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Archive for May 14th, 2013

It’s a thrill to have here Alexandra Sokoloff as my guest today, not only because her books are awesome, but because she happens to be one of my favorite writers. Needless to say, I’ve read all of her books.

Alexandra is the Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker, Anthony, and Black Quill award-nominated author of multiple supernatural thrillers, and the Top Ten Amazon bestselling Huntress/FBI thriller series (Huntress Moon, Blood  Moon), which has also been nominated for a Thriller Award for Best E Book Original Novel.

alexs-bw-200The New York Times Book Review has called her a “daughter of Mary Shelley,” and her books “some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.”

As a screenwriter, Alexandra she has sold original horror and thriller scripts and adapted novels for numerous Hollywood studios. She has also written two non-fiction writing workbooks: SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS (highly recommended, by the way!) and WRITING LOVE, based on her internationally acclaimed workshops and blog, and has served on the Board of Directors of the WGA, west and the Board of the Mystery Writers of America.  

Find the author: her websiteblog, on Facebook Twitter andPinterest.

Q: Hi there, Alexandra. Thanks for stopping by The Dark Phantom. Tell us why readers should buy BLOOD MOON.

A: If you’re at all interested in unusual psychological crime thrillers, this one will probably grab you. The main character is an FBI agent who is on the trail of what looks like a female serial killer, which Agent Roarke knows very well doesn’t occur in real life.  So there’s a real psychological mystery about who this female killer is and why she does what she does. Readers find their expectations challenged and their sympathies conflicted, just as Roarke does.

Q: What makes a good thriller?

A: I think different people are looking for different things in thrillers. There’s such a wide variety of experiences and sensations available from different books in the genre. Personally I am bored senseless by car chases and gun battles and international intrigue. What I love in a thriller is nail-biting suspense and psychological game playing and sexual tension and mystery and moral dilemmas and twists. So that’s the kind of thing I write, of course!

Q: What is a regular writing day like for you?

A: I start by seven or eight a.m. and write for seven or eight hours a day, much more if I’m on an intense deadline. Some of those hours are business, of course. But I’m a full-time writer, I treat it like a job because it IS my job.  One thing that is not like a regular job is that I change clothes a lot during the day.  Some days I am quite dressed up. I need to entertain myself some way other than eating!

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an author?

A: Without question, having readers read my books and experience the world and the characters just as if they’re caught up in a film. And then being able to dialogue with them about the story and characters and their experience of the story. It’s such an intimate relationship. Incomparable.

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to pass to other authors?

A: For aspiring authors, “Find a small room in a big city and sit down at your desk in front of the window. When you stand up ten years later, you will be a writer.” That’s from Saroyan.

And for authors in general, “E-publish.”  It’s more complicated than that, of course, but you asked for the best advice!

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Book II of the Huntress/FBI Thrillers

Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.

The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

But when his search for her unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman Roarke seeks – and wants – may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath.

Purchase BLOOD MOON

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon DE

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Mark AllMark All is the author of paranormal thrillers The Spellcaster’s Grimoire and Mystic Witch, published by ImaJinn Books in trade paperback and eBook formats.  He has won two international writing awards and contributed to Computer Legends, Lies & Lore.

Mystic Witch received a 5 Star review from the Paranormal Romance Guild, and 3½ stars (out of 4½ possible stars) from RT Book Reviews.

Mark is a full-time author after a career as an instructional systems designer at a Fortune 16 company. Prior to his work in computer-based training, he held jobs ranging from gravedigger to FM radio announcer to professional rock guitarist.

Mark presents writing workshops and taught his “Planning Your Novel” course at the Spruill Center for the Arts.

He earned a Masters degree in computer-based education and a Bachelor of Music cum laude.

You can visit Mark All’s website at www.MarkAllAuthor.com.

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

Yes, I do think people are born with varying amounts of talent. But more important is the amount of desire to write, which determines how much you’re willing to put in the time to master the craft. I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for great insight into succeeding at any endeavour and inspiration to make it happen. My college classical guitar instructor said everyone must master technique, and then you’d see how good a guitarist you are. So if you master your craft, not just prose, but story structure, characterization, and the like, you’ll be writing publishable books. They might not be as good as Stephen King or Nora Roberts or Jonathan Franzen, but there are many levels of success.

What was your inspiration for The Spellcaster’s Grimoire?

The “ancient, eldritch tome” is a trope that always gave me chill bumps, and I wanted to write about a lost book of magic for years. I love stories about a hidden or forgotten artifact that holds mystic powers both great and terrible. It can be a metaphor for the power of the unconscious mind, or our latent potential, and engenders stories about personal growth, which seems like magic—because it really is.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Personal growth and self-fulfillment. I think all stories are models of human problem-solving, and fulfilling your potential in response to a crisis is the ultimate challenge.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Hard to say, because there are lapses of down-time while the editor reviews it and then revisions for the editor, then proof-reading the galley. Usually it takes me a month or two to plot the novel, maybe three to write it, and another two or three months to do at least a couple of revisions and proof. Let’s throw in some down time to deal with life events, and say nine months. Then you may need to do querying, submissions, and marketing—during which time you’re working on the next novel!

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I usually write in the mornings when I’m fresh, maybe three hours, before lunch. Somewhere in there I’ll break for a walk for exercise. In the afternoon I might revise a previous work, keep in touch with social networking, do errands, or get in my guitar practice or record original music.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Coming up with an interesting and workable concept is always the most challenging for me. You can have lots of exciting ideas, and you can use story structure to turn anything into a book, but you need to do something different, something that hasn’t been done before, put a new spin on your premise.

What do you love most about being an author?

Hearing people discuss my book and argue about the characters, the way I do with books I’ve enjoyed. That to me is success, that people enjoyed the book and care about the characters.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

For my previous book, Mystic Witch, I queried a number of agents and came close, but didn’t quite snag one. I tried the only major publisher I could determine accepted non-agented queries. At the time, I was becoming aware that there are a number of great small presses out there, so I decided to give that a try before giving up and moving on to the next book. I hadn’t queried many before ImaJinn Books signed me to a two book contract. At a time when major publishers are signing fewer new authors, it’s wonderful to have small presses like ImaJinn that are putting out quality books to provide choices for readers tired of the big name authors who publish the same book over and over.

Where can we find you on the web?

www.markallauthor.com

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About the Book:

The Spellcaster's GrimoireBestselling witchcraft author Trish Sinclair has a shameful secret: she’s a lousy spellcaster, and the spells in her books belong to others. So when a dying warlock entrusts her with an ancient and powerful grimoire, she runs for her life from his murderer, psychotic witch Kate Cavanaugh. Kate pursues Trish relentlessly to obtain the grimoire, which holds spells to command the fearsome power of a magic crystal hidden in town—and Kate is determined to have that power.

When the town coven refuses to help Trish protect the grimoire, she is forced to turn to cynical warlock Aidan McCarthy, who has a secret agenda of his own, and Rain Devereaux, a novice witch whose spellcasting abilities are even worse than Trish’s.  As Kate unleashes the elemental might of tornados and ice storms on the trio, they desperately struggle to defeat her.

But Kate is too powerful, and she manages to steal the grimoire and unearth the crystal. Trish knows Kate will use the stone’s power to exact her deadly revenge on Aidan and the town coven unless Trish can manifest her latent magical abilities to save them.

Purchase The Spellcaster’s Grimoire!

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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Morrie Richfield lives in Pennsylvania with his two sons, his dogs and his cat. He is working on his next novel, and he still dreams that someday the world will be a better place for all of us to live.

His latest book is the inspirational fantasy novel, Revelation: The Return of Mr. Breeze.

Visit his website at www.mrbreezethenovel.com.

Morrie Richfield 3Would you call yourself a born writer?

No, I’d call myself a born storyteller who happens to write.

What was your inspiration for Revelation?

To Change the World!

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Whatever comes out of my head, but usually ways to try and make the world a better place.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

This one 6 months

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Wake up at 4am write for two hours workout then get ready to go to work.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Nothing it came easily.

What do you love most about being an author?

Touching people’s minds and hearts with what I write.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I am self published and it was an easy path.

Where can we find you on the web?

www.mrbreezethenovel.com

About the Book:

Revelation 2Mr. Breeze is back; so is Michael Ryan and Rover, the magical dog.

MR. BREEZE fans can rejoice. REVELATION, Morrie Richfield’s much-anticipated sequel to his novel MR. BREEZE, has arrived. Readers new to the strange but inspiring tale of a super being and his attempt to set mankind on a straight and moral path for its very survival can immerse themselves in what critics and readers alike are calling an “inspirational fantasy” with important lessons for all of us.

In MR. BREEZE, published in 2011, Richfield introduced readers to Zackary, aka Zack, aka Mr. Breeze, an ancient being who claimed to be mankind’s creator and who still exerts a powerful force on the human race and its very existence. Zack appeared on earth as a powerful man who did miraculous deeds. He chose journalist Michael Ryan to tell his story in a book that, he hoped, would show mankind how to stop its self-destructive ways and bring paradise on earth. With man’s fate hanging in the balance, Zack disappeared, leaving humans to their fate and Michael wondering what his role really is.

REVELATION moves the action two years into the future. The situation looks bleak. Mankind has slipped back into its old, destructive ways and Michael has become a dissolute recluse. There are people who view Michael as a savior and others who see him as a threat to be eliminated.

Along this strange trip, Michael meets new friends and reunites with old companions, the most significant of which is Rover, an abused dog whom Zack endowed with superpowers. Rover becomes Zack’s messenger to Michael, as Michael tries to get Zack’s original message out to the world:  If mankind doesn’t straighten out, he will destroy the human race.

Richfield plays down the description of REVELATION as an “inspirational fantasy.” He calls it a “self-help book, a textbook, a reality series on paper. It is what we see when we look in the mirror.”

If MR. BREEZE focused on Zack and his message, REVELATION focuses on Michael, following his struggle to understand his role in Zack’s master plan and to find his soul, Richfield says. “Michael’s final revelation is that we just don’t learn. Without the threat of destruction, we go back to our old ways. Our time is almost up and we need to do something. We need to show Mr. Breeze the human race deserves a chance to continue to exist.”

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Book Excerpt:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yes, it is me, Michael Ryan. I’m sure you remember me. After all, for a short time, I was about the most famous man in the world. For those of you who have forgotten, let me fill you in on what has happened in the two years since I last saw Zackary Breeze and Rover.

Of course you must remember Zack Breeze and Rover. Zack as he called himself is this time is our maker. He cured our diseases told us our religions are nothing but of our own making and turned a normal German Sheppard dog whose name is Rover into the second most powerful being on the planet. Let’s not forget that he used me to write his story and threatened our immediate destruction should I refuse.

I wrote the book that Zack asked me to write. It sold more copies than any book in history, and you all read it. I was oh so pleased with myself. I was rich, famous, and revered. You could not open a newspaper or magazine without seeing my name in it somewhere. It was my fifteen minutes of fame, so to speak.

For a time, there seemed to be hope in the world. The wars and fighting stopped—it was as if no one knew if the next shot fired would be the one that would bring the human race to an end. People seemed to like that I was somehow partly responsible for all of these remarkable things that had happened. I was admired by many, but what I did not know at the time was that I was hated by an equal number.

It seemed that once people heard Zack’s words, most of them stopped going to churches, synagogues, mosques, or any public place of worship. They prayed on their front yards and in alleys and at any time they felt the need. Only now, they prayed to Zack, and a somewhat zealous few even prayed to me.

For those fanatics, you see, I was the messenger of God. Through me, they thought they could find salvation, and, boy, did they try. They camped out on my street, in my yard, and even in my neighbors’ yards. They also built structures to honor me out of stuff from my trash and the trash of everyone else on the street. As you can probably imagine, my neighbors were not pleased, and neither was I. I was like a movie star; I couldn’t go out in public without paparazzi on my tail and people asking me to touch them. My fifteen minutes of fame had turned into twenty-four hours a day of hell.

Then the reaction from the religious community came. They finally realized that without worshippers and money, they would not survive. For them, Zack meant the end of their existence, and I became their target for retaliation.

“The devil comes to us in many forms” became their rallying cry, and as for me, I became the devil’s minion. I guess I couldn’t blame them for trying to bring their followers back, but I was astounded by how many people believed them. They quickly forgot what they had seen and what Zack had done. They even managed to convince the majority of the world that Zack cured all of their diseases just so he could fool them into thinking he was our maker.

Let’s also not forget how the pharmaceutical companies chimed in. After all, no more diseases meant no one needed medication, so no more business. They jumped right on that bandwagon and within a few months had almost everyone believing their miraculous cures were temporary. So back on the drugs they went, and back came the profits.

I suppose I should have expected there would be some reaction; after all, I always believed religion was nothing more than a very profitable business whose main currency was either hope or fear. If they could not get your money by making you believe in one, they would threaten you with the other. Just like any other business, they needed their customers to survive.

Suddenly, my home, my yard, and my street became the focal point for the battle between those who thought Zack was our savior and those who thought he was the devil. It was not a pretty sight. At first, there were just signs and lots of chanting, but then came the physical confrontations followed by the police in riot gear. I was a prisoner in my own house—that is, until someone decided to throw a Molotov cocktail through one of my windows and burn my house down.

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Val Stasik shares a home in eternally sunny Santa Fe, NM, with her aging mixed terrier, Sugar, who allows her to sleep in his queen-size bed as well as sharpen her culinary skills for his benefit. Stasik spent many years as a writing teacher, helping other writers find their voice and tell their Val Stasikstories, and is a consultant for the Northern Virginia Writing Project. INCIDENTAL DAUGHTER is Stasik’s debut novel.

Stasik studied drama and English at the University of Pittsburgh and then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, graduating with high honors and a B.S. in Secondary Education, Communication. The year she attended graduate school was filled with student protests, bomb threats, and military helicopters.

Stasik became an editorial assistant for THE PHARMACOLOGIST in Bethesda. She then moved to Harpers Ferry where she taught for five years and participated in the Old Opera House Theatre onstage and behind the scenes.

In Harrisburg, PA, she became a groom and mutuels clerk at Penn National Race Track and, later, a commercial lines underwriter for Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company. Right before her son was born, Three Mile Island happened. So far, neither glows in the dark.

In Virginia, Stasik enjoyed the enriching experience of teaching writing and literature in the Loudoun County Public School system, instructed other teachers in assessing student writings, and helped develop various English curricula. She also participated in the Fauquier Community Theatre on and off stage. From 2002-2004, she developed a part-time hypnosis practice. She then retired to Santa Fe where she has been writing—a few film scripts that have been produced (Café Destiny, on the Web,  Spring 2013, http://www.cafe-destiny.com) and a couple of award-winning play scripts.

Stasik is currently a member of the New Mexico Book Association, the New Mexico Book Co-Op; Southwest Writers; the Independent Book Publishers Association; the Small Publishers’ Association of North America; the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network; and Pennwriters.

Visit her website at www.ValerieStasik.com.

Incidental DaughterWould you call yourself a born writer?

From the time I could talk I’ve loved stories. When I grew older and more literate, I daydreamed many stories and finally started writing them. My exposure to film at an early age—my grandmother took me to the movies weekly back when there were double features—contributed to my love of story. Other factors that contributed to my writing were my involvement in theater, film, and teaching writing.

What was your inspiration for Incidental Daughter?

Although Incidental Daughter is purely fiction, many of the details are from my own life and the lives of friends who also were born as a result of the stresses of World War II.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

How fear motivates negative choices. Family relationships. Secrets. Misconceptions. Narcissism. Social classes. Conspiracies (in my next novel).

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I’ve had the idea for several years, even started planning it out and writing it sometime ago, then abandoned it. Then about two years ago, I reframed the whole story and began writing it. I finished it, including self-editing, in December 2012.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I am disciplined when I’m writing. This doesn’t mean that I write every day as I did when I was younger. However, stories are continually percolating in my head, and I will capture these images in notes for my writing. I usually start off with a very rough outline. I usually know where I’m going and am clear about where to start a story. I have to be careful that my left brain doesn’t get in the way of the early creative stages. I create very detailed characters and develop a strong sense of their relationships. I do some research in the early stages, but do more as needed throughout the writing process. My day when I’m drafting begins after breakfast. I will reread the last couple of pages of what I’ve written and then write for about two to three hours before breaking for lunch. I then return to my writing for a few more hours. If I’m on a roll, I’ll continue after dinner. I don’t often do this because fatigue works against the process.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Creating enough plot twists to make the story suspenseful. I think I succeeded because many readers have told me they couldn’t put the book down. I also found switching point of view a challenge. Although McMurtry gets away with switching point of view within a scene, I realized I could not get away with that without confusing my readers.

What do you love most about being an author?

Giving my readers a story they can love.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

There is a revolution happening in publishing these days that gives an author more creative control and bigger royalties—self-publishing. I found the process quite challenging and would not recommend it to every author. I had the support of an exceptional critique group, beta readers, editing help, and used a print-on-demand company that was best for me (CreateSpace). I was able to create my own cover and design the interior myself. I enjoy the graphic side of the process. The real work, however, is promoting the novel. It’s as much work as writing the book. I find, though, that other authors who have gone the traditional route or hired PR people if they’ve self-published are doing as much as I am and are not as happy with the results. I have enjoyed every stage of writing and publishing—learning all the aspects of publishing, developing new skills, and sharing my knowledge with fellow authors. I will definitely continue self-publishing.

Where can we find you on the web?

Visit me at

http://www.valeriestasik.com

https://www.facebook.com/vstasik

https://twitter.com/VStasik

http://www.amazon.com/author/valstasik

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6907934.Val_Stasik

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