novel, pictures, Signing Events

Comicpalooza Part 1

As usual I had the best time at Comicpalooza, and not just because I met Felicia Day (that will be another blog post all together) but because I got to see old friends, dress up, and meet new readers.

I love meeting readers and I hope that they love reading my work as much as I loved creating it-be sure to leave a review on Amazon, and THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for supporting local/indie authors.

I also had the pleasure of picking up some reading material for myself including D.L. Young’s newest book ‘Indigo Dark Republic Book Two’  ‘Chrysalis and Clan’ by Jae Mazer (who I had the pleasure of sharing a table along with Chantell Renee and Jessica Raney) and ‘Soul Chambers’ by Paul Vader and Dominic Dames.

IMG_0969IMG_0947It was the most wonderful time of the year when I had the chance to go to Comicpalooza-I look forward to seeing you next year (I’m going to join a panel which I’ll talk more about later) until then here are some more pics of the amazing cosplay at Houston Comicpalooza 2017

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20 Questions With..., pictures, short stories

20 Questions with Jas T. Ward

Maybe I’ve said it before, but I’m a real big fan of Jas T. Ward.  She is known for her romance but I love her shorter pieces.  A collection called ‘Bits and Pieces: Tales and Sonnets’ is by far my favorite, although Ward admits that some of the stories are ‘rejects’ I find them illuminating.

Ward has had literally and figuratively every punch thrown at her, and yet she comes back strong in her writing.  Her characters share her resilience, lust for life, and are truly unforgettable.  She has over eight titles available for you guys to check out, as well as a coloring book that lets you tap into your own artistic abilities.

Jas is a dear friend, and I’m proud to be one of her stalkers.  Now it’s time for you to hear from her….

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20 Questions with Jas T. Ward

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? You may find this odd, but it was the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit. Something about it pulls me in today. It has a low word count actually, but the emotions behind the words. Amazing. I wanted to do that. I wanted to put emotions behind the words, draw a picture without having to be artistic, and have people feel. With words.
  2. How old where you when you started writing? I wrote my first story when I was about 8 years old. Pictures and everything. I spent days gluing those notebook paper pages together. It was not a work of art. LOL. But I’ve always written and I don’t see that changing. Sure, the audience may change and the scope, but no. I’ll probably write my goodbye on my death bed.
  3. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Well, I’ve already met you and would love to have eats with you again. But four I haven’t met to share the meal. Hmmm… Amy Tan, Ken Follett, Penelope Reid and Colleen Hoover.
  4. What would you eat? Has to be a Chinese food with huge trays of food made for the masses. I think you can tell a lot about what choices creative people when it comes to a selection of food. For me? Sushi, dumplings and coconut shrimp. Oh, and spring rolls. 🙂
  5. How do you plot out your work? I don’t. I have tried to use all the tactics – outline, story boarding. But none of it worked. Or it just went unused. The only two things I do is know my beginning and my ending. Then, the challenge is to make them meet up with what ever flows in the middle. Otherwise, I just start writing without a clue how that’s going to happen.
  6. Do you write in the morning or evening? I am inconsistent as all get-out. Some days it’s one and other days it’s the other. I think it has to do with my brain just goes on overdrive without warning. It’s a curse and a blessing so I’m not complaining.
  7. Is there music on? Not usually. I do have a movie or TV playing as white noise for the side of my nature that balks at having to write. But every now and then there is a soundtrack needed and when there is, it’s usually Linkin Park.
  8. What inspired your last story? That’s a complicated question to answer. My upcoming book releasing 06/13 – Soul Bound: The Warrior was inspired by real life events of my own. Some dark tragedy and loss. I still can’t really talk about it personally, but I was able to tap into it to write this fictional story. I see that as progress and it actually brought about some closure. Though I’m not really sure I’ll ever completely have that. But it’s nice to know I can go there… if only a little bit.
  9. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. Oh wow, that’s a toughie… hmm. Any of the Pillars of the Earth books by Ken Follett. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and The Dark Tower by Stephen King.
  10. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? I was just having this conversation with a author friend of mine. I don’t know if you or any of your followers remember a show called ‘The Red Shoe Diaries’, but that show was amazing in how it told a different story every week from the view of one man reflecting on love. Another one that I think is incredibly well written and produced is ‘The Story of Us’. Also, the limited series ‘Big Little Lies’ was AMAZING. It needs every award there is for acting, directing and story. Movies? I love big budget movies. Deadpool was genius. Different, a thrill ride, dark elements and sex. It remembered me of my books. 😀
  11. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? My reader club had this discussion. They all saw a younger Gerard Butler when discussing Jace Camden from Soul Bound. Brooding and intense with a soul you wanted to know, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
  12. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? Soul Bound, without a doubt. It was just so personal. And there’s some scenes in the book that are not fiction. They happened. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide which.
  13. Which was the easiest? Partly because his foundation had already been solidified in the first books of the series but also because he was just so much fun to step into the skin of. I had a lot of fun writing that book even though it was a paranormal, thriler book. Jess Bailey is something else.
  14. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? Madness, pretty much. The main character, Reno is so flawed. But he’s so good natured with a big heart. And mental special – he has a split personality and a much darker side. And he’s driven from forces beyond his control, literally and figuratively. I think the people that have gotten to know me, know I’m the same in a lot of ways.
  15. What are you working on now? Now that Soul Bound is at the formatting stage, I’m working on another ‘Romance – The Ward Way’ titled – ‘A Little Pill Called Love’. Which means it’s quirky, fun, has some love and intimacy but some series twists in it, but also takes on social issues in a background way. The reader goes in and realizes they learned something or found something in themselves without it being preached or lectured about within the pages. The characters took them there without even realizing it. This book will deal with severe bi-polar disorder and love.unnamed-2
  16. What story do you have to write before you die? My own. And considering how slow it is getting it out and on paper, I better live a LONG time. But I think I’m getting closer to being able to it. Soul Bound proved I could go there. I just hope it continues.
  17. What’s your best fan story? Ah, I have so many. The readers are amazing and how they have come to love the characters, many who have actual, interacting profiles on social media thanks to people who wanted to fan-fic/role play them, they love them even more. But I made the mistake of killing off Reno. And meant for it to be for good. Bad idea… They went ballistic! They sent me hate mail and inboxes of anger. They went on my wall and posted the meanest memes. Some they even created of “Bring Our Candyman Back!” And others threatened to boycott me and my books. Heck, there was a petition started with thousands of signatures. I was FLOORED. But, due to that love the Shadow-Keepers series was born and I am so grateful for that. I think that’s when I realized that not only are the voices of our characters rattling in our heads real to us in a way, they are also the same for our readers. It’s something we should always keep in mind. We want our readers to believe the escape we’re giving them—and the people that live there.
  18. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? .. that’s a hard one and I would probably spend days in all my books to find the very best one. I think, if I have to have one sentence it would be – Don’t judge me or the world I’m showing you until the ride is over. Then, you’ll understand. If not, sorry, no refunds. 🙂
  19. Have you ever based characters off of real people? Not yet. But when I write my real story? Oh yeah, They’re in there.
  20. Who’s your favorite character? Easy and the fans would revolt if I didn’t say it – Reno Sundown. I love that character so much. My inner child given life. As a hot badass doesn’t hurt.

 

You can find out more about the author on their Facebook Author Page-Jas T Ward and purchase their work from Amazon.

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novel, pictures, Signing Events

Where I’ll be, and what to do until then.

