Guest post: Author Michael Williams

On Difficulty by Michael Williams

Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—people object to Vine because of its “difficulty”. They claim obscure or abstruse words, long sentences, fragmented episodes. These are things that get in the way of the story, they claim. Things that disrupt the pleasure of reading.

Let me make my case.

Suppose you were at a diving event. Which would you rather see: a lithe young Australian doing a back one-and-a-half off a high board, or a dumpy, fifty-something Irishman such as myself attempt a cannonball from poolside? Not for the comedy, mind you. For the sheer athletic and aesthetic pleasure of a dive.
It’s what they call degree of difficulty. We are impressed by things exceptional, things that ordinary folks don’t or can’t do.

It’s why literature is more than writing, though we tend to forget it because of the very nature of the literary medium. Neither you nor I would expect to be playing a trumpet well enough to record if we first picked it up a month ago. But writing is regarded as different, because we all use language. Everyone can communicate with sentences, but to really write is to delight in the ways of communication, to juggle and manipulate them.

The story itself is part, not all, of fiction, I think. If it were simply story, if it were the writer’s job to get out of the way, there would be very little difference between how fiction and journalism are done. But with fiction it seems there is more emphasis on the way the story is told—on language or rhetoric. In fact, fiction that employs transparent prose and linear, causal narrative is really basically a holdover from the mid to late 19th century—writers like George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Stephen Crane. Writing before and after that relatively brief window of time is often writing that calls attention to itself, that is ruffle and rhetoric, back-pedaling  and leaping perilously from one circumstance to the next. Look at Tristram Shandy or The Pickwick Papers or Frankenstein on one side of that window, Lovecraft or Joyce or Garcia Marquez on the other. These are fictions that delight as much in how the story is told as in what is told.

So I will play with ways of telling. I will offer my readers a chance to work with the story I tell, to help me make that story by their involved and intelligent work with the words I give them. I hope that doing some work has its rewards, that the reader emerges, deepened and exercised, from something of mine that they’ve read. If they don’t, they don’t. If they choose not to undertake my offer, I understand: I respect that they want something else from the reading experience, and the two of us wave and walk our separate literary paths.

But it itself, difficulty is not a bad thing, I maintain. It is a choice, a tactic to reveal and challenge, not a posture or design to intimidate. Indeed, I think that difficult fiction can respect the reader more; in asking you to shoulder more of the burden than to sit back and be entertained, it is asking you to undertake something that can be a different, and sometimes a better adventure.

About the author:

Michael Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Much of his childhood was spent in the south central part of the state, amid red dirt, tobacco farms, and murky legends of Confederate guerillas. He has spent a dozen years in various parts of the world, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, with stopovers in Ireland and England, and emerged from the experience surprisingly unscathed.

Upon returning to the Ohio River Valley, he has published a series of novels of increasing oddness,combinations of what he characterizes as “gothic/historical fiction/fantasy/sf/redneck magical realism” beginning with Weasel’s Luck (1988) and Galen Beknighted (1990), the critically acclaimed Arcady (1996) and Allamanda (1997), and, most recently, Trajan’s Arch (2010). His new novel Vine will be released this summer.

He lives in Corydon, Indiana with his wife, Rhonda, and a clowder of cats.

Connect with the author:      Facebook     |     Author’s Blog  

About the book:

Vine: An Urban Legend by Michael Williams
ISBN: 9781613181256 (paperback)
ASIN: B008G5WHHA (Kindle ebook)
Publication Date:  March 28, 2012
Publisher: BlackWyrm

Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.

Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.

Buy the book:

Shop Indie Bookstores

Also available at:  Alibris  


Guest post: Author Karen Azinger

By Karen Azinger
The author of The Silk & Steel Saga

Publicity…is it a science, or an art form, or just plain dumb luck? Whatever it is, if you’re an author, you need it, and you need it bad. 

Writing a great book just isn’t good enough. “If you build it, they will come” is a philosophy designed to crash and burn in the publishing industry. If readers don’t truly love your book, then a massive marketing campaign won’t save it. But if readers do love your books, you still have to work hard to spread the word and find new readers. It used to be that readers found books on bookstore shelves, but book stores are rapidly disappearing, and truth be told, indie authors were never really welcome in most book stores. Fortunately for indie authors, the internet is the new book store, but this raises a whole new set of challenges. By some estimates, Amazon has over 1.7 million titles, so how do you keep your book from being a proverbial needle in the cyber haystack? Smart publicity is the answer. These days authors need to find readers, not the other way around. 

