January 2018 First Friday Breakfast with Author Cary Christopher

On the first Friday of January 2018, we are having breakfast with author Cary Christopher.

Cary Christopher took the extremely long route to writing his first novel. Born and raised in small towns all over Florida, he grew up around the circus/sideshow of the tourist traps that dotted the state in the 1970’s. Places like Gatorland, Silver Springs, McKee Jungle Gardens, and of course, Disney World, captured his imagination with their promise of the surreal and fantastic but they always fell apart upon closer inspection. After high school, Cary spent the next decade traveling the world, first as a journalist and broadcaster for the U.S. Navy and later on his own. He began writing short fiction while living in Iwakuni, Japan in the late 1980’s and transitioned from that into songwriting after moving to Los Angeles in 1993. Even after years of writing and dozens of ideas and outlines, Cary actively and purposely avoided writing a novel. Instead he dropped out of the music scene and spent another ten years writing about pop culture and (of all things) scuba diving. He continued to write short fiction, mostly focusing on the supernatural and horror genres. Among his short fiction, “The Postmortem,” appears in Murder, Mystery, & Mayhem.

THE WASH, his first novel, was published October 2017.

For this cool winter breakfast, I’m having porridge with blueberries, pecans, and banana, and hot green tea. Cary, what are you having?

Well, you eat WAY healthier than I do, so I apologize if what I’m about to say grosses you out. Even though I live in California, I’m still a southern boy at heart. My breakfast is pretty simple. Cheese grits and black coffee. As with all scrumptious southern cooking, the trick is to take something inherently healthy and make it as bad for you as humanly possible. In most cases that means a ton of butter, but for my grits the culprit is cheese and the unit of measure is color, not cups. Basically, I add sharp cheddar to the grits until they become the color of a tangerine. Then I add just a little salt, and enough cayenne pepper to wake a dead body up.

Interesting side note, eating grits is one of the best ways to learn the fine art of patience. It’s my experience that grits hold in heat better than any substance known to man. They’re kind of like the crust around the magma pool of an active volcano. Just when you think it’s safe, you poke a hole through the top and a million degrees of heat smacks you in the mouth. My point is, I’ll be pausing to blow on my food a lot during this interview. I’m not intentionally blowing in your ear. Please don’t take it the wrong way.

Checking my cholesterol. Yep, it’s up fifty points just reading about cheesy grits.  So tell us about your writing process from concept to draft to revision.

I’m a pantser at heart and a plotter only by necessity.  Generally, when I get an idea I just start writing until I reach a place where the scope of the story becomes apparent.  At that point, I’ll do a very vague outline.  When I say vague, I mean I’m really only drafting out a conclusion and marking down a few checkpoints I need to tick on my way there.   Then, I keep writing until I get to my third act. Only at that point, do I plot out the rest.  This allows me to tie up loose strings.  To be honest, it’s not a very efficient way to write but I’ve found it’s the only way to trick my brain into finishing that first draft.  If I plot any more than that, I lose interest and won’t finish.

However, I absolutely love the revision process. In my opinion, revision is where the art of long form writing lives. I like to think of it like sculpture. You start with a block of stone and you chip away until the basic shape comes into view. That’s the first draft and sure, it looks like 85,000 words but it’s really only the rough shape of a book. Figuring out the pieces to cut, finding the veins of gold you missed and still need to explore, fine tuning the plot so it hums along like it should; those have become my favorite parts of the writing process.

Tell us about THE WASH. Why did you fight writing novel length stories?

The Wash is a supernatural horror novel about a small town in rural Utah that becomes ground zero for the unraveling of reality. I wrote a long post about some of its origins on my blog (www.carychristopher.com), but the short version is that I’d been reading a ton of books on mythology from different cultures and particularly parallel mythologies (stories from different cultures that are similar). I sat down one Saturday to write what I thought was going to be another short story pulling from some of those myths. Ten thousand words later, I realized I was writing the middle part of a book and I immediately stopped cold.

