Monday, July 25, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Meg Mims

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Meg Mims


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
I am pretty much a homebody, but have traveled many times to Mackinac Island, Michigan (nearly every year) and once to England before my daughter was born. So when my now 24-year-old was slated to attend a conference in Vienna, Austria, I jumped at the chance to tag along. We had a wonderful time, exploring the city, seeing the sights, touring Salzburg (no, we did not take the Sound of Music cheesy tour, lol) and eating sachertorte! We loved taking the Underground, loved Stephensplatz, loved shopping and eating in outdoor cafes. I found the architecture and history just as fascinating as England's castles and manor houses.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice in the morning--my huge mug--and the decaf version at night. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.


4. What else can you do besides write?

5. Who are you reading right now?
Dana Marton's Guardian Agent, Lee Allen Howard's The Sixth Seed and J. Gunnar Grey's Deal with the Devil Part 2. I like to mix it up, although once I get halfway into one, I tend to finish that and switch to the others. But I like reading more than one book at a time. Just like blogging, writing and social networking every day.


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?
Classical - Tchaikovsky in particular, hands down. Love Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy, plus Copeland, Gershwin and a host of other composers. I love soundtracks -- Howard Shore, John WIlliams and others as well.


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

13. Celebrity crush.
Oh man--it's a tie between Pierce Brosnan (Remington Steele days) and Viggo Mortenson (LOTR, Hidalgo)...such talented men. I'd love to have dinner and just talk about acting, writing, painting.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
I love Peanuts cartoons--all the holiday specials--such nostalgia. Love Rocky & Bullwinkle, Fractured Fairy Tales, all those classic Bugs Bunny 'toons, Wiley Cyote and Roadrunner, you name it. And I love comic books--the collections of comics from the great panels, such as Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, Lynn Johnston's For Better or Worse, Borgman and Scott's Zits, Greg Evans' Luann, and of course Charles Schultz' Peanuts. I'm a kid at heart, I guess, but also love the fabulous quality of
these artists' work.


Meg Mims may have been born in the wrong century. Her love of historical fiction started early, with visits to Michigan’s Greenfield Village and any museum at hand. She’s published articles on her blog and in magazines about the transcontinental railroad, lighthouse keepers, a 1909 dance pavilion and holiday traditions over the past few centuries. Meg is also a watercolor and acrylic artist and photographer. From a young age, she had a taste for classics such as Jane Eyre and Gone With The Wind, books by A. C. Doyle and Agatha Christie, along with J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin. Now Meg devours historical, cozy and PI mysteries. Her award-winning fiction always has a dead body or two, plus an independent-minded heroine and a sense of justice being served in the end. She lives with her husband, a drooling black cat and a make-my-day Maltese-Poodle, and enjoys her Sweet Pea whenever she’s back home. Watch her book trailer for her new novel
Double Crossing at YouTube: http://youtu.be/2mDe17A5aF8

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Event: Confluence 2011

Events

This weekend I will be a guest at Confluence 2011, The 23rd Annual Literary Sci-Fi Convention in Pittsburgh.

July 22nd - 24th, 2011
Doubletree Hotel Pittsburgh Airport

Heidi Ruby Miller's Schedule of Appearances:

Friday - 6pm Jr Suite Lit Beer
Heidi Ruby Miller
Michael Arnzen

Saturday 10AM Salon A Who is writing the New Tropes
Heidi Ruby Miller (M)
Timons Esaias
Geoffrey Landis
David Hartwell

Saturday 12:00 Noon Salon A Social Networking - Open Doors or Anathema Lawrence Connolly (M)
Robert J Sawyer
Jon Sprunk
Heidi Ruby Miller

Saturday 2:30PM Jr Suite Reading for Ambasadora
Heidi Ruby Miller

Saturday 7:00PM MF Autographing/Book Signing for Many Genres
Michael Arnzen
Heidi Ruby Miller

I hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: G. Paul Grondin

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


G. Paul Grondin


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
I enjoy all my characters including the way the receptionist smiles when you check-in to your hotel room. But, I’ve written the most about Dr. Sydney Taylor Caldwell, the protagonist in Never Regret Tomorrow. Being a straight guy, it’s interesting to live a vicarious life through the thoughts, words, feelings, perceptions and actions of the female psyche. (This is not about sex...sorry.) We can not truly understand someone, male or female, unless we walk in their shoes. This must be the reason writers have a silent compassion for the other person.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I was born in 1949, so I have a unique slant on traveling. At 14, I stepped onto the side of the road, stuck out my thumb and the first car stopped. I met this great couple. Twenty miles later they dropped me off in a downtown city of 200,000 people. I looked around, stuck out my thumb and I was back home within forty-five minutes.

