Excerpt: Getcha Life!!! by Tyra Jackson & Natalie Hundley

Title: Getcha Life!!!

Author Name: Tyra Jackson & Natalie Hundley 

Genre: Adult Urban Fiction
  
Purchasing Link:

  
Book Description:
What if you were the youngest of five sister’s trying to navigate your way through life’s difficulties without proper guidance and dealing with a dysfunctional family? In this exciting new book, India is the youngest of five sister’s Jasmine, Ava, Jade, and Imani. As she is growing into a more mature young woman, India finds herself struggling to navigating her way through the various pitfalls of life, and at the same time trying to be the best self that she can be. With little trust and disappointments from the men and women in her life, she sets out on a journey to better herself and create stronger relationships, including the ones with her sisters.

India’s life experiences take’s her on a roller coaster of different situations and emotions. She realizes that continually being stuck in dysfunction is not the best way to live. By her using these experiences as lessons she realizes that getting her life together is her true inner growth. Take a interesting journey with India and her sisters as their story unfolds with twists and turns that ends with a surprising revelation.

Author Bio:

Tyra Jackson was born a native of Illinois. She has a BBA in Health Administration and also has been educated in the disciplines of nursing, massage therapy, and aesthetician. She has a passion for the arts and love’s to express her creativity through writing and other creative art forms. Being the positive person that she is, she likes to encourage others to find their passions and work on their own dreams. She is currently working on the sequel to this wonderfully amazing book.

Book Excerpt:

It’s about 3:00 o’clock and I hear the front door close and I am surprised because Milan usually gets home about 5:00 pm. So I yell out, “Milan is that you?” I come out to the living room and Milan looks angry. I say, “Babe what’s wrong with you?”  He says, “Where were you last night India?” I look at him funny and I said, “I told you Milan.” Then all of the sudden out of nowhere Milan slaps me across my face and I stumble a little from the force of his hand. I grab my face and turn back around and look at Milan with a look of shock in my face. I yell out, “Milan!!!?”  He grabs me by my shoulders and said. “Why did you lie to me?” I say, “Milan, your scaring me!” He says, “India where were you?” I begin to cry and Milan says, “When I went to work my co-worker Mike ask me if we were still separated because he seen you coming out of the house next door to him this morning and nobody lives there but this guy name Tyson. 
He is shaking me now and I say, “Milan stop!” He says, “You’re cheating on me now?” I break loose from Milan and start to run towards the room and he grabs my wrist tight. I say, “Milan you’re hurting me, let go!” He backs me into a corner and I look up at him and I can see the anger and hurt in his eyes.
He put both his arms on the wall on each side of me so that I was trapped in his space and he looked at me and says, “India how could you do this to me, to us!” I am crying harder and I say, “Nothing happend Milan, nothing!” I try to inch my way around Milan and act like I was going to sit and talk to him but as soon as I was clear of his hold I ran. I found myself running out of the house down the street and around the corner.
I called Khandie to come and get me as soon as she could and she said she was on her way.  I hid in between two buildings just in case Milan was looking for me while I waited on Khandie.  Then about ten minutes later Khandie was pulling up and I jump right in her car and we pull off. 
I tell Khandie what happened and she says, “India you know you had no business going over Tyson’s house last night, I’m sure Milan feels hurt and betrayed. He had to find out from a co-worker too, he must feel embarrassed.” I say, “I know Khandie but the way I have been feeling lately after all the stuff I been through, I just thought I deserve some happiness, love and passion.” Khandie says to me, “India a one night stand is definitely not love, that is a false sense of love, do you really think that love is you giving up your precious body to a man that knows nothing about you? He can get that from any woman out there in the streets. You are seeking for a man to fix what is broken in you and he can’t do that. It has to be fixed from within you India, you have to love and respect yourself or nobody else will. So please stop searching for external help and do it internally within you.”
I say, “Khandie your right and nobody ever broke it down to me like that and I have four other sisters. Maybe they don’t know how to love themselves that’s why we can’t love and support each other.” Khandie says, “India break that cycle so you can help yourself and your sisters. But the important thing is when you have your kids you can teach them from the beginning how to love and respect themselves first in order to respect others.”  I say, “Thank you Khandie you are a true friend, I just don’t know how to start.”

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Read Me a Story Blog Hop


Welcome to the "Read Me a Story Blog Hop"

Anyone can link up to this blog hop. 
The more the merrier!

