Friday, August 31, 2012

A few words with author Michelle Muckley

Today I'm sitting down with the lovely Michelle Muckley. Her first novel, The Loss of Deference was released just last month, so let's get things started. 

Griffin: Tell us a little about The Loss of Deference. 
Michelle: The Loss of Deference is a novel that focuses on the lives of two male best friends. They are inseparable since childhood, after a horrible accident bound them together. As adults, and many years later they find themselves living very difficult but also very different lives.  The novel is set in a poor society deep in recession, where people's previously held beliefs and moral code are really being challenged. William, our main protagonist thinks he knows everything about his best friend, but when he makes a terrible discovery, it challenges not only their relationship but the very basis on which their lives are built. What drew me to writing this novel was the chance to explore how far they might go against their own beliefs in order to keep their own lives on track, and how that’s fits into the limits of friendship and relationships.

Griffin: What are you working on next?
Michelle: My WIP is currently just under the 40000 word mark. I am inspired by events that I hear about in the news, or read on line. I don’t think I am one of those writers who can write two books at once.  Once I have an idea I get completely consumed by it. Starting on another story would end up taking away from the original, I think. I am hoping that this will be released around November time, give or take a bit with editing.  It’s a mystery, and follows a family dealing with life after a tragedy. Ultimately I feel that it's a journey of discovery and relationships.  I like stories about normal people in extraordinary circumstances, learning how to live. That’s what I like to read, and so that's what I like to write.

Griffin: Describe your journey as a writer.
Michelle: A long one! Even as a child I loved writing, stories here and there and an endless stream of imaginary characters. My brothers were all older than me, so being the only girl I would construct whole imaginary worlds to live in. Even as I was applying for University to study something sensible like science, I was still daydreaming about being a writer, and would still be scribbling down ideas on scraps of paper that would have me as the next Stephen King.  When I should have been loaning out books about biochemistry and pharmacology, the back seat of my old fiat was stacked with books about the theatre and writers skills.  Eventually, I had a bit of a revelation that if I wanted to be a writer I actually had to start writing something with some substance.

That’s not to say suddenly I had the whole thing sussed though. There were periods when I didn’t write at all, then period when I didn’t do anything else and took leave from my sensible job in order to do it. Then there were periods when all I seemed to do was collect rejection letters.  But I always figured that was part of the course. Pretty traditional writer’s journey I think!

Griffin: Do you have a writing schedule and if so what is it?
Michelle: I do now! I made the decision to leave the UK about eighteen months ago which personally was a great idea but scientific career wise not so much. I do work still seeing patients in the afternoon, but in the mornings I usually have three to four hours to myself when I am able to write, so it’s a blessing in disguise. In all honestly, I think if I was still doing my old on-call rotation and working fifteen hour shifts in the hospital I wouldn’t have managed to publish The Loss of Deference yet, or be 40,000 words into the WIP. See, Mediterranean life really is healthier!

Griffin: How much planning, outlining and research goes into each of your books?
Michelle: Probably not enough if I am honest. I usually start writing after the idea has been floating around for a month or two. By this point I will know the main characters and therefore will just get into the writing. I usually only have an idea of beginning, middle, and the end. The rest of it I learn as I go along, pantsing my way through it.

Griffin: How do you deal with writer's block?
Michelle: Well up until I started book two last month I had never had it. I think before I was able to write so sporadically, that all my thoughts and ideas would be there stored up, so by the time it came to writing I just had to get them all out. Now however, because I can write everyday, some days just feel tough. The first proper block hit me last week and my solution was coffee and a croissant. This didn’t help much, but I threw the idea out on the and got some great answers back and the advice of the other writers really helped. It’s obviously something that gets people thinking as the thread is still going. I ended up putting up the ideas they gave me on my blog because they were so varied.

Griffin: Any thoughts on the current state of the publishing industry?
Michelle: My thoughts probably don’t tally with many people, but I actually think it’s a lot more open than it used to be if we look at it as a whole in its current form.Traditionally I accept it is still very hard to get an agent and/or publisher for paperback releases, but even if you have one there is still no guarantee that your books will sell. At least now the world of publishing electronically gives more people a chance to try on their own.  I don’t have an agent, or a publisher, but I have a book that is selling. Without the world of e publishing that may not have been possible.

