Tag Archives: Indie Authors

Myrddin Summer Beach Reads — Join The Party! #Giveaway

Rachel Tsoumbakos talks about the Myrddin Summer Beach Reads Facebook event. All the Edgewise Words Inn contributors will be there, along with many more. You just may find the book you’ve been waiting for!

Rachel Tsoumbakos

Myrddin Summer Beach Reads Party promo image

I know here in Australia, winter is coming. But, in the Northern hemisphere, things are heating up. And so it is time for the Myrddin Summer Beach Reads Party!

So just what is this magnificent event?

According to the official event page, the Myrddin Summer Beach Reads party aims to “introduce readers to the wonderful books by the Myrddin authors (and some of their friends) before summer officially starts.” This will give readers a chance to stock up on some great books across multiple genres before they hit the beach.

On offer during the event are the following prizes and giveaways:

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card grand prize
  • 2 “box-set” digital copies of the complete Tower of Bones series by Connie J Jasperson
  • 2 digital copies of Huw the Bard by Connie J Jasperson
  • 1 copy of Dorianna and 1 copy of Witch of the Cards by Catherine Stine
  • A copy…

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Beta Reading, or Editing–what’s the difference?

Book- onstruction-sign copyIndies rely heavily on what we refer to as beta readers to help shape their work and make it ready for editing. But in many forums, I’ve seen authors  use the term used interchangeably with editing, and the two are completely different.

And unfortunately, some indie published works are clear examples of work by authors who don’t realize the importance of working with an editor, although it is apparent that they have had assistance from beta-readers.

What is quite disappointing to me, is the many traditionally published works that seem to fall into the same lack-of-good-editing category, and I am at a loss as to why this is so.

So what is the difference between a beta reader and an editor?

Well, there is a HUGE difference.

Editing is a process, one where the editor goes over the manuscript line-by line, pointing out areas that need attention: awkward phrasings, grammatical errors, missing quote-marks or a myriad of things that make the manuscript unreadable. Sometimes, major structural issues will need to be addressed. It may take more than one trip through to straighten out all the kinks.

  1. In scholastic writing, editing involves looking at each sentence carefully, and making sure that it’s well designed and serves its purpose. In scholastic editing, every instance of grammatical dysfunction must be resolved.
  2. In novel writing, editing is a stage of the writing process in which a writer and editor work together to improve a draft by correcting errors and by making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective. Weak sentences are made stronger, nonessential information is weeded out, and important points are clarified, while strict attention is paid to the overall story arc.
  3. The editor is not the author She can only suggest changes, but  ultimately all changes must be approved and implemented by the author.

Beta Reading is done by a reader. One hopes the reader is a person who reads and enjoys the genre that the book represents. Beta reading is meant to give the author a general view of  the overall strengths and weaknesses of his story.

The beta reader must ask himself:

  1. Were the characters likable?
  2. Where did the plot bog down and get boring?
  3. Were there any places that were confusing?
  4. What did the reader like? What did they dislike?
  5. What do they think will happen next?

beta read memeBeta Reading is not editing, and  the reader should not make comments that are editorial in nature. Those kinds of nit-picky comments are not helpful at this early stage, because the larger issues must be addressed before the fine-tuning can begin, and if you are beta reading for someone, the larger issues are what the author has asked you to look at.

This phase of the process should be done before you submit the manuscript to an editor, so that those areas of concern will be straightened out first.

Editors and other authors make terrible beta readers, because it is their nature to dismantle the manuscript and tell you how to fix it. That is not what you want at that early point–what you want is an idea of whether you are on the right track or not with your plot and your characters, and whether or not your story resonates with the reader.

Do your self a favor and try to find a reader who is not an author to be a first reader for you. Then hire a local, well-recommended editor that you can work with to guide you in making your manuscript readable, and enjoyable.

If you notice a few flaws in your ms but think no one else will notice, you’re wrong. Readers always notice the things that stop their eye.

In my own work I have discovered that if a passage seems flawed but I can’t identify what is wrong with it, my eye wants to skip it. But another person will see the flaw, and they will show me what is wrong there.

That tendency to see our own work as it should be and not how it is, is why we need editors.

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Worldbuilding part 1: Infrastructure

Book- onstruction-sign copyWorldbuilding is the term commonly used for the art of unobtrusively creating the world in which your characters live. Of course, fantasy and science fiction authors clearly need this skill, but all authors must be able to create the world in which their characters live, on the printed page. You, as the author, may know what Seattle looks and smells like, but the reader in London will not.

