Chatting with the Pros: Interview with science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson

chatting with the pros

My guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is an award winning and best selling author who has written countless novels and over 56 national and international best sellers. A majority of his works fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, but he writes across many genres. In a recent introduction for “The Big Idea: Kevin J. Anderson“, an article about the latest release in his short fiction collection, Selected Stories, John Scalzi calls him, “one of the most prolific authors working today”, and one look at his immense book list on Amazon would leave no doubt that this is an accurate assessment. (You can find my review of selected stories here). He’s written a lot of books, 56 of which have hit the national and international best seller lists, and he’s been writing for many years, and I’m sure we will find his knowledge and experiences enlightening. Please help me welcome Kevin J. Anderson.

KJA

Kaye: You have written at least 56 national or international best sellers. What makes a good story in your mind?

Kevin: People want to read a good story with an exciting/interesting plot, a well-developed setting, and engaging characters. Make it a story you WANT to read, with clear prose and action. I don’t like muddled, glacial-paced stories where the prose is just too precious.

Kaye: Why science fiction and fantasy? Why not western or romance or mystery? What’s the attraction?

Kevin: Well, I’ve also written plenty of mysteries, and some of my work has been set in the old west, and most good stories have a strong romance component (though I don’t write category Romance or Westerns). I like to tell an interesting story, and I move around a lot among genres, even though I am primarily known for science fiction or fantasy.  I grew up in a very mundane small town in rural Wisconsin, and I was captivated by SF/F from an early age, because it showed my imagination what was possible. I wanted to go to exotic places, whether they were filled with aliens or dragons. Science fiction took me to a much wider universe.  (And as a skinny, nerdy kid with glasses and a bad haircut, “romance” wasn’t much of a possibility, so I stuck with spaceships and swords.)

Kaye: You wrote several Star Wars and X-Files novels. Is it difficult to immerse yourself in someone else’s settings and characters enough to pick up a thread and run with it in the same tone and writing style? How do you go about getting yourself into that mindset?

Kevin: It’s no more difficult than trying to immerse yourself in the old west or ancient Japan for a historical. A writer’s job is to absorb the story, characters, voice, and setting. I was already a big fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, and Dune, and I enjoyed going to work in those universes. In each instance, I would completely surround myself with the property — whether that meant watching the Star Wars films over and over again, or the episodes of the X-Files, or repeatedly rereading DUNE and its sequels. You pick up the manner of speaking, the “look and feel” of the world, and you make it into your own story.

Kaye: You’ve done several collaborations, including books of the Dune series, with Brian Herbert and the Clockwork books which you collaborated with Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating on a book?

Kevin: You both need to have the same vision for the book—which means a LOT of talking and brainstorming ahead of time—and you both need the same work ethic (so each partner puts in the same amount of time and effort…a tortoise and hare collaboration will just cause a lot of friction), and you need to be flexible. There’s never only ONE way to write a sentence or describe a scene. I would never want to collaborate with a diva!

Kaye: Do you belong to any writing organizations? If so, which ones? Do you feel your membership in these writing organizations have been helpful in your writing successes? How so?

Kevin: I belong to the Horror Writers Association (and edited three anthologies for them, the BLOOD LITE series), IAMTW (International Association of Media Tie-In Writers), and SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, although some of their recent decisions have made me so upset that I would not renew my membership if I wasn’t already a lifetime member.  The problem with such organizations is that you can become to engrossed in the politics and bickering that you forget your real purpose, which is to WRITE.

KJA Series

Kaye: You’ve written several series, including Saga of the Seven SunsDan Shamble P.I. and the Clockwork books? Are any of your books stand alone? Why do you lean toward series?

Kevin: I’ve written many standalone books. The one I just finished last week, a vampire/serial-killer thriller STAKE, that’s not part of a series. But I like to tell big stories, and once you’ve done all the effort of world building and character building an entire universe, you want to spend some time. To me, a trilogy is perfect — a beginning, middle, and end, with enough room to tell the story and describe the world in all its glory. Pragmatically speaking, it’s a much better decision commercially to build a series, because readers will want more and more, and each new book will help sell copies of previous volumes.  Can you imagine if A.C. Doyle had stopped after writing only one Sherlock Holmes story?

KJA Stand Alones

Kaye: Science fiction authors create whole worlds from their imaginations, often with new languages created in their own minds, and you have created many. How do you go about creating a new language?

Kevin: Hmm, creating languages?  I’m not really a linguist and I don’t know that I’ve developed full languages (though I do use weird words).  I just make up the words by making what seem to be the appropriate sounds, linguistic flavors, scary sounds for monsters or villains, softer or ethereal sounds for pleasant things.  I can’t really explain it more rigorously than that.

Kaye: Your work has won many prestigious awards. Which award are you most proud of? Why?

Kevin: Awards are awards, and it’s nice to have them, but I really prefer READERS. That’s what makes your writing worthwhile. It’s not terribly prestigious, but the award I value most is one I received very early in my career, when I received a trophy with an engraved brass plate and everything, naming me “The Writer with No Future” because I could produce more rejection slips than any other writer at an entire conference. To me, that didn’t mean I was a failure as a writer or that my work was awful—it proved that I was more persistent, that I kept trying, kept getting better, and never gave up.  I still have that trophy.

Kaye: In addition to being an author, you and your wife, Rebecca Moesta, are publishers at Wordfire Press, but originally you were traditionally published. Why the switch to being your own publisher after being traditionally published for so many years?

Kevin: Survival. No choice. The publishing industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval equivalent to the Industrial Revolution, and I could either be a mammal and evolve or stay a dinosaur and go extinct. I am still traditionally published (four books released in 2018, in fact, and a new 3-book contract from Tor Books for an epic fantasy series), but I also have a lot of backlist titles that were out of print and my fans wanted to read them. So I started releasing them myself with all the innovations of new technology.  It’s just another alternative.

Kaye: What does Wordfire press offer as a publisher for other authors?

Kevin: We are nimble and flexible, and we can produce books and get them to market far quicker than a traditional publisher can manage. But when you work with an indie publisher, or if you do it yourself, then you have to do all the work, all aspects of it.  It’s another income stream and another way to get your book in front of your audience.

Kaye: Is Wordfire taking submissions? What type of fiction is Wordfire looking for?

Kevin: Not really, I’m afraid. When we are open, we’re looking for established writers who don’t need their hands held, writers who already have their own platforms, fanbases, and marketing efforts because we have to rely on them to do the work that a whole department at a traditional publisher would do.

Kaye: You recently signed on as an adjunct professor at Western State Colorado University and you are a finalist candidate for the director of their Certificate in Publishing program. What prompted you to venture into the world of academia?

Kevin: Actually, I’m now a full professor and I run their Masters program in Publishing. I will start the first group of MA students this coming summer. There’s a LOT of paperwork and bureaucracy in academia!  I have taught writing and publishing quite often at countless writers’ conferences and conventions, most notably our own Superstars Writing Seminars, which is just hitting its tenth year.  Becoming a professor and teaching at a beautiful university in the Colorado mountains is great, offers a little more stability than freelance writing, and (the bane of all freelancers) it gives me health insurance and benefits I wouldn’t otherwise get.

Kaye: Any writing pet peeves?

Kevin: I don’t like artsy-fartsy stuff, dense prose and opaque plots.  Tell me a great story with a cool setting and interesting characters!

Kaye: Creating characters, developing plot, world building – what is the most challenging part of writing for you?

Kevin: Those are all fun, but if I had to choose I would say I have most difficulty with building rich, fleshed-out characters. Plotting and worldbuilding—that’s what I excel in.

Thanks to Kevin for sharing with us today. He’s given us food for thought with some really great answers. You can find more about Wordfire Press here: https://wordfirepress.com/.  Kevin and his wife, Rebecca Moesta, head up the Superstars Writing Seminars each year in February, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for those interested in learning the business of writing. If you’d like to become a member of the Superstars Tribe, or would just like more information about Superstars, visit the folowing link: superstarswriting.com. Visit the links below to learn more about Kevin J. Anderson and his works.

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1545798018&sr=1-1-fkmr1

Wordfire Press: http://www.wordfire.com/

Blog: http://kjablog.com/

Join us next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when I’ll be chatting with romance author Maya Rodale. You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress.


Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Captain Marvel

Jeff's Movie Reviews

The Marvelous Mrs. Marvel

by Jeff Bowles

(For more on Captain Marvel, be sure to check out my full video review)

As far as Marvel movies go, Captain Marvel feels refreshing, if a bit familiar. It carries with it little of the eccentric energy found in other recent Marvel flicks like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but it also requires less of audiences who have yet to drink the Marvel Kool-Aid. Much like 2018’s box office behemoth Black Panther, the hero in question is not a white male, and as the star of a major Hollywood production released in the #MeToo era, that makes all the difference.

Which isn’t to suggest Marvel Studios’ latest doesn’t give plenty of nods to what has come before, and perhaps in a more lucrative vein, to what’s still headed our way. We finally learn how Nick Fury lost his eye, for instance, but filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are also thrilled to butter us up for that big late-April showdown called Avengers: Endgame (check your calendars, kids. Don’t forget to pre-order all the toys, and oh yeah, maybe a movie ticket or five).

If superhero tropes and comic-isms are as indecipherable to you as Kree battle language, odds are good the scope and scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe rings hollow. Some of us have been on board since we were kids, leafing through our favorite monthly Marvel comics like little back-issue hording zealots. But if your speed is less Captain America and more … well, any other movie ever made, really—it’s safe to take heart. Captain Marvel is a pretty good jumping on point.

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) is an Air Force fighter pilot with super-powered amnesia. A strange event in her past wiped her memories clean and granted her incredible abilities, the sum total of which she’s dutifully employed freedom-fighting for a race of intergalactic warriors known as the Kree (best personified by her squad leader, Yon-Rogg—played by master geek-movie thespian, Jude Law). When the Kree’s deadliest enemies, a race of green shapeshifters known as the Skrulls, capture Carol and bring her back to Earth, the nascent Captain Marvel must team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (an impressively de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) to discover the secret behind the pivotal accident. Plus, you know, she’ll get to rock out to an unquestionably righteous and eclectic 90s soundtrack.

See the source image

The fact that this movie takes place in 1995 only adds to its charm. There are era-specific nods and in-jokes aplenty, including a fun Stan Lee cameo that’ll tug at your sense of nostalgia. The film’s setting also means that most of the super-heroic hi-jinks found in the other 20 MCU movies have yet to occur. It’s a prequel more than anything else. Rounding out the cast are an unexpectedly funny Ben Mendelsohn as Skrull commander Keller, Lashana Lynch as Carol’s best friend, Maria Rambeau, and a de-aged Clark Gregg, happy to take a break from playing Agent Coulson on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to play … a younger-looking version of the exact same character.

Additional highlights include a cute but vicious orange cat named Goose, though I won’t spoil the big reveal here, and the marvelously named Air Force marvel, Mar-Vell (a somewhat spaced out and liminal Annette Bening). For the most part, Captain Marvel gets by on its charm. It’s best described as an above average superhero origin story, but unfortunately, there remains a certain amount of roughness in its narrative. Big chunks of exposition get belted out from behind scads of green creature makeup, and the grand finale carries enough logic gaps you may find yourself wondering, “She was just fighting that guy. So now who are these people?”

A lot of early buzz surrounding this movie included controversial comments made by Larson herself, but really, if a storytelling medium largely created by boys for boys can’t come to grips with a few girls getting in on the action whenever they damn well please, there’s less hope for this world than any of us could have ever imagined. Captain Marvel as a character has been blasting across the universe since the late sixties, but it was only in recent years that a woman donned the suit. And Larson does a fantastic job portraying Danvers on film. She is cocky, self-assured, funny, compassionate, caring, and once her full powers get unleashed, wonderfully formidable. A certain kinship evolves between her and Samuel Jackson’s Agent Fury, and moments spent in the Louisiana home of her best friend Maria prove that an intergalactic badass can be all about family, too.

Audiences are likely to get more out of the experience if they possess a running mental lexicon of all things Marvel, but unlike last year’s Avengers: Infinity War and the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel is likely to be a fun time no matter what prior knowledge you have going in. If you’re burned out on films featuring god-like people beating the holy Skrull out of each other, you may be better entertained elsewhere. But as Thor Odinson once famously declared to the world-eating demon Surtur, “That’s what heroes do.”

It’s a very geeky multiverse we live in, people.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives Captain Marvel an 8 out of 10.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The first Wednesday of every month, you can find him dispensing writerly wisdom in Jeff’s Pep Talk, right here on Writing to be Read. The best of Jeff’s outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – Short Stories – So Much More!


You can keep up on what Jeff’s been watching and catch all of his great movie reviews the third Friday of each month. Subscribe to email or follow on WordPress today!


March celebrates Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science Fiction-Fantasy

In March, Writing to be Read celebrates science fiction and fantasy, and everything in between. Science fiction springs from imaginings of what ifs, regarding technological advancements and futuristc worlds and universes, while fantasy fiction involves impossible or improbable events usually involving magic, or magical creatures or objects grounded in myths, legends and folklore of old. Both of these genres takes us to fantasical places and awe readers with amazing feats of courage, and good usually overpowers evil. Both entertain us, and are often addicting. In the current book market, there are many books which fall into a genre that is somewhere in between.

There are more subgenres for both of these genres than a person is able to count, including stories which feature elements of both. When I wrote my thesis proposal for what will one day be my science fantasy series, Playground for the Gods, I was told there was no genre for a story with both science fiction and fantasy elements. But in fact, there is such a genre as science fantasy, and there are many books out there today that fall into it. I recently reviewed one featuring alien life forms and a powerful magic object, Rogue Crystal, by Jordan Elizabeth in last Friday’s post.

As mentioned above, Playground for the Gods was originally proposed as my thesis story. It is a tale of aliens, Atlans, who come to pre-historic Earth when their planet is destroyed, and act as gods and godesses, forming human beliefs about devine matters, and creating the fondation for myths and legends of ancient history. The character names were all chosen from ancient summerian names, and many of the subplots parrellel those same myths and legends, adding new twists. In order to maintain the appearance of gods, they use their advanced technologies to appear magical and all powerful, each one wielding the ability to fall into different personas throughout time, providing basis for all world myths and religions around the globe.

It’s a lot of story, and many said it was too big and couldn’t be done, so I broke it down into four novels, which follow the Atlan through earth’s history to present day, and perhaps even beyond Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle tells the tale of the Atlans arrival on Earth. and tells how the heroine, Innana tries to stop the same Atlans who caused the destruction of their home planet from detroying their new home, as well. All whhile working to find a cure for her sister, Ereshkigal’s wasting desiese which is eating her up from the inside out. This story is curently with my beta reader, although I was hoping she’d have it back to me by now, so I could share my excitement, because it is very close to being publication ready.

Among the great science fiction authors we find familiar names: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  More recently, we have Robin Wayne Bailey, Richard Bachman, who we all now know is Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Scalzi and Kevin J. Anderson. (Don’t forget to  catch my interview with Kevin J. Anderson next Monday on “Chatting with the Pros”. You won’t want to miss it.) Fantasy authrs who may come to mind are J.R.R. Tolkien, George R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, R.A. Salvator, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Kevin J. Anderson. As you can see, there is some crossover of authors from one genre to the other; there are authors who write in both.

This month, in additon to my interview with K.J.A. and my review of Rogue Crystal, I also have my review of Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Science Fiction Volume 2, and an interview with fantasy author Laurel McHargue.  I do hope you’ll drop by.

 

P.S. Be sure to check out my science fiction time travel short, Last Call, and my dystopian short, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in the Collapsar Directive science fiction anthology (Zombie Prirates Publishing).

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Interview with fantasy author Laurel McHargue

Georgetown Christmas Fair 2018

I’m talking today with fantasy author Laurel McHargue, a woman with a lot of energy.  She’s written eight books including her Waterwight fantasy series and an adult fairytale, The Hare, Raising Truth, she hosts her own podcast, Alligator Preserves, is a former teacher and active community member, networks and promotes her works online, and finds time attend writing events for face to face interactions with her fans and potential new readers, as well as other authors. Even through email the positive energy radiates from this author. I could give you a lengthy fanfare on how impressed I am with this lady, but I think it’s better to let you see for yourselves. So, without further ado, please welcome Laurel Mchargue.


Kaye: Would you talk about your author’s journey? How did you come to come to be a writer?

Laurel: When I was quite young, I learned I could get attention by telling stories. As the fourth of five girls, I was low on the proverbial totem pole when it came to feeling important, so I had to be creative. I think my wild dreams helped, though eventually, my parents would roll their eyes when I’d come down in the morning with an “unbelievable” dream I’d just have to share. Who knew a dream would launch my first fantasy series? I didn’t then, but hey, I was just a kid!

Fast forward through a lifetime of unique experiences that people were curious about—I was frequently told, “You should really write about that!”—and I finally made the decision to make writing my career. I always did well in classes that required writing, and there were teachers along the way who encouraged me greatly.

I think I always knew I’d write stories someday, but until I made the commitment, it was always a “someday” kind of dream.

Kaye: What can you tell me about your YA fantasy series, Waterwight, and specifically about your Waterwight Breathe which will be released on March 15th?

Laurel: Waterwight started with a dream in which I was running away from bad guys through a dilapidated town, and I came up against a large body of water. The only way across it was to fly, and so I flew. Halfway across, however, I doubted my ability to make it to the other side and started to fall. A flying frog appeared and said, “Grab hold!” and I grasped his leg. He got me to the other side and then died in my arms. The dream had other elements I was able to use in my story as well. Anyway, I shared the dream with my author friend Carol Bellhouse (because I wasn’t living at home anymore!) and she told me I needed to write a story around it.

At the time, I’d never written fantasy, and the thought of turning a dream into a story thrilled and terrified me! Over the course of a year my story unfolded chapter by chapter, and by the time I got to the end, I wasn’t ready to leave my characters. I knew there was more for them to do, and there were questions I needed to answer. So, Waterwight Flux answers questions, develops characters, and sets up more challenges for Celeste, the orphaned protagonist.

I chose to write Waterwight Breathe, the final book, in first person present tense perspective after reading The Hunger Games. I love the immediacy of the thoughts and actions, and having the last book narrated by the protagonist seemed like the perfect way to end the series. I know it’s unconventional to have different points of view in the same series, but my life decisions have frequently been unconventional, and I have no regrets!

Waterwight BreatheWaterwight Breathe is available on March 15th, and it might be my favorite work yet. I couldn’t wait to get to the ending, the only part of the book I actually planned!

Kaye: You received three CIPA EVVY awards for the first book in the series. That’s quite an accomplishment. What is it about this book that makes it EVVY Award worthy?

Laurel: The CIPA EVVY awards are highly competitive, and each book is evaluated with a rubric—not against other submissions. The judges look at everything from cover design to editing to plot and character development. Waterwight is a fantasy adventure with mythical and mystical elements and a female protagonist; it received praise from Kirkus Reviews and many readers. I’d like to think those readers and the EVVY Awards judges felt compelled to keep reading at the end of each chapter. I had fun ending most of my chapters with cliffhangers!

The first book is also divided into three parts, so readers get to see what’s happening from different perspectives in each part. As a bonus, and because I’m a former English teacher, I added a synonym glossary and questions for discussion in the back of each book in the series. I don’t dumb down my prose for YA readers.

I used 99designs.com for my cover design and couldn’t be happier! The same artist created my covers for all three books in the series. Also, I paid a professional proofreader to ensure there weren’t any annoying typos or misspellings.

Kaye: Your novel Miss? is based on your own experience as a first-year teacher and earned the IndieReader Approved Award. Tell me about this book.

Laurel: I’m incredibly fortunate to have friends who are authors too. In 2012, one of those friends, Stephanie Spong, challenged me to do NaNoWriMo with her. I had never heard of such a beast! Well, being the competitive individual I’ve been told I am, I looked into it, and after thinking the 30-day personal challenge was ludicrous, I signed up on October 31st!

This was about six years after my first year of teaching 7th grade English in a doomed middle school. As a resigned Army Major, I honestly thought teaching 7th grade Language Arts would be a breeze. Oh…Em…Gee! I was very wrong.

Because I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing each day, at the end of the day I’d create a bullet-point list of everything that happened. I walked into NaNoWriMo with a year’s worth of those bullet points and had all the material I needed to write my first novel.

I remember telling my students, “Someday, I’m going to write a book about you all!” I said it as a humorous threat, and every class would be filled with hands going up and exclamations of, “Oh, Miss! Can I be in it?”

Although I couldn’t put all 130 students in “Miss?”, I meshed together many of them and included actual events from that year. I say it’s “loosely fictionalized” because of that, and because I added some romance and a scary situation that didn’t actually happen, but could have.

Kaye: Could you talk about your adult fairytale, The Hare, Raising Truth?

Laurel: The same friend who challenged me to NaNoWriMo challenged me to a 3-Day Novel Writing Contest! Stephanie Spong discovered the contest and really wanted to do it, so what choice did I have? (smiley face).

I sent my husband away for Labor Day Weekend (official contest dates), stocked my house with food and beverages, and set up little workout stations around the house. Stephanie came to my house ready to write for 72 hours and we agreed on rules: She could have the dining room, I had the “Red room” (that may have influenced my writing!), and no talking unless we happened to bump into one another in the kitchen.

We were very good girls!

As I enjoy challenging myself with different genres (and contests with crazy time limits), I decided to try something completely different for this contest. “I’m going to write it in 2nd person perspective,” I told Stephanie, and she warned me about the difficulty. Bonus, I thought. I also thought I’d write something light and funny.

Something happened, however, when I heard Rod Serling’s voice from The Twilight Zone in my head (in the Red room). My story turned darkly comedic quite fast, and there was nothing I could do about it . . . I had to see where it would take me.

I completed The Hare, Raising Truth—a Grimm’s Fairy Tale/Twilight Zone mashup—in about 38 hours. It’s novella length, and it was an absolute blast to write. My husband read it when he returned from his banishment and said it’s the best thing I’ve written so far, and I’ve had many people ask, “How did you get into the head of a horny teenage boy so well?”

Well…it wasn’t that difficult!

Kaye: You have a podcast called Alligator Preserves. What is that about?

Laurel: I started my podcast Alligator Preserves—which is about storytelling and the human condition—for several reasons. I wanted to be able to narrate my own books, so my husband set me up with the equipment I’d need to do that (even after I banished him that Labor Day weekend!). Also, friends had suggested that many of my blog posts should be recorded, since blog posts tend to get buried and lost once they’re posted. I wanted to be able to “tell” stories as well as write them.

When I started recording, I realized I had a great set-up for interviewing other people who’ve “done things” too, so I started asking racers and Reiki practitioners and authors and challenge seekers if they’d like to share their stories. The response was overwhelming, and now I have a hard time figuring out how to fit them all into my own schedule while still having time to do my writing.

Recently, I’ve gone to a pay-for-service model for anyone with a book or product they’d like to promote. Creating a podcast with another person is a lot of work. I value the time I spend reading and researching (prior to the interview) and editing and posting to social media (post recording). I provide all the links to the audio and video I create to my interviewee for use on their social media as well. For authors, it’s another plank to add to their author platform!

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing fantasy?

Laurel: I can visualize scenes in my head so clearly, and most of them are fast-paced. The challenge is in slowing down my writing to help readers see what I’m seeing. Also, sometimes my writing is dream-like, and I have to find ways to convey that not-quite-real feeling.

That’s how multiple drafts help. I may blast through several chapters, totally believing that I’m conveying what my mind is seeing, and then I’ll have someone read them and they’ll say, “Huh? What just happened here? I don’t get it”!

My challenge is usually in adding more to a scene rather than deleting. There’s always more an author can do to make their writing sing more clearly!

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing for you?

Laurel: I think many authors might say that writing “The End” upon completing a project is the most fun, and I won’t lie—a happy dance always follows—but really, the fun is in the little surprises that happen along the way. It’s the unexpected character that pops into my head while I’m walking the dog or the funny thing a character will say. I’m more of a “pantser” than a “planner,” so I’m surprised all the time!

2019 DPCC card

Sharing my work and having a fan say, “Wow! I loved that!” is another obvious fun part, but that’s after the writing is published. I brought my work to the 2018 Denver Comic Con and was blown away by the interaction I experienced with readers. I’ll attend the 2019 Denver Pop Culture Con (new name) this year with my completed trilogy and a new graphic novel! Now, that will be fun!

Kaye: Fantasy isn’t the only genre that you write in, and you hope to explore as many genres as possible throughout your writing career. What is your favorite genre to date?

Laurel: I’m horrible when it comes to “what’s your favorite” questions, but I’d have to say that I’m really enjoying short stories right now. I’ve entered several “flash fiction” contests with very short time limits, and being able to complete a project in a week or less exhilarates me!

I’m putting together a short story collection now. I’ve promised my Patreon patrons a new short story every month (which I narrate on my podcast Alligator Preserves) and when I’ve created enough, I’ll publish them and acknowledge my partons.

That said, many of my fans tell me they love my nonfiction blog posts. Once Waterwight Breathe is launched, my next big project will be a nonfiction piece based on my dad’s WWII letters. I hope to have a draft completed by the end of 2019!

Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?

As Neil Gaiman said when asked where he got his ideas, “I make them up  . . . out of my head.” (http://www.neilgaiman.com/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%253F). But how does inspiration get into my head? It gets there from every sensory experience throughout my days and from the Technicolor dreams I’ve had since I was a child. Someone said dreams are your brain’s way of dealing with all the things bombarding your senses during the day, and when I remember my dreams, I can often link them to something that has happened, or something that’s been “on my mind.”

Real people and creatures inspire my characters as much as imaginary ones (and who says the bizarre creatures in my dreams aren’t “real”?). Old Man Massive, the mountain spirit in my Waterwight trilogy, was inspired by an outcropping of stone on Mt. Massive that looks like an old, bearded man. Names and superpowers were inspired by real people I’ve known or met while writing the series. Zoya, my tragic octopus, was inspired by a paddleboarding experience on Twin Lakes, as was Noor, my fire-breathing dragonfly. The whole series started with a crazy dream I shared with a friend. I see and find inspiration all around me.

People have asked me where I get my imagination from, and all I can say is that it must be a gift from the universe! It’s certainly not a “thing” you can buy, and I’m not even sure it’s a “thing” you can learn. I consider myself quite fortunate that I was born with an imaginative brain.

2019_Me and RangerKaye: What do you do when you’re not writing?

Laurel: When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing or I’m marketing my writing (sure wish I could clone myself for that task) or I’m reading or I’m recording a podcast episode or I’m cooking a yummy dinner or I’m brushing a pillow’s worth of hair from my German Shepherd or I’m cleaning out my sock drawer (because, where do all those socks come from?) or I’m swimming (several mornings per week, and not very fast) or I’m chatting with my friends or with one of my four sisters or I’m worrying about my sons (because I’m a mother) or I’m wondering how the day has passed so quickly. And other things, too.

Kaye: Hunting for Red Meat is a collection of memoir-style essays based on your own adventures hunting elk. When did you get the idea to make them a published collection?

Laurel: Several friends have told me how much they enjoy my blog posts, and one of them, Erin Sue Grantham (who also hunts), suggested I put them into a book. When I looked at putting them all in a book, I was overwhelmed by how many stories I had, and realized a book containing them all would be too big. So I thought about segregating them into topic areas.

After three years of hunting (and never filling a tag), I had plenty of hunting blog posts, so I decided to start there. Our oldest son, Nick, suggested it would be a “blook” a blog book, and I had fun coming up with the title.

I really thought I’d have a lot more sales by now with a title starting with “Hunt for Red…,” but alas, no. I honestly think many readers would enjoy it as it’s far more of an appreciation of the majesty of the wild outdoors than it is about hunting. I share my awe and my suffering, my adrenaline and my poetic moments.

My next “Blook” will probably be about our camping adventures.

Kaye: You have also published two books on Haiku. Do you have a special love for that poetry form? What is it that draws you to it?

Laurel: I love Haiku because—like a short story—they finish quickly. You have only seventeen syllables to play with, and it’s like completing a puzzle. Five-seven-five. That’s it.

Teaching grades 7-12 also gave me an appreciation for Haiku. When the word “poetry” comes from a teacher’s mouth, it’s generally followed by groans. Once a student learns how to count out syllables, though, and fit them into a “puzzle,” or a “math challenge,” for those more inclined toward that side of the brain, poetry suddenly becomes fun.

I was always amazed by the final products my students would create, boys as well as girls, and what fun it was to watch them tap on desktops or count on fingers while figuring out the syllabic pattern.

Haikus Can Amuse: 366 Haiku Starters “happened” after I dropped my cell phone into the ocean. Cell phones don’t like salt water. Anyway, I had a few weeks to kill before getting a new phone (I was away on vacation when it happened), and it was Leap Year, so I figured, why not come up with 366 first lines! I put that together as a gift journal for people who like filling in blanks and journaling just a little bit.

Hai CLASS ku is a spinoff of my cell-phone-debacle book, and it’s designed as a classroom workbook with a semester’s worth of haiku first lines (90) and space to draw a sketch and write a bit about inspiration. It’s also a great tool for substitute teachers.

Kaye: Which author or poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with? Why?

Laurel: Dead? Steinbeck. Why? Because I love his writing. Alive? Margaret Atwood. Why? Because I love her writing. So many tremendous authors, so, so, so little life to experience them all.

I want to thank Laurel for joining me and sharing a little about experiences and her work. You can learn more about both at the links below.

SoundCloud (Alligator Preserves podcast): https://soundcloud.com/user-564361489

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/alligator-preserves/id1337322865?mt=2

Stitcher permanent show link: http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=165314&refid=stpr

(this link is optimized for mobile and Twitter posts)

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Laurel-McHargue/e/B00INB9OO6

Blog link: http://leadvillelaurel.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeadvilleLaurel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LeadvilleLaurel

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leadvillelaurel/

LinkedIn: Laurel (Bernier) McHargue


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“Fanya in the Underworld”: A unique Y.A. fantasy adventure

Fanya in the Underworld

Fanya in the Underworld, by Jordan Elizabeth, is a delightful futuristic steampunkish adventure with spirits instead of steam. Filled with unusual creatures and mechanical devices from beyond the depths of imagination, this story is filled with surprises. Illustrations by Aaron Siddall help bring Elizabeth’s fascinating mechanisms to life, creating a unique journey into the imagination.

Fanya lives in an Alaska with spirits  and unusual mechanical companions and servants all around her. She never gives either much thought until her father dies and the Council allows her inheritance to go to her step-mother, leaving she and her sister, Luetkea, to live in poverty. Fanya fights to get back what is rightfully hers and finds that there are things going on in the world around her of which she is unaware, which go beyond the Council to a mytsterious man named Finley. The deeper she digs into the situation, the more she learns about who she really is, and the harder Finley pushes to stop her from learning the truth. When Finley abducts her sister, Fanya will stop at nothing to get her back and take her rightful place in the scheme of things.

Gripping from the first pages, Fanya in the Underworld is a hero’s journey about growing up and discovery. Aimed at Y.A. readers, it’s entertaining for all ages. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 


“Time to Live”: A YA Mystical Fantasy

Time to Live official

Time to Live by Jordan Elizabeth was released yesterday. I had the privelage of a review copy and found it to be a delightful story of magic and mayhem. I was able to fall into this young adult novel and kept the pages turning.

Endowed with powers she’s not supposed to have yet, Banon seems to find trouble and someone to rescue wherever she goes. Then, she disses the wrong guy and re-ignites the kindling for an all out clan war that’s gone on for so long, no one remembers how it really started, throwing her in the path of her true soul mate, awakening memories within them both, and bringing understanding as to why they’d never felt as if they belonged.

I question why this book is titled as such, but I think the cover is killer. I enjoyed this tale to the utmost and give Time to Live five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with Multi-Genre Author R.A. Winter

RA Winter

I recently made the acquaintance of the energetic, sassy author, R.A. Winter. She writes in several genres, including fantasy, magical realism, dark fantasy, , time travel romance, contemporary Native American romance, and paranormal Native American western. And it seems she never rests when it comes to writing. Please help me to welcome R.A. Winter to Writing to be Read.

Kaye:  Hello and welcome. Would you start by sharing the story of your own publishing journey?

R.A.: I started out writing genealogy nonfiction books under my married name.  I love research and old libraries! I also love reading romances.  With so many ideas flirting around my head, I thought I’d give creative writing a go.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

R.A.: I write the raunchiest first draft, the humor is way over the top. Then I cut it down, and my crit circle cuts it down further.  My editor slices more.  They say that a bit of humor goes a long way.

Kaye: You have sites on both WordPress and Wix. Can you give us the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which site do you prefer? Why?

R.A.: Wix is easier to deal with, super simple to navigate and change.  WordPress is a bit of a pickle to deal with, and every time I change something, I mess up the page.  I do prefer WordPress because I can easily  share review and pages on a whim.  Wix doesn’t give you that option.

Kaye: You’re on the review team at The Naked Reviewers, where authors can submit a book and request an honest review. Would you like to tell us a little about that site and what the review process is?

R.A.: We have a group of published author on Scribophile.com who formed the group.  Right now, I think there is twelve of us.  When someone submits a book, we all read the first chapter, the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon.  Then we rate the writing, the blurb, and the cover.  If two of us agree, we review the book.  Each Wednesday, two of us leave our review as a feature, if anyone else read it, they leave their thoughts in the ‘comment’ section.  It does mean that most books that we review get a 4.0 or higher rating, usually.  We wanted to show off the best books.

Kaye: You had bad experience with Amazon regarding reviews. This is something we’re hearing from many authors, although complaints vary. Many reviewers, including myself,  have had book reviews pulled by Amazon, with the claim that their terms of use were violated because of an existing relationship which would bias our opinions. I even heard of an reviewer whose reviews were pulled because Amazon saw that they were Facebook friends, which they claimed indicated a prior relationship. (This doesn’t make sense to me. Many authors who I have done reviews for have become virtual online friends because of the review, not the other way around.) Your experience was a bit different because it wasn’t books that you were reviewing. Would you like to tell us a little about your experience?

R.A.: I ordered products from Amazon.com.  A coffee grinder, a milk frother, and a small coffee taper, they just happened to be from the same company in China.  Now, I review every product I receive, but when I went to upload my reviews, Amazon wouldn’t allow it.  After contacting them, they said that I had a ‘relationship’ with the company in China and that I’d violated their terms.  Apparently, I ordered too many things from them. I just don’t understand. They ask you to review, you review… then they’re like… you review too much! They banned me for LIFE for writing any reviews.

My point to them was- IF I was screwing reviews, wouldn’t my books have like 300 hundred reviews instead of each of them having less then 10? I mean seriously. THAT’S what would have benefited me!

Kaye: What is one thing that your readers would never guess about you?

R.A.: I have five children… all boys. I’ve lived in 5 different countries too. I don’t know which one was harder to live through. And all my boys look like my husband.

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

R.A.: My kids are older, so they don’t need me. I like to write at night, when the house is quiet and no one interrupts. My earbuds are essential, and a song list that corresponds to my writing mood.

Kaye: You have some really great covers, some of which you’ve shared here. What do you do for cover art? DIY, or hired out, or cookie cutter prefab? Do you have a great cover designer you’d like to recommend?

R.A.: Some  are creations of Kayci Morgan, from KreativeCovers.com.  A few I did myself, which you can probably tell.  Kayci is wonderful to work with and very reasonable.  I am learning Photoshop and I’m doing my own teasers.  I’m getting better but I just don’t have the finesse to do covers well.

Kaye: You have a paranormal romance fantasy novella, Twisted, which I’m excited to be reviewing here on Writing to be Read. (So watch for that review on Friday.) What can you tell us about that story?

TwistedforRAwitheyesR.A.: Twisted is a novella, and one of the hardest things I’ve

written.

It’s a Freaky-Friday, body switching piece… full of adult humor. A witch’s land is cursed. Males are no longer born to the vampires, nor are females born to the wolves. To end the curse, the witch must solve a riddle, and she has to have the cooperation of the vampires and the werewolves.

The only way to make them work together, is to make them work with themselves, so she switches their bodies. The male werewolf becomes the female vamp, and the vamp a male wolf. Then, the fun begins. It’s been called a cross between the “Underworld Series’ and ‘Once upon a Time.’

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

R.A.: My Spirit Key series was a way to keep my cat alive in my memories.  He’d just past away, and Dingle had the oddest personality for a cat. He always reminded me of an old man, you know the one.  The spunky old guy in the nursing home who’s constantly bugging the pretty nurses and running behind them with his walker, never able to catch them.  Occasionally, he’d pinch their behinds, but act like he didn’t do it. I taught Dingle how to wink, but usually he had this grumpy look on his face.  He used to love to jump out and scare me, then give me that ugh, you’re-stupid-to-fall-for-that-again look.  He’s now a ten-thousand year old spirit who has a bit of trickster in him.

Kaye: Your Spirit Key series are westerns with a bit of a different twist to them. Would you like to tell us about them?

R.A.: Contemporary Native American’s in a western setting with magical realism is the gist of the Spirit Key Series.  In book 1, we follow young Sara,  as  the ghosts of ancestors  haunt her days and try to keep her away from young RedHorse.  There’s a new spirit in town, a nefarious one who has his own agenda.  The Old One wants the land for the dead and he’ll do anything to have it, including taking away what Sara loves most.

Kaye: There are two books in The Spirit Key series: Painted Girl and Redhorse. What type of research did you do for these books?

R.A.: The first two book are contemporary, set in modern day Kansas on a farm.  Books 3 and 4 (which are almost finished) go back to 1950, and we delve into Grandfather’s life, and that of the ten-thousand year old spirit who watches over them.  My research centered on the old Indian Schools, and the horrors that the children underwent.  It’s all to stop the spirits from invading this world, and to give grandfather his happy ending.  The Native American research is from my family.

Kaye: You also write contemporary romance with a Native American twist. What about Little Sparrow, A Kiowa in Love or Red Dress, Two Wives?

R.A.: Those were my early books.  I’ve taken the ebooks down, and now I’m writing those into the Spirit Key Series.  Everyone is related, so it made sense to do that.  I kept the hard copies up because a few people really liked them the way they were.  My writing evolved, and I thought those two would be great as part of the Spirit Key Series with some rework.

Kaye: What is the attraction for adding a Native American element to your writing?

R.A.: Two fold.  My grandmother was ‘found’.  It was assumed that she was Native American.  This was in the 1880’s, a time when the tribes had to travel west and were forced onto reservations.  Our family farm was near one of the routes and my grandfather brought home a baby girl one day, saying that he’d found her. My cousins are Sioux.  I barely remember the eldest two girls but I do remember their beauty.  One day, when I was only six years old, they disappeared.  Just up and gone.  Our family went nuts, as you can imagine.  It wasn’t until twelve years later that we learned that they had been taken west  to different orphanages and divided up.   (This was the early ’70’s when the government still took NA children on a whim.)  Anyway, my stories revolve around finding your identity when you don’t know who you are, when you have no memories of your family.  My Native American family is rooted by my life stories. You know that you’re different, but you feel the same as everyone else.  You just have to find your own special, because it’s there, you don’t have to go looking for it.  It just may be hiding in plain sight.

Kaye: I’m also very interested in your time travel romances, As Long As I Have You and Always With You. What can you share with us about them?

Always With YouR.A.: These were part of an anthology, and part of a series inside the anthology. The rules  are simple, Cupid owns a bar, and his mate has a special tattoo that glows when soul mates are touched.  In book 1, Ann Paolo comes to the bar with her dog.  Unbeknownst to her, the dog, Han, is the spirit of a long dead Native American,  who has been cursed to follow Ann through time, always to love her, and be loved, but never to be with her.  Cupid sends them back in time, so Han can erase his curse.  In book 2, Ann’s back, because so many lifetimes couldn’t be rewritten.  This time, Cupid calls on the fates to bring Han to life in this day and time.  The fates have a bit of trouble writing him into time-line, so they turn to Netflix for ideas.  Han is now, Dan Winchesty, from the TV show Super-Unnatural Killers and Revealers  Suckers for short.  You know, Dan Winchesty- the one with the perky nipples?  It’s a spoof on Supernatural, and I think it’s hilarious, but that’s just my opinion.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in so far? Why?

R.A.: I love magical realism and fantasy.  Creating my own world, and rules, takes a lot of thought and design.  You just can’t pop something on paper, it has to make sense, have rules, have life, and you have to bring a reader into your world and make them happy.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

R.A.: I do all my own marketing, which isn’t much.  Word of mouth is my best friend, because lets face it, my works are different.  I just had a review from a guy, who said that someone at work bullied him into reading it and he loved it, even with the romance in the book.  I think that was a compliment.

Kaye: If one of your books was made into a film, which book would you want it to be? And who would you like to play the lead?

R.A.: Hmm, I’d love the Spirit Key to be a series on Netflix, but for a movie, I’d chose Twisted. Sam Witwer and Meaghan Rath. They had great chemistry in Being Human.  Now, however, Meaghan would be a vampire, and Sam would be a wolf.

Kaye: What’s next? What does the future look like for R.A, Winter?

R.A.: Oh, I have at least six books in various stages of completion. Twisted will be turned
into a series, readers have asked for that. I’m also writing a series about Death Takers
coming alive and finding love. It’s a dark romance series that takes the reader on a
journey to Tartarus and the bowels of hell. Book 1 is finished, book 2 is halfway. Once
book 2 is ready I’ll publish.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

R.A.: I’ve done a lot of things on my bucket list. I’ve traveled the world, lived in five different countries and enjoyed most of my life. If I had a lot of money, I’d pay off my family’s student loans. Right now, it’s around 200k, and I’m serious. It would be life changing for them to pay off their debts. BTW, I have one family member, with 100k debt who graduated from Pitt with a bachelor’s in psychology. Anyone have any job prospects for him? E-mail me.

I want to thank R.A. Winter for joining us today and putting up with my interrogation. Seriously though, she was really a good sport about answering all of my questions with open, honest answers. You can find out more about her and her writing on her website, her Spirit Keys site, or her Amazon Author Page.

 

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