Thursday, May 31, 2012

Frequent Traveller Book Blast

From the blue oceans of Antigua to the bustling streets of Vietnam, the racing adrenaline at the Green Hell, the devastating natural disaster in Japan and the stunning architecture in Germany, Cathy Dixon finds herself in a whirlwind of fine dining, plush clothes and sheer extravagance.

But is perfection a mask for untold disaster? What is Cathy's secret and how will her world change when the world knows? Will her secrets ever catch up with her or will Cathy continue to sail alongside perfection in the world she has created for herself as a Frequent Traveller?

In conjunction, with the launch of MoonStar Luxury's new website (http://moonstarluxury.com/), we invite you to step into Cathy Dixon's world where more goodies, surprises and a little mystery awaits.


Frequent Traveller, the first book in the Cathy Dixon series will be free from 31 May to 4 June 2012. (Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Frequent-Traveller-Cathy-Dixon-ebook/dp/B0067BKK6K)


Giveaway Details - 11 winners
Grand prize 1 x $50 Amazon.com voucher
10 x $5 Amazon.com vouchers


Terms and conditions
Open to anyone who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent's permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Question of the Week - Death

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Would you like to know the day you’re going to die ahead of time? Why or why not?
I don't think I want to know. I would obsess about it and not enjoying what time I have left.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interview with Deborah J. Lightfoot and WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock G*veaway


Tell us your latest news.

The last book in the trilogy, WATERSPELL Book 3: The Wisewoman, has just hit the shelves. The paperback came out in April, and the Kindle edition is up at Amazon. Trailing behind both is the Nook e-book. Barnes & Noble is way slow.

Also, I’ll be signing books and doing readings June 22–24 at the Roswell International Sci-Fi Festival (Ros-Con). Readers and fans of fantasy will discover much to love in Roswell, New Mexico. If it fits your summer travel plans, please join me there!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t writing. No one in my family was a talker. I grew up surrounded by the proverbial strong, silent type. For me, writing always came more naturally than talking. I wrote letters to relatives, kept a diary, did “on-the-spot reporting” for family newsletters. In school, I didn’t dread writing essays or reports. At college I majored in wildlife science, but eventually switched to journalism when it became clear that jobs were scarce for park rangers and wildlife biologists. After graduation, I worked as a magazine editor and feature writer. My first three books (history and biography) grew out of research I did for magazine articles.

So maybe the question is: When did I get brave enough to switch from nonfiction to fiction? I wasn’t sure I could write fiction. For a long time, I didn’t try. I suspected that writing fiction would be all-consuming: Once I started, I wouldn’t be able to do anything except write the story that bubbled up inside.

That’s exactly what happened. After my third book of nonfiction was published, I dedicated myself to writing the WATERSPELL trilogy. It ruled my life. For more than 10 years, I did almost nothing except work and worry and sweat over my novels. Writing is fun, that’s true. But it’s also incredibly hard work when a writer pushes herself to discover and achieve all that she’s truly capable of.

What inspired you to write your book?

The WATERSPELL story has been percolating since I was a teenager, or younger. Everything a writer reads, experiences, learns, or enjoys will influence her writing. Growing up, I read English Lit: Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Once and Future King. I also devoured Edgar Allan Poe. Among my favorite SF/F authors were Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern) and Andre Norton (Witch World). When I wasn’t reading, I was outdoors communing with nature. WATERSPELL reflects all these influences and more. It’s a sword-and-sorcery tale with a science-fictional twist. And between my two central characters—homeless Carin and dangerous Lord Verek—a romance blossoms. At first, their relationship may seem unlikely. But by the end of the trilogy, neither can imagine life without the other.

Maybe that’s a metaphor for the relationship between WATERSPELL and myself. It may seem unlikely that someone who once wrote history and biography (books with footnotes! books that some called scholarly) has produced an intricate, multilayered, romantic fantasy. But now that Book 3: The Wisewoman has been published, it feels inevitable. I wrote the story I had to write, and now I hardly remember what my life was like, pre-WATERSPELL.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I know what I strive for: sharp, clear details; lots of action; a proper pace (mostly fast but with slower parts as needed); and realistic, sympathetic, believable characters. I know that verbs are a writer’s best friends and I try to use them well. A carefully chosen verb can convey as much as a paragraph!

A literary agent said of my work: “I was very impressed with the tautness of your writing—your avoidance of clichés, your fresh similes, your strong verb choices. You also seem to have an innate sense of rhythm, as well as a solid sense of when to employ intentional repetition and when to avoid it.”

If I had to describe my style in a single word, “Brontian” might work. I greatly admire Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights. My leading man, Lord Verek, owes aspects of his personality to Heathcliff and Rochester. And in Carin are echoes of a famously strong female character: Jane Eyre. Writers are shaped by what we read.

How did you come up with the title?

Stand beside a thundering waterfall, walk in the rain, or listen to ocean waves pound the shore, and you’ll fall under a “water spell.” Water is magical. In the mythologies of many cultures, rivers and other bodies of water are sacred. Fantastical beings live in water: mermaids, sirens, the Lady of the Lake. In my story too, water has magical properties. For my characters, water is both a portal and a source of power. At one point my emotionally scarred sorcerer, Verek, says to his lady love, when he thinks he may lose her: “Here is water … I have seen that you need only that to make your magic. I expect you can go back to your world today, if that is what you wish to do.”

