My #1 Tip for Writers & Readers

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Every day, I see a slew of writing-related ads. Some guarantee that if you sign up for a “free” course (don’t read the fine print) you’ll sell a zillion books. Some offer to tweet for you and post Facebook ads for a (small/medium/large) monthly fee. There are publicists for hire, who promise to increase your visibility and help you sell more books. Then there are the thousands upon thousands of books on the craft of writing, often from people you’ve never read or heard of. There are also those offering editorial services, some of whom have no success to speak of in the book business. Finally, there are publishing companies that for $15-$20 grand and up will publish and promote your book.

Many of these ads and the people associated with them make me angry. I’m not saying there aren’t good folks out there who can genuinely help improve your writing and increase your sales. What I am saying is that those who can truly do so are few and far between.

But before we go any further, let’s be clear about one thing: You should NEVER pay to publish your book. The only exceptions are if you just want to do it for your family and friends, or consider it a lifelong goal no matter the cost.

With regard to editorial services, the overwhelming majority of writers use an editor. Well established authors use editors provided by their agents/publishers. Other authors, especially if they’re at an early stage in their careers, hire an editor for content and/or copyedit purposes. This is often crucial to the success of a book, for nothing turns readers off like disjointed plots, weak characters, grammar mistakes, and typos. In my humble opinion, if your book isn’t as close to perfect as you can get it, you have no business trying to sell it.

But it’s important to realize that an editor will not rewrite your book, nor can he or she guarantee it will get published. Furthermore, many editors charge the same fee regardless of how much editing your manuscript needs. I understand the reasoning here, from the perspective of the editor: some manuscripts require more work than others. Editors feel that by charging everyone the same rate, often a flat fee per page, everything evens out. And it does…for them, not the writer.

Beware of editors who offer little feedback. From the outset be clear as to the type and amount of feedback you expect. Here you really can’t be too cautious. Most editors will provide a sample edit of a chapter or a few pages. This is great; just make sure you’re satisfied with the sample and hold the editor responsible for being as diligent throughout the entire project.

Once you’re published, there are a plethora of services that offer to plaster social media with ads about your book. In my experience, ads on Facebook and Twitter do poorly. I have over 20,000 followers on Twitter and I could probably count on two hands the number of books I’ve sold that way.

Facebook and Twitter ads, however, provide some visibility. But I recommend you do your own posting, especially since you probably won’t sell too many books this way. Learn to use Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or a similar program that will help you do it yourself. The same goes for publicists. Unless the person is well established—and if he or she is, you can expect to pay out the wazoo—you can do many things a publicist does. You can contact radio programs and blogsites, send out review copies, schedule some appearances and signings at bookstores, etc.

I’m skeptical of people who offer courses/insider tips on writing/marketing, especially if they charge for them. I don’t believe there are any tricks to writing/marketing. In fact, everything I’ve learned in the past several years can be summed up this way: Write the greatest book you possibly can—good is no longer enough—and then start writing the next one.

How do you write the greatest book you possibly can? Well, you start by reading great books—and poems, and stories, and plays, and screenplays, and non-fiction—and writing as often as you can. In terms of books on the craft, there are so many I fear some authors are trying to cash in on the insecurities we writers have by writing books that allegedly help, but often divert us from the one thing that will definitely improve our writing—namely, writing. That having been said, there are a handful of writing resources I wouldn’t do without. If you’re interested in hearing my recommendations, please contact me and I’ll be happy to share.

Okay, without further ado, I present my #1 tip for authors trying to market their great books and for readers who want to read them: BOOKBUB!

If you are a reader, you should really consider signing-up for Bookbub. It’s free, and every day you’ll receive an email blast letting you know about great discounted e-books in your chosen categories. You can get books for free, $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99. As a reader, I think it’s the greatest thing since pizza (or whatever food happens to be your weakness).

If you’re an author marketing a book, I don’t think anything beats Bookbub. You have to apply to get accepted, but applying is free. It’s tough to get approved, but you can keep applying if you get rejected, and you only pay if you’re accepted. Costs vary according to your genre and the price at which you want to sell your book (the free option is the least expensive, followed by $0.99, $1.99, and $2.99). Click here for a chart that gives you a general idea of the cost. If your book is accepted as a featured promotion, it will appear for one day in Bookbub’s daily e-mail blast. In terms of marketing / advertising it is the only thing that I’ve found truly effective (and I’ve tried just about everything). Trust me when I say the results, in terms of sales, will probably astound you.

Well, that’s it, friends. There you have my #1 tip for writers and readers and it hasn’t cost you a penny.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear about your writng/reading/marketing experiences!

All the best,

Matthew

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 30, 2017 at 6:25 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

Release Day for KILLING JOHN THE BAPTIST: A NICHOLAS BRANSON NOVEL—BOOK 2

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I’m really excited! Today is the official release day of the second book of the Nicholas Branson novels, KILLING JOHN THE BAPTIST. Here is a blurb:

The gruesome murder of a U.S. presidential aide. A secret so terrible it will change the world. Can ex-Jesuit Nicholas Branson and modern-day Cathar Jessica Jones discover the awful truth in time to save a persecuted religious group from extinction? Or will they be thwarted by a megalomaniacal pope and an ultra-secret U.S. government force? From the powerful corridors of Washington to the holy, frescoed halls of the Vatican, from Iraq to the Holy Land, southern France, Egypt, and beyond, join Branson and Jones in a race against time to uncover the most shocking truth ever known. Perfect for fans of Robert Langdon and Indiana Jones!

