Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and a Taste of Exquisite Darkness
Posts tagged book release
Brag Worthy Rankings

I released Daughter of the Drackan's sequel, Mother of the Drackan, just two days ago. Today, the first book in the Gyenona's Children series hits #3 on Amazon's Top 100 Free Dark Fantasy. I don't quite think I need to say more.

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Daughter of the Drackan's 2016 Virtual Book Tour

Come join me, tomorrow through February 5th, for Daughter of the Drackan's Virtual Blog Tour with Goddess Fish Promotions! Fifteen stops with interviews and guest posts by yours truly about Daughter of the Drackan and my life as a Fantasy and Sci-Fi Author!

During the Tour, Daughter of the Drackan will be available on Amazon at a discounted ebook price. Grab it here. One lucky participant will also be randomly selected to win a $25 Amazon gift card - which is just about as awesome as learning all Keelin's behind-the-scenes secrets! Can't wait to see you there!

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Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #10

This is my last interview in the series, conducted by Virginia Carraway Stark about my new release 'Daughter of the Drackan' and the things that make me tick as a writer. These were fun, intriguing questions (and I'm sure you may laugh at one or two of them, as I did). Stay tuned for the last two interviews in our Fall Fantasy Series, scheduled for next week.

1. What was the most difficult thing you ever wrote? Why do you think it was so difficult for you?

The single most difficult thing I’ve ever written was, in fact, the short synopsis for ‘Daughter of the Drackan’, back before I’d gone Indie and was still pulling out all the stops trying to get it traditionally published. This was also back when both ‘Daughter of the Drackan’ and ‘Mother of the Drackan’ were one, single, humongous piece of fiction. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me back then that something just over 200K words would be daunting for anyone to want to sign.

It took me about three weeks to finally get the 3-page synopsis written on the whole work. I still have all of the “drafts” of this synopsis saved on my computer, for hilarity’s sake. I was able to write first a 34-page summary, then pared it down to 25 pages, then 15, then 10, then 5, and finally 3 (and, in some instances with various agents, 1 double-spaced page. Yikes!). I never quite understood what other authors meant when they’d said writing a synopsis is the absolute worst part of the whole package that comes with writing and publishing a novel until I did this myself. It was intense, terrifying, frustrating, and I felt like I was just throwing out the baby with the bathwater on this one. But I did learn the valuable skill of not being verbose, and of cutting down all the intricacies of my brain into short, relevant, crucial sentences. I’d recommend doing this with any work, even if you’re planning on becoming, and staying, an Indie Author. There’s nothing quite like peeling back the skin of your novel and seeing all the guts that make it work.

2. Tell me about how your personal life affects your writing? Do you write your real life relationships into your fiction?

When I write Fantasy, I like to move beyond the realm of my own understanding and into something (worlds, characters, laws, and struggles) completely new. Of course, my own personal life experiences still come out within the character interactions, which is how readers relate to characters in the first place. They have to be believable.

I will say, however, that my short stories (which are mostly Literary Fiction), the collaborations on which I’m currently working, and my own work in progress, the Dystopian Sci-Fi ‘Sleepwater Beat’, draw much more from my personal experiences and relationships than my Fantasy does. I like to pick on one single aspect of people I know or have met, and inject that into characters. I think the reason I write such dark, emotionally driven (and not always in the most positive way) fiction is because a lot of my past comes into play. As I’m sure we all do, I’ve got some pretty dark “stories” in my past, and part of a way for me to celebrate how far I’ve come since then, and how grateful I am for my currently beautiful, blessed, wonderful life, is to keep writing in a way that expresses the possibility of transforming that darkness into something else entirely. The protagonist in ‘Sleepwater Beat’, for instance, has more of myself written into her character than I’ve ever allowed before. It’s a bit daunting, a bit scary, but I may never have felt more connected to one of my characters.

3. What has been the biggest surprise you have had as a result of your writing? Was it a landmine or a revelation?

Until just a few years ago, I went through a point in my life where I hadn’t written a single word of fiction in probably three years. And I do mean that quite literally—not a single word. I’d gotten so caught up in my own life and everything it entailed at the time that I went through this whole process of not feeling “worthy” of the written word, of wondering what it was I ever had thought I could do with it in the first place. The worst part about it was that once I considered writing again, and really diving into my work as I’d done before my little ‘hiatus’, I was absolutely terrified of the possibility that I may have lost all my “writing talent”.

