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Excerpt reveal: Desert Kill Switch, by Mark S. Bacon

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Front cover - Full Cover DKS v3 (1)Title: Desert Kill Switch

Genre: Mystery

Author: Mark S. Bacon

Website: www.baconsmysteries.com

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

Set against the backdrop of Nostalgia City, an Arizona retro theme park that recreates, in meticulous detail, an entire small town from the 1970s, Desert Kill Switch features stressed-out ex-cop Lyle Deming.

Deming, a cab driver for Nostalgia City, finds himself in strange circumstances when he discovers a bullet-riddled body next to a mint-condition ’70s vintage Pontiac Firebird on an empty desert road. Stranger still, when Lyle returns to the scene with sheriff’s deputies, the car is gone—and so is the body. Could this somehow be tied to Nostalgia City?

Nostalgia City VP Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is in Nevada on park business when she gets mixed up with Al Busick, a sleazy Vegas auto dealer who puts…

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5 Questions with Anna del Mar, Author of the Romantic Suspense Novel, THE GUARDIAN

The Guardian-SMAmazon Bestselling author Anna del Mar writes hot, smart romances that soothe the soul, challenge the mind, and satisfy the heart. Her stories focus on strong heroines struggling to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy, kickass heroes who defy their limits to protect the women they love. A Georgetown University graduate, Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing, and the sea. Writing is her addiction, her drug of choice, and what she wants to do all the time. The extraordinary men and women she met during her years as a Navy wife inspire the fabulous heroes and heroines at the center of her stories. When she stays put—which doesn’t happen very often—she splits her time between Colorado and Florida, where she lives with her indulgent husband and a very opinionated cat.

Anna loves to hear from her readers. Connect with Anna at:

Annadelmar.com

Anna on Facebook

Anna on Twitter

Anna@annadelmar.com

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Q: What’s inside the mind of a romance author?

A: A hot, sexy, brawny but sensitive alpha fighting his demons. A smart heroine struggling to find her place in the world. A relationship driven by chemistry and mutual attraction, but fraught with dangers and unsurmountable obstacles. And a satisfying, heart-melting happy ending. How’s that for a busy, busy mind?

Q: Tell us why readers should buy The Guardian.

A: Readers should buy The Guardian if they’re looking for a fun, smart, heart-warming, romantic suspense adventure that will take them on an unforgettable journey to the fringes of the Serengeti in the company of the delicious but mysterious game warden Matthias Hawking and the feisty Jade Romo.

Jade’s a smart, tough, cynical journalist who doesn’t believe in forevers. Matthias is a decorated ex-SEAL engaged in a fierce battle against ruthless poachers. But he’s also so much more. He’s got secrets, just like Jade does, and he’s committed to justice even if it’s at the expense of his own life. When Jade defies the poachers and lands at the top of the warlord’s kill list, Matthias will do anything in his power to protect the woman who has captured his heart.

Q: What makes a good romantic suspense novel?

A: A strong, twisting plot, an awesome setting and smart, clever, conflicted characters who challenge terrible odds and evolve to challenge and love each other throughout the story. Interesting secondary characters help. The stakes must be high, that’s a big one for me, with issues that matter in and out of bed, to each person and but also to all of us, to the human race. Oh, and a sweet, happy ending. That’s key for me.

Q: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

A: www.Annadelmar.com. It’s all in there. I promise.

Q: What has writing taught you?

A: You’ve asked me this one before. Haven’t you? Writing has taught me perseverance: she who writes to The End gets to tell the story. Open-mindedness & diversity: the world is a wild, wide place where different strokes please different folks and the human story comes together like the patches of a marvellous, colourful quilt. Humility: no matter how much you know, you can always learn more. Joy: when you spend your days doing what you love, happiness takes root in your heart.

PS: Would you like to see the images that inspired many of the pivotal scenes in The Guardian? Click here to see my pictures of Africa.

 

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5 Questions with Non-fiction Author Frankie Hogan

The Dark Phantom Review

FHFrankie Hogan is an American writer, director, and filmmaker. He is a founder and principal partner of Corner Prophets Production Company, a film production company started in 2012, and the company controller for a Los Angeles-based international interior design firm.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a Travel author?