For most of my life, I’ve been almost addicted to writing in the short form. I would write one or two articles a week and they’d be in print or online within days. Right away I could interact with my audience for better or worse. Back in the 1990’s, when I was playing music onstage regularly, the part I enjoyed the most was the instant feedback. Love it or hate it, an audience was going to let you know what they thought and it’s that interaction that I’ve always craved. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t looking for adoration. I was looking for a conversation and short fiction or feature articles (especially published online) allowed me the opportunity to engage in that. So the idea of sitting down to create something that was going to take me forever to write and then ages for people to read wasn’t so much daunting, as it was unappealing.

More black coffee, Cary? What made THE WASH different?

Honestly, a lot of it had to do with where I stopped writing. I’d stranded a character next to a dead body on the side of a road at night in the freezing cold. I couldn’t just leave him there. I had to figure out what happened to him. So I decided to compromise and started continuing the story one day each week, usually locking myself in my office on Sundays to work solely on The Wash. After a year of this, I realized at that pace I’d be 70 before I finished writing it. It was my wife who actually told me to suck it up and finish. Three weeks later, I was through the first draft.

And was it rewarding?

Yes, but in a different way. As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of the revision process now and that discovery has been the rewarding part for me. Currently, I’m going back to pick up some of the twenty or so novel sketches I’ve done over the years. My new “addiction” (to continue the theme), is in getting those completed.

What was the most difficult thing about writing THE WASH?

Getting the “creep factor” correct, or at least as close to correct as I could. I am a lifelong lover of horror novels and movies.  My favorites are ones that develop an atmosphere of dread as opposed to spilling a ton of blood, so my goal was to make the reader uneasy as much as I could but never gross them out. Unfortunately, my tolerance is incredibly high for this stuff, so what I think is slightly gory is something other people may find over the top or disgusting.

In the revision process I wrestled with a few scenes that I felt went too far and in one case I left out a chapter that I still feel could have been one of the best parts of the book. I just felt it tipped the scales too much and there really would have been no way to write it effectively without some graphic bloodshed. While I still believe the book is probably better without it, I kick myself for not having followed that particular thread a little further.

Tell us about your next project and when it may be published.

Well, as I mentioned above, I actually have a lot in the pipeline. I’ve set an ambitious goal for 2018. By summer, I hope to release my first Resurrection Phil novel, The Spook Bridge. That’s in revision now. It’s a supernatural mystery that has a lot more humor than The Wash. I also have another novel tentatively titled American Ghost Story that I hope will be ready to release by the end of the year. In between, I may release a few short fiction pieces but I’m really trying to maintain my focus on getting these novels out.

Great talking with you, Cary!

Thanks for asking me to be a part of this, Michelle. It’s been a lot of fun! Hey! My grits are probably okay to eat now. Damn! Burned my tongue.

Uh huh. 

Dear reader, I hope you check out THE WASH.  Let me pour us another virtual black coffee (he likes his coffee bitter like his women) before you rush off to Amazon to buy THE WASHI did! As did a bunch of my friends.

Follow Cary Christopher at:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Cary-Christopher/e/B076FD8MJ3/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1514051618&sr=8-1

Twitter: @misfitcaryc
Blog: www.carychristopher.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheRealCaryChristopher

Happy reading!

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End of 2017 Reads

December is my month to be overwhelmed with the holidays, and I’m on schedule with that. I’m working on one book submission (due this coming week) and two book proposals (due in January). Oh my.

December is also my time to relax with a good book or fourteen. It was a busy year so I’m driving through a teetering pile of phenomenal books like a bulldozer. So let’s talk about great reads and how I’m reading them! Full disclosure: I’m in the first third of most of them, so my opinion may change.

