Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Taking a Trip on "The Road to Nyn"

I've got a charming little fantasy adventure to share with you today.  From nine to ninety-nine, it's sure to offer entertainment to keep those young ones reading between the pages of a social studies textbook.  Join me as we explore Brian G. Michaud's young adult fantasy The Road to Nyn.

Book Blurb:
In a land where magic is outlawed, a young boy is living a double life. Although Kay is training to be a knight, he has been secretly studying the forbidden ways of magic with Alamin, a powerful but eccentric wizard. When a band of goblins raids his village and enslaves his family and friends, Kay embarks on an adventure that takes him across the Kingdom of Gaspar and into the dark and treacherous caves of the Goblin Realm. What Kay doesn’t realize is that his journey is leading him on a collision course with the Lord of Nyn – a being so powerful that none dare face him...not even Alamin himself!

My Review:
As I said before, The Road to Nyn is a charming quest adventure with a sense along the lines of Lord of the Rings with just a smidge of the movie A Knight's Tale thrown in for good measure.

We open with young Kay competing in the midst of the Squire Trials as he attempts to become the first page in living memory to become a squire - at least the first commoner to accomplish such a feat.  Squires typically come from the privileged class because it is they who move up the ranks to knighthood.  Such an opportunity most only dream of, but Kay lives it and relishes how consideration of a title will elevate his family.

But Kay holds a secret that, if revealed, could destroy everything he holds dear.  Magic has been outlawed in the Kingdom of Gaspar, and while Kay has been openly competing for a position as a squire, he's also been learning the ways of Alamin, the wizard.  He must give up such association if he is to realize his dream of becoming a knight.

Before he decides, Kay's village is attacked and his family enslaved by goblins.  Thus begins the journey to locate his family before they are taken into the bowels of the Goblin Realm, where no man has made it out alive.  Along with Alamin, his trusty dog, Strapper, and a host of new friends along the way, Kay must cross the Bridge of Bones into the land of Nyn and rescue his family before it is too late.

This really is a cute coming-of-age story and is written in line with older grade schoolers to middle schoolers in mind.  There's nothing objectionable, though some younger children might find the Bridge of Bones and the Goblin Realm a bit scary.  Felix, the woodland sprite, is the needed dose of humor to keep the story from becoming too heavy.

My favorite parts centered around where Alamin tricks the witch when leaving the swamps (that's all I'll say) and near the end when...hmmm, can't really say this because then it would give the story away.  

Editing was clean, with only a few jumps in point-of-view within a scene.  The story unfolded in real time, which kept telling to a minimum.  The length felt just right, with enough closure at the end for this to be a complete book, though a few loose ends will likely lead into Kay's next adventure - which I wouldn't mind continuing.

Yes, you'll see comparisons to Lord of the Rings, but this will offer the young ones someone to relate to, something they can sink their teeth into as they work their way up the literary food chain.  There's nothing objectionable here.  For those of us who aren't so young anymore, let go of comparisons and enjoy something refreshing to instill that spirit of adventure we all possessed when we were kids.

For entertainment value and fairly clean copy, The Lord of Nyn is worth a good four and a-half stars in my book.

Pick up a copy by clicking on Amazon.

Author Bio:
Brian G. Michaud is the author of the young adult fantasy The Road to Nyn, the first book in The Tales of
Gaspar series. Although a musician and music teacher by day, reading and writing have been Brian’s passion since childhood.

The story behind the writing of The Road to Nyn goes back to a cold February night in 1992 in the Berklee College of Music dorms. Having run out of books to read, Brian sat down and decided to write what he thought would be a short story based around a young squire that he named after King Arthur’s brother, Kay. The tale came to him as if out of nowhere, and he found that he had written twelve pages at the end of the first night.

Looking over what he wrote, Brian was surprised to see that what he had in his hands was not a short story but something that resembled the first chapter of a book. Eager to find out what happened next, Brian began to make writing his nightly ritual. Within months, the story grew to over 200 pages, written in various notebooks.

Though he never forgot about his story, he had to put it aside for other obligations. He began commuting to school to help care for an aging grandparent, and then he began student teaching which was followed by his first teaching job. Later came a Master’s degree from the University of Connecticut and then a Doctorate from Boston University. Still, the unfinished story was not forgotten. After many years of picking the manuscript up and being forced to put it down, Brian finally published The Road to Nyn in November 2013.

Growing up as an ardent fan of the classics, fantasy, and mysteries, Brian had been rarely found without a book in his hand. Now, he is rarely found without a notebook or computer nearby to put down his latest ideas. The sequel to The Road to Nyn, with the working title of The Ring of Carnac, is more than half complete. Brian expects a projected release of November 2014.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Interviewing Award-Winning Author BV Lawson

As summer winds down, the kids head back to school, football rev's up, and the temps spike (ugh!), let's take a moment from the tensions of the season to visit with another fellow author.  Her Scott Drayco mystery series has earned her accolades and honors as she harmonizes writing with musical structure - such a fabulous combination.  Dear readers, please welcome to the blog author BV Lawson!

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

BVL:  Having a librarian as a mother meant there were always books in the house. I was a book junkie, and she was my supplier (in the best possible sense). Perhaps I turned to writing to feed my habit from a different angle, but it didn’t take long to get me hooked on it, too. After winning a poetry contest at age 10 and some essay contests,  I knew I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, life gets in the way of dreams sometimes, and it took me quite a bit longer than I’d hoped.

