Read the blog post here: http://blog.smashwords.com/2013/07/smashwords-introduces-preorder.html
The Kate Jones Thriller Series, Vol. 1 ebook (Bad Spirits, Dead of Winter, Death Rites and Touring for Death) is on SALE for a limited time for only .99! If you haven’t read the first four novellas in this bestselling series, now’s your chance to get ’em, CHEAP 🙂 Here’s the description (buy links and Smashwords coupon code at the end of this post):
BAD SPIRITS (Books 1-5): Kate Jones is on the run with a backpack full of money, intent on finding her way back to the United States from Mexico. Unfortunately, a ruthless drug lord named Salazar is just as intent on finding her, retrieving his stolen money, and making her pay for ever having left him. Is there anyone she can trust?
DEAD OF WINTER: Kate Jones is hiding out in small town Alaska when she witnesses an execution-style murder. Convinced the killers are Salazar’s men and desperate to stop them from finding her, she reports the crime to local law enforcement, hoping to put them off her trail so she can escape.
DEATH RITES: When Kate has to leave Alaska (and Sam) behind, she runs to the last place she remembers feeling safe: the North Shore of Oahu. Against her better judgment, she re-establishes old connections, and soon faces a new problem in Alek, a gifted carver and avid surfer.
Then a brutal murder and theft of a priceless artifact from a museum is discovered, and Kate’s thrown into the middle of what appears to be a violent ancient sect come to life. Her only chance of survival is to rely on her wits…
…and the ancient gods of Hawaii.
TOURING FOR DEATH: Kate Jones is hiding out from her shady past driving jeep tours through the rugged high desert of northern Arizona, determined to stop looking over her shoulder and find peace from her mistake of a gun-toting, former life. Testifying against a Mexican drug lord and a dirty DEA agent didn’t turn out to be a life enhancing choice and she’s been on the move ever since.
Now, five years have passed with no sign of trouble and Kate’s finally starting to believe she’s safe. Her current goal is to make enough money so she can get lost in the tropics when the tourist trade dies off. Unfortunately, it’s the tourists that are dying off and she may be next.
“…Great story, fast-paced, quick read and all around fun!”
“…it’s a non-stop thrill ride…”
“…It’s fast-paced from the get go and the action continues through to the end. This is how I like my books!”
Now that Yucatan Dead’s up and running, I’m resuming the semi-bi-weekly Awesome Author interviews. Today’s guest is Aron Joice, fantasy author and animal rescuer extraordinaire. I came to know Ms. Joice through the indie network swirling around Indies Unlimited (www.indiesunlimited.com). If you have the chance, check out the informative blog–it has much to offer the indie writer, and the people who contribute and comment are some of the best folks around. So, without further fanfare, heeeeere’s Aron 🙂
D: Hi Aron! Thanks so much for being here. I’m curious: what made you decide to become a writer? Why did you choose fantasy as a genre?
A: I have written stories since grade school. I always had a vivid imagination, and told fantastic stories (mom called them fibs). I would get on a bus and pretend I was from France and couldn’t speak English, or I was a mysterious Indian princess. I believe I embarrassed her just a bit. She encouraged me to start writing my fantasies down and I did.
I absolutely love fantasy. My YA isn’t as sophisticated and adult as most. It really is for the younger person who loves magic worlds. Like many people I have faced some challenges where I didn’t think that I’d survive. It is a safe place for me. I have to say, I am also an avid mystery reader and devour cerebral thrillers. Fantasy is a place to escape.
A: Well, Vanished Book two in The Lost Children of Managrail series takes a turn from where Book one ended. The journey for the two young heirs continues and magic still abounds. Lila, heiress to the throne finally gets her act together and delivers. The entire trilogy is about complex male/female relationships. Throughout the story many have to make difficult choices realizing the end result could destroy someone they love. It is really about love and how it can heal and destroy.
I just love to write. I am a very visual person and when I write it is like there is a mini-me watching a movie of my thoughts. I even hear music. I immerse myself in the process. Yes, I’m certifiable.
A: Thank you. She is the sorceress from the White Realm, and a real piece of work. Richard K Green handled the graphic design.
D: Do you outline or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer? How long does it take you to finish a novel?
A: I’m more by the seat of my pants. I know how it will begin and I always know my ending. I give the characters free reign during the middle. I oooh a lot! I’m a sucker for action, and even though it’s fantasy, I try to make it believable
The first draft flows right along. I have never had a block where I couldn’t continue. I can finish the first draft and two rewrites in about 2-3 months, if I don’t get distracted. I love to garden and the weather is nice right now, so I’m bouncing back and forth. I do have a deadline, although it is self-imposed I want to meet it.
