Forty plus one! Somehow the months just keep rolling by. Which means it’s time for another issue, with my thoughts on writing, recent book events, an interview with a new author and of course, music. Perhaps a little change of pace is in order.
Let’s go find out.
I’m an avid reader. Most people who are serious about their own writing are the same way. You can learn so much from other authors, both good and bad. One of the things I discovered early in my own efforts was to pay attention to the details. I was reminded of this while reading a book recently from one of the major publishers. The story takes place primarily in central Alaska. So imagine my confusion to read that Russia was east of Alaska!
Not only did I reread this statement three times, I also went to the computer to doublecheck. After all, strange little details can be true, such as the fact that Windsor, Canada is actually south of Detroit. Most people assume all parts of Canada are north of the United States. That bit about Russia proved to be false. Which resulted in some hesitation to finish reading that book.
A different author was using references to old music and singers to make points in his book. That part of his book I was enjoying since I’m familiar with many of those tunes. Until he mentioned Frank Sinatra singing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”. That was hit by Dean Martin, not Sinatra. That’s a ghastly error. It’s a fact that was easy to check.
We all make mistakes. But most authors will tell you that’s where the importance of editing comes in. Whether it’s the writer, an editor or a beta reader, the expectation is that someone will catch those errors and correct them before the final manuscript is sent for publication.
Getting those details correct can make a tremendous difference in your story. I want everything that takes place in my books to be accurate. That leads me to do a lot of research. Sometimes it’s just verifying a well-known fact. Other times, I learn that my preconceived notion is incorrect.
I’ve caught mistakes in early drafts of my own books many times. It’s worth rereading the manuscript multiple times to get things correct. As the old proverb goes, ‘the devil is in the details.’
There’s a great line from one of Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” movies: “A man’s got to know his limitations”. For me, it’s technology. I tried to set up my own website a year ago but lacked both the talent and patience to improve it. Fortunately I mentioned this do Diana K. Plopa, who has designed websites for her own business and many other authors. She took my ideas and worked her tech magic to make it so much better.
The summer months have been keeping me on the road, bouncing from one festival to another. I’m not complaining. This is a great opportunity to meet with people in many communities. It’s a time to talk about my writing while interacting with other authors and vendors. I’ve also sold a lot of books.
To date I’ve covered seven different days and have at least six more to go as we move into autumn. I may also consider some others as well. If you’re in the West Michigan area, here are a few where I’ll be.
August 19th. Lee Township Summer Market, Olivet
September 9 & 10. Wine & Harvest Festival, Paw Paw
September 30. Art Fair, Otsego
October 14. Under the Harvest Moon, Dowagiac.
This is how my booth usually looks.
In late July, I was one of 60 authors participating at the Sterling Heights festival. It was a great time. I was able to reconnect with some old friends and make some new contacts.
One of those people I met was author Heather Ashle. We chatted for a bit between shoppers and I learned this was her first event. Her smile and enthusiasm were sure to bring people to her table. When I mentioned the spotlight on the newsletter, she readily agreed to visit.
Tell something about yourself and how you became an author.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I truly fell in love with the process of imagining stories in sixth grade. It was the first in a long line of unfinished short stories that eventually convinced me that I had better assume the role of liberal plotter—rather than seat-flying pantser—if I ever wanted to finish a story.
I do better with detail-oriented, sprawling narratives, in which I can delve into backstories and motivations. After I acknowledged that, I embarked on plans for an epic fantasy series.
I have Cystic Fibrosis, and in my college years, I was in rough shape. Medications have come leaps and bounds since then, and CF isn’t as much of a death sentence as it used to be (I’ve far outlived the estimation of 12 years that my parents were given when I was born). I use the time my treatments take to write and relax into a world where CF doesn’t exist. There is no better therapy for me than that. Still, I probably wouldn’t write like I do if I didn’t have that time to put my creativity to use. It’s an odd blessing, but I’m grateful for it.
Do you ever imagine one of your novels being made into a movie or television series?
I have an overactive imagination—as I believe most writers and artists do. I see everything I’m writing like a movie in my head, so it’s not a far cry to imagine it projected onto a larger screen. If I can’t envision whatever I’m writing, then I figure readers probably won’t be able to either, and that tells me I need to rewrite.
Any favorite actors you’d cast in the lead roles?
I like the idea of a cast of relative unknowns, perhaps (ideally) whose careers are sparked by their involvement in the project (dream big, right?).
