Friday, March 30, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Dana Marton

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDana Marton

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Usually the one I'm currently working on. Right now, I'd love to go out to dinner with Carly and Nick from Secret Contract and hear of their latest escapades. They are both pretty tough people who carry around a lot of their past but never let it slow them down. They are a very good match, bring out the best in each other. Neither is the trusting kind so that they can live and work together is no small miracle. I like to write characters that I wouldn't mind being friends with.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I write a lot of international suspense so I tend to do a lot of international travel to scope out locations. One of my favorite trips had been to Curacao, a small island about twenty miles off the coast of Venezuela. I hope to set a series of mysteries there. The most recent trip was to Cyprus (I love islands). I have a suspense/thriller planned for that location, utilizing the early Christian catacombs. If I can't visit a location I write about, I do a lot of research and interview people who live there now or lived there in the past.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Paint. I love working on a paint in between books to clear my mind. I find the process soothing and relaxing, a complete recharge. You can't stress while you paint. It's impossible. A good painting and a good novel have a lot in common, by the way: solid underlying structure, a contagious mood (will make you feel things), layers that work together to create multidimensional results, etc. Sadly, I'm not a very good painter (yet--let's be optimistic), which doesn't stop my husband from having my pictures framed and hanging them around the house. If that isn't love I don't know what is :-)


5. Who are you reading right now?
I'm actually reading the screenplay of The DaVinci Code at the moment. It's fun to compare it with the book, a different sort of reading experience. I tend to read more than one book at a time and always have a stack waiting. Next up is Magic Study by Maria Snyder, and I'm waiting for a few of Susan Mallery's latest to arrive in the mail. I've heard great things about The New Moon's Arms from Nalo Hopkinson so I just put that on my list. Too many books, too little time.


6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Ice cream. Chocolate. Pastry. Cheesecake. The list would be too long to post here. *groans and tries to suck her stomach in*


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I do yoga to counteract my inability to stop snacking. My exercise schedule is frequently disrupted, however. My current excuse is that there's too much dog hair on the carpet. Yes, I could vacuum. As soon as someone shows me decisive proof that Shakespeare spent a single day vacuuming, I'll drag that sucker right out of my hallway closet.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
Both. I start with a one page outline, then regret it bitterly about halfway through the book when I realize that things aren't turning out as I hoped. So then I usually spend a day or two in utter desperation and outline the rest.


13. Celebrity crush.
Colin Firth. My ultimate fantasy is having one of my books made into a movie and him playing the lead role. And my star agent would, of course, negotiate a cameo appearance for me. Hey, with all that time I save by not doing yoga and not vacuuming, I do have a few moments here and there to fantasize. :-)


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Award-winning author Dana Marton has had a passion for reading and writing stories since she was a little girl. She has penned Rogue Soldier, Shadow Soldier, and Secret Soldier in the SDDU (Secret Designation Defense Unit) series that feature breathtaking suspense and passionate romance. Ms. Marton has a graduate degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. When not writing or reading, she loves to browse antique shops and enjoys working in her flower garden.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Seton Hill Writers News

#1: Mary SanGiovanni's short story "The Eleventh Hour Syndrome" is in Issue #100 of Space and Time, the double-sized 40th anniversary issue.

#2: The poetry contest from Michael A. Arnzen's goreletter is about to close. Check it out here to win a copy of Mike's movie Exquisite Corpse.

#3: Secret Contract by Dana Marton comes out this month. Her interview will be up tomorrow on HEIDI'S PICK SIX.

#4: Chapter three of Assassin Study is up at eHarlequin. Tell Maria V. Snyder where to go from here by voting on the ending. You can also read the first two chapters and see what choices the voters made.

#5: Gary Braunbeck is on the Stocker Final Ballot for his novel Prodigal Blues and his fiction collection Destination Unknown.


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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - M. D. Benoit

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketM. D. Benoit

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Definitely coffee. I drink it black, except for my cup of latte first thing in the morning. I used to have a really stressful job and I'd drink 15 cups a day of usually pretty bad coffee. Now I'm down to two a day, except when I revert to a stressful event (like planning a reading) then I revert to my coffee-addict days. If I drink tea, I prefer Oolong or Lapsang Sou Chong.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I cross-stitch, paint canvas rugs, cross-country ski, do yoga, cook (even though I hate it). I can do crossword puzzles, shovel snow, eat chocolate, talk on the phone, stretch a dollar. I can swim, helm a sailboat, trim sails, water ski, and, favorite of all, I can do nothing.


