Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

You’ve Gotta Meet this Guy!

So you want to get to know Dennis Collins and his books. Wow! It must be your lucky day. I just happen to have a little interview here with Dennis, and a snippet about his most recent book. And no need to thank me for this, it is my absolute pleasure. Enjoy!

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K.S. Both of your first two novels The Unreal McCoy, and Turn Left at September were published in traditional print form and later released as e-books but your latest book The First Domino has made its debut as an e-book. Why is that?

D.C. That wasn’t my original plan. I was going to begin with a regular publisher and eventually move on to an electronic format but I wasn’t able to find a suitable publisher.

K.S. Do you have representation?

D.C. No and that’s probably my biggest problem. I had a very high profile publicist read my manuscript and she absolutely raved about it, even recommended it to a good size publisher but they still rejected it.

K.S. Did they give you a reason for not pursuing it?

The Unreal McCoy

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D.C. No they didn’t. Agents and editors are always telling authors to “think outside the box” but it seems like the people who control the industry think very much “inside the box.” They won’t listen to you unless you break the rules but then they reject you because you broke the rules. It’s like the business is being guided by destructive paradigms.

K.S. So you decided to take matters into your own hands.

D.C. I guess you could say that.

K.S. Are you sure that’s the right way to go?

D.C. I’ve been writing book reviews for more than five years and read about fifty books annually so I see a lot of different styles and a lot of different levels of writing talent. I feel pretty confident about my work; I think it matches up pretty well with what’s out there. It may not fit what a particular publisher is looking for at the moment but I believe that my stuff is better than many of the books that I read.

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K.S. And your latest book is…

D.C. It’s titled The First Domino, and it’s the story of a young man whose father had been a powerful lawyer who worked for the Detroit Mafia. When the old man dies, his son hopes to be welcomed into the mob but they only offer him a menial job and he feels shunned. He tries to show his value by murdering three Detroit cops. The mob isn’t happy and they order a hit on the young man. He flees the country with Lieutenant Otis Springfield, homicide detective hot on his trail and the mob is not far behind.

The book has a little of everything in it. I even get very deep into the heads of two killers. There’s action, romance, personal tragedy, discovery, revenge, redemption, and terror. It’s more of a story about the cop than the murderer.

K.S. And it’s only available as an e-book?

D.C. Currently, yes. I’m hoping that some publisher might be interested enough to pick up the print rights but if that doesn’t happen; I’ll probably self-publish the print version as well.

The First Domino

Joe Pellerito thought he could murder his way into the mob. The son of a high powered Mafia lawyer and negotiator, he assumed that he’d be welcomed into the Family. When Joe’s father died of cancer he waited anxiously for the invitation to join the ranks. But the call never came. Feeling shunned, Joe devised a plan to show his dedication and fearlessness. From a list of Detroit cops who have been problems for the syndicate Joe chose three candidates and pulled off a string of three brutal murders in less than two hours on a bright spring morning.

The philosophy of the mob has moved into the new millennium and has all but abandoned confrontations with law enforcement. Joe’s actions threaten to undo the progress that took two decades to build. The problem of Joe Pellerito must be addressed.

With a price on his head, Joe is forced to flee and tries to hide in Italy where he attempts to gain a whole new identity.

The diligence of Detroit Police detectives Otis Springfield and Albert McCoy helps them sniff out Joe’s trail but the mob has its resources as well and soon the race is on to see who can get their hands on Joe first.

Meet Dennis:

My professional life was spent in automotive engineering where I enjoyed a rewarding forty year career. I’ve always had a taste for adventure and risk taking spending my idle hours flying airplanes, skydiving, scuba diving, motorcycle racing, and over thirty years of professional automotive powered hydroplane racing.

My first publishing credit came as a complete surprise when an article that I wrote for a powerboat racing club newsletter found its way onto the desk of the president of The American Power Boat Association and he submitted it to Propeller Magazine. My first novel The Unreal McCoy was self published and surprisingly successful. I was able to follow up with Turn Left at September published by Behler Publications, a small mainstream publisher in California. Both titles have been converted to electronic format and are now available through Amazon’s Kindle. The next book The First Domino is now also available on Kindle as well as Nook. My Short story, Calvin was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Futures Magazine. I am a co-founder of the Huron Area Writer’s Group in Huron County Michigan and I write a bi-monthly column and review mysteries for www.myshelf.com

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Following the Dream (Bookstore Spotlight by Ellis Vidler)

“In the days of the eReader, author events are the saving grace of the bricks and mortar bookstore. They provide opportunities for authors and readers to meet, and readers can ask questions and gain insights into the author’s thinking or reasons for a particular scene or character.” So says Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction, an independent bookstore in Greenville, South Carolina. Ten years ago Jill, an avid reader and book lover, followed her dream and opened her own bookstore. She must be doing something right, because Fiction Addiction is still going strong. She features authors in the store, cooperates with a local restaurant in offering luncheons and talk or readings with visiting authors, and maintains a charming bookstore.

