Thursday, September 30, 2010

Discussion Panel - Plot or Character, Which Comes First?

I’m starting a new feature for the blog – panel discussions around common issues that authors face.  I think it’s a great way to get a unique perspective inside the author’s mind and I thank each one of them for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in today’s discussion.

Today’s panelists are: Philip Chen, Tonya Plank, Daphne Coleridge, TL Haddix, Danielle Bourdon and Consuelo Saah Baehr.  

Our first question was posed by Philip Chen:
When conceptualizing a new book, do you start with the story and the populate the plot with characters or do you have a specific character(s) and let the story surround them?

Philip Chen
When I write, I usually start with one character who is placed into a situation.  Once there, the character starts by responding to his environment and the story progresses.  So I guess I start with the character(s) and then let the story unfold as each of them starts telling some aspect of the overall story.  As the need arises for more characters to fill in the gaps to the story, I will introduce them and they will develop as the story goes on with their own particular point of view.  As the story develops, my job is to integrate these individual stories into one coherent novel.  As a result, some characters may find themselves diminished in significance and others gain greater strength.  This is what happens to the main "starting off" character in Falling Star, Mike Liu, who becomes only one of an ensemble cast toward the end of the novel.
Kindle book link for Falling Star, (The Watchers):

Tonya Plank:
For me, it depends on the project. With my first book, I started with the main character. My first book, Swallow, is about a young female attorney with a psychosomatic disorder called Globus Hystericus. I created the character and her main conflict first. I had the character in mind as someone who's very accomplished but still has very little self-esteem; she's from a small-town, working-class background and through hard work winds up graduating from a prestigious law school, getting a big lawyer job in Manhattan and then being surrounded by all of these very privileged people who talk down to her in ways that neither she nor they fully understand and that really eats away at her sense of self (there are gender issues as well, stemming from her father's job as a pornographer and his treatment of her). Anyway, I created the character first, and her disorder and its various ramifications, and then let her work out her problem, from figuring out what it stemmed from through a psychologist, to taking positive actions to doing something about it. I didn't really know how she was going to work it out from the start.

But with my second novel, which I'm currently working on, I'm doing the opposite. I was really affected by a trial I covered. It was a shooting, and all the witnesses had a different perspective, and I found even when they conflicted with one another, they were all valid; just different. And there were lot of racial issues involved, and testimony that really stunned me. I just felt there were so many important issues and so many things that floored me about that trial, that I needed to write about it. So, now I'm creating a story around that. But I'm really creating my own original characters and developing their back stories, giving them entire lives of their own, rather than working from the real people involved. I have enough experience with my former job as a public defender to create full characters on my own. But I have to say it's much harder doing it this way, and the ultimate story about how the shooting happened may change!

Thank you to Philip for asking such an excellent question!
The Kindle store link to Swallow:

Danielle Bourdon:
I start with the characters first, usually, and build the story around them. Thus far in my novel writing, I've never thought too far ahead, or plotted out scenes or huge arcs. I have a vague concept and use that as my jumping off point, then let everything else take shape as I go. Sub-characters come along as I'm writing.
There has been a time or two that I've had an idea crop up when I'm least expecting it, so I'll jot the twist or turn down on paper (or whatever's handy) so I don't forget. Other than that, I just wing it!
Kindle Store link: Bound by Blood:

Daphne Coleridge:
This is an interesting question to answer because it invites us to consider whether a writer begins the creative process with a character or with a storyline and if it is possible to develop the work logically from either point. I wonder if writers could be divided broadly into the logical and the intuitive in approach – either way being equally valid and effective. The intuitive may begin with little more than a swarm of impressions, images, and scenarios that swirl about their brain and eventually coalesce into an organic whole in their own time. I’m far from convinced that all writers know where their work is going when they begin to write. I find nothing in The Hobbit to convince me that Tolkien had envisaged Middle Earth and all its history which he went on to describe in such spectacular detail in Lord of the Rings.

As for J. K Rowling; the two dimensional, archetypal “mean” teacher that is Snape bears no relationship to the subtle, restrained, flawed yet heroic character of her final two books. In other words, I think writers often begin with a germ of an idea or a ghost of a character and then, somehow, the work takes on a life of its own. I believe there are also writers who plan their work meticulously and have both plots and characters under tight control, ending up with brilliantly clever work. I belong to the “intuitive” school and begin a book with no more than a vague notion and a sharpened pencil. There is no “right” way to go about writing a book – and that is the joy of being an author – especially when your characters do drag you to places you did not expect to go.
Kindle store link for The Artists Model:
Kindle store link for Purple Lake:

T.L. Haddix:
For my Leroy’s Sins series, the characters definitely come first, at least since book two.  Book one was a little nebulous on the subject of which came first, but I knew as soon as I started making notes for book two that it was based around two specific characters, Beth and Ethan.  Book three is the same – I know who the primary characters are going to be.  I’ve not really sat down and started writing it yet, so I’m not sure what the story is, exactly, but I know who the players are. 

