Author in the Spotlight: Nancy LaRonda Johnson

It’s Thursday, and that means another Author in the Spotlight! My guest today is also my critique partner, so it’s a pleasure to highlight her work for you today.

Profilepic

Nancy LaRonda Johnson has written short stories, poetry and personal journals most of her life, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a law degree. A probation officer by day, she strives during her off-hours to write interesting characters who make it through trying times. Her first book, the literary Christian speculative novel Anticipation of the Penitent, about a serial killer and his mother, reached the finals in the San Francisco Writer’s Conference 2012 Indie Publishing Contest. Salted With Fire, a book of short stories and poetry, is her second publication. She is working on several projects, including a sequel to Anticipation of the Penitent.

Christian speculative fiction is horror, sci-fi or fantasy written from a Christian angle. Nancy also writes poetry when it hits her, and flash fiction  (very short stories, usually under 1000 words).

***

SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

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

I love writing about everyday people and controversial topics with a touch of horror. In doing that, I hope to get people to question their beliefs and consider how although others may seem different, they are very similar to ourselves.  In other words, I love to “stir the pot” with my writing. Usually people who love my writing, do so even though they are disturbed by the lives they’ve encountered and the jarring roads they have to travel in the stories.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

In elementary school, I remember writing a story about my dog, Chico, getting lost in a regional part and how he found his way home. It was a valiant effort at a first story, but I thought it was quite bad. Even so, my teacher called me “prolific.” She told me to look the word up, which I did but still didn’t understand what it meant. It still encouraged me.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

A good day is when, at every free moment, during slow times at work, once home after work, or on my days off, and in between every other responsibilities I have, I’m thinking about my characters, plots and subplots, am adding on to what I’ve already written or am editing it. But, unfortunately, there are days when the document doesn’t get opened.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

The most influential authors for me have been: Stephen King, for his always interesting characters; Octavia Butler, for her amazingly creative storylines; Gloria Naylor, for her real life, everyday strong characters; and the most influential book, the Bible, which has the most heart wrenching and uplifting stories, amazing poetic prose, and is true. Which reminds me that true stories, especially true crime books, have also influenced me greatly.

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

I’ve learned not waste money, which I have done too much last year. I’m learning that if I can’t see a matching return for the money, there’s no good reason to spend it and, in fact, is the worst entrepreneurship rule you could break. So, it helps to find free services whenever possible. Then go cheap. The place to spend the most, I’d say, is with editing.

#6: Describe your writing method:

When I’m starting on something new, even when I have an idea in mind, it really helps me to do free write or use a writing prompt to get me started. Some of my subplots were developed by this method and made my books much more complete and unpredictable.

What also helps me, especially if I’m not focusing or am feeling stuck, is to open up a blank word document and just start writing. Or, I just write at any point in the story that interests me that day. For me, it’s more blocking to write linearly. Much of my writing is mood or emotion based, or character driven, so writing a scene that grabs me that day really brings the best of my writing out.

Other than that, I just keep plugging away! Even if I don’t write as much as I’d like, it will eventually get where I want it to be.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

So many people say that writers write. Very helpful, (not!) even if it’s true. Generally, I’m not one to sit for hours and hours writing every day, mainly because I don’t have the time. But I will push myself to write something, even if it’s a paragraph or developing or filling in an outline. Wherever you’re at with your discipline as a writer, just keep trying to increase from there, without guilt.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to get beta readers. This process has helped me greatly in my current project. Graeme has read my WIP as it developed, which meant at the worst stage, with the worst writing and incomplete storyline! But his input has been invaluable. Two other beta readers gave me wonderful input after I made changes to my first draft, which has made it so much better. With each drastic change in the book based on input I got from the beta readers, I like to get one or two other readers’ inputs. It’s amazing how much your original idea for the book develops! Since writing is subjective, readers let you know if what you’re trying to say doesn’t come through or doesn’t even make sense, and you make the changes to write what you really meant. Afterward, you realize that the book has gotten exponentially better.

***

About Nancy’s Book Anticipation of the Pentinent:

Anticipation_of_the__Cover_for_Kindle

Trapped by the devil, Alezea bears Satan’s son and knows her life will never be her own. She is the mother of Thomas, a man reared by Satan to be a killer of life’s most innocent – little girls. Alezea lives detached from the horrors committed by her son and from her domination by the entity who uses her as he pleases. Until she meets Martha, who shows her a way out. Alezea will now risk her very soul to free Thomas from his father. The fight to save her son will either redeem Alezea or destroy her forever.

