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Happy Groundhog Day!

Here’s the February schedule of guest author interviews. I hope you’ll stop by and check out this wonderful group of writers:

February 2 – Eddie Louise

February 5 – Claire Davon

February 7 – Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

February 12 – Catherine Lundoff

February 14 – Meriah Crawford

February 19 – Juliana Spink Mills

February 21 – Elaine Isaak

February 26 – Denise Timpko

February 28 – Heidi Hanley Smith

Keep on reading! – Vonnie

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rebecca g farrell Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Rebecca Gomez Farrell. Rebecca Gomez Farrell writes all the speculative fiction genres she can conjure up. Her first fantasy novel, Wings Unseen, debuted in August 2017 from Meerkat Press. You can find her short stories in over 20 anthologies, magazines, and websites including Dark Luminous Wings, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Fright into Flight. Becca co-leads the 400-member strong East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup group and organizes a chapter of the national Women Who Submit writing organization, which encourages female writers to send their work out for publication. She also co-moderates Facebook resource groups for female-identifying writers and is a regular participant in the Bay Area literary reading scene. Becca’s food, drink, and travel blog, theGourmez.com, has garnered multiple accolades and influences every tasty bite of her fictional worldbuilding.

Rebecca Gomez Farrell’s latest book, Wings Unseen, is a novel fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—When Vesperi, a Meduan noblewoman, kills a Lanserim spy with a lick of her silver flame, she hopes the powerful display of magic will convince her father to name her as his heir. She doesn’t know the act will draw the eye of the tyrannical Guj, Medua’s leader, or that the spy was the brother of Serrafina Gavenstone, the fiancèe of Lansera’s Prince Janto.

perf6.000x9.000.indd As Prince Janto sets out for an annual competition on the mysterious island of Braven, Serra accepts an invitation to study with the religious Brotherhood, hoping for somewhere to grieve her brother’s murder in peace. What she finds instead is a horror that threatens both countries, devouring all living things and leaving husks of skin in its wake.

To defeat it, Janto and Serra must learn to work together with the only person who possesses the magic that can: Vesperi. An ultimate rejection plunges Vesperi forward toward their shared destiny, with the powerful Guj on her heels and the menacing beating of unseen wings all about.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Wings Unseen?

Way back in college, a decade and a half ago, I began thinking about writing Wings Unseen, though it had no title then, of course! I knew I wanted to tell an epic fantasy story, and I knew it would involve a prophecy about a silver stag, a prince and his betrothed having to confront how destiny might have different plans for their idyllic love, and a woman raised to be cruel in a country that prizes power and greed above all else. I had pictures of my characters and their motivations right away, and the plot was born out of that over many years, when I had free moments to write.

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

The book’s three main characters are the nearest and dearest to me, and I refuse to pick between them. I do quite love two of the side characters, though: Jerusho, a portly young man who inspires Janto to chase his own dream by hunting a mythical creature despite everyone’s doubts that it exists; and Lourda, a bubbly woman with wild hair who couldn’t be more different from Serra, but also couldn’t be a truer friend to her while Serra is dealing with her brother’s murder and the mysterious Brotherhood.

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

Wings Unseen is traditionally published by Meerkat Press, a wonderful small press out of Atlanta. I wanted the traditional experience in part because I wanted the validation of someone else believing in my work enough to be willing to invest in it through the full publication process. I also went that route because I didn’t want to be the sole person in charge of marketing the book – Meerkat Press has access to the big industry magazines that I would not have on my own. The disadvantages are that it takes time to publish a book traditionally; my book came out about a year after I signed my contract, and that’s a fast turnaround time for the industry. It was also four years after I finished the book, as I spent three years submitting it out to publishers and agents. If you want your book out now, not later, then self-publishing is the way to go, especially if you have the smarts and passion to undertake book marketing.

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

I’m a gardener, for sure, and a gardener that used to only work in fits and bursts, discovering the plot as I went and then editing to accommodate that changing plot. Typically, that means it took me a long time to write a book, but it’s done and polished by the third to fourth draft.

I’m working on the sequel to Wings Unseen right now, and it’s the first time I’ve written anything where I’m just focused on getting the words out before going back and revising. It’s a different technique for sure, and I’m not certain I like it, but it is nice and inspiring to see myself make progress in word count over a shorter time. I fear how much work there will be to do once that first draft if done, though!

What was your favorite book as a child?

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt was one of the first books I ever read with a map and a quest for fantastic creatures. The characters are rootable, the conflict fun, and there’s a great sprinkling of the everyday (the plot is about defining the perfect food) and the mythical (the plot is really about saving a fairy). I still enjoy re-reading it on occasion.

What writing project are you currently working on?

As mentioned, I’m working on the first draft of my Wings Unseen sequel. Once that’s done, I’ll be working on the third draft of Natural Disasters, the first book in an intended post-apocalyptic, paranormal romance trilogy about a future Earth on which natural disasters now operate like weather systems and romantic relationships have been outlawed to preserve people’s mental health. Hopefully, I’ll have that off to agents by spring. I’m also working on a handful of short stories, and I keep meaning to start writing personal essays.

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

Remember the details – What are the groceries and/or discarded items in your character’s trunk? They may be about to fight a space warlock in an abandoned carnival, but knowing they have a battery charger in case of a flat is what makes them relatable to those pesky humans, your readers.

Want to learn more about Rebecca Gomez Farrell and Wings Unseen? Check out her: Fiction Website, Twitter, and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Wings Unseen.

Thanks to author Rebecca Gomez Farrell for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Eddie Louise Clark on February 2, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

jayne barnard ice falls Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, J.E. (Jayne) Barnard. J.E. (Jayne) Barnard is a Calgary-based crime writer with 25 years of award-winning short fiction and children’s literature behind her. Author of the popular Maddie Hatter Adventures (Tyche Books), and now The Falls Mysteries (Dundurn Press), she’s won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur, the Bony Pete, and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award. Her works were shortlisted for the Prix Aurora (twice), the UK Debut Dagger, the Book Publishing in Alberta Award (twice), and three Great Canadian Story prizes. Jayne is a past VP of Crime Writers of Canada, a founder of Calgary Crime Writers, and a member of Sisters In Crime. Her most recent book is When the Flood Falls, a small-town psychological thriller set in the Alberta foothills west of Calgary.

whenthefloodfallsnew compressed 1 J.E. Barnard’s latest book, When the Flood Falls, is a novel mystery/thriller fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shattered by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear. As snowmelt swells the icy river, crashing whole trees against the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out of there, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge goes under. Can she find one true clue either way before Mother Nature make the decision for her? Can they both survive until the floodwaters fall?

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, When the Flood Falls?

It started long ago and oh, so far away, when my oldest high school friend left the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and her husband for no reasons that she could articulate. Even years later she had no words for how she was feeling at that time, except to say, “I woke up one day and I couldn’t do it any more. Any of it.” Because I believe that most of what people do has some reasoning behind it, even if they’re not consciously aware, the character of Lacey began as an exploration of possible motivations for my friend to leave her job, then her spouse, then her province, and set off alone across the country with just her vehicle, precious little in savings, and no job prospects waiting. From that point forward, my story is all fiction, so instead of what actually happened—moving her to one of Canada’s biggest cities and giving her a relatively stable life there—I put her in a beautiful, quite wild and natural setting (Bragg Creek, in the Alberta foothills) and added an impending flood to echo the chaotic currents in her heart and mind.

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

My favorite character in the book is often assumed to be Jan, the neighbor, because she has the same chronic illness as I do (ME/CFS) and her constrained life is basically my life except in a much cooler house, cantilevered over the beautiful Elbow Valley with a view for 200 miles to the snow-capped peaks of Waterton Lakes National Park, which abuts Glacier National Park at the US border. But really, I like Rob the most; he’s the manager/curator of a brand-new Arts Center and museum, which is kind of my dream job. Although often in over his head, and worried about being outed as gay to the potentially violent ranching types who frequent the local bars, he’s so enthusiastic about his job, his friends, his surroundings. I really like people—fictional or otherwise—who have a zest for life and aren’t afraid to show it.

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

deadly diamond jayne bk When the Flood Falls is traditionally published, by Dundurn Press of Toronto. My other series, The Maddie Hatter Adventures, are from an indie press—Tyche Books. The advantage of the first, Dundurn Press, is their distribution and their promotion budget. My books were available across Canada the same day they came out, and showing up on library shelves within a couple of weeks too. Dundurn staff monitor social media and amplify all my initiatives, find me interview opportunities beyond my personal sphere, and make sure there’s stock showing up in advance of any bookstore events. I’m also part of a huge stable of mutually supportive authors writing across many different genres.

Tyche Books, the woman-centric Calgary indie, doesn’t have the distribution or the marketing, so most of my sales with them are e-book and I do most of my marketing myself. Another difference is economies of scale the indies can’t access. Not many people realize the production cost differential between a big house’s print runs of 500 or 1000 books, and small/indie orders of 50 or 100. When shipping must be factored in it’s quite possible to lose money on every Maddie book (indie publisher) sold at the same bookstore event where every Falls Mystery (traditional publisher) makes us all money. That’s really a pity, because Tyche Books found a fabulous cover artist for my 3 books with them, and the utterly charming Robin Robinson covers really deserve to be seen by a wider audience. Indie presses live a precarious existence and many deserving publishers—and authors, and books—fall by the wayside due to simple economics.

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

I started off devoted to architecture, but it’s not a coincidence that my wind-down Netflixxing is often some travel series titled, for example, Great Gardens of Georgian England (if that series truly existed I’d own it!). I still like to have the underpinnings firmly in place, but my stories need those riots of unpredictable blooms, shaded walkways, and patches of overlooked thistles just waiting to snare the unwary reader. Like all the great gardens of Europe, my stories should end with that moment when the gardens open up to a vast landscape in which all things are at once possible and impossibly remote.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Little Women. Jo the teen scribbling in her garret was my role model from early on. I played Jo at our fifth grade Christmas assembly. At the next assembly I was one of Macbeth’s witches, which may have been the early seed of my love of play-readings and my later detour from psychology into theater school.

What writing project are you currently working on?

The editing of the second in The Falls Mysteries (Dundurn, July 2019). In this one, Lacey’s traded her active policing role for the job of care-taking her injured friend. She’s been looking forward to a peaceful foothills Christmas, but between her friend’s terminally ill mother hijacking the holiday to discuss assisted dying, the hunt for a young intern gone missing in a blizzard, and her own flashbacks to last holiday season with her abusive ex, it’s not exactly a winter wonderland she’s walking in. I hope to be finished this book by New Years Eve, when the terrifying climax occurs, so I can send it off to the editor and then go celebrate the end of 2018.

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

Your process outside the writing has to support your writing process. You need a time, a place, a space—and these have to be mental at least as much as physical. If you’re stressed and/or obsessed with some online or real-life drama, your brain can’t do the deep dives that inform truly compelling fiction. When I’m immersed in the creation of the story’s world, everything I watch or read, every conversation I have, will either deepen my connection to the story or disrupt the themes that are weaving themselves together in my writing brain. It takes daily discipline to keep running your life around a low-gratification, low-pay task like producing a novel that won’t see the light of day for two years and even then might sink unremarked in the vast and ever-growing sea of published books. You must work to keep up the belief that this is all worth it, even if nobody else ever reads your beloved project but you.

Want to learn more about J.E. (Jayne) Barnard and When the Flood Falls? Check out her: Website, Falls Mystery Facebook page, Maddie Hatter Adventures Facebook page, Twitter1 and Twitter2, and Instagram.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of When the Flood Falls and/or purchase a copy of Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond.

Thanks to author Jayne Barnard for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Rebecca Gomez Farrell on January 29, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

laurel anne hill for ewl promotional Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Laurel Anne Hill. Laurel Anne Hill—author and former underground storage tank operator—grew up in San Francisco, with more dreams of adventure than good sense or money. Her close brushes with death, love of family, respect for honor and belief in a higher power continue to influence her writing and her life. At age eleven, she won her first writing contest. By age eighteen, she won enough essay-writing contest money to fund four years of college tuition and books.

As an adult, Laurel has authored two award-winning novels. Her published short stories and nonfiction pieces total over forty. She has served as a program participant at many science fiction/fantasy conventions. She’s the Literary Stage Manager for the annual San Mateo County Fair, a speaker, writing contest judge, and anthology editor. And Laurel has even engineered a steam locomotive.

Laurel Anne Hill’s latest book, The Engine Woman’s Light is an award-winning steampunk novel. A quick summary for my readers—Laurel says: “I’ve made Chapter One of The Engine Woman’s Light a prologue of sorts, the story of how Juanita’s maternal great-grandmother rescues her from an asylum train and potential death. Chapter Two opens when Juanita is nearly sixteen years of age. She has gone to wash clothes. The spirit of the creek whispers the Chapter One story to her, but the words come out jumbled.

At this point, Juanita experiences her first “big” mystical vision: An airship with a ghostly captain. No surprise that he commands her to prevent California’s thrown-away people—including young children—from boarding trains to an asylum. That institution’s director plots murder to reduce the inmate population. Yet to save innocent lives, Juanita must take lives of the corrupt. How can she reconcile her assignment with her belief in the sacredness of all human life? And will she survive to marry her betrothed?

The spirits expect a mystic’s compliance. That’s the way I built her world. Juanita sets out despite inner trepidation to sabotage the railroad. Her ancestor, Billy, the ghost of a steam locomotive engineer, guides her. Then bit by bit, Juanita discovers the gut-wrenching truths all of her ancestors neglected to reveal.

To complicate matters, I made sure Juanita encounters members of California’s ruthless Mendoza family. Mendozas are connected with the asylums and the trains running there. The resulting dark and disturbing confrontations, including rape, scar her very soul. Yet Juanita’s inner strength and insight continue to grow. Her determination to love, forgive, and do what needs to be done becomes her salvation.”

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Engine Woman’s Light?

laurel book A dream I had in the early 1990s provided my initial inspiration for The Engine Woman’s Light. In that dream, an elderly woman condemned to euthanasia escaped from a death train, an abandoned infant girl in her arms. She walked at night toward a distant light and safety.

The resulting short story I wrote never worked, even though the voice of the old woman spoke to me inside of my head. Subplots burdened the story’s structure, failing to address the destiny of the rescued child. I had a novel on my hands, a book that would take me twenty years to complete. The fictional world I created in the process reflects a number of my personal experiences.

For example, The Engine Woman’s Light contains two scenes where spirits hide inside of clocks. I own an old wind-up alarm clock that used to belong to my maternal grandmother. I bought Gran a new Baby Ben—which was easier to wind—around 1988, and kept the old one for myself. The old Baby Ben stopped working about the time Gran died in 1989. Regardless, I continued to keep the timepiece on the shelf of my bed’s headboard. A terrible and unknown illness hit me a couple of years later. My back muscles went into non-stop spasm for six weeks. The pain was excruciating. I didn’t know how I was going to cope. Would I spend the rest of my life as an invalid? At my rock-bottom, mental low point, the broken Baby Ben started ticking. The minute hand advanced. Encouragement from Gran’s spirit? Several minutes later, the clock stopped, never to run again.

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

No doubt about it, I choose my protagonist: Juanita Elise Jame-Navarro. Her determination to complete the life-saving mission the spirits of her ancestors have assigned her—and do so even in the face of heart-wrenching adversity—is heroic and amazing. And so many of her thoughts and critical decisions, as the story progresses, result from her increasing understanding of the world and her place in it. Yet Juanita makes significant mistakes, as any believable character must do. She is both a gifted mystic traveler and a vulnerable young woman.

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

The Engine Woman’s Light was indie published by Sand Hill Review Press. The advantages of working with Sand Hill Review Press included my close involvement in the publishing and book promotion process, even during the cover design. I was, and remain, a member of the Sand Hill Review Press “team.” As to the disadvantages of working with a small indie publisher? The “big publishing house machine” for sales and marketing isn’t there. The scale is far smaller. Also, I received no advance.

Luckily, Editor-in-Chief Tory Hartmann from Sand Hill Review Press is both savvy and eager to provide advice. She entered The Engine Woman’s Light in the Independent Press Award contest and the novel won the gold award in Steampunk. This encouraged me to send my book to “Kirkus Reviews” and they gave me a “starred review.” Now my novel has won a total of twelve honors and awards.

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

On the first draft of my fiction manuscripts, I listen to my characters and follow their story-gardening advice. What grows, grows. I evict the plot weeds on subsequent drafts and trim back the bushels of unruly wording, ensuring that my story and character arcs work, that my showing far exceeds my telling. I start a project as a pantser and finish it as an architect.

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a child, I adored Gigi, The Story of a Merry Go Round Horse by Elizabeth Foster, a chapter book set in pre WWII Vienna. Gigi’s mother was a pine tree, and his father was the wind that sweeps through the Vienna woods. In this story, children could hear the wooden horses speak—until those children grew so tall that their feet reached the stirrups. Reflecting upon this book as an adult helped me learn how to bring the fantastical to life using ordinary prose.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m working on a YA/historical fantasy/magical realism novel with a tentative title of “Plague of Flies.” I’m sure that won’t be the final title. I’ve set the story in California, 1846, during the Bear Flag Rebellion (which was one of the preludes to the Mexican-American War). Catalina, my teen heroine, loves Angelo, the son of a wealthy rancher in Mexican Alta California. However, Angelo’s father looks to Spain to find his son a suitable match. Angelo enlists in the Mexican Army to prove he is man enough to choose his own bride—Catalina. Meanwhile, a local vaquero’s prophesy is fulfilled when a mysterious spirit man arrives on the scene. And then the spirit man enlists Catalina to help stop a potential invasion of Alta California by new Yanqui settlers. Settlers with little respect for Mexicans or Native Americans.

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

Write close to the point-of-view characters. Show the story through the eyes of those characters, rather than through the author’s eyes or an omniscient narrator. This advice has served me well.

For example, point of view became a big challenge when I wrote The Engine Woman’s Light, part of the reason the novel took me so many years to write. Most of the time, Juanita is Juanita. Yet sometimes, the spirit of an ancestor possesses her. How could I minimize potential reader confusion? The published novel uses first person to tell Juanita’s story and third person when she is possessed. Both point-of-view approaches remain quite close to their corresponding

Want to learn more about Laurel Anne Hill and The Engine Woman’s Light? Check out her: Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Engine Woman’s Light.

Thanks to author Laurel Anne Hill for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Jayne Barnard on January 24, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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

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

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