Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Evil Adventure With Touch O' Romance Seeks Mature Professional for Exclusive Relationship!

~from The Huffington Post.
Okay, so the other day at lunch I was perusing the internet trying to make a list of literary agents I want to query in the case my dreamy fave agent says thanks but it's not for me.  Why do I do this? Because the E.L.M. (Evil Little Manuscript) really wants a permanent home, and dreams of being inside someone's Vera Bradley beach tote with sand stuck between her pages.  Oh the things we do for our book babies, right?

Anyway, at lunch the other day I was making some online notes when a friend leans over my shoulder and stares along with me at the computer screen.

Here's what went down:

friend: "What the bleep are you doing checking out a dating site?"
me: "Oh hell no. Not doin' that. I'm happily married, and sometimes he even cooks dinner. Not gonna rock that boat ever."
friend: "Well then who the heck are those guys with bios you're staring at and making notes about?"
me:  (sighs) "If you'll notice on the far right one of them is woman. And there are actually three of them on this page."
Friend gives me quizzical look.
me:  "These fine folks are looking for dates with manuscripts.  You know, like that one I've written? They're literary agents."
friend: "Ahhh. Now that makes sense.  But don't you just send your manuscript in to a publishing company and they just make it into a book?"
me:  "Well, self-publishing is big now, but I'm not sure it's for me. I'm a traditional kind of chick."

After this happened, it made me think. There really is a lot in common between dating and querying.

We try to put our manuscript on diets, hoping to lower the word count to make it more pleasing initially to the agent or editor's eye without losing the true essence of the story. Our manuscripts are fussed-over constantly, trying to make the perfect little tweaks and changes so that they're lovable by all. And we work forever on that perfect pitch for any face-to-face agent encounter or with our online query that we hope will hook the most incredibly awesome agent in the world, in hopes of that moment of true Kismet, where their eyes meet and the magic happens.

But sometimes we must resort to more forceful tactics to make either agents or publishers (or both) take notice, so some of us take part in online manuscript pitching contests. Let me tell you, if I do it again, I'm going to wear a faux-fur coat and carry a jeweled cane with the perfect canary-yellow hat plopped on my head. You gotta get in character to do it right, baby. But online pitching is a fun thing to try, and I applaud all the kind writers, agents & publishers who host these fun contests to get the good books out there.  After all, at the heart of the matter, writers are people who love good books, and although we love our own manuscripts supremely, we have a soft spot for all good tales, thus doing a good thing for everyone.

If I ever do another one of these online pitch contests, I'll be ready with faux-fur coat
on & jeweled cane in hand! Make that pitch work the 'nets!
So friends, how's your manuscript doing in the dating pool? Mine is at the shameless flirting stage, but ready to jump to phase two. Has yours gone on any interesting blind dates yet? Any second dates? Let me know because the E.L.M. needs to hear hopeful stories of happily ever after, and not tales of endless one-night-partials.

Best of luck to all in the query trenches. Don't give up and get your stories out there!  Because if not mine, then perhaps yours. We're all in this together.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cover Reveal Tour & Contest for Terri Bruce's THEREAFTER!

My friend Terri Bruce is a very busy writer, but not too busy to stop by Soul & Sweet Tea and reveal the cover of her latest release!  THEREAFTER is the sequel to 2012's HEREAFTER and is part of the Afterlife series.  
Congratulations Terri!  
So exited for my friend's latest release & to be a part of her blog tour and giveaway! Haven't had a chance to read THEREAFTER, but definitely will. Love the amazing cover and always enjoy a good paranormal adventure with Irene Dunphy, who's up to more shenanigans in her wild afterlife. 

Here's a little teaser...
Nothing life is free. Turns out, nothing in the afterlife is, either.

When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over.

Boy, was she wrong.

She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do.

As Irene desperately searches for an alternative, help unexpectedly comes in the unlikeliest of forms: a twelfth-century Spanish knight and a nineteenth-century American cowboy. Even more surprising, one offers a chance for redemption; the other, love. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to have either if she can’t find a way to escape the hellish limbo where they’re all trapped.

Sounds fun doesn't it? 

Now let me clue you in on the's going to be a scavenger hunt!

