Spies Like Me Book Release!

Hi Everyone!

I know this blog had been quiet for a long time. It’s hard to write posts when you’re focusing all your creative energy and free time writing more books. In future, I hope to post more about various things that I find interesting and I hope you will too. At least, I’m going to try and that’s all I can promise you.

In the meantime…I’m releasing a new book! This young adult novel starts a brand new spy series called The Gems. Book number 1 is called Spies Like Me and features four teen girls who kick butt and make the world a safer place. Bellow is a quick trailer to give you more of an idea about the book.

If you’d like to find out more, here’s the universal link with all the retailers.

And, to celebrate the release I’m running a giveaway where you can win a Grand Prize of a free Kindle Paperwhite. First Prize is a signed paperback copy of Spies Like Me. Second Prize is an eBook pack of all five of my books.

Important: This giveaway closes in 72 hours – so if you plan to buy the book anyway, doing so right now will give you five additional giveaway entries. But there is no purchase required for entry.

All the best,




Writing Conferences…why bother?


Writing Conferences…why should a writer bother attending them?

Good question. But you know my answer already because if it was a no, why would I waste time to write this blog post? I would sleep. I like sleep.

Why should writers bother with writing conferences? Two reasons in no particular order…

First, no one understands what writers go through, except other writers. No matter how much your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, life partner, or small furry animal loves you…they’ll never understand what you’re going through. The moment you complain about how your key scene in act one needs more internal conflict or how you dread rewriting all your third-person narrative into first-person because you’re convinced it’s the right thing to do…your loved one will give you a blank stare.

Or they’ll say…

“You’re a great writer. You’ll think of something.”

You know they mean well, but that’s not helpful.

Writing conferences are awesome because it’s the one place where writers can talk about writing and everyone around you understands. Writing conferences are like that bar on the 80’s TV show Cheers, everyone there knows your name, figuratively. They know what you’ve been through because most of them have worn your writer’s shoes. They know how hard it is. They might have rewritten a book from third-person to first-person and they might have learned a short-cut you can use to take the sting out of your rewrite. They might know how to approach an agent. They might know how to write a query-letter. They might even know a cool new way to introduce internal conflict in a scene you’re struggling with.

Writers understand other writers. And since gathering shy writers together in a public setting is about as hard as herding squirrels…any opportunity to step into your writer’s bar, have a drink, and talk shop is something a writer should jump at.

I guarantee you’ll feel better and get a much-needed boost to your writing brain.

Second reason you should go to a writing conference…networking.

Yuck! Dirty word! No!!!!!!!

Chill out. Networking doesn’t mean being a salesman. It means…listening…to people. That’s all. Get to know everyone you meet. What do they write? Who do they like to read? Find the person under the stranger you’re meeting. Get them to talk and listen. Maybe they’re just another writer like you. Maybe they’re a New York lit agent presenting at the conference. It doesn’t matter who that person is…talk and listen to them.

Next, think about how you can help them, not how they can help you. Is that lit agent looking for a zombie-mermaid paranormal romance? You don’t write that, but this nice lady you met at a session yesterday does have a manuscript like that. Help introduce them.

Is that new writer expressing trouble with writing in first-person? Offer advice or a good book on the subject. Help them.

Why should you network? Because you’ll need help on your writing career. Lots of help. Doesn’t matter if you’re pursuing traditional publishing or indie publishing, the same rule applies. I can’t tell you how many times my friends came to my rescue when I needed their help. A free beta read? No problem. Offering me a free interview on their book blog during my launch without me asking them? No problem. A famous young adult author helps me set up a Q&A session with them and their agent to help my other writer friends? No problem.

It’s a great feeling when friends do that. It makes you want to help them even more.

And then they help you more.

You see where I’m going with this?

Give to others without expectations and the smart ones will reciprocate. That’s networking.

And where’s a great place to network and learn from lots of writers and people in publishing?

You know the answer.

If you would like to network with me and my friends…our chapter of SCBWI is having a children’s writing conference on Saturday, April 16 in Oklahoma City. You can get all the details clicking on the banner below. You don’t have to be a SCBWI member to go. You just have to love writing for kids/teens and you want to get serious about it.

Hope to see you there!


Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My heart can’t help but flutter at the sheer potential awesomeness of this movie. However…my heart must overcome my brain’s horrific memory of that midnight showing of The Phantom Menace. The night the child inside me died. Yes, it was only a movie. But growing up in 1977, Star Wars was everything. As an 8-year-old it shifted my perception. Made me dream. It created the creativity inside me. Or at least gave birth to what was already there.

I hope this movie can give back at least one hour of those six magical ones I spent in the summers of 1977, 1980, and 1983 as a kid munching on popcorn and dreaming of adventures in space. If this film can give just a little of that magic back, I’ll gladly overlook any of its imperfections.

But if Jar Jar Binks shows up I’m gonna lose my sh*t.

Legends Book Cover Reveal!


Here’s the final cover for Legends (Skid #3) and I couldn’t be more happy with it. I think my cover artist Travis Miles did a fantastic job. I wanted something a little different from the other two books, but still have the same feel as the rest of the series. Some friends have told me it looks feminine and fierce.

What do you think?

The eBook release date for Legends is set for Tuesday, September 1st. But you can pre-order the book right now for the special price of $2.99.

The paperback should be available in October.

My Girlfriend Bites Release Day!!!!

So happy to announce the release of the eBook version of MY GIRLFRIEND BITES! This book comes at the end of a long and rocky road. The manuscript was almost deleted a few times out of frustration, but it always had a way of coming back. Since Aiden and Bree wanted to be published so bad, I had to relent and make their wish come true.

To celebrate the release, I’m doing a two and a half week blog tour AND having an awesome giveaway! All the details for both are further down on this post. You can enter the giveaway on this blog or on the other blogs on the tour. Some entries you can do every day!

To my local readers and those who still love the feel of paper, the paperback version of MY GIRLFRIEND BITES will be out in August. I will post that information later so be sure to check back next month for updates, or better yet — join my newsletter and never miss out on anything!

Want to buy the book?

Amazon UK
Amazon CA

My Girlfriend Bites Blog Tour Schedule


July 16 – Froze 8 Blog 
    Guest Post by MGB character Bree Mayflower!
July 17 – I Read Indie
    Guest Post by MGB character Aiden Jay!
July 18 – Girl in the Woods
    10 Things You Didn’t Know About My Girlfriend Bites.
    Guest post: High School and the concept of The Future.
July 22 – Lady’s Book Stuff
    Guest post: Sneak Peek of first two chapters of My Girlfriend Bites.
July 23 – Oops I Read a Book Again   
    Interview with MGB character Bree Mayflower. Plus MGB dream movie cast!
July 24 – Morgan Dragonwillow
    Guest Post: Protecting Manhood in YA. My opinion.
July 25 – Dana Square
    Author interview.
     Interview with MGB character Aiden Jay.
July 29 – Alli’s World 
     Guest Post: What Inspired Me to Write My Girlfriend Bites
August 1 – Reading Teen
     Indie Spotlight

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Author Angela Townsend

I would like to welcome author Angela Townsend to the blog today. She’s the author of the new young adult novel AMAROK. I really love the book and you can read my thoughts about it here. Angela is not only kind enough to stop by to answer a few questions, she’s also giving you guys a chance to win a Kindle eBook copy of AMAROK! So keep reading to find out how you can enter!

First off, here’s more about AMAROK which is published by Spencer Hill Press…

Emma’s life has been hell since she moved from sunny California to a remote Alaskan town. Abandoned by her father and living with the guilt of causing her mother’s death, she makes a desperate dash for freedom from her abusive stepfather. But when her car skids off the icy road, her planned escape leads to further captivity in a world beyond her imagining.

Dragged across the tundra by an evil mountain man and his enormous black wolf, she learns that love can be found in the most unexpected places. Amarok, as she’s nicknamed the wolf, is a young man from the gold-rush era enslaved by an ancient shaman. Emma’s gentle touch and kind heart win his love and devotion.

When a vicious madman–trapped in bear form by the same Shaman–attacks the travelers and injures Amarok, Emma must find the strength to face her fears and free the wolf she’s come to love. But that means she must face down the evil shaman, a Siberian mammoth hunter from the ice age, and he has no intention of giving up his power to her.

Cool premise isn’t it? Let’s hear more from Angela Townsend.

