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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Discussing Worldview with Candace J Thomas

Today we are privileged to have my dear friend and fellow fantasy author, Candace J Thomas, here on the blog. Candace has been my cheerleader and spirit animal from the first day we spent time together behind Xchyler Publishing’s sales table at the 2015 Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium. At that point, she embodied everything I wanted to be. She had two amazing books and was working on the third, she radiated warmth and confidence, and she knew the industry.

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My big question for her is:

How has creating new worlds and characters changed your world view?

Candace’s answer:

This is a beautiful question.

There are two answers that I came up with.

My first answer – It’s all in the details. I am an observer of life. I’ve always been a people-watcher. People fascinate me, their mannerisms, drives, motivations. When building characters, I focus on these kind of things and strive to make them real, as real as if I knew them in high school.

Also, as an observer, the world becomes a more vivid and interesting place. I search for the interesting peculiarities to bring a more human experience – or basically, the Charm of things.

Currently, I am writing a story that takes place in Chicago. When I visited, there were little things I noticed, like how sidewalks wind around where trees are planted. It’s a charming fact that makes it interesting and human. Maybe the casual reader wouldn’t notice such a little detail, but I find it fulfilling and necessary to my stories. Adding charm is attractive to me.

When in Austin, I saw a side wall outside of bar completely littered with industrial staples where band flyers once hung. I admired the dreams that once were and wondered what happened to the thousands of dreams that came and went.

Nature is a big fascination to me. I like the veins in leaves and how they change color. I like watching fuzzy caterpillars slink across the tree branches, just wandering about their day. I like broken sidewalks and aged cobblestone. As an author, I have a responsibility to bring an experience to the reader. If I don’t add the little details, the bits of charm, I feel like I’m failing. You can find little details in everything I write.

As to the second answer – being an author, in general, has changed my world view. I’m a simple person, with a very simple idea of life, but I am driven by creativity. I view things differently and communicate in the language of art. I am also dyslexic, but that never changed my desire to be creative and write. It did bring challenges and insecurities to what I was trying to do.

I have always ached to be a writer and had the drive to do it and be successful. There are pros and cons to authoring. Becoming an author has pushed my private writing public. It takes me out of my comfort zone and brings this out-going character to the stage. As an author, there is no hiding your mistakes and insecurities in writing. It’s out there for readers, and every reader has an opinion.

I’ve had to learn that not everyone loves reading fantasy, and not everyone will like what I’ve done. I’ve really grown and matured over the last five years being published. I’ve become a confident author and mentor to others. I’m much wiser and more conscientious about how my name, as a brand, is perceived. It’s like I took the blue pill in the Matrix and I can never view the world as general as I did before. But on the flipside, I get to influence readers and creators every time they open my books. That is the very best feeling in the world.

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Headshot Full Body 8.13.17 Full Res

Want to connect with Candace? Of course you do, she’s awesome.

Links: 
Twitter: cjtwrites
Instagram: candacejthomas
News! Candace’s book, Everstar, will be released in Audio very, very soon. Watch these links:

Candace J Thomas is an award-winning of Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-fi. She is the author of the Vivatera Series and Hawkweed, published by Xchyler Publishing. Her debut novel Vivatera won the LUW Diamond Award for Novel of the Year. Her Paranormal Satire, Vampire-ish: A Hypochondriac’s Tale, was published July 2016.

Candace is a freelance editor of the award-winning Billy Blacksmith series by Ben Ireland. as well as founder of Shadesilk Press.

Candace is known for her extreme fanatical love for both Count Chocula and smart, witty writing that expands her imagination and makes her wish she had thought of the idea.

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Candace also hosted me on her blog in an Author Spotlight, go check it out!

Interested in doing a blog swap? Send me a line! Don’t worry, I don’t bite.

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Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. You can follow here on WordPress, or choose your favorite social media – I’m on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Interview with Neils Knudsen

cover with more colorAbout The Singing Stones of Rendor

Endowed with a magical ability not seen since the ancient Rendor Empire, life for K’Las just turned dangerous—and he’s not even born yet. His parents hide him in plain sight for several years until they learn of a plot to seize an heirloom and enslave the powerful magical voices that blend with the family treasure. The family manages to escape the clutches of cold-blooded zealots from the Grand Peer that chases them to one of Rendor’s mysterious great henges. A wild and shrewd wizard who hides within the henge, learns of the family’s secret treasure and vanquishes one of the zealots, but not out of altruism. He too is covetous of the powerful treasure the family holds dear. Trapped between a ruthless killer and a crazed wizard, K’Las must quickly learn to control his nascent skills to help his parents best their foes. If he can’t, it won’t matter which of their foes wins—his family will surely die. Even if he does succeed, the hostile and unstable world order will not permit such unrestrained magic.

My Review

I love a good fantasy that has me turning the pages and this book has done just that. Knudsen’s music based magic system is unique and different enough from those I’ve seen before to be intriguing. His colorful cast of characters are everything from quiet and brooding to dimwitted and gregarious, with lots of variety in between. If you like unique magic, good vs evil, and coming of age books, you will like this book.

An Interview with author Neils Knudsen

What was the inspiration behind The Singing Stones of Rendor?

There were two things that inspired the books.

In the first case I had the notion that I could write a fantasy story as well, and maybe even better, than what I read in some books. In nearly every fantasy novel I read I never really saw the source of the power behind the magic. In my more literal mind I could only see one real world way for it to happen

Vibrations. When I began this little project it seemed so simple. One of the aggravations I have with many fantasy novels is the lack of a solid foundation for the magic system with rules that cannot be broken. The groundwork that is made is often interpreted loosely and the magical characters/objects seem to have a limitless supply of power without suffering any consequences. I have some difficulty relating to them. I wanted to create a world with characters who had to develop their natural gifts just like any craftsman or athlete would—one step, one lesson at a time. So, I drew on my training in nuclear power and chemistry to build a magical universe.

