Shameless review request (free review copy)

If you have followed this blog for a while or just visited for the first time, you may already know that I am a writer. Well, part of being a writer is getting your work out to the public. One way to garner more readers is to have your work reviewed. One reason I am looking for reviews is because I would like to get listed on a site that promotes authors works but does not consider promoting without a certain amount of reviews.

So here is my pitch to you. I have written two short suspense stories. If you like to read that type of stuff, this is for you. I am looking for a handful of people to review my work on amazon.com. If you would like to volunteer to review, please comment below or contact me through my Facebookpage. I will provide you with a kindle version of the story of your choice. You can review it wherever and however you like but I would like a review posted on amazon.com. I am not asking for 5 star reviews, I am not asking for a glowing report, I would just like honesty. Here are the blurbs my publisher wrote about these ebooks:

“At the Back of His Mind”

Clark is an aspiring writer constantly in search of a great story.  But when his seemingly oppressive relationship with his girlfriend, Lex, prompts him to take drastic action, Clark realizes that he has the opportunity to make a great story.

Miles away from civilization, under the cover of a stormy night, he sets out to right the wrongs in his life with a shovel, a tarp and gritty determination.

What could possibly go wrong?

“Never Prosper”

Ethan was a fastidious planner; no detail escaped his keen eye. Constantly juggling his wife’s schedule with his job and clandestine meetings with a “special friend” from the office, he was finally hitting his stride. His routine life was finally becoming exciting until an afternoon tryst went terribly wrong.

Why did his wife change her plans? What would he do with the body in his SUV?

He had to formulate a new plan…

…and fast.

Again, if you are interested, please let me know.

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Guest Blog: Mystery Author Victoria Thompson

Today’s post is, as promised, by a former professor, current bestselling author Victoria Thompson. She is writing a series of cozy mysteries called the Gaslight Mystery Series. This is the 15th, wow, 15th novel in that series. Check out the first one here.

Victoria ThompsonVickiHi-Res2x3

Gaslight Mystery Series

MURDER IN CHELSEA, Berkley Prime Crime, May 7, 2013 release.

WRITER TO THE RESCUE

So what does an author do when she’s written herself into a corner and can’t for the life of her figure out how to get out of it—all while thousands of fans are clamoring for her blood?  That’s the situation in which I found myself last year at this time.

If you are a fan of the Gaslight Mystery Series (Berkley Prime Crime), you know that Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy of the New York City Police and Midwife Sarah Brandt have been solving mysteries and gradually falling in love over the first 14 books in the series.  Unfortunately, I had started the series by creating insurmountable barriers to their ever getting together, never realizing that the series would become so successful or that readers would become so invested in Frank and Sarah’s lives.

Now let’s face it, how many mystery writers are lucky enough to have a series that runs for 14 books? I count my blessings every day. But in the spring of 2012, I realized that if I didn’t take care of Frank and Sarah’s relationship, readers probably would not keep reading. But how to do it without ruining the dynamics of the series? I was getting desperate, so I vented to my classmates.

Classmates?  Yes, I was just finishing up my master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.  One of my classmates, David Wilbanks, who writes Science Fiction and had at that time never read anything I’d ever written, took my challenge and sent me a list of about 20 things that could happen.  Unlike me and my fans, Dave was unencumbered by knowledge of the characters involved, so his solutions didn’t have to be feasible or even sensible.  His ideas were outside the box.  Some of them were even outside the Universe.  But one of them was the perfect solution to Frank and Sarah’s problems!

If you’re expecting me to tell you what that solution is right here, I’m sorry.  I write mysteries, so I’m not giving away anything that might  spoil the book for you.  I will say that in MURDER IN CHELSEA you will finally get to see Frank Malloy propose to Sarah Brandt. Of course they also solve a couple murders and locate the birth parents of Sarah’s foster daughter into the bargain.  This is a mystery series after all! And to thank Dave for his help, I named a major character after him in MURDER IN CHELSEA.

So this is how a fellow writer rescued me, saving me from the wrath of frustrated readers!  You can see how he did it by reading MURDER IN CHELSEA, a May 2013 hardcover release from Berkley Prime Crime.  It’s also available in all electronic formats. Please let me know if you like the solution by contacting me though my website, www.victoriathompson.com or liking me on Facebook at Victoria Thompson Author or following me on Twitter @gaslightvt.

