Friday, May 28, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Bethany Harper

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the winsome yet spooky voice of Bethany Harper.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?

I want to be able to walk into Barnes & Noble/Hastings/Borders/Whatever and be able to buy my own book.

2. Why do you write?

I write because it's fun. I enjoy watching words spill across the screen, the sounds of keys clicking. I like the way pen feels when it meets paper. I love the chunking sound of a typewriter. The part I love the most is leaving Oklahoma, leaving my living room (or my
bedroom or school or wherever my body happens to be) and going somewhere else.

3. Your writing style is sweetly gothic. It reminds me of whispering in the dark with my sister, or making up ghost stories with my friends. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?

I have never really worked on a specific voice as much as I've worked on being consistent and clear. The work published on my blog (so far) has been stuff I've done quickly, with no editing, so it's probably as close to my natural voice as you can get.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?

I love Stephen King. I find the characters he writes fascinating, and I love how all of his books seem to exist in the same universe-characters mentioned in one off that were the stars of other stories. I also owe him a debt of companionship, as I do to everyone I read.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?

One of my many crafts is crochet. I've been doing it as long as I've been writing. I've never been sophisticated with my crochet, but building something stitch by stitch, row by row, and having something completed and recognizable at the end is wonderfully satisfying.

I feel the same way about writing. Sentences start with letters and words, stringing the sentences together makes paragraphs. Before you know it you've gone through a gallon of tea and there's this story. It needs some work (doesn't it always?), but the shape is there, the form.

It's the difference between buying a handmade blanket and making the blanket. Some people love handmade blankets, love the way they feel, but don't possess the talent (or the drive to learn the talent) to make them. Some people see a handmade blanket and want to do it. I'm the latter.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?

I crochet and sew as well, and doing that (one or the other) for a living would be nifty.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?


8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

Stephen King's On Writing became something of a Bible of Writing to me, and there's a quote in there about criticism that I try to keep to heart. "If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all." It's especially worth remembering in the age of the Internet, where the trolls breed and lurk. They will deliberately be cruel, and they will hurt you. Write anyway.

Bethany Harper is short, has pink hair, lives in Oklahoma, and has a house full of animals-- 3 cats, 2 dogs, 3 gerbils. She's been voted 'most likely to turn into a crazy cat lady' at work. She crochets, sews, writes, program, games, reads, and spends the rest of her time working, going to school, or sleeping. You can find her online at Twitter (@MartianBethany) or on her blog.
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blooming Author: Ashley M. Christman!

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to
become the person you believe you were meant to be.” ~ George Sheehan

Ashley M. Christman is an urban fantasy writer whose book, The Witching
Hour, will be available from Lyrical Press November, 2010.

Tell us about The Witching Hour. What is it about and where will it be available?

Here’s the blurb:
Lucky Sands is anything but. His wife is cheating on him, his job sucks, and when she walks out on him and dies in a car crash, the only thing he can think of is drowning himself in cheap booze and cheaper sex. But when he finds his childhood friend Tuesday Peters working in a brothel, his luck
takes a steep downward dive after he finds out her twin sister is dead...and that Wednesday's death was no accident. Together Lucky and Tuesday embark on a search for answers, plagued by spirits and deities alike. Every clue along their path points not just to the truth of Wednesday's murder, but to divine machinations that prove everything Lucky knows about life to be wrong--and
prove there's no such thing as luck. Only fate...and the madness of the gods.

The Witching Hour will be available November 22, 2010 in ebook version at the Lyrical Press Website, Amazon, Barnes and, Fictionwise, Sony, Mobipocket, etc. We still don’t know about a print run yet, if it goes to print, the answer will be wherever books are sold.

What were your inspirations for The Witching Hour? What sorts of thing inspire you as a writer in general?

For The Witching Hour, I was inspired mostly because of my extensive research and knowledge of various pantheons and mythology. My inspiration in general can come from a number of places. It can come from a piece of music—I find that classical pieces inspire me the most, or a conversation
with someone. Sometimes, I’ll see a picture or think of a location and a character’s voice will come to me. That’s when I know that I have to write (my characters have a way of screaming in my head until I release them by writing their story).

What is your writing process? How do you approach a story, do you start with outlines or something else?
A process would mean there is some method to my madness ~laughs~.  My process is a simple one. If I’m in front of my computer, I’ll just start typing, see where the voice in my head (yes, I am referring to my muse. I have enough problems without other voices) takes me. Once I have an idea, I’ll usually write a crude working pitch. Its three lines that tell me who are the main characters, what’s going on, what’s the problem.  From there I create a very basic outline. I have to say that my outlines are usually only chapter outlines. Now that I am working on more complex plots, I have a board where I pin up my plot points, characters, etc…so I remember to fill in all the holes.

Where did you work when writing The Witching Hour? Do you think it was the optimal writing environment for you?

I literally wrote everywhere. I would write in my cubicle, the car, the coffee shop. Anytime I had any downtime I was writing. I’m finding that doesn’t work for me anymore—at least for revisions. I now make quiet time where I set up candles, incense and a can of  Red Bull (as you can see in
one of the pictures on my site) on my dining room table and work there. Now that we’re moving to the upper Midwest from the lovely western coast (I am going to miss the sunlight) one of the priorities was a room of my own. I find that the quiet time with the atmosphere helps me focus better, and thus
craft better tales.

So to answer the question, the environment I used initially for The Witching Hour, not optimal for me. I found that I really do need a room of my own and that is something that every writer needs to discover on their own. On a side note, I still have a fantasy of me being a broody writer with a cup of
coffee in a chic Parisian café. I can dream, right?

Tell us about your "story of getting published." How long did you submit before you were accepted? How did it feel to get accepted?

Goodness. That’s a long story, do you have all night. ~Chuckles~. I literally submitted hundreds of times between the five-six manuscripts I submitted prior to getting the yes. It was a long process. When I was subbing The Witching Hours, I had gotten a lot of personalized rejections rather than forms with the whole “we like it, but…”. I think those hurt the most, although I couldn’t help but find humor in one that basically said, “we like it, don’t change a thing, but we won’t publish it because the
heroine starts off as a prostitute”. I was like, people start off doing a lot of things, but it doesn’t define them.

When I finally got my golden ticket, the magical letter that every subbing writer hopes to get, I was ecstatic, excited, elated, more words that begin with “e” ~laughs~. It was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. It felt like I had done something right or maybe just gotten really lucky. I read
the letter several times. I kept waiting for a second one to come my way saying “sorry we made a mistake”. I don’t think there are really any words to describe the range of emotions I went through. When I finally signed the contract, I still couldn’t believe it. It didn’t really sink in that this was happening until I saw my name on my publisher’s website as one of their authors and my books title there as well.

What are the publicity plans you have coming up?
I am planning a virtual book tour and some readings at the moment. I also will be doing signed bookplates, so anyone that buys the book and wants a book plate can request one. Promotion is an on-going thing and as I come up with ideas, I add it to my marketing plan. And of course, the best type of publicity is to write another book.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Getting Ready for 5/25

Thank goodness that this year I realized that Towel Day was coming! Don't you hate it when you find out around noon that the one day you ABSOLUTELY need to know where your towel is you left it at home? Yeah, I hate that.

But now we find out that 5/25 is ALSO Geek Pride Day. And the anniversary of the opening of Star Wars. Considering I've often been on my way to Star Wars Weekends around this time we'll just pretend that I've de facto been celebrating those geek holidays.

But to get us ready for what 5/25 means to all us geeks, let's review:

The Geek Pride Day Manifesto

  1. The right to be even geekier.
  2. The right to not leave your house.
  3. The right to not have a significant other and to be a virgin.
  4. The right to not like football or any other sport.
  5. The right to associate with other nerds.
  6. The right to have few friends (or none at all).
  7. The right to have all the geeky friends that you want.
  8. The right to not be "in-style."
  9. The right to be overweight and have poor eyesight.
  10. The right to show off your geekiness.
  11. The right to take over the world.
  1. Be a geek, no matter what.
  2. Try to be nerdier than anyone else.
  3. If there is a discussion about something geeky, you must give your opinion.
  4. Save any and all geeky things you have.
  5. Do everything you can to show off your geeky stuff as though it were a "museum of geekiness."
  6. Don't be a generalized geek. You must specialize in something.
  7. Attend every nerdy movie on opening night and buy every geeky book before anyone else.
  8. Wait in line on every opening night. If you can go in costume or at least with a related T-shirt, all the better.
  9. Don't waste your time on anything not related to geekdom.
  10. Befriend any person or persons bearing any physical similarities to comic book or sci-fi figures.
  11. Try to take over the world!
Source: Wikipedia Geek Pride Day

And for 5/25? Oh, what to wear, what to wear...

Geek Love Poem T-shirt - Black, M 2+2=5 - Black, M Shakespeare - Olive, L SQL query - Users: Black, XL Deluxe Jedi Robe There's No Place Like (XXX-Large) Halfling/Dragon - Black, L generic humanoid carbon unit - Black, L

Other Options:
Zombie Protest Tee (XL)
Enough Social Interaction Tee (Medium)

Search for thinkgeek

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Kerry Schafer

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the wry and enchanting voice of Kerry Schafer.

1. What is your ultimate writing goal?

My ultimate writing goal? The pat answer is that I want to sell enough successful books to be able to quit my day job. I want to travel around with my wonderful partner, and write in fabulous hotels with the ocean outside my balcony. Honestly, as much as I daydream about this, and would love to have a fairy tale life, it's not my ultimate goal. My ultimate writing goal is to write a book that I, myself, consider brilliant, and that gets respect from my fellow writers. This may not be a book that the publishing world loves, and it may not be the sort of book that climbs the charts. But, feeling that I had achieved that goal would mean more to me than money or fame. I think. On Monday mornings I'd just take some money and fame.

2. Why do you write?

The answer to that question is - it depends. Some days I write because I love it and it's an escape from reality. Some days I write only because I'm too stubborn to leave something unfinished once I've started it. I do know that if I don't write I get snarly and all tangled up inside. There were some years in my life when I didn't write, and I regret them. I think if you're born with the itch to write and the ability to do so, you'd better do what you were meant to do, or there will be trouble for you later. Psychological trouble, I mean, which can happen when you block something integral to your being.

3. Your writing style is edgy but also has a feeling of wonder. Have you
worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?

My voice has just developed over the years as a natural extension of myself. My personality is this way - I have a side that is cynical and sharp, and another side that is always looking for magic and wishing there were fairies hiding in the woods. When I write, sometimes there is magic, and sometimes there is gritty cynical reality. I love it when I find both.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?

That is the sort of question I always have trouble with. How can I have a favorite when there are so many that I love for different reasons?
When I was a child I read and re-read everything by Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, and Laura Ingalls Wilder to the point of memorization. I never felt like I quite fit in with my friends and schoolmates, and the likes of Anne Shirley and Joe March were my companions and role models.

I had a Dickens phase that started late in high school, and I read every novel he wrote, most of them repeatedly, except for the Mystery of Edwin Druid. I didn't want to read something that wasn't finished. I still haven't read it.

As a child I devoured anything about King Arthur, and I've always loved good fantasy. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Madeleine L'Engle, Guy Gavriel Kay, and more recently Terry Pratchett are among my favorites, but let's not forget Douglas Adams.

I could go on at length. I also adore good thrillers and mysteries, especially if they have a protagonist I can really connect with. I'm in love with Jonathan Kellerman's marvelous Alex Delaware and Martha Grimes' Richard Jury.

And now I feel guilty, because there are so many others I love who I haven't mentioned. I'm sure you begin to see my problem - I just can't pick a favorite.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?

I remember the first time I wrote something that made somebody cry, and the feeling of wonder that something I'd put on paper could do this. I also remember the time I wrote an essay that made a whole roomful of people angry and caused a big argument. By the time things settled down my hands were shaking, but there was this amazing feeling of power, that I had somehow accomplished this fuss by the act of putting words together on paper. It is an amazing feeling to be able to create an emotional response, to maybe make somebody think or feel something new. There is nothing like the feeling of totally losing yourself in the words for awhile, of creating something that wasn't there before.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at
a different career, what would you choose?

I already have a different career. I'm not sure whether it chose me, or I choose it, but at this point I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm a mental health professional, and I work in crisis services. One part of my job is to serve as a DMHP, (Designated Mental Health Professional) which means that in the state of Washington I am entrusted with the responsibility of making the decision whether someone who is mentally ill should be involuntarily sent to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. It's a job that shares certain things with writing. It is often difficult. The solution to a problem is often to be found only by creative thinking and stepping outside of the box. But it is also necessary and it is important.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?

I can't pick a couple of favorite authors and you want me to pick one word for my writing? How about this: Mine. I think I have a strong voice that is unique to me.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?

My best writing advice has, like everything else, come from an eclectic variety of sources. One of the earliest bits I remember, and perhaps the most important, was from a book on writing by Madeleine L'Engle, Walking On Water. I haven't read it in years, but the gist of it was that everybody has a story to tell. The great writers are rivers, but even those of us who are just little streams have a job to do and had better do it. Then there was this wonderful professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, from whom I was privileged to take an English class. Her name was Joan Rothstein Vandergriff, and among many other things she taught me to never settle for the easy version. My favorite writing book is The Right to Write, by Julia Cameron.

Kerry Schafer spends more time in jail than the average law abiding citizen. Fortunately this has everything to do with her job, and little to do with her morality. She inhabits an acreage of trees and grass and rocks which she shares with four males - one of the adult variety, and three of the adolescent species. It is safe to assume that she seldom gets her hands on the TV remote. Pets include the domesticated component: two cats, a dog, and a rescued fish (not kidding), and the regularly fed but not tame birds, deer and wild turkeys. Kerry carves out writing time wherever it fits. She has completed two novels and has one that is undergoing what she fervently hopes is the last round of revisions. In the background, lurking and not happy about it, are a number of others in various stages of completion. You can find her on Twitter as @uppington, or at her blog, All Things Good and Other Stuff.
Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Random Playlist

Been forever since I've done this. What's spinning up on the iTunes...
  1. Goin' Nowhere - Chris Isaak
  2. River - Natalie Merchant
  3. Save Me - k.d. lang
  4. 200 More Miles - Cowboy Junkies
  5. New Beginning - Tracy Chapman
That's niiiiiice...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fresh Voices: Interview with Adrien-Luc Sanders

"we do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - E.E. Cummings

Welcome to the latest edition of Fresh Voices. We are delighted to share with you the crisp and recherché voice of Adrien-Luc Sanders.
1. What is your ultimate writing goal?
Wow, you'd think this would be the easiest one to answer. I used to be able to glibly trip off, "To be a full-time writer!" Well, now I'm a full-time business writer (and fiction editor), but that was never really my goal. And although I'd love to be a published YA fiction writer, I don't think that would satisfy the goal either--as any published writer can tell you it's not exactly a profitable full-time job. Plus while it would be nice to be published...I think what would bring me the most satisfaction is to finish every story I've got brewing in my head. I have so many ideas that the hardest part for me is following through on all of them, but I think if I looked back in 50 years I'd be more satisfied with finishing two dozen stories than publishing just one. So that's my goal: to follow through on all my unfinished stories, while striving to improve my writing skills with each one. If one happens to get published it's a nice bonus, but considering the odds in the publishing industry I'd like to think my goal is more attainable. Does that mean I'm going to stop trying to get published? Heck no. But finishing the work is more important.

2. Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy the emotional reaction that good storytelling evokes--and because I'm too impatient to draw. I used to think I'd be a graphic artist, even tried putting together a comic, but I draw very, very slowly. In the time it takes me to draw one multi-page scene I can write five chapters, and frankly I'm a better writer than artist. So I write, hoping that when I share these stories they'll draw a strong reaction from the reader. I love to imagine stories and situations that evoke emotions and tangible response, whether it's a startled burst of laughter, the soft hitch of a heartbroken breath, or the white-straining knuckles of adrenaline and excitement. If I succeed in conveying that to a reader, in drawing that from them, then I'm happy.

3. Your writing style is elegant. Have you worked to achieve that voice or is it just a natural style for you?
My writing? Elegant? Since I've never tried for elegance, I guess you could say it's natural--though it feels like hubris to claim something like that. I do struggle to progress my writing and improve overall, though I'm seeking more lean, effective prose that's concise while still remaining evocative. I think my style has grown from a complex combination of factors: the variety of things I read as a child (including the encyclopedia), the broader range of things I continue to read in my adult life, critiques from friend and professionals, my life experiences with various storytelling styles from different languages and cultures, and the influences of various English instructors starting at the grade level and moving through college. It's as natural as any process of evolution could be, but I wouldn't say it's self-generated, if that makes sense.

4. Who are your favorite authors and why do you like them?
Oh dear - how much space do I have here, again? I love so many authors in so many genres, but for the sake of brevity I'll pick just three. Four? Five? Okay, three.

Diane Duane: Her Young Wizards series is one of my childhood favorites, and one of those that still stands the test of time even when reading from an adult perspective. Her prose practically effervesces; there's a joy in her writing that sweeps you up and carries you along. You can tell she loves her stories, her worlds, and her characters, and her wordcraft is beautiful: clean, yet so vivid and compelling. There's a breathless wonder there that captures the imagination of youth without dumbing down the story in the slightest.

C.S. Friedman: Her dark portrayals of antiheros and the gray area between good and evil are amazing. While her writing can be a bit heavier, she delivers descriptions that border on the tactile, rhythm and sound combining for something lush and decadent that makes her books a thrill to read. Her worlds are well-crafted, just familiar enough to be comfortable while alien enough to intrigue, with unique spins on old tropes that reinvent them as new. I love her dialogue, her characterization--even when I hate the characters. I hate them as people with traits I despise, not as poorly-fleshed-out characters. They're very real, and even when I loathe them I love them.

And now I can't pick between Julian May, Charles de Lint, and Richard Adams. Er. Problem. Well...Julian May is one who uses the English language beautifully, creating intelligent yet immersive prose in complex science fiction worlds that provide dramatic tension without venturing into space opera (though I do love a good space opera). Charles de Lint's stories of the Animal People and the world beneath the world we know have always pulled at my part-Native heartstrings; and he creates a very strong mythic voice that combines ethnic mysticism and folklore with gritty urban realism. He grabs your heart and holds it in Jack Daw's beak, or Coyote's trickster jaws. As for Richard Adams...while many might groan to find him on the required reading list for school, I enjoy the intricacies of his world-building and cultures. Maia in particular has an exotic flavor that combines political intrigue with diverse cultures to create a colorful and powerful world.

That was three, right? ~shifty eyes~ Oh, hush, I'm allowed to break a self-imposed limit. Stop looking at me like that.

5. What most attracts you to the life of a writer?
The glamorous image of me as a long-haired Bohemian boy, sitting out on my balcony with my laptop, a cigarette, and a martini, pondering word choice while studying the glittering lights of the city below. Um. No? It doesn't work that way? What? That's never going to happen and I'm out of my mind? Oh. Okay. Well, for a more realistic answer: it's sure as heck not the money or the work hours. I sleep so little that it's becoming a running joke on Twitter. I can't easily say what's so compelling about this, which is kind of pathetic for someone who's supposed to have a talent for words. I think the only way I can explain it is this: writing is the only thing I do in my life where the frustration makes me happy. I could be stomping around the house at 3 a.m., snarling about how this stupid sentence just won't work or the blasted character isn't developed enough...but despite the eyestrain, raging headache, and exhaustion, I'm in my element and wouldn't want to do anything else. That's what makes it so attractive. It's a job and a life where even the difficulties are enjoyable, and you don't find that in many other places. But ask a professional athlete why they keep pushing themselves, why they keep running or lifting or whatever even when their bodies scream and their lungs threaten to burst; they'll tell you because even the pain is part of the joy of it. For me it's the same with writing and the writer's life.

6. If you couldn't be a writer but knew you were guaranteed success at a different career, what would you choose?
Nanoscience. My interest in nanotechnology originally rose from reading science fiction, which led me to get into computer engineering in college...which led me back to writing. If it came full-circle again, I'd definitely go back into computing--even if nanoscience is venturing more into biology than technology these days.

7. If you had to describe your writing in one word, what would that word be?
Here we run into that hubris issue again. I don't know if it's really possible for me to objectively describe my own writing, and would feel arrogant choosing a word with a positive connotation. If I had to settle on one, though...I'd say "primitive." Take that in whatever context you will.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
My freshman university English professor said, "Learn the rules, then break them the best way you know how." I think that applies not just to writing, but to everything. Learn the foundations; learn the right way to do things, so you have a solid base to stand on as you explore ways to break the rules and create something better than pure convention. When you have a strong grasp of the tenets of good writing, you'll know how to bend those laws to your will in ways that are unique, innovative, and compelling without crossing that fine line into disaster.

I'm still working on that part, but I'll let you know if I ever get there.

Adrien-Luc Sanders is a New Orleans transplant currently living in Chicago with one man and one cat, who both make enough mess for two. Or two dozen. A freelance writer and editor, Adrien works for companies such as Lyrical Press and, while harboring daydreams of publishing YA fiction that brings ethnic and LGBT characters into the mainstream spotlight. He finds his own name entirely pretentious, has a secret love of romance novels, freaks out every time he finds another grey hair, and tries to convince himself that 1. they're silver, and 2. going grey at 30 makes a writer look "distinguished." (Really. Let him have his illusions.) He pretends to be professional on his blog, while acting like a total cynical spaz on Twitter. As he's writing this, his cat is trying to chew off his toes.
 Thank you for reading this edition of Fresh Voices. Feel free to follow the Fresh Voices list on Twitter or nominate yourself or another author as a Fresh Voice.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Say Hello to the Winchester Boys

After listening to @MireyahWolfe rave about "Supernatural" I had to check it out myself and now *I'm* addicted.

So I'm encouraging you to check it out (this link should be an Amazon Video on Demand).