The Write Stuff – Monday, August 17 – Interview With T. M. Franklin

Today’s guest and I share a brief history dating back to early 2014. I met T.M. Franklin at Page 2 Books in Burien, Washington in February of that year at my very first book signing. Leland Artra of the Fantasy Sci-fi Fantasy News Network (#FSFNNet) had organized the event and several genre authors turned out. I liked her from the start. She is as open and engaging as the books she writes and I hope you grow to share my opinion.

TMFranklinT.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, and a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun than reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written three additional novels and several best-selling short stories… and there’s always more on the way.

She describes MORE, the first volume of her eponymous series, as follows:

Ava Michaels used to think she was special. As a child, she fantasized about having magical powers… making things happen. But Ava grew up and eventually accepted the fact that her childish dreams were just that, and maybe a normal life wasn’t so bad after all.

Now a young college student, Ava meets Caleb Foster, a brilliant and mysterious man who’s supposed to help her pass Physics, but in reality has another mission in mind. What he shows Ava challenges her view of the world, shaking it to its very core. Because Caleb isn’t quite what he seems. In fact, he’s not entirely human, and he’s not the only one.

Together, the duo faces a threat from an ancient race bound to protect humans, but only after protecting their own secrets—secrets they fear Ava may expose. Fighting to survive, Ava soon learns she’s not actually normal… she’s not even just special.

She’s a little bit more.

Trilogy-transparentEven though we’ve led our readers into this visit with a summary of MORE, one that characterizes the series, I’d like you to tell us about your most recent release.

My most recent full-length release is TWELVE, the third book in the MORE Trilogy. It’s an adventure about a girl who discovers she’s more than a little bit specialand there’s a group of people who see her as a pretty big threat. In TWELVE, we finally get the answers about who exactly she is, and where she fits into this strange, new world she’s discovered.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was tying up all of the plot points and keeping track of the HUGE cast of characters in TWELVE. We have good guys and bad guys, Race and Guardians and TWELVE and humans… and they all have an important part to play. It was important to me that the story satisfy readers who’d enjoyed the first two stories. I really didn’t want to disappoint them.

As far as overcoming it, it was just sitting down and getting the words out—telling the story I set out to tell, and plenty of discussion with my editors who’ve worked on the trilogy along the way. We all had the same goal in mind, so that really helped.

What other novels have you written?

In addition to the three books in the MORE Trilogy, and a few short stories, I’ve written a light, YA romance called How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You. It’s about a quirky boy who makes lists for everything he does. He’s not part of the in crowd, and he’s okay with that because he believes he has a lot to offer. So he sets out to win the heart of Ainsley Bishop, and of course he makes a list to do it.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

MORE was a finalist in the Kindle Book Reviews Best Indie Book Awards and won the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards in the Suspense/Thriller category.

What else are you working on?

I’m currently working on several projects. The next one will be a serial branching out from my short story, Window—which told the story of a girl who got visions of the past, present, and possible future through the picture window in her house. I’ve had several readers ask for more of this story, and I’m working on it.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Caffeine addiction.

Hah! You can say that again. How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

Fictional people? I think maybe half a dozen? Real people—none yet.

I hope you’re not working on it. That said, have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

Nope, although I have been known to agonize over it in some cases.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Balancing the story you want to tell with the story that readers want.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m happily married and have two grown boys—the youngest of which is starting college in the fall, so I’ll soon be an empty-nester. Well, except for my crazy dog, that is.

What motivates or inspires you?

Everything! Music, nature, books, movies, talking with people—inspiration is all around us!

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

I don’t really consider failures as failures. They’ve all led to where I am today and I’m pretty happy now, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

What a nice outlook on life! Since MORE sets the stage for your trilogy and draws the reader in, I’d like to share an excerpt. However, before I do, I’d like to finish this interview with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m: a …goofball.

The one thing I cannot do without is: family.

The one thing I would change about my life: work more efficiently.

My biggest peeve is: arrogance.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my life. I’m happy!

How wonderful you can say that!

 I’m reading MORE as you read and I’m eager to share it with my visitors. Ms. Franklin’s works are deceiving easy reads—something young readers will appreciate and adult readers will enjoy—and she knows how to intersperse action with moments of quietude, all the while insinuating tension to keep the pages turning.

 Chapter 4

A man—a huge man—stood before her, mouth twisted in rage. He towered over her, at least six and a half feet tall, his shoulders wide, and arms banded with muscle. Shaved close to his head, his dark hair shadowed his skull, and his intimidating appearance was only enhanced by the jagged scar running down the right side of his face, from forehead to chin. He didn’t wear a coat, only a tight, black shirt and fatigues, black boots on his feet, and a wide leather belt with a mean-looking gun holstered at his hip.

It couldn’t be. But it was.

It was him. The man from her nightmares.

Ava scrambled back, but he reached out in a flash, gripping her upper arms and lifting her up so her toes barely brushed the ground. One hand slid to her throat, and he held her easily, pulling her closer to his frightening face.

“Please,” she begged, the word catching as she fought to breathe.

The man’s glare tightened, and Ava stared in morbid fascination at his mismatched eyes—blue and green—odd and vividly terrifying. She struggled, reaching for her pepper spray, only to have it slip from her fingers as she kicked out at the man.

He responded by laughing humorlessly, flipping her around and banding one arm around her torso. His grip was like iron, and she could barely breathe.

“Please,” she said again, dizziness closing in. “I can’t,” she gasped.

A press of metal to her temple transformed her fearful trembles into horrified shudders. She had no doubt. She was going to die. Her eyelids fluttered shut in defeat as he cocked the gun, the loud click echoing off the trees.

Then, a flash of black, a gust of wind, and suddenly she could breathe again. The man’s grip loosened, but he didn’t release her.

“Damn you,” he growled. “Stay out of this!”

Ava pushed him, her efforts in vain, as he hitched her up in response, tucking her under his arm like a bag of groceries. She kicked her legs, flailing desperately as the man spun about, pointing his gun into the darkness.

“Show yourself, you coward!”

The same flash of black, another blast of wind, and Ava fell to the ground, her head cracking on the concrete. She curled onto her side, moaning, lifting a hand to the back of her head, and squinting in shock at the blood that came away, streaking across her trembling palm.

Low grunts and the crack of bone on flesh floated on the air toward her, muzzy with her disorientation. She tried to focus, but could only make out two dark figures exchanging blows. Ava tried to sit up, but collapsed back onto the icy ground, overcome by a shock of dizziness and nausea.

Suddenly, the two dark beings seemed to meld into one, and in the next moment, she felt herself floating. She blinked; a face took form above her briefly, the features cast in shadow.

“Do I… do I know you?” she mumbled, fighting for consciousness.

“I’ve got you,” a low voice replied, and Ava nodded as a cool palm stroked her forehead, and the darkness consumed her.

If you would like to follow T. M. Franklin, or purchase her books, these links will help you:

 Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/TMFranklinAuthor
Twitter:          https://twitter.com/TM_Franklin
Email:                        TMFranklinAuthor@gmail.com

 Amazon U.S. – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogy

Amazon UK – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogyUK

Amazon Canada – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogyCA

Amazon Australia – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogyAU

Barnes & Noble – TinyURL.com/MOREBandN

iTunes – TinyURL.com/MOREiTunes

Kobo – TinyURL.com/MOREkobo

TWCS – TinyURL.com/MOREtwcs

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 3 – Interview With AR Silverberry

Before I was published, I felt as if I were the only author in the world. These days, I belong to a seemingly endless circle of authors of demonstrable talent such that each time I turn around, I find that yet another of my acquaintances has won several awards and writes with great originality. Having said this, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to A. R. Silverberry. If you have not yet sampled his work, you should.

Author Photo 2 198x300When I asked Mr. Silverberry to give us his writing biography, not one to go on about himself, he gave this succinct reply:

A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. The Stream is his second novel.

I find his premise for The Stream vastly intriguing:

What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?

After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?

Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Stream is a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.

Will you tell us how this unusual book came into being?

Funny how it came about. I was working on the sequel of my first book, Wyndano’s Cloak, when I was gripped by the idea for another story. I had been having a conversation where I used the metaphor of a stream. I kept thinking about that metaphor. In a few hours, the character of a small boy, alone, defenseless, trying to understand the ways of the world, sprang into my mind. I saw images of him confronting the challenges we all face in life: love, loss, pain, losing your way. The next morning, I put aside that sequel and started writing. It pretty much tumbled out of me and didn’t let go until it was done.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I knew almost nothing about boats and sailing. My knowledge of surviving in nature was just as scant. Here’s a short list of some of the things I needed to learn and integrate into the novel: the flora and fauna of the riparian wilderness, the technology available to the primitive people occupying the Stream—knife making, basketry, boat building—and the mainstays of their diet and how it was prepared. In other words, I had a huge learning curve.

Have you written any other novels?

Wyndano’s Cloak (2010) and its prequel, unpublished and living in one of my dresser drawers.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

Yes! Both books have gotten awards. Wyndano’s Cloak was a Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal winner. To date, The Stream has snagged four honors: Shelf Unbound Notable Book in the category of Literary Fiction, Eric Hoffer Award Finalist in General Fiction, Finalist for the da Vinci Eye (for the book cover), and Finalist for Foreword Reviews Indie Fab Book of the Year Award.

What else are you working on?

I’m working on a dystopian sci-fi trilogy. I don’t like to say too much about unpublished projects. You never know how they’ll turn out, or if they’ll turn out! Case in point: the prequel mentioned above. I think about it from time to time, wondering if I can resolve cure the ills that plague it!

I certainly understand. Sometimes you can talk all of the energy out of a project. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

If you’re personality is not suited to it, the long, solitary hours might be an issue. Fortunately for me, I can get engrossed in my writing for much of the day, and wonder where the time went.

Tell us about your path to publication.

That prequel was written purely on intuition. Translation: I didn’t know beans about writing. I submitted it to agents. All five rejected it, but one was kind enough to critique the positives and negatives about the book. Her feedback was quite helpful, and spurred me to learn about the craft by reading books and taking courses. When Wyndano’s Cloak was completed, my editor (I kid you not, a Finalist for a Pulitzer!) encouraged me to submit it to agents. In fact, after I told him I wanted to self-publish it, he wrote to an agent, without my knowledge, and told her about it. Talk about a vote of confidence! It was wonderful that he was so passionate about the story, but I wanted total artistic control of publication, and went that route.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Making it all hang together. The early drafts of Wyndano’s Cloak had too many themes. I spent six months pondering which one to focus on, and drove everyone around me crazy as I agonized over it. Thematically, The Stream was easy, though. I knew what I wanted to say, and that guided the process.

Having the courage to cut and pair down to the most essential things is another challenge. Case in point is the excerpt at the end of this interview. I love the way the scene turned out, but I decided not to include it in the book for pacing reasons, and because I found other ways of conveying what I needed. Think of it as bonus material for people who want more about the Stream.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

If you like adventure, suspense, and fantasy, along with unforgettable characters, you’ll enjoy my books.

Describe a typical day.

Roll out of bed between 6 and 7 AM. Pet and feed “freelance household beast” (credit goes to the poet, Pablo Neruda). Write until 9. Take a long walk. Jot down story ideas on notebook. Head to work. Listen to audio book (currently One False Move, by Harlan Coben). See clients afternoon into the evening. Listen to audio book on the way home. Read at night. Sleep. Dream.

I’m eager to share a sample from The Stream with our visitors, but before I do, let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …

Caring individual.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My piano.

My biggest peeve is…

Intolerance.

