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Shultz-photo-128x128 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Jill Shultz. Jill Shultz has always been enthralled by the places where the wild meets the fantastic. She’s the award-winning author of Angel on the Ropes, science fiction with a Cirque du Soleil vibe. For most of her career she’s zigzagged between environmental and arts organizations; some of the strange but true consequences can be found on the author page of her website.

Born in Brooklyn before it was cool, she now lives upstate, where she awaits the arrival of transporters to whisk her to the sage flats of Yellowstone every dawn.

Jill Shultz’s latest book, Angel on the Ropes, is a novel circus and science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Amandine Sand lives to fly. Unfortunately, she’s hobbled by a life-threatening secret: she’s one of the spotted humans wrongly accused of being a plague carrier. These “leopards” are hunted by zealots to protect their off-world colony from the scourge. Despite this threat, Amandine spends her days guiding other leopards to an underground shelter run by the pacifist Seekers. At night, with her own spots hidden, she soars on the trapeze, the one place she feels free and gloriously alive.

When the persecution of leopards explodes into widespread violence, the Seekers demand more of her time. But her circus is teetering toward bankruptcy and desperately needs her, too. She has no time to breathe…then she meets a stranger who leaves her breathless—and might be the biggest risk of all. If her trust is misplaced and she’s unmasked, everyone she loves and everything she’s fought for could crash.

To survive, Amandine must draw upon all of her circus and Seeker skills. But can a pacifist defend her violent enemies to stop a civil war? And can this reluctant angel fly beyond her limits to save her life, her love, and her world?

AR_cover-trade_120312.indd Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Angel on the Ropes?

The origin of this novel was quite unusual for me. Generally, my curiosity is piqued by some unusual fact or phrase or experience that prompts research, which deepens my intrigue and eventually develops into a story. Angel on the Ropes, however, began with an emotion. For a day or so I walked around feeling my protagonist’s longing. I had to figure out what she wanted so badly—she was driving me nuts!

Once I realized she was an artist and a performer, I decided to focus on the circus (based on an experience some years before that transformed the way I thought about circus.) Amandine’s personality was inspired by interviews with professional circus artists. When I uncovered her biggest problem and her secret dream, I had the story.

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

Amandine Sand, the protagonist. She longs for the basic things that most of us want: love, happiness, a sense of accomplishment… but she’s caught between two opposing worlds, and to make matters even worse, she has a life-threatening secret. So this very flamboyant and passionate trapeze artist is also secretive and constrained. I love passionate people who are full-throttle, and is she ever. Her transformation was so satisfying.

Interestingly, I’m terrified of heights. Imagining what it was like to adore flying was truly entering a new world! I did try flying trapeze during my research and actually launched the book from a flying trapeze, because, “book launch.” How could I resist?

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

Self-published. For me, the key advantages of self-publishing are creative control, nimbleness in marketing, and longevity. I had a great relationship with my editor and cover artist. Of course, when you’re acting as both writer and publisher—in effect, starting a business—there’s a lot more work to do and higher costs. Plus, science fiction and fantasy is not yet as open to self-published authors as other genres, so many promotional opportunities are unavailable.

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

I’m both. I tend to do a lot of research before I begin writing, and develop character profiles based on psychological theory. With my current novel, I’m pushing myself to create fairly detailed chapter summaries first. That’s tough but productive.

The research continues as I write, though it changes. If I simply need to fact-check something, I just leave myself a note in the margin to do that later, which allows me to keep up my momentum. If I can’t write a scene effectively without more information, then I’ll stop and do the research I need right then. Of course, if a fabulous interview opportunity arises, I’ll make time for it.

During the first draft, I’ll write scenes that are rattling around in my head and not worry about whether they’ll end up in the story, knowing they’ll contribute to a deeper understanding of my characters, if nothing else. The combination of planning and writing into the unknown helps me navigate my doubts while still remaining open enough for those lucky discoveries.

For me, the most fun happens during revision.

What was your favorite book as a child?

The first book I remember falling in love with was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Just thinking about it makes me smile. That book was so full of joy and discovery, so boundless, so magical.