5. Who are you reading right now?
Tanya Tuft, and laughing all the way. Next is The Cracked Throne by Joshua Palmetier, and Relative Danger by Charles Benoit. I'm waiting on Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things and Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms.


6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Sometimes it will be an article that starts me on “what if” situations. Sometimes, I’ll wake up with a character in my head, and he or she won’t leave until I tell their stories. Sometimes it’s the tail end of a dream.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
When I write, I usually listen to classical music. My favorite is Bach’s Cello Concertos. But I’m as eclectic in my music as in my reading. I like pretty much any kind of music, except hard rock and alternative. I listen mostly to classical, opera, jazz, folk, and world music.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
It’s not the stories that take me along for the ride, it’s the characters. Before I can write, even if I have the gist of a story, if I can’t visualize my protagonist(s), I can’t start writing. Once he, she, or they have invaded my brain, I let them go where they want to go. I only get writer’s block when I want to make them do what they don’t want to.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

M. D. Benoit (born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) is a science fiction and mystery writer.

Although she has always written, M. D. has been writing full-time for over twelve years. 'Til the Fat Lady Sings, her first science fiction mystery novel, was published as an e-book in 2000. It was republished in 2004 as the first book in the Jack Meter Case Files with the title Metered Space under Zumaya Publications' Otherworlds Imprint. The next one in the series, Meter Made, came out in November 2005. Synergy, a dystopian story about gene modification and warfare, will be out in March 2007, under the Otherworlds Imprint.

M. D. discovered science fiction and mystery through her father's bedtime stories, which were always full of gadgets, dark doorways, and disappearing people. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and her cat (who is really an alien in disguise).

You can read her blog Life's a wild ride here on Live Journal or her other blog, Life’s weirder than Fiction.

Monday, March 26, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Alan Dean Foster

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlan Dean Foster

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I'm very fond of Truzenzuzex. Having always felt a bit of an outsider myself, the fact that he is an alien doesn't compromise my affection for him at all. He's tolerant of others, always interested in helping, and values knowledge above just about anything else. I'd like to think I'm a little bit like him.


2. Tell me about your travels.
As you can see from my website, I've spent time in 85 countries. All I ever really wanted to do was travel. In my fiction, I get to visit other worlds. In real life, I'm stuck on this one, so I'm trying to see as much of it as possible before I die. I've pretty much hit the highlights and now I'm filling in the gaps.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlan Dean Foster Goroka sing sing, Papua New Guinea

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I can play a little taiko (Japanese drums)and if I had the time, I'd compose classical music.


5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Chocolate chip ice cream. Iced tea. King crab. Whipped cream. Fresh fish. Good pastrami.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
I've been a classical music aficionado since I was a small child. My mother played a mean Rhapsody in Blue, and Disney's Fantasia started me on orchestral classical. I also like heavy metal and ethnic (world) music.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I used to collect animation but have slacked off in recent years. I'll still marvel over a classic Chuck Jones or Bob Clampett or Tex Avery cartoon, but I'm also interested in everything from the latest computer graphics to early b&w Japanese animation.


Born in New York City in 1946, Alan Dean Foster was raised in Los Angeles. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from UCLA (1968, l969) he spent two years as a copywriter for a small Studio City, Calif. advertising and public relations firm.

His writing career began when August Derleth bought a long Lovecraftian letter of Foster's in 1968 and much to Foster's surprise, published it as a short story in Derleth's bi-annual magazine The Arkham Collector. Sales of short fiction to other magazines followed. His first attempt at a novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was bought by Betty Ballantine and published by Ballantine Books in 1972. It incorporates a number of suggestions from famed SF editor John W. Campbell.

Since then, Foster's sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several "Best of the Year" compendiums. Six collections of his short form work have been published.

Foster's work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He has also written numerous non-fiction articles on film, science, and scuba diving, as well as having produced the novel versions of many films, including such well-known productions as Star Wars, the first three Alien films, and Alien Nation. Other works include scripts for talking records, radio, computer games, and the story for the first Star Trek movie. In addition to publication in English, his work has appeared and won awards throughout the world. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first work of science-fiction ever to do so.

