Win-A-Book-Wednesday: When His Dreams Take Flight by AndyHolloman

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EBookCover_workingfinalAndy Holloman is our sponsor and he’s giving away a free eBook copy of his new novel  When His Dreams Take Flight.

To enter this contest, leave a brief description of a common type of dream that you have and Andy will pick one entry as the winner.  The winning entry will be picked at random (keep your descriptions at the PG-13 level please).

Nick Townsend is a high school principal battling alcohol addiction. After falling off the wagon, he awakens the next morning remembering a dream that included him flying over an elementary school shooting, in progress.  The next day, the school shooting he saw in his dream is headline news.  When it happens again, he is determined to prevent the tragedy and solicits his best friend to help him save more children from certain death.

But what is the cost of saving lives?  Will he continue to risk his life when the woman he loves is carrying his child?  Can he win the battle against the demon tequila that threatens to wreck his world?  And, when he awakens one morning remembering another school shooting dream, can he stop the horrible event from happening at his school?

Connect with Andy at his website  or  Twitter 

 

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Friday Focus: When His Dreams Take Flight by Andy Holloman

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 EBookCover_workingfinalI – June 5, 2013

Before Nick opened his eyes, before the morning light struck the back of his retinas, pain throbbed through his frontal lobe and settled in his temples.  He massaged them for a minute then opened his right eye.  The bright sun burned and he rolled onto his side to avoid the light.  With both eyes closed, he pushed himself towards the edge of his bed and sat up.  The room spun and bile rose in his throat.  He lowered his head between his knees and spat on the floor while giving his temples another deep massage.  He stood up and put his hand on the wall for support.  He swayed towards the wall, spilling a cup, the contents spraying across his foot and the carpet underneath his bed.

He walked out of the room and down the hall, bracing himself with the wall until he reached the bathroom.  He splashed cold water in his face and ran his wet fingers through his hair.  More bile bubbled up in his throat so he cupped his hand under the cool stream, bent down, and drank.  When he came back up and looked in the mirror, his dream from the night before rushed back into his consciousness.  This time his school would be under attack.  His students, his staff.

Allison!

He hurried back to his room and grabbed his phone from the bedside table.  Eight-thirty.  Half-way through first period.  Get her out of there!   He punched Allison’s speed dial number on his phone.  Damn, voicemail.  “Allison, hey, it’s me.  Look, this is really important.  Don’t stop to talk to anyone, don’t drop by the office.  Just walk out the exit door beside your classroom.  Stay away from the front of the building!  The dream happened again, but this time at our school.  You’ve got to get yourself and the baby out.  Right now!”

As the principal, he had banned his teachers from having their own phones on during class time.  God, if only her phone was sitting on her desk, vibrating, lighting up, getting her attention.

He pulled on a pair of khakis and a white t-shirt.  Goddamn you Gene!  Just when I need you the most, you up and leave me.   He moved out of his bedroom and towards the door, pulling a baseball hat off a hanger.   The school was a ten minute jog from his apartment.   He stepped out the door, slamming it behind him, and started down the stairs.  Halfway down he paused, his face turned ashen.  He bent over the railing and vomited.  He spat out the remains and dialed the school’s number.

“James Thomas High School, how may I—“

“Jenny, its Nick.  I’m coming right now, I’m running out the door, but I need you to do something.  This is very important. Okay?”

“Sure Principal Nick, what is it?”

“Promise me that you’ll stay calm and that you will move fast when I say to.”

“Sure Nick, but you’re kinda scaring me.”

“Our school is going to be attacked.  There’s gonna be a shooter and—“

“A shooter?  Are you kidding?”

“This is no joke.  It’s the Laskins.  They’re coming and it’s going to be bad so I need you to pull the fire alarm in my office.  Move right now and get in there.  Break the glass and then pull down the switch.”

“You mean Timmie Laskin is going to shoot people?  What the heck are you talking about?  How do you know what—“

“Please just do what I say. It’s not Timmie, it’s—“

“Stick?”

“Yes.”  He stopped and pulled the phone away from his head and vomited again.

“Oh my God.  He’s coming through the front door right now.  He looks terrible and dirty.  But how did you know Stick was going to be here?”  Said Jenny.

“Never mind.  You’ve got to get out of there!  Go in my office, lock the door and then pull the fire switch.  Do it now!”