I fell in love with motion. At 18, I was hitchhiking to Montreal, New Orleans and Toronto, etc. I fell in love with North America. I’ve never been to Alaska or New Foundland, but I have covered the rest of the states and provinces, up and down, diagonally and sideways. I can draw you a map of Route 66 as if it’s in my hometown. My hometown is NA. I didn’t stop hitching until my late 20s. Even in my 50s, I stuck out my thumb from Joplin MO to Detroit, MI. Why not?

If this was a R-rated interview, I would describe parties that are stranger than fiction including partying with State Governors, Members of Parliament, U.S. Senators, millionaires, prostitutes and Hell’s Angels…and a lot of beautiful women. (The beautiful women were the only common denominator at each party.) As a teen, a lawyer in Florida gave me my first joint. I bought a “lid” of Jamaican from him as we crossed the state line into Georgia. A driver took me to my first bar when I was eighteen.

I loved the people as much as I loved the places and events. Weather? It didn’t matter as long as I was in motion. When I ran out of money people bought me lunch. Needed a place to stay? Either under a tree or in someone’s bed. In Canada at 15, you could go into a Cop Shop. They’d put you in jail for the night, so you’d be safe. In the morning, they’d feed you breakfast, drive you to the closest highway of your choice and wish you all the best. I kid you not!

In 1967, I hitched through the South. I made a few wrong turns and ended up in the colored district of Chattanooga TN. (I-75 was incomplete.) Everyone was black except me. I walked into an all-black restaurant and sat down at the counter. I was the center of attention. The guy next to me asked, Where you from, boy? I said, Canada. He stood up and announced to the full restaurant that I was from Canada. Everyone seemed to instantly approve of the first white boy ever to walk into their restaurant, ate breakfast and live to tell about it. They were the friendliest people ever imagined. I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to be there until later.

When my two children were growing up they didn't get away with much. I had already done just about everything they could imagine. Of course, I didn't give them any ideas.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I can live with a very peculiar form of dyslexia. To make or even talk about a right hand turn, I must move my right hand to know right from left. In the 1950s, teachers did not know what dyslexia was. I was just another slow learner. However, I was determined to succeed. To this day, I can not remember how to spell certain words like received. I have difficulty with hear vs. here, alter vs. altar, etc. My mind has great difficulty distinguishing the subtle differences. According to the recent experts, this came with a blessing. My imagination is limitless. I am able to stop a scene in my mind’s eye, run it forward or backward, turn it upside down, inside out and discover the finest details. I am grateful, although I experienced a mountain of childhood pain thinking I was stupid.


5. Who are you reading right now?
My favorite all-time author is Taylor Caldwell. I just finished, I, JUDAS, (1977) for the third time. If I enjoy a book, I’ll read it three or four times to absorb and understand the author’s subtleties of the written word. Words are beauty in manifesting image and action.


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

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Two of my favorite hobbies are metaphysics and meditation. From this understanding, I receive my inspiration from silence. I’ll sit there in total silence and allow an image to play across the screen of my mind’s eye. SECRETS is my current book that now is in its final stages of editing. (I find the power of the written word arrives through the editing process, which enhances the initial inspiration.) SECRETS started out as an image of twenty-one year old female twins, but a male criminologist stepped onto the stage. Then a beast, half-human half-animal walked by. It was obvious it was genetically engineered. But the criminologist turned to the beautiful twins and asked, “How will I discover that they were genetically engineered? Just by looking at them I know one is good and the other is evil.” That was the initial imagery born out of silence on the screen of my mind. Once this happens I allow these images to develop and mature into a complex story. I do not impose myself at this stage. It's their show. My life’s philosophy was born out of the same silence: "Every experience leads to a greater understanding of who we are and who we can become." You can check out my new book, Never Regret Tomorrow at http://www.GPaulGrondin.com.


