Interview with authors Mark Todd & Kym O’Connell Todd

Todds - Copy

I am so excited to have these two authors, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd, as my guests today. They are both really great people and our conversations are always interesting, to say the least. Although I’ve never met Kym in person, Mark was my professor and mentor, and later my co-worker at Western State Colorado University. They also were a part of one of my 2018 “Ask the Authors” blog series and will be featured authors in the anthology of the same name, which is taken from that series and is planned for release in 2020.

You’ve heard of those couples who have been married so long and know each other so well that they can finish each other’s sentences? Well, these two really do that, both in speech and in writing, and they have co-authored several books together. We’re going to talk today about their nonfiction collaboration, Wild West Ghosts, which documents their paranormal research, (which was of course, carried out as a team). Let’s welcome them now and see what they have to share with us today.


Kaye: You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. What are some of the major differences that you see between the two types of writing?

Kym-n-Mark: We both began as journalists, so we cut our eyeteeth writing nonfiction. Lots and lots of straight news stories.

Kym: For years my job as a newspaper features editor gave me plenty of practice at bringing out the lives of interviewees to readers by applying creative writing techniques such as scene dramatization, dialogue, setting, and “character” description.

Mark: This may sound flippant, but my favorite description of the difference is this: nonfiction is writing that pretends it’s true while fiction is writing that pretends it isn’t! Okay, that even sounds flippant to me. But I think there’s a kernel of truth in there.


smallghostsKaye: In Wild West Ghosts, although the material is nonfiction, describing ghost hunts that you have been on, the historical characters which inhabited the locations in the past were very real and they had lives. How did you help those characters come to life for your readers?

Kym-n-Mark: We did a lot of research for each hotel and often found first-hand historical accounts either by the people we wrote about or about those folks by others from the time. During and after our paranormal investigations, we tried to be mindful the entitles we seemed to contact were once real people and respectful when we told the stories they had to share – or at least our encounters with them.


Kaye: What is the most unusual ghost hunt you’ve ever been on? Why?

Kym-n-Mark: We’d have to say the Norwood Hotel really stands out for all the things that happened. A cup flew off a table in front of us, we encountered a cold spot, and multiple pieces of equipment reported the same readings. In one room, there seemed to be a pathetic presence who identified herself as “Leah” who asked us to help her, and when we reviewed out digital recorder later asked us to remember her. In another room at the hotel, all our equipment red-lined and then shut down at the same time. We decided it was time to go.


Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Kym-n-Mark: Ha! As journalists we learned to write to deadline, so any time is good. But we also pick whatever time we’re both free to write together.


Kaye: You’ve been a college professor and Kym is a graphic designer, in addition to being authors. If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Kym-n-Mark: Probably what we’re doing right now. We write because we enjoy it. Besides, we’ve turned a number of hobbies into businesses through the years, and it somehow kills the joy. We’d never want that to happen to our writing if that’s all we had to do.


Kaye: What is the biggest challenge when writing with a co-author?

Kym-n-Mark: For us it’s never been a challenge. But we’ve talked to other authors who found it hard. Most use “over the transom” writing, where each writes drafts and passes it to the other  to revise back and forth. But all a matter of compatibility – in writing style, in work ethic, and in commitment.

Kym: Writing style and values are important. If either one of us had large egos, we’d either stop writing together or else we’d be divorced.

Mark: Yes, dear.


Kaye: What is the best part of writing with a co-author?

Kym-n-Mark: We’re sure there are others out there who do it like we do, but we can’t name anyone.

Kym: I start a sentence…

Mark: …and I finish it.

Kym: Or vice versa. Then before we finish a session, we reread and rewrite until –

Mark: — until we can’t tell who wrote what.

Kym: You’d think were married or something. Oh wait, we are!


Kaye: What is your favorite channel for book promotion?

Kym-n-Mark: That’s a toughie. We’ve tried most of them, and we ended up taking the sage advice to focus on just a handful that seemed to fit us best. Like you, Kaye, we like blogging, and have had a fair amount of success with that channel when cross-promoting with FB and Twitter.


Kaye: What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?

