Thursday, February 23, 2012

Violets Are Blue- this is no cutesy fairytale!

Carrie Green has a unique style of writing that brings an element of humor to the horror. The story begins and you find yourself at the farm. You can hear the rustling of the stalks as you run through the corn field with the young lovers, Sarah & Todd. The newlyweds are quite sweet, but you quickly realize that all as not as it appears.

They had just been married in a no-nonsense civil ceremony. With no honeymoon in sight they moved directly in to the musty old family farmhouse that Todd shared with his mother.

The mother- in- law was not happy, and made no attempt to hide it. In fact, the only things that seemed to make her happy were her son and her bizarre penchant for creating mutant violets. She and Todd had run the farm for years- with the exception of his time away at college. But that was over and he was home where he belonged…with his mother.

Sarah had dreamed of a warm mother-daughter relationship with her new mother-in-law. She learned very soon, that this was not to be. What starts out as minor annoyances escalates to threatening behavior that now feels sinister. Her husband was no help- he refused to believe his mother was anything but perfect. Mama’s boy.

And in the end the lines blur and you cannot point out the monster.

Carrie Green Interview

K: Do you have a mother in law that lives on a farm? 

C: Nope, but the farm does exist, as does the family cemetery.  The cemetery was my playground during my childhood summer visits to the farm.  I was also horribly attacked by chickens when I was three or four years old.  There was a hen house with a tiny opening, sort of like a tall dog house.  I was small enough to crawl in.  It was a dark space with shelves on all sides that held nesting hens.  I stood up in the center and the hens all dove down at once on top of me to protect their eggs.  It scarred me forever--probably why I write horror today.

K: You must still have nightmares about those chickens. That is really heavy.
Your books are big hits and I can see why.   If you could offer one piece of advice on how to promote your book, what would that be?  

C: My one piece of advice is to cross-promote with other authors.  Many can accomplish much more than one.  It's easy to do, just start clicking on links on Twitter. 

I suggest downloading free books on Amazon then follow the authors that you enjoy; comment on their blogs, write book reviews, offer guest posts, be open to interviews, and Retweet book links and amusing tweets.  I promote other authors with greater frequency than I promote myself and that is how it should be… 

There are authors on Twitter, usually bestselling authors, who refuse to follow anyone back (but will send a Direct Message with a link asking you to buy their latest book).  That is not how you engage in Social Media.  They should just shut down their Twitter accounts, if they won't follow back, RT, and become part of the online community.

K: I just found out about  #TeaserTrain.  It sounds brilliant.  Would you care to share a bit about that?

C: The #TeaserTrain Twitter hashtag was the idea of Kellianne Sweeney.  She's a Woman's Lit author that I followed, regularly commented on her delightful blog, and RT'd her blog links.  Back in December of 2011, she tweeted asking if any authors were interested in exchanging teasers.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, too, and immediately responded. 

We went on to recruit a group of other authors to participate.  If you want to increase your blog traffic, #TeaserTrain easily doubles or triples your Internet visitors.  We hope eventually, by exposing our books to similar readership through other authors' blogs, that it also will lead to more book sales. 

We're always happy to add more participants, j
ust contact myself (@CarrieGreenBook) or Kellianne Sweeney (@KellianneSweene) via Direct Message, with your email address.  There is no cost beyond the commitment of your time every Thursday to tweet about teasers and to host a teaser once a month.

K: I really aspire to your style of writing.  You really "show" rather than tell.  Has your writing evolved over time or was this always your natural style?

C: It's probably a combination of both my natural style and working on it, over time.  I think that I did have some genetic help in that I have a couple generations of journalists, writers, and poets in my family.  Creativity was highly valued—I turned out to be a writer and my brother is an artist.  I had my stories edited by my grandmother (a traditionally published novelist and freelance writer) when I was a child and she wasn't gentle about it.  She made lots of corrections, she took it very seriously, but that is how you learn.