One Grand Prize winner will receive a set of 20” x 30” unframed cover art posters (1 each for Hereafter and Thereafter), signed by the author, and an eARC of Thereafter! Five first place winners will receive eARCs of Thereafter. Contest is open internationally. As a special bonus, everyone who enters the contest will receive, via email, a special sneak-peak excerpt of Thereafter, featuring Terri’s favorite scene!

The Thereafter Cover Reveal Tour will run from April 15th (12:01 am EDT) to April 21st (11:59 pm EDT).

Entering is simple:
1.Visit all fourteen stops participating in the Thereafter Cover Reveal Blog Tour
2.At each stop, there is an excerpt from Thereafter with a word highlighted in red
3.Collect all fourteen of these highlighted words and arrange them into a fourteen-word sentence that reveals a major plot point of Thereafter
4.Email the sentence and your name to
5.Then enter via Rafflecopter to confirm that you emailed in your contest entry
6.Additional bonus entries for joining Terri’s mailing list, tweeting about the giveaway, and shelving  Thereafter on Goodreads will become available once you have completed the main entry

Here's the excerpt you'll need to unlock the 14 word sentence:  

"She wrapped her arms around herself and surveyed the forest, keeping a wary eye out for any danger. “I wish we had a fire.”
She turned to find Andras watching her intently. She raised an eyebrow in inquiry. The silence stretched out—he seemed to be searching for something in her face. She met his searching look with one of her own.
Finally, he said, “I died in Al Andalus, on the field at Alarcos.”
Irene was confused for a moment, and then she understood: he was telling her about his death.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Forensic Q/A with Steve Bradshaw, Contest Results + Death by Chocolate!

Wow, there were some amazing questions posed to my friend, Steve Bradshaw, former forensics investigator with over 3,000 cases under his belt and author of THE BLUFF CITY BUTCHER, and I'm so stoked to reveal his incredible responses. And let me tell you, Steve's insight blew me away!

Like I said in the previous post, it is vitally important to learn about forensic science if you're a thriller or suspense writer, but it's also good to have a general working knowledge of the science no matter what genre you write in.  There will always be action, accidents, and nefarious plots, and every genre (except for possibly memoir,  humor or a children's book) can benefit from a writer knowing how to accurately incorporate an accident or homicide into the manuscript.

Many thanks to my friend Steve Bradshaw (  for taking the time from his busy schedule (writing and on the road actively promoting his latest release) to answer some lively questions and help out fellow writers.

At the end of the post we'll unveil our winner of the signed first edition of  THE BLUFF CITY BUTCHER! Thanks to all who entered and of course to all who come regularly to Soul & Sweet Tea to hang out with me on my virtual front porch.

So without further adieu, here we go! I think you're going to be both amazed and intrigued with his insight, and hope this experience will make you want to reach further as a writer to bring a heightened level of accuracy and creativity to your work.  I hope from time to time we can get Steve back on my blog to do this again.  Who knows?  Maybe in the future there will be a new action and adventure group blog that may pop into existence (wink).

After we announce the winner, I'll share with you a fun experience that happened yesterday that I'm calling "Death by Chocolate" because while Publix Diet Sweet Tea keeps me writing away, sometimes a morsel of chocolate decadence can send my creativity into overdrive & helps me crank out amazing plots twists.

Q and A with Steve Bradshaw:

T.J. said...
Now that I've managed to learn to speak around the bone melting awe, I have a question :)
What was the weirdest discovery you made as a forensic investigator?
SB:  Hi T.J. I must soften my comments because I saw many weird, bizarre, horrific, crazy, dastardly things that are so repulsive they would never be shown on a CSI TV show or movie. I know that’s hard for you to imagine—like what—but I would not want to leave certain images on this very nice blog. If we were by a campfire, and there were a few hardy types, I would tell about the one that made me re-evaluate my career. No campfire here—so—let me tell you about an “unexpected” discovery that moved an obvious “suicide” to “homicide” and caught the “bad guy.”
Body found in a lower level apartment, single gunshot wound to the head (right temple). Gun is in the victim’s right hand. Diary is open on bed to a sad memory, a breakup with a boyfriend. The apartment has one entry—front door—and it is locked, bolted and chained. Body is discovered a week after death because of pungent smell. We break into front door and began to work a “straight-and-forward” suicide. I ask everyone to step outside so I can think...something’s not right, but what? I photograph bedroom where she was found and then sit and look at everything and try to feel something about the moment she pulled the trigger. I get nothing. The way she is laying on the bed is not right to me. I go into the living room and sit and know something is out of place, but what? Then I see an impression in the carpet next to edge of a large console TV. The TV had been moved...maybe a half inch...but why? Behind it were thick curtains and a window. I moved the TV and saw the window was closed but unlocked on inside and the outside screen was hanging but not latched at bottom on the inside. GOT YOU! Sure enough, the killer left out the window and moved everything so no one could tell...except that half inch impression in the carpet he could not see. He wanted it to look like a suicide. Well, he should have worn gloves. His palm print cooked his goose. Nice Try.

77yankees said...
Wow! An interesting interview, Joey, and quite a remarkable individual @ Steve Bradshaw, too.
My question: Given your expertise, how do forensic investigators determine factors like the sex, race, age and potential timeline of death? This is a timely post by Joey, and your response is appreciated because I just happen to have a scene in my work-in-progress where the MC's Lab unearths skeletal remains in the backyard. Thanks in advance and best wishes.
SB: Hi 77yankees. Depending on the condition of the body and the distance between death and discovery, the forensic pathologist has many ways to discern age, race and sex from an assessment of soft tissue and skeletal structure. They also use dental records and DNA to zero in on identity. Depending on the conditions surrounding the location of the body, there can be numerous opportunities for clues that add to the identity. Regarding time of death, I will comment on a few...there are many tools. Rigor mortis, the freezing of muscles, happens in smaller muscles first then larger progressively and then is gone in 36 hours. RM helps in the first 36 along with changes in body temperature that moves from 98.6 F to the ambient temperatures at a predictable rate (although things can alter that rate). Livor mortis (blood settling) is another observation. As an investigator I would look for this (first 30 minutes to 2 hours) because I could often tell if the body was moved and return it to the position at time of death, although LM is not a real predictable marker. Putrefaction and insect activity deal with other stages of death. The forensic anthropologist is one brought in to help with identification and assessments of remains that are decomposed, mutilated, burned, pieces, and when you only have skeletal remains. 77Yankee, you need to get a forensic anthropologist to your death scene before someone disturbs the remains.

Some really great advice for writers, Steve...Thanks. I'm not sure if this graphic question applies to your expertise, but here goes. If someone is severing a foot at the ankle from behind (the back of the leg), would it sever tendons and the hamstring? Assuming the person hit bone and the knife stuck there, would this result in the foot dangling somewhat? Just trying to get the correct image...Thanks...
SB: Hi Michelle...Depending on the knife, path and power of thrust, there could be any end result you are looking for. If the knife was large and sharp and the thrust powerful and point of contact inferior fibula region posterior entry, the knife could easily sever the Achilles tendon and the Peroneus longus/brevis tendons, and all the ligaments connecting the tibia to the Talus and Calcaneus (heel) bone. The end result can be complete and total dismemberment or partial, where soft tissue (skin, tendon or ligament) are not completely severed...the foot would dangle from the leg. In BLUFF CITY BUTCHER, one of the characteristics of this serial killer is his unique skill sets. His use of a knife is phenomenal and unique. That is how Elliott Sumner (forensic sleuth) tracks him through his kills. If you read the early chapters when Elliott is at an autopsy examining the BUTCHER’S handy work, you will see the image you seek.

