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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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KathrynSullivan pic Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Kathryn Sullivan. Kathryn writes young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her Doctor Who-related works include the essay, “The Fanzine Factor,” in the Hugo winning Chicks Dig Time Lords and essays in Children of Time: Companions of Doctor Who and Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Doctor Who Stories By 160 Writers. She also has reviews in the Star Trek-related Outside In Boldly Goes and Outside In Makes It So. She is owned by a large cockatoo, who graciously allows her to write about other animals, as well as birdlike aliens. Kathryn lives in Winona, Minnesota, where the river bluffs along the Mississippi River double as cliffs on alien planets or the deep mysterious forests in a magical world.

She also mentioned, she couldn’t find enough stories with girls as the main characters when she was growing up, so now she writes stories where girls are the explorers, the wizards, and the ones who solve problems and rescue people.

kathryn sullivan book Kathryn’s latest book, Agents, Adepts & Apprentices, is an imaginative read for those who love short stories. A quick summary for my readers:  From EPPIE Award winner Kathryn Sullivan come stories of magic and off-world adventure sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Here are tales of wizards training apprentices and interstellar operatives protecting “primitive” worlds. How does one university cope with a student from very far away, and where do some wizards get their supplies? And what’s the deal with the cat whiskers?

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Agents, Adepts & Apprentices?
Several of the short stories in Agents, Adepts & Apprentices were inspired by things in the real world. “The Demons’ Storeroom” resulted after I was at a garage sale and wondered how a wizard might view the items there. “Transfer Student” was written while I was in college in the days before ADA and was my take on how an alien might try to maneuver around my campus. “Goodbye, Jennie!” was inspired by a newspaper article about a meteor shower.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
I think Salanoa, the wizard on the cover of the book. There’s a few short stories with her as a little girl (“Horsefeathers” and “Curses, Foiled Again”) when she’s learning to become a wizard, and a brief appearance by her as an adult in another story. She’s very determined, very smart and a good teacher. She appears again in my two YA fantasy books.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Zumaya Publications is a small press that publishes both in trade paperback and in electronic formats. The advantages to publishing with a small press is that you have input to the cover art—and Zumaya found a wonderful artist who produced a gorgeous cover. Zumaya handled getting the book out in several electronic formats. Small presses are much more savvy about ebooks, which means the prices for those are much more reasonable than those books with the big traditional publishers. Royalty rates with small press are much better than with the big traditional publishers. The disadvantage is that small press books don’t have the distribution of the big traditional publishers.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
With the short stories in this collection, I was definitely a pantser. Some of those stories just started off with a character or a scene and went from there.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I found my dad’s science fiction collection at an early age, and the books that stuck with me were James Schmitz’s Agent of Vega, James White’s Sector General series, and a series that my dad borrowed from a friend and handed to me: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Lord of the Rings was much richer than the Edgar Rice Burroughs series I had read in my dad’s collection. Sector General, being a series set around an intergalactic hospital, had aliens as different as large caterpillars and multi-tentacled creatures working together with humans. Agent of Vega had an intergalactic agency which had women as main characters (which was not usual back then). I still see the influence of those books in my short story collection.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a middle grade/YA book set on a colony planet where the main character wants to be an explorer like her grandmother, who discovered the planet.

Want to learn more about Kathryn Sullivan and Agents, Adepts & Apprentices? Check out her :  Website and Facebook page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Agents, Adepts & Apprentices from Amazon or Zumaya.

Thanks to author Kathryn Sullivan for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Jennifer R. Povey on December 11. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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HG Wells, author of The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, was born on September 21, 1866 in Bromley, England. His books help shape the science fiction genre, predicted many modern developments, and continue to “hook” readers on speculative writing.

But Herbert George Wells did more than write these two books, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and articles, essays, and book reviews for Saturday Review also came from his pen. In addition, he promoted the writing careers of James Joyce and Joseph Conrad.

So science fiction fans (like me), should lift a mug of good English tea to HG Wells on this, the day of his birth!

Want to learn more about HG Wells? Check out this link.

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Murder on Marawa Prime (reviewed in the December 2016 issue of Analog magazine) is my only published murder mystery/ action adventure tale. Yet, I enjoy reading murder mysteries and crime fiction. In my “in progress” fiction files, there are several other crime stories which, I hope, will be completed, polished, and submitted to magazines or anthologies in the not too distant future.

Murder_Cover_CS_front Like all writers, I try not to use clichés, so it was with interest I read an article on clichés in crime fiction (which will include murder mysteries).

Here’s the link – I hope you enjoy Crime Fiction – 10 Cliches to Avoid from Freelance Writing.

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Grue Magazine 7 Yesterday, I wrote about some of my early Science Fiction and Fantasy publications in the SF Spectrum Publications in the United Kingdom.

Today, I want to mention a few of the SF and F magazines which included my speculative work very early in my writing career. Again, I want to thank these editors who not only devoted time and talents to sharing their love of science fiction, fantasy, and horror — but who often put in their own money.

Worlds of Wonder Oct 87 I am not the only writer who benefited from their efforts. Everyone begins somewhere, and many writers and illustrators whose names are now recognizable began on the pages of these (or similar) Indie publications.

Thank you to Gary William Crawford of Supernatural Poetry who published my poem, “Driftwood,” and Robert E. Cooke of Worlds of Wonder who published three of my poems.

Supernatural Poetry One Also thanks to John Postovit of Alpha Adventures: Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine for publishing my poem, “A Circle of Pillars,” Janet Fox of Scavenger’s Newsletter for publishing my poem, “A Robot’s Question,” and Peggy Nadramia of Grue Magazine for publishing the original version of my poem, “Not Seen.”

And lastly, thank you to Donald L. Miller of The Nightmare Express for publishing one of my poems, and Charles M. Saplak of Celestial Shadows for publishing my prose piece, “Fish Story.”

Alpha Adventures Sept 85 By publishing my work and the work of other speculative writers in these labor-intensive Indie magazines, these editors introduced a new crop of storytellers to readers. Their hard work is why many successful writers of today have a reader base.

For example, I share the Table of Contents in the issue of Grue Magazine mentioned above with Wayne Allen Sallee, Keith Allen Daniels, Elizabeth Massie, Mort Castle, John Maclay, Kevin J. Anderson, J.N. Williamson, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Mark Rich, and other wonderful writers. I feel lucky!

So while I’d love to have you purchase books from the “big” publishers, don’t forget to support the Indie publishers. – Vonnie

Scavengers Jan 87

Celestial Shadows 92Nightmare Express May 87

 

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SF Spectrum 9 Among my early Science Fiction and Fantasy publications, were poetry, art, and fiction in SF Spectrum and Macabre, both from SF Spectrum Publications, Nottingham, United Kingdom.

Editor, Wieslaw Tumulka, included my work in 8 issues of his magazines. For a woman from the USA, it was quite exciting to know her words and images were reaching a few readers across the Atlantic.

SF Spectrum 10 I felt privileged to share the pages with artist Steve Lines and writers J. N. Williamson, T. Winter-Damon, Steve Sneyd, John B. Rosenman, Don Webb, Andrew Darlington, John Haines, George Gott, and Mark Valentine,  and many more talented individuals.

In 1986 and 1987 when my work appeared in SF Spectrum and Macabre, the standard format for small or Indie presses was pieces of letter (or legal) sized paper printed on both sides, then, the stack of pages was folded in half and stapled.

SF Spectrum 12 Not very glamorous compared to many of today’s Indie publications, but this was before the advent of computers.

Tumulka, and other Indie publishers/editors were devoted to publishing and sharing the work of writers and artists whose work they believed their readers would enjoy. And in those days, there weren’t online versions and wide distribution — so a contributor “sold” First British Rights, First North American Rights, First Australian Rights, etc. rather than First World Rights or First English Language Rights.

Macabre 7 So which pieces of my writing and artwork did Wieslaw Tumulka choose to include in issues of his speculative magazines? Here is the complete (I think) list:

Poems: “More than Curiosity,” “Saturn’s Song,” “Snapdragons,” “A Circle of Pillars,” “Aware, After All These Years,” “Surgical Leftovers,” “Right Now,” and “Flies.”

Illustrations: “Skeleton in the Toy Box” and “Blooming Skulls” (a cover illustration shown here).

Prose: “Frycakes and Caruso.”

And so I conclude this visit to my past writing/art appearances with a thank you to Wieslaw Tumulka for selecting and publishing my work. It helped give me confidence to keep on creating. And a thanks to the writers and artists whose work I enjoyed in those long ago issues of SF Spectrum and Macabre.

Keep on reading! – Vonnie

Macabre 8

SF Spectrum 11

Macabre 6

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