Archive for June, 2007

Do you consider yourself a born writer?

Well, according to my mom, when I was five I used to painstakingly make books out of typing/copier paper, writing the stories in pencil and illustrating them as well. I don’t remember much of that, but I do know I’ve been an avid storyteller for a long time. As a kid, “pretend” was my favorite game; I remember spending hours making up elaborate plots and characters to populate my play-world.
I didn’t start writing right away though. I got terribly frustrated and gave it up because it never turned out the way I envisioned it. I pursued music instead–coming from a musical family, it was easier to express myself through an instrument than anything else. I continued to dream though. Tried writing again. Gave it up. I did that several times. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing class as an elective in college that I ‘found’ the key to unlock my skills, so to speak. I found I could write something, finish it, and that it turned out much closer to my original vision. From that moment on, I was hooked! I thank my professor every day for the help she gave me, and for the encouragement to pursue writing as a career.

What type of books did you read as a child? Were you a precocious reader?

Oh, I read practically everything I could get my hands on. My preferred genre was speculative fiction though, sci-fi and fantasy. I’d read six books a week if I could get my hands on them. I was always friends with the local librarian. She challenged me to read more, read harder books. I think I often surprised her with my reading material.

When did your fascination with horror and the paranormal begin?

Well, my fascination with the paranormal began in high school. As a dreamer, I’m always wondering what is beyond, both physically–like alien worlds–but also mentally/spiritually. I think it was my exposure to Poe in eighth grade. The way he depicted the shadowy elements of our existence, the mirrored landscape. It intrigued me. Still does. What dark and murky things lie within the recesses of the mind, hmm?
Of course, I do have my limits. I can’t stand slasher-type, bloodbath horror. I get nauseous! A little bit of gore, well, I can deal with that–I’m a rancher’s wife and an avid sportsman, I see that sort of stuff often enough. But the horror that’s over the top, well…. That’s another story. It does make it interesting as a writer, however. Sometimes my characters demand I deal with the sorts of things I have a hard time dealing with personally. But then again, when I’m writing, it’s a little different. I’m detached. My character is the one talking, I just have to grit my teeth and scribe.

Tell us a little about your short story, “Darkness Cornered,” and where it is available for purchase.
“Darkness Cornered” is the story of a man and a woman who are different but who have found common ground in their feelings for one another. It’s also the story of a man cornered by his traits–in this case, mutation. He has to find a way around himself, essentially, in order to confront the prejudice, the single-minded crimes being committed in the name of science.
It’s currently available through Fictionwise (http://www.fictionwise.com/), strangely, under the mystery/crime heading. Then again, Lear is a detective, and he is dealing with crime…. Ok, maybe it isn’t so strange. Anyhow, the story runs about $2.00, less if you’re a fictionwise club member.
You also have a fantasy novella coming up soon. Tell us a bit about that.
It’s called “Prophet’s Choice,” and tells the story of a girl caught in the middle of a war-torn country. She has certain abilities that make the leaders of her country think she is one of their legendary Prophets–a savior figure. She doesn’t think she is–her abilities drain her strength whenever she uses them. In all, it’s a story that questions belief, faith, and the deeds people do in times of desperate measures.
I worked on “Prophet’s Choice” on and off for about three years. It started out as a novel, but I felt the novella form suited its nature much better. The shorter form gave it some pop, and I’m pleased with the result.

Do you outline your stories beforehand, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

It really depends on the story. Some of them, usually my longer ones, demand an outline. My current project, another fantasy novella, insisted I outline. “Prophet’s Choice,” however, did not. It really depends.

What author(s) do you admire in the horror genre? Why? Do you think some famous horror authors out there are overrated?

In the horror genre, definitely Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King. Both have completely mastered the art of suspense, of telling the reader just what they need to know and when. The art of withholding information until the crucial point. Yep, they’ve got it. It’s a balancing act.
As for authors that are overrated, I think that’s just part of the business. If the “right” people like your stuff, you’re going to get a lot of hype, regardless if your craft is down, or not, or whether the general public is really impressed. Then, of course, you’ve got different kinds of readers out there too. You’ve got the ones who are looking for a romp, those who are looking for some deep, literary thing, those who are looking for escapism. Then there are those who are looking for craft pointers, those who are looking to be critics. It really depends on who you’re talking to.

What goes on in the mind of a horror author as opposed, let’s say, to a romance author?

Well, if you’re going by the stereotypical romance book, I’d say that your average, run-of-the-mill romance author doesn’t take into account action. Rather, don’t go looking for a realistic fight sequence in a romance book (then again, why would you? The focus of the reader is different). Romance writers focus more on the relationship between their main characters. That’s their focus.
A horror writer, fantasy writer, suspense, what-have-you, are focused more on details. If that gun only holds eight bullets, you can’t have your man shooting and shooting and shooting without reloading. Objects have significance. If they appear in the story early on, there’s a reason behind it. That sort of thing. Other types of genre writers take the nitty gritty details into account. That’s how they craft complex stories.