Griffin: What authors inspire you?
Michelle: I think I have to go back to being a child to answer that one. I remember the whole collection of Roald Dahl books sitting on my shelf, being read time and time again and for the first time seeing how magical the world of story telling could be. Second to that I have to say one of the masters.  The first ‘grown-up’ book I read was The Shining by Steven King when I was about ten years old…..that’s when the dream was born.

Griffin: What's the best thing about being a writer?
Michelle: Without doubt the finished product. To be able to see what you have produced and have somebody tell you that they enjoyed your story. The idea that somebody sits down with your book and gets into that world you created is a magical for me as an author as it is when I do it as a reader.

Griffin: What's the worst thing about being a writer?
Michelle: Hand cramps and glasses. And you can add into that a likely lower hourly wage than when I was sixteen. But I intend for that to change.

Griffin: If you weren't doing this interview right now, what would you be doing?
Michelle: Probably sailing past the 40,000 word mark! But then again this is Cyprus and it is 5 pm, so probably more likely to be sat near the beach with a Frappe.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Any last words?
Thanks for having me, great to talk to you. Good luck with Dark Passage

Thanks! And for anyone who hasn't already, go ahead and grab yourselves a copy of Michelle's book. Links are at the top and bottom of the page.

"Michelle was born and raised in a small historical town in the heart of England, but is now living in Cyprus and learning as much greek as possible. She spent many years working in the NHS, doing on call hours that no amount of european laws can protect you against, and is now enjoying the more social and stress free life of the Mediterranean. This has enabled her to (finally) get her first novel, The Loss of Deference published on the Kindle in June 2012, and be over 60,000 words into book two (watch this space!). When she is not writing furiously about the darker side of life, you will find her hiking in the mountains, drinking frappe at the beach, or talking to herself in the kitchen in the style of an American celebrity chef."

Where to find her:

Twitter: @michellemuckley

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dark Passage: A Paranormal Thriller is Free August 24-25

My paranormal thriller Dark Passage will be FREE on Amazon August 24-25.

From Amazon reviewers:
"Top Ten Thrillers of All Time"
"Seriously creepy!"
"An edge of your seat thriller"
"Best Book Ever!!!"

When Tyson Barrett closes his eyes, nightmares torture him--visions from a traumatic childhood so horrifying he hasn't slept in months. He's already estranged from his wife and their young son and now his business is on the verge of collapse. A last ditch effort to end Tyson's nightmares and cure his insomnia results in what appears to be a miracle cure; one that promises to solve both his medical and personal problems.

But this miracle cure has a dark side. Now, whenever Tyson dreams, something unspeakable follows him back from that other place, an abomination born from the darkest depths of his psyche... and it isn't working alone. There's something else waiting to come through. An evil more terrifying than Tyson could ever have imagined. And now it wants his son.

Warning: contains graphic violence and language.

Amazon link

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Horror author Craig McGray spills his guts out

I'm really happy to be sitting down with horror author Craig McGray for a glimpse into the murkier corners of his mind. Craig's recently released the first book in a series called The Somnibus. I've read it and can assure you it's great. So without any further ado. 

Griffin: Tell us a little about your new series. 

Craig: Well, 'The Somnibus' is based on a premise that began as an entirely different concept. I began writing a story about a boy who had a special creepy relationship with his own shadow. My mind wandered, as it so often does while I'm writing, and the plot that became 'The Somnibus Series' took over. I shelved the boy and his shadow story, and I went to work on 'The Somnibus'. It has taken much longer than I'd hoped, but the time I have to devote is limited to say the least, probably like the majority of indie authors.

Griffin: What are you working on next?

Craig: Book II is in the works and I'm loving the character development so far. It’s why I like writing. I know it’s working when I’m able to just sit back and let my characters tell me what they want to do, or what they don’t want to do (and in that case, that’s usually what I end up putting them through). I’m a big believer in beating my characters up to make them show the reader what they’re made of.

Griffin: Describe your journey as a writer.

