Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Interview with Author Clea Simon- her new book is out today!

Hello again- today we have an interview with author Clea Simon, who has a new book out- to join her many others. 

Here's the description of Hold Me Down (out TODAY!):

In this riveting work of dark suspense from acclaimed author Clea Simon, Gal, a middle-aged musician, is back in Boston to play a memorial for her late drummer/best friend, when she finds herself freezing on stage at the sight of a face in the crowd. The next day, she learns that the man she saw has been killed – beaten to death behind the venue – and her friend's widower is being charged in connection with his death. When the friend refuses to defend himself, Gal wonders why and, as the memories of begin to flood back, she starts her own informal investigation. As she does so, she must reexamine her own wild life, her perception of the past, and an industry that monetizes dysfunction in a dark tale of love, music, and murder.


Clea, a former journalist and rock music critic, is the author of three nonfiction books and 28 mysteries. A native of New York, she lives in Somerville, MA. 


Let's find out more about her work.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. To be honest, I’ve been working on HOLD ME DOWN for so long, I’m no longer exactly sure how it started. In many ways, HOLD ME DOWN follows in the footsteps of my Massachusetts Book Award “must read” “World Enough,” in that it takes place in the Boston rock club scene and centers on the subjectivity of memory. I also wanted to explore how the music scene, which I dearly loved, monetizes some forms of dysfunction. After all, nobody cares to see a well-adjusted, happy rock star.
 I also know that I was inspired in part by an interview with Chrissie Hynde I read in the Guardian several years ago. In that interview, Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, talked about being raped when she was in her early 20s by a gang of bikers. What got me was that she blamed herself for being stupid. I’m a rape survivor and this hit a nerve for me. I recognized an element of denial that I held onto for decades and the essential truth behind it: that it is easier to accept culpability than to acknowledge the psychically terrifying truth that you had no power.


Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. I knew from the start what one of the story arcs would be, but as I wrote it, I realized there was another, deeper arc. And, of course, as I wrote some of the characters went off on their own tangents. So I had some ideas, but basically I just sat down and wrote.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. The subjectivity of memory, how we recover from as well as remember trauma, and the lasting nature of love and family, of any sort.


Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. I hope it’s a good yarn and emotionally involving! I like to think that even people who have never been to a grungy basement rock club will enjoy taking the trip vicariously, and that even non-musicians will relate to my fading rock star of a protagonist.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Good characters and a plot that grows organically out of those characters.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. I really loved David Hajdu’s “Adrienne Geffel.” Hajdu is an award-winning music writer and this is his comic novel sending up the whole musician/criticism world. Hilarious. As far as themes go, I’ve always appreciated how Valerie Martin makes unlikable characters sympathetic – and I love how Hilary Mantel makes the past feel contemporary.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. A book has to stand on its own as a work of art. That means it should hit on all levels, but also that it shouldn’t be a tool in a larger agenda.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I want to keep stretching. I want to improve my writing.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise?

A. I write pretty fast but then I have to revise extensively. I wish I didn’t but whenever I read my first few drafts, I realize that I’ve left too much in my head and not put it on the page.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. Do the work. Writer. Re-read. Find readers. Revise. Do it again. Set it aside. Do it again. Do. The. Work.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. I’d love for my work to be optioned, but then it wouldn’t be my book. I’d love the money and exposure, though!

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. I’m working on two very different projects now. One is drafted, so I’ve put it aside to re-read later. The other I’m still drafting.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I went to high school with a serial killer, Joel Rifkin. I have never been tempted to write about him, though, despite my brother-in-law’s urging.

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. I feel like I should warn readers that HOLD ME DOWN is very different from my cat cozies. I adore those and hope to return to them, but I don’t want anyone to be taken aback or feel deceived!


Links: 
My website page has more info on the books, including links to outlets, including indie bookstores (Indie Bound): 




Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Great Outdoor Event

Well, after the last two years of hunkering down, we finally had a terrific outdoor event to sell books! 


We were part of Art on the Brook in downtown Chelmsford. Lots of local vendors hawking wares. 


First off, it was a perfect Fall day- warm and pleasant. We couldn't have got any better.


We had a steady stream of book buyers, met some new fans, and made connections.


So here's my setup:



And my fellow authoresses: Kameryn James and Sara Marks


We were visited by fellow SIPA member Laura Fedolfi


Many thanks to the volunteers and to The Shack coffeeshop for sponsoring.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Upcoming events

Hello again- things are heating up for October, with many events coming up. 

My latest story, The Trouble, appeared in Northern Frights:

We'll have an interview with author Clea Simon, to celebrate her latest book. 


Then I'll be appearing on the The Future of Now Radio podcast of Bonnie Graham, speaking on: "The Future of Mystery Writers vs TV Detective Series," with fellow authors Connie Johnson Hambley, Gabriel Valjan, and Joanna Schaffhausen


Then we'll have a LIVE bookselling event at the Art on the Brook.

Saturday, October 16, at 11 AM – 4 PM

24 Central Sq, Chelmsford, MA 


And the next day, a Boston Book Festival panel, with fellow authors Stephen Rogers, Joanna Schaffhausen again, and Sarah Smith.


On Monday Oct 18th, our special guest for the Tewksbury Writer's Night Out is author Rich Feitelberg, who will talk about world-building for fiction.


On Saturday, Oct 23rd, I'll be giving a pair of workshops for the NH Writer's Project Conference

I'll be speaking on Indie Publishing: How to Survive and Thrive.


And on Halloween, to close out the month, I'll be on a panel for the Concord Festival of Authors with fellow authors Sarah Smith (again),  Kate Flora, and Susan Oleksiw



Sunday, September 12, 2021

Books in Boothbay 2021

 We had a great day at the Books in Boothbay (Maine) Festival this weekend. A perfect day for weather, book buyers, authors, and the bookstore selling our books, Sherman's


A good crowd came out to shop for new reads...



Saw authors I've met at other events, like Kate Flora


And Barbara Ross, who used to be a local here.


Dick Cass


BJ Magnani


Sandra Manning


And the whole Eddie Vincent gang from Encircle Publications


Richard Cass

BJ Magnani 

S. Lee Manning

Anne Britting Oleson

Matt Cost

Kevin St. Jarre

Lara Tupper


Also a few folks new to me, like Caitlin Wahrer and her mum


Danielle Bannister


William Chanler


Hilary Bartlett


Glad to have this great event back in business. 

Thanks to all the staff who made this happen, and to our shoppers! 



Sunday, August 15, 2021

Learning Event

We had a great learning event hosted by the New England chapter of the Sisters in Crime.

What did we learn? How to use Tik Tok- hope fully for book promotion, not just entertainment. 

The class was taught by Kim Shapiro, who walked us through the basics, and explained why this could be useful for writers. 

It was held under a tent at the Sturbridge Publick House, and though hot, we had plenty of fans. 

Prolific author Edith Maxwell greets us.
For an interview with Edith, click here.


Nicole Asselin and Lisa Lieberman, not really waiting for the bar to open.
For a post about Nicole's debut, click here


Lisa is regrettably leaving us for the Chicago area. She'll be missed! 

Arlene Kay here, waiting for us to start.
For an interview with Arlene, click here


About to begin...


One gang of troublemakers- Judy Copek, Christine, Mo Walsh, and Nicole.


Hans Copek joins them.


A great time, and good information which means more work, but hopefully more sales.









Friday, August 13, 2021

Great Local Bookstore- Valley Wild Books

 Hello all you book lovers. There's a local bookstore I have to tell you about.

Valley Wild Books in Littleton, MA, is a great place, with used and new books- over 60,000 of them in a huge, roomy space, perfect for browsing. 

They also have records, tapes, CDs, and videos for those inclined to other media. 

Andrew Marciello is the genial owner, found at his station behind a mountain of books. 


Best part? They love and support local authors and the local community! 

We talked of many of my friends, whose volumes they stock. 

You can find out more about them on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/valleywildbooks

or just make the trip to the Littleton Common and stock up on reading material! 

You'll love the selection and the prices. 

They're having a big Teacher Appreciation Weekend, so check it out! Saturday and Sunday. 

Teacher friends stop by Valley Wild Books on August 14th and 15th!! 

They'll have bins with free books for local teachers and educators to stock their classrooms and libraries! 

They have board books through young adult and even some for teachers.

They will also have buy one get one 1/2 off all other kids and young adult books throughout the weekend.

(It also happens to be tax free weekend in Massachusetts so come take advantage!!)






Monday, August 2, 2021

Interview with Author Rich Feitelberg- with free book offer

Today we're meeting author Rich Feitelberg, author of The Aglaril Cycle fantasy series. 

Rich Feitelberg is a poet and novelist, and has collections of short stories and poetry available at fine booksellers everywhere. He is an avid map collector and student of popular culture. Growing up on a steady diet of comic books, science fiction, and fairy tales of all kinds, Rich soon began weaving his own tales at a young age. Currently, Rich is working on more poems and stories for your enjoyment. 

Here's an offer from Rich for a free book- 

"Buy a copy of any book in the Aglaril Cycle from any bookseller of your choice.

After you read it, post a review on Amazon and send me an email at rfeitelberg@gmail.com. 

I'll reply to get your shipping details and send you for free the next book in the series." 



Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. Crown of Power is the final book in the Aglaril Cycle fantasy series. I’ve been envisioning it for years as I wrote the other seven books, but when the time came to write it, I knew I had a lot of loose ends to tie up. I had a previous draft from years ago, which helped a little, but I also knew I had to drive the story forward with the characters, as they had evolved in the other books, not as I had them in the old draft, so I had to make adjustments. So I planned out a good bit of it as I decided how to wrap up loose ends and adjust plot lines, and then set out filling in the rest. There’s was a lot of back and forth and checking continuity, because there were many details from the previous book I couldn’t remember, and the chapters with the bad guys, which start off the novel I wrote last because they only appear at the beginning and at the end in the final battle scenes.


Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. There was an old draft for this book — all the books in the series really — but that draft (1000 pages of pure crap which went nowhere) was only a guide. So as I wrote, I made changes. And since this is one of series, I really had to plan out in rough terms all the books for I knew where each book was going, and how certain things were accomplished. That took months and fried my little brain about halfway through the series. I almost always have some type of plot in mind when I write, but that’s me. Sometimes it works because the character changes on me, or I realize the character can’t be the way I first thought. So I make changes to work out the inconsistencies and (hopefully) improve the story in the process.


Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. In most fantasy, one theme is good over evil. That’s true here. Another is that working hard yields rewards. But there’s a story about race here too: how humans and elves mistrust each other. Some is justified; some is not. But relationship between groups is strained in other places too. The church and wizards don’t trust each other, for example. 


Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book? 

A. Not to preach, but tolerance between people and groups regardless of color,  religion, ethnicity, or any other classification just causes strife. And for what? We are all humans with similar hopes and dreams. It’s time to embrace the differences and end conflicts that separate us.


Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Good characters, good plot, and good writing are the trifecta. Good characters must be interesting to read about and must be believable, both in behavior and speech. My editor refused to let my wizard use words like "nope" and "yup" which I thought fit him. So I had to find another words. And he couldn’t use modern curse words either. So I resort to Horse Feathers! and By the Twelve Spheres of Magic, without explain what those were. 

Good plot is harder to achieve. I love a good plot and am always looking for a way to twist something to the unexpected, or go someplace no one has thought. Many stories don’t try that hard. They have good plots, just not one that will surprise you. I prefer to surprise the reader, because it builds tension and suspense. There are others ways to do that too, so I also like to stack the deck a little against the heroes. Then if you’ve got good characters, the reader should come along for the ride.

Good writing is subjective. What I like, others don’t, and vice versa. So let’s just say, be clear and concise. The days of spitting up a dictionary in your descriptions, like Dickens does, are gone. People are busy. So get to the point and be clear. Say what you need to, and move on. Don’t waste the reader’s time with two pages of description if one or less will do.  


Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? 

A. Well, all fantasy at the most basic level has the same theme: good vs evil. But as far as racial themes goes, Katherine Kurtz touches on similar ideas with her Deryni books. They are persecuted for hundreds of years, until Kelson becomes king.


Q. Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you? 

A. Tolkien is a big influence, as he started the modern fantasy genre. And the thing I like the best, aside from his descriptions of place, are the way the story fits together. Frodo, Gandalf, Aragon, Boromir, and all the rest are like gears that mesh so well that the result is a story that I enjoy telling and even reciting to others, but then I’m a bit of a bard at heart.


Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story? 

A. Storytelling is entertainment clearly at it’s most basic level. But a good story enlightens and educates. It has a moral or a lesson. That’s was the purpose of storytelling in ages past, and it remains true to this day.


Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I plan to kept writing and telling the stories that fill my head, partly because I like doing that, and partly to share my ideas and views with others.


Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. The speed at which I write depends on how much I figured in the section of the story I’m in. So I might go fast, or I might struggle. It varies. 

I always revise. Always. Mostly because when I reread what I’ve done, I almost always find errors that need fixing. Generally, however, if I’m reviewing yesterday’s work, I’m only looking for spelling mistakes. Larger efforts for tone or structure are part of a separate pass after the story is complete. And I almost always put work aside for a bit so I can come at it fresh. My novels I put aside for a year or more, using the Stephen King trick he describes in his book On writing.

And since I self-publish mostly, I never let it out until I’m done with it, and the editor is happy too, so I can ensure the highest level of quality.


Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. My fantasy novels were all edited by the same woman. She makes two passes usually. One for characters, plot, description, tone, and that sort of thing. And another for grammar and usage.

I may use her for the superhero stories I’m drafting now. I haven’t decided yet.


Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. That depends on what they need. I could read a draft of something and comment, or I could refer them to books/online resources, that I think might help. The possibilities are so wide, I really need to assess the issue and how to address. But I would try to help if I could.


Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. Absolutely! In fact many scenes in my novels are written as if I’m describing a scene from a movie. Does that alter the telling? Yes. Because the camera is objective. If I told everything in first person, then I’m limited by that character’s point of view. I’ve done that for exactly that reason. But the objective view of the camera is a nice one, because I can easily show the reader what’s happening.


Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. Well, with my fantasy series done, I’m working on smaller projects. Poems, and a collection of stories featuring superheroes. I’ve been wanting to write about supers for a while now. After that, I don’t know. I’ve got more project waiting for me. And I’m also trying to sell my series to a publisher, so they can promote it, so I can write and promote my current area of focus.


Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I collect old maps. I have several, especially the early ones of the world. They are very revealing as to how our view of the world has changed over the centuries.


Q. Any other information you'd like to impart? 

A. Only this: Support local artists please. We all need your support, and leave reviews for books you read and like. The writer will be eternally grateful.