Thursday, October 27, 2011


On Sunday I did a brief promo for Helena Soister's book The Compass Master, dibbed by one reviewer 'Like the DiVinci Code, only it doesn't need to resort to gimmicks'--High praise. I am super excited to read this book. If you want more on THAT, here is Sunday's blog

Now Helena is one of my buddies—I've known her nearly two years—I've loved reading her blog, and she is a fabulous generous soul. So TODAY, Helena is going to tell us about some of her Experiences (and I capitalized that on purpose—some of them are BIG), both with learning to be a super spy (seriously—look at the pics!) and with self publishing. (she had an ALMOST series of experiences with agent and publisher, and finally decided to go for it)

So without further ado, WELCOME HELENA!


First I’m giving a big hug to Hart for hosting me today.  It’s a thrill to be here.

Her Tartness asked me to talk about my Becoming Layla plan.  Layla Daltry, you see, is the heroine of my thriller The Compass Master, and she’s many things I’m not, such as under 30 (I’m so past 50), financially well-off (I’m so not), an antiquities hunter and scholar of ancient manuscripts who lives in a Dublin penthouse and has adventures in exotic places and… you get the picture.

Anyway, a couple years ago I had an agent who came this close to finding a publisher for my novel.  When that fell through I was very discouraged and planned to self-publish, then started rewriting my manuscript.  But I was also going crazy.  I found that I really needed to DO exciting things and not just write about Layla’s adventure.  For some of us writers there can be the temptation to live vicariously through our imaginations instead of being real.  So I thought, what about using my main character as a role model? Why not develop skills she has that I’ve always wanted but never pursued because daily life and lack of funds kept holding me back?

The thing is, most of us have done crazy and outrageous or daring action hero stuff. For myself, I’ve traveled around the world and have a bad habit of going to dangerous places like Bosnia, which is the setting for my first chapter.  I’m an epee fencer and used to fly trapeze.  But being an action hero is something else, and silly as it sounds I wanted to see if I could get closer to my character’s level. I also needed to confirm that what Layla does in the plot or during her life is realistic and not mere literary bull.

I tackled her toughest skill first – Parkour/ freerunning. It’s climbing jumping bouncing off walls flying leaping tumbles and OMG I was DEAD after each sadistic class in the course. I was also the only female and by far the oldest. But working out with teenaged and twenty-something guys showed me how to make realistic changes to Layla’s action scenes.  BONUS: one guy was a lock picking whiz who gave me great pointers.  I’m now picking away.

My WORST Layla experience was Aikido.  Years ago I studied taekwando, so I’m used to martial arts discipline.  But in my fifth beginner Aikido class an idiot black belt threw me to the floor and cracked five of my ribs and my left lung half collapsed.  Then the emergency room doctor failed to diagnose these injuries and I walked around for a week before another doctor freaked and sent me to a hospital.  The one bright element to this grim episode was my realizing how Layla should also sustain injuries, but because she’s on a desperate hunt she must keep going.  Talk about writing from experience.  I added this angle and love how it gives the story more tension and reality.

Ready... get set...
I did paragliding and skydiving (but only tandem so far).  Brushed up on French and some Arabic but have to get more serious about studying. (Layla is fluent in French, Latin, ancient Greek, and some Italian). I took billiards classes. Worked at stretching and strengthening my body. I’ve gotten pretty adept at wall climbing and bouldering, but haven’t yet climbed and rappelled off buildings. Still, I learned exactly how Layla could get into and out of places when everything is locked up, what her body is capable of, what techniques and tools she uses. That meant more tweaking to my story, and let me tell you, it felt good truly knowing what I was writing about.

Logically, my plan should end with my novel’s publication, but I want to keep it going. It makes me take on the kind of physical and mental challenges I ultimately want to do in real life and not only in novels. Then again, Layla can be too independent and self-reliant, and maybe that’s what I’ve been by choosing self-publishing. Anyway, The Compass Master is now out and I’m receiving very good feedback from readers, which means so much to me.

Here’s a shortened blurb for my book. The longer blurb is on the Amazon page for The Compass Master and here on Hart’s Sunday (10/23) piece.

As an antiquities hunter and scholar, Layla Daltry balances on the edge of the law and takes too many risks. Yet even she isn’t prepared for the unseen enemy who traps her in a deadly endgame and forces her to search for extraordinary lost biblical epistles. If she fails, the epistles will disappear forever and her life and those of people she loves may come to a swift end.

