Authors That Have Inspired Me

When I think of authors who have inspired me, so many come to mind. I was an early reader so I’m sure I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime. But I can narrow it down to three who have most impacted me throughout my reading, and later, writing.

Brian Jacques (http://www.redwallabbey.com/– When I was in eight grade, I picked up my first Redwall book at the school bookfair. It took me a little while to get around to reading it but once I did, I realized it was like nothing I’d ever read before. It was in a genre that I guess would later become MG/YA, but didn’t really have that distinction back then. While the Redwall series has appeal for younger readers, you almost have to be a little older to completely appreciate how complex and brilliant the stories are. To me, Jacques was a master of world-building and accents, which he so committed to that you could tell what type of character you were reading about by just the accent. I was lucky enough to meet him at a book signing when I was around 17 or 18 and, yes, I was one of the oldest “kids” in line. Sadly, Mr. Jacques passed away last year, and I have yet to read the final book in the series—I’m just not ready to say goodbye.

Nora Roberts (http://www.noraroberts.com/) – Nora Roberts was my first introduction into the romance and romantic suspense genres. Her writing was so down to earth and real, it was what initially made me believe that I could start writing. She was a real person who told awesome stories, and she’d made a name for herself. She inspired me into thinking that possibly I could do the same thing. I still haven’t finished the first book I started after this magical revelation, but some day I will, and I’ll definitely thank Ms. Roberts.

Larissa Ione (http://larissaione.com/) – Other than being an amazing author, Larissa Ione has been my role model for the kind of author I want to be, and the relationship I want to have with my readers. When I was first starting out with Fire on the Island, I reached out to her with some questions, and she always responded to my emails personally, and was very helpful and encouraging. I’ve been able to converse with her via twitter, and she has taught me so much about the value of having a close relationship with the reader. Thanks Larissa!

J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?
J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and young son, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading! For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.

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Rookie Mistakes & the Learning Process

I find this to be a challenge, to write something of interest that might help another writer, when I myself am still learning the process.  So I suppose I’ll simply share what I’ve learned.

The biggest mistake I made was sending out pages of personal, and what I thought was moving, dialog about why my book was going to be important, or different, or special, to a hand picked list of publishers and agents.  I honestly thought someone, if not many, would obviously see the brilliance in my writing and my story and rush to sign me up immediately.  Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

Not only were there no phone calls, most don’t even respond in emails.  I began sending out queries before my book was even half way formed in my mind, let alone finished...big rookie mistake.  I had pages of what the story was about, literally three pages!  You can’t send three pages of a book synopsis in a query to an agent...what was I thinking?  Well, like I said, ROOKIE.

So I took it down a giant notch and went back to basics.  Let’s write the book first and then figure this out.  And here’s what I’ve learned.

You are going to have to whittle and cut and give up some important words of description, things that you think...well, there’s no way I can edit that out...think again...because in order to garner someone’s attention, you get a paragraph at best.  Through all my research and hours on the internet, attempting to find the best advice, the proven method, the right way to do it, the one thing that became increasingly clear...they want it short and sweet.  No frills, no expletives, and whatever you do, nothing personal...this is business.  They see thousands of these a month, and they know what they are looking for.   You’ve  got to keep it succinct, not too many names of characters, or sub plots,  just the basic striped down idea.  I know, not too magical huh?

I’m telling you, the best thing you could do is to write what your book is about in two sentences.  Yes, I said two sentences.   Once you get that down, seriously, two completely perfect sentences, then go ahead and start to embellish a bit more to round it out and get your paragraph, or your 250 words.  I read somewhere that if you can’t describe your book in a sentence or two, right off the top of your head, your days are numbered.  

Let’s say you’re at an event and there are agents, publishers, and say you actually are able to get a friendly dialog going with someone and they actually ask you what your book is about...you better have those two perfect sentences ready to dazzle them with.  You can’t stumble and stammer and stand there thinking about it, and you certainly can’t give them a long winded dialog.  You’ll end your big chance before it’s even begun.
A tag line can go a long way if you have the right one.  A tag line is taking  two other books or a movie, that are similar in content to your book, that were well received or exciting, and putting it together to grab someone’s attention.  This is a good thing to do when it’s done correctly.  

