07/11/14
TheBigKeep_1200

Guest Post: Melissa F. Olson & Cover Model

Melissa F. Olson is a fellow 47North author, a friend, and the motivational force (read: slave driver) for Westmarch Publishing–a publishing group I am a part of (more on Westmarch in a later blog post). She cut her teeth in urban fantasy with her highly acclaimed Scarlet Bernard stories (DEAD SPOTS and TRAIL OF DEAD). Her latest novel is a crime fiction featuring a tough, snarky, and pregnant, private investigator in Chicago. THE BIG KEEP has already been wracking up great reviews. She was kind enough to let me design the cover for the novel, and gracious enough to guest post on my blog about that process.

Thank you so much to Roberto Calas for hosting me today, the last day of my blog tour. I’m doing something a little different for this post: as you may or may not know, in addition to his writing duties, Roberto does freelance book cover design. In fact, he recently designed a gorgeous cover for my new mystery novel, The Big Keep, using a photograph by Elizabeth Kraft. Since Roberto did such a wonderful job with the photo, I thought it might be fun to hear from the woman behind the photo: the cover model, Michelle Hockersmith.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, and how you know the photographer, Elizabeth Kraft.
Elizabeth Kraft and I went to the same high school, where her oldest sister was good friends with my brother so it just kind of made sense that Elizabeth and I would become friends also.

A few things about me: my birthday is the day after the book release (which I think is pretty cool), and I’m a mommy to two awesome kids: Lilly, my 9 year old daughter; and Peyton, my 4 year old son. I am currently a high school art teacher in the Twin Cities area.

2. What were the weather and conditions like on the day of the shoot? Was it hot going around in a leather jacket and boots in June?
It started out a little sketchy actually; we were worried we’d have to reschedule due to some rain.  I’m pretty sure we all said a few prayers asking for the sky to clear and for the sun to come out…which it did. It ended up being a beautiful day with a lot of sunshine. Not only was it sunny but it was incredibly windy, haha!  It makes me laugh thinking about it because my hair was in my eyes more than not and the wind gusts blew up lots of sand.  Getting sandblasted facials is always fun. Overall it was actually a perfect day to be wearing boots and a leather jacket.

3. What kind of direction did the photographer give you as you posed?
The photographer gave me a few emotions that the character could have been feeling.  She told me to think back to when I was pregnant and having the weight of the world on your shoulders, being completely exhausted, but also having that energy which comes with excitement.

4. What was the hardest thing about the shoot? The best thing?
The hardest and the best thing for me would probably be the wind. It created awesome pictures, but was extremely frustrating at the same time.

5. Which shot was your favorite? What were your thoughts on the photo that ended up being chosen for the cover?
All of the ones we did in the ally seemed to really speak to me.  I was able to truly get into character and have the feeling of the Chicago life.

When I saw the cover I was shocked, to be honest, only because I didn’t even remember that picture!  I just kept looking at it and thinking wow that really does fit the part, she looks worn out and powerful at the same time.  It’s the perfect cover picture

07/2/14
a86bee35dd3d0ad8986c23.L._V399545368_SX200_

Guest Post: Michael ‘Tinker’ Pearce

The Tinkeroni

I’ve known about Michael Tinker Pearce for years — as a sword maker. His swords are world-class and I used to sell them when I owned my sword company. So it’s funny that I’ve encountered him again as a fellow 47Norther. Michael was one of the writers in the fabulously successful Mongoliad series, and is fast becoming as popular a writer as he is a swordsmith. He and his wife, Linda, wrote the Diaries of a Dwarven Riflemen series, and their new release, Rage of Angels has just hit the bookshelves. He’s honored me by guest-posting on my blog today, to talk about the science fiction genre.

No swords. Just adrenaline and great storytelling.

Most of the things that pass for Science Fiction aren’t.  They are Space Opera or Space Fantasy.  Some of my favorite books are Space Opera.  The Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMasters Bujold has fast-paced, compelling stories with excellent character development and interesting things to say about what it means to be human and to be a ‘hero.’ Wonderful stuff, can’t recommend it enough.  But it is Space Opera, not science fiction… and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.  The Star Wars cycle is space opera or space fantasy- basically it has magic that looks like technology but behaves in ways contrary to science as we currently understand it.  Again, nothing wrong with that.

So what is my definition of Science Fiction?  It is fiction that has a plot based on a futuristic technology and/or emerging scientific theory.  It can be set in the past, present or future but the plot could not happen without the science.  Hard-Science Science Fiction has technology that would work based on current theories. This is a fairly old-school definition but it’s what I grew up with and I’m stuck with it.  It’s also what I am stuck writing, Lord help me.

Believe me, I’ve tried to write some other way.  Our first novel was a heroic fantasy called ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman.’  It’s set in a world with dwarves, elves and magic. Sounds like fantasy?  It is, but it is also, in a bizarre way, science fiction.  It’s about a Dwarven rifleman; the story could not exist without the technology of rifles. Specifically large-bore air rifles, which I had to do a lot of math and research to make sure were actually plausible and functional.  Given the resources and the help of a skilled craftsman I could make one of these rifles and it would work pretty much as-advertised.  Likewise all the ‘technical details’ of stonework etc. are based on real science; the only thing that isn’t is the magic, and even it operates in a ‘science-like’ fashion.  At the end of things we found that what we’d written was Science-fiction set in a medieval fantasy world. Cool.

Our latest novel ‘Rage of Angels’ makes no pretense. It is straight-up Science Fiction.  Helpful hint for you young folks who look at your math homework and say, “But I’ll never use this!” Yes you will, if you want to right science fiction, anyway.  My high-school math teachers would keel over in shock if they saw some of the math I’ve done to make sure that things in this story would at least arguably work.

Linda Pearce

Wanting everything to work can be a big problem for a writer and can actually require a lot of imagination.  ‘Rage of Angels’ is about aliens attacking the earth.  Unlike an awful lot of stories of this type the aliens in our book are smart.  They don’t do stupid things like building a single point of failure into their systems that can take down the whole mess.  I don’t want to give too many spoilers but we had a serious problem writing this book.  Smart aliens with more advanced technology than ours would win.  First of all they wouldn’t attack if they had any doubt they could beat us. They would do smart, logical things that capitalize on their advantages. Humanity would be screwed.  So two thirds of the way through the book we could not for the life of us figure out a believable way for Earth to triumph.  How did we resolve this dilemma? We turned to science, of course.  Because science is cool and can accomplish things that look like miracles.

Want to see Michael and Linda’s books?
Have a nosy here and buy a copy or three
.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Michael ‘Tinker’ Pearce and Linda Pearce Live and write in Seatttle, Wa. Tinker is a well-known sword-maker and Linda is a recruiting and IT professional. You can find out more about Tinker’s work here.

03/6/14
Adam Portrait 2013

Guest Post: Historical Fiction Writer Adam Haviaras

I’ve had Adam Haviaras on the site before and I always jump at the chance to have him visit. Adam is a historian and a writer of historical fantasy. This week, he’s releasing a new book in his Roman Empire series, Eagles and Dragons. Please have a look at the series if you are interested in Roman history or tales of politics, prophesy and adventure. (Look here for the Kobo version) The new book will be called Killing the Hydra and I’ll have a link as soon as it is published. Today, he talks about the research and travel when writing historical fiction.

Get thee to a Castle (if you can)! – Historical Fiction and Site Visits
One of the things I love about historical fiction is that it transports you to another time, place, and way of life. All from the safety of a cozy arm chair.

However, the challenge for the writer of historical fiction is to make the story as realistic and accurate as possible. This involves a lot of research, and hey, if you love history, that part is fun!

I’ve lost count of all the hours I’ve spent in libraries or my own stacks of books at home, sifting through primary and secondary sources. I’ve done the slow museum walk until my back ached and all I wanted was a glass of wine in a sun-drenched café. I’ve been all over the internet until my eyes bled from looking at photos, maps, Google Earth and Street View.

Amphitheatre of Thysdrus

And those things are extremely useful, but not so much as one thing in particular: site visits.

I love to travel, but for my fiction, it isn’t just for fun, it’s essential. I’ve found that I’m in the writing ‘zone’ when I’m describing a place I’ve actually been to. It isn’t just about what you see in a place, it’s about what you smell, and feel with your hands and feet. When you visit the actual place where your story is set, you get the sensation of the wind on your face and what it sounds like blowing through the trees and over the rocks.

You can’t get that from the internet. Not yet, anyway. Not until someone to creates a real holodeck.

Adam, about to lick the Saharan sands

I was once told by an author of historical fiction that when researching his novel on the Templars, he visited sites in the Holy Land and “licked” the stones to get a sense of their texture, shape and taste. He said this helped him a lot, though the locals looked at him strangely.

I don’t recommend licking stones, but touching them with your hands definitely helps.

In the past months, Roberto (our gracious host and slayer of spiders) has shared many pictures from his own travels to sites that figure largely in The Scourge. I’m curious what he has to say about his site visits…

Roberto? Did your site visits add a lot to your understanding of the world of The Scourge?

(Roberto: Absolutely Adam. I was reading your first few paragraphs nodding my head madly. You gain so many intangibles when you visit a place. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a site visit is worth a hundred-thousand pictures. I find my best scenes are the ones that take place in the sites I have been to the most.)

The streets of Thugga

Those were great photos by the way. They really help to root the story in reality, even in the face of a zombie plague.

In my own research for Children of Apollo and Killing the Hydra, one of the most important things I did was go to the Sahara and walk barefoot over the dunes. The desert itself is a character in the books and being able to feel the sand underfoot, to pick it up and let it fall through my fingers, was fantastic; it was smooth, like sifted flour.

The archaeological sites I was able to roam through allowed me to map my story out, street by street. In Thugga (in central Tunisia), I walked with my character to the Capitol to make an offering, then to the forum where we purchased provisions, and then to the brothel where, well… you get the picture.

Actually, those site visits were worth eighty thousand words, easily!

Thugga Brothel House of the Cyclops. Where Adam . . . um . . . researched.

Of course, travel to a site is not always possible. Parts of my novels take place in what are now Libya and Algeria. Not really holiday destinations.

Apart from the fact that many ancient sites now lie in war-torn countries, the cost of getting to places is often inaccessible to most writers’ meager budgets. Sadly, travel isn’t cheap.

When I lived in Britain, it was much easier to fly to Italy from Bristol, than it is from Toronto. How about a £60 return special to Venice for the weekend? Fantastico! But now that I live on the other side of the Atlantic, those prices are not available to me.

As writers we must always find a way to put ourselves in the places we are writing about, be it in person, via the internet, books, documentaries, or by speaking with others who have been there.

The Sahara

If you are writing an historical fiction series, it’s definitely worth your while to save and make at least one trip to the place where your story is set. If you ever get the chance to go, do it. You won’t regret it and the sites and sensations you experience will carry you and your writing for a long time afterward.

The good news is that there has never been a better, more exciting time to write historical fiction than now, when so much information is at our fingertips.

Until you can get on a plane, however, keep on researching and writing, and allow your longing to get to a faraway place to fire your imagination and enrich your story.

Adam Alexander Haviaras is an author of historical fiction/fantasy set in the ancient world. He has studied history and archaeology in Canada and the United Kingdom and his both his Eagles and Dragons and Carpathian Interlude series are available from Amazon and Kobo. Adam blogs weekly on his website, Writing the Past, about ancient and medieval history and historical fiction. You can Tweet him at @AdamHaviaras or find him on Google+. He loves to hear from readers, writers, and fellow history-lovers, so don’t be shy. Contact him!

 

11/28/13
katabasis_cover_biblio

Guest Post: Joseph Brassey of Mongoliad Fame!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone. As you might know, earlier this year I was commissioned by Kindle Worlds to write in the Foreworld Universe. I jumped at the chance to piggyback onto the universe of The Mongoliad. A universe already created, with an established mystique and resonance. I really enjoyed writing Kingdom of Glass, and it is still one of my favorites. Joseph Brassey was one of the original writers of The Mongoliad series, and today, he talks about his work, as part of the Writing Process blog tour.

What am I working on?
Currently, a contemporary fantasy. After three years of Foreworld Historical Fantasy, I wanted to do something off the wall, completely different, and considerably more supernatural.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a weird question for me to answer, because it’s not a type of comparative thinking that comes naturally to me. “How is your cake different from those of the other bakers?” It posits. “Is it perhaps more moist? Is it’s center perhaps full of nice, creamy chocolate? Or rampaging fire-ants?”

One should always drink *red* wine when eating Rampaging Fire-Ant Cake.

Okay that’s not a perfect analogy. I like to focus on relationships. As such my work tends to be emotion driven rather than concept-driven. I have a tone I’m going for, usually, or an image, a moment, an intersection of passions and ambitions. When you pick up something of mine, you’re more than likely to find something driven by the human element. I cannot promise explanations. I often dislike them, and can seldom conjure up ones that feel emotionally satisfying. I aim to drag my reader through the flurry of events, chasing after the mad, feverish dash of the protagonists and their motives intersecting violently with adversity. Feverishness is important to me. Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap. I like flashy things that go “boom.”

Please, don’t take this as an advisement to roll up my books and smoke them. That won’t do it for you. Well, it might, but you’ll probably get sick.

Why do I write what I do?
Because if I didn’t, I’d be miserable. That’s blunt and simple, but it’s probably the truest answer. The other one is that I’m fascinated by interpersonal interaction. I’m obsessed with exploring the meeting place between reality and personal narrative, where they clash, and what comes about as a consequence. A lot of writers say that it’s about being “grabbed” by an idea. They’re dead on. The idea in question can be anything. Sometimes it’s a character, sometimes it’s a circumstance, sometimes it’s a dynamic. Regardless of the catalyst, the chase has to be worth it. The process is what keeps me doing this, and its function as an outlet for my emotional/mental catharsis. If the seed isn’t robust enough to sustain that role, the idea doesn’t go anywhere.

Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap.

How does your writing process work?
I need clarity of thought and single-minded focus in my brain-space. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Having a 6-month-old son has broken me of that habit, and I can shift in and out of the work-mode and the Stay-At-Home-Daddy mode as needed. What I can’t do is shift between genres or allow my brain to wander too far afield from the current work. I can only inhabit one fantastical matrix at a time, which means that it’s very hard to write more than one piece of work in a given period. Since having children, a lot of my process has changed, which has been itself a valuable learning experience because I now know that it CAN change, and that the urge to create is stronger than any inconvenience or reshuffling of priorities. These are the things that have stayed constant:

Sometimes writing feels like this.

Writing functions as the mental counterpart to intense exercise in my life (I am a fitness freak): It’s a violent, explosively cathartic, exhausting mental gymnasium where I work my brain and emotions until settled. I let myself slide into a mental state appropriate to the scene. Mood music can help, but it isn’t strictly necessary. On the bad days it’s like chipping away at a chunk of marble with a shovel. It will never be done. I will never find the beautiful face underneath. I chip away anyway. On the good days, it’s fever-pitch, dream-like. I plough through, feel every punch and find myself gritting my teeth with the protagonists, mouthing their lines, experiencing the rush of their story like a physical high. The technical detail of the process is actually hard for me to describe here, because the act of creating for me is less a set of technical specifications and plans and more a matter of balling up my emotional fists and screaming “FUCKING DO IT!” Before repeatedly loosing a savage hail of blows at a hapless page. The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed. It can be like winning a good fight: A blur of controlled, focused chaos that leaves you with bruises, but feeling like a God. It’s not always a healthy feeling. It is not hard to imagine someone developing a massive ego after doing this for a long time. Coming back down to earth is important.

 The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed.

I can’t write to please someone else. It has to be for me. I often read what people are talking about in terms of fictional themes, underlying messages, the importance of symbolism, and sometimes those discussions spark something that has me running off into the proverbial woods again, but it’s still fundamentally for me, a means to explore something that’s eating at the back of my mind, or indulging an obsession that won’t go away, or putting my personal demons on the page so I can pound them until I feel better. Life throws a lot of crap at us. Fiction is the white room where we can go and throw it all on the wall to look at and make sense of. It’s the dream-house where our angels and demons live.

At least, that’s what it is for me.

Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, son, and two cats. In his spare time, he trains in, and teaches, medieval martial arts to members of the armed forces. He has lived on both sides of the continental United States and has worked everywhere from a local newspaper to the frameshop of a crafts store to the smoke-belching interior of a house-siding factory with questionable safety policies. His newest novel is Katabasis. Have a look!

11/23/13
JeffWheeler

Guest Post: Bestselling Fantasy Author, Jeff Wheeler

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome readers!
Today I have a wonderful treat for you. The awesome and virtuous Jeff Wheeler, father of the Muirwood epic fantasy series, has visited my blog. Jeff is a truly inspiring human, a champion of goodness, and a brilliant storyteller. And I’m honored to have him here. Please check out his blog to learn more about this hugely successful writer.

Writing is a Solitary Ritual
By Jeff Wheeler

My parents often repeated the proverb that “Insanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids.” I’m not sure if writing is a gene that is part of my DNA or a mental illness, but whatever the case may be, my teenage daughter has started down the journey of being a writer. Watching her crave feedback from friends and family members brings back a lot of memories.

What I don’t have the heart to tell her (for fear of snuffing out the spark) is that writing is very much a solitary ritual. I’ve spent many hours, sometimes driving in my car, sometimes staring out the window, living in the worlds inside my head. As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient. I’m still writing Book 3 of Mirrowen. You’ll get a turn someday. Maybe after the next Muirwood trilogy is finished.

Then there is the act of writing itself. Sometimes I’m in a hotel room on a business trip. Sometimes it’s on a plane. Most of the time, it’s in my den at home, door closed, white-noise machine hushing in the background to drown out the ambient sounds that invariably distract my concentration. When I’m in the “flow” of the moment, it’s like I’m breathing words onto the page as if an unseen muse sat behind my chair whispering the next line and then the next. Though I’m totally alone yet I feel that I’m inside the world I’m creating.

As I walk to the café at work, it feels like I often bump into characters from books I’ve not even written yet, asking when their turn will be to surface from my imagination onto the page. Not yet, I have to tell them. Be patient.

Then, of course, there is the lonely editing process. Paragraph by paragraph, page by page, I pore over the manuscript, using my instincts to snip a word here or substitute one there. I do very little re-writing afterwards. Even when the comments from my editors arrive, it’s a lonely path, sifting through the proper use of English grammar that still, to this day, baffles me. I’m forever grateful for the English majors whose job it is to know the difference between who’s, whose, and whom.

Then there is the patient (or not so patient) waiting of months from the time the book is finished, edited, arranged, narrated, before my readers even get to see the first words. By then, I’m knee-deep in my next creation, teasing out the conclusion of a trilogy or crafting the plot of a new one.

This sense of aloneness was put into a new light for me. I was recently at a week-long management workshop in Portland, Oregon. Some of the guest speakers included a senior manager at my company who climbed to the top of Mt Everest. He described reaching the summit and seeing a black sky, because he was up beyond the atmosphere. It was like touching a void. Another tale came from a a woman who talked about running the switchbacks of the Grand Canyon. While these feats are done in teams and often with fellow-travelers, the journey is inherently a lonely one. These are experiences that happen not just to the body, but also inside the mind. It reminded me of my experience as a writer and how much of it is mentally pushing myself forward.

There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book.

The other day, I swapped e-mails with another writer—a peer who jousts with me on the Amazon rankings. He had just finished the final book of his series. There was no crowd to cheer him, no fanfare from his many admirers who did not even know he had finished the book. It was a poignant moment, a shared sense of the solitary rituals we writers experience.

As I watch my daughter intently scribbling more words in her composition book, I have to smile. She’s just starting her journey and living inside her head.

 ~~~

Jeff Wheeler is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn’t listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write. His books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Wheeler/e/B004SBCEK6

More information about how he became a writer is found on his website:
http://www.jeff-wheeler.com/

10/24/13
Fenn

Guest Post: Award-winning 47North Author, J. Lincoln Fenn

 

 

 

 

 

J. Lincoln Fenn is a talented writer with street cred; she won the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for her thriller/horror/mystery novel, POE. She’s a genre-bending author that’s been compared to Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon. How can you not have a look at her work? She has been kind enough to grace my blog with a post on category-defying books throughout history (and their wonderful effect on literature).

MARY SHELLEY, GENRE-BENDER

It’s the summer of 1816, Switzerland, although it doesn’t feel like it­—the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora has cast the world into a long volcanic winter. What’s a bored girl to do?

Merry Mary Shelley

If you’re 19-year old Mary Shelley, you decide you’re going to win a bet about who can come up with the scariest tale, this although you’re up against Percy Shelley (you’re not married to him yet) and Lord Bryon.

And a classic novel that bent, blended, and invented genres, is born.

Although Frankenstein most obviously checks the horror genre box, it carries romantic and gothic elements and is considered by many to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction too.  That genre mix was popular with readers, not so much with critics. The Quarterly Review called Frankenstein, “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity”.

Apparently they hadn’t read the Monsanto prospectus.

As if mixing horror, gothic, romance, and sci-fi wasn’t enough of a feat, Frankenstein also sprinkles in some Greek mythology. Five second quiz for all you horror aficionados this Halloween—what was Frankenstein’s alternate title?

 A)    Not so Warm Bodies

B)    Dawn of the Newly Re-Assembled Dead

C)     The Modern Prometheus

You’re right, it’s C (can’t fool you none).

*This* Prometheus relied on special effects instead of deep, emotional writing.

Prometheus was more than a bad prequel to Aliens. In the Western psyche, Prometheus serves as the epitome of bad things that happen when you pursue science without understanding its dangerous consequences, interesting because at the time Shelley wrote Frankenstein, experiments were being performed on dead flesh. These experiments included the electro-stimulation of executed prisoner George Forster’s limbs at Newgate in London. “On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion.”

Don’t even ask me about the frogs.

So now we have horror, gothic, romance, sci-fi, Greek mythology and the moral implications of contemporary issues.

Let’s add some personal experience, shall we?

Shelley did what any good writer of her, or any time, would do, which was to mix bits of her own life, her experienced horror, into the story. Frankenstein, (the scientist, not the monster who had no name), loses his mother to scarlet fever, then his brother and wife are murdered by the creature. Shelley’s own mother died eleven days after giving birth to her, leaving an epic void in her life. She lost one of her children shortly after giving birth, and lived through the suicide of her stepmother and stepsister. Not exactly a stranger to death’s sting.  And it’s quite probable that the emotional impact of her personal experience is what gives Frankenstein its longevity and contemporary relevance.

Do audiences still want that kind of genre blend?

Unclassifiable?

When I first started to shop my novel POE, everyone loved the writing but no one knew where to sell it. And they told me that if, miraculously, they did find a publisher, where the heck would the bookstores shelve it?  All would be better if POE colored inside some genre lines.  It couldn’t be horror and new adult and dark urban fantasy and literary. It couldn’t span Russian occult practices in the early 20th century, the séance craze during America’s gilded age, a contemporary and economically depressed New England town, magic squares, ghosts, angels/demons, my own horrific hospital experience plus my parents’ deaths, and, for god’s sake, be irreverent too.

I tried, but I just couldn’t write it any other way. It wouldn’t let me.

Through sheer, dumb luck, I finally entered POE into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest where it placed first in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category. Then, through an even bigger stroke of dumb luck, Amazon’s 47North was publishing the winner because they were looking for genre-bending work.

I’d finally found the island of misfit toys where I belonged, in a cadre of other authors who don’t fit into boxes neatly either (you can see them here – buy all their books, please). Maybe Shelley should be our patron saint.

Because if Frankenstein is any example, one should be careful about underestimating the market for books that defy easy categorization.

Here’s to new latitudes, odd genre blends, and virtual shelves you can call whatever the hell you want.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As of Oct. 22, 2013, POE is now available for your virtual (or physical) shelf: http://www.amazon.com/Poe-ebook/dp/B00CQC9O5M.

J. Lincoln Fenn began her horror career in the 7th grade when she entertained her friends at a sleepover by telling them the mysterious clanking noise (created by the baseboard heater) was in fact the ghost of a woman who had once lived in the farmhouse, forced to cannibalize her ten children during a particularly bad winter. Strangely, it was the last slumber party she was allowed to have. The author graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in English, and lives on an island (not deserted) with her family.

You can find out more about her on her website, jlincolnfenn.com

09/19/13
Olson_MCPic

Guest Post: Urban Fantasy Author, Melissa F. Olson

 

 

 

 

She’s one of the rising stars of urban fantasy, a fellow 47North author who shares my love of Joss Whedon, and a writer with the most inventive take on vampires since Bela Lugosi. Melissa Olson — author of Dead Spots and Trail of the Dead — graciously took time out of her hectic schedule to let me interview her. We talked about her books, her path to publication, and her Road Warrior days in LA (among other things). Please read the interview and visit her website, melissafolson.com for more about this Amazon Bestselling Author.

 

RC: Can you tell us a little about your books and your main character, Scarlett Bernard?
MFO: Sure! My protagonist, Scarlett Bernard, is a young woman in Los Angeles with a very specialized ability: she’s one of the rare humans who nullifies supernatural forces. So within about ten feet of her, vampires, werewolves, and witches all become human again.

RC: Like me, you have written books in genres that some people consider overdone (Me: zombies, You: vampires, etc). How do you defend yourself from this sort of accusation?
MFO
: I get comments or complaints about the oversaturation of the genre all the time, always from people who HAVEN’T read the books yet. Everyone assumes I’m either raking in the dough because “that’s big right now,” or I just chew up and spit out clichés to earn a buck. Or both. But I just tell them the truth: I always said I wasn’t going to write an urban fantasy unless I thought of something I hadn’t seen done before. When I came up with the idea of the null, I finally felt like I had something original to say. This is my favorite genre to read, and the amazing thing about it is that people keep coming up with fresh approaches.

RC: How long did it take to get published? How did it feel?
MFO: It took about a year of shopping Dead Spots around before my agent sold it to 47North. I found out a few days before Christmas, 2011, and nobody could top that present. (I think my second-best gift was a Kindle.) It felt very vindicating. Deciding to be a writer is like slowly edging out farther and farther out into a fog. There’s no guaranty you’ll get anywhere. I felt like the years of struggling to grab as much time as I could for writing were finally worth it.

RC: When someone is driving slow in the passing lane and you’re in a hurry, how do you react?
MFO:  
It takes a lot for me to get really upset by someone’s bad driving. If the slow lane is clear, I just shrug and go around. I can’t even say I did things differently when I lived in LA, because during my first week at USC, they told us that one third of LA drivers keep a gun in the car. I still don’t know if that was true, but it sure makes you think twice about using that horn.

RC: Are there any particular themes that you like to explore in your books?
MFO:  
A writer named Daryl Gregory once said at a conference that he always thinks he’s being so creative and original, and then he realizes he’s bringing many of the same themes and histories to each new work. That happens to me, too. Dead Spots was the second novel that I completed, and by the time I started Trail of Dead it occurred to me that my heroines always think they know exactly where their lives are going, and then their paths take a sudden sharp turn. Just like me – I got a degree in film, and was planning to be a TV showrunner in LA. Then, suddenly sharp turn. So I like to look at what people become when they can’t be who they planned.

RC: What authors have influenced you most?
MFO: Jim Butcher and Joss Whedon come to mind first. Laurel K. Hamilton when I was young, before the Anita Blake books got so…er…explicit. I read the first five or so Anita books at a formative age, and they blew my mind.

RC: Coffee or Coke?
MFO
DIET Coke. I have a problem. It’s been confirmed by medical professionals. I drink tea in the morning, too (coffee makes me yak), but it’s just so I can pretend I don’t have a problem. I’m not fooling anyone.

RC: You’re a Wisconsin girl who went to LA. Can you tell us a little about that and talk about the differences between the two?
MFO
What difference? I don’t know what you’re talking about. No, I moved from a small town (13,000 people) in northern Wisconsin to LA for school when I was 18. It really defined the whole concept of “culture shock.” My upbringing was very sheltered and safe, which was great in one sense, but then LA kind of knocked me for a loop. I ended up loving it while I was there, but I’m not sure I could go back now that I have kids. Madison, Wisconsin is a happy medium because it’s a small city where I can see indie movies, get decent sushi, and afford a house with a backyard. I visit both my hometown and Los Angeles whenever I can, though.  I’m always happy to go, and always happy to come back.

RC: Twizzlers or Chocolate?
MFO:  
Chocolate. I hate being the stereotypical woman who loves chocolate, but what are you gonna do. I also don’t know anything about cars and I have a history of bursting into tears when yelled at by an authority figure (which is why I no longer recognize any authority figures). But hey, spending too much time worrying about not being a stereotype is just letting the people who care about such things win.

RC: What advice do you have for writers trying to publish their first book?
MFO:  
Never sit down at a table that you can’t walk away from. First-time authors have choices now. At the same time, no matter where you are in the industry, be prepared to market the hell out of yourself. For me, writing is necessary – I feel itchy if I go too long without doing it. But marketing is a job. That I sometimes enjoy.

RC: Paper or plastic?
MFO:  
Paper. I’ve come to reluctantly accept that my four-year-old likes crafts.

RC: How do you find time to write with children and a full-time job?
MFO:  
Well, now that I’m on book three, I can get a babysitter to come a couple of afternoons a week. I also have a loving, gracious spouse who wants to read the books faster than I can write them. Excellent babysitter and book-loving spouse, those are the keys to any success I have.

RC: When the zombies rise up, what is your plan of action?
Surrender? I would not survive the zombpocalypse; I have too many health problems. I am literally incapable of running, for example. So I’d probably just do whatever I could to make sure my kids were safe, and that someone was helping my husband raise them. I have two girls, so he’s definitely going to need some advice in the teenage years. Maybe I could quick set him up with a track star before my inevitable demise. Sarah Polly did that in My Life Without Me AND she starred in Dawn of the Dead, so there you go.

Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa proved too broke for LA and moved to Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master’s degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at www.MelissaFOlson.com.