Why Write That Book?

Denise Weeks 2Denise Weeks (Shalanna Collins) has been writing since she could hold a crayon.  Novelist, pianist, belly dancer, baton twirler (but no fire batons ever again, by order of the Renner, Texas, Volunteer Fire Brigade), and amateur radio operator, she is a graduate of Southern Methodist University who has worked as a software engineer, Dairy Queen soft-serve cone maker (she perfected that little twirl on the top of the dipped cone), and math tutor.

She and her husband live happily in a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas, with their two beloved pets: a yappy Pomeranian and Denise’s elderly mother.  The first Jacquidon Carroll mystery, Nice Work, won the Dark Oak Mystery Novel contest.  Writing as Shalanna Collins, she has published several YA fantasy and urban fantasy novels.  (Her mysteries and mainstream-literary books are under her mundane name of Denise Weeks, while the fantasy/YA is by Shalanna Collins.)

You can find more about Denise on her social media sites.  Visit:
http://deniseweeks.blogspot.com/  (general official blog) or
http://shalanna.livejournal.com/      (Shalanna’s more informal journal)
Her Amazon author pages:
Links to all her books (Shalanna Collins and Denise Weeks):

Denise’s (and Shalanna’s) books are available from Amazon and other retail and online booksellers.

Now that (Flip Wilson’s) Geraldine has gone to Heaven, the Devil tempts ME instead.  Once again, I’m going to play Devil’s advocate (although I am unsure whether he needs another!) and tweak everyone’s noses a bit.

Very often, readers will say, “That author’s books are no longer good.  He’s just phoning it in.  Or he has co-authors who are writing from his outlines.  He’s in it for the money!”

I don’t know whether I believe this, because I think most writers love the process of writing, and I also know that authors are not the best judges of their own work.  Perhaps with a perceptive editor, that famous author could get his books back on track.  But everyone’s afraid to edit him!  (LOL)  I always feel upset for the author just in case he HAS lost his way; it feels awful to know that you have a talent but you are misusing or have misplaced it.

But maybe an amateur is in this game for more lofty reasons.  An amateur by definition does something for the love of it.  In my experience, any artist who is not acting out of a passion for the work doesn’t produce meaningful work.  If when you write you aren’t writing for yourself (because you couldn’t find the books you wanted to read, so you wrote them) and also with your readers in mind, you will have a collection of pages, but not a book born out of creative drive and a passion for the story.  It becomes a chore, and ultimately the work itself suffers because you haven’t put enough of yourself into it.  Novels that don’t seem to speak and are just there as fluff–I don’t see the point, aside from entertainment that doesn’t fulfill its purpose.  That’s just my opinion, of course.

My belief has always been that art is supposed to motivate us toward higher ground and model “right action” for your life (even if the author or director does this through an antihero, showing her mistakes and their consequences).  My work generally asks the questions, “What is right action?  How should we live?  How can we live morally in a world that has lost its moral compass?”  (But not asked straight out!)

A mystery is at heart like the old morality plays of the Medieval church.  It shows that justice will be done, and exposes the trouble that someone can get into when he gives in to temptation or acts rashly in his own self-interest.  In a mystery, the reader is shown a crime being solved and the perp caught and (presumably) punished, and thus the imbalance (of the murder) goes away and balance is restored.  All’s right with the world.  At least until the next installment of the series!

For mystery lovers, Murder by the Marfa Lights is the first book in the Ariadne and Zoe French series.  Marfa, Texas, is an artist’s colony town where the film Giant was made in the fifties, but it’s mostly famous for the Marfa Mystery Lights.  Ari French gets a phone call informing her that her (ex-?  Or just AWOL?) fiance has died in Marfa and has left her everything.  She goes to the West Texas town to find some answers (including why Aaron hadn’t sent for her once he’d found their ideal retreat, as he’d promised when he left almost a year ago) and finds the circumstances of Aaron’s death suspicious.

Aaron had developed a new encryption scheme that is claimed to be three times faster than the one commonly used across the ‘net, and it seems that several bidders were on the hook for the rights.  Could Aaron have been murdered for the algorithm?  It turns out that to ask that question can be very dangerous.

