Meet Guest Author, Brad C Baker…

Brad is a member of my real life writing group and so happy his dream is finally coming true!

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

I was born in Toronto, Ontario, where I now live with my Malamute huge dog called Crallick. Crallick is named after the primary character in my debut book and is probably just as big a force to be reckoned with!

My love of storytelling really began when I discovered roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, which allowed me to explore the different facets of a character and the different routes each scenario could take. However, even before this, I was a fan of many sci-fi and fantasy franchises and loved the work of Tolkien.

My love of travel and adventure began to develop as I grew older, seeping out into the real world. This led me to hitch-hike across Canada once and also across North America on two separate occasions. My wanderlust knew no bounds! I loved meeting new people and hearing their stories, as there was always something…

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A Company of Writers: Kenneth Hoover

Shining a Light on Dark Fiction

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at 3.33.07 PMI want to thank Darke Conteur for this opportunity to talk a little about the things I write, and why as a professional writer most fiction I’ve written is dark.

I’ve sold over 60 short stories (and articles) and several novels. Almost all are dark-themed. I concede this says more about me than the state of speculative fiction in general. So it begs the question: Why so dark, Mark?

The bottom line is it gives me an opportunity to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell. I don’t write dark stories because I’m trying to be edgy or ride a popular wave. Those tactics never work anyway. By the time you get around to doing exactly that the field has moved on. But when I tap into my creative self these lurking shadows beg to be let loose. Who am I to deny them?

Personally, I don’t like “safe fiction” which doesn’t challenge or call into question ideas about ourselves. To be sure, fiction which doesn’t challenge can be extremely well-written. But I have a sneaking suspicion the dark things stay with us longest because they are more often deeply buried.

It’s up to writers to bring them to light.

From Shakespeare’s tragedies, to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Deerslayer, to The Empire Strikes Back and many dark myths which have shaped our past and modern culture the power of darkness is lasting. You can come up with many more examples than I can, I’m sure. There’s a lot of darkness out there and it’s not going away.

People create it, and read it, and desire it, for a reason. Because it speaks to who we are as a species and what we want to avoid.

One caveat needs mentioning. Dark fiction doesn’t mean violent. Violence for the sake of violence doesn’t make a story dark. It makes a story clunky and gets in the way of more powerful themes trying to come to the fore.

For example, my dark western novel Quaternity (CZP, 2015) has a lot of violence. So does my novel Haxan (CZP, 2014), the existing weird western short stories, and Seven Devils, a new novel recently accepted by CZP. But it’s not something I dwell upon for the sake of its existence. I don’t describe violence in excruciating detail. That would minimize its power and what the story is trying to convey.

Anyway, that’s where your creativity comes in! Sometimes I’m successful in writing this way, sometimes not. But I’m always trying to find that perfect angle because it’s who I am.

There are lots of writers who tell all kinds of great stories. But you will find me crouched in my own little corner of the universe playing with matches, and trying to shed light on the darker things that make us who we are.

 

Kenneth-HooverKenneth Mark Hoover’s fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Frontier Tales, and others. He is a member of WWA and his  latest novel, QUATERNITY, is a dark western published by CZP/HarperCollins in 2015. You can find out more from his blog kennethmarkhoover.me or his website kennethmarkhoover.com.

Author Interview; Forbes West

Here it is. The last of my Author Interviews. I had hoped to continue this blog series, but unfortunately, no matter how many posts I put out looking for authors, hardly anyone replied. To the authors who did, I am honoured and grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with you. May all your publishing dreams come true. It’s been a fun couple of years and I hope you’ve discovered some wonderful, new authors to read.

For my last interview, I bring you Forbes West. A controversial character to be sure, this interview gives you a taste of his unique personality, and a reason why I like him so much. Someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

So let’s begin…

  1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

forbeswest-2Chicago originally. Chicago is a great place to grow resentful and to use your imagination at the same time due to its Russia like climate keeping you indoors 11 months of the year.  That sounds awful but I’m tired and it’s past midnighthere in California where I currently live. I like California more. In California you can wear shorts all year long and drink fruity cocktails and if you get bored there’s a desert nearby full of Joshua Trees to shoot off various types of guns and to drink King Cobra and hold impromptu drag races in Japanese cars long past retirement age that stink of cigarettes. I write mostly science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction because my romance novels were all rejected for being too ugly.

  1. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

What drew me to writing was that it was like playing the lottery except you can increase your odds by being moderately talented and if you strike it rich a lower percentage of people will think you didn’t deserve your new found wealth. I also like the idea of working alone (for the most part) or choosing who to work with. When I was kid I was sort of lonely so out of sheer boredom I always made up characters and situations and story lines to entertain myself. I still do, but this time I make sure to record what I’m doing and then pass it along to others who might get a kick out of it. So even though it’s a crapshoot, I rather play this tough game for the rest of my life instead of doing the 9-5 wage slave gig. There’s nothing appealing about working life anymore. Even for top earners, it’s like that Bob Dylan song- “You Gotta Serve Somebody”. You’re always on the hook. With writing that is still true but I enjoy it more than doing something I could not possibly care about. The real heroes are the bored ones at low paying no intellectual stimulation McJobs.

  1. What things influence your writing? Have you ever written them into a story?

What influences my writing the most has been what I learned as a political activist and my own education towards getting a master’s degree in political science. I was around politically active people, I learned history, I learned ideology and I learned political theories. From all of that I came to my own personal conclusion- no one, unless they are completely out of their mind, believes that what they do is evil. There is always self-justification for whatever happens. That’s the true story behind Nazis, Stalinists, and Jihadists. They all have come to this ugly belief that they are fighting to save the world and whatever they have to do is justified. So when I have bad characters or evil people in my stories, I always keep that in mind. Somehow, in someway, they justify their horrors and think they really are the heroes in the end.

  1. Was there any one influence that made you want to write?

One thing that made me really want to write was to show the complexity of human beings. Again, going back to my more political days, I found out these little anecdotes and stories about world leaders that made you re-evaluate simplistic thoughts on good and evil.  There could never have been a Nazi who thought that what they were doing was terrible and there could never have been a Joseph Stalin who thought he wasn’t doing everything possible for the workers. But these creatures lacked empathy for their fellow human beings and decided that whatever they did was right and they were heroic for making “tough decisions”- decisions that destroyed human life. So when I see some writing about some character just being 100% bad, I cringe and tune out. I decided that I should write what I thought to be the truth of how persons act and why they do what they do, because I honestly don’t see that enough in most stories/tv shows/films.

  1. Expanding on your answer for question 4, have you ever thought of putting a real life event, something that everyone could identify with, into a story?

I’ve put in little things I noticed over the years. Little quirks of behavior, minor incidents, funny insults, jabs or interesting comments. Things like that. I’ve never put something that was 100% real because my reality has never been nearly as interesting as what I’d like to write about. But I do like adding in some stuff to sort of make scenes “feel” real.  Especially dialogue, which many times I find in writing to be stilted or off, as if certain authors have never been in the same room as a human being.

  1. What do you feel is the biggest drawback to the genre ‘scene’?

The only drawback is that it makes your audience expect certain things and makes you yourself feel bound to these certain things.  There’s invisible boundaries that seemingly you can’t cross while trying to be creative and original- otherwise you may find that the people you are trying to sell to feel like they were signing up to read something they really didn’t want and they’ll hate it. It’s a very tricky process to try to push the envelope while making sure your audience is satisfied.

I mean, you don’t want to be accused of false advertising if you go too far away from what the genre is about. It makes sense, to a certain degree. I don’t buy something that looks to be scifi and find out its a Regency style romantic play.

  1. Let’s talk a little about your latest project. What is the title and what is it about?

I’ve got two projects coming out. One is the sequel to Medium Talent, called Bad Dream Man. It follows up the events of what happened in Medium Talent and is just a nice little showcase of how the universe likes to rip the rug right out from under us when we think we managed to escape the worse. There’s zombies and reality ripping itself apart and it’s set in the 1930s of Hemingway’s Key West. So yeah, it’s like that.  Wendy Wicker, the young survivor from Medium Talent, has led her family away from the horrors of post-apocalyptic society to the world of the great depression, which is her mind thirty steps up from the tragedies of her own present. But what was supposed to have been fixed in Medium Talent hasn’t, and everything is going wrong quickly. She undertakes a special mission from an very strange source, and the novel is off and running at that point. It should be coming out soon; it was supposed to come out on November 20th with Wonderment Media but they unfortunately closed their doors so I’m doing it on my own.

  1. What advice would you give to a new author who wants to write in your genre?

For any new author, I think the one piece of advice I would tell them is to take a real long moment to put together your “world”. What I mean is, in scifi and fantasy, you really need to have your world put together for your person(s) to roam around in. You need to know what people think, believe, what they want there, what’s popular, what’s interesting, what’s unusual. It makes it so that the reader feels like they are stepping off the normal plane of existence and becoming a voyeur in a new and exciting world that they have never before seen.  I think that all good science fiction/fantasy does this; people become excited and almost wish to live in these places. Think of all the people who wish they were a character in Harry PotterStar Trek, Star Wars, etc. Those universes are so distinct and interesting that people want to know more and more about it. And that I think is what sets them apart in popularity in comparison to other works of art.

