Category Archives: Authors

My site has moved! Don’t miss today’s hot guest author.

Hi All

this is your last friendly reminder that my blog has recently moved!


You will need to re-subscribe in order to receive weekly posts such as today, from Dennis Palumbo. He is a therapist by day and novelist by night. Don’t miss this sizzling interview which begs the question: What, if anything, does a Hollywood psychotherapist and a suspense novelist have in common? Actually, quite a bit.

Visit my new blog in the link above and simply enter your email in the SUBSCRIBE box to keep on the list. As always, your email is held in private for this purpose only.

Thank you!
Donna Galanti
Writing From The Dark Places


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My top picks for 2011: posts and pals

In reviewing my top three blog articles I wrote in 2011 I thought it funny the ones people navigated toward, and still do. Then I realized one is comic, one is heart-touching, and one is edgy.

And I guess it represents what we are drawn to when we connect to one another. Things that make us laugh and things that make us feel – sentimental or dark. And here there are, in case you missed them.

#1 I Like Big Butts: Real not Fake
In my 9 year old’s eyes, anything with “butts” in it is tops for him.

#2 Pumpkin Pie Forever
My son also adores my home made from fresh pumpkins pumpkin pie. Good kid.

#3 Saving the World: One Book at a Time
My son has so many stacks of books he once spread his hands out at them and noted “So many books, Mom! And not enough time to read them all.”

Looking at my blog stats also got me thinking about my own top 10 list.

And I don’t mean the 10 pounds on top of me from the holidays.
Or even the 10 tops I can’t fit into from the 10 pounds I gained.
Or the 10 new gray hairs on top of my head.

We all need our best buds to help navigate the war zone

No. I was thinking that I wouldn’t even be writing this blog – or even getting published – if it weren’t for my Top 10 people and resources this year.

I’m sharing them here with you. They may become part of your top list too. These are in no particular order. They have been amazing  in different ways including providing valued  advice on the writing craft and business, as well as peer and promotional support. They are people you will want to check out! There are so many more I could add, but perhaps that’s for another post.

1. Kathryn Craft
Amazing developmental editor, writing teacher, and cheerleader. She’s now embarking on a new path publication with her recent signing with agent Katie Shea of the Donald Maass Agency.

2. Philly Liars Club
Especially members: Jonathan Maberry, Marie Lamba, Gregory Frost, Keith Strunk, Don Lafferty, and Kelly Simmons.
Aspiring and published authors can’t get any better support than from this bunch of super-power authors who are very accessible. Their advice on the craft and business of writing in free forums, classes, and workshops is priceless. Tons of advice on their website. Check em’ out!

3. Stacy Green
We started our path to social media and publication the same time and have leaned on one another when it was much needed. She’s also got a great blog. You won’t want to miss her Thriller Thursday posts! For those of us that just can’t help reading about serial killers.

4. Janice Gable Bashman
A supportive writing peer who extends a hand with great advice. Being a fiction and non-fiction author as well as an editor, she’s got the chops to help you out. She also runs a fantastic blog showcasing tips and advice from authors.

5. The Author Chronicles
I am privileged to know many of these writers through writer meet ups and classes. These 5 writers launched their blog this year that is chock full of info on the publishing industry, writing resources and tips, and just darn inspiration. You will want to follow them!

6. Marketing Tips for Authors
Author and social media guru Tony Eldridge runs this blog and it’s a must to subscribe to. A valuable library for any writer on networking, social media, marketing, and more. Tony was nice enough to invite me on and you can catch my article here on Utilizing a Career in Marketing and Business to Get a Book to Market.

7. Author Jody Hedlund
Jody is a historical Christian writer, which doesn’t match what I write but her posts are a wealth of information for writers of all genres. She is an author who “does it right” in her marketing and social media, plus she’s just super nice. Mimic what she does. This is one time I say, drinking from the Kool Aid is a good thing.

8. Lucas Mangum
Lucas is an author and friend who is a champion at rounding up writers for his Awesome Reading Fests that he coordinates several times a year. He believes in getting writers in person to share across genres. It’s at many of these events I’ve met online friends who have become in-person friends too. We need more people like Lucas. If you’re in the Philly suburbs attend one! The Author Chronicles posted on a recent event.