It sounds kind of silly as I write this, but it was an incredibly palpable fear, and instead of choosing to sit down and figure out if it was actually true, I beat myself over the head about it for months. Something finally clicked, and I told my head to shut up and just write. To my complete bafflement and heart-stopping surprise…my writing style had managed to change completely without me ever writing a single thing. It was almost like getting a completely different hairstyle that I’d never had before—I recognized my face, obviously still had hair, but somehow it didn’t feel like me and I’d done absolutely nothing myself to invoke this physical change in my appearance. This is obviously a metaphor for my writing. I saw the same elements, the same drive for characterization and story, but my structure and voice had matured disproportionately to the amount of writing I’d actually done—which was zero. I realized then that I am a writer, just like every other writer, and the act of writing, of telling stories and wielding the saber of the written word, is ingrained in me just as deeply as all the other things that make me me. That was when the floodgates opened, and I don’t think I’ll ever be afraid of losing my “ability to write” ever again.

4. If you were a kitchen utensil, what utensil would you be? Why? 

Well, I have been a kitchen utensil, so there! Either my junior or senior year of high school, the Drama Club put on a production of Beauty and the Beast for our fall musical. In addition to being part of the chorus as a villager, I was also one of the inhabitants of the enchanted castle. We were all kitchen utensils, essentially (you know, before Belle breaks the spell and everybody turns back into people), and I was given the joyous honor of playing the pastry brush. Yes, I was a pastry brush. My costume was a barrel-shaped cut of brown foam, with straps to hang it over my shoulders, a grass skirt around the bottom to serve as the bristles, and to complete the ensemble, I was given a giant tubular piece of brown foam to place on my head. It was at least three feet tall with a round hole cut in the front for my face. I’ll let you picture that visual for a moment… I was all the rage. Needless to say, the pastry brush has a very fond place in my heart.

5. What (if anything) makes writing impossible for you? How do you overcome this? 

I am one of those people who just can’t sit down to write when I’m highly emotional. Angry, sad, afraid, anxious—it doesn’t matter. It didn’t always used to be that way. When I was younger, writing was the only outlet I had for those emotions, and I have a rather large box that’s now overflowing with all the little scraps of writing I pumped out around those feelings. I did, however, go through a period in my life where I learned the poignant importance of being able to sit with my emotions, to process them, accept them, and try to move forward past whatever I’m feeling at the time. For me, writing now requires a clean conscience and a clear head (except for the occasional ridiculous flash fiction pieces that get created when I decide to sit at the computer with a friendly glass of whisky next to me).

I’ve just recently started giving myself daily word quotas for my fiction (1,000 words a day, minimum), and it’s been extraordinarily helpful. When I get super emotional, I first try to sit with it a bit, grab ten minutes for myself and some mindful meditation, and then see how I feel. Sometimes, though, we all just need somebody to listen, and the writing community has been a remarkable outlet for venting my frustrations. There are a few people I go to with any struggles I might have, who have all consistently given more than helpful advice, guidance, and sometimes just validation. Writers know how writers feel, and I’ve found more kindred spirits within the writing community than any other group of peers in which I’ve taken part. Then, once I’ve expressed myself fully with no judgements…I take a look at the status of my daily writing, and remind myself that, if I want to stick to my publication schedule as an Indie Author, I better get back to writing.

You can grab a copy of my newest Fantasy release, 'Daughter of the Drackan' on Amazon and in the Kindle Store here.

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Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #9

Today, VS Holmes interviews author Jason Pere about his debut novel 'Calling the Reaper: First Book of Purgatory'.

1)Is fantasy your primary genre? If so, do you write in others?

Yes Fantasy is my “go-to” genre when it comes to fiction. I am always intimidated when I think of working on a project that is rooted in established facts or has to play by the rules of world history. I really prefer to spend my time writing and not researching when I get a “Writing Day”, so working predominantly in fantasy affords me that luxury. I know that as a story teller I have a very strong imagination and sense of creativity, so working in a genre that I can fully flex those attributes seems like a natural fit.

All that said, I do write poetry now and then. It is actually how I started writing seriously, so I don’t think I will ever fully abandon that style of writing. I have also dabbled in the children’s book genre. I am an avid fan of science fiction, and while I have not written any major works in that genre, I am far from opposed to doing so. I should also mention that I have recently discovered collaborative writing and I absolutely adore it. It feels like I am back in my improvisational theater days when I get to work in concert with other authors.

2)What speaks to you about the fantasy genre and have you always been a fan?

Yes I have always been a fan. In a word, imagination. Fantasy is the place where an artist can literally do anything. That is the major attraction to me. Fantasy feels like the genre that has the most potential because there are only the rules that the writer imposes on themselves. Everything else is fair game. I also very much enjoy that Fantasy tends to lend itself well to epic and large-scale storytelling. I prefer to experience a work that plays out on a grand stage with lots of scenes to experience characters to love and hate.

3)What was the biggest challenge you faced writing CALLING THE REAPER?

Well that whole editing, layout and formatting thing. Basically anything that had to deal with the non-creative element of writing was a pain in the neck, but this is a pretty boring answer so I’ll try and spice it up a bit.

