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GUEST BLOGGER: Michael J. Malone

My guest blogger today is Michael J. Malone, a Scots writer published in crime fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  I “met” Michael several years ago through a mutual friend–just before his first novel, Blood Tears, was sold.  That book’s follow-up novel, A Taste for Malice, was recently released and my review will appear on this blog later in the week.  (Hint:  you DON’T want to miss this book … or my review!)  Without further blabbering from me, here’s Michael:

More and more authors are writing across genres.  What motivated you to do so?

There wasn’t much aforethought going on here. I just went where the ideas took me.  Something came at me as a poem. Something else as a work of fiction and something else as a piece of non-fiction.

Perhaps that’s a benefit of working with a smaller publisher? I can go with the idea, express myself, and not worry that the bean-counters will forbid me from publishing what I want.

A friend of mine did point out, however, that there are similarities with my approach to each of these areas of writing – in all of them there is a narrative. A novel speaks for itself in that regard. With the non-fiction book I was telling the story of some remarkable countrymen and women of mine. And with my poems there is more often than not some kind of story layered into the language.

It appears – bottom line –  that I’m a storyteller. Who knew?

As a writer of poetry and crime novels, tell us about the different mindsets you need to write each type of work … and what writerly approaches are similar.

With poetry I often start with pen on paper. I draft an outline and then re-draft it on to the screen, cleaning and pruning the language as I go. Then I’ll set it aside for a few hours/days/weeks – months even, before going back over it. I try not to leave it too long as the motivation for the poem can wane – as can my enthusiasm for it – and then it appears on the page as a muddle. I prefer to get it on the page as soon as I can and then worry about the editing later.

When I edit a poem I’m looking for the sense of it. Does each and every word merit its place? Would another word say it better? Does what I want to say appear on the page? Am I spelling it all out for the readers or am I trusting them to bring a little bit of themselves  to the reading? Does the poem even have a point or is it a nice piece of word play with a big fat SO WHAT running after it?

Often, it’s a sprint with a massage and ice bath afterwards. A novel, is of course a marathon and requires much more in the way of dedication, persistence, and focus. But sometimes, depending on how much writing time I have, it can feel like a whole series of sprints.

I think the part of my brain that has been exercised by looking for interesting word choices in poetry also gets a workout when I’m writing the longer pieces, but I can’t afford to be that deliberate for a stretch of 100,000+ words. I’m writing what I hope is a thrilling piece of fiction and using the right words for the job. Readers want pace – a variation in pace, to be sure – but pace all the same. And interesting word play can slow that down. There are moments of description when I will allow access to the poetic part of my brain (if I can call it that) and moments of action and dialogue when I’m aware the reader will want to race through to find out what happens.

In essence, any form of writing is all about the right words in the right order. It’s all about word choice. It’s just different combinations depending on the effect I want to create in the reader’s mind. And often that is all done by instinct. It’s only later in the editing process when I can try to assess whether or not it works.

The majority of your fans live in the U.K. but you have a following in the U.S., as well.  Do you believe readers are readers, regardless of where they live, or do you find differences that other writers might want to consider when writing for international audiences?

The only reader I have in mind as I write is me. Thinking of your audience as you write is the way madness lies. Or sub-standard work.

I remember reading and loving Angela’s Ashes. And then being deeply disappointed by the follow up, Tis. Paddy McCourt hadn’t become a poor writer overnight, it was just that he became too aware of his audience. It was like the narrator in Tis kept apologising for what he was like as a young man instead of letting the words just tell the story.

I’m not sure that answers your question. But yes, readers are readers and they like what they like. You can’t try to second guess that. Which is why I write the book I think I would want to read – and then hope that if it satisfies me it will please others.

In terms of changes in taste when it comes to books transferring across the pond, there has been enough books over the last few decades that work on both sides of the Atlantic to suggest a whole lot of similarities. And certainly from the UK side, we have been heavily influenced by popular American culture, from music, TV, film, and books – and perhaps in my own case that influence has worked its way into my style and folks in the US connect with that AND the Scottish stuff. You guys do appear to like the Scots.

What always amuses me is the changes in covers. We might like lots of the same books, but we prefer them to be dressed differently. The marketing people know what they are doing. Right?

Do you think having a twin sister has given you an edge when it comes to creating female characters?

Good question.

