Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Issue of Self-Publishing Control: Book Titles

Control: I believe that is the best aspect of self-publishing. Sure, in the discussions that rage endlessly across the internet about trad-publishing vs. self-publishing, the major issue always seems to revolve around money. Yes, we get better royalties when we self-pub. When my first book was published by a NY house, my royalty rate for the first 100,000 books sold was ten cents per book. You read that right: ten cents. After that, it “jumped” to twenty-five cents.
But that issue has been beaten to death. I believe people overlook the bigger picture of self-publishing, and that’s having control over the way the book is packaged and presented.
The number one issue is the title. The title gives our readers the very first glimpse of the story. In just a word or two or three, we have to convey some idea of the story line, the genre, and the overall feel of the book. That’s a tall order.
My first book was an historical romance. Not exactly high literature, but that’s what I was reading at the time — reading and having extreme disappointment in. With almost every other book I read, I found myself muttering, “I can do better than this.” So I did. My book was set in the American West of the 1800s and the protagonist was a half-breed, raised white in New York society, who ran away to Kansas to search for her Cheyenne family. I titled it The Rare Breed.
When I sold that book to the NY house, the first thing they did after I signed the contract was change the title. My book became Love’s Savage Destiny. Believe me, I was not pleased. My book was not a bodice-ripper, and I wasn’t too keen on it being presented as such, but all of this was now beyond my control. In my haste to hook up with a traditional publisher and have a credible house logo on the spine, I had given up any influence over the cover or title of the book. The cover, luckily, wasn’t bad – not overly titillating but still suggestive. My book was definitely on the sensual side, but although the sex was graphic in a flowery way, I always felt that the real story was the heroine’s growth through her journey. The title and cover implied no growth except perhaps in the leading male character’s anatomy.
I still remember the first time my husband and I went to a chain bookstore to see if my book was on the shelf. The store had one huge wall full of romance novels, and we both scanned the shelves looking for mine. No, no, no, no … After several minutes of fruitless search, my husband finally said to me, “There’s a lot of Savages up there.” And there were. Way too many.
Because my publisher had the option on my next book, I dutifully sent it to them. It, too, was a western romance, this time set in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. Again, the romance was strong but still secondary (I thought) to the heroine’s struggle to understand the father she never knew, the one that left her gold from the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. My title was Superstition Gold, alluding not only to the literal gold but also to the gold of her new-found romance and relationship. As before, I would never consider the book a bodice-ripper.
My publisher begged to differ. I received a letter from them announcing the new title of the book was Love’s Savage Embrace. They also hoped I would be as “thrilled” with the title as they were.
Yeah, no.
It was at that point that I swore one day I would write a romance novel and call it Love’s Savage Armpit. (Which I have now done!)
In any event, both books went through several iterations with my publisher and then finally were allowed to lapse out of print and the rights reverted back to me. Still uncomfortable with the bodice-ripper association, I republished them under my original titles and with less titillating covers, although I do reference the other titles on the publication page. (I’d hate to have readers think they were hoodwinked into buying the same book twice. “Hey, this sounds familiar….”) But I’m much happier with the books being presented in a more thoughtful, less scintillating way. Sure, I like sex as well as the next guy, but I’d still rather that my readers know my stories have more to them than that.
And now, being self-published, I can do just that.
Some of you might be wondering, did my books sell better with my titles, my covers, or with the publisher’s? It’s impossible to say; it’s apples and oranges. When the publisher put the books out, they were in drugstores and grocery stores, available in the turning wire racks where impulse buyers might see them. Now that I market my own books and the industry has changed so much, all my promotion is online or in person. The only thing I can tell you is that both books now embody the vision I had for them from the very beginning. They are my books: my stories, my titles, my covers, my packaging.
That’s the freedom of having total control.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on September 23, 2014.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stop the Chop: Writing Smooth Transitions

Have you ever read a book where the scene is progressing nicely, things are happening, people are talking and then … you’re somewhere else. From one paragraph to the next, you’ve gone from a moonlit beach to a crowded avenue. You were just starting to understand the relationship between John and Marsha and now suddenly you’re introduced to Tony.
“Marsha, hello,” John called brightly. He was obviously pleased to see her. His eyes shone at her with reflected moonlight.
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
Does this make you do a double-take? Do you have to go back and re-read just to make sure you didn’t miss something? In recent months I’ve read more than a few books that had trouble with transitions. Now I’ve yammered on before about how, when we write, we need to make sure the reader is flowing along with us effortlessly. Yes, there may be drama in the story and yes, there may be tension, but there shouldn’t be any of that in the reader’s efforts to follow the story. The reader may need to work at piecing out the story line in a thriller, may need to tease out the truth from the lies and misdirections in a mystery, but they should not have to work at following the writing. In my opinion, if the reader does have to work at that, we haven’t done our job well at all.
There are several ways to indicate a change of time or scene. A very simple way is to put an extra space between the paragraphs.
“Hello,” John called brightly. He was obviously pleased to see her. His eyes shone at her with reflected moonlight.
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.

Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
The space gives us a visual clue that something has changed, and it sets us up immediately — without reading another word — that something different is going on. Equate this to the “fade to black” in films. You know when the scene fades to black that you’re either going to a different time or a different place, even if it’s still a scene with the same characters.
I have to add a small caveat here. With the popularity of eBooks, we unfortunately often see formatting glitches, generally in the category of extra spaces where there shouldn’t be one (as well as indent anomalies). The single extra space between paragraphs is a simple, subtle way of indicating a shift, but with eBooks, it might be better to be more obvious, just in case. For that reason, I suggest the use of centered asterisks (either three or five) between paragraphs, like this:
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
Another more direct way is to preface your next sentence with a reference to time or place. It might look like:
The next day, Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
In Times Square, Tony cursed the Black Friday crowds while he shouldered his way down the sidewalk. He hated shopping.
No, it’s not particularly elegant, but it’s unmistakable. The readers don’t have to wonder where or when they are. Those few words set them up immediately for the next scene.
If you don’t want to use anything as obvious as the above, there’s another way. That’s to put a period on the end of your paragraph. What I mean by this is that you can end your paragraph with a line that wraps up the scene, that gives it a final, definitive feel to it, even if it also promises there’s more to come. We see this often in soap operas (no, I don’t watch them, but I have surfed through enough of them from time to time). It might look like this:
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her. He folded his arms across his chest, forming a barrier between her and any escape she might consider. This time, he would make sure she wasn’t going anywhere until she explained where she’d been.
“Hello, John.” Her voice was low, cautious. Her eyes darted nervously about the deserted beach, and she caught her lower lip in her teeth.
“How are you?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.
Marsha sighed in tired resignation. She should have told him about the surgery a long time ago. She owed him that much, at least. “It’s a long story,” she said. “We’d better sit.”
I realize this is all subjective and can be very nebulous when we’re trying to tie it down, but it’s like the old definition of quality. You may not be able to define it, but you know it when you see it. And you also know when it’s not working. What do you think? What tools do you use to make good transitions?
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on August 26, 2014.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Release: Dream Walk

I'm happy to announce the release of my latest book, Dream Walk, the fourth book in the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery Series. 

As you may remember, Lacey and Sam are private investigators who investigate murders--by communicating with the victims. 

Private investigator Lacey Fitzpatrick and Navajo medium Sam Firecloud are usually called to clear haunted locations of their lingering ghosts using Sam’s unusual talent for communicating with the dead. This time, however, the dead—Sam’s former brother-in-law—comes to him… in a dream. Now Sam and Lacey head to Las Vegas to figure out how to find the body and uncover a murder plot before the murderers bury them forever.

Catch up on all the action. Follow Lacey and Sam through mysterious investigations in Los Angeles, the Navajo reservation in Arizona, and Hollywood. 

Ghost Walk         Skin Walk         Star Walk

To celebrate the new release, all books in the series are just 99 cents through July 31, 2017 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Favorite Characters: Corporal Patrick Riley

Recently I was interviewed for another blog, and one of the questions put to me was: Which of your own characters is your favorite, and why? Hmm... My first impulse was to examine all the main characters from my books, and there are many that I have great fondness for. However, the one character that I love above all others happens to be a secondary character. He is Corporal Patrick Riley, a striker in my time travel books Finding Travis and Being Travis.

If you're unfamiliar, a striker was an enlisted man in the frontier US Army who was tasked with being a servant and assistant to an officer. The title originally came from the fact that the striker was the one who struck the tent of an officer when the Cavalry was getting ready to move.

In my two-book series, my main character, Lieutenant Travis Merrill, is flung backward in time to 1877 at Camp Verde, Arizona Territory. In my efforts to be completely authentic about his experience, I knew I had to write in a striker for him. During this time, there were many Irish and German men who moved west, looking for the opportunities they did not have in their homelands or in the eastern US, so making Travis' striker an Irish man made sense. I introduced the character with little fanfare and few expectations.

