Category Archives: Books

My First Interview as an Author

Check out this very insightful interview over at Amy Bank’s blog today.

My Interview with Author Terra Luft

It was fun to be the author interviewed rather than doing the interview (and hoping someday someone would want to interview me). Thanks for having me, Amy!


Setting the Scene in a Small Piece

Let’s talk short fiction for a minute. I learned so much about writing any length piece by writing short stories. For the Secrets & Doors blog tour, each author is discussing an aspect of writing. Writing is far more difficult when each sentence must do more than one thing since you can’t devote an entire sentence to each aspect of the writing. The old adage of “choose your words wisely” applies especially to short fiction. Set a tone, build characters, set the stage, provide necessary information for the reader to move the plot forward – all of these can be done with an economy of words.

Reflection is a sci-fi dystopian story where the people of Earth have been living on another planet after fleeing a threat that is still searching for them. In order to protect themselves, they hid the truth in rules that over generations have become folklore and superstition. It was originally written as a novelette at eight thousand words. Far too long for the submission guidelines for this project. Cutting more than half the words while conveying an alien world and telling the story was challenging. When setting this particular scene, I found it most effective not to point out every detail but, instead, to note those things that were different from our world. The sky that isn’t blue, the absence of tall mountains, and that it rarely rains become significant. Contrasting these differences with what the reader knows already from his own experience highlights them, creating the backdrop of the story.

Choosing your words wisely is true in individual scenes as well. I am a novel writer which means I can use lots of words. But I don’t have to. Instead of saying he turned and picked up a box, he just picked it up. My writing group called me Verbose Girl because in the early days I had a tendency to write a lot to make sure I fully explained every detail. It didn’t always translate to the reader as I wanted it to. The truth is, even novel writing is better when you use an economy of words like a smaller piece. The last thing you want is your reader to get bogged down. The tighter the language, the more engrossing the story becomes.

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Interview: Callie Stoker, Editor

CallieheadshotAs part of the official launch, I have the privilege of interviewing the talented Callie Stoker, Editor of Secrets & Doors available from Crimson Edge Publishing. Callie is a freelance editor and owner of The Manuscript Doctor.

 

 

 

 

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Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).

In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.

Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.

 

In my own history as a reader, I never knew the value of an anthology and rarely picked them up. A collection of short stories gives you a taste of the writing style of many authors and could be the way you find your next favorite, or decide which novels you’re willing to take a chance on. Being one of the authors in this anthology, I know exactly what went into creating my individual piece. The editing process is more of a mystery. I wanted some insights – secrets even – so I sat down with Callie to get all the insider information I could.

Secrets & Doors is an anthology with eleven authors, but your name is the only one on the cover. How does that work?

The decision is ultimately up to the publisher. Some anthologies will include the author’s names on the cover, although that can often result in a busy and confusing image. For this anthology it was decided that a streamlined cover with a beautiful image would sell best, and I think we are all very pleased with the result. The editor is often the driving force behind the creation of an anthology, sending out a call for submissions and choosing from those submissions, and thus usually receives a publishing credit on the cover. The creation process for this anthology was a cohesive and synergistic one. Although my name ended up on the cover, that shouldn’t overshadow the incredible work by the Secret Door Society in writing, polishing, and perfecting their stories. I think we accomplished a lot with this collection and I’m very proud of it.

Tell us about your journey. How did you become an editor?

I started out as a writer! A wonderful group of me and three women expressed an equal desire to write, so we formed a writing group called Once Upon a Keyboard. This was ten years ago and since then, two of the women have been published, I became an editor, and we gained a new member, a copy editor, over a year ago.

My shift from writer to editor is expressed perfectly in my favorite quote by E.B. White, “An editor is a person that knows more about writing than writers do, but has escaped the terrible desire to write.” This fact was a frustration to me early on when my writing buddies would talk about their stories with such passion and I struggled to eke out a plot from a single idea. My passion emerged as I read and critiqued my fellow writers’ work. I was able to see the weakness while praising the strengths. I could clearly define what wasn’t working and put them on the path of how to make it successful.

I’ve spent the last several years intensely educating myself in the craft of writing. I believe that a good editor teaches and instructs while critiquing so that the author is left uplifted and inspired to apply a better understanding of craft to their future work.callielogo

I launched my personal business in 2014 and its success has shown me the current need writers have of an editor that can not only correct punctuation and grammar, but supply individualized instruction based on writing craft.

What goes into editing an anthology?

Anthologies are a collection of short works (stories, essays or poems) tied together by a common theme. It is the editor, often called the curating editor, who sends out a call for stories fitting the theme and reads and selects from the submittals. The curating editor also chooses the order of the stories so that each transition creates the best experience for the reader. Finally, the curating editor takes the lead in the editing process, completing or overseeing the stages of revisal.

What do you like the most about the editing process?

I am unendingly impressed by the creativity of writers. It is often said that there are no more “new ideas,” yet there are also infinite new perspectives on old ideas. I often feel privileged to read a writer’s fledgling ideas and witness as they develop. I love helping the author see how their ideas can be coaxed and nurtured into a successful story by helping them understand what kind of a story they are writing and how to make each scene and each character leap off the page.

Anything you wish you didn’t have to do as an editor?

At times I’ll need to change the tense or point of view of an entire manuscript which can be a little tedious. At the same time, making these changes is extremely satisfying when the end result is a clean draft. Proofreading may be the most tedious of tasks, but there are creative ways to go about it like changing up the font and size of the document to trick your eyes into seeing it for the first time, or reading the manuscript backwards so that you forget the story or the grammar and see only the typos or misspelled words. Sometimes I enjoy mixing up my content editing work with these tasks.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I have an ongoing client list that keeps me always reading and editing. These clients include published authors, unpublished writers, screenwriters, bloggers, and non-fiction writers. I am currently working with a publisher on the second book of a series and look forward to working in the future as a freelance editor for publishers.

Any free advice to any aspiring writers out there?

First: Read. Read. Read. Read your genre. Read outside your genre. Read the greats. Read the current stuff. A big part of storytelling is about story tropes. Tropes aren’t a bad thing, they are a recognized story form and there is a reason they exist: because they are story types that are repeated again and again. When you know the tropes, you are better equipped to treat them correctly in your own writing and to know what has come before and how to build on it. I can promise you that your level of reading will affect the depth of your writing and increase your creativity.

Second: Know what kind of story you are writing. This may seem simple and obvious, but I’m not just talking about genre and demographics (although knowing these is also important). Are you telling an adventure story? A mystery? Is this a character development story or a save the world story? The best tool for discovering this is Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient. If you don’t know it, learn it. Every story is either a Milieu (Setting), Idea, Character, or Event story, or a mixture of these. When you know the story you are writing you’ll know where to begin and end your story, what conflicts to focus on, and how to create the most satisfying arc for your characters. This is the number one thing I work on with my clients.

Where can readers find you?

Please visit my website, www.themanuscriptdr.com, to see what kind of services a freelance editor can offer. If you are curious about what level of critique could help your own work, you can submit your first chapter through my website for a free sample edit. Perhaps a personal editor is exactly what your writing needs to get you to the next level.

Also find me on Facebook and Google+ as “The Manuscript Doctor” or Twitter @themanuscriptdr

Check out my writing group’s website, www.onceuponakeyboard.com. We’ve compiled the best articles, links, videos and podcasts on writing advice. We’ve done the research so you can do the writing.

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If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Secrets & Doors, you can do so at the following links.

Paperbook: https://www.createspace.com/5209804

eBook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SNUZYGE


The Art of Combat – with Joshua Robertson

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Joshua Robertson, author of the upcoming Melkorka from Crimson Edge Publishing. I asked him to share some writing tips and he was nice enough to oblige. Thanks, and welcome, Joshua!

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The Art of Combat

In younger years, I always thought that R.A. Salvatore was the master of writing fight scenes. If you have not read his works, I would suggest starting with Homeland, Book 1 of the Dark Elf Trilogy, featuring the legendary Drizzt. This fantasy author presents combat so well that it appeared to naturally flow in his novels in the same way that other storytellers would write about the scenery. When I think of exceptional fighting in novels, I still think of Salvatore.

Those that have read my novels tell me that I share this strength in my writing. If anything, I assume that this comes from years of playing tabletop RPGs, combat-oriented video games, and sparring with my brother throughout the years. I will leave it to the fans to decide how well I actually execute combat in my novels. However, I wanted to take an opportunity to share just a few tidbits on improving your written combat. My disclaimer to these tips is that I don’t always follow the rules. Sometimes, it is important to intentionally neglect them to capitalize on something within a scene…and sometimes, I simply forget. In any case, it is good to keep these concepts handy!

Keep It Quick

A fight scene is supposed to be fast paced and tense for the character. This is not the time to be explaining how the horizon melds perfectly against the tree line. You want to keep the language in the book glued to the fight scene when it is taking place, while maintaining a flow that does not make it confusing for the reader. What do I mean by that? The English language can be molded in many ways to enhance your writing. Changing passive sentences to active sentences will change the entire feel of a fight. However, I think the easiest rule to begin with is to cut your adjectives and adverbs. They slow the reading process and destroy the emotional feel that most authors believe them to enhance.

John fiercely thrust his serrated sword forward and quickly pierced through the knight’s armor. [or] John thrust his sword through the knight’s armor. You get the idea. One example gives a fancy visual for speculation where the other pushes the reader into the next line of action. Combat is a time for action.

Another quick tip, if the terrain is an important element for the combat, then you must set it up in a previous scene or prior to the combat. Good writers will lay the groundwork well in advance of when it is actually needed.

Use Suspense

Suspense is your friend. Take any great fantasy novel and know that you are spending the first hundreds of pages preparing for a climatic end that may only last a few pages [or paragraphs] at the end. One of my beta readers for Melkorka shared with me that this was an element of the novel that kept him turning the pages. And, even at the end of the novel, he was yearning for more.

In reality, most fights do not last long. Anyone else watch UFC in their spare time? A couple of minutes and the entire conflict is over. You may watch commercials the entire week prior to the fight, and then watch someone be beat to a pulp for 45 seconds. The trick for the fantasy writer is having this also be reflected in the novel. Well-structured suspense is what makes that fight scene great.

Be Clear

Your readers will lose interest if they cannot visualize the scene or the characters placement. It is not everything, but it is important to know your battleground. I have done fighting scenes many ways. I have used maps, figurines, or even danced around my house to practice different maneuvers with swords and whatnot. The author has to know what is going on in order to tell the reader what is happening.

Without being too stereotypical, fantasy has long been a genre for nerds and geeks. As you may have guessed that we within the nerd community have certain expectations. We like things to be realistic within the guidelines of the genre. Sure, magic exists – but there are certain rules and properties it has to follow, right? Fights, including pure physical combat, also have rules to follow, such as force and leverage. You will find that readers can forgive some of these mistakes in a well-written novel, but if it is consistently flawed, you will lose your audience. Conducting fight scenes requires the author to conduct research. You have to know the weight of a sword, the reloading rate of a crossbow, the distance a person can jump, and what impact a lance has on iron armor. Then, once you know what you are talking about, write the scene be clear, accurate, and realistic.

Be Purposeful

One of my biggest peeves in some fantasy novels is fight scenes that have nothing to do with the plot structure or character development. Many times you will find authors that will write fight scenes without any purpose, or they will defend the scene with “This scene is important to demonstrate my MC’s strength and agility.” That, my friends, does not advance the plot. It is filler and confuses readers because they are looking for a deeper connection and how this particular scene ties into the character’s motivations. It is not helpful to open your book with a scene of a character fighting a band of robbers on the side of the road, unless those robbers are an intricate piece of the plot line.

Why is this important? I think the primary reason is that the reader grows to skim your battle scenes, no matter how important they could possibly be. If I am frequently reading about punches, kicks, and parries in the novel, then the combat begins to lose its meaning. I can remember great scenes in Tolkien and Jordan and Sanderson because the motivation of the characters enhanced the fight. There should always be a good reason for combat.

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MelkorkaFinalFrontCoverKaelandur was forged by the Highborn to slay one of their own, Nedezhda Mager. As their slave, Branimir Baran never thought to question his cruel masters until he is forced to take part in the execution. His actions begin a chain of events that will lead him to confront demons, cannibals, and himself as he is forced to question his own morality and the true meaning of good and evil.

Book One of the dark fantasy series, Thrice Nine Legends, available on Amazon January 2015.

 

 

 

 

Author Bio

Joshua began crafting the world for Melkorka in 1999, and has since continued writing flash fiction, short stories, poems, children’s books, and epic fantasy novels. Joshua is the author of the transitional children’s book, Bo Bunny and the Trouble. He is also the co-creator of the fantasy tabletop game, Thrice Nine Legends, due to be released in 2015. Joshua currently lives in Alaska with his wife and children.

 You can find Joshua at the following links:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Crimson Edge (Melkorka Ebook available for Pre-Order Now)

JoshuaRobertson


Book List Archive 2014

It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to become remain a well-read author.

  • The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
  • These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
  • Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
  • A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
  • Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to  me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
  • The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
  • Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
  • NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
  • The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
  • The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
  • Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
  • Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
  • Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
  • The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
  • Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
  • Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
  • ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
  • Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
  • Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
  • Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
  • The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
  • The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
  • Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
  • Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
  • Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
  • The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
  • The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
  • Revival, Stephen King
  • Insurgent, Veronica Roth
  • Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.

I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.

*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!


Labels in Genre Fiction, An Argument

This topic has been on my mind for a while and cemented when I was at a writing conference a couple of weeks ago. One of the panelists asked a really great question: What makes a book considered horror? Many thoughtful answers from the audience were given and lots of people nodded their heads in agreement. Then he gave us the *real* answer: because that’s the shelf they put it on at the book store. It was an answer I hadn’t considered before. Every story written, especially in genre fiction, is classified as one thing and marketed that way. But any good book better have many different elements or it risks falling flat with readers. It’s a safe bet that a crime story has some elements of horror. So do many fantasy novels as well as contemporary ones. And what about romance? Every story could use a sprinkle of it.

That was the ah-ha moment for me about book labels. I have always struggled with them, especially when people ask what market I am writing for. What’s the difference between Young Adult and New Adult? Or Middle Grade and Juvenile? Fantasy can be Epic or Urban but isn’t it all just Fantasy? Even Science Fiction can be space opera or hard science. It can be overwhelming when all you want is a good book you’ll enjoy. Bottom line, the only thing that makes a book Young Adult is because that’s the shelf we find it on at the book store. It’s been a while since I’ve relied on the library to acquire reading material but I’m pretty sure there’s only three main sections: Children, Fiction and Non-Fiction.

With this realization, I no longer find it necessary to defend or criticize anyone’s choice in a book because it is considered Young Adult. I’m not even sure how it has became such a heated debate among people but it is, in every circle of friends I have who are readers. I hate to admit it, but I’m guilty of uttering the words “I don’t read Young Adult”. Even though I devoured the “Twilight” series when it was new and couldn’t wait to get the last one on release day. (Writing that sentence makes me feel like an alcoholic admitting I might have a problem.) Say what you will about the writing, but the story was fresh and new at the time and well told. I wasn’t the only person at the time sleep-deprived because we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the story until the wee hours of the morning. So why, in the later years when they were making the silly movies that barely did the books justice, did I feel slightly ashamed to have liked reading them? Because the series had been labeled as Young Adult and now every adult who liked it felt a twinge of something. As an adult, the label Young Adult tells us “you’re too old to enjoy this”. Shame on all of us who bought into it! Stories are stories and should appeal to you based on how you feel during and after reading it. Nothing more.

