Sunday Interview – S. M. Beiko

Hello, everyone! I hope those in this fair city are hunkered down and weathering this summer storm! Man, the rain pelted down for quite some time, this morning, mixed with a bit of hail and those thunder-boomers are enough to make you want to jump out of your seat!

Anyway, I’d like to introduce Samantha Beiko author of The Lake and the Library. If you haven’t had a chance to read my review of it you can check it out here.

Samantha and I met at the C4 Lit Fest in April and the cover art of her novel enticed me to buy a copy. I know they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, the story was even better than the cover, if that’s possible! So, please say hello to Samantha Beiko. 🙂

Would you please begin by telling my readers a little bit about S. M. Beiko?

Well! I’m 4’10”, I’m a red head, and I love books! I mean, I know it’s difficult to tell, what with being an author, working in book publishing, and making the power of books a big part of my first novel . . . you’d never know, huh? 😉

The Lake and the Library

I am always intrigued by the things that inspire wonderful stories, so what sparked the idea for The Lake and the Library?

Someone asked me this once before, and the memory is pretty fuzzy now. I was in high school at the time, and I think I was wandering around a library in St. James, looking for old editions of Coleridge poetry. As I searched, my brain conjured an image of a teenaged boy appearing out of nowhere, doing magic tricks with books and vanishing around shelves. He walked into my head fully formed, grinning and silent. He had a story but he was going to make me chase him through the stacks to figure it out.

Wow! That’s wonderful!

Who created your book trailer? It gave me chills! Also, who designed the backdrop for your web page? It is fabulous!

The amazing Helen and Laura Marshall did my book trailer for me! They are sort of experts at it. They are two very good friends and former ChiZine co-workers, and they were so excited to work on my trailer. They got it together in less than a day, and I still sometimes sit and watch it over and over, not really believing that it’s mine. You can check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VD2NSl62MOs

(Or watch it now) 🙂

 

As for the backdrop on my site, it’s a photograph of the library inside The House on the Rock, which is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin. It appeared, most notably, in American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and was represented as a gateway into the minds of the gods. You can learn more about this incredible piece of American architecture here: http://www.thehouseontherock.com/

What was the process you went through to get The Lake and the Library published?

First of all, I wrote a solid draft, something clean that I was proud to submit. I also made sure I had a solid cover/query letter to go along with it.

You have a new book that just came out, but this is one in which you were co-editor. Please tell us what Imaginarium 2013 is all about and how you came to be involved with it.

Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (ChiZine Publications), is an annual reprint anthology that ChiZine puts out each year. Authors submit their work that was published in the previous year (short fiction and poetry), and we collect it in Imaginarium. It was a lot of fun, being exposed to a lot of new Canadian writers in the genre, but it was a lot of reading! And out of some 400 submissions, you can only realistically take 20 or so, or else the book would just be thousands of pages long. We have an Honourable Mentions list, though, for those authors whose work we loved but didn’t include. I was asked to co-edit it by Sandra Kasturi, co-publisher at ChiZine, because I worked on and loved the first Imaginarium we did, and I was excited to help out with this year’s in any capacity. Co-editing was a new challenge for me, because, like I said, you can’t pick ‘em all, but it’s a great experience.

After being a judge for a writing contest, I know how tough it can be to choose ONLY the number of entries required! 🙂

Not only are you a writer and editor, you are also an illustrator. In addition to a natural talent, have you taken any formal training? How has this helped you in your career?

Nope, no formal training per se. With all of my digital artwork, I learned the Adobe Suite, and programs like it, by just playing around in them and making myself use them whenever I could. I think I started around age 12, and I’ve been using them ever since. A lot of my work in publishing has also forced me to crash-course learn certain programs, like Adobe InDesign for book layout purposes, which had a steep learning curve to be sure, but was the best thing for me. I use it all the time now, and I feel crippled without it! I looked into taking professional courses in graphic design, but found that I probably wasn’t going to learn anything that was new or innovative from what I already knew.

As for traditional art (drawing, painting, sculpting), again, I’ve been playing around with different mediums since I was a kid. I painted murals on my walls and filled paper after paper with drawings until I ran out of space. I did, however, start off in University in the Fine Arts stream, and my first year was filled with some amazing studio courses that I learned a lot from. Though I didn’t stay in Fine Arts, I do still use a lot of the principles of art and design that I learned there in my day-to-day work.

What a talented young lady you are! 🙂

Now for some fun questions: What is your favorite comfort food?

CAKE. Any kind of cake, but mostly Red Velvet from Baked Expectations. Or vegetarian poutine from Smoke’s Poutinerie, which is right next to my day-job. Oh woe betide me!

Oh, you poor thing! lol

What does your writing space look like? Are there any special items in it that inspire your writing?

My writing desk is my Baba’s old 1911 Treadle Sewing Machine cabinet, which I converted into a writing space. It still has the wrought iron pedal, in working condition, so while I’m working I pump away at it, imagining that there’s a like-pedal churning away inside my head. But my writing space is always in flux. Sometimes I’ll end up doing my best writing in the kitchen, in the coffee shop down the street, outside, on an airplane, etc. Anywhere that can allow me to focus and get into the zone is fair game.

Cool! My best friend’s Dad had MS and used an old treadle sewing machine to keep his legs strong. I love them!

Do you have any social media sites you’d like to share with us?

My Twitter is @SMBeiko, website is www.smbeiko.com, and my Tumblr is smbeiko.tumblr.com. Sensing a pattern?

🙂

Do you have any parting words?

If you have a dream you are reaching for, or a goal you’ve set, don’t stop moving towards it! Even if things get bumpy, just remember that the path to success or achievement is a squiggly line, not a straight one. And if you don’t know how to achieve your dreams, talk to the people who you admire, get a dialogue going and investigate. If you’re a writer, go to conferences, conventions, or readings, and ask questions. If you don’t know how to get started in writing, maybe read more of what you love. Always ask, always investigate, and always keep moving.

Good advice! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Samantha, and I wish you great success.

My dear followers, I hope you take the time to check out the backdrop for her web page and browse through all her tabs. Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday, despite inclement weather! 🙂

Sunday Interview – Kourtney Heintz

This week, I’d like to introduce to you one determined young lady. She’s been all over the web with a blog tour to promote her first book, so I’m glad she had time to squeeze us into her busy schedule. Kourtney responded to my call for interviewees a few months ago and while I was looking into her story and checking out some of the other blogs she’s been on, I was fascinated by her story. She has come up with some of the most interesting characters and unique plot line that I’m sure you will be as intrigued as me.

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Have you ever thought it would be fun to read people’s minds? Kourtney explores this in her story The Six Train to Wisconsin. As it turns out, telepathy isn’t all fun and games! Please give Kourtney a great, big HELLO! 🙂

Hi, Kourtney! Welcome to my blog!

Hi Susan! Thanks for having me here as a guest!

Writers can be divided into several categories: pantsers, plotters and those who do a little of both. What do you consider yourself to be and why?

Great question! I actually devoted an entire guest post to it. I’m a plantser and you can find out why at: http://petedenton.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/guest-post-plantser-the-hybrid-model/

‘Plantser’ – I love that term! 🙂

Writers often have favourite times at which they write. What does your writing schedule look like?

To start my day, I check email, Facebook, my blog comments, and Twitter. I have a to-do list next to my laptop (I write it at midnight the night before) and that pretty much lays out my day. Except for the email or phone call that might change the course of things.

When I’m drafting, it’s 1000 words a day for 5 days a week. There is no set time of day that I prefer to draft at. Can be afternoon or evening. When I’m revising, it’s a certain number of chapters or pages to be worked on. When I’m promoting, it’s contacting venues, responding to requests for information, and social media.

I work until most of the list is completed, exhaustion sets in, or it’s bedtime. Most days are 8-10 hours of work. Around the book launch, they went a lot longer.

That’s a longer work schedule than most people with ‘day jobs’! 

Beta readers, critique partners, writing groups and feedback from rejection letters all give writers insight into how to improve their writing. What have you most relied on to help you perfect your own writing?

I think it’s important to try them all. It’s the only way you can learn what works best for you. I’ve received feedback from all these methods with my YA manuscript. That’s where I tried everything out.

As for what I relied on most, it’s differed for each manuscript. For Six Train, it was feedback from rejection letters, charity auctions, and beta readers that really shaped the novel. For my YA novel, it was my critique partner, Kat Bender, and agent rejection letters.

What is some advice you could give other authors who want to self-publish or take the indie route? 

Make sure you are ready to make the time and monetary commitment.

