Thursday, May 31, 2012

FAQ by Michael W. Davis

Since my first novel TAINTED HERO was released, I’ve been fortunate to have readers ask me a series of questions about the fiction writing business. It’s fortunate because I love to chat with people (as my wife often reminds me). I though, why not post answers to some of the more frequently asked questions, maybe others that enjoy fiction would be interested, so here we go:

1. Q: What advice would you give to someone wishing to write fiction, and improve their chances of success?
A: Actually, I’ve been posting a series of related topics to this question, but I’ll summarize some things I’ve learned:
a. So you finished the manuscript, did ya? You’re about 30% there. Set it aside for a few months, then read it again, and again, and …. I’m not BSing when I say, I re-read my stories 15 to 20 times before I send it to my hit squad. Boy do you need a hit squad. Find someone, hopefully two or three, that will read your scripts and be brutally honest, I mean brutal. Then listen to their comments with an open mine, and don't make excuses why they aren't reading it right. Be prepared to learn and grow with each story. Listen to all per reviewers, editors, and the publisher. You'll learn a lot.
b. The big eight publishers and agents are interested in established commodities where their risk is minimal. A newbie doesn't fit that category, unless you're a politician, actor, or have major connections.
c. The small publishing houses are more open and can provide a higher probability entrance into the field, but it is still hard. The query letter and synopsis really makes the difference between success and failure. One small house said they received 23000 submissions a year. What does that mean to you? The query letter must absolutely shine if its going to float to the top of that pile of submissions so they'll even read the first page of your manuscript.
d. Two really good sources for small publishers are the P&E database and Duotrope's digest. Here are the links. and

2. Q: How long does it take to write a story and get it published?
A: The time required to create the rough draft varies for me from between six weeks and 3 months, depending whether I lock myself away, or only work incrementally. In terms of the time to get one published, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve read that some well know authors required five to eight years for their first story to be accepted by a publisher. For me, it was 18 months from the first day I took pen in hand and when I got the call for my first novel. Funny thing is, got the call from two publishers on the same day. I was just a few months short of my self-imposed deadline before I had planned to quit. Yeah, I was very naive when I started.

3. Q: What’s the best thing about writing fiction?
A: I’d have to say when readers tell you they love your stories and your characters. That they were moved by something you created in your mind. Just doesn’t get any better than that.

4. Q: What’s the hardest point about writing fiction?
A: Before I got that first call, I’d say the waiting and the rejection letters. Once I became published, there were two areas I found difficult: The constant re editing process and reading the say story twenty times, and 2. Knowing the right blend of passion to include in the story. As a guy, I can deal with most any level, but surprisingly, woman are different (g). I surveyed about a dozen female friends and found that the level of comfort/interest in explicit scenes was all over the place. I decided to go with a level that I would be comfortable if my sister or granddaughter read the story.
5. Q: Do you feel pressure to live up to standards?
  A: Yes, yes, yes. Pressure to get 90000 words that flow, stimulate, touch, and enrapture the reader. Pressure to tune, and polish, and adjust the story till it shines, and pressure to do better then the last novel. That’s a little scary for me. For each book, my reviewers have told me the last is my best. I sense pressure to do as good or better, and worry that at some point, just like what happens to most authors, I’ll pass the crest and start back down. My first review on my first novel received 5 stars out of 5 and a “Top Reviewer Pick” rating. My instant thought was “Wow, that’s awesome!.” A few seconds later I thought, “Wait a minute. How am I going to do that again? I can’t get 5 of 5 on each story, that’s impossible, just can’t be done. What have I set myself up for?” Now that’s an overwhelming challenge, and it haunts me each time I complete a story.
6. Q: What should men understand about women?
A: Given I write suspense with a romantic core, I do encounter this question on the chat loops and when I'm interviewed on websites. Since no matter what I say, this one will get me in trouble, I’ll conclude this post with the best answer I can. First, lets look at the guys. We are very simple linear beasts. Feed us, share you many pleasures with us every now and then, and let us take an occasional nap, and we’re in heaven. Now lets consider the other side of the equation that reflects our prime motivation in life: women. I wish we understood anything. I've continued to expand my appreciation and adornment for women, my respect for there patience, their gentle ways, their gift of perception, and their tolerance for the macho side of the men in their lives. But I doubt I’ll ever understand what makes these beautiful complicated creatures function and why we men love them so dam much (I mean beside the physical of course). About once every year or so, I have an epiphany that opens up one of the confusing elements about women: their vulnerabilities, their communication differences, why God gave them control of the sex baton, etc. I figure that on the day I pass from this world, maybe I’ll know about 10%. But I can live with that. I can’t image a world without the mystery of the better half.

Big Mike

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


A: Picture this!  (Holds hands up as if framing a photo)
Z: (Looks at her hands) Ummm...what?
A: You're in an airplane hurling toward the earth, total nosedive....
Z: (Interrupts) Are you in the plane, too?
A: No way, I'd be hurling period.
Z: Too much info!  Besides we are about to interview Richard Hacker, author of TOXIC
RELATIONSHIP, not flying anywhere. 
A: Ah ha!  You didn't go to Richard's website.  If you wanna understand my reference,  go to  It certainly piqued my interest, and that is why I suggested him for an interview. 
Z: I thought I was the one who wanted to interview...
A: Ummm...errrr...we'll discuss it later.  

A/Z:  Welcome to CBG's blog, Richard!  (Offers coffee, tea, and chocolate) We are tickled to have you here, and we just have to say, you had us at The Foundation Trilogy.  Anyone who's a fan of  Asimov's is an enlightened soul.    