Rachel knows Thomas’ history, yet she believes her presence can transform him. Her belief in Thomas might send her fully into the devil’s realm or provide an opening for God’s miracles in both of their lives. In a scheme to continue his father’s line, Thomas may ruin his alliance with Rachel or rend himself from the dominion he was born to hold. The impulse to contrive his future takes Thomas to new heights in his lifework as a killer and pushes him toward maturity, while forcing him to encounter the astonishing truth of his heritage.

Anticipation of the Penitent depicts the battle between good and evil in one family until it is rendered to its destined completion. Only then will it be known whether Alezea succeeds in her struggle for a life free from Satan’s control.

Excerpt:

For the first time in twenty-seven years, Alezea looked at Thomas as a part of herself. He was human, not a pliant slave for the devil’s use and pleasure. A rivulet of shame started to stream its way into her heart for the actions she partook in with her son.

Her son. Tears manifested their way from within her soul and overflowed onto her cheeks. He was her son, not Satan’s. He lived in her world, not the underworld of the devil. Her formidable, strong, handsome son had the choice to not be the devil’s heir, just as she had the choice not to be the devil’s maiden.

It was late when Alezea finally completed her story to Martha. Alezea was amazed that Martha did not send her away forever or call the police to her home. Instead, Martha told her to go home. She told Alezea to not worry and that she would help.

Alezea reached out in the darkened room and touched her son gently on the arm, not with the initiation of demanded sexual perversion, but with the care and worry of a mother for her only child who was lost. That rivulet of shame slowly began to transform into a prospect of hope. Could her son, who had no guidance or teachings of goodness, be turned around?

This phenomenon of love for Thomas was in its infancy. But Thomas was a man in his twenties. Could he begin to see Alezea as his mother, to be respected and trusted? The immediate answer to herself was a blatant “No!” Rather or not she reached out to God previously, she knew that God was stronger than her shame, her doubts and the devil himself. She would fight for him. She would fight for her son.

She covered Thomas’ shoulders with his sheet and left his bedroom, closing the door quietly. Alezea stood, leaning gently against his door, still enjoying the emotional impasse welling inside her. For the first time ever, feeling something other than trapped, fear and shame, enabled Alezea to feel relief.

***

Buy Anticipation of the Penitent for Kindle:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Anticipation-Penitent-Nancy-LaRonda-Johnson-ebook/dp/B009ZQCEEA

***

Also by Nancy: Salted with Fire, a collection of flash fiction and poetry with a theme of spiritual growth

Salted_With_Fire_Cover_for_Kindle

Black magic, murder, insanity… humor, honor and devotion. Salted With Fire is a journey of flash fiction and poetry that shows my writing transformation from worldly to wanting to please God.

Flash fiction is my passion; poetry is my release. I love creating a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end, with twists, humor, drama, compassion and horror, all under 1000 words. Salted With Fire isn’t just a book of stories and poetry, it is my journey as a writer, from writing only for the mere joy of it regardless of the message, to writing stories that highlight God’s will for people, even if the stories themselves are not religious in nature.

Inside are fifteen flash fiction pieces and twelve poems with color pictures, and short Biblical discussions after each story.

Excerpt:

Heat

Smoothly, his hand moves
and glides across my arm,
leaving a trail of humidity in its wake.

Droplets of his heat rise on my skin,
and he takes my hand,
silken and shaken, into his.

Words aren’t spoken,
it’s time to listen.

The sound of “hush” comes from us both,
quieting the vibrations of our hearts that
diminish our ability to hear.

Our hands meld into one,
knowing this is how it should be.
Our arms draw closer,
our steps align,
and we arrive.

There is nothing left,
but to affirm the commands:
Honor. Love. Keep God with.
Only after, do we vow and alight
in our first kiss as one.

nancy-hand

***

Buy Salted with Fire:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/salted-with-fire-6

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Salted-Fire-Nancy-LaRonda-Johnson-ebook/dp/B00DFRU6L8

***

Connect with Nancy:

Webpage: http://www.nancylarondajohnson.com

Twitter: @NLaRondaJohnson

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

Fan email address: nlarondajohnson-author@yahoo.com

***

Author in the Spotlight: Susan Forest

A warm welcome to Susan Forest, my author in the spotlight guest this week!

