Category Archives: Books

Review of The President Is Missing

The President is Missing

By: Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Publisher: Little Brown and Company and Knopf

Publication Date: June 4, 2018

 

One of my summer reads was Bill Clinton’s and James Patterson’s book, The President is Missing.   I give this book 5 stars as it is definitely a page-turner.

President Duncan, recently widowed and with health issues, is the main character.  His daughter asks him about “Dark Ages,” a code word about cyber terrorism known only to his cabinet of eight.  With this new found knowledge, the President realizes he has a traitor within his cabinet, but who?  At the same time the Speaker of the House, Lester Rhodes, wants to impeach him for, supposedly, letting Suliman Cindoruk the leader of the Sons of Jihad and a cyber terrorist escape.

Nina, a cyber hacker contacts the president, but she doesn’t know who she can trusts.  So, she gives the president instructions to follow.  President Duncan follows Nina’s instructions and meets her partner, Augie who knows only how to locate the virus but does not have the password to delete or stop it.  When the President and Augie are close to meeting up with Nina, she is killed by an assassin named Bach.  But, who hired, Bach?  During the shootout, Augie is hustled into the vehicle with the president by the Secret Service.  Close to the White House, the President’s motorcade is attacked and the president decides to go into hiding at a cabin deep in the woods.  Here the president is surrounded by only a few trusted secret service agents and a team of cyber experts from the United States, Germany, and Russia, who are trying to find the virus that has been planted into the United States infrastructure software. If the virus isn’t stopped, the country could be thrown into total chaos.

Who is behind the cyber attack?  Suliman Cindoruk or someone else?  Who is the traitor in the White House and why?  Who is the assassin, Bach?  Who does Bach want to assassinate?  Who hired Bach?

I wanted to know the answers to these questions and other readers will want to know too.

In this day and age, there is a possibility of a cyber attack occurring somewhere in the world.  It gives me some comfort knowing that there are people who are working every day to prevent a cyber attack.

 

 

 

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Filed under Authors, Book Reviews, Books, Fiction, Genre, Suspense

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is an event celebrating the freedom to read and is held the last week in September.  Banned Books Week brings together the entire reading/book community in support of the freedom to seek out and express ideas.

Books that have been on the banned books list include (an by the way, you can vote for these on the Great American Read:

F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.

Joseph Heller. Catch-22.

Zora Neal Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God.

J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter series.

Jack London. The Call of the Wild.

Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Margaret Mitchell. Gone With the Wind.

Toni Morrison. Beloved.

George Orwell. 1984.

J. D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye.

John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath.

Alice Walker. The Color Purple.

 

And so many more books.

 

 

 

 

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Author Bette A. Stevens, Inspired by Nature

Today Bette A. Stevens is joining me for the Wednesday Author Interview series.

Welcome, Bette.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I am a writer inspired by nature and human nature.  As a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five, I live in Central Maine on a 37-acre renovated farmstead where I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature.  I advocate for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies–an endangered species (and milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).  My husband and I raise our own fruit and vegetables organically and share the bounties of our labor with family, friends and neighbors.  We retired in 2005 after spending several years working at traditional jobs in Maine, California and Virginia.  My childhood years were spent in California and New York, enjoying daily life and hoiliday events with family, including dozens of cousins.  Now that our human children are grown, we have had the privilege of being the adoptive parents of a delightful black feline named Midnight.  Life is good and adventures abound.

Q:  When and what made you decide to be a writer?

A:  I’ve been writing most of my life–initially it was in the form of photo blurbs and poems to celebrate family outings and events over the years.  During the 1980s I worked in the business world as an editor/writer/photographer, honing my skills in business writing.  By the early 1990s, after taking courses in journalism, creative writing and poetry at University of Maine Orono while pursuing a degree in education, I discovered that writing was a strong point in my repertoire of skills and one that pursued with passion.  Teaching became a career and sharing my passion for reading and writing with upper elementary and middle school students for over a decade before retirement was a genuine delight.

Q:  Can you tell us something about the genre of your books and why you write in that genre?

A:  Children’s Books–written to educate, entertain and inspire (Ages 4-11).

Amazing Matilda, A Monarch’s Tale (Children’s picture book based on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly inspiring kids to reach for their dreams)

The Tangram Zoo & Word Puzzles Too! (Children’s educational/activity book integrating language arts, science, social science and math)

Historical Fiction–written to inform, entertain and inspire (Middle grade-Adult).