First off I’m very happy to announce that I along with a few dear author friends will have a booth at Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas from May 12-17, 2017.  I would love for all of you to attend as I’ll have copies of my work that you can check out and even get me to sign it.

I always have a great time at Comicpalooza where I can meet up with friends, other authors, and fans all while were dressed as their ‘alter-ego’.  Speaking of which I will be meeting Felicia Day (Charlie from Supernatural) so if you see me on Saturday I will be cosplaying as her!

I really hope to see you there!

 

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Next I’m happy to announce that a fellow award winning author/horror fan Kreepy Keelay narrated my story ‘Hair Dying’.  He did a phenomenal job (it’s almost as if he crawled into my head…) and I implore you to listen to a story that is far more horrifying than brassy highlights-click here for Scary Story Time ‘Hair Dying’.

 

Finally I’d like to tell you how much I throughly enjoyed the novel ’13 Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher, so much in fact that I was worried the story would be ruined when brought to the small screen.  I was wrong-although the story is different, the show brought to you by Netflix has more characters, it holds true the theme that Asher wanted the audience to understand once they were done with Hannah and Clay’s life.

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I had the pleasure of meeting New York Times Bestselling author Jay Asher when he spoke at the HWG Spring Conference-he even signed my copy of his books.  I throughly enjoyed ’13 Reasons Why’ and think that everyone should read it (not just Madame Bijou who’s pictured with the novel).  Asher’s work along with ‘All The Rage’ by Courtney Summers should be mandatory reading especially for young adults.

So after you listen to the narration of my story ‘Hair Dying’, but before you see me at Comicpalooza be sure to read then watch ’13 Reasons Why’-it’s a story that deserves to stick with you forever.

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20 Questions With..., Everything That Counts, pictures

Twenty Questions with Jason Brandt Schaefer

We first met at a writers conference while waiting to pitch our respective novels.

Apparently the first thing I said to him was, “Nice suit,” as I leaned back on the sofa that lined the floral wall papered wall that faced the ballroom in which agents held our futures in their hands.  I wore my traditional skinny neon colored jeans, Chucks, and an oversize shirt.  (Full disclosure I’ve only seen him in a suit that one time.  I wouldn’t use the word ‘uptight’ to describe him-precise would be more accurate.)

“Thanks,” he nodded and smiled.  His face softened and my conversation starter had worked, we began talking thus getting my mind off my pitch.

I’d practiced it enough, if I didn’t know it a few moments before I’d meet an agent then I figured I didn’t know it at all.  Therefore befriending a fellow writer seemed like a good idea to calm my nerves.  Jason and I have stayed friends, and in fact one might say that it flourished over time.  Although we have different writing styles we both love music, art, and ideas of stories that we’re contemplating.  We’ve critiqued each others work, and he’s edited my upcoming YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’ (he did a great job so any mistakes that might end up in print are my fault not his).

He’s not only an author, but a visual artist.  You can see some of his work by clicking here and checking out his Instagram.

Basically he’s cool, intelligent, and totally cool with the copious amount of times I use the word ‘dude’.  Now check out his answers to my 20 questions…

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Twenty Questions with Jason Brandt Schaefer

 

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? Oh, man. I cant say that I DO actually have ONE book that made me want to be a writer, but there have been several along the way. First, some of my favorite memories of my childhood are listening to my mother read to me, and it wasnt always childrens storybooks. She read Tom Sawyer to me one year, and I dont think we got all the way through it, but there was one scene that cracked her up something fierce and it has always stayed with me. Tom was playing with his friends, and for some reason pulled down his pants, maybe to relieve himself (or maybe all the boys were naked already; I havent re-visited the book since), but he lit upon a nettle, then rose up howling in pain. My mom found this tremendously amusing. Because I found Mark Twains 19th-century narration difficult to follow, I had to ask her why she was laughing so hard she was crying. As she wiped her face, she explained we had bull nettles on our eight acres, and Mom totally identified with Toms anguish. She hadnt sat on one (not to my knowledge, anyway), but everyone in my family had been stung somewhere on their bodies, including me. The laugh was a small thing, but it showed me how words have the power to invoke emotional responses, and our tie to Toms plight through our own experience, decades and decades into the future, blew my mind. This was a book written by a guy who was now dead, a famous dude we were studying in class, whose name I had read in history books and had heard everywhere, and he knew about bull nettles! So I saw that our lives were in that book, too. It was exciting. Mom read Jurassic Park to me, too, among many other Crichton novels, and seeing the movie version, the dinosaurs come to life, made the power of narrative all the more real to me. I was drawn to the cinematic style of Crichtons other novels, and compared the movies to the books every chance I could get. Eaters of the Dead is, in my opinion, one of his greatest literary experiments since it draws from archetypes you find in Beowulf, and The Thirteenth Warrior was pretty transcendental. Finally, in high school, when I was reading Stephen Kings The Dark Tower series, I realized literature is not only about writing to an audience; its about communicating with and responding to other literature. He drew inspiration from a Robert Browning poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, but if I remember correctly from Kings memoir, On Writing, he never intended it to be an adaptation of the poem, though it certainly is an interpretation of it. He had the lines, or the sentiment of the lines, rolling around in his head one day and set pen to paper, and realized LATER he was basing his book series on the poetic hero. That was FASCINATING to me. King also pulled lines out of T. S. Eliots The Waste Land. So its been a long, low-burning affair with literature novels, poems, and films that has driven my study of writing and my writing career to date. Ill add here that Emily St. John Mandels contemporary novel, Station Eleven, has finally given me a model for the KIND of novel I want to write, so if I had one book, Id say that one has been the most influential, but then, I read it only last year.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing? I first began with a journal, I think. I was probably eight or nine. I remember sitting in the sun by the pool at our outdoor iron table, which my folks still have, writing down my thoughts and not knowing for what purpose. Dear Journal, Im not sure what to say here…” That sort of thing. The answer, I now know, was less about recording my experience (since Id had precious few at the ripe old age of nine), but had everything to do with the PRACTICE of writing. Trying to figure out ways to plot my thoughts silently, using written words. I think I was inspired by Doug Funnie to begin a journal, though. You know, that old Nickelodeon cartoon? Someone told me Doug reminded them of me (not far from the mark; an awkward, private, unathletic dreamer of a child), and I thought, well, if I am to become the realization of Doug, Ill have to begin a journal. The short stories came after, Im sure, and the poetry came in college, after I made that Stephen King/Robert Browning connection senior year of high school and began reading all the poetry I could get my hands on. I was like, if Kings reading poetry, I should be reading poetry.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Stephen King, naturally, then Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and The Round House, Amelia Grey, this contemporary writer who pens the nastiest, most beautiful short stories Ive ever read (you can find them in Gutshot, her most recent collection), and James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods. Id love to eat with Crichton if he were still alive, and I already met Emily St. John Mandel, who declined to answer a few interview questions for an academic paper I was writing on her book. I understand she was busy, but Im still a little sore about that, so I think our lunch date would be a little tense. I worry she wouldnt have time to pass the salt. I like my salt. Damn, I can only name four here? Can I eat at like a twenty-foot dining table with every writer I admire? Can we do hors doeuvres and wine in an art gallery and mill about, trading ideas as we run into one another? I want to meet and eat with all the writers I admire, provided they have good table manners. (I think novelists probably do; its the poets I worry about, those whimsical manipulators of language. Id be too afraid theyd bend a fork the way they bend a metaphor just to see if they could re-invent a way to eat their salad. And I abhor conversations with people who say things like, Prose is ugly in its attempt to bring MEANING to something. Words dont MEAN anything. Because language cant really be UNDERSTOOD, per se…” This is not productive conversation, and it doesnt encourage anyone. And Ill admit Ive said things like this myself. At dinner, even!)

