~ Vincent Van Gogh
Archives for November 2013
Happy Thanksgiving to everybody in the U.S. (and Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate)!
This year, among other things, I’m thankful for friends and family and all the fantastic people I’ve been fortunate enough to ‘meet’ online as well as in person. I’m also immensely grateful for the opportunity to do something I love that’s so rewarding. And, last but not least, I’m happy to wake up every morning alive and kicking, because the alternative wouldn’t be any fun at all 🙂
Carol Wyer’s going to be on BBC Breakfast Tuesday talking about her new book, Grumpy Old Menopause!
Carol Wyer’s going to be on BBC Breakfast Tuesday talking about her new book, Grumpy Old Menopause!
Today on Awesome Authors it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Sister-in-Crime member and bestselling romantic suspense writer, Donnell Ann Bell! Donnell and I have known each other a long time, having been members of the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), a sub-group of Sisters-In-Crime. Donnell grew up in New Mexico and has a background in court reporting and non-fiction writing. She’s also acted as coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier writing contest put on by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, which I had the good fortune to judge a few years back. She currently calls Colorado home.
Extra: Donnell is giving away a book to one lucky commenter today, so tell us something fun or leave a comment about the interview and you could win your choice of one of her fabulous romantic suspense novels 😀
(From the author’s website): Donnell Ann Bell is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart® from Romance Writers of America® in their unpublished formats. Also, in October Deadly Recall was nominated for an EPIC Award in the Suspense/Thriller category. Her third release, Betrayed, from Bell Bridge Books is now available (November 18, 2013). Her website is www.donnellannbell.com
DV: Hi Donnell! Thanks for being here 🙂
DV: Tell us about your latest release, Betrayed.
Donnell: Thank you. As I wrote above, Betrayed is my third release from Bell Bridge Books and this book, too, is written around my theme of SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME and the places I’ve lived. All my books are stand alone, but they revolve around the places I’ve lived, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Betrayed takes place in Denver. I write cop protagonists who encounter very strong women.
DV: You mention on your website that your debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was inspired by a country song. What else compels you to write?
Donnell: I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished. In The Past Came Hunting I was overwhelmed that a young girl who goes off with her bad news boyfriend could wind up in prison after being charged as an accessory to armed robbery and murder. This bothered me so much that I had to make things right and give this poor girl her own happy ending.
I wrote an entire book after listening to a breaking news story about a man gunned down on the New Mexico capital steps. These kinds of things don’t happen in Santa Fe very often. I was on my lunch hour at the time and had to go into work. That night I watched the news broadcasts, I scanned newspapers but I couldn’t find out why that man had been killed. As I said, his story was unfinished, and it bothered me. I wrote my first book based on that breaking news story. If an idea resonates with me and I don’t like the ending, or can’t find the ending, I’ll finish the book.
“Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.”
DV: Gotta hate an unfinished story 🙂What was your road to publication like?
Donnell: Long 😉 I started writing fiction in 2001, and used that time to hone my craft. I never seriously submitted because I didn’t feel I was ready. In 2005, I felt I was close with Walk Away Joe. In 2007, Walk Away Joe finaled in the Golden Heart. Deadly Recall finaled in 2010. In 2010, my agent and I parted ways. My manuscript was on a New York publisher’s desk, but I was so impressed at RWA National with BelleBooks aka Bell Bridge Books, I decided to submit. I loved Deborah Smith’s response to my query. She said, “Hey, this sounds good. Send it. Send Deadly Recall, too.” I did and I’ve been more than happy I did.
DV: Your books have an overarching theme of the past influencing the present—either from suppressed memories of witnessing a murder as a child, or from making bad choices as a teenager. Will your next books continue that theme? What motivated you to explore this subject?
Donnell: Oh, great question. Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first. And I think our childhood shapes us. The book I’m working on now has to do with cliques. I’m not a fan. I also detest bullies. The tentative title of this book is called The Follower, and guilt will swamp my heroine over a childhood decision she makes that gets another killed.
