Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finding Your Passion ... by Darla Bartos

Switching to fiction presented me with any number of problems, but the greatest was why I couldn’t seem to get published.

As a magazine and newspaper reporter and columnist, I’d always been published. And with a by-line. So what was wrong now? I wrote a few completed books but never quite hit the mark. What was lacking?

Then, I heard the magic words. “Find … your … passion.” Too simple, really. I’d heard it before. But I realize now that hearing the words at the right moment from the right person is key.

Find your passion? I was passionate about my children. Then the proverbial bolt hit me. Aha! Africa. I was passionate about Africa. We’d lived there in the late 70s with a swimming pool and tennis court. Nelson Mandela was in prison for being a communist and apartheid was in full swing.

In 2000, I flew back to Africa to visit my daughter’s godmother who had been in a head-on collision. During her recovery, I met the new group of nuns and decided to stay a while and volunteer in Malamulele. Sometimes there was no running water and no electricity, but I stayed for six months. I was hooked. Over the last 15 years, I returned often to volunteer. The last time I was there, I stood amazed at the school, which had grown from two rooms to a campus of sixteen buildings.

As I began to think about what I loved, what moved me about the people who took me in, I realized what I had to do. I also realized why I wasn’t hitting the mark with my writing. I hadn’t been fully invested in the earlier books. I’d only been practicing.

My next book I set in South Africa. I wanted to write a crime novel. Could I create a murder in an imaginary convent? Characters floated through my head and a world appeared!

I had practically finished this lovely little murder mystery when one day I was perusing the Star newspaper, where I had actually free-lanced articles a hundred years ago. Then I saw the answer. Something different. A recent murder, a young woman found in a field. Muti killing was mentioned.

As I explored the topic, I became fascinated about an area of crime I’d never heard of before. And if I’d never heard about it, having lived there, then maybe no one else had heard about it either. Maybe it would give my book a sense of direction as well as bring awareness to this type of crime tied to some African cultures.

Local Detective Baloyi and Annabelle Chase, the visiting crime reporter, surprisingly became involved and a romance blossomed right in front of the fictitious nuns.

Read more about Midnight in Malamulele on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo or Smashwords.

Send your aha passion moment to dspbb@aol.com by midnight Feb. 1 and I’ll pick the best entry for a signed copy of Midnight in Malamulele! Postage included!

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Darla Bartos writes murder mysteries set in South Africa. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, she pursued work as a crime reporter, authoring the first of her trilogy, MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE. Darla taught communications at Metropolitan State University of Denver and Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, CO. She raised her five children on three continents.

You can learn more about Darla and her work at her website. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

April Moore interviewed on "Justice for All"



April Moore is the author of Folsom's 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison's Executed Men. This is long radio interview, but April did a fantastic job talking about her experience writing and researching the book. If you have the time to listen, you'll enjoy it.
You can learn more about April, her writing, and Folsom's 93 at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. She is a member of Northern Colorado Writers and the Raintree Writers Critique Group. Her novel, Bobbing for Watermelons, will be released this spring and she'll be here on March 19th to tell us all about it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

May I Introduce You to.....

I've been on a reading jag lately. It's what I'm doing instead of writing because writing is hard work and requires thinking. Reading is not hard work, and requires only a joyful focus on the result of someone else's efforts.

A variety of books and authors are waiting their turn on my coffee table, in bookcases, and on my Kindle and Nook tablet. I'm being very selective about the books I choose. Here's how I do it.

1. Great cover art, and

2. A short synopsis that intrigues me, and

3. A good hook on the first page of the novel.

4. Or....the book is written by someone I know in person or through online contacts, and I want to sample that author's work.

5. Or...there's an online buzz about the book.

6.  Or it's just sitting there on the shelf at the library or bookstore and something about it grabs my attention.

My most recent reads include Song of the Beast by Carol Berg, an award-winning author of high fantasy; Crossing Colfax, the most recent anthology from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers; Words Left Behind: tales from a life gladly lived, memoir by Nancy L. Reed, and The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor. Now I'm reading Haunted, an Anna Strong vampire novel by Jeanne C. Stein.

I read for entertainment, so I want solid narrative and dialogue with no little annoyances to drag me out of the story (typos, dialect,  word repetitions, or timeline screwups). I want memoir to tell me something new about the author. I want thrillers and suspense to keep me turning the pages. I like tight writing for some genres, and expanded beautiful prose for others.

Rarely do I decide to read a book based on the reviews on amazon.com or Goodreads. I do look at the spread of rankings, however, and then look for reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and BookList, as well as favorite blogging sites such as Lesa's Book Critiques and Buried Under Books.