 

  1. What would you eat? TACOS! I dont care who you are; everyone enjoys tacos. Wed have to have pork, fish, beef, seafood, and vegan options, though. And corn and flour tortillas. And lots of napkins. Itll be fun to see who picks what. I imagine King and Grey would eat with violence, given the content of their stories. Not sure about Erdrich or Hannaham. They strike me as wholesome, balanced people, so maybe theyll indulge in fish or tofu and use lots of napkins.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work? I write LOTS of notes, then put them together. These notes can be lists of major events or beats within scenes, investigations into character that could become scenes in longer work or short stories in themselves or woven into the texture of a book through backstory. Ive tried beginning a book and trying to let it flow, but my time as a journalist trained me to write from notes, so this doesnt work very well for me. So I consider my notes to be a sort of interview with myself, with my characters, in which I ask them where theyve been, what theyve done, where theyre going, what they wore last Tuesday, what they carry in their purse, what vacation they plan to go on next October, what they think of this particular work of art. The more random the questions, the more refined the characters become, and the more refined the characters, the clearer the plot becomes, and the clearer the plot, the more easy it is for me to write it all down and find unity of theme and structure. I guess Im holistic in that respect you can never see a novel all at once, but I like to know where Im headed and why before I set out on the journey. The real adventure is the journey, anyway, not the stops along the way, or even more depressing, the end.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening? I seem to be the most productive in the early afternoon, but only if Ive slept in until at least 11 a.m. I am aware this is ridiculous, and I’m always trying to find the real answer to this question, but for me there is no best time to write. The best time is when theres no one around and no one expected to show up at the door, when its relatively quiet or theres some gentle background noise to let me know people are still alive in the outside world while Im in my head, when Im fed and relaxed and comfortable and have had at least two cups of coffee. Sometimes I feel like I have to be bored to write, but Im not sure thats quite true, either, and yet not sure its completely false. Why did humans invent novels in the first place? The correct answer, of course, is to share their experience of the human condition, but lets get real. Theres no better cure to sheer, absolute boredom than to imagine an entire world chock-full of excitement. Maybe thats why I feel I have to be bored its not the boredom, but the stability which grows from it, that I need. I have to be stable while I spin the world around in my mind, or else Im going to get dizzy and fall down.

 

  1. Is there music on? Sometimes I put music on, and sometimes Im in a coffee shop with music on. I cant listen to music when its repetetive or commands my attention. It brings me out of my daydream too much. If Im going to work with music on, its going to be something that can make me dance without occupying my mind. I do much better with ambient noise traffic, people talking, wind and rain, waves.

 

  1. What inspired your last story? Ill tell you about two of my shorter pieces, Lament for Reunions and Audrey Watched. I wrote Lament in response to the death of my grandfather and the drunken night I had with my cousins where we all realized though we come from the same place (geographically as well as hereditarily), we might finally be too different now to get along. I kept wondering, What do I do with that information? And I wrote the piece, just listing the strange and scary observations I was making that made me feel like an alien in my own family, a list of things perhaps I was the only one observing, and I got a really moving, emotional lyric essay out of it. (Though I sometimes call it fiction because the images and the plot, if it does have a plot, are taken out of context and manipulated to a degree.) And in writing the essay, I realized this is how I mourn things in my life I intellectualize and bargain, I put people and events in boxes and turn them around to see them from all sides, I stain microscope slides with little scenes from my own life and investigate why they happened that way, and what I could have done differently and what might have happened had I done that differently. Audrey Watched was similar, though it is more solidly a work a fiction. Im a musician, sometimes, and I lost a friend a while back to depression, anxiety and substance abuse. He was a musician, too, and wed played in a relatively successful group before things fell apart. Keeping the band together and everyone happy is the real business of music, not performing the songs. And a lot of times battling depression and confronting demons is a part of that. So I wrote this story of a Houston blues musician in a downward spiral. Because thats such a common theme in todays literature, I had to find a new way to write this old story, so I chose to tell it from the perspective of his guitar, named Audrey. She doesnt have any emotions, and she never responds to the protagonist, of course, any more than a guitar would in real life. What she does do is provide a keyhole into the world of his suffering, which made for a terrifying, claustrophobic story. Im working on a novel now, which I wont get too far into, but its also based on personal experience my parents shift from Lutheran Christianity to Wicca, a neo-pagan Earth religion. This happened when I was a teenager, and likely is the greatest reason I became a writer. To unpack complicated formative experiences like these.

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. At this point, I see any book on the shelf and wish Id written it, only because Im so hungry to get my work out there. I deeply admire Station Eleven, and Ill add Cormac McCarthys The Road and Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea to that list, but I dont wish Id written them because theyre amazing works of literature. Im glad they were written by others and that I can call them heroes for their achievements and that their work provides examples of what kinds of books Id like to write in my own way. Im not a jealous person, and I celebrate every writer who has their work out in the world. That said, I do wish I would have written the screenplay for this new movie, Captain Fantastic (2016), because Id already developed a plot very similar to the ending of that movie, and I felt the way Id written it was better and more fitting for my novel. Its not like he stole the story from me or anything. I dont know the guy, he just got to it first. The world is an echo chamber; similar inventions are inevitable because our needs are similar. Of course, seeing someone else doing first what I had already planned to do was pretty damned frustrating. Now I have to find a new way to end my novel, but I know the new way will be better than the original because fresh solutions always are. Thats heartening to me.

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? If you havent seen The Wire, I strongly recommend it. And Breaking Bad, of course. Im watching Girls right now and learning a lot from it. Were kind of in a new golden age of television. Some call it the platinum age, and Ill agree. With movies, American Beauty is such a strong film, it has remained at the top of my list for a long time. As has Forrest Gump and Dances with Wolves, though Ive grown more critical of stories like that that feature a white person going into an unfamiliar world only to win the day. That doesnt happen in real life. Historically, white people basically take whats not theirs, ruin everything, build on the ruins and say, Look at the great job weve done. Not to get too political, but see whats happening right now. This is why its so important for readers and writers and basically everyone who believes in a free, diverse world, to read literature and watch shows and movies by people who are different from you. Im a white man, and for the past two years Ive been reading and watching work by women, LGBTQ people, and black people pretty much exclusively. I feel its my responsibility to next read more from Jewish and Muslim writers. Ive gotten off topic. I believe John Coltranes Blue Train is written well. Jazz is very narrative, but also poetic. It breathes and searches like an organism, an extremely human music, the music of risk-taking, failure, and improvisation, and it requires huge amounts of concentration, study and practice. Give Moments Notice a listen. What a gorgeous composition!

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? For my novel-in-progress, maybe Crispin Glover would fit the tall, thin, pale character of Jonah Holloway, though Im not sure Id call him the protagonist. On the first page, we learn he has been murdered. The book features a first-person narrator, Micah Holloway, who investigates the origins of her familys decision to become Wiccan, and the consequences of that change. Much of the plot involves these stories, so its a large cast. Wait. It just occurred to me. Jennifer Lawrence would be perfect for Micah, and incidentally, Jonah is her father. Maybe Crispins too old for that. We havent seen him in a while.