Carin (she’s a Pisces) is in her element in water. Scorpio is also a water sign, and Verek is the quintessential Scorpio: dangerous, secretive, proud but loyal, and passionate. The “water” in the title reflects the oceanic symbolism in my trilogy.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The subtext is that things which are harmless or even benign in one setting may cause great harm in an environment where they are alien. I’ve watched imported fire ants drive out native species like horned lizards—fire ants will kill young lizards and even the adults. Rats introduced into Hawaii threaten the native flora and fauna. West Nile virus has spread across North America. Every summer we hear of people and horses dying from it. I could go on and on: Pythons in the Everglades. Here where I live, kudzu, “the plant that ate the South.” The point is that a nonnative, invasive species can devastate an environment, creating a catastrophic natural disaster.

That’s what happens in WATERSPELL: Our heroine, Carin, is shanghaied from her natural home by a wysard who doesn’t grasp the enormity of the ecological damage the magical kidnapping will inflict upon a medieval world. The kidnapping triggers a series of plagues that threaten to destroy civilization. Nature is badly out of whack, and it is up to my leading lady and her man—Carin and Lord Verek—to restore balance.

What books have most influenced your life?

I fell under the spell of the English Lit I read as a child. Although I grew up on the Great Plains of the United States, books allowed me to spend a big part of my early life on the Yorkshire moors.

Also I must credit the science fiction/fantasy novels of Barbara Hambly. To quote her Wikipedia profile: “Although magic exists in many of her settings, it is not used as an easy solution but follows rules and takes energy from the wizards.” That’s my approach, too. In the world of WATERSPELL, magic is NOT easy.

The books of Barbara Hambly were my trigger. It was while reading her Sun-Cross books that I decided I, too, could write fantasy. I recognized something in her style that spoke to my own writerly inclinations. Reading her work gave me confidence in myself. Thank you, Barbara!

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Actually, my choice for mentor would be Mr. L.H. Blocker, my high school English teacher. He was tough to the point of ferocity. Very demanding. And scary. He taught me respect for the English language.

My mentors today are my critique partners and beta readers. With some, I’ve done long-distance manuscript exchanges. I’ve joined others for leisurely strolls in the park, during which we work out the kinks in our muscles as well as our stories. Twice monthly, my fabulous critique group meets for concentrated work on one another’s manuscripts. I am lucky to have many professional writers and talented editors in my life, and from them all I constantly learn. They’ve helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses.

What book are you reading now?

Oh gracious! So many to choose from. On my Nook I’ve got Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Complete Works of Jack London, The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, An Antarctic Mystery: A Sequel to Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Jules Verne, and scores of others. When my life settles down a little and I actually get time to read, I will probably start Graceling next. One editor said my story reminded her of Graceling.

Are there any new authors who have grabbed your interest?

Because I don’t want to be subconsciously influenced, I tend not to read many contemporary authors. Mostly I read the classics. I understand that Graceling is a debut novel, making Kristin Cashore the first new author I will have read recently.

What are your current projects?

My work in progress is called “Out of Mind.” It’s a story of the paranormal set in the American West of the far future. I’ve also got a collection of short stories that I’m trying to shape up for publication.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Gladly! :-) Here’s the opening scene of “Out of Mind.”

Vapors billowed into the chamber in thick masses of orange. Devin choked on the sickly sweet odor.
"Don't fight it, child," came the voice--equally cloying--from the darkness beyond the gas chamber. "Give yourself up to it."
The gas surged into Devin's face, blinding, gagging her. She made it go away. With a flash of her will, a mental reflex, she flung it back.
Cool, fresh air flooded her nostrils and drove out the syrupy stink. She sucked in a clean breath.
"No!" the voice snapped. "You must not."
The therapist dropped her with fifty thousand volts. Devin collapsed to the floor, her body jerking, nerves on fire. The pain was beyond enduring. A pain this intense must be lethal. As she convulsed, her muscles in spasms, she could not scream. No part of her being, not even her voice, was under her voluntary control.
"Try it again, child," said her therapist, saccharine once more. The shock ended, the pain faded. "Stand up. And this time, do not fight it. Or your punishment will be the same: swift, sure, and severe."
Devin struggled upright. She had to brace against the wall of the gas chamber to keep on her feet. Her muscles were jelly.
An orange cloud flooded the chamber and filled her nose with the stink of rotting fruit. "Breathe it," her therapist instructed. "You must."
But again, Devin reacted by instinct alone. No conscious thought interposed between stimulus and response. The cloud approached; she pushed it away. Pure reflex, action of mind: act of self-preservation. The gas held back, suspended in midair, kept at bay solely by her force of will.
On the instant, fifty thousand volts knocked her to the floor. The pain that must be lethal, but that wouldn't do her the service of killing her, flooded Devin's tortured flesh. She writhed, silent and barely conscious.
Her therapist withdrew the punishment. Devin remained on the floor, curled in the fetal position. Her body was hers to command once more, but her muscles had no strength to obey.
"You give new meaning to the word persistent, don't you, girl?" muttered the disembodied voice. Then, more forcefully: "The first step toward healing is to admit you are diseased. Miss Perridin, you have an illness. A mental disorder. I am offering you the cure for your illness--in a pleasant aerosol spray that you need only breathe. Once inhaled, the drug acts quickly. But you must take the first step and acknowledge that you want to be cured."
The voice grew soft, sugary. "Child, for as long as you hold to the notion--the mistaken notion--that your disorder is in some way a benefit to you, you will continue to fail. And you will suffer the consequences of that failure. We can't have that, can we?"
Devin gathered the remnants of her strength and rolled onto her back. To stand was impossible; she could barely shape a word. "No," she whispered. She wasn't speaking to her tormentor.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Wordiness! I’m on a perpetual quest to eliminate unnecessary words. Time and again in revising, I look for cuts. I’ll share a “finished” chapter with my critique partners and almost invariably they’ll tell me to tighten it. I love words and enjoy using them: “Succinct” is not my natural state. Multiple passes are required to tighten my manuscripts.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Ursula K. Le Guin leaves me breathless. Her characters are so real. Her settings jump off the page. Here’s an example from the prologue of The Tombs of Atuan, the second book of Earthsea:

“Come home, Tenar! Come home!”
In the deep valley, in the twilight, the apple trees were on the eve of blossoming; here and there among the shadowed boughs one flower had opened early, rose and white, like a faint star. Down the orchard aisles, in the thick, new, wet grass, the little girl ran for the joy of running; hearing the call she did not come at once, but made a long circle before she turned her face towards home. The mother waiting in the doorway of the hut, with the firelight behind her, watched the tiny figure running and bobbing like a bit of thistledown blown over the darkening grass beneath the trees.

* * *

Isn’t that beautiful? And more than beautiful, it’s clear and evocative, filled with precise details that pull readers in, putting us in that deep valley, in the twilight, with the thick, wet grass under our bare feet. Ursula Le Guin is an inspiration to me. Every few years I reread her Earthsea books.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Getting past Chapter 1 of Book One. I wasted months, or a year, fiddling with Chapter 1. Finally I cried aloud in frustration and charged ahead, to complete Book One, then Two, and eventually Three. It wasn’t until I finished WATERSPELL Book 3: The Wisewoman that I really understood the layers of the story. At that point I began again from the beginning. With my fresh, new, clear-eyed grasp of the whole complex series of events and all the characters’ relationships, I was able to fine-tune the trilogy and declare, at last, that it was finished.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Years. Books 1 and 2 of WATERSPELL took about five years each. Book 3 went faster—maybe two years—because I’d learned enough by then that I could avoid my earlier mistakes. For one thing, I’d learned to write spare! It’s MUCH easier to flesh out spare writing than to tighten verbose writing.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Insane. I’m a binge writer. When I’m in the zone I’ll pound the keyboard for hours, never coming up for air. Parts of WATERSPELL were written while I lived in the tropics, in an open house on a high mountain lake. I’d work late into the night, while all around me fell silent except for the splash of the waves and the occasional hoot of an owl. In the garden were night-blooming flowers, and their perfumes wafted in through the screen doors. An unearthly experience. Magical!

When I’m not writing, I’m editing. As an editor, I keep normal, boring hours: 9-to-5.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I’m told I have Anglo-Saxon sensibilities. That is, I write in direct plain English. I favor those punchy one-syllable words that derive from Old English, like gut, grip, lock. A writer friend who’s far more linguistically knowledgeable than I am told me my words tend to end with hard consonant sounds: gut, grip, lock. Whereas her writing favors the softer end-sounds of languages developed from Latin: balance, circumstance, mercy. I’d never analyzed my word choices from that angle, but I do consciously rely on those short, punchy words to power my writing. If that’s a quirk, it’s mine. :-)

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love this quote: “The soul that has no fixed goal loses itself; for as they say, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.” —Michel de Montaigne, a French essayist of the 1500s

I advise everyone to have a fixed goal in life. It does wonders for organizing your time. You will be too busy getting “somewhere” to ever end up languishing “nowhere.”

Thank you for reading this far!

Author Bio

Castles in the cornfield provided the setting for Deborah J. Lightfoot’s earliest flights of fancy. On her father’s farm in West Texas, she grew up reading extraordinary tales of adventure and reenacting them behind tall ramparts of sun-drenched corn. She left the farm to earn a bachelor of science degree in journalism and write award-winning books of history and biography, including The LH7 Ranch (University of North Texas Press) and Trail Fever (William Morrow, New York). High on her Bucket List was the desire to try her hand at the genre she most admired. The result is WATERSPELL, a complex, intricately detailed fantasy that begins with Book 1: The Warlock and Book 2: The Wysard, and concludes (for the present) with Book 3: The Wisewoman. But a legal pad filled with notes and tucked away in a desk drawer suggests a possible Book 4 before the saga may fairly be said to be finished.

Deborah is a professional member of The Authors Guild. She and her husband live in the country south of Fort Worth, Texas. Find her online at www.waterspell.net.


LINKS TO BUY

Drawn into the schemes of an angry wizard, Carin glimpses the place she once called home. It lies upon a shore that seems unreachable. To learn where she belongs and how to get there, the teenage traveler must decipher the words of an alien book, follow the clues in a bewitched poem, conjure a dragon from a pool of magic -- and tread carefully around a seductive but volatile, emotionally scarred sorcerer who can't seem to decide whether to love her or kill her. 

Excerpt from
WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock

by Deborah J. Lightfoot


From
Chapter 1. The Swordsman


It happened too fast to hurt at first. But, oh! the blood—lots of it, streaming from a gouge that crosscut her knee.

She hunched over the wound, her masses of unkempt hair tumbling around her face, strands of it trailing in the gore. Blindly Carin fumbled in her belt-pouch for something to stanch the bleeding. Her fingers met only flint and steel for fire-making, pebbles for arming her sling, and a length of twine that was useful for everything from tying back her shaggy auburn mane to rigging a brush shelter.

Abruptly a hand grasped the shank of her leg, and another shoved at her shoulder. “Straighten up,” her captor snarled.

Carin threw back her head and flung the hair out of her eyes. “You!” she gasped. “But—” She hadn’t heard the swordsman’s approaching footsteps—a seeming impossibility through the crunchy carpet of autumn leaves. Yet here the man was, crouched beside her and brandishing a dagger. Carin’s hand flew to shield her throat, but it was her knee he put the blade to.

Stay away from me! she wanted to shout at him. She couldn’t get the words out—not in a way that made sense. As sometimes happened when she came unglued, Carin lapsed into a language of her own. The sounds that passed her lips weren’t gibberish, but no one ever understood a word she said when she got like this. Carin yelled at the man, in her own private language, and tried to wrench free of his grasp.

