Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jacqueline Vick's Blog: A Writer's Jumble: Bonnie Schroeder Lives Her Dream with "Mending Dre...

Jacqueline Vick's Blog: A Writer's Jumble: Bonnie Schroeder Lives Her Dream with "Mending Dre...: Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the 5th grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing f...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weight Loss for Writers, or How I Trim Ugly Fat from My Manuscripts by Jackie Houchin

Okay, I've followed up on those cool ideas for articles (part I). I've conducted my interviews, checked my facts and written my piece (part II). Now I'm ready to submit my story (along with the invoice, of course) and wait for my check to arrive, right?

Wrong!

There's one more step to take before I hit that "SEND" button. I must get out the scale and weigh my chubby little darling. What I usually discover is not pretty. My manuscript is not the lean, fit article I thought it was. There are double chins, love handles, and soft, flabby appendages. Eek! Now what?

Editing, like dieting and exercise, is not fun, but if I want a story tough enough to make it to publication, I must be ruthless.

Portion Control

The first thing I check is Word Count. Whether it's a magazine guideline or an editor stipulation, I usually know the approximate number of words I can use. Mystery Scene Magazine limits reviews to 250 words. Some newsletters want no more than 400. The local newspapers I write for stipulate 600-700 words for articles, with an occasional "feature" story at 1,000-1,500.

Microsoft Word 2007 keeps a running count at the bottom of the document window. It also gives an accurate character/word/sentence count in its "grammar check" feature. I have no excuse for word count bulge.

If I'm only slightly over, I do a quick scan for superfluous words ("tiny little" to "tiny"). If I've switched words, I make sure I've eliminated the previous one (I drove the my car). Of the 15 times I used the word "just" I take out all but one.

Hyphenations change two words into one, so do contractions if the tone of the piece allows it. This is not exactly cheating.

Sentences average about 10 words, so if I can cut one word from each sentence, I've reduced my count by 10 percent. (I usually shoot for 20 percent.)

If I'm way over count, major surgery is required. I view the piece as a whole and consider where I can condense or cut entire paragraphs. I'm always surprised when this makes my article stronger. (Imagine how great you would feel if you could loose 15 pounds of fat overnight!)

Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

Okay, my article is now comfortably within the allowed word count. Is it ready to submit? Not quite. While I have my red pencil out (finger hovering over the DELETE key) I review it once more, this time checking the "nutritional" value of my words.

I look for cliches ("pretty as a picture"), delaying words ("It seems that..."), redundancies ("I thought to myself," "large in size"), and grand phrases (Institute of higher learning" instead of "college.")

I change empty calories into powerhouse protein; "a dead body" is upgraded to "a corpse;" "he said in a loud voice" to "he shouted;" "dark golden horse" to "Palomino;" and "really very funny" to "hilarious."

I exchange fat for fiber (the passive "was meeting" becomes the active "met"), and remove bloated descriptive words (some adjectives, most adverbs). Away with those unhealthy words and phrases! I want fat-burning, muscle-building prose!

Lean at last!

Editing is not easy. It hurts to cut away words and phrases (or paragraphs) that I thought at first were brilliant. I do it because I want my articles to be published. If I want clips, creds, and checks, I have to work (and re-work) at it. As they say, "No pain, no gain."

Wait, was that a cliche? Darn!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Interview with Author Hugo Cipriani



We are honored to have as our final guest on Writers in Residence the indomitable Hugo Cipriani, an inspiration to us all. While many writers worry that it may be too late to start a career, Mr. Cipriani released his first book at 94 years of age, making the rest of us sound like whiners! And, yes, he does get out there and do book signings, including at the Los Angeles Time Festival of Books!



Va Fa Sa” is the name of your first book. What does this mean, and why did you choose this as the title?

The Italian words Va Fa Sa translate simply as “you go, you do, you know”. Struggling to become a student at UCLA, I realized the wisdom of You Go--Courage first, Action follows.

You Do --Confronted by new conditions, you do what you have to do to surmount all obstacles. You Know--With new confidence and knowledge you know why this proverb is true.

Would you tell us what your book is about?

The memoir explains why I left home in 1934 and had to leave again in 1938. My fateful first departure on Sunday, September 9th may strike readers with disbelief. But the second departure on Tuesday, August 2nd, was believable and more significant. My story unfolds with the fateful events that lead me to overriding truths. Infused with courage and a new confidence I surmount hardships in the Great Depression.

Can you tell us how you came to start a new career as an author so late in life?

At age 88, I was diagnosed with cardiac heart failure. My doctor had recommended open heart surgery but I hesitated due to my advanced age and diabetes. With my life ebbing I got a sudden urge to write. I wanted to explain how my leaving home led to Va Fa Sa and my happiness at UCLA.
After typing a couple pages I was rushed to the hospital for surgery -- a quadruple by-pass. While convalescing I returned to typing my first chapter, completing it in September, 2001. I was surprised when my grandson, Daniel Lowe, informed me that he put my chapter on his website and I was astonished that it made a “hit” with my family, friends and strangers. They encouraged me to continue writing. Four years later, with 18 chapters completed in 2005, it was prudent to close the memoir with my enlistment in the Navy. Still young at 29, my book’s title became “Va Fa Sa: A Young Man’s memoir”.


Personnel Addendum:

“My writing” began in 1934, after I left home. Writing letters became an obsession. In California, I had “free postage” during my stay in Camp Cummoche and in a CCC camp. I wrote profusely to family, relatives and friends and later, even more so, while at UCLA, Lockheed, and in the Navy. In writing those letters, I now realize, I began the writing of my Va Fa Sa memoir.

Note from WinR: You can find Va Fa Sa at Amazon.com, Independent Bookstores, and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with Cheryl Malandrinos of Pump Up Your Book

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor to Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also the Editor in Chief of the group's quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.


Cheryl is also a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Her first children's book will be released in 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband, two children, and three cats. She also has a married son.

You can find Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.tripod.com/

Cheryl, could you tell us about yourself and what Pump Up Your Book does for authors?

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog today. I’m honored to be here. I am a freelance writer, copy editor, and perhaps by the time this interview appears, I’ll be able to add published author to that list. My first children’s book, The Little Shepherd Boy, is due out this month.

My main source of income, however, is as a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book (formerly Pump Up Your Book Promotion). Authors contract us to set up blog tours to promote their books. Whether the books are new releases or the authors are looking to draw attention to an older release, they hire us to send them on a journey around the blogosphere to create an online buzz for their books.

How many blogs can an author expect to be on during a tour, and how long does the average tour last?

This differs per company, but Pump Up Your Book offers a variety of tour packages at affordable prices. Authors can tour for two-weeks, which would be stops at 10 – 12 blogs, or they can tour up to two months, which means they would appear on 30 or more blogs. The most popular package I sell is the Gold package, which is a one month tour with 20 blog stops.

At what point in the book’s publication should a writer be thinking about setting up a blog tour?

While it is an excellent idea to research virtual book tour companies months before your book’s release, approximately two months before copies of the book are available will be the time to sign up for a virtual book tour. By this time you should have an idea of who you would be most comfortable working with, what is expected of you and what the company will provide. This should also give you time for bloggers to receive copies of the book to review. It takes a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks to put together a successful virtual book tour.

What are the advantages and benefits of a blog tour as opposed to a book store tour?

I’m not an either or type of person. I feel authors need to look at their marketing budgets and decide where their money is best spent. I have three events planned within the first few months of my book’s release, and I am coordinating a virtual book tour to expand my reach.

That said, virtual book tours allow authors to easily find readers beyond their local area. In our current economic situation, one of the largest advantages of a virtual book tour is that you don’t have to spend money on gas, a new set of clothes, and hotels. No one knows if you’re checking your blog stops from your kitchen table in your robe with your hair sticking out like you just jammed a fork in an electrical outlet.

Consumers are busy people. Many people buy more products online than in stores. Amazon is my best friend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I rarely step into a mall during the holiday season. Authors need to go where the buyers are. A virtual book tour gets you and your book into search engines so potential readers can find you. Bloggers have loyal followings. If they recommend your book, it’s just as good as their next door neighbor telling them how wonderful some new product is.

The other great advantage to a virtual book tour is its longevity. Readers can find out about your book months after your virtual book tour is over. Tours are also an excellent way to network. Bloggers are some of the nicest folks out there. If they like your book, they’ll tell everybody about it!

How can an author judge a blog tour’s success?

Obviously, authors are looking at sales numbers. If I don’t sell a boatload of books while on a virtual book tour, then it can’t be a success. Right?

