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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Inside the Head of an Author, by Holli Anderson

Artists and creatives, including writers, come in all different varieties. Some are organized. Some work fast. Some like to follow their muse all over the place. Some have unique rituals they follow. What we all have in common is a passion for creating our own unique form of art.

Holli Anderson, friend and Chief Editor at Immortal Works Press, is here to talk about what it’s like to be an author with a chaotic creative mindset, and to give us a tour of her creative space.

The talented and amazing Holli Anderson

Inside the Head of a Writer

By Holli Anderson

Hi! I’m so happy to be a guest here on Jodi’s blog! I’ll start with a short introduction. My name is Holli Anderson, I write YA and MG under this name that happens to be my real name. I write Adult Romantic Suspense under the name H.L. Anderson – which is my real name using initials…

Besides being an author, I’m also a mom to four grown boys, a grandma to a girl (who is nine and a half and can’t wait until she turns eleven and receives her Hogwarts letter – because I am that awesome of a grandma) and a boy (age five, and whose sister and I are indoctrinating into an HP lover as well), a wife to one man-boy, a registered nurse, and Chief Editor of a small publishing company. The reason I tell you all this is; it might help explain why my mind is in such continual chaos.

Now, back to my head. My brain is always running a million miles an hour in a gazillion different directions. It can sometimes be difficult to grab an idea out of this pandemonium—that’s why I know, when I latch onto an idea that shines brighter than the rest, it must be a GREAT idea. That’s when the plethora of notebooks I keep hanging around come in handy, they’re where I write these GREAT ideas down (moment of truth here: they aren’t always GREAT ideas, sometimes they turn out to be GROAN-WORTHY ideas when I go back and look at them later).

There have been times when I’ve been somewhere I can’t write an idea down – like driving, or in the shower – during these times of immense duress I have to resort to repeating the idea over and over in my mind until I can get to where I can safely (and dryly) write it down. The book I’m working on right now was one such GREAT idea. My husband knows this is what’s happening when I burst through the door after work and show him the palm of my hand as I frantically dig through my backpack to grab a notebook and pencil (yes pencil—all GREAT ideas must be written in pencil). 

(FYI—as I was writing the above paragraph a FOX ran down the sidewalk across the street and partially into a neighbor’s yard before taking off the way it had come. I had to run outside to tell my husband and son, who are changing brakes on a car—and they didn’t believe me!)

This is getting a little longer than I had planned, but I need to explain one more thing about this author’s head. EVERYTHING around me, every trip to the store, every date with my husband, every walk around the neighborhood—everything—can be turned into something to do with Harry Potter, Supernatural, LOTR, or The Avengers. EVERTYTHING. Drives my husband crazy. How many times he’s said to me, “You know that isn’t real, right?”

That’s when I mumble “Muggle” under my breath and continue on.

The pictures scattered throughout this blog are pictures of my office/library. I think they help explain my head to you. This is the room that calms me. Makes me smile. Helps me write. It’s my favorite room in the house.

Oh, and, in case you want to check out the end result of all of this “chaotic thinking,” feel free to buy my newest release, a YA Superhero/Dystopian novel titled MYRIKAL.  Here’s the Amazon link to make it easy:  https://www.amazon.com/Myrikal-Holli-Anderson-ebook/dp/B07M6GKJ5J/

And here are some other places you can find me:

A virtual tour of Holli’s creative space

This a view of ¾ of my desk from above.
This is what sits directly in front of my computer when I’m writing.
The right corner of my desk
The left corner of my desk.
On top of one of four bookshelves.
Second row of same bookshelf.
Third row of same bookshelf.
Fourth row.
Fifth row (that’s an umbrella there next to all of Brandon’s books).
I had to show you my Sorting Hat!
Wall and shelf behind my desk (did I mention I like Supernatural?).
Wall and another shelf behind my desk.
Life-size Dean, always giving me that brooding stare from beside my desk.

A huge thank you to Holli for sharing about herself today. If you’d like to learn more, be sure to head over to her webpage and other social media.

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Within the Pages, by Rae

People are like books, containing journeys, adventures, and hidden turns. Today’s post is about the journey of a young entrepreneur working to make the world of reading a little bit brighter.

Rae was kind enough to help me with my book launch last year and I finally got around to thanking her formally and letting her share her voice here on my blog. Go check out the awesome post she did for me on her website.

Within the Pages

by Rae

I could start off from the very beginning of my book journey with my grandma’s reading challenge the summer before high school. I could continue with my plunge into writing and fanfiction and the overwhelming consuming of the #feels that come with author admiration, character boyfriends, and more. From there I can spin my web of story telling to encompass my writing journey at college and all that I did there – successes and mishaps. Following college my writing took a nose dive into a pill of forgotten story ideas while my blog burped under my relentless pursuit of being a book blogger and becoming a part of a community I admired and feared. And yet, where am I now?

You see, everything that has happened has shaped me into who I am today – a freelance editor with a young business, a reader buried under her TBR list, and a writer struggling to type a sentence while ignoring the imposter that whispers in both ears. Let’s not even go into the MFA rant because believe me…it’s complicated.

From a book challenge till now as I type this, has been intense, scary, beautiful, heartbreaking, and ironic. I tried so long to ignore my voice, ignore the stories…and still books brought me home.

Now it might sound corny, but bear with me here. As a reader we all have at least one book that sticks with us. You know exactly what I mean. That book that haunts you from the shelf, that sneaks into your dreams or daydreams, that influences an action when you find yourself floundering to react in a situation. Then of course there are the book boyfriends and idols we all want to be but can’t figure out how to find them within ourselves or others. But I digress here.

