Sunday, July 29, 2012

Of Demonology by Kirsten Weiss

Do you spend much time thinking about demons? No? Well neither did I, until I tried to write about them in The Alchemical Detective

You’d think writing a demonic character would be simple. Demons are bad. End of story. But when I started researching demonology, I ran into some very different ways of looking at demons, and the obvious interpretation grew less and less appealing.

In modern Goetia, a branch of magic that evokes angels and demons, demons are projections of our own dark sides. Demons can be either positive or negative forces, depending on your degree of control, and how you choose to apply it. If you can master your personal demons, then you can make magic happen. Since I wanted to show some psychological growth in my metaphysical detective, Riga Hayworth, this seemed like a neat plot device to me.

But an acquaintance who’s a demon hunter strongly disagrees with this interpretation. In her experience, demons are tangible entities, capable of real violence. She doesn’t think they came from hell any more than from inner worlds – she believes they might originate in another dimension. Does that make these entities demonic, or something else? Writing about this sort of demon would certainly raise the drama (and carnage) in The Alchemical Detective, but it didn’t really fit the Renaissance magic that flows through the Riga Hayworth series.

So in the end, I split the difference. Riga has to master certain inner issues in order to control the demons she encounters, but these demons are of the more violent, tooth and claw variety. I’m not sure if that will please everyone or no one (or if anyone will care), but it combines the psychological aspect of demonology with its creepy factor. And if you’re going to read about demons, you want to be at least a little creeped out? Don’t you?

About the Author:

Kirsten Weiss is the author of two paranormal mysteries available on the Kindle: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, and The Alchemical Detective. She is hard at work on the sequel, The Shamanic Detective.

Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer reruns and drinking good wine.

Read a sample chapter or check out her blog at You can follow her on Twitter at, and view her world boards on Pinterest

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Victimization of Indie Authors and How to Protect Yourself

(c) Zach Frailey
Being an indie author is great: You get to write what you want, defy trends, and set your own goals. The downside is that you must remain ahead of the curve at all times, regarding what the publishing industry is doing. Although writing is an art form, publishing is a business through and through. Let your guard down, and you are apt to be taken advantage of.

The latest buzzworthy news in the world of books has been the acquisition of the company Author Solutions by Pearson (Pearson is best known for its textbooks, but is also the owner of Penguin--a traditional publisher you've likely heard of). Why is this buzzworthy? Because Author Solutions has a reputation for being predatory toward authors. Among other issues, it has a seriously wonky royalty payment system (as reported by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware here) and a vast number of dissatisfied customers. 

The main thing to remember is that ASI makes most of its revenue off of authors, not off of readers buying their books. They exist because there are self-publishers who are daunted by all it takes to publish a book, and are willing to shove money at someone to take care of it for them. 

Jane Friedman thinks this is an extremely unwise decision. She says, in her blog post on the topic, "... the self-publishing authors making big bucks are folks primarily using Amazon KDP or related 'free' services." In other words, don't fork out your money to companies like ASI, who are betting on you being too overwhelmed and confused to resist their sales tactics. Stories abound of authors who've emptied their savings account to get their book published, only to have it sell a few measly copies to friends and family. 

So, what can you do to be competitive in a publishing world that's just getting more and more confusing? How do you make sure you know what you're doing so you don't become a victim of less-than-well-meaning companies? Be honest, and ruthless, with yourself. Evaluate the competition at the top of the charts and see where you rank in relation to them. 

Porter Anderson, in his excellent post on the issue of ASI and Pearson, states, "One of the thorniest elements of all this may be that authors actually work against themselves in their representations of their own work." Indeed. We're not doing ourselves any favors when readers visit our websites and see broken links, drunken pictures of us at Friday's party, or invective about readers/reviewers/the general public who just don't live up to our expectations. Visit websites of traditionally published authors whose work you respect and admire. Do you see them doing any of the above? 

Here are 3 tips to help you establish a professional platform:

1. Evaluate your website. Is it easy to read? Easy to navigate? Have a few people not related to you visit it and give you their honest opinions (and be prepared to take their advice without getting offended).

2. Read your bio. Is it professional? Or does it make mention of your pets/kids/spouse/drinking habits? 

3. Analyze your social media content. If your posts/tweets are primarily hard selling your books or other items, or are political/religious in nature, rethink how you're presenting yourself to the world. Would you be comfortable sitting down with a reader and talking to them in the same manner you're tweeting? If the answer is no, you likely need to revamp your social media outlets.

Some final thoughts: subscribe to publishing industry blogs such as that of Jane Friendman or Bob Mayer. These experts keep up with the hard stuff and then give it to you straight. Often times, their comments sections are great places to meet other authors who might be willing to help you out by taking a look at your website or reading your bio, in case you don't know who to turn to. 

Always remember: You're doing the indie thing, but you don't have to do it alone. Inform yourself and don't be a victim.

About Adriana Ryan

Adriana Ryan writes captivating fiction in beautiful Charleston, SC. She is currently at work on an urban fantasy series. A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, she enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards. Visit Adriana at her website, or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Putting Your Test Readers to the Test by Donna Ansari

Many years ago, before I had even thought of writing a book, I was part of a writing circle. I’m sure you all know what that is, but in case you don’t, it’s when a group of people read each other’s writing and critique it. Let me just say that I did not thrive in that sort of environment. If anything, it made me even more insecure about my writing, and I was almost left with a desire to abandon it entirely.

So after I finished the second draft of my first book, New Blood, the idea of getting test readers was truly scary to me. After all, the only two people who had read it before that were my best friend and my husband, and while I thought they genuinely liked it, it also occurred to me that they could simply be lying to be kind.

Then, when I was looking through my e-mail contacts to decide who exactly I should ask to be test readers, it occurred to me why I had such a big problem with the writer’s circle. No one else in it was at all interested in my genre of paranormal/urban fantasy. In that same vein, if someone asked me to read and give feedback on a science fiction book set in outer space or anything having to do with aliens, I would probably not be able to give very good feedback either. It’s just not that interesting to me, no matter how good a writer you are.

The lesson I learned here was that if you are going to get test readers (and you really should), make sure that they are people who are interested in your genre. If you hate stories about vampires living in New York City, then my series, Vampire in the City, is just not for you. And as a writer, I have to come to terms that it’s not anything against me personally, just like I don’t have anything against people who write about aliens in outer space.

After some time, I had finally gotten up the courage and sent my story to about a half dozen people who I knew liked reading paranormal/urban fantasy books. But I still made a very big mistake. In the e-mail accompanying the file, I simply said something along the lines of: “Here it is. Read it and tell me what you think.”  

Some very kind individuals carefully went through and let me know exactly what worked for them and what didn’t, which characters they loved, and which characters they wanted to see killed off, and what parts required further explanation or were best left out entirely. But some others just wrote back the very unhelpful phrase, “I liked it.”

This is why, when I was finishing up the second draft of Wild Blood, I actually sent along a detailed questionnaire to my test readers. I included questions like Did the novel leave any unanswered questions? If so, which ones? and Was anything in the book unclear? Needless to say, the responses from the test readers were almost infinitely more helpful. And of course, my suggested questions are just that. Feel free to get as detailed as possible in your questionnaires.

So as you are on the hunt for your test readers, make sure you only ask people who you know enjoy reading the genre you write. This means that you shouldn’t put out an open request on Facebook or to everyone in your e-mail contacts list; instead, choose them carefully. After all, they will be the ones helping you decide on the final touches to your novel. And don’t leave them floundering around with no guidelines whatsoever. If you are looking for feedback on something in particular, ask.

If you follow these guidelines, you will find the comments and suggestions you get back from your test readers to be much more helpful!

