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Posts Tagged ‘writing advice’

mjgardner5_sm2 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, MJ Gardner. MJ Gardner is a web developer by day, who lays in bed at night and wonders, what if….? Her stories have been published in “Mad Scientist Journal,” “Luna Station Quarterly,” “Plan B” and “Saturday Night Reader.” She published her first novel, Evelyn’s Journal in 2015 and the sequel, Joe Vampire, in 2017.

MJ has an undergrad degree in English and Classics (Greek & Roman studies) and wrote her Master’s thesis on The Vampire in English Literature. She currently lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada with her partner of 19 years, and her cat Zoom. She is also the virtual curator of The Suicide Museum.

MJ Gardner’s latest book, Joe Vampire, is the second book in the Darkness & Light Series. A quick summary for my readers: Joe has really turned his life around. With help and support from his girlfriend Evelyn, he has conquered his addictions, left foster care, finished high school and is ready for college. As much as Joe longs for normality, his life is never going to be that way. After all, his girlfriend is a vampire, and she wants him to become one too. That’s a bit too much commitment for Joe. And other members of the vampire community, some of whom refer to him as a snack, won’t leave him alone. Things begin to unravel for Joe when he tries to help a friend cure himself of his many ailments with a vampire’s blood. When things go badly Joe blames himself and turns back to his old addictions for succor. But can Joe cope with the strongest addiction of all?

mj evelyn cover And since Evelyn’s Journal and its characters lead into Joe Vampire, here’s a quick summary of that book for my readers: It’s cold and dark and Evelyn is in the morgue. In a drawer. She doesn’t know how she got there, and Tammi, the morgue attendant who hustles her out into the night, doesn’t have time to answer questions. Evelyn has been robbed of the gift of immortality her absent lover promised her, and plunged instead, alone, into the night-time world of the vampire, where she must learn to survive alone.

Freed from mortality, Evelyn also feels freed from convention, morality, and law. Her first act as a vampire is to secure the house and fortune of the family who rejected her. Then she sets out to look for love. Evelyn finds that love is a difficult thing when you are a vampire and physical closeness leads to hunger as often as desire. When her vampire lover returns and shows his true nature, Evelyn realizes she is not, and doesn’t want to be, a monster. Note: contains sex, violence, a feisty heroine, all the good stuff.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Joe Vampire (Book 2, Darkness & Light Series)?

I really can’t talk about Joe without talking about Evelyn. Back in the day I was on a listserv called Vampyres, and a lot of people would role play and post fiction to the list. Someone commented that all the vampires were titled, centuries old, and rich. Basically, they were spinoffs from Dracula or Anne Rice’s novels. I wanted to create a vampire who was none of those things. Enter Evelyn, a young woman who is only eighteen when the book opens. Evelyn becomes a vampire, but with no mentor and little guidance, she doesn’t really know how to vampire, and she has to figure it out for herself.

Joe is Evelyn’s boyfriend at the end of Evelyn’s Journal. With Joe, I wanted a character who was not only an unlikely vampire (against trope) but also an unlikely match for Evelyn (opposites attract). Joe is young, he’s very poor, he comes from an abusive home, and he is multiply-addicted to various painkillers. He’s sixteen and doesn’t really care if he lives through the day.

mj joe cover At the end of Evelyn’s Journal, Joe is starting to get it together. His relationship with Evelyn is something to live for. At the beginning of Joe Vampire, Joe (who is not a vampire) is doing well: he’s going to college and he has career plans. The only thing dogging him is pressure from Evelyn to join her in the nightlife. Joe doesn’t know if he is ready to commit—to Evelyn or to blood-drinking immortality. Joe’s college roommate is getting married, and he shames Joe into proposing to Evelyn. And from there, things start to unravel.

Basically, I wanted to write about vampires who were/are not suave, wise, or upper class.

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

Joe. Hands down. He’s so sincere. He keeps trying to make things better, but he’s fighting against a lot of (virtual) demons, most of which stem from his childhood.

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

I published both books myself—cover art, typesetting, everything. The manuscripts had been sitting around for over a decade, and I just wanted to get the stories out there. Along came Amazon and Smashwords and made that possible.

The advantage to self-publishing is that you have total control over all aspects of your work. I am lucky in that I have the skills to do cover art, layout, and build my own website. The downside is that I do not have anyone marketing my books. As a self-published author, you have to be able to market your own work. My experience is that this works best face to face. Meet people, talk at conferences, and network. Unfortunately, I am not built for that.

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

I used to be pantser, but I have found that a book works much better if you know how it ends so that you know what to put in before the end to make that ending significant. You want to make the reader feel the ending, whether it is happy, sad, etc. To do that you need to make sure the reader knows why the ending is so sad, happy, etc. for your character(s). That said, that is about all the planning I do. A lot of the in-between is pantsed.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I bought a copy from Scholastic Books when I was ten. I needed to look up some of the words as I read it the first time, like “misanthropist”. I have re-read it several times since. I like it because it is full of big emotions and ordinary people. Emily Bronte knew it long before Sartre said it: enfer c’est les autres (Hell is other people). The whole scope of the novel is two houses, two families, two generations, and the empty fields in between, and yet whether these places are heaven or hell is determined by the character of the people and their relationships.

I always wanted to be one of the Brontës. It seemed like heaven to me, growing up in a remote location, in a family with sisters who spent their time writing and reading each other’s stories.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a book called Dry Leaves. It is a very different vampire novel, and I don’t use the word vampire in it. It is set in Detroit (I live across the river in Windsor). It started as a long short story, and I kept trying to trim it because most places that publish short stories want them short–often only 3000 words. I got this story down to 8000, shopped it around, got no takers, and decided to just unpack everything I had condensed. It will be a novella. So far it is 12,000 words.

I also have a (longish) short story coming out in Metaphorosis in the coming months (no date yet), called “The Book of Regrets.” It’s a gay time travel romance. Like Wuthering Heights, it is about ordinary people propelled by big emotions. I also have plans for another book in the Darkness & Light Series, a story about a witch who is desperate to escape dying of cancer, and a novel about a family which has no supernatural elements in it at all.

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

Write what you want, not what you (think) the public wants. The public is fickle: vampires are out; zombies are in. Tomorrow zombies are out and lycanthropy or space operas or ghost lovers are in. If you write what you want it will always feed your soul.

Want to learn more about MJ Gardner and her vampire novels? Check out her: Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Evelyn’s Journal and/or Joe Vampire .

Thanks to author MJ Gardner for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Laurel Anne Hill on January 22, 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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DawnVogel-pic Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Dawn Vogel. Dawn’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. Her steampunk series, Brass and Glass, is being published by Razorgirl Press. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats.

Dawn’s latest book, Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map, is a fun read for those who love adventure. A quick summary for my readers:
dawn vogel book On the hunt for a legendary, cursed map that leads to treasure unimaginable, the crew of The Silent Monsoon, led by the pertinacious Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko, soon discover they aren’t the only ones hunting for riches. But there’s more than gold at stake in this pursuit. The Last Emperor’s Hoard is rumored to contain the Gem of the Seas, a device that gives its owner the power to control the oceans.
Wanted by the Air Fleet and dogged by spectres both real and imagined, Svetlana and her crew will have to call in every favor and pull every string—even if it means stirring up more ghosts—to complete the map before the High Council does. This race will require courage, determination, and sacrifice. Will Svetlana have what it takes to win, or will the map’s curse be too high a price?

