Interview with Rebecca Warner, Author of MORAL INFIDELITY

[Rebecca Warner]Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing Moral Infidelity, a complex political thriller by talented author Rebecca Warner. Today, I am pleased to present my interview with her. In the words of Michael Romano, lucky son of a bitch!

Rebecca, welcome. It’s my understanding that you’ve read an extraordinary number of books in your lifetime. Can you talk about some of your favorite genres and how they have influenced you as a writer?

I began reading at a very early age, which allowed me to read so many books over my lifetime. My mother couldn’t punish me by sending me to my room, because I was perfectly happy just to be left alone to read. Throughout elementary school, junior high and high school, I would check out a new book every day from the library.  I would do my homework, then read the book and return it the next day for another. My earliest real influence, discovered in junior high, was Victoria Holt, who wrote gothic novels. That led me to the classics authors, like the Bronte sisters, Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austin and Oscar Wilde, to name a few. Though I didn’t read as much in college because I was a business major and had very little leisure time, I always had a book going. After college, as a young single woman in Miami, I went through the Danielle Steele and Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins phase. Then I revisited John Steinbeck, and was sort of reborn in terms of seeking out the classics, but this time more of the 20th century classics. Stephen King got my attention in the 1970s, and has kept it, and then James Patterson made me appreciate suspense/thrillers/mysteries, which became—and still is—my favorite genre. So I was especially pleased that Moral Infidelity, my first book, won the Bronze Medal for the category of Fiction: Thriller in the Readers’ Favorite 2015 International Book Contest.

Have you always written, or did you wake up one day after reading another great book and say, “I can do this too!”?

If I may tell a story about a specific incident in my life that influenced me to be a writer…

In the fourth grade, I was in a class that was classified as “accelerated,” though I never stood out in any way among the many truly smart children in my class. One day the teacher put up a picture of a little boy in red pajamas, sitting in front of a fireplace, holding a golden dog in his arms. We were supposed to write something about it—tell the story. I remember very clearly going to another place in my mind (I didn’t yet understand that “zone”) and writing words that seemed to come from outside of me. The teacher then had us read our papers, and as others got up and read theirs, I realized how different mine was, and I felt I had failed in the assignment. When the teacher pointed to me to get up in front of the class to read mine, I was terribly embarrassed. I tried to get someone else to read it for me, but she shook her head ‘no.’ So I had no choice but to read it, and when I finished, the room was very quiet. I looked over at my teacher, expecting a disapproving look, but instead she was looking at me with admiration and astonishment, and then she said, “We have a genius in our class.” Powerful words that kept me writing short stories and poetry and winning awards for them throughout my school years.

In reading your work, I’ve noticed that you like to dig deep into your characters. After reading Moral Infidelity, I feel I know Michael intimately. Is there a particular author who influenced you in this regard?

I mentioned John Steinbeck earlier. In my opinion, he delved into the human heart and mind like no authors before or since, though I must laud Dostoyevsky in that regard as well. Think Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath.  Think Rodya in Crime and Punishment. Stephen King is also brilliant in that regard. The mental and emotional dissection of Andy and Red in TheShawshank Redemption is unparalleled in literature. With all of these authors, I was fascinated with the depth and the complexity they plumbed from their characters.  All subconsciously influenced me in my writing in terms of wanting to write more complex and conscience-driven characters.

You know, this is a great question, because before now, I never really analyzed why it was so critical that I so thoroughly develop Michael Romano’s character in Moral Infidelity—his descent into darkness and depravity even as he functioned on a higher plane in a privileged world. Your question has caused me to do so! Thanks, Steven.

Are you interested in movies and television? If so, do they influence your writing?

I love movies and television, and am fascinated that writers can conceive of such great ideas and then execute them so perfectly through dialogue and action. But I can’t honestly say that any movie or TV show has influenced my writing.

I apologize in advance for the obligatory question, but what are you working on now?

The book I am writing now is a thriller based on a true-life event, though it is fiction. For decades, I had a Russian ballet teacher in Miami, Madam Renee, whom I loved and kept in touch with even after I moved to North Carolina. Every time I was in Miami, I would take her to a lovely restaurant, so befitting her appreciation of fine things which she could no longer afford. One day, I was picking her up to take her to the Biltmore Hotel for an elegant pool-side lunch. When I got to her home and she came outside, I was shocked and horrified by her appearance. Normally so stylishly turned out, she was disheveled, wore virtual rags, was emaciated, and had a big gash on her leg.

