Today my guest is Marcia Meara, author/blogger and huge supporter and promoter of fellow Indies. Marcia is a bubbly and dynamic woman. She is the author of 6 books, her latest, Harbinger, Book 3 in the Wake-Robin Ridge series. Once you begin reading a book in her series, I can promise you, you’ll be hooked.
About the author:
Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Three years and five novels later, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go!
Marcia runs 2 blogs, The Write Stuff and Bookin’ It. The Write Stuff is a blog Marcia shares with other writers to promote their books, share excerpts, and anything else interesting on the craft of writing. Bookin’ It is a blog where Marcia shares reviews on books she has read.
Marcia has a ginormous heart to go along with her big personality and great sense of humor. And today we’re going to get to learn a little bit about her and her latest mystery, romance book Harbinger.
Continuing in the tradition of Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit, Marcia Meara’s North Carolina mountain series takes a shivery turn with the Appalachian Legend of Ol’ Shuck, the Harbinger of Death.
“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”
The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.
But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.
When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.
As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.
And before we get started, I do want to mention here that starting today, Marcia’s Book 2 in the Wake-Robin Ridge series is on Kindle Countdown!!! You may want to grab it now because I promise once you read Book 1, you’ll be happy you already got Book 2!
Kindle Countdown, $.99 Fri, $1.99 Sat, $2.99 Sun, $3.99 Mon,
I’m thrilled to have Marcia here today to share some of her writing insights with us and a little about her dynamic self. Some of you may find this post a bit lengthy, but Marcia is so interesting and has so much to share for other writers, I promise it’s worth the read! So let’s meet Marcia!
“Thank you so much for having me as your guest today, Deb. I really appreciate the opportunity to meet your friends and followers.”
It’s Never Too Late! – with Marcia Meara
Can you tell us a little about how your inspiration came later in life to write books?
By the age of five, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Things happened. Plans went awry, and by age 69, it hadn’t happened yet. I was bemoaning that the one thing I’d always known I wanted to do was the one thing I’d never accomplished, and I was told I should stop complaining, go home, and write. That afternoon, I started my first novel, Wake-Robin Ridge, and nine months later, I published it.
My second novel, was inspired by Jeanne Bell, an eco-tour boat owner, and her photographer husband, Doug Little. I’d enjoyed the tours on their boat many times, and thought their situation would be perfect for the lovers in my next romantic suspense novel. Plus, setting the novel on the St. Johns River would give me a chance to feature my favorite things about Florida: birds, alligators, and snakes. Not necessarily in that order. I published Swamp Ghosts about eight months after publishing my first book, and it started selling too.
Lesson Learned: It’s NEVER too late to follow a dream. I’m 72 now, and halfway through my draft of my sixth book. Who would have ever imagined!
Was there something in particular that led you to write in the mystery, romance genre?
While these days, I read far more fantasy and urban fantasy than I do romance, I always prefer that even those genres have a good love story in the background. I’m a romantic at heart, but frothy romances don’t interest me as much as dangerous ones. I wanted to add the element of fear or tragedy to my books, so I started with Romantic Suspense, though I’m probably easing away from the suspense part a bit, and discovering other kinds of drama to traumatize my characters with. Regardless, at the heart of my books, there’s always a romance. Sometimes two!
Are you a disciplined writer with keeping to a daily writing schedule?
I write every day, as long as I’m at home, and I’m fairly disciplined. By that, I mean, I turn off any and all distractions, even music. I turn down the volume on my computer so I won’t hear email coming in, and I focus on my story. If left to my own devices, I will write all day, so I have to schedule regular breaks. Siri lets me know when it’s time to stretch my legs, walk around the yard, or tackle a household chore. Then I get straight back to the computer.
Sometimes, I’m doing research, though, or creating a new character, instead of working on my actual draft. I might spend a half an hour Googling the the statutory rape laws of North Carolina, for instance. I’m not writing legal thrillers, so I don’t need detailed information, necessarily, but I don’t want to make glaring errors that pull readers right out of the story.