Creatively, my biggest challenge was creating protagonists that were also my antagonists. This is a piece that speaks very much to the eternal conflict of good vs. evil, and I wanted to make my lead characters fall on both sides of the line. It was not easy to craft a person that had such a complex, layered degree of morality that they could do profoundly un-heroic things and still be considered the “Hero” of the story. Oh, and I had to do that for not one but eight gosh-darn characters. Get ready to “like” the bad guy and feel warm and gooey inside about doing it. I won’t tell.

4)Do you listen to music while you write? What is your go-to writing music?

Funny, that. I tend to avoid music when I write as it can often grab my imagination and run with it in a different direction. Every time I try and listen to music while I write, I struggle to maintain my focus. Its hard enough to hear the voices in my head without Eddie Vedder, Peter Steele, Chibi and the like putting in their two cents. That said, music plays a very heavy role in the inspiration of my material. I can easily point to several works in my portfolio that were born in music. Oh, want to see something cool? Captain Dante Ramos- Pink Floyd/Comfortably Numb Aristo-The God of War Soundtrack Lady Kathryn Petra- Poets of the Fall/Carnival of Rust Kenji Rei-Disturbed/Warrior Shiva-Iron Maiden/Run to the Hills Gemmell-Queen/Gimmie the Prize Marshal Jackson Bennet French- Bon Jovi/Wanted Dead or Alive Sir Lionel James- Rick Astley/Never Gonna Give you up…No Not Really…Sarah McLaughlin/Sweet Surrender Paradise Anthem- Audra Mae/The Unclouded Day Purgatory Anthem-Tool/Parabola

5)What is your favorite line or paragraph in the book? Why is that?

“And she possessed a tragic beauty, like the stripped branches of a cemetery tree cast against the steel grey sky of autumn.” I love this line because to me it sums up perfectly the concept of this magnificently broken woman. The line is sublimely beautiful, and I call for sabers at dawn against anyone who says otherwise.

Jason Pere's novel, 'Calling the Reaper', is available now on Amazon here. You won't be disappointed by the phenomenal darkness in these flawed and redeemable (maybe?) characters.


Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #8

Today, I'm interviewed by VS Holmes on my release of 'Daughter of the Drackan' last month, and my love for being a part of the Indie Author Community!

1)What made you decide to become an independent author?

That feels like a bit of a loaded question! But I'll answer it as specifically as it was asked. I tried my hand for a long time querying and submitting to agents and publishers...many, many times. I have an extensive collection of rejection letters, and I'll be the first to say I am absolutely not ashamed of them! It takes a lot of work - research, writing specific query letters, different lengths of synopses and manuscript submissions (almost for every single agent/publisher). I spent two years trying to go the traditional route, and then finally realized just how much energy and focus it actually took.

Many people had asked me at that time why I didn't just self-publish. I always had that in my back pocket as a last resort, knowing that I would never forgive myself if I didn't first exhaust all my available resources for traditional publishing. As you can see, traditional publishing resources = exhausted. That was the original reason I became an Indie Author.

However, I will say now with absolute certainty that I prefer being an Indie Author. Not only do I get to keep my hands on the entire process - from typing that first word to getting a book cover and promotion design, to marketing and monitoring - but the best thing that comes along with being an Indie Author is the INDIE AUTHOR COMMUNITY. I have networked my butt off, made friends, learned invaluable things, received invaluable services in trade, and gained far more support just by being myself and using that to promote my work. That's something I don't think I could have done had I been picked up by a traditional publisher, and I'm not sure I would ever change it.

2)How does your day-job factor into your writing?

Short answer: in every way possible. By day, I am a self-employed Independent Editor, Chief Editor of a collaborative fiction organization, Editing Director of a fabulously unique Publishing Company, and an Indie Author. By night, I am a self-employed...well, rinse and repeat. Basically, I never stop working, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm lucky enough to finally be able to say that I do what I love for a living, and I wake up excited and grateful every day. Granted, there are times when all my "non-Indie Author" jobs take up a lot of time and energy, and I find myself falling behind on the schedules I've laid out for myself in writing my own fiction. But I try really hard to schedule a few hours here and there into my week where I turn everything off (except the lights and Microsoft Word) and go to town.

I will say, though, that the relationships I've built - within the Indie Author community, through Editing clients (who more often than not turn out to become very good friends), and just by simply saying hello and sharing bits about myself - have led me to the place now where, even if I'm not vigorously tapping away at my own novels, I'm writing a short story for an anthology, or a chapter for a collaborative novel, or some other crazy compilation of frenzied fiction with others. Like I said, my day job fuels my writing, and vice versa.

3)Do you have future projects in mind? Are they related to 'Daughter of the Drackan', or something new?

Always. I have so many future projects bumping against each other in my head that "future" may just never become "present". But I try.

The sequel to 'Daughter of the Drackan', 'Mother of the Drackan', will be out early 2016. Right now, I'm thinking around February. And that's already written, so it just needs one more round of revisions (which will make it lucky revision #13), and then it will be here too! I've also toyed with the idea of writing a prequel to 'Daughter of the Drackan', taking place centuries before and focusing on the very first drackan-human fledgling, but that has yet to grow roots.

I am, however, currently writing a third novel, which is a Dystopian Sci-Fi titled 'Sleepwater Beat'. The best way I can describe this is: '1894' meets 'X-Men' in the very near future United States. So we've got iron government control, pharmaceutical and social media conspiracy, human trafficking, human experimentation, guerrilla warfare, black market deals, and all that fun stuff. The 'X-Men' part of it comes into play with the characters' "powers". Some people have developed an ability to illicit physical and emotional responses from anyone within listening distance...just by using certain types of words, specific to each unique "gift". Needless to say, this is a very big project - XXL - with a lot to say, and I find myself having to sit it down in the discipline corner and give it a talking to about respecting its maker and listening to what I make it easier for both of us. If 'Sleepwater Beat' should be out by April or May next year.

4)What about the writing community as a whole have you found most inspiring? What about something we need to work on?

I find the entire writing community inspiring! I think, though, what has stricken me as the most fabulous part is everyone's capacity for supporting each other, enthusiasm for giving feedback/critiques/new projects, and acceptance of each individual author for WHO THEY ARE. That's super important! I've come across all walks of life within the writing community, and I really mean ALL WALKS, and I have yet to see anybody left out, belittled, or intentionally discouraged. I mean, let's face it, writers are strange people. We have quirks and vices that, for the most part, only other writers understand. At least where I spend my time in the writing community, I have yet to see anybody shunned for what makes them them. And I'm pretty weird, so it's very encouraging.

I really haven't found a lot of things "lacking" in the writing community, which is what makes being a writer and Indie Author (not to mention all the other "titles" I hold) being so much fun! The thing I find most difficult, though, is being able to keep up with ALL the different groups, forums, projects, and organizations. There are way too many, and as much as I want to be an integral part of all of them, I'm very aware of the fact that, to get to that level of proficiency, I'd have to stop writing completely. There would just be no time, and then what would be the point?

5)We all have our secret favorite characters—usually one in a supporting role rather than the protagonist. Which of your supporting characters has a special place in your heart? Why?

This is kind of a hard one, because my favorite characters tend to be my protagonists…hence the story all about them! But there is one character in ‘Daughter of the Drackan’ that stands out in importance and splendor.

Igetheyr is the patriarch of the High Hills drackans (Keelin’s adoptive species, so to speak, and her only family). He’s the only drackan with obsidian black scales, is overwhelmingly enormous, and his mind-voice is a golden rich magnificence that echoes within the minds of all who hear him (drackans communicate through colors and visual patterns, telepathically and without spoken words). He was the first drackan to successfully wean a human fledgling—to give a human the drackan powers of communication, their instincts, and their bloodlust—and when Keelin becomes the second human fledgling, Igetheyr watches her through her life, and her journeys, with a keen eye. Essentially, Igetheyr is the most powerful being in the entire novel, but his bond with the drackans and the pact he’s made with the drackan gods keep him from interfering in the messes Keelin makes through her desperate search for answers.

I love Igetheyr. He’s powerful, wise, and patient; he doesn’t use his power and authority to belittle or intimidate anyone. He’s almost so powerful that anything he could do would make life as these characters know it obsolete. So he can only stand by and watch, occasionally giving advice and occasionally making crucial decisions (this comes into play in the sequel, ‘Mother of the Drackan’). My special tie to Igetheyr spans from the fact that everything about him came to me in a dream, before I had ever written chapter 5—including the spelling of his name. It was such an epic dream, where I heard him speak to me and watched him fly around a stone temple, that I couldn’t not make him an epic character in the book. If I do, in fact, decide to write that prequel to this series, there will be a lot more of Igetheyr.

Grab your copy of 'Daughter of the Drackan' here, available on Amazon and in the Kindle Store.

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Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #7

Today, VS Holmes interviews author Virginia Carraway Stark on her new novel, 'Carnival Fun', and her own writing process for pumping out fantastic fantasy and speculative fiction.

1)What book (or series) influenced you the most as a child / adolescent?

I was into JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis since before I started kindergarten. I love them both and I read them to pieces. It was rare that you would ever find me without at least one of them in my backpack or in my hand and as I entered junior high school I got involved with a group of people who did role playing in Middle Earth. After that I researched every land and people. My English teacher gave me a copy of a book of poetry by Tolkien that had been signed by him and was filled with beautiful illustrations. These series taught me the beauty of symbolism and the firm belief that goodness and love can triumph over hatred and despair.

2)What is an integral piece to your writing routine?

I pick up a pen, a pencil, or put my fingers on my keyboard. That is the only part that is absolutely integral (although I have also used a crayon and even written in the dirt or on wood if I was struck by an inspiration that could not wait for more civilized methods.)

It's nice to have something pleasant to drink that suits the season (but I'll forget about it as likely as not) and my favorite place to write in in my big lazy-boy chair with my special stain glass lamp that colors everything into soothing shades. I like to look out the window and watch my bird feeder and all the birds that come to it. I like to curl up in against the lamb's wool coverlet that covers the back of my chair and plan my next attack, but these are all luxuries that I enjoy when I have them and the rest of the time I just write.

3)What surprised you most about publishing and writing?

What continues to surprise me is what sticks with people. I've had people come up to me with tears in their eyes about something that I had nearly forgotten writing about and been told that it seemed like I wrote it just for them.

4)Can you pinpoint the moment the spark for your book first ignited?

Hmm, this is a hard one, first short story or first novel? Dalton's Daughter was my first published novel and it was sparked by a slow-cooker process that involved taking a small character from my husband and his friend's world and having her take up residency inside my own head. After that she spoke her story, and as it was slowly revealed, the novel took shape.

5)Are you a "Plotter" or a "Pantser" and has this changed over the course of your writing career? Why do you feel this works for you?

I'm mostly a pantser but I will also jot notes. I guess I would largely call myself a hybrid. When it comes to short pieces I'm a pantser but I find that a lot of novellas and novels require at least some vague notations for myself about things that need to be addressed or brought up. I feel this works for me because I put so much passion and heart into my writing that plotting it out would be likely to stifle my energy. It would seem mechanical to me and lack the waves of emotion and the sense of being lost in the creative reveal.

Carnival Fun is coming soon on Amazon! Stay tuned for news on its release.


Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #6

Today, I have been interviewed myself by Jason Pere, after my new release this month of 'Daughter of the Drackan: Book One of Gyenona's Children.' These were some fun questions!

1) If you had to cast an actor to play your main protagonist in a film adaptation of one of your pieces, who would you choose, and would you totally superfan it up and ask for an autograph?

For a really long time, and I mean years, I “scouted” film actors looking for the right person to play Keelin should ‘Daughter of the Drackan’ ever make it to the big screen. Complete daydream, of course, but I never could find the right person. So I gave up. And then just about a year ago, my husband and I started watching the Showtime series ‘Penny Dreadful’, and when I saw the evil, mysterious, and still scared-out-of-her-mind character Eva Greene portrayed through her role as Vanessa Ives, I lost it. That was it! Eva Greene would play Keelin E’Kahlyn, and I’ll have it no other way!

2) A young, hopeful-eyed, aspiring author flings themselves at your feet and says, “Oh, teach me, great master!” What is the first lesson you impart to your new Padawan?

After I rested my hand on said Padawan’s shoulder and gave them permission to rise, my first lesson would be two-fold. “Listen to what I say, but follow in your own footsteps, not mine. And embark on your training with the belief that you will be better than me.”

3) Okay, so you took your latest work in progress to your local writers group and everyone tore to shreds the text of which you were so proud. Other than a roll of tape, how do you handle something like that? Has that ever happened to you?

First off—yes, that has happened to me. I majored in Creative Writing Fiction in college, and brought such a manuscript to class one day to be critiqued and reviewed by my classmates. A lot of the writing I did for these college courses were based off obscure writing prompts, which I never really enjoyed back then. I wrote this silly, light-hearted spin-off of ‘The Frog Prince’ set in modern times. I thought it was fun, humorous, and obvious that it wasn’t supposed to make sense. My classmates hated it. They made a feast of overanalyzing the heck out of it, pulling out all the parts that didn’t work for them, shredding the plot, and burning the characters at the stake. It was frustrating, because it wasn’t a debate, I wasn’t there to “defend” my writing, but I wanted to scream at them that it was supposed to be a goofball story. I realized, then, that I’d submitted a short story to a classroom of other writers who were not particularly the best target audience for a silly fairytale.

I don’t know how I was fortunate enough to be able to separate criticism of my work from my actual work itself, but I’ve always known not to take someone else’s criticism or opinions personally when it comes down to my writing. Basically, I acknowledge criticism in proportion to how much said criticism acknowledged my writing. If someone yells and screams, or bashes everything about my work, but cannot tell me why (or may not take the time to figure the why out for themselves), I let it roll off my back. But the feedback and criticism that addresses issues within my work, problem spots of characterization or believability, and tells me why the problems exist is the feedback I accept gratefully, spend some time appreciating it, and make the choice then whether or not to incorporate those ideas into my work. Of course, there are also times when I say, “Nope, I don’t agree with you, and I don’t like your suggestions.” They’re few and far between, and the important thing for me to remember, and what I like sharing with other authors, is that the “reader” is not just one person, but potentially thousands, and it’s nearly impossible to make all of them happy. As long as you’re happy with your work, you’re good to go.

4) Do you prefer to write first and ask questions later or are you the type that will research and fact find every little detail into oblivion before starting a project?

I’m a pantser, totally. Outlining and researching kills the writing process for me, because I get so overwhelmed by the fact that I don’t have all the pieces (which of course, appear when the project is actually written). And all that over-thinking, planning, and fleshing out of “where is the story going?” feels like wasting valuable writing time. I’m not bashing outlining and researching as a way to write…it simply does not work for me.

For the most part, I have a general “vision” of what I’d like the story to be about, where it’s going, and some major scenes already playing out in my mind on repeat. Writing it down is the only way to turn that darn loop off! I will say, though, that I’ve branched out of my “pantser” routine with my current work in progress, ‘Sleepwater Beat’. It started out as an experimental short story, and once I finished it, I was badgered into turning the short story into a novel (badgered by myself, my writing group, and the story, of course). I’ve had to do a lot of surgery on this piece, moving it from a short story to a novel, and outlining was completely necessary in order to keep my brain on straight. When I do outline or research, I’ve found I can only do it section by section. I don’t think I’ve ever made a skeleton of something all the way to the end.

5) How do you know when it is time to stop writing? This is not a trick question.

This felt like a two-part question to me. So…1) I know it’s time to stop writing during the throes of creation when I realize I’m trying too hard. My favorite thing about writing is getting in the “zone”—picturing everything so vividly and connecting with the characters so viscerally that, before I know it, it’s two hours and four thousand words later. However, that doesn’t always happen. I’ve sat at my computer, typing sentences over and over again, deleting them, and realizing I’ve only managed to pull out two paragraphs that are actually worth anything. So I tell myself to stop and come back later. 2) The other “time to stop writing” is at the end of a story! Obvious, right? For me, the ending shows up in the weirdest ways, and it’s hardly what I expected. I’ve ended things in the middle of danger, or the start of a new adventure, or in the mundane moments between thoughts. I stop writing and add the words ‘The End’ when my characters feel satisfied. There may be “more to the story”, but when there’s nothing else screaming for a spot on the page, I call it finished work.

6) Have you ever been afraid to write a piece because you were not confident you could do it justice? Can you tell us about that?

I’m struggling with this currently, actually. I mentioned before my work in progress, ‘Sleepwater Beat’, which is a Dystopian Sci-Fi set in modern America. It has so many things to say! Not only is it a character-driven, “noir plus superpowers” adventure, but it addresses a lot of my own personal opinions on the current state of humanity, America, society at large. It sounds a bit trite, but I don’t want to give anything away. This is the first piece I’ve worked on that actually reflects my own feelings about something larger than character interactions and high-flying adventure. I didn’t even know where it was going when I started working on this project, and through a little writing and a lot of sharing and discussion, I had to dig deep to find out what the actual point of this thing was going to be. It turns out that it frightens me a lot, because I want to do it right and I’ve never written anything like this before. So far, all I can say is that as long as I keep writing, I’m headed in the right direction.

'Daughter of the Drackan' is available now on Amazon, both in print and ebook format, and FREE for Kindle Unlimited users. Grab a copy for yourself here and enjoy the ride!

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Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #5

Today, Jason Pere interviews author Virginia Carraway Stark on her new novel 'Carnival Fun'.

1. Pop Quiz Hot Shot, you sit down to write then story that you have been itching to get on the page and all of a sudden it’s nothing but blank pages and writers block. What do you do?

I start writing random words that come to mind. Seriously, get any words onto the page. Anything! If that doesn't break things loose I usually go have a bath and take a good novel with me. It's amazing what reading and relaxing can do for writer's block. I usually have a lot of different projects on the go, so switching between them lets my subconscious have time to actively work on my blocks. Usually I'll have as many as ten projects open on my laptop at any given time, and if inspiration strikes I'll switch to where the inspiration leads me. Ultimately, my tactic seems to be: don't force it, let it come. At the same time I keep my writing brain active so that my productivity doesn't flag.

2. Have you ever written something that got you so emotional that you had to take a break and find something to blow your nose with?

I was about four hours into the 24-hour poetry marathon when I found out my grandmother died. The very next poem was called: My Tears. In the marathon, you have to spend 24 hours writing a poem an hour, I think it was about eight hours of poems that I wrote out about my grandmother one after another. I cried my heart out each time I wrote one of the poems. By the time I was finished, it was like I had 'power grieved'. I was so at peace with the loss it was startling! I still get a little weepy about some of them when I read them.

3. Can you describe for us your writing style in eight words or less?

I write like I talk.

4. When your inner narrator speaks, who do they sound like?

It really depends. I guess I'm one of those writers that has a lot of different voices. I've been told that what I am working on can really affect my cadences and demeanor in real life. If I'm reading something of someone else's, usually it will be in a neutral version of my own reading voice.

5. Do you try to use your art to convey a particular message to the rest of the world?

I try to share my passion with the world through my writing. I want people to laugh and love and feel all the emotions there are to feel, and to come through it all and realize that they now have a better understanding of themselves for unlocking their heart's passions. I don't expect one story of mine to take them through all these emotions but I think by being totally open in my writing, and bleeding and loving and playing so freely on the page, I help other people to find the keys for their own hearts. At least, that's the hope I carry.

6. Is there any sort of content that you refuse to write?

If something feel honest to the writing, I will write it even if it is something that I find completely repugnant. The only content I would refuse to write would be to force characters to be out of character or to twist a story out of what feels honest to me.

Virginia's novel 'Carnival Fun' releases next week, on October 28th! Keep an eye out for this great new work of dark Fantasy.


Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #4

This week we're posting all the interviews Author Jason Pere conducted. I love reading Jason's interviews, because they're just so full of zany questions! Today he interviews Author VS Holmes about her novel 'Smoke and Rain', first in the 'Reforged' series.

1. You can go out for breakfast with any three authors, any three authors ever. What do you order… I mean who do you go out with and why?

Tamora Pierce, J. A. Pitts, and Neil Gaiman. Pierce because she had such an impact on me as an adolescent, and writes such beautiful characters. Pitts because he wrote such an amazing character in Sarah Beauhall and Neil Gaiman because despite so much darkness in his mind he is a kind and beautiful human. I wouldn't talk much at all, I would just listen, wide-eyed.

2. Have you ever written something that got you so emotional that you had to take a break and find something to blow your nose with?

Much of the inner musings of Alea, one of the protagonists in SMOKE AND RAIN, are semi-autobiographical, and those were hard to address for me. The scenes on pgs 106 and 412 -- I won't say specifically, as that would be rather spoiler-y, but both are dark, game-changing points in the story -- extremely hard due to what I put my characters through and the emotions I had to access to make them believable.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced with your current piece?

Publishing-wise? Formatting. Writing-wise? Writing Alea. For the longest time something was missing from her character, and it was difficult to pinpoint what. I finally realized I was pushing away from the part of her that was very similar to me. When I began to truly get into her head, and consequently my own, it was uncomfortable but fantastic in the end, and made for a much clearer character.

4. Is there something that never fails to inspire you to write something?

A cold, bleak day, when the weather hovers between mist and rain. Also, a long solitary car ride.

5. Do you try and use your art to convey a particular message to the rest of the world?

I try to write diverse protagonists. It's incredibly important to me that readers open books and see themselves -- whether it's how they look, how they feel, the people they love, or how their brains function. A lot of my writing is more about mental and emotional journeys with the backdrop of a physical one. Many of my characters -- though they may not have the words we use -- suffer from emotional and mental disorders. Post traumatic stress, depersonalization disorder, and bi-polar are three that feature prominently. I want readers to perhaps see fragments of their own journey in that of my characters, or gain a better understanding of those around them.

Get into this heart-stopping Fantasy today, and grab your copy of 'Smoke and Rain' here.


Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #3

I've conducted the third Interview this week for new Fall Fantasy Releases with author Virginia Carraway Stark, author of 'Carnival Fun'

1) I've seen you write so many other genres: poetry, Horror, Sci-Fi. What is it about Fantasy that drew you to write 'Carnival Fun', and where would you place Fantasy in your list of genres you enjoy writing?

Since I was little I saw magic in everything. I would play games with the lady who I believed lived in the moon and offer her the soft pussy willows of spring. I believed that mosquito larvae in the ditches where I grew up were actually little water faery darting about. I would gather flowers together and make mud pies that I would then decorate and leave out for the spirits that I felt lived in the woods and marshes. To me, the world has always been about magic, both light and dark magic that I have seen in everything.

While I've never given up seeing faces in the whorls of the tree bark and hearing voices in the whispers of the wind, I have learned how to convincingly 'adult' when absolutely required. Fantasy is where my spirit tends to go in default mode. Fantasy and horror are very close genres. I tend to use the phrase, 'speculative fiction' as the descriptor for most of my short stories and writings because it allows for all aspects of horror, fantasy, mystery, and the paranormal to be included. My slant of how I see the world comes through using the language of all these things, and that is why I chose what I call 'Noir Fantasy' for Carnival Fun.

2) What was the greatest challenge you faced in writing 'Carnival Fun'? My greatest challenge in writing Carnival Fun is not becoming Virna Grant. Carnival Fun started off with a dream that I had where I was Virna, really just an alternative name from 'Virginia' in all truthfulness. Having mentioned how Virna has a tendency to creep into my life as I was writing her, I should point out that there are many differences between us. Virna lacks all direction, she is passive and uses drugs and alcohol to make up for her loveless marriage and a life without meaning. She has everything handed to her in terms of wealth and opulence, but she is spiritually barren. She is both me in another life and myself as my own polar opposite.

She abuses prescription drugs and alcohol with abandon. When I started writing Carnival Fun I wasn't on any medications. It was while I was finishing Carnival Fun that I was hit by a taxi and suddenly found myself on a cocktail of prescription medication of my own. I found when I did the play version of Carnival Fun and played Virna that it was even worse, her languidness seeps into me with insidious and unrelenting persistence.

The hardest part is that her darkness calls to me. She is a persuasive character, and her journey is as compelling as it is filled with things that go bump in the night.

3) When did you "come up with" the premise for this book, how long did it take you to write it, and how much time did you spend between writing the proverbial "The End" and feeling it was finally ready for publication?

I had my first dream about Carnival Fun in 2012. I wrote it out as a brief short story and read it at a writing group. The reaction to it throughout the group was so intense and my own desire to learn more about Virna's world so strong that I developed it into a novel and a world of its own. It took nearly three years to write and edit. I discovered that the idea was one that gripped people, and many of my friends involved in acting requested to work on a play version of it. The play discusses another part of Virna's life that isn't addressed in Carnival Fun despite both the play and the novel sharing the same name.

It was as a result of the playing Virna that my face became the face of Virna, first on the banners and flyers for the play and later on as the cover for the novel of Carnival fun. (The mugs in particular with Virna on them were extremely popular.) I don't feel that I'll ever really be ready to publish Carnival Fun. It has so much of my 'secret self' in it; I feel like no matter when it comes out, I will always feel naked. Much like Virna, however, I am curious and brave, and must open every door no matter how much I fear what may be behind it.

4) Is there any genre/theme/subject content that you will never ever read or write?

I won't write something that feels dishonest to me. I have a hard time writing pure fiction or mystery without a supernatural element to it, and find that the most challenging and constrictive on which to work. I try to be socially aware when I write, and aware that I have many forms of privilege, and if something I write touches on other cultures or experiences I will seek out beta readers who don't share the same privilege I have. I have found (so far) that writing from other cultural perspectives with this sort of research and (hopefully) always respectful approach allows me to see the world through different eyes.

The only other thing I would avoid is any story with violence or sex that serves no purpose to a greater story. I also avoid stories that have no hope or joy in them. I doubt I would ever write a 'Mad Max' sort of story or universe; it's just too bleak and there is enough despair in the world already.

5) Your favorite author, the person whose writing you admire the most and whose books you've always adored, contacts you and says they absolutely love what you've done with 'Carnival Fun'. How do you respond?

I would tell him (It's Stephen King, by the way) that I am really happy that I was able to give him back one story to enjoy for all the wonderful stories he's given me and the world over the years.

'Carnival Fun' releases October 28th, so stay tuned for your chance to grab a copy for yourself and to read more interviews with Virginia Carraway Stark by our other Fall Fantasy Authors.


Fall Fantasy Interview Series: #2

This next interview is with VS Holmes, author of 'Smoke and Rain', the first installment in the 'Reforged' Series.

1) What was your inspiration for 'Smoke and Rain', and how many other books do you have planned for the 'Reforged' series?

Fall of 2002 I saw an image of ruins in a desert. I lay on the floor for hours, refusing to even get up to turn on a light, writing. I had about 20 terrible, handwritten pages by the end. Only one line has survived every revision since then, but the ruins of Cehn in the Sunamen desert and the young woman found in them are the same. Reforged is a quartet, so there will be three more in this series. There are two other quartets that take place in the same world. One takes place about 50 years after Reforged and the other 300 years before.

2) Are there any characters or themes in 'Smoke and Rain' with which you identify more than others?

It took me a long time to identify with Alea, but she shares some of my detached feelings. I identify a lot with Eras, the general of Athrolan's army, and with Bren's crass camaraderie.

3) What is your favorite part about writing Fantasy?

World building. My vocation as an archaeologist is all about finding the story and building a peoples' world from just fragments of stone. Writing is much the same for me. I'll see a single scene in my head and I just keep digging until I have all the details of their life.

4) If your main character showed up at your front door, what would you do?

Ah! I wrote a short story about this one! Depends on which MC. Alea and I would go on a long walk, though probably wouldn't talk much at first. Bren and I would go to a bar and drink and dance until the wee hours of the morning. Arman and I would probably have a shouting match that would end with dinner and a heart-to-heart.

5) What is your advice for budding Fantasy authors who plan to write and publish their own epic series?

Revise. Edit. Research (yeah you're creating a world, but humans are humans). Learn about the world in which yours is based -- is it European? Chinese? Lybian? Spend the time building the foundation. Find multiple beta readers from different demographics and listen to what they have to say. Get a professional editor. Keep writing.

You can find 'Smoke and Rain' on Amazon now, here!