Writer Wednesday – Emmie Mears

1. Who are you? I’m Emmie Mears! In theory, anyway. For now.

2. What type of stuff do you write? I like to have my fingers dipped into just about every SFF pie. Lately I’ve been tending toward more broad speculative fiction, second world alt history and second world in general, but I’m looking forward to digging into some science fantasy and more straight sci fi as well as epic fantasy soon. (I have a hankering to write a first contact story, but we’ll see.)

3. What do you want to pimp right now? I have a rather grueling release schedule lately. A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS just came out, which is a contemporary magical realism, and I’m certainly proud of that. LOOK TO THE SUN comes out 15 November and is available for preorder right now, and that is a book that feels almost too timely — I’ve pitched it as Les Miserables meets Shadow of the Wind. It’s a second world novel with a Gothic feel about generational tragedy, love, and fighting against fascism.

4. What’s your favorite book? This will likely come as no surprise if you read the preceding paragraph, but Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It is absolutely stunning, and the moment I finished it for the first time, I picked it up and read it again. A more recent read was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which was phenomenal (and, combined with a non-fiction thing I read recently, inspired my next project).

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat? I’ve been very privileged to be able to write full time for the past year. I have a part time job as a banquet server as well. Besides writing, though, the full-time-ness of that job encompasses PR, marketing, accounting, finance, and enough emails to form an avalanche. I also manage a small contingent of ninja cats in my home.

6. Where can we find you? I am virtually omnipresent on the internet, it feels. You can find me on Twitter @EmmieMears, or you can find me on the Book of Face. I’m also on Instagram if you like cat spam and a parade of homemade food. If you like short stories and want to help support my writing, you can find me on Patreon, and for the eminent pragmatists among you, my general home on the interwebz is simply emmiemears.com.



Expect the Unexpected – 5 Tips for Writers

By the time this goes live, I will have finished my twelfth full length manuscript. That’s some novels, and with seven-soon-to-be-eight in the wild, I’ve arrived at a point where I get emails from people asking me to kick them in the butt. “Kicking internet folks in the butt” was not something I was entirely prepared for when I went into this career with the idea that maybe one day I could make a living doing the only thing I think I’m good at, but it’s something I’m being asked to do.

In the spirit of sharing hard-won wisdom and lessons, here are five things I didn’t expect from writing when I started:

5. Writing books doesn’t really get easier.

It hasn’t. In fact, books 10 and 11 were some of the toughest things I’ve done. Writing is a constant evolution of figuring out exactly how much you know and don’t know. It’s about trying something that has worked for you before (or that has worked for someone not-you) and finding out that lo, suddenly it worketh not. That can be…frustrating.

I’ve heard it said that writers don’t know how to write books. We have to learn each time how to write this book. In my experience of the past decade of finishing books, that is very, very true.

4. Writing is a lot easier when you can leave the business out of it.

I think in a lot of our minds when we start out, writing is like that internet meme.

Step 1–Have idea
Step 2–Be said idea’s miraculous conduit onto the page
Step 3–???????
Step 4–PROFIT

Yeah, nah.

It doesn’t work like that. Whether you traditionally publish or do it independently (I’ve done both), two words will dictate much of your success: bottom and line.

In trade publishing, that bottom line can be the difference between your book getting acquired and your book getting trunked. (Or, as I have personally experienced, an entire imprint getting trunked and every book it publishes going down with it.) In indie publishing, it can mean you’re spending more on your packaging, marketing, editing, etc. than you are making. That is not sustainable unless you are one of the mythical humans for whom money is not the difference between your pet iguana starving to death or not.

Having to factor in making art with the reality of making money is not an easy web of tightropes to walk. But it can be done.

3. On that note, if you don’t have it, money can be a massive systemic barrier.

As in all careers, having money to start with means that you have access to networking opportunities, career development, and the more esoteric bits, like automatically being taken a bit more seriously. Conferences and conventions, where heaps of connections are made, are decidedly not cheap. Tax write off, yes, but you still have to spend the money up front.

The same goes for indie publishing–you have to put money in on the front end there, for a great cover if absolutely nothing else.

That said? Slush works. Both of my agents, I’ve gotten through the slush pile. I’m a hybrid author, which means I’ve had trade deals and have indie published both. If you are seeking to go the commercial trade publishing route, you don’t need to know anybody (and no matter how much your friends love you, even if you have connections, they are never a guarantee).

2. There is never Only One.

Books are not like Highlander. Sure, we see the highly publicised unicorns like Twilight and Wool, that One Book that propelled its author to fame and fortune. But we have to remember those stories are unicorns. There is an immense amount of luck in the writing business that boils down to this: the right eyes hitting your work at the right time.

It can happen on the first book you write (I suppose, since it has to very few folks). But more likely there will be many books. The first that you publish, whether trade or indie. The first that earns you a five star review–or the first that earns you one star. There will be a book that someone will email you to tell you they desperately needed. A book you look back on and cringe. Because for most of us, this career is about building a mountain, not about being airlifted to the top of it or shot out of a cannon.

Which brings me to the last tidbit…

1. Your craft is the barre.

In ballet, the barre is the place you turn to re-orient yourself. To find balance and return to the basics that make the pro jumps possible. That is craft to the writer, but you have to build it. There is a general mythos around writing that suggests that the ability to do it well is this ephemeral thing called “talent.” But the truth is, it’s something we have to learn and hone. Everyone can get better at it. Sometimes when we start out, our barre is crooked and falls off when we lean on it too hard. We have to bust out the level and learn some physics and engineering and figure out how it best works for us, and even then we have to replace the screws that fall out and the bits of mirror where the silver wears away.

It takes effort and practice, and there is never a guarantee of being that unicorn. There is just the story, just the barre that holds us up and directs the flow of our movements.

But here’s the other bit–you can surprise yourself. If you’d asked me when I was 20 how many books I thought I could write, I don’t know what my answer would have been. At nearly 32, I’ve written twelve. Everyone’s mountain looks different.

And I’m just getting started.

Writer Wednesday – Linda Watkins

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here)
Linda Watkins

2. What type of stuff do you write? (besides shopping lists!)
Contemporary Gothic Fiction

3. What do you want to pimp right now?
My three novels are a series, so pimping one, pimps all! I would pimp primarily the first novel, MATEGUAS ISLAND, A NOVEL OF TERROR AND SUSPENSE

4. What’s your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three… I know how writers are as readers!)
All time favorite:
THE MAGUS by John Fowled (original version)

Other favs:
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein
THE LIGHTKEEPERS by Abby Geni
A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson
THE STAND by Stephen King
SHADOWLAND by Peter Straub

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I am the caregiver, and loving mom, for two very geriatric dogs, both with multiple special needs.

6. Where can we find you?
I’m all over the place!
FB: https://www.facebook.com/LindaWatkins.Author/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Watkins/
Twitter: @splatland
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LindaWatkins123/posts
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7754966.Linda_Watkins
My blog: http://lindawatkins.biz/
My website: http://mateguasisland.com/

 


Let’s Talk About Gothic Horror/Mystery

Having been accused of writing contemporary Gothic fiction (MATEGUAS ISLAND, RETURN TO MATEGUAS ISLAND, and GHOSTS OF MATEGUAS), I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the genre and some common elements that make a novel Gothic.

However, before I begin, let me first state that this is by no means meant to be a scholarly treatise on the genre. No, I will leave that to those more schooled in literature than I. This is merely a blog post. It is meant to be slightly informative and, hopefully, fun.

Gothic fiction has been around since medieval times.  Sir Horace Walpole’sTHE CASTLE OF OTRANTO, published in 1764,  is often credited as being the first English gothic horror novel.

But what makes a novel gothic? There are numerous  subtleties that go into creating a novel of this genre and even more when you consider all of its sub-genres (horror, mystery, romance, etc.).  However, I’m just going to touch on some of the most common elements of gothic fiction here.

All right, let’s begin. First of all, we must consider the setting. Gothic fiction is usually played out in a place that is dark and gloomy, conjuring up an atmosphere of horror and dread. For example, inTHE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, Poe calls the estate ‘melancholy’ and a ‘mansion of gloom’. In Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the house is described as ‘holding darkness within’.  In my novel, MATEGUAS ISLAND, when seeing the island for the first time, Bill remarks that while it is beautiful, it looks ‘cold’. And, then there’s The Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s THE SHINING and the ruined castle where Jonathan Harkness first meets the Count in Bram Stoker’s classicDRACULA Need I say more?

All right, we have our setting, what next?  Most gothic novels involve the appearance of supernatural beings – ghosts, specters, vampires, zombies,  and other things that go ‘bump in the night’. In THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, it is the house itself that is suspect, whereas in MATEGUAS ISLAND  it is a malevolent Native American spirit that plagues the Andersens in their new home. In Henry James’ classic, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, the governess sees the ghost of Peter Quint and in THE SHINING there are numerous ghosts, most notably those of former caretaker, Delbert Grady, and his murdered daughters.

Okay, we now have a dark and gloomy setting that is the home to some ghosts or specters. What do we need next to move the plot along?  How about some dark curses or prophesies? In Walpole’s THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO there is an ancient prophesy that  Manfred, the lord of the castle, seeks to avert by marrying his dead son’s betrothed. In  THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, Roderick  believes his family to be cursed by incurable madness. And in REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier, the unnamed heroine must come to grips with a dark and terrible secret being kept by her husband.

