Archive for August, 2014

How to Extend Your Marketing Reach

word-marketing-10062039I have a confession to make.

I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to marketing my books.

Sure, I have a social media presence, including many Facebook friends and several Twitter followers, and I make the rounds of the free publicity groups. I’ve listed my novel on iauthor, and I’ve arranged for several blog interviews, mainly through my writing friends, who have been kind enough to host me.

Still, I’m not sure this is enough. I want to make sure that my marketing is as wide and deep as I can make it.

So, what’s a person to do?

Well, you know the old adage, weather is local? At some point it occurred to me that my thinking on advertising might benefit from such an approach.

The first thing I thought of was how can my book connect to the world right around me, that is, in my own community?

With Conversations Among Ruins that is a relatively easy question to answer. You see, I wrote the book with the goal of helping people who might be struggling with an addiction to alcohol or other drugs as well as those who battle mental illness, and especially for those who suffer from both, that is, those who are dual diagnosed.

That led me to believe that there are several local groups/organizations that might be interested in the book, the regional office for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), for example, and detoxes and rehabilitation centers in my area. Given the fact that mental illness is a very relevant topic, I also thought the book’s topic might appeal to local radio stations and newspapers.

This having been established, it dawned on me that I had little idea how to contact such groups. Well, I might have some idea of how to do so in some cases, but the thought of the time and effort involved left me worried. How was I to have time to write and market?

I’d heard of publicists, of course, but I always thought they were beyond my financial reach. I recall reading some place, probably on Poets & Writers, that a publicist ranges between $5,000 and $50,000. Right, I thought. I might just as well strap cardboard wings on my arms and try flying to the moon.

But I decided to look into the matter anyway.

What I found is a local publicist with great community connections that can help build a grassroots presence for the book.

For relatively little money, this publicist assured me that she could do the following things: 1) create a sell sheet, with my input; 2) create a press release; 3) schedule signings at local bookstores; 4) contact NAMI and other mental health and substance abuse facilities; and 5) contact local media, both newspapers and radio.

This experience is opening my eyes. I’ve come to believe that a good publicist with strong contacts in your community might be the best way to go.

I encourage you to check into this and to please let me know how you make out.

I am new to the world of having a publicist as well, so I will continue to write about my ongoing experiences.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 29, 2014 at 7:20 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

Why I Write with One Eye Closed

squinting-eye_2555352I think we can all agree on one thing: Writer’s block sucks. I know some people say they’ve never experienced it, but I’m a little suspicious of them. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am.

Anyway, for the rest of us, writer’s block, or what I’ve called writer’s blahs, happens, and I’m always trying to find a way to break through.

Now, there are plenty of books on this, some of which don’t even cost money.

What I offer here is simply my own experience, and I share it freely, with the hope that you might benefit from it.

When I have writer’s block/blahs I usually find that it results from some form of negative thinking. As Henri Junttila wrote in a helpful blog post, these negative thoughts can take the form of all-or-nothing thinking, a bad case of the should/have-to’s/musts, or dwelling on the negative, among other things.

Regardless of the thoughts, the source of the negativity is pretty clear. And that is the editor or the internal critic in all of us, the part of ourselves that rears its ugly head on a regular basis and sets up road blocks to our writing. So persistent and recurrent is the voice of this critic in the writer’s psyche, that I’d rank it along with death and taxes as permanent features of life.

Sometimes it seems that whatever you do, you can’t silence the voice of the internal critic. It just keeps ranting, telling you what a charlatan you are, that you have no talent, that what you are writing is tripe, and that you should just quit now before you fully embarrass yourself.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If it does, you might wish to try the following:

When you first wake-up tomorrow morning, head straight for the computer and start writing whatever comes next in your current work in progress (WIP).

I recommend this for the following reason: this is the time when your internal critic is the most silent, and this will allow you the freedom to write. Think of it this way: this is when your subconscious is still active, when the defenses of your conscious are at their lowest point.

The other time when your subconscious is very active is when you dream. And you know the freedom of dreams. When you dream, there is no critic telling you, well THAT doesn’t make sense, there is no way your ex would live in a flying cabin over Katmandu.

By the time you are fully awake, you might just find yourself in the writing swing.

If you try this, please let me know how it works out.

Keep writing,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 26, 2014 at 7:03 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

Demystifying Marketing

paperwork_21175306I haven’t posted in a while and I’ll tell you why. My novel Conversations Among Ruins became available on August 13, and I’ve been pretty busy with marketing and promotion. I’ve also been engaged in marketing efforts for a second book, The Brothers’ Keepers, which will be released as an e-book on October 1.

That’s not really a good excuse, though. I need to stay in touch more often, and I will try to do so in the future.

I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve been doing, and what I hope to do, in terms of marketing. I share this because I don’t believe marketing should be mysterious. I think we all can benefit from sharing our experiences and discussing what has and hasn’t worked.

First, I have mentioned the book to my friends and have secured reviews from other writers, as well as from the Readers’ Favorites review service.

Second, I’ve been posting beautifully crafted ads, compliments of my girlfriend, on a variety of Facebook sites that allow for free promotion. Truthfully, I’m not sure how much such postings help, and I’d love to hear your comments on this matter.

Third, I’ve scheduled blog spots with some of my writing friends, who have been kind enough to interview me and allow me the opportunity to talk about my book. I may at some point consider doing a book blog tour, using Orangeberry Book Tours, or a similar service.

Fourth, I’ve been e-mailing radio/blog sites to see if they would consider having me as a guest on their show. So far this has yielded an interview in late September on the Lina Jones Diamond Network, which I am really looking forward to.

Fifth, I’ve engaged the services of a friend, an Internet marketing specialist, the same person who designed my website and made this blog possible, to help me with tweets and Facebook posts.