You have to be your own publishing house, your own marketing team, and your own assistant. You have to manage the entire publication process from editing to layout to cover design. Even if you hire freelancers, you are the final check on everything. You have to create a marketing plan. You have to set up signings and blog tour events. It’s all on your shoulders.

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You definitely have to have confidence in your work and determination, in order to make it all work!

Since I’ve been married, I’ve had an aversion to romance novels, but your story, The Six Train to Wisconsin has really intrigued me. What makes its romance different than most other romances out there?

I wrote this story for women who don’t like traditional romances. They want a love story that fits their lifestyle. They don’t believe in happily ever after. They do believe in the peaks and valleys that come with any relationship. And they like reading about the journey of love and don’t think of it as a destination. 

Your stories seem to be mostly character-driven. I think that’s why I really like speculative fiction. Please tell us how you develop your characters? Are they based on people you know?

I take the emotions or situations I’ve experienced and filter them into my fiction. My characters are completely fictional. I might steal some aspects from my real life, but they get blended together to form each character. I once had a boss who talked in percentages. I thought that was the perfect quirk for Oliver and incorporated that into his character.

I develop my characters over time. I do something I call storystorming to bring them to life before I start writing. Then I deepen them as I go.

Your description of how you ‘storystorm’ was fascinating. I find a do a version of this, but not always in the beginning. (Click on the red highlighted word above to read all about how Kourtney ‘storystorms’) Thanks for sharing that bit of insight, Kourtney! 🙂

Varying points of view in a story can be complicated. I have one on the back burner that I’m still struggling with in this regard. How did you solve the problem of your two characters’ perspectives in The Six Train To Wisconsin? 

I actually intended to write the whole story from the husband’s perspective. Then the story took a turn that required the wife’s POV half way through. Then another turn where it alternated POV to the end. That was my original version.

Agents told me it was unsellable and I had to alternate the POV from the start. So I went back and did massive revisions. By that time, I’d already spent a couple years with the story and I knew my characters so well, it was a challenge but one I was up to.

I’m not sure how people start out alternating point of view from the get-go. It’s hard enough to develop one voice at a time, let alone two simultaneously.

It sure is! Glad you managed to work out the kinks. 🙂

One last question, please tell us about your ‘warrior lapdog, Emerson’. I’m sure the dog-lovers out there would love to ‘meet’ him. 🙂

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Emerson is my bubby–my baby boy and my puppy. He’s half Shih-tzu, half Lhasa Apso, and looks like an Ewok. The Shih-tzu in him is the lapdog that lays in my lap for hours while I type. The Lhasa Apso is the guard dog who sleeps facing my door to protect me. His cuddling got me over many rejections.

He’s adorable! I love Ewoks! 🙂

Where in cyberspace can my readers connect with you? 

They can find me here:

Website: http://kourtneyheintz.com

Blog: http://kourtneyheintz.wordpress.com

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/kourtneyheintzwriter

Twitter: http://twitter.com/KourHei

Thanks for dropping by and talking to us, today, Kourtney. Best of luck with the rest of your blog tour and book sales. Oh, and congratulations on being a semifinalist for Amazon’s 2012 Breakthrough Novel Award! 🙂

I hope you, my readers, will check out the blog posts Kourtney mentioned above, as well as the social media sites so you can keep apprised of her successes – and definitely check out her book! 🙂

 Six Train to Wisconsin – book blurb:

Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything. 

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened. 

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

Kourtney’s Bio on Amazon:

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths of being human. For her characters, love is a journey never a destination.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working in financial services provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.

Buy Links:

Paperback available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble 

Ebook available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

iTunes

 

Sunday Interview #27 – Gabriele Goldstone

Good morning everyone! I have another Canadian author to introduce to you, today. Gabriele Goldstone wrote ‘The Kulak’s Daughter’, based on a true story. To read my review of her book (if you haven’t already) you can find it here. I’d like you all to give her a warm welcome. (Resounding applause and enthusiastic whistles!)

Hi, Gabriele, would you please tell my readers a little about yourself?

Hi! I’ve spent the last twenty-odd years focused on raising my three kids while working as a letter carrier. In my BC (before children) life, I travelled (spent a year in Europe), studied, (have a master’s degree in German lit and a B Ed.) and dabbled in writing. The one constant in my life has been reading. It’s how I connect and make sense of the world. 

I understand that this story is based on true events. What made you decide to write The Kulak’s Daughter?

Back in 2000, some distant relatives sent my mom a calendar with photos of ‘the old days.’ I’d never before seen an image of my mom as a young girl. What really caught my attention was that my mom found the photos too painful to look at. In fact, she hid the calendar under a tablecloth and I’d have to sneak a peak at the photos when I’d visit, without her knowledge. Eventually I made copies of two of the photos. I was so intrigued with the pre and post exile images and just had to know the details. Gradually, and gently, I got the story straight. It was difficult to watch my mom re-live what she had repressed for so many decades.

That sounds really hard, but I’m glad you managed to hear her story. There are many things I wish my mom had told me before she passed on. Finding pictures of her afterwards brought up many questions about her childhood that she never discussed.

Would you please tell us a little about the story line of ‘The Kulak’s Daughter’?

The story happens around 1930 when Stalin forces landowners (the kulaks) off their land and exiles them to remote parts of the Soviet Union. It was part of his First Five Year Plan and set the stage for the Holodomor. The protagonist, eleven-year-old Olga, is based on my mother. The story is told through her eyes. It’s a story about surviving loss and moving on.

The Kulak's Daughter back

Could you please tell me about the family picture on the back of the book? When was it taken? Is it your mother’s family? Did the little boy die on the way to Siberia?

The back photo is my mom in the back right corner. The youngest, on my grandmother’s lap, did die enroute to Yaya, Siberia. I did a Nov 11/12 post on what happened to her other brother. He was reported missing Jan. 1/44 in the war. I just got confirmation of it in the last month. So, yeah, I’m figuring out my family’s story because when I was growing up it wasn’t talked about and I always wondered what had happened to my grandparents.

I’m glad you’re still finding out facts about your family. I hope you eventually discover answers to all your questions. 🙂

What kind of historical research did you have to do for this story?

I read many books, studied maps, and carefully listened to my mom’s stories. I also talked to other people with similar backgrounds. In 2004, I visited her childhood village. That trip let me add realistic sensory detail to the story.  It was a profound experience both for me and for my mother. I was also able to read (with a translator, of course!) former KGB files and learn firsthand what happened to the rest of our scattered family.

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That’s fascinating!

I didn’t quite overhear the conversation you had with someone at the last book signing regarding the rock you had with you. Is it from your grandfather’s windmill, like in the story? I’d like to learn more about it.

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In [this photo] with the white van, we’re visiting the village of Federofka (my mom’s home village) and asking to speak to the oldest woman in the village because she might remember 1930 and my mom’s family.

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She does!

Then in the photo (below) she’s guided me to the rock base of my grandfather’s windmill (which was dismantled and the wood used to build the new collective manager’s office.) And yes, I have a piece of that granite base which I held and I think it helped me to write.

 

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Wow! To have a tangible piece of that history is so cool!

How long did it take you to write the novel?

I’d written bits and pieces – anecdotes that my mom had shared – throughout a couple of years. One of these pieces, I sent to the Writers’ Union annual short story competition – and it was short-listed. A contest judge, in his critique, suggested that the story should be part of a longer work. So I worked at completing the stories as a complete narrative. Once I got going, the novel poured out of me over the course of a couple of winter months. It was a wonderful experience. After that, I struggled with several re-writes. I’m one of those people who find revision harder than the first draft. It might be partly because I’m so darn insecure. In the first draft I’m just letting the story happen. In subsequent drafts, I’m paying more attention to what other people (like readers, editors, etc.) think.

I’ve met so many insecure writers. I think we all have a little voice inside us saying we’re just not good enough. It can be hard to beat back that voice and let our confidence shine. I’m glad you had the courage to send your story off to the publisher. 🙂

Speaking of that, what was the publishing process like for you? Did you need an agent?

I never tried for an agent. Instead, I started with the big name publishers (naive!) and collected six rejections (including a lovely invitation to re-submit by Atheneum in NYC that I should have followed up on!)  The work then caught the interest of a small publisher down in Texas. I re-wrote the story into a first-person narrative, at their request, before it was accepted. Unfortunately, my experience with the small American publisher was not a positive one. It took five years for the book to get published and then the publisher closed down. I’m still grateful, though, that the book came out while my mom was still alive. She died in 2011 at the age of 92.

