Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guest Blogger: Rachel Beam

Reviews: Bad Vs. Good Vs. None

By Rachel Beam

One of the lessons that was relentlessly pounded into my head throughout my college experience, was that one must have a thick skin in order to be a writer. This was a lesson I fully expected to learn. I went to one of the most competitive schools in the country and, although my former classmates and I entered the program thinking we were the best of the best, to be coddled by my instructors would have been a huge disappointment. It may or may not be important to mention here that I did not go to school to be a novelist, I went to learn the craft of screenwriting and the art of playwriting. Nevertheless, the same rules apply – get used to rejection and kiss industry ass. Of course, the reality of the pointlessness of going to college to “learn” how to be a writer didn’t fully set in until long after I graduated, but I digress (one of my more annoying habits).

So, reviews… Bad ones. To me, the only bad reviews are the nitpicky ones. If you’re going to attack my story’s structure, don’t bother; it is exactly as it should be. If you’re going to attack my sentence structure, save your energy for the same reason – it’s going right over my head. If you’re going to attack my dialogue…well…please don’t. You might as well just kick me in the vagina, because I will cry myself to sleep. The reviews I value most – “bad” or “good” – are the ones that attack my characters and the story itself.

I don’t write about happy things. I don’t think I even have the ability to do so. My writing is and always has been about ugliness, trauma, disturbing images. In short, the crappy side of life. I don’t strive to uplift my readers, or give them shiny happy feelings about humanity and such. I want to give my readers nightmares; I want to upset them; I want them to be reminded of all the nastiness that the world has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an angry, pessimistic person who dwells on flaws and the faults of others. I am, in fact, quite the opposite. To illicit such negative reactions from my readers, however, tells me that I’ve done my job well. Tell me that every last one of my characters is unredeemable; tell me that my story made you feel violated; tell me that I gave you nightmares; tell me that I made you sick; tell me that I must be a pretty twisted person to write such filth; tell me that I disgust you and I will know that I did my job well, because I have caused a very visceral reaction that is not likely to leave you anytime soon.

Ah…that felt good to say. I am sorry to report that I don’t get as many such reviews as I would like. No matter. The good stuff feels just as good.

Now I would like to share some positive reviews that I have received:

“Your story is moving, scary, seedy and gripping all at once. Your writing is superb and so effectively captures the seediness of Key West that I've taken it off my dream list of potential holiday spots.”

“There are a lot of echoes of 'Lolita' here, of course, but it's like a dark-hearted version of that story ... it's amazing that the reader is still so drawn even to such a horrific wreck of a man. A testament to your skill.”

“Spare, assured writing which sucks readers into a world they'd love to pass by. You capture the superficial soul of the loaded transaction superbly.”

Believe it or not, I’m actually a pretty humble person and positive impressions of my work really do tend to make me a little uncomfortable. It should also be pointed out here that all of these reviews came from members of a site called authonomy.com, where authors showcase their work for criticism, praise and the hope that it will make it onto the desk of an agent or publisher. A lot of the reviews were followed by requests for reciprocation, so who knows what these people really thought. Obviously, I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but toot-effin’-toot.

Now it’s time for us to talk about the non-review. I’m not sure if this is something a whole lot of people consider in the world of reviews, but I think the term pretty much speaks for itself. The non-review can go in two different directions. The first direction might come from a friend or family member, who is beyond being unimpressed, but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. “I liked it,” or “it’s good” would be the two most obvious examples. Most of my friends and family members know me well enough to not even bother with this type of b.s. Truth be told, I’d rather have a root canal.

The second direction the non-review can go in is absolutely nowhere, oblivion, silence. To me, this hurts more than anything when it comes to my writing. Back in college, my writing classes were all workshop-based – we would spend the week writing, have our work read in class and then critique each other. The first two semesters of this were extremely helpful. I was placed with a group of people who always had something to say, be it negative or positive. The remaining semesters were a different story altogether. Each week, my work was met with silence; dead silence. Did they hate what I had to offer? Obviously. Even more obvious than that was the fact that they didn’t think it worthy enough to tell me it sucked. Instead, I received cold stares, as did the floor, the ceiling and whatever happened to be going on outside the window of our seventh-floor classroom. Dear readers, I implore you, don’t ever do this to someone; it is beyond humiliating and most people don’t deserve it. Say what you feel, exactly what you feel; just say something.

So there you have my ten cents (keep the change). A bad review is never really that bad. A good review should not make you feel invincible. A non-review…well…just do your best to ignore it. The most important thing in any and all scenarios is to just keep writing.