***

Head shot-informal

Two-time Prix Aurora Award finalist and winner of The Galaxy Project, juried by Robert Silverberg, David Drake and Barry Malzberg, Susan Forest is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror, and a fiction editor for Edge Press. You can find her stories in Analog, Asimov’s, OnSpec, Blood and Water, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tesseracts, AE Science Fiction Review, and The Urban Green Man, or in her collection, Immunity to Strange Tales (Five Rivers Press). www.speculative-fiction.ca.

Besides writing, Susan paints (acrylics and oils) both speculative and western landscapes. She teaches creative writing for adults (the novel, speculative fiction, and some weekend courses) and goes into elementary schools as an artist-in-residence (writing).

***

SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Stories bubble up in me all the time. As a child, I had imaginary playmates, and I still love to play with my imaginary friends. Writing, for me, is being immersed in story–surrounded by bizarre, dangerous and exciting landscapes, interacting with surprising characters. When I was younger, I enjoyed acting in community theatre, and I directed plays as well. Writing for me is the best of theatre, because I get to be all the actors and the director at the same time.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

In grade two, I wrote, “Jimmy the Fish That Couldn’t Swim.” In grade six, my teacher suggested my contribution to the class talent show would be to write, and read, an original story: “The Eyes on the Wall” (my first horror piece). In grade seven, the last section of my school binder with all my subjects was my first (uncompleted) novel: “Jean-Paul Travels Twice.” I used to work on it in class, after I finished the assignments for homework.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

First, I get rid of my email commitments, then go to the gym. Too much sitting is not only bad for your health, but leads to all sorts of stress injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis; besides, I like to get the blood flowing through my brain, and I find one of the most productive places to think about my stories–and solve plot problems–is on the treadmill. The afternoon is spent writing until supper, and I do my hobbies (painting), volunteer work (I am secretary for SFWA, IFWA and When Words Collide) and prep for courses I teach, in the evenings. As well as go to book launches, of course! Reading and critiquing happens while I eat or at bedtime.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

My earliest influences were Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walter Farley, but I love so many genre authors: Ursula K LeGuin, Sherry Tepper, Robert J Sawyer, Barbara Hambly, Connie Willis, Lois McMaster Boujold, Lois Lowry, and Margaret Atwood, and non-genre authors such as Betsy Byars, Katherine Paterson and Natalie Babbitt. Burroughs was formative–Tarzan, his Martian stories and the centre of the earth stories: his worlds were so exotic. I got to hear LeGuin speak when she came to Calgary, and I’ll never forget her advice to writers about crowding (adding all the detail to make your story as complete as possible) and leaping (cutting until what is left is only your best). Tepper created the most bizarre worlds, and Sawyer has been a personal mentor. Hambly creates the most amazing turns of phrase, and Willis can kill you with laughter and tears. Boujold integrates threads. Lowry’s book “The Giver,” is the only book I closed at the end, and immediately re-opened to read again. Atwood is the master of the telling detail. Byars captures the pre-teen voice and Patterson gets to the heart of pre-teen angst. Babbitt makes you think.

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

There is no substitute for experience. Once, at a conference, I listened to a pro respond to a question from the audience by saying, “In that situation, I’d do this, then I’d do this, then I’d write the book.” Simple! But not necessarily simple for me because at that time I lacked experience. Over time, I have begun to develop those tools as a writer: you can learn and study, and people can pass on their tips, but it takes time and lots and lots of reading and writing and reflection–in other words, experience–for those skills to become so integral to your being that you use them as an artist, rather than as a craftsperson.

#6: Describe your writing method:

The opening of a new story or novel is slow for me, because I have to go back and forth between writing (pantsing), planning and research. I need to be sure the characters and setting are very clear in my head, and I take the time to go slowly, revising as I write until I get the exact words I want, to make the world, the characters and the situation very real. The draft tends to pick up speed as I write, and as the plot twists itself into knots I focus on the target: the idea I am trying to express as the sum of the story. Like a game of chess, from the opening gambit, the entire goal is the opponent’s king, and one cannot get distracted by juicy bishops or rooks along the way. I am constantly reminding myself to keep the main plot elements simple, because complications love to multiply. The end usually goes very quickly. Then the real work begins: shaping through revision. I love revision, because I can see how the story improves.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

Read. Write. Heard that before? It’s true: I never sold to Asimov’s or Analog until I read Asimov’s and Analog. There is no substitute for experience: write! Analyze and listen to the feedback you get from other writers whom you admire. Read the best your genre has to offer (the award winners, the top sellers) and read outside your genre. Read Donald Maass and Robert McKee.