I had the honor of being interviewed by THE BIG THRILL, the publication of International Thriller Writers, about KILLING JOHN THE BAPTIST. The interview will appear in the November issue. To welcome new readers, I’m offering the e-book of the first Nicholas Branson novel, THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS, at the discounted price of $0.99 for a limited time. Here are purchasing links for both books:

 

Killing John the Baptist: A Nicholas Branson Novel–Book 2

Available at:

Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2grAbIo

Barnes & Noblehttp://bit.ly/2hBuvvb

iBookshttp://apple.co/2hX0dmC 

Kobohttp://bit.ly/2yYx3hL

Smashwordshttp://bit.ly/2itpd8N

 

The Brothers’ Keepers: A Nicholas Branson Novel–Book 1

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.

Available at:

Amazonhttp://amzn.to/2yahXnL

Barnes & Noblehttp://bit.ly/2qSAVIL

iBookshttp://apple.co/2yGeNs5

Kobohttp://bit.ly/2yEWFxa

Smashwordshttp://bit.ly/2zGFjQL

 

I’m also holding an Amazon giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle copy of THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS. For those interested in winning a signed paperback copy, I’m hosting a Goodreads giveaway.

I want to thank all the readers out there who helped make THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS a bestselling thriller. I also want to thank Nancy Schumacher, Caroline Andrus, Lynsee Lauritsen, and Lisa Petrocelli at Melange Books, and the wonderful people at Bookbub, particularly Tyrone Li, for taking a chance on the book.

I hope you enjoy the Nicholas Branson novels!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 24, 2017 at 6:03 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , ,

The Value of Indy

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Autumn Scenery by photoangel / Freepik

 

 

I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies. My preferences have changed over the years, but what’s changed even more is my perception of the entertainment industry, especially as it’s evolved over the last several years.

There was a time, and it wasn’t very long ago, when the only books and movies you could read/watch came from mainstream media—publishers like Random House and HarperCollins and film giants like 20th Century Fox and MGM.

What’s happened over the past several years is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, there has been an increasing centralization of the book and film industries. The playing field has shrunk to a handful of huge multi-media conglomerates, which now own the biggest entertainment companies. At the same time, the self-publishing revolution and the widespread availability of easy to operate cameras have opened the market to books and movies that otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

The results have been mixed. The good news is that more people can shoot movies and publish books than ever before. The bad news is that more people can shoot movies and publish books than ever before. The quantity of books and movies has certainly increased, but often at the expense of quality.

To me, the real value of indy (including both individual efforts and those of small companies) books and movies lies in their depiction of viewpoints often marginalized or ignored by mainstream media. We have much more of a choice now than ever before when it comes to what we read and watch. This is an extremely powerful and positive development.

Buying/watching well-done indy entertainment is as much a political statement as growing your own food. Don’t let the giant media conglomerates dictate what you see and read. There is a whole world of perspectives out there. Try indy; you just might like it!

———————————————————————————————————————-

P.S. I’m hosting an Amazon giveaway for Kindle copies of The Brothers’ Keepers, the bestselling first book in the Nicholas Branson series. Please enter for a chance to win and please feel free to share the contest with others!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - October 17, 2017 at 6:51 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , , ,

Goodbye, My Love by Maggie Tideswell

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Mom2

Roxanne’s Ghost Saga, a new mystery series from internationally acclaimed author Maggie Tideswell, is set against the stunningly beautiful backdrop of modern day South Africa. It is a compelling ghost story of identical twin sisters’ love for the same man, and the magical connection the women share.

And the theme?  Nothing is what it seems.

Here, we move into the realms of the mists of time that could either reveal or conceal.

Book 1, Goodbye, My Love, sets the scene. It introduces country vet, Ben, his four-year-old autistic daughter and the would-be nanny, Jessica James. Jess’ interview with Ben for the nanny position takes place on Friday the 13th. An attraction between the two is immediate, which by all accounts isn’t entirely normal.

Ben’s three oddball sisters-in-law descend on him for the anniversary of his wife Roxanne’s death. They try to convince Ben that Roxanne isn’t dead, more than likely to put an end to whatever might develop between Ben and Jessica. But Ben knows that no one could have survived what led to Roxanne’s death.

His daughter, diagnosed as autistic, only sometimes does she display the symptoms that led to her diagnosis. Autism is not a disease, it’s a condition. A condition with symptoms that can’t be turned on and off at will. So…what is the child really suffering from?

Ben’s wife’s twin sister, Millicent, is accompanied by an over-board caricature of a psychic to Ben’s home in order to help them find Roxanne. Of course, Millicent isn’t happy to find Jess already in Ben’s house—trouble is imminent. But only as far as Ben’s ancient housekeeper, will allow her to. What does the housekeeper know that will keep Millicent’s ruffled feathers under control?