The patio attached to her home was encased in roof-to-ground iron bars, for security reasons. She had always come and gone through the keyed iron gate set within the bars, but that day she told me she couldn’t find the key. I knew that a man who had married and divorced her niece had moved in with her, which I always thought a bit odd, but she was glad to have the company and added protection. But because she had obviously declined to such a great degree since he moved in, I became suspicious and alarmed. She was literally like a prisoner, and when—at my urging—she called him at work to ask where the key was, he gaslighted her into thinking she was demented and had misplaced it. Something just was not right, and I immediately alerted my former ballet classmates, including one who is a lawyer, to find out more about this man, and Renee’s circumstances. It became evident through our inquiries and also public records that he had taken over her property and her life, and we all felt she was in danger.

And so the idea of the book I am writing now, Ballet Barres, was born, with the objective of Renee’s devoted students of twenty-plus years coming together these many years later to save her from whatever evil intent this man has. And yes, I delve into his darker side!

Book Blurb

[Moral Infidelity Cover]

POLITICS…LUST…LIES…BETRAYAL

What if an anti-abortion governor, who is determined to enact stricter abortion laws in his state, had an affair that resulted in an unintended pregnancy?

In this two-time award-winning thriller, Florida Governor Michael Romano becomes embroiled in an ethical dilemma that threatens to shatter his marriage and his political career. His mistress wants him and his baby, and she will publicly destroy him if he doesn’t leave his wife to marry her. He finds himself walking a moral tightrope, where a single misstep can irretrievably ruin his carefully-constructed personal and political life.

Choice takes on a whole new meaning for Romano as he attempts to untangle himself from his sticky web of deceit.

Suspense builds as Romano weighs his limited options while fighting to keep his political career viable as he pursues enactment of anti-abortion laws. Caught in the nightmarish consequences of his treachery and duplicity, Romano must make choices that will test the strength of his moral fiber to its limits…But will his choices lead to his salvation, or his ruin?

Where to Buy

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada

About the Author
Rebecca Warner’s educational and professional background was in finance and banking in Miami, Florida. After she and her husband moved to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, Rebecca began writing articles for several local periodicals. Drawing upon her many years of advising the lovelorn and successful matchmaking, she also wrote a romance-and-relationship advice column. In 2014, she published her first book, Moral Infidelity, which won the Bronze Medal in the Readers’ Favorite 2015 International Book Awards’ thriller category, and Top 10 Honorable Mention in the 2015 Great Southeast Book Festival. Her second novel, Doubling Back To Love, was solicited for inclusion in a ten-novel romantic anthology, and her third book, He’s Just A Man, is a non-fiction self-help book for women seeking a mate.

Rebecca is a convivial feminist who blogs on her own sites and for The Huffington Post about topics of interest to women. She enjoys participating in podcasts and forums about women’s social, economic and political issues.

You can find Rebecca on Twitter, on Facebook, and at her website.

Chainsaw Honeymoon—My BookLife Journey (Cont’d)

“[Daredevil]”
Photo courtesy of Mr. Nixter via Creative Commons

Okay, so the BookLife quarter-finalists were announced today—and I made it! That means Chainsaw Honeymoon is off and running toward the semifinals.

As a reminder, last month I decided to take a chance with my new unpublished novel, Chainsaw Honeymoon, and enter it for a chance to win the BookLife Prize in Fiction. As part of the process, I received a critic’s report , which you can read here.

The semi-finalists will be announced on Halloween. This is from the contest site:

All submissions advancing to the quarter-finals will be critically assessed by the editorial staffs of Publishers Weekly and BookLife. Of the quarter-finalists, five from each of the six categories will be selected based on merit by PW and BookLife’s editors to advance to the semifinals.

As I stated last time, my category is General Fiction, and I am up against some serious literary fiction competition. But, hey, anything is possible, right? Stay tuned.

By the way, if you would like a taste of ChainSaw Honeymoon, you can go here to download a sample.

Book Review—MORAL INFIDELITY

[Moral Infidelity Cover]For me, thrillers are the most satisfying when everything is at stake. Sometimes, authors concentrate on the mechanics of plot to carry the reader along a treacherous, dangerous path that may or may not lead to a new day. But what makes a story outstanding is when an author plumbs the depths of the characters involved—getting into their deepest, most troubling thoughts—and allowing the reader to understand better the motivations that drive them.

Moral Infidelity is such a book. Rebecca Warner has taken what could have been a routine thriller and turned it into something memorable. Her characters are smart, wealthy, and deeply flawed. And as they traverse down a road filled with hidden mines, they struggle toward the light. Some will make it. Others will lose their way forever. This book is an excellent, character-driven thriller—a great read.

