Author in the Spotlight: David Annandale

It’s an honor to welcome David Annandale as my author in the spotlight this week. I’m indebted to him for his workshop on genre fiction, which introduced me to outlining and forever changed how I write.

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David Annandale writes fiction in a number of genres. He writes Warhammer 40,000 fiction for the Black Library, including the novel The Death of Antagonis and the novellas Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha, Stormseer, and Mephiston: Lord of Death. His next Black Library novel is Yarrick: Imperial Creed, coming in April. His horror novel, Gethsemane Hall, was published last year by Dundurn Press and (in the UK) by Snowbooks. For Turnstone Press, he has written a series of thrillers featuring rogue warrior Jen Blaylock (Crown Fire, Kornukopia, and The Valedictorians). His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies, including Dead But Dreaming, Tesseracts 7, and Wild Things Live There: The Best of Northern Frights.

David also writes non-fiction, contributing academic articles on movies, video games and other aspects of popular culture to such collections as  Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film: Essays on Belief, Spectacle, Ritual and ImageryHorror at the Drive-InThe Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto; and  Performance and Identity: The Music of Lady Gaga. He writes film reviews for The Phantom of the Movies’  VideoScope.

David holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Alberta, where he specialized in horror literature and film. He is a senior instructor at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches film, creative writing and literature.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

To tell stories, to explore ideas, to entertain, to horrify. Storytelling has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, to the point that I actually find this question difficult to answer. I can’t imagine not writing.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I was six. I was fascinated by a monster called Zaradak, who appeared in a French translation of an Adam Strange comic. I started writing a story about him. I didn’t get very far, but that was where it all began: banging things out on my father’s typewriter, and then my own little plastic one I was given for my birthday when I was about eight.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Because my teaching schedule varies from term to term, there isn’t a typical day. In a very general way, I try to write 1000 words a day during the University term, and 2000 words a day during the summer, though I’m trying to raise that level this year (so far so good). Sometimes I have several uninterrupted hours to work, but other times I have to do most of the writing at the end of the day.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Stephen King taught me a lot about how my great love (horror) works. Through him, I discovered Ramsey Campbell in my teens, and that was when I first became aware of style, that prose did more than convey information. So that was a major step in discovering my voice. Kathe Koja was a later influence in the same vein.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Probably the single biggest help was learning how to outline. My first four novels (three trunk novels and Crown Fire) were written without an outline. From Kornukopia on, I’ve done a full outline, and the difference has been like night and day. There is no loss of creative freedom, but the editing process is a fraction of what it was before. So, so, so important. I am indebted to Stephen R. George and Dave Clarke for introducing me to Syd Field’s work on screenwriting, which is eminently adaptable to novels.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Starting from a rough idea informed by research, I write point form notes until an actual plot takes shape.  I sort out my plot points, then construct an index card outline using Field’s method. This then becomes the basis of my chapter-by-chapter breakdown. Then I get to work, and I write  novels in a very linear fashion.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Don’t get discouraged. Getting rejected is no fun, and it will likely happen a lot. But keep at it, keep writing, and keep getting better. If I could go back to my frustrated younger self, I would tell him that down the road, he’ll be relieved those first few books didn’t get picked up. Also, as you might guess from the above, I am a very firm believer in outlines.

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Check out David’s latest release, Death of Antagonis, available from Black Library.

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The Black Dragons fall upon the world of Antagonis, summoned to combat the plague of undeath that has engulfed the planet. Allying themselves with Inquisitor Werner Lettinger and a force of Sisters of Battle, the Black Dragons endeavour to save the souls of the Imperial citizens who have succumbed to the contagion. But there is more than a mere infection at play – the dread forces of Chaos lie behind the outbreak, and the Black Dragons stand in the way of the Dark Gods’ victory…

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Buy it Now:

Kindlehttp://www.amazon.com/Death-Antagonis-Warhammer-40-000/dp/1849703191/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390791469&sr=1-1&keywords=death+of+antagonis

From publisher: http://www.blacklibrary.com/all-products/the-death-of-antagonis-ebook.html

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Connect with David:

Webpage: www.davidannandale.com

Twitter: @David_Annandale

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

Fan email address: David.Annandale[at]gmail[dot]com

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Author in the Spotlight: Billie Milholland

Today I welcome Billie Milholland as my guest author in the spotlight!

