Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 10, October 2007, Halloween Special!

In this issue...

From Mayra's Desk...
"Bonefires or Bonefires? The Origins of Halloween," by Mayra Calvani
Author Jonathan Maberry
Short Story Writer Heather Ingemar
Author James Richard Larson
Book Reviews:
The Right Thing, by James Richard Larson (horror)
"A Slip of Wormwood," by Heather Ingemar (paranormal short story)

From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Readers,

First of all I would like to thank everyone who voted for my story, THE DOLL VIOLINIST, at the ABC's Children's Picture Book Competition! Your support meant A LOT to me and I'm hoping to win. The winner will be announced on the 8th of October, so I won't know until then. As for the winners of my drawing, please check my blog, Mayra's Secret Bookcase, for the announcement. Many people voted every single day and I really wish I could have gifts for everyone who so faithfuly suppported me. I have to say these past two weeks were incredibly stressful with me networking constantly to garner votes, so in that sense, I'm GLAD the voting period is finally over.

This month I will be just as busy going on my first virtual book tour. When will I have time to sit and do some writing? It seems all I do lately is spent most of my time promoting in one way or another. I'll have to do something about this! :-)

I hope you enjoy this Halloween Special of the Fountain Pen. I tried to fill it with all kinds of 'creepy' stuff. October is one of my favorite months--the red, browns and yellows, the fallen leaves all over, the cool crisp air, the spicy aroma of cinammon from a warm kitchen. I enjoy decorating the house, carving pumpkins and making pumpkin pies. Plus, it means that Christmas is just around the corner.

Take care and have a safe and fun Halloween!



*I just started another blog (yep, I'm getting addicted to blogging) exclusively for my paranormal fiction. You may visit it at Eerie, Dark and Creepy...

*For information about my October book tour, and a schedule of all my stops, please go to my website or my new blog. I'll be giving away one print copy of my book, DARK LULLABY, on Halloween from all the people who write comments at the end of my posts on the various blogs.


"Bonfires or Bonefires? The Origins of Halloween," by Mayra Calvani

Halloween is not only a colourful night of fun, frights, sweets and costumes. It is a full-blown industry, with more than $14 billion spent each year on costumes, decorations, party supplies, candy and other paraphernalia.

How did it all get started?

The origins of Halloween are quite dark, and go all the way back to 2,000 years ago, to the Celtic Celebration of the Dead, or Samhain (Sah-ween), in what is now Ireland, the UK, and Northern France. The Celtic Festival took place each year on the eve of November first, which marked the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of their New Year and winter, a time associated with cold and death. Samhain festivities lasted for a couple of days, until about November 2nd.

The Celts believed that on October 31st, the last day of summer and New Year’s Eve, the boundaries between the living and the dead became blurred and thin, and spirits, both good and evil, roamed about on the streets and countryside and did as they wished. The Celts were especially frightened by the prospect of these evil souls harming the crops.

On this night, Celtic priests called Druids dressed in animal masks and skins and performed sacrifices to placate the gods and “ward off” spirits. Bonfires represented the sun, the power to fight dark forces. The Druids lit huge bonfires and burned animals, crops, and sometimes even humans. In fact, the word “bonfire” comes from “bonefire,” literally! (It’s interesting to note that the practice of burning humans continued as late as the 1600s).

Besides the Druids, people also performed their little “rituals.” To ward off spirits, they carved turnips and lit them with embers. To “fool” them, they wore animal masks or scary disguises. To placate them, they left fruits and nuts at their doorstep as a gift or offering, thus preventing future bad crops. This is the origin of “Trick or Treat.”

Around the 7th Century the Celebration of the Dead spread to Europe, but it became known as “All Hollows Eve,” or “Night of the Dead.” In parts of Britain and Ireland it also became known as “Mischief Night.”

Around the 800s the Christians moved to the Celtic lands and tried to eradicate all pagan beliefs and celebrations. In an attempt to placate the Celts, Pope Boniface IV designated November first as All Saints Day as an attempt to replace the pagan “All Hollows Eve.” Thus he “transformed” the Celebration of the Dead into a Christian holy day.

It is believed that later the Irish brought the tradition of carving turnips to America. However, they soon found out that there weren’t as many turnips there, and that pumpkins were a lot bigger and better to carve scary faces on.

Eventually “All Hollows Eve” came to be known as Halloween.

The traditional Halloween symbols we know today, like witches, black cats, ghosts, pumpkins and candles appeared in the US around the 1800s. Entrepreneur minds no doubt realized the marketing potential. The whole concept of Halloween gradually became commercialized.

Today, in spite of its dark origins and although some religious people consider it an “evil” festival, Halloween is mostly regarded as a spooky yet harmless, fun, family celebration.

©2005, 2007. Mayra Calvani / All Rights Reserved. This column may not be copied nor printed in any form without permission from the author.


Interview with Author Jonathan Maberry, Bram Stocker Award Winner
Interview by Mayra Calvani

QUESTION: What was your inspiration for your first novel, Ghost Road Blues? What’s it about?
ANSWER: It got started in a couple of different ways. My grandmother (who died in 1978 at 101) told me as a boy about the myths and legends –or as she called them ‘beliefs’ of the supernatural. I grew up knowing a fair bit about the folklore of supernatural and occult beliefs, and while writing several nonfiction books on the subject I got the idea for a novel in which the characters encounter the supernatural as it appears in folklore, which is substantially different from the way it is most often portrayed in popular fiction and film.
Ghost Road Blues deals with a small Pennsylvania town whose industry & tourism is built on its long-standing haunted history. They have Hayrides and a huge Halloween Festival...but they discover that the town is far more haunted than they think, and that turns out not to be a good thing for the residents or tourists.
It’s the first book of a trilogy, informally known as the Pine Deep Trilogy. The series continues with Dead Man’s Song and will conclude with Bad Moon Rising in June of 2008.

QUESTION: For most writers, having their first book published by a big NY publisher is a dream come true. How did this come about? Did you initially find an agent?
ANSWER: Ghost Road Blues is my first novel, but not my first book. I’ve been a nonfiction author for thirty years. I’ve written over a thousand magazine articles, plays, short stories...the works. I served as my own agent for selling the nonfiction books --and this is not something I recommend. My first books were textbooks I wrote for a number of college courses at Temple University (Judo, Self-Defense for Women, Introduction to Asian Martial Arts, etc.). Then I did some martial arts books for a small press. When I decided to try my hand at fiction –which was totally new territory for me—I decided to look for an agent.
I made a wish-list of the agents who worked with the authors I most admired, particularly those writing in the same genre where I wanted Ghost Road Blues placed. I wrote a heck of a query letter and approached the top agents I could find. When I got go-aheads to submit my book, I gave each some time to read the material and then I invited them out to lunch, one at a time. I like face-to-face book pitching, and over lunch we talked about my book, other books I wanted to write, and about the book world.
From those encounters I was able to choose from a couple of agents who offered to represent me. I believe I made the best choice for me. My agent, Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency (formerly of Trident Media Group) has sold eleven books for me since April 2005. Six novels and five nonfics. She sold Ghost Road Blues to the second editor who read it and Pinnacle Books has done a marvelous job with the series.

QUESTION: Ghost Road Blues just garnered the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel of the Year. How does this make you feel as a writer?
ANSWER: On top of the world. It’s a somewhat surreal experience to try something totally new --book length fiction—and then have it become a celebrated book. I would have been happy just to see it in print; but the Stoker win was terrific. It’s supercharged me, too.

