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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Q & A With Author Rich Leder

Hi, Rich. Why did you make the transition from screenwriting to novel writing?

After 25 years of telling stories in the strictly regimented format of screenwriting, I had the strong desire to work a deeper, wider canvas. In a script, the writer can only access the thoughts of the characters with action or dialogue. In a novel, the writer can explore the mind and heart and soul of the characters at his/her leisure—discuss the characters’ actual thoughts and feelings. Budget is a non-issue with a novel but a big concern with a movie. Sheer number of characters can be problematic in a script but not in a book (so long as the characters are meaningfully created). Number of locations, page count, and other considerations a movie must make are non-existent in the world of a novel. I wanted to experience writing without regimentation.

Describe Let There Be Linda in two words. Try Two Sentences.

I can do six words: black comic thriller of the year. And I can do five words: silly, bloody, violent, hilarious fun. And I can do five words again: Monty Python meets Quentin Tarantino. And, finally, I can do two words: wild ride.

Where did Let There Be Linda come from? Who and what were the inspirations?

Left field? Shadows in the wood? Breeze in the meadow? Dark side of the moon? I have no real idea where LINDA came from. It was, I suppose, that indescribable moment of creative human magic. But I know who inspired the spirit of the thing: Monty Python and Quentin Tarantino.

What type of readers would love this book?

Readers who like dark comedy. Readers who like thrillers. Readers who like wild rides. Readers who like to laugh out loud.

Are you done writing films? If so, what does the future hold for Rich Leder and Laugh Riot Press?

It feels like I’m done writing screenplays on spec. If I’m hired to write, then I’ll write one. But if I’m just going to sit down and write a story, I’m going to write a novel from this point in my life onward. That’s what it feels like.

Why should people read your books?

To experience characters they’ll never meet in real life that are so real they’ll think they’ve met them in their real life after all. To laugh out loud. To be thrilled. To be transported to another place. To laugh out loud. Did I mention that one?

What do you want readers to know about you before they start reading you?

I love to write, and I love to make readers laugh. I love to tell fantastic stories—hilarious mysteries and dark comic thrillers—and I care enough about my characters to make them real people readers will fall for. 

Where can my readers find you?

Thanks for joining me, and I can't wait to read your books!

Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than two decades. His screen credits include 18 produced television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, and Left Bank Films.
He has written four funny novels: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication; McCall & Company: Swollen Identity; Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench; and Let There Be Linda.
He founded Laugh Riot Press as an imprint for his funny books and the funny books of other indie authors.
He has been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill.  He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Book Chat: Luckiest Girl Alive | Jessica Knoll

**WARNING: This is for people who have already read this book. There will be spoilers! If you do not want the book's wonderful surprises to be ruined, read my review of the book, read the book, then come back to read our chat. Thank you!**

Amber: Let's get started. What was overall impression of luckiest girl?

Renee: Ok. Yeah, definitely a dark book. But very interesting. I wasn't expecting the twist and I love when a book does that because sometimes the twist is so obvious.

Amber: I remember being annoyed with her at first since she was stuck up and living in NYC. And then I realized that she was just putting on a front

Renee: Yeah, I definitely was trying to figure out the angle at first. I remember thinking it had to be something deeper.

Amber: Yeah, and then when they talked about her rapes I thought that the big secret was out. I wasn't expecting the school shooting at all!

Renee: Right? I totally thought it was just about the rapes at first. I do remember being mad at her though for not saying anything. And it made me really think about the rape story in the news right now.

Amber: Oh, I didn't hear about a big story. But I couldn't believe she still kind of liked the cute guy, Liam. She almost justified him raping her, but was so mad at the other guys.

Renee: Yeah, I know it was almost like she was glad Liam raped her. There's a guy I think he went to Stanford and he raped an unconscious girl, was convicted of 3 counts, but then only got 6 months in jail. Totally unfair. And I just remember thinking how the situation in the book was unfair to her too.