Thank you, Hart, for your support and naked enthusiasm. And happy writing to all you readers here today.

And Thank YOU, Helena! I really wish you a ton of luck with your book!

Now what are you all waiting for?! (this is a CHRISTMAS gift type of book... seriously—look how pretty it is)


Old Kitty said...

WOW! Helena Soister - action woman author extraordinaire! WOW! I'm so in super duper AWE! Wow!

Thanks lovely tart for a most NAKED guest blogger. Amazing woman!! Take care

Hart Johnson said...

I know, right? Jenny, it means we could do it, too!

Creepy Query Girl said...

OMG - how awesome is that? Actually going the extra mile and doing things that put you in your MC's shoes is so brilliant and I admire your courage! The books is no doubtedly much more accurate and realistic for it- talk about putting blood sweat and tears into it! Thanks so much for sharing your journey!

Unknown said...

Heavens!!! you are very committed to your craft my dear! And I thought brewing (and drinking a lot of) beer was tough. Great post. Can't wait to read the book.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

LOL - my husband would never allow me to try crazy stuff. (He's Mr. Safety and Regulation.) I did wander downtown Atlanta - that felt edgy at the time.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Broken ribs sounds painful. And even if I had the opportunity to venture into space, I think I'd pass.

Helena said...

Old Kitty - I am SO not amazing! But it's fun pretending to be.
Hart darling - Thank you again for this fantastic opportunity.
Creepy - Yes, there literally have been blood, sweat and tears. WHINE.
Liz - High praise from a beer and erotica wench. Of course your books are on my to-read list.
L. Diane - I work in downtown Denver, and that too can be edgy, so hang in there.
Alex - They were merely (OUCH!) cracked, but if you have a chance for outerspace, take it!

Hart Johnson said...

Thanks so much for coming in everyone. I've got this hysterical image in my head of Liz now committing to extra research for her erotica in this spirit *teehee*

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

This lady inspires me to be more active in my life.

Unknown said...

I am so proud of you. I often put my characters in situations I have never been in and I wonder what it would be like, would it be as realistic. I really should get out and try some these things.

Helena said...

Michael - I think I'm more crazy than inspiring, but thanks.
Clarissa - It's GREAT to try to new things! You'll have a blast.

Hart Johnson said...

Michael-it's true! She inspires me, too!

Clarissa-it's great, isn't it?

Helena-I think everyone inspiring has to be a little crazy--because it's hard to let go of the safety, but how inspiring is a safe, at home person!

Carol Kilgore said...

Now I know for sure ... I'm a complete slug.

Nancy said...

That sounds awesome. Sounds like a very poor black belt if they were unable to control power any better than that. Sorry that happened. I'm always trying to figure out how to put my life experiences in to enrich a story, hadn't thought about getting those experiences for a story. Although I did write down exactly how miserable I felt when I had the flu one time since I figured I could give it to a character at some point. Looking forward to reading your book.

Helena said...

Carol - You're not slug, especially if you're a writer. Writing is hard work!
Nancy - How smart to write down the details of a flu (okay, yucky too) because you really might use that someday. I hope you enjoy my book!
Hart - I can't thank you enough for letting me be a guest here. It's been a blast!

Anonymous said...

They are taking them out faster than the AK's with Moore and Baldwin!
And Cheney with SYNCHENE talks Oliver North and that means Watt- Olah- Wassermann.
Bunch of idiots all in" SS".
You do know the movie " Kansas Kings" is going to document all this?

Unknown said...

An amusing read! I enjoyed this. Very Cool. Bravo...BRAVOOO! : )

Unknown said...

Amazing. Fantastic interview....precisely what i needed to hear today. At the beginning, where you said you were going crazy....ugh me too. Stir crazy and it really is crazy to be jealous of your characters! Yikes, thank you. Time to plan adventures....

Helena said...

Carole - You are NOT a slug if you're a writer 'cause writing is hard.
Nancy - How clever of you to record details of your flu (and kinda yucky), because you really can use that with a character.
Michael - Thank youuuuu!
Sylvia - Yes, go for the adventure, because it's way better than going crazy! (But I'm still jealous of Layla...)