To begin, we adore characterization, therefore our questions are leaning towards knowing more about the characters in TOXIC RELATIONSHIP coming from Champagne Books, August 2012. 

 Thanks for the interview.  This will be my first as an author, so I guess you could say I'm a virgin.  Okay, maybe not. But this is my first interview.  TOXIC RELATIONSHIP is a thriller with a humorous twist set in the Hill Country of Texas.  My protagonist, Nick Sibelius, moves to the small Texas town of Pflugerville, turned Austin suburb, to set up a private investigation business, find some peace and maybe, himself, after a murdered partner, a cheating wife and a lost job in Houston.  When a young couple disappears and a bass fisherman turns up dead, he finds himself drawn into a web of toxic relationships: MaryLou, a beautiful woman with a mysterious past, Junior, a failed farmer whose best intentions seem to always result in a dead body, and Barry, a sociopathic dentist turned illegal toxic waste and methamphetamine entrepreneur with visions of grandeur.  When the felon who killed his partner in Houston joins forces with Barry, Nick must not only stop the toxic waste dumping while finding his client's missing daughter, but keep from being killed in the process. In the end, MaryLou's dark secret will either help him or kill him -- whichever comes first.

A/Z:  If you could trade places with one of the characters you created, who would it be and why?

My characters in TOXIC RELATIONSHIP all have flaws that influence their choices in life. So, as in real life, everyone's a little broken. I'm a guy, but thinking about it, I'd want to be MaryLou who starts out as a sexy Houston Chronicle reporter and develops into one bad ass woman.  She is powerful, smart, beautiful and she's got crazy skills with weapons (Barry says she can hit a squirrel at a hundred yards). Quite the combination.

A/Z:   If Hollywood made a movie about your book, who would you like to see playing the lead role?  Is your answer based on looks or personality?

The protagonist, Nick Sibelius, is a thirty something ex-cop and a little rough around the edges, but he's also has a thoughtful, sensitive side. Brad Pitt comes to mind. Of course you're thinking I'm going with Brad because we're virtually identical twins -- ROFL -- but I think he would capture his edgy toughness and his tenderness.  And who knows, maybe Angelina Jolie would show up on the set occasionally.
A/Z:  Does your main protagonist have any interesting quirks?

Nick loves women, baseball, dogs, beer, Jack Daniels, and pick up trucks.  A bit of a man's man.  He does have a habit of banging a tennis ball against his office wall when he needs to think. But maybe his most interesting quirk, if you want to call it a quirk, is his open mindedness. For example, his office assistance Al, recently acknowledged, after a life as a man, that she was really a woman.  Nick doesn't hesitate to acknowledge her by calling her Alice.

A/Z:  What zodiac sign do you attach to your favorite character in your book?

I had to do some research on this one!  One of my favorites is what I’d call my comic relief antagonist, Junior Pendleton, a failed farmer with a history of accidentally killing trespassers and shooting down hot air balloons.  He forms a relationship with my crazy scary antagonist, Barry, to become an 'environmental resource executive' -- in other words, he dumps Barry's toxic waste on his farmland.  In his own twisted way, Junior is probably an Aries.  He lives in the moment with an aggressiveness spurred on by his innate paranoia.  He’s willing to take risks, such as stepping away from farming to become an entrepreneur (or as he would say, an entra-manure), he doesn’t play well with others (in fact, he tends to shoot at people who in his mind run into his bullet like a dog runs in front of a passing car), and he’s very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of guy.  Unfortunately what you see is a paranoid farmer with a penchant for guns and starting fires.  Not a good mix during a drought in the Hill Country. 

A/Z:  Is there a part of YOU within the soul of any of your characters? 

 As Junior would say, "Get out of my head!"  LOL -- Are you a therapist or something?  I imagine there's some of me in Nick.  He's a much more physically tough than I am, but we share his loves for women, baseball, dogs and whiskey, and I hope I'm at least as open minded and accepting.  TOXIC RELATIONSHIP actually has two antagonists.  Barry, a sociopathic dentist mastermind of an illegal toxic waste and methamphetamine business.  He is one dark, scary piece of work. The other antagonist is Junior, a man whose bad decisions continually come back to haunt him with unfortunate, and often humorous outcomes.  I'd like to think I have much better judgement than Junior, but I do like his humor.  

 A/Z:  Can you tell us your antagonists'  darkest, deeper secret?  OR is THAT a secret?

 Barry wants to be a feared leader of a criminal enterprise designed to ultimately fund his neo nazi militia in a bid to take back America. He has a whole philosophy about how the country went down hill beginning with George Washington and he's convinced Barry Swenson is the man to lead the nation to greatness. However, the roots of Barry's personality come from a childhood of being the outcast, bullied and humiliated by classmates. Barry responds to his abuse by becoming their worst nightmare, first in his dental chair, for which he loses his license, and then through his criminal activities.

A/Z :  Who is the protagonist's best bud, and do they have a similar bent or are they opposites?

 Quentin Matthews. Nick and Quen played football in high school and came back together in the police academy to become Houston Police Officers. When Nick's anesthesiologist wife left him for a trauma doc, Quen stood by his side. They share a history and a certain knowledge that they always have each other's back no matter what is going on for them personally. Quentin tends to play more by the rules and has his personal life in order, while Nick tends to draw outside the lines and his personal life is a bit of a mess.

 A/Z :  If your favorite character found themselves suddenly in the Twilight Zone, what would be the first thing they said?