QUESTION: Tell us a bit about your other books. What was your inspiration for these books? Which themes obsess you?
ANSWER: Since I come from a background of magazine feature writing I have the writers’ knack of becoming obsessed with a topic –for a while. Aside from the martial arts books I’ve written, I’ve also written articles about dating, mixology, jazz, blues, film, gastropod farming (no, that’s not a typo), business, parenting, writing, technology, folklore and dozens of other topics. When I’m in research mode I want to know everything I can about a subject, and then I find that one element –the hook—that will give me something unique that I can pitch.
For books, I feel that I’ve kind of ‘been there, done that’ with martial arts. I’ve been an active jujutsu practitioner for 46 years now and I’ve written extensively about it. In 2002 I ‘moved on’ from that topic and became more fully enmeshed in folklore, which has always been a passion of mine. I suppose it’s the closest thing to an abiding ‘obsession’ with me. There’s so much to say on the subject, even within my area of specialty, which is the folklore of the occult and paranormal.
My first book on that subject was The Vampire Slayers’ Field Guide to the Undead, which is the only book I ever did under a pen name (that of Shane MacDougall). It started me in that direction, and after I landed my agent I gave her a proposal for a new book on vampire folklore, Vampire Universe, which she very quickly sold to Citadel Press. Before I’d finished writing that book the deal got tweaked and expanded so that I was now under contract to write three more books in the same, ah...’vein’. The second in that series, The Cryptopedia (co-authored with David F. Kramer) just debuted on September 1. That one is an occult/paranormal dictionary covering thirteen different subject areas (from divination to UFOs). The final two in that series are tentatively titled They Bite! (which discussed supernatural predators) and Vampire Hunters and Other Enemies of Evil, scheduled for release in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
In 2008 I’m diverting from folklore for a pop culture monster book: Zombie CSU: The Forensic Science of the Living Dead, also for Citadel, in which I ask real-world experts in forensics, law enforcement, medicine, and science how they might react and respond to zombies (of the Night of the Living Dead variety). All lots of fun.

QUESTION: What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual novel?
ANSWER: I’m a very disciplined writer, but I allow for a lot of flexibility. I write an outline first and character profiles. Then I sit down and draft out a very rough ‘preliminary synopsis’ of what the finished book might be like. I like complicated storylines and deep-reaching character development, and that has to be planned to some degree. However I have never finished a project that bears much resemblance to the original outline. Books are organic and they’ll change in the telling. The outline allows me to remember the underlying logic of the story, but I often let the characters drive the car.
Also, as you develop a scene there is an internal logic that often necessitates story changes you did not initially predict. This is cause and effect as applied to writing, and that allows the story to take on a pattern closer to reality.
I write every day, and I did that long before writing became my 9-5 job. I’m a believer in that saying: “If you write every day you get better every day.”
I roll out of bed around 7:30 and by 8-ish I’m at my desk. I set goals for myself –usually 4000 words per day. If I write more, that’s great, but it doesn’t mean I can write less tomorrow. On weekends I scale it back to about 1000 words.

QUESTION: Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you—plot, characterization, description, and dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?
ANSWER: Character development and dialogue are easiest, though all of it takes work. Complex plot is the hardest because you have to both entertain the reader and keep him guessing. You can’t make the puzzle too hard for them to grasp but at the same time you have to be aware that readers are smart, savvy and experienced, which means that they’ll be thinking two or three steps ahead. Balancing plot development and its twists and turns requires a lot of thought, and most of that occurs when you’re not at the keyboard. For some bizarre reason I get my best plot twist ideas while I’m in the shower. Who knows, maybe by shampooing my hair I’m stimulating brain cells; and it’s a much happier result than when I sing in the shower –which I do badly and at great volume.

QUESTION: What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?
ANSWER: It’s not cobwebs, bats and spiders. Writers, particularly horror and thriller writers, spend a lot of time in their own heads. We poke into old closets and dusty attics, places where we’ve stored our fears and the memories of hurt and trauma. Horror writers generally start out by taking what scares them and writing about it so that they can watch it from a distance, gain some perspective over it, and then resolve it. It’s great therapy; but more importantly it allows others (readers) who have had similar experiences, to see that these are things that happen to a lot of people. We write about loss, heartbreak, abuse, neglect...and we build horrific elements around them to make the tales less overtly individual (to ourselves) and therefore more widely accessible. It’s a fascinating process.
We also listen to the voices in our heads. For most people this a red flag and medication & restraints might be involved. But for writers –and not just horror writers—our characters are, to some degree, alive in our heads. We allow them to talk to one another. Very often the best scenes and dialogue come from the characters inside the writers head being given license to talk and act. Then we go write it down. I believe it was Bradbury who said that writing is 99% thinking about things, and then the rest is typing.

QUESTION: Why do you think so many people enjoy horror fiction while at the same time loathing death and violence in real life?
ANSWER: Because horror fiction provides us with safe chills. We love the adrenaline rush on a rollercoaster, especially when it feels like it’s about to go off the rails, but we really, really need to believe that it won’t. Horror fiction is a rush. It satisfies the need to experience the whole range of human emotions. That’s why horror often has romance, humor, and other emotional qualities in it.
And for many it’s a way to reinforce the belief that monsters can be overthrown. In real life there are real monsters: abusive parents, violent criminals, rapists, hostile governments, terrorists...and for most people this is all way beyond their control. They feel disempowered by these threats. In horror fiction we can feel the same intensity of fear but in the end (usually) the good guys win and the monster dies. Never underestimate the power of closure, even if it’s escapist closure.

QUESTION: Are you still expected to do a lot of marketing and promotion on your own, or does your publicist/publisher take care of all the planning?
ANSWER: Unless you’re king of the bestseller list, if you’re an author you’re expected to do a lot of promotional work yourself. Until just recently (when I hired a publicity manager) I had to set up my own signings, create my own swag (those cool giveaway items authors sometimes have), and so on. My publisher, like many in the business, will do a little but not a lot. It’s an economic thing; plus they know that writers who want their books to succeed will hustle a lot of this themselves. It’s not fair, but there it is.
The trick is get into the mindset where you enjoy the process. And I do; though I did hire the publicist because of time constraints. I have to write 2 ½ books per year, so my time is getting limited.
After Bad Moon Rising comes out next year I’ll be writing fiction for another publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and they’ve offered to provide me with a publicist. That’ll be just dandy.

QUESTION: Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?
ANSWER: Aside from the books I already mentioned, I have a short story coming out in the anthology History is Dead, edited by Kim Paffenroth. It’s an antho of zombie stories set prior to the 20th century. My story, “Pegleg and Paddy Save the World” is a comedy about two moonshiners who run afoul of gangsters and zombies in the days leading up to the Chicago Fire. I’m collaborating with playwright Keith Strunk on a movie script based on the story.
I’m also shifting gears a little bit in fiction and am writing a bio-terrorism thriller, Patient Zero, for St. Martins Press. It’s the first of a series of novels about a police detective, Joe Ledger, who gets recruited by a secret military organization to help stop a group of terrorists who are planning to launch a weaponized disease that turns people into zombies. It’s not a horror novel, however, and I even have a decent medical explanation for how the zombies function. This book is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2009.
And I’m working on developing a couple of horror-related projects with collaborators, including a script for a graphic novel.
I’m also launching an online horror ezine, Cryptopedia Magazine (www.cryptopediamagazine.com). That’s going to be great, with lots of top writers and artists involved.

QUESTION: Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
ANSWER: My main author website is http://www.jonathanmaberry.com/; but I’m also co-founder of a writers education center, The Writers Corner USA (http://www.writerscornerusa.com/), and we’re just about to launch a number of online classes for writers. On MySpace I can be found at www.myspace.com/jonathan_maberry and www.myspace.com/cryptopedia.
I haven’t really started much of a blog, though I dearly want to. It’s a time thing. I’ll get one rolling when I’m sure I’ll have the time to provide interesting things for my blog readers to share.

QUESTION: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the horror genre?
ANSWER: First off, one sad reality about the business is that ‘horror’ per se is not a thriving genre. Top writers like Stephen King, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons, Anne Rice...they never labeled themselves as horror writers. Most often their works are published as ‘fiction’, ‘thrillers’ or ‘suspense’.

To break into the business of writing horror I suggest pitching your book as a ‘supernatural thriller’. You still need to approach agents and publishers who work with horror, but the labeling matters, especially in the book pitch process.
Also, writers should learn as much as they can about the business of writing. Craft will take you only so far; but after you’re done typing --like it or not—your book becomes a commodity. Everything from that point on is business. Those authors who understand this thrive; those who don’t...don’t. There is a conceit within the creative community that writers make lousy businessmen; and that’s total crap. Writers are best at research --so go and research what it takes to make a good book and a good deal.

And, when pitching a book, make sure your pitch letter doesn’t get bogged down by trying to tell every last blessed plot point. That’s the wrong time to make those points. Be brief, be interesting, and always include information about why this book will satisfy the needs of readers who love this genre. To you it may be about the book, to the readers it may be about the book; but to agents, editors, booksellers, etc. it’s about how much money that book will make. When a writer learns the business he gets to participate more actively in the discussion phases, which means he’s more likely to make the kind of money that will give him the time to write and write and write.


Interview with short story writer Heather Ingemar
Interview by Mayra Calvani

What was your inspiration for your latest ghost story, A Slip of Wormwood?

Well actually, it started during a game my husband and I play, where the first person comes up with a sentence, and the other has to come up with a "story" around that sentence. My husband gave me a rather innocuous sentence about Frog skipping happily along, and I started to tell what I thought was an innocent children's story, but quickly spiralled into a tale of dark sibling rivalry and greed. My husband laughingly asked if he wanted to hear more, and I quickly came up with a sentence for him. The characters didn't leave, though. I finally had to write it down, and I did so in about four hours.

Tell us a bit about your other published stories. What was your inspiration for these stories? Which themes obsess you?

Well, to date I've only got four, two -- "What's Really There" and "Memories" with the ezine The Gothic Revue -- and two with Echelon Press, "Darkness Cornered" and "A Slip of Wormwood." Given that small sampling of my work, I'd have to say the supernatural, the abnormal was definitely a strong theme and inspiration for all of these works. I've always wondered about the things hiding in shadows, closets, and under beds. What kind of monsters hide in our world, and are they really "monsters" at all? I guess it's natural that would make a strong appearance in my work, since it's a concept that's always fascinated me.

What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual story?

It really depends on the work. A lot of my short stories just come to me in the cliche "flash of inspiration," and so they generally don't need any outlining. With my longer works, my novellas, I like to keep a rough outline just so I can keep track of where I am in the story. I also do some outlining if I'm having trouble seeing what a character does, or why. But as for doing all that before writing, I'd have to say no. I start writing, and usually by the end of the first scene, I'll know if I need a roadmap or not.

Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you—plot, characterization, description, dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?

Oh boy, that's a tough question. I think I'd have to say that description is the easiest for me. I naturally tend to be attuned to how things look, how the light from the window plays on the furniture, the overall sense of things. Then, it'd have to be characterization, plot, and dialogue. But then again, this differs with the story too. Some stories I have to work exceptionally hard at my characterization, when the plot fell into place easy as pie. Others, I've got great dialogue, but my beta readers aren't feeling enough of a sense of place. It just depends.

Your style has a rich Victorian flare, very reminiscent of 19th Century horror writers. What authors have influenced your work?

Oh, definitely Poe. I love Poe. I remember reading "The Tell-Tale Heart" in seventh grade and just being astounded at the sheer dexterity of craft. I went to the library the next day and checked out an entire volume of his works just to skim through because I was so fascinated with his portrayal of the inner demons, the dark places in the psyche. When I read "The Fall of the House of Usher" in high school, I just loved how he was so able to connect his characters into the landscape. Just amazing. As for other authors, there are so many who have influenced my work, that I have a hard time remembering them all. (laughs) I studied a lot when I got my BA in English, and there were a TON of authors I just read one piece by, and it affected me. Many of them I can't even remember titles or names, but the work stuck with me. I'm thinking of a piece now that I read and got that chilling little frisson from; it was about a man who paints demons so lifelike, that it's practically impossible. And then the artist's friend finds out that the guy really IS painting demons, live demons, and oh, it was just great! But I can't remember for the life of me any specifics about the author himself. I hope I'll run across that one again some day, it was a real humdinger!

What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?

I find it incredibly funny that people call me a horror writer. Most of my work I don't even see as scary -- they may have scary or chilling parts, but I wouldn't classify the entire work that way.... I don't know. Maybe I just view the world differently? "Wormwood" was actually the first piece I wrote that I truly considered 'horror.' The rest I consider more unusual, paranormal. Not Horror. Ah well!

Why do you think so many people enjoy a good fright while reading a book?

I think because it's a safe medium. Those nasty things aren't going to pursue you off the page. And, because, especially with the really good fiction, the reader can imagine the evil creatures or setting how they find it most scary.

How do you set to the task of promoting your short stories?

This has been a challenge. When I decided to skip the literary magazines -- I'm too much of a genre writer -- I looked into the ebook medium. Partly as a way into the publishing field, and partly because the truth is most of our society at this point is online for recreation. When it came to promoting, I took this into account and decided to focus most of my efforts online. I set up a website. I started pursuing networking mediums for added publicity. I wrote articles, posted on message boards, I did everything I could think of, even offering downloadable goodies from my site, to draw attention and interest. So far, the challenge to be creative with marketing has been fun, and I'm learning along the way. Marketing face-to-face, is very different, however. Luckily for me, I write short fiction. In my experience, people are more willing to read a short story online or on the computer than a longer work. That's not to say longer works aren't popular -- they are, for the tried-and-true ebook fans. In my area, most of the people haven't ever heard of an ebook, and they're very wary of it. But, they'll be brave and try a short story -- it doesn't take up a lot of their time. I find I have to work extra hard at making it sound like something they're interested in to get a bite. Bookmarks, promo flyers... it helps. If you can entice them to look, pique their curiosity, you've got a chance.

Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?

Well, I've got a set of three urban fantasy novellas I've been working on, the first one is out to publishers and I am working on the edits for the second. The third is in the drafting stage. I just finished two short stories, one literary, one more genre, and they are also out to publishers. I'm working on another short story featuring a zombie -- I've always wanted to write a zombie story -- and for now, that's it. (laughs) Between editing, drafting, writing, and monitoring submissions, I keep myself pretty busy.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works? Where are your stories available?

Yes, my website is located at http://catharsys.wordpress.com/ It's got everything on it. Bio, upcoming events, news about my work, copies of reviews and interviews. At the beginning of September I added a bi-weekly podcast. My stories are available through Echelon Press at http://www.echelonpress.com/ and also through most major ebook retailers such as Fictionwise, http://www.fictionwise.com/ .

What advice would you give to aspiring short story writers who are trying to break into the horror genre?

Advice for aspiring short story writers. Well, I'd say practice, because in a short story, the prose is so critical. You have to draw your readers in with your first sentence, you've got to be able to balance character, setting and plot in just the right amounts so your reader isn't slogged with information. Plus, it's got to be relatively short. As my creative writing professor said, "Only the essential story." So definitely, practice. And don't be shy about submitting. As Stephen King once wrote, "The short story is... not a lost art, but I would argue it is a good deal closer than poetry to the lip of the drop into extinction's pit. (Everything's Eventual, 2002)" We need more stories out there. We need people to help keep the craft alive.

Interview with Author James Richard Larson

What was your inspiration for your horror novel, The Right Thing? What's it about?
The Right Thing is about a rejected novelist, and her unique way of dealing with literary agents who have spurned her work. The inspiration came from viewing my own file cabinet full of rejection letters. Rejections are the rule rather than the exception — ask any writer who has submitted a manuscript. It must be an extremely rare occurrence when an author's first work is accepted by an agent or a publisher. It just doesn't happen. Rejection is part of the game, and an aspiring writer has to have a very thick skin.
Many struggling authors who read your novel will probably sympathize with your villainess and enjoy reading about what befalls the agents in your story. What is it about struggling authors and agents?
Agents are the guardian at the gate. A potential novelist soon realizes that the way to publication is through a literary agent. Publishers aren't interested in unagented work, period. Agents sift through submissions, reject the vast majority of them, and pass on the few deemed acceptable. Agents hold the key to success, and they're stingy about it — they have to be if they want to make a living. At times they're perceived as cold, uncaring, distant, and brutal. Aspiring authors love them at the same time they hate them. There is no nice way to say, "Thanks for your submission, but your work really sucks!"
The agents in your story were really well drawn out. How do you create your characters in your fiction? Do you write profiles before doing the actual writing?
As far as The Right Thing goes, a few of the agents in the story are based on agents I've dealt with. When writing queries one can't help but picture an image of the person on the other end reading the proposal. Some Pee Wee Herman-looking geek peering over his half-glasses whining, "Shirley, come over here and look at this politically incorrect query letter from Ms. Winfrey". Agents show photos of themselves on their websites, so it was easy to form a personality around the person. I don't write profiles. Sometimes characters pop into your mind when you least expect it. They come ready made — all you have to do is look. You instantly know who and what they are. Writing is spontaneous. Outlining, in my opinion, is a waste of time.
Tell us a bit about your other books. What was your inspiration for these books? Which themes obsess you?
The Right Thing was my third published novel. My first, titled The Eye of Odin, is an historical fiction depicting the life and times of the Viking explorer Erik the Red. My second, titled Wolfgar: The Story of a Viking, is the continuation of the first book, the second of a proposed three volume set. I have yet to begin the third Viking novel, because at the present time I have other projects in the works. I recently acquired an agent for my latest completed manuscript, a fantasy novel titled The Mirror. (Actually he's my third agent and hopefully I'll be with him for a long time). Presently I'm working on my fifth novel, a contemporary story about an outlaw motorcycle club.
What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual novel?
The historical fiction novels required the base outline of history, so the story had to be chronologically accurate. Also, the first book spanned three generations, so in the research I had to list births and deaths, events, etc. The second book chronology is only one generation, so it wasn't as difficult as the first. Although I didn't outline the plot, it had to correspond with history. Once I become committed to a project, I have a daily ritual whereby I write a minimum of 500 words. No less. I keep tally of the word count on an Excel spreadsheet. It might go as high as 1000 to 1500 words a day, and on rare occasions 2000. At 500 words a day, you're looking at a 100k novel in 200 days. My first two novels were well over 220k words (200k words after editing) - - or around 500 pages on a 9 by 6 inch trade paperback. The Right Thing and The Mirror each topped out at 100k words after editing.
Which element of fiction writing comes more naturally for you — plot, characterization, description, dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?
In my experience, characterization, description and dialogue are relatively easy. Once you know your characters, the rest come almost naturally. Plot can be difficult at times, and I believe plot is the culprit with most writer's block problems. You want to resolve your story and tie everything together at the end in a comprehensible, nice tidy package. That part isn't always easy to do.
What goes on inside the mind of the horror writer?
Well, I've only written one novel in the horror genre, so I'm new to this scene. I wanted to create trepidation, anxiety, and that feeling in the pit of the stomach that something bad is going to happen. I wanted to create a character that was pure evil, and have him interact with everyday people, with the reader knowing that something really bad was going to happen, over and over.
Why do you think so many people enjoy horror fiction while at the same time loathing death and violence in real life?
Because it is fiction, and they know they're safe. Having to face that gut-wrenching fear in real life — well, that's something entirely different, isn't it? How much time do you spend promoting your novel? Any strategies you'd like to share? As much spare time as time allows. Promotion never ends. For my first novels I've given speeches and held book signings, with more planned. The internet continually opens doors to promote. Amazon reviews, blogs, interviews and reviews from newspapers, magazines and other sources make your work visible. Asking bookstores to stock your work, etc. – the possibilities are endless, really. But you can't sit on your hands - you have to hustle.
Would you like to share with our readers some of your current or future projects?
My latest completed novel, The Mirror, is a story about a rather despicable character who inherits a run-down old house when his only living relative passes away. Among the interesting things he finds in the house is an antique mirror. Soon he'll learn what he has discovered in the dusty, ancient attic is indeed far from ordinary.
My current work, titled A Biker's Story, is a tale of an outlaw motorcycle club whose members discover that one of their trusted club brothers is in fact a Federal Agent.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
There's my website and samples of my work can be found at Authorsden. What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the horror genre? Read every day, write every day, hone your craft, write that great horror novel, edit it until it's perfect, query agents, get a good reliable agent, get published with a big house, and see your book as a #1 best seller on the New York Times list! Best of luck to you!


Mayra's Reviews

The Right Thing
By James Richard Larson
ISBN: 0-595-42736-7
Copyright 2007
Trade Paperback, 284 pages, $17.95

Have you ever been rejected by literary agents? Have you ever fantasized about making them pay? If yes, this is the book for you! In this his latest novel, talented author James Richard Larson shows a chilling, terrifying portrait of a rejected, aspiring writer who brings her dreams of revenge to reality.

Deeply depressed by her struggling life as an aspiring author, Elsbeth Malone takes her own life, but not without making a pact with an ancient evil being first. Her husband and the protagonist of this story, Johnny Malone, is left heartbroken and stunned at the realization that Elsbeth had been practicing magic before her death. Soon horrible incidents begin to happen to various literary agents, agents that, as Johnny eventually finds out, are in Elsbeth’s ominous list of agents who rejected her manuscript, A Circle of Light.

One after another the agents begin to die under grisly circumstances after meeting a mysterious British man named Mr. William Bagnold, a man clad in black who claims to represent Two Ravens Publishing. There’s only one problem—Two Ravens Publishing stopped existing in 1944. Then one day Johnny receives a message from a Ms. Lane, one of the agents whom Elsbeth had sent her manuscript to. Due to changes in publishing trends, Ms. Lane believes that Circle of Light, which she had previously rejected, now has great marketing possibilities, and so she offers to represent her. Johnny informs her Elsbeth is dead, but agrees to meet her because nothing would make him happier than seeing the manuscript published. A sort of romantic relationship begins to develop between them, but hell breaks loose when Johnny realizes she is one of the agents on Elsbeth’s doomed list. Will he be able to break the ‘curse’ and save her from a terrible death?

I found the story riveting from the very beginning. The premise is good, and Larson has great skill in developing detailed, absorbing, well-drawn characters. The unsympathetic agents are realistic without being cartoonish, and the secondary characters are as well developed as the main ones. Around the middle of the novel the focus seems to go off Johnny and settle on some of the secondary characters, but these subplots are so interesting, realistically written, and engrossing that they didn’t prove distracting, even though I had to ask myself ‘Where is Johnny?’ a couple of times. I’m not sure whether Larson meant this on purpose, but I think if Johnny would have been more involved in the middle of the story, the novel would probably have been even better.

The ending is ingenious and shocking and took me completely by surprise. I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I had understood it correctly. The Right Thing is definitely a great read this Halloween for everyone who enjoys a chilling, atmospheric modern horror. If you’re a struggling author, you will get an extra kick out of it as well.


"A Slip of Wormwood"
By Heather S. Ingemar
Echelon Press
(An Echelon Download)
Short story, 21 pages, $1.50

With “Slip of Wormwood” I have the pleasure of reviewing yet another short story from talented author Heather S. Ingemar. Ingemar has the gift of writing with a vivid, atmospheric, elegant style reminiscent of 19th Century paranormal authors.

This particular story revolves around an eccentric and not particularly well-liked pharmacist nicknamed Mr. Frog who has just inherited his brother’s estate—a large, three-story manor house on twelve acres.

Consider the following description, which happens to be the opening of the story:

“When Mr. Frog, as he liked to refer to himself (it was
a nickname gone well past the limits of childhood), strode
down the main walk of town with a wide grin on his face,
people wondered. He was a pharmacist, and a dour,
dismal sort of one, who pranced about in a dark pinstripe
suit, with a narrow, saturnine face to match. Today,
however, his creased and crinkled features were turned up
in his version of a chipper attitude (but was really a slimy,
creeping kind of smile).”

Through Mr. Frog’s memories, we learn of his constant childhood rivalry with his brother, the good, well-liked ‘Toad’, as he used to refer to him. Toad was always the parents’ favorite, and Frog grew up in bitter and well-concealed hate as a shadow of his brother. Now, filled with self conceit, Frog prepares to close the small village pharmacy in order to move to the manor, which is off on the Westbury countryside. However, once there, strange, horrific things begin to happen. Are they real, hallucinations, or a product of Frog’s guilty conscience?

This is classical, ghost story writing at its best. The writing is, in one word, exquisite. Ingemar manages to create an excellent picture of Mr. Frog, his manners, feelings and motivations. The words and sentences flow lyrically and effortlessly. The setting is strongly atmospheric, making this the perfect little story to cuddle up with on a grey, rainy day. Ingemar is definitely an author to keep an eye on.



