Friday, September 28, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Ken Rand

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketKen Rand

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Tom Dooley (at yer service) is my favorite character. He’s the narrator of the Lucky Nickel Saloon stories (Tales of the Lucky Nickel Saloon, Fairy BrewHaHa at the Lucky Nickel Saloon, and Dadgum Martians Invade the Lucky Nickel Saloon). First person, of course, but he’d probably say “first feller.” Tom is an unreliable narrator, not as smart as he thinks, or as pleasant smelling. Hangs out in a saloon, drinks and spits. Cheats at cards. No job. A regular guy. Reason I like him is because while he’s a dang liar, he tells true lies, if you get my drift. Nothing fancy in his tone, though he often likes to try on pompous phraseology. Western, of course. I like his range and his honesty. I can do more with him than I can with other characters. Hell, I think he’s me.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I used to travel with an auto daredevil thrill show. “Wow, I’ve never done that before!” became a running joke among the crew after I said it a few times. Canada, Mexico, all over the US. There’s a novel about the old daredevil shows titled Dare currently being ignored in some agent’s office.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?

5. Who are you reading right now?
I just finished Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms with a Paul Genesee story in it. Paul has a fantasy coming out in April 2008 from Five Star. I need to catch up on some Fairwood titles—Mary Rosenblum, Louise Marley, etc. I’m pickled tink to hear Jim Glass has a new collection coming, ditto Ken Scholes. Julie Hyzy has can’t-wait stuff coming up. Actually, right now, I’m reading a guide book to Word 2007.


6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
At the end of Cold Day in Hell, my protagonist locates what may be the grave of her missing husband in the desert. I agonized over that scene for days, rewriting those four pages a zillion times. I recall Dan Simmons telling me when I interviewed him for Talebones Magazine how he agonized over a scene where he had to kill a baby that was about the same age as his own. And Bill Ransom told me how he delayed ending a book he was writing in collaboration with Frank Herbert—this was after Herbert died—because it meant letting go of his dear friend. My scene felt like those. Ain’t going to tell you why. Personal. That’s the point. Suffice to say lessons were learned about the source of inspiration and passion in writing. Passion shows—ditto the lack of it.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Family. Home. I was long into career before I realized that these are my key themes. The Lucky Nickel Saloon is a home and the regulars are family. My nonfiction history book Port Chicago Isn’t There Anymore—But We Still Call It Home is about my hometown. Story is about people, and I think I stress character more than anything else. My family and my friends have been my inspirations.


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?
13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
Mark Twain. I’ve read everything he ever wrote at least twice. My stepdad. I remember him reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to me and my two brothers one chapter at a time every night before we went to bed when I was a kid—this was before we had a TV. I’ll always hear Twain’s voice in a Boston burr, not a river twang. My high school drama teacher. Arthur C. Clarke. My first professional short story sale was titled “The Nine Billion Names of Arthur C. Clarke.” I have two letters from Sir Arthur on my bookshelf. Dean Wesley Smith, who bought that first story, and my second pro short “I Am Klingon.” Patrick Swenson who published my first book The 10% Solution. Dave Wolverton bought my third pro short story “The Gods Perspire” for Writers of the Future. Julie Hyzy. James Van Pelt. Ken Scholes. All friends and mentors. There are a bunch of others, and I’ll think of them an hour after I post this. You Know Who You Are.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Ken Rand resides in West Jordan, Utah. He has three children and four grandchildren--a fifth grandtad is due January 2008. He's sold more than 75 short stories (in SF, fantasy, humor, horror and mainstream genres), 200 humor columns, and countless interviews and articles. Nonfiction books: Human Visions: The Talebones Interviews--The 10% Solution: Self-Editing For the Modern Writer--The Editor Is IN--From Idea to Story in 90 Seconds--In Their Own Words: The Port Chicago Letters--and Dan Colchico: In Defense of Port Chicago. Novels: Dadgum Martians Invade the Lucky Nickel Saloon!--Fairy BrewHaHa at the Lucky Nickel Saloon--Golems of Laramie County--and Phoenix. Story collections: Bad News From Orbit--Soul Taster: Four Dark Tales--Tales of the Lucky Nickel Saloon--and Through Wyoming Eyes. Upcoming: Rock 'n' Roll Universe, a free on-line novel (in September)--Where Angels Fear, a story collection from Fairwood Press in December--Fairy BrewHaHa, reprint from Yard Dog Press, February--Pax Dakota, a novel from Five Star in May, Port Chicago Isn't There Anymore: But We Still Call It Home, history from Media Man! Productions in July and The Gods Perspire, a story collection form Fairwood Press in late 2008.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Kristopher Reisz

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketKristopher Reisz

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
Once, I flew into Edinburgh the day of this huge soccer match. Some people I'd met there were going out bar-hopping, and I decided to tag along. It was insane. Every bar was full and every street was crammed with people waving red-and-white scarves.