Thank you, A. R., for taking the time to share with us. Here is the sample I promised:

Stream Small Cover 2If Wend had stopped to think about it, he would have realized that his family, searching for fruit, nuts, and roots, never ventured far from either shore, that travelers never sailed upstream to tell tales of what lay ahead. Except for tacking and voyages of a few miles, his family never ventured upstream either. When he’d asked his father why, he was told, “It’s a law.” Wend must have looked blank because his father told him to jump as high as he could. Wend jumped, and after his feet landed on the ground his father said, “Now jump as high as the top of the mast.” Wend had laughed and declared that no one could do that.

“Why not?” his father asked.

“We come down first,” Wend replied.

“It’s a law,” said his father. “And it’s a law that we go that way.”

His father pointed downstream.

If Wend had thought of these things, he would have understood that everyone was tethered to the stream and could only go in one direction. People stopped from time to time, working at abandoned foundries to smelt metal for anchors, chains, and knives, cutting trees to build or repair boats, living in villages, taking over deserted houses like creatures that move into another animal’s shell. They never stayed long, always returning to their boats, always going with the current, always traveling downstream.

For those of you who would like to stay in touch with A. R. Silverberry, here are a few links:

 Website                    http://www.arsilverberry.com

Blog                            http://www.arsilverberry.com/blog

Facebook                https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-R-Silverberry/122991764395051

Twitter                     @arsilverberry

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 20 – Interview With Lauren Lynne

I first met YA Contemporary Fantasy author, Lauren Lynne, through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network, #FSFNNet, a hangout for authors and readers of these genres. Time passed and our friendship grew until one day I chanced to read her Facebook bio and learned we are neighbors, living within a few miles of each other. It didn’t take long before we found a chance to do a face-to-face over coffee at a Starbucks located midway between our homes. I found her to be such an enjoyable lady—certainly an enjoyable, intriguing author—and decided I needed to introduce her to you. Here is how she describes herself:

Author 9I’m author Lauren Lynne. The good side of growing up is that you can write whatever you want. The downside… now I can’t read it without my glasses! I have the soul of an adventurer but the heart of a coward when it comes to danger, yet I’m drawn to all things action-adventure, so this particular genre was a natural fit. You won’t find me bungee jumping, cliff diving or doing parkour because, well… I’m a klutz… so I write it. Think of me as an armchair adventure hound. I create characters who are much braver, tougher, more graceful and athletic than I will ever be. When you dream, dream big!

I love working with students who have a thirst for knowledge. I write for young adults because they are the age group I most love to teach. I grew up in a house where reading was expected, anticipated and enjoyed. I want to pass that joy on to my students. I do not write alone, but pull in my boys for real life teenaged insight. I also listen to my students.

I am a native of the Pacific Northwest, with its vivid and varied panoramas. When I’m not writing, I can be found spending time with my family, working with students, reading, gardening or hiking around Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge or the Oregon Coast with my camera. I am also a graduate of both Oregon State and Portland State universities with degrees in education and science. Writing is my passion and I want to share my love of it and reading with you.

Lauren has written a Young Adult contemporary fantasy action adventure series called The Secret Watchers. Today, we’re showing off book four of the series, Perceptions, published May 26 of last year. Here is its description:

Marlo finds a missing watcher and now it’s up to Lucie and Owen to go undercover to pull her out, if she’s even still alive. They find themselves thrown into the world of human trafficking and are afraid they won’t make it out alive. Caged, drugged and confused, they lose sight of their mission. Then they must face the truth about darkness and light – or is it all just shades of gray? How will they save someone else if they can’t even save themselves?

Sometimes you have to do truly repugnant things for the greater good but then what does that make you? What do you become if you are just as malicious as the dark watcher you are supposed to be saving everyone from? White Eagle says that power is power, but Owen has absorbed dark watcher gifts. He can feel himself morphing and he’s pretty sure he’s nowhere near good anymore.

What will two damaged watchers do now? Are you still good if you’ve been consumed by darkness? Owen will have to figure that out before it’s too late. He meets a mysterious stranger who has an interesting offer. Owen can’t decide if it’s worth the risk but it becomes more and more appealing as he is used again and again by both sides and now that he’s actually killed someone, who will save him?

I asked Lauren to describe the rest of the series and to tell us what else is on the horizon.

I have now written five books in The Secret Watchers series; four are published. Book five will be the end of Owen’s story but readers will see him again. Thanks to demands of loyal fans, there will be a new, as yet untitled, book and possibly series in the world of The Secret Watchers. I have just begun work on a book with a female protagonist discovering who she really is. What is her secret power? Stay tuned to find out.

This December will be the final release in The Secret Watchers series. Protagonist Owen Ryer will be graduating from high school and he will face the greatest evil he has known while battling the darkness that has taken root inside him. I am also working on my first dystopian. This was not something that I planned to write. I was hijacked by a muse and decided to go for it. It has been both fun and challenging.

Do you find there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

For me, time is the greatest challenge. I still need another job so that I can pay the bills and I am part of the famous sandwich generation where I both help out my parents and my kids.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I would guess that there are as many paths to publication as there are authors. In lieu of writing a ton of query letters I chose to self-publish. That does not mean that if the right offer comes along I will turn it down. I wanted my book in the hands of readers. I did quite a bit of research and finally selected BookBaby who happens to be a local company.

How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

So far I have only done away with bad guys but hold onto your seat because in Destiny that will change.

Describe a typical day.

I love it when people ask me this question! I would love to build some routine into my life. I have not had that for the last ten or so years. I am working on it! At this very moment it is summer so I am neither teaching nor tutoring. I do some technical editing and I am helping my parents get their old house ready to go on the market. I try to look at Twitter and Facebook every day and respond to friends and fans. I do a little marketing (like answering this interview) and I try really hard to squeeze in some writing. I am looking forward to the day when I can dedicate more time to my craft.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I am a Tigger at heart. One of my greatest assets/curses is that I see the best in everyone until they prove me wrong. If someone is going to find a silver lining it’s me! It’s raining? Great, it’s watering my flowers! Most people love my books but the first few ugly, mean or unfair reviews hurt my feelings. Now, I know that everyone has a right to their opinion and I don’t have to agree. I still celebrate and cherish every four and five star rating and each awesome review.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids will always be my greatest blessing. They are turning into wonderful people that I am proud of, but when I am gone, my books will live on. I will have left something behind. I will never know how many student lives I touched or how deeply but I will always have the books I authored and the feeling that I have left a positive mark that will remain.

Before we share an excerpt from Perceptions, I’d like to finish with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a…

person who is too nice. I need to stand up for myself more.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

GPS or a good map. I have a terrible sense of direction.

The one thing I would change about my life:

A little more money so that I could dedicate my time to writing.

Boy! Wouldn’t we all? My biggest peeve is:

Intentionally mean people.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Where I am today. I am happy in my life and have some flexibility. I have people who care about me and people to care about. What more could you really want? Oh, yeah, GPS

It’s wonderful you can say that. I wish more of us could. Before we close, here is a sampling of Lauren’s writing:

eBook Cover PerceptionsI turned and growled to the newbie watcher, “Who are you? And why are you spying on us?”

He gave us a defiant look, twisted and tried to drain White Eagle, who caught his wrist before his hand connected and snapped it back. “Answer him.” His voice was filled with menace. White Eagle can be an imposing guy when he wants to be.

The young dark watcher raised one side of his upper lip in a snarl making the scar by his mouth pucker.

“Who sent you?” I queried, giving him my best scowl.

“You don’t scare me. I’m not telling you anything!” he sneered.

I squinted at him, deep in thought. Did I have the stomach for this? Did I have it in me to be cruel? Could I torture him for information and still live with myself? If I did, I would be no better than they were. Where was the line and should I cross it?

A slow smile spread over his unshaven face where a scraggly beard showed in uneven patches. “You won’t do it. You don’t have what it takes. You won’t do what has to be done to get what you need. You’re… moral,” he said with disgust like I’d personally offended him. “You’re weak. The good guys usually are. They follow the rules. They can’t do what needs to be done!”

“Shows what you know!” Lucie came out of nowhere to deliver a perfectly executed upper cut to his jaw. Skater dude sagged in White Eagle’s grip, semiconscious as we all turned to stare at Lucie.

“What?” Lucie asked defensively. “We didn’t have all day. Somebody go get the van and let’s take him somewhere we can really question him.”

Mom snapped out of it first, reached into White Eagle’s pocket for the keys and sprinted off.

“Lucie dear, if you’re feeling upset from the proceedings maybe we should talk and not… um, take out our aggressions on others,” Sarah said with quiet dignity.

Lucie smiled at her, a rather sick smile that came nowhere near her eyes. “And I don’t think we should assume he isn’t dangerous. Until we know who he is and what he wants… I consider him a threat.” She shook out her hand as she spoke.

“Did you hurt yourself?” I asked with a huge grin.

A real smile broke across Lucie’s face. “I failed to make ‘good fist’. Sorry, White Eagle.”

Sarah rolled her eyes but White Eagle grinned at her and shifted his limp load that was just beginning to moan softly. I brought Lucie’s hand to my lips. “You gonna need medical attention?” I asked her, still smiling.

Lucie didn’t even get to answer. Mom screeched around the corner, narrowly missed the dumpster, and stopped inches from White Eagle’s elbow. To his credit, he neither blanched nor dropped his load. He did slowly raise his eyes to give Mom a dirty look through the windshield and then looked significantly at his elbow and then back to her. She grinned, shrugged and hopped out of the van. “So where do we stow him?” she asked indicating the limp skater.

I popped open the back and rummaged in the compartment where we kept our supply of zip ties, clips and Velcro. We zipped up our guy and tossed him unceremoniously into the back. Sarah pulled a Taser out of a locked compartment and then chose a seat near our now thrashing captive. “You behave or so help me, I’ll zap you,” Sarah said in one of the meanest voices she employed.

He gave Sarah a long look, then stopped flinging himself around, sensing her seriousness. He subsided into a sullen silence. Mom and White Eagle had a brief, silent argument over the van keys. He finally sighed and relented, making Mom jump up and down in a brief happy dance as she giggled.

“Some things just aren’t worth it,” he huffed under his breath as he plopped into the seat next to mine.

For those of you who would like to learn more about Lauren and purchase her books, here are some helpful links:

 Author Website         http://laurenlynneauthor.com/

Series Website          http://thesecretwatchers.com

Facebook                    http://www.facebook.com/TheSecretWatchersSeries

Facebook                    http://facebook.com/LaurenLynneAuthor

Twitter                       http://Twitter.com/LaurenLynneYA

Goodreads                  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5808133.Lauren_Lynne

Pinterest                    http://www.pinterest.com/laurenlynneYA/

Google+                     http://plus.google.com/+LaurenLynne/about

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 06 – Interview With MP McVey

 

FB_IMG_1433457449604Today, I have the pleasure of having MP McVey as my guest. Mr. McVey is a member of the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network, #FSFNNet. I find this fantasy author’s take on the genre refreshing because while so many modern works routinely make use of more recent mythological paradigms, his debut novel, Plod On, Sleepless Giant, incorporates some of the world’s more primitive societies’ core concepts. When I asked him to discuss it, he told me the following:

The world is not as it seems …

At the center of our world lives an elephant. Ancient and alone, he’s chained to a great wooden wheel—turning our rock as it glides through space. But what would happen if he were to stop? What would become of all we know and love on the surface?

All that stands between Earth and its downfall is a sole Watcher—beings tasked with guarding all in creation. Sent on a fool’s mission, he must gather humans from the surface that somehow play a role in our world’s destruction.

But from one mistake, a decision is made … an opportunity taken. When insurmountable forces align against humanity, it seems all will be lost. Can it be stopped in time? Can wrongs be righted? Can we be saved?

