Writing Advice from Eileen Carr – Guest Blog and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Eileen will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to five randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Writing Advice from Eileen
Someone very dear to me once told me if you can’t be a shining example, be a terrible warning. In that spirit, here are ten lessons I’ve learned along the way in no particular order.

Lesson One: Write from your heart.

Not every book can be the Book of Your Heart, but every book can come from a real and authentic place inside you. That will show through in your writing, just as much as not writing from an authentic place will.

Lesson Two: Be a student of your work.

Writing is a craft. You can constantly improve. There’s always something more to learn. I’m currently enrolled in an MFA program in Creative Writing. It’s challenging and lots of work, but it’s also crazy fun. I still love reading craft books. I still love attending workshops. It’s rare that I don’t learn something. One of the abiding pleasures of being a writer is that there’s always something more to learn, always room to grow. I hope I’m still doing this when I’m eighty.

Lessons Three: Patience is a virtue.

The road to publication is long and arduous and fraught with heartbreak. If you don’t have the legs for it, you’re going to have a hard time finishing the race.

Lesson Four: Find your voice.

This is unbelievably important and unbelievably satisfying and it’s a matter of trial and error. It’s a little like pornography. You’ll know it when you see it on the page.

Lesson Five: Stay focused on your work, not your dreams.

I originally heard this one from Pat Warren. I know it sounds completely different from what everyone tells you. Dream big! Set goals! Aim high! I’ve met too many people who can talk all day about how they’re going to write a book and how it’s going to be great and then never set a word on paper. Don’t just dream about it, do it.

Lesson Six: Put yourself in a bubble and zip it up.

This one is from Roxanne St. Claire who told me she got it from Linda Lael Miller. No matter where you are on the ladder there will be people above you and people below you. Some of the people above would just as soon stamp on your fingers, but some of them will be reaching down a hand to help pull you up. Some of the people below wouldn’t think twice about leaving stiletto marks on your back as they walk over you, some will want to help buoy you up. No matter what, there are expectations and fears and people constantly sizing you up. You can’t let it get to you. People will say things to you and some of those things will be hurtful. I firmly believe that most of the people mean no harm. It’s important to self-protect anyway. So zip up that bubble.

This is important in another way, too. You need to do this with your writing as well. You will never please everyone. You need to write your story the way you want to write it (remember finding your voice?).

Lesson Seven: Never believe your own press.

This career is a roller coaster ride. You will have ups and downs. If you let yourself believe everything that’s said or written about you, you will lose your ever-loving mind. It’s incredibly difficult to avoid. In fact, it’s impossible, but you have to do it as much as possible.

Lesson Eight: Friends help you move. Good friends help you move your plot.

Surrounding yourself with other writers is a huge favor you can do yourself. They understand your weird twisted mind in ways that non-writers never will. They can help you when you’re stuck. They can inspire you when you’re down. They are sounding boards and reminders that you are not alone.

Lesson Nine: Don’t be too damn gentle with yourself.

I love the Desiderata. A copy of it hangs in my bedroom. It’s full of great life lessons, including: Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

Well, don’t take that one too far. Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself constructively. I don’t mean to beat yourself up, but don’t be afraid to push yourself in new directions and to notice your failures and learn from them.

Lesson Ten: Enjoy the moment.

I have spent the majority of my career worried about the next step. I had to cut bangs in my hair because my forehead had wrinkled from constantly being creased. I’ve learned I have very little control over a lot of things. Worrying about what might go wrong doesn’t change anything.

When a Muslim high school student is accused of a crime she didn’t commit, her school counselor gets involved to clear her record in this ripped-from-the-headlines novel.

When Lily Simon finds cops in the lobby of the high school where she’s a guidance counselor, she’s not surprised: cops and adolescents go together like sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But when the cops take Jamila, a Muslim student, into custody for a crime she didn’t commit, Lily’s high school becomes a powder keg.

Police think Jamila is responsible for a hit and run, and since she’s not talking, they have no choice but to keep her as the main suspect. And since the victim—a young soldier recently returned from Afghanistan—is lying unconscious in the hospital, the whole town is taking sides on whether or not Jamila’s arrest is religious persecution. Determined to find the truth, Lily teams up with a reporter to uncover what really happened the night of the hit and run.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Lily read Daniel Richardson’s article with a horrible sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. She brought up Facebook on her computer and started searching.

She found the “Jamila Is a Terrorist” Facebook page by following a fairly long line of comments among other students. Despite being incredibly computer savvy, it surprised Lily to see how few kids had much regard to their privacy online. Even the ones who had made their profiles private didn’t seem to realize that if they commented on a page that wasn’t private, someone could have limited access to their information.

She felt physically ill when she found the page. Scrolling through it made her feel even worse.

“Cast your vote! Which one of these Darby High students is the most likely to bomb the place to the ground?”

Lily’s stomach dropped when she saw the poll. At this moment, Lily wasn’t sure what horrified her the most. Was it the fact that someone had created a poll like that on Facebook? Or that so many of the kids at school had already voted on who they thought was most likely to commit an act of terrorism against the school. Two hundred and seventy-nine votes had already been cast.

