Meet First-Time Urban Fantasy Novelist Susan Goldsmith

Before becoming a novelist, Susan Goldsmith was an undercover private investigator, worked as an outside sales rep, and spent five years in pharmaceutical sales. In this interview, she talks about her journey as an author and her exciting road to publication. She also discusses her creative process and offers tips to aspiring writers.
Q: It’s wonderful to have you here, Susan. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about your background and how you started writing?
A: Stories are what got me through my childhood. When real life was overwhelming, I’d crawl into my imagination where sick mothers could be made better with a magical potion, or crazy fathers weren’t really crazy. They were just more evolved than the rest of us. Could see whole words and realities we couldn’t. Mean teachers? Witches – the whole lot of them. I soon branched out, and after sitting in Stephen King’s head for a while, decided my life was a Disney movie compared to the stuff his characters endured. Poor Carrie. Now that girl had issues!
I loved stories, and had an endless supply of original ideas that would make fantastic books, but darn it, no matter how hard I willed those ideas to be carried through osmosis from my brain to my favorite authors’, it never happened. There they sat, alone in the dark, wilting, while I pursued every career, but writing, and no, graduating with a degree in Journalism most definitely doesn’t count. Journalism and imagination are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence.
A creative imagination was also frowned upon in my brief stint as an undercover private investigator with Pinkerton when I was placed in a company (no, I’m not telling which one!), and was told to write down my observations. Uh oh, I had a captive audience but couldn’t embellish what I was seeing and boy was my imagination coming up with some really good stuff. In reality, I was bored silly. Eventually that boredom had me shaking things up… but that’s another story entirely.
Several career paths later, fate intervened and I found myself home, being a full time mother and wife. Suddenly, I was staring at the blank computer screen, not writing, just staring. I’d make a point to walk by it on my way to the bathroom, in-between Barney episodes, or during those times when my children actually did fall asleep during nap time.
Eventually, I did turn the computer on, and have been writing ever since.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your first novel, Abithica. That’s an unusual name. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
A: Abithica is a word I made up. Without giving too much away, it is the name of the main character, so it had to be both unique and otherworldly.
Q: What is Abithica about and what was your inspiration for it?
A: Abithica must borrow all that she is from others: names, lives, even bodies, but only for periods of time she cannot control. What is she, and why is she compelled to fix the lives of the people she inhabits, even the despicable ones?
When she switches into the troubled life of Sydney Turner, she ends up breaking the one rule that has sustained her, the one thing in her control-never get attached-and learns the pain of loving and being loved in return.
My vacuum, Thomas Moore and my very persistent imagination were the inspiration behind Abithica. Maybe I should explain that. You see, all my best thoughts have come while pulling a vacuum. Now enter Thomas Moore. He wrote a book called Care of the Soul. In it, he asked a very profound question: what is your worst fear? Hmmm, what is my worst fear, I wondered. Naturally, I grabbed said vacuum and unleashed my imagination.
Losing my husband and children was the answer. Oh, but what if I was taken from them without their knowledge and they didn’t even know I was gone? Ouch! That would definitely suck. But what would suck even more is if another soul took my place and I was there, unseen, invisible, watching their lives continue as if I had never existed.
I was getting closer to my worst nightmare, but I wasn’t quite there yet. It needed a little something more. Got it! What if the body I was in had never really belonged to me in the first place? What if it was me who had been the intruder all along? I had been borrowing the woman’s life… and now… she wanted it back.
The question became an obsession, and my vacuum and I spent a lot of time together. Soon, the idea of “switching” was born. It grew legs and arms and even acquired a face, Abithica’s face.
Q: What is your protagonist like? Tell us something irresistible about her.
A: She is you and me. She is anybody who has ever asked the questions, why am I here? Is there a God, a purpose, a cosmic plan? She perceives herself as a victim, a pawn in some cosmic joke, only to discover in the end she is oh, so much more!
Q: Who is your target reader?
A: My target readers are bound to be urban fantasy lovers, the romantic at heart, and those of us who like to ponder all those enormous, unanswerable questions about life, and what the heck we’re doing here.
Q: How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
A: You have no idea how funny that question is! My “creative process”, if you insist on calling it that, was throwing tantrum after tantrum. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but the words… they weren’t matching the woman in my head. The tone was wrong. The voice was wrong. The action was wrong. The whole darn story was wrong. It wasn’t Abithica, not even close.
The problem I soon learned was I didn’t have an outline, so I ended up re-writing the first chapter 30 different ways and every one of them was the beginning of a completely different story. I was like an artist standing over an empty canvas. Was I going to use pastels, pencil or paint? Was it going to be a nature scene, or a portrait? Why not an elephant? Did it even have to be on a canvas? Why not the side of a building or a sidewalk? I had no idea so I kept trying a little of everything, until eventually, nothing worked and I found myself pinned to the ground, screaming uncle.
At the same time, I was well aware that some of my best writing had come about by accident when I had unwittingly allowed the characters to tell their own story. They were the writer, I was the vessel. Every single writing session after that, it’s what I strove to duplicate. I’d sit down at the keyboard, clear my mind, and relax enough to set the characters free. On a really good day, they’d talk for eight hours straight and take me places I had never even imagined. Eventually, I got better at it, I started to set an alarm to remind myself to eat. I’d then set it to remind myself to start dinner and then again to remind myself to pick up the kids. This was the reason I wrote, and the reason I kept coming back for more.
I had a problem though. What I needed was something to keep Abithica on task, without constricting the creative flow I craved. The answer: a plot summary. I took the next couple of days building on that concept until I had a sketchy beginning, middle and end. I now had a direction, but Abithica still had plenty of wiggle room to be creative and I was still willing to follow her on whatever tangents she chose to take me on.
Q: What is your writing schedule like?
A: My writing schedule revolves around my family. When the girls are at school, my hubby is at work, and I’m alone, (if it’s possible to be alone with 3 dogs, 2 cats and a bird!) I unleash my imagination and hold on for dear life. My favorite part is the end, when I get to read the crazy places my imagination took me that day.
Q: How did you find Twilight Times Books?
A: Twilight Times Books was recommended to me by my mentor, Gerry Mills, who helped me put some “magic” into my writing. It didn’t hurt either that TTB was recommended by Predators & Editors, or that the water cooler discussion on Absolute Write had nothing but positive things to say about TTB and its founder, Lida Quillen.
Q: What has been the most surprising aspect of publishing for you so far?
A: I was delusional. I actually thought when I wrote, The End, I was done. Oh contraire! That was only the beginning. The hardest writing I’ve ever done was condensing 95,000 words into a one sentence summary!
Now, I’m learning the wonderful world of marketing. All I can say is, God Bless Goodreads! If it wasn’t for that website nobody would know Abithica exists, and believe me… she is so done with that!
Q: I hear there’s a sequel in the horizon. When is it coming out?
A: Yup, there is a sequel. I am 40,000 words into it. The beginning and the end are done. All I’m doing now is filling in the middle.
Q: What is your best tip for aspiring novelists?
A: Don’t just talk about it, do it. Write it for yourself, and then later, after you’re convinced it’s a masterpiece, set it in a drawer and forget about it, the longer, the better. Then read it with fresh eyes. Fix all the problems, and then repeat, again, and again, and again….

