#AuThorsday with Amie Irene Winters

AmieIreneWintersHeadshot.jpgToday I’d like to welcome Amie Irene Winters, bestselling author of the Strange Luck series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

Dark.  Strange.  Adventurous. P erfect for fans of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman, and all things supernatural.  If you love magic, wizards, oddities, teen fantasy, mythology, supernatural creatures, young adult dark fantasy, and other realms, then the world of THE STRANGE LUCK SERIES awaits you!

I love when the “fans of” list clearly sets the tone and feel of the story.  Are these elements things that you look for as a reader as well?  What are some favorite books in your genre?

Thanks.  I tend to look at the description first, but if I’m still not sure about the book I’ll check out the “fans of” component.  I included titles/authors in my description because people have told me that my books are similar to those.

I love anything by H.P Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman.  I’m really into gothic horror literature right now and have been reading authors who influenced Lovecraft.

I’m a Lovecraft fan too.  What are you working on currently?

I’m finishing up the final edits for the third (and last book) in the Strange Luck Series—A Darling Secret.  All the books in this YA Fantasy series center around a specific theme. Strange Luck (Book I) focused on the value of memories and identity.  The Nightmare Birds (Book II) focused on fear.  And, A Darling Secret (Book III) will focuses on inner strength.  A Darling Secret will be released fall 2017.  I can’t wait for the series to finally be complete!

Congratulations on nearly being finished!  Did you always plan to focus each book on a specific theme, or was that something that developed as you went along? Are those particular themes important to you?

I didn’t plan it.  The themes developed as I wrote.  When I write I don’t plot everything out.  I have a very general idea of what I’m going to do and the rest I come up with as I go.  For example, I wanted to write a book about a world built using stolen memories.  That was the general idea I had for Strange Luck.  The rest took form as I wrote.  A lot of the time I don’t even know what is going to happen in the story or to my characters, but that’s part of the fun.

All the themes I discuss in my books are important to me and are largely based on my own experiences/thoughts, like how we are our memories.

I’m a plotter myself, but your approach sounds like a fun way to create.  When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

It sounds counter-intuitive, but I take a break from writing.  I’ll go for a walk, hit an aerobics class, paint.  Whatever it takes so that I feel recharged and can look at my work with a fresh eye.  Sometimes it might take a few hours.  Other times it might be a few weeks.

Do you find that your method brings a flood of ideas back to you so you start writing again, or do you eventually just decide to start writing again and hope ideas come?

More often than not, I’ll get a flood of ideas.  This is why I always have a notebook with me or my cell phone, where I can take verbal notes.  I also get inspired by reading.  I’ll be sitting there half paying attention to the story I’m reading and then suddenly, an idea will come.  All my paper bookmarks are covered in notes.  Lol.

Ha!  That’s a great idea for bookmarks.  Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Definitely!  Since I’ve always been an outdoorsy girl, I found it easy for my protagonist to be one too.  Daisy’s a bit of a tomboy who loves hiking and camping.  The trails she hikes and places she goes are based on some of my favorite real-life places in California (where I grew up).  Almost all my characters are inspired by people I know.  Even some of my old pets I had growing up!  There’s a lot of other secret things I throw in too, like how my experience as an aerial acrobat influenced writing The Nightmare Birds, which is centered around a dark circus.

If you are curious about more secrets behind my books, check these out:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Strange Luck

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Nightmare Birds

Aerial Acrobat?!  That’s definitely a unique experience to draw ideas from!  When real-life people inspire you to create characters, do you ever tell the real people?  And do you ever encounter random people with quirks you use in your characters? 

Yes, I do tell certain people that a character was inspired by them.  They always get a kick out of it.  And yes, I do encounter random people with funny quirks that I’ll implement into my stories.  An example of both is Christine (the German aerial acrobat) from The Nightmare Birds.  In real-life Christine was a German foreign exchange who stayed with me and my family in high school for a semester.  She was obsessed with the color orange. Everything she owned was orange and she only ate orange food.  She also had really long brown hair, which she always chewed on like a beaver.  You’d be standing there talking to her and she would start chewing on her hair like it was a meal.  I always thought both of those quirks about her were funny, so I used them in the story.

That is funny.  Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

Probably Harry Potter.  It’s one of my favorite series of all time, but I think J.K. Rowling is more than deserving, especially after all that she has been through.  She’s truly an inspiration and a remarkable person.

Many authors seem to feel that way about Harry Potter and Rowling.  Why do you think her stories make SUCH an impact on not only readers, but authors in particular?

J.K. Rowling effortlessly invites you into her magical world, which leaves a delightfully whimsical lasting impression on any child or adult.  I think it’s impactful on authors because the story resonates across multiple genres.

Thanks, Amie, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND Amie Irene Winters: 
Website:  www.amieirenewinters.com
Goodreads: Amie Irene Winters
Amazon Page: Amie Irene Winters
Facebook:  Amie Irene Winters
Twitter: @AmieIWinters

#AuThorsday with Calvin Demmer

calvindemmer-1Today I’d like to welcome Calvin Demmer, one of my favorite short story writers and author of the Dark Celebrations series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I currently spend the majority of my time writing short fiction.  As a relatively new writer, this gives me the opportunity to experiment a bit more with different genres and styles.  But I’d say most of my work falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, leaning towards the darker side of things.

Having read some of your shorts, I definitely agree about your work leaning towards the darker side, and I love that you play around with genres.   In my experience, writing shorts is a very different process from writing longer works.   If you start writing longer works (a novel, let’s say), what have you learned by writing shorts that will carry over to longer work? 

I’ve learned so much… But some of the major areas are pacing, not overloading with exposition at the beginning, and keeping the story tight.  With short fiction you’re always focused on making every word count and have a purpose.  I think that is a great skill to carry forward to any other works.

Agreed.  What are you working on currently?

My main focus is writing short stories and flash fiction then sending them to various markets.  I was fortunate to get published in a few places in 2016 and hope to continue that in 2017.  I also have a side-project, which are stories I write in my Dark Celebrations series.  These are short stories that I write for pure enjoyment with no restrictions. They’re really about having fun with the story and are usually written when I need a break from the main focus.  I’m also looking into some of my older stories with the idea of maybe putting some together for a possible future collection.  This is a slow process as many of them do require some work.  And then I’m also playing around with ideas for possible longer works.

Have you ever started a story or even finished a story and just not liked it, so you toss it?  Or do you always find a way to use a story? 

I’ve tossed a few away.  I’ve also made stories work in the past, but I don’t like doing that and don’t anymore.  There is always a fresh idea.  When I started writing, I probably wrote just over 200,000 words that I never used.  But I knew beforehand I likely wouldn’t use any of it as it was more for practice than anything else.

That’s a lot of practice!  What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the editing process is as important as the initial first draft.  In the beginning, I neglected the editing side a bit.  I now separate the two processes and give them equal attention.  It’s a lot of fun during the first draft.  Everything flows, usually, and it’s exciting to get to the next scene.  Editing was a bit more labor intensive for me.  However, it is where I can shape my story, give it direction, and make the story shine.  As I get better at editing, I am starting to enjoy it more and more.  I’ve also found that it helps to give myself a break from a story after the first draft and then tackle the work from a more critical standpoint when it isn’t so fresh.

Great advice.  I’ve read a lot of books that could be great if the editing was better, and it’s an extremely important step that authors need to pay attention to.  I’m glad you’ve found a way to enjoy editing (and it shows in your work that you take your time), but did you have to work at being critical of your own work, or does that come naturally to you?  I know some authors struggle with that.

It comes easy to me.  I battle myself quite a bit on some stories.  There is a good and bad side to that.  Sometimes, the stories never see the light of day because of it.  Other times, the stories really come out great and shine.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I find that having more than one project on the go works for me.  I guess that’s easier when you’re focusing on a lot of shorter works, but even if I throw some longer projects into the mix it would still be a formula I use.  I like to be able to switch to something different if I get frustrated or hit a brick wall with one thing.  This way the writing never stops.

That’s a good system.  When you’re working on more than one story at a time, do you find that thinking about one leads you to ideas for the others?  I imagine that would help keep the creative juices flowing, rather than being stuck in one story.

It does, mostly because your mind is always active and gets used to thinking like that.  I’ve been working on a story before when an idea for something else pops into my mind.  Depending on how interesting and complex the idea is, I might make a note of it.  But usually, the good ideas never really disappear.

Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

When I started just about everything I read and enjoyed made me jealous.  I was amazed by some of the epic works like Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  Books like Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle also left me in awe.  But as I started to write more and more, I realized that it wasn’t so much jealousy but rather an inner desire to create my own world and characters that was growing within.  These types of works then became inspiration that fuelled me to keep on improving, so that I may also one day create my own colorful worlds and characters.

(That’s always where I hope authors will take this question – turning it to inspiration.) 🙂  Even though your work is mostly on the dark side, do you get inspiration from all over the place, or just stick to certain genres?   How important is being well-rounded as a reader, to you?   

That’s a tough one.  Some people say you should stick to your genre and focus, while others say reading more diverse will make you a better writer.  I don’t know the answer to that, but as for myself, I read almost everything.  I do spend majority of the time in the genres I enjoy, but I also like the challenge of reading things I normally wouldn’t.  As for the inspiration, I get it from everything.  Sometimes works that are not in my genre will trigger an idea.  I would hate to be closed to any avenue that could provide fresh inspiration.

Thanks, Calvin, for sharing!


WHERE TO FIND Calvin Demmer: 
Website:  www.calvindemmer.com
Goodreads: Calvin Demmer
Amazon Page: Calvin Demmer
Facebook:  Calvin Demmer
Twitter: @CalvinDemmer

#AuThorsday with Danielle E. Shipley

7021985Today I’d like to welcome Danielle E. Shipley, fantasy author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and the book we’re here to talk about – The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale, book #1 from the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy.  

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My Outlaws of Avalon trilogy in brief: Camelot’s heroes and Sherwood’s most wanted are magically alive, conditionally immortal, and ingeniously incognito in a modern day Renaissance Faire.  Enter Allyn-a-Dale, a minstrel dropped in (yes, literally) from a far-off fantasy world.  Cue adventures (and misadventures) galore!

I’m looking forward to reading this!  What gave you this idea?

It came from one of my family’s visits to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  We’d made a point for years of going once every summer – and I would go on to work on cast as a Town Crier from 2012 through 2014 – but 2010 was the first time I encountered their player portraying Robin Hood.  I was thrilled to fangirling pieces, and couldn’t help but half-wonder, half-hope:  What if there were some way that was really him?

That’s great fuel for the imagination!  What are you working on currently?

I’m juggling a few things at the publishing stage.  My next Outlaws of Avalon project falls in between novels; look for my e-novella tribute to Dickens, “An Avalon Christmas Carol”, to go live on Amazon in December!  Also coming soon, my best friend/writer buddy Tirzah Duncan and I have a co-authored short story coming out in an “Arcane Arts” anthology; expect necromancy with attitude.  And of course I’ll be fiddling with Outlaws of Avalon 2 right up until its release in March 2017.  Whether I’ll ever pencil in a space on the schedule for breathing is yet to be determined.

Busy, busy.  Do you like collaborating in the writing process?

With the people in my head, yes.  With people outside of me?  I’m much more selective about that.  Too many awful group project experiences in college.  *glowers into the past*

I hear ya.  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?   Can you give us a peek?

My favorite scene from The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale… That’s gotta be when the Merry Men’s road trip really starts rolling.  My poor characters and I were still exhausted from the chapter before (car shopping is stressful!) and in a kind of grumpy place all ‘round, until Allyn— Well, you asked for a peek, did you not?

“I’m just saying,” Will continued, “that it would make it easier for me to stay alert if the rest of you could make some sort of effort to keep the atmosphere a little more lively.”
Little John answered with a yawn.
Sighing with frustration, Will gripped the steering wheel harder and glared past the windshield. From the back of the van came a soft, musical chuckle, followed by the sound of a gently plucked guitar. And over the strings, a voice that sang:
Little John yawns,
His eyes drooping half-closed.
But small wonder he’s thinking
Of having a doze:
For we’ve ridden this road
Half as long as it feels —
(Time both quartered and doubled,
When traveling on wheels) —
And it’s been a most tiresome,
Dull sort of ride.
So have your yawn, Little John.
Will — eyes wide.”

The song goes on, and it’s just so perfectly Allyn at his cheekiest that it never fails to brighten my mood.

Very clever!  Do you enjoy writing a lot of humor into your stories?

Oh, absolutely.  My sense of drama has darkened with age, but my sense of comedy is still showing its roots.  When you’ve been raised on Bugs Bunny and slapstick chapter books, playing for laughs comes naturally.

What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?

I’m all about my characters, so I’m always hungry for readers to want to know more about them. “What does Allyn think of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” (Answer: Innovative; strange; admittedly fun to wail along to.) “Would Will Scarlet rather go hungry for a day or do his grocery shopping naked?” (Answer: Food and nudity are two of his favorite things, so…) Things like that. The deep stuff.

Haha.  Since you use some previously fictionalized characters, do you try to stay consistent with those known personalities, or do you more make them your own, or a mix?

That’s the blessing and curse of taking on such longstanding legends: There’s a good thousand years of material to draw from!  Fortunately, with so much variation already out there, I was free from thinking that my retelling had to be any one particular way to be valid.  So I reached into the canonical heap, selected the bits I felt like working with, then let the characters in question show me how they wanted to manifest this time around.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

In a perfect world, my Merry Men would be here and (in between hanging out with me) could play themselves.  They are professional actors, after all.

Good point and not an answer many authors can give!  Who do you think would do best onscreen?

Will Scarlet, hands down.  The man knows his angles, and would bring the energy nonstop.  Seriously.  Good luck turning the energy off.

Thank you, Danielle, for sharing!


WHERE TO FIND Danielle E. Shipley: 
Website:  www.deshipley.com
Goodreads: Danielle E. Shipley
Amazon Page:  Danielle E. Shipley
Facebook:  Danielle E. Shipley, Author
Twitter: @DEShipley

#AuThorsday with Pam Elise Harris

B1DoQJEPHnS._UX250_Today I’d like to welcome Pam Elise Harris,  editor extraordinaire and author of Oblivion.

Can you give us your quickest description of your book?

Oblivion is the story of six acting students trying to achieve greatness despite the obstacles in their paths.

What genre would you say Oblivion fits into?

Contemporary fiction.

What are you working on currently?

Mostly, I’m working on my freelance editing projects.  I edit for Booktrope among other clients.  One of my clients is actually a real estate attorney.  He’s doing continuing education courses that I am editing.

On the writing side, I just won my fourth National Novel Writing Month this past November.  I am a hardcore NaNoer, having completed every NaNo and Camp NaNo since Oblivion in 2012.  I am currently developing my second novel The Truth Will Set Me Free, which I normally describe as “Woman running for her life meets man who wants to save the world.”  I am also working on a guide for newbie authors on working with an editor and finding time to write the last book of my trilogy.

Busy.  🙂 The guide for newbies is an interesting idea.  Are you doing that because you see so many mistakes being made by others, so you want to offer specific, other direction?

It’s not so much that I’m seeing mistakes as much as I’m encountering authors who don’t know how the process works.  The guide is meant to offer them direction.  It will take them through the process from beginning to end, giving them helpful tips.  For example, one of the main problems I encounter is authors who don’t read their work through before sending it to an editor.  Authors can catch so many errors just by doing that and it saves the editor time from figuring out what the author means.  This may be something that never occurs to the author, but it’s actually really important.  Another issue is that newbie authors often aren’t aware of the type of edit they want, and often times it could be a deeper edit than they expected.

What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

Don’t rush the editing process.  Really take the time to perfect your story.  Your editor is there to help you.  Don’t be afraid to let him or her help you.

I have to ask – as an editor, are you really tough on your own work right away, or do you let yourself write loosely and then go clean it up when you’re done?

Yes, I am tough on my own work right from the start.  I am my own worst critic.  I try not to clean it up as I go because you’re not supposed to do that for NaNo, but typos are evil and must be destroyed.  I’m always cleaning it up where I can.

What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?

A lot of the places in Oblivion are actually real.  I wish more people would ask about the stories behind them.

Cool – Can you give one such story behind a location?

Oblivion is set in 2012.  I have a timeline with the actual dates that each scene occurs on.  So, it turned out that during the dates in Oblivion there was an actual convention called I-CON on a local college campus.  I-CON spans many fandoms, but my husband and I did actually attend for the Doctor Who programming.  Well, one of my characters is a massive Whovian, so I figured he would actually go to this.  Any programming referenced in the book is the actual programming from the convention that year.  Even the food choices mentioned were what they actually had available.

That is a really cool way to add detail.  Who inspires you to write?

Usually, it’s more of a what than a who.  I get a lot of my ideas from movies or songs.  Sometimes I’ll IMDB an actor and suddenly get an idea.  (That’s actually what happened for my Awethology piece which became this past November’s NaNo.)  I also take a lot of inspiration from Jonathan Larson.  He had an amazing way with words.

Interesting.  So would you say you’re visually stimulated? (Also, who was the actor?)

I don’t know if I’d say I’m visually stimulated because it’s more the story in a movie or song that inspires me or some aspect of it.  Something just sparks.  And the actor in question was Ansel Elgort.  I had just seen Paper Towns where (spoiler) he has a cameo.  So, I went home and IMDBed him, and I found out that he was originally from New York where I’m from and he’s a trained ballet dancer.  My Awethology/NaNo piece just took off from there.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I don’t think about it.  I just keep writing.  Just getting ideas down is the important thing, not how good they are.  If you just keep writing, something good will come out if it eventually.

Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

To some extent I think that everyone does.  But I don’t use the events of my life, so much as character traits.  All six POV characters in Oblivion have an aspect of my personality.  A lot of the places I use in my books are real places that are or have been part of my daily life.

Thanks, Pam, for sharing!

25637391WHERE TO FIND Pam Elise Harris:
Goodreads:  Pam Elise Harris
Amazon Page:  Pam Elise Harris
Facebook:  Pam Elise Harris
Twitter: @Pams_Prose

Podcast Interview on The Kota, Writing, and More

What do you get when you put 2 musicians, a writer, a recording device, and a few beers together?
The best bar conversation you’re ever going to eavesdrop.

Many thanks to Justin Stover of Blue Collar Songwriting for the rare opportunity to be interviewed alongside my brother, Christian Somerville, who co-created The Kota Series worlds with me.  This was tons of fun.

May or may not contain:
Stories of how The Kota originated
The influences of family on creativity
My writing history
Why I love indie publishing
Connections between indie writing and indie music
Taylor Swift shout-outs



TPH Promo

#AuThorsday with Michael R. Stern

6493697Today I’d like to welcome Michael Stern, Science Fiction author of Storm Portal, Sand Storm, and the newly released Shadow Storm. 

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I am writing a series about a high school history teacher who discovers his classroom door is the entry to a time portal.  He is able to travel back in time, as well as travel to other points in present time.  In the first book, he walks into the Oval Office, sets off a storm of security issues, and begins a relationship with the president.  The first three books are available now, with a hopeful release of Book 4 by end of summer.

What event in history would YOU most like to go back and see?  What historical figure would you want most to meet?

As a student of history, there have been so many events and people who have crossed my path that the imagination wanders in many directions.  To see only one, to meet just one person, what a difficult choice!  And for so many reasons.

I’m going to give you two for each and tell you why.  First, events.  The single most important speech ever given by an American is in my opinion the Gettysburg Address.  The most important event in our history was the 2nd Continental Congress which led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  They would give me access to historical figures I would like to meet, so I’m cheating a bit.

As to people I would like to see, I would love to visit Shakespeare and Company in Paris in the 1920s, when a young Hemingway was surrounded by the literary and artistic world including Joyce, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali.  How cool would that have been?

The second person I would choose is a man almost no one will have heard of.  His name is Russell Fritz.  He was my creative writing teacher in Junior High School.  I would love to be able to share with him the fruits of his labor–my writing.

That’s a great, sweet idea.  What are you working on currently?

I am currently working on two books, the sixth in my time travel series, and a fantasy/adventure titled, “Sara and the Dragons.”

Fantasy, huh?  Anything with dragons from you seems like quite a change.  What gave you that idea?

It is quite a change, but I have read fantasy for more than a little while.  I also consider myself to be a new writer in spite of my decrepitude.  Trying new things, taking risks makes this journey exciting.  The idea for “Sara and the Dragons” came from To Kill A Mockingbird.  As writers, I believe we have both the ability and obligation to challenge the human condition, while entertaining at the same time.  “Sara and the Dragons” portrays the various ways we treat our differences, our similarities, our fears, and our triumphs.  It sounds like a kid’s book, but I hope that it will deliver a message to adults as well.  No spoilers, however.

What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

You need to keep writing because you’ll get better.  You need to keep reading, so you can learn what works.  Expect to feel the worst you’ve ever felt in your life, and exult when you feel more successful than you have ever felt.  That’s the world we choose.

What do you like to read that helps you as a writer?

I’ve found three specific areas that help.  One is obvious, the multitude of how-to books, many of which provide “light-bulb moments” that make more sense the more I write.  The second is books that have received accolades.  Those I read to see how the plot and characters are structured.  As often as not, the well-written story by critics standards are lessons in how not to write a book I want to read.  The third is new writers.  Although I would not routinely read much of what is new today—vampires and zombies, dystopian society, romance and erotica, I do read some of these because they offer a fresh voice in storytelling.  And give me a good story, well-written, suspenseful (note here: I hate bad spelling and careless punctuation), with a few twists and fun characters, and I’ll be reading more of your stuff.

(Ha! Thanks!)  Who inspires you to write?

My inspiration comes from a variety of sources.  First, my readers.  When I get a good review, especially from someone I don’t know, I want to repeat that formula.  Other authors inspire me.  There are a great many fine writers who make me feel I can always improve what I write.  And my friends and family who has supported my efforts.  I want to succeed to justify their faith in me.

Do you feel like you put a lot of pressure on yourself to get better and better?

Pressure, not really.  I have always been competitive, and demanding that I do the best I can.  I never thought that writing a story would be as challenging as it is.  So rather than put pressure on myself, I study the craft.  There are a great many good writers, some even successful financially.  My goal is to be a great writer, and even more, to be a great story teller.  Whether that happens or not, well the jury is still waiting for all the evidence.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

In a perfect world, meaning I can choose time and age, I would pick actors from various points in their careers to meet the age requirements.  Fritz and Ashley would be Damon and Affleck when they were in their mid-30s.  Linda would be Amy Adams.  Jane would be an earlier Angelina Jolie.  George would be Kevin Spacey, and Lois would be played Meryl Streep, which guarantees that it will have an Academy Award nomination.

Again, having read your books, I can picture these actors in these roles.  PERFECT casting, in my opinion.  Do you like the Damon and Affleck pairing because of their buddy/brother-like relationship (that seems to mirror Fitz and Ashely well)? 

I had trouble choosing Fritz.  I considered Brad Pitt and George Clooney for Ashley, again in age fitting times of their careers.  But Damon and Affleck fit together so well, better even than Newman and Redford (and they were great together).  I think both have quality performances individually, but were great in Dogma and Good Will Hunting, playing off each other.  And as my series moves forward, good individual roles will be needed to put the whole story together.

Thanks, Michael, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND Michael R. Stern:

Goodreads:  Michael R. Stern
Amazon Page:  Michael R. Stern
Facebook:  Mike Stern’s Cabin Fever
Twitter: @sternmike52

#AuThorsday with Barbara Chioffi

51ptOb6M2oL._UX250_Today I’d like to welcome Barbara Chioffi, romance/horror author of Angel Mine, Lycan Heart, and Trickery.

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I’m all about romance, except for Trickery.  The horror trilogy indulged my childhood love of horror comics.

Is your horror writing targeted towards a younger audience, then?  Who would you say is your target audience?

Target audience, I’d say 18+ due to the sexy parts, although in my last work, Dark Lycan, the sex was toned down a bit.

What are you working on currently?

Two novellas for anthologies, three poems, and the next in my Mystic Hearts series.

That’s quite a bit all at once!  What is your favorite thing to work on and why?

Paranormal romance will always be my favored genre, due to the many possibilities, the twists and turns it can take.  Horror is my second choice, thanks to Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and earlier, those horror comics I mentioned.  I discovered them when I was ten while going to the corner grocery for my grandmother.  If my memory is correct, they were ten cents.  She would always ‘tip’ me for making the short trips.  My treasured stash of those illustrated ‘comics’ grew with those runs to the store.  Several years later, the government decided they were too explicit for young minds, and they banned them.  My stash disappeared over the years.  I’d love to have them now.

That’s a great story.  What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

Be true to yourself, be honest, and play nice with others.  That’s it.

Have there been times in your writing life when you’ve felt like you were changing your writing for others (i.e. NOT being true to yourself)?  Why do you think some authors struggle with this?

I write what I love.  Writing to please an audience would betray one’s voice.  If you can’t embrace your story, there’s no point.  There is a tendency to follow the current trend for some, reaching for success, and I wish all those the best of luck.

Who inspires you to write?

My mother…people I’ve known and admired…dreams

Can you give an example of a dream that’s inspired a story?

Since childhood, I’ve dreamed of wolves, first as vicious attackers, and later, in college, as a date at the door, complete with suit, hat, flowers, and candy.  In recent years, a large, white wolf appeared in our yard, traveling through the adjacent wetlands on his journey.  They’ve appeared in dreams lately, in the form of comforting messengers.

Interesting that wolves have been so recurring over the years.  In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

Justin and Jared, twin sons of Robert Flannery from my lycan stories, would be Angel Macho, a male model and software engineer.

Julia, from Lycan Heart, would be Nina Dobrev from Vampire Diaries, and Tara, from Dark Lycan, would be Emma Stone.

Do you picture different actors when you’re writing these characters?  Or do those actors just happen to fit best with your idea of that character in your head?

I write my story with certain features in mind… hair, eyes, build, etc.  As the character develops, his/her personality takes shape, along with talents and quirks.  After these are in place, then I look for one to fit what’s been created.  It’s often difficult to find an actor or picture with the ‘look’ I want.  For instance, Julia is a sweet, young woman and Tara has a little bit of fire.

Thanks, Barbara, for sharing!

51tMi4DND+L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_WHERE TO FIND Barbara Chioffi: 
Website:  www.reveriesfrombarb.blogspot.com
Goodreads:  Barbara
Amazon Page:  Barbara Chioffi
Facebook:  Barb’s Angel Mine
Twitter:  @starlite42

#AuThorsday with Gina Moray

713kWvtypmL._UX250_Today I’d like to welcome Gina Moray, horror writer and author of Cemetery at Devil’s Bend.

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My books challenge the reader to recognize the darkness that dwells at the edge of the human spirit.  Some of my books contain traces of the supernatural, such as the occult or spirits, but most of them focus on the worst monster of all – man.

Cemetery at Devil’s Bend:  A cemetery develops on a forsaken piece of land just outside of the town of Pine Creek.  When Marty Duller investigates, he learns the town has an evil secret lurking right in plain sight.

The Guardians:  A man desperate to save his farm, unknowingly summons evil and ultimate demise to the town of Runner’s Mill.

Are these stories set in settings you’re familiar with?  It sounds like you use real life but with a darker underbelly rather than some fantasy-based world.

These two are set in real life, but not in settings that I’m familiar with.  They are fictional towns set nearby real places.  Many of the books I’m writing are set in Chattanooga, where I live, in either present time or a post-apocalyptic future.

What are you working on currently?

I am working on a novel called The Candy Man.  I can’t give too many details, because I tend to keep my books hush, hush until release time nears.  I will say, however, that if Children of the Corn and Sinister had a love child, it would be The Candy Man.

Intriguing combo.  Do you tend to have 1 book idea at a time, or several that you try to write at once?

I usually have several ideas that I will start developing at one time, but I’ll only write one book at a time.  I have a OneNote Notebook with about fifteen different ideas at various staged of development.

That’s a great idea!  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

There is this one scene in The Guardians that I just love.  It perfectly portrays the supernatural predatory nature of the main antagonist, LaReux.  You want a sneak peek?  I guess I could give you a snippet:

He grabbed what he sought and slowly pulled his hand out, grasping her heart. She fell to the floor, lifeless, and he stepped away to avoid the blood running out of her mouth. He looked down at her admiringly.
“You had the heart of a lion.” He brought the flesh to his mouth and took a single bite before tossing the rest on the floor next to her corpse.

Well, that’s perfectly creepy.  Do you find it easy to slip into “dark writer mode” to come up with such scenes, or do you have to really work at it?

Much to my dismay it’s quite easy to write dark scenes like that one, but to open that door that holds back the darkest parts of my mind is another story.  I had one recent book that was so disturbing, I contemplated whether I could actually write what needed to be written and maintain my sanity.  The serial killer in the book was absolutely heinous and I was uncomfortable telling parts of his story.  In the end, I wrote the draft, but I have more respect for that darkness and I never make the decision to open that door lightly.

Who inspires you to write?

My inspiration comes from many places.  The majority of my story ideas come from my dreams, but I can create a story from a simple object, song, conversation – anything.  A benign idea goes in and filters through my imagination and voila!  A new horror story.

Do you come across something that sparks an idea and have to write it down right away, or are you better than me and remember the pieces to fit together later?  🙂

Heck no!  I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go.  I’ve also been known to get up in the middle of the night and jot down ideas or write a scene that stands out clearly in my mind.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I either stop and read a book, or just continue to write and skip the sections I‘m stuck on and continue with another scene that I do know.

For the sections you skip, when you come back later to fill them in, do you sometimes find that the story has changed from where you thought it would go?

Ninety percent of the time, yes, my story changes, sometimes greatly.  I often find that I will skip sections to get to the end, then go back and fill in, only to change the story.  Sometimes doing this will end up changing the end again, and around and around we go until I end up with something that I can live with.  Many fantastic revelations about my stories have come out of skipping scenes.

Thanks, Gina, for sharing!

51nuw79ioGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_WHERE TO FIND Gina Moray: 
Website:  www.GinaMoray.com
Goodreads:  Gina Moray
Amazon Page:  Gina Moray
Facebook:  Gina Moray
Twitter:  @Gina_Moray

#AuThorsday with Michael Dellert

14849380Today I’d like to welcome Michael Dellert, fantasy author of A Hedge King in Winter and A Merchant’s Tale, the first two books in The Matter of Manred Saga. 

Can you give us your quickest description of your book?

A Hedge King in Winter is about the reluctance of a loyal man to supplant his crippled brother as king when the kingdom is threatened by their shady cousin and ruthless bandits.  A Merchant’s Tale is about a young foreign trader and his companions as they journey across the uncertain lands of this hedge king to deliver a mysterious chest, and the adventures they encounter along the way.

So your books are kind of history-like Fantasy?  What literary works would you compare your series to – more Tolkien or George R.R. Martin, or something else entirely? 

I haven’t read much of George R.R. Martin, actually.  Only A Game of Thrones, the first book of his A Song of Ice & Fire series.  I’ve also read some of his earlier work in the Wild Cards shared universe series.  I can see how his work and mine have some similarities (judging mostly from the TV series) and we probably draw from the same historical sources.  His Kingdom of Westeros seems to bear a number of similarities to the historical periods of both the Heptarchy and the War of the Roses in Britain, for example, where my work is drawing on the historical period of the Five Kingdoms of Ireland prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion.  So in that sense, creating worlds that are fantastical and yet deeply rooted in the realistic, I think he and I are working in a similar vein.

And I’d be lying if I said Tolkien wasn’t a huge influence, though I’ve chosen to work in more limited third-person and first person points of view than he did.

CJ Cherryh is the author I most frequently cite as my primary influence.  Her Morgaine Saga is one of my favorite pieces of fantasy literature, primarily because it’s actually a science fiction piece told from a point of view that doesn’t understand the science, but firmly believes in magic.  This is an aesthetic I try to emulate in my own work: there’s a “science” behind the magic that exists in my world, but ordinary folk don’t understand it, and those who do are rare and either respected or feared for that knowledge.

I also owe a lot, I think to Chris Bunch’s Seer-King Trilogy and to the work of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories.  The heroes of my stories so far are natural men confronted by the supernatural, and striving to either overcome it or turn it to their advantage.

Annnnd, I just added these to my “To-Read” List.  CJ Cherryh is one of my dad’s favorite authors, so I’ve heard a lot about her work – I love that you take away those aspects you mentioned.  What are you working on currently?

The Romance of Eowain, the third book in my Matter of Manred series.  It picks up a few days after A Merchant’s Tale in story-time, and continues the story of the hedge king and his struggle to hold his kingdom together by entering into an arranged marriage with a foreign and headstrong bride.

How many books do you have in mind for this series? 

If everything goes to plan (and when did that ever happen?), I expect to write maybe nine, more likely twelve books in the series.  Plus subsidiary stories that explore secondary subplots that I find interesting or exciting.

Ambitious plan!  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

I’m a parent, so that’s like asking which child is my favorite.  They’re all darlings, of course.  (At least, that’s what I tell them.)  But (between you, me, and all your readers), my favorite at the moment is from A Merchant’s Tale, a scene that I’ve taken to calling, “The Hounds of Annwn.”

The trail twisted up a grassy rise between two stands of birch, hazel, and oak. Adarc and I were walking together ahead of the oxen. Corvac and Jôkull were ahead of us. Behind, the Gallavach drover sat upon the wagon seat, slapping absently at the slow-moving beasts. The road narrowed somewhat into a gentle rise. To the southeast, the hillock rose to about the height of a man, but our route passed north of the rise through a gap and down into trees on the other side. From somewhere over the hill, I heard the warbling call of birds.
Just as the oxen succeeded at pulling the wagon up the first rise, there arose the most terrible caterwauling. A howl, as from a horn, followed by the barking and baying of hounds on the hunt.
I smelled it first, strong, hot, and rank. Then, from behind the hill, it arose, a shaggy and tremendous shape! It seemed like it would never stop rising, taller and taller, taller than two men. A broad, domed skull and steep forehead hunkered over narrow-spaced, petty red eyes.
It rose to face us, fierce and ruthless, a big brindled bear with unusually long hair on the spine and shoulders. It loomed and towered over us like a thunderclap with a shocking arsenal of teeth and claws. The nostrils flared in its dismayed face, catching perhaps the first taint of us. But it turned instead to the east, from whence the sound of horns and barking drew closer.

Not only did I enjoy writing this scene, but I collaborated with a voice-over artist, Will Hughes, to have this scene narrated.  As much as I enjoyed writing it, his reading of it set the hairs on my neck on end!

How cool that you had it narrated!  This scene is very descriptive.   Is that something you enjoy – showing your readers what this world looks like?