Pure Trash, the Story (Short story prequel to Dog Bone Soup)

Dog Bone Soup, A Boomer’s Journey (Novel) (Compelling family drama-Shawn Daniels grows to manhood in a society where the poor are often quickly wrongly judged)

Q: Where do you get your ideas from?

A:  Ideas come from the world around me–whether in people, places, or things-inspirations abound.

Q:  Are you working on a new book at the moment?

A: Front and Center is a poetry collection that follows my personal journey through Maine’s four seasons.  I’m also working on another poetry collection that centers on gardens and nature in addition to historical research for a novel.

Q:  Which writers inspire you?

A: There are so many, but here are the first ones that come to mind: Beatrix Potter, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, C. S. Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Diane Siebert, Tony Johnston, Khaled Hosseini, and Shel Silverstein.

Q: What book are you reading at present?

A: Nomadland (Surviving American in the Twenty First Century) by Jessica Bruder.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: READ. READ. READ.  Reading is the first step to becoming a better writer.  One of the top writer’s resource on my shelf is On Writing by Stephen King.  It’s not one of those stuffy book of Do This and Don’t Do That, it’s the story of King’s own writing journey and the book is packed with the nuggets he’s discovered along the way.

But the reading doesn’t stop there.  I belong to local and virtual book clubs, where we read and discuss books.  I’ve never read a book that I didn’t learn something from–and when I’m engaged in a book, my writer-self is right there with me learning how to improve my craft.

WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.  Get writing. Yup, that’s what writers do.  One a single piece for my blog, I may write, edit, and rewrite several times before publishing a given post.  When I’m working on a book–now that’s a different story.  Ask for editorial help from two or three readers along the way.

Save a copy of every draft just in case.  Email those drafts to yourself, labeling each one.  If your computer crashes, you’ll be so glad you did.  For novels, I do this chapter by chapter and date them.

Between edits, take breaks so you can look at the work with fresh eyes.  It’s amazing what you’ll discover as you travel the path to publications.

FINALLY--Be sure to hire a professional editor before you publish your book.

Q:  Do you have any advice on how to market your books?

A:  For me, marketing is all about building relationships.  Join groups that share your interests and book themes.  Don’t forget to actively support fellow member writers.  Be sure to use tags and categories for all of your blog posts and include descriptions and book links for your book covers and photos.  Follow, read and share book marketing posts that are helpful to you and thank the bloggers who post them.

Q:  What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an author?

A:  When it comes to being an author, getting any book to the stage where I’m ready to publish can be exhausting.  But after all the hard work, once that book is in my hands, I’m exhilarated.

Q:  What do you like to do when you are not writing, your hobbies, etc.?

A: Spending time with family is top on a very long list.  Then there’s reading, gardening and preserving our abundant produce  from the farmstead (and watching for those amazing monarch butterflies searching for the milkweed interspersed in our flower and vegetable gardens), bird watching, playing with Kitty Middie, walking trails on the farmstead and taking photographs, reading to children at our local library and schools, visiting with family and friends, Bible study on Tuesday mornings, day trips to the coast with hubby Dan, supporting friends who are involved in local theatre productions, book club at our local library and the list goes one…

Q: How long on average does it take your to write a book?

A: For me it’s been about a year from first draft to publication.

Q: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

A: Being a night-owl, I generally write for two or three hours in the evening.  But, my schedule changes drastically when a new book is about to be born and life gets CRAZY!

Q: Who designed your book(s) cover(s)?

A: I’ve designed all of my book covers with CreateSpace’s Cover Creator.

Q: How are your books published?

A: I use CreateSpace for print books and Amazons KDP for eBooks.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: The quote below always reminds me that books provide us with a free and fantastic mode of transportation that can take us anywhere any time.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” Mark Twin, (“Innocents Abroad”)

Q: What is your favorite books?

A:  The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye.

Q:  How can readers connect with you?  Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc.

A: Website/Blog: http://www.4writersandreaders.com

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorbetteastevens.officialfanpage?ref=hl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037707.Bette_A_Stevens

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BetteAStevens

Q: Where can readers purchase your books?

A: All of my books can be purchased on Amazon where I invite you to take “A Look Inside.”