A: I want to bring you to these places. I want you to realize how accessible they are in today’s world and give a taste of what these lands have to offer. History, nature, and nightlife drive me. Livin’ includes a Thanksgiving dinner buffet’s worth of all three. Whether you dig on exploring a 4000-year-old pyramid of a pharaoh or hiking in the Amazon rain forest or stopping at an Amsterdam coffee shop, you’ll find all of these places in Livin’: From the Amsterdam Red Light to the African Bush.

Q: Tell us why readers should buy Livin’: From the…

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Excerpt Reveal: ‘A Measure of Murder’ by Leslie Karst

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Measure CoverTitle: A Measure of Murder

Genre: Mystery

Author: Leslie Karst

Website: http://www.lesliekarstauthor.com/

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

Sally Solari’s plate is beyond full between juggling work at her family’s Italian restaurant, Solari’s, and helping plan the autumn menu for Gauguin, the restaurant she’s just inherited. Complicating this already hectic schedule, Sally joins a chorus, which is performing a newly discovered version of her favorite composition, the Mozart Requiem. But at the first rehearsal, a tenor falls to his death on the church courtyard—and his soprano girlfriend is sure it wasn’t an accident. Now Sally’s back on another murder case seasoned with a dash of revenge, a pinch of peril, and a suspicious stack of sheet music. And while tensions in the chorus heat up, so does the kitchen at Gauguin—set aflame when Sally starts getting too close to…

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First Chapter Reveal: If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir by Om Swami

If Truth Be Told

Title: IF TRUTH BE TOLD: A MONK’S MEMOIR
Author: Om Swami
Publisher: Harper Element
Pages: 256
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

If Truth be Told is an extraordinary memoir of the making of a spiritual life in today’s demanding and baffling times. The book unravels the true life story of Om Swami and his journey to becoming a monk. In the 1990s, an eighteen-year-old heads to Australia to realize his worldly dreams. With little money or support, he strives to make ends meet. Two years later, he’s earning an annual income of $250,000. By the age of twenty-six, Om Swami’s a multi-millionaire. But, the pull of the ochre robe is such that the boy whose hair Shiva had stroked in a dream and who at times could peer into the future of a complete stranger, gives up not just a multimillion dollar business, but every pleasure ever known to him. He renounces, in search of God.

Overnight, from a CEO Swami becomes an ordained monk in India. Reality hits him hard when he faces starvation and neglect at his guru’s ashram. A resolute Swami leaves for the Himalayas to burn his mind and body in the fire of intense meditation, to manifest God or die trying. A chance meeting with a mystical female tantric reinforces his faith in the existence of the divine. In the snowy and secluded reaches of the Himalayas, in terrifying silence and solitude, cut off from the world, Swami spends thirteen months in extraordinary, intense meditation. There in the woods, beyond the incessant chatter of the conscious mind, diving in the quietude of supernal bliss, the unimaginable happens: looking down at him are the effulgent eyes of the Empress. The Divine Mother.

If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir, is a true and inspiring story of success, renunciation and self-realization. It will light up your path wherever you are on your life’s journey.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

ONE

The First Step

I checked out of my lodge and stepped out onto the crowded street. Spotting a cycle rickshaw, I waved it down. ‘Where to?’ said the rickshaw driver. ‘Ghat.’

‘Which ghat? There are so many here.’

I wasn’t prepared for this. How was I to know there were many ghats in Varanasi?

‘Just take me to any ghat.’

‘I can’t take you to just any ghat, sir. Then you will say this is not where you wanted to go.’

‘Alright, name a ghat.’ ‘Dashashvamedha Ghat.’ ‘Fine, take me there.’

I hadn’t been on a rickshaw since 1995. Back then, fifteen years ago, I was a teenager attracted to, and working towards, materialism. Now, at thirty, I was doing exactly the opposite. The vehicle hadn’t changed but the direction had; the person hadn’t changed but the priorities had.

I presumed I was headed to a quiet riverside but I couldn’t be more wrong. The ghat was crowded beyond description, like an agitated mind crowded with thoughts, like ants gathered on a dead insect.

India was hardly new to me; I had spent the first eighteen years of my life in this country. But, rather naively, I had expected a different India in Varanasi. An old image was locked in my head, an image I hadn’t seen but conjured up while reading medieval texts: Kashi by the Ganges, an ancient town full of scholars, saints, tantriks, yogis and other spiritually inclined people.

