Monday, November 30, 2015

#NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Day 29

Day 29

6000 words today. Trying to get the book complete... so trying... was up til 4:00 a.m. again.

Still tomorrow...

Still tomorrow...

Still tomorrow.........

Sunday, November 29, 2015

#NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Day 28

Day 28

Yesterday was an interesting day of writing.

I didn't get started as soon as I would have liked, but I still managed to get 4859 words, bringing the novel's total to 61,054.

That means I accomplished my goal of reaching 50,000 words.

I also accomplished my goal of reaching 60,000 words.

My final goal is to complete the novel.

I have no idea how many words the completed novel will come out to. Doesn't really matter. I'm thinking maybe another 15,000 - 20,000.

The question now is if I can complete the story between now and tomorrow. Because as stated above, the goal was to complete the novel during NaNoWriMo, to see if I could do it.

I had to stay up til 4:00 a.m. to accomplish yesterday's writing session. And I've written about 2000 words so far today. But it's no longer about word count so much as it is honoring the wishes of the story and its players.

So two days left in this year's NaNoWriMo.

I hope you're accomplishing your goal(s).

Keep writing.

You can do it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

#NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Days 26 & 27

Days 26 & 27

This will be a quick blog post. We should all be putting the majority of our time, thought, focus, strength, courage, belief, and love for what we do into our story, for we have THREE more days, including today.

The past two days have been good days of writing; 5000 words both days. My word count is now 56,195, so once I've uploaded the manuscript it will qualify for "winning". Yay!

But my goal was to not only write (at least) 60,000 words but to also FINISH my novel during NaNoWriMo. That remains a possibility. Hence the brevity of this post.  Three days... Less than 4000 words to reach 60,000... But the story definitely won't be complete in 4000 words. Maybe 14,000. Maybe. Probably more like 24,000, which would require 8000 words each day for the next three days.500-1000 words per hour means that would require 8 to 16 hours of writing per day. That's a lot.

How many words do you have remaining? Do the math; divide it by three to determine how many words you need to write each day, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.

You can do it.

Print two copies of this Writer At Work thing and put one directly in front of your face where you write and the other one on the door of the room in which you write.

And here's a pretty Love Calendar made by someone named Margie I found on Google. Thanks, Margie!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Day 25

Day 25


Second, NaNoWriMo2015 is quickly wrapping up.Less than a week to go. I hope everyone is on track to reach 50k. I'm still aiming for 60k. We'll see what happens in the coming days. My goal is to finish this book and have it be 60,000 words. But we'll see what the story dictates, as the story is ultimately the final arbiter of word count. I don't believe in artificially-imposed word counts based on industry standards. If your YA Romance is 130,000 words and the plot and story and characterization are solid, then there's no need to edit your manuscript down to 80,000 words merely because of the perception that young adults aren't capable of reading anything longer than 80,000 words. That is stupid. Order of the Phoenix is quite long. That's only one example.

But at this stage, don't worry or even think too much about word counts. Focus on letting your characters roam about and say all kinds of weird stuff. Let the story tell itself. The word count will fall into place later.

Finally, I feel it is important to discuss back-ups. Are you guys backing up your data? You've spent nearly a month writing a new novel, which is an impressive feat. So make sure you have it backed up and saved in at least two places. At least once a week, at a MINIMUM, save it to your external hard drive if that's what you do. Save it to your USB drive/SD card every day or two after writing if that's what you do, if perhaps you have a little flash drive or SD card especially for your writing. Email it to yourself. That's what I did a minute ago. I sent myself an email with seven different files attached, all pertaining to this NaNoWriMo2015 project. I'm not certain which of those seven documents I've added to since my previous back-up; certainly the outline document, the first draft document, perhaps also the character outline document... So it's easier to simply highlight all seven in the folder and attach them to an email and send them to myself. Each time I do this, I write Back-up #2, #3, #4, etc in the subject of the email. That way, if you ever need to access the data, you simply go back to the most recent email, the one with the highest #, and open it in order to grab what you want. Easy.

Having your data backed up offers peace of mind. Do it regularly. If you're not already, BEGIN NOW. Right this minute. Go do it and come back to this blog post. If you're already conducting regular back-ups, well done; continue to do so. My friend and fellow writer Harvey Noble always says that he recommends backing up the writing at the close of each day's writing session. It is a way to protect the art you've just created. It is also a symbolic act of honoring your craft.

So, we'll move on from here. (Harvey often says that, too.)

NaNoWriMo2015 Day 26 today. We should be at or above 43,333 words as of today. Four more days!!! Can you believe it! But don't focus on that; focus on continuing to write. You can do it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Day 24

Day 24

Holy schnikeys, day 24!!!

Wow. It was just day... 5 not that long ago.

