Friday, March 30, 2012

10 Questions with The New York Times best-selling author Philip Athans (@PhilAthans)

This Author Spotlight features Phil Athans.

Philip Athans is the founding partner of Athans & Associates Creative Consulting, and the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other fantasy and horror books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction and the recently-released The Haunting of Dragon’s Cliff and Tales From The Fathomless Abyss.

Born in Rochester, New York he grew up in suburban Chicago, where he published the literary magazine Alternative Fiction & Poetry. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans. He makes his home in the foothills of the Washington Cascades, east of Seattle.

1. How did you get into writing?
I don’t really even remember a time when I wasn’t writing. As soon as I learned to read and write, I started making little illustrated “books” out of folded pieces of paper. Only a very few have survived, and I shared one, called (incomprehensibly) Dizes Dager, on my blog. It just always seemed that that’s what I would eventually do. I took a very short and not at all too distant detour starting in junior high when, thanks mainly to Star Wars, I became fascinated with the process of filmmaking, but even in film school my concentration was on writing.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
Like most authors I know I have a true love/hate relationship with writing. There are moments when I write a sentence that seems to just appear out of the ether, and sit back and read it again and decide that I am the greatest genius ever to walk the Earth, that this is a sentence that will live on for all eternity as a monument to my greatness. Then the next sentence sends me into a desperate depression in which I’m utterly convinced that there’s no reason for me to continue to live, let alone write because I suck so much I’m actually endangering the future of human culture.

Writing is hard, and doing it for a living is damn near impossible.

But in the end, I love telling stories, creating characters and worlds. Most of my life I did it for fun, and for free. The trick is to find ways to keep the demands of having to make money from making it any less fun.

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?
My process is a bit chaotic and though right now I’m experiencing a pretty bad fallow period—finding it hard to get and stay motivated to write—it’s still something I advise other authors to explore. I’ve never been one of those writers who sit down at my special writing nook and write my 1000 words before breakfast. I write when, where, and how I can, as inspiration and circumstances dictate. Sometimes I’m enormously prolific, sometimes not at all. Sometimes I have a deadline and find ways to conjure inspiration to combat the ticking clock, but yeah . . . see my answer to the previous question.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
I have a good list of mentors-by-proxy, beginning with Harlan Ellison. It was his story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” which I ran across in an anthology as a young teenager, that made a kid drawn to storytelling and science fiction into someone who was absolutely committed to figuring out how to do that. Mr. Ellison set the bar very, very high for us all, and I’m maybe 1% of the way there.

I tend to go through periods where I really focus on a particular author who I idolize, reading as much of his or her work as I can get my mitts on. I someday hope to be some fraction of the writer that Iain Banks, Octavia Butler, J.G. Ballard, Haruki Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Edgar Rice Burroughs, and William Gibson are (or were).

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
In that case, you got it wrong. It should be outside the quotes.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
There’s that famous dedication—I wish I knew the original source: “I’d like to thank my parents, God and L. Ron Hubbard,” which I think adequately demonstrates the importance of the serial comma. It’s an absolute necessity.

7. What is your book The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction about and how did it come to fruition?
The idea came to me from Peter Archer, who used to be my boss at TSR and Wizards of the Coast, and is now an editor at Adams Media. I was reluctant at first—did the world really need another book on how to write fantasy and science fiction? But he talked me into it, and after a couple decades as both a writer and editor of fantasy and SF I felt I had something constructive to add. I enlisted the help of some friends and colleagues like Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore, and Lou Anders, who lent their experience and wisdom to the book, too. It was quite a process, and I’m delighted with the result, though of course it could have been ten times as long! But then that’s where my blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, comes in, which I update every Tuesday.

8. What’s your current writing project?
Right now I’m working on Devils of the Endless Deep, the first full-length book in the Fathomless Abyss series. This is a new idea, a shared world collective I set up with fellow fantasists Jay Lake, Mike Resnick & Brad Torgersen, J.M. McDermott, Cat Rambo, and Mel Odom. We started with the anthology Tales From The Fathomless Abyss, which is available now both in Kindle and Nook formats, and features a story by each of us. Then we’ll each provide a full-length book as the next year or so progresses. You can read a sample of my work in progress on my blog.

The Fathomless Abyss is just what it sounds like: a bottomless pit that appears at random times and random places all over the universe, and once people, aliens, monsters, etc. fall in and the Crown closes, they’re trapped and forced to make a new life for themselves in this radical new environment. We’re having an awful lot of fun exploring it.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
I tend to read five books at a time—alternating as the mood strikes. I read one “primary” book, which can be anything. I read a lot of fantasy and SF, of course, but also plenty of non-fiction, mysteries, literary novels, and so on. My current primary book is Columbine by David Cullen.

I’m also working my way through one SF series (Isaac Asimov’s Robot City: Robots and Aliens) and one fantasy series (Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Chronicles) in alternating fashion. I try to read some kind of professional/personal development book, too, which right now is Reality Hunger by David Shields. Then the fifth book is either an anthology (currently The Big Book of Adventure Stories) or a graphic novel/comic collection.

If you’re really interested, join me on GoodReads!

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
It feels like a cop-out answer to say “everything,” but that’s actually true. I think authors are always soaking up inspiration from everything they experience around them. I’ve overheard people talking on the street and lifted it almost word for word for a story or book. Even bad reality TV can give you a sense of how people talk. The news is a constant source of inspiration, though generally negative. I draw inspiration from the work of other authors, from movies and TV . . . everything.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
I would like to send out a call to action to support National Buy a Book Day. This was a spur-of-the-moment thing that came to me a couple years ago, ended up as one of my monthly columns at Grasping for the Wind, and started to gain some traction in the social media universe. Last year I established the National Buy a Book Day Foundation to support and publicize National Buy a Book Day, which is September 7th of every year. The foundation now has a board of directors, and I’m starting to work on a web site, getting our non-profit status established, and do all the complex paperwork necessary to make something like this happen.

What is National Buy a Book Day? On September 7th, go to a bookstore (in reality or online) and buy a book (in paper, or e-book form). That’s it.

If you want to find my books, I have a little Amazon page here, and plenty more links on my blog.

Thank you, Phil. You have a storied background and an impressive resume. Let us know when Devils of the Endless Deep is available.

Be sure to visit Phil's blog and purchase a copy of his book. And follow him on Twitter to stay up to date with his latest works.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

10 Questions with Chick-Lit Writer E.M. Tippetts (@EMTippetts)

This Author Spotlight features chick-lit writer Emily Tippetts.