DAB:  Isn't that the truth?  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

BVL:  Everywhere and anywhere! I’ve had story ideas come while sitting and watching people at Starbucks, in dreams at night, even walking on the treadmill at the gym. Sometimes it feels as though I can’t stop the endless parade of stories in my mind. The main problem is finding the time to write them all down and to keep my brain from automatically cruising into story-creation mode while I’m talking to other people. (I’m not ignoring you, really I’m not....)

DAB:  I can so relate to you there!  What was the catalyst for PLAYED TO DEATH’s premise?

BVL:  I enjoy private eye novels, but I’m not a fan of writing in the first-person, so I came up with a “private eye procedural” hybrid via my protagonist Scott Drayco, a former FBI agent turned freelancer who consults with law enforcement agencies. The setting—the Eastern Shore of Virginia on the Delmarva Peninsula—is a short hop from D.C. (especially in a small plane), but it feels worlds apart in terms of culture and scenery. I was entranced after visiting the area, and as far as I know, this is the first mystery novel set there. Not to give too much away regarding the plot, but there is an Opera House and a Chopin manuscript involved, which arose out of my background in musicology.

DAB:  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

BVL:  It’s a story idea that I wrote over a decade ago and actually shipped around to a few New York agents around that time, and even had Michael Garrett edit an early version. But it took the ten years following to develop into its current stage, with a lot of breaks in-between. (See life getting in the way of dreams, above.)

DAB:  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

BVL:  Actually, I find I prefer writing male characters. I’m sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with that. Perhaps it’s because I read so many male-centric novels as a child, or perhaps it’s because I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by sympathetic and intelligent male role models. I find that most of the core aspects of being human are consistent in both men and women, although both nature and nurture matter when it comes to creating “traditional” behaviors and language patterns.

DAB:  Tell us about a typical day in your writing world.

BVL:  A perfect day is to get up, exercise to get the blood flowing in both body and brain, then sit down after a power breakfast and write for at least eight hours. A more typical day is filled with interruptions of one kind or another, and fighting the urge to check email, social media or play solitaire when the writing gets a bit “thorny.” I’m in awe of authors like John Creasey who allegedly wrote between six and seven thousand words a day, publishing 600+ books in his lifetime. A good day for me is three thousand words.

DAB:  What kind of research practices do you utilize for writing?

BVL:  I probably research too much. My penchant for research (blame those maternal librarian genes), is one reason I started up my blog In Reference to Murder because I was digging up so many resources, I felt I should share them with other writers and readers. I don’t do as much hands-on practice as some authors due to time constraints, but research plus empathy plus creativity and imagination go a long way. And long live Google Maps and Google Earth.

DAB:  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

BVL:  My protagonist, Scott Drayco, is a former classical pianist whose career was cut short by violence, which is what steered him toward law enforcement instead. Why make him a pianist? I started out with violin lessons at age 3, piano at age 7 (studied for 12 years), and after various other instruments/voice lessons later, I’d earned two music degrees. You’d think such a background means I listen to music when I write, but I find it impossible. To me, music is a foreground experience, especially with classical forms, and listening while writing is too distracting. I often listen *before* I write, though!

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

BVL:  Well, the research question above is probably a giveaway. I’m a huge outliner. When I first started writing, I’d make pages and pages of detailed outlines, often taking weeks or months to complete, before I wrote word one on the novel. Thanks to the Scrivener software, I can now add research to my projects a lot faster, and the drag-and-drop feature of moving scenes around means I’m not quite as anal about getting everything in order before I start writing. (And no, I’m not a paid spokesperson! I also like yWriter, which is free.)

DAB:  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

BVL:  My TBR pile is huge. The leaning tower of tomes. As a book blogger, I’m often sent novels, and I have several of those waiting for me. I have other books from the library and still more that were gifts. I also have a growing ebook library on both my computer eReader and phone. Many are mysteries, but I also enjoy reading nonfiction, mainly science and technology books. I would love to have been a physicist, but science education wasn’t a big deal in rural schools in Tennessee.

DAB:  I love the 'leaning tower of tomes'!!!  Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

BVL:  I’ve read so many articles and anecdotes and words of wisdom, that after awhile, it all blends into one giant amorphous blob of writing protoplasm. The best takeaway is to love what you’re doing and to be persistent. A lot of people have one book in them, but few have the staying power to suffer the pain and fear and doubt that are part of a professional writing career. It’s worse than giving birth, because it lasts for as long as you are a writer.

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

BVL:  Book #2 in the Scott Drayco series, REQUIEM FOR INNOCENCE, will be out in the fall, with a target date of November. The third and fourth books will be released next year. I also have a new romantic suspense series with Vermont detective Adam Dutton and con woman extraordinary, Beverly Laborde, that will debut soon. Plus, more new short stories, two more story collections, and one novella are on the horizon through 2015. Beyond that, I’m beginning an outline for a historical mystery as well as what may become a young adult trilogy.

DAB:  You've been busy!  Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

BVL:  PLAYED TO DEATH is in the style of mysteries a la Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Karin Slaughter, and Nevada Barr, and will also appeal to fans of British and PBS mysteries. It has moodiness, mystery, music, madness, and hints of mirth, with the beginnings of a possible love triangle (and unresolved sexual tension) thrown in for good measure. 