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author.betteastevens

Q: Would you give us an excerpt from your book or one of your books?

A: Here’s an excerpt and a page illustration from Amazing Matilda, A Monarch Butterfly’s Journey (Children’s Literature/Ages 4-110 written and illustrated by me.

Excerpt:

“I do so want to fly,” Matilda sighed. Just then a cottontail rabbit hopped up onto the ledge where Toad had sat.

“Why, you don’t look like you can fly,” chuckled Rabbit. “You don’t have any wings!”

“Sparrow said that I must have patience and follow my instincts. You and Toad say that I need wings, too. Where can I find all of those things?” Matilda asked Rabbit.

“As for wings, I don’t know where you can find them. In fact, I don’t care anything about them. But I am an expert on patience and instincts,” Rabbit boasted as she twitched her black nose, making her whiskers sparkle as they danced up and down.

“When I was just a bit of a bunny, Papa told me that I must have patience, too. I so wanted to bound up onto this rock ledge where I could see the whole world. But, I could not do it. I could barely hop a short distance before I would fall backwards, flip-flop, right into the tall grass. But, Papa said that I must not give up. He told me it would take patience to learn to do all of the things I wanted to do. He said I could do anything that I wanted to if I only tried long enough and hard enough.

“Papa was right. I kept trying. I kept hopping and hopping and hopping, until at last I could bound. Every day I would land a little farther. Now I can reach this very ledge any time I want to see the whole world,” Rabbit boasted as she bounded across the field.”

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Author Bruce Dodson Answers 20 Questions

Today’s author interview is with Bruce Dodson, author of Lost in Seattle, You Never Know, and various articles and short stories.

Bruce Louis Dodson is an expat living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, 2 dogs and a cat. He is a collagist, photographer and writer of fiction and poetry.

His work has appeared in: Barely South Review -Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology , Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review(IN), 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books – Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad – Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves(AU), Pirene’s Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology – Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac, Litro Magazine,  mgversion2>datura, Maintenant 11, Glassworks, Door Is A Jar, So It Goes-Kurt Vonnegut Museum, and Popshot.

Welcome, Bruce.

1  Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m basically a poet, an expat living in Sweden for the last five years. I’m a five-star introvert who turned eighty this year, a fact I’m reluctant to admit. There’s a bias that talent recedes with age, and there may be grains of truth in that. Major publishers have little interest in authors my age. The good part of this is getting to a point of not caring, a certain sense of freedom, an expanded poetic license, an uncaring for rejections. Strangely enough, I have had more acceptance in these last years than ever before.

2  When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I always dabbled, the usual things, high school newspapers and such and High Times magazine. Five years of college removed time for creative writing. I was a design major. I remember submitting a horribly amateur fiction piece to Playboy magazine in the mid-fifties and was pleased to receive a nice printed rejection slip from the editors.

I did not take writing seriously until San Francisco in the sixties when my work began to be published in the S.F. Bay Guardian I met poet Charles Plymell in San Francisco during the sixties. He is probably the person most responsible for my efforts.

After college, I spent three years in the regular Army. Eighteen months were spent in Asmara, Eritrea. I don’t remember writing anything while in the service. There was too much going on. I fell in love with Africa and was hell-bent on experience, absorbing all I could of it. A gathering of tongue. Much of my work has connection to my travels.

After the Army, I was living in San Francisco in the Haight. This was the mid-1960s. I had just turned thirty and was writing some. I got lucky with a series about riding on the 7 Haight bus. It was picked up by the San Francisco Bay Area Guardian, a large, small newspaper at that time. The story ran for five weeks and drew a lot of attention. I wrote a few poems and began submitting to lit mags. Submitting was a stone drag in those days. Mailed submits with self-addressed stamped envelopes which were not always returned—tedious. Computers opened a door for me. Writing was faster with no need for white out, ribbons and paper. Submissions go so much faster now. There are still, “Did not responds,” but without the cost of time, envelopes and stamps.

I started writing more in the seventies, my first book in the mid-eighties.

3. Can you tell us something about the genre of your books and why you write in that genre?

I think my books could be called creative non-fiction, all but one which remains unfinished.

4. Where do you get your ideas from?

I have always loved to travel and did as much as I could, going as far as I could. I have never held a permanent job. I worked contracts that lasted from nine months to a bit over a year. The pay was good gave months of free time were wonderful. I’ve traveled to Brazil, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Lebanon Italy and much of Europe.

