Friday, December 20, 2013

Making Time for The Voices in My Head

My head is a crowded place these days, even more so than usual. I'm one of those weirdos who walk around talking to imaginary people. Most of the time the conversations take place in my brain, although sometimes the words slip out into real life. (Putting your hand to your ear is a great remedy when this happens - people just assume that you're talking on a headset...)

I love the voices in my head. Some would tell you that I'm nuts, which isn't far from the truth, but talking to imaginary folks is one way I work through story lines, "hear" dialogue, and learn about my characters. We find creative ways to kill other imaginary people and then to catch the murderers. Or not. It's the part of the writing process that I enjoy most. So having noise and distraction whirling around my brain are the norm for me.

But lately, it's gotten worse.

I can only blame it on the time of year and how busy we are. My husband is a musician and December is his busiest rehearsing and gigging month by far. Add holiday parties (and several birthday parties) to the mix, family gatherings, and gift shopping and wrapping, and time seems to whip by at supersonic speeds! It's wonderful and I wouldn't trade the time or experiences for anything, but I'll bet you know exactly the kind of joyful exhaustion it brings.

All this activity has invaded my already crowded head with its lists, its preparations, its late nights. And it's intruding on my "alone time" with my characters.

You know what? I've found that I miss it, that I actually need that time with my imaginary friends to maintain my sanity. Strange, eh? There's something about talking with fictional people that's soothing. For some reason, they're a balance to the season's joyful exhaustion. I feel more rested if I take time to listen to them, and I'm probably a nicer person overall if I've had a chance to chat with my imaginary friends.

This year's holiday season will soon draw to a close and I'm looking forward to getting back into my less crowded head and letting my characters have more space. And next year, I'll do a better job of making time for me and my imaginary friends. So, how do you cope with the season's busy-ness?

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc
photo credit: murilocardoso via photopin cc
photo credit: ohhector via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Power of Storytelling

Words hold such power. Think about it. A single word, a phrase. They have the ability to evoke or change emotion, to transport us, to entirely alter our perceptions. But there's something special about the spoken word that leverages the power of story. A good story when told by a talented speaker captivates. It can move us as almost nothing else can.

My brothers and I were lucky to have parents who read to us and quite happily, to others. I still remember my mom reading Where the Red Fern Grows to her elementary school classes. Do you know the book? It's about a country boy named Billy and his coonhounds, Ann and Old Dan. Reading this story was a ritual for my mother as the school year drew to a close, and one she and her students loved equally. She was a music teacher and has a beautiful alto voice. 

The kids would sit and listen for part of each music class, perfectly still as the story progressed day after day, until my mom would break down in tears and be unable to finish. (If you've read Where the Red Fern Grows, you'll know exactly the point in the book I'm talking about.) The kids would be in tears, too, but there was always one student who would pick up that book and bravely carry on, letting my mother weep with the rest of the students.

I'd forgotten these memories and how powerful verbal storytelling is until I spoke to several classes of junior high kids a few weeks ago. The librarian invited me to talk about the writing process, from idea generation all the way through to book production and marketing. Some students were really interested and asked thoughtful and sometimes clever questions. Others goofed off. Some slept. Most were enthusiastic when talking about their favorite book or movie.

They were typical teenagers in full hormonal bloom, and fifty minutes was far too long a time to expect them to sit still. So when the first class erupted into outright fidget mode, I asked if they'd like to hear me read from my books. They provided a loudly unanimous, "Yes, Mrs. Woods!".

Cool. Very cool (even if Mrs. Woods is my mother). But then terror struck and I wondered whether this was such a smart thing: is there any tougher audience than a group of restless and bored 12 and 13 year olds?

You know the amazing thing? All fidgeting ceased as soon as I started to read. The kids leaned forward and paid attention. Those who were asleep even woke up. I'd like to think it was the quality of my story or the entrancing lilt of my voice that captivated them, but I think the reason is far more basic.