9.Joe Konrath
Want an honest take on the publishing industry off the cuff and the numbers and stats to go with it? Then mark Joe Konrath’s blog to read. He bucked the publishing system and won.

10. Nathan Bransford
Agent turned author. Follow his journey to publication. Archive dating back a few years and his essentials on publication.

Okay, a few mentions here because I said I wouldn’t go past 10!

Been a great 2011! Appreciate the elephant of support from my peers

Agent Rachel Gardner: Get advice on your all aspects of writing and getting published from the agent’s mouth

Kristen Lamb: Author and comedian on the writing craft and business advice

The Kill Zone: Get insider perspectives daily from the hottest thriller and mystery writers.

Happy New Year!


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Mystery Author Rebecca Cantrell: Why I read and write what I do

Welcome award winning mystery author Rebecca Cantrell today.

Rebecca Cantrell

A few years ago she quit her job, sold her house, and moved to Hawaii to write a novel because, at seven, she decided that she would be a writer. Now she writes the Hannah Vogel mystery series set in Berlin in the 1930s, including A Trace of Smoke, A Game of Lies, and A Night of Long Knives. A Trace of Smoke was considered by major cable networks as a television series.

Publishers Weekly Starred Review claims Rebecca’s debut novel A Trace of Smoke to be an “unforgettable novel, which can be as painful to read as the history it foreshadows, builds to an appropriately bittersweet ending.”

Catch up with Rebecca where she blogs weekly at 7criminalminds or visit her website.

Why do I read and write crime/mystery/thrillers?
by Rebecca Cantrell

The first part of the answer is: because I read everything. I read crime, mystery, thriller, literary, historical, some sci-fi, the occasional romance, film scripts, and nonfiction. If it’s printed, I read it. Probably some kind of weird compulsion I ought to see someone about.

Reading takes me to different worlds and different lives. I doubt I’ll ever climb Mount Everest, fall in love with a Scottish Highlander, or solve a tricky murder. But because of books I can experience all that while sitting in a hammock sipping lemonade and listening to the surf. I know, it’s a rough life in Hawaii, but I will point out that the hammock broke because the salt air ate through the nylon so you know that it’s not all bliss out here. Yes, we have real problems.

My mother would say that I read mysteries because I have an overblown sense of justice and I expect the world to be fair. As usual: she’d be right. I do. And in mysteries everything happens for a reason, the evil are exposed and, usually, they even get punished for what they did. Who could not want to read that?

Obviously there’s a leap from reading them to writing them.

I could make up a deep psychological reason, but really I write them because they are fun. I get to do all kinds of research and ask questions that normally cause trouble.

I just recently watched someone blow a giant pile of lava into gravel, begged an autopsy report off someone, found an expert on chemical weapons, and am going to spend this morning watching “The Olympiad” by Leni Riefenstahl. As a friend said: “It’s not a grown up job.”

I like that.

Rebecca Cantrell


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Author Dakota Banks Give Us Two Kinds of Thrill

Today I have on Dakota Banks, a talented author across genres.

Dakota Banks

She writes the Mortal Path paranormal thriller series as Dakota Banks and the PJ Gray suspense/police procedural series under the name of Shirley Kennett. Watch for her  third Mortal Path book, DELIVERANCE, coming out March 2012. Once you check out the first 50 pages for free  of DARK TIME: Mortal Path Book 1 you’ll be hooked and wanting more!

Dakota lives in the St. Louis area and is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Horror Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Mystery Writers of America.


Your Mortal Path books contain mythological elements. Tell us about your fascination with mythology and how it came to be a big part of this series.  

You had to ask! When I was in elementary school, the class was assigned to write a few sentences about what we wanted to be when we grew up. We were supposed to dress the part. Everyone else was happily chatting about doctors and nurses and firefighters and actresses, and I was stuck. I wanted to be a writer. How was I to dress like a writer? I asked my mother and got the answer I frequently did: “Go to the library.” All I found were pictures of stuffy-looking old men—no way was I going to school in my dad’s jacket and hat. Besides, that was for Halloween. I picked up a book on Greek gods and goddesses and was awed by the elegant women and stern-looking men. Besides, all I needed to dress as Athena was a sheet, the alternate Halloween costume. As I recall I didn’t get a good grade on the assignment because the teacher thought I was making fun of it, or her, or something. I was caught up, though. I inhaled mythology. Later on, I was the only kid in the class who had already read Homer’s ILIAD AND THE ODYSSEY. Isn’t it odd how a chance situation like that can turn into a lifetime interest?