I very much want my readers to get a sense of “being there,” and getting lost in the world that I’ve created.  Verisimilitude is, in my opinion, the highest goal for which a writer should strive.  The best books I’ve ever read have left me with the feeling that, even if the story events didn’t happen in this world, they certainly happened in some world.  It would be the greatest honor to hear a reader tell me that I left them with that feeling.

What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?

I enjoy world-building questions.  To create a fantasy world, one has to do a lot of research and put a lot of thought into how one’s world got to be the way it is.  But a lot of that thought and material doesn’t make it into the story.  Like an iceberg, the story represents a part of the world one has constructed, but there is often a lot more under the surface that couldn’t fit into the story.  I enjoy answering questions about those things, like what the drymyn are, where I got my inspiration for the current political situation in my stories, and so on.

World-building is so much fun and probably my favorite part of the creative process.   So to answer your own questions (See how I set you up there?):  What’s an example of something that couldn’t fit in the story, what are the drymyn, and where did you get inspiration for the politics of your stories?

LOL. Yes, I rather thought that was a leading question.  So, to answer your (my own?) questions:

The drymyn are philosopher-priests, based in part on what little is known about the real-world druids in our own world, mixed with medieval Celtic Catholicism, some popular fantasy notions about druids, a good bit of theosophy, and a lot of extrapolation from pseudo-historical connections between druids and esoteric Pythagorean philosophers.

And that answer gives you some idea of the extent of the iceberg that can’t be presented in the stories.  The Drymyn Order has a fictional history that goes back at least 1500 years in story time, full of schisms and conflicts and periods of persecution.  Of the three “Circles” of the Order that exist at present time in story-present, the most powerful of them is at odds with the Circle native to the land in which the stories take place, because the practices and traditions of the Circles have evolved differently through a Dark Ages period.  But all of that religious history could fill a volume in itself, and I can’t just stop the present story to explain it; I would lose most of my readers’ interest very quickly.  So I have to be content to drop hints and allegations that provide a glimpse and a bit of depth and texture to the present conflict, and resist the impulse to fly off on a hare-scramble in medieval philosophy and Pythagoreanism.

As for the inspiration behind the current political situation, I’ve borrowed a great deal from the twenty years of Irish history leading up to the Anglo-Norman invasion by Strongbow in 1170-1172AD.  I have a strong Irish heritage myself, and so Irish myth and history are a strong influence on my work.

(Irish here too.)  Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

I know of an author who writes science fiction, yet boasts that he never reads books or watches cinema in that genre.  He claims that this allows him to “be original” and “not be influenced” by what’s come before him, and he takes pride in never having watched an episode of “Star Trek.”  In my opinion, that writer is doing himself a disservice.  While Jules Verne never watched “Star Trek” either, I’m pretty sure the writers of “Star Trek” probably read Jules Verne.  Literature is a conversation, a dialogue between the reader and the writer.  If one hasn’t been listening to the conversation, how can one contribute anything new to it?

Of course, I suffer from the usual amount of author-envy when I see a particularly well-turned phrase that isn’t mine.  I try not to be jealous so much as learn from the experience: Why do I envy that particular author’s work?  What are they doing that I think I’m not doing?  How can I do something similar and yet keep it fresh and new?  By examining my own reaction to their writing and the writing itself, I work to improve my craft.  But no, I’ve never gnashed my teeth over someone else’s work.  When two authors write about the same idea, a dozen different stories can be born.  And there’s no copyright on ideas.  If I like an idea, I’ll start writing about it.  Even if it’s been done a million times before, there’s always a million-and-first way to look at it.  One just needs the creativity to discover what’s still new about the idea and contribute to the conversation.

That’s a great way of looking at it.  (That science fiction writer infuriates me a little bit, but that could be a whole other discussion.)  It’s important to try to always improve and grow in our own writing, and learning from others writers is a great approach.  Is there an author in particular that spurs you on and invigorates your creativity?

That writer infuriated a lot of people in an online forum, both for his position and for the godawful and undeserved arrogance with which he defended it.  Clearly, humility was not a virtue with which he’d ever been acquainted.

But yes, that’s, as they say, another kettle of fish.  To your question: Every author I’ve read has an influence, whether for good or ill.  I’ve mentioned CJ Cherryh, who was fundamental in setting me on my path as a writer.  I continue to look to her for inspiration, and I can only dream of having a career as successful as hers: 60 published books in 40 years; two Hugo Awards; a Locus Award; hell, she even has an asteroid named after her.  But as much as I love her work, I have to give particular credit to two underappreciated authors: Evangeline Walton and Sean Russell.  Ms. Walton’s re-telling of the Welsh Mabinogion stories are captivating, and Mr. Russell’s Swan War Trilogy has some of the most lyrical prose I’ve ever read.  They did a lot to help me fashion the stories I’m currently telling.

Thanks, Michael, for sharing!

A-Merchants-Tale-eBookCover-webWHERE TO FIND Michael Dellert: 
Website:  www.mdellert.com
Goodreads:  Michael E. Dellert
Amazon Page:  Michael E. Dellert
Facebook:  Michael Dellert, Writer, Editor, Consultant
Twitter:  @MDellertDotCom

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