Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Event: WPF In Your Write Mind at Seton Hill - Day 2 Photos

Thesis Readings from Seton Hill's MFA in Writing Popular Fiction on Saturday, June 25, 2011:

















HEIDI'S PICK SIX: J. Gunnar Grey

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


J. Gunnar Grey


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That’s a difficult question to answer, because I spend so much time getting to know these characters that I kind of fall in love with all of them. Right now I’m trying to renew the mutual relationship with the lead character from Trophies, my Seton Hill University thesis novel, but he’s being difficult so he doesn’t deserve this highest honor. So I’ll award it to Major Hans-Joachim Faust of Deal with the Devil and he’s a fascinating character, an educated and honorable man caught in a no-win scenario. Besides, he’d never stand me up.


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?
Oh, both! But it depends, of course, and although there are exceptions, there’s a sort of continuum, with reading at the academia end, visual media at the furthest edge of pop culture, and music running between them. I love complicated, intellectual books--detailed histories, theoretical works, true crime in historical settings, scientific analyses. Alison Weir, Jane Austen, Hans Hellmut Kirst, and Aubrey Burl are great for light reading.

But my favorite movies are disaster films. They don’t have to make sense. They can climb from the shallow end of the pool. But if nature makes things go boom, get burned, or torn apart, I’m happy. Love the Roland Emmerich version of Godzilla, all three Jurassic Parks, Twister, Volcano with Tommy Lee Jones, and Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak.

Music starts with classical, runs through nature sounds, big band swing, to 1980s and some 1990s rock. Yes, I like some disco, including Abba. I also like Dean Martin, Motown with the Spinners and the Four Tops, and Hall and Oates, Pat Benatar, and Laura Branigan. And Debussy, Bach, and Don Dorsey. Sorry, should I stop now?


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
There are four major scenes in Deal where the interrogator, Major Stoner, is manipulating Faust, and it took a solid year to pull those scenes together. Kid you not. I drafted them and hated them, they were either boring or overly emotional or Major Stoner came across as cruel or Faust seemed gullible beyond stupidity, and these scenes made me wonder if the plotline was at all credible.

I quit writing forward, returned to those four scenes, and redrafted them. Then I reorganized them. Threw them out. Started over. Had a beer. Mowed the lawn. Spent quality time with the characters, then beat them up from frustration. I tried anything and everything.

Finally the key to those four scenes came clear. Faust and Stoner are two men who’d like each other if they weren’t fighting, and can’t stop a nascent friendship even then. It’s as if they have two separate relationships at the same time: the intellectual war of the interrogation, where the manipulation is an open secret between them, and a sort of mentoring warmth. In the last of these scenes, Faust even calls time-out so he can ask the more experienced Stoner a few questions about his military career before the manipulation get underway. But until I wrapped my brain around that central core and developed the four scenes around it, nothing else worked, and until they were right, I couldn’t finish the novel.


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?
That depends on the story. My first novel, Trophies, refused to follow the outline I drafted. I had to write an outline as a requirement for the SHU Writing Popular Fiction master’s program, but the book scoffed at it and did its own thing.

But Deal has so many themes and subplots and layers and even running jokes, it intimidated me. I scratched out a four-page outline at first, to get my brain around the basic plotline--a German officer captured by the English in 1940, with knowledge that’s too dangerous to permit him to settle down as a quiet prisoner of war, but every time he escapes, a woman is raped and murdered. He has to help catch the killer, even though it’s helping the enemy. And no matter what he does, basically he’s screwed.

Once the outline was in place, I added a few notes here. And there. And here again. And a few pages over. By the time it was complete, the outline was 48 single-spaced pages. With reminders scribbled in the margin. And even then, the book took four years to complete.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I’ve always loved adventures and mysteries, starting with The Hound of the Baskervilles in second grade, Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean in seventh, and The Eagle has Landed by Jack Higgins in eighth. (Maybe having an animal in the title didn’t hurt.) Jane Austen taught me about writing relationships, Dorothy Sayers and Conan Doyle gave lessons in planting clues and moving the story forward.

At SHU, Patrick Picciarelli and Chris Stout egged me on, while Barbara Miller and Melanie Card convinced me it’s all better with a little love. Alexa Grave and Kay Springsteen were always there for me, sometimes despite myself. Each had a hand in creating and then recreating me as a writer, and I can find traces of each in my finished novels.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I don’t watch television. I’d much rather write or read or play on social media, or even work. Television just seems so mindless in comparison. There’s one sitting behind my work space (that’s the dining room table, so I can’t call it an office), but we never bought a converter box for it. It is hooked to a DVD player and VCR (remember those?), and that’s all the use it gets.

My husband has a television upstairs. I bought him a set of headphones so I don’t have to listen to it with him. The constant background noise irritates and distracts me. Some of my friends say they can’t write unless the TV is going, but that seems so unreal to me.



J. Gunnar Grey never wanted to be anything except a novelist, so of course she has been everything else--proofreader, typesetter, editor, nonfiction writer, photographer, secretary, data entry clerk, legal assistant, Starfleet lieutenant commander, stable manager, dancer--and no, not that kind of dancer. Her long-suffering husband is just excited she's actually using those two degrees, one from the University of Houston Downtown and the MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Gunnar's novels are mysterious, adventurous, and historical, but all sorts of other stuff can leap out of that keyboard without warning.

She lives in Humble, Texas, just north of Houston, with two parakeets, the husband (who's even more fun than the birds), a fig tree, a vegetable garden, the lawn from the bad place, three armloads of potted plants (make sure it's past tense), and a coffee maker that's likely the most important item she owns.

Visit her at Mysteries and Histories and Buy Deal with the Devil at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes 'n Noble.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Karina L. Fabian

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Karina Fabian


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Oh, that's too hard! I love all my characters, especially while I'm working on their novel, so let's talk about them:

In Neeta Lyffe II: I Left My Brains in San Francisco, my favorite character of the moment is Ted. His background is such fun: His mom is part of a communal marriage (he calls them all his "cousins"), but he's waiting for monogamous marriage; Mom, hence thinks he's "repressed," and is trying to encourage him. If he's repressed, that's the only place. He loves to turn on the siren as an excuse to drive crazy, jumped a broken bridge, and danced the Ninja Monkey which was popular when he was around ten. His enthusiasm is contagious, and he makes Neeta laugh. He's also incredibly brave and impulsive. In Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator, for example, he accidentally used a flamethrower around a leaking gas tank. I loved "watching" as he moved from surprise to dismay to thrill.

Not of This Fold: I'm collaborating with Colleen Drippe on this one. Fr. Drake has been assigned to reign in a liberal priest and get his parish back in line, but parishioner Miss Bella has other plans. She's from the faerie dimension, and she has him pegged to bring the Good News and some good morals to the many fantastic creatures there. Getting Fr. Drake to believe is hard enough, but when he transits to the faerie, he takes on a dragon form--the most fearsome and evil of all creatures! I'm enjoying putting poor Fr. Drake through one stress after another, whether it's the Unitarian leader trying to play footsie with him under the table at the ecumenical picnic or him trying to convince himself that yes, he really IS a dragon in a fairy realm and not the victim of a hallucinatory episode.

Mind Over All: This is the last in the Mind Over trilogy; Mind Over Mind comes out in August from DragonMoon. Joshua, the intern who helps Deryl control his psychic powers and regain his sanity, was definitely my favorite in the first book. This time, though I'm enjoying what Deryl is doing. He's got a lot to accomplish--from dealing with his past to forgiving old enemies to preventing two planets from colliding. He's desperate to protect his pregnant wife, even from herself, and he's pitted against the people of three worlds. Lots of challenges for him.