That is a very familiar publishing story. I think it’s great that your mom was able to see the book come out in print. 🙂

Are you working on anything else at the moment? If so, would you be willing to give us a sneak preview? I’d understand if you are superstitious about revealing too much about a Work In Progress.

I have a stand-alone sequel to ‘The Kulak’s Daughter’ that I’m about to send out. (Originally, Blooming Tree was going to publish it.) The story’s set in the former East Prussia in the mid 1930s. It’s a story about transition – in my opinion, one of the most difficult stages of life.  I’ve also got a ghost story and a brain injury story that I want to shop around. Trouble is, every time I get a rejection, I shrivel up and it takes me months to get my courage going again. Writing is hard on insecure people!

Whenever I hear about the effect rejection letters have on insecure writers, I remember a quote I read on Rachelle Gardner’s blog. Hope this helps:

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.” by Barbara Kingsolver 🙂

What words of wisdom do you have for other aspiring writers?

Wisdom? Ha! Let me see. Read, write, connect with other writers, and never stop trying. Seriously. This is a tough business and persistence really does work. Now if only I could take my own advice!

Are there any social media sites you’d like to share with us?

I subscribe to a variety of online blogs. (Great way to procrastinate!)  My current three favorites would be: The Children’s War, http://thechildrenswar.blogspot.ca/ 
All News, No Schmooze,http://lauriewallmark.blogspot.ca/ 
and CanLit for Little Canadians  http://canlitforlittlecanadians.blogspot.ca/

I’ve been avoiding Facebook and Twitter, preferring to spend my spare time reading off-line material.

Do you have any final words before we close?

Life is short. Enjoy it and don’t be so hard on yourself. Read the books you want to write. Write the books you want to read. Follow your passion, not someone else’s.

Wonderful advice! Thank-you for taking the time to chat with us, Gabriele. 🙂

Sunday Interview #17

For this Sunday’s interview, I’d like to introduce Chadwick Ginther, who has just launched his debut urban fantasy novel Thunder Road.

Welcome, Chadwick! Would you please tell my readers a little about yourself?

Certainly! I grew up in the town of Morden, Manitoba, where I quickly became enamoured with all things robotic and draconic. I worked a varied and disparate number of jobs until I stumbled upon employment as a shipper/receiver at an independent bookstore. Now eleven years on, I am the genre buyer (covering Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mystery and Crime Fiction, and Graphic Novels) for McNally Robinson Booksellers.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved stories, so it wasn’t much of a leap. When I was growing up, my great-great uncle lived with my family and he spun original yarns about Tarzan for me and so I became hooked on adventure quite early on. Role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons were my first outlet for creating my own characters and stories, a passion that continued from childhood until (checks watch) what time is it now? It was a few years after becoming a bookseller that I began to write in earnest. Meeting writers in the store, whether they were travelling on book tours, or locals in to do some shopping, helped make writing a book feel like an attainable goal. Bookselling has been an invaluable aid in terms of researching the markets, networking, and just being constantly surrounded by stories.

Thunder Road isn’t the first piece of writing that you’ve had published. Please tell us about some of your other work.

The first story I sold was a sword and sorcery tale titled “First Light” which appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of On Spec Magazine. “First Light” follows a blacksmith’s daughter caught up in murders and missing persons in a world of eternal winter. It spun out of the first full length manuscript that I finished, one that I still have hope to get back to and fix. About a month before Thunder Road released, my story “Back in Black” appeared in Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound. “Back in Black” features an obsessive record collector who is searching for his “Holy Grail” find, an AC/DC bootleg that shouldn’t exist. I have another Sword and Sorcery story in the pipeline, in December 2012 “First They Came for the Pigs” will be appearing in the Innsmouth Free Press anthology, Fungi. This story is about a group of mercenaries hired to deal with mushrooms that have started devouring people. 

Besides word counts, what are some of the differences that you’ve found between writing short stories and novels?

I really feel they are two different disciplines, and not always complementary. I’ve always felt the fewer words you have to say something, the harder it is to do–one of many reasons I’m not a poet, I suppose. Short stories require an economy of prose that I feel I am still learning. As a reader, I always gravitated to novels over short stories, and so I’m playing a bit of catch up there. Speaking strictly as a fantasy writer, I also find them challenging because I can’t take the world as a given. There will always be “worldbuilding” details that need to be slipped in whether the story takes place in a made up world, or our world. It is a balancing act to include your magical elements, or realistically convey cultures and places that the reader may have no context for, while still maintaining pacing.

Thunder Road (The Thunder Road Trilogy)

Okay, let’s get down to the meat of the interview, and what I’ll bet you’ve been dying to talk about – Thunder Road. How do you feel, now that your first novel is published?

It feels great–astounding, really. When my author copies were delivered, I couldn’t stop holding the book. I’d seen the page proofs and the cover proofs, so I thought I knew what the book would look like, but I had no idea what it would feel like. Holding the book, it had a weight I wasn’t expecting. Absolutely a dream come true.

Please tell us a little about the story.

I like to joke that Thunder Road is “oilsands meets Asgard”. Oilsands, because my protagonist Ted Callan is an unemployed oilsands worker and Asgard, because of the novel’s ties to the Norse myth cycle. After the fire giant Surtur awoke in an explosion at Ted’s workplace, destroying it, Ted leaves a failed marriage and Alberta behind for a new life in Manitoba. That new life goes a little sideways when a group of fortune tellers, a trio of dwarves, and the trickster god, Loki, all take an interest in Ted’s destiny.

What was your inspiration for Thunder Road?

The Norse myths have been a huge part of my life almost as long as I’ve been a reader, thanks to finding D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths in my hometown library at an early age. In fact, I checked the book out so repeatedly, that the librarian suggested that perhaps another little boy wanted to learn about mythology, I disagreed (funny story, one of those little boys ended up at my book launch, fortunately as a grownup he was able to laugh about it). The stories of Odin and Thor and Loki always fascinated me. The Norse gods always felt very human to me. Not only could they die, most of them knew when and how it was going to happen.  

Obviously, given the setting, my home province was a huge inspiration as well. The Icelandic community of the Interlake region was the perfect excuse to blend myth to Manitoba. We have a rural municipality named Bifrost; Bifrost was also the name of the rainbow bridge that connects Asgard to Midgard (or Earth, as we like to call it). We have lake serpent and sasquatch sightings, tons of reputedly haunted buildings; so with a little digging into provincial folklore, I saw that the monsters were already here. I just had to put them on the page.

Much of the writing I’d done until I started working on Thunder Road also had ties to myth. But if I think back there were two snippets of early writing that really started the ball rolling: the first was an idea for a short story in which the gods Thor and Sif are living in suburbia and getting a divorce. This was actually the first thing I ever wrote with an eye for being published (it wasn’t–wasn’t ever finished, in fact). The other was another short story where our own lake serpent, Manipogo, was actually Jormungandur, the Midgard Serpent of Norse mythology. That story also didn’t go anywhere, but some of “Jorry’s” dialogue and about a paragraph from the Thor and Sif story ended up unchanged in Thunder Road. Those two ideas pushed me from writing Sword and Sorcery to sticking the gods and monsters in our backyards.  

Finally, I always write to music, and started a playlist for the book, eventually picking twenty songs that seemed suited to the book I wanted to write, and arranged them as if they were my chapter titles, about the only kind of outlining I do, so music was also vital in writing Thunder Road.

Sounds fascinating! I’ve always loved stories based on myths and legends, especially contemporary ones set close to home! 🙂

When writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, a writer needs to create believable worlds in which to set their stories. What type of world-builder are you and how do you start your creations? (I know that makes you sound rather God-like, but don’t let it go to your head! lol)

I am what can best be described as a “pantser,” as in I write by the seat of my pants, discovering the book as I go, without much in the way of a formal outline. I approach my world building in much the same way. I have one huge master document where I dump any scene or idea that doesn’t fit anywhere else. When I start a new project, or if I’m looking for inspiration for a short story, I comb through that file to see if there’s anything I can use. I’ll often write short stories as a world building exercise as much as to try and sell them. Eventually a new world reaches a critical mass of these snippets and stories that allows it to feel fully formed in my head, and as I write, I fill in the blanks. It is especially important (at least for me it is) to keep notes as I go, especially since there’s no handy resource to fact check them for you, and I assure you, fantasy readers will notice those inconsistencies.

Along with your worlds, you must also breathe life into your characters. What advice do you have for new and emerging writers regarding the creation of believable characters?

Read widely, listen deeply, and experience as broadly as possible. That old adage of “write what you know” is certainly true, but I’d prefer to see it worded “know what you write.” Also what is often left out of that tidbit of advice is to never stop finding new things to know.

Once a manuscript has been written, we all know that a lot of editing must go into it before it is ready to submit to an agent or publisher. What is your initial process for editing?

My initial process for editing is hiding from it. All kidding aside, I know writers who loathe the first draft, and can’t wait to get in and fix the book, but I am completely the opposite. I love finding the book, not fixing it. I do recognize that it is a necessary step, but if I am procrastinating on the internet, chances are I’m editing, rather than drafting. As for process, I try to let a first draft breathe for at least a few weeks before diving back in. That distance helps me to identify what needs to be fixed. I do several passes looking for specific things. First is a story pass to make sure the narrative is solid. This is where chapters usually end up getting cut or rewritten. I try to read through clumsy phrasings when I find them at this point, only making a note to fix it later. Once I’m happy with the story, I do a character pass to make sure their actions and reactions are still consistent with whatever changes I’ve made. Once I’m happy with my characters, I get into fixing things on a sentence level. Usually this involves a few more rereads. Thunder Road went through about six passes before it went out on submission. I’m hoping that the process of going through a substantive edit and copy edit will help streamline my editing process a bit for future books.

Once you’re satisfied with it, do you enlist the help of critique partners, beta readers or a writer’s group to suggest improvements?

I do have a writing group. We meet monthly, sharing works in progress. I also have a group of beta readers that look at mostly finished manuscripts prior to my submitting them to editors or agents. There is some overlap in the two groups, but I also find it valuable to have some fresh eyes see the work. I’ve also found it very useful to have a reader who isn’t a writer. Writers can give great critiques (and my group does!) because they are familiar with the elements of the craft, but there is also a chance they will try to rewrite your work as they would have done it. Much like writing, critiquing is a learned skill.

How difficult did you find the submission process, writing the inquiry letter and synopsis, etc?

I don’t find the submission process difficult, it’s something that needs to be done even if it isn’t always fun. I have a spreadsheet that I use to track my story submissions, and record response times and comments, if any. I’m not terribly fond of writing either query letters or synopses, but both are necessary and different skills from writing the work itself. When people talk about all those great and famous books that publishers passed over, I wonder what role a poor query letter might have played in those first rejections.

On your blog, after your launch, you mentioned that the store played songs that you had used for chapter titles. How do you incorporate music into your novel? Do you listen to it as you write or look for songs that would be suitable for a particular scene, like a movie or TV show producer might do?

I do a little of both. I always write to music. I know some writers must have complete silence, others will write to classical or jazz but have to avoid lyrics. Usually, I just put my entire library on shuffle and go to work. It’s led to some interesting serendipity. For novels, I create a soundtrack for the book, trying to have the songs ebb and flow in a way that feels how I want the narrative to progress. Depending on how deeply invested I am in the project, the novel may have more than one soundtrack. Because I’m currently editing the manuscript for the second book in the Thunder Road series and have started drafting the third, there are soundtracks for the later volumes, as well as for all of the major characters.

Are there any social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blog, etc) where we can find you that you’d like to share with us?

I am on twitter: https://twitter.com/chadwickginther

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/chadwick.ginther

Thunder Road also has its own page:  http://www.facebook.com/ThunderRoadTrilogy

My website is: http://chadwickginther.com/

Is there anything you’d like to add before we bid you adieu?

Tonight, September 23rd, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be reading a passage from Thunder Road at Winnipeg’s writing festival, THIN AIR, as part of the Mainstage event: Voices from Oodena. Oodena is a magical venue, and one of my very favourite spots in Manitoba. If you’re reading this, I hope to see you there!

http://www.thinairwinnipeg.ca/events/mainstage-voices-from-oodena-voix-d-oodena

I definitely plan on being there, Chadwick! 🙂

Thank you, Chadwick, for taking the time to chat with us. I hope your book does well. For any of you who are interested in learning more about Thunder Road, check out this review found in the Winnipeg Free Press:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/books/creative-fantasy-an-excellent-first-novel-169879906.html

I should mention, Thunder Road is NOT a YA novel. If you are thinking of picking it up for a teen reader, take the time to read a passage or two to determine if it would be appropriate for the child you have in mind. Other than that, hope you all enjoyed the interview! 🙂

Sunday Interview #14

This week, I would like to introduce to you a prolific, award-winning Canadian author. Please welcome Elizabeth from Elizabeth Creith’s Scriptorium.

Hi, Elizabeth! I’m glad you could join us, today. Please begin by telling us a little bit about yourself.

Hmm. I’m a lifelong artist who just keeps switching media. I live in rural Northern Ontario with my husband and dog, and surrounded by mixed hardwood bush. In other places it would be called forest. I love the solitude of the rural life, and I’ve found it a wonderful place to work as an artist, both because of the quiet and relative lack of distraction, and also for the inspiration I draw from this piece of the world.

Erik the Viking Sheep

On your blog, you have a very impressive list of articles and stories that you have had published. You also have a children’s book, Eric the Viking Sheep, published by Scholastic, which is very impressive. This leads me to believe you have been writing for quite some time. How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start writing in the first place?

I’m fifty-eight, and have been writing most of my life. I suppose reading was the real inspiration. I can’t remember when I didn’t know how to read or a time when I didn’t draw, and I know that in kindergarten I wanted to grow up to be a writer and artist. I’ve written on and off for years, and wrote my obligatory bad novels when I was a teenager. I also wrote a lot of bad poetry – isn’t that part of being a teenager anyway? I always assumed I wasn’t really a writer, and that I was just fooling around, because almost everything I wrote was bad. I didn’t understand – as I think many people still don’t – that writing is a skill and can be learned and practised. I could understand being a bad painter and improving, but somehow I didn’t translate that to writing. If you could write well, you were a writer. If you couldn’t, you weren’t. I had that attitude until I was thirty-six and ran into my first editor, Alice Korach at Threads magazine. That was when the light went on.

You have written everything from journal articles, children’s fiction and poetry, but in which genre do prefer to write and why?

Pick a favourite, you mean? I suppose I’d have to say fiction, just from the sheer volume of what I’ve written. I love flash, and actually really began to hone my fiction skills on 55-word flash pieces in 2005 or 2006. I write well in the five-hundred-to-one-thousand-word span. Subject matter – fantasy is definitely my favourite, but I’m rigorous about it. I stick to the classic lore about creatures, whether they’re the Good Folk or zombies, and make my stories work within that frame. I like the young adult genre, both to read and to write, because YA requires a plot, and YA novels usually have a sense of justice. This doesn’t mean that good is always rewarded and evil punished, but there is certainly an overriding ethic that says it should be so. Right now I’m engrossed in a novel, on the fifth or sixth draft. A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed I could write something this long, and I’m completely enthralled with the story and the process. I do love to write instructional articles and humour pieces, and currently have three regular humour columns: Strata of Ephemera at Bibliobuffet, North by NorthEast at Pet Product News International, and Over the Ridge in the Sault Star.

Please tell us a little about your writing process. Is there a time of day at which you prefer to write? Are there any items you like to keep handy for inspiration?

I’m not sure what to tell you. Butt in the chair, pen on the paper (or fingers on the keyboard). I like to write in the morning – sometimes nine a.m.and sometimes one a.m. Right now my major fiction writing time is between 1:30 and 2:30 pm because I have a full-time job, afternoon shift, and write in the car while my husband drives. It’s a 75-minute commute. I write columns and articles at home, where I have notes, reference books and an internet connection, however slow (in my part of the country we don’t yet have high-speed or cell service). I write poetry wherever it occurs to me. I don’t have any particular item that I keep for inspiration, but I do have quotes pinned up on my wall, and when I get my new office, I’ll be writing things on the wall that help keep me focused and inspired. One of my favourites is from my friend Lucinda Kempe. “Life is tough, E, but it’s tougher for those poor souls who have no passion, yes?” Definitely yes. I also keep books on myth and folklore handy, and a lot of reference stuff about animals and biology.

What is your strategy with regards to editing? Do you rely on critique partners, beta readers, or writer’s group?

I don’t know what I’d do without my writers’ group! I’m a member of a wonderful, active group in Thessalon, close to where I live. We critique each others’ work for grant application and submission for publication. We’re very effective: four of us have won major provincial grants to support our fiction writing, and five or six of us have won smaller grants on a regular basis. I also have a group of readers whose judgement I trust who are not part of the writers’ group. I’ve been relying on them for critical reading of the YA novel. For a long time I worked on line in Zoetrope in the Flash Factory, which was my on line writers’ group, and that vastly improved my flash fiction. When I get back to full-time writing, the first thing I’m doing is going back to the Flash Factory and more flash stories.

It was so frustrating when I was first looking for critique, many years ago, to have people say, “Oh, this is fantastic!” because I knew it wasn’t, but I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I felt a little bit like the abstract painter with a portrait, and he wanted to change the nose, but didn’t know where it was. I knew there were problems with my work, and by then I’d realized that they could be fixed, but first I had to be able to pinpoint the trouble, and I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know where to go for help, and was fumbling along, improving almost by accident. When I began writing for radio, the producers I worked with made many very gentle suggestions, and I gradually learned how to edit my own work for that medium. I now read a lot about writing; there’s always something new to learn.

Product Details

You have written a book, Shepherd In Residence. Would you like to tell us a little bit about it?

“Shepherd” is about my time keeping sheep in Wharncliffe, where I live; about the sheep, and the dogs, the fencing and lambing and everything that goes with shepherding. Some of it is humorous, and all of it is true. For about a year I wrote (and taped) a monthly letter about my flock for a CBC radio programme called “Richardson’s Roundup”. When that gig finished, I kept the pieces, with the idea in the back of my mind that it might be possible to make a book of them. That was about 2002. In 2010 I got them out again and decided that I would rewrite the fifteen pieces I had so that they were stories rather than letters and add stories that hadn’t been told on the original series. I applied for a grant through a programme where small publishers read the applications and award the grants. Laurence Steven of Scrivener Press in Sudbury saw my application for “Shepherd” and asked to see the manuscript when it was complete. He ultimately made me an offer to publish. He arranged everything, including an illustrator, and I approached some people about blurbs for the back cover. It happened at light speed – my original application was December 2010, the manuscript was completed in May 2011, and the book came out in April 2012. You can get “Shepherd” from Amazon or Chapters, or from Scrivener Press, or from my site. I autograph, of course.

Your latest project is a story called The Swan Harp. Please tell us a little bit about it, unless you are superstitious about revealing too much about a work in progress.

It’s not superstition so much as a conviction that you should write rather than talk about it. Since the writing is going well, I’ll tell you that I first got the idea for the story about twenty years ago from Loreena McKennitt’s song “The Bonny Swans“. I like story reversal, the idea that some critical facet of the story would change if it were told from another viewpoint, and that’s part of what I’ve done. I was also interested in what happened to the middle daughter, because the song begins “A farmer lived in the North Country. He had daughters, one, two, three,” but after that we hear only about the eldest and youngest daughter. The middle daughter has become my point-of-view character. Because there is a reference to a swan “looking very like a gentlewoman”, I thought of the swanfolk, mostly swan-maidens, who turn up in myth and folklore, and made my protagonist and her sisters the daughters of a human man and a swan woman. This has been absorbing to write – a lot of fun, and a lot of work, and the story has gone way beyond the original idea. I’ve drawn on my knowledge of biology, history, mediaeval combat, farming, shepherding, textiles, medicine and magic to write this story. I love winding all those threads into the original story and making something that reads – at least to me – like a workable, authentic world.

Oooo, that sounds fascinating! 🙂

On your blog, you present a lot of advice to writers. What is the most important thing a new writer should know as they embark on their road to publication?

Publication is an end, but it’s not the end. If you aren’t writing because you actually love the act of storytelling and the stories that you write, you have a recipe for frustration. Anyone who goes into the arts needs to love what they do, because it’s difficult to make a living on it. The odds are probably a little better than becoming a professional hockey player, but the pay isn’t nearly as good. Do it because you love it. That love translates into and shapes the work. I discovered when I was living on my pottery that the things I loved to make also sold well. And learn your technical stuff, because if you love making chairs, it’s easier to make a good chair when you understand things like saws and nails and “measure twice, cut once”. The technical aspects of writing, once mastered, let your story come through.

Good advice! 🙂

Do you have any hobbies that you’d like to share with us?

Most of what I do usually becomes business, because I’ve spent a lot of my life paying my bills with the work of my hands and imagination. At the moment I’d say that bookmaking and pop-ups are pretty much a hobby. I don’t usually sell the books or cards, but I love to make them. You can see some of them at http://northernpopups.wordpress.com. I’ve always loved messing around with paper. I know how to handle it, I understand its grain and what it will do, and I like to play with it. I do origami, too, which gives me a great deal of pleasure for minimal skill. I own five spinning wheels, and when I get the time, I love to spin, knit and weave.

I also love canoeing. We have lots of beaver ponds and things around home, and gliding around on the water, looking at the birds and rocks and plants, is a happy afternoon. I love rocks, and I pick fossils. If I’m driving along a highway and spot a limestone cut, I pull over and poke around. You can get some very cool fossils from pieces that have fallen off the limestone and are just lying on the ground. These are sites no paleontologist is ever going to get to, so I feel all right about fossil-picking there. One of my favourites is a fossilized cycad cone my husband found me in a rock cut.

What a fascinating life you lead – and your pop-ups are amazing! 🙂

Are there any social media to which you belong that you would like to share? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc)

I have a Facebook page, which I set up strictly to create part of my author profile. I enjoy it, but I spend minimal time there, mainly because I have little time to spend. I’m on Twitter as well, again with not a lot of time to spend there. It would be very easy to get sucked into it, because I see quite a few interesting tweets that I’d love to follow up on. I’ve just registered on Goodreads; where I think I’ll get the time is a mystery to me.

I know how you feel. There never seems to be enough time for all the connecting through social media that writers need to do these days. We’re too busy writing or researching that next great work! 🙂

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It’s a surprise and a delight to me to see how many people like my work. I think that art is the best work in the world, and I know I’ve been lucky to be able to spend so much of my life doing it, and earning at least part of a living from it. I really wish that everybody could do work that they love. I love to get people excited about doing art – pottery, bookmaking, pop-ups, printmaking, knitting, spinning,writing. There’s a deep satisfaction to making something, bringing a sock or a story or anything into being that wasn’t there before you did it. I think everyone should have that.

I love that attitude and feel the same way. Thank-you, Elizabeth for taking the time to chat with us. 🙂

You are SO welcome!

I highly recommend dropping by to see what Elizabeth has to offer on her site, as well as her books, etc. All links are in red so you can find them easily. 🙂

I guess that’s it for now. To all my Canadian and American friends, I hope you are enjoying this lovely Labour Day weekend! 🙂

Sunday Interview #11

Hi, Everyone! Today I have a treat for any of you who have a yen for creating beautiful things. Please welcome the creative mind behind the blog Liz J Fox Design.

Hello, Liz! Would you please tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been happily married to my sweet husband Dave for almost 30 years, retired from my business as a graphic designer (self-taught), am a confirmed Macintosh user, and became a serial hobbyist, loving every minute of it. Many of the hobbies continue to overlap, which makes my hobby room an interesting place to visit.

Sounds like my craft room – although I have a feeling yours is more organized than mine! lol

How long have you been blogging and what prompted you to start a blog?

I’m a very new blogger so still on a learning curve. I had a web site through Apple’s me.com, but they did away with it at the end of June. In exploring what to replace it with, preferably free, I discovered the wonderful world of blogging. You were one of my first commenters, which was wonderful. Thank you.

I heard of you through a comment you made at PILLOWS A-LA-MODE, another crafty site. 🙂

What can one expect to see when they visit YOUR site?

A glimpse into my life as a serial hobbyist. You will see what I’ve learned, pictures and how to’s, and even more importantly what not to do. Each blog has tips that might help others who want to do the same thing. I may share things that have inspired me from others, too. I want to share the riches of exploring new things and how God continues to bless us with His creativity.

What are some of your favorite crafts?

I have explored many, and I will be writing about them in future blogs. I would say right now, machine embroidery, paper arts (quilling, teabag folding, iris folding, card-making, scrapbooking) are on-going. I recently got into jewelry making, dichroic glass and wire-wrapping, and purse/tote making.

But my most interesting craft over the years is rock painting – turning rocks into 3-dimensional life-like animals. I started when I got a book “How to Paint Animals on Rocks” by Lin Wellford (link below). She spells it out in wonderful detail. Anyone can do this – even my 5-year old granddaughter! I met some wonderful people in the Yahoo Rock Painting group and got the encouragement to expand, so went on to do memorial rocks for people who lost their beloved pets. These are difficult, because of the emotion involved. I must not only capture the physical likeness of the dog or cat, but their character as well. My last one was a German Shepherd who perished in a home fire. That one was tragic and done with so many tears.

I can imagine! That would have been rally hard to do.

Are there any special tools you need for that?

First of all, rocks. They can be pebble size to huge. Start small. Landscape rock places will have river rocks. People will also give you rocks if you ask. (I sent 40 lbs from the rock wall at my Mom’s house on the Ottawa River. The Post Office clerk asked, jokingly, “What ya got in there, lady, rocks?” Yup!

The rest of it, after thorough cleaning and sometime wood-filler, is craft paint. I use outdoor acrylic paint and a gel medium to help the paint stay moist. A turn table – a little plastic one – to help paint all sides. Finally, patience to layer, layer, layer, letting the paint dry in-between. I use a waterproof sealer at the end and a special treatment to make the eyes look real. I will be journaling one from beginning to end shortly.

That sounds fascinating, but I should think you’d need some artistic talent as well! 🙂

Where do you get the inspiration for your creations?

I have had one goal all my adult life: “Do something new this year that you didn’t even know existed last year.” That opens my eyes to new creations and activities. It takes away the fear of trying new things and keeps me expectant. I have a wonderful husband who laughs at me when I get inspired to start something new because he knows the pattern – read all about it on line, get lots of ideas, buy all the stuff for it, buy all the stuff to organize it, do it, buy more stuff, reorganize it, etc. Specific inspiration often comes in the tub. “Oh, why don’t I try or make or create xyz.” I don’t like following patterns (or recipes). I may combine many different ideas into one thing, so often it is trial and error till somehow it tells me “I’m done.” If I’m smart, I stop.

What advice can you give someone starting a creative hobby?

– Be open to ideas. 

– Google, google, google. Pinterest. Blogs. There are lots of free tips, patterns, ideas, dos and don’ts out there. 

– And just start.

– Decide not to be perfect. Keep the first things you do to remind you how far you come with practice. 

– Don’t point out your mistakes. No one else can see them. 

– Use your God-given talent to enrich someone else’s life (for example, make cards for military members or kids in the hospital.)

– Give your crafts as gifts and teach someone else how to do it.  

– Take pictures of your process (you might never know when you want to blog it).

– Take pictures before you give it away.

– Don’t throw anything away … you might be able to use it in a craft. LOL 

– One other tip, since buying stuff for hobbies can get out of hand. Start an envelope or quicken line item, or however you separate money, and put a certain amount in a hobby play fund each week. If it has money in it, you can spend it or save it for something larger, if not … well, wait for the next week(s). Use money from coupons to fund the hobby account. Keep it separate from household budget so DH won’t care.

All good tips! That last part sounds like a wise way to do it – unlike my “Oooo, I love this, so charge it!”  process, which irritates my husband! lol

Do you have any pictures of some of your favorite creations that you’d like to share with us, today?

Just started learning to do purses.

My most ambitious embroidery – 20 5×5″ blocks of a Nativity Scene

Dichroic glass and wire-wrapping

Iris Folding – Small strips of paper following a pattern (and this time I DO follow the pattern) Done from the backside through the hat-shaped hole.

Tea bag folding – 8 of the top squares of wrapping paper turns out to be a unique embellishment.

Rock Painting – animals are done using all parts of the rock.

Simple quilling on a candle holder. Great gift.

Wow! Those are all really beautiful! I love how the paper folding turned the butterfly into a kaleidoscope effect! 🙂

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I didn’t know I was crafty, although my mom always said I always liked to fancy things up. She often told the story (in later years many, many times) that when I was young, my very down-to-earth twin sister proudly came into her proclaiming, “I finally taught Liz how to color grass green!”  … how boring! But it wasn’t till late in adulthood I tried my hand at real art … watercolors for the first time (see Quackers and Cheese on my blog). 

And the other thing that is so important to me is that after 43 years of doing everything on my own and making a pretty good mess of my life, I accepted Jesus into my life, and that decision gave me everything I ever needed, no matter what happened. I just hope there are crafts in heaven, cause I know that’s where I’m going. 

For those who would like to visit Liz’s blog you could do so by clicking www.lizjfoxdesign.com

Liz, are there any other links you’d like to share?

For getting started with rock painting: http://www.linwellford.com

A really great link to check out is http://gotquestions.org

Thank you for chatting with us, today, Liz. 🙂

Hope you all enjoyed learning a few things from this ‘master crafter’! To learn more, be sure to check out her blog. 🙂

Sunday Interview #8

Hello, Everyone! Today I would like to introduce the writer of the Utopian novel ‘Slant of Light‘. Please welcome Steve Wiegenstein!

Hi, Steve! To start with, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?

I’m a native of Missouri, having grown up on a farm in the eastern Ozarks. It’s a rugged and rather poor part of the country, but it’s home. After high school, I went off to university, became a newspaper writer for a while, then returned for graduate degrees and became a college teacher. I’m currently in administration at Columbia College in Missouri, about a four-hour drive from where I grew up. So I guess I’d say I’ve come full circle.

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

I started writing as a little kid, inspired by my mother, who wrote freelance feature stories for the local newspapers. I’ll admit, I became enamored with the mythology of the “great novelist,” the superhuman Hemingway- or Faulkner-like figure who created entire worlds in his head. I wrote like crazy when I was in my twenties and thirties, but then got caught up in earning a living, and didn’t get back to real writing–by which I mean serious, daily, disciplined writing–until about eight years ago.

Great writing history, having a mother who wrote for the paper! 🙂
In which genre do you prefer to write?

Until recently, I had always written short stories, but when I got back into the writing saddle this latest time, what compelled me was the idea of an interlocked series of novels, set in the same location, but unfolding over the generations with an evolving cast of characters. That’s the big project I’m working on now, and it will take years. The first set could be called “historical novels,” I suppose, but as I get closer to the present day, I won’t be able to call them that.

That sounds like quite the undertaking. Good luck with it! 🙂
Please tell us a little about your writing process. Do you write daily, at a specific time, in a particular place?

If I could, I’d write all day, every day, but as it happens I have a day job that requires a lot of my time. So I get up early in the mornings and write for an hour or two before anybody else is up. It’s a good time to write, when the house is quiet and there are few distractions. 

What is your strategy with regards to editing? Do you have a writers group, critique partner or beta reader that helps you assess you manuscript?

One thing newspaper work taught me is to be ruthless with my own prose. When I’m writing, I’m full of emotion and love every little word that drops onto the page. But when I’m editing, I put on my green eyeshade and get very cold-hearted. So I mostly edit my own work. I’ve been fortunate to work with careful editors at Blank Slate Press, in addition.

I know you’ve been recently published. Please tell us what that process was like.

Writers are masochists, let’s face it! You spend months and years crafting a book . . . then more months and years trying to convince an agent to represent it! And most writers I know are pretty introverted to begin with, so the task of selling their manuscript doesn’t come easy to them. But if you truly believe in what you’ve written, you have to get over that reticence and develop the thick skin necessary to persist. When I finally found a publisher, Blank Slate Press of St. Louis, Missouri, it was such a thrill! Here were these people, complete strangers to me, who were responding to my work with such a level of enthusiasm and understanding. It was like pushing your way through brambles for a couple of years and finally emerging into a beautiful landscape. Of course, you quickly discover that your work is only beginning, because the folks at Blank Slate had their own ideas about how the book should develop. We had many, many intense discussions, and the book is the better for it. 

What a great analogy, “pushing through brambles”! I’m glad you made it through to the “beautiful landscape”. 🙂
Would you like to tell us a little about ‘Slant of Light’? Brag as much as you like! 🙂

Oh, I’ll brag all right! The novel takes place in the years 1857-1862, which in American history are really fascinating — the trouble times leading up to the Civil War, when everybody in the country knew that something terrible was about to happen, but had no idea of its magnitude, and the leaders were incapable of achieving a peaceful solution to the intractable differences that divided the country. So it’s a time with built-in drama right there. Add to that the fact that this was also one of the great periods of American literary creativity, with people like Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Hawthorne, and others at work, and you get an idea of the amazing ferment that the country was in. So I decided to explore the great themes of that era — nature and civilization, human perfectibility, the American ideal of self-reliance — through a utopian community located in the Missouri Ozarks.

Why did you choose to write about Utopian lifestyles?

They’ve been a scholarly interest of mine for many years. I’ve been particularly interested in a group called the Icarians, who existed in the United States from 1848 to 1898. They were true believers in democracy and communism, but their dreams of creating an ideal community kept getting interrupted by internal strife and by problems with the world at large — not necessarily antagonism from outsiders, but mundane things like debt and crop prices. And yet they persisted, year after year, because they truly believed they had a solution to the problems of the world. That’s the thing about utopians . . . even if you think their ideas are nutty, you have to admire the way that they establish their lives according to a principle and put that principle out there for everyone to see. The big questions about human motivation, social structure, and fate versus free will, questions that most of us don’t think about most of the time, get placed front and center in an intentional community.

History has always been a favorite topic of mine. That sounds very interesting! 🙂
You mentioned Missouri and the Ozarks and on your blog I’ve seen many lovely photographs taken in these areas. Would you like to tell us a little about the places that are special to you?

I think the most remarkable thing about the Ozarks is the number of beautiful wild springs it has. The hills are not tall, but the rivers are amazingly clear and bubble up from springs that are among the largest in the world. Some of my favorites are Blue Spring on the Current River, Greer Spring on the Eleven Point River, and Falling Spring on Hurricane Creek, but there are thousands of springs all over the region, and each is fascinating in its own way. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

To my fellow writers — keep it up! In some small way, writers and artists are the glue that holds civilization together. And to my readers — thank you from a grateful writer. It’s a simple fact that without readers, writers have no reason for existence. I appreciate every comment, review, and e-mail I get.

Are there any links you’d like to share so that we can find you?

You bet! I blog at stevewiegenstein.wordpress.com 

My website is www.stevewiegenstein.com 

I’m on Twitter @SWiegenstein 

On Facebook, just search for Steve Wiegenstein – Slant of Light (or click on the name for the link), and on both Amazon and Goodreads.

My publisher’s website is blankslatepress.com, and you can order the book directly there, or from your local bookstore or online bookseller. I love to do book signings at local indie stores, so I always recommend them first!

Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to chat with us. Good luck with your book sales. 🙂

Thank you!

Hope you all enjoyed meeting Steve and will stop by to visit his website. 🙂

Interview Sunday #5 – Happy Canada Day!

Since today is Canada Day, I thought I’d introduce a young Canadian writer who has recently published her first historical romance novel through Amazon. I thought you might be as interested in her journey as I am.

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Hi, Cheri! Welcome to my blog.

Hi everyone. Thank you for having me!

Please tell my followers a little bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Cheri Champagne. I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 21 and have been happily married since. I now stay at home with my young sons, aged 3 and 1 1/2. I graduated from university with an Applied Business Technology degree when I was 22 and began working in an office right out of the schoolroom. I left work when I was seven months pregnant with my first son and have not gone back since. It was an easy decision on my part to stay at home with my son; this was definitely where I was meant to be.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was a child, actually. I began with short stories when I was about 7, then progressed to poetry when I was in my teens, and children’s books as I entered my parenting years. Then, roughly eight months ago, I began writing my first romance novel.

What inspired you to start writing?

When I first began writing as a child, it was because I had so many stories and thoughts rattling around in my mind that I had to get them out. For my current novel, however, my answer is different.

I think I could say that this answer could be split between both my husband and myself. I have been reading historical romance novels since I was 15, and have loved them ever since. I adore the adventure, the passion, the rules and customs of Regency England, the image that the books create in my mind, and the happy way that I feel after having read them. After reading several hundred… er… thousand historical romance novels, I began to think of stories that I’d like to read. I began to hope that some of my favourite authors would somehow hear my thoughts and create the books that I wanted to read. I then started writing the plots down in a notebook… I began making notes about where the novel would begin, followed by what drove the characters. Then I wrote the characters’ names, ages, and a short description of what I wanted them to look like. Soon enough I had 8 plots outlined.

My husband knew that I loved to write and missed doing it. I had asked what he thought about me returning to school and taking more creative writing courses (I had taken nine creative writing courses in my first few years of college/university). He suggested that I forget going to school and just begin writing. He said that I didn’t need a professor telling me that I needed to write; I had the drive, the desire to succeed, and the plots. All I had to do was put my fingers to my keyboard. So I did.

That was very perceptive of him!

With two young boys running around your house, how do you find the time to get any writing done?

That was incredibly challenging. And still is! But as every mom knows, there are lulls in the energy that their children have. First thing in the morning, my sons would eat their breakfast and give me time behind my computer. Then during my youngest son’s nap I got between 2 and 3 hours to work, and when my husband came home and my sons clung to him, I had time then. I tried to get some more work done during the day, but I knew that I had to step back from my computer when my kids needed my attention. Any chance I got that my kids were distracted with toys or each other, I quickly sat at my desk and wrote another sentence or two. I found myself needing to re-read and proofread along the way, as the stop/go nature of my writing required it.

My husband and sons were incredibly understanding and my mom and mother-in-law were wonderful. I was able to call my mom or my husband’s mom and ask them if they could watch the boys for a few hours while I get some writing in and they were always more than willing.

How terrific to have that level of support from your family!

What was your strategy with regards to editing? Did you rely on critique partners or beta readers?

I re-read my novel from beginning to end three times before I sent my novel to a beta reader. While it was being read by another, I read through it again myself and found more required changes. I think that having someone else read your work is very important. They find things that you had missed, and let you know when something doesn’t make sense. It may make sense to you (since you’ve got the plot already in your mind), but sometimes without realizing it, you’ve left out some pertinent information.

That is very true!

Many writers have become a little discouraged because of the state of publishing, these days. Please tell us a little about why you went this route and the process of publishing through Amazon.

I had tried to go the ‘traditional’ route at first. I sent query letters to several publishers; many did not respond at all, but I received a couple of rejections. One said that their publishing company no longer took on Romance authors, another said that they had gone out of business, and one said that due to the sheer volume of responses, they could not take my submission into consideration. The literary agencies that I sent queries to all said that they were full of clients and had no room for more.

After being ‘rejected’ (whether by lack of response or otherwise) by 13 publishing companies/literary agents I decided to do more research. I looked into some blogs about publishing and self-publishing and the benefits of both. I spent several hours just searching the web and seeing what my options were, and found several more publishers that take on Romance novels… the problem was that many of them said that they do not accept ‘multiple submissions’ (ie. they don’t want your manuscript or query letters going to any other publisher… and they expect you to wait for 3 months while they deliberate. Many will not even let you know if they have seen your submission and passed on it; they’ll just make you wait the 3 months hoping you will give up). 

Eventually I decided that I had wasted my time by trying to be ‘traditional’. I had previously thought that by self-publishing I would be considered a ‘failure’ for not being accepted by a publishing house, but what I came to understand is that there are hundreds of thousands of authors just like me who are trying to have their novels read, and only one novel PER MONTH get accepted by each publishing company–sometimes less. I also realized that if I go the traditional route I will not have control over my title, my cover, or my story. Publishers tend to follow ‘trends’ in the novel-writing business, and I will stray from historical romance for no one. I much prefer to write what I love to read and, once I have found the perfect story to tell, I would like to keep it genuine. What I write is exactly what I imagined it to be and not what a publisher has moulded it to be.

The process of publishing through Amazon was surprisingly easy. I went on to their site, went to the ‘publish with us’ page, chose the ‘print on demand’, and entered my information. Once I was logged-in to my own page I uploaded my document. They request 24-48 hours to check the format, then they send you a PDF or Word document file to check the formatting yourself and make any necessary changes. Once you have proofread your file, you can move on to the next step, which is creating your own cover. They have many templates that you can work off of. You can pick your own pictures, colours, fonts, etc. and work form there. Once you have created and submitted your cover, the entire book goes to them to check over. They will email you once they are done, and if it all checks out, you are ready to push the “Publish” button. 

They will give you a minimum price point for the size and style of book that you request. Once it has been set, you are ready to be up on the Amazon.com website! They also give you the option to publish through Kindle, which is just as simple as with Amazon.com.

If you wish to have editors read through your work or a designer create your cover, however, you will have to pay them for their services. There is a ‘price chart’ on their website.

Did you have to sign any kind of contract, giving them a percentage of your sales? Do you get royalties like traditional publishers? If so, how does it compare with traditional royalties (if you don’t mind my asking)
 
Yes, I clicked the “agree and continue” button with regards to their contract. I have still retained all rights to my work, but they get a large percentage of every book sold. They claim to be much better than traditional royalties, but I am not so sure. For example, if someone purchases a printed copy of my novel, I make mere pennies (literally), but if someone purchases an e-copy of my novel, I would make a little more. I believe the percentage that I see is 35% for eBook purchases. They offer a 70% royalty option, but I would advise reading the rules and stipulations before jumping into that decision.
 
That’s actually not too bad. Traditional publishers will give you an advance, but rarely give royalties of more than 10%.

Have you tried using any other e-publishers? What was that like?


I am currently working on this. I Googled many eBook websites and eventually came across one (eBookIt) that publishes to several e-publishers. I decided to take a chance on it, and right now I’m waiting for the email telling me that I need to approve my novel to continue the publishing process. 

Many e-publishers (such as the one I am going through) require payment for publishing through them. It can be a time-consuming and costly process, depending on whether or not you have your own files and book cover already created. I believe it was worth it for me, but it may not be for everyone. I highly recommend doing research when making a decision such as this.


Please tell us about
Love’s Misadventure.

Love’s Misadventure is an adventurous historical romance novel about two best friends. Miss Annabel Bradley refuses to accept life as a childless spinster. Her many years of pouring greedily over gothic novels has put her head in the clouds, dreaming and hoping for the love she reads about. She has come to accept that the man she has always held a tendre for, her best friend. Lane Mason, Seventh Earl of Devon, will never ask for her hand; he will surely have loftier prospects than a miss like her. She, therefore, decides to move on with her life and accept the proposal of the next suitor to ask. 

Lane Mason is an average aristocrat; absorbed in life in general, and content with his status in society. Amid a frequently occurring moment of self-loathing, Lane shockingly discovers his feelings for Anna. Now armed with the awareness of his love for her, Lane decides to perpetrate a devilishly clever scheme. He will pay actors to abduct the two of them in order to give Anna the adventure she has been dreaming of.

Lane’s plans go awry, however, when they are kidnapped in truth…

I understand you are currently working on a sequel. Some writers are a little superstitious about revealing too much about their Works In Progress (WIPs). Would you care to give us a few hints about what yours is about, or would you prefer to keep it a secret until you’re finished writing it?

I’d be happy to tell you a little about my next novel! It is (tentatively) called ‘The Trouble With Love’. Lady Charlotte Mason is hopelessly in love with her best friend, Major Charles Bradley. Since his return from war, however, he has changed. He has stopped returning her letters, he gives her the cut direct, and when forced to interact with her, he is rude and downright mean. Her hopes for a marriage with Charles have been heartbreakingly dashed.

Major Charles Bradley is in a fix. The very same men that kidnapped his sister (Miss Annabel Bradley) and her new husband (Lord Devon) a few months past have given him a warning. They are coming after Charlotte. He has done his best to keep his two identities separate, but they are determined to clash. Despite doing his utmost to push Charlotte away from him for her protection, his love for her has been discovered by his greatest enemy.

 Now comes his greatest challenge; he must protect Charlotte at any cost. But will his actions of the past months prove the task impossible?

I have the plots outlined for the other Mason siblings as well. The novel following Charlotte and Charles is about Lane and Charlotte’s younger sister, Lady Katherine Mason. We know that she loves to design and create clothing, but what we don’t know is that she has been leading a secret life… the life of a tailor! She secretly accepts a position to create a new wardrobe for known recluse, Lord Withington; one unfortunate soldier that lost an arm during the war. Under the guise of a young man, Katherine enters Lord Withington’s home in preparation for several weeks of work. What neither of them expects is the passion that sparks between them. Will it lead to true love?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For those interested, I can be found on

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Cheri.Champagne.Author,

Twitter @CheriChampagne

Pinterest http://pinterest.com/cherichampagne/.

Please feel free to visit my website cherichampagneauthor.blogspot.ca.
Thank you for taking the time away from your busy schedule to answer my questions, Cheri.

Thank you very much, Susan, for having me! It’s been fun!

It was my pleasure! 🙂

If anyone has more questions for Cheri, or would like to follow her writing exploits, please use the links provided above. Thanks for joining us, today, everyone!

Sunday Interview #4 (a day late)

I apologize for neglecting to post this yesterday. It was all ready to just hit the button, but with everything else going on, I completely forgot. (Sorry, C.B!) Anyway, here is my interview with a fascinating blogger:

Today, I’d like to introduce you all to C.B. Wentworth. You may have seen her name on some of my award posts. I have nominated her for many awards (and I’m not the only one) because she has a beautiful blog and shares her creativity in many ways – through her literary work & poetry, her photography where she gives us a glimpse of her garden & places she has been, as well as her lovely ‘Wreck This Journal’ entries.

Hi, C.B.! Welcome to my blog! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a writer, artist, crafter, and optimist.  During the day I am a high school teacher, but after the bell rings I immerse myself in creative pursuits.  In particular, I focus my energies on writing novels, short stories, and poetry.

How long have you been blogging?

A little over a year.

What inspired you to start blogging?

When I finished the final draft of my first novel, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands.  The need to write and create was still there despite the completion of my project.  I figured keeping a blog would give me the outlet I needed to express and challenge myself as a writer.

How has your blog evolved from when you first started?

At first, I focused on writing more than anything else, but as time went by I decided not to limit myself.  Writing and creativity go together, so it made sense to let my blog grow to include everything I do to inspire my muse.

Do you have any tips for newbies who want to grow their readership?

Write with a voice that is entirely your own.  I’ve found that the best way to attract readers is to offer a point of view that can’t be found anywhere else.

In addition, find blogs that inspire you and interact with them.  It is so important to surround yourself with a community of writers, readers, and sources of inspiration. Be part of the community with thoughtful comments and visit other blogs often.

I love your artwork whenever you post a Wreck This Journal page. For those people who are unfamiliar with this, please take a moment to explain exactly what ‘Wreck This Journal’ is.

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith is a journal full of prompts that inspire reckless creativity.  It’s all about letting go and doing things without hesitation.  We’re all inhibited by our inner critics, conscious filters, and fear of imperfection.  Wreck This Journal effectively inspires you to blast through all of those barriers and explore the true depth of your creativity.

The photographs you’ve posted on your blog are beautiful. For any aspiring photographers who may read this, what’s your secret to capturing the perfect image?

Thank you for the kind words regarding my photographs.  I’ll never get over the fact that people enjoy looking at the pictures I take!

The best piece of advice I can give is don’t try to take the perfect shot.  Simply let go and point the camera at what captures your imagination.  Point of view is what makes a photograph beautiful.

Take more than one shot.  For every image I’ve posted, there are at least 15 more of the same thing where I try different settings or a different angle.  Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.

In addition to everything else you do, you’ve mentioned you are also a writer. In which genres do you prefer to write?

I try not box myself into a specific genre, but I tend to wander into literary and mainstream fiction, while dabbling in fantasy and poetry.

Please tell us a little bit about your process.

I wish I had a definitive process, other than making sure I write every day.  I’m a big fan of free-writing and brainstorming, which means I have notebooks full of partial stories, phrases, and lists.  Whenever, I need a dash of inspiration I’ll page through my journals.

When I’m working on a larger project like a novel, I always keep a spiral where I map out character profiles, scenes, and timelines.  I’m a very visual person, so I make collages for each of my characters that include wardrobe, possessions, and elements of their environment.  I blogged about this process on a post entitled, The Notebook That Built My Novel.

Music also plays a big role in anything I write.  My iPod is full of playlists that serve as soundtracks for my novels, short stories, and even blog posts.   This process is outlined in a couple of posts I wrote: How Music Helped Me Write A Novel and Music for a New Novel.

Part of the reason my blogs includes so many posts about art, crafts, and photography has to do with my belief that all forms of creativity are connected.  I consider all of my non-writing projects to be essential components to my writing process because engaging in multiple creative pursuits keeps me inspired and fuels my imagination. When I sit down to write, I am always stimulated and ready to explore all possibilities.

I agree that all forms of art is linked to creativity in some way.

Do you use critique partners or beta readers to help perfect your writing?

Yes!  I’m a big believer in both.  Critiques in particular are incredibly valuable as they help me see the work in a way I hadn’t considered before.  I learned this lesson while participating on Critique Circle.  This is a fantastic writing community that offers a safe environment to learn the art of giving and receiving critiques.

Constructive criticism can push creativity in unexpected ways and it always helps me find a better path for the story or character I’m working on.  If we stay bottled up inside of our own heads, we fail to see other possibilities.  Granted, no one likes to hear something about a story isn’t working, but I thrive on the challenge of figuring out how to solve the problem.

If my readers want to follow your blog, they can find it here. As well, each of the blog posts you’ve mentioned are already linked, so they can just click on them. Are there any other ways readers can reach you?

Facebook: C.B. Wentworth
Twitter: @cbwentworth
Pinterest: cbwentworth

On my blog, I have follow buttons for all social networks along my sidebar.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, C. B. I enjoyed chatting with you, today! 🙂