There's something primal in story time. Something that connects all of us to each other and to a wider experience. Hearing a story takes us back to the days of triumphant hunting scenes painted on cave walls, or to the Middle Ages when troubadours traveled from village to village singing the news and telling stories of heroism and romance through song. Why are stories so powerful?

Storytelling engages both sides of the brain, the intensely logical left side for dealing with language and comprehension, and the creative right side for processing metaphor and 'seeing' the story. But they also affect the chemistry of the brain. Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, has researched the way that people respond to stories, trying to understand the power of their impact. He found that even the simplest story can trigger the release of cortisol - a hormone that causes the 'fight or flight' response - or the release of the love hormone, oxycotin.

The meaning of all this? There's powerful, heady stuff in storytelling.

While these effects occur for stories in both written and verbal form, there's something unique about a story shared through the voice. I've toyed with the idea of recording my books, and have dipped in and out of Stephen Woodfin's blog series on Venture Galleries regarding how to create audiobooks. But after my experience with the junior high kids and being reminded of the power of the spoken story, I'll be going back to re-read his advice, taking it a little more seriously this time.

photo credit: E>mar via photopin cc
photo credit: kidicarus222 via photopin cc
photo credit: Gruban via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Vincent van Gogh Taught Me About Plagiarism

Self Portrait with Felt Hat
Have you ever heard a comment that stopped you in your tracks? I recently asked an author friend what she was reading. She replied that she doesn't read when writing or editing for fear she'll plagiarize someone.

That stumped me.

For me, reading is akin to breathing - a physical necessity. I read all the time and usually have several books in play at once. I simply hadn't considered the possibility that because I read while editing or writing that someone else's work might end up in one of my books.

The Chambers Dictionary, New Ninth Edition, defines 'plagiarize' as: "to steal ideas or writings from another person and present them as one's own."

My friend's comment hung in the back of my mind. It worried me a bit until my husband and I spent the better part of a day in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. That was the first time I realized how much effort Vincent, arguably one of the finest artists in history, put into copying other people's art.

I adore Van Gogh's work. It's simultaneously soothing and uplifting to me. But Vincent van Gogh was a plagiarist. A blatant copyist. And you know what? That makes me respect him all the more.

Many people think Vincent was an out and out nutter (thanks to the whole ear incident and a few other odd events), but if there's one thing that Van Gogh understood, it was that he had much to learn as an artist.

The Courtesan (after Eisen)
He was mostly self-taught and used the works of painters he admired to explore their techniques, and eventually, to develop his own. Vincent greatly admired Jean-Francios Millet's style and copied at least 21 of Millet's paintings, adding his own influence through the use of color. He dabbled in the pointillist style of painting developed by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac and made outright copies of Japanese prints by Hiroshige. All in the aid of furthering his own abilities, of developing his own style.

We treasure these copies, these attempts to imitate someone else's work just as much as we treasure Van Gogh's originals, such as Starry Night, The Potato Eaters, and the Sunflowers paintings. Vincent's copies are attributed as being 'after' a particular painter to credit the original artist. There is no doubt that Van Gogh was using the work of someone he admired to help develop his art rather than trying to pass the works off as his own.

But now we come to writers.

Hear me clearly: am I saying that plagiarism as an author is a good thing?

Absolutely not.

What am I saying? That reading the works of people I admire is crucial to how I develop my style, my technique, my ability to pace a plot, to grow a character, to write believable dialogue, to create stories that capture the imagination.

Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet)
This is no different than a musician who listens to other musicians and hears and modifies a particular riff. Robert Johnson, the famous bluesman, recorded modified versions of several existing recordings such as Skip James' 22-20 Blues and Devil Got My Woman, changing them so much that they became his own. These in turn influenced groups such as the Rolling Stones, who further evolved this original blues style into the gritty rock 'n' roll sound they're famous for today.