Coward’s Kiss by Lawrence Block

Coward’s Kiss is another of Lawrence Block’s early 1960’s Crime Novels, where everyone is neither black, nor white, but different shades of gray.
Private Detective Ed London is summoned by his creepy brother-in-law Dr. Jack Enright to an apartment on East 51 Street. Jack is not there, but the body of a dead girl is. Jack told Ed he was having an affair with the girl, but he swore to Ed he didn’t kill her. Even though Jack admitted he was cheating on Ed’s sister Kaye, Ed tries to help Jack stay out of jail by moving the body out of the apartment, which was where Jack was keeping the chick for their trysts, and dumping it in Central Park. Not a good move, Ed. Soon people are looking to kill Ed, while his slimy brother-in-law basically crawls into a simpering little ball of mush.
Coward’s Kiss is one of Block’s earliest works, but all Block fan’s will love his famed roller- coaster style, where no one is whom they seem to be, and surprise ending are always in store for the reader.
Coward’s Kiss is a one-night read. But I guarantee you you’ll get bang for your buck, if you buy this book.
If you haven’t read any of Lawrence Block’s novels yet, you’ll get great pleasure in reading his later works. Highly recommended are his fifteen, or so Matthew Scudder crime novels. And also his Bernie Rhoddenbarr/Burglar novels, which are written in Block’s inimitable comedy style. He also has several Keller “Hit Man” novels that follow the exploits of Keller, who is a killer for hire.