Think about your target audience. Who reads your kind of books? Better yet, who loves your kind of books? Start with successful authors who write books similar to yours. Follow these authors on the internet to discover what they do for publicity. Study their readership and seek innovative ways to find them. Imitate success but also strive to be innovative, putting your own twist on your approach to publicity. 

Start early! The sooner you start promoting your book, the better. Authors need to build an audience before their book is published. This might sound like putting the cart before the horse, but major publishers promote their authors for over a year in advance. If it’s important for the majors then it’s doubly critical for indie publishers. For The Steel Queen, I started two years in advance with Facebook and then progressed to a website and other forms of social media. Be creative, be entertaining, and use the social network to spread the word.

A picture is still worth a thousand words. Eye-catching artwork, even when reduced to a postage-stamp size, is the very best publicity tool an indie author has. A cover is your calling card on Amazon, on Facebook, on your website, so make sure it’s a great one. Covers should look professional and they should reflect your genre with a single glance. Commission your cover as soon as possible so you have it for advance publicity.  

Word-of-mouth is still king when it comes to selling books, so encourage your readers to write and post reviews. The best gift a reader can give an author is a review, but indie publishers also need professional reviews. Search for book reviewers on-line and offer them a complimentary copy for an honest review. Unfortunately major publishers are flooding established reviewers with their books (proving how important reviews are). Indie publishers often need to discover new emerging reviewers. Once a review is posted, multiply its value by spreading links through the web.  

Giveaways are a great publicity tool. Like all publicity, the objective is to get more readers aware of your book. Authors should use giveaway programs with the broadest reach. I use Goodreads because they reach ten million readers with romance and fantasy as their top genres. They also let authors choose the countries eligible for the giveaway. It may mean more postage, but authors should select every country where their e-book is sold in order to get the most bang for their book. 

And last, but not least, keep writing. The more good books you publish, the greater your chance of success. Write a saga or a series and publish new books at regular intervals. Keep writing good books and your audience will multiply.

Publicity is tricky and it’s hard work, but it’s a necessary part of success. I call it “rolling the snowball”. I keep trying to add more readers and build momentum for my epic fantasy The Silk & Steel Saga, hoping that one day the snowball will take off and roll by itself. Best of luck to you!

About the author:

Karen L. Azinger has always loved fantasy fiction, and always hoped that someday she could give back to the genre a little of the joy that reading has always given her. Ten years ago on a hike in the Columbia River Gorge she realized she had enough original ideas to finally write an epic fantasy. She started writing and never stopped. The Steel Queen is her first book, born from that hike in the gorge. Before writing, Karen spent over twenty years as an international business strategist, eventually becoming a vice-president for one of the world’s largest natural resource companies. She’s worked on developing the first gem-quality diamond mine in Canada’s arctic, on coal seam gas power projects in Australia, and on petroleum projects around the world. Having lived in Australia for eight years she considers it to be her second home. She’s also lived in Canada and spent a lot of time in the Canadian arctic. She lives with her husband in Portland Oregon, in a house perched on the edge of the forest. The first four books of The Silk & Steel Saga have already been written and she is hard at work on the fifth and final book.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     GoodReads

The Books:

In a medieval world of forgotten magic, mortals are lured to the chessboard of the gods where an epic struggle of lives, loves and crowns hang in the balance, yet few understand the rules. In this game of power, the pawns of light and darkness will make the difference in the battle for the kingdoms of Erdhe: Katherine, ‘The Imp’: a young princess with the stout heart of a warrior will challenge the minions of a thousand-year-old evil. Liandra: The Spider Queen; who uses her beauty to beguile, her spies to foresee, and her gold to control, will need all of her skill and strength to fight a rebellion with her own blood at it’s heart. Steffan, the puppeteer, will corrupt the innocent and unwary with greed and desire, as he sets an entire kingdom ablaze.