I took my tag line from a reader, I liked what she said and I thought it would get the attention I was looking for...oh it got attention all right, but not necessarily the kind I always wanted.  It started out pretty good at first, then things changed.

Here’s how it went for me.
“It’s Harry Potter meets the Celestine Prophecy.”  

Now this went two ways for me. For adults who know what the Celestine Prophecy is and understood the idea of what putting these two examples together could mean, I usually got a really great response, which is always encouraging.  However, and this is the big thing, it took me some time to realize that my book wasn’t written for adults, A, and B the minute you say Harry Potter...you’re opening yourself up to a whole other criticism, especially from book critics!   Not only did I touch on sacred ground, but I put myself on such a high level that I only left myself open for attack.  
The good news for me is that the reviews I’ve had who did mention Harry Potter (and not always in an good way at first like, “I find my head spinning when someone compares their book to Harry Potter...:however....”  I’m paraphrasing of course), all agreed it had the same flavor in adventure, or it did remind them of HP, so I lucked out on those few.  However, I have since then taken that line out of my description.  You don’t need to set yourself up that way, let critics come up with the comparison on their own.  So my advice is to pick your tag carefully.  And keep writing and rewriting and whittling it all down till you get your stock answer down to the inevitable question...”Oh, what’s your book about?”

In the meantime, do I have my perfect two lines to share with you....let’s see?  Well actually, I’m still working on that, you didn’t think I miraculously figured everything out just like that did you?

By June Pace. June lives with her husband and best friend Ray, her step-son and their two dogs, five chickens and two ducks, in Santa Cruz Ca. Her two older step-kids live respectively in LA and San Francisco.

June spends her days writing and sometimes painting her well known series of Rock n Roll icons.  June and Ray own Madrona Rust, a line of unique, hand-made rustic furniture.

This series of work, the McTish characters, are a part of June in every sense of the word.  “This work brings a deep sense of joy and passion for me in a very profound way, like nothing else that I do.

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Interview with Mary Banos


Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I have been a college Financial Aid Advisor for almost 18 years, helping students with the finances to attend college.  I have also previously foster parented teen girls.   My number one passion in life is to encourage and uplift others.
  
What inspired you to write your first book?
For many years I have encouraged hundreds of people one on one, I wanted to take it to the next level with a book, hoping now to encourage millions of people around the world.  What finally got me started on actually writing this book was the death of a brother in August 2009.  I try to have something positive come from negative times I life, and I wanted the time I spent grieving his death to be more than just the emotional pain.  I decided to start writing my book during that time to bring something positive out of that time in my life.

How did you come up with the title?
Encouraging and helping others is about one life at a time.  And if we each can touch another life this way, together we can touch the world. 

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
I am blessed to have a close friend who is an artist, and she volunteered to paint the cover of my book as a gift.  This made the book extra special for me.

How are you publishing this book and why?

I chose to go through self- publishing for my book so that it would be published much quicker than the route of traditional publishing.  I also wanted to maintain control of my book which is also a great benefit.

  
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I share stories from my own life, combined with those of many people who I personally know. 

Mary Banos
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I actually enjoyed this part.  I asked various friends to write and share aspects of their stories, and then I gathered positive quotes.  I felt that the combination of my stories, those of friends, and discussion of the various quotes brought everything together well for me.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I prefer paperbacks.  I enjoy holding a book in my hands, and being able to mark and highlight my favorite parts.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I would encourage my readers to take time to think about their dreams, and to look at the steps which they can take in order to reach those dreams.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?
www.encouraginglife.com  (Temporarily down as I am in the midst of transferring my website domain, and will be back up very soon.)

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Dare to be bad

Dare to be bad…

This was one of the most freeing pieces of writing advice I’d learned from my first professional writing mentor and it’s stuck with me over the years.  What it means, more clearly, is dare to write badly.

Not that it’s condoning poor work, not at all.   Here’s the premise.
Very often in the creative arts, you’ll find people who have worked on something for years and never completed it.  If they have, they might never have worked up the nerve to share it with anyone, much less someone who could pay them for their work.  This isn’t just about writers, it can apply to anyone who works in the creative arts.