“It is really about love and how it can heal and destroy.”
D: What are you working on now?
A: Union Book three, the last in the trilogy. This will be a large book for me. I pray that I deliver what is floating around in my gray cells. I also have another book that I’m working on simultaneously which isn’t YA fantasy, but adult fiction based on current events. It is very different for me. I am excited about it, but it is real life and gritty. I will publish this under another name. My YA is very innocent and it will be a shocking difference in styles. I feel a responsibility to my young readers, and I want them to grow with my characters.
D: Give us a ‘day in the life’ of author Aron Joice.
A: Can you say BORING? I rescue animals that are abandoned, mistreated, and otherwise suffer at man’s hand. Before I have a cup of coffee their needs come first. Then breakfast, and I sit down to check my emails, and write. I’m doing very little social networking since the two books take up a good part of the day. I end every day by reading. It is the last thing I do except to say thank you for all the wonderful people I have met on my journey.
D: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: If I’m still this side of the grass, I’ll be writing. If the world calms down, I’d like to do some traveling. I was fortunate to have seen a good part of the world in my 20’s and 30’s. Somehow I ended up in many places where young men carried M-16s. As I said, “I like adventure.” It is scary out there, but I love learning from other cultures.
“I feel a responsibility to my young readers, and I want them to grow with my characters.”
D: Where do you see the publishing industry in five years?
A: Where is my crystal ball? You know things are changing daily. I keep up with most of it, but I’m not sure. There will probably be some fantastic digital improvements, maybe interactive e Books won’t cost as much to produce. I have been interested in that for quite a while. I hope we never lose bound books. It would break my heart; there still isn’t anything like holding a book and reading it, at least to me. Traditional publishing will be forced to change; in what manner I’m not sure. It is going to get very competitive. I believe the problem with most of the world is greed, straight across the board. It is in every walk of life, and big business? What can I say? There is more people writing, reading, and it is exciting. We have to cherish this gift and pay anything good forward. I interviewed a 12-year-old writer. I absolutely loved her. Her attitude and confidence put many an adult writer to shame. She is the future and if we can mentor the young writers, they will step it up.
D: What made you decide to go indie rather than traditional publishing?
A: I knew right out of the gate the chances of getting an agent or a traditional publishing deal were slim to none. I wanted to go through the motions, get feedback, learn, and keep moving forward. I gave myself six months to get an agent; if I weren’t successful I would approach the Indie Avenue. I was greener than green. I lucked out when I found some great blogs/sites and I am so grateful for what I gleaned from all of them. I’m still polishing, asking questions, and paying attention. I have so much respect for everyone over at Indies Unlimited; there couldn’t be a better family in which to belong. (Totally agree, Aron 🙂 )
D: What advice would you give to new writers?
Love what you do, or don’t do it. Believe in yourself, and be open to constructive criticism. Let the trolls roll off your back and pity them. Pay attention; know how important social networking is in the digital age. Find a family of writers who will treat you kindly, but be honest with you. If they can do that, the rest will follow.
The following excerpt is from Vanished: Book 2 of The Lost Children of Managrail:
He remembered their childhood in a series of flashes; even then she had the power to bend him to her will. On one hot summer day, she climbed higher up the mountainside, taunting him, laughing, beckoning him to follow, and he did. That was the way it always was and had been until now….
Standing at the water’s edge, Simian watched the longboats close in on Lila. It reminded him of a hawk circling a rabbit trapped in brambles. Escape for Lila was impossible, and he didn’t care to find a solution.
Managrail had fallen, destroyed by the Fergay. Whether it was by luck or providence, many survived. Now Dirth, a village by the sea, was home, and had brought new adversaries. Moments away from capture, Lila called upon the Light Bringers for help. The magical talismans answered and she vanished.
It is time for stories of old to be retold and a council of war to form. The White Realm and the sorceress have been waiting for one hundred years.
Instinctively, I wrapped my arms around my body. The air around me cold and still, I thought if I breathed too hard the sky would break into a million shards. Blinded by the absence of color, I tried to grapple with the starkness of my surroundings. Am I dead? Am I in heaven? That would be surprising, based on my recent behavior. Something about this place seems familiar…. Have I been here before? I remembered what the sprites had said about the White Realm when they rescued me. “Evil lives here and evil hunts for the lost.”
