Contests, Flash Fiction, pictures, Signing Events

We can’t do it alone (women writers unite)

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As Women’s History Month is upon us I couldn’t help but think of all the women who’ve helped me through my writing career.

I’ll highlight some of them, but this by no means includes all of the powerful women that I’ve come across since I’ve joined the writing community.  They know who they are, even if I do carelessly forget to mention them, they will forever be a part of my life, and I’ll forever be grateful for you.

I’ll begin with ‘the dream team’ as we often call ourselves which includes Andrea BarbosaChantell Renee, and myself.  We’re all award winning authors, and have sometimes placed in the same contest thus giving us another opportunity to be together.  Throughout the years we’ve worked on anthologies together including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ that Chantell and I published together.

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Next of course would be Fern Brady who’s not only my publisher Inklings Publishing, sometime writing partner, but a dear friend.  Without her my debut romantic thriller Blood On The Potomac wouldn’t exist.  She helped shape me into the writer that has a fan page.

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Next is the amazingly talented Patricia Flaherty Pagan who founded Spider Road Press which has published work from all the before mentioned authors.  She’s a fantastic author in her own right, highly intelligent, and a highly dedicated mom.  Patty is not just a strong female writer, she’s a life goal achiever.

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Finally I’d like to highlight, Rebecca Nolan, an author I was a fan of before we worked together on my upcoming YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’.  She’s been an amazing mentor to me and has given me the drive to work harder than I ever have before.

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Thank you to all the female authors I know and love including Gay YellenPamela Fagan HutchinsCourtney Summers, and Taylor Stevens (only two of which I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting.

Women everywhere need to stand together-that’s the only way we’ll make it in the end-if we support each other.  Let’s work on making this world better for the women of the future.

Don’t miss a chance to read these amazing women’s work-simply click on their name to check out some stories that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

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20 Q’s with Judy Penz Sheluk

Most of the time I’m jaded, at the very least internally jaded (thank God for kitten videos).  I feel as if we life in a society in which we don’t look out for each other.  Women specifically.  Thankfully this woman proves me wrong.

Judy Penz Sheluk has a weekly blog on Monday’s in which she spotlights a new or emerging author’s release.  She also has ‘author talks’ in which our peers share their experiences in the hopes that we’ll learn from them.

If you’re looking for a mystery look no further than one of the many titles from Judy Penz Sheluk including ‘The Hanged Man’s Noose’ which made her an International Amazon Best Selling Author.

 

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And now Judy Pens Sheluk answers my 20 Questions…

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

There are two: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I read it when I was very young (about grade 4…resulted in me getting “accelerated to grade 6—thankfully schools don’t do that any longer) and thought…WOW, that’s how you paint a picture with words. Around the same time, I read the much-more age appropriate Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series). Emily was an aspiring journalist/writer in a time when women didn’t think of such things.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I’ve always written “in my head,” meaning as a kid I would walk to school and keep a story going in my head, and just keep adding to it every day. I thought everyone did that! Professionally, since 2003, which is when I left my day job as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator to become a freelance journalist. I started writing my first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose on Christmas Eve 2011, but I’d had a hundred or more magazine articles and a handful of short stories published by then.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

John Sandford, the absolute king of pacing. Stephen King, because, well…he’s Stephen King! Sue Grafton: I love her Kinsey Millhone series and have read every novel, A to X, plus her collection of short stories. Tana French, an Irish mystery writer who is just brilliant. I thought about inviting Truman Capote, but he’d get all sulky if it wasn’t all about him, and it couldn’t be, could it? Not with that cast of writers.

 

  1. What would you eat?

Pizza. My favorite food. It’s good for breakfast (cold), lunch or dinner. And everyone can get whatever toppings they’d want. I’d go straight cheese, no toppings.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Plot out? What’s that? Seriously…I’m a complete panster. I come up with a basic premise, and then “what if” my way to the end.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Mornings are best, but I do jot down notes on paper in the evening or whenever the ideas come to me (I even have an LED pen that lights up so I don’t have to turn the bedside lamp on…). But, I still have a couple of editing day jobs, so sometimes the deadlines for those take precedence over my writing preferred time. But I do try to write every day.

  1. Is there music on?

If I’m writing the answers to this, yes. Either Country or Classic Rock or 80’s/90’s type “oldies” depending on my mood. But if I’m writing fiction, it has to be talk radio. Maybe it’s a holdover from when I worked in a noisy office and snuck writing time in whenever I could without getting caught!

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I was in my lawyer’s office with my husband. We were there to update our wills, and he’d been delayed in court. I thought…what if I was hear to inherit …what if there were conditions to that inheritance…what if…and Skeletons was born.

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Need any more titles???? I have lots of book envy!

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

TV

American Crime, a network series, is very clever, though I preferred Season 1 to Season 2.

Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul. What can I say? Vince Gilligan. Can I invite him for pizza too? Please?

The Gilmore Girls. I’ve seen every episode a dozen times. Love Lauren Graham.

