Archive for April 28th, 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChristine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she’s a mom and freelance editor.

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Book description with link to book:

Apparently, life doesn’t end when you get married.

When a couple freezes to death on a fifty degree day, Cassie is called in to investigate. The couple ran a daycare out of their home, making preschoolers the key witnesses and even the prime suspects.

Two of those preschoolers are Cassie’s youngest siblings, suggesting conditions at home are worse than she feared. As Cassie struggles to care for her family, she must face the truth about her mother’s slide into depression, which seems to be taking the entire town with it.

Then Cassie, too, is attacked by the supernatural cold. She has to think fast to survive, and her actions cause a rift between her and her husband.

No, life doesn’t end after marriage. All hell can break loose at any time.

Buy Links

Frozen (Cassie Scot Book Seven)

Print Release: July 15, 2018

Audiobook Release: TBA

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot Book One)


Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Frozen. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: In Frozen, Cassie discovers a couple frozen to death in their living room on a fifty degree day. Jacket weather not usually being lethal, she sets off to investigate, and discovers far more than she bargained for.

Frozen_medFrozen is the seventh book in the Cassie Scot series, and the first book in her new “Happily Ever After” arc. The book begins with the line, “Apparently, life doesn’t end after you get married.” And that line, more than anything else, is what compelled me to write it.

The first four books in the Cassie Scot series, now “The Original Quartet,” did exactly what I meant for them to do. Each one was a self-contained mystery while the series dealt with Cassie, the “normal” daughter of powerful sorcerers, struggling with self-doubt. Plus, there was the romance. When I finished book four, the series felt more or less complete. I did have to write two spin-offs (books five and six) for her friends who got too big to be footnotes in her story, but that, I thought, was that.

Except Cassie kept talking to me, and it was clear she wasn’t done, however happily married she was. There were still mysteries to solve, and actually she’s having problems with her mom, plus I’d always known there was more to magic in this world than was I ever able to reveal in the original books.

So I give you Frozen, which, I reasonably sure, will be the first in a trilogy. I’m working on the next book, Forgotten Magic, now.

Q: What do you think makes a good (genre of your book)? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Character!

Actually, I think a good character makes a good story, period. If “character” were a genre, I’d claim that one.  I think this is why I get a lot of cross-genre readers (people who claim they usually prefer another genre).

Urban fantasy is a setting. I have fun in that setting, in that world. I like magic. I always have. But even more than that I love strong, vulnerable characters who set out bravely to conquer their world despite some degree of self-doubt.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: My story unfolds as I write it, more or less. I say “more or less” because it’s almost impossible to write a book without at least some planning. But I’m not a rigid outliner – I tried that once and ended up with the flattest, most plot-driven (as opposed to character-driven) books I’d ever written. It is safely tucked away where no one will ever read it.

Usually, I do some planning and brainstorming up front, know more or less what’s going on, then start writing. Meanwhile, I begin a companion file, a journal file that I use daily to discuss (with myself) where I’ve been and where I might be going next. In this way, I end up outlining a few chapters at a time.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Cassie and I go way back at this point! I met her nine years ago, and she has been the chattiest character I’ve ever created. The first thing I knew about her was that she had no magic in a world of magic. I also knew this troubled her deeply, and that it would be a defining characteristic. Yet I also knew that she was more than her disability (so to speak), and that she would learn this over time.

I’m not a visual person (I’m legally blind) so I don’t draw my characters. I find character profiling to be dull and lifeless. Honestly, some of the most lifeless characters I’ve ever read very obviously had a complete profile behind them.

Interviews work better. I probably did some interviewing with Cassie, or at least with some of the other important characters in the book.

But what I like to do most is write first-person journals. I do this, even if I’m not writing in the first person.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: I work hard to develop believable character motivations. The most important question is why? I’ll ask why over and over again until I get at the truth.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Conflict.

In every scene, ask yourself: What is my character’s goal? What motivates her? What is preventing her from achieving that goal?

Your story can have multiple conflicts; mine certainly do! And this helps keep things interesting. For instance, in Frozen, the first chapter develops some family conflict as I bridge the gap in years between the last book and this one. So even though what I need to do is catch the reader up on what’s going on, I’m doing it through conflict.

In chapter two, we begin the mystery, which is easy, straightforward conflict. That takes us through a few chapters, then we’re back to what could have been dull transition except that I avoid dull transition through more conflict. For instance, after Cassie finds the two dead bodies and one of her deputy friends is attacked by a hell hound, she goes home to nurse her baby daughter. And yes, there is a scene in which she nurses her baby daughter. But it’s not dull. Actually, it’s one of my favorite scenes because it vividly portrays Cassie’s personal truth and inner conflict right now – trying to be a good mom, trying not to become her mom, who has serious issues (developed in chapter one) …

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Character.

Did I mention that character was the most important part of storytelling?

Yes, setting can be like a character itself, but it also comes alive through character. The world I built (nestled in some version of our own reality) is a community of sorcerers, of magic users, and they make the setting real.

The rest of it – the lake shore, the homes, the downtown diner and the antique stores – those are just window dressing.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I always discover themes as I go, although it doesn’t usually take to the end to identify them!

Whatever’s going on in my life makes its way into my books. These things become themes. Forgiveness is a long-standing theme that continues to emerge in my work. But in Frozen, there’s a definite element of “becoming like your mom” in the theme. That’s new.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: Those are two completely different questions!

Okay, I’m a freelance editor, and I’m a damn good one. So I know that damn good editors do not destroy creativity. I spent as much time carefully wording my suggestions as I do identifying problems because ultimately, I know, psychology plays a big role in how authors receive what I say and how they improve their craft without becoming discouraged.

Bad editors, on the other hand ….

As for craft vs. art, I would say this. Learn craft. Learn it, and know it, and then really get to know it. Art is there the whole time, but before you learn craft, it can end up getting lost behind incompetence so that no one can recognize its brilliance.

There are four main stages of writing craft:

Unconscious incompetence, in which you’re no good at writing and don’t even realize it.

Conscious incompetence, in which you begin to realize that you need to work on your craft.

Conscious competence in which you are beginning to know what you’re doing, but you have to think about it all the time.

Unconscious competence, in which your skills become deepy ingrained and can more freely support every decision you make.

Once you get to the final stage, you should no longer need to worry about where craft ends and where art begins. And not because you’re following the rules all the time – rather, because you intuit the rules, and understand the effect of any given decision you make on the artwork you’re creating.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: 1.) Writing a novel. 2.) Enjoying writing a novel. 3.) Being open to writing another novel.

That’s it. If you’re loving what you do, learning from it, and growing, you’re successful. The industry will give you little love or support, but if there’s something in you that’s always seeking, always yearning, then you win.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?

A: Yes. That writer needs to quit.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Yes. Savvy Authors has some good workshops. If you don’t understand what I mean by POV, read Characters and Viewpoint, one of the Elements of Fiction series. (PLEASE read this. I’m so tired of fixing egregious POV problems in amateur writing and am considering not accepting clients for editing unless they are making intentional, awake POV choices. I’ll even take incorrect choices, as long as they are intentional and awake!)

NaNoWriMo is still swinging. As is Critters.

These days, a lot of writing action seems to have moved to Facebook. I’m not convinced this is a great resource as that site is more about trying to be heard than anything else. You have to be on Facebook for marketing, but learn craft elsewhere.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Practice makes perfect. You have to write a million words of crap before you’ll even begin to sound good.

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