I roamed about for a while, not knowing where to go. A long time ago, I had heard about Telang Swami, a realized soul who had lived in Kashi more than a century ago. There was supposed to be a monastery at the site of his samadhi. I visualized a quiet monastery by the Ganges, where noble sadhaks sat under the shade of old banyan trees and focused on their sadhana under the guidance of a venerable guru. I enquired, but no one knew anything about the monastery.

I thought of visiting the only other place I’d heard of in this city— Manikarnika Ghat, a cremation ground by the river where dead bodies were burnt round the clock. I hoped to meet some tantrik, sitting there and performing esoteric rituals by the burning pyres. I marched back to the main road and stopped another cycle rickshaw. It was nearly noon and the heat was biting me. I tried to tell myself that it was only mid-March, but this intellectual balm failed to soothe my body.

‘Will you take me to Manikarnika Ghat?’

‘Yes sir, but I can’t go all the way there. I can drop you at the nearest point.’

‘How much?’

’Rs 20.’

I hopped into the rickshaw, which moved slowly but steadily on the busy road. Several times, the rickshaw driver had to actually get down to manoeuvre it through the crowd. I noticed he was barefoot even though the sun was spewing fire and the road was like a field of burning coal—it just exuded heat.

‘Why aren’t you wearing any slippers?’

‘They got stolen at the temple the day I bought them.’

‘I don’t know this area. Please stop by a footwear shop. I’d like to get slippers for you.’

‘I’ll manage, brother.’

‘What is your name?’

‘Mahesh Kumar.’

‘Don’t worry, Mahesh, I’ll still give you the money for the ride.’

A little later, I spotted a small shoe shop. Mahesh wasn’t keen on stopping, so I practically had to order him to halt. Getting off the rickshaw, I gestured to him to follow me into the shop. He came in after me sheepishly.

‘Hello, sir,’ the shopkeeper said, and asked me to sit down. I beckoned to Mahesh, who was hovering near the entrance, to join me on the sofa. He did so extremely reluctantly.

A young worker at the shop offered me water.

‘Please give it to Mahesh,’ I said, ‘he’s your customer today.’

‘Do you want sandals instead of slippers? That may be better,’ I said to Mahesh.

‘Whatever you think is best.’

The sales assistant went to the back of the shop and returned a few minutes later with a pair of sandals. Beige in colour, with dark-brown straps and shining steel buckles, they looked very comfortable. He handed Mahesh the pair.

‘Please put them on his feet like you would do for any other customer,’ I said.

Mahesh looked at me nervously. I looked into his eyes and nodded. Immediately, his face broke into a smile and he stuck out his feet so that the assistant could put on the sandals. I looked at Mahesh’s beautiful, dark face, his yellow teeth, slightly deformed and stained, his big eyes full of contentment, and felt very warm inside. His smile simply made my day.

Mahesh pedalled with renewed enthusiasm now, while his dusty, worn feet seemed to come alive in the new sandals. As I watched his feet pushing the pedals up and down, everything else faded for a moment—the shops, the noise, the heat. All I could see were those feet, which seemed to be performing a cosmic dance. Now a pedal went up and now a pedal came down; every movement seemed effortless, in perfect synchronization.

Mahesh dropped me off at the point closest to Manikarnika Ghat.

‘If you go to the temple again, don’t leave your shoes outside,’ I warned as I got off the rickshaw.

‘I won’t,’ he said.

I offered him a fifty-rupee note.

‘How can I take money from you, sir?’

‘Please keep this. It will give me great joy if you do.’

He came around from his rickshaw and reached down to touch my feet. I caught his wrists and pulled him up. ‘There are only three places you should bow your head,’ I said. ‘In front of God, in front of the elderly and in front of your guru.’

I thrust the money into his hands and walked away, thinking that Mahesh was not designed to be a rickshaw driver. He could have been a clerk, a watchman, an officer, an executive. For that matter, no one deserved to live a life that sought to break the body as well as the spirit. This man was living in a democratic country but did that make him a free man? The state did not provide for him and his fellow countrymen did not respect him. He did not have the freedom to own a roof over his head or break away from the harshness and drudgery of his daily routine. I don’t think Mahesh ever took a vacation or enjoyed any luxury in his life except perhaps the luxury of needs; he would never run out of needs. Come to think of it, there was no difference between him and me: we were both fettered by our needs. His were more tangible and essential for survival, while mine were more abstract and self-imposed.