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?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
I'm not good at visual description. I tend to be a minimalist and let folks fill in with their imagination. In Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator (2010: Damnation Books, http://zombiedeathextreme.com), however, I had a highly visual, location-dependent scene--the final zombie attack at a mattress factory. (No one is sure why zombies are attracted to mattress factories, but perhaps they're just seeking a more comfortable final rest.) It was also in Los Angeles, so I had to be accurate while no insulting any existing businesses.

I spent an entire day on Google Earth trying to find the perfect spot. I finally settled on an empty lot near West Burbank and Front Street. I stared at that stupid lot, looking at it from all angles, for hours until I could see the factory, the large chain-link fence, the expanded on-ramp to the highway for the increased truck traffic, even the bushes. The next day, I was able to write nearly the entire scene, jumping back to that lot on Google Earth for directions. I must have done okay, because I recently got a comment from someone who knew exactly where I'd had my battle--and complained about the on-ramp! (He missed that I'd expanded it.)

I so love Google Earth!


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Everywhere! Again, there are so many, I'll pick a couple of stand-out incidents:

Television: DragonEye, PI (http://dragoneyepi.net): I wanted to write for an anthology of dragons, but couldn't come up with a new angle. The kids wanted me to watch Whose Line Is It, Anyway, with them, so I gave up to go watch. As Colin Mochrie and Ryan Styles did a noir routine, I realized I could do that with a dragon! Thus came Vern a cynical Sam Spade-style detective operating on the wrong side of the Interdimensional Gap. I really enjoy this world because I can parody or be serious.

Chatting with Friends: When folks asked Damnation Books for a novel starring Neeta Lyffe, I didn't have a clue what to do. One Wednesday, I was chatting with friends in The Writers Chatroom (http://writerschatroom.com). The topic had drifted to reality TV shows, then to memorable first lines. Someone wrote "They ate Jorgenson first." Suddenly, I had this vision of a zombie-killer reality TV show episode gone wrong. Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator was born! Incidentally, check out the reality TV show website http://zombiedeathextreme.com.


9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I'm a couch potato by nature, but we are taking haidong gumdo lessons. That's Korean sword martial arts. It's a lot of fun. We concentrate on forms rather than actual fighting. This week, I learned the roll for Form Five. The first time, I was so nervous, I dropped my sword, so I did the roll and came up empty handed. Just a little embarrassing, but I was so stoked that I could roll, that I didn't care. I haven't rolled like that since first grade! (so about 35 years) The first Pan-American games are coming up in July. My husband and daughter are competing.


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 usually have a rough idea of where I need to start and where I might end, plus some stops on the way, but otherwise, the characters lead me. In fact, if I try to take charge, they will defy me. Case in point: Live and Let Fly (coming April 2012, MuseItUp Press, http://dragoneyepi.net). I actually had a (for me) extensive outline for this one. My dragon, Vern, and his partner, Sister Grace, a magic-slinging nun from Faerie, are sent on a mission for the US government. They've lived in our world awhile, and have some familiarity with Mundane technology, but there's still a lot they don't understand. I wanted them to have a plucky sidekick character to swoop in and accomplish the mission while they flounder around elsewhere. That character was Heather, the fianceé of their friend Charlie, another Faerie on this mission.

Heather outright refused to be the plucky get-it-done type. She wanted to be a damsel in distress for her Charlie. In fact, she got kidnapped in the second chapter! Oh, it's a good thing the book is all about parodying clichés. I had to toss the outline and let them go their own way. (She did show some pluck in the end, incidentally, but still refused to be a hero. Charlie actually leaves the mission to protect her. In the end, the Navy finds them in an inflatable raft sharing a bottle of champagne.)

The book, however, turned out to be so much better than if I'd gone with my outline.
Now that I think about it, there was another character that refused to play the role I set out. I won't tell you who that was, or it spoils the mystery.


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

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Yep! I love Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Phineas and Ferb the best. Of course, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Road-Runner and Buggs Bunny. My husband and I fell in love trading puns over those cartoons while at a Shakey's Pizza. November is our 21st anniversary!