PARANORMAL

Lost in Whispers by Mary Castillo (ebook). Ghosts! This is the third book in her Dori O mystery series. I love how the author  weaves character and story into an addictive ride. I can’t put them down. I finished Charlaine Harris’s Midnight Crossing series (audio books) at the beginning of December so that counts as a December read. Quite the collection of witches, were-beasts, psychics, vampires, angels and demons. This author doesn’t disappoint. I’m sorry the journey is over and am looking forward to seeing the tv series. I put Cary Christopher’s The Wash (ebook) in this category. I’m reading it at night, but if it gets any creepier, I’m switching to only reading it during the daytime and while surrounded by a crowd. He is a master storyteller with characters I love. Set in Salt Lake City.

FICTION

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (ebook and audio book). I loved the latest Murder on the Orient Express movie. I’ve been gushing about this book for the past week. I’m definitely on this train. The Testament by John Grisham (audio book) is a longish book but satisfies my wanderlust for the scenes in Brazil and love of legal thrillers for the shenanagins in the United States. Mermaid by Jodi Picoult (ebook). Most would consider this overpriced for a short story, but it is a Jodi Picoult and I spent the Thanksgiving weekend Saturday at Dana Point’s Ocean Institute dissecting squid and petting sand sharks. This short story has a marine biology bent and is riveting. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (audio book). Kwan wrote a NaNoWriMo pep talk. Out of curiosity, I checked out his book and was immediately engaged. Twenty-somethings in the mid 1980s in Hong Kong. Another world for me, and I’m mesmerized.

SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY

Artemis by Andy Weir (audio book). After The Martian, I doubted Weir could equal anything that incredible. This is the book I listen to while walking. I’ve a broken toe and a gimpy leg and still walking just so that I can listen to another chapter. He definitely can repeat incredible.

Speaking of addictive, author Megan Haskell recommended Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens (hardcover). Not since Maggie Stievater’s Lament novels have I seen the fae world addressed so, dare I say, realistically. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean. This book has texture. Rhondi Vilott’s Draco’s Revenge (ebook) is a super escape epic fantasy of the sword and sorcery sort. Role game enthusiasts will appreciate the book on another level, but I like it for the lovely descriptions, the undersea scenes, and the second person POV. I wanted to see if that point of view could be executed successfully. I bought The Gargoyle King also in the Dragon Road series because Draco was that good and because, you know, gargoyles.

HOLIDAY

Gone are the days when I’d re-read Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol and call my holiday inoculation of fiction done. Lots of good reads out there to snuggle near a fire and sigh over. Baby Blue Christmas by Kristy Tate (ebook) is a feel good holiday story complete with snow, a baby, a puppy, and romance. A Warm December by Jacqueline Diamond (ebook) is another happily ever after and an endearing and satisfying romance that also includes a veterinarian. I must like my Christmas cheer with dogs!

Fairytale Christmas by Merrie Destefano (ebook). I couldn’t resist an Irish Fair Folk story by the lyrical author Merrie Destefano. The cover is eye candy and it is a novella if you prefer your holiday reads short.

Some of these books are only 99 cents or offered on Kindle Unlimited. Note: all links are to the book’s Amazon ebook page.

That was fun! I hope to do this quarterly in 2018.

Please share what you’re reading! I’m making my list for 2018.

Happy surveying, Michelle

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A Patchwork of Words and NaNoWriMo 2017

Last night at about 9:45, I wrote my last words in my NaNoWriMo manuscript and submitted it for validation. Woohoo. My winner’s badge is to your left.

Instead of focusing on the third book in the Deluded Detective series, I created a patchwork of words. My pre-NaNoWriMo preparation centered on this question: Am I a starter or a finisher? I know I’ve proof that I’m both but honestly, I’ve always loved the front end of the business whether it’s writing or engineering. I let a friend decide that I should start another Deluded Detective book (called DD03 herein). This is how I finished with a patchwork manuscript.

I figured DD03 would be a 30k novella. My Tunisian romance only needed about 10k words to complete it. I had the brilliant idea to do both. First I needed to review the first 20k in the novella, which would take time but also have the benefit of edits. So I decided I could count the revision as NaNoWriMo words, but weighted less. So 20K revised words were 5k.

Then I did three more revisions in The Last Storyteller before its November release. I figured those should be worth 75% new words and calculated that accordingly.

I did another pass of The Foreign Story Collector novel that I’ll submit it to a publisher next week. I applied the 25% rule.

Then I wrote new words in the Tunisian paranormal. Not 10k, but I completed 1700 words in Chapter Eight.

I have a book proposal that I’m submitting first week of January. So I wrote 3780 new words in the book description, in the first chapter, and in the synopsis.

Finally, in DD03, I wrote 7593 new words.

I am immensely pleased with my starting and finishing accomplishments in November. I have 7500 words started in the third Deluded Detective Book, and I’m halfway through the first draft of the proposal due in January. I am a chapter closer to finishing the Tunisian novella, I did finish the last revision of FSC for submission next week, and after three more revisions of The Last Storyteller, I published it 20 November.

And that’s what writing and NaNoWriMo are all about!

Happy writing!

Michelle

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Raw Pumpkin Pie and November Notes

NaNoWriMo Update

Day 18. Word count is about 24,000. Yep, not enough words and I’m still calm. I’m pleased with what I’ve done so far and on November 30th, I am looking forward to being satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.

Latest release

The first book in the Ravenscar Shifter series The Last Storyteller by Michelle Dutton (my pen name for romance) is available for pre-order till midnight November 19th at a mere 99 cents. The 60 page shapeshifter romance novella will be released Thanksgiving week on Monday, November 20, 2017.

Click  the title for the deal: The Last Storyteller (available for pre order)

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Check here for a raw, healthy pumpkin pie recipe. Full disclosure. About 2005, I shared Thanksgiving dinner with dear friends Barbara and Myron and their six-year-old son Dylan. I was in charge of the pumpkin pie. Since I was a raw food-ist at the time, I created a phenomenal pumpkin pie with an almond meal-ginger-date crust. As Barbara said, it was the healthiest thing we ate that day. Dylan ate two large slices, so it has a kid’s seal of approval. I have lost that recipe. Tragedy of tragedies. This year I will try to re-create it. If I’m successful, I’ll add update this post. In the meantime, try the link above for a Hallelujah Acres recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving! I am truly grateful for you.

Michelle

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Pre-Order The Last Storyteller and NaNoWriMo 2017

Although it is day nine of NaNoWriMo with late October/early November filled with doctors’ appointments, plumbers, marketing the anthology, publishing a new book in a series and writing book proposals, I’m surprisingly calm about my 1,838 total wordcount. Yes, you read that right. Yes, I realize it should be 15,000. No problem, I say.

Why am I not panicking? I asked a friend to choose the project. Fortunately she said I should write the Deluded Detective Book Three discovery draft. No plot, no problem. Yes, Plot girl just said that. The main characters, Pam and Dante, are old friends, both extroverts, both ready for action. I know they are on a road trip in a taco truck. I know they’ll be looking for a lost child. I have faith my friends will take over soon and I just need to type what happens.

Other news?

The first book in the Ravenscar Shifter series The Last Storyteller by Michelle Dutton (my pen name for romance) is ready for pre-order at a mere pittance: 99 cents. The 60 page shapeshifter romance novella will be released Thanksgiving week on November 20, 2017.

A squall is coming …

Miri abandoned her tribe of raven shapeshifters and the only man she’d loved when her sister betrayed her. Now, fifteen years later, she returns to meet the nephew Trey raised and to investigate Elise’s death. Had her sister flown into a squall to kill herself or had someone driven her to it? No longer the storyteller her people needs, she searches the story keepers’ treasures for answers before she must leave Trey again … until a storm threatens everyone she loves and everything she believed to be true.

The Last Storyteller is a second-chance romance and a sweet paranormal novella set in Central California.

Click  the title for the deal: The Last Storyteller (available for pre order)

If you like the book, I hope you’ll consider leaving a review on Amazon or Good Reads. Reviews really do help the author and readers!

