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Friday, February 24, 2012

INTERVIEW: MARVA DASEF

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Marva Dasef, whose first two books in the Fantasy series, Witches of Galdorheim, have been released from MuseIt Up Publishing. Book One-- Bad Spelling--placed second in the 2011 Preditor and Editors Readers Poll. The series is about witches living on an arctic island and features a teen witch who has a significant spelling handicap—every spell she attempts blows up in her face. Kat discovers the problem isn't with her, but because she was cursed by a Siberian shaman. Bad Spelling concerns the search by her and her brother to find the shaman and remove the curse. The second book, Midnight Oil, and third, Scotch Broom, which is scheduled to be released in the spring, follow them as other things happen: her boyfriend is kidnapped by an elemental spirit; she's a castaway on a hidden island inhabited by the Loch Ness monster; she learns to fly a magical ultralight and helps find a cure for a group of tSiberian tribesmen who have radiation poisoning.


"As you might guess, these fantasy stories are not your typical quest or chosen one deals. I didn’t know that Phillip Pullman already did the arctic witch schtick in the Golden Compass," Marva told me. "When I granddaughter pointed that out when she read an early draft, I was aghast. I certainly didn’t copy Pullman’s idea since I hadn’t heard of it before. Finally, I decided to heck with it. My witch island was completely different from Pullman’s. My story depended on the setting, so I forged ahead."


Marva would like to continue the series, but move the focus to Kat's half-brother, Rune who is half-vampire/half-warlock ("lots of halves there," Marva joked). Rune is a major player in the first three books and several readers have asked Marva to give him his own book.


"I did write a short story prequel to the series about Rune’s early years. It’s a bonus story with the first book if purchased through MuseItUp (or just ask me in the comments and I’ll send a PDF of the short)," Marva said. "Rune’s book will deal with his ambivalent feelings for his vampire father, who didn’t know he even had a son. Talk about your daddy issues!"


I asked Marva what inspired her to start writing.


"Quitting my day job. Actually, I’ve written a lot over the last 40 years, but most was technical documentation. My day job included technical writing, programming, and managing writer groups for high-tech companies. I wrote a few short stories through the years; however, I never pursued publishing anything. I just didn’t feel like I had the time with the job and raising my family. When the boys finally left home, I had more time, but didn’t take advantage of it. When we returned to Oregon, rather than finding another job, I thought I’d go free-lance for a while. During that time, I wrote a book for Que Publishing. Rats! It was all about using a database system. Would I never break free from the endless servitude to a corporate monopoly?


"Eventually, I did break free and decided the time had come to do jump into fiction. I started with lots of short stories and did have quite a few published. One November a few years ago, I heard about Nanowrimo. Why not? I wanted to see if I could write more than a short story. 30 days and 55,000 words later, I had a terrible book, but I did have a book. That broke the ice for me. Since then I’ve written lots of books. No huge 120K word things, but I did break 60K on Ultimate Duty when I enhanced a science fiction novella titled First Duty. Baby steps all the way."


In Ultimate Duty, which placed 9th in the Preditor/Editor Poll for 2011, as well as its precursor "First Duty," the characters came before the plot. Marva wanted to write about a strong woman with self-doubts but who doesn't let them stop her from achieving her goals.


"In other words, I wanted to write the anti-me," she said. "Remy is tall, beautiful, competent, and definitely kick-ass. Remy’s first story became a couple of chapters in the book. I put her into an untenable situation where she had to think her way out of sure death. When I continued Remy into another story, I knew she had more to show readers. From the two stories, I developed the more complex plot of the novel."


I asked her to tell us about Ultimate Duty.


Remy Belieux, a woman born into a life of servitude on a repressive factory planet, is desperate for a different life. When she's accepted into the Space Service Academy, run by the organization that enslaves her planet, she discovers the truth behind generations of rebellion. Now, she must decide what to believe, where her ultimate duty lies, and fight for more than her life against impossible odds.
On the other hand, she wrote a murder mystery, Missing, Assumed Dead which is also released by MuseItUp Publishing, in which she developed the plot first and built the character, Kam McBride as the person most capable of handling the plot.


"Funny thing, Kam and Remy are much alike. My female characters are never the ones to depend on a man to save them. They don’t avoid the guys, but the women are more likely to take the lead," Marva said.


I asked Marva what she saw as the differences and similarities between science fiction and fantasy.