Though restricted (for now) to the exploration of one world, Foster's love of the far-away and exotic has led him to travel extensively. After graduating from college he lived for a summer with the family of a Tahitian policeman and camped out in French Polynesia. He and his wife JoAnn Oxley, of Moran, Texas, have traveled to Europe and throughout Asia and the Pacific in addition to exploring the back roads of Tanzania and Kenya. Foster has camped out in the "Green Hell" region of the Southeastern Peruvian jungle, photographing army ants and pan-frying piranha (lots of small bones; tastes a lot like trout); has ridden forty-foot whale sharks in the remote waters off Western Australia, and was one of three people on the first commercial air flight into Northern Australia's Bungle Bungle National Park. He has rappelled into New Mexico's fabled Lechugilla Cave, white-water rafted the length of the Zambezi's Batoka Gorge, driven solo the length and breadth of Namibia, crossed the Andes by car , sifted the sands of unexplored archeological sites in Peru, gone swimming with giant otters in Brazil, and surveyed remote Papua New Guinea and West Papua both above and below the water. His filmed footage of Great White Sharks feeding off South Australia has appeared on both American television and the BBC.

Besides traveling he enjoys basketball, hiking, body surfing, scuba diving, collecting animation on video, and weightlifting. He studied karate with Aaron and Chuck Norris before Norris decided to give up teaching for acting. He has taught screenwriting, literature, and film history at UCLA and Los Angeles City College as well as having lectured at universities and conferences around the country and in Europe. A member of the Science-Fiction Writers of America, the Author's Guild of America, and the Writer's Guild of America, west; he also spent two years serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission of his home town of Prescott, Arizona. Foster's correspondence and manuscripts are in the Special Collection of the Hayden Library of Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

The Fosters reside in Prescott in a house built of brick salvaged from a turn-of-the-century miners' brothel, along with assorted dogs, cats, fish, several hundred houseplants, visiting javelina, porcupines, eagles, red-tailed hawks, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, and the ensorceled chair of the nefarious Dr. John Dee. He is presently at work on several new novels and media projects.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

M. D. Benoit's Virtual Book Tour - Synergy

From March 28 through April 11, M. D. Benoit will be going on a virtual book tour to promote her upcoming alternate reality novel, Synergy. During that period, ten bloggers will host her on their blog for one day. There will be discussions on Synergy, its themes, characters, interviews with the author, reviews of the book, etc.

Every day, on M. D.'s blog, Life’s Weirder than Fiction, she will announce where she will be that day, as well as talk a bit about her host.

She'll be doing HEIDI'S PICK SIX on Wednesday, March 28, and will be available all day to reply to comments.

Synergy’s Virtual Book Tour will culminate with a Virtual Book Launch, on April 14 through 15. M. D. can be contacted at mdbenoit@gmail.com.


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Friday, March 23, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Gary Frank

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingGary Frank Photo by Erin Schwartz

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
I’ve either stayed in or visited 26 states, Canada, The Bahamas and Bermuda. Once upon a time, these vacations used to be about having fun and relaxing. Now they’re planned around writing conferences. So I don’t have as many relaxing vacations as I’d like. But as soon as the movie deal works out, that’ll change!


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I’m a guitarist/singer/songwriter and I’m into photography. I can watch movies real well, too.


5. Who are you reading right now?
The Planets by Dava Sobel, a creative look at the planets that make up our solar system, also a variety of genre novels, trying to find something fresh and different.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Pop Culture. Godzilla and Speed Racer take up an amount of space in my brain that may have been for important information. But I’m much happier with Speed and the King of Monsters.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I am along for the ride, taking dictation from the back seat.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Lately it’s been Jack Ketchum, Gary Braunbeck and Mort Castle. I’ve learned more from reading their works than from most writing courses I’ve taken.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Gary Frank is the author of Forever Will You Suffer, published by Medallion Press and released in February of 2006, a supernatural, time-shifting tale of unrequited love gone horribly wrong. The supernatural thriller is the story of Rick Summers who discovers that he and his ex-girlfriend are being stalked by a psychotic woman who remembers a past that he’s never lived. He is also the author of a number of short stories, including "Stay Here," which received two Stoker recommendations, and was published in the 2005 Garden State Horror Writers anthology, Dark Notes From New Jersey.

His writing has been compared to Richard Laymon and early Graham Masterton. A member of the Horror Writers Association since 2005, Gary has also been a member of the Garden State Horror Writers since 2003 where he is currently Vice President.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - D. Harlan Wilson

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketD. Harlan Wilson

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
All of the above. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon and evening, and (skim) milk in every cup.


4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Both. And neither. My latest novel, Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia, is an affirmation/critique of pop cultural and academic lifestyles and aesthetics.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Dreams, films and literature. Above all, though—Headline News, which, for me, consistently reifies the notion that reality is better than fiction.


9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I used to play basketball a lot. Not anymore. I still exercise every day, though, alternating between elliptical machines and free weights. I have 300+ lb. bench press and enjoy bodybuilding. If only I could reduce my carb intake! But I’m much too fond of bread and pasta.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
In literature, Franz Kafka, William S. Burroughs, and Philip K. Dick. In film, David Lynch, David Lynch, and David Lynch.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
A little, but not as much as I’d like to. As a kid, I lived for shows like Hong Kong Phooey, Superfriends, He-Man, Looney Tunes and Star Blazers. Nowadays my cartoon-watching is relegated to ultraviolent animĂ© flics. And, of course, the occasional episode of South Park.


D. Harlan Wilson is the author of several collections of short stories such as Pseudo-city and a new science fiction novel, Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia (Raw Dog Screaming Press 2007), the first of three novels in "The Scikungfi Trilogy". Other upcoming projects include Blankety Blank: A Novel of Vulgaria (Raw Dog Screaming Press 2008) and a book of literary criticism, Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction (Guide Dog Books 2008). For more on Wilson and his writing, visit him online at www.dharlanwilson.com or MySpace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Jack Skillingstead

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJack Skillingstead

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Evidently, not much. I'm not a scientist, I don't have a tech career or any of that. Oh, I can play the guitar a little. And juggle. Once I hypnotized a gopher and made it believe it was a chicken....


5. Who are you reading right now?
The Korean poet Ko Un, an old Colin Wilson novel called The Sex Diary Of Gerard Sorme and a Phillip K. Dick novel: We Can Build You.


6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The one that broke my heart because I realized I was writing about something painfully personal. And no, I'm not telling you where to look. Ha!


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
It must be that blank spot on the wall behind my laptop, since I spend so much time staring at it.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
With short stories it's a fine line between knowing too much and too little. I try to balance the idea like a brimming tea cup in my mind. On the one hand, I don't want to get bored. On the other hand, I don't want to get lost. With novels (not that I've sold any, so you have to take this for what it's worth) I try to know as much as possible before I start writing. That means reams of notes, chapter breakdowns, all that. Of course, once the writing DOES start, most of it goes out the window. But it still feels necessary.


13. Celebrity crush.
Penelope Cruise.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Jack Skillingstead is a speculative fiction writer from the Pacfic Northwest, a winner in Stephen King's "On Writing" contest in 2001, and finalist for the 2004 Sturgeon Award. His stories have appeared or are scheduled to appear in Asimov's, Realms Of Fantasy, On Spec, Talebones, The Year's Best Science Fiction Twenty First Annual Collection, The Year's Best Science Fiction Twenty Fourth Annual Collection, and Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition. He is currently writing a short story in collaboration with Harlan Ellison.

Friday, March 16, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Patrick Picciarelli

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPatrick Picciarelli

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Absolutely nothing. Wait, hold it a second…..I can pick locks. I collaborated on a book once with a former jewel thief. The project went nowhere, but I learned how to pick locks and got quite good at it. I still practice a lot. I figure if the book-writing thing goes belly up I can always be a burglar.


5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
Anything having to do with kids in a bad stuation. A scene in my SHU thesis involved my protagonist rescuing a kidnapped little boy. I chose to read the scene as part of my thesis presentation and had to practice it for hours before I was able to get through it without choking up. Happens every time I place a kid in jeopardy, probably because I have two of my own.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Pizza, no question. I take very good care of myself; never even held a cigarette, never ate a donut, drank coffee or soda, but when it comes to pizza I fold like a day-old soufflĂ©. I can wipe out an entire pie in record time. The way I look at it pizza is like sex; when it’s good it’s very good, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I’m in the gym almost every day of my life, a lifetime habit from the time I was about fifteen. As far as team sports, I don’t know a hockey puck from a football. Couldn’t tell you who played in the Super Bowl. Last year I was in L.A. ghosting a book and the guy who was paying me (a very rich Hollywood type) thought he’d impress me by inviting me to a Laker’s game with his good buddy Jack (Nicholson). I passed, met them in the Polo Lounge after the game. My friends thought this makes me certifiable, but sports bore the hell out of me. There I said it; now do I have to hand in my Macho ID card?