K:  I would love to do a little exercise with you. I did this with Sevastian Winters and it was powerful.   I will give you a scene and you have to re-write it in your dazzling style : ) Here it is:

I felt the hot sun shining on my face as I started to wake up.  It was really bright.  I could hear birds singing- really clearly- like I was outside. My head was pounding and my mouth felt like sandpaper.  I finally opened my eyes and found myself on a chaise lounge, outside, in the courtyard.  

"What the hell?"

I looked around.  Sharon and Dante were a few feet away- on the ground- half naked; passed out.  Ryan was flat on his back on the bar and Kirk was slumped in a bar stool with his head on top of Ryan's crotch.  As I tried to piece together the events of last night, I stood up and felt a wave of nausea.  I started walking towards the bar for some water.  Just then I saw him and my heart starting pounding so hard I could hear it.  It was Spike and he was floating face down in the swimming pool.  My chest started to hurt from the crazy pounding.

"What the fuck!"

C: OK, my edited version (this is really more about editing than writing):

The sun was hot on my flesh, burning my eyelids, so that I saw a glare of white tinged with pink.  I turned, trying to shade my eyes.  Some fucking, annoying birds were tweeting, all happy-like, keeping me from my slumbers--nearly as loud as the pounding in my head. 

My mouth felt like sandpaper.  I gave up trying to sleep and finally opened my eyes.  What the hell?  I found myself on a chaise lounge, outside, in the courtyard. 

Sharon and Dante were an arm's length away, curled up on the ground, half-naked.  Clearly, they must have passed out.  Ryan was flat on his back on top of the patio bar, an arm dangling, and Kirk was slumped on a bar stool.  His head was pillowed by Ryan's crotch. 

I rubbed my eyes, trying to piece together what had happened last night.
I stood up and felt a wave of nausea, everything ached.  I turned my head.  I saw him out of the corner of my eye.  It was Spike.  He was floating face down in the swimming pool.


K: That is fantastic! I love how you made that come to life. Thanks so much for the interview. I am looking forward to reading your new book, ‘Walk A Lonely Street’ when it comes out!

You can reach Carrie and read her books here:

For a sample of Violets Are Blue click here

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A New Approach-The Simple Easy Diet

Life Coach Examiner Judy Zerafa has published an excellent book that takes a different approach to weight loss.  'The Simple Easy Diet' can be read in one sitting.  Judy is able to get directly to the point-very quickly. She writes concisely and provides a brief, but thorough explanation of her topics.

With all the diet books that offer food plans that vary from the extreme to ridiculous, it's refreshing to find a book that gets to the root of the problem. This is an exercise in self-exploration. Judy illustrates some key points and strategies that make sense and are easy to incorporate.

Twenty years ago Judy started her research by interviewing 35 incredibly successful people. She asked them one question: What do you think you know...that you think nobody else knows...that has allowed you to succeed to the degree for which you've been honored? Seven attributes kept coming up, as she interviewed the 35 people. With a closer look, it became apparent that 30 of those people spoke exclusively of three of these attributes. With this knowledge, Judy designed her seven strategies:

Strategy number one: Look for the good.

Strategy number two-If there is something about yourself or your circumstances with which you are not happy, take action to make things better.

Strategy number three- If you are confronting a situation you cannot change and do not like, focus your attention on finding a benefit from it. 

Strategy number four- If you don't have time to go through the first three strategies and decide which might work best, create a feeling switch to instantly change your attitude from negative to positive.

Judy demonstrates the importance of positive habits and how the subconscious mind has more power than your conscious mind. Also, how your actions are consistent with the images created by your repeated thoughts, feelings and accepted perceptions of yourself through others. Positive habits earn the respect of others and give you an increased level of confidence and self-esteem.
The book provides some valuable tools, including the 'ladder of emotions' and a technique using 'change cards'. These are very personalized, so that you can address your own goals and dreams.  Here is a link to Judy's website.

 Enjoy : )

Judy Zerafa picture

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The famous Sev Winter- review, interview & writing exercise!

