Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blessings to All!

As 2012 breathes down my neck, I want to thank all of you authors and industry experts who graciously took the time to answer questions about your writing habits and tell me and the wonderful followers of this blog about your books. With the economy still ailing, I hope I helped you in some small way with book sales, or at the very least, visibility. Many readers are looking for good books, but aren't quite sure where to find them. This blog gives authors a chance to entice, and I must say I've purchased a number of the books mentioned this year. But that's not the best part, in my opinion.

I've met so many wonderful people all over the world, some who've become cyber buddies, and others I've had the privilege of meeting in person at book signings, conferences, or quite by accident. As 2011 winds down, I extend my cyber arms to hug each of you who stop by this blog. I hope you will continue to drop. At the present time, I'm working hard to complete The Goose Parade of Old Dickeywood for its 2012 publication. I'm also writing scenes for Punch Street, the next Logan Hunter Mystery. My book shelf is filled with research on a medieval ancestor of mine, and I plan to write an historical mystery about him ONE OF THESE DAYS.  

Please stop by and keep us informed about what you're reading or writing. I am inviting all who enter here to guest blog on my site during 2012. I'd love to know what readers look for, what reviewers have to say, and how editors and publishers pick through the masses to find gems.

Enjoy the last days of 2011 and plan to celebrate 2012 every day in some way. We have so many blessings in our lives. I count you among mine.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Siobhan Cunningham

I'm delighted to have the gorgeous and talented Siobhan Cunningham back on the blog. Welcome, Siobhan, and Merry Christmas!

Thank you , Susan. Merry Christmas to you as well.

How many books have you written? 

Strangely enough, although I write mainly commercial thriller fiction, I started out in the late 80’s helping my ex-husband, Saxophonist Raf Ravenscroft, write four music books on how to play the Saxophone. It’s a tough instrument to master, you need a strong embouchure, circular breathing and understanding neighbors (I used to practice in a wardrobe and never did quite get the hang of it).   

 Raf played the infamous Sax intro on Jerry Rafferty’s haunting ‘Baker Street’, he also played with the Pink Floyd, Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner, to name but a few. We had a recording studio, producing music for film and have an awesomely talented daughter, Scarlett Raven (, a contemporary artist currently being hailed as ‘‘the new Van Gogh & Jackson Pollock, and Prince Harry’s favorite artist’’. 

As respite from my thrillers, Scarlett and I produce a Children’s Picture Book series together, I write the text and she designs the images. They are a fun indulgence that gives a royalty share to dog rescue (  

I am currently producing a thriller trilogy, the first of which ‘The Penance List’ has been published and adapted to Screenplay, I am just about to publish the sequel ‘Unfinished Business’.  

 And I've read them. They're all awesome, Siobhan.   Congratulations!

 Thank you.

What books or authors have influenced you?

I have a long list, too many to mention. Severe respect goes out to anyone that can hold an audience’s attention, sweep them away to another world, keep them intrigued enough to turn 300 or so pages and feel remorse on reading the final page – the loss of a cozy friend.

 What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Writing is a tough, lonely, mushroom-like existence but there are immense highs when a sentence flows just right, I can spend hours, days going over and over a simple line until it hits that eureka moment, crazy I know. Reader’s mail is rewarding, they are, after all, my reason d’etre. The most common reviews are ‘WOW!’ and ‘I didn’t see that last line coming!’ This gives me courage that I have entertained, kept one step ahead and should keep on writing.

Tell us about The Penance List.

It is a psychological thriller based on David’s obsession with his childhood sweetheart, Tara - the best friend of his bullying big sister. They met when he was 7yrs old at an English boarding school run by and abusive Headmaster. HeDavid loses everything, his virginity, his mother, his heart, and finally his mind. He grows from a beautiful cherubic choirboy into a handsome sexual tour de force killer, manipulating both sexes. We understand the boy but fear the man.

Tara is his opposite, bubbly, successful, fun loving, girl about town with cheeky ‘Sex and the City’ girlfriends and disastrous love affairs.  She has no idea that 20yrs later she and her friends are on David’s revenge list, that he wants payback for his lost childhood. 

As Tara starts a torrid affair with footballing sensation Franco Rossellini, David sets up a stalking base in the apartment above hers, filming her every move.  If he can’t have her, no one can.

Juggling the British press, football fans, Franco’s ex-girlfriend, an ex SAS bodyguard, a prostitute, a hysterical drama-queen stylist and an ‘almost out of the closet’ fashion photographer, Tara’s innocent, light-hearted world becomes embroiled in David’s vengeance. The body count builds as Tara’s time runs out. Based in glitzy London and the stunning Amalfi Coast. Think ‘Basic Instinct’ meets ‘American Psycho’ meets ‘Sex & The City’

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Yes, print, ebook, kindle and Audiobook. From my days in producing music for film, I write everything with film in mind, so I am happy that it has also been adapted for Screenplay.

A lot of fun is to be had over who should play the challenging role of David. The actor will have to manage a complex role; sexual, charming, loving, as well as evil, cunning and psychotic. He must be attractive to both male and female, and be happy to work in his birthday suit – there are torrid sex scenes.  Some favorites that have been put forward are; Tom Hardy, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Henry Cavill, Mathew Goode. We will see.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

The characters must never become dull, as they progress through the trilogy, layers are shed, the more we get to know them, the more we realize we didn’t actually know them. My job is to keep them interesting to sustain the suspension of disbelief.

How do you develop characters?

I adore people watching, observing. My characters are, in the main, a mismatch of people I have met. Once the storyline takes off the characters tend to write themselves. I am not always in control, which is a bit shocking, but I have stopped wondering about it and just let them get on with it.

One of the lead characters in ‘The Penance List’ does something completely out of character on the final line of the final page… I did not know this was coming until I sat to write it, but the clever thing has set herself up for a wonderful romp in the sequel ‘Unfinished Business’… as I said, I don’t question it any more, I just do as I am told and write.

How do you choose your setting?

In the main I write about what I know, it helps to breath, smell, feel, see, taste each visual as if in a movie scene. But with ‘The Penance List’ the footballer, Franco, has a beautiful cliff top villa which is used to shoot an advertising commercial that Tara works on. I made this ‘image’ up in my mind’s eye. Just before publishing I decided to try and find a real place that looked like my image to be able to give it a name. I found Ravello on the Amalfi Coast – it was perfect.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

David’s strengths are in the scarab shell he formed to protect himself when being abused as a child. They are in his confident beauty, hypnotic gaze and Godlike control over others.  He learned the taste for ‘control’ when he had none, when he hid himself away in the science lab at school, dissecting creatures, smaller and weaker than him. As a boy he was weak, we felt empathy for him, as a man he is strong, we fear him.

David’s flaws were beauty, religion and shame.  His beauty attracted the attentions of an evil Headmaster, his beliefs made him fear the wrath of God if he declined and his shame made him keep a sordid secret from the rest of the world, leading him into a distorted realm of his own.

Tara’s strengths are hard work, laughter and honesty; her flaws are a rose-tinted, stubborn heart that offers misguided loyalty, an overbearing mother… and girlfriends that behave wonderfully badly.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

It has everything to do with my writing, I write about what I know, have seen or been in close contact with.  David was in boarding school, I went to boarding school, Tara worked in advertising, I worked in advertising, Franco is a premiership footballer, I worked in celebrity management (David Beckham’s agency) etc. I also met a violent attacker in my early 20’s (unscathed thank goodness) and helped the police with a photo fit to catch him, he is now in prison. Looking into this man’s eyes the seed of my fictional character of ‘David’ was formed.

If I can I would like to shine a small light on child abuse, to encourage us to listen to our children, cut away the power of secrets and shame.  And also to remind us to follow our gut, look over our shoulder. Have fun, but be careful, evil can step into our sweet little worlds at any time – it certainly did with me that rainy afternoon when I met an attacker.

Although the book is a sexy thriller it is scattered with laugh out loud ‘release’ moments. My upbringing has been to laugh at oneself and adversity, it helps us through.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Today writers have to wear a few hats, as well as write a best seller, they need to market, sell, publicize, promote, social network, treat themselves as a business. I dedicate a few hours each day to reach out and talk to readers; they help me create a robust platform to keep producing books from.  It’s a two way street, I write for them, and they give me courage to keep moving.

I guess it will be no surprise for you to hear that (true to form I write what I know) I have included social networking in the next book ‘Unfinished Business’ a little twist in the tale where the victim is snared through social networking.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

Unfinished Business’ and ‘For My Sins’ will complete the trilogy, which is hard for me because it is the end of the David Trilogy (or is it?) and I do not want to say goodbye to these wonderful characters.

‘The Fallen Angel Trilogy’ crime thriller. A feisty female protagonist makes a deal with God to allow her to ‘take care’ of a few of the ‘bad’uns’ that slip through his and government agency fingers. Think Edward Woodward’s The Equalizer meets  CSI meets Heaven Can Wait (Angels are the new Vampires).

 The La Manga 6’ crime thriller.  For the past10yrs 5 sexy, mature, successful career women have met up for a girls holiday in La Manga, Spain. Where for one glorious week, away from work, family and commitments, they let their hair down and behave badly. But the past is returning to haunt them, not everything that happens in La Manga stays in La Manga. Angry locals, jealous lovers, husbands, gangsters and bodies on the balcony mount up. This may be their last year to get away with murder. Think ‘Sexy Beast’ meets ‘Mad Dogs’ meets ‘Desperate Housewives’.

‘Janet Reger’ a biography of the iconic 1960’s lingerie designer who breathed life into the glamorous undergarments we know today. In collaboration with Alizer Reger & Getty Images Publishing.

 Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

 Check out my websites or twitter

Thank you for the interview,Susan, as always a pleasure to chat with you.

Likewise, Siobhan. Continued success with all endeavors!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Brian T. Shirley: Make Love not Warts

My guest today is author and comedian, Brian T. Shirley. We're sipping coffee and nibbling on Christmas leftovers. Welcome to the blog, Brian. Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

I love performing onstage in front of a big audience, but I don't like crowds. I'm also a pretty shy person when it comes to one on one encounters. I find it easier to talk to a bunch of people rather than a few.

How many books have you written?


What books or authors have influenced you?

These two books I have published were influenced by Gary Larson. I loved reading his "Far Side" series when I was growing up and his books were the first thing I thought of when I started putting my series together.

What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

I had a lot of help from friends and family with both books. The best part of this was running the one liners I had written by them to see what they thought. I could not wait to see what they thought and watch them laugh as they read them. Even better than watching them read my latest work was hearing my dad read the proverbs aloud.

Tell us about your latest release Four Score and Seven Beers Ago.

This is the second book in my Make Love not Warts trilogy. Much like the first book, this one is full of funny proverbs and insults. There are a few differences in Four Score. Number one is that I've taken popular song titles and made comedic sentences with them, such as " I did the Safety Dance with My Sharona while Jessie's Girl Barked At the Moon." Second I added a funny poem at the end of the book. I did these books as a way for people to laugh at their own leisure and come back to the books to laugh again when they see their favorite lines.

Is it available in print,ebook and kindle formats?

Yes, both books are available in all those formats and at most major book re tailors.

Were any of the books more challenging to write than the others?

Yes, the second book was a challenge. I have over two hundred proverbs in the first book of which I had a good amount of those already written. I started fresh with the second so it took me a little longer.The third book is proving to be an even bigger challenge.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

 I take a lot of my comedy from what is going on around me and my frame of mind at the time. The environment I was in colored a lot of my second book. A lot of the proverbs I wrote were about taking my frustrations out on life in general.

We all know how important our work has become. How do you get the word out off and online?

 First off I must say a big " Thank You " to you for this interview. This is one of the ways I've tried to promote my work. I've done several online interviews to get the word out. I'm also on facebook,twitter and linkedin. I've done online ads and press releases. I have a web site that presents my work as a comedian and an author, so I push both aspects of my career at the same time.
  Offline I've done TV,radio and newspaper interviews for both my books as I promote my comedy performances. I use the books as part of my intro into my shows and as part of my promo material to all the clubs I play. I carry the books with me and sell them after my shows and I've have great success with them in that aspect.

Can you tell us about your current or future projects?

 I'm plugging along writing the third book in this series. I'm also working on short stories for my website and possibly future publication/sitcom material. I'm always writing new material for my show, and I'm hoping to get a novel started later on in 2012.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

 They can go to my web site I have excerpts from both books there, short stories,videos, and my tour calendar.

Thanks Susan! Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Brian!