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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Savvy Saturday: My First Mystery Novel by Ron D. Voigts

“That was then, and this is now.”
My first mystery novel
By Ron D. Voigts

A long, long time ago (circa 2000), I decided to write a mystery. I’d been a fan of the genre for most of my life. All I needed to do was create a detective, kill someone, and throw in a few clues. How hard could it be? Agatha Christie, move over.

My vision was a dreary old house in the country with a woman, home from college, finding a dead body. I wrote the early chapters and pitched them to my writer’s critique groups. One thing came to light quickly. The actions by the main character were a much younger person than the age I assigned. By the time I adjusted her age to her actions, she had become a thirteen-year-old tomboy who wore bib overalls and a stocking cap pulled tight around her ears. She had moxie, could be brash, and told it like it was. Penelope was born.

I tossed in a bunch of off-the-wall characters—a wild, crazy gypsy, a gangster uncle on the lam from the mob, a Broadway actress who’s her own biggest fan, a creepy cousin, a mystery woman named Teal, and some quirky parents. They get snowed in during a celebration of Penelope’s birthday. Someone is murdered, and it takes Penelope to figure it out.

I shopped the book around for an agent because that was the way it was done back then. I had a few nibbles but mostly rejections. Finally, I found Parkeast Literary who liked the story and had faith in my work. A few more major rewrites came, and the book was sent out to nearly every publisher in the industry. We had some interest here and there but no takers. Finally in 2011, by agreement, I self-published Penelope and The Birthday Curse. Only took ten-plus years to get there.

Three more middle-grade mysteries in the “A Penelope Mystery” series followed. Then I switched gears and began writing for the “big kids.” One novel that followed told a story of a rich northerner who travels to rural North Carolina and gets involved with moonshiners, good-ole-boy politics, and killers. Another book covered a murder in a remote village in the Appalachian Mountains, and the main suspect is a vampire. Then I found my love….writing paranormal mysteries.

In 2014, my literary agent found a home for my “A Cavendish Brown Paranormal Mystery” series with Champagne Books Group. Book 2 came out this past month. The Fortune Teller’s Secret arrived March 6, and I am so excited about it. I still write a bit off-the-wall. This eccentric cast includes a Goth witch, a psycho psychic, a belly dancer, a bad-ass sheriff, a crafty carnival manager, a waist-high sideshow barker, and a sleazy school teacher. A dead body is found aboard the Ferris wheel at the fall carnival. Cavendish Brown, the editor of the town newspaper, matches wits with a ghost, a killer and a bunch of kooky carnival characters to solve this Who-Done-It.

It took a long time and self-belief since that first book. And I’d do it again.

About the Author

Originally from the Midwest, Ron D. Voigts now calls North Carolina home where he and his wife have a home off the Neuse River. Ideas for his stories comes from the rural areas where he has lived, places he has visited, his love of the paranormal, and an overactive imagination. Ron considers his writing to be a literary fusion of mystery, thriller, paranormal, and any genre that suits the moment. When not plunking out a novel at the keyboard, he spends his time sharpening his culinary skills, watching gritty movies, and eating cookies with chocolate chips.

Author Website
http://www.authorrondvoigts.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Ron-D.-Voigts/e/B005H4IM9K/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490118342&sr=8-1

Social Media
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRonDVoigts/
https://twitter.com/RonDVoigts (@RonDVoigts)

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Release: Fallen

Fallen
By Andrea Cooper
Paranormal Romance
$3.99
Amazon: https://goo.gl/cSM1LY
Kobo: https://goo.gl/23BvDa
Champagne Bookstore: https://goo.gl/Cx0pzN

Succubus Adeline lost her powers. The crystal that all her kind crave has attached itself to her and rendered her powerless. Unless she finds a way to remove it, she’ll transform into a human--a fate worse than death.

Jack is running from vamps and weres. They want his hidden doppelgänger talents to locate a stone that enables weres to transform at will, but he just wants to be left alone. Now he has a bounty hunter after him.

Adeline is determined to get the bounty on Jack so she can pay for the answer to remove the bracelet. She soon discovers his secret. The tables are turned on the succubus, and she finds herself the one who is at the mercy of desire.

In a race against time, vampires, and weres, Adeline and Jack travel from Boston to Greece to New Orleans to stay ahead of the hunters.

When Jack confronts a dangerous voodoo queen alone, Adeline learns that love is sacrifice. But will they both survive the lesson?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Savvy Saturday: My First Published Book with Shiela Stewart

Its hard to believe its been 11 years since I published my very first book. The title was Kidnapped and the story started with a simple line.

”Well wasn’t this a fine predicament she’d gotten herself into now, and won’t dear old daddy be thrilled when he finds out his only child was being held captive by a bunch of thugs.”

That line popped into my head and the rest of the story just flowed after that. I couldn’t write fast enough. Yes, write. That was before I knew how to use a computer. I hand wrote all my books. To this day, I still have a box of hand written manuscripts in my storage room. Only two of the twenty have been published.

During writing Kidnapped my hubby bought me a computer and taught me how to use it. I started putting my written novel on the computer. Kidnapped, though it sounds series, and it is, but mostly it was a fun novel. Before it was changed, but I’ll get to that.

I love being sarcastically funny as does my hubby, so of course, that was how I wrote Kidnapped. The female, Elizabeth, didn’t take the kidnapping series which pissed her captors off. Mac needed money to save his farm and was convinced to kidnapped to kidnap a famous actors daughter for money. All he had to do was hold her for a few days and then release her and get his money. Simple, right? Not! Elizabeth is not about to sit by and cry, begging her captors to let her go. Nope, she’s a feisty chick who does everything in her power to break free. She makes Mac’s life a living hell. She makes fun of him in any way possible. Really, who could take a captor series when he’s wearing a Bart Simpson mask.

Writing Kidnapped was so much fun I often found myself giggling while typing.

I got up the nerve to submit it to a publisher on line, and guess what? It was rejected. But….the publisher told me how to fix it up and asked me to resubmit it. I bought a bunch of grammar books and learned all I could about writing. It took months and when I sent it back to her, she sent it back saying I was on the right track but it needed a bit more cleaning. So back to the drawing board I went.


Two weeks late I sent it back in. I dreaded seeing her email in my box because I was sure she would tell me it needed more work. To my utter surprise, she accepted it. I think the neighbors heard my cheer. It was such a euphoric feeling. Someone thought I was good enough, my story was good enough. It still needed polishing, and that was not an easy thing to do, especially when she wanted me to make it ore series and to change the beginning. I was mad, but what could I do. I knew nothing about publishing so I went along with it and rewrote a good portion of it. 

I wasn’t happy, but I still put my heart into it. The first time I saw my cover I again felt so giddy. A book, with my name on it, was going to be out in the world for everyone to read. It was a huge accomplishment for me, given I only had a grade nine education. I knew nothing about ebooks and got a crash course on it. Ebooks were still early in its development. I did the chat circuit and answered countless interview questions. Then my publisher submitted it to The Romantic Times Review Magazine. I got a three out of five rating. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible. It was after all in one of the biggest romantic magazine in publication. Sales were great. I bravely decided to do a book signing at a local book store and did an interview for a local TV station. So many firsts and my head was spinning. To my utter surprise and joy, my book was the number one seller for three weeks in a row. Not a bad way to start a career in writing.

Since then, I have published 17 books. Quite and accomplishment for a high school drop out. Not all my books are still in publication, but I hope at some point they will be again.

I’m a true believer that dreams can come true if you work hard enough to make them a reality.

About Shiela:

Shiela Stewart has been writing for the better part of her life, pouring her heart out in words, living a fantasy through the characters she creates. It has always been a dream of her to have her work published, a dream she has finally seen come to life.

When not writing, Shiela likes to spend time with her husband, best friend and love of her life. Together they have three grown children and one granddaughter.

Shiela has a deep affection for animals which is evident in the seven cats, one dog, fourteen fish and one turtle.

Places to find me.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shiela.stewart
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShielaSue

Places to purchase my Darkness series: http://champagnebooks.com/store/index.php

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sneak Peek #2 - Murder on the Disorientated Express

~Coming April 3rd, 2017~

I was up early the next morning. There’s something catchy about lying on rough pine planks being shaken like a martini by the jerky movement of the train, which usually managed violence in all directions. When I get up I prefer to be gently stirred. I headed for the dining car where I discovered Bottles assisting with the morning meals.

“Don’t you ever sleep?”

“Waste of time. Figure I don’t have too much of that left.” He was doing strange things to eggs behind the bar. He had a steaming pan, and a bubbling yellow mixture. It was the spices I wasn’t certain about: cinnamon, chunks of dark chocolate, some nuts, peppers, and large unidentifiable lumps that reminded me of frogs. “Want a heaping plate of today’s special?”

“No, thanks. I’ll have the oatmeal and scalded goat’s milk. With the marmalade topping and just a dab of the whipped cream. And thick black coffee.” I settled into a booth. All that was missing to make the hour complete was the latest morning paper, and maybe Bertha chewing me out for some imaginary sin. I relaxed and let the motion of the train lull me.

“Here you go.” Bottles set a heaping platter down in front of me. “I added a bit of the special as a treat.”

I winced. He didn’t leave. I glanced up with a raised eyebrow. “You forgot the coffee.”

“It’s coming, brewing it down to a sludge. Have you checked for the key lately?” he said.

“What key?”

“The spare key to the compartment where you have Winston J. Blabb under confinement.”

“Oh that key.” I patted my jacket. “It’s safe inside my inner pocket.”

“Have you checked your pocket lately?”

Some gremlins have enough nerve for a trainload of fools. “Of course I have.” I patted my jacket again. Then I fished inside. Then I checked all my pockets. The key was missing. “Well, it must have fallen out yesterday when we were having all that fun. It’s not important. Trixibelle also has a key.”

“Looks to me as though that pocket you checked was self-sealing. How could the key have fallen out?”

I glared at him. “I don’t know.”

Bottles leaned over and lowered his voice. “Think back, was there any time in the last day or two when a person of some interest in the murder case had an opportunity to remove that key?”

We locked gazes. I knew what he was getting at. Dame Suzanne had escorted me from the bar car that night and I woke up a bit out of sorts. But why would she take the key if she was innocent?

“I see the wheels are turning,” he said.

“Is Blabb still safe inside?”

“Yes. I feed him regularly. He’s in there. For now.”

I pushed my breakfast to one side. “I guess I should go have a chat with her.” I’d been avoiding the lanky hobgoblin with the wandering hands and a terrible taste in beverages.

“Or, we could simply keep a close eye on the pair of them until we get to the Free Wet Coast.”

“Okay, buster. Who do you work for?” I stared at him, and then glanced around the car. There was no one within ear.

“Who, me?” said the gremlin. He straightened up, grinned, and went back to burning things at the bar.
~To Be Continued~

Murder On The Disoriented Express

A reluctant Private Eyeball, Randy Aloysius, agrees to accompany an elderly elf and her attractive niece on a relaxing train trip across the continent to the wet coast. They seem harmless enough, so what could go wrong?
Well, there’s the obvious murder of a bent politician, plus a card-playing vampire, a brownie public relations hack, and a grieving widow murder suspect, not to mention other assorted suspicious characters, and someone out of Randy’s past.

Then there is the train itself, which may be in serious need of life support. After all, it does have to cross a prairie filled with woolly mammoths and surmount treacherous mountains passes where nasty things might lurk.

Available for Preorder on the Champagne Bookstore website. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Savvy Saturday: A Lesson on First Edits from Kat Hall

So You Have a First Draft, Now What?

This fantastic list of edits all writers should consider before sending their work off to an agent or publisher.

Once you have a great plot, story line, multidimensional characters, danger, a fast pace, a killer beginning, a middle that doesn’t sag and a striking ending, it’s time to tackle the 5 Reread Program—in which you reread your manuscript five separate times. Sure, it’ll be a lot of work, but “It’ll make an incredible difference when your manuscript gets to the agent or editor.”

Here’s a breakdown of what each read entails. [Regardless of whether you do all five or not, we think these are excellent essentials to be aware of in any manuscript, at any level.]

Read #1: The Content


–Do a “word-count reality check.” Make sure your work falls into its appropriate and requested genre range.

–Get rid of the deadweight. You can probably take 20 percent out of your first manuscript and have it be a better end product. You may cut entire chapters, or just single words. Some common areas to slice: places where you’ve overused research. Areas where your prose is getting preachy. Areas where you dumped backstory, versus sprinkling it in.

–Check your timeline. Make sure everything logically flows.

–Study your point-of-view changes. Ensure that you don’t have too many going on throughout the book.

–Double check your work for technical accuracy—particularly with things like weapons. People in the know will call you out if you get it wrong.

–Check your ‘choreography’. Someone who was shot a moment ago shouldn’t now be behaving as if they weren’t.

Read #2: The Enhancement

–Utilize the power of the senses. Try for at least two in every scene. Visual. Auditory. Smell. Touch. Taste. Sprinkle them in. Enhance as much as you can.

Read #3: The Sentence Level

This read tends to be the toughest—and also tends to be the one that differentiates a real writer. Every single sentence counts.

–Nix or fix ‘the awkward sentence’—those that read wrong for a variety of reasons, including lack of parallel structure, misplaced modifiers, etc.

–Avoid long paragraphs. Thriller readers prefer short bursts versus long graphs. Short = action. People want to see white space.

–Fix point of view slips. That’s incredibly important. An editor or agent will pick that up right away.

–Check for adequate transitions between paragraphs and sentences.

–Avoid names that sound or are spelled too similarly. Some authors will even avoid names that start with the same consonants.

–Generally, avoid using too many adjectives. And, of course, avoid adverbs. As a rule of thumb you should question every adverb.

–Check your metaphors and similes for originality and freshness. If it’s trite, it really works against you.

Read #4: The Little Things


—Maintain a list of your formatting of certain items so that you can keep them consistent throughout your manuscript. E.g., numbers – are you going to write them out or use a numerical reference? Are you going to capitalize a trademarked brand, or use a generic lowercase?

–Make sure your comma usage is consistent. E.g., are you using Oxford commas?

–Check for words you may have unintentionally overused. E.g., Suddenly.

–Check your attribution tags. Don’t doubt the power of ‘said’, the universal tag. ‘Ask’ is OK, too. A lot of people drive themselves crazy trying to think of unique [tags]. You don’t have to.

–Maintain a list of all the proper nouns (people, places, etc.) in your manuscript. Make sure everything is used consistently.

–Fact check. Yes—even in fiction. It’s still very important, especially if you have people, places and times that are in the public domain.

–Paginate your manuscript. Also, it’s always a good idea to include a header or footer with the name of the manuscript and your name.

–Homophones and spelling. Can’t stress enough that certain words may be spelled correctly but are used in the wrong context. Spell checker does not apply in this case. Know the proper spelling for the definition of the words you are using.

Read #5: The Audible Read
Read it out loud—if possible, with an audience. You’ll likely notice disconnects you wouldn’t have by simply reviewing it on screen.

–Watch for repetition. Measure pace.

–Watch for balance and clarity of POV characters. Is it obvious who’s speaking?

About Kat Hall

Executive Assistant and Review Coordinator

Reading has been a passion of mine since I was a young child. Stories transported me to other countries, taught me how people in other parts of the world lived—what they ate, how they dressed, what their flora and fauna was and how it impacted their lives, their culture and how it all differed from mine. Above all, spelling and use of words, punctuation, etc. had to be correct.

I’m medically and legally trained and have worked at various positions, not just in those fields either. Court documents needed to be perfect, and that drive for perfection carries over into my reading of books and manuscripts. Spelling a word correctly, but used in the wrong context creates major havoc.

I started with Champagne Book Group December 2004. I was the first slush pile reader and have been Executive Assistant to the Publisher, Author Liaison and Review Coordinator for many years.