“Stop your noise,” he barked. He held her leg tighter and waved his dagger in her face. “If you can’t be quiet, I’ll cut out your tongue.”

Copyright © 2011–2012 by Deborah J. Lightfoot. All Rights Reserved.

Sample Chapter 1 in full at www.amazon.com/dp/B00686UIFW


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Friday, May 25, 2012

Contest Post

Sharon Bayliss has a book coming out (with a beautiful cover) and is hosting a query/first 500 bloghop with opportunity to win a critique from her editor. And there's still time to enter if you have a finished YA or NA (New Adult)

Query:

God answers nearly all of fifteen-year-old Crystal's prayers. At least that's the way it seems since time slows down so she doesn't miss the bus and speeds up so she doesn't have to answer questions in class.

When she discovers her mother sought the help of witches to conceive her, Crystal’s faith becomes one giant question mark. She tracks down the witches and demands answers. They tell her she's the incarnation of magic--the only person whose magical potential is limitless. Basically, Crystal's been answering her own prayers.

Skeptical yet curious, Crystal attempts to master her power, but flying and playing with fireballs attract dangerous attention. A witch hunter captures her boyfriend, and shamans snatch her aunt. For someone with limitless magic, Crystal should easily be able to rescue them but every time her emotions run amuck, her magic goes haywire. If she can't learn to control herself, she'll never be able to save them.
CRYSTAL'S MAGIC is a 80,000-word YA paranormal novel with series potential.

First 500 words:

“Crystal? Are you dressed yet?”
Crystal groaned and rolled over. Covering her head with her pillow, she peeked with one eye at her alarm clock. If she didn’t leave the house immediately, she’d miss the bus.
She scrambled around the room, hopping into jeans, trying to throw on a shirt and brush her hair at the same time. Somehow she wrestled her way into some clothes (whether or not they looked good together she hadn’t the time to worry about) and ran downstairs. Her kiss missed her mom’s cheek. “Bye, Mom!”
“Wait, Crystal, you forgot your school bag.” Her mom held it out for her.
Crystal grabbed it and groaned again when she spied the kitchen clock. There was no way she’d make the bus. It probably drove past her house five minutes ago.
Still, she had to try. If she was late one more time, she’d get detention. And getting her first detention two weeks before her sixteenth birthday was not on her to-do list.
Crystal threw her bag over her shoulder and hurried out the door. She raced toward the bus stop.
Please, dear Lord, let the bus be there. Please let the bus be there.
She ran with her eyes closed. She never prayed with her eyes open.
When she reached the end of the stone driveway, she opened her eyes.
The bus was just pulling to a stop.
Crystal grinned. Thank you, Lord.
She climbed up the steps and slid into her customary seat beside Kelly Mae.
Kelly Mae took one look at her and raised a perfectly arched eyebrow until it disappeared behind her blond sideswept bangs. “Again, Crystal?”
Crystal shrugged. “I must’ve slept through the alarm. Why… is it that obvious?” She glanced down at her clothes. Dark blue jeans, a black T-shirt, and a navy vest. Definitely not the most stylish of choices.
Kelly Mae reached over and tugged something out of Crystal’s hair. Her hairbrush.
Staring at it, Crystal had to laugh.
Ten minutes later, the bus stopped in front of their school, and the students rushed to their lockers. Crystal grabbed her books and hurried to geometry class. Mrs. Gingrinch began to drone, and Crystal's mind wandered. It’s not that she didn’t want to learn, it’s just that she always felt as if she was wasting her time, as if she was meant for something more than learning the area of a rhombus. I mean, seriously, a rhombus? Who came up with that word?
"Crystal, care to join us?"
She snapped her head up and looked at the stern face of Mrs. Gingrinch. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"Pay attention." Mrs. Gingrinch turned to face the chalkboard and continued writing.
Crystal hung her head. What’s wrong with me lately? She had a hard time falling asleep, and she was always daydreaming—
"Crystal! Come up here and solve this problem."
Crystal gulped. She stood and walked to the chalkboard. Mrs. Gingrinch held out the chalk, and Crystal hated the smug look on her teacher's face.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How I wrote an action/thriller through editing - Matt Chatelain Guest Blog


I had no idea my story 'The Caves of Etretat, would end up a rollercoaster action/thriller when I started writing it, five years ago. It wasn't supposed to be a four-book series.  I didn't know about pace or characters. I was just writing my first book. There wasn't much introspection about it at all.
It was editing's fault, not mine. I barely had anything to do with it.
It started simply enough, with a rejection. I'd sent a query to a specific agent, my first attempt. I was refused but the refusal came accompanied by a few suggestions, indicating my story couldn't sell as a first work because it was too long.  It needed to lose thirty thousand words. I sent a reply email saying I could reduce it to one hundred and twenty thousand words in two weeks.
I'd never reduced a novel before but it seemed a simple enough task. My only concern was that the story not be weakened. I preferred removing extraneous details and small scenes not integral to the plot. It took me three weeks. The agent agreed to look at the first fifteen thousand words. She rejected it again, saying there was no pace.
There was an intrinsic weakness to 'The Caves of Etretat'. It didn't have an antagonist. I had a bunch of guys going around, discovering stuff. Big deal. Where was the excitement in that? I'd created a couple of fake antagonists who ended up being friends later. I needed something stronger.
Other things were happening. I was doing research to provide more accuracy to the story. I started with the Oak Island treasure, continuing with Etretat, the bizarre tourist town in France, with its giant cliffs and their hidden tunnels. Maurice Leblanc, who lived in Etretat and the author featured in my story, had written books full of codes, hidden from the average reader. When deciphered, the codes sent you investigating Rennes-le-Chateau and the priest Berenger Sauniere.
Rennes-le-Chateau and Sauniere were at the center of the biggest controversy in our century, epitomised by such books as 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail' and 'The Da Vinci Code'. How had I ended up here? I'd wanted to write a story like Dan Brown's but not the same story. Even more curiously, the research was pointing me towards my earliest book, 'The Greyman', an attempt to express my views about the illusory nature of reality in an action format.
More connections evolved, linking to 'The Caves of Etretat'. An antagonist appeared like no other I'd found before. Story elements drifted, linking in radical new ways. I would need a bridging book… no… two bridging books. It could be done but I'd have to re-write book one.
That was the second of over ten eventual re-writes, while I wrote the rest of the series.
I added another twenty thousand words to the story, placing antagonist-related sections between the research sections with my guys. It gave readers (and my characters) a pressure to go on. If my main character, Paul Sirenne, didn't find the answers, the Shadow-Killer would attack and kill him. After all that writing, the story was too long, so I shaved it back down to one hundred and fifteen thousand words, still keeping the storyline intact.
This was my first lesson about pace. The more details I took out, the faster the story went. My story had a current, carrying the reader on, no matter where they dropped into the story. Storyline became everything. Details became sparse. Eventually, I compared my story to a bobsled run. When the bobsled hit the side, that was a detail, just enough to get you back on track.
I'd taken two and a half years to write book one. Book two took one year, book three, eight months. I was getting better. I could assemble a novel's storyline more easily. Characters were developing their own voices, instead of the ones I tried to give them, prompting more re-writes of book one. Each book of the series was an improvement on the previous, with leaner, tighter text and faster pace. The scope expanded with each book, until they became distinct levels from each other.
In 2011, I submitted 'The Caves of Etretat' to the Amazon Breakthrough contest (it got to quarter-finals). One week later, my brother read it for the first time. His reaction was:
"It's terrible. No one can read that. It's not the story, the story's good. It's your writing."
I'd just finished writing book four, in six months, feeling fantastic. I put it away, depressed for days. Of course, I couldn't give up. I got back to the computer desk and started editing with a vengeance. I worked on it for eight months, reviewing book one six times. The process revealed more about me than the book. I had filled the book with hesitations and sentence crutches.  Useless sentence bits like 'I felt that I could…' or 'It seemed that he was…' proliferated in the paragraphs.
Many sentences intended to say something but the words weren't doing the job. I streamlined every sentence with new-found skills. I learned to be brave, to let sentences stand on their own, without crutch words. I found new ways to present action sequences, improving the pacing. 'The Caves of Etretat' ended up at one hundred and eight thousand words. I had removed over sixty-five thousand words.
 The task continued in book two. My brother was editing my edits and returning it to me, a counterpoint to my efforts. One day, I noticed he was finding one problem per page, while I was noticing several problems per paragraph. I had improved again, forcing me to go back and do more edits on what I had already done. I had discovered Quantum Editing, the process where the act of changing the novel changes the editor, forcing more changes on the book, forcing more changes on the editor… etc.
Finally it was finished, if such a task ever finishes. 
It was all there: the story, the pace, the scope, and, most of all, the answers to man's most important question 'Why are we here?', mixing religion with history, history with illusion, and illusion with reality. Book one covers one hundred years and reads like an action/thriller, focused on Etretat (think 'The Da Vinci Code' with an edge). Book two (The Four Books of Etretat) takes off like a rabbit, covering thirty thousand years. It involves the rest of the world in Sirenne's adventures, introducing immortality, the worst serial killer you could imagine, and questions about the nature of reality. Book three (The One Book of Etretat) covers sixty-five million years, bringing quantum physics, religion, and all history, into the fold. Book four (The Greyman) starts at the beginning of the universe and finishes at the beginning of book one, explaining the reasons for everything, seen through the eyes of an immortal Paul Sirenne.  Because of the circular nature of the series, book one can be re-read following book four. It becomes book five, continuing the story and revealing hidden layers.
The last six years have been a non-stop learning experience. I was always working at the edge of my abilities, never sure I would succeed. The series taught me much more than how to write a thriller or how to edit. It taught me about life's deepest questions, providing the answers I had sought for so long. Those answers can be found buried in the series, a message of hope and inspiration.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Sirenne Saga series, please check out my website www.mattchatelain.com . Books one and two ('The Caves of Etretat' and 'The Four Books of Etretat') are available at Kindle, as Ebook, or at Amazon, as hardcopy. My website has audio excerpts, character/author interviews, and much more. I also hold a free monthly draw for signed copies of the published series. All it takes is a few minutes to register. Check my website for dates and prizes.
All four books will be released in 2012. I plan my next two books to be a further exploration into the thriller/action genre, hoping to write an ultimate treatment to surpass Matt Reilly's 'Ice Station'. In the subtext, the series will deal with man's obsession with money, the problems it brings, and one potential solution. I will deepen my exploration of characters, intent on honing my writing skills.
I may even edit 'The Caves of Etretat' again!

The Caves of Etretat
by Matt Chatelain
~~~~~~~~~~~~~


BLURB:

In 2007, Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne is suddenly thrust into a quest for answers, when his parents are found brutally murdered, their bodies cut up and shaped into the letters H.N. Finding a note inside his father's copy of 'The Hollow Needle', by Maurice Leblanc, Sirenne is determined to uncover the roots of his long-forgotten family secret.

He heads to the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of the 'Hollow Needle'. Falling in love with Leblanc's great-granddaughter, he deals with puzzles, theories, codes and historical mysteries, leading him to believe that Leblanc held a secret war against Adolf Hitler, fighting for the control of an incredible complex of caves hidden in Etretat's chalk cliffs.

'THE CAVES OF ETRETAT' is the first in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt

While I drove toward my father's place, my rear view mirror allowed me the occasional glimpse of a familiar vehicle and its driver, Norton. His companions were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he was intent on protecting me but I doubted it. His comments had seemed disjointed to me, despite the circumstances. Everything he said had come across insincere, as if he were following another agenda. I resolved to ignore him for the time being. Let him do his watching.

To some, police protection might seem comforting. To me, it felt like an irritant. I preferred to mind my own business and for others to do the same, even in dire circumstances. That way I hurt no one and no one got hurt. I almost changed my opinion when I arrived at my father’s house. Even Norton's company would have been preferable to that of my own thoughts. I hurried up the entrance staircase and stopped in front of the door, taking a deep breath. I felt frozen in place, unable to open it.

Breaking the spell and forcing myself to move, I removed the police tape with a trembling hand and entered, closing the door behind me. I looked around the entrance hallway. Everything looked normal but it felt wrong, empty, too quiet. I walked into the living room and there it was: the bloody outline of the H and the N. I was horrified by the bloodstained dots after each gruesome letter, knowing what had left those imprints.

Seized by a sudden, irresistible impulse, I ran to the kitchen, filled a large bucket with hot water and picked up a heavy bristle brush.

Those stains had to go!

I returned to the living room, trying to stay calm, to think nothing about what the stains represented. I knelt down, splashed some water on the floor, and began scrubbing the dark stains. I didn’t care if I scratched the wood. At some point, I started crying in great, wracking sobs, the tears streaming down my cheeks, dripping onto the bloodstains on the floor.

By the time I was done, my tears had dried, evaporated by a burning resolve unlike any I had before. I did not know how, I did not know when, but I would catch that monstrous killer. He would pay for what he had done.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Born in Ottawa, fifty-two years ago, I have been the owner of a used bookstore I opened in Ontario, since 1990. I have been writing since I was ten. Beginning with poetry, I quickly moved on to short stories and non-fiction pieces. I stayed in that format for many years, eventually self-publishing a franchise manual (How to Open Your Own Used Bookstore), as well as a variety of booklets, such as 'How to Save Money at Home', 'Build a Greenhouse with Style' and the ten booklet series of Eddy Brock, Brockville Detective.

Having semi-retired from the bookstore, I embarked on the project of writing my first serious novel, which I expanded to a four book series after discovering an incredible mystery hidden within Maurice Leblanc's books.

My interests are eclectic. I like Quantum Physics, Cosmology, history, archaeology, science in general, mechanics, free power, recycling and re-use. I'm a good handyman and can usually fix just about anything. I'm good with computers. I love movies, both good and bad, preferring action and war movies. I can draw and paint fairly well but am so obsessed with perspective and light that I cannot think of much else. I am too detail oriented. Takes too long to finish anything.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PRIZE INFORMATION

Matt will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To increase your chances of winning, visit here to see the list of tour dates.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Question of the Week - Would you rather...

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Would you rather be healthy and poor or sick and rich?
Good looking and poor or unattractive and rich?
Healthy and unattractive or sick and good looking?
For me: healthy and poor; good looking and poor; and healthy and unattractive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Query Roundtable - Crystal's Magic

Rachel at You Are What You Write is having a Query Roundtable. Basically, we post our queries and visit everyone to give them helpful comments and feedback so our queries shine. Want to join in? The details are here.

Here's the pitch portion of Crystal's Magic, a paranormal YA novel, now revised based on comments:

God answers nearly all of fifteen-year-old Crystal's prayers. At least that's the way it seems since time slows down so she doesn't miss the bus and speeds up so she doesn't have to answer questions in class.

When she discovers her mother sought the help of witches to conceive her, Crystal’s faith becomes one giant question mark. She tracks down the witches and demands answers. They tell her she's the incarnation of magic--the only person whose magical potential is limitless. Basically, Crystal's been answering her own prayers.

Skeptical yet curious, Crystal attempts to master her power, but flying and playing with fireballs attract dangerous attention. A witch hunter captures her boyfriend, and shamans snatch her aunt. For someone with limitless magic, Crystal should easily be able to rescue them but every time her emotions run amuck, her magic goes haywire. If she can't learn to control herself, she'll never be able to save them.

Instead, Crystal just might start the Apocalypse and doom the entire world.

Any and all comments / feedback / suggestions welcome! Thanks!

Colors Like Memories by Meradeth Houston


Colors Like Memories by Meradeth Houston

Julia has a secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident—sort of.
Julia is a Sary, the soul of a child who died before taking her first breath. Without this 'breath of life' she and others like her must help those on the verge of suicide. It's a job Julia enjoyed, until the accident that claimed her boyfriend’s life—an accident she knows was her fault. If living with the guilt weren't enough, she's now assigned to help a girl dealing with the loss of her mother, something Julia is not exactly the best role model for. If she can't figure out a way to help her, Julia will lose her position in the Sary, something she swore to her boyfriend would never happen.