My most recent book—and also my first—is a contemporary fantasy called Plod On, Sleepless Giant. It’s a story of love and suspense, set in the shadow of the eternal struggle between good and evil. We get to meet the great elephant, Temelephas, whom lives at the center of our world. He was created as an insensitive automaton … never to remember or feel anything, only to walk in his circle and spin our planet.

Over time, Temelephas learns to remember and begins to feel strange emotions that he doesn’t know how to deal with. It is then that he realizes how lonely and empty his life truly is, and these thoughts slowly lead him to stop his important walk, and stopping the world from turning. And basically the story is about trying to fix the things that have been broken and righting the wrongs.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was not really knowing how to write a book to begin with. I had written many, many stories over time and had started writing previous books, but never finishing. A story is a story, it’s as simple as that. I thought writing a novel would be the same, only longer … I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The pacing was a big thing for me. A story has to be told fast; there isn’t a tremendous amount of time to develop characters or weave an intricate plotline. So the story is told pretty straight forward. But with books you have more room for a deeper story and more complex characters. There’s more wiggle room for pomp and flair.

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m finishing up my second novel, which is a more straight forward fantasy. Plod On, Sleepless Giant was a contemporary fantasy set in Columbus, Ohio … my current work takes place in a world that is completely made up. It’s more in the vein of sword and sorcery, quest, or heroic fantasy (I’m never good at classifying my writing). At the moment I am calling it Through the Wicked Wood, but that could change at any moment.

I don’t want to get too much into it, but I combine some humor and romance in there to round it out—it feels a bit like a fairytale for adults. The characters are all flawed, as is the world they live in … but most of them mean well. My favorite is a character named Eizel Mamzer, a tricky fellow with a snazzy suit and top hat.

Tell us about your path to publication.

It was certainly not your typical journey, though my road to publication started out like so many others. I had finished my book and had edited it so much that I hated the sight of it. I queried some agents and painfully waited to see any sign of hope, but only got rejections and condolences.

I started thinking more and more about self-publishing, having heard some success stories from many different sources. Not that self-publishing makes a writer rich or anything, but it certainly gets your book out there and gets the writer some exposure. So I began to read up on the process—the do’s and don’ts of the whole thing, and tips to help along the road.

So there I was at work(I work at a gas station), pouring over my manuscript as I once more tore it apart with a red pen, when a customer came in and asked what it was I was doing. I told her about the book and we chatted a bit, and she told me about how her husband had written a few books as well.

She left and I didn’t think much about it, just went about my night. A few days later her husband came down to talk to me about the book, and we chatted about writing and life. It was one of those conversations that you know you will remember forever.

He asked to read it, so I sent him a copy via email. Some time went by and he called me at work, excited about my book. He told me he wanted to publish it and that was how it happened.

Have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

I have never killed off a character and regretted it, but I have written myself into a corner with nowhere to go. I ended up abandoning the book all together when I realized the only way out was mass murder of main characters. It was the first book I attempted to write and it came on fast. It’s not much of a loss … it was pretty terrible.

Learning to write comes write a plethora of such lessons. Let’s explore that theme a bit further. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

This is such a great question, and I hadn’t given it much thought until I thought about what my answer might be. I think the most important part would be getting away with it, so the method of the actual killing wouldn’t be as important as the disposal of the body and any evidence. So I would probably poison my victim—leaving no actual “crime scene”. Then I would most likely dismember the remains and dispose of them in a creative way that I won’t divulge. I might actually use the method of disposal in a book someday.

I sincerely hope not! Returning, to the real world, what motivates or inspires you?

Inspiration comes from many different places, I think. Sometimes it’s a fragment of a conversation that sets my mind spinning on an idea or something I read. The idea for Plod On, Sleepless Giant actually came to me in a dream—it would be nice if that happened every night, but it doesn’t. I also find inspiration right here in Columbus, Ohio … the people here are amazingly resilient and funny.

As far as motivation, it’s always the story that drives me forward. Sometimes it’s hard to write because I can sense the story becoming a bit drab and dragging in places. A lot of writers push through this and churn out words daily—which is the key—but sometimes I need to see it as a yield sign or one that warns of an icy bridge ahead.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I do. I work in a gas station. It’s a family owned business(not my own) and my bosses Gary and Tracy are very supportive of my endeavors in writing.

Describe a typical day.

I work until late at night, so normally I don’t get to bed until about one in the morning. So I wake up around 9 am, and I plan to start writing at about ten. On good days I’ll write until about noon, then eat some lunch and get ready for work. On weekends I kind of just write when I can. It’s hard to schedule out due to running errands.

Before I let our visitors sample an excerpt from your book, let’s close with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible.

My best friend would tell you I’m a …

They’d more than likely say “goofball”.

The one thing I cannot do without is …

Sadly, Netflix.

The one thing I would change about my life:

I guess I would make it so money wasn’t as important, or at least wasn’t an issue for me. Then I wouldn’t have to work so much or stress out about bills, which would give me a bigger, calmer path in writing.

Thank you for taking time to share with us. Here, then, is a sample from Plod On, Sleepless Giant:

 71iUgJf63gL._SL1500_The center of Earth shook and rumbled with the sounds of creaking wood and grinding metal, tumbling through the dark. The din swept through caverns, accompanied by the boom, boom, boom of steady, heavy steps. It would have driven any man crazy, this racket that crept through the darkness, but it was comforting to the one who had to listen. It was a noise he had always known, a sound that was born with him. He was the reason for the noise.

For all time he had walked his circle; his large, gray feet beating a pattern into the dirt. Round and round he went, his weight pushing the large, wooden wheel to which he was bound. He groaned from time to time … long, soulful bellows from his wrinkled trunk.

His ancient head swayed with the thudding beat of his steps, his long immortal ears hanging tiredly at his sides. He would walk until the end of time. He didn’t want to, but he was compelled to. It was his purpose … and without purpose, what would be left?

So he walked.

He could feel their eyes upon him, those that watched him, those that kept him in this existence … those who gave him purpose. Their stares penetrated the thick hide of his neck, burrowed into his spine and peeked in to his brain, listening in on his every thought. That’s how they watched him, how they knew when he was unhappy.

They were in his mind every second of forever, and he came to expect their presence there. After a while he lost track of his Watchers all together, as if they were just another part of him. Life would not have been the same without them.

The Watchers always knew that, sooner or later, the great elephant called Temelephas would work through whatever unhappiness it was that settled in his large heart. After all, he had been walking since the beginning of everything and knew of nothing to which he could compare his sorrow.

Walk, walk, walk, through the darkness he would stomp; his feet pounding his life into the earth. Around he went, his sweaty, tangled hair flowing down around his neck. “Round and round she goes, where she stops … nobody knows.”

If you’d like to learn more about MP McVey and his writing, here are some useful links:

 Twitter:         @mpmcvey

Blog:              www.mpmcvey.wordpress.com

Site:                www.temelephas.com

Book trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKMbJytW7Lk

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 22 – Interview With Ksenia Anske

Ksenia Anske is, without doubt, one of the most delightful authors I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Not the least bit shy—she’s been known to do handstands at book signings—her inviting smile and eyes gleaming with mischievous humor and canny intelligence are guaranteed to win you over in a heartbeat. Oh! And have I told you about her sparkling personality and marvelous way of looking at life? Then, there are her unique writing style and story concepts. No wonder she sells so many books.

Ksenia Anske 2015Ksenia was born in Moscow, Russia, and came to US in 1998 not knowing English, having studied architecture and not dreaming that one day she’d be writing. She lives in Seattle with her boyfriend and their combined three kids in a house that they like to call The Loony Bin.

Her newest release is titled The Badlings. It’s a paranormal urban fantasy adventure for young people and is slated for release by the end of this month. When I asked her to give us its premise, this is what she replied:

“Of all of the naughty, mischievous, disrespectful, and downright horrible things that children can be, a badling is perhaps one of the worst. Badlings abandon books without finishing them, leaving their characters sad and lonely—not to mention angry. Meet Bells, Peacock, Rusty, and Grand, four ragtag friends convicted of this monstrous crime. As punishment, they get sucked into a book of unfinished stories, whose patchwork pages they must traverse…and read to the end this time.”

The Badlings is a book that grew out of my nostalgia for the books I read when I was a child and memories of biking with boys in the parks of Moscow. I was the daredevil girl who liked to climb roofs and trees and throw tomatoes from the balcony and do other mischievous things that boys loved and therefore accepted me into their tribe. I started rereading them all in English and thought, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to write a book about kids hopping from book to book?” Voila. I decided to write it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I have not done research and just plunged in, covering thirty different books that I loved as a child, and it’s only on the second draft that my editor asked me, “Did you think about copyright?” And I was like, “Oh shit.” I forgot to check them, and had to cut out twenty books from the thirty due to copyright issues. In the process I tried to make the book a comedy, therefore avoiding the copyright thing, but then it didn’t work, so I almost gave up, then came full circle to the original idea, diving deeper into the ten books left, like Dracula and Don Quixote and The Snow Queen and others. In the end it turned out fantastic. I’m very proud of it.

What other novels have you written?

My first trilogy is Siren Suicides, about a teen who commits suicide but instead of dying turns into a siren and then gets hunted by a siren hunter, her father. Rosehead is about a rose garden that eats people, and a girl and her talking pet whippet investigate it to stop the murders. Irkadura is about an abused teen escaping her home in Moscow and seeing people as beasts as the way of surviving her nightmares, all set against the disbandment of Soviet Union. TUBE is an upcoming novel for which I have completed the 1st draft: it’s about a train killing Bolshoi ballerinas that are riding it as part of their US tour. This book was born out of me winning the Amtrak Residency and writing on the train.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I guess winning the Amtrak Residency was the biggest thing so far that happens, and also being on stage with Amanda Palmer. There is a video of that on YouTube. That’s about it so far, but more fabulous things will be coming, of course.

What else are you working on?

Just novels! I have about 12 of them outlined, and about 6 other non-fiction books planned, so just focusing on cranking them out one by one.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Yes. Flat ass (from sitting all day long). Tired eyes that tend to go cross (from all this writing and reading). A tendency to forget to get out of the house (after all, why do it when you can visit a gazillion universes in your head). A tendency to forget to wash your clothes (why dress when you can write in your pajamas). A tendency to shun everyone away while writing (stop distracting me!) and to nag everyone when done writing (I finished my book! Read it! Read it!!!) A glazed look 24/7 that some people might interpret as a stupor while it’s actually work.

Tell us about your path to publication.

It was a long and arduous one. No, I’m kidding. I started writing because I was suicidal and my therapist told me to journal. So I did. I also started blogging about it, and when my first trilogy was completed, a few agents were interested in representing me but all turned away upon learning that the topic of my books was suicide. It was a hard sell, they said. By then I have had people who have read the drafts of the trilogy and wanted it in the book shape. So I decided to take a plunge and self-publish. I did and don’t regret this decision for a second.

If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

Whack someone on the head with the tome of Oxford Encyclopedia. Or War and Peace. Or I would bury them in books. Alive. That sounds like a tortuous way to go. As to it being perfect, I don’t know how perfect that is, so maybe I should make them suffer through paper cuts so they bleed to death? Yeah, that sounds about right.

How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

Anyone who gets in my way is being thoroughly shredded to mincemeat by a chainsaw. Or sometimes I use pitchforks, to impale those who dare to block me. Stabbing with a fork is also good, makes them juicier when I broil them.

Ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

Nope. Killing off characters is the biggest fun you can have while writing (but you also cry buckets over every death).

