Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Special Weekend Writer's Feature: Larry Kaplan

Today I'm happy to introduce Larry Kaplan, who's stopping by on his blog tour to promote his new release, House of Ghosts. And at the end of this interview you'll find details on how to win his book! Here's a blurb to whet your reader's appetite:

Imagine that Raymond Chandler wrote The Winds of War and you can begin to understand why House of Ghosts is such different and compelling detective story. Detective Joe Henderson is the modern incarnation of Philip Marlowe--hard boiled, hard drinking, hard loving, delightfully cynical, offering wry observations of life in the age of Starbucks.

The tale begins in the sweltering summer of 2000 when Preston Swedge, an alcoholic recluse and World War II veteran, has died in Westfield, New Jersey. At his estate sale, retired local police detective Joe Henderson discovers a 1944 diary describing a rogue attempt by a Jewish-American pilot named Paul Rothstein to drop his bombs on Auschwitz's killing complex where nearly 300,000 captives were about to be murdered.

With the fortitude of a Maccabean zealot and the patriotism of an American freedom fighter Rothstein had set out to defy his commanders who had prohibited any attempt to save Jewish lives. Joe Henderson's curiosity launches him on a crusade for the truth and a shocking revelation when he tracks down the last living witness who can solve the mystery of why the raid never happened.

Epic in its breadth, House of Ghosts sweeps effortlessly from contemporary Westfield, New Jersey to the Princeton University of 1939, and on to the aerial battle above Italy and Poland in 1944. Along the way you'll meet up with notables such as Charles Lindbergh, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., General Fulgencio Batista, and Alina Gilbert, the exotic dancer who helps to make this the hottest summer on record.

Larry, welcome to Allie's Musings. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I graduated from the NYU College of Dentistry in 1979, completed a residency at the Mt. Sinai Hospital, NYC and have been in solo practice practice since 1983. I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with my wife Anne, two dogs, four cats, and a parrot named Boeing. Michelle and Richard are my children from my first marriage.

I grew up in a middle class section of Union, New Jersey with my parents, Jack and Selda and older brother, Ron. A child of the 1950s, I played punch ball in the street, didn’t go to camp, and didn’t talk back. It was a world where kids rode their bikes to get where they needed to go, mothers stayed home, and no one had two cars. And most important, people gave a damn about each other.

My dad was a dental technician; this inspired me to go into dentistry. So, in 1979, I graduated NYU's College of Dentistry, then completed a dental residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, NYC. I stayed in Jersey, opened my dental practice, and lived the life of a successful suburban doctor. That could have been the whole story of my life. But that wasn't the way it turned out.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I’ve been blessed or cursed with a fertile imagination and have never faced dealing with writer’s block. I have more plots than time to write with three manuscripts currently under construction. My problem is when writing a novel, I lapse into the motor-mouth mode and have to edit and re-edit, paring out the extraneous.

Describe your writing space...

My desk isn’t sterile. It looks completely disorganized, but as hard as it is to believe, I can find everything at a moment's notice as long as the moment is extended and stretched. Being locked in an undisclosed location doesn’t work. Occasionally, I’ll shift to the porch and hang out with the cats.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Unfortunately, my writing career to this point hasn’t allowed me to give up my day job. Running a full-time dental practice and dealing with the detritus of daily life fills out my calendar. Anne and I are active in a number of community organizations that pinch into our off hours. Living in the “country” two minutes from the Delaware river affords plenty of recreation choices. Last but least, the four legged “kids” filter into the mix and my big-mouth parrot is never short on demanding shoulder time.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

I’m not interested in writing the run of the mill mystery. Anyone can murder a character, commit the most heinous crimes, and live an alter-ego existence. While the Joe Henderson mystery series carries many of the same characters, different issues are examined—historical, medical, and political. Contrary to my mother’s opinion that she has the two smartest boys, I spend an inordinate amount of time researching a topic. I find it amazing that I can conceive, do the research, and cobble the bits together. Maybe my mother is right after all.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?

