Wow! The Body Market just got its first ever advance review and it’s GREAT! Thanks, Charlie 🙂
Come on over to Charlie Ray’s awesome blog and find out what I hope to be doing in 10 years…
Today I’m participating in the Writing Process Blog Hop, where you’re tagged by a fellow writer to answer some questions. In turn, you then profile 2-3 other writers to do the same. The person who tagged me is the inimitable and always classy Charlie Ray (http://redroom.com/member/charles-a-ray). I interviewed Charlie a while back on Awesome Authors. You can blame him for what you’re about to read 😀
Question 1: What am I working on?
Currently I’m brainstorming scenes for the third as-yet-untitled Leine Basso thriller. It’s like old home week as I figure out which direction Leine and Santiago’s relationship is going to go, how to integrate Leine’s new line of work into the story, and re-introduce characters from previous books (if you liked Yuri’s uncle, you’ll enjoy this installment), all while keeping the suspense and action building throughout the book. Beginning a novel is all deliciousness and unicorns and mimics the first blush of infatuation: everything’s awesome and the possibilities are endless. Yes, I know that will wear off at the first hint of trouble, but as long as I blow something up I should be okay 😀
I’m also working with two different audiobook narrators: I’m excited to report that Melissa Moran has finished CRUISING FOR DEATH and the book is now in ACX’s capable hands. Melissa also recorded the KATE JONES THRILLER SERIES boxed set and has been a lot of fun to work with–she has Kate’s idiosyncrasies down pat. Look for it in the next few weeks.
Kristi Alsip is in the process of recording BAD TRAFFICK, and I can’t say enough good things about her work. When I first heard her voice I KNEW she would make a great Leine Basso and, from what she’s done so far, she’s nailed it. Once the audiobook’s completed it will go to ACX’s sound engineers for approval and should be available next month.
Question 2: How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I write thrillers, and there’s an expectation on the part of thriller readers that the books will be fast-paced and have a lot of action. Of course, I LOVE writing action scenes, so that’s no problem. What I think I do a bit differently is incorporate suspense and action and a likeable, kick-ass-but-flawed heroine with humor. One reviewer put it this way: “The humor serves as good balance to the fear and anxiety that [the character] freely expresses in the face of her predicament, providing a sharp and refreshing contrast to the typical stoic, grim-faced male hero of the thriller genre.” Another difference: my female characters aren’t superheroes–in fact they are all too human–but they aren’t helpless women who need a man to save them, which is a particular pet peeve of mine. Why would I want to read about a woman who doesn’t know how to get herself out of trouble and who waits for the alpha-male to “save her”? Yes, I have strong men in my stories, and yes, they help the heroine out occasionally, but I try hard to write female characters who are plenty capable themselves and know their way around a weapon. And explosives.
Question 3: Why do I write what I do?
Growing up, I loved reading spy novels and watching James Bond movies, but always yearned for books and movies that had a female equivalent in the lead. When I caught the novel-writing bug I thought why not write what I’d want to read? My first female character, Kate Jones, went through several incarnations, moving from a smart ass Jeep tour guide in a humorous mystery to the current thrillers where Kate grows into a capable and dangerous enemy. She’s still a smart ass, though.
As for the Leine Basso novels, SERIAL DATE was in response to a twisted dream I had about serial killers and reality shows, and I needed to find a character to write who could go toe-to-toe with one of them. An assassin seemed perfect: they both killed people. The dynamics of having one of the characters (Leine) question her motivation for being a hired assassin and whether that made her different from a serial killer intrigued me. The second novel, BAD TRAFFICK, was in response to watching a documentary on child sex trafficking and I knew I had to write Leine into the story. I was torn though, as SERIAL DATE has quite a bit of dark humor and satire, and I wanted to try to keep the tone consistent in each series (okay, it didn’t work with Kate, but at least I tried). There’s nothing humorous or satirical about human trafficking, so the tone in that book ended up being more of a straight thriller. There’s still some humor, but only in Leine’s smart ass reactions to specific characters. Hmm. Do I detect a theme here?
Question 4: How does my writing process work?