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Trusting your gut. The endless doubts just drive you insane. Is this the right story? Is it interesting enough? Smart enough? New enough? Unique enough? Bla-bla-bla. It’s recognizing that those thoughts are just that, thoughts, and not actual truths, and keeping writing despite them that is the hardest thing I face every day.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Nope. I have been writing for 3 years full time now, and that’s all I did. I did do ghostwriting between drafts for one client, but it was also writing, and I was getting paid for it, which blew off my socks because when I started writing I didn’t think anyone would ever pay me for it. I started writing for therapy.

Describe a typical day.

My chatty brain wakes me up around 7ish am. I get up. I put on socks and go to the kitchen to get coffee. I come back to the bedroom where my writing corner is, sit down and start writing. While I write, I might have a significant thought and share it on Twitter or on Ello without checking the status of others or replying so as not to get distracted (I do it later). I might take a picture of my coffee cut of my hair and post in on Instagram. I write until it’s about 3pm or until I produce at least 2000 words. Then I tell everyone online I wrote 2000 words, and answer all the tweets and comments and emails and whatnot, which takes about 1-2 hours (hey, I’m proud of this, social media used to take me 6 hours a day), then I read at least 100 pages (although I’m currently reading Lovecraft and I can’t process more than 50 pages a day) which takes about 2 hours or more. I can also be interrupted by having dinner with kids (yes, sometimes they get to see me) and kiss my boyfriend when he comes home from work. When all of that is done, I might write a blog post or chat online for a bit again, then I exercise (I have a stationary bike) and if I’m really busy, I combine that with meditating (I bike with my eyes closed for 20-30 minutes). If I do have the time, I meditate after I bike. Then I take a vodka bath, and then we turn off the lights and climb on the roof naked and make love and fall asleep under the stars (though when it’s raining in Seattle, it gets pretty wet). The next day everything starts over again.

What motivates or inspires you?

There are so many untold stories in my head, they not so much inspire me as they drive me forward to get them out. Does it make sense? Also, art, all kinds of art. Any time I read a fantastic book or see a beautiful painting or a gorgeous photograph or an exquisite dress or a anything that someone made with love to express their emotions, all of this inspires me. Also, the orgy of mountains and trees and rivers and flowers and clouds. Nature is magnificent.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Getting hit by a truck on my way home from work while I was on a bicycle. I woke up in the hospital and have decided to quit my career for good and start writing before I end up in a box.

Ksenia, you have made my work today so easy! I usually have to try to be glib in order to make my guest shine a bit more. In your case, I’m puttin’ on my shades.

Before I share some of The Badlings with my visitors, let’s try a Lightning Round. Answer the following questions, if you will, in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… terrible recluse.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Writing. Also, reading. Also, coffee. Also, socks.

The one thing I would change about my life: Start writing earlier.

My biggest peeve is: Work done sloppily. I’m a perfectionist and drive others to perfection as well (which annoys them to no end). When I see something done half-ass, I can’t stand it. I abhor it.

I couldn’t agree more. The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: My children. They have turned out better than I ever hoped for. I love you, Anna and Peter. You are my everything. XOXO

For your reading pleasure, here is a sample from The Badlings:

The Badlings Final FrontChapter 1. The Duck Pond

 

What if you found a book stuck in dirt? Would you take a peek inside, or would you chuck it at innocent ducks that happened to waddle nearby? Poor ducks. You wouldn’t hurt them, would you? Because who throws books instead of reading them?

Meet Belladonna Monterey, or Bells, as she’d like you to call her—she has decided that Belladonna was too pompous a name for a scientist. See her dark flashing eyes? Her ponytail all askew? Don’t try talking to her, lest you want to be throttled.

On this sunny September morning Bells was mad. Mad at her mother, the famous opera singer Catarina Monterey, for calling her a “poor scientist.” The argument started at Bells refusing to go to her Saturday choir practice and escalated further into a shouting match when Bells declared that under no circumstances would she ever become a singer.

“So you want to be a poor scientist?” said Catarina, hands on her hips. It was her usual intimidating pose mimicked by Bells’ little sister Maria from behind her mother’s back.

“What does it matter if I’m poor?” asked Bells, stung to the core.

Maria stuck out her tongue.

Bells ignored it, refusing to descend to the level of an eight-year-old.

“Oh, it matters a great deal,” replied Catarina. “How do you propose to make a living? You have seven years left until you’re on your own, Belladonna, and every year is precious.”

“I told you I don’t like that name. Call me Bells.”

Her mother’s lips pressed together. “As I was saying, Belladonna, every year is precious. I’ve picked out an excellent stage name for you, and I expect you to thank me.” Her demeanor softened. “You are destined to become a star, with my talent running in your blood. If you stop practicing now, you might never develop your voice.”

“I don’t want to develop a voice,” blurted Bells.

“You’re a girl!” cried Catarina. “What future do you think you have in science?”

“Why does it matter that I’m a girl? I certainly have no inclination toward prancing around in stupid period dresses and hollering my lungs out like you do.” As soon as she said it, she regretted it.

Her mother looked hurt. “Is that what you think I do? Holler my lungs out?”

“I hate dresses,” said Bells stubbornly. “I hate singing. I hate it that I’m a girl. I want to do science. Stop sticking your tongue out!” That last bit was directed toward Maria.

“Mom, Belladonna is being mean,” she whined.

“Shut up,” said Bells.

“You shut up.”

“Don’t torture your sister,” snapped Catarina. “Look at her. She’s younger than you, but she has the presence of mind to follow my advice.”

Maria flashed a triumphant smile and twirled, showing off her gaudy pink dress, the type their mother liked to buy for both of them. Bells made a gagging noise. She hated pink or anything decidedly girly. She made sure to never wear dresses, and if she absolutely had to, she smeared them with mud so thoroughly, her mother pronounced them as ruined.

 

If you’d like to follow Ksenia and buy her books, these are the appropriate links:

Blog/website: http://www.kseniaanske.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kseniaanske

Ello: https://ello.co/kseniaanske

Instagram: https://instagram.com/kseniaanske/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7111759.Ksenia_Anske

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 8 – Interview With Joshua Grasso

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Most readers assume that an author’s world is steeped in literature. When that’s not the case—an increasingly frequent phenomenon in today’s self-pub world—the book often ends up poorer and the reader suffers. That’s far from the case with today’s guest author. Joshua Grasso, is an English professor at a small university in Oklahoma specializing in British Literature. His books, not surprisingly, are heavily inspired by the works that grace his classrooms—Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Robinson Crusoe, Pride and Prejudice. He is also a life-long reader of fantasy, science fiction, and comics, and tries to work all these influences into his fiction, which are firmly in the classic fantasy literature tradition of Tolkein, Lord Dunsany, T.H. White, and many others. He has independently published two novels, The Count of the Living Death (2013) and The Astrologer’s Portrait (2014).

When I asked Joshua to give us a sense of his most recent work, he described it this way:

Prince Harold has fallen in love with a portrait, which he much prefers to his real bride-to-be. However, the portrait may be a hundred years old, and only the greatest sorcerer in the land can verify her existence. Unfortunately, Turold the Magnificent is currently on trial for maliciously impersonating a person of quality and despoiling her family history. Harold gets him off on the condition that they locate his lady love before his wedding to Sonya, who vows to kill him on their wedding night. Along with his faithless Russian servant, Dimitri, the three steal off to locate the true identity of the sitter—only to confront a curse much older than the portrait. To dispel the curse the prince must lead a revolution, fall in love with his wife, and release the centuries-old hands of Einhard the Black, who are eagerly awaiting their latest victim.

That’s an intriguing premise. Can you tell us a little more?

The Astrologer’s Portrait poses the age-old question: do we fall in love with people or our own ideals? The protagonist, Prince Harold, falls madly in love with a painting that may be three hundred years old, yet is determined to find the sitter, and if possible, confess his undying love to her. A disgraced sorcerer, Turold, is conned into helping him locate his Muse, only to uncover something much larger than a family heirloom: the painting hides a curse which involves a pair of undying hands, a folio of forgotten plays, and the haunted dreams of an Italian noblewoman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the painting in question.

Writing a novel is seldom a straightforward process. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I wrote the novel over four summers and winter breaks, since these are my “off time” from teaching at a university. As you can imagine, it’s hard to pick up the thread after several months and remember who these characters are, what my ideas were for them, and why it all made sense. In fact, many times I would re-read the work and find it hopelessly inept and uninspiring. I spent days and weeks re-writing it each time I re-encountered it before I could start writing again. Luckily, this helped me gain perspective and challenge my instincts as a writer, since I would approach it after a year or so as a reader, and the reader was often bored or annoyed with the story.

What other novels have you written?

I’ve written four other novels, only two of which are published; the fourth is being completed. My fourth novel, which is 80% finished, is called The Winged Turban. This is the third summer I’ve spent writing it, and it’s going along quite well—much easier than the previous one. Probably because I forced myself to keep reading it and editing it even during the semester so I didn’t lose the thread of the story.

Do you find there are occupational hazards to being a novelist?

I was never interested in merely trying to write for a living. I always thought being a teacher/professor would be wiser, since I could then read books for a living, teach them to others, and become inspired from the interchange of ideas with my students. After a year in advertising, I decided to get my Master’s in English and that led directly to my Ph.D. in British Literature and a position in a small university in Oklahoma. Once I got my bearings as a professor, I began to write in earnest again and have written three novels during my 8 years as a teacher. And as I suspected, teaching the books I love and listening to students talk about them, struggle with them, and more importantly, write about them, always inspires me to continue the conversation in my own writing. I honestly believe that reading, teaching, and writing is all part of the same process of thought, just viewed from different perspectives. I am the same “person” when I do each one.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I spent twenty-odd years from college to the present day trying to publish my novels. I pursued agents, publishers, entered contests, etc., all before deciding that my future lay in teaching, not in selling books. In a way this proved fortuitous, since I’m a better teacher than writer, and teaching fulfills me much more than any amount of fame as a writer would. Also, my early novels were pretty bad and I’ve destroyed them all. What I now consider my “first” novel was written only 9 years ago and has at least 5-6 “skeletons” behind it. However, even my most recent novels have met with indifference from agents and publishers, so I finally decided to self-publish the first two just to see how it went. And while I haven’t been too successful, a good number of people discovered my books and enjoyed them, which justifies the point of writing them. For now, that’s good enough.

That’s more than good enough. Since you mentioned skeletons, let me ask if you’ve ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

No, because fiction isn’t real life: you can resurrect anyone. Superman has died umpteen times and is still alive and kicking. Same with Sherlock Holmes. No one dies in fiction!

You’ve been on the path long enough to appreciate the difficulties it entails. What is the single most powerful challenge you’ve faced when it comes to writing a novel?

Having characters that are interesting enough to change your story. If your story stays the same from initial conception to final page, you’ve made a mistake. Good characters make the story go in new and unexpected directions. Indeed, you might say that good characters write the story for you. Until you have characters you can see in your mind and that seem to navigate the story without your direct input, the story isn’t really a story worth telling. I’ve begun many a story without the characters, and you know deep in your gut that something is wrong. It’s almost always the characters.

Tell us about your “other” job.

 As I mentioned above, I’m a professor of English literature and teach classes ranging from Freshman Composition, British Literature surveys (typically the earlier periods, from Beowulf to the 18th c.), World Literature, Humanities, Postcolonial Literature, and even comic books. Teaching inspires my writing and is also a release from the stresses of my career. I also write a lot of academic writing—articles, essays, biographical sketches—so that also influences my creative writing. Often, as in the case of The Astrologer’s Portrait, an article on 18th century theatre spills over into the plot of a novel; indeed, I even buried a few lines of an obscure 18th century play in the dialogue of one of my novels. Almost no one would outside of my field would recognize it!