Fantastic Realms, a community of fantasy writers.
Broad Universe, organization for women writers of fantasy, SF and horror.
Cryptopedia Magazine, new horror ezine launched by Jonathan Maberry.
Katie's Reading, great blog filled with reviews of paranormal books.
Vampires & Slayers, vampire-centric site.
http://www.booksprice.com/ A free service of finding the best price on books among the major online stores.
*Museitup Annual Writing Contest. For details, go to http://museonlineconference.tripod.com/. Deadline is October 6th. First Prize will be $100.
*I'll be giving away a print copy of my paranormal thriller, Dark Lullaby, on Halloween day. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment at the bottom of my posts during the tour. The more comments you leave, the higher the chances of winning that free copy! For my schedule, visit my website at http://www.mayracalvani.com/.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Fountain Pen, Issue 9, September 2007

In this is issue…

From Mayra’s Desk…
“Violin, My Muse,” by Mayra Calvani
Column: Ask the Mad Word Doctor
On the Spotlight:
Author and Publicity Expert Dorothy Thompson
Author J.C. Hall
Fiction: "Hoofbeats," by Anne K. Edwards
Mayra’s Book Reviews:
There's a Spider in my Sink (picture ebook)
Birthday Snow (picture book)
The Missing Locket (young adult)

From Mayra's Desk...
Dear Readers,
The voting has started! Vote for my story, The Doll Violinist, and be eligible to win prizes!
I'll be giving away a beautiful antique doll, a $50 Amazon certificate, a gorgeous sterling silver & zyrconium ring, and free books. My illustrator, Amy Moreno, will be giving away a custom-made, pen and ink rendering of your house based on a photo provided by you!
All you have to do is vote for The Doll Violinist at the ABC's Children's Picture Book Competition and you will be eligible. You're allowed ONE vote per day for the duration of the 2-week competition. The more you vote, the higher the chances you'll have of winning. Please go to my blog, Mayra's Secret Bookcase, for details on how to vote and enter.
Please help Amy and I win that publishing contract!
Thanks to all for your support!
Best wishes,
My horror novel, Dark Lullaby, is finally out and available for purchase!
Dark Lullaby is an atmospheric, bizarre horror and does not contain graphic, slasher scenes. Paranormal thriller would be a better way to describe it.
Synopsis: At a trendy Turkish tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. Soon, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her—her skin’s abnormally high temperature, her obsession with milk products, her child-like and bizarre behavior as she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.

The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.

But nothing, not even the stunning splendour of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature. In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul…
The link to Amazon is here.
The link to the publisher (much cheaper!) is here.
I'll be going on a virtual book tour during the month of October, which will culminate in Halloween, when I'll be giving away one printed copy of the book to a lucky winner! More details on the next Halloween Special issue, so stay tuned!
Also in the news, I was recently interviewed for http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com/. You may read the full interview at:
"Violin, My Muse"
Mayra Calvani

Violin… The word brings such vivid images to my mind. A slender and graceful soloist performing on stage, her eyes closed with delirious ecstasy. The mysterious, dark, gaunt figure of Paganini, his long thin fingers racing up and down the fingerboard with demonic, preternatural speed. Tartini reclining in bed while handing the violin to the devil himself. Sherlock Holmes playing a tune in his small flat on 221b Baker Street.

The sound which comes forth from the violin stirs different emotions deep within my soul—sublimity, sweetness, passion, sadness, fear. Sibelius’ concerto is dark and mysterious; Beethoven’s is spiritual and noble; Brahms’ is earthly and passionate; Tchaikovsky’s is grand and dramatic.

It’s curious how, unlike other instruments, the violin seems to possess a dark, sinister quality. Surely no other instrument in history has been the ‘victim’ of such lore and legend. The violin is light and darkness. It has two faces, two personas. This is what makes the violin so intriguing. At the same time, it is associated with the feminine. I’m not referring to the shape and sound of the violin, but to the feelings it evokes on their owners. I’ve read that men violinists see the violin as a female companion, while women see it as an extension of themselves.

Another thing I’ve come to realize is that most people have intense emotions about the violin—they either love it or hate it. Interesting enough, for someone who hasn’t an affinity for music, the violin can be the most horrific, tortuous instrument to listen to.

I was a late starter. I began taking violin lessons in my mid thirties. Just as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde woke up one day and decided to become a lawyer, I woke up one day and decided I wanted to play the violin. For somebody like me, who had never had any kind of musical education, it was a great challenge. Four years since then, I can only say I don’t know how I could have lived without my violin for so long. A wonderful new dimension has opened in my life. Enveloped in music, surrounded by etudes and books, I wallow in the daily practice of this magnificent instrument, this marvel of ingenuity. But, most strange of all, this new dimension has extended to my writing as well. The violin has stirred my imagination and unleashed my creativity in ways that I never experienced before. A little orphan girl who wishes to become a violinist begs me to write her Christmas story; amateur teenaged violinists whisper in my ear that they wish to be the protagonists of my new mystery; a fragile, mentally unbalanced young violinist shares with me her horror tale, assuring me that her story would make a bestseller…

Always near my computer, my violin beckons me to hold it when I’m stuck in a scene or passage, as if only one embrace, one stroke, are enough to lift the dark cloud from my mind. And always in the background is the violin music, my muse and inspiration. I hope this gift will continue to be bestowed upon me for many years to come.


Reading Characters’ Minds

Dear Doc Joan,
I understand about writing in one character’s POV [point of view] at a time, but will you please clarify how to show that character’s interior monologue (the POV character’s thoughts)? This is a question for my whole critique group.
Thanks – Wannabe Mind Writers

Dear Mind Writer,
For one thing, unspoken thoughts shouldn’t have quotation marks. In fact if readers are thoroughly immersed in the character’s POV, it isn’t even necessary to tag the line as a thought. Following are some examples of weak interior monologue made better with editing.
Weak: Carl could hardly believe his ears when he listened to his phone messages and heard Tiffany’s voice. He wondered if she’d changed her mind about letting him take her to dinner. Fat chance, he thought.
Better: Carl could hardly believe his phone message—Tiffany’s voice. Had she changed her mind about the dinner date? Fat chance!
Analysis: Removed redundancies: What else do you listen with but your ears? And avoid words such as “wondered” and “thought” because they take readers out of the character’s head for a second and remind them, “This is only a story.” Phrasing as a question removes the need for “wondered.” It’s also obvious he’s the one who thought, Fat chance! Whether or not you use italics to show it is optional (read on).

Italics indicate when a character shifts to a deeper level of interior monologue. Most of our thoughts aren’t formed in words, but sometimes we do shift gears and talk to ourselves in actual words—silently, mind you. If she speaks aloud, do use the quotation marks. Many authors show this by putting the unspoken words in italics. When they do this, even if all other interior monologue stays with the story plan of using third person, past tense, they show the deeper level (italicized) in first person, present tense—as it would be if spoken. Consider the following passage (in Tiffany’s POV) using this technique:
“Tiffany, uh, you called?” Carl’s voice shook on the phone.
“Oh, hi, Carl.” Tiffany drawled out his name, thinking with satisfaction how much the twerp hung on her little gifts of attention.
“You wanted me to call you back?”
“Thanks,” she answered sweetly, but thought, Well, duh! What do you think the message was for?

“Tiffany?” On the phone Carl’s voice trembled. “Uh, you called?”
“Oh, hi, Carl.” Tiffany drawled out his name, satisfied at the way the twerp hung on her little gifts of attention.
“You wanted me to call you back?”
“Thanks,” she honied her voice, but rolled her eyes. Well, duh! What do you think the message was for?

Notice the different levels of interior monologue in the latter version. In Tiffany’s first lines, her thoughts stay in third person, past tense. In her next lines, her level of monologue begins on that same level but shifts to first person, present. Of course, if your whole story is in first person, this too would stay first person throughout.
Henceforth may you give your readers power to read a character’s mind.
– Doc Joan

Have a question to share in this column? Email me at: jmuHall@aol.com with “Ask the Book Doctor” as your subject line. If you want to remain anonymous, I’ll address you by whatever pseudonym you sign. To see previous issues, go to: http://www.joanuptonhall.com/books.htm. Scroll past the book covers and click “Ask Doc” Q&A’s.


Interview with Dorothy Thompson, author, publicist and relationship expert.

Why don't you start by putting on your publicist hat and telling our readers what a publicist can do for an author that the author cannot do himself?
Hi, Mayra, and thanks for asking me to be here! First let me begin by saying that I’m an advocate for learning how to do things yourself. If I know how to do it and you need to know how to do it, I’ll teach you to do it. For some, it doesn’t come as easy as it does for others. Not saying you aren’t as smart, but maybe you’re just too overwhelmed with editing or are on a deadline and you can’t do everything. That’s when a publicist comes in handy. Because I am an author much like the clients I represent, I have been in their shoes. I know their frustrations and that’s why my approach is very hands on with them. I have a client who is getting ready to go on tour in a couple weeks and he needed a book blog to aid him in his virtual book tour, but as he had never blogged before, much less set one up, he needed my help in setting one up which I did and which you can see at http://partiallyhuman.blogspot.com/.
Now, this guy isn’t dumb. He’s almost 24 years old and has three books published. But, there are just some things he’s not familiar with and I’m finding this is happening a lot because when an writer becomes an author for the first time and even for the eleventh time, his or her first instincts are to set up booksignings, maybe invest in bookmarks, that sort of thing, and maybe set up a website. But, blogging…I don’t think many authors realize the potential blogs have in aiding to sell your book. So, that’s a little part of what I do that some authors can’t do. But, I find it funny…once I set the blog up for them and explain what to do after that, they become blogging fanatics. Now, that really makes me happy.
I think what authors don’t realize is that if they spent as much time on the Internet – and that’s what I specialize in – as I do, they would learn everything there is to know about online promotion but it has to be a 24/7 thing. A lot of authors just don’t have that amount of time to put into promotion simply because they have books to write, edit and revise. That’s where a publicist comes in. They do the work so you can do what you do best and that is write. However, I do encourage all my authors to do some kind of online promotion every single day.

Tell us a bit about your company, Pump UP Your Book Promotion, and your mission.
I started Pump Up Your Book Promotion in April ‘07, so we haven’t been in business very long but business is booming. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure what happened except one thing led to another. I started out by getting a call from an online friend who wanted me to promote her book online. She was a member of a couple of my writing groups and had listened to the various ways I was showing people how to promote online and she insisted on paying me to promote hers. I thought she had lost her mind because I wasn’t a publicist. Little did I know, but this was the beginning of my career as one.
I had just finished a virtual book tour myself, which I think was successful, so I suggested setting up one for her but I wanted to test my wings first. A lovely woman, Marilyn Celeste Morris, was my guinea pig. I sent her out in April on a virtual book tour for her book, “Once a Brat,” for my newly established company, Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours and I just loved it. While Marilyn was on tour, I was getting emails from authors all over who wanted me to set up their virtual book tours, too. And it hasn’t let up since.
Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours is part of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, a public relations firm specializing in online promotions. There are lots of reputable public relations firms that deal mainly with offline promotion and I thought why not fill that void – that online book promotion that most public relation firms are not concentrating on.
What we do is aim for extensive recognition in the search engines by showing these authors how to get their books in the # 1 position in the search engines for their key search words. By the time their tour is over, if they have properly used these search words in different areas I have instructed them to, it’ll happen.
The main purpose in this is that your virtual book tours are perpetual. They keep on promoting you long after your tour is over if the blog host keeps your interview/guest post/review/whatever on their blog. By creating this enormous online presence, your virtual book tour will be a success.

What is the hottest thing in book promotion right now? Why?
Great question, Mayra! The hottest thing in book promotion right this very minute I have to say would be videos and podcasts. Readers love visual and audio. If they go to a website or blog and there’s a visual or an audio, they feel as if they’ve gotten more value out of their time spent there than if they were there just reading text. You need to appeal to the senses. Virtual book tours are hot right now and combined with the visual and audio aids, you’ve got a real good chance at creating a great campaign.

How easy/difficult is it for an author to plan a virtual book tour?
LOL, ask my authors. I have an article up at http://pumpupyouronlinebookpromotion.blogspot.com/2007/08/real-world-of-virtual-book-touring.html called “The Real World of Virtual Book Touring” where I’ve had my recent authors give me input on how much work there is even when having someone plan their tours for them. Most of them said they had no idea it was going to be a lot of work. I put in 81 hours a week setting up and maintaining tours for about seven or so authors a month. The authors themselves put in an incredible amount of time answering questions and writing guest posts. If you do a months worth of tours, you have approximately twenty interviews and guest posts to get done. One of my authors told me it took a half hour just to answer one interview because they are really concentrating on making those search words count.
But, back to your question, it is hard but very doable. If you are setting up a tour yourself, you are querying blog hosts, keeping track of dates, answering questions and more than likely writing guest posts, then you are following up. When I was on my own virtual book tour back in November ’06, I remember it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. And I do remember breathing a sigh of relief when it was over, lol.

How can authors find out which blogs have the higher traffic for their book's genre?
Ahhh…trade secrets revealed. Alexa.com (http://alexa.com/) gives rankings for blogs (or websites) and compares them to other blogs of similar content. Someone told me recently that so-and-so blog must not have a lot of visitors because no one comments there. You can’t judge a blog by comments. I know a lot of high profile blogs where people just don’t comment, so you can’t judge a blog by that.
If you go to Technorati (http://technorati.com/) for instance, and put in your key search words, you’ll get blogs come up related to those words. Take the url of those blogs over to Alexa and do a comparison. Takes time, but it’s the only way you’ll at least get an idea of the blog’s status.
Technorati is the world’s largest blog search engine, but there are many blog search engines out there where you can do this.

Book trailers can be very expensive. Are they really worth the cost in terms of book sales?
Book trailers are just like anything else you spend money on to promote your book. Will you make it up in sales? The jury is still out whether or not they are convincing people to buy these books, but they most definitely couldn’t hurt. The way I look at it is, if you’d spend a hundred bucks on bookmarks, why not book trailers? Will you get your money back? Well, the thing is, you want to be noticed and book trailers are one way to do it. Authors spend an incredible amount of money on book promotional items, so why not trailers? I just started a new thing at Pump Up where anyone who purchases the gold package can get a free virtual book tour promotional video to advertise their tour. These trailers can be seen at YouTube, Google Video and Yahoo Video, among other video websites. If you’d like to see the one I’ve got for Caridad Pineiro who will be touring in September, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLzUXLZlyTg&eurl and the most recent one I made was for Hazel Statham who will be touring in September, also. You can see hers at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzgsRo4ZLHA. So, I’m playing around with this area of book promotion and we’ll just see how that goes.
What do you think is the most common mistake authors make when promoting their book?
The most common mistake I feel they make is not realizing the potential of blogging and using those key search words. I have a lot of author friends who are blogging and still don’t know how to add tags to their posts. The potential is there, yet it’s not until you see it in action do you realize how many hits you could have gotten had you learned. I’ve got so many funny stories of how even executives and owners of huge corporations find blogging one of the most mystifying things and I try to explain that online promotion is one of the most valuable things you can give to your book’s campaign.

If you had to choose among all the various forms of book promotion--press releases, reviews, mailings, book tours, speaking and giving seminars, etc--which one do you think is the most effective for name visibility and book sales? Or are these two different things?
This is the easy. Speaking and giving seminars has to be the #1 way to sell books, plus you’re making an incredible amount of money doing it. That’s where the money is. What a lot of new authors don’t realize when they first get into this promotion thing is that they aren’t going to make enough off of royalties to quit their day job and most of their royalty checks aren’t anything to brag about. Sorry, but it’s the cold hard facts. Especially if part of their royalty checks are being divided by not only the publisher, but the distributor also. You make pennies at Amazon. We all want those high rankings but if you realized just how much you are making from those sales, you’d laugh. I have two authors right now on tour who are solely living off their speaking engagements and whatever royalties they get. Speaking and giving seminars, no doubt in my mind is where it’s at.
Now, if you’re not someone who loves to give seminars, aim online for those sales. Of everything you mentioned above, virtual book tours has got to be my most favorite, of course. If you’re looking for name visibility, go on one of these tours. People will get sick of seeing you all over the place! But, one person who will get tired of you the most will be our friend, the Google search engine. ;o)
You also keep a series of blogs which offer free promo opportunities for authors.
I have to laugh because in an earlier question, you asked me about how much is involved putting a virtual book tour together and I told you it took a lot of time on the author’s part…well…this interview, for example, has taken almost two hours to complete. Multiply that by 20 and you’ll see just how much time goes into one.
Okay, my promo blogs! What I’ve done is create quite a few promo blogs to help authors promote their books and all of them are absolutely free. Here they are by alphabetical order:
As the Page Turns
Author Talks
Be My Guest!
Book Publishing Secrets of Authors
Plug Your Book!
Plug Your Book Trailer!
Straight from the Author’s Mouth
The Story Behind the Books
The Writer’s Life

Tell us a bit about your book promotion book.
My book promotion book is actually a self-published ebook titled “A Complete Guide to Promoting and Selling Your Self-Published eBook.” A lot of the principles in the book I am using to help my clients promote their books through these tours. Don’t let the “self-published ebook” fool you…it can be used to promote your print or otherwise published book, also. The main goal of this book is to show authors how to and where to promote online. You can visit the webpage at http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/BookPromotionEbook.html. As a matter of fact, I’m offering a freebie to go along with the purchase of the promoting ebook. You can get absolutely FREE the radio promotion ebook, 101 INTERNET RADIO SHOWS TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOKS. This is a limited time offer, but it’s a great deal while it lasts.
Putting your author and relationship-expert hat, please tell us about your other books.
Oh, my goodness, I have to tell you, of all the books I have, ROMANCING THE SOUL, is very dear to me because the book wouldn’t even have been thought of if not for a dream I had when my twin soul came to me and told me to put this together. I know it sounds new-agey, but it really happened. ROMANCING THE SOUL is a collection of true soul mate stories and was published by Zumaya Publications. My other book I co-wrote is titled THE SEARCH FOR THE MILLION $$$ GHOST and that’s about an eccentric millionaire’s quest to find the ghost of his late wife and he’ll offer them a million dollars to do it. I co-wrote that with Heide AW Kaminski and Pam Lawneczak. Both books can be found at Amazon.

Who is Dorothy Thompson, the lady? Describe an ordinary day in your life.
Try overworked? Goodness, you don’t even want to imagine what I go through. The Pump Up business keeps me at it 24/7. I love it, but it’s an extraordinary amount of time involved to keep it running. If you’re not making sure the present tours are running smooth, you’re finding tour hosts for the next set of authors going out. It’s more involved than you could ever imagine…lots of sleepless nights and plenty of caffeine, but you know, I live for this. I have met so many wonderful people and a lot of them have become lifelong friends. Not only that, the blog hosts I do want to mention have been incredible. Everyone has really made this such an incredible experience and I hope the authors leave with the same feeling. I do give it my all because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to having others trust me to do what they paid me to do.

As an author and publicist, what is your greatest reward?
It’s got to be the people I have become involved with since I started Pump Up. We have an incredible lady who is working with me now named Nikki Leigh (http://www.nikkileigh.com/) who basically saved me when my last partner left. I do want to mention her because at the time she came on board, I was handling seven authors on my own and she agreed to take one for me, thus lifting my workload. It’s incredible the amount of time you spend for just one author and handling seven at one time was a bit much even for me. She is incredible, fast and knows the business and knows how to promote. That’s what I look for in a partner because this type of business, you have to know online promotion. She’s a whiz, that’s all I have to say.
But, it’s also people like you, Mayra, because if it weren’t for the many blog hosts who we have contracted to host these tours, there would be no Pump Up. I thank you and all of my authors thank you and everyone else who have helped make Pump Up a success.

Leave us with some witty words of wisdom.
LOL, at 1:14 in the morning, you want words of wisdom. Okay, here’s the lowdown. Don’t underestimate the power of virtual book tours. While you look over the different stops that my authors appear on and you start to thinking that it looks like a bunch of tours thrown together, what you aren’t seeing are the ways we use these stops to further promote your tour. There are press releases being sent out that ends up in Google News. We announce your stops on writer’s boards and social networking sites. We are submitting your interviews to publications that end up in Google News, also. We go the extra mile. What the casual observer sees is not the whole picture. Ask the authors. They know what they have been through answering interviews and writing guest posts. It’s a lot of work to all involved, but what happens is that all those interviews and all those guest posts end up being archived, thus your virtual book tour is perpetual. That’s the beauty of online marketing and the power of virtual book tours.
Thanks, Dorothy!

Thank you, Mayra! It’s been a pleasure!
Interview with Fantasy Author J.C. Hall

Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your latest book, LADY OF THE LAKES, and what inspired you to write such a story?
LADY OF THE LAKES is the story of Corryn, a young outcast from his village who encounters Jess Lochlen, Lady of the Lakes, so-called because she travels via the Silver Lakes in the land of Rogrovia. Jess is on a double mission—to recover her captured infant cousin, and to determine if treachery is stalking the Rogrovian throne. Fascinated by her and her silver sword, Corryn tags along, and gets much more than he bargained for as he gets swept up in political intrigue, high adventure and romance.
I love the fantasy genre, but much of what I read feature male protagonists. I wanted to read about strong female protagonists who have responsibilities, can wield a sword (preferably a magic one), and who actively participate in politics and high adventure. I also wanted to create a believable romantic relationship between my two main characters who are literally from different worlds.
A common theme in both LADY OF THE LAKES and my other fantasy novel LEGENDS OF THE SERAI is the difficulty the female protagonists have in reconciling their duty (responsibilities) with their personal relationships (romance).

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?
When I first began writing, I would simply have a good idea of my main characters and their motivation and several key-scenes in mind, and then proceed to find ways to get the characters to move from one key-scene to another. While fun, it’s not the smartest way to write a novel. Now, I’m a believer in outlining. It may seem counter-productive to spend so much time on an outline when you could just jump in and start writing the first draft right away, but it’s time well spent. It’s much simpler and takes considerably less time to change things within an outline, and it forces you to think things through to the end. I’m still new at this, and seem to work best with both going at the same time. I start writing the first draft and soon the outline develops, and as I keep writing, the outline changes for the better and that keeps my first draft on the straight and narrow—no meandering, no side-tracking, no waste of time or effort.

Technically speaking, what was the most difficult part in writing this novel?
Tying up all the loose ends. The climax is where things come to a head and that’s dramatic, but then you have to tie up all the loose ends and that’s anti-climactic and hard to carry off without feeling like you’re over-explaining to the reader.

You chose an unusual language in your novel, similar to medieval language… was this choice an easy one to make? Are fans of fantasy novels used to this type of language?
I use it to highlight the difference between Jess (who, after all, does come from a different world) and Corryn. I think high fantasy readers (as opposed to readers of contemporary fantasy) do expect a degree of otherworldliness in the story, and language is one way to evoke that sense of wonder one experiences when reading about the unearthly and the unknowable or unknown.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Sure, who hasn’t? For me, writing both fiction and non-fiction helps to mix things up, allowing me to take a break from one thing and mess around with another. I started writing a screenplay recently. It’s a very different discipline from novel-writing, poetry, reviewing or travel writing, all of which I do. Anyone can get into a rut if you do the same old, same old. It helps to challenge yourself and try different things. There’s no law that says you can only be a novelist or a poet or a screenplay-writer. Writers write.

What type of books did you use to read as a child?
I grew up on Enid Blyton, then graduated to Agatha Christie, quickly followed by the rest of my dad’s novels lying around the house: mostly Dorothy Sayers, P.G. Wodehouse, Dashiel Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardener. It wasn’t until I emigrated to Canada that I discovered the fantasy section in the local library. I was hooked from my first Judith Tarr, Patricia A. McKillip and C. J. Cherryh, and read all their wonderful novels in a matter of months.

How do you set about promoting your novel? How many hours a week do you spend on book promotion?
I have a website (http://jc-hall.com/) devoted to all aspects of my writing, where samples of my fiction (novels, poems) and non-fiction writing (book reviews, movie reviews, travel articles) are showcased. I am a Top Reviewer (Books Category) with the online consumer community review website (http://www.epinions.com/). I also contribute to the Mad Ten Authors blog (http://madten.wordpress.com/). And I’ve just joined the Facebook online community.
Are there any fantasy authors who have inspired your writing?
My favourite fantasy authors are Patricia A. McKillip, C. J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold and Judith Tarr. Patricia A. McKillip writes beautiful, lyrical fantasy and has won numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award. C. J. Cherryh and Lois McMaster Bujold write both fantasy and science fiction; their awards include the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award respectively. Judith Tarr writes standalone novels as well as high fantasy series, including the Avaryan Rising Chronicles.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Yes, my website URL is http://jc-hall.com/ and my blog can be accessed on the homepage of my website.
Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I’m currently working on two projects. The first is the outline of the last instalment of my Silver Lakes fantasy series: The Reclining Dragon. I’m also working on my first screenplay. It’s a very different format from novel-writing, but being that much shorter, it’s not taking me as much time. It’s also a departure from fantasy, and so will probably appeal to a very different audience. Hopefully, once I finish my screenplay, I will complete the outline of The Reclining Dragon and start writing it in earnest.