Mark: I’ve always liked Natalie Goldberg’s advice from her book, “Writing Down the Bones: “Always give yourself permission to fail.”

Kym: I’ve always liked this: “Just start writing. If you don’t like it, that’s what the delete button is for.”


Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Kym: Don’t quit your day job. Until you make it, the electricity still needs to be paid.

Mark: I agree. I usually takes time to break in to publishing. Don’t put the pressure on yourself or your family. You’ll either find yourself blocked or you’ll crank out something that’s a waste of your time and your readers.


Kaye: Are there more books in the future for Mark and Kym Todd? What are you currently working on?

Mark: We’ve both really gotten into genealogy – we even have a blog dedicated to the more interesting skeletons we’ve each discovered in our closets. I’ve also always wanted to finish a memoir  (one of those drafts-in-a drawer kinds of thing) about growing up in in a family mortuary business. A comedy, of course.

Kym: Our last book about ghosts happened because we were celebrating with our publisher the publication of our the third book in the Silverville trilogy. I never drink but had two Cape Cods that night. When our publisher asked us what was next, I blurted out a book about haunted hotels. Two days later, he called us and said he’d publish the ghost book. Maybe we’ll plan the next one when I get drunk again.


I want to thank Kym & Mark for joining us here and sharing today. As always when talking with them, the conversation was unique and entertaining, as well as being informative. I, for one, can’t wait to learn what that next book will be about, so I think Mark should take Kym out more often. You can learn more about Mark & Kym and their books on Mark’s Amazon Author page or on his Goodreads author page. To learn more about their paranormal investigations, visit their blog, Write in the Thick of Things.


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“Writing for a Y.A. Audience”: An Asylum for Inspiration

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

On the way to my parents’ house, I pass an insane asylum.  It has all the key characteristics to making it creepy.

abandoned ancient antique architecture

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Abandoned? Check.

Broken windows? Check.

Overgrown, crumbling porch? Check.

Mysterious past? Check.

By “mysterious,” I mean that everyone I talk to has a different story about it.  Most people say that one time “long ago,” the inmates rebelled and its been closed ever since.  Of course there are stories about those inmates still trapped inside.  Not sure how they could still be trapped with broken doors…

Some people tell me they used to sneak inside.  Some say evil things happened inside.  There is a huge chain-link fence surrounding the rambling building right now, so no one can sneak inside anymore.

When looking it up, there is very little information about the abandoned psychiatric center.

Driving by it so often inspired so many thoughts for a story.  Did I want to write about an inmate?  Would it be a work of historic fiction or a mystery?

A ghost story took form, and along came HAWTHORNE HIGH.  What happens if an old psychiatric center is transformed into a haunted high school?  Find out in this young adult novella.

Hawthorne High

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult author who is obsessed with history and ghosts.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com


Announcing the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest!

Whispers of the Past Promo

The 2019 WordCrafter Paranormal Short Fiction Contest was a success. We had several entries and most are now featured in “Whispers of the Past”, the first anthology to be published by WordCrafter, along with the winning story, “A Peaceful Life I’ve Never Known” by Jeff Bowles. I anticipate seeing entries from some of these same authors for the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest and I hope you all will enter as well.

You can buy Whispers of the Past here: https://books2read.com/u/38EGEL

With that in mind, I’m excited to tell you about next year’s contest. The theme for The 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest is paranormal western. That’s right. WordCrafter Press is looking for western ghost stories! This is going to be a fun contest, so get writing. Each entry must contain elements of the western genre and elements of the paranormal genre, but beyond that, your imaginations are the only limits. All submissions must be original works which cannot be found online for free. (Amazon is quite a stickler on this one.) Like last year, there will be a $5 entry fee. In addition to publication the 2020 anthology, the winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

Ghost Miner

Guidelines:

  • Submit paranormal, speculative fiction, or horror with a western flare. I want to read your story!
  • Stories should be less than 10,000 words and have paranormal and western elements.
  • Flash fiction is accepted as long as it is a complete story, with beginning, middle and end.
  • Submit stories in a word doc, double spaced with legible 12 pt font, in standard manuscript format.
  • Submit stories to kayebooth@yahoo.com with Submission: [Your Title] in the subject line. You will receive instructions to submit your $5 entry fee with confirmation of receipt.
  • If you receive an invitation for the anthology, you will also be asked to submit a short author bio and photo.
  • No simultaneous submissions. You should receive a reply within 45 – 60 days.
  • Multiple submissions are accepted with appropriate entry fee for each individual story.