Other times, I might be working on my Character Sheets, where I keep a record for every character introduced in my books, for consistency purposes, even minor ones. If you call someone a “tall, 20-something man with dark hair,” in Book One, you’d best be sure he doesn’t turn into a blonde 30-year old, of medium height in Book 6. Readers will notice, especially if they happen to be reading your books back to back.
But whether it’s writing my latest draft, revising chapters for my editor, researching obscure facts, or creating new characters, I work pretty much all day long, seven days a week. At my age, I don’t have decades to get my stories told, and I have a lot of them bouncing around in my brain, demanding to get out.
Tell us a little about your blog, The Write Stuff, and what do others have to do to be promoted there?
I started the blog thinking it would be about me and my writing, but got tired of that in about three days. What I really wanted to do was create a place where authors of all types could meet, network, share news and promos, learn from each other, and support each other. It has turned out surprisingly well, and I love running it. (If The Write Stuff had a theme song, it would be the one from the old tv show, Cheers.)
If you write (at any level) and want to be an active part of the community, simply follow the blog, and comment & share what others post there. When you have something of your own to share (a cover reveal, a new release or promotion), all you have to do is email me, and I’ll post it for you, pretty much any time.
I also run two regular features that writers can use to their advantage. One is #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger, for those who’d like to submit a guest post on any topic they feel would be of interest to the group. At the end of the post, they can share their author photo and bio, their book covers and buy links, and their social media links.
Another regular feature I do is #ExcerptWeek, which I announce every couple of months. Authors can send me an excerpt from any book, published or not, or a Work In Progress, along with all the info listed above. (Bio, Links, etc.) Since most of the followers of the blog will share these posts on their own blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and more, it’s a great way to get new eyes on your work.
If you are an “active part of the community,” we will help you get the word out about what you are doing.
Are there any authors you feel influenced your writing?
I have been a voracious reader for roughly 67 of my 72 years, in many genres, and I’m pretty sure every single author I ever read influenced me in one way or another, even if it was to show me a way I DIDN’T want to write. My favorite writer of all time is Daphne du Maurier. Her breathtaking descriptions still thrill me to this day, and her shocking twists at the end of her books always left me gasping. I do have to wonder if du Maurier could compete in today’s market, where readers often want faster moving, more action-oriented plots, but I still love her style.
For my own books, which are far less ambitious, I try to find a compromise that works for both myself and my readers, but I do admit to missing those pages of elegant, descriptive prose. While I understand times have changed, I work to find a balance between action, and visuals that make the reader feel as though he or she is standing right there beside the leading character. I want them to smell the honeysuckle, feel the cool breeze, and see the vivid greens of the deep woods. So I squeeze in those moments when I can, and hope for the best.
I know you’re a visual person when it comes to ideas about how your characters would look in real life. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration is all around us, of course, but since I’m pretty much chained to my computer chair, I pull a lot of mine from photos found online. The walls surrounding my computer are covered with corkboards, and I fill them with photos pertaining to whatever I’m working on. Scenery and homes from along Florida’s St. Johns River (when I’m working on stories in my Riverbend series), or from the North Carolina mountains (when I’m writing a new Wake-Robin Ridge book). Pictures of actors, models, and other interesting people are pinned all over the place, each time I run across someone who looks just the way I’ve imagined a character. I even add wildlife and pet photos. Anything that helps transport me to the world I’m creating is fair game for my Inspiration Board.
Do you have any helpful tips for new writers you can offer?
I repeat, read. Read some more. Keep reading.
You’d be amazed what you can learn about writing from reading. Pay attention to books you like, and what it was that pulled you into that story so completely. Listen to the way the words are fitted together. And conversely, learn what not to do from books that just didn’t grab you. Think about why those failed to work for you. Never, ever stop reading. It’s a great way to learn lots of things, and besides, it’s fun!
Write every day. Form that habit from the start, and it will stand you in good stead over time.