Here’s the description:
Crime consultant and former classical pianist Scott Drayco reluctantly finds himself on Virginia’s Delmarva Peninsula in Cape Unity, a dilapidated fishing village where vacation homes once provided a playground for the rich. In the center of town rises an imposing Opera House recently bequeathed by a grateful client to Drayco, whose hopes of a quick sale are soon dashed by the ambitions of townspeople looking for civic rebirth and a new client with dreams of his own personal redemption.

When the client is murdered in the Opera House, the letter “G” mockingly carved into his chest, Drayco,
assisted by the local Sheriff and his attractive Deputy, navigates a maze of illicit love affairs, hostility over immigration and coastal development and a vendetta reaching across the Atlantic into some of the darkest days of human history. Along the way Drayco must overcome doubts about his own past that cost the lives of two innocent children on his last case - before the tensions in Cape Unity explode into more violence, and he becomes the next victim.

Thanks again, Ms. Lawson, for taking time out of your writing schedule to sit down with us and share your experiences.  It must have been fun growing up with a librarian as your mother.  Living, eating, and breathing books would've been the fantasy childhood for me too (well, not so much the eating).  If the Scott Drayco mysteries tickle your ear, run on over and pick up a copy at!played-to-death/c27y.  And stay tuned for the upcoming release of book #2.

Author Bio:
​Author and journalist BV Lawson's award-winning stories, poems and articles have appeared in dozens of national and regional publications and anthologies. A three-time Derringer Award finalist and 2012 winner for her short fiction, BV was also honored by the American Independent Writers and Maryland Writers Association for her Scott Drayco series. BV currently lives in Virginia with her husband and enjoys flying above the Chesapeake Bay in a little Cessna. Visit her website at or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads. No ticket required.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Step into the World of R.M. Clark

Since this week I'm in the process of grounding my computer keyboard into dust (or setting it ablaze), we're going to have the pleasure of getting up close and personal with a few fellow indies.  Today's hot-seat victim is a prolific writer who has a very good understanding of what it means to focus.  He's written "THE END" on nine and soon to be ten novels since delving into the realm in 2007.  Please join me in welcoming to the stage author R.M. Clark!

DAB:      Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

RMC:     I loved creative writing classes in college and even tried writing a bit in my twenties. But it quickly became a low-priority then a no-priority item as I got older. I started writing regularly in 2007 (age 47) when the voices in my head aligned and provided somewhat cohesive words. Now I'm just about done with my tenth novel.

DAB:      What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

RMC:     I liked the idea of a long-deceased father providing inspiration for his son through something the father left to be opened later. At first, it was going to an unfinished novel and the son would become enlightened upon finishing it. I changed it to drawings and maps, tossed in a Native American legend and a Revolutionary War angle and ran with it.

DAB:      Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

RMC:     Most of my novels are first person narratives as told by a female character and I find it no harder or easier than writing from a male perspective. I just mentally project what I'd like the character to say, then wait for the voices in my head to tell me what to write. It works for all characters. Either that or I’ve gone completely mad. It’s a fine line!.

DAB:      We all tend to walk that fine line, don't we?  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

RMC:     I can relate to the main character, Dennis, quite a bit. Although I was never a "professional student" and my father was around, I was what some would call a "late bloomer," much like Dennis. I like Dennis because he's not the typical fictional hero. He takes his time solving the mystery. He lets others do some of the heavy lifting. I most like the fact that he becomes a better person for taking part in his father's adventure. It just goes to show that a father can (and should be) a positive influence long after he's gone. I sure hope I am.

DAB:      How long did your novel take to put to bed?

RMC:     Therein lies a tale. I completed Center Point on Halloween night, 2008, after ten months. I was agent-less at the time, so after I cleaned it up a bit I started querying the manuscript along with another book. I had no luck getting an agent for either, so I submitted CP to several small presses and got offered a contract. A few days later (September 2009) my other book snagged me an agent and agent told me not to sign any contracts for other books until he read them. As my bad luck would have it, I lost the agent in 2010 (and he never read CP). I went back to the offering publisher and this time I signed the contract for a 2012 release. Yay. Then I found out the publisher was broke and switching to a pay-to-play model and I refused and got my rights back. Wait, there is a happy ending. I sent Center Point to the good folks at Writers AMuse Me Publishing in late 2012 and they agreed to publish it. A year later (November, 2013), Center Point was officially released. So it took nearly five years (and a whole lot of heartache) from the start of the first draft to publication and over four years from the time I wrote THE END. 

DAB:      There are so many authors who've walked this same path - I feel for you all!  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

RMC:     I've never outlined an entire novel, only a few parts. I start with a basic idea then let it take me where it needs to go. I've never had to sell an idea via synopsis to a publisher or editor, so I've been free to let the characters dictate what's going to happen. I never know at the start how any of my books are going to end, yet they've all ended! I know this is inconceivable to some writers but it works for me. I guess that makes me a pantser! 

DAB:     Yay!  A fellow pantser!  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

RMC:     I have the usual social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. I've made a huge effort to increase this book's visibility by requesting reviews from book bloggers and so far it is working pretty well. I'm also getting interviewed quite a bit and guest hosting on several blogs. It's tough for a small press author to establish a "name" and every little bit of exposure helps. Plus, I have a middle grade book (The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery) coming out in September, so I get to double the promotions fun. I don't mind, though. It's part of being a writer.