Finally, I’m meeting with a publicist on Tuesday, to see what she can offer in terms of promoting the book. (I’m sure she can offer a lot; I’m just not sure I can afford her.) I will let you know how that goes.

I offer this to you so that you can see some of what I am doing to market my book. I am too early in to gauge the effectiveness of my efforts, but I want you to be with me from the get-go, so we can discuss what does and doesn’t work.

What I am beginning to realize is that marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I am in this for the long haul and the long haul consists of writing more quality books in the hopes of attracting more readers.

I would like to hear from you, especially regarding anything you’ve found particularly useful in terms of marketing. A couple of other things I’ve considered are taking out a Facebook ad, and holding a giveaway contest. Your experiences with such things are greatly appreciated.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 24, 2014 at 9:47 am

Categories: Writing   Tags:

My Interview with Stuart West

Important note: I have an apology to make. You see, my interview questions for Stuart West got mixed up with a file of questions from interviews that, unlike this one, have historical import. Yet, Stuart, being the kind of guy he is (and I’m still trying to figure out just what that is), didn’t miss a beat and answered every question I threw at him. Here is the admittedly chaotic and at times hazardously random result.

 

Stuart R West-1

So, did you or did you not bug the Watergate Hotel?

Okay, um, you know I’m here to talk about my new book, Elspeth, the Living Dead Girl, right? Right? The only bugs I know about are the pesky gnats hovering around the compost bucket, okay?

 

Where did you come up with the lyrics for “Stairway to Heaven”?

Sigh. Why am I an insaniac magnet? I didn’t write the song, although it haunted my high school days.

 

If your life was made into a horror movie, what would it be called?

“Interview With A Matthew?” No, okay, cheap shot. How about “Bald, Dumb and Overweight In Kansas?”

 

Where exactly is that weird place where Elspeth and Elizabeth interact?

“Dream Space.” It’s sorta’ a supernatural Facebook, I guess you could say. It’s where my two heroines communicate; Elspeth, a dead, kick-butt goth girl from the ‘80’s and Elizabeth, the ever-so-pristine would-be spoiled prom queen. You see, Elspeth is sent from agents of Limbo to inhabit Elizabeth’s body to bring down a mysterious, murderous drug dealer at Clearwell High. The girls don’t like one another. Conflicts arise and–

 

Did you have sex with Monica Lewinsky?

Gah! You didn’t let me finish! And, no, no liaisons with Ms. Lewinsky.

 

The book raises the issue of drug dealing. Is that because you’re a drug dealer?

Wow. How do I get myself into this stuff? No, I’m not a drug dealer. Although I knew plenty in high school, hence the realistic details of drugs in the book. I lived through it. As I’ve lived through all of my books. Elspeth and Elizabeth are characters introduced in my Tex, the Witch Boy trilogy, all of them dealing with topical teen issues and each one a stand-alone supernatural murder mystery.

 

TexWitchBoySeries

 

Was there a second shooter on the grassy knoll?

Yes, it was Jimmy Hoffa. What the hell? Can we please get back to talking about my book? Elspeth, the Living Dead Girl is a YA light supernatural, murder mystery, drama, suspense, comedy, romance, social topic joint, told between two teen girls’ narratives.  Something for everyone.

 

How do you stay sane as a writer? (Yeah, right! But to Stuart’s everlasting credit, he attempted an answer to this question, though it’s outside his realm of personal experience or expertise–way outside.)

By staying away from guys like you, Matthew! Gah. I think our time’s about up here. I have to–

 

You’re pretty old. How do you manage to write so convincingly about young people?

What? OLD? I’m only 53! That’s practically, like, 30 in the ‘50’s! Grr. Deep breaths, deep breaths…I remember what it’s like to  be a teen. All the angst, the day-to-day terror of bullying, the broken hearts, everything. Fun! But not. Plus my daughter just survived high school. Between her tales and my life, I’m full of teen tales.

 

Do UFOs really exist, and do they represent life from other planets?

Oh, boy. If I say they do, Matthew, will you leave me alone? Look! There’s one in your back yard!

 

If Elizabeth Blackmer is so hot and has a boyfriend how can she still be a virgin?

Wow…just…wow. Okay, my character, Elizabeth, is saving herself for her special someone. She’s found him, Donovan. Her Prince Charming. She’s ready to give herself all to him. Will she? Read the book and find out.

 

Do clowns scare you?

Only clowns like you, Matthew. Too tough? Too bad. Okay, I’m SO outta’ here–

 

Thank you for your time, Stuart. I hope to have you back on soon, so we can ponder even deeper matters of time and space. Oh, and let us know when you write another book, too, would you?

 

Just when I think I’m out, Matt pulls me back in. My newest book, Godland, is out September 15th from MuseItUp Publishing. It’s my darkest book yet. It even put me in a dark place while writing it. Read it if you dare.

 

Godland 200x300

 

 

LINKS:

The Tex, the Witch Boy series available at MuseItUp Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/search?keyword=stuart+r+west&limitstart=0&option=com_virtuemart&view=category

 

And Amazon:

Elspeth, the Living Dead Girl: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LBG4VKM

Tex, the Witch Boy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3U5OWU

Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E5RWBGA

Tex and the God Squad: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H9HPIA4

And my adult horror tale, Neighborhood Watch: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IA6ZTIO

 

Here’s more about ELSPETH, THE LIVING DEAD GIRL:

 

Elspeth 200x300

 

Blurb:

If you’re dead already, can you die again? Elspeth’s been summoned from limbo. Her new assignment? Track down the culprit in the mysterious death of a student at Clearwell High. And incidentally, uncover the identity of the new drug dealer prowling the halls. Only one problem—the body she has to co-inhabit has a different agenda. Elizabeth just wants to be prom queen, marry Prince Charming, and graduate with perfect posture. Both girls, alive and dead, will have their separate worlds rocked before the killer is unveiled. Nothing is as it seems. No one can be trusted. Being dead has never been so dangerous.