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map?
My latest book is a sequel to my first published full-length novel, Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering. The original book started life as a short story, but grew into a novel. When my small press editors and I were working through the edits on the first book, they asked if there were more books. I hadn’t outlined or planned the other books, but I knew the story wasn’t done yet. So I said yes, I thought I could get a trilogy out of this idea. So in many ways, the second book directly stemmed from my editors loving the first book. The first book also helped to dictate what needed to happen next–the protagonists were in search of a map, and they needed to find all of the pieces. Midway through, they discovered that perhaps the map was more than they’d bargained for, being called the “long-cursed” map and all.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Of course I adore my protagonist, Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko, but I have a lot of fun writing Indigo, the ship’s mechanic. He’s a teenage boy who grew up in a culture that was far removed from the predominant culture in the books. So he’s often encountering things for the first time in his life that the other characters just accept as part of reality. He also has an abnormal speech pattern, which is both challenging and rewarding to get just right.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My book is indie published through Razorgirl Press, which is a small press based out of the Seattle area. Because it’s a small press, the editors are people I interact with directly and regularly—we will get together at a coffee shop or other locations to work on edits or discuss plans for the book. Because the cover art and editing are done in house, I feel like I get a lot of input into those things, which I might not have as much if I were traditionally published. The downside, of course, is that the marketing also falls on our shoulders, so it’s not as easy to publicize the book as it would be if I was with a traditional press that has a team for marketing and publicity.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I started out as a pantser, but I quickly found that path was not a good fit for me. I started planning out all of my books, and I found I was much more productive that way. That isn’t to say that I never wander off down a garden path while writing, and some of those diversions have wound up being fantastic additions to my plans. But I need at least the bare bones of a structure to keep me on track and not wandering off into the woods beyond the garden.

What was your favorite book as a child?
The one I most remember reading (again and again and again) was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts. One of my teachers in grade school had this book in her classroom library, and I checked it out and read it so many times that at the end of the school year, she gifted it to me. The main thing I remember about the plot as an adult was that the main character had telekinesis, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. I’ve gotten a new copy of the book recently, but I haven’t managed to re-read it since re-acquiring it!

What writing project are you currently working on?
The third book in the Brass and Glass series is in my editors’ hands, so I’ll be working on edits for that in the near future. But in addition to the countless short stories that I’m currently working on, I’m editing the first draft of another novel, this one a post-apocalyptic novel about recovering from past traumas and finding a new place to belong.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Neil Gaiman once said: “You will learn more from a glorious failure than ever you will from something that you never finished.” I took that advice to heart and try to finish all of the stories that I start!

Want to learn more about Dawn Vogel and Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map? Check out her :  Website & Blog,   Facebook Page,
Twitter,   or Amazon Author page.   Or better yet, purchase a copy of Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map. 

Thanks to author Dawn Vogel for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Kathryn Sullivan on December 6th.   Happy reading! – Vonnie 

 

 

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Vonnie 11-17 close (2) Real life has kept me busy–so I took a vacation from blogging. But I’m back and I’ll be catching you up on some publishing-writing news over the next few weeks.

In addition, I’m announcing a new feature: beginning December 4th, Guest Authors will be appearing on Whimsical Words every Tuesday and Thursday. Not only will my guests talk about their latest book, but also about their writing process and publishing journey. There will be something for readers and fellow writers alike to enjoy.

So stay tuned for new posts, writing-publishing news, and lots of authors. Here is a list of the Guest Author Interviews appearing over the next few weeks:

December 4 – Dawn Vogel
December 6 – Kathryn Sullivan
December 11 – Jennifer R. Povey
December 13 – Tanya Lisle
December 18 – L. J. Cohen
December 22 – A. L. Kaplan
December 27 – Dianna Sanchez
January 1 – Carole McDonnell
January 3 – Lana Hechtman Ayers

And as the holiday gift-giving season begins, please think about purchasing one of my books. 🙂 – Vonnie   

Vonnie’s Books

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“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas A. Edison

I’m not sure if I am astounding myself, but I am working hard on numerous projects:

*Judging a poetry competition–both a fun and challenging job. I love reading what creative minds come up with!

Rocket space ship . Mixed media*Editing 2 anthologies, “Re-Launch” and “Re-Quest” for Pole to Pole Publishing. And I will be reading for 2 more anthologies (“Re-Terrify” and “Re-Enchanted”) shortly.

*Finishing a novel, adding to 2 in-progress short story collections, and working on a nonfiction book.

*Writing several short stories and poems for anthologies or magazines.

*Thinning the book herd. (My bookshelves are sagging dangerously low).

*Putting together a bibliography of my writing and illustrations – then, entering the speculative work into http://isfdb.org  Plus, if the publication qualifies, adding it to my listing on Poets & Writers data base.

*Working on genealogy–and putting together several books based on that information. Yes, I know these publications won’t be “best-sellers,” but it’s a nice way to preserve the information and make it available to family members and other interested people. And I have no “time limit” on these books — as more information trickles in and I want to include as much as possible. (Librarians be warned, I will need help in doing the research to “ground” these historical accounts in history).

*Knitting 30-plus scarf & hat sets by Christmas for daughters (I do call my daughters-in-law, “daughters,” too, because they are dear to me), sisters, nieces, etc. I was given a huge amount of lovely yarn, and I’m aiming to use up much of it in the process. Plus, knitting at least a dozen men’s hats for sons, nephews, brothers-in-law, etc. for Christmas.

*Then, there is family: time spent with husband, kids, grandkids, friends, my mom and other family members. And art – I want to paint at least 2 new pieces of cover art this summer. And visits – I’ve fallen behind on my visits due to a 2017 and 2016 filled with trips to NC and SC to help older relatives who were dying. Wait, I’ve forgotten gardening! My gardens so need work. And the birds – feeders need to be repaired or replaced and birdhouses need to be hung.

I could (and should) go on. But I hope you get the idea.

I encourage you to look at your life. List what you are doing and what goals you can set for yourself. Can’t think of anything to do? Check out the volunteer opportunities in your area. I challenge you to astound yourself!

 

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“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.”–Rumi

In the bustle of our hectic lives, writers sometimes loose their sense of direction: A blog and/or website to maintain. An online presence to keep up-to-date (Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook professional page…) Reviewers to locate, query, and send copies of our books to — then, if a review is done, thanking the reviewers. Keeping our Amazon Author’s Page current. Appearances, whether book signings or presentations. Guest blogs. Oh, and writing new fiction (or poetry or nonfiction).

That last item on the list is the most important. Writers should be writing. Your mind and heart both know that is where your passion is and where your time should be spent. When an author is successful enough, she can hire someone to do everything else — but the author must do the writing.

As to what to write — again I refer to the Rumi quote: listen to your heart. Maybe writing book reviews and hosting guests on your blog gives a writer more visibility, but is that your heart’s desire? Would you really rather be working on your next story, book, or poem? If you answer, “Yes, I’d rather be working on my own writing,” then you need to cut back on the distractions and get back to your work.

So I say to writers, run in the direction of the next piece of your writing. Your readers are waiting and your heart knows the way — so run to your keyboard or pad of paper and write!

 

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152 “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon’s statement is true for all of us (regardless of gender). Opportunity does come knocking occasionally, and sometimes chances for success appear serendipitously in our inboxes, but more likely we must create our opportunities.

As a writer, I can sit back and wait for editors of anthologies to ask for my stories – which is lovely when it happens, but still a rare privilege for me. Or I can research markets, locate opportunities, and either write a new story for an antho or check my files for an appropriately themed piece of fiction to send.

I can check my email and phone messages for bloggers and reporters begging for an interview or a feature, or I can get online and look for blogs which might be a good fit for me and my book/books. Then, I can write a query letter and go through the process to “land” an interview, guest blog slot, or feature.

I can sit on my sofa and wait for a bookstore manager to contact me for a book signing, or I call the bookstore, find when the manager has a moment to chat, stop by, and see if a book signing (whether individual or with a group of other authors) is something we can make happen.

I can slump in an armchair and moan because lots of writing conference organizers aren’t calling me to appear and lead workshops, or I can contact the people in charge of writing conferences and ask about the process for presenting a program at their next conference.

I can sigh loudly and lean my chin on my hand while gazing out the window wondering why more science-fiction/fantasy cons are not inviting me to be a panelist or I can find out who is inviting guest authors/editors to various sf/f/h cons and learn what I have to do to get an invite.

You get the idea. I need to make opportunities, not wait for that lucky break. And though I’ve written this post from a writer’s point of view, it applies to most goals which require someone to open a door for you.

So readers, think about how you can make opportunities to reach your goals. And though I wish you good luck — don’t rely on luck, rely on yourself and hard work!

(And if you are interested in interviewing me, featuring me or my books, or having me post a guest post on your blog – let me know. If you are a conference or con organizer and want me to participate – contact me. Just practicing what I preach, and trying to make my own opportunities!) 🙂

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