The Lennie Tristano method of teaching jazz focused on singing solos by Lester Young and other jazz greats, note for note. Not so they could be reproduced note for note, but rather so the musician incorporated the style, the feeling of those tunes into their own music, and then used improvisation to make the music their own. 

While I'm editing, I deliberately read books by authors whose writing captivates me. Rather than being fearful that I'll plagiarize them, I'm hopeful that the qualities about their writing that I so admire will seep into my brain and influence how I write, not necessarily what I write.
Skull with Burning Cigarette

I'm grateful for my friend's comment about her fear of plagiarizing someone else's work. I'm equally grateful that we were in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum not long after. Vincent taught me that studying the works of those we consider great, in an honest attempt to improve ourselves, can only help us mature, regardless of our art.

What about you? Do you find reading a source of inspiration while you write or edit, or is it a distraction?

photos taken by Gae-Lynn Woods at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Calf Weaning as Writing Inspiration

They say you should write what you know, and right now, I know about decibels. This time of year, I wonder if raising cows is worth the hassle.

Newborns look so innocent
It’s weaning season, which means it’s noisy on the ranch. A lot of farmers calve in the winter and then wean in the summer. We plan our calving (to the extent that we can control the amorous advances of our 2,000 pound bull) for spring. This gives the mothers access to fresh, nutritious grass to help them rebuild their strength after being pregnant through the winter, and also ensures the calves can start grazing as soon as possible. Early grazing helps the calves put on weight because they have access to both milk and grass.

It’s hugely entertaining to watch calves go from wobbly newborns to curious youngsters through the summer. During that time, they’re grazing, nursing, and learning to eat the little bit of feed we give them through those normally green months. They’re also gaining some independence, forming cliques, and venturing away from the herd to graze with their ‘friends’. By the time autumn rolls around, the calves are about six months old and it’s time to stop them from nursing so their mothers can put on weight for the winter and get ready to deliver the next batch of calves. 

Unhappy bull calf...
Despite the calves’ pretensions of independence, they’re still babies at six months old. And like human babies, they bawl for their mothers as soon as they’re separated. The cows add to the noise because their udders are full of milk, but there are no calves around to drink it. So, for a few days, it’s a moo chorus around here, night and day. (Secretly, the cows must heave a sigh of relief when the calves are weaned. It’s hard work nursing a 500 pound baby, and for all the belly-aching, I think the mommas are happy to see the babies weaned.)

Thankfully, our nearest neighbors are about a quarter of a mile away, so it’s only us who lose sleep for these few days. Ear plugs are some help, but it’s amazing how much noise one six month old calf can make, much less a whole herd of them. We’ll give them six weeks to put on some weight, then it’s off to the sale barn they go, to repay some of the investment we’ve made in them and the ranch.

So right now, weaning is what I know. Will I be able to work the experience into a
story? I think so. Whether it’s a neighbor who goes nuts over the noise, a rustler who takes advantage of the chaos to steal some cows, or a calf stampede, yes, I’ll find a use for weaning. And given that I write crime novels, a fictional someone will probably die in the process. Time to find a victim…

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haunted House for Sale. Any Takers?

Would you live in a haunted house? It's a relevant question, and not just because we're in October, the month of all things spooky and ghoulish. The question is relevant because the house where one of the most famous murders in East Texas took place went up for sale recently.

Built in 1989, the house is almost six thousand square feet and sits on on twelve acres of land. Four bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a garage that weighs in at over one thousand square feet. (A big garage is handy for parking and storage. And in this case, it plays an important role in the story.)

Nice digs, all in all. In a prime location just outside of Carthage, which was voted the "nicest town in Texas" not all that long ago. And yours for a mere $699,000.

Ghost included.

Or maybe not. 

You decide.

The murder in question is that of Marjorie Nugent. You might've heard of her, or perhaps of her killer, Bernie Tiede. Or maybe you've seen the 2012 movie BERNIE that starred Jack Black as Bernie and Shirley MacLaine as Mrs. Nugent. Matthew McConaughey played Danny Buck Davidson, our local District attorney. A good flick. But just in case you didn't see the movie or hear about the murder, I'll give you a quick rundown.

By all accounts, Marjorie Nugent was an unpleasant woman who had few friends and whose relationships with her family were strained. Kind, gentle Bernie Tiede (who has a beautiful singing voice and is beloved by many in the community) befriended her after her wealthy husband passed on.

To make a long story short, Bernie quit his job at a local funeral home and became Mrs. Nugent's companion; she gave him power of attorney over her assets and he spent freely, but mostly on other people; her idiosyncrasies and rudeness annoyed him mightily and one day he shot her in the back out in that great big garage.

There you have it. A good old murder out in the garage where the blood can be washed away, as if nothing ever happened. But after the murder, the plot thickens. You see, Bernie had access to a small airplane and knew how to fly it. He could've taken her body up in the plane and dumped it over an isolated forest for the hogs, or even dropped it into a lake where chances were slim that it would be found. But instead, Bernie stuffed Mrs. Nugent's body in her spare freezer (kept in the garage) and there it remained. While Bernie continued to spend and lie about why Mrs. Nugent never answered the phone.

For nine months.

Until Nugent's financial planner convinced the local authorities that something bad might've happened to her.

Seems it did.

They loaded the freezer onto a flatbed truck, plugged it into a generator, and took her to Dallas to be thawed and autopsied. Which wasn't really necessary because Bernie confessed. To the shooting and to keeping her in the freezer. Many of the locals wanted Bernie to go free and even offered to post bail for him, but Danny Buck Davidson got a jury down in San Augustine to convict Bernie, and he's spending time in the state penitentiary.

Now for the question of haunting. What exactly makes a house haunted? Houses have lives, they have character. But do they have memories? I think they do, perhaps only as an echo of the lives lived, and perhaps lost, there. If a violent act that results in death is a prerequisite to haunting, the Nugent house surely qualifies. If the 'mean old woman' syndrome is necessary, Mrs. Nugent ticks that box. Someone lives in the house now and I'm not sure why they're selling. Could it be because Marjorie Nugent's unhappy spirit still roams the place, opening a door here, bringing a chill breeze there?
If you had the $699,000 price tag, would you live in a house where someone was murdered? Where their body remained for almost a year after they were killed? Or would you pass on by, leaving the house and its memories (and perhaps its ghost), for someone else to deal with?

(For more on the movie BERNIE, see this earlier blog post.)

photo credit: Hourman via photopin cc
photo credit: Leshaines123 via photopin cc

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Turning a Farming, er, Mishap Into Writing Inspiration

Real life offers great opportunities for adding depth to your writing.

For example, I now know that lips do more than wear lipstick and hold cigarettes. They serve a very practical purpose, that of keeping spit in your mouth. Why, you ask, am I worried about spit and whether it stays in my mouth? Because it’s suddenly relevant thanks to a recent farming mishap.

Let me share a tip, something that might save you pain and unsightly drooling in the future: keep your free hand firmly on the heavy-duty brushcutter when your other hand yanks on the starter cord. If you don’t, said brushcutter is likely to fly up off the ground and smack you in the face. Or, more precisely in my case, the mouth.

Another lesson learned the hard way.

How could this possibly add depth to my writing? At the time of the lip-splitting injury, I wasn’t worried about writing at all. I was more interested in stopping the cascade of blood running down my chin and neck (although I do remember a certain amazement that a damaged lip could bleed so much), and berating myself for not putting a foot on the brushcutter before trying to start the thing. I am a grown woman. I know better.

No, it was my husband who was thinking of my writing career when all this was going down.