As a fiction writer, I am always looking for ways to improve my craft.  This book by Sevastian Winters is a guided tour on how you can produce a good, self-published book from start to finish.  I have read several books on self editing, but none spoke to me like this one. 

Let me start by telling you that after reading Sev's advice on book covers in one of the first chapters, I had to put the Kindle down.  I immediately went to work on my book covers and changed them. 

I went back to the book read some more.  I learned about what he refers to as, "12 disciplines".   These "disciplines" are probably mentioned in many other books.  The difference is this:  The writer uses his own techniques in his book, therefore captivating his audience.  This is when I decided to go back to my first published book and make some major changes.   Now I could see that it really lacked in some areas.
Sev is an extremely creative writer and luckily he shares his secrets on how to come up with fascinating plots.   His own personality comes through and adds a dimension of humor that is refreshing.

I finished reading Sev's book and decided I needed to read it again. This is an excellent guide that I will refer back to- time and time again.

Interview with Sevastian Winters

I can say, without hesitation, that your book changed my life. Is this the typical reaction that you're getting?

Wow! That’s quite an endorsement. I am beside myself with joy that you found it helpful. If I had but one reader who felt that way on every book, I’d die a satisfied man.

As to whether that response is typical: Oh, God, no! LOL… I think most people are actually surprised I can put a decent string of thoughts together without eviscerating anyone too badly. I sort of have a well-deserved reputation for being a bit of a jerk. (No joke) I don’t mean to be, but I am passionate about what I do, and I tend to be as hard on myself as I am on others. When I read my stuff, all I see are the mistakes, and I make plenty of them!

I said in the book, that I am not an expert….just a guy that’s done my homework. This is really a “take what you can use and toss the rest” sort of book. I think if anything, what I bring to the table is a sort of no-nonsense, in-your-face version of truth that refuses to allow writers the courtesy of being patted on their back for “doing-their-best.” Sometimes in life, doing your best isn’t good enough, so you just have to do better. This book is about that. I’ve said many times that when it comes to writing, I’m all Simon Cowell, and not at all Paula Abdul. No one doubts that Simon knows his shit, but that analogy cuts both ways though. Simon never performed on a best-selling album.

Responses on this book have been few and far between. Of the 800 or so copies that are out right now (of the 800,000 or so I’d prefer), I’ve only had about 10 responses, thankfully mostly positive. (By the way, this book makes a lovely gift for friends. ;-))

You speak about character development and getting to know your characters, intimately.  You feel very strongly about being true to your characters.  You encourage writers to "just go there'.  I have taken that advice and I believe it added great value to my storyline.  Do you think there's a danger of people going too far?

There is, in film making, a metaphorical and magical little room where a sleazy, but brilliant little man known as a film editor works. His floor is littered with clips that may be excellent, but which don't belong in a movie. Why? They don't actually aid in the presentation of the story. It's not that the camera is out of focus, or that the microphone picked up garbled dialogue. To the contrary, a lot of what ends up on the cutting room floor is masterful work. It simply doesn't belong in the story. I think that's a good metaphor for my answer.

In my book, Wolf's Rise, for example, I wrote a controversial scene in which a young woman is gang-raped. I brought the camera into perfect focus and adjusted the microphone just right. The scene was truly evil, but in the process of deciding what to leave on the floor of my author cutting room, I lopped off the scene right before actual physical penetration, and then picked the story back up, in the next sentence, three hours later, wherein – with the same, perfectly adjusted camera and microphone – I wrote the aftermath of the things I didn't write.

There is no such thing as “too graphic,” any more than there is such a thing as a camera that is too focused. But there is such a thing as “inappropriate to the story.” I'm not talking about what’s inappropriate to the readers' delicate sensibilities. The reader doesn't actually matter to the process. I'm speaking of the story. Any scene or part of scene that doesn't serve a direct purpose in moving the story forward, should be cut. Most readers know the difference between gratuitous violence, and story-telling. One of the tough things about being a writer is being honest enough with one’s self to cut out really great “footage” when it doesn't move the story along. But again, you don't write it with an out-of-focus camera. I hope that answers your question.