“…everything’s better with deadlines. I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉 “
DV: What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write?
Donnell: I try to write every day, and generally write the first draft in Greg shorthand. (Yep, I’m that old <g>) Then I transcribe in a clean notebook, and eventually transfer it to the keyboard. This helps because by then I have a comprehensive manuscript that is basically draft 3. I have to get away from the computer to write and not get sidetracked by social networking. I learned with the advent and now the onslaught of social media that I have ADHD. I tried typing straight from the keyboard, but kept checking e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t be trusted so I stick with my trusty notebook.
DV: Totally get that, Donnell 🙂 Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?
Donnell: Oh, everything’s better with deadlines. I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉 I’ve worked without them, but I kept editing and didn’t move very fast. Is a book ever perfect, D.V.?
DV: Nope. Never 🙂 How much research do you do when writing your books?
Donnell: Probably as much as you do, given what we write. Gosh, it’s amazing how much I don’t know. I’ll get on a roll and have to stop to check a fact or learn about a career, or check police procedure. I find that every thread I create leads to more research. Research follows me from draft all the way to the completed project. I’m never done and I’m always double checking because technology is changing at such rapid speed.
“I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished…”
DV: In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you think the publishing industry is headed?
Donnell: I think self-publishing has opened doors for writers and readers. I think it’s shown traditional publishers that readers don’t want the same ol’ same ol’ and that is a huge blessing. I’ve always written out of the box and I’m grateful my publisher took a chance on me.
I think self-publishing is making agents broaden their scope, and publishers take notice of self-pubbed authors to see how they fare. Unfortunately, I don’t see publishers taking chances on debut authors as much, and this worries me. I see a lot of writers publish before they’re ready (in my opinion.) As I said above, I studied and entered contests to gauge whether or not my manuscript was ready. It took me years, and the learning process was well worth the wait. It’s tempting to put our work out there, but even though I came from a nonfiction background, when it came to writing fiction, I had so much to learn.
DV: What advice would you give to new writers?
Donnell: It’s so tempting, but don’t rush. Learn craft. Study The Heroes Journey, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, enter contests to get feedback, and read, read, read. Join a qualified critique group, and if writing is your passion, enjoy every minute. Don’t believe every “rule” is gospel. If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue. For every expert that tells you to do it a certain way, there are successful authors who prove him wrong. Every writer develops a process. Do what works for you.
DV asked for an excerpt from my November 18, 2013 release, BETRAYED. So I’ll just say thanks again, and hope your readers will check out BETRAYED. I had a lot of fun writing it.
Most of the team respected Kinsey and wanted to play. And since she’d issued the unpopular decree, members of the male persuasion had tapered off. But Cara had one beau who was certified trouble. He was notorious for lurking in the distance. He showed up constantly, much like the tall dude in baseball cap and sunglasses on the hill.
“He one of yours?” Kinsey asked.
Cara shaded her eyes and stared off in his direction. “I wish.”
Kinsey kicked Cara a practice ball. “Work on your dribbling. Be right back.”
Trudging up the incline, prepared to set the kid straight, Kinsey stopped midway up the hill. This was no high school student she was about to face. This was an adult male watching her team. He was too young to be one of their parents, and at the thought of a potential predator scoping out her girls, she pulled out her cell phone and prepared to call security.
“This is a closed practice,” she called moving upward. “My players are on my clock now, so you’ll have to leave.”
“What if I’m not interested in the players? What if I prefer the coach?” the wise guy asked.
Much like Cara had, Kinsey shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun. She squinted some nice features into focus and stopped walking. “Nate?”
“Hi ya, Kins.”
She gulped in disbelief. She’d spent much of her high school career pining over this creep, and all he had to say to her was, “Hi ya, Kins?”
“I’m working. Is there something I can help you with?”
He pulled aside his hand, revealing a badge clipped to his belt. “Maybe. I’m here on police business.”
