Friday, July 29, 2016

Interview with dark historical fiction novelist Mark Carver

Welcome, readers.

I’m wrapping up the week – and July – with author Mark Carver. He’s chatting with me about his historical fiction novel, Nikolai the Penitent: A Novel of the Brotherhood of the Cross.
Mark Carver writes dark, edgy books that tackle tough spiritual issues. He is currently working on his eighth novel. Besides writing, he is passionate about art, tattoos, heavy metal, and medieval architecture.

Mark graduated from Toccoa Falls College in 2005 with a B.A. in English. After living in China for more than eight years, he now lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and three children.

Welcome, Mark. Please tell us about your current release.
Nikolai the Penitent is a dark and brutal historical fiction novel that takes place in Germany during the Black Death plague of the mid-14th century. It was a time of ruin and despair and many believed that the unstoppable plague was God's judgment for the sins. Superstition and desperation was rampant, and one group that emerged was the Brotherhood of the Cross, a group of flagellants that would travel from town to town, whipping and beating themselves as atonement for God's wrath. What started out as a pious movement soon became mired in corruption and hedonism, even to the point of being explicitly banned by the Pope. The book follows Nikolai, a young man who loses everything to the plague and joins the Brotherhood, on his journey of seeking redemption for his own guilt and trying to make sense of the horrors around him. It is a very grim and bloody story but there is also hope and forgiveness.

What inspired you to write this book?
A few years ago, I downloaded a free e-book from Project Gutenberg called The Black Death and the Dancing Mania. It is a historical account of the terrible things that happened during those times. I came to the part about the Flagellants, and as Smee said the movie Hook, "Lightning has just struck my brain." I knew I had to write a story about these people, though at the time I was writing another book and had another one planned after that, so the story had plenty of time to simmer in my imagination.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I am working on a contemporary fiction story called Balor that blends the worlds of mixed martial arts and Mississippi hoodoo. It is shaping up to be a very dark and aggressive story that deals with the occult, inner demons, racism, and narcissism. Look for it to release late winter/early spring next year.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first story when I was six but I didn't decide to make a serious push into the writing industry until 2012. An idea had been brewing in my mind for a while and one day, I thought, "I'm going to write a book." That was more than half a million words ago.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I would love to be a full-time writer but until I get that Hollywood blockbuster movie deal, I teach ESL classes for international students at a local university. I write for about an hour each night after the kids have gone to sleep. Consistency is far better than waiting for creative spurts.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don't really do happy endings. That's not to say that I only write unhappy endings, but things never wrap up nice and neat in my stories. You know with a Mark Carver book that you're not going to get a pat on the back and reassurances that everything will be okay. I put my characters through the ringer and I know they hate me for it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A paleontologist. I can still draw an anatomically correct T-Rex from memory.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Any time you read a book, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, social media, etc. Whether you loved it or hated it, authors need all the help we can get from our readers.


Thanks for being here today, Mark! All the best with your continued writing!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Special excerpt for the mystery The Empty Room by Sarah J. Clemens

My feature today is a special excerpt from the romantic mystery, The Empty Room by Sarah J. Clemens.

During her virtual book tour, Sarah will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

A little bit about the author:
Sarah J Clemens is the author of the debut novel, The Empty Room. She began writing The Empty Room in 2008 and formed her own publishing company in 2016 called Off the Page Publishing.

Sarah was born in California and now lives and works in Boise, Idaho. In addition to writing fiction, she is a legal assistant with an Associate of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

A little bit about the novel:
The small town of Eastbrook, Maine seemed like the close-knit community where newlyweds Dean and Elizabeth Montgomery could begin their lives together, and the 1901 Victorian seemed like the house they’d always dreamed of owning. The only condition for purchasing the property was that it was sold in “as-is” condition.

When the couple arrives in Eastbrook, they receive anything but a warm welcome from the local residents. And when they realize that as-is condition meant that the previous owner of the house had left every worldly possession behind, the dream of the small town life starts to take a mysterious turn.

Day after day, Dean and Elizabeth uncover more truths than they could have ever imagined, or ever wanted to know about the secrets that were hidden in the small town of Eastbrook. And as neighbors become growingly hostile with every encounter, this young couple searches furiously to uncover what the residents are trying to hide.

As their journey unfolds, Elizabeth goes missing and Dean must turn to the very neighbors he fears may have known what would happen to her from the moment the couple arrived for help. Because in this town, some secrets are better off hidden.

Excerpt from The Empty Room:
The car grumbled to a stop at the end of the gravel driveway. The three-day car trip was finally over. The gas station food and bathrooms stops were all behind them. They were home. The house might have been filled with someone else’s belongings, but they owned it now.

The house looked like a postcard from the outside. Small shrubs lined each side of the driveway as it suspiciously winded its way to the front porch. The grass was wet with dew after the recent rain.

As though looking at a piece of abstract art, Dean and Elizabeth both leaned forward in their seats toward the dash and squinted from inside the window of the car. Their eyes moved from left to right, making sure to taste every detail that first met their view.

“It’s gorgeous.” Elizabeth peered out from beneath the windshield.