So how did I choose those books I listed above? For Carol Berg's novel, I attended a dinner where she was the featured guest. That reminded me I hadn't read any of her books yet and don't read much high fantasy, so I choose the standalone Song of the Beast to get my feet wet in the genre. This is where I fell in love with dragons.

Crossing Colfax was a must read anthology because I had met most of the authors included at the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference or through blogging contacts. These stories inspired me to read lots more as I strive to master the art. For me, writing short stories is hard.


Words Left Behind: tales from a life gladly lived is memoir written by a good friend up here in Northern Colorado, and this first publication was released through another friend's new indie project, Wooden Pants Publishing. I'm more motivated now to self-publish something of my own one of these days.

Abbie Taylor's book, The Stranger on the Train, was a pick off the shelf at the library. I had a tough time putting it down to do important stuff like laundry and supper preparation.

Haunted is written by Jeanne C. Stein, a Colorado author who is also a regular contributor on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Blog where I'm co-editor.Even though I'm not usually a fan of vampires, I'm hooked on this kick-ass Anna Strong character and will have to read more novels in the series.. She's tough, likable, and sometimes brutal. The story arc in Haunted is current and gripping.

You might wonder if I've been in a dark place this winter, considering the cover art on most of these selections. I assure you, that is only a coincidence. I also read the light and delightful A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman. I wanted to list it last because there's nothing more beautiful than a field of lavender in the South of France. Sussman's book was a fun read, romantic and sexy, and full of family drama as two grown and slightly dysfunctional grown daughters attend their mother's wedding.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

If Something Isn't Working, Stop Doing It! ... by Barbara Graham

When Pat said I could come and play here and voice my opinion (always dangerous), I didn’t have a topic. It’s January and I don’t do resolutions anymore because I always fail to achieve them and they only add guilt to my year. What I do is participate in JaNo. It’s like NaNoWriMo but in a month that works well for me. The holidays are over and the garden is dead. I sit down and write as much as I can, every day, on a new book. I keep track of the number of words I add each day. By the end of the month I will have a genuine, bona fide “crappy first draft”. I would like to convince all aspiring authors to write the “crappy first draft”.

Only after an entire, complete first draft is done can the author know where the story needs to go. What characters work and who needs to leave. Admittedly, I am a “pantser” not an organized and outlined thinker. In this case, I would consider a good outline to be close to the first draft.

Once upon a time, there was a want-to-be writer in my town who asked me for advice. At the time, I had only one book in print. I was very excited about it because it was probably the ninth novel I wrote and the first that sold to a traditional publisher. When I told this person that my best advice was to write entire first draft before trying to do rewrites, he said that he wanted a perfect Chapter One before going on. My efforts to convince him that there is no perfect Chapter One fell on deaf ears. My sixth book in the series, Murder by Gravity: The Coffin Quilt, just released. In the years since I was asked for advice, his perfect Chapter One is still not written.

I do not pretend to be an expert. But, if something isn’t working, stop doing it! Whether it’s writing the entire book, doing an outline (not for me) or at the very least having an idea of the middle and ending of the book in mind is crucial. Even if you own a road map but have no idea of your final destination, how do you know which road to take?

Writing the first draft for me is painful and messy but I slog through to the end. Secondary characters show up with their luggage and rearrange the furniture. Others pop in, raid the refrigerator and make a mess on the floor. They leave without an apology. Characters don’t get names until I’m sure they are staying and I know enough about them to be sure who they are. Not until about the third rewrite do I feel like the book is really starting to take form. What I thought should be the opening, ends up later or is discarded. Admittedly this is my approach. Whether they realize it or not, authors who write decent first drafts have probably at least worked through the first drafts mentally. I don’t have that many gray cells. The important thing is to produce full manuscripts. They can be fixed.

The fabulous thing about computers and rewrites, compared to the old quill pen and parchment approach to writing, is flexibility. Word processing has cut and paste and insert and delete which are fun, simple and fast ways to move blocks of information. You can move the beginning to the middle or even to the end and if needed, return it to its former spot.

Even dedicated outliners I know admit they will switch things about as the work progresses, following the story. Until the thing is printed, change is possible.

Murder by Gravity: The Coffin Quilt is the 6th book in the series. Number seven is under contract and I’m busy slogging through book eight.

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

Thanks so much for being my guest here today, Barbara. I can see why you'd choose January as your blitz writing month. Living in the far wilds of Wyoming would keep me inside at my computer as well. I love the cover art for the new book! I'm looking forward to another fine quilting mystery.

Barbara has loved mysteries "forever" and wonders what could be more fun than making up people and killing them off. Legally. A Wyoming resident, she is a long distance member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. You can learn more about Barbara and her mysteries at her website (which is in the middle of reconstruction). She can also be found on Facebook and Goodreads.

Barbara will give away one copy of Murder by Gravity: The Coffin Quilt to a U.S. or Canada resident who leaves a comment on this post before midnight Mountain Time Friday, January 16th. The winner will be posted here on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I'm a guest on Susan Gourley's blog today

I wrote a piece about being an eclectic reader and why I just recently fell in love with dragons. The post is at Susan Says. I hope you'll stop by and leave a comment so I know you were there.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bodacious Back-stories ... by Bill Lamperes

My next novel, Like Father, Like Son, will be released in January. It will be my tenth book. I started writing the historical fiction story in September, 2013. The story explores the resolution of anger and isolation between father and his son. From the back cover:

“What’s this about?” Paul grumbled as he examined the contents of a safe-deposit box his deceased father, Philippe, had left him: A bag of gold coins, passports from three countries, a piece of the Berlin wall, a photo of a woman and baby, and the strangest item of all, a recipe for zombie paste. “That’s my inheritance?”

In a note, Philippe challenges Paul to discover the secrets he could never share with his son in life. Paul’s adventures take the reader across several continents as he encounters historical intrigue and life-changing revelations.

*****

The book evolved through a series of extraordinary back-stories. As a writer, my life has been blessed with what I call “serendipitous attraction.” Whenever I need a bodacious idea, the universe has sent me the right person at the appropriate time with a thought that attracts my attention and becomes embedded in my plot. Back-stories rarely fit into the book by themselves, but this encounter merits sharing. Last February, I went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for two weeks to isolate myself, research details for Like Father, Like Son, play golf, walk the beach and write.

I needed a character who was Canadian, an environmentalist, connected to the UN and still alive in 2001. This character would play a pivotal role in helping Paul resolve his father’s secrets. I surfed the Internet for several days before I found the ideal candidate. Maurice Strong met all of my criteria and I spent the next week researching his life, and then writing six chapters about his role into the novel. I left Myrtle Beach satisfied with my work and with a much improved golf game.

I drove back to Charleston to return the rental car and catch a flight back to Denver. Two hours early, I stopped for lunch in the airport bar. After ordering, I noticed a man sitting next to me engrossed in a book. I leaned over and asked what he was reading. I apologized for interrupting, and told him, as a writer, I wanted to know what topics interested today’s readers.

As if on cue, he asked what books I had written and the topic of my latest project. Excitedly, I told him about my previous two weeks and the search for Maurice Strong.

He starred at me and asked, “Do you mean Maurice Strong of Toronto?”

“Yes.”

“Do you mean the Maurice Strong who used to be the CEO of Hydro-Canada and went to the UN in 1972?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I know him,” the man shrugged. “My wife and I lived a few houses down from him. As a matter of fact, I took his place at Hydro-Canada after he left.”

Surprised by his revelation, I Googled Strong’s picture on my cell phone, showed it to the man. “You know this person?”

“Yes, that’s Maurice,” the man smiled. “He looks a little older now, but yes, that’s him. What else do you want to know?”

We talked for the next half-hour and I learned more details about Strong than I needed to know. The chat gave me insights that confirmed all I wrote. Another “serendipitous attraction?” Before leaving, I asked the man what he was doing in Charleston. He told me he missed his flight the day before and had to stay over another day. I said, “There are no mistakes in life. You and I were meant to meet so I could write a better story.

Such events don’t astound me anymore. I seem to attract people who add richness and substance to my stories. I’m blessed with the gift of bodacious back-stories.


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

 Bill Lamperes grew up in Chicago and spoke Greek and German in his home. In his first career, Bill served as an educator in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to Arizona to invent an alternative school based on the ideas in his book, Making Change Happen: Shared Vision, No Limits. Bill served as the principal of Centennial High School in Fort Collins’ for twelve years.

After retiring a second time, Bill began writing novels in 2008. Like Father, Like Son is Bill’s tenth book, his second historical fiction. He is currently working on another book and editing an anthology.

Bill returned home to Fort Collins a year ago. After a ten year absence, he purchased a home close enough to Old Town to enjoy the vibrant life of the familiar place he left years ago. Bill has two sons who also live and work in Fort Collins. 

You can learn more about Bill's novels on the book page of his website, including Depositions, The Attendant, Out of the Zone, Voices, Jinx, Sierra: Shrink to Fit, and The Artifact. He can also be found on Facebook.