9. Food you could eat everyday.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
In my youth and teen years, I played baseball, basketball, swimming, hockey, track (long distance) and tennis. I was on the gymnastic team at Kent State University. When you’re considered to be ‘stupid’ in school sports is a great equalizer. I hope to return to scuba diving, if I can sell some books. Now I enjoy walking, playing tennis and downhill skiing. My favorite slops are at Aspen and Teluride, CO. What a great place to meet people sitting around a fireplace, drinking wine, eating finger foods and...sorry, you will have to use your imagination.


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?

Ever since the first Star Wars movie flashed across the big screen in 1977, forever changing the way we think about Sci-Fi action flicks, G. Paul Grondin has been asking himself, ‘What would happen if Star Wars came to Earth?’ After exhaustive research and years of writing, Paul has created The Omega Chronicles. The first episode, Never Regret Tomorrow, begins on Earth, but the entire series of The Omega Chronicles will take us throughout the galaxy as two galactic superpowers, the Galactic Brotherhood and Galactic Federation, battle it out before returning to Earth again. Paul delivers a galactic historical perspective based on his research and knowledge of planetary evolution, prophecy, records of ancient civilizations, and secret societies with a skillfully employed imagination and visual perspective. His characters are emotionally human as they expand their awareness of what lies beyond their small corner of the galaxy. Through the perpetual motion of high-adrenalin action, he invites us to be a part of the journey. In the end, will the inhabitants of Earth be ready for the return of the galactic superpowers?

G. Paul Grondin was educated at Kent State University, Ohio, and the University of Windsor, Ontario, receiving honor degrees in English Literature and Psychology with a background in history and mathematics. Paul is a down-to-earth individualist having worked in construction, writing, sales (his own company) and over-the-road truck driving in Canada and the U.S.A. Currently, he lives on the Canadian side of the lower Great Lakes overlooking Michigan and Ohio. Visit him online at http://www.GPaulGrondin.com.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Ron Gavalik

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Ron Gavalik


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Dillon Galway in Grit City is my favorite character to date. He’s a freelance journalist that kind of thumbs his nose at society’s idea of what a twenty-something, college educated man should be doing with his life. I started my writing career in freelance journalism. In many ways, Dillon is my persona from ten-years-ago. Much like me, he abandoned money for idealistic pursuits. He also embodies a simple innocence that I never really possessed. I draw that character trait from my son, Nick.


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

4. What else can you do besides write?
I spent a long career trying my hand in several careers. In high school I went to a local vocational school part-time to learn carpentry. I hung dry wall for a few years and then taught carpentry at the same school. I have a degree in engineering design and followed that path for ten years. I’ve also worked as a technical writer, bartender, journalist, landscaper, delivery driver, firefighter, retail clerk, and a few others.

As a writer, I believe it’s my job to experience as many facets of life that’s realistically possible. I was a young father, so I never had the ability to travel and see the world. Exploring the possibilities around me has always been a subconscious pursuit.


5. Who are you reading right now?

6. Pop culture or academia?
I draw a distinct line between those two, if we frame pop-culture as the grind of the real world. It’s the difference between the rule makers and the game players. Once upon a time I taught. True academics tend to enjoy observing the world and then institutionalizing new innovations in the classroom. Game players roll their sleeves up and thrust their ideas into the batter of the mixing pot to find out what forms the best possible pancake.

I respect both a great deal, but identify more closely with the game players. If the new medium of fiction I’ve created (emotobooks) is successful, it will undoubtedly be weighed by academics, criticized, and given a value. That’s their role: to decide what deserves to be institutionalized.

It’s a fun back and forth. I’m pleased my contributions spark debate.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
All of them. Let’s be honest. I haven’t met one writer that’s said, “Oh, this kind of scene is so easy to write.” We don’t write because it’s easy. Writers pour their souls into the craft to help shape our own individual perspective of the world. But we have something to say. That something helps shape the world perspective for our readers.

With that said, I do find high-performance action sequences to be a toughie. As a novice writer I struggled to remove the moving playing in my head and to instead concentrate on the thoughts and feelings of my point of view character in action.

It’s not about listing the punches and gunshots that filmmakers suffer to show in movies. It’s about determining what each sword thrust means to the character. Will she live or die? If she’s stabbed in the right arm, she will no longer be able to hug her children the same way. Why is her best friend intent on killing her? Who gains to profit? Stuff like that.

Practice makes perfect.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?