Excerpt:
Set on a street corner, the gas station had fallen into poor shape. Straggling weeds pushed through the broken pavement and sidewalk that surrounded the small white-bricked building. The front window and door had been boarded up. Even the graffiti showed signs of age. Modern Gangstas had been painted across the rusting serrated garage door. Some enterprising artist painted a big X through it, with the legend R.I.P., SUCKAHS! emblazoned below it, denoting the passing of these relics. An old-fashioned red pump, minus the hose, sat on the crumbling, cement island, a sad memorial for the days when gas was actually pumped for you.
No one hung out in front of the station, but a plume of smoke rose from behind it. Someone coughed, followed by a giggly fit, getting high obviously the cause of hilarity. I stepped through the trash and tires on the side of the building, following the beckoning smoke signal. In the back, a group of five students sat in a circle, some on the sidewalk, others on the grass. More kids lurked farther away, seeking privacy in the shadows of the surrounding trees. Everyone, boys and girls alike, wore T-shirts and ragged jeans. Silence fell over them when they saw me.
“Hey,” I said.
Two boys looked at each other, disbelief in their eyes. Finally, after taking a long drag from a cigarette, one spoke. “Um, what? Are you lost or something?” He broke out into high-pitched laughter, his entourage joining him.
“Yeah. Or something.” I crossed my arms, impatiently waiting for them to shut the hell up.
“What do you want?” asked a dark-haired girl. “School’s back that way.” She hitched her thumb across the street.
“Uh-huh. Probably where you should be. Stay in school. Don’t do drugs. Drink milk.”
The girl hopped to her feet and approached me. She puffed a cloud of smoke into my face. “I know who you are. What? You a narc or something?”
“No narc.” I waved the smoke away. “Just looking for someone.”
She stepped closer. Underneath her heavy blue eye shadow, her eyes appeared red and glassy. “Who you lookin’ for? And why? I mean shouldn’t you be out killing baby seals or something? Like a good conservative cow?” She turned toward the lounging group, looking for approval. Once again, they launched into shrill laughter.
“Shouldn’t you be like—oh, I don’t know—getting penicillin shots down at the free clinic?” I lifted a corner of my mouth, half-smiling, half-smirking.
“Why don’t you just go back and play with your little bitches! We don’t want you around here.”
I couldn’t very well tell her I found Elizabeth’s friends as vile as these cretins. The things I had to put up with. “Maybe I just want to see how the other half lives,” I said, channeling my best, stuck-up, inner Elizabeth.
A deep, wet sound emanated from within her chest. She heaved her shoulders back and dredged up a loogie. She spat onto Elizabeth’s ballet flat.
“Uh-oh,” I said. “You really shouldn’t have done that.” I didn’t particularly want to explain to Elizabeth how her beloved shoe had become tarnished. Girl can be unreasonable.
Red-eyes shoved her face into mine. “Maybe you’d better leave, bitch!” Her cheap bracelets jangled when she shot her arms out. I caught one of her wrists and wrenched it behind her, twirling her as I did so.
“Look,” I said quietly into her ear, “I came here in peace. I’m just looking to talk to somebody. Don’t make me go all ninja on your ass.”
Several stoners jumped to their feet, looking uncertain. One boy clapped his hands on his jeans, took a step forward, and then changed his mind. Staring around at his inert crew, he leaned back resignedly against the building with a sigh. Didn’t want to ruin a good buzz.
“Let go of me, bitch!” The more she struggled, the higher I jacked her hand up.
“You promise to settle down? You gonna’ be a good, little girl?”
“Owww! Dammit. Yes! Just let go!” I released the hellion. Even though she didn’t have the strength to back up her attitude, I appreciated her fire.
“Super. Now we’re all friends.” I smiled as sweetly as Elizabeth would’ve. “Now if you’ll just let me finish. I’m looking for Donnie Heidenreich. Seen him?”
The girl rubbed her wrist, scowling at me. She jutted her chin toward the back row of trees. “In the tire.” The girl rejoined her group, chortles erupting from her cronies.
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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 19, 2014 at 6:58 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Word on Gratitude

waterfall--flowing_19-139693I was talking with a friend the other day. She’s a single mom with a successful career, and is always on the go. She writes children’s books, among other things.

We both expressed a need to enjoy the journey of life, to focus less on the destination and more on the process of living each day to the fullest.

She asked how I planned on doing this.

I told her I needed to cultivate my gratitude for everything in my life. Then she said something that touched me very deeply. She said by living the path I’ve chosen—actively managing my dual diagnosis—I demonstrate my gratitude every day.

I’ve often mentioned the gratitude list I keep near my computer. On it are things like gratitude for food, shelter, clothing, and sleeping in a bed every night—there were stretches in my life when I didn’t have these things.

I am also enormously grateful for the people in my life, my rock of a girlfriend, her loving parents, and my sisters, and other family and friends.

An item on my gratitude list that some might find surprising is children’s books.

You see, five years ago, I couldn’t dream I’d have a book coming out, let alone two. My symptoms of dual diagnosis surfaced and I suffered a shattering breakdown. Afterwards, I read children’s picture books because they were what my brain could process. It was only over the course of several months that I worked up to YA novels. It took me eighteen months to read an adult book.

Some people who have dual diagnosis never experience such difficulties.

Some experience worse.

I am one of the fortunate ones.

And every time I get frustrated or feel like giving up, I remember how I literally had to start from scratch and work my way up to where I’d been. And I remember the wonderful picture books that slowly helped me come back around. I am so grateful for them, and for the distance I’ve traversed over the course of the last few years.