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover

Do you ever wonder where the saying came from? “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I’m sure that in the book binding business they don’t say that. The art of book binding has evolved over many years. Scribes in the earliest days wrote on palm leaves that were etched and stained with ink which would leave indentations that were visible. The western writers used bark and leaves for most of their writing but important documents were written on papyrus and rolled and stored in cubbyholes, similar to today’s wine racks.
The Egyptians discovered a method to fold the paper and write on both of the sides and fasten the paper together with a method of sewing the book through the folds. Wooden boards held the book together and it was kept in a goatskin to protect it from the elements. The first books that were actually made of paper had flat spines and over time the humidity would cause the papers to expand and the spine to be contorted so the book took on a wedge shaped appearance. Heavy boards were used to hold the paper together and ties were used to bind the book. Over time the spines were made more round which eliminated the effect the humidity had on the papers of the book. The first books that resemble the book binding of today was developed in Morocco around the 15th century. The books were bound with leather spines and silk threads were used to sew the pages together. About mid century in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press the books were made lighter and more portable than ever. Bibles were made with tissue thin paper and the covers were flexible which made the Bibles easier for missionaries to travel all over the world with them.
Until about the mid 20th century books were covered with cloth. Book binding from the mid 20th century and later used clothette a pseudo cloth which is really a paper. Cardboard was adopted for the hardcover books and the books no longer had threads sewn in the folds like the earlier books had been done.
Different types of modern book binding are the punch and bind technique, which encompasses double wire binding, comb binding, velobind, spiral binding, proclick and zipbind. Thermal binding techniques include perfect pinding, thermal binding, tape binding and unibind. The other type of binding in modern books is stitch binding. Stapling through the center fold is called saddle-stitching and American comic books use this type of binding.

3 Horror Novels That Will Scare You to Death

When it comes to literary horror, there are a lot of different paths that you can take in order to get the most out of the fear created by writers, but it’s sometimes hard to decide which book to read next. In order to help those that are not sure where to venture next, it became important to look into a list of 3 of the scariest books that you can get your hands on for a low cost. The following is a list of the best in horror writing from years past, and can still strike fear into the hearts of even the most jaded of imaginations. Look at the following if you dare, and never stop reading.
Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice – The first book seems innocent enough, but the pages are full of terror and fear. Long before shiny vampires took over the landscape of vampirism, Anne Rice was creating a long-standing record of beauty and terror. The book is filled with real life lamentations that would befuddle a person that had to live forever and feed. While the motion picture made this into a more dramatic and polished version, the book still stands as one of the better examples of what you can do with genre fiction.
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson – This best selling novel took the haunted house genre and created something bigger, badder, and something that still creeps people out. Could a house really push someone into the brink of insanity and then bring them back with no recollection? The boundaries of real life terror play victim to the genre here and it truly showcases how far a person will go when psychologically tormented by spirits within a house. The house recently sold and hasn’t been an issue, but that hasn’t stopped people from reading, watching and exploring the original big, bad, haunted house.
The Shining by Stephen King – The master of horror has written one of the most eclectic blends of books in the past but in The Shining he really turns up the volume to 11. Here we get everything from psychotic rampages, to telekinesis, and beyond. You thought the movie was creepy? Wait till you get a hold of this epic in nearly 800 pages of length. You just can’t compare the movie to this solid book, which will give you nightmares if you’re not careful.
The above 3 books are novels that were written long ago and are still gaining new audiences. The main reason why it’s important to explore these titles is to preserve reading as a form of entertainment and learning. Remember, everyone spends years learning how to read and write, so why not continue that tradition for pleasure in your adult years? The above are just a taste of some of the better horror novels you can read and love today.

How to Write a Detective Novel

Thousands of people have written about solving crime and a greater number of people read about it! People’s interest in this topic fascinates me. Why are so many people interested in solving murders and mysteries? I too am interested in reading this genre and I enjoy watching the television shows and movies that depict successful crime solvers. It does not matter whether the person was poisoned, suffocated, drowned, drugged, driven over by a truck or thrown out of an airplane; the wily detective has a case.
Detectives come in all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities. Each one has foibles that make him or her different from the others. There are thousands of fictitious detectives. Witness the many television detectives over the last twenty years. There were Colombo, Jonathon Creek, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Poirot as well as shows like CSI, Pie in the Sky and countless others. They had a different process but the results were the same. Yet they all fascinate us.
In my mind there are several components that lead to an interesting novel of movie in this genre. The first trait is that the detective must be unique. Most detectives are confident and sure of their work. Many times they need to have an accomplice who asks them questions so that the reader can keep up with the detective. The detective must be smarter than the reader. Usually the novel must contain at least one person, usually a beautiful woman who is wronged in some way by an ‘evil’ person. There also needs to be money involved in some way. Although these are not absolutely necessary in my opinion, many of the successful novels include them. In my novel “ONE,” I have created a young humble detective who uses technology as his weapon against crime. He is solving a puzzle that involves the death of a beautiful woman who has accumulated an inordinate amount of money.
The internet is a marvellous place to research how to describe ways to harm people. I fervently hope that the information from these sites is not used in real life. Other places for research include libraries. Become a ‘library junky’ and your writing will improve.
I find that writing detective novels is most rewarding because the ‘evil’ person can be dealt whatever punishment that seems appropriate. The number of twists and turns in a detective novel is only limited by your imagination.
Like all forms of writing, practice will help you achieve better outcomes. Become the most interesting detective writer of all time!