"Difference is easy. Science fiction has to have some basis in a possible technological innovation. The technology might be farfetched, but it still has to be possible, maybe even plausible. Fantasy, by its nature, is about the impossible or at least highly implausible. I can see Frankenstein as plausible; Dracula is implausible," she said. "The similarities are far more subtle. Is Star Wars fantasy or science fiction? Easily, it is both. The concepts of starfighters, colonized planets, empires, and so on are all within the realm of plausibility."


Marva told me she has a great setup for writing in the family—"right next to the kitchen for quick snacking," she said. Her oak computer desk faces out a big window where she can watch the squirrels playing. Music distracts her when she writes, however she has gotten used to the sound of the dishwasher, her husband's power equipment, and her cat's vocal worrying about the aforementioned squirrels.


Getting motivated to start a new project is the hardest part of writing for Marva. Unlike other authors who can have multiple irons in the fire at various stages of completion, Marva can't start another project until what she is writing has been polished and she begins to submit it. Then, once a sold book goes into edits, cover and promotion, all work done on anything else comes to a standstill.


"I feel like I should push past that and keep at a started project even if the rest of the stuff is urgent and top priority," she said.


"What do you like to do when you are not writing?" I wondered.


"I may be the most boring person on earth when it comes to extracurricular activities. I don’t have any hobbies. I’ve never seen the value of them. I might just not have found the right thing to hobby or collect. Most people mention family activities, sports (like skiing) or fitness (like jogging). My family is either too far away to visit regularly or they live so close (literally across the street), family get togethers are a daily occurrence," she said. "My husband and I do love it when our granddaughters visit, but we only get to see them once or twice a year. Their summers are filled, nay stuffed, with activities. They go to various camps, play sports, go camping with their mom and stepdad. By the time they’ve worked through all the things they’ve signed up for, the summer is over and they head back to school. Do I sound plaintive? I’m afraid I am. This is a tough time within our family. My father passed away a few months back and my mother is trying to adjust after 67 years of marriage. There aren’t many jolly things going on right now. I hope this will get better as time goes by."


She and her husband do go to Las Vegas once a year, but she told me it used to be more fun with free shows, big discounts, and so on.


"The economy is down, so instead of lowering prices and making great deals for visitors, the casinos go the opposite route with higher prices for shows and dining," she said. "They don’t seem to get that if I have to pay more for the food, that’s less I’ll spend at the blackjack table. Dumb thinking on their part. How DID I get off on this tangent?"


"If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?" I wondered.


"I wouldn’t have wasted my time querying agents. I’d get so close, then didn’t make the cut with agents. It discouraged me, it made me feel worthless, it almost made me give up entirely. When I quit wasting my time that way, I’m very happily working with small publishers. Eternal Press published Ultimate Duty, then I sent a murder mystery to a brand-new publisher, MuseItUp. They hadn’t even released any books yet. In a short period, they have several hundred books out and a highly loyal herd of authors. The entire publication crew is top notch and a joy to work with. Given the short period they’ve been in business, I’d say they’ve worked miracles.


"I like having the gravitas afforded by a 'real' publisher, even if the publisher is in Pierrefonds, Quebec and not New York. They’re doing the right thing, in my opinion, by hitting the ebook wave at the right time. Yes, they have print books as well, but I think the writing is clearly on the wall, and that wall is a ereader screen."


In Marva's imagined future, the discovery of a wormhole technology based on Einstein’s theories (Einstein-Rosen Bridge) makes colonization of other planets possible. The technology, unfortunately, is wholly owned by a combined corporation, SemCorp. Anybody who wants to travel to other planets has to go through SemCorp. This gives them power over just about everybody.


She thought about having alien cultures, but went a slightly different way.


"Since colonization is several hundred years on-going, I thought that some amount of genetic shifting would occur. Thus, Smith (whose name isn’t pronounceable, so he goes by just Smith) has an odd physique required by his home planet’s atmosphere," she explained. "The people of his planet had to be genetically engineered to survive in what would be a poisonous atmosphere to other humans. Another modification is seen with Captain Herrick from Deutchslund, a high-gravity planet which has made its inhabitants stocky and muscular to suit their environment."


Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"


"Do it. Don’t hesitate like I did. I really regret not being more aggressive about making the time to write. I so admire many of the authors I’ve met who work full-time jobs and raise kids, but they write anyway, taking any spare minute they have to pursue their dream. Absolutely go for it. Don’t wait until a more convenient time. Do it now. Right this second. You, there, browsing this interview, go write something just as soon as you’ve finished reading my words of wisdom. Go now, write.