***

Check out Susan’s book, Immunity to Strange Tales, available from Five Rivers Press.

12 immunity Strange Tales

***

A collection of 12 short stories by one of Canada’s rising stars of speculative fiction. Forest takes you from death-bed wishes to the eerie regions of madness employing subtle skill and fresh prose. Nine of the stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, On Spec, Analog, Tesseracts Ten, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts 14 and AE Science Fiction Review. Three of the stories make their debut in this collection, with an introduction by one of Canada’s respected editors and experts, Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

***

Excerpt:

We made movies in those days. Lasha did everything. She woke at dawn, made lists and organized, calling people, always calling people. We lived upstairs, she and I, intimate as lovers, celibate as eunuchs, in the warehouse where the filming was done, where the fantasies played out. I did nothing but what Lasha told me to do, which was everything. I went for coffee. Answered emails. Painted sets, hung lights, sewed costumes, picked up.

Mostly, I dressed Lasha. I made her clothes. I styled her hair. Lasha had wonderful hair, then, long and kinky and willfully wild. I lived to touch it, to smell it, to adorn it. I was the only one to work with her hair. She didn’t want the natural look. No, the red was a dye, a lie, different with every mood. “Put more orange in it,” she’d say. “Streaks along the top.” Then she’d lay all the way back in the barber’s chair and give herself up completely to me. “More burgundy. More red.”

Then she would be gone.

Doing things, being with people. Because people were what Lasha was all about. Actors, designers, musicians. Long-haired technicians in ripped jeans with wrenches in their pockets climbing ladders to tighten the nuts on big tin-can lights. Makeup artists smoking Camels in back rooms, swathed in chenille and rehearsal socks. Government arts funders with pale fingers and obscure forms, rigid with ass-tight loopholes. And executive producers who didn’t really matter, because Lasha was in charge. She fought for every scrap of film that ever came out under her name. A bullet-proof vest might have helped her to bear the world.

We existed in perpetual deep night, and brilliant day. Lights seared the stage so it became a desert, barren and dry. They broiled the actors, who walked through Sandbox and Godot and No Exit. But in the cool dark, behind the sandbags and dollies, behind the folding chairs and empty beer cans, there was a richness, of furtive movement and silent cues, the smell of greasepaint and spirit gum. Costumes fluttered on racks, cigarettes glowed in ballet hands. Paper cups emoted on overturned oilcan coffee tables, and ropy wires slithered across the floor or hung like vines from impossibly high catwalks.

Lasha’s life was a spotlight. Intense. Hot. Forever struggling to spill beyond the black box eclipsing her. But, as her movies leaked into the world, cracks appeared in our warehouse, admitting strangers and fear. We saw how they knocked at the doors, and we huddled inside, in curiosity and despair, she and I.

When the work was done, and it was never done, the play began, which never stopped. The actors came off stage and into the fantasy to smoke and strip out of costume and gossip. The lights dimmed then, and candles appeared, and the bottles and joints, and the Ouija and tarot. Hands, gracefully dancing in smoky glow, gestured, illustrated, slowed. Tongues loosened and names dropped, and grand ambitions flowed. They’d trade their souls for a chance at Hollywood. And it was Lasha who summoned the séance.

Other things happened, too; secretive things, in dark corners. Love-making in broom closets or overstuffed couches or deserted kitchen tables on top of the silverware and grapes, beating the table, moaning, crying.

I watched her.

From the space between the counter and the window, beneath the hanging pots, bypassed by moonlight and candlelight, I watched her jerk to the rhythm of a faceless stunt man. She watched back, eyes on mine, fever bright. Lightning current pulsed in the space between us, sharpening, demanding, insisting, until we quivered and throbbed and burst.

