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Author Interview : Dawn Metcalf


I met Dawn Metcalf online only a few months ago and I must say that I feel like I've known her my whole life. She has this amazing infectious energy and is one of the most generous people I've ever had the good fortune to encounter. Her debut book LUMINOUS is about a girl who can step out of her skin. How can you not be intrigued by that? Her sophomore book INDELIBLE comes out in a couple of weeks.



Here's a little bit about Dawn in her own words.

I have no good excuse for the way I write. I lived in a normal, loving, suburban home, studied hard, went to college, went to graduate school, got married, had babies, and settled down in northern Connecticut. Despite this wholesome lifestyle, I was clearly corrupted by fairy tales, puppet visionaries, British humour and graphic novels. As a result, I write dark, quirky, and sometimes humorous speculative fiction.

1. What were you like as a child?
Extremely creative and over-sensitive. Seeing sensationalistic news or other children crying always made me feel very sad and aching to help. I wanted to simultaneously thwart cruel injustice and give everyone a big hug, a feeling somewhere between "magic fairy princess" and "avenging superheroine" existing in a Truman Show-esque universe. I blame this on an over-active imagination and being raised by high school sweethearts from the 60's. I was weird and very tall.

2. Do you remember the book that made you want to become a writer?
No. I just wanted to be a writer. It was how I communicated with my parents when emotions choked me up and I couldn't get the words out. It was a quick trip from reading Dr. Seuss to making up my own poems and stories.

3. Can you share a little on what your novel incubation process is like from the idea to the actual writing?
Mostly an idea will just hit me from out of nowhere: WHAM! I liken this to my Muse whaling on my head with a baseball bat labeled "Epiphany." I hurry to write down the salient details, maybe some characters, a quote or bit of dialogue, and then settle back to doing whatever I was doing at the time (driving, walking, sleeping, etc.) but more often than not, the idea keeps coming or shows up in its entirety and demands to be heard. Right NOW. This is especially difficult when I'm already involved in a work-in-progress and then I must tell my shiny new idea to very kindly shut up and wait patiently until I'm ready. Usually 1-3 chapters and a rough outline will quiet these sparkly inspirations for a spell, but I feel their metaphorical eyes on me, begging me to type faster. I write roughly 2,000-3,000 words a day, but it's nowhere near enough time to get to all of them. I usually have a good cache of 2-3 ideas ready to go at any one time. Of course, I have a "real life" too that includes work, husband, kids, etc. so balancing all of this along with blogs, Facebook, Twitter and such is something I'm still learning to handle before paranoid schizophrenia takes over.

What was that?!?

4. Can you share a little on how the idea for Luminous came about?
Firstly, I am a geek prone to geeky conversations. One such geeky conversation was talking about how heroes, specifically superheroes, have changed over time but show up when history was in real turmoil and problems seemed larger-than-life. This is when writers and artists created larger-than-life characters and storylines to match (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is a great book about this!) and while the first heroes were squeaky clean patriots (Superman, Captain America, etc.) the next were dark vigilantes, taking justice into their own hands (Batman, Punisher, etc.) and then we had the "everyman" trying to be good and balancing the gray between extremes (Spiderman, The Hulk, etc.). The idea for LUMINOUS was back in the beginning of the war with Afghanistan and Iraq and I pointed out that we were currently in a "patriot-vigilante" period; i.e.: Jack Bauer from 24. This segued into a rant about why there weren't enough good minority superheroes or female superheroines who weren't sexy pin-up girls in spandex? I suddenly remembered a picture of a skeleton in a big, flowered hat (La Calavera Catrina from artist José Guadelupe Posada) and said, "I'd like to see them sex up a girl skeleton!" And there it was: a latina, paranormal superheroine ala Dia de los Muertos. And her story came in a rush. It was one of those, "Whoa...did I just think of that?" moments. And the truth was, it wasn't just me--the best, brightest, most creative ideas come from conversations with other creative, brilliant people inspired by artists, singers, and writers we've known before. I really believe the best art is co-created and have lots of people to thank, directly and indirectly for it.

5. What’s your writing ritual like?
I sit down at my computer when everyone is out of the house or sleeping and I write. I write for hours until I have to go do something else like pick up the kids, get something to eat, or go to karate class. Otherwise, I'd still be there, typing amidst my messy desk full of Post-Its, doodles, and notebooks, madly typing away until I fall asleep on my keyboard.

6. What’s your favorite aspect about writing and what don’t you like?
My favorite thing is sinking into the world so completely that it's like sleep-walking, I'm exploring the world as it unfolds like a kid at a carnival. It's bliss. The one thing I really don't like (besides revising and revising and revising) is how solitary writing is. I'm a very extroverted, social person and being at my computer for too much of the day makes me insular and itchy. I'm fortunate to be part of many writer's groups and communities online, from the Tenners and Elevensies to the Enchanted Inkpot and Fangs, Fur & Fey, Verla Kay's Blueboards, SCBWI.org and my own group of critique partners and friends. However, I long for human contact (I live in a very quaint and quiet part of New England that's...very, very quaint and very, very quiet.) I absolutely crave and adore conference time when I am surrounded by the aforementioned brilliant and creative people talking about books, writing, craft and passion. I need this like oxygen and printer's ink.

7. What are the hardest scenes for you to write and which are the easiest e.g. action scenes, love scenes, etc? How do you overcome the hard scenes?
Anything that is psychologically painful or embarrassingly romantic is often difficult for me. Action? Fine. Angst? Fine. Quirky/sicko/twisted stuff? No problem. But something that confronts me as a woman, a mother, a GLBTQ advocate, and/or a Jewish liberal can often push me to *really* want to do something else...like clean every room in the house or burrow through closets for things to give to charity. Right motivation, wrong time! Learning to separate myself from my characters is part of the writing process for me and allowing characters to have different opinions, thoughts, actions or emotions is part of the letting go. But it isn't always easy.

Sort of like love scenes: I'm a sex educator so I'm not squeamish about anything having to do with sex, but romance? Er... I have a hard time writing something that feels true for me that would also feel true to someone else; the moment is so personal, so visceral, that experiencing it in words seems cliche. The weird thing is I know a lot of writers who do it well and so I try to study how they do it. Mostly it's the build-up to the actual moment more than the moment itself that creates the heart-pounding tension and emotional stakes so I try to remember to pace that into the writing when I know there will be a big romantic element between characters.

8. Of all the books that’s been published which book(s) apart from Harry Potter did you wish you had written and why?
NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman, MINDKILLER by Spider Robinson, and UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld. These were books that so blew me away because they were a) brilliantly written, b) expressing something bigger than the story itself, & c) focused on things I actually was passionate about, too. I remember distinctly putting down UGLIES and saying, "I wish I would have written this book." But, of course, Scott Westerfeld did a masterful job and I could only sit back and fangirl it from afar.

9. Looking back on your journey as a writer, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?
Listen to your gut.

10. How has your life changed pre and post agent?
Well, I'll have to get back to you on that because I received my offer directly from my editor, sans agent. I then got an agent, but that relationship didn't work out, so that year was all sorts of shall-not-be-mentioned stress. Now I have a marvelous new agent and he's been wonderful coaching me through the process of this wild and wacky biz! And, with the next book out on sub, he's really getting to show his stuff. I'm very lucky and very grateful. Stay tuned for more pompoms soon!

11. How would you like people to see you as an author?
Hopefully, an approachable one. I love to Pay It Forward and want other people to have as smooth a transition into the world of publishing and the incredible community of writers as possible. There are so many knowledgeable and generous people to whom I owe my remaining sanity that I would like to be considered one of those authors who makes a difference for somebody else, someday.

12. Can you please give us your writing mantra in 15 words or less.
Only if I can borrow some words from other authors:

"Butt In Chair." (Jane Yolen) "Embrace the Suck." (Jackson Pearce) "Don't Forget To Be Awesome!" (John Green) & "You are unstoppable!" (Me)

Thanks so much for the entertaining interview, Dawn. You can learn more about Dawn on her blog.

LUMINOUS

Author Interview : Tessa Gratton


I've admired Tessa Gratton long before she even has a book out. I remember back in 2009 when she first announced that her debut book BLOOD MAGIC will be released in 2011, I thought how far away that date seemed. Well, it's been a while since BLOOD MAGIC came out while it's companion novel THE BLOOD KEEPER was released at the end of August 2012. Her latest book THE LOST SUN just came out. Congrats, Tessa!



Here's a quick bio of Tessa in her own words:

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a wizard or a paleontologist. But since I couldn't find anyone to teach me how to turn my neighbor into a frog and there isn't much call for dinosaur handlers these days, I just write about magic and monsters instead!

So let's welcome Tessa.

1. What were you like as a child?
I was brilliant, of course. ;) In elementary school, I think I was a bit of a bully, and forced my imagination on others (like the time I wouldn’t let this girl sit on the swing next to me because there was an invisible dragon sitting there. One of my finer moments. Or not.) I read constantly, drew pictures of mermaids, and wrote sequels to THE HERO AND THE CROWN and Robin Hood stories. Played “escape from the orphanage” with the neighbor boys.

2. Do you remember the book that made you want to become a writer?
Oh, no, I don’t think there was any one book. BEAUTY by Robin McKinley made me want to live in a fairy tale and have magic… but also when I was a kid I wanted to be about ten different things (writer, ballerina, paleontologist, marine biologist/dolphin trainer, animator) and the top wish was always changing.

3. Can you please share a little on how the idea for Blood Magic came about.
WELL, I’d written a rather boring story about a brother and sister with magical powers, and Maggie and Brenna (my crit partners) told me I needed monsters. So I thought, “how can I make this magic less boring? OH I KNOW BLOOD. Blood makes everything better.” I’ve been obsessed with 18th century body-snatching and the quest for immortality for a long time, and those things just sort of… made their way into the story. Plus kissing in cemeteries – where can you go wrong with that?

4. What’s your writing ritual like?
I get up at 5:15, push the coffee button, brush my teeth, then sit down to check my email. Then I write-write-write until I get hungry. I love sunrise, and writing at that time of day is perfect for me.

5. What’s your favorite aspect about writing and what don’t you like?
I had to skip this question and come back, because it’s really complicated. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to narrow down my absolute favorite part… but I think it would have to be that moment where a reader lets me know that she GOT what I was writing. Like, proof that I managed to communicate exactly what I was trying to communicate. Because that’s what writing is really about for me: using stories to communicate some truth.

I don’t like all the waiting. Waiting is a given in the writing world, and it pretty much sucks.

6. What are the hardest scenes for you to write and which are the easiest e.g. action scenes, love scenes, etc? How do you overcome the hard scenes?
Action scenes – they’re very hard technically. To get everything down in a cohesive narrative that makes sense…. It’s tough. I just push through, read them out loud, and occasionally draw diagrams and maps.

It’s also hard to write intensely emotional scenes, but I also love it. I love trying to find the right words to communicate the hardest emotions (grief, love, fury). It’s a challenge, and I love that.

(Actually, I adore writing “love” scenes. By which I mean sexy tense kissing or non-kissing scenes. There are two in Blood Magic that almost killed me they were so much fun to write.)

7. Of all the books that’s been published which book(s) did you wish you had written and why?
Harry Potter – because then I’d be rich. ;)

8. Looking back on your journey as a writer, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?
Trust yourself.

9. How has your life changed pre and post Merry Sisters Of Fate?
Hooking up with Maggie and Brenna and starting Merry Fates changed the way I write in almost every way. Nothing else has made my writing tighter, my ideas sharper… I would not be where I am without Merry Fates.

10. How would you like people to see you as an author?
Fascinating! I want to fascinate people!

11. Can you please give us your writing mantra in 15 words or less.
“I am mad, but I choose this madness.” – Gloria Anzaldua

Thanks so much for stopping by Tessa. If you want to find out more about Tessa Gratton and BLOOD MAGIC you can visit her at tessagratton

Things I Never Want To Hear Kraken Say


“Mommy, look! I found this poor kitty outside my school. It was going to rain and I couldn’t let her wander the street by herself. Can we keep her until we find her owner?”

I took one look at the little ragamuffin and knew exactly what was going to happen. If we didn’t find kitty’s owner, we’d keep it and I’d end up being the primary caregiver once the novelty of a new pet had worn off. I had to nip this in the bud quickly.

“Just till the end of the week,” I said. “If we can’t find its owner by then, we’ll find it another home, so don’t get attached.”

I’m sure you already know how this fiasco ends. There’s no such thing as “don’t get attached” when it comes to a cat.

Not when it’s just a few months old.

Not when it can stare up at you with those huge, goggly eyes.

And especially not when it’s a dead ringer for Puss In Boots from Shrek.

I suppose the first clue I had that the cat was hatching its nefarious plot to keep us was when Kraken’s dad got out a box and started to line it with a cushion and then rig up a drink bottle.

Me: Wait, hang on. Why are you making that, that … thing?
KD : The cat needs someplace to sleep at night. Surely, you don’t want to wake up in the morning and find her curled up next to your pillow, do you? Silly, Mommy.

Well, I suppose. I mean who knew where it had been and the last thing I wanted was to find it in my bed. It’s probably like the Mayflower for fleas and stuff.

And then the next day, Kraken started to call it Butterscotch.

Me : Wait, hang on. You named the cat? You can’t name the cat. We’re not keeping it.
Kraken : We can’t possibly keep calling her kitty, now can we? Silly Mommy.

I will not get attached to it. I will NOT get attached to it.

By the end of the week, Kraken and Kraken’s Dad were completely smittened and the cat had its own collar (it’s got a bell. A BELL!), kitty litter, dish and a jumbo pack of WHISKERS JUNIOR.

And still I resisted. I thought that if I refused to take part in its care – I absolutely will not feed it or change its litter lining or bathe it – then I would not get attached to it and there was still hope that we would find it another home.

Right? RIGHT??!

Then one morning, while the whole family was still asleep, I went out into the living room and found the cat mewing and looking mournfully at me with its huge, goggly eyes. So I did the only thing I could do. I took out its dish and poured some kibble into it.

DAMMIT.

A few nights back, I caught myself watching Butterscotch bat around a plastic bag for ten whole minutes while Law & Order : Special Victims Unit was on TV. Right then, I knew I was in trouble. The last time I was so enamored by something so mundane was when Kraken was 3 months old and she had just discovered the ceiling fan. I would watch her watch the blades go round and round and think that it was the most fascinating thing in the world.

There’s no denying it. I am falling in love with that damn cat.

That was over a month ago. No one has stepped forward to claim her so I suppose we are obliged to keep her. I have never had a cat before so everything is a learning curve. I have to get used to her ambushing my ankle while I’m doing the dishes and looking on top of the dining table when she's not in her usual corner and get used to the fact that I can call for her until I am purple in the face and she will never come.

Now I’m dreading the day when Kraken will come home with a grungy-looking boy with body piercing and a tattoo that says “Hell’s Angel” and go, “Mommy, look. This is my boyfriend, Slash. His parents kicked him out because he set his last school on fire. Can he crash at our place for a few days until his parents calm down and take him back?”

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Bizarre Conversations With My Dad


I was talking to a friend today and for some reason the subject steered to fathers. She asked me what a typical conversation with my dad was like, so I gave her some examples.

Dad : There’s a ghost in your bathroom.
Me : (Blink.)
Dad : Don’t worry. It’s harmless. I just thought you should know.
Me : WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS?!!

Or

Dad : Before you buy the flat, bring a cat into the house.
Me : (Wonders where to get a cat) Why?
Dad : Because if there’s a ghost in it, the cat will freak out.
Me : !!!!!

My dad is the kind of person who believes in things that cannot be explained away by science like restless spirits, feng shui, talismans and charka alignments. Living in a part of the world that is deeply rooted in superstition seems to provide a solid foundation for his beliefs.

When I was 9, I stumbled upon his stash of T. Lobsang Rampa books and found myself inducted into the world of astral projection, third eyes and auras. I think my dad is the reason why I am subconsciously drawn to the paranormal / urban fantasy genre and why all my WIPs seem to revolve around things that are unexplained.

The first house I lived in was an old two-storey building made of wood. It had five rooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, an outhouse and plenty of yard space. Years after we’ve moved out, my dad told me that the house was haunted. Being in my rebellious phase, I rolled my eyes and challenged him : if it was haunted, then how come I never saw any ghosts? He patiently explained that because there were so many of us living there, our positive energy far outweighed the ghost’s negative energy, thus the ghost was kept at bay. There were 11 of us living in the house at the time.

A few years back I ran into an ex-classmate. At some point down the line, our old house had passed down to her family. She told me that the house was haunted. She related how there would be mysterious footsteps late in the night and that they could sometimes hear a woman crying. I asked her how many people were living there. She told me 5.

Some day I will base a character in one of my WIPs after my dad but in the meantime he is a handy person to have around in the event of a zombie apocalypse or if you have an ectoplasmic squatter in your bathroom.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, my bathroom is currently a ghost-free zone.

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This Is What Krakens Do... Part 2


... when they are supposed to be making their beds.

Procrastination Inc. Proudly Presents
A Mommy & Kraken Production
Romeo & Juliet

Staring
Daisy as Romeo
Aileen as Juliet
Hiro as Tybalt


"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?"



"So, um, whatcha doing tomorrow? Wanna get married?"

"One sec. Let me check my BlackBerry."



"Dude, you killed my cousin! Oh, crap! I don't think that stain is going to come out of the carpet!"



"Promise me, Rose, promise me you won't let go."

"I promise, Jack."



The tragic end of the star-crossed lovers.


And for those of you who have always yearned for a happy ending to this tale, here's an alternate ending from the director's cut.


And they lived happily ever after.


Fin.


Disclaimer : No soft toys were harmed during the making of this production.

This Is What Krakens Do ... Part 1


... when they are supposed to be doing homework.



Balloon sculpture self portrait of kraken.

Wait ... can you call it portrait when it's not exactly a portrait?!!

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Short Story : Living The Dream


In retrospect, I should have paid attention to the signs.

***

Taylor is staring out the window, his gaze on the gorgeous city skyline, his eyes seeing nothing. His arms are folded across his chest, his fingers tucked under his armpits, body turned slightly away from me. His lower lip is absently drawn out into a pout, petulant, yet sexy at the same time. I wonder if he realizes the effect it has on girls.

He wouldn’t choose to sit in the back with me, of course, but Louis had grabbed us and plowed through the sea of hysterical teens, shoving us haphazardly inside the SUV. Someone had ripped the scarf off my hair, while someone else had scratched my arm. The crowd had been wilder than usual today but I am too new at this, too intoxicated by my youth, to be seriously freaked.

The adrenaline from the mall tour is still buzzing in my system. We had done an energetic dance number, signed a kazillion posters and CDs, then ended our stint with a meet-and-greet session with the winners of an MTV contest. I still can’t believe how big a phenomenon ‘Hello, Chelsea!’ had gotten to be; one spin-off series, a triple platinum-selling soundtrack, with talks of a movie. The exhilaration inside me is so big I can hardly contain it. I need to share it with someone and Taylor is the only other person here who would get what I am feeling. I place my hand casually on his thigh.

He jerks away instantly, as if I had splashed acid on his lap.

“What the hell, Stina - ?!”

He scowls. From that angle, the sun catches his face and I can see the light dusting of foundation that Marcel had applied to give him that healthy tan look. His eyes narrow in anger and the dark eyeliner makes them look even smaller than they really are.

“That was really crazy, huh? I swear that when the crowd started to scream - ”

But Taylor cuts me off. “Don’t pretend that we are friends, Stina. This is a work thing. We fly in, we do our - ”

I watch his mouth as he talks, watch it move and form words that I don’t hear and my stomach does all these weird flips all over again. I had wondered what it would be like to kiss him that first time I saw him through the mirror. I dart forward impulsively and press my mouth to his. He stiffens. For several seconds, he does nothing, but then he starts kissing me back. He leans into me, slides his hands behind my head and laces his fingers through my hair, tugging my weave to tilt my head back. His breath smells bitter, like the after taste of mouthwash mixed in with the sharp tang of iron. I realize that he’s hungry. He is always grumpy when he’s hungry.

Then abruptly, he pushes me away, the green of his eyes flaring with fury and something else. Confusion.

“What are you playing at Stina?” He touches his lips, his fingers half-cradling, half-shielding it. I’m not sure if he’s protecting the kiss or if he’s protecting his lips from me.

More under the cutCollapse )

Author Interview : Brenna Yovanoff


Today is Halloween so I thought it would be fitting to feature an interview with one of my favorite people, Brenna Yovanoff, the New York Times Best Selling author of THE REPLACEMENT and THE SPACE BETWEEN. Brenna writes some of the most delicious horror short stories over at merry_fates, delighting me with her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor.



Here's a quick bio of Brenna in her own words :

I'm good at soccer, violent video games, and making very flaky pie pastry.

I'm bad at dancing, making decisions, and inspiring confidence as an authority figure. I suspect this is because I am short, and also terrible at sounding as though I have any idea what I'm talking about.

I was homeschooled until I was fifteen, which has probably affected my world view in ways I can't fathom.

Also, I really, really like parentheses. (Really.)


Without further ado, here's her interview.

1. What were you like as a child?

When I was little, I read all the time and was completely obsessed with horror movies. I liked monster movies best, and anything that had to do with discovering the unknown. Also, I loved hide and seek. Because I was good at entertaining myself, I could pretty much stay hidden indefinitely.

2. Do you remember the book that made you want to become a writer?

I always wrote stories to entertain myself, but the book that actually motivated me to start writing seriously was The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. I read it when I was about fourteen, and it completely changed the way I thought about storytelling.

3. Can you share a little on what your novel incubation process is like from the idea to the actual writing?

Well, when I get an idea, it's only ever just this little tiny spark that sits quietly in my head for awhile. If I want to find out where it's going, I have to write it out and then start decoding it. Basically, the first draft of pretty much everything I write is totally unusable, but it helps me figure out what the story is.

4. What’s your writing ritual like?

I like to write in the mornings, because that's when I get the most done. I'm not a morning person, but it's in this very weird way. I mean, I'm definitely awake, but it doesn't really feel like it. I just don't like to talk much before noon, so I find that it's the perfect time to sit by myself and write.

5. What’s your favorite aspect about writing and what don’t you like?

I love being able to come up with really crazy images, and then figuring out what kind of story they belong to. I hate hate hate transitions. It would be so much easier if transitions worked like they do in dreams, how you can be standing in a bomb shelter one minute and at the carwash the next!

6. What are the hardest scenes for you to write and which are the easiest e.g. action scenes, love scenes, etc? How do you overcome the hard scenes?

I have a really hard time with expository, world-building scenes. I have to write them over and over before they actually get to a point where they're doing what they're supposed to. Up until the world-building stage, I just ask myself what a given scene needs to show and then try to get all the necessary parts down. Later, I go through and start adding details and then taking them out again. And that goes on for . . . a while.

7. Of all the books that’s been published which book(s) apart from Harry Potter did you wish you had written and why?

I SO wish I'd written American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I know it's a book that's guaranteed to generate mixed opinions, but I love it! It incorporates pretty much all my favorite elements, and the characters and the world are just incredibly vivid. If I'd written it, I probably would have put in more kissing, but you know what? I'm not even convinced it needs it, which is a big deal coming from me, because I am a huge advocate of kissing.

8. Looking back on your journey as a writer, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?

I would tell myself that structure is important and yes, you really *do* need to think about plotting—even quiet literary novels have plots, so for the love of all that is good in the world, get on the plot bandwagon! Please!

9. How has your life changed pre and post agent?

My life has changed a lot in the ways you'd probably expect—i.e., I sold a book. But it's also changed in ways I should have expected, but didn't. Before I got an agent, I was really focused on the steps it takes to get one. It wasn't until afterward that I actually started thinking more about audience and how to tell a story that a certain (hopefully fairly broad) group of people will read and enjoy.

10. How would you like people to see you as an author?

I'd like to be seen as approachable and essentially pleasant? I mean, I write about scary things, but I'm not a scary person. As far as what to expect from my books, I think people can rest assured that I will always write dark stories, but the darkness is not total and the people are very often redeemable.

11. Can you please give us your writing mantra in 15 words or less.

Writing is an endurance sport.



This is the last guest post on my LJ for our Complete Your Draft Challenge. I'm wrapping our author advice series with a wonderful post about epic fantasy from KC Dyer.



I've just finished reading THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin. Bought a copy in Heathrow airport to read on my flight home from London. This turned out to be a problem. Once I picked the darned thing up -- even though it weighs about as much as a small child -- I couldn't put it down. It called to me when I was supposed to be working. I woke up in the night and had to peek at the next chapter. It ate an entire Sunday -- snap! -- in one, all-consuming gulp.

My name is KC Dyer, and I am an epic fantasy addict.

Now, there are those who would argue Cronin's book isn't epic fantasy. It's a vampire story, after all -- told across generations and vast swathes of geography. And I'm not here to argue the exact definition. As a writer of books for teens that tiptoe across historical fiction, time travel, contemporary issue-driven fiction, mystery and adventure, I am not one to get hung up on genre.

But epic fantasy is something special. It is a weighty endeavour. World-building, character driven, complex, messy -- all these things are elements of epic fantasy. And it stands to reason that since I like to read it, I also simply can't resist trying my hand at writing it, too.

I don't write high fantasy with elves and dragons [I suppose I should say I haven't written any yet -- if a good enough idea grabs me, there is no telling what will come out of my pen...] but I've just finished writing the first volume of a steampunk time-travel story that encompasses a thousand year time-span through the eyes of a contemporary teenager.

I didn't really mean to...

I have a bit of a history of this sort of thing. The first book I ever wrote turned out to be the inaugural book in a trilogy. It was called SEEDS OF TIME, and recounted the adventures of a contemporary 13 year old girl as she tried to make her way through the wilds of the West Highlands of Scotland at the time of the Black Plague. Her adventures filled a full three volumes before she was done with me. My second series is a mere two books long, but with the release of FACING FIRE this fall, a third story is definitely calling me to return. And as for the one I've just finished, [right now, it seems to be calling itself A CURIOUS CLOCKWORK], I expect it will take four or five more books before it shakes me loose. This is the thing about epic fantasy. You've got to be in it for the long haul. It grabs you by the throat and shakes you silly. And you kinda like it that way.

But there is also a fine balance -- as with any good story-telling -- that you need to walk when embarking on a fantasy epic. The creating of worlds cannot overtake the storyline. The character base cannot be so broad that you will lose your readers [just who was that guy in the flowing robes again?] The timeline may be grandiose, but it must be accessible to the characters themselves and to the readers. Nobody really knows they are living through an epic story until it is done, right? This has to be true of your characters. As soon as they start expounding in heroic tones, you should begin to worry a little.

The sheer joy of epic fantasy is in the sweeping scope, but it's also in the details. Terry Pratchett's DISCWORLD [Now 40 books plus and still counting] is full of little quirks and details that delight as they appear from volume to volume. The wizards, the dragons, the Disc itself, balanced on the backs of four elephants riding on a turtle as it slowly motors through space -- well, it does leave a lot of scope for the imagination, you must agree. And yet Pratchett's tales are rooted in the small dramas we all face as humans; things that can take place in your local pub. Love, loss, and what Death really does in his spare time...

So, in the end, I say let this be your guide as you embark on an epic journey. The scope may be big, but the stories must be small enough to fit inside the human heart. If you can do that -- you're golden.

As for me? I've got George RR Martin's CLASH OF KINGS calling my name...

~kc

KC Dyer lives with her children (and other animals) in the wilds north of Vancouver, BC, where she works as a freelance writer, speaker and educator. She is a director and long-time participant at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and a mentor with Creative Writing for Children in Vancouver. Her novels include A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW, and its sequel FACING FIRE. This year, she has been writer-in-residence at New Westminster Secondary School, and has been a featured presenter at the National Council of English Teachers in Philidelphia, PA; YouthWrite in Penticton, BC; The Canadian Authors’ Association in Victoria, BC; The Ontario Library Association Superconference in Toronto, ON; Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, BC; WriteOn Bowen and others. KC is an unrepentant techie, and can be found online and on twitter.

Tomorrow is Wednesday so don't forget to stop by annemariewrites's LJ for the last weekly check in and possibly win a surprise gift. I'd like to take the opportunity here to thank all the participating authors for generously sharing their wisdom with us, not to mention all those wonderful books and swag they've donated to the cause. A big thank you to all September Drafters for your camaraderie throughout the month and for supporting our humble little project.





This is one of the few guest blogs I’ve done in a while. Even my own blog is quieter than usual. I’m usually posting at least one interview a week and blogging three to five times a week between my blog and the group blogs I take part in. I fulfill my group blog obligations, but other than the occasional interview to help promote a friend’s recent release, the only thing on my blog right now are progress reports where I vent and share discoveries I’ve made about my writing process.

I’m on lockdown.

I’m minimizing everything else to maximize writing time. Because if you are a writer, writing is your number one job. The past two years I had books come out and I threw a lot of energy into promoting them. I had to do that, too, it was part of my job, but the number one job took a backseat and it can’t any more because if I ever want to publish another book, I have to write it.

I’ve frittered a lot of time a way by blogging, reading blogs, checking twitter and facebook and my email box. I’m awesome at procrastinating. We all probably are. I’m also terrible at saying no to things, but I’ve been trying to because writing the book is the number one important thing.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time at my mom’s house. She doesn’t have internet, so it’s the perfect place for me to hide out and write. I work the job that pays the bills at night, so I maximize my writing time during the day as much as possible. I’ve learned that I don’t necessarily have the energy to write 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, but I make sure to block out 5 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Blog entries, email, writerly business, housecleaning, errands those things are done on the two days I have off from writing or done after I’ve met my goals for the day.

I’ve tried setting a variety of different goals: word count, page count, hours of butt-in-chair. But what truly works best for me is set a personal deadline and then break down which scenes I need to write on which days to reach that goal. Sometimes the personal deadline has to be adjusted for what I am actually capable of doing. For example, I was trying to write a chapter a day and burnt out quickly. I readjusted my deadline to write a chapter every two days. This roughly comes out to around 2,000 words a day. I know I’m freshest when I first sit down so I try to pound out that first thousand before I stop for lunch. I give myself all the necessary permissions like this is a first draft, it’s allowed to be crappy, but I try to let myself get lost in the story and enjoy it as well. Sometimes I reach my goal in a couple hours. If I have the energy, I keep going. If I pushed really hard and am tired, I stop. I’ve completed my mission for the day. But I don’t let myself out of lockdown until after I’ve completed that day’s mission.

So come up with your mission, the schedule that best suits your muse and your life, and find a way to banish those distractions. Put yourself on lockdown and write. It is your number one job.

Stephanie Kuehnert is the author of I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and BALLADS OF SUBURBIA as well as a bartender, newspaper columnist, and teacher. She’s married with three cats but doesn’t have much of a life right now. You can find her venting about whether or not she met her daily goal (as well as other things) on Twitter and Facebook. Her ongoing journey to finish a third book is being documented (when she has time) on blogger blogger and livejournal and her website.

Monday means another inspiring entry over at annemariewrites and then come back on Tuesday for our last Complete Your Challenge Author Advice post from KC Dyer, author of A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW about writing epic fantasy.