Downs tells all

The Convenient Escape Book Cover The Convenient Escape
Robert Downs
crime, thiller
Black Opal
November 12, 2016

To Veronica Baird, escaping from an underground dungeon and racing through the woods, is anything but convenient, even as her captor in rubber mask attire proves rather persistent in his continued pursuit. Despite her apparent independence, she considers a partnership, albeit reluctantly, with a former classmate who may still have feelings for her. Pete Nealey still has flashbacks to Iraq and, with the bottle as his eternal companion, tends to fall off of barstools at the most inopportune moments or pass out face down in the tavern parking lot. But what he may lack in cheerfulness, he more than makes up for with his steadfast loyalty to the cause, even when he ends up handcuffed to an air conditioner in a shoddy motel.But unless Veronica can learn to trust Pete for more than just intermittent intervals, the slipshod relationship, and her freedom, won't last...

 

Robert Downs the Author

 Penchant for Vengeance 2018; The Convenient Escape 2017; LaCours Destiny 2016; Graceful Immortality 2015

  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it?

I’ve always been fascinated with police procedurals, even though I had never written one before. I like challenging myself, so in this type of scenario, I often look at it as what’s the risk. If it’s no good, no one will ever read it but me. But I finished it, I sent it to my publisher, Black Opal Books, and they liked it, and here we are. I do believe I am growing and improving as a writer, and more than anything, I hope I show that with PENCHANT FOR VENGEANCE.

 

I grew up in a religious household, so there were themes in this novel that I wanted to explore, and that were important to me. It’s a bit of a departure from what I’ve written before, but I look at it as a good thing, not a bad one.

  1. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?

I believe in John Grisham’s approach to research. I do as little of it as possible to sound believable and creditable. With that being said, I love to learn, and I am always learning random facts that I may, or may not, use in one of my books. I am like a sponge, and I constantly soak up the world around me, because I never know when I will discover some tidbit that will set my story off on a new course. When I discover one of these, my first thought is that’s fantastic. I can use that.

 

My process, and it’s not the process that will work for every writer, is to write the story first, as fast and as furious as my fingers and brain can go. Over the course of this process, I’ll discover where I get stuck, and therefore what I need to learn more about. Once in a while, I’ll surprise myself with what I do know, and sometimes I’ll bend the truth a little in order to make the story work. But either way, I don’t want to spend more time doing research than is absolutely necessary, because I get more joy from writing than I do from research.

  1. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?

I’ve been rejected so many times I’ve lost count. Stephen King used to nail his rejection letters on a wall, and the story goes that he had to get bigger and bigger nails to hold up his increasing number of letters. Rough guess is I’m hovering close to 1,000 myself, but that’s over the course of seventeen years of writing, and making every mistake you can imagine, like trying to publish books before the story was ready for an audience. I’ve also discovered that as a writer you never stop being rejected, so I just take it as another part of the process. It’s much easier to say no than it is to say yes, because yes requires some action from the other party. I also have this personality quirk where I can take the energy from negativity, and turn it into a positive that works for me. I have no idea where this particular gift came from, but it’s absolutely fantastic.

  1. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?

I did not. As writers, we shouldn’t compare our writing path to anyone else’s, because this can sometimes be a losing proposition. My journey has been to gradually build my writing career over time, and I have worked with some wonderful small presses thus far. If we’re being completely honest, some have been a bit more wonderful than others, but all have taught me valuable lessons about publishing that I will take with me for the rest of my life. That’s valuable, and when value is bestowed upon me, I consider myself lucky.

  1. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?

I’m gonna steal from my previous answers a bit, but I’ll try to do it with a slightly different spin. I would say writers need to look to carve out their own path, and not worry about what someone else has done. It ultimately depends on your goals as a writer, and how much control he or she wants to have throughout the writing process. Self-publishing gives you a whole lot of control, but you have to use that power wisely, otherwise it can end up wasted, or it might even blow up in your face.

 

When you’re starting out as a writer, the best thing you can do is write. After you’ve been doing this a few years and possibly published a few novels, the best thing you can do is write. That particular aspect never changes. Think of it like practice. You have to continue to show up and put in the work. If self-publishing is what gets you to write, and you use that platform to grow and improve as a writer, learn from your mistakes (most beginning writers make mistakes), and build your audience through marketing, hard work, and more writing, I don’t think anyone can fault you for doing that. It can be a great process if you use it right. I understand it as a process, but it just wasn’t the right process for me.