To his credit, he didn’t mention writing until he got me back to the house, sopped up most of the blood, verified that my teeth were still snug in their gums, and determined that I probably wouldn’t need reconstructive surgery on the lip. (Yes, the split is that deep. It’s not a cut, not a fat lip, but a split right through the lip. Ouch. And ick, because it leaks.)

Only then does he say, “You need to write this down. How it happened, how it felt. The blood, what your lip looks like. Because one day, Cass is going to split her lip while trying to start a weedeater.”

Oooh, yeah, I think, attention totally diverted from the sting of hydrogen peroxide. “It wouldn’t be Cass,” I clarify, hoping that my imaginary main character is smarter than I am. “But Goober might do something like that.”

“No,” Husband says. “There’s no way Goober could start something as complex as a weedeater.”

“Good point. Maybe it is Cass. She might get bashed in the face when she’s arresting somebody.”

After that, I was off. Pain not entirely forgotten, but pushed to the side, brain alive with a new scene for my current book, wondering how to describe the sensation of a lip splitting, the taste of blood, and all the rest of it. Fun indeed.

I also realized that I do this quite frequently - pondering whether real life will work in a novel, not whacking myself in the face - though it’s usually someone else’s injury that inspires me. Yes, it’s crass, but it’s also the truth.

Is it just me, or do you find inspiration for your writing in the messes we get ourselves into?

(A few tips, just in case you ever split your lip while trying to start a brushcutter: 

An ice pack helps with the swelling. 

Laughing, smiling, and sneezing are not advisable. 

Straws help – think Mason Verger in Hannibal – but hold off on sipping that hot cup of coffee or tea until it cools down a tad.)

photo credit: arte_molto_brutta_2 via photopin cc
photo credit: madamepsychosis via photopin cc
photo credit: tarotastic via photopin cc

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Save the World While Keeping Your Undies on the Inside - Try Some #Kindness

Want to change the world? Forget the cape and wearing your undies on the outside. Try a little kindness.

Bah, you say. Kindness? How outdated. How menial. It's BIG discoveries we need, not interactions between people.

Yes, it sounds simple, but kindness and the connections it builds are incredibly powerful. Every act of kindness has an impact that can change the course of a person's day and on occasion, their lives. A smile, a compliment, a cup of coffee delivered out of the blue, a door held open, or simply saying 'thanks' can make all the difference to someone.

One of the things I love to do is make another person smile. It's most rewarding if you catch someone completely off guard - the impact is far greater. I was once walking (fighting my way) across downtown Dallas during a tremendous wind storm, and as I approached a street crossing, watched as an older bird-like lady leaned into the wind but weighed so little she was unable to walk against it.

I joined her at the intersection and as the next 'green man' appeared, put one arm around her shoulders and braced her elbow with the other. We leaned into that nasty gale and between us, made it across the street, up a set of steps to her building, pried open the door, and stepped inside without incident, laughing hysterically as we caught our breath. I have no idea what her name was, but she told me how grateful she was for that small act of kindness. She'd waited at that intersection through several light changes and watched as people walked right past her. She was almost frozen in place, afraid to turn back for fear the wind would knock her down, but having no clue as to how she'd get across the street.

Helping her was a little thing for me, but it was big for her. The reason I stopped? I can see someone I love in a similar situation and I hope that they would find a helping hand just when they need it.

We have no idea what's going on in another person's head, and sometimes your act of kindness might be the very thing they need to show them they're not alone in this big bad world. And I'll let you in on a little secret. While kindness can have enormous repercussions for the person you're delivering it to, you benefit as well. 

In his book Why Kindness is Good for You, Dr. David R. Hamilton identifies three ways that kindness benefits the giver:

1) It makes us happier by causing the level of dopamine, the "feel good" hormone, in the brain to rise. The incident on the windy day with the little old lady? That happened over twenty years ago, and it still makes me smile every time I think of it. (New research is also showing that in addition to making us feel good, increasing the level of dopamine in the brain might have a positive impact on memory. Anything that helps me remember where I left the car keys is a good thing.)