An odd sense of disappointment clutched at her chest. Somewhere she’d heard Nate had become a cop. Of course he hadn’t had a secret crush on her all these years, awoken this morning, and come to his senses.
Really, Kins, he can still get to you? She’d been tied to celebrities, a man running for Congress had proposed. Not that she’d accepted. She was still incensed about Griff’s engagement ring comment in front of the Continental Miracles CEO.
Her inner lovesick teenager disappeared, and the unbendable coach returned. “Does it concern one of my players?”
“It concerns you, Kins.” He waved an arm around LBHS’s wide open space. There weren’t a lot of students on campus after hours, but there were enough. “Out here probably isn’t the best place to talk.”
DV: Thanks for stopping by, Donnell. Good luck with your new book!
Donnell: Thanks so much for having me!
DV: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Donnell is giving away a book (reader’s choice) to one lucky commenter, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask her, or if you’d just like to share your thoughts on the interview, comments are open!
I’ve been noticing that more things than usual are pissing me off lately. Most of the time when something pisses me off I write a book. Say, like when I watched a documentary on child sex trafficking and was so appalled I had to set the anger free by writing Bad Traffick. Or when I learned about the escalating violence of drug cartels and how they’re pretty much ruining life for a whole lotta folks in Mexico and beyond and all they really care about are how they look in a selfie on Facebook. And, of course when women perpetuate the whole “I need a man to become complete” myth, or, better yet, when one of us sets feminism back hundreds of years in one fell swoop (Fifty Shades of WTF anyone?).
But lately, there’s just been too much and really people, I can’t fucking write that fast.
Rant #1: Here in the US our politicians can’t figure out how to be politicians, or, you know, grow up and actually govern the country. And, they get paid a lot of money to act like schoolyard dickwads, not to mention enjoying paid-for-by-the-government health care (cue the irony theme). When I look at the leaders for both parties I can’t help but get a mental picture of two spoiled little white boys with snot running down their noses and sucking on their bottom lip in a pout because the other side won’t play by their rules. Waaah.
Rant #2: How celebrities like Miley and Kim and Paula Deen can suck the life out of the headlines when there are people in the Philippines who don’t have any clean drinking water or medical supplies and how hundreds are dying because we can’t get supplies to them fast enough.Or when people are selling their kidneys so they don’t have to live underneath someone else’s squalid shack.
Rant #3: And, the ever present fact that the only thing large corporations are concerned with is the bottom line, e.g. profits, screw being honest or neighborly or even giving a rat’s ass about their customers. Don’t get me started on how most corporations treat the environment, not to mention a whole lotta people who either just don’t get it, or don’t care. One earth–capiche????
And yes, I’ve been a daily meditator for several years now and should be able to relax and be all ohm and shit, but some days I. just. can’t.
The latest thing that set me off was an article about how a percentage of writers in the US avoid using the Internet to research certain subjects because of fears of the NSA spying on them. Seriously? What the hell happened to the proud tradition of writers bucking the system? Of being subversives? Of fighting back? When I read that article it pissed me off to the point that I had to do something, so I went to the pool and swam laps. Hard. I stopped (mostly) self-medicating years ago and swimming is now my go-to release. It took the edge off, but as I sit here at my computer I can still feel a flame of anger flickering in my gut when I wonder, if what these writers were doing was legal and for research, why anyone in the US would remain silent because they were afraid of a government agency watching them?
That’s so unbelievably scary, I can’t tell you. That tells me that Americans are becoming afraid of their government. My first response to the article, other than anger, was to assume these writers were wimps–scaredy pants, namby-pamby (insert wussy word here) milquetoasts who would jump if someone said boo.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my knee-jerk reaction (love the ‘jerk’ part of that saying) of calling these folks whom I don’t know wimps was wrong. I’m a HUGE proponent of fighting back: if you’re being attacked, however that attack is being carried out I believe it’s your responsibility to fight back with all you’ve got. Yes, there are some times when you need to pick your battles, but in general, fight the asshats trying to keep you down.