I’m hoping to release the anthology around Halloween again, so get your submissions in by April 30th. Above is the draft for the cover, title yet to be announced and suggestions are welcomed. I was pleased with the results of last year’s contest and the resulting anthology, and I’m anticipating the one for 2020 will be even better. So, send me your stories and let the contest begin!


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Stalking horror and dark fiction in October

Horror & Dark Fiction Theme Post

In screenwriting, horror is very formulaic. The setting isolates the characters in a situation where their lives and/or souls are in jeopardy and the characters always make poor choices which throw them directly into the path of the psycho serial killer/monster, i.e. the villain. This horror movie commercial for Geiko sums up horror movies nicely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYae3ZAAbLc. I get a kick out of it every time I watch it. But that isn’t to say that there are no good movies. When done right, horror movies can keep you awake at night because they play on our deepest fears. And fear is a powerful emotion.

In October Writing to be Read has been stalking horror and dark fiction. In fiction, horror stories don’t have to be as formulaic as horror films, (although they can be), but they have many of the same components. There is usually a battle of good vs. evil, as horror and dark fiction stories seem a natural fit for this theme. Dark fiction stories mesh well with fantasy, thrillers, science fiction and western genres, among others. They just seem to work well together. Whatever flavor of dark fiction you choose to examine, horror is, and always has been, in high demand.

You can’t have a conversation about horror and dark fiction without hearing mention of the masters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice. These dark minds have created some of the most memorable horror stories, ones which stick in readers’ minds because they are so twisted, and dark, and horrific, playing on the fears we harbor within ourselves. Stephen King and Anne Rice are the masters of horror for me. Who is your favorite horror author? Let me know in the comments below.

This month we looked at two award winning and best selling authors of dark fiction on not one, but two segments of “Chatting with the Pros”, who may be right up there with the best of them: Paul Kane and Jeffrey J. Mariotte, and a double review featuring Kane’s Arcana and Mariotte’s Cold Black Hearts. In addition, I interviewed author Roberta Eaton Cheadle about her first dark fiction novel and the transition from writing children’s stories into writing horror, and I reviewed that novel, Through the Nethergate. And “Growing Bookworms” Robbie Cheadle discussed the pros and cons of allowing children to read stories with scary or sad content.

 

 

 

In addition, this month myself and three of the Writing to be Read team members: Art Rosch, Robbie Cheadle and Jeff Bowles, have stories in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers of the Past, and Robbie and I both have stories appearing in Dan Alatorre’s horror anthology, Nightmareland.

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It’s been a great month for horror,and to top it all off, WordCrafter is co-hosting a Halloween book event on Facebook with Sonoran Dawn Studios, the All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party. With games and giveaways with cool prizes, music and scary audio stories, it should be a lot of fun. I hope you’ll click on the link and drop in and spend some or all of your Halloween with us: https://www.facebook.com/events/2389123051407696/ 

 

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Spend Your Halloween at the “All Hallows Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party” Book Event

Book Event Promotion

It’s almost Halloween! Don’t sit home and be bored. WordCrafter is partying with Sonoran Dawn Studios with the All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party on Facebook.

  • Free promotion for authors
  • Music
  • Audio stories
  • Games and giveaways with great prizes

The author voted best scary audio story will receive a $25 Amazon gift card, so come party with us and let your vote be counted. Join in the fun and support your favorite authors on Thursday, October 31st. Just click on the link below and then click ‘Going’.

Author takeover slots are still available, but time is short, so contact Sonoran Dawn Studios from the event page to reserve your time slot now. Bring all of your ghosts, goblins and ghouls and let’s party! See you there!

All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party

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“Chatting with the Pros”: Interview with bestselling horror author Jeffrey J. Mariotte

Chatting with the Pros

My author guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” may just have books in his blood. Before he was an author he managed a bookstore.  He’s gone on to work in both marketing and publishing, and become a bestselling, multiple award-winning author with leanings toward dark fiction. He’s got great insight into writing on the dark side which he’s willing to share with us today, so let’s welcome Jeffrey J. Mariotte now.



JJM Headshot

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Jeff: I started writing stories when I was very young, probably 7 or 8. They were terrible, of course, and utterly derivative, mostly of the Hardy Boys novels that were my primary reading material at the time. I kept at it all through school, and by the time I got to college I knew I wanted to make my money writing something–I just didn’t know precisely what. I went in as an advertising major and did some copywriting, but graduated with a degree in Radio/TV/Film, a minor in English, a literary award, and a published article. Three years later, I got a job at a bookstore, and eventually became a manager (and later, opened a store of my own). It was while managing a store that I met a lot of authors and publishing professionals and found out the realities of publishing, and sold my first short story. So I guess the short answer to the question is: always, and the long answer is: I always wanted to write, but I didn’t know I could do it professionally until much, much later.

Kaye: What draws you to dark fiction? Why not romance, or mystery, or western?

Jeff: The truth is, I have written in two of those genres, and others besides. I’ve written both mysteries and westerns (along with science fiction, fantasy, straight fiction, and more), and intend to continue. In fact, the next couple of books I’m planning are both westerns. But yes, I am drawn to the dark side, and often when I work in those other genres I bring in elements of horror or dark suspense. I’ve never really analyzed it, but I suppose it’s a combination of a longstanding interest in horror and the supernatural, and an awareness of the darker, more unpleasant aspects of human nature.

cold_black_hearts_smerKaye: Cold Black Hearts is one of several recent releases through Wordfire Press. With more than 70 novels under your belt, what lead you to join the Wordfire family?

Jeff: I’ve known Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta for what seems like forever–this goes back to meeting authors through my bookstore work. They’re two of the greatest people on the planet. They’re supremely talented, super nice, and scrupulously honest. When I saw the books they were putting out, I knew I wanted to be part of their line, and to work with friends rather than strangers.

Kaye: My review of Cold Black Hearts posted this month, but for those who didn’t catch it, would you like to tell me a little about it?

Jeff: It’s a supernatural thriller about a police detective who loses her hearing in an explosion, but gains something else in its place–a heightened sense of empathy. That quickly becomes a burden in a crowded metropolitan area, where people’s emotions press in on her from every side. When she’s offered a job in a remote part of New Mexico, working to free an accused killer from prison, she takes it. But it turns out that she’s just stepped from the frying pan into the fire, because there are strange, spooky things going on.

Kaye: You don’t advertise your books as horror, but as dark thrillers. In your mind, what is the distinction?

Empty RoomsJeff: Actually, that’s WordFire‘s tag, not mine. I think of Cold Black Hearts and some of my other books as supernatural thrillers, because they combine traditional thriller elements–law enforcement, espionage, etc.–with supernatural elements. The first book of mine they published, Empty Rooms, was a straight, non-supernatural mystery/thriller, and it was very dark indeed, so I guess the phrase came from that.

 

Kaye: You also write comic books and graphic novels, short fiction and nonfiction. Which is your favorite type of writing? Why?

Jeff: The novel is my favorite, because it gives me more room to tell a complete story–to really dig into the characters’ psyches and explore their worlds. I love it all; I’ve even recently done some very short, 3-page comics for HyperEpics.com, which is a blast. But if I had to only pick one, it’d be novels.

Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with? Why?

Jeff: As a bookseller for decades, and someone who’s worked in publishing–in addition to 20 years as a professional novelist–I’ve been lucky enough to meet and spend time with most of my favorite authors. I’ve visited with Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Clive Barker, Don Winslow, and James Lee Burke (among others) at their homes, hung out with Wallace Stegner, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Joe R. Lansdale, and Neil Gaiman, had meals with Robert B. Parker, James Ellroy, Jonathan Maberry, and Joan D. Vinge… Plus, every day I get to have a meal with my favorite author, Marsheila Rockwell (who is, coincidentally, also my wife and frequent writing partner, and a magnificent fiction writer and poet on her own). My point is, while it’s cool to have lunch with an author, it’s not exactly something I haven’t had a chance to do.