Imagine my surprise when Riley morphed before my eyes into a funny, stoic, steadfast man who said little but saw everything, who kept his own counsel but watched over Travis like a favorite uncle, giving Travis enough rope to hang himself but staying close by to help him untie the knots if need be. As the relationship deepened and grew stronger, I realized I was writing a friendship unlike any I had ever written before. 

Riley has a dry and very wicked sense of humor, and he and Travis learn to talk trash to each other while staying within their bounds of enlisted man vs. officer protocol. Much that passes between them is unsaid, yet they understand each other completely. Riley is the perfect foil for Travis, and ends up stealing every scene in which he appears. 

Who knew a secondary character could come to the fore and embody such heart, such restraint, such compassion? Certainly not me. Maybe that's why I love him. He was a total surprise, and he absolutely makes the books. 

It was as much for him as for Travis that I wrote the sequel.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Where Are YOU in Your Own Story Arc?

A while back, I was being interviewed by a reporter at the local paper for a weekly column called A Day in the Life of …  These columns feature local, everyday people, from business owners to artists to worker bees to civil servants and volunteers. My particular column was to be A Day in the Life of a Writer. The reporter and I know each other, so the mood was casual, more a friendly chat than a grilling. He asked many of the questions I’ve fielded before: what genre(s) do I write, how did I get started, etc. Pretty much your basic interview. Suddenly, though, he asked me a question that poleaxed me. I sat there, mouth agape, brain churning, trying to figure out the answer to something I’d never thought about before.
“Have you written your best book already, or is that still to come?”
“Uh …..”
It was a serious question and it required a serious, deliberate answer. It also required me to delve deep inside myself right at that moment and find out how the two options felt. Had I written my best book already? I’ve got nineteen novels and one non-fiction to my credit, all of which have been well-received. But my best? No. I knew on a visceral level that I still had more to come, more and better. I may never write the Great American Novel, but I knew without a doubt that I will write more stories, and they will be good ones. No, I have not yet written my best. I’m still on the rise. I’m still on the upswing.
I told the reporter about my father. He was an artist all his life, a commercial artist by day but a wonderful representational artist in his free time. I’m sure you’ve never heard of him: Howard Munns. He sold some of his work through a handful of galleries around the country, but he was a quiet man, unassuming and modest, and he was not comfortable promoting his work nearly as much as the rest of the family thought he should. He was self-taught and had a lifelong love affair with the landscapes and wildlife he painted. He died some years ago at the age of 90. The truly remarkable thing about him, though, was the fact that he was doing his best work when he was in his 80s. His eyesight wasn’t good, and if you looked closely you might see little places where the paint didn’t cover the canvas, but the pictures he was painting in his last years were the most beautiful and inspired work I had ever seen him do. The picture above, the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, was done when my dad was about 84 years old.
How many of us might be able to say that?
On the flip side, I can think of two authors right off that, in my opinion, peaked early and have never duplicated their best work. Stephen King’s The Stand is by far (again, IMHO) his best work. Compared to this, I find his other work to be commercial and uninspired, although to be fair, I must admit that I haven’t read any of his in the last few years. John Irving reached a similar pinnacle with A Prayer for Owen Meany. Likewise, his other works pale in comparison (and I freely admit I have not read every book he’s written). For both of these authors, the named books were absolutely perfect gems set high above the dross of 99.9% of all other books. I would kill to write a book like that.
But I would never want to know that my best book was behind me.
I don’t know about you, but I want the work that I do in my 70s to be better than the work I’m doing now in my 60s. I want the work that I do in my 80s to be better than the work I do in my 70s. It may sound weird, but I’d almost rather die with my best work undone than know that I had hit my peak somewhere along the way and was on the downhill slide in my writing. I’m not sure I could bear that.
So what about you? Where are you, as a writer, in the story arc of your life?
Originally published on Indies Unlimited January 27, 2015.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Release: STAR WALK

I am happy to announce the release of my newest book, Star Walk, Book 3 of the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery series. 

