Interview with Kenny B. Smith

There are authors, there are editors, there are mentors, and then there’s Kenny – a snarktastic bundle of the three, plus a good friend of mine. It’s a pleasure to bring her to the blog today and share more about her journey and what makes her tick.

Kenny and I have bounced around various writing events ranging from signings at the Printed Garden, to fan conventions such as Wizarding Dayz, and to writing conferences such as Fyrecon. We share a lot of the same darkly cynical humor and sarcasm so it was only a matter of time before we became fast friends.

How about some dark and stormy reading? I’m in!

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

On to the interview!

First of all, I’d love to get to know you better. What makes you laugh the most, and why?

Puns. The more horrible, the better. And B SciFi movies. The terrible ones with descriptions that don’t match and awful plot ideas. Airplane vs Volcano and Sharknado – like that. I think I just like bad acting and both of those fall under that category. They usually have one really good A-lister (at least 70% of the time). Those are the funniest because they know how to act well. The people acting in the show around them make them look overly dramatic or just bad themselves. It’s hilarious.

If you could choose any fictional character (including ones you have created) to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Carmen Sandiego – I was always a fan as a kid and she seemed like such a bad guy. The kind who knows things you can’t possibly know and will never learn. But then, Netflix flipped the script on it. So, I have to wonder, which one is the real Carmen. Besides, the adventure stories would be so much fun to write up. Ca you imagine retelling the story of stealing the Great Wall of China? Masterful.

Tell us a little about the Evolution series and your journey in writing it.

The Evolution series came about when I was writing some history curriculum. I am obsessed with World War II. While not a conspiracy theorist, I do believe it was a body double that was burned in the ditch at the end of World War II and the high ranking Nazis, some of them, escaped to South America, which is why the CIA was so involved in controlling the government in those countries in the 50’s and 60’s. The documentary series Hunting Hitler is very telling. Had Germany managed to take Britain by any amount of special circumstances, then they would have crossed to friendly countries and started over here. I am currently knee-deep in the third and what should be the final book but I feel like it doesn’t close everything up. So, I am debating changing the ending or writing a book four, for gratuitous reasons. The story develops well on its own and I don’t want to force it. This is not the first series I have written but some are published as a ghost writer. So, I can’t share those.

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been deeply involved in all sorts of events. What’s the most bizarre or weirdly wonderful thing you’ve encountered at a writing conference or fan oriented convention?

1 – The first KidCon I was ever involved in, we built a castle out of donated foam. My husband was the architecgt and project manager and it was some long hours. During the event, someone stole the PVC pipe holding things together on the back wall of the castle itself. It was strange and caused quite a scare as we thought the wall was completely broken and falling..

2 – Deflowering the Castle!!!! Okay, you have to understand the delirium that comes with FanX Comic Convention. It was Saturday night around 10pm and we were still breaking down KidCon. Mind you, I had spent ten hours a day at the Salt Palace since Monday helping to set up. By this time, we had seen at least 3000 kids and were just tired. Brain fried, I removed all the plastic plants from the castle walls and declared it had been deflowered! And someone else wanted to know if my husband knew I wanted something so big. Yep, I need to start a blog on stories behind the scenes working with kids. So – the second one is less family friendly than the first. Use whichever you like, or both.

I ask this question to everyone – What is the most interesting thing you keep on your desk, or bring to your writing space, and what is the story behind it.

My dolphin pen. When it falls on the floor, it will cut you with a fin. It no longer has a cap or ink but I wrote my first query letters 20 years ago with it and now, I can’t seem to let it go. It’s more of a weapon now than it was then because it literally could stab someone in so many ways. On the bad days, I contemplate trying to break it open to see if I can add ink. It sits next to my army issue typewriter which still functions by the way.

What’s next? Tell me about the next project (or projects) you are working on.

Finishing book three in the Evolution series. Then we have the Blue Quill Anthology that we are publishing through Teapots Away Media. We have an awesome idea for a podcast that will be taking things back to the 1950’s (think War of the Worlds) if the media arm can pull it off. We are compiling a set of memoir stories relating to the original versions of fairy tales that take on current issues. I am working on another dystopian scifi and a new Adult Fantasy myself and we have two authors who have submitted works to be released next year. I have short stories coming out in a charity Halloween anthology for Fyrecon and possibly with the Salt City Genre Writers.

The ever talented and always amusing, Kenny B Smith

About Kenny B Smith

Kenny likes to read, of course, and when she’s not writing, she is researching history, one of her favorite subjects. Researching allows her to rewrite history in her speculative fiction novels. Accuracy is something she values in her work.

In her spare time, she enjoys quilting and sewing, hanging out with her kids and teaching. As someone who has volunteered her time with children often, she values their creative space and loves to help them express it. She also teaches classes to adults. Her latest class is how to write an effective query letter.

Not always a teacher, she loves to learn and learn she does. She has certificates in Radio & TV Broadcasting, Private Investigation & Security and is working on one in Antiques. As history was her major, she knows how to learn about anything although research is not her favorite task.

When she’s not dreaming up new book ideas in the fantasy and speculative fiction genres, she is writing non-fiction (ghost writing), unschooling her kids, watching crime procedurals or playing Hunt A Killer with her husband. He says she has an unhealthy fascination with serial killers and their psychology, war artillery and military strategy.

Her current venture to help others – she’s started a publishing house. Not traditional, not boutique, not vanity, not just services. They are a mentor publishing house. Do we know what that means exactly? No. But if you ask her, she is always willing to explain.

Connect with Kenny:

About Kenny’s most recent book D-Evolution

D is back and now finds herself inside city walls, which is proving to be no safer for her than the comfort of her former home in Bunker Six. While Doc is determined to find more people with potential like D, others are looking to rid themselves of anyone with potential. Can D save herself and others like her?

Xayres has known for his political successes but inside the city, he is fumbling. With little knowledge of the world outside and even less practice with the skills necessary for successful missions, Xayres finds himself being saved by everyone around him. Can he learn the skills he needs to survive before it’s too late?

Erack loves his solitude but is forced into the limelight to lead the charge to find the defunct Bunker One. Can he hide enough to focus on the task at hand and get his colleagues to safety before the resistance erupts into its own civil war?

Find D-Evolution and the rest of the Evolution series on Amazon

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Interview: Nikki Brown

There are people who come into our lives almost by accident and after spending time with them you can’t imagine what life would be without them. That’s what it was like when I first met Nikki Brown. Last year, a friend of mine begged me to join her new online writers group because she enjoyed it and thought I would like it as well.

Dozens of meetings later, I’m still in – and loving it. Nikki heads up the Wednesday Writers Whatchamacallit along with recent guest here at the blog, Annie Oortman. Nikki has a special kind of caring confidence that makes everyone around her at ease. I’ve loved my time getting to know her better and am thrilled to share about her life, inspiration, and thoughts with my friends here at the blog.

A flock of birds flying through clouds resembling pink cotton candy. Super inspiring.
Photo by Kenrick Mills on Unsplash

On to the interview:

Let’s start with a getting to know you question. Tell us three things most people know about you, and two things they don’t.

One thing most people know about me is that I have two young adult children and that I am incredibly proud of them. We homeschooled them from Pre-K through high-school graduation, and they have done extremely well in college. They are also just really cool people who add so much joy to my life. It’s hard to believe how slowly some of those days seemed to pass as a young homeschooling mom and how quickly it all seems to have gone by now.

Another thing many people know is that I am blind. Of course, that isn’t really what people are interested in. All anyone really cares about is that I am usually accompanied by my very handsome and overly friendly guide dog, Perry. I have been a guide dog handler since 2004.