  1. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?

That’s gotta be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s also one of the biggest myths about being a writer. Readers assume we’re all driving around in Porsches, and we have two or three homes, one of which is somewhere like Florida, Nantucket, or California. But we all can’t be Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, James Patterson, or Harlan Coben. Let me dispel this myth completely right now. The average writer makes $7,000 a year. If you can live on $7K a year, then I have to say you are a much better person than I am.

 

If that ever happens, I will certainly let you know. But I’m not gonna hold my breath on it ever happening, and I am not gonna build my retirement plan around such a farfetched scenario.

  1. Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?

There are many writers who have influenced me over the years, and I feel like I discover more every day, since I am a reader first and a writer second. But I will go with the late Robert B. Parker and his Spenser novels. Spenser was a smartaleck, and Parker wrote some fantastic dialogue, and I adored the stories very much. Whenever he and Hawk busted a few heads, I was ready to stand up and cheer.

  1. In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?

Again, there are many writers I could place here, and all have a fantastic sense of humor, but my answer for today is Dave Barry. He comes up with fantastic characters and places them in the midst of fantastic situations, and he is just such a joy to read. I believe a lot of humor can be found in the extremes, and he utilizes this particular theory to a fine art. If you ever need a good laugh, I don’t think you can go wrong with Dave Barry. I know I sure haven’t.

Website: http://www.RobertDowns.net

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/RobertDownsBooks

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When Destiny Calls

Spear of Destiny Book Cover Spear of Destiny
Misadventures of Loren #1
Jasmine Walt and Ines Johnson
paranormal, romance, urban fantasy
Kindle

Chivalrous? Nah.

Virtuous? Not since…well, none of your business.

The difference between me and the Knights of the Round Table? I make medieval look good.

Loren Van Alst is an independent, twenty-first-century woman, an accused forger, a suspected thief, and the last descendant of Sir Galahad of the Arthurian court. To claim her seat at the Round Table and protect her newly found family of modern-day witches, she’ll need to convince the current Arthur and his knights to let a woman take the knights’ trials. But things go sideways when a crazed wizard goes on the loose with a magical spear that can strip a witch of her powers. As if that weren’t enough, the clique of mean girls from middle school arrives in Camelot and turn out to be witch hunters.

To safeguard a future she never knew she wanted, Loren will have to evade the hunters, defeat the wizard, capture the spear, and pass her trials. No one ever said becoming a kick-ass heroine would be easy!

Urban fantasy goes medieval in this modern day, action-packed, calamitous series of misadventures.

Loren – Nia Rivers’ sidekick has stayed behind in Camelot after they found the Templar Scrolls.
She has her own adventure with her Spear of Destiny and the characters that turn up in the Scrolls book.
And learns what it is to be a Knight of the Round Table – which it turns out she is – hereditarily.
So far so good. I enjoyed this as Loren is a fun character – prone to trouble. But I am worried that her stories will become as formulaic as Nia’s. We shall see.

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Guest Blog: Failures?

The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures
Amy Lyle
Funny Memoir, family, marriage
Amy Lyle
(3 May 2017)

THE AMY BINEGAR-KIMMES-LYLE BOOK OF FAILURES is a humor memoir. If you have ever failed at love, finances, been fired, not fit in, self-diagnosed yourself with disorders and conditions and/or said, "I really need to get my s*** together," this is the book for you.

You may appreciate your own dysfunction a little more as you take a journey through Amy’s debacles including: “I Was Not Talking to You,” where Amy mistakes a handsome man waving at her as a potential suitor but in reality, he was only trying to inform her that her belt was dragging on the freeway and “In the Neighborhood,” where members of a cult moving in concurred with a suspicious decline in the cat population. You will relish the chapters entitled “Calls from Sharon,” where Amy’s best friend rants about her kids not getting a fair shot because public schools are ‘so political,’ as her OB/GYN reported her vagina was ‘too clean’ and how the most eligible bachelor from 1982 married a whore. Enjoy “I’m Going to Kill You,” where Amy compares her lack of sleep from her husband’s snoring to CIA agents extracting secrets from a POW. Feel 20-32% better about your own life after reading “Getting Divorced Sucks,” where 911 was called after Amy had an adverse reaction from taking Xanax.

The book has been featured in Scoop OTP, Georgia Followers, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Points North Atlanta Magazine, Just4Fun Radio and the WXIA-TV morning show, "Atlanta & Company.”

Ten percent of book proceeds are donated to The Place of Forsyth County, a non-profit helping people to become self-sufficient.

Now That’s Love
My book begins “I’ve been married for twenty years, not to the same people but regardless….”
I’m very pro-love and relationships. However, if you’ve never tied the knot, let me share a little of what happens AFTER you are supposed to be living your happily ever after.
That euphoric feeling of new love has similar qualities of a drug addiction: including heart palpitations, wild fantasies, lack of sleep and the vacillation between euphoria and misery eventually calms down. After being married for ten years what makes my heart race is when my
husband surprises me with a giant, gluten-filled, pack of brownies and lets me pick the Netflix movie.
It’s a challenge sleeping in the same bed and frankly, sharing a sink with another human being.
I started to ask questions I never dreamed would need to be asked:

Are those your pubic hairs in the shower soap, did you not see the pubic hairs?

Why in the world did you not rinse the soap off?

Haven’t I asked you not to chomp? You know I have misophonia (become
enraged at chomping sounds) stop chomping.

Is that oatmeal? For the love of God how does a person chomp oatmeal?

You bought a reciprocating saw and you’re upset that I bought strappy sandals?
Would you not agree that both are useful?

Did you just put sauce on my fish? That’s adding one million calories, why would you do that?

I told kid number two NOT to go out; she has a D in psychology. Why did you allow her to go out? I’m always the bad cop. Do you think that’s fair?

Do you? Do you? Do you?

Even when you love a person, the day to day responsibilities and routines can wear on your last nerves. But, having someone you trust and know in and out has its advantages.
You no longer freak out if he/she doesn’t reply to your text in less than three seconds.
In social settings, you have a secret language and understand what it means when your husband/wife says “Excuse me for a minute, I must have left my glasses at the table.” It’s code for “The guy talking is full of dog s*** “ so I need to exit immediately, or I will stab him with the tiny umbrella from your pina colada.
If a serial killer came crashing into your bedroom, they would do everything possible to save you over saving themselves.
If you’re lucky, you find a person that thinks you’re attractive in the morning, offers you ice water when you’re sick and laughs at all of your jokes.

These are the reasons people stay married. Now you know.

About the Author

Amy Lyle is an author, comedienne, actor and screenwriter who works as a playwright for a large nonprofit in Alpharetta, Ga. Obsessed with fellow female comedians, Amy developed a writing style that is self-deprecating, hilarious and slightly neurotic.

Although she describes her book, The Amy Binegar-Kimmes-Lyle Book of Failures, as a “how not to” book, her message of “You are not a failure, you’re just having a little bit of trouble right now” is prompting people to share how the book made them feel (#bookoffailures), including the relief of knowing they are not alone in the world of missteps. Fan posts of people reading the book have been popping up from all over the world, including Lake Como, Italy, Amsterdam and The Great Wall of China.

The funny memoir, dealing with everything from getting fired to trying to blend a family, has been described as relatable and authentic, while sparking conversations about how we all handle failure.

The author has been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Points North magazine and the WXIA-TV morning show, “Atlanta & Company,” in addition to writing a monthly column for My Forsyth magazine.

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Why to Knit?

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club Book Cover The Woolly Hat Knitting Club
Poppy Dolan
Women’s Fiction
Canelo
25th September 2017

Finding happiness one stitch at a time

When Dee Blackthorn’s brother, JP, breaks both wrists not only is he in need of a helping hand – or two – but the knitting shop he owns can’t function. Sisterly duties take Dee away from her demanding job and she is unceremoniously fired amidst rumours of inappropriate behaviour. Dee is certain that her hot-shot nemesis, Ben, is behind it all but has no proof.

When Dee bumps into an old friend who is new mum to a premature baby she convinces JP to enlist his knitting pals to make lots of tiny woolly hats. Then Ben turns up denying involvement in Dee’s sacking and she ropes him into helping the knitting cause.

But before long Dee’s good intentions backfire and she risks losing her friends, her family and Ben, who’s turned out to be not so bad after all…

A feel-good romantic comedy about learning what life is really all about, The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Tilly Tennant and Carole Matthews.

