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mjgardner5_sm2 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, MJ Gardner. MJ Gardner is a web developer by day, who lays in bed at night and wonders, what if….? Her stories have been published in “Mad Scientist Journal,” “Luna Station Quarterly,” “Plan B” and “Saturday Night Reader.” She published her first novel, Evelyn’s Journal in 2015 and the sequel, Joe Vampire, in 2017.

MJ has an undergrad degree in English and Classics (Greek & Roman studies) and wrote her Master’s thesis on The Vampire in English Literature. She currently lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada with her partner of 19 years, and her cat Zoom. She is also the virtual curator of The Suicide Museum.

MJ Gardner’s latest book, Joe Vampire, is the second book in the Darkness & Light Series. A quick summary for my readers: Joe has really turned his life around. With help and support from his girlfriend Evelyn, he has conquered his addictions, left foster care, finished high school and is ready for college. As much as Joe longs for normality, his life is never going to be that way. After all, his girlfriend is a vampire, and she wants him to become one too. That’s a bit too much commitment for Joe. And other members of the vampire community, some of whom refer to him as a snack, won’t leave him alone. Things begin to unravel for Joe when he tries to help a friend cure himself of his many ailments with a vampire’s blood. When things go badly Joe blames himself and turns back to his old addictions for succor. But can Joe cope with the strongest addiction of all?

mj evelyn cover And since Evelyn’s Journal and its characters lead into Joe Vampire, here’s a quick summary of that book for my readers: It’s cold and dark and Evelyn is in the morgue. In a drawer. She doesn’t know how she got there, and Tammi, the morgue attendant who hustles her out into the night, doesn’t have time to answer questions. Evelyn has been robbed of the gift of immortality her absent lover promised her, and plunged instead, alone, into the night-time world of the vampire, where she must learn to survive alone.

Freed from mortality, Evelyn also feels freed from convention, morality, and law. Her first act as a vampire is to secure the house and fortune of the family who rejected her. Then she sets out to look for love. Evelyn finds that love is a difficult thing when you are a vampire and physical closeness leads to hunger as often as desire. When her vampire lover returns and shows his true nature, Evelyn realizes she is not, and doesn’t want to be, a monster. Note: contains sex, violence, a feisty heroine, all the good stuff.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Joe Vampire (Book 2, Darkness & Light Series)?

I really can’t talk about Joe without talking about Evelyn. Back in the day I was on a listserv called Vampyres, and a lot of people would role play and post fiction to the list. Someone commented that all the vampires were titled, centuries old, and rich. Basically, they were spinoffs from Dracula or Anne Rice’s novels. I wanted to create a vampire who was none of those things. Enter Evelyn, a young woman who is only eighteen when the book opens. Evelyn becomes a vampire, but with no mentor and little guidance, she doesn’t really know how to vampire, and she has to figure it out for herself.

Joe is Evelyn’s boyfriend at the end of Evelyn’s Journal. With Joe, I wanted a character who was not only an unlikely vampire (against trope) but also an unlikely match for Evelyn (opposites attract). Joe is young, he’s very poor, he comes from an abusive home, and he is multiply-addicted to various painkillers. He’s sixteen and doesn’t really care if he lives through the day.

mj joe cover At the end of Evelyn’s Journal, Joe is starting to get it together. His relationship with Evelyn is something to live for. At the beginning of Joe Vampire, Joe (who is not a vampire) is doing well: he’s going to college and he has career plans. The only thing dogging him is pressure from Evelyn to join her in the nightlife. Joe doesn’t know if he is ready to commit—to Evelyn or to blood-drinking immortality. Joe’s college roommate is getting married, and he shames Joe into proposing to Evelyn. And from there, things start to unravel.

Basically, I wanted to write about vampires who were/are not suave, wise, or upper class.

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

Joe. Hands down. He’s so sincere. He keeps trying to make things better, but he’s fighting against a lot of (virtual) demons, most of which stem from his childhood.

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

I published both books myself—cover art, typesetting, everything. The manuscripts had been sitting around for over a decade, and I just wanted to get the stories out there. Along came Amazon and Smashwords and made that possible.

The advantage to self-publishing is that you have total control over all aspects of your work. I am lucky in that I have the skills to do cover art, layout, and build my own website. The downside is that I do not have anyone marketing my books. As a self-published author, you have to be able to market your own work. My experience is that this works best face to face. Meet people, talk at conferences, and network. Unfortunately, I am not built for that.

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

I used to be pantser, but I have found that a book works much better if you know how it ends so that you know what to put in before the end to make that ending significant. You want to make the reader feel the ending, whether it is happy, sad, etc. To do that you need to make sure the reader knows why the ending is so sad, happy, etc. for your character(s). That said, that is about all the planning I do. A lot of the in-between is pantsed.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I bought a copy from Scholastic Books when I was ten. I needed to look up some of the words as I read it the first time, like “misanthropist”. I have re-read it several times since. I like it because it is full of big emotions and ordinary people. Emily Bronte knew it long before Sartre said it: enfer c’est les autres (Hell is other people). The whole scope of the novel is two houses, two families, two generations, and the empty fields in between, and yet whether these places are heaven or hell is determined by the character of the people and their relationships.

I always wanted to be one of the Brontës. It seemed like heaven to me, growing up in a remote location, in a family with sisters who spent their time writing and reading each other’s stories.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a book called Dry Leaves. It is a very different vampire novel, and I don’t use the word vampire in it. It is set in Detroit (I live across the river in Windsor). It started as a long short story, and I kept trying to trim it because most places that publish short stories want them short–often only 3000 words. I got this story down to 8000, shopped it around, got no takers, and decided to just unpack everything I had condensed. It will be a novella. So far it is 12,000 words.

I also have a (longish) short story coming out in Metaphorosis in the coming months (no date yet), called “The Book of Regrets.” It’s a gay time travel romance. Like Wuthering Heights, it is about ordinary people propelled by big emotions. I also have plans for another book in the Darkness & Light Series, a story about a witch who is desperate to escape dying of cancer, and a novel about a family which has no supernatural elements in it at all.

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

Write what you want, not what you (think) the public wants. The public is fickle: vampires are out; zombies are in. Tomorrow zombies are out and lycanthropy or space operas or ghost lovers are in. If you write what you want it will always feed your soul.

Want to learn more about MJ Gardner and her vampire novels? Check out her: Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Evelyn’s Journal and/or Joe Vampire .

Thanks to author MJ Gardner for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Laurel Anne Hill on January 22, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Version 3 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, K.G. Anderson. K.G. Anderson writes short fiction—urban fantasy, space opera, alternate history, Weird West tales, near-future science fiction, poetry, and mystery. Her stories appear in more than a dozen magazines and anthologies, as well on online at sites including Every Day Fiction and the podcast Far Fetched Fables. She’s done narration for Star Ship Sofa.

She has degrees in psychology and journalism, and attended the Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox writing workshops. Her career as a journalist, arts reviewer and technology writer includes six years at Apple, where she worked on the launch of the iTunes Music Store.

Born in Washington, D.C., she has lived in Northern Virginia, Southern Connecticut, and Genoa, Italy. She currently makes her home in Seattle with her partner, Tom Whitmore, and slightly more than the local limit of cats.

terra tara terror cover kg anderson K.G. Anderson’s latest published story, “Captain Carthy’s Bride,” appears in Terra! Tara! Terror! edited by Juliana Rew (Third Flatiron, 2018). A quick summary for my readers:
“Captain Carthy’s Bride” opens on a rocky shore where Sheila O’Farrell lies naked, a selkie’s coat spread on the rocks nearby. Will Carthy, a World War I war hero and now the captain of a merchant ship, is vacationing at the hotel where Sheila works. Her plan is to have him mistake her for a selkie and take her as his bride to the big city. At first, the plan succeeds. As Carthy’s selkie bride (he renames her Moira), she acquires a loving husband, a large home, and two healthy children. But after the children grow up and leave home, trouble appears and Sheila realizes she must pay a terrible price for the selkie’s coat.

Where did the idea come from for your latest published story, “Captain Carthy’s Bride”?

I’m a reactionary writer — I often read a story or a novel and I think “no! no! no!” and write my own, contrarian, view of how the story should have gone. “Captain Carthy’s Bride” was written in reaction to two other stories. The first was yet another re-telling of the classic selkie tale: the selkie is captured by the fisherman who, by hiding her coat from her, is able to keep her captive, leading to much unhappiness and tragedy all around. I was frustrated because I saw nothing new in the story. The second story was Manny Frishberg’s “The Fisherman’s Wife,” published in Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. Manny cleverly flipped the classic story by giving the selkie a choice. While the first story had frustrated me, Manny’s story inspired me to break the selkie trope even further. This resulted in “Captain Carthy’s Bride,” a story in which an ambitious hotel chambermaid pretends to be a selkie in order to attract a wealthy sea captain who will “capture” her.

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

The chambermaid’s mother, Mrs. O’Farrell. For many years, the Widow O’Farrell believes that her daughter Sheila drowned in the sea. She’s initially pleased when Sheila reappears, now the wife of an affluent man, but her approval turns to horror as she realizes the price her daughter will pay for stealing a selkie’s coat. The Widow O’Farrell is my favorite character because she’s the one most attuned to the dreadful power of the sea and the selkies.

How do you find your markets—what factors make you choose one market over another?

I could go one for hours on the topic of markets! I teach a seminar called “Strategies for Submitting Short Fiction” that explores the many, many factors that you have to balance when submitting fiction.

Every successful short story author I know uses a definite strategy, and that strategy is likely to change as their career evolves. The important thing is to create a strategy and to stick with it. I find that using a tool like the Submission Grinder makes it easy to track whatever factors are important to you, such as a publication’s payment level, speed of response, and the percentage of submissions a publication accepts.

The two most important factors for me are these:
–The market must pay (even if it’s only a token payment).
–The editor must be reputable (experienced is good, too, but reputable is essential). When I was first submitting stories, I had one accepted somewhere that I later discovered was not well regarded. I was crushed. The story didn’t look good, and the magazine didn’t look good, and I didn’t want to show the publication to anyone. Fortunately, that story later saw the light of day as a reprint.

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

I’m a trancer. I get an idea, usually in the morning, and I sit down at the computer and the first few pages of the story appear as if by magic. Initially this was a problem for me because I’d return to the story a few days later and have no idea where it was going. Some of those stories just died on the page. Now I have learned to force myself, even before I sit down at the computer to write, to envision an ending for the story. It might not be the eventual ending, but having an ending in mind turned out to be crucial to my ability to finish the story — to push the project from “great idea” to “great story.” So, in that sense, I’m a big-picture planner.

I don’t outline, but, as a visual thinker, I often have a sketch of the story’s shape. The sketch is much like a graph, with lines showing where exposition, and plot, and energy rise and fall. This enables me to see if the story has flat spots and to infuse those with more conflict or suspense.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Either The Thurber Carnival (short stories by James Thurber) or E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Both Thurber and White were frequently in The New Yorker, my dad’s favorite magazine, so it was natural that my parents bought me those books. I loved the humorous situations, the descriptive language, and the eccentric characters. I’ll never forget the worrywart aunt in Charlotte’s Web, who shouted after the children dumb advice like, “Don’t cross the race track when the horses are coming.” Or Thurber’s Aunt Sarah Shoaf. She was convinced that burglars entered her house every night and that the only reason she never lost anything was because she threw shoes at them. “Some nights she threw them all, some nights only a couple of pair.” I wanted to write lines like that, and write scenes that would etch themselves in the reader’s mind.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’ve recently joined a small critique group, and that is helping me focus on bringing stories from draft form to finished, submittable form. I have a story about cyberpets—inspired by an Orycon panel—that is finished, but which I feel needs quite a bit of tightening. My goal is to be able to send that out to a market in early January.

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

Dr. Debra Doyle critiqued my work at the Viable Paradise workshop and told me “Your writing is professional but not very engaging.” So I asked what I could do to make it more engaging. Her advice was, “You need to take your corset off.” I understood immediately—she meant that my years a journalist and a book reviewer had trained me to stand at a distance from my writing. I was telling stories, but they were cold and superficial.

I took her advice to heart, and at the end of the workshop I wrote a story about a grief counselor trying to help a distraught alien ambassador whose symbiotic partner—the only other alien on Earth—had suddenly died. That story was my first sale, to the Canadian anthology Second Contacts—a book that won the Aurora Award.

Want to learn more about K.G. Anderson and her short fiction, including “Captain Carthy’s Bride”? Check out her: Website & Blog, Twitter, and Amazon page.Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Terra! Tara! Terror!

Thanks to author K.G. Anderson for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author MJ Gardner on January 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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rebecca buchanan Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Rebecca Buchanan. Rebecca is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has been published in a wide variety of venues. She has released two short story collections with Asphodel Press: A Witch Among Wolves, and Other Pagan Tales; and The Serpent in the Throat, and Other Pagan Tales. Her first poetry collection, Dame Evergreen, and Other Poems of Myth, Magic, and Madness was recently released by Sycorax Press.

Rebecca Buchanan’s latest books: Dame Evergreen, and Other Poems of Myth, Magic, and Madness and The Fox and the Rose, And Other Pagan Faerie Tales, are awash in myth and magic. A quick summary for my readers:

r buchanan book The world is magic. The world is stories. Dame Evergreen brings together forty poems of myth, magic, and madness, many original to this collection. Here, a butterfly Goddess weaves the world of her own color and light, a God reaches into the abyss to pull the runes into creation, a red-cloaked witch hunts the wolf who took her daughter, a turtle carries a fragile world upon its back, the doors to fairyland are tragically opened, princely spirits trapped in a briar hedge slowly go mad, and there is no happily ever after for a shape-shifting frog. Journey through a world that is beautiful, horrible, magical, and mad.

The Fox and the Rose, and Other Pagan Faerie Tales is a collection twenty stories, combining elements of classic fairy tales and myths to create a wholly original collection.

Where did the idea come from for your latest books, Dame Evergreen, Other Poems of Myth, Magic, and Madness and The Fox and the Rose, And Other Pagan Faerie Tales?

The idea grew out of my mutual love of fairy tales and myths. Most of the fairy tales which have come down to us are heavily Christianized; the Pagan elements which survive are hidden. I wanted fairy tales which retained their Pagan nature, with very obvious Gods and Goddesses and other Powers as characters. And too many of the old myths treat the Deities like jokes, or present a misogynistic worldview.

So, I started writing. When I was done, I had one poetry collection—Dame Evergreen; and one short story anthology—The Fox and the Rose.

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

Oh, tough question. In the case of The Fox and the Rose, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But it’s probably a toss-up between Eirawen (the main character is my retelling of “Snow White”) and the One-Eyed Crow (the messenger of the Goddess of the Underworld) in the story of the same name. I like Eirawen because she is brave and frightened, smart and a smart-ass. The One-Eyed Crow is totally devoted to his Goddess, but he also recognizes—and rewards—friendship when he finds it in unexpected places.

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

Dame Evergreen was released by Sycorax Press, a small speculative poetry publisher which is slowly building an impressive bibliography. The Fox and the Rose will be released by Asphodel Press, a Pagan publishing cooperative, right after the new year. They specialize in Pagan and polytheist and fiction and nonfiction, in both print and ebook formats; many titles are published at little to no cost to the author as an act of devotion.

Sandi Leibowitz at Sycorax Press was a delight to work with, and did virtually everything herself, from laying out the interior to creating the cover; it was great to be in close contact with her throughout the publication process. And I love working with the folks at Asphodel Press; one definite advantage is that they understand (and support) Pagan authors. The only real disadvantage with both Sycorax and Asphodel is that neither has much in the way of PR or advertising; that all falls on the author, so sales are entirely dependent on the author getting the word out.

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

Both, but it depends on the type of story. In the case of poems and short stories, I usually get a scene or character in my head first. I write the poem over and over by hand, changing it bit by bit until it’s done; for short stories, I write a rough outline by hand, then start typing.

In the case of novellas and novels, I write out chapter-by-chapter outlines and in-depth character profiles. When I have a fairly solid idea of what will happen and why, I start typing. (Well, usually; my current novel project started as a single scene, and I’m working out from there. I have no idea what it will be be when it’s complete.)

What was your favorite book as a child?

Again, another tough question. 🙂 I can’t pick an absolute favorite. Near the very top of the list, though, is Robin McKinley’s The Door in the Hedge and Other Stories. It not only contains my favorite version of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” but also taught me that fairy tales were not just for children. Fairy tales can be dark and sensuous and romantic and filled with strong, intelligent women.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m working on several projects right now. One is a collection of poems, tentatively entitled Not a Princess, But (Yes) There Was a Pea, and Other Fairy Tales to Foment Revolution. In this anthology, I twist and tweak traditional fairy tales, looking at them through a more subversive lens, bringing out the elements that encourage independence, strength, and compassion.

I am also working on The White Gryphon, a heterosexual fantasy romance novel; The Secret of the Sunken Temple, a gay paranormal romance set immediately before World War II; and The Cat, The Corpse, The Cursed Ballerina, an urban fantasy novel centered around a mage of mixed Maori and British descent.

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

Never submit your first draft.

Want to learn more about Rebecca Buchanan and Dame Evergreen, and Other Poems of Myth, Magic, and Madness and The Fox and the Rose, And Other Pagan Faerie Tales? Check out her: Website and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Dame Evergreen, and Other Poems of Myth, Magic, and Madness.

Thanks to author Rebecca Buchanan for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author K.G. Anderson on January 17, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Andrew 2 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Andrew McDowell. Andrew McDowell wanted to be a writer since he was a teenager. He studied History and English at St. Mary’s College, and Library & Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor with the literary journal JMWW. Andrew has also written and published poetry and creative nonfiction.

Andrew McDowell’s book, Mystical Greenwood, is a fantasy novel filled with magic and adventure. A quick summary for my readers:

Dermot is a fifteen-year-old boy living in the land of Denú who has always longed for something more in life. His life changes when he encounters a gryphon and a mysterious healer. Drawn into a conflict against one determined to subjugate the kingdom, Dermot and his brother Brian are forced to leave their home.

A legendary coven must now reunite, for they are Denú’s greatest hope. In the course of meeting unicorns and fighting dragons and men in dark armor, Dermot discovers a deep, sacred magic which exists within every greenwood he crosses through, but his own role in this conflict is greater than he suspects. Can he protect those he loves, or will all that’s good be consumed by darkness?

andrew's book Where did the idea come from for your book, Mystical Greenwood?
It started out as a horror story actually, which I began writing by hand before I took a keyboarding class my freshman year in high school. However as I continued to develop the story, especially once I was able to type, I realized it was leaning towards fantasy. So I went with it. Later on, I was searching for an overarching theme and I remembered my childhood love of wild animals and my respect for the environment. So I conducted research into natural magic and earth/Nature-based spirituality and faiths as well as Irish and Celtic myth and folklore.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Dermot and Saershe tie for the spot of my favorite character. I see Dermot as the nature lover in me. Saershe is ultimately an embodiment of Mother Nature, and I’m glad to have her as the mentor who takes Dermot and his brother Brian on their journey.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Mystical Greenwood was published by Mockingbird Lane Press, an independent press based in Arkansas. I was able to query them directly without an agent. Previously I had queried agents, and those who responded always said no. Mockingbird Lane Press was the first to offer me a contract. I was able to work directly with them during the editing process, and they developed the cover art and a book trailer. The book is print on-demand, and available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook, but it’s non-returnable. The marketing is on me.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m far more of a pantser than a planner. I do try to keep some plot notes and points in my head, but it’s much easier for me to write as I go, so that I don’t contain myself and at times can enjoy surprises when they come and help build the story.

What was your favorite book as a child?
This was a hard question because I liked so many books when I was little. Goodnight Moon was one. My love for it made my Dad buy it as a baby book for others. I also enjoyed the stories of Dr. Seuss and Beatrix Potter (according to my parents I could recite The Cat in the Hat). One nonfiction book that did have a huge impact on me as a child was A Whale is Not a Fish and Other Animal Mix-ups by Melvin Berger—it spurred my interest in learning about wild animals.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a couple different projects at the moment. One is the sequel to Mystical Greenwood. Another is a book I started in college about abused and neglected dogs. In addition, I have a number of smaller unpublished materials, including poetry, essays, and short stories.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
That would be the advice my Dad gave me early on: the important thing to remember is to tell a story well.

Want to learn more about Andrew McDowell and Mystical Greenwood? Check out his: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Google+, and Tumblr.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Mystical Greenwood.

Thanks to author Andrew McDowell for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Rebecca Buchanan on January 10, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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lana ayers Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Lana Hechtman Ayers. Lana Ayers is a poet, novelist, publisher, and time travel enthusiast. She facilitates Write Away™ generative writing workshops, leads private salons for book groups, and teaches at writers’ conferences. Born and raised in New York City, Lana cemented her night-owl nature there. She lived in New England for several years before relocating to the Pacific Northwest, where she enjoys the near-perpetual plink of rain on the roof. The sea’s steady whoosh and clear-night-sky stars are pretty cool, too. Lana holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, as well as degrees in Poetry, Psychology, and Mathematics. She is obsessed with exotic flavors of ice cream, Little Red Riding Hood, TV shows about house hunting, amateur detective stories, and black & white cats and dogs. Her favorite color is the swirl of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

lana book Lana Hechtman Ayers’s latest book, Time Flash: Another Me, is a time traveling story with a cat as a character. What’s not to like? A quick summary for my readers: The Granola Diet promises to turn curvy Sara Rodríguez Bloom García into a svelte, new woman in no time. Once it does, her husband’s rekindled passions will be unstoppable—she hopes. But “Holy molé salsa!”—when Sara reaches for the box of cereal, she travels back in time to a childhood trip to the grocery store with her beloved grandmother. Seeing her dead grandmother alive and well again is wonderful, but Sara may be losing her mind, or much, much more. What starts out as another fad diet, leads Sara on a time travel journey of perilous twists and turns—fraught with double-agents, lusty redheads, and a deadly serum. Sara’s possibly-magical cat, a sexy former crush, tasty meals, and vivid music enliven the darker moments. Fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will love Time Flash: Another Me.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Time Flash: Another Me?
After years of publishing poetry collections, Time Flash: Another Me is my first novel. I’ve been obsessed with time travel since childhood, thanks to my older brother who controlled the TV and forced me watch Science Fiction. When I finally decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a novel, it had to be time travel. My favorite time travel stories have always been the ones where characters can change the past, thereby wreaking havoc in their present and future. These stories are always about characters becoming their truest selves.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Main character Sara is my favorite because I completely identify with her. She’s always trying to lose ten pounds or twenty, believing the newest fad diet will fix her life. She’s emotionally stuck since the trauma of losing a baby. Her marriage and career are in limbo. A dangerous experiment that causes her to time travel not only turns her into the heroine she never knew she was, but teaches her to accept and love herself exactly as she is. She also forges deeper relationships with the loved ones in her life.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My novel is published with our local county co-operative press. All manuscripts need to be vetted by member-authors in order to be considered for publication. In addition, the manuscripts must be professionally edited and copy-edited. This is really a great hybrid publishing choice. Quality of the books produced by the press is assured. Plus, authors have greater control over the design and distribution of their books.

Publishing with the co-operative press was the best choice for me because my two previous acceptances with small traditional presses wanted me to make changes to the manuscript that I was ethically unwilling to make. One press wanted me to switch my main protagonist to a male. The other wanted me to whitewash my heroine’s race and ethnicity.

The only real disadvantage is that a co-operative press will never have the same cache as publishing with one of the big-five houses.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
Definitely a pantser. Maybe this comes from being a poet before I was a fiction writer. My poems arrive on the page word by word. Fiction comes to me as a character’s internal thoughts first, then dialogue between characters. Characters tend to just show up in my head fully formed. Plot arises out of the different characters’ needs and difficulties. Setting is the thing I need to remember to add in. My first draft is always just heads in space talking.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I was a precocious reader. I started reading adult novels at the age of seven, after I’d exhausted the children’s’ books in my local library. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells was an early favorite, because it broadened for me the scope of time travel to how humanity might evolve—or devolve. It got me to thinking about the earth itself in an ecological sense. It also taught me the concept of human values for society as a whole, driving home the idea that we are all interconnected.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I am working on another story in the Time Flash world, featuring a minor character from the first book. I’m also beginning my first in a series of cozy mysteries that take place on the Oregon coast. And I’m working on two different poetry collections. One is an ekphrastic project based on photographs taken by my father-in-law of county landmarks. The other poetry collection is about the scientific notion of time.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
The best advice and the hardest—write no matter what. This advice came from prolific, multi-genre author Dean Wesley Smith. That means even when I lose faith in the value of my own words, I have to keep going. That means when the critic in my head tells me my story sucks, I have to keep writing until it’s done. Even when I don’t feel like writing because I am tired or sick or want to watch TV, I should just write.

Want to learn more about Lana Hechtman Ayers and Time Flash: Another Me? Check out her : Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Time Flash: Another Me.

Thanks to author Lana Hechtman Ayers for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Andrew McDowell on January 8, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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carolemcd300pixels Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Carole McDonnell. Carole McDonnell is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reviews. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including Griots, Steamfunk, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, Jigsaw Nation, and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear at various online sites. Her story collections are Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction by Carole McDonnell and Turn Back O Time and other stories of the fae of Malku and her stand alone novels are: Wind Follower, My Life as an Onion, The Constant Tower, and Who Gave Sleep and Who Has Taken It Away?

Her novels also include books in the following series: The Brothers Worth Series: Black Girls Have Always Loved Cowboys, A Town for Timothy, A Year and A Day; The Nephilim Dystopia Series: The Daughters of Men, The Chimeran Queen; and Novels of the Malku Universe: The Charcoal Bride, SeaWalker, How Skall Dragonrider Won His Three Wives. Her Bible studies include: Seeds of Bible Study, Scapegoats and Sacred Cows of Bible Study, Blogging the Psalms, A Fool’s Journey Through Proverbs, Great Sufferers of the Bible, and The Christian Laws of Attraction. Her book of poetry is: The King’s Journal of Lost and Secret Things.

She lives in New York with her husband, two sons, and their pets.

Carole McDonnell’s latest book, The Charcoal Bride, is a fantasy story set in an unique world. A quick summary for my readers: The Malku universe, which is the setting for this novel, is a world where fae, merfolk, and humans live together in varying degrees of harmony. In some continents, the faes are honored. In other continents or worlds, the faes and their descendants are treated casually. But wherever they happen to be, they are feared because no one wants to get on the bad side of a fae. The merfolk live in streams, rivers, and oceans, and they have different species as do the humans and the faes. However, in some areas, they are treated badly.

charcoal b In The Charcoal Bride, the first book of this trilogy, a war is set in motion because a prince reneged on a vengeance oath he had made to the God of War. Because of this war, wars with the fae. The fae ally themselves with his son and conquer the prince, setting up his only son as king. This son, Skall, has no desire to be king. He is a stranger to Hanrisor and would rather be back home on his little island home. In addition, his being king doesn’t sit well with the aristocrats and peasants of Hanrisor. The fae determine that he must travel the kingdom in order to understand and love the nation he is to rule over.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Charcoal Bride?
Well, I’ve always liked quests stories and road movies so when I was thinking of what the second book of the Malku trilogy would be, I thought, “It would be great if the king and his friend had to tour this new country the king has begun to rule over.”

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Skall’s friend is Nohay. Nohay is the SeaWalker. Nohay was disabled as a child and lived alone under the care of a maid his sea-farer father hired for him. But when Nohay grew older, a fae–Prince Hark—took interest in him and mentored him. Nohay stayed with Prince Hark until Hark gave him as a friend to Skall. Nohay is about thirty years old and Skall is about seventeen. Neither of them are worldly but Skall is decidedly more “of the world” than Nohay is. They both have different things to learn and being among the common folk.

I’d say it’s Nohay. There is a sweetness about him. He is totally human but he has never lived with humans. He only knows how faes and merfolk behave, but is utterly lacking in any experiential knowledge of human culture and behavior. It’s the kind of character that makes a writer have to think about what such a person would be like.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
It is self-published. My previous books, Wind Follower and The Constant Tower, were–are—both traditionally published. They were critically well-received, but they didn’t sell well. I think the advantage of traditional publishing has to do with one’s publisher having the finances to push your books. When you’re self-published, you have to market yourself more. The advantage of being self-published is that a writer can be more fully herself.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m definitely not an architect but I’m not much of a gardener either. I write notes to myself about what the next chapter should contain. Not much, just certain things that are necessary. When I write, I just sit down and write and let whatever comes comes. If I hear something in the news or hear a song, then that might end up in the story as well. I tend to write without caring how it all comes out and I totally trust that it will all come out perfectly in the end. This makes my books somewhat unpredictable because I didn’t know what was coming. Only my fingers, fate, and coincidence did. I often look at my stories and think, “Wow, this is amazing. How did I do that? Did I write this book? If I had planned this, I could never have written it.”

What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved poetry and the Bible, especially all the tragic princes like Shechem, Jonathon, Absalom, and of course, Jesus Christ. So all I did was read a lot of poetry. I also loved Shakespeare, and was madly in love with Hamlet, Edmond, and all those tragic princes as well. So those really had an effect on me. I’m a black woman, but so many of my main characters are young males, and several of them have been white. So I think they affected my consciousness. I also loved anthropology. I’d watch tons of programs on PBS and read my mother’s anthropology and archaeology books. So that is where I got my fascination with clans, tribes, rituals, and culture. My books and short stories are always about different clans living together with their cultures rubbing off on each other.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m going through the editing on SeaWalker now, and am currently writing The Chimeran Queen, which is the second part of the Nephilim Dystopian trilogy. The first book in the trilogy was Daughters of Men. This story is about yet another world with various kinds of humans. In this case, there are chimera, Nephilim, clones, and standard-issue humans. There are also different religious ideas. The Chimeran Queen is Medusa. She doesn’t have snakes for hair, but because she is chimeran she has worms in and around and through her body. She is horrendous to behold, but she is the queen of the chimeran world, Otaura.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
That was Will Horner. He was critiquing a story he had accepted for one of his anthologies – Black is the color of my true love’s hair– and he said two things which I often find myself repeating to other writers. The first was: “This sentence is doing too much work.” And the second was, “This is redundant. You already said that.”

Want to learn more about Carole McDonnell and The Charcoal Bride? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter 2, and Amazon page. Still want more? Check out her YouTube channel and Wattpad page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Charcoal Bride.

Thanks to author Carole McDonnell for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Lana Hechtman Ayers on January 3, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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dianna sanchez Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Dianna Sanchez. Dianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop, frequent participant in Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, the Author’s Guild, Broad Universe, and New England Speculative Writers, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Dianna has published one novel, A Witch’s Kitchen (Dreaming Robot Press, September 2016), and the sequel, A Pixie’s Promise (September 2018). Her short fiction appears in the 2017 and 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guides.

sanchez book Dianna Sanchez’s latest book, A Pixie’s Promise, is a fun middle grade read (ages 8 – 12). A quick summary for my readers: Petunia’s tired of being overlooked just because she’s six inches tall. She gets lost at home among her gazillion brothers, sisters, and cousins, and her own parents don’t remember her name. When her best friend, Millie, offers a vacation at her house, Petunia jumps at the chance. Cooking for Millie’s witch of a mother and babysitting a tree should be easy, right? But when an epidemic of spickle pox hits the Enchanted Forest, and Millie’s mother comes down with a mysterious illness, Petunia must pitch in to brew cures as quickly as she can, even if that means using up all her pixie dust. It’s a good thing she has friends to help.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, A Pixie’s Promise?
The protagonist, Petunia, was a supporting character in my first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, and I really wanted to spend more time exploring her character and giving her the spotlight she so desperately craves. Petunia’s a six-inch-tall pixie from a large family with twelve or so siblings and an exponential number of cousins. I was inspired by my own large extended family and my abuela, who can never keep all our names straight. Petunia feels lost and overlooked, both within her family and in the culture of the Enchanted Forest where she lives, and she’s always trying to find ways to gain attention. She gets into fights and tells really bad jokes, but she’s also fiercely loyal and deeply determined to succeed.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
That’s a terrible question! That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! Even though Petunia is the focus of this book, I still have a soft spot for Millie, the protagonist of A Witch’s Kitchen, and a deep fondness for Millie’s half-brother, Max. I love pushing the boundaries on Millie’s prickly mother, Bogdana, and I really enjoyed playing with their house ghost, Horace. I even love my villain, Cretacia! That’s one of the reasons why I choose a different protagonist for each book. Sagara, a math-loving elf, will be the protagonist of book three, An Elf’s Equations, and Max will star in book four.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
I’m indie-published by Dreaming Robot Press, an awesome little publisher that specializes in science fiction and fantasy for middle grade readers. I love the flexibility of working with a small press. They allowed me to design the cover for my first novel and used a sketch by my then-ten-year-old daughter as the basis for the cover of A Pixie’s Promise. They Kickstart each novel and anthology they publish, which is a lot of fun and a great way to connect with my readers. The disadvantage, of course, is that I have to fight to have my book carried in bookstores and rely heavily on social media to promote my books, which eats into my writing time.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m a hybrid, actually. I usually start with a basic plot outline and a well-fixed beginning and ending. Then, as I write, the story begins to change and grow organically. I have a bad tendency to kitchen sink my novels, throwing in ideas as they occur to me. That leads me to a lengthy revision process, when I have to significantly prune and reshape my work. I suppose you could call this a sculptor’s process. I start with a wire frame, spend my first draft throwing clay at it, and then carve and smooth and refine until I have the final manuscript.

What was your favorite book as a child?
That’s almost as bad as asking which character is my favorite! I devoured books as a child and worked my way alphabetically through the SFF section of my local library. The books that I came back to over and over were Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders and Harper Hall series, and a little-known book called Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle. I think what drew me to these particular books was the common themes of determination and personal transformation. Schmendrick perseveres and finds his magic. Frodo and Sam persevere all the way to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Lessa goes from downtrodden scullery maid to leader of a weyr of dragonriders. Maris, the protagonist of Windhaven, changes all the rules of succession so that she can become a flyer. This last, in particular, inspired me to push my way out of the various boxes society tries to place me in. There were very few women (about 25% my freshman year) and even fewer Hispanic women at MIT, but I refused to let those labels define me or prevent me from succeeding.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on An Elf’s Equations, which is proving to be quite tricky. Originally, it was the second half of A Pixie’s Promise, but my publisher cried foul when I turned it in to them because there was entirely too much packed into one novel, and Sagara had largely taken over that second half even though Petunia was the protagonist. I’m now revising with Sagara as the viewpoint character, which has been slow going because I hadn’t done any of my usual character arc workup. All I knew was that she loved math and was something of a misfit among the elves because of it. But a lot of deep work on Sagara plus a very inspiring trip to Sweden and Finland have got me chugging along again.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Daniel José Older has a wonderful essay refuting the standard advice that you must write every day. Certainly, that would be lovely, but like most people who don’t live in a monastery or on a desert island, I have a complicated life, and much of my time is devoted to my family. I can’t have a set work schedule because I never know from day to day whether someone will be home sick or has a doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointment or desperately needs silk roses for a school project, or the car gets sideswiped and needs repair, or both heating valves in our house break… all the tiny emergencies of daily life that I must cope with. Thanks to Older, I refuse to feel guilty for the days when I get no writing done, and this makes me far less anxious and more able to work when I do find the time.

Want to learn more about Dianna Sanchez and A Pixie’s Promise? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of A Pixie’s Promise.

Thanks to author Dianna Sanchez for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Carole McDonnell on January 1, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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