Friday, September 28, 2012

Sitting Down with the Immortally Awesome Angie Fox

Sitting Down with the Immortally Awesome Angie Fox
By Brad R. Cook

Today on The Writers Lens, we have New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox!

I first met Angie several years ago; she was wearing a black leather jacket with a Kiss My Asphalt T-shirt underneath. That’s when I knew – I was going to like this author. Then I read The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers and fell hard for her writing. It was the second book in the series, which oddly, I often start with the second book in a series, but I ran out picked up book one and have read everything she’s written ever since.

Now, I could go on about what a wonderful person she is, how she gives her time for lectures and workshops, was the marquee presenter at the second annual Writers in the Park, or that she is an excellent contest judge, but I really want to tell you she’s an amazing writer – one worthy of her New York Times bestselling title.  

Angie maintains a close interaction with her fans. Recently, she even held a contest to name a character in her next novel. Now, she has a contest to be acknowledged in her next book! Stop by her blog to learn more and get all the latest information, you can find it on her website –

She can often be found at conferences and if you ever have the opportunity to check out her Lining Up the Bones workshop, I highly recommend it. Really any workshop she’s giving will be helpful but I had the privilege of seeing Bones twice. She has great tips for writers, keep reading and you’ll understand what I mean.

A little bit more about Angie, she’s fascinating.

Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of books about demon slayers, werewolves and things that go bump in the night. She claims that researching her books can be just as much fun as writing them. In the name of fact-finding, Angie has ridden with Harley biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover Dam and found an interesting recipe for Mamma Coalpot’s Southern Skunk Surprise (she’s still trying to get her courage up to try it).

Angie earned a Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She worked in television news and then in advertising before beginning her career as an author.

From her bio, you’ll see she has a cunning wit, and wonderful sense of humor, but what it won’t tell you is that she has an amazing voice, and the ability to reach both male and female readers. She crosses genres and makes no excuses for it, proving that she is a great writer and marketer.

Most known for the bestselling Accidental Demon Slayer Series, her brand new Monster M.A.S.H. Series begins with the paranormal romance Immortally Yours.

Immortally Yours
By Angie Fox

No one patches up the incoming wounded like Dr. Petra Robichaud. Recruited by the gods for her uncanny medical skills, she’s the best M*A*S*H surgeon in the army. Along with a nosy guard sphinx, vegetarian werewolf, and other paranormal paramedics, she bandages soldiers who are built like Greek gods (literally.) But when one sexy immortal ends up on her operating table—half dead and totally to-die-for—Petra’s afraid she’ll lose her patient and her heart…

Commander Galen of Delphi is one gorgeous but stubborn demi-god. When his spirit tries to slip out of his fatally wounded body, Dr. Petra has to slip it back in—unwittingly revealing her ability to see ghosts. Now that Galen knows her secret, he’s convinced she’s part of an ancient prophesy. If the oracles are right, Petra could lead Galen’s army to peace. And if he seduces her on the way to hell and back? Heaven knows—all’s fair in love and war…

“A new talent just hit the urban fantasy genre, and she has a genuine gift for creating dangerously hilarious drama.” —RT Book Reviews

Guys, step over here for a second… I know the cover has a guy on it (though I really dig the tattoo on Immortally Embraced) and that may cause you to make certain assumptions but hold up – trust me, yes, there is romance, but there is still plenty of action and the kick-butt surprises you’ve come to expect from Angie. Okay, let’s go back.

Other Angie Fox books,

So I married a Demon Slayer by Angie Fox – Out now – When a sexy succubus comes up against a fearless demon slayer intent on killing her boss, a truly wild Vegas night turns into a quickie wedding. But in a city where anything goes, a demon slayer wedding a succubus is strictly forbidden. Which doesn’t mean either is rushing to jump out of the marriage bed.

The Last of the Demon Slayers by Angie Fox – Spring 2013 – the fifth book in the Accidental Demon Slayer Series, because she loves her fans, and apparently demon slayers don’t go quietly into the night.

My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding – April 2013
Immortally Embraced – February 2013
Immortally Ever After – August 2013

I recently had the great honor of sitting down with Angie and picking her mind about writing.

What inspired Immortally Yours and the Monster M.A.S.H. series?
I wanted to do something different. Plus, I love writing books that are not only about the hero and heroine, but also about the community where they live. A quirky, paranormal M.A.S.H. unit offered up a lot of possibilities for character building and creative plotting.