One more thing many people know about me is that I am a personal coach. they don’t always understand what a personal coach is though. they usually think of a sports coach or a fitness coach, and that’s definitely not me. I do a few different things in the coaching world including helping writers find their voice and fuel their creativity. I love helping writers gain more confidence in themselves and put together systems that help make their creative process more effective. My husband and I also do staff development programs for businesses who want to empower their employees.

As for something most people don’t know about me, I suppose that would be that I love to sing. I usually only sing in the shower, but one of these days, I’d love to get up the nerve to sing karaoke in front of an audience—maybe in another state where nobody knows me. 🙂

Another thing most people don’t know is that I have been married to the same man for nearly 29 years. We have been through a lot together and haven’t murdered each other yet. Now, that’s love. Seriously, he has been my biggest supporter and has always done his best to help and encourage me even when I made things difficult for him. I can be a bit ornery at times. There, that’s another thing many people don’t know. People tend to think I’m really sweet. I think they are disarmed by the southern accent. LOL

What are three things that drive you toward your goals?

I’ve always been very self-motivated. I like accomplishing things, scratching things off my list and winning stuff. I’m fairly competitive, but it’s also fine if I don’t win. My main goal is to always learn from every situation and improve myself in some way from each experience.

A good external motivator for me is my family. I definitely want to be a good role model for my kids. That’s a lot harder now since we relate to each other much more as equals rather than as parent/child. They see all my flaws and don’t usually hold back at pointing them out. They aren’t unkind, just honest. I told someone the other day that God gives us children to keep us humble.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?

The absolute best bit of advice I ever received was from my grandfather. I had joined a 4-H club as a teenager and was promptly placed on the telephone committee. I think it was a committee of one person. Anyway, I was quite introverted (back then, we just called it shy) and hated the idea of calling people on the phone to remind them of an upcoming meeting. One day, I mentioned this to my grandfather who said incredulously, “Why are you afraid? You’re just as good as they are.” I didn’t really believed it at the time, but that bit of encouragement got me through all those phone calls. It took me decades before I actually began to truly believe those words but they have echoed in my heart and helped me through difficult moments many many times over the years.

Where do you think creativity comes from?

I think most people have limited ideas about what it means to be creative. When you say the word creativity, many people often jump to the conclusion that you are talking about the kind that is expressed as music, art, or performance. I think of creativity as much more than that. It is the ability we have to discover new ways of doing things, overcome problems and connect dots that, on the surface, don’t seem to be related at all. I respect that not everyone has the same views I do, but I firmly believe we were created in the image of God meaning that each of us  was created to be creative in our own right.

Many assume that authors and creatives live glamorized lives.  What is your life as a writer and life coach really like?

As with creativity, I think many people define glamorous in a way that is limited. We are surrounded by beauty and love and amazing opportunities, but do we see them? Are we so caught up in the worry and stress of making it through the day that we fail to notice the truly glamorous moments like a child holding our hand, the amazing colors of the wildflowers lining the highway or the awe-inspiring view of a star-filled night sky?  We compare the dust bunnies we see inside our lives with the meticulously manicured exteriors of other people’s lives and judge ourselves based on that faulty comparison. The truth is, at our core, we are all the same. My life isn’t glamorous at all based on Hollywood ideals, but I wouldn’t trade it with anyone. As Tolkien said, “All that is gold does not glitter.”

What are you working on right now that excites you?

I joined Toastmasters one year ago, and I recently participated in their 2019 International Speech competition. I won my Area and Division contests and had the opportunity to compete in the much larger District contest. I did not win there, but the experience was amazing and taught me so much about stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to find the humor in every situation. It has given me an even greater desire to do more public speaking, so I am excited about looking for more opportunities in this area.

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About today’s guest:

Nikki Brown, the Authors ally, is a life coach with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a passion for good stories.

Over the years, Nikki has progressed from reading the encyclopedia for fun to helping clients write website copy and even doing a little ghostwriting. Many years ago, she joined her local writers guild to support her teenage daughter’s love of creative writing and found kindred spirits with others who enjoyed discussing things like sentence structure and  correct comma usage.

For many years, Nikki has helped writers learn how to connect with readers online, but her real calling is coaching writers to help them learn how to find their voice and fuel their creativity. She loves to see her clients break through the roadblocks standing in the way of reaching their goals.

Connect with Nikki:

Want to meet a bunch of writers? Join us at our weekly hangout!

Meet Nikki online weekly at Wednesday Writer’s Whatchamacallit

Wednesday Writers’ Whatchamacallit is a weekly virtual meeting for writers of all genres and all ability levels who like having fun and are looking for an easy way to connect with kindred spirits. Hosted each Wednesday by Professional Coach Nikki Brown and Professional Editor Annie Oortman, meetings are open to writers of all types: fiction and non-fiction, pros and novices alike.

We meet in our online video conferencing room for a mid-week pick-me-up, a dose of encouragement and inspiration, a chance to flex our writing muscles, and an always great discussion mixed with a lot of laughter.

To find the next scheduled meeting, head over to the WWW webpage.

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Interview with K. Scott Forman

Last weekend was the annual League of Utah Writers Spring Conference. While the point of attending the conference is to learn new ideas and techniques to better our writing and understanding of the industry, the real reason many of us attend is to reconnect with all our favorite writer friends. It’s like a huge family reunion.

I was super happy to spend a few minutes with Scott, and even happier when he agreed to be interviewed as this week’s guest.

Step into my interview salon, you’ll fit right in!
Photo by Spencer Tamichi on Unsplash

Onto the interview!

First, let’s take a minute and get to know you know you better. I imagine as a horror writer you have to face your fears on a regular basis. Tell us, what is your biggest fear?

I don’t know if I would consider myself a horror writer – yes, I write horror, but I also write suspense, fantasy, poetry, and even some non-fiction. That said, back to your real question: what is it that I fear? Well, there’s only one word for that, and that word is Sasquatch. Yes, Bigfoot, the North American Yeti, even Cain if you want to go in the direction of David W. Patten. I think it started when I was a small child, back in ’72 or ’73. My friends and I used to go to the local movie theater, the cinema, whatever it was called. Our haven was a little place called the Queen Theater located in the sleepy bedroom community of Bountiful, Utah. Saturdays would always have a double-feature, and usually it would be Disney. I clearly remember watching the snakes in The Living Desert paired with prairie dogs in The Vanishing Prairie, or The Scarecrow paired with Swiss Family Robinson. This particular Saturday, the first feature was a pseudo-docu-drama, I don’t even remember the title, but Bigfoot was the star. I think what was the most troubling was actual, physical evidence, Bigfoot captured in the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film, or PGF. From that moment on, I was hooked, and terrified. I find it interesting that I’ve never written a story about Sasquatch. Hmm???

Everyone has secrets. Tell us three things that most people don’t know about you.

I love Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, the whole canon – Northanger Abbey is my favorite. What else is there to tell? I really don’t have a lot of secrets, but maybe there’s a lot that people just don’t know about me. I’m a combat veteran, I’m a Mason and a card-carrying member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which pairs nicely with my pseudo-Nome-de-plume: The Prince of Darkness. I find that once you sit down with a person there are lots of things you may not know about him or her, but they aren’t really secrets. Oh, here’s a big secret: I’m an aspiring writer.

What was your most interesting experience with writing Lovecraft’s Pillow?

