Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Week of Safaris

This past week I was really blessed to be able to go on safari with my parents at some of the most amazing game parks in Tanzania. The lodges we stayed at were pure luxury, making me feel like a Hollywood celebrity of sorts. Of course I am nothing like that. I am just a teacher who writes on weekends.
My youngest daughter and I also did a hot air balloon safari. I was initially a bit apprehensive as I have a chronic fear of heights, but once we were up in the air it was breathtaking, peaceful and one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
If you are interested in seeing the photos of the various game drives we did, I have included the Facebook Photo Album links here.
Ngorongoro Crater Safari
Lake Manyara Safari
Tarangire Safari

Monday, July 23, 2012

Conquering The Good Parent Syndrome

Good Parents Make Bad Mystery Writers

By Lauren Carr
I hate soap operas. Okay, I’m dating myself. They are now called daytime dramas. Or, if they are in the evening, they are called continuing dramas or family sagas. No matter what they’re called, I hate them. Here’s why:
There’s always the couple that the viewers are rooting for. You know the couple. The beautiful couple that we all dream of being a part of:
She’s the gorgeous sweet girl next door who will do anything for her friend, who just so happens to be the sexy bad girl from the wrong side of the tracks that everyone knows is a two-face slut … except the heroine who, while she is nice, isn’t too bright when it comes to friends.
The hero is the hunky guy with the cute butt who also isn’t too bright and falls for the seduction of the so-called best friend who is now pregnant with his baby. Or, fill in the blank for the situation that is always lurking around the corner to tear Romeo and Juliet apart.
Just when it seems like the couple are finally on their way down the aisle, trouble rears its ugly head to ruin their day. Why, the viewers scream at the television when this happens, can’t the writers let them be happy for just one week?
Because happy characters make for boring shows—and books. After all, as much as the viewers are screaming about the plotline, notice that they are tuning in.

Imagine this tale: Boy goes to a party. Boy meets Girl. They fall madly in love at first sight. Everyone is happy. Boy marries Girl. They live happily ever after.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? We’d all love to be a part of that story. But, while this story has the makings of a personal fantasy for our own lives, would we want to read a whole book about that? Or, if you saw a preview of a movie about that, would we pay money to go and see it?

Not likely.
Let’s add something to that story.

Boy goes to a party. Boy meets Girl. They fall madly in love at first sight. They discover that their families hate each other. Boy has to sneak around to see the Girl. If caught, he will be killed on the spot. Girl’s Cousin picks a fight with Boy. Boy kills Cousin. Police are now after the Boy. They conspire to run away. Boy gets delayed. Girl fakes her death. Boy believes she’s dead. Will she wake up before he kills himself?

Now that’s a plot line that you would want to go see. Sure, the couple isn’t happy. As a matter of fact, they’re miserable—so miserable that they want to kill themselves. But it’s got something that the other plotline lacks: Conflict—the type of conflict that has had audiences enthralled for hundreds of years.
While conflict in our own personal lives is not preferable, readers do want it in their books. Trouble is the spark that ignites the readers’ curiosity to make them continue turning the pages to see how and if the conflict gets resolved. No problems, no sparks. Without sparks, there’s nothing to make the reader care about how the story ends.
Conflict is especially important in mystery writing because it is so very essential to the plot. Imagine a mystery where no one gets killed. Or no one shoots or threatens your detective. Or there is nothing to lose if your detective doesn’t solve the murder.

Who wants to read a mystery like that?
In my latest mystery, Shades of Murder, one of the murder victims is the beloved wife of a multi-millionaire CEO of a government defense contractor, who, years later, still mourns her death. He wants the murder solved for closure. The other victim is a Jane Doe whose accused killer, a born again serial killer, wants to be identified and her murder solved to give peace to her family.

