#CoffinHop … Haunted by the dark

Click on the “EYE” to take you to my COFFIN HOP TRICK for a TREAT Prize Page…Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared….Contest ends at the Witching Hour (3am) 31st October 2012…(Contest closed)

kim-coffin12

So we are a day away from the end of Coffin Hop 2012. Just like last year it has been a BLAST. However it is not over until it is over so don’t feel glum. If you have not had a chance to hit up all the incredibly talented authors on this blog tour, you still have 2 days left to catch up & still 2 days left to enter my contest *Click on the EYE above*. Just click on that skull at the bottom of this post and it will take you to the Coffin Hop Boneyard where you can find all the other incredible authors.

Now, I know some may scratch their heads wondering what sort of person writes horror or reads horror. Well I can’t speak for all horror authors but I can speak for myself and I can speak of most of the other coffinhoppers since I am privileged to call a lot of them friends. I think Horror has got a bad rap over the years and Horror Authors along with it. So much so that the publishing industry uses every other euphemism to market a Horror Author and their Horror Fiction other than the term: Horror.

In May I wrote a post on: What is Horror? It was a question posed and answered by a group of horror author bloggers. You can find the full post here: Shivers down my Spine

But here are some passages that I would like to highlight for you…

horror |ˈhôrər, ˈhär-|noun1 an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust: children screamed in horror.• a thing causing such a feeling: photographs showed the horror of the tragedy | the horrors of civil war.• a literary or film genre concerned with arousing such feelings: [ as modifier ] : a horror movie.• intense dismay: to her horror she found that a thief had stolen the machine.• [ as exclamation ] (horrors) chiefly humorous used to express dismay: horrors, two buttons were missing!• [ in sing. ] intense dislike: many have a horror of consulting a dictionary.• (the horrors) an attack of extreme nervousness or anxiety: the mere thought of it gives me the horrors.2 informal a bad or mischievous person, esp. a child: that little horror Zach was around.ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’ (see horrid) .

I think the very origin of the word answers the question: What is Horror? Horror is an involuntary trembling and shuddering from sheer terror. For me however, true horror is those scenes that play with your mind. Psychological fear is far more intense and horrific than mere physical fear. The mind is a scary place. It’s capacity for imagining the worst and the darkest is scary. Think of your favourite horror movie, the imagined monster behind the shadow at the foot of the door that is ajar is far scarier than the monster that is seen and can be fought. What is unknown is far scarier than the known? For me, that is true HORROR.

Horror is the difference between the UNKNOWN vs the KNOWN and theUNTHINKABLE vs the IMAGINED. Horror is those shivers down my spine, that prickling on my skull and the bone-deep chill that makes my heart want to stop.

This is how Stephen King defines Horror:

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

So what is so different about Horror Authors? I will tell you this. I think Horror Authors are the SkyJumpers of the publishing world. To be a Horror Author you need to plumb the depths of the human heart and all its terrible secrets. You have to face the darkness and then shine a light on it, exposing it. Not only are we SkyJumpers but we are SkyJumping into a dark night sky. That takes guts! It requires a strong spine and a streak of recklessness. On top of that we are the red headed step child that the Publishing world does not want to acknowledge.

But when you – as a reader – read a piece of horror fiction, you have no other choice but to dig deep yourself into your own emotions and FEEL. Horror Fiction strips away all your defences and lays you bare as an emotional being with equal amounts of joys and fears. Horror Fiction strips away all polite etiquette and gets you to connect with your most primal and your most HUMAN instincts and emotions. You may be scared stiff but you won’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens. Horror fiction is a guaranteed Page-Turner. Horror Fiction has a way of getting under your skin and being unforgettable. For a time, while reading that Horror story, you forget your own horrors.

“Blessed are the weird people – poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters and troubadours – for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” – Jacob Nordby

Horror Authors > Are we crazy? Are we dark? Some may be. But then great minds are always called Crazy by someone, somewhere.

But is it crazy or dark to have the courage to acknowledge both the light and the dark, the day and the night, the joy and the fear? Call me crazy then and call me dark. But it is through writing down the dark stories that I can get to the light. It is through writing down the dark stories that darkness does not overwhelm me. Humanity can be a horrific thing and sometimes we need to acknowledge the truth of that horror to let the wild and precious beauty shine in through the cracks in the dark. You cannot appreciate the Dawn unless you have experienced the coldest, loneliest, darkest hour of the Night. If I didn’t write the stories and poems that I do…then I would truly be haunted by the dark…

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Remember to visit all the other coffin hopping macabre and haunted places buried in the

COFFIN HOP BONEYARD

for frightful contests, spookilicious giveaways and horrific halloween inspired swag.

You can also click through to the linky list included on this blog here or click on the creeptastic skull beneath…

Tell me do You CoffinHop?
x marks the spot where the spirits watch you from veiled shadows…
Don’t forget to enter my TRICK Haunted Flash Fiction for TREATS
Enter if you dare…Enter or be scared…

x

Thanksgiving | Create-Spirational People

It is Thanksgiving in the USA. I am not in the USA nor am I American but I have many American friends. Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and appreciate people that you care about in life. I have been blogging now for 18months and in that time my friendship circle has grown to include inspirational people – writers, poets and artists from all around the globe. I am continuously inspired by the creativity and imagination of these people. So in honour of Thanksgiving I am going to create a new Blog Award which will be given out annually to mark my gratitude and to honour the most Create-Spirational Blogs that add to my Inspirations…

Announcing The Annual…

The Annual “CreateSpiration” Blog Award ~ Awarded by Dragonfly Scrolls

There are rules and requirements for this blog award to be passed on…

  • Pick 20 Blogs that have truly inspired you in the year
  • Write an acceptance blog post
  1. Choose a quote on Inspiration.
  2. Choose a quote on Creativity.
  3. Choose and post a song-video that has inspired you this year. (After all what is life without music.)
  4. Write down a list of 5 things that inspired you in the year.
  5. Write down 5 ways that you plan on being inspirational in the coming year.
  6. Pass on the award to the 20 blogs you have chosen.
  7. Each year you must choose 20 new blogs, you can only give out this award once to someone.
  8. Link back to the post where you were awarded.
  9. Link to this rules & requirements page  – The Annual CreateSpiration Blog Award
  10. Awarded every Thanksgiving. (The last weekend in November)

_______________________________

The 20 Blogs who are my Favourite Create-Spiration Blogs for 2011

For the above Awardees, grab the following award widget                                                                                      (by clicking on the image) to feature on your blog:

© Dragonfly Scrolls 2011-2012 Blog Award

Favourite quote on Inspiration:

I dwell in Possibility | Emily Dickinson

Favourite quote on Creativity:

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. | Mark Twain

My 2011 Song of Inspiration:

This song inspires me in both its lyrics and because it is a celebration of New York – a city that truly is an inspiration in looking for the silver lining in a heavy storm cloud – and because it is a song about having a “pocketful of dreams” and going out into the big wide world to chase those dreams and make them a reality. 

Five things/people that Inspired me this year:

  1. My family – who supported me in my dream to become a full-time writer
  2. My friends – who always cheer for me in all my endeavors and who always believe in me – also counted on to give me a good butt-kicking every now and again. Special mention to: Alethea Dantes, Vasiliqui Galanopoulous, Jay Smith, Jane Webb Olivier, Desre Tate, Emma Mees, Colin Nel, Leigh K Hunt, Rachna Chhabria, Drew Cross, Al Boudreau, Judith Van Praag, Penny Epel, Danielle Beith Ruschena. (Each of you have a trail of footprints in my heart. I am honoured that you are in my life. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement and the constant source of inspiration through friendship that you gift to me just by being you. x)
  3. Eat,Pray,Love – This book and this movie have inspired so much in my life
  4. Social Networks – All those I follow and connect with through blogging, twitter,Facebook ect.
  5. PostaDay 2011 and PostaWeek2011 – These helped me get into a regular blogging schedule.

Five Ways I plan on being inspirational in 2012

  1. Through my Amazon Wanderings where I take off into the wild yonders of South America and write about it.
  2. Through this creativity & inspiration blog @ Dragonfly Scrolls
  3. Posting a photo at least once a week in a new photo-blog starting 01.01.12…link coming soon
  4. Posting a poem at least once a week in my poetry portfolio @ Soul Photographs
  5. Creating a gratitude journal that will work in combo with the new photo-blog.

Myths & Legends & Lore

Various mythos.

There is something magical about mythology. I have always been fascinated by Mythology. Mythology has really shaped the modern fairy tales and modern stories. One could say it is the cornerstone of fiction. I have been delving into different mythologies over the last year while doing research on my current works in progress. What I love most about mythology is that it teaches us about the human character – both good and bad. The other thing about mythology is that one never tires of it.

No matter how many times I read the tales of Greek mythology, I never tire of it. There is always something new that I learn to love about it. Over the last few months though I have been delving into ancient African mythology, Native American mythology and Romani (Gypsy) Mythology. All this mythology has been research for my works in progress.