Angela, in AMAROK, the lead character Emma has this great inner strength that pushes her through everything that happens. You never portray her as a victim that should be pitied, quite the opposite in fact. How did you develop Emma as a character? Did she change much after the first draft?

I had a solid idea of who all my characters were before I started. I knew from the moment I wrote Emma’s name on the page– who she was, what her strengths and weaknesses were. 
I like how you created this micro-world deep inside the Alaskan wilderness, a world with its own mysticism and ancient lore that I thought played well into the story. How do you approach creating this small world? Did you research local folk-lore and expand on it? Or did you build everything from the ground up?

I created all my own mythology, blending bits of Celtic lore with my own  Ice Age myth. 
Why did you pick the setting of Alaska? Why not Montana, where you’re from?
When I was young I lived in Alaska–in a small fishing village and I will always remember how much I loved it. Alaska stays with you.  The raw wild beauty, the utter isolation–all of it is incredibly haunting to me.   

AMAROK has this great pace to it. Even when you switch to the point of view of a different character, the book never loses its momentum. As a writer, how do you approach plotting your books?
I swear by Martha Alderson–The Plot Whisperer–She is a plotting genius.  Even though I fought plotting for so long I realized I need to plot in order to write quality work. 

What is your writing process like?
I write in utter distraction, at home with mood music or crowded cafes. I also watch movies and write at the same time. I hate the sound of a ticking clock. I don’t like rules-I like to live as free as possible –so I rebel when it comes to sitting at a desk to write.

Who is your favorite fictional heroine and why?

Harry Potter–I love anything written by JK Rowling.

What projects are you working on now?
I am working on an exciting YA Russian paranormal mystery. 

To wrap things up, I would like to borrow five quick questions from the great James Lipton, host of Inside The Actor’s Studio. Here we go.

Now, Angela…
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
What sound or noise do you love?
My children’s laughter
What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of an ambulance siren

Thanks again for stopping by Angela! AMAROK is a great book and a fast read so I encourage all of you to check it out using these links:


Barnes & Noble


And don’t forget to visit Angela Townsend’s Blog


Interview with Author J.P. Smith

JP Smith is a fellow writer I’ve met on my Internet travels and I was excited to learn that the publisher Thomas & Mercer was putting his novels back into print as well as publishing his new work. Since JP’s writing journey is a very interesting one, I asked if he would be willing to do an interview and I was thrilled when he said yes.

Airtight is a wonderful new crime drama released late last year. Some have called it Mad Men meets Easy Rider. Here are my thoughts about it.
And here’s more about Airtight

Nick Copeland has lost his mind only twice in his forty-eight years—once in college on a bad acid trip, and once at this very moment, as the mountain of bills he’s been hiding from his family finally topples. But Nick’s chance meeting with an old friend, Rob Johnson, pulls on the memory wires. Rob—who’s already lost his wife and job—seems resigned to a life of basic cable and Chinese takeout. Suddenly, the answer to their problems arrives: two airtight jars of high-grade heroin they’d buried under the football field of their old college campus.

Returning to the scene of the crime-that-never-happened seems like a cinch—that is, until Nick takes a trip down Memory Lane and a sharp right turn on Law Enforcement Drive. This is not the beads-and-bellbottoms of their youths, but maybe the Stones were right, anyway: you can’t always get what you want.