That said, I’d love to have a meal with the recently departed William Goldman, who’s a longtime favorite for his novels and his screenplays, and who’s the author I’ve most wanted to meet, but never had a chance to. He’s done it all, and exceedingly well, and I wish I could have benefited from his insights in person.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel? What’s the least fun part?

Jeff: The most fun part is finishing it, and seeing it become a real-live book. The rest of it is hard work. The research, the working out of the plot, the discovery of who the characters are, the actual chore of sitting down and turning out page after page after page… it’s a grind. Not to say that it’s not fun, but it’s work, too. The least fun part is probably when, in the editing/revising process, I realize that I have to cut lines or scenes that I really loved writing.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Jeff: There’ve been several, but if I have to pick one, I guess it’d be that time I went to the set of CSI: Miami to hand-deliver copies of the first-ever CSI: Miami graphic novel (which I wrote) to cast members, all while being filmed for Access Hollywood. Which promptly cut me out of all the footage–but they showed the book, and that’s what counts!

Kaye: Which of your books would you most like to see turned into a film? Who would you like to play the lead?

Jeff: There are several I think would be great for film or TV, but for the purposes of this interview, let’s say Cold Black Hearts, with Jessica Chastain.

Kaye: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Jeff: Catch up on reading and TV shows, I guess. Bake more. But also, since 1980, every dollar I’ve made has come from the business of writing/editing/publishing/ book selling/ etc. — from the written word, and the process of getting it out of the brain and into a reader’s hands. So if I wasn’t writing, I’m sure I’d still be doing something in that realm.

JJM Books

Kaye: What’s in the future for Jeffrey J. Mariotte? What should readers look forward to?

There’ve been 6 books published so far this year: The SlabMissing White GirlRiver Runs RedSeason of the Wolf, and Cold Black Hearts from WordFire, and YA-horror Year of the Wicked from Simon Pulse. So readers can do some catching up while they’re waiting for the next thing.
JJM Books2Jeff:The newest release is to be a weird western short story in an anthology called Straight Outta Deadwood, published on October 1. The book is edited by David Boop and has stories by a bunch of pals, including Charlaine Harris, Steve Rasnic Tem, Shane Lacy Hensley, and the wonderful Marsheila Rockwell, so everyone who likes westerns with a side of spooky should check it out. After that, there are some comics projects in the works. Novel-wise, I have a thriller on submission, and I’m working on a new book (or will be back to it, as soon as I get this sent off)! So stay tuned.
I want to thank Jeffrey J. Mariotte for taking the time to chat and share with us. You can learn more about Jeff and his books on his website, or check out his author pages on Amazon and Wordfire Press. And be sure to check out my double review from October 4, featuring Jeff’s Cold Black Hearts.
In addition, I was fortunate for the opportunity to bring you a bonus “Chatting with the Pros” this month with award-winning horror author Paul Kane. If you write dark fiction and horror, or just enjoy reading it, you won’t want to miss that interview, too.

Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress.


“Broomsticks and Burials”: A paranormal cozy that’s fun to read

Broomsticks and Burials

Broomsticks and Burials, by Lily Webb, is a paranormal mystery cozy and a really fun read. Once you buy in to a magic place that only those with paranormal talents can see, the rest comes easy.

Zoe Clarke is an out of work journalist, and when she gets an offer to work on the newspaper in Moon Grove, she can hardly refuse, even though it requires her to pull up stakes and move to a town she’s never even seen on a map. Right away she notices something different about Moon Grove. Maybe it’s the anchorman who transforms from a wolf to show her around that tips her off, but she worries she may not be right for the job. After all, she has no paranormal talents, so she shouldn’t even be able to see Moon Grove. Or does she?

When she finds that her predecessor was murdered, creating the opening for her, she starts looking into the mysterious circumstances even though several people warn her off, a broken broomstick at the scene her only clue. But, once she gets started, the plot thickens and she just can’t stop until the mystery is solved and she’s discovered that she belongs in Moon Grove more than she ever could have imagined.

Broomsticks and Burials is a light-hearted cozy mystery that’s fun to read. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.