The other side of the coin is also true. Why should we limit what kids read by dumbing down fiction or skipping the real life elements just because those parts might make us uncomfortable if kids read them? I cut my teeth on hard core science fiction and horror with L. Ron Hubbard and Stephen King long before I was out of elementary school. I stole my mom’s smutty romance novels almost as early. The Adult and Horror labels they would all fall under now scream at kids “you aren’t allowed to read me yet”. As a parent I even bought into the inherent censorship that comes with these labels, much to my chagrin. I wonder if I went to the school library today if I’d even find those kinds of titles on the shelf? I know I’m going to find out!

Call me a crazy mom but I’m going to let my teen, who has just discovered how much she loves books, to read anything she wants to try. Because where would I be as a reader, and as a person, if my parents had limited my options back in my own formative years based on ridiculous labels? Do I hope she will take advice from me on whether I think she will like it and allow me to covertly keep her as innocent as I can for as long as possible? Of course. But I’m also not naive because I was thirteen once, too.

I understand the need for classifying books so readers have a general idea of what they are getting based on the shelf they are sold from. But let’s get beyond the labels meaning anything more than that. Every story will not appeal to every reader, and every book could be classified different ways. Just find a good one you love and read it proudly! I promise to stop judging fellow readers based on what they like to read and instead rejoice that there are enough readers in the world to keep all of us aspiring authors motivated to create and publish more stories to enjoy.


Heart of Annihilation

Today I have the honor of kicking off the blog tour for one fabulous book – Heart of Annihilation by C.R. Asay. A book with a very special place in my heart. C.R. is a member of my own writing group so I’ve watched and participated intimately through the entire creative process. I’ve read it countless times. It’s amazing. But don’t let my biased judgement be the only thing that sways you… it is an exciting and imaginative read that you don’t want to miss. Especially if you love science fiction with a military twist and a strong female lead. Or maybe it’s military with a science fiction twist? Just trust me and pick this one up.

When U.S. Army Specialist Kris Rose catches members of her unit stealing ammunition to kill aliens, she is forced to defend herself—with a freakish electrical charge shooting from her fingertips.

Shaken by her newly found power and hunted by vigilantes from her unit, Rose is forced away from her structured, military world and into a fight for her life. 

With the aid of her battle buddy, Corporal Thurmond, Rose sets out to learn more about the aliens under attack. In the process, she discovers her bizarre connection to a devastating threat to Earth—an alternate dimensional weapon called the Heart of Annihilation.

From a chuteless free-fall from 20,000 feet, to deadly bullet wounds and the unforgiving Sonoron Desert, Rose enters a world where aliens are real. And she may be one of them.

