Everyday people and situations provide fodder for Maeve Christopher’s imagination. Keep asking “what if” and “why”, and the plot thickens. What could be more fun?
She currently lives in Massachusetts with a number of messy subplots and Freddie the tiger cat.
Maeve Christopher’s Redemption Series is part family saga, part suspense and part love story — with the touch of the Supernatural.
My journal came out of its hiding place at the back of my desk drawer almost every day of my childhood. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write little stories, or make up stories about people I encountered in life. I almost never shared them.
There’s a big difference between being a writer and taking that step to becoming a published author. I think for most of us, writing is as natural as breathing. We can’t not write. For many people, stories stay in their journals or in their heads. I was always convinced that would be the case for me. I pursued science studies and a career in health care.
One day a new patient showed up in my office. Under “occupation” he listed “editor” for a prominent New York publisher. I still remember how excited I became (even more than the time I met Phil Collins!) I asked him to tell me all about his job, then went on and on about how much fun, how exciting being an editor must be, how thrilling to work with authors, etc. etc.
When I took a moment to breathe, he asked, “Do you want to write a book?”
I was stunned silent, then burst into nervous laughter. My mind said, “Of course I do! Doesn’t everyone?” But I quickly said something like, “That’ll be the day.” Funny, but that moment was a turning point for me. I began to think it could be possible.
It was years later when I finally gave myself permission to write with the intention to publish. Unfortunately, by that time the editor had long since retired and relocated. And when my 800 word saga was complete, it had everyone’s point of view, including the dog. When I gave it to a dear friend to read, she kindly said, “You might have something here.”
Many years and revisions later that effort became the basis of the first three books of The Redemption Series. I’m so grateful when I think about that editor who asked the question that started me on this writing journey. Now I can’t wait to share my stories!
Maeve Christopher is the author of the upcoming Lachesis Publishing release A RING AND A PRAYER Book 1 of the Golden Bowl Series, an inspirational women’s fiction novel with romantic elements, plenty of laughs, action and twist and turns. Stay tuned for more details!
Bob is a longtime resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in materials engineering. He worked for Sandia National Laboratories in the Solid State Physics Research Department before becoming a full time writer. I caught up with Bob at this year’s Bubonicon in Albuquerque.
DLS: As I understand, you started out working in the Solid State Physics Research Department at Sandia National Labs before becoming a writer. How has your background in physics and materials science influenced your writing?
REV: While we call it science fiction, what we enjoy most is actually technology fiction–how science affects our lives (and our characters’ lives). Science moves so fast these days, other than trying to avoid simple mistakes, what I learned back in the days of yore is outdated. Bell’s Inequality, which changed so much, came 15 years after I quit working at Sandia. Nano tech meant ICs then. Hubble and soon Webb space telescopes open the universe to dark matter and energy. I read about new discoveries but mostly I don’t understand them. Instead, I try to put it all into a technology framework and figure out what the effect will be on our lives.
DLS: How did you get started writing? When you started writing for fanzines, did you have an idea that you wanted to be a professional author?
REV: I’m one of the exceptions to the “I always wanted to write” rule. I never did. I wanted to be a nuclear physicist and more or less ended up there, though X-rays and RTGs were as close as I got. I had a few months between quitting Sandia and going to UC Berkeley where I had been accepted to work on a PhD (in ceramic engineering) when I visited my good buddy Geo. Proctor. Geo. was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, had a couple novels and short stories printed and had always wanted to be a writer. He suggested we coauthor a story. Why not? We did, it sold. (and we never got paid–the magazine folded before publication). Over the years this story sold twice more with the same result. Ironically, the title of the story was “A Killing In the Market.” I enjoyed the process, wrote a fantasy proposal and sent it out. It sold. I was faced with finishing the book or going to Berkeley, so I postponed school by a half year. In that time I sold two more novels and decided this was more fun than designing materials for rocket throat liners. As it turned out, this was a good decision on another front. The prof who would have been my adviser died of cancer 2 years after I would have begun. Such a tragedy easily could have derailed my dissertation, research and career.
DLS: You’ve written under several pseudonyms including Karl Lassiter and Jackson Lowry for westerns, your science fiction has appeared under your own name as well as F.J. Hale and Edward S. Hudson, and I could go on. Authors often build brands around their names. Why have so many pseudonyms? What kind of work do you put into building a brand for each new pseudonym?
REV: The sf pen names came about to keep from competing with myself. One month I had three titles, out, two fantasy and an sf book. Publishers loathe such self-competition. The shift in western pen name from Karl Lassiter to Jackson Lowry came about for the same reason. When I switched publishers, the new one insisted on a different name to keep from supposed promotion of titles from a competing publisher. In a way, this was good. Lassiter did more epic, long form novels while Lowry does short stories, lighter westerns and weird westerns.
DLS: Not only do you have several pseudonyms, but you’ve run the gamut from publishing with New York houses to publishing with small presses to self-publishing. Why work with such a range of publishers?
REV: It took me a while to figure out that I would be terrible doing repetitive assembly line work. After a few minutes, I’d be changing how Part A fitted into Part B. Keeping with one genre (and publisher) is like that. New challenges, new ideas, “what if” always beckons and not necessarily in the same field. I am prolific and varied ideas flow constantly (I am aware of the difference between constant and continuous, alas–the ideas flow constantly). It takes a lot of ink and electrons to keep up.
DLS: Tell us about the Empires of Steam and Rust series. I thought this was an especially innovative approach to self-publishing where several authors write in a single world and help each other market their works. How can we learn more about the books in the series?
REV: Shared worlds aren’t too uncommon, but I decided on a different approach. The basic steampunk framework could be applied in myriad ways–all suggesting myriad authors could contribute. The idea of “holes” into a world consumed by rust gave a world lacking in oxygen and the possibility of invasion from (and into) it. Rather than being the editor for all this, I let trusted authors use the framework to tell stories in their own way and bring their readers to the world. Hopefully that story interests their readers to look at other writers working in the same framework. Each author is responsible for story, editing, publishing, cover, marketing, everything. And the individual author collects 100% of the revenue from their own work. No charge for use of the world. Entries so far have been strong and interesting and varied. I look forward to writing more myself in the world and hope other authors ask if they might join the fun (send me an email to inquire).
DLS: Your career started before we’d heard of things like Twitter and Facebook. How has the world of book marketing changed now that social media has come on the scene? How do you fold social media into your own book marketing campaigns?
REV: I coined the term VIPub a few years ago. Vertically Integrated Publishing. Indie authors have to do it all, think up the idea, write the story, edit it, get a cover, publish and promote. It all rests on the author’s shoulders. This is overwhelming if you try to do whatever is currently hot in social media since it is a moving target and changes in 6 months (or less). In a talk David Morrell said 10% of a writer’s time ought to be spent on promotion. The question arises as to how to allocate that time. From all the possibilities, I say pick three that interest you most. Twitter or Facebook or blogs or Instagram or…whatever else is out there. I have a website I update periodically (www.cenotaphroad.com) and an online store (www.robertevardeman.com). I do post fun stuff on facebook every day and link it with Twitter. I have let blog writing lag since I can’t do it all. One element that is the author’s and no one else’s is a mailing list. Self-selected fans are the greatest. (Sign up for mine via my website or online store) I only send out the n/l when a new book is available or other publishing info comes to light. I don’t like getting inundated so hold down frequency to make each one special (and give special offers of free books, etc)
DLS: What can we look forward to in the coming months from Robert E. Vardeman, or your other identities for that matter?