Many new authors say, “Well, just make it real in your mind, and it will feel solid in your story.”

That’s not precisely true, because things that are solid in your mind tend to evolve and change with every new day. That is bad for a fantasy world, which is what books are. We are going to make a style sheet, describing the rules of how our world works–because the universe has rules, and if we accidentally break them, the reader will throw our book away. Yes, you are going to write it down and refer back to it as the story progresses.

We begin by thinking about the basic necessities our characters will need to survive. Take a look at the world around us, and see what supports us, what nourishes and shelters us. This is called infrastructure. We need to have this support system completely solid in our minds as we write, so that the reader has the sense of a solid, well-thought out world.

  1. BUILD YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE: All societies have an economic component to them, whether they are set in space, in Middle Earth, or in Seattle. In any case, there’s nothing worse than a fictional world where there are elaborate social structures that seem completely disassociated from the realities of acquiring food, shelter and clothing. Authors of fiction don’t just write stories—we create whole societies and the economies that support them.
  • MH900438718FOOD and WATER: How do they eat? What do they eat? How does it get delivered? It doesn’t have to be central to the story, but it will come into it at some point because everyone, even vegans, likes to sit down and enjoy a conversation over a good meal, and a society that has no food descends into chaos and war ensues. Do they have certain rituals at meals, a prayer, or do they have formal manners? If they are at home, a small sentence mentioning a napkin or the kind of food will help to set the scene for the reader. If they are in a restaurant or a mess hall, most people will be able to build the picture just from that clue.

If your story is set on a space station or on a space ship, acquiring food becomes central to the tale, because a certain amount of space inside must be devoted either to storage or to hydroponic gardening.

If you set your tale in 1845 Paris, you must remember that this was the Little Ice Age, and was a time of global famine.

  • CLOTHING: People get cold, and need protection. What are they wearing? How do they get it? In some genres, clear descriptions of the garments is needed—most romance novels require some attention to clothing, and if your tale is set in another world or in the past, knowing what they wear becomes very important. You absolutely must understand the constraints certain kinds of clothing will add to your plot.

498px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_088If your romance is set in a medieval world, you will want to dress them with some accuracy. Readers are savvy—they will know you haven’t thought it out well if your fully armored knight is suddenly indulging in a moment of passion with fully dressed Lady Gwen. Think about the many layers of what your characters are actually wearing—it can’t be done! For that you must undress your characters, and if they are full armored or wearing Victorian undergarments, it becomes a bit involved. This means they must plan ahead for their romantic trysts and leave the armor at home.

My book, Huw the Bard is set in a mash-up world—one that has many elements of medieval Britain, but with a few Victorian amenities. I didn’t want clothes to take up a lot of space in the tale, but some mention had to be made.

The trouble Huw had at the outset of the tale was that he was on the run and traveling in disguise. The borrowed shirts of a common working man were made closer-fitting than his traditional bards’ robes, because cloth was expensive and no laborer could afford to waste it on something like big loose sleeves just for fashion. I had to make it so that the straps that ran up his arms and crossed his chest and kept his specially crafted knife sheaths in place didn’t show at all above the rawhide laces at his throat, even when he drew his knives.

It’s only given about three sentences in the actual book, but I had to research what real knife-sheathes are like and how cumbersome they are to wear. In the process I discovered how useless they truly can be. This concept created a certain amount of tension for my plot—he would have to get used to throwing his knives without giving himself away, as he didn’t have the robes to disguise his movements.

When writing fiction, it is important to remember that people are not really that much different nowadays than they ever were. They get cold, so they wear clothes, in many layers. The warmer the weather, the fewer the layers your characters will wear. Inside a warm building, they may be lightly clad. Keep that in mind as you are writing, and convey the idea of their attire with a minimum of words, and your reader will get more enjoyment from the tale.

So, Back to Infrastructure:

  • GARBAGE: Who takes away the garbage? Who deals with their bodily wastes? This also doesn’t have to a large part of the story, but in the morning my husband and I are sometimes woken up by the garbage trucks at our house, so it is a part of the environment. And I don’t know about you, but using an outhouse or emptying a chamber pot is the least romantic thing there is, so if your tale is set in the middle ages, be aware that sanitation was minimal and that dealing with it consumed a certain portion of their day.
  • TRANSPORTATION: How do they get around? Are they riding horses, or driving cars? If you’ve set your story on a space station, do they get around in some sort of shuttle? It’s a good idea to have some idea of distance, and how far people can travel in a day. Draw a map if your world is a fantasy world, or get a map if it is set in our world. You need to have some idea of where places are in relation to each other, and what the distances between those places are, and what the roads are like because that will have an affect your characters too. If people are flying between London and Toronto, there are certain time constraints that must be adhered to—it’s not an instantaneous thing. The wait at each airport, the time spent in a taxi, the time spent in flight—that is a good chunk of time, so make sure it is considered in your storyline.
  • 490px-Henry_Singleton_The_Ale-House_Door_c._1790

    The Ale-house door by Henry Singleton c. 1790

    WORK: What do the majority of your people do to survive? Are they working in a lawyer’s office, or a hospital? Are they farmers? People need to work to survive. In our society today, people identify themselves by their work—”I am an accountant” or “I am an office manager.” We spend 8-10 hours a day at our work, so it is crucial to have your characters’ employment clearly visualized for the reader.

When I decided to set my first book in a medieval setting, I did a certain amount of research on Wikipedia, and found it is actually a good source for quick reference.  However, many people whom I admire and respect regularly tell me it’s not the best source for real information about anything. (!!!) SO, ever the intrepid seeker of information, I resorted to investigating in some rather obscure places, but I did find what I needed.

It just took a little time, and a lot of effort. Do the research, and lay the groundwork for your infrastructure. Your readers won’t thank you, but they will be so immersed in the story, they won’t realize the world is a fantasy, and THAT is what you want.

The next installment of this series will explore the world itself–creating the environment and the geography.

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Resurrection, Reconstruction, and the Great Reckoning

cocacola_08

Coca-Cola HD Wallpapers

I have been writing like a crazy person for the last two weeks.  Well, I am a crazy person, but–I have been spewing the basic rough draft of a novel in the most unlinear way possible.  I have my plot outline and I am following it, sort of.  With that as my guide, even when I am jumping around in the manuscript like a mini-van full of toddlers hopped up on jelly-beans and coca-cola, I am still within the actual framework of the story that was originally outlined.

But what if, as occasionally happens, you suddenly realize that four chapters previously you shot the villain and buried him when he should actually have been struck by lightning? He was always going to die, that was a given, because he must be the undead villain, hell-bent on revenge.

330px-Zombie_haiti_ill_artlibre_jnlThe good thing about being an author is that once you realize there was a mistake, you can always un-shoot them. Then you can strike them with lightning as they should have been in the first place, send them to Hell and and have some minor devil trying to work his way up the management chain in the underworld resurrect them as your creepy, decaying, undead villain.

And if you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo, every time you rewrite the the scene with a slightly different outcome, it counts toward your word count.

Just sayin’.

So, here there I was, happily writing along, when suddenly I realized I had to change a rather large plot-hole, and knew I had to do it while I was thinking about it. First I did a global search for the name of the character that has taken the wrong turn. I changed the font color to red in that section, and began rewriting the scene the way it SHOULD have been written in the first place, using the usual black font.

Now, during normal writing sessions, I would simply cut the offending scene out of the ms, and paste it into a separate document which I then save to my ‘Background File’ in the same folder as my main manuscript. By doing that, I don’t lose information I may need later.

virtually golden medallion of mayhem copyBut this is National Novel Writing Month, and every word in that manuscript  counts toward my region’s total wordcount! We are the Olympia Washington USA region and we have a Word War on with Salem Oregon USA: the Capital Smackdown! On November 30, the day of the Great Reckoning,  The Virtually Golden Medallion of Mayhem is up for grabs!

We have never won this awesome…thing-a-ma-bob….

But we want it.

And in the per-writer stats Salem is slightly ahead of us in this battle. OH! the misery!

So if that means I have a multicolored manuscript for a few weeks, so be it!

Besides, if I don’t begin to make those changes when first I realize they need to be done, I might forget until a beta reader points it out. Thus, I find myself up at all hours of the night ironing out plots points, trying to keep an unmanageable group of characters in line and trying desperately to keep that all-important word-count up!

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Kacey Vanderkarr, Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2)

As you know, I love to talk shop, and love to hear what other authors have to say about their work and the craft. Recently I read a deep, well-crafted novel written by indie author, Kacey Vanderkarr. The book is called Reflection Pond and I liked it enough to feature it on my book review blog, Best in Fantasy. (You can read my review of her wonderful book here.) Kacey has consented to answer my inelegant questions (further down this post) and what she has to say is quite interesting!

She has written a sequel, Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2),  and I am happy to have been offered the opportunity to be one of the first to reveal the cover–and a lovely cover it is. And she has also agreed to answer a few questions regarding her work and her life as an indie author–and wow, what great insight into the industry she has.  But first–THE BLURB:

Poison Tree

By Kacey Vanderkarr

Release date: December 2, 2014

The road to the City of War is dangerous.