But this is different. This avoidance of using the interwebz goes deeper than that. Now we all know the NSA has overstepped its bounds, and has done so probably since its inception. But it hasn’t really affected most law-abiding citizens in a quantifiable way. However, when I hear or read that writers in the US are modifying their behavior because of fear of retaliation from the government, that makes me sit up and take notice. Mainly because I consort with a lot of writers, and almost every one of them has a least a modicum of rebelliousness in their bones and will do whatever in hell they want to. Some are nice about it, some aren’t. Some go the passive-aggressive route and act nice but end up doing some seriously un-nice things. But I’ve never heard one of them say they were afraid of what the government would do to them, unless what they were doing was illegal. But here’s the results of a poll of 520 writers where 16% admitted to curtailing their online activities because of fear of the NSA.
My friends will tell you that yes, I’m opinionated, but am certainly not given over to hyperbole or conspiracy theories. I understand writers/journalists in China, or Iran, or Mexico being afraid–death or torture is a real possibility in those countries. But the US is supposed to be different. Americans are supposed to be different. It’s a slippery slope to censorship and clamping down on freedom of expression. I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but it does give me pause.
I’m really interested in what people think about this. Is this some paranoid delusion rearing its ugly head in response to me killing all those little brain cells so many years ago, or do we need to be a little more vigilant, a little more aware of what’s happening in our world?As the article I mentioned above states, “It’s not the surveillance, treacherous as it is, but that some writers, at least, already appear willing to capitulate.”
In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “…we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Today on Awesome Authors, please welcome prolific mystery author, Marilyn Meredith. Marilyn writes two different series with which you might be familiar: The Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and, writing as F.M. Meredith, The Rocky Bluff P.D. series.
(From the author’s bio): Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Dangerous Impulses from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
D: Hi Marilyn! Welcome to Awesome Authors. Please tell us a little about yourself and what you write.
M: I live in the foothills of the Southern Sierra (CA) near a place much like where my heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. I lived many years by the beach in Southern California which was the inspiration for my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.
I raised five children, have eighteen grandkids (raised some of them too), and now thirteen great-grands. I’m still married to the cute sailor I went on a blind date with years ago and when I’m not writing, we enjoy doing things with our family, and we’re avid movie goers.
D: How long have you been writing? Have you always written mysteries?
M: It seems I’ve written all my life—beginning when I was a child, however my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother. Though I wrote all through those years, I didn’t start sending manuscripts out until later, after the child rearing, PTAing, Camp Fire Girls, and many different jobs.
D: Tell us about your latest release. What was your favorite part of writing the book?
Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.
Though there is often a touch of the supernatural along with a mystery, Spirit Shapes is full of all sorts of otherworldly beings as well as Native American lore—and always a favorite of mine to write about.
“…I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other.”
D: What inspires you and why?
M: All sorts of things inspire me from all sorts of challenging weather to meeting a new and interesting person who might end up as a character in my book. I also love to hear people tell tales about their encounters with haunted places and ghosts. As for my other series, I know a lot of police officers and I am definitely thrilled to listen to their stories. The inspiration always leads my imagination on a new path to write about.
D: What do you find most challenging about writing two series? Why?
M: The most challenging is that I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other. Writing each one is easy because there are so many differences between the two. The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is written almost always from her point-of-view. Most of the action goes on in the mountains or on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is about many officers and their families so is written from several different points-of-view. The location is a beach community in Southern California. It’s like putting on a different mind-set for each series. One thing that helps me is I write the Tempe series as Marilyn Meredith and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F.M. Meredith. It’s a bit like changing my persona when I change author names.
“…my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother.”
D: Tell me about your process: do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
M: A tad of both. I always begin by thinking about the new characters I’ll be introducing whether it will be the murder victim or those who wanted this person dead. Or perhaps I’ll decide to do a different way of presenting the crime and what kind of twists I might use. I start making notes about what I want to happen. Most of my stories take place over a short period of time, so I start making a daily calendar. On Tuesday this happens, etc.
