Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Interview with young adult novelist Jocelyn Bly Karney

Welcome, Readers. My special guest today is YA author Jocelyn Bly Karney. She’s chatting with me about her new young adult fantasy, Priela.

Jocelyn Bly Karney, the author of Priela, has a background in finance working for Wells Fargo, TD Ameritrade, and AccessData, where she's always viewed her role as something of a fortuneteller. Although, when you use spreadsheets instead of a crystal ball and wear dark suits instead of a colorful headscarf, people take you far more seriously.

Jocelyn graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University and received her MBA from the Marshall School of Business at USC. She also has two strong, confident daughters and a husband who loosely inspired the character of Daniel, particularly that part about not being able to dance.

Welcome, Jocelyn. Please tell us about your current release.
Priela is the story of a teenaged girl who doesn't fit in at high school. Then one day she turns invisible, grows wings, and figures out she’s not even human, but a muse. She hopes to escape humanity and delve into the muse realm, but quickly discovers that she’s a misfit there too. How can Priela live her life being no one and nowhere? How can she hope to inspire others when she doesn’t even understand herself? Ultimately, her journey is a coming of age tale where Priela must reexamine everything she thought she knew in order to find her place in the world.

What inspired you to write this book?
With a background in finance, I’ve often been asked, "How do we teach young people about financial literacy?" The book, Priela, is my attempt to answer that question. The novel is young-adult fantasy fiction, but it also has an educational message that's woven throughout the story in what I hope is a subtle, nuanced way. Specifically, the goal of the book was to teach young people about the importance of education, the hazards of debt and unrestrained spending, and the notion that financial decisions made today can have an impact far into the future.

Back of book excerpt:
Priela had always had this heightened insight. She knew things about people she simply shouldn’t know, like their plans to ditch school, or to buy an essay online, or to cheat on a boyfriend. Her abilities went beyond empathy, beyond well-honed intuition, as if Priela could genuinely hear people’s thoughts and sense their emotions. She’d mostly succeeded in hiding her clairvoyance, but then she learned the truth about who she really was and everything changed.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always loved writing and I’ve always written for pleasure, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to introduce myself as a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work full time in financial planning and analysis and I’m also a mom. But I can’t stop myself from writing. It’s the activity that I delve into whenever I’m having insomnia, or when I’m on a long airplane flight, or when I’m feeling overwhelmed and simply need an escape.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to color-code my fonts as I write. Green might mean, ‘this section needs editing,’ while purple might mean, ‘this section is in good shape.’ It’s a way for me to jump around a file and still keep track of my progress without having to write in a linear fashion.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be different things at different times – a gymnast, an actress, an architect, a writer. I definitely never saw myself working in finance, but today I’d encourage young people to consider it as a career path. It may not be glamorous, but you never know what you’ll enjoy until you give it a try.

Thank you for joining me today, Jocelyn.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Interview with writer Leslie Croxford

Writer Leslie Croxford joins me today to share a bit about Deep Sahara. The book is both a psychological novel, partly poetic in places, and an investigative story. Leslie considers this mixture a strength. The book needs suspense, as in increasingly finding the insects are deformed because of nuclear testing, and emotional resonance as in the quest for the protagonist’s father. Either without the other would impoverish the novel.

During his virtual book tour, Leslie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman's Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Welcome, Leslie. Please share a little bit about your current release.
In Deep Sahara, a man, recovering from a nervous breakdown provoked by the death of his wife, takes advice from a family friend and retreats to a monastery in the deep Sahara to sketch desert insects for a book.

Upon arrival, however, he comes upon an appalling crime: the murder of all the monks. Numb and exhausted, he declines a police chief’s urgent suggestion that he leave. Despite his shock, the desert seems to promise solace, a vast nullity against which he can take stock of himself and do his work.

Yet, over the following weeks and months, his solitude is broken by a succession of encounters, all strange but somehow connected to him. Each appears to conceal some kind of secret. Even the insects he has come to study are mysteriously deformed, embodying an awful, hidden reality…

The man is forced to confront the echoes of one of the darkest moments in modern history, and to come to terms with the deepest mysteries of his own past.

Deep Sahara is a suspenseful exploration of one man’s emotional resurgence, rendered sparingly with great physical and psychological precision.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’d long had in mind some kind of a story about a monastery, because I knew some monks personally and used, as a student, to stay in monasteries as if they were YMCAs offering cheap holidays. Then in the 1990s I heard about the murder of monks in Algeria. And from that point on I had atmosphere, setting and the starting point for my plot.

Excerpt from Deep Sahara:
The main character lives in Rome and the novel starts as follows:

The front door has just closed. I’m finally alone in the apartment, using this morning’s stillness to begin the account I’ve been wanting to write for days. It’s a letter to myself after the battering I’ve received from the media – not to mention the anonymous death threats – for attacking the so-called “pillars of society”.

I need to sift through all that happened at the end of the world, coming back to me now like some dream. For the Sahara’s a place of mirages you can actually photograph: palm trees, oases, expanses of cool water, silent cities – there, but unreal. Conjuring up the past, I want to reassure myself that all I have claimed to have found among those shifting sands, on returning here to Rome, far from being the figment of my imagination critics allege, is actually the case: that the experience of unearthing – of understanding – what I have revealed has made me into a new person.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have almost finished another novel about an English historian revisiting a Spanish pueblo where Albert Speer’s driver had convalesced after decades in Russia as a POW. He has an affair with the driver’s ex-lover, drawing him into an unexpected review of Speer, himself and of the nature of history.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I saw the film of TREASURE ISLAND at the age of 5 I wondered how movies were made. I was told they were based on books. As a result, I thought of myself in terms of film, as an actor but also as a writer of stories.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a university administrator, currently Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. So, I have had to use every spare minute for my writing. This has made the development of novels longer than they’d be if I were a full-time writer, but it does make me ponder themes and characters more deeply than I might otherwise do.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to write as soon as I get up, in pyjamas, over breakfast. My wife doesn’t appreciate this since she enjoys breakfast and would like us to have it together. Apart from that, I read over my paragraphs repeatedly to make sure that they flow. And I follow the advice that no reader should have to read a sentence twice.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As I say above I was first fascinated by film, but this was a mixture of wanting to be an actor and inventor of stories.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I feel I am influenced by film. If I can’t see a scene in my mind’s eye, I don’t consider it successful.

Buy link | Amazon UK

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Interview with dark fantasy author Konn Lavery

Novelist Konn Lavery is my special guest today. We’re chatting about his dark fantasy book, Dream, the second in a series.

Konn Lavery is a Canadian horror and dark fantasy writer who is known for his Mental Damnation series. The second book, Dream, reached the Edmonton Journal’s top five selling fictional books list. He started writing fantasy stories at a very young age while being home schooled. It wasn’t until graduating college that he began professionally pursuing his work with his first release, Reality. Since then he has continued to write works of fiction ranging from fantasy to horror.

His literary work is done in the long hours of the night. By day, Konn runs his own graphic design and website development business under the title Reveal Design (www.revealdesign.ca). These skills have been transcribed into the formatting and artwork found within his publications supporting his fascination of transmedia storytelling.

Welcome, Konn. Please tell us about your current release.
The latest release is part two of the dark fantasy series, Mental Damnation. It is titled Dream, which continues the reptilian, Krista's journey while she deals with the nightmare-enhancing disease. She begins to experience the dreamworld known as Dreadweave Pass, a realm of the dead, during her sleep. While dealing with this disease's illusions, a human doctor is trying to help cure her of the disease. Mental Damnation is an obsession of his.

The timeline of book two has the first several chapters happen before book one, Reality which provides some insight into the events of book one. It also explores Krista's close friend Darkwing, who tries to find her after her mysterious disappearance in Reality.

What inspired you to write this book?
This book has been a long process (since 2006 actually) and has had many inspirations throughout the years. The current release, and Reality back in the spring are technically second and final editions of the series. The inspiration throughout the years has varied from when I used to play video games (RPGs) and read fantasy novels. I've also had a lot of inspiration from Clive Barker's work.

Excerpt from Dream:
The loud crack of a leather whip echoed throughout the red sandy streets. The noise muffled out the other surrounding groans, chiseling stone, and footsteps with its strident sound. The leather material lashed down onto the bare, charcoal-scaled back of a bony humanoid, splitting the scales aside and exposing black blood that oozed down the spine.

The humanoid hissed, flickering his tongue as his tail perked straight up reflexively to the sudden strike of pain. He dropped his chisel and hammer from the impact and glanced back to see the attack came from a well-built reptilian draped in gunmetal armour from head to toe. The assailant’s scowling face could be seen under his helmet; its metal frame formed two horns that extended past the jawline. A third point arched over the head and past the back of the skull. His armour had a glimmer from the distant molten lava that projected light onto the otherwise black environment, creating a sight orange hue over the scene. The armoured being raised his whip to the dark sky, ready to strike again.

“Work faster, scum!” he shouted with a scowl on his face. The mesmerizing red, smokeless flame that surrounded his eyeballs flickered rapidly, highlighting his grey skin. “You’ve been dragging your scaly ass around all day. This district won’t build itself. Put your back into it.” He lashed the whip again, striking the poor being in the outer thigh and collapsing him to his knees, limbs shaking.
The being let out a yelp as he fell, glancing around to see the other ‘scum’ around him work faster and avoid eye contact with him. “Please!” he cried. “No more.”

“Put some effort into your work and we won’t have an issue,” the armoured reptilian hissed while marching down the row of dirt-covered reptiles.
About a dozen workers were lined up along a clay wall, each one using their own chisel and hammer. They carved away at the rock, forming simplistic shape-based designs on the exterior of an incomplete building; planks of wood were still being nailed together above, creating the frame of a roof.

“Damn Renascence Guard,” the whipped reptilian muttered to himself while retrieving his tools with one hand. He used his other hand to brush his black scalp-feathers from his face.

Beside him, a young girl—also a reptilian—kept her head lowered while ignoring the scene and working quietly. Her long black and blue scalp-feathers draped down past her bare shoulders, hiding her face.

“They are supposed to help us regain order after our banishment by the humans. Instead they behave the same. Seem like a bunch of hypocrites if you ask me,” the whipped reptilian continued to complain.

The girl swallowed heavily and kept her focus on the task of carving her portion of the building’s exterior design. She chiseled faster with the tools, raising some dust in front of her face.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am in the process of finishing a thriller novel that is unrelated to the fantasy series. It is a standalone book that early readers have said is a cross between Marvel's The Punisher and Frank Miller's Sin City. This is projected to be out in early 2018.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I've always had a fascination with telling stories. I've tried many forms while growing up from comics, to video games, cartoons and even board games. I found that I got caught up in the technicalities of the medium and could not focus on the story. Eventually I began writing short fantasy stories for my games and they broadened into novels.

Professionally I started in 2011 and had my first release in 2012 (the first edition of Reality) and have continued to write new work ever since.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Writing is full time hours if that counts! Unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills, yet. I also run my own home-based business as a graphic designer and website developer. It is pretty time consuming as well but is another passion I have. This skill set has allowed me to create the book covers, branding and marketing materials used to promote the books.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I tent to write sentences backwards, even if they still work. Often these get corrected in the editing phase but sometimes they slip through into the final manuscript. This quirk is seen more often in my emails since they are sent out on a more regular basis.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer when I was twelve. Before that I wanted to make cartoons. I quite enjoy animation but found it to be very time consuming and I didn't want to invest the hours needed to become proficient at it.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you are interested in checking out the Mental Damnation series, check out the book pages on my website where you can explore the graphic-based illustrations I have done to accompany the books.

Or if you are a writer, my site has frequent blog posts about writing. It offers tips and ideas to improve the writing process.


Thank you for joining me today.
Thank you for having me! It's been a pleasure.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Interview with non-fiction writer Paul Cummings

My special author guest today is Paul Cummings. We’re talking about his new business, non-fiction book, It All Matters.

Enthusiastic. Driven. Intense. Paul Cummings has been educating business professionals for over thirty-five years and has developed revolutionary techniques in sales, customer service, and leadership development. Filled with the desire to not only teach but to also make a lasting difference, Paul is well-known for teaching his students and clients with unrivaled zeal and unmatched passion as he enthusiastically lives out his business motto, changing lives through dynamic instruction. A thirteen-time winner of the Telly Award and five-time winner of the Communicator Award, Paul’s ultimate desire is to tangibly and exponentially improve both personal and professional performance.

He has continued to revolutionize the way that people and businesses learn and improve by making it simple, affordable, fun, and efficient. In 2009, Paul developed Woople, a web-based learning system that delivers a variety of online training programs, including his very own, Paul Cummings University. PCU is an award winning, cutting-edge sales training program that is used daily by thousands of students.

Through dynamic live events and impactful eLearning videos, Paul Cummings has been instructing business professionals, leaders, managers, as well as today’s youth, for over 35 years. His desire is to teach and inspire every student and client to not only increase their personal capacity to learn and grow, but to also make a difference with their lives.

Fueled by his vision for lifelong learning and education, Paul also created TechTown in 2014 to engage the underserved youth in his hometown of Chattanooga, in science and technology summer camps and year-round after school programs. He is the proud father of five adult children, who have blessed him with eight wonderful and amazing grandkids. Paul’s personal mission is to always leave it better than he found it because he truly understands and firmly believes that It All Matters.

Please tell us about your current release.
How can you live a life of real intention and purpose instead of duty and obligation? It All Matters offers one hundred and twenty-five life-changing strategies to inspire you and help you to develop your skill sets, build more knowledge, improve your attitude, and develop work habits that truly pay off. When you read It All Matters, you join Paul Cummings, an award-winning worldwide public speaker and trainer as your personal coach. He’ll ask you questions that challenge you to find your "It"...inspire you to define your "All"... and encourage you to begin your journey towards greatness so that you can determine what truly “Matters.”

What inspired you to write this book?
My grandfather told me at a very young age that “It All Matters” and it lead me on a journey to define what was my “It” and what was my “All” and to truly be able to define what it was that “Mattered” to me. So that is where the title of the book came from. I was inspired to write the book from all the people that I met when I was traveling and speaking around the world that needed help finding their own “it” and their own “all” as well as help defining what “mattered” to them personally so that they could live the life that they were created to live.

Excerpt from It All Matters:
The key to It All Matters is the unique process that I help people discover called U.B.U. It stands for “Understand who you are”, “Be true to yourself”, and “Always Stay Unique”. The U.B.U is a proven approach that has been successfully implemented by professionals across the globe.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I continue to write every day and I am currently working on another book called Leave No Doubt. It’s about how leaders leave an evidence trail behind them that “leaves no doubt” in the people that they meet and that are around them, about who they are, what they stand for and what they believe.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write? I write a lot early in the morning, as I like the creative spark that it brings into my day. I have written all of my own training material over the last 35 years, so in that sense, I do write “full time”, but I also do a lot of speaking and training as well on the topics of the things that I am writing about.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My most interesting quirk is that I write everything on my phone. I actually type it out in on a program called wordsmith on my phone, which I know, is kind of strange, but it is actually true.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was really into sports when I was a child and I received so much great advice from all the amazing coaches that I had throughout my childhood, that I truly hoped to maybe do something in sports one day. However, after an injury in high school, that ended and I got into sales and eventually into sales training and then into leadership training and executive coaching. However, I see myself as a more of a “teacher” and a “coach” with my clients. I was greatly impacted by the many teachers in my childhood as well and I have so much respect for teachers in general, that I am truly humbled when I am referred to as a “teacher” or a “coach” by my clients.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
One fun fact about me, that many people don’t know, is that I also love to paint. I’ve even had a few of my paintings sold in galleries, in fact. I find that writing and painting both spark my creative juices flowing and they kind of work hand-in-hand to really get me creative side going.

Website | Twitter | Facebook 

Thanks for being here today, Paul.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Interview with writer Charles Denyer

Writer Charles Denyer joins me today. We’re chatting about his political history non-fiction book, Number One Observatory Circle, the Home of the Vice President of the United States.

Charles Denyer is a federal cybersecurity and national security expert, and a noted vice-presidential historian. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, along with a Master of Information Systems from The Johns Hopkins University, and a Master of Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, three children, and their happy crew of dogs.

Professionally, Charles specializes in a wide variety of security and compliance initiatives, such as FISMA, DFARS, 10 CFR Part 810 National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) compliance, FIPS, FERC, NERC, U.S. National Security Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP), CMSR | SSP, GLBA, FFIEC, NIST SP 800, HIPAA, ISO 27000 series, payments industry, and more.

He is also actively involved in numerous professional associations and organizations for a wide range of industries and business sectors, such as the American Nuclear Society (ANS), ISACA, and the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), just to name a few. Expertise includes information security, cyber security, national security and homeland defense, and conducts independent research projects on specific subject matter for various entities.
Learn more at: http://oneobservatorycircle.com/

Welcome, Charles. Please tell us about your current release.
It’s the first ever publication written on the home of the Vice President of the United States of America.

Built in 1893, the handsome and stately Queen Anne-style home is surrounded by a forest-like setting, complete with lush greenery, wildlife, and the serene sounds of nature, yet sits just footsteps away from the bustling traffic on Massachusetts Avenue.

From never-before-seen photos to candid conversations with former Vice Presidents, family members, political power players of their time and others - Charles Denyer brings to life untold stories and memorable moments of the three-story, green-shuttered mansion covered in layers of off-white paint and the people who were privileged to call it home.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was just outside of the Pentagon on 9/11 and as I walked back to my apartment, I passed by this beautiful home and was adamant I learn all I could. When no book was present, I decided to author one.

Excerpt from Number One Observatory Circle, the Home of the Vice President of the United States:
Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale chuckled as he spoke about kids foolishly attempting to jump the fence onto the grounds of the residence, only to find themselves spread-eagled on the ground by a cadre of Secret Service agents. “It didn’t work out for them, and I’ll bet you they didn’t know what hit them . . . it was not what they planned on,” laughed Mondale in reference to a party William had thrown one evening.

What exciting story are you working on next?
A book on Camp David.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In high school.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, just part-time, as I work in national security and cybersecurity.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I only write 250 words at a time!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Police officer.

I appreciate your time today, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Interview with writer Shayla McBride

Writer Shayla McBride joins me today to chat about her non-fiction book for writers called A is for Author.

During her virtual book tour, Shayla will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Think of the worst photo you’ve ever had taken. End-of-binge candid, strawpile hair, baggy eyes even Photoshop couldn’t erase, an Autumn shirt and you’re absolutely a Spring. Multiply that by ten. That’s how much the camera likes Shayla. So...no photo.

I’m a native of New York. Now I live in Florida, on the edge of Irma’s path. We’re fine, thanks, although Princess CooCoo refused to come inside while canines were in emergency residence. Before Florida, I lived in Maryland and Morocco. Two years in southern Morocco, in a small town near the Atlantic coast where I was a Peace Corps volunteer, convinced me we can all get along, but we have to try a lot harder than we are now. The previous twenty years in Annapolis, MD convinced me that “Crabtown” is the best, prettiest, funnest state capitol in the US.

At the end of Peace Corps, the idea was I’d move to Paris and become an expat. It was all about the food, of course. And the wine. But my kids are in Florida...so here I am drinking French wine while hurricanes roar instead of drinking it while sitting in a café on the Champs Elysées.

But I wouldn’t be a writer if I’d gone to France, and A is for Author would never have been written. Think of all the new writers who would’ve suffered without that book! And don’t forget the ever-enduring hero Carl Tanner, Key West’s Jake Baron and Margo Hollander, and hilltown Italy’s Marco McCabe and Laura Walter (and all the others) who would never have seen the light of day. Or the black and white of your e-reader or paperback. So it’s all to the good. But...I sure do miss a decent baguette...

I write, on average, seven hours a weekday. Obviously, I have no time for housework; fine by me. I do have time for gardening, cooking, painting (house and fabric), my kids and friends, the Florida Symphony, and my fave, travel. I love exploring third world countries, especially their food and music. Street food: yum! Any ancient ruin is on my to-do list, as is any colonial town regardless of age. One of my favorites? Trinidad, Cuba (founded 1514). I do have a photo of Trinidad, and of a delicious garbanzo-ham-chorizo dish I had there. Find it on my website.

Welcome, Shayla. Please share a little bit about your current release.
A is for Author is my first non-fiction book (but not the last). I never anticipated writing a how-to-write book. I’m a good teacher, but this was a massive undertaking, and the responsibility to get it right was intimidating. Seven months of research capped three previous starts. And I still want to edit it again (and probably will).

But it is an invaluable tool for the new or mid-path writer, one they’ll use again and again as a reminder or refresher. It starts with A Plot and goes to Zebra Crossing, and in between it covers industry jargon, plotting and character development, self-editing and revision, joy and depression, violence and sex. Among many other things. Think of me as curmudgeonly Auntie Shayla who always tells it like it is, and who will always be happy to sit down and discuss, over a beer, the writing life.

In the hard copy, available from Amazon (outside the U. S., through Ingram Spark). I’ve left lots of blank pages for personal notes. The book makes a great present, too.

What inspired you to write this book?
The many new writers who are slowly going mad trying to find out how they’re doing. It’s one of the most common questions. Notice how generic it is: how am I doing? Most newbies don’t even know what questions to ask. They’re confused by terminology, industry and genre requirements, plot flow, character building, dialogue, arcs, plot points, and hundreds of other things. Most how-to-write books assume some knowledge and expertise. But the writers who need it most don’t have that experience. Or the how-to book promotes unrealistic expectations: your first book a best-seller. Ridiculous.

Excerpt from A is for Author:
It’s estimated that over ninety percent of Americans think they have a book in them. You may be one of those hopeful 290,000,000 citizens. Or maybe you live outside the U.S. Either way, welcome to the great  rarely-discussed dream of  writing your own original work of fiction.

It’ll be a piece of cake, right? After all, you use a lot of words every day. You’ve written reports, essays, shopping lists, holiday family updates, e-mails, tweets. You read, everything from check-out line trash to print and e-books. After you finished a recent work of fiction, you thought: I could do better than this. In fact, I think I will.

A dozen starts later, you realize it’s not quite that easy. You can see the story, but everything’s gauzy. You can’t find the words. It takes a lot of words to make a novel, the right words, in the right order. Your initial effort is disorganized, repetitive, and meandering. Why’s it such a mess? You’d never realized books had to be edited. Can yours be saved? Should it be saved?

When you begin writing, you don’t know what to look for. You don’t know the basics of construction, the techniques, the terminology or reader expectations. You simply do not realize what you don’t know.

So many questions, so few easily accessible answers. You’re not alone. Everyone who’s ever embarked on the journey of creating genre fiction from their own imagination follows the same basic path and has the same questions.

Genre fiction is commercial fiction: adventures, fantasies, Mysteries, paranormals, Romances, sci-fi, thrillers. That’s what we’re talking about here.

What you write, your style, will be unique to you. The process itself isn’t. Your questions about writing are neither stupid nor unusual. Every person who writes, including me, has had them. I’ve tried to answer a lot of them—333-plus, but who’s counting?—to make the mysterious world of fiction writing more explicable. My aim is to answer many of your questions in this book.

As with most writing advice, nothing in here is one hundred percent true for all situations or all writers. Almost nothing is absolute. This book is based on my experience in laboring to attain a publishable level of writing skill.

Through teaching classes, counseling writers, and being part of critique groups, I know newer writers pretty much do the same things, and most do the same things in the same order. All wonder how they’re doing without knowing how or where to find the answer.

Most of the subjects addressed are available in expanded form on-line, in other books on writing and through classes, both on-line and in person. Check the back matter for any authors mentioned, plus digital and hard copy sources.

This is a demanding gig with a long learning curve. It’s fair to state that you will never stop learning, no matter how much success you attain. Even New York Times best-selling authors have said they’re ready to take their craft “to the next level”. The information in here is mostly for beginners, although those of you working farther along the continuum may find items of interest.

My first suggestion: read this book in sips, not gulps. There’s nuggets in here that took me years to internalize and you’ll probably travel the same route (hopefully quicker). Because you don’t have to read in order, and I don’t know how you’ll consume this, there’s some unavoidable repetition. I’ve added blank pages; feel free to scribble.

As with ballroom dancing, gymnastics, or oil painting, there are baby steps to take. Any craft has basics to master before moving forward, and writing is one of the most demanding of crafts. As Ernest Hemingway once wrote,

“We are all apprentices in a craft we will never master.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
In non-fiction, F is for Fight, a book to help writers create authentic, believable confrontations, street fights, assassinations, and assorted dust-ups. Many writers, particularly newbies, don’t appreciate the value of tension and physical confrontation in their stories. When they add it, there’s often flabby encounters and little downstream effect. F is for Fight aims to aid the cautious writer to use tension and conflict effectively.
Fiction, It Could be Fun, a Carl Tanner novella, will be released in early December as part of the Omega Team Kindle World devised by Desiree Holt. Tanner, retired military, is lucky in a firefight, but not so lucky in love. He’s undercover at Crave, a ladies strip club, where he meets luscious January Jones, world’s worst liar. The lady obviously has an agenda, which she refuses to share. Does it get in Tanner’s way? Only in the last deadly, desperate minutes does he learn her secret.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was gradual. There are still days I ask myself, “Who are you kidding?” I recently watched a Charlie Rose show in which he interviewed Robert Pattinson. Both men admitted to impostor syndrome. “If only they knew what I don’t know,” Rose said. So, I’m in pretty good company. But…I write six hours a day, often seven days a week. Of course I’m a writer. At the moment, I’m in Uzbekistan, along the ancient Silk Road. I write every evening, on busses and trains, and the historic sights I’m seeing will absolutely go into my Harry Stone series.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No spouse, no dog. The cat is low-maintenance. I avoid housework where possible. Nobody ever had on their gravestone “She kept a tidy house.” So, I’ve made lots of time to write. Most of my friends are writers, or heavy readers. We’re all residents of Bookland (see ISBN and Bowker in A is for Author). I used to carry a sketchbook with me. Now I carry a Samsung tablet. Love it!

Fun tidbit:
Travel. I started writing this post in Samarkand and am finishing it in Tashkent, where I’m staying in a fabulous hostel. The staff threw a party tonight, invited the guests, and among other things we danced the macarena, and I talked to people coming from almost every continent. Never dreamed I’d do that. Travel is not only broadening (is it ever; Uzbek food is dense, as was Azerbaijani, Georgian and Polish.), but gives me endless amounts of background and history for stories. I have a historical adventure-romance series set in Edwardian times out on submission, and all of this Silk Road stuff will wind up in that series of books.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I take a long time to kill off my characters. What I mean is that their deaths have significance to the story so figuring out the right means is a long process. You want it to resonate, to be appropriate to the genre and the situation. And the crime, if that applies.  On the other hand, you have to avoid prurience or creating a “who cares?” feeling. If you don’t treat death carefully, it’s hard to treat life carefully.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A chef. I was told I could be a nurse, a teacher, a librarian, or a mommy. Mommy seemed closest to being a chef. At least my kids were well fed. Oddly, today I find that I teach a lot. Writing skills and theory, of course, but also once in a while how to make a cheese soufflé. Teaching more people is what led me to write A is for Author.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
It’s estimated that 92% of Americans think they could write a book. That’s over 250 million people. I cover Memoir in A is for Author, as well as the techniques for good genre fiction. But no way are there 250 million people scribbling busily away. Partly because writing fiction is so amazingly difficult, and few would-be authors expect that. A is for Author aims to demystify genre fiction, and explain how to do it better and more effectively.


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Monday, December 4, 2017

Interview with writer F. Howard Billings

Writer and author F. Howard Billings joins me today to chat about his new sci-fi novel, When Gods War (Roman Candle).

F. Howard Billings is an aerospace technical writer with 39 years’ experience writing technical procedures for various aeronautical platforms, and from 2008-2014, was the creative source of the satirical website, www.shallowtimes.com, since taken down.

Welcome, Howard. Please tell us about your current release.
When Gods War (Roman Candle) chronicles the last half year in the life of the planet Zeon as it approaches it’s twice-annual passing of the nearby planet Tareon. They orbit their sun in opposite directions, and every time they pass, Tareon draws Zeon closer and closer to Tareon’s own orbit path.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve had the idea in my head for years about simple cave-like beings with another larger world and certain death coming their way, yet without any external help from others, knew how save a lucky few of them. I also found an unadvanced way for them to launch a few of their kind to the other world.

Excerpt from When Gods War (Roman Candle):
    In the thaw that is quickly advancing up to the pole, thin sheets of ice separate from layers below and slowly float upward. The ice sheets rotate in the air, slowly circling the nearby North Pole. More layers separate and also lift upward, a ballet of ice sheets at different levels slowly turning in choreographic unison above the nearby axis. The trapped water in each sheet causes a thousand prisms of mini rainbows, courtesy of light from the low sun on the horizon.

As each dripping sheet gracefully works its way upward and away from the spinning center, it crumbles, and droplets disperse in the warming air like tiny exploding balloons, and as quickly as they disperse, new sheets breaking off from the ground rise up and replace them. This beautiful ballet happens as the ground ice recedes toward the nearby North Pole, the very top of their world.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Not sure. I’d like to focus on a screenplay version of this one, if Hollywood is interested.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It’s my everyday job, writing technical and training materials, and I’ve always liked it, so many years ago, by the age of 25.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write every day in my job, and I’m experienced enough that I do a better job of it than my colleagues do.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
It may not be quirky, but I hope I can be known for making unusual situations vivid and clear.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Anything having to do with planes, but I also seriously enjoy music, off-kilter films, and vintage cars.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
When Gods War (Roman Candle) may be sci-fi, but’s there’s very little science in it. It’s not very technical, and follows a Zeon family: A father, mother, teenage daughter, and younger son, so there’s someone everybody can relate to. The reviews so far on Amazon are averaging 4.3 of 5 stars, and most of the reviews are from female readers. Anybody looking for an escape from our earthly issues and problems, will find themselves immersed in someone else’s tale.

Thanks for joining me today!