After one too many beers, I fell down some concrete stairs. My new friends were kind enough to put me in an ambulance before moving on to the next pub. So, within twenty-four hours of my plane touching down, I was in an E.R. with a mild concussion and five universal healthcare stitches in the back of my head.

That's an exciting city.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee. Black.


4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
The toughest types of scenes are humorous ones. I'm not a funny guy, and nothing jams me up more than needing a character to toss off a quip or make some sly observation.

Luckily, I do have some very funny friends. If I hang out with them for a while and keep my ears open, they'll almost always say something hilarious which I then steal. Every joke in both my novels was pilfered this way. I'm amazed my friends still talk to me.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
I delivered pizza while working on Tripping to Somewhere. It's a job I'd recommend to any aspiring artist. Minimum wage plus tips to drive around and listen to the radio, with plenty of off-time to pursue less-profitable interests.

Anyway, I used to spend nine- or 10-hour shifts surrounded by pizza. I ate very well taking home orders that customers didn't pick up. But on my days off, I'd still crave it. Particularly pepperoni and black olive on a thin crust.


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?
When I started writing, I didn't outline because nobody told me I should. Diving right into a story can work, but it's a labor intensive process. A novel is like a house of cards, with every scene balanced and supported by every other scene. If I get near the end of a draft, and decide a scene should have a different outcome than I'd thought, then I have to go back and change every other scene leading up to it.

While I'm doing that, I inevitably see another scene that could be made better, so I end up re-rewriting the whole thing again.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. I've learned as much, or more, about telling fantasy stories from him than from any novelist. He isn't brilliant because he populates his worlds with beautifully strange creatures like the Catbus. He's brilliant because he makes things from our world, like rain dripping off pine needles, look so beautifully strange that catbuses seem perfectly normal and expected.



Kristopher Reisz lives in Athens, Alabama. His first novel, Tripping to Somewhere (Simon & Schuster), has teenage longing, a very weird crow, transcontinental
hell-raising, and Christopher Marlowe. His second novel, a werewolf love story called Unleashed, (Simon & Schuster) is coming February 2008.

Monday, September 24, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Karen Lynn Williams

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketKaren Lynn Williams

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That’s like asking which of my four children is my favorite. The pat answer is they are all special for different reasons. Some have given me more head aches than others. Kondi from Galimoto is still selling best.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I have backpacked around Europe twice, so long ago that hitch-hiking was still safe and the cheapest way to go. Since then I have lived in Malawi, Africa for 4 and a half years where my husband delivered my son, Christopher while the nurse brushed giant flying ants off my belly. I have also lived for 3 years in Haiti, traveled overland from there to the Dominican Republic. I have returned to Europe several times in recent years, sadly not backpacking but mostly visiting friends in Germany, Holland, Austria, France, Ireland, and Scotland. Most recently I traveled to Calabria, Italy. I highly recommend this little visited parted of the world. We did the required cross-country road trip with 4 kids in a van with a pop-up tent and we survived, mostly in tact, as a family. I have also lived and worked in Cape Cod and traveled from Maine to Florida. Last year I spent 5 weeks in Kenya speaking at the American School of Kenya and doing research- Magnificent! My dream is to have a writers cottage on a beach anywhere or just anywhere even without a beach....


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Quilt, cook, entertain- we do it every other week, dinner parties, open houses, poetry readings, kids birthday parties(not so much now but just consider four kids times 10 b-day parties each give or take…..) I also love to garden but I am very haphazard about this. If I stick it in the earth and it grows all is well unless of course I dig it up again by accident.


5. Who are you reading right now?
James Michner. The Drifters because there is a line in there I think I remember from when I read this book in the seventies and I need it for a poem about my father. At 768 pages we are talking a needle in a haystack and the quote may not even work. Who said poetry was easy? I am also reading Mark Doty, Heaven’s Coast- well because I want to write like him. I am reading Looking for Alaska by John Green because I think he has a great voice for YA and technically this is in my genre. I am also reading: Louise Gluck, Langston Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, Robert Haas, Joy Haro and Rainer Maria Rilke, Donald Hall. I want to write like all of them. And I am almost finished with Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Everywhere and anywhere. From my travels. About half my books are set in other countries. Otherwise from my children when they were still around the house. They would introduce friends saying, “This is my mom. She is a writer and anything you say, can and will, be used in a book.”