 Fiction Addictioncarries more fiction than non-fiction and has all genres, from mainstream to erotica to children’s books. Jill says they do the most business in mystery, then regional fiction. After that it’s science fiction, with children’s books their fourth largest-selling product. Series are quite popular—readers get to know the characters and want to see more.

While open to small presses that offer standard discounts and returns, Fiction Addiction works primarily with the three major distributors. It’s much easier for a bookstore to work through a big distributor and not have to go through setting up an individual account with an individual publisher for one book signing, when that may be the only involvement with that publisher.

Independent bookstores offer a number of services not always found in larger or big-box stores or online. They bring many authors to the store who wouldn’t normally be in the area, have a selection of used books, are happy to make recommendations, and will gladly order specially for a customer. One of the disappointments, however, is to have a customer take advantage of the extra services Fiction Addiction works hard to provide and then have that customer order online to save a little money.

She’s finding hardback sales are slowing in favor of eBooks, but mass market and trade paperback are still fairly strong. EBooks are certainly having an impact, and Jill would like to sell them but can’t at present. She says it requires an ABA website, which Fiction Addiction doesn’t have. Maybe there’s an opportunity for an individual publisher to set up something.

Jill definitely sees a new generation of readers coming along. One of the benefits of the Harry Potter series, aside from interesting children in reading, was convincing them they could read longer books and making them proud of holding up a 700-page book and saying, “I read this!”

Children are becoming more sophisticated in their reading now, looking for more involved plots. The Olympian series by Rick Riorden sparked much interest, and now young readers are clamoring for his new series. Another thing is that since the Twilight books came out, more adults are reading Young Adult (YA) novels.

 Fiction Addictionis located on Woodruff Road across from Costco in Greenville. The website is http://www.fiction-addiction.com Stop by and look around. Jill and her staff will be glad to recommend something to your taste or place an order for that special book.

Find Fiction Addiction:

Twitter: @FictnAddictn

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FictionAddictionBookstore

A Handshake:
1020 Woodruff Road
Greenville, SC 29607
(864) 675-0540

 

Ellis Vidler is a writer and editor. She won the South Carolina Writers Conference prize for short fiction and was a finalist in or won a few contests. Her first novel, Haunting Refrain, was published by Silver Dagger Mysteries. She is currently a member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America and lives with her husband and dogs in the South Carolina piedmont.

Her new book, The Peeper, is co-authored with Jim Christopher.

This is the short version. If you really want to know more about her writing history, click here.

All Depends on How You Look At It (Marc Vun Kannon)

This is my last blog tour stop before my latest novel, St. Martin’s Moon, becomes officially available, and I will be in South Carolina at their Book Festival in Columbia (May 14 – 15, 2011) on that happy day (Sunday, if you must know). And I hope you must, since I’d really like for you guys to be there to help me celebrate the official release of the world’s first Gothic SF novel. I invented the category, so I oughtta know. There are other SF novels written in the Gothic style, but they go the usual route of assimilating all the Gothic stuff into the SF trope of the day (it’s amazing what you can blame on biotech and some nanobots in a low-gravity environment). St. Martin’s Moon isn’t one of them.

I’ve spent literally years trying to figure out how to describe this book. I could do one-liners, what they call taglines. I could do two-liners, the sort of short description you’d find in a TV guide, what they call a logline, but don’t ask me why ‘cause I don’t know. I even came up with a good back-cover description. But anytime I get closer to the plot than that I get tangled in all the strings.

The reason for the confusion, I decided, was in the genre I was using to categorize the damn thing. Why would a mere genre category do that, you ask? How could it? Well, genres are a sort of shorthand, a kind of box we put stories into so that someone looking for a story of a particular type can find one easily. The problem comes when a story doesn’t really fit into any particular type. Then the shorthand becomes something of a straitjacket. One would think a novel with werewolves and ghosts in it would fit neatly into the heading of a paranormal. Since it took place on a lunar colony it clearly was futuristic, right?