I still read many manuscripts. PitMad has been an excellent venue for finding manuscripts and great authors. As I read, I’m always on the lookout for a gem that stands out, over and above the other stories. The ‘one’ that rocks your mind and senses and won’t let go. Finding great stories and gems makes me happy to bring these stories to light. I want readers to live and feel these stories. I strive to find new authors that titillate the senses with their writing.

I read almost everything. However, zombie apocalypse is not for me. I found I could not read this genre after trying to review a manuscript on this subject. I love romantic suspense/thriller the most. If the book is well written in other genres and has a great story, I don’t mind and enjoy being transported to another world and learning about people, places and things.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Excerpt from Penetrating the Darkness

Penetrating The Darkness
Darkness, 6
By Shiela Stewart
Romantic Suspense
$2.99
Amazon: https://goo.gl/miB1qk
Kobo:
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/BztA0x

A kidnapped child, a young woman in charge of protecting her, a newly created vampire, and a city cast in darkness. Three innocent lives are about to change.

Excerpt


“My name is Dusty Ryder, and I am twenty years old. My parents are Alan and Eleanor Ryder. I have two sisters, Alana and Leah. I’m going to attend MIT to become a biologist.

“My name is Dusty Ryder, and I refuse to give in. I won’t let them win. They will not beat me down. I am stronger than that.”

Yet it was so tempting to give in, to slip into a comatose state, to tuck his mind away to a better place where animals didn’t torture and starve and beat humans, a place with bright sunshine, green grass, and a warm summer breeze...

That was exactly what they wanted.

So he fought to stay sane, to keep even a small portion of himself alive.

He shivered in the cold cell he’d been kept in for months now. No use asking for a blanket. They wanted to make him as uncomfortable as possible so he would eventually break.

He should never have stopped to help the young woman with the broken-down car on the side of the road. But she had been all alone at night, with the nearest city miles away. It would have been wrong of him to drive away. Dusty wished he’d known it had all been a ploy to capture him. That three vampires waited in the trees, ready to jump him. He hadn’t even known such creatures existed.

He knew differently now.

The jingle of keys startled him. As Dusty curled in a ball, tucking himself as tightly to the wall as possible, the door swung open.

“Hello, my boy.”

No, not him. Please, anyone but him.

The door clicked shut. He refused to look up.

“I’m told you’re refusing the blood that is being brought to you.”

Don’t look into his eyes, don’t acknowledge him, and maybe this time he will go away. Yeah, right.

The bed creaked, giving way to the pressure of the body sitting on the end. Dusty inched a little closer to the wall, wishing desperately he could melt into it.

“Have they told you what happens to vampires if they don’t feed?”

He didn’t care. He just wanted him to go away.

“Have you ever seen a drug addict go through withdrawal? It is very similar, only the lack of oxygenated blood in your system causes your mind to go a little crazy. Because the moment you drink a vampire’s blood, it takes over, killing off the human blood that remains in your system. Vampire blood has less oxygen, hence the sickly gray color. As long as you drink the blood, your body is okay, but the instant you cut off the supply, your body goes into a state of frenzy and starts killing off brain cells. And if that weren’t bad enough, your lust for blood grows tenfold encouraging you to do anything to get it.”

Icy fingers grabbed his chin, forcing him to look into cold yellow eyes. “Including ripping open a human to drain it as quickly as possible. Is that what you wish to have happen to you, my boy?”

“I’m not your boy,” Dusty spat. He refused to show the pain he felt when the nails dug into his face.

“Oh, but you are. The instant you drew my blood into your veins you became mine. It has been some time since I was treated to virginal blood. Yours was exactly what I needed to rejuvenate myself after that infidel, Fritz, kept me drugged and locked away. I feel so much stronger now, and I wish you to feel the same way.”

“Go to hell!” My name is Dusty. I’m twenty years old. I’m going to MIT. I’m human, I’m—
“So be it.”

The vampire slammed Dusty’s hand against the wall. A glint of silver blinded him right before a knife pierced his palm. He screamed. His vision blurred and bile rose to sting his throat.

“Now, do you wish to drink, or shall I do the same to the other hand?”