For my non-Leroy stuff – short stories, comic books, etc., it tends to be the opposite.  The story seems to form first, at least a rough idea of what I want to accomplish.  After I come up with that, I have to figure out what kinds of people are going to populate the story.  Who would the character have to be in order to accomplish X,Y and Z?  Would a person who kidnaps people and kills them, for example, be the same kind of person who is a pillar of the community?  Why or why not?  How would the people around this person react when they found out?  Would they be surprised, or would they nod knowingly?  So, in that case, the needs of the story lead to the development of the characters. 
Kindle store link, Secrets In The Shadows:
Under the Moon Shadows:

Consuelo Saah Baehr:
When a book idea shoves its way into my consciousness, it is always through the sensibilities of a strong central character.  The character checks in with a specific "voice."  The character stands there and declares:  I am this person.  I act and talk and feel this way because of everything that has happened to me up to this point.  I am about to have an important emotional event, maybe it will be a transformative event and if you listen to me, I will help you write about it.

The first fifty pages are a self-conscious effort to capture the "voice". If the voice sounds right,  the supporting cast "appears" as needed. I make no conscious effort to create anyone.  They just appear.  I know this sound like BS, but it is true for me. Along the way some characters become more important than others, but always the populace is there to create an ambiance through which the main character acts, reacts, lets herself be known, presents her view of life and values, etc.
Kindle book link:  Daughters:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review - Out of Time by Monique Martin

5 of 5 stars

Monique Martin’s debut offering, “Out of Time” is a delightful, sexy romp back in time to the 1920s.  The story revolves around “stiff upper lip” British professor, Simon Cross, and his research assistant, Elizabeth West.  I’ve worked with university professors for over twenty years and believe me, the character of Professor Cross is pretty spot on although his sarcasm with his students probably would not be tolerated at many universities today.  Of course, his brilliance saves him from any rebukes because students always want to take a class with the cool, eccentric professor. 

I absolutely adored Elizabeth West.  She is your typical research assistant, overworked and underpaid, but the author gives her such depth and wit that you immediately want to be her friend.  The banter that goes back and forth between her and Simon keeps you captivated and you just want to read more and more.

Without divulging any spoilers in my review, Simon and Elizabeth find themselves transported back to the 1920s when they inadvertently activated Simon’s grandfather’s pocket watch during a lunar eclipse.  They figure out that they are stuck in this time warp for six weeks until the next lunar eclipse that will once again activate the watch.  This is where the story really notches up the action with a perfect blend of these two navigating the ins and outs of daily life in 1929 and how it changes their relationship, the peek into life during prohibition and of course, the unlucky event of coming to the attention of local mob boss, King Kashian.

Everything is connected and Ms. Martin unfolds all the drama and angst in perfect style.  This book won’t you let put it down until you finish so I’ll give you fair warning now to carve out enough time to read it through to its exciting conclusion. Highly recommend!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's your favorite POV?

Authors have many things to think about when writing a novel, none more important than what "point of view" the story will be told from.  My co-author Dave and I have written in omniscient point of view in our two "Otharia" books and first person in our novelette, "The Right Path."  Deciding which viewpoint you want to write in will definitely impact the reader's enjoyment of a story and it is a good idea for any author to think about that before the first word is written.

There are 4 common points of view:
First Person Point of View
Second Person Point of View
Third Person Point of View
Omniscient Point of View

First Person Point of View tells the story from only one perspective.  Every detail of your story must be filtered through the storyteller. This impacts your choice of narrator—it may be, and most often is, your main character. If your main character cannot see, hear, touch, smell, taste, think, know or feel it, you can’t include it. Therefore, if you want to introduce something outside the range of your main character, you have to use the words or observed actions of some other character who is in a position to see/know the events in order to convey the information you want the reader to have. Remember that the POV character cannot know the thoughts or unspoken feelings of another character.
Example: The banging on my door reverberated within my skull like a giant church bell in an empty hall. I groaned and rolled onto my stomach, pulling the pillow over my head.

