Category Archives: Guest Post

Colleen Story Interview

Colleen M. StoryEarlier this morning I posted a review of The Beached Ones by Colleen Story. I hope you enjoy this interview that takes us behind the scenes to look at a writer’s process and inspiration.

Colleen M. Story: The Beached Ones
Interviewed by Lauren Carr

What made you write a book about the bond between two brothers?
I grew up with three brothers—one older and two younger. I felt responsible for my younger brothers much of the time. I took care of them as we were growing up, which informed my portrayal of Daniel, who is the older brother in the story.

The bonds between siblings are unique and challenged by many factors including upbringing, parents, age, and personalities. Yet these are the longest-lasting relationships most of us will have in our lifetimes. When the character of Daniel came to me, it was always with his younger brother Tony. That relationship was there from the beginning and provided a great grounding point for the rest of the story.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
Inspiration comes to me from a variety of places, but often I can’t identify where when talking about a particular story. The main character will just show up in my mind first, and then over time, his or her story will start to develop in my mind.
In the case of The Beached Ones, though, I could go back and identify a couple of sources of inspiration. The first was the movie Sarah’s Key, which was based on the book of the same title by Tatiana de Rosnay. The second was an experience I had myself as a child. My adoptive father committed suicide. The experience was traumatic, but when you’re young, you don’t have the maturity to understand or deal with it.

Later in life, that event came up again. I started thinking about it more, and I had a few dreams about it. I didn’t purposely write about it, but I can see echoes of that experience showing up in some facets of The Beached Ones.

What advice would you give budding writers?
One of the most common pieces of advice I share with writers is to focus on the work. It’s very easy to get caught up in the trappings of the writing life—getting published, having readers/fans, and chasing that golden ticket to writing fame. We all have those dreams, but if you’re called to write, it’s likely for another reason. (Your soul doesn’t care if you become famous, in other words.)

No matter if you become the next bestseller or never publish a single story, if you focus on writing as a daily (or almost daily) practice, you will notice positive changes in your life. I guarantee it. Writing is magical that way.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?
If I could put myself as a character in the book, it would probably be Gus. He is a preacher at a cowboy church, and he just lives his life as he sees fit. He doesn’t worry about what anyone else thinks. He spends time in the beautiful mountains of Montana, and he likes to ride his four-wheeler around. Yet he’s kind and caring and offers a lot of support to Daniel (my main character) and his little brother Tony.

How long have you been writing?
I started writing seriously in the mid-1990s. I got my first official writing job in 1997. I went freelance in 2003, and have been a professional freelance writer ever since. Meanwhile, I continued to write fiction and penned several novels, many of which never saw the light of day. I received my first traditional novel publishing contract in 2013, I think! Since then I’ve published five more books and plan to keep going.

Anne Beall Interview

Cinderella Didn't Live Happily Ever AfterGuest Interview: Anne Beall, author of Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After

Why did you write a book about fairy tales?
I’ve always loved fairy tales and after a particularly bad day, I turned to them for comfort. As I read, I noticed some patterns, so I decided to analyze them systematically. I conducted statistical analyses and found that female characters were often weak, passive and terribly victimized, whereas males were brave, intelligent, and powerful. And powerful men were mostly good, whereas powerful women were often evil. Females married royalty largely because of their appearance whereas males married royalty when they showed tremendous feats of bravery or intelligence. I was surprised how many hidden messages about gender, power, agency and good versus evil.

Are you suggesting that children shouldn’t like Cinderella or other popular fairy tales?
No, not at all. These are good stories. I just caution people to think about what else they may communicate besides the basic plot. I don’t think we want to suggest to little girls that they should just wait for Prince Charming to save them from a difficult situation. That seems like a big message to give that could lead to a lot of disappointment.
I am definitely not against children reading fairy tales. In fact, I encourage people of all ages to read fairy tales because there are so many great ones. In some of them, the female character goes to battle, saves her handsome prince, and rescues family members. There are quite a few fabulous female heroines who are strong and inspirational.

Do you have another profession besides writing?
Yes! I’m a researcher and I own a research company that does market research for Fortune 500 companies. We do everything from surveys and focus-groups to complex statistical modeling. We do studies to help companies understand their customers better and to provide better products and services to them. It’s a wonderful profession and I work with very smart people.