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Billie Milholland’s first published works were non-fiction, written for Harrowsmith Magazine, Western Producer and various weekly newspapers. Then, back in the day when they still published fiction, Western Producer published one of her short stories (literary fiction). Soon after that C.B.C. Radio produced a few more (literary fiction). Her first attempt at longer fiction – a time travel romance was published as a five part serial in a big city daily newspaper. Everything she’s published since falls under the wide umbrella of Speculative Fiction. Billie is a two-time Aurora Award winner, the first for “Women of the Apocalypse” (Absolute Xpress – 2009) then for “Bourbon and Eggnog” (part of the 10thCircle Project). Recently she has been featured in two anthologies: Small Seven’s Secret in Tyche Book’s “Ride the Moon” and Green Man, She Restless in EDGE Publication’s “Urban Green Man” . As one of the contributors to “The 10th Circle Project”, she wrote both short and long fiction, as well as fictional newspaper articles for the fictional newspapers in the fictional Cities of Hope & Glory. She is one of the Apocalyptic Four (currently Eileen Bell, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden) with a novella, Autumn Unbound in “The Puzzle Box” (EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing).

 

Her day job pays the bills, her writing keeps her out of serious mischief and when she finds time she makes mixed media art, gardens and takes photographs.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

I don’t know what I think about things until I move my thoughts around on the page, so partly my writing is a conversation with myself. That might have been satisfying enough, except for the curse of what-if mind. Chasing what-ifs often results in story. Then there’s my love of embellishment, which usually leads to a serious case of fiction. I confess, I’m an information junkie. Bottom line: weaving quirky bits of information into story is an addicting kind of fun!

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

Writing stories for the kids I babysat when I was an early teenager. Because they wanted to know what happened next, I kept writing. It didn’t occur to me until many years later that a person might actually get something published.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I’m an early riser. I like to write soon after waking up when my dream life has not quite faded and my mundane life is not yet in focus. Because I have a day job I don’t always get an early morning scribble. When I don’t, I try to take a long lunch in a restaurant and scratch away for a couple of hours in a back booth. As often as possible, I stop at a random coffee shop on the way home from work,  mainline caffeine and write for another hour. I edit at night when my brain has lost interest in creating new stuff, but is perfectly content to reshape old stuff.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Three writers influenced me early. Everything written by Pearl S. Buck was forbidden when I was a kid, because she wrote about heathen Chinese and concubines, so of course I read all her novels at least twice. She made an exotic culture as familiar to me as the small town Alberta culture into which I born. I wanted to be able to do that.  Then I discovered Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Also forbidden, because it was about adultery & Communists. Also devoured by me, reading by flashlight under the covers. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 opened my mind to story that had purpose beyond simple entertainment. It was possible to entertain while making a social and/or political statement.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Dog-on-a-bone persistence. Early in my writing life I took a workshop from W. O. Mitchell. He drove home the importance of sheer, stubborn doggedness. “Never give up!” He said it over and over like it was a commandment from on high. I believed him and that advice has saved me more times than I can count. I’ve learned that it is important to write every day, even if it’s drivel. It’s shocking how soon you get rusty if you don’t keep up the practice of writing. I take every writing workshop, seminar and instruction I can afford. I’ve discovered there’s always something new for me to learn about how to be a better writer. I don’t know what I don’t know. The only way to discover what I don’t know that I don’t know is to mill around and sweat at workshops with other writers.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I’ve always been a chaotic pantser. Now & then I gave in to panic and dedicated brief, desperate moments to outlining. More recently I’ve exerted serious, deliberate effort to try to learn how to outline. The results so far have been positive. My outlining method is still messy and unruly, but because, even at this rudimentary level, it has proven useful, I’ll keep at it.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

  • Grow a thick skin, because you must have feedback in order to perfect your craft. Don’t hand your work to somebody to read and then say, “Please be kind.” Real kindness for you would be a blunt, clear response to the words you’ve strung across the page. Expect your ego to take a beating. It needs it. Slap on a bandage and write more words.
  • Don’t believe feedback from your friends and family. They will either love or hate everything you write, on principle. Let them support you in other ways.
  • What you have to say is important, but your word combos are not precious, no matter how much you adore them. Be willing to toss out even your most glorious sentences and phrases for the sake of clarity,  for the sake of your story.
  • Keep your day job.
  • Read everything. Read poetry. Write poetry, at least once.
  • Read outside your comfort level.
  • Give yourself experiences outside your comfort level: solder something; make a soufflé; if you’re a jock, go to a ballet – or better yet, take an interpretive dance class; if you’re artsy-fartsy, watch boxing, go to a rodeo, milk a cow; crafty? – do math; stiffly analytical? – paint a picture.

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Check out Billie’s novella “Autumn Unbound”, the 2nd in The Puzzle Box, by the Apocalyptic Four (AKA Eileen Bell, Billie Milholland, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden), available from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

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What if Pandora wasn’t the one who opened the box, releasing pain and suffering into the world? What if she was framed? Autumn Unbound is a story about how that scenario might play out when old gods come down from Olympus and try to get their way in a contemporary setting.

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Buy it Now:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.ca/The-Puzzle-Box-Eileen-Bell-ebook/dp/B00FZE1GU4

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/books/the-puzzle-box-2/Agh8EOOoYUuB72qZc_KM1Q?MixID=Agh8EOOoYUuB72qZc_KM1Q&PageNumber=1

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Connect with Billie:

Webpage: www.billiemilholland.com

Twitter: @uvaursi

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/billie.milholland

Fan email address: bmilholland@shaw.ca

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Author in the Spotlight: Ryan McFadden

I’m pleased to welcome Ryan McFadden as my author in the spotlight guest today!

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Ryan T. McFadden is a two-time Aurora Award winner, the first for Women of the Apocalypse (Absolute Xpress – 2009) then for Bourbon and Eggnog (part of the 10th Circle Project). As well, he’s had numerous stories published in magazines and anthologies: Evolve 2- Tales of the Future Undead, Broken Time Blues, When the Villain Comes Home, Expiry Date (forthcoming), Blood & Water, Fight Night, Sinister Tales, and others.

He is one of the Apocalyptic Four (along with the current roster of Eileen Bell, Randy McCharles, and Billie Milholland), a collaboration that created The Puzzle Box (EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing).

He was one of the creators and editors of the 10th Circle Project, an award winning collaborative writing project based on the mysterious twin cities of Hope and Glory.

When he’s not writing, he is busy tearing down houses (and rebuilding them) with his home renovation company Revival Renovations.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Because. It’s my way of expressing myself obviously, but without writing, I start to go a bit squirrely. Writing is something that I feel I need to do—I’ve somehow tied my whole identity and ego into it. Writing is me. As life has become hectic, sometime I’m not as disciplined as I need to be, but I always come back – because I don’t have a choice.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

The earliest I remember was sometime around grade 2. I couldn’t really write yet, so I started making picture books with a few words thrown onto the pages here and there. These picture books were about my favourite topics: space battles. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember having lots of decapitations, amputations, and copious amounts of blood.

When I showed my mom, I still remember the look on her face – absolute horror. I was this quiet kid who somehow seemed to have an eye for violence. She said that all that violence was upsetting and that maybe I should write nice stories from now on. I mostly ignored that advice and instead only showed her the nice stories. The rest I kept between my mattress and box spring.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I’m not very focused. My usual writing day is checking email. Then checking bank accounts. Then surfing the web reading about the history of the baby seal hunt. The internet is my nemesis so I usually have to unplug. Completely. In the last couple of years, I’ve taken to hand writing all of my work. I like to go to a library and write—anywhere I won’t have interruptions but will still have that pleasant white noise.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

It was the fantasy writers that began my journey: Lloyd Alexander, then C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I wanted to follow in their footsteps—to create the worlds of the fantastic.

When I was in my teens, it was Robert McCammon – his stories always had a sense of wonder to them, perhaps a little more fantastic than Stephen King. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were hugely influential as they stretched the limits of what could be done in the horror field.

Robert J. Sawyer really pulled back the veil from the publishing world. There’s a reason so many people thank him at award ceremonies and dedicate books to him—he shares his wealth of knowledge of how to succeed.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

Writing has to be for the writer, first and foremost. If I’m not writing the story for me, then ultimately, the story will collapse. While you can keep an eye on the markets, write what is important to you.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I try to develop THE IDEA. That single nugget that makes someone go ‘huh’. From there, I start trying to develop a very loose plot. Then the characters because they’ll ultimately shape the plot. I like to extensively outline, even going so far as to write entire passages of dialogue. Most times, however, my outlines and the finished project are only distant cousins. Often when transforming an outline into a written work, flaws, logic gaps, and other inconsistencies become apparent. Each hiccough causes me to go back to the outline level.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Aside from all the ‘writers write’ stuff, I’d say that you have to start with short works. I still find short fiction difficult, but focusing on the shorter works will really help the novel. Robert J. Sawyer said to me: A lawyer doesn’t try murder cases directly from law school, so you can’t expect the novel to be your first sale. Focusing on the short fiction has helped all aspects of my craft—I can’t stress enough how important it was to my development.

