Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Monte Dutton - Guest Author

Monte Dutton (a fellow Kindle Scout winner) is a former sportswriter from South Carolina who still describes a few ballgames on the side. His fourth novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, was published in the spring.

You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?

I want to go to the Calgary Stampede with Kris Kristofferson, Katharine Hepburn, and Muhammad Ali.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

The TV’s on. It’s probably best if I can find something like a scenic documentary, say, Aerial America on Smithsonian. Catch a silent comedy on AMC with Harold Lloyd, just to look up occasionally and chuckle. Baseball games on TV are relaxing. Hockey playoffs? Not so much.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m in between. I start with a general outline of vaguely where I want to go. Then I start going, and, at the end of each chapter, I add layers of detail to the outline, partly as a reference for later chapters. My goal is somehow to be both rational and adventurous. I want to go in the studio and still be free to jam.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I almost always finish a book. Lots of times they grow on me. Lots of times they tail off at the end. Sometimes it’s a chore. I take it as a challenge. Most of the time, I’m glad I did. I seldom read the same book twice. The only one in the past decade was Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, which I read when I was sixteen and when I was fifty-two.


Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

Yes. I want to know what readers think. Disregarding much advice, I try to write a courteous response, even to readers who think my masterwork stinks. I aspire to greatness, but I can live with myself if I fall short.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

Usually, it winds up a little longer or a little shorter. One priority is to pare down and economize. Another is to think, hmm, this needs a little elaboration, how can I find an expeditious way to do this? I’ve evolved into three drafts: (1) cook the meat, (2) spice it up, and (3) trim the fat.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

This isn’t really a language error. It’s a matter of choice. I much prefer “awakened” to “woken up.”

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

John Steinbeck is the literary equivalent of what Jake Gaither said about Bear Bryant as a football coach. “He can take his’un and beat yours, or take yours and beat his’un.” Steinbeck could do it all. In the decade before this one, I cultivated a taste for Sinclair Lewis. I found common ground between his time and mine. An Elmore Leonard crime novel is like a raspberry snow-cone on the way home from football practice. {Ed. note: I guess those two are worth three normally inspiring authors. ]

I try not to worry about things I cannot control. If a reviewer doesn’t like my work, he or she has a right to his or her opinion. A writer has to have the confidence to think, I like it, it’s good, and there are bound to be people out there who like it, too.

Here's a quick blurb for Forgive Us Our Trespasses: Once politicians and law-enforcement officers start doing each other favors, patronage evolves and corrodes the workings of government. Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the outrageous story of the rise and fall of Denny Frawley, a solicitor so corrupt that it might just make him governor of South Carolina. One man, Hal Kinley, stands in his way.

“Be forewarned: this is hard-hitting, dark and often depressing. But that's the quality I like most about it, and a quality that the author was trying to achieve. Dutton never checks his PC meter at the door. He grips it and rips it in a careless but controlled manner, allowing his maniacal characters to act out their most violent fantasies in the most roguish manner. ... Highly recommended!”

-- Joseph Souza, author of Need to Find You

For more information about Monte Dutton, go to http://montedutton.com and read the blog at wastedpilgrim.wordpress.com. He is on Facebook (Monte.Dutton) and Twitter (@montedutton).


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Jessica Knauss - Guest Author

Jessica Knauss writes historical fiction and contemporary magical realism, or realism with a quirky twist. Her paranormal novel, Awash in Talent, was selected for publication through the Kindle Scout program (which is, no surprise, where I met Jessica).

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I’m a copyeditor, slave to the Chicago Manual of Style, when I’m not writing, so of course my books are perfect. But actually, the copyeditor for Awash in Talent missed the sense of humor—it’s untraditional, for sure—so I think she was pulling her hair out because she couldn’t find the comic relief.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

It’s not so much a screech of annoyance as of laughter when I see anyone use the wrong homophone or near-homophone. English is amazing in that we can spell the same sounds many different ways, and I’ve written about distinguishing homophones a few times on my blog, sometimes as a way to help me remember which is which. The most egregious (and funniest) one I ever saw was “My novel is illegible for a contest.” Of course, the author meant “eligible.”

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I finish most books I start, but I believe the author has a responsibility to tell the story in an engaging way. I won’t finish a book if it’s merely throwing a lot of words on the page. The most notorious example of a book I did not finish is Roberto BolaƱo’s 2666. I got to the last section solely on the hope that it was going somewhere. If someone can honestly tell me that it ended up with a point, I’d pick it up again.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

While writing the middle novella that makes up Awash in Talent, Waterfire, I made a whole playlist. The main character, Kelly, loves all kinds of music and wants to be a composer. I listened to the fiery pieces mentioned in Waterfire: “Girl on Fire,” Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” from El amor brujo, and “The Prayer of St. Gregory” by Alan Hovhaness. I looped in lots of other works with “fire” or “flame” in the title, and this listening informed Kelly’s eclectic musical sensibilities.

How did you develop the idea for Awash in Talent?

