Archive for October, 2014

Goodreads Giveaways

BookshelfI’ve often heard people say they have trouble navigating Goodreads. This is a shame because there are many good things to find, not least of which is the opportunity to promote one of your books by holding a giveaway.

Now, right off the bat, I should say that Goodreads is only set up to do giveaways for print books, so if your book is an e-book, it is not possible to hold a giveaway at this point, though Goodreads is working toward that goal.

But before I talk about how to hold a giveaway, the question you might raise is, Why should I give away something I’ve worked so hard on?

At first it may sound a little counterintuitive, giving away something for free that has cost so much in resources—time, money, emotional commitment, etc. But think of the reasons why you might choose to do this.

First, a giveaway is good publicity. You can gain exposure for your book by holding a contest. You can advertise this on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog, the fact that you are actually giving something away for free, because let’s face it: people love free stuff, especially in these troubled economic times. Also, giving a book away makes you look less cheap than you might be, which never hurts. Generosity is a good thing. Say it with me now: generosity is a good thing.

Second, giving your book away might attract new readers, readers who wouldn’t ordinarily consider reading your work if they had to shell out their hard earned cash. Gaining new readers should be one of our primary goals as writers, at least those of us interested in having people read what we write.

Third, the giveaway may just help you garner a review. The person who wins your book is encouraged to write a review to be shared on Goodreads. Of course the possibility exists that they might decide to share the review on other sites.

Finally, Goodreads has a feature that allows people to put your book on their to-read shelves. Approximately half of the people who have entered my giveaway have added my book, Conversations Among Ruins, to their shelves.

The first three benefits also accrue to authors who choose to offer their e-books for free on Amazon. More and more I’m convinced that offering books free for a period of time is a very good idea, and is a great way of gaining exposure, reaching new readers, and increasing the possibility of securing reviews.

That is all well and good you say, but how do I actually hold a giveaway contest on Goodreads? Isn’t Goodreads inordinately difficult to navigate? The great news is that while some features of Goodreads may take a little while to master, the giveaway feature is not one of them.

Here in a nutshell is what you do to hold a giveaway contest:

  1. Go to your Goodreads homepage.
  2. Click on Explore
  3. Under explore click on Giveaways
  4. Click on List a Giveaway
  5. Fill in the answers to the questions
  6. Click Save

It’s that easy! All you have to do is wait until your giveaway is approved, which can take a couple of days, and you are good to go. Goodreads does all the rest, including keeping track of the entrants to the contest, recording the people who have put your book on their to-read shelves, picking the winner of the contest, and sending you his/her address. Be sure to have a book on hand that you can send to the winner once the contest ends.

If you decide to go this route and host a giveaway please let me know how it goes.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 30, 2014 at 11:10 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

My Interview with Daisy Hickman

Please welcome DAISY HICKMAN, author of ALWAYS RETURNING: THE WISDOM OF PLACE.

Hickman--e1405168414355

Tell us a bit about yourself and your current book.

I’m an author who also writes poetry. And I’m the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio: a creative, sunny space for kindred spirits. It’s an author blog, and I host Studio Guests. It’s also a good place to visit for author updates. I just released Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place – the 15th Anniversary Edition of my first book. Basically, the book is a close-up of my prairie roots and the spirituality of place and people. By exploring, on a deep and profound level, what has always inspired and challenged me, I was able to unearth the wisdom of place.

 

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

The second edition is published by Capturing Morning Press, which is my imprint.

 

You say in the Preface to Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place that the key point is that “we need something (time and time again) to draw us inward. A place or a situation, an event or a message; a piece of art, a book, a poem, a song, a melody. An intuitive knowing. An open landscape that silently tugs at the senses—at the soul.” Can you talk a little more about this, particularly the process of drawing inward and what that does for us as people and spiritual beings?

Yes, that is one of my favorite quotes from the new preface, Matt. From my perspective, drawing inward is critical to our well-being and spiritual realization. If we are constantly living on the surface of life, distracted by every noise, every news bulletin, we will never find our spiritual center.

 

You had very powerful responses to Where the Heart Resides. What do you think accounts for this powerful chord you’ve struck among so many of your readers?

I did have some lovely letters from readers after the first edition was published. I’m not sure what to attribute it to, but many seemed to appreciate a book, an informal life philosophy, that had a positive focus … something that seemed true and attainable.

 

You’ve said that “there is something inherently awkward about promoting one’s book.” Why is that?

Yes, it is inherently awkward to promote one’s own book. I’m a quiet, contemplative writer, content to let words on the page speak for me. I don’t crave the spotlight, and I think many authors share this sentiment. After all, if we wanted public visibility, we might have chosen a different line of work, such as, acting or politics.

 

You write in the Preface to Always Returning that there are numerous valid and important reasons to write a book. What are some of those reasons behind Always Returning?