Well, considering Lovecraft’s Pillow is just the title piece in a collection of previously published short stories, I’m not sure if you want experiences putting the collection together, experiences with each story, or just experiences with the lead story? The project itself took me down the road of re-learning everything about publishing? I had previous experience in grad-school with a few college pals – we produced seven or ten volumes of flash fiction, a novel or two, and were lucky to break even. I have a Press, per se, Fear Knocks Press, and this was my first paperback and eBook publication. For the last twelve years, Fear Knocks Press has been more of a dormant project waiting to sprout, grow and blossom. It was the home of the eZine, Fear Knocks, but that kind of went the way of the Dodo, so…

As far as the individual story, Lovecraft’s Pillow, that takes me back to several experiences. First, reading Michel Houellebecq’s book, H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, which included a Stephen King challenge to write a story, the story. Then, I think traveling back to Lovecraft’s hometown, Providence, Rhode Island, stopping by his grave, and getting a feel for the region really inspired me to go through with it. It didn’t hurt that my wife and I had just made a trip to Salem, Massachusetts, during the month of October, and there were all kinds of things floating around in the grey matter.

You’ve always been a wonderful support for local authors, including myself. What is the most powerful lesson you can share with a writer who is just starting the process of creating their stories?

Okay, this is a great question – a wonderful question – and the answer is one I don’t think most people are willing to take. Write a lot, write, write, write, and read a lot, read, read, read, read even more than you write. And not just books on craft, or books in the genre you plan to write in, books on everything; and get out and experience life. It’s true that, as writers, we put pieces of ourselves in the work we do. If you’ve only lived in a small town and only ventured between your notebook, typewriter, or word processor, and the kitchen and bathroom, you probably are going to have a very limited and unrealistic point of view in your work. Add a few books, a few across several genres, a book or two that you would never be caught dead reading, and you will start to open up vistas that are ready to lend themselves to your work. Then, if you can, travel, see the world, even the world around you. Most people would be surprised at how many secrets wait to be discovered just outside their back door within 5 or 10 miles of where they live. So, this begs the question, what books would you suggest a person read? Well, how about I include a list of my favorites at the end of this blog post?

I ask this question to everyone – What is the most interesting thing you keep on your desk, or bring to your writing space, and what is the story behind it.

I have a Día de Los Muertos skull. It’s more of a planter, one of those little trinkets with a succulent growing out of the top, the kind of plant that no one can kill. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been attracted to the darker side of things. When I was a kid, I loved the Old Testament and Edgar Allan Poe (and comic books). I had the opportunity to learn a few foreign languages over the years, one of them Spanish, and it got me hooked on some of the culture and traditions of Latin America. After traveling to several Latin American destinations, I had lots of information to ruminate on, to use as fodder for stories. What’s interesting, at least for me, these kinds of experiences usually do more for my settings, the feel of the story. For some reason, and I blame Anne Rice, most of my experiences take me back to the flavor and feel of New Orleans. If you’ve never been, you need to go. New Orleans is much more than Mardi Gras. There’s the whole Cajun culture, Marie Laveau and Voodoo, and the feel being at the mercy of the elements. I think these all merge with things closer to home, Native American legends, the Four Corners area, and a little Magical Realism courtesy of Gabriel García Márquez or Isabel Allende. They all manifest themselves in this little, living skull that watches me write and may even contain my muse (wow, I never considered that until now).

When your muse just happens to be a Dia de los Muertos skull, you can’t help but write some amazing stuff.

What’s next? Tell us about the next big thing you’re working on.

How about this blog post – yes, this is actually a big thing. I’ve been going through a period of very little productivity. We all have these moments, I’m sure. I was getting ready to pitch an urban fantasy at the upcoming Storymakers conference, Madison Blackwood and the Twelve Hours of Night, something a little like Harry Potter meets Angels and Demons, but with a female protagonist and links to Dracula and Old Testament Egypt. Like so many projects, by the time I get to the second draft, I hate the whole thing. So, I started an epic Fantasy novel, got 100 pages in, and then something changed in my life, an almost spiritual manifestation, and I started something else. I’m on a journey now, at least through the pages of the LDS canon of scripture, to meet, greet, and try to understand every female character. I’ve started with Eve and the wives of Noah, Ham, Shem, Japheth – I don’t think there’s a whole lot of information there, but there’s lots of hints and indications that there’s more to each of their stories, something that might become creative non-fiction. I love re-reading about these characters, women most people have never heard of, characters like Jael, Rahab, Tamar, and Dinah, or even those that have no names like the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the handful of widows, or the queens (Vashti, Esther, Sheba, Lamanites), or even the Daughters of Onitah – there’s got to be a story there. I’m off to a great start. I’ve got over a hundred names to work with, so far. All that being said, how about I give you an exclusive, a cover reveal, the story I mentioned at the beginning. Well, here it is, Madison Blackwood and the Twelve Hours of Night, soon to be pitched at a writing conference near you.

Madison Blackwood, quite possibly the next big thing. Coming to a pitch session near you.

Here’s that Suggested Reading List I promised. I’ve only included one title per author, and only the ones off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ve missed several of my favorites, several that are much better written, but what the heck. One of these books I absolutely hated, not because it was poorly written, but because the author made me hate every character by the end of the book. That’s got to say something about the writing, right? I’ve included some non-fiction, short stories, and poems as well.

  •  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Blight Way by Patrick F. McManus
  • A Fine Dark Line by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher
  • Speaks the Nightbird by Robert R. McCammon
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
  • The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • by Gabriel García Márquez
  • The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans
  • The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour
  • The Hunger by Alma Katsu
  • The Green Mile by Stephen King
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • The Book of Job (get a good copy with commentary)
  • The Tyger by William Blake
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
  • The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
K. Scott Forman, AKA my favorite writing conference teddy bear.

About K. Scott Forman

K. Scott Forman is a writer and editor. He co-edited and contributed to the first three volumes of Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction along with working on three more volumes, a novel, and a flash novel for Fast Forward Press. With the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), he selected and edited the volume It Came from the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror. Scott graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and was the recipient of the Robert Creeley Scholarship in 2007. He also received a Master of Arts and Education degree from the University of Phoenix, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland. Scott teaches English Composition at Weber State University and was an adjunct faculty member at the National Cryptologic School. He has taught courses in Developmental English, Composition, Research, Writing for Math and Science, and Haiku. He is a member of the HWA and League of Utah Writers and enjoys long walks in inclement weather, sunsets with blood in them, and Metallica at volumes determined unsafe by the Surgeon General. He has had several short stories and poems published and is currently at work on the Great American Novel. He makes his home in the Rocky Mountains with his family and a collection of guitars. Find out what he’s up to at http://fearknocks.com

Connect with K. Scott

Lovecraft’s Pillow, and other weird tales by K. Scott Forman

Lovecraft’s Pillow and other Weird Tales is K. Scott Forman’s first collection of stories that plumb the depths of imagination when the lights go out. In these 12 tales and 1 poem, we revisit Jack the Ripper (The House that Jack Built), suicide and the consequences (Mumford’s Ghost), sympathy for the devil (Neighbor of the Beast), redemption (The Rescue), PTSD (The Stranger Within), a Frankenstein short (Lost at Sea), a Lovecraftian-story inspired by Stephen King (Lovecraft’s Pillow), and more.

Find it on Amazon

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Interview with Dea Poirier

Today’s author feature, Dea Poirier is all about supporting other authors in their journey.I first met Dea as host of the monthly #DarkLitChat on Twitter alongside cohost Elesha Teskey. Both she and Elesha were amazingly supportive of when my book came out that I was more than thrilled to return the favor when her book came out.

Next Girl to Die comes out May 1st! Be sure to check it out!

On to the interview –

To kick things off, I’d like to get to know you better. What super power would you want, and why?