Emily writes under the name of E.M. Tippetts and is the author of SOMEONE ELSE'S FAIRY TALE and PAINT ME TRUE (see above). Emily also writes science fiction under the name Emily Mah (see below). Emily resides in London.

1. How did you get into writing?
I was one of those kids who always wrote, from the age that I could hold a crayon. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I learned where books come from, but actually getting published has been a long road. My strategy was to get trained in a fallback career and then focus on writing, so I did a bachelors and then a law degree. In my last year of law school I applied to the Clarion West Writers Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and amazingly enough, got in. If I were advising someone who wanted to be a writer, I’d suggest taking classes earlier than I did, training will make all the difference. I have no regrets, but after Clarion West, it took me five years to sell my first short story and about six to sell my first chick lit novel. I’m not sure how much longer I’d have waited to publish my second or third novel if the indie publishing movement hadn’t gotten off the ground. I started writing chick lit just as that whole genre was melting down spectacularly.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I’m one of those people who has to write. Some romanticize this condition and say it makes you a true artist, that fact that you have to do your art. I don’t agree with this characterization; it’s really some form of obsessive disorder, I’m sure. Not that I’m complaining. I love the feeling of fulfillment I get from writing, and I was lucky enough to be able to get good enough at it to be published. I think if I had no prayer of ever seeing print, my life would be very difficult. I’d be dominated by this obsession that would just eat up hours of my time.

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 write or do something writing related 6 days a week. I only take Sundays off. When I’m working on a novel, I try to get 2,000 words down a day, but it’s important to give yourself a break now and then. If I only have time to edit, I call that good. Also if I spend a whole evening formatting and uploading an ebook, that counts too even though it’s not producing new material.

To write any piece, I start by freewriting, just doing scenes or snippets of dialogue until a larger plot starts to form. Then I outline in my head - I used to do it on paper but I’ve done it enough times now that I don’t need to write it down. I then start my regimen of 2,000 words a day (though towards the end of the process I’m often writing quite a bit more than that.) Even when I’m to this stage, though, I am revising that outline as I learn about my characters and come up with different ideas to get to the ending I want. I delete a lot of material. To give you some idea, the novel I’ve been working on for the last six weeks, I’ve written at least 40,000 words that I’ve cut and discarded. The piece is only about 10,000 words right now, but I’ll keep a larger percentage of those 10,000 words thanks to all the cutting I’ve done.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
This would be a long list if I named everyone, so I’ll just pick a few off the top of my head. Octavia Butler was very inspiring. I met her after she’d won the McArthur Award and was recognized as one of the greats, but I learned from her that she was dyslexic and had a speech impediment. She’d spent her childhood thinking that she wasn’t a very smart person, but she wanted so badly to be a writer that she worked and worked at it until it happened for her. I’m still not entirely over the fact that she passed away so young.

By the same token, I have a lot of respect for Connie Willis, who also worked very hard to break into the field. I’ve often heard her tell the story of when all eight short stories she had out to magazines got rejected on the same day, and how she considered quitting at that point. This May, I’m going to see her made a SFWA Grand Master. In case you can’t tell, I admire people who don’t give up easily, because if I am to have a writing career, that’ll be my story too.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
I’d put it outside the quotes, but I know other people feel differently. As my linguistic anthropologist friend always tells me, languages shift. To me, though, I only put punctuation inside the quotes if it applies exclusively to the text inside the quotes.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I am for it, of course. I went to Oxford! And it’s how I was taught in first grade, so that is what feels right to me, even if my linguistic anthropologist friend (who is also one of my proofreaders and has a degree in English) is against it.

7. What is your book, Someone Else’s Fairytale, about and how did it come to fruition?
Simply put, it’s an ironic take on fairytales (and yes, I choose to make that one word though I know it’s more commonly two). My main character catches the eye of a Hollywood megastar, but she’s not really into the whole being swept off her feet by Prince Charming thing. My challenge to myself as I wrote it was to make it a fairytale while in no way diminishing my heroine. She’s not a damsel in distress. She’s slain her own dragons. The question then becomes, can any man rescue her in a way she could never rescue herself? (And yes, I realize that there I put a question mark on the end of a sentence that isn’t a direct question, so obviously I break grammar rules now and then.)

8. What’s your current writing project?
I’m writing a young-adult romance set in a fictional town on the coast of northern California. My main character is sixteen and being raised by her single, working mother, and the plot gets going when an LDS missionary comes to town and starts acting very, very strangely. Most of my chick lit has LDS characters in it. I began my romance writing career with Covenant Communications. Fairytale was a rare departure.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, by Kindal Debenham. Fantastic steampunk!

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
I guess the question there would be, what doesn’t? I’ve been working on a writing career proper for over a decade now, so in order to get ideas, I’ve practiced finding new ones every day. A part of me is always analyzing and mining my experiences for material.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
Thanks so much for having me on your site! My latest two novels, Paint Me True and Someone Else’s Fairytale are available as ebooks on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Fairytale is also available in paper format, from Amazon, and soon Paint Me True will be as well. I just got the gorgeous cover design proof from Tiger Bright Studios, a company I can’t recommend highly enough. These novels are written under the name E.M. Tippetts, and you can get updates on them at

I write my science fiction and fantasy under the name Emily Mah - both of my pen names are variations on my real name, Emily Mah Tippetts - and I’m in the process of uploading my previously published short stories onto Amazon. You can get updates regarding this at

Thanks for the great questions! I’m sometimes slow at replying to comments made on blog postings, but I do endeavor to visit often so I can answer any other questions people have.

You're welcome, Emily. Thank you for sharing your work. It's always impressive to meet writers who work is more than one genre. Let us know when your current YA romance novel is available.

Visit Emily's websites and purchase a copy of her book, and be sure to follow her on Twitter:!/EMTippetts

Friday, March 23, 2012

10 Questions with Fantasy Author/Illustrator L.J. Carter (@LJCarterAuthor)

Illustration by L.J. Carter

This Author Spotlight features L.J. Carter, fantasy writer and illustrator and author of the young adult fantasy novel KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN: THE BOOK OF REN (see above). 