Thank you for letting me share this journey with you.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

Categories: Mental Health   Tags:

A Brief Look at Dual Diagnosis

dual diagnosisIn the wake of Robin Williams’s suicide, I am re-posting this piece on dual diagnosis. Parts of it originally appeared on Laura Zera’s website in June. I offer the following insights and suggestions as someone who has dealt with and suffered the consequences of dual diagnosis for years, not from the perspective of a medical doctor, of which I am not.

What is dual diagnosis?

There are some variations in definitions of dual diagnosis, but the term generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine, heroin or prescription medication). For example, I have depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and I’m an alcoholic.

It is estimated that 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis. It is estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem. Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Sigmund Freud.[1] Robin Williams was also dual diagnosed.

Having a dual diagnosis differs, in terms of recovery, in that it is not just about refraining from alcohol, or taking anti-depressants. It is a synergistic condition where one illness exacerbates the other.

Major bouts of depression, for example, are often accompanied by the desire to self-medicate. It might sound counter-intuitive to want to drink alcohol, which is a depressant, when you are depressed, but the mind and brain chemistry of the alcoholic differ from that of the non-alcoholic. Drinking may actually alleviate depression in the short-term, lifting your spirits, so to speak, and quickly, too. That makes drinking very enticing to a person going through a depressive episode: the solution to feeling bad seems just an arm’s length away. Of course, what happens is that you might feel better after taking a few drinks, but when the effect wears off you are at a lower mood baseline than before you drank.

I drank regularly by the time I was thirteen. I sought help at a local substance abuse clinic when I was fifteen.  Despite being dual diagnosed from an early age, the diagnosis didn’t stick. Over the years, as I made my way through countless detoxes and rehabs, and a few psychiatric wards, the standard course of treatment was to deal with one disorder without addressing the other, or the combined effect of both. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

 

Why is treating dual diagnosis so difficult?

Part of the reason is that the use of certain drugs can mimic psychological symptoms associated with some mental disorders. Alternately, people who suffer from psychiatric conditions often self-medicate to feel better. A professional treating someone with both disorders may tell a patient that he/she must first address one issue (e.g., stop drinking) before the other (e.g., depression) can be treated. Unfortunately, this leaves open the possibility that the underlying depression will never get treated because a person may be unable to stop drinking without dealing with the depression. Additionally, the problems of diagnosing/treating the dual diagnosed is exacerbated by insurance policies, which are set up to treat every ailment as a separate condition.

 

What can be done?

Again, I am not a medical doctor, and these are just my suggestions for ameliorating the difficulties of treating the dual diagnosed. In the presence of one of these conditions an aggressive effort should be made to determine if the other is present. Both alcoholism and mental disorders are genetically-based. So if a person presents symptoms for one, a professional should ascertain whether the other condition is exhibited in the patient’s family history. If both conditions are identified, an effort should be made to address them concurrently. In cases in which there is no family history of either mental illness or addiction, it should be ascertained whether the mental disorder preceded the addiction problem or whether both developed at the same time. If the former, then both conditions should be treated simultaneously. If the latter, then the addiction problem should be the initial focus of treatment to see if the mental symptoms subside with the cessation of the use of addictive substances. Of course, it is imperative that the patient be completely honest in reporting the use of addictive substances.

 

Is there hope?

Yes. The most effective treatment program I have found is the approach used by places such as ASAP (Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. During my last hospitalization for depression and alcohol-related matters, my aftercare plan included attending ASAP. ASAP takes a comprehensive approach to substance abuse that involves education and group therapy as well as one-on-one sessions with therapists. Crucially, there is a strong psychiatric component built into the program because of the recognition that mental illness and substance abuse are often comorbid. I would encourage anyone who suffers from dual diagnosis, including the families of the dual diagnosed, to check out the treatment options available through places such as ASAP.

This is medium-long term help. In the short run, if you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People have called this number for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.

For important information on suicide please visit the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

People care about you. I care about you.

 

[1] Information in this paragraph is taken from Dennis C. Ortman, The Dual Diagnosis Recovery Sourcebook: A Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Approach to Addiction with an Emotional Disorder (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2001).

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 13, 2014 at 6:20 am

Categories: Dual Diagnosis   Tags:

On the Death of Robin Williams

Robin_Williams_2008We’ve lost another great light in the War of Addiction and Mental Illness.

That’s right, Robin Williams was dual diagnosed.

How many deaths do we have to endure before people realize the power of addiction and mental illness?

If you think Robin Williams died because he was weak, or had a character defect, you probably belong to the majority.

Most people are sad to see the loss of yet another celebrity, but they are less willing to believe that Williams died because he suffered from  dual diagnosis, a medical condition whose symptoms resurfaced, and led him to take his own life.

This is not the place to recount Williams’s career. You can find his accolades anywhere online.

But it is the place to ask why we remain so reticent in our society to talk about addiction and mental illness. Why? Because of the social stigma attached to each of these conditions, one that seems to increase exponentially when they occur together.

The truth of the matter is that Robin Williams is not much different from any of the other 6 out of 100 people in this country who are dual diagnosed. Sure, he had more toys than most of us, and certainly his bank account was enviable, but he described his relapse after twenty years of clean time in a way that resounds with any of us who suffer from addiction:

He walked past a little bottle of Jack Daniels in a liquor store window and it called to him. “Just one,” it said. “You can have just one.” Well, Williams went on to have one and then another and then found himself unable to stop.

Stephen King, another veteran of the whiskey wars, puts it this way: Tell someone who has chronic diarrhea to stop shitting and you have some idea of how hard it is for an alcoholic who has taken the first drink to stop drinking.

I was in the hospital five years ago when Michael Jackson died, being treated for essentially the same thing that ended the King of Pop’s reign. I remember thinking how absolutely vulnerable anyone is to dying from addiction and the concomitant mental illness that often accompanies it. I felt extremely vulnerable upon hearing about Michael Jackson’s death. After all, if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Some people would call it a wake-up call. I would call it a reinforcement of my desire to stop drinking and to manage my depression and anxiety in a way that would allow me to live.