Another of my favorites is Junior 's nephew Carl. He's a nineteen year old, and as Junior will tell you, "I've known cedar posts with more smarts than that boy." He lacks confidence and common sense, which he exacerbates with his consumption of malt liquor.  Tossed into the Twilight Zone I imagine he'd say, "I’ll be damned, everything's in black and white! I heard folks had delayed reactions from sniffing airplane glue, but I guess mixing it with weed and that shit daddy used to lube tractor parts took me over the edge. Are we are TV?  ‘Cause if we are, I’d sure like to meet that Jessica Simpson woman."

A/Z :  Would you like to add anything?

I currently live in Seattle, which is a stunningly beautiful place -- snow capped mountains, Puget Sound, forests -- crazy beautiful.  Before moving here I lived in the Austin area for over thirty years and continue to go back to Austin regularly to visit family, friends and the Hill Country. There's a strange beauty to the place and I hope my other character, Central Texas, shines through in the book. TOXIC RELATIONSHIP will be released by Champagne Books in August, 2012.  Pick up a copy, pop open a cold Shiner (or as close as you can get, wherever you live) and kick back.  Sex, murder and toxic waste -- nowhere else but Texas!

PLEASE VISIT  Richard Hacker at ~

Twitter: @Richard_Hacker

Toxic Relationship
August, 2012 Release from Champagne Books


Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane STEEL EMBRACE

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Writer Born Outside the Box…Julie Eberhart Painter

There is no box for me, born to an unwed mother and living in three foster homes before being adopted by middle aged parents. This not lonely but only child was born to be a writer. No cardboard sides or top and bottom to my environmental wilderness contained me. No transportation could transport me during gas rationing. Having to create my own reality contributed to my unusual twist on life. Outside  the box is where I'm most comfortable as an adult.

Call it creativity or skill, writers have basic sources for the talent and passion to write. To harness the desire and learn to bring a story to life is the requisite. Even journalism has a story, especially modern blogs and articles. At least 15 years ago, the inverted pyramid was toppled by the public’s desire for story over facts. Since then it’s flailed at the hands of bloggers and tabloid journalists.

To get the attention of agents and editors, writers must decide how best to tell their story in fresh and exciting ways. Standard methods in prose include the linear plot, frame stories with the flash back in the middle, or a point of view character experiencing the story in an emotional way.

The linear story should lie beneath like a firm foundation to guide readers without confusing them. Flash backs aside, this is the most popular method.
A good example of a frame story is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, by Fanny Flagg. It begins at the “almost” ending and shows the linear story, then solves the story arc at the end where the piece began.
There are more off the wall methods that work in the hands of the creative out of the box thinkers.  Several examples come to mind. Awake, a new TV series centers on complicated grief, something I saw in bereavement groups when I volunteered as a co-facilitator with hospice bereavement groups. I’ve used the grieving theme in several of my books, especially Mortal Coil and Tangled Web.

In Awake, when guilt is mixed with extreme loss, the grieving produces an extrasensory reaction. The law officer, who suffers the loss of either his wife or his son, sees two psychiatrists. Each is trying to sort out why he is living—either asleep or awake—two lives, one with his wife and one with his son. It's obvious he is grieving and in dramatic denial, perhaps having lost both. By keeping them both alive, but mourning one and then the other, he honors them both. Yet he continues to work and experience the everyday stresses of his job, the linear part of his story.

The Lovely Bones, written from the point of view of the murdered girl who is grieving her family. is a different POV approach.
(Spoiler alert) In The Sixth Sense when the young man who sees “dead people” is trying to tell the protagonist he is dead, we experience another example of unique formatting.
The novel, Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlante, is my favorite most recent example of imaginative out-of-the-box writing. LaPlante wrote the entire book from the point of view of Jennifer, a formerly brilliant orthopedic surgeon now an Alzheimer’s patient, who may or may not have murdered her best friend. One reviewer called it a diary of a disease. But it’s also a murder mystery. The mystery is re-enforced by the linear backstory provided by Jennifer’s visitors, while following the fragmented thoughts of the patient. As she sinks deeper into dementia, she’s still trying to remember what happened the night her best friend was murdered and left on the floor of her home with four fingers surgically removed.

The story is emotional because the readers are in her head rooting for her need to know. The suspense manifests in her deteriorating condition that puts a time constraint on her ability to remember. Readers realize although she was a hard person, but she was not an evil person. The story is made more linear by visits from a sympathetic woman police officer, who knows she can’t charge Jennifer as a competent adult but feels the need to know the truth. This method of telling her story is gripping, a totally unique POV.

One of my yet-to-be-published novels, Daughters of the Sea, is told in parallel time travel. Delusion, magic, or plausible haunting? The readers will decide.  

For more flash fiction visit Julie’s latest story at
 Julie’s Web site: 

Friday, May 25, 2012


This excerpt from Forever Man contains one of  the biggest reasons I wrote this novel, I wanted the gift of healing that our heroine possesses.