Watch the book trailer for KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN:

Author photograph courtesy of Paul Ockleshaw 

L.J. Carter was born in a small town in the southern US state of North Carolina. At the age of twelve, she moved with her family to England where her fascination with all things magical flourished. Graduating with a BA Honours from Kingston University, she began her career as a designer and illustrator before launching into her lifelong love of writing. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and Egypt in a quest for her love of ancient history and her passion for ancient mythology. When she is not illustrating or writing, her head is buried in archaeology books and ancient text. She currently resides in Hong Kong with her husband.

1. How did you get into writing?
I don’t remember ever learning to read; books were always such a major part of my life. I would get lost in books for hours as a child, imagining the story and even re-reading sections I thought were beautifully written. I guess writing seemed a natural transition from imagining another person’s story to creating my own.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I love entering that other realm where the impossible is possible and that incredible feeling when you ‘wake up’ to the real world after hours and pages of a story you’ve created from nothing. But this is also the difficult part about writing. It requires a lot of solitude, a great deal of research, focus and time; not something many people understand.

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?
As I am also an illustrator, an organised process can be a challenge for me! It makes it much harder to maintain a routine. I find the best method for me is to rotate between the two for chunks of time. So, a few months of regular writing, followed by a few months of regular illustrating. That way I can get the work done cohesively but also step away for a time to re-evaluate a work to pick up on mistakes or changes that need to be made. Of course, this is the ideal. There are also articles I need to write during my illustration time or illustration/graphic design commissions requested during my writing time, which often throws a spanner in the works! Time is a constant battle!

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
One of my all time favourite books is, ‘A Little Princess,’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love how Sara uses her imagination to survive frightening and tragic circumstances.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
A tricky one! This is a typical example of the US vs UK grammar war. If the quote indicates a title or a term, as opposed to quoting speech, the quotation marks should stay inside the question mark…according to the UK…

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I was born in the US but moved to England when I was twelve so I find these little grammatical differences entertaining! (Other favourites are, single versus double quotation marks and semi-colon usage.) I think there are some people who get too hung up on the technicalities and, as a result, miss out on the rhythm and message in a piece of writing. There is also a battle between British English and American English for who’s right and who’s wrong. These days, globalisation is forcing people to rethink old, standard practices and narrow thinking. At some point, the grammatical powers that be, may need to create a new English International Version. Until then, I tend not to use the Oxford Comma, unless a pause is needed to add emphasis or impact to the latter half of the sentence, but that’s just me!

7. What is your book, Kingdom of Lost Children, about and how did it come to fruition?
Kingdom of Lost Children: The Book of Ren is a Young Adult fantasy story that revolves around fifteen-year-old, Leyla, whose mother mysteriously disappeared when she was only six. Leyla is forced to live with a small group of other orphaned children under the guardianship of the highly respected town mayor who is secretly forcing the children to work for his own profit. At great risk to her safety, Leyla returns to her old childhood home in search for answers about her missing mother. It is then she discovers an ancient script which opens the door to a dangerous other world, connected with her own. Dark and evil forces on both worlds are plotting the unimaginable in a conspiracy to rule and Leyla and the other children are in grave danger. Leyla must find the Book of Ren, a book of ancient and powerful magic, to not only save her own life, but also the lives of those she loves before they are lost forever.

Kingdom of Lost Children was a story I just couldn’t get out of my head. I was working as a designer in New York and didn’t have a lot of spare time but the story kept nagging at me until I began writing passages down in journals and on scrap pieces of paper. My day job was so all encompassing I would often have to put my writing aside for periods of time, coming back to it sporadically.

A tremendous amount of research into ancient civilisations and religions was also a vital part of this story. I would steal away moments, to and from work or long into the night, to research ancient Egyptian, Sumerian and Hebrew myths, writings and beliefs. As I began to construct these worlds in my mind, it seemed natural to illustrate them. So, all of these things combined, it was ten years before my first draft was complete. 

Although I love a little magic, the driver behind this story was not so much the fantasy but the battles many of us face to survive. That little word, hope, that can make or break us, and finding the courage to use the greatest power we have against evil and oppression; our voice.

8. What’s your current writing project?
Kingdom of Lost Children tells of five magical books, all based around the ancient Egyptian belief of the five parts of a person. The first book, the Book of Ren, had the power of the Name. In ancient times, it was believed that as long as the name survived (even past physical death) it could be used to acquire the knowledge and magical powers of the person or persons who owned the name. This is why a name in ancient Egyptian text was surrounded by a protective ‘magic circle’ or cartouche of protection.

The four remaining books are: Ba, the soul; Ka, the life force; Ib, the heart and Sheut, the shadow. I am currently working on, Kingdom of Lost Children: The Book of Shadows, which will be the second book in the series.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
I recently finished reading, The Grey Man. The true story of a former special forces commando who began a personal mission to rescue children from traffickers. He now runs The Grey Man Organisation to continue this work and has recently set up a centre with COSA to rehabilitate and educate children rescued from these situations. A percentage of Kingdom of Lost Children book and artwork sales are donated to this organisation. You can find out more about them by going to:

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
There are many things that inspire my writing, but I guess if I had to narrow them down, I would say, firstly, I have always been fascinated by the beauty of ancient myths and ancient beliefs. Ancient civilisations used and believed all gifts to be equal. It wasn’t simply money or money-making industries that were valued. Artists and sculptors were used in conjunction with architects and engineers. Equal emphasis was placed on science and mathematics as in the belief in ‘magic’ and the afterlife. Nature was valued and respected. Books and knowledge were treasured and revered. Of course, many people suffered in ancient times, as they do today; but I think there is a lot we can learn from the way they lived.

Aside from this, I would say my greatest inspirations are two powerful emotions: anger toward injustice and compassion for those who fall prey to it. Some people may say that anger is a negative emotion but I think it’s an emotion that can kick us out of complacency enough to do something. Others may say compassion is for the weak; I would hardly call people like John Curtis (founder of The Grey Man organisation), Somaly Mam (a trafficking survivor and founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation) Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Jesus Christ weak, because they dedicated their lives toward helping people and fighting injustice instead of backstabbing and stepping on people to make their millions on the stock market. It takes a great deal of courage and determination to stand, often alone, for what you believe is right.

I think the driver for me is best summed up in the words of King Adon, Kingdom of Lost Children:

‘Children have the right to grow and live without fear and oppression; to become what they are meant to become; to fulfil what they are meant to fulfil. You have the chance to dispel the myth that there is no hope and the opportunity to see the light in their eyes when they can see a future before them. There is no heaven greater or more beautiful than this.’ 

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

Thank you, Ryan. It has been a pleasure to be interviewed by a talented fellow author!

Kingdom of Lost Children will be available in print 2012. For more information on the book and to read the digital format, direct links can be found on:

Thank you, Lydia. Your illustrations are superb and the book looks incredible. Let us know when THE BOOK OF SHADOWS is available.

Visit Lydia's amazing website to view additional illustrations of her original work in her Gallery and to purchase KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN in all ebook formats.

Monday, March 19, 2012

10 Questions with Writer Dr. Harrison Solow (@HarrisonSolow)

This Author Spotlight
features Los Angeles-based writer 

Dr. Harrison Solow

winner of the Puschart Prize
author of

Felicity & Barbara Pym
A Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley and Special Projects Editor for the University of California Press in the 1990s, and an English professor & Writer in Residence at the University of Wales in the 2000s, Harrison is a Pushcart Prize winning writer (non-fiction, fiction and poetry) and editor with expertise in literary and academic publishing, and writing for the arts, humanities, the corporate world and the entertainment industry in Hollywood. Harrison is published by major publishing houses, university presses, national and international magazines and journals. Between 2006 and 2011 she was honoured with eight writing awards. She is the author of Felicity & Barbara Pym (see above), two previous books, a number of short stories and essays and several forthcoming books.

1. How did you get into writing?

By reading. My mother read to me all the time – and taught me to read when I was about 3. By the time I was seven, I had already read hundreds of books. I read a hundred books between June and September just before third grade as part of a library contest for children. You had to take a brief quiz administered by the librarian on each book to prove that you had read it. I still have the certificate. Of course these were simple children’s books, but I mention this to indicate the intense relationship with literature and the word that began at a very early age. 

I never planned to be a writer – I was more interested in illustrating books than writing them when I was a child and much more interested in teaching than either. Writing just naturally evolved from my life with books and from the writing (essays and stories) assigned in school and university, and in the convent.

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

What I like best and least about writing depends on the kind of writing I am undertaking. In addition to my own books, I write for a number of clients - movie studios, non-profit agencies, corporations, government institutions, lawyers, celebrities, rabbis, publishers, cultural organizations, etc.

When I am writing for others, what I like best is the bridging of worlds. I am usually contracted to make obscure texts, agendae or missions clear to an audience that would not otherwise easily understand them. One example is developmental writing for a scholarly publisher whose authors are eminent scholars but who really cannot write very well, particularly for a general audience. Sometimes I do the research, sometimes they supply the research that I write up for whatever publication is needed. Sometimes they provide an original manuscript and I rewrite it for clarity and interest.  

I’ve rewritten books on art, on physics, on education, on the entertainment industry, on science fiction – and much more. I was once contracted to re-write Genesis in a particular edition of the Bible that was written by erudite theologians who spoke five languages, but did not write well in English. 

To be able to bridge the world of the scholar/researcher (or even another writer whose subject or material is obscure) and the world of the intelligent reader who wants to enter that world is a great satisfaction. 

There isn’t really anything I don’t like about that. It is fascinating work – it requires and fulfills the particular set of skills I seem to have, it contributes to the disbursement of knowledge and it pays very well.

Regarding my own original work, what I like best is connecting my disparate experience and knowledge into a cohesive narrative – joining ideas that may not have been joined before (to my knowledge) and comparing the essence of one experience I’ve had or one world of which I’ve been a part, with another. And above all, joining fiction with non-fiction. For example, in my last published book, Felicity & Barbara Pym, I wove my experience in Hollywood, the convent and academia into a story that celebrates (and investigates the purpose of) literature. It is both fiction and nonfiction. I love doing that. 

What I like least about writing books and stories in the initial stage is the distraction that inevitably necessitates a battle with other (and at times equal) claims on my time, something that does not seem to happen in my professional writing.

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?

Again, the process differs with purpose. In my professional writing, I work to a schedule and budget I devise for each project based on the deadlines I’ve been given, and generally keep a traditional working day – starting between 6 and 7 am and wrapping up around 3 or 4. Sometimes, I return to that work in the evening, but usually not. 

Writing stories and books is different. I write whenever I get up until I lose interest or energy – which at first can be as little as 15 minutes to an hour. Once I enter the world I am creating, however, a journey which can take days, weeks or months, I write intensively, continually, obsessively at times, and find it difficult to break for any purpose. 

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

There are so many writers I admire for different reasons - ideas, intelligence, storytelling abilities, philosophies, clarity, mysticism, knowledge, imagination, verbal acuity, humour, finesse, poetics, etc – in varied combinations – I don’t know where to begin, but a short list is below. Some are or were friends. Some, most, are strangers except through their words. Although it really isn’t possible to entirely separate each of these myriad qualities of writing from the others, among those I read and admire for different combinations of these qualities (in no particular order) are Anita Brookner, Coleridge, AS Byatt,  Isaac Asimov, Mortimer Adler, Thomas Aquinas, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Herman Wouk, Antonia White, Tobias Wolff, Somerset Maugham, Paul Davies, Alan Lightman, Virginia Woolf, Adam Gopnik, Margaret Drabble, Willa Cather, Loula Grace Erdman, Elizabeth Eslami, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Aristotle, Chaim Potok, John Donne, Fay Weldon, Dorian Llywelyn, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thaisa Frank, William F. Buckley, Jan Morris, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Iris Murdoch, Kierkegaard, Jane Austen, Hazel Holt,  EM Forster, Rachel Billington, Elizabeth Ehrlich, all three Brontes and I’m going to stop here, because there are just too many to list.

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


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

I’m not sure I have anything so definitive as a stance, but I use it. I find it sensible and helpful in maintaining clarity. Whether or not others use it is pretty much a matter of indifference to me, unless it is the policy of the university in which I am teaching (which it was) or the preference of a client. I’ve earned three degrees in English – each in a different country under different grammatical and stylistic rules: Canada, the USA, and the UK. I write using three different manuals of style: MLA, MHRA and The Chicago Manual of Style (and I’ve used others) so flexibility is the key here. :) Consistency is all that practically counts.

7. What is your book Felicity & Barbara Pym about and how did it come to fruition?

I just answered this question in a seminar last week. (Felicity & Barbara Pym was adopted as a course text in 20th Century Literature in the English Department at Mills College in California) so I’ll just quote the answer I gave to the students:

“In its inception, Felicity & Barbara Pym, was less a concrete idea than an act of academic imagination. In a slightly different format, this work constituted part of my rigourous Master of Fine Arts degree requirement at Mills College in California, one of the few remaining private Liberal Arts colleges for women in America. In order to qualify for the MFA in Literature & Writing (at that time, at least) one was required to both study literature and write a creative work. One’s thesis had to give evidence of accomplishment in both. I thought that writing a creative work about the study of literature would be a fascinating way to demonstrate such accomplishment.

In thinking about how to achieve this, I realized that I had inherited much of my literary philosophy from my own undergraduate tutor, who had been a student of FR Leavis at Cambridge and a literary exemplar to me two decades earlier. His great pedagogical/literary gift to me – the interrelatedness of all of literature, and the literary history and context I hold in my head, was something  I wanted to pass on to my students with the conviction, passion, discipline with which I had been taught. So I decided to write a dialogue between a student just beginning literary studies and a seasoned professor of literature – but to include only the professor’s letters (which later I changed to email). It’s very easy to tell, from what the professor (Mallory) writes, the content of the student’s (Felicity’s) letters.  

I chose to centre this thesis around the novels of Barbara Pym, because by then, I had become deeply engaged with her work. I knew it well and found that not many other academics did. As there was comparatively little written about her at that time, I was able to fulfill one of the principle tenets of scholarship: to make an original contribution to Literary Studies. If I were able to illuminate the worth of this relatively obscure author to a very young and not very interested college student standing on the cusp of the 21st Century, in a creative work, I felt I would have earned the title of Master, which was about to be conferred on me. 

So I embarked on this unsailed sea and thus Felicity and Barbara Pym, an epistolary novel, or what was called by one Harvard editor, “a masterfully done epistolary novel cum memoir cum literary critique cum advice column” was born. What readers enjoy - and mention often is how much they enjoy the humour in it. It’s not a traditional literary study. It’s a story.

Felicity & Barbara Pym has enjoyed surprising success in the UK where it was published, and is beginning to have a following here in the USA so I think there will be an American edition of Felicity & Barbara Pym in the near future." 

There is more information about the book on the Felicity & Barbara Pym website, including reviews, at: It is available at bookstores in the UK and on

8. What’s your current writing project?

I have four projects underway in various stages of process. One is the American edition of Felicity & Barbara Pym ( which was first published in the UK; one is a children’s book called Barnaby’s Chance (, which is with a prominent children’s book editor; one is a book I am writing/creating/wresting from my PhD dissertation, The Bendithion Chronicles (based on the Pushcart Prize essay, Bendithion; and one is a novel I’ve just begun.

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

I do a lot of re-reading along with discovering new books – deep-reading in the tradition of lectio divina. Currently, the books I am re-reading are The Canterbury Tales, Anita Brookner’s novels in order of publication, The Poetics of Space and a selection of children’s books I always keep by the bedside. One of the books I am reading for the first time is, unsurprisingly, On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks, and another is American Austen: The Forgotten Writing of Agnes Repplier edited by John Lukacs. There are also books I study, which is quite a different thing.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?

In thinking about this question, it seems to me that “writing” has to be regarded as the act of writing, the manner of writing and that which is written. With regard to the last, it is “the arrested moment.” I described this in an interview at the literary journal, Carpe Articulum, when I was asked about my creative process:

“I don’t know. I don’t look at it. Don’t pay attention to it. I can tell you what initiates it, though. Arrested experience. When suddenly, something just stops you in your tracks and you forget to breathe for a moment. That’s when I write about something. I portrayed such a moment in “The Postmaster’s Song”, which actually is a true story, though I called it fiction because it is just easier than arguing with people and it is written narratively, with some fictional components (though these components aren’t the things people think they are in the story). It is about the moment when I decided to write Bendithion. It can be found at: blog/harrison-solow/the-postmasters-song  

That arrested moment is “what” inspires the content of my writing. It of course inspires the desire to write, but the major impact of that moment is what to write about. I’m not a person who generates a prolific stream of ideas. I know and admire people like that – my husband is one – he has hundreds of ideas a day, but I need a great force, an unplanned source to inspire content. That force/source for me is usually centred in the liminal. In a short essay on Liminality, I concluded thus: “A writer must stand on thresholds that are not revealed until she has reached – or created – them, and enter worlds that he has never seen until he gets there. A writer must live liminally, in a chasm called ‘between’ because he can’t do what he has to do if he is looking at it. For me, at least, this has always been true. (

With regard to the second of those definitions above, the “who” would refer specifically to thinkers/writers like AS Byatt, Anita Brookner, Alan Lightman, Adam Gopnik, Dorian Llywelyn, Isaac Asimov, Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Willa Cather, Virgina Woolf (to name a very few). Generally I have to say all the literature I have read throughout my life in some way or another contributes to my own work. My own passion for this literature inspires not only the desire to write but the manner in which it is written. Not consciously, but by proximity, intimacy, inflection.

As for the first definition – the act of writing, most writers have a few people in their lives whose company, correspondence, conversation stimulate thought, generate ideas, and enliven creativity in differing measures – friends, fellow writers, and at times, strangers. Foremost among these for me is a particular friend and colleague, a brilliant writer himself, who is a genuine catalyst for my own writing. Other sources of inspiration are (Welsh-speaking) Wales, New York (city) and believe it or not, hospitals, libraries, and monasteries.

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

There isn’t anything I’d like to add at this time, except to thank you, Ryan, for the invitation to be on Author’s Spotlight.

You're quite welcome, Harrison. It was indeed a pleasure learning about your work, your accomplishments, and your writing. Please let us know when the forthcoming books are available.

Read Harrison's Pushcart Prize-winning story "Bendithion" here:

Trust me; it's something you want to read.

Visit the book's website and grab a copy of Harrison's novel Felicity & Barbara Pym or pick up a copy from Amazon at the link below:

Felicity & Barbara Pym

Thursday, March 15, 2012

10 Questions with Paranormal/Fantasy Romance Writer Deborah Court (@Deborah_Court_)

This Author Spotlight features Paranormal Romance writer Deborah Court.

Deborah is the author of BOUND TO THE PRINCE (see above) and watch the book trailer:

Deborah is also the author of HOUSE OF PLEASURE.

At the age of 20, while still in college, Deborah worked as a translator/editor of romance novels, particularly historical romance. She credits this experience with teaching her a great deal about the form, structure, and mechanics of how to write a good novel, good and bad writing, and what a reader looks for in a story.

Deborah lives in a picturesque European small town.

1. How did you get into writing?
Actually, I wanted to write my own stories when I was old enough to read, and this hasn't ever changed since. As a child, I was constantly thinking about new endings to stories I finished. It is what I felt I had to do, always. But professionally, I began as a translator/editor of romance novels before I decided to write my own.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
Most of all, I love the magic. Writing enables me to escape into another world or time, just like reading; but when I write, this world is created according to my own wishes and follows my own rules.

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 every day, four to five Word pages at least is my goal but sometimes I write less, sometimes much more. It's also important to take a day off now and then to reload one's creative batteries. I only outline the general idea and the characters, the rest of the story comes to me while I'm writing.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
Arthur Conan Doyle, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen and Stephen King were most influential to my writing, but there are many authors I admire.

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

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
Usually I don't use it, but it doesn't disturb me at all when others do.

7. What is your book , "Bound to the Prince", about and how did it come to fruition?
"Bound to the Prince" is a Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, with elements from fantasy, Celtic mythology and the Arthurian saga. It's set in today's London and in Fearann, the elven kingdom - a medieval fantasy world of noble knights, monsters and magicians.

Fallen from grace, elven warrior prince Elathan is living in exile, separated from his own people. When he beholds a compelling mortal woman on a London bridge one night, he abducts her and takes her to his underground lair, commanding her to be his slave of pleasure.

Igraine Chandler, a nurse from New Jersey, isn’t exactly what you’d call a perfect romance heroine. Recently dumped by her faithless fiancé, she’s heartbroken. When we meet her at the beginning of the book, she’s utterly bereft of hope, and she doesn’t know if she has the courage to go on with her life. But soon she’ll find herself in a world beyond her wildest dreams, fighting at the prince's side to reclaim his throne. But will she survive a night of untamed passion in the arms of a Fae?
Ever since I read “Lord of the Rings“ at age thirteen, I was hooked on elves. Those beautiful, immortal creatures fascinated me right from the start, and I fell instantly in love with Legolas the first time I saw Orlando Bloom in his elven costume, climbing a mountain in an early preview trailer of the first LOTR movie. Needless to say that Legolas totally kicked *ss in the following movies.

Remember him counting the orcs he killed in a brotherly competition with dwarf Gimli, and how he slid down the nose of the giant elephant? That was my kind of elf, not the ethereal ones in long, flowy dresses that glided along the halls of Rivendell. “Elfquest”, a graphic novel by Wendy and Richard Pini, made me write and draw my own fantasy comic book.
Years later, the elven fever struck me again when I saw the movie “Hellboy 2” which featured a villainous, but darkly romantic elf Nuada, wonderfully portrayed by Luke Goss. This tragic hero was just in a few scenes, but I was so fascinated by his multi-layered character that I felt inspired to create my own elven hero, Prince Elathan. This was the moment I started to write “Bound to the Prince”, and the story began to develop a life on its own.

8. What’s your current writing project?
I'm writing the second part of my Elven Warrior Trilogy, "Bound by Magic". It's the story of Calatin, an elven sorcerer who is taken to the human world against his will.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
"Seizure" by Kathy Reichs and "Lothaire" by Kresley Cole.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
Everything. Books I read, people I get to know. I am also highly influenced by visual impressions, like movies and TV series. Right now, my favorites are True Blood, Game of Thrones and especially the BBC/Masterpiece version of "Sherlock". It's the best writing I've seen on TV for a long time.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
I love to hear from readers! You can visit my website, blog or get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.

"Bound to the Prince" is available for Kindle at Amazon, and at all major retailers (Nook and all other readers). It is also available in print version. My second novel, "House of Pleasure", is available here.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Ryan!!! It has been a pleasure.

You're very welcome, Deborah. Let us know when BOUND BY MAGIC is available.

Be sure to visit Deborah's website and blog and purchase a copy of BOUND TO THE PRINCE today!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

10 Questions with Writer John Black (@JohnBlackWriter)

This Author Spotlight features UK-based writer John Black, author of WORK OF ART (see above).
John has an interesting and varied background, as do many writers, as he says:
I am a writer living in the UK. I was born in Yorkshire but grew up in Lincolnshire. After living in various other parts of the country I am currently back in, as Henry VIII called it, ‘The most brute and beastly of my shires’. (It’s not that bad…)
Avoiding anything as sensible as a career, I’ve tried to do as many jobs as possible that would sound interesting in a writer’s CV. These include postman, night receptionist in a motel, running a market stall, ebay trader and something involving chicken bones and a skip I’d rather not think about, plus a lot of much less interesting sounding jobs in IT.

When not writing I tend to do things like walking, watching films, surfing the Internet, photography and drinking the odd glass of whiskey.

1. How did you get into writing?
Many many years ago I remember throwing a book at a wall because it was so bad (sorry, the title of it has been lost in the mists of time) and I just knew I could do better myself. However I kind of messed around for a while without really producing anything. Doing a post-grad course where I had to do a lot of writing (I had done engineering first time around) was the main spur. I started on non-fiction and comics scripting - and had a few bits and pieces published which encouraged me - before moving on to short stories and eventually starting on novels 

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I’ve heard you can divide writers into those that like to write but hate to edit and those that hate getting the words down but find the rewriting, editing and polishing part a lot easier. I’m one of the latter. Also like the bits before and after the actual writing – the research and shaping of a story before I write and the feeling of accomplishment when I finish something. 

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 almost always write from an outline. For a novel that’ll eventually end up a sentence or so for every scene or major plot point. Although this is only ever a guide and I’ll update it as I go along as new ideas will come as I write. I try and write every day but sometimes Real Life intervenes. Each time I sit down to write I go over what I’ve written the previous time(s) and edit/polish it before moving on to new stuff. I’ll usually re-write something several times before I’m happy with - I can never seem to get everything in that I want to first time around.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
Been a big fan of Iain Banks (and Iain M. Banks) right from when I first read the paperback of The Wasp Factory. Also love the work of Tim Willocks. I like how they both write in fairly mainstream genres but bring a literary sensibility to them. Another fave is Alan Moore who does the same thing with comics / graphic novels.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Outside… and I’d have used single quotes.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I’ve a wide taste in music but I can’t say I’m really a fan of Vampire Weekend.

7. What is your book Work of Art about and how did it come to fruition?
On the night he was awarded the Turner prize for his art, Jason learned that his fiancée, and fellow artist Catherine, had killed herself. Worse, it was a suicide pact. She had leapt off a cliff, hand in hand with her secret lover – with a video camera set up to record the event as their final artwork.

Devastated by this, at first Jason contemplates killing himself too. However he finds himself compelled to discover just what Catherine meant by the cryptic comments she made to the camera just before she jumped.

Jason starts on a journey that will take him both across London and back through the memories of his past relationship with Catherine in the hedonist art world of the nineteen-nineties as he unearths the many hidden lives that she has led.

A journey that will end with a shocking conclusion when Jason discovers Catherine’s ultimate artwork.

A dark mystery. A gripping thriller. An erotic romance. A work of art.

Basically I was sitting in a railway station with a terrible hangover and I dreamed up the whole plot of Work of Art to keep myself amused (the whole story is on my blog).

8. What’s your current writing project?
I’m currently writing a crime novel set in Nottingham. Also have a science fiction novel pretty much plotted out that I hope to write later in the year.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
Cosa Nostra by John Dickie – it’s a non-fiction book about the Sicilian Mafia that I got for Christmas. It’s more like a history book than the usual lurid true crime. I’ve already got an idea or two for books of my own from it!

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
The fact that, despite it being hard work, I’m much happier writing than not writing.

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

Work of Art is available in paperback and ebook formats (Kindle, Nook, ebook, etc) at Amazon, Smashwords and all the other usual places.

Thanks, John, for sharing your story and your novel. Let us know when the Knottingham crime novel is available.

Be sure to visit John's website and purchase a copy of WORK OF ART today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

10 Questions with Writer Tammy Bleck (@TammyBleck)

This Author Spotlight features Los Angeles-based writer Tammy Bleck, author of SINGLE PAST 50, NOW WHAT? (see above).

Tammy describes herself as a writer, life commentor, social observer and provider of the profound written word; in other words a blogger extraodinaire. She is also a non fiction writer, author of the book Single Past 50, Now What? and a freelance writer for hire.

1. How did you get into writing?
I think I first started writing when I realized that no one was listening to me. I must have been about 15. I quickly discovered that when I wrote, people paid attention. By the way, they’re listening now.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
Everything. It’s private, it’s public, its truth and fiction. It’s a world where I can say what I can’t speak, share what I feel and report what I see. It is a safe place where other people are allowed to share but no one is allowed to change it. Writing is the sacred place where I am the boss of everything. That, in and of itself, is pretty awesome.

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 never pressure myself to write. Ever. It needs to remain a joyful place for me to be. This is not school and I know what I want to say; so I find no need for outlines or mandated word counts. I free write and I never, ever correct as I go along. I often change my mind or my thought; but I just keep writing. When I’m done, I’ll go back and clean it up. I’m usually left with a product I’m happy to put my name on. Of course, it doesn’t take much to please me.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
I honestly can’t answer this question, there are just too many of them and new ones springing up every day. Can I get out of this question by answering: everyone and no one in particular?  Otherwise you will have page upon page of author’s names and their works. I’m like a mom; I have no favorites and love them all the equally.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
What a good question (don’t you think)?

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I find it irritating. Editors love it but I don’t find a need for it and rarely use it in my writing. I understand that it is there to establish clarity but in my opinion, the Oxford University Press can keep it. I’m not going to get my panties in a bunch over whether we should always place a comma before a conjunction. I prefer to just do my thing and let the commas fall where they may. Just one of the many ways I live on the edge.

7. What is your book Single Past 50 Now What? about and how did it come to fruition?
I’m guessing the book title “Single Past 50 Now What?” is a dead giveaway of what prompted me to write it. It was not my life plan to end up single after 25 years of marriage, be past my prime, unemployed, have a child in college and the cat and dog to feed. Finding my way was hilarious, sorrowful, entertaining and enlightening; and so a book was born.

8. What’s your current writing project?
I’m working on building readership for my weekly blog (by the way, have you subscribed)?  Sorry, I hate it when I get pushy. I’m also working on my second book which should come out this summer. It’s a compilation of my take on many of life’s excruciating turns and twists. In other words, it’s a comedy.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova, has been a wonderful read. It’s a bit lengthy (over 1,000 pages) but boy it’s riveting.  I’m also reading the “Monster of Florence” by Douglas Preston about a serial killer. It is a true account and somewhat grisly and I’m loving every minute of it. Two books at once is not my general habit, it just so happened that I got hooked on both about the same time. Life can be so demanding! I have a frightful love of murder, mayhem and mystery. My night stand has half a dozen books waiting their turn to be read.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
Yikes, this is going to sound so ridiculously corny but my everyday life is the inspiration for my writings. The people I meet, the problems I face, the emotions I feel, the injustices and blessings that cross my path. I guess that’s why so many readers relate so strongly to what I write about; because they are living it too. One of my most popular pieces is a conversation I wanted to have with God about aging: Who doesn’t want a sit-down with God about something, right?

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
I have been compared to Erma Bombeck and Andy Rooney (suitable curtsey) and consider myself to be a life commentator that always has a humorous take on things. I would invite everyone to tune in and subscribe to for a weekly dose of insanity made sane. I also offer a pretty good keynote to corporate and community groups. Visit the “Hire Me” page at and get the witty details. If you happen to find yourself single in mid life, well then, you’ve got to buy my book “Single Past 50 Now What?” which can be found in all brick and mortar stores, Amazon and if you want a signed copy, go to my website and click the PayPal button. It will be the best 14 bucks you’ve ever spent! How’s that for shameless promotion?

Self-promotion is the name of the game. Well done!

Thank you for sharing your story and your book with us, Tammy. You provided some great answers here. Let us know when the next book is ready, and we'll accommodate further shameless self promotion.

Visit Tammy's website if you haven't already done so, and subscribe to her blog. A lot of gems there.

Thanks again, Tammy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

10 Questions with Fantasy Writer Debra L. Martin (@dlmartin6)

This Author Spotlight features Boston-based fantasy writer Debra L. Martin. Debra is the first writer I've featured who is part of a writing team, along with David W. Small.

1. How did you get into writing?
I have been writing since I was a teenager. I’ve always loved to put pen to paper and share the stories in my head.  I wrote my first novel years ago and that was an excellent exercise in actually finishing a project.  Unfortunately, that novel will forever stay in a dusty desk drawer, but it taught me a lot about plotting and pacing within the story.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I love to write especially since I write with my co-author and brother, David W Small.  We both have similar tastes in books and have always traded books back and forth. When we started writing together in 2006, it was amazing how well our writing styles blended. That’s not to say, everything seamlessly flowed together, because it took us awhile to find our groove, but now it’s hard to pick out who wrote what part. That’s our goal, we want the reader to be invested in the story, not wondering which writer wrote this passage or that passage.

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?
Because I write with a co-author, it is imperative that we outline a story before we ever begin putting words to the paper or computer as it is.  While we both strive to write as much as possible, our day jobs do not always allow us to write on any particular schedule.  We write when we can, send each other the scene or chapter and then the other one edits and adds to it.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
In the past, I used to read the fantasy/science fiction author staples: Terry Brooks, Orson Scott Card, Tad Williams, Stephen R. Donaldson, but lately, I’ve read so many new authors including Brent Weeks, Peter Brett and Patrick Rothfuss.  I also read and review lots of indie books and have found some gems in the pile.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Should I look up this answer or just go with what I would write? I would say outside, but then again, that’s why I send all my manuscripts to my fabulous editor.  That allows Dave and me to do what we do best: write the story and leave the editing to a professional.

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I have a tendency not to use enough commas and once again, I’ll defer to my editor.  My strengths lie in creating the story and I’m not afraid to admit that I can’t do it all.  Being an indie author doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enlist the help of professionals: editors, graphic artists, web designers. Use their expertise and concentrate on what you do best.

7. What is your book ASSASSIN’S CURSE about and how did it come to fruition?
Dave and I love assassins. Our two previous books in the Rule of Otharia series featured another nefarious assassin, Nils, and it was so much fun to write that part that we decided to base our next novel on an assassin.  In ASSASSIN’S CURSE, we have two assassins—Jeda and Mave—and their lives intersect throughout the book.  When Jeda fails to complete a mission, the assassin guild sends Mave to investigate and find out what happened.  In the meantime, Jeda has been put under a compelling spell by a powerful witch, and he now finds his life turned upside down. He has become the protector of two infant girls who are more than they seem—they are the twins of prophecy and different factions within the witch’s community want to use them to their own end.  Jeda must run from everything he’s known, and not only learn how to care for these babies, but to keep them safe from harm.

8. What’s your current writing project?
We are working on the sequel titled WITCH’S CURSE. This book continues the story of Jeda and the twins, Kara and Kala as they search for the Witch Stone of prophecy.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
I’m reading “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern in hardcover, and on my kindle I’m reading “Tracking Shadows” by Regan Black. I usually read 2 books at once. I review for Goldberg McDuffie, a marketing firm in NYC and they send me paperbacks, but I really enjoy reading on my Kindle. I am swamped with review requests so I’ve had to close to new submissions, but I try to read and review as many indie books as I can. I publish my reviews on my blog, Two Ends of the Pen, as well as on Amazon, shelfari, goodreads and Barnes & Noble.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
Dave inspires my writing. It’s fantastic to write with someone who constantly surprises you with new scenes and chapters. I know that Dave feels the same way when I send him a scene/chapter and that keeps it fresh for both of us. We know the gist of the outline, but there’s always those little surprises that pop up to make you go, OMG!

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc. 
Readers can find our full compliment of books listed on my blog, Two Ends of the Pen, and at my amazon author page at

My contact info is:

Thanks, Debra. I love the cover art for ASSASSIN'S CURSE and am looking forward to WITCH'S CURSE. Be sure to let us know when it is available.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Will Amazon Become the Microsoft of Digital Publishing?

Consider this an imromptu blog consisting of an informal poll.

The matter of KDP Select has been on my mind for some time.

When Amazon first announced it, I had mixed feelings about it. I still do.

If you enroll your titles in KDP Select, you can't publish or promote or sell your work anywhere else. This means not publishing on Smashwords with the sole goal of having the title(s) distributed to the other major e-tailers: Kobo, Barnes&Noble, and iTunes.

Enrolling in KDP Select means people who read ebooks on a Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, iPad/Apple device will never see your title available among the virtual shelves where they shop for and buy ebooks.

Does this concern you?

(Granted, Amazon has free apps which enable people to read Kindle ebooks on non-kindle devices, but how many people know about this and use such an app?)

For writers trying to make a name for themselves, should they be concerned with not having their work distributed to Nook, Kobo, Sony, iTunes, et al? And for writers who are already doing very well with sales of digital products, why is it that so many of them are enjoying sales almost exclusively through Amazon?

It seems Amazon is giving writers something for their pledge of KDP exclusivity in the form of the borrowing fee. But how many borrows are they having? And why has the borrowing royalty decreased from $1.70 to $1.60? (Thank you to thriller writer Russell Blake (@Blakebooks) for bringing this to my attention.) And is this decrease going to become a trend?

What is Amazon's goal here? To continue to garner more of the ebook market? That's likely a given. But is there something else at work? I can't help but wonder.

This whole thing smacks a bit of the trouble Netflix encountered recently when they screwed around with their business model. Netflix raised their prices and split their service into streaming/mail-only DVDs. This pissed off A LOT of people. A LOT. Of people. As a result, a lot of people cancelled their Netflix subscriptions; if memory serves, it was something like a million people in a day or two. It was a lot. Their CEO had to more or less admit he'd done something stupid and beg everyone to come back.

Why couldn't they simply have left well enough alone?

Why don't oil companies and insurance companies and automakers agree to lower their prices and pay their employees more in exchange for a BIT smaller profit?

Rhetorical questions, those.

This whole thing also reminds me of when I was a kid and one of the fundamental dilemmas of our existence was "Apple or IBM/PC?" And "Atari or Nintendo?" In more modern times it might be "Playstation or XBox?" or "iPhone or non-iPhone?"

Will we soon be faced with "Amazon or non-Amazon?" Will Amazon become the Microsoft of digital publishing, along with the (allegedly) nefarious reputation? I truly hope not. According to thriller writer Joe Konrath (and survivor of the the 30-Day Beer Diet!), Amazon understands the digital revolution and the new publishing paradigm better than anyone else (ie traditional,Big 6 publishers). I truly hope so.

So, if you're a writer, will you be enrolling your titles in KDP Select? Have you already done so? If so, why? If not, why not?

And if you're someone who enjoys and regularly reads/buys ebooks, where do you usually purchase them? What device do you use? Do you have an Amazon Prime membership? And do you borrow books? Does the idea of a great Amazon Library appeal to you?

Thank you for sharing any thoughts you care to express.