Today’s Featured Author: Victoria Christopher Murray

Please welcome back author Victoria Christopher Murray to my blog. Her latest book, Stand Your Ground, will be out June 30th.

Book Synopsis

stand your groundFrom the #1 Essence bestselling and award-winning author Victoria Christopher Murray comes a new novel about three women forced to grapple with their faith and their belief in the justice system when they become involved in a high-stakes murder trial.

Janice Johnson is living every mother’s worst nightmare. Her sixteen-year-old son was murdered in the parking lot of a convenience store and the shooter hasn’t been arrested. Janice and her husband want justice for their son, but disagree about whether to trust the police investigation—or take matters into their own hands.

Shelly Vance cannot believe the nightmare that has become her life. Her husband is facing murder charges for shooting a sixteen-year-old who he says attacked him in a parking lot. This tragedy is only magnified by the racial divide it has created, and Shelly feels herself being judged by everyone from her employer to her friends. She’s vowed to stand by her husband no matter what, but how can she keep quiet when she’s keeping a secret that could blow the whole case wide open?

Alax Wilson would rather be anywhere else but on the jury of this highly charged case. Not only is she missing work—which she can’t really afford to do—but she’s been chosen as the jury’s foreman, which means she has to take her role seriously if there is any hope of reaching a verdict.

Faced with the tragic death of a teenager and a dramatic trial that has turned into media frenzy, Janice, Shelly, and Alax are forced to face their own prejudices and those of the world around them. But will the truth come to light?

About The Author

VCMVictoria Christopher Murray always knew she would become an author, even as she was taking an unlikely path to that destination. A native of Queens, Victoria first left New York to attend Hampton University where she majored in Communication Disorders. After graduating, Victoria attended New York University where she received her MBA.

Victoria spent ten years in Corporate America before she tested her entrepreneurial spirit. She opened a Financial Services Agency for Aegon, USA where she managed the number one division for nine consecutive years. However, Victoria never lost the dream to write and when the “bug” hit her again in 1997, she answered the call.

Victoria originally self-published her first novel, Temptation and in 2000, Time Warner published that novel. Temptation made numerous best sellers list and remained on the Essence bestsellers list for nine consecutive months. In 2001, Temptation was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literature.

Victoria has received numerous awards including the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being a pioneer in African American Fiction. Since 2007, Victoria has won seven African American Literary Awards for best novel, best Christian fiction and Author of the Year – Female. Her 2014 NAACP Image Award nomination for Never Say Never was her third Image Award nomination.

Several of Victoria’s novels have been optioned to become movies, including The Deal, the Dance and the Devil and the Ex Files series.

With over one million books in print, Victoria is one of the country’s top African American contemporary authors.

You can find out more about Victoria on her website or check her out on Facebook or Goodreads.

You can purchase Victoria’s books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Stand Your Ground comes out June 30th.

Fantasy without cliché

Fantasy stories are often filled with clichéd ideas – the farm boy who saves the world, the girl destined to become the ruler, and so many more that I could fill up my whole post with overused plot or characters from fantasy stories.

The hard thing is when you think of fantasy – you typically think of fantasy characters such as fairies, goblins, dwarves and elves. All these are overused.

It becomes hard to write a fresh, innovative fantasy novel without using a few of the clichéd ideas. After all, what makes fantasy…well a fantasy is a lot of these things.

I am not saying you need to omit these ideas or characters from your writing. I am just saying that you need to be aware of the overused themes, characters and plots and give them a new twist.

Fantasy clichés to avoid

dragon1.) Creatures – The above-mentioned creatures – fairies, elves, gnomes, dwarves – have all been overused and stereotyped. You can either change them from what everyone expects or create your own creatures. (But don’t use the same old creatures and just rename them something else.)

2.) Legends/Prophecies – The prediction that something will happen (and for it to come true) isn’t very realistic and can take some suspense out of the story for the reader. (Of course, my trilogy and my latest book both dealt with forms of this.)

3.) The Chosen One – This often is a lowly stable boy or someone of no importance who rises to save the world (or galaxy) from evil. Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter are both great examples. Again, overused and could negate some of the suspense to the story if you know how it will turn out.

bigstock_Shadow_Man_4690914.) Dark Lord – This typically is an antagonist that is often evil just for the sake of being evil. (I have already addressed creating a realistic villain in another post. Basically, the villain needs motivation or a reason to be evil.) Of course, many times the villain doesn’t see their scheme as bad. They are heroes in their own mind.

5.) Unrealistic fighting – In a fight, people get wounded and often are killed. It is unrealistic to have your hero battle a hoard of attackers and comes out unscathed. This is especially true if it is the young stable boy who has only had a lesson or two in sword work before he bests the trained, seasoned warrior. (Check out this post on creating realistic fight scenes.)

