AuThorsday with John C. Adams

Today I’d like to welcome John C. Adams, horror and fantasy author of Souls for the Master, Aspatria, and Dagmar of the Northlands.

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My latest fantasy novel is called Dagmar of the Northlands, but really it’s everyone’s story. Dagmar is only one in a cast of characters, but each has their own challenges. The Gortah van Murkar books are set in a universe with lots of pitched battles involving sword and sorcery, but there’s also plenty of romance and focus on characters, too. Both Dagmar and Gortah are exploring their sexual identity with new partners, for instance.

Some of the main characters also appeared in the prequel Aspatria, but Dagmar and the Men of the North appear for the first time in this novel. Aspatria was inspired more by an Anglo-Saxon universe whereas the Men of the North, who live in the Northlands, feel like a Nordic culture. When Dagmar and her fellow Men of the North sail off to raid Orkna one autumn morning this brings them into conflict with Gortah, who claims the island as part of his empire.

I also write horror.

I really enjoyed how well your characters are developed, as well as the historical feel of your setting.  There’s plenty of fantasy, but it also feels like it could be real history.  Do you research a lot of history/cultures to add to the context before you write?

I’m English, but we live very close to the border with Scotland. I did a lot of research for Aspatria to get the Anglo-Saxon feel right, and then the same for Dagmar of the Northlands, which is Nordic inspired. Orkna is based on the Orkneys, of course, which I’ve visited and researched, too. And Murkar has a Dutch feel to it in some ways. I do read a lot of period history before writing a fantasy novel, and it’s well worth the investment of time to do this to get the everyday details right.

What are you working on currently?

My next novel will be a horror one, the sequel to my first novel Souls for the Master. It’s called Blackacre Rising. It’s due out in September, so the text is finished of course, but I’m already moving on to my next project: writing the sequel to Dagmar of the Northlands. I haven’t settled on a title just yet, but it features new characters in a Russian-inspired culture alongside old friends like Gortah and Khan Nicholai of the Albins. I’m about halfway through the first draft.

Great!  Do you find that it’s easy for you to move from book to book and genre to genre, or do you like focusing on one at a time?

Any writer who works in more than one genre will tell you that it’s always a bit of a jump from one to the other. In longer fiction, I’m either writing a horror novel or a fantasy novel at any point in time and these can easily take over a year to finish up if not longer. However, I review both genres and write short fiction and articles in each constantly, so in some senses it feels like I’ve never been away because I’m constantly immersed in both.

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

I’m an incurable romantic, so my favourite scene ever is from Aspatria when Gortah, who is 48 and who has been a widower for ten years, takes his son Eugene to visit a new queen Dextra who has risen to the throne when every man in her family is killed in battle. She’s inexperienced as a ruler, but she’s already making her authority felt and he is unprepared for the potent mix of her beauty and her position, which is equal to his. She puts him right in his place, and good for her.

Gortah smiled down at Dextra. The young queen’s delicate beauty was working the same charm on the king as it did on every man she met.

Dextra was routinely described as the most beautiful woman in the world for good reason. She had blossomed from a gangly, awkward child into a lovely young woman and, in the last year, her beauty had become radiant and rich. Now, the sorrow of her grief at the loss of her menfolk gave it a fragile quality that made it even more potent.

A blush spread across Gortah’s round face, and his eyes widened. The most powerful man in the world could still be taught a lesson about female beauty when he was least expecting it.

As Dextra looked up at Gortah her expression hardened.

“I am your equal, sir, get down off your horse and greet me accordingly.”

A gasp of surprise went round the square at Dextra’s rudeness to the king. She’d entirely misunderstood Gortah’s manner of greeting her.

Gortah rolled his eyes. He kicked his leg over the pommel of his saddle and slid to the ground. He thumped down with a crash as his boots hit the stone flags. He took a single step forwards and dropped to his knees right in front of Dextra. He was grinning. She looked around surreptitiously.

Dextra dipped into a low curtsey. Her white dress billowed out in all directions. She bowed her head and kept her eyes fixed on the ground in front of Gortah. Their faces were only inches apart. His eyes flickered downwards and over her body. Her low-cut dress gave the king a full view of her charms. Her repentant demeanour added to the picture. His Majesty was floored by both elements.