So, now we have a dark and dismal setting haunted by ghosts and subject to a terrible curse or prophesy. But what about the human characters? Often we find the pivotal character in a gothic novel to be a woman in jeopardy. For example, in MATEGUAS ISLAND, it is Karen who finds herself strangely transported to a dark and dangerous trail leading deep into the woods. Wendy Torrance in THE SHINING, Lucy and Mina in DRACULA, and the governess in THETURN OF THE SCREW all find themselves facing mortal peril at the hands of supernatural beings. In THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, it is Eleanor who tends to experience dark phenomena to which others in the house are oblivious. And, in REBECCA, the narrator finds herself living in the shadow and mystery of her husband’s former wife.

But is gothic fiction only peopled by damsels in distress? No! To counterbalance the ladies, the gothic genre often employs characters who can be seen as heroes or antiheroes. In the final chapters of THE SHINING, the clairvoyant cook, Hallorann, comes charging through a blizzard on a snowmobile to try to rescue Wendy and Danny. Dex Pierce inMATEGUAS ISLAND sees himself as Karen’s  knight errant and rushes to her side when she collapses in the backyard. In Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Heathcliff enacts the role of both a Byronic and demonic hero. In DRACULA, it is Van Helsing who eventually saves the day.

Okay, now we have a beautiful woman transported to a dark and dismal setting haunted by ghosts and subject to a terrible curse or prophesy who may, or may not, be saved by a dashing or not-so-dashing hero.   So, what comes next?

Romance, of course! In gothic novels, romance can take many forms. It can be a powerful love, heart-stirring, and intense. Or, it could be an unrequited  or illicit love. Basically, anything goes! An example of a  powerful love can be found MATEGUAS ISLAND when Dex realizes he has fallen deeply in love with Karen and vows to do anything necessary to protect her.   In WUTHERING HEIGHTS, we have both powerful and unrequited love in Heathcliff’s desire for Cathy.  In Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE, the heroine falls head over heels for the brooding and moody, Mr. Rochester.

So what have we put together with all these elements? We have a story of beautiful woman living in a dark and dismal place, haunted by ghosts, and subject to a terrible curse or prophesy who meets and, may fall in love with, a dashing or mysterious man who may, or may not, save her! And with that, my friends, we have laid the groundwork for a gothic novel!

Now, for some fun and amusement,  check out the first and last  lines from some classic, and, not-so-classic, novels in the genre.

REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier:  
First Line: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Last Line:   “And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.

DRACULA by Bram Stoker:
First Line: “3 May, Bistritz – Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.”
Last Line: “Later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.”

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE by Anne Rice:
First Line:   “I see…” said the vampire thoughtfully, and slowly he walked across the room towards the window.”
Last Line: “And then, stuffing the notebook quickly in his pocket, he gathered the tapes into his brief case, along with the small recorder, and hurried down the long hallway and down the stairs to the street, …”

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley:
First Line: “You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”
Last Line:  “He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”

MATEGUAS ISLAND by Linda Watkins:
First Line:  “She rolled over to check the clock.”
Last Line: “Oh, so very afraid….”

WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte
First Line:  “1801. – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.”
Last Line:  “I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how ….”

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER by Edgar Allan Poe:
First Line:  “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”
Last Line:  “While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened–there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind–the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight–my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder–there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters–and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the “House of Usher.”

RETURN TO MATEGUAS ISLANDby Linda Watkins :  
First Line: “She stood in the middle of the lawn, arms outstretched, her face turned toward the sea.”
Last Line:  “For what seemed an eternity, he stood that way, silent, his eyes wide open in wonder until the owl, in all its majesty, disappeared back into the fog.”

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL  AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson:
First Line:  “Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable.”
Last Line:  “Here then, as I lay down the pen and proceed to seal up my confession, I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.”

THE THIRTEENTH TALE  by Diane Setterfield:
First Line: “It was November.”
Last Line:  “He opened a cool green eye, regarded me for a moment, then closed it again.”

GHOSTS OF MATEGUAS by Linda Watkins:
First Line: “The fog embraced the coast like a desperate lover, clinging, refusing to let go.”
Last Line:  “Oh Mateguas, grand pere de la mort, entend my priere….”

Writer Wednesday – D.R. Perry

1. Who are you?
Who are you, who, who, who, who? I really wanna know! Ahem. Okay, time to stop singing The Who. Hi, I’m D.R. Perry and I’m living la vida dorka.

2. What type of stuff do you write?
I write spec-fic and silliness. Also some poetry. So far, my books have been Paranormal with loads of humor. My series is called Providence Paranormal College and it’s about what happens when shifters, vampires, faeries, psychics and magic users all go to an Ivy League school in New England.

