“Wednesday Writer” – Michael Young

When not teaching high school students German online, or practicing and performing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Michael Young writes stories. He has published at least four novels and three Christmas anthologies. In the middle of preparations for choir performances at the recently concluded General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was able to delve a bit deeper into his background:

Michael Young Author headshot

ME:  In your bio on your blog, it says you grew up traveling the world with your military father. Would you care to elaborate, including some details as to place and which branch of the military? Also, how did your mother fit into this picture? (And I’d love a picture or two of you as a child.)

MICHAEL:  My father was a pilot in the US Air Force. For most of his career, he flew the huge cargo plane known as the C-5. It’s big enough to carry tanks, buses, even satellites. It’s one where the nose comes down into a ramp so that you can drive vehicles directly into it.

(Oh, yes. They often show those in action movies.)

My father was gone all the time when I was growing up, traveling all of the continents, even Antarctica on one occasion. My saintly mother stayed home with the children, of which eventually there were eight. She had a huge task just keeping everyone healthy and happy, especially when my dad’s planes broke down overseas, which they often did.

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 9.02.10 PM(Michael as a child)

We moved all over the United States, but then also lived in Japan for a time. While we were there, we visited many of the neighboring countries and learned to love a whole new kind of culture.

Later in my life, I then lived in Germany and came to love Europe as well.

(And it must be wonderful to visit there on tours with the choir!)

ME:  Which country was the most memorable and why? Do any of these countries figure into your fiction and, if so, how?

MICHAEL:  Germany has had the most lasting impression on my mind. I have always been a student of history and it opened my eyes to see so much history up close in Germany.  I grew up thinking or dreaming up stories about castles and then I got to actually explore them.

neuschwanstein castle germany 5(Such as the well-known Neuschwanstein Castle in southwest Bavaria)

Germany and Germans have featured in my stories, especially my Canticle Kingdom series, in which the music box on which the story is based was made in Germany by two German craftsmen.

(I thought so. :D)

ME:  Where did you go to high school and what kinds of extracurricular activities were you involved in? If theater was one, how has that affected your writing? (I’d love to post a picture of you in a play or show.)

MICHAEL:  Performing arts factored heavily into my high school career. Not only did I do the auditioned choirs (Madrigals, show choir, jazz choir), but I also did a lot of drama and musical theater. (Why am I not surprised?)

I did something like eight shows in high school, and often had pretty good roles. On top of that, I played in a handbell choir for my last two years of high school, and had a blast ringing the huge bass bells.

71655_10150098334514428_3758071_n(Michael in a more recent dramatic role…Any guesses as to his character?)

Being in the theater has had a great impact on my writing, as it helps me think of my books as having scenery, characters, and scenes. It helps me look at writing in a different way that I might not had I not worked in the theater.

ME:  When did you first realize you might want to be a writer, and what made you think that?

MICHAEL:  I first realized this in high school, when I had a great writing class by a teacher who was also named Mr. Young. I decided that I wanted to go ahead and try to write a novel just to see if I could make it happen. It took about a year, but I managed it, and it turned out better than I had expected.

ME:  What was the premise of that novel, and what became of it?

MICHAEL:  That first novel is called Face Value and it is about a man who feels responsible for his brother’s death and gets the chance to redo the past. He manages to save his brother, but when he comes back to the present, he finds that his brother instead was the one who married Christine, who had been his wife, but also that his mother, who had died of cancer, had managed to survive.

I’ve been releasing this one a chapter at a time through JukePop.com, and hope to release it as a few ebooks. It was a very long book, so I would definitely need to break it up.

ME:  Tell us a bit about your first published novel, THE CANTICLE KINGDOM, and how it got onto bookstore shelves. How does it relate to THE CANTICLE PRELUDE?

The Canticle KingdomMICHAEL:  I wrote THE CANTICLE KINGDOM in the year after I returned home from living in Germany. Once I had finished the manuscript, I took it to a publisher’s fair at BYU and pitched it to Cedar Fort. It didn’t take them long to get back to me, and the rest is history.

The Canticle PreludeI wrote THE CANTICLE PRELUDE later as a set of prequel stories to THE CANTICLE KINGDOM, because many people told me they wanted to hear more of the backstory. The next book in the series, THE FROZEN GLOBE comes out this month.

(If mystery or suspense are involved, you’ll have to let me feature it here on my blog.)

ME:  What gave you the idea for THE LAST ARCHANGEL, and can we expect a sequel?

The Last Archangel

MICHAEL:  I’ve always loved lore about angels, and my time in Europe only made me more curious about it. I wanted to do something that differed from the other angel stories I had heard about, so I set out to create my own spin on the angel story, making the main character a destroying angel, with the chance to spare or to destroy. I have written it into a trilogy and the other two books will be coming out this year and next year.

(Terrific!)

ME:  Okay, why fantasy and science fiction, as opposed to other genres?

MICHAEL:  These genres let my imagination run rampant. I have complete control over every aspect, which is something I find exciting. (Yes, writers tend to be control freaks.) World building, magic/technology, and fantastic settings are all things that motivate me to write.

ME:  Please describe your typical writer’s day and tell us what you’re working on now.

MICHAEL:  I usually plop down in my favorite chair (see last photo in the interview) at the end of the day once my two kids have gone down and write until I drop.

Right now, I’m working on a few non-fiction projects, a YA Supernatural novel and revising an adult fantasy about people who have both natural and magical hunger. That in addition to a sacred oratorio, three different musicals, short stories, articles…as you can see, writing is a major part of my life.

(Apparently!)

ME:  Besides your writing, what do you do to fill your time and support your family? Also, please describe your writing space. (And I must have a picture of said space.)

MICHAEL:  My favorite writing space has to be my recliner in my living room. I write best when I’m comfortable, and in a familiar place where the things about me don’t distract.

photo(Now that’s a comfy chair!)

In addition to writing, I still do theater work from time to time (that explains the photo of Michael in costume), and most of the rest of my time goes to work as an instructional designer of German courses, and singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I’m pretty busy, but my life is full of great things.

All of Michael’s books are available on Amazon, and you can find out more about the author from his Canticle Blog.

Check back next week when I interview inspirational writer, Teresa Hirst.

Teresa Hirst

Originally posted 2014-04-09 06:00:48.

“Saturday Suspense” – THE DARK EAGLES: WELLS IN DESOLATION

Wells in Desolation Book Cover

David R. Smith’s sequel, THE DARK EAGLES – WELLS IN DESOLATION, is now out and available on Amazon in hardback or Kindle version. Here’s a quick look:

Synopsis

With his faithful friends and mystical stone, Kief sets out on his greatest adventure yet, to seek passage across the dangerous seas in search of the dreaded Wells in Desolation. But there is more to fear than enemy soldiers and the pillaging rogues of the sea as others seek the power of the stone.

Kief encounters new friends that help him along his journey and reveal secrets about his past and destiny. But one truth threatens to doom the fate of The Dark Eagles…

Excerpt

The wind howled, the long pine branches bending and pitching in the darkness. The streets were empty save the dancing shadows from the flickering lampposts.

“Who is that?” Tarc whispered above the whistling wind.

“I have no idea,” Kief replied, taking cover behind the tree.

The figure mounted a black horse; the great animal dressed on its head and chest with tarnished steel plates of armor that cast dull reflections in the lamplight. On the horse’s bridle were long decorative tassels; behind him he carried heavy saddlebags, as if he’d journeyed from afar. Swift as the winds that blew, the mysterious stranger galloped past Kief and Tarc…

Author

David was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and spent most of his childhood on a farm in Heber City, located in the Wasatch Mountains. He loved exploring the mountains on his horse looking for adventures to follow. Growing up, he wanted to be a movie director and used his own Super 8 camera to make silent movies with his friends and brothers and sister. Instead, he earned a Bachelors in Engineering at the University of Utah. While there, he met the love of his life, Jenelle, and they were blessed with three amazing sons: Josh, Tate, and Porter.

David later earned his Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University and pursued a path in the corporate world. But his creative side continued to tug at him for years until finally, through the encouragement of his wife and boys, he realized that it’s never too late to follow your dream. So David set off to write an epic adventure of a boy and his horse and created a story of freedom, adventure, love, courage and sacrifice. When he’s not writing, David enjoys outdoor activities with his family, and especially loves surfing with his three boys in Southern California where he resides.

David Smith Ocean PhotoYou can learn more about David and his writing by checking out his website. And if you’re interested in the first book in the series, THE DARK EAGLES – FIRST FLIGHT, read my interview with the author or click here.

Originally posted 2014-03-08 06:00:40.

“Wednesday Writer” – Anna del C. Dye

Anna del C. Dye writes fantasy fiction, focusing almost entirely on elves.

Anna5B

This interview is part of a blog tour by Anna, in which she is doing a Book Giveaway from February 24th to March 8th. You have a chance to win one e-book of her latest fantasy novel, THE ROILDEN STONE OF ELF MOUNTAIN. It will be given for each stop in this tour and international entries are welcome. To enter, simply “like” the book trailer below and leave a comment after the interview, including your e-mail address.

ME:  What was your childhood like growing up in Valparaiso, Chile? And did you and your twin sister, Elena, stay there throughout your youth and adolescence, or did you move to other places. If so, please describe them.

ANNA:  It was a bit lonesome. My mother died when we were six years old and our father took care of the two of us and my other three siblings. He was quite hard to please and we weren’t allowed to have friends. We moved to the country and spent ten years there, but we were still in Valparaiso (the “county” versus the “city”), just not on the coast anymore.

Anna and sister(Anna is the shorter one on the left)

ME:  I was aware of your mother’s death and that you’re uncomfortable looking back on your childhood, but I’m convinced that what we write cannot help but reflect our roots in some way. How is your writing a reflection or commentary on your past?

ANNA:  I was never told I was loved while growing up. Yet now, I have had many readers comment on how deeply my characters love. One even said that I knew what love was all about. I suppose that my growing up like that had a lot to do with how I perceive love.

(That’s the beauty of fiction. We can insert everything we’ve ever wanted.)

ME:  When did you first begin making up stories of your own, and can you share the gist of the first story you ever wrote?

ANNA:  My husband suggested that I write children’s books because he thought I would be good at it. I tried a few times, but it never took off. Many years later, I traveled to Florida with him and, while he participated in his work conference, I sat under a Magnolia tree and wrote “Princess Magnolia.” Magnolia’s two ladies-in-waiting also have names of flowers. It is complete, but needs a lot of work.

(Most first efforts do. :D)

I will work on that story one of these days and publish it. We were staying at the Dolphin–a Walt Disney hotel–when that happened.

ME:  What circumstances led to your move to the United States at age 21? And how did you meet your husband?

ANNA:  I met my husband while he served a mission in my country. Two years later he brought me here, and two weeks later we were married in the Salt Lake Temple. That was thirty some odd years ago. Ours is a conversion story and is published in the anthology Angels Around Us by Judy C. Olson, published by Covenant, and entitled Why Him?

Anna and husband(Anna and her husband in front of the Salt Lake Temple)

ME:  Okay, why elves, and when did you first begin to focus on them?

ANNA:  My son introduced me to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings many years ago, and I fell in love with it. I was so curious to know more about all the characters, especially the elfs (elves), that my husband got tired of my questions and he cried, “Make your own answers.” So I did. Two days later, I had THE ELF AND THE PRINCESS drafted—all in my head.

Trilogy Book 1ME:  Tell us about your elf series and any other books you’ve published. Is there a common theme in each book?

ANNA:  The Silent Warrior Trilogy is about a princess whose kingdom is destroyed while she is learning to sword fight. We follow her life as the warrior and as the woman for about seven years within the three books. However they are stand-alone.

Trilogy Book 2(Book 2: TROUBLE IN THE ELF CITY)

Trilogy Book 3

(Book 3: ELFS IN A CONQUERED REALM)

The rest of the books in the series are totally stand-alone stories with different characters, situations, and different times than the Trilogy. They all take place in one of the two elf kingdoms in the world I created.

Curse of the ElvesA Royal Elf of AbalonShahira & the Flying ElfsThe Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain(This is the one being offered in the giveaway)

I also wrote an elementary age book named EMERINE’S NIGHTMARE. It is about a twelve-year-old boy on a dangerous journey to a mysterious place full of magic and magic creatures that want him, and he doesn’t know why. This particular story is an electronic book only.

Emerine's NightmareME:  In your latest, THE ROILDEN STONES OF ELF MOUNTAIN, which concludes your series, what challenges does your main character face?

ANNA:  Actually, THE ROILDEN STONES OF ELF MOUNTAIN is the prequel to my elf series. I just never felt that it should be the book that I should publish first. So, in this book you will see the elfs after they first move to this new land and how they try to change their culture to fit in, and how ultimately they find themselves and grow into the race they become in all my other books. So their beliefs and reasons to be who they are now come from lessons learned in the story of this book.

Arland is the main character, and he and his people live in exile from the main elf city where they opposed monarchy. His hope is to unite their people once more and have the council of houses be restored. When he visited the Gold elfs in the main city, however, he found a bigger problem. The queen and her only daughter had disappeared, and with them The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain.

These stones are the sole component that keeps Andoriah’s weather pattern balance. When they were removed, the land stopped having rain and the heat rose to dangerous levels. Arland wants to find and return the stones, and he hopes that this act will ensure the return of his elfs to the main city and from there to a change in their government. His two elf friends and three gnomes unite to save all of Andoriah’s races from a fiery furnace.

(Sounds good!)

ME:  Which fantasy author do you admire the most, and why?

ANNA:  Tolkien, for he opened my mind to a world I never knew existed—a world that gives me the very air I breathe.

ME:  Do you follow a daily writing routine, and how would you describe it? Please include your process and whether or not you outline.

ANNA:  I write by inspiration. Usually all is in my head before I start a new story.

I have a lot of promotion to do, my blog, and helping other authors; so I write my books when I have time. Usually when my two girls (granddaughters) are having a nap. There were times when I wrote for six hours straight and I could produce a book draft every three months, but today is not that time. Today is my time to love and care for my family. I enjoy my grandma role very much.

(And I’m sure you will reap greater returns from that role than any publishing you may do.)

ME:  Finally, I’d love it if you could describe your favorite writing space in the voice of one of your favorite elves.

ANNA:  I am Tadren, son of Somir of Lothia.

Tadren

My study nestles between the colorful walls of my memory. There you will find the most fertile ground for my imagination in contrast to my past. Seated in the comfort of a daybed, I enjoy the pleasant days in company of my dreams. My heart flies on the wings of adventure to a higher realm where the heroes await my return every day. My ancestors’ likenesses rest upon the walls of this room. Their wisdom is passed on in the many parchments that rest their dusty pages on my shelves. The tree branches, swung by the breeze outside my window, bring a lullaby to set my mind at peace and that is when I go on.

(Very peaceful. :D)

Check out more about Anna and her books on her website. You can purchase her latest, THE ROILDEN STONES OF ELF MOUNTAIN either there or on Amazon.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing romantic suspense author, Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Originally posted 2014-02-26 11:35:49.

“Wednesday Writer” – Tami Franklin

Tami Franklin, better known to her readers as T.M. Franklin, writes stories with a liberal sprinkling of romance, mystery, adventure, and a touch of magic. She hovers between fantasy and contemporary fiction, between full-length novels (even series) and short stories. Let’s see what we can learn about the mysterious T.M., shall we?

T.M.FranklinME:  Please describe your childhood, where you grew up, and your first memorable encounters with fiction. (And I’d love a picture of you as a child, with or without your family.)

TAMI:  I was born in Seattle, WA and grew up in Washington state, with a brief foray into California. I lived with my parents and younger sister, who never ceased to drive me insane. (Isn’t that what families are for? To test our social limits?)

I was always a voracious reader as a child – some particular favorites included What the Witch Left, by Ruth Crewe and Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, among many others. (Aha! The early fantasy influence) I loved stories with a little bit of mystery to them – a little magic that had you wondering, “What if that happened to me?” I guess that explains why I now write those kinds of stories.

(Exactly!)Image(Tami as a little girl…hasn’t changed much, has she?)

ME:  Who among your family or acquaintances first encouraged you to pursue writing?

TAMI:  Although my family has been quite supportive, it was an online community of writers and readers that first really encouraged my fiction writing. In fact, it was a friend online who initially recommended me to what is now my publisher.

(Now that’s a first among all I’ve interviewed thus far. Others have talked about their writing groups, but Tami found hers online. A writer’s own group of colleagues, online or in person, can really make a difference!)

ME:  What was your first childhood ambition and what led you to broadcast journalism (a major I also pursued in college)?

TAMI:  Well, I wanted to be a princess when I was a little girl, but eventually learned that was probably an impossible goal.

Initially, when I went to college, it was with the intention of studying pre-med. My first college chemistry class cured me of that goal, however. (Not surprised.) I took a journalism class to fulfill a basic requirement and decided that was the road I’d like to take.

ME:  Please summarize your career in television and share how that experience has helped you in your fictional endeavors. (I’d love a picture of you with your Emmy Awards.)

TAMI:  I worked for nine years in TV news, as both a newscast producer and what’s called a “special projects” producer, which means I put together special reports and series for ratings periods and special broadcasts. I had semi-moved into a management position as a senior producer of the morning newscast when I decided to leave the newsroom behind when my son was born.

My Sad Broken Emmys(Her sad broken Emmys…fragile, but still powerful)

I find that the writing style I developed for television – shorter, conversational sentences with minimal filler and no “flowery” language – has definitely impacted my fictional style as well, I tend to write how I speak.

ME:  Tell us a bit about your first “unsuccessful” novel. What led you to write it and how did you come to the realization that it wasn’t good enough?

TAMI:  It’s still on my computer! It was about a TV news producer (go figure) who found out the apparent suicide of a software billionaire wasn’t quite what it seemed. I queried it unsuccessfully to a few agents and it was one of those agents who encouraged me to keep writing and hone my skills.

That novel was set aside and I started something new – and since have written quite a few other stories – and it was only after going back and looking at it that I really understood why it didn’t make the cut. I might go back to it at some point and try to clean it up. It’s just hard to make time for it when I have so many other stories running around in my mind.

MoreME:  Please share the story of how you came to write your first published novel, MORE, and include a bit about the storyline.

TAMI:  I started writing MORE as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenge. For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo – it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I decided I wanted to try to write another novel during November of 2011.

(Good for you. I’m such a slow writer that I’ve never had the guts to try NaNoWriMo.)

I knew I wanted to write about something with ties to myths and legends, so I started thinking about what if some of those legendary creatures were real? What if they lived today? If they were around, why wouldn’t we see them? Where would they be and what would they be like? That was the initial inspiration for the First Race in MORE. Then I thought, what if their survival depended on secrecy, and a normal girl found out about them? What if they saw her as a threat?

(As any good journalist knows, all it takes is asking the right questions to get you hooked into a great story.)

From there, I put together a rough outline and started writing MORE on November 1, 2011. I made my 50,000 words during that month and finished up the novel in early 2012.

(Congratulations!)

The GuardiansME:  How does its sequel, THE GUARDIANS, carry the plot forward?

TAMI:  In MORE, Ava Michaels finds out about The Race and begins to see how she fits into this secret world hiding in the shadows of our own world. In THE GUARDIANS, she discovers more about why she was hidden in the human world in the first place. She’s got a lot on her plate – the rebel Rogues are after her, the Race’s Ruling Council still wants her, the cops think she’s a killer, and her boyfriend, Caleb, has disappeared and is accused of betraying the Race. In order to survive and figure all of this out, Ava has to make some rather unlikely alliances.

(Sounds very well plotted and intriguing.)

Window

ME:  You’ve also written and published short stories—Window and A Piece of Cake. The former was an Amazon bestseller and the latter was included in the ROMANTIC INTERLUDES anthology.

Romantic Interludes

Which is harder for you: writing a novel or a short story, and why?

TAMI:  Oh, I would say a novel is definitely more difficult – especially a series like the MORE Trilogy. There is just so much more to keep track of – story arcs that carry on from book to book, as well as subplots that are resolved within a single book, not to mention all of the characters!

With a short story, it’s all so quick. There’s really only time for one main plot, and a handful of characters, so it’s much easier to focus on that. The downside of a short story is making sure the characters are sufficiently fleshed out. You have chapters and chapters to get to know a character in a novel. You really have to make your words count in a short story.

(Amen!)

ME:  Please describe your writing process and tell us what you’re working on next.

TAMI:  My writing process has really become pretty organized. I start with a three–page synopsis of the entire book (something that’s required by my publisher when I submit.) From that, I flesh out a chapter-by-chapter outline, then divide the chapters into scenes. I use yWriter5, a free writing software download that allows me to input the chapters and scenes, and then I can move them around, add notes, keep bios on the characters, etc. That’s a huge help for me.

(My author friend, Marsha Ward, first tipped me off to yWriter5. As a Mac user, I’ve moved on to Scrivener, but yWriter5 does work really well.)

Right now, I’m working on TWELVE, the third book in the MORE Trilogy. I just received a release date for that and it will be out October 9, 2014. I’m also working on a YA romance about a quirky boy who sets out – in a rather unique way – to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. It’s called How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You, and we’re still working on the release date for that one.

ME:  Finally, please describe your office or writing space in the voice of Ava, your protagonist in MORE. (And I must have a picture to see how it matches up.)

TAMI (as Ava):

Tami doesn’t write in an office or at a desk. She has her computer set up on her kitchen island. Why? Well, if you ask, she’d probably say it’s so she can spread out her notes, or so she can have a view of the back yard. The REAL reason, I’m convinced, is that she’s two steps away from the coffee machine. She may not have any writing rituals, but she guzzles coffee like there’s no tomorrow. Around noon, she switches to either water or Diet Coke, so amidst the papers and pens, you’ll often find a cup, glass, and can or two. It’s a little cluttered, but she swears she knows where everything is.

Image 1(Not too messy, I’d say)

By the way, Tami’s MORE was a 2013 Finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book Awards:

2013 Finalist

And here’s a peek at the book trailer:

If you’d like to learn more about Tami, check out her website, Facebook page, or Twitter page. You can also order any of her books on Amazon. In fact, if you’re interested, she’s offering a giveaway of both MORE and her latest in the series, THE GUARDIANS. The giveaway is good until December 2nd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Next week I’ll be back to interview best-selling author, Trina Boice, who specializes in nonfiction for LDS readers.

Trina Boice

Originally posted 2013-11-13 06:00:04.

“Wednesday Writer” – Candi L. Norman

Candi L. Norman, who writes under the pen name C.L. Norman, definitely has a love of books and is fortunate enough to work in our local bookstore. But I wanted to get to know the how and why of her fantasy writing.

Candi L. NormanME:  What was the first book you ever remember reading on your own, and which book gave you the idea of some day writing your own books?

CANDI:  Dr. Seuss’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish although my mom always said it was Green Eggs & Ham. I remember being fascinated by the guys who had to get their hair cut every day. (It’s so funny what particular detail in a story will capture a kid’s interest. Haircuts. Who knew?)

The book that gave me the idea of some day writing my own was never published. I loved books but I was intimidated by the idea of writing one. I mean only exotic people with lots of worldly experience can write these wonderful inventions called books, right? (Yes, that’s pretty much how we all regarded authors until we got published ourselves.)

Then my close friend in middle school showed me the rough draft of the first book in a trilogy she’d written. Wow! It was as good as anything I could pick up in the library and it was written by a girl in middle school. A girl like me. She wasn’t “old” or from some far off place where exciting things happened. That was when I knew I could write a book too.

(Now that you’re published, I hope you get her to see her own project through.)

ME:  Have you always lived here in the Tri-Cities? Please describe your childhood and the role that books played in your life. (I would love to post a picture of you as a child.)

CANDI:  I was born and raised here in the Tri-Cities, as were both of my parents. I come from a family described as ‘his, hers, and ours’ by my mother. I have five sisters and two brothers and I am the third oldest. I was also the reader in the family. Everyone made fun of me because I had my nose in a book at family gatherings and vacations. (Sounds familiar.) My uncles made a point of teasing me (and tickling me) just so that I would surface long enough to say hi.

My big brother loved to grab the book I was currently reading and remove the bookmark or close it, hoping I would lose my place in it. I learned to memorize the page number. As I grew older, I found that two of my grandmothers and my dad were readers too.  At that point, I loved to listen to them talk about books. They read different genres than I do but I adore listening to people I love talk about the books they love. It provides a glimpse into their soul that nothing else does. (Very true.)

CandiAge2(Candi at 2 and already looking at books)

ME:  How old were you when you first realized you were good at writing, and which individual(s) in your life provided your strongest encouragement?

CANDI:  I am still waiting to realize I am good at writing. I am still shocked when someone gushes about my stories. I keep working at it and hoping to get better with every word I write. (And that is exactly what will make you better and better.)

My big brother, Brian, was one of the first to encourage me to write. He said, “You should write a book. You read enough books you ought to know how to write a good one.” That might not seem like much but if Brian saw potential in you and pointed it out, you paid attention.

Brian Picture(Candi’s older brother Brian)

All of my friends are very encouraging, in particular my friends Shairylann and Veronica. (Hmm…I wonder if this is the Veronica I know.) They are both so very honest with me that when they admire my writing I can’t help but believe it. They are also very analytical and questioning which helps a ton when it comes to filling in the blanks in my stories.

Finally, the first time I shared my writing professionally was at a writer’s workshop at MisCon in Missoula, MT. I wrote a short story, Dragonslayers Anonymous, and turned it in to be critiqued by professional authors. Patricia Briggs was one of the authors who read my short story and she had a lot of good things to say about it. Since then she has encouraged me in my writing every time she sees me. Her husband even promised to build me a display case for my first print book. (How generous and what a terrific idea!)

ME:  Why fantasy?

CANDI:  Why not fantasy? I look at the fantasy genre as a door to almost every other genre out there. I can set a romance or a mystery or a horror story against a backdrop of the mystical. There are so many things I can do within the fantasy genre that I get excited at the possibilities.

ME:  Have you pursued any degrees having to do with writing? How important is the formal study of literature or writing, in your opinion, in an author’s career?

CANDI:  I have a degree in Social Sciences with an emphasis on English and History. Before I pursued that degree I was a drama major. (Now that’s key, in my opinion. I’ve found that so many great writers have a background in theatre.) While neither are directly for writing both have given me some insight into the process of creating characters and plot. (Agreed!)

In my opinion, a formal study of literature or writing is not necessary. Reading is where it’s at. Reading in your genre, reading other genres, reading non-fiction; this is how one learns about writing. I think that a degree in anything else will give a writer a sandbox to build ideas from. A college education gives you a lot of opportunity to people watch and exposure to new ideas which are also great things for a writer. But reading and reading a lot is where it’s at.

Unknown

ME:  Tell us a bit about the short stories that make up your anthology, IN DREAMS. How do they differ and how are they alike? Is there a common or recurring theme in your writing and, if so, how would you describe it?

CANDI:  Oh no, I’m back in English class. (LOL. I had to include at least one uncomfortable question to keep you on your toes.) I don’t write with a look to theme or mood or any of those words they use in literature classes. I write about characters in bad situations and then I kick them when they are down. IN DREAMS is a collection of the first five short stories I have shared with the world.

Dragonslayers Anonymous is the result of a writing prompt; describe your last day on the job. From that I came up with John St. George, an aging dragonslayer located in the Pacific Northwest, who is ready to retire but when a dragon attacks he can’t turn his back. Survive to Eat is a result of an open call for an anthology. It is my attempt at a gladiator story. It also covers the back story of a major character in a novel I am working on.

(Oh, goody. You are working on a novel. But these stories sound great too!)

Most of the stories in the anthology were inspired by nightmares I’ve had. Wolves in the Mist features a monster from a recurring nightmare I had as a young child. It is also the most horrific of my stories. Off the Path is about a young boy whose only influence is a man of extremely questionable morals and unusual appetites. Finally, Empty is about a character who is so lonely that it begins to affect his sanity.

The one similarity between the short stories in this collection is in the ending. None of them have happy endings with no strings attached. Every one of these endings is costly and the characters are scarred from what has happened.

ME:  Please tell us about your writing process in some detail and describe your favorite place to write. (I must have a picture of that place, whether it’s out in nature or inside your home.)

CANDI:  For me, it starts with a character in a situation. Once I have that, I sit down and start to write from the beginning. As I move through the story, I can see further and further ahead. When I pass the halfway point I begin to get an idea of the end. I keep pushing forward until I reach the end. Once the first draft is done, I make one more quick sweep through and then send it out to my beta readers to read. Once I hear back from them, I fix problems they point out if I strongly agree that it is a problem that needs fixed. Once that pass is done, the story is done.

I write in a recliner in my living room with a laptop. (I believe you’re the second author I’ve interviewed who writes in a recliner.) I frequently have music on or the TV running some background noise while I write. While I like the idea of an office, I hate being cut off from the rest of the family, stuck in a room away from everyone else. I prefer to write where I can listen to the rest of the family as they go about their day.

 photo

(Candi’s recliner in the family room)

ME:  Tell us about your full-length novel. Does this mean you’re leaving short stories behind, or are you sticking to the form and why? Now that Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, do you think the short story will become more popular again?

Unknown(Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro)

CANDI:  I definitely have plans for a full-length novel. I started with short stories to teach myself things about writing and about the business of writing. I will most likely continue to produce short fiction on occasion but I have always aimed to write novels.

I think the short story is already on the rise. Ebooks allow for more variety in the length of stories. I think really cool things are happening in fiction because of that and readers are responding. (I definitely agree.)

ME:  Finally, tell us about Rivers of Ink and how you came to be involved in this annual local writing conference?

CANDI:  Rivers of Ink is a local conference for writers that started off as a means to connect local writers with readers. Over the years, due to feedback from participants, it has become a venue for writers to learn from writers about the craft and business. It has no genre or format boundaries either. Poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of various lengths are all a part of this conference.

Unknown

I became involved by volunteering to set up chairs and show people to their seats. By the time that first conference rolled around, I was scheduled as a panelist and things rolled on from there. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate this year but I hope to again be a part of it in 2014.

(Me too, as long as I’m still living here.)

If you want to know more about Candi and her writing, check out her website and her FB page. Her anthology of short stories, IN DREAMS, is available in ebook form on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords.

Next Wednesday I’ll be talking with time travel author, Jeanette Bennett. Let’s hope you’re all on time!

Jeanette Bennett

Originally posted 2013-10-16 06:00:04.

“Wednesday Writer” – J. Lloyd Morgan

First of all, the J. stands for Jason (one of my favorite names… :D). Apparently another writer by that name started publishing first, so today’s featured author had to scramble for an original pen name. While he writes novels and is best known for his series that began with THE HIDDEN SUN, Jason has also written memoir and short stories. In fact, his story “The Doughnut” was one of the top five winners in the Parables for Today contest. But more about his short stories later.

Me:  First of all, how did you and your family weather Super Storm Sandy there in North Carolina? Anything in particular that you did to prepare? And did it live up to its billing?

Jason:  I posted this on Facebook on Monday, October 29th: “The storm to end all storms has moved beyond North Carolina–but not before I was frightened to death by the media outlets. Upon further reflection, I may have resorted to cannibalism too soon.”

To be fair, we were on the far edge of the storm–very little rain and some mild gusts of wind. We’ve had much worse storms that never got the national attention this storm received.

(Well, we’re glad you don’t live in New York or New Jersey…and Jason and I are both very sorry for those who got the worst of Sandy.)

Me:  You’ve said you’re dyslexic. How old were you when you were diagnosed and how did it impact your experience with reading as a youth? (Also, I’d love a picture of you at the age you were diagnosed.)

Jason:  Back in the day, dyslexia wasn’t really understood as it is now. There are different aspects of it–the common thread is how the brain processes information. In kindergarten, I failed “knows the difference between left and right.” Later, I did poorly in spelling. When I read and write, I add or leave out extra words that my mind sees as being (or not being) there. When I was in high school, we learned about dyslexia and it was like a revelation. After taking some tests, it was verified that I have a form of it.

Growing up, I felt stupid because other kids were able to spell words without really trying. I just couldn’t get it. It takes lots of practice and, frankly, spell check has allowed me to become a writer. (Let’s hear it for spell check!) Alas, I don’t have a picture of me at that age. (Oh, well. Disappointment happens.)

Me:  I see you were a BYU Communications major like me. Given the fact that you ended up on the broadcasting side before taking on novel writing, I’d like to hear how your experience in television has helped prepare you for your career as an author.

Jason:  While directing in the NYC area, I was able to meet a boatload of diverse people: politicians, entertainers, reporters and anchors, engineers, technicians–and many more. I’ve drawn on those experiences for characters in my books. (Hmm…I wonder which character was inspired by Dan Rather?)

Directing live TV taught me the importance of pacing. It’s another skill that has transferred from TV to writing. In addition, we had a saying: “5 o’clock comes at the same time every day.” Either you’re ready for the broadcast or not. It taught me to set deadlines and stick to them.

Me:  The first two books in your series, The Bariwon Chronicles, are already out–THE HIDDEN SUN and THE WAXING MOON–with the next story, THE ZEALOUS STAR, due in 2013. What is the premise of the series, the thing that ties all the books together?

Jason:  I wanted to create character driven stories where they couldn’t solve their problems using magic or modern technology. The books share a common, fictional setting during a fictional time, and are written to be stand-alone books tied together with overall plot points and moral themes.

They are told from multiple points of view, though with only one point of view at a time. Readers tell me they enjoy the twists and turns–and some have written me fairly strong letters about how upset they got with the main villain or the bad things that happen to the characters. (A true sign of success.) All was forgiven in the end, however.

Me:  Why fantasy? Who are some of your favorite fantasy authors and why?

Jason:  I smile when I’m asked this question. I, personally, don’t believe my books (aside from THE MIRROR OF THE SOUL) are fantasy. (Oops. My mistake.) Magic isn’t used and there are no non-human creatures in the books. They aren’t historical fiction, either, because they take place in a fictional land during a fictional time. The Bariwon Chronicles are really medieval fiction–how’s that for a sub-genre for you?

Authors that I read in the past that influenced me are Orson Scott Card, Grey Keyes and Gerald N. Lund. For current fantasy writers, I’ve really enjoyed the works of Kelly Nelson, Berin Stephens and Michael Young. (Hmm…more writers to tap for future interviews. :D)

Me:  You’re also working on a realistic novel based on an experience you had while on your LDS mission in Mexico. (And I’d love a picture of you taken while on your mission.) How is that coming along and what is the basic theme? Any other realistic novels in the works?

Jason:  WALL OF FAITH is completed and is in the rejection, er, submission phase. Here is the challenge: LDS publishers don’t want to touch it because it openly discusses real issues missionaries have on their missions. It doesn’t sugarcoat it. At the same time, it has a positive message and it’s not controversial enough for non-LDS publishers. I had one of my LDS beta readers tell me, “Thank goodness I didn’t read this before I sent my son on his mission. I just want to get a letter each week with him telling me everything is perfect and he’s having the best two years of his life.” For that reason alone, it needs to be published. (I agree, even though I currently have a daughter on a mission.)

Elder Morgan holding up a sign in Mexico

My current work-in-progress is realistic fiction. (More about that in a second.)

Me:  Tell us about your writing process and your current work in progress. (See?)

Jason:  Every story I write always starts with a “what if?” question. I get a general idea for the characters, setting and their final destination and then, I make it up as I go. I believe in the power of inspiration and discovery while I’m writing. Most of the best scenes I’ve written were spontaneous.

I plow through the first draft until the end. Then I let it sit while I work on another project. When I return to it, I rewrite it, often making drastic changes. The end result is usually quite different from the first draft.

My current work in progress is about a young man who moves from North Carolina to Utah right before his senior year in high school. He attends the same school where his mom and dad met–which brings with it certain pressures and baggage. I’ve set it in the late 1980’s (for a very specific plot reason) and so I’m having fun going retro with a lot of the elements in the book.

(I should have asked for a photo of Jason from the 80’s.)

Me:  Let’s say you’ve got a week with no access to pen, paper, or computer device. What would you spend your time doing and why?

Jason:  Well, I can interpret that question a few ways. I’m going to go with the idea that I’m not able to write for that week. I’d spend as much time as possible reading. I’ve found by reading different authors and genres, I improve as a writer. (Darn it. I should have cut off access to books and e-reader devices, as well. I’m just curious about what different writers do when they can’t read or writer.)

Me:  Please describe your writing space, particularly anything unique about it, and provide a picture.

Jason:  My wife and I share an office in our office. (That would never work for me. My husband loves company…and not in a quiet way.) I write using a wireless keyboard on my lap–don’t know why. On the wall above my computer monitor are copies of my books and awards I’ve won. They act as a reminder that I can do it, even if I’m struggling at the moment.

See all the awards? He CAN do it!

Me:  Finally, I’m curious about the book you’ve written based on the songs of Chris de Burgh–THE MIRROR OF THE SOUL–due out early next year. How did this project come about and what is the premise of the story?

Jason:  Chris de Burgh, known in the USA for “The Lady in Red” and “Don’t Pay the Ferryman,” has always been one of my favorite musicians. When the music scene changed in the 1990s his popularity in the States faded, but he still does very well all around the world.

Chris de Burgh with his guitar

In 2006, he released a LP called “The Storyman.” On it is a song called “The Mirror of the Soul.” It’s a nine minute epic, telling of a large diamond that lands in France just after the Hundred Years War. The person who finds it discovers it glows when he touches it. He brings it to a local, corrupt Abbot, who takes the diamond because he believes with it he can gain power and money.

It’s really a metaphor about how people in our day use whatever they can to get gain and the results of doing so.

When I heard this song, I thought, Wow, this would make a great book. I got bold and contacted Chris de Burgh’s management. It took some (okay, a lot of) persistence, but I got a response. They liked the idea and asked for an outline to share with Chris.

In order to flush out the song to a full novel, I incorporated many of Chris’s other songs into the book, weaving their tales with the main story. Chris loved it and gave his permission and blessing. (Lucky!!!) I’m very excited for its release.

Thank you for the interview! I enjoyed it!

Likewise. And I’m also excited to read THE MIRROR OF THE SOUL…along with your upcoming anthology of short stories, THE NIGHT THE PORT-A-POTTY BURNED DOWN (due out in December).

For more information about Jason, his family, and his projects, check out his website.

And next week, I’ll be interviewing Marsha Ward, whose fourth volume in the Owen Family Saga–SPINSTER’S FOLLY–just came out.

Originally posted 2012-11-07 06:00:57.

Revised Beginning of my Middle Grade Fantasy for Blogfest Contest

Okay, having read and absorbed the comments, plus the comments last night of my own critique group, I’ve rewritten my opening, which is a prologue, and am re-classifying it as YA Fantasy. I’ll leave the original below for comparison’s sake.

(New Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: YA Fantasy

Eight miles from Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs.

No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide. The adults in the group hung on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, and despite his high-pitched voice, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . “

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if the boulders were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground, and they treated it as such, much to the exasperation of Ralph and the security guard.

All save one boy who appeared to be sniffing the stones.

 

(Original Version)

Title: School of the Guardians

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Eight miles north of Salisbury in Southern England, a rather ordinary group had gathered to ponder an extraordinary circle of domino-shaped stones. Actually, it was a circle within a circle, and though it seemed in disrepair like most ancient sites, the crowd on this bright June morning had paid extra to walk among the huge slabs. No one saw one of the archways in the outer rim glow blue for a fraction of a moment. They didn’t see it because, for the most part, they were behaving like tourists, staying with Ralph Ettingham, their guide, and hanging on his every word, pronounced with a perfect Oxford accent, and weighted here and there with references to Latin or Medieval History.

Though not tall, Ralph seemed almost as big as the stones around them, despite his high-pitched voice. “Now according to Ælfric’s 10th century glossary, a henge-cliff meant a precipice. In other words, a hanging or supported stone. In fact, Stukely has pointed out in his notes . . . ”

There were a few children in the group and, as one may imagine, all they wanted to do was romp among the gigantic monoliths. It didn’t matter one whit to them if they were bluestones or sarsen stones. In their eyes, this prehistoric complex was little more than a fascinating new kind of playground. But then Ralph said something that stopped them in their tracks.

“You see, Stonehenge in Saxon means the hanging stones.” The beefy guide in his mid-fifties pointed to one of the inner archways.

Originally posted 2011-09-21 11:32:33.

“Wednesday Writer” – Serena Clarke

Last week I interviewed her mother, so this week, as promised, I’m talking with Serena Clarke, fantasy author and book cover designer for a small publishing group here in Southern Utah.

Serena ClarkeME:  Having just interviewed your mother last week, I can’t help but be curious about how influential her example as a writer was to you as you grew up? And tell us a bit about your early years, as well as your early experiences with writing. (Including a photo of you as a child, and you with your mom when you were younger)

SERENA:  I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, long before my mom became an author. I took creative writing classes throughout high school and college and I was constantly coming up with ideas for stories. I was mostly writing short stories because I never thought I would get a book published.

me(Serena as a young girl)

But when she became an author, she inspired my decision to get my books published. She has not only been a big inspiration, but also a big help in the whole publishing process. (I’ll bet! And I’ll also bet she’s been grateful for your help with covers!)

me and mom

(Serena with her mom, Linda Weaver Clarke)

ME:  Which authors (and we’ll leave your mom out of the equation) do you admire most and why? How have they influenced your own writing?

SERENA:  I have always loved fantasy and romance. I loved the idea of escaping into a world of magic and princesses and fairies. Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite fantasy authors. Ella Enchanted has always been one of my favorite books. I love the way she created a whole new world and she took a classic story and made it unique. Her style made me realize that as an author I can create my own world and come up with my own rules.

Gail Carson Levine(Gail Carson Levine, author of such works as Ella Enchanted)

ME:  Growing up in the red hills of Southern Utah, you might naturally be drawn to this kind of setting in your novels. Do you incorporate this kind of terrain (and please provide a picture of the scenery near your home) in your fantasy novels, and why or why not?

home(Her view of home)

SERENA:  I grew up surrounded by colorful, rugged mountains, fields of lava rock, sage brush, and creosote bushes. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful places to be. (Agreed!) But I don’t prefer to write what is familiar to me. If I write what is reality to me, it takes away from the fantasy world. I write about a world that I would like to visit.

(Interesting.)

ME:  Besides writing, you work with a group called Red Mountain Shadows Publishing. Please describe the group and your role there. (And I’d love to post a sample or two of your cover work.)

rmsp-logo-bw_big6

SERENA:  Red Mountain Shadows Publishing is a company that helps Independent Authors get their books into shape. We help with the editing process as well as the formatting and cover design.

treasure of isian2

(Book 1 of Serena’s fantasy series)

I do some of the editing, but my main role is as a Graphic Designer, designing the book covers. This is something I enjoy doing just as much as writing!

melinda2(And here’s a cover with a Western flavor)

ME:  Which plays a larger role in your stories—romance or fantasy? And can you see yourself writing in a different genre at any point in the future?

SERENA:  The romance and the fantasy go hand in hand. Usually what sparks the idea for a story is the idea of a developing romance. But what moves the plot line along is the fantasy.

For fun, I have written in many different genres and someday I may publish some of them, but I prefer fantasy. It is the most enjoyable for me.

ME:  Please describe the process you follow in drafting your stories. When it comes down to it, would you consider yourself an outliner or a “pantser,” and why?

SERENA:  I am definitely a “pantser!” As I go along, I may begin to sketch up an outline, but I rarely know where my story will lead me until I am there. I usually begin with a single idea or a scene and think “Hmm…that would make a good story.” So I will write down the scene and think, “Well, what now? How do I get to this point? What happens after this scene?” And then begins the real work!

ME:  What are you working on now and how far into it are you? Also, once this series is concluded, what’s next for you?

alliance of isian(Book 2 of the Isian Series)

SERENA:  I am currently working on the third book in the Isian Series. It is called The Secret of Isian. It should be out by the end of the year, fingers crossed!

What’s next? That is a good question! I have so many other books in mind and not enough time to write them all. So we will see what my imagination decides is priority when I get to that point!

(Since I somehow forgot to ask her the storyline of this series, here’s a quick blurb about the first in the series, THE TREASURE OF ISIAN:

Prince Garin is a brave, proud, adventure-seeking prince. Elani is his most trusted servant and she would do anything for him, even die for him. Their quest to find the mystical Treasure of Isian is immediately interrupted and they find themselves confronted by angry giants, soul-stealing elves, bewitched dragons, a vengeful water-witch, battling foes, and a mysterious kingdom. Elani must face her greatest fears to save her prince and her kingdom. Garin must decide what the most important things are in his life. Will they be able to make a great sacrifice to save the kingdom? And will Elani find true love? Become lost in the adventure, love, loyalty, and mystery of The Treasure of Isian!)

ME:  Finally, please describe your favorite writing space. (And I must have a picture.)

SERENA:  My favorite writing place is laying in the hammock outside my house. A big mulberry tree shades it and it faces the Red Mountain. Being in nature helps inspire my writing. It is most enjoyable in the spring and fall, but not so much in the summer when it is over 100 degrees! (Like today will be :@)

hammock(This is a first in my series–not just a chair or a bed, but a hammock!)

You can learn more about Serena, her writing, and book design on her website. Her books are available on Amazon but you’d do better to click here to get to them (since she’s not the only author named Serena Clarke).

And next week I’m excited to interview clean romance author Marie Higgins!

Marie Higgins

 

Originally posted 2014-05-28 06:00:31.