SAVASANA AT SEA Release!

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SAVASANA AT SEA Release

Tomorrow, November 15, is the official release day of SAVANASA AT SEA, the first Nautical Namaste Mystery, under the Ava Dunne name.

This is an absolute case of I wrote the book I wanted to read, but couldn’t find. I worked in the office of a cruise line many years ago, and was drawn to the multi-cultural, international people that work on ships. Everyone has a story, and it’s a story worth telling. I also liked the aspects of a locked room mystery that being on a cruise ship held.

As a yoga practitioner, I’m annoyed when I see those who practice yoga portrayed as flaky or silly or dumb. Most of the teachers I know are smart and grounded and funny and talented. Practitioners are from all walks of life, so you have all kinds of people. They’re not generically flaky or stupid.

I knew I wanted to write a mystery. I wanted to use elements of the cozy mystery genre, but I also knew that the formula itself was too restrictive for what I wanted to say. Which is why this is labeled as “not quite cozy.”

I also wanted elements of comedy and romance. Early drafts had more of a chick-lit flavor to them, and the comedy felt forced instead of organic. When I let the humor and the banter flow from character rather than formula, it worked.

One of the things I loved about working on Broadway with diverse casts such as we had on shows like Miss Saigon and David Henry Hwang’s re-envisioning of Flower Drum Song was that we had the opportunity for real discussions about race, religion, sexism, oppression, and the casual comments we sometimes make, not realizing they’re hurtful. We could talk openly, without getting either offensive or defensive, about our experiences, and try to come up with ways to make the world a better, more tolerant place. Since we were artists, it often took the form of stories, plays, performance pieces, songs or poetry. I tried to capture some of that sense of collaboration in these stories.

I hope you like SAVASANA AT SEA. For those of you not familiar with yoga, “Savasana” is also known as “Corpse Pose.” I felt that was appropriate for a mystery, but I wanted to use the traditional name for the pose, not “Corpse Pose.”

At the back of each book, I also have an article with travel tips, and links to some of the real places mentioned in the book. Since the cruise route changes from book to book, it gives the crew — and the reader — chances to visit fascinating, beautiful places all over the world.

The book is available digitally, through several outlets. The Nautical Namaste website has more information about the series. I also have more background information about the crew, short bios written as though they’d be handed out in Welcome Packets, and information about the backgrounds of passengers relevant to each voyage.

We’re in negotiations for a small, traditional print run to happen at some point next year. The contracts aren’t signed, so it’s not a definite, but fingers crossed the numbers for digital sales will be strong enough to warrant a print run.

Below is an excerpt from Savasana at Sea:

“I wonder how many guests tried to hide in their cabins this time.” Roz McIntyre snickered as she joined us. She was a dancer on the entertainment staff, a tall, slender, dark-skinned woman with exquisite posture, who reminded me of a cross between a Daddy Long-Legs and a giraffe. From the moment I set foot aboard the Charisma, she decided we would be friends. Considering Geri’s hostility, I was grateful. “Hello, Sebastian. Hello, Sophie. How’s it going?”
“I’m sure we’ll hear in CB later, when the bets are paid off,” Sebastian replied. “Crew bar,” he added, for my benefit.
“I can put the damn life vest on in my sleep,” I grumbled.
“Let’s hope you never need to,” Sebastian dropped the joking tone.
“Bet Geri’s making you teach the two o’clock Pilates,” said Roz. “While she’s off assignating with Gary or Viktor. She hates Pilates.”
“She told some guy named Gary she didn’t have time for him right now,” I said. “Is ‘assignating’ even a word?”
“I’ll submit it to the OED when I get a minute.” Roz nodded. “Then it’s Viktor. Thanks for the tip. It’ll give me an ace up my sleeve against her when I need it.”
“Geri’s not supposed to mess with the ship’s second officer.” Sebastian frowned.
“Or he with her,” Roz shot back. “I don’t like Geri, but let’s not blame the woman for everything, shall we?” She tugged my arm. “Let’s grab something to eat. If you don’t eat when you can, you’ll pass out at the most inconvenient times.”
“Watch out for that one.” Sebastian nodded in Roz’s direction. “She likes bad men and good champagne.”

_____

SAVASANA AT SEA Buy links here.

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TRAPPED by Rhonda Pollero

Today’s guest is the wonderful Rhonda Pollero.  Rhonda, thanks so much for joining us. I will let the rest of the post be in her own words!

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Welcome and thanks for taking the time to drop by for my musings. A short introduction first: I’m Rhonda Pollero and I write romantic suspense and funny mysteries with romantic elements. TRAPPED is my 48th published novel and completes the Finding Justice trilogy. But don’t be scared off, each book stands alone. More on that in a moment.