 

  1. Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique? I’ve wanted to write a novel with knitting as a theme for a while now, seeing as I love all things crafty. But I wanted to put a little bit of a spin on what you might expect – so my heroine Dee isn’t at all crafty, but her brother JP is! When he can’t run his haberdashery on his own, she has to throw herself into a woolly world…
  2. How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a notebook where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time? I try to combine a burst of inspiration with a lot of thorough planning, so that my idea gets carried through the whole story. I use notebooks and post-its and scribble ideas anywhere I can, if needs be!
  3. How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book? Seeing as I’ve been a keen knitter for more than ten years, I didn’t need to research anything new for this novel. I could dig up all my crafty nerdiness!
  4. What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote? [Not sure this applies to me, sorry.]
  5. How helpful do you find authority figures such as the police when you say you want to write about them? Is there a good way to approach them in your experience? [Not sure this applies to me, sorry.]
  6. How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted? My first novel got rejected by a whole host of traditional publishers and it took me a long time to get over the heartbreak and disappointment.
  7. Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up? When I did work up the courage to try again, I self-published a novel called The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp and things took off from there! I’m now very lucky to be published by Canelo, who are an amazing team
  8. Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist? I think it comes down each individual author and what sort of goals they have and how much time they have. Self-publishing was an amazing jumping off point for me but I now find so many brilliant benefits to being with a publisher – they have lots of expertise I don’t have, the work of publishing and promoting a book is spread across a whole team rather just being down to me and when I’m having a wobble there are people to lead me in the right direction!
  9. Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened? Not for me, sadly!
  10. What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour? I’m yet to go on one, but if I do I’ll make a note of anything funny that happens…
  11. Why did you take up Knitting? I love anything crafty, so I picked up my first set of needles when knitting became fashionable again about 15 years ago.
  12. What is the first thing you ever knit? I knitted a big chunky scarf which took me months and lots of trial and error! I think I gave it to my mum.
  13. What reasons would you give for people to take up knitting? It’s really relaxing and can help crack your phone addiction! Plus, you’re never stuck for gifts to give people.

 

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More about Crows

Crows of Beara
Julie Christine Johnson
Ashland Creek Press
(1 Sept. 2017)

Nature as Cultural Artifact

A guest post by:

 Julie Christine Johnson 

I didn’t set out to write an eco-lit novel, to make a political statement with my story. I am a writer of landscapes that transport readers from their worlds into those of my imagination and of characters whose conflicts and choices are urgent and relevant to my readers’ souls. I don’t write with a genre in mind; I’m a storyteller who often discovers her themes many drafts later, when the bones of a story have been fleshed out and its heart is beating strongly.

THE CROWS OF BEARA was meant to be my love song to Ireland. A place was all I had in my pocket when I sat down with my notebook to begin sketching characters. I set the place aside and focused on the who, for it is from the characters that my stories are built. WHERE gives me a foundation; WHO is the framework. I discovered a protagonist and a main character linked by the same weakness and the same strength: addiction and art. Bringing them to stand before each other on a dividing line was a third “character” which I met by chance in my research: the Red-billed chough, a species of crow which cycles on and off the endangered list as one nesting ground thrives and another is threatened. It is found along the southwest coast of Ireland, where cliff meets pasture on one end and ocean on the other. In CROWS, a copper mine would bring needed jobs to a struggling community; it would also destroy the habitat of this beloved small black bird with a crimson beak and feet. The chough became the book’s touchstone.

Deep into revisions, months after CROWS had been accepted for publication by Ashland Creek Press, I met an artist-anthropologist using 3-D photography in a breathtaking marriage of art and science to preserve natural artifacts gathered from manned and unmanned space missions. Through her art, she shows that our cultural heritage is alive in these rocks gathered from places so distant, the mind bends in trying to comprehend. In talking with her, I realized I had been dancing around but unable to name the central core of my characters’ artistic drive. Nature is a cultural artifact that we have the power to preserve, and art can be a unifying force when politics threaten to tear us apart.

There’s a scene midway through THE CROWS OF BEARA where Annie sees Daniel’s art for the first time. And in observing his own work through her eyes, he realizes the power of what he does, how his art can change minds, perspectives, lives. Art as an act of resistance and healing is one of the major themes of the book and it’s very much how I feel about what I do as an artist. Words are my voice, my sword, my hand out to the universe. Art, whether it’s visual, literary, musical, or of the body, connects us to ourselves, to each other, to the greater world. It’s what keeps us moving forward toward light in times of greatest darkness.

 

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