Researching all this mythology has made me wonder about the writers of these early myths and legends. Except for the Greek mythology, many of these mythologists remain unnamed but yet the myths have lived on for centuries and for millennia. Many of these myths were created before writing. They were told around fireplaces and passed down generation to generation. Like with all tales that are spoken, they changed subtly over the years with each telling. One could almost say that all mythology is like chinese whispers: that childish game where you sit in a circle and whisper a tale into someone’s ear and then that person whisper’s into another’s ear and so on until the last person has to say aloud what was whispered. What comes out is very rarely what was first spoken. Perhaps this is why the writers remain unnamed. Instead of just one story-teller there were different story tellers with each generation.

Last year I met Chris Vogler who wrote The Writer’s Journey. He was one of the main key speakers at a writing conference. He gave a fascinating talk on Muses: where the idea of muses came from and who the muses are. He was also saying about how so many modern stories have their basis in mythology. It was a fascinating talk.

One can learn so much about a nation by studying their myths, legends and folklore. Every culture has their own mythology and their legends are how they identify themselves with both the inner and outer world. For me these tales are so much more interesting than flat history tomes. The history that these myths and legends tell of is rich in imagery and evocative in description.

Even the modern tales of magic, vampires, elves and dragons are built on the foundations of this mythology. Another thing that I find fascinating about mythology is that whether the myth is Greek, Roman, African, Russian, Celtic in origin; they have the same elements of good and evil. Who is to say what is fact or fiction? In mythology the reader gets to decide what is real or imaginary. To me that is very exciting.

What is your favourite mythic tale or legend?

What mythology would you like to know more of?

Kim

Visions of creativity in words & pictures | Tina Hoggatt

Today I interview a lady who brings a triple threat of creativity: writer, artist and illustrator. It never fails to amaze me at the endless talent and creativity of the warriors that I interview on this blog every week. Tina Hoggatt is another of these super-talented ladies. She has not allowed bias or criticism to encroach on her dreams, instead she forges on ahead. Having had a successful career in Art she has recently gotten back to her original creative dream: writing. She has also managed to meld together these two creative pursuits in the guise of an illustrator. She has kindly allowed me to include a few illustrations here in this interview for your enjoyment. Without giving too much away, I will allow Tina to do the talking for herself. So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable as Tina and I sit down for a one-on-one chat. 

Welcome Tina Hoggatt….

 

girl with a quill: Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six-word story. Tell us a bit about yourself in 6 words. Who is Tina Hoggatt?

Tina: Seriously fun, loves words and pictures. 

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Tina: Early on – I didn’t make novels as a child but I did write stories and was fairly clear about it as an identity by the time I was eleven or so.

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?

Tina: I was committed as a writer in middle school and had a writing group with a few girlfriends but was discouraged by a mentor at thirteen. This had sexist overtones (‘there are no truly famous women writers; only men are serious writers’ etc ) which I knew were both wrong and incorrect but at the time I lived in between two happily married women painters so I thought I’d pursue art. Who needed the grief?  I wrote in my twenties and then committed to an art career, which actually worked, but I have come back to writing in the last five years or so and have been very focused for the past few years.

girl with a quill: Besides writing, what are your other passions / hobbies?

Tina: I make paintings and prints and have been working in porcelain enamel on steel recently, which I adore. I have a letterpress shop in my studio and don’t use it enough. 

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Tina: The greatest influence on me as a writer were my parents being who read to their children twice a day for the whole of my youth. From this I learned that there needed to be music in the language and that story was king.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Tina: Contemporary fiction. Late bloomer finds husband and confidence, experiences setbacks and family turmoil, emerges in midlife with clarity and urgency to kick some serious ass.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Tina: I have two office spaces and a studio and mostly sit at the kitchen table when I write so I can watch the birds at the feeders and see the garden. I also write every day on the bus during my commute.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Tina: I often see a scene, a character in a place with some very simple action. I may write a page or so that becomes the nut of a story. I’ll write a huge hunk of it, then finesse the plot.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Tina: I come from an honest pantser background and have been dragged into plotting, at which I frankly suck. But I’m working on it. Plotting is a time saver and time is what I don’t have enough of.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?

Tina: I write YA and MG and have created illustrated books. In adolescence crossroads are reached that force a choice about both action and character – defining moments. These happen with much more frequency than in adulthood, at a time when emotions run high. I’m interested in exploring those points and in speaking to them for the reader.

girl with a quill: We all have little habits and quirks that make us individual. 

What are your bad habits in writing? What are your strengths in writing?

Tina:

  1. I have a tendency toward complication and complexity that can get in the way of fluid storytelling.
  2. My visual training and art practice make me a good observer. I think this comes out in the writing. Also I’m pretty good with dialogue and its integration.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Tina: Biography. 

girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the book/s you have written?

Tina: I have contributed essays to two books edited and published by fine letterpress printer Jules Remedios Faye, The Ladies Printing Bee and Fallen Angels. What is the Panda to You? an artists’ book in a tiny edition was a collaboration with artist Jeffry Mitchell. I wrote the text, printed the book and collaborated on illustration. I’ve made several other similar editions as well.

I’ve illustrated several books for mainstream publishers, My Jim by Nancy Rawles and Home Field, a collection of essays on baseball edited by John Marshall. I also have some manuscripts moldering in virtual space.

girl with a quill: What is your best sentence you have written?

Tina: Gray and quick and flipper slick, here and gone – yoohoo!

Is it the best? Maybe not, but fun.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Tina: I’m working on Clickstream, a YA book I’m calling contemporary para-scifi. Boy recovering from the death of his brother is visited by the ghost of his dead dog and a shimmering particle stream of a naked girl from the future, discovering that his brother’s essence has been preserved in an experimental chip developed by his dad, who is working to retrieve him. Complications ensue. It’s about bringing back the dead, bicycles, friendship, comic books and love. Also it’s funny.

girl with a quill: First drafts are for the writers themselves. Who reads your work after you?

Tina: I work on my first drafts with two writing groups in real life and one online group. These are my beta readers for finished work. Also, my mom is an invaluable reader.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Tina: At this point it’s a practice, and without a creative practice I turn into a real creep. 

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?

Tina: Despite life’s emotional hardships there is friendship, unexpected wonder and joy to be had in this life.

girl with a quill: Do you believe in Muses? If you do, who/what is your Muse?

Tina: My muse is a donkey whose tail I hold as it leads me through a darkened room. Sometimes I bump into the furniture. Sometimes I get a glimpse into another room.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Tina: It has to be a character in another author’s book, to spend time with people I have come to know and love, and see their places.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Tina: My writing is character driven, but without story there is no sustained engagement. I’ve proven this, actually, to my chagrin.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Tina: Right now I’m very fond of the ghost of a dog named Gus who is taking time out from a pleasant afterlife to help out a messed up boy here on earth. 

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Tina: Mary Russell, from the genius mind of Laurie R. King. Scholar, sleuth and wife to Sherlock Holmes – who is no slouch himself. 

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Tina: It’s a dinner party, right? There has to be synergy. Mark Twain for sure – he was funny, told fabulous stories and always wore a white suit – at least in his later years. So right there you have a keystone. He’s going to have to smoke outside though. I’ve been in love with Myrna Loy my whole life and Twain would love her brains and sass, as well as her legs – so Myrna’s next to Twain. I’d invite Dorothy Parker but she was a mean drunk and you know there will be drinking. Julia Child’s in the kitchen. She makes great conversation and she’ll sit at that end of the table so she can check the miracle sauce at regular intervals. This dinner will need a poet and a fabulist. Pablo Neruda may feel a little shy at first but he’ll warm to the northerners, and he can recite for us in Spanish. And I think Joan Baez would round out the table nicely. She’ll put everyone at ease and tell surprisingly funny anecdotes, imitate Bob Dylan and lead the singing after dessert.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Tina: All sleuth dinner: Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew (I wanted to be her), Yashim the eunuch and Maisie Dobbs.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Tina: Don’t quit, it’s a waste of time and talent.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Tina: Don’t quit, it’s a waste of time and talent.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Tina: The first book you reach for on the bookshelf of a summer cabin.

girl with a quill: Where can we find your book/s for sale?

Tina:  You’ll have to wait for a year or two.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Tina: My blog: http://tinahoggatt.wordpress.com/

My website: http://tinahoggatt.com/

  

 

Introducing Joe Pranaitis

Introducing Joe Pranaitis.

Join me as I sit down with Joe tonight. We discuss how healing can be found through the creative medium. Joe shares with us his passion for Sci-fi, in particular; the influence of Star Trek on his writing. So take a seat, make yourself comfortable, help me in welcoming Joe to the Dragonfly Scrolls studio.

Welcome Joe.

 

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Joe Pranaitis?
Joe: To begin I’m a writer, an artist, and a theatre manager. I’m also the youngest of two boys. I’ve always felt like an outcast. Then again, growing up in East Chicago Indiana wasn’t the best of times. It got to a point where I wouldn’t go outside at all and so I started drawing. The drawings became my little world, including the ones about war. When my parents divorced; I was thrown into a tail spin and tried to off myself, at age 13, when I started High School. A couple of years later, when I was a Junior; my art teacher gave me a sense of direction by giving me the assignment of creating my own comic book. Needless to say, I’m a fractured human like everyone else but I’ve learned to channel my feelings into my writing and art.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Joe: I guess I would say that I wanted to be a writer after I heard Star Trek: Final Frontier and could see the pictures that the words described. Then it just took the free time between high school and college to get me going in adapting the comics that I created.