2) It lowers blood pressure. Your act of kindness stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain and throughout the body, causing blood vessels to expand, lowering blood pressure and in effect, protecting your heart. Cool, eh?


3) Kindness can even slow aging. According to Dr. Hamilton, that hormone oxytocin we talked about above also lowers the levels of inflammation and free radicals in the blood stream. These are two of the baddies when it comes to aging - reducing them helps slow the aging process. (That's an even bigger incentive to me to practice kindness, given the rapid advance of *ahem* platinum in my hair...)

There is one catch to all this kindness stuff, however. (Right, you say, of course there's a catch. Go on then, let's hear it.)

Your act of kindness must be genuine.

Human beings are perceptive. A saccharine smile, a compliment delivered with even the tiniest slice of sarcasm, a good turn done in anticipation of receiving something in exchange - all result in a mega-fail. The object of your act of kindness builds a little wall around themselves, and you lose those lovely benefits.

Still don't believe kindness works? The proof is in the trying. Practice that smile in the mirror, go flash it around the supermarket, and watch the world start to change.


photo credit: San Diego Shooter via photopin cc
photo credit: Xtina L via photopin cc
photo credit: massdistraction via photopin cc
photo credit: Welshdan via photopin cc

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Release - CREATUS - from #Suspense #Author Carmen DeSousa @Author_Carmen

In every myth there is a modicum of truth…
The reason we believe in Fairy Tales—and Monsters.

As the sun’s rays peeked above the horizon, lighting the abyss below her, she inhaled a deep breath, closed her eyes, and jumped. She didn’t scream; she didn’t look down. As much as she hated her life, she hoped it wouldn’t end this way. She’d really like to see him one more time.

Her life didn’t flash before her eyes as she’d always heard. Just an image of her mother covered in blood and her Dark Angel telling her he was sorry.

Creatus, by best-selling author Carmen DeSousa, is a new romantic-suspense novel with a supernatural edge that answers the myths and fairy tales you’ve heard about preternatural sentient beings.

Prepare yourself to believe.

Download Creatus:

In order to spread the news, we are also giving away a $50 gift card! In order to qualify, just share this post’s URL in the Raffle Copter and share via Twitter. You can enter once a day.

Contest ends midnight, Monday September 2, 2013. The drawing, which includes all participating websites, will be held Tuesday, September 3, 2013. The winner will be posted the same day. Follow the link below to enter!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Meet the Women of Best Friends #BookClub in Mt. Pleasant!

I had the pleasure of spending the evening with the beautiful women of Best Friends Book Club in Mt. Pleasant, TX last night, and boy, are these ladies a serious group of book lovers! We had a fantastic time talking books (and even a few TV shows and movies). THE DEVIL OF LIGHT was a book club selection this summer, and everyone gave it two thumbs up!

Book club members from left to right: Cat McDermott, Loree Petree, Vickie Chatham, Lori Stringham, and Founder and President, Jeanette McDermott (Lisa Garner also joined in by conference call!)

We met at Luigi's and had a great dinner (the Pasta Trio was wonderful, and the Lobster Ravioli looked really good, just in case you decide to stop by).

Conversation ranged far and wide and included the generation of story ideas, character development, the emotions a good book conjures when you're writing or reading it, how the bad guy should die a very bad death, and sex (of course) - how much characters should have, how much to reveal, sex early in a relationship versus sex in a relationship that develops over time. The ladies had some thoughtful feedback on their preferences. We also brainstormed the third Cass Elliot novel, and that was a blast. (Everyone agreed the villain should die in a horrible way - Cass and I will do our best to deliver!)

The ladies talked about stories that have left their mark on the book club. Someone mentioned the title MIDDLESEX (by Jeffrey Eugenides) and everybody broke into laughter - I'll definitely read that book!

