Category Archives: Author Interviews

Author Interview: Judith C. Owens-Lalude

Today’s interview is with Judith Camille, author of The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom. Enjoy.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom?

My book is about Clarissa and her son, George Henry who suffer the indignities of bondage––bought, sold, resold, and abused. Although scarred emotionally and physically, Clarissa refuses to accept enslavement. As Clarissa struggles against time, lessons from her grandmother fuel her compulsion to be free. On the trail, Clarissa and her son are rescued by the Underground Railroad passengers. Taking the long walk to freedom, they follow the North Star.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I knew that I wanted to write for children when my sons left home––one to college and one to high school. When they were young I told them stories to get them into bed and it worked. When they were old enough to express a well thought out idea, they said, “Mommy why don’t you write your own books?” I shivered at the thought of putting another task on my must-do-mommy list. Fourteen years later, I saw characters from my storytellings march across my vision. I closed my eyes. I prayed I was not losing my mind. It was my first day home alone. When the visions vanished, I raised my eyelids. Maybe that was a book, I thought. I wrote a 200 word story that day. I have not stopped writing since. Today I have 75 manuscripts crammed into a file.

3. Why did you choose to write about slavery?

After spending an afternoon with my family discussing our roots I was compelled to write about Kentucky enslavement. As I began to read and research more, the depth of the pain and suffering of African Americans enslaved in North Central Kentucky, and their African ancestors became more concerning to me. Because of my love for writing manuscripts for children’s picture books, I wrote a story about a mother and her daughter who were runaways and had it illustrated. One of those illustrations appears on the cover of my book, The long Walk: Slavery to Freedom, and another on the title page.

4. How much research did you do to make sure you were historically accurate/how much did you focus on accuracy?

I applied for one of my characters to be accepted as a first person interpretive program for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior. I did extensive research to meet their guidelines. The application process took one year. Once accepted, the data gathered became a springboard for writing The long Walk: Slavery to Freedom and its related programs. This alone gave me national recognition. The research continued throughout the writing process and as questions surfaced the research answered them. The title of the interpretive program is The Long Walk: From Slavery to Freedom––slightly different from the book title The long Walk: Slavery to Freedom.

5. You also run many writing workshops. How did you get started doing this?

I conduct writing workshops, because I have found it difficult to find people welling to work with new writers. I always had to study on my own. Overtime, I realized there were other mature women wanting to write and share their thoughts. But there was no network to support them. I lead a critique group for one year, and then I applied for a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. With the grant I was able to conduct an eight week children’s picture book writing workshop (CPBWW). Woman after woman said, “We should come back next year.” In September of 2011 the CPBWW celebrated its 10th anniversary. It is now the Write for Children & Teens: Stepwise Program.

6. What advice would you give someone looking to run similar workshops in their town/city?

If a writer wants to run a program similar to the Write for Children & Teens: Stepwise Program, I would recommend that they…:

1]
Become familiar with adult group dynamics––learn what works.
2]
Know the rules for writing for children, teens, and young adults.
3]
Create lesson plans for the concepts you might present and attach references.
4]
Become familiar with the audiences they plan to write for. Each age group learns and interprets information differently.
5]
Understand what makes illustrations and words work together.
6]
Be prepared to do all the work themselves, even if they have volunteers––don’t get in over their head, and know their limits.
7]
Meet with people who have been there and done that. Invite them to be workshop or conference speakers.
8]
Learn to use the computer and its tools, i.e. Keynote, Photoshop, Powerpoint etc. When they plan to buy their next computer, consider an Apple.

This list has no end. I could go on for several more pages.

7. How long did it take you to write The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom?

It took me ten years to write The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom. It was my workshop piece. Whenever I conducted a workshop for the CPBWW, I worked on it. I applied the principles of writing that I planed to teach, ensuring they were understandable and effective.

8. How have you marketed The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom since its release?

To market The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom I…:
1]
Accepted invitations to be interviewed on radio show.
2]
Asked to be included on programs of groups and organizations.
3]
Scheduled book signings at local bookstores.
4]
Designed appealing promotional materials.
5]
Visited the city and farm where my family was enslaved, got to know the community people, and did a book signing at the city’s homecoming.
6]
Went back to school to improve my art skills.
7]
Participated in a junior college’s open mike. Afterward, the program coordinator requested that my book by ordered for their library.
8]
When The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom was formatted for publication, I also had it formatted for Kindle.

This is a partial list and the title of the first person interpretive program is slightly different from the book title.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would council aspiring writers to not be afraid to make mistakes, or to start over. I would advise them to be persistent, get to know themselves, and continue to make new friends who are positive, supportive, and well grounded in their goals and ideas.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

I am working on DUNKER, a young adult novel about an academically gifted athlete smitten for a girl who is also a star athlete, but doesn’t seem to notice him. Coming along with DUNKER is a middle grade chapter book, Wedding Drums and the Tall-Tall Tree. It is a story that takes the reader right into a village, on Nigeria’s west coast, where a young boy is distraught over his sister’s impending wedding that he is sure will take her away from him.

Bio: Judith C. Owens-Lalude is the great-granddaughter of George Henry “Pap” Johnson, who was born in 1850 and was enslaved with his mother, Clarissa. They lived on Ben Miller’s 600-acre farm in North Central Kentucky, now less than an hour’s drive from Louisville, Kentucky, where Owens-Lalude grew up and resides today. After listening to tales told by her family’s closest members about their ancestors, she wanted to know more and visited the farm where her ancestors had been enslaved. She strolled the grounds, reflected at the fireplace hearth where a slave cabin once stood, wandered along the streams and creeks, and photographed the barn and other outbuildings that were a part of her great-grandpa’s and his mother’s daily world.

Inspired to write a book, Owens-Lalude traveled to her husband’s native Nigeria for a better understanding of the history of slavery in the Americas. She wanted to know its impact on other Africans and African Americans, including her family who lived in Nelson and Spencer counties, Kentucky. From her research, and her powerful imagination, Owens-Lalude has written a compelling novel: The Long Walk: Slavery to Freedom.

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Author Interview: Meggan Connors

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Today’s guest is Meggan Connors, author of Jessie’s War. I’d tell you about it but I think she can do a better job.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Jessie’s War?

Jessie’s War is a western steampunk romance, set against the backdrop of a prolonged American Civil War and the Nevada silver boom. It’s about a woman who, after spending years trying to put her life back together after the deaths of everyone she loved, suddenly discovers that the lover she had given up for dead is alive, and needs her help. 

Needless to say, when he shows up on her doorstep, she’s got some trust issues.

But when she discovers her father may be alive and held hostage by Rebel forces, she turns to Luke to help her rescue him–and to keep his invention out of Confederate hands.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

In July of 2009, I was home for a period of time following surgery. I remember looking at my husband and thinking, “I could write a romance novel.” After all, they’d been my dirty little secret since I was sixteen.

By October, I had this massive tome. It was something like 160,000 words. The Husband asked what I was going to do with this… thing… I’d spent so much time working on.

My answer? “Uh, I dunno.”