Murder by the Marfa LightsBut this book is more philosophical than some, and I tell readers this because I don’t like to disappoint.  Thus, don’t expect a rollercoaster or parachute ride . . . this is more of a “dark ride,” like the old Spelunker’s Cave at Six Flags used to be–blind turns, murky atmosphere, weird visions, a sudden lightning/thunder storm, rolling in a barrel, insights coming out of strangeness.  We’re definitely in the character-driven realm. And the setting is exotic enough to lure you in, let alone the possible paranormal aspect (which is up to the reader to resolve–is it paranormal activity or not?)

If you’re a fan of Diane Mott Davidson, Jerrilyn Farmer, Donna Andrews, Judith Van Gieson, Gillian Roberts, and other stylists similar to these writers, you’re probably in my target audience.  Vince Flynn and James Patterson fans could be sorely tempted to throw this one across the room.  LOL!  To each his own.

Murder by the Marfa Lights is $1.99 for the Kindle and is on sale for around $10 in trade paper at Amazon right now.

Just so you know, my other mystery series was kicked off by winning the Oak Tree Press 2011 contest with Nice Work, the first Jacquidon Carroll mystery.  It is much lighter-hearted and less dark than the Ari series, even though it does deal with the BDSM community and a group of very angry people.  (No explicit sex, though–it’s all played for laughs.)  That one is still fairly recent and is now available on the Kindle as well as in trade paper (on sale at Amazon for around $12).  Okay, plug over.

But back to my original assertion:  fiction, even when it’s fluff, needs to leave readers with some message or insight, some piece of knowledge that they didn’t have before (even if it’s only about a setting), or something that makes them feel it was worthwhile to spend that time reading it.  Otherwise, they can feel cheated.  It’s awful to finish a book and ask, “What was that all about?  It was pointless.”  Whether the theme is “love conquers all” or “crime does not pay,” a novel needs to deliver.  In the realm of YA fantasy/adventure (which Shalanna writes), there’s the added need to invoke a sense of wonder in the reader and take him or her into your world of magic and the essential truths.  It’s a tall order, I’ll admit.

I hope you’ll feel that my work delivers.  Happy reading!

Cover Reveal: The Picture of Dulce Garcia by Alana Albertson

The Picture of Dulce Garcia (The Coven #1)
by Alana Albertson

Release Date: Fall 2013
Summary from Goodreads:

Dulce Garcia, star of The Coven, would rather spend her days sketching dresses. Instead, she works to
support her family and dreams of one day becoming a fashion designer. After Teen Vogue declares Dulce,
“The Hottest Teen in America,” she is stunned by how amazing she looks in their photo.


At sixteen, Dulce feels the pressure to stay youthful in Hollywood. When Dulce’s prop Book of Shadows
gets destroyed, she substitutes her favorite Victorian Anthology, opened to Wilde’s The Picture of
Dorian Gray, and says her spell during the shoot over the anthology. Afterwards, in her trailer, she
discovers that she has transformed into her Teen Vogue picture, and her  real body is completely
airbrushed. Can she break the curse or will she remain locked forever in a picture?

Finalist—Young Adult Category of the 2011 RWA Stiletto Contest!
Finalist—Young Adult Category of the 2011 RWA Launching A Star Contest!
Finalist—Young Adult Category of the 2011 RWA Heart of the Rockies Contest!
About the Author

Alana Albertson is the former President of both Romance Writers of Americas’s Young Adult
and Chick Lit chapters and the founder of Academe Advantage, a college admissions & test
preparation company. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University
and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering professional ballroom
dancer, Alana currently writes contemporary romance and young adult fiction. She lives in San
Diego, California, with her husband, two young sons, and four dogs. When she’s not spending
her time needlepointing, dancing, or saving dogs from high kill shelters through Pugs N Roses,
the rescue she founded, she can be found watching episodes of House Hunters, Homeland, or
Dallas CowboysCheerleaders: Making the Team.

***Author Links***
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