More importantly…

Where is Roxanne?

 

Cover - Goodbye, My Love

 

Chapter One

Does anyone live here?

The house looked deserted, kind of spooky. Jess couldn’t see any other houses nearby. Sally had not been kidding—this was a rather isolated place.

Dilapidated outbuildings behind the sprawling house looked as unused as the house itself. Some sort of creeper covered most of the buildings except the house—it looked far too fragile to bear the added weight.

There were what looked like turrets on each end of the house, and a domed one in between. That might be a skylight. Jess worried her bottom lip. What century was this place built?

Lightning played over the majestic mountains behind the house, silhouetting it against the darkening sky, but down here in the valley, the late sun cast long shadows over the overgrown garden.

It all fit so well with Friday the thirteenth, because this was creepy. What had she been thinking? She should have postponed the interview until Monday. One weekend surely wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.

Jess studied the map on her tablet, which she held propped up against the steering wheel. This could be the right place, but she had thought that about both the previous two places, and neither had turned out to be Weltevreden. Neither had been as eerie as this place, either.

No, this couldn’t be it. Tapping her finger against the edge of the tablet, she studied the house again. This whole thing smacked of a Friday the thirteenth Sally-prank.

Sally, her bestie since high school, ran a very successful employment agency. The professional image notwithstanding, she still loved pranks of any kind—she would never outgrow them.

Her eyes had lit up that morning when Jess sat in front of her desk, mugs of coffee steaming on the polished wood between them. The platter of doughnuts had been for Jess’ benefit. Sally and her perpetual dieting.

“Something different,” Sally mused, tapping her pen against her front teeth, then pressed a button on her laptop, and reached for the sheet of paper the printer spewed out. “This might be just the thing. It came in just now.” She’d tossed her platinum curls over her shoulder, grinning at Jess.

Another thing Sally would never outgrow, her Barbie-doll looks.

“It has my name on it, then.” Jess leaned her forearms on Sally’s desk. “Tell me, tell me, tell me.” She grinned back, barely able to contain her excitement. “Does it involve a man?”

Neither Sally nor Jess had found their Mr. Full Potential yet, although both had been ready for wedded bliss, the kids and the house in the suburbs thing, a long time ago.

“As a matter of fact it does, but he doesn’t seem to be in the market. It says here that a nanny is required for a four-year-old autistic girl. Dr. Arnold specifically requested that only older women be put forward for the position.”

“How old-fashioned. Where is this job?”

“In the Wellington area.” Sally frowned at the monitor.

“There you go. He won’t find anybody qualified to work that far from Cape Town. It is his child, I presume?”

“It is, but do you seriously want to give this a go?” Sally looked worried as only she could. It went with the Barbie look.  “I’m intrigued. What kind of doctor is he?”

“A veterinary surgeon. And a widower, it says here. That is all the information I have for you, I’m afraid.” Sally sat back in her chair. “I shouldn’t disregard so specific an instruction, Jess, but just this once, I’ll make an exception. Then it’s up to you to change his mind for him. It’ll be in his own best interest in the end.” She passed an information sheet across the desk. “I’ll tell Dr. Arnold to expect you at four. I’d pack an overnight bag if I were you. Call me, okay?”

Now, sitting in front of the house that might or might not belong to Dr. Ben Arnold, Jess didn’t feel all that confident anymore. And it didn’t really sound like a prank, unless Sally had kept some information to herself.

There was only one way to find out, and that was to knock on the door and ask.

If there was anybody in the house to ask.

Switching the engine off, she consulted the rear-view mirror to apply some color to her lips and pat her shoulder length bob into place. She took a moment to admire the rich auburn color in the late afternoon sunshine and sighed.

I don’t know about this. It was a long way from Cape Town.

What did people do around here for fun?

Trying her best to ignore the goose bumps on her forearms, she opened the car door and stepped out. Her heels sank into the gravel, her shadow stretching all the way back to the gate.

Only when she turned toward the house did she see the man sitting on the top step in the shadows, his shoulder against the railing, one knee pulled up with his arm resting on top of it. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and it looked as if his feet were bare, too.

Was he there a moment ago? Why didn’t I see him?

Smoothing her palms down her red pencil skirt, she started toward the house and the man on the steps. If he wasn’t Dr. Arnold, maybe he could give her directions.

Taking a deep breath, Jess reminded herself that she wasn’t superstitious about this Friday the thirteenth nonsense. People liked to scare themselves with the silliest things. What was supposed to happen on this day? It was a day like any other.

That certainly looked like a real man on the steps. He wasn’t going to bite her. Today being a Friday and the thirteenth meant nothing, but now that she’d thought of it, the idea would stick with her like the taste of garlic.

Leaving the car door open for a quick escape should she need it, she’d gone no more than a few steps when she heard something other than the crunch of her shoes on the gravel. It sounded suspiciously like a dog whining.

She slowly turned her head, curling her fingers into the fabric of her skirt. It couldn’t be a dog. She hadn’t seen any dogs when she drove through the gate.

I don’t do dogs!

Her breath hitched in her throat when she saw them. They were right next to her car, beside the door she’d deliberately left open, a whole pack of them. Their lips curled away from their teeth, their tongues lolling out the sides of their mouths, dripping saliva onto the gravel. Yellowish eyes watched every move she made.