Craig: Hmmm. It’s still a little odd to hear someone call me a writer. Well, when I was a kid, I always loved to write. I placed second, I think, in a countywide creative writing contest when I was in fifth grade. I would write stories, read them, and then throw them away. I never really showed it to anyone, not even my mom. I was always afraid of what people would think about my writing. I still suffer with this today actually. When I decided to start writing again, I kept it to myself for almost a year. I told my wife, and eventually a few close friends, but other than that I kept it to myself. I’m turning 40 this year, how’d that happen, and I decided I wanted to try to get something published. With the indie market so open, I saw it as my opportunity to put my stories out there and see what others thought. It has been such an incredible experience. I have met some really cool people, like you, that have really been forthcoming with a willingness to help. I try to do my best to help promote many indie authors out there. I love the fact that writers are able to write, edit, format, and publish their own work if they choose to. The intimidating prospect of trying to go the traditional publishing route quite honestly is one reason I kept my writing to myself.

Griffin: Thanks! Do you have a writing schedule and if so what is it?

Craig: I have a full-time day job that requires full-time attention, a young family, and I race triathlons. So, I write when I'm on my bike trainer in the morning, at lunch sometimes if I can clear my head enough, and at home when I can't sleep (which is way too often). In other words, whenever I can. My writing schedule is less of a schedule than what I like to think of as my efficient use of random free time. My workouts allow my mind to wrestle with new ideas, resolve sticking points, and just kind of clear out a bit. It helps take my mind off the pain I may be going through during my training. My training is very therapeutic for my sanity. It helps me solve problems not only in my writing, but also in life in general. Whether it’s work or family issues, I often end my training sessions with a sense of clarity that was missing when I started.

Griffin: How much planning, outlining and research goes into each of your books?

Craig: I usually start with a few paragraphs as a plan for a story, then let thing simmer and evolve. I find it hard to plan much more than where to start, where it might end, and I know I need to get my characters through stuff in the middle. Other than that, sit down and start typing away.

I tried the outline thing, and I couldn’t keep it going. I found myself stressing out because I strayed from the outline too much, and then I redid the outline and it caused a snow ball of wasted time for me. I’m sure there’s a happy medium between using an outline and following it to the letter, and using it as a loose guide. Right now, I’m using a loose version of an outline and it seems to be working for me, for now at least.

My research is dependant on the subject matter of the story I’m working on. I do a fair amount for some things, and others just come from my mind and have no basis on reality, so there’s not much to research, except maybe with a therapist as to why I have some of these crazy thoughts.

Griffin: How do you deal with writer's block?

Craig: What’s that? Just kidding. If I’m stuck on something, I try not to focus on that story for a little while. I have plenty of stories that are in various stages, as I’m sure most writers do, because the link went down and I became stuck. I’m okay with it. I’ll go back through them sometimes when I am stuck, and sometimes it breaks the barrier down or I may start writing on an old story. I’ll work on a short story, read from something outside of my normal choices, or just do nothing about it. I guess that’s easier for me to do because I’m not depending on writing to feed my family. I’m sure I would feel much more stress if I had to sell my stories to eat. I have so much respect for full time writers. I know on a small scale what goes into publishing and promoting a book. You guys, and girls that do it full-time have to be rock stars to make it happen.

Griffin: Any thoughts on the current state of the publishing industry?

Craig: I don’t really know enough to speak with any authority, as with most things, but the way I see it, indie publishing has its work to do. There will be constant headwinds, as with any business venture that puts David against Goliath, but in the end, I believe those who put in the most work will be successful. The support of other authors is crucial to the success for all of us.

With that being said, there is some real junk put out that gives indie authors a bad rap. The errors that slip through after many edits and revisions aren’t what I mean, I know because I find them in my work at times, it’s the writing that looks like a C student high schooler put it together that hurts us. There’s nothing wrong with a C student high schooler, but I don’t want to pay to read their work.

Griffin: Good Point. What authors inspire you?

Craig: This question really is too hard to answer. All authors inspire me really. When my eight-year-old daughter, Emma, sits down and starts writing, I’m her biggest fan. She is a main inspiration for sure. I love to read King horror, H.P. Lovecraft has become a favorite. I don’t know there are so many I could list, I’ll stop there. Oh, there’s this guy who writes really creepy stuff that keeps me up sometimes, Griffin Hayes, or something like that I think

Griffin: Never heard of him. Sounds like a hack. Ahem...So what's the best thing about being a writer?