What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

Art, music, and books. All of my novels are inspired initially from a work of art: I love paintings and have spent hours in great museums trying to see what the great artists saw. My first job was across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago, so I would go there during my lunch and explore a gallery at a time, seeing the originals of paintings I had once admired in books. One or two of these paintings ended up in one of my books in a round-about way. Classical music, too, fuels my writing and many scenes are written with a specific composer or work in mind. Perhaps even more importantly, though, are the writers and books I admire, which inspire me to try new things or simply to emulate old masters. Nothing I do is “new”: I merely compose variations on very old ideas, and in the process, try to make you forget the original tune.

What has been your greatest success in life?

 My greatest writing success has nothing to do with my novels, though it remains a great accomplishment: this year I won the CEA Critic’s (a literary journal) Robert A. Miller Memorial Prize for Best Article published that year. However, my greatest success beyond writing would simply be earning my Ph.D. and being able to land a job in my field (increasingly hard for PhD’s to do these days). I’m proud that my kids can see me teach and realize how important literature and culture is, and that their father spent his life trying to make “dead” words speak. I passionately believe in the power of art and literature, and am glad I can devote my professional career to defending and promoting it.

What a wonderful perspective. On the other side of the coin, what do you consider your biggest failure?

In a way, all of my novels are “failures.” What I mean is that writing is such a transcendent experience, full of emotion and visions and delusions of grandeur. When you are in that moment, you feel like your work matters, that it will change the world—or at least your world. However, when you read a finished work a year later, it no longer has that magic. Something is lost, and you only see its shortcomings, its failings. In that sense, the work has failed…it rarely has the power to move me as it once did. The connection is lost, and you can only go back and try to create a few sparks in revisions. I doubt I will ever write a work that years later I can read with delight and feel that yes, this is exactly what I meant to say. I can be proud of it, naturally, but I find reading my own works difficult once I’ve gained some distance.

At this point, before I share an excerpt from The Astrologer’s Portrait, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… grump.

The one thing I cannot do without is… music.

The one thing I would change about my life is… try to get more sleep.

My biggest peeve is… willful ignorance.

Amen to that! The thing I’m most satisfied with is… my library.

As promised, here is an excerpt from The Astrologer’s Portrait:

cover-joshua-grasso-astrologers-portrait-200x300The Royal Astrologer was dead. Shortly after eight o’clock he tumbled to his death from the highest tower in the palace. According to the testimony of a handful of onlookers, there was a violent crash (the window), a pained cry (the Astrologer), a tremendous clatter (a series of coins which dropped onto the courtyard) and a resounding thump (the body). There wasn’t much left to parade around the streets in the morning, so it was a very hushed-up, discreet affair, much like the man himself. No one quite knew what he did in the queen’s employ. After all, the title “astrologer” is a rather ambiguous term. To some, he read the stars and charted their invisible trajectories. To others, he was a dabbler in witchcraft and the magical arts, bringing some unspeakable doom upon the kingdom. But if you asked the queen she would probably call him a “sponge” and insist that his room was fumigated as thoroughly as possible.

The only question was what to do with the late Astrologer’s effects. In his room he had amassed a prodigious collection of artifacts, from paintings, sculptures, books, diagrams, maps, experiments, crystals, and other, less recognizable items that were promptly thrown in the trash. The queen had everything catalogued and put up for auction, which attracted a steady stream of collectors and connoisseurs. Apparently the Astrologer, who never contributed a single krouck to the court’s coffers, was sitting on a fortune worth several hundred thousand fobs. Priceless weapons and faded maps changed hands and brought a girlish smile to the queen’s lips. How nice to suddenly stumble into a neglected fortune and not have to dirty one’s hands with the transaction! She called her chief attendant aside and commanded him to find out how many other octogenarians were in her employ; she was particularly interested if any of them might be willing to depart for their final journey before rather than after the upcoming ball season, the cost of which went up every year and promised to bankrupt her.

Thank you, Joshua, for taking the time to share your writing with us. For those of you who would like to read more of either this book or his earlier work, Count of the Living Death, or else connect with the author, you may do so at the following:

The Astrologer’s Portrait: http://www.amazon.com/Astrologers-Portrait-Joshua-Grasso-ebook/dp/B00LKQ0DXC/

Count of the Living Death: http://www.amazon.com/Count-Living-Death-Joshua-Grasso-ebook/dp/B00FQ6711Y/

 Website: The Virtual Astrolabe: http://hblackbeard.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshua.grasso

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshuaGrasso

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 25 – Interview With Ernest Brawley

I write fantasy, but I’m every bit as taken by books set in the real world, well-written books with visceral appeal. So when I encountered online a work set inside prison walls, one of this world’s most difficult environments, a book called The Rap, I wanted to meet the author and share his novel with my visitors.

Ernest BrawleyUnlike the other works I’ve featured here, The Rap is not a recent work. It was written in 1974. It came to my attention, however, because it is only now being released as an ebook. Still, with so many other wonderful recent publications, why would I be interested in showcasing a book that is more than forty years old? Well, let’s see. After its debut in print, Fort Worth Press called it “A bawdy, rowdy and powerful novel—a blockbuster.” The Philadelphia Inquirer said it’s, “The best novel I’ve tasted in many seasons.” When I learned the Chicago Tribune said, “There isn’t a page of The Rap that will let you off… It is incredibly cynical, sarcastic profane and brutal… You can’t turn your back on it. You can’t forget it”, I asked myself how could I ignore it? It is with pleasure, then, that I introduce you to author and screenwriter Ernest Brawley.

When I asked Mr. Brawley to tell us about himself, he had this to say:

I grew up on the grounds of several California prisons. My father and two of my uncles were guards, and one of my other uncles was an inmate at the prison where my father worked.

As a high school student, I was intent on becoming an auto mechanic, but my English teacher liked the essays I wrote for his class, encouraged me to pursue a college track, and gave me my own gossip column, modeled on Herb Caen’s, in the school newspaper. I called it “Ernie’s Brawlesque,” and I had so much fun writing it, and found that it made me so popular with the girls, that I decided to become a professional author. When I met my teacher later in life, I jokingly told him that I would never forgive him for encouraging me to be a writer and not an auto mechanic. When he asked me why, I replied, “Because the average mechanic gets paid a helluva lot more regularly than your typical writer!”

I worked my way through grad school working nights as a correctional officer at San Quentin Prison, in Death Row, the Big Yard, and as a rifleman in the guard towers. THE RAP is based upon my horrifying experiences there, and I actually lived through many of the events in the lives of my characters. My protagonist, Arvin Weed, is very like me. Even his name has the same history as mine. Both “Arvin” and “Weed” are the names of funky little California farm towns. My father was born Ernesto Robles, but changed his name to Ernest Brawley when he passed through the border farm town of Brawley, California. A light-colored Mexican, he figured he’d do better in California with a gringo name. All the characters in THE RAP are based on my own family members, or guards and prisoners that I knew personally. Even Galliot, the black prison writer in my novel, is based upon the writer James Baldwin, whom I knew later in Paris.

I attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. After a stint in the US Army, I went on to San Francisco State University, where I was granted two writing scholarships and a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since then, I’ve spent my life writing, teaching, and traveling the world. I once even hitchhiked from San Francisco to Patagonia, and from Paris to Singapore. I am married to a Thai nurse, Kanchana Namjaiyen, whom I first met after a horrific motorcycle accident on the island of Phuket. I woke and saw her beautiful smiling Asian face beaming down upon me and thought I’d died and gone to Nirvana. We were married a year later.

I’ve taught at the University of Hawaii, Hunter College, New York University, and the Sorbonne. I’ve lived and worked in Buenos Aires, Paris, Rome, London, Bombay, Bangkok, Tokyo, New York, and Hollywood. I am a recipient of the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in Literature, and served for several years on the Fiction Award Committee of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington. Aside from numerous short stories, magazine articles, and book reviews, I’ve published three novels.

Will you tell us a little about your writing career?

Rap CoverMy first, The Rap, a gritty prison novel, was originally published by Atheneum. It was a Main Selection with Book of the Month Club, went into two editions as a mass market paperback, and was published in several foreign languages. It was optioned by Lorimar Productions and made into a feature film entitled Fastwalking, starring James Woods, for which I was credited as writer.

My second novel, Selena, set in the Central Valley of California during the Mexican farmworkers’ strikes, was also published by Atheneum. It was a Main Selection at Literary Guild, a mass market paperback with Signet here and Granada in England, and was purchased by Twentieth Century Fox. It was based on my own experiences working with Mexican farmworkers in the tomato fields near Tracy, California, and it was also well-received. Here are some of its reviews:

“There is not an area of novel writing where the author is not scarily gifted. His plotting is intricate but never rings false or obtrudes. His descriptions of places, scenes, machinery, processes, illuminate like flares. His ear for dialogue can handle English, Mexican-American, and ‘pocho’ Spanish. His narrative pace is swift. His style is joyous and free. His feeling for character is mind-boggling. His amazing eye makes every page fresh. NO AMERICAN WRITER IN YEARS HAS PRODUCED SUCH A READABLE, DEEP AND FULLY REALIZED NOVEL!” — San Diego Union.

“A story as vibrant and earthy as its heroine and her people…a big, powerful novel, packed with action and alive with unforgettable characters!” — Literary Guild Magazine.

“Need not to be compared to Steinbeck; it stands on its own feet, speaks with its own fresh, strong voice!” — Louiseville Courier Journal.

My third novel, The Alamo Tree, also based upon the experiences of my own family, was published by Simon & Schuster and was a featured selection at Literary Guild. Its publishers describe it this way:

“The Alamo Tree is an epic of two countries–Mexico and the United States–chronicling the tumultuous relationship of two families, the O’Hares and the Carrizos, through six decades of this century’s explosive social and political changes. Abounding in a rich variety of characters—Yankee imperialists and corrupt revolutionary generals, middle-class reformers and peasant activists, narcotics smugglers and wheeling and double-dealing entrepreneurs, victimized priests and disenfranchised mestizos—The Alamo Tree powerfully confirms Ernest Brawley as one of America’s most dynamic and original writers, and a master storyteller.”

In addition, I’ve written two film scripts, The Dressing Of The Dead for writer/producer George Gonneau, and The Northmen for producer Jeff Goldman.

It’s nice to see you are finally moving into digital publication. Please tell us about this latest endeavor.

The Rap was republished on April 30, 2015 by Little Machines Press/Roots Digital and is now available for purchase at Amazon/Kindle. Selena will soon be republished by Little Machines Press/Roots Digital Media as well. My new novel, Blood Moon, is set in 1880s Arizona, and is based upon The Pleasant Valley War, the West’s bloodiest land war, in which the Gringo and Chicano sides of my family were intimately involved. It will be published shortly after Selena by the same publisher.

Do you currently have any other projects in the works?

At present I am working on two projects, a novel set during the CIA’s secret war in Laos entitled The Golden Triangle, and Streetlight, a crime thriller film script set in New York in the year of its nadir, 1975.

What were the challenges you faced while writing The Rap?