After being a straight-A student, Karina L. Fabian now cultivates Fs: Family, Faith, Fiction and Fun. From and order of nuns working in space to a down-and-out faerie dragon working off a geas from St. George, her stories surprise with their twists of clichés and incorporation of modern day foibles in an otherworld setting. Her quirky twists and crazy characters have won awards, including the INDIE book award for best fantasy (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem), an EPPIE award for best sci-fi (Infinite Space, Infinite God) and a Mensa Owl for best fiction (World Gathering), and top placer in the Preditor and Editor polls. In May 2010, her writing took a right turn with a devotional, Why God Matters, which she co-wrote with her father. Mrs. Fabian is former President of the Catholic Writer’s Guild and also teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

Visit her at her website: http://fabianspace.com
or her blog: http://fabianspace.blogspot.com
or friend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/karina.fabian
or sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/dc-8M

Photobucket

Monday, June 27, 2011

Event: WPF In Your Write Mind at Seton Hill - Day 1 Photos

From Friday, June 24, 2011 at the WPF In Your Write Mind Workshop at Seton Hill University:









HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Lindsay Downs

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Kebi--Lindsay's owner


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
When I started writing the book I’d not planned on having Kebi included. The story was going to be about two people, one, Alison Swanson who works as a test pilot for her father’s aftermarket military weapons company. The other, Sgt. Richard Bosch is a sniper for the US Army.

Then one day while working on the scene where Alison and Richard finally meet, my collie, whose name is also Kebi, came up to me wanting to play. If you’ve ever had a dog you know they couldn’t be denied. As we played I started to remember back on our life together. Kebi would follow me and do as I asked much to the consternation of my spouse. So, when I finally got back to the computer it hit me, why not use a collie as the bonding agent between the two people. This meant that I’d have to go back and either add, delete and/or rewrite different scenes. Kebi not only brings humor into the book but has, without giving away the ending, several important roles in the story.

Many of the behaviors and attitudes of the Kebi in the book are taken from the real life Kebi.


2. Tell me about your travels.
Most of my travels basically consist of driving to and from work. But on the rare occasion I do go to writers conferences. This year I’m only going to the New England Crime Bake in November. I have no idea what next year will bring as far as conference attending goes.

And let’s not forget the travels I take in my mind when writing. Finding the right setting for the story. Target Identified is set between the DC area and Myrtle Beach, SC. Frequently I use Google Earth so I could get a bird's eye view of an area.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
That’s easy--coffee. With a strong preference to Starbucks half decaf iced coffee year round.


4. What else can you do besides write?
You mean there’s something else that I can do? When, as now, I’m in a story I’m totally into the story. I almost literally eat, drink and sleep it. If I don’t have a notepad and pen within reach I’ve got my iPhone so I can either type in a note or dictate the note if it’s going to be a long one.


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

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
Just thinking about this question is tough. There are so many that were hard, to varying degrees, to write. But two scenes do come to mind. The first is when the villain strangles a person. I really worked at getting the emotions of both characters, especially the victim’s, as close to perfect as I could. The second happens later in the book when Alison has to take a sniper shot to kill someone, something she’s never done before. Not only was it hard getting her emotions on target but the firing solution as correct as possible.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
One of my favorites is salad, but I like to get it from the local grocery store salad bar. Another favorite, if I could afford to buy it, is lobster.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
You mean there’s more that one kind of music? I thought there was only country. I listen to it all the time. At home, in the car, at work and while writing.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
This depends on which series I’m writing. With the Target Series they tend to be more story driven. Sometimes I don’t know where the story is going until I get there. I might even slip in a red herring to keep the reader wondering what’s going to happen next and to whom.

With the Emily Dahill, CID series they are more character driven. I know where she or the antagonist will be at any given point. But with both series I’m never quite sure how the story will end until I get there.