3. What do you want to pimp right now?
Hey, I do interviews, too! I just got done with Summer Splash and now it’s Autumn Authors over at my website (http://www.drperryauthor.com/news). I also do Friendly Neighborhood Fridays, where I talk to cover designers, web designers, editors, and the folk who help authors get their book into publishable shape.

4. What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book is like my favorite color and song. They change all the time! I would have gotten thrown off the bridge on Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. Red, no bluuuue! Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi, no A Fox’s Love by Brandon Varnell, no Dream Stalker by Amy Hopkins. I. Can’t. Decide! Aaaaaargh!

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Let’s see. There’s the mom hat (I have one kid with fur and four legs, another with hair and two), the gamer hat (I play WoW and pen and paper RPGs), and the audio hat (I used to be a karaoke DJ). I love my family, my fun, and my music. Couldn’t live without them!

6. Where can we find you?
I’m all over the place! Well, on the Internet, anyway. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Author Central and my website, complete with mailing list. Oh, and you can also find me at author events in Rhode Island. No, it’s not an island and not Long Island. We’re a tiny state in the US, but the food here rocks!
FB: https://www.facebook.com/drpperry/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DRPerry22
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/d.r.perry/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/drperryauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8588997.D_R_Perry
Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/drperry
Website: http://www.drperryauthor.com/
Mailing List: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/p9i8u6

 

 

The Importance of Being Covered

Always judge a book by its cover. At least, that’s what we should do as writers. The cover is the first thing anyone sees of our books, so it’s important that the cover reflects what’s inside. If a reader would love your sci-fi book about Kung-Fu aliens from planet Borax, you wouldn’t put a dude in Civil War era clothing on your cover, right? Is it possible to have something that jarringly inconsistent between cover and content as the above example? Yes, it is. I should know. I made that mistake myself.

I have a book about a sarcastic brainiac Nerd Queen tutoring a half-asleep
shapeshifting jock with a closeted geek streak. There are Star Wars references, puns running rampant along the pages, and goofy situational comedy. I have a gal who turns into an owl saying “hoo boy,” for crying out loud. But readers who like that kind of thing didn’t find my book because this was the cover:

 barely600dpicanvas55x85

That cover on my book was like a bowl of salsa on a package containing a chocolate cake. People saw it and expected steamy love scenes. I did a live event with that cover and got snickers. No, I don’t mean people threw candy bars at me. They laughed, but not for the reasons I intended. Even worse, they scurried away, desperate to avoid the stigma of buying what looked like a bodice-ripper in front of the PTA president at the local Farmer’s Market.

I knew it was all that pouty shirtless man’s fault, so I replaced him. Nothing against pouting, shirtlessness, or men, you understand (because I do like those things). It’s just that I realized they belonged to literature light-years away in the Steamy Galaxy from my book. So, I checked around for titles with content similar to mine and discovered I needed something like this instead:

barelycollegicnomineell

And lo, the author said “let there be shirts” and there were! And they were illustrated! This is exactly the cover I needed on my goofy, geeky, unsteamy book. And do you see that library? That lets the picture tell readers these two are students because people don’t always see “Paranormal College” on a thumbnail. It worked, too. See the little badge? Yeah, I went from barely (ha, pun!) any interest in this book to nominated for an award.

So, go ahead and judge a book by its cover. Also, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. What would this article be without the pictures, after all? Point, set, and match, Mr. Pouty Shirtless. I’ll save his picture for some other…um, project. Yeah, I’m winking at you from behind my computer screen now. Thanks for reading!

Writer Wednesday – Steven S. Long

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m Steven S. Long, writer and game designer. I’m in my late 40s and live in Greensboro, NC in a book-filled house along with my cat Persimmon. When I’m not busy writing or reading, I collect antique maps and travel books from the 1920s and ’30s, go for walks, birdwatch, entertain Persimmon, or watch movies in my custom-designed home theater.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
For most of the past 20 years I’ve worked primarily as a writer/designer in the roleplaying game field — I’ve written or co-written about 200 RPGs or RPG supplements. I’m best known for my work on the HERO System/Champions, but I’ve written for many other games during my career.

In recent years I’ve branched out into writing fiction as well, and am definitely enjoying the new challenge. Fiction uses different “writing muscles” than RPGs, so “exercising” them improves my writing overall.

You can find a full list of my current fiction credits at my website, http://www.stevenslong.com/

And my Author Central page at Amazon has some of my RPG books as well: http://www.amazon.com/Steven-S.-Long/e/B00CA5HF4M

…and what you’re working on right now.
I am currently focused on my first major non-fiction work: Odin, The Viking All-Father, for Osprey Publishing’s “Myths and Legends” series. Given my life-long interest in Norse mythology (see below), it’s been a dream project to work on.