DAB:      Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

RMC:     This may sound harsh, but if you want to write you probably have to give up something else to do it. I'm not talking about abandoning your family or work responsibilities, of course. But I've seen many examples of folks who say they don't have time to write, but will post about the full season of Game of Thrones they watched over the weekend. Pointer #1: The DVR is your enemy. Pointer #2: You're not missing anything. I've watched very few primetime TV shows in seven years, but I have typed THE END nine times, soon to be ten. Writers write. It really is that simple.

DAB:      I hear you!  In our home, the DUH machine is on rarely as well.  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

RMC:     I have four middle grade books coming out by the end of 2015. The Secret at Haney Field comes out September. Dizzy Miss Lizzie gets republished in November on the two Lizzie follow-ons come out in May, 2015 and November 2015. Plus my agent is trying like mad to get two more books into an editor's hands. Oh, I also have two others in various stages of completion. 

DAB:      Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

RMC:     Center Point is a new adult mystery. Cue the back cover wordage:

A list of names, an old map, and a drawing of a Native American warrior named Komaket: these are the items "professional student" Dennis Kozma receives on his twenty-fifth birthday from his father, who died fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, Dennis' memory is tainted by accusations his father defrauded their town.

The map leads Dennis to the graves of the men on the list...members of a secret society awaiting the return of Komaket. While unraveling the mystery of the secret society, Dennis discovers a shocking conspiracy: town officials covered up a dark secret and framed his father.

As he strives to clear his father's name before the long-awaited arrival of Komaket changes his quiet New England town forever, Dennis comes to a startling and fateful realization - nothing is what it seems and all clues lead to the...Center Point.

Center Point is available from the Writers AMuse Me Publishing site ( as well as Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iBooks and Kobo. Visit my author site to read about all my books:

Thanks, R.M. for allowing us a peek into your process and the foibles and trials of the road to publication.  Be sure and check out his books and read more on his website above.

Author Bio:
R. M. Clark is a computer scientist and adult and childrens' book writer who lives in a small New England town with his wife, two sons, one dog and one cat. He is currently at work on his latest mystery.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grope the Mind of a Serial Killer in "The Sketcher's Mark"

It's a review at your doorstep today.  This novel is gripping and horrifying enough to make you want to never never leave your home shores - maybe even your home.  Let's explore Chris O'Neill's debut novel The Sketcher's Mark.

Book Blurb:
A serial killer posing as a sketch artist preys on young women traveling alone in the tourist areas of Paris.  His latest victim is the sister of driven LAPD Detective Lara McBride, a woman who hunts predators like him for a living. When she touches down in Paris to find her missing sister, an escalating game of cat and mouse leads her and the killer from the rain swept streets of Paris to the isolated countryside, where the key to the killer's Masterpiece awaits them...

My Review:
The Sketcher's Mark possesses the pace of a thriller with the psychology and gore of an extremely creepy horror novel.  At times there were familiar themes like in the movie Taken.  But the psychology aspect of the antagonist, Guillotine, wraps you in the mind of an incredibly talented, intelligent, and disturbed serial killer.  At times it was very difficult reading - especially when I knew the worst was yet to come.

Like many unknown artists in Paris, Guillotine sketches the images of visiting tourists and signs them with his mark of HH.  Unlike most other unknown artists in Paris, Guillotine doesn't do it for the money.  He's searching for perfection - angels to add to his collection as he prepares for his debut showing in a Parisian art gallery.

And to use to complete his masterpiece in time for the debut.

But his deceased aunts follow him at every turn, demanding blood as retribution for what he did years before.  It takes pain to purify - something Guillotine knows only too well.

Lara McBride, one of LA's finest criminal profilers, waits impatiently on the other side of the pond for her sister, Janelle, to return from a French backpacking expedition.  When Janelle doesn't show and Lara cannot reach her via phone, she fears the worst.

After all, she's seen the most twisted criminal minds.

With little assistance from Parisian authorities, Lara searches the local haunts and pieces the puzzle together as she searches to locate her sister before it's too late.  All the while, Guillotine watches Lara in fascination until it's obvious she's getting too close and could ruin everything.  Lara then becomes his mark.

Like I said, pacing was good for the most part and kept me reading - at times even when I didn't want to.  The disturbing trips into Guillotine's world reflected well the trauma of abuse he suffered at the hands of his two aunts who raised him, along with the willing assistance of the local parish priest in their attempts to purify him as a child.  It is no wonder he is now capable of the horrible ways in which he sees and treats others and the methodology he utilizes to kill.  For a bad guy, Guillotine is the worst - and yet even among daily life he's still rather invisible among the masses, which is the way he likes it.

I understood certain aspects of Lara McBride, the drive to do whatever she had to do in order to try and save her sister.  However, this character was rather inconsistent as the novel progressed.  There were choices she made that were simply unbelievable for one as well-trained as she.  Then the multiple ways in which Lara cheats death got to be a little too much for this reader.  But I still needed to see how the story would play out into the finale.

In addition to good pacing, the showing over telling was nice.  I got to follow along and experience the story in real time, as it was happening, which helped move the plot forward and kept me reading.  Even though point-of-view sneaked in between characters, it was accomplished in such a way that it avoided being overly jarring.  A scene break in most instances would solve this problem.