Hear Him Cry

Available at Amazon:

58-year-old Henry, a remorseful man who lives mainly in his head, has just been reunited with Tessa, the daughter of his estranged best friend. Tessa has just been abandoned in a strange city by the last man she was able to trust.Each essentially alone in the world, they forge an instant and seemingly unbreakable bond. But Henry must come to terms with an unforgivable mistake he made 15 years earlier; a secret shame that tore Tessa’s family apart. As the past begins to unfold, he struggles to confess before she discovers the truth for herself.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is General Fiction Becoming A Thing Of The Past

Is general fiction becoming a thing of the past?

When I search eBook publishers, their “wants list” usually consists of romance of all kinds, from sweet to erotic, paranormal stories of any kind, fantasies (no complaints here as my story, Hike Up Devil’s Mountain, is peppered with magic and fantasy), and science fiction. Vampires and werewolves seem to have a lot of staying power these days! Do you think paranormal is a fad? I mean a REALLY BIG fad?

So my question is - has family fiction gone by the wayside? I’m talking mother/daughter trauma, father/daughter trauma, grandmother/…..well you get my drift. What about family “feel good” fiction? Do these types of stories have a place in today’s world? Do publishing houses find these types of stories passé?

I tend to write short stories. Most are under 12,000 words, so eBooks are huge for me. I have a few stories I have written, under this umbrella of family fiction.

Do I hide them in my closet, along with my best selling novel I wrote 20 years ago, or do I…..G U L P…..feed my wood burning stove?

Hike Up Devil's Mountain

Ten-year old Andy Thompson disobeys his mother and sneaks into the basement of an old abandoned house that’s due for demolition. He stumbles upon a mysterious box under an old cabinet. And his troubles begin when he looks inside.

The Crew brothers, twelve-year old Jason, and ten-year old Danny, also find their way to the basement. New to town, Jason has established himself as the school bully. A struggle ensues between Andy and Jason and the bully ends up as a toad.

Somehow, the boys must reverse the magical spell. And that means hiking up the dread mountain: fast pace, fast action and just a few scares and surprises on the way! The lives of all three boys seem destined to change forever, if they survive…

Solstice Publishing

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blackbeard's Treasure

Edward Teach, better known as the pirate Blackbeard, was killed November 22, 1718. Two months before, he purposely ran his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, aground at what is now called Beaufort Inlet. He emptied the ship of all treasures into his other ship, The Tender, and fled to where nobody knows. Two months later, when he reappeared, he was killed in battle, and his body was tossed into the ocean. To this day, nobody knows where the treasure went.For years, people have searched high and low for his treasure. It has been said that Blackbeard said nobody but he and the devil knew where it was located.

Cassie Andrews returns to Branson Missouri to clean out her grandfather’s house, who recently passed away. While emptying the attic she comes across an old diary belonging to a woman who claims to have been married to Edward Teach. Cassie soon realizes that she holds the key to the famous Blackbeard’s Treasure. Cassie turns to her friend Levi for help in finding the treasure.

"In her zeal to uncover the clues to Blackbeard's Treasure Cassie lands herself in the hospital. Attraction explodes off the page as Levi nurses Cassie back to health and together they experience the adventure of a lifetime to uncover their true feelings for one another and Blackbeard's Treasure

Only 99 Cents!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Guest Blogger: Gary Peterson

Memoirs of the 1960’s
I’ve been asked why my mysteries focus on the 1960’s, instead of the 30’s and 40’s. There are actually two reasons. First, there are a lot of books written about these eras and I wanted my novels to be different and exciting. I grew up in the 60’s and remembered the drive-in theaters, the soda fountains, and what constituted a normal day at that time. I didn’t rely totally on my memories, however, and spent a considerable amount of time doing research before starting to write my novels. I looked up the names of major food chains, cost of grocery items, makes and models of vehicles, and speed zones for the states visited by my characters. An interesting tidbit is that most states only had one telephone area code at that time. Although the names of the cities I created are fictitious I was careful to use the crime solving tools available to law enforcement. For example, computers were used only sparingly by major cities, there was no DNA testing, and the Miranda Warnings did not exist in 1961 or 1962.
Now, the second reason for using the 1960’s. I wanted to make my hero, George Peabody, a hard working family man who is doing the best he can and not a flamboyant hard- boiled detective like Mike Hammer. During this era there were not a lot of social programs available and if a family was down on their luck they were in real trouble. This is the situation facing the Peabody household at the start of my first novel, The Old Miller Place. George has been blackballed by his previous employer for a vicious lie told my one of his employees. His parents are deceased and he has no one to count on. His wife, Elizabeth, has been estranged by her family for marrying him. An employer takes a chance on him and the family buys an old house that is haunted. While trying to find out what is going on he meets a retired detective, Gary Wise, who helps him solve the murders that occur throughout the book. This detective is very bright, but also highly impulsive, which gets both of them in trouble on a regular basis. In the sequel, The Millpond Murder Case, Gary’s nephew, Harvey Hanson, is introduced. He is the sheriff of a small sawmill town just north of Springdale. Bodies keep showing up at the mill and the murderer calls Hanson with fractured nursery rhymes. Peabody and Wise help him solve these murders as well as locate the missing relatives of an old man, Kevin Wainwright, who dies in a mysterious automobile accident. This ghost haunts George throughout the novel and appears at the most inopportune times causing him a lot of embarrassment and laughter for the readers.

