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Archive for February, 2019

heidi Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Heidi Hanley. Heidi Hanley says, “There are worse things than living in a world of kings, queens, warriors, bards, and all manner of magical beings. After a life spent burying myself in the imagination of others and lamenting my inability to create such a story myself, I was challenged by my husband and a friend to bust down the barriers to my own creativity and just do it! I did, and The Kingdom of Uisneach Series is the result.

“I have been blessed by careers as a Registered Nurse, an interfaith minister and a hospice chaplain, but ever-flowing beneath the surface was my passion for books and writing. Whether I was writing care plans, weddings or journaling my own personal odyssey, I crafted words in ways that others found… interesting.

The Kingdom of Uisneach Series taps into the core of my Irish heritage, evoking the spirit of ancient myth and legend. I hope you enjoy this story and would love to hear from you.”

Heidi Hanley’s book, The Prophecy, is a novel fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—For centuries, fairy tales have entertained, comforted and inspired us. They have offered opportunities for adventure and provided hope for a ‘happily ever after’ life. But real life isn’t always as simple as fairy tales would have us believe. Sometimes the Prince doesn’t wake the sleeping princess, or if he does, they discover that they are a poor match. Sometimes the ‘Great Adventure’ requires a great deal of sacrifice and nearly kills the hero along the way. Sometimes a happy ending is a fairy tale.

Briana Brennan, aka Mouse, has a recurring dream that starts her biological clock ticking. So is the clock of destiny, started by a visit from a forest crone at the hour of her birth. While Briana is worrying that she won’t find the man of her dreams, a kingdom is worried that they’ll never see their Savior and the kingdom will be lost. But destiny has a surprise for them both. Following a sound in the woods, Briana finds herself traveling through a tree into the Kingdom of Uisneach. She is met by gnomes who have been waiting for her to come as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. She is destined to save King Brath from a cursed exile and take the kingdom back from the evil Lord Shamwa and Druid Artanin. With only a magic map to guide her, she begins a journey that requires her to make decisions at every crossroads. The choices she must make at these crossroads pale in comparison to the life choices she will have to make as she meets and travels with her companions, strong and stalwart, Lord Marshall Sigel, the handsome young bard, Silas of Cedarmara and a wolfhound called Dara. Overseeing the journey and mentoring her are a shapeshifting crow and a forest crone. Together they must learn how to use the black medallions each one wears to unlock the curse and release the king.

Magical maps, powerful swords, dryads, fairies, evil druids, good friends, and an Abbess, all contribute something to the journey and to her growth as a woman, a warrior and a queen. She learns the challenging lessons of love, patience, sacrifice, loyalty and commitment. The journey across Uisneach is a great adventure, but one in which she must endure heartache and physical pain, but hopefully in the end, find love and her happily ever after.

heidi book Where did the idea come from for your book, The Prophecy?

The Prophecy: Book One of the Kingdom of Uisneach Series, is my first novel. It is the product of a perfect storm of me being at a place in my life where I was either going to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing and publishing a book, or die with the regret that I didn’t; feeling like magical, swashbuckling books were getting hard to find (not true, I have since discovered); and having the niggling thought in my mind that it would be cool to write an adult fairy tale. Having Irish ancestry, I am also drawn to Irish myth and folklore so creating a world based on that was exciting to me. Someone once said if you’re going to write a book, you should write what you want to read. The Prophecy is a book I want to read.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Asking me my favorite anything is a challenge in and of itself. I have many favorites of everything. Every character in The Prophecy is my favorite for a different reason. But you would like me to pick one, so I will say Briana. Huh? That is not who I thought I was going to choose. Readers have so far either loved Briana or have rolled their eyes and picked her apart. That’s not a bad thing. It means she has made an impression and that is exactly what I like about her. She isn’t ordinary, though she thinks she is. Up until she walked through a tree in the woods near her house and ended up in Uisneach, she lived a pretty sheltered life. On the other side of the tree, she immediately discovers she is the savior to a land of gnomes, dryads, witches, druids and very mythic men and women. She must adapt to this new reality quickly to avoid being a victim of the evil Lord Shamwa. She goes from being a young woman who cries at the drop of a hat and rejects most men because they don’t meet her dreamy expectations, to a woman who makes hard, sacrificial choices for the greater good of a kingdom she falls in love with. I freely admit it is cosmically cliché. I meant it to be. I love Briana’s flexibility and her openness to seeing the world in a new way, but I also like that she is a little impulsive and has a really big heart which she often wears on her sleeve.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

I chose to self-publish for the simple reason that I began writing The Prophecy when I was in my mid-fifties and after several months of query letters with rejections or silence, I realized that time was slipping by and if I hoped to publish, I would need to do it myself. I created my own publishing company, Sword and Arrow Publishing, and learned everything I could about the venture. The obvious advantages are that you get the book out in your own lifetime and you have control over everything. The disadvantages are many and not to be tackled by the faint of heart. The biggest disadvantage of self-publishing is that if you don’t love the business of publishing and marketing and if you don’t have the technical skills to create and promote your book, you will spend far more time and money on the business end of publishing and marketing than you can on writing. I ended up outsourcing things like editing, book covers and formatting and website development and management.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I love that term—architect. I was taught through the process to be a plotter—forevermore to be known as an architect. When I started, I had a rough outline, based on the hero’s journey, but my editor painstakingly taught me to use chapter summaries which are a blessing and a curse. I don’t love doing them, but I agree they focus the book. However, I am also dedicated to listening to my characters, who often intervene with ideas of their own that I honor as much as possible. I believe that part of the writing process is based on planning and formula, but the fun part is opening to creative mystery.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Oh, that ‘favorite’ question again. I have been a voracious reader since first grade and choosing a ‘favorite’ book would be nearly impossible. I will say that the first books I read multiple times was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, when I was about eleven. It was the first time the lines began to blur between reality and fantasy for me. I fell in love with Ponyboy and sort of forgot he was a character. I remember dreaming and talking about him incessantly and being outraged when my mother reminded me he wasn’t a real person. Those books instilled in me a love for characters above all else. My primary goal in my own writing is to create characters that are unique and memorable.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I just finished the first draft of Kingdom of Uisneach’s second book in the trilogy, The Runes of Evalon. Book three is active in my head now as well. I have also been working on some poetry. Having to write song lyrics for The Prophecy was excruciating and it forced me to start thinking about songwriting and poetry. During the summer of 2018 I discovered a lyricist who inspired me to try writing poetry with pattern and beat and maybe a little less exact rhyme. I’m having a lot of fun with that and sharing it on my Facebook page.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

That’s easy. Embrace the editor! My first experience with an editor was excruciatingly painful, but it was also the best and most important thing that ever happened to me. I learned through Jill Shultz, a skilled an compassionate editor, that my work could only get better by listening to and working with an expert on the writing craft. My first draft of The Prophecy was a hot mess. The finished product is something I am proud of. I’ve learned so much from Jill, and would never consider publishing anything without a professional edit.

Want to learn more about Heidi Hanley and The Prophecy? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageTwitterInstagram, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Prophecy.

Thanks to author Heidi Hanley for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Bo Balder on March 7, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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DHTimpko_HeadShotReallyCropped Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, D. H. Timpko.  D. H. Timpko is a long-time reader of science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries. She and her husband, who she met at a science fiction convention, own over ten thousand books. They also own over a hundred paintings and prints.

After working for many years as a writer and editor for publishing companies, associations, and corporations, Timpko retired. Now she writes fiction and nonfiction full time. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); the Writers-Editors Network; the Independent Book Publishers Association; Broad Universe, which is an association supporting female writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror; and Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN).

She and her husband live in northern Virginia, along with their intellectually challenged, but sweet, cats Kalliope and Cocoa.

D. H. Timpko’s latest book, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, is a novel science fiction (and sf con-goers) fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Twelve-year-old Electra Firma plans to win an Olympic Gold Medal in ice skating when she’s old enough to compete. Her coach is convinced she has the talent. That’s the problem. Electra’s talent comes from her part-alien heritage, which gives her superhuman abilities, and her parents forbid her from competing. Depressed, Electra rejects her inheritance and refuses to hone her alien skills. A new threat by an enemy alien race forces Electra, her identical twin sister Isis, and their best friends to infiltrate the aliens to find the Flute of Enchantment and protect humanity. If Electra doesn’t master shape shifting, she and her best friend face imminent death.

The_Firma_Twins_and__Cover_for_Kindle Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment?

The idea came from attending science fiction conventions for over 40 years. In The Firma Twins Adventures, two sets of warring aliens land on Earth ten thousand years ago: the Squrlon and the Vympyrym. Both are shape shifters. The Squrlon often appear as gray squirrels and the Vympyrym as human-size rats.

This book, the second in an unending series, revolves around Electra Firma who is a part-human descendant of the Squrlon. She and her identical twin sister Isis discover in the first book, The Firma Twins and the Purple Staff of Death, they’re inherited special alien powers they must use to protect the Squrlon. In this book Electra must develop her powers and shape shifting abilities. The problem is Electra resents being part alien, ignores the rules for shape shifting, and takes unnecessary risks.

Having Electra attend a science fiction convention had distinct advantages. First, I could write about something with which I’m familiar. To create the perfect hostile environment for Electra, however, the convention, called RatCon, is put on by the Vympyrym, the enemy aliens. RatCon has some of the normal trappings of a science fiction con, but it differs significantly.

Second, RatCon forces Electra to master shape shifting. Early on—and not by her own choice—she shape shifts into a Vympyrym, a form she’s not always able to maintain. If she reverts to her natural form, she and her best friend face death.

Third, RatCon allowed me to provide a more detailed description of the Vympyrym and how they think and act. I was also able to reveal key information about them and the Squrlon as a part of the action and plot.

Fourth, writing about RatCon was a lot of fun.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I like both of the Firma twins, Isis and Electra. Both books are told in first person: the first book by Isis, who is the more serious twin, and the second by Electra. I also like their best friends, Phoenix Rising and Kelly Horton, who are the kind of friends everyone needs. In this book Kelly plays a particularly important role.

However, when I was writing The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, I introduced an unplanned character, Pricklethorn Ratbait, early in the book. Pricklethorn, who is the same age as Electra, is a Vympyrym. Not knowing who Electra really is, she escorts her around the convention. Pricklethorn is an invaluable addition to the book and I like her a lot.

Overall though, Electra is my favorite character in this book. It was a challenge to put her in a position where she realized she needed to accept her heritage and alien powers. More than that, she needed to understand on a gut level the consequences of not learning how to use her alien abilities. Innocent people could die, not just herself but her best friend and others. The book shows how Electra’s character develops and grows, but she remains true to herself.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

I worked professionally as a writer and editor for 42 years. So I understand how to design and publish a book from the point of view of using desktop publishing software and designing, formatting, and printing a book. I know how to work with artists. The disadvantage is that marketing and promotion are difficult. For that reason alone, I would far rather be traditionally published. However, the children’s book market is the most competitive one in the industry. Therefore, I created the Gettier Group, which has published five books—not all mine—to date.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

Writing nonfiction for too many years prevents me from being a pantser. Also, from a personality point of view, I’m an architect. Writing fiction, however, differs from writing nonfiction. Although I don’t create a detailed outline for fiction, I still must think through the plot thoroughly.

The outline for both the first and second books was one sentence per chapter. I didn’t want it to be so detailed that I couldn’t incorporate changes. For nonfiction my outlines are always detailed and rarely change.

For the first Firma Twins book I also used Scene Tracker, a device created by Martha Alderson, to track scene by scene action, character emotional development, plot, thematic significance, and so forth. It was significantly helpful. For the second book I kept Scene Tracker in mind as I wrote.

In the actual writing, I allow the pantser to have some say. The plot won’t change, but how it’s told might. For example, the addition of Pricklethorn Ratbait was not someone I had planned.

Many of the enemy aliens in The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment were created as I needed them. I like to rely on the feeling in the manuscript so far to give me inspiration for necessary characters. That is, my one-sentence outline of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment said that Electra and her friend Kelly go to a reading. I knew I would need to create an enemy alien reading from his book. So I didn’t create Malofic Crooked Tail, author of the Rat King series of sf novels, until that chapter. By that time I had a full sense of the convention and the aliens (I write from the beginning of the book to the end for the most part). One of Malofic’s actions was inspired by an amusing story a boss told me about hearing Werner Von Braun speak at a meeting of the Public Relations Society of America. Although I’m not saying Von Braun was a Vympyrym, what he did at that meeting was easily adapted to fit the mood of the manuscript.

Bottom line: I’m mostly an architect but about 25 to 40 percent pantser.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My first favorite book, which my father read to me when I was two and three years old, was Henny Penny (also called Chicken Little). I loved it because the illogic of all the characters was so funny.

Later, my favorite book was The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Fantasy became one of my favorite genres, although I was addicted to reading pretty much anything. Since I was the youngest kid in my family, The Twelve Dancing Princesses also appealed to me because the heroine was the youngest sister.

Many years later when I attended the 1989 Worldcon in Boston, I instantly recognized from several feet away Ruth Sanderson’s painting as The Twelve Dancing Princesses and bought a print. I regret I didn’t have enough money to buy the painting.

What writing project are you currently working on?

Several. I’m writing the third Firma Twins Adventure, The Firma Twins and the Paisley Egg, which is told by Isis Firma and takes place in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

I’m also updating my nonfiction book, Knee Replacement Advice, Checklists, and Journal: 5 Steps for Successful Recovery Even If You Have Complications, which I published under my nonfiction pseudonym, Alexis Dupree. My left knee replacement was September 2018; my right knee replacement was June 2014.

Next year my small press Gettier Group plans to publish Immigrant from the Stars, a middle grade science fiction book by Gail Kamer.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Show, not tell.

Want to learn more about D. H. Timpko and The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment? Check out her:  WebsiteGoodreads pageTwitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment.

Thanks to author D. H. Timpko for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Heidi Hanley Smith on February 28, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Elaine Isaac Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak). E. C. Ambrose wrote adventure-based historical fantasy series The Dark Apostle, about medieval surgery, from DAW Books, which began with Elisha Barber, and concluded with volume 5, Elisha Daemon in 2018. Her most recent release was international thriller novel, Bone Guard One: The Mongol’s Coffin. As Elaine Isaak, she also wrote The Singer’s Crown Series. In the process of researching her books, Elaine learned how to hunt with a falcon, clear a building of possible assailants, and pull traction on a broken limb. The author is a graduate of and an instructor for the Odyssey Writing Workshop. In addition to writing, Elaine works as a guide, teaching rock climbing and leading outdoor adventure camps.

E. C. Ambrose’s latest book, Elisha Daemon is a novel history and dark fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—1348: Europe has become a bottomless well of terror and death, from which the necromancers drink deep as the citizens sink into despair. If there is to be any chance of survival, Elisha must root out the truth of the pestilence at its unexpected source: the great medical school at Salerno.

But as he does, his former mentor, the beautiful witch Brigit, lays her own plans. For there may be one thing upon the face of the planet more deadly than the plague: the unfiltered power of Death within Elisha himself. Europe’s darkest hour awaits Elisha Daemon!

A starred review in Library Journal described the first book in the series, Elisha Barber (now available in paperback) as “Painfully elegant, beautifully told,” while D. B. Jackson, author of The Thieftaker Series, said, “Elisha Barber is at once dark, powerful, redemptive, and ultimately deeply satisfying. Highly recommended!”

Elisha Daemon front cover_elaine i Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Elisha Daemon?

This is the final volume in The Dark Apostle Series, about medieval surgery. I got inspired to write the books while I was researching the history of medicine for another novel. I dove deep into the rabbit hole for that one—and when I emerged again, I had the concept for the books: a barber-surgeon discovers he has an unnatural affinity with Death.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Elisha, the protagonist, is the only narrator for the series. He begins as arrogant about his skill, only to find that the world is much larger and more dangerous than even he knew. Compassion is his tragic flaw—he just can’t stop himself from investing in others, even when it hurts.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

The series is from DAW (an affiliate of Penguin Random House), so traditional. I loved working with the team at DAW, from the editor who helped me make the books so much better, to the artist who created the fantastic covers, to the publicists who helped me arrange bookstore visits and other promotional opportunities. I also appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to wear all of those hats! The main disadvantage is that everything happens on their schedule: waiting for edits, then having to hurry to make changes, books being delayed even though I turned them in. That part is frustrating, but sharing the responsibilities of the process with experts made the trade-off worth it for me.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

These books transformed me from a gardener to an architect—does that make me a landscape designer? The editors loved the concept, but thought my original series arc was too small. I developed many of my current techniques for brainstorming and outlining while expanding the concept into the series I eventually wrote.

What was your favorite book as a child?

The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber. This wonderful fairytale works within the tropes of fantasy to express some rich and beautiful things. As the Golux (the only Golux in the world, and not a Mere Device) says in the book, “I can feel a thing I cannot touch, and touch a thing I cannot feel. The first is sad and sorry, and the second is, your heart.” And that, after all, is what a writer longs for: to touch the hearts of others.

What writing project are you currently working on?

At any given time, I have several projects cooking. I am currently revising a young adult science fiction novel, A Wreck of Dragons, about teens partnered with giant robots to find a new home for mankind among the stars. I’ve begun drafting the sequel to an international thriller novel, book two in The Bone Guard Series, and I have the ghost of a mythic fantasy novel haunting the back of my mind…

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

“Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” Mrs. Tribe, seventh grade English teacher. If you have something to say, something wonderful and amazing you want to share, put it out there. Be fearless in expressing your heart.

Want to learn more about E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) and Elisha Daemon? Check out her: Facebook pageTwitterE.C. Ambrose Amazon Authors PageElaine Isaak Amazon Authors Page – and for sample chapters, historical research, and some nifty extras, visit her website.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Elisha Daemon.

Thanks to author E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Denise Timpko on February 26, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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juliana spink mills Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Juliana Spink Mills. Juliana Spink Mills was born in England, but grew up in Brazil. Now, she lives in Connecticut and writes science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Heart Blade and Night Blade, the first two books in the young adult Blade Hunt Chronicles urban fantasy series. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online publications. Besides writing, Juliana works as a Portuguese/English translator, and as a teen library assistant. She watches way too many TV shows, and loves to get lost in a good book. Her dream is to move to Narnia when she grows up. Or possibly Middle Earth, if she’s allowed a very small dragon of her own.

Juliana Spink Mills’s latest book, Night Blade, is a YA novel urban fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the aftermath of the Heart Blade’s return, Del and Rose have different roads to follow. One leads forward, the other to the distant past. Rose is on a mission to infiltrate and double-cross the ultimate heist, and retrieve a game-changing prize. Meanwhile, as the Court of the Covenant prepares to meet, Del has a quest of her own. She must untangle her lost identity or risk her entire future. With the Blade Hunt prophecy in motion, darkness threatens to rise, and a new sword emerges from the shadows.

And a little “taste” of Night Blade:
  The vampire smiled at Raze. “How do you feel about a little undercover work?”
  “Undercover work? What kind?”
  “The dangerous kind. The sort of work that should suit Raze perfectly, since you’re so determined to leave Rose behind,” he said. “A challenge. You’re infiltrating a heist. I think you’ll make an excellent cat burglar.”

nightblade_front_mills Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Night Blade?

Night Blade is the second in my YA urban fantasy trilogy. The idea for the series came from a short story I was working on. That particular story was never published, but the world stuck in my head and kept growing, and eventually became the first book, Heart Blade.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think my two favorites are Camille, an immortal half-demon, and Ben a teenage witch. Camille is fun to write, because her personality is similar to my own (demonic immortality aside). As for Ben, I just like him. He’s had a lot of bad things happen to him, but he doesn’t give up. And, more importantly, he always tries to do the right thing, even if it’s going to cost him.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Both my books were published by a small press. I think the advantages were that I was involved in every step of the process. I was given everything you can expect from a larger press—editor, copy editor, professional cover art—but additionally, because I worked so closely with the owner of the press, I was involved in a lot of the decision-making. It really was a lesson in what it takes to bring out a book! For a first timer who up to that point had only published short stories, it was a real learning experience.

The disadvantages of a small press are probably obvious, and center mostly around market reach.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m definitely a planner. That said, I’ve become a lot more organic in my process as I’ve gained confidence in myself as a writer. So now, instead of the rigid chapter outlines I used in the past, I tend to do a list of bullet points: key events that need to be incorporated. This gives me wriggle room to go ‘off road’ when I want, and I constantly update this list as the story progresses.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was definitely a Narnia girl. I was gifted the full Narnia set as a going away present when I moved from England to Brazil at the age of eight. Brazil was new, and exciting, but also confusing and strange, so I absolutely connected with Lucy Pevensie and the rest of C.S. Lewis’ portal-travelling youngsters. I credit those books with a life-long love of fantasy novels.

What writing project are you currently working on?

After a much-needed break to write a sci fi thriller, I’m now working on Star Blade, the last book in my YA trilogy. The planning stage took ages—there is so much to fit in!—but now I’m up and running and delighted to be back in this familiar world of mine. I missed my characters!

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

My favorite bit of advice ever, and one I always pass along, is: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Nothing happens overnight in publishing. If you love writing, allow yourself the gift of time. And keep writing!

Want to learn more about Juliana Spink Mills and Night Blade? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageTwitterInstagram, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Night Blade.

Thanks to author Juliana Spink Mills for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author E. C. Ambrose (Elaine Isaak) on February 21, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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MLC_meriah Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Meriah L. Crawford. Meriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a writer, editor, and private investigator. Among her publications are short stories in several genres, essays, poems, a variety of scholarly work, and the co-written novel The Persistence of Dreams, which was released in 2018. Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her work as a PI, over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglaries, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons.

Meriah L. Crawford’s latest book, The Persistence of Dreams, is a novel fantasy and alternate history fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—It is 1636: five years after a West Virginia town from the year 2000 arrived in Germany in a flash of light and altered the course of history. Now, down-time master artist Daniel Block is troubled. No mention or proof of his name or life work, of which he has long been proud, made it through the Ring of Fire; it’s as if he never existed. What can a talented and proud artist like him do, to make sure this new world remembers him long after he’s gone?

