Category Archives: Interviews

The Games People Play

Some days you just get off to a funky start. Someone posted a link to my book on Freado and I ended up playing a game of Hangman (Ten most romantic movies) and then ended up creating a Hangman game on my own. Check it out.

http://www.freado.com/hangman/game/746/the-best-of-steampunk

While you’re at it, I am the guest interviewee at the Blog of Michael Ventrella. You can check it out at:

http://michaelaventrella.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/interview-with-author-and-publisher-karen-syed/

And then you can have a super duper day!

Ah, and buy my books so I can have a super duper day.

 

 

 

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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Banging the Keys with Jill Dearman

Jill DearmanA true New Yorker, Jill Dearman has words in her blood. She is a writing coach and editor who’s been teaching her Bang the Keys workshop for more than six years. Her industry credits include teaching journalism at NYU and writing for a variety of outstanding publications. With a background in literary writing her short stories and other works have been published in magazines like Lilith and New York Stories

It seems that Jill’s success has been written in the stars. She spent several years on the best seller list with her St. Martin’s Press books Queer Astrology for Men and Queer Astrology for Women. She has written astrology for Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, and Celebrity Living. Mademoiselle magazine named her one of the countries top-ranking astrologers. 

I’d like to offer you a little bit of insight into Jill with the following interview.  And check out the contest at the end of this post.

KS: Life takes people on so many different directions. When you were growing up did you ever see yourself being a teacher, a writer, or an astrologer? These three things are very different, but yet you seem to pull them together to make you whole. 

JD: I’ve always had a strong passion for language (writing) and symbols (astrology), but when I fell into teaching in 2001 that was the element that made all the pieces of the puzzle stick together. I love to share my knowledge, to learn, which is such a huge part of teaching, and on and on … 

KS: Your book Bang the Keys is a fresh look at how to get yourself going and keep the muse alive. I loved the section on journals. I have that addiction you refer to, you know, the one about notebooks. Well, I’d like to know how journaling has really affected your life as a writer and as an astrologer. 

JD: Ha! I bet you have at least four on you right now! Like most artists I have many moods, and many imaginative thoughts. I have to have a notebook on me at all times to make sure I can release my emotions on paper, and to ensure that I don’t lose those bits of inspiration when they come. I keep a “cahier” (French for notebook) on my computer, and I always note what sign the sun and the moon are in when I make entries. When I look back sometimes I think, oh, I was doubly opposed by the stars on that day, no wonder I thought everyone hated me!  

KS: You also talk about meditation in Bang the Keys. This is something I have tried many times, but it is almost impossible for me to focus long enough to…well, you know. Of the exercises you mention in the book what would you say is the most effective for a newbie to try? I found myself intrigued with the “metta meditation” or Peace Training. How exactly does this help a writer focus? 

JD: Sharon Goldberg has written and spoken beautiful on this subject. (For more see my blog entry on www.bangthekeys.com). The idea is simple. You sit and focus on your breath as you silently send yourself repetitive messages of “loving kindness.” When you think of it, it’s not so different from the way you would comfort a child who is upset by saying “You will be fine; I am here” and then repeating those words again and again. It sure can’t hurt! And since we writers tend to self-flagellate ourselves in our minds so frequently, I think we should answer the question “where is the love?” with a resounding “right here, baby!” As in, in our own hearts, for ourselves. We can then let that love and compassion spread out into the world. And getting to a place of peace does help the writing … a lot! 

KS: You talk about “Paying yourself first” in Bang the Keys. This is a concept that I think many people misunderstand. Most people only think of payment in terms of financial. Can you explain a little bit more about how a writer can best pay themselves? How did you first get yourself into this routine? 

JD: Time is a writer’s greatest asset, and for all of us it’s in short supply. Before we write down “Lunch with Jed at 1pm on Friday” maybe we should look at our week and see if we have our writing hours scheduled first. And if we tend to have a very unstructured, minute to minute approach to time we might end up doing “research” (Googling the history of snare drums, and downloading some tunes) rather than writing. By paying ourselves first I mean writing down the writing hours we plan to do, in our calendar, just as we would write down the hours for classes we might take, appointments we might make. And then doing those hours. Giving ourselves the time we promise is paying ourselves first. 

KS: I found myself intrigued by the personal thoughts you share throughout your books and I found a lot of inspiration from them. I also found so many truths that I had not realized before. Writing has taken a back seat in my life since becoming a publisher. But I miss it. I miss the thrill and I miss the challenges. What I don’t miss is the fear of failure. Your section in Bang the Keys about nearing the end really hit home with me. I kept seeing that word over and over, Go! And I realized how much of the angst of nearing the end I had survived in my own writing. What for you has been the most difficult part of the writing process? Is it the stuff at the end or are there other things that terrorize you more? 

Bang the KeysJD: I’m so glad you shared that Karen, as so many writers must do other things to support themselves, and to get their “platform” out there. It’s reality, but it’s hard. In regards to finishing, well, my thing seems to be this. I’m a little bit of an eager beaver. I tend to like to do things way ahead of deadline, and then I feel utterly out of control as I have to cede control to other people who are making the final stages of the process happen. That could be a writing pal who has my manuscript and is giving me notes, as I wait silently in a panic. That could be the folks who handle the business of writing and getting the magazines, books, and other publications out there. I’m so grateful to them but at once so fearful about what will happen to my baby! To explain how I deal with this self-imposed stress, take a look at the movie Broadcast News with Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks. There’s a great scene where we see Holly Hunter, who is a type-A, super competent news producer bawl uncontrollably before she heads into work where she does her job like superwoman. That’s her ritual. I’m not so different! 