REV: One novella I am especially excited about is “Jupiter Convergence” in the new anthology Rockets Red Glare. A weird western short story, “The Sixth World”, is forthcoming in the Baen anthology Straight Outta Tombstone. The final volume in a Jackson Lowry weird western trilogy, Punished, is due out in November (#3: Bayou Voodoo joins #1: Undead and #2: Navajo Witches). I am returning to work on an sf book with a different take on first contact and have a major project mapped out set on the moons of Jupiter. And when I get a chance, I have a really strange detective novel in synopsis. Final mention is one of my pen names, Dana Fox. Burning Man Anomaly is joined by a 3-author follow-up Aztec Automaton Anomaly with a 3rd title being sketched out now set in a haunted 1930’s Texas luxury hotel slated for release in 2017.
Romantic suspense author Alison Bruce is a member of a dynamic critique group of very talented mystery authors. She and her group got together recently for a yummy potluck lunch. Among the topics discussed were the following: the making of a good murder, what makes a great sleuth, Original Oreos versus Double Stuffed and of course – the importance of beta readers. We’ll focus on the Beta Readers discussion today – and let the Deadly Dames battle over the Oreos.
Finding beta readers is a bit like matchmaking. It’s not just how good they are, but whether they like the kind of things you write. There’s no point asking thriller readers to beta read your cozy, no matter how mad their editorial skills are. If they don’t know and love your genre, they won’t be able to see if you go off the reservation. Knowledge of the publishing market also helps. For that reason, we often turn to other authors. The first person I turn to is Nancy.
A good beta reader is one who catches inconsistencies, oddities, and spelling/grammar mistakes.
A good beta reader questions things that are puzzling or unclear, or that disagree with something the author had written earlier in the same work.
A good beta reader identifies loose ends that need to be tied up.
A good beta reader provides suggestions to correct/clarify the problems they find. (These suggestions the author can use or disregard)
The beta reader has a fresh set of eyes that see more clearly than the author, who has read the same work so many times through the many rewrites that he/she can’t often see problems or errors anymore.
As a reader, there is nothing more jarring than finding a mistake in a published work. It immediately jolts you out of the story and destroys any momentum the author has built up. Often it is difficult to regain that momentum and sink back into the story. Beta readers help to find and eliminate anything that would impede a smooth and enjoyable experience for the reader!
I made the mistake of reading what Nancy wrote–and I think she covers nearly everything. Maybe I can add this: A good beta reader can be objective and can combine honesty and tact. “They” say not to use friends and relatives, but if they can be objective, then I think it works very well. However, that can be a very big if…
My beta readers are honest, yet encouraging. They all have a sense of story, plot, character and setting so they can give me both general and specific feedback. They comb for as many spelling, grammar and typo errors as they can. They also pick out any inconsistencies: the character would never say/do that! or that guy’s eyes were blue in Chapter 1 and brown in Chapter 2 or the plot wanders too much. They’ll do their own research to make sure squirrels really are awake to chatter in the winter.
I don’t have a lot of experience with beta readers. However – that being said – I think a good beta reader is someone who can put themselves into the mindset of your average reader (if there is such a thing as an average reader) and can sense what will appeal to that reader and what will derail them from pleasant immersion in the story. AND – be able to articulate those things in a way that makes sense to the author.
My beta readers are essential to my writing. They nudge me along, correct my route, pick up my characters from the side of the road, and generally drive all of us to our destination. Without them, I’d have a lot of errors both in the text and in the story lines. Without them, my books would have been offal.
Most of my critique partners and I have critiqued chapters as we write them. It can be a long process, but we can prevent one another from writing an entire manuscript based on veering in totally the wrong direction in the first chapter. The first person to read my entire manuscripts all at once was Faith Black Ross, my editor at Berkley Prime Crime. She made excellent suggestions.
For me, a beta reader goes way beyond proofing. He/she comments on the structure of your story. Does it work? Should things be moved? What’s missing?
I have a specific example re Rowena and the Viking Warlord, a humorous medieval time-travel fantasy. Two of my four beta readers told me that the first half of the book was getting Game-of-Thrones grim. They suggested I move one of the humorous parts forward, to break up the extreme tension. I followed their advice, and am happy to say that the book is much better for it. Tension escalates, and then is diffused by the humor, to give the reader some needed relief. Then tension rises again to make the climax even more gripping. I wouldn’t have made that excellent change, without feedback from my beta readers.
Award-winning author of short stories, novels, novellas, and screenplays. Best known for her Emily Taylor mystery novels and her new Kira Callahan mystery novellas.
Janet Bolin writes the Threadville Mystery Series–machine embroidery, murder, and mayhem in a village of sewing, quilting, yarn, and other crafty shops. Threadville Mysteries have been nominated for Agatha and Bony Blithe Awards.
The Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Melodie Campbell has over 200 publications including 40 short stories and ten novels. She has won The Derringer, The Arthur Ellis, and eight other awards for crime fiction.
Joan has had an active career in freelance writing, with over 30 educational publications to her credit. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and online magazines. In 2014, her flash fiction story, “Torch Song for Two Voices” won the Polar Expressions Publishing contest.
Nancy is a prolific reader of many genres but especially crime fiction (in all its sub-genres). Since she is also a retired teacher and many-time judge of literary contests, Nancy is practically a professional-grade beta-reader.
Authors need to promote their books. Some of us blog, others tweet, and just about every author has a website. But social media with its emojis and memes is a visual thing. One way to visually promote a book is with a book trailer, which can be described as turning the blurb of a book into film. When my paranormal historical romance, MOON DARK, was about to be published, I decided I wanted a book trailer made to help promote it. I discovered Jaye Rochon of Immortal Creative and Circle of Seven, who did a fabulous job. The final product was magical, and I wanted to find out more about Jaye and her process. Welcome, Jaye!
PB: Tell us how you got started in creating book trailers and why?
JR: I worked in a corporate environment at an international cable TV network in marketing, advertising and creative services before the concept of book trailers crossed my path. So my experience in promotional videos began with an audience of 80+ million viewers on a daily basis! It was an amazing training ground for high quality, deadline-driven production skills.
But one thing about TV networks is that the on-air promotions can be a bit formulaic at times. Once you develop your branding for a show, it can stay pretty much the same year after year until the network decides to re-brand its entire look.
It taught me a lot about branding and I’m grateful for that. But it started to feel like working in a video factory. So I pursued more creative projects in my free time because diversity is key to success and satisfaction as an artist.
