Writer Wednesday – Tammy-Jo Eckhart

Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
TammyJo Eckhart

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, contemporary, and historical fiction, often classified as erotica since I don’t “pull my punches” and believe that sexuality is a natural part of life.

What do you want to pimp right now?
Book 3 of the “Beyond the Softness of His Fur Trilogy” has just been released by my publisher, Circlet Press.
Also my non-fiction and award nominated book, “At Her Feet” has continues to be widely read and apparently empowering as we hoped it would be.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I always go back to “The Silver Metal Lover” by Tanith Lee because it really touched what was happening in my own life when I was finishing high school and starting college.

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a wife, a partner, I storyteller/game master for RPGs, I’m an educator and arts community volunteer, but most of all I’m a survivor of several things.

What link can we find you at?
My main website (find it here!) is the best since it links to my books and gives some other information about me.


The Danger of Fans and Lack of Privacy for Writers

We often think of writers as being little celebrities but I’ve learned over the two decades I’ve been published that this comes and goes in cycles and that all attention is not good or desirable attention. Let me explain a bit more.

After my first book, “Punishment for the Crime,” a collection of short stories, came out with Rhinoceros, an imprint from Masquerade Books, back in 1996 I started to get emails and letters from readers, even the occasional flowers when they ran into me at events. This wasn’t an everyday experience but living in NYC at the time where I was doing readings to crowds or meeting folks through my publisher who was right in the same city it happened far more frequently than after I moved back toward the Midwest. It always felt good to be recognized but sometimes it also felt a bit creepy.

Most readers were sweet. They’d want to shake my hand or simply tell me that they liked my book. If I were selling books or at a bookstore for a reading they’d want an autograph. Meeting people face-to-face at scheduled events was expected and cool. Not all encounters with my readers were at these sorts of events.

This was still in the early days of the Internet and it took work for someone to find me or find out about me. Yet within a year of the first book with Masquerade coming out I started to get emails from strangers. I didn’t broadcast myself around at that time — the concept of networking on social media wasn’t a thing writers were supposed to do. And yet because I happened to various community bulletin boards or email lists, my email was out there. Once my email was found by one person, it was found by several and for the second and third year my first and second books were out, I got an email a week.

I’d like to say that most of the emails were cool and sweet like most of the face-to-face meetings but I can’t say that and be honest. Honesty is a big deal to me. No, instead the majority of the emails I got were a bit creepy. They hoped I was as mean as a character in the title story or that I was as hot and sexy as another one. They wanted me to crush them with my boots or they’d ask about my sex life. I just deleted the creepy ones. Problem solved right?

For the most part, yes.

My third book came out with a different publisher as Masquerade struggled with some internal issues and I moved back toward the Midwest. Every now and again I’d get another email and a few times some gift might arrive in the mail… a bit creepy how they found out where I lived but most often it was through this new Amazon.com thing which wasn’t supposed to tell anyone I didn’t allow what my address was.

Then the creepiest fan contact happened. Someone called me. It sounded like either a very butch woman or a transguy by voice but I frankly didn’t ask because I didn’t care. What started off as “I really liked X” story turned quickly into questions about kink looking for advice which deteriorated into sex talk and attempts to ask me about my sex life. I told the caller time and again to stop calling and finally had to threaten to call the police. These calls lasted over three years.

Now I’m sure that more popular authors out there have even creepier experiences but I’ve never forgotten my own experiences. This hasn’t stopped me from joining social media, my agent and all of my author friends claim it is a must, but I had to learn that even just being published puts you out there, it takes away some of your privacy. You have to learn how to deal with it or decide to never publish at all. After all you can’t control who is reading you any more than you can control how many people are reading you.

My lesson learned then is that if you want to be read you must give up some of your privacy. Not all of it but once that book is out there in public view you’ll have to fight to protect yourself and your family because you can never tell who is reading and how they might react. Never be afraid to put out your work but be realistic about what you are also risking.

Book Review – Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain
Annie Proulx
Published 1997

So, I saw the movie, and when I saw the book on the bargain shelf at my favorite used bookstore, I was a little surprised to discover that Brokeback Mountain was a story before it was a script. And, it was like 5 cents, so, I picked it up.

This story is about 10k, by my estimate, which makes it the very high end of a short story or a novelette, depending on who you ask. And that count is only an estimate (and there was maths involved) so I’m just going to call it a story. Plus, it was originally published in both the New Yorker and a short story collection.

The story is really basic. Two ranch hands have one summer and then wish they had more time and do and don’t and… if you are at all familliar with the movie, you’ll understand – it’s no wonder they built a movie out of here, there isn’t much more than an idea.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of dialect and in some cases, even reading it out loud didn’t help and I ended up skimming over what was said. Also, Annie’s writing style is… not anything I’m a fan of, and there were a lot of sentences that felt like poorly structured and/or run-on monstrosities and I just wanted to take my red pen to it.

At least with this one, I can see why they got a movie idea from it, but the story needs a crapload of help.
2/5. Rent the movie instead.

Book Review–The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Daylight War
Peter V. Brett
Published: 2013

It is probably very appropriate that this third book in the fantastic Demon Trilogy Cycle ends with a cliffhanger.  The entire experience of reading the book was something like falling off a cliff.  For the first few moments you’re soaring at top speed.  Then you realise that you are falling–plummeting, actually–and then ::SPLAT:: you hit the ground and are shattered.   Yep, that’s what reading The Daylight War is definitely like.

The first two books in this series are fully incredible in ways that are hard to express without sounding like someone on speed.  “They’re soooo good! Really! Awesome! You have to read them!”   Whenever people ask me for my recommendations on Epic Fantasy the third spot on the list has always been held by Peter V. Brett.    After this book it will be Peter V. Brett (with an asterisk).  This book is, I’m hoping, the asterisk of the series.  The “go ahead and read the series but you could probably skim book three or even skip it as long as you read the last chapter” novel that many good series have.

I’ve said elsewhere that this book feels like it happened because HBO and Fifty Shades of Gray have made erotica and erotic sublpots in Epic Fantasy a new trend.   I say that because the first two books (The Warded Man; The Desert Spear) are about travelling deep into this awesome world where demons rule the night and man’s only hope lies in defensive runes inked on fences and doors to keep out the monsters.    Brett’s world is compellingly real and the magic system that drives the tension is magnificent.

Then you get to this book.  It opens with a mother and her two children weaving baskets and joking about the son’s attendance at a gay orgy later in the day. The boy’s younger sister turns out to be Inevera, a minor character from the other two books and the primary character of much of The Daylight War.   Because we clearly know from earlier books where Inevera’s path takes her, the end result of her long backstory is not in question.   Brett decided to spice up the story with a lot of lesbians, nearly-naked beautiful girls and a male sex toy eunuch.   The other two plotlines focus on the romantic and sexual exploits of The Warded Man and his lieutenants Rojer and Leesha.

I don’ t have enough words to stress to you how very dull all of this gets, and quickly.   It gets especially bad when the Warded Man–the badass hero of the first two books–gets into a long infatuation with what is possibly the worst character in Fantasy since Jar Jar Binks.

It makes me sad that a book I waited so long for and that I actually pre-ordered turned into such a mess.    I’m giving it two bookworms but I’m afraid that maybe the second one is mostly for nostalgia’s sake.


Writer Wednesday – Christopher Carroll

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Christopher Carroll, second son and third child of a Quebec Irish family born and raised in Ottawa Canada

Tell us (briefly) about you…
Raised with a love of books. Bed time was extended if we were reading in bed. For every hour of television or video games we wanted to watch we had to read a book of some sort. Dad wasn’t picky. It could be a thick comic. As long as we were reading something. That started the love affair.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’ve published about a dozen short stories in various mediums and have self published a half dozen collections of everything from pulp fiction mysteries to kink erotica and non fiction… self help pieces for alternative and risky lifestyles.

…and what you’re working on right now.
Right now I am working on a series of short (100 page) horror/thriller novels set around the concept of the empty miles of highways you find all over Canada. Ten minutes north out of any city and you find yourself on seemingly purposeless roads that look like they haven’t been travelled in years heading to parts of the country where there are maybe one person every ten miles.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Picking out Winnie the pooh books from the public library after church on Sunday afternoons to read with my dad that night before dinner.

What are your three favorite books?
American Tabloid by James Ellroy (picked it up at Union Station in Toronto to read on my first trip to New York. Missed most of New York as my head was buried in the damn book)

Richard III by Shakespeare. I don’t know why I like that play so much but I really, really do. I keep envisioning it playing out in Nazi Germany but still…

The Magus by Jon Fowles. It was gifted to me by a friend in Huntsville with the caveat that I’d only be able to read it when I needed it. I tried about a half dozen times and couldn’t get past chapter one. Then, after dropping out of University and getting dumped I found myself pouring through it three times in a week. It was magic. It set me right.

I haven’t been able to open it since.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
Five or six at any given time. If I read anything more then a hundred or two words of anyone writer everything I write for the next three weeks comes off like me trying to sound like them. And I can’t read Stephen King at all anymore or I end up mimicking.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book,
I am gone from the world until I fall asleep or someone kicks me in the head.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Re-read. Some books are worth it. Some books are complicated. Danielwski’s House of Leaves and J G Ballard’s Attrocity Exhibition have been re read about six times each (and I still have no idea what the hell they’re about!)

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
Very. Unless it’s the in thing. Then I’ll read it later. I just read The Millenium Trilogy. I imagine I’ll get to The Game of Thrones sometime in 2014.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very. My last job was special event coordinator for an independent bookstore. Pretty much my job was earning and recommending local authors. The only way we’ll survive these days as authors is through self networking… especially if we’re going the independent route and don’t have major publishing houses backing us.

What do you look for in a good book?
An interesting narrative voice. Someone with a good voice can write about their laundry list for a hundred pages and I’ll devour it. Someone could be talking about the end of the world by zombies and killer robots but if they write he said she said they did this he said this she said this they did this the sun rose they sat down he said this she said this they talked… ick.

Why do you write?
It’s therapy. It lets me close my eyes and shut off my ever critical brain and just vent out whatever is sitting inside me causing me grief. I know I’ll never get rich doing this. That doesn’t stop me. It gives me release and sometimes stuff I write sparks feelings in others. There is nothing more precious to me then that.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A monk Seriously. Cloistered in stone walls with books and quiet contemplation.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I honestly have no idea. Stories start for me with a monologue. A character starts talking. I let them talk. Then I close my eyes and see where they bring me.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I am a terrible editor, and self critical to an insane degree. And I am a lot more clever than I thought.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I think most of them are wishing I’d hurry up and get over it already. Even the most die hard of the highschool artists have settled down and gotten a decent paying job by now.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I’ve never heard a stereotype about writers.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
That first rejection shut me down for about twelve months. You don’t start great. Hell, you don’t even get great midway through. I think you get one really, really phenomenal story. The trick is to not ever let the last story you wrote be that one story. Always write one better.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh, no. I was an arrogant little twit when I started and I think I still kind of am. I just know, looking back on what I wrote then, that I was an absolute idiot. There is no such thing as pure talent. Don’t ever let anyone convince you there is. All talent needs three AM hammering it out on a keyboard practice. All skill needs refining. Back then I thought I could coast on talent.

Now I know talent is but a tenth of what is actually needed for success.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
The Walking Dead is awesome. I’d kill to work with Geoff Johns (DC COMICS) or Joss Whedon at least once before I die. Mostly, I would absolutely love to work on a Shakespearean revival. The Bard is cliche now and that irritates me because every single drama you can imagine he dealt with four centuries ago. Oh, and if anyone has the magic mojo to bring Lovecraft back from the dead for a book or two I’d love to work with him. He is the ONLY writer to ever give me the creeps.

How do you deal with your fan base?
With shocked awe. That anyone reads me stuns me. That people like what I write humbles me. They become my best friends. I try to be as nice as possible at all times.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know I’m not actually a crazy serial killer. I’m a normal guy who drinks beer, screws up really badly and sometimes worries too much about oral care.

Thanks for this

Writer Wednesday – Angelia Sparrow

A regular around the con-circuit in the southeast, Angelia is a surprising person both in and out of the book (and the bedroom, I’m sure…).

Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m a cranky middle-aged trucker who doesn’t believe in love, yet writes romance anyway.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I graduated college with a BA in English lit, a husband of 3 years and a bun in the oven. Three more kids later, I was trapped in the pink collar ghetto as a library paraprofessional. In 2005, I wrote my first full-length novel. I also met my usual collaborator, Naomi Brooks. I made a radical career change and went to truck driving school. I wrote a great deal on the road, filling the hours spent sitting on loading docks with words. In 2007, I got a local run, which got me home every night. I crochet, write, cook, and run a small press in my copious spare time.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I started, professionally, with erotic horror. A little boy meets incubus tale called “Prey.” Since then, there have been 10 novels (and 2 more coming), including one basic horror and one heterosexually focused book. HARD REBOOT releases Sept 30 from Amber Heat. I’ve written over 60 short stories, including a collection of lesbian adventures, a collection with my usual collaborator and a number of anthology pieces, the most recent of which is a contemporary called “Tiocfaidh Ar La.” It can be found in Storm Moon Press’ CARVED IN FLESH. My next release is Oct 26, an urban fantasy romance from Ellora’s Cave, called SPELLBOUND DESIRE about a combat mage and an alcoholic PI in a slightly skewed Memphis.

…and what you’re working on right now.
At the moment, I’m working on a comedic space pirate story for an anthology, the edits for a historical pirate novel, assembling 2 collections, editing a novel for my small press, and awaiting the edits on my January novel, a post-apocalyptic biker-gang thing.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
My father and grandmother reading to me. Grandma would read endless books to me when I was visiting. And my father, an account manager, had one for Holt, Rinehardt and Winston. He test- marketed kid books on me. The Holt client said they had found that when I liked a book, it tended to sell well. So I ended up with 2 full shelves of books at my grandma’s house.

What are your three favorite books?
That’s a really tough question. Julian May’s THE MANY COLORED LAND, Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD, and Judith Viorst’s ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I read between 2 and 4. Right now I am reading LIKE IT OR NOT, a dubious consent anthology from Storm Moon Press, LITTLE DEATHS edited by John F.D. Taff and NIGHT SONGS by Charles L. Grant.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…tend to fall asleep. I read in waiting rooms, in lines and anywhere but in a peaceful comfortable reading specific environment. I don’t curl up with books, so much as stand impatiently.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I try not to. Sometimes I just get to jonesing for something old. I read about 50 new books a year, and that leaves little time to reread old favorites.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It depends on the book and the person recommending it. My mom keeps trying to get me to read these Christian quilting mystery novels. Yeah, not so much. Elizabeth Donald, on the other hand, has reading taste similar enough to mine that I know I can try the new horror book without much regret.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Fairly. Of course, I’ll pitch my own first, but then I move on to other smaller press authors and then up to New York authors of my acquaintance. A book by a complete stranger? Only if it’s Heinlein, Bradbury, Ellison, Huxley or Orwell (and sometimes Steven King)

What do you look for in a good book?
I look for a story that pulls me in and characters I care about, that actually manage to live through the book. A 70% character-kill rate is about my upper limit, and after a few of those, I’m not letting myself invest in that author’s characters, I am just reading for the spatter. I quit reading Brian Keene, because nobody ever survived his novels and I was tired of new and innovative ways to kill people. Although I like the bit where the cows ate the Amish farmer…

Why do you write?
Because when the words quit, I end up with an expensive vacation to Sunny Rancho Loco in Scenic Downtown Little Rock. Last time it took anti-psychotics to get me functional. Writing is cheaper, and actually MAKES money.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A crochet artist.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
EVERYWHERE! It’s all grist. Everything
My mother saying, “I’m being followed by a couch.”
A line in a song on the radio. “Carried a gun in every hand” from “John Wesley Harding” got me wondering how many hands he had. And so was born a four-armed gunslinger.
A costume. Adam Lambert’s spiked codpiece at Sydney Mardi Gras inspired the opening scene of BARBAROSSA’S BITCH, my January release.
An actor. We’ll see an actor’s face, and go “Him, yes, him! He needs to be in my next book!”
A news item. An article about Christian Exodus led to research on Dominionism. This in turn led me to imagine a dis-united states, where the Dominionists, the Exodusers and other religious fanatics had created a religiously run American state, where pork was illegal, where women by law could not work outside the home, and where many crimes were punishable by public execution on live TV.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That I am not as smart or knowledgeable as I think I am. That my well of inner darkness goes a lot deeper than I’d like it to.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband is pleased by it. He doesn’t read my genre, but is very proud of me for writing. My mother is proud of me for publishing and embarrassed by what I write. Ditto my dad. My younger sister is my biggest fan and constant first reader. My kids are like “Eh, Mom’s writing again.”

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
We aren’t all isolated crazy cat ladies projecting our bizarre sexual fantasies onto the page because we haven’t seen anything that doesn’t run on batteries since the Clinton administration. Two cats fails to qualify me as a crazy cat lady.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Learning to write well BEFORE being published. A lot of authors are going the self-publishing route, just slapping together a story without even a spell-check, running it through Create Space and Smashwords. And that’s flooding the market. I’ve been asked why I stay with publishers when I could easily self publish. I know my limits and I know I need editors badly!

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
I used to write in lists. I would start the sentence, add a colon and then go into a list of words describing the action. My editors broke me of this bad habit.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
Ellora’s Cave has a bounty hunter call out. I’ve got a partner and a plot and characters. We’re going to get cracking as soon as there is internet in zir new place.

How do you deal with your fan base?
By smiling and nodding and avoiding eye contact. No, seriously. I’ve been told my eye contact is initially good, but then it slides away. There are reasons for this, usually because I’m lipreading. I love meeting fans of my work at conventions and I hope I greet and enjoy them with the same patience George Takei showed me at my first convention when I was a rather hyper 14 year old fan girl.

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
My fans would probably not be surprised by anything. I mean, they probably don’t want to know I’m hard of hearing, wear dentures or am asthmatic. I wear my paganism and queerness on my sleeve. They’d probably be surprised to know I’m not the wild sexual vixen having mad sheet romps every night and breaking the chandelier. I’m a tired old trucker with a six p.m. bedtime and a husband on an opposite schedule.

Anything else we should know?
You can catch me live at ConTraception in Independence MO on November 9. I’ll also be at MidSouth Con in Memphis next March, and FrolicCon and OutLanta in Atlanta next spring.

You can find me at http://www.brooksandsparrow.com
I’m on facebook as Author Angelia Sparrow, twitter as asparrow16 and livejournal as valarltd
Paperbacks can be had through http://www.literaryunderworld.com
And my company, http://www.inkstainedsuccubus.com is currently accepting submissions in all genres except children, young adults and monotheistic inspirational.

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