Where did they come from?

How many were there?

They cut her off from the safety of the Fiesta!

Now she had only one way to go—into that house. Why hadn’t that man called them off? Why wasn’t he helping her?

Slowly, making no sudden moves, she took another step toward the porch. The dogs followed her. Her heart hammered against her ribs. Another couple of quick steps toward the house. The dogs did the same. She broke into a trot, her scream shattered the still of the afternoon.

Missing the first step, she stumbled, recovered her balance, and took the rest of the stairs two at a time. The dogs were on her heels, whining and yelping, their breaths hot on the backs of her legs.

Just as a sharp whistle rent the air, but looking at the dogs, she careened into the man before the noise had even died down. Her momentum sent them both crashing to the floorboard. She landed on top of him, but with the dogs all around them, she hid her face in his neck. Another whistle— right in her ear—made her cringe, but the dogs were gone.

He lifted his head off the floorboards to glare at her, his hands at her waist, as if he was about to lift her off him. Stubble covered his jaw, his lips pressed into a tight line. A muscle jumped in his cheek. He dragged his eyes out of her gaping blouse to meet her stare.

They had to be the greenest pair of eyes she’d ever seen, and he was clearly not amused.

Then she noticed how much leg was exposed by her skirt bunched around her hips and she quickly scrambled to her feet, pushing her skirt back down her legs.

“Sorry,” she muttered, her face on fire. She couldn’t bring herself to look at him, but from the corner of her eye, she saw the stranger slowly unfold himself from the floor. Up and up he went, until she felt him looking down at her. Even in her heels, the top of her head barely reached his nose.

With fists on his hips, he glared at her. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she lifted her chin and stared back.

Despite her bravado, she was intimidated and she had no idea if she had reason to be. She didn’t have a clue who he was. For all she knew, he was a vagrant taking advantage of an abandoned house.

She quickly looked him up and down, hoping he wouldn’t notice. A vagrant—looking like that? This man looked too strong, too well-fed, and clean, to be homeless. He smelled good too, of soap and sunshine. Wide shoulders tapered to a flat stomach and slim hips in a pair of well-washed denim cutoffs. The button was undone and the zipped half down. And he had a hard-on!

Jess swallowed with difficulty, forcing her eyes to the garden. Maybe he was the gardener or something.

If he was the gardener, he wasn’t very good at it, judging by the state of the place. The flowerbeds were overgrown with weeds, and grass seeds reached for the sky. With a bit of care, it could be a rather pleasant garden.

Her attention whipped back to the man when he spoke. “What’s wrong with you, woman? Those are lap dogs.” His voice was deep, the timbre vibrating on her skin. “They thought you were playing with them.”

She’d forgotten about the dogs. Erections did that to her, they made her forget everything else. She took another look at the animals. There were only four of them, and now that they were at a safe distance and there was a man on hand whom they seemed to obey, they didn’t look all that fierce, or even very big. By panicking, she’d unnecessarily gotten them both in a rather embarrassing situation.

The veranda was shadowed, despite the lightning dancing over the mountains, yet the peeling paint was clearly visible. She should ask this man for directions so that she could be on her way, but at that moment her nose itched and she sneezed instead. She just barely managed to get her hand across her nose. The dust from the floorboards, and she most likely had it all over her face now. She needed to freshen up before she met with Dr. Arnold. Rubbing her hands over her face was probably making matters worse.

“Bless you,” the man said, his jaw clenched. “Explain yourself.” Fists planted on his hips, his bare chest rose and fell. Jess’ fingers itched to test the contours more fully before she realized that the man was actually angry.

Who was he? And what was he so angry about? Knocking him over had been an accident, which he could have avoided it if he’d controlled the animals sooner. His annoyance didn’t stop him from giving her a thorough inspection, though.

Barely suppressing the urge to stamp her foot, Jess snapped, “Those animals should be locked up.” The hand she pointed at the dogs was streaked with dust. Dropping it, she rubbed at the smudge with her other hand.

“They were, until a few minutes ago. When the visitor I expected didn’t show up, I let them out again. Who are you and what do you want?”

“How rude!” Jess gasped. “Do you welcome all visitors half naked?” His arousal was disturbing her.

“Uninvited visitors never come into the yard,” he growled. He knew she knew about his condition. “That’s what the clinic entrance is for. And I’m not half naked, I’m shirtless because I took it off when my visitor failed to show up for her four o’clock appointment. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot. If you’re Jessica James, you’re way too late—”

“The directions weren’t very clear,” she interrupted. “I got lost.” Hesitating only a moment, she stuck her hand out to him. “You’re Dr. Arnold?”

He ignored her hand and question, reaching instead for the shirt draped over the railing behind him and shrugged it on. Doctor or not, the man has no manners.

Buttoning the shirt, he leaned in closer. “So, it’s my fault you can’t follow a set of simple instructions? Look, miss, you might as well go back to wherever you came from. The position has been filled. Good day.” He started to turn away.

“What? When? I had an interview for this afternoon!”