Eventually, I simply met the right people at the right time and the freelance work was enough to support me without the day job. I saw a need for high quality book trailers in the publishing world, and also, as a voracious reader, it was a natural fit to marry video production and literature.
PB: Did you study fine arts or graphic design in school or did you learn on your own?
JR: Most of what I’ve learned has come from working alongside my peers in television and film (many are Emmy award-winning producers, directors, designers and editors).
I was incredibly fortunate to begin as a receptionist and advance into copy-writing then beyond into creative by pitching ideas to executives above me who liked what I had to say. (I am like Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen, I swear!)
The technical skills I’ve learned have been a combination of job training and insatiable curiosity. I am a bit addicted to online tutorials.
A lot of this job also requires the kind of savvy that can’t be 100% taught – it is innate. Gut instinct, the ability to understand an artist’s brand and voice, a passion for pop culture… that’s mostly intuition.
I also tend to watch a lot of opening titles sequences and commercials to keep up with the latest audio-visual techniques and reader/viewer trends. Book trailers are a lot more than software and assets. It’s an understanding of what grabs attention and elicits a powerful viewer/reader response: I MUST read/watch/listen/know more!
Just like the best writers are always reading, the prolific creative freelancer is always absorbing, watching, researching every aspect of the entertainment industry and learning audience trends. I am constantly in school.
PB: Do you work independently or are you affiliated with a design group?
JR: I work independently in all areas of creative services: design, consulting, marketing and advertising as Immortal Creative, but my go-to production partners for book trailers are Circle of Seven(COS) Productions. They know the kind of work that I do particularly well, align me with the right clients/projects and everything is just magical and wildly creative. Sheila English and I met at a convention ten years ago and the rest was kismet.
PB: Tell us about your process. How do you go from a blank computer screen to a book trailer?
JR: It’s all about the author. Every book is so unique. The ideas form visually and conceptually from the characters and world-building in the writing. It happens organically as I read, and my biggest goal in a book trailer is to do what the best writers do: show, don’t tell.
With Moon Dark, the story was drenched in atmosphere from page one. It was so tangibly lush and darkly magical, I just had this feeling of mists and cloaks and velvety seduction running all through me as I read it. Also, Venice, Italy is such a glorious setting, it’s a dream come true to be creative with history and paranormal romance in a “bucket list” city like Venice!
So once I get those gut feelings from the book, script ideas organically take shape. Every so often, really specific shots or visuals hit me before the script and I write backwards – base the writing on an actual specific storyboard. But I usually plan out a very general storyboard in my mind along with the script before I begin any video editing.
One thing I remember about the Moon Dark script was that at first, I had written Venice into it like its own character. Now, Venice is indeed the kind of city that really is an intriguing character, but you helped me refine that after the first draft and we kept it more visual rather than reflected in the copy – as I said above: show, don’t tell, right? You helped me stick to that rule when we collaborated on the script and I thank you, because it worked!
The music also has an enormous hand in the pacing and dynamics of the video. I would say the music is just as important as the script. I remember I was watching the historical, somewhat-paranormal romance TV show Reign whilst working on Moon Dark, and the way they incorporate modern music into the historical settings keeps everything really fresh. So I think that show inspired my music selection for Moon Dark – I wanted something with a bit of modern rock mixed into the classical music, and it really did give the trailer a unique voice and sensual drive.
The rest is all like a mad scientist in a video editing laboratory: blend this texture and that texture, try this font and that font, overlay, overlay, overlay… It’s alive, alive, aliiiiive! It is pretty common to see about 20+ layers in my project files. It is moving, layered artwork, not just stock and text.
Why are book trailers important in your opinion?
JR: Video in general is the #1 most effective way to get people on social media to notice you. It’s actually beginning to surpass the popularity of photos and pictures or memes. It’s a great way to make people feel the impact of your book in very little time and illicit a gut reaction: I must read this book B it looks amazing.
It can also attract TV and film producers to literally see that your book would make a fantastic series or movie. Writers have been producing short pitch videos for decades, and those little teasers often seal the deal for a producer when it comes down to a close race between two screenplays with the same potential. Typically, the one with the pitch video gets green-lit. Book trailers are a lot like that too B with readers, with TV networks, with film producers B it makes an author and that book stand out above his or her competitors.
Book trailers can also help you promote your book on blogs, in ads and out there in social media above and beyond flat images and words. It is dynamic content and it’s powerful because it elevates the author’s ability to touch a potential reader’s senses and make that reader remember your book above the others on their discovery lists.
Who are some of your clients and what kind of trailers did you do for them?
Tor Books and Sourcebooks are my biggest clients (through COS Productions). Those are mainly young adult fantasy and science fiction book trailers, which I love. I also love paranormal and historical romance, and have done some beautiful trailers for independent authors in those genres.
Some authors create their own trailers. Why should they hire a professional designer?
The same reason one would hire a professional cover artist and a professional editor: we have knowledge and experience in what makes a viewer respond to your trailer in a way that generates interest and boosts sales.
There’s also much to consider from a technical standpoint like viewer habits (tune in/tune out rates), pacing of promotional copy, the correct licensing of music and imagery and how to distribute the video and use it for ads.
Some authors have worked in design and/or marketing and could figure out the basics with a consumer-grade video editor and do a decent enough job on their own. But just like with a cheap looking book cover or template-y looking website, you have to be really careful because first impressions are everything. Book trailers require a variety of professional skills. Let the professionals do their job so you have more time to do yours: write amazing books!
PB: What have you just finished that will be out soon?
JR: I just finished an animated dark fantasy book trailer for Sarah Porter’s Vassa in the Night and some fun and unique personality vignettes for one of her characters in the book named Erg, a magical doll. It should be out the week of September 20th when the book hits stores.
PB: Share with us a few of your Oscar-worthy golden moments –toot your own horn about some of your accomplishments that you’re really proud of.
JR: I’m really proud of an opening animated sequence I did for a cheesy-fun SyFy Network monster movie called Red Clover. You can also hear me singing in the movie’s musical score. Funny enough, my friend and the director of that film, Drew Daywalt, wound up becoming a #1 Bestselling Author of the children’s book, The Day the Crayons Quit about a year later. It’s like we were both meant to work in publishing and wild monsters couldn’t drag us away!
I also did a book trailer for legendary literary editor Ellen Datlow’s book, The Doll Collection which premiered in George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau movie theater.
My book trailer for NYT Bestselling Author Veronica Rossi’s novel Riders was featured on the Entertainment Weekly website.
My book trailer for The Sleeping King received a Pixie Award last year and I’ve also won some Telly and Davey Awards in my career.
I was the official TVGuide.com blogger for Ghost Whisperer, Masters of Horror and The L Word…
Those are some stand-out moments for sure…
PB: How much do you charge for a trailer? Do you offer other services B like book covers or formatting?
JR: I consider myself a Creative Services Director more than anything, because I develop branding campaigns as multi-tiered entities. My favorite thing to do is create full author packages with a website, cover art, social branding, book trailers, display/video ads and merchandise/promo materials (bookmarks, postcards, t-shirts, etc.) all at the same time with a consistent aesthetic from the ground-up. It’s how we did it with the big networks and ad agencies in corporate, so that’s followed me into freelancing.