While I waited for her to return I looked out the window, admiring the view of snow-peaked mountains when I heard the screeching of brakes and a thud, then realized someone had hit a dog with a half ton truck right in front of the restaurant. The driver, a young woman in obvious distress, jumped out and cradled the animal’s head in her lap. In an instant I turned and rushed for the stairs, taking them two at a time.
As I reached the woman she looked up at me with stark pleading in her eyes. “I didn’t see him! Please, I need help!”
Crouching down beside them, I carefully laid my hands on the whimpering dog. It looked like a husky, probably a sled dog. He or she was still breathing, but it was labored and loud. I could also see blood on its soft white fur. My heart instantly melted and reached out to the poor creature with its pain-filled, whiskey-brown eyes that seemed to beg me to do something. Despite the gut-wrenching plea, I felt helpless, sheer happenstance had brought this poor animal to this end and I had no power to save it from its fate.
Hesitantly, I reached my hands out and laid them on the poor dog’s head and its eyes seemed to tell me that it knew its fate. Tears flowed and the image of the dog blurred. I felt its pain as my own as I closed my eyes in sheer anguish.
Please God, let this beautiful creature be okay. Suddenly, something came alive inside me like a dam bursting its banks, and a great tidal wave of energy flowed through me from my very core. It was so strong it made me shake and my legs, cramping in the crouch, almost gave way.
A surge of pure power seemed to drive through my hands into the dog as I concentrated my thoughts on it and then all I could see and feel was hot, white light surrounding me for a few brief incredibly thrilling seconds. The light blinded me, its power as strong as the noonday sun. A sense of pure aliveness electrified me, as if I was at the pinnacle of my strength and could rise up and fill the world with goodness and healing. Then, just as suddenly, the floodgates in my mind closed and the white hot energy retreated back into my hands that began to shake violently with the excess energy.
The sensation left as abruptly as it had come and I fell back exhausted from the effort. The dog whimpered, shook itself and sat up. It looked at the two of us as if nothing had happened, its brown eyes shining and its tail wagging as if it didn’t even remember the last few minutes of its life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

INSANITY, DEATH, AND MUFFINS, OH MY! by Angelica Hart and Zi

A: Listen to this...

Z: (Looks up over his reading glasses)

A: "Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death." It's by someone unknown but it's so profound.

Z: (Puts his e-reader down, wondering if Ang is in one of her rare serious moods) And why are we obsessed with death today?

A: Is life truly stronger than death?

Z: Well, as the author says, it can't take away our love, and love I believe is the strongest emotion. To quote Vincent Van Gogh. "Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."

A: (Suddenly blurts) We're murderers....(Gets teary eyed)

Z: (Blinks - now unsure of what mood she possess) Huh?

A: We kill all the time.

Z: And where was I when all this killing was going on?

A: (Does the double eye-roll) Welllll, right here, of course, we usually don't kill off anyone unless the other agrees to it.

Z: (Wonders if he can quietly sneak off and call 911, psychiatric unit, stat!) Surrreee...right...of course.... You just stay calm. Want tea? Chocolate?

A: No.

Z: (Pops up out of his chair, and stares down at her) That's it, what in duck soup are you talking about, or have you finally flipped your wig.

A: Hey! I don't like duck soup, and I certainly don't own a wig. Never owned a wig. (Thinks) Well, there was that one time when hubby and I....

Z: (Slices his hand through the air) Angelica!

A: I digress.

Z: Ya think!

A: Oh! (Looks enlightening) You're not following my train of thought.

Z: Nowwww, we're talking about trains???

A: (Gives him the LOOK, yup that you-gotta-be kiddin'-me look backed by a are-you-nuts) I was talking about how we kill off characters without consideration.

Z: (Thinks: 911...yup...Cocoa Puffs Looney) We consider. We talk it through. We don't just wake up one day and say, that's it, Mong has to go.

A: Hmmmm I don't think we killed off Mong.

Z: Didn't we?

A: Well, I'm not telling, we'll give away the ending to SNAKE DANCE if I do.

Z: Alright then, I know we really analyzed the plot and storyline before slaying Oväder from STEEL EMBRACE.

A: Hmmmm I don't think we killed off Oväder.

Z: Didn't we?

A: Well, I'm not telling, we'll give away the....

Z: Ending....

A: (Nods)

Z: Then, me literary bud in crime, do you really think we should have this conversation right here and now...(Looks out at the readers from the computer screen)

A: (You can do that)

Z: (We're fiction writers we can do anything)

A: (Pouts) My point exactly, we're murderers!

Z: (Signs and blocks readers from viewing their office)

Alas, a moment in the lives of two writers before Zi had his morning coffee and Ang had her morning muffin. After all, according to Ang, a mind simply can't function without sugar and cream. And, in some strange way, that really does make sense.

Any thoughts?


We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at (Write - Blog - in subject line) and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.


Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane STEEL EMBRACE

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


When I was a young boy in Kentucky around the end of World War Two, a man in our neighborhood had a pastry delivery truck. In time, I was to learn that he was an independent operator, a franchise holder, although the truck carried the signage of the commercial bakery that supplied the products he dealt in. I know now that he serviced an exclusive area that he had acquired through lease or purchase. The retail stores within his territory, if they wanted to carry his baker’s brands of cakes, pies and snack cakes, had to deal with him. Although I did not grasp the franchise theory at the time, I did eventually learn about franchises and profit commerce in general.

The unfathomable mystery to me at the time was why, when the route man retrieved the outdated pastries from the store shelves, and replaced them with fresh ones, that he did not give away the day-old or two-day-old pastries. I coveted them, and I was not alone. Practically everyone in the neighborhood was poor, although most had jobs. My brother and I added to the family income by mowing lawns behind a push mower, sometimes for the princely sum of twenty cents. Mostly we got a dime to share. But those dimes could never be spent on a snack cake, but we were tempted.

The pastry route man was one of our lawn-mowing clients, so we had access twice a month to his back yard in order to perform our work. Several were the occasions when we saw him sprinkle kerosene on a pile of mouth-watering but shelf-dated cellophane wrapped pastries, and touch off a match to them. They smelled so good when they burned, and we were confused and angry at what we saw as awful waste.  Other times when our lawn mowing didn’t happen to coincide with the ritual cake fires, the circular mound of ashes in the middle of the lawn that we mowed was a reminder of cakes gone up in smoke without sating any sweet tooth. The man did not even tip us with a small snack cake, but paid us our dime apiece. His was a big back yard, thus the double dimes.