Aren't blog hops/blog link up parties just great?! They give you the opportunity to meet other great people who have similar interests to you. Networking awesomeness! 

In this blog hop you'll be able to find out about fantastic books and sample them. Read excerpts and/or watch as the authors read you a piece from their book.

AUTHORS this is your chance to show off your talent. 

To join the blog hop:

Make a blog post on your own site where you share an excerpt from your book. This can be a written excerpt of you might decide to embed a YouTube video of you doing a short reading from the book instead. Which ever you prefer.

Make sure you include a link to where your book can be purchased in the blog post so that readers know where they can get a copy.

Add the link to your blog post to the Linky below. * Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

Please visit AT LEAST TWO OTHER LINKS from the Hop and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, authors, and others who are as passionate about literature, so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

If you like, grab the image above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!
The Blog Hop will remain active until 8th September so make sure you check back through out the week for new entries.






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Video Content that answers book club questions.

As an adventure travel writer I love to travel and spend time writing about my explorations.  I also love sharing Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i with book clubs, but I cannot be available for Skype meet-ups. Brief video clips answering the most common questions I receive from readers about my book seemed a very good answer to this dilemma.  To this end I created an introductory video explaining why I felt the need for a second edition that directs them to my video playlist.

Why a New Improved Wai-nani? 
http://youtu.be/DJfBeW3PKBg


In the story I weave myth, legend, and actual historical incidents that raises the question in the minds of readers “What is True?”   In this clip I address this very important question.

Is the story historically accurate
http://youtu.be/wI4BONZhbjY


Each of the thirteen clips I created answer specific questions about the Hawaiian culture. For instance, the death of Captain James Cook at the hands of the Islanders has long been a controversial topic in Hawaiian history, so I presented my position on the matter.

Did the Hawaiians stab Captain Cook in the back? 
http://youtu.be/_S0kD-RtcK8


Here is my response to the question “Did Hawaiians have “Love Games?”

Did Hawaiians Have Love Games? http://youtu.be/rmUxhOyKJzA


It is my hope that sharing in this way readers will not only come away with a better understanding of the ancient Hawaiian culture, but that they it will give readers a more personal connection with me.   It is my hope that people will find my videos about Wai-nani, entertaining and informative and will share them with friends!

Linda Ballou 
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YouTube SEO Cheat Sheet

YouTube is a great way of building your author brand and marketing your books. Not only one of the world's most popular social media sites, YouTube is also one of the top method's of search. 

This infographic (http://cdgwebdesign.com/advertising/youtube-seo-cheat-sheet/) gives a great overview of how you should be using SEO on your YouTube videos to get maximum visibility. 


Are you using video as part of your marketing plan? What kinds of video content are you uploading to reinforce your author brand? Leave a comment below with your 2 cents.

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Interview with Nigeria Lockley

What genre do you write and why?
I write Christian Fiction. In all that I do I want to glorify God and as a writer, of course I want to be able to touch people and entertain them. Christian Fiction is the perfect genre to do all of those things.

Tell us about your latest book.

Born at Dawn chronicles what happens to the members of the Barclay family after their matriarch Cynthia Barclay decides she cannot wait on God to deliver her from her abusive husband and abandons her family.

Who are your favourite authors?

Some of my favourite authors within my genre include: Michelle Stimpson, E.N. Joy, Vanessa Miller, and Pat Simmons. My favourite authors outside of my genre are: June Jordan, Mari Evans, and James Baldwin.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Write the story that is in you. Don’t worry about who will like it—just write it. You can make it likable when you’re editing.

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

Readers can find out more about me and my writing by following my blog, “Neophyte Author” on my website www.nigerialockley.com.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?

My favorite character in Born at Dawn is Keith, Cynthia’s eldest son. He is just adorable and his struggle to deal with his mother’s absence is so palpable I can’t help, but love him.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?

I think readers will enjoy the book because it gives them the opportunity to grow with this family and the chance to experience the story from multiple perspectives.

Nigeria Lockley

How long did it take you to write your book?

I started writing Born at Dawn in 2007. I actually completed it in 2012. If you add revisions and the editing process to the mix the book that readers will find on the shelf was completed in 2013. So, it took me approximately six years to write the Born at Dawn and it will hit the shelves seven years after I started writing. That seems long, but knowing that seven is God’s number of completion I know that this is my time.

Where can a reader purchase your book?

