Friday, March 18, 2011

Shawn Lamb's Heir Apparent

Shawn Lamb, author of Heir Apparent is my guest today. Welcome, Shawn. Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you, Susan. I’m the author of the YA fantasy series ALLON. Before writing fiction, I did freelance writing for TV animation back in the 1980s. The series was called BraveStarr and put out by the same studio responsible for He-Man and She-Ra. In fact, my husband Rob, was a staff storyboard artist and writer for He-Man, She-Ra and Fat Albert.


What is your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Actually, it occurred during the beginning draft of the first Allon book. The whole thing started when my daughter asked me to write her a fantasy. She was in high school at the time. When I agreed, she told her friends, who became very intrigued at learning her mom was writing this ‘big, epic fantasy,” according to my daughter. Now, I had to live up to the billing.

Her friends came over to the house to discuss the story. Nashville has becoming a city of immigrants and refugees, so most of them were from immigrant families, like Iraqi Kurds, Somilia, Laos, Kenya, Egypt. They crossed the cultural, ethnic and religious spectrum. The conversations turned personal and they asked direct questions, wanting to know what Americans thought, why Christian believed different. And they wanted direct answers. But mostly, they expressed the desire and need for hope. Coming to America was somewhat disappointing and they struggled to find what they believed was hope and a better life. Those conversations and expressed needs motivated me and the one book turned into a series in an attempt to provide answers and hope.

Tell us more about Heir Apparent. Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Allon Book 3 – Heir Apparent is a continuation of the series. Most of the characters from the previous 2 remain, with new ones added as the family grows. This one is based more around family issues, although not losing any of the fantasy elements.

Each book is self-contained, and I try not to leave ‘cliff-hangers’ but clues can be found to what may come later. It is available in print on Amazon. We are working on converting the series to e-books, and they should be ready shortly.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?

Yes, there should be a natural improvement and progress as any author writes. To go from script to prose, I studied for 3 years. Where the course taught me about the mechanics of writing, it wasn’t until after the publication of my first book that I really grew as a writer and author. Baptism under fire, if you will. Not just the review factor, but being suddenly placed under the microscope of the public.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others? If so, why?

Actually, this one – Heir Apparent. If I say too much, I may give the story away. So I’ll just say, putting familiar characters you’ve lived with for so long through certain things isn’t easy.

You're so right, Shawn. I can relate.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Great question. I addressed this issue in my blog recently in a two-part post about free flow writing vs. flash card or plotting. I’m the free-flow type, I rarely make notes, keeping everything is in my head. Sounds difficult with a series, but I cringed at those lessons of plotting or writing character traits and scenes on flash cards then arranging them to form the story. It was too confining and frustrating.

Describe your ideal reader.

Funny, if you asked me this question when my first book came out, I would have describe the ideal reader different then now. I wrote for older teens, high school to college - but middle school kids have really grabbed onto the series. Kids as young as eight have read my books, even up to 88 year-old adults.

I tend to keep my stories clean of language and sex, although there is romance, danger and consequences to actions. So I would say, anyone who wants a good fantasy in the tradition of Narnia and Lord of the Rings is the ideal reader, regardless of age.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have both a blog and a website. The website is Visitors will find access to all kinds of activities, an interactive map, character pages, excerpts, links to videos, FaceBook, Twitter. I have an email subscription list for the first alert of upcoming events, releases, special discount, etc. I do make announcements on the website in the New & Events section for the public.

The blog is where I post about writing and publishing industry. I also encourage and accept private email from aspiring writers of all ages, and a few from across the global are picking my brain.

Thanks for letting us know more about you Shawn, and continued success!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Frank Scully's Resurrection Garden

My guest today is Frank Scully, author of Resurrection Garden. Good morning, Frank. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks, Susan. I’ve been around a bit longer than I want to admit. I was born at the end of World War II and remember when radio provided the entertainment in the evening. Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, and the Shadow. Black and white TV came along with very few channels and an antenna on the roof. Jack Benny made the transition and Ed Sullivan ruled Sunday nights. Elvis and the Beetles made their big TV debuts there. Sputnik was a part of the very real Cold War as was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then along came the Vietnam War with its bloody toll on TV news every night. I got through college and law school and spent my time in Southeast Asia before I got my MBA and started a career which I have been working at ever since. I am currently a Contracts Manager for a major aerospace company.

What are your writing goals?

I have no aspirations for literary greatness. I simply want to write a good story that will entertain the reader. I want to get the reader immersed into the story so they see it happening in their minds as they read.

Tell us about Resurrection Garden. Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Resurrection Garden is my first published book. It is available as an eBook from the publisher, MuseItUp Publishing, or from Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Smashwords and most online eBook retailers.

Resurrection Garden is a mystery set against the backdrop of the settling of the North Dakota prairie at the turn of the 20th century. Life on the North Dakota prairie in 1904 was still raw but modern times were coming with every new homesteader. Railroads and the telegraph were changing transportation and communication. The pace of life was speeding up. The land was filling up with settlers.
Jake Turner, a scarred veteran of the charge up San Juan Hill, has been a lone drifter through much of the settling of the west. Opportunity was growing out of the newly turned sod of the North Dakota prairie in 1904 when he stopped to take a part time job as a Deputy Sheriff, expecting to move on again when the dark parts of his past catch up to him.

An investigation into a murder of a man hated by everyone has threads that lead to his best friend, Isaac. Jake is ambushed and almost killed, but is nursed back to health by Isaac. While Jake follows the clues into a labyrinth of hatred, sordid crimes and missing money he becomes attached to an eight year old orphaned boy named Andy and falls in love with Isaac’s sister, Alice. After being alone for so long with no hope or care for what tomorrow might bring, Jake finds it difficult to accept these new emotional attachments.

Jake believes in Justice, but before he had only his own life on the line. When Andy is kidnapped and almost killed, Jake knows the killers will do anything to stop him. In order to protect Alice and Andy, he must break their hearts and leave them and North Dakota behind.

Jake knows he’ll be back. So do the killers. Trap and counter trap are laid. Jake knows there will be graves. He just doesn’t know who will be in them.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?

My writing has undergone a major change from my first attempt. In the beginning, my work was a bit derivative. A style mish mash of many of the authors I had read and enjoyed. It lacked originality in voice. That came with practice and much more writing as I developed my own distinctive writer’s voice. While I can say now I have been influenced by certain writers, I am not imitative.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Certain events seem to pop up that spark my imagination. It might direct me to write a story about the Savings & Loan mess that happened in the 1980’s and I will need to build a plot around that. From the general background I will develop a theme. The theme will guide me in developing the characters and the plot. I don’t outline a book as some do. I find that I can’t work that way. Once I have my characters fleshed out, the crime defined, the background and backstory in my mind, as well as the end I am working toward, the story falls into place as I write. Sometimes the characters take off in directions I didn’t plan but they have to stay true to themselves and the story. Once I get into a story it is like a movie is running in my head and my job is to get it down so I can show it to the reader.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?

Generally, after a long intense session of writing, once I stop I will still have ideas and scenes floating around in my head, and I will need to take some notes so I can pick up the thread again when I start writing later. After that I will need to decompress by getting away. I may go for a walk, spend some time in the garden or yard if it is the summer, do some chores I have been putting off or anything else that allows me to get away from the story for a time. Some people read someone else’s novel, but for me that doesn’t work. I find myself being critical of the way the other author wrote something. A comedy, either a movie or TV show, is one of the best ways for me to relax after a long, intense writing session.

Any current projects?

I am currently working on the seventh book in my Decade Mystery Series. When I started writing I had so many ideas for stories floating around in my head I had to somehow sort them out and decide which I would work on first. It turned out to be a mystery set in 1957. The second was set in 1995. The third was in 2004. And then came Resurrection Garden set in 1904. I began to see a pattern here. Murder mysteries set in different decades and locations. This was the genesis of my Decade Mystery Series. At least one book set in each decade from the beginning of the 20th century to current time set in different locales with both continuing and new characters. There is something unique in each decade that marks it as separate from what went before or what follows. I like to research and explore aspects of what is unique as it is expressed in the locale chosen and how it affects the culture, characters and the tenor of the times and yet also see the common humanity that never changes. While the larger characteristics of the decade provide the background against which the story is told, I like to find certain lesser known events and circumstances that signal significant shifts around which to build the plot. The stories will not be written in any chronological order.

Digital Death, the book I am working on now, is set in the 2005 timeframe. Alec Carter, the son of a Vietnamese mother and an unknown American soldier and a survivor of the boat exodus, is on the case of a missing person. The missing person is an Indian computer software expert. The case will lead Alec to Bangalore and other places around the world as he discovers that the case is deeper and deadlier than a missing person. Terrorists, government agents, corporate titans and mobsters are after the same man who holds the key to something everyone wants.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My website is at:

It is still a work in progress but I welcome all to come by and visit. I also have a blog there and welcome comments. Also my publisher has a lot of information on my forthcoming books at:

Well, Frank, it has been a pleasure to have you over. Continued success on your writing career.

Thank you so much for allowing me to guest on your blog today, Susan.  

You betcha! Readers, please check out the reviews and an excerpt before you leave:

Reviews for Resurrection Garden:
I found myself enthralled with this tale. The mystery was well developed and had a very satisfying resolution. It was very heartwarming to watch as Jake learned to shed his past and move forward into his future. The book moved along at a good clip and I found myself clicking the button to turn the pages on the Nook so I could read what happened next. Mr. Scully's writing style was spare and perfectly suited the tale and time in which it was set. The characters were well developed and I enjoyed getting to know them. Broken Teepee Reviews

* * *
As most good mysteries do, this one begins with a dead body. The big difference is this tale is set in 1904 and starts in North Central North Dakota, making it an historical western mystery. Before I tell much more, I have to say I loved everything about this story. Deputy Jake Turner is a reluctant hero, a single man who knows something is missing in his life despite his faithful horse, dog and cat.

The historical details are perfect and enhance the action—of which there is plenty. Deputy Turner is wounded more than once while tracking down the clues to find the identity of the murderer and all the other complications and revelations that develop. The relationship between Jake and an orphan boy, Andrew, is realistic and heart-wrenching, as is Jake’s friendship with a dying man.
Before the book is over, a romance develops—one that doesn’t seem to have a happy ending in sight, but you’ll have to read it to find out what happens.
Author Scully has done a fantastic job in creating this very realistic mystery in a by-gone era. I loved this book and I highly recommend it to all mystery lovers and those who enjoy a good Western.
--Marilyn Meredith

The sheriff joined me in my contemplation of the body. It wasn’t pretty. Thor had never been handsome and the ravages of being frozen under the snow for the winter and having birds and other animals picking away at the skin as the snow thawed and exposed the body made what was left of him downright disgusting.

One thing was evident though. He hadn’t died easy. Freezing to death is relatively painless. Wander out in the cold, get lost, fall asleep and don’t wake up. That wasn’t what happened to Thor.

“What do you think? Shotgun, maybe?” the sheriff opined.

“At least,” I answered. The hole in his chest was big enough to put a fist through. “But why? He musta been dead already when he was shot.”

“Yeah, first someone beat him to a bloody pulp, then gutted him and slashed his throat. And then shot him. Ain’t that what you said, Doc.”

“Looks that way to me,” Doc answered. “Can’t tell you much more until he thaws out all the way.”

“Somebody wanted him deader than dead,” the sheriff shook his head.

“Takes some hate to do all that,” Doc commented. “Got any suspects?”

Doc and the sheriff both turned to face me.

I let out a deep sigh. “I suppose you want me to find out what happened to him.”

“Seems as how you should. After all, you found him, and you’re my deputy up there,” theSheriff answered.

I stared at Thor and wondered when I would be able to sit down.

Doc came up behind us and commented, “Jake, you might ought to get some new britches or something. You’re hanging out your back end. Probably scare the ladies and kids if you went out in public like that.”

I reached around and felt bare skin crisscrossed with stitches. “Damn, just got these new this Christmas.”

“I’m sure one of the widow ladies you’ve been helping out will be happy to lend you some spare pants.” Doc grinned. “And I’m sure these new scars will get you lots of sympathy and special care.”

“Speaking of widows,” the Sheriff interjected. “You’ll need to tell Mrs. Thorsgaard we found her husband.”

And that’s when the real pain started.