Books by Melissa Bowersock

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Author Interview: Laurie Boris

Since my buddy Laurie Boris lives on the east coast and I live in the west, I’ve arranged to have my personal jet pick her up and circle us lazily over the country as we chat. We’re in the forward living room, each in a 10-way recliner with a large window so we can watch the world glide by. My crew brings us mimosas and baklava and we’re all set.

First of all, Laurie, tell us about your latest book, Playing Charlie Cool.


Thanks for the first-class treatment, Melissa! Playing Charlie Cool explores the utter frustration of two men trying to stay together when it feels like the whole world is conniving to drive them apart.

Three months after leaving his wife and coming out to the New York press, Joshua Goldberg, heir-apparent to a political dynasty, is still reluctant to make his relationship with television producer Charlie Trager public. Charlie, a patient man, is trying his hardest to be supportive through an ugly divorce and Joshua’s flirtation with the political spotlight. But there’s only so much Charlie can take and only so long he can sit on the sidelines and watch the man he loves crumble from the strain.

It’s available now for pre-ordering from Amazon and I expect to publish no later than October 8.

Now, I need to confess, I have not read all your books. I did read this latest one and The Pictureof Cool, subtitled Trager Family Secrets Book 1, and I know they have the same characters. Your book Don’t Tell Anyone issubtitled Trager Family Secrets Book 2, but it seems it has a different cast of characters. Do the characters figure into all three books?

There’s an overlap in the characters, but the focus is a little different. Don’t Tell Anyone sets old-school Jewish mother Estelle Trager against Liza, her modern daughter-in-law, when the family discovers the older woman has breast cancer. Liza navigates between husband Adam and brother-in-law Charlie when they all disagree about what’s best for Mom, stirring up old secrets and sibling rivalries. With novella The Picture of Cool and sequel Playing Charlie Cool, we move into Charlie’s perspective, into his life in Manhattan. It’s a sort of sideways trilogy, although Don’t Tell Anyone and Playing Charlie Cool are standalone stories. Liza, who is also Charlie’s best friend, appears in all three books.

 

Probably the most controversial element in the Cool stories is the fact that the main characters are gay men. I know you’re married and straight, so how did you choose to write about gay men?

Charlie chose me. That’s how it started. He’s such a great character, and ever since he popped up in Don’t Tell Anyone, I’ve wanted to know more about his life and his off-camera attraction to a closeted, married politician. Charlie moved into my writing room, poured a glass of virtual scotch, and started telling a story. I really started resonating with him. With empathy and compassion, I think writers can take on so many types of characters, so many points of view. I’ve also seen the anguish that some friends and acquaintances have gone through, either by denying who they are or telling loved ones who were not accepting. For a long time, I’ve wanted to explore this in fiction, with the right characters and the right story. Not to preach or with an agenda, but just to understand.

What kinds of responses have you gotten from readers about the sexuality of your characters?

I have sensed the silence from some quarters, but on the whole, readers have been very supportive and open. That’s what I try to focus on. One response I loved came from a reviewer who appreciated that Charlie and his friends play basketball. “Yes,” he wrote. “Gay men play sports.”

Great response! Personally, I just want to say that I felt you handled that particular hot potato in a very respectful, realistic and sympathetic way. The characters are mature, thoughtful men who are dealing with personal and career issues as all of us do. They want no more than meaningful work, to be productive and successful in their lives, and to have a loving and supportive family, and I enjoyed reading about them and how they faced their challenges. Good job!

Thank you, Melissa. I’ve enjoyed getting to know these men, meeting their friends and families, and earning their trust. It always astounds me how “real” these characters become when I’m writing them.

My crew is bringing in the 3-course breakfast for us, so while they’re doing that, let’s switch gears. I’d like to talk about editing, which you also do when you’re not writing books. How did you get into the editing business?

Editing came before the fiction writing. I was pretty good at typo hunting; in college I made laundry money proofreading friends’ papers. At my various jobs, I’d become the “last stop” to check for errors before anything went out the door. It felt like a natural progression.

What’s your background and experience in editing?

I have a background in advertising, journalism, and marketing going back decades. When I began writing fiction in the late 1980s, it brought me into a community of writers, and I often critiqued and proofread manuscripts informally for them. After getting laid off from a full-time marketing job in 2005, I moved into freelance writing and editing, gaining more professional experience.

Of the three types of editing (proofreading for typos; copy editing for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.; developmental editing for structure, story arc, consistency, character development) do you have a preference for what you’d rather concentrate on?

Although I’ve run the spectrum, my preference at the moment is copyediting. I love the logic of it, that it’s partly rules designed for clarity and partly the art of expression. When I’m at my computer, the Chicago Manual of Style is always within arm’s reach.

If you’re editing a book through all phases (above), how many passes might you make through the entire book? I know when I edit my own work, I have to go through at least once for just formatting, once for typos, once for content. If I try to look at too many things at one time, I get off track and miss things. What’s your process for this?

