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Friday, April 27, 2012

INTERVIEW: LEIGH M. LANE

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Leigh M. Lane, who is giving away Finding Poe free for the Amazon Kindle today through April 29. In addition, one commenter on today's interview will win an paperback version. Finding Poe includes allusions to over twenty of Edgar Allan Poe’s best poems and short stories, and Leigh invites readers to try to find them all.

She was an avid reader as a child, with her favorite authors at the time being Roald Dahl and Carolyn Keene.

"I remember having just finished Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and thinking about how much pleasure I derived from the story, when it occurred to me that I might offer that same kind of pleasure to others if I wrote stories of my own. Along with my twin sister, I wrote my first short story, and I was so proud of it that I used cardboard and crayons to make it a 'hardcover book.' I remember the story was about a good witch and her cat, but beyond that, I can’t recall any of the details. I found I enjoyed writing even more than I enjoyed reading, and I’ve been writing ever since."

Writing was an important part of Leigh's childhood, just as it has been an important part of her adult life.

"I don’t think one should judge a person’s status as a writer based on publishing history, but rather how much one loves the art and how much time he or she spends doing it," she told me. "I remember in my early teens spending an entire summer co-writing my first novel with my twin sister. I think that was my favorite summer. Did we ever publish that novel? No; I don’t even include it in my novel count, as it has long been lost and was a crude first attempt. Still, it defined my teenage years, just as everything I write now defines my adult life. I do not make a living as a writer, but I would lose all sense of personal identity without all I’ve written and continue to write."

She will experience writer's block from time to time, which usually tells her it's time for her to make a change. Writing in multiple genres helps, because she can switch to something completely different from her last work, or she might try writing a screenplay adaptation of one of her novels that she feels might someday look good in film. She has found that forcing herself to write through the block—pressing herself for ideas—doesn’t work well for her.

"I have to be excited about what I’m writing for the story to live up to its potential, and I am all about quality over quantity," she explained. "I know many authors will tell you writer’s block is a myth, but I say when the well has run dry, it’s dry, and the best way to get past it is not to continue to tap something that’s empty, but rather drill a new well while you’re waiting for the old one to refill itself."

Leigh has written eleven novels, nine of which are published. She finds it difficult to choose a favorite, as each of her books she has qualities she finds endearing.

"I don’t think a person can write a novel without ending up with some kind of maternal/paternal love for it. With that said, I would probably choose Finding Poe, " she said, "as it is by far the most unique (and marketable) piece I’ve written."

Leigh believes that good writing has to incorporate a unique voice that takes its readers into the moment.

"In order to do this, a writer must take a physiological approach: one must take all five senses into consideration, appealing not only to the mind’s eye, but also the mind’s nose, ears, skin, and taste buds," she said. "It must contain a reasonable balance of prose and dialog, and it must never include wasted space—every scene should have a purpose and every line of dialog should be important to the story’s forward momentum. Good writing evokes emotion and makes the reader sympathetic to the protagonist, and in order for that to happen, the protagonist needs to be well-rounded and interesting. Good writing also exhibits proper use of syntax, grammar, and punctuation."

One of the best pieces of writing advice Leigh ever received was to go back to college. It corrected her own grammar and punctuation, but as well gave her the opportunity to read and analyze works she might have never read on her own, opening her eyes to genres and styles that she might not have understood without the help of some amazing professors. She told me her writing improved dramatically as a result of her education.

"Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darknesstaught me that a work can be jam-packed with symbolism and other literary devices, and yet also be an enjoyable read. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own taught me to be myself with my writing, to look within and write accordingly. Everything I’ve read by Stephen King has shown me that only in examining the dark might we endeavor to bring light and enrichment to this world. Finally, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and similar sci-fi works showed me that it’s okay to strive for a profound ending, even at the cost of a happy one," she told me.

Leigh has discovered that every genre has a different set of muses, and she also discovered that her voice changes significantly depending on what she is writing.

"When I was in college, I realized that my critical analyses typically took on the voices of whatever authors I was writing about, and the more I branched out in my own fiction, the more varied my own voices became," she said. "Conversely, there are commonalities in style between all of my stories, as different from one another as many of them may be. Looking at my collective works, it makes for an interesting dichotomy."

