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. ( 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 ( 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…

Writing is a Commitment

I'm doing ^that^...

I’m doing ^that^…

Or maybe that should read, “I Should Be Committed.”

I’m going to put it out in the Blogosphere; I’m writing a book.

I think that after putting 19,201 words down (to date, which occurred in only two and a half short weeks), I mean it this time. I’ve started the process twice before, but never made it past a chapter or two at most.

I don’t know why, all of a sudden, I know that I can do this, but I do.

Maybe it’s because I see my friends’ work on Amazon and it motivates me. (I own a lot of published work written by them – check out the downloads on the Nook & Kindle apps on my tablet.)

Maybe it’s because my heroes in the Blogosphere are doing it and that motivates me, too. (I’ve got their work, too. One is actually a hardcover!)

Maybe it’s because I have had this story kicking around in my head for a while and it’s been begging me to let it out, already.

Maybe it’s because She Who Shall Not Be Named tells me continually that I should be writing SOMETHING for publication.

Maybe it’s because I have sent two of my best friends the first few thousand words and they loved it. (One is a published author and the other is an editor…MY editor, too, now.)

Maybe it’s simply because getting a novel out there has been on my bucket list since I was a kid.

I don’t care why or how it’s happening. All I know is that it’s happening and all I need to do is curl up with my laptop and let my mind go, and an hour later there are a boatload more words in the document.

I almost fell off my perch when I did the word count this evening.

I figure between the word count and posting that I’m writing will hold me absolutely accountable for this story.  I mean, who writes that many words and just lets it all fall by the wayside? Not this girl.

Granted, I’ve had some bumps in my road since I started, and then there was Christmas, and…well…RESEARCH, which I’ve had to stop and do as I go along (did you know you can actually find a video online depicting an emergency C-section?), I’m actually plugging along quite nicely.

In the coming weeks, I hope to introduce you to a prophetic dreamer, a skeptical detective, a woman so fixated on having a baby she’ll do just about anything, a couple of pregnant women, and a sneak peak into what I hope will be a page turning plot with a surprise ending that will blow the reader away.

I can tell you one thing for sure – getting in touch with my inner psycho-bitch has been ridiculously fun!

So now it’s out there and I’m committed. (Or should be committed; you be the judge.)

Until next time…

New Fiction Monday – Killer in Sight, Sandra Carrington-Smith

My girl, Sandra…

You know, one of the things that I love about having jumped into the blogosphere and Twitter-ville with both feet is that I have had the opportunity to meet other like minded writers, and have actually made some really amazing friends…

That said, however, I want to dedicate this particular blog to a “home grown,” if you will, author: Sandra Carrington-Smith.  She’s written The Book of Obeah and Housekeeping for the Soul, both of which I have read. and enjoyed thoroughly!

I met Sandra several years ago through a local news outlet’s blog site (which, amazingly enough, is also how I’ve met most of my Raleigh besties, LOL), and told her that when she was ready for a head shot for her books to let me know, and sure enough, we met in person a few years back for our first photo-shoot and we have been great friends ever since.

Now, Sandra’s just put out a new piece of fiction, Killer in Sight, which is, by the way, available at Amazon.Com for digital download…

Knowing that this was coming out, I had to ask Sandra some questions because I KNEW that I needed/wanted to feature her on my blog on a New Fiction Monday, so without further ado…May I introduce Sandra Carrington-Smith:

Sandra, how long have you been writing?

 I’ve been writing for fun my whole life, but I started writing professionally about six years ago when I penned The Book of Obeah, my first novel.

Have you always wanted to write?

I always liked to write, and language arts was my favorite subject in school, but I never thought I would, someday, REALLY write. I wrote a few poems when I was a teenager, which were published by an independent publisher in Italy, and I thought my writing career would end there. I remember wishing to be a journalist at times; other times I wanted to be a librarian; more or less, I always enjoyed the written word, no matter what side of the paper I was on.

What genre really inspires you?

I love mystery and all things spiritual, so anything paranormal, ghost-related, and/or mysterious, has a special place in my heart. I enjoy psychological thrillers that make me forget my house is on fire.

Do you remember some of the authors/book titles you read as a child?

Growing up in Italy, some of my favorite authors at the time were Italian writers. I liked to read anything by Oriana Fallaci, but I also loved translated works by Richard Bach. One book that had a tremendous effect on me was “The Archetypes and the Collective Subconscious” by  Carl Jung.

Does anyone in your life encourage you to write your heart out?

My family, especially my sister and my parents, are extremely encouraging. My husband and my children are also very supportive, as is my husband’s family. And of course my closest friends, because they know how much writing means to me.

What advice would you have for a newbie writer that wants to break into the world of fiction/non-fiction?

DON’T GIVE UP! I received hundreds of rejection letters when I got started — not because my writing was bad, but because I wasn’t presenting myself the right way. Opinions are subjective, so if you are determined to go down the path of traditional publishing and you get rejected, TRY AGAIN. If instead you prefer to get your work out there on your own, do your homework. There are many options for new writers these days, so there is no longer a reason for good books to remain in the back of a drawer.

To date, what is YOUR favorite story that you have written?

The Book of Obeah was my first story, so it holds a special place in my heart. However, like all skills, even writing improves with time and practice, so I have a good feeling for Killer in Sight.

Who/what gets your creative blood pumping?

Life. No, seriously. I have this weird passion about observing people and situations, and if I notice something interesting, my imagination immediately shifts and begins to produce mental films around it.

If you were’t writing, what would you be doing?

I would probably just be a mom, which is still my number one job.

Do you have pets, and if so, what kind?

I have three cats, Wizard, Lucy and Holly. I have been the proud parent of other animals before, such as squirrels, a snake, mice and birds, but cats are my favorite companions.

What do you do for fun (I.e. Hobbies, leisure time, etc.) (And yes, that is on the assumption you have leisure time…)

I love to read, cook, read Tarot cards and make worry dolls, which people assume are the same thing as voodoo dolls but are not. Voodoo dolls are customarily crafted to control others; worry dolls are little handmade dolls that hold worries for you in their large bags.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for?

At the risk of sounding trite, I would like to see all my three children happy and settled into what they love, someday. If they are happy, I am happy, so I can dedicate all my time to writing.

If someone were to begin to dictate your writing, how would you feel about that?

The only way I can write is to write freely. I can’t write about what other people want, or in the format they choose for me — it limits the creative flow and produces a flat story.

If you were told you could no longer write about the things that moved you, would you be able to adapt and move onto a different genre or would this force your hand to stop writing?

We can’t always expect life to adjust to us — everything changes, and writing preferences are no different. If I couldn’t write mysteries, I could try something different, although I doubt I could be as passionate about it.

How do you handle adversity when it comes to your writing?

Well, I guess every writers sees his/her creations as children, so hearing something negative can be painful; but, time and experience have taught me an important lesson: While you can’t make everyone happy, it is important to pay attention. Criticism can be constructive or destructive, and learning how to discern the two is vital.

How important are reviews to you, as a writer?

Reviews are life-giving blood for artistic creations of any type, so I love them. Of course, I am thrilled to receive positive reviews, but I also don’t mind to read the less-than-stellar ones, because any type of feedback helps me grow.

Have you ever written a bad review for anyone else? If so, why?

I have a real hard time doing that….knowing how hard artists work, I can’t find it in my heart to beat someone to death. If I can’t write a nice review, I’d rather not write one at all.

How important is editing to you? Do you ever edit your book before it goes to the editor?

In the business of writing, editing is not only important — it is vital. Poor quality and bad editing are two things that have always given self-published books a bad reputation. It doesn’t have to be that way. Edit your book within an inch of its life, and when you are done, pass it to other people and ask them to show no mercy. Extra eyes can see mistakes and typos you have become blind to.

What about book covers inspires you? How do you go about selecting yours?

The cover must reflect the core idea of the story. Color is also very important, because different hues trigger specific emotions. I have an amazing graphic artist, Sherrill Suitt-Craig, who is able to bring my stories to life with the most perfect images, so I don’t have much to worry about in that department.

How do you write? Are you able to listen to music to inspire you or does it have to be quiet?

I love silence, probably because it is a luxury in a house with three children. If the weather permits, I love to keep windows open and listen to random sounds outside, especially if a good storm is brewing.

Where do you choose to write? Do you have an office or do you surround yourself in places that pertain to your writing?

I made an office for myself in the dining room of my house, so that’s where I usually write. I write at night when everyone is in bed, so even if I am in one of the rooms that are most trafficked throughout the day, I don’t have to worry about being distracted.

If you were asked to appear on a talk show of your choice, which one would it be and why?

Unfortunately, my favorite talk show, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’, is no longer airing, so maybe ‘Good Morning America’ or ‘Jay Leno’?

Now…that being finished…from a human/friend perspective, I can only say that Sandra is so totally human, down-to-earth, and just so damned kind. She has encouraged me through some of the darkest days I have ever known, and how do you repay a friend like that?  I don’t think you can, so I just have to say:  I LOVE you, Sandra…I think you are all that AND a bag of baked chips. 🙂
Oh, and when you read this and you find that the photographer might remind you of…well, you know…me? That’s not a coincidence. 🙂