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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your writing/editing process like?

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

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

What was your favorite book as a child?

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

What writing project are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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The holidays are over and family houseguests have all returned to their own homes. The time has finally arrived for me to focus on my new collection of stories set in Lifthrasir, the world of my epic fantasy novel from Pole to Pole Publishing, The Enchanted Dagger.

crist-daggerThree of the stories to be included in Beyond the Sheercliffs are well on their way to completion. Working titles of these tales are: “The Velvet Gown,” “Greathearted,” and “Magpies.” By the way, I’m introducing each story with a scrap of a nursery rhyme. I imagine children everywhere, Lifthrasir included, sing rhymes!

It’s a tricky thing to write stories connected to a novel. I’m giving some background information on several of The Enchanted Dagger’s characters and letting my readers glimpse other parts of Lifthrasir. Plus, introducing a new race.

While expanding my fantasy world by writing Beyond the Sheercliffs, I’m mentally preparing to complete Book II of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir, (title still too nebulous to name) where my readers will follow the continuing adventures of Beck, Logan, Fafnir the dragonette, and friends (and enemies).

So Best Wishes to my readers for a Happy and Healthy 2017 as I dive into the world of Lifthrasir and write, write, write!

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small owl light  The 2014 Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll is accepting votes until midnight, January 14th. I’d really appreciate it if my readers would take the time to vote for my work in one or more of the following categories.

Young Adult Book: Owl Light http://critters.org/predpoll/novelyoungadult.shtml

Book Cover Art: Owl Light http://critters.org/predpoll/bookart.shtml

Spaceports and Spidersilk 10-14

Magazine Cover Art:

Spaceports and Spidersilk – Oct.

http://critters.org/predpoll/zineart.shtml

 

Poem: Fish Story http://critters.org/predpoll/poem.shtml

Garden Skull2 Published Art: Garden Skull

http://critters.org/predpoll/artwork.shtml

Thanks for reading my blog, and for your support this year.

Continued good wishes to each of you.

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2 Pawprints large art The Day of the Dead customs celebrated in Mexico and elsewhere are fascinating. The Dead are welcomed. Seemingly macabre toys, food, and costumes are actually colorful and festive symbols encouraging ancestors to return to this world for a visit.

Here’s a link to a site with lots of Day of the Dead information.

And a link to the complete version of one of my Day of the Dead stories, “Gifts in the Dark,” included in my newest story collection, Owl Light.

Gifts in the Dark  Like what you’re reading? You can check out Owl Light and my other books on Amazon.

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Hooray! The Enchanted Skean is now available from Amazon.  The 7-year journey from first words jotted on paper to completed novel has finally yielded a published book!  And I hope you like the cover using my painting and the art director skills of Jamie Johnson. Below is the cover blurb:

Skean copy “The Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir is a YA coming-of-age adventure novel filled with magic, miracles, and mystery. 14-year old Beck Conleth is living a quiet life in the seaside town of Queen’s Weather when his grandmother sends him on a journey to Ulfwood to retrieve his father’s bones and a family skean (dagger). After reaching Ulfwood, Beck discovers the skean is magical, and that it answers only to him. Soon the enchanted skean and its owner attract the attention of dark mages, goblins, and worse. Helped on his journey home by Wisewomen, warriors, shape-changers, and the other good folk of Lifthrasir, Beck faces death, danger, and the theft of his skean.

Accompanied by his best friend, Beck stows away on a ship, takes back his skean, befriends a dragon, and escapes with a troop of thieves. After reaching a dock in West Arnora, the company heads for the fortress of Ravens Haunt. As Beck and his companions face a hideous Skullsoul and an army of ogerhunches, he realizes there is a developing confrontation between good and evil, and he and his enchanted skean have a role to play.”

Thank you to Mockingbird Lane Press & Editor Regina Williams for not only believing in my novel, but helping me make it a better book with their invaluable input. And thanks to friends, family, and fans who’ve helped me on this journey.

Now, the success of The Enchanted Skean rests with you – the readers. So if you enjoy adventure tales filled with magic and epic fantasy, please visit Amazon,  “Like” The Enchanted Skean – Book I of the Chronicles of Lifthrasir, buy a copy, and post a review. If you’re on Goodreads, please post a review there, also. Thanks so much. – Vonnie

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author Thanks to Michigan fantasy author M.A. Donovan for stopping by. Hold on a minute, weren’t you promised a visit from author Shelby Patrick? Yes – but they are one and the same. M.A. Donovan uses the name Shelby Patrick when writing horror and thrillers. Now, let’s see what she has to say about fantasy.

Fantasy Meets Reality by M.A. Donovan

Fantasy should have its grounds in reality. Yes, we can totally make up our own little worlds but they fall flat without some truth to them. They need structure and rules. Even magic can’t get by without some sort of organization.

In The Golden Horn, I have created my magical kingdom where dragons rule, unicorns keep the peace, and magic users wield power. It pits my four main characters against dangerous beasts and demonic warlords on a quest to find the ultimate weapon – The Golden Horn. Nations have gone to war over this legendary weapon; treasure hunters have died attempting to locate it; and whole cities have been destroyed to keep it safe. When their kingdom is taken over by evil, my heroes begin their journey that is fraught with deadly traps and hungry monsters. If they fail, they will become enslaved to an ancient wizard with the power of the shadows on his side.

Although my imagination created this mythical world, I still had to pull from history and myth. Anyone can throw a few orcs or wizards in and claim it to be a fantasy realm, but it will lose readers. People want to feel like the place could have existed and their dreams will whisk them away to this wonderful kingdom. To do that, you need to come up with a society which involves villagers, towns, markets, trades, neighboring kingdoms, soldiers, religions, money, nobles, etc.

It helps to map out your world so that the reader can follow along as your characters travel along roads (rocky, dirt, paved) or paths (forests, meadows, rivers) to get to their destination (the next town, the castle, the monster’s lair). Once you have the basics down, how will they be traveling – horses, carriages, on foot, by ship? If you decide to go with horses, make sure the animals become part of the story. They need to be rested, watered, and fed as well. Figure out distances and time traveled depending on the mode of transportation. For example, it will take longer to go by foot than by horseback. What type of equipment do your characters carry? This will affect their travel pace. Who or what will they encounter in their travels?

frontcover When I first wrote my story, I left out a lot of the background information. My editor said I needed to make my world “real”. My characters weren’t situated for a book. Since they went from one battle to the next (in the original version), it was more like a role-playing game. They had to interact with other people along the way and have some down time. Plus, some of the monsters had to be downsized. They couldn’t fight the most intense creatures every day, but if they did, the fights had to be death-defying. The reader had to feel as if the character may not live to survive the tale. Reality check! Not only did the world need to be believable, so did the characters and their actions. That’s what makes a good story – fantasy or not.”

The Golden Horn is available at: http://amzn.to/WHRULe (print edition) and http://amzn.to/YN40FX (Kindle edition) or createspace.com And you can read the first three chapters for FREE at http://bit.ly/XC5pst Visit M.A. Donovan online at http://www.donovanfantasyauthor.com or check out her blog at http://www.freethewriterinside.com You can also find her on Facebook (ShelbyPatrickAuthor) and Twitter (@shelbypatrick).

Special Offer: Want to win a free signed copy of The Golden Horn along with a special gift from M.A. Donovan? Enter her “Letter to a Hero” contest. Simply craft a genius letter to your special hero (can be a fictional character or a real person) and send to her at kariah@donovanfantasyauthor.com with “Letter to a Hero” in the subject. She’ll select a winner at the end of her virtual book tour, on or around March 1, 2013. Please make sure to include your name, mailing address, and email in your letter.

Thanks again to M.A. Donovan for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a fantastical day.– Vonnie

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