At some time in my understanding of ways of the world, I came to realize that if he had given away his outdated pastries, the recipients soon would come to expect the largess on schedule, and the stores would not sell his fresh cakes; the store patrons in the neighborhood knowing that if they were patient, those day or two-day-old cakes would come to them free. The store would lose out on retail sales and the route man would suffer loss of his wholesale business.

Moving on, in my later adult life, I was privileged to hunt in Africa on several occasions. The reasons and conditions don’t matter; I was there. In South Africa, safari operations frequently are conducted on farms and ranches where crops and domestic animals share the land. Those farms and ranches largely are not as mechanized as similar operations in the United States, and for sound reasons in the country’s economic structure. They have large numbers of personnel to serve as farm workers, and the government at the time encouraged the farmers to employ more hired help than they needed, with attendant lower wages spread over more recipients. As might be concluded from such an arrangement, those workers were near the bottom of the economic scale, although part of their wages was basic food rations. Those rations did not include fancy cuts of meat, but may have included the lesser and non-marketable pieces, and even entrails that the workers found acceptable as food.

On one occasion, on a cattle ranch that also was home to a safari outfit, a cow was discovered in the bush, down and disabled with a broken leg, presumably from stepping into a hole or possibly from stumbling during panicked retreat from a predator.  Buzzards were chased from the scene but not before having just started to pick on the still-live cow. The animal had to be destroyed. The farmer used the same method of destruction as the cake man. After shooting the cow, he doused the carcass with diesel fuel and ignited it, and we hung around until he was satisfied that the carcass was completely consumed.

Up to that point, I had suggested that since the animal was still alive and meat was still fresh, it could have been salvaged, for workers’ rations if nothing else. But his reasoning was that if he gave the meat to his workers, he would find other cows meeting similar accidents every time they wanted meat. I understood his implication. He was in the beef business. Like the cake man, he couldn’t give away the product without adversely impacting the market value of the rest of his product.

I was witness to almost the same scenario another time and locale in Africa. This time it was a game animal, a wildebeest that was down, and duly reported to the farm owner by one of his black staff who had discovered it. We drove out to investigate and the animal was indeed freshly dead, but without apparent cause. The farmer/safari outfitter performed an autopsy in the field, and pronounced the animal expired of “heart water”--fluid around the heart.  According to the farmer, it was fairly common for this particular species in this region, and usually caused by the animal being pursued until it dropped, by man or other predator. So while he had lost an animal for which guest hunters would have paid a substantial trophy fee, he also refused to permit the meat to be salvaged for his crew.  To give away his product would have been to invite further animals pursued till their hearts stopped too. Like the other South African farmer, and the cake man, the no longer saleable merchandise was destroyed.

In addition to being a writer and author, I’m also an editor, by a lifetime of education, training and experience. I’ve been around the business long enough to know that independent editors’ livelihood comes from paid commissions for their editing services rendered to private individuals or corporation clients.  All too often, the private author requesting editing of his book manuscript or short story is hurt or angered when the editor lays out a fee structure for his editing expertise and work. Those editors seemingly are expected to work for nothing, or for goodwill. But like the cake man in Kentucky and the game farmers in South Africa, most professional editors do not devalue their product by giving it away.  So unless the requestor is a very close friend of the editor, or unless that editor volunteers his editing skills, don’t expect them to work for nothing. Their time and experience have value from which they are entitled to benefit, and that’s the frosting on their cake.

JIM WOODS is an independent editor assisting book authors, small presses and corporations with line, style, and substance editing; applying his expertise to novels, short story collections, nonfiction and corporate image.  Formerly, he was in-house Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with Petersen Publishing Company, Beverly Hills; and satellite Contributing Editor with Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego.  His professional associations include American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and Outdoor Writers of America (OWAA).  He is a world traveler, having set foot in more than six-dozen countries on six continents, and is a worldwide big-game hunter. In addition to sixteen books, he has published some four hundred articles in Outdoor Life, Popular Mechanics, Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, Western Outdoors, Southern Outdoors and other guns and hunting magazines. He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Evolution of a story by Michael W. Davis

I’m often asked, “Where in the world do your stories come from?” Here’s a snapshot of how my first novel TAINTED HERO (which received six 5 start reviews) came to life.

Where did the idea for TH come from
I was driving home from taking my sweetie to breakfast, and I heard a news report on the radio. It dealt with a topic I had worried about for many years. When I heard it, my immediate thought was, “Wow, its closer then I thought.” Then, “Hey, that would make a good storyline. Its got intrigue, personalized conflict, just needs some sweet loven, Hell, I can do that.” And the seed began. The final draft morphed significantly from the original idea. It developed a life of its own. By that I mean the story took twists and turns I never envisioned at the start.

Where did the characters come from
The hero was based 50% on the physical and emotional attributes of a friend that was a Specops officer in Desert storm, and 50% on myself in my younger days. The heroine was derived from a female I worked with in the Pentagon many years ago. I always found her extremely feminine (please don’t tell my wife). The villain was derived from a self-serving jerk I encounter on several projects I worked on for the Army. I only changed his hair color and age. The son of the heroine was based on images and memories of my son when he was a boy.

Where did the title come from?
The story was renamed three times.  At its conception, I used the name Medium Contingency. As the story came to life, I changed it to Moral Paradox. When I sent it out to my hit squad (friends/family that are brutally honest and critical), my son came up with the final title. When I heard it, I knew I liked it. But just to be safe, I surveyed about two dozen friends/family and of the four titles I offered, Tainted Hero won hands down.