I did try formatting for a while, but it made me miserable so I stopped.
My rates are all deeply personal, because everybody’s creative and career objectives are so unique. Most companies that have set quotes or pricing are working with templates, so they can pretty easily predict how long it will take and develop a simple, three-tiered pricing structure. I quote 100% on the author’s needs, and no two projects are ever alike. I can tell you this, though: I offer corporate level quality and experience at cottage industry pricing.
PB: Who are a few of your favorite authors? What do you enjoy reading?
JR: I love fantasy and paranormal everything, as well as horror. Steampunk is wonderful. I love historical fiction and all varieties of romance. I also love young adult novels when I need to read something with a little less intensity, but all of the addiction. I try to diversify as much as possible and revisit/rediscover the classics. But mostly, I gravitate towards magic and fantasy. I’ve been that way since grade school.
PB: Bonus: When you’re working on designing a trailer what is your go-to snack?
JR: Ha! Hmm… probably popcorn, it’s like the munching action makes my creativity flow better? Yeah, let’s go with that. I love this stuff out of Wisconsin called Palo Popcorn. It’s so addictive, you just wouldn’t believe it. I only indulge in that when deadlines get particularly intense. But on a daily basis, I cannot live without Earl Grey tea. A little bit of milk and Stevia and I’m a happy caffeinated creatrix!
Patricia Barletta writes historical romance with paranormal elements. Her first release with Lachesis Publishing is MOON DARK and it’s the first in a new and exciting series called the AURIANO CURSE SERIES. You can buy it here at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon, kobo, Barnes and Noble.
CM: I met the lovely romance author Kate Moore at the RWA National Conference in San Diego and I asked her to participate in a brief Q & A, which she was happy to do. Kate Moore, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your writing career. It was such a pleasure meeting you and learning a bit about your passions.
CM: What are 5 things that you have done consistently that have contributed to your growing success as an author. (You can include both writing craft and business/promotional things.)
KM: First, I’m always writing. Whether working and raising kids, or working and caring for aging parents, or volunteering and caring for grandbabies, I’ve made daily writing a priority. It helps to be a fan of “Take-out Tuesday” and to teach your kids to do their own laundry. (Of course, they still do it at my house!) You might find Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals inspiring. 2) Second, I connect with fellow writers at RWA Chapter meetings and local and national conferences, in a long-standing brainstorming group, and twice weekly to write and share works in progress with a group of fellow writers from all genres at our local library. 3) I study the craft of writing. Reading craft books and listening to smart writers talk about craft stirs my brain and spurs creative solutions to problems of character and plot. Ideas are never a problem. Turning ideas into compelling stories takes a playful application of craft. 4) I respect, appreciate, and thank those whose names don’t appear on the cover, but who are nonetheless necessary to a book’s existence—editors, copy editors, agents, publicists and publishers, reviewers, and, of course, readers. 5) As the publishing world continues to change, I say “Yes” to opportunities, experiment with new publishing and promotional avenues, and keep learning to use the tools of social media to reach readers.
CM: What are you currently working on?
KM: For the first time in my career, I’m writing two books at once. Yikes! What was I thinking? One book is a post-Regency, London-set, historical romance that combines Jane Austen-like issues of family and social position with spies. Can a girl find a husband while simultaneously figuring out who betrayed her father, a British agent, before his enemies get to her? The historical is the first in a trilogy from Kensington’s Lyrical line with release dates starting in 2018. Meanwhile, I’m writing the last book of a contemporary series for Boroughs Publishing Group set in the beach towns south of Los Angeles. In the “Canyon Club” series three “princes of privilege” from the same exclusive boys school, reconnect ten years later when all their fortunes have been reversed. The Loner, once a penniless outsider, is now a tech billionaire; the trust fund Golden Boy is now broke; and the powerless class nerd, is now a powerful wounded warrior. Each clashes with a woman of wit and warmth who challenges him to grow and become the man he’s meant to be. Both series are Jane Austen-inspired and fueled by unlikely but undeniable attractions.
CM: What is the best thing a reader ever said to you?
KM: “I stayed up all night with a flashlight to finish your book.” J It doesn’t get any better than that!
CM: What social media sites do you use the most and why?
KM: My go-to social media sites arefacebookandtwitter.I like Twitter for sharing and discovering sudden flashes of writing insight. I like Facebook as an avenue to connect with readers and fellow writers. I love the interactions. You never know who will post a cartoon that makes you snort your coffee out your nose, an image that inspires awe, or a video that restores your faith in humanity. Meanwhile, trading comments lets you discover other fans of the things you love most from Jane Austen’s novels to V.G.’s Donuts in Cardiff, CA.
CM: A lot of authors love to write series while others love stand alones. What do you prefer and why?
KM: I got the series bug in 2005 after publishing seven stand-alone novels. All of a sudden I had an idea in the middle of the RWA Conference in Reno. I couldn’t write it down fast enough on the back of a green envelope stuffed in my goody bag. What if a famous London courtesan had three sons by three different noble lovers, each of them shaped by her tempestuous relationships with their fathers? Then, what if the youngest was kidnapped? The “Sons of Sin” series was born. I had great fun writing the series and learned so much. It took all three novels to complete the story of the kidnapped boy. I enjoyed staying in the world of the work, fully developing the family dynamics, and using recurring characters, one of whom I’m still writing about today. Nate Wilde, the young thug from To Tempt a Saint, will soon appear in his fifth novel. Since writing that first series, I haven’t gone back, (except for one novella in an anthology of connected stories about a magic Irish ring, Ring of Truth).
CM: Please finish the sentence: I’m a Romance writer because…
KM: . . . because of Jane Austen, and because I believe love is the unfinished business of our lives. Romance is an antidote to cynicism and discouragement. One person’s love can bring us in out of the cold to a circle of warmth, love, and laughter among family and friends, as it does for Darcy, Wentworth, and Edward in Austen’s novels, and Scrooge in Dickens’ most famous story. I try to capture that story of being transformed by love in every book I write.
CM: Once again, I want to thank Kate for sharing some insight to her writing style and career.
MG: I had a chance to chat with Blanche Marriott, a friend and wonderful author who has offered such heartfelt encouragement to me and others in our writing journeys, that I wanted to share her thoughts with you. Blanche writes romance with a great sense of humor, and I’ve enjoyed reading her stories. Thanks for sharing, Blanche!
Tell our audience a bit about yourself, your writing process, and how/why you became a writer.
BM: Like most writers, it begins with an idea, a story playing in your head, or voices acting out a scene. I had a story playing in my head for years until I finally decided it had to be written down. It was a great story, the best thing anyone had ever written! It would sell in an instant and I’d be instantly famous with talk shows knocking down my door for an interview. That story is now covered in dust and sits in drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day. It was AWFUL!! But that’s where the love of writing began. I knew I could do better, so I did.
JMG: When did you realize you wanted to write and why did you choose romance?