I do believe there are numerous valid and important reasons to write a book. Literary prowess is only one of many. So if you want to share something creative with the world … that is reason enough. It really doesn’t matter what the reviewers and critics come up with. Many people won’t “get” your book, but in the end, who cares? If you believe in your work, keep writing.

 

You’ve written that, “Never, are we completely wise; rather we’re in the process of becoming wise—wiser, perhaps.”   How do we do this? How do we become wiser?

Wisdom doesn’t arrive once and for all.  It’s a process, one of deepening awareness and insight. One of growth and refinement, as we cope with life experiences of all kinds. One day, we may have things figured out, but feel lost and uncertain, the next. That’s normal. “Never are we completely wise; rather, we’re in the process of becoming wise—wiser, perhaps.” I think we do this by committing to a spiritual path: reading, stretching our comfort zones, trying to live from a higher dimension, avoiding the continual pull of mind polarities. Peace, and wisdom, come from moving beyond the constant ping pong game in the brain. The friction of the world doesn’t have to dominate our existence. We can choose a more enlightened path, time and time again.

 

What is the some of the timeless wisdom of the prairie that you talk about?

A timeless wisdom is an idea or an orientation that resonates no matter the year, the country, the situation. Growing up with a vast sky and landscape, I felt wisdom all around me. And I decided to tune in, instead of ignoring it, because there was something about my surroundings that pulled me inward. That encouraged me to dig deeper to unearth lasting insights. How can one look at the beauty of nature and not be compelled to return to the words of Whitman and Thoreau? My book has 20 chapters, each one focusing on a different element of a life wisdom that can guide us back to our hearts.

 

Is this book for people who don’t necessarily live in South Dakota?

Actually, this book is for anyone, anywhere. We all have “surroundings” of some kind; and by learning how to look deeply into them, a kind of inner knowing can be discovered. We can encounter the “wisdom of place.” And we can come to realize that we don’t need to move anywhere to explore the mysteries and depth of life.

 

Can you tell us a little about the book you’re working on?

I’m working on a poetry collection called Meditation in Blue and on a memoir that is about the spiritual landscape of loss. I lost my son at 27, some seven years ago now, and I’ve been working on the memoir for at least six of those years. It’s getting close, so maybe I will decide to publish it next year. We’ll see. It’s a challenging project, and I want it to truly offer something of value to readers. There are plenty of books out there on grief and loss, so I want to share some of the deeper truths about death, spiritual transcendence, and the long-term reality of such a powerful experience. I don’t think the human mind can ever really comprehend loss; this only happens on a spiritual level.

 

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

On Twitter, look for @dhsunwriter, and you can find me on Facebook via my SunnyRoomStudio page. If you subscribe to my blog, you’ll receive automatic updates. Always Returning was released on Amazon in paperback on October 14, 2014; it will also be available in eBook formats by the end of October on Amazon and via many other online booksellers. Bookstores can order copies directly from IngramSpark.

 

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

Thank you, Matt, for this opportunity to share more about my work on your blog. We are all working on important projects, so I appreciate your time and interest a great deal.

HR_Always_Returning_300dpi_RGB_5.5x8.5

From the close of the new preface to Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place:

We need abundant reminders of what we know deep within, and sometimes we need to stare down the obvious without flinching, without making life more complicated than necessary. Our minds (as influenced by people, environment, history, ego, memories, society and culture) seem to want many things (some useful, some not remotely so), but it has been my experience that our souls benefit most from the simple sustaining aspects of life that nurture our spiritual dimension.

So now, because of grace and perseverance and love, we return to the timeless wisdom of the prairie. A life wisdom, actually. Symbolic of the space within, the vast and glorious landscape of home first taught me about my physical roots, then about my spiritual roots. One led to the other as though ordained, and I’m extremely grateful that I happened to notice. Please keep noticing, deeply so, your life – the one within. It is your place, no matter where you reside. ~

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 27, 2014 at 6:51 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

Reading Anxiety

gloomy-day_21023478Oftentimes on this blog, I’ve offered suggestions of what to do when confronted with a variety of situations.

This post is a little different.

Over the past several months I’ve had what can only be called an aversion to reading. Reading causes me a great deal of anxiety. It is hard for me to sit and read more than a few pages at a time, when once I could read for hours on end.

I think my anxiety in part stems from the feeling I get, when I read other people’s stuff, that I should be writing.

But it’s not like I’ve been slacking off on writing. I’ve had two books published this year and recently finished the first draft of the next novel in the Nicholas Branson series.

Reading is usually my go to method for inspiration to write. But for a while now that just hasn’t been the case.

I don’t think there is an easy fix to this situation, such as taking a break from reading. The anxiety has lasted too long for that.

I think it’s important to talk about such things. Usually what’s shared about reading on Facebook and blogs is all positive, which makes you think that every reading session takes place in some golden-tinted haze of orgasmic pleasure.

If anyone else has experienced reading anxiety, what did you do to get past it?

Thanks,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 23, 2014 at 6:32 am

Categories: Mental Health, Writing   Tags: ,

Cover Reveal: The Ultimate Killer by Kimberley Clark

A while back I interviewed Kimberley Clark and we talked about her debut novel The Species Within (Battles in the Dark #1), an erotic urban fantasy. Today I am happy to reveal her cover and provide an excerpt from the next book in the trilogy, The Ultimate Killer (Battles in the Dark #2)!

Though she is a hard guest to forget, here is a little bit about Ms. Clark to jog the memory:

Bio Pic

Kimberley lives by the idea that everyone should have a bucket list of things they want to accomplish in life, but not only to have a list, but attempt to mark off as many items as possible. One goal that was high on hers was writing a novel and having it published. This idea of writing a novel wasn’t new to her, but inevitable, as her love of reading books and watching movies inspired her to create her own stories. When the day came that she finally started to write, she realized this was going to be something she wanted to do more than once, emphasized by the fact that her first novel was to be book 1 of a trilogy, and that there are many more stories waiting inside her head ready to be created. Her hope is that not only for people to enjoy her books, but that people are inspired by them as others have inspired her.

Kimberley was born in Sydney, Australia, and currently resides in the Gold Coast hinterland.

And without further ado, here is the cover, blurb, and excerpt from The Ultimate Killer:

The Species Within2 Cover

 

Blurb:

Brought back to life, Kira awoke to a world where she no longer belonged. She was one of them now…a mythlend, the scourge that she’d lived her entire life hunting. What was worse, she had become the species that she and a number of other mythlends had tried desperately to stop from being awoken…the Hunrati.

But they had failed.

By the time Kira had opened her eyes, the Hunrati were already living up to their reputation, torturing, massacring, burning cities to the ground like all indestructible killing machines do when they see themselves as gods; any resistance to their actions were therefore deemed futile within days of their first appearance.

Kira wanted to stop them, but she had become their prisoner when she attacked their Queen out of rage for what they had done, and as such, she was rendered incapable of using any of her abilities.

Trapped, alone, and not knowing what had happened to those she cared about, her only way out was to earn their trust. That meant getting close to the volatile and extremely attractive Pheres, and doing everything he instructed, regardless of how depraved it was.

But how close was she willing to allow such a dangerous creature when he wasn’t the man she loved?

Better yet…how far was she willing to go before she lost her humanity completely?

 

Excerpt:

It was dark. He was lying down on something hard and cold and he could feel himself withering away. It was a memory of where he went after the battlefield in Kartarus, as he could still feel the hole in his chest where his heart had been torn out. The pain was excruciating. Looking around frantically, he realized he was in a cave, which had been made livable. Herbs, spices, jars filled with specimens and different liquids, and a number of carcasses of who knows what littered the entire place. He turned his head the other way and saw in the middle of the room some kind of bird-like bath, and in the corner of the room, human-sized cages.

He let out another groan, his body raked with pain as the degenerating process sped up. He became useless as his head fell back and his extremities became paralyzed. The time had come.

“Don’t worry, you won’t be dying any time soon,” said a female voice he didn’t recognize. “You’re too important to let go just yet.”

Emmerich couldn’t see a face as she stood over him, as if it had been wiped from his vision, but he could see everything else around him in detail. One thing he could see, which he was suddenly focused on, was the heart she held in her hand.

It was his, and it had nearly shriveled to nothing. He watched with amazement as the heart started to regenerate while in this mystery woman’s hand. Then his vision began to go as his eyes began to wither.

“Just so you know, this is going to hurt,” she said as she plunged the heart back into his chest.

The action made Emmerich experience pain on a level he didn’t think was possible. And he screamed.

 

Social Links:

Website – http://www.kimberleyclarknovels.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/KimberleyClarkNovels

Twitter – @Kim_L_Clark

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7376208.Kimberley_Clark

 

BOOK LINKS

Goodreads – The Species Withinhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18756561-the-species-within

Goodreads – The Ultimate Killerhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23004989-the-ultimate-killer

 

Where To Buy: (ebook) The Species Within (Battles in the Dark #1)

AMAZON US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GA638T8

AMAZON UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00GA638T8

AMAZON CA – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00GA638T8

AMAZON AU – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00GA638T8

 

Where to Buy (ebook) The Ultimate Killer (Battles in the Dark #2)

AMAZON US – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ODVCS1Q

AMAZON UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ODVCS1Q

AMAZON CA – http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00ODVCS1Q

AMAZON AU – http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00ODVCS1Q

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 21, 2014 at 4:36 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , , ,

Getting Unstuck

Gorilla_Scratching_HeadHas this ever happened to you? You’re writing along just fine, thank you very much. The words are coming, maybe not at a breakneck pace, but you’re putting sentences down and thoughts are forming, taking shape on paper.

Then it happens.

Not so much writer’s block as an inability to know what to write next. You don’t feel tapped out. You are still inspired, or at least making a herculean effort to be, but you honestly don’t know what to focus on. You are at sea without a rudder.

What do you do now?

Here are a couple of passages I’ve come across in my reading that help me get unstuck:

The first, by Brenda Ueland in her book If You Want to Write, has to do with centering yourself to write:

“Sometimes say to yourself: ‘Now … now. What is happening to me now? This is now. What is coming into me now? this moment?’ Then suddenly you begin to see the world as you had not seen it before, to hear people’s voices and not only what they are saying but what they are trying to say and you sense the whole truth about them. And you sense existence, not piecemeal—not this object and that–, but as a translucent whole.”

The second is by Damon Knight in Creating Short Fiction. Here we are urged to consider things from the perspective of the character from whose point of view we are writing:

“Each time you write a scene from the viewpoint of one of your characters, imagine yourself inside that person’s head. What is her motive for behaving as she does? Exactly what is that person seeing right now—what is she hearing? What other sensations is she aware of? What is she thinking? Remembering? What impulses does she suppress? What does she notice while another person is speaking? What is her mood? Is she elated, depressed, or what?”

Both of these passages help me stay in the moment, and that is when the best writing often occurs: in the moment.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 20, 2014 at 6:00 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , ,

Showing Emotion the Fats Domino Way

Fats_DominoMost of us are familiar with the adage, “Show, don’t tell.” But what exactly does that mean when it comes to emotion? How do you show emotion? What does it look like? And is there an underlying pattern to a character’s emotional response to a given stimuli?

As Dwight Swain argues in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer, there are general guidelines to showing emotion. What I am going to present here is basically Swain’s model but with one added component (thought).

Say you are walking through the jungle. The thick underbrush limits your visibility. You chop with your machete but still are only able to see a few feet at a time. Finally you whack through a particularly dense patch of growth and emerge in a clearing. In the center of the clearing is a lion.

How do you portray what happens next?

Undoubtedly, the first response is a feeling. What is the feeling here? You guessed it, fear.

The next thing that happens is the action. In this instance it boils down to one of three things: flight, fight, or freeze. Let’s say in this case you opt for flight and climb the nearest tree, to try to get out of the lion’s reach.

Feeling and action precede thought, the third element. The thought might be, I’m going to die.

The final component of the model is speech. You are finally able to verbalize an expression, which might be something like “Holy crap!” or some variant thereof. At this point speech might also come in the form of a prayer.

Is it necessary to express all four components of emotion? No. But be sure the elements you choose to show come in the order sketched above. You may, for instance, show the action, and express the speech, leaving out feeling and thought, but you shouldn’t express the speech before the action.

So the next time you go to show emotion in your story, just start humming “Blueberry Hill,” and think of FATS. I hope this helps just a little.

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 17, 2014 at 5:52 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , ,

How I Stay Sober

alcohol--studio_19-128218People who know I’ve been sober for a while often ask me how I stay away from alcohol. The truth is, I don’t think about drinking all that much anymore.

Some might call this a miracle and part of me tends to agree. But at the end of the day, my rational scientific mind tells me it is less a miracle than a product of conscious choices I’ve made over time.

For members of the only-God-can-keep-you-sober school it may sound like I am taking credit where credit is not due me, but my higher power.  For the agnostics and atheists among us, it sounds like a truism.

To a large extent, though, this is neither here nor there. I don’t think this issue can ever be settled one way or the other. All I can do is share my experiences and tell you what has worked for me in terms of staying sober.

Here are some things that have helped me keep sober over the years:

  1. Having clearly defined goals that are challenging, yet achievable
  2. Not associating with people who drink too much
  3. Seeing a counselor on a regular basis
  4. Since I am dual diagnosed, dealing with my mood disorder, which in my case is depression, and taking the medication I know I need to stay healthy
  5. Partaking in healthy relationships
  6. Not visiting places I used to go when I drank
  7. Recognizing that whether I take that first drink is completely under my control—indeed, if it were not, then I’d be truly hopeless and helpless

I could add more to this list, but these are the most important weapons in my arsenal.

If you’ve ever been addicted to something, what helps keep you away from it?

All the best,

Matt

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 16, 2014 at 8:46 am

Categories: Addiction   Tags: ,

My Interview with Virginia Gray

Please welcome VIRGINIA GRAY, author of THE CARROT.

Gray_picture2

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

In a nutshell, I’m a crazy ex-pat southern girl with too many degrees and a passion for fiction. Climbing up the tree a bit, I’m a native North Carolinian and former university professor who has stepped away from the field of chemistry to do what she loves most: write.