From now until May 23rd Colors Like Memories is just $1.99.

Links:
Blog: http://meradethhouston.blogspot.com/

Author Meradeth Houston

I've never been a big fan of talking about myself, but if you really want to know, here are some random tidbits about me:

  • I'm a California girl. This generally means I talk too fast and use "like" a lot.
  • I have my doctorate in molecular anthropology. Translation: I sequence dead people's DNA and spend a whole lot of time in a lab, which I love.
  • I've been writing since I was 11 years old. It's my hobby, my passion, and I'm so happy to get to share my work!
  • My other passion is teaching. There's nothing more fun than getting a classroom of college kids fired up about anthropology!
  • If I could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because I'm terrified of heights.
Giveaway Details: 
$50 Amazon.com Gift Code
Last day to enter is May 29th

Open to anyone who can legally enter and can receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent's permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 21, 2012

2nd Annual Flash Fiction Blogfest - The Storm








Here are the rules:
1. Entries must begin with the two words: Lightning flashed.
2. Entries must be 300 words or less and be in prose. I'm not versed enough in poetry verse to judge it properly.
3. Entries must be posted on your blog between May 21 - 23.
4. You must sign up in the linky below to have your entry be counted.
On May 25, I will announce the six finalists and open voting through May 28th.
On May 29th, my third year blogversary, I will announce the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners as well as a random winner selected from the participants list. All ties will be broken by Random.org.
Now what are the prizes?
First place - $25 gift card from Amazon
Second place - $20 gift card from Amazon
Third place - $15 gift card from Amazon
Random prize - $10 gift card from Amazon
If the winner prefers an alternate gift of equal value, I'm good with that. Contest in open internationally.

Here's my entry called THE STORM:

Lightning flashed.

Violet smiled. She loved storms, especially the rain. As a small child, she used to spread her arms wide, her face lifted to the clouds, as the rain kissed her.

Thunder boomed. Loud and powerful.

Another flash of lightning.

Violet stepped off her front porch.

Another rumble. This one even louder. The storm was getting closer.

Violet’s short hair matted to her forehead. Her dress clung to her legs, making it hard to walk.

She could feel the crackle of electricity, so close was the next strike.

Most people would not be out in this storm.

But Violet wasn’t like most people.

Her world was crumbling apart. Her fiancé had cheated on her, she had been fired from her job, she was behind on all of her bills, she hadn’t spoken to her father in years…

Yet, somehow, someway, in this moment, she was happy.

She raised her arms toward the heavens.

The thunder screamed and burst her eardrums.

Lightning coursed through her veins.

Violet dropped into a puddle, the murky, muddy water staining pink.

Dead.

Another bolt of lightning jolted her body, and Violet lifted her head.

Alive again.

But no longer human.

She had been wronged so many times in life. Now she had the chance to right those wrongs.

Starting with her no-good fiancé.

Violet was now a monster.

Her body transformed into water, and she slipped down a manhole into the sewers. Revenge would be hers.

And still the storm raged on.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Like Clockwork by Elle Strauss

Like Clockwork, a companion novel to the Clockwise series, is here!!


Adeline doesn't feel she belongs in her own time, but can bad boys from the past be trusted?

 Adeline Savoy had hoped that the move west from Cambridge to Hollywood with her single dad would mean they’d finally bond like a real family, but all she got was a father too busy with his new female friends and his passion for acting to really see her.

 Instead she finds herself getting attached to Faye, the divorcee hair dresser she befriends when she travels back in time to 1955. Plus Faye has a hottie, James Dean-esque, bad-boy brother who has Adeline’s heart all aflutter. But bad boys from the past can be dangerous. Is it possible that Adeline really does belong in her own time and that maybe the right boy lives as close as next door?

LIKE CLOCKWORK is available now at Amazon and Smashwords and soon for B&N, ibooks and other e-book retailers.

 Read on to sample the first chapter:



Chapter One
Adeline Savoy


My dad still thought I was ten. That was how old I was when my mother died, and how old I was when my father crawled into his “cave,” also known as his office on the 26th floor of the John Hancock tower. Six years later, like a bear coming out of hibernation, Dad decided his days of hiding behind a desk were over. I thought he was going through a mid-life crisis, which was why we now lived in Hollywood instead of Cambridge. And why when I spotted his reflection in a mirror at the cosmetic counter in the Shop & Save store, I almost dropped the Scarlet Passion lipstick tester I'd just smeared on my lips.

Even though I was sixteen, I wasn't allowed to wear make-up. True. With my left hand I used a tissue to wipe the evidence off my mouth, all the while watching my dad’s familiar profile move in and out of range in the mirror.

He was laughing. I crouched down and turned, my vision just missing the counter top, and watched. His hair had grown out since the “decision.” He used to always keep it so short, that I didn’t even know it was wavy before, and the lines on his face never used to turn upward in a smile.
I had to see who was causing this cosmic reaction in my father. The clerk who sold cheap jewelry, a pretty-in-a-fake way brunette, tilted her head and giggled back.

My jaw dropped and something really strange started happening in my stomach. I felt a little sick because I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. My dad was flirting!

Who was this man dressed in khakis, flip-flops and an un-tucked pseudo Hawaiian shirt? My real dad only wore pinstriped suits with starchy white shirts and a blue tie. Always. Even to bed, I was certain.

“Miss? Are you all right?” The cosmetic clerk was armed with a spray nozzle cleaner in one hand and a paper towel in the other.

I mimed as best I could, “ssh”, but apparently dad was the only one with acting skills in my family, since she wouldn’t leave me alone.

“Miss? You don’t look too good. Should I call for medical?”

The fake pretty lady stopped chatting when she heard her colleague talking so loudly. Obviously, that meant my dad’s little flirtation episode was over. And of course, my blonde ponytail was a giveaway. 

“Adeline?” he said.

“Dad!” I jumped up, feigning surprise.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

What are you doing here? I thought. “Um nothing, just looking. Thought I might buy some gum.”

