Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fade to Black...

A few months ago, I flew to Chicago for the annual client conference held by my agent. It was my first time attending, having only been picked up officially that August, so I was a bit out of my depth. I was in a strange city full of complete strangers. I had absolutely no idea where I was going or who I was going with. If you know me at all then, you know that these are things that usually send me into a tailspin… but I maintained. 

I was very proud.

As we were waiting for the train to take us into the city for dinner, I listened to people talk—“Hi, I’m blah, blah. Blah, blah has been my agent for 2 years.”
“Oh, I know you. My name is blah, blah. I’m with blah, blah.”
(not trying to be disrespectful—just don’t want to use names… or maybe I just don't remember them.)
“So, what's your name and who are you with?”
It took me a few seconds before I realized someone was talking to me.
“Ah… My name is Maegan Beaumont and I’ve been with Chip for a few months.”
I sounded like I was introducing myself at an AA meeting, but I managed to get the words out without any nervous stuttering. Suddenly, the young woman standing in front of me whirled around and after a few seconds of scrutiny, said, “You’re Maegan Beaumont?”

Oh. God. What did I do? The juvenile delinquent in me was screaming—No. No you are not. Deny, deny, DENY!!


She smiled. “I joined the agency the same week Chip received your manuscript. It was the first thing he gave me to read. I couldn’t get past the first five pages. I still think about it,” she said. “I’m pretty sure it scarred me for life.”
I didn’t know what to say. What did that mean? Was it really that bad? Before I could say anything, she saved me from imploding.
“Oh, no. It was really, really good… but it was too intense for me,” she said. “Most writers have this fade to black moment where they choose to leave the rest of a graphic scene to the reader’s imagination. I kept reading your work, waiting for the fade to black… but it kept going. I kept reading, waiting for it. Fade to black… I kept thinking, when is it going to fade to black? Fade to black. Dear God—FADE TO BLACK!!” She mimed flipping through pages, her eyes as wide dinner plates.

She stopped and smiled at me. “I took it back to Chip and said, “It’s really, really good and really, really disturbing. Here you go—you should read it. And now you’re here.”
I had no idea what to say—again. I felt like an apology was in order but I swore to myself a long time ago that I’d never apologize for anything that I’d written. Maybe I should offer to pay for her therapy…

She turned out to be the one person I really connected with in Chicago. We split a pizza and she admitted that I was nothing like what she expected. I took it as a compliment. We really didn’t talk about my work again (although, she did ask me if my husband was afraid to go to sleep around me...) but her reaction has stuck with me. Four months later and I’m still thinking about it.

Fade to Black.

I’ve tried writing that way but it felt… almost like a lie. What I’d put on paper was not what I really wanted to say—the problem was, what I really wanted to say was pretty freakin’ disturbing. I was worried what my family would think. I was worried how, if it was ever read by the general public, I’d be regarded (remember, nice girls don’t write about torture…). Would the parents of my children’s friends think I’m a depraved lunatic and keep their kids away from mine?
I was afraid of offending someone. I was afraid of disappointing everyone. I was afraid of what people would think.

I was afraid.

But you can’t write with fear—not if you want write with honesty and passion and all the things that make a book worth reading. Good writing isn’t always pretty or pleasant. It isn’t about what people want to hear. It’s about what you have to say. As soon as I realized that, I was able to let go of all that worry and doubt and just write. Instead of fading to black, I kept the lights on. I threw open the doors and windows and wrote.
And what I wrote scared me. Not the actual content… but it scared me that the words came from me so easily.  That I was able to go there without any real effort at all. I felt the strong desire to delete it off the page before anyone else saw it. I didn’t. I considered cutting it from the book. I didn’t do that either. I’ve come to recognize that feeling this way is a sign that I’ve written something that will affect people. And if we’re not affecting people with our words, then what’s the point?

Truth is, there’ll always be people who will be offended. There will be some who are disappointed or disturbed by the things I write. Who will see me differently. Who will build pre-conceived notions about what I’m really like. And as much as I wish it weren’t so, I can’t let any of that dictate what I write. I’ll go crazy if I do…

So write what you want. Say what you need to say, in the most honest way possible. Don't let fear or doubt decide what you put on paper. You deserve better than that, and so does your reader.

Fade to black. Or not...

It's totally up to you.

Release date: May 8, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guest Blog: Lois Winston

Today, I'm fortunate enough to be hosting the fantastic writer behind the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery  series and fellow MInker, Lois Winston.  Lois is going to give us a very insightful look at where plot and characters come from. Take is away, Lois!

Where Characters and Plots Are Born

“Where do you get your story ideas?”

“Are any of your characters based on yourself or people you know?”

The above are the two most frequently asked questions I hear from readers. There’s a writing axiom that states, write what you know.  To some extent this is sound advice, but it’s also extremely limiting advice. I have a good friend who writes stories populated with vampires, werewolves, selkies, and other assorted weird creatures of the paranormal world. My friend is neither a vampire, a werewolf, nor a selkie, and I have it on good authority that she’s never met any such creatures. So obviously she’s not writing what she knows from first-hand experience.

In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series my amateur sleuth protagonist is a debt-ridden, recently widowed magazine editor whose home is populated by her two teenage sons, her “Russian princess” mother, a cantankerous communist mother-in-law, and a menagerie of pets, including a Shakespeare spouting parrot. Much of her problems stem from having believed a man who turned out to be a lying louse of a spouse.

Write what you know

To some extent. I have designed needlework and other crafts for various magazines, and I did work as a craft book editor for some years. My two sons were once teenagers. And I was saddled with a cantankerous communist mother-in-law. However, that’s where the similarities between me and Anastasia end.

My husband is a nice guy who is still very much alive. My mother, although half Russian, never claimed to descend from the Romanov dynasty, and due to allergies, we have no pets. I’ve never even come across a Shakespeare spouting parrot. Most of all, though, I don’t constantly stumble across dead bodies. And if I did, I’d leave the investigating to the police.

So where do I get the ideas for the stories I write? From the world around me.  I’m a die-hard news junkie who has always believed that truth is stranger than fiction.  That belief is reaffirmed every time I pick up a newspaper or turn on the evening news.  I’ll hear a news byte or read an article, then give the event a “what if” spin.  The voices in my head take over from there, and the next thing I know, I’ve got the plot for another book.   

The plot for Revenge of the Crafty Corpse came about after I read an article on a nursing home murder involving two ninety-something roommates. A lover’s triangle caused one woman to permanently dispatch her rival. I was well aware of mercy killings in nursing homes, but one resident killing another seemed quite rare to me. Upon further research, I discovered not only wasn’t it all that uncommon, but the motive for such murders often had something to do with romantic jealousy. 

Who knew nonagenarians still had sex? That one article planted the seeds for both a plot and a murder victim. I created Lyndella Wegner, a ninety-eight year old know-it-all with a penchant for scandalous craft projects and even more scandalous behavior. When she turns up dead, Anastasia’s mother-in-law becomes the prime suspect. Of course, Anastasia being Anastasia, she can’t leave the investigating to the police. As much as she dislikes her mother-in-law, she knows the woman isn’t a killer. So Anastasia sets out to find the real killer, hopefully before she crosses paths with any more dead bodies. Or becomes one herself.

To buy Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, go to:

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series also includesDeath By Killer Mop DollandCrewel Intentions, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery.Revenge of the Crafty Corpse is a January 2013 release. 

Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She’s also the author of the recently released Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog,

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top 10+1, Holy Crap, We're All Gonna Die! Movies of all time... According to me.

Okay... now that we're one week into 2013, I feel comfortable in saying that, we, the human race, made it through 2012... it's official, folks--we're living on borrowed time. To celebrate, I've compiled a list of my favorite end of the world movies... enjoy.

 I'm not one for scary movies... but this one makes the cut. In 28 Days Later,
we see a group of activists unknowingly unleash a bunch of monkeys infected
with a genetically altered strain of human emotion called RAGE. Crazy, angry monkeys bite humans, turning them into crazy, angry people who then, bite other people. Interesting that in trying to dull the human experience, those asshats
 actually messed stuff up even more...

Moral of the story: If it ain't broke--don't fix it.

 2012... We all knew it was a big hoax, right? This movie portrayed a huge
cluster-F of natural disasters. Earthquakes. Fires. Super Storms. Tsunamis... John Cusack fights his way through it all to save his ex-wife and their two children from certain death. We come to find out that government knew this was going t happen all along and contracted the Chinese to build HUGE ships to ensure the survival of the species.

Moral of the story: The Mayans were wrong, bitches!

Armageddon gives us an asteroid the size of Texas, Bruce Willis and
a $300 plastic ice cream scoop. This movie was all about the cinematography (Michael Bay films are filled with stirring images of  Americana) and the fact that Bruce Willis dies in order to save the world. I've seen this movie a hundred times and still cry like a baby when Liv Tyler finally realizes her father isn't coming home.

Moral of the story: Promises are made to be broken.

  Children of Men gives us nearly 20 years of human infertility, a world on the brink of collapse and Clive Owen as the cynical escort to the only woman to become pregnant is over 18 years. This movie paints a bleak picture--police states, civil war and refugee camps. A disaffected government and a hopeless public fight each other for their own version of humanity.

Moral of the story: Whitney was right: Children really are the future.

 The Day After Tomorrow... Dennis Quaid as a Climatologist
(is that even a real thing?) warns the government of an the catastrophic
effects of global warming and the resulting  2nd Ice Age cometh. Jake
 Gyllenhaal plays his dutiful son who holes up in a New York city library
and burns books to wait it out. In a strange twist, the only habitable place in Northern America is Mexico and Americans bum rush the boarders much to the dismay of our Southern neighbors. We are granted asylum by the Mexican
government in return for the forgiveness of their country's debts to
the U.S..

Moral of the story: If you hold out long enough, eventually you
won't have to pay up.

Okay, okay... I know what you're thinking: Deep Impact and
Armageddon are the same movie. You're right, they pretty much
are the same movie--but I have to admit that out of the two, I like
 this one more. Why? Because it was more realistic, for one. I think
 we all know that an asteroids cannot be drilled upon and nuked
 by a bunch of Roughnecks. Deep Impact gave us the human
experience... and Morgan Freeman as president.

Moral of the story: When your mother hands you a baby
and tells you to run, don't argue--just do it. (See above).

  I am Legend is one of those rare movies I actually like more than the
book... and I use the term "book" lightly here. It was more like a short
story and is was... well, it was boring. I did appreciate the fact that the
 pandemic (Matheson never says for sure what it was, but the afflicted
sounded a lot like vampires to me) that sweeps across the
planet claims everyone but Neville... who is finally captured and
executed because he is trying to cure everyone. He in turn, has become
 the threat and they kill him for being different. The movie moves along
 the same lines, but Neville finds a cure and sacrifices himself to ensure
that it reaches the last outpost of civilization and in effect, saves
humanity. I like that Will Smith is half nutty in the movie and I cried
when he had to kill his dog... but I always cry when the dog buys it.

Moral of the story: Never trust a mannequin named Fred.

My favorite Mad Max movie is Thunder Dome (yes, it's because of Tina Turner) but the film that kicks off this franchise is a close second. Mad Max gives us a look at what will happen in Australia if the world ever runs out of oil. Crazed motorcycle gangs will rule the highways, raping and killing for fuel. Policemen will turn vigilante and kangaroos will become extinct (it must be true, because I didn't see any in the movie).

Moral of the story: Never piss off a guy named Max.

 I loved this movie as a kid... that's the only reason it's here.
Night of the Comet is a campy B-flick about how the tail of a
comet passes over earth and turns everyone to dust... and those
 who survive into flesh-eating zombies (like there's any other
kind...). Two sisters survive--each had inadvertently been
shielded from the effects of the comet by spending the night in
steel lined structures and are left to fend off said zombies,
and government clean-up and whack-a-doo scientists while
lamenting over the death of so many cute boys!

Moral of the story: When given the option, always opt for
MMA classes over piano--a round-house kick is so much more
 helpful during the Apocalypse than knowing how to play Heart
 and Soul.

 Okay--confession time... this movie scared the absolute shit out of me . The Happening starts when a bunch of people start randomly killing themselves--and each other--for seemingly no reason at all. Mark Wahlberg uses the power of his third nipple (he has a 3rd nipple--you can see it clearly in the scene from Shooter where he's laid up in Kate Mara's house waiting for her to pull a couple of bullets out of his belly) to determine that the trees are trying to kill us. I looked this up and there is scientific evidence that supports the theory that trees can communicate with each other and that they are capable of releasing a nerve toxin that can make us all crazy if and when they decide to perceive us as a threat.

Moral of the story:  Recycle.

 The good news in The Road, is that all those homicidal trees are dead. The bad news is, so is everything else.
This is one horrible, bleak, what's the point, we're all gonna die anyway movie. Early on, we see Mother give birth at home, aided by her husband, shortly after some cataclysmic event caused society to implode. Mother, driven crazy by despair commits suicide shortly after giving birth. Man takes Boy and hits the road... and is set upon by cannibals... and more cannibals... and more--well you get the picture. Man dies in the end and leaves Boy alone. Boy is found by Family who has been following Man and Boy for a while because they were worried about Boy and the fact that every time shit went sideways (which was every 5 minutes), Man's solution was to kill Boy and then himself, but could never seem to pull it off.

Moral of the story: Buy bullets in bulk.