The biggest challenge I faced while writing The Rap was—believe it or not—eating. My former wife and I were the proverbial starving artists in Paris at the time, and we really did not know where our next meal was coming from. I could barely afford the postage to send the six hundred pages to my agent, John Hawkins, in New York. He sent it to Herman Gollob, the legendary editor at Atheneum, and the next thing I knew I received a check for $179,000.00… which is probably about quadruple that now in constant dollars, and more than my father had made in his entire lifetime. We went quite literally from rags to riches, and took all our artistic Parisian friends, including James Baldwin, out to dinner at the Select Bar, our hang-out in Montparnasse, to celebrate. Then I took my wife to all the most famous couturiers in Paris to get her outfitted, had a fitting at Giorgio Armani’s myself, and we went on a five-star grand tour of Europe. The rest of the year went more or less like that, and by the next year we were broke again. However, as luck would have it, John sold The Rap to the movies, saving us from any more Parisian-style starvation.

Good for you! Since then, have you encountered any occupational hazards associated with being a novelist?

There are several. First, you sit on your ass all day staring at a computer screen and tapping away with your fingers, so you are in danger of rump enlargement, loss of sight, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Second, the writer’s income is uncertain and fluctuating. You’re either up, or you’re down. And you’d probably do better in the end with a regular eight-hour job in an automobile garage where you get a check every two weeks and go home to spend the weekend with the wife and kids. Third, when you’re up, you may suffer from attacks of narcissism and self-glorification, and when you’re down the opposite may occur.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

My problem is not the story, or the characters, for mine are always based on people and places and stirring events that I know very well or have experienced myself. My problem is organizing them all into a palatable, readable form. I have a tendency to go off on tangents, to not properly focus on a single dramatic element, to fail in building one scene on another until they reach a satisfying climax. Having talked to other authors, I find that I am not alone in facing this problem.

Do you have another job besides writing?

 For years I taught at the university level, but I am now a full-time writer.

Describe a typical day.

I get up early, see my wife off to the hospital where she works, eat breakfast, and sit down to write. I force myself to sit at my computer till lunchtime, even if no sudden inspiration comes my way. I find that if I sit long enough, something will inevitably turn up. After lunch I nap for a half hour, have a cup of tea, and set back to work. I stay at my desk until my wife arrives home from work. Then we go down to the gym to work out for an hour. Home to supper. And off to bed. A very boring routine, but it works. I stick to it at least five days a week, sometimes six. Every month or so we take off for a long weekend in the mountains, desert or seaside, to friends or family.

What motivates or inspires you?

The real events that I, my family past and present, and certain of my acquaintances have experienced. We have all led eventful and exciting lives, and some of us have died violently.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Funny you ask that, Raymond. Many of my friends ask me the same. Actually, I’m a born optimist. Always looking for the bright side, no matter how bleak things may actually be. And I’m not alone. It’s common in my immediate family to laugh at the fates, to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,” as my mother used to sing after Johnny Mercer, to refuse to give into adversity under any circumstances. For example, my sister Lenor, a rodeo queen, mother of two little girls, lost her leg and part of her hip when her horse fell on her in a barrel race. She spent not a minute lamenting her fate. She was back up riding within the year, along with water skiing and bicycling, and wrote a book about her recovery entitled One Step At A Time, which was an international best seller.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My greatest successes are my novels. My greatest failure was in my role as husband to my former wife.

Before I provide my visitors ways to learn more about both you and works, I’d like to conclude our time together with a Lightning Round. Please complete these sentences:

My best friend would tell you that…

I’m a workaholic who likes to take a break from time to time, drink good wine, and giggle about old times surfing the big waves at Rincon del Mar or chasing girls on Malibu Beach.

The one thing I cannot do without is…

my wife, the beautiful young nurse from the River Kwai, Kanchana Namjaiyen Brawley.

The one thing I would change about my life is…

nothing. I have no regrets.

My biggest peeve is…

California drivers.

The person I’m most satisfied with is…

my lovely, wonderful daughter, Lucia Brawley, actress, writer, mother, political activist, an inspiration to all who know her.

Ernest, I cannot begin to tell you how delighted I am you agreed to share this time with us. It’s been a pleasure to begin getting to know you.

To my visitors, if you have enjoyed this brief encounter, you can get in touch with the author and find his books at the following links:

Website:          http://www.ernestbrawley.net/

Amazon:         www.amazon.com/ErnestBrawley/e/B001HPR4E2

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 11 – Interview With Sally Ember

In the wake of featuring so many authors from genres other than mine, I’ve decided to focus on creators of science fiction and fantasy for a while. Although I read a wide variety of literature and most of you do as well, most of my followers look first to the genre I create. That said, I have the pleasure of introducing Sally Ember, Ed. D., author of the complex and controversial Spanner Series.

Profile pic 4inchAs in the case of some earlier guests, Sally and I met through Facebook’s Fantasy SciFi News Network, #FSFNet, a group open to readers, writers and bloggers alike. Sally, who fits into all three categories, has been passionate about writing since 3rd grade. Now, she blurs the lines between fact and fiction in the space opera, The Spanners Series, utopian sci-fi with romance/ paranormal (psi only)/ multiverse/ Buddhist/ Jewish components. She meditates, writes, swims, blogs, reads and hosts her Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) *CHANGES* conversations between authors, broadcast from St. Louis, MO, USA. Sally has worked as an educator and upper-level, nonprofit manager and has a BA, Master’s & Doctorate in education.

When I asked her to describe her work, she had this to say:

The Spanners Series is a 10-volume (planned; Volume I released Nov., 2013; Volume II released June, 2014), original, science-fiction/ romance/ multiverse/ paranormal/utopian/speculative fiction ebooks series for adults/new adults/young adults.

I was halfway through Volume III in early April, 2014, when I had a terrible accident, resulting in a concussion and broken nose. With Post-Concussion Syndrome, all my fiction writing had to come to a halt and hasn’t resumed, yet, for my series. I hope to return to The Spanners Series soon (June or July, 2015) and release Volume III later this year. I had also already started Volume IV, which I hope to return to and complete for release in spring, 2016.

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooksVolume I, This Changes Everything, “spans” the entire series’ time frame, moving freely and non-linearly between events that occur [the series is written entirely in the present tense, remember, to remind us all that all time is simultaneous] many millennia prior to Clara’s meeting with the first five alien holos from the MWC in late 2012 and extend throughout Clara’s entire term as Earth’s CC, about thirty years. As the introductory Volume for the series, it lays most of the groundwork for all ten books.

Volumes II and III cover the same time period as each other, the five years of Earth’s “Transition.” These five years are the time that starts with Clara’s revealing her visit with “The Band” of alien holos and the deadline given to Earth for deciding whether or not to join the Many Worlds Collective. Each of the Volume’s narrators come mostly from the two different age groups, so we get their perspectives. Volume II also includes “Snapshots” from ten Octobers in Clara’s life, about one every five years for a while then one every year after the aliens visit her, starting in her childhood and extending beyond the Transition, to allow readers to get to know her and her generation better.

final cover printVolume II also provides more details and scenes that show both her and her nephew, Moran’s, Excellent Skills Program trainings, Moran’s “Interludes.” The main Chapters for Volume II are the interviews Espe conducts with Clara’s son, Zephyr (32 when the series begins), and each of Clara’s nephews, nieces; her grandnieces and -nephews make a few appearances.

Both Volumes II and III refer to Earth’s internal Psi-Wars, the extreme consequences from the problems that occur when Fragmenters and Trenchers protest Earth’s accepting the MWC’s invitation. There is more about those conflicts in Volume III than II.

Volume III has more narration and scenes from the older group of narrators, including Clara’s siblings, friends and her mother, Epifanio, and a few new characters, some not human, while also including Espe and Moran as well, providing more stories from the five years of Earth’s “Transition.” Some allusions to later Volumes and their events appear in Volume I and each of the earlier Volumes, leading to Volume IV, which is entirely set at the Earth’s first Campus’ Excellent Skills Program (ESP) trainings.

The stories in Volume IV focus on the experiences of the youngest and youth/young adult students, human and not, but Clara, Moran, Espe and a few others appear again, including a new/returning love interest for Clara, Steve. Epifanio, as her husband (and not), depending on what timeline Clara happens to be experiencing on any given day, also keeps appearing.

Whew! Time related stories are certainly complex. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this series and how did you overcome it?

Still working to “overcome it,” I guess. Meditation was also affected, and losing my ability to meditate for almost 8 months was worse than not being able to write fiction. I have coped by focusing more on nonfiction, writing short pieces for my own blog and creating guest blog posts. I also began an online talk show, *CHANGES* conversations between authors, in August, 2014, that I still do almost every Wednesday (10 AM Eastern USA time), and which is how I met YOU, Raymond! Thanks for being a guest!

 What else have you written?

The two Volumes I’ve released in The Spanners Series are my first two fiction novels. I am a produced playwright, a published short-story and feature articles writer and nonfiction co-author, an uncredited ghostwriter and editor of several other nonfiction books.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

On my YouTube channel (Sally Sue Ember is my Google+ ID and Youtube Channel name) are four self-made book trailers (via Animoto.com): three for Volume I and one for Volume II (concussion, remember?); also, two author public readings from The Spanners Series, and one author Q & A (with almost no “A” because the feature didn’t work!) as well as all the *CHANGES* Episodes (as of this week, up to Episode 29). https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqnZuobf0YTCiP6silDDL2w/videos?view_as=public

What else are you working on?

I do some editing/proofreading and write reviews occasionally, but mostly I write for my blog and host my show, waiting for my brain to return to full enough function for me to resume writing my novels, again. My sci-fi series is immensely complicated; even with a spreadsheet I had created prior to my accident (THANK GOODNESS!) that only hints at all its components and overlapping, multiple timelines that span over 80 years for the main characters and grab historical events from “past” millennia up to the present as well.

The novels are also all written in the present tense, which is a meditation-while-writing that takes an enormous amount of concentration, since it’s not the way we usually write (or think or speak, either). Suffering still from memory problems, aphasia and other brain deficits makes that kind of writing impossible, still.

I also can’t yet quite access my full memory of what I planned to include in this and future Volumes, so I keep exercising, meditating (which I was recently made able to return to and it’s working almost completely, now), writing short pieces and trying to be patient.

I have some research topics for the series and my own interests which I regularly blog about: physics, astronomy/cosmology, the multiverse and parallel universes, medicine/health, meditation/brain mapping, feminist topics, book reviews, movie reviews, and much more: whatever I’m in the mood to learn and write about, I do. I also have created and will write some more guest blog posts (most are about writing or indie publishing), some more interviews like this that are really more writing projects than interviews, per se, and who knows what else?

What inspired you to write your series?

Unrequited love. Really. I needed an outlet and a place to write the life I wish I were having with the man I love who does not return that feeling. BUT, I also wanted to write him OUT of my life. So, I’m doing both!

Furthermore, I feel a deep despair about Earth’s future, including extreme disgust with many humans. I recognize the need for better interspecies communication here and with beings from off-planet.

Combine all that with a life-long keen interest in and belief in quantum physics, astronomy, multiverse existence and life elsewhere, and BOOM: sci-fi/romance.

I am writing the future I wish us all to have. Somewhere, somewhen, not just because I’m writing it, all of this IS happening because, as physicists are fond of reminding us, everything that can happen is happening in the multiverse.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I am “Crowdcreating” Volumes VIII and IX of The Spanners Series, so I seek YA-aged and -themed and NA-aged and -themed writers, readers to contribute to Vol VIII and I seek adult authors/readers for Vol IX.

I am also requesting readers’ suggestions, questions and ideas for what I’ve left out of or you’d like to see of alternate timelines’ versions of stories in any previous Volume to put into Vol X (the final Volume in the series).

Please contact me (sallyember AT yahoo DOT com) no later than Jan. 1, 2016, if you want to participate in Crowdcreating by offering suggestions and even writing portions or entire Chapters of Vol VIII or IX. The deadline for submitting questions and ideas for Vol X is January 1, 2017. Share!