Plus, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write about a doctor, someone who is committed to doing good, to making a change in the world. I wanted to see how she’d handle being drafted into a M.A.S.H. unit and basically having her life taken away.

Dr. Petra Robichaud ended up being one of the strongest heroines I’ve ever written. She’s stubborn, independent and used to being on her own. She’s also dealing with her own personal tragedy. Enlistments run until the end of the conflict, which for her will be a life sentence. Still, she manages to keep her dry sense of humor and she’s even created a new family, of sorts, among her colleagues at the M.A.S.H. 3063rd.
The only thing she’s not prepared to deal with, it seems, is the hero, who bursts onto the scene first as a critical patient on her operating table and then as the only man who knows her secret ability. He discovers it while she’s saving his life. Unfortunately, her secret ability is forbidden by the gods and could get her killed – or worse. She’s survived so far by keeping her head down and now Galen is threatening that.

But he isn’t interested in hiding. Galen is a hardened special ops soldier, who has risked everything time and time again. He’s focused on his duty and determined to bring an end to the war. Petra and her ability will give him a means to do it. He’s very charismatic. And either by charm or by force, Galen will bring her onto his side.


If the first book in any series is about worldbuilding, is there something everyone needs to know about your new world?
Yes, Petra has the ability to see the dead and to speak with them. It’s a tough gift for a doctor to have. She can see all too clearly what happens to the patients she loses. The soldiers she does manage to save, she has to send back to the front lines.

Her ability has been outlawed by the gods, simply because they don’t think a mortal should have that kind of power. And the gods have a thing for strange and horrific punishments. They won’t just kill you for being different. They get all mythological. It’s like a divine version of The Godfather. Petra knows that the gods will damn her for eternity if she’s discovered. After all, these are the people that have, in the past; turned women into spiders, fastened “friends” to burning wheels for eternity; tied one of their own to some far-flung rock so he could have his liver pecked out by an eagle until the end of time. But of course Petra is going to have to expose her secret if she wants to help Galen end the war.

Are you excited to have the next two books in the series coming out within just a few months? I know your readers are. (note: I will provide the titles and release dates if you have them)
It’s going to be fun to have the books out so fast. Immortally Embraced comes out in February 2013 and Immortally Ever After is out in August 2013. The fifth book in my Accidental Demon Slayer series is also coming out in between both of the Monster M.A.S.H. books. My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding releases in April 2013.

Who is your favorite literary heroine?
I really like Amelia Peabody, Victorian Egyptologist, written by Elizabeth Peters. She has a lot of attitude and her first-person narrative is both touching and hilarious.

Why do you choose to write in first person?
First person is a more natural voice for me as a writer. For years, I tried to fight my voice and write like I was “supposed” to write. I ended up extremely frustrated, with three mysteries that didn’t sell. When I said to heck with it and embraced who I am as a writer, the right words came. And wouldn’t you know, they were all in first person.

I have done a few novellas in third, just because the stories called for multiple points of view.  But it wasn’t a natural place for me to be as a writer, and I’m not sure that I’d ever do an entire series in third. In fact, when I wrote third person for The Real Werewives of Vampire County, I did the entire first draft in first person, knowing I’d switch it to third. But I did it because it was the most organic way for me to get a handle on my main characters and really get into their heads.

Which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?
First line. The opener is always tougher because so much rides on it. If I’m selling a series, then I have to be able to grab that editor, and later – the reader. First lines set the tone for the book and give readers a taste of what to expect. First lines have to be simple, yet utterly compelling. It’s a lot for one sentence to handle.

By the time we get to the end, the reader is there with me and then it is just a matter of saying things in a way that we both think – ah, yes – that’s the way it has to be.

You have a great voice that comes through Dr. Petra Robichaud – do you have any advice for those writers trying to find their voice?
Yes. Use what the good Lord gave you and don’t be a fool like I was. Each of us has a unique way of telling a story and it comes from inside. I think it’s easy to be blinded by “doing it right” or “learning a better way” to the point where we ignore our instincts and our own special way of telling a story.

When I started writing, I not only ignored my voice, I completely discounted my love of paranormal books. Because, you know, that made sense. Instead, I decided readers would take me more seriously if I wrote very straightforward, focused mystery/suspense. Now there’s nothing wrong with that genre. I love to read those kinds of books, but personally, I don’t have the voice for them. I’m way too flip and it comes out in the way the characters relate to each other and to their world. That’s why, when I did do a medical paranormal like Immortally Yours, I set it in a M.A.S.H. unit where flip is allowed.