  1. Is there a genre that you would like to write? Something you would find a challenge?

I would like to write Romance one day. I’m sort of a sucker for a well done romance film (Out of Africa, for instance), and I think that it would be an interesting challenge to put together something like that people would like, considering I love to write violent and dark things most of the time.

  1. Most writers have manuscripts that will never see the light of day. Do you have a few of those?  

There’s only one manuscript- Cloudburst, which is basically what Medium Talent became in the end with major revisions. I have one manuscript I’m shopping to agents right now called Resurrection Hero, which is myself and my friend’s take on the superhero genre; we’ll see how that goes for now….

Where to find Forbes online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/forbes.west

Twitter: @Forbes_West

Where to find BAD DREAM MAN: AN APOCALYPSE WEIRD NOVEL online:

BadDreamMan

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Dream-Man-Apocalypse-Weird-ebook/dp/B019RCSG0W

Author Interview: KM Cambion

Happy New Year! After several months of being quiet, I’m finally finishing up the last two authors on my list. With the holidays now over, I bring you an interview with a good friend of mine, KM Cambion.

So let’s begin…

 

  1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

hat (1)Hey there! I’m from the Detroit area in Michigan, USA. Fantasy is my poison of choice, but I’ve been having fun playing in different genres lately.

 

2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

Writing’s always been my dream. I wanted to be a “famous writer” when I was a kid, and I still wanna be one now! In seriousness, I know that it’s a one in a million shot to reach fame and/or fortune writing, but I just want to get my stories out there. Being published was the dream for me.

 

3. What was your biggest influence for writing?

I taught myself to read at a young age, and I wanted to tell my own stories. My mom was always there to encourage me, and even drew some pictures for story ideas I had. The first book series I read was the “Little House on the Prairie”; my mom had copies of it from when I was kid. I moved on to stories about dogs and wolves from there (White Fang, A Dog Called Kitty), and then fantasy. Mercedes Lackey’s books are the reason why I decided that I wanted to be a fantasy writer–I wanted to build my own worlds.

Now, I like to play around in different genres, so go figure.

 

4. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?

I have thought about quitting. I have long-term health issues that mean I’m in constant pain, every waking minute of the day. There have also been periods of depression, or just sheer frustration, that I wanted to quit writing. It didn’t seem worth it at the time. It would be easier to give up and not have to have one more thing to worry about.

But, it’s hard to give up something you truly love. The ideas are still there. The stories that I want to tell. Those are what led to me picking it up every time I thought I was going to quit. Also, now that I have had some work published, the sense of accomplishment from it helps push me to keep going, do more, and do different things.

 

5. Now that you have some work published, what’s your take on the whole process? What was the hardest part for you? What was the easiest?

I haven’t been published through one of the big traditional houses, so my take would be different from someone that has been. My take is that your experience varies wildly depending on which press or house you go with. I’ve had submissions take ten months to get a response. I’ve had them take only a few weeks. It’s kind of amazing how presses are different in little ways, down to which font they want and how their like their margins.

The hardest part for me (besides waiting!) is deadlines. I’m a natural procrastinator, and let things go until the last minute. This leaves me to do unhealthy stuff like writing 10,000 words in two hours and killing my wrists. I got a piece rejected because I did just that, and despite my frantic editing, it was too unpolished to accept. I learned my lesson, and am working on my time management skills.

You know the old chestnut of “if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life”? Well, if you love your press, the publishing process, even with all of the edits, changes, and so fourth, feel like much more of a joy than a chore. Fortune was smiling upon me when I decided to submit to Less Than Three Press. I absolutely love the staff and the other writers we have in it.

 

6.  Let’s talk a little about your latest project. What is the title and what is it about?

Thanks for asking! It’s called “King of Diamonds”, (link: http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=92&products_id=1072 ) and is about Rhen, a man who makes his living by both performing card tricks and thievery. Vis a Vis, a festival that only happens every four years, is upon him, and Rhen is hoping to use the opportunity for pickpocketing and free wine. His plans change, however, when his former lover appears and says they need to talk. Rhen is still bitter, but agrees to go to play his hand.

This was really something different for me, writing-wise. I tend to do stories that are more action focused, with fight scenes and violent conflict. Focusing on just the relationship was a real change of pace, and I was excited to write it.

 

7. What do you hope readers will find interesting or unique about your story?

It’s a fantasy story built around a unique holiday. I think the medieval flavor partnered with characters that you don’t always seen in that sort of setting is interesting. Plus, and not to brag here, but I love the resolution to the conflict. It wasn’t what I’d originally planned, but I’m glad it turned out this way.

 

8. Some authors tend to stay away from certain genre’s/categories. Is there one you know you can’t write or would have a difficult time trying to write?

Contemporary romance without another genre thrown in doesn’t work for me. I just can’t do it. I have to throw in some spy thriller or urban fantasy to keep me going. Not that straight up contemporary romance is bad–I just have a short attention span. Hard sci-fi is also a no-go for me. I have a soft sci-fi story coming out next year, but just the sheer amount of research and level of technology that goes into a hard sci-fi is too much for me.

 

9. Writers often call their books their ‘babies’, and therefore have a difficult time with editing or critics. How do you handle the editing process? Do you have a hard time cutting scenes or even characters?

It was definitely had for me when I first started having beta readers, long before editors came into the picture. Getting my ego out of the way of the story was the most important part. I generally handle it well now, but at times, a comment I wasn’t expecting can sting. With those, I scroll past it and do my other edits, then come back when I’ve gotten some emotional distance, and read it again. 99% of the time, whatever they suggested was right anyway, and it’s just to fix the stories. Editors aren’t out to get you (even if my editor is ruthless about my ample use of semicolons!).

 

10. What are you hoping your readers will take away from this story?

King of Diamonds is a story about finding the whys and hows of a relationship falls apart, and the petty things done when we’re hurt. I hope the readers will take away the impression that not only forgiveness, but making amends, can suck, but taking a gamble on them can yield high rewards.

Where to find KING OF DIAMONDS online:

https://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=92&products_id=1072

 

Author Interview with A. T. Russell

This month I bring you an interview with a good friend of mine, A.T Russell. He referred me to Michelle Picarella who offered me a place in the 7DS Slayers anthology. We’ve even done a couple video chats together; the last one can be seen on the 7DS web page.

1 Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and in what genre do you write?

atI was born in Chicago Heights, IL, a southern suburb of Chicago, and I grew up in Markham, about 20 minutes from where I was born. Having said all that, Chicago is the main city in Cook County, and everywhere I roamed was within county limits. Widely reported in U.S. news, online, radio, and television, Chicago and its surrounding area is enduring major crimes, murder being the worst of it all. This isn’t new stuff, as I grew up in the same environment that exists today. From that, I guess one would assume I would write gritty crime novels, or maybe crime thrillers. Perhaps I can and should, but I mainly write Urban Fantasy.

2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

To me, for me, losing myself in story-crafting is a mental escape. Sure, every emotion is engaged during the process, and sometimes I’m passionately overwhelmed by a theme or thread I’m engaged in, but I don’t live there. I can escape back to the real world when that happens. Yet, being in the story, living it mentally, isn’t that what readers do? I think so, and as a voracious reader, I certainly do. Therein is my answer. Finding success in publishing industry is quite the challenge, as well as finding readers to tantalize with my stories. The alien escapism, however… ahh, I write for the sheer passion of the story(ies).

3. Writers often call their books their ‘babies’, and therefore have a difficult time with editing or critics. How do you handle the editing process? Do you have a hard time cutting scenes or even characters?

I don’t refer to my books as my babies, actually. Sure, I get the gist of the meaning and how emotionally authors are attached to their works. Heck, I’m one who takes that ownership to the next level. Still, I get fully on-board with the editing process. A simple stroke of the pen can turn a nightmare into a cinematic dream come true for some of us, and that can only happen as a result of good editing. As for dumping characters, I have no problem with it. I also think cutting a scene works wonders, as it requires the creator to know their story details as well as they know the characters they create. In fact, I have found that cutting scenes in the drafting stage allows me to focus more attention on the story and find points in which I can make details ‘pop’ for the reader during more integral scenes.

4 Now that you have a few books under your belt, what’s your take on the whole process? What was the hardest part for you? What was the easiest?

Editing bites! It really chafes my… Okay, so editing is the hardest part for me. The idea of dreaming up this epic story, only to have some mean-ass come by with a scythe and behead the darn thing can be terrifying. But I’ve found that the most enduring authors are the ones who stand up to the reaper/editor and take every hack without flinching. Those authors endure because they learn over time and face less hacks as their initial talent becomes superior skill later on. Yes, I will overcome… someday.

The easy part for me is creating tough female characters. I don’t understand why any author would have a difficult time imagining and then creating a tough female. Badass Women and Ladies are everywhere, all the time handling their business, and doing it as well as and better than most men in every capacity known.  Here’s a hint – tough females say what they mean and mean what they say, then they back it up. It really ain’t hard.

5  As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?

I like a story to give me something different, to take me away from the same ole – same ole. The hero saves the day and gets the girl, and that’s just dandy. But, and here’s where it’s big for me, give me some interesting story vines. Take zombies for example; they eat brains, flesh and all that. How about if they eat certain parts of the brain and certain body parts, maybe because they, in their mindless state, are drawn to devour the mechanical and central processor they lack in their undead realities? Just something different.

Or, how about a guy in love with a woman he can’t be with because of the cosmetic changes she’s undergone in her pursuit of popular beauty standards? Let’s say this guy is a werewolf, and we all know that wolves don’t run in vinyl forests that sprout silk leaves. Interesting? Maybe/maybe not… but certainly different.

6 What books (if any) have influenced you over the years? Have you put those influences into your stories?

Kim Harrison’s Mercy Thompson novels have been quite the influence for me. I like the laws of her stories, how consistently and unfailingly she follows them in her story-crafting. Mercy is quite the underdog and certainly not as physically powerful as her Packmates. But then, is she really?

Principally, though, David Baldacci crafts a pretty good story and his flow is cerebral all the way through, even during the action scenes. I enjoy reading his books because I find myself inside the story, as opposed to the story being simply black and white. Baldacci allows me to have my imagination, without inundating me with details I can clearly see that he’s researched, only to spout them off like an items list he must hit.

And yes, I try my best to incorporate those perceived philosophies into my own story-crafting.

7 Is there a genre that you would like to write? Something you would find a challenge?

I would love to dig into a crime thriller. With all I have going on, doing so would take me a year to produce a final manuscript. In fact, when I wrote ‘No Man’ for the A Man’s Promise anthology with 7DS Books, the ideas for the story I have in mind began to pop vividly in my mind. Indeed, I would love folks do dig into that anthology.

8 Expanding on your answer for question 5, what do you hope readers will find interesting or unique about your stories?

To open my mind’s eye to romance, as it pertains to writing prose and delivery, I read a whole lot of romance novels. What I found was quite upsetting. While each story was good, and they really were, the romantic formula for writing leaves greater stories on the cutting room floor, so to speak. My opinion is that, with many romance stories, a reader can rip the covers off of several books by several authors and many of the stories could appear to have been written by one author. Now, I’m not here to knock a tremendously successful way of doing things, a style that has stood the test of time, but again, greater stories are left untold using that tried and true style.

I try very hard to round up the lost elements in my stories. No, they aren’t romance novels, per se. Take ‘Sacred Puppies’ and my Generations Series for example; the females in the story are sexually progressive and they are mature women. Neither of them are wilting lilies, they know what they want in a man, and they are old enough to know that espousing such desires is a must, not a test to be delivered to a hopeful guy they allow to take them on a date. When they become wolves, they kick more backsides than their male counterparts. Here’s a line… “If I have to fight my own battles, what the hell do I need you for?” That’s what one of those females says to her mate. It’s the perspective I write from, and I certainly hope readers will take to it.

Succinctly, the females in my stories are capable of fighting on the highest level and they have their mate’s backs all the way. They only wilt when their mates treat them right… and that works both ways.

9 What is the best thing you like about writing?

Ahh… writing is, for me anyway, like living inside a dream for months at a time. A reader only gets one to three days of what I call an imaginative vacation, but I’m in the story for at least two seasons. From each character’s perspective, the landscape, the buildings, all aspects of the story is vivid to me, the creator. Hmm, maybe that’s why I don’t write horror.

10 After all is said and done, at the end of the day, what makes you happy?

As it pertains to writing, connecting with readers is what it’s all about for me. When someone links to my imagination, when they feel like they know one of my characters and can envision that character acting in a particular way, I feel something akin to a super injection of adrenaline going through me. An event like that, when it happens, says a lot of great things about how powerful a story can be, and truly is. Even critics provide that same shot for me. So, when someone engages my imagination through a story I wrote, and then provides some form of feedback, I am happy.

Other than that, a good cup of strong coffee at any time throughout the day often provides me a “yeah, that’s it,” groove… then I dig into my current story and run away from real life for a few hours.

Where to find A.T online:

https://www.facebook.com/anton.t.russell

https://twitter.com/ATRUSSELLWRITER

https://plus.google.com/u/2/115545456230676311316/posts

http://atrussell.com/Blog/

puppiesBooks Links

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=2C6HBAAAQBAJ&rdid=book-2C6HBAAAQBAJ&rdot=1&source=gbs_vpt_read&pcampaignid=books_booksearch_viewport

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Puppies-Generations-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00NLK4VH4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/sacred-puppies

Author Interview with Michelle Picarella

A little late than never… 😛

This month I give you an interview with a good friend and fellow author, Michelle Picarella. Not only is she CEO of Twisted Core Press, and their anthology imprint 7DS, but she has released a new book called Livian.

  1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

bethehappilyeverafterI’m Michelle Anderson Picarella, a born Tarheel. (I claim both North and South Carolina as my home.) My writing genres vary, though I tend to lean toward fantasy and anything with a comedic flare. I especially like writing family-friendly works. Beyond writing, I am a publisher- a part of 7DS Books and Twisted Core Press. We publish the truly twisted concepts of fiction. If you can compare a book as similar to another popular book, it isn’t Twisted. We are here to give the readers something they’ve never experienced before.

  1. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

I cannot say that anyone in the arts starts out thinking about a career in the area. We don’t stop to think about the risks or the uncertainty. It is a passion that calls to us at a young age. This is true for anyone in the arts, from painters, actors, singers, etc. The passion grows with age. At some point, you step back and look at the two paths. Passion or stability? I believe this was a much harder choice for other decades, but we live in an era in which nothing is certain. No career is solid and everything is changing daily in how our societies function. This is the time to jump. Passions are just as likely to become roots of security in a time when an author can become a millionaire without an agent and most of our rooted careers are moving overseas or cutting budgets for new jobs.

Of course, all authors won’t become millionaires. All books will not become movies. I know this, especially to be true for myself. However, anytime I think of the risk and ever-changing literary industry, I also think of the textile mill my father dedicated his entire life to climbing the ropes of success to only get a pink slip right before retirement as the company moved to Mexico. I think of how lost he was from the day the mill closed, right down to his final days. My father was so truly dedicated to this company, I can tell you his hobbies, but not his passions. I do not think he had time to chase any dreams. I do know this: Shortly after the mill closed is when my father became supportive of my writing. He wasn’t a man of many words, but I do think it was his way of enlightening me of which path to take in life. Everything in life has risks, but what is the point of life if you aren’t living with passion in every breath?

  1. Speaking of risks, so many people are writing novels. Do you see this as a good thing or bad?

Everything has a yin for a yang. I truly believe everyone has a story to tell. That does not make everyone an author. It also does not mean everyone hires editors. Nor does it mean that the most in-depth books following professionally published guidelines are going to be worth your time.

I hate the term “slush pile” but it is truly the best way I know how to describe what has happened to the readers. Nobody likes waiting anymore. Patience is retro, if it is a quality of modern folk.

This is not only the floodgates opening of authors no longer feeling the need or desire of literary agents and being held as worthy by traditional publishers. This is authors feeling the need to produce books to remain in a group of top authors, both traditionally and otherwise published. It is not only a feeling, but a fact. Shelf life of a book is now longer but shelf life of an author is the new fifteen minutes of fame.

I think we see much more of an author publishing a book and thinking they are done. The book will make the NYT Best Seller list and they’ll buy an island and drink all day. I see more authors with “dead” books which make the huge “slush pile” just that. The books may be great, but once a WRITER sees real work is what makes an AUTHOR- they bail with the scoff of being published and check it off the bucket list.

I find this insulting to the real authors of the world and to the readers that gave them a chance, possibly liked their book, but will never see another from said “author” because hard work isn’t part of the arts. Right? Yeah, okay. Bless their hearts. (I am southern. You may Google that for the not-family-friendly translation.)

I do wish we could ax the dead books of writers to showcase authors. I do. But I am pretty sure freedom of speech and such means authors must push and continue to be seen like never before. We are not competition. If a fantasy reader likes fantasy, they’ll read all the fantasy they can. What bookworm reads only one author?

The saddest part to me, and you may laugh is simply this:

I used to dream of some secret society of authors with wing backed chairs, fireplaces, hidden libraries and stiff drinks. I would dream of sharing stories and obnoxious literary jokes with the most admired authors of our time, the elders and royalty of authors…. I know this never existed, but I hoped something would feel similar to it with bookish events or even the “Ohhhh” and “Ahhhh” replies when telling someone I was in the literary industry. But now, everyone is in the literary industry. We are either authors/writers, editors, publishers, agents, promoters, bloggers, reviewers, artists, sellers or printers, etc.. The question must be, are we the readers?