9. Food you could eat everyday.
Meat.


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?
Believe it or not, it’s Chuck Palahniuk. Anyone who’s read this author knows he’s such a weirdo and the furthest thing from a pop fiction writer. Sure, Dan Brown and Dean Koontz are swell. I find myself emulating their styles in specific scenes. It’s Palahniuk, however, that gives me motivation to write in the first place.

I wasn’t born a writer. I didn’t even enjoy reading until after I reached drinking age. When I got into reading in a big way I started with nonfiction. Books on liberal politics, hookers, drugs, etc. were a good time for a while. Science fiction and urban fantasy thrillers are the pop fiction books that hooked me over time. But it was Palahniuk that pushed me over the edge. His books inspired me to pursue fiction writing professionally.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?

Ron Gavalik has dedicated his life to the written word. He’s practiced a long and successful career in fiction writing, journalism, and technical documentation. His short fiction has appeared in several magazines and online venues. His news articles have informed thousands of readers throughout the United States.

He conceived the new medium of emotobooks in 2010 while earning his M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Grit City is the maiden serialized story, and is receiving accolades among a large and diverse base of readers.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ron spends much of his free time in the outdoors of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He enjoys fishing, hiking, and riding his trail bike.

Ron can be reached through his website at: RonGavalik.com.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

PATHS TO PUBLICATION: Liz Coley

PATHS TO PUBLICATION

Wake up and Smell 2011

One of the things I like about reading other writes' tales of their paths to publication is that they speak to persistence in the face of disappointment, optimism in the face of rejection, and a sheer cussed refusal to quit. And then, without rhyme, reason, or warning it happens, and they find themselves with the three-book deal or the Hugo award or a movie option. The writer takes the hero's journey down to the nadir of despair and rises to the heights of joy, carrying away a boon, in the form of a contract, galleys, cover art, an ISBN-13.

The moral is--it can happen, and does, even to people we know. So when is it our turn?

I passed age forty before I realized I wanted to be an author, or at least to give it a darned good try so I'd have no regrets as I drew my last breath. I set a simple goal in 2003--write one novel--science fiction, because I love it--for teenaged boys, because I had two. And if I was going to be serious about this, I had to attend writing workshops. Columbus, Ohio has an excellent genre conference in Context, where I received excellent advice. Write, submit, network, act like a professional.

I started down two paths. Over the years, I wrote a handful of short stories for the adult spec fic market and patiently submitted them, the rule of no simultaneous submissions chipping away the months and years. Ralan dot com became my best friend.

Concurrently, I began writing novels for teens. Creating my first manuscript absorbed two years, followed by two more years of submitting to publishers and agents. Meantime, I'd written another shorter novel, which earned a personalized and encouraging rejection letter from an editor. I stuck it on the wall for inspiration. Cue the sound of doors slamming, as publishing houses began closing to unagented submissions. Thanks to Nanowrimo, I had a third manuscript, a political thriller with a pandemic, a government conspiracy, and a feisty teen female protagonist. Through tedious submission to forty agents, I found a representative who loved it, though she wondered aloud why I ever thought it was sci-fi. So much for my original goals!

Path number one, the short story venture, finally led to an open door in 2010. An aspiring writer friend (network!) put me onto an anthology--no remuneration, but a stepping stone. I sold "The Final Gift" to Strange Worlds Anthology, and I finally had something to put on my cover letters. On the strength of one publishing credit and a nice, compact story, I then made my first professional sale, "Immortals" to Cosmos Magazine, Issue #32. So it was published in Australia, but at least it had significant circulation. Now I had two credits for my cover letter. And so the snowball rolled. "Origins" was accepted for The Last Man Anthology, "Marriage of Convenience" for More Scary Kisses anthology, and “Till Death Does his Part,” to Bride of the Golem anthology. Thank you again Ralan.

With seven completed manuscripts in the hands of my agents, none of those deemed worthy of publication have yet sold. And this is when I woke up and smelled 2011. People had asked for years whether I would consider self-publishing. Until that coffee moment, I always said no…until I realized that what the big houses used to offer—advances, production, marketing support, and distribution—were rapidly becoming obsolete. Advances for new authors are token. Marketing is largely left up to the author. Production and distribution are (almost) a breeze with Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords. I also had a manuscript with a “freshness date” issue—one about what might happen to a teenaged girl of Mayan ancestry on December 21, 2012.