MurderInChelsea

It’s been a while

Well, it has been a while since I posted a blog. That is my fault. I have been busier recently than I have been in a long time. I wanted to blog, I really did but with work, being a family man, getting my house ready to sell, and studying for an exam, I really haven’t had time.

I wanted to post this introduction a little earlier, but again, time has not been on my side. This is an introduction to a blog that will be coming later today. I have a guest blogger, Bestselling Mystery author Victoria Thompson. Maybe you have heard of her, maybe not. She was one of my professors when I got my Masters in Writing Popular Fiction. I studied mysteries and suspense mainly and I couldn’t think of someone better to help me learn about this than someone who has their 15th novel in a series coming out soon.

This is a cozy mystery but it also has some romantic intermingling between the characters. I highly recommend this series. Anyway, here is her cover, for a little taste of what’s to come.MurderInChelsea

What I wish I’d known (Part 5)

Here is the final installment of my posts on what I wish I had known as a beginning writer. You can read the other installments by beginning here, then part 2, part 3, part 4.This one is a little different than the others. It doesn’t have to do with writing techniques specifically. This is something you may not think about in your writing at all. As a writer, you need to:

5.    Figure out your audience
One of the major things that you need to figure out when you are writing is who you are writing for. This is your intended audience. Are you writing primarily for readers of science fiction or romance? You need to write with those readers in mind. For instance in general, science fiction should have some element of the fantastic that is futuristic or involves technology at least. For a general romance, you need to make sure you have a couple that will fall in love gradually throughout the book. Yes, I am painting with a broad brush here but I hope you get the point. With that being said, there are rules you must follow to provide your readers with the enjoyment they expect from your genre.
If you, as a writer, fail to follow the genre rules, you will lose your readers. Think about mysteries for a moment. Mystery readers expect, well a mystery. Readers must, and this is important, be able to figure out the puzzle either right before or at the same time as the main character. Writers must follow rules and share the clues with the audience. If they don’t and the mystery is unsolvable, you will have unsatisfied readers.
Recently, my wife and I were watching a mystery themed television show. Right on cue, there was a murder, the detectives show and they collect clues. Soon they were doing interviews and the story was moving right along. The net was getting tighter as certain clues were reevaluated and suspects were accused and released. I usually have some sort of idea as to who the murder is because, let’s face it, there is a typical flow that many mystery shows follow. With this one, I had no idea. I felt left out.
Well, when it came to the reveal at the end, it was not who I expected. The murder was a random character that was introduced at the beginning of the episode and then shuffled off screen. Viewers were given no clues that she was involved and as a viewer I felt cheated. Now, this particular instance will not make me stop watching the show, but if it continues, I may stop watching.
For those interested, the show is Castle. I am a big fan, not only because of the writing but because the main character is a writer. The writers of the episodes usually play fair with the audience and my wife and I always place accusations during the episode of who the murderer is. Most of the time we are right, but with this one recent episode, we were unfortunately way off. When the credits rolled, we both felt unsatisfied. Personally, I wasn’t as gung-ho to watch the next episode the next week. Although I will.
Now, if you do not write genre fiction there may not be many specific rules to follow. One thing you can do is pick a single person you would hope would love your writing. If only one person was going to read your work, it would be this person. Some people write for themselves and are pleased with not sharing a single word with others. Others want the world to read their work and enjoy it. So I say find that person but be sure you choose the right person as your intended reader. Think about how they would react to certain scenes. Would they be excited, would they feel cheated? These are important to figure out. Have this person in mind as you write. Then when you write, write your story as a love letter to their imagination.

I hope you enjoyed this series. I know I enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject or maybe something you would like to read about.  Thanks for coming along with me.

What I wish I’d known (Part 4)

Here is my continuing series on the five things that I wish I’d known when I started out writing. Check out the other parts one, two, and three.

4.    Research is useful (write what you don’t know)
I am sure you have heard somewhere that you should write what you know. Yes, that is good. You can do that and produce writing that you may feel is important. But if you write what you don’t know, you can really grow as a writer. Writing about what you don’t know can open your eyes to new things. I am not saying you should wing it. No, do your research.
One of my favorite authors, David Morrell, (He wrote First Blood and many great novels since then)  is an avid researcher. He has gone to classes to learn about hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, and weapons training just to name a few. He became a pilot so one of the characters in his recent novels, The Shimmer, would be a realist pilot. Sure he could have read about these things, but reading about them wouldn’t have given him the same experiences as going out and learning them firsthand. Firsthand experience is a great way to make those scenes real.
When I was writing my unpublished novel, my main character drove a very expensive car that I could never afford. But there was a car dealer in town and I used the words that you may find useful in the future: “Hi, I’m an author and I’m doing research for my next novel. I’d like to…” When I used those words, I was handed the keys to a car I would never be able to afford. Better yet, I didn’t have the hassle of dealing with a car salesman. He was more than happy to help. Better still, by getting to experience the car firsthand, I was able to understand its limitations. I knew how I realistically could use it in the plot and even how it felt sitting behind the wheel. I was able to write it and know my stuff in a manner that was realistic and believable.
When you do solid research and put in the time to really know your subject, you will finally be able to write what you know. And because you started out writing what you didn’t know, your new piece will not be tired and boring.

What I Wish I’d Known (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my series of five things I wish I knew when I started writing. If you have just begun please see the first entry here.

2. Rewriting your work is a chore

One of the things that makes a writer a writer is rewriting. This is where the real work takes place. This is how a story molds into its final form. When writing, you can sit and put words down and worry about them later. Rewriting is the later you had to worry about. When I write I can create a page of text in a half hour or less if I am going at a good clip. When I am rewriting, there are times when I will meticulously scour every line or word of my writing just trying to get it right. It can take at least an hour or more to get a single page to the way I really want it. To steal a phrase from Hemingway, the hardest part of writing is “getting the words right.”

Just because rewriting is a chore, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. I love rewriting. I have already done the hard part of making up the story that I am trying to get out there. When I rewrite I get to revisit scenes that I was excited to write and now I can make them better. I can tie everything together in that one little way that needs to exist so the story is whole.

When I rewrite I can add those transition scenes and take out the useless portions.

When I rewrote my novel, I started with 500 pages. When I was done, I whittled it down to just over 300. It was a chore, but those 300 pages are so much better than the original 500.

Come back tomorrow and see what number 3 is. Do you have  any experiences with rewriting? What do you think about it?

What I wish I’d known (Part 1)

Over the next few days I am going to introduce the five things I wish I’d known as a beginning writer. My draft got a little long-winded so I will present it in five installments. Check back over the next few days.

I am not one to create lists. I don’t like to do things in any sort of order or to check things off the list. That’s just one of the things that makes me, me. With that being written, I do have a list of five things I wish I’d known when I was starting out writing.

This list isn’t comprehensive to every experience, but it covers what I wish I knew when I was starting out. I am not saying it would have changed my mind and I would not have become a writer. No, on the contrary, I would have been a better writer sooner.

1. Writing is hard

This is something that many writers will not tell you. Writing is hard. That’s right. You read it here. Writing is hard. At times, it is downright impossible. I never knew how difficult it would be to sit down at the computer or my writing desk and put pen to paper. Making things up can be easy and fun, at least it should be, but for the most part it is not. It takes work, dedication and a schedule. It is hard to be a dedicated writer in the hustle and bustle of today. But if you really want to be a better writer, you have to understand that it takes time.

Writing for long periods of time can also make you tired, anxious, and irritable. Writing takes a toll on your body. I slouch when I write so many times I have a sore back when I am done. Sometimes I write until my hands ache and my wrists are sore. I guess you can say that I suffer for my art.

Many authors that are famous today took time to write. They showed dedication to their task. One of my favorite authors, William Goldman, hates writing. He has produced great works, but because the task takes so long, he doesn’t do it any longer. I really wish he would. I have loved almost every novel and movie he has been a part of.

Come back tomorrow to see number two (rewriting)

“Never Prosper” excerpt

Ethan leaned forward to survey the street like a spy checking for a tail. When Jenny had early morning meetings, sometimes she came home early. It was rare, but his naked guest in their bedroom was a good reason to be cautious.

The road was empty and he was glad, though the possibility of Jenny’s early arrival did add to the excitement.

He took the steaming cup upstairs and placed it on the nightstand next to Rebecca. She did not stir. Ethan looked at his watch again, checked the front window. “I have a feeling Jenny’s gonna come home any second now.”

Rebecca made a grunting sound that Ethan took for an acknowledgement.