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? This novel Im trying to bang out is pretty damned difficult. Only because its the most complicated story Ive ever worked on, and the plot is a beast. Emotionally speaking, Lament for Reunions got me pretty depressed, but then maybe I was depressed already and writing it helped guide me through it.

 

  1. Which was the easiest? That said about the emotional investment required for Lament, I wrote and drafted that piece to submission-ready in less than two months. I OBSESSED over it, maybe because it was more present in my head than anything. It was the perfect time to write that piece because it sort of grabbed me by the neck and didnt let go. Or maybe I was the one who grabbed. Either way, we helped one another become better, stronger individuals because we depended on each other in our time of need, like a father and a daughter, maybe. Thats ridiculous. Stories arent daughters.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? The complete ones. The ones I knew were ready to put out into the world, no one ever has trouble understanding. Its the works-in-progress, the early drafts that raise eyebrows and elicit questions. I will say when I read Audrey Watched to the public for the first time (holding a reading is a requirement of my MFA program), my sister-in-law leaned over to my brother and whispered, Your brothers a pretty fucked-up dude. They told me this after the reading. So I guess she got it; she was deeply disturbed by it, which was the goal of the piece. When people say they get your work, they should not only understand everything that happened, but the reason it happened, and what it MEANS that it happened. And I dont think thats too much to trust an audience with; as writers, its our job to meet the audience halfway. Maybe not even halfway maybe more like 45 percent of the way. Because when people are shoved off a cliff and asked to fly, sometimes they grow wings. Literarily speaking, of course.

 

  1. What are you working on now? Besides the novel, at the present moment, Im trying to get four different short stories published and trying to build a body of visual art. Since January 2016, Ive been researching and experimenting with ways to make stories into three-dimensional sculptures. I have a theory that objects can tell highly complex stories if they are intricate enough, and that patrons can read the story by spending time with the object. I have a few ideas but so far, Ive been dabbling in concrete poetry. Less narrative, but still just as visual. Im basically painting with words. Its a fun exercise and it brings me closer to language, feeling my way through it and living with it for a while. We all do it as we draft, but likely not to such intensity. The concrete poets whose work Ive studied are INSANE. And maybe I am a little, too.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die? Ill settle for this first novel! From time to time, an idea will grab ahold of me and Ill plot it a little, sometimes getting pages of plot notes out. I have plots like this for a six-book YA series about a boy who finds his way into the world of faeries and becomes their king (that suddenly sounds like one of those great white hero stories I was just talking about, so thats a problem), and for a novel about a door-to-door tutor who gets involved with an extremely wealthy family with ties to a corrupt underworld. The only thing linking them together is the innocent, damaged child hes tutoring to take the SAT. Before I die, Id like to write all of these stories Ive already imagined but havent had a chance to write yet.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story? To be honest, Im not sure what you mean by this, so Im going to have some fun with this. Sense 1: one of my fans approaches me Im an emerging writer, just now getting out into the world, so I havent really be approached by fans. I had a fellow student buy one of my concrete poems from my graduate show and ask me to sign it. That felt pretty amazing. And I made forty bucks. That same residency, I had another student who I can only assume was a fan of me, though likely not my work since theres no way she could have read any of it, narrate my life in third-person as I was preparing my cup of coffee. She snuck up behind me and without introducing herself said, He pours his milk and sugar into his coffee with patience and precision, each movement deliberate, as though he had performed this action a thousand times before. Youll notice I forget completely what I said back to her. That was pretty weird. Sense 2: I, as a fan, approach one of my favorite writers I already mentioned Emily St. John Mandel, so Ill give you the full story here. Mind you, I dont blame her for this. It was just the slightest bit rude. Me: I love your book! Im writing a paper on it. Emily: Thats good to hear. (Smiles, signs my book.) Me: I love the way you handled objects and used them as a tool to link the past and the present. Emily: Well, it seemed like a good idea. (Hands me back the book.) Me: Id love to email you some interview questions so I can get more into your style. Its for my MFA. Emily: You know, I have a three-year-old; I barely have any time to write anything for myself. Me: (laughing nervously) Oh, of course, it was a shot in the dark, I know youre a busy woman, Id be busy, too, I dont have kids, but I understand, et cetera. Youll notice Im writing very long answers to these interview questions. Thats what it means to be a good literary citizen. But then, Im in my quiet apartment, alone and childless. Sense 3: a story involving a fan, the device used to push air around a room When I was about six or so, and Dad was still in the Air Force, his commanding officer came over with his baby daughter. This man is very tall, and the ceiling was very low. So when he lifted his daughter up above him, as fathers who love their daughters do, he poked her head right into spinning blades of the fan. If youve ever shoved your hand into a running fan to stop the blades for a second, you know what this sounds like, and how much it must have hurt his daughter. She immediately started screaming and screamed for hours. Shes fine now. Holds a Masters degree from an international business school and shes working in Germany. She speaks two languages. Maybe we should put all our babies heads into fans.

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? Lets say this one, from Audrey Watched. This passage comes after the protagonist has sold Audrey to a pawn shop, and he returns many months later to see if its still there and if he can buy it back: As he perused the guitars on the wall, his eyes carried the same determination as a wild animal searching for its old burrow, the place where its mother had raised her cubs. A glimmer of hope expecting to come up disappointed.

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people? All the time! I find, though, that basing a character on a real person is in some ways an analysis of that persons psyche. As you become close to the character, you begin to understand more deeply the person the character is based on, for better or worse. Thats a tremendous responsibility, and sometimes it can ruin relationships. But this, too, is inevitable. If were not basing characters on others, were basing them on ourselves. And ourselves are built by our relationships with others. So to write a character, a true, strong, complicated, human character, ALWAYS comes from reality, ours or another

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character? Right now, Im identifying most with Micah Holloway, the narrator of my novel-in-progress. As she is searching through her familys reasons for changing religions, Im coming to terms with my own family. Its an enlightening investigation for both of us.

 

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You can find out more about the author on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thejasonbrandt/ , Jason Brandt Schaefer, and preview his visual art and photography on Instagram, @theJasonBrandt. Contact him at jasonbschaefer@gmail.com to purchase or commission artwork, or for editing or proofreading inquiries.

All images are the property of Jason Brandt Schaefer

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Contests, Flash Fiction, pictures, Signing Events

We can’t do it alone (women writers unite)

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As Women’s History Month is upon us I couldn’t help but think of all the women who’ve helped me through my writing career.

I’ll highlight some of them, but this by no means includes all of the powerful women that I’ve come across since I’ve joined the writing community.  They know who they are, even if I do carelessly forget to mention them, they will forever be a part of my life, and I’ll forever be grateful for you.

I’ll begin with ‘the dream team’ as we often call ourselves which includes Andrea BarbosaChantell Renee, and myself.  We’re all award winning authors, and have sometimes placed in the same contest thus giving us another opportunity to be together.  Throughout the years we’ve worked on anthologies together including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ that Chantell and I published together.

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Next of course would be Fern Brady who’s not only my publisher Inklings Publishing, sometime writing partner, but a dear friend.  Without her my debut romantic thriller Blood On The Potomac wouldn’t exist.  She helped shape me into the writer that has a fan page.

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Next is the amazingly talented Patricia Flaherty Pagan who founded Spider Road Press which has published work from all the before mentioned authors.  She’s a fantastic author in her own right, highly intelligent, and a highly dedicated mom.  Patty is not just a strong female writer, she’s a life goal achiever.