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Chocolate. I can eat a bag of chocolate chips in one sitting and that’s not even good chocolate. Peanut butter but I can’t stand the combination, chocolate and peanut butter. Potatoes, boiled, baked, fried, French, scalloped and cold. So you see I have a heck of a time with weight control.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I jogged 4 miles a day forever until knee surgery took me down. I bike 20-40 miles on weekends in the summer, less on week days. I love cross country skiing and wish I could do it year around. Down hill skiing too but there is the knee thing again. Hiking and walking, of course. Would love to do an extended hiking or biking trip across country or in France or Ireland.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
Mostly, yes and yes. I like to know where my character starts out and where he or she will end up-how the protagonist will change or grow by the end of the book before I begin. I usually don’t begin a project until I know these things and a few things that will happen in the middle like a critical point or turning point in the story. After I have been writing for a while I might go back and make an outline that is more of a list of scenes that need to happen or the order they need to happen in.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I don’t know how to turn on the TV. But I used to be a big fan of Mr. Magoo.


Karen Lynn Willimas grew up in New Haven Connecticut and attended the University of Connecticut where she received a BA in Speech Pathology. She also has an MA in Deaf Education and has taught hard of hearing children in Connecticut and in Malawi. She also taught English in a secondary school in Malawi. Currently Karen is writing at home in Pittsburgh and teaching in graduate writing programs at Chatham University and at Seton Hill.

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - WEEK 32

Here's the line up for week 32 on HEIDI'S PICK SIX:

Monday - Karen Lynn Williams / Young Adult

Wednesday - Kristopher Reisz / Urban Fantasy

Friday - Ken Rand / Speculative Fiction and Non-fiction


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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Congratulations Tom and Julie!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketTom and Julie Ruby

On September 15, 2007, my brother Tom married Julie Nitkiewicz. It was a Disney Cinderella wedding, complete with a coach made by Tom and my Dad and Mickey and Minnie topiaries. Appropriate seeing as how he proposed on the beach at Disney's Polynesian Resort with fireworks flying high over the Magic Kingdom castle in the background.

Welcome to the family, Jules!! We love you two!

Friday, September 21, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Ana Quinn

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAna Quinn

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
After my first international trip to Portugal at age 17 I was hooked. Stuck by an extreme case of wanderlust I try to travel whenever work allows. That said I am up for going anywhere at any second. I can plan an international trip in days- which is usually the way I travel. While I’ve been to many destinations, all of which I have loved, I think my top three trips were to Iceland, Rome, and Phuket (Thailand). Iceland for it’s amazing arctic beauty and different experiences I could have nowhere else (even with only four hours of daylight); Rome for it’s lovely people, clearly it’s history and amazing food; and Phuket because I think it’s as close as one may come to experiencing utopia.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
Besides writing I spend most of my time either working in the thoroughbred racing industry or at the farm delivering baby horses, depending on the season. When not surrounded by horses I love going to the movies or just wandering around photographing anything in nature.


5. Who are you reading right now?
At the moment I am reading two books, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a children’s book about a rabbit made out of china who is thrown overboard and thus begins his journey, and also The Yellow House, a nonfiction piece set during the period of 9 weeks when VanGogh and Paul Gauguin lived together in Arles, France. While these are obviously two very different works, both are equally as fascinating, to me anyway.


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.
If I had to pick a food to eat every day it would have to be dessert so probably pie, that way I could have lots of choices for fillings. I love anything sweet, the more sugar the better. I could cut out anything else from my diet but not sweets.


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 believe I should outline my story, and therefore always try, but I get so caught up in the details that I end up having to jump right in and start writing or I may never begin. I find the more I try to outline the more I feel the need to be committed to those original ideas and write the story or article I’ve planned for. However, that leaves me feeling confined and almost backed into a corner, so it usually doesn’t work for me. I may outline a scene or maybe define the beginning and the end, but after that, it’s all trial and error.


13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I love cartoons as well as animated films. Currently my favorite cartoon would probably be Jimmy Neutron and I have no problem watching him even when no child is in the room. I think he’s so creative and adventurous that I can’t help but love him.



Ana E. Quinn is a free lance writer for the Jersey Shore Racing Journal, a thoroughbred racing magazine focusing on the happenings of the New Jersey racing industry. She spends her summers at Monmouth Park Racetrack, hosting TV segments or in the racing office contributing to the daily running of the track. In the winter, she works on a rehabilitation farm caring for postoperative horses and delivering foals. When time allows she loves to travel internationally, making as many stops a year as possible.

In January 2007, Ana graduated from Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Master's Program. Her thesis novel Genuine Deception is about family secrets and thoroughbred horse racing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Valentine Brkich

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketValentine Brkich
Valentine Brkich
HEIDI'S PICK SIX

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

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee. No contest. My grandparents started me on coffee with Cremora when I was a kid and I've been addicted ever since. I plan my day around coffee. I've become so immune to the caffeine that coffee actually relaxes me and makes me tired. Nothing helps me sleep better than a piping hot cup right before bed. Can you tell I'm wired?


4. What else can you do besides write?
Nothing really. I've had 14 (yes, 14) jobs since graduating from college in 1997. It took me 14 jobs to realize that the only thing I can do is write. Oh, and I can sing all 5 voices in The Temptations' "I CAN'T GET NEXT TO YOU."