Writing today was good... 2119 words, which brought me to 42,523. Not as far along as I'd hoped, but still ahead of schedule.

There were several days of research, a lot of listening to music and reading about music, mostly from the 80s, and trying to get the prose just so.

Today I finally pushed past that chunk of research-dependent story and wrote the next scene, which at first I was thrilled and frightened by, and which I then questioned if it should even be in the story at all, but which I went ahead and wrote. Lo and behold I am amazed at what took shape. Not yet sure how it's all going to fit together, but that's not something to fret over now.

Now is the time to go for it, to let the story rip, to push through the dreaded middle everyone is always whining about.

I don't want to get into all that. Focus on having fun and continuing to follow your characters around all day, transcribing what they do, where they go, what they say, etc etc, and everything will be fine.

You can do it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Free Kindle Book Promo! Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone -- Now through 11/28/15

I wanted to let you all know that my friend and fellow writer Roy Huff is having a Free Kindle Book promo for his fourth book, Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone ASIN B00WWO1CC2.

He is also having a 99 cents Kindle Countdown Deal in the UK & US for Everville: Books 1-3 Boxed set 11/22/15 - 11/28/15 to coincide with the Free Promo of Book four.

Grab your copy today, right now, while you're here thinking about it. It'll give you something good to read after eating all that turkey.

If you haven't seen the promo on Twitter @evervillefans already, check it out.

Also, the last day of the promo is Roy's 39th birthday (and Thanksgiving).


Saturday, November 21, 2015

#NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Day 20

Day 20

Yesterday was another fun day. Mostly research. A LOT of research, as I was trying to get one passage fleshed out.

As such, my word count was around 1300. Not so hot. But the fun I had doing research and the satisfaction of spending a good 6 hours getting the prose assembled offset the lower word count.

I also cut the tip of my middle finger while making dinner and couldn't type with a bandaid on my finger. That was interesting trying to type without my middle finger.

At any rate, just 10 days remaining in the month.

Time to get it in gear and finish strong.

10 Questions with Legendary Writer Kathe Koja (@KatheKoja)

This Author Spotlight

Kathe Koja

author of

Bastards' Paradise

Kathe Koja’s novels span several genres - historical, YA, horror - and have won numerous awards, including the Bram Stoker Award and the Parents’ Choice Award, and have been optioned for film and performance. Her 16th novel, THE BASTARDS’ PARADISE, the final in the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy, is out this fall from Roadswell Editions. She adapts and directs performative fiction with her ensemble "nerve".

I distinctly recall purchasing a paperback copy of SKIN from Waldenbooks when I was in high school. Kathe Koja is big-time.

Author photo: Copyright Rick Lieder

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?

I’ve been a writer since I was a very small child: since I knew what a story was.

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

It’s very serious, very nourishing play: the initial blossom of the idea, the research, “feathering the nest” as Anthony Lane once called it: and the patient, wild, daily work at the desk  . . . I love it. 

I used to detest going through copyedits until I worked with a brilliant copyeditor, Paul Witcover. Then I learned to love that part of the process, too. So now it’s all good.

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 don’t outline, ever – the way I work requires discovery as I go along, and the freedom to throw stuff away, make hairpin turns, follow the story. Which doesn’t suggest that outlining isn’t a valid or useful process, it just doesn’t work for me. (I did try it once: disaster.)

I’m religious about working every day, every morning, once I’ve begun a project – the energy and momentum, the feel of the story, all of that is buttressed and enhanced by sitting down in the same place at the same time, picking up the thread where the last day left it, and going on.

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

A few of my great loves are Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Christopher Marlowe . . . I learned a ton from Shirley Jackson. Angela Carter is wonderfully sly. Anthony Burgess’ wordplay is a continuing revelation.

And a new writer whose work I adore is Maryse Mejier: her collection Heartbreaker comes out next year.

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


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

Long may it function!

7.What is your book The Bastards’ Paradise about and how did it come to fruition?

The Bastards’ Paradise is the final book in the trilogy that includes Under the Poppy and The Mercury Waltz, the lifelong story of Istvan and Rupert, comrades and lovers and performers, whose puppet plays lead them through glittering high society and down some very dark roads, but always together.

I never dreamed I would write a trilogy, but the story of these men kept expanding and flowering as I wrote, along with the stories of their friends and enemies . . . It’s been an amazing pleasure and a total labor of love to bring these fin de siècle gentlemen of the road to life.

8.What’s your current writing project?

I just finished a new YA novel, The Ballrooms of Mars. I’m in the research phase for a novel about Christopher Marlowe. And I’ve adapted Stoker’s Dracula for my ensemble, nerve, for January performance.

9.What are you currently reading?