KS: The last chapter of Bang the Keys is The End is the Beginning. I don’t think a lot of writers realize this. They figure that once they have finished a project their work is done and it becomes someone else’s job from that point on. What advice, outside of buying Bang the Keys can you offer writers to make their journey more exciting and less traumatic? 

JD: In this era it is up to the writer to do so much to get their work out there. All I can say is, please realize you are not alone. Writers must help each other, and I know that we feel good when we are generous towards each other. Think of the finishing of the writing of a book, play, what have you, as a wedding, and everything that you do afterwards as the marriage! Don’t just be a bridezilla, be a good spouse! 

KS: Your Closing thoughts and anything (including shameless promotion) you want to put in go below here. 

JD: Please check out my book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQjCbm2wN8Q.

It really captures a lot of the sensibility of the book and has some helpful tips from my writing workshop. My website also really gives a strong sense of what I have to share with writers: www.bangthekeys.com. Take a look…and then get back to work! And thanks so much, Karen.

My Review of Bang the Keys

This book is just what the industry needed. There are a ton of “DIY” books out there. Of course all know that writing is a solitary sport, but I can’t rememeber anyone ever remiding us to do it FOR ourselves. Jill Dearman reminds writers that no matter what, this is still about you. With concise exercises that I guarantee will get any writer going, Bang the Keys ripe for the picking. Dearman doesn’t talk at you, she talks with you and her expertise in this field is priceless for anyone who has become a master at self-sabotage. It’s not just another how to, it’s a better way how to and that is precious to anyone who values their vocation as a writer. If you are a writer, then buy yourself a copy, then buy a copy for your fellow writers.

Contest: One random poster will be selected to receive a FREE copy of Bang the Keys from me (karen).

©Karen Syed

Beth Solheim: A Star on the Rise

Beth SolheimLike the main character in her Sadie Witt mystery series, Beth Solheim was born with a healthy dose of imagination and a hankering to solve a puzzle. She learned her reverence for reading from her mother, who was never without a book in her hand.

By day, Beth works in Human Resources. By night she morphs into a writer who frequents lake resorts and mortuaries and hosts a ghost or two in her humorous paranormal mysteries. 

Raised and still living in Northern Minnesota, she resides in lake country with her husband and a menagerie of wildlife critters. She and her husband are blessed with two grown children and two grandsons.

Now, on with the show… 

KS: Can you tell us a little bit about what is was like to get the word that a publisher wanted to publish your book? 

BS: Shock. Absolute shock and joy. Several months had lapsed after Karen Syed, publisher of Echelon Press, requested my manuscript, so I thought she must not be interested. Then, as I do every morning, I opened my email and there it was. Karen said her editorial board expressed interest and would I like to look at a contract. Would I? Are you serious? Of course! Acting like an adult was out of the question as I raced from room to room. I realize the real work has just begun, but I’m still riding that cloud of debut-author bliss. 

KS: How long have you been writing and what was the first thing you remember writing? 

BS: I’ve been writing for about ten years, six seriously. My first attempt at writing was a mystery. I knew nothing about plotting, characterization, or pacing, but I plodded through and thought it was great. A best seller. It wasn’t. It was horrible. I’m mortified by that first attempt, but also thrilled with what I’ve learned over the past six years. 

KS: What is a typical day like for you with regard to a day job and now a pending career as an author? 

BS: My full-time day job is in Human Resources in a hospital. My evenings are spent doing typical household chores, writing and editing, and occasionally drawing floor plans and processing paperwork for my husband’s construction business. Signing a contract with Echelon Press added another dimension—marketing. Over the past year I read books and surfed websites to learn what I could about marketing. I’ll format a plan to stay current with trends in marketing and writing. 

KS: How do you think your life will change once your book is published and available for sale to readers? 

BS: The pace will quicken, especially when both the eBook and print book are available to readers. Blog tours, book signings, speaking engagements and book fairs will be priority along with other marketing venues. I’ll keep my day job and most of all stay focused on writing and edits. 

KS: What kinds of things do you do to keep your focus when trying to write when life gets in the way? Do you use candles or music or meditation? 

BS: I park my butt and write. I have a nasty chat with a certain lazy writer if I don’t meet my goal. And, no chocolate! I also use Goals for Guppies, a Sister’s in Crime support group. I set a goal each week and have to report in on weekends. Shame on me if I don’t achieve that writing or marketing goal. If I’m exhausted when I come home from work, I enjoy a meal with my husband and then walk a mile or two with Il Divo, Celine Dion, or Josh Groban serenading me. Music is stimulating and makes me feel whole again. It triggers ideas. 

KS: Who in your life has been the most influential in your journey toward being an author? 

BS: A friend of my sister’s, Stephanie Sorenson, who is a publicist for Penguin Putnam, took the time to read my manuscript and made suggestions out of the goodness of her heart. No one in the profession had ever validated my writing or made constructive comments. That honest critique coupled with encouragement and counsel was the best thing that happened. 

KS: Tell us a little bit about book one of your upcoming series. 

BS: At Witt’s End is a humorous, paranormal mystery. Witt’s End is a bustling resort in Northern Minnesota with clients vying for one of the few remaining rentals, except Cabin 14, where guests never leave alive. 

Most sixty-four year old senior citizens aren’t expected to solve a murder while trying to prevent an unscrupulous sheriff’s deputy from shutting down their lakeside resort, but that’s exactly what Sadie Witt must do. 

When five guests arrive at Cabin 14, they’re stunned to learn that the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter. Clad in the latest fashion trends, fads that are typically reserved for those without sagging body parts and sporting hairdos that make bystanders want to look away but can’t, Sadie realizes one of the guests had been murdered and must work against the clock to untangle the web and prevent further mayhem. 

You can visit Beth at her web site.