Friday, November 27, 2015

Mark Koopmans' REVIVAL Blog Tour

I'm so excited to be today's stop on Mark's REVIVAL tour. If you've been around the writing blogosphere, you know Mark is a fantastic guy--plus, I was lucky enough to read an early version of his manuscript. Loved its humor and heart!

And I'm even MORE excited because Mark's giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how he connected with Donald Braswell about writing Donald's story. But first...


Title: REVIVAL - The Donald Braswell Story Subtitle: How a Tenor Lost his Voice, but Found his Calling 
Authors: Donald Braswell with Mark Koopmans 
Length: 236 pages 
Synopsis: Five years removed from his 1990 Juilliard graduation, Donald Braswell is set to be “the next Pavarotti.” Braswell’s successful career ends, however, not with a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall, but alone, lying in a dirty ditch. 

Following the hit-and-run accident that steals his voice and future, the “Texas Tenor” struggles with depression and despair—until the night his daughter, Aria, is born.

Understanding this new and immediate life change, Braswell fights to relearn how to speak, sing—and share this gift of second chances with others. 

Working as a plasterer, a car salesman, and many jobs in-between, it takes thirteen years—and a musical miracle—for Braswell to battle back and sing on a professional stage. His dreams and ambitions collide with a tired and angry crowd when he auditions for America’s Got Talent. For his family, his faith and his entire future, can the Rocky Balboa of the operatic world find the courage and strength to win just one more fight? 


Take it away, Mark.


Happy post-Thanksgiving Day, and best wishes to anyone who’s reading this after surviving the Black Friday shopping day crowds (It’s madness, I say, madness!!)

Special thanks to Nicole for the invitation today, and she’s curious to know how I convinced Donald to “sign off” on me writing REVIVAL.

When I initially realized Donald’s story was way more than a simple feature I was writing for the newspaper, the first thing I did was to take a step back.

I scribbled a simple outline to get my initial thoughts down on paper (sometimes when I talk with others—especially when I have an exciting idea—my mouth (sadly) works way faster than my poor, little brain.)

Once the outline was in place, I pitched the idea to Donald in a phone call, and he agreed to meet for a coffee in a local mall.

In the meantime, I wrote up a business plan, printed it, and built a tabbed folder for him to look through the day we met.

Our meeting lasted about an hour (and I had my then-baby boy with me, which looking back is really funny… talk about making a lasting first impression! Donald, however, is the proud parent to three girls, so the addition of the stroller didn’t faze him a bit.)

The only other thing I brought with me to that initial meeting was a passion and sincerity that if Donald would trust me—and be a little patient—I would do my very best to share his inspirational journey with the world.

Donald agreed… and as I said elsewhere, the rest is his story…

Wow, great backstory, Mark! Thanks so much for sharing.

Mark Koopmans is originally from Ireland. After working in Holland, Spain, France and England, he won his U.S. “Green Card” in 1994, and is an American by choice since 2003. Koopmans began his writing career with a feature for a regional magazine in California. Since then, he’s worked as a staff writer for newspapers in Florida and Texas. Koopmans is also a proficient blogger and is working on his next book, a novel. Koopmans lives in Virginia and is a married, stay-at-home dad to three active boys under the age of nine. He writes at night. 

Donald Braswell II is an American actor, classical crossover tenor and composer. Braswell was on a fast track to become an internationally acclaimed opera singer when he suffered a car accident in 1995 that made him unable to speak for almost two years. After that, he lived a quiet life outside of the spotlight until his appearance on the 2008 season of America’s Got Talent where he was a Top 5 finalist, which gave him another chance at a career in entertainment. Since then, he has entertained audiences both internationally as well as shore to shore in the United States in concerts, television appearances, inspirational speaking and radio. He boasts an international fan club with fans from over 25 countries. 

Braswell has reentered the world of music by singing in concerts starting with the Symphony of the Hills in Kerrville, Texas in June 2009. He performs a variety of musical genres ranging from pure classical repertoire to soul to mainstream pop. He engages people of many cultures by singing in various languages outside of English, including Spanish, Italian, Neapolitan, French and Russian. His concerts are generally multilingual, and he has performed pieces that are themselves in more than one
language. Some of these include: Mario Frangoulis bilingual version of “Nights in White Satin” (Italian title “Notte di luce”), originally by The Moody Blues; “The Prayer”; and Andrea Bocelli’s “Vivere” (English title “Dare to Live”). His other non-English repertoire includes Aqustin Lara’s “Rosa” (Spanish), Mario Frangoulis’s “VincerĂ², perderĂ²” (Italian) and the Neapolitan standard “O sole mio”. Some of his many compositions can be heard on his recent album We Fall and We Rise Again. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNo Writing Resources

It's that time of year again. Writer's are sharpening pens, pencils and typing skills, and carving out precious hours around, oh, 2:30 a.m. All to crank out those beautiful, wondrous things called novels!

