Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Maltipoos are Murder Blog Tour – Interview and Giveaway

Today we have authors Jacqueline Corcoran and Lane Stone with us. They teamed up to write a book called Maltipoos are Murder, a mystery with a bit of romance mixed in. Before we get into the interview, let me tell you a bit about the book.

Maltipoos are Murder
By: Jacqueline Corcoran and Lane Stone
Publisher: Ignite (Entangled Publishing)
Publication date: 5.27.2014
Pages: 146

Can a murder investigation keep these opposites from attracting?

Cara Rogers wants a fresh start after a slew of bad luck in Washington DC. Moving to Virginia to help her aunt run La Maison de Chien, a doggie spa, is just the peace of mind she needs. No stress. Just her aunt, the dogs, and wide-open country. But when she finds Aunt Marian floating in the doggie swimming pool, the rest she so desperately needs flies out the window. The only witness to the death is Rex, an apricot maltipoo, and while he may not be able to talk, he's communicating the only way he knows how – one paw at a time. And Rex's clues lead to murder.

Can Cara keep the doggie spa afloat, convince Middleburg homicide detective Cole Sampson that Aunt Marian's death was no accident, and keep Rex from the killer's clutches before they all end up as dead as dogs?

Hi, ladies. Thank you for joining us here on The Gal. Let's start with y'all telling us a bit about yourselves.

Jacqueline: I was born to Irish and Welsh parents in England and we came to the US when I was five. From the time I was in kindergarten to a senior in high school, I attended six different schools in three different states. I started writing novels when I was 20 years old, and have been at it ever since. Meanwhile, I also became a social worker and then an academic. I currently teach at Virginia Commonwealth University and live in the Washington DC area with my husband, two children, and rescue animals, Gootch and Luna (the cats) and Tina the Chihuahua.

Lane: I'm a native Atlantan and graduate of Georgia State University. My husband, Larry Korb, our standard schnauzer, Abby, and I divide our time between Sugar Hill, GA and Alexandria, VA. If I'm not writing, just look for me on a golf course. My volunteer work includes the Political Science Advisory Board for Georgia State University, Sugar Hill's Anniversary Planning Committee, and the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse 75th Foundation Board.

What is the first book you remember reading?

Jacqueline: The first novel I remember reading is a Nancy Drew, The Mystery of the Old Clock, which my father bought me as a gift when he was on a business trip.

Lane: I remember my older sister helping me read, The Little Engine That Could. The next book that made an impression was The Island of the Blue Dolphins. Both books have stood the test of time.

What made you decide to begin writing in the first place?

Jacqueline: My mother remembers me telling her when I was seven years old that I wanted to be an author. I enjoyed reading from a young age, and I wanted to inspire in people that special feeling of delight and connection I had when I read a book I enjoyed.

Lane: I spent most of my childhood daydreaming. It'd be a shame to let all that time I spent training my imagination go to waste, so I try to channel it to plots and character development.

What books have most influenced you?

Jacqueline: For mysteries, I have been most influenced by women mystery authors, such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Linda Barnes, and from there, I have focused in the last three decades on just reading mysteries by women.

Lane: When I read the Lucia books by EF Benson, I knew I was meant to write humor. PG Wodehouse is another favorite. And, of course, Agatha Christie's books are smart and light.

What inspires you most?

Jacqueline: Reading novels, reading writing craft books.

Lane: Hanging out with readers! That's why I speak at a lot of book groups. Sometimes I meet them at conferences and book fairs.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

Jacqueline: I either write at home or at a coffeehouse.

Lane: I split my time between Alexandria, VA and Sugar Hill, GA, and I make that drive once a month. I get a lot of outlining done during that 10 hour trek. In Sugar Hill, I have a home office and in Virginia, I usually go to Panera's. I have to be far enough away so I can't hear the laundry calling my name.

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

Jacqueline: My characters generally are based on me. In Maltipoos are Murder, the main character is least like me because I had a co-author forcing me to lighter and more upbeat.

Lane: I usually answer that question by saying I'm all of my characters and none of my characters. I did Emma's youthful outlook in life. I think Jacqui would agree that we are both extremely jealous of these people who work with dogs and in Middleburg.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Jacqueline: It's all very challenging. I find coming up with "what happens next?" hard, as is getting words down. I edit and edit and edit, as if I'm working a block of marble into a statue.