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Jazz, that’s it. During the 60s when all my teenybopper friends were going nuts over the Beatles I was listing to Coltrane and Miles Davis. Still do, among others. One of the reasons (probably the only reason—I know it’s not the proliferation of great restaurants) I like Pittsburgh is because it has a great jazz scene.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?

13. Celebrity crush.
Aside from Heidi Miller and Penny Dawn? I’d have to say Diane Lane. Very hot and will probably remain so into her 80s. I had to take a Valium to watch some of her scenes in Unfaithful.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Lawrence Block, particularly his Matt Scudder series. Block’s ear for dialogue is astounding. He and I shared the same editor at William Morrow and despite running into him all the time, I’m still a fan around him. Phenomenal hardboiled crime writer. Another would be Ed McBain. Real bad day in the Pic housdehold when he died last year. I never met the guy, but I would have liked to. The first police procedural books I read as a teen were Cop Hater and The Mugger. I still re-read them every few years.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Patrick Picciarelli is the author of the non-fiction books, Jimmy the Wags: Street Stories of a Private Eye (William Morrow), the screenplay (movie rights sold), and the sequel, My Life in the NYPD: Jimmy the Wags (NAL). Mala Femina: A Woman’s Life as the Daughter of a Don (Barricade Books) was published in 2003. He has also published Blood Shot Eyes, a novel.

Picciarelli, a former U.S. Army machine gunner in Vietnam, spent twenty years in the NYPD, retiring as a lieutenant, and is currently licensed as a private investigator. He holds both BA and MA degrees in Criminal Justice from John Jay College in New York and an additional MA degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where he is now an adjunct professor. His ability to relate his been there, done that life experiences has been instrumental in his being in great demand as a public speaker.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Seton Hill Romance

#1: To celebrate the upcoming Top Pick release of Secret Contract from Harlequin Intrigue, author Dana Marton is giving away a box of Godiva chocolates. Email her at danamarton@yahoo.com and tell her one thing you like about the excerpt from Secret Contract that is posted on her web site. She will draw one lucky reader from all who respond by April 30 to receive a box of Godiva truffles.

#2: You can win $500 in the texting sweepstakes for Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. The contest ends April 10.

#3: Penny Dawn's latest short Go For Miles is available now through Amber Heat.

#4: Kaye Dacus has moved her blog Write Place, Write Time to a new home.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Lee Allen Howard

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLee Allen Howard

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Not much, actually! Well, I can also read... I like to sing.

Although I can't cook, I keep a clean apartment. I'm fairly good at exterior and interior house painting, but if I painted for a living, I would be way to expensive at an hourly rate because I'm slow and meticulous. I can keep plants alive. There are a few other things I'm good at that contribute to domestic bliss that would be better left unmentioned...


5. Who are you reading right now?
I've been fighting my way through John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up. I've never been a fan of SF, but heard this was a classic, so I'm slogging through it for my own literary good. Prior to that, I enjoyed Lewis DeSimone's Chemistry. On my shelves you will find favorite authors such as Patrick McGrath, Chuck Palahniuk, Cormac McCarthy, Joe R. Lansdale, and Ramsey Campbell.


6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I don't usually go looking for inspiration; ideas typically find me. For example, driving home from work one evening, approaching the Fort Pitt Tunnels in Pittsburgh, a strange scenario landed in my mind about a father of five finally undergoing a vasectomy during which the doctor implants a bioengineered seed in his vas deferens that will impregnate his wife with the first human/alien hybrid. That idea would not leave me for years. I eventually turned it into my second novel, The Sixth Seed.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Could and do: In my refrigerator are sliced turkey breast, preferably organic; swiss cheese (lower in fat and sodium than most other cheeses); whole-grain bread; and macaroni salad, which I could eat every day. Along with zesty bread-and-butter pickles. Cinnamon applesauce. Cashews. And vitamins and herbs, which I never chew, but swallow whole using bottled spring water.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
If typing were a sport, I would have lettered. I've never held an interest in sports of any kind and don't understand the rules for most of them. I don't follow anything that requires me to watch television. However, I have developed an interest in UFC (Utlimate Fight Championship) fighting. It's a combination of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and martial arts, held in an octagonal ring. It is tough, violent, and typically bloody. And the guys are hot!