Oh man, this one is so tough. A long time ago, I probably would have picked teleportation or invisibility, but now I think I’d want immortality. I feel like my entire life is built around wanting to gather knowledge and grow my skillset, so if I had all of eternity to do that—well, I think that’d be pretty amazing.

If you could instill your readers with one inspiring message, either something learned through being a writer or through one of your characters, what would it be, and why?

Perseverance. I think that’s something that’s harped on constantly in the writing community. But really, it’s so, so important. Writing books is hard. Getting feedback is hard. Getting rejected is hard. It’s all part of the process though. Every rejection makes you stronger, all the feedback makes you a better writer. Each step of the process helps to make you grow, so it’s important to embrace it and never give up. There will be bad days, there will be good days. But on the worst days, remind yourself that the world needs your words, and if you give up you could be failing someone out there who needs your story.

What was your inspiration for your book Next Girl to Die?

There wasn’t really any one spark of inspiration for the story. I’d just finished reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and watching a lot of SVU, and I began working on a mystery with a super emotionally broken heroine, that would become Next Girl to Die.

What was the hardest scene for you to write (no spoilers!) and why?

Hmm… Without spoilers this is tough. There are several very emotional scenes in the manuscript that were very hard for me to write. During the process of writing Next Girl to Die my grandmother died. She was a huge part of my life and helped raise me, so I was able to channel a lot of my own grief about my grandmother’s death into those scenes. Some were very difficult to write, but I think it really did aid my healing.

I’ve recently been asking this question to all of my guests here at the blog, what’s the most interesting item you keep on your desk or bring with you to your preferred writing space?

Probably my gel pens. I write all my manuscripts by hand, and also do all of my edits on paper. I find that I’m much more productive when I have my favorite tools, and gel pens are at the top of my list.

What’s next? Tell us about what you are working on now.

Right now I’m actually taking a break from writing. I just finished up the edits on Book 2 in the Calderwood Cases series, and I’m waiting on copyedits now. I’m also awaiting feedback on a YA historical fantasy I wrote. After that, I’m going to be working on another mystery with an emotionally damaged heroine.

About Dea Poirier

Dea (D.H) Poirier was raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, where she got her start writing in creative writing courses. She attended The University of Central Oklahoma for Computer Science and Political Science. Later, she spent time living on both coasts, and traveling the United States, before finally putting down roots in Central Florida. She now resides somewhere between Disney and the swamp.

Connect with Dea

About Next Girl to Die

Next Girl to Die, by Dea Poirier

Solving the case will avenge her sister—unless the killer finds her first.

It’s been fifteen years since Claire Calderwood’s sister, Rachel, was brutally murdered in their small hometown in Maine. Claire has finally carved out a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit, but the past comes calling when the local police back home ask for her help with a murder eerily similar to Rachel’s.

Still haunted by Rachel’s cold case, Claire returns home, hoping to solve the crime and finally put her grief to rest. As she starts investigating, the last thing she needs is tenacious journalist Noah Washington asking questions she’s not ready to answer. But like her, Noah won’t give up until he finds the truth—and Claire reluctantly finds herself relying on him more and more when disturbing new details about Rachel’s death come to light.

When the killer strikes once again, Claire knows he’s not done. Now he’s set his sights on Claire, who will have to find the courage she needs to survive a deadly confrontation years in the making.

Find Next Girl to Die on Amazon and all major online book retailers.

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“Words” by Annie Oortman

For readers and authors alike words have a special power to transport, inspire, and inform. Today, I’m thrilled to share an article from my dear friend and amazing editor Annie Oortman that is her ode to the power and beauty of words.

Annie and I met as a result of her generosity and kindness. I needed someone to come teach at my League of Utah Writers chapter meeting and Annie volunteered to share her method that helps authors through the process of self-editing, a skill that many of us struggle with. We’ve been friends ever since.

Enjoy the article!

“Words”

by Annie Oortman

I love words. All of them.

Good ones (wonderful) and bad ones (heck)… small ones (wee) and big ones (considerable). Simple ones (plain) and complex ones (labyrinthine)… charming ones (glamorous) and nasty ones (scatological). Trashy ones (sleazy) and high-brow ones (fastidious)… clever ones (crackerjack) and stupid ones (huh). Moral ones (principled) and… Oops.

Sorry, I got carried away. Why? Because I love words!

Ensure You’re Understood

Words are the means to clear and expressive communication. Whether posting on social media about a movie you saw, talking to your friends about work, or explaining your feelings to your significant other, your choice of words can make the difference between getting your point across and vacuous effective purpose unmitigatedly (missing the mark totally).

Confusion occurs because words have shades or nuances of meanings, just like those addictive paint chip cards that beckon you at the front of your favorite home-improvement store. That’s not just a bunch of reds. Meet Bolero, Rave Red, Red Tomato, Coral Reef, Charisma, Youthful Coral, and Oleander.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what’s on the disappointed chip card: baffled, dumbfounded, puzzled, frustrated, thwarted, and failed. The problem chip card: issue, obstacle, trouble, quandary, dilemma, uncertainty, and difficulty.

One more for kicks and giggles: Pretend: deceive, simulate, masquerade, feign, dupe, bluff, and fool.

Paint Chips? Really?

Still not buying my schtick? No problem. Let’s talk context…

Think sorry.

“Sorry about that.” Sorry is used so often in apologies ranging from spilling cereal on the floor to totaling Dad’s car that its connotation stands neutral. However, shades of sorry can zero in on real feelings behind the apology

“I’m distressed about that.” Tayson can’t be believe he forgot his wife’s birthday and won’t feel better until she forgives him.

“I regret the incident.” Margo doesn’t think blowing off a staff meeting should cost her her quarter bonus, but making nice with her boss might fix the problem.

“I sympathize with you.” Mrs. Hutzell’s delay in emailing West Point a teacher recommendation letter caused Caroline’s application to be denied.

“I apologize for my outburst.” Carter’s blunt assessment of his five-year-old sister’s clay ashtray made Betsy cry.

“I’m so embarrassed by my actions.” Bob’s profanity-laced tirade on the tennis court will be remembered for years and he knows it.

“I’m full of remorse.” Carrie knows her ongoing affairs damage her marriage but can’t seem to stop herself.

“Please forgive me.” Adam didn’t mean to rush out of the meeting, but lunch wasn’t sitting well.

Don’t Start Carrying a Thesaurus

Having fun with the thesaurus on the shelf, on your phone, and/or on your computer is one way to learn to communicate clearly and concisely. Others include:

  • Reading every day. The more you read and the more variety of options your read, the more words you’re exposed to. See how some famous authors suggest you get started.
  • Making friends with your dictionary of choice. If you stumble across a word you don’t know, look it up and then insert it within a conversation or email when appropriate. The easiest one to find? Dictionary.com!
  • Learning a word a day. Buy a word-a-day calendar or have a word-a-day website email you. Challenge yourself to incorporate the daily selection into conversation, email, social media posts, etc. at least three times before bedtime. Get started now!
  • Having fun with etymology. The study of word origins is fascinating. (Seriously, it is.) Did you know i.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, which means that is? Or that the French word for a woman’s bedroom or private sitting room—boudoir—comes from bouder, meaning to pout, sulk? Check out The Etymology Nerd’s daily take on the fun.
  • Playing word games. Challenge yourself and discover new words via crossword puzzles, word jumbles, Scrabble variations, etc. while waiting in line or stuck on hold. My favorites include the classic Scrabble, Daily Crossword, and Word Trip.

Okay, my friend. Time to expand your mind (and your vocabulary). Go forth and prosper… blossom… flourish… catch on… thrive… advance…

Annie Edits: Editing is a Bitch, I’m Not
(IMO – the best slogan ever.)