He glanced at his wristwatch. “You missed the appointment. You wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway. Sorry for the inconvenience. It was nice meeting you. Goodbye, Ms. James.”

She noticed his eyes on her lips as he dismissed her. “Just a minute. You’re going to disregard my application because I’m a few minutes late? I have excellent credentials, and the agency—”

“Had been told that only older women need to apply.”

“So you’re dismissing my application because of my age, is that it?”

“Yes. And you’re more than a few minutes late. The appointment was for four o’clock sharp, and it’s nearly six now. Take your gripes up with your agent, Ms. James. Your timekeeping actually has very little to do with it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, you’re wasting my time.”

Jess narrowed her eyes. “I pity the person you’ve employed, if that is in fact the truth. You are a very rude man,

Dr. Arnold.”

He wasn’t exactly what she’d expected—in his early to mid-thirties and attractive, in a wildly blond caveman kind of way. And hot.

If only he had some manners.

It had sounded quite romantic when Sally first told her about this position, but the reality was far from romantic. She didn’t need this man or his job, and especially not his erection. There had to be other positions available in Cape Town. Sally would find her a good job, with interesting work. She would get into her car and drive away without a backward glance.

Not being given a fair interview had nothing to do with Friday the thirteenth. A damp gust of wind blew her hair into her eyes as she turned toward the stairs. It had everything to do with him being turned on by her.

Jess remembered the dogs when they jumped to their feet, tails wagging.

She froze, clutching her skirt. They might be small, but they were dogs. They had teeth. Damn it, she was going to need his help to get back to her car. Gnawing the corner of her mouth, she glanced at him. Would he help her, or would he cross his arms and enjoy the spectacle from the veranda?

Before she could do anything, the door behind them creaked open and pale, gnarled fingers curled around the edge of the wood. Jess took an involuntary step closer to the doctor, goosebumps covering her entire body, her hand to her throat.   Oh, God.

 

About the Author

Maggie lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with hubby Gareth. Over the years she’s worked in everything from nursing to catering, and then she started writing love stories. With three kids, a girl and two boys, and eleven cats at that time, life could become quite interesting.

The paranormal, things that happen for which there are no logical explanations and ghosts, are of particular interest to Maggie. What events in a person’s life would prevent that person from ‘resting’ after death? The ‘Old Religion’ is another special interest.

And love, of course. Why do people fall in love? What keeps them together for a lifetime when so many relationships fail?

For more on Goodbye, My Lovehttp://tinyurl.com/n2ko8u4

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - May 29, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

What is Our Role as Fiction Writers?

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What is Our Role as Fiction Writers?

I used to ponder the utility of fiction. My view was partly predicated on my training as a political scientist, but it was also because I found non-fiction much more interesting than any made-up story. A majority of my reading for the past several years has been non-fiction, and I often prefer documentaries to movies and true-life crime shows to murder mysteries.

But I write fiction now, and so unless I concede that what I write is useless, which I can’t or won’t do, then it must be the case that made-up stories have some real-world significance. The question becomes just what form that takes.

But before attempting to answer the question of just what the role of a writer is, two points are in order. First, I’m only considering writing that is meant for public consumption. Second, the categories discussed below are not presented in any particular order, nor are they meant to be mutually exclusive.

In order to figure out our role as writers, we should first try to understand why people read fiction in the first place. One reason, perhaps the most popular, is entertainment. Another reason is to better understand the thoughts, experiences, beliefs, and psychology of others. Some might find that reading fiction also increases their creativity. Finally, people might turn to fiction as a way of learning about different things. This is especially true of historical fiction, as some folks find reading straight, non-fiction history a veritable snooze-fest.

There are countless other reasons why a person might pick up a novel, but these will suffice for now. So getting back to our original question, what is our role as fiction writers?

First and directly related to the above, we are storytellers and providers of entertainment. The value people place on escaping from reality is enormous, as evidenced by the astronomical incomes of the top entertainers in our society. While this is particularly true of actors and sports figures, authors like Stephen King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rowling have incomes that would make Midas blush. Consequently, some argue that our role as writers is to entertain the most people we can, as measured particularly by book sales and incomes.

This is perhaps the most popular role of the fiction writer, but there are others. Some writers consider increasing awareness and understanding of a particular character/viewpoint crucial. I attempt to do this in Conversations Among Ruins, where the male protagonist is dual diagnosed (i.e., suffers from a mood disorder and chemical dependency), a perspective/illness not often portrayed in novels. Presenting the viewpoints of underrepresented voices in fiction can help increase understanding of marginalized peoples. Understanding can promote empathy and empathy is one thing I believe can help ameliorate our increasingly atomized society.

This leads to my last point. I think that one of our most important, and currently neglected, roles as fiction writers is to take part in the societal debates that shape our times. In the past, great novels often had sociopolitical implications—think Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 1984 by George Orwell, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and, more recently, Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

If we look at popular books in recent years we see that most of them have little to do with reality: The Harry Potter books, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. I’m not saying that all books should take on important issues, but I think the fact that so few do is an abdication of an important role of the writer. This is especially true in these divided times, where, regardless of your beliefs or political stance, being a well-informed citizen is crucial.