First, I clean my house. Really. My husband loves this stage, since I’m woefully challenged in the domestic arts. Then I sit down with a notepad and paper and draw a timeline across the top of the page, putting little hash marks at the beginning, 1/4 point, midpoint, 3/4 point, and two near the end, labeling them: inciting incident, 1st turning point, midpoint, 2nd turning point, black moment, resolution. Then, I set to work brainstorming scenes, moving them around on the timeline to see where they fit. If I have trouble coming up with enough scenes to start writing, either I trash the idea, or I ask my husband and writer friends to help come up with scenes. Once I’ve got a good sense where the story’s going, I sit down to write (I use a computer and MS Word). I’m pretty linear, so I go from chapter to chapter, editing a bit as I go, until I reach the end. During this first draft stage, every two weeks I send sections to my critique group for their suggestions. Then I do a read through before sending it out to a dozen or so beta readers. While I’m waiting for their responses, I catch up on all the stuff I ignored while writing. Once the betas get back to me, I do one more read through incorporating many of the suggestions, and then send it off to my editor. At that point I usually have the title, so I work on the book’s description and then send that info off to my cover designer. Once I get the edits back I incorporate them, do another read through and publish.
Now that I’ve bored the bejeezus out of you all, it’s time to give a shout out to the writers I picked to continue the blog hop. All three are in my writing group and all are published in some form of romance (I’m the token heathen who doesn’t write in that particular genre). We’ve been friends for years and yes, I know where the bodies are buried. We’ll leave it at that…
Darlene Panzera writes sweet, fun-loving romance and is the winner of the “Make Your Dreams Come True Contest” sponsored by Avon Books, which led her novella, THE BET, to be published with Debbie Macomber’s FAMILY AFFAIR. The full length novel, re-titled, BET YOU’LL MARRY ME, released December 2012 and her bestselling series, THE CUPCAKE DIARIES, released its first installment in May 2013. Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene is now a resident of the Pacific Northwest where she lives with her husband and three children. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her family and her two horses, and loves camping, hiking, photography, and lazy days at the lake.
Jennifer Conner is a bestselling Northwest author who has published over forty works. She writes Christmas Romance, Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance, and Erotica, and has been ranked in the top 50 authors on Amazon. Her romantic suspense novel, SHOT IN THE DARK, was a finalist in the Emerald City Opener, Cleveland, and Toronto RWA contests. She lives in western Washington in a hundred year-old house, blows glass beads with a blow torch (“which relieves a lot of stress and people don’t bother you…”) and is a huge fan of musicals.
Chris Karlsen is a retired police detective who writes time travel romances populated with 14th century knights, and thrillers featuring a nautical archaeologist and Turkish agent. She spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. The daughter of a history professor and a voracious reader, she grew up with a love for history and books. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and Northern Africa satisfying her passion for seeing the places she’s read about. A Chicago native, Chris has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and now resides with her husband and five rescue dogs in the Pacific Northwest.
If you have a minute, please stop by and visit their blogs–they’ll be posting their own answers to the above questions next Monday. Have a great week!
Today on Awesome Authors I’m pleased to interview prolific writer, former diplomat, journalist, and current intrepid world-traveler, Charlie Ray. I first became aware of Charlie through Indies Unlimited,where he’s a frequent commenter. He’s much more active online than I could ever hope to be, as he maintains several blogs, regularly posts on Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook, not to mention taking the time to stop by other blogs to show his support. Not only that, but he pens both fiction and non-fiction, is a fabulous photographer, and a fine artist. Whew. I wish I had that kind of energy and talent! Intrigued, aren’t you? Then what the heck are we waiting for? Let’s get to the interview:
(From the author’s bio): Charles Ray has been writing fiction since his teens. He won a Sunday school magazine writing contest when he was thirteen, and having his byline on a short story published in a national publication forever hooked him on writing. During his time in the army (1962-1982) he often moonlighted as a newspaper or magazine journalist, and was the editorial cartoonist for the Spring Lake (NC) News, a weekly newspaper, during the 1970s. In addition to his writing, he was an artist/cartoonist and photographer for a number of publications, including Ebony, Eagle and Swan, and Essence, and had a monthly cartoon feature and did several covers for Buffalo, a now-defunct magazine that was dedicated to showcasing the contributions of African-Americans to the country’s military history.
After retiring from the army, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service, and served as a diplomat in posts in Asia and Africa until his retirement in 2012. He has worked and traveled throughout the world (Antarctica is the only continent he hasn’t visited), and now, as a full-time writer, continues to globetrot looking for interesting things to write about, draw, or take pictures of.
DV: Hi Charlie! Thanks for being here. Please tell us about yourself and what you write.
CR: I grew up in a small town in rural East Texas and fell in love with books at an early age. I wrote my first fiction (a short story for a Sunday school magazine) when I was 13, and it won first place and was published, so I became hooked on writing as well at an early age. I write like I read – in a variety of genres. I’ve done books on leadership and management, a couple of books of my photographs (I’ve done newspaper and magazine photography, and taught it at an L.A. City College overseas program in Korea in the late 1970s), and several books of fiction. I do a mystery series (starring a PI based in Washington, DC) and a western/historical series about the Buffalo Soldiers. I’ve also done fantasy and comedy, and did a sort of dystopian sci-fi bit about the confluence of political/religious extremism and climate change (The Culling). My wife says my problem is twofold – I have a short attention span and I refuse to grow up.
DV: 🙂 You’ve had quite the storied career in the U.S. Army as well as the State Department. How have these experiences influenced your writing?
CR: As you might imagine, a lot of the things I’ve experienced naturally find their way into my writing – including people and places. In the main, though, having spent nearly 50 years traveling around the world has taught me to be observant and store impressions that can later be called up in the stories I write. Everything, including what I see and hear on my subway commute here in DC, is grist for the creative mill. I got the idea for my first book on leadership watching an old lady chastise a couple of loud teen girls on the subway one day (Things I Learned from my Grandmother about Leadership and Life).
DV: Obviously, you’ve done a LOT of traveling. Which places are foremost in your memory and why? Do you plan to use them in future writing projects?
CR: The only continent I’ve never visited is Antarctica. As to which stand out – they all do in one way or another. I’ve visited the Taj Mahal and Stonehenge, walked the Great Wall, and flown over Colombian and Panamanian jungles. Angkor Wat is one of my favorite places, but so is the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. I once flew from Cape Town, South Africa to Copenhagen, Denmark in the middle of December – that was an unforgettable experience – and have lived in the German Alps. I’ve been all over the U.S., and loved every inch of it. Little bits of places and people I’ve encountered find their way into almost everything I write. I’ve lived in Washington, DC off and on since 1982, and a lot of my current work (except the Buffalo Soldier series) is based mainly in the DC area. Long answer to a short question, but the short version, is, yes I do.
“…having spent nearly 50 years traveling around the world has taught me to be observant and store impressions that can later be called up in the stories I write…”
DV: I’ve always wanted to visit Angkor Wat. I’ll have to pick your brain about it later 🙂 Please describe your latest release.
CR: I just finished Frontier Justice, a fictionalized account of the first two years of the service of Bass Reeves the first African-American deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. Even though the accounts are fictitious, they’re based on historical research.
DV: That sounds intriguing. What prompted you to write Frontier Justice?
CR: After reading a couple of my Buffalo Soldier novels, my daughter, Denise, suggested that I should do more western/historical stories about the Old West because of the distorted images of the period by popular media. In my research for the Buffalo Soldier series, I’ve learned that a lot of what I thought growing up watching western movies in cinema and on TV was wrong. Ten percent of the cavalry on the frontier, for instance, was African-American, as well as the infantry units. After the Civil War, most of the U.S. Army was deployed west of the Mississippi to support the country’s westward expansion, so if the movies were accurate, many times the cavalry coming to the rescue would be men of color. Moreover, many of the cowboys and outlaws were minorities. So, I’m just trying to use my fiction to fill in some of the blanks.
DV: We definitely need more historical accuracy in our educational system. I always found it odd that no one questioned what we were taught in school. You’re definitely a prolific writer having written both non-fiction and fiction, including the Al Pennyback mystery series and the historical Buffalo Soldier series. What do you enjoy about writing in each genre? What do you find challenging?
CR: I like mysteries and westerns – always have – because they’re action oriented and usually have a sort of Aesop-fable moral to them. I like mysteries because of the puzzle factor, and westerns because of the way the world is seen in simple terms. The challenge is to take the formulas of these two genres and create fully fleshed, interesting characters and less-than-simple plot lines, and tell an interesting story. The other challenge is to keep from sounding too similar when I switch from one to the other.
“I’m just trying to use my fiction to fill in some of the blanks.”
DV: How long does it take you to write a novel?
CR: Depends. The mysteries take a month or two because of the need to work out clues and red herrings and the like. The westerns I can do in about three weeks as soon as I’ve decided on the opening and ending.
DV: Do you research before the start of each book or while you write?
CR: Both. I do basic research before starting, but as I write, I’m constantly looking up things like weapons capability, date of events, etc. Research never ends.
DV: Do you outline or make it up as you go along?
CR: I do a chapter by chapter sketch. Main action and characters involved. But, I leave space between chapters, because sometimes as I’m writing, something new will come up and things get changed. I don’t do excessively detailed outlines because that constricts the creative flow. What I do is end each day’s writing session by starting the next chapter. Then, I visualize in my mind the action, get a feel for smell, sound, etc., and then start writing.
“I don’t do excessively detailed outlines because that constricts the creative flow.”
DV: Great method. I think Hemingway worked like that. Do you edit as you go or wait until you’re finished and then go back through the manuscript? Do you hire a professional editor for your work?