I navigated my way to Manikarnika Ghat. I doubt if anywhere else in India there existed such tight streets as in Varanasi; at least, I’d never seen them. If you had a slightly bigger nose and turned your head, you were likely to hit something. Well, almost. I don’t know how I managed to reach Manikarnika Ghat, but I finally did.

A pyre was burning; another had been mostly reduced to ash, occasionally lit up by smouldering embers. Pieces of broken clay pots lay scattered around. Breaking a pot full of water at the time of cremation is a Hindu custom

signifying that the soul of the deceased has severed all ties with the human world. The pot symbolizes the human body, and its breaking indicates the liberation of the soul that has trapped within.

There were no saints to be found here, no practitioners of the occult sciences, no evolved tantriks or yogis who beckoned to me to join them in a journey to self-realization. Instead, around the pyres, dealers sat selling wood; beside them sat paanwallahs and chaiwallahs. Milling around were countless people, cows, dogs and cats.

The ghat had turned out to be a disappointment, so I began asking about Telang Swami’s monastery again. Of the many souls I asked, one seemed to know. He pointed in a certain direction. I walked down narrow streets with decrepit buildings ready to crumble and shops selling all manner of things. Dodging the maddening traffic, I found myself in winding alleyways, going past houses standing cheek-by-jowl and children playing beside parked two-wheelers, doing my best to avoid stepping into puddles of animal urine and dung.

After forty-five minutes, feeling tired and hopeless, I stopped. I couldn’t see the monastery and I couldn’t find anyone who had ever seen it. I sat down on the kerb and wiped the sweat off my forehead, wondering how to proceed. After a few minutes, I raised my head and there it was, on my right, a sign written in Hindi: ‘Telang Swami Math’. It was a temple.

I went inside. A middle-aged man was sitting on the pujari’s seat. Everything about him was round—head, face, torso, belly, hands, feet. A barber came in behind me, took his kit out of his bag and began shaving the priest. I watched quietly, enjoying the coolness of the temple after the searing heat outside. After a few minutes, the barber picked up his things and left; no money exchanged hands. Perhaps they had some kind of monthly arrangement.

I asked the priest about Telang Swami and his lineage, and about the monastery. He said there was no disciplic succession or ashram. This temple was all there was and there was no arrangement for anyone to stay even if they could pay.

I felt betrayed, although I was not sure by whom.

‘Telang Swami is buried there.’ He pointed to a corner of the temple compound. Walking across to Telang Swami’s tombstone, I prayed, ‘Please guide this lost soul, O Swami, so I may attain what I’ve set out to do.’

On my way out, the priest stopped me to ask exactly what I was looking for. I told him I was in search of a guru and wanted to take sanyasa diksha, initiation into the life of a renunciant. He said there was no need to renounce the world or look for a guru, and that I should get married and lead a normal life.

Normal life? There’s nothing called a normal life. What is normal from one’s viewpoint may be most abnormal from another’s. A yogi thinks that the world is abnormal and people live like animals, mostly focused on feeding and fornicating. The world thinks the yogi is a fool who wastes his life sitting around doing nothing, enjoying none of the many pleasures life has to offer.

Naturally I didn’t say any of this to the priest. I had no interest in pursuing a conversation with someone who could understand neither my desperation nor my intention.

I went towards the ghats again. It was nearly 3 p.m. and the sun was even hotter now. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. In the morning, I hadn’t been able to find any place to eat where the food wasn’t deep-fried. In the afternoon, I was busy with my self-realization business. My water bottle had been empty for hours and the reality of hunger was tugging hard at my stomach.

Lacking a sense of direction, I didn’t know if I was heading towards the ghats or away from them. When I saw the number of people on the streets reduce significantly, I knew I was heading in the wrong direction. Coincidentally, I saw some lodges there and asked a few if they had any vacancy. I just wanted to lie down in a cool, quiet place. Oddly enough, at each place, they asked me where I was from, how many people needed the room and for how many days. Then they would tell me there was no room available. I was intrigued. Why would they put me through a whole heap of questions if they had no room available?