Bonus second tip: quit waiting for the perfect time. Follow Nike: Just Do It! (Why, this could apply to everything in your life).

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The Puzzle Box, by Apocalyptic Four (AKA Eileen Bell, Billie Milholland, Randy McCharles and Ryan McFadden) is an urban fantasy novel published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

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Archeology Professor Albert Mallory understands reality. He knows the way the world works. When he steals an ancient puzzle box to pay off gambling debts, he thinks the only mysterious thing about the artifact is how to get it open. But when a stranger appears at Albert’s door demanding to see the box, Albert is plunged into mysteries he never dreamt possible. Through the tales of four others who succeeded in opening the puzzle box — a musician named Warlock with a weakness for witches; photographer Autumn Bailey, with a strange link to the past; video store clerk Angela Matterly with those unworldly eyes; and a comic book illustrator called Sam, on a quest for his life — Albert learns that reality is transient and the way the world works is not found in text books.

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Connect with Ryan:

Webpage: http://www.ryanmcfadden.com

Twitter: @ryantmcfadden

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ryan.mcfadden1

Fan email address: r@ryanmcfadden.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Kate Hilton

Say hello to Kate Hilton, my author in the spotlight guest today!

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Kate Hilton has worked in law, higher education, public relations, fundraising and publishing.  She has an English degree from McGill University and a law degree from the University of Toronto.  She holds down a day job, volunteers for community organizations, raises two boys, cooks, collects art, reads voraciously and likes her husband.  In her free time, she writes. On good days, she thinks she might have it all.  On bad days, she wants a nap.

The Hole in the Middle is Kate’s first book.  It was originally self-published, but was so popular with readers that it was acquired by HarperCollins Canada and re-released in print in November 2013.  Kate is represented by Beverley Slopen of the Beverley Slopen Literary Agency.

For more information about Kate, visit her website at www.katehilton.com.  You can also follow Kate on Twitter @katemhilton or on Facebook at Kate Hilton Author.

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I like the self-discovery inherent in writing.  Every time I sit down to work, I learn something new about myself.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I’ve had many writing experiences, first for school and later for work.  But my first experience of creative writing simply for the sake of self-expression was my first draft of The Hole in the Middle.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

I don’t write every day.  When I write, I’m extremely disciplined, and I work from a detailed outline.  These days, my writing life is less focused on production of new material, and much more focused on meeting readers and promoting The Hole in the Middle, which was released in November.  I’m looking forward to my visit to Winnipeg on January 28th – I’ll be at McNally Robinson at 7 pm.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

The writers that are closest to my own voice are Nora Ephron, Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding.  Every writer has a personal style, and it takes some trial and error to figure out what style comes most naturally to you.  As a comic writer, with one foot in the literary camp and the other in the commercial camp, I don’t have many models, but these three writers have managed to carve out a distinctive voice at the nexus of these various genres.

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

I’ve learned a huge amount about branding and finding an audience through the process of self-publishing my work.  I’ve worked hard to connect with potential readers through social media, and I’ve been diligent about creating a personal brand that is consistent with my writing style.  I’ve learned that writing a book is only part of being a writer; your success will depend not only on the quality of your prose but on your active participation in the business of finding an audience and selling your work.

#6: Describe your writing method:

Like running a marathon, writing requires two things above all others: time and motivation.  There is an inverse correlation between the two; the less time you have available for writing, the more motivated you are to use it productively.  I suspect that the opposite is also true, but I’ve never had more than a few hours a week to devote to writing, so I haven’t tested my theory.  My method is very simple: I have time set aside every week for writing, and during the allotted time, I sit down and write.  And I work from an outline, always.  

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Don’t worry about what is popular or what you think might sell.  Write about the things that interest you – you’ll be spending a lot of time on your manuscript, and if you aren’t enjoying the process, you’ll never finish.

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Check out The Hole in the Middle, a contemporary women’s fiction, now in bookstores!

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Sophie Whelan is the epitome of the modern superwoman. When she operates at peak performance, she can cajole balky employees, soothe her cranky children, troubleshoot career disasters, throw a dinner party for ten and draft an upbeat Christmas letter—all in the same day.

But as Sophie’s fortieth birthday looms, her seamless life reveals disturbing web-like fractures. Conflict with her boss, blossoming jealousy of her husband’s femme fatale business partner and her feelings of hopeless inadequacy as a mother and daughter are cracking the edifice of her life.

Rescue may be at hand when Lillian Parker, a wealthy widow who befriended Sophie during her university days, makes Sophie an irresistible offer. Why, then, does Sophie hesitate? The answer is the reappearance of Lillian’s nephew, Will Shannon, the great unresolved love of Sophie’s life. As she remembers the vivid drama of their college romance, Sophie confronts the choices she has made in life and in love and looks for the one answer that has always eluded her: what does she really want?

The Hole in the Middle is a heartbreaking love story, a laugh-out loud portrayal of the twin demands of work and family and a fresh take on the hot debate about having it all.

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Excerpt:

I show up at Sara’s house around eight, and book club is in full swing. I’ve come straight from the office, and my prescription is still in my purse. I’d say that I haven’t had time to fill it, but even I know that for once, lack of time isn’t the issue.

I ring the bell. Zoe answers and steps out onto the porch with me for a moment. “I was hoping it was you,” she says. “I’m not ready to tell anyone else about what’s going on with Richard, OK?” She gestures toward the house, where the rest of the book club is waiting.

“Of course,” I say. And in any event, I feel a little fuzzy on the details of Zoe’s marital crisis. Lunch feels as though it happened a week and not six hours ago.

“How are you feeling?” I ask.

She shrugs. “It helped to see you at lunch,” she says. “But I think this is one of those situations where it’s going to keep feeling worse until something big changes. I’m just not ready to think about what the something big is.” I give her a hug, and we go in. “Look everyone,” she calls. “It’s a special guest appearance by Sophie!” She drags me into the living room, where the rest of the book club bursts into enthusiastic applause.

“I haven’t read the book,” I say.

“Don’t be silly,” says Laura. “No one ever reads the book.”

“I do,” says Sara pointedly. “And it would be great if we could make a tiny effort to talk about it once in a while, even for five minutes. Hi, Soph.” She pauses. “What did you do to your arm?”

“I sprained my wrist,” I say. “It’s nothing.”

“What was the book again?” asks Laura.

Sara raises an eyebrow. “Are you really interested, or are you just trying to humor me?”

Laura laughs. “Was it good?”

“Not especially,” says Sara. “We can stop talking about it now. What’s Megan going on about?”

Like Sara, Megan is one of my old friends from the student newspaper, and I’ve caught her in mid-rant. Nora is leaning back slightly to avoid Megan’s violent gesticulations, which are, as usual, aimed at hapless, absent Bob: “And then he looks into the stroller and says, ‘I’m starting to get to the point where I remember that he’s around. Do you know what I mean?’ And I think, ‘What kind of fucking question is that? It’s kind of hard for me to forget that our baby is around when he’s hanging off my tit 24/7, but I guess you don’t have that problem, do you Bob?’ Honestly! I just looked at him and said ‘I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.’”

Megan takes a breath, looks around, and realizes that she is the main attraction. “Hi, Sophie,” she says. “Good to see you.”

I wave. “Still married?”

Megan snorts. “Barely,” she says, but she smiles a little before turning back to Nora to continue itemizing Bob’s shortcomings as a husband and father.

“What can I get you to drink?” asks Zoe. “Prosecco?” I nod, and she disappears into the kitchen. I sit down next to Sara.

“How have you been?” she asks.

“Bad day to ask,” I say. “I’d say I’ve been stressed to the point of hysteria, while at the same time struggling to find enough meaning in my work to justify my level of anxiety. I mean, shouldn’t you have to care about a job to get this worked up about it?”

“Of course not!” Zoe reappears with my glass and plops down on the sofa with us. “Do you remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working on an assembly line at a chocolate factory? No? You know the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts up to the penthouse for the first time, and they have a fight, and then they make up, and then they stay up late watching TV?”