5. Are you working on a new book at the moment?

I’m working on two, new, old books that have been years in process. One is a Coming of Age theme, the other, my magnum opus, takes place in India, a thousand years ago. Sometimes I think I’ll never finish it—perhaps when I’m older.

I have recently re-written two 8,000 word stories I had filed with Amazon but withdrew and revised. You Never Know, is about a fortune teller in Brazil. Hope Takes a Holliday follows an energetic and clever old lady woman with Alzheimer’s who escapes a care facility.  Both of these stories based on experience.   

6. Which writers inspire you?

Cormac McCarthy for his absolute brilliance. Charles Bukowski for his ability to get your attention in a hurry. Somerset Maugham for the beauty of his prose.

7. What book are you reading at present?

I’ve been going through short stories in a stack of old Paris Reviews. Last book was Good Sweden Bad Sweden, by Paul Rapacioli — Very interesting, and relevant.

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Anthony Bourdain & Clementine Paddleford Chronicled How People Ate

*Disclaimer – Photo of Anthony Bourdain is from Google Images*

I was saddened to hear about the death of food writer Anthony Bourdain.  I enjoyed watching his television show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts UnknownHe traveled to places many didn’t go and he took his television viewers along on the trip.  Bourdain visited with the locals and ate local food.

This is the same thing Clementine Paddleford did, except she never had a television show.

Both Bourdain and Paddleford traveled where they wanted to go, talked to whomever they wanted to talk to, and tasted the food they wanted to eat, then they shared the stories with viewers and readers.

Anthony Bourdain attended the Culinary Institute of American, became a chef, and a food writer.  Clementine Paddleford had a degree in journalism.  She never attended a culinary school, was never a chef, but she was a well-known food writer.

Sadly, Anthony Bourdain committed suicide and it was rumored that Clementine Paddleford tried, but failed.  Let me say, there is no proof that Paddleford tried to commit suicide and family members said it was strictly a rumor.

What made Bourdain and Paddleford well-known?

They chronicled how people ate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I am pretty sure that someone is already thinking about or in the process of writing Anthony Bourdain’s biography, a biography of Clementine Paddleford has been written.  It is titled Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate (NY: Gotham), 2008.

 

Excerpt: From Chapter 2

“In the late summer of 1921, Warren G. Harding was in the White House, Allied forces occupied the Rhineland, the U. S. Congress had just passed a quota on immigration, and Adolf Hitler became head of the Nazi Party.  On the heels of World War I, isolationism was in and multiculturalism wasn’t even on the horizon.  For Clementine Paddleford, newly arrived in New York City and the proud renter of a room in a boarding house at 520 West 122nd Street, on Morningside Heights north of Columbia University, this meant facing one of Manhattan’s challenges and figuring out how to conquer it: the subway.

“There she was, in homemade outfits Jennie had lovingly stitched from patterns Paddleford had picked, summer-weight wool suits, blouses with big bows at the neck, a tote bag at her side loaded with pencils and pads, the picture of a career gal of the day, and a greenhorn at that.  At her first act of independence in the city, Paddleford enrolled in graduate-level-journalism courses at New York University, despite her proximity to Columbia.  These met three evenings a week and required a long subway trip.”

 

Both How America Eats and Hometown Appetites are filled with recipes.  One of my favorite summer beverages is from these books: Plumade.

Ingredients:

6 small black plums, washed, pitted, and quartered

9 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

2, 2-inch cinnamon sticks

1 lemon rind, grated

3 lemons, juiced

3 oranges, juiced

In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, stew plums in water until very soft and the liquid is a deep rose color, about 15 minutes.  Strain juice, return to pot and add to it the sugar and cinnamon.  Heat gently until sugar is dissolved, two to three minutes.  Add grated lemon rind and cook three more minutes.  Strain again.  Stir in lemon and orange juice and serve in tall glasses with chipped ice.

Yields: 10 to 12 servings.

 

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter: Cindy’s Notebook

 

 

 

 

 

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Beta readers, who are they, what do they do, and where to find them?

Who are beta readers?  Beta readers are volunteers willing to read an authors work knowing the work has not usually been professionally edited.  The authors provide the work, free of charge to beta readers.