Second Person Point of View:  Very little fiction is written in second person with the exception of “choose your own adventure” types of books, or books about psychosis. But it is a popular style for a lot of non-fiction self-help books, and tourism ads.
It often has a jarring effect in fiction and is the least popular viewpoint. Your reader picks up a book to escape into another character for awhile and using “you” destroys this illusion. And it just feels weird--as though you are being bossed around with someone always telling you what to do and feel.
Example: “You open your eyes and the sun is already high in the sky. You’ve slept away the whole morning. You roll over on the hot sand, scrambling to your knees. The events of last night come rushing back to you…”

Third Person Point of ViewThis is the most common point of view in all genres except young adult fiction where first person is more common. It is the viewpoint that we are most familiar with as readers and so the transition to writing third person is quite natural.
With third person point of view, the options are endless as you choose your viewpoint character(s). You can keep it almost as personal as first person viewpoint by choosing to tell the story through the eyes of just one character. Or, you can choose two or more characters to tell your story and rotate from one to another.This is the most commonly accepted viewpoint in literature and it makes it a bit easier when it comes time to sell your writing although this is a marginal consideration and all choices should be made for the benefit of the story.  

You can use two different viewpoints in separate sections of your story and then weave them together at some point.

Example: “As they followed Charlie through the crowded maze, Jake felt an odd excitement building inside him—or was it fear? He tried to grab Sophie’s hand, but she slapped him away. He had promised Grandpa he’d look after her. A pang of guilt stabbed him. 

Omniscient Point of View: Basically, omniscient point of view means that the story is told from an all-seeing God-like, omnipotent viewpoint. You would use third person pronouns in the writing, but you can choose to dip into the head of any of the characters and reveal things that have occurred in the past or will happen in the future.  

The trouble is that each character must have a distinctive voice so that the reader is never at a loss as to whose head he is in at the moment.

Think about true omniscient POV as having a camera panning throughout the room at a party scene, dipping into anyone’s head and perhaps more than one person at a time, by taking on the collective group perspective. Then you can think about limited omniscient more like passing a camera around the room with each person filming their own POV of the story.

All definitions and samples from above are from THE WRITERS CRAFT web site.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Word Count by Genre

Colleen Lindsay, a former agent with Fine Print Literary, has an excellent post about word count in the various genres.  Like everything in publishing, these numbers are the norm, but there's always exceptions.  If you're a new author, it would serve you well to take a peak at what agents/editors/publishers expect when you submit your manuscript.  Here's the recap, but definitely take the time to check out her full post here.

middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k
YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn't be word count for the sake of word count.

paranormal romance = 85k to 100k

romance = 85k to 100k

category romance = 55k to 75k

cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k

= 80k to 100k

80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction
 = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = Depending upon the kind of fiction, this can vary: chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there's been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k. Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn't something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. (Agent Kristin Nelson has a good post about writers querying about manuscripts that are too short.)

science fiction & fantasy = Here's where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I've spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. I know at least one editor I know likes his fantasy big and fat and around 180k. But he doesn't buy a lot at that size; it has to be astounding. (Read: Doesn't need much editing.) And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to to be able to pare it down even further before publication. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:

---> hard sf = 90k to 110k
---> space opera = 90k to 120k
---> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
---> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
---> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
---> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
---> new weird = 85k to 110k
---> slipstream = 80k to 100k
---> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
---> everything else = 90k to 100k

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review of "Before Her Eyes" by Rebecca Forster

5 of 5 stars
“Before Her Eyes” is not usually the kind of book I read, but I agreed to review this book as a nice break from the usual fantasy and science fiction books I review.  I thought it would be a quick and easy read of solving a murder mystery in a small town, but I was wrong.  This book is so much more than that and it made me stop and think about how we all judge people based on our own perceptions and biases of who we think they are when we look at them.

The story revolves around Sherriff Dove Connelly, a good moral stand-up kind of guy who battles his own inner demons while trying to solve the murder of his friend, Fritz, the local store owner, and the kidnapping of Tessa Bradley, a local socialite, from the scene of the crime.  Throughout the investigation that covers 48 hours, everything that Dove thought he knew about the people of his mountain enclave is challenged, warped and then twisted back into a new slot.  Even Dove himself must undergo this torturous journey if he ever wants to have peace and happiness with his wife and child. 

