First a bit of background on our author’s:
Award winning, bestselling author of the paranormal novel, Shoe Marks, Karen Vance Hammond is proud to present her second novel, Secrets in the Shallows, the first in The Monastery Murders Series. Karen graduated from the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas with a double major in psychology and sociology.
She has lived in various states throughout the south; as well as in the New Jersey, New York City metropolitan area and Maine. Not only does Karen enjoy writing, but she was a soprano for the Shreveport Opera; and even had the pleasure of performing for President Bill Clinton and Sam Walton. Karen lives in Houston, Texas, where she enjoys spending time with her family and her dogs, Freckles and Patsy.
Kimberly Brouillette earned her B.S. in earth science/geology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and an M.A. in Biblical studies from Trinity Theological College & Seminary. She has been editor and contributing editor for numerous published books.
Kimberly works for a traditional publishing company, while working on other writing and editing projects. This includes the thrilling mystery trilogy, The Monastery Murders Series with Karen Vance Hammond. In addition to her literary pursuits, she is a skilled graphic designer with over 22 years of experience in creating book covers, creative designs, marketing campaigns and multimedia productions. Kimberly enjoys reading, writing, music, traveling and spending time with her loved ones.
Thank you for joining us at Scribbler’s today, Karen & Kimberly!
What brought you to the writing life ?
Kimberly: I actually have worked in marketing, advertising and publishing for over two decades combined and had to wear a lot of hats in the small companies I’ve worked at. Some of those hats included creative writing, copy writing and editing for everything from advertisements, brochures, web sites, magazines, books and other venues. However, I didn’t begin working on editing books for publishing until about ten years ago. Prior to that, everything had been for professional marketing and advertising services in business-to-business and retail industries. When our regional magazine publishing company began a separate book publishing division, I had the opportunity to begin editing a variety of books where I discovered both the challenges and rewards of working with authors and their manuscripts. Since then, I have edited approximately twenty-three books, and been contributing editor for a historical fiction book, Abram’s Journey: Quest for the Man in the Stars, by Pamilla S. Tolen. A couple of years ago, Karen asked me to collaborate with her on her project, The Monastery Murders. Almost immediately, we began working together, and actually expanded her original vision into a trilogy instead of limiting it to only one book. Our new paranormal murder mystery, Secrets the Shallows is the first of a trilogy which is full of many surprises, and is solid mix of mystery, suspense, horror and romance. I have enjoyed working with Karen on this project, and it has been a very rewarding experience. I’m excited to say that we have years of projects planned out already. I can’t wait to see how this amazing journey turns out!
Karen: I never actually thought about writing until I met Jennifer Stone and she told me about her personal experiences at the “Horton House.” Jennifer is the eldest daughter of a family who lived in an allegedly haunted home in Texas. My first book, Shoe Marks, is based on the paranormal experiences that the family had there. When I started the writing Shoe Marks I reaized not only did I thoroughly enjoy the craft and the art of writing, but I had found a true passion. I couldn’t put down my pen, so to speak. Writing Secrets in the Shallows with Kimberly has been a blast! To date, I have written three novels, of which two are out on the market so far. The other one will be released after the initial trilogy has been completed. The story is a spin-off from The Monastery Murder Series. It’s exciting to have all of these storiesbecoming a reality.
Karen, I understand you came up with the inistial story idea. What was your inspiration?
When I was living in the state of Maine, I had the most horrific, spine-chilling nightmare in my life. It was so bad that the nightmare stayed with me for years. In my dream, there was an unidentified Nun chasing me. Screaming for my life, I tripped between two evergreen trees by the monastery pond. Getting to my feet, I shielded my face with my hands. Dripping with fresh blood, the Nun raised the bloody ax over my head, but before the sharp blade made contact, I woke up. I was meant to have that dream and to put it to good use. Parts of my dream are on the prologue. I’m sure many novels are inspired by dreams, and Secrets in the Shallows happens to be one of them.
Can you tell us a bit about what Secrets in the Shallows is about?
Kimberly: Secrets in the Shallow is a paranormal murder mystery and the first of the Monastery Murders trilogy. This series combines a solid mix of mystery, suspense, horror and romance. I will warn everyone that there is quite the cliffhanger at the end of both the first and second books, so reaader’s prepare yourselves! Below is a blurb to entice all readers who love a great paranormal murder mystery.
“A deadly storm is brewing over the sleepy little town of Wattsville, Maine. Mystery and intrigue creep into the village like a fetid fog blown by an ill wind. The untimely deaths of two young men shake the quiet peace of the small community, and threaten to destroy the life of a revered religious leader. The spirits of those slain cry out for justice from their graves, while restless ghosts walk the hallways and grounds of the old monastery; silent victims of the horrors that took place by the pond.
Faith, forensics, and falsehood mix together to thicken the plot of this elaborate murder mystery. John Smith, the ambitious district attorney, along with his fiancee, Katy Warsaw, team up with forensic pathologist Dr. Peter Balkan and Sheriff Carl Johnson as they seek to solve the shocking murders. The twists and turns of the case will lead the team into the darkest heart of evil, and the mind of a serial killer. Follow the determined team of investigators, as they pit science and religion in a battle for the truth. Haunted by ghosts and stalked by a killer, will the team become victims themselves, or will they discover the ‘Secrets in the Shallows’?”