Now that’s an uncommon approach. Tell us, Sally, what motivates or inspires you?

Dreams, visions, meditations, experiences.

One night in February, 2012, I was awakened by a very clear voice that said: WRITE. I went to the computer, hearing sentences and seeing scenes in my mind. Five hours later, most of the first Chapter, all of the summaries for all the Volumes, and the Chapter outline for Volume I were drafted. I kept going from there and finished the first draft of Volume one in 8 weeks.

TCE went through 19 other drafts via my own ideas, consults with friends and family,and letting it “sit” over an 18-month period to reach the final version. During that time, I started Volumes II, IV, and V and sketched out parts of the others as well. I feel very driven. Part of the reason is that I identify a lot with Clara.

The line between fiction and nonfiction is very blurred in these Volumes, intentionally, and my life seems that way sometimes as well. I’m curious as to what the readers will decide is “real.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I strongly believe that Earth is in serious trouble, politically, economically, environmentally, socially: in every way. I do wish we could be rescued by stronger, more intelligent, compassionate, capable beings! I wanted to show how things would change, and especially, how things would improve, if Earthers could be certain that we are not “alone.” Then, there would to be some dissenters of various types and intensities, so the psi Wars came about, with the Psi-Warriors and Psi-Defiers.

Fascinated by physics, multiple timelines/multiverse concepts, alien life and psi phenomena, family relationships, world affairs and the environment, and unrequited/requited love, I have incorporated all of these themes and topics into my sci-fi novels. I have and continue to do extensive research for each Volume. The parts that are scientific and authentic are the most fun to fictionalize.

I also subscribe to the optimistic view that their are inherent intelligence and value in all species, so interspecies communication among equals, both on Earth and off-planet, becomes central to the Series.

Because I am very interested in the Excellent Skills Program (ESP, or psi) aspects. I look forward to and have enjoyed writing the parts about each character’s ESP training and experiences, uses of the Excellent Skills and the ways having access to these Skills changes Earthers.

Finally, my erstwhile love is not with me, just as Clara’s is sometimes not with her, so I empathize with that situation and write scenes in which she and Fanio are together as a sort of wish-fulfillment. Then, I introduce other interests, romantic and personal, for Clara, to show how a strong, independent woman does NOT need a lover to be happy.

I always conclude with a Lightning Round. Please answer in as few words as possible:

 My best friend would tell you I’m…

intensely loyal and forgiving, but once I write you off, we’re done.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Buddhist dharma principles and practice.

The one thing I would change about my life is…

I wouldn’t have had an affair with one of my college professors as an undergraduate.

My biggest peeve is…

incompetence.

The person I’m most satisfied with is…

my son, Merlyn Ember; he’s an amazing man (he’s 35).

For those who’d like to learn more about Sally and her writing, here are some links:

 Author Central Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Ember/e/B00HEV2UEW/

Purchase and other Links all on http://www.sallyember.com Look right; scroll down.

Vol I (PERMAFREE):

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HFELTG8
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376197

Vol II ($3.99):

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424969
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KU5Q7KC

Facebook personal page: https://www.facebook.com/sally.ember

Spanners Series’ page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpannersSeriesbySallyEmber

Twitter: @sallyemberedd

Spanners Series’ page on Google+ http://goo.gl/tZKQpv

Sally Sue Ember on Google+ http://www.google.com/+SallySueEmber

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sallyember

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7237845.Sally_Ember

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 27 – Interview With Wally Lane

Although I have spent the past sixteen months interviewing novelists, I’m breaking form today to interview a screenwriter. I first met Wally Lane in 2011 when we were members of the now defunct writers’ blog, Black Ink, White Paper. And yes, he is a novelist as well, but it’s not his primary pursuit, nor is it easy to box him in with any one label. Wally is a former Boardmember of the Northwest Screenwriters Guild (NWSG). He is an award-winning writer and filmmaker, a published poet, and has written articles and book reviews for several publications, including Journey. Wally’s film, “Winos & Pigeons”, was honored at WorldFest Houston. As long-time Chairman of the NWSG’s Compendium committee, Wally has mentored hundreds of new screenwriters by helping them write to “Industry Standard.”

wally_photoWally has been writing screenplays since 1990. He and his writing partner, Wash Phillips, have scores of screenplays completed or in development across a wide range of genres. Many of these scripts either have been or are currently optioned. Wally & Wash have adapted one of their screenplays Trial by Circus into a novel.

Wally started out writing short stories and poems as well as doing performance poetry and running a poetry slam, Slammin’ in the Square, at the Central Saloon in Seattle’s Historic Pioneer District in the 1990s. He and his wife Belva also started and operated Year of the Dragon Publishing at that time. They also produced the award winning short film, Winos & Pigeons, written and directed by Wally. He also was the voice of the POET (V.O.), featuring the poetry of Wally and Rod McKuen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbarMidgecA

Wally is an alumnus of the University of Washington Extension Certificate Program in Screenwriting and The Film School, a Seattle-based institution of national repute. He is a former panelist at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual Writing Conference and the Surry International Writers Conference .

Wally lives with his wife Belva in Shoreline, WA and operates their web site Belva’s List http://www.belvaslist.com/ and does one-on-one mentoring for screenwriters, http://www.screenwritingtostandard.com/ He also does workshops in screenwriting to Industry Standard and How to write a Comedy as well as a workshop on Adapting a Novel to the Screen.

Here is how he describes his novel:

Trial By Circus is a comedy about romance in a courtroom contest of wills/wits. Green, broke lawyers (star-crossed lovers) are separately hired to defend Siamese twins, only one of whom is accused of murder. If this were a movie, you might say Friends With Benefits meets Knocked Up.

DWIGHT BEECHE and ANALIZA CORSO have law offices across the hall. To her, he’s a “gigolo.” To him, she’s ice-cold.

When barely-conjoined twin girls SELA and SELU KAROLYI headline at Circus Pluribus (a cabaret run by mysterious BELA COMANECI and his mom, MADALENA), something unexpected happens. Following an amazing matinee, one of the twins is said to murder a roustabout stagehand in whom each had romantic interest.
Why Bela calls Dwight/Analiza for the defense makes no sense, but why they accept in haste does—they’re broke. She’s a recent widow sans life insurance. He’s a newbie in his uncle’s practice (with uncle in prison.)
The D. A. and presiding Judge sense a noteworthy trial. But goofy witnesses and errant jury members see the proceedings through warped lenses, lending hilarious moments. It’s a comedy, after all.
Romance, fed by initial attraction denied, blossoms under pressure. By the end, Analiza and Dwight talk of sharing the law…and their hearts. Who knows what else they might discover in common: Ain’t love grand?

Tell us about your recent work.

We have only adapted one screenplay to a novel, but at the present I have worked with an author to adapt the first novel in a series of three into a screenplay/pilot for mini-series or motion picture. I also worked with a Canadian writer to rewrite her screenplay, which now has a director attached and will probably be filmed in England. Wash and I are also working on a short film script and developing a treatment and marketing package of that story for an episodic TV/Cable series. And last but not least, We are adapting a novel into a treatment for a marketing package of a novel adaptation for a mini-series. We are shooting for mid May to bring it out.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

Winos & Pigeons won several awards – no first places, but we came away with something every time it was shown.

What else are you working on?

Getting better at the craft of writing… telling a story. Helping others understand how to bring a screenplay to life for a reader, help the director/reader/producer imagine/see the story on the screen.

Do you believe there are occupational hazards to being a writer?

I think the main challenge to being a writer lies in not getting discouraged. You have to grow a tough hide – because rejections stab to the bone. You have to just grin and bear it… Drag your ass up off the floor and keep trying. Keep writing, but quit making the same mistakes over and over again. Listen when someone tells you they don’t get it, then fix it so they do get it. Be resolute and anxious and willing to learn but not stubborn and deaf to criticism. When someone compliments you, it feels good. But other than that, it is useless. But when someone offers criticism, “I didn’t get it, or I got confused”, those words are gold nuggets, they are things you can fix and make your writing/storytelling better.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

I think every writer has to find his or her self. To understand who you are and whether or not you really want to be a writer is paramount to success or failure. You have to make the decision whether or not you are willing to make the commitment. Are you willing to keep trying when everything you send in is rejected? Are you willing to rewrite again and again until it’s right? There’s a big difference in being a writer and keeping a journal.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

My wife, Belva, and I have a website. Belva’s List that is a one-stop recreational guide to things to do in Seattle and Western Washington. And of course I teach and mentor. That might not seem like a lot, but try it at 74 years old. People ask me when I’m going to retire, my answer is, “I don’t have time.”

Describe a typical day.

I get up around 8am and I try to be in bed by midnight. I read the paper, I read my email, I look at Facebook and LinkedIn. I work on whatever I have on my plate at the time. I watch TV from 8 pm to 11 pm. I spend the hour between 11 & Midnight checking email and writing.

That’s quite a long day for anyone. Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have a wonderful wife, who is also my best friend, who is ultra-supportive, which is very important to both of us and our marriage. We are a team. I’m very lucky in that sense.

What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

Creating something… Making people laugh… helping them enjoy. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing comedy.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Know that something went wrong and figure out how to fix it. Quit making the same mistakes over again. Believe in yourself, and that means… know yourself and be willing to work on improving you!

What has been your greatest success in life?

Finding myself and who I am. Learning to like me. And I would say finding Belva.

Do you have any pet projects?

My play, WILL YOU BE STAYING FOR SUPPER. I’ve been writing it for twenty years. I want to sit in the back of a theater and watch it and the crowd someday.

I certainly hope that you will. Before I share an excerpt from Murder By Circus, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you…

I’m an Obsessive Romantic.

The one thing I cannot do without is…

The funnies in the newspaper

The one thing I would change about my life:

Maybe more money and time to spend it

My biggest peeve is:

Bullies

Amen to that! The person or thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Belva & Wally

Front Cov_FIXAnd now, for our visitors’ reading pleasure, a bit of Murder By Circus.

Chapter 1 – Lily’s prologue.

The prior January was the pits.

The Ogre had croaked. Suddenly. Embarrassingly. In a public place. Dressed in rock climbing gear, of all things. And smelling of patchouli oil.

Why The Ogre, 53-year-old attorney John Corso, top of the shingle at…

CORSO & CORSO, P.S.

…would be found suspended 12 feet aloft (after he’d otherwise ceased to be) loomed as a mystery to those who claimed to care for the man.

But not Lily Caldwell. Quintessential office manager-secretary-assistant-paralegal and roller bearing of all things motive at C&C, she alone knew the reason. Or thought she did. Had it on good authority, or so she thought.

See, The Ogre’s young wife, Analiza (name #2 on the shingle) was not quite 30. And was withering away her exquisite youth in a setting Ebenezer Scrooge would have approved, had Dickens set him there. Analiza secretly hungered for some changes in her life as junior partner in love and domesticity. Exactly what changes were not clear to Lily, since Analiza never announced them; she was all business most of the time since knot-tying with The Ogre, taking up residence in his home, his office and, one assumed, his heart. A defense mechanism to keep real life at a distance? Maybe.

But Lily knew better. And had a hunch those reasons might be clearer if only Analiza looked harder, deeper, in more private places, as Lily had examined herself on occasion. After all, Analiza and Lily were best friends in high school, striking off on different paths thereafter.

For Lily, graduation preceded a bruising ride in the Pacific Northwest roller derby circuit (with a little girl-on-girl action of the experimental variety to boot). Followed by a couple of loser boyfriends (fond of lewd slogans they thought hugely original, emblazoned on their ball caps). Soon after, Lily nearly went Navy on the rebound, trusting a female recruiter who had a disarming smile. And a quota.