For those of you tackling NaNo, here are a few resources to help:

  • Janice Hardy's Fiction University - Insights on everything from worldbuilding, to plotting, to characters. Check the tags in the site's lefthand column to navigate to the areas where you most want to focus.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cinderella's Ball Was A Sting: Redux

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Happy Halloween Week!! You deserve a treat...with pumpkins!

Here's a reposting of my "Twisted Fairytales" blogfest submission from a few years back, in which I decide to mess with the classic Cinderella. Goodbye mild-mannered housemaid, hello smart suave undercover agent.


What if Cinderella's Ball was a sting operation?

In a cramped, nondescript office in mid-town, a screen flashed the pictures of two women. Below them, in thin black font, scrolled a warning: The Stepsisters – Wanted on Theft and Trafficking Charges.

The room’s door burst open, and a pixie blonde in a dark suit strode in carrying a mop. “We got ‘em, Gus.” She tugged the hidden recording device from the mop’s handle and slapped it on the table in front of the wiry man monitoring the screens. “Ten years of sweeping floors and crawling through dusty air vents finally paid off. This is the evidence we needed.”

“I don’t know, Elle. The Sisters are big names around here. Even with that tape you got, it’ll never stick. What we really need is a chance to catch them in the act.”

“We have it.” Elle tapped the website she’d brought up on Gus’ computer. “Here.”

“The Royal ball? Naw, too risky. The Prince is just an unwitting fall guy in the Sisters’ latest con. We can’t let this bounce back on him.”

“What if we had someone on the inside? I lifted an invite from the Sisters’ mailbox today. All ladies of the house, it said. And I’m a lady.”

Gus chortled.

Elle ignored him. “We’ll set Jacques up as a potential buyer and get it on record. I know their weaknesses, and I’m telling you, we can nail them. Let me run the op.”

Gus nodded thoughtfully. “Write it up. We’ll move tonight.”

* * * * *

Three hours later, the unit’s make-up team had lengthened her pixie cut into the long tresses she wore undercover. This time, no dirt dulled their edges. The full skirt of her robin’s-egg dress disguised a wire and several guns. Oil-resistant elbow length gloves, compliments of Gus’ gadget collection, would mask any fingerprints in places she didn’t want to leave them. Gus handed her a pair of shoes, and she shot him a quizzical look. “These are glass.” In fact, they were exquisite.

“It’s my latest camera design. We see what you see.”

“Can’t you just give me a button?”

“The shoes let me watch everywhere at once, even behind you while your back is turned.”

She examined the pair. None of the electronics were visible to the naked eye. “Nice.”

* * * * *

Without the subtleties of the sting, the ball would have been utterly boring. Elle danced with a number of very eager, very vapid men before the Sisters made their appearance. “Finally,” she muttered when she spotted them on the verandah. She politely stepped away from her date. “Jacques, they’re moving toward you now. Let me know if you need me to intercept.”

The ear pieces kept her in touch with Jacques, in position in the curtained balcony where they’d arranged for the meet to go down, and with Gus, in the tech van.

“We’re set here,” Jacques said. “I can see them on approach. Gus, you getting this?”

“Affirmative. We’re rolling.”

“Hey, Elle.” Jacques again. “The Prince is wandering a little too close to our op zone here in the balcony. Can you steer him away?”

“Moving now.” She caught sight of the Prince’s royal suitcoat through the crowds and headed toward it. He was already halfway up the main stairs. “Excuse me.” She touched his elbow, making her voice coy. “Aren’t you the Prince?”

A couple eyelash bats, and he was hers. She steered him back to the main ballroom and kept him there for three songs while Jacques made the deal with the Sisters. Compared to the others, the Prince was a decent dancer. He kept up a steady stream of interested conversation, and she almost felt bad that her attention was on the voices in her ear instead.

She carefully angled their latest waltz turn to get a better view of the balcony. It was empty. Too late, she realized the Sisters were heading back to the main floor. Close enough to spot her. She spun away from the Prince and whispered, “Guys, we’re blown. We’ve got the evidence. Get out now. I’ll ditch the Prince and meet Jacques at the car.”

“We still need eyes on that building, Elle. If anyone walks out with the artwork Jacques fronted—”

“On it.” She turned back and threw a hurried curtsey in the Prince’s direction. “I’m so very sorry. I must go.”

“Wait” He stepped after her. “I simply must know who you are!”

The Sisters were on the move. And Gus still needed eyes. Elle ran for the main entrance, weaving through the crowd and ignoring the Prince’s calls behind her. Just outside the entrance, at the top of the grand outside stairs, she smoothly stepped out of one glass slipper without losing pace. “Good enough vantage for you, Gus?”

“Perfect, I can see all the exit points. Now, get your ass back to the car.”

The car was a sleek silver beauty, all muscle and curves. It made get-aways a dream. The Stepsisters fired a couple shots in vain as she ducked in, and Jacques gunned it. Within minutes, she was back in the tech van with Gus, doing final op clean-up. And no one at the ball was the wiser. Elle shed the dress and undid her hair extensions.

“Check this out.” Gus’ voice called from the front of the van.

“What?” She hopped into the legs of her suit pants as Gus tapped the surveillance screen.

“Your Prince came out on the steps looking for you. He’s gonna get himself into trouble if he doesn’t stop sticking his nose around.”

Sure enough, there he stood, shadowed by Palace Security as usual.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Elle said. “I’ll handle this.” She climbed down from the van, skirted the next block to avoid drawing attention to their recon location and walked up to Palace Security, flashing her badge. “I’ll take it from here, pal.” She turned to address the Prince. “What seems to be the problem, sir?”

“There was a shoot-out on our steps. That woman I was dancing with…I think they kidnapped her.”

She barely stifled a snort, but no recognition flared in his eyes. That was good. Yeah, I look different out of a dress, don’t I, bub? “A shoot out, sir? That would be highly unusual on the palace steps, wouldn’t it?”

“Well, yes…but they were right there. A man and a woman fighting two others. And there was this car. Like a tricked-out silver car you see in movies.”

In the background, the clock struck midnight.

“Sir, I can assure you there were no shots fired. There was no car of that kind.”

“B-but, I saw it. It drove right there and slowed down. I’ll show you.”

Elle turned where his finger pointed and hid a smile. The curbside and the field beyond were empty now, of course. Jacques had taken the ride back to HQ. Only a few animals remained scrounging for food along the gutter.

“Those are mice, sir. They’re eating a pumpkin.”

Monday, October 12, 2015

What I Learned in a Week Without My Computer

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A few weeks ago, my computer had some issues. The kind where things won't stay open more than a few minutes and an ominous clicking starts about 20 minutes after each reboot.

Needless to say, I didn't get much writing done. Scratch that. I didn't get ANY writing done.

I'm diligent about backing everything up, so I wasn't concerned about that. But it WAS a challenge to get anything new out on page in between all the mini-crashes and restarts as I tried valiantly to salvage the system through fixes.

What I did discover were new ways to keep moving forward on my story, sans laptop.

  • You can get an amazing amount of things done on your phone, including voice texting yourself blog posts. (I did two!) And cleaning up that pesky Twitter feed.
  • The backlog of writing may melt your brain.
  • Mini tape-recorders are a God-send. I actually managed to "write" a couple thousand words via dictation. I typed them up once I got my new laptop.
  • Catch up on some quality reading time. In between all the reboots while trying to salvage my old laptop, I enjoyed a great read with Maria Dhavana Headley's MAGONIA. 
  • And, when all else fails and you're ready to chuck it out the window, go to bed early. Sometimes it's the best way for imagination to strike.

I'm back in action with a new laptop now. No more brain melting for me!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Touring the Senses...Again!

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Last year, I did a blog series on how using the five senses can improve your writing's power. People found it pretty helpful, so dust off your author passports - we're doing it again!

Follow the links below for your very own "Tour of the 5 Senses."

  • Using SIGHT in your writing
  • Using TOUCH in your writing
  • Using TASTE in your writing
  • Using SMELL in your writing
  • Using SOUND in your writing

Monday, September 14, 2015

Leaving Room for Spontaneity

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Imagine how boring and stressful our lives become when we don’t leave room around the edges for spontaneous fun or spur-of-the-moment decisions. The same holds true for characters.

While we know every moment of our book is plotted, readers should feel like our characters could spin off into random actions every once in a blue moon. Otherwise, the most beautifully twisty plots become semi-predictable and overburdened with tension. But how do we convey that spontaneity in a way that doesn’t seem contrived?

  • Let your characters do something totally different than the heart of the current plot (notice I didn’t say totally unrelated to the plot). If war is pending, have them race to the river on a dare, let them check the home-brews they’ve started on their space shuttles, or go dancing in the sky. It’s funny how often—in fiction and in real life—THESE are the moments that stick with us and carry the most poignant meaning.
  • Time of day can also be helpful. Early morning or late evening and night are great times for spontaneous walks, flights, swims, and reflection. It also provides a pause in the action so your character (and readers!) can catch a breath.
  • Have your character meet someone new or strike up a friendship with a previously distant co-character. The novelty and new set of dynamics between the two will help their actions feel spontaneous even in instances where it’s a little more scripted.

So, there you have it. A trio of ways to add spontaneity to your tightly plotted novel.

It’s also fun to track the spontaneous things you do in real life. Next time your friends ask you to get drinks, go fishing in the Amazon on a whim, or catch that flight to Iceland at the eleventh hour, start a list. You can use the ideas as inspiration.

Now, I’m off to do something wholly unplanned and adventurous!

Oh, and don't forget to catch up on all our reviews, author interviews and fandom posts over at Books. Fantasy. Fandom!

Monday, August 10, 2015