Additionally, I’m working on short stories for several anthologies I’ve been asked to participate in, stretch goal contributions I’m providing for several Kickstarters, and when I can on my major long-term project, Mythic Hero. MH is a book about world mythology for gaming; I’ve been working on it for 2½ years so far and have at least that much more to go.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Wow, good question. I’m not sure if this is the absolute earliest one, but the most significant, I think, is my memory of pulling D’Aulaires’ Norse Gods and Giants off the bookshelf in my elementary school library and becoming captivated by it. I don’t know for sure what attracted me to it — quite possibly the art, which I still enjoy looking at today — but that led to a life-long interest in mythology, and then Fantasy and Science Fiction. In a sense you can trace my entire career back to that one book.

What are your three favorite books?
That’s a tough one! There are so many good books. I’m going to exclude genre fiction from this, because that’s really a separate discussion altogether. 😉 If I absolutely had to pick, I would say: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; King Of The Confessors, by Thomas Hoving; and The Children Of Odin, by Padraic Colum.

For a list of Fantasy fiction I like, see http://www.stevenslong.com/articles/ — though I need to update that list with some of the good stuff I’ve come across in the last couple years. It’s hard to find a Fantasy novel I truly enjoy these days, but every now and then I get lucky. 🙂

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Excluding anything I’m reading for research purposes, I usually have two or three going at any given time. Often this is because while I’m in the middle of one book, another comes along that takes priority. For example, if I’m published in an anthology, I try to read the rest of the stories in that anthology ASAP in case anyone asks me about it. If a series that I like gets a new book, I often give that priority (though these days I usually wait until a series is done before reading it — saves time).

Currently I’m working my way through several collections of the early short stories of one of my most favorite Fantasy/Science Fiction authors, Jack Vance. I’m eagerly awaiting several books due out later this year, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf and the latest Deryni novel from Katherine Kurtz.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…have to be careful not to get attacked by a nap.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
You have to re-read good books, there’s no question about it! I re-read some light favorites pretty much every year. I think re-reading is important not only for the sheer fun of it, but because a book that appeals to you often does so on multiple levels, and you don’t always catch everything on one read-through. For example, I’ve read Gene Wolfe’s Book Of The New Sun quadrilogy at least half a dozen times, and I’m certain that I’m still missing cool things in it.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Pretty likely. If a friend whose taste I trust tells me I’ll like something, I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, if I don’t like it I can just quit reading it. There’s no law that says you have to finish a bad book.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very, very likely. I’m not known for keeping my mouth shut when I dislike something, but by the same token on those (sadly rarer) occasions when I find something I really like, I don’t hesitate to recommend it. For example, just this year alone I’ve gotten a couple friends hooked on reading Patrick Rothfuss’s “Kingkiller Chronicles” novels.

What do you look for in a good book?
That’s a tough one to answer, but I’d say that what it really boils down to is that I want to be swept up in the story. I want to care about the characters, what they do, what happens to them. I want the setting to come alive. And in the case of Fantasy fiction (my usual pleasure reading), I want that sense of wonder, majesty, and awe that I think Fantasy should have. A lot of older writers (Dunsany, Tolkien, Vance, Howard, Carter…) knew how to create that and infuse their stories with it. Few writers these days do, at least for my taste.

Why do you write?
It’s my creative outlet — I’d do it even if I weren’t getting paid for it (but I’m glad that I am). That’s not a very original answer, I admit, but that’s the way it is. 😉

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I used to be an attorney, but I don’t think I’d go back to that. If I could pick anything? Hmmm… archaeologist? architect? artist? ninja? psychiatrist? FBI agent? professor? There are so many cool things to do that it’s difficult to pick just one.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everywhere and anywhere! There are story possibilities in just about every little thing you encounter or sense during the day. For example, I’m currently writing a short story inspired by the little patch of woods half a block from my house.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Ummmm… plaid? I don’t know that it’s taught me anything about myself, really. I don’t think of it as a spiritual process.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They’re supportive of it and curious about it. I know some of them think what I do is a little “unusual,” but that’s pretty much correct. 😉 And I think a few of them are jealous of my control over my own schedule.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
Probably any and all of them. Writers are such a diverse bunch that I don’t think you can accurately say much about us as a group other than that we write.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
The same challenge writers have always had — getting noticed, attracting readers/customers. Self-publishing offers possibilities that never existed before, which is great, but I don’t think the odds of a starting writer succeeding via self-publishing are much different than they’ve always been via “traditional” publishing.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, sure, lots of them. Little things, mostly, but looking back on my work I can see them. I like to think that every book or story I write, I learn something.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
It’s hard to name just one! There are so many things I’d love to work on. For example there are lots of licensed RPGs for favorite IPs of mine that I never got to work on. From a fiction standpoint, I’d love to be involved in creating a classic “shared world” anthology that went on to become a big success.