The Best Horror Novels

There used to be a time when I hated reading. I just could not tolerate anything other than my biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. I never liked reading novels. But then one day, I came across a novel that was written by R.L..Stine. R. L. Stine is a great writer who has written hundred of horror novels targeted for teens and adults. Most of his novels have been best sellers and he had received several awards for his contribution as well. But then at that time, I was not aware of who R.L. Stine was. I had never heard about him. Somehow I had found a novel that was written by him.
Since my interest had always been watching horror flicks, I wanted to start with the novel. I didn’t know whether I will be able to finish the novel or not or even go half way or not. Anyway, I started reading it because i knew there was some suspense in the story. The name of my first novel was “The Boyfriend”. I started reading it and then I started finding it interesting as well. In two days I had finished the whole book and believe me it was a great read. I was thrilled. It was just fantastic. I couldn’t believe the creativity of the author. All along I kept wondering where he got that idea from. It was simple mind blowing. There was mystery, horror, suspense, love and everything. I just loved the book.
Then I decided to read more of the author’s books. I got more. Believe me, the best horror novels that I read were Beach house, Call Waiting, The New Years Party, Party Summer, The Dead Lifeguard, The Boy Next Door, Secret Admirer, Silent Night, The Betrayal, The Stepsister, The Burning, The First Evil and many more. The list is endless. This author has created so many interesting horror novels that are really worth reading. If you are a fan of such novels, then it is definitely worth reading some of his novels. Once you read a few you will feel like reading more and more. And then you will wait for his next novel to release.

Writing Your Novel Is The Easy Part

“Michael, are you crazy?”
Maybe. What about it.
Sometimes an idea just comes out of nowhere and won’t leave me alone until I write about it. So, I write about it.
Then what?
Isn’t that enough? Can’t I just write?
No. Time to do the real work now.
Next comes self-editing. Truth be told, that’s really my favorite part. But it is more workmanlike than “the fires of creation.”
What’s my goal as a writer? I want people to still be reading my stuff centuries after I die.
Self-editing matters. Do you want to know why? Because it’s a novel, not a blog. Make it easy to read, easy to understand, easy to enjoy, easy to edit, and easy to publish. And easy to hate, as the case may be. Easy.
Then you have to decide among dozens of publishing options. Big press, small press, hardback, paperback, ebook, traditional print, self-published, print-on-demand, straight to a publisher or through an agent or acting as your own publisher…
Oh, and rejection happens. A lot.
If you involve an editor in this, he’ll teach you how to write better and how to self-edit better. If not, oh well.
Authors don’t pay publishers. Readers pay publishers. Publishers pay authors.
Writing is a calling but publishing is a business.
Writing your novel is looking easier all the time, isn’t it?
I haven’t even mentioned self-promotion after you’re published. Just one more source of aggravation to steal your time and your focus away from writing your next novel.

Writers! – Keep Your Characters Off the Streets!

All writers have favorite characters from history, and exploring them through story-telling is, at times, difficult to resist. I know, having fallen in Mark Twain quicksand and getting out only by making him share the spotlight with two other characters. Here, then, is rule number one, unless you’re going to put a new slant on an old face – seek that character’s era, then seek out an utterly anonymous story from behind your famous figure. Great hits have come from exploring rats that sailed with Columbus – and one famous cricket has out-earned many a flesh-and-blood human. So, if Napoleon’s your man, go for the assistant cook that peels his potatoes, the roach who lives in one of them or the wayward soul who either made or shines his saber. The minor to anonymous figure in a famous era is nothing less than an undiscovered vein of literary gold.
No one should be dissuaded from choosing an era that most fascinates them. Once chosen, however, it must emit at least a “faux” reality, unless it is off-world. If it’s foreign, find someone of that country, literary works and recordings from their story-tellers. More important than the way they do they think? How do they communicate with those around them? How do they feel about those around them? Are they short and curt, broad and chatty, poetic or basic? Upon which “power words” are their conversations based? Do you have a sense of THEIR humor? Are they intimately familiar with the situation in which you put them? Could you act it out in front of a mirror, mastering all of the voices?
If you are writing in a dialect that people recognize or, in most cases, think they recognize, go overboard, far overboard… in the privacy of your studio at the computer. Before you publish, however, “consult consult consult” – then reexamine your copy and “retreat retreat retreat” until you have reached a satisfactory level of subtlety. Then, retreat even further, until you’re certain that every nuance of their speech is no more than a hint and natural byproduct of the character’s milieu.
Getting the twenty first century out of historical speech is like getting rid of ants or termites, and you can’t pass over one word without careful inspection. Many of our colloquialisms have moved to the center of our lexicon, but are still examples of misplaced slang to someone from the eighteenth century. Much of history is based upon class distinction saturated with minute variations of speech. From the hog-slopper to the Stubenmaedchen and on to the queen herself, you’ll have to comb out the obvious and overblown in multiple passes. For pieces such as Elizabethan settings, you’d best go the extra mile and have it read aloud with one person per character and a narrator.
Being drawn to a specific slice of life in a specific time is the very best reason to write about it, but have your passport in order and don’t write like a tourist. Until we’ve worked it out to the minutest detail, they always see us coming a mile away.