Parenthood. Never got the recognition it deserved. Did I mention that I love Lauren Graham? But the entire ensemble cast was terrific, and the writing was beautifully layered.

Movies

Too many to mention, though I recently saw Brooklyn and really enjoyed it. My all-time favorite is Primal Fear. Brilliant.

Albums

Anything by Blue Rodeo or Jim Cuddy. Listen to the words to Bulletproof. Listen to Cuddy (who is also the lead singer in Blue Rodeo) and tell me you didn’t shed a tear.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Whatever actor Hollywood says would be a good fit works for me! But when I think of Callie Barnstable from Skeletons, I think of someone like Jennifer Lawrence. Strong, but with a mix of naïve and jaded. Alexis Bledel would make a great Emily Garland (from The Hanged Man’s Noose).

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I find short stories incredibly difficult to write. You’d think they’d be easier than a novel, but not for me. I started “Saturday with Bronwyn,” which is in The Whole She-Bang-3 (Sisters in Crime Toronto, Nov. 2016), about five years ago. After many stops and starts, I finally got it to gel. The fact that She-Bang was blind judged gave me hope…maybe some of my other stops and starts have a chance, too.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

Another short story, “Live Free or Die.” It was “inspired” by an event (or should I say a man) that happened to me when I was 21. When I finally sat down to write that story, the words just flowed.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’m hoping they get all of my stories…I actually don’t hear from a lot of readers. But Skeletons in the Attic seems to really resonate with folks. That said, some wish the ending were “tidier.” I deliberately left loose ends, not because I wanted to leave them for a sequel, but because life has loose ends.

 

  1. What are you working on now?

The sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose. The sequel to Skeletons in the Attic. A short story…I’m usually working on more than one thing at a time. That way, if I get distracted or bored, I have another project to go to. It beats color-separating my paper clips or other diversionary tactics.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

My mom died recently, and in her belongings were her and my father’s immigration papers from Nottingham, England to Canada. They came separately, arrived at different ports (Halifax and Quebec City), and married in Toronto. I want to write their love story. I’m not a romance writer, but I feel that Anneliese and Anton have a story to tell. I wish my mom had told me more…my dad died of cancer when I was quite young…but maybe it’s better this way.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I met a couple of women at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh. They had met Louise Penny when she was starting out. They told me they thought I’d be the next Louise Penny. A girl can dream…

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Authenticity matters. (Arabella Carpenter, The Hanged Man’s Noose)

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Every character has elements of people I have known and/or observed, but there are always detours along the way. I’m a people-watcher…if you have a habit of pulling your earlobe when you’re nervous, that might get folded into a story one day. If you take the meringue off your lemon meringue pie and eat it last, that might make it in. I’m always looking for believable quirks.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Arabella Carpenter. She’s the sidekick in Noose, and has a small role in Skeletons. She’s the protagonist in the sequel to Noose that I’m working on now. She’s feisty, flawed, passionate, and loves cognac, chardonnay and cookies. She’s probably the most like me of any of my characters. But I also really like Callie Barnstable in Skeletons. Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on her blog http://www.judypenzsheluk.com and purchase her work from all the usual suspects, including Amazon: http://getbook.at/SkeletonsintheAttic. You can also find Judy on Facebook (https/www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk) and Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk).

 

 

 

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An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

 

 

 

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20 Questions with Jessica Raney

I know a lot authors, but Jessica Raney was the first in which I was the published her work.  So keep in mind no matter how many rejections one might get, there will be someone who appreciates your work, and wants to give you the ability to share your voice.  It was my pleasure to be that springboard for Jessica.

 In the anthology ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ compiled by myself and Chantell Renee we were excited in include Jessica’s pieces (including my favorite The Middle Part which although horrifying is perfect for Valentines Day).

She’s accomplished in her own right long before she met me, including BFE Podcast in which she, along with two friends, interview interesting people (including myself and Chantell during The Amazing Comic Con which you can listen to here.)

Jessica reading a section of her piece Cold Comfort from ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

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And now for Twenty Questions With… Jessica Raney

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Hmm…well I feel like I’ve been writing and reading forever so it’s difficult to decide which book, but I probably have to go with “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. I read it when I was in 4th grade, which is waaaay too young for that, but I was highly unsupervised as a child. The good news is it’s a pretty tame book. The bad news is it led me to read a follow-up book that I found in my mom’s closet that promised, “In the spirit of GWTW,” called “Sweet Savage Love” by Rosemary Rodgers. It was not so tame and yeah…that made me want to be a writer too. In addition, to find sweet, savage love with a scoundrel on a cattle drive across the American Frontier.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

Really young. Probably 7 or 8. I wrote a short story called “King Bong and Rose” which is a delightful tale about a crappy king who taxes the hell out of his people until a girl named Rose uses magic to threaten him with harm unless he adopts a more sensible economic strategy. I also wrote a play called “The Passing of a Pork Rind King” about a dude who builds a pork rind empire and is murdered in a washing machine. Go figure.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Neil Gaimen, Chuck Palahniuk, Margaret Atwood, and Beverly Cleary

 

  1. What would you eat?

Whatever Beverly Cleary wanted.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Notebooks, diagrams, list upon lists upon lists. Then I toss them all and just write. I wish I were more organized about it but, meh.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Usually in the evening, but sometime all day if I have the time. One of my favorite tricks is to set a timer, write for 20 minutes, and then go do something like clean for 20 minutes. I get a good groove on and words just seem to flow better. Also, things get cleaned, like WHOAH.

