Friday, January 27, 2017

"The Long Harbor Testament" by New Novelist Tom Minder

Interview conducted By Dawn Byrne

Tom Minder’s first novel “The Long Harbor Testament” was published and released this month through Black Rose Writing. He’s no newbie to fiction though with his short stories that can be found in: Tall Tales and Short Stories (mephitis mephitis), STORGY (At the Diner), Fiction on the Web (Murder in South Jersey), PILGRIM: A journal of Catholic experience (Self-Denial), CommuterLit (The Battling McManns), Spank The Carp (Squirrel!), Cat & Mouse Beach Nights Anthology (Burning for Rehoboth).

Tom answered questions about his book and other writings. The following are tidbits about this author of dry humor and his new and upcoming works.

Tell us about you and how writing fits in with your life. 

I’m retired and live in Turnersville, NJ with my wife, Paula. After years of promising to write my novel, I started in October 2012. After fifteen months for the first draft, nine more for beta reading and edit, and three years of querying agents and small presses, "The Long Harbor Testament" was accepted by Black Rose Writing. Since I retired, I spend fifteen to twenty hours a week on writing-related activity. This includes new writing, self-editing, submitting short stories, submitting my novel for reviews and planning the marketing steps. 

The characters drive your cozy mystery novel in a fun way. How did you come up with these colorful people and how they are connected to the murder?

Sixty-five years of attending weekly mass, Sunday breakfasts, thousands of diner dinners, and seeing criminal elements in Philly and South Jersey via TV, movies, and real life, created a roster of characters waiting to be stuffed into a book. Sit in a diner for an hour and tell me you can’t find characters stranger than fiction. 

Why is food included so much in your narratives? 

Food, and consumption thereof, is the great equalizer in our society. Where else do people gather together voluntarily and happily? Sporting events, maybe, but people go for the beer, nachos, questionable meat products, and overpriced pretzels as much as for the contest. Speaking of athletic feats, navigate through the crowd at halftime looking for a rest room and you’ll see moves unmatched on the field. All making room for the next beer and crab fries. 

Beside diners, your settings tend to be along bodies of water. Is there a reason for this? 

I hadn’t thought of that. I guess the seaside and ocean have calming effects on people while also posing dangers from rip currents, large people on inner tubes, unexpected waves which can cause wardrobe malfunctions, etc. 

I've read some of your short stories, and am excited about your next project. Can you talk about that?

I’m planning an anthology of the short stories, all featuring the same two main characters, with occasional cameos from the Jersey Devil. This married couple is a composite of myself and Paula, Dagwood and Blondie, and Nick and Nora Charles. I’m not sure about my next novel but am thinking along religious lines. 

Thank you for the interview, Tom. Looking forward to your collection of short stories, and more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Poconos Writers Conference 2017

(by K.A. Magrowski - originally posted on Literary Debauchery)

I had the pleasure of attending the 4th Annual Poconos Writers Conference over the weekend. I love conferences because no matter what your level of writing, you can never (and should never) stop learning. Sponsored by writer and attorney Michael Ventrella and the Poconos Liars Club, this one-day writing event featured three writers and one agent who gave excellent talks on craft and publication.

Michael Ventrella kicked off the conference with his talk “The Biggest Mistakes Made by New Authors.” Some great advice included treating your writing like a job in terms of dedicating your time and learning the business, finishing your work, and his secret to success (exclusive to attendees only, I’m afraid). I jest, but he did emphasize the importance of talent, hard work, and networking.

Next up was agent Alia Hanna Habib from McCormick Literary who presented on query letters and knowing your genre (with examples of what works and what doesn’t). Every time I go to a talk on query letters I learn something new and this was no exception. Alia’s experience was invaluable (and funny). Highlights included ensuring your query reads something like jacket copy, know to whom you are submitting and, of course, read the submissions guidelines.

After lunch, romance writer Megan Hart spoke on Point of View. She provided clear instruction on each type of point of view. I think my greatest takeaway here was the emphasis on how point of view not only controls what we the readers know, it gives the reader information as the character sees it. Each character is the hero of her or his own story, which affects how they tell the story.

Dark fantasy author Rob E. Boley wrapped up the speaker line up with his presentation on Worldbuilding, which, as he points out, is integral for all genres, not just speculative fiction. Rob asked members of the audience what they thought worldbuilding included and the responses were phenomenal. Many volunteered answers but then made connections with how that aspect (say, currency) would affect the world and the way characters interact. Rob emphasized that your world must serve the story. Coincidences that screw the characters are acceptable. Those that help are not. There are no silos – different aspects of the world affect other aspects (just like the real world!). Do not cast brushstrokes and don’t see everything in black and white.

The audience participation really energized the crowd for the final session – a Q&A panel with the authors where we discussed marketing, networking, and being yourself on social media (please, no non-stop promo tweets!) and at writing events. In the end, sell yourself as much as your work, but be real.
Highly recommended conference, especially if you’ve never attended one and might be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a large, multi-day event.

PS Huge shout out to the Eastern Monroe Public Library for hosting the event. Support your local library!

PPS I might have bought some books…