Currently I’m promoting The Carrot, my debut novel. The story focuses on an ambitious, very urban business woman, Susan Wade, who lives for her career. To earn a promotion she desperately wants, the carrot her boss dangles in front of her, she naively accepts a professionally dangerous assignment in her home state of North Carolina—a place she loathes. Her misadventures begin the moment she steps onto the tarmac, and when a romantically-challenged officemate introduces her to a cast of ridiculous, but endearing characters, a socially impaired bartender, and Pete Walsh, an arrogant local businessman, things get worse. After a disastrous first meeting, Pete makes it his life’s mission to torment her. Through explosive and hilarious clashes that land Susan flat on her butt more often than not, Pete challenges her values, blind ambition, skewed conception of love, and ultimately her ignorance; that in the frenzy to achieve her professional goals, she’s lost sight of what’s really important in life.

 

What genre(s) do you write in?

Contemporary Women’s Fiction.

 

What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

First, I’m a flagrant satirist, and I won’t apologize for it. But more important, I’m a major proponent of character development, detailed descriptions, and flowing storyline. I want my readers thoroughly immersed in the setting. I don’t like leaving loose ends, and as I’m not bound by the rules of traditional publishing houses, if it takes an above average word count to achieve this, then so be it.

 

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

I’m an indie writer. I used to think self-published works suggested inferior writing; that’s just not so. Like many authors, I queried ad nauseam and finally realized that at this time in the world of authorship, it’s not imperative to be backed by a major publishing house. And based on the sheer number of books available through the world’s largest vendors, clearly, they don’t care, either.  Honestly, when book shopping, my purchases are never swayed by the name of a publishing house or agent. If the story sounds interesting and others liked it, that’s all I need.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

First, there is no such thing as an “aspiring” author!  If you have put pen to paper, you are an author simply working through the process. Don’t be afraid to call yourself  a writer. Own it! One of my upcoming blogs will focus on this topic. In fact, I may have t-shirts made!

Second, just write. Let your thoughts and ideas flow onto the paper—you’ll be amazed at where they take you.  A dear friend showed me the first page of a manuscript he had started. I was drawn in at once and asked, “What happens next?” He smiled and said, “I have no idea.” If you read interviews with authors such as Stephen King and Nicolas Sparks, you’ll note they give the same advice: write every day. Even if it’s only very little, force yourself to do it. I believe that’s true for the most part, though I will say, sometimes ideas need to ruminate a bit. Spend those days editing or proofreading or at worst, taking a long walk and thinking.

 

What are your three favorite books?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s tricky. I love Anne Rice’s florid descriptions, deeply flawed characters, her thematic struggles with the Catholic faith, and the complexity of her characters’ fear of mortality pitted against their perennial questioning of at what point does one’s soul become truly unforgivable. I admire Gabaldon’s ability to maintain a running storyline for thirty plus years over at least 10,000 pages. Her character development of Jamie, the male lead, is extraordinary. Tolkien’s imagination simply had no bounds.

 

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

Impossible question for me! Though tempted to name Jesus or Moses or even some famous villain, I think meeting any of those figures in person would scare the crap out of me. It may sound odd, but I have this bizarre fantasy of bringing Tolkien back to life for one day. And instead of showing him the wonders of a world he’d probably find incomprehensible, I’d take him to a big IMAX theater and let him watch the complete “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I don’t think we’d talk very much, though. I think I’d just keep handing him tissues.

 

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading “The Last Sunset” by Bob Atkinson. He’s a Sottish writer who, like Gabaldon, intertwines time travel with the historical battle resulting in the loss of Scotland’s autonomy. I’ve had several lovely exchanges with him via Twitter and I like supporting authors with whom I’ve had personal interaction. “The Brothers’ Keepers” by Matt Peters is next, followed by “Justfiable Homicide” by Gerald Darnell. I’m a very diverse reader.

 

What makes good writing?

For me, it’s character development. I want to know my characters—for them to be “real” to me. If they’re frailly constructed and I can’t connect with them in some way, I probably won’t care about the story.

 

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

My story speaks specifically to and of those who get so caught up in their careers (or simply themselves) that they ignore the other parts of life—the ones that add depth and meaning; lovers, spouses, family, friends. If relationships are malnourished, they wither until one finds oneself very much alone and miserable. There are several sub-themes in my book as well: self-redemption; adult coming of age—or rather, realization of oneself; the state of women in the workplace—especially southern women; the subtle message that wisdom comes in many forms.

 

How do you keep sane as a writer?

Is that a requirement? There are parts of writing, especially during the fleshing out, when I become utterly possessed. I wake up in the middle of the night and bolt out of bed to write down some detail. My characters and the storyline become sort of an aura or veil around me. It’s like I have so many personalities floating in my head that other things seem very much less important. One healthy outlet for me is music. I play the drums, and when I need a break, I plug in my earbuds and beat on my kit for an hour or two. I also walk—it either clears my head or fills it with new ideas.