What do beta readers do?  They help proofread for punctuation and grammar.  You will be surprised how many misspelled words, missing punctuation, and wrong verb/adverb/pronoun, etc. show up in an unpolished work.

Beta readers also try to catch those pesky inconsistencies in a story.  You know what I am talking about.  On page forty you read about an electrical fire and the fire department has spewed gallons of water and foam onto the structure, then on page forty-two, the structure has electricity.  Or a character dies on page fifty-five just to magically appear alive on page eighty without an explanation.  Yes, those inconsistencies.

Beta readers also will give feedback to an author on what is working in the story and what is not.  They will let the author know if they did not understand something in the narrative or are confused by the narrative.  Beta readers will even question if a passage is actually relevant to the story or they will suggest adding more to the story to flush it out in more detail.

Where to find beta readers:

  • Ask friends, colleagues, writing club members, etc.
  • Put a plea in your newsletter asking if anyone is interested in beta reading.
  • Ask on social media sites.
  • Ask bloggers who write about books.

Why should an author use a beta reader?

Authors are too close to their work.  Using volunteer beta readers is free proofreading, editing, etc. of your book.  No, beta readers, should not take place of a professional proofreader or editor.  They are your first, second, third, etc.  set of eyes in catching as many errors as possible.

If you can afford to pay a professional editor and/or proofreader, good for you.  Not everyone can afford to do so.  Therefore, many authors rely upon beta readers.

So, the next time you finish a book and you tired of reading and re-reading your own work, ask beta readers for help.

 

 

 

 

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A History Book Disguised as a Debut Novel

Today, I am interviewing Sheena Macleod author of Reign of the Marionettes, a historical novel set in the Highlands in Scotland.

Welcome, Sheena!

Q: Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

A: I live in a small seaside town in Scotland with my family, and two dogs – Lola a Dalmatian and Missy a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  My working life was spent in mental health nursing, first as a practitioner and then as a specialist practitioner (Cognitive Behavioural Therapist). Around this time, I moved into nurse teaching, gaining an MSc in Advanced Mental Health Nursing and then a PhD.  After taking early retirement from the University of Dundee, I combined my love of history with my passion for research and set out to write a series of historical fiction novels. Reign of the Marionettes, a historical drama based in Restoration London, is the first of these books and my first published novel.

Q: When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?

A: I love to read and have since childhood. I became interested in the Highland Clearances and started researching the life of the Duchess of Sutherland – Elizabeth Sutherland Leveson-Gower – who is regarded as one of the principal agents involved in clearing tenant farmers from the internal straths and glens of the Highlands in Scotland to make way for sheep.

I traced Elizabeth Sutherland’s family back through the generations, trying to understand her background and role in the Highland Clearances. The main character in Reign of the Marionettes, Elizabeth Herbert, is a distant relative of the Duchess of Sutherland.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your books?

A: From history. Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

A: I write historical drama and enjoy including small details of the time. Despite writing historical fiction, I try to keep a current feel as if events are happening now.

Q: How are your books published?

A: Reign of the Marionettes is published by Dark Ink Press.

A short story, “Ghosts of Culloden”, was published in a fiction anthology in March this year by the One Million Project. Over a hundred authors from around the world contributed short stories to form three anthologies- Fiction, Thriller, and Fantasy. All proceeds, less costs of publishing the anthologies, will go to help Cancer Research UK and homelessness.

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The Ghostwriter Book series

Welcome to the Author Interview Series.  Today I am interviewing Douglas Debelak, author of The Ghostwriter Book series.

“The Ghostwriter’s Series is an epic tale, which purports to be the autobiography of God, or, as He insists, not God, but the Creator of our universe, a universe which is only one of many. ”

Douglas lives in western Pennsylvania.

Thank you for allowing me to interview you today, Douglas!

Q: Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

A: I’m currently writing fulltime, refusing to acknowledge the term ‘retired’, since I’m working as hard as I ever did, just doing something else – which is, unfortunately, to this point at least, far less lucrative than being a software engineer.

I have a degree in philosophy, but, prior to that, I had once intended to attend seminary and become a Presbyterian minister. But, I have always questioned everything and believed that nothing should be considered off limits. And, certainly, God, if He exists and is all powerful, has no business being threatened by a few questions. But, the more questions I asked, the more I found that enough of what I had been taught and believed was untrue that I felt the rest was ‘questionable.’ I didn’t know if any of it was true. I left the church. I’m now an agnostic – I don’t know. But, I still have questions.