"And having writ, get your butt into a critique group before flinging your deathless prose out to agents and publishers. Nobody can produce a decent product without a lot of help from fellow writers. You can join any of many excellent on-line critique groups or form a writers group in your town for face-to-face time."


About the Author:
Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a fat white cat. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several previously published books. Her latest pride and joy is the Witches of Galdorheim Series from her super duper publisher, MuseItUp.


Find the author online at:


Website http://tinyurl.com/DasefAuthor

Blog http://mgddasef.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/MarvaDasef

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/?tab=wX#107073845875601488093/posts

Twitter Handle: @Gurina


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

INTERVIEW: DAVID LEE SUMMERS

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome David Lee Summers. Like a lot of authors, David has a "day" job—only his day job takes place almost exclusively at night. He operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory with a typical shift running between twelve and sixteen hours.


"Because of that, I don't get a lot of writing done during my work shifts. Fortunately, I get long breaks between shifts and that's when I do most of my writing," he explained. "When I'm home and have a day devoted to writing, I tend to get up early in the morning, have my coffee and breakfast as the kids are getting out the door for school. Once the house is quiet, I write intensively from about eight in the morning until about one or two in the afternoon. After that, the kids get home and it can be hard to focus on writing, so I turn my attention to mail and email, taking care of household chores and so forth. If I'm on a hard deadline and need to write more, I'll return to the computer in the evening between about eight and ten at night. However, I like to reserve that space as family time when possible. I also have a long drive between home and the observatory where I work. I use that driving time to think about plots and characters. It's pretty common for me to have worked out a lot on the road, so my time behind the keyboard is as productive as possible."


When David was about nine years old, he bought a book called The Trouble with Tribbles by David Gerrold, which explained how Gerrold conceived the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."


"He discussed the different drafts of the script and how the producers worked with him to improve the story. I thought the process sounded like a lot of fun and I announced to my parents soon afterward that I wanted to be a writer," he remembered. "They said I should think of some other career because writers never make any money. Despite their concerns, I've been writing ever since. Still, when I went to college, I got a degree in physics so I could support myself."


In 1990, David got truly serious about his craft, after leaving grad school and getting married. He began a regular writing regimen and started submitting to magazines. One of his short stories was published in a small press magazine in 1996. His first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro was released the following year by a small Canadian press. His next big milestone was selling "The Slayers" to Realms of Fantasy magazine in 2001.


David has written seven novels so far. Because he writes in different sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy, it's difficult for him to pick a favorite book. A lot depends on the mood he's in when he's asked.


"That said, The Solar Sea stands out because it's the book I wrote to inspire my kids to think about the future," he told me. "It's also the book where I was most able to bring my love of physics and astronomy into my writing. I actually plotted out orbits and figured out how long it would take for the space ship to make the journey described. I also got to describe the planets the characters visit in detail. I loved using my writing as a tool to visit places I have only looked at with a telescope."


"What do you see as the difference between science fiction and fantasy?" I asked.


"To my mind, science fiction is that branch of literature that explores stories in a world that is different from ours because of a change in the level of science or technology. Fantasy explores stories in a world that is different from ours because of the involvement of magic. Clarke's Law gives us the intersection of these two genres. The law states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. As a result, it's possible to write a science fictional world that looks very fantastic. It's also possible to write a fantasy world that looks very science fictional."


For David, characters come first. He told me that he needed to know and care about the people who will be living the story.


"If I don't know the people, it's impossible to know what actions they'll take in a given set of circumstances," he explained. "I typically build plots by asking, what would this character do in a given situation? What would character A do when they meet character B? As I write, I do get to know my characters better than I did at the start, but I do like to have a good idea about what kind of people they are, where they came from, and what motivates them before I start writing."


I asked David what he was working on.


"I recently turned in the final draft of a vampire novel called Dragon's Fall. It tells the story of Alexandra, a slave from Ancient Greece who gains her freedom by becoming a vampire. She meets Draco, a contemporary of King Arthur from Britain who seeks forgiveness from the sins he's been forced to commit as a vampire. They form a team of vampire mercenaries who use their powers to fight for the crowned heads of Europe.


"In addition to that, I'm outlining a Wild West Steampunk series that tells the story of what happens after Russia invades America in the 1870s and conquers the West Coast of the United States. A Sheriff from New Mexico and a healer from Persia work to discover the force behind the invasion and bring peace to the war-torn land."


When David's not writing, he likes to read. He also enjoys walking and hiking.


"I love to travel when time permits," he told me. "I'm a history buff and I love going to places that have a strong sense of history and immersing myself in those places. So far, most of my travel has been in the United States, but there are lots of great places ranging from Seattle's Underground to Tombstone, Arizona. I enjoy building models. I especially like building models of machines similar to those that appear in my science fiction or fantasy. For example, building a submarine model can help me visualize the cramped spaces inside a space vessel. Building a model ship can give me a better sense of the areas a pirate might need to capture to gain control of a vessel. Of course, I also work at observatory. I love astronomy and looking up at the night sky, imagining what things lie beyond the Earth."


About the Author:
David Lee Summers is the author of seven novels and over one hundred short stories and poems. His writing spans a wide range of the imaginative from science fiction to fantasy to horror. David’s novels include The Solar Sea, which was selected as a Flamingnet Young Adult Top Choice, and Vampires of the Scarlet Order, which tells the story of a band of vampire mercenaries who fight evil. His short stories and poems have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Realms of Fantasy, Human Tales, Six-Guns Straight From Hell, and Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory. In 2010, he was nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award and he currently serves as the SFPA’s vice president. In addition to writing, David edits the quarterly science fiction and fantasy magazine Tales of the Talisman and has edited two science fiction anthologies, Space Pirates and Space Horrors. When not working with the written word, David operates telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.


Find the author online at:


Website: www.davidleesummers.com


Blog: http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers


Twitter: @davidleesummers


About The Solar Sea: Humans settled the Moon and satellites orbiting the Earth were a common sight, but with the abolition of NASA, humans had no desire to go further and space exploration died. Then, a technician from the Very Large Array, a radio telescope in New Mexico, discovers powerful particles orbiting Saturn’s moon, Titan, which could be a new energy source. Strangely enough, following the discovery’s announcement, whales around the Earth changed their songs overnight. As scion of the powerful Quinn Corporation, Thomas Quinn builds a solar sail—a vessel pushed by sunlight itself—to find the source of these particles in Titan’s orbit. He gathers the best and brightest team to pilot his craft: Jonathan Jefferson, an aging astronaut known as the last man on Mars; Natalie Freeman, a distinguished Navy captain; Myra Lee, a biologist, specializing in whale communication; and John O’Connell, the technician who first discovered the particles. All together they make a grand tour of the solar system and discover not only wonders but dangers beyond their imagination.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

GUEST POST: Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

This post is in conjuction with Kenya Wright's Virtual Book Tour with Goddess Fish Promotions. Not only will a comment enter you in OUR monthly contest, but it also enters you to win a $10 Amazon GC from the author (click the tour banner below for more details and for a listing of her other tour stops).



Since the 1970’s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species: a full moon for Vampires, a crescent moon for Shifters, a pair of wings for Fairies, and the list goes on, for each supernatural species has been tagged and categorized by humans.

Lanore Vesta is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress, she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to stop finding dead bodies in her apartment.

Enlisting help from her Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend Meshach and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her attention.

While the corpses pile up, and the scent of blood fills the air, Lanore is left wondering: will she find the psycho or die trying?

Kenya Wright always knew she would be famous since the ripe old age of six when she sung the Michael Jackson thriller song in her bathroom mirror. She has tried her hand at many things from enlisting in the Navy for six years as a Persian-Farsi linguist to being a nude model at an art university.

However, writing has been the only constant love in her life.

Now Kenya is publishing her first book, Fire Baptized, the urban fantasy novel she always wanted to read. This novel is the first book in a series.

Will she succeed? Of course.

For she has been coined The Urban Fantasy Queen, the Super Iconic Writer of this Age, The Lyrical Genius of Our Generation. Granted, these are all terms coined by her, within the private walls of her bathroom as she still sings the Michael Jackson thriller song.

Kenya Wright currently resides in Miami with her three amazing, overactive children, a supportive, gorgeous husband, and three cool black cats that refuse to stop sleeping on Kenya’s head at night.

Website: http://www.kenyawright.com/
Book Video: http://youtu.be/a28T5HzpGJ4

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

INTERVIEW: KM TOLAN

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome K.M. Tolan whose last book in his Dancer series, Battle Dancer, was released in December. Blade Dancer, the first book in the series, remains his personal favorite. The other books in the series are Rogue Dancer and Defiant Dancer. He has also written a stand along novel, Waiting Weapon.

I asked him why he decided to end the series now.

"I didn't want to seem like a one-trick pony and needed to move on rather than keep putting out story after story on the same character simply because I found a winning idea," he responded. "So, Battle Dancer wraps everything up - with some of the ending plot arcs spanning all four novels. We see a powerful character struggling with her rise to greatness and the temptations that come with it. Who wins? The military leader or the girl who yearned for a simpler life?"

"What are you working on now that the Dancer series is over?"

"My first all-out fantasy, tentatively titled Trains - no wizards, para-anything, or any other of the worn-out tropes involving swords and sorcery. Not a fae or dragon to be found. The story centers around a young man, Vincent, whose sister vanished before his eyes many years ago along tracks that then disappeared. He rediscovers those tracks ten years later and heads down them, determined to find his sister and erase years of guilt."

Kerry is rather methodical in his plot development. He first starts with an idea list, then grows it into a chapter outline. With each book, he goes through four drafts starting with a general "disgorging" of the story, then shaping the plot, adding character depth and coloring, and finally refining the wordsmithing with help from friends before submitting it.

"What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?" I asked.

"Learn the basic mechanics of writing first before launching into 'the' novel."

The elements of good writing, according to Kerry, are good characters, first and foremost, then a compelling story to couch them in. Two of his favorite authors are Julian May and Orson Scott Card—both for the wonderful characters. And, in his own writing, the characters come first.

"If the plot is a road, you need wheels to travel it," he explained.

I asked him to describe his writing space.

"A cozy niche office with a teak roll top computer desk and lots of mementos of my life cluttered around me."

The hardest part of writing for Kerry is getting motivated between projects.

"There is a bit of a burn-out factor to deal with," he told me.

When he first starts a project, he tends to write half-days on the weekend, but as deadlines develop he might be writing almost every night after he gets home from work as a software engineer. When he's not writing, he enjoys playing MMOGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Games), currently Star Wars the Old Republic.

One of his favorite characters is a secondary character in the Dancer series. Paleen is "a sprite of a girl," according to Kerry, who is Mikial's best friend at the start of the series. The strain on Paleen, and her relationship with Mikial, was interesting for Kerry to develop along the course of the series, along with the impact of the changes on Mikial herself.

"Not everyone is cut out for the role of sidekick, and the unintended cost (and emotional pain) is shown through Paleen's suffering and sacrifice in the name of friendship," he told me.

When he's writing, Kerry usually listens to "epic" instrumentals , courtesy of Pandora.

"SF movie/games themes and such keep me in the mood," he explained.

Finally, I asked, "Do you have a favorite quote or saying?"

" Do you have a favorite quote or saying?"

"Heh, from the movie Flash Gordon. When asked why he was attacking a peaceful Earth, Emperor Ming's reply was 'Why not?'"

About the Author:
Born in Marysville, MI, Kerry grew up reading both fantasy and science fiction. Kerry's life was shaped by serving ten years in the USAF, which included a combat tour in Vietnam. He was the first SF writer for Champagne Books, and two book in his Dancer series made the finalist list in EPIC ebook awards. All five books finaled for publisher's award with Rogue Dancer winning the award for its year. He now resides in Texas with his wife, two children, and a cat. www.KMTolan.com.

Sometimes the world you have to save isn’t yours. Sometimes your greatest enemy isn’t the one in your sights.

The line between Savior and Destroyer becomes blurred as Mikial fights to free the world of Me’Auk from human occupation. On guard against a treacherous alliance with Earth, Mikial is blind to the danger from those she trusts most. They see the monster rising inside her, and will stop at nothing to prevent the return to a darker age when Throne Empresses ruled with an iron hand. Mikial faces off with the deadliest foe she has ever met - the tyrant within.

Battle Dancer completes the story of Mikial Haran, bringing with it all the traditions and strife of an alien people facing the challenges of first contact and technological acceleration.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

INTERVIEW: RONALD HORE

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Ronald J. Hore, whose latest book, a medieval-style fantasy entitled The Dark Lady, is being released this month. I asked him to tell us about it.

Young Princess Nefasti wakes one morning to discover her father the King poisoned and her mother near death. She is the sole heiress to the ancient High Kingdom of Vadio. The king's three brothers immediately begin to plot and quarrel over who will become Regent and control the kingdom until she comes of age, or dies. Their solution is to marry her off. Princes Pilarius and Lubricius both have eligible sons; Prince Mortuus, the youngest brother, decides he would make the better choice.
Ron has been writing fiction for over 35 years and told me he was probably inspired by reading a book and thinking Well, I can do that, or I can write better than this.

"That was a long time ago and I've learned that writing well is not easy," he confessed. "My business life was always hectic, and the writing I had to do was certainly less than thrilling. It was therapy to go home after a hard day and immerse myself in one of my favorite genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Adventure etc. I will read almost anything when cornered."

Work eventually interfered with is fiction writing, so he slowed down on it ("plus I had a large collection of rejection letters," he confessed), but he got serious about his writing again about eight years ago.

Since then he's won a short story contest, helped a writers group self-publish an anthology, co-authored a history book, and attended a World Horror Conference in Brighton, England—a vampire anthology he was a part of launched at the conference.

"I started writing out longhand in notebooks, graduated to a manual type-writer, then leaped to a Commodore 64 computer. Have upgraded since," he told me, adding, "It is a lot easier to make changes now!"

Block doesn't seem to be a problem for Ron—if anything he has too many ideas, because almost anything can trigger an idea for a story—many of which seem to decide they are novels.

"Often when I grab an idea and run with it, I don't have the story fully plotted out. I go for morning walks before breakfast and find this excellent for pounding out plot twists and scenes, including dialogue. The only problem with this method is remembering all the details when I get home. I don't feel like mumbling into a tape recorder en route. Another trick I use is-- as I am writing out a tale I may have an idea about something that will come out later in the story. I jot these down in a notes file on the computer. I can call this file up concurrently with the manuscript I am working on. I also start the file off with whatever sketchy notes I have regarding the project before I start. I never do a complete outline though, more often fill in the notes as I go along so I can keep track of characters and their habits etc."

Usually the plot will present itself first, but there have been cases where Ron will develop the characters first.

"For example, I worked on a story about the North Americans discovering Europe first. (An idea from a newspaper headline). Then I had to decide how to make it work, then who would tell the story, point-of-view, etc. On the other hand, I wanted to do a fantasy novella about a detective, an idea I had for a series. In that case, first I designed the detective, then the setting, then the plot, and let the character run the show."

For The Dark Lady, Ron saw a certain actress on TV and thought she looks like she could play a nasty character quite well. The next thought was along the lines of how do nasty characters get their reputation?

"This was before I ever heard of Wicked," he told me. "I decided to start at the beginning, with a young girl, and followed a track more like that of Queen Elizabeth the First, where she is captive to the chaos of a royal court, surrounded by men all seeking power for their own purposes. With that idea, I designed the setting for the background, a High Kingdom that had fallen onto hard times, and placed my heroine at the center of everything. Sort of Reputation vs Actuality, and how these come out, set against a coming of age story. I open, putting the clever heroine in peril by having her parents murdered, and surrounded by three uncles, all wanting the crown. To add to her difficulties, I surround the kingdom with three empires that splintered off from the old High Kingdom, and now want to seize it for themselves. So there is intrigue from inside, and without and gives me the opportunity to have anything from romance to mayhem and magic."

Ron's also working on a fantasy detective series, with The Housetrap being the first installment. He's completed two others in the series and is working on the fourth.

"I am hoping that Housetrap will be a success. This gives me the opportunity to run wild with a character I enjoy, Randolf C. Aloysius (aka Randy) and in almost unlimited settings, given the style. Started off as a hard-boiled detective (who is not human) but as the tales develop I have to fill in more back story and develop some of the minor characters more fully, like his long-suffering girl Friday type, Bertha Wildwater, who has already accompanied him on one case, and is now involved in this one as well. A lighter style of tale, I start out with a slightly warped title, and figure out the plot later, based on the title. First draft is almost completed, and I have already started to make notes and an opening for a sequel to The Dark Lady. I want to get a step ahead on that, again in case there is a demand for a follow-up."

With most of his novels, the story suggests the title. For example Dark Lady describes a young Queen who earns a nasty reputation. Housetrap is because Ron decided to write a series of novellas based on old (or modern) thrillers or mysteries, i.e. Housetrap because of Mousetrap. Once he has the title, he writes the story which has nothing to do with the original book. Another example from the same series is Dial M for Mudder, a take-off on Dial M for Murder, which runs amok on its own.

"Other than that series, I feel the title should reflect the story, and comes to me once the tale has been started. The ghost short story that took first place in a national contest is titled 'Midnight' because the resolution take place then. My North Americans discover Europe epic is called ToltecKhan, after the Toltec Indians (with a Chinese connection) who are the central characters in the story," he told me.

I asked Ron to tell us about his writing space.

"Unfortunately it is messy. I have a large old-fashioned desk that holds a radio/record player, two printers and a laptop. Beside that is a computer deask with a laptop and a backup hard drive. The room is surrounded by book cases, tables, scanner etc. I have a bad habit for sorting files on the floor (to be filed later) but I know where everything is… usually. The large cat has a bad habit of strolling across computers and keyboards when it is nearing his feed time, which seems to happen frequently."

Finally, I asked, "E-book or print? And why?"

"I personally prefer reading paper," he told me. "I've just received a Kobo eReader a few months ago once I learned I was entering the world of eBooks with two of my own. (Hopefully they will eventually come out as trade paperbacks.) I have been accused by some who know me of a being a Luddite. I can handle a book on the e reader, but somehow it is not quite the same. eBooks are a complete new world for me. I can see the advantages-- world-wide distribution made easy, lower cost to the readers and to the publishers, hopefully opening up new markets for new authors. My wife will probably become a fan of eBooks if only they will cut down on my many boxes of books and numerous bookshelves. We moved houses two years ago and there are still boxes of books to unpack."

About the Author:
Ron Hore has been writing for several years, starting with a lot of business-related non-fiction, while dashing off unpublished novels at home. He has had two short stories published in anthologies (one Ghost and one Vampire tale) and now has a novel and a novella scheduled for publication with BURST Books. He chaired a writer's workshop for several years, acted as trustee for an annual Canadian History Book contest for several years, and currently writes genre reviews (over 60 so far) for an on-line magazine aimed at libraries and schools. He belongs to three writer's groups and his hobbies include keeping a large cat off the keyboard, keeping his wife reasonably happy, and tracking five children and six grandchildren. Free time is spent on a sailboat, although he just bought a sports car for medicinal purposes. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

www.RonaldHore.com

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

INTERVIEW: T.K. TOPPIN

Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome T.K. Toppin, author of The Lancaster Trilogy.

T.K. was born in Barbados and the thing she loves the best about it is that it's home.

"I’ve traveled around, even lived in Brazil at one point, but there’s nothing like the place you were born. Yes, it’s got its issues, the heat, the bugs, the heat (oh, said that already), the limitations…but what country doesn’t, right?" she said. "Besides, my bed also lives here, and there’s nothing like your own bed at the end of a long day."

I asked her if she used a pen name and she responded, "Yes, I do. However, T.K. Toppin, even though it’s a pen name, it’s also my real name. The ‘T’ is my first name, the ‘K’ is my maiden name. It just made sense for me to 'shorten' my real name and make it user friendly (and easier to pronounce). After all, Tomomi Kaharabata-Toppin is a mouthful! Hey, I’m Japanese too, did I forget to mention that?"

T.K. is a graphic artist by profession, and she's always doodled ("and graffitied walls in the house with crayons as a kid, usually behind open doors so no one knew-- until the door was closed, and then…surprise!") or scribbled stuff on scraps of paper.

"I suppose writing is an extension of that…another way to express myself," she said. "I knew I always wanted to write, just never found the motivation. I used to draw comics, with dialogue bubbles that later progressed into half-hearted stories so I could embellish on them. Then I stopped with the writing doodles and concentrated on graphic arts as a career, but always thinking that, one day, I’d write something proper."

She's always loved to read, from the Narnia Chronicles to The Little House on the Prairie series, The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, A Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna --standard reading materials at school. She later progressed to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and many more from the Dune series to Harry Potter.

"The list is long," she admitted. "After reading these great books, you can’t help but feel compelled to write something yourself, something amazing, that takes you deep inside the book, drawing you in. I wanted to be able to do that, create something amazing, epic, consuming, full of adventure and excitement with unforgettable characters. Soon, I started scrutinizing the spine (of the books), wondering who published these amazing writers, and thinking, again: one day. And then one day, I read a book touted as critically acclaimed, best selling, fantastic debut novel…I grabbed it and began to read, and fell fast asleep before I could finish the first chapter. I struggled desperately with the book, and while the world-building was superb, the writing well researched, detailed, and rich with descriptive scenes…it just didn’t grab me, scare me (as it professed to do), nor grab the seat of my pants with excitement. But I finished it thinking that if that got published, then anyone with enough drive and a good story can get published. I felt motivated.

"So I began to write. Idle things, ramblings until the beginnings of The Lancaster Trilogy started to take shape. Having no formal guidance in writing, I did a rough draft, like a huge notebook, and went from there.

"That was roughly four years ago. Now, I can’t stop writing…or rambling."

I asked her to tell us about her latest release.

"The Eternal Knot is the final in the Lancaster trilogy, following the life of my main protagonist, Josie Bettencourt. It also brings to an end, or conclusion, everything that has happened in her life, the many questions she had, how she really came to live in the future, the reasons for it. Everything! It was by far the hardest book to complete in the trilogy, mainly because I knew that this was it. The end. It was bittersweet, knowing that I had to say goodbye to these characters that consumed my mind for the better part of three years. While I knew how I wanted to end it, and why the third book needed to be written, I also was in a small dilemma to keep it interesting enough to read. So I threw in a wild card just to stir things up a bit, and that, in turn, helped move the story along so it wouldn’t have read like a bulleted report on what happened next."

T.K. is currently working on the second draft of another story that is more or less finished, however some fillers are needed, the character development needs some tweaking, and the plot needs to be a little tighter.

"It’s gone through a few beta reads and each have stated the same thing…so, I guess I need to get it sorted before I decide what to do with it. This story is called Bengaria’s War, another SF book set way into the future when man has colonized star systems. While there’s space ships and jumping technology, there’s still a lot of tradition involved, from monarchies, nobles, sword fighting (new improved versions, of course), and…tea."

She also has two other works in progress, one called The Grosjean Chronicles, which is a spin-off of the Lancaster books, Grosjean being a space marine captain who was introduced in second book, The Master Key.

"I loved her character so much, her loud and abrasive manner, I knew she needed more air time. This is her story, basically," T.K. said.

The other work in progress is To Catch A Marlin, also loosely based on the Lancaster world. No mention of the original characters are in To Catch a Marlin, T.K. just used the world and created a detective cat and mouse story set in the future.

"I wrote a short story from it to enter into an anthology collection (no word yet on if it was selected), but the beta testing I received from this short was good. Very good!" she told me.

"What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?" I asked.

"That I’m the biggest chicken on earth! I may write all sorts of action-adventures and thrilling death defying scenes…but if that were to happen to me, or I was even near it, I may pass out or soil myself. I’m not for confrontations, not when you can always run (and fast) away. There are only the odd times I would choose to confront rather than run…mostly if it’s just a verbal confrontation and no risk of injury could occur. Pain is another thing I don’t like so much."

These days, T.K. is passionate about the simple things: doing what you love doing, and doing it well.

"You don’t have to be a super-achiever or haul in the big bucks, but if you enjoy what you do, and do it well, then that’s all there is to it," she told me. "Honesty is another thing I’m passionate about. Perhaps I’m spoiled because I’m surrounded by honest people, and those that aren’t, I’ve weeded out and cut them loose. Tolerance. This is a tough one and as I grow older, harder to be passionate about. In fact, it goes hand in hand with impatience, so the passion level decreases constantly. But I am trying hard to keep it level. This one word is very important in our lives, and without it, could spark all sorts of disasters. And most importantly, I’m very passionate about getting a full 8 hours (or more) of sleep. A well-rested soul is a happy and content soul."

Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Listen to whatever advice there is out there — from grammatical guidance to story building to getting published and how to deal with things when you get some lumps. There are so many resources available now, just a click of the mouse away. Take advantage of what is out there. Read, read, read…lots of books, different genres, even the boring ones. And also read and re-read your own work until you go cross-eyed. Seek out beta readers (people you know and value their opinions because of their honesty) or join forums, writer’s groups, chats. And finally, develop a very thick skin because not everyone is going to love your work. But that’s all part of growing and improving as a writer.

"I didn’t have any of that when I first started out, and didn’t have a clue as to where to begin. In fact, not many people knew that I’d started writing. I just went for it head first and learned a lot along the way. From editing, sentence structures, grammar, to seeking out publishers and agents, marketing, blurbs, excerpts… Now, I can’t even read the first book, The Lancaster Rule, because I know I’ve improved since then, and to read it again, I’d cringe.

"And don’t be afraid to ask questions."


About the Author: I’ve been working as a graphic artist for more years than I can remember. Based in Barbados, where I was born, writing has always appealed to me – whether reading someone else’s literary masterpieces, or doing my own disjointed ramblings.

Early in 2008, I finally received the right motivation to just jump right in and start writing seriously. You could say I received a very strategic kick in a very specific part of my anatomy! Not literally, of course…

The Lancaster Rule, released April 2010, is the first in a series of three, science fiction/future-fiction and SFR (science fiction romance) novels, and my first published work. Since then, the sequel, The Master Key, was released July 2011, and the final installment, The Eternal Knot, in January 2012.

While I have many other stories brewing about my head, most are SF/SFR in nature.

Find the author online at:

Blog – T.K. Toppin

Facebook – Written by T.K. Toppin

The Lancaster Rule

Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/TKToppin