If you’ve ever tried it, you know how hard it is to fight your voice. During those first three (unpublished) books, I was trying everything to try to change who I was as a writer and it just wasn’t working. I’d take classes, I’d write 20-page plot outlines and storyboards and note cards. And I really hate note cards.

I wore myself out fighting – to the point where I’d lost my love for writing. I wanted to quit. I knew I needed to do something drastic to get myself going again, so I said the heck with it and decided to write a book just for fun. It would be a complete waste of time. It would never sell. It would be too different for anyone to like. But it would be “me.”

I had this spark of an idea about a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born. Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I grinned my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months. Wouldn’t you know that was the one that sold and hit the New York Times list? And I didn’t write one single note card.

Did you struggle at all finding a new voice for this series?
Please don’t throw tomatoes at me, but no, I didn’t have any trouble finding a voice for Petra. Now that I know who I am as a writer, creating Petra was a matter of deciding who I wanted her to be. Once I knew that, I knew how she talked.

Do you have a process when you write? Do you write at the same time every day or whenever you can find time? Do you outline or let the words flow?
Yes. Having a writing schedule is huge for me. I write three to four hours a day, the same time every day, whether the words are coming or not. I don’t hold myself to a specific output goal, but I do show up ready to put words on paper. If I waited until I had time or felt inspired, I’d never get anything done. Writing, at least for me, is hard. It can be intimidating to face that blank page and my schedule offers the kind of discipline I need to be productive.

I do outline. I usually know where the book is headed. For each chapter, I have a line or two (sometimes a paragraph) of what needs to happen. Then when I start writing each chapter, I’ll write a few notes at the top: the hero/heroine’s goal for the chapter, what the hero/heroine is conflicted about (even if it is a good, worthy goal that we all want – we need something in there that will hurt the main character if he/she achieves the goal), and then the ending conflict (what will happen to throw the hero/heroine off at the end of the chapter and serve to hook us into the next chapter).

Here at The Writers’ Lens our motto is Bringing Fiction in Focus, so: What brings your writing into focus, the characters, the stories, or the love of crafting words?
I want to sound smarter than this, but really, for me it’s about the rush I get when I write something that utterly amuses me, something I know my readers are going to like as well. I’m kind of like a kid who draws a picture of something and can’t wait to show everyone.

Like right now, I’ve just finished the last book in the Monster M.A.S.H. trilogy. It’s only been a few days, and I’m looking around a bit. Catching up on emails. Realizing the laundry really isn’t going to be doing itself.

Meanwhile, my agent is after me to write up this idea I have for a new series. And I will. It’s a pretty neat idea and I am all excited about it. But I’m not writing it because I don’t feel that rush yet. I have my high-concept idea and I know why it will be fun for me to write. But that’s all there is. The energy hasn’t built up enough. There’s no huge creative fire. Things are still clicking somewhere in my subconscious. And that’s okay. Although, I don’t recommend trying to explain such things to agents or other non-writers, or letting the mulling go on too long.

Still, I’m okay with the inactivity because I know it’s my process. In fact, it was one of the things I learned when I was writing all of those unpublished books and while I was fighting my voice. I think those who manage to sell their first book are almost at a disadvantage because they don’t have that time and space to learn these kinds of things.

There is value in every book that you don’t sell. Every book teaches you about why you write, and that knowledge helps shape you into the writer you will become tomorrow, for the next book or twenty books down the road.

So true, I couldn't agree more or have said it so well, thank you Angie!

Thanks so much for joining us on The Writers’ Lens today, on Monday we’ll be having a giveaway for Immortally Yours but don’t worry; if you comment on this post you’ll be entered. Stop by on Monday for all the rules and more about Immortally Yours.

Also, check out the rest of the Monster M.A.S.H. Series – here’s a quick teaser…

The Monster M.A.S.H. series takes place in and around a paranormal M.A.S.H. unit during a seemingly endless war.

Petra and her colleagues at the M.A.S.H. 3063rd have been drafted until the end of the conflict, which is bad for Petra but even worse for people like her vampire roommate, Marius. They’re living in this quirky, ad-hock camp, trying to make the best of it while they work long hours in the OR, putting soldiers back together – knowing that they’re probably going to see these injured heroes again and again – if they’re lucky.

The underlying tragedy brings the oddball personalities in the camp together. They develop ways to keep their sanity and to create the kind of relationships that offer a port in the storm.