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?
Joe: I’ve been writing for about fifteen years now.

girl with a quill: In your bio, you say that you first wrote a comic book. Are you still interested in writing graphic novels?
Joe: Yes I am.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?
Joe: Yes. I talk to my boss and one of my ushers whom has begun writing his own book.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Joe: My greatest influence would be Diane Carey. When I would go on a car trip to Ohio, to visit my brother and his family, we would bring audio novels; one of those would be Star Trek: Final Frontier. I’ve been a big fan of her trek writings since then.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?
Joe:  If my life story were a novel I would say that we’re at the mid-point before any big changes really happen. As to what genre, I would say that’s a good question and I really don’t know.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Joe: Where I write is at my computer next to my bed. I put toys, pictures of family and models of starships around as well as having my book cases full of books and dvds.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Joe: When I sit down for a writing session; I put on some music and read a little of what I wrote before and then let the story flow through my fingers to the key board.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter,or a pantster, or a little of both?
Joe: I would say a little of both because sometimes I do stumble onto a plot point where I know I need to think things out before putting them on the page.

girl with a quill: You write mainly science fiction. What drew you to this genre?
Joe: What drew me to sci-fi was that my parents were into it while I was growing up. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the original Star Wars and Star Trek: The motion Picture.

girl with a quill: Which Sci-fi authors have influenced you?
Joe: Besides Diane Carey, I would say that the other authors that have influenced me are Keven Anderson, Vonda N. McIntire, Karen Traviss.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
Joe: Adventure.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the books you have published?
Joe: Sure, the first two volumes in the series Infinite Possibilities: Chronicles take place in the 29th century. They follow the voyages of the starship Lionheart from the moment that she leaves dry dock and is struck by a space probe from another Earth on the other side of the Galaxy to a number of parallel universes. This leads to it becoming the fleet flagship and dealing with civil wars among the Pirate republic and their own colonies. Now here is a little hint: the second story within Volume one is the leap off point that I used to continue the story of Horizon station and her crew in through three of seven planned books.

girl with a quill: Your first book is part of a trilogy? In writing the trilogy, did you write them as separate stories individually or did you get the idea for the complete trilogy and then divide the story ideas into 3 books?
Joe: No, the first book is not part of a trilogy but the first story within the first volume was before I expanded the story to a now 3000 year story arc that stretches from 65 million years ago to the middle years of the 50
th century. But the original trilogy arced from the Lionheart’s launch to events that, if I were to explain now, would be massive spoilers for the rest of the series since I’ve planned the Chronicles series to go beyond 12 volumes.

girl with a quill: What are your thoughts, if any, on Indie/Small Press publishing vs Traditional Publishing?
Joe: So far I’ve only dealt with Indie/small press publishing so I have no idea how traditional publishes would be since I’ve been turned down by more than 100 agents who don’t have a clue that star trek just landed on their lap.

girl with a quill: What tips would you give aspiring pre-published authors out there to get a foot in the industry door?
Joe: I would say to write and let the story take you to where it ends up. As for getting your foot in the industry door; write a good query letter or letters and send them to both agents and publishers but watch out for publishers that ask for money up front because they will keep asking.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Joe: Yes I’m working on my 10
th book right now and it is an expanded story that I wrote in 2006 when my original story turned 10. It takes place in a parallel universe to the original series; where we see the coming together of the crew of the Lionheart, from the loss of her first captain, to an all-out war and then to it’s end. It’s the beginning of a new adventure for the ship’s second captain post war to passing the ship down to her first officer leading to the birth of the first officer of the Lionheart-A. It is also the first of a duelogy.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Joe: I write because I have a hunger for it. The ideas that I have, I feel I need to write down.

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Joe: Yes. It is basically good vs. evil.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?
Joe: If I found a golden lamp with a genie and he told me I could enter another author’s book I would ask to visit Star Trek: Final Frontier. The character that I would choose would be George Kirk, starting from the time that he saw the original Enterprise in dry dock for the first time. Now why I chose that book and character is because at times I feel like I’m there watching the last part of the ship, that I’ve been asked to be a first officer on, being constructed.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?
Joe: I would say both since you can’t have a story without a character and vise versa. But I mainly focus on the story line.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Joe: My favourite character that I’ve created is Captain Bontrk because through him we see everything that happens to the Lionheart. We also see what will happen because he knows that eventually his ship will be retired to allow the Lionheart-A to go on her adventures. As to why; I would have to say that it’s because his face is hidden, we never see it but we know that it’s there and it’s reacting like everyone else’s.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Joe: You know I never really thought that I had a favourite character in the literary world; just stories. Right now, my favorite story is the Vatta war series. Even though I’ve only read the first two books, I really enjoyed them.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Joe: Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Ronald Moore, J. Michal Straczynski, and Frank Herbert. As to why; well I’ve always wanted to meet all five of them. I wish that I had met Gene Roddenberry before he passed in ’91.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Joe: They would be Captain Kirk, Ky Vatta, William Adama, Optimus Prime, and Batman. I know quite a cast. When I was growing up; Kirk was always my favourite Captain. As for Ky, because I understand her and know that sometimes doing what we think is right could get us into unknown trouble. Now why William Adama; well, it’s because I felt for him during the four years of BSG and he is a favorite character too. As for Optimus Prime; well, when I was a kid he was my first transformer and in that respect became my childhood hero. Now Batman; well, after losing my parents, both to heart attacks, I now see why he has such a bleak outlook on life even though he is on the side of good.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Joe: Considering that was only two years ago; I would tell myself, that even though I may have to pay for the book to be both published and edited, that it is worth it; and to do a giveaway as soon as I can, as well as look for goodreads.com

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Joe: That’s hard because the future is always changing. I would say that I took the right path by getting the first two published and that my first two publishers are always a backup if I really want to get a story out.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Joe: As for my legacy; I just want people to enjoy my books and to continue to enjoy them and discover them as time goes on.

girl with a quill: Where can we find your books for sale?
Joe: My books can be found on Amazon.com, Barns & Noble.com (BN.com) and the publisher’s websites

girl with a quill: Finally, where can we find on the web?
Joe: I can be found on Facebook, MySpace, trekspace, goodreads.com, twitter under joepranaitis.

Talking E-Books,Indie Publishing and Writing

There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.

Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.

So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.

Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.

 

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?

Susan:  I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.


girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter.  Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?

 

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Susan:  Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.

girl with a quill: You founded Puddletown Publishing. How did you get into this?


Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color.  Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend,  CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books.  Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.


girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?

Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine.  One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time. 

girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?

Susan:  When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be.  Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!

girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?

Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks.  I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three.  My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers.  I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them.  And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete.  I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years.  Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.  

girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?

Susan:  It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run.  We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?

Susan:   I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Susan:  Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years.  I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Susan:  Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Susan:  I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time.  Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Susan:  I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing.  It’s almost like mental illness.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Susan:  A pantster, for sure.  I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing.  Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book.  The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Susan:  Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?

Susan:  Hmm.  I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Susan:  Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks. 

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Susan:  I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Susan:  I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Susan:   Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters.  Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy.  Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.


girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness.  God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her.  Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink.  Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Susan:  Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Answer: HYPERLINK “mailto:susanls@puddletowngroup.com”susanls@puddletowngroup.com

HYPERLINK “http://www.puddletowngroup.com/”http://www.puddletowngroup.com/

Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup”http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053″http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts”http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts

Blogs: HYPERLINK “http://puddletown.wordpress.com/”http://puddletown.wordpress.com

HYPERLINK “http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/”http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: HYPERLINK “http://www.twitter.com/susanls”http://www.twitter.com/susanls

HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup”http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup

 

 

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Spotlight on Matthew Munson

Today I welcome a writer who I met through an online writer’s group that I belong to. What always amazes me about the writing groups I belong to is the plethora of writing talent in these groups. Matthew Munson is one of these writers. He is a writer who likes asking the Big Questions. He likes writing stories that make a reader sit up and say: What if? So join me in welcoming Matthew Munson. Pull up a seat and make yourself comfortable as we discuss life’s challenges, writing, fantasy, clowns and morris dancers…If you are like me and want to know what Morris Dancers are, well pay attention and Matthew will tell us all.
Welcome Matthew…Thank you for joining me in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio.
 
girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Matthew Munson?
Matthew: Matthew is … an Englishman in New York. Ha, not really, I just love the song 🙂 So that’s the level of my humour anyway … I am English, though.
    I’m 29 years old (30 in June) and live in the south-east of England in a town you’ve probably never heard of (thanks for that quote, Sir Terry Pratchett). I live right by the sea in touristy Broadstairs and have been born and raised here. I have a condition called dyspraxia and OCD and am currently learning British Sign Language. Looking over that last paragraph, I can’t work out how I’m not actually three people.girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Matthew: I don’t honestly think there was a specific time when I didn’t want to write, in some form. My dad was a journalist and both my parents have always been avid readers, so literature and a love of words has always been part of my life. For a while, I considered going into journalism, but don’t think I’d enjoy the intensity of the lifestyle – I like to be a bit more laid-back about my career choices!

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?

Matthew: Well, I wrote my first book when I was eight or nine, and it was a way of getting out of double geography at primary school – which I loathed. During my teenage years, I’d often write short stories, but never had the confidence to do anything with them. It was only when I was in my twenties did I actually think “Come on, Matthew, just do it” – face the fear (and the rejection!) and start sending some stuff out there!

girl with a quill: You have a very interesting website written from two different POVs? What made you decide on this unique website?
Matthew: I wish there was a more interesting story to this … a friend of mine and I have joined forces to publicise our work. We thought by sharing a site that we could increase traffic to our short stories and double our chances of getting people interested in what we’ve written. We share a lot of similar interests, so sharing a website seemed a logical extension of that.
girl with a quill: On your website you state you have 3 fears; Clowns,Morris Dancers and Water. Is there a reason why you fear these? What are Morris Dancers? 
Matthew: You don’t know what Morris Dancers are? I’m shocked! They’re an English folk tradition; dancers with bells tied round their legs and hankies tied to their sleeves doing weird dances to welcome in Summer on May Day. They’re a very … intense group of people who have regular conventions, and probably the only group of dancers that you can hear coming from half a mile away. There’s also a dance called the “Black Morris”, which welcomes in Winter – as a kid, that used to terrify me, and I can’t shake it off to this day.
    Water – well, that’s an easy one. I had swimming lessons as a kid, and would never put my head under water, so my swimming teacher once pushed it under and I swallowed a huge amount of water. It was absolutely terrifying, and any large body of water still gives me the creeps to this day.
    Clowns … well, don’t they scare you??
girl with a quill:One often hears that you need to face your fears to overcome them and I believe writers often use stories to work through events. Have you ever/Would you create a story with these three things you fear?
Matthew: Strange you should say that … I’ve written a short story about a clown called Hector, which was published in Ethereal Times a coupld of months ago. That was great fun to write – I utterly LOVED creating the compexity of Hector, he was – and is – awesome, at least as far as I’m concerned.
    I’m currently working on a short story about the sea as well … but I won’t say too much about that at the moment. As for Morris Dancers … hmm, that’s one to think about for the future – maybe!
    I am definitely one who channels his thoughts and feelings into his writing; it’s very therapeutic.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?
Matthew: Facebook and Twitter! I have met some awesome writers through here – Eden Baylee, Richard Wood, my interviewer to name but three, and there are a lot more there. I love bouncing ideas off people and seeing how other people work.
    I’ve also got two “off-line” friends as well, one being a very prolific writer in the south-west of England, James Sheridan – we’ve known each other for 20 years, and can be totally honest with each others’ work. David Grimstone is a huge inspiration to me, and I’m glad to know him – he always incredibly encouraging to me and I always value our chats!

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Matthew: Phew, there’s a question … I don’t know if I can say one thing. My parents, clearly, are huge influences on my writing. As I said earlier, I grew up in a house filled with books and words, and learnt to love both. I think that my dad’s writing style has rubbed off on me, although he is far more awesome at constructing a column or an article; our humour is very similar, though, so we tend to approach things from a similar viewpoint.

    Author-wise, I’d have to say … well, there’s a list. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are utter legends, and Stephen King and James Herbert aren’t far behind. I could go on and on and on … but those four appeal to me because of their complex plots that are still very easy to follow and wonderful to read. I love writers where you’re physically excited about their next book.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Matthew: It would definitely be a cross between fantasy and some sort of medical textbook, I suspect! Fantasy because I don’t honestly believe people would believe some of the jobs I’ve had and people I’ve met during my life, and medical because of my dyspraxia and OCD that has an impact on my life – although I make sure it’s as little impact as possible.

    The arc would be … interesting, to say the least; highs and lows, the same as anyone! Really developing new strands to my life in my 20’s; developing the confidence to face the inevitable rejection of being a fledgling writer, starting to learn Sign language and becoming an advocate for dyspraxia and deaf awareness. An intense arc, some might say!

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Matthew: I have a desk in my front room right by the window, so I can look out over the street from my flat. I love that; it gives me so much inspiration, just that view of people and the sea. The actual desk is fairly Spartan – two laptops, some notepaper and pens … oh, and a book I really MUST take back to the library. I prefer the space to be as empty as possible; it’s less distracting and more calming for me.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Matthew: They won’t shut up! I usually spend a week or so just jotting random thoughts down; names of characters, bits of plot, etc, then spend a lot of time daydreaming! I find music really helps me with that; it sends me off into the realms of … well, wherever you got when you daydream! I often walk as well – for some reason, walking and music together really help me think about the process. Gradually, things solidfy in my mind and I just start writing.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Matthew: Both – although more of a paster, if I’m honest! Everytime I start a story, I tell myself I will plot it through and follow that plot religiously … but it doesn’t quite work somehow. I love how things can evolve, and that can only happen if your plot is flexible enough to change.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Matthew: Reality-based fantasy. I love using the real world as a basis for my fantasy stories, because I love the “what if” question, and fantasy really helps me explore that. I can put the world into different contexts and see how people would react to the incredible.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Matthew: I’d love to try horror one day – but haven’t yet got the confidence. You need to be able to get that “fear factor” just right, and I need to read more extensively more I even have the nerve to try it!

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Matthew: Working on a couple of short stories at the moment, then hoping to go back to my manuscript in a couple of months; I need to change portions of that, so I’m having some “thinking time” away from it!

girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Matthew: Because I couldn’t imagine a life without it.
girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Matthew: I would hope there’s a humour that permeates my work. I find it funny, but the test is if other people find it funny as well! I’d also like to think that there’s a passion for life that comes through, as well; a message that life can survive, in a lot of different forms.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Matthew: I’d love to be a characted in Jasper Fforde’s series of Thursday Next books. Thursday is a LiteraTec, a detective working in and out of the fictional world and real world. That would be a fabulous job to try.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Matthew: Character, because without strong, powerful characters, your story will wither and die.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Matthew: I’ve got two; Hector the Clown, who I’ve mentioned before, because he’s got this extraordinary gift and just uses in such a morally dubious way, but for reasons that he thinks are good and decent and honest.

    My second character is Joseph, a leading character in my unpublished manuscript “Fall From Grace”, which I’m just re-editing now. He is very similar to me in many ways, and he was definitely my mouthpiece in the book.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Matthew:It’s tough to pick just one, it really is. I’m going to say Thursday Next again, because of how she’s written; Jasper Fforde has created this absolutely deep and layered character and invested a huge amount of humour and pathos within her.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Matthew: Must I have just five?? Alright then … Jasper Fforde (because of his book series and how much I suspect his humour is similar to mine, Richard Wood (because  he runs the Word Count Podcast and has just been published – and would have a lot of stories to tell), Terry Pratchett (who is just plain awesome), David Grimstone (the author I mentioned earlier who is incredibly down to Earth and well-versed in so many subjects that overlap with my interests) and Jeani Reactor, editor of the Horror Zine, who is an amazing and patient editor!

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Matthew: Thursday Next – because she just kicks arse; Samuel Vimes from the Discworld novels, because he would actually give a totally straight answer to anything you asked and wouldn’t filter his response; Davey Swag from David Stone’s book of the same name because he’s had experiences so far out of this world, it’s untrue; Symond Bryson from The Prodigal’s Foole, because he could really advise me on my own fantasy creations, and Lyra Belacqua from Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – she’s so well-written and complex.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Matthew: Don’t be afraid of rejection. It happens to everyone – accept it and make your writing better as a result.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Matthew: Remember how you felt when you had your first piece of fiction published? Hold on to that feeling; if you ever lose it, it might be time to consider your options.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Matthew: To engage people in my stories and make them think.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find you on the web?

Matthew: At www.writeordie.co.uk or 
http://vikingbay.blogspot.com/ – come and visit, maybe even say “hi!”


The Dark Side

Human Nature/Life Death, Art Institute...
Image by christine zenino via Flickr

Do you have a Dark Side? You may think you don’t. But I have news for you. If you are human then you do have a dark side. It is part of human nature. Does that make you dark in nature? For some the answer here may be yes. For most, the answer will be no. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this. Well let me tell you.

Today in one of my online writing groups one of the writers posed an incredibly interesting question that got me thinking. Part of the question is why we write? I have been focusing a lot on this over the last few weeks. For me, writing is cathartic.  But I also believe it serves a tool in giving a voice, in a safe environment, to people who feel they have no voice. 

The question also explored why one writes in a specific genre. A lot of my writing explores the Dark side of the world and/or human nature. Is it because it fascinates me or repels me? I would say both reasons would be correct. For whatever reason people who have been severely hurt in life are drawn into my inner circle. I believe that everything in life does happen for a reason even if at the time a person cannot understand it or explain it. This I believe includes the Dark Side of life. 

Do I believe there are evil people or do I believe that there are just people who commit good and bad deeds? Again my answer would be yes to both of these questions. I have had a brush with a really evil person in life. It still haunts me to this day. But I am thankful for that experience. I will not go into too much detail here but I will share a bit. When I was growing up, there was a spate of missing girls in the same age group as I was. (early teens) We used to buy milk cartons that had the girls’ pictures on and asking for people to phone in with any information. It was something to be feared especially because the police had no leads on why these girls went missing or what the link was beyond their similar age brackets. The girls were taken over a large area and over many years so police did not connect the dots. I remember numerous news casts warning young girls to be vigilant.

During a school holiday I was visiting a friend and on one of the days we were out walking in the holiday town that she lived in. After a while we noticed a car that seemed to be trailing us for a few blocks. Being a holiday town where people were often driving very slowly and sightseeing, this may not have been unusual. However, something prodded my sub-conscious. 

I have always had an uncanny sixth sense. For many years I viewed this sixth sense as a curse. What is my sixth sense I hear you asking? It comes in two parts. I can tell a person’s true nature within moments of meeting them. I inherently know when people are deceitful or dangerous. You may think this is a great tool to have but it is not. You see, sometimes you do just want to see the surface mask of a person. You really do not want to see any hidden skeletons straight off the bat. That day my sixth sense kicked in.

Something prodded my sixth sense into overdrive and I told my friend we had to get to somewhere with more people immediately. My friend though confused saw my alarm and urgency and agreed. So we picked up our pace but the car just increased its speed to keep up with us but not overtake us. All of a sudden, the car passed us and pulled up onto the curb in front of us blocking our path. An older man got out with a map in his hand. At this point everything in me screamed to run and not look back. Danger with huge flashing lights seemed to be playing over and over in my mind.

What about the man’s appearance triggered this? To be honest, nothing. But when I locked eyes with the man I felt sick to my core. I felt like I was looking at pure evil. I could not explain it but it is just what I felt at the time. He was an ordinary and unprepossessing character. He could have been someone’s kindly  and quiet uncle. In fact on pure appearance he looked trustworthy and non-threatening. But it was there in his eyes. They seemed dead to me. Not without emotion dead but there was a nothingness there, a hollowed inhuman look that seemed to want to penetrate my soul. 

The man started moving towards us and he started saying he was lost and needed some directions. All the time he steadily advanced towards us keeping eye contact all the time. As much as I wanted to break eye contact I could not. My friend started then walking towards him. Being a sweet girl she was always the first to help others. However this time I knew this man did not want nor need help. He did not look lost. In fact he seemed to know exactly where he was and what he wanted. Everything in me told me it was not directions he was after.

I grabbed my friend’s hand harshly and started running with her. She struggled at first and said that I was being paranoid. Until she realised the man had got back in his car and done a u-turn to pursue us. I ran with her to the building nearest us which happened to be a clinic. We ran in the clinic. A nurse came out with us to see what we were running from. There was nobody there. The man in the car had disappeared. 

Though this event shook me and my friend. I eventually put it to one side in my mind. But there was always a niggling reminder. It was not until about 5 years later while watching an emergency news broadcast that suddenly I went ice-cold. The broadcaster announced that there was an emergency announcement from the police. They had solved the cases of the missing girls. The murderer was found after a suicide-murder in which he killed first his partner in the kidnapping and subsequent murders of the young girls and then killed himself. They unearthed the bones of a few of the girls. But many they could not find. The police showed pictures of the murderer/kidnapper/paedophile and his partner. 

I was watching the news with my parents at the time. I turned white as a sheet and almost fell from the edge of the chair that I was sitting on. A cold permeated my being that I could not shake. The picture of the man in the tv was the same man who my friend and I had run away from when we were young girls in a holiday town. It was then that I told my parents what had happened all those years ago. They could not believe it. 

To this day it haunts me that I came so close to a killer who was so evil. I am thankful that I was with my friend that day and that my sixth sense kicked in. I shudder with dread to think what may have happened if I had not been there. She might have been another picture on a milk carton. But it also haunts me that this man went on kidnapping/torturing and killing girls for 5 more years before the police knew who he was. To the nurse at the clinic that day my fears seemed irrational and childish. I allowed her to convince me that I had just over-reacted. What if I hadn’t allowed her to convince me otherwise? That question haunts me to this day.

Perhaps this is why so much of my writing has vulnerable girls thrown into dangerous, whether it be physical/psychological/supernatural. events and having to find a way to survive. Perhaps I am trying to re-write the stories of those missing girls whose pictures haunted my adolescence. Perhaps I am trying to re-write stories where the victims can become victors and take their vengeance or become survivors that can teach/help others. 

But I do believe that our lives and the events and experiences do form us as both people and writers. We all have events that haunt our memories. This event that I have described above has had a huge impact on my life. I shared it because there are some truths that do need to come to light. For me writing is a way to give these hauntings a place to free themselves from the clutches of my memory. Writing these stories and these characters give me a safe way to cleanse my mind of horrific and difficult situations.

  • Do you write to let out your inner hauntings, those memories and events that lock onto your sub-conscious?

Writing and Truth are two-edged swords. The power of the written word can both harm or heal. Much like truth. I believe writers like all artists have a powerful purpose in this world. We can depict truth in all its ugliness and beauty and people can heal through our work. We need to wield our words carefully. We can choose to cut to heal or cut to harm with this sword. It is a task not to be taken lightly.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Ring of Fire – Hope ~ Tales for Canterbury

Table of Contents – Hope | Tales for Canterbury.

Ring of Fire – Hope – Tales for Canterbury

My first short story will be published in the upcoming month in an amazing anthology of short stories called Tales for Canterbury. This is a project that I am proud and honoured to be a part of. Firstly it is a wonderful selection of stories by very talented authors. Secondly it is a project dear to my heart personally as not so long ago I called Christchurch, New Zealand home. So to be able to be part of a project that honours Christchurch and raises funds for the Red Cross is very special to me.

The book has been broken up into 3 parts:

  • Survival
  • Hope
  • Future

Each part has stories that are themed around one of these three parts.

My story, Ring of Fire, is set in the Theme of HOPE.

When I was first invited to submit for this anthology I was only given these 3 key themes and told that the story needed to encapsulate either one of these three or could be a combined theme of all three. I was also told that it needed to be a fantasy-based story.

At first I pondered on these three themes for about a week or two. I realised that these three themes are core themes of the human drama we face in all cultures. I also felt a kinship with these themes as these are the themes in most of my own writings from my poetry to prose to novels. I believe in Survival, Hope and Future. But for me the greatest of these three is HOPE. For without hope it is difficult to survive and without hope it is impossible to conceive a future out of that survival. So I knew that I had chosen a theme that not only was the basis for the other two themes but something I desperately believe makes all the difference in our lives as human beings: HOPE.

Did I have a story in mind? Not immediately. But the story found me. Or rather my MC found me and told me her story. Within a few days I had the story in front of me. I was ready to compile it and submit it through to Tales for Canterbury. This story is unlike any of my other stories but the theme and premise is the same that threads its way through all my stories. The character was a challenge for me as it was a different POV than I am used to writing in. But the story weaved itself out onto the page and before long I knew I had a “quilt” of hope, survival and future in MS form.

This story is set in a dystopian world and centres on one Main Character who against odds is forced to be a Survivor. This MC is similar to my other MCs in that looking at the MC you see a vulnerable character who does not quite fit in with anyone or anything. Two terrible crises brings the inner strength of this character to the light and hope shines through a dark time. The story is told through the voice and perspective of the MC. As this character experiences danger and is thrown into a fight for survival, so you the reader will feel the same fear, doubt, flight/fight response, rallying strength and refusal to give up and in the end pure HOPE: the lifeblood that gives her strength to see a future that is brighter than what has gone before.

It is wonderful when a character is able to capture your heart. I believe this character will capture your heart as mine was captured. I believe in this story and I believe in this MC. But more than that I believe in the underlying message that threads its way through the story. It is not only the strong that survive. Sometimes it is those that seem most vulnerable that shine in sheer strength when their soul is tested by great trials. Sometimes vulnerability and innocence are just masks for a pure and noble spirit. In times of great conflict and drama, these masks fall away and the true spirit of strength shines though. Sometimes all a person/character needs is hope and a reason to fight for survival. Give them both and you have a warrior that is pure and strong in heart.

That is Ring of Fire.

_______~~~_______

What is Tales for Canterbury?

Tales for Canterbury is a short story anthology loosely themed around survival, hope and the future. All profits of this anthology will be donated to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal.

Tales for Canterbury

The anthology will be released in April/May 2011 in electronic and paperback formats.  It features stories by RJ Astruc, Philippa Ballantine, Jesse Bullington, Anna Caro, Cat Connor, Brenda Cooper, Debbie Cowens, Matt Cowens, Merrilee Faber, AJ Fitzwater, Janis Freegard, Neil Gaiman, Cassie Hart, A.M. Harte, Karen Healey, Leigh K. Hunt, Lynne Jamneck, Patty Jansen, Gwyneth Jones, Tim Jones, Kim Koning, Jay Lake, Helen Lowe, Kate Mahony, Tina Makereti, Juliet Marillier, Angel Leigh McCoy, Linda Niccol, Ripley Patton, Simon Petrie, Grant Stone, Jeff Vandermeer, Mary Victoria and Sean Williams.

Pre-orders are now available from Random Static Press.

If you would like to contact us, you can email Cassie at winterchild9@gmail.com

We are so excited to have pre-orders open! Check out our new page Get Your Copy!” or go straight to the source and head over to Random Static.

The print copy is priced at NZ$24.95 (including postage within NZ) and the digital version is a mere NZ$12.00! At those prices, you might as well pick one up for a friend too. ;-)


Mary Lou Cassotto ~ Sisterhood & Stories

Today I have the honour of having a woman who has “fought the good fight” on behalf of all women out there. She was an instrumental part of the 1970’s Women’s Movement and helped get the first Woman Senator elected to her seat. She is woman who has worn many hats in her lifetime, amongst these being a lawyer at a time when women were rarely seen in court and when they were they tended to raise eyebrows. She still wears many hats and like all women seems to thrive on being the Multi-Tasker juggling many different balls in the air. Sit down with me while I chat to a woman who knows the true value and meaning of the term “Sisterhood” and what it took to give the Modern Woman her equal voice. Be prepared to want to ask many more questions of my fascinating and courageous guest…

I introduce Mary Lou Cassotto  –  a true Survivor, a courageous “sister” and a warrior of words and ideals.


girl with a quill: Hi Mary Lou. Lovely to have you here in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio. Take a seat. Get comfortable. Can I offer you something to drink while we talk?

Mary Lou: My favourite drinks would be Chai tea in cooler months, apple martinis or mango ones in the warmer ones.

girl with a quill: Who is Mary Lou?

Mary Lou: Mary Lou is the person who has looked for the perfect job her entire life, one that would give her time to have a real life and a stimulating professional one at the same time. If you know what it is, please let ME know! She is a dreamer/realist who was once the shyest person in her class but now teaches Public Speaking on the college level when she is not teaching College Writing mostly to criminal investigation students. She loves cats, dogs, children, attending writing, reading and library conventions and meeting other writers.

girl with a quill: You have been a lawyer, teacher, librarian, drama coach. What role was most challenging?

Mary Lou: You forgot to add that I worked as a counselor as well for a while! (My apologies..) I’d have to say the most challenging role had to be the one of being a lawyer, although each job had its challenges. When I practiced law in 1975, I was often the only woman in the courtroom. I think there were just three or four of us at that time in the state capital where I worked. A lot of men did not think we women should be in the courtroom, as well as most of the women. I am sure that has all changed now, although the lack of creativity one is allowed to express in the courtroom, I doubt, has changed.

(Now I can definitely see a compelling story here..)

Writing now has its challenges as well. Although I have taught writing in college, high school and junior high school for more than twenty years, the kind of writing I was taught in school and that I teach,  is totally different from the kind one needs to know about to be a good creative writer. Writers today definitely are not following the formats of the classical authors. There is no time for readers to spend focusing on and absorbing the literature of the past. The writing craft is changing constantly, and I am continually learning.

girl with a quill: When did you decide to become a writer and how long have you been writing?

The only things I ever really wanted to be in my life were a writer and an artist, ever since grammar school. Being able to do those things seemed to me only for those born with  talent, or the very brave. I was OK at those two disciplines, but to survive I took the safer route, I became an English and Art teacher, and a librarian.

I realized at age seven that the only way to have a lasting influence on the world was to paint or write, so I began then to write my first novel. I don’t remember, but I think my book was about a princess; I wanted to be one of those too! I read every fairy tale book there was in my public library as well as studied painting in the turrets there with professional artists. My mother worked part time to fund my art courses. The library was my bridge to a larger world. My mother hadn’t completed high school, my aunts never made it out of grade school; one of my grandmothers signed her name with an X, so you can see how much of an effect the library had on me. I wish I knew where that first book was.

(The young Mary Lou was wise beyond her years it may seem in reflection. How astute an observation! Yes the power of art and creativity can not only influence the world but change it. It is a path that is not a job but a calling.)

In the 1970’s, I later tried to write a play about the women’s movement. I had helped put together most of the women’s groups in my state; I and six friends worked on legislation, hired the first woman lobbyist, groomed women to run for public office and sponsored them. I flew down to Texas to obtain funds to help run the first woman for the state Senate. I also was instrumental in establishing the Permanent Commission of the Status of Women, sat on the first Board of Directors, was the first woman chair in my town of the Economic Development Commission, as well as the first day care and battered wives shelter. The play was about the women in my groups, my “sisters” we called ourselves, and how different we all were. Many of the women  had switched sexual orientation after finding no support in their efforts at authentication. We often disagreed, because I wanted to find a way of reconciling  the “old ways” with the new. I had been raised strict Catholic and was married. The play was called, “Where Do We Go from Here?” Unfortunately, I never finished it. It was written when Wendy Wasserstein first wrote.

Then in 2009, NaNoWriMo came into my life and the rest is history. While everyone else worked on their novel, I tried writing a memoir about the true story of the women’s movement in my state. I wanted others to know the costs some women had to pay in order for other women to have their rights. After three attempts I gave up non-fiction, and switched to YA fiction. As I had worked with young people as a public defender for juveniles and as a teacher, it was a logical choice.

girl with a quill: In most jobs, we all have a water cooler area where we gather around the water cooler or automatic coffee machine and discuss the office news and gossip. Do you have a Water Cooler group?

Mary Lou: Without a doubt, my main Water Cooler group is the Warrior Chat group begun by Lia Keyes, who has been very active in the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I am absolutely addicted to the group and have learned so much about writing craft and the changes in the publishing industry from them. The members feel like “best friends” and I especially love commiserating with my Brit sisters from England, Australia, New Zealand, and my other European  sisters from Holland and from Spain. My background, because of the times I grew up in, the literature I read, and my major in college, make me think more British than American. Communicating with the group is like coming home.

I also belong to two SCBWI picture groups, and a YA group that meets near New York City. Each group is so different.

girl with a quill: Who has been the greatest influence on your life and your writing?

Mary Lou: Gladys Taber, the woman who compiled the Stillmeadow books from her magazine articles in the 1960’s in Family Circle magazine, has had the most effect on my life, overall. She is my favorite author, and like me attended an all women’s college. She then went on to teach writing at Columbia, and like myself, became disenchanted with the city, so she and her best friend from college bought a little house in Southbury, Connecticut, where they raised prize-winning cocker spaniels and where she supported herself and the rest of their families, by writing  cooking and gardening books as well as self-reflective books about the changing of the seasons. She was my hope and life line in my times of greatest despair. Like me, she wound up being separated from her husband, and how she continued to make herself happy has always been of the utmost inspiration to me.

I have also belonged to a couple of Jane Austen fan clubs, visited the homes of various women authors and male painters, and studied the Bronte sisters’ life in depth. Concord, Massachusetts, the home of Louisa May Alcott is one of my favorite places as is Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the home of Daniel Chester French, who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial. Literally, I decided to study and teach art and literature after visiting Alcott’s and French’s homes.

girl with a quill: If your life was a novel, what kind of novel would it be and what would be the story arc?

Mary Lou: My life would be a realistic YA novel as well as an inspirational one, because I have had to overcome many obstacles in my life, including being the first woman in my family to attend college, and the first woman in my town to attend law school. My being divorced after a long marriage and being a single mom also presented severe challenges.

(Those are some astounding “firsts”. You truly embody chasing after a dream!)

girl with a quill: Describe your writing space.

Mary Lou: Well, years ago I bought a table like the one Hemingway wrote on in Key West, but I write in the same place I used to write as a little girl, in my bed, with my electric blanket turned up full blast even in April, and with my dogs Cutie and Tia, and my cat Snowflake, by my side. There has to be a pine, lavender or grass scented candle wafting in the distance, complete silence, and a large block of time. I don’t know how others can write at their kids’ soccer practice! I also need my story outline and character motivation sheets at my side. Snow days are a God send.

(Wow…I am envious: A table like Ernest Hemingway..I am also a bed-writer. You have to love the invention of the laptop computer.)

girl with a quill: From the moment when you first get the inkling of a story, what is your writing process.

Mary Lou: I am afraid my writing process is not all that magical.  Don’t tell anyone, but after all these years, I first start with a theme or lesson in mind, and create a main character who is a younger version of myself. I then write out a plot outline. Even though I am a writing teacher, making one of these has also been a recent requirement of mine, including indications of where quotations, recurring symbols and crises will occur. I also fill out painstakingly long character motivation sheets. I do not find using these constraining, but liberating; they free me to just focus on dialogue and the details.

If I have any muses, they are my pets, who continue to love me, even when I am too tired to walk them. Their antics also give me ideas for my picture books.


girl with a quill: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mary Lou: During NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser, but I have found that plotting is the best way to write. I jot down the skeleton of my story first, and over a period of a few weeks I tweak it. Then usually, without trying, the details, like dialogue, come to me in my sleep at night.  I am usually thinking about what should happen in the next few chapters when I am writing, and I keep a notebook near my bed to record whatever ideas inevitably wake me up at 3AM.

girl with a quill: What genre are you writing in now? What genre would you choose to write in?

Presently, I am really focusing on a YA realistic novel, but I also am writing first drafts of picture books about the adventures of my pets.  Next, I have a great idea for a YA historical novel about the times of Mary Lincoln, a comic boy-girl YA book based on a girl’s experience with her history teacher mother and her mother’s love for Winston Churchill, and a paranormal sequel to Jane Eyre.

(Sounds fascinating…Get writing on the new idea..sounds like a keeper.)

girl with a quill: I hear that you are challenging yourself by writing in three different categories right now. Tell us about the three genres you are writing in right now.

Mary Lou: I am afraid I gave up trying to write a memoir a long time ago, but instead decided to make a fictional character in my YA realistic fiction book that like myself was very active in the women’s movement.

My YA book began with  a quote from Louisa May Alcott and a trip to Concord, Massachusetts. It was heavily influenced by some heroic girls I once met who decided to carry their unplanned pregnancies to full term and put them up for adoption. My novel is about a young girl putting her baby up for adoption. I wanted to say that girls have choices if they find themselves pregnant. I know how hard it was to be a single parent, yet being a mother was my favorite job. I think babies are a treasure and that there is more than one way to deal with babies if a girl finds herself in a situation of becoming a mother before she is ready to.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a bit eccentric about my dogs. We do all crazy things together, go to dog costume events, dog Easter egg hunts; we even belong to Dog Scouts of America and do reading therapy work for our badges. My picture books are about them and my “good cat Snowflake” to borrow an appellation from my favorite early chapter book author, Cynthia Ryland.

girl with a quill: Is it a challenge to write three different stories for three different markets? Which category was the most challenging, and why?

Mary Lou: It is very challenging to write in three genres both because each one is so different and because of time constraints. When I teach college expository writing, there is a different story structure for process, cause and effect, classification, and comparison and contrast essays, for instance. The same is true for the genres. One has to look at samples of each category to see the difference and study the differences in how the stories open up and hang together.

Although I focus on my realistic YA novel, I belong to two picture book critique groups and write first drafts of picture books, because I want to write books about my pets while they are still alive, and not later when sadness might enter my stories.

As I said, I have given up writing a memoir for now. I am afraid that my story just wouldn’t be sensational enough in today’s competitive market with all the celebrity stories out there. I also had difficulty figuring out how to present my story in a novel engaging way. Russell Baker chose to write about himself by focusing on how the three women in his life, his mother, mother-in-law and wife effected him. I tried this but it wasn’t exciting enough.

(I don’t know about “not sensational enough”…I am sure you were at the heart of a lot of sensational dramas in those times. Your story is a real story and I think that many people would prefer to read about a story that they can relate to than one based in Hollywood…I know I would.)

girl with a quill: If you found a genie in a lamp and could have a wish granted to be a character in you own book or in another author’s, what character would you choose?

Mary Lou: That is not a difficult choice at all. I would be the newly divorced female character, or maybe not so newly divorced when her feelings were so raw, in Under the Tuscan Sun. My divorce impacted me much as it did that author, but she got to live it out by buying a home in Italy.  Wouldn’t that be every divorced woman’s dream?

(Great Choice! I think that would be any woman’s dream….loved Under the Tuscan Sun.)

girl with a quill:What is more important to you, plot or character, and why?

Mary Lou: I’d have to say they are both important. We live in an action packed world today, and there definitely is no story without conflict, but characters are what make stories timeless and universal. I have read many stories about the Civil War, but what would Gone with the Wind be without Scarlett O’Hara. Setting is important too, but what would the moors be without Heathcliff? People read stories to understand human nature.

girl with a quill: Who is your favorite character in your own writing? Why?

Mary Lou: My favorite character would have to be Emma, the new friend my main character meets after she has been set up by the popularity hungry girls she has been friends with since grade school. Emma is half-American Jew, half-Brit. Both of her parents are English teachers and the family loves the classics. Emma is the perfect friend anyone would ever want to have. I named her Emma after my adorable five-year old grand-niece, but then, of course, there is Jane Austen’s Emma. I unconsciously modeled her a little after two older “adopted big sisters” I had that were Jewish, and my best friend from college who was an atypical army brat who spent her formative years in England. We shared the same interests, but then she went off to be a nun and work with AID’s patients in Haiti. She died at 53 of cancer. I miss her, but made her come alive  in my book.

girl with a quill: Who is your favorite character in the literary world? Why?

Mary Lou: This is difficult to answer, because there are so many: Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, Hermann Hesse’s Demian. The first two had integrity and a will to endure. The latter shows a more vulnerable person another way of living and protects that person from bullies. I like Carrie Jone’s YA main characters a lot; they care about other people, maybe even more than themselves and have some of the same qualities as those classical characters.

girl with a quill: If I was throwing a dinner party and told you to invite five famous creative people  or literary characters, whom would you invite and why?

Mary Lou: The answer to this might have been Van Gogh in my youth; I taught art and loved his work , or Michelangelo. It might even have been Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, or my favorite author, Gladys Taber. But lately, I’ve met other heroines who are extremely creative and talented.  I’d rather invite the men and women I’ve met in my Facebook Warrior Chat group. They are so creative, so diverse and so supportive, and have lived such interesting lives. They’ve been international journalists, set designers, artists, directors, special education teachers, computer geeks. They have their pulses on the future.

Only thing, I want to meet in a warm place like Brisbane, Australia, where authors know how to party and where I can feed the kangaroos, and not in cold New England.

(I am sure Sheryl Gwyther would be tickled pink at the idea of us all showing up in her home town…mmmhhh maybe an idea is percolating…)

girl with a quill: What one piece of advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your writing career?

Mary Lou: I would say, “Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Life is what it is; don’t worry about what others think or say. Use your real voice.

girl with a quill: What one piece of advice will you give yourself as a writer at the end of the next ten years?

Mary Lou: I would tell myself, “Remember those distractions that kept you from writing all those years? The dogs being sick or having to walk them, having to keep a job to make a living, exercising, reading, visiting your friends? That was your real life.

To use all the clichés: ‘This isn’t a dress rehearsal; it’s the real thing, and you only go around once.’ You made memories; use them in your books. It’s all you really have.”

girl with a quill: What is the lasting legacy you would like to leave as a writer?

Mary Lou: I would like my books to reflect the value of the classics and knowledge of history, as well as the joys of my traditional simple life style. I would also like future young women to understand that the women in my generation valued “sisterhood” and that my generation paid a price to ensure the choices in theirs. That is enough.

girl with a quill: Where can we find you on the web?

My blog is entitled What is essential is, and can be found at  HYPERLINK “http://whatisessentialis.blogspot.com” http://whatisessentialis.blogspot.com.

Well Mary Lou it has indeed been an honour having you in my studio today. This is what I love about doing these “Warrior Wednesdays”: No matter how many times I run these interviews, I never tire of learning something new and being freshly inspired. I would also like to put forward my vote that you do write a memoir, whether it be in fiction or non-fiction format – just listening to you talk now has left me wanting to know more. Looking back at all you and many other women have accomplished that I may be able to hold my head high and have an equal voice leaves me humbled and filled with gratitude. You still have a lot to teach us younger women and I look forward to the stories you create. Thank you.


What is your Story’s Premise?

tower of books and a man interested
Image by zen via Flickr

http://narrativedisorder.com/storycraft/2011/03/storycraft-book-chat-1on-writing-by-stephen-king/.

Yesterday I sat in on a tweetchat on twitter. The link to the chat transcript is above. The subject was: The Premise.

So what is “The Premise” of your story?

Bill Johnson defines it as “the Foundation of Storytelling”. He breaks this down even further with:

“A story premise sets out a story’s core dramatic issue, the movement of that issue toward resolution, and the fulfillment that resolution sets up for the story’s audience.”

So to break that definition into even simpler terms:The Premise needs to have the Dramatic Issue of your story, the movement and the fulfilled resolution.

i.e. “Lajos Egri in The Art of Dramatic Writing goes into great detail about what a premise is. Egri’s premise for Romeo and Juliet: ‘Great love defies even death.'”

The chat started off discussing individual Premise’ for each story but then evolved into whether as writers we have an omni-Premise for our writing. I have been reflecting quite a bit on this chat and on this subject and came up with what The Premise means to me, my individual stories and my combined writing.

Do you always have a Premise figured out before you start writing a new story?

Sometimes I do but sometimes the Premise grows from something floating above my head to something solid. It grows as I talk to my characters and find out what their story is. The Premise then becomes their answer as to why I am telling their story.

Does this mean “The Premise” is unique to my story or my characters?

No. Many writers and many stories could have the same premise but this does not make them the same story. For instance if you took Romeo and Juliet’s Premise – ‘Great love defies even death’ – I can pull up at least one other great love story that has the same Premise: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Now beyond the fact that we know over 200 years separated Mr Shakespeare and Miss Bronte, we also know that these two stories are completely different from one another.

Do all stories have a Premise? and Does a story have just one Premise?

Yes. All stories have a Premise. The Premise is the core and the foundation of your story.

One Premise? This is a catch-22. You could argue that a story could have many different Premise’ but ultimately I believe there is one core Premise that is the foundation. Just like a building of brick, concrete or wood has only one foundation. A story is also a building, it is built from words and imagination.

Do I have  an Omni-Premise that is the foundation of all my stories?

Your stories may all be very different whether that be in terms of genre, category or voice. But if you look at them even closer do you perhaps see a thread of thought, call it moral for argument’s sake, that twines its way through all your stories?

I realised that for myself there is an Omni-Premise that is at the heart of all my stories. Indeed I even find that same thread winding its way through my poetry as well.

My Omni-Premise is:

Trials and Tribulations are the diamond dust that polish a noble and pure soul into a shining gem that can survive the heat of any soul-fire and through that polishing it grows into the person it is meant to be.

I realised my stories are about those characters that are viewed as externally vulnerable but have an inner core of independence, refusing to be called “victim”, are always being tested by trials and tribulations. My stories are about survival and my main characters finding the courage to survive against all odds. Indeed it is only through their suffering that my characters find their true path as survivors. I am always drawn to the darker subjects because life is not a bed of roses but a life lived without trials ensures a soul that has not been tested for its true strength. I find my reading habits all have this Premise to them. Of course I read many types of stories being the bookworm that I am but the ones that I re-read and the ones that resonate deep within me all have this surviving in the heart of trouble/darkness/conflict. I guess you could say that though I am drawn to darker subjects…I look for the rainbow after every storm. Without storms there can be no rainbow.

So what is your Premise for the story you are working on? Do you have an Omni-Premise that threads its way through all of your writings? Are you drawn to certain types of stories? Why? What sort of stories do you want to tell?

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning


Scared by a story? Meet Elise VanCise….

We have all tucked into our favourite armchair with a cup of hot cocoa. It is cold and dark outside. The wind is whistling softly outside. It is the perfect time to open your new purchase: your favourite thriller. You open up the pages and soon you are so lost in the story that when the phone rings; you jump and your heart is racing a mile a minute. Every creak in the floorboards, every noise in the house makes you tuck in deeper, trying to hide from all the would-be dangers…that is when you know that you are reading a book that turns even the most mundane into a thrill. Have you ever wondered what sort of person is behind the pen that writes that book? What skills do they need to thrill you? What experiences turn them into a person who can write a story that can make you jump at imagined danger…and all this with the power of words and imagination? Well wonder no more. Today’s Warrior is that person behind that book that thrills you on cold winter nights….So sit down, tuck into a favourite armchair with a cup of cocoa and listen to the talk behind the thrills…

Introducing author: Elise VanCise

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Elise VanCise?

Elise:   I’m a writer/photographer, native Floridian, and a single home schooling mom. I love to explore museums and historic sites. I’m addicted to dark chocolate and cherry Dr Pepper. I carry pen and notebook where ever I go. I’ve been known to write in the middle of the grocery store when an idea hits.

girl with a quill: If you wrote yourself a part in one of your stories, what role would you play and why?

Elise: The beautiful rich heroine that gets the guy of course! Really though I think I write a bit of myself in every story. There’s always a quirk or favorite thing in the stories that reflect a bit of who I am.

girl with a quill: Which is the more challenging hat to wear and why – that of journalist or that of novelist?

Elise: Journalist, because you have to be careful of what you report and how accurate it is. Every detail must be checked and double checked. Fiction you have much more freedom to bend reality anyway you like.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer/journalist?

Elise:  In 2006 I joined NaNoWriMo and wrote the first draft of In the Dark. Finishing the book I realized hey this has been my passion all along. I had just never written a full novel.  I wanted to have an avenue that was a bit more lucrative between books so I started working as a freelance journalist /photographer in 2009.  I love being able to write about the people and places I meet along the way.

girl with a quill: Do you find that your skills in journalism have helped/hindered your skills as a novelist? How?

Elise:  I think learning to think like a journalist has helped me see things in new ways. I have been able to put that into my fiction writing as well. I’ve been able to find some great story ideas while out and working as a journalist. My hindrance is switching my tenses lol. You write mostly active voice present tense in a news/non-fiction article. I find myself switching tenses in the middle of my stories. It makes editing interesting and I drive my writing partner Rose Wade a little crazy sometimes.

girl with a quill: I know that you are a prolific NaNoWriMo participant and winner 5 times over.

What is it about NaNoWriMo that makes you keep on competing?

Elise:  I love the challenge of NaNoWriMo. To write 50,000 words in only 30 days is a feat. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to hit that mark and watch your green bar go purple. I also enjoy the camaraderie that you get with writers from around the world.

girl with a quill: For those naysayers of NaNoWriMo, what would you say have been the highlights of your NaNoWriMo involvement, not only as a writer but as a municipal liaison?

Elise:  I think the highlight of NaNo for me is seeing people who never thought they could write a story. It really doesn’t matter if you make it to 50k. NaNoWriMo is all about the joy of writing.  Being able to see first time writers grow and find their own voices over the course of the contest is a really great thing to witness.

As a municipal liaison I’ve been able to create a group for writers in my area. We meet the 4th Wed. every month at the Eustis Denny’s at 6:30pm. Everyone is welcome we have members of all ages.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?

Elise:  Yes, I do. I have the monthly group I spoke about and I chat every day with my writing partner Rose.  We met on a fan fic writing board and became close friends, sisters-in-heart.  I also am an online member of a few groups such as Fellow Writers on Facebook. Lots of wonderful people in there.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Elise: I would have to say just the world around me is my greatest influence.  God created this great big place, filling it with such wonders. There’s something to be inspired by everywhere you look.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Elise:  I would have to say a mix of Drama, Horror, and Comedy. The last year has been such a roller coaster of emotions and events, I’m kind of surprised the white coats haven’t knocked on my door yet lol.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Elise: I write mostly at my desk. I have photos of my fave places and my son. Two books always at hand a thesaurus and The Descriptionary. I have a koosh ball and Baoding Balls, both are great when your hands get tired from typing or sore. I have carpel tunnel and arthritis so they are great tools for my poor achy hands. I have a flower pot painted with all my pens and pencils in it. I have all sorts of crazy shaped ones.  Most important other than my computer is my bulletin board. Part of it is filled with some memory items but half is my novel notes and bullet points.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Elise:  I start jotting down ideas and possibilities of where it might lead. Then jump into some research for some building materials to really set the idea. As I look though these materials the characters really start to come to life. I’ll do little shorts or a paragraph or two writing about or as that character to flesh them out. Once we’re all acquainted I dive into the story.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Elise: I’m somewhere in the middle. I make a bullet point outline of at least 60 points. Scenes, dialog, plot points, character notes. Whatever I need, I then print it out and cut them apart. I put each bullet on the board in story sequence, sort of like a story board.  It helps me see the progress as each finished bullet is pulled down.

girl with a quill: How important a part does the digital world and an online platform play in your life?

Do you believe that writers now have more control over their own platform now that we live in an increasingly virtual online world of social networking/blogging/tumbling/tweeting ect?

Elise: The digital world is a huge part of my life. I work, play and even use online curriculum to home school my son.  I think writers now have the ability to be more hands on. There are more and more opportunities being created for us to spread the word about our ‘brand’.  Being involved in social networking is almost a necessity these days. You need to have an internet presence to reach the audience you want.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Elise: That’s hard to answer. I write so many different kinds of stories but I think my books and niche fall in Paranormal Thrillers. There is always a touch of comedy and romance tossed in the mix as well.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Elise:  Crime/Mystery these are the things I like to read. A good thrill or a dark mystery to solve.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any new story now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Elise:  I have several projects going actually. I’m working on one called Out of the Air. Evan is a scientist who doesn’t believe in anything other than logic. A near death experience causes her to meet someone who shows her science can’t explain everything.

The other is Worth.  A photographer working for World Magazine doing a story on the Congo where she finds herself in a war zone doing more than taking pictures.

girl with a quill: If you met a found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Elise:  To become a character for a short time. Everyone wants to be someone else, just for a little while, to lead a more adventurous, glamorous life. Then just think of the story ideals you’ll come out with for your own work!

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Elise: Character, it’s the character that readers really connect with. You can love a story and not be thrilled with the characters. But once you fall in love with a Character the story becomes more compelling. You’re feeling something for them every time you turn the page.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Elise:  That’s hard they’re all my darlings lol. I would have to say Dean Cross. He’s an ex Marine with a bigger than life personality. Fun loving but ready for action at a moments notice.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Elise:  You know I’m not really sure I have a favorite.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Elise:  Stephen King, what writer wouldn’t want to sit down with the master! Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, I would love to see Florida though her eyes in the early days of the state.  My favorite artist Salvador Dali, his art has so much in it. Each piece tells more than one story.  Russell Crowe, an actor who brings so much life to the characters he plays. It would be wonderful to talk about characterization and what makes them so compelling or not to an audience. And lastly Mark Twain, a man who made no excuses for who he was, lived his life to the fullest with pen and heart.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Elise: Capt. Jack Aubrey from Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series. I couldn’t help but fall in love with this character on the first page as he hummed and tapped his foot and leg to the music of the orchestra with such exuberance.  Jack Reacher from Lee Child’s books, tall dark handsome ex military, kind of brooding… do I really need to explain this one?  Travis Criton from my book Half, I’ve always thought he would just be so much fun to be out on the town with.  Robin Hood, he has been my hero since childhood.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Elise:  It would be the same advice I give myself now. Don’t stop, don’t give up, don’t stop searching for the end of the rainbow, keep dreaming big.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Elise:  Just breathe it all in and enjoy life to the fullest.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Elise: To be someone who inspired others to follow dreams and write their tales.

girl with a quill: Where can we buy your books?

Elise: Most online retailers or your best price would be at my Literary Emporium http://stores.lulu.com/elisevancise

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Elise:  My official site http://elisevancise.webs.com
My blog Gladiator’s Pen
http://gladiatorspen.blogspot.com
Twitter @elisevancise
Facebook Author Elise VanCise