I dreamed about a girl who discovers her magical powers after emergency surgery to remove aluminum (a whole aluminum can in the dream) from her digestive tract. Normally, a fragmentary dream couldn’t carry a whole novel, but when I started writing, the narrator, the magic girl’s envious sister, was so compelling that I kept drawing ideas from the world around me and my happy years in Providence, Rhode Island, to keep fleshing it out. Awash in Talent was like an old-fashioned candle: I kept dipping it into different vats of liquid wax and it picked up the colors to become a multilayered story.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’ve completed two novels now: Seven Noble Knights was plotted, with chapter outlines, color coding, and character charts; Awash in Talent was pantsed, with inspiration, scribbles on scraps of paper, and sessions of “freewriting.” I needed a lot more support for Seven Noble Knights because it’s a historical epic and I had to be sure to honor the history and keep all the moving parts sorted out. Pantsing worked for Awash in Talent, but as I work on my third and fourth novels, I’m trying to do more preplanning to avoid wasted effort. I hope to have a reliable system worked out soon…

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

In the heat of the moment of writing, I tend to make logical leaps and leave out context readers need in order to understand what’s going on, so I definitely add in later drafts. My critique partners are reliable for telling me what I’ve inadvertently left out—thanks, Low Writers!

Name three not-well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

Kim Rendfeld’s historical novels are set in an unusual time and place, but I know she’s done her utmost to make them authentic while telling unforgettable, engaging stories. Another historical novelist who deserves more attention is Kristin Gleeson. Her books are so fast-paced you finish them way too quickly. She always puts a sparing amount of historical detail in, just enough to orient the reader. I admire the finesse of both of these authors. Seymour Hamilton’s novels are wide-ranging, starting with the incomparable Astreya fantasy trilogy, going through The Laughing Princess (fables with dragons), and ending (for now) with The Hippies Who Meant It. He’s the author to read if you want something outside the ordinary that’s indisputably excellent. [Editor’s note: three new authors to me that I need to check out.]

To find more information about Jessica Knauss and her writing, check out her website and blog. She’s also happy to hear from you at Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Here's a little blurb to whet your whistle about Awash in Talent:


So much Talent can kill you.

Welcome to Providence, Rhode Island, home of telekinetics, firestarters, and psychics!
Emily can’t escape her annoyingly Talented telekinetic healer sister without committing a crime.
Kelly must escape her pyrokinesis school and bring Emily’s sister to Boston—her mother’s life depends on it.

Appointments with Emily might drive her psychic therapist insane.

With so much Talent, sometimes it’s all you can do to function in an un-Talented society.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Katherine Hayton - Guest Author

Please welcome fellow Kindle Scout winner Kathrine Hayton who says: I’m a middle-aged woman who writes instead of having children or pets. I like to murder people but so far I’ve restricted this urge to the page.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

The main background noise is tinnitus. It’s in my right ear, or the part of my brain that thinks it’s coming from my right ear. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. It’s two notes that are discordant with one another. One of them modelled on a cicada and the other on electrical feedback. It’s there because apparently all the little bits that go into making up a body aren’t up to the task of lasting as long as the mothership needs them to. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Any other background noise isn’t down to me—it’ll be caused by the other human beings who coinhabit my planet. Workmates and partners and such. They talk or listen to the radio or watch the telly. I don’t know, I don’t really pay that much attention. If I’m by myself when I’m writing (which is my preference, thank you very much) then I just have the natural sounds of the world and my tinnitus. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

The Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters. Take a young housewife and kill a woman she’s not particularly close to right outside her house. Then add a few decades of nobody else caring that the murderer wasn’t caught, toss in a few hidden secrets, and let her grow a burning determination that will ruthlessly use anybody or anything that crosses her path in order to seek justice for the murder victim. Brilliant. I aspire to be that manipulative. 

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m a pantser. I’ve tried plotting books out, either casually or meticulously, but while I’m writing my characters always do things or reveal traits that cause a massive rift between the manuscript and my carefully laid plans. I’ve stopped bothering now because it’s a waste of time to plot out something that will never happen. So I start out with an idea, a probable resolution, and the character trait or development I want to focus upon. The rest happens as it happens. 

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I put books down when I become utterly indifferent to what happens next. Reading starts to become a chore when I’m not connecting with a book on any level and I’m not invested in chores at the best of times, even when they get my house clean. There’s always something else waiting for me on my TBR list. A trail of abandoned Kindle files lies in my wake.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

Place commas anywhere I damn well please. When I’m writing my head insists on pauses that just don’t exist in the same place when I’m read it back later. They especially don’t exist in the same place when I get to the “reading aloud” check. Hilarity ensues. My copyeditor is now bald (but I think that’s a good look for a woman).  