Lane: With my first book, I was stuck with what a big thing a book is. You have to keep up not just with each character's whereabouts, but their clothes, eating preferences, homes. For instance, I was beta-reading a friend's book. The retired men in the book all wore white long-sleeved shirts. Were they covering prison tattoos, or what? No. My friend hadn't realized she'd written that.

What do you think makes a good story?

Having interesting characters and excellent plotting. That's all!

Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Jacqueline: I try to do a lot of freewriting in which I stumble around in the figurative dark, trying to figure out what to write next. I take writing craft book exercises and do them to try to come up with ideas. Lattes also help!

Lane: I keep a nice caffeine buzz going most of the day. I'm definitely an outliner, even though it changes as I write. Some days the characters just kick it to the curb.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Jacqueline: I am finishing a middle grade historical paranormal inspired by Agatha Christie and writing a romantic suspense set in Paris that involves a Surrealist artist.

Lane: I'm writing a nonfiction book about nuns in Poland who saved the lives of Jewish girls during the holocaust. I'm also writing book 3 in the Tiara Investigations mystery series. And we have three more books to go in the doggie day spa series.

Where can we find you?

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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Gal on Luxury Reading #2

It is my pleasure to share that this is the SECOND time that I have been able to share my opinion of a book on Luxury Reading.
    For those of you who don't know about Luxury Reading, it is a book review blog, ran by a wonderful lady named Vera, where bloggers and readers from all over the web have the opportunity to share their reviews. If you are interested, she has lots of books to choose from.
    After I listened to this book, I decided to purchase myself an e-book copy – to compare and contrast, somewhere in the future, the audio version with the written word, to see if my issues with this book were the author or the person doing the reading (who I think did a good job). Once I have done this, I will share my comparison with you. J

    While you're over there looking at my review, check out the other reviews that she has – and I believe she even has a giveaway or two going on.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Binds That Tie Blog Tour - Review

Binds That Tie
By: Kate Moretti

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime
Pages: 307

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication date: 3.26.2014
Amazon link:  Binds That Tie

Love ties.  Murder binds.

Maggie never felt as though she belonged until Chris Stevens showed her what true happiness meant.  Ten years into their marriage, miscarriages and infidelities have scarred them both.  Despite their perfect-couple image, Maggie can't look at Chris with anything but resentment.  When a charismatic stranger offers the opportunity for a little harmless flirtation, she jumps into the game.  

But charm soon turns to malice, and a deadly split-second decision forces Maggie and Chris onto a dangerous path fraught with secrets, lies and guilt.  With no one else to turn to - no one she dares trust - Maggie will learn just how binding marital ties can be.

This book is ... wow!  It was almost impossible to put this book down.  The suspense was intense.  The storyline powerful.  Some of the twists unexpected.  The use of flashbacks was smooth, creative and informative.  And with an ending that ...

Maggie and Chris have been married for some time and have been - unhappily may be too strong a word, but it will work for this - married for the last two years, ever since Maggie caught Chris cheating on her.  One night, while out with friends, she meets a guy and they flirt.  The next day, he texts her and they begin, what she feels is harmless, flirting for a couple of weeks.  At the same time, she comes to the conclusion that she wants to make her marriage work ... and that is where everything goes wrong.

While doing the interview with Kate yesterday, she said something that really caught my attention: "With Binds That Tie, I wrote fairly unsympathetic characters."  I had actually been wondering about whether that was her intention.  You see, there's Maggie and Chris, Miranda and Jake, Logan ... and then several side characters, including two police officers, a judge, people they work with, and a short-stayed cell mate.  At first I liked Maggie (sort of) and took issue with what Chris had done to her, which made me  not really like him.  Then I met Miranda (Maggie's older sister) and Jake.  Now, Miranda made a few choices that I did not agree with, but I sympathized with her, especially the one part in the story where Maggie hasn't seen her in awhile and the first thing she does is notice all of Miranda's physical imperfections (this is how my sister is).  Jake seems like a likable guy, but you realize in those flashbacks I spoke of earlier that he has his moments of not-niceness.  He does seem sincere, though, in wanting to help his old friend and his sister-in-law out of this situation, but here comes another flashback, which leaves you with this bad taste in your mouth, wondering if you can trust him at all.  And then there's Logan, the guy that ends up murdered - he seems like an interesting guy, a typical full-of-himself guy you would meet at a bar, but then he turns out to be terrifying.  As the story progresses, I end up liking Chris, but being irritated with him for his stupidity, and disliking Maggie more than I disliked any of the other characters.