The objective of a virtual book tour, like any marketing tool, is to help you create a brand and let people know about your product. Virtual book tours do this by splashing your name all over the Internet, putting you in touch with markets you wouldn’t easily reach unless you’re online. If you can type your name or the book’s title into Google and have your blog stops come up within the first three pages of results—the only ones most readers look at—then your tour is a success. If you’ve gotten some reviews you can post on your website or use blurbs from in a press release, then your virtual book tour is a success. If you’ve networked with bloggers who are willing to help you promote your next release, then your tour is a success. Yes, the ultimate goal is sales, but spending time to create that brand must come first.

How can an author get in contact with your company?

Authors can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com If they go to the “Book Your Tour” tab they will find our current offerings and fee schedule. There is a contact form on our website. I can be directly reached at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com.

Thank you so much for taking the time!

Thanks again for letting me discuss virtual book tours with your readers. When I began working for Pump Up Your Book three years ago, virtual book tours were the wave of the future. Now, like cell phones and social media, it seems we can’t imagine life without them. Like e-Books, they aren’t half as scary as they seemed when they first came out. They help put authors in touch with readers all over the world!

Just a note: Cheryl will be on A Writer's Jumble this fall when her first children's book is released!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Interview with Author Pam Ripling

Pam Ripling as Anne Carter

While romantic mystery and suspense are her favorites, Anne has written middle grade mysteries, literary shorts, poetry and non-fiction. Long a lighthouse fanatic, it was only a matter of time before her obsessions intersected and a series of lighthouse novels emerged. Paranormal elements abound in both POINT SURRENDER and CAPE SEDUCTION, where mystery, romance and troubled ghosts provide hauntingly entertaining tales set in California lighthouses. A member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles, her short story Just Like Jay (written under author name Pam Ripling) appears in their newest anthology, MURDER IN LA LA LAND.

When she is not writing, editing or promoting, Anne enjoys time with her husband and children, two happy dogs and a psychotic cat. She is a skilled photo editor and loves restoring old snapshots and creating digital slideshows. Watch for the third paranormal lighthouse mystery, ANGEL'S GATE, coming soon!


For more about Anne Carter and to read excerpts, visit www. BeaconStreetBooks.com or write AnneCarter@BeaconStreetBooks.com.


Cape Seduction is your most recent romantic suspense released under the pseudonym of Anne Carter. Can you tell us a little about the plot?

How's this:

1948. Post war, recovery. Hollywood was wooing back the public with blockbusters like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo and The Three Musketeers. The beautiful people were “seen” at the Brown Derby and held their not-so-secret trysts at Chateau Marmont. They drove fishtail-finned Caddies and flew in the luxurious Douglas DC-6.

Darla Foster wanted to be in pictures. Just 21, she worked the circles, attached herself to the arm of any available actor with connections. On this night, March 20, 1948, one of her dreams came true as she sat at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theatre watching Hollywood’s brightest accept their coveted Oscar statuettes. Later, at the Derby with her date, she met one of Tinsel Town’s favorite sons: the suave, slick headliner, Jordan Kent.

Darla’s life was about to take a sudden left turn as she found herself cast in Jordan’s next big film, about star-crossed lovers, a lighthouse and murder. Exciting fantasy or true life?

In 2008, photojournalist Rebecca Burke can't just walk away after experiencing the lingering pain and heartache surrounding the abandoned, off-short beacon on Dragon Rock.

In Cape Seduction, you travel back and forth between present day and 1948, and the latter includes a lot of authentic detail. Where did you go for your research on forties Hollywood?

I grew up in North Hollywood, California – just a short drive from the studios that made Hollywood famous. I hung out, with my girlfriends, anxiously hoping to glimpse a famous face now and then. So I was already a movie buff by the time I started writing books. Of course, the internet is a tremendous resource for any author. Finding out what it was like to be a person of affluence during the post-war years was lots of fun. Many, if not most, of the locales mentioned in the book are still in existence. The trick is to embed those details without committing the sin of an "info dump." The reader has to experience the era, not be inundated with impressive but useless facts. The aura of 1940's Hollywood can be subtly created through bits of character dialogue, nuances of setting, recognizable events, etc.

Once again, the story revolves around a Lighthouse. Could you give us some background on the story’s Dragon Rock Lighthouse? And what makes you choose a particular lighthouse for each book?