Well, right now, I definitely fit into the “lost” category. The White Realm. Is that where I am? I closed my eyes, sucking in the air, and heard muttering from behind me. I turned and found myself facing the bedraggled longboat crew cowering in fear. “I can’t believe this!” Just moments ago, inches from their grasp, I had disappeared into blinding rays of light shooting toward the heavens.
Now facing me, one man whispered to another, “She must be a witch. May all the gods protect us. How else did we land in hell?”
“Well, well, look who decided to join me. Now remind me, you planned to do what with me? Sell me into slavery? Tut, tut, not nice.”
“Please, lady, if we hadn’t followed our captain’s orders, we’d have been flogged or worse—keelhauled. If you are agreeable, we can be on our way. Everything forgotten?”
“To where, the sea? Can you guess where you are? For now, you stay with me, but don’t get too close,” I said, pointing my finger like a weapon. My bravado fooled them, but deep inside, I was a little shaky. I had no idea what to do. I thought I would somehow try to find a way out of this predicament.
Here’s the book trailer for The Rising: Book 1 of the Lost Children of Managrail:
To find out more about Aron and her books, click through the links below:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0076RXI1S/?tag=12169-20 (this link automatically goes to the Amazon store of the country you’re clicking from)
Today I’m excited to have prolific writer Jennifer Conner as my guest! Jennifer and I have known each other for years, ever since she left me alone on the fifth floor of a dilapidated old building during an earthquake here in Washington State in 2001…(okay, it didn’t exactly happen that way, but that’s what I like to tell people 🙂 ) She’s the person I credit with dragging me to my first writer’s group and urging me to get involved, something for which I can’t thank her enough. And, she’s an all-around terrific person who gives buckets back to the indie community. So now, without further ado, heeeere’s Jennifer…
D: Hi Jennifer! Thanks for joining us. Tell us a little about yourself and what you write:
J: I’ve been a professional author for eight years. I write contemporary romance, paranormal romance, historical romance and erotica. I have three full-length novels, 2 novellas and 30 short stories in print. I also help run an indie publishing company, Books to Go Now.
D: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
J: I’ve written since I was young. As I grew older, I wanted to feel passion about something. Writing was that for me.
“…I like to write the length I feel the story should be…”
D: Tell us about your new short story, I’LL BE SEEING YOU THROUGH TIME in two sentences.
J: It’s 1942, the world is at war when Glenn steps through a time portal and finds himself in 2013. Can the Dimension Keepers find a way to reunite them, or will Glenn and Jewel be ripped apart by the fabric of time forever?
D: Love time-travel stories! What compelled you to write this one?
J: In my mother’s old photos, I found a portrait of a young man my mother was engaged to marry. His destroyer was torpedoed in the South Pacific and he was killed. I wondered how different her life would have been if he’d survived and come back to her. I decided to give them a happy ending.
D: You have over 30 short stories available online. What do you like about the form? Dislike?
J: I like to write the length I feel the story should be. That’s the fun of being with an indie publisher. I get to write the story ideas I have and make it the length it needs to be to tell a good story.
D: Many of your stories are about the protagonist overcoming hardship and/or disabilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your characters?
J: What fun are perfect people? I love good angsty characters. In my novel, SHOT IN THE DARK, Devan is a police officer who was shot and now walks with a cane. In my REGIMENTAL HEROES series, the men have PTSD after returning from war in an era when they had no name for the disorder.
D: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?
J: Of course. 🙂 As the writer’s creed goes, watch out or you’ll end up in my book! My Christmas novella, DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR contains many real life horror stories that happened when I owned my own catering business. Grooms with guns. Workers slipping and breaking their arm with 600 people waiting to be served.
D: Yikes. Reality is so much stranger than fiction, isn’t it? What are you currently working on?
J: I am working on a paranormal romance called Fighting the Fire, about a Native American girl who has uncontrollable powers and starts fires. Who else to help her other than a hunky fireman? 🙂 Also, I am going to start a series revolving around dogs.
“…Like most writer’s journeys, my road’s been rocky…”
D: Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?
D: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
J: Richer and famouser 🙂 No, seriously, still writing no matter what!
D: Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?
J: I think the indie publishers who actually work with authors to achieve their success will displace the large houses. Self-Publishing will have better standards and higher quality work. Those that are ready will self-publish. And great stories will still be told. People still love a good book and read as much as they ever have.
D: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go?