Another round of editing would be good for The Sketcher's Mark.  Pronoun usage was over-the-top excessive with almost every sentence in each paragraph for page after page beginning with 'He' or 'She' but could easily be reworded to remove many.  Several times a correctly spelled but incorrect word would be used, such as cat instead of car, taught instead of taut, and peak instead of peek.  There was also a continual refrain of phrases like 'her watched her' and 'her was intrigued by her' when it should've been 'he watched her' and the like.  I could forgive it a few times, but this occurred over and over again.

Even with the aforementioned issues, the story kept me engaged.  The pacing and showing forced me forward, not to mention the eery mind of Guillotine.  However, be warned that the story is gruesome and terrifying at times in the manner he kills, so tread lightly if gore is a problem for you.  Story always trumps structure for me - and for that I'll give The Sketcher's Mark four stars.

Pick up a copy by clicking on Amazon.

Author Bio:
Born in England, raised in the UK, the Middle East and the Bahamas, Chris O'Neill began writing short stories at a young age in primary school. By high school, he was writing and staging plays, commissioned to write an original stage play for the World War One Commemoration Festival in Leeds, premiering a play focussing on war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

He was accepted into the National Youth Theatre at sixteen, beating out competition from thousands of other young actors across the United Kingdom. While there, he was asked to write and co-direct the final showcase in London. Attending the University Of East Anglia, he studied Film and was the head of the Drama Society, continuing to showcase new plays before continuing his Film and Theatre Studies at San Francisco State University.

After graduating university, he focussed on writing screenplays and creating short films, working with various British production companies on developing feature scripts. In 2006 he moved to Los Angeles, where he enjoyed working with A-list producers, directors and production companies on developing projects.

THE SKETCHER'S MARK is his first prose novel, a labour of love which he feels is best described as Thomas Harris meets Charles Dickens. It marks the first novel featuring Detective Lara McBride.

Friday, August 15, 2014

An Interview w/ Cortez Law

It's interview week here at the blog!

Join me today in welcoming Cortez Law III, author of Kremlin Tide, part of the X-Men Atlanta Homicide Unit series.  I hope someday I might have opportunity to review it, but in the meantime, let's enjoy exploring the craft of novel writing as he shares his experiences.

Welcome Cortez!

DAB:      Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

I was creative as a kid always drawing something, from football players to dinosaurs using the plastic toys as my before the dawn of modern man models. I’d make an paper album of them staple them on one side in a landscape type of format and boom, NFL football games on paper in arrays of colors and needless to say skill craft as well. I wrote for the junior high newspaper’s sports section, some poetry for classes in high school and for a contest I believe in college. I took an undergrad class in copywriting, too. But I ignited the formative writing moment when in my next to last semester of college I enrolled in a scriptwriting class. After some textbook guidelines and professor instructions, the students had a handful of months to complete a ninety-page screenplay. There I was living on campus banging out the story I think on an old IBM Selectric Typewriter with either my liquid paper or liquid sheets by my side.

From that point on I realized if I wanted to do this, all I needed was that typewriter, my correction buddies and ideas. I bought whatever books I could find on screenwriting, the late Syd Field’s wisdom leading the way in my tutelage, and had at it for the better part of a decade. I banged out I think it was sixteen or seventeen scripts in various genres including the college class project, which encouraged me to pursue this obsession after I got a ‘B’ for my efforts. It wasn’t until after that nearly ten years passed that I started to investigate the novelistic form of story expression.

DAB:      Ugh!  I remember liquid paper - but it was easier than correction tape.  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

They can spring from the news, magazines and books. The visual medium may inspire me to create a different take on something I saw and heard. It could come from a particular biblical story or character situation. A mood could trigger a story or at least a type of crime story I want to tell. If I want the reader to share in an intense cerebral challenge to find the killer, that’s more of a mystery novel to me. If I want the reader to experience a gradual build of anxiety or dread before the final showdown, that spells suspense. If I want the reader to slide off the edge of their seats and hang on there by the skin of everything in their being for most of the book, that’s a thriller. So, even a mindset or an emotional response can catapult me into writing a certain type of story that I want readers to share.

DAB:      What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

The origin was in a couple of parts. One was this desire to begin again, to start your life over and experience a new start in another country. Two, intertwine that with a potentially dangerous susceptibility that with a little careful planning and some fortuitous breaks could unleash some challenges the U.S. government on all levels might not yet be ready to deal with. We learned that or I hope we have, from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, that even if we believe we’re ready on paper, the execution could fail. The world saw the results of that. Even as recently as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the government didn't follow up on intelligence about the Tsarnaev brothers. The world witnessed that result, too. Within that framework, I could explore these people and their lives of love, faith, forgiveness and second chances. I think readers can and will relate to all of the above.

DAB:      Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

I think all writers engraft snippets of real persons on or in their characters to ground them in reality. With my faith, I think that the Christian characters would of course be more closely identifiable to me. Again, snippets of real persons or experiences, whether your own or others, plays as part in the realness of the people. Having said that, I don’t think that any one character can hold up the trophy for the, ‘Hey, that’s Cortez!’ prize. All of them, Christian or not, have something I can identify with and I believe the readers will find some common ground with them all as well.