Donna Ansari was born in New York City and has lived there for most of her life. Donna graduated from Pace University with a BA in Literature and Communications. Since then, she has been working as an editor, primarily in the field of medical education.

Donna lives in Queens with her husband, son, and large black cat. She is not currently aware of any vampires in her neighborhood.

Visit her Amazon page:
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Sunday, July 8, 2012

About the Author Pages by S.M. Blooding

Who Am I?

Hey! I’m the interview coordinator for PYN. Today, I’d like to discuss your About the Author page!

As someone whose job it is to find interesting morsels of information about you so I can ask questions that are relevant, I can say that I’ve seen my fair share of About the Author pages. I’ve seen some really fantastic ones, and I’ve seen more than a few that weren’t so great.

The first thing to remember is that people actually want to find out more about you! So, having an About the Author page is important.

The second thing to know is that there are a few key things to have on your page:

Brief Bio

Author Photo

That’s your bare minimum. This is what should be on every author site. If you’re an author, if you have books, then you need to have a page that has this information.

This, however, is pretty basic. What can you do to set your page apart from the pack? Let’s take a look at a few quick examples of good author pages.
  • Roxy Boroughs: She did a great job of jabbing a bit of fun with a Whoopee cushion. It was short, quick, to the point, but it showed she has a sense of humor.
  • Eisley Jacobs: Her author page is the welcome page, which is fine, but she used whit throughout her brief bio to show the reader the sense of humor you’ll find in her books. She also showed how her characters (even if they’re dragons) relate to her.
  • Beth Dolgner: This is a fantastic example of having FUN!!! I bought her book after reading her BIO! I glanced through her blurb, sure, but I was SOLD on her blurb! I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I wasn’t! She’s a hoot! Her books are a hoot! GREAT job!!
  •  SM Blooding: This seems a bit like self promotion, I know, but I took all the things I learned from everyone else’s pages and lumped what I could onto mine. Another thing I LOVE about my Author Page is that readers, like you, can leave me a message right there. I love that!

Now, if you’re not witty, that’s okay. Some authors do great when writing the Great American Novel, but choke on the one paragraph thing. So what can you do if you “suck at the wit”?

1. Mention a hobby! Throw up a picture or two! At the very least, it’s a conversation starter! You wouldn’t believe how many people love to talk about crocheting or cupcake baking! OMW!! Trust me when I say that others probably share your hobby and they LOVE finding kindred spirits to discuss them with.

2. Mention your favorite place you traveled to and…share a picture! People love to travel. They dream of it, fantasize about having enough money to do so! So share that little tidbit with the world and let them talk to you about it!

3. List your interviews! OMW, people! This helps and it’s a great place for people to find out all kinds of crazy things about you. It’s easy to open up when someone’s asking you questions! Right? So why bury these morsels of information on a Google page?! Display them proudly on your About You page. Plus, it makes you seem popular AND interviewers will, hopefully, not ask you questions you’ve already answered a dozen times before.

4. What are your favorite, zany cuss words? I’m not talking about the lame ones, F__Bomb, S__Bomb, etc. I want to hear your favorites! “Oh, holy banana farts!” The ones that get the mad out and make people laugh their pants off at the same time. *nods*

5. Dig deep! What is the one thing that makes you zany? We’re all a little nuts, but that’s what makes us writers! So…use it to your advantage!

I hope this helped!! I look forward to interviewing you!!!

We’re working to set up interviews for Winter 2012! If you’re interested, please fill out this form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!!

To find out more about SM Blooding, visit her page at, and add her books to your Goodreads TBR pile at

Monday, July 2, 2012

Plotting the Paranormal by Kirsten Weiss

Plotting the Paranormal: An Alchemical Solution


by Kirsten Weiss

True confession: I have alchemy on the brain.  Renaissance alchemy is a mystical process – a blend of magic, philosophy, and chemistry.  And while writing the second Riga Hayworth mystery, The Alchemical Detective, everything seemed to have an alchemical connection – from knitting to chocolate to plotting itself.  