Dad glanced back at the fake and I did a quick switcheroo, replacing the tester and grabbing a sealed golden tube. It tucked nicely in my fist as I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Adeline, come here,” Dad said. “I want you to meet someone.”

My legs moved toward dad and the fake without my permission.

“Adeline, this is my friend from acting class, Spring. Spring, this is my daughter, Adeline.”

Spring extended her hand. Unfortunately, the contraband lipstick was in my right hand. I wasn’t a magician. Dad would notice if I tried to switch. I opted for the awkward offering of my left hand.

“It’s so nice to meet you,” Spring gushed.

“Same,” I said, not meaning it at all. “Not that I don’t want to stay and chat,” I added quickly, before Dad could draw us into more forced intimacies, “but I’ve got to go.”

“I’ll walk with you,” Dad said. But he wasn’t looking at me; he was smiling at the fake.

“It’s okay, Dad. I’ll meet you at home.” I strutted across the floor to the cashier. He glanced back at me as I stood in line at the register. I waved the pack of gum in the air. I paid for it and the lipstick while Dad and the fake went back to making googly eyes.

I snapped the gum in my mouth while caressing the lipstick tube in my hand. It was encased in a plastic protective seal, a perforated strip running the length of it like a zipper. My thumb picked at the rim. All I had to do was rip it open and it would no longer be returnable.

But I really should return it. I’d promised myself I’d give up the greasy lip habit when we moved. It was a chance to start over, do everything new, and be a proper daughter with a proper father.

Hrumph. Like that was turning out. Dad wasn't exactly holding up his end of the bargain.

My breaths came out short and rapid, like a panting dog. I didn’t realize how fast I’d been walking. I’d hardly taken in the tall palm trees that lined the road or the sweet smell of tropical flowers I didn’t know the names of.

No signs of autumn in sight. In Cambridge the leaves would be showing signs of turning color, bright reds and yellows. A little twist in my stomach. I was homesick.

And angry.

He was supposed to change, but not like that. He was supposed to notice me, spend time with me, not some flake called Spring. What kind of name was that anyway? It sounded like a made up actress name. Her last name was probably Storm or Wind. My thumb picked the plastic a bit more.

“Hi, there.”

I turned my head. Some guy riding a pink bike with a sparkly white banana seat and matching tassels that hung off tall, wide handle bars slowed down to keep pace with me.

“Hi,” he said again. This time there was no mistaking he was talking to me.

“Hi?” I said, not slowing down at all to do so. I may be entering my junior year, but I still didn’t talk to strangers. Janice, my babysitter/pseudo mom in Cambridge, had drilled that lesson into me good.

“My name's Marco. I live next door to you.”

Okay. I slowed a little. “Why are you riding a girl’s bike?” Did he steal it? Why didn’t he care about how stupid it made him look?

“It’s my sister’s. I sold mine to buy something else, but riding this is better than walking.”

“I’m walking and you’re not making any better time than me.” I was annoyed. Why didn’t he just keep going? I preferred to sulk alone.

“You’re new, so I thought with school starting tomorrow, you’d like someone to ride the bus with.”

Good point. Who knew what kinds of Hollywood weirdos would be on the bus? I looked Marco up and down. He was average height, shaggy hair, and wore a graphic t-shirt and surfer shorts with fat, loosely tied skate shoes on his feet. No socks. He had nice, tanned skin and warm brown eyes that squinted to almost close when he smiled. He wasn’t hard to look at.

And he looked trustworthy enough, I guessed. Plus, he was right. I didn’t really want to go to Hollywood High alone.

I stopped and turned to him. “I’m Adeline Savoy.” I wiped the sweat on my right hand off on my skirt—sky blue, slightly flared and to my knees—and offered it wanting to start my new friendship off on the right foot.

“Cool,” Marco said as we shook. “You like to make things official. I like that.”

The sun must’ve glinted off the gold tube in my other hand because Marco nodded toward it. “What’ya got there?”

“Oh, it’s just lipstick. I bought it, but now I’m not sure. I might take it back.”

“I don’t know why girls wear that vile stuff,” he said. I was surprised by the strength of his statement.

“It makes us feel good. Pretty. What’s wrong with that?”

“For one thing, you’re already pretty without it.”

He thought I was pretty?

“Besides,” he continued, “it’s made out of horse urine.”

“It is not! That’s so gross.”

“It is. That’s why it has that sticky consistency. Have you ever seen dried urine around a toilet?”

“You’re disgusting! How would you know about lipstick, anyway?”

“I have three sisters, though one is only six years old and hasn’t discovered the evils of make-up and this culture’s drive to sexualize young girls. It’s too late for my older sisters, but you can still be saved.”

Who was this guy? And how did he get off talking to me like that? He didn’t even know me. I felt my lips settle into a tight line and my pace picked up.

“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

How long was he going to walk with me? “Where did you say you lived?”

“Right next door to you.”

“Right next door?” This annoying person, who happened to be my only friend, lived right next door?

“Yeah, the two storey. My bedroom window faces yours.”

“You see in my window!”

“No. I don’t…” His face flushed red.

“You do, you do look in. You peeping Tom!”

“Adeline, I didn’t see anything. I just heard your music.”

“Huh?” I stopped and spun to face him.

A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. “And your singing.”

“What?” I was mortified. He probably heard me singing along to  Feist, or even worse, he saw me doing my Michael Jackson impersonation. I bet he saw me doing the Thriller dance the other night. Ugh!

“Everyone can hear you. You have your window open.”

“You know what? Don’t talk to me.”

Marco seemed truly taken aback, and yet he didn’t get the hint. Not even one as direct as that. He was not only a peeper, but he was dense, too.

“I live in a house full of women. Three sisters and a mother. I get what’s going on here. It’s PMS, isn’t it?”

Was he kidding me? As if I would talk about something like that with him! I stopped and stared hard into his eyes. I produced my new tube of lipstick and slowly peeled the perforated strip, letting the plastic wrapper drop to the ground. I dramatically popped off the lid and twisted the base until the bright red dried horse urine was in full view.

Then I put it on my lips, slowly, purposefully, first the top and then the bottom, smacking them in Marco’s direction when I was done.

Take that, Mr. I Know Women.

Marco bent down, picked up the plastic wrapper and pushed it in his pocket. He straddled the bike and pushed off, turning back long enough to say, “I’ll pick you up at 8:10 tomorrow morning for school.”

Argh.