 Heralded by a red comet, the Mordant is Reborn. A thousand years of evil hidden beneath a young man’s face, the Mordant returns in the guise of his oldest enemy. Keen to regain his full powers, he weaves his way north, sowing a trail of death and deceit. Kath and her companions leave the monastery, chasing an elusive shadow across the kingdoms of Erdhe, but the dark divide has already begun. Allies are set against allies, tearing the kingdoms asunder. A rebellion rises in Lanverness, threatening the queen’s life as well as her crown. Trapped within her own castle, the Spider Queen must out-wit the traitors led by her own blood, or surrender her kingdom to Darkness. Across the border, the Lord Raven builds a religion into a fanatical bonfire. A fiery frenzy grips Coronth, fanning the powers of the Flame Priest into a raging threat. The eternal battle of Light and Dark is joined, but few mortals understand the rules.

Destinies collide in the far north. Kath and her companions chase a trail of death across the steppes. The endless grassland seems benign, but they soon fall prey to an ambush of tricks and traps. Swords alone will not avail them, for the north is guarded by the foulest magic. The companions must rally, each of them tested in a crucible of choice. War drums thunder across the steppes. The Mordant ascends the Ebony Throne, loosing his hordes against the Octagon. The steppes become a bloody battlefield, with victory and loss on all sides. One age is ended but another begins. Born of blood and deceit, the new age threatens to be full of Darkness unless a few dare to make a difference.

While Kath and her companions chase the Mordant into the far north, the southern kingdoms erupt in Flames. The Lord Raven marches south, unleashing a holy war against Lanverness. Vastly outnumbered by a ruthless enemy, Queen Liandra spins desperate gambits in a dire struggle to save her kingdom. New alliances and new awakenings hatch deeper levels of intrigue. The Oracle Priestess and the Lord Raven form a tenuous alliance, while deep in the Southern Mountains the Kiralynn monks stir, revealing more than prophecy. Armies clash, battles rage, and cities fall, as lives, loves and crowns hang in the balance, but swords are not the only way to wage war. Treachery, deceit, assassins, and the power of seduction will face-off against steadfast courage, forgotten magic, and the power of truth. The Poison Priestess is the fourth book in this epic tale of Light versus Dark. 

Buy the books

Guest Post: Author Natasha Deen

Enough is Enough – Natasha Deen

When I was a kid, they showed us the four food groups and said to be healthy, we had to eat from each category. I figured I had this knocked, especially the grain part. I loved bread, but then they came and said it couldn’t be white bread. To be healthy, it had to be brown.

I don’t like brown bread, but okay, I changed over.

Then they said my 60% loaves weren’t good enough, it should be 100%.

So I changed.

Then they said it that wasn’t good enough, it had to whole grain and just when I was getting used to the choppy texture, they said multi-grain…then sprouted grain.

At this point, I thought, enough is enough. If I keep going with this, pretty soon I’m going to be fighting the cows for the grass in the pasture. Sometimes I feel this way with the writing.

I get an idea, an intriguing “what if” and I start to write, but even as I put pen to paper (and later, keys to screen), I hear those voices, whispering, “Not good enough. It has to have a tighter plot, deeper characters.”

Never mind that it’s my first draft, never mind that my goal is just to get the ideas on the page, all I hear is “not good enough,” and I have to stop, to remind myself that writing, like life, is about the effort, not the outcome.

My first draft isn’t my last draft. There’ll be edits and deletions, rewrites and write agains, but that’s okay because that’s life, too. We try, we fail, we try harder. Forget about processed grain, whole wheat versus whole grain, and let the words flow, the sentences come. There’ll be time later to talk about good and better, but right now, it’s me and the page and the idea, and that’s good enough for me.

About the author:

There was only one thing Natasha wanted to be when she grew up: a superhero. Sadly, this goal was made moot when she realized that being a klutz was not, in fact, a super power, and her super-weakness for anything bright and shiny meant that a magpie with self-control could easily defeat her in a battle of wills.  So, she turned to writing as a way to unleash her inner superhero.  She doesn’t get to live on a secret space station orbiting the earth (and thank goodness because she gets motion sick on a merry-go-round), but she still get to wear leotards, a cape and say things like, “STAND ASIDE! THIS IS A JOB FOR WRITING-GIRL!” 