DAB:      Yes, it's that basis in real life that translates onto paper.  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

That’s a good question. I don’t believe so. As a writer, I’m intuitive as are other writers. Simply stated, we’re studiers of human behavior. You grow and develop through those you interact with throughout your lifetime whether that’s a father and mother, brother and sister, grandfather and grandmother, uncle and aunt, cousin and niece, friends, colleagues, even strangers. I always want to write three-dimensional female characters for whatever their role in a story happens to be. That studying of human behavior is a part of the makeup of a writer and it helps that I’m a thinker anyway so that in turns enhances the internal monologue of the women I create. 

DAB:      Thank you for taking time to make we of the female persuasion realistic.  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

I started it about eight years ago and continued to hone and shape it. Each time the rejection letters came in, I reviewed the story repeatedly. Generally, I say for this story about six months for the first draft and on and off for about seven and a half years for subsequent drafts of two through sixteen or seventeen. As writers know, at some point the little darlings have to face readers and fly into the challenges of the marketplace. However, they know their daddies will always be there to encourage them to grow and develop into compelling reading. We writers all hope.

DAB:      Great analogy!  Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.

It came from the first book in the series, which I’ll bring back to market next year, called The Serialist. Several readers commented on their experiences with the book and it was so gratifying. We don’t always hit the grand slam and that goes for all of the artistic mediums. The biggest authors, directors, producers, actors, singers, etc., have out and out stinkers or other projects that underperformed in their respective mediums. Artists have chutzpah or something akin to it to step out into this enormous world with its myriad voices and attempt to stake a claim in it for whatever reason. To right an injustice, to sound an alarm, to inspire, to inform, to entertain, to educate, to make people feel, to make money. So, when a reader expresses gratitude in a fan letter or an email or face-to-face, man THAT feels good! A reader says, you’re ‘amazing’ or ‘I couldn’t put it down’, whew. It’s like, yeah, I can’t thank you enough. I really can’t. 

DAB:      There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

Seems there are only two camps: Pantsers or Intuitive writers or stated by author James Scott Bell, ‘OP’ or Outline People or ‘NOP’ or No Outline People. I like to plan my stories ahead of time. But they’re not so detailed that I don’t leave any wiggle room for the unexpected. Usually a bare bones outline of beginning, middle and end. Then I list a series of bulleted plot points within the three-act framework. Two thriller bestsellers who smash the New York Times Bestseller Lists with regularity are complete opposites. Jeffery Deaver is a plotter and man does he ever. Per several interviews I’ve read, he plans a detailed outline for months on end for dozens of pages before he even thinks of writing the next Rhyme series or one of his other books I’m sure as well. On the flip side, Lee Child doesn’t outline so as readers we can experience the same unknown thrill he gets when he writes his Jack Reacher books off the cuff. I don’t think anyone will argue with the success of either of those thriller writing giants. To each his own.

DAB:      Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

Well, nothing now mainly because I need to decide if the next book will be fiction or non-fiction. Plus, I’m re-thinking on what to write next and when to publish next, too. But, wouldn’t you know it I just finished the Lee Child thriller, 61 Hours. For my thoughts on that one, check out my review on Goodreads.

DAB:      Sounds like you're quite the Lee Child fan!  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

Yes, well as I stated in the last question, I was going to wait until next spring for the next Atlanta X-Men Homicide Unit Case File, however I believe I need to get the book out I the last part of this year. I think from what I’ve read about others’ experiences, it’s imperative to have a backlist as quickly with quality of course, as possible. God willing, I’m going to target September or October for the next installment of the X-Men Squad. Also, in the near future, well, I said it, I want to branch out into the near future with some freaky ‘X-Files’ type of stories that lay dormant for a long time. We’ll see how the market takes to that or not. However, I love the story and concept. I’d pay money on a Friday night at the neighborhood multiplex to see this one at full price in IMAX, which I’ve never done to this day. 

DAB:      Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

I’ll give it in the book description: Atlanta Homicide Sergeant Malcolm Hobbs slowly puts his shattered life and walk of faith in God back together again when a married woman is found dismembered and left at a church. When a series of grisly murders with similar M.O. blanket the city, the consensus by the Atlanta Police Department is a serial killer prowls the night. Once Malcolm and his elite homicide squad known as, 'The X-Men', discover a Russian link to the victims and the perpetrators, they must race-against-the-clock in efforts to rescue a kidnap victim and deter a ruthless group of sinister criminals ready to execute a plan of chilling proportions.

It’s a story of redemption, faith and God’s never say die love for all of us. He’s forever reaching out to us, but we have to do some reaching ourselves so we can walk with Him through this life’s journey. The people of Kremlin Tide walk in different and similar paths like real humanity, some for the good and some for the bad. But, that’s fictional life and that’s real life. I believe readers will see that but at the same time, they’ll take away some redemption of their own in whatever form suits their lives.

And there you have it, dear readers!  Thanks again to Cortez for spending this time sharing with us about his novel and the life of an author.  If Kremlin Tide sounds like something that tugs on your brain, be sure and pick up a copy or contact him at one of these following links.

Smashwords Book Page: Kremlin Tide:  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Interview with Mike Martin

Today we get to welcome an author from across the northern border.  Canadian writer Mike Martin is the author of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, and he's joining us to talk about the third installment, Beneath the Surface, and to share what he's learned within the realm of fiction.

Welcome, Mike!

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

MM:    As long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I loved books and reading and the adventures that they brought to me as a child and that continued with me from children’s books into the classics and modern literature. My work have always included some aspect of writing but it wasn’t until much later in life that I was finally willing to take the plunge into full-time writing.