6.) Men as Hero/Women Damsel – Often the hero and his cohorts are men. Sometimes a woman is thrown into the mix but not always in a strong role. Instead, she often needs rescuing. But readers do like strong female characters. Think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer versus Snow White.  (All my stories have had a women protagonist though my first one, Lina, was a bit reluctant and a bit weak before growing into her role.)  Oh, and I should address the stereotype of the man who saves a woman and then will do anything to protect her after only just meeting her. Again, very unrealistic actions.

wizard7.) The Wise Old Man – Our stable boy or other-wise seemingly low born character is often taken under the wing of a wise old man – usually with a grey robe, long beard and some sort of magic. Definitely overdone. Maybe your hero can meet a young woman who guides him/her instead.

As I said, there are many other examples than the ones I listed here. Even romance between characters can become clichéd. I actually had a reviewer tell me that my romance in my first book, Summoned, seemed to only be included because romance is a given in most fantasy books these days.

You don’t have to avoid these clichéd items but try to put a creative twist on them. Go against the norm and do something a little unexpected. Then it isn’t a tired, old plot or character but something new for your reader.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Taylor M. Fletcher

Please welcome Taylor M. Fletcher to my blog. His book, Our Marriage Contract, a self-help book, was released last month.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

First and foremost, I’m happily married! And I’m not just saying that to be saying that. I’m a guy who feels incredibly blessed for all the little and wonderful things God has offered me in my lifetime.  By trade I’m a Corporate Attorney who again has been blessed with the ability to help my clients prosper and stay out of trouble. I’m a dog parent to a Boxer Beagle mix, named Gemma and married to my best friend. I enjoy a good movie on the couch with my BFF (my wife) or jumping on the motorcycle and grabbing a bite to eat with my wife. My favorite thing besides flea marketing hopping is to get a pedicure alongside my wife, those chairs are Great! Other than that, if you strip away the titles, the degrees, the material possession, I’m just your average everyday guy except I found happiness through dealing with my expectations upfront.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Flint, Michigan, and adopted at the age of 6 weeks old by an older white couple and raised in Grand Rapids Michigan; now my wife , and our Boxer-Beagle live and play in the wonderful city of Philadelphia.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I think what really inspired me to write the book was first and foremost having a marriage contract in my own relationship work and is still working to this very day. So, thinking” I Finally Cracked the Code”, on what I refer to as the Miss”Education” of Romance and I coming to grips that as crude as it may sound; relationships are just like any other of life’s fragile unions and in order to be successful there needs to be rules both people must follow to make it work. I put my hypothesis or what I called “cracking the code” to the test, not only did I test and try it out on my then fiancée’ and now wife but I tested it on many of my friends who are in relationships or at the early stages of one. To my surprise it worked! Years later, Our Marriage Contract “the book” was born.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I really don’t consider myself a writer, I do think I have one more book in me but I consider myself to be an average guy who has a really great message told and narrated in a short book. An average guy with a message who’s trying to get that really message to the public in hope that it’ll help, save and even rescue people and their relationships. At best, if it message is received to late, it could at the very minimum help people have better romance in future relationships.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

A lot! My mannerisms and southern speak and weird ways of talking or looking at life and how I view women wants and need based on my experiences, yeap, it’s all in there. My first time reading the manuscript once it was proofed and formatted, made me smile because, I finally saw why people always ask me “Where are you from” when they speak with me, the little speaking habits I picked up from the South when I was in school down there, readily spilled over in my writings. In fact in the introduction of the book I stated the word “Hitched” instead of saying getting married. And as far as my experiences, the book is full of them especially since I wrote the book from an what I call the average guy’s standpoint” me , who after years of darting and trying to figure why during most of my relationships I was either a hero at times or a big fat zero; even when I tried to do the right thing.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

The next project is going to be a book I’m affectionately titling the next book “Grand Opening, Grand Closing” The art of keeping the business lights on.  Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 “American Dream”

“GRAND OPENING – GRAND CLOSING” So you’re ready to start a new small business. You’ve looked around and looked around, and decided there was nothing close to what you need, so hey. Why not start a business, right? Sounds logical. People start a small business for several different reasons, of course. One of the most popular reasons, I believe, is financial freedom; they want to gain wealth. The second one is to fill a need. The third is that most small businesses happened to fall into the business itself purely by accident. Before we get ahead of ourselves about starting a business, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. If you are planning on starting a business, be prepared to do something you love while not getting paid for it for at least a year or more. Yes, you read correctly: I said expect not to get paid for a least a year! Be ready for that to last even longer, because most small businesses don’t make money or break even in the first 3-5 years of operations. If that’s going to be a problem, starting a business may be a huge issue for you. So let’s make sure that your new business hobby is going to be fruitful for you. Before we even think about organizing the business, make sure you have the following in order.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

No, by trade I’m a Corporate Attorney, so I consider myself an “A Book Writer/Author”, meaning if there is an existing need and it’s a topic or issue I feel can help people with then I’m more likely to through my two cents in to see if I can make a difference, like my current book and my next project.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Best advice, Book marketing is a marathon and not a sprint, came in an email from one of my many emails from my Publisher’s marketing team. Worst advice, someone told me “you don’t need a Publisher, you can publish your book on your own”. While that was true, the Publisher I used even though I went through the self-publishing platform was invaluable AND did all the things I just didn’t have time nor did I want to do, particularly like listing my book with several of the major retail chains (Barns and Noble and Amazon).

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Since this is my first book, I can’t say but for me when I was writing the book, I’ll admit there was a little uncertainty on how the message in the book would be received beyond my friends and family. My personal experiences varied when I told people about my own marriage contract it was either the person were shocked to “oh yeah, you’re a lawyer big whop”. I figured the message in the book would be overlooked if people couldn’t or can’t got past the title. Honestly, at times I almost gave up, rationalizing to myself “normal people don’t want to use a contract for a better relationship” and when I say normal people I mean non-wealthy people. But, I thought…..I’m normal and I wanted something, heck anything that made sense and was going to help keep me happily married, so I continued to write on.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

In hope that my messages in the book(s) will be of some help to the readers and that ultimately it will make a difference in their lives.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I outlined the book as I wrote, it was tough organizing my many thoughts into an outline that made since to the message and the book intended purpose but finally it came together and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product, I hope the readers enjoy it.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, that guy rocks!

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

I found myself eating grapes and drinking milk, not sure why but it was the food of choice.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

What book are you reading right now?

We Got Fired! By Harvey Mackay.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Robert T. Kiyosaki, I love his book and his message of encouragement within it. And there’s Jessica Dorfman Jones, Oh, she is so interesting, and has such a unique way of telling her story in her books. I’m in love with her most controversial books.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I’m addicted to pedicures!

Book Blurb

mc_book_coverNO JUDGES, NO LAWYERS, JUST GREAT COMMUNICATIONS…… Although titled Our Marriage Contract and written by a lawyer; I’m happy to say the book has absolutely nothing to do with the court or U.S. legal system. Instead the book actually explains and shows people how their relationship Expectations…Leads to Disappointment….Disappointments Leads to Resentment and Resentment Leads to Failure.

Author Bio

tmf1Taylor M. Fletcher is the Managing Partner at The Law Offices of Kawalski, Fletcher & Kirkpatrick, P.C. Mr. Fletcher has more than ten years’ experience as a corporate law attorney, an attorney consultant, and an expert legal volunteer for various public and private non-profit organizations throughout the Tri-State area.

You can find out more about Taylor and his book on his website or on Facebook.

You can purchase Our Marriage Contract on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary

It was a sunny fall afternoon when someone knocked on the kitchen door. I opened it to find an exasperated young man.

“Do Jody and Bridget live here?” he asked.

I assured him that he had found the right place. He sighed with relief. You see – he had been to three other apartments before landing at ours – where, in fact, Jody and Bridget shared a four-bedroom campus apartment with my best friend Kathryn and me.

And that is how I met my husband. I like telling people that he just one day showed up on my doorstep.

Thankfully, he was only friends with my roommates and not romantically interested in them.

RH-LH-WeddingThat incident happened in October of my junior year of college. By December, we were dating and by the following September (on my 21st birthday) we got engaged. If it seems fast, it is by far a longer relationship than my parents had. My mom met my Dad in October. Three months later, they were married.

My husband and I were actually engaged for a year and nine months before we got married in June 1995. Looking at our wedding picture all I can think is “Boy, don’t we look young.”

So this past week we celebrated our 20 year wedding anniversary. Since we got married, my husband has graduated law school, we have moved four times (living in three different cites), bought two homes (and sold one of them), had two kids (after 10 years of marriage), started our own businesses (he has his own law firm, and I have my Etsy card shop) and I have published four fantasy novels.

Wow. A lot has changed in the last twenty years. We certainly have come a long way. There have been good times and some bad ones. There are a few things that I would do differently and others that I wouldn’t change. Isn’t that always the way it is?

5581390378_b43d0ac69e_zWe celebrated our anniversary with a dinner out – eating at the Chart House, the restaurant at the top of the 750-foot-tall Tower of Americas in downtown San Antonio. The restaurant slowly rotates so you get an awesome view of the city.

Dinner out wasn’t our only celebration. In April, we celebrated with a weekend get-away…to Austin. Yes, no exciting destination for us but it was a kids-free weekend with just the two of us which we hadn’t done in five years.

But the celebration I am looking forward to most is our Caribbean cruise in August. My parents are taking us (including the kids) and my brother on an 8-day, 7 night cruise as a joint celebration of our 20 year anniversary and my dad turning 80 in October. It should be fun!

In a world where everyone seems to be getting divorced, staying together for 20 years is quite a feat. And here is to many more years of making memories together!