PNN (The Paranormal News Network) is the news outlet covering the war. The doctors, nurses and support staff at the M.A.S.H. 3063rd watch it on the only television in camp, a beat up, 1970's cabinet model that is set up in the mess hall.

For fun, she developed a website for PNN, offering the latest in paranormal news. Think of it as a paranormal version of The Onion. PNN covers important stories like: Mayan Insider Scoop! Developed Armageddon “Prophecy” After Tequila Bender; and Five Things in Your Lair That Can Kill You.

It's all about going on an adventure...and having some fun along the way.

Now rush out and grab the Accidental Demon Slayer and Monster M.A.S.H. Series, you won’t be disappointed… Angie Fox’s books are always one heck of a ride!


Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit or follow me on Twitter @bradrcook

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Children's author Jennifer Wallis at 6 North

Meet Jennifer Wallis, author of Adventures With Scarlet the Dolphin, from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Sept. 29, at:

6 North Café
14438 Clayton Road
Ballwin, MO 63011

Jennifer Wallis is a school social worker at an early childhood center for the Fox C-6 School District. She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Saint Louis University and teaches adjunct for a few local colleges and universities.

She lives in Arnold, Mo., with her husband and biggest supporter, Nick, and her two daughters--Adelynn, age 4, and Faith, age 2--who gave her the inspiration to write. For every 10 books sold, Jennifer will donate a book to the Pajama Program. The Pajama Program is a non-profit that provides new pajamas and new books to children in need. For more information, visit

Adventures with Scarlet the Dolphin: California Sea Lions -- Hailey is an 8-year-old girl who lives on the beach and her best friend is Scarlet, who happens to be a dolphin. Scarlet takes Hailey on a new adventure every day and teaches her all about life in the ocean. On this adventure, Scarlet takes Hailey off the coast of San Francisco, California where she meets Callie, a California Sea Lion. After Hailey learns all about California Sea Lions she gets to play with Scarlet and Callie before having to return back home to the beach.

Autographed books will be available for sale on Sept. 29.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Twitter, Relevancy and You: An Author's Brief Guide to Online Presence

