Gary Val Tenuta-New Fiction Monday

Which is actually a day late, but a dollar to the good.

I apologize for my delinquency in posting this. It was supposed to go up last night (Monday), but as some Mondays can be, mine was hectic yesterday. So today’s installment of New Fiction features Gary Val Tenuta, author of (most recently), “Atonement.”

Yes, I know. I’m really bad about just taking Amazon images, but it’s for the greater good. :)

Yes, I know. I’m really bad about just taking Amazon images, but it’s for the greater good. 🙂

The first story I read by Gary Val Tenuta was “Ash: Return of the Beast,” another recommendation from a friend. Now, I’d seen Gary around a writer’s group I belong to, and since I love reading people I’ve seen “out and about,” I gave “Ash” a try, and found I couldn’t put it down. Holy Crap! This was another one of those stories that kept the pages turning and setting it aside simply wasn’t an option.

Shortly after finishing “Ash” I picked up a short story he wrote titled, “Bite Out of Time,” which was ridiculously good, and then I picked up, “Atonement,” another short story. I am becoming terribly addicted to short stories, and Gary’s are must-reads, in my opinion, especially if you like good twists in your fiction.

I have his first book, “The Ezekiel Code,” on my reading list, and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it.

In the meantime, I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and hope you enjoy what follows:

Q: How long have you been writing fiction?

A: My first attempt at writing fiction was when I was in the 6th grade. I wrote a sci-fi story called The Beam From Saucer-X. As I like to tell everyone, it was really good. I know because my mom told me so.

 

Q: Do you prefer writing short stories, like the ones in the Second Chance Limo series or longer novels, like Ash: Return of the Beast?

A: I can’t say I really prefer one over the other. The gratification of finishing a short story, of course, comes a lot sooner than from writing a full length novel. Each has it’s own set of challenges. In some ways, writing a short story is more difficult than writing a novel because a lot of the elements that go into the making of a good novel are also essential for the making of a good short story. The difference is, you have to compact those elements into a much smaller space. With a novel you have a lot more room in which to spread those elements out and to play with the story construction.

 

Q: Where do you find your inspiration?

A: I think my answer to that is pretty much the same for most authors. It can come from something overheard in a conversation, or from a story in the news, or from a particularly vivid dream. I never know when or where an inspiration might hit. For example, the day I walked into a second-hand bookstore and stumbled upon a biography of the occultist, Aleister Crowley. I was just passing time browsing used books. Writing another novel was the last thing on my mind at that particular moment. But, as I was standing there, thumbing through the pages of the biography, my speed-reading eyes nearly passed right over a remarkable couple of sentences toward the end of the book. The biographer said Crowley was cremated after his death in 1947 but the urn containing his ashes mysteriously disappeared. I did a double take. Did I just read what I thought I read? I read it again and thought, man, if that isn’t a set up for a good paranormal/supernatural story, I don’t know what is! That idea brewed in my mind for days and just wouldn’t let go. Eventually, I was able to work out a rough idea of how the story might go and, three years later, it was done. So, yeah, like I said, I never know when or where an inspiration is going to hit.

 

Q: How long does it take you to write a longer piece?

A: It depends. I’ve only written two full-length novels so far. The first one (The Ezekiel Code) took nearly 9 years between working a full time job and all the other things that take up time on a daily basis.

The second book (Ash: Return of the Beast) took three years. I had more free time to devote to the writing.

 

Q: Do you have a “day job” or is writing a full-time endeavor?

A: I work from home now as a book cover designer. (www.BookCoversAndVideos.webs.com). So I guess you could call that my “day job” although I’m really a night owl and usually tend to work and/or write at night.

 

Q: I haven’t yet read The Ezekiel Code, but I did devour Ash. Did you do a lot of research on Aleister Crowley before/during the writing of the piece? The information seemed pretty spot on to a layperson.

A: Well, having had a life long interest in all things related to the paranormal and having once been a contributing writer for the venerable old Fate Magazine, I was familiar with Crowley. I knew a little about him and I had a copy of his strange little book called Liber al vel Legis, The Book Of The Law, that was allegedly dictated to him by a non-human entity named Aiwass in 1904. But I’d never read a biography about him. That’s why that biography in the second-hand bookstore caught my attention. So a lot of my knowledge about him came from that source along with whatever else I could find on the internet.

 

Q: Do you storyboard or outline your stories, or do they just come to you and you just write until the story ends?

A: When an idea for a story hits me I pretty much just start writing right off the cuff. I have a pretty good idea how I want it to begin and a pretty good idea about how it might end. Eventually, though, I have to stop and start making notes when the story starts going in directions that I hadn’t planned on. I can’t say I make an outline so much as it’s just a continual process of making notes to keep track of the flow of events, an ever-changing timeline, you might call it. And notes about how one event might work to trigger another event later in the story. So, if it can be called an outline at all, it’s a VERY loose one.

