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Posts tagged ‘fiction’
I read a very heart-rending blog post today, which I highly recommend to anyone at any point in the writing arena. Whether you are just thinking of writing a book someday or a full-blown published author, this blog post will do nothing less than enlighten you.
Go ahead and read it, and the one it refers to, then get back to me and read my own personal response to all the feelings they bring to the surface for me.
First of all, this is some really deep stuff. I suppose I had a dream a long time ago when I was writing my first book, not knowing a damn thing about the reality of the publishing clockworks. After I was published by a small publishing house- no advance, no marketing help, no tours or publicity- the previous naivete dropped away and I was left with the knowing that this is just another business. The art of it is quickly stripped away when an author transfers themselves from the art of the writing to the business of marketing; becoming, instead of an artist, a salesperson of sorts. I’ve spent way more time trying to hawk my four books than I have on doing what I felt born to do: write great stories. And as time goes by and I find I am a small fish in a big pond of bigger and better storytellers, the love I once had for the art has become so jaded that I now find it hard to write at all. After all, I have shared my very soul with this world; put my heart out there where it was judged just not good enough. That’s enough, I’d say, to have reason to put up a thousand veils. I just ain’t the sales type. But, hey, I still love every bit of what I’ve put down on paper. And I have to believe, nay KNOW, that that is enough. Because in the end, that’s where the only real happiness lies.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I find that writing stories on or based on my own life comes the most easily to me; I’ve also found that people are very interested in hearing my stories, as I’ve had quite an eventful life. Whether I write a story as straight memoir or use it as the basis for fiction depends on my intuition as to which genre will be most effective for that particular piece.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I come from a bookworm family. I started reading at the age of four and haven’t stopped since; before then, my mother read me stories just about every day. I can’t say why, but I’ve loved writing from the time I remember myself, though I’m the only member of my family who writes seriously.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story in second grade; it was called “Susan the Clown,” and was inspired by my experience of being the odd child out among my peers. I’ve been doing creative writing ever since.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
In the past I did translations (Hebrew to English) and a bit of journalism, and spent three years as a grant writer raising funds for nonprofit organizations. Nowadays I concentrate on my own writing – personal essays, memoir, and fiction.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
By getting us to laugh, cry, and ponder, books and stories also get us in touch with our deepest inner selves. Reading, writing, and storytelling also connect people with each other through their common human experience; they let us know that we’re not alone in what we think and feel. This can be done literally or symbolically: whether through memoirs like my own, which directly reflect readers’ experiences, or through creative fiction – even of the wildest kind – which strikes deep emotional chords even where readers will never come close to action such as that which takes place in the bookstory.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
One of its main themes is how my belief in God and practice of Judaism affected and were affected by Timora’s illness and death. One of its two main parts is a journal that records my thoughts and reflections as I grieve for my daughter. Whenever an entry falls on or near a Jewish or Israeli holiday or other special day, I explore the day’s meaning and message for me, in light of Timora’s story, or my own journey. Interestingly, the meaning I find in each case is relevant to all people facing hardship, and not only to Jews or to bereaved parents. In addition, some of the book’s segments deal with completely universal spiritual subjects, such as the question why and how to love God in an often-cruel world.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My goals were mainly two: To tell Timora’s and my stories in a way that would engross and move readers; and to write a book that would be of some comfort and/or assistance to people enduring hardship. From the feedback my readers have given me so far, it seems I achieved both goals. As far as my first aim – to write a good story – goes, a great many people have told me they couldn’t put the book down, and many of those stayed up all night reading it. Just about everyone who’s contacted me after reading it has used expressions such as “beautifully written,” “powerful,” and “extremely moving.” As for the second, some have told me they found it uplifting or inspiring; others have told me that it’s helped them deal with difficulties they are facing in their own lives, even if these difficulties are very different from those I describe in the memoir – and thanked me for writing it.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I think my writing is clear, emotionally honest, intense, and evocative; in any case, so I’ve been told. I’m not afraid to write about topics that might be difficult for most people to tell about.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Timora was a writer herself, and left behind a diary she’d kept from the time she returned to school after her first bone marrow transplant; the last entry is dated a week before she entered the hospital for the last time. My husband Daniel read the diary a few months after she died, and then again when he had it typed up, but I couldn’t touch it for many years. Even after I finally decided to read it, I’d open it, read a little and close it, then “forget” to go back to it for weeks at a time. Writing the memoir, which is as much Timora’s story as mine, forced me to finally read the diary through, as it was very important to me that the book be as factually accurate as possible. Reading the diary was one of the emotionally hardest things I’ve ever done, as you can well imagine. Yet it was a wonderful experience in another way, as I rediscovered just how resilient Timora was. One day she’d write about being physically hurting, mentally exhausted, and emotionally drained – and the next she’d be writing cheerfully and optimistically about plans she’d made with her sisters or friends.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Creating the book was a double process for me. On the one hand, it was therapeutic in that it forced me to dig into deep aspects of my experience which I’d been avoiding, and to explore various facets of their meaning for me. That part was quite hard, but ultimately strengthened me. On the other, the process was deeply artistic in that I had to decide how to take my raw experience and put it into language, and fashion into a whole with integrity – a work that would be meaningful to others besides myself. I very much enjoyed this second part of the process – choosing my words for accuracy and for flow, and structuring the text for maximum impact. For this reason, I loved being edited.
Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those.
Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? If so, explain.
People might think that a book like mine is a depressing read. People who’ve read it, however, have found the story sad but optimistic, as it depicts a loving family dealing with extreme hardship in a way that only increases their love for each other, and a grieving process in which I ultimately affirm faith and love despite suffering and loss.
What inspires you?
Seeing how other people face life’s hardships without losing their sense of humor and their ability to enjoy themselves and love others.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
I think I’ve gotten where I am in life due to a combination of attitude and action. I’ve always been very open to the world and to new experience, which has brought me to places I hadn’t even dreamed of – such as moving to Israel and raising seven children. I’m also quite an optimist; part of me refuses to accept limits to what I can do if I set my mind to it – such as raising seven children while working full time in successive careers as a lawyer, a mediator, a commercial writer and, now, a psychotherapist. Finally, as just about anyone would say in response to this question, I’ve always been willing to put in the hours and work hard.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I’ve probably been influenced one way or another by every author I’ve ever read. What comes to mind when I’m asked this question, though, is that Arhundati Roy (The God of Small Things) showed me that one can write about even the most traumatic of subjects in language that flows like poetry. The memoir/novel that most impressed me was Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness), which he calls a novel, and reads like a novel, but is very closely based on his life. I think it’s the best of his books, and reading it has made me feel less like I’m “cheating” by basing my stories on my own experiences.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Good editing was probably most useful for all the kinds of writing I’ve done – from legal opinions to translation to short stories to my memoir. I’ve also benefitted a great deal from feedback I’ve received in workshops given by professional writers. The most destructive thing I’ve done is compare myself with other authors. My writing is my own, and what I need to do is just make it the best I possibly can.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
I’m a part-time writer. This certainly reduces my output, as I have many fewer hours available for writing, and am more tired during those hours, than would be the case if I wrote full-time. But at the same time, being involved in all my other activities mean that I’m living more of life; perhaps this provides me with more raw material for my writing.
What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
My work as a lawyer sharpened my ability to analyze situations logically and describe them in clear, concise language. Mediating taught me to listen closely when people describe their inner experiences, and to see beneath the surface of their words. Commercial writing, of course, polished my style by giving me the opportunity to work with fine professional writers and editors.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I personally love the sensual feel of holding a print book in my hands, and of turning paper pages one by one. I think print books are easier on my eyes, too, though that problem will probably be solved in the near future. But there’s no turning back the tide of technology, and we’ll just need to adapt.
What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
Reading fills a deep human need for storytelling, and it will certainly always be with us, though it may change its form. It’s true that at the moment, as attention spans continue to shorten, there is a move away from longer, slower-paced works. But I believe there will be a backlash, because people have been enjoying long tales for thousands of years, and it’s hard to imagine something so central to our collective experience just disappearing.
What process did you go through to get your book published?
I spent many, many hours over many, many months sending out queries, summaries, and excerpts to literary agents and small independent publishing houses. Finally, a local agent recommended me to a small Jerusalem-based English-language publisher, and I co-published together with him.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
My book is different from the typical illness or grief memoir in several ways. First, it looks back at Timora’s illness and death from a long perspective; it ends sixteen years after she was diagnosed and nine years after she died. Second, it’s the literary equivalent of a “mixed media” work of visual art, comprising both a narrative that recounts Timora’s story and mine during her illness; and a journal documenting my own journey as I grieved for her. Third, the journal contains several different kinds of segments, some dealing with my emotional state, some with the life decisions I had to make, and some with my spiritual and philosophical reflections in light of Timora’s suffering and my loss. Examples of their highly diverse themes include “Hair,” “Forgiveness,” and “The Bare Necessities: Fun.”
Thus, in the book’s first part the reader goes through the experience of getting to know Timora; of witnessing her struggle to lead a normal life despite the cancer, and mine to support her in any way I could; and finally of losing her. He or she then processes those experiences together with me in its second part. Most memoirs bring the reader into only one of these – either the illness/loss, or the processing.
How do you find or make time to write?
To tell the truth, that’s one of my greatest challenges. The only way I’ve found that works is not to take on too many other commitments – not that I always follow my own advice! It certainly helps that at this stage in my life I no longer have children living at home.
Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
I think all good writing involves a combination of intuition and logic. In my case, intuition – or, if you will, inspiration – usually comes first. I have a general idea of what I want to write about, and often walk around thinking about it for a few hours or days, but never know exactly what I want to say until I sit down at the computer and start writing. It’s the writing itself that gets my juices flowing, and it’s in the middle of the first flow that I usually understand intuitively which words to use and how to structure the piece. Unlike many writers, I revise as I write, often going back in the middle of writing the first draft to change what I’ve already written in light of an idea or language that the act of writing has given to me. Logic comes in here too – I may realize after writing a paragraph that it’s inconsistent with something that came before it, so I go back and either choose one of the contradicting pieces of text, or reconcile them.
After I have a first draft, or the draft of a first section, I again check its logic – whether it makes sense as a whole. Inspiration comes in here too, though; if I find a logical flaw it’s often intuition that tells me how to fix it. I love the revision process, as it allows me to polish what I’ve written.
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
I’ve spoken about the book in a few different forums – my synagogue, a literary café, and two social work classes – but my main method of promotion is the virtual tour I’m now taking, visiting various blogs, book sites, and radio programs. I must say that the virtual tour is taking up all my writing time, but it’s just for a month, so I’ll get back to my creative writing soon.
What do you like to read in your free time?
I’m an extremely eclectic reader, and love good books in most genres. I usually read a few books at once. Right now, for example, I’m in the middle of David Grossman’s To the End of the Land, Scott Turow’s Innocent, and Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote (in Edith Gross’s modern translation, it’s as great a read as any contemporary novel). Recently I’ve read several books by Indian authors, such as Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m working on various short stories in the framework of a creative writing group. I’d like to publish my finished stories in a collection that I’m tentatively calling Scenes from My Life and Other Stories.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has? Write it out here, then answer it.
What was your greatest problem in writing the book, and how did you solve it?
Hardest for me was balancing my desire to tell the story of Timora’s illness and death and the need to protect my family’s privacy. One of the most serious challenges facing parents of children with serious illness is dealing with the family dynamics – I wanted to be honest about the very real difficulties, but without revealing things that my children would much rather be kept from the public eye. I eventually wrote just enough not to idealize our family – to let my readers know that a situation like ours is inevitably going to be very hard on the other children, and that parents will sometimes find themselves at a loss about what to do. At first I wasn’t sure whether to publish under my real name or a pseudonym; in the end I asked each family member if I could use his or her given name, and ended up “renaming” three of my children.
To learn more about Susan Avitzour, author of And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones, we invite you to visit her site – http://www.fiveyearslater.blogspot.com. For the full virtual tour schedule, visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2011/01/06/twice-the-marrow-virtual-tour/
Jen Knox writes both fiction and creative nonfiction. She never writes poetry, not on purpose (she asked me to include this detail), but she enjoys reading it. Jen is a graduate of Bennington‘s Writing Seminars and currently works as a Creative Writing professor at San Antonio College and Fiction Editor at Our Stories Literary Journal. Jen is here today to answer a few questions about her current title, Musical Chairs and her experience as an emerging writer.
Jen, tell us, what compelled you to write a memoir?
Jen: Hello. I didn’t want to be bothered with plotlines. I’m kidding! I wanted to tell my story because it’s a hell of a story, and although it’s a hell of a story, it’s not unique. Teenage girls, especially those who are prone to depression or anxiety, have it tough to begin with. There is a lot of confusion during this time, and when a person is depressed, the desire to ‘escape’ is prevalent. If undiagnosed, however, the dilemma compounds. It’s common to seek escape. My family wasn’t perfect, no, but I was not abused. Yet, I was sure that my life would be better, if only I got away from my parents. My memoir is about the tumultuous journey that follows this decision. Honestly, I did not set out to write a memoir. When I began writing, when I returned to college, I wrote fiction. Meanwhile, my personal stories were surfacing in the characters. Once a phenomenal teacher introduced me to the art of essay and memoir, I decided to give it a shot. Memoir is a tough genre, but incredibly rewarding.
In telling your story, has it made life easier or more difficult for you?
Jen: Interesting question. I can’t say my life has become any easier, but I do feel as though the process of memoir writing, if taken seriously, allows more perspective on the past. I have received quite a few unsolicited diagnoses from readers. I suppose they might’ve been solicited, in a way, seeing as how I chose to publish, but either way, I had some really interesting responses. One man accused my father of molesting me, he said it was the sub-text he had read in the book. This did not happen, and so for my father to read this review was incredibly painful. Moreover, I have had quite a few people accuse me of being an amoral person, a person who “needs Jesus” or some other sort of saving, and this can be a little tough to take. The truth is, I’m very happy now, and I wouldn’t trade my decisions for anything. My memoir was important because it gave voice to my younger self, a girl many other girls may relate to. And the positive feedback I’ve received, those who’ve told me that they have a similar story but are ashamed to share it; those who tell me that I am a tough girl for having the courage to change my lifestyle; those who have also abused alcohol or drugs, they make up for anything negative others might say. They are my audience.
What is your favorite color?
Jen: Gray-blue, like the sky just before it storms.
Did you experience writer’s block during the writing process? If so, how did you overcome it?
Jen: No. I wrote the draft in a summer. It took five years to revise and refine. I did have many days in which I didn’t want to revise though, but it’s my feeling that if a writer hires a ghostwriter for a memoir, it shouldn’t be considered a memoir.
What advice can you give to those who suspect that they too could be suffering from some form of mental illness?
Jen: Talk to someone you trust. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone, then write it down. Record how you feel and when you are most depressed, and then bring this information to a reputable psychologist. I am not a huge advocate of quick fixes, and I highly suggest that a person who wants a lasting cure to pay close attention to how the mind works; study for yourself. The fact is, depression is not a rational thing, and so you cannot fix it with a quick, rational cure. It takes time and support. There are support groups and physical tools that will help, such as regular exercise, that helped me immensely
What was the most difficult part of the writing process for Musical Chairs?
Jen: Figuring out which scenes to cut and which to include. It seems that a memoir would be easier to write than fiction, because the story is already there. But life doesn’t follow a clear narrative path, and therefore a writer must impose one–this is no easy thing! The structure of memoir requires a lot of reworking and adjustment in order to maintain integrity and best tell a personal story.
Did you ever feel that by distancing yourself from your family, you might be able to avoid mental illness?
Jen: No. I feel as though distancing myself from my family did give me more appreciation for them, but I was a depressed little kid; it was with me long before I could name it. I strongly believe that mental distress, to a certain degree, is chemical. This doesn’t mean that a person cannot find a personalized cure, and it doesn’t mean I advocate medication as a quick fix, but it does mean that it’s not wholly sociological.
How long did it take you to research, write and have your memoir published?
Jen: Five years, in total. A few months of writing; years of fact-checking and research; more years of revising.
What do you hope that your readers will take away from your book?
Jen: I hope that they will better understand what it is like for a young girl to deal with depression. I hope women will read this book, and chose to tell their own stories (in whatever way) rather than staying silent. Behaviors repeat if we don’t address them, and the dangers that exist for a teenage girl will not go away. Awareness, however, can decrease a girl’s odds of endangering herself.
Do you have any new books planned for publication in the next few years?
Jen: I plan to release a collection of short stories in early 2011 with All Things That Matter Press. It’s entitled To Begin Again. I am currently working on a novel entitled Absurd Hunger. I hope to release this one in 2012, but I’m not sure this is realistic. We’ll see.
Thank you, Jen, for your time. Musical Chairs can be purchased at Amazon.com at: http://amzn.com/0984259422
Check out Jen Knox’s website and blog:
1. What do you think most characterizes your writing?
**My writing style is elemental. Meaning, I don’t use a lot of complex
sentence structures. I would rather a reader remember the story I’ve
told, than the words I chose to tell it with. It reminds me of the
first time I was taught to apply makeup: It needs to blend and look
natural, so that people see you and not just the blush, lipstick or
2. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
**Edits and revisions–killing my darlings. There were more than a few
scenes that were ultimately cut for the good of the novel.
3. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
**The drafting stage, where the story flowed without any consideration
of audience or publication or future edits. I’ll never have that
experience with a novel again and this series will always be special
to me because it was the first one I wrote without having gone through
the process of submitting to agents and publishers, etc.
4. What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your
subject/genre, that isn’t so?
**Epic fantasy can have just as much depth as literary fiction. There
has been a shadow over genre fiction for years that unfairly labels
anything beyond the literary category as being two-dimensional and
bereft of complex themes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
5. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were
influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
**Believe it or not, Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. That sounds
ridiculous, but when I first learned to love reading, I read YA
thrillers: R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Series and just about everything
of Christopher Pike’s. Those novels, read when I was 11, 12, 13 years
old, taught me cadence and the importance of when to conceal and when
6. What are some day jobs that you have held?
**I worked in property management before I left gainful employment to
write full time. But, I’ve also worked in retail, a doctor’s office
and a long, long time ago I was a barista at a coffee stand.
7. Who is your least favorite character in Son of Ereubus?
**Aiden. He represents so many things, but the bottom line is that
he’s a selfish, egotistical, bastard. He does some really repulsive
things in book one and I struggled with how to portray one scene in
particular without going overboard or giving undue attention to the
8. How does your family feel about your writing?
**I am incredibly blessed. I have fantastic parents and in-laws.
Really. I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support from all sides of
my family–far more than I ever expected or hoped for.
9. Is there more beyond the Guardians of Legend trilogy? For these characters?
**Oh yes. This is a nine book series. The first trilogy stands alone,
but you have to have read it in order to follow the second and third
trilogies. The second one goes back in time to the beginning, and the
third one jumps ahead to 25 years after the end of the first trilogy.
10. What is the most important thing to look for in signing with a
**Distribution. Distribution. Distribution. I can’t say that enough.
Rhemalda recently signed with a full service distributor, Atlas Books,
and that’s huge for us. Communication is also pivotal. You need to
make sure you are signing with someone who will keep in touch with you
and let you know what’s going on with your work and who will keep you
involved in decisions.
Hi Walter. Thanks for coming on my blog and doing this interview. Here are some fairly enlightening questions our readers would like to know about you. I wish you great success with your writing!
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was first able to make letters with a pencil. The other day I was going through some old boxes and I came across pages and pages and pages of old stories and manuscripts. It was actually almost freaky, as if I suffer from some bizarre addiction (I think most writers refer to their writing habit as an addiction…I do anyway).
I had my first story published when I was a Freshman or a Sophomore in high school, and I studied English Literature in College. I would have studied creative writing, but I thought it was better to study writers in a literature class and get the information straight from the horse’s mouth as it were, rather than be taught by professors of creative writing. I suppose that attitude was a little arrogant, but I’m a bit mistrustful of pretty much any academic system.
What kind(s) of writing do you do?
Anything and everything. I was the editor of a web page in Peru for a while which required me to write semi-formal articles. Since then I’ve started up a blog about Peru called “Streets of Lima” (http://streetsofperu.blogspot.com/ ) which is a series of highly informal rants.
My latest book with Rhemalda is a Heroic Fantasy (http://www.rhemalda.com/bookstore/bone-sword-p-31.html), but I’ve also got a couple travel memoirs floating around in my hard drives. As long as I can pound out some words and phrases on my keyboard, I’m happy.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
I’ve thought about this question a lot because I think those of us with degrees in English spend a lot of time defending our social significance . I think that stories are a model for behavior. That’s why people get so angry when they see a character in a film behave in an inappropriate way. The belief is that sooner or later that attitude will be repeated by people who have seen the film in real-life situations (which is probably true in some cases).
Stories are a great way to convey useful information in a way that is safe and secure. There are times in your life when you are vulnerable and you need some guidance, and, unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people in this world who will instantly try to take advantage of you in those moments. If you turn to a book, however, you maintain a lot more control. You can put the book down at any time that you want, and it’s up to you to provide the inflection to the characters’ voices that shapes how you perceive the story. The written word is a much gentler form of sharing knowledge. The reader gets to participate far more than if s/he was just being lectured at.
This is especially important today when the sum total of what we know as a race is far greater than any person could discover in his/her lifetime. It’s vital that we have a good way of communicating this information. It’s the great inherited wealth of the human race.
What/who inspires you?
Well, my wife and I have just had a beautiful daughter who has been lighting up our house for the last month. She’s the first person I thought of in answer to that question. Since she’s been born, I’ve found myself compelled to work twice as hard as ever before. Although I’ve never really felt I needed a lot of things in order to be content, I find that I just don’t want to deny my lovely little daughter anything.
As an extension of that thought, I’d also love for the world we lived in to be a little more reasonable for her and for everyone’s sake. There are so many days that I see people making decisions based on flawed logic or false information. These decisions lead to tragedies which lead to overall disharmony. As a writer, you find that poor logic kind of clears itself up through the process of writing it down. I think most writers have had to abandon novels when they realized the premises they were working with just didn’t hold up to support the weight of the work. Writing, for me, is a great way to clear and to organize my thoughts. The more of that I can pass on to others, the better the world should become.
How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
I’ve been pretty unconventional all my life. At one point when I was fairly young I decided it was better to fail by doing things my way than to succeed by doing things another’s way. I think that too many people simply get caught up in the “rat race” of thinking that they need a 55 inch plasma TV and a new car and all that garbage. When I was about 23, I decided that I wanted to travel and write above all else. So I moved to Lima, Peru where I was able to live for between $6000-$8000 a year. Now, living in Peru meant that I had to give up on a lot of luxuries that people in the US “enjoy,” but I didn’t miss them in the least. I love being able to live cheaply and maintain my mobility and do the things that I want rather than the things other people expect of me.
I always look a little skeptically at those people who are working jobs they hate for the promise of a pension or retirement package twenty years down the road. It seems to me that the precedent is for these companies and corporations to renege on their promises the second the dutiful employee comes to ask for them. I suppose it’s the lure of “security” that keeps people in positions like that. But I think you’re a lot better off when you realize there is no “security” in this world. You’ve got to live each day like it’s your last, spend as much time with your wife and children, and do the things you love to do. Never trade that for the promise of some pension that may or may not even be there in twenty years.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I’ve just been reading Douglas Adams’ “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detecive Agency” and it’s been a surprise to see how much his narrative voice has affected mine. But that’s mainly for my blog writing and things like that. For “The Bone Sword” (my recent fantasy novel), I suppose I’m more influenced by people such as Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, and Tolkien.
Another big influence that I’d be remiss not to mention is Charles Bukowski. Of all writers, I think Bukowski achieves the greatest readability. His novels just flow from one word to the next, and I think his voice is simply staggering. The thing that I love most about Bukowski is that you can give one of his novels to a person who has never read or enjoyed reading before and they WILL enjoy Bukowski. Writing should be catered to the widest possible audience, and that, I think, is Bukowski’s greatest strength.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
I think when it comes right down to it, all you have to do is write a lot and keep on writing. Sooner or later your own voice will establish itself. I think there are many people who make the mistake of thinking that there are hard and fast “rules” that you have to follow in order to make your writing any good. To some extent the things that creative writing instructors say are true, there are little conventions here and there that you should avoid. However, I like the line from the last scene in “The Wonder Boys” with Michael Douglas in which he says all writers have to figure it out for themselves…teaching doesn’t help.
If you want a teacher, make it be the editors you send your stories off to, the people who read them, and the reactions you get from them. Don’t base your changes on “hypothetical writing theory,” base it on real life reactions that you can see and feel.
How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
I think ebooks are great in that they can greatly bring down publishing costs and therefore allow for a lot more publishing companies to become established and a lot more voices to be heard. I know a few people still grumble about the idea of reading an electronic book, but those e-readers (like the Kindle and the iPad) are here to stay (and they’re pretty darn cool too).
When it comes to a choice between alternative and conventional anything…I’m always going to pick alternative. The alternative is just the evolution of how things get done, it’s the cutting edge.
When you think about it, it’s really an exciting time for writers and writing. Blogs, for example, are such a great way to get the word out there, and social media like Facebook and Twitter allows you to have instantaneous contact with thousands of people with just the press of a button.
What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?
The main things are my blogs. I already mentioned “Streets of Lima” (http://streetsofperu.blogspot.com/ ) which is my Peru blog. I also have a “Heroic Fantasy” blog at (http://walterrhein.blogspot.com/ ). In addition to this blog, I have a Facebook group called “Heroic Fantasy” which is up to over 2000 members. You can join at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=108822105819999&ref=ts
Of course, maintaining all these things takes a lot of time, but I don’t view it at all as a detraction. I think all writers have a certain amount of energy they just have to “burn off.” In the old days, that would be ground up by early drafts and notes that were eventually tossed into the waste basket. Today, you dump all that stuff into your blog which gives your readers an interesting day to day insight as to how you’re thinking. Blog entries are like the news, they’re not great literature, but they’re entertaining for that afternoon. After you’ve gotten done “warming up” by writing your blog…you can move on to working on your more important tasks.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I’ve been in talks with Rhemalda to do a couple sequels to my fantasy novel “The Bone Sword” already (http://www.rhemalda.com/bookstore/bone-sword-p-31.html). In addition to that, I’d like to see if they might eventually publish some of my South American travel narratives (those are a bit dicey…really pushing the envelope). Also, I’ve just finished up a book which is kind of a memoir of my cross-country skiing and marathon running days. They haven’t gotten back to me on whether they’re going to publish it, so keep your fingers crossed for me!
In addition to all that, I will continue to enjoy working on my blogs and various e-publications. Feel free to contact me if you think I can bring some visibility to your work. I feel it’s the responsibility of writers to help one another out, and I’m happy to do it!
Faerie Blood, by Angela Korra’ti
Kendis Thompson of Seattle thinks she’s as normal as the next computer geek, and up till now, she’s been right. But her world is about to turn on its ear, for she is the daughter of a Seelie Court mage and her mortal husband–and her faerie blood is awakening. Suddenly the city she’s known all her life is transforming before her eyes. Trolls haunt the bike trails. Fairies and goblins run loose in the streets. An old woman who is not what she seems and a young wanderer running from his past stand ready to defend Seattle–and Kendis–from magical assault. She will need those allies, for the power rising within her is calling her fey kin to the Emerald City to find her. And kill her.
Q: Where did you get the idea for Faerie Blood?
Basically, it goes back to this–as a lifelong fan of Elvis Presley, I’m very finicky about Elvis impersonators. And as a lifelong fan of fantasy novels, I’m also very partial to elves. Elves. Elvis. Only one vowel’s worth of difference, and it was inevitable that I’d come up with a scene involving what would happen if an elf showed up at an Elvis impersonator contest!
I wrote a scene fragment for this many, many years ago. But fast forward to Nanowrimo 2003, and my deciding that I’d try to make the writing as easy as possible on myself by throwing everything I loved into it: Seattle, biking, computer geekery, magic, elves, and most of all, music. Several people in the cast of Faerie Blood are musically inclined–and Elessir a’Natharion, bard, Unseelie, and all-around rogue, is absolutely shameless about milking his Elvis look.
Elessir would also shamelessly tell you the story’s really all about him. Don’t listen to him. Even if he can play a hell of a guitar.
Come visit Angela at http://www.angelakorrati.com if you want to find out more about Faerie Blood, and tell her about your favorite music!
1) Brief bio
Julie Achterhoff has enjoyed writing since early childhood. She impressed her teachers with her stories written in many genres. One teacher in the eighth grade told her that after reading one of her scary stories she couldn’t sleep all night! Julie didn’t start writing seriously until after raising her five children on her own. During this time she worked as a homebirth midwife. Her first published work was a novella titled Native Vengeance. This was followed by her fictional thriller, Quantum Earth. Deadly Lucidity is her most recent thriller.
1. Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background…the prequel if you would to your writing career.
I have always loved reading, especially horror and thriller type books. They scared me to death as a kid, but I read whatever my mother handed down to me, so I was kind of forced into it! I read a lot of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and I’ll never forget Tales of the Cthulu Mythos. I guess I figured that it was fun to scare people with your writing. My first major writing, though, was a play I wrote for a women’s lit class I took a few years ago, which wasn’t horrific in the least. It was about three women in three different centuries, and the struggles each of them had being women writers. It’s called Angel In The House. Before my writing career began I delivered babies at home, something completely different from writing!
2. Why did you choose to write novels?
I think it’s because I feel like writers can have such a huge impact on people if they write well enough. I started writing a few novels over the years, but never had the extra time until recently to actually finish one. Whenever I was writing, I just got the greatest feeling! It made me feel excited and important. I could just imagine other people reading my words and maybe really liking what they read. It was a thrill just thinking about it.
3. Tell me about your story.
Since this interview is focusing on Deadly Lucidity, I’ll talk about that one. Marie is kind of an eccentric woman who has learned to stay lucid during her dreams. That means she is totally conscious when in the dream state. She can go where she wants to and do anything. But she suddenly starts dreaming about a crazed psychopath who is trying to kill her. Then, her dreams become so real that she becomes trapped in them. They are becoming more and more bizarre, too. She meets a man named Murphy, who ends up helping her try to escape this nightmare. They journey together towards a place they’ve been told is a way out, while trying to stay one step ahead of the psychopath, among other strange beings and situations. Marie’s growing passion for Murphy causes her to have to make some tough choices, though. How can she leave her “dream man” behind?
4. How did you develop the character of your protagonist?
Marie starts off being in therapy, relying on medication to prevent recurring panic attacks and general anxiety. She is basically alone in the world. Her only “real” friends are in her dreams. She is also a writer. I kind of modeled her after myself, only more of a caricature of me. Through her dream experiences she is pretty much forced to come into her own power. She doesn’t have much choice but to become stronger and grow. There are some weak moments for her, of course, but she overcomes the obstacles that come her way to save her own life.
5. What are your hero’s strengths and weaknesses?
Marie is very fearful. She doesn’t want to go on. She hides in her own little world, writing day after day. She doesn’t realize her true strengths until she is faced with people and situations that will make or break her. Her whole world is turned upside down, which presents challenges she has never even considered before this. All she can do is pull herself out of the way she was, and on the way changes from a caterpillar into a butterfly.
6. What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
Oh, yes. This crazy lunatic that is chasing her down is a real weirdo! He has somehow fixated on her, and his only goal is to torture and kill Marie. He also has some really interesting idiosyncrasies. All I’ll say is that she gets into some very tight spots with this guy!
7. Did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
Yes. I’ve had some very lucid dreams myself. Some of them have been nightmares that I’ve had a tough time getting out of. This book was actually inspired by one of them. I thought I woke up from a perfectly nice dream, when in reality I went straight into the realest nightmare I’ve ever had! I actually thought it was really happening. Luckily, I was finally able to really wake myself up, but I was practically hysterical. It took quite a while to calm myself down.
8. Beyond this novel what are your future writing plans?
I’m almost finished with my third book titled Earthwalker. It takes a completely fresh approach to the world of vampires. In it, vampires originated from another planet, and have a common ancestry with humans. It’s only when they live on Earth for too long that they get a taste for human blood. On their own planet they only drink animal blood, and are even more civilized and advanced technologically than humans. One of them crashes his spaceship in the wilderness near where a young woman named Willa is camping. He is severely burned, and she nurses him back to health. His English name is Paul, and the two fall in love. But that’s just the beginning. They must go through many terrible situations together before their story is told. Both of them are stretched to their very limits.
9. Will you continue to feature the same protagonist in future stories? Will any other characters migrate over to future books?
I’m not sure about that yet. Probably not. I like to write books that are completely different from each other or anything I’ve ever read before.
10. Anything else you might want to add?
I had a video trailer made for Deadly Lucidity, which can be found at: http://www.associatedcontent.com/video/687534/book_video_trailer_deadly_lucidity.html?cat=38
Readers can also read part of the book at: http://www.freado.com/book/6046/Deadly-Lucidity
It can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0984421904?ie=UTF8&force-full-site=1
It’s now on sale on Kindle for $3.19
Here is a review:
4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging Suspense Thriller, June 16, 2010
By Apex Reviews (Durham, NC USA)
This review is from: Deadly Lucidity (Paperback)
Caught in a dream world from which she can’t escape, Marie finds herself hunted by a dangerous psychopath. Her situation is far from hopeless, though, as a handsome Ranger named Murphy vows both to protect her and help her find a way back to the real world. Over the course of their shared adventures, Marie looks very much forward to getting her life back to normal – but her growing passion for Murphy makes the prospect of leaving him behind an increasingly difficult choice to make…
Skillfully crafted by author Julie Achterhoff, Deadly Lucidity is an engaging suspense thriller. In it, Achterhoff has crafted a compelling alternate nether world straight out of the darkest regions of any imagination. In addition, as Marie wends her way through a series of increasingly perilous events, you find yourself rooting not-so-silently on her behalf, turning each fresh page in rapt anticipation of precisely what fate awaits her as the story progresses. Furthermore, the genuine affection that she and Murphy feel for one another adds a layer of palpable tension to the overall tale, drawing the reader in even more as this modern twist on the age-old tale of good vs. evil plays itself out in fantastical fashion.
A dynamic, riveting thriller with a host of intriguing twists, Deadly Lucidity is a recommended read for lovers of well crafted fantasy suspense tales.
Worlds within worlds await through the Maya Bloodgate….
Dr. Jaid Merritt doesn’t do digs. The last time she ventured into the
jungle, someone died. Now she’s content to decipher Maya glyphs from
pictures sent to her by her famous archaeologist father. But when he
goes missing while trying to perform a ritual based on her
translations of an ancient codex, Jaid must put aside her fears and
travel to Guatemala to find him.
After misusing the Bloodgates to bring his twin brother back from the
afterlife, the Maya priest known as Ruin was cursed by the gods to
stand as the guardian for all time. He was unable to stop Dr. Charles
Merritt from opening the gates, and now demons roam this world. The
last thing he wants to do is hurt the beautiful woman who is somehow
infused with his magic, but if she uses the codex to retrieve her
father, Ruin must do his duty. And this time, he won’t fail. Even if
it kills him. Again.
~ * ~
I’ve always loved the idea of blood sacrifice. From vampires to the
symbology of communion, I’m fascinated by the inherent power in this
essence of life. Add mythology to the mix, and I’m one happy camper,
so of course, the Maya have always been one of my favorites
mythologies. Bonus: pyramids!
One of my inspirations for THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN is a demotivator
poster (link http://www.despair.com/sacrifice1.html) that shows the
famous El Castillo pyramid of Chich’en Itza that says “All we ask here
is that you give us your heart.” While there’s no archeological
evidence that the Maya sacrificed hundreds or thousands of victims
until the pyramid steps ran red with blood as in Mel Gibson’s
Apocalytpo, they did practice blood sacrifice. Most of the time, they
cut their ears or (men, avert your eyes and cover yourself) penis,
caught blood on special paper, and then burned it with incense to
honor the gods.
And yes, occasionally people were sacrificed, especially the losers of
the famous ballgame or captured kings from other villages. Sometimes
people were simply tossed into the cenote—large sinkholes that form
over thousands of years in the limestone, often with an extensive
network of caves. If they were still alive hours later…or possibly
the next day…then they might be rescued to see if they bore any
messages from the gods. Sadly, children were often the victims of
this type of sacrifice, inspiring a short story that I’m offering for
free on my website Well of Sky, link
Most of the time, it was the willing sacrifice—of his own blood—that
imbued so much power into the priest’s prayers and rituals. Ruin, the
hero in THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN, has paid that price numerous times
himself. In fact, he’s died many times in service to the Bloodgates.
He willingly pays the ultimate price over and over to protect that
When this man falls in love, he falls hard. How many times will he
die to keep her alive?
An exciting new approach to detective novels, 15 interconnected short stories
involving a different kind of private eye.
The Greer Agency is 75k words of gritty detective fiction presented in 15
separate but connected stories. The reader follows the development of private
detective Mike Greer, the only PI in the Altoona, PA phone book. It’s tough to
make a living in a decaying old railroad town, but with the help of an
anonymous benefactor, Greer lands some interesting cases—cases that he
solves with guts and determination. Throughout the stories, his budding
romance with Susan grows. Eventually they realize they are right for each
Readers will find Mike Greer an accessible everyman with luck, pluck, smarts
and a host of interesting friends. He finds his way into and out of problems
large and small. Greer narrates the stories in a refreshing and original voice.
Each story has its own plot and can stand on its own but, as the book
progresses, the mysteries pile up and the plots get more complex until the
explosive last story.
Mike Greer is a protagonist with a low tolerance for bullshit and an easy
touch for the emotional pleas of the downtrodden. He works alone and
struggles against an uncaring world. But throw no pity party for the man, he
will have none of it. His melancholy is tightly wrapped inside his tough guy
exterior, and pity just bounces off as he walks away, down the dark sidewalks
of Altoona into the next story.
Now available in print and e-book format from All Things That matter Press:
or from from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Greer-Agency-Harris-
Ora begins her journey as an innocent sixteen-year-old daughter of the local fishing village’s chief—having the liberty to go freely on her way each day, swimming the turquoise lagoon and reveling in the undersea beauty which nature delivers. She suddenly discovers that the Gods have bestowed a powerful Gem Star—a magical gift from the heavens—upon her shoulders, forever changing her destiny. Ora’s Mayan heritage and adventurous spirit inspires her to capture the flashy, fiery ball. She absorbs all the energy and enlightenment it pours forth, setting her life and village into a new direction. In a time when women were of a lower class and denied spiritual participation, Ora breaks these bonds and begins a journey of discovery and adventure, empowerment, and, eventually, leadership to save her people from the scourge and enslavement by the mighty King of the great City of the Gods, Teotihuacan.
When the events of a sudden, terrifying eclipse show young Ora the location of the tiny, yet powerful Gem Star, the sixteen-year-old is suddenly charged with the daunting mission of retrieving the precious jewel – by none other than the gods themselves. Though her subsequent journey is fraught with peril, Ora receives the support of key allies along the way as she strives to prevent the Gem Star from falling into the hands of the ruthless King Chan, who intends to use it to serve his own selfish purposes. With such a grave responsibility resting squarely on her shoulders, Ora must summon a courage she’s never known to protect the fate of the world from the malice of evil hearts. Intriguing, creative, and with a flair for the magical, Ora And The Gem Star is an engaging fantasy tale. Skillfully crafted by author Jack Cowardin, Ora takes the reader on a vicarious journey through a time long since passed, well before the contrived “adventures” of video games, virtual reality, and other modern technological advances. A genuine fantastical thriller, Ora also doubles as an edifying guide to the beliefs, customs, and practices of cultures that thrived and prospered long ago, ultimately helping to foster a deeper appreciation of the cultural folkways and mores that preceded our time. Furthermore, in Ora herself, Cowardin has created a rather admirable heroine, one who rises to the considerable challenge of a task that requires her to step outside of her own comfort zone for the sake of countless others. Such a feat is not an easy one to fulfill – particularly for a sheltered sixteen-year-old unaccustomed to danger and with a nod to grand, sweeping cultural epics, Ora And The Gem Star more than holds its own as an imaginative fantasy tale in the proud tradition of Tolkien and Herbert. A recommended read. http://www.apexreviews.net
Join in the adventure of “Ora and the Gem Star.”
On the web: http://www.jackcowardinbooks.com
Purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/auosi9
Watch our video trailer: http://bit.ly/aryzs5
Achterhoff has written a great science fiction piece. The book starts with a tsunami rushing to the beach of a southeast Asian coast. A team of researchers is investigating the possible cause of all the natural disasters that are happening with more frequency recently.
Mel Hawkins heads a team of metaphysical scientists who are searching for the possible cause of the natural disasters that seem to be happening all around. The team consists of psychics, mediums and people readers as well as technical but open minded scientists. They set out to prove that the human race can alter the fate of the planet. It all hinges on the Mayan calendar ending in 2012.
The plot deals with the research. The researchers discover there is some connection between the disaster and what people were thinking at the time and just before it occurred. Through two trance mediums they contact the recently deceased and also interview the survivors. They hope to find a common thread that will show humans can bring about these disasters and thus with the right knowledge and correct direction can prevent the cataclysmic events predicted for 2012.
Achterhoff has too many topics to share in this book. She spends the first part of the book explaining the environmental problems and the apathy or pure destructive tendencies of humans to destroy the environment of the planet. These segments tend to interrupt the flow of the story and cause some difficulties for a reading. Achterhoff comes across as preachy in some places. However the story is well worth following.
Technically Achterhoff is an excellent writer. The editing is clean and consistent. The book printing is well done and easy to read. This is overall a very good medium for the warnings Achterhoff wishes to deliver.
This book is recommended for all science fiction, psychic, and end-times readers. The science and psychic portions might be hard for some to understand or accept, but they are well reasoned and evidently strongly believed in by the author.
I feel this is a subject which should be imagined now, as we are on the verge of what this book is predicting. As Peter Lorre said in almost every one of his films, “We are Doomed!”
Quantum Earth is about a team of seven metaphysicians, lead by Mel Hawkins (“Hawk”) and Shauna Troy, investigating why the Earth is in peril.
In light of the tsunami, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and other natural catastrophes, many people are wondering if Armageddon is coming for real. Would 2012 be the end of the human race, as we know it? Most importantly, are we responsible for these natural disasters? If so, are we being destroyed so the earth can replenish itself? How can we survive the Earth changes? What can we do to appease it and save the human race? These are the questions the team is asking and seeking solutions to. They have their work cut out for them.
Quantum Earth is more than about metaphysics and climate changes. The author, Julie Achterhoff, fills it with romance, mystery, and fantasy. I read this book in one sitting, because I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know who is this mysterious Starborn one, the friend of the team, and the equally enigmatic benefactor who donated 2.5 million dollars. What does he have to gain from the team’s work? Is he benevolent enough to help save the Earth and the human race or does he have an ulterior motive? More importantly, I wanted to know the scientists’ findings and solutions.
Ms. Achterhoff does a great job of keeping the story intriguing all the way to the end. I love that there are actions in this book. She makes me care about her characters, especially the romantically involved leaders of the team: Hawk and Shauna. My jaw dropped when I found out about half of her identity.
I love this book and highly recommend it.
Sambath Meas, Author of The Immortal Seeds
“A team of metaphysical scientists is dedicated to finding out why the Earth is in crisis. The rate, size, and destructive power of hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions is out of control. All of these acts of nature have become more devastating to human life than ever before in history, but why? Is the Earth cleansing itself of humanity? Or could it be that human thought is the true case? This is what the team is asking; the hardest question of all: Do we create our own reality?”
It’s not an easy thing to offer to review the work of an author you don’t know very well. If it’s a good friend that’s one thing, because you can say something honestly if you find that you don’t like it. But, if it is someone who you don’t know very well, it is a scary thing to offer to do, because the thought screams loudly in your mind, “What if I don’t like it?” But, one day I know that it will be me out there pimping my work. So, with that knowledge in mind I found I had to put my hand up. Because, one day I hope someone will put their hand up for me.
Still, it was with trepidation that I opened the ebook and began reading the prologue. By the end of the first two paragraphs I made a very happy discovery. This is a good book. From two paragraphs I could tell that Julie Achterhoff is a quality author. Her writing style is extremely easy to read and the scenes are painted so that you can envision their detail easily without the over the top page wasting some lesser quality authors are prone to spend setting the scene. I could have written a review based only on the first few chapters, but this book was so good that I wanted to finish all of it for the sake of my own enjoyment. An exceptional achievement on the part of Julie Achterhoff there, as I rarely read novels to the end anymore.
Quantum Earth is a unique story where a group of scientists use new age beliefs to examine whether or not humanity creates its own tragedies. As natural disasters escalate, this team of researchers use a number of methods to collate data including trance, hypnosis, and dreams prior to the event.
This is a fantastically unique story and it is incredibly well written. At the current price of $15.99, you are getting a real bargain. I have no doubt at all that Julie is a future bestseller, and you won’t regret the short time it takes to enjoy either Quantum Earth, or her new book “Deadly Lucidity” which has just recently been released to amazon.com