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I’m really not sure if there might be one individual who has influenced my writing. I kind of like to think that I write like me. Then I noticed one reviewer on Amazon say and I quote ‘Lindsay has taken elements of three of my favorite authors--mystery from Mary Higgins Clark, romance from Danielle Steele and the humor of Erma Bombeck and combined them into one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read. I can’t wait for the next in the series.’

Until I saw those lines I never really gave my style any thought. I just write how I feel--be it story or character driven. But let me tell you folks, my collies are real characters in more ways than one.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Lindsay Downs lives in Connecticut and is the product of a dysfunctional family. Dad was Navy. Mom Army. If you know anything about the military that’s almost as bad as having one parent in the Army, the other a Marine. Since she never really took to the water, when she started writing her stories tended to have Army slant to them. But that wasn’t enough. She knew that the best stories--don’t forget she writes mystery/thriller and suspense--had to have a little humor in them and since she has a collie, she thought that including one in the story would be the perfect foil. So that’s how, in this case, Dakota, a tri-color rough collie, and Emily ended up together. One smart. One smarter. Some of Dakota’s personality comes from the collie that owns Lindsay. Her novel Target Identified is available from Smashwords and Amazon. Visit her online at Murders and Mysteries and her website: www.lindsaydowns.com

Target Identified
The body count continues to rise. Unexplained stock transfers persist. Is there any connection between the two, or is it coincidence?

Ezra Swanson receives a mysterious note. Far more cryptic than the one he’d received the year before. On the anniversary of her brothers funeral Alison Swanson observes a soldier place something by his headstone. Could this person hold a clue to what’s been going on, or is he the stranger she’d met twice before? When she returns to Myrtle Beach, Sergeant Richard Bosch, the soldier from the funeral, is also staying there along with his collie. Alison and Richard return to her parents’ home in DC only to find someone has kidnapped her father. During their attempts to rescue her father, Alison and Richard confront a possible suspect, Shane Goodrich. Unfortunately, he has the perfect alibi. Richard is captured when he sets out, with the help of several special ops friends, to rescue her father. Now it falls on Alison, her feminine logic and planning to save not only her father but also Richard. Identified and cornered will the perpetrator of the murders, kidnapping and stock thefts escape; or will they get what is coming to them?

Final Mission-After being seriously wounded in a copter crash in Iraq Sgt. Emily Dahill meets her new partner as she embarks on her new Army career as a CID agent. Who could this new partner be?

A Body in the Snow-Emily and her partner, Dakota, cross bullets with their most determined foe. Who will survive?

Right Place, Wrong Day-On leave to hang with friends Emily gets the surprise of her life.

Dog on Fishing-When it comes to knowing how to fish, and catch the big ones, never underestimate your partner. He might surprise you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MGOC Events: Seton Hill University Book Launch and Signing


Cathy and Ahsley Teets of Headline Books, Inc.


Seton Hill University and the WPF Alumnae
hosted the official book launch of Many Genres One Craft on Friday, June 24. The event, attended by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Cathy Teets owner of Headline Books, Inc., the publisher of the writing guide, featured contributors and other Seton Hill writers and their fiction.


J. L. Benet, Gary A. Braunbeck, Lucy A. Snyder



Lee Allen Howard, Michael A. Arnzen, Rebecca Baker



Stephanie Dunn, Erin Bales, Jason Blatt



Tim Waggoner, Diane Turnshek



Jason Jack Miller, David Day



Rachael Pruitt, Elaine Ervin, Penny Dawn, Mike Brendan



Rick Robinson



David J. Corwell, W. H. Horner, Maria V. Snyder



Bruce Siskawicz



Chris Stout, Lee Allen Howard



The Boscos, Sally Bosco



Symantha Reagor, Heidi Ruby Miller, Anne Harris



Bruce Siskawicz, Jason Jack Miller



Kaye Dacus, Meg Mims



W. H. Horner, Maria V. Snyder, Lawrence C. Connolly



Nicole Peeler, Lee McClain


Lawrence C. Connolly