In the first installment of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, It’s Murder, My Son, the character with something to lose ended up being Mac’s newly found half-brother, David O’Callaghan. When Mac delves into solving the murder of his next-door neighbor, he inadvertently makes David the prime suspect. Now, Mac is in a race to clear David’s name before the chief of police gathers enough circumstantial evidence to have him arrested.
Unfortunately, some writers have trouble inserting conflict into their characters’ life, which is understandable. After all, characters are the children of their authors, who have conceived and molded them. The development of a really good character is on par with giving birth.  Now, readers want us to throw them directly into the path of conflict, sometimes even life threatening? What type of parent would do that to their baby?

Not a good parent, but a good writer, yes.
This is actually a trait in writing that is called The Good Parent Syndrome. It is where writers have trouble developing conflict in their plots because they’re afraid of hurting their characters. They love their characters so much, that they want them to be happy.

It is something that can be overcome.
The key is keeping everything in perspective. Authors can forget that they’re in control. When it comes to writing books, the author is God. Yes, when our characters come to life, they may have a mind of their own (this is another post), but as God, we can throw up road blocks and control that conflict.
However, we have to resist the urge to eliminate it completely so that our beloved characters live conflict free.
For example, when that conniving best friend in her little black dress sashays to our heroine’s boyfriend’s apartment to seduce him, the author has the power to make her fall off her high heels into a mud puddle and break her ankle.
But do let Ms. Mayhem live to weave her web of deceit another day—like it or not, she’s the one that keeps readers turning the page ... even if they are screaming while turning it.
About Lauren Carr
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. A Reunion to Die For was released in hardback in June 2007. Both of these books are in re-release.
Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in her series, It’s Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard have been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. The next book in this series, Shades of Murder, will be released May 2012. This will be Lauren’s fifth mystery.
 Lauren’s sixth book, Dead on Ice, will be released in Fall 2012. Dead on Ice will introduce a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, in which Joshua Thornton will join forces with homicide detective Cameron Gates.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Author Spotlight: Marissa Carmel

Marissa Carmel has been writing since a young age and although it has always been for personal enjoyment, she finally decided to breakout and share her imagination with the world. She hopes that her universe is as fun and intriguing to her readers as it is to her. Marissa Carmel is originally from NJ but moved to Maryland several years ago, she enjoys reading, writing, and catching up on her DVR library. She is currently working on the sequel to iFeel, Gravitational Pull, which she hopes to release sometime in 2012.

You plan, God laughs.  This is the story of my life.

There are ideals and expectations I assume everyone has; whom you will marry, what your career will be like, where you will raise your kids. And yes, I had all those ideologies in my head, except were more like, have a career, don't get married and absolutely no kids.  Boy was I wrong. Today I am married with two kids, and living in a state I only passed through on occasion. And my career? Well let’s just say, I have more than one, and I never saw that coming.  Who needs more than one career? Apparently me. To make a long story short, I started my first career as a logistician, yawn, I won’t bore you with the details. The second career came shortly after.

I've always loved to write. Always. My imagination constantly runs away with itself, and I am without doubt following it. My best subject was creative writing. So when I would write, it was primarily for me (or a good grade). As time went on though, I found myself imagining more and more and wanting to create, but my life was so busy, and what would it get me anyway? Until one day my mother- in- law dropped a bomb that would change my life. She was talking to one of my husband’s cousins who were complaining about getting her college degree (she was already married with 4 kids. Yikes. I’d be complaining too.) And my MIL, the wise woman that she is simply said, honey, and time is going to go by anyway, so you might as well do it. Well, it felt like the sky fell on me. The advice wasn’t even directed at me, but it resonated. I started writing that night. And never stopped.