J: Victorian England if I could be rich and part of the elite crowd. But, with no modern plumbing, central heating, modern drugs or dentistry, it would have to be a short visit.
D: I hear that! Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Jennifer. Good luck with your new release!
And here’s a little taste of I’LL BE SEEING YOU THROUGH TIME: Book 2 of The Dimension Keepers Series:
It’s 1942 and the world is at war. It’s difficult, but engaged couple Jewel and Glenn know they must say goodbye. Tomorrow, Glenn is shipping out to the South Pacific. That is, until he stops by the Second Chance Bookstore on the way back to the base.
Suddenly, Glenn finds himself in 2013 with the woman he loves half a century away.
Can the Dimension Keepers find a way to reunite them, or will Glenn and Jewel be ripped apart by the fabric of time forever?
Today on Awesome Authors I’m pleased to introduce Susan Russo Anderson, author of the Serafina Florio historical mysteries. I first became aware of Susan on Twitter and through the fabulous writer’s group, Sisters in Crime, then went on to work with her on an anthology with several other talented indie authors. The first book in her intriguing mystery series, DEATH OF A SERPENT, is set in nineteenth-century Italy and features Serafina Florio, an amateur sleuth who happens to be a midwife. Kindle Book Review says DEATH OF A SERPENT is “… for readers who love mystery/suspense and drama that will propel you into another world and hold you spellbound until the end.”
D: Hi Susan! It’s great to have you here. Please tell us something about yourself.
S: Thanks, DV, it’s a thrill to be here. Wow, great question, where do I start? I’m just a simple mom and gran doing the best she can to write great stuff. And I love the act of writing.
But I did read this quote from Jean Paul Sartre, “We are our choices.” And if I could choose the perfect activity it would be eating ice cream and sipping the perfect coffee while writing in the morning. And the next best thing is reading an unputdownable book.
And although I love my kindle and the ability to carry lots of books wherever I go to say nothing of the ability to sneak read a book instead of listening to a boring sermon, I still love bookstores and rambling through them. There’s one in a resort town in Michigan that I love going to. It’s right next to an ice cream store and they play opera and it’s crowded with families on vacation and it’s just fun to be there.
D: Bookstores and libraries—gotta love any place with books. 🙂 You write the Serafina Florio mysteries set in nineteenth-century Italy. What inspired you to write an historical mystery series? What did you find particularly interesting when doing research?
S: I’ve always found European history from 1848 onward to be fascinating, the yearning for freedom that everyone had. It started, I guess, with the American Revolution. And then of course there was the French Revolution. And all of a sudden people all over Europe showed an unbelievable thirst for freedom and fought to overthrow their oppressors.
“I’ve always found European history from 1848 onward to be fascinating, the yearning for freedom that everyone had…”
Well, it’s a long story, but the Italian Revolution in the 1860s was a devastation for Sicily. There were riots and epidemics and famine and ruin all over the place. It’s in this setting that Serafina does her sleuthing. And yet in this setting, life managed to go on. For me, someone who’s always had a cushy life, I just can’t imagine how people can go all normal, continuing on with their life in the face of hunger and catastrophe.
I read this story of a mother who around dinner time would lock the windows and doors and have her children bang on pans while she rattled the plates so that the neighbors would think they were preparing the meal and wouldn’t know they couldn’t afford to eat. That story really got to me. It told me about the resilience of the human spirit.
D: No kidding. People are amazing, especially in times of distress. Describe your newest release, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, in two sentences.
S: When a headstrong aristocrat commissions Serafina to find her mother’s poisoner, the midwife turned sleuth travels to a windswept villa on Sicily’s gold coast where she begins her investigation of the baroness’s death. With the help of her friend, Rosa, two daring servants, and an unexpected visitor, she uncovers ugly entanglements that portend dire misfortune for the baroness’s heirs.
D: What’s your favorite line from the book?
S: In my Serafina books it’s Rosa who always gets the best lines. She is totally unfettered by convention, having been a madam. At the time of the story, she is retired and very rich and of a certain age so she takes lots of pleasure in food. It so happens that the cuisine at Villa Caterina where the mystery takes place is uninspired to say the least so Rosa is disgruntled for most of their stay. There’s an incident with the cook where we don’t know if she’ll recover but when Rosa hears that the cook survives, she says, “It figures. She can’t cook so she’ll live forever.”
D: Rosa was definitely one of my favorite characters in Death of a Serpent. Who is your favorite character and why?