I currently live in a beautiful old historic house, in a wonderful historic neighborhood, with my wife.

Q: When and what made you decide you wanted to be a writer?

A: I decided to become a writer shortly after leaving a Ph. D. program in philosophy, when I realized I had no interest in a career in academia. Writing seemed the best choice for asking questions and discussing ideas. I spent several years, writing stories and working on a novel, but when I needed to find a job to support a family, I taught myself to write software. I promised myself, when I could, I would return to writing, and now I have.

Q: Which writers inspire you?

A: Many writers inspire me, but I generally consider Steinbeck my favorite author, and East of Eden and Of Mice and Men my favorite works. Although I love Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and have read it many times over the years. And, there are so many more.

Q: What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

A: I try to write every day in the morning. I pushed through the first three books, working eight or more hours a day. Now, I’m writing four to five hours, but spending additional hours trying to figure out how to promote my books and writing reviews for a group where there is a pool for other writers review mine. So, it is a full-time job.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your book(s)?

A: I feel more as if I discover my ideas rather than create them. Writing The Ghostwriter Series was often like watching a movie showing on the inside of my skull.

Q: What do your family and friends think of your writing?

A: Since my writing is personal, edgy, and often explicit, I think my family and friends are a bit taken aback. I tried to warn them.

Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

A: That is was easier to write a book than to get the interest of readers.

Q: What do you hate most about the writing process?

A: Figuring out how to use social media to promote my books. I’d rather just write. There isn’t much about the writing process that I don’t like.

Q: What do you think makes a good story?

A: Something that speaks to me and provides insights from a different perspective. Things that catch me off guard and make me laugh. Suspense. Struggles against adversity.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: Don’t be afraid to write what is meaningful to you.

Q: Who designed the cover art for your book(s)?  Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

A: Michelle Arzu who works through Fiverr has designed my covers, although for the second two I spent many hours looking through stock images and chose the artwork myself and in both instances, she turned them into something far better. I wanted covers that would catch someone’s eye walking past a bookstore window or scrolling through Amazon.

Q: What book are you reading at present?

A: I’m currently reading At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails. Every once in awhile I get an itch to read philosophy again. Then, with enough wine, that itch goes away again.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

A: I read, a lot and I hang out on my porch and drink wine with my friends. I keep telling myself I need to start playing my guitar again. I had a kitchen injury, which is no longer an excuse. It’s just inertia and procrastination.

Q: How do you select the names of your characters?  Have you ever regretted choosing a particular name?  Why?

A: Mostly I stick to simple names, except for those characters who I’ve decided not to give a name. I haven’t regretted any names. My characters quickly spit them back at me, if they don’t like them. If not, that’s on them.

Q: What is the hardest type of scene to write?

A: I’ve found most types of scenes easy enough to write, just not to get right. I re-write until I don’t feel the need to say anything differently.

Q: How did you come up with the title(s) of your book(s)?

A: The names of my books went through quite a process. The books spit their names back too and were more particular than my characters. When I finally came up with The Involuntary Ghostwriter for the first, the book was happy and so was I. The following two went through a process and the rejection of many titles as well, but everything fell into place once I decided to work with the ghostwriter theme.

Q: Give us a fun fact, or a few, about your book/series.

A: The central narrative thread of my series was in response to the song, One of Us, which was recorded by Joan Osborne in the 90s. “What if God was one of us?” So, I wrote an autobiography of God, as though He was one of us, i.e. “In the beginning… I was born.” But, as has been the case in the past, He used a ghostwriter and gave him no more of a choice than any who’d preceded him.

Q: What can readers who enjoy your book(s) do to help make it/them successful?

A: Buy them, obviously, then write reviews. Honest reviews. And, tell friends.

Q: How can readers learn more about you and connect with you (twitter, facebook, website, etc.)?  Where can your book(s) be purchased?

A:  I have a website: www.douglasdebelak.com

And, I have all the social media accounts, but I’m only active on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheGhostwriterSeries/

The books can be purchased on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle editions, and are also available through Kindle Unlimited. They are also available through a local bookstore, City Books on the Northside of Pittsburgh.

****

Be sure to follow Douglas on Facebook and check out his books, The Ghostwriter Book series.

