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Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

CoverAlthough I have written for decades, I don’t have a wide variety of publishing experiences. So, this is how I will proceed for my next project from what I know now.

I’ll write about something that intrigues me. I think one of the most powerful forces in society is the ability to utilize insights. My fiction writing will continue to celebrate the quirky nature of subtle lessons and relationships.

I will fully develop characters, relationships, and motivations. However, I will write loosely concerning times, days, and seasons. I have spent more time during revision adjusting the details of the weather than the important points of the plot.

I will try to master the use of the audio-notes feature on my phone to record ideas, details, or entire action scenes when talking is more convenient that writing.

I’ll stay well organized.

I’ll take energizing walks when my brain is dry.

I’ll continue to seek out like-minds with whom to share ideas, phrasing, and coffee.

I’ll stay in touch with the mentors I have come to know.

I’ll hone my skills of interviewing experts for primary research.

I’ll try to stay on top of organizing my photos. Although my book did not require photos, the website did, and the trailer will. It’s a lot easier to take pictures at the time of the writing than to dig them up later.

I’m going to research my next project and confirm the salability of my topic, presentation, and length before I do much writing.

I’m going to expect to send out many queries for my next book before I get a nibble.

I’m going to continue to explore different modes of social media.

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Last Import - 15To Contact Chris McCloskey, you can go to www.tootenandter.com. Check out the pics and quotes from some of T&T’s adventures, meet some of the Guide Dog puppies, and send a comment or add to the blog.

Email Chris McCloskey at http://www.tootenter@gmail.com

Download a copy of Tooten and Ter: A Nose for Crime go to www.smashwords.com. In the Search box in the upper right, you can enter “McCloskey” or “Tooten and Ter” or “Nose” or “Crime”!

This is day 4 of Chris’ tour with the National Writing for Children Center. Continue her tour tomorrow at http://www.thelearningleaf.com.

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If you’re reading this, chances are you are an author, maybe published, maybe not. Regardless, you dream of success.  The question is what do you think of as success.
Is success being published by a large publisher with mega sales? Do you think of success as making a fortune from your writing? Or do you dream of success as being well known with fame attached to your name and have people recognize your face and name everywhere?
Perhaps, you don’t care so much about fame or becoming wealthy from your writing. While a good return for your efforts is nice, the idea of success might be having people actually read and enjoy the books you write.
Ah, little do we know. And that’s the truth. Beginners know little about writing and even less of the publishing world. This has been true since out grandmothers’ days. Things have changed in the last hundred years beyond their wildest dreams. 
Any author who is comfortable with what they have achieved will tell you, the world of writing and publishing is constantly changing today, largely due to the changes and advances of modern technology.
Enter the Internet and the advent of new publishers and types of publishing. The first to break ground in this new medium would be the online publishers or small presses as they may also be called. These presses are responsible in large part for the success of many authors who never would have had a chance to be published and they are the founders of the new world of publishing.
This does not include the vanity presses of old.  The way the worked was simple. An author would finish a manuscript and whatever form it was submitted to the vanity press of their choice, along with a hefty check, is the way the book would be printed. Often the books themselves were well made since most of these vanity presses were printers who decided the extra income of producing books was nice to have. They would print and bind the book and send a certain number in boxes to the author and that was the end of their job. The author was now stuck with maybe as many as a hundred to five hundred copies of their book to sell, give away, or whatever they did with them.  Often, upon the passing of the author, the boxes were found stored somewhere, unopened. This was because the author had no idea how to sell their book, where to sell their book and how to reach the market. Bookstores would not accept them and unless the author went door to door, the only copies sold were to family and close friends who often as not never read the book.
Had those authors been around today, they could have saved their hundreds of dollars and been published on the Internet by a small press if they were lucky or later, they could self publish.
From the days of those old vanity presses, which are still around, the world has expanded to include several types of publishing and more come along all the time. Today, there is the ebook which with some learning can be published by the author and sold and publicized by the author. 
There are publishers who produce ebooks only and most of them are of excellent quality and well written books. Some will put the work into print but may charge the author for a set up fee.
There are traditional presses online that produce booth print and ebooks and their quality is excellent. Many will publicize the books they produce and build their name at the same time. Others leave the promotion to the author. For an author to be accepted by the first type of small press, their work must meet certain standards and be suitable to the niche market the publisher aims at.
To achieve the dream of success of other authors, they must make a connection with an agent who will successfully promote the work to the larger houses that refuse to deal with anyone but agents. This can be a very hard road to travel and result in disappointment. One must be prepared for this as it may take years to find the right agent who will believe in your work and promote it to those large presses.
So success may prove elusive to those of us who wait for someone to promote our work to others or we may take on the task ourselves and start those query letters or emails moving.
A writer’s success not only depends on writing that book, possibly the best book ever written, but their personal efforts to contact publishers or agents or both and getting their name out before the public, maybe months before their work is available and that effort must be continuous.
The reading public is wonderfully kind to most  authors, but it also has a short lived attntion span so the author must keep reminding them of his or her existence.
Our eventual success really does depend on us, whether we are aiming for top of the heap or a comfortable spot in the middle. You must decide what you can affort in time and money for the advancement of your book and work from that point. Achieving success means engineering our dreams to fit reality. And that is the most difficult step to success of all.
 *****
Anne K. Edwards enjoys writing in a variety of genres, excerpts of which are available for reading at Twilight Times Books or on Anne’s website.  Anne also reviews and edits, writes short stories and articles. She enjoys meeting people and travel. Be sure to visit her blog, “Invitation to a Book” on her website. Anne K. Edwards can be found on http://www.AnneKEdwards.com.

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PND TOUR BannerI am always repeating the story of how I started to write poetry.

Because of the origin of my poems, I feel that were gifts to me.

When I share a poem with readers, it’s like sharing a treasured gift.  I wrote my very first poem on February 14th, 2007.  I woke up out of my sleep with this poem swirling around in my head. I got up and quickly scribbled it down.

The poem was “Our Place”. It was the first of many more poems to come. After that day, the poems just started to flow and flow. Within the span of about six months, I had written well over 200 poems.

Most of the poems in both of my books Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia and My Magnolia Memories and Musings came from that initial period of writing/inspiration.