Guest Post By Sara M. Harvey
With the Literary Underworld Blog Tour!
So social media is an integral part of any author’s platform, whether you’re established or just starting out, whether you’re self-pubbed, small-press, or traditionally published. One of the keys to establishing a rapport with fans and potential fans is providing content that sets you apart as unique and worth listening to. No matter what your background and interest, if you think you’re worth reading, you are worth Tweeting.
The trick is going to find something that you find interesting enough to talk about and the public will find interesting enough to read regularly. Quick tip: it is NOT just endless tweets about books promotion. Sure, promote when it’s relevant, when you have a new release or got a shiny new review, but don’t do it daily. No really, just don’t. No one wants to read that.
I’m going to repeat myself: NO ONE WANTS TO READ ENDLESS TWEETS/FB UPDATES ABOUT NOTHING BUT YOUR BOOK. Also, don’t use birthday greetings on FB or anywhere else as a platform for self-promotion. Just don’t, that’s tacky and it makes you look like a total asshole and then no one will want to buy your book ever, no matter how good it is.
But what should you be doing?
Let’s break down some popular authors’ Twitter feeds and find out what they are saying and doing and what makes them interesting.
Wil Wheaton (he’s an author, really!) tweets under @wilw and his stuff varies from beer-making to dog pictures to behind-the-scenes talks about whatever TV show he’s filming. He’s witty and hilarious and takes himself so not seriously at all. My favorite tweets are him and John Scalzi or The Bloggess going back and forth.  I’ve loved Wil since I was twelve and it was tremendously  uncool. I do not regret sticking to my guns on this one! 2.1 million followers.
Neil Gaiman tweets under @neilhimself. His feed varies from blog post snippets (which is ok because it leads to outside content which is awesome), quotes, tour info, random shout-outs to his wife (Amanda Palmer), links to other peoples’ projects and feeds, well-thought-out RTs, and lots of dog pictures (although not as many of late as there has been in the past). 1.7 million followers.
The Bloggess tweets as, you guessed it @TheBloggess and her tweets link mostly back to her blog which is ok because it is HILARIOUS.  I can’t fully explain what she’s like except hilarious. Seriously, you’re going to have to go and follow her just because she’s that funny. She makes anything funny, it’s her superpower. She doesn’t tweet about her pets so much as her collection of taxidermied animals in strange costumes. 270,000+ followers.
Cory Doctorow tweets under @doctorow and he’s one of the most important voices on the internet in terms of freedom of information and artists’/authors’ rights. His twitter varies widely by what he’s doing but always includes useful links (to boingboing of course!) pertinent to copyright and intellectual property debates and other useful and fun stuff as well as pictures. 250,000+ followers.
Laurell K. Hamilton tweets under @LKHamilton and to be honest I don’t know why I am following her. I did for a specific reason at one point but I can’t remember now. She tweets the usual stuff, sometimes funny, sometimes pointless. No dog pictures. 35,000+ followers.
John Scalzi tweets under @scalzi and it doesn’t say that his is a verified account but it totally is. He’s a sci-fi author and critic and damn hilarious. Last week he went to Neil Gaiman’s house and had himself covered in buttercream frosting by roller derby girls for charity.  That’s all you really need to know about John Scalzi. He also has adorable pets that get a lot of face time. 34,000+ followers.
Cherie Priest tweets under @cmpriest and her feed is always a hoot. Her mainstay is current writing metrics and lots of pet photos (she has a new dog and he’s adorable!), but her witty one-liners and takes on everyday life keep me coming back to her every day. Just under 10,000 followers.
Laura Anne Gilman tweets under @LAGilman and is one of my favorite to follow. She’s a writer and an editor and she’s very well read and well spoken. She gets political, but never hateful or vitriolic. She always has something sharp to say and her RTs are worth their weight in gold. Cat pictures on occasion, sometimes a dog. 3,500+ followers.
Jacqueline Carey tweets under @JCareyAuthor and seriously she could tweet the color of her socks everyday and I’d read her. She’s my favorite author and a good friend so she’s on my top author list regardless. She’s new to Twitter and still finding her way around using it effectively. She tweets the usual stuff- what she had for lunch or where she went running (with her dog!) and book tour info and the occasional promo or contest. Recently she’s been tweeting a lot more links to articles and other content that folks who read sexy fantasy or history might enjoy (like a YouTube link to the science of orgasm and the recent discovery of a Demotic [ancient Egyptian language] dictionary). Like Cherie, her take on the world around her is always funny and enlightening and she will never disappear from my twitter feed. 1,200+ followers.
So where am I going with this? Well, one commonality is dog-related content, but that might just be me.  The second is that all these authors are those whose work I admire and read and who I also find engaging and entertaining in real life. After pet pictures, the ability to consistently make me laugh is high on my list of folks I follow. Tied with this is the ability to consistently make me think or at least linking to content that makes me think or allows me to learn. I am a sucker for dog pictures though (I have three dogs, myself and should really increase my dog-related content!)
Since I’m not personally hilarious all the time, I have tried to generate content readers night find engaging through my “Textile Trivia of the Day” or #ttotd feature. This is easy for me to do, I have a master’s degree in costuming and I teach it too. So coming up with 140 characters’ worth of something to say about fabric is pretty reasonable for me to do every day. This sort of thing I recommend- try to find something you are interested in and post a little something about it every day, every other day, or once a week.  Consistency is key here. Having consistent content is what makes people come back to your feed often, looking for more content.
Don’t be a chronic re-tweeter. Try to curate your RTs so that they mean something to someone who might not have the context or know the people involved. Nothing more boring than a twitter feed full of nothing but RTs and links without any sort of narration or context. My litmus test: if you’re bored writing it, people are going to be bored reading it.
You are going for relevancy. You are trying to build a base of people who value your words, both the ones you charge for and the ones you give out for free 140 characters at a time. Twitter can be an excellent marketing tool, just as long as it is used with aplomb.

SARA M. HARVEY is a founding member of the Literary Underworld Authors’ Collective. She writes dark fantasy for the Apex Book Company and New Babel Books. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, daughter, and three dogs, all of which feature prominently on her twitter feed @saraphina_marie.
 Use the code LUBLOGTOUR at for 15% off your order during the Literary Underworld Blog Tour!
7 TIMES A WOMAN: In a mythic reflection of old Japan, the kitsune Rei-Rei is given the seemingly small errand to "tame a dragon" that will part her from her true love, Inari, for lifetimes to come. 
Reborn through seven lifetimes, Rei-Rei fulfills her pledge, remaining the steadfast love of Sha Tano the Dragon — no matter how many times she is murdered by his dark twin, Kage and his minions. From courtier to courtesan, Rei-Rei comes into each life knowing that her destiny lies with the dragon prince but something deep in her soul sings of another lover in another time. 
With every incarnation, she pieces together the fragments of her existence and strives to find a way to complete the impossible task and finally go home. When the dark dragon Kage learns of her true nature, he seeks to strike a blow that will destroy his noble brother, and Rei-Rei, forever.


Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens. Your comments will enter you in this week's giveaway drawing for an ebook of NORMAL by Janet Bettag.

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at and on Twitter @twfendley.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Giveaway & interview: Author Janet Bettag discusses NORMAL

This week's giveaway is an ebook copy of the just-released narrative nonfiction book, NORMAL, by Janet Bettag.

NORMAL is the true story of the author’s survival and recovery from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. It poignantly and humorously addresses dealing with altered self-image, finding ways around barriers, and appreciating the play of serendipity and synchronicity in our lives.

“Amazing insight into the haunting world of a brain bleed survivor that fills the reader with a sense of compassion relating to those everyday issues we often take for granted. I found the story filled with inspiration and hope as it details an incredible journey starting from a near-death experience and ending with the reconstruction of the author’s new reality.” – Chris DiGiuseppi, Award-winning Author of THE LIGHT BRINGER

NORMAL is currently available on Amazon and Kobo Additional vendors for the ebook will include Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Sony, and several others, but firm dates for availability have not yet been provided. The paperback version should be available before the end of the year.

TO ENTER THE CONTEST, simply leave a comment or question on The Writers' Lens between now (Sept. 24) and midnight, Sept. 29, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to The Writer's Lens who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning. Good luck and comment often!
And now, about the author....I met Janet at a St. Louis Writers Guild picnic a couple of years ago and since then, have come to know her as a good friend.

A career administrative professional, she recently retired from her post as administrative assistant to a municipal police chief to pursue writing and freelance editing full time. Janet’s published works also include magazine articles and book reviews. Her short story, "Collette's Conundrum," won an award in the 2010 Missouri Writers' Guild JoAnna Dale Sponsors' Contest for paranormal or mystery short fiction.

Her professional affiliations include membership in the St. Louis Writers' Guild, the Wee Writers of St. Charles, and the Missouri Writers' Guild, for which she currently serves as a member at large on the Board of Directors.

Website: is still under construction.
Twitter: @JanetBettag

      The Writers Lens is about “Bringing fiction into focus.” What brings your writing into focus – the characters, the stories, or the love of words? When I write nonfiction, it’s definitely the stories. As a reader, I expect nonfiction stories to have substance, be well researched, and provide me with valuable and interesting information. As a writer, that’s what I strive to deliver.

      In terms of fiction writing, my characters tend to drive the story. I may start out with a plot in mind and a rudimentary outline, but they’re the ones in the driver’s seat. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but it isn’t unusual for them to wake me up in the middle of the night to dictate some aspect of how the story should be told. I’ve had a character tell me that he most certainly was not the bad guy and that I needed to look elsewhere. Early in the writing of my current work in progress, the female protagonist woke me at 3:00 a.m. from a sound sleep to inform me that her dog’s name was Potluck. Silly me, I thought she was more of a cat person and didn’t even know she had a dog. 

 What inspired your latest book? NORMAL is a book I fought against writing for more than a decade. Early in my recovery, I was encouraged by some of my fellow aneurysm survivors to write my story and post it online. At that time, the last thing I wanted to do was put my personal life out there for the world to see. Several years ago, a very good friend, Chris DiGiuseppi (co-author of THE LIGHT BRINGER) helped me realize that by telling my story I might encourage other people dealing with brain trauma to keep fighting to rebuild their lives. I resisted the idea because I didn’t view my recovery as being all that heroic and didn’t want my first book to be viewed as a misery memoir. However, that conversation with Chris reminded me of a pledge I made a long time ago that I would reach out to other brain aneurysm survivors, find ways to increase public awareness, and support research focused on early detection of aneurysms and prevention of ruptures. 

Although I didn’t relish the idea of sitting at the keyboard dredging up experiences I would rather forget, the book started feeling like a mission. I sat down with my family and talked with them about the project because I didn’t want to move forward with it if it would make them uncomfortable in any way. They were - and remain - unanimously supportive. If NORMAL makes one person’s journey a little less frightening and a bit more hopeful or helps a single individual better understand a loved one who is dealing with brain trauma, then writing it was a worthwhile effort.