Read more of Immunity to Strange Tales:

Kobohttp://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Immunity-to-Strange-Tales/book-I1Z3p4s750Wh6HJ3dig4TA/page1.html?s=rr5LsyF3OkaCQP5L-8Ayrw&r=1

Kindle: Amazon.com, both print and digital: http://www.amazon.com/Immunity-Strange-Tales-Susan-Forest/dp/1927400147/ref=sr_1_23?ie=UTF8&qid=1366825125&sr=8-23&keywords=five+rivers+chapmanry

Barnes & Noble, print and digital: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/immunity-to-strange-tales-susan-forest/1110920009?ean=9781927400142

Five Rivers catalogue: http://www.fiveriverspublishing.com/p/fiction-adult.html

Google Play, digital: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Susan_Forest_Immunity_to_Strange_Tales?id=w1upEh6r7UcC&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImJvb2stdzF1cEVoNnI3VWNDIl0.

Indigo: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Immunity-To-Strange-Tales-Susan-Forest/9781927400142-item.html?ikwid=immunity+to+strange+tales&ikwsec=Home

Smashwords, digital: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/207720

Waterstones UK, print: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/susan+forest/immunity+to+strange+tales/9246966/

***

Connect with Susan:

Webpage: speculative-fiction.ca

Twitter: @susanjforest

Facebook: Susan Forest

Fan email address: go to speculative-fiction.ca

***

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.

***

David Annandale_1_1

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.

***

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.

***

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

Death-of-Antagonis (1)

***

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…

***

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

***

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

***

Author in the Spotlight: Billie Milholland

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

***

Billie photo

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.

***

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.

***

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.

Puzzlebox-272px-100dpi-C8

***

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.

***

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

***

Connect with Billie:

Webpage: www.billiemilholland.com

Twitter: @uvaursi

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

Fan email address: bmilholland@shaw.ca

***

Author in the Spotlight: Clare C. Marshall

Welcome to Clare C. Marshall, who is my guest today!

smallclareClare C. Marshall grew up in rural Nova Scotia with very little television and dial up internet, and yet, she turned out okay. She has a combined honours degree in journalism and psychology from the University of King’s College, and is a graduate from Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. She is a full-time freelance editor, book designer, and web manager. She enjoys publishing young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels through her publishing imprint, Faery Ink Press. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing the fiddle and making silly noises at cats.

***

SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Why do you breathe? If I did not create, I would have nothing. I would leave nothing behind.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience?

I don’t remember any earliest writing experiences because I’ve always been a writer. I was always writing stories, stapling pieces of paper together with coloured paper kid-illustrated covers. From an early age in school teachers would always encourage me to write, but to a fault: my stories often got out of control and I was always given extensions to hand in final copies.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Well, my writing time depends a lot on my client work. My client work comes first. So generally in my everyday life, I will do my client work, and then do my own writing/publishing pursuits.  Sometimes my writing time  is preceded by making large quantities of coffee or drinking energy drinks, but usually only if it’s a weekend. A lot of my writing gets done in the late of night, or if I’m not very busy, early in the morning when I get up.

So while I don’t have very structured times to do my writing, when I do plan a writing session, I make sure it gets done, because planning to do some writing is half the battle.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

A number of authors growing up influenced me, but here are a few.

Maggie Stiefvater: writing for teens doesn’t have to be juvenile, it can be poetic;

George R. R. Martin: his obsessive world building really influenced me while I was writing The Violet Fox.

K.A. Applegate: Loved her Animorphs and Remnants series. Just because something is for teens doesn’t mean it can’t be heavy and epic while maintaining its charming humor.

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

Time management, mostly, since I not only publish my own books but I am a freelance editor, book designer, and web manager. Learning how to format books and create/manage websites has also helped me considerably, as I would otherwise have to outsource these things.

Also: the art of sitting down and forcing myself to get stuff done!

#6: Describe your writing method:

I tend to write the middle first, and then the end, and then the beginning. Or a little bit of each. Then, I stitch the narrative together. Then I have to re-read the draft several times to make sure there are no plot holes or other plot mistakes!

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

-Don’t wait for permission to do what you want to do.

  • -Stop making excuses or waiting for the “right mood.” If people in any other profession waited for the right mood to get something done, nothing would get done.

-Once you get going on a project, it will get easier to finish it.

***

Check out Clare’s Latest book:

starsinhereyes_01

Burn hot and cold.

Read minds.

Disappear at will.

Dream your own death.

Welcome to Sparkstone University, where some students are more gifted than others.

When Ingrid learns she’s been accepted at the hyper-secretive Sparkstone University, she is sceptical. It’s an honour to attend, apparently, and yet barely anyone has ever heard of the place.