For those of you still on your journey to publishing, let me hit you with a number – it took me 10 years to make my first sale. Why? Because I was writing the wrong thing. I had dreamed of being a (then) Silhouette Desire author, so I kept banging out (I mean that literally, this was before computers, so we’re talking IBM Selectric) 3 chapters and they fell short, so I’d write three more chapters and so on and so on. It wasn’t until a dear friend and critique partner suggested I try my hand at romantic suspense that my world changed. I sold my first attempt at romantic suspense (written as Kelsey Roberts) in 1993. So, if you’re feeling frustrated, just remember it can happen, even after years of failure and/or frustration.

Now, about TRAPPED . . . my inspiration for this story came from watching a trial here in South Florida. There was no dashing hero, but I began playing ‘what if?’ And then I remembered another sad but real case I had followed. A teenager was shot in the head but the bullet ricocheted around his brain and did no damage. In fact, he ended up with the bullet lodged under the skin at his hairline and a few stitches. So, I kinda stole that scenario. Sensing a pattern here? I almost always get ideas from real life, then weave them into a story. Even down to my heroine’s name – Chasyn is the name of one of my daughter’s friends. So, I guess I’m a thief as well as a storyteller. In a nutshell, I was off to the races with a heroine who was the target of a determined killer being protected by a hot bodyguard.

I pondered how to blend those three situations and TRAPPED was born. My next step was to use Power Structure (www.write-brain.com) which is an organizational program. No, I have no interest in the company, I just love this product. It allows me to plot out a book, scene by scene, and keeps track of all my red herrings so I don’t drop a thread. I can track the passage of time in the story (so my characters remember to eat and sleep); and I can wrangle all those little details in one spot – descriptions, locales, timeline, etc. There are other organizational software programs, I just happen to like Power Structure but it does have a learning curve. Pantsers will hate me for this but my philosophy is if I’m going to my best friend’s house, I don’t need a GPS, but if I’m driving through unfamiliar territory, I need a map. And I want it at my fingertips. Do I stick to every plot point? Nope, I take detours on blue highways all the time as I flesh the story out.

All that upfront work allows me to write quickly. I can finish an 85,000-word novel in 6-8 weeks. I’m not tooting my own horn, I’m simply pointing out that a little planning is a huge time saver. And since I started my writing career at Harlequin, I had to learn to be fast. There were some years when I was writing five 80,000-word books, and I never learned to type, so any boost up in the speed department was very appreciated.

Am I suggesting you follow my example? Nope. I think everyone must develop their own system. Most people have success when they approach their writing the way they approach their life. If you’re a list maker, make lists. Like bullet points? Go for it. Like sticky notes? That works. But I really believe you need some way to organize the arc of your story for the sake of continuity.

My final suggestion is to find yourself a brutally honest, trusted critique partner. If you just want someone to tell you you’re brilliant, send it to your mother. In the real world, editors don’t pull punches, so you need to develop a thick skin. Remember I mentioned my critique partner who steered me toward romantic suspense? Well, the exact quote was, “Your action and dialogue are great but everything else sucks. Ever thought of writing romantic suspense?” She was a dear friend so no offense at her blunt assessment, and she was spot on. I’ve had editorial notes that simply said . . . sub-par, lacks emotion, cut this, I even had one editor write ‘this scene is unnecessary and trite.’ I NEVER take these comments personally. I know editors and readers (specifically the ones who enjoy ripping authors to shreds on review sites) who simply don’t self-edit their comments. Publishing is not for sissies. No matter how brilliant your work is, you’ll never please everyone. I’ll admit that I do peek at reviews from time to time, I’ll also admit that I don’t like being shredded – who would? But I keep those things in context. If I could write a book that appealed to the entire reading public, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Instead, I focus on crafting the best book possible and I really take editorial notes to heart. Because your novel doesn’t come with audio telling the reader what you meant to say. It should be on the page.

Thanks for allowing me to share with you. Best of luck to everyone! TRAPPED is available for sale now. And if you’re interested, the series includes, ABANDONED and EXPOSED, Available in eBook and trade paperback.

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Chasyn Summers parked her Prius on the street adjacent to the courthouse on East Ocean Boulevard. Her best friend and witness, Kasey, was belted into the passenger’s side.

“Are you nervous?” Kasey asked.

Chasyn thought for a minute while she checked her make-up in the rearview mirror. The state’s attorney had warned them to wear subdued clothing and modest make-up. Something about making them seem more sympathetic to the grand jury. So, she had chosen a navy skirt and a cream-colored blouse and she had forgone eye make-up save for a touch of mascara and applied just a hint of blush-nude lipstick to complete the look. Her blonde hair was pulled tight into a neat ponytail. She couldn’t look more matronly if she tried. “I feel like a school marm.”