Visit her at, and find her on Facebook, Goodreads,  and Twitter 

Angel Maker, True Grime 2 by Natasha Deen
ISBN:  9780986741951
Publisher:  Blueberry Hill Press
Publication Date:  August 2012

About the book:

For the last two years, human Aponi Runningbear has been training to be part of Grime, the magical police division tasked with protecting humanity from SOAP terrorists. But things aren’t going well. She’s barely keeping up with her studies, failing the physical component, and her Generalized Anxiety Disorder is making her bad days even worse. When her team is given the chance to find a missing coworker and stop SOAP from producing a DNA-altering drug that’s killing humans, Aponi grabs hold of the chance to show she’s meant for Grime. But as the investigation heats up, she’s forced to deal with the tormentor from her past, dead bodies, and the certainty that SOAP’s going to win this battle. Humanity’s dying, Grime’s in trouble, and she’s failing…does a foster kid really have what it takes to save the world and herself?

Buy the book at:

Shop Indie Bookstores

Also available at:

Smashwords     |     Createspace     |

Guest Author Post by J.S. Watts: "It’s A Cover Up"

It’s A Cover Up

By J.S. Watts

As an avid reader I have, from time to time, been surprised by the inaccuracy of book covers. By this I don’t mean printing errors or dodgy artwork. Far from it; these can often be quite beautifully designed covers. It’s the content or subject detail that is the surprise. Alluringly put together as these covers are, they entice you, like sirens of the book shelves, to browse, read and buy. It’s only when you have read in full the book that each cover surrounds, you realise that theirs is a hollow promise that doesn’t deliver. The image sprawled across the cover is, at best, an imaginative interpretation of the book’s actual content, at worst, a work of pure fiction in its own right. In other words, the enticing cover image bears little or no resemblance to the book it embraces.
You have to ask, hasn’t the designer read the book they are creating a cover for? In some cases the answer must surely be no.
I have also noticed, with a different type of surprise, the excitement/anxiety with which most authors react to the unveiling of their latest book’s cover. When my first two poetry books came out, I really didn’t think that much about cover veracity, or about covers much, at all. My poetry publisher favours artistically austere covers, beautiful in their tasteful, monochrome way, but hardly cause for angst or undue excitement and anyway the black and white cover images were ones I had created myself, so I was happy they were an appropriate and sympathetic reflection of the books’ contents.
With the publication of my first novel, A Darker Moon, it was a different matter altogether. My publisher in this instance, Vagabondage Press, has its own design team and all I had to do was admire their artistic efforts. I suddenly discovered that waiting for someone else to interpret your literary baby is a nerve-wracking business. Would the cover artwork be striking? Would I like it? Would it be a fair and accurate reflection of what I had written?
The day of revelation was upon me. The draft image arrived by email and I clicked on it nervously. And breathed: striking – tick, beautiful – tick, I didn’t like it – I loved it, but was it an accurate reflection of both the spirit and the detail of the novel, a dark psychological fantasy? The answer was, breath  again, a resounding, oh yes! I take my hat off to Vagabondage’s Art Director – she had read and understood my novel and rendered its spirit beautifully and graphically.
I tried out the cover on friends and acquaintances. What did they think? I was delighted by their responses: “beautiful”, “striking”, “impressive” and, most important to me, “darkly foreboding”. The novel is a mythical tale of light and shadow and the unlit places where it is best not to shine even the dimmest light: I’m not after pastel pink bunnies and “lightly encouraging”.

I was also impressed by the way the cover doesn’t try to tell the complicated story of my anti-hero, Abe Finchley and his search for the woman he has been looking for all his life. Instead, it captures the spirit  and atmosphere of the novel by reflecting three of the key motifs running throughout the story: the owl with its “huge yellow eyes like two full harvest moons” that haunts Abe’s lifelong nightmares, the moon itself, with its evolving phases and apocryphal darker sibling moon named after the goddess Lilith and the darkly flowing water which winds its way through both Abe’s story and London, where the book is set, like a ribbon of night.    
As soon as I saw the cover for A Darker Moon I knew it had been designed by someone who had read and understood the book, both in terms of story and tone. I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful feeling that is; that somebody ‘gets’ what you have spent ages and much sweat producing and has transformed it accurately and effectively into another art form. At last, I have understood why other authors go on at length about their book covers and their excitement at seeing them for the first time. I must also admit that I have rather fallen in love with the glowering and gorgeous owl in the centre of the cover: unlike Abe Finchley, I fortunately don’t have “a morbid fascination” with owls. 
Anyway, enough words on the subject of cover design. Covers are visual things, they have to be seen to be appreciated. So here’s an image of the front cover of A Darker Moon. I hope you fall in love with it the way I have.