DAB:  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

MM:    I am inspired first by an image or scene and that is usually the starting point for my imagination to kick in. Then it is all about connecting to the creative flow or current. In the case of the first book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, The Walker on the Cape, it was a lighthouse that caught my attention one foggy night. It seemed to me to be the perfect setting for the beginning of a mystery series.

DAB:  Were there any characters you found difficult to write? Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

MM:    I find it difficult as a man to write about a woman, or from a woman’s perspective, so Sheila, Sgt. Windflower’s lady friend and confidante was difficult to write. So I tried my best to be respectful and when in doubt I checked with an expert, my partner, to make sure that I was at least close to getting it right. I am going to venture out of my comfort zone in the next book in the series however, because Sheila’s character has a big role to play. I’m not sure exactly what that is yet, but it’s coming.

DAB:  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

MM:    It took me five years to write the first book and almost a year to complete the final version of the second book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series, The Body on the T. Now I’m down to about six months for the latest book, Beneath the Surface. I’m not sure if I can do it any faster than that and I’m not sure that I would want to. There is a natural fermenting process for both good wines and a good book. You can write faster but can you right faster and better? I don’t think so.

DAB:  I agree wholeheartedly on the faster/better scenario!  I also like your analogy of writing and wine - very true.  Tell us about a typical day in your writing world.

MM:    I usually write first thing in the morning. I have a couple of paid projects that I like to look after first, blogs and freelance articles. It’s important to do that if I want to pay my bills and continue to eat three meals a day which I have kinda grown accustomed to. After that I spend most of the rest of the morning on my personal writing projects. If I’m writing a book then I commit to writing from 1,000 to 2,000 words. They won’t be final and will need editing and revision. But it’s much easier to re-write than that first creative thrust. After I reach my goal I take a break and do something completely different. I may do a bit more writing later but I like the freedom of not having to if I’ve done my work in the early part of the day.

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

MM:    I cannot imagine sitting in front of the computer and trying to plot out the whole story from beginning to end. To me, that sounds like too much work. The fun of writing, IMHO, is in watching the story unfold from your imagination, just like the reader does. The characters come. They tell the story. I write it down. I get to say where the story begins, and where it ends. At least for now.

DAB:  My belief as well.  I like to inhabit the skin of my characters in order to translate onto the page.  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

MM:    I have only ever gotten one bad review of my books. That surprised me but I realized that was a person’s individual and personal choice and that they had a right to their opinion. So I didn’t take it personally. I learned a long time ago that if you wanted to be a writer then you had to deal with rejection, lots of rejection. It happens, you don’t like it, and then you move on to the next reader or reviewer or book or writing project.

DAB:  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

MM:    It might be a better question to ask what I haven’t done. For independent or small press authors the writing life is about 30% writing and 70% marketing. So I have six blogs, three Facebook accounts and a brand new Twitter hash tag. Plus I am in an endless loop of promotion that only slows down, and then only a little, when I am in full-fledged book writing mode. One of the best things I did to promote my books, at least I felt the best about it, was that I gave away 100 copies of my first book right out of the boxes. That got people’s attention and even some media.

DAB:  Definitely!  Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

MM:    I had no idea of where to even begin writing a novel so I did what was suggested to me, which I offer as advice to all aspiring writers: Read about how other writers did it. One book that really helped was Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and in this book and others I learned that the way to write a novel was to start and then to keep at it until it was finished. It didn’t matter about the weather, or money, or the economy, or relationships, or even family or sickness or anything. If you want to write a book, you just get up every day and you do it.

DAB:  I've read that one as well - loved his 'devil may care' attitude at times.  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

MM:    As you can see I am busy doing interviews and promoting my new book, Beneath the Surface. That takes a lot of time and energy, along with trying to manage a life and relationships and other responsibilities. And I continue to write on three blogs of my own along with guest blogs and a few paid gigs. But already in the back of my mind the ideas are pooling for the next Windflower mystery. I will take a short break over the summer, and then get back to work to see where those ideas take me and Sgt. Windflower.

DAB:  Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

MM:    Beneath the Surface is the third installment of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series. In this book Sgt. Windflower is back on the scene of the crime.  He is joined again by his trusted ally Eddie Tizzard, his rock-steady girl, Sheila, and a wide cast of supporters.  Together they face down an international crime syndicate operating on the East Coast, and help Windflower deal with the modern challenges of sexual harassment and corruption while re-discovering his roots and inner strength.

This book is a little deeper and a shade darker than the first two books in the series, simply because the issues involved are more serious.  But that is just part of the story because Sgt. Windflower is the eternal optimist and even as he struggles with some of his inner demons he still loves the food, the people and the culture of Newfoundland.  Especially the food!

I would humbly suggest the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series for anyone who likes a good story, who likes Canadian fiction, and would like to learn more about the food, customs and culture of Newfoundland.  All three books are fun to read and if anyone doesn’t have fun reading them I will gladly refund their money.

There you have it, folks!  Thanks again to Mike for visiting with us and taking us on the writer's journey.  Best wishes and much success on this release.  To pick up a copy of his books, click on one of the links below or to check in with him directly, click on this link

Saturday, August 9, 2014

War on the Horizon in "Shattered Advances"

Today we have TC Squires' young adult novel on tap, something that would garner the attention of your average middle schooler.  It's got action.  It's got sacrifice.  A touch of sci-fi with a bit of intrigue.  Join me in exploring Shattered Advances: The Struggle for Probana.