Amber: Oh yes, I know that story. But yeah in the book that teacher tried to help her and she backed out. I'm sure she was embarrassed and scared, but I felt bad for him too. He put himself and his job on the line to help her. But that whole relationship was a little strange. I couldn't decide if I wanted to root for them to be together or if it was still taboo even as adults

Renee: Yeah, that whole relationship made me feel awkward. I can see both sides of it. I can sympathize with being young and wanting to be popular so keeping quiet. As strongly as I feel about it now, I can definitely see my 15 year old self acting like she did.

Amber: Yeah. I found myself feeling really uncomfortable through the whole book because I have an idea of how I would want to act in all of the situations, but it's hard to say if I would actually act the "correct" way.

Renee: Right. Definitely a thought provoking book.

Amber: So I was thinking about the point where she had the opportunity to shoot the guy who raped her. Do you think she would have done it if she knew he wasn't going to die?

Renee: I thought at the end she said she would have shot him. But I don't know if she would have done it if she knew he would survive.

Amber: But then she was blamed anyways for potentially working with the shooters.

Renee: Right. That was another moment when I felt like it was unfair.

Amber: Which is a shame. She felt a lot of guilt for stopping the shooter, but think about the shootings in Orlando. If someone in the club had killed the shooter, they should feel brave, maybe shaken up, but not guilty.

Renee: Yeah, but he was her friend, and her only one for so long. So I can see why she felt guilt.

Amber: That’s true. How did you feel about the ending?

Renee: I’m glad she finally got her vindication.

Amber: I just remember not feeling completely satisfied with the ending, but I can't put into words why that was.

Renee: I mean it was sort of disappointing but I can't really explain why. I'm glad she got her vindication but it almost ended kind of boring compared to the climax.

Amber: Yeah, I felt the same way. So, I was just reading up some more about this book and apparently the author based this story on a gang rape that happened to her in high school and how she was bullied afterward.

Renee: Oh, wow.

Amber: Yeah, its crazy. So what were your overall thoughts about this book? Would you recommend it?

Renee: I definitely would recommend it. It was thought provoking for sure.

Amber: I agree. I thought it was very interesting, but it's not for the people who like feel-good, happy ending books.

Renee: Exactly

Amber: Thanks for another awesome book chat, Renee! I'm looking forward to our book chat next month!

Have something to say? Feel free to comment below to add to our discussion!

Check out my book review of Luckiest Girl Alive! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Why I'm Dying to Live

This is a guest post by Vincent J. Monteleone.
My four-year journey, turned five, was coming to an end. The train was getting ready to pull into the station at my stop. No more thirsty Thursdays, no more shutting off your alarm and rolling over because you’re too hungover to deal with today. I was about to enter the real world. College graduation was now just a stone’s throw away. I was officially going to become a man. I was now going to become a full-time member of the real world.
The only problem was, I didn’t feel like a man. Not even a little bit. I did not feel prepared to enter the real world, whatever that means. Could this be all college had given to me? Mostly hangovers, mixed in with anxiety over calculus that I’ll never use again; what is the limit of negative infinity? In a few weeks, I was going to be considered a man to the world after I shook the dean’s hand while he handed me my diploma. Never in my entire life did I feel more like a boy.
I wasn’t sure why I went to college. Why not? Everyone goes, so I went. It is the next step after high school. I am not sure what I expected, but I definitely anticipated more. I felt as if I wasted four…I mean five years getting drunk on weekdays and cramming for exams. What did I learn that brought value to the real world? What did I take away to make me a productive member of society?
After voicing my concerns to my peers, my elders, and anyone who would listen, I received one common answer: you can’t get a job without that piece of paper they call a diploma. Is that a good reason to waste four plus years not learning?
I was one of the lucky ones who was actually able to get a job upon graduation. Not for what I wanted to do, but hey a job is a job. That’s the goal, right? Work a 9-5, or more like 9-6, or 7, or even 8, make money, put it into a 401k, lease payments, rent, eventually a mortgage, then start saving up for your kids' college so they can repeat the cycle one day. Is that really what life is supposed to be all about? This is where the motivation behind Dying to Live came from.
I found out that my worst fear would be to wake up in my 40s, or 50s, to realize that my only success was financially, and that it came at the expense of everything else. The main thing college drives home is that you must fit into a square hole, even if you are a round peg. Then after you make yourself fit, you have to fit for 40 years and hopefully at that time have enough set-aside in your 401k to truly start living.
The grim reality is that tomorrow is not promised for any of us, never mind 40 years from now. If you put off living today, you will never get that today back. We lose sleep over things that add little value to our lives at the expensive of the things that mean the most to us. We all write family first, in the caption underneath of our Instagram pictures, but do our actions speak to this?
Through the main character, 43-year-old Brendon Merullo, in Dying to Live, he realizes my worst fear: being successful only as far as his accountant is concerned. Brendon realizes too late that he amassed his fortune at the cost of everything that supposedly mattered the most to him.
Throughout the pages you are taken on a journey through Brendon’s regrets, and how wasteful he was with his most precious resource: time. He soon realizes that the past is done, and the future might not come for him, all he has is today to make right by the ones he loves. The startling reality is that all of us only have today, even if we choose to live as if tomorrow is guaranteed.

Vincent J. Monteleone has poured passion into writing Dying to Live, his debut novel. In 2013 he earned a business degree from Baruch College. Since then, he has discovered alternatives to the view of the world he learned about in his college classes. Theres alternatives shape his passions and his writing.
Find him on Amazon.
Enter to win a copy of Dying to Live.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

How Breast Cancer and NaNoWriMo Helped Me Write My Novel

This is a guest post by Debbie Manber Kupfer. 

At eight years old I turned into a ladybug. The story prompt in the Puffin Post said to choose a creature and write a story from its point of view. I spent days wandering around my house and garden in Barking, a working-class borough of London, peering into my dad’s magnifying shaving mirror and imagining my life as a tiny red, spotted crawling thing. Then I wrote that story and sent it off to the magazine and I waited.
Two months later, I tore open the envelope that held my Puffin Post and scanned through the pages and there was my name in print – Deborah Manber. I’d got a mention for my ladybug story. You see, even back then I was fascinated with shapeshifters. My favorite Harry Potter book was always book 3, The Prisoner of Azkaban, when Rowling introduces the idea of the animagus, but I wanted more details. How did a wizard turn themselves into an animal? What did it feel like to change? Were they scared that they might not be able to change back?
These thoughts bubbled around my head, percolated, and eventually lead to the creation of P.A.W.S. - The Partnership of Animagi, Werewolves, and Shapeshifters. And the more I write the more I discover and yet there were years when I put this whole writing thing on hold. I worked on my puzzles (I’m a freelance puzzle constructor for Penny Press magazines) and thought that a novel could wait. Wait until the kids were out of the house, wait until I had time to devote to it, but then life threw me a curveball.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was terrified, yet I got through it, chemo, surgery and radiation and today thankfully I’m cancer free. But it made me realize something. I made me realize I’m mortal and that if I really wanted to write that novel, I needed to do it. So during NaNoWriMo of 2012, I sat down and wrote the first draft of P.A.W.S. I encourage everyone to try this. For me NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) worked really well – it allowed me to get my story down. It took many edits and meeting a wonderful writer’s group for that original draft to become a novel, but NaNo (and my cancer) was the push I needed to get started.
Today I have two novels in the series and I’m working on a third. I also have something I never had when I started this I have a network of writer friends, both online (check out the FB group: The Dragon’s Rocketship) and a few in real life. I still write my puzzles, and drink about a gallon of hot tea with milk each day and sometimes I still watch those ladybugs and wonder what’s going on in their tiny heads.