“Tell me about it. I spent over a hundred dollars on this dress and it really needs to be hemmed. After we testify, I’ll take it to the seamstress and have her turn it into a proper little black dress.”

“Well, for now we are not two twenty-somethings out at a bar at two A.M., we’re upstanding citizens who witnessed a murder.”

Kacey shivered. “I still have nightmares about that.”

“Me, too,” Chasyn said. “But at least this will help them arrest Dr. Lansing. Thanks to us, or more specifically you.”

“Should be a cake walk,” Kasey said. “Except remember, the state’s attorney said the defense attorney would probably attack both of us because we’d been drinking that night.”

“Hours earlier and only two drinks. I mean how many times does a girl turn twenty-nine?” Chasyn asked. “We were both stone cold sober when we walked out of that restaurant and found that poor girl on the pavement.” She smoothed a wayward hair. “Ready?”

“Sure,” they exited the car and walked the short distance to the court house. It was two buildings separated by a breezeway. Chasyn knew from earlier meetings with the state’s attorney that they wanted to be on the left side of the Martin County, Florida court house.

As they approached the buildings, she heard a loud pop and suddenly found herself falling forward. A split second later she heard a second pop and Kasey fell next to her. Kasey’s eyes were open but blood was trickling out of her mouth.

Chasyn was vaguely aware of people screaming. People running. Then she felt wetness and saw a pool of blood starting to form around her face. She smelled burned flesh and a distinct ringing in her ears.

After what seemed like a long time, someone came over to her and whispered, “You’ve been shot in the head. Try not to move.”

Purchase link: http://tinyurl.com/yawahp2f
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RhondaPolleroAuthor/

New Look, Fresh Content Coming!

A Biblio Paradise has a new look! What do you think? Easier to read, too, isn’t it?

We have some great authors coming in the next few weeks, interviews, information, and more fun, especially with the holidays coming up!

New content will be posted on Tuesdays.

Please stop by and enjoy. Leave a comment — we’d love to hear from you.

In the next few months, we’ll also open to pitches from potential guests for other posts on their writing process or Q & A.

I’m having trouble editing the sidebar — please bear with me while I fix it.

In the meantime, check out my “Tracking Your Banged Buck” article over on WOW-Women on Writing. You want to make your marketing dollars pay off!

Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you again!

PLAYING THE ANGLES: The Joys and Challenges of Re-Release

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PLAYING THE ANGLES released yesterday, which is exciting and frightening all at once.

Several years ago, it was originally released as ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT under the Annabel Aidan name, through a small traditional publisher, both electronically and via POD. It got positive reviews, and the people who found it loved it. When I had print copies for sale at conferences I attended, it was the highest seller of all my books.

It draws on my experiences working backstage on Broadway, and also dealing with Secret Service personnel who are backstage when political VIPS attend the shows. The romance between Morag and the Secret Service agent is pure fiction, on my part; as is a political figure coming to a show to actually perform in it. That’s where the “what if?” and imagination took over from being rooted in actual backstage experience and policy. And it was a lot of fun to write!

It was initially envisioned as a one-off, a complete stand-alone. I wrote it because I wanted to see if I could write paranormal romantic suspense. However, as I worked on the drafts, I felt there were other stories to be told within this fictional world (which is set in contemporary New York City). The readers felt the same way; they wanted to know about Morag’s friends and colleagues.

Several of the authors whose work I admire in the romance genre (such as Mary Balogh, Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz, and Julia Quinn) write clusters of books set around the same characters. Each book stands alone; each has a separate pair of protagonists who fall in love and find their HEA. But central characters from one book show up as supporting characters in other books; supporting characters move forward to become protagonists. I felt that was appropriate for this world and for these characters.

Because the publisher would not commit to more than one book, the next book in the series kept getting kicked down the road in favor of solid, signed contracts from other publishers. In the life of a writer who pays the bills by the work, he who pays most and has the nearest deadline gets first priority. I was still working on Broadway at the time, writing other paid and contracted work, and also writing plays. When my term of contract was up, the publisher and I parted ways.

I figured that was that, moving on, and the series was dead. I’d learned a lot from this book, and I could and did apply what I learned moving forward.

In the meantime, I still took print copies to conferences and appearances to sell them through. And readers LOVED the book. They wanted to recommend it to their friends. They wanted more stories with these characters.

I’d had the rights back for several years when I did a reassessment of how I wanted to shape my writing career, and what was and was not working for me. How I wanted to structure it according to MY vision, not someone else’s.

That doesn’t mean ignoring craft; my goal with every book is that it’s better than the previous book, and that the craft builds from book to book as well as the story telling.

But it meant a business strategy that worked for ME, rather than being part of a bigger machine that didn’t give a damn, one way or the other. It was not about one book; it was about how this book fits into the overall vision for my career.

That’s still a work in progress, but when my team and I sat down to figure things out, we came up with a plan that we’re implementing over the next three years, and then we’ll reassess.

First off, I re-read the book. I knew the title was a problem; I’d thought the publisher would change the title, and I often joked about the book as “when bad titles attack.” The poor choice of title (my fault entirely) definitely hurt sales. The cover art was gorgeous; I enjoyed working with my editor, although I disagreed with a chapter cut out that set up the relationship with Bonnie, who is the protagonist of the second book.

I was pleasantly surprised, when I re-read it, that the book stood up to the test of story. Some craft things could be improved; some references needed to be updated to reflect upgrades in technology and an even harder shift in the political landscape.

But Morag and Simon were still engaging characters, and the development of their relationship, set against the backdrop of a Broadway show that is depicted fairly realistically instead of the whiny, bitchy way non-theatre people tend to write about it, also stood up. I came up with the title PLAYING THE ANGLES, which had the double entendres I wanted in the title, was relevant to the book, and a catchier and more engaging title.

I started reworking the manuscript, and visualizing the series as a whole. I added back in some of the material introducing Bonnie (and cut what wasn’t needed). I started outlining the different books in the series (in Writer’s Rough Outlines), because I realized the subsequent stories would influence the initial set-up in PLAYING THE ANGLES, even if it wasn’t explained or referenced directly.

The larger traditional publishers aren’t interested in picking up a series that’s already in process unless it’s selling a gazillion copies with a headline name. It was possible to sell the second book in the series, but unlikely the first book would ever see the light of day again. While the lure of a larger traditional publisher was enticing, especially in terms of an advance and marketing support, I still wanted PLAYING THE ANGLES out there again, and I knew my readers did, too.

Smaller publishers sometimes take on series in progress, but, again, it would be one book at a time, and on the digital release followed by the POD model. There’s very little marketing support, and the POD model is not working for me right now.

The decision was made to split the re-release. Pronoun (owned by Macmillan) would handle the digital release. A small, new, very traditional publisher who does only print releases will do a small print run with a small advance next year (details will be revealed when contracts are signed by both parties). We’ll see how that works.

So, the business angle of ANGLES (pun intended) was done. Now it was time for the quality of the work.

I worked with the editor with whom I’ve worked on several of the Delectable Digital Delights. She’s good at training me out of my bad habits, even though I keep coming up with new ones. She’s also good at the discussion of “this is a trope of the genre, do you want to play within it or break it on purpose?” so nothing is done carelessly. As I worked on the manuscript, the tone changed somewhat. It was more “Devon” and less “Annabel.” We made the collective decision to release it under the Devon Ellington byline, even though, under that name, I am not known for romance or romantic suspense, merely “romantic elements.” But the tone dictated the byline.

I have a cover designer who ACTUALLY READS THE MANUSCRIPT before designing the cover, instead of simply reading an information sheet. When I worked for a NYC publisher many years ago, that’s what cover designers did; they were required to read the galleys and discuss things with the author and the editor, although the publishing company had the final say. Therefore, the cover was even more relevant and representative of the manuscript. It also meant the three of us could discuss the look of the overall series, and how to tie the covers together while making each distinct and eye-catching. It also meant presenting something to both the publishers that didn’t need a lot of tweaking (although the specs on the print cover will need some re-working).

Add in the copy editor — someone who is committed to the Oxford Comma, someone who is also a Strunk & White devotee (while well-versed in Chicago and AP styles), and someone who respects that, to a theatre professional such as myself, theatre is ALWAYS spelled t-h-e-a-t-r-e. (That is a clause in my contracts, and is one of the few non-negotiables for me. I am willing and have walked away from potential contracts on this matter, because it is that important to me). A copy editor who doesn’t make edits that change my meaning, but when she sees something that strikes a wrong note, ASKS ME ABOUT IT FIRST. Sometimes, it’s exactly what I mean; other times, she’s caught me when I made a careless mistake. Because that is what a good copy editor does.

Add to this, once the book was in final galleys, doing the Series Bible, so that I’m consistent in certain details from book to book. One of the positives was that I had a good chunk of the second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, drafted, and that definitely contributed to re-committing to the series. If the second book hadn’t also held up to scrutiny (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t need editing, because it does), I might have retired ASSUMPTION/ANGLES permanently and keep it out-of-print.