CR: I correct gross and obvious mistakes as I work, but wait until I’m done – let it cool off a few days, and then go back over it from page one. I thought about paying for a professional editor, but from what I’ve seen of many traditionally published books, errors will still creep in. As long as they don’t interrupt the flow of the story, or are just so numerous they indicate carelessness, I don’t think it makes a great difference. I’m more concerned with getting the layout looking smooth and professional.
DV: What made you decide to “go indie”?
DV: What kind of marketing works best for you?
CR: I’m still experimenting. I do a blog and a lot on social media, and that does generate a few sales. In the highly competitive world of today, I don’t expect a 50 Shades of Gray response, just modest, regular sales, with increase over time as word gets around. I also do speaking, keep spare copies of books with me to hand out when I travel, and get the word out through a couple of professional associations I work with. I worked with an organization at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, for instance, and got a spot in their magazine about my Buffalo Soldier series. Leavenworth happens to be home to the Buffalo Soldier monument. After the article appeared, my sales shot up over a thousand percent for three or four months, and that series continues to do relatively well.
DV: Nice. Niche marketing is a great way to do it. What advice would you give to a new writer?
CR: Write – write every day. Don’t let self-doubt or naysayers turn you off from it if writing gives you a thrill. Read a lot, and not just the genres you write. You can learn a lot from what others have done. Don’t have a thin skin about criticism.
“I don’t expect a 50 Shades of Gray response, just modest, regular sales, with increase over time as word gets around.”
DV: In light of the huge changes in the publishing industry, where do you see yourself in five years? How do you think publishing will change in the future?
CR: Hopefully in five years I will still be writing, only to a larger audience. I think the e-book and Indie revolutions have changed publishing, making it more democratic, and as it matures it will become more ‘traditional.’ Unlike many, I don’t think physical books will be completely replaced by e-Books. I think the prices of books will go way down, so anyone looking to become rich by writing should perhaps look for another occupation.
DV: And now, my favorite question: If you could travel anywhere through time (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?
CR: I’d actually do both. I’d like to go back to the post-Civil War period to see what it was actually like (my grandmother was born in 1895, and told interesting stories about growing up), and then I’d like to go forward a hundred years to see what the world will be like.
DV: Great idea! I’m certainly curious to see how everything works out in the future…
Thank you for stopping by today, Charlie, and good luck with your writing!
If you’d like to learn more about Charles Ray and his work, please see the links below. But first, here’s an excerpt from his newest release, Frontier Justice:
Bass Reeves was a big man.
At six-feet, two-inches, and weighing one hundred eighty pounds, he would have been an imposing figure even without the bushy black mustache that covered his upper lip and hung down to the edge of his square chin, the long, muscular arms, and hands, each of which was bigger than two hands on most men.
He had just returned to his farm from a scouting job with the U.S. Marshals over in the Indian Territory, and during his absence, many of the chores which were beyond the abilities of his young sons had remained undone. Dressed in a faded pair of brown canvas pants and a blue wool shirt, he was hoisting a fence pole into the hole he’d just finished digging when he saw the rider approaching along the road from the town of Van Buren.
His curiosity was aroused. It wasn’t often that people from town came out this way, most especially just before the middle of the day. Removing the battered brown Stetson, he took a cloth from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his broad, brown brow, and stood watching as the single rider drew nearer.
When the rider was about a hundred yards off, Bass was able to distinguish features. He saw that it was a white man with a long, dark brown beard that came to a point midway down the front of the black coat he wore. His hair, dark brown, almost black, splayed out from under the white hat he wore pulled down low over his forehead. Bass saw the butt of a Winchester rifle jutting out of the scabbard attached to the right side of the saddle, and assumed that the man also had at least one pistol in a holster. Few men, white or black, went anywhere this close to Indian Territory without a firearm. Bass’s own weapon, a Winchester repeating rifle, was leaned against a small tree about ten feet from where he stood. He’d left his Colt .44 pistols at the house, not figuring he’d need them just to mend a little fence. And besides, they’d just have been in the way.
Not that he was in any way worried. The stranger didn’t seem to pose any threat. He rode up, pulling his horse to a halt about ten feet away. Up close, Bass noted that he was almost as tall as he was, but considerably lighter, maybe a hundred fifty pounds or so. His expression, while not hostile, wasn’t particularly friendly either. There was something about the face that seemed familiar.
The man dismounted. He left his rifle in the scabbard and tied his horse to the fence post Bass had just an hour earlier planted in the ground. As he walked closer, his coat flapped open revealing a revolver high on his right hip.
“Don’t seem particularly friendly,” Bass thought. “But, don’t seem threatenin’ neither.”
The man stopped just beyond his reach.
“You Bass Reeves?” he asked.
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