Debbie Manber Kupfer grew up in London and lived in Israel, before somehow ended up in St. Louis, where she works as a puzzle constructor and writer. She lives with her husband, two children, and a very opinionated feline. She is the author of P.A.W.S. and Argentum and has short stories in several anthologies including Fauxpocalypse, Shades of Fear, Winter Wishes, Sins of the Past, Sins of the Future, and Stardust, Always. She also created the puzzle book, Paws 4 Logic together with her son, Joey. She believes that with enough tea and dark chocolate you can achieve anything! 
Connect with Debbie on her blog or Facebook.


“Despite all the stories I shared with you there is so much I never told you, Miri, so much you’ll have to discover for yourself. 
“Be brave, mein Katzel.”
When Miri receives a silver cat charm from her omama on the night before she dies she has no idea that the charm holds a secret, a powerful magic that saved her omama’s life and is about to make Miri’s a whole lot more interesting.
Discover the magic of P.A.W.S.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Me Before You | Jojo Moyes

“Some mistakes... Just have greater consequences than others. But you don't have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you."

Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance. 
Number of Pages: 369.
Perspective: First (A few alternating chapters). 
Location: England.

Me Before You is about Lou, a woman desperately looking for a job so she can help provide for her parents and sister. She ends up becoming the caregiver for a quadriplegic, Will. It becomes Lou's goal to teach Will how to love life again. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Let me just say, I NEEDED THIS BOOK. I have recently been in a book rut. I couldn’t seem to find an amazing book. I’ve read a lot of pretty good books lately, but I haven’t found one that completely and utterly engrossed me. Until now. This has been a crazy week for me, but I was impatiently waiting each day for a few free moments to engulf myself in this book. Once I finally got a few solid hours of free time, I couldn’t put the book down until I was finished. That alone is the sign of a great book. But overall, this book was one my favorite books, so I gave it my Best Book Award

I will admit, I am a sap. I have cried during commercials, and I have definitely cried during movies. But there are only two books that have ever made me cry actual tears: The Time Traveler’s Wife, and now, Me Before You. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but some people hated this book because of the controversial ending. Yes, I think a bad ending can ruin a good book, but I can’t dislike the ending just because I don’t morally agree with it. I may not like all the actions and decisions of the main characters, but I accepted them. 

This book tells a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Some people call it a love story, but it is so much more than that. It is more so an eye-opening life story. It makes you think about people with disabilities in a whole new way. It gives us a glimpse into daily challenges and interactions. 

I want to also add that I appreciated that it wasn't a back and forth perspective between Lou and Will. I think that dual-perspective books are way overdone right now. There were a few random chapters that were in the perspective of the secondary characters, which was okay, but not necessary. 

I recommend this book to everyone—well, probably just women. I can’t wait to go see the movie now. I’ll try not to judge it too much… If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.” 

5/5 Stars

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

It’s a Writer Thing -- The Many Faces of Critique Partners

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

I’ve been very much looking forward to writing this next post in my It’s a Writer Thing series on feedback. In the first, I wrote about general considerations for receiving feedback, and in the second, I discussed types of feedback. 

This time, I’ll be talking about critique partners. As we know, one of our biggest sources of input comes from our critique partners, or CPs. These are trusted friends or colleagues who we give our babies to and hope they’ll thoroughly, but gently, tell us how our darling is flawed. Not an easy role, for sure. When we’re on the receiving end, it can be challenging—like find me a big old bucket cause I may be at risk for emesis challenging—but we’ve already discussed why this is an important process, and we’re strong—right?—so we can get through it. 

So, we wrote a story, and we braved feedback from our CP or from multiple CPs, which is even better, therefore, we must be good to go and start submitting or querying. Right? 


It turns out, it pays to be strategic about the people we solicit critiques from. Having only one kind of CP can result in feedback that is one-sided or not broad enough. We can suffer from too much here’s-what-you-need-to-do-differently and not enough here’s-what-I-loved. We may get only line edits or suggestions about tightening our prose, but nothing on overarching plot problems. We may get a perspective that is too focused on action and not enough on emotion. 
See my point?

