Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview and giveaway with author Dianne Hartsock

Dianne Hartsock is a wonderfully prolific author. I have had the honor of reading and reviewing, Alex. A terrific read for those of you into paranormal thrillers. She would like to offer a giveaway of a n ecopy of Alex to one lucky commenter. Just tell Dianne who your all-time favorite literary character is.
Tell us something about yourself and how you became a writer.

I grew up in California, lived ten years in Colorado, and now make my home in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with my husband and college-age son. My daughter lives nearby and attends OSU. I’ve been writing since 7th grade where a very supportive creative writing teacher said I had talent. It’s funny, but I didn’t settle down to serious writing until about three years ago. I went through the ‘Writer’s Workshop’ given by Wolf Pirate Publishing that really opened my eyes. I never realized how much I didn’t know about writing a story! 

Tell us about your novel and where readers can purchase a copy.

With Alex, I wanted to take a different approach than the usual serial killer/psychic story. This is a story of a young man able to experience other people’s emotions and sometimes see their thoughts. The story is told from Alex’s unique perspective, revealing how he deals with his ‘gift’ in a doubting world. I wanted to show the vulnerability and insecurities of the typical twenty year old, plus the added stress and confusion caused by his abilities. Alex is a young man whose mind has slipped beyond the common boundaries of life. Only the love and support of his friends brings him through the summer safely, with his mind whole.
Solstice Publishing:

What have you had published to-date?

Shelton in Love, Breathless Press, May 13, 2011

Shelton is falling hard for his best friend and roommate, finding Nevil’s dark good looks and moments of gentleness almost impossible to resist. But Nevil is more interested in affairs of the body than the heart. As Shelton’s desire for the man grows, he wonders if he can change Nevil’s mind. But does he even want to? Nevil might not stay, once he learns Shelton’s secret, and then his loneliness would be complete.

Shelton’s Promise, Breathless Press, July 8, 2011

Shelton has a gift he’s eager to give to Nevil. At a party, Nevil flirts with one man after another, keeping Shelton on his toes. Then Percy, an ex, shows up to complicate things. Despite his best efforts, Shelton can’t find the right moment to give Nevil his gift. Will Nevil ever let Shelton get close to him, or will Shelton have to keep the gift in his pocket all evening?

Shelton’s Goodbye, coming soon from Breathless Press

After a year of bliss with Nevil, Shelton is offerd the promotion at the bank he's been working towards. Unfortunately, it's in another state and Nevil doesn't want to move. As tension mounts between them, Shelton is given another challenge in the form of a besotted co-worker. Torn between desires, Shelton has to choose his future. That is, until Nevil takes the decision out of his hands.

Trials of a Lonely Specter, MuseItUp Publishing, October 13, 2011,

There's been an accident. Quinn believes he's dead, though Liam insists otherwise. But it that is the case, why does Quinn see the two of them as ghosts? And why does Liam play along? Exposed to mediums and apparitions, Quinn has a decision to make: either accept his fate or risk everything to trust Liam one more time.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

At the moment I’m working on a fantasy/adventure/erotica simply titled NATHANIEL, though that could change.

Taden is falling hard for the strange traveller; protecting him not only from the Sutherlins but from his own mistrustful people, who don't understand Nathaniel's power and believe him to be a witch. Will Taden convince Nathaniel to stay with him, or will the youth sail home and leave Taden in lonliness?

Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run go it?

Usually I’ll be inspired by a song or a scene from a movie or book. A vague idea starts to form, but I won’t start writing anything until I have a beginning and a loose idea of how the book will progress to the ending. Of course, all that changes as I write! But I like to think I have a little control before the characters take over and write their own version.

What’s your favorite / least favourite thing about writing?

My favorite thing about writing is discovering my characters. I usually have an idea of how they look and their basic characteristics, but as I write, they seem to open up to me. They tell me their deepest secrets and past mistakes, their loves and triumphs and heartaches. Their hopes for the future. I don’t always like what I learn about them, but it’s always interesting.
What I don’t like? The only thing I can think of is that I never seem to have enough time to do all the writing I want to!

What are your favorite books?

The creepy books of Dean Koontz. The mystery/romances of Elizabeth Peters. Medical thrillers by Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, Michael Crichton, Michael Stewert. The thrillers of Patricia Cornwell. So many more…

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I have a fantasy/adventure novel being considered by a publisher. In five years I hope to see it published, either with them or somewhere else, along with the sequel I have written and the next one I’m plotting out. Then maybe I can quit work and write full time! Yea!

Where can readers find you?

Thank you, Dianne, for visiting and talking about all your novels.