Back to the Mortal Path books. The first twinkling in my eye about the series began during the Iraq war, when the Iraqi National Museum was looted in a period of a few days before adequate security was provided. If you go back far enough, Iraq used to be Sumeria, one of the places that make archaeologists drool. Many world-class treasures in the museum were vandalized and others were stolen for the black market. I’ve been fascinated by the Sumerian people and their quirky pantheon (set of gods). The whole episode stirred ideas of what could happen if those gods and demons were around today. What if they were pulling the strings of human activity behind the scenes? Developing the concept into the series took years and a lot of (yay!) research.

Congratulations on the next Mortal Path book, DELIVERANCE, due out March, 2012! Tell us about it.

The heroine, Maliha, is three hundred years old. A terrible incident left her as an assassin working for a Sumerian demon, Rabishu. She defies her demon and no longer wants to work on the side of evil. You can’t just tear up a contract for your soul, though, so she sets about earning it back by trying to save as many people as she’s killed at the demon’s direction—and that’s a huge number, since she was a serious baddie. In DELIVERANCE, someone has taken notice of Maliha’s superb skills. Her closest friends begin to disappear, held hostage to force Maliha to be an assassin again. It’s isn’t Rabishu who’s pulling the strings, but it might as well be. DELIVERANCE starts with D, and that stands for Dark.  

Maliha Crayne, the main character in your Mortal Path books, is one tough woman. How did you create her?

I wanted a major challenge. Maliha is a character who’d been hardened by life and has essentially locked away her humanity for centuries. What would happen when her feelings re-emerged, prompted by an assassination she couldn’t bring herself to carry out? How does she commit herself to the human race, form friendships, fall in love? Her sinister past weighs her down and she struggles to cope with it. Relationships are difficult when you can’t just kill and walk away. Sure, Maliha is tough. She has to be to have any chance of meeting her new goals. The books are action-filled, and Maliha can kick butt with the best of them. She’s had 300 years of practice! But inside, she’s a storm of emotions, including deep regret and longing for a normal life. She’s a very complex and exciting person. She’s larger than life, yet she has her bad days, and bad decisions. I love writing about her and in spite of the overall dark tone, I have a lot of fun. The question is can I make readers love a character with such a dark past? I hope so.

You also write the PJ Gray mystery series under the name Shirley Kennett. What made you branch off and publish under a different name?  

My PJ Gray suspense novels were police procedurals, heavily into computers, forensics, virtual reality, and profiling the bad guys. They’re fascinating stories, but they aren’t in the paranormal area. When I decided to add paranormal elements to my writing, I wanted a new name to separate the two. Plug: I’m bringing out the PJ Gray series as ebooks. The first one, GRAY MATTER, is available now for $.99.

What is the biggest challenge for you in writing a series?

Making it up as I go along. Seriously, there are two challenges. The first is keeping the plots fresh within the boundaries of the urban fantasy world created for the series. Maliha and the other characters have their backstories, and I can’t change them because on page 287, I wrote myself into a corner and it sure would be convenient if…. Fresh plots mean new villains, and I take mine very seriously. A lot of research goes into them, because I use historical figures from our reality, give them a twist, and plunk them down in Maliha’s. So I need a great villain and an idea that provides not only a chance for Maliha to do her stuff, but is going to strike a chord with readers. Something that makes readers’ skins crawl and makes them say, “Hey, that might really happen!” (Did I mention D is for Dark?) The second challenge is providing opportunities for Maliha and the rest of the characters to experience change and growth. Maliha’s on a quest, and she needs to keep moving, even if it’s two steps back and one ahead.  

Do you prefer to write a series or stand-alone novels?

I have written only one stand-alone, BURNING ROSE, a futuristic eco-thriller, so I don’t have enough of a sample to say for certain. Stand-alones are a lot easier than writing series! You don’t have to worry about who survives into the next book (I call it CoC—Conservation of Characters), or develop an overall story arc that spans several books. From my limited experience, I’d have to say series are the way to go for me. It gives me a broader canvas on which to paint.