About Annie Oortman

Faster than a speeding deadline, more powerful than a period, and able to leap a rough first-draft in a single bound… Super Annie fights a never-ending battle for readability, enjoyment, and clear, compelling writing for all!*

Deciphering the written word by age three, performing readings to family and friends from her front porch at eight, and finishing every book in her small hometown library by 12, Annie knew her uncanny ability to not only read, interpret, edit, and improve a writer’s message but teach them to do it themselves must be used for good not evil.

As the mild-mannered Annie Oortman, she travels the world sharing her superpower with fiction and non-fiction authors alike, hoping one day to rid the publishing world of simple subjects, puzzling plots, and wretched writing.

Join her in her fight! Sign up at annieedits.com.

*Her only weakness? Bookstores.

***

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Interview with Ann Hunter

It’s not every day I get to interview a ninja who just happens to also be a warrior for teen issues and a horse enthusiast to boot. Oh, and did I mention she’s an amazing author? Ann Hunter and I go back years as authors and fellow writing convention snarky commentators (seriously, we can’t sit next to each other!).

When I asked her to come play on the blog last minute, despite being super medicated for a recent ninja related injury, she was more than eager to say yes!

I googled “ninja horse” – totally not disappointed.

Onto the interview with ANN HUNTER: Mom, writer, ninja (no, really!)

Let’s get to know you better! If you could visit any part of your past for a half an hour, what would you do?

I don’t like the idea of living with regrets or trying to go back to fix something (unless it’s a first draft!). Mistakes make us who we are. I like to say “I never lose. I win or I learn.”
But I guess I would ask for a do-over at the 2018 World Taekwondo Federation National Championships. My score was pretty dang low, but I got a gold medal anyway (because I was the only one in my division). Luckily, I’m competing at State Championships in a few weeks with the hopes of qualifying and going back to Nationals and fixing that score!

Tell us about your newest release and the story behind it.

Dark Horse is the 6th book in my contemporary YA series, North Oak. It deals with the aftermath of rape, the ongoing effects of depression, and PTSD. All while being a teen. It has gotten great reviews, several angry emails (cliffhangers, gotta love them) and lots of ugly crying. I’m looking forward to getting book 7 out quickly (again, cliffhangers)
Also there’s pretty ponies that go really fast! #horseracing
Check out Dark Horse on Amazon

What is the randomest thing you’ve done to research something for a writing project?

With North Oak, I’m constantly researching interesting stuff. When you write what you love, researching turns into a geek fest. I have books on the aerodynamics of race riding, how it’s changed over history, and so on. I recently had to research how a jockey actually becomes a jockey (all the laws and fitness testing, etc). You’d be amazed at what they go through.

And although I love my contemporary teen series, I enjoy my fantasy writing as well– because you make your own rules.

Many of your books include horses. What is your craziest real-life horse story?

Perhaps my author bio for North Oak. I used to run around barefoot and half-naked with a herd of Arabian horses my parents bred when I was little. #truestory Those really early years was when I learned all my fundamental horsemanship– by being kicked, bitten, chased and trampled like any other naughty foal.

Second craziest horse story? That one was how I became a published author at age 12. For English we had to write a short story. Naturally, being the horse crazy girl I was, I chose to write about a horse. My teacher ended up flunking me because the story wasn’t written and formatted the way she wanted. My reading teacher noticed how down I was and asked what was wrong. So I told him. He asked to see the story. I gave it to him… and didn’t see it for a few weeks after.

The next thing I know I’m being called to the principal’s office. Why? Because that story had gone from the reading teacher, to the librarian, to the 8th grade English teacher (who was a published romance author) and brought to the head honcho’s attention. It got published in the paper, in full, and went on to win local awards.

I was transferred out of that flunky teacher’s class, and she later apologized to me the following year.

REGARDING NORTH OAK: I do want to say it’s not just a horse series. I set out with a mission to tackle the really hard, scary issues teens are facing today. The last few books have dealt with bullying, sexuality, depression, and suicide. The horses play more of a backdrop to the drama. Sometimes they even help teach important lessons about miracles and finding yourself.

I hope you’ll give the series a try. There’s nothing else like it on the market!
Check out the North Oak series on Amazon

Tell us about how you prefer to work and a little about your writing space

I don’t have a desk, per say. I typically write on a laptop in bed, or wherever I might be at the moment. Some of my favorite sessions are over lunch with other authors (I love mentoring them or even just being in their company), at Taekwondo while my kids have class– I also do martial arts and I’m just over a year away from my black belt! Or wherever I can catch a break.

I do have kind of a pimped out laptop though. I’ve stickered it to death. You can see one of my favorite stickers here:

Both colorful AND accurate!

What’s next? Tell us about what you’re working on.

Book 7 in the North Oak series, obviously. It’s going to be a bit lighter toned than the last two that dealt with some really solid issues teens are up against in this day and age. I’ve also got my first middle grade horror planned (“Zoo”, it’s going to be a cross between Jurassic Park and Jumanji), a YA standalone inspired by the song “Summer of 69”, some fairytales, and my first couple of romances for a project I’m doing with a few other authors. I’m also contemplating a book about nutrition for diabetics by a diabetic (me– macros and food are another thing I love to nerd over), and a book about getting more writing done without burnout.

About Ann Hunter

Ann Hunter, my favorite ninja

Multi-award winning author Ann Hunter is awesome. And hilarious. She is often told it must be a blast living in her brain. She argues that the voices in her head never shut up. The only way to get relief is to let them out on to the page.

She credits the voices for:

Crowns of the Twelve – A fractured fairy tale series: Moonlight, Blade of Woe, The Subtle Beauty, Fallen, A Piece of Sky

North Oak – a young adult horse racing series that totally rocks! IF YOU’RE A FAN, DON’T MISS UPDATES: Click here to sign up for North Oak updates!

She likes cherry soda with chocolate ice cream, is a mom first and a writer second, has a secret identity, and thinks the Twilight movies are cheesier than cheez whiz (which is why they are her guilty pleasure! And Oh my goodness, have you seen Vampires Suck? Bwahaha!)

She lives in a cozy Utah home with her two awesome kids and epic husband.

Be sure to sign up for her mailing list for exclusive news about upcoming books!

Ann realizes she speaks in third person, and this profile is entirely unprofessional.
But that is why you’ll love her!

Connect with Ann

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Interview with Jana S. Brown

When I heard the news that Jana was releasing a new book next week, I had to grab her for an interview. As friends and fellow authors, Jana and I have bounced around at various Utah writing events together and had plenty of fun. I was super excited to learn more about her journey and inspirations in this interview.

Photo by Arash Asghari on Unsplash

On to the interview!

To kick things off, tell us three things about yourself that most people don’t know.

I always love these questions. There are so many odd things to delve into.

Well…first of all I ran a medievalist fighting group for seven years in my college and post college days. I specialized in archery and sword and shield fighting.

My first job in the publishing world was as an Executive Secretary and jaded reader for a small magazine. I opened all of the envelopes – yes this was in the very early internet days – and read all the submissions for content and rejected anything that didn’t fit the magazine’s standards. Then I organized the rest of the subs and prepared them for reading groups.

I love to travel! I’ve been all over the US and visited Norway, Hong Kong, Singapore, England, Scotland and Wales. I’ve also been trapped at the airport in Amsterdam twice, but I don’t think that counts for much.

As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal and why?

My fuzzy killer cat is my spirit animal. She’s a little older, like me. She’s a little cranky, like me. She’s occasionally a murder hobo…erm…no comment. But when she chooses someone as her person she’s kind, fuzzy, loyal, and phenomenally loving.