 

Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers that want to either be published, or self-publish their work?

A: Learn everything you can about the craft of writing. There’s so much to know. As I mentioned earlier, I used to be a contributing writer for Fate Magazine. I wrote feature articles and I was good at it. I had to be good at it or they wouldn’t have been paying me. Because of that, I thought I knew how to write a novel. After all, a novel is just more words, right? Well, yes, but no. Writing a novel is a whole different thing than writing articles for a magazine. I learned a lot of lessons from writing my first novel. It’s not badly written. It received a lot of favorable reviews. In fact, because of its controversial storyline and its plot revolving around the 2012-end-of-the-Mayan-calendar phenomenon, it became a bestseller on amazon in three categories for over 57 weeks. But the actual writing does contain some of the earmarks of a first-time novelist. And, believe me, even though it received some great reviews, there were other reviewers who didn’t hold back on their criticisms. Some, of course were unfounded, but some (I later had to admit) were spot on.

If you’re writing your first novel be ready to get some negative reviews. But don’t let that get you down. Suck it up and learn from them. Then take what you’ve learned and apply those things to your next novel. It’s a learning process and sometimes it seems like that process is a never ending one. Maybe it is. I poured everything I’ve learned about the craft of novel writing into my latest novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast (http://amzn.com/B006J6HRGE) and it’s getting rave reviews. I think it was Stephen King who said even at this point in his long and successful career, he’s still learning how to be a better writer.

 I’d also highly recommend investing $9.22 in a book called “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print” by Renni Browne and Dave King. There’s a reason it currently has 172 5-star reviews on amazon. Read it. Read it again. And then keep it by your side as a valuable reference tool while you’re working on your manuscript. I wish I’d had it when I wrote my first novel. Nothing else I could say here would likely be as valuable as the tips, tricks and more that the authors have put into that book. Another good investment, in my opinion, is a subscription to Writer’s Digest. Every issue contains helpful writing tips from some of the most experienced authors in the country.

 

You can find Gary on Amazon here, and I absolutely encourage you to do just that!

Thank you, Gary, for answering all of my questions.

Thank YOU, readers, for your likes, follows, and support!

Until Next Time…

New Fiction Monday – David Workman

Image shamelessly (again) “borrowed” from Amazon.com.

Image shamelessly (again) “borrowed” from Amazon.com.

Hi, all!

I know that I just posted an author interview on Friday, but when I had the opportunity to finish my interview with David Workman, I absolutely had to do another one on an actual Monday!

So here is a little bit of background:

One of my best friends is an accomplished author, and we generally have the same taste in books, so when she recommends one (even in a genre I’m not particularly fond of or familiar with), I tend to pick up a copy and read it.  David Workman’s Absolute Authority is one of those. 🙂 Kind of a spy-thriller, I picked it up on Amazon, anyway, because she had been absolutely raving about it. With good reason, I soon learned.

I opened it up on my Kindle app in at the beginning of a staff meeting (tablets are really good tools in that you can appear to initially be taking notes, and then…well…not) one Friday morning, and found, almost immediately, that I was going to have a really hard time putting it down. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself with my nose buried in this story when I probably should have been cleaning house, working on my own fiction, blogging, etc.! I really enjoyed meeting Gordon McAllister, and canNOT wait to see what he gets himself into next!

I hope that you will enjoy the following interview, and then run (don’t walk) to your browser, go to Amazon, and pick up a copy for yourself!

So, David? These are my readers. Readers? I’d like you to meet David Workman:

Q:  How long have you been writing fiction? (Yes, the obvious question to all writers, right?)

A:  The short answer is ten years, but that’s not the entire story, made up or otherwise. My main character, Gordon McAllister, set up shop in my head over a decade ago, but I didn’t any place to put him, so he just sat there, poking idly at the campfire. Then about five years ago, I started to formulate a storyline that might fit him. (You can see how little I focused on my writing at first.) Tragically, I was laid off from a corporate marketing job about four years ago and suddenly had way too much free time on my hands. So I finally got serious about the book and plunged in headfirst. Looking back, getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Not only did I have more time to write Absolute Authority, but I also now work for a much better company and do a lot more writing that I did before.

Q:  Did it take you a long time to research various tidbits of the story? To the layman, it sounds like all of the details of “Absolute Authority” are absolutely viable.

A:  I’ve always been a techno-geek, especially when it comes to military and spy hardware, and since it’s my favorite genre to read, a lot of what I wrote about was already in my head. However, the idea of the Skat stealth drone popped up thanks to a Google search for Russian unmanned aerial vehicles. I had heard rumors that the Russians had such a thing — after all, we already had one, and the Soviets had spent the entire Cold War simply stealing our secrets and backwards engineering their own versions — so I was not at all surprised when the Skat popped up (not on the radar — sorry, techie joke) first thing in the results. I thought, what if someone smuggled one into the US? What could they do with it and for how long until we discovered it? What sort of havoc could they wreak on us? And who would do it? Could we stop them?

I also got plenty of help from friends in the covert ops and special missions arena. A former high school classmate (somehow she managed to have not aged like I did) is a former FBI special agent. She helped me immensely with the FBI lab details and procedures. A nurse friend helped me with the details of how to kill a senator. So it was all fun and games, and somebody did get hurt. Several characters got whacked, so many I lost track of the body count.

Q:  You have a background in criminal justice/criminology. Did that help you write Absolute Authority? I know as writers, we are told to write what we know, so I had to ask.

A:  Oddly, it wasn’t my criminology background that made the difference as much as my love of all things military and espionage. I have a library full of Clancy, Thor, Flynn, and others, all of whom write immensely detailed thrillers that are so full of realistic settings and situations that I couldn’t help but learn from them.

Q:  How long did it take you to complete the first draft of Absolute Authority?

A:  Can I cop out here and refer you to answer #1?  (Blogger’s note: Absolutely, David!  It’s your interview!  😉  )

Q:  What was your inspiration?

A:  In addition to techno-military stuff, I’m very political, as anyone who knows me well or reads my posts on Facebook can attest. I have no use for our current president and don’t mind saying so. However, to avoid turning Absolute Authority into a political statement, I created a president anyone can like and didn’t get too deep into the fictional administrations politics, only because not everyone wants to read a book about that when they sit down to read a thriller. So I backed off. There is politics involved, especially near the end, but I don’t beat anyone over the head with it. Now, how does this answer your question? Well, read the book and it will make more sense.

Q:  On average, how many hours per week do you work on fiction? Does the actual writing come to you in a steady flow or does it hit you in fits and spurts? (I have to ask, because I go for days writing like a fiend and then all thoughts and ideas are still there, but I can’t make the transition from brain to keyboard.)

A:  My writing time really varies now that I’m back in the working world. I write web copy for a major athletic shoe company full time and have a wife and two (soon to be three) kids, so squeezing in book writing time can be a challenge. Fortunately, the kids are young enough that they go to bed early, so I can often get a few pages written in the evenings, but not always. Plus, I don’t always feel like it, or maybe I’m drawing a blank on what comes next, so I may go for days without writing a word. And then I’ll sit down and hammer out 10,000 words in one session. It varies immensely. I wrote Absolute Authority without an outline, a mistake I’ll never make again. I hit the 70,000-word mark and had no idea how to end the darn thing. So I went home (I was writing in a friend’s coffee shop) and didn’t think about it the rest of the day. The next morning, I grabbed a coffee and muffin, sat back down, and hammered out 30,000 words in one sitting, all the way to The End. It was glorious! I don’t plan on doing that again.

Q:  I know that you are working on the sequel to “Absolute.” Do you foresee more adventures ahead for Gordon McAllister?

A:  Yes, many. At first I was afraid Absolute Authority would be a one-hit wonder, but when it ended I knew I had more things for him to do. And for other characters, too. You will see many of the characters from the first book make return appearances in the second. Relationships have grown, life has moved along, and new adventures await. I will also be setting the sequel in St. Louis again, spending even more time taking readers through the most exciting guided tour they’ll ever get of my home town. Oh, and the fun won’t end after book two. I have at least one more planned already, maybe more. Stay tuned.

Q:  What advice do you have for writers wanting to break into the business?

A:  Whatever you do, don’t quit. I can’t tell you the number of times I came this close (see my fingers squeezing together?) to giving up and hitting the delete key. Oh, it was tempting! Writing books is hard work! If you’re looking for an easy way to make your millions, this ain’t it. Most novelists — not just new ones — have a day job to pay the bills. But so long as that story stays cramped up inside your head, you’ll never feel like you’ve lived your life, like there’s always something left to do. Write the story. Get it out there on paper. Don’t just type it into the computer. Print it. Make a real manuscript out of it. And now that you can self-publish, get at least one copy printed in paperback form, with a cover and everything. Approach the writing process as if your book will get published. The entire process will be so fulfilling you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it years ago. Don’t quit. Tell your story. Somebody will want to read it.

And there you have it, my friends…I hope that you enjoy getting to know David Workman.

Now get thee over to Amazon and check him out. 🙂

Until Next Time….

New Fiction Monday – Debe Seger-Winkler

Yes, I know. It’s Friday, and New Fiction Monday usually comes out on Monday, but I just had the best time learning about author Debe Seger-Winkler that I couldn’t wait until Monday to share this with you guys. 🙂

Image shamelessly liberated from Amazon.com.

Image shamelessly liberated from Amazon.com.

Debe is the author of Deadly Letters, a great piece of fiction that was recently released. I was fortunate enough to have fallen and bumped my head badly enough to be sent home from the day job for the remainder of the same day that my book arrived from Amazon. I ate it up in one sitting. Good thing great books have no calories, or I would have been as big as a barn.

I met Debe through a mutual friend, initially, on a local news message board. We then visited on Facebook, and Debe was kind enough to host a skin care class for me when I was doing Mary Kay last winter.

Now, I’m notorious for hiding under a rock now and again, so time gets away from me, but I remember having seen a post before the holidays on FB from Debe about putting the finishing touches on her book. The week before I took my tumble, I remembered having read that, so I did a search on Amazon, and boom!  There it was. 🙂  So I ordered it, and impatiently waited for it to arrive, but let me tell you, this book was well worth the wait.

Don’t we all have that friend that seems to attract the wrong kind of guy? You know the type… possessive, abusive, and worst case homicidal? What happens to the victim’s friends is the hook in this suspense filled story that has a few more twists and turns than I expected. 🙂

So without further ado, let me introduce you to Debe Seger-Winkler:

Q:  How long have you been writing? 

A:  As long as I can remember. I was writing short stories in the second grade. They didn’t make much sense, except in my young head, but they were all lovingly produced. In High School I had an English teacher who took an interest in my writing talents and she is the one who really encouraged me to pursue it into adulthood. 

Q:  How did you come up with the concept for Deadly Letters? 

A:  This is a plot that’s been rattling around in my brain for years. I went to college in Pittsburgh, PA and had three roommates. One of them always dated abusive men. We were constantly rescuing her from bad situations. I just got thinking about her one day and wondered what her future may have been.

Q:   Are the characters based on people you know or did you create them “from scratch”? 

A:  The characters are actually figments of my imagination.  I developed the story line based on true people I’ve known, but none of the characters are anything like the actual people I knew. 

Q:  Did you find it difficult to write from the opposite gender’s point of view? (Ok so this is a personal question, because I’m working on a man’s character as we speak, so any advice will be welcomed, LOL!) 

A:  I think I must have a penchant for splitting my personality. As I write I tend to see the events being played out in my head like a movie. I could picture, Frank, the antagonist and it was almost like I’d become him. The same for each of my characters; I actually become those characters while I’m writing their parts. It’s frightening how many people are lodged inside my brain. 

Q:  Have you always wanted to publish fiction?

A:  I don’t think I really thought about actually publishing something until I joined a couple of writer’s groups. The support, comfort and encouragement I found among the other aspiring writers was priceless and gave me the courage to publish. 

Q:  Do you have any formal training or do you just write from the heart and know grammar and punctuation? 

A:  This question made me laugh. I am awful at grammar and punctuation. I’m a pretty good speller, but the intricacies of the English language often escape me. I asked a retired English teacher, Sally Arthur, to help me with all my grammar errors.  

I don’t have any formal training. I’m not sure it’s really possibly to “teach” someone to write fiction. I think you can take courses to improve your skills, but I believe you need to have the basic talent first and foremost. 

Non-fiction writing, I put into a whole other category. Formal training can be of the utmost importance in this field. You can be successful without it, but if your mind leans toward fiction, like mine does, then a few courses could help make that transition easier. 

Q:  Did you do a lot of research for this story?

A:  This story really didn’t require much research, but my next story Damaged Goods is requiring some research and I’m enjoying the learning experience.

Q:  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers on getting started? 

A:  Yes, get started!

Seriously, I’ve discovered that you can talk about writing all you want, but you have to actually sit in front of the computer (or typewriter if you’re old school), hit the keys and hammer something out. Don’t worry about how the first draft reads. No one will see it, but you. Just get the words and the plot onto paper. Then edit, edit, edit!

It also helps to have a good friend or two you can read out loud to and who’ll give you honest feedback. I tend toward non-writers for this process, because writers have different styles, so I think it’s difficult sometimes for them to help another writer, with their work. 

Q:  How do you feel about self-publishing versus getting a literary agent and/or going through a publishing house?

A:  Going through a publishing house via an agent can definitely get you more publicity and perhaps even some bragging rights, but it can be a very tedious process. I had an agent interested in Deadly Letters, but the book wouldn’t have been published till late 2014 or even later. There is also a lot less profits for the writer when you go through a traditional publishing route. 

Don’t forget to hit up Amazon.com to get a copy of Debe’s book (and look, I even provided you a clickable link directly to the e-book edition), and when you do, let me know what you think of it. 🙂 You can also visit Debe’s website at www.debesegerwinkler.com.

Thank you, Debe, for taking the time to do this interview. 🙂

Until Next Time….