When I begin writing, the story starts telling itself. Ideas come in a jumble and I always write them down otherwise I’d never remember. And of course, when I think I’m through, I have to go through and make sure I’ve tied up loose ends and not left anything out.
D: What do you like best about writing mysteries?
M: In my mysteries, though not all the personal issues may be completely tied up, the bad guy or gal always is discovered in the end. Unfortunately, real life isn’t always that way. I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil, no matter what form it might be in.
“I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil…”
D: Do your books have an underlying theme or message?
M: When I’m writing, I don’t think in terms of theme or giving a message, though sometimes when I’m done I realize that I have. One of the early readers of Spirit Shapes said the story left her feeling hopeful.
D: What advice would you give to new writers?
M: My first advice is to not talk about writing or what you’re going to write, but put your bottom in the chair and write—and write—and write. Second one is to never give up. No matter how many rejections you get, learn from them, rewrite and keep on learning and submitting. (I received nearly 30 rejections for my first book that was finally published.)
D: Which writers have influenced you the most?
D: What practices have you found to be most effective in promoting your work?
M: I love blogging and going on blog tours—when I go on a tour my sales go up. But lately Facebook has also been effective. Also when you go to a mystery convention, I like to find readers and make friends with them. Some of them actually buy my books.
D: If you could time-travel (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?
M: If I could take with me what I know now, I’d go backwards enough so that I’d handle my writing career a bit differently. I’d learn more about writing first. When I thought my work was done, I’d find a good editor. Once I was published, I’d do lots of promotion.
D: I like it—always committed to the craft 🙂 . Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Marilyn. Good luck with SPIRIT SHAPES.
Below is an excerpt for Marilyn’s latest release, SPIRIT SHAPES. For more information about the author, please see the links after the excerpt.
Excerpt from Spirit Shapes:
The icy atmosphere settled over Lorna Collins like a shroud, the spirits already making themselves known even before she stepped inside. She shivered but smiled. The haunts in this place, the Wilkinson House, should please her group of ghost hunters. The last two places she’d guided these enthusiasts had been a bust.
The evening began perfectly. Everyone arrived a few minutes before nine. Low clouds settled over the mountains. Looming up from atop a hillock, the two-story structure peered at them through darkened windows. The only light came from flashlight beams as the ghost hunters approached and climbed the rustic steps created from railroad ties.
Lorna gathered the group on the porch to give her instructions. Each person who came on this ghost hunt had been required to read and sign an agreement. The first rule was to keep an open mind. Participants could bring cameras and audio or visual taping devices. Phones could be on, since many used the cameras in their cells, as long as the ring tones were silenced. There were other rules, such as carrying proper identification in case someone noticed the lights in what was known to be an unoccupied structure and sent law enforcement to investigate. Since all other houses were located at least a half mile away, Lorna wasn’t worried about that kind of interruption.
“The quieter we can be as we move around, the more likely we are to hear or be able to tape any strange noises or voices. You can take as many photos as you like. There are two types of spirits we may encounter. One, someone who was alive at one time and has remained on this earthly plane for some reason. The ghost might not realize he or she is dead. Or perhaps it may have some unfinished business. These spirits could be good or bad, depending on what kind of person they were when they were alive.”
A slight murmur rose from the group.
“Don’t worry. They aren’t dangerous. You might also witness what is called a residual haunting. This is an echo of something that happened at another time.” Lorna paused. “I am obligated to tell you that though I’ve yet to encounter this kind of spirit, there are those that were never human. They are malevolent and some might call them demons.”
Again the group whispered among themselves.
“Because of that unlikely possibility, we’ll take a few seconds to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. If you are a religious person, say a prayer of protection.” Lorna bowed her head and counted to ten. “Okay. Here we go. Explore to your heart’s content.”
To buy Spirit Shapes in all formats directly from the publisher:
And of course, it’s available on Amazon.