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Book Launch - CassaStaR

Today is the day my good blogging buddie Alex J. Cavanaugh see's his debut novel launch.  This is really exciting to see one of our own realize their dream and I'm happy to support him by spreading the word.  Here's a summary of what the books about:

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

Want to know more, why don't you take a peek at this trailer.

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.
Oh yeah, here's where you can obtain your very own copy.





Congratulations Alex!!!!

Partial, Full, or Reject – You Decide

I realized something the other day that I intend to rectify…beginning right now. I don’t talk enough about my writing on this blog. Oh, I quite frequently talk about writing in general, but not about my own writing, or more specifically not about my book. A lot of my followers weren’t even aware I write mysteries. As I draw closer to dipping my toes in the query waters, I can see that I need to transition the content I post to a more brand-centric orientation. It’s yet another step toward becoming a serious writer, and although I might teeter and fumble along with way, it’s a direction I’d like to head in.

So, since I’m poised upon the querying precipice, mustering the courage to put myself out there for real, what better way to introduce all of you to my work but posting my query letter? But I’m going to take it a step further and ask for your help. What I’d like to have happen is that after you’ve read the letter, please post a comment that says either PARTIAL, FULL or REJECT. That’s right; you get to be the agent today. How strongly do you feel about the story? And yes, I’m aware that garnering a FULL directly from a query letter without submitting a partial first is not standard practice, but I’m just trying to gauge your level of interest. One of those three words is all I’m looking for, but if you’d like to offer constructive criticism in addition, I’m all ears (or eyes).

And remember…anything less than 100% honesty would be doing me a disservice. Is this a marketable project? You decide.

Dear Ms. Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for my Mystery/Thriller novel, Fallen Knight, which is complete at 103,000 words.

Dianne Williams, the fiercely independent manager of Greenville’s largest private detective agency, watches helplessly as one by one her staff succumbs to a suspicious illness. She is dealt yet another blow when she discovers her newest rookie investigator beaten and left for dead. Severely under-manned and with nowhere else to turn, Dianne seeks help from an unlikely source -- the Knights Who Say Ni.

Lee Hamilton is a middle-aged newlywed, but he is also one of six tight-knit college friends who refer to themselves as ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’. When he gets the call from Dianne informing him that one of the Knights lay in a coma, he drops everything to rally the rest of the gang. Their quest? Assist in the hunt for their friend’s assailant.

While Dianne struggles with her apprehension about involving the Knights, she and Lee probe for a motive to explain the attacks. Their investigation leads them to the doorstep of an impossible suspect, a dead high school student responsible for a Columbine-style shooting spree six months earlier. Even more mysterious is the warning the young attacker left written on his apparent suicide note; “I’m not finished yet”.

Overcoming efforts by local and federal authorities to hide the truth, the group stumbles across a broader scheme to release a deadly bio-terrorism attack. In over their heads and dodging baleful attempts to prevent them from identifying the elusive foe, the group must cling to their friendship, and Knighthood, to solve the mystery before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Specific agent customization here. I would be happy to send along the complete manuscript, upon your request. Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your time and consideration.

Odd MAN Out

I’m different.

That’s not just a feeling, but a statement. Oh, I possess ten fingers and ten toes like everybody else, but ever since socialization became my expected way of life I’ve known that the rest of the world and I didn’t see eye to eye. Comparing my view of things to those around me developed into an obsession more consuming than any debilitating OCD. My reality became dependent upon how I was perceived by my peers, existing solely as an impression in the eyes of others. In high school, refusing to laugh at immature jokes and cruel pranks, while others held their sides and shed tears of laughter, became the equivalent to social suicide. In college, something as innocuous as small talk could be pure torture. The struggle to exist on the same plane as those around me was mentally and physically draining, with minimal success. Why was I the only one who seemed perfectly content to be alone with the thoughts inside their own head, and everyone else considered reflection to be exclusive to time spent in front of a mirror?

I’m not sure when I actually became okay with being different, probably shortly after I was married. I had somehow managed to climb over the biggest social hurdle there is (actually my wife pulled me over it), and I had a great job I really enjoyed, so outward conformity became much easier. For years and years it remained that way, until something life-changing happened.

Have you ever taken a wrong turn and ended up stumbling across someplace special? A hidden alcove full of wonderment and knowledge, one you would have never known about had it not been for your poor sense of direction. And in that place you are accepted without hesitation, made to feel right at home, even lavished with praise and gifts for the simple act of caring.

That happened to me when I started writing again and ventured blindly into this blogging community. You might think that as a writer, becoming part of this virtual world would have been a dream come true. Look at its advantages…hundreds and hundreds of creative minds and imaginations sharing their innermost thoughts with one another, inspirational stories of accomplishment and even more up-lifting tales of morale support of one another. There’s just one catch. As comfortable and inviting as this community is, I found myself once again feeling like the odd man out.

Even though two-thirds of Bloggers in general are male, there’s very few men blogging in this particular arena. Of the 530 ‘Like Minded’ following me now, only 44 are men (and much fewer than that actually leave comments). That’s only 8.3% . Seventy-five percent of bloggers are also younger than the age of 35, so I’m on the steep slope of that bell curve as well (I’ll be 54 in December).

But the biggest separator of all is the genre I write in. I’m an adult mystery/suspense guy. I play around in other genres with my short stories, but at the end of the day it’s the mysteries I come home to. But most of the blogs in this community belong to YA/MG kidlit writers, with a smattering of other genres sprinkled in. I don’t even read YA. I’ve not read Harry Potter, Twilight, Hush Hush, Shiver, Wake, Beautiful Creatures or Speak. I did read Hunger Games, but only so I could see for myself what the fuss was about. At times it’s difficult for me to connect with topics being posted and I wonder if that wrong turn I took that landed me here, was a mistake.

Oh yeah, I have no interest in NaNo either. I don’t write that way.

Like I said, I’m different. But here’s something I’ve come to realize in the blogs, and I take comfort in it. So are you! Being different means being unique…original…an individual (waves at Nicole)! Most of us are wanting to stand out...without being seen. A writers mind doesn’t work like anyone else’s. A writer is perfectly content to be alone with the thoughts inside their own head, immersed in imagination. Introversion is the rule, not the exception for us. We come alive in the written word, but stumble over our own tongues in public forums. We paint language, each on a different canvas using unique interpretations, but fully understanding the trials and tribulations behind the effort of others. We are all intoxicated by our craft and shrug away the opinions of those who cannot understand.

I am different…just like you. We each stand alone…together.

If you feel different, now’s the time to speak up.

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The Tipping Point

Most of you know I write mystery/suspense novels. Those who didn’t know that…well, now you do. :) That makes me a bit of an outlier in our little blogging community, but that’s the subject of a different post. Anyway, today I’m going to discuss a topic that is very common in my chosen genre, but also has relevance in most fiction writing. I call it the Tipping Point.

A key element in writing mysteries is creating questions in the readers mind. Questions that the reader is compelled to find the answer to by reading further and being drawn deeper into the web. How does this newly discovered clue fit into the scheme of things, or is it a clue at all, maybe it’s a red herring that is designed to distract the reader from the real truth? The more questions floating around unanswered, the deeper immersed in the mystery the reader becomes. But there is a hidden danger the writer must always keep in the back of his/her mind, or else risk losing their audience. The menace I’m referring to…confusion. Allowing too many unresolved questions to build up without offering the requisite explanations can leave the reader lost and bewildered. It’s a high wire the writer must balance his story upon. Letting readers in on the mystery too soon can drain tension and render the story less than effective. Letting the puzzle draw out too long may leave the reader perplexed, and ultimately frustrated.

I contend that within every story, there lies a Tipping Point. It’s that place in the narrative where the reader will reject any further questions without first receiving some answers. If those answers don’t come, the reader will either partially, or completely, shut down. And do you want to know what the tricky part is? Everybody’s Tipping Point is different, so the writer has to gauge reactions based on the market…or his audience. For a rookie novelist, with nothing but beta readers and CP’s as their audience, this can be almost impossible.

I usually dislike using movies or television shows to illustrate my point, but in this case my example is such a great fit to the discussion that I’ll make an exception. LOST. A lot of people really loved this show (myself included), but a lot of viewers became disenchanted with it during the second and third season because of the exact point I’m making here. Too many questions…not enough answers. The show crossed over the Tipping Point and many viewers shut down (or change channels). The writers were so caught up in maintaining the mystery surrounding the island (so they could lock in future seasons), they forgot to satisfy the needs of their audience.

Let’s say you’re a YA, Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, or even literary fiction writer, how does any of this pertain to you? I assert that most styles of prose utilize mystery as a component of the story, creating questions in their reader’s minds. If that’s the case, even though the quantity of questions usually wouldn’t compare to that of a pure mystery, the author still needs to consider the Tipping Point. Waiting until the last chapter to answer all of the important questions…is usually not a good strategy to follow.

How about you, is there a book you remember reading where the author violated the Tipping Point?

Stop Bullying Now

I don’t use my blog as a soapbox very often, but this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. My blogging friend, Amy Holder, posted about this topic over the weekend and I’m picking up the torch from her. I’m not going to try and re-invent the wheel and express my thoughts on this topic, because she already did a most eloquent job. I agree wholeheartedly with everything she says. So if this is a subject you care about as well, follow this link to Amy’s blog and read what she has to say.

Bullies aren't formed in a vacuum, they learn the behavior at home, or from friends who learned it at home. Cyber-bullies are no different. Our kids need to learn that if they want to show how tough they are...try standing up to a bully!

Empty Calories

I watch my weight through diet and exercise, but I’m not what you’d call a calorie counter.  I know what foods are bad for me and weed them off the menu when I’m in the reduction mode.  However, I work closely with eight women and have had numerous conversations with them on the subject.  Through osmosis, I’ve picked up all sorts of interesting tidbits of information about food energy, including the topic of empty calories!

Empty calories are high-energy foods with poor nutritional profiles, typically from processed carbohydrates or fats.  Put simply, empty calories = high calories but low nutrition.  Another technical phrase commonly used to describe this type of food energy is discretionary calories (I had to chuckle when I read that one), but we regular folk just call it what it really is…Junk Food. French fries, snicker bars, double-stuffed Oreo’s, ice cream, pizza, a bottle of Samuel Adams or glass of red wine, all the stuff we really REALLY love!  Ultimately, no matter how good they temporarily make us feel, they are not good for our bodies.  These empty calories provide short-term stimuli with no long-term benefits, and can actually be detrimental.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve experienced this same feeling after closing the cover on some of the books I’ve read.  All show and very little substance.  The purple prose equivalent to a banana split.  I won’t name names, but I know a few of my favorite authors who have seemed to have taken a vacation while writing a book and the result was less than satisfying.  I call it the ‘All dressed up with nowhere to go’ syndrome. Being a man, and firmly entrenched in the mystery/suspense genre where plot heavy manuscripts are the norm, I’ll admit my threshold for hollow, flowery writing is more limited than most of my blog followers.  Certainly, we all have our boundaries. 

I enjoy reading evocative, stylized, ornate, emotionally charged writing as much as anyone, as long as the narrative has weight and continues to move forward simultaneously.  Extravagant prose that draws attention to itself and bogs down the flow is a guaranteed way to cause me to skim ahead.  Nevertheless, I’ve been guilty of sliding in a glazed donut myself a time or two (as pointed out by my CP’s), so I know how hard it is to resist the temptation.   Just as its next to impossible to stop yourself from tossing that pan of lasagna into your shopping cart while at the supermarket, because it’s so easy to prepare and taste so good, it’s the same as trying to keep those calories out of your novel.      

And why is this so important anyway?  Because I guarantee you that all of the agents you’ll be sending your prospective manuscript to are literary dietitians and can easily recognize these empty calories for what they are.  So substitute fruit snacks for those pop-tarts in chapter seven and try whole grains instead of the refined ones in the scene you’re currently writing.  Your body, and your manuscript, will be better for it.   


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