Dragon Rock is a fictional name, but the lighthouse that inspired the setting for CAPE SEDUCTION is St. George Reef Lighthouse, located off the coast of Crescent City, California. I could write volumes about this intriguing beacon. When I first discovered its remote, lonely existence, I immediately went into author-mode. I thought about how scary it would be out there, surrounded by angry seas, all alone and fearful that no one would ever come back. I read everything I could get my hands on, interviewing others who had actually been to St. George Reef (including one of the last Coast Guard lighthouse keepers ), hoping to authenticate my story.

My previous lighthouse story, POINT SURRENDER, deals with a completely fictional lighthouse I placed somewhere near Big Sur, California. But in my mind, I saw it as looking much like Heceta Head Lighthouse near Yachats, Oregon, a classically beautiful, cliff-hugging sentinel that has a rich history and is said to be haunted.

Were you passionate about lighthouses before you started including them in your stories?

Absolutely. In fact, I don't know why it took me so long to incorporate them into my work! I've loved them forever, visited many, and collected numerous knick-knacks and all sorts of lighthouse memorabilia. I am also a member of the United States Lighthouse Society.

Congratulations are in order! Your short story, Just Like Jay, is in the newly released Murder in La-La Land anthology by Sisters in Crime. How much time do you dedicate to short stories?

None, actually. When I heard the criteria for this submission, it sounded like fun—a murder mystery that involves nuances specific to Los Angeles. I did it as a lark, didn't really expect to be chosen, and I was. I started out writing short stories many years ago but stopped in favor of full-length fiction. The anthology has sparked new interest, however, and I'm thinking of revisiting this fun form of fiction.

You write Young Adult fiction under Pam Ripling. Do you have any new Pam Ripling books in the works?

I have one middle grade reader published, titled LOCKER SHOCK!, about a boy and the gun he finds in his middle school locker. I wrote a second, OLD ENOUGH, that involves the same group of friends. I have not submitted it, however. I've found it extremely difficult to support two personas, two very different genres, simultaneously. I'm not sure at the moment what I will do about that!

Could you tell us what’s next for Anne Carter?

I've just begun the third lighthouse mystery. This one will center on Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse, also known as "Angel's Gate," and the portion that deals with the past will probably concern the California coast during World War II. This will be the first time I write about a real lighthouse using its real name. Angel's Gate is set to begin a $1.8 million dollar restoration project, and I'm hoping to get the opportunity to visit this not-open-to-the-public beacon that sits at the end of the breakwater in our harbor. (See my lighthouse blog for a stunning photo of this lighthouse.)

Thank you so much for stopping by!

My pleasure! Thank you for having me. I so enjoy this blog and am thrilled with the opportunity to stop over.

Note that Pam will appear on "A Writer's Jumble" on September 10th.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Interview with Robert Fate

Robert Fate has written scripts for network TV, screenplays for features, produced an indie feature, and as a sp/fx technician won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement. A Marine Corps vet, he studied at the Sorbonne in France, worked as a TV cameraman and an oilfield roughneck in Oklahoma, a fashion model in NYC, a sales exec in Las Vegas, and a chef in L.A. His wife Fern is a yoga enthusiast and ceramic artist. Their fabulous daughter Jenny is a senior at USC. They live in Silver Lake in L.A., and have a dog, four cats, and a turtle named Pharrell.

Welcome, Robert!

After four Baby Shark novels, you decided to write a stand-alone with a male protagonist. Why step away from something that’s working so well? And was this a nerve-wracking decision?

You know, Jackie, it never occurred to me that I was stepping away from anything. There was a story I wanted to tell, I’d finished Jugglers at the Border, and it seemed like the right time to do it. I am already at work on the next Baby Shark, an idea I’ve had for awhile about a grass widow who needs Kristin’s help. There may be some gunplay in this one––I can’t promise, but maybe.

Your question is interesting, though. I wonder how many other readers are concerned about a two-year pause between Baby Shark books? I’m crazy about Kristin, Otis, and Henry and the rest of the gang and am really looking forward to being with them again. Something has to be done about Henry’s loneliness, something more than dogs and chickens can solve. So, I’m thinking about that. And Kristin has to shoot more pool––lots of emails about that. And Otis had some big decisions to make at the end of Jugglers––how is that going to turn out?

Anyway, so, yeah, I’ve taken a little chance here by taking some time and telling a story off to the side. Will my readers accept it? We’ll see. Perhaps this chat will draw some comments.