Four of the five choices were Muslim students. Jamila, of course. Then Hakim Massoud, Abdul El-Sayed, and Fareed Bahri. The fifth choice was SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob was trailing by quite a few votes.
About the Author:

Eileen Carr was born in Dayton, Ohio. She moved when she was four and only remembers that she was born across the street from Baskin-Robbins. Eileen remembers anything that has to do with ice cream. Or chocolate. Or champagne.

Eileen’s alter ego, Eileen Rendahl, is the award-winning author of four Chick Lit novels and the Messenger series.

Website: www.EileenCarr.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EileenRendahlandEileenCarr

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EileenRendahl

Buy the book at the publisher.

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My Turn: Achieving the American Dream by Jonathan Williams – Spotlight and Giveaway

 

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jonathan Williams will be awarding $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Silicon Valley is home to several large Technology and Pharmaceutical \ Biotech corporations. Chris moved to this area in early 2000. He has been handling data for prestigious companies for well over ten years. His work ethic and morals have kept him employed. During his tenure at a Fortune 100 company, he is offered a position at a small Biotech. It is not too long after taking this new position that he is promoted to Management. The IT Directory who Chris reports to gives him the choice of playing the corporate game or getting fired. Chris must either choose being ethical and getting fired or keeping his job by being unethical. After much thought, he realizes that honesty and integrity have kept him from achieving the American dream. Tired of living paycheck to paycheck he decides to play the corporate game. This decision will not only affect his professional life but his personal life as well.

Enjoy an excerpt:

From an early age, Chris understood that data was the key to everything. He didn’t need a 9/11 incident to tell him that certain systems needed to talk to each other. He also didn’t need a Wikileaks incident or an NSA leak to tell him that access to any kind of data must be reviewed with scrutiny.

About the Author: Jonathan Williams has worked in Information Technology for over twenty years. He has spent most of his career working in the Financial and Pharmaceutical \ Biotech sectors. He specializes in Database Management Systems.

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9794311.Jonathan_Williams

Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble Currenly FREE on BN.com

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A Peek Inside Author Lauren Clark’s Office – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Lauren will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A Peek inside Author Lauren Clark’s Office

I have a 70-year old cottage in a quiet Mobile, Ala. neighborhood; every room has wood floors and tall ceilings. The office, on the east side of the house, has built-in floor to ceiling bookshelves, three large windows, and gets lots of light.

My office necessities include photos of my children, my Macbook, and my 15 year-old desk and chair from Pier One. I often have my coffee nearby—it’s a daily staple! Today, I have some LaCroix water with lemon. I always keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas, and usually record them later on my Mac.

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My trusty bookcases haven’t buckled yet under the weight of books from my favorite authors—including Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Stieg Larsson, and Alice Hoffman. The other shelves are filled with writing and reference books, as well as cookbooks, yearbooks, and photo albums.

My favorite writing reference or craft books are those by Stephen King (On Writing), James Scott Bell (Plot & Structure, Write Your Novel from the Middle), and Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat is always fun.

If you’re setting up your own writing space, in my opinion, it doesn’t have to be large, and you don’t need a massive oak roll-top desk or expensive framed prints to decorate the walls. Your “office”—whether it’s a closet, or a corner in the laundry room, or a space you share with your spouse—should reflect what you love and what makes you feel comfortable. Happy Writing!

I’d love to hear about your writing space and what makes it special. Or, if you prefer, ask me about my latest book, Pie Girls. xx, Lauren

12_16 Pie Girls CoverPrincess, Southern belle, and spoiled-rotten social climber Searcy Roberts swore on a stack of Bibles she’d never return home to Fairhope, Alabama. After marrying her high school sweetheart and moving to Atlanta, Searcy embraces big-city life—Carrie Bradshaw style.

But now, Searcy has a teeny, tiny problem. Her husband’s had a mid-life crisis. He’s quit his job, cancelled her credit cards, and left her for another man.

Searcy returns to Fairhope, ready to lick her wounds. But when her mother falls ill, she’s is thrust into managing the family business—only to discover the beloved bakery is in danger of closing its doors forever.

Enlisting the help of the adorable bike store owner next door, an array of well-heeled customers, and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Searcy hatches the plan of the century to save Pie Girls.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Are you sure that the baby’s mine?”

I feel faint and the room starts to tilt and swim. “Whatever are you talking about?” I demand, doing my best to sound indignant. “Of course it’s ours.”

Alton turns his body to face mine. “I’m asking, because it’s impossible,” he explains.

My lips part. I try to form words. What is he trying to tell me?

“Searcy,” Alton leans closer. ” I had a vasectomy. Six months ago.”

“What?” I squeak. “How? When?”

“You were in California with Phillipa.”

My hands begin to quiver. I brace myself on the sofa.

Vasectomy?

Six. Months. Ago.

I feel sick. I want to throw up. Or launch myself out the window.

My husband’s gaze doesn’t waver. He’s serious.

“You see,” Alton continues gently. “The baby can’t be mine.”

I can’t speak or take a breath. All at once, I am furious. How dare he do this to me? Of all of the underhanded, rotten, selfish things to do to a wife. How could he take this away from me? From us?

Usually, I’m a calm, rational person. But without another thought, my right hand clenches into a fist. My fingers curl tight and the tips press into my palm. My arm bends at the elbow and I draw my body back, gathering momentum.

I take aim.

As my first jets through the air, cutting a path straight for my husband’s gorgeous face, everything screams to a slow-motion finish.

His face registers a mix of doubt, surprise, and then…in the last second…out-right terror.

I punch Alton square in the mouth.

About the Author: 12_16 pie AuthorPicLauren Clark writes contemporary Southern novels sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets. A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends.

She is the author of four award-winning novels, Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stay Tuned, Stardust Summer, and Pie Girls, as well as a short story, A Very Dixie Christmas, published in the Merry & Bright holiday collection. Lauren is a member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association and the Mobile Writers Guild. Check out her website at www.laurenclarkbooks.com.

Blog: www.laurenclarkbooks.com/blog
Twitter: @LaurenClark_Bks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lauren-Clark/235315706518284
Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/laurenclarkbks/

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes.

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Tale of Treasures by H.F. Parkhurst – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a grand prize of a $50 BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour and a second winner will win a $25 BN GC. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A four hundred year quest for a mysterious lost treasure; bloodthirsty Pirates; plundering Conquistadors; noble Indians; and a sinister and secret religious Order are the tantalizing ingredients stirred together in the turbulent, steamy, and exotic Spanish Main, of yesterday and today.

To the rhythmic background of classic R&B soul music, Harry Carlton and his new love Helen are unexpectedly thrust into a violent encounter with ruthless and malevolent forces and a rogue’s gallery of dastardly villains. These two, near their fifties, are not kindly white-haired grandparents ready to sit sedately in rocking chairs. Instead, they confront danger with bravery, and battle dishonesty and injustice with valor. They discover a priceless, lost artifact treasure of the ancient Indians of South and Central America. In the struggle to return the treasure to its rightful owners, they must outwit the assortment of murderous villains, and stay alive.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Aye, Capt’n.” Nate demonstrated their devious attack plan with tankards and bowls from the table. “By the time them Spanish scum be figuring what to do, we be attacking from three directions, be raking their sails and rigging, and be a blasting their ships into submission.”

The Sea Dragon crew had gathered around the three captains, and peered on silent and expectant. Always thirsty, many hoisted tankards of ale as the discussion lengthened, and Captain Nate fought the sea battle on the tabletop.

Mary pointed to the bowl representing Alonso’s ship. “This be your chance to show the fancy Spaniard who be the better man, and grab ye a share of rich booty?”

Goode scratched his beard and his broad belly. He squinted and with an intent eye peered at the layout of tankards and bowls. First, he gazed with skepticism in one direction, then another. He reached for his tankard and took a long swallow. With a broad grin, he lifted his tankard. “We sail me hearties.”

“Hoorah!” yelled the boisterous crew. They swilled drinks and trooped for the docks and Sea Dragon. On the evening tide, the pirate ships raised anchors, hoisted sails, and raced like lethal sharks across a moonlit sea to Old Man’s Cove, a thirst for gold singing in their blood.

About the Author:

H.F. earned double finalist honors in 2011 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards. Born and raised in the northeastern United States, he’s lived in the south, southwest, and mid-west of the US, as well as Asia, Australia, and Europe. A student of traditional Chinese martial arts for the last sixteen years, he practices daily. After forty years as a successful, international architectural interior designer of offices and hotels, he sought a new creative outlet.

In a turbulent time of global conflict, he seeks to be an ardent voice of reason speaking against illogic and the darkness of injustice, violence, and hatred pursued by the irrational and fanatic zealot faithful, worldwide.

An Objectivist, his novels reflect his commitment to logical thinking and the right of free people to rationally choose a destiny in their own best self-interests. He enjoys spinning outrageous tales based on his fertile imagination and real life experiences. Married, he lives with his wife in Florida. Currently projects are two novel series: an Epic Fantasy and an Action/Adventure. Also in the works are sci-fi novels and short stories.

Website | Twitter
Buy the book at Amazon.

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Interview and Giveaway: Mingmei Yip

Long and Short Reviews welcomes back Mingmei Yip, whose newest book Secret of a Thousand Beauties has recently been released. Leave a comment or ask the author a question for a chance to win a copy of the book — please make sure you leave your email address.

Mingmei’s maternal grandmother was the owner of the Pepsi Cola factory in Vietnam before the liberation. She was barely able to read, but took over the business after her husband died suddenly of a stroke in his early 40s.

“My mother always boasted about Grandma’s success and showed me pictures, now lost, of Grandma beside Joan Crawford, then at the peak of her Hollywood stardom, and Wu Tingyan, the Vietnamese president,” she said. “My grandmother came to visit from time to time, but like so many old generation Chinese woman, she lavished attention on my brother but ignored me because I was a girl – ‘money-losing merchandise.’ She never spoke a word to me, nor even looked in my direction. I reciprocated, sitting wordlessly in my high chair and staring out the window, absorbed in my daydreams. This ‘cold war’ culminated when one day Grandma suddenly asked my mother, ‘Is your daughter retarded?’

“Whatever my mother thought about this, she always had faith in my future. Once when on our way to a Chinese opera performance, I saw the crescent moon and blurted out: ‘Ma, look, the moon is like my clipped fingernail!’ Amazed, Mother shot back: ‘Wah! Mingmei, you’ll be a writer someday!’

“And that planted a seed in my young mind that I’d be a writer someday.”

Mingmei had her first essay published in an art magazine when she was 15 and she’s been writing ever since. She currently has fourteen books published, including two children’s books in English, which she also illustrated, and five books in Chinese. Her children’s books are Chinese Children’s Favorite Stories and Grandma Panda’s China Storybook – Legends, Traditions, and Fun, both published by Tuttle Publishing. Her Chinese books include three on music, one on Zen Buddhism with her painting and calligraphy, and a collection of her essays.

After writing seven mainstream novels, she is thinking about branching out to write a thriller or mystery. Currently, she’s mostly reading ghost stories because her next novel will be about witches, shamans, a ghost-haunted lake, and many things metaphysical.

“Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?” I asked. “If so, what do you do about it?”

“A while ago I was in a writers’ networking party and someone asked me what does writer’s block really mean. I think it means different things to different writers.

“To begin a new novel what I need is a new idea. Once I have that, I’ll think of the ‘what if.’ I’ll also start to read all the materials on the subject I’m going to write about, be it a spy or gangster in my Skeleton Women and The Nine Fold Heaven, a prostitute in my Peach Blossom Pavilion, or an adventurer in my Song of the Silk Road. The first few chapters are always easy to write, for it’s the beginning and I have enough ideas in my mind. However, after the six or seven chapters, the question ‘What’s next?’ will pop up to my great alarm. If I can’t figure out what to write for the eight chapter, then I can’t write the following nineth, tenth, eleventh…and that’s very scary.

“Whenever I encounter this, I’ll always read a book, a magazine, or watch a movie. Somehow a scene, a conversation, a gesture will trigger ideas and inspirations.

“As I said to my writer friend, ‘One time I read in the newspaper that a baby girl fell into a well and survived, that gave me the idea to write in my second novel Petals from the Sky about a young woman being accidentally pushed down a well and got enlightened in the dark.’

“If I’ve read a lot, sometimes my writer’s block would even be solved in dreams. I believe it’s because the information I received have re-arranged itself in my subconscious.

“Reading or watching a movie to get ideas always work for me. This even makes me wonder that there’s some writing angel around to help – as long as we persevere. Like the phrase ‘Knock, and the door will open.’ So when you have writer’s block ‘Read, you’ll always find ideas.'”

Mingmei doesn’t outline her stories, but she lets her characters lead her along.

“Outlining won’t work for me because once I start to write, my story grows its own feet and walks off in a completely different direction,” she explained.

The first thing she needs is an engaging situation. For her debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, she decided to write about the last Chinese high class prostitute. For her second novel Petals from the Sky, she had an idea about a would-be nun who falls in love. Her third novel, Song of the Silk Road, is the journey to self-discovery of a young woman who travels the ancient Silk Road in search of adventure – and a three million dollar reward.

She writes full-time, but in her spare time she practices the guqin – the most ancient Chinese silk-stringed instrument, which she performs frequently. She also does storytelling and teaches calligraphy and painting workshops, most recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The protagonists of Mingmei’s books are brave, strong women who are relentless in overcoming hardship and tragedy to live life on their own terms and achieve happiness.

“It is hard now even to try to imagine the hardships women had to endure in traditional China – marrying to a dead fiancé, making them the slaves of the dead man’s parents, or forced into prostitution, yet not even allowed to keep their babies,” she told me. “Some of my characters are inspired by the lives of actual women, including Camilla the singer-spy in my novels Skeleton Women and The Nine Fold Heaven, and the teenage prostitute Xiang Xiang in my debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion (now in its 5th printing!) I feel honored to be able to give these silenced women their voice. Also, in writing about them, they have become my teachers of curage, determination, and compassion.”

Finally I asked, “What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?”

“It’s never easy to be a writer, especially when you start out. I think to be a writer, it is still essential to master the basics. Not only voice, characterization, dialogue, plot, but also sentence structure, its rhythm and music. I always try to vary the length of my sentences and start each one with a different subject. It’s essential to spent whatever time it takes to find the right word. Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph.

“There is a Chinese saying ‘Slap on the thigh and exclaim!’ That’s how the readers will react to a good choice of word. Readers may not be aware of the meticulous hard work behind a smooth sentence, but if you don’t pay attention, they will soon become bored.

“I also think it’s good for authors to attend other cultural activities such as movies, concerts, art exhibitions. Have as diverse a background as you can cultivate, that really helps.”

Enjoy the book video:

About the Author:12_5 mingmei yip author photo Mingmei Yip believes that one should, besides being entertained, also get something out of reading a novel. Her new novel is Secret of a Thousand Beauties, coming out December, 2014 by Kensington Books. Her other novels include: Skeleton Women Femmes Fatales); The Nine Fold Heaven, story of an ex spy and night-club singer undertaking a dangerous journey to look for her long lost lover and son; Peach Blossom Pavilion, story of the last Chinese Geisha; Petals from the Sky — a poignant Buddhist love story about wisdom, compassion, when to persist and when to let go; Song of the Silk Road , an adventure, love story between an older woman and a younger man with a three million award on China’s famous, dangerous route.

Besides writing, Mingmei is accomplished in many other fields. A professional player of the Guqin, Chinese zither, she was recently invited by Carnegie Hall to perform in “A Festival celebrating Chinese Culture” program. She had her solo Goddess exhibition at the New York Open Center Gallery to great acclaim and held calligraphy workshops at the City University of New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has lectured extensively on Chinese art and culture at Oxford University, Columbia University, Beijing University, University of Paris, Vassar College, Williams College.

Mingmei is also a children’s book writer and illustrator. Her two children’s books are Chinese Children’s Favorite Stories and Grandma Panda’s China Storybook, both by Tuttle Publishing.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon Author Page ~ Goodreads

12_5 BOOK COVER MINGMEI YIPSpring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother’s belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws’ she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a “bad-luck woman,” Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor’s love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting–a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete–betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman’s story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

How My Prison Experiences Enhanced My Novel by Mindy S. Halleck – Guest Blog and Giveaway

 

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Mindy Halleck will be awarding a $100 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour!

How My Prison Experiences Enhanced My Novel, Return To Sender

By Mindy Halleck

My prison experiences served me well in writing my novel, Return To Sender (RTS). I have intimate knowledge of the Oregon State Prison (OSP) and its ‘guests’, which is why I used it in RTS: Theo is the ‘visiting priest’ for the (OSP) where he meets the villain, Genghis Hansel, who then escapes and seeks Theo out in Manzanita Oregon.

My intimate knowledge came from when I used to go ‘inside’ as a Toastmaster and attend one of the largest Toastmaster meetings in the state (at that time) with the inmates. Prior to going ‘in’ I was to adopt an alias name, and follow all the Governor’s office instructions; no fragrance shampoos or perfume for two weeks prior to the visit, no pink or red clothing, little to no makeup and no light blue clothing as I would blend in with the prisoners in case of a riot. I never followed instructions so precisely in my life! I wore a grey flannel below the knee skirt, a blazer with a beige blouse buttoned to my neck and went in as plain Jane as possible. But it never occurred to me to sweep my long hair into hiding.

The one OPS Toastmaster meeting that nearly ended them all was equally frightening and thrilling. As the only woman from our group of Toastmasters from Portland that agreed to participate, I was out numbered. The only other woman in the cafeteria where we had our meetings was on the ledge above us with a rifle strapped across her chest and a look on her face that meant business.  My host (prisoner) for that day was Dave (not his real name), whose throat had been cut by a rival gang and who was then left for dead, brought back to life and tossed in the pen when he was sixteen. He was now twenty eight years old with a thick scar from ear to ear. But also with a smile just as arresting. He was friendly and excited to be our host, walking us from corridor to corridor and explaining how things would work. It was an honor for him, and we felt honored by him. He explained that none of the seventy five toastmaster (prisoners) were to touch me and that all had to keep their hands behind their backs.

However, one prisoner did not follow instructions.

As the prisoner TM’s and my team (five men and myself) chatted about Toastmaster things, one tall prisoner with dark eyes and a penetrating stare leaned in (too close) to get a whiff of my shoulder length hair. I felt his breath and froze, then felt his face touch the back of my curls. At that point, before I could move, Dave and several other prisoners had him on the ground, the woman guard at the top of the room aimed her rifle as several guards clambered to get him handcuffed and dragged from the room. My skin crawled. I had nightmares about that man whom I later learned was a rapist. Nightmares.

However, the meeting was allowed to go on because I insisted that everyone else had been nothing but gentlemen. We had a great time and to this day I swear I’ve never heard finer, more impassioned speeches than those from our TM brothers behind bars. But to this day I can still wake to the feel of evil breathing at the back of my neck. I actually had all my long hair cut off a few days later. I use this experience in Return To Sender.

This access to the prison gave me some insight into the inner workings and a landscape for many of the scenes in RTS.  I also have another connection to OSP that I promised my mother I wouldn’t mention. :-)

 

12_1BookCover_ReturnToSender1955 ~ Father Theo Riley never wanted to be a priest, nor a killer. The former boxing champion and Korean War veteran gave up more than a career when he went into the Army. He lost the only thing he ever wanted: his love, Andréa Bouvre. Friends thought Theo entered the priesthood to mend his broken heart or atone for the massacred orphans he couldn’t save in Korea.

However, the truth is much darker and more damning, tied to a blood debt and family secret that has haunted Theo since he was a boy. He drinks to forget he ever had a life of his own—waits for death, prays for mercy, and hopes for a miracle. He gets all three when a child goes missing, another shows up on his doorstep, and the love of his life drives back into his world; the seaside hamlet of Manzanita Oregon.

Theo’s dream reunion with Andréa becomes a nightmare when a serial killer who considers himself a holy man targets the town and everyone Theo loves. Drinking days decidedly behind him, Theo and some old warriors set out to send evil back to hell and a few good souls to heaven in RETURN TO SENDER.

Enjoy an excerpt:

All night I listened for cars, footsteps, noises that didn’t belong. All night, every sound reminded me of Korea’s Karst Caves: sounds, smells, threats hidden in every echo. I tried to recall in which letter I wrote to Andréa about the noisy bats. Was it October ’52, or later?

The children had been terrified of the Daubenton bats that built colonies inside the caves. At night, the scratching sounds and flapping wings was as threatening to them as the sound of footsteps and the CCF running up on us at night was to me. The nun told them the bats were good luck, there to protect us, that they stayed awake at night to keep watch.

The oldest boy, Hai-bin, was the first to call me “Teo.” He rolled his eyes back in his head when the nun said that. In any other world, he’d have been a budding teenager full of angst and attitude, not an undernourished warrior ready to fight, ready to die, not old enough to understand the meaning of either. Not old enough to understand any of Korea’s madness. But then, who was?

As the days, nights, and weeks had gone on, those brave orphans folded the strange noises from the waking Daubenton bats into that place where they carried the heavy, heavy burden of acceptance—they slept through the night with those mysterious guardians taking flight above them. They slept. It became part of their new existence. An existence brittle and rickety as the bamboo bridges that sooner or later would lead us back to a world ablaze outside those caves.

About the Author: 12_1AuthorPhoto_ReturnToSenderMindy Halleck is a Pacific Northwest author, blogger and writing instructor. Her short story, The Sound of Rain, which placed in the Writer’s Digest Literary Contest blossomed into her first novel Return to Sender. Halleck blogs at Literary Liaisons and is an active member of the Pacific Northwest writing community. In addition to being a writer, Halleck is a happily married, globe-trotting beachcomber, antiquer, gardener, proud grandma, and three-time cancer survivor. www.MindyHalleck.com

 


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What Casts the Shadow? by Seth Mullins – Spotlight and Giveaway



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A troubled young rock musician, a mystic mentor, and a generation of lost souls longing for a new voice to emerge from thewilderness…

When an altercation outside of a performance venue nearly proves fatal, Brandon Chane begins to realize how far his life is spinning out of control. His efforts to channel his pain, frustration and thwarted loves into his music may not suffice to save him. Then he meets Saul, a crisis counselor with the soul of an ancient medicine man, and a far-reaching journey of healing – one that may teach him how to steer away from the very edge of the abyss – begins.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Saul’s office was arranged much like others I’d seen: A dark cherry desk, glossy clean; plaques, proclaiming his education and other achievements, hanging on the wall behind. All the prominent names in the field of psychology cluttered his bookcase. Most of the titles that Tommy had found for me at the library made an appearance there. Saul invited me to sit in a brown leather recliner. I didn’t want to tilt it back; but I kept feeling like I was about to fall out of that chair when it was in the upright position.

Saul leaned forward and smiled like he harbored a secret. “I’d like to start, Brandon, by assuring you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. You have no ‘problems’ per se. You aren’t evil, because there is no such thing. And if you’re ignorant, then you are no more so than every other human to ever walk the Earth. Now, is any of that reassuring?”

It almost sounded like he was trying to provoke an argument. Yet his manner and tone implied that he meant every word he said in the most literal sense.

“Of course,” he went on, “that’s all true only from a perspective that you may have to work hard to arrive at. When you’re suffering, it definitely feels like something is wrong with you; and the seeming causes of that suffering are problems. They are the embodiment of evil. And every smiling person you see must be privy to answers that have totally eluded you.”

About the Author:

Seth Mullins draws upon the great sweep of human soul-journeying to weave his tales. He’s inspired by music, shamanism, dreams and the mysteries and miracles of our inner life. His greatest love as a writer is for fiction that depicts a journey towards self-awareness in the deepest sense.

“Probably the most valuable thing that I learned throughout my spiritual journey in this life is the importance of trusting in one’s self. Many of our cultural lessons encourage us to ignore or even fear our inner reality. And yet it is this realm that really does hold the answers to all of our questions, and can point the way towards the most fulfilling life experiences possible for us.”

Mr. Mullins has lived in Maine, Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.

http://www.humanityswayforward.com (Humanity’s Way Forward – website)

http://frontiersofconsciousness.blogspot.com (The Edge of the Known by Seth Mullins – blog)

Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/sethmullins

https://www.facebook.com/seth.thomas.37454

http://twitter.com/SethMullins1

https://www.facebook.com/WhatCaststheShadow

Buy “What Casts the Shadow?” (The Edge of the Known) on Amazon

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Balancing Life and Writing by EJ Hanagan – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. EJ will be awarding a $50 Starbucks GC to a randomly selected winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the rest of the stops.

Balancing Life and Writing

When I decided to leave my day job and focus solely on writing, I envisioned a world with endless amounts of time where I could just sit in front of my laptop and dream up characters and plot. I fantasized about getting comfy with a cup of coffee and creating, as the hours would pass by in a cozy cafe.

One thing that non-writers may not know though, is that with writing comes research. And depending on your story, that could mean lots and lots of research. It could mean traveling countless miles to interview someone for a topic, or it could mean that you spend hours on Pinterest searching for the perfect 60s wedding dress for the main character in your next scene. So, with that said, writing is just never simply “writing” alone and the hours of pounding the keys that I dreamed of, turned out to be a bit different. I squeeze in writing and marketing time while my one year old daughter naps and often times I’m cut off mid-sentence when I hear a sweet little squawk erupt from her room down the hall. Also, while my dogs tend to spend most of their time sleeping, it’s not rare for me to be interrupted by a barking fit every now and then. It’s usually a squirrel trying to break into our backyard or something harmless like that, but it usually gets me out of my chair to assess the situation, thus taking away from more of those endless writing hours that I dreamed about.

Another balance issue is the whole reading thing. Every writer knows that in order to get better, we need to READ. It’s basically like creeping on other author’s to enhance our own work. So, since most of my time at home is spent writing, marketing, mommying and taming my wild dogs, I use my gym time to read. Thanks to my handy little kindle, I can climb the Stairmaster or run on the treadmill while I study the work of my fellow authors. Music can be blaring in the background and weight lifters all around me may be grunting, but I love to read so much that I manage to block it all out and escape into a story while I sweat.

Like all jobs and hobbies, if you love it enough, you manage to squeeze it all in. I’d rather congest my life with a million little things that I love and be fluttering around searching for more time, than do one thing that I only semi-like all day long. Maybe that is why my days go by so fast.

11_17 Cover_Saving JasonJason Barnes is a free spirit. Underneath that fun-loving surface lurks a severe case of PTSD, his personal souvenir from the war on terror. After his young marriage breaks up, he bounces from girlfriend to girlfriend, never allowing himself to get too close, all while maintaining a friendship with his ex-wife, Samantha Colton.

Everything changes when he meets Abby Jacobsen, a smart and sassy artist – but with love comes jealousy, and Abby doesn’t stand for Jason’s cozy friendship with Samantha. Two hours after a heated argument causes Jason to storm out of their apartment, Abby receives a phone call from the intensive care unit of a New Hampshire hospital. The hospital walls close in on Abby and Samantha as they are forced to make tough decisions while trying hard not to kill each other. The two form a rare bond when Emma Jane, Jason’s mom, arrives on the scene. Three weeks after Jason’s accident, Abby is left alone and hovering over a handful of positive pregnancy tests. During her pregnancy, Abby works with Samantha to dig up clues of Jason’s past. As the truth is discovered, their worlds are irreversibly changed.

An emotionally-moving look at PTSD and the intersection of three lives, Saving Jason is a riveting glimpse into unexpected friendships and the ripples we leave without our knowledge.

This book is currently only available through Amazon.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Jason pinned his body as tightly as he could against the rigid edge of the climbing rock at Heartbreak Park. Fingers clenching the pointed edge, he raised his right leg, feeling for a protrusion to rest his foot. He looked down at the ground twenty­five feet below, where the mix of leaves coated in a fiery red and orange served as a bed for his rock climbing gear. It was the first time he’d attempted a free climb without the safety of a harness attaching him to the side of the boulder. A rush of fear passed through him when he took his next step. Putting all of his body weight into that step, he was no longer supported by the ledge; instead he was falling to the ground, face scraping against the serrated boulders along the way. Time stood still for the thirty seconds that his body descended to the ground. Silence softened his busy mind and the world was calm until he landed in a pile of leaves on top of his gear. The last thing he saw was a set of piercing silvery blue eyes flashing across his vision like lightning in the midst of a storm.

About the Author: EJ Hanagan is a fitness fanatic, obsessive reader and animal lover. She currently lives in a sleepy little beach town just outside of Boston with her husband, their new daughter, and the family’s two giant Newfoundland dogs. After spending four years in the Air Force, she put her fire for fitness to good use and worked as a personal trainer while attending college. EJ credits the amazing, brave people she met in the military for giving her the passion and focus to raise awareness for veterans with PTSD. Her hope is to bring the invisible scars of war to the surface through her writing and community involvement.

You can learn more about EJ, her books, and her charity work at her website or connect with her online at Twitter and Facebook.

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One of My Own Writing Quirks by Benjamin DeHaven – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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One of my own writing quirks
I have to write with a legal felt tipped pen and after I have the long hand version I usually use dictation software to read the story out loud. It’s amazing how many problems you will find when reading something out loud. Its funny, because I type quickly, but, just can’t think clearly when typing
My weirdest quirk is-I don’t like people to look at me when I am writing. I feel like an asshole. But I don’t feel weird editing in public. Which seems strange-because how in the world would the people watching know the difference. I guess I feel like I am “wide open” when in the groove and don’t want to let too many people see that.

MEDIA KIT Confessions_updated_highResA ghost, a philanthropist, a con man, a devout Catholic, a gigolo, a savior, an heir, a common man, and an addict are just some of the words used to describe Michael Enzo, who some sources credit with ghost-writing more than 108 self-help books on behalf of celebrities, politicians and business leaders. After failing to make what he considered to be a positive impact on society he began to destroy those closest to him including Benjamin DeHaven, the author of this book, and former collaborator. Defrauding an industry for almost 20 years by exploiting people’s insecurities and profiting from them, more than likely these friends contributed more to the field of self-help, while profiting from it, than they will ever know. Believing they could only understand people’s problems by suffering along with them, they lived on the razor’s edge. If you’ve ever picked up a tell-all biography of a celebrity or a title from the self-help section at the bookstore, certainly you would question the source.This is an inside look at the mind of Michael Enzo and it is the author’s hope that people will start helping themselves again after reading it. Discover what turns someone from preaching salvation towards seeking its destruction. You won’t believe this could be true.

About the Author:A Graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, Benjamin DeHaven keeps his heart in Chicago and his soul in New Orleans. He holds a MBA from Tulane and a film degree from Columbia. Once ejected from a community college for arguing Frost cried out for acceptance in Birches, he has since written screenplays, traded futures in Madrid, and was Editor in Chief of the Nola Shopper Newspaper, a free art newspaper and the 2nd largest monthly paper in the New Orleans, MSA. . He also has a “shout out” in a Jay “Z” Song.

DeHaven, who currently resides in Las Vegas began his writing career with Stone United, a Chicago based Film Company, which works primarily in independent film. As an unknown fiction writer, he feels the best description of himself, is a sarcastic one and is as follows:

Benjamin W. DeHaven was born on a pool table after a Waylon Jennings’ concert in 1977. His personal success is outweighed only by his stunning good looks and adherence to unwritten moral guidelines. He has been described as a thinking man’s Tucker Max as well as an idiot’s Hunter S. Thompson. His goal is to die from an unwavering commitment to be more like Hemingway.

He and Michael Enzo were friends.

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The Lessons I Learned from my Hero by C.C. Humpheys – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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THE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY HERO

- A blog post by C.C. Humphreys on his novel THE FRENCH EXECUTIONER –

 

This is a good question. Slightly hard one to answer as I have to take my time machine back to the writing of this novel, my very first. And then to separate Jean Rombaud – the executioner and saviour of Anne Boleyn – from all the characters I’ve lived with since.

Lesson One: A man (and a character) reveals himself slowly.

– Jean is surrounded by colourful friends and enemies. Haakon, the huge ax-wielding Viking. The Fugger, with his one hand and madness always a reach away. Beck, the girl dressed as a boy. Archbishop Cibo, the classic debauched churchman and villain. These were all easier to write as they were so extreme. Jean – well, I was dealing with an executioner to start with. Many people would not sympathise with his profession. So I wanted to make him very closed off to the world. He lost his wife and child to plague. So he took up a trade he was good at. He’s not in any way a sadist. He does a job. But his vow to Anne Boleyn – to take her six fingered hand at the same time he takes her head and then get rid of the famous relic – begins a journey of redemption. He comes alive again. Hard to show that, fascinating to try.

 

Lesson Two: Courage is being terrified and still leaping into the darkness.

– Jean has to go through so much – battle, enslavement, torture. But faith in his vow keeps him going.

 

Lesson Three: Love conquers all.

– Eventually you have to stop mourning a relationship that is over and open yourself up again to the possibilities of love. Jean does this, and see his love of Beck as a reward for being true to his cause.

 

Lesson Four: Don’t throw your sword at someone unless your certain you’ll hit him. Otherwise he has two swords and you have none.

 

10_27 the french executioner

The last thing Jean Rombaud expects upon being summoned to behead Anne Boleyn is to dedicate his life to her. But the ill-fated queen has a mysterious request for her executioner: that after taking her life he also take her infamous six-fingered hand and bury it at a sacred crossroads in France. His oath will set Jean on the most dangerous journey of his life.

In The French Executioner, C.C. Humphreys once again brings the past to life in all its glory and peril. This thrilling novel captures the breathtaking story of how courage, love, and loyalty bound Anne Boleyn to the man who ended her life—and saved her legacy.

“Humphreys has fashioned a rollicking good yarn that keeps the pages turning from start to finish.”—Irish Examiner

“A wonderful saga of magic and heroism. If you can find a first impression, hoard it and wait till it rises in value like a first edition of Lord of the Rings. This is as good.”—Crime Time, UK

“A brilliant, brutal, and absorbing historical thriller on the real-life figure of Jean Rombaud, the man who beheaded Anne Boleyn.”—Northern Echo

“An entertaining read—a charming page turner.”—Edmonton Journal

“Lightning paced.”—Publishing News

About the Author: 11_22 image003C.C. Humphreys is a novelist, fight choreographer, and actor who played Jack Absolute in The Rivals for a six-month run in London in the mid-1980s. When he became a full-time writer a decade ago, he decided to transform his leading man into a title character. Humphreys has written seven historical fiction novels including The French Executioner, which was runner-up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers 2002. The Jack Absolute series features three books: Jack Absolute, The Blooding of Jack Absolute, and Absolute Honor.