In the summer of 2004, I tipped the scales at 205 and started a strict diet and exercise regimen. I lost 60 pounds in the course of the next 18 months. Now I weight-train four times a week at a neighborhood gym and have gained 15 pounds of muscle.

I started running with the Pittsburgh Frontrunners late last summer. I hope to resume when the temperature remains above 45 degrees. Now that I'm living in the City of Pittsburgh between Frick and Schenley parks, I plan to acquire a hybrid bike for street and off-road cycling.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
Outline. If I don't have down on paper, in some rudimentary form, where I'm going with a story, I'll eventually stall. I develop a broad outline of the entire story or novel. Then break it down into beginning, middle, and end. With a novel, I have learned to jot down the basic events of every scene, from which I then write the actual prose.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Lee Allen Howard has been a professional writer since 1985 and presently works for a software company. Lee writes horror, dark fantasy, and suspense. His first novel, When the Music Stops, was published by Beautiful Feet Publishing in 2000. Lee earned a BA in English a long time ago. He also received a MA in Biblical Studies and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Lee has been published in Cemetery Sonata anthology and Out newspaper. He is the founder, editor, and publisher at Dark Cloud Press, publisher of horror, dark crime, and psychological thrillers.

www.darkcloudpress.com

Monday, March 12, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Steven Piziks (Steven Harper)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSteven Piziks (Steven Harper)

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
At the moment? Probably Ben Rymar from my Silent Empire science fiction
books (Dreamer, Nightmare, Trickster, and Offspring). He's such a nice guy, and fun to write about. I realized I was in danger of letting him take over the series as a protagonist, but Ben isn't protagonist material. I had to watch myself so he'd stay in the background.

Ask me next year, and I'll probably give you a different answer.


2. Tell me about your travels.
The most recent "big" trip came the summer of 2005 when my wife and I went to Ukraine to adopt two children. We spent almost four weeks there, mostly in Kyiv, and got to see both the tourist stuff and the "real" Ukraine. We refused to eat at McDonald's, the food everywhere was really good, and Eastern Europeans are friendlier than their reputation. We did run into two con artists, but we walked away from the first, I snarled at the second, and neither of them got what they wanted. It was good to come home, but with two more children in the house, the journey was really just beginning!


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Diet Cherry Coke, baby! Coffee is just nasty, even when you dress it up. Tea works if DCC ain't available.


4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Ha! I teach a class about pop culture. So I get both sides! Though I have to say, I don't understand people who snub popular culture in favor of academics. To paraphrase Stephen King, do they think they get brownie points for ignoring their own culture?


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The one that stands out comes from my first novel. Lance, the main character, suffers from dissociative identity disorder (shrink-speak for "multiple personalities") and it was difficult to get into Lance's minds sometimes. Toward the end of the book, I wrote a scene in which Lance
is talking to a psychologist, and he says:

"We don't need to integrate, Doctor. Because of Robin, I was able to learn a lot about myself and my MPD. Most people who have it can't even talk to their alters, but I can--and I like how it works out. I just wanted to let you know that and thank you for your help. You were the one who helped us get started. I wish we could come see you in person, but Mom and Dad are fighting over England on the corporate level and we don't want to get caught in the middle."

After I finished the scene, I realized that I had Lance smoothly shifting between "I" and "we"--and that I hadn't even noticed I was writing that way. I had crawled so far into his head that Lance, a complete lunatic, had become normal to me. The realization kind of freaked me out and I had to go for a walk to calm down.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I have to outline, both short stories and novels. I need to know in advance where the story will end and how it'll get there. Twice I've tried writing stories off the top of my head, and both times were complete disasters. The outline is my friend!


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Steven Piziks has been writing since he could hold a pencil. His very first novel was about a boy who was kidnapped by aliens living under the ocean. It was never published and the manuscript has since mysteriously disappeared.

He got his start in professional publication when he was fourteen years old with an article about raising rabbits in the September 1981 issue of Mother Earth News.

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, he grew up in the back woods of Wheeler, a town so small it doesn't even have a crossroads. The telephone system uses a party line to this day. When Steven was twelve, his family moved to the outskirts of Midland, home of Dow Chemical. He says this explains a lot. Then they moved to Saginaw, where he graduated from high school. From there, Steven went to Central Michigan University, where he eventually got two Bachelor's degrees--one in German/speech and one in English/health education. In 1991, he married his wife Kalathena and moved to Ann Arbor. He received a Master's of Art in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and is currently a mentor with the program. He also teaches English in Michigan.