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Finally I’d like to highlight, Rebecca Nolan, an author I was a fan of before we worked together on my upcoming YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’.  She’s been an amazing mentor to me and has given me the drive to work harder than I ever have before.

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Thank you to all the female authors I know and love including Gay YellenPamela Fagan HutchinsCourtney Summers, and Taylor Stevens (only two of which I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting.

Women everywhere need to stand together-that’s the only way we’ll make it in the end-if we support each other.  Let’s work on making this world better for the women of the future.

Don’t miss a chance to read these amazing women’s work-simply click on their name to check out some stories that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

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20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with Judy Penz Sheluk

Most of the time I’m jaded, at the very least internally jaded (thank God for kitten videos).  I feel as if we life in a society in which we don’t look out for each other.  Women specifically.  Thankfully this woman proves me wrong.

Judy Penz Sheluk has a weekly blog on Monday’s in which she spotlights a new or emerging author’s release.  She also has ‘author talks’ in which our peers share their experiences in the hopes that we’ll learn from them.

If you’re looking for a mystery look no further than one of the many titles from Judy Penz Sheluk including ‘The Hanged Man’s Noose’ which made her an International Amazon Best Selling Author.

 

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And now Judy Pens Sheluk answers my 20 Questions…

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

There are two: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I read it when I was very young (about grade 4…resulted in me getting “accelerated to grade 6—thankfully schools don’t do that any longer) and thought…WOW, that’s how you paint a picture with words. Around the same time, I read the much-more age appropriate Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series). Emily was an aspiring journalist/writer in a time when women didn’t think of such things.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I’ve always written “in my head,” meaning as a kid I would walk to school and keep a story going in my head, and just keep adding to it every day. I thought everyone did that! Professionally, since 2003, which is when I left my day job as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator to become a freelance journalist. I started writing my first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose on Christmas Eve 2011, but I’d had a hundred or more magazine articles and a handful of short stories published by then.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

John Sandford, the absolute king of pacing. Stephen King, because, well…he’s Stephen King! Sue Grafton: I love her Kinsey Millhone series and have read every novel, A to X, plus her collection of short stories. Tana French, an Irish mystery writer who is just brilliant. I thought about inviting Truman Capote, but he’d get all sulky if it wasn’t all about him, and it couldn’t be, could it? Not with that cast of writers.

 

  1. What would you eat?

Pizza. My favorite food. It’s good for breakfast (cold), lunch or dinner. And everyone can get whatever toppings they’d want. I’d go straight cheese, no toppings.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Plot out? What’s that? Seriously…I’m a complete panster. I come up with a basic premise, and then “what if” my way to the end.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Mornings are best, but I do jot down notes on paper in the evening or whenever the ideas come to me (I even have an LED pen that lights up so I don’t have to turn the bedside lamp on…). But, I still have a couple of editing day jobs, so sometimes the deadlines for those take precedence over my writing preferred time. But I do try to write every day.

  1. Is there music on?

If I’m writing the answers to this, yes. Either Country or Classic Rock or 80’s/90’s type “oldies” depending on my mood. But if I’m writing fiction, it has to be talk radio. Maybe it’s a holdover from when I worked in a noisy office and snuck writing time in whenever I could without getting caught!

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I was in my lawyer’s office with my husband. We were there to update our wills, and he’d been delayed in court. I thought…what if I was hear to inherit …what if there were conditions to that inheritance…what if…and Skeletons was born.

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Need any more titles???? I have lots of book envy!

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

TV

American Crime, a network series, is very clever, though I preferred Season 1 to Season 2.

Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul. What can I say? Vince Gilligan. Can I invite him for pizza too? Please?

The Gilmore Girls. I’ve seen every episode a dozen times. Love Lauren Graham.

Parenthood. Never got the recognition it deserved. Did I mention that I love Lauren Graham? But the entire ensemble cast was terrific, and the writing was beautifully layered.

Movies

Too many to mention, though I recently saw Brooklyn and really enjoyed it. My all-time favorite is Primal Fear. Brilliant.

Albums

Anything by Blue Rodeo or Jim Cuddy. Listen to the words to Bulletproof. Listen to Cuddy (who is also the lead singer in Blue Rodeo) and tell me you didn’t shed a tear.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Whatever actor Hollywood says would be a good fit works for me! But when I think of Callie Barnstable from Skeletons, I think of someone like Jennifer Lawrence. Strong, but with a mix of naïve and jaded. Alexis Bledel would make a great Emily Garland (from The Hanged Man’s Noose).

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I find short stories incredibly difficult to write. You’d think they’d be easier than a novel, but not for me. I started “Saturday with Bronwyn,” which is in The Whole She-Bang-3 (Sisters in Crime Toronto, Nov. 2016), about five years ago. After many stops and starts, I finally got it to gel. The fact that She-Bang was blind judged gave me hope…maybe some of my other stops and starts have a chance, too.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

Another short story, “Live Free or Die.” It was “inspired” by an event (or should I say a man) that happened to me when I was 21. When I finally sat down to write that story, the words just flowed.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’m hoping they get all of my stories…I actually don’t hear from a lot of readers. But Skeletons in the Attic seems to really resonate with folks. That said, some wish the ending were “tidier.” I deliberately left loose ends, not because I wanted to leave them for a sequel, but because life has loose ends.

 

  1. What are you working on now?

The sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose. The sequel to Skeletons in the Attic. A short story…I’m usually working on more than one thing at a time. That way, if I get distracted or bored, I have another project to go to. It beats color-separating my paper clips or other diversionary tactics.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

My mom died recently, and in her belongings were her and my father’s immigration papers from Nottingham, England to Canada. They came separately, arrived at different ports (Halifax and Quebec City), and married in Toronto. I want to write their love story. I’m not a romance writer, but I feel that Anneliese and Anton have a story to tell. I wish my mom had told me more…my dad died of cancer when I was quite young…but maybe it’s better this way.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I met a couple of women at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh. They had met Louise Penny when she was starting out. They told me they thought I’d be the next Louise Penny. A girl can dream…

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Authenticity matters. (Arabella Carpenter, The Hanged Man’s Noose)

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Every character has elements of people I have known and/or observed, but there are always detours along the way. I’m a people-watcher…if you have a habit of pulling your earlobe when you’re nervous, that might get folded into a story one day. If you take the meringue off your lemon meringue pie and eat it last, that might make it in. I’m always looking for believable quirks.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Arabella Carpenter. She’s the sidekick in Noose, and has a small role in Skeletons. She’s the protagonist in the sequel to Noose that I’m working on now. She’s feisty, flawed, passionate, and loves cognac, chardonnay and cookies. She’s probably the most like me of any of my characters. But I also really like Callie Barnstable in Skeletons. Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on her blog http://www.judypenzsheluk.com and purchase her work from all the usual suspects, including Amazon: http://getbook.at/SkeletonsintheAttic. You can also find Judy on Facebook (https/www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk) and Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk).

 

 

 

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An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

 

 

 

20 Questions With..., pictures, short stories, Uncategorized

20 Questions with Jessica Raney

I know a lot authors, but Jessica Raney was the first in which I was the published her work.  So keep in mind no matter how many rejections one might get, there will be someone who appreciates your work, and wants to give you the ability to share your voice.  It was my pleasure to be that springboard for Jessica.

 In the anthology ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ compiled by myself and Chantell Renee we were excited in include Jessica’s pieces (including my favorite The Middle Part which although horrifying is perfect for Valentines Day).