How long did it take to write?
The actual creation of the first draft only took about eight weeks. My mode of writing is to lock myself in a back room and leave this world until I get the story out. As corny as it sounds, I actually live the story as it evolves. That’s the neat/fun part of it. The part I hate is the editing. I revised this particular manuscript over thirty times. The entire process, from birth to “I’m ready to submit,” took about five months.

Any other titles we should look for?
Since that first call by a publisher I have 14 stories released/contracted in the genres of romance, suspense, political thrillers and Sci Fi. You can read reviews, excerpts and watch videos at Yes, I’ve been a busy boy. Gives us old guys something to do to keep us out of trouble.

Big Mike
Big Mike

Friday, May 18, 2012


As our book opens, our heroine, Ellie Hightower, has arrived in Nome, Alaska looking for a fresh start. She meets up with the intriguing, Mike Stone, owner of Fast Eddie's. Little does she know what she’s about to encounter …

Every person above the ordinary has a certain mission that they are called to fulfill.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Pure evil waited, hushed and cold in the perfect darkness. The steady drip, drip on the coffin lid above was soundless next to the crashing waves of the sea. But the creature within was aware and knew what the substance was: life-giving nourishment.
The blood was pooling, seeking a way into any tiny fissure that it could search out with thin hungry fingers. The resurrection was painstaking. Each life-giving drop dripped onto the needy beast which absorbed each molecule like a monstrous sponge as it built up, layer by layer. The vampire waited patiently—certain of its imminent resurrection.
After all, it had already waited centuries, what were a few more hours to recover what had been lost…

Prologues are tricky, I think. Do you use one regularly?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

EE-Book vs. Print Book by Cathy Coburn

When I was first offered a publishing contract it was to an exclusive e-book publisher, I promptly declined as I was not familiar with the e-book market. I have since done a lot of research on the subject, and found like everything that was introduced to the market as something new, computer, cell phone etc. I am one of the last to get on board. After all I bought a beta VCR, when its price dropped dramatically after the VHS came into focus. The Beta soon became a dinosaur and dropped off the market completely, leaving me with a useless Beta machine. Most of you reading this will ask "You bought a what?" Doesn’t matter live and learn. I find with books that though I have yet come on board with the e-book technology it is slowly but surely advancing with or without me.

Ease of transmission. Each printed book must be physically printed using a variety of materials, and this costs considerable money and takes considerable time even with modern technology. Save for bestsellers, books sell slowly and many writers never see royalties beyond their advance. These books are often out of sight, out of mind: without aggressive promotion, most bookstores will never carry your title and most readers will never be aware it exists. This puts a low ceiling on book sales and makes it likely your book will be forgotten over time.

However, the only materials an e-book takes up are hard drive space and bandwidth. If a person has a computer or an e-book reader, picking up your book is as simple as downloading it. And marketing is far easier on the internet, where parties interested in your writing or your subject matter can find you with as little as an internet search.

Over time, the lower overhead could mean lower prices, making it more attractive for consumers to buy your work, and a bigger percentage return for the writer for each sale. Any contract advance may be lower, but the likelihood that a writer makes royalties on such work could increase.

The great debate among published and non-published writers alike is whether or not E-books are going to push the printed word off the market. There are great arguments for both sides of the debate.

Analysts have faulted Borders for being late to understand bookselling was changing for good.

It was a latecomer to the e-book market, a rare source of growth in the publishing world. The company started its e-book store last July, eight months after Barnes & Noble and nearly three years after In what has turned out to be a catastrophic mistake.

Analysts say that Borders' struggles may only have a modest benefit for Barnes & Noble, which needs to focus on its efforts, through its Nook e-reader, to win more of the growing e-books market.

Many publishers who saw this coming and started to put their focus on e-books were frowned upon at first. They weren’t considered real publishers. Now they’re seen as the ones with a vision. Technology is changing, just as it did for the music industry. We die-hards simply have to keep up or get out of the way!

This was the end to my piece, but I have since had a change of heart. I received an iPad for a present. With my iPad came my change of heart. I love reading books via the e-book market now. I can sit and read without searching out a light source directly behind me. I saw a new James Patterson book advertised on TV (I’m a huge Patterson fan) within less then a minute I was reading it.  I love this new technology, okay maybe not new, but new to a die-hard like me.
Cathy Coburn  After the Mist: Now available 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WHAT IF WE WROTE.... by Angelica Hart and Zi

A:  I think this is a really good idea!  (Fans the two pages the printer just spit out)
Z:  Doesn't have enough meat. (Peers at the her as if she lost a few marbles and they were now balanced on top of her head)
A:  We're not talking hamburger...but love gone astray, emotions stretched to torturous limits, a woman, a man...errr men....  It has all the markings of hot, steamy, and heart-wrenching! (Fings her arms out as if acting out on stage)
Z:  Do the words, drama queen, mean anything to you.
A:  Betcha readers would love it.
Z:  Then let's let them decide.  (Shouts through a megaphone) Hear ye...hear ye...all readers of steamy and hot, please let us know what you think about this as the beginning of a story.  Your nays and yeas will be the deciding factor.  Also, should this be an erotica by Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane or a romance by Angelica Hart and Zi?
A:  Anyone who leaves a comment with their email addy will be put into a drawing to receive a free e-book from Champagne Books.


The autumn day spilled around her with harbor winds and fluttering leaves, but she couldn’t get past the despair lingering within like a bitter aftertaste. She stared at the ruffled water and the empty boat docks of the Inner Harbor. It had been six months since the affair ended, but she still missed him, still yearned for his touch, for the bits and pieces he returned to her soul, to the kisses that led to scorched senses on the other side of resistance. It hadn’t been just lust, but a love more intense than solar flares and a connection that bled into flesh. But it was one-sided. She knew that from the first, and had accepted it.