So, he suggested that I try to get it published. I started researching the romance market, thinking my little jewel was ripe for publication. 

It so wasn’t.

In any case, by January or February of 2010, I’d decided that I was going to write something worthy of publication… And I did! (After many, many edits and revisions, a few contests, and much gnashing of teeth) The Marker, my western that reads like a Regency, came out in December of 2011. 

3. Your novel is classified as Western steampunk romance. What exactly does this mean?

Essentially, it’s a steampunk first, a western second. It’s a speculative fiction/alternate history set in the Victorian era. Steampunk tends to be very steam oriented, hence the name, so you have trains, lots of coal, stuff like that. For your standard steampunk, think of Jules Verne. 

Jessie’s War is a Victorian set alternate history with science fiction elements, but instead of being set in England, as traditional steampunks often are, mine is set in Virginia City, NV. As in all westerns, setting is a major secondary character in this book. An example of a western steampunk would be Wild, Wild West; Boneshaker and The Adventures of Briscoe County, Jr.

Jessie’s War is a little bit of all of those. With sex.

4. How did you choose which genre to write in?

Well, I love historicals, and I love paranormals and science fiction. Steampunk is a natural off-shoot of that. What I love about steampunk is that it can be about anything, as long as it’s Victorian set and an alternate history. You want ghosts? Sure, throw some in! Vampires and zombies? Absolutely! Want to write a straight up speculative fiction that’s heavily technology-based? By all means, do it!

I think my writing a steampunk was really only a matter of time. I’d written three westerns by the time I finished up Jessie’s War. By the time my third one was completed, I’d begun incorporating elements of the occult. Those whacky Victorians did love their tarot. Once you’re putting magic or the paranormal into a Victorian-set story, you’re pretty much doomed to eventually write a steampunk. 

I have to admit, it was great fun world building.

5. Your novel takes place during the American Civil War. What were some of the challenges of writing during this time period?

I tend to write in a very narrow timeframe of between 1864 and 1884, so I know a lot of the actual history, particularly of the West. I think the hardest part about writing an alternate history set during a prolonged Civil War is deciding what to keep and what to leave out. In my story, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t assassinated. Who would be his Secretary of War, if, like Roosevelt, he got elected to the presidency multiple times? What battles were fought? How much real history gets incorporated into a speculative world? As always happens during wars, weapons technology advances by leaps and bounds, so what weapons were developed, and how were they used? In terms of western history, how do I integrate the legends of the native peoples into the story, while still maintaining the integrity of both the legends and the world I’ve built? 

It was quite a challenge.

Also, the underwear. I hate writing about Victorians and their underwear.

6. How would you suggest a writer hoping to write in the same time period begin their research?

I have to say, I started with museums. I live not far from a living museum, so I watched re-enactments, visited obscure museums (anyone else visit a museum of western brothels? No?), and went to four different train museums. No trip to a train museum is complete without a long discussion of the transcontinental railroad, and it’s perfect for your post Civil War stories. The history of trains is hugely connected with the development of the United States as a singular entity. So, my first suggestion would be: find some time period appropriate museums, and go there. If you have a train museum nearby, visit one. There’s nothing quite like seeing the history to put you in the right frame of mind.

After that, I would suggest reading. I have several history books on the Civil War and the period of the Silver Boom (and a few more about the Victorians and their dress–again, it’s all about the underwear). But I didn’t read just nonfiction. I read a lot of fiction, too. Seeing what else is out there really helped me figure out how to describe things–places, events, clothes–that nonfiction really just wasn’t able to capture.

7. How did you develop the characters in Jessie’s War?

It’s interesting you should ask this, and I think I’ll be answering question 8 in this one. 

Ironically, it was Jessie’s dad whom I developed first, even though he only plays a minor role. After that, I developed the doting daughter. While most of my female characters have baggage, I’d never written a character as gritty as Jessie. I tortured that poor girl. I loosely outlined the entire plot, with the intent of giving Luke his own chapters.

And then that jerk wouldn’t talk to me.

Every time I’d sit down to write him, flashes of what Jessie was doing would pop into my head. I’d see what he was doing, but only through her eyes. It was hard to manage at first, and, at about chapter eight, I wound up switching Jessie’s War to first person. Jessie was like Athena, springing out of my head fully formed. I knew her whole life, I understood her pain, and she just flowed.

So I finished the story from her perspective only, and I realized I needed him. He balanced out Jessie, loosened her up. Made her less melancholy and more like the tough woman she was. So then, I had to sit down and force him to open up. 

I am so glad I did, because his perspective really gave me some balance. I knew he had his own baggage–after all, he was the son of a prostitute, who went to war and abandoned the woman he loved. Suddenly, Luke took on a life of his own. I knew how he looked from Jessie’s perspective, but now I knew him. He became a more well-rounded character. 

8. Can you tell us a bit about your editing process?

Editing… Yes, the bane of my existence. Third person. First person. Back to third person. Editing Jessie’s War was a labor of love… and super painful. I cut some of my favorite lines. There were times when I would cut scenes and I’d almost cry. 

In a nutshell, here’s my process:

Try to cut everything unnecessary from the chapter.
Autocrit.
Cut some more, based on autocrit’s suggestions.
Send to my CP.
Eat chocolate.
Make changes based on her suggestions. 
Send to my other CP, who tends to be very minimalistic in her approach.
Commence gnashing of teeth!
Cut some more, make changes.
Autocrit again.
Change dcoument based on autocrit’s suggestions.
Drink some wine.

Then it’s perfect until the editor gets her hands on it, and then we begin the process again!

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Write. And read. But mostly, write.

And seriously, don’t give up. Some people make it look easy, and it’s not. Writing is not about hanging in the coffee shop, drinking a cappuccino and typing out your magnum opus. I mean, maybe for some people, but not for me. For me, writing is staying up until one in the morning, because I worked all day and then spent time on dinner, laundry, dishes, kids’ homework, piano lessons and baseball practice. There are days when it’s so hard, and you want to give up. And then you see your name in RT Book Reviews, and you’re like, “Oh, this is so worth it.” 

I must say, I felt like Sally Field. “You like me! You really like me!” 

10. What are you working on that readers can look forward to next?

Right now, I’m in the final chapters of a Highlander romance, so I’m branching out a little from my 1864-1884 time frame. It’s a prequel to my story Wandering Heart, which is featured in the Highland Sons Anthology. It’s tentatively called Highland Deception, and it’s a about a man who, upon his brother’s death, assumes not only his place as laird of the clan, but also the wife his brother didn’t want.

Hopefully, I get it done in the next week or so, and then it’s off to the editor!

Bio: Meggan Connors is a wife, mother, teacher and award-winning author who writes primarily historical and steampunk romances. As a history buff with a love of all things historical, she enjoys visiting both major and obscure museums, and reading the histories of the Old West and the British Isles. She makes her home in the Wild West with her lawman husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow, or with her nose in a book. Favorite vacation destinations include the sun-kissed hills of California, any place with a castle or a ghost (and both is perfect!), and the windswept Oregon coast.

You can purchase a copy of Jessie’s War here.

Musa Author Interview: Keith Yatsuhashi

Today’s author is debut novelist Keith Yatsuhashi, author of Kojiki, a YA fantasy novel scheduled for release on April 5th. In his youth he was a pro figure skater and now he holds one of the longest titles I’ve ever seen–Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center–as well as a publishing contract with Musa. Please give him a warm welcome and be amazed by the wisdom he’s here to impart upon you.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Kojiki?

Sure Dianna. First let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my book. Kojiki is the story of a young woman, Keiko Yamada, who’s lost her way. Her father, her only living relative dies, leaving her rudderless. Desperate to find a new life, she embraces his dying wish, that she go to Japan and find something he calls ‘the Gate.’ Once there, ancient Japanese myths come to life around her. Monsters and powerful Spirits appear in Tokyo, and Keiko learns her father was somehow involved with them.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

When I was a teen, I dabbled at writing but never made it very far, mainly because I didn’t have the skill or patience. In college, no matter the class, my professors routinely commented on how much style my papers had, which made me wonder if I had a talent I didn’t know existed. Then, back in 2003, after the death of my aunt, my father’s last surviving sibling, Kojiki’s story started to grow. I wrote what I thought would be a prologue. That prologue turned into chapter one, then two and so on.

3. A large part of Kojiki takes place in Japan. What inspired you to write about this location?

Family history. My father never spoke much about his family. His sister-in-law told us that my father’s family traced its roots back to the Imperial court and that my grandmother had an ancestor who fought the Mongol invasion of Japan in 1281, during the famous Kami Kaze, the typhoon that wiped out the Mongol army. At a friend’s wedding, the bride’s father, a Japanese national, when introduced, said I had a ‘noble’ name. My wife had none of it. I still have to take out the garbage. Still the stories were so wild, they fired my imagination. Hence, Keiko’s backstory and her father’s involvement with the Spirits that formed Japan–and the world.

4. What kinds of research did you do in order to write well about Tokyo?

I visited Tokyo in late 1983. I was there as a member of the U.S. Figure Skating Team, competing in the World Jr. Figure Skating Championships. Well, the actual competition was in Sapporo, but the entire team went to Tokyo after the competition. The locations are places I visited. I had my hotel, the Takanawa Prince, in an early draft, but it didn’t make the cut. I used Google maps and street view to fill in the gaps in my memory, and to make sure I was was somewhat accurate 🙂 Of course, I took some liberties. Tokyo’s just one of many locations. I set events in Miami, the Carpathian Mountains, the Himalayas and, of course, near Mount Fuji. I’ve been to all but two, the Himalayas and the Carpathians. I’ve been to the mountainous regions in former Yugoslavia, around Sarajevo. Memories of those mountains provided a stand-in for the ones in Romania. My favorite setting is fictional. I looked at an aerial map of Tokyo Bay and thought…hmmm, that’s a pretty clear oval. From there, I came up with the idea that Tokyo Bay is the remnant of a massive volcano. Today’s bay is that volcano’s caldera, destroyed and submerged. A long time ago, one key character had a fortress in the middle of the caldera. While it was active.

5. What made you the only person who could write this book?

Hmmm. That’s a tough question. I suppose, as with anything, a person’s work is the sum of his/her experiences. While none of the events in Kojiki really happened, the voice, the characters, and how they react are all part of me. Plus, I always wanted to read a big, loud, operatic version of the anime and Japanese monster movies I loved as a kid. Kojiki’s an homage to all of that. I guess, one particular piece in the story is unique to me. It has to do with the stereotype of the Japanese running from monsters in terror. I’m really sick of it, so I made a conscious decision to tackle it. In Kojiki, I have reactions from Americans, Europeans, and Japanese. The Americans can’t resist going out for a closer look at the monsters. The Europeans run in terror (see what I did there?), and the Japanese face the threat head on. No panic, no fleeing. None of that garbage. So there!

6. With a strong career and three kids, how do you find time to write?

The wonder of Dragon Dictate and a 1/2 hour commute each way! Today’s technology really makes things easy. You always have a smartphone, tablet, or computer nearby to jot down ideas. My daughter, Caitlin, loves to read and is always after me to see what I’m working on. At times, she’s like a writing partner.

7. What does your editing process look like?

First off, I want to give a BIG thank you to Lorin Oberweger of Free-expressions.com I approached Lorin after a writer’s conference and several rejections. I had no idea what I was doing, and Lorin basically taught me from square one how to look at my writing, how to turn writing into story-telling, and what to look for when reviewing. After that, it’s write, then review, review, review. I’ll rework a chapter as well as I can on the computer, but when it reaches a point that feels right, I’ll transfer it to my Kindle or iPad, so I can read it like a book. That makes all the difference. The document no longer feels like a document; it reads like any other book, which makes it easier to find mistakes.

8. Why did you choose an ebook publisher instead of a print publisher?

Well, I researched Musa and liked what I read. I liked that they have a strong vision and a solid business plan that they stick to. Naturally, they weren’t the only publisher or agent I submitted to. They came back VERY quickly after my submission, though. And while I had full manuscripts out with agents, landing one, if that happened at all, was no guarantee the agent could find a publisher. And there I was, with one that wanted my work. Also, I’ve been to many publishing conferences, twice to Frankfurt, BEA every year since 2007. I’ve met the people at the IDPF and attended one of their conferences. I even arranged for them to do a webinar to my professional colleagues. I’ve seen the growth in ebooks, and I’m impressed. Also, from my professional experience, I know it’s often better to go with a young hungry company than get lost with a larger one. I can’t be happier with my choice; the staff at Musa is fantastic! I haven’t worked with another publisher, so I can’t speak to what the experience is like outside Musa, but I can’t image getting so much time, advice, and guidance from anyone else. It’s not just me either. Every one of their authors get top notch treatment.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just one? I’ll do 1A and 1B. 1A, of course, is don’t give up. Getting a publisher is a LOOOONG, slow, frustrating process. It’s on the job learning. Which brings me to 1B. I wouldn’t be anywhere if I didn’t contact Lorin Oberweger. So, as far as that goes, hire a professional editor. One who’s willing to mentor you, who can listen to what you’re going through and offer SOLID guidance. Not platitudes, guidance. Lorin did so much more than just edit and improve my MS. She walked me through the submission process, told me what to expect, discussed trends in the industry. God–her input was endless.

10. What are you working on that readers can look forward to?

I’m writing a follow up to Kojiki. It’s not a pure sequel in that the characters from Kojiki, if they show up at all, have cameos only. I’m doing this because Kojiki is a finished story, with–really–one loose thread that I’m tying up here. Going back and throwing the characters into another ‘cataclysmic’ event feels false, so I need to go in a different direction. It will feel familiar, though, I guarantee it. Again, it pays homage to my love of anime and Japan. This time, instead of the mysticism, I’m tackling mecha 🙂 Aside from that, I’m working on a dystopian YA novel with my daughter. It’s all her idea, her story, her characters. I’m basically helping her write it. We’ve only just started, but it has some pretty big themes for teens. The idea of feeling invisible. She’s actually titled it ‘The Invisible’. I have one thriller rattling around in my head. It’ll be a doozy. 🙂

Bio:

Keith Yatsuhashi was born in 1965 in Boston, MA.  He graduated from Northeastern University in 1989 and is currently the Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Keith was a competitive figure skater for ten years, winning the U.S. National Junior Dance Championships in 1984, a bronze medal in the 1983 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and a silver medal in 1984. In addition to his love for writing, Keith enjoys many hobbies such as golf, reading, and playing football and hockey with his sons.  Keith currently lives in Norfolk, MA with his wife, Kathleen and three children—Caitlin, Jeffrey, and Justin. 

Keith’s big release date is coming, so make sure to watch the Musa website on April 5th so you can grab your copy of Kojiki

First Frost

firstfrost-500

Today I’d like to take a break from my regular series of interviews and share instead a review of the novel First Frost by Liz DeJesus.

Let’s start with the back cover copy:

Fairytales aren’t real…yeah…that’s exactly what Bianca thought. She was wrong.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is.

First off, I love the idea of fairy tales being real. I like to believe that every story we tell is true somewhere, so I always enjoy a good story about two worlds. But the other, more unexpected thing that I love about this book is that it shows how frightening it would be to actually live in the world of fairy tales. Imagine, witches able to spy on you through the mirror kept on your dresser. Vengeful fairies who cursed people based on the slightest insult. Princes transformed into all manner of things, possibly right before your eyes. What would you do if you met the Big Bad Wolf?

Even ending up in a Disney version of a fairy tale would be pretty terrifying, and when you consider the parts Disney left out of its stories… The hot iron shoes they made Snow White’s stepmother wear to her wedding. The sheer pain the Little Mermaid felt whenever she moved an inch. The twisted stepsister who cut her foot in half to try and fit in Cinderella’s slipper. The world of fairy tales wasn’t a very nice place.

Bianca, accompanied by her best friend Ming, soon finds herself dealing with many of the worst aspects of fairy tales. Along the way they meet many strange people and creatures, both good and bad, and get enough adventure for a lifetime.

One of my favourite things about First Frost is the friendship between Bianca and Ming. They balance each other well and their friendship remains important throughout the entire story. I love stories that place great importance on non-romantic relationships, and Bianca’s friendship with Ming is one of the best I’ve read in a long time, both in believability and in strength.

All in all, First Frost is a great novel that uses the fairy tales we all know and love and expands upon them in a great way. I had only one complaint: I could have kept reading for another fifty pages. I quite enjoyed how First Frost gave new life to old fairy tale figures, but I still found a few of them to be particularly shallow, including the main villain. If First Frost had delved just a little bit deeper into some of these characters, it would have been better by a hundred times.

That said, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. If you’re somebody who prefers to go by ratings, I’d rate it a 3.5/5

You can purchase your copy of First Frost here.

Author Interview: Paula Eisenstein

I meet most of the authors I interview online through Musa’s author group or other online writing groups. Sometimes I read a book and I’m so stunned by it that I simply have to interview that author. Today’s author, Paula Eisenstein, I met in a very different way–I just so happen to go to school with her son. She’s a generous lady who has even sent me a print copy of her novel, Flip Turn, for review(I usually only get ebook copies), so you can expect to hear more about her soon.

Please give Paula a warm welcome.

* * * *

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Flip Turn?

Flip Turns’s narrator is a young teenager, who is also a competitive swimmer. She is dealing with the death of a young girl that was caused by her brother. It is written in the first person in short episodic bursts or vignettes. The voice is distinct. Flip Turn touches on a lot of different issues but I think it especially looks at the difficulty a family faces, internalizing and trying to take responsibility for impossible levels of shame and guilt, when when one of its members commits a crime.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I always had that ambition. The real impetus to act on it came when I was studying astrology (with renowned psychological-needs astrologer Noel Tyl). While working with the inherent symbolism of my horoscope, I found myself in a funny bind. The more I developed my astrological prowess, the more what I was seeing in my horoscope was telling me to stop with the horoscope studies and get on with my passion for writing!

3. You’ve lived in Canada your entire life. How do you think your Canadian heritage influences your writing?

When I discovered Canlit in high school I was instantly a fan. Here was literature about me (and us), I thought. I love writing to place and time, so inevitably, since where I am is mostly Canada, I write about Canada. Flip Turn is set in Canada, and there are a couple of funny vignettes I think of as being particularly Canadian, one is about the relationship of my mother’s side of the family to Sir Isaac Brock and another is about how my father chose to come to Canada.

4. Flip Turn is a YA novel. Is there any particular reason why you chose to write YA?

YA was more of a label that came after the fact. Flip Turn is told from the perspective of a young adult hence it has a natural appeal to young adults. I wouldn’t say it is only a YA novel, not only young adults are interested in what goes on in the minds of young adults. The shift from childhood into adulthood is one of the biggest developmental adjustments in human lives, or at least the biggest thing we remember. So, naturally, to my mind it makes sense that everyone relates to the theme of the passage into young adulthood.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why does your chosen method work for you?

I think how I wrote Flip Turn was neither, or both. I didn’t want to use a conventional plot strategy, which I find prescribed and not in touch with real human development. Or if plotting is in touch with true developmental passages, I think the kind of passage it describes is more of a traditional male oriented one. Instead I used my personal development as a guide, I tried to stay pretty faithful to its passage, hoping that a different kind of truth or structure would emerge. It was, for me personally, most evocative. I kind of didn’t realize what happened to me, what was really going on for me, until after I wrote it. So if that “found” structure is plotting, then I’m a plotter, or alternatively if the acting of not imposing a structure, but rather finding one is pantsering, then I would be the latter.

6. Can you tell us a bit about your editing process?

I really enjoy editing my work. I love working in Word, honing and rearranging, trying different ways of writing things, and in the editing playing with and finding the voice, and as well playing with the grammar. For me, the editing is a part of the creative process.

7. How did you find your publisher?

I have to say I have a great “how I found my publisher story.” I had befriended writer and editor Stuart Ross through taking a writing workshop of his, and he actually, of all things, posted a request for novel submissions on facebook! Of course I had tried more traditional avenues previous to this, but it was through this unorthodox submission request that I found my publisher Mansfield Press.

8. What strategies are you using to market Flip Turn?

I am learning as I go about marketing and promotion. Even prior to its publication, I guess you could call attending readings and getting to know people in the literary community, the beginning of promoting myself, or at least putting myself out there as a writer. Flip Turn launched with the three other fall Mansfield books at a reading here in Toronto, then went on the road to Ottawa and Kingston. Plans are in the works for a London launch. I started tweeting. My publisher is applying for prizes. I’m going into a high school in February to talk to some students. I’m doing this interview with you!

9. What do you think is the most important piece of advice for aspiring writers to remember?

The thing I’m struggling with right now is finding writing time. So my advice to aspiring writers is my advice to myself; find/make/create the time to write. It will make you feel so good.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

My husband and I collaborated on a project comprised of his drawings and my writing. It is based on a family trip to the Pinery Provincial Park. The writing is funny and my husband’s drawings are beautiful (and strange). I am also slowly starting the beginning mulching of another novel which picks up where Flip Turn ends.

Bio:

Paula Eisenstein is a grown-up woman who lives in Toronto with her husband, son, and the vitally necessary two cats for families with writers in them. She was born and came of age in London, Ontario, and received a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Allison University. If a teacher were making comments about Paula on a report card, the teacher might say; Paula fails to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

Author Interview: Charles Suddeth

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Please give a warm welcome to today’s author, Charles Suddeth.

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1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Neanderthal Protocol?

It is a thriller, but it has a strong dose of science fiction. It is set in the near future in Louisville, Kentucky. The Supreme Court has ruled that Neanderthals are not human beings. Greg is a physicist working on cold fusion. He gets the results of his DNA test back, and he’s not pleased.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

It just snuck up on me. First it was fun. Then, you mean they’re going to pay me to have fun? More ideas flooded me, and I chose the ones I thought people would enjoy the most.

3. What inspired you to write Neanderthal Protocol?

I’ve always been fascinated with the disappearance and fate of Neanderthals, but I know human nature. Someone, somewhere “married” a Neanderthal. I wrote a short story about a present-day Neanderthal. A friend made a few suggestions, but it took the plot in an entirely different direction and to a novel. I operate under an old principle: Take the reader where the reader is not expecting to go.

4. Your main character, Greg, is working on hydrogen fusion. What exactly is hydrogen fusion?

Hydrogen fusion is the fusion of two hydrogen atoms to produce one helium atom plus energy. Hydrogen bombs and stars produce vast amounts of energy this way. Greg was working on a method to control that fusion and produce heat for electric power. There are several methods under research, but none have been perfected yet.

5. How do you take an idea from a basic concept to a finished manuscript?

Long story. I need to have a good idea of the beginning and the ending of the story before I start writing. Research, lots of research. Once the rough draft is finished, I begin editing, revising and submitting the manuscript to critique groups. I read it aloud until I’m hoarse and my cats hate me.

6. Why did you choose an ebook publisher instead of a print publisher?

My children’s books are print only, so this is an experiment for me. I don’t want the world to pass me by, so I like to try new things. I just bought a Nook. I think that in a few years an equilibrium will be reached, with both print and ebooks taking a stable share of the market.

7. What steps do you take to make your submission package shine?

I edit and revise it over and over again, then I let critique groups and beta readers help me. The first chapter has to go WOW! Then I find something unique about my manuscript, and I write a hook for it, something to catch a busy editor’s eye.

8. How did you market your work?

I am just learning to market ebooks. I am trying social networks, blog tours, and websites for readers. I also belong to organizations like SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and International Thriller Writers. I go to conferences like Killer Nashville (for mystery/thriller writers & readers).

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Write what’s inside you, and don’t worry if it’s adult, children’s, fiction, poetry, and don’t try to decide if it’s good or bad right away.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

4RV Publishing will release two of my books this spring: SPEARFINGER!, a picture book about a Cherokee witch—the illustrator has this. Experiment 38, a young adult thriller that my editor says is almost done. If Neanderthal Protocol is a success, I have a manuscript that I would like to submit to Musa Publishing when I’m through editing it. Whistle Pig is set in 1955 on the rural Kentucky/Tennessee border. A man and woman try to clear each other’s names. She’s accused of armed robbery and murder. He’s accused of killing a couple in a lover’s triangle. The title is a long story.

Bio: Charles Suddeth was born in Indiana, grew up Michigan, and has spent his adult life in Kentucky. He lives in Louisville with his two cats. He is a graduate of Michigan State University. He belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), International Thriller Writers, and Green River Writers. He likes to spend his days hiking and writing in nearby Tom Sawyer State Park. His first book, Halloween Kentucky Style, was published in October 2010. His second book, Neanderthal Protocol, was published in November 2012.
http://www.ctsuddeth.com
Twitter:@CharlesSuddeth

You can purchase Neanderthal Protocol here.

Musa Author Interview: Liz DeJesus

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Today’s author is yet another wonderful lady I met through Musa, Liz Dejesus. Please give her a warm welcome.

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1. Can you tell us a bit about your book?

To make things a little easier I’ll just post the official blurb for the story.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is.

2. When did you decide you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Part of me wanted to be like my mom, because she is a writer as well. I’ve always written stories and in my journal (what else is a shy, nerdy girl supposed to do all day?).

But I think the absolute defining moment in my life came when I was 16 years old and one of my teachers read some of the poetry I had written. I remember the look on his face when I came to his classroom the next day. He looked both awestruck and impressed.

“You are a diamond in the rough,” he said. I couldn’t believe he had actually said those words in reference to me. I kept looking behind me to see if he was talking to someone else.

I still remember those words after all these years.

Anyway after that I made it my business to learn everything I could about writing and become a published author.

3. What attracted you to the fantasy genre?

I’ve always loved books about magic and witches. Particularly fairy tales. If it’s a rewritten fairy tale I’m definitely there. I think it has a lot to do with wanting something more out of life. To expect the unexpected.

4. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Finding time to write is always the greatest challenge for me. I have two very active little boys here at home (I’m a stay at home mom) so I steal time here and there whenever I can do get my work done.

5. You’ve worked with several publishers. What made you decide to seek different publishers for your different works?

I’ve always been very curious by nature. And my curiosity makes me do research on different companies because I want to find out more about the ins and outs of the publishing industry.

6. How do you make your submission packages shine?

I pay attention to the submission guidelines. Always, always read the guidelines thoroughly before you send anything in. That’s always the first test.

7. What are your preferred marketing methods?

Business cards. I go to moo.com and get these really nice business cards and mini cards made through them. They have a really great quality to them and I’ve sort of become addicted to the site. I also enjoy scheduling blog tours, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of great bloggers and reviewers that way.

8. What is one thing you wish you’d done sooner/differently in your writing career?

Paid closer attention to the contracts before signing them. As a new writer you get excited over the fact that someone is interested in your work and you don’t read the contracts. You just sign on the dotted line and figure that they will have your best interest at heart. And some people that I’ve dealt with in the past didn’t. I’ve lost novels and some I fought really hard to get back. And others…unfortunately have stayed lost and I’m unable to get the rights back to one of my books. So that was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer any one piece of advice, what would it be?

Follow your heart when you’re writing. Listen to your editor. They’re there to help you, to make your manuscript shine. So don’t take it personally, they’re there to help you catch all of the mistakes and plot holes before it goes into print. And read your contract. Sometimes authors forget that publishing is a business. Once contracts, royalties and money are involved it’s all business. Learn as much as you can.

10. What are you working on that readers can look forward to next?

I’m finishing up the edits for Glass Frost (the sequel to First Frost). I’m also working on the third book in the series (tentatively titled Shattered Frost), a new novel, and a few short stories. I also have a few ideas for a steampunk novel.

Bio: Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico. She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011), First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 22nd 2012) and Glass Frost (Musa Publishing, Summer 2013). She is also a member of The Written Remains Writers Guild http://www.writtenremains.org/. Liz is currently working on a new novel.

You can purchase First Frost here.

Musa Author Interview: J.F. Posthumous

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Today’s guest is a debut novelist whose last name is totally real, and one of the most awesome for someone who writes about creatures from hell. Please give a warm welcome to J.F. Posthumous.

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1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Deals with the Devil?

Deals is the first story about Faith (Fi) Wells, a woman who spends her workdays as a computer tech at a shipping company. One Monday, she returns from a short vacation to discover her boss has been fired and replaced by a demon, literally. This doesn’t bother Fi so much, since her father is the right-hand of Satan, and she knows that computers, and especially printers, are from Hell. Finding her old boss murdered and stuffed into a shipping crate does make her life more complicated, though. When the detective assigned to the case turns out to be a devastatingly handsome angel, her world gets a little bit crazier. Fi also takes it on herself to investigate, which brings her to the unwanted attention of the person who killed her old boss.

2. How did you come up with the concept for Deals with the Devil?

Like most people, I complain to my spouse about my day job! One day he asked me “Why don’t you just write a story about all the things that bother you, that way you can figuratively eliminate them?” I replied with “Well, printers are from Hell…” and he laughed, encouraging me to pursue that line of imaginative thinking, and off we went!

3. When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a little girl. My husband was already a writer in his own way. He was injured at his last job, and unable to work. We started seriously writing with the intent of getting published, looking to make something from all the time we spent talking about ideas and books we’d like to see. Also, it’s something we do together, and I love doing anything with him that I can.

4. How did you get Deals with the Devil from a raw idea to a publishable manuscript?

Lots and lots of rewrites and analyzing our work. Mark (my husband) and I are always looking to improve our skills as writers. There’s a big stretch between a story a person writes for fun and a manuscript that other people want to read. You have to polish and study what works, learn from mistakes.

5. You actually co-write with your husband. How did you first start writing together?

Mark had already written a full-length manuscript for an adventure fantasy called “Darkflower’s Prize” and I loved it. I wanted to write a similar book, and also wanted an excuse to spend more time with him (we weren’t together at the time). I asked him to help me, he wound up co-writing the work. We just kept developing our writing and personal relationship. Now we’re married and published! *laughs*

6. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced that are specific to co-writing?

We work at different paces and have different strengths. I want to write all the time. Mark prefers to pace it out, because he doesn’t want to get burned out and end up writing useless material. Also, he’s the house hubby, so while I’m on my lunch break at work or wanting to destress from work, he’s sometimes busy keeping our apartment in order and handling the kids, along with cooking, etc. I’m raring to go, and he’s telling me things like “I’ve got to put the groceries away!” or “Our daughter just kicked our youngest son in the crotch for cheating on a Wii game!” So we clash in that way sometimes. Another problem is although we communicate really well, we don’t always have the same ideas, or make each other understand where we’re going on a project. There are, shall we say, heated debates when that happens. But we always wind up in the same place, eventually.

7. How did you find/choose Musa Publishing?

Querytracker.com. It’s a great place to find publishers and agents. I also double-checked them with Absolute Write Water Cooler, a forum for writers both published and unpublished. Musa sounded like a great company to be with, so I sent them a query and crossed my fingers. Like any aspiring author, I sent queries to a lot of publishers. The trick, once you’ve got a good manuscript, is to hit a publisher when they are looking for material like yours. There’s no easy way for it. You keep at it until the timing lines up and someone you’ve queried is looking for what you’re presenting. We were very fortunate that Musa was looking.

8. What are some of the ways you’ve been marketing Deals with the Devil?

We’re setting up a website, but we’re already developing a following on Facebook. We’ve also participated in a blog hop for our publisher and have blogs posts set up to be posted onto Musa’s website. We tell our friends about the book, especially when we’re working with them on indie movie projects, music, parties, getting them interested so they’ll talk to others about Deals. We’ve already gotten our local libraries excited about buying copies to have available to their customers. They love the idea of having something from local authors who’ve gotten published.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer just one piece of advice, what would it be?

Research! That means live life, read a lot of books, ask questions about everything. The more informed you are about what you’re writing, the better your work will be. Also, remember that your work is read by others–there are going to be some ideas that sound great to you, but most other people just won’t be interested in.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

We are working on the second Fi Wells book, tentatively titled “The Devil on Set.” Fi once again stumbles across a body, but this time it’s while she’s on the movie set for an Indie remake of the horror classic “White Zombie.” The lead actor is actually a ghoul (re:zombie) and of course, most people who know this fact think that she’s guilty just because of that. Fi doesn’t agree, and her snooping around gets that gorgeous angel detective in danger. So she’s got to solve the case, bring the killer to justice, and save her white knight! Beyond that, we also just finished a trilogy of manuscripts centered on another strong female lead, who’s a combination of Wonder Woman, Elektra, and the Shadow. We’re hoping to polish that series and get it published as well.

Bio:

Musa Author Interview: Viki Lyn

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Today’s author is one of a different breed than we usually see around here. Her name is Viki Lyn, and she writes m/m romance. She’s written several books and worked with Musa Publishing for quite some time, but today she’ll be talking mostly about a novel published by Loose Id entitled The Hunter Within. Please give her a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Hunter Within?

The Hunter Within is a sequel to The Tiger Within – an m/m shape shifter romance set during the late 1940’s. Antoine, a shape shifter white tiger, has fallen in love with agent Jack Hunter. Both are agents with a shadow organization that fights other worldly creatures. Jack had been captured during the war and experimented on – becoming a super soldier of incredible strength.

Because of his new identity, Jack has to leave behind his wife and his past. Closeted, he is not comfortable with his homosexuality, but Antoine doesn’t give up on his soldier. In The Hunter Within, Jack must come to terms with his sexual nature, and his love for Antoine, and if he should tell his wife the truth, that he IS alive.

2. When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

When I sold my first story, I realized that I enjoyed having my book published. I also began to take writing seriously, knowing while it was a creative outlet, and I had a passion for writing, I also had to treat it as a business. Sometimes the business aspect of writing gets in the way, but I love my job!

3. You write gay romance. Do you find it difficult to write from the POV of someone who is a different gender than you?

My first books were m/f romances – seven published books before I switched to gay romance. I always enjoyed writing male characters. They were just more interesting to write.

4. What are some of the things you do to get into the POV of your characters?

I live with my characters in my head. Ideas about how they behave come to me at weird times – in the shower, driving, sipping coffee at the coffee house…I’m always on the alert. Sometime I play act the scene. A fellow writer taught me that trick, and it works.

5. Why–other than the hot boys, of course–did you choose to write m/m romance?

I love reading the genre, and therefore, love writing it. As I said before, I prefer writing the male POV, so it makes sense I’d love writing the POV’s of two male characters.

6. How much planning do you do before each novel?

It depends on the length of the novel, and if it’s a contemporary or paranormal. Paranormals take more world-building, therefore more research. Right now I’m writing an angel story. I have done plenty of research on Catholic angelology, Latin phrases, and Greek architecture…it goes on and on. And, I’m always changing my story line – although I already wrote the synopsis for it! I tend to write the first three or four chapters without an outline, and then I go back and plot out the story. So I’m a pantser and plotter.

7. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Staying focused. I like having odd hours and I have another life besides writing. I love spending time with my friends and family – and they are my priority. I don’t work well having a set writing schedule. I probably would publish more books if I did, but I don’t work that way. I publish an average of three books per year.

8. Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating a submission package?

Sure. All publishing houses have their own submission process, so be sure to go to their website and see what they need. Usually I submit the first three chapters and a synopsis (think of a synopsis as an outline of the story, including the ending). The email contains my query – which tells the editor the genre, word count and a short blurb of what the story is about.

9. What do you think is the most important piece of advice for aspiring writers to remember?

To never give up – and keep writing. I have been publishing books since 2006. I still get rejections, and I learned to shut out bad reviews. I focus on writing, and improving my craft. My main goal is to write entertaining romantic stories for my readers. As long as they are happy with my work, then I’m happy.

10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

I wrote a short story – Lover’s Trill – about two musicians who reunite in Vienna, giving them a second chance at love. It’s included in More Love Notes anthology published by Musa Publishing.

I finished John’s Match, Book 3 of my Woodland Village series. It’s a contemporary romance set in Woodland Village – a fictional East coast town. The first book is Blue Skye, and the second book is Ryan’s Harbor. In John’s Match, the boys are back! Skye, Drew, Ryan and Martin and John Kramer, Ryan’s CFO and VP. He meets up with a temperamental writer, Scott Marwick. It will be released this April with Musa Publishing.

I want to write book 3 of my vampire series I have out with Loose Id (Last Chance and Fighting Chance). I’m toying with the idea of writing Victor’s story – Corbin’s Kresnik uncle. We’ll see how far I get with this. I have all sorts of ideas in my head, so we’ll see which character cries out the loudest!

Bio: Once I wrote my first gay romance, I was hooked. Now I write about two sexy men as my heroes instead of one.

What inspires me – the reality that romance between lovers is a hope more than a guarantee. My stories are an eclectic mix of contemporary and paranormal, but it is always romance that drives the story to its final happily-ever-after.

I drink a book a day for nourishment. Collect yaio and comics. I’m totally in lust with the Dark Night and his prodigal Robin aka Nightwing!

There’s nothing better than trying out a new restaurant with close friends, having dessert and coffee at my local coffeehouse or laughing hysterically with my sisters over silly things. Some of my favorite movies reveal the truth, that I’m a sentimental girl at heart: Something’s Gotta Give, Latter Days, Lord of the Rings, Sense and Sensibility and North and South (the BBC series).

You can purchase The Hunter Within here.

Author Interview: Douglas McLeod

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Today’s author is not only the self-published author of two novels in a murder mystery series, he is also a several time Nanowrimo winner and a dear friend of mine. Please give a warm welcome to today’s guest, Douglas McLeod.

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1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

Both of my published books are in the hard-boiled mystery genre. They’re the case journals of Detective Gary Celdom, a 27-year veteran of the Toronto P.D. He tries to follow the proper letter of the law, but there are times when he doesn’t follow proper procedures, and ends up paying for it; whether he’s suspended, or gets injured in the line of duty; much to the chagrin of his superior officer. His partner of a couple of years, Detective Jessica Amerson, also doubles as his current girlfriend — they started dating at the end of my first novel, “Scarlet Siege.”
However, Gary is constantly haunted by the spirit his former fiancée, Karen Prairie. Karen and Gary were partners on a case 25 years ago, and they began a long-distance relationship (she lived in Edmonton, and they were assigned to be part of a Nationwide security task force for a major sporting event in Calgary.) Then, 20 years ago, they were to be wed, but the criminals they busted during the Calgary case returned, and sought revenge. The criminals would assassinate Karen on her wedding day, and she died in Gary’s arms. Nowadays, Karen appears before Gary and Jessica to provide advice and give her former fiancé a hard time.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

I guess for me it was the allure of seeing my work in print. Usually, if you “win” Nanowrimo, one of the event’s sponsors, Createspace, will provide a special code that will enable you to transform what you toiled away all those days on into an actual paperback book. The first two years I participated, the code was for a free Proof copy, but in 2011, they changed it to 5 copies of the finished product. This modification in the reward made me think about wanting to turn this from a hobby into something that I could actively pursue. I’ve always had an interest in creative writing; since I was in grade school, but to see myself as a published author; it’s something I could only dream about all those years ago.

3. You’ve participated in Nanowrimo four times and also participated in Camp Nanowrimo this year. What do these challenges mean to you?

For me, it’s the thrill of pushing yourself to do wildly creative things in such a short period of time. Whenever I’ve told people about the premise of Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo, they all think I’m crazy: writing 50,000 words in one calendar month. However, at the same time, they’ve all commended me for all of the effort I put into that first draft. I’ll admit I have had my doubts over the years; thinking the challenge is too daunting when life gets in the way. That was the case in August 2011 when I attempted Camp Nanowrimo for the first time. I was unable to finish that year, and I was dejected that I failed to rise to the challenge. But, I dusted myself off, got back on the proverbial horse, and prepared myself for the upcoming November.

What also helps is the camaraderie there is within the Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo community. Yes, you’re embarking on a creative and insane journey; however, there are others out there who are making their own sojourn into this craziness, as well. As the month draws on, you learn to support them in their endeavour, and they will return the favour in kind. You develop a special bond — a kinship — with your fellow writers, and form friendships that last a lifetime. I have come to know so many wonderful people over the past four years I’ve participated in the month long challenge, and I look forward to writing alongside of them every November. Now, with the formation of Camp Nanowrimo, I can develop new friendships and reunite with ones I’ve already established during the spring and summer months.

4. What advice would you give to people hoping to participate in Nanowrimo next year?

Try to formulate an idea for your story a few weeks beforehand. Brainstorm possible novel concepts when you have the opportunity, and write them down. There have been times when I’ve come up with a premise and failed to get it down on paper, only to have it vanish from my mind a day or two later. Once October rolls around, go to your list, and start determining which one you would like to write the most for Nanowrimo. Remember not to discount all the ones you reject; you can use them for future Nanowrimos.

As soon as you’ve settled on your story use the balance of October to plot and plan it out. Develop your characters, formulate key plot points; your Outline will be your compass on the journey you’re about to set out upon. That way, you won’t be scrambling around; trying to iron out unresolved details once the clock ticks 12:00:01 a.m. on November 1st, because as soon as that moment arrives on your computer clock, “it’s Showtime.”

5. You self-published your books through Createspace. Can you tell us a bit about the process of turning your manuscript into an actual book?

The concept of turning what you’ve written, edited, and re-written into a published book may seem daunting to most, but Createspace makes the process quite easy. Once you set-up your account and log into the site, you can set up your book. They’ll ask you the specifics: the title, whether it’s part of a series, and to provide a brief synopsis of the book.

The next step, Createspace will ask you for an ISBN number. A book cannot be published without an ISBN number. If you’re lazy, you can get Createspace to generate an ISBN number for you, but you’re limited to selling it through them. Your best bet is to obtain your own ISBN number. Fortunately, since I live in Canada, obtaining your own ISBN number is free. You just need to register with the Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS) – which is free, as well – and you can apply for an ISBN number anytime you publish a paperback or eBook. Just remember, you’ll need a different ISBN number for each edition you publish; you cannot use the same ISBN for a paperback as you do an eBook. Once you’ve established your ISBN number on Createspace, you will be able to upload your actual novel, or “Interior.”

Here, you’ll have the option to print your novel on white or cream paper, and if you prefer the Interior to be done in standard black and white, or colour. Since, I don’t use photos in my Interior I opt for “black and white.” You have the option here to select your book’s dimensions (My paperbacks are in 6” x 9”), and adjust for whether or not you want your text to bleed towards the edge. However, as you’re setting this up, this is where you’ll need to adjust your Word document to reflect how it will be printed. After you’ve done the necessities regarding page size, margins, headers, page numbers, and throw in the title, copyright, and acknowledgement pages, you will need to convert that entire revised document into a PDF file. If you look hard enough, you’ll be able to find a free online converter, if you don’t have one already on your computer. Once your Interior has been converted into a PDF, you’ll upload it onto the Createspace site. Once it’s been uploaded, they’ll give you the option to review your Interior online to make sure it looks alright before it’s sent to printing. If you’re satisfied with it, then you can move onto the next step, and my favourite part: designing your cover.

If you have Cover Art already pre-made, you can convert that into a PDF file and upload it to their server. However, if you have no idea about graphic design, like I do, Createspace has an online Cover Creator tool that will walk you through the process. They have pre-made templates to choose from, and you modify it accordingly with back cover blurbs, front cover photo, change the colour to your preference; it allows you to be your own cover designer. As soon as you are satisfied with the cover design, you can submit it, and then comes the next step in your journey. If you have all the necessary files submitted, you will submit your entire project for review. The review process takes about 24-48 hours. If they find any issues, they will email you and let you know of any changes you need to make to get it approved. Once you’re approved, comes the second-last step in the process: the Proofing.

During the Proofing process, they will offer you two options: you can purchase a printed Proof copy of your novel and/or review the Proof online. Personally, I do both because having a physical bound Proof of my book gives me a hands-on idea of what the finished product will look like. But, depending on where you live, and the speed of shipping, it could take at least a couple of weeks until you receive it. That’s where the online Proofing comes in.

It allows you to virtually look at your Proof, and allow you to comb over every final, minute detail of your creation. During the Proofing process, Createspace will also allow you to set up your sale pages-to-be. Since Createspace is affiliated with Amazon, they will allow you to decide where your paperback book will be sold; whether it is through Createspace’s online store, Amazon.com, or European Amazon outlets in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. In doing so, you can set up the price for which your title will be sold for. The default for the European Amazon outlets is to base it on the U.S. price, but you can adjust the U.K. and Euro price to your liking. As soon as you’ve completed this step comes the biggest decision you will ever make regarding your novel since you started writing it: approving the Proof.

This is the final frontier you have arrived at; all of the days and nights, hours after hours of writing and fine-tuning have brought you to this particular moment in time. You are on the cusp of taking that final leap to changing your life as you know it. When you click the “Approve Proof” button, you will have done something that people will admire your guts and determination for accomplishing. You will have become a published author. The Createspace eStore listing will be instantaneous, but the Amazon listings take about a week to build. In that time, you can be content with the Paperback edition, or you can expand your horizons, tweak the formatting a little, and publish it as an eBook on Kindle, Kobo, or Smashwords.

6. Why did you choose to self-publish?

I’ll be honest it is tough to get published by the big publishing houses. Most places won’t take you seriously unless you have an agent, and combine that with the self-esteem issues I have, the fear of being rejected would prove discouraging for me in the long run. I have heard horror stories of people who have gone to some of the smaller publishing houses, and their experience ends badly. By going the self-publishing route I find it allows me to be more in control of the entire process. It enables me to decide where my books are being put up for sale. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to one day be able to walk into a Chapters and see one of my novels on their shelves. However, I do realize it is a process, and one that should only be progressed based on the author’s comfort level. The notion of being a published author can be overwhelming at times. I just feel that if I’m able to call some of the shots, I can enjoy the journey better.

7. How have you chosen to market your self-published novels?

Admittedly, this is one of the toughest parts of being a self-published author. When you decide to publish on your own, all of the facets are do-it-yourself, and I confess, when it comes to marketing, I completely suck at it. So far, I’ve been trying to advertise my novels on my blog at http://garyceldom.blogspot.com , as well as, on Twitter and my Facebook page. I’ve been trying to go via the word-of-mouth route, but alas, it can only take you so far. I’m hoping to expand that network through doing interviews, like this one, but we shall see.

8. What do you think is the most important piece of advice for aspiring writers to remember?

The best piece of advice that I could give to aspiring writers is to remember that to be a successful writer, you have to love and believe in the subject you’re writing about. I have found over the years that if I’m in the middle of writing a short story, a fan fiction, or a novel, and I’m not “feeling it”, I will lose interest and not see it through to its eventual completion. However, if it is a story that I invest myself in to its very core, then it helps motivate me to make sure that I see it through to the end. When I’m able to do that, I find it to be the most rewarding part of the craft, and the most fun in the long run.

9. What will you be reading in 2013?

I have quite a few books on my reading agenda in the next calendar year. A friend loaned me his copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” and I confess I haven’t started it yet because of Nanowrimo. I also plan on reading the debut novel by my good friend, Hilary D. Slater, “The Bird People: Children of The Dragon,” and in a few weeks I should be receiving a copy of Joel Mark Harris’ “A Thousand Bayonets.” That reminds me, I have a plethora of books stockpiled on my Kobo Touch that are waiting to be read. 2013 is going to be a busy year regarding reading.

10. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

Currently, I’m in the midst of editing my 2012 Nanowrimo project, “Rouge Numbered Week.” It is the third novel in my Gary Celdom Case Journals series where Gary and Jessica are on the trail of a mass-murder that is causing havoc during the celebrations for a professional sporting championship. I’m hoping to have that available for sale by the end of June 2013. In between, I will be participating in both sessions of Camp Nanowrimo this April and July. The July edition will see me attempting to write the fourth volume in Gary’s series, but in April, I’m thinking of doing a different story all together. It’s about a bunch of fans of a professional football team’s journey through what is the final season of a venerable stadium that has seen its better days.

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Bio: Douglas J. McLeod is a self-published author who resides in Toronto, Canada. He is a four-time participant in National Novel Writing Month and two-time participant in Camp NaNoWriMo. His debut novel, Scarlet Siege, was penned during the November 2011 campaign, and its sequel, Barbadian Backlash, was written the following June.