Finding good CPs can be a challenge, but actually, if we consider that there are many types of CPs, we can learn to think about how each individual’s input fills an important niche for us. These are the various styles of CPs I’ve encountered in my writing, so far.

The Lover: 

Ah, the Lover. This is the person who basically hands the MS back and is like: I made a few suggestions, but I pretty much loved it, and it’s awesome, and you’re awesome. PROS: We all need a Lover in our lives; they help us keep sight of our strengths and what’s working in our MS. Lovers can be very hard to find; the whole point of CPs is to find someone to help you make your story better, so what do critique partners do? They critique. If you find yourself a Lover, don’t let him or her go. They’re a rare breed. CONS: The Lover does little to push us toward improvement, and seeking feedback only from Lovers can set us up for failure (i.e., rejection) if there are too many problems in our MS.

The Interrogator: 

The Interrogator doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about your story, but simply throws a bunch of questions in the margins for you to mull over. Maybe these are things they were confused about (and if one reader has a question, there’s a good chance others will too) or things that seem to be missing. They might want to know more about a character’s emotional/behavioral reactions or what the setting looks like. PROS: Interrogators help us think more deeply about our stories, and they often help us transcribe more of what is in our heads onto the page. CONS: Interrogators may inspire us to delve too deeply in ways that could result in our veering from the main course of our story, maybe digging into too many details in a spot where keeping the pace tight would work better. They may also get us questioning our choices, so it’s important to remember that just because a question was raised, it doesn’t mean we need to change our MS to address it. Not every time, at least.

The Big Picture Thinker: 

The Big Picture Thinker (BPT) sees plot threads, character arcs, and themes. They’re good at stepping back and considering our stories from a broad perspective. They’re the most likely to really comment on the overall experience of delving into this WIP. PROS: The BPT can help us see threads that tie various plotlines together, which when strengthened, can add new depth to our WIP. They can tell us where large, important pieces of the plot are missing. Forget to resolve a loose end, the BPT will notice. CONS: These CPs may not be the best at looking at the nitpicky details or helping us with our prose.

The Nit-picker: 

The detail-oriented Nit-picker bring the most sensitive magnifying glass to our WIP. They’ll be likely to question small details within our scenarios, facts, and are likely to supply every missing comma we omitted. PROS: Did we make a mistake about the exact location of St. Maarten in relationship to Anguilla? The Nit-Picker will tell us. Did our MC start the car before she actually got in it? The Nit-Picker will catch it. Did we put a double period at the end of the third paragraph on page 162? You get the picture. CONS: They may miss the larger, over-arching themes and plot. More subtleties may be overlooked by these folks. In other words, they’re so focused on the trees, they forget they’re in the forest.

The Narcissist: 

The Narcissist is a bane to the developing writer. There are no PROS to speak of. The Narcissist will turn any feedback session into a chance to reassure themselves of why they’re so great. They’ll talk about plotting tools you’ve never heard of and that nobody uses. Like a Nit-picker, they may zero in on a particular detail of your story, but not to make sure you fix a problem; it will be to highlight your ignorance. You’ll know you’re talking to a Narcissist when you are able to extract very little actionable feedback and find the discussion going on forever, long past the time when you could listen without wanting to stab yourself in the ears with your red marker. Also, you may want to cry.

Your Mom: 

We gotta love Mom. Not really a CP in the traditional sense, Mom is nonetheless an important person to consult during your writing project. PROS: Seriously, I mean it. Our moms know us, right? They know our experiences and histories, so they’ll pick up on tiny little personal details in our stories. For example, put a reference to something from your childhood in there, mom will know. Having that kind of intimate detail reinforced can be very rewarding, plus, who doesn’t want more quality bonding with Mom? CONS: She may tell everyone, including the lady in line in front of you at the grocery store and her doctor, that her baby is an author, which might lead to some embarrassing moments. But, come on, that’s so awww. DISCLAIMER: Everyone’s relationship with their mother is different, so if yours is more of a critical type or doesn’t support your writing goals, find your “Mom” via some other close personal connection. A dad can be just as great a CP as a mom, or maybe your sibling, second cousin, or BFF from childhood.