You have a new shiny book coming out! Tell us what it’s about and also the journey leading to its creation.

Said in Stone is my new book baby! It comes out April 9th and I’m so excited. This book kicks off a sister series to my Sentinels of Essence series which begins with Fallen Stone. When I introduced the world of Fallen Stone there were some great secondary characters who I really wanted to tell stories about. However, the Sentinels of Essence series is in tight third person and there just wasn’t a way to expand without breaking that. So I created the Chronicles of Alexandria for short stories that happen in the same world, but involve the other characters.

Said in Stone contains six stories about our heroes dealing with: zombies, a Borg-like collective, gremlins, hellhounds, a specter, and the unseelie court. I love these close character stories where I can focus on moments in these character’s lives, and toss in some surprises for people who read both series at once. You can read the Chronicles separate from the Sentinels of Essence, but together they make a much richer story world.

Every author has a favorite character they’ve created. Who is yours, and what inspired you to make them the way they are?

I have to choose one?!?! That’s like asking me to choose my favorite kid. I love them all, but if I had to select a favorite it would be Dianna McDunna. Dianna’s story hasn’t been published yet, though it will have its day soon. Dianna began as a character in an online RPG where I played for years. I love her because she’s got that kick-ass confidence we love in a UF heroine, but she’s a little older with all the baggage that means. She leads a group of supernatural hunters and takes their welfare very personally.

What is the most interesting thing you keep on your desk and what is the story behind it?

Hah. Near my desk are skeins of yarn and half finished crochet projects. When I’m stressed, or my subconscious needs some time to ponder something I’ll pick up a yarn project and start working. I find crochet tremendously soothing and when my hands are busy my muse gets a chance to work without the pressure of the screen in front of me. I give away some of my projects, sell some, and others are donated to cancer centers, hospitals, and children’s organizations. I figure my frustrations can help others!

Tell us about what you are working on next!

On the schedule for this year are two more novels. The next book in the Sentinels of Essence which is titled Fallen Leaves and a paranormal romance which is going to have a title one of these first days. 🙂 I am playing around with the idea of a pen name for that one, but we’ll see how things go!

I have presentations coming up for several conferences so I’m also sketching out PowerPoints and handouts, definitely all part of the writing dream!

Thanks for having me!

Jana, the Magical Princess of Writing Conference Craft Services
(Seriously, she’s amazing.)

About Jana S. Brown

Jana S. Brown has been involved in publishing as an Author, Editor, Presenter, Slush Reader, and grundle of other positions (Yes, grundle is the technical term) for over 20 years. She writes the weird and the wonderful with smoochies and prides herself at being a jack-of-all-trades and master of enough.

Connect with Jana:

New Release! Said in Stone by Jana S. Brown

About Jana’s Newest Book, Said in Stone

When the cat’s away the mice will… Play? Fight? Fall in love?

Featuring six short stories from the supernatural world of Denver, Colorado and the mystical Library of Alexandria, the answers are Said in Stone:

Zombies Don’t Play Baseball: What happens when a book on necromancy falls into the wrong hands after the Cubs win the World Series?

Welcome to the Collective: A glimpse into the Heart of the Library where dwells something more than books.

Convention Shock: All Peter Haas wanted was a day off at the DenCon fan convention. What he got…gremlins, lots of gremlins.

How to Train Your Hellhound: Angel the Hellhound goes to obedience school and finds a life of crime.

Merry Christmas to You: One haunted opera house and one visionary storyteller. Can they create sweet music?

The Door to the EverGold: When books are in trouble and knowledge about to be lost, there’s only one place to turn. Librarians to the rescue.

Special Sneak Peek from Convention Shock

Haas closed his eyes, forcing himself to process her words. He allowed her to pull his arm away from his chest and heard the sound of ripping fabric as she tore his sleeve away. It occurred to him that now he really looked like Kirk after an away mission with torn clothes and mussed hair. Though for Kirk the blood was colored corn syrup.

Soft fingers patted his cheek. “Come on. Stay with me.”

Haas blinked a few times. “Bridge to Engineering, please stand by.”

“What?”

New Release Special Offer!!!

Jana’s book, Fallen Stone, the first book in the
Sentinels of Essence series, is ON SALE for $0.99 from April 5-12.

Pick up your copy here!

Fallen Stone, book one in the Sentinels of Essence series

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Interview with Ben Ireland, plus a Sneak Peek inside Bleakwood Lore

Today I’m thrilled to have friend and fellow author Ben Ireland with me to share his thoughts about writing and his books. Better still, I was able to read the first Billy Blacksmith book last week. If you have a kid in your life (or young-at-heart adult) who likes adventures, danger, and an unlikely hero – this is a great series.

Onto the interview!

Tell us about your journey – What led you to writing Billy Blacksmith’s story?

Billy Blacksmith is actually my second published series. The first, Kingdom City, was published by Xchyler. It’s a fun tale about government sanctioned torture, human experimentation, and the desperate struggle to survive in a dystopian city torn apart by war.

Kingdom City is dark, and sometimes brutal. Which I thought was cool when I was younger. The protagonist of Kingdom City is Autumn, a woman who is powerful, brilliant, and internally shattered by her past choices. But by the time Kingdom City: Revolt had come out in 2016, the real world felt like a darker place to me. I wanted to add some light.

One day I walked into my kitchen, the sun was shining through the window, and it’s almost like I heard a voice in my head, saying: “I’m Billy Blacksmith. I like video games, cupcakes, and baseball. My best friend is a demon, and for some reason, I, have to save the world.”

Then, question after question (Why does Billy have to save the world? Why is his best friend a demon?) The Blacksmith Legacy universe was conceived. And it’s been so much stinking fun.

But seasoned with a little darkness, because I can’t help myself.

I’ve found most authors keep special items close by when they work. What’s the most interesting thing you keep on your desk and why?

I usually have my adopted cat, Bam Bam on my lap. Does that count?

Is there a hidden lesson in the Billy Blacksmith books? If so, what is it?

No. I try really hard not to sneak a lesson into my writing. I like to leave room for the reader to make up their own mind about what is happening in the story. There are characters that say things dear to my heart, while other characters express opinions that I find abhorrent.

But then there are times where my characters say “Friendship has tangible, magical value.” So sometimes I’m not all that subtle.

If there is anything I’m trying to say, is that Billy is about the conflict about good and evil. What I want to do is make you question what good and evil really means.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing your books?

I CAN live off 4 hours of sleep most nights. For a limited time.

What’s next? Tell us about the projects you are working on.

Currently I’m working on Bleakwood Lore. The Blacksmith Legacy: Addendum.
The Billy Blacksmith books are all part of The Blacksmith Legacy universe. Bleakwood Lore is the first non-Billy Blacksmith book I’m writing in the series. It has eleven short stories from the perspective of different characters. Some you know, some you’ve only just met briefly. It was that, or have eleven opening chapters to Book Four.
I’m really excited about this one. It was incredibly fun to write, and it has a lot of reveals for those who have been paying attention to the series.

The current titles in the Billy Blacksmith Universe:

About Ben Ireland

Born and raised in Australia, Ben Ireland is uniquely qualified to write about horrifying spiders and how much they would like to kill you. An award-winning writer of both Young Adult Urban Fantasy and Cyber-Horror, Ben received the Gold Quill 2017 for Billy Blacksmith: The Demonslayer from the League of Utah Writers. His other award-winning books include Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged, The Ironsoul; the cyber-horror series – Kingdom City, and several short stories.
Learn more at BenIrelandBooks.com

Want to grab a copy of one of Ben’s books? Find all of them over at his Amazon author page.