There were decisions to be made on back matter. I added an article on theatre ghosts that is only available in the book I added the first chapter of the second book in the series, THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go with these publishers – they were willing to include it. I also included the first chapter of SAVANASANA AT SEA, a not-quite-cozy mystery that releases in November of this year, and the first chapter of TRACKING MEDUSA, which re-releases in January. The inclusion of that additional material mattered to me.

Pile on top of that the need for a website just for the series — more work in both design and content. But it’s worth it. I feel good about both the look and the material on the Coventina Circle website. There’s information relevant to each book, and suggestions if the specific premise of each book appeals for further exploration. On the website, I have information about working on Broadway, background information on some of the characters, and a recommended reading list. I will post a facsimile program of the Broadway show within the book in the coming weeks, and also an article on aromatherapy. The website will grow as the series grows.

This more holistic approach to the book as part of bigger whole that then feeds into my career as a whole feels better than the constant knife-edge where so much was dependent on what worked better for others. This is more balanced. These particular publishers are supportive of my vision for the long-term, not just the one-book short-term. Hopefully, it will work out both business-wise and artistically for both of us.

It is exciting and invigorating and a little terrifying. But the creative team and I believe in this book, and we hope you love it.

Below is an excerpt, and below that, buy links. There’s even more information and a media kit in the Coventina Circle Media Room here. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me.

Devon

PLAYING THE ANGLES excerpt:
The man’s knife flashed in the glow of the streetlight. Morag kicked at him and scrambled away as he lunged for her. She stumbled, but managed to put more distance between her and the attacker. She grabbed the lid of a trashcan to use as a shield.

A couple out for an evening stroll stopped and watched the fight, mouths open. They stood directly in Simon’s line of fire. “Move!” he ordered. They turned and stared at him, at the gun, like deer in headlights. He saw Morag twist, avoiding the attacker’s next thrust. Simon stepped forward and shoved the couple out of the way. “Get out of here before you get hurt!”

The woman screamed, grabbed the man’s hand, and they ran. “Drop the knife! Drop it or I’ll shoot!”

The attacker and Morag continued their jerky dance. If Simon fired, he risked hitting her. He needed to position himself to get a clear shot. She was trapped between the garbage cans and the iron railing.

The attacker charged again and Morag squirmed to one side. His knife scraped the plastic lid. Morag grabbed the lid off another can and threw it at him, left- handed. It hit him and bounced. He took a step back.

Simon fired.

Buy Links here.

 

Colin Galbraith & GATECRASH

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The Inspiration and Process

Gatecrash has been a while in the making; 10 years in fact. Readers of the old version of my blog back in the day will remember me talking about it a lot while it was being written, and then on and off over the next few years as it ebbed in and out of my writing priorities. It’s safe to say that it is definitely the hardest novel I’ve ever written, certainly the most complicated, but also the most rewarding.

I feel more fulfilled by Gatecrash than any of my other novels, purely because I didn’t give up on it when it would have been far easier to forget about it altogether. Too long did I procrastinate over it, although much of that meant the birth of other works, it always remained as the most irritating unfinished project I had. And I hate unfinished projects. For me to move on after a string of major changes in my personal life, I knew I had to return to it and give it the devotion and intensity it fully deserved.

But back to the beginning. The first draft was written as my NaNoWriMo project of 2007. I’d been struggling with an idea for it until I had a very vivid dream one night, which involved me waking up in a cold bath and discovering that I’d been attacked and was sporting a rough scar on my back. Don’t ask me the psychological analysis of that dream – I’ve been too scared to look at it that closely – but I knew immediately that I had to use it as the prompt for my NaNoWriMo novel.

Over the next thirty days Gatecrash was born in a very linear fashion. The dream was the starting point and I took it from there, just managing to get it over the 50k word count by the end of the month. But although it succeeded on number of words, it was failing in my mind; it started well enough but always moved away from the original concept, and I’d never been able to control that. I always felt that I’d sacrificed the idea purely to hit the word count goal.

Over the next four years I tried going back to it several times but failed drastically. I would read through it and attempt to fulfill the story but then either struggle too much or just lost interest.

Then in 2012, my personal life hit a bad patch where writing just wasn’t something I was able to do: I got divorced, moved house, changed all my goals, and started running my own business. Everything was changing and it was hard enough keeping control of my personal life without worrying about manuscripts. What’s more, I lost touch with a lot of writing friends during this time and regret this hugely.

Then last year, my circumstances finally changed for the good: the storm waves settled, the clouds parted, and it dawned on me that I’d guided my life into a place where I had choices again. The first thing I decided was that I wanted to get back to writing, so when I finished up on my last job at the start of the year, I decided to reopen Gatecrash. I would dedicate myself to it and give it the due attention it needed; I would make it the novel I always felt it could be.