Daniel develops a plan to make himself one of the greatest artists the world has ever known, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to see his dreams fulfilled. Even if it means risking himself, his wife, and his children.

Intent on changing his own history, Daniel journeys to Grantville to learn about these Americans and their wild and outrageous art forms. But while there, he runs afoul of the up-timers’ strange attitudes—and the law. What follows upends seventeenth century art, threatens the emperor, and changes Daniel and his family forever.

persistence cover_meriah Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Persistence of Dreams?

My co-author, Robert E. Waters, and I have been writing in the 1632 universe for a while. This is a series of novels and stories begun by Eric Flint, about a town in West Virginia transported from the year 2000 to Germany in 1631, into the middle of war and other upheaval. Most of my collaboration with Robert has focused on an artist named Daniel Block, who is a real person born in 1580. Robert and I thought it would be interesting to delve a bit into the art world of the early seventeenth century with the assistance of a man who was a well-known and highly regarded court painter, as well as a bit of a drunk and a troublemaker. We also complicated his family life quite a bit, and involved him in some major political drama.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

That’s a tough question. I really like so many of the characters. For the novel, though, I wrote an appendix from the perspective of an art history teacher named Elaine O’Meara, who also appears in the beginning of the novel. She’s shown herself to be smart, independent, committed, thoughtful, and funny. She also really knows a ton about art. She was inspired by a really wonderful history teacher I had in high school named Alice Fearen, who instilled a love and a solid grounding of knowledge about art that I have valued deeply ever since. For all of these reasons, I think I’d rather have a cup of tea with Elaine more than anyone else in the book.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It’s published by a small publisher: the Ring of Fire Press. The only real disadvantage is a small marketing budget, but that’s something most authors deal with, even with larger presses. The people have been great to work with, and have moved faster and been more responsive than many larger companies are able to be, so that’s been great, too.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m actually very into lists and planning, and if I’m working on a nonfiction project, it will absolutely have a structure early on. But my fiction is often a lot more organic. That’s why, for example, I have a story that started out as a piece of flash fiction, but is now over 63,000 words. (Oops!) It’s also why I stopped working on it: I realized that the novel really needs to be in the third person, but I wrote it in the first. This is exactly the benefit of planning, though of course planners also find that they make mistakes along the way. Going forward, I’m planning to try to plan more. We’ll see how that goes. 

What was your favorite book as a child?

I have so many answers to this question, but I particularly remember a book named Pidgy’s Surprise, by Jeanne Mellin. It was the first “real” book I read all of by myself. Like many people, the main character spends a lot of time wishing her life were different. In her case, she wishes she had a horse instead of a pony. As the novel progresses, she comes to appreciate what she has when she nearly loses her pony Pidgy. It’s a great lesson, and one that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about as the years have passed: it’s so easy to focus on wanting what we don’t have, but most of us have SO MUCH already. And feeling and expressing gratitude for that makes us a lot happier.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I always have a lot of projects in the works. Over winter break, I aim to finish and submit some articles (about teaching assistants, James Joyce, and dialogue tags), put the finishing touches on a short video of a huge dust devil I filmed in Jordan this past summer, and spend some hours on a book I’m writing about the second person.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Writer’s write. I’ve learned over the years that a huge amount of writing advice should really start with “Here’s what works for me.” Much of it—maybe most—is not one-size-fits-all. Find your own path!

Want to learn more about Meriah L. Crawford and The Persistence of Dreams? Check out her:  WebsiteBlogFacebook pageTwitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Persistence of Dreams.

Thanks to author Meriah L. Crawford for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Juliana Spink Mills on February 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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CLundoff Publicity photo Whimsical Words welcomes guest author-editor-publisher, Catherine Lundoff. Catherine Lundoff is a Minneapolis-based award-winning writer, editor, and publisher. Her recent stories have appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated, Curious Fictions, The Cainite Conspiracies: A Vampire the Masquerade V20 Anthology, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Tales and The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty. Her books include Silver Moon, Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories and as editor, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space). She is the publisher at Queen of Swords Press.

Catherine Lundoff’s latest book, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), is a new anthology fans of pirates and adventure are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Think pirates are all about the rum and the pieces of eight? Let these fifteen tales draw you into the adventures of a new kind of pirate. Sail with them as they seek treasure, redemption, love, revenge and more. Raise the Jolly Roger and sharpen your cutlass (or recharge your raygun) and climb aboard for some unforgettable voyages. Featuring stories by Ginn Hale, A.J. Fitzwater, Geonn Cannon, Joyce Chng, Elliott Dunstan, Ashley Deng, Su Haddrell, Ed Grabianowski, Mharie West, Matisse Mozer, Soumya Sundar Mukherjee, Megan Arkenberg, Peter Golubock, Michael Merriam, and Caroline Sciriha.

ebook QoSP Scourge 432 x 648 72 dpilundoff Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space)?

I started my own small press last year and I wanted to publish an anthology. Originally, it was on a different theme and was going to have a different editor, but that fell through, so I decided to go ahead with another theme that I liked. I’ve always had a fondness for pirates, fictional as well as historical, starting with reading Treasure Island when I was a kid. Since pirates historically turn up all over the world, as well as in fantasy and science fiction, I thought it would be a great opportunity to solicit stories from writers from different countries as well as subgenres. I also opened it up to stories featuring protagonists of any gender or orientation to try and get to a reflection of the diversity of the topic.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Ooh, that would be a challenge! I really like all the stories in different ways. I think you really have to get to a point where you appreciate all the strengths of every story you accept when you’re editing an anthology. Between story selection and rounds of editing, you’re going to be reading and rereading those same stories a LOT. Multiple rereads in, I still love all the protagonists in a book with stories that range from the aftermath of the Trojan War to outer space, (most of) the 7 seas and the lands beyond!

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It’s traditionally published in the sense that it’s being released by a publishing house; however, Queen of Swords Press is my small press so things get a bit complicated there. I have edited or co-edited two previous anthologies for a different small press though, so I have something to compare it to. The contrast between editing for someone else and doing it on my own is the scale of work involved. I’m doing all my own publicity for Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) as well as for other Queen of Swords Press titles and I’m taking all the financial risks. On the other hand, I get to make my own decisions without needing to answer to anyone else and pick stories based on what I like. I’m pretty pleased with the mix of stories that I selected and I know that it would look somewhat different if I had to answer to a different publisher.

What is your writing/editing process like?

I’ll talk about my editing here, instead of writing, because that’s been my latest focus. In terms of story selection, I tried to put a lot of thought into the kind of anthology that I wanted to publish. I wanted a mix of pirate stories set in different parts of the world as well as in fantastical settings and in outer space. I wanted a range of protagonists to somewhat reflect the historical diversity of pirate ships and crews. Add to that, I wanted authors from different parts of the world as well as protagonists of different genders and sexual orientations. So I did an open call where I specifically asked for international authors and for protagonists of any gender or orientation. I ended up getting submissions from authors in fourteen countries, which was pretty amazing.

From those submissions, I had to go through and pick the strongest of the stories that I got, then decide which ones I wanted in the anthology. I tried to pick based on my goals: having a diverse range of pirate stories and an anthology Table of Contents that wasn’t all white guys or all cis people or all from the U.S. Fortunately, I had a lot of really good stories to choose from so it was a more a matter of picking “best in class” rather than “I must take it because it’s the only thing like it that I have.” Editing themed anthologies can be challenging that way. I say this despite this being my third one, so you would think it would get easier with practice. At any rate, everything after the story selection part was reading and rereading and providing feedback to the authors and incorporating changes and getting copy edits back and so forth.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I had a LOT of favorite books as a child and they changed every couple of years. The first book I ever read on my own was Alice in Wonderland, then I went through a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson, fairy tales and other related work. Alexandre Dumas and Jane Austen got me through my early teens. On bad weeks, The Count of Monte Cristo is still a map of my mental landscape. When in doubt, I can always count on getting a mental image of tunneling out of the Chateau d’If with a spoon. Puts everything in perspective. I have a list of every book that I’ve read since I was ten years old so I can backtrack through the Narnia years, the Lloyd Alexander years, and so forth. I owe my fragile sanity entirely to reading, but I have to say that it was a collective effort. I can name ten to twenty favorite books, but not just one.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on Blood Moon, the sequel to my menopausal werewolf novel, Silver Moon. Blood Moon focuses on the same protagonists as in the previous novel and has more mystery and romance elements than the first book. Apart from that, I’m working on a couple of new short stories and some gaming-related projects. And the next books for Queen of Swords. I like to keep things lively.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

It’s a toss-up between “Learn to love rewriting” and “Pick a day job you don’t hate, because you’ll spend more time there than anywhere else.” They are both useful, if somewhat depressing, in their own way. I think both pieces of advice are also very realistic and sometimes, we need to hear that. I know there’s a strain of thought, particularly in genre fiction, that “real writers don’t need day jobs,” but I think that gets less and less realistic for most of us as the field changes. And rewriting for me is like painting: you do a sketch, and then, start adding layers. Those layers add depth and beauty, if you do them well, in the same way that rewrites help you to create a better story and become a better writer.

Want to learn more about Catherine Lundoff and Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space)? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageQueen of Swords Press Website, and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) from Books2Read or IndieBound.

Thanks to author-editor-publisher Catherine Lundoff for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Meriah Crawford on February 14, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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suz-headshot-18 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert. Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert writes horror, dark fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional poem. Her short fiction has been published in the anthologies Killing It Softly, The Deep Dark Woods, and The Final Summons. Her poetry has appeared in places such as the anthology Wicked Witches, Tales of the Zombie War, “The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature,” and “Eternal Haunted Summer.” Suzanne is a freelance editor and content creation expert. She’s currently writing several more works of short fiction in between meeting the incessant demands of her feline overlords.

Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert’s latest published story, “In Darkness, She Sheds,” appears in The Final Summons (New England Speculative Writers, 2019). A quick summary for my readers: In a land where the human Master controls both humans and fae, a chance accident enables Savron d’Fae—Master’s Elixir-Mistress and former concubine—to glimpse the true nature of Master’s rule.

Where did the idea come from for your latest published story, “In Darkness, She Sheds”?

I wrote the first version almost two years ago, as a reaction to the fury I felt watching Kellyanne Conway stand up and lie and defend Trump’s actions on whatever that day’s disaster was. I kept thinking, “Why do women not support each other and make alliances with men who are innately against their best interests?” I kept turning that thought around in my head and I wrote the story to get out some of that anger.

Who is your favorite character in the story—and why?

That’s a tough question. Probably Darron, even though she gets introduced halfway through the story. Savron, who begins the story, is also a compelling character. What I like about both of these fae women is that they are very brave and decisive despite being literal slaves and discovering that their realities were not what they thought.

final sum Where and when will this story be published?

This story appears in the just-released anthology The Final Summons, which is the premier anthology from the New England Speculative Writers. They formed about two years ago and have amazing and dedicated leadership. They quickly came up with the idea for this anthology and put out the call for submissions to writers in New England. They had a good number of submissions, so I was really happy to make the cut.

The anthology was crowd-funded in order to pay fair compensation to the contributors, editors, and artist. They were also able to hire a blurb writer. I think it was a successful model, and the anthology will be available in both print and electronic versions.

I encourage any aspiring writers who feel daunted by writing a novel to try writing short stories first, and getting them placed in anthologies with more established writers, if possible. It’s great exposure for you, and you’ll learn a lot from your fellow contributors.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a short story writer, not a novelist (yet!) and I’m a total pantser! I get into my writing mindset, and the characters “tell” me what’s going to happen next. Having said that, I do make notes and do some character studies. But I’ve found that when I put too much on paper, it inhibits my creative flow. I do a lot of work “in my head.” I do hope to get better at outlining. I attribute my inability to successfully write a novel (yet!) to getting too bogged down in the outline process. But I believe I’ll figure it out eventually!

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a child, I adored the Little House books and read them over and over. I liked a female protagonist, reading about perilous situations, and I liked that Laura was a person not afraid to stand up for what she believed.

When I got a bit older, I fell in love with dystopias. I believe I was about ten when I first stumbled upon Animal Farm at my grandmother’s house. Then, I read 1984 and Brave New World in quick succession. My mind was literally blown by the concept that people could manipulate each other so capriciously, and that others could so easily fall prey to misinformation.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m currently finishing up another short story, “Unafraid,” which is horror. On the back burner are two novellas (one scifi/fantasy; the other scifi/horror) that need more editing, and I have an idea for a horror novel that I haven’t been able to successfully write out. It’s based on what was initially a short story and it’s about 35% done.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Do what works for you! That is honestly the best advice. I was bogged down for years thinking I’d never be successful because I didn’t write every day (and still don’t.) Find your own rhythm. Make your own path. Although it doesn’t hurt to try others’ “sage advice” to see if it resonates.

Want to learn more about Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert and her short fiction, including “In Darkness, She Sheds”? Check out her: Website–Voices in my Head, Twitter, Facebook page, Bookbub, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Final Summons.

Thanks to author Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Catherine Lundoff on February 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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