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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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AL Kaplan Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, A. L. Kaplan. A. L. Kaplan’s love of books started as a child and sparked a creative imagination. Born on a cold winter morning in scenic northern New Jersey, her stories and poems have been included in several anthologies and magazines. Her novel, Star Touched, released October 2017. She is the Maryland Writers’ Association’s Vice President and served on the Howard County Chapter board for several years. A. L. is a member of Broad Universe and holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. When not writing or indulging in her fascination with wolves, A. L. is the props manager for a local theatre. This proud mother of two lives in Maryland with her husband and dog.

Startouched AL Kaplan A. L. Kaplan’s latest book, Star Touched, is a fast-paced read for those who love science fiction. A quick summary for my readers: Eighteen-year-old Tatiana is running from her past and her star-touched powers eight years after a meteor devastates earth’s population. Her power to heal may be overshadowed by more destructive abilities. Fleeing the persecution of those like her, Tatiana seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. But this civil haven, in a world where society has broken down, is beginning to crumble. Will Tatiana flee or stay and fight for the new life she has built? Only by harnessing the very forces that haunt her can Tatiana save her friends…and herself.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Star Touched?
Star Touched was born from a series of nightmares: Huge waves of water, giant fireballs, etc. There are several scenes that are straight from those dreams. There are real world inspirations as well. Tatiana’s favorite book, Island of the Blue Dolphin, is also one of mine. The bit about the octopus came from a trip to the aquarium. Some things I didn’t plan on that just sort of happened, were the huge meteor that passed nearby earlier in 2018 or the multitude of natural disasters. Really, I didn’t plan that.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Bobby Sue started as a minor character, then morphed into a whole lot more. She’s just a sweet southern girl who was a lot of fun to write. I had to do some research to get her accent right and wasn’t sure I had it right until I saw Jason Smith on Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship. Yup. Nailed that one.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Star Touched was published by a small press. One of the advantages was I got to have a lot of input on the book cover without having to hunt down a cover artist. They handled all the non-creative parts of getting a book out. Getting books on shelves is another story. Most stores will order print copies if requested, but unless I’m going there for a reading or signing, they don’t stock them.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I tend to be somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. The beginning and end are usually set, but what happens between them evolves as I write. I’m also flexible to what my characters tell me.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I had three favorite books growing up, Julie of the Wolves, My Side of the Mountain, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. All of them have similar themes, kids surviving on their own in the wild. Something about that always touched me. By the way, I also love the musicals Annie and Oliver. Go figure.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on several projects right now, which is very unusually for me. There is a sequel to Star Touched, a YA fantasy, a Sci-fi fantasy series, an a few short stories. There’s even a story about Fifi – Well, sort of.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
This wasn’t exactly advice as much as inspiration. My college English 101 teacher told the class she wanted everyone to write creatively and wasn’t taking points off for spelling errors. It was the first time I didn’t stress out with words. I got an A on my first assignment. She also made a general request for those of us with “artistic handwriting” to please write every other line.

Want to learn more about A. L. Kaplan and Star Touched? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Star Touched.

Thanks to author A. L. Kaplan for stopping by. Watch for a post from me on Christmas and an interview with author Dianna Sanchez on December 27. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, LJ Cohen. LJ is a Boston area novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, geek, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist specializing in chronic pain management, she now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. When not bringing home strays (canine and human), LJ can be found writing, which looks a lot like daydreaming.

LJ is active in SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and Broad Universe, and blogs about publishing, general geekery, and other ephemera. A Star in the Void (book 5 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space) is her most recent novel. Derelict, the first novel in the series, was chosen as a Library Journal Self-e Select title and book of the year in 2016.

A Star In The Void ebook Cover revised LJ’s latest book, A Star in the Void, is an out-of-this-world read for those who love science fiction. A quick summary for my readers:

Control the wormholes, control the galaxy! For over fifty years, the Commonwealth’s lock on wormhole transit has enabled the military government to keep its grip on commerce, travel, and the community in diaspora off Earth. But everything changed once Ro Maldonado resurrected the damaged AI on a derelict spaceship. When she and her accidental passengers aboard Halcyone stumbled upon a hidden planet and Ada May, its brilliant but reclusive leader, they became entangled with her covert resistance.

But behind the scenes of the Commonwealth lurks an even bigger enemy: the Reaction Chamber, a powerful shadow organization of politicians, business moguls, and crime cartels that has co-opted and infiltrated all levels of the government. The Chamber knows Halcyone is the key to finding and eliminating the resistance. And as people close to Ro and her companions disappear or die, it’s clear their enemies are closing in fast.

When May vanishes through an impossible wormhole, taking the leader of the Reaction Chamber with her, she abruptly shatters a decades-old stalemate. Now, Halcyone and her crew must decode May’s revolutionary wormhole technology and locate the missing scientist before the Reaction Chamber obliterates the resistance and exploits its resources to seize complete control of the cosmos.

This is the culmination of the series that began with Derelict, a kindle best seller and award winning science fiction novel.

A Star in the Void - Cover Art Where did the idea come from for your latest book, A Star in the Void?
It’s pretty much impossible to separate out this 5th and final book of the Halcyone Space Series from the prior books. The initial idea for the series actually started out as a very different book than what ended up being written. My first idea was for a YA book where the main conflict was between the children of privileged diplomats and the children of the space station personnel. What I developed and wrote ended up being far richer and far more nuanced, as well as being more of a genre science fiction space opera and not specifically YA.

Typically, my stories are a weird blend of a lot of disparate ideas. These books had many influences, including:
— a colonial world scattered across space where the colonists lost their war for independence
— a group of young people who stumble upon a political conspiracy that changes the trajectory of all their lives
— an AI controlled space ship where the AI is damaged and has PTSD
— a post-sea level rise world where we’ve abandoned the coastal cities and where the gap between the wealthy and the poor has widened dramatically, creating permanent shanty towns of emergency settlements
— a story where one generation of revolutionaries passes the fight to the next

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Wow. That is a very hard question in a story with a large ensemble cast!

I will highlight Barre Durbin. He is the eldest son of the station’s physicians. A musician in a family of hard scientists, he has always felt less-than both in his family and in the wider world. What I love about Barre is how much he grows and changes across all five books and the relationship he has with Halcyone’s damaged AI: he is the one who figures out how to make contact with the computer, creating a musical language to bypass its broken code and eventually help it heal. He also has a deep connection to his young brother Jem.

I wanted to highlight the importance of relationships in these books and how it is our emotional bonds that sustain us, especially in times of crisis. Nearly all of the characters travel this arc at one point or another through the five books.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My novels are self-published. After traveling the traditional route and being represented by an agent for 5 years, but not successfully selling a novel, I created my own publishing imprint.

I’m very much someone who likes to have creative control of each step in the process and have found a team of freelance folks—editors and cover artists—who help make my books shine. I also like being able to set my own publication schedule and to be able to price my books.

The disadvantages are: It’s far harder to get your books in bookstores. Discovery is entirely up to you. Promotion is entirely up to you. Plus, I have to outlay the production expenses

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m a little bit of both! I typically start out with a big picture view of the story, the main characters and their problems/desires/goals. Then, I start writing. After a few scenes or chapters, I go back to my big picture view and see if anything has changed. Then I outline what I’ve written and a few scenes beyond.
Then, it’s write, reflect, and repeat.

What was your favorite book as a child?
Hands down, A Wrinkle in Time. It was the first time I’d read a speculative fiction story where a girl I could identify with so closely was the hero. Even when a boy (Calvin) was in the story, the book belonged to Meg. Even after they rescued her father, she was still the hero and main driver of the story. It was a revelation. It was the book that spurred me to write my own stories.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’ve just created that big picture view of my next book. It’s a totally different universe from the Halcyone Space Series. I’m in the process of putting together the big picture view of a whole new story. New characters, new universe. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s broad themes are inspired from this verse by Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

Multiple worlds are connected in the quantum realm. Most are safely sealed off. Most have no knowledge that they are but one in an infinite multitude. A few people on a few scattered worlds can see though the multiverse. Most of those go mad. Fewer still are able to bear the burden of so many possibilities. Those are seers and are either considered cursed or blessed. Though the reality is some of both.

Perhaps one in a billion has the ability to slip from world to world and becomes a Traveler. But always, there is balance. A Traveler comes, a Traveler goes, never more than any world can bear, treading lightly to encourage balance. Until now.
Three individuals from three different worlds are drawn to one another through the thinning walls between the worlds. None of these three are Travelers in truth. But they are all that is left. For they discover something is hunting Travelers and obliterating them and the balance they bring from the multiverse. Together, they must rescue each other and fight a foe they cannot name to heal the worlds before the walls dissolve for good.

I have the characters, their goals, their problems and I’ve written a few trial scenes. Nothing left to do but the writing!

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Find your own process and don’t be afraid to change it.

Want to learn more about L.J. Cohen and A Star in the Void? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of A Star in the Void.

Thanks to author L.J. Cohen for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author A.L. Kaplan on December 20. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Jennifer Povey Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Jennifer R. Povey. Born in Nottingham, England, Jennifer R. Povey now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for “Analog.” She is currently working on an urban fantasy series of which the most recent volume, Fallen Day (Lost Guardians Book Four), was released in the summer of 2017. Additionally, she is a regular writer and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.

Jennifer Povey Book Jennifer’s latest book, Risen Day, is a great read for those who enjoy urban fantasy. A quick summary for my readers: After saving the city of London from a demon trying to make it his own personal kingdom, Anna McKenzie, Victor Prince and their friends must now save the world…from a similar, but far greater threat. One which has already removed many of Earth’s defenses.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Risen Day?

This is the fourth (and last) in a series that was essentially an answer to the craze for YA vampire romantic fantasy…remember that? It evolved into something a little different. I hadn’t planned on writing an actual romance.

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

Rahel Chudasama. She’s just so much fun to write! I love her powers, and now I kind of regret that I didn’t introduce her until Book Three.

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

Self published. The advantage is keeping control and not having to worry about a publisher going bankrupt or deciding your series sold so badly that it isn’t worth publishing the rest. Disadvantage is having to pay for everything.

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

Definitely a gardener, although I prefer “discovery writer.” I usually know what the ending is going to be. Usually.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I don’t do favorite questions! 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the book that got me into science fiction though…and for fantasy, yes, The Hobbit. What? I’m a forty something Brit.

What writing project are you currently working on?

About to start a new science fiction novel, working title, The Veteran –although I know that’s going to change. I also have another book I’ll be publishing in the new year.

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

Not to follow writing advice slavishly. The rules are useful, but you need to learn how to break them.

Want to learn more about Jennifer R. Povey and Risen Day? Check out her :
Website, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Risen Day.

Thanks to author Jennifer R. Povey for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Tanya Lisle on December 13. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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