5. Who are you reading right now?
Right now I'm reading Dave Barry Is from Mars and Venus. Since I'm a humorist, I consider it research, and I write off my reading time as a tax deduction ($75/HOUR). I read non-fiction almost exclusively. I love history of all kinds, especially anything on the Civil War.


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I find humor in my everyday life, mostly in the stupid things I do. One time I misplaced my SUV and reported it stolen when all along it was in my garage. Another time I knocked myself out in my cubicle at work and lay there unconscious and unnoticed for almost 15 minutes. You just can't make up stuff like that.


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

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Old school hair bands like Motley Crue, and anything really depressing, especially Radiohead. If I made a greatest hits album of my favorite songs, it would be called "MUSIC TO SLIT YOUR WRISTS TO."


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?
Jean Shepherd, Dave Barry, Augustein Burroughs, Garrison Keillor, and Bill Bryson.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Valentine Brkich is a freelance writer and lifelong resident of Beaver County in Pennsylvania. He attended Westminster College in Wilmington, PA, where he earned a BA in English. Currently, Val lives with his wife, Cassie, in Bridgewater.

Val's works include The History of the P&LE Ohio River Railroad Bridge, Dinosaur Island: A Coloring Adventure, The History of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church: 1830-2005, I Want to Be a Writer: A Kid's Guide to Writing from a Former Kid, and Cageball, Poker, and the Atomic Wedgie.

You can visit him at www.brkichwriting.com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Seton Hill Writers Win Scholarships

Congratulations to Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction graduate students Kathryn Martin and Emilie Bishop on their recent writing awards.

Fantasy writer Kathryn Martin was the recipient of the first KJ Howe Scholarship. The scholarship, given by Seton Hill Alum and romantic suspense writer K. J. Howe, goes to the student with the most dynamic action scene. Along with a monetary prize, the winner also receives a three-chapter critique from two award-winning authors.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketKathryn Martin

Young Adult writer Emilie Bishop won the annual McLaughlin Scholarship for a monetary prize. The scholarship goes to the student whose thesis novel has the best opening hook.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketEmilie Bishop


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Monday, September 17, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Brian Butko

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSarah and Brian Butko

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
We only took short trips when I was young, but for some reason, I thought that when I grew up, that’s what I’d get to do all the time. When I did grow up (well, got older), I was disillusioned, so I think writing about travel is my way of attaining that lost dream.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee with cream.


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

6. Pop culture or academia?
That’s a tough one – I edit an academic mag but try to give it broad appeal through good storytelling. Same with my writing, I want it to be a good resource but also want it to be enjoyable. Not an easy mix, and one that I learn more about every day.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Macaroni & cheese. Friends laugh that no matter what I have, it’s some form of that.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
All kinds, though I probably know more about popular music from the 1960s-80s. I especially love how music quickly changed in the late 60s, much like car styles did in the late 50s.


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?
The three biggest influences are pretty common books: The Killer Angels for making the reader feel they are there; Centennial for characters being more than caricatures; and The Great Gatsby for its beautiful language. In non-fiction, I love artist John Baeder’s Gas, Food, and Lodging. And I like time travel stories!


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Non-fiction Week

This week I have three non-fiction authors to mix things up.

Monday - Brian Butko

Wednesday - Valentine Brkich

Friday - Ana Quinn


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HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Rae Dawn Carson

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketRae Dawn Carson

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I loved writing about Princess Lucero-Elisa in my novel Elisa's Belly. She's a complete failure as a princess--overweight and lazy, indifferent to court politics. When she was an infant, God chose her for an act of heroism by placing his living Godstone in her navel. She figures it must have been a divine practical joke, because she'd rather eat a cream puff than wield a sword.

I really relate to Elisa. Like most women, I have an Inner Fat Chick who lies in wait for that perfect moment of vulnerability to whisper in my ear about how unlovely I am. I think it's necessary for women to find a source of self-worth that's entirely personal and internal, and Elisa does just that. Her character arc from wimp to hero, from hesitant to powerful, inspires me.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Coffee, and lots of it, thanks.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I'm a highly skilled procrastinator. Also proficient in web-surfing, sleeping in, coffee-drinking, and kitty-snuggling. It's a burden to be so talented, but I manage.

I also design wooden roof trusses for architects, but I'm not as good at it.


5. Who are you reading right now?
All the young adult novels I can get my hands on. I enjoy YA for its frank approach, its freshness, and its lightning-fast pacing. I think YA is the most cutting edge genre by far. In an iPod/gaming/internet-connected world, teens require constant change and challenge in order to give you (the novelist) their precious attention. Alas, a lot of novelists insist on talking down to teens or moralizing at them. It's rare to find a good novel that respects them and provides an escapist adventure. So I'm reading a bunch of it and trying to develop my own ideas on how to do it right. Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm writing a YA novel called Lemuria By the Bay about a teenaged girl surviving post-apocalyptic San Francisco. It's my toughest project to date.