Drawn despite infinite reservations, she offered her heart, her body, her very soul, even as she desperately tried to remain detached. He had shattered that detachment without deliberate intention, just as he had shattered her heart without trying. She still couldn’t answer the question if it was better to have experienced the depth and expansion of sensuous, dangerous love that defied convention in every sense of the meaning, or would it have been better to have never known such ecstasy, to live life oblivious to the realization that one could touch the sun and survive.

He would come today, as he came every other Friday, and they’d have lunch at their favorite haunt, indulging in dessert that offered little temperance to the passion she pretended no longer existed. She’d offer her smile and she’d laugh, and they’d be friends on the distant shore of an affair that had nearly destroyed her world.

On this six-month anniversary of loss, she allowed herself to indulge in memories. Her twin sons had fled the nest, not for college, college ended a year before, but for jobs across the country. She found herself empty of all that made her feel real. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her husband, she did, but his cold demeanor and finally years of avoiding the bedroom, left her hungry not just for sexual intimacy but warmth and closeness. Still, they were settled, together, comfortable and compatible in most ways. No one knew the truth behind the perfect couple façade, and they would be shocked that someone of her apparent intelligence had remained in the marriage.

Society just didn’t understand that life wasn’t black and white but held infinite hues of gray with an occasional splash of color that made it bearable. Damon was that color in her world for a sampling of time. Would she have accepted that proffered cup of Chi-tea if she had known what she knew now? Would she have smiled at the stranger in astonishment that he had known her favorite drink? Or would she have offered a cold shoulder and a dour expression. She didn’t know, for one look into those stunning, gray eyes and come-hither grin and she became lost. It was that instant and that final.

“I noticed you get one of these nearly every time I’m here,” he said, taking the seat opposite her without even asking permission. “Thought I save you the trouble of standing in line.”

She stood there, jaw sagging, eyes wide, the mouse in her trying to seek a tongue. “I…ummm…”

“Thank you is the appropriate response,” he said in a way that reeked of confidence rather than arrogance.

“Thank you,” she managed and reached into her purse.

“On me,” he said, stilling her hand with a two-finger touch.

She hadn’t meant to gasp aloud, but she hadn’t expected the instantaneous heat.

Where did that come from, she thought. Where did he come from? Had he been watching her? Should she be frightened? She ate lunch alone at the library cafeteria at least three times a week after a morning spent in a pre-school art room. She was suddenly very self-conscious of her tousled hair and stained bib overalls. She wondered if she smelled like crayons and paint?

“I’m not a stalker,” he said, his gaze seeming to absorb her. “But I pass through this area once a week, stop for lunch and can’t help noticing you.”

“It’s the paint,” she said, trying to explain away being noticed. After all, a mouse wasn’t usually noticed. “I teach art at a pre-school. I guess I shouldn’t be seen in public like this.”

“It’s the smile,” he said. “You smile at everyone. You’ve smiled at me every week for the last two months.”

Her cheeks spotted crimson orbs. She had, but never thought he noticed. Besides, it was just her way of braving acute shyness and pretending people didn’t scare the spit out of her. So, she’d smile rather than speak, rather than ask a co-worker to lunch with her, rather than experience chit-chat, rather than risk rejection....

Storyline: A woman finding confidence and strength during the midst of an affair, the aftermath of the affair and the finding of new love.

The story includes the interactions of relationships and past haunts that had shaped her personality… along with the handling of her husband’s passing and finding love once more, in the shocking arena of the BDSM society.

*** We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at (Write - Blog - in subject line) and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.


Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane STEEL EMBRACE

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Story Behind the Story: Roxelena Sultan by Rita Bay

Where does a writer look for inspiration when writing a book? When writing historical romance, history itself provides the best inspiration.  Imagine the stories that could evolve from Roxelena’s story.

Known to the Western world as Roxelena (or some such spelling), this slave in the Ottoman Sultan’s harem became Haseki Hürrem Sultan, Her Imperial Highness, Imperial Empress of the Ottoman Empire when she married Süleyman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Little is known of her early life. She was born in 1506 and may have been named Alekandra Lisowska, the daughter of a Ukrainian Orthodox priest in Rohatyn in what is now the Ukraine. In the 1520s she was captured by Crimean Tatars and eventually sold as a slave in Istanbul into Suleyman’s harem.

She quickly became a favorite of Suleyman and, after a fight where she was badly injured, managed to displace one of the Sultan’s other favorites who was exiled with her son, Prince Mustafa, who was the Sultan’s heir (He was eventually strangled after leading an unsuccessful rebellion.). Roxelena became the sole favorite and exerted extensive influence over Suleyman, including giving political advice. While it was the custom of the Sultans to remain unmarried for political reasons, she was freed and they married. They had five children  and her son Selim was named heir.

She built several public buildings, including baths, schools, fountains, a hospital, and a soup kitchen. She died at Topkapi Palace on April 15, 1558 and was buried in a tomb adjacent to her husband’s. Her son Selim who had become an alcoholic, succeeded his father but was a disastrous ruler.  Check out the 19 th century Orientalist painting called The Wedding Gift by Rudolph Ernst. Learn more about it on my daily posts at Rita Bay’s Blog at  ‘Til next time. 

Rita Bay
"Into the Lyon's Den" Champagne Books, August, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012




Tattle meets Wrye outside the office. “You gotta be kiddin’ me,” she
exclaims as she takes in Wrye’s cowboy getup and the two horses.