I really like the flow of the story.  There are very few slow moments, so you're on the edge of your seat pretty much the whole book, once the that night in their house happens.  When the cops knock on the door, you panic with them.  It's well done, especially the way she doesn't switch point of view, but switches the narrator's focus to different characters, letting you know who in the chapter title.  

There is actually so much that I want to say about this book, but I am not the one to go and give too much away, so, go up there to the top, press the little linky thing that takes you to Amazon, purchase the book, read it, and then come back to me and we'll talk. :)

Favorite quote: "His back was hunched by an invisible backpack heavy with a lifetime supply of guilt and resignation."

"Somewhere deep inside her was a pit of memories as sharp and cutting as the day they'd happened."

"Until the day she died, she'd only be pretending to be a real person.  Pretending to be whole."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Binds That Tie Blog Tour - Interview and Giveaway

It is my absolute pleasure to welcome author Kate Moretti to The Gal today.  She has just started her Binds that Tie Blog Tour and I am proud to be one of her first stops.  I am 75% into this riveting novel of hers and CAN'T WAIT to share my review of it with you tomorrow.  Until then, let me tell you a little bit about Binds That Tie...

Title: Binds That Tie
By: Kate Moretti
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication date: 3.26.2014
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime
Pages: 307
Amazon link: Binds That Tie

Love Ties.  Murder binds.  

Maggie never felt as though she belonged until Chris Stevens showed her what true happiness meant.  Ten years into their marriage, miscarriages and infidelities have scarred them both.  Despite their perfect-couple image, Maggie can't look at Chris with anything but resentment.  When a charismatic stranger offers the opportunity for a little harmless flirtation, she jumps into the game.

But charm soon turns to malice, and a deadly split-second decision forces Maggie and Chris onto a dangerous path fraught with secrets, lies and guilt.  With no one else to turn to - no one she dares trust - Maggie will ultimately learn just how binding marital ties can be.

Hi, Kate.  Welcome to The Gal and congratulations on being named a New York Times Bestselling Author.  Let's start our interview with you telling us a bit about yourself.

I live in Pennsylvania with my husband and two girls in a 150 year old farmhouse that has no ghosts at all, which makes me sad.  It does have a turret and, therefore, a small secret room in the attic which makes me unreasonably happy.  I like coffee, old, broken furniture, comfortable shoes, fainting goats, and the smell of rain.

What is the first book you remember reading?

This is a great question!!  The first book I really remember making a huge impression on me was Remember Me by Christopher Pike.  I read other books before that, but that book stuck with me and I read it until the cover fell off.

What made you decide to begin writing in the first place?

I've always scribbled in journals.  I used to write ten page "short stories" and I call them that because they mostly had no plot, just characters doing weird things.  Slices of life.  I loved to envision their backstories.  When I was about sixteen, I wrote one of these stories about a husband who digs a hole in his backyard in the middle of the night and his wife catches him.  I have no idea why he was digging a hole, but it was eerie and definitely nefarious.  I re-read it a few years ago and got goosebumps.  I think I inadvertently channeled it when writing Binds That Tie.

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

I wrote the main character of my debut novel, I THOUGHT I KNEW YOU, to be very similar to me.  I didn't want to think about characterization, so I just made her in my likeness.  I tried to vary her and make her a bit more selfish and less self-aware than I am.  But for the most part, her snarky sarcasm is generally what's going through my mind at any given moment!

What books have influenced you the most?

This is impossible to answer!  I think I can more accurately depict what books influence various areas of my writing.  Rebecca was a huge influence in creating mood and mystery.  I'm actually using this one right now as I draft my third novel.  I mostly turn to women's fiction authors when developing characterization or delving into relationships.  So, Jennifer Weiner, Elin Hilderbrand, Kristin Hannah.  When it comes to page turning plot, I go to the master of breakneck plots: Harlan Coben.  I once tried to outline a Coben novel, just to get an idea of pace, and I ran out of steam just writing two sentences about every chapter.

What inspires you most?

I'm most inspired by great writing and depth of character.  When I read a novel that can consistently nail description and wow me, and then also explore the complex psyche of the human mind, I want to immediately close the book and just write something.  Anything.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

I have huge gaps of time where I don't write anything because my life takes over.  I work full-time and have little babies (3 and 5, they're still babies!).  I haven't been able to squeeze in my manuscript in about two weeks.  After this, going back to it is completely terrifying.

What do you think makes a good story?

Complicated characters with consuming motivations.  The drive to do something that even if the reader doesn't agree, can understand.  I  like the characters who can not be pigeon-holed, who constantly surprise.  I need some kind of story and plot, but I can have a thin plot if I have interesting characters.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

Anywhere I can clear a laptop-sized space.  I write standing up, leaning over the counter, cross-legged on the couch, lying in bed.  I even dictate parts of my novel when I'm stuck in traffic.  I cram writing into all the crevices of my life.  I have to.

When you're not writing, what are you doing?

Chasing children around my yard.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I like blending my two favorite genres: women's fiction and thriller/suspense.  I want my readers to not be able to turn the pages fast enough and I want them to be conflicted over who to root for.  With Binds That Tie, I wrote fairly unsympathetic characters.  My new novel, tentatively titled The Vanishing Year, I'm delighting in creating a quirky, entirely likeable character.  The Vanishing Year is about a woman, ten years out of Witness Protection, who decides to seek out her birth mother, only to discover that someone will stop at  nothing to keep them apart.

Where can we find you?

You can find me on Twitter at @KateMoretti1 or on Facebook.  I have a website and a blog called A Beaker's Reflection where I ramble about writing, science, and theories on life, and it mostly doesn't make any sense, but it's therapeutic.

Thank you again for stopping by, Kate, and good luck on your Blog Tour.  We'll see you again tomorrow for the review and Saturday for Between the Bindings.  Some of those answers of yours lead me to a slew of other questions, so we HAVE to have a conversation some time soon. :)

More about Kate:
Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and a dog.  She's worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn't get to do those things as much as she'd like to.

Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Who's the Girl in the Fat Suit? Blog Tour - Interview

TODAY TODAY TODAY begins the Who's the Girl in the Fat Suit? Blog Tour and April (A.L. Elder) is doing an AWESOME giveaway exclusively with me.  You can check out my thoughts on the book over in the post on My Pathway to Liberation.  And make sure you enter that giveaway at the bottom of this post :)

Hi, April.  Thank you for joining us here on The Gal.  Let's start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

I am your average thirty-eight year old wife, stepmother, college student, author, career girl and avid "concoctionist" in the kitchen.

I was a skinny chick when I got married at the ripe old age of twenty.  It took me nearly ten years to pack on 117 pounds and finally get the courage to lose the fat suit.  I was a diet failure waiting to happen.  Every single diet I tried, I failed miserably.  It got old, but I never found myself attractive living inside the fat suit.  I never fully accepted: "This is what I am."

What is the first book you remember reading?

Where the Red Fern Grows.  At the time, my grandparents had an Irish Setter, Shilo.  I remember reading it to her in the yard every afternoon after school.  Until I came to the end and I read it to myself.  You know, I didn't want to upset her!

What made you decide to begin writing?

I never felt like I had a choice to write or not to write.  I can remember writing short stories and plays when I was nine.  I wrote in a journal every night from the time I was twelve through twenty.  I have always loved seeing the clean white paper fill up with words.  Life got busy after I married Wes, and writing was less important.  I took about seventeen years off from writing.  I went back to college, took a creative writing class, and rediscovered my passion for storytelling.  In 2012, I picked up the pen and began the next chapter of my life.

Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

I prefer to write the first draft by hand in a spiral notebook.  I use fountain pens when I write.  (I guess that is pretty quirky.)  If I use a ball point, I find that my hand tires quickly because of the amount of pressure I apply.  With a fountain pen, the ink flows smoothly and it is dark.  Strange, I know.  I usually begin at the beginning of the book and end when I run out of words.  I have never written a plan or had notecards.  But, for the most part, I write about myself, so I know that character pretty well.

Do you have  a special place you like to write?

I do.  I am so fortunate to have a husband who believes in my dreams and support me as a writer.  Last year he remodeled a bedroom in our house.  It is complete with dark hardwood floors, grey subtle walls and black crown molding!  He customized the desk using two 2x8x10 and one 2x12x10 pine boards.  He burnished the wood with a blow torch and viola! I have a desk that is ten feet long by twenty-eight inches deep.  I love it!  My laptop is plugged into a 32" television, which is so much easier on my eyes than the 17" screen I used to use to transfer my written word to the computer.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Not having enough time to do it is the most challenging thing for me!  Honestly, between school and work, husband and family, there really isn't enough time in the day.  I would love to spend a whole weekend carrying my notebook around and scribbling chapters.  In fact, when we go camping ... that is exactly what I do!  I write like a crazed animal.

I also find proofreading my own draft to be challenging.  I know what's coming, so I don't see or recognize mistakes.  My first draft is usually riddled with errors and misspelled words.  Thankfully, I have some wonderful people who love to mark the drafts up with pink pens.  (My editor receives the third draft!)

Patience!  Oh dear, I lack them!  It is so difficult for me not to publish the first draft online.  Yes, I know it's filled with errors and I know the reviews would be horrific!  But, trying to convince myself not to publish is often more difficult than writing in a blacked out room.

What do you think makes a good story?

I enjoy reading stories that take me on a journey.  I like to be emotionally stimulated whether with fear, anticipation, sadness or happiness.  I want to believe the characters.  I want to escape my little world for a short time and venture to a place I would not normally experience.  I like books that tell me a story and allow me to imagine myself inside the pages of the book.  I want to get to the last chapter and debate whether or not I really want to finish it right then, or savor it for after dinner!  If an author can do that for me, well, I am a fan for life!

What book(s) have most influenced you?

Oh my, this could be a very long list, Meghan!  I will name a few and not in any order.
  • Lost: One Pair of Rose Colored Glasses by Shay Ray Stevens - I laughed, cried, and completely related to nearly every chapter in this book.  She wrote with an honesty that I adored.  Shay could easily be a woman I have coffee with and share life experiences.
  • Clean by Alexandro Junger - This book hit home and completely changed the way I look at my own health.
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey - Tina has the ability to twist words and throw in an unexpected curve ball.  I got caught laughing aloud far too many times reading this book.  I absolutely love her ability to twist the most common things into a comedic story.     
What inspires you most?

The people I have met on this journey have inspired me the most.  I have friends on Twitter, on Facebook, Goodreads and more!  I am fortunate to have people in my life who inspire me to reach for the stars.  I would not be here today, where I am, without the encouragement and support of all of my friends and family.  It was quite a process of posting chapters online and receiving feedback from my fans.  They would relate and write back with other events they experienced similar to mine.  Each time I would have a rant about a skinny salesclerk, they would rant alongside me!  When I had a breakdown, they were there to remind me that I didn't acquire the fat suit overnight.

Where do the ideas for your book come from?

Finally!  An easy question.  Phew.

Ideas come from my life.  They come from the past thirty-eight years.  All of my trials, tribulations, lessons and moments where I thought Murphy's Law was singling me out.  It wasn't until after I had published Hey Lady, Are These Your Underwear? that I decided I really loved the genre of non-fiction.

What do you think makes your book different from other books in this genre?

Who's the Girl in the Fat Suit? is not a diet book.  I don't tell you what you need to do to lose weight.  Instead, I share everything I did to try and mask the suit.  I express my feelings and what it finally took to look into the mirror and change.  It is a book filled with comical chapters, but there are a few dark ones too.  I am honest in my written words.  Probably too honest sometimes, but it is all true.  My emotions are all over the map and I include them when I write.  I don't want to tell a story.  Instead, I want to share a story with you.  I write in first person and I speak to you as if we were sitting across from one another in our favorite coffee shop.  I don't hold anything back.

What have you learned creating this book?

So much!  I learned that I am not the only woman out there who has a false reality of self-perception!  I learned that many people hide behind their computer and order clothing rather than venturing into a dressing room!  I learned that no matter how hard I tried to cover up my fat suit ... it was always there to remind me when I walked by a reflective surface.

Along those same lines, what did you learn about YOURSELF while writing this book?

When I began writing this book, I wanted it to be funny.  I wanted the reader to find my "situation" laughable.  It wasn't until I had completed the first draft that I handed it over to a friend to proofread and realized ... there was so much more to my story.  Yes, I find humor in life and yea, I have done a number of ridiculous things to disguise the fat suit ... but, there was a darker side to living in the fat suit.  I had tried so hard to mask how I felt that I lost my perception of reality.  I imagined and presented myself to others as I felt.  (A size 5.)  The reality?  I had gained even more weight while writing the book!  I saw my reflection for what it was.  It was a startling and  humbling moment!

I started making changes to my lifestyle, my eating and researched everything I could on health.  I still struggle to see the "real me" in the mirror.  It's a work in progress, for sure.  I am, as probably you are too, harder on myself than anyone else is.  I have learned that I am  not the only woman out there who struggles with self-acceptance!  I have learned that all-in-all, I am pretty normal.  (Phew!  honestly, there were a few chapters that I almost left out of the book, because I was afraid they were a little too narcissistic!  I wrote from my heart and, at times, put words on the page that I dared not speak aloud.  Not even to my best friend!)  I think the most important thing I learned was to truly look into the mirror and smile at my reflection.  I have a feeling that I will continue to learn as I lose the fat suit and even after the weight is gone.  Once I allowed myself full disclosure and cried alligator tears, I finally decided to commit to my own health ... I haven't looked back.

What do you think your readers will take away from this book?

I hope they see that they are not alone.  There are so many women who struggle to accept themselves as what they truly are.  We all have the power to change ... regardless of the times we have failed.  There are no limits other than the ones we place on ourselves.  We can re-write our story and live happily ever after if we choose to.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I am working on another memoir!  I love writing in this genre so Aw.  The next release will be a book about our adventures remodeling our 1920s farmhouse.  If you have ever remodeled a room in your house, with your significant other, this will be one you will relate to!  The title?  One D.I.Y. from Divorce

Wes and I were on our third room remodel when he turned to me and asked, "We are one D.I.Y. from divorce, aren't we?"

Five years later, we are still married and the house ... gorgeous!  When I talk about all the things "we" have done, Wes corrects me.  "We" is now code for Wes ... the "s" is silent!  (He did all of the work while I did some of the cleanup.)

What amazing answers.  THIS is why I love to do interviews.  Thank you so much for being here and you are welcome back any time :)

Meghan, thank you for having me on your blog.  I cannot express my gratitude enough.  You are a wonderful, supportive, and beautiful woman.  You have brightened my days with glitter and I thank you!

 Aww *blush*  I couldn't have said it better myself haha.  And, as I put up at the top of my blog, "She who leaves a trail of glitter is never forgotten." :D

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Between the Bindings with Elly Helcl

Elly is a pretty cool lady.  I met her on BookLikes after winning the first novel in a series she has written, then a month or two later won the second one, which caused me to just HAVE to go purchase the third one the day it came out :)  Since then, we have had several interesting conversations over there.  How could I not ask her to be on here, to offer some little tidbits she's learned?  And I'm glad she did because, well, you'll see ... 

My Advice to All Newbies
When Meghan at  The Gal in the Blue Mask asked me to give new authors some advice, I was  honestly horrified.  Give new authors advice?  OMG!!!  What if I give the wrong advice?

And then I realized something ... She said, "Be yourself."  Well, I made mistake after mistake when I first started out.  I didn't know ... anything.  So, I am going to share my adventures, or misadventures, and hope you take this advice to heart.

My very first novel was "Tia's Folly."  I was so proud it was finished and overly anxious to start the SPA (Self Published Author) process.  I had a friend (who is also a writer) edit my book, I used createspace to make a cover, and I published it.

Mistake #1

Never, under any circumstances, publish the first write through of your book.  No matter how polished, no matter how "perfect."  Even Stephen King said the first draft of your novel is for the author.  Just don't do it ... you will be shocked how transformed your novel will be after a second or third write through.  I promise, it will be worth the added time.

Mistake #2

Createspace is an awesome platform for SPAs ... their covers?  Not so much.  Take the TIME to find a cover artist that you like.  You should LOVE their work.  Your cover is the first impression readers will have of your book.  We all know how hard it is to live down a bad first impression.

Mistake #3

I had a friend edit it.  Never ever have a friend edit for you.  Even if they are great editors, they aren't the kind of editor you need.  Hire a professional BOOK editor.  It isn't worth the spanking you will get from your readers and it will be hard go live that mistake down.

So, I was published!  Yay me!  I went ahead and jumped onto the Amazon Forums and stupidly didn't educate myself about them first ...

Mistake #4

Under no circumstances should an author EVER promote themselves online.  Experience has taught me that this is a "Period" kind of thing.

Mistake #5

I stood against an author who was calling readers "book hoarders" and saying that anyone who picks up a free copy of a book "owed" him a review on Amazon ... Wow ... the backlash was amazing ... I am cyber stalked by STGRB and their followers now.  If you don't know what STGRB is, consider yourself lucky and just stay away from them.  Do NOT engage in online drama!!  Ever!  Just say NO!

How I fixed my mistakes was simple.  I rewrote my book, got a professional editor, and found an awesome cover artist ... I LOVE her work and I will probably use her in the future.

I didn't learn all my lessons the first time ... a few of them I continued to make for about a year and a half.  I allowed myself to be drawn into the world of online book review drama.  It took a lot of time away from my writing and it took a lot of energy.  I was frequently frustrated and I seriously considered quitting writing after my series was published.

Last year, I barely wrote and I couldn't find the inspiration to finish my trilogy.  I felt like I had lost my ability to write.  So, this was my New Year's Resolution.
  1. Lose weight (I am down 73 pounds ... though a weight loss surgery assisted with that)
  2. No more internet drama (Have avoided it completely)
  3. No more reading STGRB (Good resolution ... it should be one of yours too)
  4. To write again (Half way through my next novel)
There is no shame in making a mistake.  Just be careful to avoid STGRB.  I can't say that enough times or stress it enough.

Stay off of online forums (such as Amazon) unless you are doing so as a reader.  BookLikes, Goodreads, whatever site you want to insert here, do not promote yourself.

So, how do you get your name out there?

Well, I do book giveaways (especially e-copies).  I do interviews for bloggers.  My absolute favorite though?  Let people find me.  I am registered as an author, they can see I am an author ... I review books, I interact with people, I am just me ... Just being yourself can make people interested enough to pick up your book.  A lot of people are interested in reading a book written by someone they know.

My final bit of advice is this.

Don't write to become rich.  Write because you love it, write because you can't live without it, write because it makes you happy.  I don't care if I ever make it big.  As long as people are reading and enjoying my writing, that is enough for me.  Let it be enough for you.

Great advice, Elly!!  (See what I mean, guys?)  Thank you for being brutally honest and sharing what you have learned through your time as an author.  I appreciate you joining us here on The Gal :)

Until next time y'all ...  

Between the Bindings with Eve Carson

A few months back, I was suggested a book to r2r by Eve.  She has been through a lot in her life and I really enjoyed the book she wrote, based on a real life murder that has not been "solved."  I was super excited when she agreed to do a guest post on Between the Bindings because, having written a non-fiction book, she would be able to give information from the "other side" which could be very beneficial to those of you who are writing books that are fiction.  She has provided some great advice.

I did not set out to write a book; the book evolved as a result of extensive research and obstacles to achieve real justice.  Frankly, researching and writing about a cold murder case was not anything I could have imagined.

The book Mommy's a Mole: Unraveling the Joan Webster Murder & Other Secrets in a CIA Family is a true crime book and real life experiences in a family with an unresolved murder.  The journey to share the book began with the publication of another book about my sister-in-law Joan Webster's 1981 murder.  The case was sensational and highly publicized and discussed in numerous books.  However, a 2008 book published by the former prosecutor involved in the investigation recycled an old theory that was implausible based on what I knew as part of the immediate family.

Knowing published accounts in an open murder case were false, I began a long process of digging out the facts.  The most critical part of any true crime book requires extensive research.  Instinct and common sense are important tools to identify areas to examine, but documents are necessary to establish timelines, name individuals, and formulate the proper questions to unravel a cold case murder.

Gathering information took persistence over time.  FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests in some cases took several months and others were denied.  If a case is still open, there may be obstacles to receiving certain documents.  Any resistance in a very old case is also a red flag.  I took an added measure to establish a business number to protect recovered documents.  News articles established a trail to follow with quotes and participants during an investigation and supplement official documents.  Do not limit yourself to the single case; patterns and answers can be found in other cases.

Documenting steps to recover information is as important as the information itself.  Logging contacts, dates, and sources support published findings.  Emails are an excellent way to time stamp contacts and restate topics discussed.

Thinking out of the box overcomes hurdles in researching a case.  The Internet was an incredible tool.  Information can be found online.  In addition, drawing new attention to a case drew attention.  The visibility brought people forward with integral information.  People responding to information posted online can spark areas to research that had not been considered before.  The old adage applies; leave no stone unturned.  Open your mind to any possibility and do not cross anything off until you can support it with documented facts.  Starting with a clean mental slate allows events to take shape as they happened without a predetermined bias.

Read, reread, and reread some more.  Cross-reference documents to match pieces of information.  Be prepared for surprises along the way.  Take every name and date to build a comprehensive timeline of events.  Patterns, problems, inconsistencies, and areas for further investigation naturally emerge when looking at events placed in their proper order.  Develop your characters; learn as much as possible about everything connected to the case.

Examining all of the old theories, implicated suspects, authorities, family, evidence, location, and even rumors shape the body of the investigation as it happened.  Holes in the investigation become obvious.  Reviewing areas never examined breathes new life into the case.  Obstacles to questions and investigation identify the problems to surmount to find a resolution.  For me, I continued to ask myself the question, "Who does not want to resolve a decades-old cold murder case?"

Communicating with current authorities regarding the discrepancies in the recovered documents compared to publish accounts was also an essential piece of the puzzle.  My book details events in the murder of a family member, but it does not require that relationship to encourage doing the right thing.  In my case, it also exposed a serious obstacle to a truthful resolve in the case.  Learning who knew what and when they knew it revealed a problem.  Authorities ignored the best information at the time and promoted an impossible crime.  The crime scene did not exist at the time of Joan Webster's murder.  Incompetence or evidence of public corruption is not the obstacle in every case, but information controlled by officials can block justice in any case.  The barriers erected by law enforcement and the legal community proved to be the hurdle to surmount and motivated me to publish the findings in actual records.

Have your facts well-documented.  Build a strong support group.  Digging into a true crime case can sometimes require a thick skin.  When other agendas interfere with the prosecution of justice, people circle the wagons, and throw daggers.  Remember, in a true crime book, you are naming names.  Making them real for the reader was the easiest part; they are real people, and their own words come out of actual documents.

The ending in some true crime books has already been determined.  I learned in the examination of my sister-in-law's case, decided outcomes of criminal cases were not always what they seemed.  Joan Webster's case does have ramifications for other cases in the state of Massachusetts.  True crime books serve a greater purpose than truth and justice for just one victim.

There is nothing to bring a victim back to life.  The only thing we can give the deceased is the truth and to restore value to their life.  The truth is necessary for loved ones still living with suspended grief.  Knowledge of the system is the responsibility of every citizen to keep public servants accountable, and the knowledge of the facts of a violent crime helps prevent future victims.  Writing a true crime book requires determination, a laser focus on details, and the emotional connection to understand that it matters.  In any crime, it is imperative to recognize truthful answers can be painful, but is necessary for genuine healing.

Thank you, Eve, for the insight into writing a true crime novel and doing research for a non-fiction book.  This has been extremely helpful.  Thank you for joining us here on The Gal. :)

Until next time y'all ....