The Old Miller Place
In 1961 George Peabody struggles for months to find employment. When he is about ready to give up he lands a job with a small newspaper. He likes the area and talks his wife, Elizabeth; into buying an old rundown house. Objects start moving by themselves and an icy presence permeates the entire house. Is he and his family safe? He researches the old house’s history and learns of grizzly murders that had taken place there. An attorney is bludgeoned to death and a woman turns up dead in the back of his truck. He is accused of both murders and is on trial for his life. Has he been framed for their murders by a crooked cop, Detective Strausser, or is it someone else? Are the murders of the past somehow connected to what is currently going on? Suddenly he is abducted by the real killer. It becomes a race against time as a retired police detective, Gary Wise, and his ex-partner, Detective Thayer, search for clues to find him.

Solstice Publishing
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Kindle File

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Reluctant Psychic

Welcome Dianne Hartsock to my blog today!

A Reluctant Psychic

We have a ghost haunting the gift store where I work. Faucets will turn on when no one’s near them. Things will fall off shelves. A co-worker says a pair of scissors flew off a table and landed in the middle of the room in front of her eyes. I know she seemed shaken up when she came running over to tell me about it. Actually, I would consider this to be the work of a poltergeist, but since we don’t have an angst-ridden teenager working with us, it’s unlikely.
Now, do I really believe we’re being haunted? Probably not, but isn’t it fun to think so? Doesn’t it give you the shivers to imagine a specter creeping around the store trying to convey some sort of message? To me, the paranormal adds that spice of the unknown and thrill of danger to life.
And really, who can resist those romantic as hell vampires, werewolves and shifters? Not me! In and out of a book, I like to think they roam the darker edges of the world.
But more than these, I’m fascinated by psychic phenomenon. The thought of telekinesis and mind reading, the power of the mind over matter, fills my world with wonder. What if it is true? What if there are people whose visions are real and dreams foretell the future? It’s this feeling of amazing possibility I try to capture in my writing.
My paranormal thriller novel, ALEX, is the story of an unwilling psychic. I wanted to create a character who, by his very nature, could suspend disbelief for the duration of a novel.
With ALEX, I wondered what extreme circumstances could lead to his ‘gift’. I decided it would have to start with his childhood. Alone and isolated, living with the anguish of an abusive parent, perhaps a person’s mind would expand, seeking escape from the sadness and loneliness of life.


He stood at the top of the basement stairs, his heart racing. He could barely stand, he was so frightened, and he had to clutch the railing to keep from falling. He didn’t even know what he’d done wrong this time. She hadn’t told him.

A sob choked him, but he swallowed it back. She wouldn’t make him cry! Not again.

“Alex!” she called from the darkness.

A violent tremor passed through him. He took one last look at the kitchen. He just wanted to look at the sky beyond the window. He just wanted Mama to be kind.

He squared his shoulders and took his first step into the darkness, then another. It was his birthday today. He was twelve and he had to be brave.

I believed his isolation would also make Alex hypersensitive to the people around him. He’d be empathetic to the point where he could sense and sometimes see the emotions of others. Their thoughts would leap to him in a wave of a sympathetic connection.


“Doctor Beckett’s here. Will you let him take a look at you?”

He widened his eyes in alarm. “What?”

“It’ll be okay, I promise. Will you do this for me? I called him because I’ve been worried about you.”

He looked closely at her. She seemed tired and stressed. “Okay. But will you stay with me?” He regretted sounding like a child. “Forget I said that.”