Sign up for my newsletter on the right hand side of this pa

 

 

The Involuntary Ghostwriter, Book One  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghostwriter’s Wife, Book Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghostwriter’s Legacy, Book Three

 

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The Writing Lesson – a guest post by C. Hope Clark

The Writing Lesson

By C. Hope Clark

 

“Use the senses in every single scene,” I emphasized to the adult writing class, only for a rebound of clueless stares to bounce back at me.

A middle-aged, bottled-brunette lady who I’d heard had two self-published books to her name already, asked, “In every scene?”

I smiled and nodded. “In every scene. You understand show don’t tell, right?”

In rote union, the class nodded, but I could almost smell the insecurity.

“Get rid of passive voice and you’ve halfway mastered show don’t tell, right?” Don’t plead, I reminded myself. They’re trying to learn.

Half the people in the class had self-published books yet didn’t understand what I was trying to instill into their eager, storytelling brains. They looked to their left and right, seeking validation from seat mates, confirmation that others weren’t understanding either.

We sat in a library meeting room, the accordion doors opened to accommodate tables for 35 students. Nobody chatted amongst themselves, meaning I had their attention, unfortunately accompanied by their confusion.

No point in advancing to the next topic if this one hadn’t sunk in. Not a person to enjoy presentations, much less adlibbing on the fly, my pulse quickened. I scrambled for an alternative, a new angle, anything that could give these students an AHA moment.

A deep breath, or was it a sigh? I should’ve brought more examples. Maybe vetted the students somehow.

Feet moved. One chair scratched the floor as someone shifted. The librarian sat in the back, scrutinizing, sending another jolt of adrenaline into my system as our eyes met, hers querying, They’re waiting, before shifting uncomfortably off me.

A seed of a half-thought took root. “Everyone pick up your pen.”

They did, anxious to be proactive and not so lost. The librarian didn’t, but she watched with interest.

Impromptu on anyone’s part snares interest. Most of us can’t do it. I wasn’t so sure I had it in me, either, but what did I have to lose other than my credibility? I reminded myself what I always did when speaking to groups, a mantra that I didn’t readily tell other about. If this doesn’t go well, remember you’ll never see these people again.

“Write down five things you see,” I said. “Remember, you’re a creative person so don’t just say tables, chairs, walls, and people.”

To show how united I was with their effort, I grabbed a pad and wrote as well. Once done, I waited until half had returned their attention back to me.

“Now, list five things you can touch and how they feel.”

Eyebrows raised on that one, and they began stroking anything within reach. They saw where I was going, and the body language told me some clearly accepted the challenge.

Heads up again.

“List five things you hear.”

The room went silent. I had to laugh. Pens went to paper when I did.

“List five things you smell.”

Frowns all around. I closed my eyes and inhaled. Coffee, cologne, body odor. Was that paper? I recalled the air freshener in the bathroom next door and cheated, listing it. When I peeked out from my own reverie, others still had their eyes closed, sensing, too.

“Finally,” I said, “let’s do taste.”

Lips smacked, and I had to chuckle again. A laugh rippled across the tables. “List five tastes you had today.”

“Ahhh,” came the relief as pens met paper.

As people came back to life, I realized how much more relaxed I was. “Do y’all feel better?”

Nods and yeahs from around the room.

Shrugging shoulders for show, I sucked in a deep breath. “Wow, that was rather soothing.”

More nods. The librarian was practically tranquil.

And in that moment, I had a revelation.

As a nature aficionado, how many times had I sat at the lake and just chilled? Closed my eyes and attempted to count the types of bird calls? Told my four-year-old grandson to take in the smells, sounds, and feel of nature? Weeded my garden and taken the time to smell the dirt, the rotted leaves, the honeysuckle on the fence.

“What we just did,” I soothingly said to myself as much as them, “is a writer’s version of meditating. Take a moment to settle into a sense of nothingness when you’re writing, then fill it in with the senses, taking note of each one.”

They listened.

“This is also how you can overcome the pressure of deadlines, writer’s block, and the discomfort of whatever scene you’re writing that won’t unfold to your liking. It’s also how you can challenge your sensory perception. Wherever you are, the mall, the kitchen, the job. . . take five minutes and meditate, for no reason other than to define your senses. All five of them.”

Palms out, I lowered them gently. “In each scene, step back and insert yourself into the setting. Do the exercise we just did. Because by you becoming the character in all this sensory detail, you write such that the reader can become the character. The reader smells, sees, hears, touches, and tastes. And with the least little attention also to passive voice, you–” and I paused.