I find the world of vibrations to be magical in itself. It goes right down to the smallest of all the known particles in the universe. To my knowledge no one knows for sure why they hum. So, it seems, in the fabric of our existence, there is a song being sung all around and in us. We just need to listen to find the magic within ourselves.

In the second case a life event spurred me into action.

In 2009, after a bout with cancer, my son challenged me to write a fantasy novel. I had never done any serious creative writing prior to that.

We bandied about for ideas in which I could include cameo’s of my grandsons and their antics. Over the next two years and 500,000 words of on-the-job education I figured I was pretty close to finishing the novel. I was wrong. The story read much like the poor writing I’d seen in books I disliked so much. So, the next two plus years, two gnarly editors who thrashed the story and a relentless muse who wiped the tears from my eyes, the book won two reaffirming awards from the League of Utah Writers. I then felt it was time to publish. Now I’m even more inspired than ever.

From your book, who is your favorite character?

If I told you that the others would never speak to me again. As the author I have to say I love ‘em all. Creating these characters has been some of the most fun I’ve had writing the story. My wife and muse, along with most of my readers, seem to like the giant forester, Maynard, the most. I tried to kill him off in the early drafts, but my muse insisted he live. It’s a good thing too, because a unique element in the magic system grew up around him. You’ll see that blossom a little more in book 2, “The Loom of Kanarrah.”

I can’t deny that I like Maynard, and his friend Bert, as well. Uncle Tomas and the old hengekeeper, Thaddeus Stonebreaker, share some character traits that I’ve really enjoyed developing. Their irascible natures just feel right. It’s all I can do to keep them from cussing at times and letting them foul up the whole plot.

The main character and protagonist, K’Las Campanill, and his parents have been the most interesting as far as developing their individualities. He takes a back seat in most of this first book as his parents try to protect and teach him while the world chases them. Just like in real life.

What makes you most excited as a writer?

Ah, the wealth, fame and personal accolades, of course. OK, that may be overstating it a bit—OK, a lot. Actually, I’m fairly reclusive by nature and would find that kind of excitement more than a little nerve wrecking.

The real excitement for me is finishing the book. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fun things that happen along the way while my characters tell me what’s about to happen next. They have always entertained and surprised me. At the end, though, if I know in my bones I’ve done the best I know how and the final project is entertaining and different, I’m satisfied. When my brother-in-law calls me up late at night and says he just finished reading it and loves it, I’m thrilled. So yes, accolades from peers and strangers really boosts my excitement level, too.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I’ve gone through phases of favorites books. When I was a kid I thought there could be no better book than “Old Yeller,” by Fred Gipson. When I got into Junior High School my interests turned to history and Bruce Catton’s “Centennial History of the Civil War.” During my enlistment in the US Navy I finally broke down and read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” That’s when I got hooked on fantasy—especially epic fantasy. I could not imagine anyone ever making a movie of that saga. I fell in love with the “Lord of the Rings” all over again when they finally did appear.

Through my adult life I’ve enjoyed Sci/Fi. When David Weber came out with his Honor Harrington novels I became hooked on military Sci/Fi. Someday when I grow up I’m going to write one of those.

Where can we learn more about your writing?

I have a humble little blog at http://nwknudsen.blogspot.com/ which I update sporadically—usually once or twice a month. I’m rather reclusive and like my solitude which isn’t a good formula for successful blogging. I’m still learning how to open up and present myself to the public.

Unless I become world famous and can hire a webmaster to keep a website up and pretty, I don’t plan on one in the near future. Nor do I twitter. I’m more of an observer of people than a mingler. That little quirk has served me well in creating my characters.

Although I do have a personal facebook page I limit friending to family, friends and a few other writers. However, I do keep an eye out for messages if someone wants to contact me.

When will the second book come out?

“The Loom of Kanarrah” should be out in late November or early December 2015. When I wrote the outline for it I realized the book will likely be longer than book 1. If so, and my editors don’t slash anything major, it may take a little longer. About a third of the book is drafted now. So far, my muse loves the plot and twists planned for it. If she likes it, I love it. I hope my readers will too. Stop by my blog occasionally and check the progress bar.

Any other books in the works?

Yes, a prequel for the series entitled “The Tenebrous Witch”. It tells the story of the old woman in chapter one of “The Singing Stones of Rendor.” If not for her none of the trilogy would have happened.

photoNeils Knudsen: Retired. Happy.Writer. After 30 years of writing procedures, reviewing proposed regulations, and other technical stuff, my wife and I have turned to the arts for fun and entertainment. I am a member of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Writers Chapter. For those not familiar with the name, “Oquirrh”, it is pronounced “oh-ker”. My wife and I have five children and a growing list of grandchildren. All are exceptional and we take great pride in each of them. Our grandkids have been invaluable resources for the characters in “The Singing Stones of Rendor.” I’ve been blessed with a wife who inspires me, coaches and encourages me. She comes from a large family of amazingly talented people. There are teachers, authors, a playwright, song writers, dancers, a national beauty queen and a dozen or two goofballs (I say that in the most loving of terms). You throw that crowd together and you get . . . great stories.

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Do you have a question for Neils? Leave it in the comments!

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Are you a fantasy author or artist?

I’m still looking for fabulous new talent to feature here on this blog. If you are interested either leave a comment or send me an email!