 

  1. Is there music on?

Nope. I prefer silence.

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I think the last one I wrote was “Moonlight Serenade.” I was on a trip to New Orleans and I saw a for rent sign in the French Quarter. It advertised that the apartment was haunted so the story is an answer to the question, who wants a haunted apartment?

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (A master of character and dialogue), Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (one of the most unique and brilliant spec fic books I’ve ever read), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (No reason needed)

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

Game of Thrones is amazingly well written and produced. Anyone who can trim GRR Martin down into manageable TV is a great writer. Parks and Recreation was one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time. For movies, I think Stardust is amazing. It’s so good it makes me forget I always want to punch Claire Danes. For albums, I would say Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Breakups and cocaine apparently make for genius songwriting.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Most of my projects are short stories, but I am working on a zombie apocalypse novel. I don’t know whom I see as the main character, hopefully whoever replaces Jennifer Lawrence as badass/hottie/sensitive girl, but for the villain, I see Helen Mirren because I think Dame Helen Mirren with a machete would be quite something to behold.

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I have a short story called “To Stray From the Path” that is a take on a fairy tale that was hard to write. The first draft veered pretty far away from what I intended because I was caught up in sensory descriptions. As a result, I lost the point of the story. I fixed it but it was tough. Revising anything is always a pain.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

“The Middle Part” just sort of plurpted out. I knew exactly what to write and how to mess up the order of events. I did have revision help from my loyal beta readers so that helped but I pretty much got it right the first time.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’ve had people tell me that “Cold Comfort” freaked them out and they were wigged when their cat jumped in bed with them, so I would call that one a success.

  1. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a vampire comedy about the least suave and debonair vampire of all time. I hope that by this time I also have a short story collection about various horrific love stories complete.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

I’m going to finish an epic vampire series before I die. And if I don’t, I’m going need a vampire to bite me and give me immortality so I can finish it. I hope that it’s a cool vampire. Not that gross Nosforatu dude or that sparkly douche from Twilight. Like Eric Northman or Pam. Yeah…Pam.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

Do I have fans? I don’t know about that but I can tell you that the first book you ever sign for someone is a trip.

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

“You’re never going to finish that puzzle. Fat Larry ate the llama’s nose piece.”

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off real people?

Absolutely. However, I can’t go into details because I’m afraid they’ll want money.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Of mine? Hmm…probably the ghost in “Moonlight Serenade.” I admire tenacity and fabulous style.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on their blog Jessica Raney’s Blog and purchase her work ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ from Amazon..

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20 Q’s with…Russell Little

I strongly believe that in order to be a truly superb storyteller one must live a full life.  Russell Little is one such author.  One feels at ease in his presence, but the fact that he takes his experiences throughout his life and fuses it into his writing makes him a rare gem.

An affair gone wrong is not an uncommon theme, but Russell Little takes you on a ride that has more twists then someone lost in downtown Houston.  His characters, especially Marylin, are infamous, and unforgettable.

Start the new year with ‘Murder for Me’ by Russell Little which will pump some adrenaline into 2017.  If my words aren’t enough then read his answers to my 20 Questions which will give you insight into the mind of a vivid author.

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20 Questions with Russell Little

Question 1:  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer. What’s yours?

Answer:    The first book that influenced me and made me want to write was Little Pony – I read this book for the first time in the second grade. The book was filled with pictures of black and white ponies. I liked the book, and all the pictures, so much that I began to draw my own ponies, and then I wrote a pony story.

That was when I first felt a desire to write. I had a lot of reading and writing disabilities, but they did not stop my desire to write.

At the beginning of each school year, the teacher sat with each student to read. Since my abilities decreased over the summer while not in school, I was always placed in the lowest group. By the end of the year I would work my way up and be moved from the lowest group to the first.

I didn’t like the look on the faces of the kids who did not move up, who stayed in the lower groups. It was a horrible way to separate children.

In the 7th grade I wrote another story on horses. The teacher stopped the class to read my story. Very exciting. That was the beginning of my journey to become a published author.

Question 2:  How old where you when you started writing?

Answer:    I was in the second grade when I started writing. I was also in the second grade when I began to speak and be understood. I spoke before that and only my mother and first grade teacher understood what I was saying.

Question 3:  Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Answer:    Franz Kofka – The Metamorphosis

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World – His vision of future may be more accurate than some of the others.

Leo Tolstoy – The younger Tolstoy when he wrote as a young writer.

Chekov – He later became mean and demented.

Question 4:  What would you eat?

Answer:    Chicken Parfait on raisin toast with champagne

Question 5:  How do you plot out your work?