Yeah, me too.

While the story does have werewolves in it the story really isn’t about them, it’s about the people who become them. How do they live with the curse? Where does the curse even come from? Why does the Moon matter, and a full Moon, at that? These are all questions that the main character, Joseph Marquand, Earth’s greatest werewolf hunter, would like to know the answers to, because he hates his job. Killing the wolf means killing the man, usually an innocent man. When his latest case involves a werewolf attack on the Moon itself, it drives these questions from his mind in favor of something more immediate, but not far, not far at all.

In short, the story is more futuristic than paranormal, and more SF than merely futuristic. SF looks for answers, takes for granted that there are answers, which gives it something in common with the mystery novel St. Martin’s Moon was originally conceived as. Except that SF doesn’t allow for ghosts. It could handle werewolves, I think, since they have a trigger and are stoppable. Ghosts somehow don’t seem to fit into the same bucket. There’s a reason for this, I think, and I don’t think science will ultimately be able to account for ghosts any more than they’ll make a truly AI computer. So SF is fair game, in my opinion, to have a few genuine ghosts appear in its otherwise unhaunted halls. If I could have worked in a dark and stormy night I would have, but hey, it’s a lunar colony we’re talking about here. A haunted one.

Like many writers, I started when a story came along and decided that I should write it. Don’t ask me why. Others followed, until now I’m afraid to go out of the house with a recorder or notebook in my hand. But I show them, I refuse to write the same story twice!

You can also check out his really cool Blog

Other things to read by Marc Vun Kannon:

Unbinding the Stone
A Warrior Made
Ex Libris
Steampunk Santa
Bite Deep
Chasing his own Tale

What I Didn’t Know Before Selling a Book (Kaye George)

1) How much time–and energy–the initial promotion would take. And how much brain drain. Honestly, some days I feel like I did when I was pregnant: searching for words, dropping things, driving badly. It’s becoming clear that I’ll have to devote more than one day a week to promotion.

2) That you have to give away books in order to sell them. And this is without any promotional give-aways (except for a couple so far). This is for reviewers who don’t want to read the digital copy I have that’s meant for reviewers. I can’t say I blame them. I can’t read a book on a computer either. If I didn’t have an e-reader I would have to request a hard copy, too. I’m thinking there might be a better way to get a hard copy out, though, than to give away my precious books. This requires more thought, and with that drained brain, too.

3) That perfect strangers will somehow find my book and want it autographed. This has actually happened at the two conferences I’ve been to recently! And it’s VERY fun!

4) How much I’d be itching to work on my current work-in-progress, almost to the point of resenting the marketing efforts and the conventions I’ve attended for promotion of the published book. Writers are strange people.

5) How much fun it is to attend a convention as a published author, even while longing to be working. CHOKE: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery was released May 1st by Mainly Murder Press and is available at the publisher, from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as through Ingram Book Company.

By Choke at: Amazon.com or BN.com

Kaye George, an Agatha nominated short story writer, is the author of CHOKE, published by Mainly Murder Press, as well as A PATCHWORK OF STORIES, a collection of her previously published stories. FISH TALES: THE GUPPY ANTHOLOGY (eBook) contains her story, “The Truck Contest.” She reviews for “Suspense Magazine,” and writes for several newsletters and blogs. She, her husband, and a cat named Agamemnon live together in Texas, near Austin.

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The Wrong Guy (Guest Blog: Claudia Whitsitt)

On a sunny afternoon about four years ago, I plopped myself on a sandy beach in La Jolla, California and played what if. What if I wrote a book about a turning point? What if I added mystery and suspense? What if I connected it to an event in my own life that I could access in the blink of an eye?

Many years ago, I attended Eastern Michigan University on the heels of the arrest of John Norman Collins, the chief suspect of The Michigan Murders. He was accused of murdering seven college co-eds at my university. Life was scary enough for a college freshman then—the Detroit Riots had shocked my neighborhood two years previous, the Vietnam War loomed in the background, and I was a frightened, naïve Catholic girl. Though the memories of these events, and the creative joy of fiction, The Wrong Guy was born.

