry?

To start with, I gave up on writing years back. Sometime in February ’09, I decided I wanted to write an outer space novel inspired by the stories I read when I was a teenager. It took two years of giving up fun and entertainment, but I got it done. The one true misery I’ve felt was a sympathetic agent telling me that these kinds of stories don’t get published anymore. I took a long look at the F&SF shelves at my local Barnes&Noble and saw that vampires and werewolves had taken over the place.

 

Did you consider self-publishing as a route? Why or why not?

I checked out the author-friendly Smashwords. That led me to Novel Concept Publishing and editor Jason Halstead. Going it alone on my first time through was a bit daunting for me. It’s a much easier ride when you work with people who know the route.

What’s your greatest fear (as it applies to writing or not – your call)?

Well, there’s having cancer and wondering if you’ll run out of treatment options. There’s reading about relentless budget cuts for public schools when you have two school-age children on the autism spectrum. That’s plenty of fear for one man.

 

Tell us a little about The Capable Man – what is it, what’s it about, and why did feel the need to write it?

The concept began as a moral mirror-image of Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit Will Travel. The protagonist—an adult, not a teenager—survives by his wits and the courage to take action; but he is, in fact, a pirate. He finds that choosing to do the wrong thing comes easily, especially when you’re being rewarded for it.

 EDITORS NOTE: Since debuting The Capable Man has shot up the ratings at an amazing rate. It’s listed on two top 100 bestseller lists already, and that was before any press releases or marketing / advertising has taken place. Having also read the book myself I highly recommend it to any futuristic sci-fi lover.

What’s next for Justin Maisling and the others featured in The Capable Man? Do you have a sequel planned or is the story told?

Yes, a sequel is in the works because I just can’t help myself. I have family and friends telling me that more should be happening to Justin. I feel the principal story has been told; however, there’s some unfinished business with certain unsavory folks that can be dealt with and there are repercussions following Justin’s actions. The working title is A Tolerance For Pain.

 

What’s next for Marc Hamlet – anything in process or any ideas nibbling away in the back of your mind?

I’ve done some research on horse training and black powder revolvers for a fantasy story that’s been in the back of my mind for the past year. It could be three novellas or three novels, depending on how hard I want to work. All I’ve settled on so far is the main character, the social setting and the California Central Valley.

 

How was your experience with Novel Concept Publishing, especially as a first time published author?

I wasn’t asked to re-arrange the furniture within my story, much to my relief. The editing process went easily although it helps to have a wife with a tech writing degree to copy edit for you. Truly, it’s been smooth sailing from the start.

 

What advice can you give to other writers trying to be published?

As everyone else says: don’t give up. I did once and I regret it. If you have a story you want to tell, sit yourself down and write it out… and don’t worry about marketability.

 

Where can anxious readers find you on the web? Website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad, book links, and anything else I neglected to mention.

My facebook account name is Marc Hamlet, although I rarely post anything there.

My twitter account (which is more fun than Facebook) is @MarcHamlet.

My blog is http://marchamlet.com/

 

 

The Capable Man can be found at the following links:

The Capable Man, by Marc Hamlet

The Capable Man, by Marc Hamlet

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0060DDBU2

Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/2940013224728

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/99843

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

There Are Dozens of Reasons You Shouldn’t Feed Wild Animals

October 20, 2011 3 comments

In spite of those many reasons, April O’Brien perseveres. No, she’s not crazy, she’s just refusing to live life by anyone’s standards except her own. I’d even argue that there’s a little bit of wild animal in her. Read below to learn more about this energetic and unstoppable force of nature who calls herself an author. I’d ask you to trust me when I say you won’t regret it, but maybe you should try reading this short interview I did with her yourself and make up your own mind.

Tell us about your book or books – share some of your misery with other would-be writers to give them hope.

They say a writer should write about what they know. “Well, been there done that.” Give me a topic and I will write about it. It is just something I must do. I believe anyone can learn the logistics of writing, but you either have it, or you don’t. A well written book can be edited, but it can not be taught. If you want it, make it happen. You can’t take rejection so hard. That is a requirement. Hemmingway was turned down 99 times before someone picked him up. If you want, it is hard work but so rewarding. I have now written six books, published 3 and am working on more. “April was here” is my autobiography and is better than any novel. I have also written in other genres. “It doesn’t get dark until midnight” is action adventure; a story of survival in the Alaskan wilderness with a young woman is the heroin. (You can’t put this book down.)