I sat down with C.R., otherwise known as Christauna, for an interview figuring I already knew all the answers. I was wrong… 
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 Where did your idea for Heart of Annihilation come from? 
Heart of Annihilation grew very slowly. I wrote a scene about Specialist Rose facing down a greasy, redheaded lieutenant with an M16 and then I let it sit for weeks. Maybe months. I sure thought about it a lot. Why was she there? What put her in that situation? I’m honestly not sure exactly how it grew from there. I knew I wanted something sci-fi. I thought aliens. My husband suggested dimensions. We compromised. I wrote a lot of disconnected scenes but it wasn’t until over halfway through the book that I knew where I wanted my characters to end up. Then it was just a matter of revising over the course of 5-6 years, molding the story like a clay sculpture until it resembled what it is today. I will probably never again write a book the way I wrote Heart of Annihilation. This one is special. 
I remember that first scene well… And now here you are with a book you can hold in your hands. So cool! Every parent secretly has a favorite child – do you have a favorite character you love more than the rest?
 Yeah…Thurmond. Definitely. He’s just such a rock solid person and decent human being. He epitomizes how I see the U.S. soldier. He’s a hero. It also helps that he has a lot of the quirks and personality traits I see in my husband…
What is your secret to writing violence?
 You can’t pull any punches, no pun intended. Human beings are the best, most gracious creatures in the world, but they are also the vilest. Just turn on the news and you will see a lot of worst-case scenarios. When you’re writing a book that naturally contains a lot of violence, sometimes you need to look deep inside yourself and write what is most distasteful to you in order to elicit the same emotion in the reader.
I wrote the whole storyline for the character Caz Fisk in about two weeks of almost constant work. And I hated it. I hated sludging through her mind and wondering what hateful thing I was going to have to write next. It was a dark two weeks that left me in a sour mood and short tempered with my children. Editing those sections later wasn’t as bad as the writing, but having to channel her violence was very unpleasant. And they turned out great.
Caz is actually my favorite character – because she’s so gritty and violent. You nailed it. Is this a stand-alone or is there more to come?
I anticipate this to be a 3-4 book series (I’m aiming for 3). The second book, working title Miss Risk, is complete in rough draft form. Book 3 is in the early stages of drafting.
How long did it take you to write Heart of Annihilation?
Write or edit? The writing probably took about a year. The editing/revising? More like five years. That’s not normal, even for me, but Heart of Annihilation is the first novel I wrote and so it was the one on which I learned the writing process. Usually an author will abandon their training novel and just write a new one in order to grow as a writer. The plot and characters in Heart of Annihilation were so compelling to me that I couldn’t let them go. So I revised into publication.
I like the sound of that: “training novel”. I might have to steal the term. What exactly is your writing process?
When I have an idea I will let it roll around in my head for days, weeks, sometimes months, gathering more ideas to it, adding some characters, even some structure until one day the starting sentence will form in my mind and I have to race to my computer to get it down. Once it’s down the rest follows fairly quickly. I don’t outline. I write by the seat of my pants and revise heavily in the aftermath.
I’m surrounded by “pantsers”! What is your favorite part of being an author?
Watching characters come to life. All the plots and magic systems in the world are no match for a flesh and blood character who is so real you wish you could meet him/her. Although preferably not at night in a dark alley with some —
Okay, let’s not go there… Least favorite part?
The actual writing. No really, it’s a painful process. Exhilarating at times, but more often frustrating and hard. I love revising afterwards but the actual writing exhausts me and causes giant sweat rings to form under my arms.
Sweat rings are very un-ladylike. Knowing that’s your least favorite part, what keeps you motivated to write?
The potential thrill of introducing characters to others and creating an experience of wonder in readers.
What else have you written?
I have a haunted house horror story I’m working on called Project Specter. I’m really excited about this one. I also have a couple of anthology pieces coming soon. One is to support TADSAW (Train a Dog, Save a Warrior), which will be out on Veterans Day 2014. The second is for Utah Fantasy Authors, with all contributors being local authors including a certain someone whom I’ve visiting today *wink, wink*.
Hey, no spoilers!! We’re talking about you, remember? How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?
With an insane amount of persistence and work. I have rejections from literary agents and publishers piled to the ceiling. Each and every one took turns crushing my spirit allowing me to be reborn from the ashes better than before. I learned, I worked, and I dreamed until I was able to make my dream a reality.
Being an author takes some pretty tough skin.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Never stop learning and improving your craft. Don’t settle or take the easy route. There is no easy route. “Good enough” is not good enough. Find a way to make it better. Set your sites high and never stop aiming for exactly what you want. A book is a work of art. Make sure yours eventually matches your vision.
Great advice. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?
That I can do hard things. Like really hard things. I have ADHD which makes some of the simplest tasks in the world seem like Everest. But I can scale it. Having this book come out will forever attest to my ability to overcome my disability and be just as successful as I aspire to be.
Wow, I had no idea. Now I understand the tears when you held your baby in your hands for the first time. Are there more books we can look forward to? And if so, when?
I’m aiming for the release of book 2 summer 2015 with the 3rd book to follow in 2016.
I’m looking forward to finding out where the story takes us from here. You’ve built such an interesting world of inter-dimensional politics driven by compelling characters who each have their own agendas. Okay, I kind of already know but I’m sure anyone who reads Heart of Annihilation will want to know, too. Membership in a writing group does have its perks. Even better than an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) is getting to see something as it is created… But I digress.
Where can readers find and connect with you?
Like my Facebook page and Goodreads page to get news of giveaways and forthcoming books.
You can also check out my website crasay.comand my blog nonsensicalessentials.blogspot.com.
  __________
Thanks for visiting, Christauna, and for another fabulous book for my shelf. Folks, I’ve seen the swag planned for giveaways and it is even cooler once you’ve read the book. So what are you waiting for?
You can buy Heart of Annihilationat the following retailers:

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE

If you’d like a chance to win your own free copy, you can enter by commenting on this blog post! Rafflecopter will then pick a random winner next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

C. R. Asay joined the Utah National Guard at the age of seventeen. After spending time in the 625th Military Police Corp she transferred to the 19th Special Forces group as a counterintelligence agent. She retired from the military after marrying her best friend and graduating from college so that she could embark on the most exciting adventure of all; being a mom.
The short story version of her first novel, Heart of Annihilation, earned an honorable mention from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. C. R. Asay currently resides in West Jordan, Utah, with her husband, four children, and a dog. There is always a dog.


An argument for honestly reviewing books – and why every reader should do it

I’ve blogged before about how diverse reader’s tastes are noting that there are so many ways a book can be regarded depending on who reads it. So there must be a way to slog through all the books out there and narrow down which ones you personally will like. Which is why I argue that every reader has an obligation to honestly and objectively review every book they read.

I’m a huge reader. No secret there. What many don’t think about is that the number of books you can read in your lifetime is finite. There are far more books out there than you can read in one lifetime. Yes, even yours. That finite number varies by person depending on how fast and how often you read. For example, I read three books a month on average. That’s thirty six books a year – give or take. If I have twenty more reading years, I only have time for seven hundred and twenty more books. Ever. Which is why you really should choose wisely. For the same reason, I also think you shouldn’t finish a book that doesn’t hook you and keep you entertained either. Unless you’re in a book club since arguably you have an obligation to read those selections regardless.

So how do you pick which books to read so you get the most out of your remaining, and technically very limited, reading time?

Personally, I use recommendations from friends and fellow readers. Another reason I love Goodreads so I can see what people say about books before I decide. (Especially helpful when you have friends who read and enjoy the same books you like so you can see what they enjoyed – or didn’t.) I shy away from books that don’t get at least an average three-star rating (out of a possible five). But here’s a little secret… I usually only read the middle of the road reviews and I especially am interested in the “bad” reviews. Those are the reviews that – if written objectively – give me the best insight. If I see that someone didn’t like a book because of something that I might actually like, I’m more likely to pick it up. If someone didn’t like how dark a book was or how bloody the action was but I really like dark and bloody books, I would probably pick it up.

In the past few months I’ve heard arguments from many different people about not wanting to honestly review every book which all boil down to a couple of general ideas that I take exception with:

“I don’t usually review if it is going to be less than 3 stars.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

I think both of these arguments approach book reviews from the wrong side of the issue. I don’t review books for the author’s benefit, my reviews are designed for other readers like me so we can find books we like (and avoid those we won’t). The hard truth that every author must grapple with accepting is that no matter how much effort and love went into writing a book, not everyone everywhere will love it. Reviews are designed to be the unbiased opinions of readers, and everyone everywhere is entitled to their own. Once a book is in the hands of readers, there’s nothing that an author can change about it anyway.

What if every review was a glowing one and there were no differing opinions? Or what if no one reviewed books ever because they were worried about hurting either the author’s feelings or the feelings of those who had a different opinion? Then every book would be as much of a gamble as randomly picking something off the shelf – without reading the jacket. By not giving an honest and truthful review, regardless of how you liked or didn’t like a book, you’re doing a disservice to every reader who comes after you looking for insights on whether they would like to read it. Of course I don’t think you should completely trash a book (or the author) if you don’t like it, but give me an objective and constructive reason why you didn’t like it that can help me decide if I might also rather skip it. Then let me decide.

Because of this, I rate books in the following manner:

  • 5 stars = Loved it! I abandoned all aspects of my life in order to voraciously read this book
  • 4 stars = I really enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it to others – but I still slept at night, mostly.
  • 3 stars = I liked it but I didn’t love it. I found nothing to complain about but it didn’t rock my world either…
  • 2 stars = I didn’t like it overall although I did finish it. (Incidentally, books with this rating have generally been ones I read for book club which illustrates the point that it takes all kinds of readers and not everyone likes the same things.)
  • 1 star = I either hated it or I didn’t finish it

On top of a star rating, I always give the feel of the book and the impression it left me with overall. I don’t bother with a synopsis of what the story was about from start to finish, you can get that elsewhere. What I really emphasize is what worked for me and what didn’t, and why. Something that would help someone else objectively draw conclusion as to whether they would like it or not. I do this because those are the kinds of reviews I look for when deciding to give a book a spot on my finite list of things I’ve read between now and when I die.

You remember what they say about treating others the way you want to be treated, right? If you are a reader, won’t you consider doing this as well? Future readers will thank you, myself included!


The Art of Reading Multiple Books

It’s no secret I love data. And I’m OCD. So I especially love data that I can track for historical trends. Which are just a couple of the reasons I love the site GoodReads. It lets me track what books I’ve read, what I thought about them, which ones I want to read, plus all that info about what my friends are reading, too. (If you are a reader and you aren’t a member, you should be…) This week I noticed something that seems insane even for me: my “currently reading” list contains FIVE – yes, five – books. And yes, I’m actively reading all of them. Which certainly begs the question: How do you read five books at the same time?

I’m a gadget geek so I have an iPad, an iPad mini (that I grudgingly share with the family), and an iPhone. Well, two of them actually since I also have one for work… but I digress. And I’ve got books on all of them. (Don’t judge, I know I’m addicted and that’s the first step. Or so I hear!) Here’s my secrets to reading multiple books at a time:

First, I’m always reading a book on my iPad via my Kindle app. I’ve got at least one of my iPads with me at all times and, if I’ve got a minute of downtime, I’m reading. Sitting in waiting rooms at doctors offices or my monthly lab visit, eating lunch at my desk, wherever I find myself sitting still for more than a minute, I’m reading. I also end my weeknights with a chapter (sometimes more) in bed right before I turn off the light to go to sleep. Plus my favorite; over morning coffee on the weekends.

Next, I’ve always got a book I’m listening to on the Audible app on my iPhone. At minimum I listen when I’m commuting to and from work or any time I’m alone in the car. If it is one I am super involved in, I’ve got my headphones on listening while I’m doing mindless things like vacuuming, dishes or laundry. Sometimes I love the current Audible book so much that I get caught up on all my laundry and find myself wishing I bought clothes that required ironing so I’d have something else mindless I could be doing. I also listen to my audio book whenever I’m walking/running unless I’m with a friend.

I’m usually working on the monthly book club selection in conjunction with my own leisure reading. Which means that the week or two before book club I’ve either got two audibles or two ebooks I’m splitting my time between. 

Lastly, I’ve usually got at least one book I’m reading in print, lying somewhere in the vicinity of my desk at home, that I’m not reading as quickly. Currently, that book is a grammar book. Yes, I’m a geek who reads books on grammar. But, I’m a writer so it’s okay. Don’t judge. This is usually a book that I’ve either picked up in print because that’s the most affordable way to acquire it or someone has lent it to me. Or, it’s the book we are reading in my book club at work. We read a chapter or two at a time and discuss weekly. Because of this slower pace of discussion, it can also be a slower-paced read which works out well.