How To Develop The Plot When Writing Thriller Novels

When writing a thriller novel, how does the author set up and develop the plot and build more detail?
The theme can start out with one central idea. Then, it can develop from that idea, as the writing progresses.
Others will start with the idea and map out the plot in detail, before writing. That can be seen as formulaic. Once the plot is laid out in a plan, then some would say that it becomes writing by numbers. Keen readers will see these patterns in many thriller novels.
My preferred approach is to start out with a central idea, and let the story flow. With ‘Gate of Tears’ it was the extraction of gold from seawater.
Of course, that way, you don’t know how the story will go. With thrillers most authors will know that the main character will live for another day. Why let him or her live? Well, it enables them to use the character in a sequel. Obvious.
‘Gate of Tears’ is set mainly in the Middle East, where the Strait known as the ‘Bab el Mandeb’ – ‘Gate of Tears’ – guards the southern entrance to the Red Sea. There are other storylines in Alaska and London besides the Yemen, and the geography helped the plot development. I would find it much more challenging to write a thriller novel that was set in a fairly constrained environment – say a prison.
Then there are other challenges. How can an author deal with a stage in the action where a character has been put in an apparently dead-end situation? Well, firstly, the author backtracks. ‘Unwriting’ is, for me, a copout and also loses an opportunity for further plot intrigue. So, I wait and think, and sometimes it takes a few weeks to work out an answer (I might need to develop another thread to help resolve the situation). I’ll take a notebook and go for a walk. And another walk.
Another issue is ‘what happens next’?
An author could do as the main character does in ‘The Diceman’ – identify some options and let the dice decide. That’s an interesting way of moving the plot forward. That’s the creative bit.
A newish approach is to let the readers decide, issuing one or more chapters at a time and inviting reader input. I don’t favour that.
Technology Input
With techno thrillers the technology itself can tell a story. And, then, if the author has some nous, the writer can extrapolate existing technology. I have a defence equipment blog feed which I follow, and that pours out new technology for me. Then, recently on the television I saw the new Honda robot which can hop on one leg and pour a drink. It was scary, and the weapons possibilities are disturbing (or not – maybe they’d save lives). It’s not sci-fi anymore – it’s here.
The approaches I describe here all help the plot evolve, whilst allowing room for the mystical creative aspect. My favourite though, is when I tell the main character ‘Now, get out of that”!

Magic in Stories For Younger Readers – Part Seven – Magic and Reality

In stories for children, it is the boy or girl who solves the problem, rather than the adult, which children reading the story find it much easier to relate to. Harry Potter is just like his young readers, an ordinary child with admittedly extraordinary powers. Even those of his friends who come from magical families have the same things to deal with at Hogwarts, such as homework, embarrassing parents or annoying siblings, making it more believable and thus rooted in the real world, despite Harry’s enrollment in an exclusive school for wizardry.
Harry even has trouble becoming a wizard and struggles at school with some of his subjects, while his classmate Hermione consistently streams ahead of him. On more than one occasion, Harry curses himself for not having studied the history of the magical world or some other topic more deeply.
In the earlier novels too, Harry is quite simply not good enough to take on more powerful wizards. Much of the strength of the novels is the journey of Harry from the age of eleven to manhood and his complicated learning curve along the way, which is reflected not just in his relationships with his friends and teachers, but also in his growing comprehension of the laws of magic. Although magic is the predominant theme running through these and other novels, the hero still has to overcome his difficulties though his own efforts. Magic should never be used simply as a way to solve all problems and just wish them away.