In the classical storytelling plot, things grow more and more difficult for our heroine, with little gasps of relief to keep the heroine, and the reader, moving forward.   You can break this structure into five stages: 

  • Exposition: the problem is presented;
  • Rising action: conflict is generated, the plot thickens, the tension rises;
  • Climax: a fateful decision is made which sets the heroine on her course;
  • Falling action: the bad guy has the upper hand, all appears dark; and
  • Resolution: the final conflict between the heroine and the bad guy.

The alchemical process works much the same way – a series of revolutions where the ego or metal is burned and broken down, then revived, until finally, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the spirit rises to perfection.  Since I was writing about alchemy, it seemed “right” to hang my plot structure on the alchemical process.   I don’t want to give too much away, spoiling the ending.  But in broad strokes, this is how the alchemical stages flow:

  • Calcination: A burning of the self to ash, often due to a trauma.  Metaphyiscal detective, Riga Hayworth, has lost her magic and come to Lake Tahoe to recover and spend quality time with her new love.  But a psychic’s been murdered, and the police believe Riga has a connection to the crime.  Worse, she has reason to believe she may be the next victim.
  • Dissolution: Water is added to the ash.  Fears and old wounds rise to the surface, threatening to swamp Riga’s equilibrium.
  • Separation: The police aren’t equipped to deal with a magical killer.  Riga realizes she must deal with the murderer on her own to protect the people she loves.
  • Conjunction: Riga begins to glimpse the truth about her magic and the killer.  She takes action based upon her vision/beliefs, setting things into motion.
  • Putrefaction: The situation festers, gets worse.  Riga battles the demons inside and outside of herself.
  • Distillation: Riga fights to reclaim her magic and catch the killer.  This is the make or break moment – she either rises to the occasion and triumphs over her inner and outer demons, or all is lost.
  • Coagulation: Balance and harmony are restored.  

I know, I said I wouldn’t give away the ending, but since there’s a sequel, it’s no mystery that Riga gets her man.  

Excerpt from The Alchemical Detective:

The egg quivered, then rolled, seemingly of its own accord, to the edge of the counter.  

Riga stared at it, her violet-colored eyes narrowed in concentration.  Magic, she reminded herself, was a matter of will and she had that in spades.  However, it was also a matter of focus and in this area, she was lacking.

The egg trembled, then slowly rose into the air; one inch, two inches, five.

“Yes,” Brigitte said encouragingly, her voice a French-accented Lauren Bacall.  Her stone claws tensed, gouging tracks in the linoleum countertop.

The egg exploded, splattering the gargoyle with shell and yolk.  

Brigitte shrieked, the sound of rocks scraping against each together.  “Faugh!  Water!  Bring ze water!”  

Riga hurried to the sink and turned on the tap, frustration wrinkling her brow.  She grabbed a dishtowel and soaked it in warm water.  Her hands trembled and Riga swore under her breath.  Two months ago, this would have been easy.  

At first she’d thought her magic was gone.  Now Riga knew it had gone haywire and her rehab attempts weren’t working.  If anything, her magic had become more unpredictable, more dangerous.  She only dared practice with Brigitte because the centuries-old gargoyle was made of stone.  But even Brigitte wasn’t indestructible.  

Someone beat upon the front door and Riga whipped around, startled.  She should have sensed whoever was coming up the steps.  Another small failure.  More pounding; the cheap wooden door vibrated beneath the blows.

“Police!  Open the door!”

Gargoyle and woman looked at each other.  Woman acted first.  Riga tossed the towel in the sink.  
“Don’t move,” she said to Brigitte.

“But ze egg.  It dries like cement,” Brigitte wailed.

“Later.”  Riga hurried to the door and flung it open.  A chilly blast of pine-scented air swept inside, tossing Riga’s auburn hair and stinging her skin.  