With her eyes squinted and her mouth opened slightly, she studied every feature of architecture as though the house would greet her with an exam before allowing her to enter. She broke her concentration from the house and pressed her hand to the passenger side window, looking up and down to visually imprint every detail that awaited.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Interview with thriller author Simon Cann

Today’s special feature is an interview with Simon Cann with a focus on his crime thriller novel, Clementina.

During his virtual book tour, Simon will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.

Also, the book will be free on Amazon from Monday 25 July to Friday 29 July (inclusive).

Simon Cann is the author of the Boniface, Montbretia Armstrong, and Leathan Wilkey series of books.

In addition to his fiction, Simon has written a range of music-related and business-related books, and has also worked as a ghostwriter.

Before turning full-time to writing, Simon spent nearly two decades as a management consultant, where his clients included aeronautical, pharmaceutical, defense, financial services, chemical, entertainment, and broadcasting companies.

He lives in London.

A little bit about Clementina:
Leathan Wilkey has been hired to babysit Clementina, a seventeen-year-old whose rich daddy is going through a messy divorce and is over-compensating.

Leathan soon tires of her spending habits, her selfie obsession, and her social media preoccupation as his ward drags him from shop to boutique to jeweler, approaching each with the self-possession that comes from a lifetime of getting her own way and never once having to worry about money.

But when Clementina snaps her fingers and her boyfriend doesn’t come running, something is up. He doesn’t appear because he’s been murdered.

When Leathan investigates, he finds that the boyfriend has no background and met Clementina through a connection made by daddy’s business partner.

Daddy’s business partner who has been slowly and progressively putting daddy in a vice, grabbing more of the business, and who is now menacing Clementina directly to manipulate daddy.

How do you develop your plot and characters?


And in tandem—as in, initially I develop characters and the plot at the same time.
I’ll often have a story idea and know who my protagonist is. From there I’ll usually work to the characters that the protagonist deals with in the first few scenes. Often these will be less significant characters—or if they are more significant characters, they’ll be doing less.

I like to crank down the characters earlier on in a novel so that readers can get their head around the basic problem that the protagonist is facing. If you introduce readers to seven new people in the first three pages, you’re just going to confuse them. I want to get with the story and THEN bring in characters.

For myself, I need to understand what each person wants. In other words, I need to understand the characters’ motivations at a very primal level. I may or may not share this with the reader, but **I** need to understand the character at that level before I can seriously throw them into the mix.

When I’m developing characters, I always make notes (I’m a plotter AND I keep a “story bible”). These notes may not have any relevance or use for the reader, but they help me understand who each character is, what drives them, and what their limits are.

In my books characters are always regular people. They may have a position, they may have skills, but I never throw in special talents which can only be useful if I contort the story. For instance, I would never give anyone skills as a scuba diver and then have a story where the heroine was only able to save the day because she had her scuba skills.

For my plots, I find an interesting starting point, then follow where the story leads. I’m a plotter and get detailed in my plotting (it wouldn’t be unusual for me to create a 15,000 to 20,000-word outline for a 100,000-word book).

The flip side to my plotting is that writing the book is comparatively fast for me and usually there will only be one draft.

Excerpt from Clementina:
I stared up at the six-foot pile of brick held together by cement, then turned to the fastidious man. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Vianney,” he said.

“Vianney. Is this the only way out?”

He nodded, a precise tilt of his head like a movement fashioned by a watchmaker.

“Do you know who is over the back?” I pointed over the wall.

A shake of his head, equally precise. I pulled out my phone. Vianney shook his head again—three small twists. “No signal.” He pointed back inside. “Seven paces.”

I took seven paces and got two bars. “We’re going out the back,” I said when Reece answered. “I’m not sure what’s there, but come and find us there.” Back outside, Clementina was still staring up at the sky. “Ready?” I asked.

She seemed perplexed.

“We’re going to meet the neighbors,” I said, taking her shiny bag and handing it to Vianney. “You’re going first.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“We’re going over the wall—you’re going first. Give your bag to Vianney to hold.” I pointed to the large lump of leather still hanging from her shoulder. “And put this back on.” I handed her the jacket I was carrying. I was sure it wasn’t designed for rough and tumble, but I preferred it be scraped rather than her.

“Why…?” she began.

“Because it’s the only way out, and you’re going first because if I go first there’s no one to help you over the wall,” I said, predicting her range of questions. “What else did you want to do today?”

“I wanted…” she began, slipping on her jacket. “That was rhetorical, wasn’t it?”

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Anything that isn’t chocolate flavored.

Which mythological creature are you most like?
The one the spends all day sitting in a cave carving tales about other creatures into stone tablets.

First book you remember making an indelible impression on you.
The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth.

I was probably about twelve when I read the book. To me it was a revelation—it was the first time that I realized that a fiction could be so close to the truth and that fiction could be set in the real world.

Please describe your writing space.

My writing space is a room in my house…a small room—it’s six feet by eight feet, and most of the space it taken up with a desk (the actual useable floor space—without a desk or bookcases—is three feet by five…enough space to walk into the room and sit on the chair).

When I started writing full-time I took the door off the room because it just got in the way and the space was so limited.

At the opposite end from the door it a window which looks out over my street. It’s a short road and I can see to the end of the street. If I crane my neck and look to the left I can see the railway line which is the mainline to and from central London.

So far I think I’ve written upward of twenty-five books in this space.


The book will be free on Amazon from Monday 25 July to Friday 29 July (inclusive).