As you may or may not know, Lacey is an ex-cop turned private investigator and Sam, a Navajo medium, is her partner. Together they work to help tortured souls move on from the haunted houses they are bound to, and the pair often investigate murders by talking to the victims themselves. The latest book takes them deep into the gilded age of Hollywood:

Ex-cop Lacey Fitzpatrick and Navajo medium Sam Firecloud are working a new investigation into paranormal activity. This time they’re called to clear an old Hollywood mansion of the multiple ghostly tenants that are threatening the home owner’s livelihood. At the same time, however, Lacey gets a call from her ex-boyfriend, now prison inmate, for help in a more earthly manner. He fears his sister is siphoning money from his elderly mother, and only Lacey can find out the truth. Between saving her ex’s mother from bankruptcy and researching deep into the families of the tortured souls haunting the mansion, Lacey finds the revelations of family dynamics to be both fatally flawed and heartbreakingly inspired. 

To celebrate the new release, I have put all three eBooks in the series on sale for just 99 cents, through June 18, 2017.  And they are FREE for Kindle Unlimited readers.

Praise for Ghost Walk

I don’t normally gravitate toward mysteries but Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts, hooked me.  I think this is going to be an enthralling new series to follow and I am looking forward to more from Lacey and Sam’s new partnership.

I had a good time reading this installment and can not wait to read the sequel. Hopefully, there are more books like this. Recommended!!

I loved this book. It is the second one I have read by Melissa Bowersock. She has a wonderful way of weaving the story line together and leaves you wanting to know more about the cases of Lacey and Sam.

Let me start with the end of this book and the closing words: Coming soon: Skin Walk, Another Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud mystery. Surely the best words to read when you’ve enjoyed a book so much, you want more, and thankfully, there's the promise of a sequel!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all Bowersock’s novels…she’s an author who can turn her hand to an eclectic array of genres…but I have to say this probably earns the title of 'my favourite'…or, at least, one of my favourites.


Praise for Skin Walk

I sure hope Ms. Bowersock has more story ideas for Sam Firecloud and Lacey Fitzpatrick. I’m loving this series.

This sequel certainly lived up to its predecessor. I enjoyed the development of the couple as they grow more comfortable with each other as a team.  I think I’m looking forward to the progress of their relationship as much as the cases they’re commissioned to solve.

Great stories. Excellent character development. Makes you care about the people in the stories. Cannot wait for the next book in this series. Read Ghost Walk, the first book in this series and had to immediately download Skin Walk. So glad I did. 


Do you love mystery? Love the paranormal? Then you'll love Sam and Lacey. From downtown LA to the Navajo reservation in Arizona to the whispered excesses of Hollywood, they are on the job!

And be on the lookout for Book 4 of the series, Dream Walk, coming soon!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Author Interview: Victoria Clark

Today I’m sitting down with my good friend Victoria Clark to talk about her wonderful new collection of short stories called Chipped But Not Broken: Baby Boomer Romance. Victoria, can you give us a quick overview of the stories in your collection?

VC: My five stories put my characters into a variety of situations common to Baby Boomers, such as being lonely after the death of their spouse, pining for a lost love, being stuck in a bad situation but unwilling to change, wondering what it would be like to be young again, body angst, and a willingness to take a chance on a new love. The stories all contain an element of humor and the positive view that even with age, a new sense of beginning again is always possible.

MJB: Sounds like the full gamut of situations many of us face. What’s the story behind the title?

VC: A Baby Boomer friend of mine, who was also a member of Questers, a history group that I belong to, made the surprising announcement that she was getting married to a man that she had met on the Internet and would be moving out of the area.  While Internet romance is common place now, it was fairly new in 2003 and we were shocked because she wasn’t normally impulsive.  Several of us quizzed her about her choices and what was an almost instant decision to change so many things in her life.  She wasn’t swayed by our concerns and her last statement was, “We may be a little chipped, but we are not broken.”  To my knowledge, they are still enjoying their romance and life together.

MJB: Great story! Sounds like your friend had/has a great attitude and appetite for life. Good for her. As we said, you cover a wide range of situations in your stories; did you set out to do that? Or did you just write them one by one as you were inspired by each individual story?

VC:  I wrote Call Me Lucky first, just for the fun of creating a story about a Baby Boomer who was reflecting on the old Las Vegas of the 1960s and the current Las Vegas. I like to think I would be as forward thinking as Brandy in her circumstances. Then several months later, I began thinking about a book of stories where Baby Boomer characters would experience romances that were not experienced in the usual romance writing “formula” of guy meets gal.  There are so few books about romance for older lovers.

MJB: So the collection evolved organically over time, spurred by that first story, and the lack of stories for our time, our age. It’s interesting that we’ve been the driving demographic for decades, and yet now we’re getting into that shadow time when we’re less seen and heard. Are you hoping to reverse that trend?

VC: Yes, I would like to see more older people in books, films and even advertising that isn’t about pills and adult diapers. We hear a lot about diversity and acceptance, and still older adults are often ignored.  At one point, I was busy writing letters to clothing companies whose clothing was geared to women over fifty, but whose advertising was done by models in the 25-35 age range.  I maintain that grey hair, no hair, and bodies over size 6 are a natural part of maturing and not a disease.  For example, when I was ready to choose a cover design showing older adults who looked like they were romantically involved, I searched a number of image websites that almost excluded the over sixty crowd, and I finally decided on a cover that was created for me by an illustrator.

MJB: I hear you on that loud and clear. It irritates me to see commercials for face cream that melt the years away, yet the model is all of 25 years old. So the cream will take her back to her teens? Really?

I’m curious if any of the stories in your book are autobiographical, or are they all pure fabrication? Where does your inspiration come from?

VC:  I always am inspired by places I’ve been to, so in that regard, I’ve been to all of the places where the stories take place, if that can be considered autobiographical.  I’d been visiting Sedona since childhood, and the people I’ve seen and met since we moved there are incredibly interesting.  The mix of artists and writers and those seeking spiritual advice or giving it, and the tourists from all over the world could fill volumes of material.  Like Beth in The Misplaced Mind, I’ve sat through many boring planning meetings and many of the characters in Sedona that I described in the story are real.

 The Last Outpost was inspired by Nowhere Arizona, one of the few places for a cool drink or a restroom on Arizona Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman.  Nowhere was never an official town, but the store there was pretty much as described in my story and the restrooms were always clean with outrageous sayings written on the walls.  It was always intriguing to imagine who had built the store and the type of person who would live in isolation out there. A few months ago, one of the Phoenix TV channels did a segment on “There’s nothing in Nowhere, Arizona.”  They presented some facts on Nowhere in an interview with our Arizona historian Marshall Trimble, and then interviewed motorists who stopped to take photos of the Nowhere sign, even though there isn’t anything left but a crumbling building and the sign.

In The Wait, I combined my love of Old Mesilla, New Mexico with the romance of yearning for a “lost love.”  Old Mesilla is one of the most romantic settings with its church, gazebo and quaint shops. It is now a National Monument.  The legends of the lover ghosts who inhabit the Double Eagle restaurant are the forerunners of Delia and Robert whose young romance was also doomed by outside forces. I think most of us Baby Boomers think of a lost love, the one that we didn’t marry or just lost track of, in a romantic sense of wondering how our lives would have been different if we were still with them.  During the writing of The Wait, I took a hard look at the Baby Boomers I know who have found each other again after many years.  In one case, the couple reunited and have been happily married for eleven years, and in another, a couple who had been sweethearts in high school, reconnected, divorced their respective spouses and then broke up after several months.  The romantic vision of their youthful selves wasn’t the people that they had evolved into.  While Delia and Robert are fictional, I really expect them to have a happy life together.

Sally Ann’s character in Finicky Fred was based on a friend of mine who has MS.  She has been “chipped” by her disease but has maintained her zest for life and love, and her spirit remains unbroken.  Fred is an oddball character who is “saved” from never knowing romantic love when he reunites with his childhood friend Sally Ann.

Brandy, the main character in Call Me Lucky, is close to being autobiographical when describing herself and her experiences in Las Vegas.  I love dogs and charm bracelets and the shows in Las Vegas, but Brandy’s friends Ann and Joe and the excitement of the slot tournament, are purely from my imagination.

MJB: I think for most of us fiction writers, we mix in some of our own personal quirks along with a big dose of imagination for our characters.

I know you’ve done other creative projects before this. Tell our readers what kinds of books you’ve produced before.

VC: I have free lanced articles on antiques and postcards for collectors’ magazines for the last fifteen years.  Then my first book, How Arizona Sold Its Sunshine:  Historical Hotels of Arizona was published on early tourism in Arizona and sixty- two of Arizona’s early hotels.  Some are long-gone, some have been repurposed and others still exist as hotels today. I have continued to collect information on them, in case I update the book at some time, and I care very much about the preservation of them. This was my most fun writing project to date as I drove all around Arizona to take photos and gather information. My next two books, A Journey Through Northern Arizona and A Journey Through Southern Arizona, were part of a series by Schiffer Publishing which combined postcards across America with the history of each place pictured.  Their art editor did an amazing job, and the books are beautiful.

MJB: Sounds fascinating, and a lot of fun to research. What turned your attention from non-fiction Arizona history and travel books to fiction?

VC: I wanted to try something different and challenge my imagination, but also to create some stories about romances that were about people my age.  I believe it’s a largely untapped market for writers.  One of the books I enjoyed reading last year was A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman which is a novel about a Baby Boomer, his former life, and how he changed and grew when he met new people and was willing to set aside his old prejudices.  The success of the book, which was also made into a movie, should alert writers to the fact that people of all ages are interesting.

MJB: Having now written both fiction and non-fiction, which do you think is easier to write? And why?

VC: Writing non-fiction, such as writing about Arizona history and Arizona places, requires time-consuming research and then cross checking information and putting the research into a fresh perspective. There is a certain validation that if a reader asks a question about the material, a writer of non-fiction can cite sources. Writing fiction, it is great creative fun to create characters and situations, but I think most writers worry about whether their material will appeal to readers.  For me, writing non-fiction is easier, but writing fiction was more fun.  I do believe that it is easier to sell non-fiction.

MJB: I have a feeling you’re right. I have eighteen novels and one non-fiction, and guess what? The non-fiction outsells all the rest. But I agree, writing fiction is so much more fun.

Are you working on any new books? Any other ideas rattling around in your head?

VC: I’m glad you asked that Melissa, because over the last ten years I’ve been working on a book that I have titled At Night I Go to Tucson in my Dreams.  The book will be a collection of short stories about growing up in Tucson in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  The stories reference places and events that are gone now, combined with my personal memories of them.  My first story titled Three Bad Birthdays and One Good One moves from my anguish of thinking my life was over after I vomited on a birthday cake to believing that I could create an American Bandstand party when I turned thirteen.

MJB: I have a feeling this book could spark a lot of memories for a lot of us “mature” folks. Now let’s have a little fun here. Tell us something about you that most people don’t know and would be surprised to learn.

VC:  The fact that I love collecting items with historical significance is something that most people know because I sometimes give talks and write about collecting and caring for antiques as well as displaying my collections in our home.  However, in my closet, I have an Elvis collection that I cherish.  He was my teenage crush that I’ve never gotten over, even after I realized that he had “feet of clay” just like the rest of us.  I listen to his music often and love re-living the times I saw him in concert.

MJB: I actually think that whatever music was popular as we were growing up is the music that touches us throughout all our lives. My husband loves 50s music, when he was growing up, while I love the 60s. Of course we both think our music was the best, and neither of us will ever concede the point!

Thanks so much for sharing your new book with us today, Victoria. I hope it does really well, and that it sparks a new interest in the baby boomer mystique. Now, if people want to read more about you and your books, how can they do that?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Finding Your Voice

How do you know when you’ve found your true voice? I write multi-genre, and I discovered a long time ago that the genre, or the story itself, demands the voice. I write softer, more descriptively, when I write romance. I write more directly and tersely with an action/adventure. I also write more directly when my protagonist is male, and more effusively when my protagonist is female. Back in 2013, I wrote more extensively about changing voices here.
But beyond the story suggesting a voice, how do you craft that voice? You do have choices, you know.
Most books (I would think 90% or more) use a past tenseHe ran up the hill. Whether due to this majority usage or my own proclivity, I feel like past tense is a logical mode for telling a story. I believe most of us use it when we tell our own stories, like recounting our trip to the grocery story.
“I was driving along, minding my own business, when this guy pulled out right in front of me …”
To my mind, this is a natural way to tell a story, since we are recounting something that happened in the past. There are some, however, who choose to use a present tenseHe runs up the hill. To tell you the truth, I have no idea why anyone would choose this method. I find it awkward and annoying. Perhaps these authors think the present tense lends an immediacy to their words or adds to the tension. Whenever I see it, the first thing I think of is a ten-year-old boy telling a whopper.
“So I’m just sitting there, you know, doing the reading assignment, and this guy behind me jams the corner of his notebook into my back and I yell. The teacher doesn’t see it, so she gets all mad at me…”
Just to round things out, there is, of course, future tense, but you hardly ever see He will run up the hill. Thank goodness.
First person means speaking from the narrator’s viewpoint. I ran up the hill. This establishes early on the single point of view for the entire story (unless your protagonist has ESP and can read minds). It’s a good device for delving into the emotional condition of your protagonist as it makes sense to describe and explain what s/he is thinking, feeling, planning. I used this in one of my books, and was happy enough with it, although it’s not what I use generally.
Second person is less about speaking from and more about speaking to. You ran up the hill. I believe this would be an awkward choice for a book, since every time you wrote something like, “You heard a sound outside and went to the window to see what it was,” your reader might easily be thinking, “No, I didn’t.” I’ve never seen anyone use second person throughout a book, but I do see it sprinkled in here and there, and I think that’s a mistake. Most of us primarily use third person (he ran, she ran), but will sometimes drop in something like, “He’s what you would call a geek,” or, “There were more of them than you could shake a stick at.” In movies, this is called breaking the fourth wall. This is when the character in the movie turns and faces the camera and speaks directly to the audience. At this point, the story-telling is interrupted and the feeling changes abruptly. The viewer or reader is suddenly pulled into the story rather than watching/reading from the outside. It can be effective, but it can also be annoying. In the above examples, I would use, “He’s what most people would call a geek,” or “There were more of them than anyone could shake a stick at,” in order to maintain the third person tense throughout.
Third person is what most of us use most of the time. He ran up the hill. This gives the author the ability to enter into the point of view of any of the characters at any time, providing more latitude to the story. That can, however, be overdone. If you’ve ever read a book where the point of view seems to change from one character to another paragraph by paragraph, the author is doing some serious head-hopping. As with any tool, this can be effective at times, but should be used in moderation. You don’t want your readers feeling like they’re watching a tennis match. See more about viewpoint basics and getting your PoVs right at each respective link.
Beyond these two prominent aspects of voice, the nuances are up to you. Match your voice to the characters, the location, the time, the feeling of the story and you’re on your way.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on 11/4/2014.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Author Interview: Nancy Safford

Today I’m sitting down for a chat session with my friend Nancy Safford to talk about her new book. The book is called A Magdalene Awakens: Hidden Temple Secrets, and it’s quite a journey. Nancy, give us an overview of this very personal story.

NS: My journey began when I moved from the Northeast to the Southwest, to Sedona, AZ, aware my life was changing. Here I encountered, and learned, to navigate other realities as I stepped into shamanism. I soon became a “vortex” guide to help those wanting experiences in the famous energies of Sedona, before I was called to look into the deeper mysteries of my lost feminine self. Soon I was facilitating journeys, pilgrimages to southern France, to places where legacies of Mary Magdalene had long  ago been left. I began making discoveries of hidden thing, secrets, I could identify through my other visions. Being able to step between worlds, I made, what feels to be, several valuable discoveries. After years of being silent about them, I feel that it is now time for them to be revealed, in my book. 

 MJB: Sounds like time, indeed. What was your intent on writing this book? Was it to simply record your own experiences or was it to share your insight with others? What were your hopes for what this book could become? And did it succeed?

 NS: First, my intention in writing this book, was to reveal the secrets that I discovered hidden deep within an ancient temple in Southern France. But then I thought it might be important to tell my story, what I had to learn and experience along the way that would lead me to make my mystical discoveries.  Yes, I believe my book has succeeded in accomplishing what I wanted. 

MJB: I’m guessing this was quite a therapeutic journey, as well. Did you find that? Did the process of writing your story lead you to new discoveries?

 NS: Well, yes, my journey led me to a place where I had to surrender and  be vulnerable, a place no one wishes to stay long. This book helped me to see everything the way it was, record it, honor it, so I could then step out of it, knowing that I was complete with this part of my story. 

MJB: I've found that writing very often does that; puts everything into perspective. What would you consider the most challenging aspect of writing a personal story like this?

NS: Getting all my emotions into it and being honest with myself.

 MJB: I know you’ve got a lot of other interests. What else do you have going on?

 NS: I continue to facilitate sacred journeys to southern France, or take  private clients there, for those who want to explore the legacies of Mary  Magdalene, the Knights Templar or the Cathars. Each wants to discover What feels real to them his or her truth. I also have private clients who come to Sedona for a retreat with me, I offer women’s circles and  trainings, I do Shamanic healing work and  teaching and I offer  clairvoyant readings and past life regressions for people. 

MJB: Are you working on any new books? Any other ideas in your head, or down on paper?