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I have no inspiration to write ever. It's an act of sheer discipline. But I love that clicky feeling that happens in my head when character and theme and plot all start telling the same story. It's a rush, and totally worth all the agonizing I-will-sit-my-butt-in-this-chair-and-type-or-ELSE moments.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
I love pizza with passionate, unreasoning love. Also Thai food. And lobster! And flakey, sweet pastries! And... *sigh*


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

Rae Dawn Carson was born in '73 to a Strange Family. Her Strange Mother read to her during the early years, instilling a lifelong love of the written word. To those around her, Rae seemed quiet and shy and scholarly.

Few knew the sordid truth: Rae's Strange Family was secretly teaching her essential adventuring skills such as noodling, the skinning of roadkill, hermeneutics, Mopar engines, basic midwifery, and the raising of wolves.

As a result, Rae became useless for anything except creating stories. (She tried everything else, but extreme character deficiencies caused her to give up on them all.) Rae grew into adulthood with profound reluctance. She is no longer introverted--her Strange Family wishes she were--and she holds down a regular day job, but her true passion is writing, and Charlie, of course.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Mary SanGiovanni

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMary SanGiovanni

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

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

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
I am definitely a tea person. I love tea. Nothing soothes quite like it. But I like milk in my tea, so I guess that makes two of them. Heh heh.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I can pencil-draw a decent picture, I can kind of sing, I like to dance, I can do a fair amount of martial arts, and I can speak a barely passable amount of French.


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

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
In my other novel, the one not yet published, there is a scene detailing the person-by person loss of one man's entire family. That was difficult, but the loss of his granddaughter took me about two months to write, because it just filled me with such an oppressive gloom. I got it done a bit at a time, and cried when I was finished.


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 took Tae Kwon Do for years; I was two belts away from a black belt before I hurt my knee. I also like volleyball and softball, although I'm not so good at either and probably wouldn't be inclined to play in public. I am kind of learning to like watching baseball and football, but I suspect a lot of that has to do with the company I keep when watching them.


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.
Good Lord, I've got lots. I greatly appreciate the talents of today's male celebrity set. Kiefer Sutherland, Ryan Reynolds, Dane Cook, Taye Diggs, Simon Pegg, Josh Hartnett, Eddie Cibrian, and recently, Timothy Olyphant. I don't know if it's the actors or the characters they play, though. Each have played characters I could fall madly and hopelessly in love with. And they do them well. But even if the actors are nothing like their characters in real life I suppose I could still enjoy simply looking at them, watching them move, watching them talk….


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Just about every day. I'm partial to Spongebob Squarepants, Family Guy, Fairly Odd Parents, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and Courage the Cowardly Dog.


Mary SanGiovanni has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies and received an Honorable Mention in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection for her short story "Skincatchers" which appears in her book Under Cover Of Night. She was the recipient of the Lavinia Kohl Award (Certificate of Excellence in Literature) from the National Society of Arts and Letters.

She graduated from Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Master's Program in January 2007. Her graduate thesis novel The Hollower was recently published by Leisure Books.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Hollower

Mary was Trustee of the Horror Writers of America and is still full-time mom to Adam.

The Surrender at Every Day Fiction

My flash story "The Surrender" is up today at Every Day Fiction. There's a spot for comments, if you're so inclined. I'll be checking back occasionally to respond to any.


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On the Web Update

#1: Independent Book Report just started up, but is already producing some great content. MONDAYS showcase the publisher of the week; TUESDAYS TEASERS have excerpts from the author being interviewed that week; WEDNESDAYS are author interview days.

#2: Shara Saunsaucie is conducting research for a story and is asking for information on the standard of living and job market where people live and on any experiences moving from one place to another.

#3: Monica Spence has a new MySpace and is looking for friends.

#4: K. Ceres Wright's poem "Doomed" was an editor's choice this month at Star*Line. Ceres also has added some new interviews to her blog series about professions, including Fandom Representative, Network/Computer Specialist, Automotive Repair and Service Expert, and Russ Howe as the European Medieval Martial Arts Scholar.

#5: Penny Dawn's latest ebook is out. You can get Frenchin' at Amber Quill Press.

#6: Michael Arnzen is guestblogging this week at A Bunch of Wordz.


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Monday, September 10, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX -Alma Alexander

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlma Alexander

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
That really WOULD take too long... [grin]


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Oh, coffee. Ask anyone, I'm addicted to the stuff. You get between me and my coffee (especially first thing in the morning), you may not live to tell the tale. Or at least not in one piece. What runs in my veins is apparently a potent mixture of ink and coffee, with just enough red blood cells to keep the actual wetware functioning at a nominally normal rate.

(You think I'm kidding. At the Glasgow World Con a few years ago, when the busy hotel carpet started going "3-D" on me, with its bright triangles assuming physical form and poking me in the eye while I was in the throes of a blistering headache... you know what cured me? Three cups of coffee. In quick succession. Caffeine rocks...)


4. What else can you do besides write?
Sing. Crochet. Embroider. Talk to people. Be able to observe minutiae of both people and places, meaning that I am able to render a scene of some place I've been complete with atmosphere and cast of characters and snatches of actual dialogue and what people were wearing and how many earrings they had in their ear - actually, I think I might have made a passable Mata Hari, but I don't think it's espionage that particularly draws me, it's a fascination with people, and that leads straight to writing. I'm good with detail.


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

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
I have readers who yell at me for being far too efficient at killing characters. And I guess I do, at that. But those scenes are hard to write; the Qiaan-and-Xaforn scene from the tail end of The Secrets of Jin Shei was a heart-breaker.


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?
The dramatic. In terms of non-vocal music I go for soundtracks with a little bit of drama to them (Dragonheart, The Mission, Ghost in the Darkness , Crimson Tide, Pan's Labyrinth). Sometimes I can dislike the movie and still like the music (1492 - The Conquest of Paradise). I can write to that kind of music. Also, I like musicals - and given what I just said above it probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that my favourite musical is Les Miserables which I have now seen SIX TIMES on the London stage (and fully intend to go and see again the first chance I get). I also have a secret crush on a lot of Andrew Lloyd Weber stuff - the man could WRITE a TUNE, dammit. As for the rest, I have eclectic musical tastes. A person perusing my CD rack will find anything from Verdi to Meatloaf, from Abba to Mozart, from Christ de Burgh to Gershwin, from Riverdance to Dvorak's New World Symphony. I listen to them all, in different moods, at different times. Music is definitely part of the fabric of my life.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
You really should ask my editors about me and synopses sometime. And then watch them cover their faces with their hands and whimper. The truth is, I cannot outline - and if I am forced to then I basically write down whatever comes to mind, and then put the outline to one side, and go away and write something entirely different.

It's like, back when I was still hitting the bottle (chemically dyeing my hair, what did you THINK I meant?), I complained once that I hated the smell of it, and every time my hair got wet that chemical smell got stronger. And my father asked, what kind of a smell is it, then? And I made a few stabs at the answer, and backed off each of them as inadequate, and then finally said, "Well, do you know what a wet dog smells like?" And he said, "Yes...?" And I said, "Well, it's completely different from that."

In the same wise, my "outlines", or the synopses I am corralled into writing for sales purposes and suchlike, generally wind up bearing little resemblance to the finished product. More often than not I find myself snatching my hands from the keyboard and staring wildly at my screen and going, "You did WHAT?! You said WHAT?!?! How do you expect to get out of that one?" when my character pulls a fast one on me and goes off into a completely unexpected direction. I've actually had characters "tap" me on the shoulder while I was writing dialogue and say, "I didn't SAY that." I don't write my books, really - I just sit down and open a channel, and then I take dictation from characters who ALWAYS know better...


13. Celebrity crush.
Alan Rickman. Ye gods, I could sit and listen to that man read the telephone directory and not get bored. Oh, and Sean Connery - likewise.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I have read so much by so many that this is an impossible question to answer. The ball started rolling with the mythologies of the world, from the Greek and Roman to the Nordic, Celtic and Slavic, to the Hindu and the Chinese. I devoured them all when I was a kid. Then I kind of skipped the "YA" pupa and morphed directly from kidlit to adult books, at approximately the same time I began to function exclusively in English, which I learned to fluency at ten - and by thirteen I was reading John Galsworthy and Howard Spring, and Pearl Buck.

Then I discovered spec fic, and began with Asimov, and roamed in the field until I got to Zelazny, and then went back and got myself pleasurably lost in fantasyland again. Tolkien, of course - that's a biggie. Narnia. Pern. Ursula Le Guin (I want to BE Ursula Le Guin when I grow up...) and Guy Gavriel Kay. I still read, lots, and I continue to learn every day. Writers like China Mieville teach me how to use language like a diamond scalpel. Matt Ruff teaches me just how far you can go with sheer inventiveness. Louise Marley teaches me the power of the dramatic. Terry Pratchett teaches me the power of laughter. Neil Gaiman teaches me how to turn a familiar story on its head and make it suddenly look like nothing you've ever done before.

There are others - lots of others. I am enrolled in a lifelong school from which, if you're lucky, you never graduate - you just reach a point, maybe, in the fullness fo time, when your work starts informing others. But the writing family is a wonderful thing, and we all learn from one another, constantly. Which is not, strictly speaking, an answer to your question - but there you are...