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

My word count tends to be quite stable as I remove a whole lot of words that I don’t need while adding a whole lot of words that I forgot the first time around. I’m not a very “visual” writer so I have a tendency to completely skip any character or scene descriptions, unless they form part of the active scene, or occur in a character’s thought patterns. Even when I concentrate on adding these details I still tread lightly. If you really want to know what my characters look like, you’ll have to rely on your own minds. That’s what they’re there for, people.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

When I was on a hill walk with my partner I was thinking about dying of cancer. As you do. I thought about how the phrase “put your house in order” gets bandied about in these situations and what that might mean. Halfway through working out if my partner would know where my will and insurance documents were stored (under the dresser in my wardrobe, darling) I thought about what would happen if you had something really big to sort out before you died. Something like, say, confessing to a murder. Four months, 95,000 words, and a 30-day Kindle Scout campaign later, and voila—The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton. You’re welcome.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

“I borrowed him money.” No. You didn’t. You lent him money. Lent. LENT! (And maybe that’s why you’re on Judge Judy right now – did you ever think about that?)

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Everyone has the little voice in the back of your head that alternates between saying how brilliant you are and how much you suck. Be brave and publish when you’re on the brilliant upswing. Let the world tell you if you’ve picked the right voice to champion.

To find more information about me and my writing you can find me wasting investing my time on Twitter https://twitter.com/kathay1973 and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kathay1973 or track me down on my website http://katherinehayton.com. Treat yourself to something nice dark and murderous while you’re there.

Blurb for The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton:

Forty years ago Magdalene Lynton drowned in a slurry. She choked to death as her hands scrabbled for purchase on the smooth concrete walls. A farmhand discovered her bloated body three days later.

Or she didn't. Paul Worthington just confessed to her murder.
Forty years ago Magdalene Lynton died in a dirty shed. He smothered her life along with her cries for help and tossed her defiled corpse into a river when he was done.
Or he didn't.

As Detective Ngaire Blakes investigates the death, she discovers clues that won't piece together with either version. Gaps, inconsistencies, lies. And forty years have eroded more than memories.

Is it possible to uncover the third death of Magdalene Lynton when time has eaten away at the evidence? And will the person responsible let Ngaire live long enough to try?


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heather Weidner - Guest Author

Heather Weidner’s debut novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes launches in June. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series. She is a fellow member of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Lethal Ladies Write, and is President of SinC – Central Virginia.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

I work full-time as an IT Quality Assurance Manager, so that means I write whenever I get free time. I usually write at lunch, so there’s a lot of chatter and hubbub in our cafeteria. If I’m writing at home, I always have tunes playing. I have lots of playlists with different kinds of music. “Play it Loud” is great for writing, and “Smooth Jazz” is my favorite for editing.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I usually define my writing style as a hybrid. I start out as a plotter. I have a fairly detailed outline and a description of all my characters. But when I start writing, sometimes, I go where the characters take me. But I do keep a file on all my characters and locations, so that details match from book to book.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

I gained words after my first round of line editing. Then I ended up losing words at the end when I had two rounds with my publisher’s editor and proofreader. I added more description of my character’s feelings, and a lot of excess or overused words were cut.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

We had a private investigator speak to our Sisters in Crime chapter, and she sparked an idea for a character. I wanted my sleuth to have job with the freedom to move around and solve crimes. So Delanie Fitzgerald became a private investigator.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Using the wrong word or too many buzz words that don’t have real meaning are two examples that drive me nuts.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

Before my copy editor sees a draft, I have reviewed it countless times, and it has been through my critique group. But I have a tendency to overuse certain words, and I don’t notice them when I’m writing. Now, I have a list of the culprits, and I search for overuse and repetition in my manuscripts.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

I read a lot of mysteries, biographies, and histories. The last mystery I read was Lisa Scottoline’s Killer Smile. I love her legal thrillers. Currently, I’m reading Dean King’s The Feud about the Hatfields and the McCoys. King does a great job of bringing new information to a story that everyone knows something about and tracing the roots of the real cause of all the violence.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I used to feel obligated to finish every book I started. I always had hope that it was going to get better. But over the years, I’ve learned that my time is valuable, and if I start a book and it doesn’t grab me, I usually don’t finish it. A slow plot, lots of typographical or grammar errors, or a mystery with no action are usually why I put down a book.

Many of the Virginia is for Mysteries Vol 2 Authors
What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Don’t give up if you want to be a published writer. Writing is hard work. It is very rare that someone has a polished draft on the first (or fifth) try. You are going to get rejections and negative comments. Deal with them in your own way and then move on. Don't get obsessed about your number of followers, your sales numbers, or the reviews. Check on them occasionally, but don't let them take over.

Your job is to write your next book. Don't be paralyzed by the worries and doubts. There are always going to be challenges. If writing is worth it to you, you've got to commit to it and learn how to control that little doubting voice in your head. Work to improve your craft and write your next piece.

To find more information about Heather Weidner and her writing visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and www.heatherweidner.com.

Here’s a quick blurb for Heather’s debut novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, June 20, 2016

Business has been slow for Private Investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose career purportedly ended in a fiery crash almost thirty years ago, still be alive?

And as though sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed, strip club owner, also hires Delanie to uncover information about the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz, is the key suspect, and Delanie must clear his name. Can the private investigator find the connection between the two cases before another murder – possibly her own – takes place?

Secret Lives and Private Eyes is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations.