Nov 26, 2012

Bright Lights #1 - Valerie Haight - Happenstance

As promised, today I begin a new series of interviews with a diverse group of writers I've met on my internet journeys. The first head on the chopping block (volunteer) is Valerie Haight.

Valerie is a prize winning, contemporary romance and suspense writer from Arkansas. Always supportive of other writers, she was one of the first people on Twitter to extend the hand of friendship to me and the first (and still only) person to ask me to post (guest blog) on their website.
I am hugely honored that she has finally relented and agreed to come over to my wee blog and talk to you all (or y'all...whichever is more appropriate lol).

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce the first "Bright Light" in this ongoing series:

Valerie Haight

GUS: Hi, Valerie! This is a very exciting time for you in your writing career.  Now that you're nearing the release of your first novella, which part of the journey has surprised you the most?

VALERIE: Hi Gareth! Thank you so much for letting me hang out here to discuss my debut novella, Happenstance! This has been such a thrill and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Every part of this journey has floored me. I’m such a newbie and didn’t know what to expect but of course, I jump in with both feet so each new experience was magic. But the thing that made me leap the highest was getting cover art. There’s nothing better to bring it home than a first cover reveal!

Gus says: WOOT!

G: Happenstance has a strong female protagonist. Did the character come to mind first or the story?

V: The character solidified herself in my mind when I began determining her educational background. When I had her career in place, the story unfolded and I had my heading. She was so much fun to write because I work in a corporate setting so loads of information was filed away each day for the making of her story. I wrote what I knew and tinged the story with a level of realism to give it an authentic appeal.

G: The core of Happenstance is romance but you show a flair for dramatic tension and suspense. What are your favorite genres to write in?

V: Suspense and romance are my favorite genres so I was very fortunate to be able to merge the two. I sought to induce a broad array of emotions from the reader and I hope everyone has as much fun reading as I had writing!

G: Once you have your story down, do you like to use Beta Readers or have friends critique it?

V: I’d NEVER be able to make it without awesome critty pals like you and Cath Thackery! A fresh set of eyes is the most valuable thing a writer can have. My brain knows the story, my eyes have seen the words a gagillion and eleven times. I look right over things the reader needs to know, yet I’ve completely omitted.

G: Were you nervous putting your work out there for others to read?

V: ABSOLUTELY! I’m still shaking in my boots nervous! I’m not sure I’ll ever get accustomed to having my innermost thoughts revealed to…EVERYONE. But I’m a writer. It’s what we do. I also have to remember a reader doesn’t read my story and immediately condemn me. If I’ve done my job, they lose themselves in the story and enjoy it. And hopefully want more!

G: Your publisher TMP (Turquoise Morning Press), teamed you up with an editor, was it difficult to stop being protective about your writing or were you open to suggestions?

V: This is a very good question and one every writer needs to take into consideration. Consider the market. It’s extremely difficult to get your foot in the door as a writer these days, especially if you’re a debut author. Given the saturation of this business, an agent/editor is looking for someone who’s easy to work with, who will respect the fact that they know their job and trust their expertise. If I had to give one piece of advice to other writers, this would be it: DO NOT view your WIP as your baby. It’s better to consider it the frumpy, overworked mom some big network execs pulled off the street for a makeover! Do they ask her if she wants nineteen inches of fried-dried hair lopped off? Or if she adores her unibrow? Uh…No. And in the end, do they present a beautiful, polished, striking result? Yes.

It’s hard to let go of something you’ve grown to love but trusting a professional is the smart thing to do and if they’re great at what they do, you’ll end up with an awesome novel worthy of your name on the cover.

G: I was lucky enough to bump into you on Twitter. You can also be found on Facebook and on your blog. How important would you say social media has been in your development as a writer? Or do you think its more of a distraction?

V: Yes! I can be found tweeting meaningless chatter at @Valeriebrbr or you can find out the latest on Happenstance on my Facebook Author Page. Or read about my upcoming short story Magnolia Brides in a wedding anthology out in June on my blog.

Social media is very important as an author because short of sign-holding on a street corner (which I’m opposed to only because I’m a powermagnet for bad luck), what other option do we have of getting our voices heard? There is a delicate balance to be found, but used in the proper amounts, I think social media is a tremendous tool.

G: Is it important for a writer to also be a reader?

V: YES! If I’m not reading, I’m not writing and if I do write, it’s a heinous moshpit of awful. No one should attempt this. Even Stephen King advises against it.

G: Library or Bookstore?

V: BOTH! I adore the library, but I’ve been known to camp in bookstore aisles until the seventh chapter.

G: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?

V: Yes, I adore the tinkling of a piano while I write. It relaxes me and allows the story to flow. I’ve also been known to hit the Alexandre Desplat station on Pandora for dramatic movie theme music during tense, suspenseful scenes!

G: How do you choose your next story?

V: I never choose my next story. It chooses me. Always.

G: What are you writing now?

V: I’m working on a contemporary suspense set in Louisiana where I’m from. I’m really excited about this because if chosen for publication, it will be my first full length novel in print! My MC is Leigh and she holds the key to a medical fortune without realizing it. I will utilize my medical transcription and phlebotomy background for research on this novel so I’m writing what I know again.

G: Okay, and the last question. A silly one. You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but you're allowed to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie and a bowl of your favorite dessert. You may also choose 1 person you'd like to share the island with - (alive, dead, fictional or matters not). What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY?

V: Excellent question! I shall enjoy the peace and quiet in my favorite setting - the beach - with some of the first authors of the world. I would like to have the bible to read since I would have plenty of time without distraction. I would listen to Opus 23 by Dustin O’Halloran in the mornings and watch Gone With The Wind in the evenings with a ginormous bowl of popcorn (could it be a divided bowl with grapes on the other side?) and I’d invite my sister Michelle to accompany me.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog and letting me waffle on about my release, Happenstance!

Thank you Valerie for stopping by and sharing your writing experiences. I wish you every success for the future.

Happenstance available here for download on December 13th!!

Nov 22, 2012

The Hunting of Featherclad

Soon I will have the first of what, I hope, will be a series of interesting and enlightening AUTHOR INTERVIEWS. I realize these pop up everywhere but I intend to add my own little slant to proceedings and hopefully keep them interesting. I'm also going to be talking to a diverse range of writers covering many genres and at many different points in their writing careers. With any luck there will be good information for everyone, from the newest of newbies to the most experienced of old heads.

So, come back MONDAY 26th for my first interview. I'll be talking to my good friend VALERIE HAIGHT.

In the meantime, I hope you all had a fun and filling Thanksgiving. I figured I'd keep it light this evening and offer another silly poem I wrote...twenty years ago.

Again, I was working on some background stuff for stories and this just popped into my head. I used to love the antagonistic relationship between pairs of cartoon characters and wanted to come up with something based in a real world setting. It eventually turned into a children's story which, if I can ever find it, I may try and do something with.

Here we have a short poem about a cat (Padfoot) and his attempt to capture a cocky little bird (Featherclad).


A sleak and sneaky Hangman's rope.
A flash of feathers on its way.
Starlit eyes betrayed your hope.
Featherclad has flown away.

I saw your evil smile agape,
a graceful speed, a pad-foot pounce.
God gave you the hunting shape,
a lethal eye, a silent bounce.

Alice would, of you, be proud
sporting best Cheshire smile.
Featherclad took applause and bowed
and you sat down to wait...a while.


Nov 10, 2012

As The Crow Flies

I read somewhere, a long time ago, that the nursery rhyme "Ring-a-ring o' Roses" was suspected to have been about The Black Death (or some other pandemic). I was fascinated by the dark and grisly origin of a children's playground game and noticed its not an isolated case.

One of the most appealing things about Fairytales is that many of them are very dark, lots of axe-chopping, wolf slaughtering, pig eating and witch murdering topped off with some really bittersweet endings. There's a dark streak in children where just a little bit of scary is a good thing. Roald Dahl's books, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his book of Revolting Rhymes, are appealing to children for that very reason. Dahl had no problem putting the children in his stories into very dark situations.

I recall as a young child being on vacation with my family and coming across a small bridge across a stream. We were somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland so the place was quiet and isolated. It was here that my dad told me the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The idea of a troll underneath the bridge captivated me and scared me a little...even though the bridge was barely a foot high.

So, years later when I wanted to build some background for characters and stories, I started writing some poetry. I'm no poet but I thought I'd give it a try. I wanted to write in a style that would be interesting to children but just a little bit dark. I wanted the poem to be more of a metaphor for whatever your imagination could dream up.

I still don't consider myself a poet but it was a fun exercise.

With apologies to all the real poets out there! :0)

"As The Crow Flies. . ." 

A Ravenous horde
darkens the skies.
Take hold my hand
As the Crow flies.

Swallow the children
Enraptured by lies
Swift, full of sorrow
As the Crow flies.

Smiles on their faces
Dead, Eagle eyes
Watchful till evening
As the Crow flies.

Nightingale graceful
Everyone dies.
A blanket of stars
As the Crow flies.