S: My favorite character would have to be Serafina. She has faults; she is exuberant and colorful; she does most of the writing; she has a sixth sense, something I’d love to have; most important, she never gives up.
“…She has a sixth sense, something I’d love to have…”
D: What are you currently working on?
S: I’m working on two books at the same time, something I’ve never done before, two different series. I’m writing the fourth book in the Serafina Florio mystery series. She’s commissioned to go to Paris to investigate the death of Loffredo’s estranged wife. The plot is exciting and different and complex for many different reasons. The working title is Murder on the Rue Cassette and since I love Paris, even the Paris of the 1870s, I’m loving the writing experience.
And I’m writing the first book of the Fina Fitzgibbons mystery series. She’s the great-great granddaughter of Serafina, named after her and inherits her notebooks and a brownstone Serafina bought when she arrived in this country. Fina is much younger, early twenties, and lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Clancy, a cop assigned to the 84th Precinct. The working title is Dead In Brooklyn.
D: What a great idea! Working an ancestral thread into your mysteries makes sense—it becomes a continuation of the original series. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
S: Immerse yourself in the world you create and don’t fear what others might think.
D: Sage advice, Susan. What’s the worst advice you received from someone about writing?
S: Hmmm, let me think. That would have to be all those prejudicial rules against adverbs and adjectives. They’re a prison.
S: Mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction.
“Immerse yourself in the world you create and don’t fear what others might think.”
D: What do you do when you’re not writing?
S: Social networking, working out, walking, hanging out with my grandkids.
D: Tell us about the most exciting place you have ever visited.
S: I’ve been to lots of exciting places—Iraq, most countries in Europe—but the most exciting of all is the world of the imagination. John Milton said it much better, though: “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
D: Love that quote. So true. What jobs other than writer have you held?
S: I taught creative writing, worked for an airline, for an opera company, for lots of advertising agencies, and for a publisher.
D: If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?
S: Paris, August 1944. I’d love to experience firsthand the excitement of the liberation
D: I think Paris is a good bet in just about any timeline. Liberation day would be an amazing experience.
I’d love it if you’d provide an excerpt of DEATH IN BAGHERIA for us to read…
Bagheria, Sicily. March 1870
“The baron was showing me his new steamer. You can see it through the telescope if you like.”
Rosa shook her head, dismissing the offer with a wave of her hand.
He smiled at the madam. “In the harbor now, being loaded with supplies.”
“It sails when?” Rosa asked.
“Late today.” He paced before them. “We hope to make North America in ten days, not a record, but respectable, especially for this time of year—early for steaming into northern waters.”
“Do you carry passengers?”
He nodded. “A few. There’s room for over two hundred men, women, and children, most of them in steerage, but these days, our profit is from carrying cargo, not people; now we ship citrus to New York and Boston, perhaps New Orleans or San Francisco in the future.” He rubbed his hands together. “Next year, my son tells me, when families who can afford better accommodation begin to leave, we plan on refitting part of the upper deck with first-class cabins, but for now, our need is for space below deck.”
“When who begins to leave?” Rosa asked.
“Our bankers bet on hard times, a mass exodus from Sicily within the next five years, growing stronger in the next decades.”
Serafina and Rosa were silent.
“There’s unrest all over the Europe. I’m afraid for France, that idiot Emperor trying to slap around the Kaiser—doesn’t know what he’s in for. And Italy struggles while Garibaldi fights Austria and the papal states. If more banks fail, the future of the merchant class in the south will be grim. The new world calls, and that’s where we come in.” The baron smiled.
Serafina swallowed. She imagined her son, Vicenzu, looking out at her from behind the windows of their empty apothecary shop, saw in her mind the streets of Oltramari which, lately, seemed rustier, dustier. But no, she rejected his words: after all, what did he know? She turned to Rosa, who caught her mood, reached over, and patted her hand.
“The ship’s named after the baroness,” Serafina said, looking at Rosa.
The baron nodded.
“A shame she’s missing this day,” Serafina said.
He furrowed his brows. “Afraid you’re wrong there. She wanted nothing to do with our business. She hated it. How did she think …” His question hung in the air.
To break the mood, Rosa said, “Such an honor, having a ship named after—”
“Hated all talk of business.” Red faced, the baron heaved himself over to the hearth, grabbed an iron, and poked at smoldering embers. “Drat those servants! Don’t know how to tend a fire?”