I’ll be fifty-seven in July and that puts me on the cusp, no dental pun intended, of being an old geezer. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but do tune in Turner Classics on the cable. The flicks of Bogart and Gable, tough guys doing right in the end somehow filter into my writing. The war picture Twelve O’clock High with Gregory Peck played into the House of Ghosts character Paul Rothstein.

Larry, thanks so much for being here today. Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

Writing is tough. It is a full boar commitment, filled with promise, joy, anticipation, and rejection. I’ve learned not to take things personally, to put the rejection slips in the folder marked “dumb bastards” and to keep at it.

Readers, I hope you've enjoyed today's peek into Larry Kaplan's world. For a chance to win an autographed copy of his novel, go to his tour webpage and enter this PIN: 3738. And have a great day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Special Friday Feature: An Interview with Tamela Quijas

Happy Friday! I'm pleased to welcome author Tamela Quijas today...enjoy her interview!

Tamela, welcome to Allie's Musings. Tell us a little about yourself...when did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I am a fanatical reader and began writing in my early teens. For many years, I would write novels then carefully pack them away. Recently, I decided to fulfill my lifelong dream and become a published author.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

Currently, I am putting the finishing touches on my latest paranormal romance, Blood of the Beast. I'm hoping to have the novel available on Amazon in a month's time.

Set in New Jersey, the tale involves a police detective (Valentina Kureyev) who is investigating a series of unexplained murders that are plaguing her city. With the aide of an obscure museum curator (Demetri Daskova), who harbors dark secrets of his own, she seeks the serial killer that haunts the streets.

Valentina is a complex individual. She's been with the city's police force for a number of years and, as Demetri phrases it, she's gritty and abrasive. Val is dedicated to her job and is obsessed with finding the serial killer that is leaving bloodless corpses on the doorsteps of her community.

Demetri is in charge of the Russian Antiquities Department at the local museum. There are matters about him that are unexplainable and dark. The murders, and the unwitting involvement of a local priest, brings the two individuals together.

The curator forces Val to accept his assistance in locating the killer, enlightening her with the unknown and the unexplained.

Perhaps matters would have been simpler if Val's grandmother wouldn't have a picture of Demetri Daskova in her possession: a Photograph that is over a hundred years old.

Ooh, sounds great! Now, how do you go about developing your characters?

That's a tough one to explain. My characters have a basic outline in my head that evolves as I write. I haven't any formula, each person seems to burst from the computer with every word.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Patience. New writers require a lot of patience in the publishing and writing fields. There isn't anything that just happens overnight and don't ever be discouraged. Writing takes an immense amount of dedication.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I read everything! My favorites have always been Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey. Others: Dan Brown, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Alexander Dumas, Edgar Rice Burroughs, there are too many to name.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing about writing is not being too obsessed with the edits. I can edit a novel to death!

The most exciting---seeing my work in print and actually holding it in my hand. Secondly, having a fan that 'sees' the images I have attempted to portray in my work.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I have to force myself to not spend more than four hours a day on a Work In Progress. Otherwise, there is an obsessed fanatic in me that will write from dusk til dawn.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I HATE writer's block. When I wrote Angel's Fire, Demon's Blood, I suffered a writer's block that took two weeks to overcome. It was debilitating in all aspects, I couldn't focus on reading, writing, or watching tv. I finally found something that made the dreaded curse disappear----I read excerpts of my project to one of my daughters (I have seven children) and she started asking the who, what, where, when and why questions. Before I knew it, fresh ideas began to pop up. My teenager is currently my sounding board for story development...Bless her heart.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I homeschool my youngest son and juggle motherhood with my seven children, all ranging from ages 30 to 8 years old. I cook a lot, if that's not obvious by the headcount in my home. Also, I enjoy chatting with my fans and friends on the internet.

Tamela, thanks so much for being here today! Anything else you’d like to mention?