Answer:    Once I get a story in my head I graph it out and outline, then outline by chapters, then re-graph with characters. It is a long arduous task, but that is the way I begin each new book.

Question 6:  Do you write in the morning or evening?

Answer:    In the evening. I practice divorce law all day.

Question 7:  Is there music on?

Answer:    Yes. I love to work while listening to Italian opera; sometimes Russian opera, and sometimes classic Indian music.

Question 8:  What inspired your last story?

Answer:    I am currently working on The Artist, a serial book about a serial murderer who is being chased by OC Sims, the detective from Murder for Me. I was inspired because I wanted to write a chapter from the viewpoint of a woman serial murderer one Sunday afternoon when I was bored. The serial novel is coming out over the next two years. That will teach me to be bored.

Question 9:  Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Answer:    Every Man – Philip Roth

Ana Karenina – Tolstoy (second half) made you see and feel what the characters see and feel.

Sun Also Rises – first half. The first part of the book talks about their Paris café life.

Question 10:  What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

Answer:    Modern family because it makes me laugh. When I watch television I am looking to laugh.

I also love Sherlock BBC series – well written

Question 11:  Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Answer:    I am not going to talk about protagonist or antagonist, but in my book, Murder for Me, Leonardo de Caprio would be great for one of the characters in the book. When I saw him in the movie Departed, I knew he could play two characters at once.

Question 12:  Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

Answer:    All of my pieces are hard to write. I have to write them so many times to get it right. Writing is a burden I choose to inflict upon myself. Its hard, but I don’t do it because it’s easy.

Question 13:  Which was the easiest?

Answer:    I write nothing easy. I have to graph and rewrite because nothing I write is easy. I wouldn’t do it if it was easy. I would go on to something else.

Question 14:  Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Answer:    In Murder for Me, I have a character named Marilyn. I have had a few readers send me emails or talk to me about what they thought about Marilyn and who they thought she was. I find it humbling that readers put so much thought into one character in my book.

Question 15:  What are you working on now?

Answer:    Killing Thoughts – It is the sequel to Murder for Me. It begins about 6 months after the end of Murder for Me. Some of the characters that survived are back. Killing Thoughts is different from Murder for Me because it is written in a wider universe with many new characters. It begins in Tel Aviv and Paris. I am very excited because I get to include places around the world that I have traveled.

Question 16:  What story do you have to write before you die?

Answer:    I don’t have a story that I have to write before I die. Writing stories is a lifestyle that I will do until I die.

Question 17:  What’s your best fan story?

Answer:    My favorite is my most recent fan story. I was traveling to Philadelphia and got stuck in an airport for 4 hours. They allowed a few passengers to leave the plane because we refused to stay on it. I stayed in a bar where I met a group of Pop artist and started a conversation with them. They left with a copy of Marilyn and we have a picture of them with Marilyn. That is a good fan story.

Question 18:  What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Answer:    “Just because I’m not real, what makes you think I am not going to kill you.”

Question 19:  Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Answer:    I base a lot of my characters on blending groups of real people. I base important characters on unique individuals that have inspired me to write about those characters.

Question 20:  Who’s your favorite character?

Answer:    My favorite character is Marilyn. She is my favorite because she is the one I hear most about from my readers. My readers have the most diverse opinions about Marilyn. She has provoked the most emotion out of my readers and become very visible in the book promotions.

You can find out more about the author on his blog Russell Little’s Author Blog and purchase his work from here-don’t forget to leave an honest review after you’re done.

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20 Q’s with D. Marie Prokop

I do know a lot of authors, but this girl is one of my favorites.  I not only love her work, but like me she plays the guitar (although she is much more proficient and plays a myriad of instruments (and writes her own music)) and knits.

Basically I couldn’t wait for her to answer my 20 Questions.  You’ve seen pictures of her before on my blog not only because we’ve been to many of the same writing events supporting our peers, but we shared a booth at Amazing Comic Con.

She’s an amazing mother, writer, musician, friend, and has some great hair that I’ve had the pleasure of coloring before.  I hope that you enjoy her answers to my 20 Questions, check out her blog, and purchase one of her titles on Amazon including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ in which two of her pieces are included.

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Twenty Questions With…D. Marie Prokop

1.  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Um…mine? Seriously, I’ve read a lot of books. While I’ve loved many of them, none of them made me want to write a book. The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped me discover my love for writing. The experience of writing my first story, The Red String, during NaNoWriMo in 2011, made me want to be a writer. I’m hooked now.

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I kept a journal for years, and I started writing poems and songs in college. I jumped in headfirst and wrote my first novel in my late thirties. Now I’ve added short stories and flash fiction.

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Just four??? Okay, how about just women? Agatha Christie, Madeleine L’Engle, J. K. Rowling, and Pearl S. Buck

  1. What would you eat?

Eat? Yeah, right! I wouldn’t waste a minute talking with these authors. But if you would like to know my favorite foods, I’ll tell you. I have a weakness for Asian food (especially Korean and Indian), bubble tea, French fries, and cake.