His works include: Dead Man on the Moon: An LCSI Novel, The Silent Empire Novels, and the forthcoming Unity: A Battlestar Gallactica Novel, all written as Steven Harper, and In the Company of Mind, Identity, Exorcist: The Beginning, Corporate Mentality, and The Nanotech War (Star Trek Voyager) as Steven Piziks, and numerous short stories as both Stevens.

Friday, March 09, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Susan Crandall

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSusan Crandall

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Whenever I’m writing a book, those characters are my current favorites. I think it’s because I crawl so deeply beneath their skin. I feel like they’re family -- and family is always closest to the heart. I have a couple who stand out long after I’ve closed my file for the last time, however. I’m not sure what it says about my mental state, but one of them is a dog. Rufus, the bloodhound from Magnolia Sky, will live always in my heart. I will forever be in love with Will Scott, my hero from my first published book, Back Roads. I have a soft spot for a couple of secondary characters too, Hattie Grissom from Back Roads and Promises to Keep; and Granny Tula from On Blue Falls Pond. Humm, sounds like I’d better stop, or I’ll have all of my characters listed!


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Diet Coke.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I used to be a dental hygienist, but gave that up several years ago. I’m a pretty good cook, but I try not to exercise that talent too often. I cut a mean lawn. I can train a dog. I’m pretty mechanically inclined, so if I can find instructions, I can tackle almost any project. I can sew, but like cooking, don’t overuse that ability. I guess it all boils down to I only like to read, write and go to movies!


5. Who are you reading right now?
Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle


6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
My books are always about real people dealing with real problems, so everywhere I look, I find inspiration.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I’m strictly a seat-of-the-pants writer. Here’s how it goes: I have a general idea for a storyline – which sometimes starts as small as an image I can’t get out of my head (such as the one that launched Back Roads; a car abandoned on a dark country road with the driver’s door open, lights on and radio playing). Then I do lots of character work for the main characters before I ever write a page. Once I have these people, their strengths, weaknesses and major conflicts under my belt, I start writing. Choosing the right opening scene is crucial, so that’s always a struggle. After that, I’m off on a ride that often takes me places I hadn’t imagined, or even considered. So much of the story comes to me as I go. I did try outlining once, but really struggled to write “to” that outline. I felt like it was really hobbling my creativity, so I abandoned the process even before I finished that outlined book.

Also, almost all of my secondary characters “appear” as I’m writing. If I outlined, I might miss out on some really interesting people!


13. Celebrity crush.
I currently have a bit of a thing for Gerard Butler. I wouldn’t call it a “crush”, I just find him interesting and easy on the eyes – the accent is a plus, too.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Unlike so many writers, Susan Crandall did not emerge from the womb with a pen and paper in hand and a fully formed story in mind. Instead, she was born with an incredible love for books. This must have been genetic, because her father, who hated school, was somehow addicted to books.

For years, even those exhausting years when her children were young and she worked as a dental hygienist, she was an avid reader. She was always fascinated with words. Then, her younger sister admitted she'd been writing, secretly of course. That admission led to Susan editing her sister's work and she had plenty of opinions to share. Then they co-authored four novels, none of which were published. Her sister decided to move on, but Susan was totally addicted.

Back Roads was her first solo work, her first published work, and her first award winning novel, winning a RITA for Best First Book and two National Reader's Choice Awards. This book was also the selected reading for the June 2005 Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction graduate residency. Her latest novel A Kiss in Winter was released in January 2007 through Warner Forever.

Susan grew up in a small Indiana town, married a guy from that town, and then moved to Chicago for a while. She's pleased to say, she's back in her hometown. Her husband and she have two grown children who make them proud every day. Her son, who has the heart of a poet, is also a writer. Her daughter, who is both beautiful and brilliant, is about to take her first steps into the working world of science.

Monday, March 05, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Maria V. Snyder

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMaria V. Snyder Photo by Michael Frost Studio NYC

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
This is like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite - they're all my favorites......Okay now the obligatory answer is done - I'll admit I really enjoy writing about Valek. He has all the great sarcastic lines and gets to do all the cool assassin stuff. Plus he's an artist. Gotto love that.