His throat burning, he managed to swallow the vomit threatening to spill. “Go to hell!”

“Have it your way.”

Another knife jammed into Dusty’s other hand, and this time he couldn’t keep it down. Hot vomit spewed from his mouth, and darkness clouded his vision.

The sting of a hand slapping across his face drew him back. “Drink?”

“Please. Why are you doing this to me?”

“Because I can.”

“I won’t give in.” Those long, icy fingers squeezed his throat, and as he looked into the face of his tormentor, the man’s lips parted into a grotesque smile. His free hand lifted, and he twisted the knife in Dusty’s palm.

He screamed, he cried, and he begged. “Okay, okay, please make it stop.”

“I knew you would come around.” The creep released the handle of the blade and pressed a wrist to Dusty’s mouth.

Though Dusty wanted to refuse, something inside, something unfamiliar, pulled at him and made him crave what he couldn’t understand. Looking down at the arm in front of him, alien instinct compelled him to take it. He clamped his teeth into the flesh, and though he wanted to vomit as the skin tore under his teeth, the thirst took over.

His name was Dusty Ryder, and he had given in.



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Excerpt from The Fortune Teller's Secret

The Fortune Teller's Secret
A Cavendish Brown Paranormal Mystery
By Ron D. Voigts
Paranormal Mystery/Suspense
$3.99
Amazon: https://goo.gl/d47Thb
Kobo: https://goo.gl/w5CR8B
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/hmdwao

A dead man on a Ferris wheel and a cold-case murder take Cavendish Brown into a world of carnival exotics, ghosts, and killers.

From the darkness came a whisper.

“Help me.”

I heard the woman’s voice clearly. Yet everywhere was black. A void. Impenetrable and empty.

“Help me, please.”

Sounds beyond the woman’s plea filled the vacuum. Somewhere a happy tune played on a pipe organ, the music dancing in the wind, a prelude to a circus parade with clowns and acrobats and a dancing bear. Children and adults laughed and cheered. Wonderful scents lingered in the air. Sweet cotton candy and popcorn elicited memories of happy times

Something else filled the atmosphere. The smells of dampness and dirt mingled, forcing back the joy. Decaying leaves and rot stung my nose. I retched at the stench of death.

Disjointed images, fuzzy around the edges, traveled toward me then fell away into nothingness. A farm tractor. A wood rail fence. And a sign, blurred except for the words “GATE MUST BE KEPT CLOSED.”

With the snap, the darkness returned.

In the black, a speck of light grew into an image, taking form and shape. A woman stood in front of me, dressed gaily in a short ruffled pink skirt below a yellow long-sleeve shirt with triangles of black print. Leg warmers like a dancer might wear were bunched around her ankles. A blue ribbon tied in a bow kept back wild, unruly hair.

Her wide blue eyes stared at me, unblinking. Her lips, painted bright red, pursed.

“Help me.”

A dark wet spot appeared in her brown hair on the left side of her head, growing like a stain. Blood trickled from the edge of her ear and to her throat. Her head twisted, and a deep gash formed on its side.

She stretched out her arms as if crucified and fell backward in slow motion, tumbling away, then crashing with a deep thud. Her head struck the earth and the blue ribbon came loose. She twisted at an impossible angle, arms and legs bent like a broken doll.

A man in a denim jacket hovered above her, clutching a rock. He stared at the blood covering his hand. A shiver passed through him. He released the rock, letting it vanish into the shadows that surrounded everything.

Another man with his back toward me sauntered up to the woman and stopped at her feet. He wore a white T-shirt with a cigarette pack rolled into the sleeve. He scratched the back of his head, mussing his hair. “What did you do, Johnny boy?”

“I killed her!” The man in denim fell to his knees.

The one in the T-shirt took a drag on a cigarette and tossed it aside. “I’ll take care of things.”

Shadows swelled around them and eclipsed everything except the woman’s face. Her eyes opened. Her lips parted. The whisper came once more. “Please, help me.”



“No, no.” I wanted to run and flee this place of death, to be away from these evil men. “No.”