Mmm…now I want cake.

  1. How do you plot out your work?

I write my ideas, sometimes attempting to put them in order, and then all heck breaks loose. I have a lot of epiphanies, which include such profundities as, “Crap, these two characters’ names rhyme!” I do write outlines, but they’re fluid. My inspiration and research documents are more important. As a story progresses, I revise my plot outlines and keep a record of character traits. At the very least, my outlines become reference guides.

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Morning and afternoon. I save evenings and weekends for my real life.

  1. Is there music on?

No. I can write with music on, but it’s super distracting. Besides, I talk to myself. And I read aloud a lot. It’s pretty noisy with just me!

8. What inspired your last story?

I like challenges and goals. I found a YA short-story contest seeking fantasy stories—real fantasy, like with elves and dwarves—which I hadn’t tried yet, so I did. I created a story called The Spell Dragon. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” kind of morality tale. All I really intended to do was successfully write a fantasy story with magic, dwarves, and a dragon.

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Harry Potter Series, A Christmas Carol, and A Wrinkle In Time

I’ve read them more than twice.

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

This could take a while… I’ll limit it to four each.

Television: Avatar—The Last Airbender, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who

Movies: Slingblade, Sixth Sense, Life Is Beautiful, The Princess Bride.

Albums: (This is the hardest one to keep short! I listen to a variety of music, and lyrical depth is very important to me as a songwriter and as a listener. Tastes and needs change, but these four albums will always remain in my top twenty.)

Over The Rhine- Meet Me At The Edge Of The World, Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell, The Essential Indigo Girls, Matisyahu- Light

I feature a different musical artist every Friday on my blog, Days of the Guardian. You can check out my eclectic taste there. If you want to hear my original music (and ukelele cover tunes), search for Diane Prokop on You Tube and Reverbnation.

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Hmmm…someone short? (Emerald is a teenaged dwarf.) How about Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things? She can wear a wig with yellow braids and eagle feathers.

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

It depends on your definition of “hard.” What’s hard for me are the choices.

For example, the last book of my Days of the Guardian Trilogy, The Red Knot, was the most difficult writing experience because ending a series presents many hard choices, even if you thought you already knew how it would end. It’s like going to buy groceries at the store. I’m from Pennsylvania and I always buy Heinz ketchup, but now there’s organic and spicy and original and whatever. Writing is an adventure of choices…like shopping for ketchup.

  1. Which was the easiest?

The beginning of writing Tigress, my new superhero short story, was like shopping for ketchup at a convenience store: there was only one bottle on the shelf. It was an easy write. Then I had an epiphany and the story presented me with harder choices. I went big-box-store-ketchup-shopping for the second half of the story.

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Folks who’ve read On The Outward Appearance seem to vibe with the main character and embrace the theme. Anne is snarky and confronted by her own cynicism. It’s a bit hard to watch. I’m always surprised when people say they enjoyed it. Compassion and acceptance are the themes. Everyone wants those, right?

  1. What are you working on now?

This. These 20 questions are kicking my butt!

When I’m not filtering lists of best albums for Mel’s blog as if the world depended on it, I’m working on a co-writing project with my older brother, who’s slightly autistic. He’s the brains and I’m the heart. It’s an epic sci-fi space adventure which may take years.

I found two fabulous critique groups to commiserate with. And I’m writing more short stories and flash pieces and submitting them to sharpen my skills and learn how to handle rejection. After a recent hurtful experience with an editor, I needed to set aside a story I loved, a socially introspective novella all my beta-readers enjoyed. But one bad experience can overshadow all the good and it was tainted.

I have a goal to publish one novel each year. I have until December 31, 2017, so I hope I can resume working on the beloved novella soon. I guess you could say that the biggest thing I’m working on now is healing.

On a side note, I’m also planning to record an album of original songs inspired by poetry and art so I can mesh my worlds together.

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

What an existential question! Which amazing story do I have to finish in order for my life to have meaning? Well, here’s the thing: I wrote a book. Then I wrote five more. I started them and I finished them. And I shared them with the world. I’m not still thinking about it or dreaming about it; I did it. It was fun and difficult, illuminating and painful. They’re me. So I suppose I could die happy right now. I’m kinda surprised I’m still alive anyway. I guess I’ll just keep writing!

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I have a cool fan story, but it’s about a music fan. I don’t have a stranger/cooler/funnier author fan story yet.

One night I played a set of original songs on the electric guitar at an intimate coffeehouse show in a church, sporting a brand new shoulder tattoo. I confess; I rocked out. The first person/fan to approach me and rave over my performance was an 85-year-old grandmother. (Not mine.) She was awesome. Best fan ever.

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

 

I’m going to share a poem from my first book, The Red String. This is me.

The days are dark, the ocean surrounds

My fate is unseen, my fate is not ground

For God orders all, I am just a mist

Hovering still, waiting for bliss

The dark hides me well, my heart longs for light

I live by this creed- it is all for the bright!