Recovering somewhat, he sat across from them and crossed his legs. “What is it you wish to discuss—my married life? How my wife loathed me, couldn’t bear the sight of me? How we slept in separate rooms, seldom spoke? How she never cared a fig for my business, didn’t want to hear my thoughts on European history or its future? I disgusted her! I suppose she assumed aristocrats cultivated coins from the soil or grew them in huge pots and stored them in the larder. Unspeakably stubborn, Caterina, just like her father and his father before him. Blind to the change, killing themselves out, that’s what they’re doing. But …” He looked up at her portrait, then at a spot in the room as if he could see her shade. “She was so beautiful, like an angel when she walked into a room, and a poet with words, so charming, they flowed from her lips.” He stopped, as if reluctant to leave the memory. “And I loved her.”
The two women were silent until Serafina asked, “Your business, is that what killed her?”
D: Thank you so much for being here today, Susan. I look forward to reading the rest of the Serafina Florio series. I’m also eagerly anticipating her great-great granddaughter’s own books. 🙂
Links to find out more about Susan are below:
Susan Russo Anderson is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime, a graduate of Marquette University. She has taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she’s seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she writes.
DEATH OF A SERPENT, the first in the Serafina Florio series, published January 2012. It began as a painting of the Lower East Side and wound up as a mystery story. NO MORE BROTHERS, a novella, published May 2012, the second in the Serafina Florio series. The third book, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, published in December. You can read excerpts on Amazon and on her websites, http://www.susanrussoanderson.com and http://www.writingsleuth.com
In between writing, revising and editing, she writes for several blogs and reviews books.
Amazon author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Russo-Anderson/e/B006VCJ0ZC
The other day I realized how lucky I am to know so many incredibly talented writers. I’ve been the willing participant in several interviews on other authors’ blogs, and thought it would be fun to return the favor and spotlight as many as I could
bribe cajole into giving up some of their precious, hard-earned non-novel-writing time to answer my burning questions.
The first in the series is mystery author Jen Blood. I discovered Jen a while back when I read a review she did for BAD SPIRITS. I was impressed with her ability to pen a pretty bitchin’ review and was curious about her talents as a writer, so I downloaded the first book in her Erin Solomon mystery series, ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS. To say I was hooked from the first page is an understatement. Here was an indie author who knew how to write, and write well. She has just released the third book in the series, SOUTHERN CROSS. It’s another stellar mystery by an author who I believe is on her way to a long and rewarding career. So let’s get to it, shall we?
D: Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your new release, SOUTHERN CROSS?
J: A little about myself… I’m author of the Erin Solomon mysteries, the first of which was released in February of last year. I have an MFA in Creative Writing/Pop Fiction from the University of Southern Maine, and have worked as a freelance writer and editor (among many, many other jobs over the years) for a little over a decade.
SOUTHERN CROSS is the third novel in the Erin Solomon pentalogy, and finds Erin and her best friend (and sometimes more) Diggs investigating the murder of one of Diggs’ childhood friends, in rural Kentucky. But that single death is hardly the only bizarre occurrence in Justice—soon, power outages, explosions, standoffs, and conspiracy rock the small town, and fundamentalist preacher Jesup T. Barnel claims he knows the reason for the madness: The end times are upon them, and judgment will be fast and furious as the clock winds down.
D: The series character, Erin Solomon, is a wonderfully flawed protagonist who has to deal with the aftermath of having spent much of her childhood in a religious cult with a Jim Jones-style leader. As I dove into reading Southern Cross, I realized religious zealotry and its repercussions are recurring themes in your work. What prompted you to delve into the psychological fallout that occurs from blind obedience to an obsessive, charismatic religious leader?
“I’ve always been fascinated with the extremes of religious fanaticism, and as a kid actually attended a church where speaking in tongues and being felled by the holy spirit were par for the course.”
J: Believe it or not, in early incarnations of the first novel, Erin Solomon was a theologian whose work focused on religiously motivated crimes. The vocation just didn’t work for the character—something I only realized after spending a decade or so working on that first novel. When I made the switch to Erin as a reporter instead, it made all the difference in the world… but I wasn’t ready to give up the lure of those charismatic cult leaders I’d been researching for so long. I’ve always been fascinated with the extremes of religious fanaticism, and as a kid actually attended a church where speaking in tongues and being felled by the holy spirit were par for the course. Those emotionally charged scenes made a big impression, and somehow those scenes found their way into my work today.
D: The over-arching mystery in the series keeps referring back to the original tragedy that occurred (detailed in the first book, All the Blue-Eyed Angels), and the reader is given clues throughout to a more sinister motive than what is revealed in books 1 and 2. Why did you choose to write the story this way? How many books do you envision to complete the series?
J: I knew from the start that the story I wanted to tell couldn’t be contained within a single novel. I’m a huge fan of serialized… everything. I love well-written TV (my graduate thesis was on television as modern literature), and I’ve been devouring every mystery novel series I could get my hands on since I was a kid. AND I love puzzles and conspiracy. So, I decided now was the time to play with all of those elements and make them come together in one colossal project. I’ve had the end game in mind from the beginning for this; I just wasn’t clear before on exactly how long it would take to get to that end game. Now, I know that this particular mystery will be resolved with the fifth book in the series, THE BOOK OF J. After that, I have any number of novels and series arcs in mind for the characters, but my focus now is on completing this pentalogy.
D: Now for some questions on process: SOUTHERN CROSS uses multiple first and third points of view (POV). How do you decide which POV to use in a book?
J: I listen to the characters, really. When I first started writing ANGELS, it was written in limited third person from Erin’s point of view. It didn’t work, though, because I wasn’t able to get the strength of her voice across that way. So, I switched to first and it made all the difference in the world. Diggs tells things from his POV, but in SINS OF THE FATHER (the second novel in the series) I have alternating chapters between Jack Juarez (Erin’s other love interest) and Erin. Erin is first person, Jack is third. It has to do with the way the character views the world: Erin and Diggs are strong, opinionated characters whose voices are deeply rooted in humor, inflection, and internal process. Jack Juarez is more about action, reason, and ordered thought. It didn’t feel necessary to go with first person with him, because his external actions typically reflect his internal thought process so thoroughly.
I love playing with POV, and I adore getting inside the characters’ heads. It’s a tricky process, and you always have to walk that fine line between doing too much and not doing enough to make the trip to another perspective worthwhile. Barbara Kingsolver does it masterfully in POISONWOOD BIBLE, which I’ve read about a hundred times. I always go back to that when I start to worry that I’m taking on too many voices at one time.
D: You certainly can’t go wrong with Barbara Kingsolver. Do you outline or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
J: I’m definitely, definitely, definitely not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. I greatly admire them, and I’ve done it in the past with less intricately plotted work. With the novels I’m writing now, though, I would get so tangled up if I wasn’t following an outline that I’d lose my mind within a day. I start with an intricate outline at the get-go, and that outline evolves as I get to know the story a little better. It’s always vastly different from the time I start to the time I finish, but at this point—because I’m solving a mystery with elements from five novels—it’s integral to the process that I have a clear idea where I’m going, where I’ve been, who I’m working with, what we know so far, and what needs to be resolved. There are so many threads to keep track of these days!
D: What are you working on now?
J: The fourth book in the series, BEFORE THE AFTER, which I’m tremendously excited about. This one answers a huge number of questions about the initial mystery in ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS, by relating the first days of the Payson Church of Tomorrow from Erin’s mom’s perspective. Meanwhile, of course, the majority of the novel is told in the present from Erin’s perspective. Lots of action, many secrets revealed, and the ending for this one changes the direction and flow of Erin’s entire character arc. So… yeah, I’m excited about this one. I feel like, of all of them, this is the most epic novel I’ve written thus far.
D: Give us a ‘day in the life’ of author Jen Blood.
J: A day in the life, huh? It’s really pretty dull. I get up at around seven, walk and feed the hound, do yoga, feed myself, and then hit the computer. I’m usually working on either writing or social media and marketing stuff from nine to five, with a lunch break in between. Then dinner, hound walk, workout, and I typically finish out the day with a couple of hours of free writing (longhand, working on the next chapters of the novel) before bed, at around midnight or so. That’s my schedule—with little variation—six days a week, and then on the seventh day I usually run errands and do a lot of free writing. Things look to be shifting now, though, as I’m starting to get more requests to do readings, signings, and seminars… For April, it looks like my ‘days in the life’ will be all over the place!
“…while two years ago if you had six unpublished manuscripts in your sock drawer and you decided you’d just publish and wait for the cash to start rolling in, now it’s more clear than ever that you need a better plan than just hitting “Publish Now” …”
D: Where do you see yourself in five years?
J: Ideally, making a good living from my writing. That’s the hope, anyway. I have a bunch of other novels in the Erin Solomon series in mind going forward, but I also have a YA dystopian trilogy that I’ve been working on for a long time… I can’t wait to get to work on that again. So—Five years down the road, I hope that I’ll have a slew of publications under my belt, a solid fan base, projects in the works, and enough cash coming in to keep a roof over my head and the hound in dog chow.