Please stop by or and visit with me! I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Interview

"Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does." ~Steuart Henderson Britt

I forgot to mention this when it was posted, but here's a fun author interview I did over at Wendy Burt-Thomas' blog last month, when One Night in Memphis came out. You might find out a thing or two you didn't know about me, or the book!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I'm thrilled today to be hosting Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance on their blog tour to promote their debut novel, The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading. Here's the blurb for this fantastic YA novel:

When Bethany -- self-proclaimed geek girl -- makes the varsity cheerleading squad, she realizes that there's one thing worse than blending in with the lockers: getting noticed. She always felt comfortable as part of the nerd herd, but being a member of the most scrutinized group in her school is weighing her down like a ton of textbooks. Even her Varsity Cheerleading Guide can't answer the really tough questions, like: How do you maintain some semblance of dignity while wearing an insanely short skirt? What do you do when the head cheerleader spills her beer on you at your first in-crowd party? And how do you know if your crush likes you for your mind...or your pom-poms?

One thing's for sure: It's going to take more than brains for this girl genius to cheer her way to the top of the pyramid.

Darcy was kind enough to chat a little about the book and the background of this writing duo...

Darcy, congrats on your release! You both must be so excited! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I’ve been a college dropout five times – mostly because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Despite that, I’ve worked in Human Services most of my adult life, first in unemployment offices, then at an agency that served children and now I work as the Volunteer Coordinator for a mental health center.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading is a novel for teens and young adults. It’s about two smart, kind of geeky girls who, through an unusual set of circumstances, find their way onto the varsity cheerleading squad. It’s the story of their season on the squad.

Geek Girl’s Guide started out as my co-author’s solo novel. She had written the first several drafts of it, and it had already finaled in at least one contest, before I got involved with the project. Charity was seeking an agent to represent the book when, through another unusual set of circumstances, I had a conversation with an agent about her story. He asked me to encourage Charity to make changes to the manuscript and resubmit, but Charity was reluctant. I badgered her about it relentlessly and even went as far as rewriting her first chapter for her, but nothing would change her mind.

Then my son was diagnosed with cancer. Charity was a huge support to me during those first weeks after the diagnosis – her inbox was always open. When I sent her a message thanking her for being such a good friend, she responded right away saying something like, “I just wish I could do more but we live so far away from each other; it’s not like I can pop down the street and deliver a hotdish to you.” But the next day she did exactly that.

She sent another email to me, inviting me to join a private online group for just the two of us. In her invitation she said, “Remember that story, the one about the geeky cheerleaders? What if we worked on it together?” Charity knew that I needed something else to think about besides my son being sick. She also knew that I needed money – cancer is a really expensive thing to fix.

We worked on the book together throughout my son’s illness. My son’s treatment was a success and so were our efforts with the book. Eleven months after my son was first diagnosed, his doctor told us she thought everything was going to be okay. By that time, Charity and I had revised the entire novel, found an agent, and our agent had sold our book to Simon Pulse!

Last week, on June 13th, my son celebrated two years of being cancer free!

Wow, that's such an inspirational story! What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Write because you love it – even on those days when writing doesn’t love you back.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I have always been a “streaky” reader. As a child, I once spent an entire year reading nothing but basketball novels. I’ve had periods of reading only historicals, only fantasy, only mysteries, only women’s fiction. These days, I read a lot of Young Adult novels – partly as research, but also because I love the stripped down, “story first” way many of them are written. I’ve also been trying to revisit some classics and occasionally I read adult fiction like Jodi Picoult, or mysteries (I heart Sue Grafton) just so my entire reading life isn’t all about the OMG ; )

My favorite adult author is John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany, World According to Garp) and my current favorite YA author is John Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns).

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing about writing for me is starting. If I can make myself write those first sentences of the day, then I generally enjoy my writing session. I am easily distracted though, so it doesn’t always happen. The second most difficult thing for me is plotting. Oh how I stink at it! My characters would prefer to meander endlessly down the path of doing and talking about nothing of consequence. The most rewarding thing about writing is the writing itself. I just really enjoy seeing those words pop up on my computer screen – and then there’s that moment when I type ‘The End’ … that’s pretty delicious too!