  1. What are some advantages of running your own publishing house? Disadvantages?

I cannot speak for my partners, A.T. Russell and Daniel Picarella, only myself. The best advantage would obviously be a minimal fear of rejection on my own manuscripts. LOL. Seriously, if I tried to run something ridiculous through with that Twisted Core logo, I know the guys would shoot me down, thank goodness. A huge advantage is for us all to work together, taking the pros of what we like of both indie and traditional and trying to work around the cons as well. We are providing what we want as authors, to our own authors. Remaining authors keeps us grounded, I think. We see the changes from both perspectives and from there, we are able to adapt with the ever-changing processes of modern publishing. We have core points of what we stand for and how we work closely with each author to obtain their goals, because every author has a different end goal for happiness and success. Beyond those core points, we are constantly working on “the new.” I think a lot of publishers are held back by what history and other publishers list as the only way to do things. Those days are gone. The stones of old fashioned publishing crumble more each day. We don’t want a stone foundation. We are happy with roots that know how to evolve and grow with the environment around us.

There are a few disadvantages as well. It is the same as any small business. The hours are long. The investments of time, money, work, trust, research and so many other things are a juggling act. You can’t let your balls drop. LOL. Another disadvantage is the fact that people think if they know you, you will publish anything they’ve written. This is incorrect. Enlightening people of this fact is not always pleasant. Also, strangers always have a story to pitch. It does not matter where I may be or what I may be doing. If the publishing house is mentioned, I am pitched. It does not matter if I am shopping, eating, doing something with my kids, or even going to a public restroom, I’ve been pitched. Never pee-pitch a publisher. Please.

  1. Let’s talk about Michelle the author. Was there any one influence that made you want to write?

I was lucky enough to have a mom dedicated to raising young readers. My brother and I became bookworms very early in life. I can’t imagine life without reading and I give full credit to having a great mom. Also, my family is full of bookworms and writers. My grandmother was my favorite poet. She was such a bookworm, there was even a bookshelf in her bathroom. My aunt and several of my uncles were born with the writer gene, as well. If I had to name one main influence, it would certainly be my family.

  1. What is the best thing you like about writing?

I think I’ve discovered a bit more of myself with every new writing. I’ve read things post-publishing and connected the details to my own life, loved ones, or feelings. I rarely plan to make writing a personal experience, but I do adore when it happens beyond my initial realization.

  1. Let’s talk a bit about Twisted Core Press and 7DS. What made you decide to start your own imprints? Is there something about them that stands out from all the other Indie markets?

A series of events led to the imprints of TCP and 7DS. Personal experiences as an author in the traditionally published world led to the original title of Seven Deadly Sins, which was formed with seven different authors and published through a new and growing Seattle indie publisher, which was one of the authors on the book as well as a personal connection in my own life. Once the personal relationship ended, the book was pulled and we had something too wonderful to allow it to fade. Another author on the collaboration, A.T. Russell became my business partner and we ventured into indie publishing with our combined experience to form Twisted Core Press, a home for fiction titles, and 7DS Books, the short story imprint for more collaborations like Seven Deadly Sins. We brought in Dan as our third partner and have grown at a perfectly planned progression.

Standing out from all the other indie markets has been the main goal of both imprints. We are created for the readers, but we keep an author voice by remaining authors. There are many great indie pubs out there, in which we do try to reach out and connect as a united-indie front. I won’t proclaim our worth is better than any of these, but I will ante up and stand tall on the fact that we are different.

We do not mass-release. We look smaller because we are. We are a hybrid ideology of traditional and independent. Each book is worth the time, editing, formatting, covers, and one on one author interaction that we craved as authors with someone else behind the wheel of our publishing ventures. We do not take away author voice in editing.

We will not change the feel of a book. We will pass on a manuscript before we attempt to change what an author wants to express.

Also, if you can compare your book to a popular title with severe similarities, we will not have any interest in reading or publishing that title for our readers. We are the “something different.” We do not expect HEA, love triangles while trying to save the world, or weak women needing the salvation of a man. Nope. We are the Twisted Core of plots, characters, and ending. Reading should be an experience that lingers well past the final page. That is what we are. That is what we love.

The same applies for 7DS Books, which is invitation only and allows submission to Twisted Core Press. 7DS is also one of the few indie publisher-released collections that pay royalties. Some have offered copies of the book, which many authors never see, but very few of our indie publishers pay royalties and hopefully, we will see more of this trend growing.

 

  1. 7DS is strictly short stories, and readers will notice that the DS means different things with each anthology (7 Dress Sizes, 7 Demon Stories, etc). Who’s idea was it for the play on words?

The DS originated as Seven Deadly Sins being our debut; our first creation, at which point, we did not know we would open our own imprint and create more. We do have other titles, not a DS, such as Linger, Dragons of Faith, and Slayers, but I confess, we do have a list of DS titles, because, well, they are fun. Many plots and DS title themes come from our own 7DS authors for future works. We are offering readers a chance of finding up to seven new favorite authors per title and we encourage our authors to use 7DS not only as a platform-builder, but for cross-promotion and networking. We round-tabled many topics during our 7DS retreat and tossed many ideas for titles around but we always get random messages from authors with great ideas for new titles. That being said, the idea for the play on words is certainly a joint effort. In the end, the main 7DS stands for 7 Different Stories.

  1. If you weren’t writing or in the publishing business, what would you be doing?

Well, previously I’ve been a journalist, a substitute teacher, and helped run a custom building construction company. Considering my health issues and being unable to do any of those things, I really do not know.

 

  1. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, what makes you happy?

My kids. My three wonderfully brilliant, story-inspiring kids. If I can strive, provide, and make them proud, nothing else matters.

Where to find Michelle online:

livianpromoTwitter: @shellypicarella

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PicarellaWrites

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLffwpKhERRO-YAEzWUpoNw/videos

Author Interview with Richard David Bach

For the month of June, I bring to you an interview with author Richard David Bach, and perhaps a new summer read!

  1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

RichardDavidBach002_editedI was born in the Bronx, NYC, grew up (or was raised – a distinction I need to explore) in a working class family on the south shore of Long Island by a single mother after my father died when I was 13; went off to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy NY for a degree in Civil Engineering and an Air Force ROTC commission; spent two years on active duty designing and building a radar defense system in the Arctic; worked as an engineer in NYC for a couple of years and then accidently migrated to Portland Oregon when a friend and I came out here for a two week summer vacation and I never went back. (he did).

Not satisfied with an engineering career I went to night law school, graduated at the top of my class, joined Portland’s largest and most prestigious law firm, founded its environmental law practice group and practiced as the dean of Portland’s environmental lawyers until I retired in 2001.

My wife and I have four children, nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter between us, and spend a lot of energy being proud of them.

My genre is airplane books. They’ll get you from Portland to Chicago if you’re a fast reader … to Dulles if you need more time.  The four I have written and published in my Common Denominator Series are essentially thrillers with erotic and romantic overtones. Smart, good looking recovering-lawyer hero and even smarter and better looking kick-ass private detective heroine having a good time exploring mysteries and each other’s’ bodies.

  1. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

The short answer is that I’ve never really considered this to be a career.  Not long after I retired my youngest son gave me a new laptop for a birthday present and said: “You’re a great story-teller. Go write something.” So I did. A couple of days later some friends and my wife and I were having lunch and laughing over Nancy Grace’s latest tirade over a woman who had gone missing from a cruise ship. “What,” I thought, “if a serial killer is working the Love Boat?”

I went home, wrote the first and final chapters and then it took six months to get from one to the other and when I finished it was awful. I was a lawyer and I wrote like a lawyer … no adjectives or adverbs and a lot of telling instead of showing. So I began to take some courses in fiction writing at Portland State University, and gradually learned the craft – dialogue, scene setting, character development, etc. Thankfully, I didn’t have to learn grammar or vocabulary (as a matter of fact, in my early attempts I showed off a lot vocabulary wise and had to learn to write something that didn’t require the reader’s immediate access to a dictionary). And then, when I felt I was ready, I went back and rewrote the first book in the series (Common Enemy).

And after sending queries to all of the agents in the English-speaking world, I snagged an agent. She promised to find me a publisher, but when I received very few rejections (even though they were all nice) I realized that she wasn’t sending out a lot of submissions either.

At about that time the stigma on self-publishing was beginning to fade, and I liked the idea of eBooks, so I fired my agent and self-published Common Enemy for availability on Nook, Kindle, etc. While I was waiting for my agent to sell my first book, I continued writing the second and third of the further adventures of my protagonists, and published those as soon as they were ready.

I must admit that my venture into fiction has not been a great commercial success, but I’m not sure I ever expected it to be. I may have harbored some secret hope of becoming the next Lee Child, but I’ve read the statistics and know that my chances were slim. I’m not very good at selling, and have made few feeble attempts at social media marketing and inquiries to blogger/reviewers (such as yourself) but I’d rather be writing than sending out self-aggrandizing messages to strangers.

But I’ve had nothing but good reviews on Amazon & B&N and Smashwords, and that encourages me to keep on writing. I’m now working on a new novel – totally different genre and characters and once it’s finished (I’m about 2/3 through) I plan to look for an agent and try conventional publishing again.

Fortunately, my career in the law left me with sufficient resources to pursue writing without a desperate need to earn a living out of it, and I hope that won’t disqualify me from the pool of authors you “love to promote.” I can assure you that I am passionate about my words and characters and would be no more so if they hit the best-seller lists or became a movie.

  1. What was your biggest influence for writing your Common Denominator series?

This was a difficult question. Because I’ve never been particularly introspective it would be hard to pinpoint any specific influences on my writing (other than my cultural background and my political, religious and sexual preferences). But if I had to name two, they would be my love for good writing and my dislike of bad writing. I read good writing (interesting plots, fascinating characters and creative word use) with admiration and envy, and I read bad writing with the sure certain knowledge that I could do better.  Perhaps it was just hubris, but one day I decided to see if I could prove that boast I had made to myself.

If “what” influenced me is understood to include “who” then I have a short list: Lee Child, Neil Gaiman, John D. MacDonald, and Carl Hiaasen. Those are among the ones I try to be as good as.

  1. Now that you have a few books under your belt, what’s your take on the whole process? What was the hardest part for you? What was the easiest?

The process was amazing and worthwhile just for the ride. First, I had to learn to write fiction and unlearn everything I had been taught about legal writing. Then I had to learn to edit and proofread; then I had to learn about self-publishing and its benefits and pitfalls;    then I had to learn about formatting and ISBNs and … most difficult of all … marketing. And the best part is that ride is still going on. This may be a carousel and I may be going around in circles, but I’m still having fun telling my stories.

The easiest part is the writing and the editing … mainly because I’m merely the amanuensis for my characters. I give them a plot (“tell me about the time you …”) and they tell me the story. I merely write it down as they dictate into my ear. Editing is usually not a problem because my characters don’t always tell me everything the first time around and I have to go back and ask them to fill in the gaps. And very rarely do they say “take that out.” My edits usually add length and content rather than cutting back.

The hardest part is the marketing. I’m not a salesman and I find it difficult to ask anyone to buy something from me. I’ve got a very attractive website and I’ve done the social media route – Facebook and Twitter – and I’ve posted on websites that feature my genre, and I’ve sent out releases to local media and all my affinity groups, and I’ve paid a publicist to design a marketing plan … but somehow I’d rather be writing than selling. (Even though I would enjoy the income).

  1. Let’s talk a little about your latest project. What is the title and what is it about?

My latest project (the first draft of which, by coincidence, I finished just last night) is tentatively entitled “The Progenitor.” Completely unrelated to my first four romantic/erotic thrillers, this is a family story with courtroom drama, pathos and some humor. My first shot at a logline would be:

“Rear Admiral Kester J. Bannerman II (USN Ret.) is the patriarch of a family with a long and distinguished tradition of military service. And when his only grandson is killed by an IED in Afghanistan, the Admiral will do everything he can to keep the frozen sperm his grandson left behind out of the hands – and the womb – of his granddaughter’s lesbian partner.”

Other claimants for the frozen sperm include the grandson’s estranged wife and an ex-girlfriend, and the legal battle (referred to in the local media as “SpermGate”) sets the stage for a family conflict with social, cultural and deeply emotional overtones.

The story emerged as my characters narrated it to me, so now I’m going back to make sure that the thread is consistent all the way through. I also have to to fill in some of backstories that I discovered as I got to know my characters better. (And pick up the typos). I hope to have it ready for prime time in another month or so.

  1. You’ve self-published your novels, but have you ever thought about becoming a hybrid author and trying for an agent?

Yes! I definitely plan to try the traditional publishing route for “The Progenitor” and I plan to look for an agent. I’ve been working on a query letter and making a list of the agents in this genre and their submission criteria, and as soon as I have the manuscript in decent form, I’ll start sending out queries. (If you could recommend an agent, I’d very much appreciate any advice or help along those lines.) As I said in an earlier answer, I had a less-than-satisfactory relationship with one literary agent, but I’m willing to try again.

I also thought I might send queries to some of the small independent publishers who will consider submissions from unrepresented authors. I’m hearing that this is a fertile field for new writers.

  1. Was there any one influence that made you want to write?

I’m not sure there has been any one influence that made me want to write. I’ve always enjoyed writing … but writing with an objective – persuasion – which is what a lawyer’s writing is all about. And it was always a pleasure to come up with the exact right words and express your position in a minimum number of those words. (The old adage: “Sorry for the long letter but I didn’t have time to write a short one.). And a lawyer has to “tell” not “show” because the judge or lawyer on the other side might not be able to figure it out for himself or herself.

Fiction writing is so very different, and I think I may have always had a hankering to see if I could do both. The four thrillers I’ve published and this new novel have proved to me that I can (he says modestly).

So, if there was any single impetus behind my interest in writing, it would be my desire to prove myself to myself.

  1. Is there a genre that you would like to write? Something you would find a challenge?

Science Fiction … hard science, space travel and all that stuff, no fantasy or supernatural. I grew up on science fiction in the 50’s and still read some on occasion, but with all the technological developments since then – there is no more science fiction – it’s all coming true. I’ve never tried SF, though. I’m not sure I have enough imagination to create a whole new world or universe, and I’d be foolhardy to try to predict what humankind and the earth will look like 50 or 100 or 1000 years from now.

I suppose I could go through a list of genres and indicate why I would not want to try them:

Memoir: I have a terrible memory.

YA: It’s been much too long and I don’t understand them.

Military: I’m fast becoming a pacifist as I watch the middle east.

Espionage: I’ve read all the George Smiley novels but I know nothing of spycraft.

History: Requires too much research.

Romance: There is some in my first four novels.

Sex: There’s some of that, too.

Fantasy: I’ll leave that to you.

Supernatural: I’m a materialist. I believe in a universe made up of quarks and other physical particles and find it hard to accept the notion of a hidden world of spirits and magical powers.

  1. If you were given the opportunity to write a fan-fiction novel, who is the author you would choose, and what would be the book?

Your question caught me by surprise because although I had heard about people writing unauthorized versions of popular fiction, I had never heard the term “fan-fiction” and I had to google it. And I had never thought of doing it myself. But once you brought it up on my radar, it got me to thinking and my perverse sense of justice kicked in. If I were to do a straight “further adventures of” novel it would probably be something like a Lee Child/Jack Reacher thriller … but what I’d rather do is find an interesting villain or antagonist in some novel and tell the story from his or her point of view. (e.g. Let the old crone narrate Hansel & Gretel). If I find the one I’d want to do, I’ll let you know.

  1. Most writers have manuscripts that will never see the light of day. Do you have a few of those?

I have two partially finished manuscripts that I got bogged down on and put aside while I wrote my latest (The Progenitor) and tried to market my first four Common Denominator thrillers. The first unfinished novel is tentatively entitled “Subprime” and revolves around the subprime mortgage market meltdown, and the second, untitled, tells the story of what happens when an ordinary couple wins the lottery. Maybe someday I’ll pull them out of the drawer and finish one or both.

Attached are my photo and the covers for each of the four books in my Common Denominator series of romantic/erotic thrillers.

Where to find Richard online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn

Twitter: @Richarddavdbach

Website: www.richarddavidbach.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6177890.Richard_David_Bach

Where to purchase Richards book:

Amazon_Enemy_FinalAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/Common-Enemy-Denominator-Book-ebook/dp/B007IB4U00/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433708467&sr=1-1&pebp=1433708473069&perid=0TGFSW5P93RB48Z7Q0RC.

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/common-enemy-richard-david-bach/1109518734?ean=2940014338349.

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/140070.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/richard-david-bach/id512298082?mt=11.

Author Interview with Angela Cook

This month I bring you an interview with fellow GoatPosse member and YA author, Angela Cook. Her debut novel, INTO A MILLION PIECES was published just this past January with Red Adept Publishing.

So let’s begin…  

 

  1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

Author Photo 4_15I live just outside of Detroit with my husband and two children. During the week, I work part time as a records clerk at a nearby police department. On the weekends, I can usually be found at a soccer field (but I will give a death glare to anyone who calls me a “soccer mom”). I write young adult contemporary and paranormal novels, which are usually a bit on the dark and/or edgy side.

  1. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

Thankfully, my ability to support my family isn’t dependent on earning money from my writing (we’d all be starving if it was). I write because it’s something I enjoy doing. My decision to go into publishing was simply based on my desire to share my stories. If I can earn a little bit of pocket change (and really, it’s not much more than that at this point in my career) while doing so, why not? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be successful some day and be able to write full time, but for now, I’m okay with paying my dues.

  1. YA is a very popular category for novels. Do you find it saturated?

There’s no denying the fact that there are a lot more YA books out there now than there were ten years ago, which means it’s a hell of a lot harder for a YA writer to get published than it used to be. A book that got published ten years ago might not have gotten a second glimpse had it been submitted today to that same publisher. This being said, I think the popularity of the YA category has forced authors to push themselves to come up with different premises and unique storylines. Also, there might be a lot more YA books out there now, but there’s also a broader audience for them than there was ten years ago. These days, many adults enjoy reading YA books, which leads to the next question…

  1. What do you say to those who say people who read YA are trying to ‘relive’ their teen years?

I don’t think adults who read YA are necessarily trying to relive their teen years. Maybe some are, but personally, I’ve yet to read a YA book that resembles my high school years. I think a large part of the attraction is the innocence and honesty of teenagers. Often, they don’t have much of a “filter,” and they’re not old enough to be jaded and bitter; they seem to come off more real and genuine in stories than their adult counterparts. Also, the experiences of these teenage main characters are often relatable (even if their lives don’t resemble the ones we had growing up). Falling in love for the first time, dealing with problems at home, being bullied at school–they’re all things that most of us have dealt with at one time another.

  1. What do you think of the more adult elements in some YA novels?

Since I am a writer of sometimes-edgy, YA fiction, I’m fine with adult elements. In the real world, adult things happen to teenagers all the time, and I think writers should stay true to the story they’re telling without worrying they might offend people. That being said, I think parents have the right to decide whether or not a book (or a game, or a movie, or a CD) is appropriate for their child. I’ve had parents ask me if the book is “okay” for their daughter to read, and I always tell them three things: (1) I consider it PG13. There’s some cussing, maybe one or two f-bombs, and some steamy make-out scenes. (2) I would let my thirteen-year-old son read it (which isn’t saying much since I’m pretty liberal when it comes to that kind of stuff). (3) If in doubt, read it yourself first and then decide.

  1. Is there one aspect or element that you feel is over-used in YA books? Is there something you’d like to see more of?

I’m tired of the “naturally-pretty and petite” female main character. I think that’s why I loved Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR AND PARK. The main character was a tall, thick, red head with freckles. And guess what? That fact didn’t take anything away from the romance aspect of the story; I still got giggly, giddy, and swoony reading about Eleanor and Park’s relationship. I’d love to see the teenage population better represented in YA books. Yes, some girls are naturally-pretty and petite at sixteen, but others are tall, curvy, and going through an awkward stage that will take them into their early twenties (I speak from experience). [Yup, same here. ~Darke]

  1. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?

I can honestly say, I’ve never thought about giving up. Have I gotten beyond frustrated before? Sure. Have I thought about taking a break? Definitely. But the idea of stepping away from writing for good was never an option for me. Taking a story that existed only in my mind and bringing it to life by putting it down on paper is like nothing else I’ve ever done before; I can’t imagine there’s any substitute for the feeling of accomplishment I get from writing. Plus, I love that my stories are entertaining people and bringing them a little bit of joy—whether it’s twenty people, two hundred, or two thousand.

  1. What books (if any) have influenced you over the years?

Three books immediately come to mind: 1) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald, because it introduced me to classic, American (and amazing) literature. It was the first book I remember falling absolutely in love with. 2) BELOVED by Toni Morrison, because it opened my eyes to the true beauty of words and all the magical and powerful things that could be done with them. 3) ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, because it inspired me to embrace my own unique writing style and voice.

9. Was there any one influence that made you want to write?

I don’t think there was any one influence that made me want to write. It’s something I’ve always loved doing, and writing a novel had always been a dream of mine. The thing that made me actually sit down and do it was an early mid-life crisis. I realized this is the only life we get, and I didn’t want to wake up one day, sixty years old, with a list of “should’ves.”

  1. What is the best thing you like about writing?

I like the escapism factor. Being able to forget about what’s going on in my world, while creating another, is like no other feeling.

~~~~~

Where to find Angela online:

Author Photo 4_15Facebook: www.facebook.com/AngelaVCook

Twitter: www.twitter.com/AngelaVCook

Website: www.angelavcook.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23158400-into-a-million-pieces

Where to purchase her book:

OFFICIAL coverAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Million-Pieces-Angela-Cook/dp/1940215382/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1422499539&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/into-a-million-pieces-angela-v-cook/1121112490?ean=2940149864270

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/into-a-million-pieces

Apple: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Angela_V_Cook_Into_a_Million_Pieces?id=g2JmBgAAQBAJ

Google: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/into-a-million-pieces/id961387483?mt=11

Author Interview with Robb Grindstaff

Every now and then, I come across an author who wears more than just an author hat. Robb Grindstaff is one such author. I first met him on Agent Query Connect, a web site for authors of all paths. Through posts there and continuing over on Facebook, where we are part of the same writing groups, I’ve come to respect Mr. Grindstaff not only as an author, but as an editor as well.

So let’s begin…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

I’m from pretty much all over. I currently live in Wisconsin. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Iowa, and Arizona, mostly in small towns. Went to college in Oklahoma, then lived in Phoenix for ten years, where I started in the newspaper business. Then to a small town in North Carolina, a smaller town in Texas, before making the leap to Washington, D.C., then a larger leap to Tokyo for five years. After six more years in D.C., two more years back in Arizona, we landed in a wonderful small community in Wisconsin. All those places I’ve lived and visited over the years make for some great settings and characters.

My writing has been described as “contemporary Southern literary.” But it’s not the boring, navel-gazing, self-aware, overly indulgent attempt at art kind of literary fiction — the kind that gives lit-fic a bad name among most readers. It’s realistic characters in contemporary settings, and hopefully well written. And stuff does actually happen.

On the “Southern” part of that description, most of the settings and characters are based in the Southern U.S. because that’s who I am and where I’m from. These are my people. But it’s the modern South, the new South, still steeped in tradition but with a new generation with one foot in the modern world and a whole different outlook on life. I love to explore various American sub-cultures, like the South or military brats, and to expose the conflicts when sub-cultures collide.

2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

Writing is something I’ve always done, long before thinking about publishing and long before the current publishing climate. I started taking writing serious as a possible career in high school, but even way back then, publishing was a highly uncertain business, so I majored in journalism and English in college so I could earn a living until I wrote the Great American Novel and become an overnight success. That was nearly 40 years ago, by the way, and I’m still trying.

I went into the newspaper business and I’m still there. I never stopped writing fiction, but during my 20s and 30s, I was getting married, raising kids, moving around the world, paying mortgages — the usual stuff — and only wrote for my own enjoyment, never seriously considered trying to get anything published.

That period also gave me life experiences to write about and a more mature, deeper perspective that I didn’t have in my teens and twenties. That, in turn, informed my writing in a way that I never could have produced when I was in my 20s. It also helped me hone writing skills for twenty-plus years before I ever decided to show something to anyone else.

In my forties, a character showed up in my head and demanded that I listen to her and write down her story. I’ve been at it ever since. I worked for ten years to find an agent (found one, then lost him), and by the time I’d finished my second novel, the publishing world changed.

I looked into self-publishing, and decided that just wasn’t for me. But there was a third way that fit me perfectly — a small independent publisher with editors, cover artists, marketing support — a full-service publisher, but utilizing modern technology for print and e-books, and they offer audio books and foreign language translations, as well. They loved my work, signed me up, published my first two novels, and have been waiting patiently for me to finish the third. Okay, maybe not so patiently.

All the uproar in the book publishing business is just business as usual. Only now there are ways to get published even if you don’t land the needle-in-a-haystack agent or the lightning-strike publishing house contract. Of course, that means there is a glut of novels out there competing for attention, many of them horrible, many of them good, and a very thin margin of excellent books. But even the best have trouble getting any traction and public awareness.

All I can do is tell the best stories I can and put them out there with a lot of support from my publisher, and hope a few people discover them and enjoy them. Beyond that, I can’t worry about it.

I might have landed an agent and a book deal fifteen years ago, had dismal sales, and been dropped by my big publisher and big agent. Not sure how that would have been any better than today’s turmoil and uncertainty.

3. What are your thoughts about the articles online as of late, claiming that literary books have fallen by the way side; that they’re no longer selling or garnering interest by the reading public?

I avoid reading them. I don’t know if literary fiction is falling by the wayside or not. First, we have to define ‘literary,’ which is a bit like trying to glue Jell-O to a cat’s feet.

With today’s marketing and branding demands, books that might have been considered lit fic a generation ago are now pegged with some specific genre. If J.D. Salinger wrote ‘A Catcher in the Rye’ today, it would be young adult fiction.

4. How do you respond to those who might think starting your own publishing company is the same as self-publishing?

I have no opinion. In today’s world, every writer has to find the right publishing model for him/herself. Find the method that works for you.

But there’s too much emphasis on publishing and not enough on the art and craft of writing. There’s more than enough bad writing inflicted on the public, by the big publishing houses and self-publishers alike. Completing a novel doesn’t mean it should be published. Practice novels and learning curves are now published with the push of a button rather than boxed up and shoved under the bed with the dust vermin where they belong.

But that milk is already out of the cow.

5. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?

No, never thought about giving up. I’ve changed my approach as the world changed. Early on, I was sending query letters to agents and getting lots of very favorable feedback, but couldn’t quite find that one agent who loved it. I took that feedback and revised the manuscript. I joined a writers group to get critique and more feedback. I read books about writing and studied the craft and art of fiction, and then revised and rewrote to improve my work. And while I was exhausting all the possibilities of finding an agent, I wrote another novel and started querying that one too, while also starting a third novel.

Overall, this was a 10-year process (at that time). I landed one agent, who had some excellent input and I made some revisions, then the agent left the business and his agency couldn’t take on any new clients, so I was back on the streets without representation. That was about the time the publishing world began to change.

I self-published a collection of short stories to learn more about self-publishing. What I learned is that it’s just not for me. It’s great for some people, but it’s just not for me. So instead I started looking for that mid-point — not an agent to try to land a contract with a major publishing house, but not self-publishing. I researched small presses and independent publishers until I found one that fit what I was looking for. They provide almost all the same services a traditional publisher provides, they are selective and publish only high quality work, but they are small enough to be responsive. They provide marketing support, editing, professional quality cover artists, etc.

So I queried them, and the publisher loved my work. I’ve now published two novels with them and a third is in the works.

6. Even though Self-Publishing was not for you, what knowledge did you gain from your experience?

It was very helpful. It taught me a lot of the ins and outs — getting good editing, good cover art and some of the technical requirements, and the formatting requirements for both e-books and print-on-demand. The main thing I learned is that I’m not a formatter. I already knew I wasn’t a graphic artist. While I had the ability to learn formatting, I don’t have the patience to do it well, and I learned I would need to hire outside help for that. So for me to self-publish meant I had to hire my own editor, proofreader, cover artist, formatter, and someone to upload the whole thing to all the different channels. Speaking of which, I also learned about the various channels to sell a self-pubbed book in addition to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, such as Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Diesel, etc.

Last but certainly not least, it gave me a broader perspective on marketing my own work.

All this gave me a better perspective on what to look for in a small publisher — someone who could provide all of that support. Yes, I still have to take the lead on marketing, but I knew I needed some expert guidance and support.

7. Has your perception of the publishing industry changed since that first query letter was sent out?

The industry has changed a lot in the past fifteen to twenty years, since I first started sending query letters to agents. So I suppose my perception of the industry has changed too. When I started, going the agent route to lad a contract with a major publishing house was the only way to get published. It was a high bar, but it forced writers to learn the craft, to write and write and write, to understand that the first novel or three might just be practice novels until you develop your voice and hit your stride. But as the industry consolidated and the book market changed over the years, the gatekeepers — the agents and acquiring editors — became even more selective, if that’s possible. Writers I’d come to know — exceptional writers with fantastic novels — couldn’t get a foot in the door. There were more superb writers than slots available at publishing companies, and sometimes publishing companies had to make choices based on what they could market and sell, not necessarily on what were the best written novels. This is the case in almost any traditional, commercial art field. There are more brilliant songwriters and bands out there than all the major record labels could possibly sign.

As technology changed and the self-publishing industry exploded, it gave all writers an even playing field. The smaller, independent publishers filled a necessary void as well.

The problem then becomes a glut of books and writers. Those brilliant writers who could never get past the traditional gatekeepers can get their books out there. But so can tens of thousands of not-quite-so-talented writers, first-time writers, beginners, amateurs and novices who may have a lot of talent but haven’t quite developed their skills and voice yet — all of us are now screaming for attention while afloat in the middle of an ocean of books.

It’s gone from a tiny little gate with gatekeepers to an uncontrolled deluge. For many writers it’s gone from unable to get published to able to publish in five minutes, but unable to get any attention or readers or sales.

8. Some authors tend to stay away from certain genre’s/categories. Myself, I can’t write YA. Is there one you know you can’t write or would have a difficult time trying to write?

There are a lot of things I can’t write. Ha. But specific genres I know I would never attempt include science fiction and fantasy. I’ve never been a big reader in those genres, and they require some very specific skills and knowledge that I don’t have. The world-building skills among these genre writers has to be incredible. I take the easy way out by writing contemporary, real-world settings, often in places where I’ve lived.

9. Let’s talk about your latest book. What are you hoping your readers will take away from this story?

The crux of the story is how you live and how much you love, not how long you live or what you accomplish. The key themes to the book are family, faith, and forgiveness — including forgiving ourselves. Life is going to be over before you’re done with it, so love people and let yourselves enjoy life. Those are the basic lessons that Carrie, the main character, has to learn.

10. Was there any one thing that inspired you to write this story?

For five years, we lived on an Air Force base outside Tokyo, Japan, while my daughter was in high school. I was a civilian, but most of the people there were in the military, of course. My daughter’s friends inspired this story of a biracial, bicultural military brat. So many of her friends were of mixed race and mixed nationalities — kids from an American military service member (usually the father) and a “local,” (usually the mother), who might be Japanese or Korean or German or Italian. Military folks move to a new assignment every few years, and have often joined the military right out of high school, so they frequently fall in love with a local woman wherever they might be stationed. Then the young, just married couple gets transferred somewhere else.

We knew high school kids who had never lived in the U.S., or didn’t remember it. The American military brat is a subculture all its own — 100 percent normal, average everyday American kids who had lived all over Europe and Asia, often had one American parent and one non-American, and frequently spoke several languages. “Kids from nowhere” they’ve been called by sociologists. They’re loyal friends and make friends easily, they’re very patriotic as Americans, but very worldly and cultured from their travels and familiarity with different cultures and parts of the world. These were some of the most interesting kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and there are still many of them (all adults now, like our daughter) who still call us “Mom and Dad.”

Carrie, the main character in Carry Me Away, is the daughter of an American Marine officer and his Japanese wife. She grows up moving around every two to five years. “Home is never where you left it” is a line Carrie uses — a line she borrowed from my daughter.

Author Bio:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobb Grindstaff’s first novel, Hannah’s Voice, debuted January 2013 to rave reviews from critics and readers alike, his writing compared to Flannery O’Connor and John Irving. His latest novel, Carry Me Away, published September 2013.

In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, Robb Grindstaff has written fiction most of his life. The newspaper biz has taken him and his family from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, he’s as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas. He now lives in Wisconsin, where he manages a group of newspapers.

Robb has had a dozen short stories published in several print anthologies and e-zines, and his articles on the craft of writing fiction have appeared in writing magazines and websites.

ROBB’S WEB AND SOCIAL MEDIA STUFF:

www.robbgrindstaff.com (website)

www.facebook.com/robbgrindstaffwriter

Twitter: @RobbWriter

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

carrymeaway_finalCarrie Destin, a biracial military brat, believes her injuries from a car accident will prove fatal before she reaches adulthood. Carrie launches a frantic quest to experience everything, travel the world, and find her soul mate before her life ends. Her grandmother’s wisdom points her toward acceptance, but first she must break through her fears before she can give the gift of ‘til-death-do-us-part.

WHERE TO BUY THE BOOK – available in print and e-book:

http://www.evolvedpub.com/robbgrindstaffbooks/ (this is the landing page at his publisher’s site, and it has more links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc).

Author Interview with Martin Dukes

Ah, March. Spring is just around the corner. This month I bring you an interview with UK author Martin Dukes, a teacher and YA author who uses his interest in history and science to influence his writing.

So let’s begin…

Martin_Dukes1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?

I’m from the English Midlands, from a town that history hasn’t so much bypassed as entirely failed to notice. There was once a glassmaking industry hereabouts but nowadays people mostly focus on selling things to each other that folks in other countries have made. It’s not an economic model that would have a lot of future, you’d have thought, but somehow it seems to work. Our Victorian forefathers and their descendants down to about 1950 erected some rather nice buildings in the vicinity but since then good taste seems to have taken the back seat to expediency and an unsightly rash of uninspired brick boxes has spread across the landscape. Still, I have fields close at hand and a wood where I can walk my dog, so things could be worse. I wouldn’t say that I’m specially an outdoor person. My lifestyle is what my younger son once described as ‘sedimentary’, which I think has a certain ring to it, but I like to look out of a window and see a wider world with lots of evidence of the natural world. I feel much the same about the sea. I have absolutely no urge to swim in it or (perish the thought!) sail, surf or ski upon it. Nevertheless, I like to be near to it when I can. There’s something about the look and smell of it that makes me feel a fuller, wholer person.

I write for the YA market where I try to combine my interest in science with my love of history. I’ve always loved ‘what-if’ scenarios and writing enables me to set up an imaginary situation and people it with characters through which I can explore its possibilities. It’s essentially taking day dreaming to an extreme level. I’m sure all people indulge in a little daydreaming from time to time. Only writers embellish their daydreams with such detail and crystalize them in written form so that others may share them.

 

2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?

I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember. I still have a dog-eared exercise book with the ‘Story of George and his friends’ in it, penned in my own fair hand when I was about eight, and illustrated in a variety of fetching felt tip pen hues. Like many an aspiring writer, I have a bulging folder with rejection slips from agents and publishers. Laying these out on a table I can see a progression over the years in terms of the technology of rejection. The early slips are typewritten, with that tell-tale unevenness of print but gradually we see the introduction, first of electric typewriters and then of inkjet or laser printers. Hand written notes of encouragement from readers occasionally enliven these, with optimistic assertions that others might feel differently about my scribbling. Reading through my earlier literary attempts I can see why these failed to set the literary world afire. Thankfully, advancing age and experience have enabled me to hone my skills to the extent that I am able to produce work that others seem to enjoy. In earlier years I entertained the hope that I might make writing my career. Since then I have been required to redefine that word. Like most people, I present several fronts to the world. The front that sustains me economically (and brings me much satisfaction) is teaching. The front that brings me most fulfilment and enjoyment is writing. I don’t expect to be particularly enriched by it. If people read and enjoy my work I am content. If I can at least offset my expenses, so much the better

 

3. As a teacher, do you have good insight as to what your intended audience likes to read?

I’d like to think that my many years of classroom experience have given me an insight into the workings of the teenage mind. Unfortunately, as someone who has taught only girls in the last thirty years of my career, I can claim insight only into the female mind. Perhaps teaching about 3,000 girls during that time at least partially outweighs the inevitable bias that comes from being a man. I hope that my books are equally accessible to male and female readers and although the main protagonist in my trilogy is male, there are strong female characters too. Without striving consciously to depict aspects of individual girls I have taught it is not unlikely that this has happened on a more subconscious level. My life experience has taught me to be a keen feminist and being the father of two boys has only served to entrench me in that position. Girls are so much more mature at a much earlier age and seem so much better equipped to lead a decent civilised life! However, I wrote my trilogy with no particular audience in mind within the YA sphere. I think a good story has universal appeal, particularly if it is inspired by an original idea and is peopled with interesting characters. My Alex Trueman trilogy is founded in an idea that is unique in literature, so far as I know. The central idea derives more from my own experiences as a teenager than my adult life as a teacher. 

 

4. Your town sounds very charming. Do you add elements of your surroundings into your stories?

 The first book in my trilogy is very much rooted in surroundings that are familiar to me. The park in which much of the action takes place is based on a park a mile or so away from where I live. It’s not a particularly large one but it has a pool with ducks of various sorts, much accustomed to being fed bread by visitors. Sometimes so much bread is offered to the creatures, a sort of bread slick forms around the edges. I imagine that if you were to drain the pool you would find the bottom covered with a silt of sunken bread several inches thick. There is a bandstand and a low building where players change before playing soccer on the adjoining pitches across the road. There are bowling greens, open spaces, mature trees and an elegant building (much neglected) in which the original owner of the park resided before having died and generously donated the premises and its surrounding land to the borough and its people in perpetuity. Long before setting the story down on the page I had imagined various episodes taking place there and in the surrounding town. Being able to conjure up a convincing stage for one’s characters to act out their drama is a vital part of the writer’s art. If that stage is an amalgam of imagination and reality it may be that the result is more convincing. Although various scenes in the trilogy are necessarily figments of my imagination the books have a firm foundation in the physical reality of my surroundings.

 

5. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?

I imagine that most authors experience moments of disillusionment, since the writing side of one’s life can hardly be divorced from the rest of it and there’s inevitably a spillover from one to the other. I’ve occasionally considered giving up my day job and the same dalliance has occurred from time to time with regard to my writing. I suppose if the whole of one’s career was devoted to what one laid out on the page it might be a different proposition. I’ve never had the opportunity to experience such a situation. Naturally, there are occasions when life in general gets in the way of writing and I try to overcome this through a kind of mental discipline. I try to make it a rule to write at least five hundred words a day, even when the creative muse is at its least forthcoming. There was a time, when my children were very small, when I almost despaired of creating anything worthwhile and weeks went by without so much as a sentence emerging from the cursor. After a while an idea began to germinate in the back of my mind. During the day time this could, with difficulty, be ignored but in those special moments between sleeping and waking it shouldered its way to the forefront of my mind. Here, it began to gradually assert itself, gathering detail and substance until it demanded to be cast into permanent shape on the page. I don’t think that I shall ever be able to give up writing because writing is the way that dreams enter the world.

 

6. Some authors tend to stay away from certain genre’s/categories. Myself, I can’t write YA. Is there one you know you can’t write or would have a difficult time trying to write?

I envy anyone with the versatility of mind to write in a number of genres. I think the most authentic writing occurs on the watershed of imagination and reality, when the author’s imagination is lent shape and structure by their own life experience. I like to write the kind of thing that I would read myself in other circumstances. I’m not particularly interested in reading horror or crime books and so I’m sure that disinclination would come across strongly in my writing were I attempt to produce any work in that genre. I’m particularly interested in history and in science and I hope that my passion for those themes comes across in my work.

  

7. Which do you think would be harder? A male writer writing a female MC, or vice versa?

I think too much is made of fundamental hard-wired differences between male and female outlooks. In my experience the difference between personalities is far more important than mere distinctions of gender. Any writer with a reasonable degree of life-experience should be able to imagine and create a convincing MC of either gender. Philip Pullman, one of my favourite writers, is a case in point. I think his Lyra, in his Dark Materials trilogy, is quite wonderful. You could argue that when writing romantic fiction the situation might be slightly different but this raises all sorts of interesting questions about male and female psychology that could be endlessly debated. Evolutionists might argue that male and female have somewhat different priorities with regard to the acquisition and retention of mates and this, in very general terms, might affect attitudes and behaviour. I would argue that such considerations are largely irrelevant, that writers concern themselves with the specific rather than the general and that works of fiction are judged for the interest of their individual vision rather than their place within an array of statistics. I have yet to write a female MC myself, but my next book will feature an attempt to do so. Readers will be able to form their own judgement as to my success!

  

8. What do you like most about the genre’s you write? What do you like the least?

My books are written in the YA genre. What I like about this genre is the scope for imaginative invention within this field. There really are no limits. In addition, as a teacher of thirty years or so experience, I have spent the best part of my waking life in the company of teenagers. Whilst a certain amount of irritation, an occasional bout of revulsion is an inevitable strand of this experience, I rather think that it has caused me to see the world through the lens of teenage experience. In other words, I’ve never really grown up! I guess that’s why my first instinct is to write for this market. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of zombies/vampires/werewolves. It was a rich seam and a lot of great work emerged from it but I think it’s pretty much mined out now. I prize originality.

 

9. What do you hope readers will find interesting or unique about your story?

When I was thinking about ‘Caught in a Moment’ (and I was thinking for a long time before setting anything down in print) I was trying to come up with an idea that I had never seen written about or heard mentioned before. Millions of creative writers out there have been labouring in search of originality for decades, I guess, so this was a somewhat challenging task. I believe I have succeeded, however. I’ve received lots of interesting and thought-provoking feedback but in none of this does anyone suggest that my basic premise is not an original one. The idea of stopping time is far from unprecedented, of course, but I have imagined the structure of time to be an endless sequence of moments and a world that exists in the interstices between them, a world in which time progresses effectively at right angles to normal time. Such a time-trapped world offers endless possibilities for mischief or adventure as many a daydreamer might have conjectured. Just how could you take advantage of a situation where the world was frozen into immobility around you? The possibilities afforded by such a scenario lie at the core of ‘Caught in a Moment.’ But an innovative premise in itself offers absolutely no certainty of entertainment in the absence of interesting characters and a story that engages the interest of the reader. I will let my readers make their own decision as to whether I have satisfied this requirement too! My MC faces a situation in which he is offered almost unimaginable power, but with that power comes responsibility and the looming possibility of tragedy. During the three books, of which ‘Caught in a Moment’ is the first, his character is hammered on the anvil of experience and emerges a very different person at the climax of the trilogy.

10. As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?

I like to see strong characters who react in credible ways to the kind of circumstances that might be found on the wilder shores of human experience. I enjoy humorous dialogue and a little sexual tension to add spice to relationships. I’m looking for surprises too. The unexpected is what keeps me turning pages. I love it when a writer manages to instil in his or her work a sense of gathering tension, a sense that some wonderful climax is approaching and this is what keeps me up at night in the small hours, reading by torchlight whilst my wife slumbers beside me. Such is the joy of a good book!

Caught in a Moment Cover-smallWhere to purchase Caught in a Moment online:

Amazon UK.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caught-Moment-Alex-Trueman-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0075VKN36/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417816201&sr=8-1&keywords=martin+dukes+caught

Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Caught-Moment-Martin-Dukes/dp/0956993451/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425935452&sr=8-1&keywords=caught+in+a+moment

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/221894

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