You see, this is what it all comes down to: A desire to live. And you have to want to live more than you want to die. So you want to get better more than you want to stay sick. How does this happen? I wish I knew. But you really have to reach that point.

Please reach out to people who are suffering and who want help.

And please, if you are in active addiction and/or suffer from mental illness, know that life can get better. There is hope and help out there, but you have to want it, and you have to want it badly. That is the number one factor in the determination of successful treatment of addiction and dual diagnosis: the degree to which a person wants to get help.

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. You will be missed by so many.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 12, 2014 at 8:59 am

Categories: Dual Diagnosis   Tags: , , ,

My Interview with Cheri Renee

Please welcome CHERI RENEE, author of TRUST, BOOK ONE OF THE GYPSIES, GAMBLERS & THIEVES SERIES

ProfilePhoto 

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I’m currently finishing the first book in a trilogy called Gypsies, Gamblers & Thieves. It’s called “Trust.” I started the third book in a college fiction writing class; it was originally a short story. As a young fiction writer, I drew from what I saw kids dealing with in my hometowns.

I was born in the Deep South, where there’s a fantastic tradition of Southern Gothic literature; and I grew up in Las Vegas. Between those two environments, there was an abundance of material from which to draw. Now that I live in San Francisco, I feel the same way about this city.

 

What genre(s) do you write in?

I’ve written fiction and non-fiction in quite a few genres. I would categorize Gypsies, Gamblers & Thieves as Young Adult Fiction that crosses over into New Adult Fiction. I would also call it “Urban,” although it doesn’t have the African-American cast that currently typifies that genre.

After I complete this series, I plan to write historical fiction set in San Francisco. I also have the outline and three recorded tracks of a musical libretto that I’m itching to finish. That’s more complex, though, as it requires a different level of funding and a larger team to produce.

 

What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

Realism absent of sentimentality or romanticism is a distinguishing characteristic of my writing.

 

Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

I am currently self-publishing. However, I’ve had discussions with agents and may consider partnering with one. Writing, finding and hiring the right editors and designers, promoting your work and keeping up with social media is a lot of fun; it’s also more work than one person can efficiently handle.

 

What is Wattpad?

Wattpad is a free social media platform where writers publish their work, readers find it, and the two interact. It’s a lot of fun.

Wattpad is backed by one of the great storytellers of our time, Margaret Atwood. You can find a large number of well-known writers there. Wattpad draws millions of new readers and publishes tens of thousands of new stories each month.

 

What led you to choose Wattpad as a means of publishing your work?

I chose to start publishing my work on Wattpad for several reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to test the reception of my first book with a Young Adult market; and the majority of Wattpad users are teenagers.

Second, I needed to light a fire under my own behind; I’m definitely one of those writers who could agonize over every verb, metaphor, and image. Although I still need to pick up my pace, Wattpad motivated me to start writing and publishing faster. In that respect, the platform is helping me work toward reaching a personal goal.

Finally, when I started to reach out to Wattpad’s staff, writers, and ambassadors to learn more about the site, everyone I communicated with was super helpful and supportive. The community there is amazing, which made it a no-brainer.

 

What advantages does Wattpad offer? Are there any disadvantages of using Wattpad as a publishing platform?

My favorite aspect of Wattpad is interacting with readers. I can’t overemphasize how inspiring it is to wake up and respond to reader comments and see who’s voting on what. Wattpad is a great place to start building an online platform, which is essential to getting noticed as an independent author.

The disadvantages of Wattpad are these: There’s not a lot of evidence that users convert to ebook sales for the other titles you publish through Amazon, B&N, Kobo or Smashwords. There are also millions of stories that your writing competes with–some of them are well written, some of them are not. You have to accept that dragons, vampires and fan fiction hold major appeal to tens of thousands of Wattpad’s readers; and those genres will likely get more reads than your work. As with any electronic publishing platform, it takes time to find the niche that is your readership. You must be patient and keep writing.

My wish for this experience with Wattpad is that some of these young readers, whether that’s 100 or 1000 will stick with me as an author and enjoy my writing for a long time to come.

 

Please tell us a little about your writing process.

My writing process is always evolving. As a child and a teenager, my process was a therapeutic dumping of thoughts on to paper. In college, it became this craft to wrangle, develop, lament and celebrate. As a professional writer and editor at magazines and websites, most of which had a product-marketing angle, my writing became formulaic, which can be painful if you’re not passionate about the products you’re selling.

Now that I’m writing fiction, I’d say my process is finally becoming what it should be. I write every single day, even if it’s only 500 words. That’s a habit I needed to develop—write every day no matter what. My aspiration is to consistently write between 5,000 and 10,000 words per day. I’ve only hit that mark once or twice, though.

An important but underdeveloped aspect to my writing process is the use of outlines. They’re really important and easy to slack off on. I once saw R.L. Stine give a reading for a group of about one hundred kids. He explained that it only took him about three weeks to write a Goosebumps title. That’s because he did “all the hard work” in a very detailed outline. After he finished the outline, it only took him two weeks to write a book. I want to set that detailed outline as a bar for my writing; again, that’s an area where there’s room for improvement.

 

What’s next for you?

I’m looking forward to writing some historical fiction about San Francisco. There’s a non-fiction companion, I’d like to create for my Gypsies, Gamblers & Thieves trilogy. And I have an urban short story in need of revision; it’s set in the Bronx, where I taught high school English for a stint.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

My advice to aspiring authors is to study the craft of writing and learn the rules before you break them. Please, learn the rules, because they matter. If you don’t already own The Elements of Style, buy it now.

I’d also say that a writing career is not for the faint of heart; it’s not for people who can’t handle rejection; nor is it for those who require a stable income to maintain their sanity. Definitely know whether you want this as a hobby or a career and respond accordingly.

 

If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

If I could have a conversation with anyone it would be Stephen Colbert.

 

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading two non-fiction titles: Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and The Promise of Sleep by William Dement and Christopher Vaughan. As far as fiction goes, I’m reading a bunch of stuff on Wattpad. I was reading Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates, but my copy went MIA, so now I’m on the hunt for it.

 

Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?

I think there are a few underlying messages in Trust and Gypsies,
Gamblers & Thieves
. First and foremost, I want young people to understand that they can persevere in the face of adversity; and that they should not accept violence in their home or to their person.

An equally important message for teachers, mentors and adults who read this book: It only takes one positive role model, one person to believe in and take time with a young person to make a huge impact on the outcome of that child or teen’s life.

I also want people to glean the insight that the “Vegas-ification” of America is less than ideal. Las Vegas has its own energy and ethos, which should be celebrated and indulged within the confines of Vegas. The city is an adult playground. I don’t think it should be marketed to children, teens and families.

 

If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

If I could be any character in literature, I’d choose to be Charles Wallace in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series. Charles Wallace is this brilliant, empathic child with an amazing big sister (Meg); together, they take one of the most remarkable hero’s journeys in literature. While in search of his lost father, Charles Wallace travels across the universe and time; he even gets stuck inside of a mitochondrion and manages to escape. How cool is that?

 

Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm changed my life. By defining different
types of love and analyzing the importance of each, it opened my eyes to how
loving ourselves and one another is all about action and practice, just like any art.

I just want to add that this book and series is dedicated to Roberta “Bobbi” Cartwright. She was my high school English teacher and the first person to take on the role of mentor in my life. I put her in this book and used her real name. Unfortunately, she passed away while I was in college, and I never got a chance to tell her how much she meant to me.

 

What are your social media links?

www.wattpad.com/CheriRenee

www.twitter.com/Cheri_Renee

www.facebook.com/CheriRenee

www.cherirenee.com

www.linkedin.com/in/cherirenee

 

Thank you CHERI RENEE for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments. 

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Summary of Trust

 Book One of the Gypsies, Gamblers & Thieves Series

Home crazy home. Sure, everyone’s family has problems. But not like this. Reva Dobson is a daughter of the Dixie Mafia. Her last memory of her parents together comes from the age of seven. Her dad points a 357 Magnum between her mom’s eyes. After that, Reva’s parents divorce.

In the family tradition, Reva’s mom Lilith decides to chase fortune in the casino. Mother and daughter move to Las Vegas.

Fast forward to Vegas in the ’90s. The Internet is an infant and Napster nary a thought. Grunge begins to outshine metal. Hip-hop ascends from the inner cities into the mainstream. With its wild nights, warm weather and international prestige, The Entertainment Capital of the World shimmers with glamour.

What better place for a mob child to go wild?

 

Excerpt from Chapter Six, “Imagine”

From the minute I arrived outside her classroom, I liked the lady with the salt-and-pepper ‘fro. She stood in the hall grinning, greeting, and giving a spiel about choosing a seat for the entire semester. I entered the room, turned right, and perused the horseshoe-shape made by a dozen desks that seated two to three students each. I walked around the horseshoe, examining every angle from which to see the long green chalkboard and open floor plan. Most of the new Honors English students sat down before me. I settled in by the door.

My spot was ironic because it allowed for a quick exit, which was good. Yet, it caused me to sit for fifty-five minutes, five days a week, with my back to a door. In general, that’s a bad idea. But, when Mrs. Cartwright’s class started, I forgot about everything on the outside. And that felt great.

The hour became about ideas: How certain ones shaped the sociopolitical fabric of American society, while others impacted humanity’s relationship to nature. Ideas: Their facets, sources, and consequences. The hour became about writing: How to craft theses, develop outlines, and wrap linguistic clothing around an essay’s skeleton.

With the enthusiasm of Tigger, Mrs. Cartwright bounced around, behind, and inside her horseshoe of desks. Even the tight curls of her hair vibrated with energy. “Words are Power!” she’d exclaim. “Words provide knowledge and knowledge is power! Words are power!” She repeated this, like a diamond needle stuck on a vinyl record.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 12, 2014 at 6:37 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , , ,

A Word on Advertising

book-with-magnifying-glass_318-23429I’m in a weird place. Or at least it feels weird.

You see, my thriller, The Brothers’ Keepers, is available for pre-order and my literary novel, Conversations Among Ruins, will be out shortly.

These are my first published novels, and I have to say I’m a little excited. Okay, confession time: I’m bouncing off the walls.

What I’m facing now is what most novelists face these days: How to stand out from the veritable ocean of books published each year.

After I wrote the books, I started this website, made my first real foray into the world of Facebook, and entered the fleeting kingdom of Twitter. I’ve established many good relationships. I also belong to a number of Facebook groups dealing with books. In marketing my novels, I intend to make the most out of social media, without seeming too pushy.

Now, as we all know, you can spend tons of time and money advertising your books. You can take out ads in all the usual places and hire people to post to Facebook and Tweet for you. You can engage the services of a publicist. You can even go old-school and have a signing at your local bookstore.

I read a lot of stuff about such advertising pursuits, and from what I can tell, the results are mixed. Yet, despite variations in the success rates of these strategies, there’s widespread agreement on the one thing necessary for good sales. You ready for this? Listen closely. The secret to selling a product is … to have a good product in the first place.

And for us writers this means that the most important part of advertising takes place long before a book is published.

Here are some of the things that make a good finished product.

First, the premise of your book is sound.

Second, your idea hasn’t been done to death.

Third, an audience exists for your book. (The only people who will disagree with the latter are those who aren’t interested in selling books, and that’s fine, as long as you’re honest with yourself going into it.)