Readers can purchase Born at Dawn at any major book retailer including: The Burning Bush Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million.
                                                      
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

My current work in progress is titled, Seasoned with Grace. In Seasoned with Grace the protagonist, Grace King is a volatile model who would like to transition from the modelling world into acting except there are two things standing in her way—herself and her past. After being placed on probation and sentenced to community service at Mount Carmel Community Church Grace must decide whether she will deal with her demons or continue allowing them to haunt her.

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What qualities make the best villain?

The concepts and qualities of villains is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.  It’s my belief that the villain makes the story.  Without the villain, your hero has nothing to overcome, no challenges to face.  And the level of tension and excitement in your story increases along with the capabilities and cunning of your villain.  Where would Sherlock be without Moriarty?  Without Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker would still be a whiny kid trapped on a desert planet (well, technically, he would never have been born in the first place, but we won’t get into that).  The point is that the villain makes the story, but the question remains, what makes a good villain?

I’ve already touched upon my first point.  Your villain needs to be cunning or capable or both.  I say this because not all villains are criminal masterminds with genius level IQs.  In fact, most criminals aren’t very sophisticated or intelligent.  For the sake of fiction, we sometimes incorporate characters that exceed their real-life counterparts, but even if your villain is of average intelligence or less, he or she needs to be capable in a way that makes them a threat.  Perhaps they are large and imposing, frightening, psychotic, ruthless, good with a gun or knife or fists.  Whatever the case may be, they need to stretch the limits of your hero’s capabilities to deal with them.  

The bigger the hero, the bigger the villain.  For a rookie detective, a rapist or bank robber may be enough.  But think of Superman.  It would be a boring story to have a character with Superman’s abilities flying around stopping purse snatchers or even rapists and bank robbers.  He can handle these tasks without breaking a sweat.  

This brings me to a concept that I call “The Heroes Conundrum,” based upon the TV show Heroes.  In that show, they created “good” characters that were too powerful or capable, then they had to invent ways to strip those characters of their powers.  This quickly became tedious.  As I said, the bigger the hero, the bigger the villain.  Sherlock Holmes needed someone to match his intellect in order to make a truly great villain.  This can work from the opposite direction though, where you have a villain that is so powerful that you don’t know how the hero can match them.  This creates a daunting challenge that our hero must rise to face, and readers will keep turning pages into the night to see how our ordinary protagonist can stop the criminal mastermind.  Of course, if we take that approach too far, it creates some serious believability issues.

Something that many writers don’t understand is that the villain must also be a “real” person (of course, this excludes fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc where your characters aren’t human).  Your villain had a mother and a father, friends, hobbies, interests, fears, etc.  Even the most frightening villains need something to connect them to the real world.  I call this “giving them a dog.”  The best example of this is from Silence of the Lambs where Buffalo Bill is a brutal killer but also loves a little dog that he showers with affection.  Obviously, I don’t mean that every bad guy needs to have a pet, but every bad guy should have something such as this that makes them feel like more than evil personified.  Remember that in the villain’s mind, they are the star or hero of their own story.

In the end, I think the key to writing any character well is first for the author to care deeply about that person, otherwise the audience never will.  Therefore, love your villains, and your readers will as well…or at least love to hate them.

Bestselling author Steven James says, "Ethan Cross is one of the sharpest emerging writers on the thriller fiction scene today.” Bestselling author Anthony J. Franze concurs, saying, "Ethan Cross is one of the best damn writers in the genre.” They're not alone. Others have compared this international bestselling author to James Patterson and Thomas Harris. Ethan Cross's work is an unforgettable combination of high-intensity thrills, memorable characters, and complex scenarios. The Bookworm called his first bestseller, The Shepherd, “a thrill ride that takes off from page one,” and that’s the experience you can expect from everything Ethan Cross writes. http://thestoryplant.com/our-authors/ethan-cross/
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Excerpt: Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst



Title: Every Inferno

Author: Johanna Parkhurst

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, LGBTQ 

Link:


Book description:

Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.

A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ, though. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.

All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.

Author bio:

Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.