BM: I’d always done writing of some sort, even as a child. Poems, short stories. It was mostly for myself. A way of expressing myself. It wasn’t until college when an English professor wrote kind words on anything I passed in. He saw potential and I think that was the first time I took any of my writing seriously. Why did I choose romance? Mostly because that’s what I enjoyed reading. I loved a happy ending.
JMG: How many books do you have published?
BM: 6 novels, 1 non-fiction satire. I’ve written 14 total.
JMG: If you could offer advice to newbie authors, what would you say?
BM: Persevere. It’s a long road, often times frustrating. But if you believe in yourself, you can do it. Don’t think that the first thing you write will sell like hotcakes like I did. It probably won’t. The craft of writing is learned over a period of time, mostly trial and error. By the time I got to my third book, I felt like I’d hit my stride and had some sort of idea what I was doing. It felt right, and it was. That was the first book I sold.
JMG: Tell us your opinion on Indie publishing versus traditional publishing?
BM: Obviously, there’s something good to be said about both. Likewise, there are bad points for both. It’s much harder to get published today with traditional publishers (in my opinion) because they are only looking for the best of the best. When I sold my first book, it had been a long time coming–over 10 years. Nowadays, with the tight competition, and the fewer new authors being bought, I fear that these new authors are in for a lot of disappointment. Indie publishing can satisfy that burning desire to be published, but it can leave one with the nagging question, “Is it really good enough?”
JMG: Have you ever independently published your work? If so, what did you take away from the process? You can tell us the good, the bad, and the ugly, we won’t mind!
BM: After selling 3 books traditionally, I decided to go the indie route because the book I really wanted to publish didn’t quite strike any publisher’s fancy. It was just a little off the beaten track so it was turned down across the board. I enjoyed the freedom of indie publishing. I felt I could write what I wanted, the way I wanted. That can be a drawback, because who says what I want to write is any good? Again, we never know. But when I read the reviews, I feel vindicated.
JMG: I know you’ve taken a break from writing, but do you think you’ll return to it one day?
BM: I suppose I might. They say once a writer, always a writer. I admit I still look at things with a writer’s eye: movies, TV shows, people watching. It’s second nature. Perhaps one day the bug will bite hard enough and I’ll have to bite back.
JMG: Do characters still pop up into your brain yearning to be put in a story? How do you handle it when that happens?
BM: Yes, like I said in the previous answer, things still hit me from time to time. I don’t rush to get a paper and pen anymore like I used to, but maybe it’s a matter of exercising the brain, or greasing the wheels. If I see enough awful plots out there, I might just have to write a better one.
Blanche Marriott began writing romance novels in 1991 while balancing her career as a wood products manufacturing manager. She often joined the troops in the factory, working on sanders, drills, and saws. It gave her time to “talk” to the characters in her head and figure out what they would do next. In 2001 she switched careers and now works for a CPA firm as an accounting assistant, specializing in payroll.
She has completed 14 novels while staying active in 2 writing groups, serving on the Boards of Directors several times, and a number of conference committees. But the best part was the life-long
friendships she’s formed with so many writers, published and unpublished.
Her first published novel, KALEIDOSCOPE, won 2nd place in the 2003 WisRWA Write Touch Readers’ Award for published authors. Her second book, WAY OUT WEST, won the prestigious New Jersey Romance Writers’ 2003 Golden Leaf Award for Short Contemporary. WAY OUT WEST was also a finalist in the 2004 Virginia Romance Writers’ HOLT Medallion Awards.
Her current novels are ONE MORE NIGHT and HIS BROTHER’S BABY. She also has a non-fiction humor book, BORN TO BITCH, chronicling life’s little annoyances.
When she’s not writing, Blanche enjoys gardening, reading, and playing with her grandkids.
He also writes occasional nonfiction, short fiction (some of which is collected in Nine Frights), and comic books, including the long-running horror/Western comic book series Desperadoes and graphic novels Fade to Black and Zombie Cop. With writing partner Marsheila Rockwell, he has published several short stories and a novel, 7 SYKOS. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the book business, as a writer, editor, marketing executive, and bookseller.
I’ve known Jeff for several years and was delighted when he agreed to answer a few of my questions.
DLS: When people see an author’s name, they often see it as a “brand”, knowing what kind of story they’ll get. You’ve written in several genres from science fiction to weird westerns to horror. How do you define the “Jeff Mariotte Brand”?
JM: I’m convinced that writing in different genres has been harmful to my career, because readers tend to like a writer who stays put, who delivers basically the same thing book after book. Once you’re well established, you can switch around–like Robert B. Parker eventually turning to the occasional western after writing a ton of mystery books in different series. But shifting around before your “brand” is established seems like a bad move, career-wise.
That said, I don’t see how I could have done it differently. I have to write what I’m moved to write at any given time. I’d get bored writing the same series character over and over. I haven’t calculated out the wisest career path, but have written the books that felt like they needed to be written as they came along. I’m true to myself, if not to market considerations. My agent might prefer it the other way around, but I am who I am.
I hope that readers know that when they pick up one of my books, they’ll get a compelling, suspenseful tale that’ll keep them turning the page; they’ll get well-written and engaging stories populated with characters they’ll believe in and care about. Regardless of genre, I try to always write books that will brighten a reader’s day and life, that entertain and maybe inform and enlighten. My books are generally optimistic, even when they venture into dark places, and one of my central themes seems to be the idea that there’s magic in the world, if only you know to look for it.
DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started? What are some books of theirs you would recommend?
JM: I was a bookseller for years before I got published, so I was reading pretty extensively in my preferred genres–horror, mysteries, thrillers, sf, fantasies, westerns. Consequently, I had (and have) a lot of inspirations. Some have changed over the years, and others have been consistent. In the early days, I was strongly inspired by Robert E. Howard (particularly his Conan stories), the aforementioned Bob Parker (his Spenser novels), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) and Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer). At the same time, I’ve often been inspired by writers as varied as Stephen King (The Stand, The Shining, On Writing), William Goldman (Marathon Man, Boys and Girls Together) and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose, Recapitulation, Wolf Willow). More recent influences include James Lee Burke (any of his books, but especially the Robicheaux novels). That’s a pretty male-centric list, but I could also add in works by Joan Vinge, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, Laura Lippman, Barbara Kingsolver, and plenty of other talented women, as well as one of the best writers I know, Marsheila Rockwell.
DLS: You recently married your writing partner, the talented Marsheila Rockwell. How do your collaborations work? How does collaborating compare to writing solo?
JM: Funny you should mention that…
We collaborate very well, almost seamlessly. We have different strengths–she’s a poet and her command of language is beautiful, while I’m a stronger plotter, for instance–but when we work together, our strengths complement each other, and by the time we’re finished with a story, we usually can’t tell who wrote what. We try to start with a solid outline so we know where we’re going and what each other’s vision of the overall story is (and because we both come out of a tie-in writing background, we’re used to working with outlines). Then we trade off–scene by scene, chapter by chapter, whatever works at the moment and for any given project. On the first book of the Xena: Warrior Princesstrilogy we’re working on, we had a relatively tight deadline and had to be writing different chapters simultaneously, which was a little awkward. But we smoothed it all out, and it came out well in the end.