Ethan patted her butt. “Come on. Get dressed. I’ll be right back.” Ethan headed down to the living room. They had started in there. Ethan straightened the skewed leather couch, repositioned the white shag area rug, and fluffed the multicolored accent pillows, to give him something to do while Rebecca was getting dressed.

A door slammed outside. Right then, he knew they should not have done this today. Work was too busy for them both to be away for this long. If he were gone any longer people would certainly be suspicious, especially with Rebecca out now too.  He could already hear “Mary the Gossip” whispering into Angela’s ear, “You know about Ethan and Rebecca, right.”

He went to the bottom of the stairs. “Rebecca, you ready?”

When there was no response, he headed upstairs. She could have been in the bathroom and did not hear or she could have been asleep again. He chewed on his fingernail as he listened. Come on.

“Rebecca, we gotta go now.” At the top of the stairs he turned toward his room, Rebecca still lay under the covers, sleeping.

He could feel the red rage building in his face. Ethan stormed into the room, kicked the four-poster bed. “Get up.”

Nothing.

He yanked the dark sheet from the bed. She did not budge. He smacked her on the leg, shook it, and yelled, “Rebecca!”

Nothing.

(Read more here)

Putting the Fun in “The Funeral” by Richard Matheson

Right now, short stories are my passion. I’ve read more short stories over the past few months than I have in a long time. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed all of the short stories and have been able to learn a lot from them. Sometimes I learn how to create a character in a short period of time. Some stories helped me learn how to use minimal elements to tell a complete story. But none have done what “The Funeral” by Richard Matheson was able to do. This story, to me at least, put the fun in funeral. Every movie monster shows up in this short, fun ride and I think you would enjoy it.

The story begins with a somber mood of a character planning a funeral. Funeral planning is never good. To compound this, we discover the character on the page is planning their own funeral. Interestingly enough, because this character is a vampire, he’s been dead for years. The funeral director is very nervous and is trying to be accommodating but things go terribly wrong and it seems as though he doesn’t know what to do.

I thought the story was funny, quick paced, and could be seen as the start of a short story series. I would have liked to story to be a little longer, but I honestly don’t know what could have been added to make it a little longer.

There were a few things I did learn from this story. First, when you are tackling a well-used and well-worn set of characters, you don’t need to go overboard with the descriptions. We, as readers, have seen Count Dracula so many times that all we need to be shown are his pointy teeth and know what he looks like. Likewise, we can see the witch with her cat and don’t need a picture laid out in excessive detail to know who they are and how they act.

Second, I learned that less is more in this story. Over the course of the story we are able to understand that one of the main characters, Skyline, was having a terrible time sleeping. But I didn’t read about the week of sleepless nights. I didn’t see the main character tossing and turning over the course of a week, all I was shown was the bags under Skyline’s eyes. This tells a lot without telling too much. Fantastic.

Thirdly, I learned that sometimes you need to surprise your audience by turning the common tropes on their side and look at them differently to keep them interested. Because this was undoubtedly a monster story, I as a reader knew what was about to happen. So, what happens in all monster stories? Someone gets maimed, eaten, murdered. In short, something brutal happens. If it’s a monster movie, there are gallons of blood. Anyway, this had none of that. There was not a single death and it played well. The main monster, a vampire, was the most cordial of all monsters I’ve ever seen. My favorite moment in the story was when he was asking his “mourners” to be polite and respect the funeral. This was hilarious.

Lastly, I learned that monsters can have a soft side and can be funny and they don’t have to sparkle to draw laughs. That was refreshing.

I was a little disappointed when the story ended and would have liked to see a few more monsters coming through the doors. I wondered if this would become Skyline’s real business instead of burying the dead, he just had funerals for the undead.

If you have read “The Funeral” by Matheson, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t, I suggest you pick up I am Legend and read it.

Never Prosper

Never Prosper Amazon link

I had a story published on Wednesday through eLectiopublishing.com. This is my second story with them. I would love for you to check it out. This is a suspense story that I hope keeps you on the edge of your seat. Here is a description.

Ethan was a fastidious planner; no detail escaped his keen eye. Constantly juggling his wife’s schedule with his job and clandestine meetings with a “special friend” from the office, he was finally hitting his stride. His routine life was finally becoming exciting until an afternoon tryst went terribly wrong.
Why did his wife change her plans? What would he do with the body in his SUV?
He had to formulate a new plan…
…and fast.