D: Where do you see the publishing industry in five years?
J: That’s always a tricky question—especially right now, when everything is changing so quickly. I think independent publishing will continue to grow, and traditional publishers, literary agents, and any non-writing folks who have historically made their living from we lowly authors will continue to try and establish their role in this new paradigm. Now that the initial enthusiasm has worn off and most self-published authors have recognized that this isn’t actually a get-rich-quick scheme just waiting to happen, I think we as authors are more likely to recognize the importance the so-called “gatekeepers” in the industry play in helping us get noticed. So, while two years ago if you had six unpublished manuscripts in your sock drawer and you decided you’d just publish and wait for the cash to start rolling in, now it’s more clear than ever that you need a better plan than just hitting “Publish Now” on Amazon or Createspace.
At the same time that we are recognizing that agents and traditional publishing houses are not actually obsolete yet, I also think that this whole revolution has put untold power in the hands of the author. I’m currently seeking an agent and I wouldn’t be averse to a traditional publishing contract, but I know at this point that if I don’t get either of those things, I’ll still be all right. I can still make a living at doing what I love.
D: Anything I missed?
J: I think that about covers it, really. Thanks so much—this was so fun!!
D: Thanks for being here, Jen! How about giving readers a little taste of SOUTHERN CROSS ?
J: The following excerpt is from chapter four of SOUTHERN CROSS. Here, reporter Daniel Diggins (Diggs) has just returned to western Kentucky to bury his childhood best friend, who has been murdered. Predictably enough, madness ensues.
I spotted a dozen photo albums lined up on one of the shelves, and stepped inside the shed. It smelled of sawdust and cigar smoke, two of George’s favorite things. I grabbed a couple of the photo albums without checking the dates on the spines and strode back across the shed toward freedom. Since the caves and tunnels of the previous summer, enclosed spaces weren’t a favorite of mine. Something clattered against the outside wall. I whirled toward the sound, heart racing.
“Solomon? Is that you?”
I turned back around just in time to watch the door swing shut.
“Buddy? All right… Good one, guys. You’re friggin’ hilarious.” I reached for the door and tried to push it open. It didn’t budge.
Something scratched against the outside of the shed, just below the window—like someone was scaling the wall. The clattering could have been a ladder, I realized. And this was George’s idea of a practical joke: his way of welcoming me back to the fold. I wet my lips and reminded myself that panicking at this point was exactly the kind of story that would follow me to my grave, once the lights came on and the idiots pulling the prank were revealed.
Better to play it cool. Ride it out.
“All right, you got me,” I said. “I’m trapped in the shed. In the dark. You guys are comic geniuses.”
Something scratched against the windowpane. I trained my flashlight beam in that direction, but all that did was reflect the light back at me.
I realized then that there was no way Solomon was behind this—she knew too well what we’d gone through six months ago. And she wouldn’t let the others do anything like it, either. Sweat beaded on my forehead and the back of my neck. Just outside the window, I heard a faint rattling sound.
“Harvey?” I said quietly. If Sheriff Jennings had found out I was back in town, this might be the kind of thing he’d pull to welcome me back. “Is that you?”
The rattling got louder.
I pulled my cell phone from my jacket pocket and hit number one on speed dial. It went straight to Solomon’s voicemail. Perfect.
My pulse was racing.
The window opened, the sound of metal against wood like a scream in the stillness. I grabbed the closest thing I could find—a hammer hanging on the pegboard—and held it aloft, my back pressed to the far wall, waiting to see what would happen next.
D: Great excerpt, Jen! SOUTHERN CROSS is filled with heart pounding suspense that kept me up way too late reading 🙂 I’m now eagerly awaiting the fourth book in the series… To find out more about Jen and her Erin Solomon Mysteries, check out the links below:
Jen Blood is a freelance writer and editor, and author of the bestselling Erin Solomon mysteries. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing/Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine, and has publishing credits in Down East, Pif, Vampirella, Bark, and newspapers and periodicals around the country. Jen lives in midcoast Maine, where she scribbles madly, hikes with her hound, and leads the occasional seminar on online marketing and social media for authors in her spare time.
ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS*
Barnes and Noble/Nook
*ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS is currently free for Kindle, Nook, and on Smashwords
SINS OF THE FATHER
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