Book Blurb:
The attacks are becoming more frequent. More calculated. More precise. The Shrouds. They are relentless. Obstinate. Unfamiliar.

And beyond deadly.

Born into the fuming battleground of Probana, Kaene Young is caught in the same treacherous war that claimed his brother six years earlier. His world has betrayed him. His dreams and thoughts are not far behind. The world he once knew has been replaced by this bewildering war, which has transformed a peaceful people into warring machines and wedged them into a slaving state of survival.

This is routine. This is life.

Mystery and misfortune surround the isle of Probana, though some may quickly come to light as scrutiny of the Council matures. The ceaseless combat has given reason for them to call for additional legionnaires and continue the Guard’s rapid expansion, making adamant room for criticism.

Kaene finds himself stuck in the thick of things and must overcome his besieged world or have his life devastated by the coming onslaught. His heartfelt motivation and equaling persistence could be Probana’s only hope in ending this struggle.

The nation is burning. Communication failing. The Guard’s advances seemingly useless against the Shrouds. Will there be peace for Kaene and Probana? Or will the tragedies created by this war leave everything shattered?

An emotionally equipped tale of a character’s dynamic journey into reality, Shattered Advances brings great elegance and richness into the fictional dystopian genre. A new twist on a never-ending story. We learn that war carries great loss but uncovers our priorities and our resolve to change what we have been given for the better.

My Review:
Kaene's life centers around his family and friends - Mom and Dad, older brother Daiv, younger sister Aery, and best friend Jacob - until the war with the Shrouds.

The Shrouds invaded the northern territory years before.  Every attack since is the same: their ships show up suddenly, wipe everything and everyone out, then disappear without a trace.  No one knows where or when they'll strike next.  The rare survivor can't help understand because they're always found in a coma-like state from which they never awaken.

But a coma might be better than death.  Sixteen year-old Kaene, along with buddy Jacob, are preparing to enter service in order to prepare for the next Shroud attack - whenever that might be.  And Kaene's only hope is to make it out alive, unlike his brother Daiv six years earlier.  No matter how long it has been, Keane is still haunted by dreams of roaring flames and choking smoke.  Is that the fate awaiting him too?

Shattered Advances started out promising but soon became a convoluted tale without direction, making me feel as if Kaene was the one in the coma.  Once Kaene and Jacob head to their training facility, the storyline became disjointed, with scenes thrown in here and there that didn't seem to have anything much to do with the overall story.  It nearly felt like separately written short stories with the same characters were simply thrown together to create a full-length novel.

Kaene meets Cassi and falls immediately in love with her, even though she acts repulsed by him.  Every chance he gets, Kaene tries to woo Cassi only to stumble over himself in the process.  Then Cassi is gone until the end.  Jacob and Kaene have fights and arguments over strange and mundane topics, with reactions so over the top they inadvertently are comical.  Communications are knocked out at the training facility, wait they're back on, no they're back off - off, on, off, on - sequencing and flow were so far off at times I wanted to scream in frustration.

Then several times in the midst of fighting, when the small, rag-tag survivors are completely surrounded by Shrouds with no hope of escape, Kaene passes out and then when he comes to the group miraculously has safely escaped.  The spatial jumps were erratic, jarring, and rather off-putting.

Then there are the Shrouds and this mysterious Council.  The Shrouds are supposed to be the antagonists but we really never see them, never get any sort of idea about why they attack - so much happens with no real sense of motivation.  This Council of Probana is referenced yet never shown either, the elites running the show apparently but so far off in the periphery they don't seem to have any purpose here except for the occasional mention.  I realize this is planned as a series, but if this Council needs to be mentioned in the first book at all, I'd have appreciated a little bit more foreshadowing.  Otherwise, it feels more like blips of filler.

The novel could use some additional editing.  Several times near the beginning Kaene's name was spelled Keane so that I wasn't sure which was correct.  There were constant missing small words within a sentence (a, and, but, the, etc) and some not-so-small missing words or incorrect words (like where instead of went).  There were several moments of telling but for the most part the action sequences were shown in real-time as they were happening, which I did appreciate.  Point-of-view was a constant, with Kaene being the POV character throughout the novel, though there were a few tense shifts that could easily be corrected with simple wording changes.

Once I wrapped my mind around the fact that Shattered Advances was written more toward the middle school age range, I actually enjoyed the early part enough that I was thinking of offering up four stars.  It was once the characters traveled to the training facility, however, the disconnect grew so severe and the character actions, reactions, incidents, and involvements became so convoluted I simply wanted to finish reading so I could move on - and this made me want to give it one star.  Maybe Kaene is one of the coma victims, and he's actually only dreaming, which would explain a lot here.  Ultimately, I have no interest in continuing with the series.  For the promising beginning, I'll compromise and give it two and a half stars.

To purchase click here on Amazon.

Author Bio:
A recent graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, T.C. Squires is an emerging star in the vastly expanding
world of fiction writing. Drawing inspiration from the children he teaches, he has released his first two books in the series, The Struggle for Probana, a remarkable tale of epic scope that will bring you hours of entertainment. As a part time writer, T.C. spends his days teaching Outdoor Education at a non-profit camp in East Texas, while his nights are spent enjoying and writing about the beautiful creation that surrounds him.