Our biggest fear? Rejection.

I’m not talking about a rejection letter from an editor, though some fear those like death.  I’m talking about the fear of disapproval, that someone will state that they don’t love what you’ve created.  As though that opinion will utterly prove that you are worthless and should never have even tried to write that story, paint that picture, record that song you wrote and sang.

We often fear that we won’t be able to handle the embarrassment or pain of such a reaction from others that we get stuck on that first page (or first 100 pages) and think, “This stinks! I can’t write another word, it’s all garbage!”  Can I get a witness, anyone?  Say “Uh-huh!” if you can relate.  The rest of you, I recommend counseling for being honest with yourselves.

For the most part, we’re all our own worst critics.  And because that inner critic keeps assailing our work, we fear completing our work.  We fear putting in all that effort only to come up with something that’s not the next New York Times #1 Bestseller. 

But I’d like to propose that the worst enemy of the creative process is not rejection or failure.  It’s stagnation.  For this reason, a person will work on again, off again for 15 years on “the great American novel” he’s got within himself, but never complete.  It will never see the light of day until it’s “good enough.”

I respect putting one’s best foot forward, and in some cases I wish it would happen more often.  But at the same time.  I see people who will never improve themselves because they’re waiting to have the perfect story or novel before they take the next step of completing it and doing something with it (be it publishing, querying, or offering for feedback from a trusted and competent reader/writer.)

DARE TO BE BAD.

If you fear making a mistake, you’ll make the worst mistake of all.  Inaction.
I used to teach music performance, and the biggest enemy of all music students is fear.  Fear of missing a note, fear of making a scratch, fear, fear, fear.  Inevitably, the fear of such things acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It the fear of mistakes actually causes those very mistakes because of nervousness.

In writing, the fear of writing badly causes something far worse.  Not writing.
The best way to improve a blank page is to type and put words on it.

If you sit there staring at the screen because the perfect first sentence doesn’t leap out at you, you have something worse than a bad sentence.  You have nothing.  Nothing to work on, nothing to improve.  Oftentimes, if you just trust that you’ve learned enough about writing to start, that you’ve read enough to know what you enjoy, and just do it, you’ll find that what you write isn’t all that bad.  In fact, many of the things writers judge in their own work as terrible, are seen as brilliant by others. 

We are the worst judges of our own work.

So how can we trust ourselves when that inner critic tells us, don’t type yet!  Wait until you have that perfect opening sentence?  I’d like to suggests that this inner critic has only one goal:  To sabotage you and make you believe you’re not cut out to do this.

If this were an evil spirit, I’d say “Exorcize it!”  BEGONE, FOUL SPIRIT OF SELF-SABOTAGE!  Just start.  The beautiful thing about writing, compared to performing on stage, is that you can always fix the obvious mistakes.  But the same principles apply.  Don’t let fear hold you back.  Your best work will come when you are relaxed, enjoying the moment, and not letting imperfection stop you from taking that first step.  Or second. Or third.

I used to tell my nervous cello students, go ahead.  Play as badly as you possibly can.  Make a hundred mistakes, I dare you!  I bet you can’t!  Invariably, they would laugh (good start) and they would either make some mistakes on purpose so we could laugh about it, or they’d just relax and play (getting the point) and suddenly do a lot better.

Once you get in motion, you’ll learn how good a writer or musician or painter you actually are.  And you’ll have a much more accurate picture of what you need to do to improve.  But until then, you have no idea just how great you are, or can be!

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Joshua Graham is the the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author  of Beyond Justice, Terminus, and Darkroom, the winner of the International Book Award, Forward National Literature Award, USA Book News Best Books Award, and host of Thriller Radio. His award-winning novel DARKROOM hit 3 bestseller lists on Amazon the night of its release.

CBS NEWS described DARKROOM as a book with “action, political intrigue and well-rounded characters…a novel that thriller fans will devour.”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY described BEYOND JUSTICE as: “A riveting legal thriller…breaking new ground with a vengeance…demonically entertaining and surprisingly inspiring.”

Suspense Magazine listed BEYOND JUSTICE in its BEST OF 2010, alongside titles by Scott Turrow, Ted Dekker, Steven James and Brad Thor.

Connect with Josh at the following:
Twitter:@J0shuaGraham


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When Characters Take Over

Characters are a mainstay of fiction. They come into the story, play their part and leave. They are created by the writer and do what the writer orders them to do. 

Or not. 

The other day I was reminded of how the 'or not' works.

After a long, cold, snowy winter, a few warm days thawed the snow in the field behind our house enough that Bailey, or grandson's dog, could run in the fields once again because the snow was no longer deeper than her shoulders. I let her out to do her thing, knowing that she'd come right back because she always does. She's a very obedient dog and wants to do the right thing. 

Not that day. As she realized that she could finally run freely, she took off. I called and she paused to look at me long enough that I knew she heard. Then she kept on going. Grumbling, I pulled on boots and coat and slogged through inches of slush covered by about a foot of wet snow with a leash in my hand. I was not a happy camper. Until I reached her where she played in the bare ground beneath a few Jackpine trees. She came dancing to meet me, inviting me to come run with her and enjoy this beautiful, spring day knowing that the wonder of this day overcame any usual rules about coming when called.

As our eyes met I realized that I was looking at Snowball, the wolf pup character in my novel Wolf Legend who also is lovable and wants to be a good wolf but can't when the excitement of being alive overcomes the rules she's supposed to live by. Snowball's character that took over the book and changed it from a romance between two people to a book about her. Mainly her. 

Until that second, I'd not known that I'd based Snowball's character on Bailey. At that moment, I forgave Snowball for taking over the book, directing the plot line to somewhere I'd not planned for it to go, and changing it from one kind of book to another.

This happens all the time to my stories. I know it happens to many writers, even those who do their best to rein in their wayward characters. Sometimes, like with Bailey, we writers realize where the change originates and why we can't stop it. Sometimes we never know. But, in a mysterious way that I refuse to believe can be quantified, this sneaky mutiny of inspiration almost always makes the story better.

Florence’s stories begin as simple tales of contemporary life, often in small towns or the wilderness she knows so well. Where they go from there is what makes them special. There is always a strong sense of place. Sometimes they cross genres and contain paranormal, sci/fi, or fantasy elements. There is usually a romance and there are always characters her readers like and would enjoy having as friends.
Most of all, there is a story because what Florence does best is tell stories. Well plotted stories that carry the characters towards a logical conclusion that always includes a happy ending.  Stories that shine light on the human condition while they celebrate the world we live in.  Stories that her readers relate to and remember long after the reading is over.
She writes about people who are as normal as apple pie (most of them, anyway) who unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of situations ranging from the heartwarming through the difficult and all the way to the horrendous. But Florence’s characters choose to act instead of running away. In the process, they survive, thrive, overcome whatever obstacles large or small are thrown in front of them, and while they are at it, they find time to fall in love.
Florence was born in the city and has lived in the suburbs, small towns, the country and the wilderness area of northern Minnesota, where she still lives with her husband and a cowardly cat named Smoke.
At various times in her writing career she’s been a confession writer, a copywriter, a ghost writer and an editor. She writes short stories, novellas and novels.  Her work has been categorized as romance, science-fiction, fantasy, mainstream and eco-fiction, to name a few genres that it fits so beautifully into.
Links
Amazon link:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009R6WMT0
Smashwords link:  http://www.smashwords/com/books/view/287109


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Interview with Deborah Crombie

What genre do you write and why?

I write crime fiction—specifically contemporary British police detective novels featuring Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Inspector Gemma James. I like the structure of the traditional mystery. It provides built-in narrative tension as well as a great opportunity to explore character and setting.

Tell us about your latest book.

The Sound of Broken Glass is the fifteenth book in the Kincaid/James series. My detectives are now married, and while Duncan is taking family leave to care for their three-year-old foster daughter, Gemma is called to investigate a bizarre murder in the far south area of London known as Crystal Palace. They learn that a family friend, a young rock guitarist named Andy Monahan, is peripherally involved in the case. Andy grew up in Crystal Palace, and the case hinges on the events that took place the summer he was thirteen. A friendship was betrayed, with disastrous consequences that have echoes through the years.