As for the difference between collaborating and solo work, it is a different beast. A solo story or novel is one person’s vision, and everything in it, good or bad, is a reflection of that one person. A collaboration is necessarily a shared vision. I’ve written a lot of comic books and graphic novels, and because I don’t draw, those are always collaborations. And I’ve collaborated with other writers, too. So it’s not new to me. It does feel more natural with Marcy, and we work together better than I have with anyone else. Ideally, the result of a collaboration is a book or a story one writer couldn’t have written, because each participant brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and that’s what Marcy and I get when we write together. The fact that I get to be married to her is icing on the cake.
DLS: What insights have you gained from owning a bookstore that can help writers be more successful and stand out from the crowd?
JM: I think the experience of working in bookstores, managing them, and being an owner of one, has made me less ready to jump on board the e-book train. I think printed books are an ideal marriage of form and function–they don’t require a power source, they don’t break down or become corrupted, they’re always there when you want to read and you can save your place with a bookmark or a piece of paper or a paper clip or whatever’s handy. At the same time, I have a more realistic view of the book business than some people, who seem to think that Amazon is the only bookseller that matters. The truth is that printed books still far outsell e-books, and other outlets still sell more books in the U.S. than Amazon does, so if a writer focuses all of his or her efforts on Amazon, he or she is leaving a lot of potential sales on the table.
DLS: Not only do you write in your own worlds, you’ve written novels and stories for Star Trek, NCIS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other franchises. How does “playing in someone else’s sandbox” compare to creating your own world?
JM: I love writing my original novels, and will always want to do that. Creating my own characters and involving them in situations entirely of my own devising is the ultimate creative experience. But it’s also a blast to be asked to write novels about characters I love, like Conan, Xena, Spider-Man, Superman, and great TV shows like CSI and NCIS: Los Angeles. I get to tell stories in beloved fictional universes, and get paid for it–nothing wrong with that!
The skills that are called on are the same. I have to create characters, plot stories, write in an engaging and entertaining manner. And the truth is whether I’m writing in an existing fictional universe or my own, I have to be consistent and true to the rules of that universe as it’s been developed. So the main difference is that in tie-in work, I have to try to capture voices that were devised by other writers (and sometimes actors). Fortunately, I’m pretty good at that.
DLS: If someone wanted to try their hand at writing and selling a novel in the world of a popular franchise, what would they need to do? How should they start?
JM: They could start by visiting the website of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, IAMTW.org. There they can find out a lot about the nuts and bolts of the tie-in business, and maybe find out about licensed fiction lines they didn’t even know existed. The organization has also released a book by its membership that contains more details about the trade.
Typically (although there are exceptions) to write a tie-in novel, you have to have had at least one other novel professionally published. Publishers have already invested a lot of money to acquire a license, so they don’t want to risk more by hiring a writer who hasn’t proven the ability to write a publishable book. And there’s often competition for tie-in gigs, so if it’s a choice between a writer with a solid track record and an unknown new writer, the established pro will have the advantage. So the best thing a writer can do is write a good book, get it published by a reputable publisher, then approach the publisher of the licensed fiction line of interest and say, “Hey, I wrote X and I’d sure like to pitch you something for your Y line.”
DLS: In addition to writing novels, you’ve written and edited comic books. How are writing comic books similar and different than writing novels or short stories? Do you collaborate with the artist ahead of time, or create any kind of storyboard in addition to writing?
JM: As I mentioned above, because I don’t draw the comics, each one is a collaboration, start to finish. I write the script before the artist draws it, so while I’m writing it I’m only speculating about what it’ll look like at the end of the process. Usually what I’m seeing in my head is not much like what comes out on the page. From the very beginning of my career, I’ve had the good fortune of working with some amazing artists, whose work on my scripts has blown me away.
Ultimately, the skill sets the writer brings to the table are similar. You need to tell a story that’s worth telling, that’s interesting and surprising and suspenseful and is hopefully enlightening in some way. The differences are in the techniques and the outcome. In comics, you have to be willing to stand back and let the art tell the story. The writer makes up the story (in most cases), and puts it down in a script that no one will ever see, but the artist is the one whose interpretation of the story ends up being what the readers see. The writer has to let the artist do that job, and keep the words to a minimum so they don’t get in the way of the art.
I don’t try to direct the artist to any great extent. I tell them what has to be in each panel to make the story work, but leave it to them how the panel is composed, how the different panels fit onto the page, etc. I’ve worked, as an editor, with writers who don’t trust their artists and do sketch layouts for them. Fortunately, in most cases, the artists I’ve worked with are far better at that than I would be.
DLS: What kind of research did you do writing the comic book biography of Barack Obama? Did you get to interview the President or did you work from other resources?
JM: That project was fascinating, and required vast amounts of research. I didn’t get to meet or speak with the President (though I’d still love to). I wrote it during the 2008 campaign and the first few months of his presidency, so at the time there weren’t even any books about him other than the two he wrote himself. Obviously he was a well-known public figure, but what had been written about him was mostly journalism coming out on a constant basis, along with a few more in-depth magazine pieces. I read his books and every article about him I could get my hands on, and watched him on TV whenever possible to get a sense of his voice. The scripts were vetted by lawyers, and I had to have every fact triple-sourced, and had to be able to show where every line of dialogue came from. The project was originally three separate comic book issues that were collected into a single hardcover book, which was actually the first book-length biography written about him.
DLS: I sense a certain passion for small towns on the southern border of the United States in your writing. What captivates you about those places in particular?
JM: Borderlands of all kinds are fascinating to me. I have written a lot about the US/Mexico border, but I’ve written about other borders, too–my Age of Conan trilogy, for example, was largely about the border between the Aquilonian Empire and the Pictish lands–which is kind of a parallel to Hadrian’s Wall, where the Roman Empire ended and the wilderness began. Other borders in my fiction include borders between our world and another (or many others). Borders are where different people with different interests and backgrounds intersect. There’s natural drama in that. Along our southwestern border, there are of course political issues, issues of crime and punishment, and the story of the human race–which is the ongoing story of migration–all of which are rich territory for fiction.
DLS: Tell us about your latest novel.
JM: The new book is 7 SYKOS, a collaboration with Marsheila Rockwell. It’s kind of a science fiction/horror/thriller hybrid. Basically, a meteor has brought a spaceborne virus into the Phoenix metropolitan area, which has the effect of turning those infected into raging lunatics hungry for brains. It’s incredibly virulent and there’s no known cure or vaccine. In order to keep it from spreading throughout the nation (or the world), the military has fenced off the Valley of the Sun, and nobody is allowed in or out. But everyone knows that’s only a temporary solution, so if something more permanent can’t be figured out soon, the Valley’s going to be nuked out of existence. Trouble is, the only way to come up with a fix is to get enough of the meteor to study, and nobody can get to it. But it turns out that the unique brain structure of psychopaths makes them immune to the virus. So they can go into the quarantine zone, to look for pieces of the meteor. And all they have to do is agree to perform an essentially altruistic act, learn how to play well together, and survive the onslaught of thousands of Infecteds who want to eat their brains. Nothing to it, right…?
DLS: Sounds amazing! Thanks for the wonderful and informative interview!
God gave me three gifts of inspiration in life and literature.
I was 24 years old Nov 6th 1988, standing in an operating room as doctors performed an emergency c-section on my wife. My son was dying in her womb. My son was dying. I stood there in shock and dismay, how could this be happening? I watched the surgeon cut into my bride, move organs and then reach into her abdomen and delicately pull out a small struggling life strangled by an umbilical cord. My son’s body was blue, he wasn’t crying. They freed him and his body soon took on a healthy pink color. My son, Thomas Michael, my boy had arrived, earlier than expected and seemingly no worse for the dramatic entrance. Things seemed normal for at first but Tom soon had developed breathing issues, his lungs weren’t developed properly and he was sick.
I listened in shock as the doctor explained Highland Membrane Disease, fluid buildup and under-developed lungs and a series of other issues afflicting my son. My wife had given birth with pneumonia and was having her own health issues. I remember her tears as other moms were able to hold their babies, and she couldn’t. We waited for several hours while the doctors were tending to Tom. My father stayed by our side offering his support and encouragement, he was the rock we both leaned on. A doctor finally came and told us they couldn’t help and Tom had to be sent to Children’s Hospital and placed on a respirator. Twenty minutes later I watched my son, attached to machines, being loaded into an ambulance and transferred into Boston from the small suburban hospital. The doctors would call me tomorrow. I stood there in shock, as the ambulance drove away carrying my son, my father literally holding me up as my whole world just imploded.
I looked at my dad, lost and hopeless, “Dad, what do I do? I can’t fight this battle. Why? Why my boy?”
My father hugged me, his face wet with his own tears, “God is watching over him now, Greg. You need to take all your strength and stand tall, for that woman up there and your boy. You need to grow up fast, son. You need to keep it together for your family. You told me once how strong you are, call upon it now and be strong for all of them.”
I awoke the next morning to the ringing phone at 5:30AM, I felt ill as I picked it up. It was Children’s Hospital, Tom had had a rough night but was holding his own for now but they couldn’t make any promises and I should prepare my wife for the worst. I hung up the phone, took a breath and looked at the cross hanging on our bedroom wall, “Don’t you take my boy, you can’t have him!” I’ d never sworn or threatened God before, but I let loose a string of blasphemies I’d only used on people facing me in a street brawl. He wasn’t going to die and I wasn’t going to tell my wife about the phone call from the hospital.
I got in my truck and I drove to Boston. I was escorted to a small incubator-like unit, inside was my son, hooked up to machines to do his breathing and to help cleanse his blood. His face was swollen and yellow, nothing like the child I saw the night before. THE nurses left me alone; I couldn’t touch my son I could only stare through the glass.
“Thomas, it’s your dad. I know you can hear me, son. Fight, do you hear me! You fight and you live. Don’t go with the Angels, you stay here, with me. I don’t want to lose you, do you understand? Mom and Dad love you so please don’t leave, you just got here. You just got here.” I felt my tears, “Don’t leave me son.” I sat in silence for three hours, my hand touching the glass, watching my boy, willing him to live. Imagining my strength flowing from me, through the glass barrier and into his frail, tiny body. I repeated the mental image every time I saw him, it didn’t matter who I was with or who was around and I didn’t care what anyone thought, each day he lived was a gift and a victory. And if he needed my life to survive he could have it.
Thomas made a miraculous recovery and is part of a Children’s Hospital medical journal, he shouldn’t have lived, but he did, he beat the odds and fought the ultimate fight, the first month of his existence; the battle for his life. Tom is 27 years old now, a remarkable young man with tenacity and a will to do things his way. That tenacity has caused some friction but no matter what his trial, he always finds a way to make things work out in the end, he never seems to give up on anything or anyone. In the end he finds a way to fight through.
When I find myself going through a rough patch, I remember a frightened young father staring through a glass barrier at a new life and urging that life to fight on and beat the odds. Within those memories I find the strength to rise up and keep pushing forward. My battles and issues have never been as severe as the one he fought and won over 27 years ago. Whether I’m struggling with a chapter in a novel, writing a blog or facing a financial or life hardship I look over at my son and see that twinkle in his eye or that crooked smile he inherited from his dad and I know I can get through. Tom was the one who pushed me to submit my first book and write the follow up. He inspired and motivated me to keep working on my novels when nobody seemed interested in a half-alien private detective. He gave me the confidence and the gift of his insight on the second and third book in the Hybrid series serving as critic and creative collaborator. Tom just didn’t influence my writing he is the spark that fanned the creative flame. A flame that would never have existed if he’d lost his fight so many years ago. He is the best son a father could ever hope to have.
Three years ago my youngest daughter, Christie, at the age of eleven, decided she wanted to try out for an out of town swim team. I’d coached her in basketball and softball in open town leagues but this was something different. I watched her first competitive meet from the upper balcony at Milford High School, as my baby girl stood waiting for her event with sport swim wear, a racing cap and tinted goggles. The feeling of dread weighed in my gut like I’d just eaten a cinder block as she stepped upon the diving block against other swimmers. For the first time, I wasn’t there coaching her, I couldn’t walk up to her and give her advice or encouragement, she was on her own.
The starting horn sounded and the race was on . . . everyone around me screamed and cheered, I watched in muted silence willing her on in my mind, hands balled into tight fists. It was the longest 25 yards in my life. But she finished and won her heat. It was a long year of ups and downs for her and a great deal of frustration but she grew into the sport and more importantly developed new friendships. At the awards banquet she was awarded the most improved swimmer, a trophy she has in her bedroom to this day. She’s still a competitive swimmer and will be on the High School league this fall. I’ve watched her develop into a strong competitor and have seen her conquer her insecurity and lack of self-confidence. She now believes in herself and the difference in her personality is a wonderful thing to behold. Gone is the need to be just like her big sister rather she yearns to be “Christie.”
My youngest has reminded me that the road isn’t always easy in life but those who stay true to themselves and don’t go with the crowd will prosper in the long run. She found a place for herself; it was different from herr friend’s passions in dancing and boys, it was in the pool training and competing, working to shave off that fraction of a second and master a smooth flip turn. I’ve taken that lesson and applied it in my own writing. I’m not going to write like everyone else, I’m going to write about what I want and express how I feel. My political blogs have earned me a great deal of hate mail because I call a spade a spade. I won’t ever apologize for my morals or ethics or my freedom to express them and I won’t bow to political correctness. I did for a while and took the easier choice, it gave me less headaches but I let myself be silenced. Life isn’t about taking the easy road it’s about making the hard choices, following your passions and not following the herd blindly. As I watch my daughter in the pool working and training through each practice, I’m reminded of that lesson.
January 24th 2015. It’s three in the morning, the snowfall is near white out condition and I’m looking at the weather in Connecticut and New York. My destination is the Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan. Only an experienced driver or a madman would head out in this weather. But my older daughter was auditioning for “The Voice” and needed me to drive her. “It’ll be an adventure,” she said flashing me that patented angelic smile reserved for when she really wanted something. So a week later here we are, headed off in the storm, Rachel looking out into the darkness and me gripping the steering wheel as we sloshed through the snow. We saw several spinouts and accidents but we had to keep going. Half the time my car was barely holding the road and any turn of the wheel would make us an accident statistic. A four hour ride took seven terrifying hours. But we made it.
The lines and crowds were spectacular. I waited in line with her for another ninety minutes and the group she was with was called in. Because of her age, she didn’t require a parent escort, I got to sit around and fret and hope and pray that she’d come out with a pink ticket. I had my Visa card and would gladly charge the $500.00 it would cost to stay in a hotel if she made the cut to tomorrow. Another hour later she texted me, “I didn’t get picked.” My heart sank. There must have been something wrong, my daughter sings like the most beautiful songbird. I dreaded the long ride home. Another snowstorm would be welcome over the black cloud that would be hanging over my car all the way back to Massachusetts.
I saw Rachel and she smiled, she wasn’t upset and simply said, “They loved my voice, but I didn’t have the right look, whatever that means, oh and I saw Blake Shelton, he was here for Saturday Night Live.’ I was blown away, she handled the disappointment like a trooper, we laughed on the way back to the car and I enjoyed the time with her. The ride back was light and fun despite the snow falling again. That ride home was one of those memories I will treasure forever, I gained a new insight and admiration for Rachel. She took what most would have taken as a debilitating setback and saw it as a positive experience. She wasn’t daunted or discouraged.
Life doesn’t always deal a natural strait flush or four of a kind, sometimes you’re dealt a crappy hand and just have to wait for that hand play out and start with a fresh set of cards. I was never more proud of my daughter than at that moment, she’d had solos before and large parts in plays etc, but this was an indication of her inner strength character. She understood and accepted disappointment without anger or frustration. It was a lesson in how to handle rejection and disappointment.
I’ve been on the receiving end of some letters of rejection from Penguin, DAW and a few hunting magazines and I’ve learned that handling and coping with rejection is more important than celebrating success. Failure builds character and determination. It makes me a better writer and will no doubt make Rachel a better singer. It also defines how we handle life’s larger setbacks; we can accept them and move forward, learning from the experience or be debilitated by failure and never try again. My daughter learned the lesson and discovered the right attitude. When I get down on myself or when things seem to be falling apart I like to flash back to that drive home and the precious hours we spent bonding over an unsuccessful Voice audition. I brush off the setback and try again, pushing myself harder.
As parents we spend our lives teaching our children, hoping the lessons sink in, I look at my children and realize how much I’ve relearned from them, my lessons being re-taught through their lives. There’s no bigger reward for me as a father than to spend individual time with my children, to reignite the bond and simply catch up with their hectic lives and let them know even though I’m not always around, I’ll always be there and they’ll always be with me, no matter how far away life’s journey takes them.
The story follows an ex-boxer named Jersey the Brawler, a man who finds out he’s half-human and half-demi god and the son of the Twilight Goddess, who is also the creator of his hometown of Glory, USA.
Told in first-person narrative, GHOSTS OF GLORY takes the reader down the dirty streets of the town’s underbelly, where evil creatures are plotting Glory’s complete destruction. Only Jersey, who shares a an unwanted connection to the leader of this evil force, can prevent the worst from happening.
I loved this book! The narrative was extremely vivid and the hero, Jersey is a battered and beleaguered hero we can all root for. Author Morgan Chalfant, puts us right into the action and makes us feel everything that Jersey feels. And do we ever!
Chalfant‘s writing grips us from the first page to the last, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future and can’t wait for Book 2 in this series!
I have always been a fan of comic books and graphic novels, not only as “novels,” but the art form itself and all the great storytelling that comes with them, storytelling that would not necessarily be dampened without the imagery provided within, but is enhanced through these images.
So many people see these graphic novels as “comic books,” which I’m sad to say to this day still carries with it a stigma of being pure drivel despite the wonderful titles out there and the millions of people who love and appreciate them. Unfortunately, the words “comic book” and “graphic novel” still do not get the respect they deserve.
Fortunately, the art of the graphic novel is beginning to be appreciated in society and academics with the aid of pioneers like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman (The Sandman), James O’Barr, Michael Turner (RIP), Grant Morrison, Brad Meltzer, and hundreds of others. So, in an effort to spread this awareness that graphic novels are just that, “novels with images,” I give you a list of ten of the greatest graphic novels ever printed. Go read them. Let them inspire you. Let them inspire your writing or your art. I know they have inspired mine.
The Crow by James O’Barr– In many ways, the ultimate love story, as well as being the ultimate revenge tale too. Pick up the special edition of this one which has added content (including a dedication to the late Brandon Lee) by O’Barr that is not in the original and one of my favorite sequences ever, “An August Noel.”
Kingdom Come – Alex Ross’s realism artwork and beautiful storytelling make this story of DC’s iconic superheroes, aged and battered, making one last comeback.
The Dark Knight Returns– Frank Miller’s pivotal tale of an aged Batman/Bruce Wayne forced out of retirement. Though I don’t particularly like Miller’s take on Superman, this graphic novel belongs on this list for the story it tells of the time worn caped crusader.
The Death of Superman– “The Best Selling Graphic Novel of All-Time” pretty much says it (though I think it no longer holds that title). Superman versus Doomsday in a battle to the death that shattered the worlds of a million readers (and childhoods). Pictured is my CGC graded copy I just obtained this year of one of the six issues in the Death of Superman comic run. This was my favorite issue when I was a kid.
Watchmen– Alan Moore’s iconic deconstructionist tale of flawed superheroes belongs on this list. There’s a reason it made “Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.”
Final Crisis– This marks the death of Batman and single-handedly changed the DC Comics universe sparking the Battle for Batman’s cowl. Pivotal in its relevancy to the DC universe.
Batman: Hush– A dark tale with wonderful artwork by Jim Lee and a story that takes Batman on a hunt through Gotham in an attempt to discover the identity of the villain named Hush.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan – This sordid little tale of Wolverine in a post-apocalyptic America where the villains have triumphed and too few heroes remain to end their tyranny is tragic, beautiful and well-written.
Superman: Godfall– The beautiful art by Michael Turner (R.I.P.) really drives this story of an amnesiac Superman stuck in Kandor without powers and with a new lover, Lyla. The story’s themes of fascism, alien prejudice, misplaced deification, and terrorism give it a depth that makes Godfall much more than a simple superhero story.
Identity Crisis– One of DC’s best-selling series that handles many dark themes (sexual violence and brutal murder) and really redefined the mood/underlying themes of the DC universe. The mini-series run was selected as one of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2007.
Morgan Chalfantis a native of Hill City, Kansas. He received his Bachelor’s degree in writing and his Master’s degree in literature from Fort Hays State University, where he now teaches writing.