So this is path number three, the one less taken, until recently. My independently published novel “Out of Xibalba” is available in print and ebook format through the regular distribution channels—see LCTeen.com for links. I hope you’ll read it before the world ends.

-Liz Coley
July, 2011


--

Liz Coley writes speculative fiction for teens. Visit her site LCTeen.com to read or hear a sample chapter. Buy Out of Xibalba at Smashwords and Amazon.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Jaleta Clegg

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Jaleta Clegg


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
That's like asking who my favorite child is. I love them all, except the villains. They creep me out. I had the most fun in Nexus Point writing scenes with Will Scarlet and Roland the monk of the Order of Myrln. Will is a linguist undercover on the planet although he hints at working for a secret organization. That mystery will be cleared up in several short stories that will hopefully be published before too long. I can always post them on my website for free. Roland is a sweet person. He's got a bright future, but you'll have to wait a few books before you meet him again. I'm still half in love with Tayvis. Scratch that. If he showed up on my doorstep and I were twenty years younger, I'd run away with him in a heartbeat. Except he wouldn't break up a family. He's not that kind of guy. Some days I almost envy Dace. She gets the hot guy eventually. But I don't envy her the trouble she gets into. All of my characters were fun to play with. Even the villains.

In book two Priestess of the Eggstone, coming out sometime this year, I introduce a bunch of fun new characters. Leon is my favorite from that book. Think of the short, sleazy, loudly dressed lawyer, then make him a really nice guy who just pretends to be a smarmy used-car salesman. Oh, wait, Lady Rina is a lot of fun, too. And Jerimon and his sister, Jasyn. And the Sessimoniss, eight-foot tall lizardmen with a grudge against Jerimon and Dace. Jerimon stole their god and they want it back. Dace is just in trouble with a crime syndicate and the Patrol.

I just have fun with my characters. I love quirky fun people.


2. Tell me about your travels.

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
None of the above. I drink mostly water. If I'm in a real decadent mood, I'll splurge on guava nectar or cran-raspberry juice.


4. What else can you do besides write?
I can belch on command. I can blow farts on my arms and hands and imitate any kind. I know all the "pirate walks into a bar" jokes. I can throw dirt clods clear across the backyard. I can tie all the basic scout knots and lash a tower. I can solder and arc weld, though I haven't done it in years. I can make great pig noises. I can imitate a dog so well I set off the whole neighborhood into a frenzy of barking. I know all sorts of random strange songs. I can cook anything except fudge. When I make fudge it turns out like frosting. When I make chocolate fudge frosting it turns into fudge AFTER it's on the cake. I piece quilts but I hate quilting so I tie mine. I crochet Cthulhu toilet paper roll cozies in wild colors. I teach math, basic physics, chemistry, geology, nuclear science, and astronomy. I run a planetarium for the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center. I also run a star trek simulator there. I sew costumes for them, too. I can't grow zucchini. It always dies when I plant it. I used to be able to put my feet behind my head, but after eight kids, my body just isn't as flexible as it used to be.


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

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
A scene where the guy thinks his true love has dumped him for someone else. I struggled with that scene over and over. I finally had to spend a week talking to my husband and any other guy that would listen about why this character would love that character. I had to understand why he loved her before I could write the scene.


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?

13. Celebrity crush.
Peter Strauss as Wolf in Spacehunter in the Forbidden Zone
Gil Gerard as Buck Rogers in the campy late 70s tv series
Carey Elwes as Robin Hood in Men in Tights
Kevin Sorbo as Kull the Conqueror
Kevin Sorbo as Dylan Hunt in the tv series Andromeda
Robin Hood the Fox from the Disney cartoon
And my all-time crush, since I was eleven-
Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the first (and best) Star Wars movie, IV: A New Hope
and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in The Temple of Doom
There's more - mostly actors who played Robin Hood or one of the Musketeers or Flash Gordon - but I'm terrible at names and my husband might start having problems with his inferiority complex again.


14.Who are the biggest influences on your work?
That's an easy one - Andre Norton and Elizabeth Moon. I adore everything they both wrote. I am in awe of Andre Norton's bibliography. She was a genius at storytelling. Elizabeth Moon writes great space opera. I want to be her some day. I read a lot of the classics - Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clarke, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, CJ Cherryh, and a host of newer authors - Julie Czerneda, Frances Pauli, Larry Correia, and others. When a book really grabs me, I try to figure out why and how they did it. If I can get carried away by the story and not even notice the writing, I consider that a fantastic book.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?