 

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

I can’t pull a name out of the stew, but someone who could fly and maybe have super powers and a dark side, but not too dark.

 

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

Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love was a life-changer for me. It empowered me to embrace the strength within myself—to claim it. She’s been quoted by some of the greatest persons of our time, including Nelson Mandela. I first heard her most famous quote in Akeelah and the Bee, a kid’s movie I was watching with my daughter. The message was so powerful that I rushed to my computer, found it online, and then read this woman’s books. You never know where, when, or by whom you will be touched. The quote is taped onto my bedside wall. I’ve provided it below:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson
Author, Lecturer

 

If someone wrote a book about your life, what would it be called?

Virginia’s Ginormous Hatbox™®©. I’ve packed several careers into my life—not just jobs, but rather passions, and with each I’ve grown and changed. Unless I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I imagine I’ll squeeze in a few more before my ashes are sprinkled over the Atlantic Ocean.

 

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

My family gets neglected a bit when I’m in the throes. They’ve been very supportive, but when I hear, “Ugh! Pizza again?” I develop a good case of writer’s guilt. When obsessed, I also become very disorganized and things slip, like going to the grocery store, doing laundry, paying taxes, sleeping. I tend to become maniacal—the literal definition.

 

What obstacles, if any, have you encountered in being a writer?

Word count. I have a lot to say, and choosing which parts to eliminate is very difficult. There are authors who get away with epic novels and I love reading them, but I know many consumers back away from long books. Personally, I feel like I’m getting a damn lot for my money.

 

What do you like best/least about writing?

The creation is by far my favorite part; when ideas and concepts fall onto my head and into my computer. It’s exciting and fascinating and outrageously fun.

What I like least is promoting. It’s vital to place yourself, and moreover, your book in front of the eyes of readers, but it is hard and tedious work and takes away from writing time. We’re authors, not marketing experts. I already have a few fans demanding my next book, but if I walk completely away from promotion to write, I’m afraid people will miss reading The Carrot, and it’s a really great book! My heart and soul are between the covers and my characters are dying to climb into the minds of others.

 

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I learned at least ten thousand things. How to write, how to edit, how to develop characters, how to create a flowing storyline, how to make a story believable, and in the end, how to stop obsessing over every single punctuation mark and say, “Enough! It is finished.”

 

What question(s) didn’t I ask that you wish I had?

What are your worst fears as an author.

I fear my next book won’t be as good as the last; that it won’t move people the same way The             Carrot has. I fear that the glorious creative high will cease kicking in after a while. I have five books         in various stages of completion. I wonder what will happen after those are written. Will more come?

 

What is the greatest thing about being an author?

When someone contacts you and says they’ve just finished your book and they loved it and they             want more, and then they proceed to speak about your characters as if they were real people; I can’t       believe Ryan said that to her!  And when they then tell me they were so worried the story wouldn’t         end the way they’d hoped that they skipped to the last page just to check before continuing—it’s the       single greatest feeling in the world. It’s as close to God as we can come, I think; to create something       real and true from nothing.

 

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

My website features information about The Carrot, and direct links to its vendors. It also hosts VG’s Writer’s Blog and a contact form so you can get hold of me.

 

http://www.virginiagraynovels.com

 

I’m currently doing a promo thing with Amazon. These are direct links to the book on their sites:

For US customers: http://www.amazon.com/Carrot-Virginia-Gray-ebook/dp/B00LNRWZPW

 

In the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00LNRWZPW

 

Social Media:

http://www.twitter.com/VirginiaGraybks

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Virginia-Gray/599547070158865

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8571164.Virginia_Gray

 

Feel free to leave me direct message on those sites so I don’t miss you. I have an Amazon author page, pinterest, google+, Authordb, and Tumblr sites as well, but I check them less frequently.

 

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

 

Gray_picture 1

 

Synopsis:

What if the perfect job was dangled right in front of you? The only catch: Fix an unfixable problem—oh, and it’s in the middle of nowhere. Would you leave your friends, your lover, your world? Would you sacrifice your reputation and your pride? Would you sell your very soul?

Susan Wade lives for her career. Desperate to earn a coveted promotion, she accepts a risky assignment in her home state of North Carolina—a place she loathes. Her misadventures begin the moment arrives, and when a romantically-challenged officemate introduces her to an odd mix of associates, a socially impaired bartender, and Pete Walsh, an arrogant local businessman, things get worse. After a disastrous first meeting, Pete makes it his life’s mission to torment her. Through explosive and hilarious clashes that land Susan flat on her butt more often than not, Pete challenges her values, blind ambition, skewed conception of love, and ultimately her ignorance; that in the frenzy to achieve her professional goals, she’s lost sight of what’s really important in life.