Each one of my roles – editor, reader, writer – all lead me back to the story, the words on the page that entice me to tears, provoke me into a rage, that shield me from reality when life gets too unbearable. I look for the book that doesn’t let me go, that I suffer through a book hangover for days trying to pick up the pieces and connect the what if this or that had happened. I look for the book that glares at me from my shelf and I glare back because how did it get so far under my skin? I need the happy ending. I need the realistic ending. I need the ending where it is such a cliff hanger that I want to hook up a bungee cord and make the leap because I know the story has got to be continuing.

As an editor I want to help that story grow and be ready to face the world.

As a reader I want my reviews to shower reflection and insight.

As a writer I want my story to leave an impact of some kind.

Will it be pretty? No. Will it be perfect and loved by all? Nope.

But that is the beauty of it. Writing is messy. Books are messy. Being a fangirl, reviewer, bookstagrammer, editor, and so on is messy. Take the good and the bad and go with it. That next book is waiting for you. Go find it or go better yet – write it.

About today’s guest –

Rae is a writing and reading instructor at an elementary school by day, freelance editor by night, and fangirl at every other available opportunity. She always knew books were her passion, well after her grandmother’s challenge to read a book a day, and obtained her B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Arcadia University. Currently, she’s drowning in her TBR list, deciding on whether or not to go for her MFA, outlining her would be novel, and expanding her freelancing business while looking for more bookish things to get involved with. She is active on Twitter, Instagram, and sometimes Facebook when she remembers.

You can connect with Rae at the following links:

Rae offers freelance editing!

A New Look On Books is a professional freelance editing service that aims to get manuscripts ready for querying and publication.

A testimonial about her services –

“Rae’s sample edit exceeded my expectations. To say that her instincts were spot-on is an understatement. She immediately “got” my characters, had a sense of where I was going, and offered suggestions that immediately tightened up my manuscript.  If you’re searching for a qualified and passionate editor who will challenge you to make your book better, look no further.”

— R. Bazylak @bazlactica

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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.

Supporting that Writer in your Life

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Chances are one of your friends or family members have decided to take the path less traveled and have started to write seriously. They work from their home office or a laptop on the kitchen table and work on their ideas during every spare minute they can get. They might have another job that pays the bills or the support of a loving spouse that enables them to pursue their dream.

Writers come in all varieties, ranging from the uncommitted hobbyist who maybe spends a handful of hours a month or less on their craft, to the professional who writes full-time.  I fall in the middle somewhere. Most of my day is spent trying to squeeze in a few hours of writing work between caring for my 3-year-old who likes lots of attention, keeping the house fed and the family clean. When I am writing, that work is divided between blogging, drafting new ideas, manuscript editing, beta reading, book reviews, and self promotion.

While I can’t find any balance between my writing and normal life, perhaps you can help the writer in your life find theirs.

Here are a few helpful articles to help you with that writer in your life:

Waiting for Perspective

I am now two weeks into a self imposed six week break away from my manuscript and random scenes and characters are still wandering through my head.  Taking a break between drafts is important because it helps me regain needed perspective and distance. While writing I get too close to the story and can no longer see what’s on the page as compared to what’s in my head.  The best way to overcome this is time away.

800px-Sharpened_PencilTaking a break doesn’t come without a downside. The other night one of my characters brought up a plot error, an action that didn’t make sense for the character in question. I wanted him to be wrong and ignore the problem but he wouldn’t let me alone. I didn’t pull out the manuscript, I know that’s what he wanted, so over the course of the day I mentally worked over the problem until something clicked. If I didn’t, I know he wouldn’t let me sleep.

Even with random characters haunting my steps, being away from the book has been a welcome change. I’ve finally had the time to work on some of my smaller projects and see progress there. The one short story I’ve been editing is only a few pages from turning itself into a novella if I’m not careful. My goal is to have it finished and submitted to a few markets for publication before I return to work on the book. 

For the next four weeks I’m looking forward to continuing work on my short stories and taking a bit of a break before diving back into the gritty process of refining and editing the manuscript. After this draft it will be ready for beta readers! As much as if terrifies me, I’m looking forward to getting some real world feedback.

Retreat!

This weekend I attended my first ever writer’s retreat high up in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. For the first time in years I had hours of uninterrupted time to sit and work on my book.   It came at a great time as well, for the past few weeks I’ve whittled away at the final scenes and not made any progress. Being away from my crazy normal life gave me a chance to clear my head and think through the different emotions and images that have eluded me.  Now I just have one concluding scene, and this draft is finally done!

Not only was this my first retreat, but I was also on the committee.  If fact if I hadn’t been, I probably wouldn’t have been able to justify going. Having invested many hours organizing and finding answers to questions, I was all the more committed to make this retreat a success.  It turned out fabulous, if I do say so myself.  Everyone seemed happy, the food was wonderful, there was plenty of free time to write and to spend time chatting with fellow writers.

There really is nothing like being around people who share the same passion.  It creates a closeness that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else.  Working together to make each other’s writing better and sharing ideas creates bonds of friendship that last.

I give out a huge thanks to those who made it possible and our awesome speakers who shared wonderful insights into their writing and the craft itself.  Working with and getting to know these wonderful women has been a delight.

The retreat has recharged my creative batteries and I feel ready to tackle my writing projects once again!

Retreat photo