The author lets the story unfold through two viewpoints – third person to follow Dove and the investigation and first person for Tessa Bradley.  It is Tessa’s voice that draws you in, haunts you, makes you listen to her, and leaves you a shadow of former yourself when she’s done with you.  Her beauty blinds all who see her, but no one really sees her, no one really knows her, all except for one, and he’s never met her before.  Dove is determined to find Tessa not because she’s a beautiful woman, but because she is a woman in need and that’s his job.

This book makes you think and I like that.  I highly recommend it, but make sure you carve out the time to read it because once you start, you won’t want to put it down until the last word is read.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Interview with Steve Symes

Continuing with my author interview series, today I would like to welcome Steve Symes, author of  Shadow House.

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I actually started writing books when I was in high school. For a time, while I was going to college, I stopped writing books and that bothered me. I began again after I graduated, got really serious about an epic fantasy novel I had begun writing in high school, but realized I was not ready for such a heavy undertaking. I decided to write something more manageable and the idea for Shadow House just popped into my head one day while I was working in my yard. I started plotting out the book, reading other books like it – and watching a fair amount of movies as well – and just started writing the book without knowing where it was going to take me. I wrote every day, faithfully, until I finished. And then I revised it at least a dozen times and had other people revise it as well. That took the majority of the time and was the hardest part of the whole process.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before independently publishing?
I actually had one of my professors from college tell me that I would probably need to go indie at first since the industry was in such upheaval, but I didn’t believe him so I pounded the pavement hitting up agents. I don’t even want to admit how many agents I queried. I heard back from many of them, and quite a few said they simply were not taking on new authors. One agent gave me the nicest rejection of all, saying he hoped he was not making a huge mistake but he could not take on any more than he already had.

What factors influenced your final decision to self-publish?
Well, my professor’s advice started to really gain weight in my mind. Then I ran across a CNN report that I wished I had saved, that talked about the self-publishing wave. In that report they highlighted bestsellers that were self-published works, which shocked me since my perception of self-publishing sales was that only the author’s family bought the books. One of the self-published authors was interviewed by CNN, and she said that she believed so much in her book that she had no doubts about going independent. I really believe in Shadow House, and so I started moving forward with the self-publishing process.

Will you ever consider a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
Sure, I would consider one, but for now I am enjoying the creative freedom of doing things myself. I am absolutely open to entertaining anyone who would want to adapt any of my books into a movie, since I think Shadow House would make an excellent movie. I have actually had quite a few readers tell me they think it would make a great scary movie.

Did you design your cover art? 
I actually did design my own cover art. I did Shadow House on an extremely skinny budget, so I tried to keep costs down every which-way. I actually do art as a hobby, so I was not too scared to try it myself. That being said, though, I am working with an artist for my next novel’s cover.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
I got my first sale right after I published Shadow House, like the same day or the next one if I remember correctly. I was really surprised that anyone was that anxious to read Shadow House, after all I was not highly known. Sales have been staying consistent, which has also surprised me. The Kindle edition is now starting to out-sell the paperback, which has taken me by surprise.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
I am on Twitter and try to tweet fairly regularly about writing and the paranormal. My username on Twitter is stevenwriter if you want to look me up. I also have a Facebook page and a blog,

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Gee, I can’t even keep track of all the sites that are selling Shadow House. Several months ago I searched and searched the internet and compiled a list of around thirty sites in almost a dozen countries, but I have found more since. I can tell you that I have little pockets of followings in Australia, India, the United Kingdom and Russia of all places. I think a lot of people around the world can identify with living in a haunted house.

What’s next for you?
I just launched a new series called Shades of Night. The series is an experiment, where I add a new installment once a month on Amazon’s Kindle store. Each story has a different set of characters experiencing some type of paranormal phenomena in all kinds of different places and time periods. I am working on my second novel, which should be ready sometime in 2011, called The Devil’s Nightmare. Beyond that, I have three or four solid ideas for other novels, including at least one young adult novel.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Can you love your Kindle too much?

I am the happy owner of a Kindle.  I love everything about it - the ease of downloading books from anywhere, the capability to carry multiple books around with me anytime anywhere, the ability to enlarge the font -- yeah, everything about it.

But, can you love your Kindle too much?  I flipped on the news this morning to this story:  Bus Drive Reading His Kindle while Driving.  Yes, you read that right.  In Portland, OR, the bus driver of the L96 route was videotaped by a passenger reading his Kindle and not just when he was stopped at the red lights.  The video shows the traffic zooming by and he driver clicking the "next page" button.  Are you kidding me?  

At first the driver was put on administrative leave with pay, but today's updated story says that "Operator Lahcen Qouchbane was terminated for posing an immediate threat to public safety and violation of district policy."  Here's the story link:

I commend the passenger who took the time to shoot that video and make the complaint to get this guy fired.  When you ride public transportation, you would at least like to know that the driver who is charged with the responsibility of getting you safely to your destination is at least paying attention to the road.

So, what would you have done?  Would you complain or just shake your head when you got off the bus thanking the "gods" that you made it safely?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review of ERG: Unit of Power by Roger E Craig

4 of 5 stars

I found this book a challenge to read not because it was written poorly, no in fact, it is a very well written novel, but it’s told from a dispassionate viewpoint.  I wanted to know what happened in the story, but I never got emotionally invested in any of the characters.  For me it was like reading an intriguing case study.  Everything mentioned in the book has a well-researched back-story to support it, but it is these very details that kept me at a distance throughout the book.

The story opens with the ending – a young man Wes Matthews is found unconscious and near death on a sailboat used for smuggling drugs into the US.  Without giving away any spoilers, Matthews’s case falls under the jurisdiction of Detective Bruno Machen who immediately recognizes that Matthews does not fit the usual stereotype of a drug smuggler.  This fact alone makes him determined to find out the truth about this case, but he is continually stonewalled by his superiors who tell him that it is an open and shut drug smuggling case.  Get a confession and close the case were the orders he received. 

From here the story flashes back to the meat of the story about the young men and women who are recruited to be mercenaries in a secret unit that reports directly to the President of the United States.  There are plenty of twists and turns involving politicians, assassinations, secret missions and the unit’s own Director who has his own secret agenda.

I would definitely recommend this book for those who like political thrillers and soldiers of fortune stories.  There is enough action to keep you turning the pages until the very end.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brief Hiatus

I will be taking a brief hiatus from posting while I deal with a medical issue.  I hope to be back blogging in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, if I promised you a guest post, an interview, or a book review, rest assured you're still in the queue.  I am still accepting requests for all three so if you have a new book coming out, need a review or want an interview, please feel free to send me an email at and ask.

WEEKEND SALE: This is the last weekend to get a copy of both OTHARIAN books at 50% over at Smashwords.

"Quest for Nobility" - code PJ22M
"Crystal Facade" - code JJ97U

I am also happy to report that our DARK FUTURE novelettes, "Path to War" and "The Right Path" are gaining some traction - both in sales and reviews.  Thank you to all who have purchased these and, of course, if you enjoyed the books, please consider leaving a review.

Amazon links: "Path to War"


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Interview with Monique Martin

17 reviews

Continuing with my author interview series, next up is Monique Martin.  Welcome Monique!

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I'd been stuck in a "real job" for a few years. It was the family business, so I was bound to it through thick and thin. Unfortunately, there was a lot of thin and not much thick. It was ridiculously stressful and, yet, I couldn't quit. I was disappearing.

I knew I needed something to nourish my soul again. I'd gone to USC Film School and had experience writing screenplays, but I'd gone down that path and it seemed like a lifetime ago. So, I took a class on writing fiction. 

It was an amazing experience. I felt alive again. The writer in me was alive again. So, I started on a book. With the help of some other real life refugees from my writing class, we organized a writer's group. The book came easily. It took a lot of late nights, but all that after hours work paid off and I finally finished the darned thing. I don't think I've ever been prouder of something than I was sitting at my kitchen table looking at a huge (to me anyway) stack of paper - my book.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
Yes, I did. And, like so many others, I came close a few times. Close enough to make not getting there hurt that much more. So, I put the book away on its virtual shelf for a long time before I discovered self-publishing.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
It really was a "what the heck, why not?" decision. The book was sitting on my hard drive. No one but my family and friends had read it, but I wanted to give it life. I wanted to give it a chance to be a "real book". Once I realized how easy it was, I just dove in and published it before I could realize how truly terrifying what I was doing actually was.

I'm blessed to have very supportive family and friends. They all encouraged me to do it. I knew that if I told them I was thinking about it, they'd be the kick in the pants (and stroke to the ego) that I needed to see it through.

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
I would love to, but I think my perspective on what that means has changed. Now, it would be a business decision and not nearly as emotional. Before, it would have been a validation of me and my writing, but I don't need that in the same way I did. I'm not the same person I was. I'm not an aspiring author anymore. I am an author.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I did design the cover myself. I really had no idea what I wanted on the cover at first. Even though it's a romance novel, I was pretty sure that a shirtless hunk wasn't going to be right for me, and, honestly, I had no idea where to find one! None of the friends who volunteered quite had the abs for the job.

I've always been fascinated by the inner workings of clocks and watches. And, an antique pocket watch plays an important role in my book. So, it felt like a good fit for both the book and me.

Will you design the cover for your next book yourself too?
Probably not. I'm pleased with the cover for Out of Time, but I've since found some amazing artists whose work I really love. I'm hoping I can convince them to work on the art for my next books.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
It was my Mom. I just know it was her. But, it was still a great feeling. Once I knew my friends and family chips had been exhausted and strangers were buying it… Oh, it's an amazing feeling. I don't think it will ever get old.

At first, I didn't promote the book. I was just happy to have done it. Then, I started to wonder. One or two strangers bought it and didn't return it or leave me horrible reviews. Maybe more people would buy it.

I wasn't sure how to promote it at first. And, I'm still learning. I'm pleased with what I've accomplished so far, but I know I can do so much more. I'm a believer in my book and myself again.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
Discovering KindleBoards was a revelation. It's so wonderful to be surrounded by people who love books. It's an incredibly supportive community and has helped me tremendously, both as a writer and a promoter.  I'm branching out to a few more discussion boards like MobileReads.

I think I'll have to take the blog or website plunge soon. I don't have either, but I think it's time I did. I tweet occasionally and post to my wall, but I still need to get over this fear of bothering people with my promotional efforts.

I've begun to do interviews like this one. Thank you! And, I've submitted my book to quite a few review sites, but there's a huge backlog at most of them so I haven't garnered any off-Amazon reviews yet.

I know all of these things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to self-promotion. Each day I learn about something else I should be doing. So, I swallow down my insecurity and go for it!

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Yes, Out of Time is also available at Smashwords, Diesel eBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Apple's iBookstore.

What’s next for you?
I'm working on several projects. Too many, if I'm honest with myself. I'm working on the sequel to Out of Time, a coming of age novella and my father's memoirs of his time in the Air Force. Phew! It's exhausting just thinking about it. But, honestly, I love having a few projects going at once.  I don't ever want to go back to the way it was - without writing in my life.

In the UK:

Out of Time is also available at Smashwords:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interview with Jess C Scott

I’d like to give a warm welcome to Jess C Scott.

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
The content was inspired by a conspiracy of real life events (my first book was/is EyeLeash, a teenage memoir/semi-autobiography/coming-of-age story set in the digital era). I sent it out to agents and editors, and got through to two editors (Flux and Sourcebooks). After a 6-month discussion with Editor #1, he left for another publishing house, and the editor who took his place wasn’t interested in entertaining me or my project. I never heard back from Editor #2, or the agent who submitted the material. I’ve a blog post with more details re: this journey @

Briefly describe your journey in writing your latest book.
My latest book is a YA novel, Book #1 in my SINS07 “seven deadly sins” series --

I wanted it to be fun (in contrast to my first two novels, which are multiple-genre-crossing and more “alternative” than mainstream). I was (and continue to be) influenced by my multicultural background and travel experiences. I share more in guests posts, which are listed on the book’s website @

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
Yes. I put my first two books up last year (July and August 2009). I’ve had several agents/editors who replied my queries/submissions after 12 months (to queries/submissions I’d sent around June 2009). I have neither the time nor desire to wait 12 months for a response (even if that is the industry standard), when I could get things moving for myself/a particular project, within the same amount of time.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
I’ve two quite-popular posts on my website, on the factors:

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
I might, though it won’t be a priority.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
Yes, I did (I’ve been a college student on a tight budget for the past few years. “Necessity is the mother of all invention”—Plato). I used to space out and doodle quite a bit during my late teen years, and almost went into graphic design (but decided I’m happier drawing what I like/want, versus commercial illustration). Whatever I know about art/design is self-taught. 

What is the creative process like, for your covers?
I draw when I want to relax and/or “calm my mind down”—so I usually have a few sketches lying around somewhere. If I have a certain old sketch/drawing in mind, I’ll use that for a cover. If I’m in a rush, I’ll search for stock photos online, and locate something that is both visually and conceptually appealing.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
My first thought was: “I wish I knew who bought it.” My first sale was on Amazon Kindle, about a month after I put the blog/IM novel up.

It’d be nice to hit 1000 sales by my 24th birthday (in the middle of September)!

Everything happens “very slowly” to me. I try to focus on producing new material (and keeping my website updated). I am very ambitious—I always aim high with whatever I’m very passionate about.  

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?

Occasionally, I hang out at and

What’s next for you?
An urban fantasy project featuring cyberpunk elves. I’m trying to finish the final edits by December 2010 (assuming I don’t drown in my fall 2010 assignments, first / I’m currently an English/Business senior).


Monday, September 13, 2010

Will you be my friend?

I thought I'd start off this week with something that will make you smile.  Enjoy!

Awww... how could you not smile at that?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review - Cameo the Assassin by Dawn McCullough-White

I bought this book back in July and finally had some time to read it.  If you’re looking for a classic good vs. evil book, you won’t find it here.  What you will find is a story full of action, surprising twists and turns and a cast of interesting and complicated characters.

The story opens up with horrific attack upon Cameo when she was a young girl. While she lay dying, a mysterious stranger, Haffef, comes upon the scene, heals her in his own unique way and her life is forever changed.  Fast forward years ahead and Cameo the Assassin has become a legend in her own time.  She is a ruthless killer, accepting jobs from the witch, Wick, head of The Association.  She moves from job to job with ruthless efficiency while consuming large amounts of alcohol to dull her own inner demons.

Her life takes another dramatic turn when her coach is stopped and she is robbed by a pair of highwaymen, Opal and Bell.  Against her better judgment, she develops a relationship with these two instead of killing them for stealing from her.  This is where the story ramps up the action because everything Cameo does has consequences not only for her, but for everyone she associates with.  My favorite character was Opal, the flamboyant dandy.  His decisions and interactions with Cameo keep you turning the pages to the very last page.

Throughout the book, Cameo is forced to make decisions that are not in her best interest, but she can’t help herself because she finds that after all the years spent alone, she now craves the company of others especially Opal.  Haffef comes back on the scene in the last third of the book, compelling Cameo to do a job for him.  Because of her bond to him, she cannot refuse his request.  Needless to say, a lot happens, relationships change, people die and Cameo must bear witness to it all knowing that all the suffering can be laid directly at her feet.

I enjoyed this book, but I do have a complaint about the constant shifting of POV throughout the book.  It took me awhile to figure out who was talking during some of the dialogue.  

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review - The Zagzagel Diaries: Forsaken by Bryl R Tyne

5 of 5 Stars

I love to read short stories, but tend to prefer novelettes and novellas.  Word counts of 10,000 to 40,000 words gives the author room to unveil a story and introduce the characters with all the plot twists and turns.  My own short stories tend to be 10,000-12,500 words and I need all of those words to tell my story.  All of this is a preface for my review of “The Zagzagel Diaries: Forsaken.”  

Author Bryl R. Tyne unveils a powerful and moving story in only 3200 words; definitely a gift.  I was blown away by it.  This story focuses on a young man contemplating suicide because of his parent’s reaction to his announcement of being gay.  We find Brett standing on a roof top ledge and he is being observed by his guardian angel Zagzagel, Zag, for short.  It is Zag’s inner thoughts watching the turmoil roiling through Brett that draws the reader in.  Zag has his own pain, his own regrets and, of course, he’s has very strict guidelines from “Big Pappa” on how much intervention he can have in Brett’s decisions, but Zag has feelings for Brett and he disregards his orders and crosses the line.

Without giving anymore more of the plot away, all I can say is that my heart went out to Zag first of all, and then to Brett.  Their brief connection redefines both of them.  In only 3200 words, Bryl has created a masterful story that will stay with you long after you finish reading “Forsaken.” I highly recommend this short story!


Interview with Noah Mullette-Gillman

Continuing my author interviews, I’d like to welcome Noah Mullette-Gillman!

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
Some artists start first with characters. Some start with plot. I have written stories that started either way, but the ones that excite me are the ones that begin in my mind with an image.

Sometimes these half-understood blurry visions will haunt the back of my mind for years and I won’t know what to do with them. I won’t understand what I’m looking at until I’ve lived with them for a long time.

This was how The White Hairs came to me. I’d had an idea that wasn’t quite right in my mind for a long time. It involved magicians traveling outer-space, not on spaceships, but by leaving their bodies.

Now, that’s good, but it’s not quite there. I turned it over and over in my head trying to wring out the final piece until I finally saw the picture in my mind of a great being covered with white hair leaving that body and going out to explore the universe.

I imagined what it would be like for a creature in that culture, learning for the first time how to leave his flesh and wandering the sky. That quickly became Farshoul, my protagonist, and the story wrote itself in a little over a month after that.

The deeper issues in the story bubbled up from my own psyche where they had been lying for a long time, waiting for a place they could escape to. Yes, The White Hairs is fantasy, but if you read it right, it should not be light reading. It begins at the beginning of a spiritual quest, and it follows that quest through the decades of Farshoul’s life until it is resolved. You can tag along with him and experience that journey for yourselves if you allow the story to possess you at that level.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
Not for this story. I had written another book after The White Hairs. It had a major problem. I had misunderstood formatting. I’d thought I had a 500-page novel, but it turns out that 250,000 is about double that! I did present it to some agents and they were very complimentary, and then said that they wanted to see my next book.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
As Morrissey said, “How soon is now?” I don’t want to wait forever for my life to start. I’m on this planet to be an author, and I could well die of old age before I figure out how to satisfy the traditional publishing system. And I don’t think I’ve burned any bridges. Who knows what the future may bring? Perhaps, this will become the way of querying the establishment – by initially self-publishing!

Will you try to garner a traditional publishing contract for any future books?
I’m honestly not sure what to do. I’d be happy to work with a traditional publisher who appreciated my work. I think, like any young author, when I got that offer I’d feel like I was Superman finally defeating Lex Luthor for the last time… but the process is so slow and so cold. I don’t want to spend months begging and praying again that they will be so merciful as to look at my work and consider whether or not to allow me to be a writer. It’s a process that I think destroys most authors. It’s set up to discourage and break us. And no, I don’t think only the best get through. It’s not evolution, not survival of the strongest. It’s more like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. We lost the Brontosaurus. We lost the most magnificent life forms in that devastation. The survivors might have been our ancestors, but they were less than what was lost.

If another meteor hit today and only the cockroaches survived, the world would never be the better for it, not in a billion years.  This is the current state of literature in our society.

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information?
I have been friends with artist Dana Black since I was 15. When we were in high school we dreamed of being the next Wolfman & Perez or Claremont & Byrne. He’s grown into an amazing artist, but has had a hard time up until now of ever believing anything he created was good enough.

I called him and told him that I was planning to publish The White Hairs. He dropped his life for a week and a half and we worked together to design the cover. He executed it. The back cover was a painted sketch he sent me. I changed the color, and blew it up and transformed it into what you see. When he got his copy of the book in the mail, it was like a new picture he’d never seen before!

All of the interior photography is my own work.

I didn’t ask Dana for help with the cover to The Song of Ballad and Crescendo for two reasons: First of all, I quickly came up with that beautiful cover myself! Secondly, Dana is hard at work creating a fully-illustrated version of a children’s story of mine, and I don’t want to tear him away from that for a second!
No, Dana doesn’t have a webpage, but he spends a lot of time at The White Hairs fan page on Facebook.

How did you feel when you got your first sale? 
Impatient. I didn’t want one sale. I wanted a lot lot lot more than that… But, I understood from the beginning that I wasn’t about to sell a million copies any time soon. What I’m doing now is laying the groundwork for a career. The White Hairs has ten strong reviews on Amazon, and was recently given a fantastic appraisal by I’m slowly building a reputation. Selling copies would be great! But I can’t be short sighted.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
Twitter: Noahlot is my webpage. I have a blog there, and I am also running a weekly author interview series. Each week I interview three authors. These can be pretty meaty interviews. I make sure to read at least the free previews of each author’s work before interviewing them, so the questions are specific to their actual work!

I spend a lot of time at the Kindle boards. That’s a great place for authors to gather and, frankly, help each other!

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
And, if you Google me, it seems you can find The White Hairs from vendors I’ve never heard of in India, Kenya, and Japan!

What’s next for you?
After having hard a time writing for a year or more, publishing The White Hairs has been fantastic for my writing! I am currently working on two new novels. One is about magicians in the modern world. But the one I’m writing today, the one I expect to publish next is a survivalist story. It’s sci-fi/horror. I’ve always loved zombie stories, and post-nuclear stories, but I have a fundamental problem with writing a book about either of them myself: I didn’t come up with it! Someone actually thought up zombies. Someone dreamed up a post-nuclear world….not me! So, for a long time I’ve been looking for an idea of my own that lets me tell a story like that, one just as good as zombies or the post-nuclear world. I have it! I’m half-way through writing it, and crazy optimistic enough to think I may be able to publish it in a few months!

I’ve already even done the cover art!
I’m also working with White Hairs cover artist Dana Black on an illustrated children’s book. He is the artist, but I am deeply involved with the design work. We’re calling me the “art director!” I’m not sure how long it will take Dana to draw it, but he’s doing what’s easily the best work of his life right now. Publishing this one will change everything!