Synopsis
POLITICS…LUST…LIES…BETRAYAL

What if an anti-abortion governor, who is determined to enact stricter abortion laws in his state, had an affair that resulted in an unintended pregnancy?

In this two-time award-winning thriller, Florida Governor Michael Romano becomes embroiled in an ethical dilemma that threatens to shatter his marriage and his political career. His mistress wants him and his baby, and she will publicly destroy him if he doesn’t leave his wife to marry her. He finds himself walking a moral tightrope, where a single misstep can irretrievably ruin his carefully-constructed personal and political life.

Choice takes on a whole new meaning for Romano as he attempts to untangle himself from his sticky web of deceit.

Suspense builds as Romano weighs his limited options while fighting to keep his political career viable as he pursues enactment of anti-abortion laws. Caught in the nightmarish consequences of his treachery and duplicity, Romano must make choices that will test the strength of his moral fiber to its limits…But will his choices lead to his salvation, or his ruin?

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada

Chainsaw Honeymoon—My BookLife Journey

“[Daredevil]”
Photo courtesy of Mr. Nixter via Creative Commons

A few weeks ago, I decided to take a chance with my latest novel, Chainsaw Honeymoon, and enter it for a chance to win the BookLife Prize in Fiction. That’s five thousand smackers, people! Ambitious, right? Well, what’s Life if you can’t take a few chances?

Recently, I received a critic’s report I’d like to share with you.

 

Title: Chainsaw Honeymoon
Author: Steven Ramirez
Genre: Fiction/General Fiction (including literary and historical
Audience: Adult
Word Count: 54000

Assessment:

A satire of Los Angeles, of fractured relationships, movie-making, and growing up, Ramirez’s novel features fantasies, sibling rivalries, a judgmental doll, and even a couple of comic deaths, as one story line morphs into another making the result often seem like one extended dream sequence. The characterizations are lively, though sometimes needlessly exaggerated, and the wildly improbable plot, which features the merging of the screenplay of a maudlin romance hopefully entitled Endless Honeymoon with another of a horror story called Chainsaw Chuck, is generally well controlled and cleverly sustained.

Score:

Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10

Not bad, right? So, what happens next? Well, the good folks over at BookLife will announce the quarter-finalists on October 17th. Though I received a decent score, I am up against some very impressive literary works, so… But if I do make it to the first round, you can bet I will be writing a follow-up post. Fingers crossed!

By the way, you can go here to download a sample.

Not Everything That’s Cheap Is Bad

[TMWID Box Set Ad]That’s right. Sometimes you can find a truly surprising deal—like the one I am offering. For the entire month of October, you can purchase TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD: The Complete Trilogy at Amazon for a cool ninety-nine cents!

So, if you haven’t gotten into the dark, twisted world of Dave Pulaski yet, I suggest you skip the Cinnamon Spice Tic Tacs and buy this book instead.

Oh, and one last thing—when you’ve completed the journey, please leave a review. Good or bad—doesn’t matter. Reviews count.

Happy Halloween and happy reading!

Yes, I Am Ready to Buy!

Pulp or Poet?

[Size Mismatch]
Photo courtesy of Miguel Castaneda
via Creative Commons

A writer’s life is nothing, if not angst-filled. Each day, we struggle with dilemmas—most of our own making and many imagined. As for me, I like to battle my demons in private. The best course, I feel, is to put that kind of drama into my writing and let my characters live in Hell. But, frankly, I just can’t take it anymore, and I need to spill. So please, bear with me.

I’ve been writing for more years than I care to admit. In my twenties, I devoted my energy to screenwriting. Great idea, jefe. Get to the end of the line behind the thousands in LA already slaving away at what they hope will become the next ‘Captain America.’ Though I did manage to sell one screenplay and see it made into a movie, I never really enjoyed the success I was hoping for.

When indie publishing came along—mostly thanks to Amazon—everything changed for me, as it did for many other aspiring authors. For years, I had been amassing ideas for novel-length books, and the only thing stopping me from ordering my sport coat with the suede elbow patches was the terrifying thought of trying to secure a literary agent. Weak, I know. But enough about that.

My Eternal Dilemma
I’ve always aspired to write well—as opposed to banging stuff out fast for the money. And, believe me, if you’ve ever downloaded free books to your Kindle, you know what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of crap out there—a lot. And what frustrates me is the fact that this drivel sells—way better than anything I have written. Which brings me to my current dilemma—am I a poet who wants only to create beautiful things (that don’t sell), or a successful pulp writer who’s in it for the money?

My personal belief as to why a lot of indie books sell has nothing to do with quality. Sure, they have to have some semblance of plot and structure. Of course, the cover shouldn’t make you puke. And the formatting has to be at least good enough for you to be able to read the thing without getting vertigo. But what these books have going for them, I feel, is that they are catering to a successful genre. Like Romance.

Now, before you get all huffy and threaten to take my lunch money, let me explain. I am not trying to say anything bad about Romance writers. In fact, sometimes I wish I were one so I could sell more books. What I am saying is, must I write in genres that sell, rather than what I am interested in? It’s a great question.

Romance Rules
So, why did I pick on the Romance category? Take a look at the May 2016 Author Earnings report, which you can find here. This is what they say about indie author earnings (bold text is mine):

Turns out there were 43 [invisible authors] lurking unseen in the dark spaces between Amazon’s bestseller lists, including one author invisibly earning more than $250,000 a year. Unsurprisingly, 30 of the 43 invisible six-figure earners — including the top earner — were self-published indie authors. Most were writing in the Romance Fiction genres, but there was also an indie author of editor’s-choice Cozy Mystery Fiction, and even more surprising, a traditional-award-winning indie writer of Literary Fiction. We happen to think that’s pretty cool.

Cool, indeed. I have a number of writer friends—many of whom publish Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Contemporary and New Adult Romance. It’s my sense that they are doing pretty well. But here’s the thing—from what I can tell, they actually enjoy writing Romance. So for them, this is the best of all worlds.

A Genre Comparison
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I would like to provide an illustration of what I am talking about. The following excerpt is from my horror thriller novel, Even The Dead Will Bleed: Book Three of Tell Me When I’m Dead. Notice that the writing is purposeful and dark—just the thing for pulp fiction:

The girl was pretty with long, light brown hair and frightened blue-grey eyes that were almond-shaped—slightly Asian—and ringed with dark circles. Her full lips were pink and moist, her skin fair and blemish free. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty. I looked at the back of her hand and noticed a red needle mark—probably from an IV.

“Are you in danger?” I said.

Still nothing. I glanced left and right to see who might be watching. Then I released her arm and took a step back, my open hands away from my pockets. I thought she would bolt, but she stood there unsure, looking at her bare feet, which were dirty. Her shoulders jerked up and down and I realized that she was crying. I remembered what Becky had said when the alarm went off—someone’s escaped.

I wasn’t sure what to do. She must’ve broken out of Hellborn, and now they were looking for her. I didn’t want to leave her there—not like this. She needed help. But I didn’t want to get mixed up with a kid. Griffin, the girl Holly and I had rescued in Tres Marias, had turned out well—and I thanked God for her—but I needed to be alone to complete my mission.

“I’m Dave,” I said. “What’s your name?”

She looked at me steadily. I didn’t know what new hell I was signing up for. It was pretty obvious that it would involve more than slipping her twenty bucks and wishing her good luck. When she spoke my blood went cold.

“Don’t let them find me!” she said.

 

Here is another excerpt—this time from my latest, unpublished Young Adult novel, Chainsaw Honeymoon: A Ruby Navarro Disaster. Not to brag, but this might even border on the literary. See if you agree:

A loud yawn startled me. It was Dad. How long had he been standing there?

“Come on, Rube, it’s late,” he said.

And by the way, when did he get all parental? Mom must’ve had a talk with him.

“No-uh,” I said. “I need to figure out this sequence.”

Between you and me, I was struggling to keep my eyes open.

Gently, he closed the laptop and guided me to my bed. As I dug through the duffel bag for my pajamas, I felt something foreign. Removing my hand, I saw Mr. Shivers. How had he gotten in there again? I thought I’d left him in the closet back home. Too exhausted to care, I tossed him into a chair, where he landed in a sitting position.

“Tomorrow, I could use your help setting up the Roku,” Dad said.

“Aghh, you’re so pathetic. Fine, I’ll see what I can do.”

I let go of a major yawn. Smiling, he gave me a bear hug, practically squeezing the air out of me.

“Ooh, I thought I heard a fart.”

“Dad, that’s so rude!”

“It used to make you laugh.”

“When I was five.”

“Good night, Rube. Brush your teeth.”

He and Mom had definitely spoken. I wondered vaguely if he was going to go off and practice The Beggar’s Sideshow per Mom’s instructions. Before he left, I broke down and decided to spill. After all, the man deserved to know the truth. I picked Ed up and put him on my lap for moral support.

“Dad?”

“Yeah, baby?”

“She is moving on, you know.”

He was leaning against the doorframe, staring at me intently. I could almost see the man hormones keeping his emotions in check. Barely. His face was a mosaic of disappointment, anger and disbelief. He smiled sadly and, without another word, closed the door behind him. See, this is the difference between women and men. I would be throwing things at this point.

 

The point is, I didn’t research the markets for either of these works—I just sat down and wrote them because I felt like it. We’ll see if the charming and perspicacious Ruby is enough to help me sell some books.

Sage Advice
I am currently reading How to Make a Living as a Writer by the well-respected author and teacher James Scott Bell. His book offers clear, practical advice on how to actually pull off what he promised in the title. One thing he suggests is studying bestselling categories on Amazon and making a conscious decision to master that market, then cranking out your own novels. Here is what he has to say:

I believe a writer should love his genres. But you can learn to love a genre. Sort of like an arranged marriage.

Nicholas Sparks did this with his own career. He went into it like a businessman. He looked at the bestselling genres and discovered that each one had two big names that dominated. At the same time, a surprise book emerged called The Bridges of Madison County. It was a tear-jerking love story written by a male author. And it exploded.

Sparks decided he could be the second name on this unique subset — men who write tear-jerking love stories.

He’s done pretty well.

Now, from a business point of view, he’s absolutely right. But in the words of Jerry Seinfeld when asked to wear the puffy shirt, “But I don’t want to be a pirate!”

If I were more practical, I would begin immediately my own market research and get to writing that puffy shirt book. But to be frank, Romance isn’t really my thing—unless guns or time travel are involved. Besides horror, I am drawn to Thriller, Mystery and YA. Having said that, though, if I follow Mr. Bell’s advice, I am still going to have to research what sells within those categories. And I’m not sure I want to write a political thriller, for example. So, I am almost back where I started.

In On Writing, I seem to recall Stephen King referring to himself as a “journeyman writer.” Here is a guy who consistently cranks out solid work in a genre he loves—and who makes a very good living. But he is practical, too. He knows he is a business. I’m still working on that concept.

What to Do?
As I said, I have a new book coming out, written without the benefit of checking in on bestselling categories. I hope it does well. If it doesn’t, I may decide that my next novel needs to have the word “girl” in the title. It doesn’t take a ton of research to know that those seem to be doing very well lately.

The TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD Summer Sale Is On!

[DIAYG 3D Cover (Small)]Dead Is All You Get (Book Two of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) is on sale everywhere. If you haven’t purchased Book Two yet, now’s your chance to grab it for $1.99 US.

Buy Links
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Smashwords

Book Blurb
Dead Is All You Get (Book Two of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) combines the best elements of horror, dark fantasy and sci-fi, taking the reader on a relentless, tortured journey of survival that tests the strength of one man’s character and delves into the role Faith plays when he is confronted by the worst kind of evil—the evil in humans. If you like your thrillers dark and fast-paced, then read this mind-blowing sequel. And leave the lights on. “A shoot first then shoot again horror thriller of the highest order” (Simon Oneill)

[ETDWB 3D Cover (Small)]Even The Dead Will Bleed (Book Three of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) is on sale everywhere. If you haven’t purchased Book Three yet, now’s your chance to grab it for $1.99 US.

Buy Links
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
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Smashwords

Book Blurb
Even The Dead Will Bleed (Book Three of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD) is a dark fantasy, sci-fi thriller—a nonstop horror train—that will deliver Dave to the brink of Hell. Revenge is a powerful drug that can drive a man to do unspeakable things. But as he will learn, Faith can give him the courage to face death without fear. If you like your thrillers dark and fast-paced, then don’t miss the heart-pounding conclusion to this trilogy. “Faith and bravery band together to fight a horrific world turned upside down and inside out” (S.R. Mallery).

[TMWID Box Set (Medium)]Box Set: TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD (The Complete Trilogy) is on sale everywhere. Now’s your chance to grab it for $2.99 US.

Buy Links
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
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Smashwords

Tell Me When I’m Dead (Book One of TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD)
And if you haven’t read the series at all, note that Book One is always free.

Buy Links
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iTunes
Kobo
Smashwords

Happy reading!

Fiction and Profanity—F-Bombs Away!

[Slim Pickens Riding the Bomb]
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

Recently, I reread an autobiographical novel I had written a number of years ago, thinking I could tidy it up for publication. Though I enjoyed much of the writing style, I was horrified at the frequency of f-bombs. Why? Because I don’t write that way anymore. And I couldn’t even defend the use of these words as critical to the genre. This book is essentially a dramedy—Life, Love and the pursuit of sex.

Some time after, I read an interesting post by PJ Parrish, which is a pseudonym for sisters and writing partners Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols (see “Profanity in Crime Fiction: Reality or Lazy Writing?”). In it, they state …

There are different reasons why readers dislike profanity in their fiction. It can [be] colored by religious conviction, personal morals or just plain old taste. Authors are guided by the same impulses. Mark Henshaw, a Mormon crime writer, wrote a blog “Why I Don’t Use Profanity,” saying, “My short answer to the question is: because my mother reads my books. My long answer is a bit more involved.”

A Religious Debate
There are any number of articles and blog posts about whether foul language belongs in good fiction. If you’d like to test that assertion, try a Google search on “fiction and profanity.” According to Montee and Nichols, some authors write blue because they feel it’s required to make their novels realistic. Others, like Mark Henshaw, leave it out because their mothers are reading their books.

Now, I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. I have been known to let go, using strings of colorful expletives the way Rumpelstiltskin spins straw into gold. And I don’t happen to think most good writers choose profanity out of laziness either. Nevertheless, I’ve chosen to leave that kind of language out of my writing. Not because I feel I am better than everyone else. It’s mainly a marketing decision. In other words, I don’t want to turn off any potential new readers because they can’t get past the swear words.

Being “Authentic”
Not to take sides, but I do want to address the question of authenticity in fiction. Apparently, some authors feel that in order to depict realistic worlds (e.g., war, crime, etc.), they need to use lots of swear words. Well, I don’t think that’s true. If it were, then why isn’t urban crime fiction littered with liberal doses of the N-word? I don’t care how “realistic” you think your fiction is. The fact that you are telling a story means you are creating a world that doesn’t exist. Sure, it can resemble the real world, but in the end, it’s fake. And thank goodness!

Think about it. What if you were to write about real life exactly as it is? Wouldn’t it be kind of, I don’t know, boring? People don’t like to read fiction that depicts real life—they read to escape to a different life. And, yes, you should see things that are familiar. But a good writer is drawing you in with great characters and a powerful made-up story. So, if you agree that this is the case, then who is to say you have to include the f-word just to make things seem real?

Profanity and Violence
Very often, violent stories go hand-in-hand with profanity. Just watch any R-rated action movie. But this is not always the case. Take ‘The Conjuring,’ for example. This film received an R-rating from the MPAA. Why? Because it’s scary and violent. Yet, there is no hardcore swearing anywhere in the movie, according to the parents’ guide. So to those who think you need this kind of language to appear realistic, let me ask you this—What better time to let off a few f-bombs than when your mother is possessed by a demon? Yet, none are found in ‘The Conjuring,’ and the story still works.

Many of you know I wrote the horror thriller series TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD. At the time, I made a conscious decision not to use certain expletives. Sure, there is some mild cursing but nothing hardcore. And, again, if you’ve read the work, you’ll know that these books are violent as hell. Some may disagree, but I believe I have created a balance that works. In my fictional world, people can find themselves in horrible danger and not swear like merchant marines. And readers can still enjoy a powerful story.

So what are your thoughts?

COLD FEET FEVER—the Story behind the Story

[Maureen Fisher]Guest post by Maureen Fisher

Truth be told, Cold Feet Fever, a spin-off from Fur Ball Fever, was my most difficult book to write so far. This may be partly because my new protagonist’s backstory was already established in the previous book. I had no choice but to define his goal (pull off a kick-ass grand opening for his paranormal nightclub), a great plot providing seemingly insurmountable obstacles (a goofy dog, exploding trucks, an unfortunate synchronized swimming episode, homicidal thugs, a corrupt building inspector, disappearing corpses, a kidnapping, not to mention the threat of live cremation), and the perfect heroine (a bossy mortician-turned-event-planner with criminal ties) to ensure suitable character growth in a serial womanizer with commitment issues, albeit he’s smokin’ hot, funny, and irresistible.

But that’s not the main reason I had difficulty writing Cold Feet Fever. Nope. Although it was never diagnosed, I’m pretty sure I suffered a brain injury that affected me for close to three years. I only put this together after talking to a friend who’d experienced shaken brain injury.

Here’s the thing. Every winter, my husband and I flee Canada to enjoy Puerto Vallarta weather. Sidewalks in the Mexican seaside town are notorious for causing injuries. You wouldn’t believe the tourists limping around the city, balancing on crutches, sporting casts, or renting portable wheelchairs. One day, I decided to take inventory. For half an hour, I sat on the Malecon and counted four arm casts, five walking casts, three knee braces, two pairs of crutches, and one tensor-encased wrist.

At first glance, those sidewalks look innocuous—mostly paved and surprisingly level. Hah! If you take your eyes off those suckers for one split second, an unexpected slant, or a two-inch metal bolt cunningly camouflaged as part of the sidewalk, or, my personal favorite, a rogue crevice roughly the size of the San Andreas Fault takes out the unwary tourist. And don’t get me started on the stairs, which are everywhere given that Puerto Vallarta is built on the side of a coastal mountain range. Seemingly normal-looking stairs invariably have one tricky step that is either higher or shorter than all the rest. Always. I believe it’s written into every construction contract.

It took a while for me to learn that if I wanted to sightsee, I must stop walking before gawking. But by then, it was too little, too late. Over the course of three winters, I not only twisted an ankle and sprained my wrist, but also cracked my head not once, not twice, but three times on Puerto Vallarta concrete. Suffice it to say that when the brain, which has a consistency similar to Jell-O, suddenly collides with the skull, which is as hard as cement (at least I’m told mine is), bad things happen to nice people.

The end result? For three years I was unable to focus on anything requiring brain activity, namely my writing. Whenever I sat down at the computer and tried to resolve a plot twist or write a sexy love scene, my brain fogged up. Immediately, I grew exhausted and crawled away for a nap. This, from someone who never napped a nanosecond in her life.

Slowly, things improved. I started writing again and managed to finish a book that I’m proud to publish. I hope you will enjoy Cold Feet Fever as much as I did while writing it.

Book Blurb

[Cold Feet Fever Cover]

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Smashwords

Cold Feet Fever
A Romantic Crime Mystery with Tons of Humor

Secrets and Crime Have Never Been So Much Fun—or So Romantic!

A bad boy gambler with a lazy streak and commitment issues:
Owning Kinki, Atlantic City’s first paranormal nightclub, isn’t as easy—or as much fun—as Sam Jackson anticipated. Someone’s trying to shut him down before he opens, he’s on the verge of bankruptcy, and his matchmaking granddaddy has hired a sexy event planner with a mysterious background, bossy disposition, and criminal ties.

A mortician-turned-event-planner with big secrets:
A job as event planner offers single mom, Katie Deluca, her last chance to escape her past. Turns out party planning is more difficult than organizing funerals. Plus, the nightclub owner, although perfect for awakening her sensuality, couldn’t be more wrong for the stability she craves.

Forced to collaborate, they overcome obstacles and fight crime:
Katie is the one person who can salvage Kinki—and heal Sam’s emotional wounds. Together, they tangle with a goofy dog, exploding trucks, an unfortunate synchronized swimming episode, homicidal thugs, a corrupt building inspector, disappearing corpses, a kidnapping, and the threat of live cremation, all to deliver a kick-ass grand opening.

Excerpt

With growing desperation, Katie managed to pry her purse from Rex’s jaws. He registered his disapproval with another howl ending in an eerie, wolf-like falsetto.

She prayed the couch’s occupants were far enough along in their bliss to ignore the interruption. Purse to chest, she silently backed away. She’d reached the main office when a man’s drawl flooded her entire body with apprehension.

“Much as I hate to break the mood, darlin’, I’d better check up on Rex. I don’t trust him near the pizza.”

Before Katie could flee, or dig a hole for herself, or better still, throw herself out the window, Sam Jackson, playboy and, if she believed the Internet gossip, all-around heartbreaker strolled out of the alcove. Buttoning an amber silk shirt the same color as his eyes and wearing a Stetson, he halted and scrutinized Katie across the gleaming expanse of conference table.

The grainy newspaper photos she’d studied online didn’t come close to doing justice to his masculine glory. Everything about him screamed sexy, from that chiseled jaw and those sculpted lips, to his streaky blond hair framing a face that belonged on the big screen.

Fortunately, pretty packaging didn’t interest her in the slightest. Nope. The man was a degenerate who enjoyed booze, gambling, and women, not necessarily in that order.

As he closed in, his gaze took a long, leisurely tour of her body before settling on her mouth. He exuded a hint of cologne, all woodsy and spicy and delicious, not that she cared. Was it her imagination, or did his expression hint at amusement?

“Howdy, ma’am. I apologize if my dog scared you, but I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong office.” His voice was a little raspy, steeped in moonlight and magnolias.

Katie cleared her throat. “I’m in the right place, thank you.”

One side of his mouth kicked up a notch. “You must be here for our job fair. Try Room 204. That’s our HR department. In that outfit, you’d make a perfect Dracula’s Lair attendant.” A broad grin creased his cheeks, causing the corners of his eyes to crinkle.

“No, but thank you anyway.” Katie studied his face. “It’s obvious you didn’t touch base with your boss this morning.”

“Really? And all this time I believed I was the boss.”

 

About the Author
Transplanted from Scotland to Canada at the tender age of seven, Maureen Fisher now lives with her second husband in Ottawa, Ontario. Besides writing, she is a voracious reader and volunteer for an addiction family counseling program. In addition, she’s a bridge player, yoga practitioner, seeker of personal and spiritual growth, pickle ball enthusiast, and an infrequent but avid gourmet cook.

You can find Maureen on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at booksbymaureen.com.

What in the World Is “Family Fiction”?

[Arrested Development]
Photo courtesy of Deadline | Hollywood

A while ago, I told you about a novel I had adapted from one of my old screenplays (see “Adapting a Screenplay—Fun Times”). As I was writing the book, I thought my biggest challenge would be making a decent novel out of what is essentially a blueprint for a movie, which is what a screenplay is. The good news? I showed a recent draft to a few trusted friends, and the consensus is that the story works. Now for the bad news.

Finding Your Genre
Typically, when writing a novel you have pretty good idea about which genre you’re in. We’ve been trained to think this way, and it’s my view that this is mostly due to the influence of movies and television. What’s the first thing an agent asks you (after “Who are you again?”)—what is it? And they’re not talking about the story, my friend. No, they are asking whether it’s rom-com, horror, thriller, period, coming-of-age, etc. In other words, they want to know how to market it.

And here’s the thing—because we as writers are already trained, we will write according to these predefined genres, or categories. Of course, Amazon makes it easy too. When you publish your book, you are asked to select up to three categories. Here’s one—Fiction->Romance->Contemporary.

But what if your story doesn’t fall neatly into a pigeon hole?

Genre Benders
This is where I found myself after finishing my novel. And I will tell you in all honesty, this is precisely why I had struggled with the screenplay. In my mind, I had a great story, but it wasn’t targeted at a particular audience (kids, millennials, older adults, etc.). So, now what?

Well, I had a great conversation with my friend Melodie Ramone, who I interviewed recently. Melodie is not only a brilliant writer, but she knows the publishing world well—particularly when it comes to what publishers want from fiction. And what they want is apparently no different than what those pesky Hollywood agents want—they want to categorize the book so they can market it in the same tired way they do all the others that fall into your particular genre.

Sadly, my book is what Melodie calls a “genre bender.” And, bless her, she didn’t discourage me from publishing it. Sure, I’ll probably never get a literary agent to look at it, but who cares? I’m focused on indie publishing anyway. Of course, I still have to figure out how to market the damned thing, and that is still the problem.

Family Fiction
In researching genre-bending types of fiction, I ran across a term I wasn’t familiar with—family fiction. I tried looking it up, and guess what—there is no definition. I found items as diverse as “Christian fiction,” “family saga” and “domestic fiction.” In fact, there’s a site called FamilyFiction.com that appears to try and own the brand, categorizing itself as a purveyor of Christian fiction.

When I searched Amazon’s Kindle store, I found that “family fiction” is a recognized search term. The first book that popped up on the list at the time of this writing was The Doctor’s Unexpected Family by Kristen Ethridge. You got it—Christian fiction. The second was A Legacy of Secrets by Jean Reinhardt, which is listed as a family saga. Then there’s Alone by Holly Hook, which appears to be targeted to the YA/Sci-Fi/Fantasy crowd. I saw other titles with “family” in them, which unfortunately means that Mario Puzo’s The Family is included. Now, most people are aware that Amazon is great at leveraging big data, but the fact that Christian fiction-themed books appear alongside stories about La Cosa Nostra tells me that family fiction is not a true genre, at least as far as they’re concerned.

Alternatively, if you visit Goodreads, you’ll find a list of family fiction that features books as diverse as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling and An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle (which is part of her “A Wrinkle in Time” series). Now granted, the only reason the list contains these books is because readers shelved them that way, which tells me that readers themselves don’t really understand what family fiction is. They probably figure, hey, if it’s about a family, then it must be family fiction. So wait, could it be that simple?

Bringing It Home
Back to my story. My book is told mostly in the first person by a thirteen-year-old girl. But occasionally, I use third-person omniscient because there are important scenes that don’t include her but drive the other characters—her mother and father, for example.

I still haven’t figured out how I am going to market this thing, but Melodie gave me some great suggestions. I will keep you informed as to my progress. In the meantime, I would love to see some comments about what you consider to be family fiction.