Thank you for stopping by blog today J.P.! It’s quite an honor to have you here.
It’s a pleasure, Doug.
AIRTIGHT begins with a young Nick Copland inside a college classroom beginning a memorable acid trip in the year 1970. First of all, I loved how you let the reader ‘climb on board’ his acid trip. It drew me into the story quite well and made me want to know more about him. Tell me, what’s interesting about your main character Nick?
I think what makes Nick Copeland interesting is the journey he takes in the novel. Though he could have come off as a pompous, self-pitying ass, kind of a Don Draper without the heavy backstory, Nick needed to take a journey in the novel that would humble him and allow him to make a choice in the end that would reflect everything he’d learned about himself and those choices he’d made as a young man.
Can I say something here about how people perceive this book? The ending has left some readers on Amazon baffled and sometimes disappointed. Though the book is being pushed by the publisher as a thriller, like all of my novels it partakes in certain genre elements, but in the end it’s a character study of two men who out of desperation take a serious risk. Had I decided to write this as a straight thriller, it would have had all the usual setpieces we’ve seen a billion times before—car chases, shootouts, and so forth. I really wanted to keep it all completely believable. Very few people are involved in either shootouts or car chases.
The jars of heroin the characters dig up in AIRTIGHT remind me of a time capsule that represents the characters desire to unearth happier times in their youth. Regret plays a large role in the lives of these characters. What drew you to this theme in AIRTIGHT?
That’s a brilliant way of viewing the jars, Doug, I must say—I never thought of them that way, but I like it! I’m at the stage in life when I actually can look back and see what I did that was stupid, that was wrong, and, also, that was pretty damned good. My last novel, Breathless, had for an epigram a quote from The Book of Common Prayer: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.”
Though I’m not a Christian, I’ve always thought these were especially cogent words. Because that’s all too often how we see our life in looking back—a place of missed opportunities and dumb decisions. The game of What if is played so often, isn’t it. What if I’d done this, that or the other. Well, in fact, you didn’t, so you make the best of what you have here. Nick and Rob are in a dead end. They don’t believe they can make the best in such desperate times. So they go back into the past, figuratively speaking.
Which is when Nick, especially, sees that some of his behavior, especially towards his old girlfriend Kaycee Christopher, really could have been a lot better. More responsible. Less carefree. Not that he’d mistreated her or anything like that, but that he could have been more understanding when she’d become pregnant. But youth is when we make our best mistakes, and then we can spend the rest of our life trying not to be such idiots. Which takes us to the choice Nick makes at the end. Of which I’ll say nothing here.
Some writers shy away from going into too much backstory, fearing it will bog the story down. Yet, the backstories in AIRTIGHT are more surgical in the way they’re used, and I think more effective. How do you approach using backstory in a novel?
A person’s life is like a comet soaring through the universe. Its tail is always attached to it, and that’s the backstory. That’s the tale, in fact. We may grow old, we may move through different levels of society or take different jobs, but we always carry the baggage, heavy or light, of our backstories. The past is always with us. The backstory is the backdrop to our life in the present. And I think in fiction it’s important to acknowledge it as a part of the narrative.
Early in your career you walked away from a teaching job and moved to London so you could write. How did that affect you as a writer?
Simple answer? I took off my parachute. We had a little money saved, enough to satisfy the British Home Office that we could support ourselves for a while. It was cheap to live in England then. We didn’t have a car, theatre seats were a bargain, museums were free, and our diets underwent major changes. I remember sometimes we’d each eat 2 ½ strips of bacon and a few boiled potatoes for dinner. Like something out of the novels of George Gissing. It was cheap, and we managed to survive. And lose some serious weight in the process.
But moving there was a kind of test. I’d already written four or five novels that went unpublished, and I also knew that novelists in Britain also wrote for the theatre, for TV, for radio, etc. So I wrote off the top of my head a 50-minute teleplay a few weeks before our move, and on the basis of it found myself a theatre/TV/film agent within a month of our arrival. Through her I signed with an agent to represent my novels. All those earlier years trying to get an agent in the States, and now this. I knew then it was a smart move.
It was when we moved from London to Lyme Regis, on the southwest coast, that I really became a disciplined writer. Though back in New York, when I was teaching, I religiously wrote 25 pages a day after work, now, for the six or so months we were there, I had the whole day to fill. I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. We were more or less stranded on the coast. If you’ve ever seen the film of John Fowles’s “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” you’ll know what Lyme looks like. We had no car, there was no train available there. No distractions other than our view over the English Channel and some wonderful places to walk. So I became a writer out of sheer necessity. Which is why I came to England in the first place.
What’s your writing process like for a new project?
I think a lot at first. Thinking subconsciously more than actively. I’ll usually get an idea stuck in my head, and then I’ll let it sit. I’ll let the subconscious mull over it. I tend not to use the page (or the screen) as a laboratory, but do most of the writing ahead of time in my mind. Then I type it, polish it, and move onto the next page or chapter.
What was the hardest thing about writing AIRTIGHT?
Knowing what to leave out. Always a tough thing when writing out of one’s own life. As you know, that prologue, the acid trip, was mine. That was how it happened, and it was scary, it was very, very scary, and I was glad I’d taught my roommate how to guide me if I was ever freaking out. I’d never taken acid simply for fun. I’d been taught that it was a serious means of exploration, and I had guides for many of my trips. But this was powerful acid, and I’d become overconfident. I had flashbacks for many years after that, in fact. I had to make sure that I kept it vivid and short and not add all the tiny details I’d experienced.
The part where Nick and Rob go to Cincinnati actually happened—the coffee house was the same, the waitress said the same things—so I was having fun writing all this, though constantly having to remind myself that it was a work of fiction, that I wasn’t Nick or Rob, and that I had to give shape to the experience I recalled and not just let it roll on for forty or fifty pages.
You write quite a lot of scripts too. How did you get involved with screenwriting?
As I said earlier, when I moved to London I knew that writers worked in many media. I spent a morning with the writer Beryl Bainbridge and we talked a lot about this, as she’d had experience working in TV as well as in fiction. She encouraged me to write for what was then a very rich medium in terms of the talent involved. It was the golden age of British TV, in fact, with some extraordinary things being done on the small screen—all of it written by up-and-coming authors as well as by the powerhouse writers such as Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Simon Gray, David Hare, and so on. Though I never sold, I got a lot of people interested in my scriptwriting, and when my first novel was published there I was commissioned to adapt it as a feature film. The producers all worked in TV, had just wrapped their first feature starring a little-known Liam Neeson, and had been fans of my work for some years.
The problem, though, is that English drama can be built upon, say, two men in a room with a bottle of Scotch. Pinter—an influence—does this all the time, and creates compelling and often violent drama out of it. Language is a weapon in the English theatre. But when you write for Hollywood, language is a means to an end, and so much depends on setpieces and plot. I still tend to draw out a scene with lots of witty dialogue, and development execs and producers will keep on cutting it!
You’ve written Thrillers, Mysteries, and also Literary Fiction. Do you have a favorite genre? And if so, why?
I actually don’t write any genre fiction, Doug, believe it or not. Early on in my career I was influenced by, at the time, a new kind of writing out of France, where genre mixed with the literary. Writers such as J.-P. Manchette, Patrick Modiano, Jean Echenoz, René Belletto, and others were writing character-based fiction that borrowed certain tropes from genres such as detective fiction and thrillers. When I first read Proust I realized that his was a kind of detective tale crossed with a spy story. The narrator is an aspiring writer who observes to the point of obsession, who spies, who is searching for something in the same way as Sam Spade might. And he has secrets to hide, just as many of his characters do.
This doesn’t make the publishers’ job any easier, of course. How do we market this? they always ask, because that mingling of genres isn’t that common here. In screenwriting, though, I brand myself as a thriller writer.
What projects are you working on now?
A new novel, like Airtight, built upon a screenplay. As you’ve seen, memory plays a huge role in all my fiction, and I’d written a script—it still goes out now and again—set in the future when the government owns your memories after you die. They go into a central clearing house and are scanned according to various algorithms to seek out any terrorists or burgeoning terror plots. So that memory-tampering is illegal.
But by then technology has given us the capability to delete memories, and of course this gives rise to crime. The main character is the former head detective of LAPD’s Memory Division, now disabled out of the force because he has a form of Alzheimer’s—he’s losing his memory. He runs a nostalgia store off Hollywood Boulevard, and one day a woman walks in and hires him to help her track down a stolen memory.
That’s the basis of the novel, as well. It’s actually quite a sad story, because to live in a world in which you no longer can call even that most personal of thing, the memory, your own, is borderline tragic. It’s the melancholy of Godard’s Alphaville, really.
I’ve also recently finished a new script, “Rouge Incorruptible,” and that’ll be going out to producers after Sundance. Late January. “Body Heat” meets “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
To wrap things up, I would like to borrow six quick questions from the great James Lipton host of Inside The Actor’s Studio. Here we go. Now, J.P.…
What is your favorite word? 
What is your least favorite word? 
What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? 
A great piece of music. A great painting. Anything achieved exquisitely and simply. Great ballet.
What sound or noise do you love? 
Bach played on the piano. A Thelonious Monk solo.
What sound or noise do you hate? 
Other people’s music played too loudly.
What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt? 
War photographer.
J.P., thank you so much for stopping by!
It’s been fun, Doug, and thanks!

Check out all of JP Smith’s novels on Amazon

For more interesting tidbits about JP Smith, please visit his website.

Young Adult Author