But I did have actors in mind as I wrote a few of my characters because their look at some point in their career was spot-on in my head. To give you an idea, Charles Dance is the spitting image of Darr Beval Senior (if a bit old for the role now), Gary Oldman has the look of Lord Twyford, and a thirty-something Rebecca De Mornay would fit Ethelinda of Alston.
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you write the chapters in sequence?
After starting as a pantser, I eventually came to realize that the Virgo in me needed more structure and planning to succeed. Now, I use more outlines than ever. I outline character backgrounds and their evolving plot contributions and maintain a timeline of events to help me keep track of what happened when.
As both sides of the equation—the outline and the story—evolve together over time, I necessarily and frequently reorganize my chapters throughout the process. So, I needn’t worry about writing them “in order.” It’s a joy, if a somewhat tricky one, but I adore every minute of it.
Tell us a little bit about the characters in your latest book.
The characters of the Realm Riders Series are… complex. I attempt to build them on the human model, which is to say, they’re driven by warring motivations that morph (or warp) with knowledge and time. But that knowledge leans on not only an evolving understanding of the realm(s) around them but also a dense web of interconnectivity.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
I introduce—and am introduced to—characters as they pop up in my head because that’s when they’re needed, and I honor that need. Sometimes, I’ll weave an existing character into the hole to cut down on the introduction of new ones, but that isn’t always an option, and that’s when I meet someone new. Then, it’s my job to determine whether they are incidental or more relevant to the story, which often results in their assumption of a greater role than I might have imagined when first they’d popped their heads up in a scene.
What is your latest book about?
As An Heir of Realms is currently the only title available in the Realm Riders Series, I’ll speak to that one. The first thing you need to know is…
Soul-sucking parasites are overwhelming the realms.
Rhoswen of Stanburh is of age to train as a Realm Rider—a defender of the realms. Riders and their dragons work together to burn away infiltrating Narxon as they swarm in through tears in a realm’s fabric. But it’s not an easy battle: the mere touch of the smoky, dragon-like adversaries can reduce the lively winged beasts—and their Riders—to ash.
Becoming a Realm Rider is Rhoswen’s dream, but she carries far more responsibility than flying a dragon. Her destiny will pit her against her uncle, Badrick, the king of her realm, who has scorned Rhoswen since before her birth.
Misconceptions about the Narxon are proving as destructive as the parasites themselves.
In the Exchange, the waystation between all realms, new recruit Emmelyn is fighting her own battle to save the realms. Her foe is not only the Narxon but also the insidious G’Ambit, a gambling ring with members more intent on lining their pockets than protecting the realms… or even their own lives.
Emmelyn must convince the higher-ups in the Exchange that the threat is real, starting with her own boss, an avid gambler who despises her tactics.
Both novice heroines must win their respective battles before war can be waged on the Narxon. But are Rhoswen and Emmelyn too far behind to stand a chance?
In An Heir of Realms, book one of the Realm Riders Series, a tangled web of worlds and the memorable characters who inhabit them will leave you racing to solve the mysteries surrounding imperfect heroes and tormented villains. But the real question is: which is which?
Can you share an excerpt too?
Sure. The first three chapters are available online, so let’s look at a slightly deeper cut from the Exchange.
Unlike Emmelyn’s last two visits, this time, the five of them were together again. From what she could tell, Vonn provided all the latest gossip, and Randy consistently disputed whatever “news” Vonn brought to the circle. Kyle liked to play devil’s advocate to both, just to stir things up. Bernadette could only struggle to act as peacekeeper.
“I don’t believe that fer a second!” Randy drawled emphatically over the thumping bassline. Tonight’s music seemed akin to a bluesy version of electronic dance music, which Emmelyn had never before experienced. She couldn’t decide whether she ever wanted to again either.
“Now, boys… ” Bernadette cautioned in a maternal tone.
Vonn’s face was awash with glee; he loved the debate. “It’s true!” he insisted. “But there is more than politics changing around here! Rules are the driving force behind everything!”
“Don’t start that again! The rules don’t change here!” Randy countered. “The Exchange ain’t a realm!”
Emmelyn’s face scrunched up at the familiar assertion. “The Exchange isn’t a realm?” Had they discussed this on her first visit?
Kyle shook his head. “It’s ‘realmless.’” He used two fingers from each hand to bend quotation marks around the term.
Bernadette leaned in toward Emmelyn. “Most Exchangers think it’s untouchable. Narxon don’t enter heah, so no Riduhs or dragons are needed.”
“It has its own set uh rules,” Randy added with a nod. “Except, unlike the realms, the rules uh the Exchange never change.”
“What if we’re wrong about that? What if they do change?” Vonn protested. “Or what if we’ve never fully understood the rules here at all?”
“We ain’t wrong about the rules,” Randy insisted. “The Exchange has been termed a ‘non-realm’ fer hundreds uh years.”
“But what if it’s just that? A term,” Vonn replied. “They haven’t figured out the Narxon yet—what if they haven’t figured out the Exchange either?”
Randy shook his head. “I don’t want to have the rules debate again!”
Bernadette rolled her eyes. “That untouchable feelin’ that so many Exchangers have heah has created a….” She searched for the right word.
“Disconnect,” Kyle supplied.
She nodded at him and turned back to Emmelyn. “The Datists have it woise than anybody because they nevah leave. Ovuh time, they needed some kind uh diversion from the daily grind uh crunchin’ numbahs. So, they created the underground gamblin’ ring known as the G’Ambit.”
“It’s a geeky portmanteau: ‘ambit,’ as in, the bounds of a place, and ‘gambit,’ like a calculated move that weighs risk against reward—a place to gamble, if you will.” Kyle accented the explanation with one of his signature eyerolls. Emmelyn was beginning to find his theatrics oddly endearing. Perhaps this punk was more than just some hanger-on that the Crew couldn’t shake. “They’re sort of synonyms for ‘realm’ and ‘gambling.’ Datists love wordplay.” Emmelyn thought she saw him mouth the word “nerds” disparagingly under his breath.
“Kyle would know. He’s got a Datist goilfriend.” Bernadette added a conspiratorial wink.
“She isn’t my girlfriend,” Kyle insisted. “We just date from time to time.”
Emmelyn chewed her lip to avoid laughing out loud. She couldn’t envision black-clad Kyle dating a hardcore bookworm. (At least, that’s how she envisioned Datists; she had never met one in person.)
Bernadette flashed Emmelyn a disbelieving glance. Kyle’s expression darkened more than his excessive guyliner, and Emmelyn’s struggle for composure continued.
“What ya said before--that suggests the Exchange politics are splittin’ in two,” Randy drawled to Vonn. “But no one’d believe the Narxon could be beneficial when the realms are disappearin’! Where do ya get all this hogwash?”
It amazed Emmelyn that they could hold such discussions in the Exchange. Given the almost cult-like and secretive nature of the place—not to mention the black-jacketed security guards staring everyone down—she imagined a list of topics ruled off-limits. Of course, Exchangers could barely communicate through the blaring music and near darkness, so perhaps such rules seemed superfluous.
What’s the next project you’ll be working on?
I have a few. I’m currently working on books two and three of the Realm Riders Series. Book two, A Transfer of Realms, is with my beta readers, and I’m diving into book three, A Runner of Realms, to verify that book two properly supports it and the rest of the series to come. I’m also embarking on the long-overdue audiobook for An Heir of Realms, hopefully using local talent, but I’m still working out the details. And finally, as if I needed another thing, I’m creating a companionate storyline for a tabletop-role-playing campaign built on the d20 platform that sends adventurers through the various realms in my series. (Think “Dungeons & Dragons”—but do it quietly please, as there are copyright issues to using that specific name.)
You can learn more about Heather at her website.
During a festival in Holland, one young lady commented on my last name and my books. She mentioned that it would only be natural that I was a fan of ‘love’ songs. I explained that music is essential to life and even include different artists in my newsletter, but I’m not a fan of sappy love songs. When she asked for my favorite ‘love’ songs, I rattled off a few with love in the title. She giggled, bought a copy of Chasing Favors, then wandered off.
But that got me thinking.
So this month, here’s a list of the top 10 songs with ‘love’ in the title. I’m sure there are many more, but these just jumped to mind.
Gimme Some Lovin’: https://youtu.be/BuQ3PaFyb9A
Freeway of Love: https://youtu.be/Ip_pjb5_fgA
Love Shack: https://youtu.be/9SOryJvTAGs
All You Need is Love: https://youtu.be/4EGczv7iiEk
Crazy Little Thing Called Love: https://youtu.be/zO6D_BAuYCI
I Love Rock n Roll: https://youtu.be/wMsazR6Tnf8
Addicted to Love: https://youtu.be/XcATvu5f9vE
Somebody to Love: https://youtu.be/kijpcUv-b8M
Love Me Like a Rock: https://youtu.be/CjFzw8AxSBA
Love the One You’re With: https://youtu.be/SY4HI_vqf0c