Fiction has a way of reaching people in a way that non-fiction doesn’t and can be an important tool in raising awareness and promoting discussion of critical topics. I think we as writers almost have an obligation to do so.

What do you think?

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Posted by Matthew Peters - April 4, 2017 at 8:10 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , ,

Prodding the Paranormal: Take 1!

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I’m thrilled to have one of my favorite authors as my guest today. Heather Fraser Brainerd writes in a variety of genres, including paranormal mystery, Young Adult paranormal romance, and Middle Grade fantasy. All of her work contains a hefty dose of humor. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading and reviewing all of Heather’s work and I can only say that if you want to treat yourself to some truly humorous and well-written reads, look no further than her books. Her Amazon author page can be found here.

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I interviewed Heather awhile back about her writing (which you can read here), but today’s interview is a little different. In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve become fascinated with ghosts and UFOs, and asked anyone willing to share any personal, paranormal experiences to contact me. I was delighted to hear from Heather, who informed me that she used to live in a haunted house and that she’s currently studying mediumship. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview her, so I did.

Now let me preface this by saying that I’m not one who takes belief in things like ghosts lightly. I’ve been conducting a rather serious investigation into various aspects of the paranormal over the past year, and I have to say that with regard to certain phenomena, the best possible explanations often lie outside the realm of conventional science. I’m increasingly convinced that there are things we simply can’t explain scientifically, at least not yet. I think how only a few centuries ago we thought the sun revolved around the Earth and how only a little over a hundred years ago people laughed at the idea of a flying machine. And forget anything as preposterous as landing a person on the moon!

But I’m the last person to try to convince anyone of something they don’t or can’t believe in, so I’ll leave it at that. I should mention that another topic which I’ll be investigating soon is how people form and change their beliefs (or don’t). I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I sincerely doubt political posts on Facebook have any affect! In any event, and without further ado, let me introduce the wonderfully talented Heather Fraser Brainerd!

 

Welcome, Heather, and thank you so much for joining us.

It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting me back.

 

How did you get interested in the paranormal?

For me, the paranormal has always been, well, normal. From the age of 10 to 18, I lived in a house that had once been part of the Underground Railroad. I’d have the occasional sighting, or other sense, of Spirit. I’ve also, from a young age, always had strong intuition. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to really trust this sense. If I’d followed my “gut” all along, I’d have saved myself some heartache! But then, heartache is part of the human experience, isn’t it?

If you don’t experience heartache, I don’t think you’re truly alive. I like what you said about the paranormal—how it’s always been “normal” for you. I was thinking today that the term “paranormal” relegates belief in things like spirits outside the normal, which makes them sound strange or weird to begin with. Maybe a better term is “parascientific.” I think there are several phenomena conventional science simply can’t measure or explain. Science is one way to look at the world, but I think there are other equally valid ways to do so. Do you agree?

I completely agree, and I love your word “parascientific.” I might borrow that one!

You’re more than welcome to 🙂

 

Please tell us more about your experiences of living in a haunted house.

For the most part, it involved simply feeling a spiritual presence from time to time, or seeing shadowy human forms. There was one occasion, however, when I saw the distinct figure of a young man across the room from me, standing by a window. He was dressed “old fashioned,” as I thought of it at the time. He was not threatening or scary in any way. In fact, he brought with him a sense of peace. I’m wondering if that could have been my first encounter with a spirit guide.

As an interesting side note, a book about the house I grew up in was written several years ago. The author’s uncle owned the house before my family purchased it, and he’d spent a lot of time there over the years. His book is a ghost story, a scary one. It tells a very different tale from my fond memories of the house. I can’t exactly recommend the book, as it was self-published (not that that’s a bad thing) and apparently didn’t receive the attention of a professional editor (which is very unfortunate), but it’s interesting that his take on the haunted house was so vastly different from mine.

House

I have to say I’m really excited about your experiences! Some people report seeing spirits that are smoky and rather transparent, while others see full-bodied apparitions. Which way did the figure of the young man appear to you?

He was somewhere in between – I could see him as if he were standing right there in front of my window, but I could just barely see the window through him.

I’m always amazed by how many people have had experiences with spirits—in fact, every culture throughout history has expressed such experiences. Do they think that lends validity to them?

Absolutely. As part of my Anthropology studies, spiritual matters were a common theme. Perhaps, on some level, that’s what drew me to the field.

 

What exactly is mediumship?

To me, it is simply the ability to receive messages from those who have passed on. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept, but have only started to study it over the past year. This involves taking classes conducted by an experienced medium and reading lots of books on the subject. Though I initially rejected the idea, I’ve started to accept that I have this ability, at least to some degree. I’ve received specific messages, from certain spirits, that were later confirmed. I’m not here to convince anyone of my credibility, but those messages proved to me that I was truly receiving information from Spirit. Since I’ve always been my own worst critic, accepting that this ability is real has been a challenge.

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Can you tell us a little more about the classes you’re taking? Also, can you share a specific message you received that was later confirmed?

In the classes, we learn how to ground ourselves, how to meditate and open to positive Spirit (as well as how to protect ourselves from negative energy), how to interpret spiritual signs (such as animal signs), as well as any other topic that occurs to any of us! It’s a very open-discussion setting.