J.S. Watts is a British writer. She was born in London, England and now lives and writes in East Anglia. In between, she read English at Somerville College, Oxford and spent many years working in the education sector. She remains committed to the ideals of further and higher education despite governments of assorted political persuasions trying to demolish them.

Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including Acumen, Brittle Star, Envoi, Mslexia and Fantastique Unfettered and have been broadcast on BBC and independent Radio. She has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and, until its demise, Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths and a subsequent poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue are published by Lapwing Publications. Her novel, A Darker Moon, is published by Vagabondage Press.  Further details of her books can be found on her website: You can also find her on Facebook at
Buy your copy of A Darker Moon at:

Guest Post: Author Alma Alexander

We are human beings. Passionate, fallible, generators of wishes, dreams, regrets. We will, in the course of our lifetimes, fall in love many times – with people, with ideas, with passionately held beliefs. We will inevitably get our hearts broken when those people or those ideals break under the weight of our expectations, never quite living up to the  potential which we had envisaged for them.

That’s when the choices come, and make us face them. The choices that arrive after we shed our illusions and look the hard truths squarely in the eye. The choices that matter.

What if you were offered a fabulous and ideal job, everything you wanted in every way… but you had to move three thousand miles away to claim it, away from your friends, your family, everything you know, and you had to go alone? Would you have the courage? Is the dream that strong? Would you shy away from it, afraid, and then spent the rest of your life feeling hobbled by the fact that you had this opportunity and did not take it, that you could have grasped your dream but did not have the strength to try? Are you afraid enough of failure to turn your back on something that is not a guaranteed success? (IS there such a thing as a guaranteed success?)

If you were offered fame and fortune – would you take it? Could you handle it? Would it become onerous? Would it start to be a burden to you that you could not go out for a quick cup of coffee in the local coffee shop because if you tried there would be a mob of adoring fans kneeling at your feet, or following you home? Would you reject it – and then spend your days wondering what it would have been like, to be that famous? Do you truly covet the lifestyle of the rich and famous or do you just think you do? (Are you sure you aren’t just a titch grateful for the chance to have a bad hair day and that nobody would really notice or take an incriminating photograph which would surface on the Internet and haunt you forever more?)

If you had split from the love of your life when you were younger, but had since settled down with somebody else whom you might have come to care for – what would you do if your first love came knocking at your door and asking you to run away with him or her to live by some wonderful exotic waterfall in Hawaii? When do you stop loving someone – can you stop loving someone? Are you rejecting your heart and soul, or just temptation?

If somebody wronged you, once, and at the time you did nothing except take it – would you jump at the chance to do it over, to pay it back in kind, or to simply wreak an elegant revenge years later? Is there a statute of limitations on forgiveness?

We are human beings, you and I, and we’ve had our own choices to make along the line. Ones we were happy with, ones we regretted. We made those choices, and carried on. And yet, it is also ever so human to look back over our shoulder, to have second or even third thoughts, to remember, perhaps to grieve, perhaps to sigh in gratitude. It is human to choose. It is transcendently human to wonder – perhaps for years, perhaps forever – what would have happened had we chosen the OTHER path when we had come to our particular crossroads. And I think that most of us would find it almost irresistible not to take up an option of going back and walking a road again, coming up to the same crossroads, being given another chance.

Life doesn’t offer do-overs, and often we can only look at other people’s choices if we want to glimpse alternatives to the ones that we ourselves have made. Life doesn’t… but story does. And five people walked into my mind one day, sat down in a place which I remembered vividly from my own youth (yes, Spanish Gardens was a real place…), and demanded that I tell of their own choices, made at the end of the world, in a place where only truth could be told.

In their place, what would you have chosen?

And what, from where you stand right now in your own life, are YOU going to choose next…?

A year is ending, soon. A brand new year will begin, filled with new opportunities, new tragedies, new dreams and hopes and fears and catastrophes and disappointments and achievements – with new love, and new hate, and new understanding.
Choose wisely.

In closing – a few words about me, and a few more about the book –
My main website is at  (take a look at the bibliography page!) and I also have a website dedicated to my YA series, Worldweavers, at, and you can find a book trailer there, as well as excerpts from those books and also ordering information.  I blog regularly at  and if people want to get to know the real me that’s the more dynamic site right now. I’m also on Facebook (, or and if you want to read more literary and writerly essaylets you might visit  on the 30th of every month and keep up with me there.
If you want to look into purchasing any of my books, you can go to several places:
(if you are after actual books) or

(if you’re after a Kindle ebook)  for other ebook editions (and go there to keep an eye on the Alexander Triads project, themed collections of short stories…)

Or visit your friendly neighbourhood indie store and ask them to get my books for you if they don’t have them…

Guest Post: Author Larry Kahn "Buried Treasures"

Buried Treasures: Treats for the Watchful Reader

For me, writing is a lonely sport, thousands of hours invested in a novel with only sporadic feedback from my critique group and beta readers. In early drafts, when I’m focused on building characters and weaving plots together, solving the puzzles that make a novel sizzle provides its own thrill. The grind of revising later drafts can become tiresome, though, and I find myself yearning for more entertaining tasks. One I particularly enjoy is planting buried treasures for watchful readers to find. (I’m easily entertained–ask me the capitol of any state!)

Some of these little Easter eggs are identifiable only to a limited audience (like significant dates, meaningful numerology, and “coincidental” character names or descriptions), but others take the form of homages, themes, and trivia I hope will intrigue others.

For example, movie fans will like the way Frank Paine, my protagonist in King of Paine, thinks. He’s a former Hollywood stud who’s joined the FBI in search of redemption for his excesses. He draws inspiration from his old acting mentor and the way respected actors have handled various predicaments on film. In one scene, Frank throws a punch at an armed adversary and then has immediate regrets:
Hand stinging, Frank bounced on his toes like a boxer, poised to deliver another blow if Zack wanted to duke it out. The big guy’s surprise showed in his blue eyes, the only feature he shared with his kid sister. He looked like a denim gorilla. An angry denim gorilla with a forty-five caliber, FBI-issued Glock.
Frank recalled the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where an Arabian swordsman dazzles Indiana Jones with his ferocious blade work until Harrison draws his pistol and slays him with a smirk and a single shot. Maybe we should’ve thought this plan all the way through, old man. His mental image of Lee Fields shrugged. That’s why we have rewrites, Frankie Boy.

I love movies, and these homages to notable actors and films are littered throughout the story. Frank’s status as a former insider also created some irresistible opportunities to poke fun at the Hollywood scene. I crack up every time I re-read his troubling flashback about Jack Nicholson in a Speedo at a Playboy Mansion party. (As mentioned earlier, I’m easily entertained.)

Tributes to authors who have inspired me also dot my writing. While my novels read at contemporary thriller pace, some themes and devices are drawn from surprising sources.

Umberto Eco’s Foucalt’s Pendulum can be dense at times, but the story is amazing (spoiler alert). When an intellectual’s research unearths a medieval list which could be interpreted to describe a centuries-long conspiracy, or not, a group of pseudo-conspirators take up the ancient cause with tragic consequences. In my first novel, The Jinx, a young lawyer inadvertently discovers a cryptic poem hinting at a 140-year conspiracy against the American presidency. In case Eco’s influence was not apparent, a character in my novel recognizes the similarity of the presidential conspiracy to Eco’s contrivance and speculates that the poem may be the work of pseudo-conspirators like in Foucalt’s Pendulum. This uncertainty whether the scheme is real or imagined propels the suspense in the early going.

King of Paine more subtly honors another favorite, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. While that story rants against the alienation of wealth producers who ultimately rebel against over-taxation by fleeing to a hidden free market commune, King of Paine suggests that focusing on achievement and greed at the expense of family and tradition can lead to alienation of a different sort. Lonely seniors are drawn to another secret haven where a reclusive biochemist is either curing or killing them with a mysterious new drug. See if you can spot my own take on Rand’s classic “Who is John Galt?” line, a literary device that creates suspense without any action or threat whatsoever.

Another understated theme in King of Paine takes cues from classic fiction. I’ve been running a contest on my website in which a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift certificate will be awarded to the first reader to correctly identify all three literal and figurative references to a legendary novel buried within King of Paine. One is easy, but no one has found all three yet. Can you?