Find the best editor you can afford. There are many reasonable ones out there. You probably don’t need the guy who edits for Stephen King or John Grisham. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do it all yourself. Even editors use other editors when they write. Yes, you might be very well educated, with lots of writing classes under your belt, but I promise you, even basic proofreading is next to impossible when it’s your own manuscript. Because you are so familiar with your work, you see what you think you’ve written, and not what’s actually on the page. So, tempting as it is, I heartily recommend an editor. Along with beta readers, to give you feedback as you go, and someone to proof the final, fully edited book, line by line, looking for missed words and small typos. (You’d be shocked how many tiny things get by everyone else, and show up in your finished book, where you do NOT want to see them.)
You may find someone who can do more than one of these jobs for you, and that’s great. But don’t skip it. And don’t kid yourself into thinking readers won’t notice. Many, many will, and furthermore, they will mention it in your reviews, which will have an impact on your sales.
A poorly edited book does not come across as professional. That’s not how you want to brand yourself, if you’re serious about selling your work.
Pay very close attention to your cover. You might be able to put one together yourself, if you are good with graphics, and have access to royalty-free images, but for most people, it’s worth having a graphics designer do your cover. It’s the very first thing readers see, and believe me, they absolutely DO judge a book by its cover.
Make yours eye-catching, with easily read fonts, and be sure it says something about the story inside. Just because one current trend is to feature headless men with bare torsos and air-brushed abs, doesn’t mean it’s the right cover design for your book. And honestly, there are so many covers like that out there, yours could get lost in the shuffle. I don’t mean to imply that I haven’t bought a book or two displaying those shirtless musclemen, myself. I’m just saying you should be sure that your cover conveys the message you want for your book, and that it stands out from the crowd. Good design work can be found at reasonable prices, if you look for it.
Covers count. I’ve been known to buy books simply because I absolutely could not resist a beautiful image or completely original and clever design. Just sayin’ . . .
Are you currently working on any new writing project?
How kind of you to ask. *grin* I’m working on That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3, and I’m hoping for a January, 2017, release. It picks up right after Book 2, Finding Hunter, and deals with Hunter Painter’s other brothers, Jackson and Forrest. Finding Hunter wrapped up Hunter and Willow’s story pretty thoroughly, but Forrest and Jackson have been waiting anxiously for me to get back to Riverbend and clean up the mess I left them in. I’m doing so right now, and really having fun messin’ with their minds, too. I believe in happy endings (mostly), but they’ve gotta work for ‘em. That’s my story (literally), and I’m stickin’ to it.
Do you have some preferred methods for promoting your books?
Yes, actually. My preferred method would be to have someone else do it ALL, and let me spend my time writing. But I’m guessing that wasn’t what you had in mind, so I’ll be honest and tell you that I totally STINK at promoting my own books. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s that I’d rather spend my time writing, so I have trouble tackling self-marketing without a whole heap of irritation.
I tried running lots of free promos with my first book, in the hopes of generating a ton of reviews. I got good reviews, and fairly consistently, but not tons. Nowhere near as many as I would have liked in proportion to the number of free books I gave away. These days, I’d rather do countdown deals, and even those are spaced apart.
Of course, I Tweet, do Facebook (sorta), and other social media, but mostly, I have been building a network of authors on my blog, The Write Stuff. That’s given me as about as much exposure as anything else I’ve tried. I do understand that I need to do more, and my current plan is to hire a Virtual Assistant to take care of a lot of the things I don’t have time for, while I deal with the personal connections on my blogs and Twitter.
The one thing I’m pretty good at is building a local readership. Writing a series set in a fictitious town located very nearby means that local readers recognize the places mentioned in the books. They love that. I’ve been very busy doing PowerPoint presentations at various central Florida venues, and doing lots of Meet the Author events at museums, historical sites, and book clubs. That’s helped build a “tribe” of loyal readers who buy all of my books, and tell their friends and neighbors, too. So at least, I’m doing that much right.
Next month, I’ll be doing an afternoon Tea With the Author at a local historic mansion, with a reading, my custom made tea blends (named for my book characters), and a Q&A after. Old friends and new will be there, and it’s the kind of thing I truly love doing.
Tell us a bit about the Wake-Robin Ridge series and the newest book to the series, Harbinger. And we’d love a little excerpt!
The Wake-Robin Ridge books (3 to date) are set amid the haunting beauty of the North Carolina Mountains, where ghosts walk, ancient legends abound, and things still go bump in the night. Unlike my Riverbend series, this one is mildly paranormal.
Wake-Robin Ridge Book 1 introduces Sarah Gray, an ex-librarian, who has moved into a mountain cabin on five wooded acres, across the road from the very reclusive MacKenzie Cole, who lives on the top of the ridge, with only his Irish wolfhound for company. Suffice it to say that they have some surprising (and frightening) adventures.
A Boy Named Rabbit is Book 2 of the series, and introduces a ten-year old child who has been raised in the wilderness by his grandparents, and never seen another living soul in his life. He finds himself alone, and has to come down out of the mountains to locate the “man with eyes like winter skies, and hair like a crow’s wing,” and when he finds him, Mac and Sarah’s lives are never the same again. Rabbit has the power to change the world for everyone he meets.
Harbinger is Book 3 of the series, and if this one has a theme, it’s “you can run, but you can’t hide.” At least, not from the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as they call him in the mountains. It’s the story of a man being driven slowly mad by guilt, and Rabbit’s determination to right a terrible wrong, and help the local sheriff close a twenty-year old cold case.
EXCERPT FROM HARBINGER: WAKE-ROBIN RIDGE BOOK 3
Cadey Hagen’s dreams have been haunted by the specter of the Black Dog, off and on for over twenty years. This is the first dream sequence in the book, taken from Chapter 3:
EYELASHES FROZEN, EACH gasping breath a snowy plume in the frigid night air, the boy ran for his life. Heart pounding, he scrambled up the wooded slope, terror driving him faster and faster.
There! Just ahead, a warm light glowed in a small window. Home. Safety. Only a few yards more.
He lurched forward, sure he was going to make it, now. His heart sang with joy, even as his foot slid on an icy patch of old snow, and he went down hard, knocking the wind right out of himself. The metallic taste of blood from his bitten tongue flooded his mouth, and for a moment, he couldn’t move. He was simply too tired to keep going.
No, no, no . . . get up. You got to get up. You’re almost there.
Desperation gave him a last burst of energy, and panting, he struggled to his knees. The woods loomed dark and silent around him, and he dared to hope he had outrun his pursuer. Then he heard it. A soft rumble at first, the sound built into a full-throated growl, coming from the last stretch of trees between him and his daddy’s tiny cabin. Somehow, it had gotten in front of him. He was cut off!
As he stared in horror, two glowing pinpoints of red appeared not ten feet away, growing steadily larger, as the beast stepped out of the bushes and into the moonlight. The dog was huge, and black as coal. And those fiery eyes stared unblinking, directly into his.
Whimpering, he felt a rush of warmth as he wet himself. He’d seen the Black Dog, and that meant it had come for him. He was going to die.
Somewhere in the dim recesses of his mind, he heard his aunt calling his name, but it was already too late. When Ol’ Shuck shows up to get you, it’s always too late. Still, she called, her voice coming from far away.
He tried to answer, but could make no sound, and stood helpless, watching. Just before it leapt, the Black Dog’s lips peeled back, revealing long, gleaming teeth. Hot, foul breath washed over his face, as Ol’ Shuck opened its mouth impossibly wide, and Cadey tumbled forward into its reeking maw.
At last, he screamed.
Get you copy of Harbinger Here!
Thank you so much for visiting here today Marcia. It was a delight to have you here today. Thank you for sharing some invaluable writing tips and generous insights into your writing world. As you know, I’m hooked on the Wake-Robin Ridge series and can’t wait to get to the next books in the series, especially now that I’ve learned more about the books and with the cliff-hanging excerpt you’ve shared with us.
Marcia has published six books to date, all of which are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle format:
Her seventh book, The Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3, will be out in January, 2017
You can reach Marcia via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on the following social media sites:
The Write Stuff: http://marciamearawrites.com/
Visit Marcia’s Amazon Author Page to learn more and view all of her books!