I remember some time ago I was commissioned to write a group of poems for a novel by Margaret Thomson Davis. Margaret told me the character whose perspective I was writing from was a young girl from a repressed background. Her mother knew she was in Art School but thought she was studying embroidery – when in fact she was falling in love with a young fireman who was posing nude in the life drawing class. In these poems, I was to highlight the sexual awakening of this young woman.

At first I was daunted. I had to get in to the mind of a young woman who was, in effect, lusting over this naked young man.  How the hell was I going to manage that? And it was while talking it over with a friend I realised that ultimately we all (men and women) want the same things – love, validation, kindness etc – but just different body parts. (The friend I was discussing this with was gay. And he just scoffed at my different body part comment.) With that thought, I was freed to write what I needed to write.

I understand that some men struggle to write from a female perspective, but equally lots of men don’t.  The thing is, I often write poems from a female point of view. Perhaps being so close to my twin sister has helped create a mindset that encourages that. She has been filling my head with her worries for as long as I can remember.  (Sorry, sis.) That’s bound to have had an effect.

What is the timeline of your future releases and where can we purchase your titles that are already in print?

The next McBain book (#3 after Blood Tears and A Taste for Malice) is still in my head and has been penciled in for release in November 2014.

I have a book coming out in February 2014 that’s a blend of fact and fiction. It is called The Guillotine Choice and it is based on the true story of an innocent young Algerian, during the French colonisation of his country. He was effectively given the choice of 25 years hard labour in Devil’s Island or to send his cousin to the guillotine. To learn more, you’ll just need to wait and read the book. The man this novel is based on led a remarkable life and I can’t wait to get the book out there.

My other books are available through all good bookshops, if you live in the UK. If you insist on using the interwebs, Foyles is a proper bookshop with good online discount: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/a-taste-for-malice,michael-j-malone-9781907869754

Sadly, Amazon is pretty much the only party in town when it comes to ebooks.  So, go here for my author page, which, BTW,  is seriously in need of an update:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-J-Malone/e/B009WV9V4Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1370197713&sr=1-2-ent

For American readers, you can buy my books from the Book Depository with your credit card … and FREE shipping:  http://www.bookdepository.com/author/Michael-J-Malone

Here’s the blurb for  A Taste for Malice …

DI Ray McBain is back at work and on filing duty. Desperate for something to do, a pair of old files intrigue him. In the first a woman pushes her way into a vulnerable family. The children adore her. At first. Then she has some ‘fun’, which soon becomes torture and mental cruelty. Then she disappears. Meanwhile, in Ayrshire, another young family is relieved when a stranger comes into their lives to help them out. McBain makes the link, but nobody is interested in what he has to say. Is it even the same woman?

Here’s an excerpt from the Undiscovered Scotland review:

“He has produced one of the more unusual detective novels we can remember reading. Most crime novels kick off with a dead body within the first few pages, and build from there. What is particularly fascinating about “A Taste for Malice” is that the story does not revolve around the tracking down of a killer or serial killer. The central story, which develops in two parallel strands that steadily converge as the book moves towards its climax, deals with something altogether less wholesome.”

Book Review: SCRATCHGRAVEL ROAD by Tricia Fields

Scratchgravel Road by Tricia Fields is a gripping mystery with enough plot twists and quirky characters to keep you reading from start to finish without coming up for air.

Why did a local woman abandon her car by the side of the road in the Texas desert … and why was her unconscious body found beside that of a dead Mexican immigrant?  Why won’t the young woman answer the questions posed by Josie Grey, the police chief of the small Texas town?  And more importantly, what caused the man’s death–and the alarming wounds found on his body that just may signal something sinister going on at the dead man’s place of employment?

As the story unfolds, the small town of Artemis, Texas is embroiled in something much bigger than whatever it is Josie Grey discovered out in the desert.  And it’s her job to figure it all out before anyone else winds up dead.

Scratchgravel Road by Tricia Fields

by Minotaur Books

ISBN 978-1-250-02136-6 (hardcover)

ISBN 978-1-250-02278-3 (eBook)

Book Review: BLACK SHEEP by CJ Lyons

Here’s another book to be added to your list of must-reads.  In Black SheepCJ Lyons‘ characterization of FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney is excellent–especially if you’ve ever asked yourself why people behave the way they do–especially your parents…

It’s the only mystery Supervisory Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney has never solved:  her father’s unexplained suicide after arresting his best friend for murder.  It drove Caitlyn to become one of the FBI’s best agents–and often the most unorthodox.  Her latest case is no exception:  when the man she holds responsible for her father’s death asks for help in finding his missing daughter, Caitlyn’s search brings her back to her North Carolina hometown.  The town is now vibrant with new money, old lies, and an unknown enemy who will do anything to keep Caitlyn from learning the truth–and who will kill to keep it buried.