“Oh, yeah,” says Sara. “Right before she gives him the blow job.”

“Exactly. That moment where you think, am I really supposed to be rooting for these two to get together in the end?”

“Totally.” Megan and Nora have finished with Bob and rejoin the group. “But they aren’t watching the chocolate factory episode,” Megan says. “They’re watching the wine-making one, where Lucy runs around in a giant barrel and throws grapes at everyone.”

Zoe rolls her eyes. “The point I’m making,” she says, with the deliberate enunciation of a woman who has had too much Prosecco, “is that the chocolate factory is a perfect example of a job that is both stressful and meaningless. The chocolate starts coming faster and faster and they can’t wrap it quickly enough, and by the end they are stuffing the chocolates down their shirts and in their mouths and looking completely panic-stricken, but to no real end.”

“And this relates to Sophie’s job how?” asks Laura.

Zoe waves her hand vaguely. “Email, voicemail, staff meetings – the whole tedious routine is a modern-day, white-collar version of the conveyor belt.”

“Well, that’s a pretty bleak assessment,” I say.

“Only if you plan to be stuck beside the conveyor belt for the rest of your life,” says Zoe. “But since you don’t actually work in a chocolate factory, you have a few options. And if you would admit that you are having a midlife crisis, you could start looking at ways to change it up.”

“I’m not having a midlife crisis,” I say.

Laura laughs. “Everyone’s having a midlife crisis, Sophie,” she says. “You might as well join the club.”

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Purchase The Hole in the Middle online:

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Connect with Kate:

Webpage: www.katehilton.com

Twitter: @katemhilton

Facebook: Kate Hilton Author

Fan email address: kate@katehilton.com

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Author in the Spotlight: Daniel Ionson

Today I’m pleased to welcome Daniel Ionson as my guest today. I have had the pleasure of connecting with Daniel and was immediately drawn to his medieval fantasy book, After Life, which I am presently enjoying!

daniel-ionsonDaniel was certainly meant for the “Otherworld,” whatever that may be.  At the age of seven he was pulled through the Wardrobe, and his heart has longed for a primeval paradise ever since.  He fell in love with Middle Earth at twelve, and his fate was sealed—he belonged there.

Medieval fantasy is his primary love, but he has other serious mistresses on the side: Philosophy, horror movies, Sci-Fi, etc.  He spent years delving for the secrets to the universe as he devoted himself to philosophy. He was a serious Christian until his mid-twenties, and was set to be a Christian Apologist (a philosopher who defends the Christian Faith with rational argumentation).  In the process of that learning, he de-converted himself.  (That was a lot of fun…)  But philosophy remains a serious interest (epistemology, metaphysics, ultimate ontology), and he has a couple of book projects in that field on his workbench.

He loves Monty Python and Rifftrax (formerly MST3K).

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SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

I can’t help it.  I’ve tried, but I just can’t stop.

I love the narratives in my head, and long to share them with the world.  Modernity sucks.  Truly, it sucks our souls dry, making us weak, blind and…undead.  I pine for the medieval fantasy worlds, where our sentience is strong.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

When I was twelve I began playing D&D (the “real” D&D by Gygax & Aronson).  Within a couple of years I was writing little stories and drawing maps that would rival John Howe!  Or not.  (If my parents had been rich they could have published my little masterpieces!)

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Well, before I write anything I have spent considerable time musing, charting and planning my tale.  That said, I devote as large a chunk of time as possible to my writing.  If I’ve organized my week correctly, nothing should be bugging me.

I write in my basement where I (intentionally) have no Internet connection.  I create an ambiance which helps my writing:  I often play music that thematically matches the scenes I’m composing, I sometimes light candles at night, and I usually smoke my pipe (channeling Tolkien, perhaps).

I take minibreaks: standing, walking around the woods by my house, doing a quick set of bench-presses, etc.  Writers have a tendency to forget that we’re physical beings.  Getting the blood pumping helps our brains.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

It’s a mix.  As far as my world’s ontology, I am most affected by Tolkien.  That will always be deep in my writing bones.  But I don’t try to write in the same fashion as he did; he was a master of languages with a profound comprehension of mythology and history.  (When authors try to copy his writing, it’s like toddlers with Crayons copying Rembrandt.)