Thanks in advance! Scenario - victim of ocean drowning, how many hours until skin begins to slough and would it be likely/unlikely that her eyes would be intact after being in the water several hours (as opposed to being eaten by sea life). Yeah, gross, I know... Also, I'm assuming she'd be bloated to some degree?
SB: The forensics of victims found in water is quite complex and in many cases there is still a lot of learning going on. My sleuthing was inland and my encounters of “floaters” were limited. I cannot speak in specifics, but can share the broader picture and suggest you Google “Forensics/Water” for more drill down. The temperature of the body found always plays the greatest role in zeroing in on time of death from my perspective. The body loses about 1.5°C per hours (rule of thumb for investigators). And there are more variables when dealing with very cold or very warm water and stagnant or flowing water and different salinities. As you can imagine, the science is very complex and why some forensic experts specialize in these areas. I would look at the skin. If it was rough and pimply, I knew the body was probably not in the water long. If it was already selling and grossly wrinkled it had been there overnight as a general rule (again forensic investigators are not forensic pathologists). The last stage before sloughing off skin is called adipocere. The skin soap-like meaning the body has been in the water many weeks. All during that process there are animal and insect activity. In BLUFF CITY BUTCHER, they find a victim tied under his boat in a lake. The untrained coroner thinks turtles ate his eyes and fingers and toes. Actually the BUTCHER removed the eyes, which Elliott Sumner discovers and links the victim to the string of kills. There is a lot written about “floaters” that you can read.

S Jenan said...
AHHH! I'm doomed by Eastern Time. I'll throw my question in the hat anyway:
Body left under heating blanket to disguise time of death. Discovery is approx. 2 days later. How close can the coroner pinpoint TOD using other indicators?
SB: Actually it is easier than you think. Body temperature is not the only tool in the medical examiner’s tool box to determine time of death. Assuming our victim’s watch had not stopped (kidding), we would assess Rigor and Livor Mortis relative to temperature produced by the blanket. The head and feet, unless under the blanket, would have different characteristics. The M.E. would assess organ and tissue degradation, body fluids, stomach contents (degree of digestion) and other factors relative to the environment where the body was found. Also, exact time of death may not be as important as we are led to believe. If we have the “bad guy” and we are in the ball park that may be all that is necessary to rule on cause and manner of death. I have seen many death certificates go out with TIME OF DEATH undetermined.

And now here's Steve's thoughts on who should win the signed first edition of BLUFF CITY BUTCHER~
SB: "I think TJ had the best question. I think my answer gives people a better feel of what forensic investigation is truly all about...justice."

Congratulations to T.J. Loveless!  You win! But honestly, all these questions were truly amazing and winners in my book, because of the amazing knowledge gleaned during the process. 

Death by Chocolate!!! Yummy Grand Marnier truffles &
Now let me quickly share with you my adventure yesterday with two of my girlfriends at an amazing store filled with the most decadent and gorgeous chocolate goodies you've ever seen! It was like Willy Wonka's magic factory for grownups, and I fell in love (or was it lust?) with The Chocolaterie at the Avenue Forsyth. Click on the link and salivate!

 We oooh'd and ahhh'd at the handmade artisan chocolates; each a work of art with flecks of color and gorgeous swirls.  But what truly caught my eye were the dozens of gorgeous truffles behind the glass counters looking like like giant candy-colored gemstones and the innovative flavor varieties!

Now many of you know the Evil Little Manuscript (also known as THE DEATH BROKERS) and I are beginning our journey towards (*fingers crossed) publication, so I couldn't possibly resist two truffles I discovered.  They called to me from behind the glass, reminding me of great scenes and details from THE DEATH BROKERS.  

One truffle was named "Miami Spice" and I had to try it, because in the manuscript so much excitement and  mischief happens in both Miami and the Florida Keys. Like the Evil Little Manuscript, the "Miami Spice" truffle had the right combination of sweet and heat, and featured the flavors of Key Lime and Arbol chili pepper folded into their rich, artisan chocolate. It was decadent, dangerous, and perfect! 

Another truffle, the "Grand Marnier",  was another I had to taste, for it captured the intensity of the scene in the Evil Little Manuscript (E.L.M.) where the protagonist's (then) husband signs a contract after eating a delectable Grand Mariner souffle at the Hotel Peabody in Memphis.  He doesn't know it, but when he signs on the dotted line, he becomes one of the death brokers.  Had to buy that one too and it didn't disappoint! Orange-y chocolate heaven. Mmmmm. 

MORE death by chocolate! Aren't these truffles almost too gorgeous to eat?
Here's the "Miami Spice" and the "Grand Marnier" truffles I bought.  Delectable art!