At this moment, The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe, edited by Patrick Cheney, and a friend’s screenplay for a thriller film.

10.Who or what inspires your writing?

It sounds simple, but – life. And people. The endlessly fascinating, terrible, passionate rock tumbler combination of the two.

Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

The Bastards’ Paradise and The Mercury Waltz are available here:

Signed copies of my books are available here:

And my books are available in print and ebook editions online from the usual retail sources like Amazon, B&N, Apple iBooks etc.    

Thank you, Kathe, for sharing your experience and insight into the writing life. Please feel free to visit with us in the future in order to share new books.

There you have it, gang. Insight and wisdom from a serious writer. Be sure to visit Kathe's website and purchase a signed copy of one of her books, or look her up wherever books are sold.

Friday, November 20, 2015

#NaNoWriMo2015 Diary -- Day 19

Day 19

Yesterday was a fun and interesting day. Life stuff. When I finally got my butt in the chair and began to work, I found myself spending most of my time doing research in order to better inform the scene I was working on. It was a lot of fun. But the word count came up to 996 words. <insert fart sound here>

It happens sometimes.

Some days, your fingers fly and you write 3500 words without even trying.

Other days, you're building your foundation, planning, and preparing for one of those 3500-word days.

It's all part of the ebb-and-flow. Roll with it. Don't beat yourself up. Doing so merely stifles creativity. Stay positive. Have fun. Enjoy the process. A big part of why we write is because we enjoy the process of discovery. Sometimes we discover 3500 new words. Sometimes we discover a bunch of cool stuff that we weave into the story.

It's all gooooood.

Continue writing.


Time to throw yourself into the project if you've not already done so. Only ten days. Plenty of time to accomplish A LOT. But also not so many days that you should feel overwhelmed. Focus on the finished project, focus on submitting your manuscript and getting a nice NaNoWriMo "WIN" for 2015.

Today is Day 20. Consult the cool calendar below. 33,333 total words today.

You can do it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#NaNoWriMo Diary -- Day 18

Day 18

Yesterday was a good day of writing.

3576 words.

I need to attain at least 2272 every day for the next 11 days if I'm going to reach 60,000 words, which was my goal when I began this experiment 16 days ago on November 3rd.

In terms of craft, yesterday was interesting because I found myself writing by the seat of my pants as opposed to planning.

Functioning as a Pantser and not a Planner.

The reason is because I needed to bridge the story between where I was and where I wanted to go. I have some major events already outlined but it felt like it was too soon to have them happen. So I needed something in between.

Lo and behold a whole bunch of cool stuff transpired. I found myself genuinely enjoying the events of the story as they unfolded, as well as being amazed at how the themes and backstory continued to weave themselves into the new plot. That's the magic of writing: when stuff like that happens.

And remember that whenever you're in this situation, where you're not sure what you're writing or if what you're writing is integral to the story, take a moment to think about HOW to MAKE it integral, rather than simply abandon it, delete sentences or paragraphs or a page, and then start feeling as though what you're doing sucks.

It doesn't suck.

You simply need to dig a little deeper, to continue searching for what it is your story is trying to say.

Stay positive.

Make it fun.

Make your writing enjoyable.

It should be enjoyable.

It can be scary and confusing and intimidating, but you should also love it. Even if you love having written more than you love actually writing. That's okay, too.

Now, today is Day 19.

That means you need to have at least 31,667 words in order to remain on track to attain 50k by November 30.

You can do it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 Questions with award-winning, bestselling science fiction author Walter Jon Williams

This Author Spotlight

Walter Jon Williams

author of

Days of Atonement

Walter Jon Williams is an award-winning author who has been listed on the best-seller lists of the New York Times and the Times of London.  He is the author of twenty-seven novels and three collections of short fiction. 

His first novel to attract serious public attention was Hardwired (1986), described by Roger Zelazny as "a tough, sleek juggernaut of a story, punctuated by strobe-light movements, coursing to the wail of jets and the twang of steel guitars."  In 2001 he won a Nebula Award for his novelette, “Daddy’s World,” and won again in 2005 for “The Green Leopard Plague.”

Walter's subject matter has an unusually wide range, and include the glittering surfaces of Hardwired, the opulent tapestries of Aristoi, the bleak future police novel Days of Atonement, and the pensive young Mary Shelley of the novella "Wall, Stone, Craft," which was nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and a World Fantasy Award.

He has also written for George RR Martin's Wild Cards project.

His latest work is The Fourth Wall, a near-future thriller set in the world of alternate reality gaming.

Walter has also written for comics, the screen, and for television, and has worked in the gaming field. He was a writer for the alternate reality game Last Call Poker, and has scripted the mega-hit Spore.

1.How did you get into writing and why do you write?

I decided to be a writer when I was a very small child. Before I learned to read and write actually: I would dictate stories to my parents, who would write them down for me.

Writing was a compulsion.  I wasn’t in charge, the compulsion was.  Being compulsive made me what I am today.

Oddly enough, the compulsion faded around the time I turned forty.  Now I have to find reasons for writing every day.  Previously I just let the compulsion handle all that.

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

The bit I like least is the actual writing.  I really love coming up with ideas, dreaming up characters, and creating ingenious plots.  For me, that’s the creative part.

The actual writing is more of a drudgery, because the creative part is already done.  There are days when it’s a delight, but more often not.
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 always outline the larger projects.  I always know the last scene.  Sometimes the middle bit is a little vague, but I always know where the story’s going.

I write every day when I’m at home.  There’s usually at least one day each week when it’s crap, and I have to do it over.  I wish I could know ahead of time which day that would be, so I could spare myself the agony.

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

Kelly Link, Vladimir Nabokov, Howard Waldrop, Thomas Pynchon, Roger Zelazny, Ann Leckie, Catherynne Valente, James S.A. Corey, and Many, Many more. 

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

Whichever way I decide, the copy editor will change it.
6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

I feel the Oxford comma is sensible, useful, and lends itself to clarity.

7.What is your book “Days of Atonement” about and how did it come to fruition?

My original concept involved a cop trying to solve a murder on a decaying industrial planet.  Then it occurred to me that we have plenty of decaying industry right here in the United States, and then it further occurred to me that this was a chance to write about my native state of New Mexico.

I jokingly tell people that “Days of Atonement” is the World’s Only Gothic Western Science Fiction Police Procedural, but that’s actually what it is.

My protagonist, Loren Hawn, is basically a 19th Century lawman stuck in a 21st Century he doesn’t understand, a situation which reflects the apparent time travel that’s at the center of the plot.  In addition to the mystery and the science fiction, Loren has to deal with typical New Mexico issues, such as UFO true believers, corrupt government, religious extremism, environmental extremism, big intrusive extractive industries, ethnic conflicts, secretive national laboratories, and privatized paramilitaries.  All in a day’s work for the 21st Century lawman!

In order to help the reader cope with the New Mexico weirdness, I decided to treat New Mexico as if it were an alien planet.  Which, in almost every sense but the most literal, it truly is.

I’ve written an essay about “Days of Atonement” which may be found here.

8.What’s your current writing project?

I was lucky enough to sell six books this year, and now I’ve got to write them!

Three of the books continue my Praxis series, which should please many of my readers.  But I’ve also sold a new series, completely different from anything I’ve done before, and right now I’m working on the first book.

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

William Gibson’s the Peripheral, and E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros.  Both by masters of style, but very different style.

10.Who or what inspires your writing?

Really good writing.  Plus a glance at my bank account.

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

A few years ago, I found myself with over twenty out-of-print books, and I began a project to digitize them and make them available as ebooks.  Mostly I stole scans from pirates, then cleaned them up.  (I’m inclined to feel that was morally justified.)

Now all my longer works are available online, and I’m about halfway through the short fiction.  You can binge-read me now!  (And I encourage you to do so.)

My home page and blog:

And lastly, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you get a free ebook!   Can’t be more fair than that, now can I?

Certainly not!

Thank you, Walter, for visiting with us today and sharing your insights into the writing life. Please visit with us again when each of your six forthcoming books is ready.

So there you have it, gang. Writing wisdom from a working, professional writer. Be sure to visit Walter's website and blog and join his newsletter to get that free ebook.

And stay tuned for more interviews with top writers, which are forthcoming.

#NaNoWriMo Diary -- Day 16

Day 16

So we've reached the proverbial halfway point.

I'm at 28,000 words. I've been writing more than the required 1667 words each day, which has allowed me to stay on track on days I didn't write much or at all, and there have been a few, particularly over the weekend during which we had some family celebrations, along with other stuff aka Life.

I'm on track to hit 50k words on November 29, which is all right, but I feel I need to step it up a notch and write more, as my goal for this book has always been to surpass 50k words. I'm looking for this novel to be at least 60k. That's a nice, quick read. And for this type of material I think it's an appropriate length.

I've seen some fellow NaNoWriMo-ers on Instagram say that this is the point when they usually quit or give up each year. To that I say, "What?!!!" Don't give up. Don't quit. Keep going. The days are going to pass anyway. You may as well have the 50k words to show for it at the end. Even if you feel like they're crap, at least you have something to show for the month, for the whole NaNoWriMo event. And the "Now What?" event in January will be a guide for fixing, polishing, and rewriting your draft.

Remember not to let perfection be the enemy of progress.

Get the book written.

That's the first, and the biggest, hurdle. I don't recall at the moment who said, "Writing is rewriting." But you have to have written in order to rewrite. So don't give up. Don't quit. Your story deserves more than that. So do you. You're a writer, right? Write! Feeling scared and doubtful and neurotic and spending hours polishing the silver ware when you should be writing is totally normal. But you still have to hit your word count.

You can do it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Author Spotlight: Philip K. Dick Award Finalist Lisa Mason

This Author Spotlight

Lisa Mason

author of
The Garden of Abracadabra

This week's author spotlight features a returning guest, Lisa Mason

Lisa is the author of ten novels, including Summer of Love, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book, The Gilded Age, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published science fiction and fantasy, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, and two dozen stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Her Omni story, "Tomorrow's Child," sold outright to Universal Studios and is in development.

Lisa also served as a judge for the 2016 Philip K. Dick Award.

Lisa is herself a Philip K. Dick Award finalist, which you can read about HERE.

She shared her book Summer of Love with us in December 2012. You can read that interview HERE.

She visited again to share her book Strange Ladies in September, 213. You can read that interview HERE.

Today's interview is Lisa's third visit with us, making her the first three-peat. Thanks, Lisa!

Tell us about your new book, The Garden of Abracadabra.

At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus.

She discovers that all of her tenants are some stripe of supernatural entity—witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards—and that each apartment is a fairyland or hell.
On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before.

Abby is compelled into a dangerous murder investigation and torn between three men—Daniel Stern, her ex-fiance who wants her back, Jack Kovac, an enigmatic FBI agent who is also a magician, and Prince Lastor, her mysterious and sexy tenant in the penthouse apartment who may be a suspect.

Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between humanity and the demonic realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.

A reader on Goodreads wrote, “So refreshing! This is Stephanie Plum in the world of Harry Potter.”

How would you categorize The Garden of Abracadabra?

The book, the first of a trilogy, possibly a series, is squarely within the subgenre of Urban Fantasy. I love this subgenre, which falls within Fantasy and first became recognized about ten years ago.

What is Urban Fantasy? It’s that rich blend of fantasy tropes (magic and magicians, witches, wizards, vampires, shapeshifters, demons) in a contemporary setting, often an urban area (as opposed to the rural, medieval settings of high fantasy), and mystery tropes (detective work, murder and crime, police procedural), spiced up with dicey romance, troublesome relationship issues, and wit and whimsy interspersed with the murder and mayhem.

Books I adored when I first began to read as a child have shaped my love of Urban Fantasy. Supernatural people in a real-world setting and wise articulate animals in all four volumes of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins (such beautiful and humorous writing, a true sense of wonder, and wonderful pen-and-ink illustrations). Myths and Enchantment Tales adapted by Margaret Evans Price and illustrated by Evelyn Urbanowich (illustrated Greek and Roman myths). Then there was the Giant Golden Book of Dogs, Cats, and Horses (61 short illustrated stories, a Newberry Award winner). Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books (my edition has dazzling pastel illustrations). Who could have missed Charlotte’s Web (a rare book dealer in New York is selling the edition I own for $3,000! I wouldn’t part with mine). I took all of these books (lovingly wrapped in plastic) with me to college in Ann Arbor and lugged them all the way to California where they sit on my bookshelf to this day.

Did anything in particular inspire you?

Yes! Like every author on the verge of a special, big new project, I well remember that transcendent moment of first inspiration for The Garden of Abracadabra.
Often inspiration springs from something quotidian, mundane. You’re in the shower. Or shopping for groceries. Or going on a jog

Or, in this instance, searching for a parking place in Berkeley.

Berkeley is a small historic university town across the Bay from San Francisco, and the town is so crowded now, searching for a parking place on the street is something of a quixotic quest.
As Tom and I cruised through unfamiliar neighborhoods looking for that elusive space, we passed by a spectacular 1920s Mediterranean apartment building and were both instantly struck by its beauty. But more than that, the place had a powerful vibe or atmosphere. It was downright spooky!

The idea sprang instantly to my mind: what if you were the superintendent of a building like that and discovered that every tenant was some stripe of supernatural being and every apartment was a portal to a fantasy world? To a fairyland or a hell?

I knew I had my book!

So you had a magical apartment building and a super. What then?

I had a high-concept setting and a heroine, but I didn’t think that was enough. I didn’t want a fantasy knock-off of an old TV situation comedy, “One Day at a Time,” with witches.

I wanted more plot, more tension, more to the heroine.

I don’t like slacker characters. Abby Teller is a vital, lively, witty woman and she needed an excellent reason for signing on for a mundane job like that.

Well, of course! She’s going back to college to learn Real Magic. She needs a job with flexible hours and a lot of independence. And she must learn to master her power to save her life.

Is Abby’s life in danger? And what is Real Magic?

Abby Teller must learn Real Magic to defend herself against the Horde, gangster-sorcerers who murdered her father when she was a child of eight. It turns out that she’ll use techniques of Real Magic to deal with all of the supernatural people and entities at the Garden of Abracadabra.

She applies to and is accepted by the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts.
In Volume 1, she learns the First and Second Fundamentals of Real Magic. As research I consulted several volumes in my own library, including Real Magic by R.E.I. Bonewits, Natural Magic by David Carroll, Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians by Magus Incognito, and The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies & Magic by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler among many others.

The First Fundamental of Real Magic is “Knowledge is Power” and, as a corollary, “Know Thyself.” The great philosopher and teacher Pythagoras coined that adage 2,500 years ago, but it still rings true today, especially in this age of media up to your eyeballs.

“Know Thyself.” Think for yourself. Investigate and research issues, then exercise your own judgment and will. Only then may you practice Real Magic in the real world.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Yet how many people allow themselves to be whipsawed by the media? Not to mention by other people?

Abby Teller applies the First Fundamental of Real Magic to come to grips with her feelings about her mother’s wasting illness and recent death. Her grief and guilt seriously compromise her ability to master her power.

You have a lot of detail about the apartment building. Is that based on the mysterious building you glimpsed in Berkeley?

Yes, partially, and also on The Garden of Allah. This was a Mediterranean apartment complex with bungalows and a pool in Hollywood. Sheilah Graham wrote a memoir of about the place, which was inhabited by many famous actors of the 1940s, like Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, and Greta Garbo, usually before they attained their fame, and also by the New Yorker crowd of writers, like Dorothy Parker, John O’Hara, and Robert Benchley, who came to Hollywood to write screenplays. Sheilah and her lover, F. Scott Fitzgerald, also spent a great deal of time there.

I loved the idea of an apartment building inhabited not by famous actors and writers, but by all sorts of supernatural people and entities!

As you would expect with a crowd of professional exhibitionists living in close quarters, the Hollywood denizens of the Garden of Allah were infamous for their shenanigans. Several scenes from Marx brothers’ movies were based on incidents that took place there: people hiding in closets, people charging through doors into someone’s bedroom. Various scenes in “A Day At the Races” or “Horse Feathers” were inspired by life at the Garden of Allah.

So, too, the Garden of Abracadabra is “the biggest, coolest party place in Berkeley.” I take the reader to several of the parties that supernatural entities throw!

Is the Garden of Allah still around?

No, urban development in Los Angeles moved on after the war years. The Garden of Allah fell into disrepair and was leveled in the 1960s. A strip mall and parking lot were built over the grave of the beautiful Mediterranean apartment complex.

Joni Mitchell’s delightful ditty, Big Yellow Taxi, is about the demise of the Garden of Allah. The song goes, “Don’t it always seem to go; you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved Paradise, put up a parking lot.”

I never knew that, did you? I read about the connection recently in an article in The Hollywood Reporter. I’ve received that trade journal for free ever since I sold my Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” to Universal Studios. I don’t know who comp’ed me! It’s pretty funny. Every year I receive an email from THR begging me to renew my free subscription!

The Garden of Abracadabra was built in Berkeley in 1850 during the California Gold Rush. This beautiful Mediterranean building won’t be demolished any time soon!

Ryan: No, I didn't know that about Joni Mitchell's song. I think I first heard it when Counting Crows covered it, or perhaps it was John Mayer. I thought it was a general commentary about urban/suburban development. Thank you for identifying that it was about an actual place.

You mention that Abby Teller is “torn between three men.” She sounds like she’s rather busy!

Abby is searching for true love. When we first meet her, she’s just broken up with her fiancé of three years. Daniel Stern has no magical power the way Abby does, and Abby’s mother pleaded with her to leave him. Daniel can’t protect her from the Horde and he may even turn against her one day. Their relationship has been floundering, anyway. So Abby returns her engagement ring, but not without misgivings.

Now that she’s free, she immediately attracts the attention of three very different men of magic: the sorcerer-hitchhiker Brand, the enigmatic magician Jack Kovac, and the mysterious, alluring Prince Lastor, a tenant in the penthouse who may be a suspect in the supernatural murders.
Abby is also searching for her own identity. Every person with magical power who she meets when she arrives in Berkeley is shocked when she introduces herself. Why? Because, they tell her, Abby Teller is legendary and Abby Teller is dead.

Of course, Abby isn’t dead, she’s very much alive, living a private life and taking care of her sick mother in Buckeye Heights until the mother’s recent death.

Why does everyone in the World of Magic believe this strange story? And how did they learn of 

The answers to these questions drive Abby’s quest to discover her true identity as a woman of power destined to fight evil magic.

Central to Abby’s development as a woman of power is her confrontation with and resolution of mysteries of her past, especially the mystery of her father’s death. And why did her mother contract an incurable wasting illness, requiring Abby’s care for years, beginning when she was a young teen?

Stop me before I give away any plot spoilers! People need to read the book!

Okay! And you say The Garden of Abracadabra is just the first book of a series?

Yes, I’ve been working on Volume 2, The Labyrinth of Illusions, for some years now and have a third in mind. I’m structuring the first three books on a plot arc that should be resolved by Volume 3, The Shadows of Illyria.

Depending on how wide a readership the three books receive, I may then proceed with another set of three books. But we’ll see!

Charlaine Harris ended the Sooki Stackhouse (True Blood) books with twelve books (I think). Same for Kim Harrison and the Rachel Morgan books. Jim Butcher, on the other hand, is still going strong with the Dresden Files after twenty-plus books. Same for Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake books. Both of those authors have expanded their original premise—a supernatural detective—beyond strict Urban Fantasy, with Butcher incorporating high fantasy tropes into the mix and Hamilton resorting more and more to porn.

Career-wise, I think an author will do well to develop a series, or at least a trilogy, for a concept that fits into a recognized genre like Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, or Science Fiction. The trick, though, is keep the momentum going!

As for me, I’m also developing a new high-concept Science Fiction world and publishing stories. I’ve published two this year in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Teardrop” in the May-June 2015 issue, and “Tomorrow Is A Lovely Day” in the November-December issue. Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Website for more details.

Thank you, Lisa! This has been a fascinating peek inside your new novel. Please let us know about future developments with the story.

Be sure to visit Lisa's website to learn more about her recently-published stories. And be sure to buy your copy of THE GARDEN OF ABRACADABRA today!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

10 Questions with My Wife, Taliya Schneider, Spiritual-Folk Singer/Songwriter

This Spotlight

My Wife
Taliya Schneider


Today we have a very special guest. She is a talented and accomplished musician and a singer-songwriter. She has written, produced, and recorded four albums. She was awarded a Guinness World Record for recording one of her original songs in 15 languages. She has toured Europe and the USA performing her original music. She is also my amazing, talented, and very beautiful wife. Today is also Taliya's birthday! Mazal Tov, wifey!


1.How and when did you get into music and why do you sing, play, and write music?

From a fairly young age, around the age of five, I remember picking up my mom’s styling hair brush, pretending it was a microphone, and singing to myself, making up tunes and even interviewing myself while staring at my own reflection through my mom’s dresser mirror. I pretended that I was both  the interviewer and the host, interviewing myself  as the singer, the entertainer.

Later on, when I was in elementary school, and started taking flute lessons, I remember improvising with a huge clay vase as an amplification device due to its acoustic nature. I would hold it like a microphone and sing with it at home for hours. When I was in high school, I was introduced to the guitar, with which I felt an immediate, organic, earthy bond. I was so thrilled and delighted to find out that I could write and perform my own original songs in such a pure and acoustic way, just vocals and guitar. I was also aware of how empowering and blissful it felt to be able to find ‘my voice’ in the world through the gift of creating and sharing music. 

Once, when I was a little girl, I saw this amazing and most profound poster on the wall of a ballet studio, which said: “What You Are Is God’s Gift To You, And What You Become Is Your Gift To God”.  I remember standing there for a while, letting these words and that divine message absorb into me, shaping me and inspiring me. I have been guided ever since then by this mantra each time I create, perform and record music.

When I sing and create music, I feel like this is my way of healing, soothing, contributing, and saying “Thank You” to God and the Angles for the precious gift that they have blessed me with. I would like to believe that when I sing and create music, I heal, inspire, soothe, empower and elevate the human spirit and energy to a higher, positive, blessed, joyous, blissful and harmonious place.  

2.What instruments do you play?

When I was little, I used to play the flute and then later on I started playing the organ, but it was really around high school when I found my real instrument, the guitar. I started taking guitar lessons on a classical guitar with a Flamenco classical teacher, but fairly quickly realized that my true instrument was playing acoustic guitar and electric-acoustic guitar. I absolutely love the earthy, wholesome, grounded energy I feel each time I pick up my acoustic guitar. I do hope one day to master the piano as well, as I always feel so moved, inspired, and touched listening to piano music.      

3.What do you like best about being a musician?

The ability to create, to inspire, to uplift and shift people’s energies and spirits (just like a magician or an alchemist), quenching people’s souls with harmonious and soothing melodies and empowering lyrics, making people feel good about life, making them realize how precious and beautiful life is, what a gift it is and how empowered and loved they are.

4.What is your creative process? IE do you write lyrics first? Do you hear a melody in your head, etc?

It is really a combination of both…depending on the mood… Sometimes lyrics come to me first, and then I’ll sit down with my guitar and by the divine magic of creation and inspiration, the music will flow through me… And sometimes I’ll wake up with a tune in my head, or a melody will come to me first and will play itself in my head throughout the day, and then the story of the song, the lyrics, will write themselves perfectly… Either way, it always feels like I’m channeling the blessings of creation from a higher place, whether it is lyrics first and music later or music first and then lyrics.

5.Who are some other singers/songwriters/bands you admire?

I would say that I have always been inspired listening to great, authentic singer-songwriters such as Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLachlan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Enya. I have always gravitated towards meaningful, insightful and spiritual music.

6.Tell us about your background & experience as a professional musician.

I began writing music in my teens and started performing in my early twenties. I toured Europe with my original music during my thirties, playing concerts and music festivals and I was featured worldwide on TV (CBS13), Radio (Satellite Radio, BBC Radio) as well as in the printed media ('Hollywood Reporter', 'Telegraph').

In 2004, I was officially awarded the Guinness World Record for a Song Sung in the Most Languages. I sang my original song “Flower Child” using fifteen different languages within the song. I sought assistance from professional translators to help get the lyrics just right.

As an artist, a singer-songwriter and a musician, I feel I have come a long way since those days… I have evolved spiritually so much since then to the point that I feel that performing any of that old music from my 20’s and 30’s is not a true representation of who I am today, and is certainly not aligned with the higher-evolved spiritual energies in my 40’s.  The acoustic spiritual-folk music I create and perform today is 100% derived from the heart and is 100% aligned with uplifting, inspiring, healing and soothing energies of harmony, blessings, light, joy, and bliss.

7.How many albums have you recorded?

I have recorded four albums to date; the first one was recorded in my early 20’s, followed by two albums recorded during my 30’s, and my most recent and most significant “In The Name Of Love” album was recorded in 2012.

8.What is your most recent album In The Name of Love about and how did it come to fruition?

My most recent and most significant album is called “In The Name Of Love” and it is dedicated with all my eternal love to you, my sweet hubby, and to us, as eternal wife&hubby for eternity together, Amen! J  “In The Name Of Love” is a spiritual-folk acoustic album which includes nine songs, all of them written during 2007-2012.  

In 2012 the actual album was able to be recorded in one acoustic LIVE session, at Jimmi Accardi’s studio (“The Hit House”; see above photo) in Penn Valley, CA thanks to our eternal dearest friend, Harvey Noble, who has always supported us every step of the way. He has always been there for us, he is always with us, and it was he who gifted this divine recording session to us with all his eternal blessings before our travels to Israel.

9.What’s your current musical project?

I am currently working on an additional spiritual-folk acoustic album that I am hoping to record this coming year.

 10.Who or what inspires your music?

YOU, my very sweet and amazing hubby! J Us, Together, as a family, and as Blessed and United and Loving and Passionate and Joyous and Happy, and Harmonious, and Protected, and Blissful, and Prosperous and Successful and Loyal and Faithful and Sacred Husband&Wife for Eternity Together, with our beautiful & healthy Schneider Baby, Together,  Amen!  And of course, I am also inspired by God, by our Gift and Miracle of life and Divine Creation, and by all of our Beloved Guardian Angels!     

Is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can hear your published music, buy your new album, etc.

I would like to see more and more artists create, perform and write uplifting, positive and feel-good creations. The world is in deep need of Light and Blessings. Words have energies, hence it is so important to direct the attention to the intention, i.e. creating only what would deeply heal, nurture, soothe and bless humanity, the world, and life itself.

It is my true heartfelt desire, as a Spiritual-Folk Singer-Songwriter, to create soothing, serene, reflective acoustic music, which lifts one's spirit, warms one's soul and envelopes the listener with a true celestial ambiance, which lingers beyond any place and time….enveloping your soul and quenching your spirit with spiritual, soothing and uplifting melodies, ethereal vocals, reflective, healing and empowering lyrics.... It is my passion and mission to create high-vibrational music and contribute to a more positive, harmonious, loving, uplifted and Blissful world!

To listen to samples of my music and to purchase my spiritual-folk acoustic album “In The Name Of Love, please visit my website at:

Thank you, my very sweet hubby, for featuring me and my music on your amazing blog! I Love You my sweet hubby for Eternity Together, Amen! J

Thank you, Taliya, for sharing your amazing, uplifting music with us. I love you, too, my very sweet wifey, for eternity together, amen! Be sure to let us know when your next album is available.

Be sure to visit Taliya's website to listen to free samples and to purchase the album in its entirety.