2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
Pop culture all the way! Hardest thing to write in the last 2 years was my academic graduate essay. I use non-fiction kids books with big color pictures to do my research for writing. "Inside a Medieval Castle" was very helpful for designing the Commander's castle. I avoid anything scholarly.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I like to play volleyball. I play twice a week - one night with my church team, The Tornados (sound impressive? We hope the name will strike fear into our opponets' hearts before we even play against them because on the court we tend to spin around and go off in unexpected directions :) and the other night is just pick up games. It's fun and I get to be around people instead of my computer.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
They pick me up at my front door. I give them a general direction and sit back and enjoy the ride. Usually the first half of the trip I worry I won't have enough gas to make it and the second half I worry I have too much momentum to stop.


13. Celebrity crush.
Orlando Bloom - but not as blond Legolis in LOTR - but as the dark Wil Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Yes - with two kids in the house it's hard to avoid. My favorite show is The Avatar - cool concept and I also liked Jackie Chan's adventures - another cartoon with magic and fantasy elements. And all those cheesy holiday cartoons are must see TV in my house.


Maria V. Snyder has been writing fiction and nonfiction since 1995. Her adult fantasy novel, Poison Study, was first published by Harlequin's Luna Books in October 2005 and was just rereleased this month by MIRA in trade paperback with a brand new cover. In celebration, a new short story set in the Study world 'Assassin Study' is available free online at eHarlequin.com. A new installment of this serial story about the trouble Valek is involved in while Yelena is in Sitia will run every two weeks until the final installment on April 26, 2007.

Maria's research on food tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study. Maria has a brown belt in Issinryu Karate, and has enjoyed "acting out" the complex fight scenes in the book. The follow up, Magic Study was released in October 2006. The final "Study" book, Fire Study will be out in 2008 through MIRA.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria attended 12 years of catholic school before going to Penn State University to study Meteorology. Earning a Bachelors of Science degree in Meteorology, Maria discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn't one of her skills. She found employment in the environmental field as an air quality scientist, and it was during those years that she started writing. She has also published numerous freelance articles in regional magazines and in local newspapers. Teaching fiction writing classes at the local college gives her the enjoyable opportunity to encourage novice writers and to keep improving her craft.

Maria lives with her family in Pennsylvania.
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSnyder Family

She recently received a Masters of Art degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She would recommend this writing program to anyone interested in publishing a novel.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Seton Hill Writers on the Web

#1: Maria V. Snyder (SHU 2007) has a short story series up at eHarlequin.com about Valek in celebration of the re-relase of Poison Study.

#2: Penny Dawn (SHU 2006)and other Amber Quill authors are blogging over at Amber Heat about their new short story series Best in Game.

#3: Shelley Bates (SHU 2002) gives her input about writers finding their own voice over at Kaye Dacus' (SHU 2006) blog, Write Place, Write Time.


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HEIDI'S PICK SIX- Anne Harris

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAnne Harris

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Nalo makes a good point, about not playing favorites, but I guess I'm a bad mom. My favorite character is Harry, from my new novel All the Colors of Love. I think it's because even though he's pretty fucked up, and does some pretty fucked up stuff sometimes, he really wants to be a good person. And despite everything that life has taught him about not trusting others, he still takes a chance when love presents itself. He has the strength to make that leap of faith that there can be a better way of life.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee and milk, in equal measure and at the same time.


4. What else can you do besides write?

5. Who are you reading right now?
Gorgeous Carat, a boys love manga by You Higuri. This one is a good example of the kind of bl story I love. The two main characters take turns rescuing each other from peril -- I love role reversal. And it's got a decent adventure plot concerning the treasure of the Knights Templar, to boot.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Pop Culture! I never did like school.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
Oh yes. I have to work out like a mad thing or I can't sit still long enough to write. I swim, walk, do the elliptical cross-trainer and treadmill at the Y, and in the summer I go kayaking every chance I get.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
I'm mad for seventies funk with those fabulous horn sections.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Anne Harris' first novel, The Nature of Smoke, is currently in translation in Japan, where it is on the final ballot for the Sense of Gender Award. Her second, Accidental Creatures, won the Spectrum Award for glbt science fiction and fantasy in the first year the award was given. Her most recent novel, Inventing Memory, was a BookSense 76 pick. Last year, her short story, "Still Life with Boobs," which is in Year's Best Fantasy 6 made the final Nebula ballot. She recently became a mentor at Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Graduate Program.