Happy reading!

Michelle

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FREE Book and The Last Storyteller Cover Reveal

To introduce readers to Michelle Dutton’s romances, Amazon offers the historical suspense novel Lillian in the Doorway FREE October 28 to November 1st. The novel includes two excerpts: one from my first Abishag mystery Sinking Ships and the second is from the first book in the Ravenscar Shifters series The Last Storyteller. Sinking Ships is available for 99 cents at Amazon. The Last Storyteller will be available very soon. In fact, my next blog post will announce the date.

Until then, please pick up Lillian in the Doorway FREE for a limited time. Here is a teaser.

A pharmacist falls in love with his fake fiancée in a novel about orange ranches in 1920s California, gangsters, and finding a home.

And now for the cover reveal!

Michelle Dutton is the pen name I use for my romance line. For anyone who has visited California’s coastline, you might recognize this spot. The story takes place in central California in a raven shapeshifter community called Ravenscar that stretches from the beach to the Sierra mountains. A lot of action takes place on the beach, but throughout the novella, the characters sense “a squall is coming.” When you look at the cover, can you sense a squall coming, too?

Stay tuned for the book release. It’s coming soon!

Click on the title below for the deal:

Lillian in the Doorway (FREE for a limited time)

If you like the book, I hope you’ll consider leaving a review on Amazon or Good Reads. Reviews really do help the author and readers!

Happy reading!

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Foment and Feast for NaNoWriMo 2017

Food plan alert. Mine is in work. Is yours?

I’ve participated in how many NaNoWriMos? Ten, eleven or twelve? I’ve not finished a couple that’s for sure. I’m not traveling this fall, so I hope that bodes well for a successful writing month. I may even do something scary, like take a Scrivner class.

The National Novel Writing Month in November is a signature event for me. If I’m not planning one or editing a book that I wrote in one, then I’m probably in one.

This month was all about clearing the decks. I submitted a book proposal, marketed the anthology Murder, Mystery & Mayhem, prepared for the anthology’s launch party, and set up a Lillian in the Doorway giveaway that starts Saturday. And prepared for a new indie series launch.

Ravenscar Shifters is a series set in central California, in a community of raven shifters. I initiated the pre-publication tasks for The Last Storyteller—the first book (a novella) in this three-book paranormal series. Besides being paranormal/fantasy, it is also a mystery and a second-chance sweet romance. The cover is finished and I’ll post a reveal in a few days. The novella should be ready for pre-order on Halloween.

The second book, The Foreign Story Collector, a suspense romance novel with paranormal elements. Its release should be in December.

In November, it will be 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s almost a rule that you start November 1st with a fresh idea, a token stab at a few characters, and the barest outline possible.  See the website and/or Baty’s book for more information.

Foment: My 2017 NaNo? My writing life is stirring up trouble. I’d planned to write the third book in the Ravenscar Shifters series or the second book in the Orange Ranch Brides series or the third book in the Deluded Detective Mystery series. Yet I’d dearly love to finish my YA dystopia novel, finish the beta revision to my SF novel, and finish the Tunisian paranormal novella. I can do all three in thirty days. What to do…? Feel free to express an opinion. Should I be a starter or a finisher?

Feast: But the real preparation? Getting food in order so that I can concentrate on writing. First year it’ll be strictly plant-based vegan, and I’ll try to meet Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.

Breakfast: fridge porridge or power greens smoothie or vegan muffin with fruit

Lunch: hummus wraps or bean tacos or sandwiches with carrot-cashew curry spread and veggies on pumpernickel with broccoli slaw

Dinner: baked potato stuffed with chili or salad bowls or spaghetti with veggie sauce and power greens.

I hydrate with iced Trader Joe’s harvest blend tea.

Quick meal preparation is how you make novels!

Questions? Please leave your favorite NaNoWriMo recipes and prep plans here.

Happy noveling, Michelle

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