Typically, these four situations are the norm. My ‘currently reading’ list always fluctuates between three and four books. Guaranteed. Right now, my life is beyond the normal level of hectic since I’m working on a new certification at work. This means I’m also trying to read a textbook cover to cover in a matter of weeks in preparation for testing. Five is not a normal load of reading but that’s how it is right now.

I look back a few years, when I was lamenting about how I could barely manage to read a book a month to keep up with my book club, and chuckle. In true overachiever fashion I figured out what ways I could multitask those things I have to do in life with the things that I want to do. Reading is essential to my happiness so I found the means. What things do you make time for regardless of how crazy your life gets?


Finish what you start

I just sent off a short story to my writing group in preparation for our critique meeting next month. And now I’m ready to tackle something else. When I started thinking about my writing as a job, it ramped up my productivity even more than I imagined. Each time I finish a project, I find it easier to jump into the next one. This milestone had me thinking about ‘finishing’ in general both from a reading perspective and a writing perspective. There is something so powerful in finishing. Doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, finishing ‘it’ is sometimes the best part. The finish line of a race, savasana at the end of a yoga practice, a big project completion, birth after pregnancy, summer after a school year is over, ‘The End’ of a good book…

So why is it that so many stories I’ve read recently DO NOT HAVE ENDINGS? It seems like the current trend in genre fiction – or maybe I just picked all the wrong books to read lately? Either way, it couldn’t turn me off more as a reader. So you’re writing a series and you want me on the hook to read all of them? Guess what, you better give me satisfaction with at least some kind of conclusion to the conflict central to that specific book or I’m never going to pick up the next one. No matter how good the writing was or how interesting the characters are. I understand wanting to leave some kind of a hook at the end so I want to keep reading but don’t end on a cliffhanger with absolutely nothing resolved and expect me to pick up another thing you’ve written. Ever.

One of the themes at LTUE and asked in panels over and over again was how to sell a series if you’re not a published writer yet. Without fail, every publisher and agent who was asked this question said (and I’m paraphrasing) that you write the first one, query it as a standalone “with series potential” and then move on to other projects. Those other projects they all said should not be the second or third book in the series. It makes sense. Why spend all that time and effort of novel writing if there’s no market for the first one. (Of course, if you are going the route of independent publishing one could argue differently. However, I would still say it’s safer to write one and see if the demand for another is out there before I spent another year on a series.) Never once in any of these panels with professionals did they say, just write half or almost a novel, sell it and hope your readers will pick up the “series potential” in the second one. No one wants to read a book that doesn’t have the ending. So why then are there no less than five novels (most of them young adult but not all) that come to mind that got professionally published without endings? I won’t name names but pressed to do so I could rattle them off. Why? Because I was SO MAD when I read them that the lack of ending is what stuck with me. For all of them.

When it comes to writing, it is harder than I thought this finish something then move on to a new project. I’m taking my own advice right now as difficult as it is. The story I just wrote started as an idea for a novel-length work but I decided to write it as a short story. Why? So I can submit it to writing contests and other market avenues that may go further in progressing my career toward publication. I can always go back and add the rest of the story in later if there is a market for it. Or I decide I want to because I’ve finished something else and have no new ideas for the next project. It may be that this fabulous world and characters with tons of things I alone know about them right now may never get written by doing it this way. I’m looking at it as working smarter not harder and, for the moment, I’m trusting the professionals and gambling a bit for the payoff.

Tell me, how do you feel about unfinished books when you read them? Are others more indulgent of their favorite authors or am I one of the few readers who find this an unforgivable offense? As an author, I vow I will never publish a story without an ending! (I know, never say never will probably come back to haunt me but I will be surprised if it ever does in this regard…)


The Wonder of Diversity in Fiction

Everyone is different, we all know that, right? This week I realized there is far more striking diversity in what people read than I’d ever given thought to. I devoured – and I mean devoured – a book a few weeks back by a fellow author I met at LTUE called Beatrysel. Afterwards I raved about it to everyone I know. And then was shocked – SHOCKED – when one of my besties from my writer’s group picked it up and said she just couldn’t get into it and didn’t really love it. It got me thinking…

I knew that there were different tastes – ten years in a book club has shown that over and over again. In the microcosm of my own book club, there are people who adore the young adult genre even when they are far from the intended demographic the books are written for. There are those who love historical period pieces. And the holocaust. And the classics. And there’s a handful of us who love fantasy. An even smaller handful who love horror. And for all of those who love a particular subset of books, the niches they discard are just as varied.

What makes you love what you read and reject what you don’t like? I’ve thought for years that we all read with our own filters. Those experiences we’ve had in life that taint the glasses we look out from also tend to define how we take things in. Most fiction has one thing in common across all genres – it evokes an emotional response in readers. Based on an individual’s emotional make-up, those responses will be different for different books. What a wonderful world we live in that for as many varied kinds of readers, there are that many varied kinds of writers providing the kinds of books everyone everywhere want to read.