Hiding Easter eggs in books may seem trivial (okay, it is trivial), but few things give me more pleasure than when a reader gets excited about finding one. After I left my first law firm in 1992, I lost touch with several valued colleagues. A few months after The Jinx came out, a senior lawyer called me out of the blue after recognizing an expression he invented (look for my hero’s “clong”–the sickening feeling of one’s stomach accelerating into the throat–and the stunning twist that prompts it). My old friend’s joy in being honored this way was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a writer.

So if you read one of my books and discover a buried treasure that makes you smile, drop me a note. Maybe I’ll name a character after you!

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow when I visit Alive On The Shelves for a guest post entitled “When Eye Candy Fights Back: Adding Depth To a Love Interest.” It’s about Jolynn Decker, Frank Paine’s feisty ex-girlfriend, who alternates among suspect, tease, lover, sidekick, and victim in King of Paine with the ease of a more experienced actress. Speaking of teases, would you like to win a Kindle Touch 3G before Christmas? Check out the contest on my website!

Guest Post: Author Abria Mattina

Pages:  727
Published September 22, 2011
ISBN:  9780986957

Eighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.

Writing the Beginning

Beginnings are sometimes harder than endings, and I usually end up rewriting the beginning of a story once I’ve finished the whole piece. Some writers suggest opening a story with an action boom and using that to sweep the reader into the world of the story. I find those beginnings a little jarring, and it’s easy for a reader to feel excluded from the story if it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on.

Then there are the types of beginnings that most people will tell you not to write–the main character alone, thinking; the character in the middle of attending to a bodily function; the penultimate moment before climax; etc.

I like to start stories in the quiet, unremarkable moments that, when we look back on our days, don’t merit remembering or reflecting upon. The character is in a situation that most of us wouldn’t associate with being watched, unselfconsciously going about his or her day. It introduces an intimacy between reader and character by making the reader a fly on the wall as soon as the book begins.

Take the opening scene of Wake, for example. Jem is sitting in the back of a mostly empty classroom, slouched in his seat, waiting for the bell to ring and class to begin. It’s a moment that’s not worth reporting on, one where he is alone and the only interaction he has is indirect interaction with the reader.

Similarly, Willa’s first chapter opens during a quiet morning at home without her brother, and then moves to the mundane, everyday task of parking a car and walking across a lot. She observes people without interacting with any of them. Simply put, she’s inhabiting one of life’s “filler” moments in between memorable events.

I like to narrate moments like these because they’re very good at revealing character. What is this person like when they are alone and think themselves unobserved? How do they react to a situation without interacting with it? A lot of information about a character’s personality and mentality can be conveyed through the way these scenes begin.
Abria Mattina’s Links: Website / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Post: Author Erik Hanberg

I am pleased to be able to provide you with the following guest post by the author of The Saints Go Dying and The Marinara Murders, Erik Hanberg.

Why would a city government ever own a restaurant? In 2002, in my hometown of Tacoma, our city found itself in that unusual situation.

It started when the city government was clearing a block of old buildings downtown to make way for a new convention center, and they paid each business to move elsewhere.

One of those long-time businesses, Bimbo’s of Tacoma (really, that was its name) was famous for its meat sauce, with a secret recipe no one knew.

The owner of Bimbo’s decided part way through the process that instead of letting the city move him, he would just rather take the money they would have spent moving him and retire.

The City paid him and suddenly found itself in position of all the assets of the restaurant—the equipment, the pots, and the secret recipe to the meat sauce.

I don’t want to give away much more, but when the real world hands you such a rich story to start with, I knew I had a great story for The Marinara Murders, which—nine years later—I’m happy to say is finally available.

The Marinara Murders: A grown man living in his mother’s basement, disgraced detective Arthur Beautyman knows his life has fallen off a cliff. But that doesn’t mean he has to be happy about his mother’s solution to his woes: volunteering him to solve a case for her favorite bridge partner. Oh, and to make matters worse, she wants to be his partner on the case as well …

Erik Hanberg blogs at and is on twitter at @erikhanberg. He is an elected official, serving as a commissioner with the Metro Parks Tacoma.

Guest Post: Author Amy Lichtenhan

Thank you to The Book Diva’s Reads for having me on today! 

Since I’ve just starting working on the outline for my third release, I thought it would be fun to talk a little bit about the first steps of my writing process.

I’m sure many of you are writers or perhaps you have wanted to pen your own novel, but just haven’t known exactly how to get started. 