She’s accomplished in her own right long before she met me, including BFE Podcast in which she, along with two friends, interview interesting people (including myself and Chantell during The Amazing Comic Con which you can listen to here.)

Jessica reading a section of her piece Cold Comfort from ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

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And now for Twenty Questions With… Jessica Raney

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Hmm…well I feel like I’ve been writing and reading forever so it’s difficult to decide which book, but I probably have to go with “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. I read it when I was in 4th grade, which is waaaay too young for that, but I was highly unsupervised as a child. The good news is it’s a pretty tame book. The bad news is it led me to read a follow-up book that I found in my mom’s closet that promised, “In the spirit of GWTW,” called “Sweet Savage Love” by Rosemary Rodgers. It was not so tame and yeah…that made me want to be a writer too. In addition, to find sweet, savage love with a scoundrel on a cattle drive across the American Frontier.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

Really young. Probably 7 or 8. I wrote a short story called “King Bong and Rose” which is a delightful tale about a crappy king who taxes the hell out of his people until a girl named Rose uses magic to threaten him with harm unless he adopts a more sensible economic strategy. I also wrote a play called “The Passing of a Pork Rind King” about a dude who builds a pork rind empire and is murdered in a washing machine. Go figure.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Neil Gaimen, Chuck Palahniuk, Margaret Atwood, and Beverly Cleary

 

  1. What would you eat?

Whatever Beverly Cleary wanted.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Notebooks, diagrams, list upon lists upon lists. Then I toss them all and just write. I wish I were more organized about it but, meh.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Usually in the evening, but sometime all day if I have the time. One of my favorite tricks is to set a timer, write for 20 minutes, and then go do something like clean for 20 minutes. I get a good groove on and words just seem to flow better. Also, things get cleaned, like WHOAH.

 

  1. Is there music on?

Nope. I prefer silence.

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I think the last one I wrote was “Moonlight Serenade.” I was on a trip to New Orleans and I saw a for rent sign in the French Quarter. It advertised that the apartment was haunted so the story is an answer to the question, who wants a haunted apartment?

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (A master of character and dialogue), Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (one of the most unique and brilliant spec fic books I’ve ever read), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (No reason needed)

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

Game of Thrones is amazingly well written and produced. Anyone who can trim GRR Martin down into manageable TV is a great writer. Parks and Recreation was one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time. For movies, I think Stardust is amazing. It’s so good it makes me forget I always want to punch Claire Danes. For albums, I would say Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Breakups and cocaine apparently make for genius songwriting.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Most of my projects are short stories, but I am working on a zombie apocalypse novel. I don’t know whom I see as the main character, hopefully whoever replaces Jennifer Lawrence as badass/hottie/sensitive girl, but for the villain, I see Helen Mirren because I think Dame Helen Mirren with a machete would be quite something to behold.

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I have a short story called “To Stray From the Path” that is a take on a fairy tale that was hard to write. The first draft veered pretty far away from what I intended because I was caught up in sensory descriptions. As a result, I lost the point of the story. I fixed it but it was tough. Revising anything is always a pain.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

“The Middle Part” just sort of plurpted out. I knew exactly what to write and how to mess up the order of events. I did have revision help from my loyal beta readers so that helped but I pretty much got it right the first time.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’ve had people tell me that “Cold Comfort” freaked them out and they were wigged when their cat jumped in bed with them, so I would call that one a success.

  1. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a vampire comedy about the least suave and debonair vampire of all time. I hope that by this time I also have a short story collection about various horrific love stories complete.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

I’m going to finish an epic vampire series before I die. And if I don’t, I’m going need a vampire to bite me and give me immortality so I can finish it. I hope that it’s a cool vampire. Not that gross Nosforatu dude or that sparkly douche from Twilight. Like Eric Northman or Pam. Yeah…Pam.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

Do I have fans? I don’t know about that but I can tell you that the first book you ever sign for someone is a trip.

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

“You’re never going to finish that puzzle. Fat Larry ate the llama’s nose piece.”

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off real people?

Absolutely. However, I can’t go into details because I’m afraid they’ll want money.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Of mine? Hmm…probably the ghost in “Moonlight Serenade.” I admire tenacity and fabulous style.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on their blog Jessica Raney’s Blog and purchase her work ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ from Amazon..

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20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with…Russell Little

I strongly believe that in order to be a truly superb storyteller one must live a full life.  Russell Little is one such author.  One feels at ease in his presence, but the fact that he takes his experiences throughout his life and fuses it into his writing makes him a rare gem.

An affair gone wrong is not an uncommon theme, but Russell Little takes you on a ride that has more twists then someone lost in downtown Houston.  His characters, especially Marylin, are infamous, and unforgettable.

Start the new year with ‘Murder for Me’ by Russell Little which will pump some adrenaline into 2017.  If my words aren’t enough then read his answers to my 20 Questions which will give you insight into the mind of a vivid author.

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20 Questions with Russell Little

Question 1:  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer. What’s yours?

Answer:    The first book that influenced me and made me want to write was Little Pony – I read this book for the first time in the second grade. The book was filled with pictures of black and white ponies. I liked the book, and all the pictures, so much that I began to draw my own ponies, and then I wrote a pony story.

That was when I first felt a desire to write. I had a lot of reading and writing disabilities, but they did not stop my desire to write.

At the beginning of each school year, the teacher sat with each student to read. Since my abilities decreased over the summer while not in school, I was always placed in the lowest group. By the end of the year I would work my way up and be moved from the lowest group to the first.

I didn’t like the look on the faces of the kids who did not move up, who stayed in the lower groups. It was a horrible way to separate children.

In the 7th grade I wrote another story on horses. The teacher stopped the class to read my story. Very exciting. That was the beginning of my journey to become a published author.

Question 2:  How old where you when you started writing?

Answer:    I was in the second grade when I started writing. I was also in the second grade when I began to speak and be understood. I spoke before that and only my mother and first grade teacher understood what I was saying.

Question 3:  Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Answer:    Franz Kofka – The Metamorphosis

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World – His vision of future may be more accurate than some of the others.

Leo Tolstoy – The younger Tolstoy when he wrote as a young writer.

Chekov – He later became mean and demented.

Question 4:  What would you eat?

Answer:    Chicken Parfait on raisin toast with champagne

Question 5:  How do you plot out your work?

Answer:    Once I get a story in my head I graph it out and outline, then outline by chapters, then re-graph with characters. It is a long arduous task, but that is the way I begin each new book.

Question 6:  Do you write in the morning or evening?

Answer:    In the evening. I practice divorce law all day.

Question 7:  Is there music on?

Answer:    Yes. I love to work while listening to Italian opera; sometimes Russian opera, and sometimes classic Indian music.

Question 8:  What inspired your last story?

Answer:    I am currently working on The Artist, a serial book about a serial murderer who is being chased by OC Sims, the detective from Murder for Me. I was inspired because I wanted to write a chapter from the viewpoint of a woman serial murderer one Sunday afternoon when I was bored. The serial novel is coming out over the next two years. That will teach me to be bored.

Question 9:  Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Answer:    Every Man – Philip Roth

Ana Karenina – Tolstoy (second half) made you see and feel what the characters see and feel.

Sun Also Rises – first half. The first part of the book talks about their Paris café life.

Question 10:  What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

Answer:    Modern family because it makes me laugh. When I watch television I am looking to laugh.

I also love Sherlock BBC series – well written

Question 11:  Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Answer:    I am not going to talk about protagonist or antagonist, but in my book, Murder for Me, Leonardo de Caprio would be great for one of the characters in the book. When I saw him in the movie Departed, I knew he could play two characters at once.

Question 12:  Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

Answer:    All of my pieces are hard to write. I have to write them so many times to get it right. Writing is a burden I choose to inflict upon myself. Its hard, but I don’t do it because it’s easy.

Question 13:  Which was the easiest?

Answer:    I write nothing easy. I have to graph and rewrite because nothing I write is easy. I wouldn’t do it if it was easy. I would go on to something else.

Question 14:  Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Answer:    In Murder for Me, I have a character named Marilyn. I have had a few readers send me emails or talk to me about what they thought about Marilyn and who they thought she was. I find it humbling that readers put so much thought into one character in my book.

Question 15:  What are you working on now?

Answer:    Killing Thoughts – It is the sequel to Murder for Me. It begins about 6 months after the end of Murder for Me. Some of the characters that survived are back. Killing Thoughts is different from Murder for Me because it is written in a wider universe with many new characters. It begins in Tel Aviv and Paris. I am very excited because I get to include places around the world that I have traveled.

Question 16:  What story do you have to write before you die?

Answer:    I don’t have a story that I have to write before I die. Writing stories is a lifestyle that I will do until I die.

Question 17:  What’s your best fan story?

Answer:    My favorite is my most recent fan story. I was traveling to Philadelphia and got stuck in an airport for 4 hours. They allowed a few passengers to leave the plane because we refused to stay on it. I stayed in a bar where I met a group of Pop artist and started a conversation with them. They left with a copy of Marilyn and we have a picture of them with Marilyn. That is a good fan story.

Question 18:  What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Answer:    “Just because I’m not real, what makes you think I am not going to kill you.”

Question 19:  Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Answer:    I base a lot of my characters on blending groups of real people. I base important characters on unique individuals that have inspired me to write about those characters.

Question 20:  Who’s your favorite character?

Answer:    My favorite character is Marilyn. She is my favorite because she is the one I hear most about from my readers. My readers have the most diverse opinions about Marilyn. She has provoked the most emotion out of my readers and become very visible in the book promotions.

You can find out more about the author on his blog Russell Little’s Author Blog and purchase his work from here-don’t forget to leave an honest review after you’re done.

20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with D. Marie Prokop

I do know a lot of authors, but this girl is one of my favorites.  I not only love her work, but like me she plays the guitar (although she is much more proficient and plays a myriad of instruments (and writes her own music)) and knits.

Basically I couldn’t wait for her to answer my 20 Questions.  You’ve seen pictures of her before on my blog not only because we’ve been to many of the same writing events supporting our peers, but we shared a booth at Amazing Comic Con.

She’s an amazing mother, writer, musician, friend, and has some great hair that I’ve had the pleasure of coloring before.  I hope that you enjoy her answers to my 20 Questions, check out her blog, and purchase one of her titles on Amazon including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ in which two of her pieces are included.

Scary Human Skull, Crying Blood

Twenty Questions With…D. Marie Prokop

1.  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Um…mine? Seriously, I’ve read a lot of books. While I’ve loved many of them, none of them made me want to write a book. The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped me discover my love for writing. The experience of writing my first story, The Red String, during NaNoWriMo in 2011, made me want to be a writer. I’m hooked now.

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I kept a journal for years, and I started writing poems and songs in college. I jumped in headfirst and wrote my first novel in my late thirties. Now I’ve added short stories and flash fiction.

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Just four??? Okay, how about just women? Agatha Christie, Madeleine L’Engle, J. K. Rowling, and Pearl S. Buck

  1. What would you eat?

Eat? Yeah, right! I wouldn’t waste a minute talking with these authors. But if you would like to know my favorite foods, I’ll tell you. I have a weakness for Asian food (especially Korean and Indian), bubble tea, French fries, and cake.

Mmm…now I want cake.

  1. How do you plot out your work?

I write my ideas, sometimes attempting to put them in order, and then all heck breaks loose. I have a lot of epiphanies, which include such profundities as, “Crap, these two characters’ names rhyme!” I do write outlines, but they’re fluid. My inspiration and research documents are more important. As a story progresses, I revise my plot outlines and keep a record of character traits. At the very least, my outlines become reference guides.

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Morning and afternoon. I save evenings and weekends for my real life.

  1. Is there music on?

No. I can write with music on, but it’s super distracting. Besides, I talk to myself. And I read aloud a lot. It’s pretty noisy with just me!

8. What inspired your last story?

I like challenges and goals. I found a YA short-story contest seeking fantasy stories—real fantasy, like with elves and dwarves—which I hadn’t tried yet, so I did. I created a story called The Spell Dragon. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” kind of morality tale. All I really intended to do was successfully write a fantasy story with magic, dwarves, and a dragon.

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Harry Potter Series, A Christmas Carol, and A Wrinkle In Time

I’ve read them more than twice.

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

This could take a while… I’ll limit it to four each.

Television: Avatar—The Last Airbender, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who

Movies: Slingblade, Sixth Sense, Life Is Beautiful, The Princess Bride.

Albums: (This is the hardest one to keep short! I listen to a variety of music, and lyrical depth is very important to me as a songwriter and as a listener. Tastes and needs change, but these four albums will always remain in my top twenty.)

Over The Rhine- Meet Me At The Edge Of The World, Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell, The Essential Indigo Girls, Matisyahu- Light

I feature a different musical artist every Friday on my blog, Days of the Guardian. You can check out my eclectic taste there. If you want to hear my original music (and ukelele cover tunes), search for Diane Prokop on You Tube and Reverbnation.

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Hmmm…someone short? (Emerald is a teenaged dwarf.) How about Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things? She can wear a wig with yellow braids and eagle feathers.

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

It depends on your definition of “hard.” What’s hard for me are the choices.

For example, the last book of my Days of the Guardian Trilogy, The Red Knot, was the most difficult writing experience because ending a series presents many hard choices, even if you thought you already knew how it would end. It’s like going to buy groceries at the store. I’m from Pennsylvania and I always buy Heinz ketchup, but now there’s organic and spicy and original and whatever. Writing is an adventure of choices…like shopping for ketchup.

  1. Which was the easiest?

The beginning of writing Tigress, my new superhero short story, was like shopping for ketchup at a convenience store: there was only one bottle on the shelf. It was an easy write. Then I had an epiphany and the story presented me with harder choices. I went big-box-store-ketchup-shopping for the second half of the story.

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Folks who’ve read On The Outward Appearance seem to vibe with the main character and embrace the theme. Anne is snarky and confronted by her own cynicism. It’s a bit hard to watch. I’m always surprised when people say they enjoyed it. Compassion and acceptance are the themes. Everyone wants those, right?

  1. What are you working on now?

This. These 20 questions are kicking my butt!

When I’m not filtering lists of best albums for Mel’s blog as if the world depended on it, I’m working on a co-writing project with my older brother, who’s slightly autistic. He’s the brains and I’m the heart. It’s an epic sci-fi space adventure which may take years.

I found two fabulous critique groups to commiserate with. And I’m writing more short stories and flash pieces and submitting them to sharpen my skills and learn how to handle rejection. After a recent hurtful experience with an editor, I needed to set aside a story I loved, a socially introspective novella all my beta-readers enjoyed. But one bad experience can overshadow all the good and it was tainted.

I have a goal to publish one novel each year. I have until December 31, 2017, so I hope I can resume working on the beloved novella soon. I guess you could say that the biggest thing I’m working on now is healing.