I understand you’re also an accomplished musician since you were a little girl. Do you still play music? Do you use music as a tool to unleash your creativity? Any particular piece you listened to while writing your horror story, “Darkness Cornered”?

Yes, I still play music although not on as regular a basis as I once did. At the moment, I’m taking a break. I pushed it real hard when I got my minor in Music–the same time as my English degree–and I’m just relaxing, playing for fun when I feel like it.
As for using music as a tool, yes! I can’t function without music. Music helps me write, it helps me think. Sometimes it even helps me connect with my characters. When I wrote “Darkness Cornered,” I listened to a lot of Coldplay, “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head.” Their music is very fluid, very lyrical. It’s easy to concentrate to, the lyrics aren’t overpowering.

Do you have a blog or a website where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yes. My website is located at: http://catharsys.wordpress.com/ It’s a blog/portfolio. I encourage discussion! I love comments and e-mail. (smiles) Please, don’t be shy–stop on by and say hello.

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lynnheadshot.jpgWelcome to The Dark Phantom Review! It’s nice to have you here.
Thanks for having me as your guest. I’m honored.

Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

“Excited Light” is about a little boy who has to endure living with a mother who’s an alcoholic. The father is long gone and the boy, Alex, often spends his nights alone when his mother is late coming home. He talks to his toy duck, Dudley. One night, Dudley answers him and Alex gets divine guidance. Alex has some adult friends who watch over him and try to stop his mother’s drinking. She gets into a horrible romance that ends up with her in the hospital near death, and it’s Alex and Dudley who attempt to work a miracle.

I leave the question open as to whether Alex is talking to angels or not, but there’s an angel on the cover. People who don’t believe in angels have told me that they considered angels a metaphor for hope—and everyone believes in hope

What inspired me? Well, I had an angel experience of my own long ago. I have never forgotten it.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

This one came pouring out of me. I never outline. I worked as a journalist for more than 20 years and journalists don’t outline—so the whole idea seemed absurd to me. I spend a lot of time thinking and then it all comes out in one fell swoop.

This novel took me nine months to write, but I spent a lot more time going over it and revising . Frankly, you are never done, but there has to come a time when you say “enough.” It’s not stream of consciousness if you are talking about that writing style. It’s the standard third-person, past tense. I did do a lot of mental plotting. However, I do allow those little moments of surprise to happen when the story turns in a different direction or a character begins acting in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Never had it. I had to write every day no matter what when I was at the newspaper, so I take same attitude toward fiction. It’s the Nike school of writing: Just do it!

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

This book was shopped by an agent in New York . All the publishers turned it down because “the angel fad was over.” I still believed in the novel, dusted it off, revised it again and self-published it via the American Society of Journalists and Authors and their arrangement with iUniverse. It’s professionally edited and proofed. Plus that ASJA Press imprimatur means something. ASJA is pretty picky about who gets to be a member.

My advice about getting a publisher is to get a good agent first. I have a new one and he’s working right now, shopping another novel I wrote.

My only regret is that I didn’t take the time to investigate more small, independent publishers for “Excited Light.” Although iUniverse has been great, there are limited things you can do with a self-published novel.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

I’d like to say the Web, but I have had my best success in personal approaches. When the book first came out I sent e-mail to everyone I knew in the world and told them to buy the book on a certain day. On that day I got to number 515 on Amazon.com.

When I can get over my nervousness, I also have success in selling just by asking people. I sold three copies in the locker room at my tennis club, which was a big surprise to me!

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

That is nearly impossible to answer. I read so much—a book a week, usually. Alice Hoffman’s “Practical Magic” was the one book that told me it was time to write my own novel. I love Hoffman and really adore her magical style. She pulls it all together in this wonderful, quirky novel.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

My website is www.lynnvoedisch.com and my blog is www.xanga.com/bastetmax. I hope to tie the two together soon.

Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects.

I’m working on a fascinating project about a certain class of women of Egypt who had roles second only to the Pharaoh in power. I’m doing a story on one of these women and alternating it with a contemporary story. It’s pretty complicated to explain, but my wonderful writers’ group encourages me to continue. I do know the ending—I’m just not sure how I’m gong to get there! But I will. I’m very tenacious.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!
–The Dark Phantom

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“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environ-
ment and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
–C. G. Jung

After a bad night of hardly any sleep, you’re sitting at the computer staring at the blank screen. You wonder if you’ll be able to do it—finish that article, short story or novel which you started months ago. The urge to write is overwhelming, yet you freeze. Not only are you exhausted, but the baby, who you put to sleep less than half hour ago, is whimpering in the crib. Your four-year old has just barged into the office and is tugging at your elbow begging for a snack, even though he had lunch an hour ago. This is hopeless, I may as well quit, you say to yourself while trying to suppress a scream. To your horror, you suddenly find yourself sympathizing with those animals that eat their young…

Don’t despair. Calm down. I’ve been there and know perfectly well what you’re going through.

The truth is, you can write, but you need to have four things:

The Right State of Mind

Before you plan a schedule, putting your mind in the right frame is the most important think you’ll do. Remember your kids will not stay small forever. Time passes quickly (I assure you it does!) and soon they’ll be old enough to go to school. Until that magical day arrives, though, you’ll have to “steal” time to work on your project. Wanting to finish a whole novel in one month at this point in your life is unrealistic. Don’t focus so much on the “end product” but on doing a little bit of that “end product” at a time. Little paragraphs are what articles, stories and novels are made of. The important thing is steady progress, and as long as you take steps to fulfil the road, you’re on the right track. These tiny bird steps, however small, will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you guilt-free to enjoy your life and family.

Good Physical Condition

You might think, “Good physical condition? I thought this was an article about writing.” Well, you’ll bet it is. Let’s face it, moms who care for small children are always tired. And tired people don’t’ particularly like to sit at the computer and write; they want to collapse on a bed. Moms urgently need to raise their energy levels! A good diet and a little exercise can do wonders to raise energy levels. Eat high-protein foods and lots of fruits and veggies. Stay away from white flour and sugar, as well as junk food. Go for three meals a day with one light healthy snack in the afternoon and one before you go to bed. Stay away from those high energy bars, though. They are so high in carbs your sugar levels will sky rocket and then pummel down, making you feel even more tired and hungry than before. Low fat cottage cheese and a couple of almonds, with a bit of fruit are a great choice for a snack. Drink plenty of water! Scientists have found that dehydration is one of the main factors in making a person feel tired.

Finding time to exercise may be difficult, that’s why it’s a good idea to do it with your child. If you have a stationary bicycle or other exercise machine, do 15 minutes while the toddler watches the Teletubbies. You don’t have to exercise a full hour. Even 10 minutes will do the trick. Take your baby for a walk in the stroller at least 3 times a week, preferably in the mornings when it’s fresh and quiet. It will calm your nerves, rejuvenate and even inspire you. Your baby will love it, too. Not only will he/she enjoy the “sights and sounds,” but it will probably make him/her tired and eager to take a longer nap later in the day—just what you’re after!

A Well-Planned Schedule

Okay, so you have the right state of mind and are eating well and exercising. What next? A well-planned schedule that fits your lifestyle and plays around your strengths and liabilities is a must. But keep an open mind and don’t be unrealistic. If your baby naps in the afternoon, don’t set your writing time in the mornings, or vice versa. How much time each writing session will last depends on your lifestyle and children’s habits. You may choose to write half an hour each day or one hour every other day. It’s up to you. The important thing here is to keep it approachable and to stick with it.
There’s one thing I strongly advice: If you can manage it, don’t take more than two nights off from your project. Not only will it stall your momentum, but it will give your brain to much time to come up with self-doubts and excuses for procrastination.

You may be asking yourself: But how do I get rid of my children!?

If your children are old enough to go to nursery school, your problems are solved. Just set your writing schedule during those hours. For those of you whose children are still at home, there are other possibilities:

Write early in the morning before your children awake, during their daytime naps and after they go to sleep at night. (See why you have to keep yourself in good physical condition?) I have a friend who wrote two books this way.

If you can afford a babysitter—maybe your neighbour’s teenaged daughter—to look after your child while you write on the next room (that way you can keep a close eye on them) then go for it!

Write while your toddler watches his favourite video movie. He wants to watch it again? Go ahead! This is not the right time to consider the effects of too much TV on children.

Go to the local library and write while your child listens to Story Time! Almost all libraries, and even bookstores, schedule story times for children. Take advantage of these.

If you have a writer friend who is also a mom, enlist her as your “writing partner,” take the kids to Mc Donald’s and write while your kids play in those weird game tunnels. “Hey, wait a minute!” you think. “You said to stay away from junk food.” Nice try, but even McDonald’s now offers a good selection of salads and fruit cocktails. Besides, I never said one hamburger once in a while will kill you. You might even reward yourself with a hamburger… AFTER you’ve fulfilled your minimum writing quota for that day.

Invite your writing-partner mom or moms for a “writing morning” at your home and write while your children play together. You may take turns with your homes. Also, as a group, you can consider hiring a sitter for these occasions. Writing with a support-group of people who are in the same situation as yourself is usually very rewarding and productive. Plus it’s a lot cheaper when each of you contribute to pay for the sitter. You may even want to start a club and meet once a week.


None of the above will prove helpful if you lack the determination to stick to a schedule. Think about it. Do you want to reach the age of seventy without having accomplished your goal—that masterpiece of a novel that will land you multiple contracts, fame and fortune? You’ll never know unless you take the first step. Family, and especially your children, should always come first, BUT don’t use your children as an excuse not to write. The truth is, life is so hectic there NEVER will be a “perfect” time to write. I assure you, if not children, later you’ll come up with something else as your procrastinator. It may be difficult to follow the schedule at first, and you may need to modify it, but eventually you’ll be glad you did. Otherwise you’ll live with self-guilt, self-loathing, disappointment and frustration.

Do it. Start today. Now.

Don’t forget: Frustrated writers are frustrated moms. Frustrated moms are unhappy moms. Artistically fulfilled moms are happy moms who can give themselves to their loved ones without reservations.

Mayra Calvani is an author and book reviewer.

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lea_schizas.jpgWelcome to The Dark Phantom Review, Lea. It’s nice to have you here. Why don’t you start by telling our readers what an online conference is?
The Muse Online Writers Conference is an opportunity for writers to meet, mingle, and network with some of the professionals in the publishing industry. It’s an area where you don’t have to worry what you’re going to wear, travel and hotel expenses, or who will mind the children while you’re away. You wake up, open up your computer and the fun begins.

What prompted you to create and organize such an event?I had posed a question to writers, “Who has attended a writer’s conference?” and there were three answers that kept popping up:

1- Too expensive to attend
2- Too far to travel
3- Have some sort of a disability preventing me from attending one.

I thought how unfair this was to have so many writers miss an opportunity to meet some of these publishing professionals. So, along with my co-sponsor Carolyn Howard-Johnson (the promo Queen), decided to set up our own online conference to attract every writer from around the world and offer them a networking opportunity.

Seeing how I am a writer, as well, I know that my pockets only contain lint so we opted for the best route for our conference: FREE registration, FREE workshops, FREE handouts, and a FREE ebook to everyone at the end compiling some or all of the workshops offered within the conference week. This ebook is FREE to those who register and attend but also will be available for purchase by everyone else, just the way we did last year, for only $9.99. The money earned by this ebook goes back into the conference to maintain the website and help with some of the costs. We also have a donation button in our Conference Workshop Chat area: http://www.museonlineconference.tripod.com

How many years has The Muse Online Writer’s Conference been taking place?

This year will be our second year. Last year we had close to 1300 attending from around the world: Canada, United States, Mexico, London, Ireland, New Zealand, Greenland, Italy, Africa, Greece, Taiwan, Australia, China, and many other places I can’t remember right now.

Let’s say I want to participate, what do I need to do? Is it free? What can I expect to get out of it?

To participate as an attendee, all you need to do is go to our Conference main site:
http://www.freewebs.com/themuseonlinewritersconference. There you will see our Registration page but also the Presenters webpages to get an idea who will be attending this year and what their workshops will be all about. This list is not complete…I have many more to put up there but so little time.

As I wrote above, this conference will ALWAYS be FREE. The whole point behind it is to offer every writer, regardless of their monetary status, an opportunity to attend and say they’ve been to a writer’s conference. You can get a glimpse of our conference Testimonials from last year here:

You asked what a writer will gain from it? We’ve already established the mingling and networking aspect but they will get to attend workshops that can cost a hundred dollars and more in a real ‘face to face’ conference. You will get a whole week to pose questions to our Presenters in our private forum, get a chance to meet them in an hour-long real time workshop. Last year we had several attendees lucky enough to receive contracts by some of the publishers who attended as Presenters.

There are two areas in the conference:

REAL TIME CHAT WORKSHOPS and our VIRTUAL CONFERENCE HALL, which will be hosted in a private writer’s forum.

The only writers who can attend and receive an invite to this forum are those that register before August 1st, 2007.

Along with the workshops, most Presenters will offer their workshop handouts to keep, read and prepare your questions for them. Most of these handouts are fully fleshed out as lesson plans.

So as you can see in this case it’s not ‘you get what you pay for’ but quite the opposite. Our presenters give and give and offer their time in order to help out fellow writers.

How many people are you expecting to attend this year?

I took a look at last year’s figures around this time and I had about 330 already registered and as we approached the deadline, more and more hopped on. As of today, we have over 500 registered, which gives me the impression we’re looking at close to 2000 if not more.

I understand you’re also an author and book reviewer. Tell us a little about your book, The Muse on Writing. Have you written other books?
The Muse On Writing was a collaborated nonfiction book with other writers. I coordinate anthology projects each year and this was the very first one, published by Double Dragon Publishing. This book is a must-have reference book for all writers and to get an idea what you’ll find, just hop on over here:

The next project was Aleatory’s Junction, again with several other writers, also with the same publisher. This is a fantasy filled with stories based around the fictional town Aleatory. Characters in each story end up taking the wrong turn at Aleatory’s Junction, taking them down a path that will forever change their lives. http://www.aleatorysjunction.tripod.com

My first published book was the young adult fantasy/adventure The Rock of Realm, published by Star Publish. It’s about a young teenager who discovers she’s the princess…to another realm. Mysteriously, she ends up with her friend and pets in Dread’s Forest, just outside Rock Kingdom, and end up in one adventure after another trying to elude capture by Dread himself. Throughout the book there is one repeated saying, “All is not what it appears to be.” And there’s a BIG reason for this. But you’ll have to read to find out what the reason is.

My newest release, Doorman’s Creek, a paranormal suspense/thriller was published this year by eTreasures. By the way, all of the books above come in print and ebooks. Doorman’s Creek follows three teenaged boys who discover a cave, a skeleton…and an unknown entity that pushes them into the path of a serial killer. After the discovery, Kyle Anderson begins to have visions of past and present murders and needs to find out who is responsible before another family member gets killed.

Would you like to share with our readers any of your current or future projects?

I’m in the process writing several books right now:

Gifted: Cursed? (tentative title): what would you do if you had the power to grant wishes to those in dire need only to have something taken from your own family? Would you grant them their wish? This is exactly the dilemma my young heroine faces when she is given this gift after her mother falls into a coma saving the life of her daughter’s best friend. Now, against her father’s orders, she needs to travel to Greece and find the one person who can shed some light on what will happen if she dares to grant her own wish to help her mother out of this coma.

Copy: A once obnoxiously obese high schooler turned into a glamorous and famous award-winning writer gets an invitation to attend her 20th high school reunion. A nagging dream about a friend who committed suicide during high school begins to eat away at her. Her intuition tells her this wasn’t a suicide. All fingers point to one person…the boy she had a huge crush on. Many twists and turns with some interesting characters.

Zylorp: The Brothers Three: a sci-fi/fantasy about one alien warrior and hero to his people who discovers the war he’s been fighting for his people had a secret agenda. One wrong retaliation on his part and he now faces the death penalty. The only person who can save him is the girl he’s in love with, a Mylantian empath. But will he allow her?

Amongst other books I also have the second novel to The Rock of Realm, continuing the adventures of my character and friends.

You also have a review site. Would you tell our readers a bit about it?

The Muse Book Reviews caters to all writers, regardless of where or how they’ve been published. There are several reviewers who cater to different genres. All of our reviews are honest and no sugar-coating attached to them.

We’ve streamlined the guidelines a bit: any writer wishing a review can contact the appropriate reviewer themselves now instead of me being the middle man.

Also, we conduct chats and interviews with some of these authors in order to help promote them further.


What types of books do you consider?

Almost all types of books other than pornographic novels. We accept children’s, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, literary fiction, mystery, nonfiction, dark fiction/horror.

What would I need to do in order to have you review my book?

As I wrote above, if you link here: http://themusebookreviews.tripod.com/ you’ll read our guidelines and what we need, plus you’ll see which reviewer is available for what genre. If you contact one reviewer and they are filled to capacity with books to read, then you are welcome to contact another one under that category.

We try to have a review within a two-month limit but seeing how we’ve been swamped lately, more like three months to be on the safe side.

Online reviewers and bloggers have received a lot of attention lately. Reviewers from print publications have accused them of not being critical enough, of not being “legitimate” reviewers. What’s your stance on this? Do you think there’s a lot of facile praise on online review sites and blogs?

You have two separate issues here that I’ll address honestly and in my own opinion:

1-reviewers from print publications accusing online reviewers of not being critical to me brings the same sense of discrimination when I hear “You’re not a ‘real’ writer because you self-published.” I won’t say anything more on this. We are legitimate reviewers since we take the same care to read objectively a novel and offer our own opinion, the way they do, in areas we find in the book that are good but also in need of some work. Anyone who requests a review knows they are taking a chance with the review not going their way.
2- As for facile praise on online reviews: yes, I do believe, unfortunately, and I may be bombarded with emails on this, but many ‘friends’ read other writers books and in order to give them the confidence and boost to promote their books, they are not really objective but more ‘caring not to hurt someone’s feelings’.

Once you commit to being a reviewer, you need to knock out friendship and take this position seriously and comment truthfully or else you will not be looked at seriously.

A proper review is not meant to bash a writer but to offer the good and bad points found in the novel in a diplomatic way. It’s easy to write “Was this writer awake when he wrote this?” but how helpful is this to a reader but, more importantly, to the writer? A review, to me, is to offer the reader the ‘what you’re going to find in the book’ info, and to the writer, ‘in your next book you should watch out for ???’. Reviews are almost like an editor’s note- you need to read in-between the line.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may find more about you and your work?

Yes. My personal website containing all of my sites/newsletter links is:

In my site you’ll also find my Editing Services webpage.

My two blogs are:
The Writing Jungle – http://thewritingjungle.blogspot.com where I host interviews, blog tours, offer publication links and more.

Branches of Life – http://branchesoflife.blogspot.com is a very interesting blog owned by several writers and publishers. Each month we hit a different topic of interest to readers and welcome comments from everyone. We’ve talked about raising teenagers, dealing with an older parent, working at home and time management, and this month is “What I love about Fantasy.”

I want to take this opportunity and thank you for conducting this interview. I had a blast.

Thank you, Lea!
The Dark Phantom

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From Book to Bestseller
By Penny Sansevieri
Morgan James Publishing
ISBN: 1600370853
Copyright 2006
Paperback, 354 pages, $12.21

From Book to Bestseller, written by book publicist and media relations specialist Penny Sansevieri, is an amalgam of useful information and a must-buy for authors who are serious about marketing and promoting their books practically and efficiently.

In her friendly, engaging, yet no-nonsense writing style, Sansevieri shares the secrets of successful book marketing based on her own personal experience as the author of an Amazon bestseller, as well as her experience working with other authors and the media, including her work as instructor for the popular “Get Published Today!” workshops.

Everything from how to handle book signings and pitch to the media, preparing media kits, creating a marketing campaign, getting into catalogs and book clubs, developing spin-off products, branding yourself as an expert can be found between these pages, and more. Sansevieri includes lots of links and resources, making it easy for the author to begin marketing a book right away.

The book is well structured, clear, and easy to navigate. Besides its practicality, it is written in a very ‘personal’ style, giving the reader the feeling that she is chatting with a publicist. So have your highlighter and Post-its ready, as this is a book to be dissected and kept on the desk at all times. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

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Whale Song
By Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Kunati, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-60164-007-9
Copyright 2007
Trade Paperback, 200 pages, $12.95
General Fiction/YA

Whale Song is a beautifully written novel that deals with a controversial subject and combines elements of myth, legend, and family drama.

The story begins when thirteen-year old Sarah Richardson moves with her family to Vancouver Island, leaving behind her old life and best friend. In spite of the fact that not all of her new classmates offer her a warm welcome, Sarah soon makes a good friend, a native girl called Goldie. A white girl where most of the people are Indian, Sarah soon experiences prejudice and racism. Her escape is her loving home, her friendship with Goldie, and her love for the killer whales that inhabit the island waters. From Goldie’s grandmother she learns many legends and Indian myths about these magnificent, intelligent mammals.

Then disaster strikes and all that Sarah holds dear is snatched away, leaving her enveloped in a dark vortex of confusion and loneliness. As her life abruptly changes, the issue of racism is replaced by a much more controversial one. Does the end justify the means? Does love justify breaking the law?

The story is told in the first person by Sarah herself; the reader is drawn into an immediate intimate rapport with the young protagonist. The language, in its simplicity, heightens the strong moral conflicts which carry the plot. In spite of the family drama, no silly sentimentalism mars the prose, and Sarah possesses a strong voice that is both honest and devoid of embellishments. The author has managed to create a sense of serenity and beauty that has to do with the mythical setting and the ‘parallel’ presence of the killer whales and wolves.

Consider this excerpt taken from the prologue and which sets the tone and mood for the rest of the story:

I once feared death.

It is said that death begins with the absence of life. And life begins when death is no longer feared. I have stared death in the face and survived. A survivor who has learned about unfailing love and forgiveness. I realize now that I am but a tiny fragment in an endless ocean of life, just as a killer whale is a speck in her immense underwater domain. (p.9)

A sad yet uplifting novel, Whale Song is about the fear and innocence of a young girl and about coming to terms with the shocking and painful truth one often must face. Above all, it is a novel about forgiveness and forgiving oneself.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

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Dear Readers,

The June issue of Voice in the Dark Ezine is online for your reading pleasure. Contents this month include:

Editor’s Note
Fictional Character Interview
–Meet Flossie Silver of the Silver Sisters Mysteries
Book Excerpt (New Feature)
–Death on Delivery
Featured Interviews
–Meet Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner, Authors
–Meet Nancy Madison, Author
–Meet Lois Winston, Author
–Meet Beverly Stowe McClure, Author
Gladiator’s Arena–by Mayra Calvani
Short Fiction
Sanctuary — Columnist Mayra Calvani
Whodunit? — Columnist Billie A. Williams
Pam’s Pen — Columnist Pamela James
Seedlings — Aaron Paul Lazar
The Writing Life — Quarterly and Guest Column
Items of Interest


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Please tell us about Infinite Space, Infinite God, and how you came up with the idea to edit and put this Catholic SF anthology together. First off, Infinite Space, Infinite God is great science fiction. You’ll find exciting adventures in time and space with characters, settings, and technologies that feel real. You’ll read about clone slaves seeking their freedom, an interstellar travelr stumbling upon a lost generation ship, a mind-destroying device from another dimension, a mind-altering device created to punish criminals, cultural dystopias, asteroid mining, even an alien abduction.
The twist is, each story deals with the practice of the Catholic faith in overcoming the problems of the story. When a Catholic terrorist undergoes the mind-altering treatment, it’s the Sacrament of Reconciliation that saves his sanity. Fr. Heidler uses the power of meditative prayer to overcome an alien artefact’s dangerous psychic effects. A lapsed Catholic is challenged to find the meaning of the Crucifixion when his crazy boss sends him back in time to take a photo of the Via Dolorosa. Interstellar evangelists find themselves in the middle of an interplanetary war. Two stories feature new religious orders: the Joans are religious sisters/bodyguards for priests in dangerous areas, while the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue is devoted to space search and rescue.
Put together, Infinite Space, Infinite God is a fun yet thought-provoking read about the expression of faith in the future.
Rob and I had long been somewhat annoyed at the absence of faith in so much SF. Characters live out every other aspect of current society–from work to entertainment–express every emotion from love to hate, do everything from fighting to making love to going to the commode. Yet how often do you read one praying? Or hear them discuss their faith? Or attend church? Not just as a symbol (the emotional preacher vs. the rational scientist), but as their everyday, natural part of who they are? How often do the policies or doctrines of a faith affect the story? Those are the kinds of stories we wanted to see–and that’s what we looked for with Infinite Space, Infinite God and its (currently unpublished) Christian “sister book,” Leaps of Faith.

What are some of the religious or moral issues explored in the stories?
Can clones have souls? How far can someone be genetically altered before they lose their humanity? How do our actions speak louder than our words when it comes to the expression of faith? How will technological advances alter the work and doctrines of the Catholic Church? Can technology lead to a deeper understanding of faith–and can faith heal us from the damage inflicted on us by technology? Why is it important for people to be knowledgeable in their faith and to pass on their faith? What place have miracles in a world replete with the miracles of technology?

During the last few years there’s been a rise in Christian books. To what do you attribute this?
The market is there. Folks are looking for entertainment that more closely corresponds to their own ideals. And we’ve re-discovered that we can write entertaining, escapist fiction that is nonetheless moral and even explicitly Christian–and publishers have found that people will buy it.
People, especially in the US, are looking for Christian or inspirational fiction because they know they’ll find clean, uplifting stories that may touch their souls. The challenge for us writers is to make sure that they are also well-crafted and exciting and will touch their minds (and maybe their adrenal glands!) There’s nothing worse than spending $13.50 for a thinly disguised sermon.
Personally, I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction. I like fantasy and sci-fi, mystery, and some historical fiction. Nonetheless, as a writer, I find my characters insist on expressing their faith. I hope, however, that as those books get published, they end up in the sci-fi section and not the Christian section.

Please tell us about Karina, the author.
I’ve been writing since I was in grade school–stories for class, a few journals at critical points in my life, fanfict…whatever struck my fancy. In 1996, I started seriously making a career of it, writing articles for pay and adult conversation (I had two toddlers at the time). In the last couple of years, I’ve backed off the nonfiction, however. I’m lucky in that my husband makes enough money to keep us comfortable, so I can spend my time writing what’s fun.
And, boy! Do I have fun! I’m shopping a trilogy about a psychic teenager. Deryl is trapped between three worlds: Kanaan thinks he’s some kind of psychic angelic supercomputer from which their people can download information (and leave him with the compulsion to research everything from fortress building to triage). Barin thinks he’s some kind of avenging spirit that will smote their enemies telepathically. Naturally, his family and friends on Earth think he’s nuts–and they commit him until he escapes to Kanaan. There the real fun begins, for he discovers Kanaan and Barin are on collision course–and he’s got to stop it somehow.
I have another novel I started with NaNoWriMo about a group of researchers, asteroid miners, and a trio of nuns who are sent to explore the first-discovered alien ship. The sisters of Our Lady of the Rescue are to oversee safety on the mission, but find they have to overcome rivalry and animosity between the “proffs” and the “rockjacks” before someone gets hurt. Even more, Sister Rita’s old love interest is on the mission, re-awakening her feelings and causing her to doubt her calling as a religious. Can the discovery of the alien ship help her discover the true path of her life?
I also have a terrific Faerie/Mundane multiverse I play in. A terribly cliché combination of nuclear accident and magical mishap interact to create a gap between our dimension (forever known a Mundane) and a magical one (dubbed Faerie). Keeping the universes safe is the team of Dragon Eye, PI: Vern d/Wyvern (don’t call him that) and Sister Grace of Our Lady of the Miracles.
Vern is your average North African Faerie Wyvern with a not-so average problem: since he cannot be killed, St. George put a holy spell on him, removing everything that made him a great dragon–size, flight, fire, healing…you name it, he lost it. To earn his greatness back, he must serve God and Man. Sister Grace is a Catholic Mage with a secret and a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome that brings her to the Mundane dimension.
All the stories are told first-person and in the noir style. (If Vern had been an egg, he’d have been 20 minutes.) I play with clichés and standard fairy tales, Native American legends, whatever I can mix in. I even have one story that mixes an Irish legend with the Biblical Plague of Locusts. I’m shopping several of their cases around right now and working on a novel. I also have a fun, fun website where I channel Vern. I love being funny and sarcastic and blaming it all on him!
I just finished a hilarious romance staring Coyote the Trickster from my Mundane/Faerie universe. Nothing like having your exciting new romantic hero stop just as he’s leaning in to kiss you so he can scratch off a flea! The “Perfect 10”–but on what scale?

What are your working habits?
Erratic. In addition to writing (which is my sanity maintenance program), I homeschool four kids (ages 6, 8, 11, and 13), teach religious education, and am in charge of two Catholic writers’ groups, and I’m a military wife. Thus, I’ll have months (like November) where I’ll get done 50,000 words for National Novel Writer’s Month, plus a short story, two features, an instalment to my Dragon Eye murder mystery series, two new websites and several interviews. Then I’ll have a month (like December) where I’m lucky to get through my e-mail!
One thing I try to do, however, is write something every day. My first novel was written by refusing to allow myself to sleep until I’d written just one sentence. Sometimes, I’d be able to get whole chapters done, but if not, I’d at least moved forward. In a year, it was ready to shop around. It might never have gotten done if I’d waited for large chunks of time.
I work better with deadlines and others’ expectations on me, as well. When DAW asked to see the second book in my trilogy, it took a month to write. Since I still haven’t heard from them, however, the third one is languishing as other things take my attention. NaNo is great for me.

What do you find most effective when marketing and promoting books? Any secrets you’d like to share? To be honest, I’m very new at marketing myself. Infinite Space, Infinite God is out in e-book right now, so I’m doing my best to create the buzz before the print version comes out in August.
I created a website using tripod. http://isigsf.tripod.com It’s free and easy. In 6 weeks, it’s gotten about 430 hits. The site has story synopses, bios, press releases, reviews, photos–anything someone needs to learn about or write about Infinite Space, Infinite God.
I went on a virtual book tour this December, which has been great fun. You can find the schedule on the Infinite Space, Infinite God website.
If any of your readers are in the Los Angeles, I invite you to see Infinite Space, Infinite God on display at the LA Times Book Fair April 28, 29. We’re sharing a booth with the Authors’ Coalition.
I’m working on getting reviews. “Chewing the Bone” gave us a terrific review, and we’re waiting for others.
Next, I need to start working on media releases to newspapers, print magazines, and radio stations. However, my eye for these is more toward the August print date.

Do you have a website where readers may learn more about your work? For me and my writing, plus my blog: www.fabianspace.com
For Infinite Space, Infinite God: http://isigsf.tripod.com
For Vern and Dragon Eye, PI: www.freewebs.com/dragoneyepi

I understand you’re compiling another anthology at the moment. Would you like to tell our readers about this? Oh, goodness, no. Not yet. I’m hoping to do another Catholic or Christian SF anthology, but that’ll depend on the sales of Infinite Space, Infinite God.

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Today at The Dark Phantom Review is special guest Karen Magill, who is promoting her novel on her first virtual book tour.

Welcome, Karen!

Tell us about your latest release, LET US PLAY. What is it about and what inspired you to write such a story?
Let Us Play is set in an uncertain time in the future where all forms of rock ‘n roll music have been banned. Kaya More possesses the gift of second sight and leads a band of rebels in a group called the ‘Let Us Play Organization’ or LUPO. They are opposed by PARR, the People Against Rock ‘n Roll, lead by a sadistic man named Judah Arnold. The rebels fight hard but are no more than a irritant to PARR until the rest of the world joins in the struggle. As is with real life, the characters discover love and betrayal along the journey.

Back in the 1990s I produced, edited and primarily wrote a newsletter on rock music. I got to interview and review artists everywhere from garage bands that never left the garage to multi platinum selling US musicians. Around this time the PMRC was gaining strength in the US and I never liked the thought of censoring one of the arts, especially by a government agency. Or an agency that was there for political purposes, which I always felt the PMRC was. I started thinking of what could happen if the music was banned totally and who would bring it back. I wrote Let Us Play then nothing happened with it. After I independently published my first book and received moderate success with that, I decided to try with Let Us Play since it was a special book to me. So early last year I began to rewrite it and rework certain parts so that I have the book I do now.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?
For this one, everything just flowed. I had the ending written before the rest was and there was a character I was going to kill off all along but he took over and wouldn’t die. It took me about eight months to write the first draft of this.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
I suffer from writer’s block whenever I start to look at the writing as something that has to be done. If I start considering it as work then I have problems. That is when I separate myself from the computer and anything that has to do with writing. I go for a walk, listen to music, exercise – anything that gets my thoughts away from worrying about writing. Or not writing.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
I had a heck of a time finding a publisher, which is one of the reasons I decided to try publishing my works independently. But if a novice author decides they want to publish independently, I advise them to make sure they know what they are getting into. You will be responsible for your own advertising/marketing, your own set up, your own editing. All the glory goes to you if you go this way but so does all the criticism.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
I have a website, www.karenmagill.com and there a person can sign up for a free newsletter and be entered to win prizes. There is a blog on that site and I have another one www.letusplaylovestory.blogspot.com/ that is all about Let Us Play.

Do you have another novel on the works? Tell us about your current and/or future projects.
I am starting the sequel to Let Us Play entitled Truth, Justice and Rock ‘n Roll – TJR for short. It will focus on another character from Let Us Play with a new mission.

Thanks for stopping by, Karen!

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