Notice these things occur before a single word is written.

Then, after you tell your story, and you tell it well, make sure you polish it till it shines. (It never ceases to amaze me the number of typos in the ads and texts of many authors. I can’t begin to say how much of a turn-off this must be to prospective readers. As authors, our words are our bread and butter.)

Thus, the book should be professionally edited, both by a content editor and a copy editor. Then and only then, after several revisions, some involving beta readers, is it ready for the eyes of an agent/publisher or the discerning eyes of the public.

Now, all of this consists of a massive expenditure of energy and resources up front, during the actual construction and writing of the book, and the post-writing stage as well, in terms of revisions and edits. But the bottom line? Such an investment is apparently worth it. For it’s hard to sell a less than excellent product in today’s overly competitive market.

So instead of last-minute, desperate attempts to market our books long after they’re written, perhaps we should spend a little more time focusing on the quality of the books we conceive and write. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that even in today’s day and age the best books will rise to the top. I hope yours and mine will.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 10, 2014 at 7:22 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: ,

My Interview with Cynthia Ogren

Please welcome CYNTHIA OGREN, author of BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS

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Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

Hi, Matthew. Thanks so much for interviewing me and showcasing Beautiful Monsters on your website. I’m delighted to be here. I’m originally a Midwest gal, but I’ve lived all over the country. I’ve been an avid reader my entire life.  The writing bug first hit me when I was ten years old. Throughout the busy years of my life, I wrote poetry, short stories, little essays, and the first paragraph of many novels. I’ve always had a book inside me, but I finally donned my writer’s hat and found the courage to entertain the dream in 2010 when I started writing Beautiful Monsters, which will be my first published novel.

 

What genre(s) do you write in?

Beautiful Monsters is a contemporary romance. However, the manuscript I’m currently working on will be a memoir of my near-death experience. I don’t plan to limit my writing to specific genres. A good story is a good story. I’m interested in reading many genres of literature, so in writing, I’ll let the story dictate the genre.

 

What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

I’ve never cared for the typical romance novel format. Many of the storylines seem formulaic—the same plot with different settings, names, and occupations. Beautiful Monsters is different. It’s a candid look at modern romance with its inherent nuances and pitfalls. Because it’s set on the glass stage of Hollywood, the problems of the characters are exacerbated, and I was able to dig deep and fully explore certain societal problems.  Also, Beautiful Monsters has a couple of overarching themes, which are usually not present in the romance genre.

 

Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

Beautiful Monsters will be published by Vigilante Publishing Group, which has also expressed interest in my current manuscript.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

I have so much advice to give to aspiring authors! Beautiful Monsters is my first published book, so it has been a steep learning curve to traverse from idea to published book.

First, I would tell aspiring authors they need to read extensively in order to write well. We learn so much about writing from reading the masters of literature. Through reading, we find our own voice and become familiar with the proper structure, mechanics, and flow of a great story.

Secondly, while writing, they should be meticulous about looking up the grammar and punctuation they’re not familiar with. Google knows everything! In line with this, I recommend they invest in a good freelance editor to go over the manuscript before sending it off to publisher. Publishers often discard manuscripts with glaring grammatical errors.

Thirdly, I highly recommend beta readers. These are avid readers who will read a writer’s manuscript and offer constructive criticism to improve different aspects of the story.

Finally, I’d advise them not to give up on their dream to be published. The road from inception to publication is a long, arduous one, but with persistence, they can one day hold a copy of their published book in their hands. For a writer, nothing beats that experience!

 

What are your three favorite books?

Matthew, this is like asking a mother which is her favorite child.  I don’t know that I can choose among all the thousands of books I’ve read, but I’ll choose three that stood out because they taught me something valuable about writing. The first book that affected me profoundly was Wuthering Heights, which I read in my early teens. It taught me the importance of atmosphere in a novel—that by use of setting, syntax, and foreshadowing, a writer can set a mood. The second book that truly grabbed me was actually a short story by Flannery O’Conner. The title is “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” I read it in high school, and it scared me to death. This story made me realize that a great writer uses words and different literary devices to make the reader truly feel the story. The last book is a favorite of mine because of the exquisitely wrought characters. I’m a huge fan of character-driven stories, and Little Altars Everywhere, by Rebecca Wells, is one of the best I’ve ever read. From this wonderful novel, I learned how to write fully developed characters that resonate with readers.

 

Who is your favorite author and why?

Again, it’s hard to choose a favorite author, but I suppose Barbara Kingsolver tops my list. She’s one of those authors who writes such exquisite prose that the reader actually has a visceral reaction to her words. With degrees in biology, her themes usually encompass social justice, biodiversity, and Man’s interaction with his environment. The Poisonwood Bible is my favorite novel by Kingsolver. Published in 1998, it’s considered by many to be a modern classic.

 

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently doing research on a memoir of my near-death experience. I hope to have the reading and outline finished within a couple of weeks.

 

What makes good writing?

I suppose there are many answers to this question. Author skill, syntax, an intriguing plot, and other literary devices must come together to create the magic of a great story. But for me, the ability of the author to make the readers feel the story is the most important element. Truly gifted writers are able to use various literary devices to tap into the emotions of the readers, thus making them active participants in the storyline. This is the way to win the hearts, minds, and loyalty of the readers.

 

Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?

Yes, Beautiful Monsters has two themes, a minor and a major theme. For the minor theme, I explore the karmic aspect of love. Do we truly have a soul mate out there in the world somewhere—someone only meant for us? Is love enough to sustain a relationship when the beloved is a damaged person? And do events conspire to drive lovers together? The major theme deals with a notion many people delude themselves with: that their lives would be perfect if only they had beauty, wealth, and fame, or any one of the aforementioned conditions. It’s common in public discourse to hear people wistfully allude to this. But I turn that notion on its head in Beautiful Monsters, and a Hollywood film set is the perfect setting to explore this concept.