“I kid you not, my favorite kid.”

“Am not a goat and do not ride horses…except in me imagination.”

“Imagination is part of our Love of Literature Leap and today we are
riding right into the jump.”

“I don’t know, Wrye, them horses there are awful big.”

“To quote my favorite cowpoke, JW, ‘Courage is being scared to death
and saddling up anyway’.”

“In that case….” Tattle used a bit of book magic and with a snap of
her fingers, her office clothes instantly turned into riding breeches, a
snug fitting vest and an Annie Oakley hat. “Let’s leap!

“Oooh, who’s the hunka hunka?” Tattle asks, as she strokes the
horse’s mane, whispering, “Nice horsey, nice horsey.”

Wrye tips back his Stetson. “Evan Jones, remember him from JUDE

“Ah yes, he married the gorgeous and tenacious Mexican healer,
Reyna, which means we’re in JUDE JOHNSON’s romantic western

“Pretty horse ranch they got here outside of Tombstone, but they
don’t look too happy, now do they?” Wrye dismounts and begins to

Slipping off her own steed, Tattle says, “Hey cowboy, don’t squat with
your spurs on,” and then, “Looks like Evan’s past is about to jump up
and bite them both real hard.”

“Is that before or after Reyna has a vision of him drowning?”

Tattle squints as if she too can have a vision. “Ut oh, this story might
be over before it gets started. Will she be in time to save him?”

After pretending to spit tobacco juice, which in actuality is only a
stream of air, Wrye lowers his hat to shade his eyes and offers,
“Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.”

“We aren’t talking ‘bout no rain dance, Balderdash, but a man’s life.”
Tattle dissolves through a few pages. “Ah, here we go. Our little
tenacious minx braved the elements and went after him.”

“He lives….” Wrye sighs but Tattle can’t tell if is because he
appreciates how Reyna sits a horse, or if he is relieved about Evan.

“Yup, she got him. Has him trussed up on the horse, but it’s a long
way home and Evan is unconscious.”

“This might not be such a bad thing, considerin’ that hot-to-trot filly
has herself a temper. In her mind, he had no right going after that
lost red colt during a thunderstorm.”

“It sure does seem like there’s trouble a-brewin’ in the Arizona
Territory, and this is just the start of it. Question is, will their
marriage survive the dark phoenix rising out of his past?”

“Even more, m’fine equestrian, will either of them survive at all?”
Tattle questions.

“That is a horse’s tale to be re-visited during reading time.”
“Yippee-i-o-ki-ay, yippee-i-o-ki-ay, let’s leap!”

"Wrye, just where have you taken me?" She dusts vowels from her
shoulders as horses and cowboy getups disappear.

"Think turn of the century. England. Independent woman. Murder!"

"Goodness, can it be? Are we here, truly?" she says, saucer-eyed and

"Indeed. I know you well. You've been cooing about this book and
wanting to leap into it for months."

Tattle placed a hand to her heart, sighs. "Then this is SUSPICION

He preens and grins. "Come on, say it. Wrye is a leaper

She does and bats those infamously long lashes of hers, not
flirtatiously, for Penza never flirts, well, almost never. "Do tell. I will
expire from curiosity if you do not go on with the tale."

He motions her to one side so as not to interrupt readers wishing to
move beyond page one. "Creighton Jacqueline Brooks is not the
typical lady of the era. She is what they used to not-so-affectionately
call, a spinster so tight she squeaks, and not adverse to being so.
After inheriting a share in a London detective agency, she dives into a
very non-traditional, for her time, but exceptionally exciting career."

"A Renaissance women."

"Exactly! Remember this is 1901 and she travels from cheesy
Wisconsin to foggy London with a certainty that she can do anything."

"Ah, what a divine attitude," Tattle enthuses, squinting as an
attractive yet obviously proper and bespectacled lady with a decisive
air rushes down the London street. "Is that her?"

"None other, and that..." Wrye indicates a somewhat hassled looking
solicitor motoring behind her, "is her reluctant partner, Stephen

"Reluctant?" Tattles probes for more luscious and hopefully lurid
details as the gossipmonger in her emerges.

"At first, but after being forced, right, to share an apartment while
solving a high profile murder case, he begins to grow interest for her."
"Grow? Do you mean admire?"

"Steam up yours and my glasses admire. They're hot to the square of
oh... oh... my! She is crafty and intelligent and he is attracted, lured,
teased, taunted, not intentionally by her, but the tug and pull is

"Why do I hear a but poised and ready? Does she not find him
equally desirable?"

"Ah, she does... she does... but..." He does a tap-dance move flinging
out his hand as if passing that word but to her.

"And there it is. I knew it!"

"There is a snag."

"Oooh," she rubs her white-gloved hands together. "I like snags."
"The snag's name is Lord Derby, handsome and acquitted of murder.
Jacqueline ends up being attracted to both this aristocrat and her
partner. However, nothing is as it seems and a murder solved is not
so solved." He bounces his eyebrows in a devilish manner.

"This sounds absolutely delicious."

"And there is a bit of humor to be enjoyed as well."

"Humor is my crumpet and tea. I am hooked."

"Speaking of tea, there is a lovely little tea shop right around the
corner. Would you care for a cuppa?" He presents his crooked arm
and she takes it.

Back in the office, they smile at the readers. We do hope you enjoyed
our sojourn from the Arizona Territory to the streets of London in two
fantastic stories. Next month we will be spying on THE P-TOWN

Until then, read on, m’friends.

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq.
and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat



Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane STEEL EMBRACE