Wish you could have been with us! It was so much fun. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

ONE MORE DAY to ask your forensic questions + Chance to win!

As many of you know, I am originally from Memphis, TN, and last fall when attending the Killer Nashville  Writer's Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Steve, author of the incredible forensic mystery, BLUFF CITY BUTCHER.  We had a great time talking thrillers, writing, and became great friends, and of course share the same hometown. And today, he's generous enough to do an interview on my virtual front porch.  And after the interview, we have a surprise, since many of you wonderful blog readers are writers. 

It doesn't matter in which genre you write (or read), there is always going to be a scandal, crime, or dastardly deed somewhere in the plot.  But if you're a thriller/suspense writer like moi, you know the importance of being familiar with basic forensic investigation techniques.  So after reading a little about Steve, we're going have a question and answer session with Steve! From all questions posed (place your question before any comment you make please), Steve will pick three to answer. 

But there's MORE! He's going to pick one question from the 3 to win a signed first edition of BLUFF CITY BUTCHER! 

So how will he choose a winning question?  Being an analytical/scientific guy, Steve came up with some fantastic criteria, and they are as follows:  originality, intrigue, and relevance. So keep that in mind when posing your probing questions. (Only one question per person.) 

To enter, ask your question from now until 2:00 p.m. on SATURDAY  April 13 ( eastern standard time). I will lock the thread for commenting after that time. I'll post the 3 questions and Steve's answers plus name the winner of the contest on Saturday.  This is going to be so much fun! 

JS: But before we get carried away, let me introduce you to Steve.  And I have to start the interview by congratulating him on being selected a 2013 Darrell Award for Best Mid-South Science Fiction/Mystery/Thriller Novel.   

Steve, you have such an interesting background.  Tell us about some of the positions you've held in the past, and what experiences in your opinion, laid the foundation for your future as a writer.

SB:I have always been a creative person. I wrote my first true story for the Readers Digest. I was twelve when I decided to take a wooden crate into a half frozen pond and play ice breaker. Next thing I knew, I sunk and came up hitting the underside of the thick ice. My out-of-body experience was quite moving. Although Readers Digest said thanks but no thanks, I learned how to put my deepest thoughts on a piece of paper early. From there I wrote poems and a bunch of short stories for fun, and then channeled my creative juices into sketching and eventually oil painting. I paid for some of my college doing commission paintings—doctor’s farms and favorite landscapes. So I always had an outlet for my creative spirit, even while pursuing a pre-med degree at the University of Texas.

I remember I never thought I could earn a living writing or painting back then. I thought I needed to be a doctor. That was when I met the world renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Charles S. Petty who was setting up the Institute of Forensic Science in Dallas. He asked me to join him for a few years and then I would hop into Southwestern Medical School. I became the youngest Forensic Investigator in Texas History. I investigated over 3,000 unexplained cases and was a critical part of the team that solved 98% of them; 300 homicides, 600 suicides, 1,200 accidental deaths and the rest traumatic natural deaths that needed to be carefully examined.

After seeing so much death I decided not to go into medicine. I think that was a pivotal decision for me. But my interest in medicine and technology and business pointed me in a clear direction. All the time, I was writing short stories on planes only to throw them away later. It was my way to relax.

I guess my success in business was also important to my eventual writing full time. As an executive with leading U.S. medical companies and as a biotechnology entrepreneur starting my own companies, I learned how to invent, the process of creation. I raised $25 million and started a company in Memphis that was inventing early stage minimal invasive implants so people one day could avoid total joint replacement.

All my life was important to my writing career, because I now write fringe-science mystery thrillers that draw upon my very interment knowledge in those areas as a person who controlled horrific death scenes and demanding business boards searching for what no one else can find.

J:  I'll bet having been a forensic investigator on so many cases gave you incredible insight into the criminal mind. Did you solve any big cases?

SB: I helped solve over 3,000 unexplained traumatic deaths in Texas. I was the Forensic Investigator that controlled the death scene, investigated the case thoroughly and stood next to the medical examiner at the autopsy the next day responsible to tell him what to look for. I was his eyes and ears at the death scene.

By oath I cannot discuss individual cases I handled. I can talk in general terms, in ways that do not violate the privacy of the deceased or their families.