First up was to deconstruct my understanding of the novel. I sat down and got to know each of the characters one by one, and I took each chapter and worked through it in detail, asking myself if what had been written was good enough to stay in (this resulted in a lot of deletions). And finally, I wrote out a plan, chapter by chapter, one page at a time. In doing so, I soon realised that the dream I’d had wasn’t how the story should start – it was the midway point! So I began writing the novel from scratch and to my delight (and relief) the novel unfolded naturally. While I still hit problems, they were enjoyable challenges that meant renewed vigour and research, and a refreshed outlook on the whole book.

Over the past few months Gatecrash has gone from being the absolute thorn in my side and reflective of a crappy period in my life, to being the biggest writing success I’ve had, and in doing so, being dually reflective of the changes in my life and where it is now.

I’m in a happy place these days and I truly believe that my inner happiness and calmness is what helped Gatecrash to be not only the most complex book I’ve ever written, but also the most enjoyable to read – I hope!

Bio
Colin Galbraith was born in Paisley and brought up in Bridge of Weir in the west of Scotland. He has been writing fiction since 1999. After living in Leith for 15 years, he has now happily settled in South Queensferry with his soulmate and their two rabbits. He is a joint owner of St Mirren Football Club, a keen fly fisherman, a proven rabbit tamer and an outstanding fake faller.

Gatecrash is his fifth thriller.

His website is at: www.colingalbraith.co.uk

Excerpt (with buy links)

“What day is it?” said Kyle.
“Saturday,” said Matt. “It’s Saturday because I was at a party just last night.”
“But it’s Monday afternoon. You’ve been AWOL since Friday night and so has Damian. You wake up in a bath today all freaked out and wet, but where the hell is he? What have you two gone and done now?”
The reality began to seep into Matt’s dazed mind. “I don’t understand any of this,” he said, and turned to sit down on one of the chairs. He was beginning to feel sick again and needed to get to ground and close his eyes for a moment. “I just don’t understand.”
“What’s that on your shirt?” said Kyle.
“Where?”
“On the back of your shirt. It looks like blood. Are you bleeding? You’re bleeding all down your back, mate.”
“I don’t think so,” said Matt. “There was some blood in the bath but it was from my sick.” He tried to twist round but the burning in his back was too much.
He reversed up to the mirror and sure enough, the back of his t-shirt had a large patch of blood oozing through the material.
“Take your top off,” said Kyle, holding his arms out to help him.
“Why?”
“Just take it off,” said Kyle, and helped Matt remove his shirt.
Matt looked at Kyle’s face in the mirror. He looked as though he was hoping to find an easy answer but only managing to display the paleness that deep worry can bring. Suddenly, his blank gaze was replaced by a horrified stare.
“What is it?” demanded Matt. “What d’you see? Am I cut? Have I been stabbed?”
“You better look for yourself,” said Kyle, and picked up a small face mirror from the table and held it in front of him so he could see the reflection.
Matt angled his head and stared at what he saw: a swollen ten-inch scar on his lower back held together by a series of crude black stitching. Blood seeped from the wound, the area immediately surrounding it heavily bruised. He began to shake.
“Matt,” said Kyle, and held out his hands. “Matt!”
Matt’s legs gave way and he landed hard on the wood panelled floor. In the distance he could hear Kyle shouting for him, but the blackness enveloped him quickly, and soon he was gone.

#

Gatecrash is available now from:

Kindle (UK) – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072VMNW7D
Kindle (US) – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072VMNW7D
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/731571
Apple iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/gatecrash/id1251230286
B&N (Nook) – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gatecrash-colin-galbraith/1126625138

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Recalibrating with Claire Cook’s NEVER TOO LATE and Jeff Vandermeer’s BOOKLIFE

One of my recent goals is to take a step back and do some recalibrating on my writing career, my goals, where I am, and where I want to be.

Professional life is a living entity, and one has to constantly change the expectations and reassess the realities. I’d hoped working part-time at what I thought was a dream job would support my writing; I was wrong. It drained me. My writing suffered, and my output suffered. The shock of the position’s elimination, the few weeks at another “part-time” job and then trying to meet all the demands on me for the following months took their toll, both personally and professionally.

I’d been miserable on the treadmill of pressure from demands for quantity and speed over quality — not that much was offered in return. I was (am) miserable about the lack of reciprocity in this region, as opposed to other places in which I’ve lived. There’s a lot of yapping; little doing.