Craig: Being able to kill people off and not get in trouble for it. Oops, did I say that out loud? Really, for me it lets me feel like a kid again in certain ways. Before we grow up and have families, sign up for mortgages and have all these responsibilities, we are allowed to just be. We didn’t have deadlines, except to maybe be in before dark, we didn’t have to pay bills or worry about the crappy state of the world. When I write I’m allowed to step away from all the grown up stuff. Those things might take place in my stories, but I have control. Hell, if my main character is going to lose his house, he can find a briefcase full of money. Now, there are sure to be attachments with the money that will no doubt have consequences and kick his butt, but I can do it. My characters can say whatever they want without real life repercussions. He/she might get punched in the face for saying it, but it’s all make believe. That’s why I like writing. It makes me feel like a kid. That was a fun question to answer.

Griffin: Good. I'm glad you liked it. Here's one you're gonna hate. What's the worst thing about being a writer?

Craig: Self doubt. That’s pretty much it for me at this point. I don’t like the fact that I doubt myself about something. I go back and forth before I let someone read my stuff. I constantly ask myself, What if they don’t like it? I’m getting better about the answer I give, It’s okay. If some people don’t like it, it’s all right. I’ll still get to play with my kids in the pool, I’ll still go to dinner with my wife, and I’ll still have friends and family that care about me, they might not read my stuff anymore, but they care.

Griffin: If you weren't doing this interview right now, what would you be doing?

Craig: It’s Saturday night, so probably hanging out with the wife watching trashy reality shows or Tosh.O. At this point in our lives, that’s what we look forward to on the weekend. Well, I think we do. I know I do.

Any last words?

Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really enjoyed the interview. Also, I want to thank you for all the help and support you have shown me, a complete stranger, over the last months. I truly appreciate all the time you have spent helping me out with my writing. I wish you the best in your future, and I look forward to reading more of your stories that keep me up late at night.

Thanks so much for stopping by Craig and for all the kind words. I'm very happy to help and also grateful for letting me bounce ideas and early drafts off of you. Best of luck on The Somnibus series and I know in the future we'll be hearing plenty more from you. 

Visit the links below to read some of Craig's work or to interact with him on Twitter or his blog. 
‘The Somnibus: Book I’ Amazon U.S./U.K.
My Adventures in Writing Blog

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Today's Top Stories

I think it's time for an update. First things first. The Malice giveaway went very well. I'd originally scheduled it for three days, but when I hit 10,000 downloads by the end of day two, I decided to pull the plug. Since then the novel has sold a good number of copies.

I've since removed Malice from Amazon's Select program (Dark Passage is the only book still there) and am in the process of making most of my work available to our epub friends via Kobo, B&N, Itunes etc.

I'm still reluctant to go through Smashwords to reach any of the more obscure vendors, especially since any changes I want to make take forever, but for now I think I'll bite the bullet. I am however, placing my books directly through as many vendors as possible (Kobo, Itunes, Amazon...) to avoid those pesky SW complications. Here is a link to my titles on Kobo. The other's I'll post once they go live.

I also have two short stories that will be coming out soon. Once they're done, I'll be folding them into a short story collection which will include several of my existing shorts as well as three others never before seen.

In other news, I'm hoping the new cover for Dark Passage will be coming soon. It's been in the works for a number of weeks now and I've been particularly picky with this one. I'll put it on display once it comes in. Oh, and I'm also working on a top secret new novel. The idea just came to me the other day and I've been laboring feverishly to do all the research necessary. I have at least ten projects in the pipeline, many of which are half completed. It's not terribly uncommon for me to start a story all gun-ho, only to lose steam half way through when I realize I have no idea where I'm heading. I've discovered the secret is to let it sit for a few months/years and then come back to it. After that it practically writes itself. I'm half joking of course, but you get the idea.

Finally, I'll be doing interviews this month with a couple of new indie writers. Horror author Craig McGray will swing by for some words later next week and shortly after that I'll introduce you all to the lovely Michelle Muckley.

That's all for now. A big thank you to everyone who downloaded and read Malice last week. If you loved the book and just can't keep it in, why not swing by Amazon and leave a review.

Thanks for stopping by!