Then Lily was scared straight by a late-night mystery she never dared to discuss, possibly a dream of drowning in the ocean, or red tape. From that, Lily lost her desire for sea duty, found Jesus and Junior College, discovered paralegal, then lost Jesus but kept His jewelry.

Of Analiza, Lily knew this much for sure. Blessed with an anonymous benefactor but no remaining parents, Analiza (nee’ Kron, or so it said on the birth certificate—and what kind of name was that?) breezed through Portland State in three and a half years. Then parlayed a top-notch score on the LSATs to a full ride at Furlong Law, where she edited The Review, cum laude. Followed by knot-tying with The Ogre (on questionable advice of a lascivious—thus treacherous—law school mentor, the bastard).

Now, with The Ogre’s passing, Analiza was Lily’s boss, such as that went. It had taken time for the two women to re-acquaint in that profoundly nuanced way females can arrive at (when hair-pulling is not on anyone’s agenda).

But last January was an eye-opener for Lily, ripe with the unexpected. First, of course, the sudden demise of John The Ogre Corso in entirely unlikely circumstances.

Then, accompanying Analiza via an oversized powder-blue limo rented from Steve’s Stretches (“Your choice for that hot/fun special occasion”) by an undertaker suddenly facing a spate of mechanical failures at this crucial time. It being post-Senior Prom season, limos of that Vegas-esque ilk were available—lean, powder-blue with a stretch-out side couch and two moon roofs. But any port in a storm, Lily said—immediately regretting the Navy allusion—and glad for the blue bomb with promises of no extra charge.

Thence, to a funeral populated with more chairs and flowers in attendance than actual mourners. A stormy, umbrella-collapsing service at graveside, attended mostly by the digging crew, bill collectors, the funeral home troops and even a process server who had the wrong funeral.

Lily noted how Analiza took it all with hardly a tear, nary a whimper, as the limo swooshed through town, its azure presence interpreted by passersby as a harbinger of Brangelina or some other movie celeb tribe filming in the area. Whatever.

Or maybe just slumming; it was Portland, after all, an ambitious, believable town whose gusto stood ever in the sibling shadow of Seattle up the road.

For those of you who would like to learn more about Wally, or get in touch, here are a few links:

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/wally.lane

Website:         http://www.screenwritingtostandard.com/

LinkedIn:       https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=16044709

YouTube:       https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH7qRyVhhy8Yb0mzxXjtPLw

Buy Link:      http://www.amazon.com/TRIAL-CIRCUS-Wash-Phillips-ebook/dp/B00E88RHYM/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423627342&sr=1-4&keywords=trial+by+circus

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 13 – Interview With Nicholas Rossis

book photo NR_500I first encountered Nicholas Rossis about a year ago through the Facebook Group, Fantasy Sci-Fi Network News. He is a renaissance man, a diligent, cogent blogger and a best-selling fantasy author. If I were asked to describe him in as few words as possible, I would call him engaged, intelligent and pro-active.

When I asked him to describe himself, he did so as follows: Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Most importantly, author.

Nicholas loves to write. He has published Runaway Smile, a children’s book, which you can read for free on his blog. He has also written the Amazon best-selling epic fantasy series, Pearseus. The final book in the series is currently penned and expected summer 2015.

Finally, he has published the Amazon best-seller The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories that includes his award-winning short story, I Come in Peace.

Nicholas lives in Athens, Greece, at a forest’s edge, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always purring on his lap.

Nicholas, will you tell us about your most recent release?

coverVigil-700That would be Pearseus: Vigil, the third book in my epic fantasy Pearseus series, and the penultimate one overall.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I wanted to have it ready for Christmas, so the main challenge was to have everything ready by then.

I failed.

You see, in the end I decided it was far more important to produce the best possible book, than to meet an arbitrary deadline. So, when the feedback from my beta readers came and I realized I needed to change a few things to improve on the story, I decided to release the book a month later, even if that meant missing the Christmas period.

I think that was wise. Producing the best book one can is a universal dictum and sound advice. Will you tell us about your other novels?

I have written another three Pearseus books, including a novelette-sized prequel. I have also written The Power of Six, a collection of short stories with a science fiction/fantasy twist.

About a month prior to Pearseus: Vigil, I had released my first children’s book, Runaway Smile. I’m especially fond of this one, particularly the great illustrations provided by the very talented Dimitris Fousekis.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I’ve been lucky enough that four of my books have repeatedly reached #1 on Amazon in their respective genres. Also, one of the short stories in The Power of Six has won a competition here in Greece and was included in a traditionally-published anthology.

I haven’t made any videos, but it’s something I’ve been considering for a while now. I’ll let you know when I do.

What else are you working on?

I’ve already started working on the last Pearseus book (working title: Endgame – you heard it here first), but I’m also working on my next children’s book, Musiville. It’s currently illustrated by Dimitris, and I’m not helping by making changes to the text!

What would you say are the occupational hazards of being a novelist?

Too many to list here, from the obvious (square eyes from staring at a screen all day long) to the not-so-obvious (people think you’ve had a stroke because you spend half the day staring in empty space). Also, I should mention insomnia (from planning your next scene) and industrial-strength absent-mindedness (a natural consequence of your mind being light years away).

Hah! You’re as bad as I am. Will you share with us how you became a published author?

One could say I’ve always been writing in the form of essays, but also a dream journal, where I’ve kept my most memorable dreams since I was in my late teens. Then, in 2009, I dreamed that someone was urging me to write. I flicked through my dream journal and came across a potentially good tale, so I wrote it up as a short story and submitted it to 9, a Greek sci-fi journal. To my great surprise, it was published. Then, I entered a competition with my next story, and won an award – this was the one I mentioned earlier.

I felt I had found my calling, and started working on my novel, Pearseus, while writing further short stories, a children’s book series (currently being illustrated) and various blog posts in between. I tried sending my various manuscripts to maybe a dozen agents and publishers, but was rejected. It gradually dawned on me that things move at a glacial sleep in the world of traditional publishing. Being rather impatient, I decided to self-publish. To my astonishment, the second book of the Pearseus series reached #1 in its genre within two months of its launch.

I have now published traditionally my children’s book, Runaway Smile, in Greece, so I consider myself a hybrid author.

Fantasy authors frequently kill off their characters. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

I’m the kind of person who tries to resuscitate ants when he accidentally steps on one, so I think I’m the last person who would commit any kind of crime – let alone murder.

Except in my books, of course. I’ve been reading Sue Coletta’s free 50 ways to Murder your Fictional Character, and now have a pretty good idea of what to use: poison. There’s many a poisonous herbs in our gardens, so the easiest thing would be to slip a handful of those into the unsuspecting victim’s casserole and make sure they eat alone. This would make it the perfect crime, especially if they’re the kind of person to have a herb garden.

Hmm. I’ll have to file that away. Returning to something more serious, is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Only that I love and cherish each and every one of them. If I knew where they lived, I’d bring them chocolate cookies. Unless they left a poor review of course, in which case they’d better not eat them.

I think that brings us back to the previous question. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I’ve been working on the Internet for the past 20 years, mainly in web design and web marketing. This proved to be a great help when I started self-publishing, as I’ve been using most of the things I’ve learned through my day job for promoting my books. The best thing about it is that I can do it from home, as we have turned the ground floor into a spacious office area, which means no commute. Plus, the tea is always excellent.

Before I share an excerpt from Vigil, I’d like to close with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a…

strange kind of beast. But an affectionate one.

The one thing I cannot do without is…

The Internet. I’d feel mute and deaf without it.

The one thing I would change about my life:

Having children. Someone has to test-drive my children’s books.

My biggest peeve is…

The human capacity for self-delusion. I’m now convinced that it’s infinite.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is…

My wife, as she totally gets me!

As promised, here is an excerpt from Vigil, after which you will find links where to purchase Nicholas’s books, as well as how to connect with him.

In the Sewers

In the distance, they heard the grating of metal against cobbles as the soldiers opened the manhole to search for them inside the dirty sewers.

She lost track of time as they sped down one tunnel after another, each stinking a little more. She fought to push the image of Sophie’s bloodied body away from her mind, but it kept popping back to her head. The woman had been like a mother and a sister, helping raise the twins as if they were her own. And the priest; why would a priest of Themis be after them? What had they done to offend their goddess?

Elsie froze and her pretty face went white. Angel followed her eyes to a dozen red eyes peering at them from the darkness. She pulled her little sister by the hand. “Don’t look at it,” she whispered, but the little girl could not move. Angel leaned down to face her, trying to avoid the stinking waters. More red eyes blinked around them. “Honey, it’s just a rat. It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”

Elsie bobbed her head while craning it around Angel’s shoulder to stare at the animals splashing in the stinking water. Angel swallowed a sigh and lifted her into her arms. Themis, she’s heavier than she looks!

The girl burrowed in Angel’s arms, squirming with each new rat they encountered. Balancing the torch with one hand and holding Elsie with the other proved impossible. Angel handed the torch to Cook. Stumbling under the weight, she moved as fast as she could. She took one turn, then another, when the torch fell into the water with a loud hiss. It glowed for a second, then the light disappeared.

“I’m sorry,” Cook whispered with a strained voice. “It slipped.”

Angel stopped herself from screaming at him. “It’s all right. We’ll just follow…” Her voice trailed off. Where was the light from Xhi’s torch? He must have moved on, unaware that he had left them behind. She fought the urge to shout his name; she had no idea how close the soldiers might be. When was the last time she had seen the flame from his torch? Shit! It was back at the rats’ nest. She must have taken a wrong turn, and now they were lost. Swearing at herself, she wondered how to tell the children that they had to go back. She opened her mouth, then heard faraway voices. Soldiers!

“Follow me,” she whispered and raised one hand to feel the walls as she pressed forward in the darkness. In the distance, her straining eyes caught a light. She headed that way, hoping to find Xhi. Instead, they arrived at a grating that sliced the dim light from above into dirty squares flickering in the waters. She let Elsie down with a loud sigh. “Will you be all right now, honey?”

The girl nodded, holding back terrified tears.

She heard the voices again, this time accompanied by the sound of approaching feet splashing in the filthy waters. They must be getting closer! Her gaze jumped around, searching for a hiding place. She pushed the twins into a tight alcove, squirming behind them. I wish I had a knife! More splashing echoed in the narrow space, drawing nearer. She held her breath as she pressed their bodies to the wall, wishing to blend into the shadows.

“Angel?” Cyrus’ voice made her jump out of her skin, then she burst from her hiding place to jump into his arms.

“Thank Themis, I thought—”

Xhi did not let her finish her sentence. “They’re heading this way. Hurry.” He climbed a tight ladder before pushing a manhole cover to sneak a look outside. A few moments later, he motioned them up. With some loud, straining breaths, she raised Cook, then Elsie into his arms, and he lifted them out. Angel pushed Cyrus up, then followed them.

They had emerged in a confined alleyway, now covered in darkness. The derelict buildings could only be part of the Slums. She drank the evening air in deep gulps. The stained walls around them stank of mold, urine and moisture, but to Angel the stale air smelled of freedom. The twins stared at the unfamiliar surroundings. Elsie sniffed and wrinkled her nose in disgust. They must be so scared. Angel wished she had some sort of treat, aside from a half-eaten apple.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Nicholas!

Visitors can connect with Nicholas on the following links:

Facebook         www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis

Twitter             www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis

Google+           https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis

Blog                   http://nicholasrossis.me/

You may purchase his books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-C.-Rossis/e/B00FXXIBZA/

Cover_Runaway_Smile_700http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Smile-fairy-unshared-wasted-ebook/dp/B00QQC2YLY/