Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Jennifer Chase, Crime Thrillers

My name is Jennifer Chase and I write crime thrillers. My latest release is Silent Little Angels, which is book number seven in the Detective Katie Scott Thriller Series. The series revolves around a cold case detective, ex-Army K9 explosive handler, who is tracking down killers in a rural California Mountain town.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:

I have always LOVED books for as long as I can remember. I wrote stories, articles, and a dozen screenplays, but I had my ambition on writing novels. I worked in the corporate world for a while, but my thoughts weren’t far from a crime fiction storyline. One day, after I had written by twelfth screenplay, I began to outline another storyline and series, but this time I wrote my first novel Compulsion. From that time, I never looked back.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:

My first book took the longest because I did an extensive outline process. I was also thinking that down the road, this would be a series. There was quite a bit of information and background that wasn’t part of the first book. From outline to the first draft, it took me about six months to write my first novel.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:     

I began as an indie author and worked hard to get my series out there. It’s not that I never wanted to be traditionally published, but I was working hard and seeing results. At that time, many of the available publishing houses didn’t take unsolicited manuscripts, and the ones that did, it took months to hear back. So I forged on until I was contacted by a publisher who asked me to pitch a crime series. I was excited and optimistic because I had a series that I wanted to write—the Detective Katie Scott Thriller Series. Publishing is much more open and friendly to authors wanting to submit their books today. I would say it has definitely changed in the last five years, which is fantastic. So now, I publish both indie and traditional.

What is your publishing process?

Author:  

I outline all of my stories. It’s a loose overview, like a roadmap, where I can see the crimes and clues clearly making it clear where each suspense-building aspect is needed. It makes my writing that much easier and my first draft isn’t a complete wreck.

Marketing  

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:

Planning is key. A new release requires a pre-order, which has been very successful for my series. I do at least one virtual blog tour, create tweets and posts for social media, email my subscribers, make fun one minute book trailers, and use my blog as the jumping off point.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:     

There are several ways I get reviews besides from readers who buy the book. NetGalley is a great way to get more book reviews—generally the reviewers will also post to GoodReads and Amazon as well. I also contact book reviewers I’ve had in the past to see if they would like to review my latest book. That’s a wonderful way to get reviews before you book is published.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:

I think that varies. There’s not just one definition for success. For some, having published books and selling copies is successful. For others, selling a million books is successful. I feel that if you’re writing books, with good reviews, and readers are buying them—that’s successful.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:    

I write novels mainly, but I’ve written short stories, novellas, and screenplays. I love writing anything in the crime, thriller, and suspense genres. I’ve been influenced by the 80s action films so my novels definitely have some action in them.

How many works have you published?

Author:

I have published sixteen novels, two short stories, and one non-fiction workbook.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:     

My latest book, Silent Little Angels, a Detective Katie Scott thriller, is a crime fiction series about a cold case detective and her K9 set in a rural California mountain area. The latest installment is the seventh book, but all my books can be easily read as a stand-alone.

Here is the synopsis for Silent Little Angels:

The water ripples as the girl’s body escapes the reeds and floats silently upwards. Her beautiful face—blue eyes frozen open, skin as white as snow—breaks the surface. But it’s too late, this innocent soul has taken her final breath…

When camp counselor Carolyn Sable’s body is found floating in a lake beside Eagle Ridge Summer Camp, Detective Katie Scott must dig deep to stay focused. As a child, Katie spent many happy weeks at that camp toasting marshmallows on the fire with her best friend Jenny… until the day Jenny disappeared. The loss will always haunt Katie, but Carolyn’s inconsolable family need answers.

Searching the area, the devastating discovery of two more bodies sends the case into a tailspin. Suddenly on the hunt for a serial killer, Katie’s blood turns to ice when she finds newspaper clippings about her own past cases planted near one of the bodies. Was this twisted killer banking on Katie taking the lead? And why?

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:     

Time. I actually struggle with procrastination, so it’s been my nemesis for a while. I’ve been learning to see only what I have to do tomorrow and what I need to accomplish today.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:     

The ideas and storylines that I write down help to keep me motivated. I feel that I would never run out of ideas.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:

I don’t feel, in my opinion, that there’s a real thing called writer’s block. If you think you’re struggling from it, then you don’t have a complete story. Step back from your project. Begin another. Or just take more time organizing your story that you’re having problems with.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:     

When I’m writing, I listen to piano classical. When I’m editing, it’s all quiet on deck.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or awarm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:

I can write anywhere, but mostly I write in a small office in my house surrounded by things I love–books. There’s a big window where I can see outside at the trees and grass. It’s really relaxing. I create most of my ideas at my desk and I don’t usually write on a laptop, but a desktop computer. It sounds old school, but it’s comfortable and it makes me productive.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:     

I have two German shepherds and they take turns being my writing buddy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:

Don’t let anyone tell you what you should be writing. Write what inspires and excites you.

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Jeanette Baker, Women’s Fiction

HI, I’m Jeanette Baker, author of the women’s fiction book Birthright.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I started writing in 1990. I went to my 20th class reunion and connected with a friend of mine. She had published 9 books. No one I’d ever known personally was a writer. I thought about writing a novel and decided to do it. What did I have to lose?

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      6 months

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:      My first published book took exactly one year.   

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      No. The exact opposite happened. My timeframe now takes longer.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I have published by multiple methods: traditional, indie, hybrid. Times change.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I wrote the kind of books that I liked to read. I assumed people who read that genre of book would enjoy reading mine.     

What is your publishing process?

Author:      For Birthright, I worked with Teri Rider of Top Reads Publishing, a hybrid publisher. She basically took care of all the publishing aspects of the book.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      Since Top Reads has traditional distribution, my book is available in print and ebook on all the major retailer sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I’m fortunate to have a publisher who knows how to do everything. 

Marketing  

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      My publisher ran several promotions for my backlist leading up to the launch of Birthright so there was already some interest in the book. And we are currently running a virtual book tour which lets even more people know about the new release.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Keep writing what interests you and what you know.  

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      In the beginning, it’s the reviews, then the numbers, then, for me, it’s those wonderful fans who read everything I write.    

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic? 

Author:      Always fiction, contemporary, historical and paranormal. The possibilities are endless.      

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      I’ve moved around. Originally, it was Scottish historical fiction, then Irish and Scottish paranormal, then Irish and Scottish contemporary, then American historical and contemporary. 

How many works have you published? 

Author:      To date I have published 20 books.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      Birthright is the story of two women continents apart, one who is desperate to know the other and the other just as desperate to never be found out. My website, Jeanettebaker.com has quite a bit more detail. I encourage you to visit.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      I had only one goal, to be published.  

What do you want your readers to get out of your works? 

Author:      An appreciation of another land, another life, a world different than the one they have. 

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I always recommend classes, going to author events and conferences and frequent reading.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      Kristin Hannah, Barbara Erskine, Diana Gabaldon, Louise Penny.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      Yes, definitely easier.    

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:     I started with a critique group, two talented ladies who were published. We stayed together for 20 years. 

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I would say in the middle. I’m a fairly consistent writer and complete a certain amount of pages every day with some exceptions. I don’t have all-nighters and I tend to review what I’ve written the day before to be sure I got it right. This technique has been a life-saver.

Struggles  

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I don’t know if tips play out in my answer but I will say that writing is much more relaxing if you aren’t the parent of small children, or children who need help with homework or if you have a day job or have a husband who isn’t completely on board with your disappearing into the office daily. It can be done, but it’s not easy.   

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I would keep a single brand until I was a New York Times, best-selling author.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      A gun-shy promoter    

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      I absolutely love the written word, particularly the English written word. I love reading authors who do it well.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      Before I am done for the night, I jot down the idea, the conversation or event that will happen next. The following day, I reread what I wrote and get back to work.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:      Returns and Advances

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      They didn’t react to my writing but they certainly reacted when I was published for the first time. Yes, It was exactly as expected.    

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      They shop at the grocery store. They take their children on playdates at the park, they attend back-to-school night and meet at local coffee shops. They hope for summer and fewer snow days. Usually, they are not rich or famous and life does not always go their way. 

Fun Stuff 

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      A small, open office   

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      “The Sunshine When She’s Gone.”

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      A Diamond of the First Water  

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      Sometimes, I can do it well, other times, not as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      Wait and listen before speaking.

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Arabella Sheraton, Regency Romance

Arabella Sheraton is the author of the regency romance book The Reluctant Bridegroom.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      A few years ago, my mom, who was an invalid, complained that the Regency romance books by a Big-Name Publisher were ‘all the same.’ She said, “I’m sure you could write a good Regency for me. Will you?” I thought to myself how hard could it be, and already being a Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fan, I dived in.     

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      My first few books were written for a traditional publisher who, sadly, closed down when the owner became ill. I turned to indie publishing, found a good distributor, and have never looked back.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      Regency is a niche market with very dedicated fans. That makes it easy for a Regency author to tap into the market.

Marketing    

How do you promote your content?

Author:      I have a Facebook site, a website, and a Twitter profile. I post regularly to Facebook, but I am an avid Twitter user, and this has worked out the best for me. I tweet other people’s books/news and they return the favour.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Persistence. The ability to just keep going even when it seems as if you are wading through mud and everyone else is enjoying unparalleled success but not you.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic? 

Author:      I write authentic Regency romances. This may seem an odd statement, but romance in this sub-genre of historical fiction has very clear guidelines. Regency sticks to certain rules, has die-hard fans that know their bonnets and boudoirs, and leans towards an authentic style for the genre.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      Regency could be called formulaic but in fact is anything but. Given the ‘restrictions’ imposed by the genre (clean romance, era-appropriate language etc) and the fact that there are no special FX and whizz-bang action car chases, the writer has to work on plots that are intriguing and concern people of the era, their relationships and the drama that arises from conflicts within these relationships and social issues. I aim for witty dialogue, intriguing plots, realistic interactions, and the social mores and manners of the time. There is plenty of material for themes and dramatic plots.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      I did not think of becoming an author at all. I just wrote the books to entertain my mother. I happened upon a publisher who posted an advert in an online newsletter, asking for Regency manuscripts. They loved my books and asked if I had any more lined up. As it happened, I had. After my mom passed away, I have continued to write in her memory. She so loved Regency romance, like many readers out there.    

What do you want your readers to get out of your works? 

Author:      I absolutely love sinking into a Regency romance and being gently taken back to an era when things were much simpler. A good romance can absorb you for a few relaxing hours. I want my readers to experience the same kind of pleasure. The feeling when you put down a book, sigh, and think, “Oh, that was just wonderful.”

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:     Oddly enough, I always start with a catchy title. I have tried to do it other ways, but the title seems to strike the right note and from there the story unfolds very easily. I handwrite my chapter outlines, make a list of potential characters, and then start typing the story. So it’s a mix of pantsing and plotting, but there is definite plotting. I never struggle for stories. There are always a few ideas floating around in my head.

Struggles

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      I am driven and self-advocating. You have to tell people your books are out there, and you have to give them a taste of the books as well. The Amazon Look Inside is not enough. Wattpad is a great way to give potential readers/fans a peek into your books. I have put the first 3 chapters of all my books on Wattpad to give any reader a nice chunk of my stories. The feedback is also useful. Wattpad allows you to share this with other platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Here are the first 3 chapters of The Reluctant Bridegroom on Wattpad https://www.wattpad.com/story/5877656-the-reluctant-bridegroom-chapters-1-3 I also use two excellent marketing companies to keep promoting me when I am not able to post on Twitter. Circle of Books comes highly recommended and The Main Channel Network.   

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I don’t believe there is such a thing. When I grind to a halt in my story, I put that part aside and continue writing a few scenes ahead. I leave it up to my characters to sort out the roadblock when I get back to the scene. It works. You cannot force creativity.

Fun Stuff   

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I live in a small island country in the Mediterranean. My home is in the countryside, in beautiful surroundings, and the only noise is the sound of birds singing… I have a study set up for my writing and here is where all the magic happens!

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      April Lady by Georgette Heyer for the umpteenth time.   

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique? 

Author:      Every author is unique in their own way. Where things fall apart is when they read something another person has written or received accolades for and they then doubt themselves and copy the other writer. I write the way I write, and people enjoy my books. They may enjoy someone else’s more, but that’s their privilege. 

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:    Two dogs (Pumpkin and Stanley) and a cat (Bertie Wooster) and his girlfriend (Princess Jasmine) who comes to visit and eat my cat’s food.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      I have three, actually. These I gleaned from the wonderful marketing guru Penny Sansevieri. 1. Never give up. 2. Make sure your books reach the highest standards of publishing. 3. Every day, in some way, tell someone about your books because word of mouth is free and it’s the best form of advertising.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Amy Schisler, Romantic Suspense/ Inspirational

I’m Amy Schisler and I write inspirational fiction on the side of romantic suspense. My most recent release is Seeking Tranquility, Book One in my Chincoteague Sunsets Trilogy, a spinoff of my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. 

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I wrote poetry to express my thoughts and emotions, and I always said I’d like to write a book someday. After fifteen years as a librarian, I told my husband I was tired of shelving other people’s books and thought it was time to write my own! Here I am, seventeen books, twelve novels, later, and I still have so many ideas for more!

How long did it take you to finish your first book? 

Author:      It took about five years to write my first book. The writing part was easy. The editing and rewriting were tricky, and after a disastrous year with a small press publisher, the final rewrite was pretty painful. 

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:      I received so many rejections for my first book, but I did eventually have it published through a small press in Texas. The experience was not what I expected, and I was completely disillusioned. A good attorney helped me get my rights back, and things have gone much smoother ever since. 

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      Now, I can write an entire novel in about two weeks. It takes another month or so of editing and rewriting, and then I put it aside for several months before going back and polishing it off. At that point, it goes to my editor for the final edits. 

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      Today, I’m an indie writer. I did seek out other small press publishers for some of my later novels, but the ones I spoke with felt that I was successful on my own and didn’t need a publisher to do all that I was already doing. However, I am currently seeking a publisher for a Bible study I’ve written, so we’ll see what happens with that! 

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      When I first began writing, my target audience was romantic suspense and mystery readers. The more I wrote, however, the more my books gravitated toward inspirational fiction. I didn’t really do it on purpose. My books still all contain elements of mystery and suspense, intrigue at the very least, but they all have a faith-inspired backstory that I never intentionally set out to write but happened gradually and continues to be a major theme in my books. 

What is your publishing process?

Author:      I’m not a planner when it comes to my books. I always know the beginning and ending, but I rarely know how I will get from one to the other.  I don’t always write one scene after another linearly either. Often a scene will come to me, and I will write it down then and figure out where it fits in later. I write the first couple drafts over the course of a month or so. I use a few really good beta readers to help stay focused and streamline the plot. After I put it down for several months and then come back to it, I will polish it and send it to my editor. Once she puts her stamp of approval on the finished manuscript, it’s off the audiobook narrator. During that production process, I often find small things that we will work together to tweak. Hearing the book read aloud can make such a difference! Once the audio is complete, the cover and back matter are ready, and the discussion questions are written, it’s ready for publishing! 

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I use all platforms to publish my books. They are available anywhere print, audio, and ebooks are found. I distribute through Ingram, Draft2Digital, and Findaway Voices. 

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I use beta readers, proofreaders, and a great editor. 

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I do a lot on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. My daughter is a professional media marketer, so she has been instrumental in helping me establish a brand, construct a website, and manage posts. I also write a weekly blog focused on everything from family life to favorite recipes to my latest work in progress. 

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      I typically launch one book in the summer and one in fall or winter. I love to do big book launches that fit the theme of the book and bring in a crowd. Once, I held a launch at a horse rescue farm to go with my Colorado suspense, Summer’s Squall. Last year, I held a Book and Wine Paring and Dinner to launch my book, The Good Wine. I advertise on social media and my website as well as newspapers and radio. 

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      Getting reviews is so hard! I often ask friends and family to post, but I also engage blog tours and send ARCs to readers on listservs I belong to.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      I promote through regular media and social media. Recently, I was on an afternoon talk show, and I do lots of interviews and guest spots on podcasts.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      I think it’s critical to reach out beyond my faithful readers. I’m always looking for ways to connect with more people and get the word out about my books. I attend a lot of festivals and non-book related events where I can spend time talking to people one-on-one about my works. 

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Success is simply having someone say they loved something I wrote. 

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic? 

Author:      I primarily write novels because I love to read and I love to write stories. However, I write just about anything that comes to mind! 

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      My main genre is Inspirational Fiction, but within that, my books are filled with suspense, mystery, intrigue, and almost always, romance. 

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      My brand is writing something that inspires. My message is that there is a Higher Power out there Who sends family and friends into our lives to help us discover who we are and what our purpose in life is. This isn’t just a main theme in my fiction. I’m often asked to give talks or lead retreats on discovering one’s purpose and making it the focus in life.  All my books really contain the same theme—love—but not in the way you expect. My books are about much more than romantic love. They’re about love for family, friends, community, and faith. 

How many works have you published? 

Author:      I’ve published twelve novels, two children’s books, two devotionals, and a book for parents and children on saints. 

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      After the end of my first Chincoteague Island trilogy, readers continued to ask for more Chincoteague books. Knowing I still had some characters lingering in the background, I decided to create a new trilogy. Being familiar with both the island and nearby Wallops Island Flight Center, I thought it would be fun to add some NASA characters and make their space explorations efforts part of the storyline. 

Setting Christy’s own struggles against the backdrop of an island struggling to regain its place in a world gone mad felt like the perfect fit. After two years of living with fear and uncertainty, when few visitors ventured across the causeway and businesses shut down, everyone on the island is ready to live again. Two years after losing her parents then being forced to sell their home, Christy and her younger sister move to the place where their family found rest and refuge. She feels as if she will never live again, but the island that brought miracles, promise, and hope to many, proves once again the place to go for those Seeking Tranquility.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      My writing always contains a hero and/or heroine to root for and, of course, a villain. Typically, the villain is a person, but sometimes it’s a disease, a traumatic past event, or other incident that is getting in the way of the main characters finding peace. All my novels, not just the mysteries and suspense novels, have red-herrings and twists that make the reader say, “Oh! I didn’t expect that!” 

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My goal at first was to become a best-selling author, but my goal now is simply to inspire readers to go where they’ve never been physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I have a weekly blog and a growing YouTube channel. I also do lots of public appearances, talks, workshops, and retreats. 

What do you want your readers to get out of your works? 

Author:      I want them to realize that there are all kinds of love just waiting to be found. 

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      I’m trying to get more public appearances and talks. I love talking to a room of people about my writing and my journey, and I love connecting with readers in person. 

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I love discovering new people and places through my writing and research. 

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      I’m often told that my writing reminds people of Mary Higgins Clark, which I consider the highest complement of all time. I’ve also been compared to Debbie Macomber and Sheryl Woods, whom I love! I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, so I’m constantly discovering new authors, and they all influence me in some way. 

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I read just about all genres, but I do like to read genres similar to mine to see how authors handle the same types of conflicts, traumas, or character growth. I’m not sure it changes the way I write, but it does give me different perspectives. 

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m not a planner when it comes to my books. I always know the beginning and ending, but I rarely know how I will get from one to the other.  I don’t always write one scene after another linearly either. Often a scene will come to me, and I will write ii down then and figure out where it fits in later. I write the first couple drafts over the course of a month or so. It typically takes me a couple weeks to write the first draft and a few months to finalize the manuscript. 

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      I network with other writers mostly through Facebook groups but also through local and national author associations. 

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I’m definitely a sprinter! 

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Time! For many years, I wrote between field hockey games and tennis matches and PTA meetings. Now that my three girls are grown and my writing has expanded, I find that I’m in more demand as a speaker and pilgrimage leader, so it can be difficult to carve daily time to write. However, I do try to write or work on some aspect of my work in progress every day. 

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      Write, write, write. Write every day even it’s just a list of ideas or a sketch of a scene. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary. 

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Just do it. I tell people all the time, if there’s a book inside trying to get out, all you have to do is take the time to make it happen. 

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I don’t think I’d change anything. God’s timing is perfect, and everything in my life and career seems to be coming together just as it was supposed to. I’ve learned so much from my mistakes; I’d never want to miss those growth opportunities that have led me to where I am today. 

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      Maybe all three? I’m not a natural at self-advocating, but I’m getting better all the time. I have a wonderful author friend who has helped me learn to put myself out there. It’s not easy, but every event, interview, etc. does help me get better at it. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      I love what I do, so that makes it easy to stay motivated.  The more I write, the more I want to write, and the more stories and characters come into my mind and heart.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I’ve honestly never had writer’s block. Once a story is forming, it just comes without stopping. My husband is wonderful and knows when to just call in a pizza for dinner and bring a slice of pie and a glass of wine to my office! 

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      My friends and family have not been merely supportive but active promotors and advocates of and for my work. Sometimes I think my father sells more of my books than I do! My friends are constantly tagging me on book pages and telling others about me. 

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      I often hear that authors are loners or don’t deal well with people or crowds. I haven’t found this to be the case with myself or many of my author friends. 

Fun Stuff 

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Nothing. I like absolute silence to think and to hear the characters speaking to me.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I have an office that used to be my oldest daughter’s bedroom. When she moved out to go to law school, she and I had a wonderful, bittersweet time cleaning out and redoing the room. We painted it light yellow, and it just feels happy and sunny even on a gloomy, rainy day. 

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I just finished James Patterson’s 22 Seconds, the latest in his Women’s Murder Club series. I love a good series, be it crime, romance, or small town. 

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      Probably time travel. From epics like Outlander to anything by Susanna Kearsley, I love a good time travel book. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      I once attended a writer’s conference in Milwaukee with my dear friend, Alexandra Hamlet. One evening, as Alexandra and I were hanging out in our hotel room talking girl talk, swapping family stories, and comparing writing notes, Alexandra said something to me that was so profound, it completely changed the way I look at my writing. I was telling her that I was a having a hard time with some in the “romance” community because my books don’t always fit the bill, so to speak. 

My dear and wise friend said, “Amy, you do not write romance novels. You write love stories.”

Alexandra and I talked about this at length that evening and continued to come back to it all weekend. She is absolutely correct. All my novels have a romance or two, but it’s rarely the main thrust of the story. More often, there’s an abundance of love going around that doesn’t even involve the love between two people. My books are often about love between man and woman, but they are actually more about the love of family, love of community, love of Country, love of God, and more.  All my books share the common theme of discovering love of oneself.

I wish there was a genre that was simply for readers looking for books about love, not romance, just LOVE!

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Palmer Pickering, Sci-Fi/ Dystopian

Hi, I’m Palmer Pickering! I write science fiction and just released “Light Fighters,” the sequel to “Moon Deeds” of the “Star Children Saga.”

From Planning to Published

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      I have been working on the Star Children Saga for over ten years. I rewrote Book One, “Moon Deeds,” several times over the years.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I am self-published and have my own Indie Publishing imprint, Mythology Press.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      I work with several editors, from developmental editing, to copy editors, to multiple proofreaders. I found that with books of this length and complexity, it’s best to do multiple editing passes. Then I hire a desktop publisher to do the book layout. I hire artists for the cover art and other art, such as maps. I really like working with so many interesting professionals. That’s part of what makes self-publishing so much fun.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I use print-on-demand for printing, with both IngramSpark and Amazon. That way I can offer my books to any bookstore or library, or small book seller. For ebooks I use the same two services, and they distribute to all book reader companies. I have an audiobook for “Moon Deeds,” and I use Findaway Voices, who handles a wide distribution to many different audiobook outlets. 

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      During early drafts, I participated in writer critique groups, where we exchanged chapters and offered each other feedback. That was a great learning process, and I made some good friends doing that. At a certain point, that process became too slow for me, so I started getting beta readers to read the finished book and provide feedback. I would meet with them afterwards and ask them all sorts of questions about the plot, characters, and their understanding of the world. That provided invaluable feedback as I learned what came across well to readers and what did not work so well. As I mentioned, I also hire professional editors for all stages.

About Your Work

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      My writing style is very descriptive. I am going for total immersion, so that readers feel as if they are really there and feel what the characters are feeling. I pit dark characters against good characters, striving to explore the motivations for human behavior and how societies function. However, I always try to make my characters authentic and multi-faceted. I like to explore how people strive for a higher purpose and seek the divine to overcome darkness. This translates into magic in my stories, as the protagonists encounter insurmountable obstacles. 

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      My favorite thing is writing. My least favorite thing is querying. I like the publishing process, but it take time away from writing, which is my first love.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else? 

Author:      I network on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and I join Facebook groups. Also Goodreads. And at conventions. I have met some of my best connections at writing and genre conventions.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I write or edit a little bit every day, anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours per day, sometimes in small chunks. On weekends I like to do long writing sessions, interspersed with time to think about what I’m writing. I need uninterrupted quiet time and space to just dwell in my mind about the story I am writing: envisioning a scene; working through a plot knot; pondering the best wording or plot device; or outlining and planning the plot structure, world, and character arcs. I guess I would call myself a lion, who likes long days in the sun lazing about but also is a fierce hunter.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      The hardest thing was trying to find an agent or publisher. I failed at both.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I pretty much got impatient with the whole vetting process of agents and publishers. Perhaps I am somewhat bitter or jaded, but it all seems very random and subjective. The numbers just don’t make for good odds at getting a book deal. There are way more talented writers than there are agents and available slots for new authors at traditional publishers. If you didn’t come up through a respected MFA program or have some other connections, or you don’t win the publishing lottery, chances are slim at finding a deal. Not impossible, just slim. Some friends of mine were successful. So I’m not saying don’t try, just don’t take it personally if you are not successful at landing an agent and a book contract. I am very happy self-publishing. It’s a totally viable path at this point in time, particularly for genre writers like fantasy, romance, or mystery. 50% of the sales in those genres are self-published authors these days. They are definitely giving the publishing houses a run for their money.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      If you want to write, then write. That’s the only way to get good at it. That means sit down and put pen to paper, or pound on that keyboard. Don’t worry about the quality, just start practicing and exercising the writing muscles. Try to write several times a week, like you would do to become good at any skill. Some people say they want to write, but they never actually write anything. Thinking and wishing for a thing does not make it so. Fate rewards those who take action. Writing courses/programs or workshops are always a good idea. Join a writer’s group or trade drafts online to get feedback and to read other people’s work. You learn just as much by reading the poorly executed story as you do the great ones. Regarding becoming a published author, go to cons and listen to panels, read trade magazines, and jump in. The water’s fine.

Fun Stuff

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      “Kings of the Wyld” by Nicholas Eames, and “Burn Red Skies” by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      How about my least favorite? Meta-fiction. Just doesn’t do it for me. 

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique? 

Author:      I write what is entertaining to me. I am not trying to be unique, I am trying to write a compelling story and improve my craft. I think my imagination is creative enough that my worlds and stories stand on their own.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I have three cats who take turns inserting themselves between me and my computer.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      Your best advertisement is your next book.

Author Website:    https://mythologypress.com/
Social Media: https://twitter.com/PalmerPickerin1
Book Sales Pages: Star Children Series

Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

UNICEF Ukraine Donation: July 4th

Buy or read books by Strife and help out UNICEF in Ukraine.

As we enjoy our day of independence in the USA, I think it’s only right to remember that others still fight for theirs.

All royalties accrued on July 4th will be donated to UNICEF-Ukraine. I will estimate pages read, so those with Kindle Unlimited subscriptions who read my titles will be included in the donation as well.

Children all too often suffer the consequences of the adult world. They shouldn’t have to. Many are displaced from their homes and struggling to cope mentally, emotionally, and physically.

My husband and I had looked into adopting a child at the start of the war, but adoptions were quickly shut down. I still want to help.

Join me in donating simply by purchasing a title on July 4th or reading one you already own but haven’t started. Enjoy your 4th of July and know you’re donating to a good cause.

1656918060

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

July 4th Donation Day

E L Strife Sci-Fi on Amazon

Elysia Strife Sweet Romance on Amazon


Want to make a donation directly instead?

https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/emergencies/child-refugees-and-migrants/war-ukraine


Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Susan Berry, Romance

“Susan Berry spent her free time with her beloved grandmother, reading the latest novels they’d retrieved from a used book store, or the local second hand shop. That reading eventually turned into the writing of her own romance novels. Novels filled with characters who have not yet found love, but eventually find a way to overcome romantic troubles with humor, wit, and the consumption of lots and lots of chocolate.”

View her book tour page here.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:   My first book, Dance of the Heart, took me two years to write. I’m a single mother of two, and I wrote mostly while my children were asleep at night. And I probably could have finished it sooner, but I was having too much fun getting to know my heroine, Maggie. She is so funny, accident prone just like me, and someone I’d love to be friends with. She’s faced a heartbreaking tragedy in her life, but found a way to overcome every obstacle that stood in her way and eventually found true love.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:   To me, success as an author isn’t so much about monetary gains as it is about enjoyment. The enjoyment of putting on paper the characters that live in my mind, and having someone leave positive reviews, or reach out to me because they felt a connection with that character. Being an author really is so much more than writing books. It’s a shared experience between the writer and reader, that leaves each bonded to the other, and something I thoroughly enjoy.

After a distasteful first meeting, and a rocky start to their romance, Maggie Kinsley has been happily married to Desmond for the last eleven months. And although she was often alone when he traveled for business, she rather enjoyed how he passionately greeted her when returning home.

So when he received a letter naming him as executor of a property that belonged to a deceased family friend and had to leave for a few weeks, Maggie should have been content as she kissed him goodbye. But there was something about the whole thing that made her uneasy. Why was Desmond so evasive with her when she asked him about the previous owner.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:   Yes, I have always read in the genre I write in. Harlequin romances are some of my favorites. The first one I ever read was given to me by my grandmother when I was ten-years-old. Since I enjoyed it so much, she would take me every weekend to cruise the second hand shops or discount book stores in our town to search for more. My Grandmother  passed away before I wrote my first novel. But I believe she would have enjoyed reading my stories, and I think of her every time one is published. Love you, Gram!

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:   One of the hardest things to overcome on my journey to authorship was self-doubt. Like most women, I’ve faced hardships in my life, which included an accident that left me a paraplegic. But nothing compared to the insecurity I felt when my first book was published. I held my breath as I freed my character from the confines of my computer. And I can still remember the first time a reader said how much they enjoyed my book, and couldn’t wait to read the next one. My smile could have lit up the room. And I still feel that way each and every time a reader reaches out to me. I’m so very thankful, and humbled, by their support and encouragement.

How do you combat writer’s block?

AuthorWriter’s block is something that every author faces and not easily combated. For me, I usually start by taking a break and eating a few pieces of chocolate. Ok…a lot of chocolate.  And truth be told, I’m a firm believer that chocolate could solve any problem and may even be the answer to world peace! After the chocolate is depleted, and I still can’t focus my imagination, I’ll open a new word doc and write anything my mind conjures up—clean out the clutter so I can get back to my characters. That usually does the trick. And what do I do to mark my success at defeating writer’s block? You guessed it…more chocolate, of course.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:   My tip for those who want to take the final steps and become an author is…go for it! You are unique and so will be the stories you’ll write. Write every chance you get about anything that inspires you. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. Reach out to other authors for advice and ask lots of questions. Join author groups on social media platforms like Facebook. Eventually your confidence will catch up with your talent and your first book will be published.

 What do you listen to while you write?

AuthorI love to write in the spring and summer time with my window open and listen to the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, or the rain falling on my walkway. In the fall and winter, when my window is closed, I enjoy the colorful leaves or the snow fall. For me, having music playing is too much of a distraction as I find my self signing more than writing!

Susan’s latest book is the clean romance suspense, Promise of the Heart.

You can visit her website at https://www.SusanBerryauthor.com   or connect with her on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: E J Fisch, Science Fiction

Hi! I’m EJ Fisch—author, artist, gamer, and overall nerd. First and foremost, I write science fiction, but all of my sci-fi has a thriller twist. After all, they say you should write what you like to read, and those are my two favorite genres.

I most recently published Embers (Feb. 22, 2022), the fifth installment in my character-driven space opera/spy thriller series. It felt SO good to finally get to share five books’ worth of character development with readers and bring the series to a satisfying close…for now, at least.    

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author: I’ve enjoyed telling stories for just about as long as I can remember, and I dabbled in writing as long ago as elementary school. I started writing more seriously in junior high; a couple of friends and I had a goofy Star Wars roleplaying game going via AOL instant messenger, and I’d take the transcripts from our chats and type them up as actual prose. Star Wars had already sparked my love of sci-fi many years earlier, so it was at that point that I started wanting to develop deeper, more complex stories in this genre where there were virtually limitless possibilities and my imagination could run wild. Ever since then, I constantly have new characters and ideas brewing in the back of my mind, so writing (and subsequently publishing and sharing those ideas with others) is a perfect outlet.    

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author: I want to say my first book took me about 10 months to write. Back then, I was writing totally for my own enjoyment and had no plans to ever publish, so I didn’t keep track of time very well. I actually wrote the majority of it during my senior year of high school and into early college. Then it sat and gathered dust until the spring of 2014, at which point I’d already completed the second book in the series and was well into plotting the third. It finally struck me that I’d put all of this work into these stories only to hide them from the world. That was when I decided to pursue publishing; I took a few months to go back and revise and spruce up the first book (it needed some MAJOR work), and then dove in.    

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author: I am 100% indie. Self-published, to be exact, and not afraid to admit it. I saw a post on Twitter the other day asking self-pubbed authors whether they went that route solely so they could just get their work out there. Not gonna lie—that’s definitely part of it, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I chose to self-publish so I could maintain complete control of my work. Not only am I guaranteed to be able to share my stories with other people (even if readership is low), but I can stick to my own schedule. I can design my covers how I want. I can format both my ebooks and physical copies how I want. I can market how I want. I can tell the story I want to tell, and I can keep producing regardless of how a given book performs. Yeah, it takes a lot of extra work, but I can’t imagine leaving those things in someone else’s hands. I’m a strong advocate for eliminating the stigma surrounding self-publishing. There are a ton of incredibly talented writers out there who have chosen to go this route for many of the same reasons I have.   

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author: I started out publishing exclusively on Amazon and made use of their Kindle Unlimited program. Then about 3 years ago, I made the switch to wide distribution. Now, my work is available at all the major retailers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Google Play—as well as a number of smaller international retailers. KU/Amazon-exclusivity is so great in some ways and so limiting in others; I’m glad I made the switch.   

Lieutenant Aroska Tarbic is an agent with the revered Haphezian Special Police. He’s lost a lot in a short period of time; the other members of his squad were killed in a tragic accident, and his younger brother was wrongfully convicted and executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Just when Aroska thinks he’s starting to piece his life back together, he’s assigned to a joint task force with a special operations team. It seems like a unique opportunity, at least until he learns his new commander is none other than Ziva Payvan, HSP’s finest operative…and the assassin who killed his brother.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author: Personally, every single sale is a small win for me. I started this little venture just wanting to share my work with others, so each sale represents a new person to share it with. It’s an even bigger win if those people enjoy the story and leave a nice review, or even better, when they reach out via email. No joke, I’ve had a few people send me a simple, quick email over the years just letting me know they enjoyed one of my books, and without fail, it makes me cry (never underestimate how much it means to an author to hear directly from a reader!). This happened most recently after I published Embers, which was already a very emotional project for me, so the simple message meant even more. I think I’d rather have 50 close-knit, enthusiastic, engaged readers who love my characters and stories than 50,000 random strangers who read the books, aren’t impacted in any way, and just move on with their lives. Of course not every writer is going to define success the same way, but that’s my definition.

And then I know I’ve really made it when people create artwork of my characters unprompted, or when people tell me my MC has showed up in their dreams (welcome to my life), or when people leave 5-star reviews saying they were traumatized by one of my book endings and will need to seek professional help 😉

About Your Work

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: I write sci-fi with a lighter, more space opera/space fantasy feel. Not only is that what I’m more comfortable writing, but it has ended up making my books more accessible to people who don’t always read sci-fi—you don’t have to be a hardcore science fiction nerd to understand and enjoy them. I also like to incorporate thriller elements into my sci-fi settings. The main characters in my series are members of a superhuman race who form a special operations team for the primary law enforcement agency on their homeworld, so it ends up being kind of a cross between spy thriller and military thriller. You’ve got your space travel, futuristic weapons, and advanced technology, but also assassins, espionage, conspiracies, and so much more. It has been a really fun combination of genres to work with. One of the future stories I have planned takes place in the same universe as my main series but will have a little bit more of a post-apocalyptic flair.      

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author: When I first started out, I almost exclusively let my books define my brand, which I eventually learned was a mistake because series grow and change over time. It wasn’t long before my banners, logos, business cards, etc. were outdated, and I also didn’t want to be limited to just one story/series. A couple of years ago, I began using a new, more generic logo that consists of simple shapes and colors but still has a very “spacey” look. Space-related backgrounds set the atmosphere without detracting from whatever is in the foreground. I use a lot of reds in my designs, partially because red is my favorite color, and partially because it’s very befitting of my series namesake character. When paired with my logo, my tagline—“Imagination At Work”—elicits the idea of an expansive, exciting universe, but that phrase itself doesn’t limit me to any particular sub-genre. I use the same font for all my logos, book titles, chapter headings, etc.—it’s strong and crisp and has an adequate futuristic look while still being clear and readable. The idea was to create consistency across my whole platform—everything from the books themselves to my website and social media—while avoiding constraints that would warrant another re-brand a couple of years down the road.

How many works have you published?

Author: I’ve published 5 primary works. My Ziva Payvan series consists of a main trilogy (Dakiti, Nexus, and Ronan) as well as a duology (Fracture and Embers). While technically books #4 and #5 of the overall series, Fracture and Embers are kind of a collective sequel to the trilogy and can serve as a jumping-in point for new readers. The journey the characters go on throughout the series was so much fun to engineer. All 5 books are available in ebook and paperback formats, and excerpts from each are available to read on my website.

I’ve also published an ebook-exclusive omnibus that includes the first 3 books as well as some character interviews and sneak peeks. Dakiti is also featured in Forged from the Stars, a collection that also includes first-in-series sci-fi novels by authors G.S. Jennsen and Tammy Salyer.       

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author: Embers was released this past February and is the final book in the current story arc (the plan is for all my future work to take place in this same galaxy, but everything will either be brand new material with the same characters, or a completely different spin-off). It’s very much a culmination of everything that has happened since the start of the series and has a huge emotional payout for the characters (and readers too, I hope!). Ziva, my main (anti)heroine, goes on such a journey over the course of the story, and it felt so good to bring that journey to a realistic and satisfying conclusion. In the book, she and my other characters find themselves caught up in what is essentially an interstellar gang war, all while hashing out the issues that have plagued them for the last couple of books and dealing with their own personal demons    

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author: I of course try to make each of my books unique in their own way, so the characters aren’t always facing the exact same problems, the antagonists don’t always have the same motivations, etc. But in general, my work always includes very strong—and often somewhat complicated—character relationships, regardless of the nature of those relationships. Trust is a major recurring theme throughout the series.

In terms of the writing itself, I’m not ashamed to admit I use a lot of sentence fragments for stylistic purposes—emphasis, dramatic effect, replicating the way people talk, etc. As you may have noticed throughout this interview, I’m also a huge fan of em dashes 😉

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author: When I first started, my one and only goal was to simply share my work with others and quit keeping it hidden. On the whole, that’s still my primary goal; if a few people out there enjoy my stories and fall in love with the characters, that’s a win for me. I think every author—especially us indies—wishes they could make more sales and reach more readers, and I’m no different in that regard. But if I ever find myself getting frustrated with lack of sales and lack of reach, I just remind myself why I started doing this in the first place. A few extra bucks in my pocket is nice, but that wasn’t the initial goal. And like I mentioned earlier, I can keep writing and creating regardless of how many sales I have.    

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author: Sci-fi and thrillers are the two genres I’ve primarily read over the years, and in many cases (especially on the sci-fi side) that has been really helpful for me when it comes to creating my own stories. I tend to not enjoy reading really heavy, hard science fiction as much, but I also don’t care for it if it’s overly simplified. That has helped me kind of find a balance between the science and the fiction in my own work—I can write the level of sci-fi that I’m comfortable with and that I enjoy reading. Plus, since sci-fi is such an age-old genre, I have a lot of material to draw from in terms of what classic tropes I might want to include, or which clichéd ones I might want to avoid.

On the thriller side, reading that genre has helped more with overall story structure—the way problems are introduced, how a conspiracy unravels, etc. It’s a good way to study pacing.  

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: I am 100% a plotter. I’ve given pantsing my best shot and failed miserably. Whenever I have new ideas brewing, I always start by just jotting down some rudimentary bullet points. Just recently, I experimented a little with writing things out in a more prose-like manner (“So there’s this planet…”) as if I were explaining the ideas to myself. I ask myself questions and branch off if I’m not sure which direction I want the story to go. Eventually I’ll end up with basic bullet points for the entire story, at which point I’ll start breaking them up roughly by chapter get a little more in-depth with my outline. I often continue building on the outline even after I’ve begun drafting, especially if I have notes for continuity-related details I don’t want to forget.

This will sound terrible, but I actually have no idea how long all of this takes. The outlining for my early books took place back when I wasn’t keeping track of time at all (I can’t remember if I even used an outline for the first book), and my last 2 books have been written in the midst of my day job, so everything moves at a snail’s pace. It never fails that the outline comes together fairly quickly, especially if I can gain some momentum, and then it takes me forever to actually write the story.      

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author: I’m definitely most active on Twitter. I do a little networking on Instagram, and a little less on Facebook, but Twitter is where the majority of the meaningful interaction takes place.    

Struggles

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author: I can’t speak for the querying/trad-pub process, but if you’re opting to go indie, and especially if you’re wanting to self-publish, my biggest piece of advice is to take your time. Do your research. Build your platform. Make sure your work is the absolute best it can be. If you want/need to hire an editor and/or cover designer and/or formatter, ask around in the community to find people who are a good fit for you. If you’re going to be doing your cover and formatting yourself, study other well-performing books in your genre and see what makes them shine (fonts, color schemes, etc.). If you make friends and build hype in the writing community well before your book is out, chances are you’ll have pretty good readership right off the bat when you launch. Some of those new friends may even serve as beta readers who can offer feedback and help you polish your story.

I say all of this as someone who got way too excited upon finally deciding to publish and rushed things. Frankly, my first book was not the best it could be when I published it (luckily it’s easy to correct typos and upload a fresh document to Amazon). I had no platform whatsoever other than the few people I knew in real life who’d found out I was about to publish. In the intervening years, I’ve redone all my covers and formatting, and I can’t help but wonder how much better all of my books would’ve performed if I’d done those things from the start.

So in short, I know it’s exciting, and it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and the hype. But step back, take a breath, and have patience—take the time necessary to create the most professional product you can, and you’ll be so much better off. Start strong.  

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: I’m definitely somewhere between “gun-shy promoter” and “total marketing procrastinator.” I LOVE creating spiffy promotional graphics for my work and sharing them, but I hate feeling like I’m being obnoxious. If I’m running a sale, I tend to post a fun graphic with all the relevant info and links, pin it to the top of my social media, and then sit back and simply hope people see it. I’ve always hated saying, “Hey, buy my books!” (no matter how nice I try to make it sound LOL) even if that’s exactly what I want to happen.   

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author: I usually don’t listen to anything while I write—I don’t mind some ambient noise, but any type of music tends to be too distracting. Music usually comes later during the revision/proofreading process. I love instrumental music like movie scores, Two Steps From Hell, and Audiomachine, but at this point I’ve listened to all of that stuff so often that my brain forms associations with too much of the music and it’s just as distracting as lyrics would be. I do really like Ambience Lab on YouTube—there are a bunch of genre-specific ambience videos so it’s really fun to find some sci-fi related ones and get totally immersed in my work.    

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I’ve known for a long time that I’m the World’s Biggest Introvert™, and I was just musing the other day about how that means I want recognition for my work and accomplishments but still hate being in the spotlight at all. I imagine I’m not alone in this—it seems like the vast majority of writers tend to have introverted personalities. This whole publishing adventure has forced me to maintain a certain level of self-awareness; in order to see any success, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone to varying degrees over the years. It can be challenging, and sometimes it’s not very fun, but I think it’s been good for me nonetheless.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author: I tend to like hard candy that I can suck on absentmindedly while mulling things over—Jolly Ranchers or Gobstoppers are a solid choice on that front (pro tip: don’t eat an entire can of Ice Breakers mints in one sitting or your mouth will be raw for days). If it’s the weekend, you can bet I’ll have an ice-cold Dr. Pepper within reach—otherwise, it’s usually flavored water or Gatorade. In the colder weather, no writing session is complete without a mug of hot chocolate with a melted candy cane in it!    

You can find me on all the major social media platforms—I’m most active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hit me up! I always love chatting with readers and other writers, even if it’s about non-writing-related mutual interests like video games and movies.

Visit my website—www.ejfisch.com—to find everything you need to know about my work. Read excerpts from each book, find retailer links, check out concept art, and more.

Facebook     Twitter     Instagram     Pinterest     Goodreads   

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Sonja Hutchinson, Fantasy/ Science Fiction/ Mystery/ Paranormal/ LitRPG

I’m Sonja Hutchinson. I’ve written seventeen books in the genres of fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, mystery, paranormal suspense, and LitRPG, but currently, only three of the Bond-Wolf Series (epic fantasy) are available on Amazon. I’m working on book four of that series, and it should be available at the end of summer 2022. I once tried to write a romance, but after copious amounts of chocolate and coffee, the urge to finish that piece blew away.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:    I began writing in 2000 after my first son was born. I had an idea for a story and ran with it while he slept. Then two more boys came along, and I had to take a break from writing to keep them all alive. That was my full-time endeavor. When they were big enough to be moderately unsupervised, I returned to writing.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      It took ages LOL. I finished the first draft in nine months, then began editing. I hired a professional to help me with that process and ended up re-writing the entire book.  I moved on to other projects, but between them I went back and re-wrote that first book several more times. The final version is now published as  Voice of the Just.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I’m an indie author through Amazon.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I have a team of three amazing critique partners. When I reach chapter ten, I send them all chapter one. They push me to stay ahead of them and help with things like pacing, typos, character motivations, and general cheerleading functions. Once the book is finished, polished, and ready for publication, I have another team of betas who give me general feedback (did they like it, is the ending satisfying, is it truly ready for publication, etc.).

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      Marketing is the area I struggle with the most. It’s one thing to identify my target audience and another to reach them (plus the whole idea of “I made something, please buy it!” grates against something within me). But it’s a necessary evil if I want people to enjoy my books, so I’ve given it a minimal shot. I use the basic Amazon tools (key words), Twitter, and Facebook to advertise, and I’ve had good success with Kindle Unlimited.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      My beta readers review my books. I’ve found a few book review sites but haven’t used them yet.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      My favorite genre to read and write is fantasy, but I enjoy too many others to stick with just one. I’ve got a paranormal suspense series I’ll be self-publishing soon, and I’m currently querying agents with a sci-fi piece and an urban fantasy to try the traditional publishing route.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      For the past year I’ve been working on mastering Deep POV, a method of limiting narrative voice to funnel readers directly into a character’s heart and mind. I’m still working on the technique, but I love the outcome so far. I should devote more time to marketing, but I don’t want to LOL.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I love creating new characters, plotting their adventures, and writing that first rough draft. I also love brainstorming sessions with my writer friends, either on my work or theirs. Sometimes a ten-minute collaboration with a friend can stir the creativity to new heights and fuel a marathon writing session, and nothing beats that rush.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I’m a voracious reader in multiple genres, but fantasy and mystery are my favorites. Goodreads informs me when my go-to authors have a new book out, and I’ve usually got 12-15 books in my to-be-read pile–usually e-books, but sometimes I bring home real library books. As far as creating new stories, I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. I’ve got a notebook for jotting down promising bits of dialogue or what-if questions that could someday resemble a plot, and my series characters could continue having adventures as long as I keep writing.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m a plotter, but I don’t have the same method for each book. Some begin with the idea of a character in crisis, and the plot springs from that. Once I came up with a fantastic first line and plotted an entire book around that sentence. Most of my books begin with an ending (like a murder mystery), and I plot around that climax, creating all the characters needed to make it happen. One time, I tried pantsing. It was a disaster LOL. I ended up stopping before the end of Act I and planning the rest of the structure before continuing—and quite a bit of the beginning was trashed.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Twitter and Facebook are my go-to for networking now, but before the pandemic, I also attended a writer’s conference once a year. I found my first critique partner at one. I’ve also met several of my favorite authors in person at conferences and connected with a man who later became a good friend and co-wrote a book with me. I’m hoping that book (a LitRPG) will be self-published this year. He’s much better at marketing than I am, so fingers crossed!

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I usually write six days a week, sometimes seven, for 4-6 hours per day. Sundays I only get in 1 or 2 hours before church. Occasionally I need a break and take a day or two off, but I’ve got a weekly word count goal that I don’t like to miss.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to procrastinate J  It happens to us all. Sometimes I get bogged down and don’t know how I’m going to get to the next plot point, and that’s when I brainstorm with an author friend. Video conferencing is a fabulous tool! And sometimes, I worry that my story is boring, and readers won’t like it, and the only way out of that vortex of depression is to call my best author friend and let her talk me out of it.

Struggles

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I actively queried eight books over a span of 16 years and have over 450 rejections, some of them on paper from back in the days before e-queries. Who else remembers SASEs? LOL. Every one of those rejections hurt like an icepick to the chest. I’d allow myself a few minutes to grieve, have a chocolate, then spend some time playing with my children before moving on to the next project, book, or agent. All these years later, the rejections don’t sting quite so much as they used to, and the kids are grown so there’s no need for play breaks unless I want them J

This process can be So Depressing! It’s long and difficult with incredibly low odds of nailing a traditional publishing house contract. But I’m too stubborn to ever give up, and I couldn’t quit writing if I tried, so I keep pressing forward. I still query sometimes, even though I’ve decided to self-publish most of my works. 

Tips for budding writers: Don’t give up! You can’t do anything with a half-finished product, so finish the book. Then find critique partners or a professional editor to help with the edits. Study craft books to improve your techniques. Reach out to other authors for assistance–you’ll never find a helper if you don’t advertise your need for one. Get involved in writing communities on social media to make connections. Lastly, READ. A lot. Mostly in your genre, but also in others. Read new stuff that comes out so you can follow the market, and study how that author moved you with the prose.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I have a couple of methods. The first is to back up in the story, maybe just a few pages, or maybe a few chapters, and do something different with the characters. Make different choices for their forward progress—or even opposite choices. Do something unexpected, or dangerous, or ridiculously silly. It might not work, but then again, it might spur a fabulous idea.

My second method is to reach out to my author friend and ask for a brainstorming session. She’s fabulous at coming up with things I’d have never dreamed of. *Spoiler alert, don’t read this next bit if you want to read my books* Once I told her, “I don’t know what happens next. Alex killed redacted”—and Writer Friend said, “Did he? Are you sure he’s dead?” That little comment spurred a sub-plot that now stretches across multiple books.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Nothing. I need silence. Though the washer and dryer are usually running, but they don’t count.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I have a basement office with a huge wrap-around desk for spreading out all my notes, reference books, charts, maps, tablets, and coffee. I’ve been making an effort to go paperless to get rid of these thousands of sticky notes, sheets of paper, and 3×5 cards, but I haven’t succeeded yet. I’ve tried writing in other places (like a coffee shop), but it doesn’t work. A crowded place is too noisy, and I don’t have all my notes and references.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly. Up next on the to-be-read pile is The Match by Harlan Coben and Blue Moon (Jack Reacher #24) by Lee Child.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I have a best friend who’s an author. We chat every day, edit each other’s work, brainstorm problems, and push each other to stop procrastinating LOL. I have another friend I co-wrote a book with, and we’re trying to work on a sequel.

I have a website: sonjahutchinson.com.

I’m also active on Twitter @sonjahutchinson.

See Sonja’s books on Amazon

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Davene Le Grange, Sci-Fi Fantasy/ Poetry

Hi, I am Davene Le Grange, a Sci-fi Fantasy Author and Poet. I am currently working on a multi-genre 1,200 poems project. The first book in my twelve-book poetry series (inspired by cyberpunk and steampunk) includes almost every punk genre.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      My poem “Once Upon A Butterfly” was published in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I wrote to publish novels. My husband and the film “Arrival” directed by Denis Villeneuve inspired me to start writing. I wrote “Éatheria: Logbook 1” and the overview for a series of seven dark sci-fi fantasy books, which I hope to complete and publish after some more world-building, rewriting, and editing. 

Marketing

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      I typically reach out to friends and family first (recently via my newsletter) to request spreading the word, I will then go onto social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to promote my works (as well as the works of my fellow authors involved in anthologies), and also update my author website.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      I did, following the recommendations of fellow authors on social media, try promotional sites, but quickly learnt that there is a lot of controversy on which sites are scams, cons, and that even the generally accepted sites are also sometimes called into question. I am grateful to have come across ALLi which investigates which sites to watch out for, because experience has taught me that even if you think you’re doing everything correct and doing your utmost to adhere to Amazon’s terms, reviews can still be called into question.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      I have learnt that reviews don’t accurately portray the quality of a book. If what I’ve seen fellow authors share online to be true then a high number of reviews or five-star ratings can stem from large online writer groups, some authors having the ability to spend more on marketing, or sadly when readers are attacked by authors for leaving an honest rating that is below three stars. I myself would rather not rate or even read a book if I feel the quality falls below 3 stars. Follower counters also don’t equate to sales, and I don’t believe that reviews equate to actual success. True success will always be the genuine friends and connections a person makes, and there are no short cuts in the forming of strong bonds between an author and their fellow authors and readers.

About Your Work

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:     As a versatile person, I am still working on my author brand, but overall, I root for diversity, and would like to leave a lasting message of love, peace, and hope. I’m still discovering who I am as a person, and again rarely confine myself to any one particular label as I don’t like to limit myself. I am full of ideas all the time, my biggest challenge is keeping focused, but as I am still experimenting with finding my true passion project, I’m just enjoying living and discovering.

How many works have you published?

Author:      I have had five works published so far.  I have three short stories in three different anthologies: Broadcast 2220 in Arc City Stories (Todd Cinani as Lead Writer), The Spherical Realms and Penumbra and Luster in The Theater of Nok-Mondu, and The Undercover Goth in Neon Digital Darkness (James L. Graetz as Lead Writer). I also have my poem Once Upon A Butterfly published in Away With Words: Inspirations from Europe (Edited by Claire Tupholme), and have a self-published poetry book The Cyber Punk: Ready-2-Play?

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      Other than my focus on colorful imagery and diverse world-building, a common element I have noticed in my writing is a main character that questions if their actions are truly good. I personally find it very important to constantly question if I’m on the correct path and to challenge myself to see a situation from other perspectives.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      Cautionary tales for what people build as well as inspiration to build a better world for future generations. My stories are by nature experimental, and I’m happy if they inspire at least one person to push forward with a new idea to create something good and beautiful for our world to enjoy.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      I would love to give recommendations but again what works for one author might not for another, and with the current climate I’d simply suggest adhering to the terms, rules, and laws as best you can but realize that you’re going to make mistakes and have disagreements. Do the best you can, learn as much as you can, and spread kindness rather than judgment. Not every author you meet has the knowledge and access to the same education as you do. If you see someone struggling offer advice and a helping hand or walk away rather than threaten, resort to group mobs, and cancelling people. Not everyone thinks, feels, and believes the same, and if free speech is to truly be free then our levels of patience, tolerance, and understanding need to reflect our acceptance of another’s right to speak freely. There are boundaries and limits of course, but that’s what the mute and block buttons are for. Opinion and fact are not the same, and people are complex and dynamic. Compassion is essential in the writing field.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      Most of my ideas stem from thoughts and inspirations I had since I was a kid, and I simply attach new experiences and concepts to them. For this reason, I don’t struggle as much with writer’s block as much as I do with organizing my thoughts and ideas coherently. I typically write an overview to keep organized, and then write without editing until I have a first draft. Next, I edit over and over again until my work is the best quality I can produce. If I’m still willing to re-read and edit my work for the fifth, hundredth, or umpteenth time, then I know it’s a good enough story to publish because I’m still interested in reading the same story. My quickest turn around for a first draft is a week for 30 poems and a month for a 100K word novel, but a polished draft can take a month or years depending on the story.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      My toughest struggle continues to be discerning between good and bad advice for fellow authors, especially newbie and indie authors. It is a struggle to sift between what a writer needs to do, should do, and should never do. Even giving advice as an author can be tough because what works for me might not work for someone else. Writing much like life involves a constant learning process. If I may share one tip it is to be kind to yourself and others. As perfect as you want everything, and as much as you want everything to go as you envision, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. If you can make it through the writing process, through every obstacle and challenge, and if you can handle criticism with maturity and grace then you will grow stronger as a writer and as a person. No matter what, you and your story are worth being heard.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      Absolutely. I have experienced thrilling moments that made me love every day, and I have had moments that made me want to quit writing and never read another book again in my life. I have experienced the same extreme emotions while writing as well where every emotion pours out of me on every page. Therapeutic as that can be, I do suggest allowing time to go through each emotion. Allow yourself as a budding writer to process every step of the writing to marketing process.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      Even though there are times I wish certain things had taken a different route I don’t know that I would change anything because I’ve learnt so much. I believe you meet who you meet and you go through what you do for a reason, and it can all work to help one improve and grow as a person. No route will ever be perfect, and no decision made (good or bad) will ever be without consequence. Nothing can change the past, but working on improving the present, hopefully will mean a better tomorrow.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      I believe one of the biggest myths is that you can write and publish a book and make tons of money from it. Most authors barely cover the costs invested in publishing, especially as an Indie. Also, another myth is that popular authors are the best authors around. Some of the (depending on your definition of success) most successful and greatest authors (as people and writers) are the yet-to-be-discovered gems. I recommend taking a chance on authors with intriguing book covers, good blurbs, and interesting sample reads rather than focusing on book reviews, popularity, and ratings.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I will listen to Heavy Metal when writing a battle scene, Alternative Rock and mostly Evanescence when writing a sad emotional scene. Synth or Melancholic Post-Rock for city landscape world-building, and Starset, Svrcina, and Sleeping At Last if my world-building involves distant planets and galaxies. Music, especially during the editing process, transports me to the correct mindset I need to fully immerse in the moment and emotions I hope to capture.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I started writing in 2016 after suffering severe nerve damage. The most comfortable place for me to write at that time was sitting on a bed, which I do not recommend for posture or the neck.  Thank God, I made a full recovery last year, and now write at the dining table or on the couch when our (my husband and my) adopted rescue pup Ava sleeps curled up between my legs. Once a dog falls asleep it’s an unspoken rule that moving is out of the question. I’m able to write a lot until Ava wakes up. I don’t mind that she interrupts my writing, watching her heal and grow is worth every second, and she fills our home with so much love. I wouldn’t trade my precious time with my husband and her, not even for a writer’s award or movie deal. For me true success is the love and joy shared with others, and there’s no greater blessing from God than the love and support of my Hubs and our pup. Everything else is an extra added bonus.