I walked on and eventually found myself by the river. The Hindu texts talked a great deal about the sacred significance of ‘Ganga Maiya’. Well, her ‘children’ had polluted her beyond imagination. Seeing the filthy state of the river flowing past me, I shook my head in as much disgust as disbelief. I had seen the Ganga till Haridwar, where it was clean, but what had happened here in this holiest of holy cities, the Kashi of my imagination? I decided I would not bathe in the river here. Inwardly though, I paid obeisance to the sacred Ganga. A ma remains a ma, no matter how she’s dressed.

‘Massage?’ I looked up to see a man standing near me.

‘No massage. I need a guide.’

‘Sure, sir. I’ll be your guide.’

‘You do know this area well?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘What will you charge? I need you with me for the rest of the day. And maybe tomorrow as well.’

‘You can pay whatever you like.’

‘Rs 250 per day?’

‘Okay, sir.’

‘Let’s go.’

‘I’ll take your bag,’ he offered kindly.

It took me a few minutes to realize I was free of the load. That’s the thing with baggage—you get used to carrying it around. You know it’s heavy but the weight has a way of becoming a part of your life. Only when you take it off your back and feel the lightness does the awareness of the load hit you.

Manish took me to a couple of guest houses and I got the same questions there too. Finally, my guide solved the mystery for me by explaining that when the employees at these lodges weren’t busy with work or occupied watching a cricket match on TV, they longed to chat with people as a way of passing their time. They didn’t have any rooms available but a conversation with a stranger was welcome.

Not getting very far in my search for a place to stay, I asked Manish to take me to a bigger hotel, but he said there wasn’t one. I realized that he didn’t really know the area; he had lied to me. Anyway, I was starving now. We managed to spot a vegetarian Jain dhaba that served meals without onion or garlic. I avoided eating onion and garlic, so the menu was fine with me but the food wasn’t; it was tasteless. I was too tired to fuss and my head hurt. I swallowed whatever I was served, though my guide seemed to savour the meal. After we left the dhaba, I bought two chilled bottles of water from a small provision store. Opening the first one, I washed my face and poured the rest on my head. The second I guzzled right away.

It was nearly 6 p.m. by the time we resumed our hunt for accommodation, and we finally got lucky at Pooja Guest House, where they gave me a room. I let Manish go and asked him to come again the next morning.

Even though I had a room now, I couldn’t sleep because of the fatigue and dehydration, which was evident from the colour of my urine. I hadn’t known I was so fragile. There was a time not long ago when I had played badminton daily, spent hours at a stretch on the golf course, pumped iron and run 12 miles regularly, and all this had felt effortless. But today, just one day spent in the ‘real’ world, and I found myself stretched beyond what I could take. My belief that I was fit and strong seemed merely a conceited notion.

I realized that my body was far from ready for the hardships of monkhood. If I couldn’t even tolerate the heat of a day, what chance did I have to endure the rigours of meditation and the harsh life of an ascetic? I had no idea how to prepare my body for intense penance. Yet, I knew that life would teach me. I had only to be open and willing.

I lay there thinking about my worldly journey thus far.

About the Author

 

Om Swami is a monk who lives in a remote place in the Himalayan foothills. He has a bachelor degree in business and an MBA from Sydney, Australia. Swami served in executive roles in large corporations around the world. He founded and led a profitable software company with offices in San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Sydney and India.

Om Swami completely renounced his business interests to pursue a more spiritual life. He is the bestselling author of Kundalini: An Untold Story, A Fistful of Love and If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir.

His blog omswami.com is read by millions all over the world.

You can visit his website at Omswami.com.

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Talking Craft with John Herrick, Author of ‘Beautiful Mess’

jh_image001_thumbA self-described “broken Christian,” John Herrick battled depression since childhood. In that context, however, he developed intuition for themes of spiritual journey and the human heart.

Herrick graduated from the University of Missouri—Columbia. Rejected for every writing position he sought, he turned to information technology and fund development, where he cultivated analytical and project management skills that helped shape his writing process. He seized unpaid opportunities writing radio commercial copy and ghostwriting for two nationally syndicated radio preachers.

The Akron Beacon Journal hailed Herrick’s From the Dead as “a solid debut novel.” Published in 2010, it became an Amazon bestseller. The Landing, a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, followed. Publishers Weekly predicted “Herrick will make waves” with his next novel, Between These Walls.