And everyone seems a little too happy that she’s there: especially when she meets Sunni and her group of friends. They seem to already know Ingrid. As if she was expected. Expected to save Earth from an imminent alien invasion. Like she has superpowers or something.

As if magic and mutations exist. As if aliens are really planning to attack.

That just sounds ridiculous. There’s no such thing.

…right?

Wrong.

***

Buy Here:

***

Connect with Clare:

Webpage: http://faeryinkpress.com

Twitter: @ClareMarshall13

Facebook:  http://facebook.com/faeryinkpress

Fan email address: clare@faeryinkpress.com

***

Author in the Spotlight: Samantha Beiko

Today I’m pleased to welcome Samantha Beiko as my guest!

Profile1Samantha Beiko has worked in the Canadian publishing industry for the past three years in various capacities, first in marketing and publicity, now in editorial and layout design. She has had the opportunity to acquire and edit some remarkable books, and along with Sandra Kasturi, Samantha edited Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing for ChiZine Publications. Samantha is also an emerging author, and her first book, a YA fantasy novel called The Lake and the Library, has recently come out with ECW Press. She currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is working to broaden the speculative fiction community there through her writing and publishing work. Samantha also has a few independent projects, namely a blog for a speculative fiction bookstore she would like to one day open called Valkyrie Books (http://valkyriebooks.tumblr.com). She also co-chairs the Winnipeg ChiSeries, a quarterly genre reading series, with Winnipeg urban fantasy author Chadwick Ginther.

Other artistic ventures include drawing, painting, and sculpting, and any kind of craft she can get into. By day Samantha works full-time as the Marketing Coordinator for the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts (in addition to working for ChiZine Publications via telecommute). She takes vocal lessons at the MCMA, and is currently singing a mix of opera and folk song. She loves vintage everything (preferably the 1930s-mid 60s), having just started a collection of animal bones.

***

SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

Well, that’s a new question! I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me why, and come to think of it I’ve never asked myself. It has nothing to do with wanting fame or glamour, because that kind of thing isn’t the reward you aim for, and there isn’t any clear formula to getting there. I just like telling stories, I suppose. And any creative person will tell you that there’s a magic in being able to bring to life something that only exists between you and a fleeting daydream. But the best part is being able to share it with someone else, and have them engage with it—inviting someone else in, turning a solitary experience into a shared one. That’s what I really enjoy. Lots of things have changed for me in my life and career, but the joy of creating and sharing has always been constant.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience:

My brother was big into fantasy RPGs and reading epic fantasy. He was 4 years older than me, and wrote a lot of creative fiction based on video games for his classes, and being a younger sibling, I wanted to do EVERYTHING HE DID. So I decided I would be a writer too, but that my breakthrough piece would be an original scary story a la Are You Afraid of the Dark or Goosebumps (we ordered all those books via our Scholastic Book Orders like addicts.) This first-ever story was done on loose leaf in 2B pencil and was titled “The Black Plague.” Being a seven year old with no concept of the world, I thought the Black Plague was some kind of monster creature–pale, hairless, and wandering around my neighbourhood on Halloween night trying to eat people. It could only be stopped by a courageous girl and her older brother (obviously). When my brother told me the black plague was actually a disease and not a monster, I was crushed. I think I have the original copy somewhere! I even wrote it by candlelight in my kitchen because ‘that’s what authors did.’

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

It’s definitely difficult to get a lot of work done when you have a full time job, and when you’re working on publishing other people’s books at the same time . . . and also trying to stay in shape or see your loved ones every now and again, or, you know, sleep. But you’ve got to make the time, otherwise the book just won’t happen. My typical day is to spend all my waking hours at work thinking about writing, plotting things in a Hilroy scribbler on my lunch breaks, coming home, continuing publishing work, and finding myself staring down midnight. I try to get in at least 500 words minimum a day though, even when there’s no time for it. I’ve got friends who pump out 3000 words or more a day, which makes me feel very inefficient, but even if I haven’t written a word, I try to plot and plan, which does provide a bit of relief when the writing comes. Sticking to a schedule has always been a challenge for me, but luckily I have a ton of writer friends who are very encouraging and inspire me to just Get It Done. And it’s NaNo month, so everyone needs a solid push—even those of us who’ve already been published! I wish every day was the same, or that I could just stay at home and pump out two books a year, but the reality is that you have to squeeze in the craft in those rare pockets of time . . . and avoid the internet while you’ve got them.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Too many to name! Big ones like Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, Tolkien, and the less known like Nancy Springer, Caitlin Sweet, Mary Stewart . . . these authors drive home to me some basic values about writing: belief and conviction in the worlds that you create and the characters inhabiting them is a vital part to writing the best story you can. They also taught me that I should never feel limited in what I can write, because there are no hard and fast rules. It’s never ‘can I write this’ or ‘should I write this’, it’s more ‘what’s stopping me?’ Usually it’s ourselves who inhibit our own writing, so constantly finding new authors that are intent on pushing the envelope keeps me wanting to challenge myself more and more.