You grew up in a converted funeral home. How did that play a role in what you write?

It certainly exercised my imagination and gave me an early taste for that thrill/chill that raises the hair on your arms and makes your heart pound. That’s reflected in the Mortal Path series, books with plenty of hair-raising moments. And I like it that way.

What inspired you to write your first book?

When you say, “write,” I’m taking that to mean “finish.” I had my share of partial manuscripts. While I knew that I wanted to be a writer from an early age, life kept getting in the way and I never could seem to get going, as much as I wanted to. The thing that propelled me into writing my first book—listen up, new writers—was greed. Not what you were expecting, eh? I heard about a contest with a large cash prize. I needed repairs for my car. I put the two together, wrote furiously to meet the deadline, and sent off my manuscript with the certainty that I was going to win that only fools and writers are permitted to have. I didn’t. But I loved the process so much I couldn’t imagine not doing it again, and again.

Do you travel for book research?

I wish. Maliha gets to go to all the exotic places.

Writer’s Block – is it real? How do you break through?

It’s only real if you let it be. Writers working on contract deadlines get stuck for only two reasons: spring fever or its equivalent any time of year, or they haven’t thought through their stories well enough. The solution for the first is to take a few days off when the mood strikes (those chained to desks may cry now) and come back refreshed.

For the second, my tool of choice is the synopsis. This is not a chapter-by-chapter outline, but a brief version of the entire story, hitting only the high points of the plot. It’s like standing on one mountaintop (the beginning of the story) and seeing the peaks of other mountains in the distance (the middle), all the way to that glorious snow-capped one at the end. Only the peaks. That’s my line of sight to guide me through the book, and that does mean I know the ending before I start. The rest of my writing process is walking that route, down into each valley between the peaks. That’s where all the character development, secondary plots, and other juicy parts of the book take place. Brainstorm before you start, pick out 6-12 key points that have to happen in your book, and write that synopsis. When the going gets tough down there in the valleys, where writer’s block can pop up, you’re not lost. You know where the next beacon is. Sometimes you might come up with better ideas as you write the book. That’s okay. Be flexible. Try out any major change of direction in the synopsis first and see if you like where it’s taking you before you commit to it. This is the Voice of Experience talking. It’s much easier to tweak a five-page synopsis than rip out a hundred pages of manuscript that took you into a dead end.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, thrillers, and (surprise) horror. I learned world building from science fiction; suspense and pacing from horror; and action from thrillers. A few favorites: Orson Scott Card, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Lee Child, and James Rollins. In the paranormal genre, I enjoy reading Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, and Jeaniene Frost, among many others. My favorite book is LORD OF THE RINGS which has it all.

Will ebooks hurt or help novels, writers and writing?

I have mixed feelings here. The publishing business in pre-ebook times frustrated (and continues to do so now) a lot of good writers, whose work never made it before an audience. In the old days, the advice to writers was to write a high quality manuscript and some editor, somewhere, would recognize it and help turn it into a successful book. I believe that editorial spirit is still there but can be smothered by current day bottom-line business practices, resulting in the overlooking of writers who could produce fine books given the chance. In that respect, ebooks are a breath of fresh air throughout the industry and a tremendous release of talent into the marketplace. I’m supportive from that angle and excited about the broadening of choices available to readers.

I also think there are some people putting out ebooks that aren’t ready for prime time. Not everybody is cut out to be a writer. It may sound harsh, but I would rather that those who are publishing hastily written and poorly edited ebooks just because they can would stop. The ease of publishing an ebook belies how difficult it is to write a really good book. How can readers find the true gems I firmly believe are out there? Taking a chance on new writers and then being disappointed too often with low-quality work may have a numbing effect on readers. I hope that won’t be the case. If you don’t agree with what I’ve said, then I have to admit it was Dakota Banks’ evil twin who wrote this last paragraph.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for you genre (s)?