With their home in ruins, Callie and Rowan are Eirensae’s last hope of stealing the cauldron back from Fraeburdh. They must travel into the human world where the Fallen hide. The banished fae wait for Callie, desperate to sacrifice her before she comes of age.

If Callie and Rowan survive the journey, something worse looms in Fraeburdh. Rowan is destined for a dark family legacy too horrifying to accept, and his father is anxious to welcome him home. Once the truth is revealed, will Callie ever look at Rowan the same way?

Trapped between feuding cities lost in a centuries’ old war, Callie and Rowan will face their biggest rivals yet, and neither of them will make it out unscathed.

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(Just so you all know, I am definitely going to buy that book!)

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And now the Cover:

poison-tree-ebook

 

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That’s an awesome cover to go with such an intriguing blurb.  And now, we meet the author, an amazing woman who is a driving force in the writing life of Flint, Michigan.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

KV: I began writing back in high school, though I didn’t officially consider myself a writer until I was on summer break from my first semester of Ultrasound school. Inspiration struck in that four-week break and I spent it writing my first complete novel, a YA Fantasy that I’ve since rewritten. I fell in love with those characters, and to this day, I still have a soft spot for them. It took some time, but I realized that I could fall in love with other, different, characters, and I have again and again, through novels and short fiction. I think writing is part neurosis and part pure joy. There are times when I love and hate it equally!

CJJ: Tell us about your most recent book.

KV: Poison Tree is Book 2 in the Reflection Pond Series. It’s the continuation of Callie and Rowan’s story as they make their way from home into the dark faerie city, Fraeburdh, which is also known as the City of War.

I’ve always been fascinated with fantasy. In doing some research, I found information on a legend involving four treasures. My own story is loosely based on the original four treasures of Tuatha Dé Danann.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

KV: I am a certified winger. Swooper. Pantser. Whatever you want to call it. I usually have a general skeleton of a story when I start, a beginning, middle, end, though I never outline. There may be an idea for a scene or two as well. My joy doesn’t come from structure, but spontaneity. I’ve tried outlining before, and then I feel determined to stray as far from that plan as possible. I love the blank page, the possibility. I save the note taking for after I’ve written the rough draft.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

KV: I think that Reflection Pond and Poison Tree take risks. I had a reviewer suggest that Reflection Pond be marketed to ages 17+ because it has a “handful of profanity” and “alludes to child abuse.” It doesn’t allude. It happened, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m not scared to examine the dark parts of life, and I don’t condone blindfolding my readers to make them feel more comfortable. These books cover a lot of dark topics, and I’m proud of that, especially when reviewers say that it’s handled in a sensitive manner. The truth is, bad things happen to people who read YA, and everyone needs a character that they can relate to. Not everyone will be able to connect to my characters when they read and that’s okay. But for those who have suffered and survived, there is still hope, and I want them to find it when they read my books.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

KV: I write based on inspiration. A lot of that manifests as YA, though I have written a few adult short pieces, some new adult, and some straight up fantasy. I think young adult looks at a very transitional place in a character’s life. It gives a lot of options to the writer. That being said, I have absolutely no idea where my career will take me. Right now, I consider myself a YA writer, in the future? Who knows!

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

KV: I am all over the place when it comes to publishing. My first book, Antithesis, was published by Inkspell Publishing, which is a small press. That was a great experience for me. I learned how to market, how much work it is to publish a book, how to work with an editor and cover designer. Inkspell is very supportive and patient with their authors. However, for my second book, Reflection Pond, I opted to self-publish. I’d sent it to agents, had a few bites of interest, but nobody wanted to pick up the series. At that point, I had to make a choice. Who did I write this book for? In the end, it was myself, and if I wanted it to be out there in the world, then I had to publish it myself, too. It was a long process with a lot of ups and downs and uncertainty, but I’m SO HAPPY I did it. Self-publishing has opened even more doors for me and widened my net of contacts. I’m proud of these books because every page is mine.

However, I still want an agent, which is why I’m now querying a different project. So, I’ve done a bit of everything. I’d love to have an agent and publish traditionally. The important thing is patience, which is what I keep telling myself!

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

KV: I think both traditional and self-publishing have their pros and cons and neither one is better than the other. What matters is the work. Traditional publishing is a bit like having good luck. Your writing can be amazing, but you have to attract the right agent at the right time, and then again with an editor and publisher. Self-publishing gives you more freedom. You get to choose who you work with, have say in what your cover looks like, make editing decisions.

Both paths are hard.

If you indie publish, I suggest making friends with someone who knows the ropes and can help you get it done. That’s the great thing about writers, we’re friendly and helpful, colleagues not competition, because we’re also readers who love good books.

The last bit of advice is DON’T GIVE UP. If you want to indie publish, do it. If you indie publish and still want an agent. Go for it. There is no wrong way. Don’t let the industry, your family or friends, or yourself keep you from your dreams. Just remember, the publishing industry moves SLOW, SLOW, SLOW, so have patience and trust your gut.

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I have to say, I really enjoyed reading her answers–Kacey Vanderkarr has some awesome advice for all authors, not just indies there!

 

Kacey VanderkarrKACEY VANDERKARR is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. Kacey is president of the Flint Area Writers and the Social Media Director for Sucker Literary. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, and crazy cats. In addition to her novels, Antithesis and Reflection Pond, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland, and will appear in Spark Vol VII and the inaugural issue of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. Check out her website: www.kaceyvanderkarr.com.

You can purchase the wonderful book that begins this series at:

Reflection Pond on Amazon

If I were you I would Add Poison Tree on Goodreads--I just did!

And here is her Author Facebook Page–go out and ‘like’ her–she’s an awesome person!

Kacey Vanderkarr’s Blog-check it out!

And finally–you can follow her on Twitter!

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Dazed and confused

my sisters grave robert dugoniI am a a bit dazed and confused right now. I have been intensely preparing to give a seminar on writing dialogue at conference next weekend, but now the convention has been cancelled. Apparently not enough people pre registered. And I was all prepped to hear an announcement from Robert Dugoni!  Now I won’t know what it is until he tweets it. And his book, My Sister’s Grave was just named one of the top five thrillers of 2014.  I love it when an Indie goes viral!

But on the positive side, I am now free to focus on editing for clients, prepping for NaNoWriMo 2014 and several other things that demand my attention. Also, I don’t have to hope and pray I can find a vegan-friendly restaurant near the hotel (which I also cancelled.)

I had planned to talk about talking–at least about how your characters might talk, if they were talking to you in real life.

So how do we convey a sense of naturalness and avoid the pitfalls of the dreaded info dump and stilted dialogue? First, we must consider how the conversation fits into the arc of the scene.

It begins, rises to a peak, and ebbs, an integral part of the scene, propelling the story forward to the next scene. A good conversation is about something and builds toward something. J.R.R. Tolkien said dialogue has a premise or premises and moves toward a conclusion of some sort. If nothing comes of it, the dialogue is a waste of the reader’s time.

First we must identify what must be conveyed in our conversation.

  1. Who needs to know what?
  2. Why must they know it?
  3. And how many paragraphs do you intend to devote to it?

My rule of thumb is, keep the conversations short and intersperse them with scenes of actions that advance the plot. Walls of conversation don’t keep the action moving and will lose readers, so make the conversations important—and intriguing.

Author James Scott Bell says dialogue has five functions:

  1. To reveal story information
  2. To reveal character
  3. To set the tone
  4. To set the scene
  5. To reveal theme

So now that we know what must be conveyed and why, we arrive in the minefield of the manuscript. That will be the subject of my next blogpost.

The Arc of the Conversation

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Stephen Swartz, A Dry Patch of Skin

A patch of Dry Skin, Stephen SwartzToday, my dear friend, Stephen Swartz, author of the new book,  A Dry Patch of Skin has consented to answer a few questions for us. Stephen is a true renaissance man–an accomplished musician, and the author of seven published novels, he is also a professor of English at a well-known university in Oklahoma.

I became friends with Stephen in 2011 through ABNA, and we have remained good friends since. I find him hilarious, and I really enjoy his work. He has kindly consented to sit down and allow me to “virtually interview ” him. I am especially curious about his wonderful new book, which is a vampire tale. It’s most certainly not your mama’s sparkly vampires! If you are curious, here is my review: Best in Fantasy: A Dry Patch of Skin

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

Stephen Swartz 2007SS: It seems like I’ve always been making up stories, much to my parents’ chagrin. I began by drawing panel comics, then added dialog, then began writing paragraphs. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in my youth, plus the classics of literature. They influenced my writing mostly by pushing me to try to “out-do” those authors with my own stories. My early writing was limited by the limitations of typewriters and correction fluid. When I got my first computer in 1986, all of my vast library of stories finally could be written. And the world shuddered….

 

CJJ: Tell us about your most recent book.

SS: A DRY PATCH of SKIN is a contemporary vampire story, but not at all modeled after any of the current vampire TV shows, films, or the books they are based on. I deliberately tried to keep it real. Thus, I researched diseases which cause symptoms approximating the vampire’s condition. In that way, I wanted the reader to experience what it would be like to become a vampire. I decided to tell the story through the POV of a man who is transforming against his will into something he does not want to become. All the tropes and memes of vampire stories are there, but they are realized in a medically accurate fashion—as much as possible. It gets a bit religious at the end, so…call it magical realism.

 

CJJ: How did you come to write this novel?

SS: I had the idea in rough form ever since Twilight came out and I tried to explain to my daughter, who was hooked on the Bella/Edward story, what “real” vampirism was. For that explanation, I recalled a report years ago on one of those news magazine shows about a man suffering from porphyria, sometimes called the “vampire disease”; the medical explanations for his affliction made perfect sense in terms of why he might be called a vampire if he happened to live in a certain time and place rather than modern America. Watching that interview (he wore a hood to cover his face), I could truly feel the anguish of being in that situation, and given that my art is answering What-if questions, I sought a vehicle for illustrating that awful situation.

 

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

SS: For A DRY PATCH of SKIN, I worked a bit differently than usual. I began with snatches of my real life, anecdotes that were humorous or telling in some way, then fictionalized them. My initial goal was to explore the character I was inventing, to get down his personality, way of expressing himself, his identity, and so on. As a story set in 2014 in the same city where I live, it was quite schizophrenic to write fiction about the places I regularly visit.

Unlike some authors, I generally do not make lists of traits or compose background profiles of my characters; sometimes I do not know all about them when they come on stage and I get to know them as readers do. (Of course, I go back in revision and make it all fit together.) I do collect information as I create them but it stays in my head. Sometimes browsing the internet will bring me an image that fits what I see in my head.

I knew from the start the direction A DRY PATCH of SKIN would go but I did not have the exact action of the climactic scene until I was mid-way into the writing. Once I “knew” how it would end, the direction of the plot shifted a bit to head toward that conclusion. I found by the end, fortunately, that I happened to have dropped some good seeds along the way which conveniently blossomed in the final chapters—much as Chekhov’s musket in Act 1 must be fired by Act 3. I suppose it’s a matter of how my twisted mind works; I’m not always conscious of the big picture under the cacophony of surface features, but my deeper self knows…because he sleeps with my muses.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

SS: A DRY PATCH of SKIN was a personal challenge, something in a genre I have not written previously. The saving aspect for me, however, was that it is, at the core, a tragic love story. (Is that a spoiler?) The trappings of vampire transformation become the vehicle for pulling off that tragedy. Or is it that the transformation, the struggle to avoid it or prevent it, is made more tragic with the love interest? At any rate, I’ve consciously tried to go counter to all the usual tropes of the vampire genre. In fact, the characters often mention, critique, and spoof some of the popular works of the genre during their conversations. I hope this novel will be both a fun “review” of the vampire literature as well as a realistic portrayal of a biological problem; in that sense, it’s a medical thriller.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

SS: A DRY PATCH of SKIN was a departure from my usual kind of novel (contemporary anti-romance or sci-fi on a grand scale). I was intrigued by the question and wanted to see if I could write it if only to see how such a situation might play out. I seldom write as a challenge or game, but this time I did. For writing in general, I simply want to follow my desire to see what happens next for the people I create and the situations I put them in. I know that sounds cruel, but that’s how I roll. It probably keeps me out of jail or the mental hospital.

Next, I’ve been challenged to write an epic fantasy with dragons. Epic fantasy is no problem; dragons are—because it’s in my nature to try to explain them in an authentic zoological way.

CJJ: I certainly can’t wait to see what sort of spin you give dragons! I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

SS: Strange you should ask because while I have always done things my way (Thanks, Frank!), the results have not always been glorious. After a health scare a few years back, I realized what I wanted most in whatever time I thought I had left was to publish one of the books I’d already written. Years before that, I had gone through the lengthy process of soliciting with actual reams of paper in mailing boxes and the 6-12 month wait for a response by paper form letter. But just a few years ago, the world apparently  changed and querying and soliciting were being done electronically, which opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I was impatient, for health reasons, so I caught the attention of a small publisher with a book I entered into a contest. That did not go so well but I did get a taste of the brave new world of publishing. The rest is what some call history—and others call serendipity.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

SS: I suppose there are all kinds of reasons and they tend to be settled on an individual basis. I described my situation, but even without that push from Father Time I’d probably still discover the small and indie publishers and hook up with one of them eventually. If I were young and had a market-ready book with a ready-made audience, I’d query that thing to the farthest star. If you are short on time or believe your work is specialized and thus out of the mainstream, you probably have to go indie.

My goal the past four years has been to make the books I’ve previously written available, at least that, not so much for my ego as for being able to check them off my so-called bucket list. Then I wrote something new! And made it available, too. And I wrote something new again! I have to give credit to the publishing of my early books for the spark of creativity that caused me to write my new books.

Thank you Stephen, for answering my questions! For those readers who are interested in reading more of Stephen’s writing journey, you can find him blogging at:

Deconstruction of the Sekuatean Empire

 You can purchase all the books written by Stephen Swartz from this page at Amazon.com

stephen swartz's books

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SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds, Lisa M. Peppan interview

KCover-SWOtRCThe Pacific Northwest has been the home of many famous authors, Frank Herbert, Ken Kesey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and J. A. Jance among them.  There is something about the dark and the damp that encourages creativity. We have a huge community of authors, with critique groups and strong support for each other.

Recently one of my friends from Bellingham, Washington, author of historical fiction J. L. Oakley, introduced me to another friend of her’s, fantasy author Lisa M. Peppan. Lisa’s book, SomeWhen Over The Rain Clouds is an intriguing book I am currently reading on my vacation–I can’t put it down!

Here is the BLURB:

SWotRB blurb

Lisa has consented to answer a few questions about her writing process and where her book fits into the genre of fantasy.

CJJ: Tell us a little of your early life and how you began writing:

LMP: Once I got the hang of it, I became a voracious reader.  My favorite still is L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.  It’s his fault, me writing.  I tried my hand at a few short stories but it wasn’t until after reading a poorly written fantasy that I was inspired to write a better story.

CJJ: What are you currently working on?

LMP: While my cover-artist works on a cover for the sequel to “SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds”, I’m working on a third book.  Might be a fourth, possibly a fifth.  Maybe more.  Same alternate universes and most of the same characters, all bundled together as The Geaehn Chronicles.  The Geaehn Chronicles has a Facebook page.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

LMP: SomeWhen started life as 98 handwritten pages.  With a rough idea of the kind of people I wanted my characters to be, I ran astrological birth charts for them and compatibility charts for every possible combination of the four.  While mulling over potential plot complications, I wrote detailed biographies for my main characters, drafted maps, and re-read a selection of mythologies, and, well, once I knew my characters and the world I was sending them to, I wound them up and let them go.  So far, this has worked for two and half books.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre? Why do you write what you do?

LMP: In all the fantasy I’ve read, cab drivers were things that moved protagonists from Point A to Point B.  Three of my four main characters are Seattle cab drivers who recognize that they’ve become involved in a fantasy-novel-type situation; the fourth knows it’s so much more than that.   I drove a taxi cab for 11 years, did a little dispatching, and knew cab drivers were so much more than things (most of them), and wrote the kind of book I’d enjoy reading.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

LMP: In the Spring of 1984, on a particularly slow day as a taxi cab driver, SomeWhen Over the Rain Clouds was born.  Over the years, I got many really nice rejection slips.  Then along came a first novel contest on Amazon.  Though I shot myself in the foot for the contest (ask me why and how bad), I was among the 100 best entrants that year.  It also made me aware of that most marvelous purveyor of POD novels, CreateSpace.  When a long-published author friend went Indie, because it appeared to be the direction publishing was going, I took the plunge.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

LMP: Most traditional brick-and-mortar publishers want to see smartly written synopses.  I tried but my best effort (to date) is 23 pages, and Indie doesn’t require one*.  Indie or traditional…?  If you write fantasy that you’ve given a truly fresh spin and you keep getting really nice rejection slips with handwritten notes saying things like, “Great premise” and “Best wishes finding a home for it!!”, go Indie.

*You won’t need the synopsis but you will want a snappy blurb for the back of the book

CJJ: Your experiences with traditional publishing rather closely mirror mine, Lisa!  Thank you for agreeing to be virtually here today, and for the insight into how your creative process works.

Here is a short excerpt of this wonderful book:

excerpt SWotRB

Intrigued?  Lisa’s book is SomeWhen Over The Rain Clouds and can be found at these fine stores — just click on the links:

www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

‘Like’ Lisa on Facebook

LMPeppan

Born in Seattle as the eldest of three, Lisa was a curious and adventuresome child who delighted in taking things apart to see just exactly how they worked.  It is a Testament to the Bravery of her parents that they went on to have two more children.

In 1981, after having held a number of jobs in a variety of fields, it was no real surprise to her parents or brothers when Lisa went to work as a cab driver for North End Taxi, a small mom-and-pop cab company in north Seattle.  During the summer of 1984, as a cab driver, after reading what she felt was a poorly written fantasy novel, she said, to no one in particular, “I can do better than that.”

Unplanned early retirement in 1992 gave Lisa time to learn about computers and html coding.  Armed with these new tools, she resumed her family research.  This led to a new hobby–19th century Living History–and from there she caught a glimpse of the scope and diversity of her Aboriginal heritage that spanned North America, north and south of the border.  What her father and his parents worked so very hard to hide, she works diligently to recover so the next generation will know who they are and where they came from; the time for hiding has passed.

When she isn’t reading, writing, researching, or playing in the past, Lisa enjoys quiet moments in the mountains, ferryboat rides on Puget Sound in November, windy days on any beach, hairy chests on men, rare steaks, and purple roses.

Lisa can be contacted at lisapeppan at gmail dot com

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Analog, I revile thee, or how The Martian redeemed my faith in science fiction

The MArtian Andy WeirI’m a book addict. Each time I crack open a book, whether in hard copy or on my Kindle, I’m hoping to be blown away by the imagery the author presents, hoping for that amazing high that comes from living a true classic. Lately I have been reading wide of my usual slot, not abandoning fantasy, but going back and seeing what I loved the most about the genre that was my first introduction to reading for pleasure. I recently had the experience of being completely and utterly blown away by a science fiction novel, The Martian, by Andy Weir.

It’s one of the best science fiction stories to come out of the last 20 years.  A real adventure story from the get-go, this story of an astronaut inadvertently left behind is gripping from page one. As a main character, Mark Watney is hilarious. He is the sort of man who gets through life by finding something positive in every disaster, and mocking the hell out of everything that is negative.

A horrendous storm destroys much of their base, and his team is forced to abort their mission.  During the emergency evacuation of the Ares 3 landing site, he is severely injured in an accident that appears to have killed him. His body is unretrievable, and unaware that he is still alive, he is left behind. His companions begin the long journey back to Earth, grief-stricken at his sudden death. THIS is an awesome, gripping, and hilarious story.

300px-Astound5006I’ve been a subscriber to a well-known science fiction magazine, Analog,  for many years. I am actually considering letting my subscription lapse, because for the last five years or so I have struggled to find something enjoyable in their magazine.  I no longer enjoy the work they are publishing and they no longer seem to care. While there are occasional nuggets, the majority of work they publish is frequently harsh, lifeless, depressing, and incomprehensible. The fact is, perhaps they have forgotten what real science fiction is about, what the average reader wants. Perhaps I am no longer smart enough for their publication–and I hate paying to be sneered at.

Despite the efforts of the publishing community, the genre of science fiction is not dead. Andy Weir ‘s brilliant work on The Martian proves that there are writers out there with exactly the sort of stories I am looking for.  And guess what–he published it in 2012 AS AN INDIE.  This is a really telling thing, that the watershed books are no longer being put out there by the Big Six, until they have proven their worth in the Indie market. Hugh Howey, A.G.Riddle, Rachel Thompson–INDIES, all of them.

In my sci-fi, I want human frailties, drama, adventure, intense life and survival against great odds, set against a backdrop of understandable and realistic science.

I want a Space Opera.  Andy Weir gave that to me.

It is that high drama that made the Star Trek empire what it is. High drama set in exotic places made George Lucas’s Star Wars series of movies the poster child for space operas. Those two series translated the intensity of feeling that the great authors of science fiction all brought to their work.

Over the years, I have written many short space operas for my own consumption. However, this fall I am embarking on the real test–putting my writing skill where my mouth is.  It just so happens that off and on for the last  3 years, I’ve been outlining a science fiction story.  Originally, I began this project  in preparation for NaNoWriMo 2013, but this will be the year to implement it, so in November this will be my work.

As a devoted fangirl of many well-known physicists, I’ve been doing  research for the last three years, and feel sure my science will hold up, which, in sci-fi, is key to the longevity of a tale. I have great characters, and a really plausible plot. I just have to spend 30 days stream-of-conscious writing to the prompts I have set forth and…well, that is the trick, isn’t it? But even if I fail to write anything worth publishing, I will have had a good time, and that is what this gig is all about: enjoying the ride.

 

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