She nodded and called the doctor. When Beckett entered the room, Alex stared unwittingly at the angry swirls of purple and blue radiating from him. His thoughts became entangled in a web of the doctor’s own. He saw the images of a tiny girl with enormous blue eyes and a bleeding heart. “Megan,” he whispered, tears in his eyes for the little girl on the cold table.

Beckett gave him a piercing look but said nothing.

Another example:

A knock on the front door disrupted their kiss. They both looked up and Jane reluctantly stepped from his arms. “Come in.”

The screen door creaked open and Ben joined them. There was strain around his eyes. He ran a hand through his hair, not meeting anyone’s eyes. Alex began to ask a question but fell silent when Ben glanced up. The man’s eyes were dark with emotion and his thoughts leaped to Alex in a wave of anguish.

“No,” Alex said.

Ben’s shoulders sagged. “Sally had a stroke this morning.”
“Oh, no,” Jane murmured.

“She doesn’t remember me.” He made a visible effort for self-control, folding his arms across his chest.

Alex cleared his throat. “Can we see her?”

“She’s in the ICU.” His armor cracked. “I can’t talk about her right now.”

“But …”

Ben cut him off with a sharp gesture, his voice bitter. “I don’t want to know what you see.”

After establishing Alex’s gift in the story, I wanted to add the danger such ability could bring to him. Another fascination of mine is the police psychic. They must be driven by their visions to help the police. Why else would they risk retaliation?


His back was to the door, but an icy chill ran through him anyway. Instinctively, he knew who’d come in. Looking around, he saw that Angie had disappeared, while Becca was on the other side of the store with a customer.

Warily, he turned. Bobby Gibson stared at him with dull, emotionless eyes, his young face expressionless. A rugged man with shaggy blond hair stood at the boy’s shoulder. Alex staggered as the man’s dark aura struck him like a physical blow. The black and deep purple boiling from the man engulfed him. He couldn’t think, much less breathe.

The man held out a thick callused hand. “Name’s Gibson. I just wanted to thank you for saving the boy here.”

He stared at the hand in horror, seeing blood where there wasn’t any.

“The misses would like to thank you, too. Unfortunately, she can’t leave the house. I’d like you to come with us so she can thank you in person.”

Alex blinked at him. The man spoke, but it sounded like babble. The blackness surrounding Gibson found its way into him, making him sick and dizzy. He swayed helplessly, while confusing images crowded his mind, one after another, impressions of darkness and rusted chains, damp walls.

Gibson grasped his arm and guided him from the store, finding him compliant to his directing. A gray flatbed truck stood at the curb. Rousing to the danger, Alex balked when Gibson opened the door. He pulled sharply on his arm to be free, but a blow to his face staggered him. Dazed, he was shoved onto the oily floorboards, and the boy climbed in on top of him. Doors slammed and the truck started.

The heat and smell of gasoline exacerbated his nausea, and he vomited. The man swore and cuffed him, knocking his head against the corner of the glove box. After that, all went black.

I had the premise for ALEX, next came the research, research and more research: true stories of psychic phenomenon, police procedures, murder cases, and child abuse. I can tell you truly that some of the scenes in my story are the most difficult I’ve ever written. There were times I had to walk away, go outside and clear my head of the horror and sadness caused by the things I was writing down. Was it worth it? Oh, definitely. The time and commitment I put into this story makes ALEX a book I can be proud of.

But this also brings up an interesting question. How many of you actually believe in psychic phenomenon? I’d love to hear your answers.

Thank you so much for stopping by and feel free to contact me any time.

Dianne Hartsock
Blog: http://diannehartsock.wordpress.com/
FB: http://www.facebook.com/diannehartsock
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/diannehartsock
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4850270.Dianne_Hartsock

Buy Alex Today:

Alex is twenty and confused. He always is. The world presses on him with its horrors and pain, with scintillating auras that pierce his eyes and drive the migraines deeper. He hears the cries of children, the screaming women. He sees the brutal images of the tortured victims. He feels out of control and his mind slips...
Severely abused as a child, he is left with horrible scars on his body and even worse scars within his mind. Even though it puts him in danger, he’s compelled to help those who call to him. He’s driven, motivated by his visions to rescue them and uncover the killer. When he can, he helps the police; yet some detectives suspect he’s the cause of the problem, not the solution. Often, Alex finds himself alone and afraid in a world he doesn’t always comprehend.

Solstice Publishing