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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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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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Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. And I am among the millions of readers who are grateful.

Of course, sentimental reader that I am on occasion, I love his A Christmas Carol and the transformation of Scrooge most. That said, how can any reader not enjoy his many books including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Nickolas Nickleby, Bleak House, and Hard Times.

An extravagance I usually don’t allow myself, I have purchased Charles Dickens complete works – and it is with great pleasure I open the volume and settle into the detailed and sometimes grim world of Dickens.

So Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens – and thanks! For more information on Dickens, check out this link.

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Writers struggle to not only write, but to find publishers for their novels. Sometimes, misery likes company (remember, clichés do come from a bit of truth). So I thought this post, 15 Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels that Publishers Rejected would offer some comfort to writers.

It proves that not every book is for every editor or publishing company. And it also proves, persistence counts! Hope you enjoy the article. 🙂

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I visited this post just to see if I’d read any of the Science Fiction novels listed!

I had – five to be exact. And of that five, I hated one of them. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one I loathed). Of the remaining four, I think I liked Dune by Frank Herbert (and his other novels set in this world) the best.

Though lists like this perhaps nudge readers to pick up a good book they’ve missed, I think they also do a disservice to the dozens of should-read books they ignore. For me, what I noticed most about this particular “top ten,” was the lack of female writers. Let’s not forget the ladies!

Do you agree with this “top ten” list?

I hope you’re enjoying my blog posts and links. Want to show some love? Visit my Amazon page and consider buying a book. 🙂

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Thanks to author Cindy Young-Turner for stopping by and sharing another point of view on the darkness in fantasy literature and film.

Finding Hope in Fantasy by Cindy Young-Turner

cyt_photo “A guest blogger here recently commented on the dark themes in YA novels these days. I like the fact that YA literature isn’t afraid to deal with serious issues. I’ve been reading a discussion in one of the fantasy groups on Goodreads about the current trend toward darkness in fantasy. It does seem like many of the popular fantasy books are very grim and very graphic. In fact, that could be said for a lot of media, whether it’s books, movies, even music. I’m not sure what the reason might be. Maybe it’s the 24/7 coverage of crisis after crisis or the recession and fears of global instability. Darkness does appear to be all around us. Perhaps the new trend of anti-heroes in a world where there is no right or wrong is simply a reflection of our times.

I don’t mind a bit of darkness in my fantasy. I like realism and characters with shades of gray. I like the answers to be difficult to obtain, and a book that makes the reader think about the fine line between the perception of what’s right and wrong. But as I’m currently working my way through G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (please, no spoilers, I’ve only finished books 1 and 2), I’m noticing that the grimness can be overpowering. Slogging through 800+ pages of the brutal effects of war on a populace and following a huge cast of characters, most of whom are pretty despicable, with the ones you actually like having little chance for happiness, makes me want to take a break and read something lighter before I tackle book 3.

TOHFINAL200x300 While I’m enjoying ASoIF, it’s also made me think about what I like most about reading fantasy, which I haven’t found much of in this series: the element of hope. Fantasy is often written on an epic scale. There might be a dark lord who needs vanquishing, a kingdom to save, an invasion to counter. Somewhere in that desperate situation, a hero will arise. Maybe it’s a hero you least expect. Maybe the hero herself never expected to be in that role, but somehow she carries on. She may stumble along the way. She may take a few wrong turns and make some bad choices, but in the end she gives the reader hope that the darkness can be turned back. Even when things are at their worst, such as Frodo and Sam on their trek through Mordor, or Harry, Hermione, and Ron facing the forces of Voldemort on their own, the reader clings to the hope that somehow the heroes will succeed, despite the odds stacked against them.

There are many things I love about fantasy, such as the amazing world building, the magic that I wish could be real, and the characters I’ve fallen in love with, but ultimately the stories that touch me the most are the ones that leave me with a sense of hope for the future. Although the fantasy worlds aren’t real, one of the great things about writing this genre is that it allows us to explore elements of our world and the human condition in a different venue. A hobbit can stand in for anyone who would rather be home enjoying a book and a pipe by the fire and instead is thrust into an adventure and a quest with grave consequences. And these unsuspecting heroes do the right thing. That gives me hope that any of us might make the choice to do the right thing.

Little Moon_JourneytoHope_CindyYoung_200x300 There’s a wonderful conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in the film version of Fellowship of the Ring that has stuck with me ever since I saw it. Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” And Gandalf responds, “ So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

To me, this sums up the power of fantasy. Even in our darkest hour, we can decide to find the hero within.”

Cindy Young-Turner is the author of Thief of Hope, and a short prequel, Journey to Hope, both published by Crescent Moon Press. Read more about her and her writing at www.cindyyoungturner.com. Thief of Hope is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Journey to Hope is a $.99 ebook available from Amazon Kindle.

Thanks again to Cindy Young-Turner for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a light-filled day.– Vonnie

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The following is the second part of a 1999 interview I did with science fiction writer, Jack L. Chalker. Click here to read Part I. (Photo of Jack Chalker courtesy of Patti Kinlock, chair of Balticon).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVWC: Earlier you mentioned the controversy surrounding The Soul Rider Saga from the mid-eighties (Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Empire of Flux and Anchor, Masters of Flux and Anchor, The Birth of Flux and Anchor, and Children of Flux and Anchor) and just now you mentioned naming characters in a manner that avoids lawsuits. Do you think fear of lawsuits and controversy are having an impact on today’s writers?

JLC: Well, if I really worried about that I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the Well World names. It’s crass, but publishers have insurance for this sort of thing and that’s in my contract as well. I have had some problems with legal staffs, but it was almost always because of commentary, rather than within the story itself. The only serious problems I had were with my autobiographical comments in my story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic, where the insurance company simply wouldn’t take the risk. There are other outlets, though, and other ways to say the same things.

Fear of lawsuits doesn’t affect many writers but it does affect editors and publishers through which we have to deal to get our work out to the public. This is nothing new.

The Soul Rider controversy wasn’t a legal problem, it was simply that people who see things in absolutes and do not understand what this work is about yelled because they believed it was politically incorrect. It may be, but not for what they said. My biggest critics on it, though, have all proudly admitted that they never read it. Unfortunately, at least one of these people is an influential editor for one of the dwindling number of New York publishers and he has kept a lot of writers’ work from going further based on this sort of PC lens. I have had more problems with this sort than with any lawyer.

VWC: I know from checking your website [no longer available], that you’re not convinced that e-books are profitable or that readers typically discover new authors via e-books. I happen to agree with you that many ‘people don’t read novels off screen, and they don’t have a tendency to shell out real money for books when they don’t retain anything physical for their money.’ [Remember this is 1999, before the Kindles, Nooks, etc. were mainstream.] So what do you think is the future of the science fiction/ fantasy publishing industry?

JLC: Unfortunately, I’m very pessimistic not just about science fiction, but about fiction books in general in the future. Readership overall is graying and down. The only areas of increase are tie-ins to movies and TV shows. The new distributors are MBA types who focus only on quick sell-through, maximize quick profits and invest nothing at all in the future or in the long term. These in turn drive the publishers, who can’t get books out on the shelves and racks that the distributors won’t take.

There’s a lot of excitement about Amazon.com and the like, but these are not online book stores, they are book SERVICES. That is, if you know what you want, it’s a quick and easy one stop source. But what about all the people who haven’t seen my books (or anybody you want to name as author). How do the new readers find you? Traditional reviewing sources are always inbred and tend not to have wide influence in any case, and online hype is actually paid for. If my publisher doesn’t pay the fee, Amazon.com doesn’t put those ‘If you like Farmer you’ll like Chalker’ type things up.

New and building readership comes from impulse buying, and that’s where nothing can beat the vanishing bookstore. The distributors weren’t interested in Priam’s Lens, so Barnes and Noble only bought 1,250 copies for their entire chain. Amazon’s selling a bunch, but they’re to my following, not to new people. You can see that I’m very discouraged about the future of books in general. I used to tell new writers not to quit their day jobs until they spent at least three years making more off writing than the job. Now, I tell them don’t quit unless you can retire with no book income.

VWC: Novels are like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite – but nonetheless, do you have a novel of saga that holds a slightly more cherished place in your heart? And is there a book or series that you wish you could change?

JLC: Well, Web of the Chozen was a joke done to win a bet and isn’t one of my personal favorites. It also came out due to some complexities in the wrong order; everybody who’d ignored me had to pay attention when Midnight at the Well of Souls became a spontaneous bestseller; they looked at my next book, which was supposed to be Identity Matrix. As it happened, though, Chozen came out next, and many reviewers and critics never read me again.

Favorite? The original Midnight at the Well of Souls, because it made my career and because it holds up as well now as when it was written. I’m uneven on the series that developed out of it; some are good books, but none, I think, approach the original stand-alone. Soul Rider was my most complex series, one many people could see only as a wild adventure, but that’s okay. Although I’d like to tweak the final book of the five, otherwise it’s pretty much the way I would do it again. The tweaks would be just to make clearer the sources of the wacky ideologies that emerged in the books.

My all-time favorite of all the things I’ve written is a novelette; Dance Band on the Titanic. I think it accomplished more of what I wanted to do in writing than anything else I’ve written.

VWC: Lastly, what advice do you have for the beginning writer who wants to be a novelist?

JLC: Go ahead and write. And, in fact, you can still get published even under the pessimistic conditions I outlined. But unless that first book’s a bestseller and turned into a Major Motion Picture, think of it as something you do for yourself and for posterity, not for a living.

VWC: Thanks for taking the time to talk about writing. I’ve just seen Priam’s Lens on the bookshelves and I’ll be looking for Currents of the Well of Souls and Ghost of the Well of Souls in the near future. Your productivity amazes me!

JLC: Well, I think Currents and its second half are as good as I’ve done in the Well universe in many years (and absolutely no characters or races from the past books, period!) But as to my productivity – I spent a year and a half when they took my books but didn’t publish them. During that time, there were rumors that I was gravely ill, and after Priam appeared many people said, ‘Gee, I thought he was dead, it’s been so long since we saw anything new from him!’ So one person’s productivity…

VWC: Hmm, almost sixty books, not counting re-issues in twenty-five years. I’d say most writers dream of being so prolific. As to rumors of your death, after a similar experience, Mark Twain said, ‘Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.’ Judging from the list of titles on your website that are planned, but not yet completed, we’ll be seeing quite a few more Jack Chalker books as we move into the next millennium.”

End Note: There were additional books written and published after the interview, but not enough for his fans. Jack died on February 11, 2005. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society‘s annual Maryland Young Writers Contest was renamed The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest in 2006, so his presence is still felt at Balticon and in BSFS. And the first SF organization Jack belonged to, the Washington Science Fiction Association, is still going strong, too. As for me – I am a better writer for having known him. – Vonnie

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