Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Questions with Writer Dan Kind (@DanHKind)




This Author Spotlight features Dan H. Kind, writer of fantasy and speculative fiction, and author of the hilarious and irreverent novel THE FOUNTAIN OF EDEN.


1) How did you get into writing?

I read a lot, I have an overactive imagination, and I'd always wanted to write fiction. But after school I set this ambition aside, except for jotting down the occasional line of bad (and I mean horrible) poetry. Three years later, summer 2001, I attended a Phish show, a habit I retain to this day. During an insanely long Slave to the Traffic Light jam, it was as if the music opened up some unused part of my brain. Right then an idea hit me for a novel. A year later that idea was still stuck in my head and I thought, “It's now or never,” and began writing. Since then I've been hooked. Creating universes is highly addictive.

2) What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Least: that I have so little time to do it. Most: world-building, and when that little plot problem that's been bugging you for days or weeks or months pops up in your mind, solved, like a revelation.

3) What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I'm not big on outlining, unless you count the thousands of random notes jotted down in my notebook. These snippets often help me iron out the plot, but I don't bother with full outlines. If I did, I'd probably change so much during the actual writing process that writing the outline would have been pointless.

4) Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

I love humorous fiction, especially with a fantastical twist. During my teenage years I read and reread Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide. I'm a huge fan of Christopher Moore, Tom Robbins, Jasper Fforde, A. Lee Martinez. I've recently been reading Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, and Charles Portis. Anything that makes me chuckle inspires me. Also Joseph Campbell, who may be the most intelligent human being who ever lived. And Bodhidharma.

5) Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

I believe, in that instance, inside. But I'm going with outside because it looks cleaner on the page. And if I say both “right” and “wrong” there's no way I can be “wrong,” “right?” (Or would that be “wrong”, “right”?) Damn trick questions always get me.

6) What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I'm all for it. Sometimes it helps bring clarity to a sentence. But I try to use it only when all else fails. Oftentimes it's better to break a long sentence down into two.

7) What is your book THE FOUNTAIN OF EDEN about and how did it come to fruition?

It all started with a question: “What would happen if a microbrewery brewed a beer with water drawn from the Fountain of Youth and everyday folks around town started attaining Eternal Life?” My original answer was: “Well, just like in mythology, the gods would be pissed and wipe out humanity.” From there, the story evolved. I really had fun with the mythological aspects of the book, borrowing characters, creatures, themes, and motifs from American Indian, Buddhist, Greek, Hindu, modern mythology, and more. I like to call the novel an irreverent comic fantasy because, well, that's what it is. If you like reading any of those zany guys I mentioned in answer #4, you'll probably enjoy Fountain.

8) What’s your current writing project?

I'm working on a series of stand-alone sci-fi and horror shorts. This is my first venture into these genres, and it's been fun. It's also the first time I've killed off characters. But, alive or dead, what's the difference? A character has the distinct chance to live on forever in the reader's mind, whether they survive or perish on the page. I'm also completely rewriting my first, unpublished novel, a fantasy with one foot in the realm of speculative fiction called Eye of the Dome (yes, the one that appeared in a thought-bubble above a Phish show). I plan to have these projects finished in the next few months. I'm also in the early, research stage for a new novel called Alignment. It's about an isolated desert tribe that believes the daily rituals they perform keep the sun coming up and the Earth in alignment with the stars. Now, just to hack out a solid plot . . .

9) What book(s) are you currently reading?

I'm currently delving into a book of essays by Roshi Robert Aitken called The Morning Star. Reading Buddhist literature calms my mind and helps me put things into perspective, and Buddhist philosophy is a big influence on my writing. You'll find themes of non-duality and interdependence running throughout Fountain. But don't flip out! That doesn't mean it's filled with a bunch of philosophical verbiage. Story is #1. Always. As for fiction, I've been reading the works of fellow independent authors such as yourself, Cara Michaels, Christopher Bunn, Ania Ahlborn, and Edward A. Grainger, to name but a few. There's some real quality stuff out there in the indie world, on par with and often better than traditionally published books.

10) Who or what inspires your writing?

Life, the universe, everything, and nothing. But mainly my family.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.


*As a 'hair-of-the-dog' special, Fountain will be available for free on Amazon Jan. 1st and 2nd. What better way to recover from New Year's Eve than by reading a novel about beer?

Thanks for having me, Ryan. And thank you, all, for taking the time to read. See ya on the flip-side!