Two sheriffs stood before her in wide brimmed hats and heavy dark brown parkas.  Riga might have taken them for rangers had it not been for their belts, strapped with weapons, slung low on their hips.  The older one had his fist raised for another round of door pummeling.  He lowered it with what looked like regret.  He was bulky, bearlike, with steel blue eyes, and she imagined he enjoyed making the door shiver beneath his fist.  The tag under his badge read: Sheriff John King.  The badge itself: El Dorado County.

“I heard a woman scream,” King said.  

“I banged my shin on the coffee table,” Riga said.  

“Are you alone?”  He peered over Riga’s shoulder.  It wasn’t hard – Riga was five foot six, and he stood well over six feet tall, imposing in every direction.  

“Yes.  Can I help you?”  Riga didn’t budge, unwilling to let them in.  It wasn’t that Riga didn’t like cops; she was friends with plenty of them, when they were out of uniform.  

“It was quite a scream,” he said.

She quirked her lips.  “Now you’re just embarrassing me.” 

Kirsten Weiss is the author of two paranormal mysteries available on the Kindle: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, and The Alchemical Detective. The latter will be FREE over the 4th of July week.  She is hard at work on the sequel, The Shamanic Detective.  Follow her on Twitter @RigaHayworth or keep up with her paranormal blog at:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Interview with RS Guthrie, Author of Black Beast

Today we're interviewing R.S. Guthrie, author of Black Beast--a paranormal thriller set in Denver, Colorado. Leave a comment to be entered to win an e-copy of Black Beast and LOST


Hey, R.S.!! It’s good to see you! Tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Well, I grew up in Iowa and Wyoming, so I’m a bit of a small town guy. But I’ve lived in L.A. and Denver since my twenties, so my writing covers all that ground. I’m a family guy and our dogs (3 Aussies and one little Chihuahua who thinks she’s an Aussie) are like our kids.

What does R stand for? 

If you believe the AKC documentation for our first Aussie (and the subsequent emails I get from them), it stands for Rolo. I think my parents intended Robert (and I go by Rob).

How do you carve out time to write?  

That’s a tough one because it feels sometimes like all there is to carve with is a dull spoon. I’m like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption…it’ll take me twenty years to carve out enough time to do all the writing I need to do (and another twenty to write it)!

Which book are we talking about today and what is it about? 

Well we were supposed to be talking about Dark Prairies, a crime novel set in Wyoming, but remember that dull spoon we were talking about? I’m not quite ready for release (two weeks), so we’ll talk about the first in my two (soon to be three) book series featuring Denver Detective Bobby Mac. In Black Beast the reader gets to first meet a character they will no kidding fall in love with (I always say “guys want to be him, ladies want to be with him”). In all seriousness, I’ve actually had a writer friend who professes love for Bobby.

In Black Beast, Bobby catches a double-homicide with some strange twists that turn out to be a little bit further into the “unknown” than he’s ever been willing to go. He discovers a family heritage, however, that will change everything for the detective. It’s a fast-paced page-turner.

What inspired this book? 

Bobby Mac’s character has been inside me, waiting to be written for over a decade. He once lived in Seattle, also Portland, L.A., and Phoenix. He ended up in Denver because that’s where I had settled once I finally decided to sit down and write the dang novel.

Tell us something about your characters that we wouldn’t be able to figure out by reading the book. 

Bobby Mac is a total mama’s boy. In the book he’s tough-but-tender, but you’d never guess how much he misses his mother.

Is there a book 4 in the works? Can you tell us a bit about it? 

Book three, which will hopefully be out by the end of the summer, will tie up the supernatural tangent Bobby’s been on through books one and two. But YES, there will be a book four (and beyond) as Bobby gets back more into the detective grind in Denver with some really cool cases.

Where can readers purchase your book?

May we read an excerpt from the book?