Obsessions, confessions and creativity

What a week I just had… or was it ten days? I sort of lost track. It started with this book release that I’ve been waiting for from this one author – you might have heard of him – Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, I just listened to a FORTY EIGHT HOUR audiobook in just under twelve days. With my life, that is crazy talk. And definitely explains why I have been MIA on my blog. Sorry! But, Words of Radiance is one of those books that reminds me why I love to read so much. Luckily it takes a while for him to write a tome of this magnitude so, while I swore I would never start or commit to another series that wasn’t completed after Robert Jordan died – DIED – before finishing my last fantasy obsession, I have a while between books so my life can get back to normal.

Here’s another confession – I might have been obsessing about reading because I was hiding from my novel. Creativity is such a bitch some times and this writing thing is HARD work. Sigh. I’m knee-deep in revisions on my novel from November and realized that I started the story halfway through. No biggie, I just need to go back and write the beginning. Problem is, my main character came to me after she’d gotten herself into a predicament and I hadn’t given much more than cursory thought about HOW she had gotten there. And every idea I came up with was totally cliche or worse, boring. I rationalized all week that I was “refilling the well” by reading instead of writing. That thinking about my story was the same as writing. After all, I was still thinking about my story. When I wasn’t immersed in the world Sanderson built instead of my own that is. Truth is, I barely wrote anything all week.

Sunday I woke up early to a quiet house. Should have gone for a run but instead I brewed a pot of coffee and proceeded to drink the WHOLE thing while sitting on the couch with my headphones plugged into the last hours of my book. Nobody’s perfect, right? When it was over, I had nowhere left to hide from my creative road bump I’d been grappling with all week. I dove into a project I’ve got going with my writer’s group (hiding again) and shouted out to Facebook for inspiration. At the end of the day, kids all tucked into bed and Hubby watching his latest installment of Walking Dead, I finally took my own advice and put my butt in the seat and just started writing. I knew it would probably suck. It was first draft territory after all. And, I was probably writing the equivalent of clearing my throat by faking it till I figured it all out. But it wasn’t going to write itself. Big girl panties… check.

An hour later, I had exhausted all my coffee reserves and had to force myself to stop. Yes, force. Because a few minutes into it, I found one tiny nugget of inspiration and realized I knew all along what had happened. I just had to get over myself and the irrationality about how I didn’t really know (your subconscious isn’t really you, right?) Hurdle cleared. Now on to the next one!

Someone this week reminded me that there is a huge difference between talking about writing and actually writing. My life is always an exercise in balance – on steroids most of the time. And while I’m good at juggling everything I’m not always so great at recognizing when I’m telling myself lies about what is really happening. Here’s to it getting easier to recognize next time and not wasting any more of my writing time unnecessarily.


Book List Archive 2013

Time for out with the old and in with the new posts recapping the major accomplishments of the past year (and cleaning off the side bar to make room for tracking this year’s list). I thought 2013 was going to see far more books under my belt since last year was truly an overachiever one when it came to reading. However, I’ve had far more energy to be off my couch in recent months and you can’t listen to audible while doing yoga like you can while running.

  • The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Maushart (book club) – this book changed my children’s lives and is well worth reading
  • A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – so much better than I ever hoped for and well worth the 15 years it took to wait for the end of this series.
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow – disturbing and eye-opening
  • Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
  • Still Alice, Lisa Genova (book club) – frightening look at Alzheimer’s
  • The Reservoir, John Miliken Thompson
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson 
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
  • Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
  • 14, Peter Clines – best scifi read this year
  • And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Deborah Spungen (book club)
  • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
  • Mistorn #2: The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (book club) – this time I read it instead of listened and loved it even more
  • The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (book club)
  • Mistborn #3: The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson – the ending of this series cemented Sanderson’s place as my new favorite fantasy author
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – this was a haunting read that stuck with me a long while
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck (work book club)
  • Horns, Joe Hill – one of my very favorite reads this year
  • The Rent Collector, Camron Wright (book club)
  • Joyland, Stephen King
  • Hounded, Kevin Hearne
  • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (my pick for book club so I re-read it in print instead of listening). This is a far different book in print than in audible and I liked the audible far better.
  • Hexed, Kevin Hearne
  • The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (book club)
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge – not my favorite scifi and proof that if you put something down twice it probably doesn’t deserve getting finished
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – also one of my favorite reads this year – such a great one!
  • Mistborn #4: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
  • Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn (work book club)
  • Slim for Life, Jillian Michaels
  • Immortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – I hope the movies are better than the books
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (book club) – I’m now officially a huge Gaiman fan, too
  • Mothers & Other Liars, Amy Bourret (book club)
  • No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – oh how I wish I’d read this years ago to make NaNoWriMo easier!
  • Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson – read aloud with hubby on our road trip
  • The Name of the Wind: The King Killer Chronicles Day One, Patrick Rothfuss – also read aloud for hubby on our road trip after I filled him in on the first half; and yet another epic fantasy series I want to grab the next one immediately.

That’s thirty seven books this year. A far cry from the goal I set of fifty but still impressive since the theme this year was apparently fantasy. I read some major tomes that in terms of sheer number of pages alone could count as several books. I set the goal of forty books in 2014. Whether I hit that goal or not, you can be certain I’ll be reading every chance I get!