“He’s coming towards the office Nick!  Oh God, he’s got a gun out.   Mr. Laskin, what are you doing?  Please put that gun away.  I, I have to; you have to, Mr. Laskin!   No!   Please no!”   The line went dead.

“Jenny?  Jenny?  Are you there?”  He looked down at his phone’s screen.

Call Ended.

By Andy Holloman

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EXCERPT: Shades of Gray by Andy Holloman

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Shades of GrayJohn always drove her to school. The previous year, he had spent one morning a week reading to her class. Lucy adored school and John was proud to be there to watch her thrive. Her new teacher was Cindy Alston-Capps and John felt as if Lucy and he had hit the lottery. She was patient, funny, and a big hit with the children. They called her Mrs. A-C and she asked John to call her Cindy. He always found it disappointing to meet attractive women and then have them introduce themselves with a hyphenated last name.

“Daddy, will you read that Arthur book again?” Lucy called out from her car seat. “You know the one where he plays April Fools on his friend. Can you read that book when we get to school, Daddy?”

“I think it would better to try some new books this week, Lucy. I know it’s one of your favorites, but we can read it at home. I want you to try to read it again.”

“I can’t read those big words, Daddy.”

“I bet you can if you try. Remember how you read that Clifford book to me a few days ago?

“But you had to help me a lot.”

He smiled as he watched her in the rearview mirror. “That’s OK, honey. That’s how you learn. You’ve got to keep trying.”

He glanced back again and saw her twisting a rogue black curl with her finger. It was a common action in advance of a well thought out question.

“Daddy, can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Do you promise that you won’t get mad?”

John sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. “I won’t get mad, Lucy. You know that you can ask me anything.”

She looked at John and then down. “Did, umm, did my Mommy put a divorce on you?”

John winced. She asked questions about her mother regularly, but not this one. “Now that is a very interesting question. How do you know about divorce?”

She twisted the curl tighter. “Well, I kind of, you know, heard Mrs. A-C talking to one of the ladies that works in the cafeteria, and she said she was getting ‘super-rated’ and that she was putting a divorce on her husband.” She paused and looked back down. “Did my Mommy do that to you?”

John eased the car over to the curb and turned off the engine to discuss the matter. He turned around in his seat. “Well, in way, yes. But we don’t say ‘put a divorce’; we say that people ‘get divorced.’ And most of the time before people who are married decide to get divorced, they get separated. I think you called it ‘super-rated.’” He rolled his head around to relieve the tension in his neck. These questions about Ellen always gave him a headache.

She looked up at him and smiled. “So you and my Mommy got a divorce, right?”

“Yes, sugar. We decided that it would be better for both of us if we weren’t married any longer.”

Lucy turned to look out the window. A man and a boy Lucy’s age walked past them holding hands. The man carried a Spiderman book bag that looked much too large for the boy. Lucy looked back at John.

“I understand, Daddy. I’m just glad that you didn’t get a divorce on me like Mommy did to you.”

“Thanks, sweetie. You know that I love you more than anything else in the world and I will never leave you. You’re my sunshine, right?” John turned back to the steering wheel.

Lucy smiled and covered her face with her hands. “Yes, Daddy, I know. I’m your sunshine.”

“And, sweetie, parents don’t divorce their children.” He watched her in the rear view mirror. “Your Mommy loves you and wants you to be happy. She decided that she wanted to move away and do some other things for her work. She was very good at her work.”

“I know, Daddy, I know. You told me that before.”

I need a new topic, he thought. He pulled away from the curb and continued to their destination.

“Now I have a question for you. Tell me again what you heard Mrs. A-C say about getting divorced.”

“Well, I just heard her say that she was putting, I mean getting a divorce on her husband. Did I say it right?”

“Yes. And there’s something else to remember about this, Lucy.”compress_

“Yes, Daddy?”

“Grown-ups would call this thing that you heard Mrs. A-C say ‘private’ and you shouldn’t tell anyone about it. You remember what ‘private’ means, right?”

“Yes, Daddy. I won’t tell anyone else.”

“Good, sweetie.” John pulled his car into one of the visitor parking spaces.

“Here we are. Ready for a great day at school?”

“Yes. I love school and I love Mrs. A-C.”

“That’s good, sweetie. Mrs. A-C is a very nice lady.”