Herrick’s nonfiction book 8 Reasons Your Life Matters introduced him to new readers worldwide. The free e-book surpassed 150,000 downloads and hit #1 on Amazon’s Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists. Reader response prompted a trade paperback.

His latest novel, Beautiful Mess, folds the legend of Marilyn Monroe into an ensemble romantic-comedy.

Herrick admits his journey felt disconnected. “It was a challenge but also a growth process,” he acknowledges. “But in retrospect, I can see God’s fingerprints all over it.”

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Beautiful Mess. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

Beautiful-Mess-Low-Resolution-Color-Book-CoverA: Thanks very much! Here’s the gist: Del Corwyn hasn’t had a hit film since his Academy Award nomination 40 years ago. He’s desperate to return to the spotlight but teeters on bankruptcy. Del is a forgotten legend—until, while combing through personal memorabilia, he discovers an original screenplay written by his once-close friend, Marilyn Monroe, who named Del as its legal guardian. The news goes viral. Suddenly, Del skyrockets to the A-list and has a chance to revive his career—if he’s willing to sacrifice his friend’s memory and reputation along the way. 

As for what compelled the idea, years ago, I read a biography on Marilyn Monroe and learned the actress was forced into a mental institution against her will. That ordeal frightened her because she was trapped, all alone, and couldn’t do anything to stop it. 

I thought to myself, “Even though they released her, the experience must have left scars. Nobody could escape that predicament unchanged.” I sensed a story and couldn’t shake the idea. I sought a way to delve into that experience while respecting her memory and presenting her as a human being who had vulnerabilities like you and I.

Q: What do you think makes good contemporary fiction? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: The key elements, for me, seem to be point of view, balance and heart. POV is important not only because it’s part of the craft, but readers recognize when it goes astray. Writing from your heart breathes life into the story and gives your readers a way to identify with the characters. And balance makes sure all the bases get covered, but recognizes one size doesn’t fit all.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: Beautiful Mess features an ensemble cast. So I started by developing a story arc for each character, then overlaid them to see where their stories bled into each other. In a way, I treated each character’s story like a subplot for development purposes. My IT background had me assigning alphanumeric codes to each event, then drafting the story by piecing those blocks together much like a flow chart or storyboard. (A total geekfest on paper!) I didn’t intend to plan the book that way—my personal motto is “Whatever works!”, and that method got me moving forward.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Del is 78 years old, but he feels like a perpetual 29-year-old. So in terms of his perspective and behavior, I started with that younger mentality, then aged him. I added his biographical sketch, which gave him decades of life experience. Finally, regardless of how Del sees himself, he can’t deny reality—in fact, reality of his age annoys him most—so I sprinkled in physical characteristics of someone his age. For example, I gave him recurring lower-back pain to bring him down to earth.

Yes, I create biographical sketches for all my main characters. Usually, I also conduct character interviews to get a feel for their voices. But Del and the other characters were so clearly defined in my mind, this book didn’t require as much prep work. Once I got past the initial mental barriers, the project unfolded fast. 

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: In Beautiful Mess, my antagonist isn’t a person; it’s the realization that Del is aging. But he can’t admit that to himself, so he creates his own antagonists, and those people/facts aren’t out to get him like he believes. In his own mind, it’s Del against the film industry, Del against the world, Del against his competitors. Not to be crude, but he’s always on the lookout for the latest excuse to tell someone, “Go f*** yourself!” He thrives on that—on being the lead actor in his life’s movie. But the truth is, by living that way, Del has become his own worst enemy. That becomes part of his self-discovery process. On the surface, Beautiful Mess looks like a man-vs.-man story, but when you get to know Del, you discover it’s a man-vs.-self story.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Subplots are so valuable. They add depth to your novel; offer opportunities to highlight aspects of your plot or protagonist through parallels or symbols; and buoy up your novel during lulls in your plot, which helps maintain a sense of motion for your reader. That’s one reason richly drawn characters are so critical: they help you develop those subplots. Their stories and backgrounds provide so many places to dig for ideas. And in Beautiful Mess, Tristan’s subplot provided comic relief—it allowed me to dabble in caricature without sacrificing the gravity of Nora’s plight.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Instead of simply decorating the scene, I try to allow my characters to experience the setting and incorporate all five of their senses. I also try to use setting to give clues about a character’s emotion or inner predicament. 