I was miserable in the demands that I dumb down some of my work, to appeal to a so-called “reader” I have no interest in courting. I write intelligent people who get things done. Stupid people wind up dead or worse, in my books. I have a low tolerance for stupid people in real life; just because they’re in power right now doesn’t mean I have to pander to them.

I’m also sick and tired of all the information out there stating that THIS is what you HAVE to do. I don’t like being forced into doing things I don’t agree with and am uncomfortable with. No, I don’t HAVE to do it. No, I am NOT going to dumb down my work. I am NOT going to do or write things I’m not passionate about.

Nor am I willing to stop writing.

Instead, I took some time to recalibrate. Meet with trusted advisors, and decide how I want to reshape my writing career on MY terms. The first session was a day-long meeting in mid-May. We didn’t get through everything, but we got a lot of discussion done, and I’m taking actionable steps on my lists to make changes. Some of them are even already paying off, although many of the goals on my list are longer to implement and longer on return. But once the returns start coming in, they should be pretty steady.

Two books that are helpful in this recalibration are NEVER TOO LATE by Claire Book and BOOKLIFE by Jeff Vandermeer.

I met Claire when she was the keynote speaker at the Cape Cod Writers Center. I was either still on the board and just about to rotate off at the end of my term, or I was recently off the board. I’d read her WILDWATER WALKING CLUB book and loved it, then rushed to read the rest of her books –which include MUST LOVE DOGS, the book for which she’s best known. I was one of the people in charge of making sure everything was taken care of for her at the conference, and running interference if necessary. Along the way, we had a chance to have a couple of fun, high-energy conversations (usually in transit from one location to another).

She had her newest (at the time) release with her, and that was her primary topic: NEVER TOO LATE: YOUR ROADMAP TO REINVENTION. I was in a negative job situation that was draining the life out of me, and knew I had to change, but didn’t know how; I also knew my writing was suffering, and that was one reason I was at the conference — because the CCWC is for DOING not just attending panels and being talked at, I knew I’d get some work done (I started a fantasy novel that was then further developed in Vermont). Conversations with her also inspired a novel I started (and am still working on) called TIE-CUTTER, which, once it’s ready to go out, will be dedicated to Claire, since without her, I would never have had the inspiration to write it.

Anyway, Claire signed my copy, I read it, I liked it, I got caught up in things again.

Until I re-read it these past few weeks. When I sat down and re-read it.

The voice was fresher and livelier than ever, and she felt like my own personal cheerleader. It’s the same quality that makes her fiction so appealing — reading Claire’s work feels like spending time with a friend. Someone who will tell you the truth, but support you no matter what. I worked my way through the book, pulling out ideas I was confident would work, and also a few things that I wasn’t sure about, but thought I would try anyway. I’ll let you know how they work out! We’re similar in that we write consistently, we carry notebooks everywhere, we GET IT DONE. She’s now moved from the traditional publishing world to a more hybrid version, which gives her the freedom; she’s built her readership, and they’ll follow her from place to place.

I’m still in the process of building mine.

But the freedom factor appeals to me.

I’ve never met Jeff Vandermeer, but I’m familiar with both his fiction and his nonfiction. I’d read this book several years ago, when I was feeling exhausted and needed emotional fuel.

BOOKLIFE is split into the public booklife and the private booklife. I re=read the public section before my recalibration meeting, and found it helpful. His ideas gave me a foundation for honestly assessing what I do and don’t want to do as far as putting myself out there for my work. Just because “that’s what everyone does” doesn’t mean I want to — or will — do it.

In fact, when people put elements I don’t want to do in contracts, I either negotiate them out, or I walk away from the contract. Just because someone offers you a contract, you don’t HAVE to sign in. I also don’t sign boilerplates. The contract offered is where negotiations START. If the other side says, “we don’t change anything in our contracts”, my response is, “I’m not signing that. Too bad we can’t work together.”

AND I WALK AWAY.

Vandermeer’s book helps sort out what one is comfortable with and what one isn’t, and also the consequences of saying no. Frankly, saying no and continuing the search for the right partner, in either life or work, is a much better choice than saying “yes” to something that will make you miserable. He also helps formulate the right questions, so you can find the resources you need to build what you want.

What he calls the “private booklife” is something I’m pretty happy with, for the most part; it’s the public elements I need to work on. But he points out something important to remember and easy to forget: that there’s a difference between “process” and “habit.”

Both books help you trust your gut in decision-making. It’s easy to over-think and over-complicate. But when you trust you gut, it works out for the best. That doesn’t mean the road will be easy, or that there won’t be consequences. But when you’re true to yourself, that makes it worth it in the long run.

That’s really the message from both books: Build the career you want by being true to yourself. Then, you’ll get both satisfaction and joy from it. Neither book promises “get rich quick” stuff; both are realistic, enthusiastic, supportive, and, above all, practical.