One thing I don’t do is hop in the car or on a plane and set out on a book tour. The theory used to be that even if you don’t sell many books at each stop, you are making contacts among bookstore owners that might bear fruit in the future. Been there, done that, didn’t harvest any fruit to speak of. Unless you want to gamble big bucks on advertising, I think the best approach is through social media channels. I didn’t take naturally to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. I had a website, but that’s as far as it went. I had to push myself to become involved, take chances, make mistakes, and get messy (Thank you, Ms. Frizzle!). I enjoy it. It puts me in touch with the best people in the world, readers, and no more zero-turnout book signings.

Any other projects or news you can share with us?

Everybody seems to be getting into Young Adult writing these days, have you noticed? I used to give talks at elementary schools about brainstorming as part of the writing process. I couldn’t talk about my R-rated books as examples, so confronted with an empty dry erase marker board and three fifth grade classes, I made a story up on the spot. The first time I tried it, I came up with a story the kids loved and so did I. I polished that story and wrote it. My agent loves it and will be submitting it in January. It’s completely not what you’d expect from me. It’s a middle grades historical adventure, and yes, I managed to weave some mythology into it. The title is HONOR’S JOURNEY. Wish me luck!

Additional Mortal Path books are, as they say, in development. No peekies.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself and your work. Reach out to others, even if it’s just to send a note of encouragement to someone. Build a writing community.

Do you have deep dark secret? How about a shallow grey one?

Maliha’s demon  reminds me of my eighth grade social studies teacher. (Hush, you teachers out there. You know you’re some of my favorite people.) I’m almost certain that Rabishu is Mr. Logan—name changed to protect the guilty—in Sumerian guise.

Keep up with Dakota here:


Facebook Page:
Dakota is running a giveaway of a Kindle Fire on Facebook now until January 31, 2012.

Twitter: or @dakotabanks


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Thriller Author Robert Browne: From Screenwriter to Novelist

We have thriller author Robert Browne visiting today! He is an AMPAS Nicholl Award-winning screenwriter who ran screaming from the movie industry and jumped into writing novels. He also writes under the name Robert Gregory Browne.

Robert Browne

His first novel, KISS HER GOODBYE, was recently produced in Chicago as a pilot for a CBS Television series tentatively titled THE LINE, by Sony Pictures and Timberman/Beverly Productions.

His books KISS HER GOODBYE and WHISPER IN THE DARK, are critically acclaimed, and his novel, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, has been nominated for a 2011 ITW Thriller Award.

Robert’s new thriller, THE PARADISE PROPHECY, was just released this past summer. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review noting “Milton’s Paradise Lost provides the backdrop for Browne’s riveting, cinematic novel, which charts an epic battle between good and evil”.

Allison Brennan, New York Times Bestselling Author, claims “Browne’s thrillers are lean, mean, and thoroughly entertaining”. You’ll want to check him out.


Your first novels were stand alones but your latest book, The Paradise Prophecy, is the first in a new series. What made you decide to write a series?

After writing several stand alones and having readers ask me when I’m going to write a sequel to such-and-such, it has occurred to me that readers like series.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose, because I like them, too. The characters we relate to are like friends, and we want to see them again.

Tell us about The Paradise Prophecy and how you came up with the concept.

THE PARADISE PROPHECY was really a product of brainstorming. My editor was interested in having me do something big and bold involving angels and demons and the question was asked—who would potentially be the baddest of bad guys? Somewhere along the line the answer became, of course, the fallen angels of Milton’s Paradise Lost and the story grew from there.  The idea was to throw a couple of mortals—a spy and a religious scholar—into the middle of a mystery that ultimately leads them to a conspiracy to end the world as we know it.

What can we expect in the next book in this series?

At this point I have only a germ of an idea and won’t be ready to push forward until it solidifies in my mind. But one thing I can tell you is that we’ll learn a lot more about Callahan’s past and her relationship with her father, and Sebastian will find himself on a quest that will have some very emotional consequences.

And now The Paradise Prophecy has been signed by the producers of the Twilight film franchise. Congratulations! Any updates with this production?

Thanks! The writer of the book is usually the last person to hear anything about that stuff, so I’m afraid I have no news. Having a background in screenwriting, I can tell you that Hollywood moves in mysterious ways, and the journey from book to screen sometimes takes months and more often takes years. My first book, KISS HER GOODBYE, was published in 2007 and didn’t make it to the screen until 2010, as a pilot for a CBS television series. And even though everyone involved did a terrific job—some of the best television I’ve seen (not that I’m biased)—the show didn’t get picked up as a series.  So you never know what’s going to happen.

What is the biggest challenge for you in writing a series?

I have yet to actually write any sequels, so I don’t really know the answer to this. I would think, however, that the biggest challenge is keeping it fresh and writing a book that can stand on its own without the reader being required to read the books that preceded it, while at the same time not boring those who have been reading the series from the beginning.  That’s a pretty tall order.

Do you prefer to write a series or stand-alone novels?

I guess I must prefer stand-alones because that’s what I’ve written until now. 😉 But I love reading series books, and I think it doesn’t hurt to create characters that your readers want to see again. So I’ve slowly warmed up to the idea that that’s what I’d like to do. As the sequel to PARADISE percolates, I’m writing the first in a new series called TRIAL JUNKIES, which is about a group of old college roommates who reunite to help a friend on trial for murder.  I usually have a bit of supernatural in my books, but I’m playing this one straight.

What is your favorite book you’ve written? Do you find your readers agree?

My favorite book is called WHISPER IN THE DARK.  It was my second book, it nearly killed me to write it (your second book is always your hardest), and it’s the one that I can read again and feel completely satisfied. Plus I love the lead character. This isn’t to say I don’t like the other books.  KILL HER AGAIN is a pretty fun book and I’m very proud of DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, which—at the risk of spoiling it—has a twist that I hope will knock your socks off.  But Whisper is still the one I cherish most. As for my readers, most of my email seems to be about PARADISE or DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN.  I have no idea why.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

That all depends on the novel.  KISS HER GOODBYE took me three or four years of stealing time to write it, a couple hours here and there, while THE PARADISE PROPHECY took about seven or eight months. I write under top secret pen names as well, and some of those books have taken as little as three weeks. A lot of it depends on how prepared I am.

How did you come to write thrillers?

I write what I love to read.  I grew up reading Westlake and Goldman and Chandler and Thomas, plus the old SHADOW reprints by Walter Gibson, and I knew pretty early on that I was a thriller guy.

How much in depth research do you conduct for your books?

I used to say I hated research, but then I realized that I spend a lot more time doing it than I thought I did. I guess because I do it while I’m writing the book rather than front-loading it, it doesn’t feel like research. So I suppose the answer is: a lot. Especially for a book like THE PARADISE PROPHECY, which required research into Milton and into the various religious and historical artifacts that appear in the story.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I had written a screenplay that I thought was pretty terrific and when I showed it to a novelist friend, she told me the idea was too good to be waste on a movie and that I should write a novel.  I thought she was nuts at first, and wasn’t sure I could actually write a full novel, but she encouraged me to do a few chapters and send them to her.  So I did and she came back with “Finish this book.” That book was KISS HER GOODBYE and I haven’t looked back since.

How do you market your work? What have you found works best?

I confess I’m an idiot when it comes to marketing, and I’m not sure how much of it does a writer any good.  I think the best marketing tool is the book itself and word of mouth, and over the years you build a solid reader base.  Few writers have immediate success.  So my only real marketing trick is to try to write books that will hook readers and then hope they’ll pick up another.  Other than that, I’m pretty active on Facebook, but I’m not sure if that translates to sales.

Any new projects you can share with us?

The aforementioned TRIAL JUNKIES, which I’m pitching as THE BIG CHILL meets SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Yes.  Stop aspiring and start perspiring.  Finish a book, then finish another and another and quit listening to the naysayers. We’re told every step along the way that we can’t possibly make it, and I’m here to tell you that’s just not true.  I was told it was nearly impossible to sell a screenplay, yet I sold one.  I was told it was impossible to get steady work in Hollywood, yet I wound up as a staff writer for a show.  I was told that selling a first novel is impossible, yet I did it.  I was told that selling your novel to Hollywood was a major crap shoot, yet I did that, too—twice. I don’t say this to brag, but to tell you that nothing is impossible.  If I had listened to the naysayers any step along the way, if I had given up, then I wouldn’t be sitting here today paying my mortgage by putting words on a page.  And any writer who wastes time listening to those who have already given up (because that’s who the naysayers usually are) is allowing him or herself to be poisoned. Put your head down, focus, and keep writing.  All good things come to those who work.