 NS: Yes, I have another book. There is more to my story and more mysterious inner temple secrets to be revealed about the Rennes Le Chateau area of southern France, the same area that the “DaVinci Code” movie talks about.

MJB: And if people want to read more about you and your journey, how can they do that?

 NS: Yes… check below


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Author Interview: Bob Brawley

Today I’m sitting down with my buddy Bob Brawley to talk about his fascinating new non-fiction book called Adopted by the Amish. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but Bob, why don’t you give us a summary of what the book is about?

BB:  Adopted by the Amish is the true story about a young family’s pilgrimage from the modern world they knew into the highly restrictive, simplistic, sectarian world of the Old Order Amish. It is the story of a despondent and dispirited man, seeking to save his marriage from the free-fall that has left it in shambles, a man determined and committed to saving his marriage and reconnecting with God.

MJB: I think this is such a unique experience, especially in this day and age. What would you say were the main drivers that led you to try out such a different lifestyle? What was the draw, and what were you hoping that living in the Amish community could do for you?

BB: I joined the Old Order Amish seeking a better way of life for myself and my family. To reconnect with my faith, to take a step back in time when life was simple, uncomplicated and innocent, the way I remembered it was on my grandfather’s farm. This was my second marriage and I wanted, more than anything else in the world, to make it work. I thought that by removing myself and my family from the stressful world we knew we could re-discover life as it should be, the way it was meant to be, to find peace, harmony and happiness.

MJB: I think all of us can relate to looking for peace and happiness, especially in the turbulent world as it is today. Now, looking back on the experience from many years later, how do you feel about it? Was it worthwhile? What did you learn then that still resonates in your life now?

BB: I’ll be 73 next month, and as I grow older I find I spend more and more time reflecting on my life, my family, people I’ve met and things I would “do over” if I could. The thing I would not change, the thing that has had an ever-lasting impact on my life, is the special time I spent with the Old Order Amish. Even today, I find myself looking at the world through “Amish eyes,” remembering how simple and innocent the world was back then and how protected and secure I felt. I cherish the bonds I made with my Amish family and will forever hold dear the time I spent with these very special people, for that very brief moment in time.  

MJB: It sounds like it was a very special time, and it's surely beneficial that you are able to keep it alive in your heart. What would you consider the most challenging aspect of writing a personal story like this?

BB: Peeling back the many layers of my memories of living with the Amish I relive the struggles and the good times we had, the wonderful people we met and loved, and the feeling we had of being a part of a close-knit family. I sometime find myself wishing I could turn away from this life and return to those days, to once again sit in a horse drawn buggy and hear the clop, clop, clop of hoofs on the dirt road, to see my Amish family’s faces, to hear their voices, to breathe in the smells of a farm. The thought of it makes my heart hurt.

MJB: Setting such highly emotional times down on paper is obviously a very difficult task, but you've done an admirable job of it. I’m curious about the evolution of the book. Did you imagine writing it down as you were living it? Or did the idea to write it down come later? How long after the fact did you start writing, and was it easy to access your memories?

BB: I have never thought of myself as a writer, and did not think about writing this story until five years ago. It’s not that I hadn’t thought of the Amish and the time I lived among them. I had... In fact, I have maintained communications with them to this day. Accessing my memories of those special days has never presented a problem. I think about them most every day.

MJB: In my mind, the fact that you never thought of writing it down just goes to show how deep and compelling the experience was. Maybe you didn't think of yourself as a writer, but this was a story that had to be told. Are you working on any new books? Any other ideas in your head, or down on paper?

BB: I’m currently working on a memoir, “His Mother’s Son,” the honest and intimate story of a boy’s personal experiences and anguish as he and his family move from state to state and city to city, pursuing his mother’s dream of becoming a singing star. He was a boy desperately trying to find inner courage, his own identity and self-respect.

MJB: Sounds like another very emotional remembrance. You'll have to keep us posted on the progress of that one, as well. Now, let’s have a little fun here. Tell us three things about you that most people don’t know and would be surprised to learn.

BB: I worked as a cowboy on a ranch in Mustang, Oklahoma. I was a boxer and trained with world-rated amateur and professional fighters: three of which fought for world championships. I’ve driven the Alaska Highway seven times, six of which when it was still gravel. I competed in drag racing for many years.  

MJB: Obviously you are a multi-talented and multi-interested man! Thanks for sharing your story with us today, and if people want to find out more about you and your journey, how can they do that?

BB: I may be contacted by email:, or on Facebook at Bob Brawley.