Many times, the idea is the easy part.  For me, it’s usually out of the blue when the images of new characters and a vague sense of their circumstances pop in my head.  I spend quite a bit of time thinking about and developing the characters and their stories in my mind.

But how to get it on paper? 

Once I have a mental grasp on my story line, an outline becomes essential.  I have a thick, spiral notebook for each book (and of course a pencil – we can’t be afraid to erase and revise).

First of all, I start with my characters and their traits: What do they look like?  What are their mannerisms, attributes, temperaments? Why are the characters important to each other?  Now is also the time to think about the setting and how it affects my characters.

Next, I work on the outline. I know there are successful writers out there who work completely without an outline and allow their characters to take them where they want to go, but for most of us, we need direction.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but a basic guide for where we want our story to go. 

Start simple.

Think about your introduction, rising action, climax, and resolution.  Jot a few sentences down about each.  What happens during each of them? 

Then take those and expand. Here you can begin to break your story up into chapters.  If your plot is time specific, be sure to also write a time-line so the passage of time over your chapters is clear to your reader. If you want to get really detailed, you can write a mini-outline for each chapter.  Personally, I write just a few paragraphs to outline each chapter:  What happens in the chapter (beginning, middle, and end), what do my characters feel, and what needs to be said?  I also leave space to go back and jot things down later on as thoughts, ideas, and dialogue come to me.

With a plot and characters in place, I now have somewhere to start.  

My outlines aren’t perfect and changes are always made, but they are essential to keeping me organized and on track.

Thanks again to Vivian for having me on The Book Diva’s Reads today! It’s been an honor. Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win an eBook copy of Pulled

Amy Lichtenhan is the debut author of Pulled, a contemporary romance released by TWCS Publishing House on February 24, 2011. 

Melanie Winters and Daniel Montgomery shared a love most only dream of; a love they believed bonded them together for life.  When their world is shattered by the tragic loss of their daughter, overwhelming grief and misguided guilt distorts the truth, and their relationship ends in uncertainty and unanswered questions. 

For nine years, they drift through life, each unable to forget the one who holds the strings to their heart.  In an attempt to escape the pain of her past, Melanie finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage, while Daniel loses himself in a career that means nothing without Melanie by his side.  

Now, when their lives again intersect, neither can deny the connection they felt so long ago.  

But will the power that drew them together be enough to heal the wounds from their past, and will they have the courage to overcome the insecurities and fears that threaten to keep them apart? 

Pulled is a story of attraction and separation, of destiny and duty, of a love so strong it refuses to give up even when all others have. 

Since she was a girl, Amy Lichtenhan found the reasons people are drawn together fascinating, and she utilizes her own experiences and observations to explore fate, destiny, and serendipity in her debut novel, Pulled.  

Amy’s second book, Take This Regret, is set for release July 28, 2011 

There are some mistakes we make that we will regret for the rest of our lives.  For Christian, it was the day he betrayed Elizabeth. 

Christian Davison has a plan for his life.  He is determined to become an attorney and to one day take his place as partner in his father’s law firm.  Nothing will stand in his way, not even Elizabeth Ayers and their unborn child.

After Christian cuts her from his life, Elizabeth spends the next five years struggling to provide for her daughter and willing to sacrifice anything to give her child a safe, comfortable life.  

For five years, Christian has regretted the day he walked away from his family and will do anything to win them back just as Elizabeth will do anything to protect her daughter from the certain heartache she believes Christian will bring upon them.

When Christian wrestles his way into their lives, Elizabeth is faced with asking herself if it is possible to forgive someone when they’ve committed the unforgiveable and if it is possible to find a love after it has been buried in years of hate.  Or are there some wounds that go so deep they can never heal?

They say everyone deserves a second chance.

To read more about Amy Lichtenhan visit:

Ebook giveaway and coming soon…

I’m pleased to announce another giveaway! I will be giving away the ebook of Pulled by Amy Lichtenhan. To enter this giveaway please click here and fill out the form. Entries are allowed through 12:00 AM ET on Wednesday, July 13th. The winner will be announced and posted on July 14, 2011.

Now for the really big news…author Amy Lichtenhan will be providing a guest author post on Wednesday July 13. My review of Pulled will be posting on Tuesday, July 12th. 

Make sure you mark your calendars and come back on Wednesday July 13th and enter today for your chance to get Pulled in ebook format.