Blog: http://danhkind.blogspot.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0068TG8IA/
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fountain-of-eden-dan-kind/1107312330
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/104603
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DanHKind
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5342535.Dan_H_Kind

Thanks, Dan!


If you're an author and would like to participate in an Author Spotlight, please contact me: AuthorRyanSchneider@gmail.com

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My review of Daniel H. Wilson's ROBOPOCALYPSE


Daniel H. Wilson
This is what a top-notch roboticist looks like.

ROBOPOCALYPSE has been on my to-read list for some time. When I stumbled across it at the library, I grabbed it. 


I'm glad I did. 

For starters, it's got one of the best covers I've seen lately. Very professional and high quality. 

Without giving anything away, the book is what you expect: the story of a robot uprising against humanity. In this it delivers. The story unfolds as a series of vignettes, almost like short stories, which are all connected. The chapters introduce the various characters and then weave through the story going back and forth and here and there, catching us up with what each character has been doing, how they've been struggling in the New War, as it is called. 

The writing is smooth and not overdone, so no need for a dictionary. The story reigns supreme and is not diminished by any fancy attempts at wordplay. There are a few downright awesome one-liners, too. But I'll leave those for you to discover for yourself. 

The robots are highly imagined, a clear bi-product of the author having earned his doctorate in robotics from Carnegie Melon University. Not bad. The various robots are positively diabolical. 

The book is also being made into a movie by Dreamworks & Fox, with Spielberg directing.



It's an epic story on an epic scale, perfect for film adaptation by the heavy hitters of Hollywood. Drew Goddard is adapting it, writing the screenplay. He wrote CLOVERFIELD



which I liked a lot, so hopefully the film will be a good combination of realism and intensity minus any schmaltzy rated-PG Spielbergness. Here's a link to read more about the film, and a link to the author's website: 





(Release date for the film is July 3, 2013.)

Other works by Dan H. Wilson include:




Follow Dan H. Wilson on Twitter: 
http://twitter.com/#!/danielwilsonpdx


Or shoot an email to him: contactdhw@gmail.com


Overall, I recommend ROBOPOCALYPSE. 

Now, for the more in-depth writerly analysis. 

*Caution: potential quasi-spoilers ahead.*

I had one primary gripe with this book. It was the same kind of gripe I had with THE HOST by Stephanie Meyer. (FYI, I really enjoyed the TWILIGHT saga, so I'm not out to skewer Stephanie Meyer.) The problem is one of authorial choice: the story began too late. In other words, it should've begun sooner. 

In THE HOST, the story begins with the main character Melanie already out of the way, so to speak. This meant I had no time to get to know her, yet I was supposed to care about her and her friends and family. I would have preferred a chapter or two showing Melanie in her day-to-day, so we could get to know her, come to care about her, and then be that much more concerned when things go south for her. 

In ROBOPOCALYPSE, the story begins more or less at the end and is told retrospectively through the eyes of Cormac, a young man who becomes the leader of the resistance. But the climax, or what SHOULD have been the climax, is revealed in the beginning of the story, as told by Cormac, utilizing this frame technique as a means by which Cormac can tell the overall story and provide commentary. But knowing the conclusion deflated the story. It took a fair amount of tension out of it. If I had not known, from the beginning, how the New War ends, I would have been more deeply engaged by the story. Wilson does a fine job of keeping the outcome in doubt; he does a fine job of making the robots into formidable adversaries, and of placing the characters in genuine peril. But each time I found myself wanting to read faster, I kept recalling the beginning of the book and thinking, "Oh, yeah, that's how it ends." 

As I said, I liked the book and recommend it. But I would have liked it more if the conclusion had been left for the end. The structure/frame would have to have been a bit different, but I think it could've been done. While I was reading I kept wondering how these various retrospective vignettes will be handled in the film adaptation. Because there really is an ensemble cast, all of whom are important and integral to the story and to the waging of the war against the machines. 

In conclusion, it's an excellent book, one I found myself eager to read each day.

Bravo, Dan!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 Questions with Romantic Comedy Novelist Elle Lothlorien (@ElleLothlorien)


This week's Author Spotlight features Romantic Comedy novelist Elle Lothlorien.



1.     How did you get into writing?

I had professors in college who urged me to become a writer, but the desire just wasn't there.  About ten years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a story idea.  I sat on the floor of my bedroom with my laptop and began my first book, a literary novel.  It turned out that writing an entire book was much harder than writing a college paper!  I finished about 25% of it before abandoning it.  My second attempt was a suspense novel. I finished about 50% of it before the same thing happened.  My third attempt, the thriller VIRGIN
was the first book I ever completed; however, it was my romantic comedy THE FROG PRINCE (fourth attempted novel and second completed for anyone keeping score) that was published first.