And what do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a movie and television fiend, so I spend a lot of time on Netflix. I’m also a musician/songwriter, so it isn’t unusual to hear me playing my guitar and singing (my poor neighbors). I love to travel, so we try to get away once or twice a year, and I also love graphic design and spend time playing with that as well.  I’ve designed a number of ebook covers for friends who have decided to release on Kindle. And, of course, there’s the Internet.  I pretty much mainline the web.

Oh, and sleep.  Sleeping is a wonderful thing…


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James Scott Bell: Write What You Fear

I am thrilled to have best selling author, JAMES SCOTT BELL, on today.

James Scott Bell

Jim is the bestselling author of Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back and many other thrillers. Under the pen name K. Bennett, he is also the author of the Mallory Caine zombie legal thriller series, which begins with Pay Me in Flesh. Jim  served as fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine, to which he frequently contributes, and has written three bestselling craft books for Writers Digest, including the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure.

Jim talks today about killing our fear. You can also catch him on The Kill Zone where he blogs with other top thriller and mystery authors.

Write What You Fear, and the Death of Fear is Certain

I don’t think there’s a writer worth his or her salt who doesn’t, at least occasionally, suffer from some doubt or even fear over their writing. Indeed, if there isn’t any hint of those two emotions from time to time, I’d venture to say the writer doesn’t have sights set high enough. Such a writer is staying in a safe zone, where precious little that is original is produced.

Dick Simon (of Simon & Schuster) once said, “All writers are scared to death. Some simply hide it better than others.”

Why should that be? Even after one has reached the hallowed halls of publication? Even while in the midst of what might termed a career?

Because there is always lurking the idea that the rug may be snatched away. That some little dog will pull aside the curtain and reveal you there, a fraud after all. Even the top writers in the game get this feeling. No less a luminary than Stephen King cops to it.

Another reason excellent writers experience doubt is, ironically, excellence itself. Because these authors keep setting their standards higher, book after book, and know more about what they do each time out. That has them wondering if they can make it over the bar they have set. Many famous writers, unable to deal with this pressure, have gone into the bar itself, and stayed late.

Jack Bickham, a novelist who was even better known for his books on the craft, put it this way:

“All of us are scared: of looking dumb, of running out of ideas, of never selling our copy, of not getting noticed. We fiction writers make a business of being scared, and not just of looking dumb. Some of these fears may never go away, and we may just have to learn to live with them.”

Yes, you learn to live with them, but how? The most important way is simply to pound away at the keyboard.

You write.

As Dennis Palumbo, author of Writing from the Inside Out, put it, “Every hour you spend writing is an hour not spent fretting about your writing.”

If a writer were to tell me he never has doubts, that he’s just cocksure he’s the Cheez-Wiz of literature, I know I will not want to read his work. That’s why I think doubts are a good sign. They show that you care about your writing and that you’re not trying to skate along with an overinflated view of yourself.

The trick is not to let them keep you from producing the words.

Truly memorable writing comes when you take a risk. And risk always involves an element of fear. Take a chance. Try to make something happen, and if you fail, fix it. Go to the places that are scary for you. This is where some of your best material is going to be. It is those authors who carry this off who become popular.

To paraphrase Emerson, Write what you fear, and the death of fear is certain. You will become stronger as a writer, and that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?


Filed under Authors, Writing Techniques

Thriller Author Allan Leverone: Why Plagiarize?

Welcome author Allan Leverone on today! 

He is a three-time Derringer Award finalist and a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction. He is the author of the thrillers, FINAL VECTOR (Medallion Press, 2011) and THE LONELY MILE (StoneHouse Ink, 2011), and the horror novella DARKNESS FALLS (Delirium Books, 2011).

His third thriller, a paranormal suspense novel titled PASKAGANKEE is coming soon from StoneGate Ink, and a second Delirium Books horror novella, titled HEARTLESS, will be released in January, 2012. Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife of nearly thirty years, three children, one beautiful granddaughter and a cat who has used up eight lives. Learn more at, on Facebook or on Twitter (@AllanLeverone).

Allan delves into the world of plagiarism in his article, a timely topic and more common than we think.

Steal This Post
By Allan Leverone

I’m an author. I’m also a writer, which might seem self-evident at first glance, although it really isn’t. If you’ve published work you’re hoping to convince people to read, you’re an author. If you’ve put words down on paper, you’re a writer.

It’s possible to be one without being the other; lots of people are. In most of those cases, people are writers without being authors, either by choice or because they haven’t found the right outlet for their work.

Unfortunately, though, a case recently in the news illustrates the opposite possibility—being an author without being a writer—perfectly. Maybe you read about it. Q.R. Markham, the pen name of debut author Quentin Rowan, was busted for plagiarizing entire passages, some of them several paragraphs in length, and inserting them into his novel, ASSASSIN OF SECRETS.

I’ve written about the subject once already, in my blog, A Thrill a Minute, where I made my feelings about plagiarism pretty clear, I think. It’s despicable, it’s wrong, it’s lazy. And it’s stealing. Plagiarizing someone else’s content is no different than reaching into their wallet and taking cash out of it, then sliding it into your own pocket with your own sticky fingers.

So I’m not going to rehash the subject here; what I really wanted to talk about today was the question that’s been bothering me since I read the Q.R. Markham story: Why plagiarize? Why take the risk of being exposed, as Quentin Rowan did, by stealing not just from one source, but from as many as thirteen separate sources?

Undoubtedly you can recall a kid in school who plagiarized material for a report or a research paper; hell, maybe you were that kid. But there’s a world of difference between a teenager trying to scrape out a passing grade in Civics class and a supposedly professional novelist having so little regard for his readers and the writer he’s stealing from that he’s willing to roll the dice and hope no one notices his thievery.

So, again, why? Is it laziness?

That doesn’t seem likely, especially for a fiction writer. True, almost every novelist has to do research on almost every book, but the amount of effort it would require to read through dozens of novels to find passages appropriate to the story, as Quentin Rowan seems to have done, must be far greater in total than the effort it would take to simply write the story.

Is it an inability to write well?

That seems the most likely possibility to me. Not everyone is gifted with the ability to construct a well-told tale, just as not everyone can run the hundred yard dash in ten seconds and not everyone can perform brain surgery. The aptitude is simply not there.

But how does someone with the inability to write at a high level get to the point where they’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops to acquire a literary agent, sell their book and work with an editor, all without being discovered? And more to the point, why? If you can’t write well, most of the time the interest in writing will not be there, don’t you think?

Is it for the name-recognition? To become famous?

That’s hard to imagine, because the percentage of fiction writers who rise above the odds to become household names is abysmally low. Even after the book is published, the chances of any single author becoming well-known because of his or her work are so slim as to be laughable. And besides, there are other methods of becoming famous that are much more likely to be successful than to write a novel. Marry a Kardashian, star in a stupid TV reality series, or some combination of the two; you get the idea.

Seriously, though, why? Maybe you have some ideas on the subject, because I quite simply cannot fathom it.

The worst part? The Q.R. Markham/Quentin Rowan case doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. Allegations were made months ago about another case of plagiarism involving a novelist too lazy or too uninvolved or too untalented to write her own work. THE RAVEN’S BRIDE, written by Lenore Hart and published in 2011 by St. Martin’s Press, bears more than a passing resemblance—okay, is practically an exact copy in dozens of passages—to a 1956 novel titled THE VERY YOUNG MRS. POE, by Cothburn O’Neal, as related by novelist Jeremy Duns in his blog, The Debrief.

Ms Hart’s thievery seems to have been a little better disguised than Quentin Markham’s, and her material was stolen from a relatively obscure book published almost a half-century ago, but it seems patently obvious to me she stole work that didn’t belong to her. You can decide for yourself in the post and subsequent comments at The Debrief, if you’re so inclined.

Lenore Hart is no rookie, either, she’s “a well-established and well-respected novelist,” according to Duns. An Amazon search of her name reveals a half-dozen separate novels attributed to her, not including any she may have written under a pseudonym.

So why would she do it? Any ideas? Because I’m baffled.

And here’s the other question: How many other supposedly original books floating around out there are in fact nothing more than blatantly plagiarized rip-offs of other people’s work, perpetrated by lazy or talentless or just plain arrogant hacks?


Filed under Authors, Writing Resources