 

Greed and Hunger

Holy crap! Two weeks ago, I was blissfully enjoying my fairly perfect life. Now I’ve just boarded a plane to Hell—the real one, with the heat and the desperation and the…what is that smell? And it’s not even my fault—well, not technically, anyway…

 

~~~~~

 

As the plane pierced the cloudbank, the tone chimed, and a disinterested, yet cheerful voice explained that the Fasten Seat Belt sign had been turned off and it was now safe to fire up every electronic device you’d ever owned.  An aside: It is my firm and sincere belief that Angry Birds will not bring down a 737.  I’m just saying…

Racing against every other business person on board, I pulled out my laptop and began flipping through client accounts. My boss wasn’t kidding when he said the Eastern Region—my shitty new region—was a difficult place to grow business. At least I knew why.

You see, I was born southern, raised southern…but I did not want to be southern. I simply wanted to be Susan; Susan Wade of some random, non-controversial, non-embarrassing place.  So I left, quite literally. I didn’t climb out my window and run away from home, though I tried several times. No, I bided my time, planned and plotted, took all the necessary measures.

And when the opportunity presented itself, I afforded a single sidelong glance to the sleepy, mist-encircled Pilot Mountain—the megalith looming over my entire existence, and made my thrilling escape to Chicago, racing from heritage and homeland to an unexplored, but surely more enlightened harbor.

After crossing the Mason-Dixon Line—for the first time in my whole entire life!—I tossed the last of mom’s country ham biscuits out the window and laughed maniacally. Okay, what really happened is this: I totally freaked, pulled to the side of the interstate, and hurled up said country ham biscuits. While on all fours I finished the job properly by purging terms including, but not limited to y’all, ain’t, hey, and anything ending in in’. The soil absorbed them hungrily.

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 14, 2014 at 6:13 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: ,

Framing the Story Question

graph_2104423I recently led a chat room discussion for Writers’ Village University, from which this post is adapted.

How do you frame a story idea in such a way that it lends itself to writing a whole story, or even a novel?

In Anne Lamott’s wonderful book Bird by Bird, she mentions an interview with Carolyn Chute, the author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine. In the interview Chute says, “I feel like a lot of time my writing is like having about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. But no tree. You’re going, Where do I put this? Then they go, Okay, you can have a tree, but we’ll blindfold you and you gotta cut it down with a spoon.” Ann Lamott goes on to say that, “This is how I’ve arrived at my plots a number of times.”

Are there other ways to frame a story and develop a plot?

Yes. And I’d like to talk about one of them.

But first you may think that what I’m about to say applies only to outliners and not to pantsers. That only outliners need to concern themselves, right off the bat, at least, with plot. But I believe pantsers will benefit from this discussion too, because oftentimes we have to start somewhere: we all need a tree on which to hang our ornaments. And what I’m going to talk about is essentially growing the tree.

I’m not going to talk about where ideas come from. But I will mention one place that’s worked for me. And truly I can’t think of a better place to get story ideas. And that’s from reading.

In conjunction with reading, you may benefit from playing the what-if game. As I’ll mention a little later I eventually developed the story-line for one of my novels, The Brothers’ Keepers, by playing this game—well, by playing the game and also by doing a boatload of research.

So let’s say you’ve come up with a basic idea for a story. One of the things I like to do next is to make sure the idea hasn’t been done to death. How do you do this? I suggest plugging a few key words of your topic into Amazon with the tag “fiction” added and see what comes up.  Of course, if you want to find books for research, of the non-fiction variety, leave the fiction tag off. I can’t tell you how many important books I’ve found this way.

Once I’ve come up with a basic idea for a story, and thought a little about the main characters, I try to frame the story in two sentences. This framing of the story in two sentences is one of the most important things I’ve learned after writing two novels and reading a boatload of books on writing. I learned the technique from Dwight v. Swain, who lays it out in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer. If you don’t have this book, I strongly recommend you get a copy. It is my favorite book on writing.

Okay, so what is this two-sentence method of framing a story?

The first sentence is a statement that deals with character, situation, and objective, and the second is a question that deals with opponent and disaster. That’s all well and good, but what does this look like in practice?

It is hard to improve on Swain’s examples so I’ll start by simply relating one of his. Say you are writing a science-fiction story.

Your basic idea is that humans start growing very tall and the main character’s objective is to find out why. So your first sentence that deals with character, situation, and objective looks something like this:

Sentence 1: When humans suddenly sprout to twelve-feet tall, John Storm tries to find out why.

The first sentence of story structure is posited in the form of a statement. In it, we have the situation (humans suddenly growing tall), the character (John Storm) and the objective (trying to find out why this is happening).

The second sentence that frames the story deals with opponent and disaster and is cast in the form of a question:

Sentence 2: But can he (John Storm) defeat the traitors in high places who want to kill him in order to make the change appear to be the result of an extraterrestrial plot?

Here we have the opponent and the disaster that threatens our protagonist—namely, death.

Another example:

Sentence 1: Sick of the conformity and hypocrisy that go with his high-paid job, and with a modest life income assured, Dale Boulton decides to retire ten years early, to go live on a shanty boat and poke through crumbling river ghost-towns, in fulfillment of a boyhood dream.

Sentence 2: Can he make the break successfully, when his wife, Sandra, fights him all the way and finally, threatens to have him declared incompetent?

Let’s take an example everyone is probably familiar with: The Wizard of Oz.

the-ultimate-chick-flick

What would sentence one look like for this story?

Sentence 1: When a cyclone drops Dorothy into a strange new world, she seeks to return home to her farm in Kansas.

Sentence 2: Can she get the great Wizard of Oz to assist her in her efforts to return home before the Wicked Witch of the East kills her?

This may sound simple, but framing story structure in such a way, really helps.

For my novel The Brother Keepers, I started off with a fascination for the Jesuits. After a good deal of reading and research I eventually formulated and honed the two sentence story structure into something like the following:

Sentence 1: Nicholas Branson, a renegade Jesuit, is brought into an investigation to help solve the mystery of a Senator’s murder.

Sentence 2: Can he discover the truth before he’s killed by religious and political officials hell-bent on keeping the mystery a secret?

Eventually, The Brothers’ Keepers grew into a story with the following mini-synopsis:

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?

Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.

It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.

Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.

How will it end? Read The Brothers’ Keepers … if you dare.

This book is largely genre fiction. Does the two-sentence farming method work in the case of literary fiction?

I have found it useful. For Conversations Among Ruins, the two sentences started out something like the following:

Sentence 1: While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed lecturer, meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter, a woman who has a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.

Sentence 2: Can Daniel maintain his job and his sanity in the face of an increasingly tempestuous and mysterious romance?

This story evolved into the following:

Conversations Among Ruins is a portrait of a descent into madness, and the potential of finding salvation there.

While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed* professor meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter. But Mimi has secrets and, strangely, a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.

Drawn together by broken pasts, they pursue a twisted, tempestuous romance. When it ends, a deteriorating Stavros seeks refuge at a mountain cabin where a series of surreal experiences brings him face to face with something he’s avoided all his life: himself.

Though miles away, Mimi’s actions run oddly parallel to Daniel’s. Will either be redeemed, or will both careen toward self-destruction?

*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.

Can you take your work in progress and frame it using the two sentence structure?

I’d love to hear what you come up with.

All the best,

Matt

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 13, 2014 at 6:19 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Book Review of Virginia Gray’s The Carrot

Gray_picture 1Once in a great while a book comes along that stays in your mind long after the last page. Virginia Gray’s The Carrot is one of those books, and let me tell you why.

First, the narrative voice is crisp and fresh. Susan Wade, the twenty-nine year old protagonist and narrator is not just your average power-hungry career woman, hell-bent on climbing to the top of the ladder in her cutthroat computer company. She is someone who is incredibly funny, snarky, and flawed. For despite the wall that she’s constructed between herself and the world, this young woman soon captures the readers’ heart from her unique, yet skewed conception of the world.

Admittedly, Susan is not a completely likeable character at the beginning. She seems cold, ruthless, and incapable of human feelings and emotions. But we soon discover that is simply the front she shows to the world. Beneath her brash exterior is someone who has been hurt and is seeking to find meaning in the heartless world of her hi-tech company. We soon start to care for Susan, and we become willing to follow her life as she goes through the various travails of being sent back to her home state of North Carolina, from which she desperately sought escape several years earlier, after having her heart broken by a southern boy.

What makes this book truly remarkable is the quality of Gray’s writing. The reader is treated to gorgeous lyrical descriptions seldom seen in genre fiction. Here is one of my favorites:

Without the least warning, the heavens breached wide and the sun exploded, streaming fantastical ribbons of color in all directions. The clouds bloomed amazing shades of orange and fiery pink, and I gawked in wonder as if I’d never seen such a sight before. As quickly as it appeared, the sunset in all its magnificent perfection was gone, the light eclipsed as if a Cyclops, disturbed from slumber, closed its droopy lid once more.

This is merely one example of dozens that demonstrate Gray’s literary abilities. And she maps not only physical terrain with great skill and precision, but emotional territory as well.

Beyond the beautiful writing is a story that grabs us and won’t let go. The characters jump off the page, and we follow them willingly and whole-heartedly through a tale that is truly epic in proportions. Despite the length of this book, one keeps plowing through it as if caught up in a whirlwind romance. Each chapter ends on a perfect, lyrical note that propels the reader forward.

It is difficult to say enough good things about this book. It is truly a treat to read the work of such a gifted storyteller. Remarkably, this is Gray’s first book. One can only imagine what she has in store for the future.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 12, 2014 at 8:21 am

Categories: Book Reviews   Tags: , ,

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