      How does NORMAL fulfill that part of your pledge involving support of brain aneurysm research?
A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book are donated to The Brain Aneurysm Foundation. In addition, I’ve set up a ‘Normal Readers’ BrainPOWER team so people who are so inclined can make tax deductible donations that are earmarked for patient support and research. I set a personal goal of raising $1,000 for that cause. It would be great to exceed that tenfold…or a hundred fold.  But even if I barely reach that mark, it’s something.
      Almost invariably when people first learn that I’ve survived a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, they react by telling me I’m lucky to be alive. I know how true that is. I had a dear friend who suffered a brain bleed and existed in a vegetative state for many years before she passed away. An aneurysm took the life of my mother-in-law.  An alarmingly large percentage of the people I speak with about the book tell me they lost a family member or close friend to a ruptured aneurysm. Every year, some 30,000 Americans suffer brain bleeds.  It’s been estimated that 6% of the population have undetected aneurysms. They are sneaky killers and rarely give their victims any warning – and nobody is immune, not even children. Something must be done to provide neuroscientists the funding and resources they need to find ways to study, predict, and detect aneurysms early so they can reduce the number of ruptures. 

      Would you share a bit about your next project? I would love to! The working title of my next project is MESSAGES FROM UNCLE MYRL. I’m about halfway through the first draft of my first novel, which involves a woman whose dream of rehabbing an old mansion into a writers’ retreat turns into a nightmare. From the moment she sets foot on the property freakish weather, unearthed bones, floating corpses, and other complications hinder her progress. Despite the fact that most of the people in town are friendly and supportive, she can’t shake the feeling that they share some secret to which she, as the newcomer, isn’t privy. There are several other levels to the story I’m not ready to divulge just yet. Let’s just say that readers who expect me to tell twisty ghost stories should not be disappointed. 

How much fact is in your fiction? Enough to keep me connected to the characters and the story, but not so much that it interferes with my imagination and creativity. My inspiration for MESSAGES FROM UNCLE MYRL is partially derived from my love for Clarksville, Missouri – which is technically my home town, although I was only three years old when we moved to the St. Louis suburbs. Enough factual details about the town will be incorporated to give readers that sense of actually being there and leave them wondering where the truth ends and the storytelling begins.
      My characters take on mannerisms and characteristics of people I observe in real life, although I make a point of not specifically basing the people in my writing on anybody I actually know. If I did that, they wouldn’t be able to develop their own personalities. One might have a quirky habit like twisting her hair around her finger when she’s nervous, another might have a brown spot in one of his blue eyes. I pick up little details like that from real people to help my characters come to life. I think all really creative writers weave parts of themselves and their life experiences into their work.

What’s the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? Hearing that my work positively influenced a person’s life is the ultimate praise, no matter how great or small that impact might be.

While we’re on the topic, I have two more comments. First, I consider it quite a compliment to be interviewed by The Writers Lens and appreciate the opportunity.  I also want to thank you personally for the wonderful comment you included in your Goodreads review of NORMAL. Never in a million years would I have imagined someone would suggest my book should be on Oprah’s list.

It's great to have you as our guest today, Janet! Thanks for telling us about how NORMAL came to be written. I hope it gains the attention of someone like Oprah so more people can be helped. After reading what you went through, I now have a better understanding of what it must be like for those who suffer from brain afflictions of many kinds, from aneurysms to strokes to dementia. And it makes me grateful for the simplest things in life!

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at and on Twitter @twfendley.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

6 North Anniversary Authors' Party features Antony John on 9/22

Join in the
Anniversary Celebration

1 year of Book Signings
10 a.m. to noon
Saturday, Sept. 22
 6 North Café
14438 Clayton Road
Ballwin, MO 63011

Meet Local Authors!
Autographed books available for sale!
  • Antony John
  • Cole Gibsen
  • Brad Cook
  • T.W. Fendley
  • Dianna Graveman 
  • Marcel Toussaint
  • Ellie S. Grossman
  • Kimberly Schneider 
  • Linda Austin   
  • Lonnie Whittaker 
  • Marilyn Brown   
  • Maurice Parisen  
  • Sharon Woods Hopkins  
  • Bill Hopkins  
  • Vicki Bennington  
  • Warren Martin   
  • Pam DeVoe 
ANTONY JOHN was born in England and raised on a balanced diet of fish and chips, obscure British comedies, and ABBA's Greatest Hits. In a fit of teenage rebellion, he decided to pursue a career in classical music, culminating in a BA from Oxford University and a PhD from Duke University. Along the way, he worked as an ice cream seller on a freezing English beach, a tour guide in the Netherlands, a chauffeur in Switzerland, a barista in Seattle, and a university professor. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Marketing update: book giveaways