Thanks again to Best Friends Book Club for a fabulous evening, and for the two things absolutely fundamental for book generation: sexy coffee cups and beautiful notepaper! I hope to see you all again soon!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Does Size Matter? (Sorry All You Sex Fiends-We're Talking #Books)

Size is a factor in my life at the moment. I'm working on book three in the Cass Elliot crime series and while not tapping at the keyboard, am stumbling upon opinions about book length.

The general consensus I've heard through authors on Twitter is that shorter is better, regardless of genre. That attention spans are shrinking and readers want shorter books. That you can churn out more books if you use fewer words and thus hit the bestseller lists faster.

I've watched these conversations with morbid fascination, but I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid.

Let's start with the premise that everyone (readers and writers) wants a well-written book. Beyond that, I think writers are looking for an absolute that doesn't exist. I also think we're asking the wrong question. Instead, I'd like to know:

Does one size fit all?


From a reader's perspective, the answer has to be "no". Otherwise, either James Patterson or Stephen King would be out of a job. Based on bookstore shelf space and bestseller lists, both authors, who write books of very different lengths and complexity, are doing a booming business. And if you think King gets away with writing huge tomes due only to his superstar status, check out bestsellers The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin. They weigh in at 900 and 600 pages, respectively.

The answer also has to be "no" from an author's perspective, or the bestseller lists would be loaded with books of roughly the same length.

My two cents? I think each author has a sweet spot that works for them. I also think that sweet spot might change as the author changes genre, moves between the series they write, or as their writing matures. Readers might also have a sweet spot, or expectations, particularly as they get to know an author.

As a reader, I gravitate toward books in a series. And I'm a little Pavlovian about those books. When I open a Charlie Parker novel by John Connolly, I expect a read that's at least 450-500 pages. His plots are complex and some story lines weave through several books. I love that sense of anticipation between books, wondering if Parker will finally deal with the Travelling Man, or if the Collector will show up in the next novel.

When I read an Artemis Fowl novel by Eoin Colfer? I'm expecting 350-400 pages. These books are a lighter read, aimed for a teen or young adult audience. They're well-written, make me laugh, and I can't wait to open the next book in the series.

Regardless of book length, isn't achieving that level of engagement with our readers the reason we write?

But I'm just one voice. Reader, writer, or both: Do all the readers in your life demand books of a certain length? Do you judge a book by its heft? Do you feel cheated if you spend $20 to $30 for an anorexic hardback, or victorious if you pick up a doorstop for under a fiver?

photo credit: Smarter's photos via photopin cc photo credit: Derek K. Miller via photopin cc

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cover Reveal: THE CALL TO DUTY by #Christian #Author C.J. Peterson! @authoress_cj

I'm so excited to share with you the cover for Christian author C.J. Peterson's latest release, THE CALL TO DUTY, the first book in The Holy Flame Trilogy!

Check out the book's summary below to see just how well this cover fits the story, then take a minute to get to know C.J. as she answers a few questions about her writing.


“We all know emergencies never take a day off. We all know for each one of us claimed, another has to step up to continue taking care of our fellow citizens. Our job is to protect and to serve. Our job is to care for the injured, to help those who need it, and to take down the beast known to us as fire. This beast tries to claim whatever and whomever it can. We all have a call to duty, which we have sworn to perform."

Courageous. Brave. Fearless. Valiant. These synonyms are often used to describe firefighters/paramedics, police officers, and military personnel. They face danger and lay their lives on the line when they leave for work. What are their struggles? Could that hinder their job proficiency? Who is taking care of those who are taking care of the citizens of this country?

Casey Carter is a 'newbie' to the firefighting family of Engine Company 15. Not only does she have to prove herself as a probationary firefighter, but she also has to battle misconceptions of females within her newly chosen profession. As situations begin to arise, can she count on the firefighter brotherhood to have her back? Will she be able to pass the tests placed before her, or are there aspects that she was not even aware existed?