My husband once asked where my creativity comes from, and in return I asked him if he ever heard voices in his head.  His reply, I needed to see a shrink. I told him a keyboard and a curser is the best therapy. I have always loved the supernatural, thanks in part to my mom; Charmed was one of our favorite shows to watch together and still is.  So when I started writing, it only felt natural that it took on a paranormal feel. But I didn't want to write about vampires or werewolves or really anything that had been done. I'm like that; I always tend to steer towards the opposite of popular and then proceed to make fun of it. So I started researching, and brainstorming, and concocting my mix of love, humor and emotion. Liv was already an entity in my head, festering. I'd often imagine a dark haired girl with amethyst eyes, suffering and alone. When I finally established who she really was, and what kind of supernatural elements she would possess, (an Empath-someone who can feel the emotions of others- with active abilities) I asked myself, what would it be like for someone like that to carry the world's emotions?

Torrential I thought. What would it be like for her to fall in love? Even worse than torrential.  The story evolved rather quickly after that, but I didn't rush it.  It took me a little over a year to write, over two years to edit. I learned a lot about my writing style during that time, developed my voice and really tried to give it a life-like feel.

So here I am almost four years later, a husband, 2 kids, and a home in what feels like a foreign country; a daytime career and a nighttime career, all jumbling together, fighting for a piece of my time. Go hard or go home, my husband and I always joke, if we have a story, it needs a theme and that is it.  I wouldn't change it though, not for anything. Life is nothing, if not a venture - (I have no idea who said that).  Marissa Carmel

iFeel Blurb
Lust. Anger. Hate. Desire. Love. Happiness. Joy. iFeel.

Liv Christianni is isolated, alone, tortured and withdrawn, saddled with the torrential downpour of the world’s emotions. Accepting of her providence Liv has lost all hope, until one day fate steps in and spins the course of her life like a spiraling top. Hunted by a Spirit Stalker, Liv is forced to gain control of herself and her surroundings, threatened by the touch of her immortal love; she must find a way to survive both physically and emotionally as her reality is shaken up like dice on a Craps table. Can she find the courage to accept her true self? Can she love unconditionally cognizant of the condemning consequences? Can she rise from the ashes to become the person she was always meant to be?
Funny, witty, real, and poignant, iFeel rips into your soul, and sets your emotions on fire.
If you are a fan of Charmed or Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle this series is for you!

I Feel great, on fire, changed, content about this book. This book is indeed a different kind of writing. I enjoyed the story very much. Extreme beings combust with contact. One that hides from all public life simply to keep from feeling every emotion from everyone around her. Destined to spend her life in lock up inside her own apartment. The other one an angel sent to protect all that is good and to keep evil from harming this "feeler". Seraphs and empaths ignite and paint the town in flames in this story. Characters that will open your heart can make you laugh, show anger in large amounts and also open your eyes on things we take for granted. Good read for sure. Loved the flow and design of details.
Great for all YA, Angels & Demons, and Fantasy fans alike. Will recommend to all. KUDOS AUTHOR Marissa Carmel. Happy Reading

You can contact Marissa on:
Twitter- @MarissaCarmel

Facebook- Marissa Carmel

Purchase Links-

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Depth of Deception

Ten Things You Didn't Know About 'Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)'

If you've been following along the Virtual Book Tour, you may have read that 'Depth of Deception' was originally inspired by a tabloid headline or that the first draft was originally written as an entry in the International 3 Day Novel Contest. But here are ten things you may not know about 'Depth of Deception'.
1. I chose to set Depth of Deception in 1982 because there needed to be some Titanic survivors who would remember who was on the ill-fated ship. Also, I needed it to be in a time when DNA was not commonly known. It had been discovered by 1982 but not used for identification until 1987. At that time, computers and mobile phones were not very powerful, rare and very expensive, thus not available to the average consumer. The newest communication gadget in 1982 was the fax machine. This allowed the characters to remain unaware of certain things for longer periods of time.

2. There are many twists and surprises as the mystery unravels. However, one of the twists was so sudden that I didn't see it coming. I was typing away and suddenly... I killed off a character. In my notes, they were supposed to live to the end. Now they were dead. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to backspace and delete that last sentence. But I couldn't. I stared at it. It made sense. It was essential. It threw doubt onto who was good and who was bad. I had to take a break and sort out the consequences of that twist.
3. In the novel, the century-old unsolved murder is based on a historic case, where an innocent man was convicted of committing the crime and spent years in prison until Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, came to his aid and helped prove his innocence. I had this historical fact in an early draft of the novel, but most people who read it found it difficult to believe. Everyone seemed to feel it was too contrived to have the writer of the greatest detective coming to the aid of an innocent man. Even though it really happened... no one believed it.

4. Although the main plotline is a work of fiction, the surrounding events of 1982 are accurate including the British-Argentine War, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II traveling to Canada with a stopover in New York and the Great Blizzard that hit so hard, President Reagan called in the National Guard to dig people out.
5. In Depth of Deception (published as an e-book on March 23, 2012) a wealthy tycoon is building a Titanic II, a replica of the original with state of the art technology to prevent any repeated tragedy. A month later, on April 30, 2012, Australian tycoon Clive Palmer announced his plans to build a Titanic II. His press release is almost identical, word-for-word, to what one character says in Depth of Deception.

6. The character of Commander Pamela Toughill was never supposed to appear in the novel. Early on I mention that our protagonist Callum Toughill was divorced only to establish that he had no significant other in his private life. When he hit rock bottom and didn't know who to trust, he turned to his ex-wife, which not only made for an interesting development but she soon became one of my favourite characters.
7. Gallium bullets would actually work as described in the novel and would be virtually untraceable. However, as mentioned in the novel, the expense would not make it very cost effective.

8. In 1982, there was bar code scanning technology developed by the military. Likewise, the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was a global network of computers connected together for the sharing of science, medical and defense information — the predecessor of the Internet.
9. When coming up with names for the main characters, I thought it out carefully so that there was either some significance with the meaning of their name or connection with Titanic lore. However, for incidental characters where only a first name was needed, I posted on my Facebook page, "I'm looking for first names to insert in my novel."  I took the first ones that replied to my post.

10. The name Father Landon is an homage to the late Michael Landon, best known from TV's Highway to Heaven and Little House on the Prairie.
One of the characters in Depth of Deception is an homage to James Cameron's Titanic. Can you find it? I'll send the first five correct respondents an autographed e-book copy of Depth of Deception. Contact me via and happy reading!

Alexander Galant

Author of Depth of Deception (A Titanic Murder Mystery)

(Also available from Kobo, iBooks & e-reader)
Alexander Galant was the historical researcher for the novel 'Dracula the Un-Dead', which was on the New York Times Best Sellers list in October 2009. Alexander also co-wrote the screenplay adaptation that was optioned briefly by Jan de Bont and adapted the novel into a dramatic stage reading for the Toronto book launch of Dracula the Un-Dead, which brought out the highest turnout for any event on the book tour.
Alexander has also written and directed several short films including "The Jigsaw Puzzle", which won the Festival Buzz Award (most talked-about film) in the New York Independent Film Festival; "First Light", Winner Bronze Remi Award for Fantasy Horror at the WorldFest Houston, USA, Special Commendation Award at the Festival of Fantastic Films, UK, and Best Technical Achievement from the International Festival of Cinema and Technology; "The Missing Piece", Winner Silver Remi Award for Suspense Thriller at the WorldFest Houston, USA; and co-wrote and directed "Star Wars: Blasted Behavior", a finalist in the Atom Films/LucasFilm Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge (George Lucas was one of the judges), which also won the Best Foreign Sci-Fi Film Award at the New York International Film Festival and continues to make the festival circuit this year.
Alexander's love of historical details can also be seen in some of the stage productions he has directed, such as the silent film era of "Singin' in the Rain" (Act-Co Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in Live Theatre), a 50-year span in "Love Letters" and the World War II Amsterdam annex for "The Diary of Anne Frank".

Monday, July 9, 2012

Author Tips: Genre Hopping

Do you do it?  Do you write books in different genres?  I have to confess I do.  If you write what you love and you love so many things, then how do you choose what you love the most?  Experts say this is bad. Stick to one genre.  But if you come up with a great plot, fantastic characters, but it is another genre from the one you normally write, do you just let it go and fade away in the Storyland Universe?  Or do you grab it with both hands and run with it?  Cindy McDonald, author of and Hot Coco was faced with this decision.  Here is what she has to say about genre hopping.

Unforgivable? Sin? Okay, now that I have your attention, brace yourself because I’m going to use the F word…formulated. It’s okay, you can stop wincing now—I’ve said it.

I love to read book series’. I love to get acquainted and spend time with a character or a group of characters and follow them through the series. That said I find that most series follow a formula, except after the third and definitely by the fourth book, it tends to stick out like a wart. With some that I’ve read it has gotten to the point where I knew what was coming by the page number or the counter on my kindle, “Okay,” I find myself thinking, “this is about where the heroine is going to do something really stupid and end up in the bad guy’s clutches…” and then as I continue following the Kindle’s counter to about eighty percent I know that the hero will show up and save her.
As I said, I love to read these series, but when I began writing my Unbridled series I didn’t want it to follow a formula. I wanted each book to be an individual, and I was warned that I was committing the unforgivable sin: genre hopping. Did I hear a gasp? Have I said a dirty word? It’s possible—very possible. My series will be an experiment to find out if readers are willing to break away from the coveted formula.

Case-in-point: My first book of The Unbridled Series, DEADLY.COM, is a murder/suspense. My antagonist, George Smuts, is creepy beyond belief; he is mentally deranged. He makes my reader’s skin crawl—they’ve told me so via emails, reviews on Amazon, and blog sites. I love George and I love the freaked-out reaction that he extracts from people. So am I obliged to provide the same/similar scenario in book two?
I have just released my second book from the series, HOT COCO, and this is more of a romantic comedy, if you will. Yes, we are dealing with the same group of characters in the same location, except for what I call “visiting characters”—those who are not part of the series they are just there for that particular story—I tend to have my own technical terms as well. HOT COCO will make you laugh, make you think, and bring you to some surprising conclusions. So far HOT COCO has received very positive reviews, but will people be confused as to what to expect from this author in book number three?

That is yet to be seen, as the third book will release in November, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, and I am back to making the reader wince, bit their lip in anticipation, and hope that the characters are able to pull through. However, I believe that I am doing a good job at blending the storylines—at least, I’m hoping so.
You may be asking yourself, “Why is she jumping from genre to genre?” Well, because The Unbridled Series did not start out as a book series, it was a TV drama. The Hollywood readers were in love with the show, problem was we just couldn’t sell it, so I made it into a book series.

 Okay, so when you pick up an Unbridled book you’re not always going to get the same thing—you’re not going to know what to expect from this author because there is no formula—but I will guarantee you this: You will get a VERY good story—and perhaps that will earn me some forgiveness.
Reviewers: If you would like to read and review any of my books, please contact me at:

Cindy McDonald:
For the past twenty years Cindy has helped her husband, raise, train, and race thoroughbreds at their forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables.
During those years Cindy has paid close attention to the characters that hang-out at the back-side of the track. She found the situations and life style intriguing. In 2005 she sat down at her computer and began a journey into writing about this life that few understand.
Cindy has recently retired from making her living as a professional choreographer and owned and operated a dance school since 1985. She studied at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy at Carnegie Mellon University to name a few. She has choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards.
Cindy’s Unbridled telescripts has received recommends from three film industry readers and has been a semi-finalist in the Scriptapalooza Contest, and finalist in the Extreme Screenwriting Contest, and now will become a book series. The first telescript to become a book is Deadly.Com which is available NOW on and Kindle as well!

Website -
Deadly.Com book trailer:
Hot Coco book trailer:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

To Kindle Select or not to Kindle Select

That is the question many of us authors ask, myself included.  Do you put all your eggs in one basket?  Or do you spread yourself around a bit?  There are pros and cons for both.
Decisions, decisions.  Don't you just hate them?
This morning I woke up feeling good and decided I was going to do it.  Unpublish all my books from Smashwords, effectively withdrawing them from Apple iStore and Barnes and Noble.  I am going to sell my soul to Amazon.  What had put me off taking the plunge all these months, was the idea of giving a company the monopoly.  It just didn't seem right, morally wrong in way.  What right did they have to demand exclusivity of my creativity?
For over a year I have had my books on Amazon and all the Smashwords partners.  With Amazon I have sold close on 30 000 on Kindle.  Through Smashwords, a couple of thousand.  Where should my loyalty lie?
When my Kindle packed up this week, I contacted Amazon Customer Service on chat.  Within 2 minutes they offered to replace my Kindle at no cost to me.  They shipped the Kindle that same afternoon and it arrived the next morning.  That is five star service.  I thought I deserve to give them some loyalty in exchange, but pulling my books from Smashwords?  That's a large step.
Amazon uses categories to attract new readers to your books.  Readers who might not have found your books  by looking at only one category you might not initially have thought of.  Amazon also has a search inside feature and best of all, your book is advertised on the book pages of many other books with the 'Customers who bought also bought...'
Will this work for me?  Only time will tell.  Am holding thumbs that it will work for me.  So from now on Stop the world I need to pee; The Case of Billy B; Not Telling; Defective; Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single and C U @ 8 are exclusive to Amazon.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Kindle died!

It was a sad, sad day when I took my Kindle out of my bag after my nephews stood on it.  Accidental death.  I can only read the bottom two thirds of the page.  I guess I can just guess the missing paragraph at the top, hidden by part of the frozen screensaver.
Doctors' waiting rooms are no longer fun to wait in without my Kindle.  How am I going to wait at the airport or fly for hours without my Kindle?
I've emailed Kindle Support at where I bought it and will see if I get a reply or any after-sales service.  Will keep you posted.
Good day
I purchased a Kindle in September 2011. I take it everywhere with me and absolutely love it. The other day I took it out of my bag and saw that one third of the screen has the screensaver frozen on it with lines going across it. Two thirds of the screen is normal and the text shows up on it. I have turned it on and off, have recharged it, rebooted it, but the frozen third stays on the screen, regardless of whether the Kindle is switched on or off. Is there anything else I can try? The screen is not broken, but I wonder if something has gone wrong inside?
I am currently on holiday in Cape Town South Africa until the 20th July and really need my Kindle for the flight back. Do you have an agency in Cape Town who can fix it? I am absolutely desperate. Is it still covered by warrantee? I heard there was an Amazon Customer Service office in Cape Town with technicians. Can I take it there?
Please let me know as soon as possible.
Many thanks,

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cold feet, warm heart

Living in the tropics one forgets how cold it can get.  Though in reality, 14 degrees celsius isn't that cold.  In Haerbin on the Siberia/China border we experienced temperatures of -37 degrees celsius.  It was so cold it was hard to breathe, as if someone had punched you in the chest.  I'm finding Cape Town pretty cold at the moment.  Warm slippers, thick jerseys and hot milo isn't quite doing it for me.  My bones still feel cold.  Even my extra natural padding isn't helping.  Not too sure what one can do to warm up.  Some extra book sales would warm me up for sure!
Seeing family and friends after six months away definitely warms the heart.  You only realise just how much you miss them when you see them again.
But no matter how cold Cape Town is at the moment, it is still good to be home.  Seeing Table Mountain, the cold Atlantic, all helps to warm the heart.  I just wish I could push aside the distractions and temptations and find the time to work on my new novel and do some marketing of the older ones.
It always goes back to TIME.  Finding the time, managing time, prioritising.  I want to do it all, experience it all, feel it all.  That impacts on one's time. 
Now if my brain can just defrost a little, then maybe my creative juices can start to flow again