Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Guest Post by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan: Adapting Ancient Settings

Please join me in welcoming Sandra Ulbrich Almazan talking about adapting ancient settings in her new novel, Seasons’ Beginnings.

I’m captivated by the ancient setting of her book, and even more so by her character, Kron Evenhanded–a mage of the type artificer–who takes on the role of finder! (Sound familiar?) 🙂

If that rocks your boat as much as it does mine, be sure to click over here for a sample once you read what Sandra has to say. (It’s fascinating!)

~ kah

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

My son went through a stage where he was obsessed with ancient Egypt. We read lots of books about it, watched documentaries, and visited the Field Museum and the Oriental Institute in Chicago. I picked up a lot of knowledge about the culture (and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures) myself. Since Seasons’ Beginnings, the first book in my Season Avatars series, is a prequel and set several hundred years before the rest of the series, I wanted to incorporate some of what I’d learned about ancient cultures in the setting of Seasons’ Beginnings. However, although the country I’d developed has a river snaking through it, it has a more temperate climate than Egypt. How could I adapt ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures for my world?

There are no pyramids or animal-headed gods in my world. The climate wouldn’t permit hippos to swim in my river or camels to travel across my land. Instead, I focused on areas that I thought would translate better to my setting. These areas include food, politics, and technology.

Grains are a staple in many cultures, and their uses are also similar. Women have to grind grain at home before they can cook with it. My characters eat flatcakes made from ground grains and drink beer. There’s a scene where my main character visits a brewer, and she has to strain the solid material out of the beer before serving it to him, just like an ancient brewer would have. Wine is also available, although it’s imported from across the sea by ship. Just like in Egypt, my characters obtain fish and greens from the river.

Although ancient Egypt is known for its pharaohs and the division into Upper and Lower Egypt, other ancient cultures, such as the Hittites and the Babylonians, organized around city-states. The city-states, ruled by kings, could conquer other lands to form empires or gain power when an empire collapsed. Most of Season’s Beginnings takes place in the city of Vistichia, which is initially ruled by a city-king. The Oriental Institute has on display reliefs from the courtyard of an Assyrian king. The magnificence of this exhibit inspired me to create a mosaic for the courtyard of the Magic Institute, another setting in Seasons’ Beginnings. This mosaic has a different design and a different purpose; it’s a memorable image magicians can use as a guide when transporting themselves to the Magic Institute.
Although magic plays an important part in my story, my main character channels his magic through man-made objects. The technology level (Bronze Age) of the story therefore is important. As my main character must face someone who has time magic, he needs materials that don’t break down easily and goes to desperate lengths to get them. He also uses water clocks and sun dials to counter the time magic. Some of the other things my hero uses for his magic are necklaces (their materials and designs are inspired by ancient cultures), weavings, and clothing.

Borrowing from other cultures may not always be overt. There are many aspects to a culture, such as language, religion, customs, and more, that can be used as is or adapted to a different setting. The key is to make sure these borrowed items are a natural fit to the setting or can be imported from contact with another culture. With a little thought, any culture can be based on another yet still unique.

Buy Seasons’ Beginnings at Amazon

Buy Seasons’ Beginnings at Barnes and Noble

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan started reading at the age of three and only stops when absolutely required to. Although she hasn’t been writing quite that long, she did compose a very simple play in German during middle school. Her science fiction novella Move Over Ms. L. (an early version of Lyon’s Legacy) earned an Honorable Mention in the 2001 UPC Science Fiction Awards, and her short story “A Reptile at the Reunion” was published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Other published works by Sandra include Twinned Universes and several science fiction and fantasy short stories. She is a founding member of Broad Universe, which promotes science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology/English, and she has a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree. Her day job is in the laboratory of an enzyme company; she’s also been a technical writer and a part-time copyeditor for a local newspaper. Some of her other accomplishments are losing on Jeopardy! and taking a stuffed orca to three continents. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Eugene; and son, Alex. In her rare moments of free time, she enjoys crocheting, listening to classic rock (particularly the Beatles), and watching improv comedy.

Sandra can be found online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Interview: Gary W. Olson, Author of Brutal Light

Gary W. Olson is a writer of horrific and fantastic stories. In his own words, he says his “fiction tends to blend aspects of the genres of science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, and horror, if only because I don’t believe that the boundaries of these genres are or should be all that firm in the first place.”

His book, Brutal Light is recently released from Damnation Books, and he’s kindly stopped by to discuss it, the writing life, and things that scare him…

As is my wont, I sent Gary a list of a bazillion* questions and asked him to answer 6 or 8 of his choice. In return, he’s offered to give away a free copy of his book to one lucky commenter…

Tell us a little about Brutal Light.

The story centers around a young woman, Kagami Takeda, who has a connection with an enigmatic and godlike sea of light she calls the Radiance. This connection affects others around her, either causing some form of insanity (in the case of her family) or bestowing heightened abilities (in the case of her lover, Nick Havelock). As a result, she has all but withdrawn from human contact, save for those few she’s already affected. But there are many others who covet her for the power they believe she can be made to yield, and when she is provoked to use this power, they come after her. Worse, the Radiance itself appears to have manipulated her into creating her own nemesis, with the power to destroy her.

The action takes place in both the ‘real,’ physical world and an unreal world that I’ve named the Noumenal (loosely inspired by Imanuel Kant’s definition of ‘noumenon’ as an unknowable, indescribable reality that in some way underlies observed phenomena). In the book, it mainly takes the shape of a primal, dark forest, with all sorts of beasts hidden within, but this is because Kagami’s connection with the Radiance is so dominant she can force a shape to it that others have to accept. Left to its own, it is a free-flowing mix of dream, nightmare, and memory–save that if you encounter something that is a memory, there’s no guarantee it will end the way you remember it, or that it will even be your own memory. It gave me a way of having present action take place within flashbacks, and a rather unnerving way for characters to learn what other characters would rather stay hidden.

Author - Gary W. OlsonWhat scares you?

An assortment of things. Very intense-looking guys with axes, for instance. Torture–I probably shouldn’t be entrusted with any state secrets, because I’d spill it before the first scalpel is waved at me. Mental trauma, especially–either something that leaves my mind intact but unable to operate my body or speak intelligibly, or something that affects my ability to think. I’d almost rather face the guy with the axe.

Then there’s loss of identity, in all the many forms it can take. We work so hard to define ourselves by our work, our physical characteristics, our locations, our beliefs, and those who we let in, and when any of these are shaken or stripped away, we have to face what we’ve been covering up. There’s the lurking idea that, beneath it all, there’s nothing there–there’s an emptiness beneath that nothing can fill, for which death would be a mercy. I sometimes think my motivation in writing now is to push against this fear, to find something beneath it all that is not simply a bandage over the abyss.

Have you ever written something that you’re afraid to let other people read?

I had a general trepidation about letting people read my writing. In the case of Brutal Light, it was pretty heightened, because of all the dark places in my mind I felt I was baring. It’s not just a matter of worrying about what people will think about the violence or the sex — it’s about whether people will read the book and start wondering if, like my characters, I have murderous thoughts or a bad case of self-loathing or what have you.

And since the book is sprinkled with true thoughts, albeit distorted or amplified and mixed in with made-up ones, being understood is almost as second-thought-provoking as being misunderstood. But one of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever read (from a source I sadly no longer recollect) was “If it doesn’t make you squirm, it won’t make the reader squirm.” That to me means facing your fears and your dark places, writing in a way that is honest, no matter how vulnerable that makes you, and ignoring the internal censor that asks ‘but what are people going to think about you when they read this?’

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?

There are two tough parts for me: getting started and everything after. Getting started in particular because I have a tendency to get bogged down in outlines, and trying to make sure I’ve thought every last thing through. Sometimes I just have to set to writing and trust that what’s coming out will lead somewhere.

The other tough part comes once I’m past the initial idea and plotting and I’m deep into writing the story. The excitement of the new has faded, and there’s still this long road to go until I reach the end. Inevitably, on that road, there are other ideas that come to me that seem much more exciting than what I’m working on at the moment, and the challenge is to stay focused and see my current story through. I don’t know if it’s true of writers in general, but I have to work hard at avoiding bright, shiny distractions.

What are your thoughts on the future of books?

Bookstores are slowly fading, and e-reading is on the rise. I count myself as a recent convert to e-reading, thanks to the Kindle app on my smartphone. I think that this trend will continue, though it will be a long time before paper editions of books entirely disappear. That may be a long time coming, if it ever does–I think regular print books will become for certain readers like vinyl records are now for certain music lovers–an aesthetic choice as much as a means of reading stories. But as more and more kids enter the world of reading through electronic gateways, and grow up thinking that it’s ‘the way’ to read, I think paper books will see an eventual end.

How long did you write before you had anything published? What was your first story or novel that was published? Where was it published?

I started writing in 1989, for a humorous shared-universe fiction group called Superguy, and it was through one of the friends I got to know who also wrote for the group–Greg R. Fishbone, who’s gone on to published writing success of his own–that I got my first publication in 1996: a serialized novelette called ‘Electricity in the Rain.’ Unfortunately, Mythic Heroes, the magazine it was in, folded before the serialization was done. I had a couple short stories published in Outer Darkness magazine in 1999 and 2001, but for the most part was focused on my first novel.

That took a long time, both for life reasons (getting married, moving around, etc) and because I was dissatisfied with the novels I’d attempted. Finally in 2004 I started on what was to become Brutal Light, finished my final draft of it in 2007, and spent another four years looking for a publisher. The good side of this is that I feel I learned a lot about writing during this time; my next work should take much less time.

How do you feel now about your earlier works?

The temptation I always feel is to look at them and see the flaws–the awkward phrasings, the paucity of necessary detail–but after a while, I generally come to see the parts I liked and made me feel as if I’d done good–the storytelling, some bits of incisive dialogue, things like that. Sometimes that backfires; I can take a look back on something I wrote and say ‘wow, that was good… so why can’t I write that good now?’

Where can we find you online?

I am far-flung across the net; my user accounts are legion. The hub of it all is my website, GaryWOlson.com, which hosts my main blog and has information on everything I’ve written, what I’m working on, where I’m going to be, and so on.

The full list of these journals, RSS feeds, and social media sites–which, since it seems like I’m always adding stuff, I’m usually good about keeping up-to-date–is on my links page.

There’s also a slightly abbreviated version on the right-side column of every page of my site.

Cover of Brutal Light by Gary W. OlsonExcerpt from Brutal Light.

When Kagami appeared in the front seat, Nick Havelock knew his night was only beginning. Her hair was wild and dirty, her skin brown, green, and red. Intense light snapped across her eyes and in the spaces between her fingertips. She smiled, revealing the red in her teeth.

Havelock kept his cool. She was not his first vision of blood.

“It would be good,” he said, “if you let me get off the freeway first.”

He was on westbound I-696, just passing the Southfield Freeway. The Telegraph Road exit was only a few miles further. The eleven o’clock traffic was light, and he thought that with a little luck, he could be ready for her in his apartment in ten minutes. Kagami leaned close. Freeway lights gave her a pulsing beauty.

“Nick,” her voice came in a whisper. “Let the monkey drive.”

“No,” he answered, as the memory of doing exactly that two nights before came to him. “You said it was dangerous, and it was.”

“There’s no time to be safe,” she replied. “Are you going to do this, or am I gone?”

She gave him no time to answer. A blink, a shiver, and she was nothing.

He stared at the empty seat. His heart hammered his ribs. His eyes could go no wider.

A car horn’s blare snapped his attention back to the freeway. There was a merging SUV to the right, a Camaro nearly in his blind spot to the left and back, and a U-Haul truck in front. He accelerated, and then shifted hard into the lane to his left. SUV and Camaro horns blared.

Screw ’em. I have to get home. I have to–

I have to go.

Nick passed the U-Haul and shifted right. The Camaro sped past, giving him one more horn blast in parting. He paid it no mind, instead focusing on the hypnotic blur of yellow strips. He let his breathing grow regular, and let the road fill his mind. The hum rose all around. The road uncoiled. He opened his mouth and drank in her noise–

Only it was not just her noise anymore. There were other sounds, other tastes that lingered on his tongue and in his mind. There was blood in the stream. Bestial roars in the white noise of the world. They spoke of fear and terror.

He felt his body quake. It felt so far away.

The abyss drew him down again.

Buy Brutal Light

Amazon.com (Kindle edition)
DamnationBooks.com (.mobi, .epub, .pdf, .pdb)
Links for of all other vendors (continually updated)
Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-539-7
Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-538-0

* A ‘bazillion’ is somewhat exaggerated. The list was closer to thirty…

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft: Writing Conferences Part III

This is the last of a 3-part interview series of authors from the book Many Genres, One Craft recently published by Headline Books. Many Genres, One Craft is an anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

While the book encompasses many aspects of writing, this series of interviews is all about coordinating and attending writing conferences.

Venessa Giunta Venessa Giunta is a senior editor for Loose Id, LLC, and edits fiction freelance. She wrote bad short stories and angsty poetry off and on through high school then took a very long hiatus. It was probably because of the poetry. When she turned thirty-five, she realized that what she really wanted to do was write.

After many short story rejections, it occurred to her that some sort of writing classes might be beneficial. She subsequently worked toward and was awarded her Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Venessa lives in the metro Atlanta area and is lucky enough to reside with her muse who masquerades as her husband. And she no longer writes poetry. It’s better for everyone that way.

Why should a person attend a conference/convention?

For the professional networking opportunities, primarily. Agents and editors (like most people) tend to connect better face-to-face than through an e-mailed query letter. However, the entire ability to convene with your fellow writers is not something to discount either. Even if no worthwhile connections are made with agents or editors, there’s really something to be said for being with people who “get” you to some extent.

How can you decide (before you put your money down) if a conference is right for you?

Do some research on the guests. Are they people you’d be interested in seeing/meeting/learning from? Does the con welcome the sorts of things you write? Weigh the possible benefit against the cost of attending. Sometimes the cost of travel, accommodations, registration and food do not make the conference beneficial even if there are agents or editors you’re interested in.

What can you get out of attending a writing conference?
Learning about the business of writing. Some conferences offer classes on how to pitch, or how to query an agent or editor. These things require a skill set that is entirely different from the skill set needed to write a book. And they’re things most writers need. Also, conferences afford an opportunity to network, not only with other writers, but with other publishing professionals too. And simply being in the company of your tribe — writers — should not be downplayed. Schmoozing with other writers is one of the best things to get your creativity pumping, to get your enthusiasm going. And those things get your butt in the chair.

Many Genres Book CoverIf you’re pitching at a conference, what do you need to do?

First, breathe. Pitching is intimidating. Remember that agents and editors really are looking for someone new to work with, otherwise, they wouldn’t be taking pitches. So they want you to do well. Prior to the conference, study everything you can about creating good pitches. Not just 30 second elevator pitches, but three minute pitches and five minute pitches. Practice and speak naturally. If you try to memorize something word for word it will sound like you tried to memorize something word for word, especially the longer pitches.

Research the agents and editors before you go to the conference, so you know what they represent, whether you would be a good fit, and whether they prefer a certain style of pitches. Some prefer more formal pitches, some prefer a conversation rather than an actual pitch. If you can’t find this information out though, don’t worry. Simply do your best. When it comes time to pitch, take a deep breath and remember that they really are just people and they’re looking for great stories.

What are some conference dos and don’ts?


  • be professional
  • have a good time
  • step out of your comfort zone and socialize if you are not a social person
  • attend several panels and classes
  • listen — both to industry pros and to other writers
  • be professional


  • be unprofessional
  • get hammered in the bar (a few drinks over the evening is fine — too much and you may not want to hear about your antics in the morning)
  • pitch your book to an agent/editor at inappropriate times (bathrooms, while they are teaching, etc) How do you know when is appropriate? You can ask. “May I tell you about my novel?”

What if you get there, and find it’s not right? How can you make lemonade from the lemon?

It really depends on what’s “not right.” At the least, you can recognize what sort of due diligence that should have been done beforehand. But I think that even if there’s something that is not a right fit about the conference, that doesn’t mean nothing worthwhile can come out. If you are doing pitch sessions, it’s an opportunity to practice your pitch and get feedback for improvement. Networking is a big reason to go to a conference and I can’t imagine any conference being so bad that no networking is possible. Sometimes, that’s all you get out of a conference, but you never know when that one person you had coffee with is going to pass your work on to his or her agent. And then the next thing you know, you’ve got an agent and a book deal. Sometimes it works that way.

When should a person consider NOT going to a conference?

When the cost outweighs the benefits. Especially right now, with the struggling economy, it’s very important not to overspend for a conference. If the guests and programming of a conference don’t excite you, then it’s probably not worth the money. Look for conferences that are close to home. If you’re in a metro area, chances are there’s at least one conference in your back yard. Work out what is within your budget to spend and stay in that budget. Decide whether the offerings of the conference are worth exceeding that budget if it’s more costly (i..e – your dream agent is only attending one conference this year and this is IT!).

Coordinating Conferences

What’s it like being a conference/convention coordinator?

It can be hectic and stressful at times, but it is more fun than anything, to me. I love writers and the environment created when a big group of us get together and so I feel privileged to be able to help in providing an opportunity to do that every year.

What are top 3 knowledge/top 3 skills for coordinators?

I think negotiation, compromise and the ability to work with others are probably the things most necessary when putting on a conference. Once a con gets to be larger than just a few friends getting together, no one person can do everything, so being able to work with others is very important. Compromise is an aspect that comes in with working with other people and also in most aspects of organization. Sometimes the guests you want aren’t available, or won’t do something you’d really like to offer attendees. Sometimes the facilities can’t accommodate something, so a work-around is necessary. Like any organized event, compromise is necessary sometimes to get things done. And negotiation is important from dealing with hotels/venues to securing good guests to getting good deals on PR items.

What’s the best thing that’s ever come out of a conference for you?

Actually, I think the best thing that’s come out for me is that I’ve learned that agents and editors aren’t as intimidating as I had them all made out to be in my head. At least, the one’s I’ve met. That has really made me realize that a good portion of my stress as a writer had to do with being wary — perhaps afraid? — of the gatekeepers.

Are you paid as a coordinator?

I’m not paid, per se, though I get admittance to the workshop for free. I really do it for the love. And the opportunity to schmooze. 🙂

What’s exciting about running a conference?
I think when it’s all come together and everyone, from attendees to guests, give glowing praise about how great it was — this is the most exciting thing. Aside from that, seeing the year’s worth of planning all coming together is very rewarding as well. As far as the not-exciting bits, some of the organizational stuff can be tedious, but that goes for just about anything. The exciting far outweighs the non-exciting.

Many thanks to Venessa Giunta for answering a few questions about attending writing conferences and coordinating them. If you have others, please post in the comments. Venessa will be happy to answer them!

More information about Many Genres, including author information and other interviews is available on the Many Genres blog.

Order information for Many Genres, One Craft.

Other Parts of this Interview Series:

Part 1: author K.J. Howe
Part 2: author Lucy A. Snyder

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft: Writing Conferences, Part II

This is the second of a 3-part interview series of authors from the book Many Genres, One Craft recently published by Headline Books. Many Genres, One Craft is an anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

While the book encompasses many aspects of writing, this series of interviews is all about coordinating and attending writing conferences.

Lucy A. Snyder Lucy A. Snyder is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Spellbent and Shotgun Sorceress and the collections Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines.

She has a B.S. in biology, an M.A. in journalism and graduated from the 1995 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Since 2005, she’s directed the Context Writing Workshops. She currently is a Seton Hill MFA mentor. Lucy was born in South Carolina, grew up in Texas, and now lives in Ohio, with her husband and occasional co-author Gary A. Braunbeck. For more information, please visit www.lucysnyder.com.

What’s it like being a conference/convention coordinator?

It’s a busy but highly rewarding volunteer job. I coordinate the writing workshops track for Context, a convention in Columbus, Ohio that will be taking place the weekend of August 26-28 (www.contextsf.org). It’s steady work across the entire year that gets busier in the months leading up to the convention. Right now we’re getting very busy with convention planning and preparations. It’s always great to see your efforts pay off in a well-attended convention where you can see people having fun, making new connections, and learning new skills.

Book cover of Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. SnyderWhat are the key skills for your role?

To be a writing workshop coordinator you need good organizational skills (scheduling and keeping track of course signups is a big part of what you’ll do), persistence (things won’t always go right the first time), and good problem-solving skills. And of course communication skills are critical. Knowledge-wise, you need to be able to reach out to good instructors, and you need to know how to be able to evaluate potential instructors.

What’s the best thing that’s ever come out of a conference for you? What about for someone else? Was it luck or planning that made it happen?

For me, the best things that have come out of conferences and conventions have been book deals, or preliminary discussions with editors that resulted in book deals. Luck always plays a distressingly large role in publishing, but in each situation I had done a lot of pre-conference planning (in terms of who I wanted to meet and what I was going to present to them) that I think vastly improved my chances of success.

Why should a person attend a conference/convention?

There are a whole lot of reasons to go to a convention. Many people go as much for fun as they do for business. It really depends on where you are in your writing career. If you’re unpublished, you might want to focus of conventions that offer a strong writing track and the chance to talk to small- and medium-press editors, who are often more receptive to new writers’ work. If you have been selling short stories and have just finished a novel, you might want to look for conventions that offer the opportunity to pitch to book editors and reputable literary agents. And if you’re a working writer, you’ll probably be looking for larger conventions that offer the best networking opportunities with editors and other writers as well as a chance to expose new readers to your work.

How can you decide (before you put your money down) if a conference is right for you?

Take a look at the guest/attendees lists — do you see the names of people you’d like to listen to or chat with? Take a look at the programming schedule, which might not be posted until a month or so before the conference. Do the panels and workshops and other events interest you? Now, look at the costs of attending the conference, not just the registration fees but also the hotel, air fare, etc. Can you afford this?

What if you get there, and find it’s not right? How can you make lemonade from the lemon?

Even a well-planned convention can end up with problems due to hotel errors, or high-profile guests may have to cancel at the last minute because of unexpected travel snags or illness. Because of this, it’s best to not pin all your hopes for a convention on a single guest attending or a single workshop, etc. Do your homework first and try to choose conventions that offer a wide range of events that will interest you.

Book cover of Spellbent by Lucy A. SnyderIf you arrive at a convention and at first it’s not what you expected, give it a chance. If you’re looking for the pro author guests and don’t see them, check the hotel bar — this is the prime hangout location for writers. If you came to meet other attendees and find the panels under-attended, check to see if there are going to be room parties later that people may be resting up for. Try to set aside your expectations and be open to what the convention has to offer.

But if it simply isn’t working for you, take a look around and see what other opportunities present themselves. If you’re in the middle of an unfamiliar but interesting city, take the opportunity to do some sight-seeing. You might be able to forge new friendships with other attendees who are similarly disenchanted with the conference.

Also, once the weekend is over, you might want to send a polite, non-judgmental email to the convention chairs to let them know about the things that didn’t work for you or created problems for you. Again, politeness is key here; the organizers are likely unpaid volunteers who worked as hard as they could to put on a good event. They’ll want to know what went wrong for you so they can do better next time, but they won’t be receptive to your message if it’s disrespectful or ends in high-handed demands. Many conventions will offer membership refunds if there’s been a genuine at-con disaster.

If you’re pitching at a conference, what do you need to do?

Make sure you know the rules of the pitch session going in, and make sure you’re following those rules. If you know who you’ll be pitching to, try to learn a little about the agent or editor and his or her tastes, and adjust your pitch accordingly. Practice your pitch on friends, and prepare pitches of different lengths. For instance, it’s always good to be able to describe your project in 30 seconds or less, but you’ll also want an intermediate and longer pitch that you can use depending on the circumstances. And it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up pitch prepared in case the agent or editor says “I don’t think that project will work for us, but do you have anything else?”

When should a person consider NOT going to a conference?

Conferences are wonderful, but if you’re behind on your novel deadline, don’t go, unless there’s a truly compelling reason. You should also reconsider your attendance if going to the conference will send you into debt, or deeper into it. And if you have the flu, please stay home; the virus that gave you an annoying cough could land someone else in the hospital.

If you decide you must cancel and you’re scheduled to participate as a panelist or on other programming, be certain to let the organizers know as soon as possible so they can adjust their scheduling accordingly. It’s simply the polite thing to do.

Many thanks to Lucy A. Snyder for answering a few questions about attending writing conferences and coordinating them. If you have others, please post in the comments. Lucy will be happy to answer them!

More information about Many Genres, including author information and other interviews is available on the Many Genres blog.

Please visit next Monday for the third (and final) interview from Many Genres, One Craft. Part 1 with thriller-auther KJ Howe can be found here.

Order information for Many Genres, One Craft.

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft: Writing Conferences

This is the first of a 3-part interview series of authors from the book Many Genres, One Craft recently published by Headline Books. Many Genres, One Craft is an anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

While the book encompasses many aspects of writing, this series of interviews is all about coordinating and attending writing conferences.

. . . . . . . . . .

KJ Howe, is a two-time Daphne du Maurier winner, a four-time Golden Heart finalist, and a finalist in the American Title III Contest. She earned her Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction in 2007 and is now represented by the Evan Marshall Agency. International intrigue and pulse-pounding adventure are her passions. When she isn’t writing romantic thrillers, KJ is researching them by shark cage diving in South Africa, interacting with semi-habituated elephants in Botswana, or scuba diving in the Red Sea. You can visit her at www.kjhowe.com.

Kimberly J. Howe

KJ Howe

Why should someone attend a conference? How can you decide if a conference is right for you?

No matter where you are in your writing career, you can benefit from attending a conference. You can learn from the workshops, find critique partners, network with industry professionals, promote your books, find inspiration to get back to your writing, discover new writing tools, meet people with the same enthusiasm for books, and so much more.

I would recommend finding a conference that is in your genre, so you can make specific connections to editors, agents, and other writers in your chosen field. There are large conferences and small conferences. The small ones offer intimacy, but the large ones offer more choices and a larger number of superstars. I’d try both and see what feels right for you. Some authors find the large conferences a little intimidating, while others enjoy the hubbub and love having access to many big names.

What is the best thing that’s ever come out of a conference for you?

I was very fortunate that at one of my first conferences, I entered a writing contest and was lucky enough to win–and secured an agent as a result. Always throw your hat in the ring and enter contests at conferences. It can really pay off.

What if you get there, and find it isn’t right for you? How do you make lemons from lemonade?

I’ve been at a few conferences where I felt like a fish out of water, but I always try to make the most out of it. There is always something to be gained–from an incredible writing insight to meeting an instrumental person for your career. Keep your heart and mind open. You may be surprised what you discover.

What was the worst thing that’s ever happened to you at a conference?

Very good question. I was once introduced to a high-profile author. I was quite nervous to be thrown into the situation with no warning, and, needless to say, I wasn’t at my most eloquent. As a result, the author turned and walked away without a goodbye. The experience hurt, but I learned many lessons from it, most importantly, to treat people with respect no matter who they are because I’ve felt the impact of being snubbed.

What should you do to prepare for a conference — especially if you want to pitch your book?

I would recommend sitting down and writing out your goals for the conference. Are you there to network, learn craft, find an agent…try to figure out what would serve you best at this time in your career. Also, do your homework about who you would like to meet. You should have access to the workshop schedule ahead of time. Select your workshops based on subject matter and who is teaching. Be strategic and target your priorities.

There is a great article on pitching at the ThrillerFest website at www.thrillerfest.com. Just go under the AgentFest heading–AgentFest is a pitching event where we have 60 agents eager to hear about your book. If you’re looking for an agent, you may want to consider joining us.

Many Genres Book CoverWhat are some conferences do’s and don’ts?

I would recommend treating a conference like a business event. Dress business casual, be polite and professional to everyone, and don’t imbibe too much alcohol. Most of all, have fun. Writing is a solitary activity, and it’s important to meet fellow enthusiasts.

When should a person consider NOT going to a conference?

Although I feel strongly that spending time at a conference is almost always worthwhile, there are times when you may decide not to attend–if you’re under a tight writing deadline, you may have to spend that week writing (although I know many writers who come to the conferences for certain events while spending tons of time in the room writing). Financial constraints can also play a role. It’s a very personal decision, and it’s important to weigh all those issues before signing up for a conference.

What’s it like being a conference coordinator? Do you get paid?

I have the distinct pleasure of working on the ThrillerFest team, a conference for thriller writers held in NYC every July. Because we are part of the International Thriller Writers, we have people coming from all over the world to participate in ThrillerFest. We’re fortunate to have countless industry professionals attend because we host the conference in NYC where editors and agents can walk down the street to join us.

Working as a conference coordinator is similar to being a juggler. There are so many aspects of running a conference, you need to keep all the balls in the air, hoping none drop. Some of the key tasks include: coordinating the logistics with the hotel staff, arranging for food and beverages, taking care of VIP guests, organizing volunteers to assist with programming, advertising the conference, securing sponsors…the list could go on and on, but let’s just say that many details need to be worked out to make sure the attendees experience a smooth, interesting, and well-organized event.

The position of Executive Director of ThrillerFest is a full-time position–and one of the best jobs in the world.

What are the top three skills for coordinators?

1) Strong organizational skills.
2) Positive interpersonal skills.
3) A detail-oriented approach.

What do you need to know to run a successful conference–and how would one go about getting involved?

My best advice if you’re interested in becoming involved in conference organization is to start by volunteering your time. Learn the ropes from the ground up, so you can see how it all works. That’s what I have done, and it’s been a wonderful learning experience. Also, as a conference organizer, it’s important to do every job at least once. That way, if someone is ill or can’t do his /her job, you can take over seamlessly.

What are some trends in conferences these days?

Conferences offer so much. For high profile authors, conferences can offer an opportunity to meet fans and promote their latest novel. Aspiring authors can network with established authors, learn from the various panels/workshops, and find inspiration from being around people with a similar love of literature. As far as trends go, there seems to be more fan-oriented conferences available, and many conferences offer courses on the craft of writing. For example, at ThrillerFest, we have an event called CraftFest where NYT Bestselling authors share their secrets to writing fiction. For more information, please visit www.thrillerfest.com and take a look under CraftFest.

What’s exciting about running a conference, and what’s not?

There’s nothing like the rush of seeing all your hard work pay off–when people thank you for the event and express their enthusiasm, it makes burning the candle at both ends well worth it.


Man Genres, One Craft can be purchased at Amazon.com.


Many thanks to KJ Howe for answering a few questions about attending writing conferences and coordinating them. If you have others, please post in the comments. KJ will be happy to answer them!

More information about Many Genres, including author information and other interviews is available on the Many Genres blog.

Please visit next Monday for the second interview from Many Genres, One Craft.

9 May 2011 – Edit: Part II with Bram Stoker Award Winner Lucy A. Snyder can be found here.

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Meet Penny Lockwoode Ehrenkranz: A Past and A Future Blog Tour

Cover of A Past and a Future by Penny Lockwood EhrenkranzEdit 7:00 p.m.: I forgot to mention that Penny’s giving away a free story not included in the anthology to one lucky commenter. Please leave a note when you’re done reading.

I’ve known Penny Ehrenkranz for quite a few years now. She writes in a variety of genres, but I think my favorite are her ghost stories. Today I’m featuring Penny’s new short story anthology called A Past and a Future.

Here’s Penny’s official bio:

Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz has published more than 100 articles, 75 stories, two e books, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications and non fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications. She edits for three small independent publishers.

And now for the interview:

Kelly, thank you for hosting me today and giving me the opportunity to talk about my book.

Who is Penny?
I am a writer. 🙂 I am also a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. During my life, I’ve ridden motorcycles, taught yoga and meditation, traveled across county in a VW van, toured parts of Europe, Canada, and Asia, visited most of the United States, and lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, and Oregon. I’ve worked most of my life in office positions, first for big business and lastly for county government. In my “spare” time, I enjoy gardening, crocheting, walking, and spending time with family, friends, and pets.

Tell us your latest news?
My collection of short stories, A Past and a Future has been released by Sam’s Dot Publishing. I’m excited about this collection of fantasy and soft science fiction stories. Each one is different with unique plots, characters, and obstacles to be overcome.

A Past and a Future, is my collection of short stories, half of which are fantasy and half soft science fiction.

Ghost for Rent (electronic version), is a middle grade paranormal mystery. (Available in paperback at Amazon.)

Dragon Sight, is a young adult illustrated chapbook.

KAH: To read more about the books Penny has available — including two more releases later this year –check out her Web sites listed at the end of this interview.

When and why did you begin writing?
My dad used to tell me bedtime stories he made up for me when I was a child. Although the memory is vague now, I do remember thinking being able to create stories was so wonderful. I’m sure that was the impetus behind my own story crafting as a kid. I would write my stories, illustrate them, then bind them between shirt cardboard, and tie them together with a ribbon. I still have some of those stories which my mother saved.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and it seemed a natural extension to write my own stories, which I did as a child and continued to do as an adult. When I first tried to write professionally, I didn’t know what I was doing and promptly got rejected. The wonderful support systems in place now through the Internet weren’t available to young writers way back in the stone age. It took me until my mid 40’s to try again. Once I did, I quickly became a published writer concentrating primarily on short stories, and non-fiction articles both for adults and children.

What inspired you to write your first book, Ghost for Rent?
My daughter actually was the inspiration for this. I’d been writing short stories and articles for a number of years, but she didn’t think I was a writer because I didn’t have a “book.” Her friends and my other family members acknowledged my accomplishments and congratulated me on my successes. To feel like a success, I felt I needed to write a book my daughter could hold. Thus, Ghost for Rent was born.

 Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?)
I would say most writers include bits and pieces of people they know and events from their own lives in their writing. I am no exception. I have never created a character that totally resembled another person or myself. Although some of my animal characters popping up from time to time are animals who have been a part of our family. No one has ever said to me, “hey, were you writing about me?” I don’t think I would want to do that, although a few of my friends over the years have been such amazing characters I’ve certainly thought about it!

What are your current projects?
Right now, I’m trying to regain my rights to my first middle grad novel, Ghost for Rent. I’ve completed the sequel, Ghost for Lunch and have contracted to have it published with 4RV Publishing. I would like the series to remain with one house and 4RV has indicated an interest in having the first book. I am also working on a fantasy novella, “Weaving of Powers,” and a YA short story, “A Bit of Fairy Dust.” A lot of my time is spent editing other people’s work as I am a copy editor at MuseItUp Publishing and Damnation Press, LLC. I am also an acquisitions editor at 4RV Publishing.

Do you ever have problems with writers block? If so how do you get through it?
Writer’s block isn’t an issue for me as I’m not the type of writer who feels compelled to sit and write every day. I have found the system which works best for me is to write when I get inspired. That can be something I’ve read or something someone has told me or just an idea which pops into my head. I also don’t limit myself to one type of writing. My short stories for adults tend to be fantasy and science fiction, but I also write sweet romance and have two stories coming from MuseItUP Publishing at the end of this year. I also write non-fiction with an emphasis on parenting tips, teen self-help, and writing tips. In addition, I write for young adults and children. I have four books coming from 4RV in the next few years, a middle grade novel, Ghost for Lunch, and three picture books.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
The advice I give all new writers is to read in the genre in which you want to write, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. You need to see what’s out there and how the successful authors craft their stories. I also encourage writers to attend writing conferences. With the Internet, there are a host of free online conferences, so there is no excuse not to network with other writers. I also strongly urge writers not to give up, like I did when I first started. Since then, I’ve found it’s often a case of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right story.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I write my stories because I enjoy escaping from the reality of everyday life. When readers are engrossed in my stories, I hope they have a chance to escape as well. Many of my jobs have been working in situations which are distressing to say the least. I’ve worked for our local women’s shelter, a human dignity group, the juvenile justice system, and the district attorney. In these jobs, real life intrudes. By writing fantasy and soft science fiction, I can take myself and my reader to new places and new adventures far removed from reality. I have no lessons to teach, no ulterior motives, I only hope each reader can escape from their own life for the short time he or she has traveled with me to a new land or time.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.

To learn more about Penny, see other interviews and excerpts of her work at other stops along her blog tour, see Penny’s blog. Her entire tour is listed at the bottom of this post here.

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Bits of News and Stuff

I had planned for 2011 to be a quiet year as far as being involved was concerned. I want to write more, finish more and submit more than I was able to do last year due to the blog tour, and teaching, and conventions.

And so far, so good. I’ve gotten much more writing done this year (so far) than I had in the same time frame last year.

But, suddenly, there’s a lot going on. Which is good, I realize, so I’ve decided to roll with it.

Here’s the news:

I’ve been interviewed for the Fascinating Authors web site…. link to interview here… and there’s an accompanying radio interview, too. That hasn’t been posted yet, but I’ll mention a link when I have it. (The radio interview was A LOT of fun!)
Hellebore and Rue Anthology Cover
And I’ve gotten an invitation to Syndcon – a gaming convention in Rockville, MD, (in April) and I’ve accepted. I’m tentatively scheduled to teach a writing workshop with some other writers in the area, as well as appear on some panels.

Any gamers lurking out there who want to learn a bit about writing?

We’re brainstorming some gaming/writing ideas right now. If you’re interested in seeing something in particular, send me a note. I’ll suggest it to the programming staff.

(I hope I’ll get some gaming in, too, during the con. It’s been a while since I’ve taken my bag of dice and characters out for a spin.)

I’ve also been invited back to Darkover. I had a total blast last year, so you can bet I’ll be back. (Darkover happens over Thanksgiving weekend.)

And saving the best for last: Hellebore and Rue is officially out! (I’ll post some buy links as soon as I track them down.)

I’m still in love with that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?

If you enjoy stories of women wielding magic, you may want to check it out. I’ve written a tale about a swordsmistress who fights a wyvern — with the help of a sorceress.

(You’ll have to let me know what you think if you read it.)

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Guest Interview: Please Welcome Cate Masters

I first met Cate through the Eternal Press author boards. Friendly, always willing to answer a question, Cate was the first of many at EP who took the time to show me the ropes. Her writing is fabulous, proven by the sheer number of books she’s published. Please welcome Cate.

Cate Masters
Who is Cate Masters?
Hm, interesting question. Married for 33 years to her best friend, Cate Masters is one lucky woman. She loves great stories, music and all forms of art. A lifelong writer, she’s continually evolving, always reaching for the next level. Ms. Masters is the author of twenty-seven published works of fiction, ranging from fantasy/dark fantasy, historical, contemporary and speculative, from flash to novel length. Reviewers have described her work as “so compelling, I did not want to put it down,” “such romantic tales that really touch your soul,” “filled with action scenes which made it a riveting story,” and “the author weaves a great tale with a creative way of using words that makes the story refreshing to read.” She has finally come into her own, I think.

Tell us your latest news?

It’s been another busy year! Last month, Freya’s Bower released a historical adventure romance set in 1850s Key West titled Angels, Sinners and Madmen, and Eternal Press released Winning, a short with magical realism elements. This month, EP released Follow the Stars Home, a historical centered on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Also this month, Whiskey Creek Press released Surfacing, a contemporary fantasy about an indie rocker and a mermaid, and WCP will later release a contemporary mainstream, The Bridge Between. I recently signed a contract with Lyrical Press for Rock Bottom, another contemporary novel.
When and why did you begin writing? Because I have a very vivid imagination, I began to set images on paper through poems at the tender age of ten. My friends were all artists or poets, and I still have some of the poems we collaborated on. In my twenties, I experimented with short stories, some of which appeared in various literary or web zines. Ideas tend to pile up in my head, and if I don’t write, there’s a serious risk of explosion. 🙂

What inspired you to write this book?
Another author mentioned she hadn’t seen a mermaid story in awhile, so I trolled the Internet for mermaid lore. I’m a research addict, so can get lost in it, especially when fascinating legends abound. When I came across a video of the mermaid show in Weeki Wachee Springs, it seemed the perfect place for an authentic mermaid to surface without too much notice. Mermaids love handsome guys with great voices, so AJ Dillon was born.

Surfacing by Cate MastersHere’s the blurb for Surfacing:
AJ Dillon is trouble. The former lead singer of an indie band has no home, no money and no future. His grandfather is the only relative willing to take another chance on him. AJ arrives in Weeki Wachee, Florida, with his guitar, a few clothes and a bad attitude. The only good thing about Weeki Wachee is the ocean — the one place AJ feels at home. Grandpa lines up a job for AJ at Weeki Wachee Springs, where beautiful women perform as mermaids. Grandpa says real mermaids exist, but AJ doesn’t believe – until he meets Cassiopeia, and his passion for music resurfaces. But then greedy Chaz finds out, and threatens to kill them if AJ doesn’t go along with his plan to make a fortune with a real mermaid show. Can AJ save Cassie, even if it means losing her?

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Most of my stories have an underlying theme of encouragement to follow your bliss. I’m always in awe of women who write when their kids were young, plus hold down a job. I only wrote sporadically while my kids were little. Now they’re grown, and I am following my own advice, and it’s the best time of my life.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

(Has anyone ever realized it?) No, I’m too big a believer in karma to use real experiences or people. 🙂 Though I do sometimes use names of people I love. For instance, the editor in Picture. This is named for my sister Claudia. In Angels Sinners and Madmen, Annette and Julian are dolls, but in real life, they’re my sister and brother-in-law. The hero in Rock Bottom is Jerry Trently, a dear friend who was an inspiration to everyone he met.
What books have most influenced your life most? Tolkien’s Rings trilogy made a huge impression on me when I was 13, and I couldn’t get enough Ray Bradbury or HP Lovecraft after that. Authors such as Margaret Atwood, TC Boyle, Alice Hoffman and Michael Chabon showed me writers could incorporate fantasy in a realistic setting, in a literary style. I’m in awe of them all.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?

I have a stack of books waiting to be read! The most current is Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Night. I have a feeling I’ll be sending for the next two in the trilogy. I love urban fantasies, and this novel is a gripping, fast-paced read.

Do you ever have problems with writers block?
If so how do you get through it? My biggest problem is lack of time. I have so many more ideas than I can possibly follow through on. I find that working on several projects at once lends greater perspective, so if I run into a wall on one, I pick up on another and eventually the problem comes clear on the other.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Stopping. I love these characters.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I’d love to hear from you!

My web site’s http://www.catemasters.com
blog: http://catemasters.blogspot.com
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cate-Masters/89969413736?ref=ts
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CateMasters

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Guest Interview: Jason Kahn

Jason Kahn is an author published by Damnation Books, a sister company to Eternal Press. He and I met through the author boards and found we have a lot in common. His story, The Killer Within–available from Damnation Books–has racked up some impressive reviews.

The Killer Within by Jason KahnKAH: Who is Jason Kahn?

JK: I’m a husband, father of two boys, journalist, and writer of fiction when I’m not busy being any of those other things. My brood and I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but I grew up in Rockville, Md., just outside of Washington, DC. I attended the University of Michigan as an undergrad and NYU for graduate school for a degree in journalism and science reporting. In my day job, I run a daily news service for cardiologists that is owned and operated by a research foundation. I began writing fiction seriously after college, and started getting published a few years ago. I have a handful of short stories and an e-book to my name as well as a continuing online series and an agreement to write a hardboiled crime novel for Fireside Mysteries, a small press house.

KAH: You work full time as an editor/writer for a large cardiology foundation. Do you feel that this helps or hinders your creative writing?

JK: If anything it helps. In my job as a news editor, I come across a ton of scientific material every day that I have to sift through in order to decide what’s worth writing about. A lot of these items, and I mean a LOT, lend themselves quite naturally to the realm of science fiction and/or fantasy. As a matter of fact, I contribute a monthly blog for Abandoned Towers Magazine in which I present news items I’ve collected from my job and describe how they can serve as springboards for really cool stories. Here’s a link to my latest one.

KAH: What do you do when you feel burned out on writing?

JK: I wage a continuing struggle to find time to write. I wish I had so much time that I had the opportunity to feel burned out. Alas, that has yet to occur.

KAH: Tell us your latest news.

JK: I have a few things going on at the moment. I have an e-book titled The Killer Within that was released by Damnation Books in late 2009. It’s a hardboiled crime thriller with just a dash of the paranormal. I also write an online detective series published by Abandoned Towers Magazine called The Dark InSpectre. This is also hardboiled crime fiction, but very noir and much darker, with a much more supernatural edge to it. New episodes are posted every two weeks. In addition, I have a fantasy short story titled Cold Comfort scheduled to come out in the July issue of Abandoned Towers. It’s about the true nature of love, and the terrible consequences that can occur when love is thwarted.

Incidentally, I believe you know the managing editor of Abandoned Towers, Crystalwizard? Didn’t she do the artwork for the cover of one of your books? She is also a supremely talented editor.

[KAH: Interrupting to affirm that Crystalwizard created the cover art for my story, The Dragon’s Tale.]

And lastly is the agreed-upon crime novel I mentioned earlier for Fireside Mysteries. I need to have a plot overview and the first three chapters by August. So between writing The Dark InSpectre and the novel at the same time, my little brain is quite occupied most of the time!

KAH: When and why did you begin writing?

JK: Academically, I was always drawn to it—high school newspaper, stuff like that. I was headed toward a journalism degree my second or third year in college, so I knew then that I wanted to be a writer. But it wasn’t until the summer after my senior year that I discovered I wanted to be a WRITER. I’d been reading scifi-fantasy books since I was a kid, and during my senior year, my then-girlfriend, now-wife, said to me, “hey, why don’t you write one of those?” Incredible as it may seem, the thought had never occurred to me before. That summer I started writing, and haven’t stopped since.

KAH: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

JK: It changes. Sometimes I think it was after my first short story sale. Sometimes I think it was after my first (and thus far only) professional short story sale. Sometimes I don’t really consider myself a writer at all because I don’t write fiction for a living. Sometimes I think that’s ridiculous because I do make a living writing and editing, just not fiction. Then there are other times when I think that if and when I have an actual novel published, like I hopefully will with the one I’m writing now, that I can honestly look in the mirror and say, Chum, you’re a writer, you are.

Jason Kahn - Dark In SpectreKAH: Have your personal experiences shown up in your writing?

JK: A personal experience that did actually turn up in my writing derived from my inspiration for the Dark InSpectre series. It sprang from a dream I had, which turned into the first scene of the story. It involved the psychic ghost of a dead girl leading the main character, a telepathic cop (me in my dream), into a room with four prisoners (brothers) encased in blocks of semi-translucent material. Yes, I know, very strange dream. But more important than the actual scene was the mood. It was futuristic and very dark and brooding. I mulled over my dream for about a month as I wound a story around it. I saw it as a cross between L.A. Confidential and the psi-core of Babylon 5. And at heart it was a hardboiled crime thriller.

KAH: What authors have most influenced your writing?

JK: Many, many authors have influenced me: Raymond Feist, JRR Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin, Anne Bishop, Patricia McKillip, Steven Brust, Katherine Kurtz, Sheri Tepper, Fritz Leiber, David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson, Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, and James Ellroy to name a few.

Early on, I would say Feist and Eddings influenced me the most as I tried to write fantasy-adventures, but over the past few years, much more Ellroy as I’ve been writing more noir crime fiction. I read several detective fiction authors as I worked on The Dark InSpectre. Raymond Chandler, Peter Lovesey, and then I read James Ellroy. The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, and many more. I wasn’t prepared, my mind exploded. I could not put them down.

The first-person narrative style he uses in some of his novels and the way he illuminates the darkness that dwells in the souls of his protagonists is very compelling. And his prose hits you like a hammer.

KAH: What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?

JK: I just finished reading At End of Day, by George V. Higgins. His most famous novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, was a crime drama that was the forerunner of much of James Ellroy’s and Elmore Leonard’s work. So after I finished that book, I read At End of Day, which also involved Boston-area crime figures. This book, though, was not nearly as good. It was almost entirely dialogue driven, to the point where I found myself wishing the characters would just stop talking for a single second. Still, I did learn a few things regarding the genre. Higgins’ knowledge of the mundane details that make up the criminal world is like a treasure trove, and his dialogue, while over used, is still right on the money in terms of how real people speak.

KAH: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

JK: I’d say the biggest challenge is finding the time. Both to write and to just think about a story, to work it out in my head. I’m a news editor by day, and my job is extremely busy. I’m also a husband and father of two boys in elementary school. I’ll write whenever I can, but long stretches can go by during which I’m not writing. It can be very frustrating. I go on business trips about 4 times a year, and I find that I can get a lot of writing done on the plane if I’m traveling by air. It’s great getting a few hours of uninterrupted writing time during a flight.
Sometimes the writing itself can be hard. Not the “big scenes,” those are usually pretty well thought out. It’s the little scenes, the transitions, the mundane stuff. That can be extremely hard for me to write.

KAH: Do you have any advice for other writers?

JK: My advice for other writers is simple and direct. If you want to be a writer, sit your butt down and write—something, anything. But write. It doesn’t even have to be good. In fact, when you start, it will probably be crap, and that’s okay. You have to write a lot of crap before you can start writing goodly (see?). It’s how you learn. Write and submit your writing to people other than your family members and loved ones. That’s another way you learn. You’ll get criticism. Accept it graciously, even the stuff you don’t agree with. And above all, keep writing.

KAH: How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. – please share your links.

Website: www.jrkahn.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jrkahn

Blog: http://jasonkahn.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkahn1

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Guest Interview: Ginger Simpson

I first met Ginger Simpson on the Eternal Press authors-only forum. With her quick wit and wealth of knowledge, she very quickly became my “hero” — answering a lot of newbie questions — some I wished I’d thought to ask — offering suggestions, and adding wise counter-point to rants. And then I realized she’s also a fabulous writer.

When you’re done reading, please check out Ginger’s books. At the very least, show some love in the comments. We’d both enjoy hearing from you.

The Illustrious Ginger SimpsonWho is Ginger Simpson?
Well… she used to be an attractive (at least I thought so) younger women who worked an 8-5 job and used her lunch hours and breaks to work on her books. Now she’s retired, facing the official senior citizen birthday and doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish nearly as much as she did back in the day.

When and why did you begin writing?
For years, I’d read every western historical I could get my hands on. My interest stemmed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House series and blossomed into romance novels…basically anything with the word “savage” in it. I’ve always been an avid reader, but one day I decided I should try my hand at writing my own historical. Prairie Peace, my debut novel, was proof I can write.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The moment I held Prairie Peace in my hands and saw my name on the cover. There’s no greater feeling except maybe having a child or winning the lottery. I can’t really comment on the last as I’m still trying to achieve that goal.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Having access to a computer at home. I’d brought my laptop home from work to finish a project, and afterwards some strange woman named Cecile popped into my head and started telling me a story. The longer I typed, the more enthralled I became with the tale, and I had to see it through to the end. In case you can’t tell, my stories are character driven. I’m basically just the fingers that do the typing and go back and add in the components that make it a novel. The emotions, the smells, the identifying tags. 🙂

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? (Has anyone ever realized it?)
Only one of my books was actually spawned by a real-life experience. I wrote Embezzled Love based on my sister’s horrible outcome at finding love on the Internet, and I hoped that the final product would cause women to pause and remember how vulnerable they are in situations like dating sites. Men, too, actually. I think the book turned out well because it was a finalist in the 2009 Epic Award nominations.

Most of my books contain a little of me or a trait I admire and wish I possessed. For instance, Forever Faith is about a woman with a weight problem, Hope Springs Eternal is about a woman who faces growing older without anyone in her life, Sarah in Sarah’s Journey is the heroine I hope I am: fair, not afraid to take a stand, and a great friend. I think every author’s personality is hidden somewhere in their stories.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Like I said, I read every Laura Ingalls Wilder book a multitude of times. If someone could go back and find the “check out cards” from my grammar school library, they’d find my name on every other line. I think Ms. Wilder definitely set my writing wheels in motion.

What are your current projects?
I’m currently finishing a YA that I’ve already contracted then I plan to move on to my Women’s Fiction/Mystery, First Degree Innocence, then The Locket. I always have too many WIPS in progress because of the revolving door on my mind that allows characters to enter at will. They all have a story to tell and my WIP folder is overflowing with ones I’ve started to appease the anguished cries. *lol*

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest released book is all about changing. It was previously published in 2004 by another house, and the new version of White Heart, Lakota Spirit is my attempt to remove the amateur writing style and replace it with all the things I’ve learned in the process. Even editors learn as you go, as at the time, I felt this was thoroughly edited and perfectly so. It’s funny how you read your novels years later and wonder how so much slipped through the cracks.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The changing requirements from house to house and all the new writing “rules” that crop up on a frequently basis. For example: one house I queried took such issue with “ly” words, they wanted them all eliminated. I try to avoid them, but there are cases where I think they lend tension or emphasis to a scene. Now the emphasis seems to be on avoiding “was” as much as possible. Just when you think you’ve got a grip on what’s right and what’s wrong, you don’t. 🙂

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have several favorites, but I’ll name two of them, and you’ll notice that I’m limiting my choices to my fellow e-pubbed authors. I think if we don’t support our own, then who will. I often wonder why more people don’t feel the same and mention their peers as favorites…but Anita Davison, who writes historical novels set in England (her home) converted me with her descriptive writing and flowing prose. I mumbled to myself when I started critiquing her first chapter in our group, knowing it would be dry and boring, but boy was I wrong. She hooked me from the start, and I anxiously await anything she writes. Margaret Tanner, an Aussie author, who writes from the heart with such feeling and emotion that I immediately connect with her characters, just as I do with Anita’s. A true author moves the reader into the story and makes them feel the emotions, smell the smells and cry real tears. These two ladies do exactly that.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Research the publishing houses you’re targeting before you consider signing with them. There are so many new houses springing up, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t destined to doom and you don’t want to go down with them. Signing a contract is like entering into a marriage. If it’s a bad one, you’re stuck with them until the contract expires and divorces you from them. There are many awesome companies out there—one’s who know how to treat their authors. Ask your author friends…they’re your best source of information.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just a giant “thank you” for following me all these years, frequenting my blog, and believing in me. You keep me doing what I love.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. – please share your public links.

Web site: http://www.gingersimpson.com
Blog: http://mizging.blogspsot.com
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/mizging
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mizging
Twitter: http://twitter.com/mizging

Thanks Kelly for hosting me today. You’ve asked some very interesting questions and I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into showcasing me and my work.