The world is much smaller than we tend to think. Beautiful Mess examines how, in a pool of humanity, individual lives can cross paths and produce startling consequences. It describes every person’s need to rise above that pool and be known and appreciated for their distinct natures. Los Angeles provided the perfect setting—America’s second-largest city, a mecca where millions flock to pursue the same dream, where it can be easy to feel lost. The cityscape on the cover conveys that sense. The city and its foremost industry are not just the setting for the story, but also symbols for what the story is about.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: Del, my protagonist, came to me early, along with his insecurities. So his internal predicament drove the story’s theme and structure. To date, my books have focused on the human heart, those hidden corners we all possess but try to hide. As a result, my books are character-driven. Each book has an external plot, but the true plot—the more important action—occurs internally. I create an external parallel to amplify and shed light on the protagonist’s inner struggle.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: I’m a fan of balance. Because of how my planning process works, I conduct a lot of “pre-editing” before I write a word, which has prevented me from having to rewrite any chapters from scratch. And I’ve gotten to the point where I tend to edit a bit as I write, but if it starts to interfere with my creative flow, I force myself to postpone edits to the revision phase. But when it comes to craft vs. art, if you want people to read your books, it’s important to remember that the book isn’t about you—it’s about your audience. What will serve your readers best? Has your manuscript answered the questions your readers will have? Will your readers relate to a character or care about a storyline, or at least be able to get on board it? As a writer, it’s your responsibility to locate win-win scenarios. You need to sacrifice some things you want in order to give the reader what they want. You can also look at art vs. craft as hobby vs. profession—you can keep a 100% focus on art if your goal is 100% hobby.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: 1.) Cherish your audience—respect them, appreciate them, serve them, be aware of their expectations by reading what they read. 2) Understand people. 3) Pursue excellence in your work—do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: Another famous writer, Mark Twain, said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s a more accurate description for me. Yes, it’s hard work, but that work should bring you joy.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Read, read, read. Anything and everything, especially your counterparts in the marketplace. You’ll stay aware of current standards, and you’ll learn what to do (or NOT to do) as your technique evolves. Oftentimes, when I read another author’s work, it gives me technique ideas. 

Learn, learn, learn. Pay attention to the news. Read or scan nonfiction books, magazine articles, books on business or computer programming or wines. Anything. When you meet people, ask them about their careers. Ask your Starbucks baristas which products customers like best (and why), or how a promotion is working. The more you learn, the more background you have on the world around you. It will trigger novel ideas, give you direction for how to plan a novel (“I remember reading about X, where it said…”), and will expand the network of people you can talk to for research purposes. Reading nonfiction helps you ask better questions when your path crosses with someone in that field. Also, watch people; listen to what they say and how they say it, which will help you sharpen your dialogue skills.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Never give up! Books are a subjective field, so rejection doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t succeed or your work is poor; often, it just means your work isn’t the right fit for the needs of that particular moment—but needs change. Feel free to say hi at http://www.johnherrick.net, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads!

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A Chat with Phil Kimble, Author of ‘The Art of Making Good Decisions’

philBorn in Atlanta, Phil Kimble went to school in Utah, lived for 2 years in LA, then moved back to Atlanta.  He and his wife Julie live in Conyers. Mr. Kimble is an avid motorcyclist and competitive distance runner.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a Motivational/Self-Help author?

A: For me, I’m trying to first help myself.  Most of the concepts I write about are ones I with which I at one time struggled.  I assume I am no different from the average person, so the things I figure out I believe will help others as well.

Q: Tell us why readers should buy The Art of Making Good Decisions.

A: It will help individuals in their decision-making process, from understanding the “Why did I do that?” basis for a less-than-optimal decision, to the “What do I do now?” basis for upcoming decisions of any complexity.

Cover

Q: What makes a good Motivational/Self-Help Book?

A: It has to get within the readers’ circle, answer the “what’s in it for me?” question. It has to give the reader an assignment—something tactile to do.

Q: What has writing taught you?

A: I think it has taught me the importance of empathy, being able to transmit your sentences into something someone else can understand.  It’s not a “talking down” sort of thing, but because everyone has different experiences, how I may explain a concept may be a miss with someone else.  So understanding where that person is coming from is important.

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