Was it difficult to get into the head of a new character? Did you have to keep double-checking to make sure the voice wasn’t that of Kristin Van Dijk?


You wouldn’t think that would be an issue, but you’ve hit on something, Jackie. The biggest challenge I had with Erik Lamar, the gigolo, was to keep him from becoming too tough. Kristin learned to fight in order to survive, and she came back from her training as one tough cookie. Erik is not a tough guy. He’s a smooth operator who knows how to please a woman. When ruthless thugs confront him, he has to learn on the job or die. He’s clever and resourceful, but has some weaknesses when it comes to women.

Here is copy that may end up on the book cover – whether it does or doesn’t, it can give you a quick overview right now of what’s happening in Kill the Gigolo:

Gangster Al Foley has a grudge to settle and only the head of Erik Lamar will even the score. The Irish Mob is given an assignment: kill the gigolo. When the mutilated corpse of Erik's friend, Freddy, is found dumped in the street, Erik gets the warning--what happened to Freddy is a Girl Scout demerit compared to what is planned for him. But first, they have to catch him. One step ahead of Foley's thugs, the smooth-talking ladies man flies off to Mexico, thinking he has traded terror for a life of leisure with a rich older woman who likes bad boys like Erik. But it's not so easy. Lies and deceit become his way of life in the tropics, and in no time losing his head to the mob becomes the least of his worries.

You’re moving to New York City for your new novel, a big change from Oklahoma. Can you tell us a little bit about “Kill the Gigolo”? And will it be set in present day or in the past like the Baby Shark series?

I used to live in Manhattan. I had apartments on west 8th in the village, and on 75th just off Central Park West during the sixties when I was writing stage plays and working as a fashion model to pay the rent. In the early eighties, when I was a writer for a daytime show for CBS (Search For Tomorrow), my wife and I lived in a garden apartment in Chelsea. I would love to have work that would take us back to New York. We were happy there and would return in a flash. So, setting the early portion of Kill the Gigolo in Manhattan was an easy task. After years of living there, it was a pleasure setting the scenes and creating New York characters.

Unlike the Shark series that is set in the 1950’s in Texas and Oklahoma, Gigolo is present day with cell phones and modern transportation. Writing Gigolo was a real departure from what I’ve been accustomed to writing the past five years, and yes, thinking for a man instead of a young woman was a tricky challenge. It was strange, as I mentioned before, to be writing a man who is not as tough as the woman I write for in the Shark series. But, as I also mentioned, he learns on the job.

There are scenes in New York, and in Boston, but most of the story takes place on the west coast of Mexico in a fictional location called Los Acantilados, where an enclave of wealthy ex-pats have their villas that overlook the ocean from mountainous properties carved from the jungle. It is in that environment that Erik faces his most dangerous challenges.

One of the biggest differences between Kristin, the protagonist of the Shark series, and Erik in Kill the Gigolo, is their worldview. Kristin may do some violent things––in fact, she often does violent things, but without exception, the bad things she does are against bad people and in the defense of good. Erik is a different animal. Though it is not his nature to be violent, he finds himself capable of that when it’s called for. Kristin is concerned about what she is and what she might become if she keeps killing, but Erik seldom concerns himself with the rights or wrongs of his lifestyle. He sees himself as a businessman, pure and simple. But his customers identify him in the manner most comfortable to them––as a friend, an escort, a date, or a hired lover––and the mob sees him as a target.

Here was the thing, Jackie, in order to write this character, I felt I had to understand how he operated. I wasn’t at all certain that I was so different from my readers – how many of us have met or even know that much about gigolos? My friend Bruce Cook says I should fess-up that I worked as one in my younger days. I deny that. But okay, what do we know? A gigolo is a man who is paid to please women, but besides being handsome and a good lover, what are some of the details of that occupation in a day-to-day sense? So, to deal with those unknowns, I created back-story, material that I knew would not end up in the book, but rather would paint a picture that could help me know my protagonist. Here is a tiny bit of the tons of back-story I created to help me write Erik Lamar, the gigolo:

Erik knows how to exchange glances with successful middle-aged professional women who recognize at once what he is about. Especially women flying into the city on business––brief visits that afford them little more than the time to “window shop.”


He knows where to be in order to be seen. Realists only may apply.


Most often, the ones interested in him are women accustomed to running the show. If Erik is something they want they record his number in their Blackberries.