Not only are these categories useful as we consider which CPs to ask for feedback from, they’re also good for our own self-analysis. When it’s our turn to give the critique, we can use these to figure out what kind of CP we are and share that with our writer friends so they can determine whether our feedback will be useful to them at that particular time for that particular story.

Thank you for being with me for this third installment of my series on feedback. Next time, I’ll cover my own process for receiving constructive input in a simple, easy-to-follow set of steps you can begin to use immediately. It will keep you from doing unhelpful things like tear your hair out, hide in a dark closet for obscene amounts of time, and, most importantly, it can help you not give up on your writing (that’s what it’s done for me, at least). 

Until then, You can do it. You can write!

This article was also posted on as a part of the "It's A Writer Thing" series. 

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Q & A With Author Nikki LeClair

Hi, Nikki! Great to have you here. What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?

Honestly, the further I dive into the crazy world of being an author, the more humble I am about it. Years ago I would have screamed ‘My goal is to be the next Sophie Kinsella!!! (Okay, that’s still partly true), but right now my ambitions are small. I’d love to win Readers Favorite, and figure out a fail-proof system to actually get reviews from readers, for me and my author mates. In an ideal world, I would be able to write at least six hours a day without being bothered!

Yeah, getting reviews can be one of the biggest challenges for authors. What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

Housewives of New Jersey. Hands down. I love those cat-fights! It used to be Grey’s Anatomy but then they killed off Mark Sloan so I cut it! 

Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

I DO believe that you can lock eyes with someone and feel something incredibly powerful that draws you towards them. I believe it’s a chemistry that will either ignite further or flicker away, depending on the personalities of the individuals as time goes by. Fate is something I definitely believe in, especially when it comes to the people who cross your path.  It seems to always happen at just the right time. The universe delivers what you need, even if it’s not what you think you want.

That's a great way to look at life! What is the strangest fact about you?

I like disco music; this surprises a lot of people because I’m only 29. I’m talking Donna Summer, Maxine Nightingale, Anita Ward, you name it! I have loved those gorgeous, sequin-wearing, big hair ladies since I was in high-school.                          

Which writers inspire you?

I adore Sophie Kinsella, Lucy Montgomery, Joanne Fluke, and Helen Fielding. Also, Oscar Wilde! I have been in love with him since High-School (I even carry a mini Oscar Wilde quote book in my purse!). 

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on the next book in the Haunting Me series which centres around Christmas time.

That's fun! Why do you write?

I have an over-active imagination. If I don’t get these characters out on paper then I feel a bit insane. I’m an extremely restless person, and writing is the only time you’ll ever find me sitting still, completely absorbed. I enjoy the escape writing allows me, I love the moments where in my head I get to be a completely different person with different pet peeves, quirks, desires, etc. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

Write, write, write, and read. Don’t let things get in the way, be selfish about your writing and be prepared to be met with many people who don’t understand you. Then, research like a crazy person to find out whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is the way to go for YOU. Reach out to authors; it’s so easy to do that now via Facebook and twitter. Recently I was at a crossroads, whether to accept one of the publishing contracts I received or to go the self-pub route, so I contacted some indie authors I knew. The advice they gave me was outstanding, and I never felt more confident in my decision. 

That's great advice! Different routes work better for individual people. What book(s) are you currently reading?

I have two books on the go. After the Lie by Kery Fishef , and Luna Tree by Maya Berger. 

I'll have to add those to my reading list! Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Other than, THANK YOU SO MUCH for featuring me on your site!!!

Oh, you are so welcome! How can readers discover more about you and you work?

I’m easy to connect with! You can find me on FacebookTwitter at @NikkiL_Books, or my site.

Thanks for joining me, Nikki, and best of luck in your future writing!