Jaleta Clegg loves to play with words and tell stories. She writes science fiction adventure novels, short silly horror stories, and the occasional fantasy or more serious story. She lives in Utah with her long-suffering husband who sometimes wears spandex so it all evens out, a horde of children that claim they are all hers, an ancient toothless cat who refuses to die (he's 17), a sweet natured black lab mix, and a cranky pampered housecat named Chunkalicious Rex, king of LardButt.

You can find more of her work at www.jaletac.com.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Bryan R. Dennis

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Bryan R. Dennis


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Rosa Santana. Her conservationist ethic resonates with me. She is a free spirit, an untamed enigma like Mother Nature herself. When I tried shaping her into a more conventional character, she rebelled and told me to go eat a sandwich. I never knew what form she’d appear in from one scene to the next. I like how askew her perspective is on things. She’s philosophical and passionate about her convictions. She sees magic in things and possesses magic within herself. And she’s strong. She kicked my butt.


2. Tell me about your travels.
The Army took me to Europe. Boredom took me back and forth across America. My wife took me to Japan. Where I go next, and what takes me there this time, is anyone’s guess.


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?
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?
I have an eclectic taste in music, from hard to soft, fast to slow, classical to modern. Recently I’ve started listening to Jazz (dark noir and classical). It helps me relax. Writing for me is a bittersweet experience. I like discovering new worlds and people inhabiting my subconscious, but at the same time, I mourn not interacting with the external, tangible, world and the people I truly care about. Classical jazz is the perfect soundtrack for the mood I assume whenever I write. Beautiful melancholy is the only way I can describe it.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I rarely approach a project from the same angle. Sometimes I outline everything, sometimes I wing it all. When I do outline though, everything is fluid and I end up changing things so much that the original outline doesn’t remotely resemble the final product. My characters almost always shape the plot more than the other way around. Usually I answer only two questions before I begin writing: 1. What is the point of the story? 2. How does it end?


13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I’m a voracious reader of screenplays by talented screenwriters. I love the snappy dialogue, rich visuals, and strong verbs. Authors Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, Charles Bukowski, Ray Bradbury, and Haruki Murakami are also heavy influences.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Yes. With three small children in the house, I don’t really have a choice! My favorite … er … their favorite is Word World on PBS.


Born and raised in the cornfields of Illinois, Bryan R. Dennis enlisted in the Army upon graduation from High School and served his term overseas. Afterwards he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and enrolled in UNLV’s college of business. It took a degree in Accounting, years of daydreaming in cubicles, and a collection of stories piling up on his hard drive to learn he is a writer and not an accountant. An Epitaph for Coyote is his debut novel. He chronicles his writer’s journey at bryanrdennis.com.

An Epitaph for Coyote

Isle of Stumps

Monday, July 04, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Brenda Cooper

HEIDI'S PICK SIX


Brenda Cooper


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?

2. Tell me about your travels.
I love southern Mexico. I’ve been to Palenque and the Yucatan Peninsula, and I am totally enchanted with the people, the history, and the natural world there. So enchanted I’ve set two short stories there and my next novel: Mayan December. It’s a beautiful world with underwater caves, stunning coral reefs, mysterious ruins, and very friendly people.

I gained a new favorite this year when I spent six days in Thailand (some business). I think Thailand was so fascinating because of the same things: The people were friendly and happy, and very different from us in the most part. The land is beautiful, and Thailand also has an interesting historical and current culture. The Thai King is the longest-seated monarch in the world right now, and there are pictures of him everywhere in Thailand. I also love the contradictions: I walked down one street in Bangkok and passed Jimmy Choo Shoes and Prada and two Buddhist shrines right on the street with people praying and offering flowers - some wearing their Jimmy Choo shoes and others in monk’s robes or common worker’s clothing.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I lead an information technology department for the City of Kirkland in Washington State. It’s a beautiful city with riverfront parks that offer a great view of the sun setting over the Seattle skyline. I’m also a futurist, although I have to admit that I been putting far less emphasis on that in favor of writing. The recession has meant more work (at work) and so my obsession with the future is the place I’ve given ground to get the most important things done. What I can’t do (and wish I could with all my heart) is sing. So I often write characters that can sing.