Book excerpt:

School sure wasn’t motivating JJ to do what his shrink told him and become more “outgoing.” As he sat through first period—Geometry—JJ remembered why it would have been so convenient to use his hand as an excuse to miss this class. Math sucked at the best of times, but at this hour of the day, it almost fell into the category of pure torture. JJ spent the period staring out the window and wondering if Dr. Ben would be working that afternoon.
At least Creative Writing was next. That was JJ’s favorite class; it was the only elective he’d actually looked forward to when he was signing up for it. So far he hadn’t been disappointed. They wrote in journals most of the time and read “model writing” or each other’s writing. That was the only part JJ didn’t like: reading his writing aloud, or “workshopping,” as Ms. Lyle called it. The rest of the class was supposed to critique it for areas of improvement; JJ wasn’t having any of that.
He thought Ms. Lyle would throw him out of her class when he first refused to show his writing to the rest of the room, but she’d just shrugged.
“Since it’s on the syllabus for the course, I’m going to have to dock you points,” she told him. “But if you don’t mind that, I sure won’t take the trouble to lose my temper over it.” JJ spent the workshop portions of the class in silence, critiquing other people’s writing in his head but refusing to say anything. Sometimes Ms. Lyle would raise her eyebrows at him, as though she expected him to, and JJ always just raised his right back. It hadn’t thrown her off yet.
Today, though, they were writing for most of the class and then reading some examples of strong dialogue. Good. JJ eased into a desk and pulled his black marbled composition book out from between his other books.
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Ms. Lyle, eyeing his injured hand. “What happened?”
JJ shrugged, pulling a pencil out of his pocket and flipping the book open to write. Ms. Lyle just winced at the sight of the bandage wrapped around his skin and flitted across the room to start taking attendance. JJ smiled. This was why he loved Creative Writing and why Ms. Lyle was his favorite teacher. Other teachers were instantly pissed off by JJ’s nonresponses. They added other adjectives to the list they had running about him in their heads. Words like “passive-aggressive,” “depressed,” “defiant.” Then they either held his silence against him for the rest of the class, week, or year, or they made it a goal to get him to speak by asking him as many questions as possible. That always led to more monosyllabic or non-answers from JJ, which led to more mental adjectives stacked against him in their heads. It was a vicious cycle.

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The Social Media Etiquette Guide

Each of the social media sites has its own etiquette. This infographic gives a good overview of points you should consider for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Key takeaways:

1) One of the common themes you'll notice is engagement. All social media sites are about being social. Don't forget to interact with other users.

2) Contribute, don't spam. 

You can see a bigger version of this infographic at
http://www.vocus.com/blog/infographic-a-pr-pros-guide-to-social-media-etiquette/


What tips for etiquette on social media do you have to share? What posting behaviour annoys you on particular social media sites? Leave a comment below with your 2 cents.

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Creating a Character

I’ve been asked how I create characters, and one of my ways is through astrology. Several years ago I wrote a series of articles on how to make a character human and part of the series highlighted the sun sign astrological aspect. Here is a look into the article.

It's an author's duty to weave fantastical tales a reader can get lost in by incorporating enough realism to help a reader suspend his or her disbelief. Part of the suspension comes from making characters look and sound as real as possible. Physical descriptions and names are important but, to use an old adage, it's 'what's inside that counts.' By knowing what a character is made of, a writer can bring the character's personality to the fore and show the reader who the character is. The character becomes someone the reader can identify with and come to care for. Here is one strategy used for creating multi-dimensional characters.

First you’ll need the character's birth date, time and location. The birth information is required to delve deeper and create a believable character through the use of astrology. No, this is not the work of the occult or for fortune telling—think of it as psychological profiling. You're a detective putting the pieces of a puzzle together to see what makes a person do what they do. And, yes, there was a lot of hoopla at the beginning of 2011 about the zodiac changing due to the way the earth rotates on its axis. That's not a new argument. There was a good article on the Washington Post blog which discussed the different viewpoints of the 'changes,' though the article/commenter(s) didn't mention the use of an ephemeris. For the sake of this post, though, the use of astrological aspects will follow what has been the standard for ages. So, when you start, you should know what your character looks like, where they're from and you should have the person's birth certificate in your hand, but what do you do with that?

"Hey, baby. What's your sign?" A sun sign by definition is the strongest representation of who someone is, representing self, willpower and creativity. To find a sun sign take the month and day off your character's birth certificate and correspond it to the information found on this website: http://www.astrology-online.com/persn.htm. If your character was born on a cusp—a date close to, or on, changing into another sign—you'll need to take into consideration the traits of both signs. The cusps mark where each sun sign begins or ends. Since the exact hour at which the sun moves from one sign into the next is different every year, it's a good idea to take the hour and minute one was born and create an astrological chart to determine the person's true sun sign. This can be done at http://www.astro.com/. Please note, because of the movement of the sun and the differences between astrologers, the dates of the signs can vary a day or so from source to source. If you don't plan to use a birth time to ascertain your character's true sun sign and you've chosen a cusp date, then just take qualities from the neighboring signs. Here's an example of what happens when someone is born during a change from one sign to another. A woman I knew was born on a cusp date and for the longest time she believed she was a Scorpio. After a bit of conversation and obtaining her birth information from her, I did her natal chart. Turns out she was in fact a Libra. If she had been born three hours and twenty minutes later, then she would have been a Scorpio.

Once you know the sun sign, take some of the positive and negative traits that are mentioned. For example, see the lists of good and bad on this page: http://www.astrology-online.com/aries.htm. By using likable and not so likable qualities of an astrological sign, you’ll round out your character with ease and make him or her identifiable to readers.

Casey Moss delves into the darker aspects of life in her writing, sometimes basing the stories on reality, sometimes on myth. No matter the path, her stories will take you on a journey from the light-hearted paranormal to dark things unspeakable. What waits around the corner? Come explore…

~ Author Links ~

Website: http://caseymossbooks.com/

Blog: http://caseymossbooks.blogspot.com/

~ Buy Links ~


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Open-World-C-O-V-E-N-Casey-Moss-ebook/dp/B00KCE12JW

All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-openworld-1514409-147.html




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Your First Month on Google+

Being on Google+ has many advantages. The social media site is after-all part of Google. Getting started on Google+ can seem a bit daunting though. It's different from Facebook, Twitter, and other mainstream social media sites and offers a wide variety of features. This infographic (found at http://www.infographicscreator.com/2014/07/20/infographic-your-first-month-on-google/) gives a nice over view of how to get started.

Here's a few takeaways:

1) Set up your profile with a clear, professional avatar and profile header banner.

2) Link your website to your Google+ profile.

3) Use hashtags to find people in your niche.

4) Add whole circles.

5) +1, comment, and share other people's content.

6) Join communities.

7) Make new connections via events and hangouts.

8) Be social and have fun.


Are you using Google+? Any tips for newbie users? Leave a comment below with your 2 cents.

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Interview with Christopher Meeks

What genre do you write and why?
This question is dependent on each book. I haven’t stuck to one genre, but a literary sense connects them all. My new book, A Death in Vegas, is a mystery, and I’m a fan of mysteries—yet there are so few great ones. Raymond Chandler’s mysteries are often given as example of great ones, and those are what drew me into the genre.

My previous novel, Blood Drama, is closer to a thriller, although it’s also a crime book. The one before that, Love at Absolute Zero, can be viewed either as a comic novel or a romantic comedy with quantum physics. It’s about a physicist trying to land a wife in three days using the Scientific Method—far-fetched unless you’ve hung around scientists as I have at Caltech, where my wife once worked. My two collections of short fiction as well as my first novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century, can be called literary, but they also all have humor. I see the absurdity in life, and I can’t help but layer that in.

I write what interests me, so I’ve never stuck to just one genre. There’s a certain logic to my path, however.  My first two books were collections of short stories. My agent, though, kept pushing me to write a novel. That seemed such a huge challenge until a friend said I should write a series of connected stories using the same protagonist—a novel in stories. That was The Brightest Moon of the Century, which was connected to my own life growing up in Minnesota, going to college in Denver, and moving to Los Angeles.

Love at Absolute Zero was loosely based on a year I lived in Denmark after I fell in love with a young Danish woman. While it became the lowest period in my life, in retrospect, it was very funny.
After that, I’d run out of major things that had happened to me. Thus, I wrote my first crime novel, Blood Drama, because if I was going to make up someone’s life, then I was going to put him through hell. That led to another crime book, A Death in Vegas.

My novel-in-progress is a war novel set in Iraq, based on the life on one of my students. We’re collaborating on it.

Tell us about your latest book, A Death in Vegas.
My stories tend to be about average people in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, a man who began his career as a scientist creating pesticides for agricultural took a 180-degree turn. He started a business selling beneficial bugs to organic gardeners. Lady bugs, for instance, eat aphids. The story starts in his booth with his employees at a huge convention: the Lawn and Garden Pavilion at the annual National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. He’s hired a model to be a sexy lady bug. The next day, he discovers her dead in his hotel room, and he had nothing to do with it. The FBI then raids his booth over an investigation into money laundering, which also he knows nothing about. He senses he’s been set up, so he escapes arrest to find out by whom? After all, the police and FBI think he’s guilty, so it’s up to him to solve this thing.

If that weren’t enough, his wife, whom he loves, has doubts about their marriage because why was a model in his hotel room? He not only has to regain her trust, but also she has to help him at one point because there are so many forces against him.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
Because it’s a compelling story. I think about my readers when I write. I might get to a part with a fabulous turn, and I’m laughing to myself, thinking, “Wait until they see this.” I like the idea that a story can be a page-turner. I’m not the usual mystery writer, not hard-boiled. Rather, my characters can be quirky, but they will stay with you.

Roald Dahl once said, “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.” I’m slightly different. I want you to like the story, but I don’t care if along the way some of my characters infuriate you. There are people like them.

Who designed the cover?
Deborah Daly is the designer, and she’s worked on several books at White Whisker Books. She used to be the art director at St. Martin’s Press, and she’s one of those passionate people I was telling you about. She loves a great cover and obsesses over them. Add that to my own obsessions, and we keep on going until she hits something I love. I love all her covers.

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
Every book I learn something. Kurt Vonnegut said, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” He went on to explain that each new book makes him feel like a beginner. While I don’t feel that way, each new book has so many challenges, I can’t say I ever feel like an expert. I’m wrestling an alligator. I hope to come out of it without teeth marks.

With A Death in Vegas, I learned how far I can make my character stray. That is, I wanted the reader to like the protagonist, Patton, and his wife. One of the truths they reflect is that marriage is not always easy, but I never want you hating either of them or hoping they don’t stay married.

What advice do you have for other writers?
I’ll try to be objective and offer what I’ve noticed in my students. It all begins with passion—passion for writing and/or passion for storytelling. My fiction writing class at Santa Monica College, for example, is an elective. Students take it because they already have a passion for writing, and I make them read and write a lot. With passion, a writer is more prone to try new things. In the middle of the semester, for three weeks we put fiction off to the side, and I had them write poetry and a song. That brought many of them into uncharted territory—and they loved it. One piece of advice: push yourself. Try new things. My goal was to get them to feel and understand lyricism in writing, which they could use later in their short fiction.

How does one keep passion going? When it comes to big projects, write things that interest you. Don’t worry about the marketplace.

Of course with writing, you need to be a reader. From my students, I’ve seen plenty who don’t call themselves readers until we hit on a great short story or book that changes the way they think about reading. They simply hadn’t read something that had grabbed them so much. With over a million book titles out each year, there are books for every person. The trick is finding them, but sites like this one help.

The reason to read is to get inspired. When you see a writer doing something that you didn’t think could be done, it gives you permission to try new things for yourself.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
One of my mentors, the late playwright Robert E. Lee (Inherit the Wind), gave me the best approach to telling stories. He said, “Plot is what interesting people do.” He noted if you get two interesting characters together, they will move your story. Imagine Hitler and Albert Einstein in the waiting room of a dentist’s office, and they both reach for the same old magazine. You can bet they’ll get to disagreeing. Of course, tension and conflict is the motor of all stories, but if you have two characters who are interesting with different needs, you’ll soon have a story speeding along.

Who inspires you?
I’m blessed with constant inspiration. My son, daughter, and wife inspire me in terms of staying in the moment. My students do as I feel them nipping at my heels. Great books do as I’m inspired by what they do and get away with. Tim O’Brien, Kevin Powers, and Ernest Hemingway’s war stories have inspired me to start a war novel. While I didn’t experience Iraq directly, my former student did, and he’s an amazing resource. Kurt Vonnegut, Joan Didion, Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Maynard, and Raymond Carver are some of the authors who have stimulated me.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Originally I wanted to be a filmmaker. When I moved to Los Angeles and started shooting a film, and I lost my life savings because I didn’t have a permit, I decided to become a writer. I don’t need no stinking permit for that. I get to make the movies in my head on paper—and now on eBook pages, too.

What are you currently reading?
Joyce Maynard’s At Home in the World. It’s a memoir of her ten months of living with J.D. Salinger when she was just eighteen. While I’ve admired and adored Salinger’s Nine Stories—he’s a major influence on my writing short fiction—I wondered what made him a recluse. I discovered he became a misanthrope. If you don’t like people, how will you write great stories? I’m not holding my breath that his posthumous books will be great. Still, he’s touched me. Maynard is a compelling writer, too. Perhaps they were destined to meet, ying and yang. 

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