Interview with author DeAnna Knippling

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This week, I’m interviewing Colorado freelance writer, editor, author and book designer, DeAnna Knippling. I first met DeAnna through the Pike’s Peak Writers when I was still serving as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner. What struck me about her was her enthusiasm and willingness to help where ever she can. She treats her writing as a business and goes at it with a high degree of professionalism, yet she is personable and willing to share what she’s learned from her own writing experiences.

DeAnna Knippling writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and mystery for adults under her own name; adventurous and weird fiction for middle-grade (8-12 year old) kids under the pseudonym De Kenyon; and various thriller and suspense fiction for her ghostwriting clients under various and non-disclosable names. Her latest book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland:  The Queen of Stilled Hearts, combines two of her favorite topics–zombies and Lewis Carroll.  It’s the story of a tame zombie who told a little girl named Alice a story that got them both in more trouble than they could handle. Her short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Penumbra, Crossed Genres, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and more.

Kaye: You created Wonderland Press to get your books out there. What all is involved in creating a press for your work and what are the advantages of doing so? I mean, why would an author do this rather than just throwing their book out on Amazon or Smashwords?

DeAnna: This isn’t one of the fun answers.  It’s stupid easy to make a “press.”  It involves no special equipment.  You look online, make sure nobody else has one of that name in your state, register a business name with your state or county (look up, “How to register a business name in [name of state]”), and Bob’s your uncle.  You might want to get more complex with an LLC or something–but I recommend leaving that for later, unless you already have experience doing that.  I am, of course not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice.  When you want to start looking at an LLC or corporation, I believe, is when you start having to worry about taxes and tax brackets.

I set up my press, “Wonderland Press,” because some publishing sites back in the day didn’t want you to publish books under multiple pen names under the same account without having a publisher name.  Then I realized that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with multiple blogs for my pen names, and moved the names to the same website (for now).  However, things are changing, and I may need to move back to multiple websites, mailing lists, etc.  The thing about business is that everything changes based on the scale of what you’re doing and how much time has passed since you set things up.  It seems like it’s more important to stick to a couple of core principles (bring customers back to a location you can control rather than social media–that kind of thing) and stay flexible in the details than it is to get wrapped up in questions like, “Should I set up a small press?”
Kaye: A lot of your books don’t fit neatly into a genre category or subcategory. How do you describe your books?
DeAnna: I’ve struggled with genre categories since I started publishing.  Part of the reason for that is that my subconscious loves to smash incongruous things together.  For example, I love puns and double entendres–two ways of seeing meaning at the same time–and I love stories that are really two things that don’t really go together being put together (like cowboys in space–Firefly).  The kinds of stories that I tend to write are kind of the opposite of sitting firmly within a genre and therefore being easy to describe.
I’m both looking into ways to get around this (by sneaking more solidly into genres) and finding out what parts of my genres I’m missing out on.  I recently finished up what I call “my cheesy ’80s genre novel.”  When I did the research to try to find out where to put it, I found that…it actually fits pretty solidly into the current Occult subgenre of Horror.  I keep trying to tell myself there’s nothing wrong with writing what feels cheesy (I certainly read it), but sometimes it takes a while for me to learn the obvious.
To actually answer your question?  Since I can’t copy my competitors, I describe my books by putting on the silliest movie announcer voice I can come up with and reading the blurbs out loud.  The more mock-serious the better.  Somehow it works.
Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or a story? What’s the least fun part?
DeAnna: Most fun:  The fun parts. Least fun:  The parts that stick the fun parts together.
I get really bored at the least fun parts.  I think that’s where the books I write start getting weird.  If I plan a book, then I plan something at least a little bit more genre-specific than what actually comes out.  But then I get bored and jump the tracks.  I feel like writing a book is a process of going “Ooooh, shiny” over and over until I step into the circle of rope hidden under the leaves in the jungle, and the ending jerks me upside down into the air.
I wish it were that quick to write the end–it’s the slowest part of the book for me as I wrap up all the shinies that I’ve picked up throughout the plot–but that’s what it feels like.
Kaye: If your writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
DeAnna: More of the same.  My major goal in life is to allow my wonderful spouse to become a pool boy at our eccentric castle in the mountains.  Travel more.  At least, I say those things.  Probably I’d still just begrudge the time I wasn’t reading or writing.  I’d go to exotic locations and just read a book.
Kaye: Why do you think some writers sell well, and others don’t?
DeAnna: Probably that stuff I mentioned about genre.  A lot of writers will look at a successful writer’s book and go, “What a terrible writer!  Why do they sell?!?”
But here’s my experience (based on ghostwriting so much):
The stuff that I’m forced to write to genre by my clients sells a lot better than the stuff I write for myself.
Granted, you still need to know what you’re doing.  But writing a book isn’t just about pretty sentences–it’s about making the constant readers happy, feeding their addictions.  The answer to why some books are massive successes when others aren’t is often, “Because they can see the forest for the trees–and you can’t.”  Cold but true.
Kaye: Any advice for upcoming authors who are trying to get a foot in the door?

DeAnna: Just keep working.  Everybody’s in a hurry to succeed.  Success!  Millions!  Riches!  Fame! But, in the end, it comes back to the basics.  Did you read?  Did you write?  Did you learn something?  Did you talk to other people in the writing community?

“A foot in the door” is just the feeling that the universe owes you something, or that you can sneak something past somebody.  “How do I cut in line past the people who have been working their asses off for years?” And the only answers are:  Write a good story, network, value your readers, don’t be stupid about genre, work your ass off, don’t fail on purpose.  That last one is pretty significant.  I’ve seen a lot of people give up or just put things off until they’re “ready.”  The hell with waiting for “ready.”  If you’re going to do that, you’ve already failed, because this is a bootstrap industry–nobody gets the magic green light.  Even people who are going traditional start out by hustling for publishers and agents.  Make someone else tell you no.  Make them tell you no a lot.
I want to thank DeAnna for joining us here on Writing to be Read, and for sharing her knowledge with us. If you’d like to learn more about Deanna or her books, her website and blog are at www.WonderlandPress.com.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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“The Clockwork Alice”: A Literary Work in the Tradition of Lewis Carroll

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The Clockwork Alice, by DeAnna Knippling,  introduces Alice, all grown up, and takes readers on a return trip to Wonderland, where all is not as it should be, or maybe it never was. Knippling does a smashing job of picking up the tone of the original Wonderland stories, making this a fantasy tale which will delight readers of all ages.

Many of our favorite characters make appearances, including the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, the March Hare, and the Cheshire Cat, to name a few. Alice discovers that all of Wonderland is actually made of clockwork mechanisms, including a Clockwork Alice, who looks just like the girl who she once was. But all is not as it should be in Wonderland, or maybe it never was, but it’s up to Alice, or one of the Alice’s, to stop the great unwinding, and set things back in order. Alice may uncover and foil the evil plot to destroy Wonderland, or perhaps she will destroy it all instead, because this trip to Wonderland is just as confusing, or maybe even more so, than the first.

The Clockwork Alice is a well-written, skillfully crafted story that is just plain fun to read. 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 at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“White Dragon’s Chosen”: a Fun Read

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White Dragon’s Chosen, by Gary J. Davies is a children’s fantasy that takes readers to a world where dragons and elves and trolls and fairies exist, and magic abounds. They travel between our world and their own world of Narma through portals, and two kids, George and Mary, are the champions who lead the battle to save both worlds, together with their dragon counterparts.

When you are dragon’s chosen, you share thoughts and have the same abilities that they do. How cool is that? When Harry’s uncle dies, Harry discovers that he is special. He’s the White Dragon’s Chosen, and his next door neighbor, Mary is the Chosen of the Dragon Jewel. But he also learns that there is a bad evil about that threatens to destroy both Earth and Narma, and it’s up to he and Mary, with their dragons, to save both worlds. It’s a tale every kid will enjoy.

For me though, I found a few problems, the least of which, was the numerous typos and missed words. As far as the crafting of the story goes, there was a lot of telling, rather than showing, which may have related to my inability to suspend disbelief on this one. Davies failed to put me in the scene and convince me that this could be possible, at least in his world.

Although White Dragon’s Chosen had a few glitches as far as craft goes, I’ve no doubt kids will love it. It’s a cute little fantasy, that I give three quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Update on “Playground for the Gods” Series

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While Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle is spending time with my alpha reader, I’ve been busy working on Book 2: In the Beginning. Now I know it seems strange name for a second book, but for this series, it’s actually quite fitting.

You see, Book 1 covers the time just before and after the Atlans arrival on Earth in prehistoric times, which result in a great battle between the Atlans and the monstrous creatures created by the angry Tiamat, Oldest of Old Ones. It is the story of how the Atlans came to be on Earth.

Book 2, on the other hand, takes place during Earth’s earliest civilizations. It explores Biblical times and even before, as well as visiting ancient Egypt and Minoan cultures. It looks at the beginning of time, hence the title, In the Beginning.

That said, I’ve finished the first draft for Book 2,  and started on revisions. I guess maybe my writing process is a little weird. At Western, while earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, we talked a lot  about our writing processes, and while everyone’s processes were different, I never found anyone whose process was like mine.

My first drafts are pretty rough, consisting mostly of the basic plotline. The basics of what happens in each chapter, so the way the story moves forward can be seen. Once, I have that down, I can go back and revise, adding description and action that helps the story move in each chapter, sharpening the image, hopefully, for readers. That’s where I am in the revision process now.

Before I send it off to my alpha readers, I’ll do another run through to check for repetition, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, and eliminate unnecessary words. This is the pass that tightens up my writing to make it the best it can be before going to the alpha readers have a go at it.

Once I have it back with their comments, I may do up to three or four more passes, before I feel it’s ready to submit to publishers or agents. If all goes well, I will get Book 1 back from my alpha reader, which in this case may be a beta reader since I made revisions to the completed work after sending it out without raising any interest, about the time I have the final draft of Book 2 ready to send out for her scrutiny.

I think the main problem, possibly with both books right now, is a lack of emotion from my characters, which could result in a lack of emotional investment from readers. Identifying it as such is good, because if readers don’t care about the characters, they won’t continue reading. The challenge will be finding a way to fix it, so my readers will keep turning the pages. Fortunately, I found some great ideas for showing my characters’ emotions in a post titled Emotion vs. Feeling by David Cobett on Writer Unboxed.

The story is there. Now I just need to breathe life into it. That’s what writers do.

 

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“Crossroads” Moves Across Worlds

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Crossroads by Chandler McGrew is an alternate world YA story about a young girl, Kira, who finds herself on the run with her friend, Jen, after her parents and her carnival family are massacred. Unsure of where to go, but following her instincts, Kira explores her other-worldly powers which allow her to create, and uncreate, by will, learning about her family’s true origins and discovering that only she can save the last of her people.

It’s a role she didn’t ask for, and she doesn’t want as she realizes that she and Jen are being pursued and everyone she comes into contact with dies. Then she meets Sheila, who has the gift of talking to the dead, and is tied to Kira and the world beyond the mirror, although neither knows it. They go through the mirror and embark on a quest to stand against the evil empty-eyed man, who has overtaken Dream Time, (the world beyond the mirror, and is trying to overtake all worlds.

Crossroads is character-driven with a strong story line, but it is almost a little too convenient that although she does not understand what she is supposed to do, Kira always knows what to do when the time comes to do it. The answers just seem to come to her. I give it four quills.

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“Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil”: A delightful middle-grade fantasy

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From the very start, Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil, by Charmaine Mullins-Jaime, grabs readers interest and holds it, no matter their age.The characters are colorful, likable and fully developed. The plot is easy to follow and easy to buy-in to.

Scarlett is special from the day she was born and Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil takes us on the magical journey of her coming of age. At the age of thirteen, Scarlett learns about the magical world which is and has always been around her, but now she is able to see beneath the veil which hides it. Who would have guessed that three fairies, a leprechaun and a bogey all lived under the Wrigley roof with Scarlett and her family, or that a bad elf would try to trick her into going with him to meet an evil goblin.

As Scarlett learns more and more about this strange other world, which she’s discovered exists along side her own, her own world is turned upside down, but in a good way, as she learns how to awaken her own powers. And she also learns that someone wants her mother dead and she holds the power to save her.

Scarlett Wrigley and the Light Beneath the Veil is a well-crafted story that will delight readers of 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 at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 

 

 


Did You Ever Notice Mythology Has a Lot of S-E-X in It?

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If you read my post, Rethinking the Playground for the Gods series… again, then you know I’m currently working on Book 2: In the Beginning in my Playground for the Gods series. In the past two weeks, I’ve increased the word count on this novel by about 10,000 words, and updated my character chart, where I keep track of who did what in each book. I view this as being not too shabby. But, as I’m revising and adding to my partial draft, I’m noticing how much of this series revolves around sex of some sort.

In my post, It’s All in Finding the Right Market, I took a look at different markets for my Playground for the Gods series besides the science fantasy market I’ve been promoting it in. In particular, I considered both YA and NA markets, as potential market venues for this series. I dismissed both after looking back over Book 1: The Great Primordial Battle, and determining that there was too much emphasis on sex for either of these markets. After attempting to revise the book for either of these two markets would totally upturn too many story premises.

To understand why sex is such an intricate part of this epic science fantasy series, it is necessary to understand what the series is. Playground for the Gods is based on an alternate universe in which the gods of ancient civilizations were really aliens from a far galaxy whose home planet had been destroyed. The characters are those of ancient gods and goddesses and they play out their own versions of some of the myths of the ancient world, adding their own unique adventures into the mix.

The thing that I’m noticing as I research the mythologies and write my story, is that there is a lot of sex involved in many of the ancient myths. And, sex is so intricately interwoven into them that to try and tell the tales with the sex extrapolated leaves tales that have lost much of their meaning.

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For instance, I’ve been working on the part of the story in Book 2 which is based  on the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. If you know the myth, then you know that after Set chops up Osiris, Isis gathers all the pieces except one, his phallus, in order to resurrect him. Now, I have to tell you, this scene was extremely fun to write and it turned out to be quite humorous, but it doesn’t work to try and write it without the missing member. Without that, the whole story falls flat and doesn’t even make a lot of sense.

In fact, when trying to trace the lines in most ancient cultures, it seems everyone is related and incest is the norm. In Inuit mythology, Annigan rapes his sister Melina repeatedly. The Sumerian god, Anu raped his own daughter. In Greek mythology, there are same sex relations and even relations with birds or other animals. In Aztec lore, there are goddesses of carnality, sexual hunger, sexual power, sexual desire, sexual longing, sexual appetite and sexual misdeeds.

Ancient mythology is filled with sexual encounters between gods and goddesses, between gods and humans, and even strange fetish type behaviors. To write a story based on any of these myths, one cannot extract the sex and still make the story work.

no-sexThat’s why I couldn’t justify revising Book 1 to take out the sex and adult language to accommodate a YA or NA audience. While I am the author and I can make my characters do whatever I want, if in doing so, I unravel the fabric that the story is based on in order to appeal to a particular market, I’m not being true to my story or being fair to my readers. When the story doesn’t work, the readers won’t be able to suspend disbelief enough to buy into the story, and that’s not a good thing.

Visit my Playground for the Gods Facebook page for more information and updates about the series.

 

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