§ § § § § § §

The real life murder of a client drove travel agency executive Andy Holloman to pen his bestselling debut Shades of Gray, which has won multiple awards in the Thriller / Suspense and the American Drama categories. An Amazon top seller in Men’s Adventure, Shades of Gray enjoys a worldwide audience. Currently Andy is working on his second suspense novel.

 

Buy Shades of Gray at Amazon

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Focusing on Readers by Andy Holloman

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Andy Holloman

In the busy world that all of us writers/readers operate in, keeping one’s focus on THE ALMIGHTY READER is a struggle.  This is why I decided to focus this post on some things that I keep at the top of my priority list (mostly) when constructing a story for my readers.  For any writer, putting on the “reader” hat helps us focus.   (And boy do I need to remember that myself!)  So here goes:

1. Build a story that makes people want to turn the page

In the Amazon/Nook/Ibooks world of free or reduced-rate books, readers are much more likely to discard something that doesn’t make them want to turn the page.  Start with a slow moving passage – meh.  Build in a complex twist that confuses readers, bye-bye.

Instead, keep your reader wanting to move ahead with a concentrated focus on interesting plot points and pacing that drops in just enough clues/suspense/mystery/romance such that a reader is thinking “hmm, I wonder what is going to happen” or “OMG, I can’t believe what that person just did!”

2.  Make your characters interesting

Easier said than done, huh?  Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.  Do your characters have qualities that readers can relate to?  Do your characters have interesting quirks that make your readers smile? Hmmm, they don’t? Then ask yourself why any reader would want to invest 10 or more hours getting to know them.

If you went to a party and mingled with the folks there and everyone bored you to tears or seemed to be a copy of folks you’d met before, then you’d leave.  Keep your readers at the party with interesting partygoers that liven the place up.

A bestselling writer told me once that he likes his characters to be “scuffed up,” by which he means they need strengths and weaknesses and quirks.  Traits that make you like them, and traits that create some empathy for them.  Put some scuff marks on your characters.  Give someone a physical or mental handicap.  Make a supporting character gay, or a former felon, or divorced 6 times.  Give someone an occupation that is unusual – garbage man, bill collector, or animal rights activist.

3.  Focus hard on the first few pages

I struggle with this one.  But go back to item #1 for a moment. Remember we live in a world where books are becoming less expensive and MUCH easier to dispose cvrof.  Lose your readers in the first ten pages and you’ve lost them for good.  Who cares if your story begins to really “rock” mid-way through if you can’t keep the readers interest in the beginning?

Writing mystery/thriller novels?  Then you better think about “killing” someone right away.  Romance?  Then be sure you entice your readers with an interesting love interest or a break up or just something MORE exciting than a few lingering glances.  Horror?  Then make sure you set the mood and drop in some hints regarding the impending doom that your characters are going to face.

I call it the “Love at First Sight” component to your story.  If you can’t entice your reader with your “looks”  at the beginning and get them interesting in “dating” you, then they are going to move on.  And just to continue this barely worthy analogy, remember that for readers, there are ALOT of other “fish in the sea”.

Are any of the above suggestions brand new to the writing world? Heck no.  But for me, writing this post is just another reminder of how important it is for me to remain focused on the reader.  Remember, lose your reader, and you’ve lost the battle.  Make you reader happy, then you will have gained two or three new readers.  And isn’t that why we spend so much time hunched over the keyboard?

§ § § § § § §

Andy Holloman grew up in Greenville, NC and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics.  All through high school and college, he was notorious for scribbling out stories and ideas for novels, which he always kept in a top secret shoe box.

After college, Andy fell into the travel industry by accident and was able to grow a travel business into an Inc. 500 company.  The agency grew through the use of the Internet and by acquiring three other companies.  Late in the 1990’s, he became familiar with the story of one of the company’s clients who was murdered in Durham, NC and was a suspected drug smuggler.  This story and the subsequent downfall of the travel agency industry (and Andy’s company)  after 9/11,  planted a seed in his head that grew into his first published novel, Shades of Gray.

Today, Andy lives in the Raleigh, NC area.  He is the father of three, and has been happily married for 20 years.  He enjoys (mostly) attending his kids’ sporting and school events, supporting the local real estate industry, and watching fine films with his wonderful wife.

 

Tomorrow we feature Douglas Dorow, bestselling author of the thriller, The Ninth District, whose surprising piece is entitled, “Surprise Me!” Find out why Douglas’s son doesn’t enjoy watching movies with his dad.

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