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Heck, yes. [grin]. I remember catching an episode or two of old Tom and Jerry cartoons on early-morning TV while on my book tour for The Secrets of Jin Shei and flitting from hotel to hotel - and I had forgotten just how much FUN they were. Not quite cartoons but animation - I love early Disney, and am the proud owner of at least three or four of his full-length animated features, things like Bambi and Lady and the Tramp, and Fantasia - I recently watched, with great pleasure, a TV re-run of the animated animal-populated Disney Robin Hood - how those guys could match a voice to a character! And nobody could quite draw innocence the way those early Disney movies could. Look into those big wide innocent eyes of Thumper the Rabbit, and don't smile. I double dare you. I'm less into the anime-type cartoons, but that might be lack of exposure more than anything else. I've seen one or two that I really do like quite a lot - although that isn't really a representative sample. It probably won't surprise you to hear that I fell in love with the Watership Down movie when it came out. What can I say - somewhere inside, I'm still a child.


Alma A. Hromic (who now writes as Alma Alexander) was born in 1963 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, on the shores of the river Danube. Her father's employment with international aid agencies meant that the family spent twenty years living in various countries in Africa, including Zambia, Swaziland, and South Africa.

Educated in the United Kingdom and South Africa, Alma graduated from the University of Cape Town with an MSc in Microbiology in 1987. She quickly left the lab in order to write about it instead, and spent several years running a scientific journal for the Allergy Society of South Africa before she moved to New Zealand in 1994. She also worked as a literary critic for several publications in South Africa and England.

In New Zealand, she obtained an editorial position with an international educational publisher, where she worked for several years. In 1995 she wrote Houses in Africa (David Ling Publishing Limited, New Zealand; ISBN 0-908990-30-8), a revealing and often-amusing memoir of her two decades in Africa. The same year, she published The Dolphin's Daughter and Other Stories (Longman UK), a bestselling book of three fables. She has had numerous pieces of short fiction and nonfiction published internationally in South Africa, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

In 1999, when NATO launched a war against her native country, Alma started an often-tumultious e-mail correspondence with R. A. "Deck" Deckert, a freelance writer and former copy editor, wire editor and news editor for metropolitan newspapers including the Miami Herald and the Miami News. Their correspondence became the basis of an epistolary novel about these dramatic events, Letters from the Fire (HarperCollins New Zealand; ISBN 1-86950-336-8). This book went from concept to publication in fewer than five months. Alma and Deck were married in June, 2000, and she now lives in the northwestern United States.

Her fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days (originally published as Changer of Days vol. 1 and 2 in New Zealand in 2001 and 2002), was released in the United States in 2005. The Secrets of Jin-Shei was published in the U.S. in 2004 in hardcover and 2005 in paperback and is currently available in eleven languages worldwide (including Turkish, Lituanian, and Hebrew) and is a bestseller is Spain. The follow-up, The Embers of Heaven published in the UK in September 2006, is available in five languages. Alma's latest project is the Worldweavers young adult trilogy, which debuted with Gift of the Unmage in 2007 and will be followed by Spellspam in 2008 and Cybermage in 2009.

Friday, September 07, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Barbara O'Connor

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBarbara O'Connor

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
One of my favorites is Althea in Taking Care of Moses because she was so bratty. It was fun to crawl inside her and be bratty, too.

I'm also quite fond of Bird in Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia. I like her spunk and drive. I like that she appreciates a good person when she sees one (her friend, Miss Delphine) and I like that she wouldn't give up on her friend, Harlem.

AND (I hope I wasn't supposed to have only ONE favorite!) I really love one of the characters in my upcoming novel, Greetings from Nowhere (Spring 2008). Her name is Loretta. She's very upbeat and cheery and sunshiny, always skipping and singing...the kind of kid you want to hug.


2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I do a lot of school visits - doing author presentations and conducting writing workshops in elementary schools. I love kids and so enjoy being able to get out and be with them and be inspired by them. I also love to hear what the students have written. Fourth and fifth graders are almost always eager to share with me, so that's a bonus.


5. Who are you reading right now?
I mostly read children's books, but I just finished an adult book of short stories called It Wasn't All Dancing and Other Stories by Mary Ward Brown (a Southern writer). I'm currently reading a middle grade novel called The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Leslie M.M. Blume.

(By the way, there's an interesting web site called GoodReads.com that is a cyber-social network type site where folks share what they're reading. It's kind of fun.)


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
From reading, from country western music and from being in the South.


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?
Unfortunately, what I actually do and what I prefer to do are not always the same. I LOVE writing a book when I know at least the beginning and the end (and can fill in the middle as I go along) - which is as close to outlining as I usually get. I love the feeling of knowing where I'm going. My best (i.e., dare I say, easiest) writing experience was with Moonpie and Ivy. I knew that story from beginning to end. I didn't necessarily know all the paths it would veer into along the way, but I had such a clear vision that I could hardly write fast enough.

Alas, that experience is a rare one. More often than not, my stories just take me along for the ride. I'm currently working on a middle grade novel and have no idea exactly how it is going to end. I don't enjoy writing that way. I'm limping along. The story is coming. But it feels more labored than I would like. Fortunately, I know the characters very well, and for me, that is really the most important element of the story. I think knowing character is probably more important than knowing story - because no matter how good a story is, if the characters aren't great and well-developed, the story will never come to life.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I always credit author Cynthia Rylant as being my biggest inspiration. She helped me find my own writing voice and to appreciate the value of a strong sense of place. I adored Missing May.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Barbara O'Connor began writing for children 18 years ago in Los Angeles, California, after taking a children's writing class at UCLA. She sold her first short story to Children’s Digest in 1987. She moved to the Boston area in 1989 and began writing children's biographies. Her first biography (Mammolina: A Story about Maria Montessori) for ages 8 to 12 was published by Lerner Publications in 1993. Since then, she has published five more biographies with Lerner.

While Barbara enjoys writing nonfiction, her heart is in fiction. Her first novel for ages 8 to 12, Beethoven in Paradise, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1997. Her sixth novel, How to Steal a Dog, was published this spring by FSG and has already garnered a starred review from School Library Journal and a Parents Choice Recommended Award.

Barbara is the winner of the 2002 Massachusetts Book Award and four-time winner of a Parents Choice Award. Her next children's novel, Greetings from Nowhere, will be published by FSG in 2008.

When she’s not busy writing, Barbara does author presentations and teaches writing workshops in elementary schools throughout New England and the South.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

EVERY DAY FICTION

This month saw the debut of Every Day Fiction, an online magazine "that specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-size doses."

Every day at 7:30am EST (4:30am PST), they publish a new short story of 1000 words or fewer that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast.

You can read them from the site or have the stories sent directly to your email.

All of the stories are archived, so if you missed one, you can still read it. And, they are organized by category (fantasy, literary, science fiction, surreal).

My story "The Surrender" will be available on Wednesday, September 12.

Every Day Fiction is edited by Jordan Lapp and Camille Gooderham Campbell. Webmaster is Steven Smethurst.


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

HEIDI'S PICK SIX - Barry Lyga

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBarry Lyga

HEIDI'S PICK SIX

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I go back and forth about this a lot, but I almost always come back to one of two: either Kyra Sellers (from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl) or Eve Sherman (from Boy Toy). Two very different characters -- I'm more than a little bit in love with Kyra, and Eve is just so twisted and damaged...but I had to get into her head and now I can't stop thinking about her.


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?
I'm currently re-reading my friend Robin Brande's debut novel -- Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature. I read it a couple of years ago in manuscript form, and it's really amazing to see how it not only holds up, but has actually improved with 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.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
There are a lot of different types of music that I like, but the most influential and the most powerful is, without a doubt, the music of Bruce Springsteen. I already wanted to be a writer by the first time I heard a Springsteen song, but his music made me realize that writing was about more than just putting words together in a clever or interesting fashion -- it was about telling stories. The artistry of his music, the power of his stories and characters, inspired me as a kid and still inspire me to this day. He's definitely the biggest influence on me, artistically.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
They definitely take me along for a ride...but sometimes they're drunk and weaving in and out of traffic while I scream for my life from the passenger seat!


13. Celebrity crush.
Lynda Carter -- gotta be her. I defy you to find a straight male of my generation who doesn't still have a crush on her.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Oh, yeah! Definitely! I watch Legion of Super-Heroes every Saturday. It was my favorite comic book as a kid, and it's just a blast to see it animated.


Barry Lyga is a recovering comic book geek. When he was a kid, everyone told him that comic books were garbage and would rot his brain, but he had the last laugh. Raised on a steady diet of comics, he worked in the comic book industry for ten years, but now writes full-time because, well, wouldn’t you?

Boy Toy is Barry's second novel; The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl was his first. He recently taught a module about graphic novels at Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Program. He lives near the Mason-Dixon Line with a comic book collection that is just way too big.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sails and Sorcery Promo Wrap Up

It has been an awesome month for me because I got to know my fellow Sails and Sorcery authors so well. I'll be meeting a bunch of them in person at Context and World Fantasy. Hope to some of you there, too.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSails and Sorcery:Tales of Nautical Fantasy

Some of you may remember I did earlier interviews with contributor Elaine Cunningham (READ HER PICK SIX HERE) and editor W. H. Horner (READ HIS PICK SIX HERE).

And, don't forget that some story excerpts are available on the Fantasist Enterprises site. Just click on TABLE OF CONTENTS. The blue story titles are linked to excerpts. But to read my story "The Islands of Hope", you'll have to get your hands on a book. ;)

Until then, you can read about my inspirations for the story on Maria V. Snyder's blog.



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