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

"I would be more patient and less apt to compromise in the name of gaining a sale. I made a few choices early on regarding book titles, and even a change to a story’s ending, that I felt pushed into because the publisher was so adamant. I learned that the publisher is not always (although usually) right, and sometimes giving in to a publisher’s 'firm request' can be a mistake. I remember my publisher requesting that I change a short story so that a married woman’s fantasy was an actual act, essentially making the protagonist an adulterer. I caved despite my disagreement—then cringed as I read a review that went on about how good the story would have been had my protagonist not cheated on her husband, but rather merely fantasized about. I felt pretty stupid about not having stuck to my guns. The same goes for a title my publisher felt confident would do justice to one of my novels. That novel is one of my lowest sellers, and I’m positive it’s because of the corny title."

About the Author: ):
Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from science fiction to horror. All of her works contain a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice, which also often contains social or political undertones. Her recent full-length releases are Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods. She has six other novels published in a different genre under a different name, and she has appeared in numerous anthologies. Leigh's writing influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King.

Find the author online at:

http://www.cerebralwriter.com
http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLeighMLane
http://www.amazon.com/Leigh-M.-Lane/e/B0055DSE6Y/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Follow the final moments before Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death, journeying through twisted bits and pieces of his musings, both brilliant and mad, in search of the truth behind his final, unfinished work "The Lighthouse," while unraveling the mystery behind the elusive woman desperately seeking the author for answers behind her husband's haunted death.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Leah Petersen

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This post is part of a Virtual Book Tour scheduled by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be giving away a prize pack containing these items hand knit by the author: a hat, a replica of the symbol of an important institution referenced in Fighting Gravity to TWO randomly drawn commenters during the tour. Click on the banner to see the other dates of her tour.



The Things I’ve Learned from the Voices in My Head



I think there’s really no use in pretending authors aren’t hearing voices, if not entire conversations in our heads, right? Just so long as we’re recording them and not talking back to them, I think we’re OK.


It never occurred to me that writing was anything more than a skill, a hobby, a business, maybe. But the process of watching the characters unfold over the course of the story in FIGHTING GRAVITY has taught me a lot about life and about myself.


Early in the first draft, I began to realize that my main character shared a lot of my own flaws. (He also had strengths I wish I had, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.) Once I saw the pattern, I began to pay attention. Sometimes when his flaws drove his actions, things went really, really wrong. A reality of life I was already painfully aware of.


But sometimes, those same traits made all the difference in a situation that could have been terrible and turned it into something else entirely.


In the early part of the story, (no spoilers) Jake has been taken to a prestigious school where he’s made painfully aware that he is not welcome. In fact, even the teachers and administrators do their best to undermine everything he does. Jake was just a kid, and was on his own with no recourse against this prejudice. He could have been crushed, he could have been discouraged and bought into the popular opinion about himself and given up.


But Jake was a bit of a rebel. He wasn’t one to obey an authority just because they said he should. Quite often, that got him in trouble throughout his life, both before and after that point. But facing the universal opposition at the school, it was the thing that gave him strength to stand up for himself and the focus and direction that ultimately saved him.


Jake taught me that most things are subjective, including what’s a good or bad character trait. Yes, the rebelliousness was behind some of his crashing defeats. But it often drove his greatest successes too.


It’s one of the great things about fiction, what it teaches us about life. What have you learned from fictional characters?


About the Author:
Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing.


FIGHTING GRAVITY is her first novel.


Find the author online at:


Twitter: http://twitter.com/LeahPetersen

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

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/leahpetersen

Google+: http://profiles.google.com/leahpetersen

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lpetersenauthor/


When Jacob Dawes is Selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex as a child, he’s catapulted from the poverty-stricken slums of his birth into a world where his status as an unclass is something no one can forget, or forgive. His growing scientific renown draws the attention of the emperor, a young man Jacob’s own age, and they find themselves drawn to each other in an unlikely, and ill-advised relationship. Jacob may have won the emperor’s heart, but it’s no protection when he’s accused of treason. And fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

INTERVIEW: DEBORAH JACKSON

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Deborah Jackson, author of Ice Tomb, an adult science fiction thriller. Ice Tomb was first released in 2004, but just this February, after some revision and attempts to make it more kid-friendly, (although it's still an adult book), it was released as an ebook. Ice Tomb takes readers on a journey through ice tunnels and snowscapes in Antarctica to the deadly environment on the moon. It involves the interplay of science and mythology--topics Deborah loves to tinker with. It is a Top Pick from RT BOOKclub Magazine which said, "Ice Tomb is set in the near future, and the science in the fiction is very plausible. A fast-paced story with plenty of twists, this book reads like a classic sci-fi tale. The characters are well drawn, the action plentiful and the outcome surprising.”


I asked Deborah what inspired her to write and she told me, "I don’t think anything inspires you to start writing. Either you’re a writer or you’re not. I started writing when I was six years old. I fell in love with stories: intriguing adventures that took place somewhere beyond my doorstep, tales of dragons or horses or the orphan lad Oliver. I fell out of writing when my alternate career consumed all the hours in my day. I fell back into it during maternity leave and eventually permanent leave from my job."


Deborah works the same way as Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, she shared with me.


"How’s that for polar opposites?" she asked. "But they both begin without a plot outline. I usually research my ideas until I have a decent concept of plot and characters, occasionally I write a character sketch or journal entry, but then I begin. The first chapter usually needs a series of rewrites, but once the characters start to breathe, they take over and drive the story forward, sometimes at a breathless pace."


The storytelling itself is of utmost importance, she believes, combining all the elements into an "absolutely riveting tale."


"It’s impossible to single out one or two components. I think editors are sometimes too focused on style and ignore the other elements of world building, character psychology, logical plot structure, believable dialogue, etc. If you can’t piece together a spellbinding story, then all the wordplay in your arsenal won’t be enough to captivate readers."


"When writing physical descriptions of your characters, what feature do you start with?" I wondered.


"Writing descriptions of main characters? Seriously? I don’t believe in writing about physical features! I hate when an author slaps down physical features while ignoring the truly important aspects of a character. Their cockiness, their humour, their intensity, their marvelous quirks. I could care less what a person looks like if I can feel who they are through dialogue, mannerisms and behaviour. Maybe I’m the defiant author who thumbs her nose at conventional writing, but I will never start with physical features. If they’re important at some point, I’ll mention them."


Deborah strives to create endearing, enduring, and unusual characters along with a unique setting in which to place them. She's had fans of her YA series, Time Meddlers, tell her that they feel sad when they've finished reading a book because they have to say goodbye to the main characters until the next book and that they'll actually miss them.


"That’s exactly what you want your readers to feel," she said.


Her novels are also very complex—she explores unique time periods and cultures—and combines scientific near-future or speculative technology with a historical or mythical component.


"I don’t shy away from including nanotechnology, exploring a vast network of caves, or setting up a moon base," she explained. "I usually go through stacks of archaeological reference books to make a historical setting seem authentic. If you work hard enough, that attention to detail will shine through in your writing."


"What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?" I asked.


"The best: Don’t write for the market. By the time your book has been revised and perfected, the market will have changed. Write what you’re passionate about.


"The worst: If an agent or editor tells you to change your manuscript, do it. They have more experience and they know better than you.


"After a number of years, and a number of critiques from editors and agents, I find they tend to contradict each other. One would prefer you focus on character, the other would like your novel to become the next bestseller to be converted into a blockbuster movie, and you’re taking too long to jump into the action. Yes, sometimes their advice is worth the extra rewrite, but you have to decide whether it’s going to change your novel into their vision, and if that’s really what you want. I can guarantee following their suggestions won’t guarantee a book will be published."


Finally, I asked Deborah for her favorite TV shows.


"Big Bang Theory. Now who doesn’t love Sheldon, from a distance?

Grey’s Anatomy. You can take a girl out of the medical community, but you can’t take the fascination for medicine (and drama) out of the girl.

Firefly. The best science fiction series ever produced. I can watch it over and over again. Why? Because the character development is exceptional. Sci-fi western is a unique concept, but it always comes down to characters, doesn’t it?

House for the sarcasm and the unique character—an addicted genius. The puzzles are rather unbelievable and the repetition of this style getting stale, though.

Vampire Diaries (but don’t tell anyone). I do so love those sexy vampires, as long as they don’t sparkle and have somewhat of a complex character—Damon."


About the Author:
Deborah Jackson received a science degree from the University of Ottawa in 1986, graduated from The Writing School in Ottawa in 2001, and is the author of several science fiction and historical fiction novels. She gives school presentations throughout North America as well as developing and teaching writing courses at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Deborah is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and Speculative Fiction Canada. Her novels include: Ice Tomb, an adult science fiction thriller, and the Time Meddlers series for children, ages 9 – 14: Time Meddlers, Time Meddlers Undercover, and upcoming release Time Meddlers on the Nile . Articles about Deborah and reviews of her books have appeared in The Ottawa Citizen, MORE Magazine, The RT Bookclub Magazine, Canadian Teacher Magazine, SF Site, Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine and many more.


Find the author online at:

Website: http://www.DeborahJackson.net

Blog: http://deborahjackson.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @DeborahJackson5


NASA lures volcanologist Erica Daniels to a conference in Houston by promising to consider her for their upcoming mission—establishing the first moon base. Instead, her archrival and ex-lover, David Marsh, gets the plum assignment, while she’s sent to Antarctica. An irritating British archaeologist and a brilliant Russian astrophysicist accompany her on a journey through unforgiving snowscapes, mysterious ice tunnels and a frozen graveyard. They present her with extraordinary suggestions for the origin of the hotspot. Along the way, Erica unearths scientific marvels that might just prove her own theory. But why is the ice sheet littered with bodies? Is the activity under the ice the remnants of an ancient civilization or is there a more sinister explanation? To discover the truth Erica will have to join forces with the man she despises—a man who’s on the moon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

INTERVIEW: DAVID LEE SUMMERS

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes back David Lee Summers. David has a new short story, "Jump Point Blockade,” coming out April 18 in Space Battles, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Space Battles is the sixth anthology in the Full-Throttle Space Tales series, and David's story features pirate captain Ellison Firebrandt and the crew of the Legacy.


"This time they have a rematch with Captain William R. Stewart of the New New Jersey, who they first met in the story 'Hijacking the Legacy' from Space Sirens. Several of these characters are also featured in my Old Star/New Earth series," he told me.


Along with writing, David has been editing Tales of the Talisman magazine for the last eight years. It's a magazine of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. David has two reading periods each year—one beginning January 1 and the other July 1.


"I'm often amazed by the good quality and variety of stories I receive," he said. "For those who would like to know more, the magazine's website is http://www.talesofthetalisman.com."


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


"New writers need to be persistent. This is a competitive business that requires a strong sense of craftsmanship. Write a lot and get it critiqued by peers. Send your work into magazines and if an editor responds, listen to what they say. When you finish one story, send it out. While waiting for replies, write another story or start a novel. Also, keep in mind that the field is in a state of flux right now. E-books have an important niche. The roles of online and brick-and-mortar bookstores are shifting. An investment banker will tell you to diversify your investments. In that same vein, I'd advise keeping an eye on the different roads to publication. Send your stuff to New York for consideration, but also learn how to self-publish successfully. Learn about the good small presses. Don't limit yourself to one path to publication. Explore as many paths as possible. Even if you find success with one of those paths, consider pursuing another with a different work."


David's home office is a bit of a cave-like rooms where he's surrounded by books, artwork, and toys—images that serve as inspiration to him. He usually uses his laptop for writing, but if he's in a truly remote location he will use a pen and paper. However, a lot of his plotting and character development is done when he's out on long walks or on long-distance drives.


"After such a walk or drive, I often pull out my laptop and write furiously for a couple of hours, getting the thoughts that came to mind into the computer before I forget them," he said.


When he was growing up, he wanted to a writer, but that wasn't the only thing he wanted to be. He imagined being an airplane mechanic, a paramedic, an astronaut, and much more.


"I think imagining myself in these different roles played a vital role in my ability to build characters and imagine them in different jobs. I still play pretend, I just do it in my head. Two of the things I wanted to be when I grew up were a writer and an astronomer," he said. "I've managed to achieve both of those dreams. Not only do I write novels and short stories, but I operate telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory."


The way David approaches research for his books depends on what he's writing. If he's writing science fiction, the main facts he'll look into are things like stellar types, planetary distances, orbits and that sort of thing. He often turns to his own library of astronomy and physics books , since he has a degree in physics with a specialty in astronomy. He also has colleagues at the observatory he can talk with if he's unsure about something. However, for historical fiction, like his vampire novels, research often starts at the local library.


"When I outline, I know generally where some of the action of the story will be set. I find the section of the library that covers the region and time period I want to write in and browse books, gleaning information about the clothes, lifestyles and important events of a particular age. I spend a lot of time pouring over maps to make sure I understand the geography of an area I'm writing in. Google Earth is a wonderful tool for that kind of research," he told me. "If I'm writing something in an area I can travel to, I like to go there and visit, get a sense of the area's ambiance. Barring that, travel books that describe an area in detail can prove to be an important resource."


David absolutely loves New Mexican food of all sorts, but his very favorite is enchiladas Christmas style. I asked him what those were.


"They are tortillas in both red and green chile sauce, usually with some cheese and meat. I love the earthiness of the red chile sauce and the fresh spiciness of the green chile sauce. The two combined just make a fun, festive plate that's delicious and exhilarating to eat. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I often mention some of my favorite foods in my books. Chilaquiles, sort of a precursor to nachos, appear in The Solar Sea. Atole, a thin, chocolate, cinnamon porridge, appears in Owl Dance. I like good food and hope people who learn about a dish from my books will look it up and try it for themselves," he explained. "My least favorite food... I'd say anything that's been overcooked and become flavorless and lifeless. There were some specific things I avoided for years like Brussels sprouts and asparagus, but I'd recently discovered that I hadn't had them cooked well. When done nicely, I found I actually liked some of those foods that I avoided as a kid."


David was born in Barstow, California, out on the high desert.


"My family left when I was four, so I barely remember it, but I love the fact that it's mentioned in the opening of Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels, he explained. "Most of my early years were spent in San Bernardino, California. I love many of the people there. I love its proximity to Los Angeles and the museums and attractions there. Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm did a lot to spark my imagination. Griffith Park Observatory and the Museum of Science and Industry inspired my love of science. Even more than that, I loved the fact that San Bernardino was only a short drive from both the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. Visiting the beach or going for hikes in the forest were both things that gave me a strong appreciation for nature and the fact that humans are only a small part of the grandeur of the universe."


When it comes to e-books vs. print, David admitted that he still leans toward print because it's what he grew up with.


"I like the feel of a print book. I like seeing that I'm making progress as I read. I like the smell of the paper. I like having authors sign my books when I get a chance to meet them. However, I'm growing to love ebooks more as the years go by. I like their portability and grew to appreciate it even more after I moved into a new house a couple of years ago and had to move all my books! Frankly, I think the ebook is becoming the new mass market paperback. It's the place people are going when they are looking for new authors and when they want something to read on the fly. I've always loved mass market paperbacks. I'm growing to love ebooks despite my long romance with print."


One of David's favorite characters is Jonathan Jefferson, from The Solar Sea.


"Jonathan Jefferson was the last man to step foot on the planet Mars before NASA was shut down. He has returned to Earth and has a good, reliable, but boring job. We all know Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but how many of us can remember the astronauts from the last Apollo flights? I began to wonder what it's like to have achieved one of the great accomplishments of humankind, then be largely forgotten. When the Quinn Corporation builds the solar sail Aristarchus in The Solar Sea, they seek out Jefferson to be the mission commander because he's the youngest of the original astronauts. Of course he leaps at the opportunity. However, as time goes on, he finds that the Quinn Corporation is all about accomplishing the mission in the least amount of time with the lowest amount of money. It's very different from the culture Jefferson knew from NASA. I loved exploring the difference in military, industrial and governmental culture through Jefferson. Over the course of the novel, he learns new ways to do some things. Others also learn they should have listened to the voice of experience."


It seems counter-intuitive to David that science fiction or fantasy could be seen as derivative and stale, because there is theoretically no limit what an author can do in those genres as long as he can get his audience to willingly suspend their disbelief about the story in question.


"That said, science fiction and fantasy fandom is a very tight-knit community and a lot of in-jokes and tropes have built up over the years," he admitted."Despite that, the internet has allowed for a breaking down of genre boundaries. Fans who don't attend science fiction conventions are talking to those who do. Moreover, internet bookstores don't force books to be pigeonholed, allowing more cross-genre books to be written and allowing readers more freedom to cross genres. I've long recommended that prospective science fiction and fantasy writers read outside their genre. It's one of the best ways to keep the genres vibrant and expanding."


He also thinks another trap science fiction writers get caught up on is paying too much attention to scientists who say that something is not possible.


"In this sense, science fiction writers need to learn to actually think more like scientists and engineers than like writers who do research on 'facts'. They need to ask, why is something not possible? From there, they can speculate on ways they can make things possible. If you do that, then science fiction really can be vibrant and expanding. Even fantasy can learn a lesson from this. Why not bring some science into your fantasy world or some magic into the real world? In that way, there really are no boundaries to these genres."


"What are you passionate about these days?" I asked.


"I'm feeling very passionate about cancer research. My wife recently went through breast cancer surgery and chemotherapy. It was a difficult year, but she's feeling much better and is moving forward with life. I'm thoroughly convinced that she's not only alive, but well because of the advances that have been made in cancer research in the last few decades. Despite that, it's clear more needs to be done. More lives need to be saved. The research needs to continue," he said. "My passion for this particular area is personal, but it is an extension of my more general passion for science. One may ask why should we fund things like physics and astronomy when cancer is clearly such a priority. The thing is, there is a connection. The detectors we develop for astronomy also help to develop more advanced detectors for the medical professions. Advancements in particle physics play an important role in understanding the chemistry and biology of cancers. All of these areas of research and development are interconnected. I encourage you to keep abreast of science. Let your elected officials know that science is important to you. Encourage any interest your children have in science. No matter what specific field it happens to be, they will make the world a better place through their involvement."


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.


You can find the author online at:


Website: http://www.davidleesummers.com

Blog: http://www.davidleesummers.com

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

Twitter: @davidleesummers


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.

Monday, April 9, 2012

INTERVIEW: VIJAYA SCHARTZ

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Long and Short Reviews welcomes Vijaya Schartz, whose latest release Noah's Ark, the prequel to The Chronicles of Kassouk, was released this month by Desert Breeze Publishing. It tells the story of how the first humans crashed on the planet where the entire series is set and is the finishing touch to that series. The other books in The Chronicles of Kassouk include White Tiger, Red Leopard, Black Jaguar, and Blue Lioness. The first four books are available in electronic format everywhere, with the first book, White Tiger scheduled for release in paperback this spring. The other books will also be released in print.


The next book Vijaya has coming out will be from Books We Love. It will be the first of a new series titled Curse of the Lost Isle.


"It’s slightly different from my Sci-fi, because it’s not about the future but the past," she explained. "It's a medieval fantasy, with strong elements of ancient magic, action with swords and horses, love, intrigue, betrayal, religious and political struggles. This new series starts with Pagan Queen, set in 806 in ancient Alba (now Scotland). This saga is based on authentic post Arthurian legends, spanning several centuries, in Scotland, France, Luxemburg, Spain, and the Middle East during the Crusades. It follows a family of immortal Celtic ladies related to Morgane the Fay, and seeking redemption from a curse. There will be at least six long novels in the series, two of them scheduled for release this year. That’ll keep me busy for a while."


Vijaya was born in France, near Paris, but she's not really from there, she told me.


"I consider myself a citizen of the world. Writing sci-fi where I pit humans against aliens, I have to claim Earth as my nation of origin. I traveled a lot and lived in some neat places. India is one of my favorites. That’s where I found the inspiration for Ashes for the Elephant God (not sci-fi, but a reincarnation story)."


Vijaya started writing poetry when she was six and later wrote essays, travel logs, and newspaper articles. She became serious about writing for publication in the early nineties. Her first novel came out in 2000, and she currently has sixteen titles available, with more to be released this year.


She has found that the best cure for writer's block is a publisher deadline.


"When the book is due, ready or not, you write. And as you get into the writing groove, the words start to flow, and the story unfolds," she told me. "In order to make my deadlines, I have to write a chapter a week. Most often, writer's block is the result of fear of failure, even fear of success. Relaxation or meditation are good techniques to get rid of the fear and free the creative juices. For professional writers, writer's block is a luxury they cannot afford. When I feel complacent, I just tell myself, 'shut up and write.'"


"Who is your favorite author and why?" I asked.


"Nowadays, I very much like Linnea Sinclair. She write romantic science fiction with strong women and lots of action. Not unlike my stories, hers contain action scenes, love scenes, strong conflicts, emotional struggles... the whole package. I haven’t seen anything new from her recently, though, she is too busy with her Hollywood movie The Down Home Alien Blues. I hope she releases a new novel very soon."


After many years of being in the business, she has come to the conclusion that what readers like the most is the voice of the author.


"Not the impeccable grammar, not the fancy words or the beautiful descriptions, not even the story or the characters," she said. "Of course, all these elements should always be present, and of the utmost quality. But what makes an exceptional author goes beyond the way the words are strung together. It’s about the kind of music they make, the kind of atmosphere they evoke, and the particular eye with which the author sees his or her world. The details the author chooses to describe, the way the readers feel when they read the prose, these things define the new standards in modern writing. It’s all about the emotional connection."


I wondered, "What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?"


"As unlikely as it seems, the classics of the 1800s and early 1900s influenced my mind when I was a student, and Victor Hugo (Les Miserables), Jules Verne, HG Wells, and all the forefathers of modern science fiction certainly developed my taste for outlandish and space-faring adventures."


When Vijaya first started writing, she was a pantser like most authors—not knowing where the characters would lead her.


"But when you sell a book on a synopsis and three chapters, or you sell an entire series and are given deadlines to deliver each manuscript, it’s a different matter. I had to start plotting. Then I realized that pantsing (writing from the seat of the pants) brought an unpredictable flavor to the story. So now, although I usually know where the story is going, I still let the characters guide me into discovering who they are and what they really want to do."


When it comes to titles, sometimes they will come to her in a dream and prompt her to write a new book for it. Sometimes, when she's writing the beginning of a novel, the title will jump out at her. But other times, they require hard work and days, or even weeks, of brainstorming.


"Several of my books were first copyrighted with a different working title. A few of my re-issued, out of print books, changed titles in the process," she said. "Titles are so important. It's an art to be able to give a feel for an entire novel with just a word or two."


As a science fiction author, Vijaya believes in technology for the future, and she also believes in saving the trees. Most of her new books are only available in e-book format. A few are becoming available soon in print on demand.


"I am not against print. I am against the waste of paper practiced by most large publishers. They print enormous quantities then destroy the unsold books. Most often than not they destroy more books than they sell. It’s a shameful, wasteful practice. Print on demand (POD) prints the books one at a time as needed. This I can condone, because there is no waste."


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


"I’m a rebel. I jump out of perfectly good planes, I own a black belt in Aikido and practiced many martial arts, including the sword. The travel bug is in my blood. I used to speak five languages but now only speak fluently English and French... Oh, wait! You said ONE thing? Sorry."


The scariest moment of her life was when she dove out of a plane at 15,000 feet in Eloy, Arizona.


"I’m afraid of heights, but I love thrills," she confessed. "To give you an idea, when my feet finally touched the ground, I yelled 'I’m alive!' And I really meant it. I never felt so alive in my life."


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


"Nothing. I believe that things happen for a reason. Had I been published earlier I wouldn’t have had the solid base upon which to build a successful career. My first book published was the fourth I wrote. Then I rewrote the first three, and they, too, were eventually published."


About the Author:
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims she comes from the future. Her books collected many five star reviews and literary awards. She makes you believe you actually lived these extraordinary adventures among her characters. Her stories have been compared to Indiana Jones with sizzling romance. So, go ahead, dare to experience the magic, and she will keep you entranced, turning the pages until the last line.


Find the author online at:


Website: http://www.vijayaschartz.com

Blog: http://romancingscifi.blogspot.com/

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/author/vijayaschartz

Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vijaya-Schartz-Author/109777709045040
Twitter page: https://twitter.com/#!/Vijayaschartz


THE CHRONICLES OF KASSOUK


Set in a world where a human transport crashed centuries ago, the Chronicles of Kassouk relate the evolution of a human community kept at a level of medieval development to serve a technologically advanced race. Constantly battling to regain their rights, the human population struggles for freedom.


BLUE LIONESS - Book Four


Ariela suspects the king’s death is no accident. And the tyrant who usurped the throne looks guilty as hell. As leader of the Human rebellion against the Mutant rulers, Ariela is desperate for help, and Lord Starro, the handsome Crown Prince of the Star Children, offers the technology the Human faction lacks. But can Ariela trust a spoiled, arrogant foreign prince who never fought a battle, and thinks he is destined to rule the universe? Is she trading one tyrant for another? No matter how kind, handsome, or fascinating, Starro has frightening mental abilities. And this alliance is not safe, especially for Ariela’s heart.


NOAH'S ARK – Prequel


When Trixie's starfreighter, Noah's Ark, drops out of jump space in an uncharted part of the universe, she believes the M-class planet on her viewer represents hope and salvation for her motley crew and the ragtag settlers aboard her ship. Kostas, ex Space Marine, the expert survivalist recruited for this expedition, doesn't believe in coincidences, and knows that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Everyone, on this voyage to seed a new planet, is fleeing something, and harbors dangerous secrets... including Trixie, who vowed to never let a man control her life again. As for Kostas, he would get lynched on the spot if anyone suspected who he really is. But on this seemingly abandoned planet, others are watching, herding the newly arrived for evil purposes... and when the truth emerges and secrets unravel, Trixie and Kostas will have to fight for survival, for freedom, and for the right to love...

Monday, April 2, 2012

GUEST BLOG: PAMELA K. KINNEY

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Inspirations Can Come From Bottle Trees!

By
Pamela K. Kinney



Whenever I need inspiration for the next short story or even a novel, or need to research for a nonfiction ghost book, I surf the Net or read books from true supernatural tales to myths and legends books. But I wasn’t looking for this particular piece of information at the time when I ran across this article online. Bottle trees. Fascinating, I never knew about this. It inspired me to write the horror short story, “Bottled Spirits.”


A lot of places these days, gardeners get a fake tree or even use a real one, and hang blue bottles or all different colored bottles from the tree. The belief in and use of spirit bottles can be traced back to 9th and 10th century Congo, where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. The thought being an evil spirit would see the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles and growing enamored, enter the bottle. Like a fly, the spirit becomes trapped within the bottle; too dazzled by the play of light. The spirit prefers to remain in its colorful prison, rather than trouble the world of the living, trapped for all eternity. This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves of the 17th and 18th centuries. While Europeans adapted them into hollow glass spheres known as "witch balls" the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the Southern states of North America, where they continue to be used today as colorful garden ornaments. For a long times, the use of spirit bottles, even spells due to them, could be found among the African-American people. In the New World, the bottle-as-talisman took on different forms.


Like witch's bottles traced as far back to the 1600s, bottles began to be used in spellwork. Bottles of all colors, shapes and sizes were filled with herbs and other items of significance for the purpose of protection, repelling evil, or attracting luck. Eventually, the bottle spell became a fundamental element of Hoodoo magic.


Today, all sorts of people have these bottle trees in their yard. Usually in the United States, they could be seen in the country or along the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, though nowadays they are all over, not just these four states. And not just blue bottles, either!


Getting spirits into bottles and even jars actually exist in many places of the world. There are jars and bottles for housing the spirits of dead babies in Thailand and called Guman Thong. There’s the lamp holding the genie in Aladdin. The Djinn have also been captured in rings and bottles, too. There’s even “The Spirit in the Bottle,” a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.


If you like to make your own bottle tree as I plan to this spring, here are some directions I’ve found:


Find a strong tree or stump with branches, like crepe myrtles and cedars trees that are traditionally used, but pretty much any kind of tree will work. Trim all of the foliage off and cut the branches down until you have as many bare branches as you have bottles. Then slid your bottles onto the branches.


A variation is to take a fallen branch and prune it the same fashion, making a portable tree. Plant it outside of your home, near the entrance, in the garden, or where you want it in your yard and slip the bottles onto the branches. A third way is find a large branch or stump, tying two bottles at a time with shoelaces over the branches so they hang from the tree.


And here's a tip: If you put a little oil on the bottle necks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker. Give it a day, then return to your tree when there’s a wind blowing and if you listen closely, you might hear the moans of the trapped spirits in the bottles when the wind blows. Just pray they’re not calling out your name though. . .


I am offering a $10 gift certificate from Amazon to one lucky winner of all those who leave a comment. This can get you my fiction book, or even be used toward one of my nonfiction ghost books. Just be sure to leave an email so I can email the winner their prize.


Pamela K. Kinney


About the Author:
Pamela K. Kinney is a published author of horror, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and so far three nonfiction ghost books published by Schiffer Publishing, with a fourth, Haunted Richmond II released fall 2012. Two of her nonfiction ghost books have been nominated for Library of Virginia Literary Awards. She has a collection of short horror and dark fantasy tales, Spectre Nightmares and Visitations. Her short stories, poetry and article have appeared in anthologies, magazines and ezines. The latest out is "Donating" in Inhuman Magazine, Issue 5. Her newest short story, "Bottled Spirits" was accepted for BuzzyMag.com and her Lovecraftian tale, “Azathoth is Here" will be reprinted in Innsmouth Magazine: Collected Issues 1-4 in Kindle and ePub formats.


Under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, she has published erotic and sweet paranormal/fantasy/science fiction romance along with a couple of erotic horror stories. Her erotic urban fantasy, Being Familiar With a Witch is a Prism 2010 Awards winner and a Epic Awards 2010 finalist. The sequel to Being Familiar With a Witch, A Familiar Tangle With Hell was released June 2011 from Phaze Books and both eBooks will be combined into one print book, The Witch and the Familiar is to be release April 24, 2012.


She also has done acting on stage and in films. And is a Master Costumer, costuming since 1972. She has even done paranormal investigating.


She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house, husband, and even the cats, sometimes suffer for it!


Find the author online at:


http://FantasticDreams.50megs.com

http://PamelaKKinney.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/PamelaKKinney


Many things scare us. But the most fearful things are those that infect our nightmares and visitations. Monsters from the closet or from another planet. Ghosts that haunt more than houses. Werewolves are not the only shapeshifters to be aware of. Children can be taken by other than the human kind of monsters. Even normal things can be the start of heart-pounding terror. Prepare to step beyond the pages into Spectre Nightmares and Visitations.


Just tell yourself that they're only stories.