On a side note, I’m also planning to record an album of original songs inspired by poetry and art so I can mesh my worlds together.

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

What an existential question! Which amazing story do I have to finish in order for my life to have meaning? Well, here’s the thing: I wrote a book. Then I wrote five more. I started them and I finished them. And I shared them with the world. I’m not still thinking about it or dreaming about it; I did it. It was fun and difficult, illuminating and painful. They’re me. So I suppose I could die happy right now. I’m kinda surprised I’m still alive anyway. I guess I’ll just keep writing!

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I have a cool fan story, but it’s about a music fan. I don’t have a stranger/cooler/funnier author fan story yet.

One night I played a set of original songs on the electric guitar at an intimate coffeehouse show in a church, sporting a brand new shoulder tattoo. I confess; I rocked out. The first person/fan to approach me and rave over my performance was an 85-year-old grandmother. (Not mine.) She was awesome. Best fan ever.

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

 

I’m going to share a poem from my first book, The Red String. This is me.

The days are dark, the ocean surrounds

My fate is unseen, my fate is not ground

For God orders all, I am just a mist

Hovering still, waiting for bliss

The dark hides me well, my heart longs for light

I live by this creed- it is all for the bright!

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Not completely. I may pull some characteristics from real life folks, but I don’t use everything. A character in my story, Going Home, (from the anthology Hair Raising Tales of Horror), Pop, shares some characteristics with my dad. Both are former boxing champions, widowers, smokers, live in small-town Pa., and are quiet until they’re pushed too far. But Pops is a farmer with a yappy dog and a dark, mysterious side and my dad is a retired engineer, a gentle soul who spends his evenings studying the Bible in his armchair. I probably shouldn’t tell him he inspired a character in a horror story! But since people seem to find Pop intriguing, maybe he’ll forgive me.

*There’s been one exception to my rule! But I asked permission to use this real life person in a story and I was prepared to change things about the character if necessary.

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

From my books—

The Guardian (Days of the Guardian) I can’t say why without spoiling the story! But this character was the most rewarding (and challenging) to write.

From another author—

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

She’s deep and overcomes, but not without lots of introspection and honest pain. I admire this character’s personal integrity and spiritual grit.

Samwise Gamgee (J.R.R. Tolkein)

He’s the unsung hero of Lord of the Rings. His commendable character traits and sincerity make Sam a great fictional person to emulate in real life.

D. Marie Prokop enjoys writing and reading stories with riveting adventures, spiritual insights, and enlightening cultural or social critiques. Her favorite authors include Madeline L’Engle, Pearl S. Buck, and C. S. Lewis.
The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped D. Marie discover her love for writing fiction. A member of WriteSpace Houston and the Houston Writer’s Guild, D. Marie gains both education and comradery from her local writing community. She’s written and published YA science fiction/adventure, YA fantasy, and middle-grade fiction.
Marie is also a singer-songwriter and avid fiber artist/knitter. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the former Yankee now resides in Houston, Texas, along with her loving family, their feisty cats, a beloved ukulele, and much, much yarn.

You can find out more about the author

My Author Page on Amazon-
My Goodreads Author Dashboard- 
My Blog Address-
My Author Email-
My Twitter Address-
 My Days of the Guardian Book Trailer-
Everything That Counts, novel, pictures

A treat from ‘The Bakery Assistant’

A few days ago a friend came into the salon (I’m a hairstylist in ‘real’ life) and we were both discussing our works in progress.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the latest undertaking ‘Wintergull Lane‘ which I’ve been pecking away at for NaNoWritMo (you can check out my progress here).  But she reminded me of another piece which I call my albatross.  ‘The Bakery Assistant’ is the story of the tragically broken Claire Fischer who is doomed to be a perpetual teenager until she meets someone that shows her that living life is worth it.  That’s the elevator pitch, but in actuality I’m projecting there to be a book two, ‘The Fighter’, which will conclude Claire Fischer’s story as far as I can tell…

Either way now that I’m doing the finishing touches for ‘Everything That Counts’ (take a peek at the novel here) so ‘The Bakery Assistant‘ will be on deck.  Until then here’s a morsel from chapter two of

 

        After I pulled the fresh loaves and rolls from the ovens, and passed them off to the day shift, we trekked three blocks to a corner diner that had been a destination appreciated by locals who loved ‘kitsch’. The waitress set a glossy menu in front of me, and Aaron. The booth only had room for two, but apparently not for two people that each hovered around six feet tall. As we situated ourselves like acrobats in the booth his knee hit mine.

“Sorry,” Aaron mumbled.

“It’s okay.”

His lone dimple winked at me. “Are you blushing?”

“No!”

He chuckled. “Well if you weren’t before then you are now.”

I concentrated on the paisley pattern on the bench Aaron sat on in the hopes it would cause the blood to evacuate from my cheeks.

“I’m starving,” he flipped open the picture laden menu.

“I thought it was just coffee.”

“You don’t mind do you? I’ll pay for you if you want.”

I shook my head and pressed my hands into my lap. “I’d prefer to pay for myself.”

“Okay.” His curly black hair, strong Roman God-like features including a jaw carved from marble, and delicious looking lips hid behind the menu again. I tilted my head down, reading the options, but continued to hold my posture as if I were attending a luncheon for beauty queens.   Before I could get past the first page of artery clogging items, Aaron sighed, and set his menu back down. “So what do I have to do to take you out on a real date, Claire?”

Apparently I didn’t need to eat anything before my heart stopped pumping blood.

“I’m serious.” He leaned back into the booth upholstered in retro paisley fabrics. The dozen booths were either bright orange, or avocado green, and each had a jukebox that you could feed and hear your song of choice. He’d picked ‘I Fall to Pieces’ the second we sat down, but it had only begun to play now. It made me wonder how long he’d planned this dinner.

“Should I get formal stationery, and mail you my official wish to take you on a date?” He took off his flannel lined, corduroy jacket, squeezed it between him and the rust colored wall the booth bench was anchored to. Then he folded his hands together underneath his chin.

Instead of answering I stared at the edge of a rosebush tattooed from mid-forearm to above the elbow. I couldn’t see his shoulder through his t-shirt, but I assumed it was decorated in the same pattern of permanent ink. Each red petal was outlined in black, while each individual rose was the size of the coffee cup in front of me that the waitress filled before she hurried to the next table. I knew there had to be a story behind the blossoming flowers bound together with dark green vines and thorns that adorned his perfectly tanned olive skin, but it didn’t feel right to ask. He dressed like a hipster with dark jeans, a gray shirt with the word ‘RIOT’ printed in bold black along his chest. A knit beanie that matched the ebony color of his hair so perfectly it was hard to tell where the material began and his curls ended.

Aaron tilted his head to the side. “Maybe you could give me your father’s number and I can ask him?”

“That would be difficult.” I hadn’t realized I’d spoken until the words had already escaped my mouth.

He leaned forward, and furrowed his brow. “Why?”

I don’t know why I told him the truth, considering only Edie and Mario knew exactly what happened. For the remainder of the meal it was as if I watched us interact from above, or in a movie. But there wasn’t an actress willing to play the most boring woman in D.C., and Dylan O’Brien refused to take the part of her love interest because he was too homely to impersonate Aaron. Thankfully I didn’t go into explicit detail during my out of body experience when I confessed.

“My father’s dead.”

 

From ‘The Bakery Assistant’ by Melissa Algood