Gortah clambered up. He was not an ungainly man, but he was heavy and muscular. The redness of his cheeks eased, and he adjusted his crown so that it was square on his silver head again. He held his hands out to Dextra once he was securely on his feet. A buzz of relief spread around the crowd. She looked up at him winningly. Then she placed her tiny white hands in his gigantic palms, and he closed his fingers around them.

I love the descriptions and language you use.  I noticed multiple times throughout your book that you make women and men equals – whether on the battlefield or in leadership roles.  Was this something that was important to you in this story?

As someone who is nonbinary, it’s important to me to portray those of both genders and none with the utmost respect. Anyone is capable of good leadership or bad, and the answer lies in character rather than in gender. I also embrace diversity of sexual orientation in my writing. Gortah is bisexual, and Dagmar is coming out as same-sex oriented.

I’ve just written my first trans character in the fantasy novel I’m drafting at the moment. These are exciting times in gender and orientation, and I hope my fiction reflects that.

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

I’d probably ask them, ‘Have you considered reviewing?’

I review for the British Fantasy Society, the Horror Tree and Schlock! Webzine. It’s made me grow as a writer because every week, one way or another when you include reviews on Goodreads and Litsy I have a review out about that often, I’m reading awesome novels in horror and fantasy (plus a bit of science fiction here and there) and analysing what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learnt so much about those genres by really getting down into the details of the books from themes to imagery, from plot to character. And it’s worth the effort because every so often I find myself feeling like I actually know what I’m talking about!

Haha.  As a reviewer/writer, I agree. It’s amazing how much you learn from critiquing others.  Have you found you catch yourself taking your own advice, so to speak, about your own writing?

Always, because one of the things that has really helped me grow as a writer has been to see what others are doing right. I’ve learnt a lot about the genres I write in from analysing them for articles and writing reviews of specific books. I’d recommend doing that to any emerging writer.

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

Q: Why is the farmhouse in your horror universe called Blackacre?

So glad you asked! Before I became a writer I was a solicitor. At college, land law was a compulsory part of the syllabus. When you need a fictional piece of land, which includes a house, to use as an example and to compare with neighbouring properties to deal with boundary disputes for example, you call the first property ‘Blackacre’ and the second ‘Whiteacre’ and so on through red, green etc to distinguish them. I think I was far too imaginative to make a good lawyer because I always found my thoughts drifting to what a morbid, evil place it sounded and how polished and cultured Whiteacre was by comparison. So my horror fiction features an aristocratic family at Whiteacre (who are all bonkers) and an uplands farming family, the Flints, at Blackacre, which is a pretty dangerous place to live.

That’s interesting! Do you include other real-life names or details in your stories? Kind of personal Easter eggs, even if other people don’t know about them?

I think those who know me well, especially family and friends of longstanding, will have no trouble identifying people and situations that have provided inspiration. The best way to make writing vivid is to draw from real life. Blackacre is located in Cumbria, but a lot of the farming families and communities portrayed in my horror fiction are based on our lives in rural Northumberland. I often use names that reflect the meaning of the place or person to lighten the horror mood, such as the village of Hellhole near the Flint family home or Brett Flint’s mother Narcissa and his father Patrus (the head of the family). Most of what I write is liminal horror, so lightening the mood a little is often a good idea.

Who inspires you to write?

It’s actually perfectly simple. In terms of writing reviews, which I’ve been doing for about two and a half years now, and articles, which I’ve just started expanding into, I seem to have an opinion on every subject under the sun, and I can’t resist sharing them with everyone I meet. Joking aside, I love sharing my thoughts on fantasy and horror, and I always seem to have something new to talk about.

It’s great to gather ideas from all over.  Do you make notes when you come across something interesting that gives you an idea for your own writing?  Or do you let ideas roll around in your head until something comes together?

I’m the world’s worst note-taker and I don’t even have a writer’s notebook – shocking admission, I know! I use a technique called lucid dreaming, whereby you spend really quite a lot of time thinking while awake about characters, plot, action, dialogue and background but without writing any of it down. I believe this style of approach makes my creative experience more robust because the subconscious has time to reflect on the contents of the lucid dream before you set pen to paper. It takes a lot of self-control not to try to note everything down while you’re doing this but to trust to being able to come back to it spontaneously later on. However, over the years I’ve learnt to let it seep into my brain and mature there before writing a novel or a story. It always comes back, either in that form or a better one later on.

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

Like many writers, perhaps especially those who are out and out romantics, I’m utterly absorbed with my own fictional creations and to me they feel absolutely real. I think you need that sort of obsession as a writer to be able to invent, from right out of nowhere, a whole cast of characters. In both horror and fantasy I write series, so some of my characters have been alongside of me for many hundreds of pages.

My daughter Midnight is in Sixth Form and she’s about to start applying for drama school. She has recently been preparing some videos reading selections of my work. She’s doing a wonderful job with them, and I’m so looking forward to sharing them with my readers when they’re ready. Naturally, when we talk about which actors would play the key roles it is firmly tongue in cheek on my part, but for her there is a real possibility that they’ll one day be her co-stars, and that’s incredibly exciting.

In a nutshell, Leonardo di Caprio as Gortah van Murkar, because he’s pretty much bang on the right age, has a wonderful physicality for the role and there’s no one better for a romantic leading man. Dextra is smart, funny, incredibly beautiful and a superb leader who inspires those around her. It would be hard to narrow down which actress I’d like to see play her – so many stars in Hollywood fit the bill right now. I’d love to see Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren play Queen Riley o’Eira, she’s so feisty and individual, so much her own person that it’s a joy to write about her and I’d love to see her made real on the big screen.

Wow, that is a cool project! Sounds like creativity runs in the family.  I can completely see any of those actresses as Queen Riley. She was one of my favorite characters, even if kind of minor.  Do you have favorites?

Gortah van Murkar, probably, and in that I’m not alone. Readers who get in touch to share their responses to my novels invariably mention him. I think they respond to his complexity and depth, comparing his sense of duty to his inner vulnerability. Riley’s always popular, in part because she has a very distinctive voice. I’m 49 and as I get older I feel like I’m becoming more like her. Right now, Gortah is the most personally relatable of all my characters for me, partly because he is drawn from within in many ways and partly because we’re almost the same age.

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

We’re quite a creative family one way or another so in truth the thing that keeps me going when I’m stuck, and that happens to any writer occasionally, is imagining the baleful expressions of sympathy on the face of my kids or my boyfriend when, at the end of a long day’s writing, they ask how much I’ve done and I have to admit it’s ‘not as much as I’d like’. Focus on that and suddenly it’s easier to just push on through to meet your quota.

Haha!  That is not an answer I’ve heard before, but that’s great.  Do you let them read what you’ve written to get feedback as you go, or wait until you’re “done” to show your work to anyone?

There’s nothing like peer pressure, is there?

My daughter’s interested in reading excerpts of my work for audio book and for social media such as You Tube. That’s one of our forthcoming projects. My boyfriend’s also a writer, and he’s professional enough to be my fiercest critic in private but really supportive in public. I have an amazing beta reading team, some of whom see the work partway through and some of whom see the ‘polished but not final’ draft. I mix it up, but they make an amazing difference to the finished product, and I try to repay the favour with my feedback on their writing. I also have a regular team of editors for short and long fiction, and I am constantly grateful for everything they do to improve the quality of my writing.

That’s a nice team in your corner! Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Almost always a character is based on real people I know or have known. It’s a good thing I’m a lawyer because I’m usually able to stay on the right side of the line and avoid being caught up in libel litigation but sometimes it’s a pretty near run thing. I also have a great poker face, so I can always face them down whenever a friend or relative asks if the character was based on them. The secret lies in making them feel they’re been unpardonably egotistical and presumptuous in imagining they inspired the character.

Sometimes you don’t know who a character is based on, but you know you’re drawing deep to create them and write about their quirks and foibles. Usually, you can convince yourself they’re really based on someone else and you don’t really know who it is, but just occasionally the last line of defence fails and you have to inwardly admit that, in this instance, you’re writing about yourself. And that’s scary.

I encounter that same realization when adding quirks to characters.  It’s so easy to draw off people you know well, and often you don’t totally do it consciously. Do you feel you learn more about yourself when you include elements of your own personality in your characters?    

Always. I couldn’t agree more. By drawing upon yourself for inspiration, you’re digging really deep. And by externalising traits or action into another character, you are bringing them to the surface and laying them bare. That’s not always comfortable, but it is productive creatively and in terms of growing as a person.

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

The first time I read a story by my boyfriend, Jim Graves, I thought ‘Damn, you’re better at this than I am!’ Not that I’d ever tell him, of course, that kind of thing can go to a man’s head.

Perfectly reasonable response.  Haha.  Would you ever collaborate in writing something together?

We recently started writing a story together and are partway through it. I’ve never written with anyone else before so it was a big step to try. It was more for fun than anything else. I think we were both reticent about how our writer’s styles would mesh to form a single authorial voice bearing in mind that our styles are very different. So far, it’s been interesting and actually very positive. Above all, it’s been fun. The creative process has been smoother than we anticipated, and I’ve really enjoyed working with another writer for a change. We might even get round to finishing the story and writing another.

Thanks, John, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND John C. Adams:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

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#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!

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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!

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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 James Quinn

11863451_1633298326926481_3931834120665565634_nToday I’d like to welcome James Quinn, thriller writer and author of A Game for Assassins and Sentinel Five

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

The Gorilla Grant books are old school Cold War espionage books but with a violent and gritty element to them.

Having read your first book, that’s a good sum-up.  What are you working on currently?

I’ve just finished book 2 in the series, Sentinel Five, which is set in Asia.  My next few months are going to be geared towards promoting that.  Then a break and next year I’ll begin book 3 in the series.  This is the one I am looking forward to the most….it’s my most personal book….but still with lots of action in it.

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

My favorite scene that I’ve written so far is actually one of the final scenes from Sentinel Five.  It’s a violent scene and then ends with some tender interaction between Gorilla Grant and a “female” character.  I won’t spoil it, read the book, but it’s an emotional scene from my point of view.

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

Don’t publish too early!!  Make sure you are happy with it first.  Then give it to a professional editor, they see things that you don’t.  That was the main problem with my first book, A Game for Assassins, I was too keen to get it out and I was just winging it.  It was only when I signed up with a publisher (Creativia) that the production values really started to kick in.

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

Honestly, I’m just glad that people take the time to buy and read them.  But if I was pushed I would have to say I would like readers to ask more about Gorilla’s background.  I mean…C’mon guys…I’ve dangled lots of little clues in both books….you have to search them out to be sure….but there is a whole back-story just waiting to be unpicked by an inquisitive mind.  Some people have asked and emailed me questions about him though to be fair 🙂

Interesting…  🙂  Who inspires you to write?

I have favorite writers certainly, John LeCarre, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, and they are always good motivation.  But really I am inspired by people around me, people who battle through against overwhelming odds and fight against any kind of injustice.

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

When I first wrote the books I always imagined a young Bob Hoskins as Gorilla Grant, that rough edged manner.  Then that changed, maybe Bob would have played an older Gorilla.  Now I’m torn between Tim Roth, a brilliant actor, and a lesser known UK actor from Liverpool, by the name of Stephen Graham.  Both are tough little men, very charismatic, working class heroes.  So they are the ones that I would pick….I’d even run their firearms training for the movie myself just to hang out with either of them  😉

Love Tim Roth.  And that’s a pretty good plan!  When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I tend to write in bursts…a week here, a week there…then nothing for a while.  I don’t try to force it.  I let it happen organically.  If nothing is coming to mind I will stop and go for long walks, or go and train, anything to distract me.  So far this has worked.  Then slowly…the ideas start to work themselves out.  It’s not perfect but it suits me.

That seems to be a common approach for many authors.  Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Oh absolutely, very much so.  Because of my job a lot of the technical scenes in the books are taken from my role as a security consultant/investigator.  So if you read a scene that has surveillance aspects, or operating in a covert role in a non-permissive environment, or anything related to firearms/unarmed combat work, then it’s a fair bet that I’ve done most of that.  Art imitating life I guess.

You certainly have a great history of experience to draw from when writing thrillers!  Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

There is a little known book by the Scottish writer, the late William McIlvanney, called The Big Man (it was also a movie with Liam Neeson).  Such a perfect book. It deals with tough issues.  It’s a great crime novel, but it’s also about family and community.  So, that one definitely.  It had such an impact on me when I read it, but as for being jealous….Elmore Leonard.  If I can write character dialogue even half as good as him by the end of my life I’ll die a happy man!

Thanks, James, for sharing!

a1xk6esneil-_ux250_WHERE TO FIND James Quinn:
Website:  www.JamesQuinn.webs.com
Goodreads:  James Quinn
Amazon Page:  James Quinn
Facebook:  James Quinn

#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

#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!

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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

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