How do you deal with your fan base?
With as much respect and love as possible! I really appreciate my fans and am grateful for every one of them. I just wish I had a few million more. 😉

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I’m really not that big a fan of many IPs in genre culture. Some of the biggest or most popular (e.g., Superman, Star Wars) just don’t hold that much appeal for me. I often seem to be attracted to the old and now-neglected stuff, the quirky classics, the obscure authors.

 

Writer Wednesday – Hank Quense

1. Who are you?
I’m an author who refuses to write serious scifi and fantasy novels.  There is entirely too much serious genre fiction IMHO.   Perhaps the best way to explain “me” is to use my official bio blurb:
Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric scifi and fantasy stories. He also writes about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 16 books and 50 short stories along with a few dozen articles.  He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject. He is currently working on a series of two humorous novels that take place in the Camelot era.
He and his wife, Pat, usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe.  They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas.
2. What type of stuff do you write?
 For fiction, I write parodies. I love to write these kind of stories.  I’ve writen parodies on “First Contact” stories (Zaftan Entrepreneurs) and a space opera (Zaftan Moscreants).  I’ve destroyed two of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Hamlet and Othello in one novel (Falstaff’s Big Gamble).  I’ve taken Wagner’s Ring Cycle of operas and made a shambles out of them (Wotan’s Dllemma).  My latest parody is a two-bookparody of coming-of-age stories and Camelot. (Moxie’s Problem and Moxie’s Decision)
In non-fiction, I’ve written a series of short books under the heading Fiction Writing Guides and another  called Self-publishing Guides.
3. What do you want to pimp right now?
I want to spread the word about the Princess Moxie Series.  the first book, Moxie’s Problem, was published last August and the second book, Moxie’s Decision will be available in October. (the ebook can be pre-ordered now).
4. What is your favorite book? (or three)
My favorite satiric book is Catch-22.  The structure of the book is great.  It starts of 90% humor and 10% horror.  By the middle of the bookthe split is 50-50 and at the end, it’s 90% horror.  My favorite fantasy novle is Lord of the Rings and my favorite scifi book is the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.
5. Besides the author hat, what hats do you wear?
I lecture quite a bit on fiction writing and self-publishing.  Learning the craft of fiction writing is tough and I like to help beginning writers by sharing my experience.  With self-publishing, I try to get people to understand it isn’t as simple as the web implies and to warn them about the huge number of scam aritists that prey on inexperienced self-publishing authors.
By the way, my lectures can be delivered via Skype.
6. Where can we find you?
I have a blog and a web site for my books http://hank-quense.com/wp and  http://strangeworldsonline.com/wp
 My Facebook fiction page is: https://www.facebook.com/StrangeWorldsOnline?ref=hl
 MY Facebook non-fiction page is: https://www.facebook.com/Strange-Worlds-Online-Non-fiction-439722529522496/timeline/?ref=hl
    
A Few Words On The End…
I’ve been asked several times if I have any advice for beginning fiction writers.  My answer is always the same: don’t start writing the first draft until you know the ending.  Why?  Because telling a story takes the reader on a journey from the story’s beginning to the story’s end.  If you don’t know the ending, how can you take the reader on that journey?
I know some writers say they just write and eventually the story moves along and the ending shows up. I have to accept that they can do that.  I can’t.  However, these writers must spend an enormous amount to time revising and rewriting existing scenes to agree with the new developments and endings.
I prefer to plan the story before I start writing the first draft.

Writer Wednesday – Elizabeth Donald

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…
…and a bit about what you’ve written…
…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m Elizabeth Donald, and I write stuff. By day I write for a daily newspaper on a variety of topics ranging from education to politics to crime. By night I write about monsters and zombies and things that go chomp in the night. I started writing fiction for publication a few years into my journalism career, though my fiction habit really dates all the way back to childhood. My first novel was published in 2004, and I’ve since written maybe 13 novels and novellas, depending on how you count the ebooks.

Right this moment, I’m working on a short story for an anthology about tragic love in speculative fiction. I’ve recently finished a collection of short stories titled Moonlight Sonata that I hope will see print next year, and waiting in the wings is a space adventure titled Banshee’s Run. I also have a few projects waiting in the editing queue and preparing to take my photography work to the next level. Other than that, I’m not too busy.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My mother replaced the Berenstain Bears with Nancy Drew when I was a young girl, and Nancy led me into what we would have called “young adult” fiction if that term had existed. I started falling into historical drama and mysteries as a ‘tween, but then Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered and I was a science fiction fan for life.

What are your three favorite books?
You’ve just broken me. My favorite novel is probably IT by Stephen King, whose entire bibliography ranks among my top re-reads in my ridiculous library. Peter David’s Imzadi is one of the best tie-in novels I’ve ever read, and for more recent work, I’m desperately in love with the Newsflesh series by Mira Grant, particularly the first novel, Feed.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I used to devour a book a night – up to three nights if it was a real epic, like The Stand or Gone With the Wind. Then I had a child, and I discovered the desperation of sleep deprivation. I usually read one fiction and one nonfiction book simultaneously, since they use different parts of my brain, but then I also read a copious number of blogs, articles and assorted nonsense for work. Currently I’m reading The Day She Died by Bill Garrison, and just finished Book of Shadows by Alexandra Sokoloff. In nonfiction, I have a stack of books on the influenza epidemic of 1918 – research for future misbehavior.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…want to fall through the hole in the paper.

To re-read or not to re-read, that is the question.
I love re-reading. It’s territory I’ve scouted before, but if the writing is strong enough, you can fall through again and be transported to a place you really enjoyed visiting. I have this wild idea to reread Stephen King’s entire bibliography in the order he wrote them, and see what I can learn from the evolution Master of Horror. All I need is an extra three hours in the day.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very likely, if it’s a premise that intrigues me. I have certain authors that are an auto-buy for me, of course: Jonathan Maberry, Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire, Gillian Flynn, Joe Hill, Julia Spencer-Fleming and of course the big names like Stephen King and Harlan Ellison – John Grisham if he’s in familiar territory, the courtroom. All of them have demonstrated the ability to send me through the hole in the paper, and that’s what I’m really after. If someone I trust recommends a book, I’ll give it a try, which is probably why my to-be-read pile is so high.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I recommend books all the time, and try to keep up with reviews. I used to write a review column for the newspaper, and when it was canceled, I launched it as an independent blog. Unfortunately, time constraints mean I don’t post all that often, but I know the importance of good reviews for a book, and try to do so.

What do you look for in a good book?
Story and dialogue are key; if I’m not interested in the events unfolding or the people are speaking in voices I can’t really hear, I’m bored. Bored means I’m falling asleep, and I don’t get enough sleep anyway. So keep me awake with smart people and crackling dialogue, then give them something interesting to do. I don’t want extensive descriptions of his smoldering eyes and her lovely gown, and for some people that’s the kind of thing they really want. To each his or her own, as in anything this subjective.

Why do you write?
I write because the voices in my head told me to. I write because it’s what I was made to do, how my mind was constructed. I write horror because the things I see in the real world are so much more awful and yet mundane that I’d rather see something fantastic and terrible. It’s cheaper than therapy. But I have been writing ever since I could pick up a pencil, and probably before, making up stories in my head to entertain myself when I’m bored and telling stories to my little sister at night to help her sleep. You might as well ask why I breathe.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I can’t imagine a circumstance where I wouldn’t write. If I lost my job and my publishing career, I’d write my novels and bury them in a trunk for someone to uncover someday. If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d make up the stories in my head and sing them to the canaries. If I suffered an injury or illness that robbed me of my mind and my ability to create, to form words… well, I think then I’d rather be dead, but that’s rather dramatic, don’t you think?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Schenectady. There’s an idea service there that sends you a six-pack of ideas every week. That smartass answer is to be attributed to Harlan Ellison, who uses that answer every time he’s asked where his ideas come from. As he says, “Aristotle can’t answer that question.” They come from the ether, from Neverland, from the place between awake and asleep. I believe that just about everyone gets inspiration – those random creative thought-balloons that float through their minds when they’re stuck in traffic. The trick isn’t getting ideas. The trick is grabbing hold of them when they come, winding the ribbons around your hand and letting them carry you off to Neverland. When you learn how to harness ideas and turn them into stories you can share with others, you’ve become a writer.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I will never stop learning, and that I cannot ever do just one thing at a time.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband is also a writer; we met first through a mutual friend twelve years ago, and later re-met when he published his first book and began the tour circuit. It is a wonderful blessing to share my life with someone who understands the insanity. My son is wholly unimpressed, since he’s grown up hanging out at book signings and helping to carry boxes of books. I think the rest of my family is waiting for me to set aside these vampires and zombies and write something in the real world!

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
No. We’re all poverty-stricken, insecure drunkards. Well, at least it helps… In all seriousness, just about every stereotype has a writer or five who confirm the stereotype. Probably the only real misconception is the one perpetuated by Richard Castle: being a novelist means you’re a gazillionaire. Unless you’re James Patterson or John Grisham, you’ll be lucky to make a living. And when I say “make a living,” well… the last statistic I read said that fewer than 3 percent of authors make $10,000 a year or more on their books. So “poverty-stricken” is pretty much assured, as is the day job and/or the spouse who works for a living and has health insurance. As for insecurity and alcohol… let’s just say I’ve poured drinks for most of the small-press authors in the Midwest and the South.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Their biggest challenge is internal: impatience. The ability to toss a book out onto the internet the instant you type THE END has given a lot of aspiring writers a fast-forward button, and the temptation to skip all that bothersome editing, submission and working with a publisher is very real. The problem is that most aspiring writers have a lot to learn, and they learn a great deal from that process, including rejection and wrestling with a recalcitrant editor over a comma. Skipping that process is the biggest mistake they can make, and so many of them do. Patience, grasshopper. Good writing eventually finds a home, and at the end of the marathon, it’s going to be a book you’ll be proud to call your own and a launch to a writing career.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
If I’d known how wildly popular my zombie novella The Cold Ones would be, I wouldn’t have killed off so many characters! I’m famous for offing people in my books – c’mon, I’m a horror writer – but I did get especially bloodthirsty in The Cold Ones, because it was supposed to be a standalone novella. Then it sold out its initial print run in 48 hours, and by the end of the weekend I had a deal for two sequels. But even that I can’t really count as a mistake, because I count Blackfire (the sequel) as one of the finest books I’ve ever written, and I’m really looking forward to completing that trilogy.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’m already up to my eyeballs in work as it is! I’m wrapping a space adventure that’s probably the pulpiest thing I’ve ever done, and just completed another short-story collection that follows up to my first print release, Setting Suns. After that I need to finish the Blackfire series, and then there’s the continuation of the Nocturne series, and there are three other standalone novels standing in line. I don’t need new projects, I need more hours in the day.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Fans are wonderful! I am always grateful and humbled when someone tells me that my work reached them. Stephen King says in On Writing that writing is the closest we’ll ever come to telepathy: I have an image or a character in my head, and I have only this clumsy mechanism of words to share it with you. The better I am at replicating that image in your head, the better writer I have become. So when someone tells me that my work made them cry or throw the book across the room, I’m delighted.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
I’m shy. Yes, really. I was a very shy kid, and I still have that wallflower tendency. I speak in public often and spend a great deal of time in large crowds, cocktail parties, panel discussions, and it takes a tremendous energy to overcome a natural introversion that tells me to go hide in my hotel room. But this is key: it can be overcome. It takes energy and knowing your limits. But if the girl who didn’t speak outside the house for days at a stretch can moderate a panel at Dragoncon… you can do it too. I swear.

Anything else we should know?
I run the author cooperative Literary Underworld, and several of us will be guests at Archon in St. Louis on Oct. 2-4. Guest of honor is Harlan Ellison, whom I have met once before. I hope to repeat my streak of not drooling on his shoes. If you have the means, do stop by the Literary Underworld booth and say hello!

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She lives with her husband and her son in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Her latest release is Nocturne Infernum, a trilogy of vampire mysteries set in a dark alternate Memphis.

Website: http://www.elizabethdonald.com
Blog: literaryunderworld.blogspot.com
Twitter: @edonald

Writer Wednesday – Janie Franz

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1. Who are you?
Janie Franz
2. What type of stuff do you write?
I write fantasy and some archaeology-based adventure. I also have a couple of contemporary novels (romances for want of a better word)–one about Hollywood and one about the music industry.
3. What do you want to pimp right now?
My six-part Bowdancer series (The Bowdancer Saga and The Lost Song Trilogy).
4. What if your favorite book?
Besides my own? Seriously, unlike many writers I love reading my own work. As for other authors I love Stuart Clark’s Project U.F.L. trilogy and I really enjoyed NM writer Susan Slater’s Rollover. I’ve been a fan of Tony Hillerman and, yes, I LOVED the Harry Potter books.
5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a retired freelance journalist, specializing in music. I’m currently a publicist for a NM music festival, and I do a lot of petsitting/housesitting in New Mexico. I’m a mother and grandmother. I used to be a radio announcer, taught yoga and relaxation, and was a booking agent and publicist for a jamband.
6. What link can we find you at? https://authorjaniefranz.wordpress.com
Words from the Author…
The first con I ever attended was a science-fiction conference in Fargo ND. The guest author at that con was Margaret Weis, the author of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Those were some of the first modern fantasy novels, other than Andre Norton’s work, that carved out a whole new niche for writers.
The thing that impressed me most about Margaret Weis was the fact that she was everywhere! She tablehopped when she wasn’t on a panel. She visited with everybody. When she came to sit at a table where I was visiting with a friend, I was impressed with how ordinary she was. She was a famous author, but she was also human and very funny.
For me as an aspiring writer, with a lot of starts in a drawer, I realized that being a published author was possible. People–real human people–actually did it. And that one way to market was by showing up and talking to people. It was a great eye-opener for me.
Many years later, as a published author with eleven titles out, I am following Margaret Weis’ example: Be Present. As a guest author of Imaginarium in Louisville this September, I hope to Be Present as much as possible.

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