Like many others, Anne McCaffrey was one of the first science fiction and fantasy authors I encountered, beginning with the Dragonriders of Pern series. I wanted to be best friends with a dragon, though I probably would’ve freaked out while flying (see fear of heights above). I’m still a sucker for dragons. And witches. And shapeshifters of all types. I’m equally drawn to science fiction and fantasy.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and a member of the Bad Decisions Book Club (readers who make bad life choices they know they will dearly regret the next day because they just can’t stop reading a good story, even if they toothpicks to prop their eyelids open).

What writing project are you currently working on?

A novel about a wolf biologist in Yellowstone who’s going to have to make some very hard choices to protect what she loves most. In the process, she’ll wrestle with a pack of werewolves who are radical environmentalists. It’s full of wildlife geekiness, moral challenges, and love…which pretty much sums up my life.

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

“Don’t flinch.”

Andre Dubus III said that during a workshop. The more I learn about writing, the more it makes sense to me. My early drafts are full of flinches. Sometimes when the discomfort is really bad, I’ll just write notes to myself about the work I need to do and move on. Does that count as a half-flinch? Other times I try to push through right then, knowing that if I wrestle with this, I may discover something powerful. Learning is often uncomfortable, after all.

A special offer from Jill: If you’d like a free copy of the ebook version of Angel on the Ropes, send a message to Jill here.

Want to learn more about Jill Shultz and Angel on the Ropes? Check out her:  Website and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a paperback copy of Angel on the Ropes.

Thanks to author Jill Shultz for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Wendy Van Camp on March 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Rhoads Headshots 9-18 FINAL-1782 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Loren Rhoads. Loren Rhoads is the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of Lost Angels and its upcoming sequel Angelus Rose. On her own, she’s written a space opera trilogy called In the Wake of the Templars and a nonfiction guidebook to 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die.

Loren Rhoads’s latest book, Lost Angels, is a novel fantasy fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In the days before the Flood, Azaziel had been a Watcher, sent down to help God’s creatures on Earth. He fell in love with one of Cain’s granddaughters and they passed her mortal life in bliss. Now, he’s imprisoned in the Los Angeles basin. His angelic brethren, Heaven’s misfits, don’t understand the longing Aza feels: once he had been loved entirely for himself.

The succubus Lorelei doesn’t know any of this when she sets her sights on Azaziel. All she knows is that the angel’s fall will bring glory to Hell and acclaim to any succubus who accomplishes it. Of course, it never occurs to Lorelei that Azaziel might try to tame her by possessing her with a mortal girl’s soul. Can the succubus find an exorcist before the fury of Hell is unleashed?

Rhoads LostAngels cover Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Lost Angels?

I wrote a short story for a friend. There was an apartment building in his neighborhood called The Lorelei, so that became the name of the succubus in the story. This was the first time I wrote a story as a serial. I’d write a scene or two each day, then send it to him. Usually, I write things all out of order, then rearrange the scenes in revision, but this time I wrote things linearly.

As it turned out, he couldn’t wait for me to finish the original short story so he could write chapter 2. And then suddenly we were writing a book.

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

I genuinely like Lorelei, even though she is a morally gray character. She is based on a woman I went to university with who lit up every room she walked in to. Everyone had a crush on Kim, because she was so much fun. Lorelei actually likes her prey and works hard to see that they enjoy themselves before she takes their souls. And then she meets Azaziel – and she definitely bites off more than she can chew.

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

The book was originally published by a small press, but I got the rights back a couple of years ago and republished it under my own company. The advantage of doing it myself is that I really like the new cover. The text is exactly the way I wanted it. I’m sort of a control junky.

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

Oh, I really like gardener better than pantser. What a great term! I don’t like to know too much about my stories when I start them. I almost never work to an outline. Instead, I write scenes as they come to me, then piece them together like a puzzle. I really love the process of fitting everything together. It’s actually my favorite part of writing. Sometimes I can’t see the whole picture until I get all the scenes assembled and read it through. It’s a revelation to see what the story is really about. I have a friend who says that the author is always the last to know.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was 10 when I read Dracula for the first time. I’d grown up watching the black and white Universal horror movies on Saturday afternoons. My mom pointed out that a lot of my favorite characters—Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, The Invisible Man – were based on or inspired by books. (She was a junior high school librarian.) So I started with my favorite monster and read his book while we were on a family vacation.

All these years later, I still have a soft spot for monsters and outcasts.

What writing project are you currently working on?

When Brian and I wrote the original book, which we called As Above, So Below, it was huge. It look more than a ream of paper to print out the whole thing. The story had a natural climax about halfway through, so I cut the book in half and got it published as Lost Angels.

I spent Nanowrimo 2018 putting together the sequel. Most of the story was there, but it didn’t stand alone, so I went back in to write character introductions for everyone, along with lots of description for readers who might be encountering these characters for the first time. Or for the first time in a while, since the first book came out in 2016.

I wanted to make the second book more romantic, too. Brian describes the As Above, So Below books as Romeo and Juliette with angels and devils. I wanted those crazy kids to go on some actual dates and have some fun together, in amongst the damning people to hell.

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

I met Ray Bradbury once, when he came up to San Francisco for a book signing. I told him I was working on a book, but it was a real struggle. He told me, “Don’t think so much. Just write. You’ll figure it out as you’re writing.” I realized he was completely right. I can research everything, make sure I know everything in advance, or I can just write and leave placeholders for the things I need to research later. If you write before researching, then you know what you need to know. That’s been game-changing for me.

The key has been getting out of my own way. And it helps a lot to write with someone like Brian, who was a researcher in the library at 20th Century Fox. His research made for really rich backstories for our characters.

Want to learn more about Loren Rhoads and Lost Angels? Check out her: BlogFacebook pageTwitterInstagramPinterest, and  Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Lost Angels.

Thanks to author Loren Rhoads for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Jill Shultz on March 14, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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bo balder pic 2016 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Bo Balder. Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Clarkesworld. Her fiction has also appeared in Escape Pod, Nature and other places. Her science fiction novel, The Wan, was published by Pink Narcissus Press. She is a member of SFWA, Codex Writers and a graduate of Viable Paradise.

Bo Balder’s latest book, The Wan, is a novel science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In a far future, on a faraway planet, humans have become infected by The Wan. The alien Wan are creatures that communicate by feeding each other poems composed of their own flesh. Obsessed alien and former human biologist Ing infects Frog, a barren slave girl and Firdaus, deposed ruler of the human settlement, with the alien fungus. When a once-in-a-millenium reproductive event threatens to destroy all human life on the planet, Frog and Firdaus must choose between transforming their loved ones into cadaverous toadstools, and surviving—or watching them all die in a planetary holocaust. Unless Frog can come up with a third solution…with the help of her greatest enemy.
wan front cover bo Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Wan?

The same place all my ideas come from, a strange place between waking and sleeping, between trance and relaxation. At first the book was set in darkness, catacombs beneath a city, and it was only when I decided to go above ground in the bright sunlight that the whole plot took its (mostly) final shape.

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

I think it’s Ing–she is kind of the villain, but she’s also a mover and a shaker and a wounded human being who only ever tries to do good. Her story is a tragic loss of memory and identity, of everyone she’s ever known. I’m happy that some of her lives on.

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

It was published by a small independent press, Pink Narcissus. The advantage to having an indie publisher is that the communication is very direct and personal, the disadvantage is of course the lack of money for PR and distribution channels.

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

I’m a bit of both! I outline in advance, but only in a very global way, so that within the limits of a scene the pantser part of my writer persona still gets to play.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was blown away by The Tripods by John Christopher. It was the first science fiction book I got my hands on and I absolutely loved it. I had seen science fiction TV (The Thunderbirds) without realizing what it was, but The Tripods was a much more creative and personal story. The protagonist in The Tripods was a child, like me, caught up in circumstances not of his own making. The idea of aliens just fascinated me. Once I realized there was a whole genre devoted to this stuff I was off. A fan for life.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of short stories, and will soon be writing more, but I’m also preparing/ brainstorming/ outlining a new space opera novel.

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

Let your subconscious do the writing for you and only put on your editor hat when it’s finished. Don’t read back, don’t spellcheck, don’t second guess yourself.

Want to learn more about Bo Balder and The Wan? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook page Twitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Wan.

Thanks to author Bo Balder for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Loren Rhoads on March 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your favorite book as a child?

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

What writing project are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Prophecy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your favorite book as a child?

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

What writing project are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Elisha Daemon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your favorite book as a child?

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

What writing project are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Night Blade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your favorite book as a child?

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

What writing project are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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