WHY DO we let the bad times rent space in our heads? It’s something I’ve never been that good at: letting the ugliness slide off me like watershed—off the duck’s back and all that.
In fact, for me, the pain builds up over time—like a splinter left unattended under your thumbnail. You try to ignore it; pay no attention to it. But without thinking, your other fingers pick at it. Squeeze it. Scratch the itch.
And after a while—over a period of days or weeks or even years—this small, seemingly insignificant prickle has become swollen and infected and full of bad juice. It’s then the pain begins to swallow up the better things in life.
I’m not proud of my failure in this area. Most would say I should’ve long ago unloaded to some shrink from the comfort of a leather couch. But that kind of release is no good for me.
It doesn’t work—I clam up.
Even though I realize letting things pile up in my head is no winning strategy for any person, much less for a cop, I still can’t share such personal insights with a complete stranger. Unfortunately, there are a great many things stacked up in there—like a multi-car pileup on a foggy highway.
It’s also my theory that too many shrinks have a rosy, optimistic view of the world; they come at you from a singsong vantage that just doesn’t ring true.
I’m not saying Nietzsche had it right. God is not dead. But at least Friedrich wasn’t running through the flower patch, dancing like a deranged idiot, or climbing the twelve steps to enlightenment.
Speaking of God, I know many people who believe we are inherently good—built in his image. I used to feel that way. I used to go to mass and read the passages and bow my head in prayer.
(For the record, few shrinks I know have ever put that much faith in a greater power, much less God himself.)
But when I became a homicide detective, my faith began a slippery descent. I’d seen some pretty awful things when I was on patrol—not the least of which was the murder of my partner—but when I started investigating the crimes; when I began to understand the machinations behind the mayhem—well, let’s just say my faith could only stand so much testing.
Don’t get me wrong. I did not stop believing in God. That would have been easy. Just chalk it up to no one’s home upstairs and call it a day. To me, God is real—just as real as the day I first attended mass with my father and mother.
Now I just hold him less accountable.
What has happened over the years is that I have relinquished a part of my understanding. My grip on the bigger picture has been loosened. No. Loosened doesn’t cover it these days.
Being one hundred percent truthful? It sometimes feels like I’ve lost hold entirely and have entered a kind of spiritual free-fall.
So do I have issues with God?
Has my faith been shaken?
Most definitely.
In light of all this, do I still maintain hope?
I have to.
If there is not a bigger picture—if there is no purpose to this lousy existence—I wouldn’t know or understand how to proceed. What thing in life is worth doing if there is no outcome?
So here’s my nutshell—the World According to Macaulay:
God is up there. And he’s tired. He’s so damned tired of it all. He sees the handwriting on the wall—that we can hardly mess it up any more than we already have.
If you’re a parent, then you may know what this helplessness feels like:
You’ve done everything you possibly can to provide for your child. You’ve loved them, clothed them, and procured everything they needed to survive. You’ve even thought about their future—saved for it.
Eventually, however, they don’t care. Not a lot of them, anyway.
Who are you and why are you looking for love, or even respect?
It’s an ugly time, the teenage years. And I think that’s what we’ve become to God:
So do I blame him for turning his back?
Not really.
But, like a teen, I also find it difficult to admit my culpability.

Where can your readers connect with you on the web? 

I’m currently revamping my main website, so it’s kind of a mess. My blog is really the best place to hook up with me (and catch some of my innermost thoughts on writing and other stuff). I’m really good about responding to comments, so come on over to http://robonwriting.comand hang out. 

About R.S. Guthrie 

R. S.  Guthrie has been writing fiction for several years. Black Beast is the first in a series of Clan of MacAulay books featuring Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay. The sequel, L O S T, released on New Year’s Day, 2012 and is now also available on Amazon. 

Guthrie is presently working on a Western Crime Novel entitled Dark Prairies, set in his home state of Wyoming. An excerpt was featured in the June 2011 issue of New West Magazine. The full book is scheduled to be released by Summer, 2012.

The author currently lives in Colorado with his wife, three Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she’s a 40-lb Aussie.