“Enter at your own risk” is a psychological thriller that leads you into the mind of a serial killer. It takes you from the beginnings of his rampage to an unforgettable ending.

Why self-publishing?

I didn’t know anything about writing, publishing, marketing or anything else.

I was born to do this, had something interesting to say and wanted the world to know. One day, after writing my story, my husband kindly told me that no one would be interested in me because I was not known. So I sat down and wrote two more books within a year and they were so good I just kept going. So the weird thing is I published them first even after wanting my book out there so badly. The only regret I have is not learning more first and not paying the money and having them professionally edited before I published! LOL

What’s your greatest fear?

I was born to write. I lived my life so I could write. My fear is that there is no one out there to tell all of this to, but I won’t stop until the world knows! My fear is rejection, just like any artist. I taught myself to paint and painted the covers of my books. I write, I make money trees and paint landscapes with people’s ashes in the paint. I live in the mountains of Colorado and feed every animal that comes to my door; I guess that is who I am.

What about your target market – your readers. How do you find them and how do you interact / relate with them?

I write in more than one genre and for more than one age group. “Midnight” is loved by both genders from 12 to 90 while “Enter” is definitely an adult novel and ”April was here” is such an emotional ride it could be read by teens but is probably more for the 20 and older age group. Women and men both love my books and can find something in each one that leaves them wanting to read another. I have done a few book signings; I loved doing that because I got to interact with my readers. The first time a stranger came to me at a signing and said “I have been waiting for your next book anxiously” I was thrilled and it felt so good. I have joined Independent author’s network and I love it. It truly is helping me market my books.

I use social media each day to let people know about my books such as twitter (aprilsworld1) and facebook (April Ma-Lynn O’Brien. I have a web site so people can get to know me and my books Aprilsworld.com and I am still learning how to link all of this together. Marketing takes time and dedication. If you don’t believe in your books, no one else will. It isn’t easy, I won’t lead you to think it is but it is hopefully all worth it in the end. I also got my books to kindle on Amazon. (A MUST.) There is also querying to agents and publishers but be ready for rejection and much waiting. A Query must be PERFECT and I am not perfect so I am still learning and probably will be until I am gone.

What’s next for April – anything in process or any ideas nibbling away in the back of your mind?

Always writing, even in my head, my mind won’t stop. I have so many ideas and books going, it is hard to keep up with them all, but I am driven by my overactive mind. I am almost finished with a book of short stories that is just fabulous. I am now starting a Y.A. novel that is so full of imagination it will satisfy all who read it. I also have a sequel working to “Enter (at your own risk)” and have a sequel done to my book “April was here.” Can’t give you all of my ideas yet as they are not copy written.

What advice can you give to other writers trying to be published?

I believe the future is Independent publishing, Kindle, and next, audio books. So start with a hard cover book, something you can hold in your hand and do book signings with, but that is NOT where you will make any money. It is all the other things I already mentioned that will get you where you want to be. I used Author house because they offer a return policy just like a traditional publisher. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500.00 to a few thousand depending on what all you need. From start to finish you can hold your book in your hand as soon as two or three months. You can bypass this process and publish directly to Kindle, but there is nothing like holding a hard copy of your own book!

Finally – share a little dirt. Something that makes you less of a superhero who can balance writing with a busy life. What’s your kryptonite?

This is a book in itself, the murder of my only child, my daughter Katrina Michelle. She was 25 when she was shot in the head. My autobiography “April was here” tells many secrets. It ends when I am twenty. It is not about my daughter that is another book. It is so full of unimaginable events it is sometimes hard to believe. I am true to my book and hold nothing back. It is so interesting you can’t put it down. Not a dull page in it and very revealing. I don’t regret how honest my book is in fact, I believe I lived my life to tell the world! I also believe I wouldn’t be who I am today without all of the yesterdays. I try to learn something from these lessons, even the hard ones, how would I know happiness if I hadn’t known sadness.

Where can anxious readers find you on the web?

 I am everywhere!

Website: http://aprilsworld.com

Blog: http://aprilsworld.com/blog/

Independent Author Network:  http://bit.ly/pLjWGK,

Twitter: @aprilsworld1,

Facebook: April Ma-Lynn O’Brien,

Email: aprilsworld@msn.com

I am also a member of The women’s nest, writers digest and many more.

April O’Brien

A treasure waiting to be found

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com

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