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Not completely. I may pull some characteristics from real life folks, but I don’t use everything. A character in my story, Going Home, (from the anthology Hair Raising Tales of Horror), Pop, shares some characteristics with my dad. Both are former boxing champions, widowers, smokers, live in small-town Pa., and are quiet until they’re pushed too far. But Pops is a farmer with a yappy dog and a dark, mysterious side and my dad is a retired engineer, a gentle soul who spends his evenings studying the Bible in his armchair. I probably shouldn’t tell him he inspired a character in a horror story! But since people seem to find Pop intriguing, maybe he’ll forgive me.

*There’s been one exception to my rule! But I asked permission to use this real life person in a story and I was prepared to change things about the character if necessary.

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

From my books—

The Guardian (Days of the Guardian) I can’t say why without spoiling the story! But this character was the most rewarding (and challenging) to write.

From another author—

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

She’s deep and overcomes, but not without lots of introspection and honest pain. I admire this character’s personal integrity and spiritual grit.

Samwise Gamgee (J.R.R. Tolkein)

He’s the unsung hero of Lord of the Rings. His commendable character traits and sincerity make Sam a great fictional person to emulate in real life.

D. Marie Prokop enjoys writing and reading stories with riveting adventures, spiritual insights, and enlightening cultural or social critiques. Her favorite authors include Madeline L’Engle, Pearl S. Buck, and C. S. Lewis.
The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped D. Marie discover her love for writing fiction. A member of WriteSpace Houston and the Houston Writer’s Guild, D. Marie gains both education and comradery from her local writing community. She’s written and published YA science fiction/adventure, YA fantasy, and middle-grade fiction.
Marie is also a singer-songwriter and avid fiber artist/knitter. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the former Yankee now resides in Houston, Texas, along with her loving family, their feisty cats, a beloved ukulele, and much, much yarn.

You can find out more about the author

My Author Page on Amazon-
My Goodreads Author Dashboard- 
My Blog Address-
My Author Email-
My Twitter Address-
 My Days of the Guardian Book Trailer-
Everything That Counts, novel, pictures

A treat from ‘The Bakery Assistant’

A few days ago a friend came into the salon (I’m a hairstylist in ‘real’ life) and we were both discussing our works in progress.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the latest undertaking ‘Wintergull Lane‘ which I’ve been pecking away at for NaNoWritMo (you can check out my progress here).  But she reminded me of another piece which I call my albatross.  ‘The Bakery Assistant’ is the story of the tragically broken Claire Fischer who is doomed to be a perpetual teenager until she meets someone that shows her that living life is worth it.  That’s the elevator pitch, but in actuality I’m projecting there to be a book two, ‘The Fighter’, which will conclude Claire Fischer’s story as far as I can tell…

Either way now that I’m doing the finishing touches for ‘Everything That Counts’ (take a peek at the novel here) so ‘The Bakery Assistant‘ will be on deck.  Until then here’s a morsel from chapter two of

 

        After I pulled the fresh loaves and rolls from the ovens, and passed them off to the day shift, we trekked three blocks to a corner diner that had been a destination appreciated by locals who loved ‘kitsch’. The waitress set a glossy menu in front of me, and Aaron. The booth only had room for two, but apparently not for two people that each hovered around six feet tall. As we situated ourselves like acrobats in the booth his knee hit mine.

“Sorry,” Aaron mumbled.

“It’s okay.”

His lone dimple winked at me. “Are you blushing?”

“No!”

He chuckled. “Well if you weren’t before then you are now.”

I concentrated on the paisley pattern on the bench Aaron sat on in the hopes it would cause the blood to evacuate from my cheeks.

“I’m starving,” he flipped open the picture laden menu.

“I thought it was just coffee.”

“You don’t mind do you? I’ll pay for you if you want.”

I shook my head and pressed my hands into my lap. “I’d prefer to pay for myself.”

“Okay.” His curly black hair, strong Roman God-like features including a jaw carved from marble, and delicious looking lips hid behind the menu again. I tilted my head down, reading the options, but continued to hold my posture as if I were attending a luncheon for beauty queens.   Before I could get past the first page of artery clogging items, Aaron sighed, and set his menu back down. “So what do I have to do to take you out on a real date, Claire?”

Apparently I didn’t need to eat anything before my heart stopped pumping blood.

“I’m serious.” He leaned back into the booth upholstered in retro paisley fabrics. The dozen booths were either bright orange, or avocado green, and each had a jukebox that you could feed and hear your song of choice. He’d picked ‘I Fall to Pieces’ the second we sat down, but it had only begun to play now. It made me wonder how long he’d planned this dinner.

“Should I get formal stationery, and mail you my official wish to take you on a date?” He took off his flannel lined, corduroy jacket, squeezed it between him and the rust colored wall the booth bench was anchored to. Then he folded his hands together underneath his chin.

Instead of answering I stared at the edge of a rosebush tattooed from mid-forearm to above the elbow. I couldn’t see his shoulder through his t-shirt, but I assumed it was decorated in the same pattern of permanent ink. Each red petal was outlined in black, while each individual rose was the size of the coffee cup in front of me that the waitress filled before she hurried to the next table. I knew there had to be a story behind the blossoming flowers bound together with dark green vines and thorns that adorned his perfectly tanned olive skin, but it didn’t feel right to ask. He dressed like a hipster with dark jeans, a gray shirt with the word ‘RIOT’ printed in bold black along his chest. A knit beanie that matched the ebony color of his hair so perfectly it was hard to tell where the material began and his curls ended.

Aaron tilted his head to the side. “Maybe you could give me your father’s number and I can ask him?”

“That would be difficult.” I hadn’t realized I’d spoken until the words had already escaped my mouth.

He leaned forward, and furrowed his brow. “Why?”

I don’t know why I told him the truth, considering only Edie and Mario knew exactly what happened. For the remainder of the meal it was as if I watched us interact from above, or in a movie. But there wasn’t an actress willing to play the most boring woman in D.C., and Dylan O’Brien refused to take the part of her love interest because he was too homely to impersonate Aaron. Thankfully I didn’t go into explicit detail during my out of body experience when I confessed.

“My father’s dead.”

 

From ‘The Bakery Assistant’ by Melissa Algood 

Flash Fiction, pictures, Uncategorized

‘All the Men I loved’ a poem

I spoke with an author who told me that he’s falling in love.  It instantly made me think (and say aloud) “Oh it will be wonderful when you die, and years from now, when someone reads your poems to her, your love will live on in your words.”

Hopefully that reads less awkward then it sounded.

Either way the end result was this poem, a genre I haven’t written in since high school when I pledged to write a poem everyday.  The ten journals full of prose will be the handprint I leave for the future to enjoy, and long after I’m gone the love stories I lived will become immortal.


All the Men I loved

All the Men I loved

           Were lucky




            Not just because they had me

Nor that they could touch the edges of the flame inside of me

            But because I loved them through prose




            Each of them differed

Like leaves on a tree

            Changing in color from

            Green, yellow, orange, a hint of blue

            But it started the color of coal




            With the first I was uneasy  stilted

Stuttered

            Sha

ken

            In

            My

                        Words

            So I forgive him

            How was he to understand that I’d take his pain?

            And make it my own if I could

            When I couldn’t find the words myself?




            But the rest of them didn’t get me

Not really

            Never truly understood the passion in my belly

            Or how it would continue to bubble

            Until my fingers began their work

            That whether it was ink to paper

            Or typing on a screen

            It was really my blood on the page




            All the Men I loved

Live on in my work

            As does our story

            Those tatterd and worn sheets

Torn out of my notebook

            Which I handed them in-between classes

            Ended up

            Shoved in the bottom of their backpack

            Forgetten




            They took my words for granted

Didn’t bother to deeply understand

            The way I let words tell me

            Where

            To

            Put

            Them







            All the Men I loved

Never knew how fervently I loved them

            How I could see through their skin

            Past their smiles which were brighter than the sun

            Deep into the color of their eyes

            Blue like the sea, green like 
            freshly cut grass, darker than the night sky

            Even alternating, with no reason, like 
            a broken mood ring.




            All the Men I loved

Were never carried away by my words

            Never wrapped in the warmth of my tone




            All the Men I loved

Left my poems in a crumpled mess

            Torn and mismatched like they left my heart




All the Men I loved

            Never really loved me


		
20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with Jennifer Leeper

     Many authors surround me; although each of us does have different personalities (I mean we do hear voices but we’re completely normal people-swear it). I’m often surprised by how close we become after only meeting in person for a brief time.
     Jennifer Leeper is one of those authors. Both of us were privileged enough to be awarded for our pieces by Spider Road Press for their 2016 Flash Fiction Contest
     Our pieces might have been different, but I could see the glow coming through her as she spoke to me at the ceremony. It’s always amazing to see passion in another author’s eyes, the only thing better is seeing that look in a reader’s eyes.
     Her novella, along with my flash fiction piece ‘Thomas’, will be released in mid November in the collection Approaching Footsteps from Spider Road Press. The collection will also feature pieces by other award winning authors like Andrea Barbosa and Holly Walrath be sure to check out the latest from http://spiderroadpress.com

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20 Questions With…Jennifer Leeper

