Writerly Wednesday Welcomes Karen McCullough

Writerly Wednesday Welcomes Karen McCullough.

Karen has not been feeling well, so lets wish good health on her.

Interview Questions and Answers ..
1.            What is your favorite marketing task that has resulted in a sale?


A. Writing blog posts and doing interviews.  But honestly, I think the best marketing of all is to write good books and then write more good books.  I hope I write good books—they’ve gotten good reviews and some editors have loved them, but I know I’m not perfect.  I do try to make each book the best I can, and I have them vetted by my critique partner and beta readers before I send them out into the world.
2.            What do you like about your publisher or why did you decide to Self Publish?


A. I’ve worked with a number of publishers over the years, and it’s been a very good experience with all but one so far.  My most recent publishers have been Five Star/Gale Group and Harlequin Worldwide Mystery/Worldwide Library for A GIFT FOR MURDER.  I have a great editor at Five Star and they treated me well.

Most of the books I’m self-publishing are backlist titles that have been out of print for quite a while. Some of them are so old I had to scan in the books because I no longer have electronic versions of the manuscripts.  Not a problem, though. They needed extensive updating to bring them up to date since they were written in the 1980s!  I still have a couple more backlist books to put up yet.

I’m also self-publishing an original paranormal romantic suspense novel that was epublished only very briefly under another title.  It’s a book that has collected a huge portfolio of nice rejections and kind words from my critique partners, but never found the right home. The new title is THE WIZARD’S SHIELD.  It should be up about the end of January.
3.            What do you have under your bed?


A. Dust bunnies and a baseball bat to fight of potential intruders.  No, I’m not kidding.

But I suspect you’re asking about the first awful novel I wrote that should never see the light of day, something most authors have in their background somewhere.  I definitely have one of those, but it’s in a box in the attic rather than under the bed.  It’s bad. Really bad. And when I find it again, the manuscript will be going right into the recycle bin.  I had an interesting concept, but no idea how to write a proper novel at the time, so the pacing is off, characterization thin, wording awkward, and the whole plot as presented doesn’t bear close examination.

The second novel I ever wrote was A QUESTION OF FIRE and it did eventually get published but only after I completely rewrote it several times.  (And only after I’d written three more novels that didn’t—and won’t—get published either.)  In fact A QUESTION OF FIRE has been published several times.  The first time was in 1999, and after it went out of print, I got back the rights. Those were picked up by an epublisher, who promptly went out of business.  They were picked up by another small press publisher, who also went out of business.  I finally decided to publish it myself as an ebook.  I still have some paperback copies left because I bought out the remaining stock from the small press publisher that went out of business.  (I’m hoping I don’t go out of business – this book appears to be something of a jinx, though the rewritten and rewritten again version is definitely one of the best books I’ve ever written.)
4.            Are you a plotter or a pantser when you are writing?


A. A pantser with some plotter tendencies.  When I start a novel, I usually have an idea of what the overall problem is, who the main characters are (in a very superficial way), the opening scenes, and a vague notion of how it should end.  I generally write the first few chapters in a rush, which helps set the scene for me and lets me get to know the characters, but somewhere around the end of chapter three or four, I hit a wall.  That’s when I sit down with a pen and a notebook and begin to plot. I jot down ideas for events, scenes, bits of dialogue, twists, turns, and some just off-the-wall things that might happen during the story.  Once I have 20-25 ideas noted, I begin to arrange them in the most likely order for them to happen.  Somewhere in that process, the plot begins to take shape and I can start to outline the next chapter and the one after that.  For the rest of the book, I do a sort of rolling outline.  I know what happens in the next chapter or two beyond where I am, but that’s as far as it goes until I get to close to the very end when it all starts to come together.



5.                  Do you write in a bubble or do you prefer critique groups, writing buddies or other companionship during the process?


A. Mostly I write in a bubble.  I do have a critique partner and a beta reader, but I generally don’t pass on anything until I’m satisfied that it’s as good as I can get it on my own.  I don’t listen to music while I write either, since I find it too distracting.
6.            When do ideas come to you and how do you capture them?


A. All the time!  It seems like I’m bombarded with ideas. Reading the newspaper, listening to the news, surfing the Internet all provide tons of ideas. So do music, books, conversations, just living life. Ideas are all around us. Capturing them is another issue.  I have a notebook where I write down interesting ideas, but in truth I don’t go back and read over it much. If the idea is important enough, it will lie dormant in the brain until I’m ready for it.

The germ of a book doesn’t come from just one idea, but usually when several ideas come together and ignite a spark in the creative area of my brain. I still mull it over for quite a while, sometimes dream about it, jot down notes, hold mental conversations with the characters, and just let it stew until I hit a point where I know I’m ready to write those opening chapters.
7.      What is your favorite word processing program and what other tools do you use, pen, notebooks, white board, index cards, finger on fogged bathroom mirrors?


A. I use Word.  I’m currently using Word 2007, but I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I’d used older versions of Word for so long that I knew how to do just about anything and everything with it, and finding the same functions in the new version makes me crazy.  I’ve been using the newer version for a couple of years and I’m still not really comfortable with it.  I also use a pen and notebooks for collecting ideas and material for the book, but most of the actual writing is done on the computer.



Karen McCullough

Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


Contact Info:


Email: karen@kmccullough.com

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough

Blurb for A Question of Fire:

A Question of Fire

When Catherine Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won’t enjoy it, but she doesn’t expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms. Nor did she anticipate she’d become the recipient of his last message about the location of evidence that would prove his brother innocent of murder. Now the killers are after her to get that information. She’ll need the help of attorney Peter Lowell, as well as the victim’s difficult, prickly younger brother and a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.
Buy links:



Another rustle shook the bushes, followed by a sudden, sharp crack which reverberated for a few seconds afterward.  Bobby groaned and collapsed, sagging against her.  The abrupt burden of his weight drove her to the ground, where she found herself half-crushed by the young man’s bulk.  She moved out from under him, a rush of adrenaline sharpening her senses until she heard, over Bobby’s ragged breathing, the squish of a footstep in the shrubbery and the churning of leaves and branches fading rapidly as the gunman retreated.

Cathy stood and started toward the brush to follow the noise, then changed her mind when a low groan from Bobby called her back.  He sprawled motionless on the ground where she’d pushed him when she stood.  The moonlight provided little illumination, but a new, large smudge stained the young man’s light shirt.  “Please.  Tell Lowell—”  He choked on the words.

Cathy found one of his hands and tried to tell him to be still, to be quiet, she’d get help.  His breathing was harsh, rattling, and difficult.

Bobby moved his head in a bare negative motion.  “Tell Lowell…”  He worked for a breath.  “God, please…”  He tried again.  “Danny…”  He paused and the hand she held clenched.  “In the air…”

Breath and strength deserted him at the same time.  The fingers clasping hers went slack and slid out of her grasp.

Cathy did scream then, yelling for help at the top of her voice, though she knew the man on the ground was beyond assistance.  She stood and ran back to the house.  People responding to her cry met her as she got to the bottom of the stairs, and she managed to choke out the words to explain that someone needed to call the police and an ambulance.

When a man said he’d make the calls, she went back to the site of the shooting, leading a knot of strangers.  The young man still sprawled, face up and unmoving, on the grass.  Cathy collapsed beside him.  She took his hand again and held it while they waited in the darkness.  She asked one of the people to find Peter Lowell and bring him.  She shivered as the breeze blew across her bare arms, but the tears sliding down her face burned.

Other people joined the group and several pressed questions on her.  She explained only that she’d met this person in the garden and he’d been shot by a sniper while they’d talked.  Someone brought a flashlight and, by its glow, they ascertained that the young man was indeed dead.  Cathy looked away after her first view of him.  Stripped of personality, the face told her what she’d already known: he’d been young.  The crowd was beginning to overwhelm her when she heard a voice she thought she recognized asking to be allowed through.

“Lowell?” she said.

A flashlight swung toward the newcomer, picking out a tall, slender man in a gray suit.  The beam glinted in his blond hair and reflected off the lenses of thick glasses.

“Yes,” he answered.  “What’s—?”  He stopped abruptly.  “God Almighty!”

The light had moved back to shine on Cathy.  She must look even worse than she knew.  She lifted a hand to him and saw it was red with blood; she let it fall back into her lap and shut her eyes against the glare.

“Turn that away!”  Lowell ordered the man with the torch.  “You wanted me?” he asked.

“He wanted you.”  She gestured toward the man on the ground.  “He was trying to get a message to you.”

“Who is it?”

“He said his name was Bobby.”

“Bobby?”  The name meant something to him.  Lowell went down on one knee beside the body.

“He’s dead,” Cathy warned.

“Dead!”  She heard his shock.  “Bobby?  Are you sure?”

“I’m not a doctor, but, yes, I’m sure.”

“Dead?  No.”  Pain sharpened Lowell’s voice to a thin wire of sound.  “Oh God, no.”  His hand moved to the dead man’s throat, felt for a pulse, then reached to smooth the hair.  “He was trying to get a message to me?”  He stopped and swallowed hard.  “Did he say what the message was?”

“Yes,” Cathy said.

“What—?”  The sharp blaze of a siren cut through the night and the chatter of the crowd.  Lowell surveyed the people gathered around them.  “Later,” he said, and Cathy nodded agreement.  The siren approached and swooped into the driveway, silenced abruptly as the police car reached the end of the driveway at the back of the house.  Blue lights swirled, reflecting off trees, grass and crowd, throwing crazy shadows over them all.  Another siren heralded the arrival of an ambulance seconds later.  People piled out of the vehicles, hauling lights, weapons, and medical equipment.
Buy links:


Contact Info:


Email: karen@kmccullough.com

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough

Thanks Karen for coming to visit and we all hope you feel better.

Next week Sonnet O’dell is in the Spotlight, Hot Seat, Center Stage…

By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.