Wednesday, March 30, 2016

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Max E. Stone, Author

Max E. Stone has just released THE BLEEDING in audio format narrated by Noah Michael Levine. Reviewers describe the novel, which is the second in his New England series, as a “psychological thriller with more than a touch of horror” and "well drawn" characters. Stone claims that he pens the characters and stories that are “already in his head.”

Stone, who’s been writing since he was nine, is currently working on a new novel, Black Roses, which is his fifth book but the fourth story in the series. When he’s not writing, he likes to spend time with family and friends, do yoga, and watch the funniest shows he can on TV – to help relax.

Don’t miss the excerpt from THE BLEEDING following his interview.

Q: Reviewers claim that THE BLEEDING “is a whole new level of horror!” about “how evil begets evil.” What drives you to write in this genre? Would you compare your books to those of Stephen King?

Max E. Stone:  I’m always so honored to hear things like that. I honestly didn’t even know that what I was writing was a whole new level of anything, horror or otherwise. The characters and stories already in my head drive me to write and I just keep the pen and paper handy. And, though I love his books, I wouldn’t compare myself to the amazing Stephen King. He has his lane and level and I have mine and I think I’m pretty good for where I am. I’m still growing. But I do hope to get there.

Q: “Plot was brilliant,” says a reviewer. How did you conceive of your plot?

Max E. Stone:  This plot was something that started when I was 9 years old with my first book, August to Life. It started as a story about a family. Then, over the course of about a few more years or so, I added more characters. Suddenly, there were three families in total. But there was one character that both intrigued and frightened me and others who I let read pieces of the work. His name was Derek Warren. Absolutely the most heinous character I’d ever put together. So I asked myself “why does this person do what they do?” and “what will they do next?” That was how THE BLEEDING came about. I just thought of how bad he could possibly be in addition to how bad he already was as well as the reasons why.

Q: How do you create a “full cast of strange and wonderful characters” that will engage readers? Do you base your characters on people you know, or are they entirely drawn from your imagination? Are they heroes or villains?

Max E. Stone:  I combine the two processes. The characters’ names and a few characteristics start out solely from my imagination while the rest of their profiles are combinations of different people that I know, good and bad.  In that way, I try my best to make them as human as possible. For example, Derek Warren has some of the traits of the most loveable people in my life. Yet, he’s been warped and, in turn, has warped those good things about himself into hurting those around him.

Q: What makes a “thriller?” How do you create “one hell of a thrill ride,” as one reviewer describes THE BLEEDING?

Max E. Stone:  The mind games that happen all throughout the story. You’ll think it’s going one way and then you’ll end up on a totally different path of exploration toward the end.  

Q: What makes your story credible? How important is plausibility to engaging readers? What will make a reader stop reading thriller fiction?

Max E. Stone:  Despite the thrills and craziness that go on, at its core, THE BLEEDING is a story of normal characters and how they cope with the worst of times in their pasts, how they live life, how they fall in love, etc. That’s everyone, no matter where they come from. That is what, I believe, makes the story credible.

As far as engaging readers, it is absolutely important to do so. In thriller fiction, even with the on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments that make up the genre, I think it’s most important for a reader to have a character or situation within the book that they can identify with. Otherwise, they’ll stop reading. 

Q: Do you use setting to help tell your story? Are your characters a product of their surroundings?

Max E. Stone:  I do look up settings and I’ll use the characteristics of those settings in a given place. And, for the most part, the characters aren’t products of their surroundings. For some of them, it’s upbringing that they have to push past in order to be better and do better. Some of them do that, some of them don’t.  

Q: How helpful is humor to creating your characters? Is humor useful in a horror thriller?

Max E. Stone:  Extremely helpful. Humor makes them more real because people make jokes especially in horrible situations. That’s what makes them human and, for some, that’s what helps them cope with the situation.

You have to have some relief from the horrible; some humor despite the horror to truly grasp that horror and appreciate the relief for however long it may be.

Q: Did you write THE BLEEDING to entertain your readers or did you embed a few messages along the way?

Max E. Stone:  I think the point of any story, movie, or artistic creation should be to draw the reader, listener, or viewer into a world that they may not be aware of. That’s what art does. I would like to think that I did embed a few messages along the way as that was definitely my attempt.

Q: What’s next?

Max E. Stone:  I’m working on Black Roses, which is the fifth book I’ve written but the fourth story in the series. The synopsis is still in the works, but much of the characters will be the same with a new case for Detective Bennett that will be be absolutely a shake-up.  

Q:  Tell us about Max E. Stone. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Max E. Stone:  I like to hang out with my friends and family and also do yoga. It’s very relaxing and does the brain very well. Also, I like to watch the funniest things I can find on TV or in the movies. Writing serious situations takes a lot out of me so periodically I like to just laugh and get all of that out of my system for a bit.

About Max E. Stone

Max doesn’t remember ever not creating a story, pen or no pen.

A writer and lover of books since the age of nine, Max first set pen to page as a hobby, constructing stories that were anything but fit for children. Entertaining classmates while simultaneously concerning surrounding adults with blood-ridden tales of gory mysteries and heavy suspense that “just came to mind,” Max, with the help of family and the encouraging words of an inspiring fifth grade teacher, continue to develop this gift.

Little was it known at the time, but said gift would become a lifeline.
From horrific trauma in Max’s teen years, writing played an instrumental part in the difficult recovery and the Warrens, Bennetts, and Johnsons, three interconnected families all with issues, mysteries, and secrets that threaten their livelihood and lives, were born.

Max reads everything and everyone and relishes the journey, learning something new each day.

How does a maximum-security inmate commit a murder on the outside? The answer is more terrifying than you think.
Mark my words....
Derek Warren is smooth, charming, and a master manipulator.
But is he a killer?
I swear....
If so, how is the former businessman committing murder from a maximum-security prison cell?
And what, if anything, does he have planned next?
You'll never see it coming....
Detective Stephen Bennett is sure he has the answers to these questions.
But the path of dead bodies leads him to a truth far more disturbing than he suspected....
You will bleed....


     "Mom...Mommy?" the trembling boy whimpered in jagged breaths.

     His blonde head popped to the surface of blue bed sheets at the tormented wails that broke through his fitful rest on a freezing October night.

    And then, silence.

He swallowed hard.

"Mommy?" he bawled this time, pushing covers aside and preparing to leave his bed to investigate the noise.

Again, the deafening and disturbing quiet.

The youngster eased toward his room's door, turned the knob, and inched the opening wider until he beheld the source of the racket.

"Mommy!" he screamed.
Supported by the wall facing her son's room, his mother attempted to straighten her body and a mane of matted blonde curls with unstable hands.

Tender blue eyes, warm as a spring evening, waxed ice cold when she saw him watching her.

"Derek!" she fired, tremulous, from lips that swelled and seeped blood.

At the tears in her boy's baby blues, she softened.

"Daddy and I got a little loud. That's all. We're sorry we woke you. Go on back to bed, sweetie."

Without question, the child obeyed and feigned belief of her lie.
The scar above his own left eye reminded him of the consequences if he didn't.

Barreling footsteps rocked the floorboards and Derek stopped in his tracks. The red tint in his plump cheeks faded to a sick pale.

"Kim, baby?" a man drawled in a wicked singsong. "Where are you?"
"Derek, shut the damn door!" the mother howled, fear setting her ablaze. "Do it

In seconds, with the end of a brownish gold mullet clinging to the back of his damp neck and venomous blue-­‐gray eyes, David Warren appeared and overtook Kim in three strides of his powerful legs.

He snatched a handful of her hair and shoved her into the wall face-­‐first.

She slid to the floor when he unhanded her.

Blood dripped in the crack where her face landed and followed her body to the ground.

"Daddy, stop!" Derek cried.
"Honey, please!" Kim begged David, crawling while covering an eye. "Not in front of Derek!"

Dark red liquid wept through her fingers.
She cowered to a fetal position, not knowing when, where, or how he would strike next.

Wait for the blow...

Be somewhere else...

Dealt as predicted, strike one landed at her nose; the bone's split audible.

"This is my house," David told her in all sincerity, catching Kim's wounded face in his hands and thumbing the deep red juices that oozed from her nose and eye. 

 "You are my wife and you must do as you're told. If you continue to disobey, this will keep happening. Understand?"

He didn't wait for her classic quivering nod.

They had this talk before.

It took years for her to get the message.

But, nonetheless, she got it.

She knew her place.
He freed her, straightened, and turned to the eight-­‐year-­‐old who made no move to leave the scene.

"Go to bed, sport," the father ordered then directed a playful smirk to the boy's mother; the same masculine grin that won her heart at a church picnic years ago.

The one that had later been accompanied by a large diamond ring and a heartwarming marriage proposal.

"Mom and I need some time alone."
With those calm words, David lifted his wife from the floor, dragged her to himself, and crashed his mouth down on hers; his tongue lapping up her blood.

When he finished the unwilling invasion of her mouth, she shuddered and addressed a crippled "I'm fine, sweetie" to her son before both parents vanished around a corner, leaving Derek alone and frightened in a puddle of his own urine.

Nothing out of the ordinary for a night at the Warren house.

His mother spent years asking for help.
She beseeched relatives, friends, and the church.
The kids in Sunday School loved David Warren and wished to God they'd had the same stroke of good fortune in managing "the coolest pastor in the world" for a dad.

The women at the church talked of his mom's "luck" in having landed the minister for a husband.

The police rendered no help either.
Most of them knew David from his work in the community.
But Derek knew the truth.

And eight years of age would not stop him from saving the life of the woman who gave him his.

Purchase Links
Audible site for THE BLEEDING 

Author Links
Twitter @maxestone

Monday, March 28, 2016

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: A. M. Willard, Contemporary Romance Author

A. M. Willard, Author
Reviewers describe A. M. Willard's latest contemporary romance novella, HEARTS IN FLORENCE, a “fun, sweet, and romantic read” and a “wholesome love story.” Willard says humor is important in her stories along with today’s issues and fears. And she enjoys creating drama and suspense.

Willard has written several series and today lives in Georgia with “her husband, son, two cats, one rotten dog, two goats and her six chickens.” She is currently working on the second in her “A Taste of Love Series.”

Q: You categorize your books as contemporary romance. How does this genre differ from traditional romance? What do readers like to see most in a contemporary romance?

A.M. Willard: I think that contemporary romance is more your today’s romance- as in today’s issues, fears, and love triangles.

Q: Tell us about your latest novella, HEARTS IN FLORENCE. How helpful is setting the book in Florence to develop your plot and characters?

A.M. Willard: Oh it was so hard to set the background theme for this as I have never to Florence Italy… I had to do a lot of research to make sure I could convey the scenery to the readers. I wanted to take you on a trip while reading.

Q: Reviewers applaud your use of humor as part of telling a warm romance. How helpful is humor to create your characters, the romance, or the story?

A.M. Willard: Oh I think it’s very helpful. I love to write romantic comedy and even my friends have stated that it is perfect for me since I can let a piece of myself shine through my work.

Q: You’ve developed at least two series. What can you create in a series that you can’t do in a standalone book? Do you prefer a series over a standalone book?

A.M. Willard: I am half and half on standalones and series. I love how I can write a standalone and be done when I finish verses with a series you have to keep everyone’s life straight. Series to me allows me to have the best of both worlds, as you get to know all my characters.

Q: When creating a romance, what are the most important traits, or attributes, of the characters falling in love? What draws characters to each other? How important are setting and timing?

A.M. Willard: The setting is very important I feel. If I’m writing a ROM-COM I think a funny setting or situation is perfect, something to set the tone and mood for the rest of the novel, everything else usually just falls into place.

Q: Does the concept of heroes vs villains play a part in your books? What makes readers engage with your characters?

A.M. Willard: Sometimes yes, and I plan to work on this a little more in a future book. I haven’t had too many villains as of today.

Q: How do you create the tension or suspense to cause readers to want to turn the page?

A.M. Willard: I place myself deep in the story and fight against the plot as I write it. I start, stop, start and repeat. Creating drama and suspense seems to be the fun in most of the writing aspect. You can make it as crazy or as clam as you want.

Q: Do you write for entertainment only or do you embed a few messages in your books?

A.M. Willard: Oh I think the readers will have to answer that one. I think a few have some messages written within the pages for sure.

Q: What’s next?

A.M. Willard: Sugary Sweets is what’s next as I try to finish it up. This will be the second installment to A Taste of Love Series.

Q:  Tells us about A.M. Willard. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A.M. Willard: I love to relax with my family and friends, and enjoy being out on the water as often as we can.

About A.M. Willard

A.M. Willard is a true believer of soul mates, and happy ever afters. She enjoys reading, sailing, and of course writing contemporary romance with some saucy scenes. Releasing her first novella of the One Night Series on April 12, 2014 has sent her on a new journey in life. 

A.M.'s passion for writing started at a young age, but with the love and support from her husband of eighteen years pushed her to follow her dreams. Once she hit that first publish button, she hasn't looked back.

Publications available from A.M. Willard include the Chances Series, Love on the Screen, and everyone's favorite, the One Night Series. She's also had an article published in the Writer's Monthly Review Magazine and was just accepted into the Romance Writers of America organization in May of 2015.

A.M. Willard was born and raised in the Panhandle of Florida, but resides in Savannah GA with her husband, son, two cats, one rotten dog, two goats and her six chickens. Yes, we said chickens...

Raven Bloomberg finds herself stuck in Florence, Italy during a holiday weekend. One meant for lovers, not lonely art gallery assistants sharing the last hotel room with a dark and mysterious stranger. 

She decides to loosen up and enjoy what the city has to offer. The only problem is she may be enjoying herself a little too much. 

Pierce Ashton's eyes are set on Raven Bloomberg, the sexy yet reserved blonde that pushes him to limits he never expected. 

Will their thirst be enough to continue the love affair once back in the states? 

Will these two souls go back to living life as they did before, or embrace the passion ignited in the opulent streets of Florence. 

Find out now in author A.M. Willard's contemporary romance novella, Hearts in Florence, which is best enjoyed with an Italian Merlot.


Purchase Links

Author Links
Twitter @AMWillard1 

Monday, March 21, 2016

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: W. Lawrence, Author

W. Lawrence, Author
Reviewers describe W. Lawrence’s SYNCING FORWARD as a unique and creative science fiction story.  Lawrence elaborates that his SciFi novel clarifies every step of the way to make it plausible.  His protagonist is an everyman who readers can relate to easily. And  the story is more than SciFi. It’s also about family, love, suicide, terrorism, and ethics.

He is currently working on his next novel, One Way Window, due to be released June 2016--a lighter, humorous adventure in which a house owner in North Carolina discovers a window that looks back 90 years.  When he’s not writing, Lawrence enjoys his wife and two daughters—although he tries to go running, shooting targets, and playing games in between fixing toilets and helping his daughters with homework.

Don't miss the giveaway opportunity at the end of the interview.

Q: Reviewers applaud SYNCING FORWARD as a unique and creative science fiction story. What are the key attributes or elements of the genre of science fiction, and what makes your story unique?

W. Lawrence: Defining science fiction is not as easy as we may think. Is The Time Traveler’s Wife science fiction? Travel through time as a concept is SciFi, but I think most readers prefer there be an explanation for the time travel for it to be classified as such.

There is a surreal aspect to my protagonist Martin James’ journey, yet every step forward he takes is grounded in a plausible expectation of the future. We see the movies from 30 years ago and are disappointed in the lack of flying cars and interstellar travel. But why is that so? Because money drives everything technological. Shrinking our phones, flattening our TVs, lengthening our lives. These are tangible products and every step Martin takes to the future builds on the previous one.  While the end of the book may seem incredibly alien, the path to get there becomes one that has you nodding your head saying, “Yeah, I can totally see that happening.”

Q: Why do readers care about your protagonist? How does he engage them? What will cause science fiction readers to stop caring about a protagonist?

W. Lawrence: Martin James is an everyman. He struggles to pay his bills, he fights with his wife but loves her dearly, his children are his life. Sure, he has some talents, but Martin James is an utterly relatable character, which draws the reader into his story. Martin also internally dialogues frequently due to his condition, which is akin to Johnny’s Got a Gun.

Q:  Given that your story ventures into a dystopian future, how do you assure its plausibility, or “grounded in reality” as one reviewer claims? Is believability important to science fiction fans?

W. Lawrence: SciFi fans are more sophisticated than ever before, so I made sure I not only researched aspects of politics, demographics, and technology, but I logically played it out in my head. If it didn’t pass the smell test, I tossed it. I’m no prognosticator, but I wanted the reader to be able to take small steps instead of giant leaps.

Q: Does the concept of villain vs hero apply? Is your protagonist a hero? What makes an effective villain?

W. Lawrence: The hero’s journey is certainly there for the taking, but there are large plot points which hinge upon what a villain is defined as, so I think I will leave that question dangling for now.

Q: Reviewers also say that SYNCING FORWARD is thought-provoking. Did you write it strictly to entertain readers or did you embed some messages in the story? What do you want readers to take away from your book?

W. Lawrence: There are many messages in SYNCING FORWARD. Is it a science fiction story? Yes. Is it a story about family and loss and tragedy? Yes.  Suicide, terrorism, ethics within the scientific community… All of these are layered on rather thick. It isn’t a light book.

Q: Did your background as a corporate investigator influence your writing? Did you conceive of the plot while doing your job?

W. Lawrence: While my background helped me create a starting point for the main character, the plot was driven by a dream I had several years ago. This story is quite true to that lucid dream.

Q: How do you create a “page-turner,” as many reviewers claim? What are the elements of suspense you use?

W. Lawrence: I used a lot of my own fears to make readers uncomfortable.  Hospitals, enclosed places, needles.  Those things make me squirm. But other deeper fears are present – fear of losing my wife, my kids, of being alone. I believe readers turn the page to escape that discomfort, even if relief comes with the knowledge that something awful waits around the corner.

Q: Did you use humor to create any of your characters or the plot? How important do you consider humor as a contribution to telling your story?

W. Lawrence: Humor is not a big element in SYNCING FORWARD. There are tiny moments that act as tension breakers, but the personal drama and world events are rather heavy. I think humor is important, just not here.

Q: What’s next?

W. Lawrence:  One Way Window. It’s a twisty adventure involving a North Carolina house in which the owner finds a window that looks back in time ninety years. Moonshiners, ghost stories, and time travel. This book is much lighter, has a lot of humor in it, and will be a fun tale to zip through.  Don’t mind me though if I twist your brain along the way. Look for June 2016 as a publishing date.

Q: Tell us about W. Lawrence. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

W. Lawrence: Hmm, what I like to do is go running while listening to DLZ’s TV on the Radio, shooting at targets at the gun range, and playing games (all sorts of games). What I end up doing though is coming home late from work, fixing our toilet, and helping kids with homework. 

About W. Lawrence

W Lawrence was born in San Francisco, California, and moved two dozen times before settling in Pennsylvania with his extraordinarily patient wife and two precocious daughters. He wants a boy dog. He works in the world of corporate security as an investigator and professional interviewer/interrogator.

Lawrence is obsessed with 5K zombie runs, comes home empty-handed from hunting turkeys, and loves non-fiction books about pirates. He has no problem reconciling that his two favorite shows are Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.


1st Place for 2015 Feathered Quill Award, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Finalist in the 2014 Book Pipeline Contest

--Travel to the future - it will only cost you everyone you love.--

Attacked and injected with a drug which slows his metabolism to a fraction of normal, Martin James becomes an unwilling time traveler who hurtles through the years. His children grow up, his wife grows older, and his only hope is finding the people who injected him in the first place- not an easy task when one day for Martin lasts four years. And while Martin James strives to find a cure before everyone he loves is gone, others are uncertain if his journey can be stopped at all.

W. Lawrence weaves a dystopian future filled with the best and worst of humanity, highlights the blessings and curses of technology, and pushes the limits of faith and hopelessness. Above all, SYNCING FORWARD is a tale of one man's love for his family, and their devotion to saving him from being lost forever.

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