Contest ends midnight Saturday, September 3rd. (EST)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Guest Blogger, Andrea Buginsky, stops by chat about writing with a disability

Andrea Buginsky has enjoyed writing since she was a kid. Once in college, she decided to turn it into a career and earned a BA in journalism. She has been writing freelance for several years now.
Andrea has always wanted to write children’s books. She loves fantasy movies like "The Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter," so she decided to try writing one of her own. She is excited to announce her first publication, The Chosen, a young adult fantasy.
As writers know, writing can sometimes be hard. You have moments when you want to write, but don’t have time. You have moments where you have the time to write but no idea what to write. You even have times when a huge deadline is looming and you’re working day and night to meet it. These obstacles and more can make your writing life a hard one. Not to mention the publicizing and advertising that comes with it. But you suck it up and do what you have to do for your writing career because it’s what you really want. The same goes for dealing with a disability.
Writing with a disability has its own obstacles: you have moments when you are too tired or too sick to work, and your body is telling you you’d better go lie down – now! You have a strict schedule to follow for taking medications, eating properly, doing your physical therapy, and keeping your doctor's appointments. Then you have the days that may stretch into weeks where you can’t even get out of bed. So what are you to do when this happens and your work is piling up? Work around it.
Like anything else, you learn to cope with the limitations of having a disability. For me, it’s a heart condition I was born with. My whole life I’ve had to deal with feeling tired all the time, having moments where I’m short of breath, dealing with abnormal heart rhythms, and needing to take time off when I’m not feeling well. I missed a lot of school because I got sick easily and stayed sick for up to a week or two. But I always did my makeup homework while I was home when I felt up to it. Writing is the same.
For me, there is no one time of day or week that I schedule to be my writing time. I write when I feel up to it. When I feel enough stamina to sit in front of my computer and just write. A lot of the time, I won’t even notice how much time has passed, until I look at the clock when I feel I’ve written enough for that session. I don’t keep a particular schedule. I sleep when I’m tired, eat when I’m hungry, watch TV when I need to relax, and write when I feel like sitting at my computer and letting my muse take me on a ride.
The truth is, writing with a disability probably isn’t too different than writing when you have a full time job or a family to take care of. You determine when’s the best time for you to get your work done, and you do it. The same goes for my marketing. When I feel up to it, I write blog posts, update my website, update my Twitter and Facebook status, or chat with other writers online. The Internet is probably the greatest invention for a disabled writer. It allows me to do everything for my writing career from the comfort of my own home.
If you think you can’t handle a writing career because you’re disabled, I’m here to say you’re wrong. You can do it. It takes some time to get used to it, and to try to plan the best you can around your disability, just like you do the rest of your life. But if I can have a published book out there, then so can you. Good luck!
Andrea Buginsky is the author of The Chosen, available from Solstice Publishing.
Find Andrea:
On her website
On Twitter: @andreabuginsky

Thank you, Andrea, for your wise words and best of luck with The Chosen :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

Thanks to Rachael Harrie of Rach Writes for her third Campaign to help bloggers connect. This campaign is now open and will run until October 31st. Stop by Rach Writes to sign up and start touring!

Liebster Award

Recently I was awarded the Liebster Blog Award from Tracy Krauss As I understand it, this award is given to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to help them to build their readership. I am honored to have been chosen and thrilled to accept the award. Thank you, Tracy :)

I would love to pay this award forward by awarding it to the following bloggers:

Lizzy Stevens, author, who selflessly promotes other writers on her blog with interviews and guest blogs -

Susan Stec, author of The Grateful Dead series, a great friend and writer of a campy and fun series of supernatural novels - you've never read about vampires like those in her books -

Anya Miller, whose blog is chock full of really interesting and informative info including a blog hop, going on right now -

Tirzah Goodwin, an extremely talented cover artist and gracious and kind friend -

Joy Campbell, talented author, friend and mentor for her blog Snippets & Splashes -

The Rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
2. Give the Liebster Blog Award to five bloggers and let them know in a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

Once again, thank you, Tracy Krauss

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Interview with author Apryl Baker

Author Apryl Baker has stopped by to answer a few questions about writing and her soon to be released novel, The Promise.

Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Do you have an agent? In your opinion are they even necessary?

It has been a long and tiring road, but I made a lot of good friends along the way. I started out looking for an agent for my shiny new novel, but agents are the elusive white whale, almost impossible to land. After about thirty rejections, I started looking at small publishers and found a home for my novel, The Promise, book one of “The Coven Series,” with an independent publisher. The smaller publishers have both pros and cons. Because they are small, you aren’t going to get a big fat royalty check up front, but you will get the time and attention a bigger house wouldn’t be able to give you. You also get a bigger cut of the sales than you would with one of the larger houses. So are agents necessary? Honestly, they probably still are if you plan on getting the attention of a larger publisher. They won’t look at anything that isn’t represented by an authorized agent. If you chose to go the route of the smaller publisher, then no, an agent isn’t necessary.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

I am working on an old favourite of mine, Awakening, book one of The Bloodlines series. It’s about a girl who has believed she’s certifiably insane her entire life, but soon finds out her night terrors are very much a reality and she and her brother are now being hunted because of the secrets her family has killed to protect.

How much of the marketing do you do?

I do my fair share of marketing. It’s one of the things you get used to if you do decide to go with a small publisher. They don’t have the staff or the budget for a large campaign, but being able to market the book myself has given me a greater appreciation for the work put into getting your name and your book out there for all to see. Twitter and Facebook are an excellent source for getting the word out and I’ve networked with several other authors through Twitter.

Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book?

Twitter and Facebook are an excellent source for getting the word out and I’ve networked with several other authors through Twitter. If you do a shout out to say you are looking for bloggers who will review your book, it gets retweeted by several and you get a good response back from people willing to peek at your book.

Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?

The Promise will be released soon in both ebook and trade paperback, so I am still waiting to see how well it does in both formats.

As a writer we all face rejection, any advice on how to deal with it?

Each rejection I got, I learned from it. I used the rejections to rework my query until I was able to write one that got attention and most agents if they request your work will give you feedback. Use the feedback you get to tweak the weak spots in your writing and adjust your work as needed. You have to develop thick skin and be able to take criticism with a grain of salt. They only make you stronger in the end.

What’s your writing schedule like?

I work insane hours, but I try to take at least one hour a day to sit down in a quiet place and just write. You need to make sure you set aside time to do this every day and get into the habit of it.

What’s your favorite / least favourite thing about writing?

My favourite thing is being able to create stories that grab the imagination and hold the reader from start to finish. One of the girls who read The Promise for me called to say she almost threw the copy I gave her across the room and then ran to pick it up because she just had to know what happened. That was the best compliment that I could have gotten because I knew that I did my job as a writer.

My least favourite thing is the line edits. I love to write, but I write like I think so I am constantly going back and forth fixing tense issues, missing words, etc. Thankfully, I have a wonderful reading group at The Next Big Writer who never fail to shred my work and make it stronger.

What are your favorite books?

Hands down it’s a tie between Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. Both those series inspire me daily.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

Writing for a living and entertaining millions both in written format and on the big screen.

Where can readers find you?

Twitter: @AprylBaker
Book Trailer:

Thanks, Apryl for stopping by and good luck with The Promise.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Meet Solstice Publishing

Solstice Publishing is the fastest growing mid-market publisher in the USA. With almost 80 authors covering every category of fiction and rapidly expanding into nonfiction, Solstice is quickly gaining a reputation for fast paced suspense thrillers, sizzling romance, action adventure, science fiction, and a spooky collection of horror and paranormal reads. Critically acclaimed authors have achieved top spots on best seller lists, become screenplays, and won movie deals with top Hollywood studios.

Solstice books are available in every available eBook format including ePub, MobiPocket, PDF, DjVu for every electronic reading device - Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Android tablet PC, Android phones, iPhone, Barnes & Noble Nook Reader, Sony eReader, Windows Mobile Phones, Onyx Book, iRex, WISEreader, and many more.

Traditional print versions can be found in major bookstores throughout the United States and online at Both print and ebooks are available right here on the Solstice website. Sign up for our newsletter to receive special coupons and discounts on your next great read!

Discovering talented new authors is a major focus for Solstice. Visit the submission guidelines to see how to submit your masterpiece for review. The Solstice editing team is tough, but fair, and committed to bring to the market outstanding stories that inspire, entertain, educate, and transport us to the far away reaches of our imagination. Check out our submisson rules and guidelines

As for contests and giveaways:

Enjoy this 10% off any EBOOK coupon Code: IZISQD37H

If you enjoy reviewing books and interviewing authors contact for a free reviewers copy.

Win a Kindle Ereader on Christmas

Run time: July 6th - Dec. 24th 2011

Winner will be announced December 25th, 2011

To be entered: Buy any Solstice Publishing book and the email address used to purchase the book will be entered into the drawing. If you purchase a Solstice Book from another site then email us the reciept to

Name will be drawn Dec. 25th and the winner will be emailed Dec. 25th. The winner has 2 weeks to claim their prize or it expires and a new name will be drawn and that winner will have 2 weeks to claim their prize and so on until we actually give the ereader away.

Good luck!!!!!

You can find us:


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Using Amazon to Optimize Book Sales: Guest Post with Michelle Fayard

This interview is reproduced from “The Life and Literary Pursuits” with permission from the author, Michelle Fayard as well as blogger Alexia Chamberlynn. You can find Michelle's blog at and Alexia's at

Hello, writer friends! As promised, Michelle Fayard and I have collaborated on something fun for you! It stemmed from week one of Deana Barnhart's blogfest, the subject of which was to ask your burning questions about writing. For my blogfest post, I asked readers to share the most successful marketing tips they'd implemented or seen other writers implement. Michelle's comment was so detailed and mentioned several things I'd never even heard of! I asked her for more details, and after a string of discussions, we decided to share with all of our writer friends!

I strongly encourage you to check out and follow Michelle's blog. She is a wonderfully supportive blog friend full of great insights (as you'll see below)! Michelle and I have recreated the course of our conversation in a question and answer format. Enjoy!

Alexia: What is “tagging” on Amazon, and what should authors try to get their readers to do to increase the success of this tool?

Michelle: Tags are keywords readers are likely to use when searching for a book, similar to the label feature of Blogger. Once you set up tags for your book, ask others to tag it with that same keywords, because the more people that do so, the higher up your book will show in a search.

Alexia: How many reviews should an author attempt to get on Amazon as soon as their book is available? What is the benefit of this? What other popular sites allow readers to post book reviews?

Michelle: I recommend authors get at least 10 reviews, each about 75 to 300 words long. According to Berrett-Koehler Publishers, customer reviews are the single most effective tool for selling books on Amazon, as they help potential customers decide if the title is a fit for them. If you ask your contacts to post a review on Amazon, ask if they’d mind posting the same review on Barnes and Noble and Goodreads as well, for example.

Alexia: What is Author Central? What about an Amazon Connect blog?

Michelle: Author Central is a place where you can upload your photo, bio—even videos. Another great thing about Author Central is you can start posting content to your author page as soon as your book is listed on Amazon, which usually is several months before it ships.

Amazon Connect is the former name of a feature that allows authors to tie in a blog to their book listings, either writing them directly from Amazon Connect, the recommended way, or using an RSS feed to pull content in from an existing blog. The great thing is you don’t need to post as often on your Amazon blog as you would a “regular” one; about once a quarter, let your readers know about your book’s highlights and milestones. Some things to get out there include press mentions, reviews and any book appearances you’ll be making. You also can direct readers to your Web site. Some other cool things you can do include enrolling your title in Search Inside the Book and linking to Amazon’s Author Pages from your own Web site. As of May 26, Amazon Connect became part of Author Central.

Having an Amazon blog has another advantage for when your subsequent books come, as you can use it to announce your next novel to your current readers and increase pre-orders, since the blog shows up on all your books’ pages.

Alexia: How does an author coordinate a “bestseller campaign?”

Michelle: What’s great about a pre-order campaign—which is where you do advance promotion to build up customer orders for your book before it’s available on Amazon—is the orders will ship at the same time, increasing your sales rank for that day. It also helps get word of mouth and customer reviews happening sooner. Another advantage about driving traffic to Amazon’s site is the more sales Amazon has on a book, the more its search engines will recommend that title to others and the more it will pop up as a book bought by others.

Similarly, you can do a bestseller campaign, so your Amazon sales rank will be in the top 100 bestselling books for that day. If anything, it inspires you to let a lot of people know about your book in a concentrated time frame. What other authors have done is offer a free gift customers can receive if they buy your book from Amazon on a particular day. The gift can be something readers can download from your Web site or blog. You also can do this as part of your pre-order campaign.

Thank you Michelle and Alexia for allowing me to re-post your terrific article. There's a lot of wonderful information in it that I'm thrilled to pass along to my followers...Jeanne

Winner of a $25 Amazon Gift Card

In celebration of reaching (and now surpassing) 100 followers, I am happy to announce the winner of a $25 Amazon Gift Card is ... Darlene. Congratulations, Darlene. Please keep a look out for my email.

Thank you to all my followers :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Writing the Southern Gothic Novel by guest blogger V. Mark Covington

From Gone with the Wind to Confederacy of Dunces to the The Sookie Stackhouse series the southern gothic style has appeared in almost every type of fiction since its inception. The first gothic novels were born on the banks of Lake Geneva in the summer of 1816 when Lord Byron hosted a ghost story competition between himself, Percy Shelly, Mary Shelly and John William Polidori. That contest produced both Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Polidori’s The Vampyre. Almost 200 years later the vampire novel has evolved but is still as popular now as it was when it first sunk its teeth into the reading public. The heart of the gothic novel is extremes; greatness turned tragic, lofty affluence fallen to social squalor, heroic acts of bravery ending in madness and death. And few places can you find more examples of great ventures turned disastrous than the American south. The image of the old southern plantation fallen to ruin; aristocrat turned root-eating beggar, great beauty turned grotesque (or at least put on a few pounds and gone to seed). These themes captured the feeling at the heart of the post civil war south. But the southern gothic novel is not simply an author telling his or her story in a southern setting. No, the southern gothic novel has characters that are bigger than life, nuances of southern culture that are unique to the southern way of life, great battles between good and evil, killer Bar-B-Que and tempestuous, tube top ripping sex.

Southern Gothic Characters

Characters in southern gothic novels have to be bigger than life and, of course, a little crazy; the damaged soul, rising out of the wreckage of lost love, lost lifestyle or lost sanity. The aging debutant hanging on to Baby Jane delusions of youth; the wife-beater wearing bad-boy who’s always a car chase away from the county jail. And southern writers write these characters so well because they have all known lots of real characters like this in their lives. Also, many southern writers tend to be a little crazy themselves. Seriously, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, John Kennedy Toole, Eudora Welty - all born and raised southern and every one as crazy as a soup sandwich. Take my own town, Richmond Virginia, home to Edgar Allen Poe, not exactly the poster boy for sanity, Tom Wolfe of the perpetual ice cream suit, Tom Robbins, proof there is a fine line between genius and insanity. And I still have the image in my head of Richmond’s own David Robbins standing on the deck of a ship in pirate waters off the coast of Somalia waving a hundred dollar bill as research for The Devil’s Waters. Somehow, I just don’t see Woody Allen or Gore Vidal doing that. So, let’s take a look at some of the things that make southern characters stand out:

Nothing says southern like excess - If your character is going to be poor, make him tobacco row, stained wife beater, dirt poor. If rich, make him ‘owning most of Atlanta and half of Georgia’ rich. So rich he buys a new boat each time one gets wet. If male, put the testosterone into overdrive and give your readers a cross between, Cool Hand Luke, Rhett Butler and Stanley Kowalski. Female characters in the southern gothic have evolved over time, from Scarlet O’Hara to Sookie Stackhouse but they share a common thread, they are always vulnerable and in-charge at the same time, both soft and yielding yet, able to crawl out of the dirt, root in hand and take on the yankee army with a vengeance. Picture Jessica Rabbit totin’ an Uzi wearing a hoop skirt, flak jacket and a picture hat.

Crazy elevated to an art-form - There is always a crazy character in the southern gothic novel. Some aunt or uncle or cousin, who “just ain’t quite right.” Aunt Earline’s little eccentricities, like perpetually dressing her dog like country singers, provides your other characters with opportunities to come up with great southern expressions like “her driveway don’t go all the way to the road” or “crazy as a pack of peach orchard boars” (more about southern euphemisms later). Embrace your characters’ eccentricities and get creative. I loved the character in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil who tied live flies to his clothes and constantly carried around a bottle of poison earmarked for the city’s water system. Remember the banjo playing boy in Deliverance? Or the story of Boo Radley plunging the scissors into his parent’s leg in To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, most main characters should only flirt with insanity enough to make them quirky and interesting. It’s too hard to get your readers to like them if you make them barking mad.

Hold my beer and watch this - A recent study (I think conducted at U of Michigan) tested how quick people were to anger when provoked. They found that the northerners angered more quickly but the southerners were the first to throw a punch. Southern characters tend not to be introspective; they jump first then figure out how the parachute works. And when they are introspective it is in the form of brooding, seething, or contemplating some stupidly brave or despicably heinous act. Violence, or the threat of it, is usually an undercurrent in southern gothic, but it is usually expressed more in bravado than brawl. Then again, they don’t call those sleeveless white undershirts ‘wife beaters’ for nothing.

Who are your people? - Attend any southern gathering and the second thing you will be asked is ‘who are your people?” Of course, the first thing you will be asked is “what would you like to drink?” Finding common ancestors is how southerners connect. They find some mutual, distant relative and spend the rest of the evening talking about the time great uncle Colonel Beaumont Carter rode his horse into the lobby of the Jefferson Hotel (of course, if every old family in Richmond that claims their ancestor rode a horse into the Jefferson actually had a ancestor that did it, the Jefferson would have been the biggest stable in the south). Family is important in the south so trot out that freak show in your southern gothic. Mumma, Big Daddy, Great Aunt Bessie who’s so fat it takes two dogs to bark at her, should be showcased or at least have walk-on parts. And not just your main characters immediate family, there needs to be at least a couple minor characters, like double cousins, that are at least half a bubble off plumb.

Ya’ll come - Southerners love any excuse to get together for a party so any southern gothic should have a scene featuring a local Dew Drop Inn, a barn dance or a cotillion, anywhere where folks are getting drunker than Cooter Brown and dancing like Baptists with nobody watching. This is a good place for violence, drunkenness and sex. And don’t exclude funerals as a party venue. I don’t know what it is about funerals that make southerners both thirsty and horny but southerners host great post-funeral parties with lots of liquor and distant cousins, which makes for a situation where anything can happen.

Act like you got some raising - My favorite southern expression is “bless his (or her) heart” which means “you poor (ugly, ignorant, fat, stupid trashy- take-your-pick) thing.” It’s right up there with “hold your mouth right,” which is said when someone is attempting a tricky maneuver and the only way to accomplish it is to hold your mouth right…OK some of these southern expressions just have to be experienced. But suffice it to say no southern gothic novel would be complete without a few colorful euphemisms. If you can’t come up with an enigmatic, yet homespun, analogy on pretty short notice you won’t be able to write southern gothic worth a huckleberry up a bear’s ass and your novel will come across like something the dog’s been keepin’ under the porch.

Just for grins I looked up what Wikipedia had to say about southern gothic and they used words to describe southern characters like racial bigot, egotistical, self-righteousness. Bless wiki’s little pea-pickin’ heart, he must be a yankee and he just don’t get it.

Southern Gothic Plot

Most early southern gothic novel plots were basically a combination of romance and horror like the secret vampire lover or the seductive ghost haunting the old manse. But over time the plots of southern gothic novels have gotten more complex and urbane. While the plot of the southern gothic still contains certain commonalities such as flawed characters overcoming the forces of evil the novels now take on more sophisticated issues.

Homegrown Evil vs. ‘come-heres’ - In southern gothic novels the worst evil usually comes from out of town. Evil forces that just show up in town, usually in disguise, are called ‘come-heres’ and they are the worst kind of evil in a southern gothic. The term ‘come-heres’ can be used for anything from an invading army to vampires, to just a yankee with a U-haul. In Gone with the Wind the yankees are the ‘evil come-heres’. In Mockingbird Atticus Finch battles homegrown racists. In Confederacy of Dunces the whole world constantly conspires to keep Ignatius Riley down, and in the The Sookie Stackhouse Series there is an interesting twist, the home-grown vampire, Bill Compton, teams up with heroine Sookie Stackhouse to battle both ‘come here’ supernatural creatures and home grown, anti-vampire bigots. In my book Heavenly Pleasure, I mixed it up a bit. My hometown-hero characters, including Goth stripper, a fiction writer, a physicist and two life partners who run a dirty book store, are joined by come-heres such as God, in the form of an Ice Cream man, and a fallen angel. These heroes square off against a hometown fundamentalist preacher and Richmond city officials joined by a come-here demon (who has possessed a local vampire), and the devil himself. Sooner or later in the gothic novel the town will join forces to fight the evil led by one brave homegrown soul that ‘knew it was evil in disguise the whole time.’

Imprisonment and Freedom - This is often both literal and figurative. Many southern gothic novels open with someone getting out of either prison or a county jail. Cool Hand Luke is unique in southern gothic in that it begins with Luke being sentenced to work on a southern road gang. But this prison is only a microcosm of his greater prison, the world filled with rules, religion and mendacity that he rejects. Often, characters in southern gothic literature feel trapped in their social station, their small town, their families or even their sexuality. In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick is injured and his injury has imprisoned him in Big Daddy’s house, but he is also imprisoned by his wife, Maggie the Cat’s sexuality and his own.

Grandeur fallen to Ruin - This Property is Condemned begins with a young girl walking down the railroad tracks which run by an old hotel fallen to ruin. She stops to reflect on the hotel’s previous splendor and the rest of the movie is a flashback about a ‘come here,’ Owen Legate, who arrives to close the local train station and doom the hotel to ruin. Grand houses fallen to ruin are typical in the southern gothic, picture Tara Plantation in Gone with the Wind before and after the yankee invasion. Sookie Stackhouse’s grandmother’s house is another beautiful old house that has seen better days. And this theme doesn’t stop at property. Blanche duBois, once beautiful and affluent is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, some not so kind.

Southern Gothic Setting

It just wouldn't be southern gothic if you didn't feel like you'd been thrust into a hot, sticky southern night replete with the drone of cicadas, sweat beading up on your tall glass of something sweet and alcoholic, the scent of honeysuckle in the breeze as it wafts across your front porch rocking chair. But there is an undercurrent, a strange feeling that something’s about to happen. The very air is pregnant with the first tremors of trouble beginning to rise with the waves of heat rising up from the street. Does that give you the feeling of a southern night?

Smell those Magnolias - The south has flora, fauna, smells, feels and tastes (there’s nothing like that first bite of North Carolina Bar-B-Que) all its own. Incorporate them into your scenes, but don’t overdo it, subtle is better than overkill. You want to capture the feel of the south but give your image a distinct look and feel that is all your own. Bon Temps in The Sookie Stackhouse Series has the feel of a small Louisiana town, but with resident vampires and werewolves. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and To Kill a Mockingbird both capture the towns of Savannah, Georgia and Maycomb, Alabama, respectively, while most of the story is set in a courtroom. In Heavenly Pleasure I have a typical Evangelical Preacher and my characters do some ‘porch sitting” but I made it unique to Richmond centering life around the James ‘Rivah’ and Richmond’s English/Southern architecture but I did something that I doubt any Southern Gothic novelist has ever done - I made it snow.

Danse Grotesque Flannery O'Connor once remarked; "anything that comes out of the south is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” What northerners call grotesque, we southerners call normal. Fortunately, most southerners have an arsenal of grotesque personal experiences to draw from so damn the yankees and add that touch of the grotesque to your novel. When I was a kid I was terrified of my grandmother’s house. It was a large, rambling farmhouse built in the mid-1700s. Heat came from fireplaces in every room, my grandmother cooked on a wood stove and the only electrical appliances were lamps plugged into makeshift sockets. Oh, did I mention that upstairs there was a baby in a jar and a rocking chair that rocked by itself? Apparently the baby was left on the doctors’ doorstep and had died from the cold before the doctor found it. My grandmother was his first patient that day and the doctor asked her if she would bury it. Instead of burying it she pickled it. I don’t know why, I guess she just had a little too much character, bless her heart. The rocking chair is still a mystery. You can bet though somewhere down the line one of my books will feature that crazy old woman, the baby in the jar and the rocking chair that rocks by itself.

So good luck with the southern gothic, and remember, while you are composing the next Gone with the Wind to ‘hold your mouth right.”

V. Mark Covington is the author of two published novels, Bullfish and Heavenly Pleasure. His third novel, 2012 Montezuma’s Revenge is due out in August and his fourth novel Homemade Sin is due out in the fall 2011. His play, Shakespeare in the Trailer Park opens at the Barnstormers Theater in Philadelphia on April 1, 2011. He is currently working on a Southern Gothic novel.

You can contact Mark at:

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Bethany Lopez, author of Ta Ta for Now! discusses her experiences with Self-Publishing

Bethany Lopez was born in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in Michigan and San Antonio, Texas. She went to High School at Dearborn High, in Dearborn, Michigan, which is where she has set her young adult novel. She is married and has a blended family with five children. She is currently serving in the United States Air Force as a recruiter in South Carolina. She has always loved to read and write and has seen her dream realized by independently publishing her first novel through Amazon with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. Ta Ta for Now! is also now available through Smashwords at Barnes and, on the Nook and the Sony eReader.

For a chance to win an ebook copy of Ta Ta for Now! please leave a comment and email address. A winner will be chosen August 31st.
I never imagined I would be an Independent Author. To be honest, I never thought I would be an author at all. It is something I always loved to do and dreamed of when I was younger, but it seemed like too big of a dream to ever actually accomplish.
I wrote plenty of poems, short stories, and even a play when I was a kid; usually something in the horror genre that involved killing someone off, but I was always in a hurry to finish the story. I didn’t have the patience to go into detail. I wanted results. As an adult I found Associated Content, and wrote nine articles for them in 2006. If you search my name on the website, you can still view those articles. Again, it was an outlet for my writing and I really enjoyed it, but they were all short articles, nothing that took a lot of time and patience.
Last October, while my husband was on temporary duty in Jordan, I had an idea for a story about a teenage girl starting high school. Her name was Melissa, and she had characteristics of my stepdaughter and me as a teen. I wrote the first few entries (the book is written in journal form), and then showed my eldest two girls. I decided to have Melissa sign off each journal entry with, Ta Ta for Now!, and that became the title of the book.
I started writing almost every night and on weekends when I could. My husband was gone, I had four children at home, and I work full-time as an Air Force Recruiter, so I didn’t always have time, but it became a fun thing for us to do together. I would write and they would read the new entries. I knew that this time it was different. I knew the direction I wanted to go with the characters and the story, but I wasn’t in a rush to get it finished. I liked the way writing made me feel. It brought back memories, some of which I used in the story, and it got a reaction out of my kids. It took about six weeks to complete the first draft and once it was done, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I sent it to my mother. She read it and edited it, and then I sent it to my sister-in-law. They both thought it was a good story and that I wasn’t crazy for thinking that I could publish it. 
I began querying agents. For the next seven months, I probably sent fifty query letters. I either didn’t receive a reply or I got a canned statement, saying that the agency was not interested at that time. I never received any actual feedback. So I was unsure if there was something wrong with the story or perhaps the query letter. Some of the rejection letters were harder than others. After a while I began to believe I was na├»ve to think I could write a book and actually have it published, but I couldn’t allow myself to believe that was true, so I kept trying.
When I went back home to Michigan for my grandmother’s funeral at the end of May, I heard that my uncle had written a book and it was available for purchase. I asked around to see how he had done it, and when I got back to South Carolina, where we are stationed, I had an email from my aunt, detailing what my uncle had done. He had gone through Amazon and CreateSpace and published the novel himself. That bit of information was all I needed to get started.
The first proof of my book is dated June 4, 2011. Since that day I have researched everything I could on self-publishing and marketing my book. As an Air Force Recruiter, marketing is a part of my daily job, so it was pretty easy of me to think of ways to market my book. I contacted the Base Exchange, to see if I would be able to do a book signing. They is a department store on just about every Air Force base. I was able to book two signings in the local area. From there I looked at chat rooms and eventually came across The First Ten Steps, by M.R. Mathias. I already had a Facebook account, but reading The First Ten Steps made me decide to get a Twitter account.
Once on Twitter, I began networking with other authors and contacting young adult book bloggers to see if they would review my book. I had a couple say no, because they do not review self-published books, and one just said that she didn’t think my book was one that would interest her. To date, I have found about seven YA bloggers, who said they would review my book, and cannot wait to see what they have to say. It is scary, to put something you worked so hard on, into the hands of someone who could potentially not like it, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
As for making a money, in the two months since I have published my book I have to admit that I have not yet made a profit. In fact, I’ve spent money to join the Independent Author Network and to participate in the Indie Blow out. I’ve also given books to local libraries and co-workers with teenage daughters. But I didn’t publish my book to make money; I did it to get my novel out there. To, hopefully, connect with teenagers and to give adult women a journey back to their teenage years.
So far I’ve received wonderful feedback from people who have read my book, and that is all the compensation I need. I’ve had women say that this story has made them remember how it felt to be a teenager and have had young girls say that they could relate to the story. To have people say they cared about the characters or that the characters made them laugh is truly gratifying. I’ve even been told that there better be a sequel, because I left my audience wanting to find out what happens next.
Self-publishing has been an exciting and rewarding journey. Asked if I would do it again, my answer is a resounding yes! In fact, I am writing the follow up to Ta Ta for Now!, xoxoxo, which will continue Melissa’s story.
I would like to say thank you to Jeanne, for allowing me to be a guest blogger, I really appreciate the opportunity!
Ta Ta for Now!
Bethany Lopez
Bethany can be found at:
Twitter: @bethanylopez2
Where you can buy Ta Ta for Now!:
Best of luck to you, Bethany and thank you very much for stopping by J

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Author and Artist, Don Ford

Don lives somewhere between the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits; a storyteller. He shares fiction and non-fiction stories with every age group, while visiting schools, retirement communities and speaking at club events. He is well published with work now that spans 62 countries. He is also known for his digital photography used as covers for his story work. His name pops up everywhere under various titles such as dgford, grassroots08, Greywolf. Don writes in EVERY genre, since he teaches the occasional "Writing For Publication" class to adults. He is also his town's Poet Laureate. He is proud of his Native American Heritage.
Tell us something about yourself and how you became a writer.

Sometimes we experience difficult things in life, and we find a way to look the other way. At age of fifteen I began penning poems, at the same time my parents separated.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

Did you mean what sort of things are kicking around in my head? I have a very active imagination that works well with my muse. I am finishing up another short story called “The Eight Wonder.” It is a delightful tale that, as is usual with most of my writings, will end well.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I apologize, friends, for taking so long to finally get to this place where you are able to enjoy my stories. I’ve always been a writer, but didn’t apply myself soon enough to get my work published until about four years ago.

What do you think makes a good story?

I used to think it was the characters. In a way it is! But the way the story goes and is able to carry the reader along to the end is even more vital. I wrote a story about a conversation between an ant and a roach. By the time the story was over it brought tears to my own eyes. It still does; go figure.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

If I understand this question well enough, it would be when I’m told the piece is too short by an editor. Then I want to please that person, by adding the extra story embellishment, and I’m complimented by my story being published. Yahoo!

What do you do when you are not writing?

Well, I’ll be honest and say I usually never leave the house without a piece of paper in my pocket and at least two pens. So, even when I’m not writing, I’m waiting for a new idea to come to mind. If I’m not prepared at all times, I could lose out on my next great piece.

Tell us about your writing classes.

These are adult ed classes usually at a high school or votech school. I was originally asked to teach because I had a number of stories published in magazines. The school approached me; I never went to them. The very first class went well and I even received an email from a magazine while in class, asking me to do a slight revision on my piece. So it became a class project. This is a teacher’s dream come true to have the stars all line up in this way!!!

I understand you use your own artwork as cover art. Could you tell us a little about the process? Do you offer your services as an artist?

It was never my intention to do the artwork in the first place. I was on a writing site and a sister art site offered their artwork to help tell our stories and make our poems and other writings look good. After a while folks started leaving the art site and took the art work with them. Now writers were left with just the words and no picture. This was frustrating so I began doing my own photos and manipulating them to fit my story. Thus, my digital creations began to come to life. :-}

Because I have recently (over the last couple years) done the photo work I had not offered this as a service. Now that other writers have seen my work at art galleries and libraries, my pieces are beginning to sell. Some of it was experimental, but attracted attention, nonetheless.

I would be thrilled to work with anyone on their book, if it needs cover artwork. I'm flexible and quite reasonable.

Where can readers find you?

Thank you Don for stopping by for a few questions!