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

I work in the book publishing industry, which opened my eyes to a lot of things while I was in the midst of signing my contract. I realized very quickly that what I was learning in my program, as far as marketing and publicity went, I would have to do myself, as an author. Being knowledgeable about what’s behind the ‘curtain’ certainly helped, and kept me level in terms of what I could expect from being published.

Writing the book is the easy part. It’s getting it out there and into people’s hands, and connecting with the people who have read it, that takes a lot of work. There’s only so much your publisher can do for you, in terms of publicity and promoting. They have other books to worry about, and can’t put all their eggs in your basket. So there is quite a bit more leg work that is expected on the author’s end: keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, a blog; going out and doing readings and querying your local library or bookstore if they’ll host you, pitching yourself to conventions as a panelist, etc. Whatever ‘success’ I’ve had with my first book has come from making myself present in my community—as a writer, publishing professional, and reader—and being willing to put the time into going to conventions, speaking on panels, or hosting workshops accounts for a lot. Know that from the get-go, be willing to put yourself out there, and keep learning from everyone you meet and everywhere you go. The promoting bit can be like another full-time job, but it’s necessary if you’re going to stand out at all.

#6: Describe your writing method:

I like to plot a rough map of each chapter with snippets of action, dialogue, and most of all intent, before I commit anything to the actual manuscript. I usually write these by hand, because it trains me to only write the bare necessities (because hand cramps suck). I used to plot on a computer, but found I was just getting long-winded and writing more plot than actual story. After I’ve got a rough idea of where the chapter is going, I’ll sit down and throw myself into it. If I know I’m going to call it quits soon, I try to write until I’m in the middle of a chapter or a scene, so that when I come back to it, the mood and tone will already be set, and I can just get right back into it. I always find it difficult to get back into the writing if I’ve just finished a chapter and I’ve got to jump right into a new one without anything set.

I also write linearly (meaning I write from beginning to end). I’ve tried the ‘write whatever scene you feel like’ method and it didn’t really work out for me. I’m a simple point A to B gal. Going all over the map drives me insane. I write until I’ve got a good rough draft, then I’ll go through it with Track Changes on, leaving myself notes all over the MS so that I can track consistency, especially if elements of the plot change throughout. I do this two or three times until I feel that I’ve got a ‘solid’ draft, then I send it off to some readers. After that I’ll polish it up again, and try to find the book a home.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

  1. Never Stop Writing. Write every day if you can, prose or plot. And if you can’t write every day, stare into space for a while. Dream up your story. Keep it on a short leash and close to you; don’t let it fade, especially if you believe strongly in it.
  2. Read. Read a lot. Read everything. This is your best Writers School, by far. Read books that are great. Read books that are not so great. Learn something from every single one of them. Apply it to your work.
  3. Writing is a solitary job. You hole yourself up for months, lost in your head, and then you send that story out into the world. Realize now that if you want to be a ‘successful’ author, the book is the easy part. It’s engaging with your audience, local writers, and your community that will get you to ‘success’. Be willing to do readings at your local bookstores and libraries. Attend writers festivals, book fairs, conventions. Meet writers in your neighbourhood and in your genre at large, stay on top of your market, and remember that while writing is All About Being Alone, engaging people with your book is Super Social. So learn how to use Facebook and Twitter. For real.
  4. Don’t give up on yourself. You can do it! And if you don’t know how to do it, or you need motivation, never be afraid to seek it out.

***

About Samantha’s book:

The Lake & the Library is a young adult paranormal fantasy published by ECW Press (Toronto) in May, 2013.

***

16115365

Wishing for something more than her adventureless life, 16-year-old Ash eagerly awaits the move she and her mother are taking from their dull, drab life in the prairie town of Treade. But as Ash counts the days, she finds her way into a mysterious, condemned building on the outskirts of town—one that has haunted her entire childhood with secrets and questions. What she finds inside is an untouched library, inhabited by an enchanting mute named Li. Brightened by Li’s charm and his indulgence in her dreams, Ash becomes locked in a world of dusty books and dying memories, with Li becoming the attachment to Treade she never wanted. Soon, Ash must choose between the road ahead or the dream she’s living, before what she wants most consumes her. This haunting and romantic debut novel explores the blurry boundary between the real and imagined with a narrative that illustrates the power and potency of literacy.

***

Buy Links:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/lake-and-the-library-the

Kindle: http://www.amazon.ca/Lake-Library-S-M-Beiko-ebook/dp/B00BAH7X98/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1383777743&sr=8-2&keywords=the+lake+and+the+library

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lake-and-the-library-s-m-beiko/1113730501?ean=9781770903852

***

Connect with Samantha:

Webpage: http://www.smbeiko.com

Twitter: @SMBeiko

Contact form: http://www.smbeiko.com/#!contact/c16fm

***

Author in the Spotlight: Karen Dudley

Today I welcome Karen Dudley as my author in the spotlight!

author photo 2012Karen Dudley wrote a short stack of wildlife biology books and four Robyn Devara environmental mystery novels before she had an epiphany . . . she wanted to write fantasy. So she did. Her first fantasy novel, Food for the Gods, takes place in ancient Greece, and has been nominated for an Aurora Awards, a Bony Blithe award (The Bloody Words Light Mystery Award), the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher, and a High Plains Book Award in the Culinary Division. Karen lives in Winnipeg with her husband, daughter, and the requisite authorial cats. Kraken Bake, the sequel to Food for the Gods, will be released in Spring, 2014.

***

SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:

#1: Why do you write?

I write because … the voices! The voices! Why won’t they stop?? Seriously, I write because I’m compelled to, because sometimes I am pregnant with story.

#2: What was your earliest writing experience:

A really bad poem. I never write poetry now; that’s how bad it was. The next thing I tried was a short story. I struggled with that miserable thing for weeks until my husband said to me, “Why are you writing short stories? You never read them.” It was a bit of an epiphany for me, really. And that’s when I started writing novels.

#3: Describe a day in your writing life:

Get up, make tea, feed the cats, check email, dick around on Facebook, realize how late it is, write feverishly until I have to pick up my daughter from school. Sometimes there’s a nap too. And snacks.

#4: What authors influenced you and how?

Anne McCaffrey, Sharon Shinn, Jennifer Roberson. They influenced me mostly by being so very, very good, but also because they never seemed to write FAST enough for me. It seemed I was always waiting for their next story, and I might as well tell my own while I was waiting.

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

NOT to dick around on Facebook! Apart from that, there are two books that I found particularly helpful. The first is Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: How to Write Fiction. The other is Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.

#6: Describe your writing method:

In short, I take Lawrence Block’s advice and apply bum to chair and fingers to keyboard. Apart from that, I tend to be both a plotter AND a pantser. I never write out my entire plot in a giant synopsis, instead I have a general idea of what I want to do with the story and then I plot out a few chapters at a time, writing by the seat of my pants and giving myself the freedom to go madly off in all directions.

#7: Tips for aspiring writers:

I can’t do better than to quote what Neil Gaiman once said, which was “Read more. Write more.”

***

FFTG front coverNow Available:

Food for the Gods is a historical fantasy, released by Ravenstone in 2012. Having been chopped up and served to the gods for tea, Pelops, Prince of Lydia, is kindly remade by the Olympian dinner guests and gifted with a talent for the culinary arts. But after heading for the bright lamps of Athens, Pelops discovers that life is not exactly golden for a celebrity chef in the golden age of Greece. Ruthless patrons and jealous rivals are bad enough, but when a couple of the less responsible gods offer to help him make a name for himself, Pelops begins to realize that when the gods decide they owe you a favour, you’d better start saying your prayers.

***

“Karen Dudley takes Greek mythology and gives it a wild spin. This giddy mashup of fantasy, mystery, comedy, cookbooks, and self-help column is bawdy, inventive, and just plain fun.” – Sharon Shinn, author of the Samaria series

***

More about Karen:

Webpage:  www.karendudley.com