By T.W. Fendley

In keeping with this week's "everyone wins" book giveaway, I'm returning to the topic of author book giveaways as a marketing tool. Last December, I shared my first impression of giveaways on the two main book cataloguing and social sites, Goodreads and Library Thing. Here's an update on how it's worked for me since my debut historical fantasy novel, ZERO TIME, came out in October 2011:
  • Given away 9 print copies on Goodreads--4 reviews
  • Given away 10 ebooks on Library Thing--1 review

The overall impact of the giveaways is harder to judge, but Goodreads makes it easier by posting final results on the author's dashboard. With Library Thing, you have to be online when the giveaway ends to know how many people wanted your book. It looks like almost 10 times as many people show interest in my book on Goodreads (450 vs. 50), which is about on par with their relative size. As of July 2012, according to Wikipedia, Goodreads reported 10 million members, while Library Thing had about 1.5 million.

Goodreads also tracks when people actually add your book to their "to read" shelf. Now that's awesome! As far as reader-impact, I haven't found any comparable measure for book promotions. ZERO TIME just topped the 200 mark! Those are people who probably wouldn't know about my book if not for the giveaways.

I've tried a few ways to enhance the promotions:
  • On my third Goodreads giveaway, I bought an ad and posted an excerpt. About 100 more people entered that giveaway than previous ones. (Apparently the excerpt's had zero reads!)
  • For the first time, my ongoing giveaways include readers outside the U.S. After finding out the USPS rate for sending a book overseas was $38, my first promotions were U.S. only. Then a reader told me about The Book Depository, which ships books free worldwide. You can see a listing of some international booksellers at Abe Books.
  • Will it help that my book is on a Listopia list for Kindle Book Review's Best Indie Books of 2012? (votes appreciated!)
Whether you're a reader or a writer, I find the book giveaways at Library Thing and Goodreads have merit.

For writers:
Library Thing: Early Reviewers distributes advance readers editions of upcoming books from select publishers, in exchange for reviews. Member Giveaways are informal author or member giveaways. Instructions on how to give away your books are here.

Goodreads: Prerelease* books are listed for giveaway by publishers and authors, and members can enter to win. List your books here.
*I believe you can list books for one year after publication.

For readers:
Check out the ongoing giveaways for ZERO TIME and thousands of other books at:
Goodreads -- I couldn't find a total, but they have LOTS of books available.
Library Thing -- Currently, Library Thing is giving away 77 Early Reviewer titles and 82 Members' titles.


Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens.

This is T.W. Fendley. You can also find me at and on Twitter @twfendley.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Free EBook Giveaway

Free EBook Giveaway

A Monday Giveaway Where Everybody Wins!

Here at the Writers Lens we have giveaways all the time, readers enter throughout the week and win at the end of the week. We love having them, but today we wanted to allow everyone to have that winning experience!

The Writers’ Lens is giving away EBOOKS!
I know we're giving away stuff that's already free, but that won't stop us from showcasing free ebooks. Plus classical novels are cool.

The links provided are a few suggestions of some great novels from classical literature that can be found for free. These are from Google Books, an excellent source for free books.

To get your free ebook, follow the link to the Google Books page; on the left hand side of the screen you will see a red button that says, “read ebook – free”, or something similar. You have two choices at this point. You can click the button which will take you to Google Play, Google’s E-reader, where you can sign up to get more free ebooks and get these books in any format. Or, you can hover your pointer over the button (but do not click it) and an option to get the book as a PDF will appear. You do not have to sign up for Google Play if you only want the PDF.

If you don’t like one of these, then we highly recommend you search for your favorite – but a word of caution: not all ebooks on Google Books are free. Only books that no longer carry a copyright under US Law are available for free.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Vol 1 by Sir Author Conan Doyle

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas – this version is a reprint from 1922

Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – this version is from 1846

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – this version is from 1869

The Merry adventures of Robin Hood of Great renown, in Nottinghamshire – this version is from 1911

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – this version is from 1881


There are a few other places to find free ebooks:
Project Gutenberg –
The Local Library – many allow you to check out ebooks or just read the traditional paper copies – libraries rule!