Do you write anything other than non-fiction?
I’m writing a middle-grade fairy tale about a heroine who ends up battling an evil wizard. She is a lowly servant in a castle and believes she’s an orphan. A fairy comes to her and tells her she has a family, but they’ve been cursed. She must solve riddles and find enchanted items to lift this curse and be reunited with her family. Although she has some special gifts, she lacks confidence in her abilities and doesn’t think she can do it. And she only has 15 days, or the curse will be permanent!

What is your advice to anyone who thinks they have a book within them?

I believe everyone has an important story to tell. My best advice is to sit down and write it. You can get help in editing and crafting your story once you’ve written it. But for now, just sit down and get it out. I believe that there is a reason you want to write it and the world needs to read it. Don’t let a lack of confidence get in your way. Just write! That’s the best advice I have. If there is something that’s nagging at you, there is probably a reason.

Thank you so much.
-Anne Beall

Guest Post: Lauren Carr

Shadow of Murder by Lauren CarrEarlier today, I posted a review of Shadow of Murder. Now I’d like to present the author in her own words, outside of her novels. Presenting, Guest Post: Lauren Carr.

The Lasagna That Turned into a 900-lb Gorilla

by Lauren Carr, author of Shadow of Murder

I have learned that every author puts a little bit of themselves into their characters. No, I am not a murderer. Yes there is a killer in every one of my murder mysteries. After all, you can’t have a murder mystery without a killer in the cast of characters somewhere.

We’ll dive into that another time.

Today, I wanted to talk about Erica Hart, who I introduced in Shadow of Murder. Erica Hart is the Cold Case Diva, who works with Mac Faraday to solve a couple of murders in Deep Creek Lake.

One aspect of Erica Hart’s character is that she is a gourmet cook (like me!) and has a collection of family recipes going back multiple generations in a special cookbook that has been passed down throughout her family (also like me!).

Some of you may recall the famous saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” This is one of the many things that bring Erica and Dusty together as she charms him with her cooking talent. I confess, my husband swears it is my cooking that made him fall in love with me.

In one scene in Shadow of Murder, Erica passes on her secrets to a great lasagna to Dusty’s thirteen-year-old daughter. While writing that scene, I found myself recalling one of the multiple times that I wondered if being a great cook was blessing or a curse.

I think most of you are quite familiar with the tendency of adding just one more thing to your to-do-list —usually because you are a nice person. (You have my permission to reach around and pat yourself on the back for being a good person.) Or maybe because that little thing is something that you rather enjoy doing—like whipping up a delicious lasagna made from your own secret recipe.

The very thought of making a single lasagna seems quite minuscule while it is a thought inside your head. Then, it ceases being a thought and turns into a reality. Before you know it, that single lasagna grows until it is transformed into a 900-pound gorilla that has decided to sit down right smack in the middle of your kitchen.

One Sunday, my friend Gail requested food for a reception following a funeral. Instantly, my husband’s eyes lit up and he turned to me. “Lasagna,” he mouthed.

I thought, “Gee, I haven’t made a lasagna in quite a while. It only takes a couple of hours to prepare and assemble a lasagna.” So, I volunteered to make a lasagna for the funeral reception. At which point, Gail handed a huge pan—big enough for three lasagnas—to me.

Okay, my one lasagna is now three, plus one for my family.

Except, when I make a lasagna, I don’t just make a single lasagna. I make several lasagnas, cook one for dinner, and then pack up and freeze the rest. Then during the upcoming months, when I get busy and don’t feel like cooking, I’ll take one out of the freezer and pop it into the oven.

The day after I had volunteered to make the giant lasagna, my husband came home with six foil pans in anticipation of my culinary delight. In one day, my couple of lasagnas had multiplied up to ten. One enormous pasta dish for the church, six to be frozen, and one for dinner.

Just smile. It will only take a few hours, and everyone will be happy afterwards, I kept telling myself while trying to figure out where I was going to put all of these lasagna pans and hoping I had enough pots and pans to cook the noodles and sauces. I was seriously wondering if my kitchen was big enough to contain this giant gorilla (aka lasagnas).

As L-Day (Lasagna Day) approached, my husband kept requesting a grocery list of what he would need to purchase. Finally, on Saturday, I sat down to count up the lasagna pans and add up the amount of the ingredients. I came up with five boxes of noodles, five huge jars of sauce, a half a ton of Italian sausage, and a ton of various cheeses.

He came back from the store with five boxes of noodles, half a ton of Italian sausage, ground beef, and pork, a ton of various cheeses and one regular size jar of sauce.

“What happened to the sauce?” I asked.

“That’s plenty of sauce,” replied the man who has yet to figure out how to turn on the toaster. “Let’s not go crazy.”

“Dear, the time to suggest that we not go crazy has passed,” I said. “I’ve volunteered to make enough lasagna to feed an army, plus enough lasagna to feed us until the end of the next Ice Age, and you bring me one jar of sauce!”

He handed me the car keys and said that if I needed more sauce, I could go back to the store to get it.

So, I did exactly that. Grumbling the whole way, I drove to the store and bought four huge jars of sauce and a giant cheesecake.

You see, over the years, I’ve learned something about 900-pound gorillas. Best not to fight it. Embrace it, feed it plenty of cheesecake, and the two of you will get along just fine.

Lauren Carr

Lauren CarrI’ve just discovered Lauren Carr, a prolific author of cozy mysteries as well as other genres. In the near future, I’ll be reading and reviewing a few of Carr’s mysteries.

Gnarly is a character that appears in a few of the books in Carr’s Mac Faraday series.

Enjoy this preview of what’s ahead.

Ten Things You May Not Know about Gnarly
by Lauren Carr

Gnarly is a canine genius. In It’s Murder, My Son, Mac has Gnarly evaluated by a dog expert who determines that the German shepherd has reasoning and planning capability, which is why he doesn’t always listen to humans.

Gnarly is a kleptomaniac. When he gets bored, he plans and executes heists—just to see if he can get away with it.

Gnarly is a West Virginian. He was born at Beck’s Kennels in Inwood, West Virginia. His parents still live there.

Gnarly is lactose intolerant. Mac Faraday only recently made this discovery.

Gnarly was not in the first or even second draft of It’s Murder, My Son. While Mac Faraday had a dog, it was not become an actual character until a much later draft.

Gnarly has a squirrel friend named Otis. Occasionally, he and Gnarly will have spats. In Old Loves Die Hard, Otis threw acorns at Gnarly, hitting David’s police cruiser.

Gnarly was inspired by Lauren’s son’s Australian shepherd, which was given to him by a woman during halftime at a football game. Her big sales pitch: “You can keep him. He’s free!” The next day, the free puppy chewed through a $65 power cord.

There is a real Gnarly. After the success of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, Lauren got a real German shepherd and named him Gnarly, after his fictional counterpart. He was kind enough to model for the fictional Gnarly’s campaign posters.

The real Gnarly can open doors—even doors with round doorknobs like his fictional counterpart. For this reason, Lauren has to lock the door when she wants Gnarly to stay outside. He hasn’t conquered picking locks yet; but give him time. Most of Gnarly’s misbehaviors are based on real-life incidents involving Lauren’s dogs or dog stories supplied to her by fans.

While the fictional Gnarly is un-neutered, the real life Gnarly is. A friend of Lauren’s wanted to breed Gnarly with her purebred German shepherd, but before the “wedding” could take place, Gnarly developed an unhealthy obsession with a footstool. For the sake of her sanity, Lauren decided to get Gnarly altered. Luckily, Lauren’s friend understood.

Guest Interview – Arthur Herbert

Guest interview for Arthur Herbert, author of The Bones of Amoret

Bones of Amoret by Arthur HerbertSo I see in your bio that you’re a practicing burn and trauma surgeon. What’s that like?

Lots of stress. Not just the fact of dealing with patients who might die, but also of caring for their families as well. You need to be empathetic, but being that giving of a part of yourself takes an emotional and psychological toll on you, too. That’s one of the reasons that burnout is so prevalent in the field. You know, I’m constantly making that phone call that we all dread getting in which I wake someone up out of a dead sleep at two in the morning to say, “Hi, is this Mrs. X? I’m a surgeon working at University Medical Center. I’m afraid your son has been in an accident and he’s been badly injured.” Doing that over and over for a couple of decades takes a piece out of you.

How long did it take for you to become a surgeon versus a writer?

After college I did four years of medical school, followed by five years of general surgery residency, and two more years of burn and trauma surgery fellowship plus laboratory time. The writing thing on the other hand just sort of happened, though. I was an English major in college, and I’ve done a ton of scientific writing for my whole medical career. I didn’t start writing fiction until 2019 when I joke that I accidentally wrote my first novel. The Cuts that Cure started off as a Word document that served as a distraction from a really boring scientific protocol upon which I was laboring. It grew over several months until I realized I had almost 60,000 words. I literally googled “How long is the average novel?” and when I saw the answer was 80-90,000 words, I realized what I’d done. I invested in a developmental editor who made some key suggestions such as giving the main character a love interest and playing up the cat-and-mouse between Henry and the Detective as well as giving me several scenes to cut and several scenes to expand. After my revisions, I shopped the manuscript around and lo and behold got an offer on the contract. That’s when things got real in a hurry.

As busy as it sounds like you are as a surgeon, when do you find the time to write?

I get this question a lot, and my answer is always that I don’t find the time to write, I make the time to write. On the days I write fiction, I get up at 3:45 am and I write until I have to start getting cleaned up to go to work. I set weekly word count goals for new or edited prose, and I’m pretty compulsive about hitting those mile posts. The morning time is my most creative, so I really kind of have to do my writing then. When I come home in the evening, first of all I’m gassed and doing well to keep up my end of a conversation. Secondly, that’s my time with my wife, Amy.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen in your time as a doctor?

This is pretty gross, but it’s funny too. When I was a surgery intern, I got called to the ER at four in the morning for a guy who’d stuck a cucumber up his rectum and couldn’t get it out. While I got the guy curled up in the fetal position on the ER stretcher, gloved up, and went about trying to retrieve it, a colleague of mine who shall remain nameless stood nearby watching. It was like pulling Excalibur from the stone, but I finally managed to get it out and drop it on the steel tray next to the bed with a moist thump. My buddy looked at the feces-stained cucumber and said, “Sir, you have got to start chewing your food better.” It’s been almost twenty-five years and that still makes me laugh.

It seems like a job like that would be rich fodder for stories.

Absolutely. Some of them are sad, some are funny, some are weird, some are dark. But none of them are boring.

At first I’d assumed you’d write medical thrillers, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily true, is it?

I get that expectation from other readers a lot, too, for reasons that are understandable. But while almost all of my stories have some element of medicine in them, none of them, zero, are medical thrillers in the style of Patricia Cornwell, with brave doctors fighting evil drug companies or playing medical detectives. My stories are first and foremost suspense stories that happen to deal with medical scenarios. Take for instance, my new one, The Bones of Amoret. Yes, the protagonist Noah is a doctor, but I use his profession as a vehicle rather than a defining characteristic. Had my publisher come back to me and said, “You have to make Noah a plumber,” I think I could have made that work. I’m a lot more Quentin Tarantino than I am Robin Cook.

Finding Happiness – Chloe Sunstone

Finding Happiness through the Written Word

Chloe Sunstone, author of "Ginger Snapped"One typical Monday morning I dragged myself to my tedious Human Resources (HR) job. Tired legs, a bored mind and my drooping eyes watched the seconds tick by on the clock. I wondered when this hell would end. When will I be able to escape the suffocating structure of corporate America? That evening, I trudged into my home, laptop in tow, prepared to make a quick, unhealthy dinner and hop on my Dell for another three to four hours of work. I made eye contact with my loving husband, Mike, and he knew.

Continue reading

Chloe Sunstone – New Cyberthriller

HEADS UP

Chloe Sunstone, author of "Ginger Snapped"Chloe Sunstone, author of a new cyberthriller, the recently released (Oct. 2018) Ginger Snapped, captured the first guest post spot on my blog. Ginger Snapped is the second cybercrime thriller by Ms. Sunstone. She also wrote The Mentor, which was published earlier this year. Look for both of her books at www.amazon.com.

Look for this guest post on Monday afternoon, November 12, 2018.

Over the coming months, keep an eye out for author interviews and guest posts as well as my book reviews.

Looking to publicize a new book? Contact me via my contact page to possibly set up an interview or guest post.