Wednesday, January 12, 2011

C.S. Laken's Clash

Last week we met COTT competitor Shannon Taylor Vannatter. This week, we’ll meet her challenger, Susanne Laken, writing as C.S. Laken.

Susanne works professionally as a copy editor and writing coach and has written ten novels in contemporary psychological mysteries and allegorical fantasy. Her latest novel, Someone to Blame, is an intense relational drama of a family reeling from tragedy and a town eager to blame.

Like Shannon, Susanne competed in one of our more difficult categories—Best Opening Hook. No one has time to wade through pages and pages focusing on setting and description, but I’m not looking for a gory battle scene right off the bat, either. Nor an explosion. Is there a happy medium? What makes an opening hook great?

“I do like being emotionally hooked in the first few pages of a novel,” Susanne said. “But I am also a literary writer and poet first, so evocative and fascinating use of language will draw me in just as strongly. With Someone to Blame, I had thrown out my first chapter completely after many rewrites. I then came up with a very strange concept that, honestly, doesn’t really gel with the entire rest of the book—the exploration of Irene’s need to find one word to describe her pain. The whole first chapter is all about her discovering a suitable word, then letting the reader see how the word becomes the thing she grasps at in lieu of understanding why she is suffering. The word then becomes a motif used a few times in the book, but I wanted to start off with a concept, a germ of an idea that focused the reader on Irene and her emotional state at the start of the book.”

Check it out:

Irene once heard that if you fell off a cliff in your dream, you would always wake before smacking the ground.

If only real life were that merciful.

She pulled her damp cheek away from the warm glass of the truck window and gazed at the Trinity River meandering hundreds of feet below, gloomy green water snaking through a precipitous canyon. Narrow curves hugged the steep sides of cliff with only a short retaining wall of stacked rocks separating them from disaster—many of the stones chipped, some ominously missing from the ledge.

Irene imagined the fear a driver would feel straining to discern the gray road on a foggy night. Stunned as the stone wall came up too fast, too close, jerking the steering wheel, hearing the chilling screech of tires spinning out on loose gravel. And she could almost taste the desperate panic contained in the freefall, the driver trapped in the confines of the car as the vehicle plunged to the rocks and icy water below.


Maybe that word came closest to defining this indefinable sensation of pain. No other words quite fit, and Irene desperately needed one that would. For months she had tested adjectives, placing them alongside the events that punctured their lives, yearning for a match.

Raw. Horrific. Suffocating. Tragic. Debilitating.

Impotent, feeble words.

Wow, that’s an intense opening. One that leaves me with numerous questions that absolutely need answered. I guess I’m going to need to buy the book! Visit Susanne’s website to find out more about her and her novels at

C. S. Lakin writes novels in numerous genres, focusing mostly on contemporary psychological mysteries and allegorical fantasy. Her novel, Someone to Blame (contemporary fiction), won the 2009 Zondervan First Novel competition 2009, with a publication date of October 2010. Lakin’s three fantasy novels in the Gates of Heaven series has been contracted with AMG-Living Ink Publishers. The first book in the series, The Wolf of Tebron, released July 2010. Her contemporary mystery, Innocent Little Crimes, made the top one hundred finalists in the 2009 Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest, earning her a Publisher’s Weekly review that noted her book was “a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breaths the whole way through.”

Lakin grew up collating television scripts for her screenwriter mother. As an adult, Susanne assisted in developing series for television, and while raising two daughters and running a bed and breakfast inn in northern California wrote her first three novels and a cookbook. She currently works as a freelance copy editor and writing mentor, specializing in helping authors prepare their books for publication. She is a member of The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), CEN (Christian Editor Network), San Francisco Editors Guild, CAN (Christian Authors Network—regular blogger), ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), and two regional writers’ groups.

She recently completed her ninth book: Conundrum (her fourth psychological mystery). She has also written the first book in a Young Adult sci-fi adventure series: Time Sniffers. She is presently finishing her tenth novel, The Unraveling of Wentwater, book four in the fantasy series, and started writing Intended for Harm, a contemporary take-off on the biblical story of Jacob and Joseph.

You can purchase Someone to Blame and The Wolf of Tebron from Amazon.

Sorry folks, this is not a giveaway but come back tomorrow for a spotlight and giveaway with Jessica Zondervan. And don't forget about Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke. It's a must read for every writer and the giveaway for it is still open. =)

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