5. Who are you reading right now?
I have three kinds of reading that I love.

1. One is fantasy, primarily urban fantasy. This is my entertainment (I don’t watch much TV). Authors I love in urban fantasy include J.A. Pitts, Devon Monk, Ken Scholes, Patricia Briggs, and Seanan McGuire. There are more, but these are the authors whose books get acquired the day they come out and then I sit down and read them.

2. Then there’s what I’ll call “big fantasy” – more relevant to the world we live in now, acts as commentary as well as story. Yes, I read the George R.R. Martin books, and those fit in this category, but two favorite recent finds as authors are N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor.

3. My absolute favorite reading is science fiction stories and novels that take actual attention to enjoy. While these aren’t the ones I spend the most time on (some days I don’t have any real attention left when I’m done with the “to do” list), they stick with me the longest and I write more in response to them. Vernor Vinge. Paolo Bacigalupi. Nancy Kress. Connie Willis. Karl Schroeder. Ted Chiang.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Both! A writer needs both. I read the New York Times and attend futurist conferences and read blogs and lists that are academic. But the real people that show up in stories are not that at all. They’re at concerts, struggling in the streets, trying to understand the world viscerally (as opposed to in their heads).


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
The inspiration for stories comes from everywhere. For example, I now have three novels in my head about Thailand from a single six day trip. The inspiration to write better comes when I read really good fiction. That’s why I’ve enjoyed N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor I think; they’re brave writers. They push the edges, which makes me want to push my own edges. Also from a long-time friend, Steven Barnes, who I can almost always feel pushing me to be better.


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

11. What kind of music speaks to you?
Live music. I love watching performers. Some of my favorites are filk singers and others are big-name bands. I love folk and jazz and women’s music and some alternative music. Holly Near. Cris Williamson. Death Cab for Cutie. The Indigo Girls. Janis Ian. I also love soundtracks to musicals like Cabaret and Camelot.


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?

Brenda Cooper is a Seattle-area futurist and writer, and also the CIO for the City of Kirkland. Brenda writes a monthly column for Futurismic called Today’s Tomorrows, and is the author of the Endeavor award winner for 2008: The Silver Ship and the Sea, and of the sequels, Reading the Wind and Wings of Creation. She co-authored Building Harlequin’s Moon with Larry Niven. Her next book is Mayan December, coming from Prime Books in August 2011. See her website at www.brenda-cooper.com and visit The Five Worlds at www.thefiveworlds.com.

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Anita Clenney

HEIDI’S PICK SIX


Anita Clenney


1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Faelan is my favorite character. He lost everything he knew and loved and woke in a time he knows nothing about. He’s grieving over his family, his brothers and sister, and trying to figure out who this woman is who woke him. If she’s a demon or a prostitute or just an innocent soul who has opened the gates of hell in her backyard. He carries the responsibility of all the deaths that occurred because he didn’t destroy the demon in 1860, and now he can’t fail again or the entire world will be doomed. And he has these intense feelings for Bree that he has no idea what to do with because the basis of them seems impossible to him.


2. Tell me about your travels.
I haven’t traveled much. I had some fun times traveling with a group of Aztec Fire Dancers, but it was here in the US. I’ve never been outside the country. I would love to travel to Scotland. After the kids are grown, my husband and I plan to do more traveling.


3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Tea. Diet Coke or Pepsi, even better.



4. What else can you do besides write?
I’m a great bargain hunter. I love designing jewelry, but in a bizarre sort of way.


5. Who are you reading right now?
Kristan Higgins. Love her writing.


6. Pop culture or academia?
Somewhere between.


7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
I don’t prefer writing love scenes. I don’t like flowery, overdone, and it’s hard to get the right mix.


8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
In everything. Dreams, reading, movies, driving. I’ve had some incredible dreams. In fact this series started with a dream.


9. Food you could eat everyday.
Mexican and Krispy Kreme donuts.


10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
I enjoy watching hockey, but I don’t really care to play sports. My son is into everything. Incredibly athletic. I do love being outside, just observing nature at work.


11. What kind of music speaks to you?
I love Loreena McKennitt. Her music really speaks to me. I also love Evanescence and Nickleback.


12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I don’t really outline, but I do a lot of brainstorming ahead of time and I write lots of notes.


13. Celebrity crush.
I don’t think I have one. However, I loved LOST, (my all time favorite TV show) and I loved the Josh Holloway’s character of Sawyer.