“Show don’t tell,” whispered several people.

“Some kid would call that virtual reality,” said a man in the front.

What a keen observation. And I thought he hadn’t been listening. “And why can’t we do that as people, too? When we aren’t writing. When we need to settle into a scene and out of whatever road block or irritation it is we need to depart from as people?”

The class went on, and I wrapped up the lesson on constructing a scene. Time quickly expired, and before long I was shaking hands from thankful students.

“Best writing class ever.”

“I get showing now.”

“I’m going home and telling my teenager about this.”

Once everyone left, the librarian commended me, saying she’d be inviting me back.

I almost cried.

Then alone, the lights flipping off around the library, I exited to my car parked in the corner of the lot under a streetlight, stepping gently, not wanting to break the specialness of the evening.

Rather than telling the reader what’s going on, my students could now make the reader experience what the character does, when the character does it, tallying the stimuli in an attempt to reach some sort of summation about that point in the story.

But in delivering that lesson, I’d realized I could choose to fall out of any negative in any part of my world, and step into the scene of my choosing via the practice of a writing exercise. Not only could I write like this, but I could live like this.

And I’d just helped 35 other people learn to love life more, too.

And a librarian.

 

BIO: C. Hope Clark’s newest release is Newberry Sin, set in an idyllic small Southern town where blackmail and sex are hush-hush until they become murder. The fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Hope speaks to conferences, libraries, and book clubs across the country, is a regular podcaster for Writer’s Digest, and adores connecting with others. She is also founder of FundsforWriters.com, an award-winning site and newsletter service for writers.  She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina with her federal agent husband where they never tire of spinning mysteries. www.chopeclark.com

 

 

 

 

Book Blurb:

Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.

When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock – a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again.  Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.

Forces to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy.  Something is rotten in Newberry.  Her personal life is spiraling out of control.  She can’t protect her co-worker.  And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it become clear that Slade is right.

One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything.  Yet it’s practically out of her hands…unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed

 

Be sure to check out all of C. Hope Clark’s book on her website www.chopeclark.com

Sign up for C. Hope Clark’s FREE newsletter FundsforWriters and get writing tips, lists of contests, and so much more!

 

Purchase Books Here:

Amazon link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BYD5T4P/

Kobo link https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/newberry-sin

B&N link https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/newberry-sin-c-hope-clark/1128369562

Google link https://play.google.com/store/books/details/C_Hope_Clark_Newberry_Sin

Apple link https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/newberry-sin/

Review Link (Amazon) https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review/ref=?ie=UTF8&asin=B07BYD5T4P#

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Filed under Authors, Awards, Book Launch, Books, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Genre, Murder Mystery

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate

Proofreading is necessary for any published work.  A question that I am always asking myself as I proofread is “should this be hyphenated or not?”

My go-to source is the Chicago Manual of Style.

Here are some samples of when to hyphenate and when not to hyphenate.

 

Hyphenate before but not after a noun.

emerald-green tie

snow-white dress

tight-lipped person

open-ended question

his tie is emerald green

the clouds are snow white

 

When writing about money, for amounts spelled-out units, hyphenate before a noun but not after noun.  Where units are expressed as symbols, leave open in all positions, except between number ranges.

a five-cent raise

sixty-four-million-dollar question

a deal worth thirty million dollars

$30 million loan

A $50-$60 million loss

a 30-40 percent increase

 

Numbers that are spelled out – hyphenate twenty-one through ninety-nine, all others not hyphenated.

twenty-eight

nineteen forty-five

three hundred

 

An adverb ending in “ly” plus a participle or adjective is not hyphenated before or after a noun.

a highly paid ragpicker

a fully open society

he was mildly amusing

 

An adverb not ending in “ly” plus a participle or adjective is hyphenated before but not after a noun.  Certain compounds, including those with more, most, less, least, and very, are usually not hyphenated, but other times they are.

a much-needed addition

a too-easy answer

the best-known author

a very much needed addition

a more thorough exam

a less prolific artist

most efficient method

the most-skilled workers (most in numbers)

the most-skilled workers (most in skill)

 

There are many other times when a writer will hyphenate or not hyphenate.  It all depends on the words.

 

 

 

 

 

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