Speaking of signs, as I sit here typing this, my mother texts me a picture of my 5th birthday. I’m sitting at the table, a pretty pink cake before me, and my grandfather is standing behind me with his hands on the arms of my chair, protectively. His spirit is often with me. I think he approves of this interview.

As for a specific message… okay, this is something I haven’t shared with more than a handful of people, so I’m being quite brave right now. Last summer, while meditating, my grandmother’s friend came to me – a woman who’d just passed about four months prior. I didn’t recognize her at first, as she looked to be in her fifties, younger than when I met her. Once it clicked and I knew who she was, she showed me a man in a hat or cap. He was entering an alleyway. The words “avoid the dark alley” came to me, and I knew that the man was her grandson. I honestly didn’t know what to do with the information. I’ve never met her grandson. We have a mutual friend, but he would’ve thought I was nuts if I said, “Hey, could you tell him his dead grandma said to avoid the dark alley?” Plus, I didn’t know if the alley was literal or metaphorical. I tried to send the grandson the message while meditating, but either he didn’t get it, or chose to ignore it. A few days later, he went down a literal dark alley and something rather bad ensued. He’s okay now, thankfully, but I feel strongly that his grandmother was trying to protect him.

 

What do you say to people who think the paranormal is only for the credulous?

As you said in your intro, I’m not trying to convince anyone of something they don’t believe. After my early experiences with Spirit, I put all such things on the mental back burner for a long time. But early last year, my mom casually mentioned that she and my sister were going to an introduction to mediumship class at “that barn place.” I was instantly intrigued, feeling called to join them, despite the fact that it was the dead of winter and I really just wanted to stay in my cozy house on that cold, blustery evening. I went to the barn – Soleil Wellness (click here for their website) – and felt like I’d found my tribe. I’ve been taking classes there ever since – not just mediumship, but everything from meditation to Reiki training.

And maybe I am just being credulous, but mediumship makes sense for me. I have epilepsy, which is essentially excessive brain activity. Perhaps the fact that my brain is “wired” differently makes me more open to messages from Spirit.

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I love what you said about how mediumship makes sense to you. I think that’s what life essentially boils down to: finding a worldview that makes sense to us, and hopefully realizing that other worldviews, as long as they don’t hurt anyone, are just as acceptable as our own. Have you ever encountered skepticism regarding your experiences and beliefs?

Matt, your thoughts on worldviews really resonate with me. Wouldn’t the world (and Facebook) be a much nicer place if we all embraced that idea? And no, I haven’t encountered skepticism, because I’ve kept this aspect of my life very private. But, during a Winter Solstice celebration, I received this message from the Universe: “Now is the time to share your uniqueness to the world. We need your gifts.” So here I am! Thank you for allowing me to share.

 

What’s next for you in terms of reading, writing, and mediumship?

As for reading, I alternate between novels and books on spiritual and metaphysical topics. On the writing front, my brother/co-author Dave and I have the fourth book in our José Picada, PI, series due out later this year. And in terms of mediumship, I’d like to join a development circle. I’m also studying to become a Reiki Master, and am enjoying every step of my spiritual journey.

I can’t wait for the next José Picada book! Would you please share some of your favorite books on spiritual and metaphysical topics?

Thank you! This book will wrap up the series, so we’re excited to share it.

James Van Praagh’s Heaven and Earth is an excellent introduction to spiritual and psychic gifts. I also like The Spiritual Power of Empathy by Cyndi Dale. For a light-hearted, approachable book on the “basics” of mediumship, try Theresa Caputo’s There’s More to Life Than This. I particularly like the section at the end that is from the point of view of Theresa’s ghost writer (never was a literary term so accurate).

Thanks again for hosting me!

It’s been my pleasure. Please come back soon. Also, please keep me informed of your writing projects and your experiences with Spirit. I have to say the more I hear such experiences from very credible people such as yourself, the more I know the universe is a lot more complicated than I once thought.

Thanks for reading! If you have any personal, paranormal experiences you’d like to share, please contact me. All the very best.

Photo by Rich Brainerd (http://richbrainerd.com/)

Photo by Rich Brainerd (http://richbrainerd.com/)

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - January 16, 2017 at 5:50 am

Categories: Paranormal   Tags: , , , , , ,

Some Thoughts on the New Year

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First things first: Happy New Year! I wish you peace, joy, and love this year and always, as well as much creative productivity.

happy-new-year-picture

I’ve made some resolutions for this year. How about you? I have about half a dozen. They include things like eating healthier, exercising, writing more, those sorts of things. I think I’m going to work on incorporating them one at a time, though, because otherwise I’ll get overwhelmed.

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One of my resolutions is to blog more often. I know I need to do a much better job of staying in touch. So this is me, trying to keep my resolution.