However, the question is an interesting one because it allows me to emphasize training and practices followed. By definition the forensic investigator is one of the first responders to a death scene. Every case is approached as a homicide until the evidence says differently. 3,000+ times I arrived at a death scene that to the passing public could appear to be (let’s say) an automobile accident. I know many times homicide and suicide are committed with a vehicle. I was trained to differentiate such things. When someone is lying dead and it is not a pretty sight to see, the trained forensic investigator must be steady and methodical and handle everything perfectly. All my cases were big ones. I represented the victim and I was trained to listen to their story.

JS: The setting for BLUFF CITY BUTCHER is in my hometown of Memphis.  Can you share with our readers why you chose Memphis as the backdrop for this tale?

SB: I suppose there are a few reasons why Memphis is the stage for the Bell Trilogy. The first reason is I have lived in Memphis since 1982 and I know it well. All good writers will tell you, write about what you know about. If I put my trilogy in Egypt, I would spend half my time on Google Earth and studying the country, the people, and the culture and so on. The second reason I chose Memphis as a stage for the Bell Trilogy is because it is a rich and diverse part of the country with fascinating people, history, music, food and it is a national hub for the transportation industry and medical industry. The MidSouth and the majestic Mississippi River provides numerous settings for a good mystery.

JS: I couldn't agree more with you, and that's why I chose to begin my thriller in Memphis as well. So tell us, who are your favorite authors?  Have any of them influenced your writing style?

SB: My favorite authors are Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code), Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), Ken Follett (Eye of the Needle), Dean Koontz (Watchers, Demon Seed), and John Grisham (Time To Kill).

Dan Brown and Michael Crichton and John Grisham have had the greatest influence on me. I don’t think they have affected my style as much as they have portrayed my interests...the things I want to write about. For example, Dan Brown is heavy into symbols and lightning-paced mystery thrillers. My new book, THE SKIES ROARED, is book two of the Bell Trilogy and delves deeper into the secret society and symbolism that is the underpinning for the first book BLUFF CITY BUTCHER, but is not revealed.

Michael Crichton weaves fringe science into a run-away theme park. I am a student of biogenic solutions and life extension technology. It is another under pinning in the Bell Trilogy.

Koontz is a master of thriller writing. He keeps you turning the pages and wondering what is around the next corner. That is how I tell stories. My debut novel is usually read in two or three days because people must go to work and they cannot put it down. That is when I smile.

And lastly, John Grisham...he is an inspiration. He writes good stories but doesn’t claim to be a great writer of prose. And his story, A TIME TO KILL, was important. It had a message. I want to be certain that when I write, at the end of a good story there is a message, something to take home from the time invested in my book.

JS: Will there be a sequel to the book? 

SB: Yes. BLUFF CITY BUTCHER,  released August 2012, is the first book in the Bell Trilogy. THE SKIES ROARED is going to release this summer, and is book two. And in the winter of 2013/14 the last book in the trilogy will release.

After the Bell Trilogy, I have ideas for five more books. I will release two books a year nationally. I am most pleased my debut novel, BLUFF CITY BUTCHER was a 2013 Darrell Award science fiction mystery thriller in the tells me the people who read everything like the path I’m on. For a new writer, that feedback is great.

JS: Is there any advice you'd like to give to new writers on how to get your book "out there"?  How did you go about getting your manuscript published?

SB: I am too new to give advice. I can only tell you about me...right or wrong. I have a simple formula I have followed all my life...I applied to writing. It has allowed me to achieve great success in a very competitive world. If something I say helps, great.

   Answer this question honestly to yourself, “Do I believe I am great at this?” If the answer is yes, it will carry you through all the naysayers and rejections and lonely nights and empty pages. If the answer is not an emphatic yes, maybe you should go find what is an emphatic deserve success.
2.      Assuming you think you’re a great writer yet to be discovered, write...write...write...write...write. I wrote three books to get my first book. I wrote two books to get my second book. This time I seem to be writing one book. And I was honest to myself when the things I wrote were not good enough...they got tossed. I look at as exercising my writing muscle. I want to keep masterpieces only.
3.  Accept the fact you will struggle to get what is in your head onto a piece of paper. It does get easier. But it takes a lot of writing to get there. When you are there, it is wonderful. I am there sometimes and other times I am completely lost searching for it again.
4.Do not listen to anyone in the business unless it makes good sense to you. If they are successful, they most often don’t have time for you. If they are marginal, they don’t want you passing them up. If their losers, they drag you down. I hate unsuccessful people to tell me they're just like me. They are not at all like me. If I am unsuccessful at something I am moving on to what I can blow away. I think it is a miracle to find a successful writer that will open a door for you. If you hang around long enough that might happen. But I think it’s like everything else...YOU MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK.
5.Understand why you are writing. If it is for fun, great...have fun. If it is for money, takes time I think. But for a lot of us it is because we must choice. I got serious about it and will never stop. I have prepared my whole life for this.
6.It is very hard to sign with the big six publishers. I seriously believe Mark Twain would be rejected or if they signed him, they would have dumped him after a year. No one knows what is GREAT anymore because there is too much self-interest, not enough time and today it’s all about marketing. If some big film company put my first book on the screen, I would be an overnight success. What does that really tell you? You may be GREAT, so write and hook-up with a mid-size or small publisher that believes in you and provides all the quality services you need to get your books properly published, edited and distributed. PR is the job of every author today. My theory is if I write enough great novels, they will be found sooner or later just like Stephen King in the early days, John Grisham selling books out of his trunk, and THE HELP being rejected by 100 agents.  It goes on and on.

In closing, I will say I believe we all must do what we love and somehow find a way to finance your existence until you can do it. Great writers are criticized just as much as poor writers.  Take 50 SHADE OF GREY, I was told by several agents and publishers and would-be authors it was poorly-written.  I say it's well-written if the author is making $1 million a week!  So who knows?

JS:  True words.  Thank you so much for your time Steve, and can't wait to see the questions my readers will ask. 

So fire away at the forensics dude, and ask him a question! Remember, from all questions posed, Steve will chose 3 to answer and from the 3 he'll choose a winning question.  I will announce the winner of the signed first-edition of BLUFF CITY BUTCHER on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Getting Inside the Head of Your Main Character(s)

This may sound weird, but I analyze the heck out of my main characters when it comes time to create a story outline.  Before the plot goes anywhere or I write the first paragraph, I think of these very important people and take some time to find out what makes them tick.

It's my belief that unless you do this exercise, you'll end up with flat, two-dimensional stick-figures blabbing about nothing to each another, droning on and on for three hundred or more pages. Boooring.

You gotta dig deep.  I mean really deep, because if you cannot get the reader to feel for your character, feel something, then they'll slam the book shut.  In our house, a shallow book like that gets gently tossed across the room, and then donated the next day.

You see, in order for the reader to elicit some kind of feeling or response towards a character, we've got to discover some specifics about that character to make them truly believable.

Pretend you're sitting down with the character for coffee, or do as I do and invite them to recline on the analysis couch by my writing nook and start taking notes.  See how they feel about different subjects. Watch Billy Crystal in the clip below from "Analyze This", and reveal their secret demons. Find out what is going on in the head of your character and tell the story.   And don't be afraid to push their buttons a little.  Make em' mad.  Get them to spill the beans, because you want the whole truth and nothing but the truth...even if your story is about a gangster who doesn't want to kill anymore.

Here's a cheat sheet with a few good starter questions to ask your characters:
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Have you ever suffered a trauma or heartbreak?
  • What frightens you?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • If money were no object what would you do for a living?
  • What goals do you have?
  • Is there anyone who makes you mad?  What did they do to you?
  • Do you want to get back at that person?
  • What's the one person/thing that keeps you from attaining your biggest goal in life?
  • Where do you buy your clothes? How do you describe your style?
And you can go on and on with this exercise, asking whatever questions you like,  but the key is don't stop until you feel like you know this character really well.  When you hit that point, move on to the next character.  When you've discovered who the main players are to be in your manuscript, then it's time to either do as I do and start creating the plot outline, or if you're a pantser, go for it and start typing away.

How do you pry the secrets out of your main characters, getting them to spill their desires and goals?  Tell us about it!