When did all of this first come together for you? Was it an "A-HA!" moment?

It’s been a series of ongoing “A-HA” moments. Just the other day, I wrote a guest blog about just such an “A-HA” moment that I experienced only last week. I titled it “Nitpicking with Sevastian Winters: A ‘Sudden” Problem’” Click the link to read about it.

When does one stop practicing to play the guitar and start, instead, to play it? It's impossible for a professional, dedicated to excellence, to distinguish the two. So I stay absorbed in learning craft as well as applying it to the best of my ability. Craft is not something a writer learns once, but rather, for a lifetime...that is, if they want to be any good.

If you could take one piece of wisdom out of the book- what would that be?

Simple: “...the single most important component to excellent books is everything.” I know that and still, I often fail. If you were to ask Tiger woods to choose what's most important for a new golf pro to focus on –   the drive, the putt, a determination to win, or the ability to gain endorsements –   his answer would surely be “yes”. It's all important.

With Indie publishing paving the way for new authors to find recognition more quickly, comes a greater need for excellence than ever before. The gatekeepers used to be agents and publishers. Bypassing them doesn't change the rules though. We have a new gatekeeper... the reader, and if you think agents were tough on you, just remember: An agent never blasted you publicly for failing to deliver on your promises! You won't be the next Dean Koontz by selling books to your social media contacts. The only way to gain success is to sell books to the friends of your social media contacts, and for those friends to then tell their friends. They have no vested interest in doing so. So you'd better damn well be excellent enough to warrant it.

How do explain the best selling phenomenon with writers like John Locke and Amanda Hocking?

I've actually taken the time to read books by both of these authors. And I can tell you this: To lump them into the same category is to lump Gary Busey into the same class of actors as Al Pacino. John Locke doesn't give himself much credit, but he's an infinitely better writer than Amanda Hocking.

Now to actually answer your question: The biggest factor in their success was that they got there first. No one else thought to seize the opportunities the same way they did. The early bird got the worm.
Secondly, they wrote. Locke, for example, did virtually no marketing until he had five books to his credit. That's the thankless part, where you're all alone – without a bazillion social media contacts patting you on the back – investing time that you're unsure will be worth it, writing stories you love, in the hopes that others will do so too. They didn't finish a story and demand their glory. They finished their stories and started new ones.

Thirdly, they wrote candy. These aren't great books that will stand the test of time. They're just little pieces of candy. Granted, John writes caramel nougat and Amanda writes candy corns, but it's all candy, nonetheless. Who doesn't love candy?
My LupoSapien Project series is candy. The TroubleMaker is meaty. My short stories jump back and forth. And How I are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author is a tour through my kitchen. Candy sells the best.

I know you have taken some heat for some of your more graphic and violent scenes. But, in the book you encourage people to be true to their characters. Any regrets? 

– Not a single one. If a reader experiences my story viscerally, even to the point of utter disgust, I've done my job as an author. Some people think it's an author's job to play God. It's not.

It’s an author's job to document the truth of the characters. We are cameras, microphones, and film editors. Ours is to capture fully, what the focal characters see, what they say and hear, and then to clip out those “bit of film” that don't serve to move the story forward.

When we get into graphic sections, we have to capture the emotion, but we capture it with a camera and a microphone...not by pussing out, or by glossing over it. A reader should rub his or her own thigh, because the focal character just took a bullet to his. Smart writers understand, as I did in the graphic scene for which I took some heat, that the emotion is what matters. The scene in Wolf's Rise, that everyone is whining about 
-- the gang-rape scene I mentioned before -- is followed by the immediate aftermath, but again, I never show the rape itself. That happens in the reader's mind. I didn’t want to tantalize perverts who dig rape fantasy, by devolving into deviant porn, but by the same token, I refused and will always refuse to puss out on showing the emotions that both precede and follow that horrific violation.

Do I have any regrets? Yes: I regret that we live in a world where such pain is so often inflicted on women, and where such a scene in a novel would invoke those sorts of painful memories (I'm only presuming, not outing anyone) and emotional upheaval that my scene invokes. But do I regret the writing? Not even for a nanosecond.

Sev, can I run something by you?  I would really appreciate your feedback. This is a scene that I'm working on for my next book:

I felt the hot sun shining on my face as I started to wake up,.  It was really bright.  I could hear birds singing- really clearly- like I was outside. My head was pounding and my mouth felt like sandpaper.  I finally opened my eyes and found myself on a chaise lounge, outside, in the courtyard.  

"What the hell?"

I looked around.  Sharon and Dante were a few feet away- on the ground- half naked; passed out.  Ryan was flat on his back on the bar and Kirk was slumped in a bar stool with his head on top of Ryan's crotch.  As I tried to piece together the events of last night, I stood up and felt a wave of nausea.  I started walking towards the bar for some water.  Just then I saw him and my heart starting pounding so hard I could hear it.  It was Spike and he was floating face down in the swimming pool.  My chest started to hurt from the crazy pounding.

"What the fuck!"

Sev's response:

Add more conflict. For example:

The sun burned against my cheeks and beckoned me to offer it my eyes -- so it could burn them too. 

I refused. 

A starling screeched nearby, as if choosing allegiances with the object of my disdain. Then my head joined in the fight, pounding me with familiar mantra. Wake up. Wake up Wake up.

Fuck off, Morning!

It was no use. I tried to swallow, but my tongue was sand. I opened my eyes and wiped the gravel from them. They stung. I squeezed them shut and took a breath and willed them open through the pain. I looked around me to find I'd slept in a chaise a courtyard. I struggled to remember how I'd gotten there...
"What the hell?"

(See where I'm going?)

In the next section "half-naked".... What does that mean? Which half? What's hanging out? Draw me a picture. I wanna' see. Is it sexy? No? Show me! 

You are so GOOD!!!  I can't believe you came up with so quickly.  That's incredible.

It's just a matter of slowing the world down and sorting out what matters. 
Everything is a conflict. For example, right now, you are becoming mindful of your chair, the pressure against your ass…because I just told you to. Now, you're about to shift in your seat, but don't know it, because until this moment, you haven't given much thought  to how sweaty your bum crack is...and you're gonna' shift to convince yourself that you've relieved it of a problem you didn't even know you had 10 seconds ago. 

(Okay- There was some discomfort- but no sweat ; )

How's that sweaty spot under your ring treating you? Better twist it. ;-)

How did you know??

We are unaware of the conflict that constantly surrounds us. As authors it is our job to point it out. There is a yin to every yang. We love the cushy feel of sinking into our recliner, but how does the cushion feel about that? How about the floor below?

So you're saying that in this short period of time you are able to slow your mind and focus on the story?  Have you always used this technique for writing?  Is it a form of meditation?

Nah... Just think it through and find the conflict. No... I didn't always do it that way. It's just a matter of learning craft. There are many who do it far better than me. 

You're very modest. But you are incredibly talented.  I want to thank you very much for this interview and also for demonstrating some of your techniques.  I know that you're going to help a lot of writers.

To buy the book click here.  To follow Sev on Twitter click here.
To visit Sev at this website click here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Emerald Cancer- takes your breathe away...

I just finished reading 'The Emerald Cancer' and it was quite a ride. This book was a thriller that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. But more importantly- for me at least- was the message that is revealed through the journey and becomes very clear at the end.
You quickly find yourself inside the heads of terrorists and the people who fight terror. Sometime the lines become blurred and you wonder if they are all terrorists- in their own way. The main characters are involved in the IRA and UK security services. However, you get a glimpse inside the people involved in the PLO and the Israeli conflicts. I have to say- it's not for the faint of heart.
In order to understand the making of a terrorist, you have to look at the experiences of their lives. In most cases this extreme hatred is born of violence and the subsequent drive for revenge. Mr. Wulme shows you these scenes, sometimes in painful detail. But this tells me that the writer has done his job.
You are introduced to these characters intimately. As you follow their lives it becomes clear what led them along their path. You begin to understand their actions and reactions. You may cringe at some of the ugliness and violence, but you cannot look away. You will be sickened by the depravaty, cruelty and the incident of bestiality. But at that point you will be so immersed that you will find yourself wanting revenge and cheering when it happens. And you will know, in the back of your mind, that although this is a work of fiction, much of it is closer to the truth than you might like.

And in the end, you realize that even bitter enemies have a common thread. Sometimes people become so caught up in the hatred and revenge, they fail to see the real enemy.

Interview with the author, David Hulme

David your book was extremely well written. I couldn't believe you wrote it when you were only 23! How did you become so skilled at such a young age?

As a young police officer I was asked to interview a 67 year old man about a car accident . He was called Eric Young, to whom this book is dedicated.  He was a very interesting man, an American who had stowed away on a boat from New York at the age of 15 to come and fight for England in World War 2.  He had masses of life experience which I, of course, lacked. Although four years policing had made me grow up extremely quickly.  I told him I had written a book and he offered to read it and give me some constructive criticism.  After reading “my book” Eric told me that I only had a draft with cardboard cutout characters that needed fleshing out.  He offered to read everything I re-wrote and help with the editing process.  I still remember him saying, “go away and re-write the first three chapters, make me feel for the characters, and prove to me that you can write and then I will help you.”  I listened to his advice, went home and completed the re-write as he had suggested.  Eric insisted that every chapter I wrote needed to be a story in its own right and that he should be able to pick up my chapters like a deck of cards, shuffle them and still read the book and understand the story.  He was also very particular about the motivation behind the characters actions which you spoke about in your review.  I remember him saying that you have to be a particular type of person to be able to kill another human being and you need to explain to your readers what has made your characters able to do such horrible things.  And so began a short but wonderful friendship/ mentorship which only ended when Eric died.  Unfortunately, he never got to see the finished product as he died with the book only half written.  What he had done though was equip me with the writing skills necessary to finish the book.

Mr. Young would be very proud of you. You were able to accomplish each & evey objective.
David, does this story have any connection to you, personally?

As a young man I was very limited in terms of finances to travel to exotic places to create an international story so I decided to use what I knew, places and people, to write my thriller.  I was fortunate, in that as a police officer I was always meeting different people, larger than life characters, who made great material for the author’s mill.  It enabled me to write about real people and places in a fictional context.  The mortuary scene is based on real life experiences and of course, I have encountered my fair share of death and dying which although not a pleasant experience, does add to the authenticity. 
I can speak confidently when I say that most people who read this will be begging for a sequel. Is there one in the works?

The short answer is yes, definitely, I’m working on it as we speak and really looking to explore further the strange relationship between Siobhan and Patrick.  I think it is important to explain to your readers and my potential readers why it has taken 23 years for me to write a second thriller.  I was absolutely, totally absorbed, addicted to writing when I wrote The Emerald Cancer but traditional publishers, although making very complimentary comments, were not prepared to take a risk with a new author in the early 90’s.  I also had two children under 3 and felt that after two years typing in the bedroom and two years of trying to get it published, it was time for me to give some attention and support to my wife and children and concentrate on my career in the police.  I kept my manuscript through the intervening years always promising to return to it at some point in the future.  Last September I inadvertently stumbled across the kindle self publishing link on Amazon which re-awakened my interests in The Emerald Cancer and see it published today.

I'm delighted to hear that we can watch for the sequal.  I can only imagine the future interaction between Siobhan and Patrick. And I can speak for all of your fans, present and future, when I say that  I'm so glad that you came upon Kindle!
Thanks you so much.