2.     What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Best: When the characters are transmitting and my receiver is tuned in to that frequency, and I can hear them loud and clear. When this happens I’m “in the zone,” and the story comes into my head faster than I can type the words on the keyboard. When I feel like I’m not so much actively writing a book as I am listening to my characters and transcribing their stories like a court reporter—that’s the best feeling in the world.

Least: The discipline required. It’s very much like going to the gym: you don’t want to go to the gym, you don’t want to work out, you swear you could go your whole life without doing another pushup or lunge. But then you get there, you start working out, and suddenly you’re thinking, “This is great! I can’t believe I didn’t want to do this today! I wish I could exercise all day! I can’t wait to get here tomorrow and work out again!” But the very next morning that feeling is gone, and you start all over again with making excuses about why you don’t want to/need to/have to go. Writing is no different.

3.     What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I used to outline, but gave up after VIRGIN when I realized that my characters just do whatever the hell they want to do. I’ll hand out a detailed itinerary that reads: “You will take the train to Cleveland where you will find a clue about your Great Aunt Minny.” My character will look it over and say, “Cleveland? I’m not taking any goddam train to Cleveland. I’m going to Hawaii. My Great Aunt Minny is a bitch, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to scuba dive.”

I long ago abandoned the idea of controlling the story. For me, it makes for a better story when I have only a vague, “big picture” idea of what’s going to happen in the novel, and I just let the characters fill in the details themselves. Of course, it’s a little nerve-wracking too, because if they suddenly stop “transmitting” the story, you’re left in a blind panic wondering if you’ll ever get another page written.

I do try to stick to a daily page count. My goal is three to five pages per day. That way at the end of a few months, I at least have a decent first draft I can start editing. I don’t write seven days a week, but I try to always shoot for at least five to six days, otherwise it’s too hard to “get back to the gym.” Plus, the longer you’re away from the story, the more you run the risk of losing that oh-so-important transmission from the characters. In between books I will usually take at least a month off to rest my brain and to allow for the next book idea to germinate.

4.     Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

As my last name would suggest, I have always loved J.R.R. Tolkien, most especially THE LORD OF THE RINGS. You can’t help but admire anyone who takes twelve years to write a book (well, yes, it is a trilogy, but still)! And Tolkien didn’t just write a story, he invented whole mythologies—cultures, places, and languages that are as real as the Vikings, the Forbidden City, and Latin. Let me just tell you who wouldn’t have the patience to spend twelve years on one project: me. If it takes longer than six months to finish a book, I’m ready to throw myself off a cliff.

When I’m working on a novel, I try not to read a lot of fiction, because I find it’s very easy to adopt the voice of another writer. I’ve always been a huge Jane Austen fan, and have a dog-eared compilation of all her novels next to my bed. That’s my go-to collection when I’m writing a book. Because let’s face it: if you accidentally pick up Austen’s voice and import it into your novel, your characters are going to go around saying things like: “Mr. Biggles, you must needs sit and make yourself comfortable. Did you see that Ms. Courtney came to the ball in a hack chaise? I could hardly keep my countenance!”

5.     Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Seriously? It’s nine o’clock in the morning. I’ve tried it both ways:

1)    …they are commercially “successful?”
2)    …they are commercially “successful”?

They both look swell. In the real world, though, I would just let my beta-readers and copy editors cage fight each other until there was just one person left standing. Then I’d use whatever that person thought was correct. It’s a little like the Grammatical Fight Club, but it works.

6.     What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

“Oxford Comma” is a catchy song with a great beat you can dance to. Plus, I’ve always loved the band Vampire Weekend.

If you’re referring to the punctuational (I think I just made up a word there) debate of whether or not coordinating conjunctions should be preceded by a comma, I would refer you to the opening lines of the Vampire Weekend song: “Who gives a f**k about an Oxford comma?”

However, a quick look at the list I made in question number four—“… that are as real as the Vikings, the Forbidden City, and Latin”—would seem to indicate that I prefer the Oxford comma.

But seriously, that is a really good song.

7.     What led you to pursue indie publishing as opposed to going the traditional publishing route?

After I completed my thriller VIRGIN, I queried and quickly found an agent. My agent found an interested publisher almost immediately.  Unfortunately, in the end the editor from that house left to start a literary agency before a deal was finalized.  Despite several rounds of submissions, VIRGIN was never picked up by another publisher.  To say that this was a huge disappointment is an understatement.  I finally withdrew my manuscript from consideration and parted ways with my agent. It was such a disappointing experience that I didn’t write another book for two years!

In June of 2010, after months of querying, I had two offers of agent representation in-hand for my romantic comedy, THE FROG PRINCE. One was from my “dream agent” who represented several New York Times bestsellers. Although the second offer was from an agent from a newer, smaller agency, I found her enthusiasm attractive. In the end, and for various reasons which aren’t worth going into here, I chose to pass on both offers.

Which, of course, left me right back where I was before I’d ever queried anyone: unpublished and depressed as hell about it. My friend and thriller author, Boyd Morrison,
was the first author to leverage his indie-publishing success into a four-book, traditional publishing deal. I’m also friends with his wife Randi. She’d read FROG PRINCE and really liked it, sure that it would be my “breakout novel.”



After my agent search hit a dead-end, Boyd called me and suggested that I upload THE FROG PRINCE to Amazon for the Kindle. Honestly, I didn’t do it right away, because it seemed like the learning curve was incredibly steep (and it was). When I did finally take the plunge, I mostly did it so he’d stop harassing me about it. Four months later it became an Amazon best-seller. I keep promising to buy him a drink someday to thank him, but I don’t really mean it.

8.     Given what you now know and have learned, what advice or words of wisdom would you like to impart to a writer struggling to choose between going indie or traditional?

Don’t choose—pursue both. Keep all your irons in the fire. If you’re querying for traditional publication, think about e-pubbing a novel or short story to gauge reader interest. If you’re antsy about how legacy publishing will view your e-pubbing, then use a pen name. If the book is a success, you may be able to use it to leverage a better traditional publishing deal. And if it bombs? Well, no one’s the wiser (except you, but at least you can lick your wounds in private).

In my opinion, it’s foolish to only pursue traditional publishing. You will wait, wait, wait, and wait some more to find an agent. Then you’ll wait, wait, wait, and wait some more to find a publisher. Then you’ll wait, wait, wait, and wait some more for your book to come out. This whole process can take anywhere from two years (which would be lightning fast in the legacy publishing world) to, well, never. Why wait? You could be published in 48 hours on Amazon, and launch a writing career now.

However—and this is important—if you do go indie, be sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Because all that stuff a publisher normally does for you—designing a book cover, marketing, formatting a manuscript for e-publication across several platforms—is now your job. Graphic designing not a part of your skill set? Too bad. Those who can’t do either hire or learn on the fly.

So if you e-pub, do it right. No shoddy book covers, no manuscript riddled with typos, bad grammar, or, god forbid, Oxford commas (unless you, like 99.99% of the world’s population, are not a print newspaper journalist—then those Oxfords are A-okay).

9.     What book(s) are you currently reading?

My friend Owen Laukkanen sent me an ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of his highly anticipated thriller THE PROFESSIONALS, which comes out in March. Lucky me! I just started it and I can tell you one thing: it’s torture to have to put it down.

Owen Laukkanen's debut thriller, THE PROFESSIONALS, will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 29, 2012. Hardcover pre-order available now.


I’m also doing research for my next romantic comedy RAPUNZEL, so I’m reading other nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, high-octane books such as THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN REGENCY ENGLAND and  WIG MAKING AND STYLING: A COMPLETE GUIDE FOR THEATRE & FILM.

10.   Who or what inspires your writing?

Anyone who is a writer knows how hard it is. As I said during a recent local TV news interview (begins at 4:33): “Writing novels is not for sissies.”

It’s worth saying again (no, not the ill-advised sissy comment): Writing is hard. Finishing a book is hard. You can be emotionally ground down by the experience. Sometimes you’ll be in the pit of despair, wondering if you’ll ever finish your book. Sometimes you won’t shower or sleep for days (let’s hope this takes place on the weekend if you have a day job). So you’re going to need some kind of inspiration to keep going and not give up. Find that something or someone, because that’s what will keep you going in the days, weeks, and years to come!

For me that “something” is reading. There are times (usually when I’m about half-way through writing a novel) when I think, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.” All it takes is reading one fantastic novel before I wonder how I ever let a crazy thought like that enter my head.

And back to the keyboard I go…

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your books, etc.

My romantic comedy THE FROG PRINCE is about a Denver sex researcher who meets the man who would have been the king of Austria—if the monarchy there hadn’t been abolished in 1918. It’s available on Amazon as an e-book and in paperback.

My romantic comedy SLEEPING BEAUTY tells the story of a woman with Sleeping Beauty Syndrome—a condition that causes a person to sleep or black out for weeks at a time—who “awakens” to discover that she’s been involved in a whirlwind love affair for over a month.
It’s available on Amazon as an e-book, and will be out in paperback after the first of the year.

My novel VIRGIN is a thriller about a religious cult expert and a DNA technician who undercover evidence of virgin births that go back to the time of the Virgin Mary. It’s available as an e-book on Amazon, and will be out in paperback sometime in February.

My next book is another romantic comedy, RAPUNZEL. I anticipate releasing it as an e-book in March or April.

For authors interested in the “nuts and bolts” of e-publication, I will be doing a four-hour workshop for the Douglas County Libraries Writing School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado on Sunday, February 12th, 2012 from 1:00PM to 5:00PM at the Highlands Ranch Library. The cost is $60. For those of you who aren’t local to the Denver metro area, it will be available as a webinar at the time of the presentation, and afterwards as a webcast through my website at www.ellelothlorien.com.

For authors planning to attend Left Coast Crime in Sacramento, CA in March 29-April 1, I will be doing a presentation on e-publishing there as well. Other speaking engagements and presentations will be added to the Events tab of my website as they are confirmed.


Be sure to visit Elle's website and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/ElleLothlorien


Thanks, Elle!


If you're a novelist/author and would like to be featured in a future Author Spotlight, please contact me: AuthorRyanSchneider@gmail.com.

Friday, December 9, 2011

10 Questions with Writer Patricia Russo

Shiny Thing by Patricia Russo





This Author Spotlight
features

Patricia Russo

author of

SHINY THING




1. How did you get into writing?


Through reading.  I was a constant reader.  Since I have very poor eyesight, I also tended to skip the pictures in the books.  I focused on the text.  The words were what was real.  Words made worlds.  I was quite young when I decided I wanted to do that, too.


2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?


The best part is the initial flash, brain-spark, heart-lift, of an idea or theme or image, or, best case scenario, when several elements come together and form a complete, or almost complete, story, in my head.  Second best part is the actual writing of it.  Worst part is thinking what I’ve written sucks.  And I always think that what I’ve written sucks.  Sometimes it sucks eggs, and sometimes it sucks big hairy donkey dick, but it always sucks.


3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?


I try to write at least one new short story draft per month.  I do not outline.   I scribble shit in notebooks and on legal pads. An ‘outline’ would have the names of the characters (always a problem) and two or three elements that must be included.  And a lot of arrows curving around and pointing here and there.  And sometimes stray telephone numbers.


4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”


Can’t answer.  Would leave too many people out.


5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?


OUTSIDE.


6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?


I am a strong proponent of the serial comma, though I know that this is a losing battle.


7. How many stories are in your amazing new collection (which is in stores now) SHINY THING?


19


8. Would it be too goading of me to ask, when are you going to finally write a novel?


I have tried.  They suck.  They suck like black holes. 


9. What book(s) are you currently reading?


Running Through Corridors, volume 1, by Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke.


10. Who or what inspires your writing?


The desperate need not to be bored.


Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

I am a misanthrope who hates not only everybody, but everything.   Google my name plus fiction to find some stuff online; go to shiny-thing.com to find out about the collection.

Or, if you want to buy Patricia's book now, like, RIGHT NOW, and I know you DO, here's the link to Amazon: 

Thanks, Patricia!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Your Novel is a Tall, 6-Pump Vanilla, Breve Latte Grande, Extra Hot, Heavy Whipping Cream, Extra Dry Cappuccino (Or It Should Be) by Elle Lothlorien

The Resident Self-Publishing Guru of the Blogosphere, aka Joe Konrath, had a great guest blog by novelist Elle Lothlorien.










I'm mentioning it and linking to it because the self-publishing business is still The Wild, Wild West of the publishing world.


In short, no one truly knows for certain what works, how to garner sales, how to get into the Kindle 1 Million Club, nor how exactly (or when, exactly) one can quit the dreaded day-job and be a full-time Writer.


Nevertheless, Elle Lothlorien has written an insightful article. The comments on her article (90 as of this writing) are equally as fascinating and illuminating.


Here's the link:
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011_12_06_archive.html


And take a moment to explore Elle's novels as well.
Visit her website at http://www.ellelothlorien.com/Home.html