As his database grows, calls from out of town have become routine from clients who invite him to meet them on their turf, usually at hotels near airports in their cities. Commonly, his business is conducted in an evening, and it is not unusual for him to catch the redeye home, but he never rushes. Hurrying will not gain him referrals. His clients set the pace.


“I’m a friend of…” referral phone calls invariably begin. “She says you’re sometimes over our way…” or something like that. But it never takes them long to get to the point.


There is a bravura shared by the women who come to him via referral. He is sight unseen for them. They are taking their friend’s word in reference to every aspect of the rendezvous they’re requesting, and there is no room for timidity. Arrangements and rules of play need to be spelled out and costs agreed upon.


The beginnings to the relationships with Erik, the “referrals”––as he makes note of them in his appointment book––are candid. What do they expect of him? What do they think they’re paying for? The quid pro quo nature of the deal. That is his opportunity to weed out the strange women with weird ideas. He doesn’t play games. He’s a bit old-fashioned, in that respect.


Erik is sensitive to a woman’s preferences and knows by her response when he’s pleasing her. Some are outspoken, of course, and make it clear what they desire. Those women are always the repeaters. They’re eager to get to know him better. A few back-to-back visits usually get that crazy need out of their systems, and they settle into a more rational schedule. His fees are such that unless a woman has a sizable amount of expendable income, seeing him too often can trigger the attention of their accountants. It is to everyone’s advantage for him to remain beneath the radar.


For Erik the out of town visits are bread and butter, like a doctor’s routine––see me again in six weeks or whatever, and with the repeats and the constant addition of new clients, his business is growing nicely. And, since the out of town work is virtually invisible to his Manhattan clientele, he never seems overbooked, or too busy, and remains credibly “fresh” to the more demanding.


Though this Gigolo character may not be the easiest protagonist to like, he does live an intriguing existence and his story is exciting to follow. He gets deeper and deeper into trouble in his attempt to avoid capture by the mobsters, and the people and situations he encounters while on the run are exhilarating. The story is noir in the classical sense, that is to say, the protagonist is unsavory, and those characters he takes up with along the way are not much better––in fact, most are far worse. Kill the Gigolo is crime drama.

My hope is that readers will enjoy the ride.

I understand that Baby Shark is going celluloid! Which book was optioned? Can you tell us about this process? And do you have an actress in mind for the role of Kristin? (Even though we all know that by the time Hollywood is done with it, the role will be played by Betty White.)

Baby Shark was under option to a Hollywood producer for eighteen months, beginning in the spring of 2008 and ending late in the year 2009. The producer, acting in good faith, attempted to garner financing during a very tough economic period, wasn’t successful, and decided against renewing the option. Another producer, who had shown strong interest in Baby Shark and was waiting in the wings, negotiated briefly for an option, but because of other commitments decided against going forward. So, as of this date, Baby Shark is available if the motion picture industry should come calling again. Having worked in the industry for many years, I was not surprised by any of the above. Seeing a book into film is a tough and tangled process. What a writer can hope for is the first sale. After that, things often flow with more ease for subsequent properties. However, selling to Hollywood will never be without the difficulties that define Hollywood. It’s just that it’s easier once someone has stepped up. “New” makes producers nervous––note all the sequels.

What are you working on next? And if “Kill the Gigolo” is as successful as the Baby Shark series, will you consider turning that into a series?

I believe Kill the Gigolo is a story that should stand on its own––no series is anticipated.

As mentioned above, another Kristin Van Dijk story will be next. When the widow of a long-ago friend of Otis’ shows up desperate for help, Kristin and the gang find themselves up against some heavy odds in their attempt to make something go right that has gone terribly wrong.

I have enjoyed working on a stand-alone, but I’m anxious to return to the world of Baby Shark.

Thank you for being with us.

And thank you, Jacqueline. It has been a pleasure visiting with you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview with Author Darrell James

Darrell James is a California writer living in Pasadena. His short stories have appeared in numerous mystery magazines and book anthologies, and have garnered a number of awards. Most recently, The Art of Avarice, as appearing in the book anthology Politics Noir was a 2009 Derringer finalist. Darrell is highly visible among his peers, serving on the Board of Directors of Sisters In Crime/LA, and as an Active member of the SoCal Chapter of Mystery Writer’s of America. His personal odyssey to publication appears in the Writer’s Digest book HOW I GOT PUBLISHED, along with J.A. Jance, David Morrell, Clive Cussler, and other notable authors.