I’ve also made a decision concerning the content of this blog. I began it as a blog on dual diagnosis, writing, and author interviews. I still want to do those topics, but I also want to expand the focus to include interesting information I come across while researching (including stuff on early Christianity), interviews with agents, editors, and publishers, and the occasional book review. Recently, I’ve become fascinated by such things as ghosts/hauntings and UFOs, so I’ll blog about those topics as well. If you’ve ever had any experiences with the paranormal that you’d like to share, please contact me.

ufo

In terms of writing projects this year, the second novel in the Nicholas Branson series should be available by September. I’m also going to finish researching and start writing the third book in the series, so the time gap between novels isn’t too large. Finally, I’ll be writing a book on the history of the Russ House in Marianna, Florida, located near the site of a Civil War battle that took place in September of 1864. Allegedly, the house has its share of paranormal activity, and I look forward to exploring it and writing about my experiences.

I should also add that my role as a writer is becoming increasingly clear, or maybe it’s just been reinforced over the past few years. I am committed to writing stories that make people think, and that include views and perspectives not often seen in the (mainstream) media. I intend to write more about this, but for now I want to finish up this post so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something 🙂

Thank you so much for all of your support, my friends.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - January 5, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Categories: General Thoughts   Tags:

The Real Magic

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The Real Magic

Guest Post by Bob Atkinson

When invited to contribute to the 7 Blogs series, I considered memories, humorous anecdotes, and any number of other ideas. What came to me instead was a passage from the novel I’m currently writing. As Christmas Eve is nearly upon us, it seems especially apropos. I hope it touches you.

He reached down to the bottom of the bed and felt around in the darkness until he encountered the filled stocking he knew his father had left there. Then he reached over to his brother’s side of the bed and located his stocking, reassuring himself that one was no bigger than the other.

He knew what was in there. The sole bulged with the inevitable apple and orange. In the heel he could make out the unmistakable shape of a pink sugar mouse, that little jaw breaker which only seemed to appear in the shops at this time of year. There would be a handkerchief, or something equally useless, then something that felt like a pencil case, or perhaps one of the packets of Edinburgh rock his mother had brought with her on her last trip home from the hospital. At the top of the stocking would be the usual chocolate hollow Santa Claus.

Individually there wasn’t a lot there on which to base the special magic of Christmas Eve…

Read More…

 

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Bio:

Bestselling Author Bob Atkinson writes time-travel/alternate reality novels set in the magical Scottish Highlands he calls home. His first two books, The Last Sunset and its sequel Red Sky in the Morning, predict a very different America, had the Scots beaten off the English in a great deciding battle.

 

Contact Bob:

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Goodreads

Website

 

castle

 

This concludes the 7 Must-Read Holiday blogs series. We hope you’ve enjoyed it!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 23, 2016 at 5:56 am

Categories: Guest Post   Tags: , ,

The Year Our Christmas Tree was a Chair

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The Year Our Christmas Tree was a Chair

Guest Post by Shaila Patel

As Christmas memories go, mine probably hint at the same nostalgia and youthful excitement as most of yours, with maybe two important exceptions. One, my parents are immigrants from India, and we aren’t Christian—although that didn’t stop us from celebrating. And two, holiday dinners didn’t resemble anything close to what I’d seen on A Christmas Carol or the Brady Bunch. No goose, turkey, or ham. Not even fish. Our everyday menu usually consisted of Indian vegetarian food, and as I got older, special occasions called for the only meat dish my vegetarian mom ever made: Onion Chicken Curry. My sisters and I never failed to drop everything and ruuuun to the kitchen for dinner!
(I suppose this is where I need an I digress—not really my style, but you get the picture.)
Because of TV, school, friends, and co-workers, Christmas became a hodgepodge of this is what you should do and this will be fun for the girls and don’t let them feel left out. Ever the eager parents, they purchased a tree, strung lights, and bought into the idea of Santa like it would help us get into Harvard one day…

Read More…

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Bio:
Shaila Patel writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Her debut novel, SOULMATED, releases on January 24, 2017 (Month 9 Books) and won the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Paranormal Awards for Young Adults.
You can reach out to her online at:
Facebook page: http://bit.ly/2btIJLK
Goodreads SOULMATED page: http://bit.ly/2aX5aJU
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/ZonSpSM

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 22, 2016 at 5:56 am

Categories: Guest Post   Tags: , , ,

The Turkey That Almost Wasn’t

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The Turkey That Almost Wasn’t

Guest Post by A. J. Lape

My fondest memories of the holiday season revolve around the tradition of simply being together—like drawing names with relatives and friends, hiding behind the couch to watch my mom wrap presents, getting a bag of candy from church, white elephant gifts, and trying to dodge a turkey tryptophan coma. It’s hard for me to nail down one memory, but when I was asked to participate in the Holiday Blog Hop, one particular holiday stuck out. It was Christmastime a few years back. My husband and I had both our families over for the holidays along with some of our dearest friends. We divvied up the menu between us, and my responsibilities included the biggie—the cooking of the Christmas ham and a holiday bird. Sounded easy enough…right? I mean, you put a ham in the oven and with a turkey you just follow the directions. Anyway, my husband bought a twenty-one pound turkey at Costco (love that place) and a Reynolds Wrap roasting bag. Only a moron could screw that up…

Read More…

 

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Website: http://www.ajlape.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ajlape

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorajlape

Fan Club & Street Team: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ajlapestreetteam/

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Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6576193.A_J_Lape

Amazon Author Link: http://amazon.com/author/ajlape

 

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 21, 2016 at 8:03 am

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