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?Wow, that’s a hard question to answer because I admire so many writers and so many authors have influenced my writing career, but I’ll narrow it down to Jack London for this interview. London was a constant seeker in his life and his art and I think this perpetual curiosity really shaped his writing. As an outdoor adventure junkie, I relate to him as a person, but as a writer still struggling to find my place in the literary universe, he is a strong touchstone for me.
  2. How old where you when you started writing? I started writing poetry around the age of 11 or 12. Fiction writing came later in high school.
  3. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Tony Hillerman, and, of course, Jack London.
  4. What would you eat? In honor of Hemingway, we would drink Mojitos. For London, I would request Hawaiian Salad. Hemingway was a big fisherman, so maybe some trout to go with the salad and for Lewis, a Chocolate Water Cake.
  5. How do you plot out your work? Very roughly in my head and then I flesh it out on the page.
  6. Do you write in the morning or evening? I’m definitely a night owl so after dark seems to be my most productive time.
  7. Is there music on? No music, but definitely television. It’s my go-to source for white noise.
  8. What inspired your last story? A lot of my stories are born in my imagination and my last one was no different, but typically some experience subconsciously originates these stories, and much of the time I can see these experiences threaded through my pieces once they are finished. I adopted my son, and my last short story focused on adoption and my protagonist finding his “whole self” by finding his biological brother.
  9. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. Elmer Gantry, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and East of Eden
  10. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? TV shows: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, Felicity, Justified Movies: The Godfather, The Best Years of Our Lives, Dances with Wolves, The Revenant, The Deer Hunter, It Happened One Night; Taxi Driver Albums: Keane: Under the Iron Sea; Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison; Kris Kristofferson: The Silver-Tongued Devil and I
  11. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? Graham Greene
  12. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? It’s always the one I’m currently writing. 😉
  13. Which was the easiest? The last one I finished. As a writer, it seems like everything looks easier in the rear view.
  14. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? It’s funny because for me this is kind of a trick question as my readers always seems to have a different take on my works than I do. I’m still hoping for that “get” from a reader. 😉
  15. What are you working on now? I’m developing a crime/mystery novel that takes place on and off a Tohono O’odham reservation in southern Arizona.
  16. What story do you have to write before you die? I know a lot of writers shy away from writing about friends and family for fear of controversy, but I’ve always written about the foreign and exotic as it relates to my life, so for once I’d love to write about what and who I know intimately.
  17. What’s your best fan story? Probably my first longer work of fiction, Padre: The Narrowing Path. It seems to be the piece that engages fans the most.
  18. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? This is more than one sentence, but for me as a writer, it’s one fluid thought that happens to be separated by punctuation, so here goes: He shook his head as he walked back toward the cave entrance. Maybe he wouldn’t let anyone else touch the body. It wouldn’t be right. He had killed the boy. He was a beat-up, old sicario, but he would move the body and bury the young man as he had always handled his bodies himself. (From The Reiger File)
  19. Have you ever based characters off of real people? Probably all of my characters are shaded with a degree of reality of the family and friends in my life, but in particular, I based a minor character in Padre: The Narrowing Path on a Catholic priest I know.
  20. Who’s your favorite character? That’s It’s like choosing a favorite among your children or pets. I’m really enjoying writing and getting to know Frank Acuna, the reservation detective’s character in The Poison of War, my in-progress project.

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You can find out more about the author on their website at  __Jennifer Leeper’s website on Twitter  purchase her work from Amazon, Barking Rain Press and coming on 11/18 to Spider Road Press.

pictures, short stories, Signing Events

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ release party

In early August 2016 my dear friend Chantell Renee, a fellow hairstylist and award winning writer, decided to create an anthology of short stories that were truly terrifying.  That day over tacos at Torchy’s in the Heights we planned to have the collection ready in time for Halloween.  Considering I’d just taken a position at a new salon, Chantell was opening her own place to cut hair, and I would be out of town the first two weeks of September…we kicked some ass by getting this collection out.

We asked out friends who also write horror if they’d be interested in joining us.  Thankfully 5 authors agreed.  Even better their stories were amazing.  We held a party at the Wilde Collection in the Heights, which is an amazing venue, and friends gathered with us to celebrate our joint accomplishment.

All seven authors read a selection from their included work.  Chantell was having trouble reading hers, she says that’s what happens when you’re over 40, so I took over for her.

You can see the video of me reading my award winning piece ‘Hair Dying’ on my Facebook author page.

There were lots of dead things to take pictures with, including Jack Skellington.

I’d like to take this time to thank all the contributors, readers, friends, and of course Chantell Renee because without all of you this collection of 21 horrifying short stories from 7 local authors wouldn’t be available for purchase on Amazon or on my Amazon Author page.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy to ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ and leave an honest review once you’re done!

 

20 Questions With..., pictures, Signing Events, Uncategorized

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

It’s definitely something you don’t want to read in the dark.

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ is an anthology of 21 tales from 7 authors compiled by myself and Chantell Renee.  It includes newcomers like Jessica Raney (who interviewed Chantell and I for her BFE Podcast), multiple title authors D. Marie Prokop, and repeat horror writers like David Welling and Patricia Flaherty Pagan.
You’ll also see never before published stories from me including ‘The Girls’, ‘Birthday Cake’, and the hilariously horrifying ‘Even Aliens Watch Reality T.V.’.  Fan favorite ‘The Silencer’ along with others are included.  Each will be sure to leave you with nightmares.
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We’ll have a small gathering at  The Wilde Collection in the Heights on Thursday October 31 from 7:30-9 pm.  The contributors will read and sign the anthology.  There will be snacks and BYOB.

 halloweenfest2016

Chantell and I will also be at the Houston Zombie Walk on October 29 which is a free outdoor event which raises money for students scholarships.  We’ll be in costume and would love for you to join us.

We look forward to seeing you there!