14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I don’t think I’m influenced by anyone in particular, but in general, my favorite writers inspire me to write. Diana Gabaldon, Janet Evanovich, Elizabeth Peters, Kristan Higgins.


15. Do you still watch cartoons?
No. I don’t have time to watch a lot of TV. What I do watch is limited to things my hubby likes to watch in the evenings. He likes Justified, and some reality shows like Ax Men and Deadliest Catch. But I have to say Sponge Bob is really funny.


Anita Clenney grew up an avid reader, devouring Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books before moving on to mysteries and romance. After working as a secretary, a Realtor, teacher’s assistant, booking agent for Aztec Fire Dancers, and a brief stint in a pickle factory (picture Lucy and Ethel--lasted half a day)…she realized she'd missed the fork in the road that led to her destiny. Now she spends her days writing mysteries and paranormal romantic suspense about Secret Warriors, Ancient Evil and Destined Love. Anita lives in suburban Virginia, outside Washington DC, with her husband and two kids. You can learn more about her writing at www.anitaclenney.com.

Read an excerpt of Awaken the Highland Warrior, the first in the HIGHLAND WARRIOR series:
Bree’s fingers tightened around the metal disk as she ran through the graveyard, zigzagging past leaning headstones. Her lantern swayed, throwing shadows on the crypt looming before her, its stone walls the color of bones. Thick vines crept over it, sealing in cracks left by time, while gnarled branches from the twisted oak hovered like outstretched arms. Protecting… or threatening?

An owl screeched overhead as she scurried up the crumbling steps, wishing night hadn’t fallen, when shadows twisted into monsters and spirits came out to play. The burial vault lay open near the back of the crypt, waiting. Blood rushed past her ears, a sound like all the angels’ wings beating in unison. She moved closer and peered at the chest inside. It was ornate, made of metal and wood, with green gemstones embedded in each corner. It looked ancient, like it belonged in a museum or a pyramid, or perhaps Solomon’s Temple. The beauty of it struck her again, as it had when she’d first discovered it.

She set the lantern on the edge of the burial vault and studied the markings on the chest. Swirls and shapes like writing shifted in the amber glow. Stretching out a finger, she touched the surface. Warm? She yanked her hand back and hit the lantern. It crashed to the floor, throwing the top of the crypt into darkness. Dropping to her knees, she scrambled for the light. A sound cut through the silence, scraping, like fingernails against stone. She grabbed the lantern, not daring to blink, then remembered the wind outside and the claw-like branches of the old tree.

She placed the lantern securely on the vault cover she’d pushed onto the alcove and unfolded her hand. The metal disk she held was three inches in diameter and appeared to be made from the same metal as the chest, not silver, not gold. One side had deep grooves; the other was etched with symbols. With trembling fingers, she lined up the disk with the matching grooves on top of the chest and pushed. There was a series of clicks as the notched edges retracted.

A voice rushed through her head. What lies within cannot be, until time has passed with the key.

Bree whirled, but she was alone. Only stone walls stood watch, their secrets hidden for centuries. It was sleep deprivation, not ghosts.

She pulled in a slow, steadying breath and tried to turn the disk. Nothing. Again, this time counterclockwise, and it began to move under her hand. She jerked her fingers back. A loud pop sounded and colors flashed… blue, orange, and green, swirling for seconds, and then they were gone. Great, hallucinations to go with the voices in her head.

Her body trembled as she gripped the lid. This was it. All her dreams held on a single pinpoint of time. If this ended up another wild goose chase, she was done. No more treasure hunts, no more mysteries, no more playing Indiana Jones. She’d settle down to a nice, ordinary, boring life. She counted.

One.

Two.

Three.

She heaved open the chest.

Terror clawed its way to her throat, killing her scream.

The man inhaled one harsh breath and his eyes flew open, locking on Bree. A battle cry worthy of Braveheart echoed off the walls. Bree jumped back as metal flashed and a rush of air kissed her face. Petrified, she watched him crawl out of the burial vault, a wicked-looking dagger in his hand. Her scream tore loose as she turned and fled.

Fingers grazed her shoulder, and she glanced back. The last thing she saw before her feet tangled with the shovel was the dead man reaching for her.

Event: WPF In Your Write Mind at Seton Hill - Day 3 Photos

Some of these are actually from different days during the residency/retreat, but it's my third day of posting them here, so...