 

How do you keep sane as a writer?

That’s a great question! I’m not sure that my sanity is always intact—especially when I’m editing. I tend to write intensely for many hours at a time, sometimes spending hours on a single paragraph if I’m not satisfied with it. The need to eat, answer phone calls, exercise, and walk the dog forces me to take incremental breaks during the day. But by 2 a.m., when I normally quit for the night, my eyes no longer focus. I must admit that when I’m in the midst of a manuscript, I’m obsessed. I eat, breathe, and sleep the story.

 

Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Being a writer requires sacrifices not only from the writer, himself, but from everyone around him/her. It takes an enormous input of time and labor to create an interesting, well-honed manuscript. So everything and everyone else suffers from our neglect. Personally, I moved away from home to have the quiet life necessary for writing.  I live and write at my writer’s retreat in San Antonio. My family visits a few times per year, and I visit them over the Christmas holidays. Other things that suffer for my writing include: reading, friendships, family time, free time, housework, and eating well. But I’m fortunate to have supportive, understanding family and friends, who believe, as I do, that writing is my calling in life.

 

Please share your social media links with us, including where the book(s) may be purchased:

You can find me at the following social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cynthia.ogren

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynTilating

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/14495869-cynthia-ogren

Email: CLO517981@yahoo.com

Websites: www.cynthiaogren.com   and   www.beautiful-monsters.com  (under construction)

Beautiful Monsters will be available both in print and eBook format. As of August 5, 2014, you can purchase it at the following venues:

Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, BarnesAndNoble.com, Smashwords.com, and VigilantePublishingGroupLLC.com

 

Thank you CYNTHIA OGREN for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments. 

 

 

OgrenBookPic2

Summary of Beautiful Monsters

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” ~Shakespeare

Hollywood: Movie Capital of the World, La La Land, Tinseltown, Hollyweird, Gomorrah, Land of Broken Dreams…Hell.

Makeup artist Riley Rinaldi has it all: beauty, wealth, talent, and undeniable sex appeal. But besieged by her past and the very attributes so many envy, she lives a lonely life devoid of the one commodity she cannot grasp—love.

When sexy heartthrob Keller Cross swaggers onto the set of Beautiful Monsters, Riley’s self-protective veneer cracks wide open. Her dormant passion ignites as the bad-boy actor thrusts her onto the volatile glass stage of Hollywood celebrity—and down into the depths of his sordid sexual deviancy.

Against a backdrop of studio politics, fame, jealousy, and unrequited love, their white-hot chemistry explodes onto the film set, incinerating their former lives and exposing the unseemly underbelly of La La Land.

But does love stand a chance among the beautiful monsters?

 

 

Excerpt from Beautiful Monsters

Prologue: Stephen’s Tongue

The whole damn mess had started with Stephen’s tongue.

“Damn him!” Riley whispered hoarsely, so as not to awaken him before she made her escape. In no way did she want to have a morning-after chat.

She stood tensely poised at the door of Stephen’s trailer, squinting out into the early morning light and ready to bolt when the coast was clear. A monster headache hammered in disjointed syncopation with her pounding heart and lurching stomach. Riley grimaced. If this song had a title, it would be “Bangover Blues.”

Unfortunately, a cigarette-smoking associate producer loitered outside the studio entrance adjacent to the actors’ trailers, along with Joe, a crusty security guard who had worked at Titan forever. Riley shifted impatiently.

She wasn’t about to take the walk of shame and risk running into anyone she knew. The studio was a cesspool of rumor and innuendo, and she had no desire for last night’s sins to become the gossip de jour or, worse, tomorrow’s tabloid headlines. After all, Stephen Lloyd was the star of Beautiful Monsters and a big name in Hollywood.

Stephen’s tongue. The image of the handsome British actor sensuously sweeping his tongue across glistening, razor-sharp fangs assaulted her brain again like a ubiquitous trailer for a bad B horror film. She groaned, remembering.

Curiously, Riley had been aroused last evening as she and other department heads had watched the dailies from yesterday’s shoot. Stephen had appeared so virile and sexy in those first few takes that it had sent her latent libido soaring into the stratosphere—and her common sense plunging straight to hell.

“Seriously, what was I thinking?” she grumbled, cringing now at the thought of last night’s drunken sexual romp.

What had possessed her to impetuously jump into bed with him? He was nothing like the sexy vampire he portrayed onscreen. He wasn’t even her type! And she wasn’t the type for meaningless hook-ups. No, Stephen was just one more black mark on her laundry list of doomed romantic relationships.

“Riley, come back to bed!” Stephen’s groggy British voice wafted from the bedroom, sending a jolt of adrenalin through Riley, spurring her to action. She burst out of the trailer like a filly on the whip at Churchill Downs.

With a heart mired in regret, Riley Rinaldi fled the den of iniquity, clothed in yesterday’s apparel and her shame. Head down, praying for invisibility, she darted toward the studio’s side entrance, which, thankfully, had been vacated by the associate producer. She would just have to take her chances with the security guard’s discretion.

The premonition hit her like a cold, hard slap, stopping her abruptly at the studio door. Somehow, her life had indefinably changed. Like the gods had conferred and planets had aligned to serve her one hell of a cosmic cocktail. Like nothing would ever be the same. Like hell was about to break loose…or freeze over.

And it had been set in motion by…Stephen’s tongue.

Opening the steel door, Joe gave her a crisp, expressionless nod. “Good morning, Ms. Rinaldi.” The soul of discretion.

“Morning, Joe,” Riley muttered, banishing the baleful feeling as she rushed headlong into the teeming chaos of Titan Studios.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 5, 2014 at 6:33 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

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