How did the two of you meet and come together to collaborate on this story?
Kimberly: Karen and I have known each other on Facebook for a number of years, but two years ago Karen asked me to collaborate with her on a story she had written based on a dream she had, called The Monastery Murders. As we worked on the project it grew into a story to large to be contained in one book and we realized we had a trilogy in the making. Together we enhanced Karen’s original story and expanded it to include many new characters and a complicated weave of sub- storylines always adding more mysterious rabbit trails to the origianl draft for book 1.
Karen and I have worked so well together over the past two years, we now have plans to write several more books together. We are currently working on Devil in the Details, The Monastery Murders (Book 2). I am excited to see how well this entire series comes together in the end.
Karen: As Karen mentioned, I met Kimberly on Facebook and knew after only a few conversations how much we had in common. Both of us are paranormal investigators and writers. Befriending her was one of the best things that has happened to me.
Karen, with you living in Houston and Kimberly living in North Carolina, share how you wrote this novel together? How does the writing process work with a 1000 miles between you and what advice would you give to those who are thinking about collaborating on a novel?
Kimberly: I have been surprised how easy it has been to work with Karen, even though we are half a country apart. We have spent countless hours on the phone and Skype, plus we have sent hundreds of emails back and forth while working on Secrets of the Shallows. In order to maintain organization, we each have our own responsibilities. I typically direct the action that will take place in the chapters and write an outline to go by. We then each work on the new segments, passing the story back and forth until we are both completely happy with it. After we finish the first draft we each go back through and re-read it to spot any inconsistencies plot holes, as well as correcting grammar, punctuation and typo errors. It’s an effective process that seems to work pretty well for us.
Karen: Co-authoring Secrets in the Shallows has been challenging and time consuming, but most rewarding. I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent on the phone with Kimberly swapping idea, brainstorming (that’s the fun part!), not to mention all the emails that went back and forth, too many to count. I can tell all who are considering collaborating on a novel with someone; the main ingredient necessary is to have an open mind. Think outside the box! After all, it’s not just your work; it’s the other person’s too. As Kimberly said, we worked on our own aspects of the story, weaving our styles together until the frist draft was completed. Changes were reveiwed by both us after discussing the what and why of the change always making sure we were always on the same page.
Karen, having dyslexia and other disabilities has this been a challenge for you?
Yes, it has, but I have continued to work through my challenges so I can succeed at my dreams. When Kimberly and I got together to collaborate, I asked her, “Have you ever worked with someone who has dyslexia, reading and learning disabilities?” She said, “No.” I told her, “Well, I am going to give you a run for your money.” I am fortunate in Kimberly is not only a gifted writer, she is an outstanding editor.
How did it feel when Secrets the Shallows not only made the top 100 on Amazon but has stayed there.
Kimberly: I am very excited to see how well Secrets the Shallows has been received. It has managed to climb up to #36 at one point in the Amazon “Top 100 E-book” ranks on one occasion, and other ranks in the same list since then. It is a huge affirmation to us for 18 months of effort on both our parts. It’s also very rewarding to have so many people tell us how much they enjoy our book.
Karen: I still have to pinch myself to make sure this is real and I am not dreaming.
Kimberly, I noticed that you are credited with the cover design of Secrets the Shallows. What gave you the inspiration for the cover? Have you designed other book covers also?
When I began collaborating with Karen on Secrets in the Shallows, I felt that I had a vision for what the cover should look like. I wanted something that was very eye-catching and would draw people into reading our book. One primary aspect I was inspired by was a large, white monastery located in Russia. I used that particular monastery due to its striking design and huge, white walls. Since snow was a significant factor in this story, the white walls helped reinforce that visual dynamic. In addition, the background image of trees on the back cover reminded me of the many murder victims whose last moments would have been staring up at a similar tree image. The high contrast of the whites, blacks, dark blue-grays and deep reds are effective in creating a creepy, yet enticing book cover. We have had many compliments on our book cover design. The only thing I’m concerned about is coming up with book covers that are just as perfect for the sequel books in the trilogy and look like they all go together. I don’t try to focus on that too much until I need to, because I always say that the inspiration will come at the right time.
Can we have an excerpt from Secrets in the Shallows?
The best preview for Secrets in the Shallows is the prologue. We have been told it reminds people of a Stephen King movie with regard to how it opens up. We hope you enjoy it.
Dense fog blanketed the canopy of autumn trees arrayed in a myriad of yellows, oranges and reds. In the distance, ghostly wails from a foghorn resounded throughout the valley. Its melancholy sound sliced through the silent evening air as its vibrations crept up the lighthouse spiral staircase. In the lantern room at the top, the Fresnel stood sentinel, rotating endlessly, and casting its beam of light out onto the water. Anchored in the bay below, lobster boats gently rocked back and forth in the surf while the ominous storm clouds encroach upon them.
A large black crow landed on the shoulder of a marble statue of the blessed Mother Mary standing watch over the monastery lawn. Dangling from the sacred maternal hands, a long strand of rosary beads swung back and forth in the coming storm’s steady breeze. Loud cawing emanated from the black beak, as the bird spread its wings and flapped them vigorously. The feathered hunter took only a moment to study its surroundings before flying away to find safe haven from the storm.
Rumblings of thunder filled the air as several streaks of lightning clashed with the ocean in the distance. Light winds began to swell and howl while passing by the beautifully arched monastery windows. Raindrops steadily tapped on the colored panes of glass, echoing throughout the corridors as the storm began its descent upon the campus.
Suddenly, another loud booming noise erupted as the monastery door was thrust open by a nun frantically fleeing from the entrance. Dressed in a dark burgundy habit, she ran down the front steps flailing her arms and screaming, “NO! Stay away from me!”
Only seconds behind, a taller nun in a black habit clutched a short-handled battle ax with gloved hands while chasing after the escaping sister. The dark figure slipped on the wet grass while scurrying after the nun as she fled. Regaining her footing, the nun in black continued to pursue the fleeing prey as rain began to come down in torrents.
The frantic woman ran for her life into the woods as her screams for help disappeared into the wind like smoke on a winter gale. Her burgundy habit flared out behind her as she tried to escape. Evergreen branches slapped her face and scratched her arms as she tried to elude her pursuer. The nun’s only goal was to find a safe place to hide.
As the terrorized woman ran through the woods, a low-lying branch caught her headpiece, exposing her long, beautiful blonde hair, now being drenched in rainwater. Looking back through the blinding sheets of rain, she was lost in a sea of branches and tree trunks.
Turning to run again, she immediately slammed into her stalker. Tears burst from her blue eyes as a look of absolute terror and recognition came upon her. “Why are you doing this?! What have I have done to deserve this?”
The dark nun mocked, “What have you done to deserve this?! You really don’t know?” Peering into her eyes with disgust, the ghastly nun grabbed her arm so hard that she could feel the nails claw into her skin.
Desperate to get away, the smaller nun tried to wrench her arm free, but could not escape from the dark nun’s grasp. “Please, let me go! You know I love you as if you are family.”
Immediately, the assailant vehemently ordered, “On your knees, Sister.”
Panicking, the frightened woman emphatically pleaded, “NO! Don’t do this!” Falling to her knees with her palms pressed together in front of her, she begged, “Don’t hurt me! Please!”
Without hesitation, a gloved hand brutally slapped the nun’s cheek. “Why not? I have suffered silently for years due to your mistakes. You will never comprehend how much pain you have caused me.”
Mud covered the side of her face as the nun fell. Her long blond hair splayed onto the wet ground. Frantically attempting to get up, the final thing the frightened nun saw was a sharpened battle ax blade swinging toward her.
The look of complete surprise was locked on her face as her head landed on the ground. Her wide-opened eyes blinked twice as her mouth voiced a silent protest. Her lifeless body slumped in the mud and landed beside it. Deep red blood spilled out from her severed neck into rain puddles all around her.
Deliberately, the murderer trudged through the mud to where the nun’s habit hung loosely on the branch of a gnarled old tree. Lifting it up in the rain, the killer inspected the headpiece for any tears before shoving it into a large pocket. Still holding the bloodied ax, the murderer turned to look at the victim one last time, then slipped silently through the trees and faded away into the shadows.
* * * *
Somewhere in the dark of night, restless eyes twitched erratically beneath their slumbering lids. An eerie moan slipped between the chapped lips of its confinement. In the dreamer’s mind, a rising wail of anguish rose to join with a booming clap of thunder. Violently, the figure bolted from bed as a white flash of lightening drove the shadows from the room and momentarily blinded the once-sleeping eyes.
What up next for you and Karen?
Kimberly: Currently, we are working on the second book for The Monastery Murders Series, called Devil in the Details. The third book in the series is being planned out now, but has yet to be titled. Later on, look for a spin-off book, called Identity. Karen is also writing a few other stories. In addition to the books we are working on, I am also editing two other books at this time for other authors, as well as working on a horror movie screenplay with my fiance, Chris Matheny. Chris and I have been doing preliminary brainstorming sessions on about four other movie screenplays too. I imagine I have at least four years worth of projects already in the works at this time. So much to do; so little time.
What adivce do you have for the aspiring writer?
Kimberly: Be original. Don’t just rehash the same old stories that others have written. Look for inspiration everywhere. Reach deep inside your imagination and don’t hold back. Don’t write your story as if you’re looking at from the outsie in. Determine what the characters are seeing, hearing, doing, feeling, thinking and saying? Don’t just limit the story to their actions. It gets rather redundant to say ‘he did this’ and ‘she did that.’ Write your scenes to life so readers will feel as if they are there. Write to entice your readers.
My final recomendation; use a professional editor.
Karen: Never, ever, give up. I almost did, and I’m glad I didn’t. If you are going to write the most important thing is to be true to yourself. Second; never edit your own work. You’re too close to your ‘baby,’ and more often than not are not able to catch what a good professional editors can see.
To keep up with Karen and Kimberly: