All posts by talon007

Guest Holiday Author: Wes Yahola

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Wes Yahola

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At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I began writing sometime in grade school, and it was just the sort of horrible, imitative stuff you’d expect from a grade schooler. But the urge to create stories never left me, it just took different forms, and I learned from each one of them.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

I work to get them. I usually have a desire to get some kind of vague feeling of a goal accomplished, and work to figure out and decide the ways to get there.

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

I haven’t based full characters off of anyone, but I have taken characteristics from people I know, or have known. And I’ve selected a few character names based of some friends.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I plot. I have to plot. I have to know in a general way how the story’s going to end.  And I like to know at least some of the major plot points along the way. That said, I’ve found that knowing too much in advance is a hindrance. I greatly enjoy when I get a new idea for story progression that fits perfectly and opens up new avenues to reach the right ending that I hadn’t thought off when doing the early work on the story.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

I’m one of those people that wants as much quiet as I can get. Music, even without a singer, distracts me. If I’m plotting or working through a knot in the story though, sometimes music and background activity is helpful. I never know if a stray bit of someone else’s conversation might inspire just the right thought.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I’d love to meet my character Maricin from The Artifice Conspiracy. She’s someone I was delighted to imagine and I’d love for her to tell me things about herself I’ve never thought of. As for others, I’d like to have a conversation with Roy from the webcomic Order of the Stick.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

The Artifice Conspiracy is the first novel I’ve written that was of publishable quality, so I’m going with that one. I am hopeful though, that my latest one will always be my best (so afar).

 

How much do you write each day/week?

On the days I have a writing session I aim to complete at least a thousand words. If I have a good reason for not reaching that many, I don’t beat myself up over it though. A few hundred words that work great are better than a thousand that don’t quite do it.

 

Do you have a routine when you write?

Nothing strict. I usually prep by having a cup of tea while sitting (or pacing) outside and going over what I’m going to be writing and need to accomplish.

 

What is your latest project/release?

The latest work out is the first one, The Artifice Conspiracy. My current project is a followup to that.

 

Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

The only one that’s for sure is MidSouthCon in Memphis this coming March. I’m reviewing my calendar for 2016, seeing where I might be able to go, who might be willing to have me, and how I can make it all work with my day job.

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Who were your inspirations?

I’ve read scores of writers and learned something from all of them. But the one author who inspired me in the most productive direction is David Baldacci.

 

Favorite authors?

The above David Baldacci. Also Ace Atkins, Ken Sholes, Brandon Sanderson, and James Lee Burke.

 

What book do you read over and over the most?

For the most part I don’t re-read books. I’ll sometimes go back and skim something I’ve read before, and that’ll be enough to remind me of everything I liked about it. Or I’ll hunt down some passages I really enjoyed (this especially with James Lee Burke). I do enjoy reading comics and webcomics over and over though. The good ones have so much there, and spread over so much time, I forget things. And I ’ve probably read Watchmen more than a dozen times. Not sure what that says about me.

 

Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

Nothing’s going to be universally appealing to everyone. Even the classics. Some will grab people some won’t. If I know the kinds of books people enjoy, I can usually think of something else I think they’ll like. If they haven’t already found it on their own, that is.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

Probably more than I think! I’ve tried to make my characters different from me because how I would react to things would probably make for a short and boring story.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I write fantasy. I’ve never really tried anything else because nothing else appeals to me so. I enjoy dealing with the absolutely fantastic and making it work in a sensible (and interesting) way. I enjoy a variety of genres but have found myself gravitating toward thrillers these past few years.

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

Novels by far. I like all room they afford.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve written something over half of the follow up to The Artifice Conspiracy. Same setting, about a year later, and focusing on different characters.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it.

I’ve been hit by writer’s block occasionally and the best way I’ve found to deal with it is to just sit and write whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to have anything at all to do with the story, or it could be just me ranting on the screen at being frustrated and what I want to do and how I’m not sure how to get there and if I do this then that won’t work but I could try this except for this effect it would have and so on until I’ve got a few rambling paragraphs like this one. Generally by then I have at least a single good thought about how to proceed and I force myself to follow through on that for at least fifteen minutes. By then I’ve usually got something going, even if it’s something I’ll need to radically change later.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

You have to be ready to sit and write and ignore the rest of the world for long periods of time. You have to be ready to deal with and move past rejection from publishers and the public. You have to understand the first draft won’t be the final draft – re-writing is crucial and irritating and magical.

 

How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

Imperfectly. Social media does not come naturally to me. I’m still struggling with developing a way to put it to better use.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

I have read reviews and found them inspiring. I’ve been lucky enough to not have anyone troll me about my writing (but I’m sure that day’s coming). The only time I answered a review I copped to an observation he made about my tendency to name as many people and places as I can.  He found it distracting but liked the book, and I just wanted to say why I tend to do that, and tell i was glad he enjoyed it.

In the future, bad reviews will come and I hope to learn from them. Not all people are going to like what I write, but a well done bad review can be instructive.

 

Thanks Wes. To find his books, click below:

Yahola

Holiday Guest Author: Van Allen Plexico

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:             

Van Allen Plexico

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First, a little something about him.

Born in Sylacauga, Alabama, United States, Van Allen Plexico graduated from Auburn University with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in 1990 and 1994, doing additional graduate work at Georgetown University and at Emory University. From 1995 through 2006, he lived and worked in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area, teaching at Georgia Perimeter College and at Shorter University. In 2006 he was named Assistant Professor of Political Science and History at Southwestern Illinois College, near St. Louis, Missouri. In 2011 he was promoted to Associate Professor. In 2015 he won the Pulp Factory Award for Pulp Novel of the Year for Legion III: Kings of Oblivion and the Pulp Factory Award for Pulp Anthology of the Year as the editor of Pride of the Mohicans, both published by White Rocket Books.

 

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to write. Even before I could actually write I was trying to write; I had my dad and my sister write my stories down for me as I dictated them. I think those involved the adventures of a bunny rabbit or something. I’ve branched out a bit since those days. If I wrote that story now, the bunny would be equipped with a starship and a four-barrel energy weapon. By middle school I was writing novels in longhand on notebook paper, then via a manual typewriter, then an electric one, and so on. Writing novels has always been the first and only thing I truly wanted to do in life.

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Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I’m notorious for preferring to plot stories out in pretty detailed fashion before I start writing them. Part of that is it helps me avoid getting bogged down and losing momentum, since I already know where things are generally going. Another part is I enjoy winding multiple plots and sub-plots through stories, and there’s no way I could keep track of all of them and bring them together at the right moment without having some sort of battle plan at the beginning. That said, I have no issues with being extremely flexible and allowing a story to change course and go wherever it naturally needs to go. The more you flesh out your characters, the more they will dictate a story’s direction, and the more you should let them do so. Forcing characters to behave against the nature you’ve already established for them always makes a story feel false and wrong. I like to have a general “road map” and a destination in mind from the start, but I want to always remain open to traveling alternate routes and side roads when necessary, or when it makes for a better story.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

That’s a very hard question because I write in several different sub-genres and I believe the work I’ve done in each of them has allowed me to exercise different literary muscles and achieve what I’d consider success in different ways. For example, in my superhero novel series, the Sentinels, I think each book has gotten better than the ones before it, as the characters have grown and developed over the course of the storylines, and as I’ve gotten better as a writer. STELLARAX, which is the climax of the big cosmic saga that made up the second trilogy (volumes 4-6) of that series, is probably my favorite, though, in that series. It brings together many, many different characters and situations that were introduced across the previous five books, and I believe it hits all the marks it needed to hit and does it with style. When I started on it I was somewhat intimidated by the challenge it presented, but somehow it all came together, which I consider almost miraculous.

With my space opera series, it’s hard to choose a favorite because they’re all different and I think successful in different ways. LUCIAN is the most popular one with readers; it’s first-person POV from the point of view of a Loki-like villainous-seeming character. The Shattering trilogy is pure space opera/military action with a lot of cosmic stuff around the edges, and I’m very proud of how it came out. (Its third volume, LEGION III: KINGS OF OBLIVION, won Novel of the Year this year from the Pulp Factory Awards.) And my newest book, BARANAK, tickles me to death in totally different ways from anything I’ve done before. I’ll get to that one later on in this conversation.

 

How much do you write each day/week?Peter F Hamilton Van Allen Plexico DCon 2015

I’m very much a creature of inertia and momentum. If I have a book underway and it’s really rolling, I can scarcely force myself to stop writing—I’ll stay up late, get up early, write between classes where I teach, and so on. I’ll have the whole thing done in less than three months. If I don’t have something working at the moment, I find it extremely hard to get going again. I will find a million other things to do besides get going on it. The best method I’ve found to switch my brain from idle to working hard on a book is to make the first day of the project a “six hours at McAlisters or McDonalds” day. I go to one of those places where they don’t mind you sitting there typing for six hours, and I’ll do nothing but work on the book. Generally by the time the six hours are up, the new book is well underway, momentum has kicked in, and I won’t be able to stop again until it’s done.

 

What is your latest project/release?

My most recent novel is BARANAK: STORMING THE GATES, which came out earlier in 2015. It’s a sort of prequel to LUCIAN: DARK GOD’S HOMECOMING and fits in with the rest of my “Shattering” series of books. Along the way it provides a number of answers to questions that have been lingering in that universe ever since LUCIAN came out, but I think it also tells a very fun story about two unique individuals on a sort of “road trip” across the multiverse. I’ve also pointed out it’s a space opera in which the two protagonists spend most of their time on horseback, which is not something you see every day. The gist of it is that the titular character gets swept up in an oncoming interstellar war and has no choice but to turn to a rather strange alien being for help—and that being may well be responsible for the coming “Shattering” of the galaxy. They don’t like each other, they certainly don’t trust each other, but off they go, like Hope and Crosby or Abbott and Costello in a “road” movie. I think it’s a very fun book.

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Who were your inspirations?

Roger Zelazny was my literary mentor, though I never got to meet him in person. I adore his work and have studied it backward and forward. LUCIAN and BARANAK both owe huge debts to his writing, though his influence is in everything I do. His combining of the serious and the comical, of SF and Fantasy, of pulp sensibilities with prose-poetry and Victorian drama… He is in my opinion a singular force in the history of SF &F.

Others who have had a major impact on my work include Dan Abnett (for the use of pulp-action styling in SF storytelling), Larry Niven (who first taught me about how to use big SF concepts like the Ringworld and indestructible spaceships) and Frank Herbert (for grandiose epic sagas across millennia). In the comics world, Jim Starlin, Jack Kirby and Jim Shooter burned the ideas into my brain of creating SF-based superhero stories that weren’t confined to just this world—or this dimension.

Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to be tabbed as the “celebrity author interviewer” at DragonCon and a couple of other SF conventions around the country (as well as via my White Rocket Podcast), so I’ve gotten to interview people for whom I have tremendous admiration for their accomplishments in the field, such as Larry Niven, Peter F Hamilton, Harlan Ellison, Harry Turtledove, Graham McNeill and Joe Haldeman, and pick their brains for all sorts of writing knowledge.

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What book do you read over and over the most?

Without question it is the first Amber series by Roger Zelazny, beginning with NINE PRINCES IN AMBER.  Prince Corwin of Amber is my favorite fictional character ever. He’s Loki, Thor, Prince Charming and Sam Spade all at once, and more.

 

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

I’m writing it now and it’s called “The Shattering” and I’ve been building myself up to tackle it my entire life, adding pieces to it here and there even as I constantly improved my own abilities to craft it. It includes everything I love in SF and Fantasy, from fleets of warring starships and vast legions of soldiers and massive walkers battling across many different planets and star systems to demonic invasions, hordes of horrific aliens and Jack Kirby-esque cosmic beings with godlike powers.  That series begins with LUCIAN and includes the “Shattering” trilogy of “Legion” novels where everything really comes together. I have quite a few more books to write as that big saga continues to be fleshed out.

The Sentinels are a dream project in a way, too, because I always loved the Avengers but wanted to do my own characters in that genre rather than writing someone else’s. I have the freedom with them to take superheroes and send them all over the world and all across the galaxy, having them battle street-level villains and overthrow alien galactic empires, all in one series of books—and grow as actual characters as they do those things.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I helped invent the modern indy superhero novel series, back in 1996 when Bobby Politte and I first started writing what would become the Sentinels. So I certainly have an affinity for that sub-genre, and I still have plenty to say in it. Currently, though, I’m fully immersed in what I’d describe as “gothic semi-military space opera”– where aliens, gods, demons and men clash as the galaxy burns!

In terms of reading, though, I read all sorts of things. The most recent genres I’ve read a lot in have been Scandinavian crime fiction (Nesbo; Mankell; Larsson) and Napoleonic Era naval adventure (O’Brian).  I also read a great deal of history and biography; a good chunk of the Shattering’s early plot ideas came from Byzantine history as related by Julius Norwich.  I believe if you only read books that are similar to what you write, you’ll never truly expand and develop and improve as a writer.

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Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I much prefer writing novels, where I have plenty of time and space to develop characters and plots. I have a lot of respect for writers who are skilled at constructing short stories, because it’s not easy to be that concise—to include every single thing the reader needs to know, and almost nothing else. I also always say a short story has to perform a trick: It has to do something along the way, so that at the end it basically says, “ta daa!”, like a dog rolling over or shaking hands. A novel isn’t constrained by the need to make you go, “Oooh! Neat trick!” after twenty pages or so. It can grow and breathe and be more immersive.

 

What are you working on now?

I have several books in the outline stage including a sequel to HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE (which is also a part of the Shattering universe) and another Legion-related novella and novel. Before those, however, I have vowed to write the next two Sentinels novels. It’s been since 2012 that I cranked one of those out, and the reader base is, to put it mildly, annoyed about that and anxious for more (and not thrilled with me for switching over to space opera for three years). So in the next few months I should complete Sentinels volume 8: The Dark Crusade. The ninth volume will follow thereafter. Then it will be back to the Shattering.

Along the way I’m also writing a serialized novel (sort of) for Pro Se Productions called ALPHA/OMEGA. It’s a near-future space adventure in the vein of the Expanse or Space: 1999. It’s a challenge to write since it’s not something I’ve done a lot of before—no gods or superheroes to be found!– but I’m enjoying it.

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Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it.

I’ve never experienced that phenomenon. I generally have several projects pending at any moment, so it may be that I have avoided it (without even being aware) by switching over to a different one. That being said, I find it enormously difficult to change from one universe I write in to another. I’m a very “one track mind” person. My brain doesn’t retain all the details of each universe for very long, so it works better for me to stick with one, keep everything in my head without any competing interests to distract me, and just keep going in that same universe for as long as I can. When I switched from writing one Sentinels book after another to doing space opera a few years ago, I had a very rough time deleting all the superhero stuff from my brain and loading in all the SF stuff. Similarly, it took almost a decade after writing LUCIAN for me to come back around to being able to write first-person POV smart-alecky lone protagonist again. Now I have to switch back to “superheroes with tons of major and minor characters and plots and sub-plots” and it has taken me months to get my brain back over there again. That’s why I’m planning to write the next two Sentinels books back-to-back—so I don’t have to switch back over again for another year or so!

 

Thanks Van. To find his books, click below:

www.whiterocketbooks.com

Guest Holiday Author: Cheryel Hutton

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Cheryel Hutton

 

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First, a little something about Cheryel.

Cheryel Hutton talks to dragons. But then, her muse is a dragon named Quill. Quill tells her dark stories of witches, werewolves, bigfoot creatures, fairies, and vampires. Then there are the stories of evil humans—and they are the scariest stories of all.

Her husband and grown children are used to Cheryel’s need to talk to Quill, and write down the stories told by the dragon. The grandchildren are young enough to talk to dragons too, so they understand.

Cheryel’s debut novel, Shadows of Evil, was released from Samhain Publishing, followed by Keepers of Legend, The Ugly Truth, and The Secrets of Ugly Creek, all published by The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on her next novel.

Cheryel, her family, and two dachshunds live near Jacksonville, Florida. The South is known for odd corners where the impossible sometimes comes to life. Cheryel loves to visit those places.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

Writing was such a natural thing to me I never really made a decision to write, I just started writing. I wrote my first “story” as soon as I knew how to put letters together to form words. I knew by high school that I wanted to write professionally, but I didn’t have the belief in myself or my ability to put that plan into motion. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I managed to get past the fear enough to put my work out there consistently.

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Where do your ideas come from?

There’s a secret room in the back of Walmart, and if you know the right people you can gain entrance and pick up story ideas. There’s also a fairy ring in my backyard, but I can’t talk about that.

Seriously, ideas come from everywhere, the news, television shows, movies, people I meet, random thoughts flying through my head. Especially if I’m trying to focus on a book, ideas for something else can come fast and hard—which makes it hard to concentrate.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

Both. When I start I know what the opening scene is, a pretty good idea of some the major incidents, and a very basic idea of the ending. I get to know the characters in the first two or three chapters, and sometimes that changes things a bit. After that, I figure out 2-3 scenes ahead of where I am. Weird, but it works for me.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. The type of music I listen to depends on the story and characters. I’ve written to everything from classical to Jazz to 80s pop. Who knows what my characters will demand next!

 

How much do you write each day/week?

I write 6 or 7 days a week for several hours. I aim for 1,000 words a day, and hope to get up to 2,000. I’m having difficulty reaching my goals, so I’m trying different techniques to up my daily word count.

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What is your latest project/release?

Blood of the Innocent came out in November, and is part of the Lobster Cove multi-author series from The Wild Rose Press. I had a blast working on such a huge project with so many other people. An amazing selection of fantastic stories have come from the series, and I’m proud to be a part of the excitement!

Blood of the Innocent is a short novel with a twist on the vampire legend. Here’s the blurb:

Veronica Teal is no ordinary biochemist; she’s a vampire. When she’s summoned to a human murder scene at the request of the local coroner, she expects to do her job. Then she discovers the killer is a vampire and the victim’s brother wants her help. Worse, she finds herself attracted to the handsome human male, despite her reluctance to get involved.

Joe Sullivan leaves his teaching job in Tennessee for Lobster Cove because his twin is in danger. He’s devastated to see Justin dead on a rocky shore. Desperate for answers, he turns to Veronica and finds himself curiously drawn to the lovely biochemist in more ways than one.

Together Veronica and Joe seek answers behind Justin’s mysterious murder and learn there are deeper secrets. Can they uncover the core of the conspiracy and find their own way to each other’s hearts? Or will their differences keep them apart?

 

Favorite authors?

It’s hard for me to answer that because there are so many authors I love. Let’s see: Isaac Asimov, Nora Roberts,  Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Sandra Brown, Diana Gabaldon, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Barbara Freethy,  Jane Austen, Barbra Annino, Cherie Priest, Mary Buckham, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells,, Dianna Love, Brenda Novak, Allison Brennan…the list goes on. I’m always reading both favorite and unfamiliar authors. I love discovering new favorites. For the record, my host is also one of my favorites. Keep up the good work, Alan!

 

How much of you is in your characters?

I think there is a little of me in every major character I write, which can be unnerving when writing a serial killer or a ruthless vampire or a talking tree.

 

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What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

Since everything I’ve had published is paranormal, it’s obvious that I like the stuff that goes bump in the night. I also like to write thrillers, and am working on a devious plan to move into that genre. As for reading, I seldom meet a genre I don’t like. My favorites are paranormal/horror, science fiction, and thrillers.

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

Novels. I started out writing short stories, and I still like to write them occasionally. Sometimes there’s this idea that doesn’t really translate into a full length novel, or I want to play with an idea without investing a lot of time. Still, I love playing in the depth and richness of a longer length.  I can get to know characters and situations, and for me, that’s the fun of writing.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the next two books in my Ugly Creek series. Ugly Creek is a fictional town in Tennessee, where the characters are odd, quirky, and not necessarily human; and where just about anything can happen.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

  1. Don’t rush to publish your work. Just because you can have it up on Amazon tonight doesn’t mean it’s really ready to be there. Take your time, write another book, and/or join a critique group. Make that first book the best it can be before you send the poor things out in public.
  2. Read a lot and write a lot. Yeah, it’s the same thing people have been saying for years, but there’s a reason for that staying power. Reading is the only way to internalize story flow, that deep knowledge your work is working. Writing is the only way to learn to write, just like any other skill. Write as much as you can. It really does make a difference.
  3. It’s your work, your name’s on it, don’t let anybody destroy the integrity of the piece. Listen to editors, they’re usually right, but be prepared to give reasons why you feel something should stay the way it is.

 

How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

I just try to get out there and connect with people.  As far as I’m concerned, the Internet is the best thing to happen to my social life. I can meet and talk to people from all over the world, or right in my own town. It’s a lot of fun. Selling books is just a side benefit. In my opinion, authors who get on social media just to push their books are only hurting themselves. It’s a new world of being more open and approachable. As a reader, I love being able to connect with my favorite authors, and hope that people enjoy sharing bits of my life with me.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

I do read reviews, but I try not to take them personally (very hard to do!).  I don’t believe engaging reviewers is a good idea. After all, we’re all entitled to our own opinions, even if we think they’re way off track. By arguing, authors are more likely to hurt their own reputations than make a point—I’ve seen it happen.

 

Thanks Cheryel. To learn more about her and her books, click below:

Cheryel Hutton

Holiday Guest Author: Christopher Beats

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Christopher Beats

 

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First, a little something about Christopher.

Christopher Beats is a starry-eyed idealist currently wandering the canals and boulevards of South Florida. He used to teach history at various levels and institutions but now focuses on writing beautiful lies.

 

 

    At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I’ve been writing and telling stories as long as I can remember. At some point in the fourth grade, I was scribbling away at this story and another kid saw it and was blown away by how long it was. Before that, I hadn’t really considered my ability to be special. By sixth grade, I was writing little novels and some other kids would read them. I can’t stress enough how much that early interest encouraged me on this path.

A big turning point came later, when I finished my MA in History. I’d sent stuff to publishers many times and considered myself a part-time author. But when I had to consider whether or not to start a PhD, it triggered a sort of epiphany. To put it bluntly, I realized I would rather fail as an author than succeed as a historian. I consider that a key turning point in any artist’s life–when they know that success in another field will always seem hollow. So I spent the next two years writing stories instead of doing research and the result was, among other things, Cruel Numbers and Vacant Graves.

 

    Where do your ideas come from?

With my background in history, a lot of my ideas are inspired by actual events and historical trends. I enjoy worldbuilding because of my understanding of causal relationships. That’s what history is really about—teasing out which causes have which effect. I loved the old Marvel “What If?” comics and I think it shows in my writing. Researching history is fun, but I love to explore the fictional possibilities even more, which is why I am especially drawn to alternate timelines.

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    Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

There’s this sort of battle between the plotters and the free-wheelers or whatever they call themselves, epitomized in some of Stephen King’s advice, which is definitely more free-wheeling. Personally, I use both methods. Sometimes, an idea hits and I start writing before I know where it’s going to go. Other times, I carefully mold it in my head then put it down. Both have worked for me.

 

    Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

I try to get the ambiance right for each setting. So when I was hip-deep in the Magnocracy (or any time I’m feeling noir), I listen to Fiona Apple. Something about her songs really epitomizes Donovan Schist’s world. When I write fantasy, I go with Loreena McKennitt or Mediaeval Babes or even folk music. With cyberpunk or sci fi, Funker Vogt really sets the mood for me.

 

 Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I would love to sit down over a cup of coffee with Donovan Schist and try to convince him that Eastern philosophy is worth his time. I suspect it would be a losing battle—he’s far too indoctrinated with Western thought.

For the characters of other authors, I’d love to meet Gandalf, Dumbledore, or Splinter (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I love it when an author develops a convincing mentor. It’s a very compelling archetype.

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    How much do you write each day/week?

I try to write or edit every weekday. When my family or appointments allow it, I aim for three hours, preferably in the morning. I get a lot of interruptions, though, so it never feels like enough. I consciously started giving myself weekends off to avoid burnout. In some ways, being your own boss gives you a very harsh taskmaster.

 

 

    Do you have a routine when you write?

Yes—it involves a lot of caffeine, either from black tea or coffee. I often lock myself in a room and put the iPod on as loud as it will go without breaking my concentration. Sometimes, I have to pace around to get the mood right in my head. For editing, I prefer quiet and will often hide in a corner of my public library.

 

 

    Who were your inspirations?

I consider Ursula K. LeGuin and Roger Zelazny to be grandmasters of the craft. Their work refuses to be stuck in any one genre and, most importantly, their prose is magnificent. I am humbled whenever I read them. I also look to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler for inspiration. They were trailblazers who forged a unique American style that really embodied the twentieth century and told the world we had something to offer literature.

 

    Favorite authors?

Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick, Neil Gaiman and Walter Jon Williams. I can be very picky when I read, but these authors have a large body of work that almost never disappoints.

 

    What book do you read over and over the most?

Like a lot of people, I reread Lord of the Rings and Dune every few years. In my opinion, these books are good for your soul. I’m challenged each time I read them and find that my interpretation has deepened over the years. I also reread the Harry Potter series fairly regularly. The later books in particular really get me thinking.

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    Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

I would like to see more people read Dread Empire’s Fall and its sequels. Walter Jon Williams’ use of actual physics demonstrates that you can write a compelling story without giving up scientific accuracy. Rather than just wave a wand and say “artificial gravity!” he showed that inertia and other forces would create limitations and opportunities in space not unlike those in the Age of Sail. In fact, those books have always reminded me of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series.

 

    How much of you is in your characters?

I think people would be surprised which characters I feel connected to. I try to put myself in every character, but especially villains. I believe in following the Batman paradigm of villainy. I’ve always liked how (in the animated series anyway) most of Batman’s enemies have a reason for what they do. So if I can, I make antagonists understandable, even sympathetic. Fiction is a good place to explore the dark side of one’s beliefs. It’s easy to caricature your political or idealogical opponents, but that’s a type of straw man attack, isn’t it? I’d much rather find out the pitfalls of my own philosophy than pillory ideas I don’t like. That said, sometimes I can’t help myself.

 

 

    What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I’ve found as I get older that genre matters less and less compared to plot, prose, and character development. I like authors who focus on those. That said, my favorites are noir, science fiction, and fantasy. I actually avoid reading whatever genre I’m writing, in part because I get sick of it. While I was deep in the Donovan Schist books, I couldn’t stand to read or even watch stuff about the 19th century or Steampunk. It was like I had gorged on ice cream and couldn’t eat it any more. Now that I’ve been away from the Magnocracy for a while, I’m happy to report I picked up Vermillion by Molly Tanzer and enjoyed it, so I guess my palate’s reset.

 

 

    Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I’m a novel writer. I have written many, many short stories, but inevitably they grow to the very border of novella or even spill over. Guess I’m long winded.

I’m also really big on character development, so for me, longer is better. I prefer TV series over movies for that reason. I like to see a long character arc, to really get in a person’s head and understand why they do the things they do.

 

 

    What are you working on now?

I’ve been editing a pretty massive near-future science fiction piece which, like other works of mine, started out small and just got out of control. It’s been kind of intense, so for the moment I’ve taken a break to write some quick little stories in a fantasy universe. Not sure I plan on marketing them, but they were a nice diversion.

 

 

    What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

The terrible truth is you’ll spend more time editing than writing. Everything has to be perfect or an editor won’t even look at it. So any given project needs at least twice as much time on the rewrite/edit period as on the creation. This is a hard lesson because editing can be so tedious. The thing to understand is that this is a job, and like all jobs there are tasks which must be done, regardless of how fun or stimulating they are.

Another thing I tell people is to be aware of the process and use it to your advantage. I remember talking to this guy who couldn’t figure out how to start a novel and I told him to use “Once upon a time” if it would get the ball rolling. It sounds ridiculous, but you’re going to rewrite the beginning a hundred times anyway. A better opening may come later, when you know where the story is going to go. People need to understand that the rough draft is like an unfinished house—you can put up all the scaffolding you like as long as it comes down afterwards. I’m a really verbose guy and when I go back over my manuscript, I know I’m going to cut a third of what I’ve written, maybe more. That’s fine, because the extra words helped me get in the mood. They served an honorable purpose. When I cut them, I try not to feel guilty or foolish about it.

Finally, it should go without saying that you’re going to have to change. Unless you self-publish without getting any advice at all, someone is going to have a say in what you write. This is good and bad, but the important thing is that you learn when to take advice and when not to. You’ll also have to learn to pick your battles. That’s a big one. Even the gentlest editor is going to ask you to change things. Just remember that they’re trying to make it more comprehensible, that the editor is your ally, more or less.

These are not easy lessons and I do not claim to have mastered them myself. I just know it would’ve helped me to learn them a decade ago.

 

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    How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

Awkwardly. There’s a lot of pressure on writers to create a “brand” and to put themselves out there all the time. This is difficult for me. I have young children, so my time is limited. I’ve also noticed, both from my own attempts and by reading others, that blogging is a specialized form of writing, just like poetry or novels. Some people have really mastered it. I’m not one of those people.

Thanks Christopher. To learn more about him, click below:

Christopher Beats

Holiday Guest Author: Tommy Hancock

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Tommy Hancock

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First, a little something about Tommy.

Steeped in pulp magazines, old radio shows, and all things of that era’s pop culture, Tommy Hancock lives in Arkansas with his wonderful wife and three children and obviously not enough to do. He is Partner in and Editor in Chief for Pro Se Productions, is an organizer of the New Pulp Movement, was a founding member and original Editor-in-Chief of ALL PULP, works as an editor for Seven Realms, Dark Oak, and Moonstone. He is also a writer published by Airship 27 Productions, Pulpwork Press, and other companies. Tommy works as Project Coordinator for Moonstone Entertainment and was the Founder and Coordinator for PULP ARK, a Pulp Culture Convention in the South from 2011 to 2013.

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

As far as putting stories on paper, 8 years old, in Mrs. Phillips’ third grade class room.

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Where do your ideas come from?

To be quite honest, my mind is constantly churning out ideas.  Inspiration comes from literally the onslaught of sensory information I take in every day. Sometimes a smell, sometimes something I see, sometimes a word I hear.

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

Never based on celebrities, but yes, I have been known to include a family member, a friend, or even an enemy or three in stories.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I am most definitely a pantser… in the best and worst ways as a writer.

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Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen to?

No.  Although writing doesn’t require total silence, music or watching TV are distractions I have to avoid. However, I very much listen to music just before writing to get amped up and after to sort of wind down from wherever the writing took me.

How much do you write each day/week?

Lately, writing’s been at a premium for me, due to real life issues and being a publisher.  When I am actively working on a story, I write every day and will not write less than a page, 500 words.

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Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?

Being a publisher, I have a different view of working with publishers.  I understand both sides of the fence, so to speak, so I have more patience when some things happen in regards to me as a writer working with other publishers.  I can’t say, because of that, that I have had any painful experiences.  I’m empathetic to writers who struggle with publishers and to publishers who encounter issues in what they do.

What is your latest project/release?

I have a story in the Legends of New Pulp anthology from Airship 27 that debuts a new character from me… Free Mason, PI.  Mason is a hard boiled detective right out of the Spillane school with a penchant for getting into trouble like Carl Kolchak.  Mason lives in a world where magic and monsters exist and even function as a part of society, but there’s still a certain degree of ‘hiding in plain sight’ going on.

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How much of you is in your characters?

To a certain degree, I am in every character I create, even the nondescript ones I never name.  As far as major characters or even supporting cast, you can put together all those characters from a story or novel I write and get a good idea of things going on in my life at the time of writing and who I feel I am at that moment.

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What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

Genre, I can write just about anything.  I write everything I do in the Pulp style, be it western, science fiction, mystery, or anything really.

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I enjoy them both equally. There’s something about having a short window of words to tell a whole story, and yet there’s also that something equally wonderful about having the stage of a novel to build an entire world on.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it?

For me writer’s block is something that is a phase, so I really, if it sets in, do not worry about it and let it pass.  I find that if I do anything else, then the phase just doesn’t go away.

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What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

Write every day, don’t ever pay a publisher for ANYTHING, and write what you want to.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

I try to engage every reviewer if I can find them.  I either thank them for the kind comments, or sometimes the negative ones, or I ask those who aren’t so positive ways the book could have been done better, in their opinion.

 

Thanks Tommy. To find his books, click below:

Pro Se Press – Tommy Hancock

Holiday Guest Author: Teal Haviland

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Teal Haviland

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First, a little something about Teal.

Teal Haviland grew up with a love for anything fantastical or outrageous. As a teen she spent much of her time writing poetry and children’s stories, but set it aside for two decades before allowing her passion for it to take root (or, as she describes, take over her life). After years of dreaming of worlds where fairies, angels, demons, and shape shifters (to name a few) exist, she finally decided to begin writing her stories down. Inception, book one in her series The Reaping Chronicles, is her first published novel. Nowadays she happily spends her writing time penning urban fantasy novels and is testing out her horror/suspense writing abilities. In addition to completing her debut series, Teal is also working on the first book in her second series, The Silver Rift, her first horror/suspense, Whispers of Stacey Glen, and several other works-in-progress.

Residing in Tennessee with her daughter and her four-legged friends, Teal enjoys photography, travel, reading, music, cooking, daydreaming, writing (of course), and above all spending time with her family and friends.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I don’t remember the exact age, but I know I was in elementary school.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Oh my goodness . . . tons of places and ways, but I’m a big daydreamer, always have been, so most of them come to me that way. I’m always creating random characters and situations in my mind and just let them have a conversation. Sometimes what they talk about and/or do sparks a story idea, and sometimes they just chat and nothing else comes of it. I’ve also gotten ideas from songs, something I hear someone say, and dreams I have at night

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities? Surprisingly, I rarely create characters based on someone I know or celebrities. What I’ve found so far, is that my characters are all different parts of myself, the good and bad side of me.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I’m definitely a pantser by nature, but I sometimes write out very general ideas of things I think I want to make happen to characters. Most of the time I just let my characters lead the story.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

Yesyesyesyesyes. I love to listen to music when I’m writing. I used to listen to a lot of music with words, but over the last couple of years I tend to listen mostly to movie scores and contemporary classical music. Listening to music with no words seems to help me stay focused on my story. BUT . . . when I’m editing I listen to music with words, and that ranges from county to top 40 to classic rock to singer/songwriter, and pretty much everything in between.

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Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I would LOVE to meet my character Gabrielle, The Angel of Karma. As far as someone else’s character . . . umm . . . probably Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

The one I feel is the best is the first in a series I’m writing called, The Silver Rift. But, I’m still a new writer, really, since I’ve only published two books so far.

 

How much do you write each day/week?

Lol . . . well, not nearly as much as I need to be. I’ve only been writing about 5000 words a week, but that WHEN I actually write. I’m not the poster child for writer productivity over the last couple of year. When I’m being more productive, I write between 15,000 and 30,000.

 

Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?

My only experience with a publisher did not go as I had hoped and didn’t end well. In a nutshell, contractually I had equal say in everything concerning my book and let the publisher do what they thought was best for my series, sometimes things I didn’t agree with, until it came to the cover. They wanted to use a cover that was very “Harlequin Teen Romance” and it would have branded my series completely wrong. When I voiced my opinion it wasn’t received well and I was basically told to sit in the corner and shut up because I was just an author. Needless to say that didn’t go over well with me, at all, and the publisher did not honor our contract. I walked away from that publishing deal and took my book into my own hands. It was a lot to take on since I didn’t know much about publishing, but I’m glad I did it. My book, hence the series, was branded properly and I’m very pleased with the end result.

 

Do you have a routine when you write?

Not anymore, which is part of the problem I’m having with productivity. I need to fix that, huh?

 

What is your latest project/release?

Currently, I’m mostly trying to get my series, The Reaping Chronicles, completed. I’m hoping to release the series in its entirety next year. I’m also dipping in and out of my other projects that are next on my to-write list, including The Silver Rift, Figments, and untitled project, Cupid’s Cousin, Whispers of Stacey Glen, and That Yesterday.

 

Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

Only Utopia Con 2016. I’m laying low until I have more titles released. 2017 should be a busy year for cons and appearances.

 

Who were your inspirations?

Marion Zimmer-Bradley, JK Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, J.R. Ward, Neil Gaiman, and Kristin Cashore, to name a few.

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Favorite authors?

All the above that I cited as inspirations.

 

What book do you read over and over the most?

Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Graceling

 

Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Graceling.

 

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

Not one in particular. All my writing projects are “dream projects”.

 

Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?

Daydreaming.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

Part of me is in every one of them, how much depends on the character.

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

Definitely Gabrielle, The Angel of Karma.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

Fantasy, of any kind, for both writing and reading.

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

Definitely long. I’m not sure why. I just have a very difficult time writing short stories. I just always have so much more I want the characters to do.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?

If so, how do you deal with it. No. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think it’s just us writers getting in our own way because of fear. When that does happen to me, I find if I just write something . . . anything, I’ll find my writing flow again pretty quickly. Now, procrastination, on the other hand, is a HUGE issue for me. I’m working on that, though.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

No one’s work is perfect, so stop trying to make yours that way. You won’t please every reader with your writing, so let the negative reviews go, with the exception of if you keep reading the same issues over and over. If that happens, you might want to pay attention to what the readers who didn’t like something about your book are saying . . . they might have a valid point and fixing the problem in future writing can make you a better author. And, finally, find other writers to spend time with. There’s nothing like having awesome writer friends.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?

If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made? I do, but I have a pretty strict rule of not engaging a reviewer or comments others have made. That goes for the good, bad, and the indifferent.

 

 

Thanks Teal. To find her books, click below:

Amazon.com – Teal

Book Review: Tales from the Flipside

Tales from the Flipside: The Adventures of Big Daddy Cool and the Bombshell Kittens.

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Tales from the Flipside is a fast-paced, over-the-top adventure that doesn’t know when to stop. Johnny Dellarocca aka Big Daddy Cool and his Bombshell Kittens are determined to protect the universe and his Chicago-based club, The Roxy, from the sinister forces hell-bent on conquest. With the help of masked vigilantes and other heroes of the day, Dellarocca and his Kittens face off against enemies like Adolph Hitler and his army of vampires, Dracula, and the great monster, Cthulhu.

 

For a debut novel, John Pyka knocks this adventure out of the park.  With so much action going on, he manages to tell the tales without losing or confusing the reader. The world he creates is rich with possibilities, many of which are explored, but plenty of room is left for further adventures. The only complaint I have is the number of characters thrown at the reader. With so much going on and so many folks involved, there is little in the way of character exploration. I’d love to have gotten to know more about Big Daddy Cool and the Kittens. Perhaps in the next volume.

 

Click below to find the print, ebook and audio versions:

Amazon.com – Flipside

Holiday Guest Author: Susan Burdorf

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

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Susan Burdorf is an avid reader, photographer and lover of all things sparkly. Writing is a passion that is only quenched when THE END is written on the last page of a manuscript. Nothing says home to her, though, like the presence of her family. Susan encourages you to correspond with her and is available for public appearances at schools and conferences.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

When I was in 4th grade we had to do that essay “What I Did This Summer” – remember that one? Mine was twelve pages long, back and front pages in super tiny script. MY teacher, as she kept handing me extra paper asked if I was drawing pictures to go with the story – I handed in the pages to her and went home. Next day she called my mom and said I should be a writer because all my words were spelled correctly, and I used commas. Keep in mind this was before computers and spell check, of course, I was only in 4th grade… how big could my vocabulary be, right?

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Everywhere. I strongly urge people to experience something new and to keep track of how it makes them feel and how it affects the people around them. Measure your experience by the number of times you think “wow, that was cool.” Or “I probably shouldn’t have done this” because these are all very real emotions or reactions to what has happened and ones you need to recognize in order to make your characters feel real to your readers.

 

Do you base your characters on people you know or know of?

Sometimes, yes, I do create characters based off qualities or physical characteristics I see in people around me. Everyone who knows me knows I might write them into a story or novel if they are not careful. I have a dear friend I dogsit for, and her two dogs ended up as characters in a short story about a murder… she, however, was the victim! And I like her…

Family or celebrities?

I try not to do celebrities, most of them are too plastic to be real, anyway. But family are fair game, I just know too many of their secrets not to throw in a joke here or there that they will only understand.

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Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I am kind of in the middle. If I am writing a longer novel I will write a synopsis that details pretty much how it will go because there are usually so many characters I cannot keep them all straight if I don’t do that. For shorter novels, novellas, or short stories I will pants it… much more fun to see where the characters will take you and who will take over as boss of the show.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen to?

I do listen to music, or leave the TV on (usually Bones or Law and Order reruns). For music it depends on what I am writing. I love Enya; Taylor Swift (and her sick beat); 2Cellos (instrumentals are so soothing… unless it is something wild they are covering like AC/DC); The Calling; Chris Tomlin (love his song Waterfall); James Blunt (saw him in concert once and will NEVER forget him surfing on top of the piano – that dude is awesome); keith urban; Adam Levine; and once in a while I will throw something weird in, like a techno beat.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person?

I have a character that is based on a friend. This character is a PI (Paranormal Investigator) and he has a huge Great Dane named Blue. Blue is a ghost dog, and I want to meet Blue… although if Cristo comes with him that is okay.

 

Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I am not sure about this one. I think I would love to meet Anne of Green Gables fame more than any other character. She still makes me want to go to Prince Edward Island and have tea with Diana and her.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

I have just started writing and publishing novels, so I will withhold judgment on this one until I have a few more under my belt.

 

How much do you write each day/week?

I don’t count words as much as I count time. I try to write at least one hour every day. If I am not writing I am reading, editing, proofing, tweaking,…etc, so I am still involved in the writing process.

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Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers?

I am self published but work through a friend’s publishing company that is small press. I have no horror stories, but I know people who have them.

Any juicy or painful experiences?

For their stories I guess the biggest suggestion/tip I have is to really investigate whomever you are going to work with. They might be great friends – but as business partners they might not be so great. Be smart, do your homework, and when you make a decision go in knowing it might not work – do not live with regrets or “what ifs”.

 

Do you have a routine when you write?

I do not really have any routine. I just get comfortable, put my laptop on my knees, and type away.

 

What is your latest project/release?

I released “A Cygnet’s Tale” which is a YA Contemporary retelling of the story of The Ugly Duckling. I worked on it for three years before finally hitting publish. The story touches lightly on the topics of bullying, teen alcoholism, and identity crises. NOTE: a young lady read my book and as a bullied teen she resonated with the character of Helen. Using that motivation, she created the movement called #AuthorsAgainstBullying and started a blog for book reviews and comments about teen life. She became an advocate for other bullied teens instead of staying a victim. That was pretty powerful stuff for me. A Cygnet’s Tale was released this past May. I am currently shopping a novel to a publisher. It is called Breaking Fences and is about a young man who is on the edge of getting in serious trouble until he is sent to live with his uncle for a few weeks, with the help of a neighbor girl he learns to accept life as the gift it is, and to let go of his past guilts. Oh, and along the way they meet some cattle rustlers, rabid coyotes, and manage to save a life in spite of some bad choices.

 

Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

I am scheduled to appear at several events in 2016, the most well known locally is Utopia Con, a conference in Nashville for people who enjoy reading. I will have a table there with prizes and my books, of course. I also will have appearances at Penned Con in St Louis; Once Upon A Book in Frankenmuth, MI (yep that is really the name and the venue is a cool old German style castle); and I will be at the Authors at the Opry event later in the year.  Check my website at www.susanburdorfwrites.com for the complete list of appearances and check back often, who knows where I will turn up.

 

Who were your inspirations?

My writing inspirations were all the folks I have met at the Nashville Writer’s meetup Group and all the authors I have met at the various signings and conferences and writer’s retreats I have been to.

 

Favorite authors?

Way too many to list.

 

What book do you read over and over the most?

Anne of Green Gables (replaced that book several times due to reading too much. As well as the rest of that series); Harry Potter (any of them, of course); The Hobbit and all its sequels.

 

Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

I steer clear of doing this – recommending books, because what appeals to me may not appeal to you, so you are on your own with this one.

 

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

Yes, I do. But I cannot speak of it or I will not ever write it.

 

Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?

Nope. I just listen to the words around me, I am kind of backwards in that I usually hear the words of a title and build a story around it.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

You know, most of us are told to “write what you know” and I get why – we want our writing to be real to our intended audience. But I want to take that sentiment a step further and advise you to “Write what you want to know” – if you only write what you already know you will shortly grow bored with what you are writing, and if you get bored your readers will too. So go out and experience life… I went skydiving to get how one of my characters would feel facing a fear they had for coming out of their shell; and while skydiving is an extreme way to experience a fear (and expensive too) it did help me nail down the way my character might react physically and emotionally to a fear. I watched the others that jumped with me, their elation at conquering their own set of fears; or the cringing that went on before they made that leap. So, I guess my characters are all a part of me – my experiences, emotions, fears, failures, and successes, but they are also a compilation of everyone I know – because I am, literally, watching everyone I meet. Not creepy at all, right?

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

Too soon to tell who I want to be like.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I love to read YA Contemporary (which is what I write. But while writing I will not read it) and I love to write Steampunk, Fantasy, and NA Contemporary… but I will never write Erotica (nor read it) and I am addicted to audiobooks!

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

Until I wrote and published my first novel I would have said I was happiest writing short stories, but now that has changed. I love to write both almost equally.

 

What are you working on now?

I have several projects I am working on to release in the coming months – one is an episodic series about a fairy tale ball that goes horribly awry when a demon attends uninvited. Another is a trilogy about a political situation in a world populated by deceivers and only a young girl with no power or courage of her own must battle those with all the magic at their control for her world to survive. And several short stories will be coming out in numerous anthologies throughout the year.

 

Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?  If so, how do you deal with it?

Anyone who writes will suffer this at one time or another. I usually step away from the project I am working on and do something totally different. I will go to the Zoo and walk around taking pictures, or I will hike, or chat with friends – anything to exercise another part of my brain.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

This is a great question and one I wish I had asked myself and others before I got into writing.

  1. My first suggestion is that as a writer you should be an avid reader. It doesn’t matter what you read, just make sure you read. You will pick up phrasing, or word structure, or how to format, etc from reading. You will also need to read to research, and even if you are writing fantasy or something that requires you to create your own world you will still need to research to make sure you get the parameters of that world logical.
  2. You are not alone. Reach out to others, whether you join a writer’s group, attend conferences on writing with workshops and panels, or just talk writing with groups online – make sure you connect with other writers. Networking is a great way to learn about trends (which you should never write to EVER), or find out about workshops or signings, or to find beta readers or Critique Partners, all of which are essential whether you publish independently or traditionally or are considered a hybrid author (both trad and indie published).
  3. Learn to take criticism well. Remember: not everyone is going to like what you write and that is okay. Do not take personally what someone says in a review, and never engage in a war of words with someone who writes a one star review – their opinion is appreciated and then move on. And yes, there are trolls out there who use reviews to drop an authors’ standing, but that is not in your control. Keep writing, keep asking for reviews, and keep on the path you want to take. Don’t change what you are writing because of what anyone else says – this story is your voice, not anyone else’s.

 

What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event?

I have a very small fan base, almost three people like my book – truth. And I am okay with that. So I have absolutely no funny or awkward stories to talk about. I live such an average life, don’t I?

 

How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

Ahhhh social media… well, this is a novel all in itself and many have written a book about it. I have attended workshops and panels and lectures and read lots of books about how to use it. I have a website, a facebook author page, a twitter account, a pinterest account, an instagram account, and  of course several email addresses and I converse daily on Facebook with fans and fellow authors. I have almost 500 friends on my facebook page and that is plenty for me. I am more of the old fashioned type of author – I want to meet my fans, and talk about the real issues of teens today because that is what I write about. So, the lesson here is – don’t email me, come talk to me!

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

No. I don’t read the reviews and never will. I just want to write and not be weighed down by what people write about my work – got questions, come talk to me. Got comments, come talk to me. I cannot write better without talking to those who read what I write.

Thanks Susan. To find her books, click below:

Susan Burdorf

Holiday Guest Author: Andrea Judy

 

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

Andrea Judy

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First, a little something about Andrea.

Andrea is a writer who makes her home in Atlanta, Ga. Passionate about language, she writes in multiple genres, and has had poems and short stories appear in various literary magazines as well as in several anthologies. She also studies and writes about fandom and video games. Her first digest novel, The Bone Queen, was published in October 2013 with the sequel, Blood and Bone released in February 2015.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

From as early as I can remember? When cleaning out my room once I found a terrible short story that like 10 year old me wrote. I’ve always wanted to write but never really realized it was an option until later in life.

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Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

Both and neither? I like to describe myself as a pantser with a belt. I sometimes have very detailed 5000 word outlines and other times I have no outline and just wing it. Usually I have at least a basic idea of my plot. The more I write, the more I tend towards outlines.

 

Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

I make playlists for what I’m working on and then listen to them when I work. It helps get me into the mindset of the book. Once I find the right musical tone, the book usually flows a lot smoother.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

I really love my origin story for the Bone Queen. That’s probably my favorite because she’s one of my favorite characters I’ve put together.

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How much do you write each day/week?

I’ve fallen off the writing horse for a while lately but I usually aim for at least 750 words a day. Lately I’ve been hitting 3000 a words a day.

 

What is your latest project/release?

My latest project I just finished is a male/male murder mystery about a recovering drug addict whose sober sponsor is murdered. It’s a dark book that I’m really excited about. I’m currently revising it but it’ll be ready for the world soon.

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Favorite authors?

Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Lisa Mannetti, Delilah S. Dawson, Gwenda Bond, Claudia Rankine and many, many more.

 

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

I would love to write a YA featuring Harley Quinn. I NEED THIS TO HAPPEN.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

It’s hard to gauge. Sometimes I don’t think there’s anything of me in my characters but people who read it can peg parts of me immediately. I draw on my own experiences so I’m sure my reactions and wordage tends to infiltrate.

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What are you working on now?

I am currently writing a YA murder mystery set in a girl’s boarding school for monsters.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

  1. You’re going to write awful, crap drafts and it’s okay.
  2. You’ll never learn anything if you don’t finish a story.
  3. Learn from other writers and make friends.

 

What is your funniest/ awkward moment at a convention/signing event?

The time a drunken Pikachu started hitting on me then was picked up and carried away by a very large friend of mine.

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How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

Ah social media. Honestly it’s hard. I like to tweet random thoughts and opinions, my Facebook pages I mainly blog and article posts, and my tumblr is everything and then some. Social is a hard beast to rangle if you think about it too hard. You need to be authentic and engage with people and not treat it like a bull horn or a billboard.

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

Nope. Nope. Nope. Do not engage.

 

 

Thanks Andrea.  To checkout her website, click below:

Andrea Judy

Holiday Guest Author: John G. Hartness

 

This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:

John G. Hartness

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First, a little something about John.

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the best-selling author of EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chroniclesfrom Bell Bridge Books, a comedic urban fantasy series that answers the eternal question “Why aren’t there more fat vampires?” He is also the creator of the comic horror Bubba the Monster Hunter series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad series of horror anthologies from Dark Oak Press and Media. 2015 has seen John launch a new dark fantasy series featuring Quncy Harker, Demon Hunter.

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and recording new episodes of his ridiculous podcast Literate Liquors, where he pairs book reviews and alcoholic drinks in new and ludicrous ways. John is also a contributor to the Magical Words group blog. An avid Magic: the Gathering player, John is strong in his nerd-fu and has sometimes been referred to as “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte, NC.” And not just for his girth.

 

At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was very young, and started writing creatively around age eight. My first published work was a poem for my 3rd grade English class called “Kool Kitty” that I wrote about Garfield. My teacher ran it in the school paper, and that probably sealed my fate right there.

 

Where do your ideas come from?

Almost everything I’ve written comes from “What If” questions about something I see, read, or experience. The Black Knight Chronicles happened when I read Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and wondered “What if there were fat or nerdy vampires?” Harker came from hearing that Constantine was going to network TV and wondering “What if somebody wrote Hellblazer right again, like Garth Ennis did in the ‘90s?” So most of my ideas come from seeing something in the big world and turning is 20 degrees off center.

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Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?

Not really. There may be one characteristic they share, or a physical look that they share, but the root of the character is mine.

 

Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?

I outline religiously, even my short stories. I can’t get through even a 10,000-word short without a road map.

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Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen too?

What I listen to depends on what I’m writing. If I need to focus, it’s probably instrumental. Lindsey Stirling is my current favorite for that. I’ve written entire novels to Jason Isbell, Turnpike Troubadours, and The Avett Brothers. I dig the new outlaw country stuff, not the big hat bro-country BS, although I’ll listen to that in the car. I like Rob Zombie for fight scenes. More Human than Human gets my adrenaline pumping and I can spray some blood on the page.

 

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?

I’d like to party with Bubba, but a fair number of people would say that partying with me is parting with Bubba, so that could end in tragedy (or hilarity). I’d like to hang with Silk, from David Edding’s The Belgariad. Or Jimmy the Hand from Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga.

 

Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?

Well, I was fortunate enough to win the EPIC award for Best Horror Novel for Paint it Black, but I think In the Still of the Knight (Black Knight #5) is even better. It’s more honest.

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How much do you write each day/week?

On a good day, I get 2,500-4,000 words done. That’s Monday-Friday. I usually don’t write on weekends. My mileage varies depending on what else I have to work on. Like yesterday I spent half the day designing postcards, so I only got half a day’s worth of writing done.

 

Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?

I love my publishers, so all my stories are boring. But I will say that when the publisher asks to use one of your edited pages as an example of how detailed their editing process is, it means there’s a LOT of blood on that page. J

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Do you have a routine when you write?

Not really. Since moving to doing this full-time, I sit down in the home office in the morning and hammer at it until I’m done.

 

What is your latest project/release?

I just released a brand new Bubba the Monster Hunter novella, Moon over Bourbon Street, this week. In it, Bubba and the gang travel to New Orleans for vacation but get dragged into local supernatural politics and have to save the city from itself.

 

Do you have any signings or appearances coming up?

I’ll be at the Charlotte Comicon on December 6th, but that’s it until Arisia in Boston in January.

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Favorite authors?

David Eddings, Pat Conroy, Neil Gaiman, Vince Flynn, Richard Kadrey, Jim Butcher, Seanan Mcguire

 

What book do you read over and over the most?

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

 

Is there a book or book series that you recommend to people?

On Writing by Stephen King and The Belgariad by Eddings

 

Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?

Yes. There’s a literary fiction novel brewing, but it’s not ready to come out yet. It’s a coming of age story.

In the Still of the Knight

Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?

Nah, I just drink too much like everybody else.

 

How much of you is in your characters?

A fair chunk of my voice and snark, but that’s mostly it. A lot of them reflect some aspect of myself that I’m trying to work on, but none of them are “me.”

 

If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?

NOBODY! Have you seen what happens to those guys? They have to fight monsters, and demons and shit! I don’t want do that, it’d be terrifying.

 

What genre do you prefer to write?  To read?

I write urban fantasy/horror. I read urban fantasy, epic fantasy, southern gothic, southern lit, military fiction, all sorts of shit

 

 

Do you prefer writing short stories or novels?  And why?

I’ve recently found that my natural storytelling length seems to be about 30,000 words, so I’m really enjoying novellas right now.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Man in Black (Black Knight #6), Hell Freezes Over (Harker #4) and the beginnings of other things.

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Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you?

If so, how do you deal with it. Writer’s Block is bullshit, it doesn’t exist. Depression happens, and real life interferes, and sometimes what you’re writing is shit and your subconscious won’t let you torture the universe with your turd-droppings anymore, but fucking take time to self-analyze, figure out what’s causing your freeze, and fix it. But don’t just fucking whine about writer’s block. Pros don’t get writer’s block. Pros get the fucking work done.

 

What 3 things do you feel every aspiring writer should know?

1) This shit is hard. Really hard. Like, go do something else if it makes you happy, hard. But if this is what you’re put here to do, there’s no more rewarding thing in the world. 2) Fuck convention – do your thing your way and make them take notice. Be the best and they have to deal with you no matter whether you’re doing shit their way or not. 3) Own your mistakes and learn from them. Don’t be an idiot and keep doing the same stupid shit again and again, realize what doesn’t work and fix it.

 

How do you use social media in regards to your writing?

I pimp my shit and other people’s shit pretty relentlessly on Twitter and Facebook. And people can sign up for my email newsletter at my Facebook page – facebook.com/johnghartness.

 

 

Do you read reviews of your books?  If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?

Sometimes. The only time I’ve engaged was when a reviewer said I didn’t know the geography of Charlotte, where my books are set and where I’ve lived since 1995. They said there was no cemetery at the corner of Monroe Rd. and Sharon Amity Blvd. I replied that since I drove past it every week on my way to my Monday night Magic the Gathering game, I figured I knew what I was talking about.

 

Thanks John.  To checkout his website, click below:

JohnHartness.com