 Often in life there are two realms in play. There is the physical realm - what is right before you; the other is the spiritual realm - what is unseen. Each can directly affect you, whether you believe they exist or not. Can Casey keep them in balance when she is not exactly sure what she is fighting? Can a group of men help her see what cannot be readily seen, hear what cannot be readily heard, and be able to overcome what she never knew existed? Will they be able to show Casey her true Call To Duty?

Ephesians 6:12-13:
 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Get your paperback copy of THE CALL TO DUTY at Booklocker, Barnes&, or Amazon!


C.J. Peterson

Where did you find inspiration to write THE CALL TO DUTY?

I have had many jobs through my lifetime, and quite a few were in male dominated fields. Being a female in a ‘male world’ is not an easy task, unless you learn to take things with a grain of salt. I was also an EMT ten to fifteen years ago, and heard quite a lot of the struggles that the firefighters had to put up with and endure. I knew there was a story to tell, I just had to figure out a creative way of doing it.

My other inspiration comes from my beliefs. There is a spiritual realm out there that does affect the physical realm. There are unexplainable things that occur daily – some people call them coincidences. I don’t believe in coincidences though, I believe in God. I also believe that He takes us through things and will guide us every step of the way if we let Him.

Did you have a particular woman in mind when you developed your main character, Casey Carter?

Casey is a little like me. I grew up in a military family, and worked in firehouses as an EMT. While her looks are far from mine, I always write a little of me into each of my heroines. In growing up the way I did, I have been exposed to many types of people, places, and situations. Those experiences have provided me with a myriad of perspectives with which to draw from and shape my characters.

Why do your characters face such hardships?

Life is not easy. There are twists and turns, there are ups and downs, and there are walls we run into throughout our lifetimes. My characters go through such tough situations to show others that God can make peace out of chaos, and can bring order to pandemonium.

Most Christian books fit into this nice, neat little package, but I keep it real. My characters go through it all, to show others that they can relate, and also show them that there is a way out. It also shows the world that Christians aren’t perfect. It shows them that God is a God of love, and He adopts them into His family as one of His, no matter their past.

The scriptures you quote relating to THE CALL TO DUTY, Ephesians 6:12-13, are intense. Is there a message in the story that you think will come through?

There is always a message in my books that is evident. I don’t hide anything or pull any punches. Through the trilogy, it is evident that someone has it in for Casey. Even though she doesn’t think she is that important, she plays a pivotal role in the lives of the Angels (an elitist force that rights the wrongs in the physical realm throughout the world under the direct supervision of an Archangel). The Bible says we entertain Angels daily. While it may not be to the extent that this cast of characters play, we are given a purpose, and it’s up to us to discover what it is. It is also our responsibility to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves – to assist where we can, and potentially help guide them to their purpose. Sometimes we need that help ourselves. Know that God already has people in place to help you if you pay attention and listen.

There is also a spiritual battle that is around us daily, so we need to be on our guard. We need to be able to discern what is around us. Some people choose to ignore it, but I choose to expose it for what it is. We need to be grounded in our faith in order to do battle on even footing. The battle builds up through the trilogy, and it comes to a head in book three. I believe my motto fits in perfectly with this series, and in all of the books I write: ‘While the story is fiction, the journey is real.’ It gets real, and allows you to travel through the journey in all three books.

THE CALL TO DUTY is the first book in The Holy Flame Trilogy. How long do we have to wait for the second book?

I have all three written. And to ease your minds, I have already started polishing book two in hopes of getting it out in three or four months. I know it seems like a long time, but trust me, as the story builds, those months of waiting will be worth it!


THE CALL TO DUTY will be out soon! But if you just can't wait to read her work, check out C.J.'s young adult Christian novel, STRENGTH FROM WITHIN, available in paperback and for e-readers (click the cover below to get to Amazon).

Be sure to connect with C.J. here:

Web Site
Twitter - @authoress_cj

Email -