by Anne K. Edwards

Hoofbeats! This time of night? In such a blizzard?
Ole Mike rose from his warm bed and picked up his lantern. He lit it from the embers in the fireplace. Tossing a big of wood on them, he watched with satisfaction as they grabbed onto it with hungry red finters. He hung the coffeepot on the hook and swung it over the growing flames, then pulled on his boots. As always, the stone floor was cold.
He heard the hoofbeats again. Nearer. Was that a whinny?
He shoook his head at some folks' stupidity. Wasn't his horse. He didn't have any more. Ole Bub had up an' died a year back and he didn't see the sense of buying another. Town has grown so, it was nearly at his door. Wouldn't be long before they wanted his land to build on, a thing he feared.
But that didn't matter at the moment. He pushed himself up from the creaky wood chair by the fireplace and took up his worn coat.
Better go see who was riding around in the storm.
Taking up his lantern, he pulled his coat tight and opened the door. Regretting the necessity that drew him away from the snug security of his cabin, he stepped into the blowing snow.
"Halloo," he called several times.
No answer.
He cried "Halloo" above the storm.
His lantern guttered as the wind picked up.
Hoofbeats again! Closer now.
Ole Mike peered blindly about in the snow that stung like hot ashes on his face. He called once more and watied, listening.
The snow made it hard to see.
It came to him that he shouldn't be hearing hoofbeats either. The snow always muffled sound. So why did he hear them now?
A shadow loomed over him. It whinnied. Nearly a scream. Like Dapple used to do when he wanted his grain.
Ah, Dapple. So many years ago. They had been young fools together.
Tears filled Ole Mike's eyes. He peered up at the shadow.
It rose before him, then came down.
Dapple! He'd recognize that gray and white head anywhere. He'd never forgotten.
His hand trembled as he raised it to the well-loved face of the horse that belonged to another era.
"Dapple?" He touched the velvety nose that pushed at his hand. "How?"
The horse tool Ole Mike's sleeve in his teeth and tugged. THeir old game when Dapple wanted a run with Mike on his back.
Ole Mike shook his head sadly. "I can't, Dapple. I'm old now and stiff. You remember how that is. Like you were that last year."
Dapple pawed the snow, tossing it vigorously.
Tears froze on Ole Mike's chee. "I wish I could, Dapple. I wish I could." He sighed.
Dapple shook his head, pulling insistently on the sleeve he held in his teeth, his breath turning white in the frigid air.
Ole Mike set the lantern aside and wrapped his free arm about the warm neck of his first love. "Ah, Dapple. Ah. I'm too old. And this is only a wonderful dream."
In his mind he knew it was a dream. He wasn't cold any ore. And Dapple had been gone over forty years. This sort of thing just wasn't possible.
The snow stopped. Just like that.
Ole Mike stared out over the frozen landscape. The distant mountains were merged with the valley under the thick white blanket. It would take the town a long time to dig out.
He could see smoke rising from some of the chimneys as people stirred. Time to wake up and begin the new day.
Dapple continued to exert pressure on his sleeve, tugging Ole Mike away from his cabin with short sharp jerks.
"You want me to come with you?" The old man let the horse lead him away from warmth and security. "Why?"
The horse let go of his sleeve and whinnied. The sound echoed over the valley, rebounding from the mountainsides. He stamped impatiently.
Ole Mike shook his head. "I don't know if I can, but I'll try. You'll have to let me find a stump so I can pull myself up. Ain't young like we was once."
He used Dapple's withers as a walking aid as they headed for the chopping block around the side of the cabin. In the shadows created by the moond that broke through departing clouds, Ole Mike struggled onto Dapple's back.
The horse jigged, wanting to be off.
Ole Mike grabbed a handful of mane and settled as best he could.
Dapple took off at a full gallop.
"What do you suppose happened?" Cort James asked Sheriff Davies. "I come over this morning to bring him some stuff Mayra wanted him to have, biscuits and such. I found him like this."
Sheriff Davies shook his head. "Ain't no way to tell. Reckon he come out for firewood and his heart gave out."
"Suppose that's it." Cort swept the area with his hand. "These hoofprints are fresh."
"Yeh. Horse was moving fast, too." The sheriff shoved his hat back, scratched his head, and reset his hat. "Don't understand why they don't go no further than the edge of the trees though."



Mayra’s Book Reviews:

There’s a Spider in my Sink!
By Bill Kirk
Illustrated by Suzy Brown
Copyright 2005
Ages 2-6

There’s a spider in my sink!
Did he drop in from the brink?
Does he want a little drink?
There’s a spider in my sink!

Thus begins this very cute picture ebook young children will love listening to and early readers will enjoy reading on their own.

The little boy in the story has a problem… a spider has suddenly taken possession of his sink! What is he to do? How to get rid of it without hurting it? After all, the only thing the spider wants is a safe home. But he has to do something! How will he be able to brush his teeth and comb his hair, when the sink is covered with cobwebs?

The story is written in iambic beat and has a smooth, fun rhythm that both children and adults will enjoy.
The colorful illustrations are appealing and possess the right touch of wackiness that well suit the story. I also found the ebook itself a pleasure to use. The book appears on the screen and all you have to do is click on the page for it to turn, giving the feeling of a real book. Even toddlers will be able to turn the pages on their own. In sum, this is a delightful little book that teaches children the good side of spiders, while at the same time developing children’s language and computer skills.

Birthday Snow
By Kim Messinger & Michael LaLumiere
Illustrated by Angela Ursillo
Stagger Lee Books
ISBN: 9780979100611
Copyright 2005
Hardcover, $14.95, 32 pages
Ages 4-8

Freckled-faced Daniel has a dilemma. It’s his birthday today but there’s no snow. Up until now, it has ALWAYS snowed on his birthday.

Patiently, he studies the sky from his bedroom window, waiting for signs of snow. He loves snow and all the fun things he can do when it snows, like wearing his snow clothes, make ice cream, and zoom down the hill on his snow tube.

Even though it is sunny outside, he puts on his snow clothes and decides to ask people—friends, his sister, the postman—about the weather. To his chagrin, they all assure him there won’t be any snow today. But that can’t be! It always snows on his birthday! Undaunted, he keeps faith and tries their crazy suggestions—does a happy dance, wears his pajamas inside out, puts four ice cubes in the toilet, etc..

Finally, exhausted, he falls asleep in his mother’s arms. Will there be snow when he wakes from his nap?

Birthday Snow is a beautifully illustrated picture book about persistence and faith. It is humorous without being wacky and maintains a sweet, rather quiet mood all throughout. It is a fun story to read to children at bedtime, as well as one early readers will be able to enjoy on their own. This book would make a lovely present on any occasion.


The Missing Locket
Book I, Cynthia’s Attic series
By Mary Cunningham
Quake (Echelon Press imprint)
ISBN: 1-59080-441-4
Copyright 2005
Trade Paperback, 152 pages, $9.99
Mystery/Paranormal, Middle Reader

The Missing Locket is a paranormal mystery featuring two lovable young sleuths that girls 9 and up will absolutely love. It is the perfect, darkly atmospheric story for young fans of intrigue and adventure to cuddle up with on those gray, rainy afternoons or read in bed.

It is the summer of 1964 and Gus and Cynthia, two best friends who are very different from each other yet very close, are bored out of their minds. Then they have an idea—why not explore Cynthia’s old and mysterious attic? After all, Cynthia lives in one of those huge mansions with three floors and lots of rooms, the perfect kind of house that stimulates young imaginations. In the attic, among all the antiques, spiders and cobwebs, they discover a huge, dust-covered old trunk.

When they open it, they find an old, dirty, pink ballet costume and slippers, which Cynthia, unable to resist, quickly tries on. Then something very strange happens… Cynthia begins to dance and twirl with the effortless beauty of a ballerina! Stunned, she soon takes it off. As they head towards the door, the unimaginable happens—they’re ‘pulled’ back to the trunk as if by magic, and the attic changes, becoming cold and still when only a moment ago it had been hot and muggy. What’s even more strange, the ballet costume and the trunk now look brand new!

Under the costume, they discover a sailor dress, and this time Gus tries it on, with drastic consequences… she’s whisked in time back to 1914, to the time when their grandmothers were only twelve years old. Of course, later on, Cynthia joins Gus, and together they must help their Aunt Belle and solve the mystery of the missing, bell-shaped locket, an adventure that takes them over on a steamship across the Atlantic and where they make friends with a young boy’s ghost.

Talented author Mary Cunningham has drawn a delightful, intriguing fantasy world that will delight middle readers. Her love for storytelling and for the genre really comes through the pages. The pace is quick and there’s enough twists and turns to keep juvenile fans of mystery guessing. The characters of Gus and Cynthia are sympathetic and interesting and young girls will be able to identify with them. This is the first book in the series and I certainly look forward to read the second book, The Magic Medallion, soon.

*Bev Walton Porter, editor of Scribe&Quill ezine, has lauched a new radio show for authors and readers alike. The show, which focuses on writing and creativity, is called Elemental Musings. The first show will be this Sunday, September 16. For details, go to http://www.nowlive.com/scribequill.
*http://blogcritics.org/, Fantastic site for book reviews and author interviews.
*http://howtotellagreatstory.com/, The Beginner's Guide to Storytelling.
*http://5minutesformom.com/, High profile blog for moms on the run.
*Writers' Forums