Sneak Peek Excerpt from Ben’s next book, Bleakwood Lore

This is a scene from the 4th story of Bleakwood Lore. Krios—a twenty foot tall demonic spider (and ex-general of the Spider Horde)—has been trapped in the Human Realm with his princess, who happens to be a human. She’s sick, and Krios isn’t sure what to do, so he enlists the aid of a Smith’s worker to purchase some “human medicine.”

A curious, burning smell wafted through the air. Krios crept across the roof and peered over the rearmost wall of the store. The back lot of the store was not brightly lit, a large square of asphalt with several cars parked in the shadows. Around the asphalt unkempt shrubs grew, entangling themselves about a sagging metal fence. To Krios’ left, a ramp descended towards a huge door in the rear of Smith’s store.

Directly beneath him, a single human stood in the dim light. She did not seem large by human standards, with a slim figure and thin arms. Her outfit of black pants and a red collared shirt held the air a uniform. She tucked her short brown hair behind her ear and lifted a small stick to her lips. When she lowered the stick, a cloud which wreaked of burning lifted into the air, much like a demon smoking a pipe, though far less fragrant.

“Human,” Krios grunted in human language.

The woman started in surprise, looking around her for the source of the voice.

“I require drugs,” Krios said. “Are you able to help me?”

The human laughed nervously. “How do I know you’re not a cop?”

“I can assure you, I am not.” Whatever that is. “Can you help me locate drugs?”

“Yeah. I might,” she said. “What are you looking for?”

Krios dropped from the roof and landed in front of the human. “Excellent. I require your assistance immediately.”

The woman screamed and jumped backwards, tumbling over the rail behind her and down the ramp. The burning stick flew into the air, drawing an arc of bitter smoke as it fell.

Krios dashed forward after her, following her down the incline. She scuttled backwards on her hands, her eyes bulging as she took in Krios’ mighty form, until she slammed into the far wall. Her mouth was wide, her body shaking. The only thing she seemed to remember to do was breathe.

“Will you assist me?” Krios asked.

Her eyes passed over Krios, and landed on his sapphyril mandible. “Why can you . . . talk?” she said. “Please don’t eat me.”

“I will not eat you,” Krios said as reassuringly as possible.

She continued her attempts to scuttle backwards, despite the wall hindering any further movement. “What . . . what . . . what do you want?”

Krios rolled his eyes. Humans become quite stupid when you frighten them. “I told you, I require drugs.”

She laughed, though without humor. “I ain’t got a bowl big enough for you.”

***

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Special Sneak Peek: Preface of Sakura

While most local Utah authors have heard parts of this emotional story, there are many of us out there that haven’t heard all of it. I’ve asked Paul Genesse to come to the blog today to share about his experience bringing Zachary Hill’s vision to life.

Paul has generously allowed me to share the preface to Sakura: Intellectual Property with you.

Cover of Sakura: Intellectual Property

From Paul –

Completing the Sakura novel for my deceased friend, Zachary Hill was a once in a lifetime project. Patrick Tracy and I took on this monumental task out of love for our friend. Below is the six-page preface I wrote. It’s the hardest five hours of writing in my life.

Preface to the Sakura: Intellectual Property Novel

by Paul Genesse

Zachary Hill will live forever in our hearts. He will also live on the pages of the many books he wrote and illustrated, and on the canvases he painted. Knowing him was an incredible blessing, and his sudden passing January 15, 2016, left his friends and family devastated and heartbroken.

Zach had so much to live for. He had finally met and married the love of his life, Mackenzie. Only a few days before their one-year wedding anniversary, he collapsed soon after arriving at work. CPR was performed, but he did not survive. A large blood clot had formed in his leg and traveled to his lungs. The pulmonary embolism took his life.

None of us wanted his story to end. There was so much more that was supposed to happen. He was only thirty-eight years old, and the best years were ahead of him. He was called back to his celestial home far too early.

At his wake, with tears in my eyes, I stood beside his open casket and made a vow to friends and family that his last book would be published. Six days before he left us, Zach told me he had finished the first draft. I agreed to be the editor, and together, we were going to develop Sakura into the best novel he’d ever written. He was so excited about this book, and his idea was brilliant. Set in a dystopian future Japan, Sakura, a heavy metal–singing android is hacked and turned into an assassin. She fights her programming, trying to stop a secret cabal who is taking over the world.

Creating Sakura’s unique character was arguably Zach’s greatest literary accomplishment, and her story needed to be told. Eight months after Zach’s death, Joshua Hill, Zach’s twin brother, completed a light edit on the manuscript and sent along the file, which was 378 pages (92,000 words) and had the working title Intellectual Property.

I couldn’t muster the courage to read it for some time. The pain was too raw. Every time I opened the document, I got choked up and was only able to read a few pages, which was Josh’s experience as well.

Also, I was in the middle of finishing book four and five in my Iron Dragon series and used that project to distract myself from the grief. Zach was a fan, and to keep myself going, I would think, “Zach would want me to finish.” I eventually completed book four and was 45,000 words into book five when I realized I needed to stop my project and work on Zach’s novel. If I didn’t, it would be more than three years before Zach’s last book came out.

I finally read the first draft and began the rewrite on March 5, 2017, finishing my first draft on December 31, 2017. I incorporated Zach’s prose and wrote a lot of my own, expanding the summary chapters he wrote into full-fledged scenes. The final novel grew from 93K to 156K. I had recruited my best friend, one of Zach’s great friends, Patrick M. Tracy to help. Pat is an expert on heavy metal, a guitar player, and an amazing writer who writes incredible emotional punches.

Pat and I were in a gaming group and writers’ group with Zach, and we bonded over many hours at Larry Correia’s house, playing samurai in our Legend of the Five Rings role-playing game campaign. Larry has written the foreword and I’m so grateful for his help getting the word out about this book.

I could not do this project alone. Patrick and I forged ahead with the full support of Josh and Zach’s extended family. We read that original draft and brainstormed about our approach to an early version of the manuscript, which explored the meaning of life, artificial intelligence, philosophy, theoretical computing, value higher than self, rebellion, and the true meaning of heavy metal.

The character and story were awesome, but it needed to be fleshed out, expanded, and structured. Zach’s process would have seen him rewrite it multiple times, and we had to imagine the directions he would have taken. Over the course of twenty-one months, Pat and I spent hundreds of hours brainstorming and working on the novel as we sent it back and forth to each other.

We’ve never worked harder or longer on a book. This was a big deal for us, and we felt our self-imposed pressure to capture Zach’s vision. Some of Zach’s original prose is still in this novel, and the overall story is his, as are the characters, but we had to redream the dream, figure out what Zach would have done, and stay true to his vision as we took first-draft scenes and polished them. We had moments of self-doubt, but we persevered in the end.

We took on this project because we love Zach and wanted to honor him. It was also a way for us to grieve and come together and bring hope to his family and friends. We did it for them, and we did it for free.

All the profit from this project goes to Mackenzie, Zach’s widow. Zach’s father, George Hill Sr., Patrick Tracy, and I funded this. Many others donated their time and energy to help complete the book, as it takes a team. We were able to hire an amazing artist, Sarah Steigers, who did the cover and interior illustrations, and who spent so much extra time getting things just right. She made Sakura and the characters come to life, and her work is stunning.

Devon Dorrity’s cover design is also incredible, and we are so fortunate for his support, guidance, and expertise. Bradley Beaulieu’s development editing took this to the next level, and Jennie Stevens’s copyediting was awesome. The layout by Caryn Larrinaga in the high-quality, limited edition, signed, and numbered hardcover will make the entire book a work of art.

The support we’ve received has been wonderful, and this is the best and most important project of my life. We believe that Zach would love all of this, and we’ve felt him encouraging us along the way. He’s probably looking down on us, wearing his trademark “Elvis glasses,” which he wore in Iraq and for years upon returning home. He led a fascinating life, and his experiences led him to this story. His gentle soul and big heart are embodied by the title character of his novel, Sakura. As you read, you may see some similarities.

George Hill IV, Zach’s eldest brother wrote this passage: “He was an artist, a historian, a teacher, a two-tour combat veteran, and a prolific writer. He was a true warrior poet who always sought peace. He loved to play games and spend time with his family and friends. Zach was also a traveler. He adventured in other countries. He served his two-year mission for his church in Mexico, and he taught English in Japan and spent time in Italy. He served his country in the darkest places in Iraq and was a legitimate war hero. Now he’s gone to the Undiscovered Country. While he’s away from us for the time being, we know we will see him again.”

Until then, we celebrate his life and his final creative work. Sakura: Intellectual Property is a project born of love. This novel brings together fiction and music in a unique way. This is a love letter to heavy metal, and Sakura is always thinking about music. The playlists at the beginning of each of the chapters contain songs by bands that Zach loved. We also added tracks that resonated with the story and helped us see the way forward.

Fans of heavy metal who are immersed in the culture may understand this at a deeper level, but casual fans will also read the song titles and album names and understand the relational meaning in the text. There are so many little nuggets hidden in this book that relate to Zach’s life, including the numeric designation of the army units he served in, along with music and movies he loved.

Follow the link to the Sakura channel on YouTube (link here) to listen to each of the playlists for the chapters. As you read, you can listen to the corresponding playlist. Many of the songs are mentioned in the chapter and go along with the text in tone and meaning. For copyright reasons, we were unable to use any of the real lyrics in the book, but we wrote parody lyrics of some songs if they are mentioned at all. We also wrote songs, and Callie Stoker recorded one of them in the studio of the legendary Craig Nybo. Please listen to it when it occurs in the book.

So many people have given their time and energy to this project, and we are determined to make it an artistic and commercial success—for Zach, for Mackenzie, and all his friends and family. We would love to sell the rights for this to be made into a manga, an anime, or a live-action movie. Any profit would go to Mackenzie. Please get in touch if you can help us or have contacts who could.

Thank you for your support and for reading this book. We need your reviews and especially need you to tell your friends about this. We want to get the word out to everyone who might be interested, anyone who wants to rock and go on a heavy metal thrill ride.

Through his writing, Zachary Hill will always be remembered. We invite you to take this journey to future Japan to find out, once and for all, if rock ’n’ roll can save the world. We believe it can.

—Paul Genesse

December 2, 2018

Link to the Sakura Novel Page

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“The Magic System Mad Science Experiment” by Ryan Decaria


Magic and Science? It’s my dream come true! When it comes to magic there are two distinct teams. One team cheers for hard magic systems, such as what’s found in Brandon Sanderson’s books, where there are clear rules and limitations. The opposing team cheers for soft or undefined magic, such as what’s found in The Lord of the Rings, where there are no limitations and those who use it are shrouded in mystery. Which team will win? Easy – the team you like the best!

Today we welcome my favorite mad scientist author and board game enthusiast to the blog. Ryan Decaria is going to try to win points for Team Hard Magic in his article about magic systems and mad science. Cue the lightning! Muah ah ah!


Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

The Magic System Mad Science Experiment

by Ryan Decaria

My mantra when writing science fiction and fantasy worlds is to treat magic like a science and to treat science like magic.

I’m gonna let that sink in for a minute.

Magic comes in two varieties: magic systems with rules and undefined magic. Brandon Sanderson is famous for the former in his Cosmere novels. Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings is a great example of the later. Who knows what powerful spell he’s going to come up with next. Still, in either methodology, magic can be seen as a part of that world’s natural laws.

Like any other natural force, magic can be studied, classified, and theorized about. The scientific method can be applied, because the cause and effects can be scrutinized. I’m going to say it again. Treat magic in your story as a science field of that world.

Now, your characters will probably not be scientist studying that magic (cept how cool is that), so they won’t necessarily care to use science or science terminology when wielding magic. I don’t think about gravity or how my internal combustion engine gets me to work. I just drive.

I came up with a great litmus test for your fantasy’s magic system. Let’s call it the Mad Scientist Experiment. For your magic system, imagine a mad scientist character living in your world who is trying to use the magic in new way by combining aspects or segments of your magic in unnatural ways. This can be the Frankenstein scientist, driven by the desire to create, the Doc Brown scientist, eccentric but good-hearted, or the nefarious scientist like Doctor Poison from Wonder Woman.

Does your magic have enough meat for them to operate? Can they create life? Can they seek immortality? What are the costs? What are their methods.

If you can’t answer any of these questions, perhaps you haven’t given your magic system enough depth. Answering these questions, might give your magic system a needed boost.

Here are some examples of great mad scientists in epic fantasy with mild spoilers:

  1. Saruman from Lord of the Rings
    • Focused on industry at the expense of the natural world
    • Breed a new species of orc
    • Created great forges and explosives
    • Became obsessed with power
  2. Ex-maester Qyburn of A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Anatomical experimentation on still-living people.
    • Excellent surgeon or a Torture Technician
    • Created a Frankenstein-like creature
  3. The Lord Ruler in Mistborn (spoilers in this one get a little meatier)
    • Found a way to gain immortality
    • Created new races and the inquisitors
    • Changed the natural laws of the planet
    • Combined two kinds of magic to great effect

But what about science fiction?

There are two kinds of science fiction: One cares about how the science works and the other cares about how the science affects the world.

In the first, science knowledge is at a premium, and you better get it right. In the latter, the science just works and no one is questioning why. Take hyperspace in Star Wars or transporters in Star Trek. The more you dig into the science, the more preposterous they sound, so you don’t dig into the science. You avoid the science because it just works and your story is about what that technology does to society and to people.

You treat it like magic.

I love the term handwavium because it describes the science in terms of magic. Handwavium is what powers unrealistic or impossible technology, such as faster-than-light travel, teleportation, and artificial gravity.

In conclusion, to create a rich and deep magic system, imagine how a scientist would study the magic and how a mad scientist would exploit it. You might discover a few plot points and a couple of awesome characters along the way.

Remember my mantra:

When writing science fiction and fantasy worlds, treat magic like a science and science like magic.

My favorite mad scientist author, Ryan Decaria

About today’s guest:

Ryan Decaria was raised on science fiction and fantasy novels and 80’s adventure movies. On rainy days, he sulks on the window, sill waiting for a treasure map, an alien buddy, and his own luck dragon. Ryan is the author of Devil in the Microscope and its soon to be release sequel, We Shall Be Monsters. He is also the host of the Meeple Nation podcast where he discusses the board game world. You can find him at madsciencefiction.com musing about how mad science uses the best bits of science fiction and fantasy at the same time.

Connect with Ryan:

Ryan’s Book: Devil in the Microscope

Bonus points if you can spot the rat in the picture!

When “science-fair-geek” Anika goes to live with her scientist father in a town built around his mysterious genetics laboratory, she is determined to prove herself worthy of his legacy. But all preconceptions about her new life are thrown out the window when Anika discovers her father is a megalomaniac living in a town populated entirely by mad scientists. Now Anika will have to navigate her way through a high school filled with vindictive evil geniuses, deadly science projects, and unspeakable human experimentation. Relying on her wits, scientific know-how, and talented allies, Anika fights for her very life, and the lives of her new friends. Will Anika have to become like her mad scientist father in order to save the day?

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