Darrell, after much success with short stories (several awards and high placement in competitions, inclusion in anthologies and the release of your own collection) you signed a three book deal with Midnight Ink for a mystery series. Congratulations!

Can you tell us about your sleuth and the first book in the series?

My series centers around a very determined young female protagonist named Del Shannon who works for Desert Sands Covert in Tucson, AZ., an investigative firm that specializes in finding missing persons (some who my not want to be found). Written as thrillers, each book sends Del on a dangerous assignment, while dealing with life and love and happiness. (I try to pick intriguing themes and unusual settings for the conflict.)

In book one, having already developed a reputation as being good at finding people, Del goes in search of her own mother—a mother she’s never known. Her search leads her to the clannish community of Nazareth Church, deep in the hills of Kentucky, where she encounters the fabled faith healer Silas Rule. Dark secrets and malevolent conspiracies surround the man and her mother’s past. There’s love and some sexual intrigue along the way. But, can Del survive the ordeal and find her mother?...

I guess I’ll say here… only time (and story endings) will tell.

You are now in that waiting period between signing the contract and holding the book in your hands; your novel will come out in September of 2011. What are some ways that authors can make good use of the time leading up to the release date?

There’s a lot to do actually: Marketing and promotional campaigns plan are a major part of an author’s work. Of course, books 2, 3 and beyond also need to be written. No matter what the length of time, writing must still be a priority. I have book 2 finished and I’ve started a first book in an entirely different series with the expectation of getting it to the market as well. I also try to keep my visibility high by continuing to promote my short stories (they number close to thirty now in various anthologies and mystery magazines).

Beyond that, things will start to get exciting around November to December of this year, as my publisher begins the process of creating book one for a September 2011 release. Final edits will be completed, cover design approved, publishers catalog of 2011 fall line-up established… (I’ll note that I’ve intentionally avoided stating the title of the book as it may change between now and the publication date.)

Some might think that an author writes a book in solitude, sells it, and then steps out and introduces himself to other authors and readers. There’s actually quite a bit of groundwork that an author must lay if he wants a successful career. Can you share with us some of the steps you’ve taken to prepare for your inevitable best seller?

Well, one of the most important steps is to develop skills (experience) as a writer. I feel very strongly that, regardless of background, all fiction writers begin as inexperienced rookies and must learn the craft of both writing and storytelling before they will see success (meaning published). Almost every writer I know has at least one or more failed attempts in their drawer. I have two such novels, as well as an original screen play, that will likely never see the light of day.

I believe that short stories are also an effective way to gain experience. They teach an economy of writing that plays well in today’s genre market. They also offer you some short-run validation of your efforts. Short stories have served effectively as my training wheels. A number of them have been winners or finalists in award competitions.

In addition, I’ve learned that it takes integrating with the writing community (writers, agents, editors, reviewers, and readers) and discovering exactly what success demands. I can’t over emphasize the importance of this. And this is anything but a solitary pursuit. It takes getting out from behind the laptop and meeting people.

I currently do more than thirty organizational events, conferences, and workshops a year and my first novel isn’t out yet. I have also served on the boards of two major writing organizations—Sisters In Crime/LA and (currently) SoCal Mystery Writers of America . I expect these efforts to only increase.

Where do you see this series taking you and what are your hopes for the future?

I am totally grateful to the terrific folks at Midnight Ink, who saw value in my series and agreed to publish it. I would hope for a long and fruitful relationship with them. In the end, however, book sales dictate the longevity of a series and the longevity of the author. I’m extremely excited about Del Shannon as a character and about the direction of the series overall. I thrill to writing these stories. My hope (and maybe my belief) is that others will thrill to them as well. If so, I expect that there will be many more book contracts, and books, to come.

Could you share a piece of advice to the authors struggling to get to where you’re at?

Be patient! Nothing happens fast in this business. (Okay, I’m as impatient as the next, but persevere.) There will be many, many rejections and disappointments along the way. But to get there you have to keep going.

And write! I’ve always said “You can’t sell from and empty wagon.” You must have completed projects to offer a publisher. Finish the short story (finish dozens of them). And submit them. Finish the novel and immediately start the next. Writing is what writers do. If you’re not inspired to put words on the page and tell a great story, perhaps another career is best. (Just my honest opinion.)

Thank you so much for sharing, and we look forward to the release of the first of many Del Shannon mysteries.