Jamieson Wolf Talks LUST & LEMONADE

lust and lemonade cover

Our guest today is Jamieson Wolf, talking about his new release, LUST & LEMONADE.  I met Jamieson electronically several years ago, when I took a short story workshop he taught (a wonderful one, I might add).  We’ve kept in touch ever since.

I asked him about the genesis of this particular book:

 

A Seed That Grew

 

Lust and Lemonade was the first time that I followed that old piece of writer’s advice: write what you know.

Up until I started Lust and Lemonade, I had written a lot of fantasy and horror. I also wrote a lot of romances, but those had fantasy elements, too. I wanted to try something different, something that I hadn’t done before. I wanted to try writing a novel grounded completely in reality, that it would be simple fiction.

The only thing was, what did I write about? I had no idea who the characters or plot would be, but the idea sat beneath the tips of my fingers like an itch. The story wanted to be written, but it had no idea what it wanted to be yet.

I was out at a gay bar with a couple of my friends one night when inspiration struck. I sat there watching as gay men tried (some of them in vain) to find love or at least a warm body to lay with.

It was like watching a mating dance of sorts. All these different kinds of men all out looking for the same thing: a little bit of human affection, a little bit of warmth and companionship, however brief it may be.

I began to make up stories in my head about the different men I was watching: there was the lonely guy who just wanted to find love. He sat in the corner of the bar, nursing a beer, looking up at everyone with such an open expression, but no one sat at his table.

There were two guys that were obviously a couple, and they were checking out other men, wondering which one of them would be lucky enough to take a guy home. There was the man whore who was clearly just looking for the next hole to fill. What he really wanted was love, though he was too chicken to admit it.

At the other corner of the bar, there was this effeminate man. He was wearing a sparkly vest and I could see swooshes of eye shadow over his eyes. He looked fierce and fabulous, and I watched as he snapped his fingers at the bartender for another drink. I instantly fell a little bit in love with him.

Later that night, it occurred to me that I had watched the idea for my novel play out in front of my eyes in real life. I wondered how I would translate that to the page though. Armistead Maupin has always been a favourite author of mine and I’ve read the Tales of the City books multiple times.

So, I thought about writing an updated version of Tales of the City. The book would feature a roving narrative and a focus on a whole cast of characters. However, when I tried to plot it, I got writers’ block. I just couldn’t get the words out the way I wanted to.

I kept my plotting notes, but decided to write this book without any plot whatsoever. The characters obviously wanted to tell me a story and I had to let them tell it. I took some time to think of who I wanted to live within my pages. Like in the bar, the book would have the regular gay, the femme, the man whore, the couple that lived together but played together. I knew that I also had to have representation of other kinds of people within the LGBTQ community.

However, I started with the first chapter. As I wrote it, I got to meet Blaine, Nancy, Chuck and Mike for the first time. It was like coming home in a way, as if the life I had been living had found its way home on the page.

As I continued writing, more characters graced the pages: Poppy and her lover River Moon Falls, Blaine’s grandmother Nan; Romilda, the woman who ran the LGBTQ library. The characters kept me on my toes and told me where they wanted the story to go. It was the first time I had written a novel in this way, letting the characters have almost complete control and it was so freeing.

When I began to feel that the novel was nearing its end, I realized that it was the beginning of a trilogy or series. The first book was about falling in lust with someone. The second book would be about how life gets in the way. The third book would be about love.

The whole experience has been about finding love in a community where it’s difficult to find love. I have always believed in the impossible, after all. When you read Lust and Lemonade, I hope you fall in love with the characters as much as I did.

 

You can get your copy from Renaissance Press here:

https://renaissancebookpress.com/product/lust-and-lemonade/

You can also find it at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.ca/Lust-Lemonade-Jamieson-Wolf-ebook/dp/B071KSV1MT/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494076194&sr=8-1&keywords=Lust+and+Lemonade

 

Jamieson has been writing since a young age when he realized he could be writing instead of paying attention in school. Since then, he has created many worlds in which to live his fantasies and live out his dreams.

He is a Number One Best Selling Author (he likes to tell people that a lot) and writes in many different genres. Jamieson is also an accomplished artist. He works in mixed media, charcoal and pastels. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet and graphic designer.

He currently lives in Ottawa Ontario Canada with his cat, Tula, who is fearless and his husband Michael who is magic made real.

Find him on Facebook and Twitter. Visit his website and his blog.

 

You can find me at: www.jamiesonwolf.com

You can read my blog at www.jamiesonwolfauthor.wordpress.com

And you can follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jamiesonwolf

Or Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamiesonwolf