Category: Blog Posts (Page 1 of 7)

Interview with Michael Johnston

THE BOOK
Please describe what the book is about.

Once a war hero of the Zhen Empire, Tajen Hunt has become a freelance starship pilot, scrabbling for a living on the fringes of the Empire.  When his estranged brother is murdered, Tajen discovers that he was killed by Imperial agents.  Betrayed by the Empire he used to serve, Tajen gathers a crew and sets out to finish his brother’s quest—to find the long-lost human homeworld, Earth.  What they discover will shatter 800 years of peace in the Empire, and start a war that could be the end of the human race.

That’s the plot, anyway.  But it’s really about self-creation, and re-creation. It’s about building a family to replace the one you lost, and reclaiming yourself from bitterness and the hole you’ve dug yourself into.  It’s about healing, both yourself and your people. 


Share a teaser from your book.

“… I had been the Empire’s man. Even after I left the service, after Jiraad, I was still loyal. I still believed that the human race was better off under the Zhen than out on our own. There were far too few of us to try ourselves against a hostile universe without their support. In human dives across the Empire, I’d argued in favor of the Zhen, sometimes as our benefactor, sometimes as a necessary evil, but always in favor of not rocking the boat, not going against the bargain our ancestors had made. Before that, I’d allowed the Empire to use me as an example, holding me up as a symbol of humanity’s growth towards a larger, more central role in the Empire.

And despite my service, they had killed my brother without a qualm. Because he said ‘no’ to their request to let go of our own homeworld. So now I had a decision to make: what was I going to do about it?”


Where did you get the idea?

The story came from a stray thought in a course I was taking on Modern Irish Literature.  We were discussing the ways the British had subjugated the Irish over hundreds of years, and I found myself wondering how that could be translated into a Science Fiction context.  I wrote a note in the margin of my notepad, and over time I kept adding to it.  Eventually I connected it with a vignette I had written for a friend, and The Widening Gyre was born.


What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.) 

When I was first drafting the story, I called it Things Fall Apart, because the story is inspired by Irish history, and that’s one of my favorite lines from the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, in his poem “The Second Coming.”

Then I remembered Chinua Achebe’s book of that name, and I decided to change it to The Widening Gyre.  Some friends didn’t like it, and I let myself be talked into changing it yet again.  But then my editor, Don D’Auria, said he preferred The Widening Gyre, and since I did, too, I happily changed it back. 


No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

A minor character in Book 1 becomes very important in Books 2 and 3.


Tell us about your favourite character.
I love my narrator and protagonist, Tajen, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Liam.  He’s got the perfect mix of silliness and seriousness. 

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I’d spend it with Tajen, and I’d get him to teach me to fly his ship. 

 
Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?

There are elements of real people in them, but they’re created by me.

WRITING PROCESS
How long did you take to write this book?

I began writing it in July 2012, began really taking it seriously after I attended the Viable Paradise SFF writing workshop in October of 2013, and finished the first draft in July 2015.  I did some rewriting, and started submitting it to various agents & publishers in January 2016.  I got the acceptance from my publisher in May 2018.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I did a lot of reading on Irish history, as well as researching the dismantling of the British Empire. 

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

There was an extended “dream” sequence in which Tajen had a conversation with an AI, unaware of what it truly was.  But it wasn’t working, and as written it blurred too many lines, so I took the AI out and replaced it with a simpler scene. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m much more of a plotter.  Maybe it’s my English teacher training, but I can’t get traction on the story until I first work out the characters, and then outline the basic plot.  I still get a lot of ideas to add in as I’m writing, and some things change in the process, but I definitely plan the shape of the story before I begin drafting. 


What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I like the point where I’ve nailed down the plot, I know what’s going to happen, and I can just write.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Getting the outline done.  Making sure that the plotlines not only make sense, but are interesting.


Can you share your writing routine?

I still have a day job as a high school teacher, and a child in grade school, so I have to write when it fits.  During the school year, I try to write every night for at least an hour after my daughter goes to bed.  During breaks from school, I write throughout the day–most of the work on The Widening Gyre was done during the summers.  That said, I am working on ways to increase writing time, such as giving up some of the television I used to watch, among other things. 

Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

I have, but it’s not usually the kind where I’m unable to decide what happens next.  For me, writer’s block is when I know what has to happen in the next scene, but I’m so exhausted by work and parenting that I can’t focus on the words.  I’ve learned to not try to force myself on those days, but to do something that relaxes me instead, and come back to the writing later.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I largely gave up on the idea of writing professionally when I was about 22, and picked it up again when I was 42.  So what I’d tell that guy is “Don’t give up.  You can do it.”


How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have three unpublished–and unpublishable–books, all of which are on media I can’t even read anymore.  That’s a good thing, because they are terrible. I’ve also got a couple of books I’m still working on in various stages, and some short stories that haven’t been published. 


Do you have any writing quirks?

I overuse em-dashes, and have to fix them when I edit.  And in my edits, I learned that I relied way too much on words like “shrugged” and “snorted.” 

THE WRITER
Tell us about yourself. (e.g. day job, family, pet, etc)

I’m a high school English teacher.  I’m married, and we have an eleven year old daughter and four cats, which is more than we expected to have.


How did you get into writing?

I’ve never not been making up stories, but I started writing them as a lonely teenager when I’d moved from my hometown to a new city.  In the first couple of years of college, a bad creative writing instructor moved me to give up on writing seriously.  I still wrote, but I didn’t aim for publishing so much as for entertaining myself and my friends. In my early 40s, I picked it back up and started taking it seriously. 


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

In no particular order, I read, watch TV, play video games, and play with my family.

Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I post short essays on my blog, but that’s about it these days.  I’d love to do more paid writing, but finding something I can do around my day job that won’t take away from my novel writing is nearly impossible.


Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

In RPGs and video games, I will almost always play the class or character that uses magic. 

 
Which book influenced you the most?

I’m not sure I can quantify that, really, but the book that first got me interested in writing my own stories was C.S. Friedman’s amazing novel, In Conquest Born.

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of things.  First up is the sequel to The Widening Gyre, titled The Blood-Dimmed Tide.  I’m also working on the plot outline for a new IP, another space opera set in a place I’m calling the Boundless Empire.  And finally, I’ve got an epic fantasy that I’d outlined, but which I took back to the drawing board to replot, because I love the characters and the basic idea, but a lot of my original outline doesn’t work.


What’s your favourite writing advice?

If you want to be a writer, then write.  That’s all that is required.  Publishing is cool, but it’s not a requirement.
 
TELL US…
The book you’re currently reading

I’m currently reading Mike Chen’s Here and Now and Then.


PITCH

When he discovers he’s been on the wrong side all along, a human soldier gathers a crew and sets out to finish his murdered  brother’s quest—to find the long-lost human homeworld, Earth.

BUY LINK

Find a local, independent store at which to buy: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781787581456

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1787581454/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1787581454&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2


Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-widening-gyre-michael-r-johnston/1129683657?ean=9781787581432

BIO

Michael R. Johnston is a high school English teacher and writer living in Sacramento, California with his wife, daughter, and more cats than strictly necessary. His debut Science Fiction novel, The Widening Gyre, will be released 14 March 2019 by Flame Tree Press. He can be found at mjohnstonbooks.com and Twitter @MREJohnston


SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: http://www.mjohnstonbooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MjohnstonBooks/

Twitter: @MREJohnston

Instagram: @michaelr.johnston
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18491178.Michael_R_Johnston

Next Girl to Die GIVEAWAY!

Next Girl to Die

Today, I was super excited to get my physical copies of Next Girl to Die. It’s so surreal to hold your book in your hands the first time. To celebrate, I’m going to giveaway some books!

So, first, how this will work. US Only, I am giving away two signed copies of the physical book. I’ll also throw in some bookmarks! International, I’m giving away one ebook copy. To enter, use the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t want to wait? You can buy NEXT GIRL TO DIE on Amazon here.

Interview with Dan Stout


Please describe what the book is about.

A fantasy noir thriller set in a world where magic is real and technology is at 1970s level.


Share a teaser from your book.
Our little car hugged the corners as I slalomed us through the early morning traffic. The nice thing about cop cars in Titanshade is that the boys in the shop keep them tuned nice and tight. I glided up to a stoplight and paused, waiting for the light to turn green.

Our destination lay straight ahead. But while I stared at the red light the thought of Talena’s photo and that small sticker remnant on the Do Not Disturb sign whirled in my mind.

When I took a sudden right turn, Ajax looked up from fiddling with the radio. “We taking the scenic route?”

“Just a quick stop before we talk to the candies.”

“Yeah? Where’s that?”

A heavily filtered bass line bounced from the Hasam’s speakers, followed by a trumpet’s trill. I slapped Ajax’s hand off the dial.

“No disco,” I said. “They can make us work together, but I am not listening to disco.”

– Where did you get the idea?
Liberty Hall was a writing community site, when participants were given 90 minutes to write a piece of flash fiction. For whatever reason, I came up with Carter, the setting, and the discovery of the murder, as well as most of the action in the first act. After that, it was just a matter of following the clues…

– What’s the story behind the title?

Titanshade is an oil boomtown, where a mix of greed and hard labor has allowed the residents to claw out a living in the midst of an arctic perma-freeze. So much of the story ties into the character of the streets and the citizens that there was never any doubt the book needed to be named after the city.

– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
One particularly fun aspect of the world was figuring how different species in a post-industrial fantasy world would learn to adapt to each other, from clothing and language to eating utensils tweaked for different anatomy.

– Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

They all come from my imagination, but my imagination is fueled by juxtapositions of real people—the attitude of a guy I met at a party with the fashion sense of the woman in line behind me at the grocery store.

WRITING PROCESS
– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

I wrote the Liberty Hall flash in April of 2015, so it’s just under 4 years from inception to publication.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plotter, but I value the characters more than the plot structure. If the characters wouldn’t logically proceed from point A to point B, then it’s on me to either provide a framework where they would, or change the plot to reflect their honest reactions.

– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
Editing. I enjoy seeing the different threads of the story pull tighter, revealing a tapestry that’s richer and more complex than I first imagined.

– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Drafting.

I love brainstorming, and I love fixing the story once it’s built. But writing down the initial draft is like chewing glass.

– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)
I work in chunks of time, usually two blocks of 2 – 3 hours. I start early, so I’m usually done with writing by noon, and move to admin and marketing after that.

– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
Not so much writer’s block as much as a sudden realization that, “This is garbage and I just keep going around in circles.”

The only way out (at least for me) is through.

– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You’re good at revising, but you need feedback, and to get that you need to have written the first draft. So get going!

– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Wow, several half-finished ones. I wrote a NaNoWriMo that’s essentially a 50k word outline, and have others that range between 5 and 20 k.  

– Do you have any writing quirks?

Oh man, so many! Maybe the strangest is that my first-draft characters almost always have names that start with the same letter (Steve and Sara and Sammie, etc.). I created the Mollenkampi naming convention in Titanshade as a private joke at my own expense.

THE WRITER
– How did you get into writing?
I wrote when I was younger, but I only began to get serious in 2011. That was when I found NaNoWriMo, and then the online writer communities. Once I dove into them, there was no going back!

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Lately, just sleep! Carving out time for non-writing related activities is important, and I need to make myself put down the mental pen a little more often.

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
I love short fiction, and still return to it as a break from the novel-writing routine, and to flex a different set of writerly muscles.

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
I can (just barely) juggle.

– Which book influenced you the most?

All of them! The biggest influence on me was all the time I spent in the library, grazing on fiction and biography and history. I sampled all the various languages of prose, and fell in love with each one of them.

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?
The sequel! It’s been tough but rewarding, as building a follow-up that can also stand on its own has meant learning a whole new set of skills. But it’s paying off, and I’m very excited to share the next chapter in the story.

– What’s your favourite writing advice?
The struggle belongs to you, the finished product belongs to the reader.


PITCH

– Give us a short pitch of your novel
MEN IN BLACK meets CHINATOWN.

BUY LINK
Please provide a link to buy / pre-order your book.

BIO

– Please provide a short bio.
Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Mad Scientist Journal. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller, available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at www.DanStout.com.


SOCIAL MEDIA

– Please provide links to your social media channel

Website: www.DanStout.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DanStoutWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanStout

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danstoutwriter/
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7938095.Dan_Stout

Interview with Felicia Grossman

Please describe what the book is about. 

Appetites & Vices tells the story of Ursula Nunes, the least popular Jewish heiress in 1840’s Delaware, and Jay Truitt, a recovering opium addict hiding behind his rich playboy persona. What starts as a faux engagement to help Ursula’s social standing, turns into actual love. The novel follows Jay’s struggle build a new life and Ursula’s struggles to fit into both Jewish and gentile society, while discovering that everything is a little easier with a partner. The book explores of the difficulties of American Jewish identity, addiction and interfaith romance.    


Share a teaser from your book. 

If she’d been fortunate, she’d have been born docile-but-plain or at least a sedate pretty. Society rewarded conformity. The woman was doomed. Ursula Nunes was a four-time deviant. Her Jewishness, her wealth, her near-aggressive beauty, and her charm—or lack thereof— made her almost hopeless.


Where did you get the idea? 

Appetites is a faux engagement story and I love that trope (romance is all about the tropes). And I really, really, really wanted to write a heroine in a historical romance that could’ve been my ancestor (there’s no British nobility in my blood, I promise), who got to have a really big character arc because why should the heroes have all the fun screwing things up? 

What’s the story behind the title? 

Appetites & Vices comes from my CP (critic partner) group. My original title was terrible and they would not let me query with it so, led by my writing bestie, MJ Marshall, we brainstormed and everyone else along the way loved it. 


No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket. 

Both Appetites and its sequel,Dalliances & Devotion, are parents-and-children books in a lot of ways. The romantic relationship is primary but the biggest secondary relationships are those sort of family bonds. 


Tell us about your favourite character. 

Let’s be real, I usually put a little bit of myself in all my characters, especially my heroines, but there’s a TON of younger me in Urs. A lot of embarrassing things that I look back and cringe on, and a lot of the good stuff as well. Urs is spoiled, indignant, high-tempered, impetuous, pushy, bossy, and socially-awkward, but she’s smart, loyal, brave, determined, and ultimately very kind. She values fairness and justice and may say the wrong thing, but would never “punch” (or throw) down.  


If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

I love me some Urs. She always knows where the good desserts are and she has a monkey! 

What kind of research did you do for this book? 

It’s historical so a ton of research. It’s set in my area of the country (Delaware and Philadelphia)—where I grew-up—just a few centuries earlier—so I kind of knew where to go, i.e., Rebecca Gratz’s letters and writings as well as Winterthur Museum and Gardens etc. 

What did you remove from this book during the editing process? 

Oh gosh, before querying, I removed original chapters three and four as well as the first half of chapter one, because they were cute but didn’t push the plot forward. I also added a bit of backstory to my hero after an R&R. But other than that initial stuff, I didn’t remove anything else big. 
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WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now? 

Appetites & Vices has a sequel, called Dalliances & Devotion coming out in August, so there are edits there. I’m also drafting something entirely new, but still American now, and there’s a Regency I’m editing. 


Buy the book

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Interview with Megan Collins


Share a teaser from your book.

THE WINTER SISTER is an exploration of grief and guilt—how the two can compound each other and how forgiving ourselves can be even more difficult than forgiving others. Though the book begins with the murder of eighteen-year-old Persephone, its story really belongs to the people who loved her: the mother, Annie, who drowned her grief with alcohol until she had nothing left; the sister, Sylvie, who tried to escape her past by lying to her friends and herself along the way; and the boyfriend, Ben, who’s long been suspected of being the one who killed Persephone, even though he swears he’s innocent. Sixteen years after the devastating murder, the lives of these three characters intersect once again, and it’s only then that the truth about what happened to Persephone finally comes out.    

Here’s the first paragraph: “When they found my sister’s body, the flyers we’d hung around town were still crisp against the telephone poles. The search party still had land to scour; the batteries in their flashlights still held a charge. Persephone had been missing for less than seventy-two hours when a jogger caught a glimpse of her red coat through the snow, but by then, my mother had already become a stranger to me.”


Where did you get the idea?

THE WINTER SISTER is inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter, which has always been my favorite myth because of the many ways in which it can be read—as a story of motherhood, a story of what happens when we refuse to let go of grief, or a story about the effects of trauma. The idea for this book came to me when I wondered what would have happened if Demeter had had another daughter, if Persephone had had a sister, who was left to navigate her childhood in the wake of her mother’s neglect and rage and unending grief over Persephone’s disappearance. Sylvie, the narrator of THE WINTER SISTER, is my answer to that question.


What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.) 

The book was originally titled PERSEPHONE’S SISTER as a way to anchor the reader in its mythological context and to cement the fact that, though Persephone plays a huge role, this is actually Sylvie’s story. My publisher very rightfully felt that this title might make people think the book takes place in ancient Greece, so I suggested THE WINTER SISTER, which still nods to the myth but doesn’t alienate any potential readers who aren’t familiar with it.     


No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Art plays a big role in this book. After her sister is murdered, Sylvie spends all of her free time painting, almost to the point of obsession, and by the time we meet her as an adult, she’s working as a tattoo artist. But art is not therapeutic to her; instead, it’s tied to a pivotal experience from her past, one that continues to cripple her with guilt and shame.


Tell us about your favourite character.

For me, Sylvie’s mother Annie is the most compelling. In a lot of ways, she’s a terrible mother, having basically abandoned that role altogether after Persephone was murdered. But deep in her core is a lot of love and guilt that have essentially left her paralyzed, unable to move on. And though I would never want to be like her, I sympathize with the trauma she’s endured. I understand how easy it can be to lose yourself to that pain.


If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)

I would take Sylvie out on a self-care day because she’s gone through so much and definitely needs it. We’d eat giant cinnamon buns for breakfast, go see a funny movie, get massages, order some delicious takeout, and then binge-watch a riveting TV series for the rest of the day, pausing only to cuddle with my golden retriever Maisy (who clearly has to come, too).

Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

While none of my characters are based directly on anyone real, I’m certain that each one has qualities borrowed from people I’ve known. It’s impossible to write in a vacuum, so real life always slips in, whether it’s through a character’s background, a gesture, or a particular way of speaking.


How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

It was about two years from the initial outlining of this book to the final revision I made with my agent before it was sent out on submission. But during that time, I took nearly a year-long break, as I got stuck for a while and chose to focus on revising another project instead.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

In a way, I feel like I’ve been researching this book for half my life, ever since I first heard the myth of Persephone, and in all the years since, whenever I’ve re-read it, taught it, or devoured any reimagining or adaptation of it I could find.


What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

When I worked with my agent on this book, our goal was for me to get it down from 135,000 words to under 100,000 in order to tighten the story and improve the pacing. At first, that seemed like such an impossible task because it meant cutting a quarter of the novel, but once I got into a groove, I was trimming down sentences ruthlessly until I was left with prose that was much more muscular and could therefore pack a bigger punch than its previous, more padded version.   


Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m definitely a plotter. In my non-writing life, I like to plan things out and know as much about what’s coming as possible, so it makes sense that when it comes time for me to draft a novel, I want detailed outlines to help me find my way.  


What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

My favorite part of the writing process is the physical feeling I get in my body when the lines and sentences are flowing particularly well. It’s something I feel in my arms, in my legs—a sensation in my veins, as if my blood is sparkling. It sounds a little crazy when I say it like that, but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of other writers who know exactly what I mean.


What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The most challenging part of the process is when you know there’s a problem in what you’ve written—a consistency issue, a lack of clarity, a need for a better transition, etc.—but the solution eludes you. It can be incredibly frustrating to keep staring at the section that’s giving you trouble, believing that you’ll never write your way out of it. On a positive note, though, once you do find the answer to the problem, it’s incredibly rewarding and you get to feel like a superhero for a second.


Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I have a home office that I write in, and given my teaching schedule, I tend to do most of my writing in the mornings. This works best for me because my mind is fresh, and it means I can spend time at night just decompressing from the day by reading or watching TV. Do you have any writing quirks?


Tell us about yourself. (e.g. day job, family, pet, etc)

I have the immense privilege of teaching creative writing to high school students at an arts magnet school in Hartford, Connecticut. I’m also the managing editor of the literary journal 3Elements Review. When I’m not writing, reading, or teaching, I’m hanging out with my husband Marc and our golden retriever Maisy.


How did you get into writing?

I caught the writing bug when I was six years old and wrote my very first story, “The Bad Cats.” From that day on, I knew there was no other path my life could take; I was going to be an author.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I love reading, of course—but I also love cuddling with my dog, binge-watching TV shows, and thinking about the next dessert I’ll eat.  


Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

Over the past ten years, I’ve divided my time between writing novels and writing poetry. In fact, my MFA is in poetry, and I’ve published a number of poems in literary journals since graduating from Boston University’s creative writing program in 2008. I love fiction and poetry equally, and I don’t think I would be the writer I am today without the training I received in each.


Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I’m obsessed with tiny things. I have a collection of miniature items, including a mini typewriter, mini bookshelf, and mini books! Some other favorites from my collection are my tiny cash register, shopping cart, and banker’s lamp.

Which book influenced you the most?

The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath. Before I first read Sylvia Plath in my early teens, I was writing pretty terrible poems filled with a lot of abstracts and clichés, but as soon as I saw how Plath crafted images and made universal emotions or experiences feel completely new, I was changed forever. I didn’t have the opportunity to take any creative writing classes until I was in college, so as a teenager, Sylvia Plath was my teacher.

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a new novel. Like THE WINTER SISTER, it’s about a woman haunted by her past who has to navigate some dysfunctional familial dynamics in search of a long-buried truth—but the similarities end there.

What’s your favourite writing advice?

Unsurprisingly (given my answer to a previous question), my favorite writing advice comes from Sylvia Plath: “The greatest enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” I’ve found that this little sentence has empowered me so much throughout the years; it’s helped me to turn off the voice in my head that would have me throw in the towel rather than keep fighting for the words I need to say.
 
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Give us a short pitch of your novel

THE WINTER SISTER opens sixteen years ago, when Sylvie’s sister Persephone didn’t come home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden from seeing, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and all these years later, her murder remains unsolved. Now, in the present day, Sylvie reluctantly returns home to care for her estranged, alcoholic mother undergoing cancer treatment, and finally begins to uncover the truth behind what happened to Persephone.


Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“Sharp and mysterious, The Winter Sister explores the complex bonds between families, the secrets that tie people together—and those that break them apart. A haunting debut: suspenseful, atmospheric, and completely riveting.”
—Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger

“Atmospheric and heart-rending, The Winter Sister brilliantly weaves together a gripping, suspenseful plot with a compelling character study of a grieving family. From the mysterious mother with a hidden past, to the guilt-ridden sister who now must solve her sister’s murder years ago, these characters will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. Wonderful!”
—Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night


BUY LINK

http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Winter-Sister/Megan-Collins/9781982100148


Megan Collins holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the CoastSpillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.


SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: www.megancollins.com
Facebook: facebook.com/megancollinswriter

Twitter: @ImMeganCollins

Instagram: @megancollinswriter
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18280418.Megan_Collins

Interview with Danielle Haas

THE BOOK
Special Agent Graham Grassi is on a quest to stop a sex-trafficking ring from infiltrating Chicago. His path keeps crossing with sexy red head, Micky O’Shay. The stakes raise higher when Mickey’s goddaughter is taken, and her connections to the case leave Graham wondering if she’s just another victim in a sick game, or if she knows more than she’s letting on. Together, they race against time to unravel a web of deception before it’s too late.


Where did you get the idea?

My initial idea sprung from wondering what would happen if a flight attendant had a blind date with a man she’d already met…a man she’d just told to stop trying to join the mile high club on a flight she worked. Then I realized this wasn’t very heroic behavior, and I had to figure out what situation could he possibly be in to take him from sleezy to dreamy. Of course NONE of this made the final version, but it led me to a great story I never expected to tell.

What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.)

The original title was Grounded by Danger, but the publisher thought Bound by Danger sounded like more of a romance novel.

No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Although Mickey and Graham are in a high-stakes emotional situation, they still have a lot of witty banter between them. Graham even serenades Mickey—with a horrible singing voice—to one of my favorite songs by Journey.

Tell us about your favourite character.

I love Mickey! She’s sassy ad spunky and refused to be bossed around. She’s also strong and willing to do whatever it takes to find her goddaughter.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)  

I’d go to Mexico with Mickey! Flight attendants do so much traveling and would know all the best spots to hit up!

Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

The characters in this book are 100% from my imagination.

WRITING PROCESS
How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

I started writing this book in August of 2017. I wrote the first draft in about three months, followed by a lot of revisions after my beta readers got a hold of it. I received a contract offer in April of 2018.  It will be published on January 28, 2019.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I did a lot of research into sex-trafficking. It was horrific! But it opened my eyes to this dark world that exists everywhere and I now have a passion for advocating against. I even ran my first 5K in support of raising money to help victims of sex-trafficking.

What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I had a pretty intense car chase scene that my editor wanted removed. She said my characters needed a breather and wanted a “fun and games” scene to show them getting to know each other.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantster with a tiny bit of plotter thrown in.

What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

My favorite part is when I get completely caught up in where the story is going and all of a sudden it takes a surprise turn that I wasn’t expecting! This is why I could never go full-blown plotter!

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The most challenging part is just finding the time to sit down and write, and not feel guilty about doing so. I’m a stay at home mom and my son isn’t in school yet. It’s hard to balance.

Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I normally write at my desk or at the island in my kitchen. I work better in the morning, so after I get my daughter on the school bus I give my son time to do his own thing (TV, Kindle, Puzzles, Play-dough) and I work on getting in my word count. My brain shuts off around 5:00 and it’s tough for me to get back into my writing at that point.


Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Yes! Several times with my last manuscript, which I wrote in the middle of the summer with two kids home and moving to a new house. I didn’t beat myself up (too badly) for taking a step away from my writing, and then I pushed myself to sit down and just write. NaNo helped with that a ton this year!

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Be patient and find your writing tribe! The people in this community are amazing, and their support and advice have been life-changing. I wish I would have known they were out there sooner.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have three unpublished manuscripts that are all under contract. One will be out this year, the other two will follow shortly. I also have two unpublished/uncontracted manuscripts out on submission.

Do you have any writing quirks?

I talk to myself a lot when I write. It’s hard for me to concentrate and I have to move, talk to my pets, or just talk to myself as I go along. I’m sure it’s pretty entertaining to watch.

THE WRITER
Tell us about yourself. (e.g. day job, family, pet, etc)

I am a stay at home mom with a three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. I have a shar-pei/pit-bull who I absolutely adore and cat who is kind of shithead…but I love anyway. I live in NE Ohio with my family, and have a completely useless degree in Political Science.


How did you get into writing?  

I’ve always loved writing. When my son was 6 months old, I thought I was going to go stir crazy with only focusing on my children and husband. I decided to sit down and try to write a book based off my hometown and I fell in love with writing! That book, a small-town contemporary romance, will be published later this year!

WHAT’S NEXT

What are you working on right now?

I just finished another romantic suspense, which is book two of a three book series. Each book focuses on a crime where a dating app is used by the villain/and or suspects in the novels.


TELL US…
– The book you’re currently reading Appetites and Vices by Felicia Grossman.






BUY LINK
Amazon

Apple

Kobo

Nook

Danielle grew up with a love of reading, partly due to her namesake—Danielle Steele. It seemed as though she was born to write out the same love stories she devoured while growing up.

She attended Bowling Green State University with a dream of studying creative writing, but the thought of sharing her work in front of a group of strangers was enough to make her change her major to Political Science.

After college she moved across the state of Ohio with her soon-to-be husband. Once they married and had babies, she decided to stay home and raise her children. Some days her sanity slipped further across the line to crazy town so she decided to brush off her rusty writing chops and see what happened.

Danielle now spends her days running kids around, playing with her beloved dog, and typing as fast as she can to get the stories in her head written down. She loves to write contemporary romance with relatable characters that make her readers’ hearts happy, as well as fast-paced romantic suspense that leaves them on the edge of their seats. Her story ideas are as varied and unpredictable as her everyday life.



SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: www.daniellemhaas.com
Facebook

Twitter

Instagram
Pinterest
Goodreads

Giveaway – YOU by Caroline Kepnes

After really enjoying reading YOU by Caroline Kepnes, I’m super excited to giveaway a copy! Want to see what I thought of it? You can read my review here.

This giveaway is US only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Synopsis:

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

Can’t wait to win it? You can find it on Goodreads here! 

Giveaway details

And now on to the giveaway details! This giveaway is for a physical book. This giveaway is for US only. Because of previous problems with bot accounts entering or abusing the giveaway —  bot accounts will be disqualified. If you use social media to enter, follows/subs must still be active at the time of the drawing for you to qualify.

Feature: B.P. Donigan – Fate Forged (Bound Magic Series: Book One)

I’m so excited to feature FATE FORGED by B.P. Donigan on my blog today!

__________________

Story BLURB
Growing up on the streets of Boston, Maeve O’Neill learned to rely only on herself. Paying bills isn’t glamorous, but her life is on a better track—until she starts having agonizing visions of torture. Desperate to rid herself of the paralyzing episodes, she follows her visions to the scene of a murder. Instead of answers, she gets an unexpected gift from the victim: Magic.

With the unwanted power, Maeve becomes the access point to all of Earth’s untapped magic. Now, powerful enemies are after her and staying alive means striking a bargain with an untrustworthy ally with a long-shot plan. Maeve has to keep the magic in check until she can get rid of it, but her control is slipping and everything could go wrong. If the plan fails, her unlikely ally betrays her, or her enemies catch her, she’ll be handing over all of Earth’s magic…and her life.

 

Please describe what the book is about.

Fate Forged is about a woman who accidentally ends up as the key to all of Earth’s untapped magic. She’s targeted powerful enemies in the middle of a magic civil war. They’ll kill her to get the uncontrollable powers she inherited, so she’s forced to strike a deal with an untrustworthy ally who has a long-shot plan to get rid of her magic.

 

 

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Fate Forged?

Great question! The book can best be described as Epic Urban Fantasy. Fate Forged is a fast-paced thriller wrapped in magic. If you enjoy strong female protagonists who aren’t invincible, and a healthy splash of realistic romance, then you’d probably like Fate Forged.

 

Did anything from your real life influence your book at all?

Definitely! I grew up in Alaska, which is where my characters go to search for a Fate who can remove the uncontrollable magic powers from my main character. They hike over a glacier and to the top of a mountain in a re-creation of a three-day hike I did when I was a teenager. (I wasn’t chased by demon dogs at the time, but otherwise it’s the same hike.) The locations, and even the hiker’s huts where they stop over, are all real places. Also, the book starts out in Boston where I lived for a decade after college, and I mention Davis Square and a fortune cookie factory, which are real places that are near and dear to my heart. I had a lot of fun putting my favorite places into my story.

 

What sparked the idea for Fate Forged?

Fate Forged, started with a ‘what if’ questions. What if a woman inherited crazy magic powers, but had no idea how to control them?  From there, I let the questions lead me into a story – Who is she? Why doesn’t she know how to control the magic powers? Where do the powers come from? What if she doesn’t remember something critical about herself…

 

WRITING PROCESS

 

How long did it take for you to write Fate Forged? I first sat down to write a novel four years before Fate Forged was published. The first year was all about learning how to write a novel. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I knew what I liked, but I had no idea how to plan, plot or pace a novel. An entire second year was spent editing my work in progress and then getting beta readers and critique partners.

 

Did you have to do any research for Fate Forged?

I researched everything! For the story itself, I had to map out the character’s road trip, and Google search weapons, how to realistically kill someone in hand-to-hand combat, and watch lots of videos online just to make a coherent fight scene. For a while there, I was pretty sure my internet searches were going to flag an FBI raid on my house.

 

Did anything change significantly in your book during the writing or editing process?

A: Yes! Many of the character’s names changed, and the title of Fate Forged used to be The Lost Sect, which I liked, but the publisher didn’t think had enough depth. After some soul searching, I decided “Fate” was a thread that will reach across the entire series, and then I attempted to find a title with the word Fate that didn’t sound like a romance novel! To make it all cohesive, I ended up coming up with titles for the first three books (as well as the Series Title) so the extra effort was worth it.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plotter all the way. I’m always looking for better ways to plan out the plot, the characters and pacing. For me, it’s so much easier to write creatively if I know the bones of the story are solid.

 

Author Bio

B.P. Donigan was born and raised in Wasilla, Alaska (which would later become famous thanks to one infamous politician who could see Russian from her house, but at the time was about as rural as you can get).

She attended college in rural Idaho earning a degree in Print Journalism, and then not-so-rural Utah earning a degree in Marketing, and finally moved to very-not-rural Boston where she lived and worked for ten years. After paying her dues to the Extreme Winters, she resides now in sunny California, with her two kids, two fish, two dogs… and one amazing husband. Like any good superhero she spends her daytime building her cover story behind a desk, and her nights saving the world (on paper, at least).

Release Date: 12.18.18

-Buy on: Amazon | Kobo | Red Adept Publishing | B&N | GooglePlay

Review – You by Caroline Kepnes

One of my most haunting, creepy, and thrilling reads of 2018.

So, I’m late to the YOU game. I found out about the book because of the show on Lifetime. After watching a few episodes of the show I was DYING to find out what was going to happen next. Enter: the audiobook.

Let’s start with the narrator of the book. Hot damn I would listen to Santino Fontana narrate the instructions on a poptart box. He did an amazing job and was perfect for the book.

For the plot: No man could ever love Guinevere Beck the way Joe could. Ever. He studies her like his favorite books, he watches her to learn what she likes, he wants to fold into her life like the boyfriend she never knew she needed. It’s so intense, so perfect, so wonderful– it became an everythingship.

But he’s planned it all. Plotted it from the beginning. And nothing will stand in the way once he decides to love someone.

So what happens when love turns to obsession–and then something darker? Girl, you’re about to find out.

This book is beyond creepy. It’s gripping, it’s hypnotic, and holy shit-I did not want to stop listening to it. I was hooked from chapter one. I absolutely loved the writing, the way the story unfolded, and every thing about how Joe was written.

READ THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW

Synopsis from Amazon:

How far would you go for the perfect love? A young man’s dark obsession with an enigmatic, gorgeous writer leads to murderous consequences in this erotic psychological thriller.

You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn’t slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it’s impossible to know if you’re wearing a bra but I don’t think that you are. You’re so clean that you’re dirty and you murmur your first word to me – hello.

When aspiring writer and recent Brown graduate Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: she’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and sexy beyond his wildest dreams. Joe needs to have her, and he’ll stop at nothing to do so. As he begins to insinuate himself into her life – her friendships, her email, her phone – she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom-made for her. So when her boyfriend, Benji, mysteriously disappears, Beck and Joe fall into a tumultuous affair. But there’s more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade, and their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences.

Dark, masterful, and timely, debut novelist Caroline Kepnes’ You is a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve heard before. A chilling account of unrelenting passion, this tale of love, sex, and death will stay with you long after the story ends.

Find it on Goodreads

How to Setup an Author Website

The most requested option for a next post on author marketing via twitter, was *drum roll* how to build your author website.

It seems for some authors, the idea of creating an author website is incredibly daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! With all the recent developments in online technology, there are so many platforms that make creating an author website super accessible. If you find that you find it all too overwhelming, you will always have the option of turning to a web designer to create your website for you.

Please keep in mind, as an author, no one is expecting you to have a website that knocks their socks off. However, you do want it to be clean, professional, and easy to navigate.

The first steps

Evaluate what it is that you want on your website, and what you want out of your website. What’s the goal? Are you driving people to a blog, information about you, other options for connecting with you, posting book reviews, selling books, etc. Make a list of what is most important to you.

Now, it’s time to decide where you want your website to live — do you want your own domain? Are you fine having a subdomain on another website (example: www.yoursite.domain.com or www.domain.com/yoursite)? What’s the difference? Domains cost money, subdomains are usually free.

What to build on

There are lots of options for building your website, WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, you can even just set up a page for yourself on Facebook and call it a day (though I don’t recommend that path).

To start with, I recommend setting up a WordPress website. You can set up a site on WordPress that’s free and looks pretty good. If your website is hosted by WordPress, you also don’t have to worry about updating for security vulnerabilities, etc.

If you want more control over your WordPress install, you can sign up with many different web hosts (Godaddy, NameCheap, HostGator, etc.) and they’ll set up the WordPress install for you on your domain.

If you think that installing WordPress on your own server is for you, please remember the four U’s of WordPress.

  • Update
  • Update
  • UPDATE
  • For the love of god, UPDATE

While having more control over your WordPress install is great in some respects: You can install add-ons and plugins that you can’t access on a WP hosted version and customize cod yourself. There are other things you need to stay on top of: SECURITY. You need to keep your install and plugins up to date. Because WordPress can be vulnerable to hacking because of its popularity. There are plugins that can help circumvent this, but it’s still something to be aware of.

Pros of WordPress:

  • Good for SEO
  • Easy to update
  • Easy to maintain
  • Cheap
  • Industry standard
  • Tons of add ons
  • Tons of templates
  • Tons of integrations

Cons of WordPress:

  • Open source which can lead to vulnerabilities with security
  • There can be a learning curve if you’ve never used a content management system

 

What to put on your website

The basics for your website should include:

About me – your bio and a picture of you if you’re so inclined, also put all your social links here. Also include information about your agent and any writing groups/associations you’re affiliated with. Not sure what to write? Use this template. My name is [NAME], I’ve been writing [GENRES] for [X] years.

Items you can also add, what you love to read, your current read, where you live/have lived, your family, pets.

Books – Have books out already or coming soon? List them here, along with links to EVERY PLACE THAT SELLS THEM, also include goodreads. You can also add blurbs, praise, reviews, awards here.

Blog – If you want to blog, turn on that option in WordPress/your chosen platform. What should you blog about? I’ll write a new post about that soon. For now, you’re on your own.

Contact – On your contact page you should list all your social media, AGAIN. Also add your email address and PO box if applicable.

Other pages that might make sense for you: Signed copies of your books, Your patreon, Your Youtube/Twitch, Upcoming appearances, Upcoming works, Merchandise, Media (got maps for your books? Pronunciation guides? Family trees?), Reviews, Email sign up.

 

How often to update

If you’re blogging, many people say to blog once a week. I suck at this. So… I’m not going to tell you to do that. Otherwise, I’d say check your site once a month to see if anything needs to be updated. If you go with WordPress as a platform, check the admin page once a week to see if anything on the back end needs to be updated.

 

Metrics

There are key performance indicators (KPIs) that will tell you how your website is doing. Some websites have built in analytics, however, I recommend installing Google Analytics and setting up an account inside Google Search Console. Inside Google Analytics you can see:

  • How people arrived at your website
  • Where people went on your website
  • How long they spent on your website
  • Demographic information

Why would you want this information? This helps you determine how you’re getting traffic, where people are dropping off on your website, and it can also help you discover if parts of your website are ineffective.

 

More on WordPress

If you’re interested in moving forward with a WordPress install on your own server, I recommend the following plugins. Yoast (for SEO), Mailchimp for WP, Social Media Widget by Acurax, Wordfence (this will notify you of security issues), MonsterInsights Google Analytics.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT PLUGINS YOU INSTALL. Old plugins can easily be compromised. Look at reviews before you install, be incredibly aware of what you’re installing, and check to see how many people have installed it. After you install, KEEP IT UPDATED.

And now on to themes: There are a TON of free themes inside WordPress that you can install. One of my favorites is Lovecraft. But again, install carefully and KEEP IT UPDATED. Also, be sure that you are choosing a theme that is responsive, this means it will adjust the design of the website to the device it’s being viewed on.

 

Should I hire a web designer?

This is really up to you and whether or not you have a budget for it. A website set up by a web designer will likely cost you $100-$500, and will likely be on WordPress anyway. If you want the designer to maintain it for you, then there will also be a monthly cost. So, this is really up to you. But do be sure anything they set up for you is responsive.

 

About me

Dea Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she got her start writing in creative writing courses.  She attended The University of Central Oklahoma for Computer Science and Political Science. Later, she spent time living on both coasts, and traveling the United States, before finally putting down roots in Central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp, with her husband, son, two dogs and two cats.

She spends her days at her day job as a Senior Manager of Email and Lifecycle Marketing, and her nights writing Manuscripts.

Find me on Twitter.

Find me on Goodreads.

Find me on Facebook.

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