Friday, April 9, 2010

Mari Sloan's Beaufort Falls

Mari Sloan dropped by to answer a few questions about Beaufort Falls. Welcome, Mari. Please give us a brief bio.

I am a Southern writer whose family is from Atlanta, Ga., now transplanted to Southern California where I live in a small apartment with my husband and a huge black cat. Writing is my part-time vocation, and I work fulltime as an AdMin for a furniture store, although my past has included counseling, teaching, disaster relief work for the American Red Cross and night and weekend director for a domestic violence center. Mental health, crisis intervention and the welfare of women and children have always been high priorities in my life.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

The Author’s page on my webpage begins with a statement that I think sums up most of my writing. I tell everyone, only partly tongue-in-cheek, “my Mother was Scarlett O’Hara and my Father was John Wayne.” My Great-Grandmother was the first prison matron for the state of Georgia, a saintly woman who wore an apron instead of a uniform and who stopped a prison break once (two women on foot who had decided to leave the work farm) with nothing but a stern look and a switch. From an early age I was told that my life should matter to more than just myself, and I was expected to be of service to others in some way. When you add the influences of some decidedly off beat religious experiences and a Grandmother who had learned through contact with prisoners at an early age how to predict the future and who was never wrong, I had all of the elements for a first class novel before I was ten.

LOL. I love it! Tell us about Beaufort Falls.

In Beaufort Falls a determined ghost comes back from the grave to protect her living children, still in the custody of her abuser, and to avenge her murder. This is accomplished with the unconscious help of her very strange ex-lover, who manages to evade arrest himself by a series of creative impersonations, beginning with posing as the first man he is supposed to have killed, and ending as the biggest, most awkward woman you could ever imagine, a part I picture as being acted if it ever becomes a movie by Bruce Willis. A mix of characters rotate around this main plot, a dangerous religious fanatic, two cute little kids, women whose biological clocks are ticking loudly, lost boys adrift in a mental health system gone astray, two of the most inept “hit-men” you could ever image, with an action packed finish that leaves room for a sequel. “Nothing is what it seems, in Beaufort Falls!”

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Yes, a definite message of hope for victims of domestic abuse, the mental health system, and people who are dealing with injustice anywhere. Not even death prevents Eliza from taking care of her children and making sure that they are taken care of. A secondary message, or its “subtext,” is that you never really know what you or anyone else is capable of just by watching life move around you. What may seem ordinary on the surface can be very bizarre indeed. Who knows what his or her neighbor is really thinking, or what goes on behind their little white picket fence or closed doors?

How do you develop characters? Setting? That all-important first sentence? Your “voice?” Influences?

My setting is, of course, the land of my childhood, the sleepy, sultry, Deep South, where superstition, religion gone insane, agenda determined aberration all move beneath the surface of normality in grooves worn by centuries of the misuse of power and sanctioned abuse of the weak. My characters are all shaped by this, but show extraordinary creativity, strength and ingenuity in overcoming the obstacles placed in their way. The ones regarded as the weakest are actually the toughest, and you cheer for them every step of the way.

I lived in Southern Alabama, Beaufort Falls’ setting, for several years and found it much like my Atlanta home and my childhood in hot, humid South Georgia. My first sentence? "Beaufort Falls was not exactly what you would call a ‘happening’ town.” Not on the surface, anyway. My voice is satirical, in the best tradition of Southern writers, and my greatest influence has always been Pat Conroy, probably the best portrayer of human nobility and fallacies in the history of the written word. Want to see me do the dance of joy? Compare me to Pat.

Where do you write and what particular distractions do you have to overcome? What helps you concentrate, aids your creative process?

Life throws distractions at me with the accuracy of a curve ball pitcher on a pro baseball team. I live in a studio apartment with a mate whose schedule is my opposite and there is always confusion and noise around me. The plus side of this is that he is my soul-mate, and nothing I say to him disturbs him. We both have to be creating something to be happy, so it’s not at all unusual for conversation on a Friday or Saturday morning to go like this:

“Mari, come here and look at this! Look what Microsoft is doing now!”

“Leave me alone. I’m writing!”

“But look! Should I send this out? Come proof this for me.”

“In a minute. Charlie knew that he …”

“But Mari, I’m going to send it …”

“Shut up!!” Eventually I take a look and then this same restless man sits still and lets me read my chapter to him, even when he’s heard it dozens of times before. Beaufort Falls took three years to finish its first draft and then it went through more than ten major and minor rewrites before I was happy with it, and this poor man heard it read out loud to him every word of the way. Then we suffered through the publishing process as partners, creating It’s ME! Ink Press and learning together how to launch “the baby.” Now I’ve gone through three years of creating its sequel and reading IT out loud, as well.

What are your current projects and where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Road Trip, the sequel to Beaufort Falls, should be out by August of this year. I’m working at rewriting and editing it now, and in it Molly, who was only eight in Beaufort Falls is a troubled teen-ager who teams up with her biological Dad to transport a pink trailer to Hollywood where she believes that she can sell it and make her fortune. There is a cosmic subplot to this thriller and an entirely new array of characters as they cross the country. Native Americans, Chinese gang members, a god-like superhero “more like Spiderman than Superman,” a vicious, super-powered black cat, and more make this novel even more multi-faceted than the first.

You can find Beaufort Falls for sale on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, Barnes and, anywhere books are sold online or you can order it from your favorite bookstore by author name (Mari Sloan) or title (Beaufort Falls). It should be delivered to your door within ten days, either way.

You can reach my website using either or,or/ visit my blog at . I’m also active at Book Town and you can always send me messages here, whenever you’re around.  (Mari's interview will also be posted at

It’s a pleasure to hang out with Susan and I thank her for her time and her wonderful questions. If there is anything else you want to contribute or ask me, leave a response here, under the interview, and I’ll reply right away!

Thanks so much, Mari. Continued success!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Crystal J.Stranaghan and The Pirate

My guest author today is multi-talented Crystal Stanaghan. She is the author of six published picture books for children, three early reader chapter books and four upcoming non-fiction titles for adults. She has worked as a publisher, editor, book designer, publishing consultant, and creative writing mentor on numerous projects. Crystal is an experienced workshop facilitator, and has taught groups ranging in age from pre-school students to adults on topics including: writing, web-marketing, publishing, wellness, goal setting and the business of making books. Crystal is the Publisher of Gumboot Books ( – a Vancouver publisher that specializes in books for children and youth. Through the Self Publishing Network ( which she co-founded, she also works as a consultant and project coordinator for people publishing their own projects of all kinds.

Welcome, Crystal.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

I've been creating stories my whole life, and decided when I was about 8 years old that I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I haven't really grown up yet, but I started to take the writing a whole lot more seriously about 6 years ago when I finished my Masters degree. I've always had wide ranging interests as far as books and life are concerned, and that's definitely reflected in the genres I like to work in. Children's books, romantic thrillers, non-fiction and self-help are my favourites.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.

My most recently published title is The Pirate Who Lost His Aarrr! (illustrated by Marcus Wild). It's a picture book, but for the older end of that spectrum (age 6-9). The story and themes are a bit more complex and the illustration style has strong graphic novel elements to it, so it appeals especially to boys in that age range. It's a tale of pirates, gold, and a cursed Captain - but is also about learning to hold on to your temper.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

In all of my books there is some kind of message, but I do try to make sure that it's subtle and something that the readers have to figure out for themselves. My training as a psychologist is put to good use in my children's books and I've dealt with a variety of topics over the years. The environment, facing your fears, anger management and more - but always in a way that's woven into a fun story and the learning takes a back seat to really engaging readers in the story.

Does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Absolutely. Geographically for sure - I have a teen novel and a romantic thriller I'm working on that are both set in the small coastal BC town that I was born in called Ocean Falls. It's essentially a ghost town now, and makes a great setting for spooky stories. I have spent a lot of time in small towns (in various countries) and that comes through in the settings and types of stories I choose. My first book was called Then It Rained - which was definitely inspired by the local weather!

In a family sense, I was blessed with an adventurous family who and are also very encouraging of whatever I'm working on. They've provided great inspiration over the years, and the lessons we learned (caring for the world around you, treating people like you'd want to be treated etc.) are definitely topics that have come up in my children's books in particular. Vernon and the Snake (Gumboot Books 2007) was actually written for my Grandfather Vernon - who is petrified of garter snakes. My mom always told me to put myself in their shoes - and understand that to them, I was the monster. That all came together in this book as the story is told from the Snake's point of view on one side, and Vernon's on the other.

In my non-fiction, it comes out in the firm belief that anyone can learn to do anything-if they're stubborn enough, believe they can, and keep an open mind. Also, my parents are both great at explaining things to people, and really patient, and I think that had a direct impact on my own teaching style and on my writing. They also were really involved in the community and always contributing time and energy to various fundraising projects and A World of Stories is a direct result of their examples. That's a project we put together to raise money for literacy through Rotary Clubs.

What are your current projects?

Right now, I'm working on several different writing projects in different genres. In children's books, I'm working on books 2 and 3 of a series called The 13th Floor, illustrated by Izabela Bzymek. The first one in the series came out last year from Gumboot Books (The 13th Floor: Primed for Adventure).

I also have 3 early reader chapter books for ESL students coming out this year from the JLS Storybook Project. In the non-fiction realm, my partner Jared Hunt and I have co-authored 4 non-fiction books about writing and publishing that are coming out this spring and summer. These are paired with workshops we teach in each area, and for the next 12 months we'll be teaching these all over Canada. Between that, and keeping Gumboot Books running - that's more than enough to keep us out of trouble for the near future!

How do you promote yourself online and off?

I actually love building websites (yeah, really!) and so that's definitely the first place I start. Online marketing happens mainly through various social media channels: ning, facebook, twitter, linkedin, blogging and more. Offline, I spend most of my time either writing, teaching, or marketing books for our publishing company at events in person. This takes a variety of forms: doing readings at community events and bookstores, doing school visits, speaking at conferences, and teaching workshops.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

The best place to get more information is from my websites. My author website can be found at

For information on Gumboot Books:

For information on the Self Publishing Network:

For information on the Live Your Dream Workshops:

on twitter: @cjstranaghan

Monday, April 5, 2010

Elizabeth Craig

My guest today is fellow Carolina Conspiracy member, Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Elizabeth writes the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and is writing the upcoming Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime as Riley Adams. Like her characters, her roots are in the South. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as room mom and Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives car pools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.,,

Elizabeth, welcome. When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I’m not one of those people blessed with multiple talents. J I discovered early on that writing was the one thing that I was good at. I started avidly writing stories and poems when I was in 4th grade and never looked back. Mysteries were always my favorite reads growing up—I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Bobbsey Twins, then I moved on to Trixie Belden before finally ending up with Agatha Christie. I must have reread Christie’s books ten times each!

What are your writing goals?
If I’m writing a first draft, I write half a chapter a day—this gets me through a 75,000 word book in about 5 weeks.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Delicious and Suspicious is the first book in the Memphis Barbeque series and will be released July 6: When a food scout from a cable cooking channel is murdered, it's only natural for restaurant owner Lulu Taylor to take it personally. After all, her barbeque restaurant served the scout's last meal. But danger lurks as Lulu investigates the crime. Will she clear the restaurant's name, or is she next to be skewered?

How do you determine voice in your writing?
My voice is my natural voice—the one I tell stories in for my children at night. It’s very casual—“I want to tell you a story.”

How do you promote yourself online and off?
Since my children are still pretty young, I’m limited to my in-person appearances. I’m going to the Malice Domestic conference in DC April 30—May 2, and I make appearances with the Carolina Conspiracy mystery writers group in North and South Carolina. The bulk of my promoting is done online, though—via guest posts, my blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Online promotion is a lifesaver!

Where do you write? What do you have around you?
I write anywhere I can! As a stay-at-home mom of busy children, I have to grab my moments when I can find them. You’ll frequently find me squeezing my writing into 5 minute blocks—at the grocery store deli line, waiting for my car to get washed, in the pediatric waiting room, or in the carpool line at the elementary school.

What are your current projects?
I’m handing in the second Memphis Barbeque book to Berkley Prime Crime this week. My deadline for the 3rd is November 1. I’ll also be promoting my first Memphis Barbeque book, Delicious and Suspicious after its release on July 6.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
They can visit me at I blog daily and use the site as a hub to connect to other blogs I write for. Thanks so much for interviewing me today, Susan!

It has been a pleasure. Hope to see you at a Carolina Conspiracy event soon, Elizabeth.