What formats is the book available in?

Hardcover, trade paperback, e-book, and audio.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Write what you love, not what you think might be marketable. There is always room for passion and a new voice.

What's the best thing about being a writer?

Every book in such a challenge. I’m always learning new things. I used to say I wished I could be a professional grad student—and it turns out I found the perfect job.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

At my web page, www.deborahcrombie.com, and on my Facebook author page, https://www.facebook.com/deborah.crombie. I’m also on Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+, but Facebook is my favorite and I post about books, writing, and life in general almost every day.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?

Of course I love my series characters—there are like family to me after fifteen novels. But in The Sound of Broken Glass, Andy Monahan was my favorite character. He was introduced as a minor character in a previous novel, Where Memories Lie, and as soon as he appeared on the page I knew I wanted to tell his story. I was fascinated by the dedication (obsession) required of professional guitarists, and in Andy’s case, I wanted him to have the opportunity to move on from the damage caused by his destructive childhood.

Deborah Crombie
How do you research your books?

Because I live in Texas (I’m a native Texan) and I write books set in the UK, I have to make several research trips for each book. Many of the books are set in London, but there have been other fascinating locations, including Cambridge, the Yorkshire Moors, Glastonbury, the Cheshire waterways, and the Scottish Highlands. I learn as much as I can about the specific area where the book is set, and I use maps and historic sources when needed.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

It’s the sixteenth Kincaid/James novel and it’s called To Dwell in Darkness. It’s set in London. While Gemma and her team are investigating the murder of a child in South London, Duncan is called to the scene of a violent death in St. Pancras International Railway Station when an eco- protest goes wrong.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I love reading (there is never enough time for all the books I want to read,) traveling (especially to London, my favorite city.) I love spending time with my family, my two German Shepherd dogs and my two cats, cooking, enjoying my garden, and thinking of new things to do to my one hundred and ten year old house!

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How Conflict Makes Fiction Pleasurable

Conflict, whether physical or psychological, is the lifeblood of fiction, because it induces tension in readers and makes the reading process pleasurable. And what makes tension enjoyable? Not the tension itself, I suspect, but the anticipation of an explosive release (think climax). As tension builds, readers get increasingly uneasy, yet they keep going because they have come to expect that the writer will give them a finale in each scene that releases the tension in a pleasurable surge. Writers who are adept at the gradual buildup and climactic release of tension gain huge followings.

Providing the delicious cycle of tension build-up and release is a two-step process: (1) present a character with whom readers will sympathize and identify, (2) put the character in conflict situations where it is uncertain who will prevail.  But there are hazards along the conflict corridor. Continue the tension-inducing conflict too long, and readers will find it unpleasant. They are accustomed to little spikes of tension with mini-releases along the road to the great, culminating climax and will brook few lapses. They expect a novel to incorporate conflict, and thus induce tension, in every scene and to resolve the conflict sufficiently to release the tension at the conclusion of the scene only to escalate it further in the next scene. These periodic buildups and releases, with the promise of an ultimate gigantic climax, make a novel satisfying. Fail to provide the little jolts of tension build-up and release from scene to scene, or end your story without the anticipated major climax, and readers will badmouth the book all the way to the remainder rack. 

Gaylon Greer

Working with traveling carnivals and itinerant farm labor gangs during his teen and early adult years took Gaylon Greer up, down, and across the United States and introduced him to a plethora of colorful individuals who serve as models for his fictional characters. A return to school in pursuit of a high school diploma while serving in the Air Force led to three university degrees, including a Ph.D. in economics, and a stint as a university professor. After publishing several books on real estate and personal financial planning, as well as lecturing on these subjects to nationwide audiences, he shifted his energy to writing fiction. Gaylon lives near Austin, Texas.


 Gaylon’s Web Site:  http://gaylongreer.com/

Amazon Author Page:


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Prizes for the tour are as follows:
• One randomly chosen commenter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.
• Two randomly chosen hosts will each receive a $25 Amazon/BN.com gift card.

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