My writing style is influenced by multiple favorites.  I’ll narrow it to 2 other authors: David Gemmell (for his brutal realism) and Bernard Cornwell (for his rich understanding of the Dark Ages).  While what I write is “Fantasy”, it is still realistic (see Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories).

#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?

That discipline and humility are at the core of any skill-development, and writing is a skill.  (I’ve always had stories in my head longing to leak out, but that didn’t mean I was de facto a good writer.  I think many starting writers are under the same delusion.)

Discipline: I put myself to work learning the craft of writing.  I read between 15-18 books on the subject, taking notes as I went, absorbing what I could from the experts.  I therefore learned the structure of successful writing.

Humility:  I worked to apply those lessons to my writing.  I became increasingly harsh and honest with myself, and asked my reader friends to do the same.  This process taught me to throw out what was objectively inferior in order to improve.  I force myself to be open to the criticism of good readers and editors.

#6: Describe your writing method:

A good method is extremely important to all writers, whether we know it or not.

The short version of my method:  I do considerable work before beginning Draft One.  I incorporate all I have learned regarding the power of musing, the efficacy of subconscious programming, story-sketching, story-structure, charting, rough-draft planning and full-blown planning.  I believe that an author is shooting himself in the foot by not planning all aspects of the novel before sitting down to write.

The full version of my method: I had recently posted on this very topic at: http://danielionson.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/%E2%96%BAmy-novel-writing-methodology-pre-drafting/ for pre-draft work and http://danielionson.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/%E2%96%BAthe-actual-writing/ .

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

  1. (See #5 above.)
  2. Also, that those who wish to be professional writers take a serious look at what good writing is, and ask themselves if it’s something they want to devote their lives to.  While it’s true that anyone can click a button on Amazon and be “published,” that isn’t an accomplishment.
  3. Becoming a good writer takes hard work, years of it.  And you may never “make it big.”  The publishing-house world is a capricious beast.  The mark of a real author is to ask: “If I never get mass-published–if only a few people read my books–will I still write?”  If your answer is ‘yes’ then you know you’re a writer.

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Check out Daniel’s book, After Life:

after-life-daniel-ionson

After Life mixes genres: Fantasy, Horror and Mystery.  It was inspired by a lifetime of walking alone in the woods by moonlight.  One night in particular, a few years ago, Daniel walked by a snow-filled field under the light of a cold moon.  “This,” he actually said aloud “is the Darkland!”  (Fortunately, only the deer heard him.)

***

Kaemen and his fellow warriors, the Wolfhounds, have been guarding their kingdom against encroaching raids for years, and the battles are escalating. The seasonal attacks, however, are nothing compared to the return of their lost seer, Mecas, whose pained visions herald panic for the land. Their ally, the powerful Aerelians, sail to assist them as they prepare for open war.

But the kingdom’s preparations seem to have been for naught when Kaemen and his comrades find themselves in a place far more harrowing than the battlefield, for they have crossed over into the realm of the Darkland.

***

Where you can get After Life:

~Kindle: http://tiny.cc/Afterlife1

~Nook: http://tiny.cc/Afterlife2

~All other formats & a long, free sample: http://tiny.cc/Afterlife3

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Connect with Daniel:

Webpage: http://danielionson.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/daniel.ionson

Fan email address: Daniel.ionson@gmail.com

***

A Marathon

A marathon is 26.2 miles. Yesterday’s writing marathon on Twitter was just as awesome as the excitement on race day. I was so happy to see the many writers who came and shared their energy, especially with 3 WIP drafts completed before 2014 came!

It kept me going, and I’m grateful for the company those first 13 hours. I spent most of my day in Starbucks drinking americanos, then went home for dinner and went right through until midnight. It was great to have company, to drop into twitter and join the writing buzz. 1am came, 2am came, then 3am, and New Years came to the West Coast. But I still wasn’t done.

I promised I’d sleep when my novel was done, since I was so close, so I pushed on. Morning came, and by 8am I was running a spell-check, all my rendering work complete. By 10am everything was ready in manuscript format, and by 11 it came together. But it didn’t stop there. I had to write a synopsis and a marketing proposal for my publisher as part of my submission, so away I went and…

26 and a bit hours later…the completed book was attached and submitted, after a writing marathon in every sense of the word.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014! All those writers who joined me, I wish you the best with your projects, and look forward to rounding everything up again next year.

(Pardon any typos…I’ll fix them in the morning)

🙂