It’s funny that I very rarely, ever, sit down to intentionally write a poem. Most of my poems come to me as I am going to sleep, waking up, or ODDLY, when I am alone in my car.

I can safely say that well over 50% of them came to me and were written in my car. It still amazes me when I hear myself say that.

I call my car my ‘personal think tank.  When I am riding alone, with no conversations to distract me, with no music on or inside noise……..the magic happens. I have little scraps of paper, envelopes, bills and all kinds of things with poems scribbled on them.

I feel that my poems came and come to me in that way because they are truly an overflow of the heart. My poems are filled with my love for Mississippi and the southern way of life. It is my hope that, through my poems, I can help others see the many positive things about our state and region. Most of what everyone hears about Mississippi and the south is very negative. But I want to show that there is so much more to the story.

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PND Bio

Where to Purchase Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia

Amazon Paperback
Barnes & Noble Paperback

My Magnolia Memories

Amazon Paperback
Barnes & Noble Paperback 

Patricia’s Website / Facebook

Add Patricia’s Books to Your Goodreads List:

Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia

My Magnolia Memories and Musings

 Blog Tour Link:

http://worldwindvirtualbooktours.weebly.com/tour-reflections–magnolia-memories.html

 

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trappedbanner2Is there a bad side to being an author? Let me count the ways!

Seriously, though, writing, and especially fiction, is a lot like life…with both up’s and down’s. But this article is more about the “down’s,” so let’s look at that.

As an author, we’ve worked hard on creating our masterpiece. At least, I know I have, especially when I learned being talented was not enough. I read books on creating a Blockbuster novel, attend several fine writers’ conferences, where there were more good classes, about the entire spectrum of being an author, than I could possibly attend. I’d written four novels and was focused on getting my first, Trapped, as good as I could make it, and eventually published. I learned a lot about what makes good writing, and am amazed at how many people who strive to be authors just don’t do the work to develop their craft.

Anyhow, the only thing remotely “bad” about any of the above, was the time and effort it took to really polish my skills…and that really wasn’t so bad, after all. Some of the “bad” are things all authors experience…and have come to expect:

Rejection!

What’s really bad about rejection isn’t so much that this agent or that editor didn’t think your work was for them. It’s that you’ve slaved over the perfect query letter, after consuming a plethora of articles from those same agents/editors on how to do it right…how to create that compelling hook. And then you read their web site and write a personalized letter, showing them you know who they are and what they like. And then the rejection comes in your dutifully supplied SASE: “Dear Author (NOT personalized), Thanks for thinking of me. Unfortunately, this is not for us (Despite being right in the strike zone of what they say they love). Perhaps you will have better success with someone else.”

Yeah? Who?

The frustration is that you went through a lot of effort to show them you MAY BE right for them, and they send the generic form letter. You know in your heart they probably never even looked at your submission. Agents admit they look for the tiniest things in the query to summarily reject you. Surely they are swamped  with queries, but their cavalier dismissal of you treasure is very disheartening. How many great authors were nearly buried with rejections. Gresham, Louis L’amore (350 times – America’s premier western author, whom wrote classics, like “How the West was Won”, “Hondo,” & “Conager.”), and J.K. Rowlings are a few.

Another “bad” thing can be contests. Contests have great potential for the new author. I’ve entered several, and in fact my novel, Trapped, is published by TAG Publishers because I won their “Next Great American Novel” Contest. Trapped was also a finalist in the Florida Writers annual RPLA fiction contest, with over 300 entrants. And the “rub” here come from inconsistent judging. To qualify as a finalist in the RPLA, the novel has to receive a total of 80 or more points, out of a possible 100, based on two preliminary judges evaluation of 10 different criteria, 1 – 5 points for each. Trapped received a total of 48 from one judge and 46 from the other, both very complimentary of character development, scenes, and the 1st person POV throughout of my main character, Jackee. The latter was at the suggestion of Dee Burks, editor at TAG Publishers. Every chapter was from the POV of Jackee, and whatever happened away from her had to be learned by what she saw and what she heard.

Unfortunately, the finalist judge didn’t like all the things the two prelim judges loved, and he/she especially wanted scenes with the other characters’ POVs. So, of course, Trapped, did not win the RPLA in 2012. It’s interesting, however, that readers unanimously say they can’t put it down, and I attribute that partly to the 1st person POV. I’ve had two of my other novels also as finalists in the RPLA, with almost identical results. High marks in prelims, but the finalist judge going another way. That, as I like to say, is why they make “chocolate, vanilla and 39 other flavours.”

So, I guess the recap for “The bad side of being an author,” can be condensed into possibly one word: FRUSTRATION. Frustration with the entire judgement system that tends to keep new, very talented authors off the market.

Of course, now we have e-books, and anyone with a bit of computer skill can publish their tome. And unfortunately, self-published e-books (and print, as well, from all the POD companies, many of whom make their money mostly from the authors…not book sales)  have come to be thought of as inferior… largely due to all those authors I mentioned earlier who aren’t willing to put in the work to become really good writers. There is, admittedly, a lot of junk out there. Hopefully, readers are able to sift out the nuggets and discard the chaff. That’s just one more potential frustration.

In spite of the above, I keep plugging. And it’s great to finally get the laudatory validation I’ve received for my work.

So maybe it’s all worth it, after all.

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BLURB:

trappedThe darkness is still, silent. Jackee Maren’s heart pounds reverberating through her body as fear sears her veins. Someone’s coming. No way out. This time they will kill me. Her breath is short, her chest burns. Must run. Faster. Faster! Her eyes fly open, her heart still racing with blinding fear. Jackee breathes deeply with relief and stares at the ceiling desperately trying to calm herself. The same dream. Something, someone is watching . . . and waiting.

A tragic car accident leaves beautiful, vibrant Jackee Maren completely paralyzed, able to move only her eyes. Jackee’s husband, Phil, is devastated and her two young boys left with nothing but a shell for a mother, but still, Jackee senses the foreboding of an evil presence and knows time is short. Slowly, Jackee learns to communicate with her physical therapist, Kevin, by blinking her eyes. As evidence comes to light that her car accident was no accident, Jackee knows she must expose the person who wants her dead before they get a second chance. While Jackee works to put all the clues together, she discovers she has the ability to sense the thoughts of others, but she hides this talent from everyone but her sons, not knowing who she can trust. By actively exercising her new psychic ability, Jackee finally learns who masterminded the accident but feels helpless to stop them from trying to kill her again. Slowly a plan forms to not only ensure her boys are safe forever, but to exact revenge on her would-be murderer. Jackee vows not to rest until this killer understands what it is to be TRAPPED!

BUY LINKS:  

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Trapped-ebook/dp/B00A6Z59ZU/

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Trapped-George-A-Bernstein/dp/1599304090/

BOOK TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWHMGC-QHK8

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AUTHOR BIO

I was born and raised in Chicago and its suburbs, living there until the age of 39. I’m now a retired corporate President, life-long fishing enthusiast, and a dedicated author. As is my nature, I’ve worked hard to improve my writing craft, and have produced 3 award-winnning novels, as finalist and/or winners of several large writing contests. I’ve also become a world-class fly-fisherman and am an expert in fly-fishing for pike & musky, and wrote a book on that, as well.

I now live in sunny Florida, and split my time between writing, fishing & fine cabinet making, but my greatest love is creating riviting fiction. TRAPPED is my first novel.

 

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Note from the author:

The Goodread’s Paranormal and Horror Lovers BOOK OF THE MONTH is now up for voting BUT JUST UNTIL OCTOBER 5! PLEASE vote for my EVIL STALKS THE NIGHT-Revised Author’s Edition. I would so appreciate it. VOTE HERE:
http://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/72294-book-of-the-month-small-press
Warmly, author of 16 novels, 2 novellas and twelve short stories, Kathryn Meyer Griffith rdgriff@het.net

*****

Evil Stalks the NightRevised Author’s Edition is special to me for many reasons. It was my first published novel in 1984 and as it comes out again on June 1, 2012, rereleased from Damnation Books for the first time in nearly thirty years, it’ll bring my over forty year writing career full circle. With its publication all fourteen, and one novella, of my old books will be out again for the first time in decades. Sure, it’s been a grueling, tedious two-and- a-half year job rewriting and editing these new versions but I’m thrilled it’s over. I have my babies reborn and out in the world again…and all in e books for the first time ever. Now, perfectionist that I am, I can finally move forward and write new stories.

I’ll start at the very beginning because, though Evil Stalks the Night was my first published novel, it wasn’t my first written one.

That first book was The Heart of the Rose. I began writing it after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, no longer going to college, not yet working full time, and was bored out of my skin. I read an historical romance one day I believed was horrible and thought I can do better than that!

So I got out my borrowed typewriter with the keys that stuck, my bottles of White-Out, carbon paper for copies, and started clicking away. I’d tentatively called that first book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer who was falsely believed to be a witch but who was loved by Edward the Fourth. At the library, no computers or Internet back then, I did tedious research into that time in English history: the War of the Roses, the poverty, the civil and political strife between the Red (Lancasters) and White Rose (Yorks); the infamous Earl of Warwick and Edward the Fourth.  Edward’s brother Richard the Third.  A real saga. Well, all that was big back then. I was way out of my league, though. Didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote page after page, emotions high believing I could create a whole book. So naïve of me. Reading that old version now (a 1985 Leisure Books paperback) I have to laugh. Ironically, like that historical novel I’d thought in 1971 was so bad, it was pretty awful. That archaic language I’d used–all the rage back in the 80’s–sounds so stilted now. Yikes! Yet people, mainly women, had loved it.

And so my writing career began. Over 40 years ago now. Oh my goodness, where has the time gone? Flown away like some wild bird. It took me 12 years to get that first book published as I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, getting a real job and finding the true love of my life and marrying him. Life, as it always seemed to do and still does, got in the way. The manuscript was tossed into a drawer and forgotten for a time.

Then years later I rediscovered it and decided to rewrite it; try again. I bundled up the revised pile of printed copy pages, tucked it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. I sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market of that year said I could. And waited. Months and months and months. In those days it could take up to a year or more to sell a novel, shipping it here and there to publishers, in between revising and rewriting to please any editor that’d make suggestions or comments on how it could be better. Snail mail took forever, too, and was expensive. But eventually, as you shall see, it sold.

Now to Evil Stalks the Night.

In the meantime, as I waited for the mail, I’d written another book. Kind of a fictionalized look back at my childhood in a large (6 brothers and sisters) poor but loving family in the 1950’s and 60’s. I started sending that one out as well. Then one day an editor suggested that since my writing had such a spooky ambiance to it anyway, why didn’t I just turn the story into a horror novel…like Stephen King was doing? Ordinary people under supernatural circumstances. A book like that would sell easily, she said.

Hmmm. Well, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods in the main character’s childhood past that she had to return to and face in her adult life, using some of my childhood and my young adult life–my heartbreaking divorce, raising my young son alone, my new love–as hers. It was more of a romantic horror when I’d finished, than a horror novel. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and began sending it out. That editor was right, it sold quickly to a mass market paperback publisher called Towers Publishing.

But right in the middle of editing Towers went bankrupt and was bought out by another publisher! What terrible luck, I remember brooding. The book was lost somewhere in the stacks of unedited slush in a company undergoing massive changes as the new publisher took over. I had a contract, didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to break it. Heaven knows, I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My life with a new husband, my son and my minimum-wage assistant billing job was one step above poverty at times. In those days, too, I was so clueless how to deal with the publishing industry.

That was 1983, but luckily that take-over publisher was Leisure Books, now also known as Dorchester Publishing. A publisher that quickly became huge. Talk about karma.

As often as has happened to me over my writing career, though, fate stepped in and the Tower’s editor, before she left, who’d bought my book told one of Leisure’s editors about it and asked her to give it a read. She believed in it that much.

Out of the blue, in 1984, when I’d completely given up on Evil Stalks the Night, Leisure Books sent me a letter offering to buy it! Then, miracle of miracles, my new editor asked if I had any other ideas or books she could look at. I sent her The Heart of the Rose and, liking it, too, she also bought it in 1985; asking me to sex it up some, so they could release it as an historical bodice-ripper (remember those…the sexy knockoffs of Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s provocative novels?).  It wasn’t a lot of money. A thousand dollar advance each and only 4% royalties on the paperbacks. But in those days the publishers had a huge distribution and thousands and thousands of the paperbacks were printed, sent to bookstores and warehoused. So 4% of all those books over the next couple of years did add up.

Thus my career began. I slowly, and like-pulling-teeth, sold ten more novels and various short stories over the next 25 years–as I was working full time, raising a family and living my hard-scramble life. Some did well, my Leisure and Zebra paperbacks, and some didn’t. Most of them, over the years, eventually went out of print.

And twenty-seven years later, when publisher Kim Richards Gilchrist at Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, an apocalyptic end-of-days-novel, and The Woman in Crimson, a vampire book, she asked if I’d like to rerelease (with new covers and rewritten, of course–and all in ebooks for the first time ever) my 7 out-of-print paperbacks, including Evil Stalks the Night–I gave her a resounding yes!

Of course, I had to totally rewrite Evil Stalks the Night for the resurrected edition, as well as my other early novels, because I discovered my writing when I was twenty-something had been immature and unpolished; and not having a computer and the Internet had made the original writing so much harder. Also in those days, editors told an author what to change and the writer only saw the manuscript once to final proof it.  There were so many mistakes in those early books. Typos. Grammar. Lost plot and detail threads. In the rewrite I also decided to keep the time frame (1960-1984) the same.  The book’s essence would have lost too much if I’d updated it.

As I finished the final editing I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the life changes I’ve had since I’d first began writing it so many years ago. Though it was actually published in 1984, I’d started writing it many years before; closer to 1978 or 1979. I’m as old as my Grandmother Fehrt, my mother’s mother and who the grandmother in the story was loosely based on, was back then. While I was first writing it so long ago, I was a young married woman with a small child holding down my first real job and trying to do it all. Now…my Grandmother, mother and father have all passed to the other side. Many other family and friends I’ve left behind, too. I miss them all, especially my mom and dad. It’s strange how revising my old books reminded me of certain times of my life. Some of the memories I hid from and some of them made me laugh or cry. This book, though, is the most autobiographical of all my novels as it contains details of my childhood, my devastating divorce, and what my life was like when I first met my second husband, Russell, who’s turned out to be my true love. We’ve been happily married for thirty-four years and counting. Ah, but how quickly the years have clicked by. Too quickly. I want to reach out, at times, and stop time. I want more. I have so much more life to live and many more stories to write.

So Evil Stalks the NightRevised Author’s Edition (http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 ) republished by Damnation Books/Eternal Press will be out again for the first time in nearly thirty years on June 1, 2012, and I hope it’s a better book than it was in 1984. It should be…I’ve had over thirty more years of life and experiences to help make it so.

Written this 1st day of June, 2012 by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

***

A writer for over 40 years I’ve had 14 novels, 1 novella and 7 short stories published with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, the Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press since 1984. And my romantic end-of-the-world horror novel THE LAST VAMPIRERevised Author’s Edition was a 2012 EPIC EBOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE.

My books(all out again from Damnation Books http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 and Eternal Press http://www.eternalpress.biz/people.php?author=422): Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away, Egyptian Heart, Winter’s Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don’t Look Back, Agnes novella, In This House short story, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, The Guide to Writing Paranormal Fiction: Volume 1 (I did the Introduction) ***

You can keep up with me on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019954486, my Author’s Den www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith  or my My Space www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith

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You know what I hate about writing? Getting stuck. I have all this wonderful stuff in my head. All these great story lines and characters and places I want them to go, and they just refuse to move. They stand there, staring at each other like dummies. Why does your brain do that? Why do you just get overwhelmed and not able to move?

On the other hand, I hate it equally as much when there is nothing. Absolutely nothing. Where I just sit there, looking at the last thing I wrote and wondering where the heck I was going with that idea. Those are the times where you just want to delete everything and start over. Don’t do that! Whatever you do, don’t start editing now! Wait until your story is finished. I can’ tell you how many times I have fought the urge to cut out something only to come back days or months later and realize just how much it added!

I know when you are stuck there is a big part of you that just want to give up. Get up and take a walk or watch a movie or even check your Facebook. When you are burnt out, taking a break is a good idea. However, sometimes you just need to force yourself to start writing. Starting is always the hardest part.

I know it sounds foolish, but sometimes I just start writing stream of consciousness. Things like ‘I don’t want to write today’ and ‘I am so bored’ or ‘This is not going to help’. But it does help. It gets my fingers moving and my brain on the right track.

Other times, when I have too much going on, I take the time to write it all down at once; just a splurge of words on the page, disjointed and chaotic. But it helps me to get it out and makes me feel like I can stop remembering everything because it is written down somewhere.

This is the same reason I have started carrying a notepad with me everywhere I go. When I get a great idea, I write it down. That way I don’t forget or stress myself out trying to remember until I get home. Even a couple jotted down words can remind you of a whole story line you might have forgotten about. I know I’ve had inspiration form dreams that had I not written it down I would have never remembered even an hour later.

Inspiration can hit any time, and so can writer’s block. Getting over writer’s block is sometimes just as simple as writing something, anything. So, the next time you feel stuck and out of ideas, or overwhelmed by them, take a minute to just free write. You may be surprised at how much it really helps.

By the way, don’t fret about spelling, grammar, etc. You can always fix it later. If you focus too much on the details, you will lose your flow.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to summer nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

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Photo Credit Sharon Drummond

Dealing with a case of writer’s block often feels worse than suffering from the seasonal flu. Fortunately for most of us, we’re able to get through the creative sickness on our own and eventually find our way back over to the creative side of things. Yes, even the greatest writers have trouble finding the right words to say from time to time, but when writer’s block grows into an infectious plague and terrorizes ever word we try to pen, that’s when things get much more serious. How can we work to become successful writers if we can’t find the right words to say?

Authors, journalists, and bloggers often suffer from writer’s block. Writing something new each and every day can feel like a tremendous weight to carry, especially when your career depends upon it. When we’re required to be creative all the time, the pressure and anxiety can build up so much that it becomes impossible to bear. So when writer’s block takes hold, what’s a writer to do? Well, the good news is that there are always ways to work and navigate through a nasty case of writer’s block. Sometimes all it takes is a few resources to help make us well again. Whenever you catch a nasty case of writer’s block, here are four reliable medicines you can utilize.

Favorite books

Turning towards the inspiring works of art that made you want to become a writer in the first place often brings you back to those initial moments of inspiration you felt about writing. If you’re ever unsure of the right words to say, read through your favorite books and stop on the lines that tug at your creative soul and re-read them over and over again. Believe it or not, you’re planting a seed for creativity by doing this. No, you don’t have to read through every book on your bookshelf to make it work, but reading the authors you admire most will sometimes awaken a creative bone in your body you forgot you had.

Short Naps

Whenever we’re uptight and tense, often the best thing to do is walk away from the situation that is causing us stress. No, I’m not saying you should abandon your work entirely, but if you’re absolutely stumped and unsure of the words to say, that’s your brain’s way of signaling to you that you need to give yourself a break. If you aren’t focused on the task at hand, your work is inevitably going to suffer. Taking a short nap is a great way to give your mind a break. For just an hour or so, allow your brain escape, relax, and contemplate the thoughts racing through its pathways. By the time you wake up calm and relaxed, you’ll be able to come up with the right words to say.

Nature Walks

Being cooped up inside in front of a computer all day isn’t good for nurturing a creative mind. Should you find yourself in the middle of a sentence unable to type one more word, stop what you’re doing, put on a pair of walking shoes, and go outside and behold the world around you. Humans are meant to walk around and experience nature, and some of the greatest writers of our time – including Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau – wrote about the profound inspirations and influences of nature. Indeed, catching some rays of sun will likely warm your creativity right back up to where it’s supposed to be.

Fellow Writers

When I’m absolutely stumped at a creative crossroads, I’ll call upon fellow writer friends and trusted colleagues to help me out. After reading my work, they’ll sometimes suggest a minor change in the structure, phrasing, or organization of my work, and like magic, I’ll be able to get myself right back on track. Having someone else look over your work helps bring a strong sense of clarity and perspective to your writing, which inevitably helps you navigate right out of that writer’s block.

We all feel at a loss for words at some points in our life. As long as it only occurs every once in a while, writer’s block is something we should be able to navigate through with a little time and a lot of patience. Should you find yourself a creative standstill, however, perhaps you should reach for one of these four reliable medicines.

Maria Rainer is a freelancer blogger who believes that online learning is at the cutting edge of higher education. In her mind, the online degree path is an ideal one for students who want an education that fits the needs of a web-centric society. Please write her some comments!

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Evil Stalks the NightRevised Author’s Edition is special to me for many reasons. It was my first published novel in 1984 and as it comes out again on June 1, 2012, rereleased from Damnation Books for the first time in nearly thirty years, it’ll bring my over forty year writing career full circle. With its publication all fourteen, and one novella, of my old books will be out again for the first time in decades. Sure, it’s been a grueling, tedious two-and- a-half year job rewriting and editing these new versions but I’m thrilled it’s over. I have my babies reborn and out in the world again…and all in e books for the first time ever. Now, perfectionist that I am, I can finally move forward and write new stories.

I’ll start at the very beginning because, though Evil Stalks the Night was my first published novel, it wasn’t my first written one.

That first book was The Heart of the Rose. I began writing it after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, no longer going to college, not yet working full time, and was bored out of my skin. I read an historical romance one day I believed was horrible and thought I can do better than that!

So I got out my borrowed typewriter with the keys that stuck, my bottles of White-Out, carbon paper for copies, and started clicking away. I’d tentatively called that first book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer who was falsely believed to be a witch but who was loved by Edward the Fourth. At the library, no computers or Internet back then, I did tedious research into that time in English history: the War of the Roses, the poverty, the civil and political strife between the Red (Lancasters) and White Rose (Yorks); the infamous Earl of Warwick and Edward the Fourth.  Edward’s brother Richard the Third.  A real saga. Well, all that was big back then. I was way out of my league, though. Didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote page after page, emotions high believing I could create a whole book. So naïve of me. Reading that old version now (a 1985 Leisure Books paperback) I have to laugh. Ironically, like that historical novel I’d thought in 1971 was so bad, it was pretty awful. That archaic language I’d used–all the rage back in the 80’s–sounds so stilted now. Yikes! Yet people, mainly women, had loved it.

And so my writing career began. Over 40 years ago now. Oh my goodness, where has the time gone? Flown away like some wild bird. It took me 12 years to get that first book published as I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, getting a real job and finding the true love of my life and marrying him. Life, as it always seemed to do and still does, got in the way. The manuscript was tossed into a drawer and forgotten for a time.

Then years later I rediscovered it and decided to rewrite it; try again. I bundled up the revised pile of printed copy pages, tucked it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. I sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market of that year said I could. And waited. Months and months and months. In those days it could take up to a year or more to sell a novel, shipping it here and there to publishers, in between revising and rewriting to please any editor that’d make suggestions or comments on how it could be better. Snail mail took forever, too, and was expensive. But eventually, as you shall see, it sold.

Now to Evil Stalks the Night.

In the meantime, as I waited for the mail, I’d written another book. Kind of a fictionalized look back at my childhood in a large (6 brothers and sisters) poor but loving family in the 1950’s and 60’s. I started sending that one out as well. Then one day an editor suggested that since my writing had such a spooky ambiance to it anyway, why didn’t I just turn the story into a horror novel…like Stephen King was doing? Ordinary people under supernatural circumstances. A book like that would sell easily, she said.

Hmmm. Well, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods in the main character’s childhood past that she had to return to and face in her adult life, using some of my childhood and my young adult life–my heartbreaking divorce, raising my young son alone, my new love–as hers. It was more of a romantic horror when I’d finished, than a horror novel. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and began sending it out. That editor was right, it sold quickly to a mass market paperback publisher called Towers Publishing.

But right in the middle of editing Towers went bankrupt and was bought out by another publisher! What terrible luck, I remember brooding. The book was lost somewhere in the stacks of unedited slush in a company undergoing massive changes as the new publisher took over. I had a contract, didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to break it. Heaven knows, I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My life with a new husband, my son and my minimum-wage assistant billing job was one step above poverty at times. In those days, too, I was so clueless how to deal with the publishing industry.

That was 1983, but luckily that take-over publisher was Leisure Books, now also known as Dorchester Publishing. A publisher that quickly became huge. Talk about karma.

As often as has happened to me over my writing career, though, fate stepped in and the Tower’s editor, before she left, who’d bought my book told one of Leisure’s editors about it and asked her to give it a read. She believed in it that much.

Out of the blue, in 1984, when I’d completely given up on Evil Stalks the Night, Leisure Books sent me a letter offering to buy it! Then, miracle of miracles, my new editor asked if I had any other ideas or books she could look at. I sent her The Heart of the Rose and, liking it, too, she also bought it in 1985; asking me to sex it up some, so they could release it as an historical bodice-ripper (remember those…the sexy knockoffs of Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s provocative novels?).  It wasn’t a lot of money. A thousand dollar advance each and only 4% royalties on the paperbacks. But in those days the publishers had a huge distribution and thousands and thousands of the paperbacks were printed, sent to bookstores and warehoused. So 4% of all those books over the next couple of years did add up.

Thus my career began. I slowly, and like-pulling-teeth, sold ten more novels and various short stories over the next 25 years–as I was working full time, raising a family and living my hard-scramble life. Some did well, my Leisure and Zebra paperbacks, and some didn’t. Most of them, over the years, eventually went out of print.

And twenty-seven years later, when publisher Kim Richards Gilchrist at Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, an apocalyptic end-of-days-novel, and The Woman in Crimson, a vampire book, she asked if I’d like to rerelease (with new covers and rewritten, of course–and all in ebooks for the first time ever) my 7 out-of-print paperbacks, including Evil Stalks the Night–I gave her a resounding yes!

Of course, I had to totally rewrite Evil Stalks the Night for the resurrected edition, as well as my other early novels, because I discovered my writing when I was twenty-something had been immature and unpolished; and not having a computer and the Internet had made the original writing so much harder. Also in those days, editors told an author what to change and the writer only saw the manuscript once to final proof it.  There were so many mistakes in those early books. Typos. Grammar. Lost plot and detail threads. In the rewrite I also decided to keep the time frame (1960-1984) the same.  The book’s essence would have lost too much if I’d updated it.

As I finished the final editing I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the life changes I’ve had since I’d first began writing it so many years ago. Though it was actually published in 1984, I’d started writing it many years before; closer to 1978 or 1979. I’m as old as my Grandmother Fehrt, my mother’s mother and who the grandmother in the story was loosely based on, was back then. While I was first writing it so long ago, I was a young married woman with a small child holding down my first real job and trying to do it all. Now…my Grandmother, mother and father have all passed to the other side. Many other family and friends I’ve left behind, too. I miss them all, especially my mom and dad. It’s strange how revising my old books reminded me of certain times of my life. Some of the memories I hid from and some of them made me laugh or cry. This book, though, is the most autobiographical of all my novels as it contains details of my childhood, my devastating divorce, and what my life was like when I first met my second husband, Russell, who’s turned out to be my true love. We’ve been happily married for thirty-four years and counting. Ah, but how quickly the years have clicked by. Too quickly. I want to reach out, at times, and stop time. I want more. I have so much more life to live and many more stories to write.

So Evil Stalks the NightRevised Author’s Edition (http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 ) republished by Damnation Books/Eternal Press will be out again for the first time in nearly thirty years on June 1, 2012, and I hope it’s a better book than it was in 1984. It should be…I’ve had over thirty more years of life and experiences to help make it so.

Written this 1st day of June, 2012 by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

 

***

 

A writer for over 40 years I’ve had 14 novels, 1 novella and 7 short stories published with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, the Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press since 1984. And my romantic end-of-the-world horror novel THE LAST VAMPIRERevised Author’s Edition was a 2012 EPIC EBOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE.

My books (all out again from Damnation Books http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 and Eternal Press http://www.eternalpress.biz/people.php?author=422): Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away, Egyptian Heart, Winter’s Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don’t Look Back, Agnes novella, In This House short story, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, The Guide to Writing Paranormal Fiction: Volume 1 (I did the Introduction) ***

You can keep up with me on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019954486, my Author’s Den www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith  or my My Space www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith

 

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Don’t forget the Mad Motor City. Detroit, Michigan. USA. A place in the Fourth World where the lines between common sense and criminal behavior blur. This is a story about an ex Vietnam veteran and retired Detroit cop who specializes in school security systems. He works for a private firm that plans to launch a series of coordinated school shootings that will boost revenues. When he uncovers the plot, nobody believes him except for some old friends. His victory to thwart the scheme costs him the lives of his wife and daughter. One good hearted, battled hardened veteran of mean streets and battlefield moments, the protagonist constantly slips between good and evil, day and night, angels and demons, friends and enemies, until he ends up dead center–crying bullets.

Author’s bio: John H. Byk, who writes under the pen name of Conrad Johnson, was born and raised in Detroit. After honorably serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, he returned to Michigan to obtain his Masters in English. Still wanting to see more of the world, he worked in the Merchant Marines as an Able Bodied Seaman aboard freighters, tankers and tugs around the world. He then returned to Detroit to teach high school English and Spanish. Now he lives in Michigan’s upper peninsula and writes crime fiction and is the host of the increasingly popular podcast blog, 2012writersALIVE.

Link: http://johnbyk.blogspot.com

Link to purchase page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005GOX2Q4

Link to book trailer: http://youtu.be/ksuO4XPtx-M

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Bill Swears calls himself a service brat. He was born in Great Falls, Montana. He’s lived in England, Iran, Germany, and nine states. Bill flew military helicopters for twenty-two years, seven in the Army and fifteen in the Coast Guard. He sold his first short story while he was a Coast Guard rescue helicopter pilot, and immediately began writing a book. He finished that manuscript ten years later, after retiring from active duty.

On November 15, 2003, Bill broke his back while ditching a homebuilt experimental airplane 100 NM out to sea from Maui, Hawaii. He retired from the USCG in 2004, after spinal fusion surgery and rehabilitation. He says that there is an upside to that, because he shows up on Google searches: http://starbulletin.com/2003/11/18/news/index4.html. Although he does show up on Google searches, Dark Phantom suggests that there are better ways to do that and Bill agrees. 

Bill met his wife Teri in high school in 1978. They married in 1982, but didn’t get around to having children for seventeen more years. They have two kids, thirteen year old Alexa and eight year old Michael, and will celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary in July. Bill claims that they lost track of time.

The Swears family lives in a beat-up old log home on a ridge line in Peter’s Creek, Alaska with a brace of rare breed Eurasier dogs and a pair of cats. Bill earned his MA in English and graduated on Groundhog Day 2010, the year he turned fifty. He works as a technical writer and editor for a little known federal bureau. He has a spanking new webresidence and blog at www.BillSwears.com, and blogs at http://wswears.livejournal.com/.

About the book, Zook Country:

Metamorphic plague has swept the globe over the last five years. Victims become rabid non-sentient zooks, immensely strong and so fast that a normal person can’t see them move. A third of humanity has died, but people are fighting back, balanced on the razor’s edge between survival and apocalypse. Jake Chestnut and Gary Landon, both ex-army, are partners in Seraglio, an independent Kent, Washington based zook hunting firm. Both lost their families to plague and are part of the less than one percent of humanity with the innate ability, ESP, reflexes, and willingness to shoot where the zook will be next that are necessary to combat feral zooks. Zook-hunters are charged with hunting down and killing plague victims. These battle scarred men and women have been on the front line with no reprieve for five years, and the survivors have developed an esprit de corps similar to that of a WWI Aerosquadron.

Killing zooks for a living is tough, but the alternative is worse; eight months after infection, zooks metamorphose into non-corporeal ghasten, who live in collectives, herd zooks, kill with energy discharges, and create rifts in the fabric of reality that have swallowed cities. While working a contract to clear a first of its kind community/safe enclave for the elite, somebody tries to kill Jake, Gary, and their crew. With Gary badly injured, Jake must untangle a web of conspiracy to complete Seraglio’s contract and seek vengeance. What he discovers may lead to civil war.

 

 

Interview:

From Coast Guard rescue helicopter pilot to apocalyptic science-fiction adventure writer. How did that come about?

I was reading science fiction in grade school. A lot of it. I read through all of the science fiction in the city library nearest my house when I was eleven, and in every school library from the time I left fourth grade until I graduated from high school. I couldn’t be forced to study my school-work, but that science fiction stuff my mother so disapproved of? I never really stopped. Before I joined the military I wrote a couple of science fiction short stories – really bad stories, but with a core of humor that my friends (and other people I was able to intimidate into reading my stuff) noticed. So I guess the question is more, “How did a budding young writer end up flying Coast Guard helicopters?” Now that was a long road. I knew I wanted to write, I knew I wanted to be a pilot, and I knew I wanted to be the world’s first independent cargo dirigible captain. But I really wasn’t ready to write in my early twenties, and I banged my head against that, until one day Teri pointed at one of the then popular commercials that said “The Army; the only service that will take you straight from high school to flight school.”

She still claims that she was joking, but nine months later, with an impressive battery of tests behind me, I was swearing into the Army for rotary-wing flight school. I thought initially that I’d like to follow in Dad’s footsteps,  join the Air Force and become a jet pilot, but after I’d flown helicopters for a few years I realized that I was just having too much fun to give up the rotary-wing lifestyle. Flying seems like a young man’s career, and I stayed with that for my first career, moving to the Coast Guard when I realized that saving lives fit me better than taking them (training to take them. I’ve never been in combat). So, it seems like I’m breaking into a whole new gig, writing fiction, but really, I’m taking time to do something I’ve always loved. And now, I have a bunch of sea stories that I can weave into my writing!

What was your inspiration for Zook Country and how did you come up with the concept of ‘Zook’.

Believe it or not, I started writing about Jake and Gary while I was talking about using voice in dialogue at rec.arts.sf.composition. I threw out a snippet that was very close to the opening you can read today. I liked the characters and started to write, not knowing where they’d go. I got about two chapters in before I began to feel the shape of the novel to come. That’s when I wrote a rough story-arc that I followed for the rest of the draft.

As I originally wrote it, the story was mostly contemporary dark fantasy, with zooks being part of an attack on the human race by evil dragons. A good dragon had found his way to earth as well, and became a major character in my earlier draft. I was picked up by an agent almost immediately, but he convinced me to take out the fey/magical aspects and give it a more down to earth explanation. I miss Thomas the dragon even today, but the novel that came out was much tighter and easily visualized. The agent? He left the publishing industry entirely, though we’re still friends.

I remember when I first started to develop the zooks that I was thinking about vampires, and that I wanted to write a guy version of urban fantasy. At the time I was thinking that I wanted a new monster because I didn’t want to be stuck in somebody else’s pigeonhole, but that I also wanted to borrow from known monster archetypes so that readers wouldn’t be completely alienated. It seemed like burning up in contact with silver and being able to heal almost instantly would be recognizable as monster traits. Becoming non-sentient and apelike came from my prejudices about what happens to rabies victims in the later stages of the disease. After that, I just let the story flow and Ghasten came along as if that’s what is supposed to happen to hyperspeed feral apes.

I came up with the name zook as an integral part of the world I was imagining (and beginning to dream about). At first I didn’t know where the name came from – I finally posted a longer section with RASFC and asked my friends there to comment about zooks, especially the name, which worried me a little. Ric Locke (Temporary Duty: available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble) said that it was clearly a mashup of Zombie and Gook, and that made complete sense to me. Soldiers find ways to dehumanize their enemies so that they can get on with the business of killing them. I don’t really think of zooks as being zombies, but the parallels are obvious, so maybe my hind-brain was already making the connection.

I understand you first self-published the novel before it was picked up by Twilight Times Books. I love success stories like that. Can you share with my readers how that happened?

I’m proud of my writing, but promotionally, I’m a real neophyte. After five full years in one publisher’s recommended pile (I checked in with her every few months and was always reassured that it was in her pile, and that she’d eventually get around to looking at it), while gaining and losing two agents from a rather famous F&SF centric literary agency, I gave up on waiting for the industry to get around to looking at me. I spent some months prepping the book for self-publication, setting up ISBNs, buying cover art, getting a copy/line edit from somebody I trusted, and running the whole book through several members of my writers group. Then I put it up on Amazon Kindle and nothing much happened. Apparently Amazon is releasing so many e-books that their market is glutted with new titles (or, just maybe, I’ve been lost in a sea of voices shouting “Buy me! Buy me!” and if I can get the right attention, some few people will want to face a new monster in their darker nights). While I thought about whether to expand my markets to other e-book providers or join Kindle Select, I sent promotional messages to each of my Facebook friends, and everybody I ever traded e-mail with, asking for reviews. Stephanie Osborne suggested that I friend Lida Quillen and offer the book to Twilight Times Books.

Sending individual messages to each of your Facebook friends is terribly labor intensive, but it netted me a few promises of reviews, and the name of a promising publisher. Here was this small but growing press with authors that I recognized, and here I was, starting to get a really good notion of just how time intensive and pricey it was to promote myself, so the idea really had a shiny glow. I queried Lida, she read the book and liked it, and then suddenly I was barreling down a road I thought was closed to me.

The road has been bumpy, but I went from 2007 to 2012 with the book in a big publishing house but no action at all, then was picked up and published in 11 days. I couldn’t decide whether ecstasy or head-desk was the correct response. I settled on muted excitement with a sense that the other boot would soon drop.

I understand Zook Country wasn’t the original title

I originally wrote the book under the title Seraglio, because Jake and Gary named their company that, and because it has an uncomfortable resonance with something the bad-guys have done. Nobody at all liked that title, so I was casting around for a better one when my German publisher told me that he’d publish the book only if I renamed it Zookland. I like Zookland quite a lot, but thought that here in the US it came too close to the names Zombieland and Zoolander. In fact, for the longest time, if I Googled Zookland I got the Ben Stiller movie.

Anyway, Zook Country as a term is reminiscent (to me!) of Injun Country, which I hoped would have meaning to some part of the US crowd. 

The novel was also published in Germany. Is it still available there and was it published there in German?

Yes it is, yes it was. Zookland was translated to German by my friend Dirk Van Den Boom, and is available in hardback or trade paperback at http://www.atlantis-verlag.de/, or in trade paper or kindle from Amazon.com here in the U.S. – for anybody who speaks German. Really, anybody who speaks German should buy both books and compare them. Yeah, that’s the ticket. 😉

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Are you a morning bird or a night owl? How long does it usually take you to finish a book?

I’m a morning bird by ingrained habit, but a night owl by inclination. Before joining the military, Teri and I thought nothing about watching the sunrise before going to bed. Now, I’m awake between 4:30 and 5:00 am whether I like it or not, and whether I’ve been asleep for three hours or seven. I’m probably most productive in the mornings, and on my days off from work, which is why it was so useful to be able to take this interview at such an early hour here in Alaska.

I’m not an outliner exactly.  I usually start with a group of characters and a situation, then write a few chapters and decide who and what I like.  Then I write what I call a chapterboard, which is sort of like an outline.  I write a brief description of what I think will happen in each of twelve chapters.  That description is sometimes a sentence, and sometimes two or three paragraphs about what I have in mind.  The length of the description and the length of the chapters have absolutely no relationship, as far as I can tell.  In one chapterboard from another book, “Tanos and Carolyn get married” was the description of three long chapters that involved an assassination plot and a vastly overcomplex royal wedding.  The twelve chapters I write my chapterboard around have never come out in fact.  Zook Country had a twelve chapter board, and came out to 33 chapters and an epilogue. Sometimes my characters disapprove of a planned action and go off to raise their own Cain.  I do, generally, get to nudge them back toward my preferred ending.

I don’t know that I have a “usually” when it comes to finishing books. My first book took almost a year to write.  Zook Country took less than three months in its original form.  Now I have a high demand day job, so things are taking longer.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

Chapter 17, when Jake smells apples and tastes mocha. Anything more would be a spoiler, IMO.

Seriously though, having “favorite” scenes in a book that shivers between dark and light is difficult.  I like the moment toward the end when Donna ends up out of bullets with her men dead or dying around her, defending herself with nothing but a stiff silver wire and mad martial arts skills. Donna is way cool and a far better character than I ever deserved to dream up – and like some of the best characters, she wasn’t intended to be there.  She created her own space in my head and broke out onto the page without the least regard for my feelings.

At the other extreme, there is a scene when Jake and Gary take down a two year old zook that hurts every time I read it, and that cost me a lot of sleep when I first wrote it.  In a way, I guess you could call that a favorite.

What did you find most challenging while working on Zook Country?

During the first draft? Getting to sleep at night. Zook Country came off my fingers almost as quickly as I could type. I woke up ready to write and had itchy keyboarding fingers all day. Of course I had to do other things, like eat, and chase people down in the street to get them to read snippets, so that wasn’t mindlessly easy. But then, I found a couple good first readers, and they kept hounding me for more chapters, so I could focus more on getting the next thing written.

I thought that writing the book would be the hardest part. When I got a call a few weeks later from an agent, I thought my authoring world was made. But when that agent friend asked me to reimagine the book without fey elements? That moment comes in a close second on the challenge scale. I felt so challenged that I wanted to fly to New York and have a loud chest to chest discussion with this fellow I’d never met. Then he arranged for his boss to visit me in Anchorage during BoucherCon 2007, to tell me that I had no idea what I was doing with dragons. I didn’t really believe the agency’s advice until I’d finished and smoothed the sans magic version, and even then I was pretty mad. I was really “challenged” when the agent I’d started with up and left the industry just as I was turning in Zook Opus mark deux. More challenged yet when the boss that hadn’t liked my dragon also turned out not to like my monsters, metamorphic plague, or anything except the characters, which he thought should be in an infantry based space opera out in the Zagravian sector. We dinked around for another two years before realizing that without the first interested agent, the boss was never going to be satisfied with an Earth based adventure.

What’s on the horizon for Bill Swears?

I’ve promised to write Rogue Country, a sequel to Zook Country next. It’s set in the Oregon wine country near the River of the Rogue. I’ve got two other novels in progress. One is a straight up space opera that I’m calling Mutiny on Hellespont, and the other is high fantasy, or maybe swords and sorcery, and an immediate sequel to my first (so far unpublished) book, Split Affinity. The sequel, which is currently at 80K words, will be called Growing Affinity, and is part two of three. I can’t let myself finish it until I’ve fulfilled my promise to Dirk Van Den Boom, who wants to exhaust himself translating the next zook story.

And, my day job. Ouch.  Somebody find me a very wealthy zook enthusiast to pay my bills while I punch out the next book, please!

Author’s facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wswears

Link to excerpt: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ZookCountry_ch1.html

Link to purchase page: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ZookCountry_ch1.html. Buy it at the excerpt in any e-format, or link from there to Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007J6DPPA), or Barnes and Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zook-country-bill-swears/1108892461).


Originally published in Blogcritics Magazine.

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