The main character, Katie Hayes, is a lot like me, except prettier, and taller. She heads off to school armed with her rosary and her Nancy Drew mysteries. Her best friend, Janie, is the carbon copy of my college roommate—wild and crazy. Enter crisis and mystery. One girl is assaulted, another kidnapped. Even though the cops have the likely suspect behind bars, no one can help but wonder if they haven’t apprehended The Wrong Guy.

I had a ton of fun writing this coming of age mystery. I hope you have a ton of fun reading it.

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Claudia Whitsitt, a seasoned special education teacher and the mother of five grown children, is a Michigan native and lover of both reading and writing. As a young girl, she was inspired by Nancy Drew mysteries. Her passion for mystery spurred the penning of her own mystery, The Wrong Guy, loosely based on her college years and the Michigan Murders. Claudia began her writing career five years ago. During that time, she has written two additional novels, Identity Issues, and Two of Me. Claudia was honored to have won the 2010 Hummingbird Review/Southern California Writer’s Conference contest with her essay, One Last Pearl. The essay appeared in the Summer/Fall edition of the Hummingbird Review. Claudia can be reached through her website, www.claudiawhitsitt.com.

Connie Hullander – Author of Snowstorm

My début novel, Snowstorm, has recently been released as an e-book by Echelon Press. Although it has taken a few years to arrive at this point, I still haven’t quite gotten used to calling myself an author.

During the last couple of weeks I couldn’t help thinking about attending a writers’ conference a few years ago. I’d already written a first draft of the book, but then I seem to always do things the hard way. (I really wish I’d stop that.) In the conference workshops, I heard authors, editors, and agents characterize writers in various ways. Someone said writers are artists who just want to close themselves up in a room and create in solitude. Another facilitator commented that people who write for a living secretly want to change the world. In a third workshop, a book editor stated the first book often reflects the author’s passions.

Snowstorm is indeed the result of one of my passions: teenagers. I have been a teacher in both high school and college, and what I love about teaching is the students themselves. Then, there’s the fact my husband is a psychologist who worked with teens for nearly twenty years. Combine my interest in adolescents with an understanding of how perfectly good children turn into angry teens and I developed, as the editor put it, a passion for troubled kids. But I know my limitations. I could not do the kind of work my husband did, so instead, I wrote a book about one of those prickly teenageers.

The story follows the struggle of a sixteen year-old girl named Carly, who is dealing with challenges common to lots of kids today. The reader get a view into Carly’s inner thoughts as she makes tough decisions about who she will be.

So how close were the characteristics described by the workshop leaders? I’ll give them the passion part – I did go there to craft my tale. As to the “artist” description, I can’t say I think of myself that way, but working in a basement room alone is certainly true. Finally, I don’t want to change the world. Nope, but I wouldn’t mind doing some good for just one kid, and maybe that’s good enough.

Connie Hullander was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Through teaching in both high school and college, she gained an understanding of young adults and the challenges faced by so many of them. Currently she lives with her husband in South Carolina and is employed as an instructor at a technical college. Previously published works have included short stories for the annual anthology of the South Carolina Writers Workshop. Snowstorm is her first novel.

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How to Write Realistic Dialogue (Guest Blogger)

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Well written, realistic dialogue is one of the most useful tools at an author’s disposable. Nothing else can pull a reader from a story than unbelievable dialogue. Imagine a character like Mandy Moore’s in A Walk to Remember. Now picture that character cursing. A bum on the streets won’t use large, obscure words. Neither would a small child. Here are some tips for including authentic dialogue in your novels:

1. Go to the mall or other places where lots of people go. Sit on a bench and eavesdrop.

2. Create a character sketch. In order for your character’s dialogue to be true to the character, it must reflect the character’s flaws, weaknesses, strengths, and personality. A smoker character will not rant about the evils of the big bad tobacco companies.

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3. Large blocks of dialogue, similar to large blocks of description, are boring. Pepper some action throughout dialogue scenes. People often talk with hand gestures. Include movements and other actions.

4. Use swear words sparingly unless the character demands it. Some people hide behind them or use them for release. Other characters may only use them under highly stressful situations. And if you are writing a historical piece, look up the curse words of that time period. In Woman of Honor, my high fantasy romance novel, my characters sometimes yell, “God’s Teeth!” or “God’s Wounds!”

5. While using words appropriate to locale (some regions say soda, others pop), try to avoid dating your piece with slang.

6. If you are going to use accents, make certain that they are constant throughout the novel but not overbearing.

7. Once you write a dialogue scene, read it aloud. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Does it further the story and add details to the plot?

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