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

READ! I love to read. I also like to listen to music, especially live music. I like to hang out with friends and family, watch movies, play Tetris, and go for long, aimless drives in the country.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

Hands down, it was this: When Charity and I first started working together on this project, parts of it were hers and parts of it were mine. Along the way, it started to become impossible to tell who wrote what. The novel became our characters’ story. It was magical!

That's so cool...OK, last question: What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?

My favorite movie changes all of the time. I like movies but I suspect I don’t like them in the same way an afficianado does. To me, they are entertainment. I can’t remember much about them even a week later. Having said that, I would LOVE to write a story like Slumdog Millionaire. That was amazing!

Ah, yes...Slumdog Millionaire. I'll second you there! Darcy, thanks so much for being here today, and best of luck in your blog tour, sales, and future projects!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good News!

"All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope." ~Alexandre Dumas

Actually, today's good news is not mine, but my friend Liz's, who just found out that her manuscript Playing for Keeps has been recommended to the senior editor at Harlequin Blaze! A line editor had requested it at a conference, and she sent it in I think about 6 months ago (Liz, correct me if I'm wrong). Here's the perfect lesson in patience too, because I've heard how slow-moving NY publishers, esp. Harlequin, can be in responding to submissions. 6 months is a long time to wait and hear whether or not your baby is cute enough to win that modeling contract :)

But...yesterday she got the email from that original editor that the story was moving up to the senior line editor. So I suppose there's more waiting to come now, but still, it's an exciting day for her. Do me a favor and drop by Liz's blog to tell her you're keeping your fingers crossed for her, OK?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Overheard in Passing

"I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book." ~Groucho Marx

Just a quick story for Monday:

I was at a BBQ yesterday afternoon with a bunch of good friends, and one of them (a rough and tumble kind of guy) said to me, "Hey, I bought your books the other day and gave them to M____ (a mutual friend's mother)."

Me: "Wow, that's nice. Thanks."

Him: "Yeah, and you know, I started flipping through them when I was waiting in line. They're pretty easy to read. I actually got caught up in the story for a minute."

I laughed. Hey, if this guy can get caught up for a minute, it must mean I'm doing something right!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What's in a Title?

"Books have to be read (worse luck it takes so long a time). It is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the West." ~E.M. Forster

How much does the title of a book influence your decision to read it? Or at least to pick it up in the store and ponder? I'd say book titles don't normall have a huge effect on me, but if I see an intriguing/very different one, it probably will catch my eye.

Yesterday at my local RWA meeting, the discussion turned to titles; specifically, to the fact that one of our members recently submitted a manuscript to a Harlequin line and changed the title to be more in keeping with what they look for. Apparently they like to include "key words" in their titles, that their faithful readers will recognize and look for. (secret, baby, brother, baron, bride, etc.) Another of our members, published in Harlequin Historical, agreed, though she said it doesn't matter what title you use when you submit, because Harlequin will change it. In fact, she has been asked to submit up to 50 -- yes, 50!! -- titles for a single book for them to consider.

In addition, Harlequin will use those "key words" even if they don't have much to do with the plot. "Bride" is one of the most famous. The first book our Harlequin Historical author published had the word "bride" in the title they decided on, even though the story had nothing to do with one. When she explained this, they said, "Well, does the heroine get married at the end of the story?" "Um, yes...there's a proposal, anyway." So, because there was a HEA with a marriage on the horizon, the word "bride" remained part of the title.

Interesting, right?

I've seen discussion on some author loops about writers who would never agree to a title change if they got a publishing contract, while others don't care at all what their book is called. Me, I've been lucky enough at this point to have my titles kept exactly the same as when I submitted, but I would probably consider changing them if asked. I mean, it's the publisher's job to know what sells and what their customers like and look for.

What about you?