I go through a manuscript at least twice. Once for content, marking up any small things I find and flagging questions for later. Then a more thorough read for typos, consistency, punctuation, grammar, flow, and to see if those questions I had originally were answered. I read aloud during one of the passes to catch anything that doesn’t sound right. Reading aloud also helps catch errors like misused homophones or missing words. I write up detailed notes. Sometimes, if the edits are extensive, I’ll do a proofreading pass after the author has revised the manuscript.

What are the most common editing mistakes new writers make?

Most of the mistakes I see stem from a writer’s not yet having full confidence in his or her work. That means leaning too hard to make a point; for example, showing that someone is angry via body language and/or dialogue and then STATING that the character is angry. We get it. New writers often overload dialogue tags with adverbs (“she said emphatically”) or pile on the adjectives when they’re not needed. Learning what to pare away comes with experience and with finding a voice. It can also come down to the basics of the craft that we should all know: how to use punctuation, when to use affect/effect and other tricky pairings, for example.

Excellent advice, and I agree totally. I think new writers do tend to go overboard, just because they aren't sure they're getting their point across. With confidence comes economy of words. If a writer were looking for an editor, what should they look for? What questions should they ask the prospective editor?

Try to get a good idea of what kind of editing you’re looking for, first off, and know what the three (sometimes four) levels entail. That could shorten the conversation. If an editor does not know what kind of editing he or she does, odds are you might need to keep shopping. Ask about experience, particularly with your genre. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re making an investment in your writing business and you should be clear about what you’re getting. While it’s not required that the editor be your BFF, a good working relationship is helpful. See how the communication goes. Are you satisfied with the responses? Does that particular editor seem to “get it”? You’ll be working closely together and it helps if your styles are a good fit.

We all have our weaknesses when it comes to writing, and I won’t ask yours, but I’d like to know if, with your experience, do you see yours quickly when you write? Do you recognize your own weaknesses as soon as you set them down, or do you still need (like most of us do) someone else to point them out to you?

Oh, that’s funny. I see some of my weakness when I’m writing. Some, I don’t see until the manuscript sits a while. I’ve written frequently in various blog posts about how our brains trick us into skimming over errors and how hard it is to see your own work objectively. When I submitted Playing Charlie Cool to David Antrobus for copyediting (yes, editors hire editors), I immediately learned that I have a serious “just” problem. Sometimes it really does take a pair of fresh eyes!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for your hospitality, Melissa, and the baklava!

Thanks so much, Laurie, for all the great advice. We’re just about to land, so it’s time to wrap this up. How can readers connect with you and where can they get your books?

I love hearing from readers! Here are a few places you can find me.

Questions about editing: http://laurieboris.com/contact_laurie


 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Upcoming Appearances

Next I'll be appearing at the 2014 Author's Forum in Cottonwood.  The event is being held on Saturday, August 23 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation Department, 150 South 6th St, Cottonwood, Arizona 86326.

In October, I'll be at the Sedona Book Festival. This will take place on Saturday, October 4, at the Sedona Elks Lodge from 9am to 5pm. The Elks Lodge is at 110 Airport Road, Sedona, Arizona.

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Fleischerhaus: a Novel of Reincarnation

Julia Martin, newly-divorced but still reeling from her husband's infidelity, takes a much needed vacation to visit old college friends in Germany. While touring a little-known concentration camp and museum, she spontaneously experiences a violent past life memory of being murdered in this very camp during the Holocaust. Efforts to understand her memories only lead to more questions, the largest being: is her killer still alive? Supported by her friends and comforted in the arms of a handsome doctor, Julia attempts to uncover the mysteries of her past life and find justice for the person she used to be.

Available in both paperback and e-book.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Author Interview - K.S. Brooks

Today I am sitting down with my best bud K.S. Brooks. In case you don’t know, Kat is the queen worker bee behind Indies Unlimited, that premiere writing community and blog founded by her and Stephen Hise (the Evil Mastermind). Although she works something like 52-hour days, I convinced her to take a short break, put her feet up and have a cup as we chat for a bit.


First let’s talk about our favorite thing in the whole world, writing. As I recall, you’ve written something like 17 books. Give us a short rundown on them.

Oh my. I did not know math would be involved here. Or semantics. Books, titles… Amazon lists 25. But some of those may not technically be considered books. I’ve got educational children’s books, suspense novels, comedy, action-adventure thriller, chicklit, hold on, let me check my Author Central page. You know it’s not easy keeping all this stuff straight. Oops, almost forgot non-fiction, picture books, and short stories.

   


We should all the problem of not being able to keep up with all the titles and genres! What genre have you enjoyed writing the most?

It has to be humor. For the most part, it’s less work, and I write most of it now with the Evil Mastermind. Okay, he writes most of it. I watch. Hence, less work for me.

Guess we better not tell the EM that little fact. What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I’m a control freak. I like to be able to control everything about my projects – covers, pricing, etc. However, what might have prompted the move to self-publishing was when my short story collection was rejected by my publisher. That may have had something to do with it, but I will neither confirm nor deny that.

I’m with you on that. I think the best thing about being indie is the control. The book comes out being exactly what I want it to be, not what some faceless bean-counter thinks it should be.

Are there any new books planned for Mr. Pish?

I have quite a few books still in Mr. Pish’s warehouse. I also have two apps remaining on a contract with a developer that I need to work on. It’s been tough since losing Mr. Pish, but I’m hoping to get back on these soon to keep his fans happy.

  


Pass those chocolate-covered coffee beans, would you? We’re going to be switching gears now, and talk about Indies Unlimited. Where did the spark of inspiration come from to create IU? How did that process unfold?

The Evil Mastermind founded IU back in October 2011, right about the same time he started stalking…um, I mean contacting me. I was tricked…um, I mean invited to join him as his partner at the blog shortly thereafter. Not sure there was actually a process – it was more instinctive. Although the EM didn’t know it at the time (or so he says), in my previous life back in Boston, I was on the ground floor of numerous high-tech start-up companies, so I might know just a little bit about getting a company up and running. Bwa ha ha…ha ha!

Describe your typical work day for us.

Wake up at 5 am. Check the blog, Facebook, and email. Reply to queries throughout the day, do initial book vetting, moderate blog comments. Take a break to roll in the piles of money I’ve made as an author. Back to work writing blog posts, scheduling blog posts, and corresponding with authors. Take another break to frolic in money I drop from buckets tied to the ceiling while singing “It’s Raining Money.” Back to work doing more blog stuff, taking pictures of woodland creatures in my yard, pitching article ideas to the IU staff, brainstorming features ideas with the EM, dusting my grenade collection. Take a break to play catch with my cougar. Answer fan mail. Do more blog stuff. Turn down interviews. I’m a very private person, you know. Look at clock. See it’s 10 pm. Wonder why I didn’t get any writing done.

Well, it’s a good thing the EM pays you the big bucks for all this work! What part of all this do you like the most? The least?

I really enjoy it when an author is enthusiastic about being featured on the site. When I can help an author improve their book description and they get excited over it clicking for them – that is a great feeling. Of course, being named as one of Six Blogs for Authors in Publishers Weekly was pretty awesome, too. I hate telling authors that their books have been rejected. We always make an effort to tell them why, but that is pretty thankless. For the most part, authors are gracious, but there are the few who can really ruin my day.

Ok, it’s dealing the dirt time. How is it working with Hise?

Uh oh, I hear the duct tape. Honestly? The guy is a frikkin genius. Some of the stuff he comes up with is so good it makes me want to hate him. On top of that, he is probably the most altruistic person I know. And, despite what he says, he’s one hell of a writer. Like all geniuses, though, he does have his kryptonite – I know, one day, his quest for the perfect Hobo Stew is going to do him in. And you know it’s all fun and games until he puts someone’s eye out with the laser death ray.

What have you got coming up? Working on?

I’m always working on at least 5 projects simultaneously. I’m going to have to get the 2015 Mr. Pish calendar out by the end of September. I’m also hoping to have the Mr. Pish’s Woodland Adventure app out to the developers. For books, I’m in rewrite stage for the sequel to Lust for Danger. My brain is trying to finesse the storyline for the sequel to Night Undone. Hise and I are working on an action-adventure thriller which I’m hoping will be out this year, but 2015 is creeping up fast. I’ve got a chicklit project about to go to rewrite, a mystery in the works, and a horror novel which I will publish under a pseudonym. I’ve got two different short story collections started – one for Special Agent Night and one for Mr. Pish. Sort of like fan fiction but by the author – if that makes ANY sense. Oh, and I have a comic book written for which I just have to nail down the art and that should be good to go. (That makes it sound much simpler than it is, of course.) Then there are about 10 more Mr. Pish books to be written, and the last app to fulfill my contract which will be traveling terrier related. I’m trying to pay more attention to my gluten-free blogging, which I’ve grossly neglected over the past year. I have plenty of material ready to go for it, I’ve just got to get the photos and the articles in the same place at the same time and hopefully I can help people who suffer from this allergy. So, I don’t really have that much going on.

Now it’s time for those dreaded personal questions. We’ll start off with the SPEED ROUND, a new way of plowing through the usual subjects.

Plotter or pantser? Both.
Music or silence? Silence when writing. Music when cooking.
Organized or Bohemian? African or European?
Coffee or tea? Both
Dog or cat? MISTER PISH!!!!
Disciplined or impetuous? Both

And just for fun, if you were given an open credit card and told to take a vacation, where would you go? Whom would you take?

I would fly all the IU minions here to my awesome house in the wilderness for a “staff meeting.”

That would truly be awesome. I think we would all gladly go for some writing brainstorming, some photographic hikes into the wilderness, then maybe a soak in the hot tub under the stars.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to chat with us. Where can readers connect with you?

Blog: website is http://www.ksbrooks.com

Gluten-Free Gusto blog: http://glutenfreegusto.wordpress.com