The characters in this book come alive and the suspense kept me turning the pages.  And all the while I thought I knew whodunit, and why, I kept changing my mind.  Yep, this was one of those books I read straight through … ’til 2:00 a.m.

Black Sheep by CJ Lyons

Published by St. Martin’s Press February 26, 2013

ISBN 978-1-250-01534-1

Contact Sarah Melnyk

 

 

Writer’s Market reports “4 Book Publishers Looking for Writers”

I subscribe to Writer’s Market, as well as an email feed.  Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this information:

4 BOOK PUBLISHERS LOOKING FOR WRITERSWritersMarket.com lists hundreds of book publishers for writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, writing for children, and more. Here are four open to submissions from writers:

  • Avon Romance publishes high quality romance novels. In fact, this HarperCollins imprint publishes 400 novels per year, and they take submissions directly from prospective authors. Use their online submission form.
  • Free Spirit Publishing produces 20-25 titles per year “to provide children and teens with the tools they need to succeed in life and to make a difference in the world.” Prospective authors should submit a proposal.
  • Seal Press publishes 30 titles per year. The publisher proclaims they publish books by women for women and hopes writers will take that into consideration when submitting. Prospective authors should send a query letter or proposal.
  • Shambhala Publications publishes 90-100 titles per year. This publisher is mostly focused on nonfiction topics, especially related to Buddhism, yoga, mindfulness, creativity, martial arts, natural health, and green living. Prospective authors should submit a book proposal by post.

(NOTE: If you’re unable to access the listing, it means you either need to log in or sign up for WritersMarket.com first.)

WritersMarket.com lists more than 8,000 publishing opportunities, including listings for contests, magazines, book publishers, literary agents, conferences, and more. Log in or sign up today to start submitting your work.

Click to continue.

Interested in Insurance CE Webinars?

I’m proud to announce that my client, A.D. Banker & Companyis offering a full line-up of CE Webinar courses beginning May 15, 2013.  These are attendance based sessions with NO final exams.  Courses are led by insurance professionals with years of industry experience and can be attended from anywhere the internet is available.  CE Webinars are currently approved in the following states:  AK, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, MO, MS, NC, NE, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, UT, VA.

I developed and wrote several of the webinars and will be presenting two of the them:  Health Insurance and the PPACA and Cyber Liability.  I’m scheduled to present Health Insurance and the PPACA on May 15, June 12, July 11, August 8, September 10, October 22, November 19, and December 17.  I’m scheduled to present Cyber Liability on May 30, June 28, August 27, October 10, and November 13.

For a list of topics, click here; from that page, click on Continuing Education at the top of the page for dates, times, and pricing.

Why the Government’s Health Program (PCIP) is Running Out of Money

An article in today’s LifeHealthPro prompted my blog post today.  It’s about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that was established by the Affordable Care Act to guarantee health insurance for the unfortunate individuals who had health conditions so serious insurers wouldn’t write insurance on them.

Well, folks, the federally-run PCIP is running out of money to pay for the claims of all the sick people who purchased coverage through the plan.  Why is that? you may wonder.  Well, the government paid more in claims that it expected to pay.  Here’s my question:  Why did the government think insurance companies didn’t want to write coverage for those people?  And here’s my answer:  Because people with health issues have more claims than people without health issues do.

I’m not saying unhealthy people shouldn’t be able to have coverage.  However, since the very nature of insurance–and state insurance regulations–REQUIRES premiums to be adequate enough to pull in enough funds to pay claims, there’s only one things premiums can do when the costs of claims rise.  Yep, you guessed it.  So when the PCIP provided “affordable” insurance, it wasn’t charging enough premiums to pay the claims.  Which is really BAD news for the folks enrolled in the plan.  Which those of us who understand the nature of insurance expected to happen.  [P.S.   The PCIP stopped accepting new enrollees some time ago because the government saw the handwriting on the wall.]

I’m a nonsmoker in my late 50s who has no health issues:  my blood pressure is 120/80, my cholesterol is below 200, and I don’t take regular medication.  I don’t have diabetes or any other condition.  And I pay, personally, out of my own pocket (because I’m self-employed), $563 a month for health insurance.  I understand precisely what consumers are faced with concerning the costs of healthcare.

I’m also one of the few people who has a copy of the text of the Affordable Care Act on her computer, and who has read a good portion of that text.  (I admit it:  I haven’t read the whole thing.)  There are all kinds of provisions most consumers don’t know about.  And I’ll bet a lot of politicians don’t know about them, either.

If you’re interested in reading a brief, consumer-friendly timeline of what will be happening under the Affordable Care Act, you can visit Healtcare.gov at What’s Changing and When. Although many people know more about the Affordable Care Act than I do, I’ve  researched it extensively, written a couple of insurance courses on it, and presented a number of webinars on the topic.  I welcome your questions.

Book Review: COME HOME by Lisa Scottoline

I enjoy all of Lisa Scottline’s books but Come Home is by far one of the most emotionally wringing novels I’ve read in years.

After divorcing, pediatrician Jill Farrow has finally gotten her life back on track.  Her 13-year-old daughter Megan is happy and Jill is engaged to marry a wonderful man.  But when her former stepdaughter suddenly appears one night with the news that Jill’s ex-husband was murdered, Jill’s world is turned upside down.  Abby insists her father was murdered and enlists Jill’s help to find the killer.

Come Home combines the nail-biting tension of an expert thriller with the unbreakable ties of family.  As Jill’s obligations to her fiance, the daughter she loves, and the daughter of her heart pull her in different directions, she battles to do what is right and bring her family home.  If you’ve ever struggled with family ties and loyalty, this novel taps into all those turbulent emotions … and love.

Come Home by Lisa Scottoline

Released 04/10/2013 by St. Martin’s Press

ISBN (hardcover) 978-0312380823

ISBN (ebook) 978-1429942324

P.S.  If you click the link above to Come Home, you’ll be taken to Lisa’s website where you can read the first chapter.

Book Review: DON’T GO by Lisa Scottoline

I love emotionally-charged stories and characters who grow and evolve throughout them.  Don’t Go is a powerful story and as emotionally charged as any story I’ve read in a long time.

While Dr. Mike Scanlon is serving in Afghanistan, his wife Chloe falls victim to a fatal household accident.  Devastated, he returns home only to discover he’s a stranger to his baby girl, and the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death are not as simple as they seem.  Now, he must fight to discover the truth and to reclaim his life–and his daughter.

This novel touches on all a parents’ fears, and all the things that go through your mind when you’re dealing with a tragedy you’re woefully under-equipped to handle.  Scottoline taps into all our fears and the guilty thoughts and recriminations that keep us up at night–not to mention our tendency to avoid when life is simply too awful to bear.

Don’t Go is a must-read.

Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

ISBN (hardcover) 978-1-250-010070

ISBN (ebook) 978-1-250-025999

Release date April 9, 2013

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

 

Book Review: THE PERFECT GHOST by Linda Barnes

I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Linda Barnes, including the books in the Carlotta Carlyle series, but she’s outdone herself with The Perfect Ghost.   I was truly awed by Barnes’  ability to build the character of Em Moore layer by exquisite layer in this tale of an agoraphobic biographer who is compelled to push her personal boundaries after the death of her writing partner.

The shy and insecure Em is forced to leave her structured world to visit Cape Cod to tackle alone the project she and her partner had begun before his death:  interviewing the dashing filmmaker and director Garrett Malcolm.  Normally the silent half of the writing partnership, Em becomes privy to family secrets and longstanding feuds, as well as the odd comings and goings of a washed-up movie star.

Everything about this novel is spectacular:  the characters, the storyline, and and the unique narrative of Em Moore.  You definitely need to add this book to your reading list.

The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes

Published by Minotaur Books

hardcover ISBN 978-1-250-023636

e-book ISBN 978-1-250-02364-3

 

Proof that Perseverance Pays Off

Have you ever given up on pursuing a dream because it seemed unattainable?  Or worse, quit because someone told you your dream was unrealistic?

Take a lesson from my friend, Jaclyn:  don’t give up and don’t quit.  On April 1st, and at age 83, Jaclyn is going to see her first romance novel published.  Talk about perseverance!

I first met Jaclyn  in 1989 when I joined Romance Writers of America.  She and I served on the board of directors for the New England Chapter of RWA from 1990 to 1994 and, for years, supported each other by critiquing each other’s work.  I’m SO proud of her and her accomplishments:  she’s won numerous awards for her writing and never gave up.

Her time travel romance, The Ring, will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing on 04/01/2013; here’s more info: