CHAT WITH REGINA PUCKETT

Regina Puckett writes sweet, contemporary and Regency romance, horror, inspirational, steampunk, picture books and poetry. There are always several projects in various stages of completion and characters and stories waiting in the wings for their chance to finally get out of her head and onto paper.

Time to chat with Regina!

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

A good book cover is the first thing that attracts a reader to a book, so it’s extremely important to choose a good one. As a reader, it’s what I look at first. As a writer, I love looking through photos to find the perfect one for my books. I’ve even written a couple of my books because I found a photo I loved so much I knew it had to have its very own story.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

All of my characters control me. I begin each book with a general idea of what the story is going to be about, and then I let my characters take me through each chapter until the end. I’ve tried having everything plotted out, but my characters always say or do something that changes the book’s direction. I’ve discovered that it is easier to let them have the control from the very beginning. It saves me from having a few headaches and loads of regret.

What is your latest book?

I Close My Eyes is my latest book and is my first attempt at writing a historical romance. Regency romance is the hardest genre I have ever tackled. It took so much research. I thought I could just jump in and begin writing, but before I could write the first line, I had to figure out the type of clothes my characters would wear and how they would address each other in conversation. I had never dealt with using titles before so I stayed baffled for nearly the entire book about when I should say The Duke or Lord Such and Such. Even after I figured that out, I still had to research a million other little things I had never had to think about before.

Fortunately, my editor was able to catch the gaffes I missed. Although I may have driven the poor man to drink by the end of the editing process, I’m pleased to say that even though my American ways didn’t mix well with English society, Clive agreed to edit the next book in the series, Closed Hearts. Book two should be ready for release by the 1st of June. At the moment I’m writing book three, Enclosed in this Heart. You never know, I may get good at this Regency thing yet.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

In a shorter story the biggest challenge is creating characters the readers can become invested in. If you can’t do that, then you’ve failed. The reader should want your characters to find their happy-every-after or for them to die that miserable death they so deserve. Making that happen is easier with a novel. A longer story offers plenty of opportunities for you to write the scenes that grab a reader’s heart. When writing a short story, it’s important to reveal your character’s good traits and flaws early on. Those are the things that people can relate to and make it feel as if your characters are real – breathing people.

Saying all of that, I’ve written several short stories and have discovered that they are easier to write than a full length novel. Over the years my attention span has shortened. I love wrapping it all up in a few days instead of the usual months it takes to write a novel.

There’s an ever-growing market for short stories. Time is so precious, so readers want something they can read in thirty minutes or less.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

 I write in several genres, so I guess I choose the genres instead of them choosing me. I like jumping out of my comfort zone and trying new styles of writing. It always starts out with the thought – I wonder if I can do that? Once that thought takes hold, I have to try. My first love was writing romance but I have discovered by trying new things that horror can be just as rewarding to write. It gives me a chance to take a peep at my dark side.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

I’m a people watcher, so my characters are bits and pieces of everyone I’ve ever seen or met. A lot of me winds up in my books, because I know what makes me tick better than I do anyone else. My bad characters are based on everything I dislike about other people, and I take the chance that’s what other people dislike too.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

People assume indie authors aren’t good enough to be published by a traditional publisher. I’ve gone the traditional route but I like the freedom of making my own decisions. I can pick my own book covers and choose the best editor. It also gives me the freedom to switch back and forward between horror, romance, steampunk, poetry and children’s picture books at will.

Of course it, all comes at a price. Everything falls on my shoulders – paying for the book covers, editor and promotions. If I fail, I can’t blame anyone but myself. Some days it’s all a little overwhelming but it’s also very rewarding. I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters surprise me all the time. In Songs that I Whisper, Suzette warned Bill to not to slip up and reveal to her mother that they had once been arrested. I’m like – what? It took me two weeks to figure out the reason for their arrest. It had to be something minor but bad enough to get the two of them hauled in by the police. It would have been so much easier to delete that entire conversation, but I thought it added an interesting morsel for the readers to savor.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I like the beginning and the end. It’s always so much fun introducing new characters and I love the excitement of wrapping their story up. Writing the words the end means that once again I have won the battle. Everything in between those two things can be just plain old, hard work.

A longer piece keeps me in my characters heads for months. I feel every emotion they feel. That means that I’m happy when they’re happy and sad when they’re sad. I have to constantly think about how each person reacts to each and every situation. The process can be exhausting. There are nights I can’t sleep because my characters won’t shut up. Those conversations can be a curse and a blessing. I know when my characters are finally talking to each other that the book is going to be good. Unfortunately, all of that talking only means that I’m going to lose some much-needed sleep.

The truth is that I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone else.

Many times, I’ve actually dreamed plot twists, character names, and many other tidbits that I’ve need for my WIP. Has this ever happened to you?

The first book to be written because of a dream was Concealed in My Heart. I didn’t get up the next morning and write the book, but daydreamed about it for the next two years until the story got too big to stay in my head. The latest book to benefit from my going to sleep was A Man Called Rat. I was three fourths into writing the book when I realized the plot wasn’t going to work. I had been writing for months and it looked as if I might have to trash the whole project. Too disgusted to do anything else, I took a nap. When I woke up, I knew how to fix the hole in my plot. A dream didn’t necessarily help in that case, but resting my overworked brain did.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Someone I can trust.

What makes you angry?

I used to never get worked up about anything, but the older I get, the more things get on my nerves. I’m a little crankier and a whole more snappier than I used to be. I can just imagine that I’m going to be that crazy old lady who smacks you with her cane if you get too close.

What music soothes your soul?

 I enjoy listening to all types of music and love listening to it whenever I’m writing. I can be annoying though, because I usually play the same song over and over again. There’s nothing better than a sweet love song.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

I have enjoyed watching NCIS since the beginning of the series, but this year a new show took over that top spot, Lethal Weapon. I’m ashamed to say that I also love all of the Housewives’ shows on Bravo. There’s nothing like a little of backstabbing and a lot of bickering to put your own life into perspective.

 

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CHAT WITH LINNEA TANNER

Linnea Tanner passionately reads about ancient civilizations and mythology which hold women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids. Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry.

Time to chat with Linnea!

What is your latest book? Is your recent book part of a series?

My debut book is Apollo’s Raven, was released on April 10th. It is a tale that follows two star-crossed lovers and weaves Celtic mythology into a backdrop of ancient Rome and Britannia. In a story of forbidden love and loyalty, the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is caught in a political web of deception when the emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren.

Catrin is drawn by the magnetic pull she feels for Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, who stands in the shadow of his scandalous forefathers. When King Amren takes Marcellus as a hostage, he demands that Catrin spy on him. As she falls in love, she discovers a cure that foretells a future she desperately wants to break. Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her people, Catrin urgently calls upon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that looms over her.

The historical fiction/epic fantasy is the first book in the Apollo’s Raven series. The series was inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. The epic series spans from 24 AD when Catrin and Marcellus first meet to 40 AD just prior to Emperor Claudius’ invasion.

Some authors always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I write scenes both in and out of order. I usually start with a broad outline, but as I write the story, other threads in the plot develop and I may need to write others scene to make everything connect in a logical manner. When I write in multiple points of views, there are times when I write scenes out of order, so I can stay in one character’s head to play the basic plot. Sometimes, I surprise myself and can go in a completely different direction from what I had first planned. This provides twists to the plot.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters sometimes surprise me as I discover more about them when I’m writing the story. At first, I was hesitant to explore the inner essence of the heroine, Catrin, in Apollo’s Raven. She has a darker side that broils to the surface whenever she must overcome life-threatening situations. Her biggest fear is that she could abuse her powers and transform into someone evil like her half-brother, Marrock. Conversely, I added more depth and back story to Marrock, so a reader could relate to him and understand his vile deeds.

Characters must ultimately act consistently according to their true natures and background. Nothing they do should come as a shock to the reader.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The title of my book was important to me, because it conveys an image taken from both Roman and Celtic mythology. In the writing process, I am open to changing any part of the story that I had originally planned. Twists in the plot come from moments when I ask myself, “What if I did this instead of that.” When a “wild idea” flashes in my mind, I usually go for it, as it comes from a deeper core of my creativity.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

In preparation for the series, I did extensive research on the history, mythology, and archeological findings of 1st Century Britain before the Roman invasion in 43 AD. A major challenge researching the Celts is they passed down their history and mythology through oral traditions. Most of my research had to be gleaned from the biased accounts of Greek and Roman historians, medieval writers who spun Celtic mythology to fit their Christian beliefs, and archaeological interpretation. I also visited many areas in the United Kingdom and France that are described in my series. I’ve hiked over 12 miles over the white cliffs of Dover so I could catch first-hand what my characters are experiencing when Apollo’s Raven first opens.

In the story, I wanted to capture the essence of the Celtic noble warrior society. The Greek historian Poseidonius writes, “The Celts engage in single combat at dinner. Assembling in arms, they engage in mock battle drill and mutual thrust and parry, sometimes inflicting wounds.”

In my research, I discovered southeast Britannia evolved differently than Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. After Julius Caesar’s military expeditions to the region in 55 – 54 BC, Rome strongly influenced the internal politics and trading of southeast Britannia. Many of the rulers were educated in Rome as hostages and adopted the empire’s taste for luxuries. Several powerful Celtic kings expanded their territories by conquering other tribes.

There are written accounts that Celtic rulers pleaded for Rome’s help to intervene on their behalf. Recent archaeological findings support a Roman military presence that protected areas of Britannia vital to trading with the empire before Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. Of note, Shakespeare’s play, Cymbeline, is based on the Celtic King Cunobelin whom the Romans referred as the King of Britannia. One of the plot points in the play is Roman forces invade to restore tribute that Britannia ceased to pay. The play was likely based on oral traditions or medieval accounts in which there were some historical accuracy.

My extensive research sets the stage for the Apollo’s Raven series which spans from 24 AD to 40 AD.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I work with a developmental editor and coach. His feedback gives me guidance on how to make the plot or characters’ motivations clearer. I then have a couple of trusted who provide further feedback. If there are any holes in the story, I have a chance to readjust or change sections of the plot as I proceed.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

It is my hope that I can write a book on how the Celtic tribal kingdoms evolved in southeast Britannia before the Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. I’ve written several posts on my blog regarding the research I’ve done on the Celts. I would like to use this as a backbone for the book.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My road to publication has had lots of twists and turns. After I retired from the pharmaceutical industry in 2010, I began writing the Apollo’s Raven series in earnest and drafted almost three books in two years. After receiving comments from agents and other writers on the first book, I realized that I needed to start the story earlier in Britannia and provide a more comprehensive background of the Celtic culture and mysticism. Thus, Apollo’s Raven is actually the fourth book that I wrote in the series.

With the dramatic changes in publishing, I decided to independently publish my series in 2016 instead of taking the traditional route. However, I wanted to make sure that the quality of my book would match that of traditional publishers. Thus, I worked with the AuthorU organization consisting of established authors and professionals in the publishing business dedicated to helping authors fulfill their dreams. On my journey, I’ve met wonderful writers, authors and other professionals who have generously provided advice and inspired me.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

The book cover design is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book. It needs to stand out from the other books and immediately draw a reader’s interest. Thus, I placed high priority on the design of my book, so it looks professionally done. I was very fortunate to work with a fabulous graphic designer who captured my vision of the book cover and designed the interior so it was easy to read.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

The qualities I most value are loyalty, honesty, sense of humor, compassion, and curiosity to learn more.

Care to brag about your family?

My greatest inspiration was my mother who raised five children after my father died. She held me to the highest standards, but allowed me to follow my dreams.

My husband, Tom, is my loyal and supportive soul-mate. He is the reason I believe in love at first sight and true love.

My daughter is the epitome of Catrin—tough-minded and athletic, but has a heart of gold.

My son demonstrated his loyalty and compassion by caring for his wife who died of cancer a few years back, but he gained new happiness by marrying again.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees after I married and had two children. I took lessons in flamenco dancing and crafted dried floral arrangements which I sold at an art market in Boulder, Colorado.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be respectful of other’s beliefs and cultures.

Be open to new ideas or opinions

Learn from history and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

I smile whenever I watch the wonderment on a baby’s face that a balloon can float while everything else falls on the ground.

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CHAT WITH DAN ALATORRE

Dan_AlatorreBest-Selling author and humorist Dan Alatorre turned his sights on fatherhood in “Savvy Stories,” and the results were hilarious. Since then, Dan has racked up a string of #1 Bestsellers in family humor, novels, illustrated children’s books and cookbooks, and has been published in 12 languages throughout 14 different countries. His romantic comedy Poggibonsi: an Italian misadventure, set in Tuscany, will be released in a few weeks.

Dan’s success is widespread and varied. In addition to being a best-selling author (he claims it was a slow week at Amazon when that happened) Dan has achieved President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies.

Time to chat with Dan!

What is your latest book?

Poggibnsi: an italian misadventure

It’s a romantic comedy set in Tuscany, and it involves marital infidelity, runaway capitalism, culture clashes, death, office politics – all the stuff we consider hugely funny, right? No? I may be in trouble, then.

Poggi cover FINAL

Is your recent book part of a series?

I hope not. I mean, no. I have done several series (serieses?) and they’re fun but this is a stand alone. Astute readers will see a character from one of my other novels appear in this one, though, so you have to say awake. Actually, that’s good advice for any book of mine. Please stay awake while reading.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

I’m a terrible typist. I type with two fingers. It’s very slow. And I hate proofreading so there are always a TON of typos. People who text with me think my phone is out of whack but really it’s just me. My new computer has a keyboard that SUCKS so a lot of letter o’s and a’s don’t get types – I’m not kidding! So things can become awkward when asking my lady writer friends about “word count” and leave out an “o.”

I’d get a new keyboard but it forces me to proofread so it’s actually a sadistic plus. You’d think with just the two fingers I’d usually hit the right targets. You’d be wrong. I’m so bad, I’m considering having myself checked for dyslexia.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

I can’t do anything short. I wrote 104,000 of paranormal for Mother’s Day (don’t ask). Short stories are just my idea of sitting down on Sunday morning and trying to type out an amusing 3-line post for Facebook, and 6000 words later I’m thinking about making it into a serial. Can you tell by the length of these answers that brevity is not my strong suit? Stop torturing me!

Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?

That would have been a smart idea. Why didn’t I think of that? I think I’m too egotistical to write under a pen name. I thought about it, though, because people who’ve come to know my stuff through my family humor stories might not want to read a bawdy romantic comedy, you know? “Oh, there’s the author who did that wonderful illustrated book about the mermaid; let’s get his new book for little Heather. What??? There are bare naked breasts in it???” Could be trouble. Or funny. Let’s go with funny. Because it’s a comedy.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I am trying to write a book in every genre, kind of like an errant guidance counselor from high school – “Just try all of these and see if you don’t suck at one, kid.” So far we have humor, sci-fi thriller, illustrated children’s books, cook books (is that a genre?), paranormal, memoir, and now romantic comedy.

Mainly I like comedy, and that’s what I’m best known for, so of course I had to try other things to prove my worth to society. If you can make people cry in art, or a movie, or a book, you’re an amazingly talented master. If you can make them laugh, you’re a clown. I disagree. Both are difficult emotions to get from a reader, and anyone will tell you getting somebody to laugh is much harder. That said, I try to do both. I want my readers crying in some places and laughing in others – in the same book. If you can make them laugh AND cry, you own them. They’ll trust you for the rest of the roller coaster ride. Write that down, writer-types. It’s hard to do, but it’s worth the effort. Every great story contains trace elements of every genre.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

My good friend Allison’s book The Fourth Descendant has just become a bestseller. I was one of her critique partners for it, so I get to say I helped in the creation of another bestseller! We are also writing a marketing series together that will be released this fall, so now I have to change the covers to say “by bestselling author Dan Alatorre with bestselling author Allison Maruska.” (I told her I’d get her name squeezed into this interview. Hah! Okay, Allison – that’s ten bucks you owe me.)

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

“I will sell you my book out of my trunk at the next red light.”

That’s a good idea. I may actually try that.

What else have you written?

I’ve been very fortunate. I have 17 titles in 12 different languages. I’m really big in Portugal, I think. Or there’s a dearth of reading material there.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

  1. That we don’t shower. I shower every day.
  2. That there’s a stigma to being indie – tell that to High Howie and a lot of other big names that are turning away from traditional publishing in droves.
  3. That indie is easy. It isn’t. It’s harder than trad publishing because you have to do so much yourself, and if you suck at any one aspect, that may ruin your chances. (I’m terrible at cover designs, for example, so I have artists do mine and fans get to vote on the best one.)
  1. That you’ll have lots of people helping you if you trad publish. You won’t. They’ll be telling you, and you’ll still do your own marketing. There are tons of examples – and I’m not trashing trad publishing; I still query – but it’s not what it was 10 years ago and 10 years from now it may not exist at all. Buggy whips, anyone?
  1. Did I mention showering?
  1. Indies are a clean, hygenic people, as noted. And helpful. I was given SO much support when I stared out, and I try to repay it each week on my blog. There are lots of things you can do wrong and you’ll fall into an abyss of despair. Yes you will. My blog is abyss avoidance.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters are like me, so all the time. It’s more fun that way. ”Put your characters up a tree and throw rocks at them,” right? At each decisive spot in the story, I try to have something go wrong to make the path more difficult for Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road. Or for Elton John. Somebody.

Often I’ll do unexpected things in dialogs. Two people are talking back and forth and one says something completely inappropriate or off topic, which is what people do in real life, but if it’s outrageous, it can be memorable. My characters tease each other. They know each other’s inside stories and they act like it. Here’s an example of a niece talking with her aunt.

“You’re stalling. Tell me something real. Something mom would never tell me. Just say the first normal father-husband thing that comes to your mind about my dad.”

“He was a good lover.”

Gina’s jaw dropped. “What?”

“With a big penis.”

“Oh, my god.”

“Huge.” Sam shook her head. “Your brother will probably be pretty popular after he hits puberty. Now slow down, you’re speeding.”

Didn’t expect that, did you? People love my characters.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most?

Pounding it out. I wake up and it’s Christmas morning every day because I get to write. I get great ideas at 3am for a conversation or story and I’ll hide in the pantry and tell them to myself in a talk-to-text on my phone just so I don’t forget them. Although that method has resulted in such great story ideas as “the cat mango garden in the butler,” but still.

The least?

Proofreding. (Yes I misspelled that on purpose as far as you know. Frigging keyboard.)

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I go with the hot hand. If an idea is percolating in my head, I will write it regardless of where it comes in the story. I mostly write in order, though, because I usually come up with an outline before I start writing the story – and that’s a complete outline. I’m not a pantser. But as I’m mowing the lawn and I keep thinking about how funny that dinner scene is going to be where the wife confronts the best friend about who the mistress is – yeah, I know; not an obvious humor topic, but it’s a VERY funny scene – well, then I just go start writing it, even though it’s 15 chapters into the future from where I am. The danger in doing that is, it might not actually fit when you get there. Things change as we write.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Not the title, but the ending. Okay, that’s not true. I usually know the title and the ending before I start writing. I don’t know why I lied about that. Let me go into some detail here for new writers, because this is typically a difficult thing for them.

I’ll be thinking of a story and I’ll start sketching out an outline, and as I do I will throw the ideas in a folder in my computer – so the folder has to have a name. I’ll call it whatever the story is mainly about, and that usually ends up being the name unless I come up with something better as I’m writing it. For example, I have a semi-dystopian story that has elements of Fight Club, Hunger Games, and the recent racial-cop disharmony from Ferguson and Baltimore. It’s called The Kill Club, and the premise is that rival gang leaders have created these riots on purpose but the media has mid-identified it. The main character is a psychopath who evolves from gang lord to mass murderer to media sensation – to attempting to put Thunder Dome-style death matches on live TV broadcasts. And the politicians and media heads go along, thinking it would solve random gang violence around the country if gang members compete to kill each other on TV. (Um, this one’s not a comedy.)

Anyway, that’s the basic story and the title, and I’ve written maybe 1000 additional words than what you just read. If a character says or does something that would be a better title, Kill Club goes away and the new idea takes its place.

In my sci-fi thriller The Navigators, a time travel story, it was nicknamed “the fantastic five” (horrible, I know) until halfway through when a character realized they wouldn’t be piloting the time machine they’d discovered, and that at best they’d be navigating it. One of the other characters said, “So, we’re the navigators, huh?” That became the title because it was also the background theme about how these young adults had yet to take charge of their own lives.

The new one is a YA fantasy nicknamed The Water Castle, but that sounds a little too much like “water closet,” so we’ll see.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I don’t edit much as I write and I sure don’t edit afterwards. I have a pretty clear idea of what’s going to happen in a story and even though I’m verbose, I’m usually pretty engaging. My critique partners tell me when I’m being long winded (they didn’t get chance to see this piece obviously or it’d be pithier) and I’ll trim and cut based on their suggestions, so that’s probably editing as I go.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Sure! A good bad guy is a great thing! I had a real rat bastard (are we allowed to cuss here?) and wow did I despise him. Findlay, in The Navigators. I hated that little weasel! I still hate him. I need to go drink some milk now because just thinking of him upsets my stomach.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

You have to be good but you need to catch a break, too. First, write a good story with interesting characters and a compelling plot. Make the reader hooked to know what happens next and so they HAVE to turn the page. Very few writers do that. Next, you need a professional-looking cover (and that doesn’t have to cost $1500) and a blurb that makes shoppers become buyers. That’s HARD. Next, the opening chapter has to hook readers from the start, from the opening words. That’s hard, too. So there are a lot of things you have to get right, and if you screw one step up, your great story will go unread.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

“If I could give you one thing, it wouldn’t be confidence, it would be ENOUGH confidence.” – me.

Writing is both very easy and very hard, and the hard stuff for most authors is not always the writing, it’s the marketing and promotions.

The other advice is, don’t polish that book forever. Publish it and get on to the next one. Waaaaaay too many writers attempt perfection. Don’t. At some point, your re-polishing doesn’t make the story better, it just makes it different. And you have more than one great story in you. Don’t deny your readers that.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

This is another long answer that will be good for new authors. Bear with me.

I talked with an agent who wanted to rep me. After several meetings it became obvious that the pace of trad publishing was glacially slow. We were looking at 18-24 months to release a manuscript that was ready to go. I parted ways with him because I’d been successful in business and I knew whatever I learned myself via indie publishing would give me knowledge and skills and leverage for the future.

I put my book out and fell into the abyss, selling almost NO copies for a loooooong time. Oprah never called. I couldn’t give the book way. (You think you can, but lots of people are giving way books and you can’t even do that.)

That’s the abyss. Slowly, I learned the steps necessary to climb out of that hole – professional looking covers, good ad copy-like blurbs, etc – and now I help others not fall into such holes. I put out a lot of books because I get up early and write before anyone else is awake, then I work very efficiently to get a story completed. Putting out lots of titles means there’s always something for a new fan to read while I’m working on my next book.

I blog and I’m on social media, but only the ones I like. As I learned to market, things took off and I was fortunate enough to get a few bestsellers. But it was a long slog I’d like to help others avoid, just out of sheer humanity. Life’s hard enough. If a more successful author wants to help you, let them. And there are plenty that will! I was eventually smart enough to find people to help me, and now I help others. The indie community is great that way, unlike any other business I’ve been involved in – and it IS a business, so waiting 24 months to release a product that was ready seemed like a bad business decision and it still does, but I have never shut the door on trad publishing and I still query my latest books.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

When you are as famous as Stephen King, you can charge Stephen King prices. Until then, you can’t. But most people who follow my advice can sell a book for $2.99 or more and not have to give it away – or fall into the abyss.

All book promotions are hard for writers because it’s not writing, and because many writers are shy. Learning to do it well is hard work.

Publishing is a changing world. Read about it, but not to excess and make sure the source documents in any articles you read aren’t more than two years old. If they are, see if there’s been an update by the original author; usually there is.

Make author friends online and other places, and listen to the friends who have your best interest at heart when it comes to new articles and industry trends, etc.

Promote others more than yourself, but don’t stay friends too long with others who don’t reciprocate (to the extent that they can).

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I come to the table with a bunch of seemingly useless facts that have been stuck in my head for decades. I absorb stuff. If I watched a documentary about elephants 10 years ago, I probably remember most of it. So I don’t have to research much, and I’m pretty bright. I have a genius level IQ and was in Mensa. I went through graduate school and never opened a book. I came up with a new time travel theory all by myself for The Navigators.

But I don’t recommend that for other people. The internet is a great tool, but watching a shotgun go off on your computer is different from hearing the blast, feeling the kickback into your shoulder, having your ears ring, smelling the burnt gunpowder (it smells like fireworks), and seeing the bruise the next day. That’s a big difference. Get out and experience life. I’ve been shot at and I’ve swam with sharks, dived a sunken boat, walked on a glacier – and I can bring those experiences to my writing better than somebody who watched it on YouTube. Experience real life and work it into your stories. It’ll be much more compelling.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

Tons. We all have 24 hours a day but some people get a lot more done. Here are some tips; do the ones that work for you.

Do the most important stuff first. If you do all your email and Facebook and don’t write a chapter, how bad do you feel? Get the chapter done and don’t do Facebook? You’ll sleep just fine and your book will get done in three months not three years.

Record/DVR everything. The Kardashians can wait. Write your word count, and when you need a break, watch your recorded TV shows and skip the commercials. A 1-hour Tv show has 20 minutes of commercials. That’s more than 2 hours saved if you watch just 1 hour a night. And that’s 2+ more hours of writing time each week. Check your personal email on your lunch break at work if you can. Do your non-essential Facebook stuff (playing, and we all need to play) while waiting in line at the store or the bank.

The biggest two are these: make your writing time sacred, and when you do sit down to write, actually write in that time (do Twitter later!)

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

It always amuses me how people react to things. In comedy, you understand that some people won’t get a joke here and there. But in some dramatic scenes, like in Poggibonsi, one reader will say the description of the old barn getting repaired is a totally long and boring passage that should be deleted, while another reader will write me gushing about how it was such a beautiful metaphor about the MC’s marriage! That kind of range in feedback always surprises me.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I type fast at times, but overall I’m slow because I only use two fingers. That allows me to really think about what I’m putting down, editing the sentences in my head first because I’m typing so slowly! I should really learn how to type. You’d run out of the room if you ever saw me doing it. It’s awful to watch.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I like writing a synopsis, but I suck at it! I keep trying, though. Luckily, I have friends who are good at it. Let’s face it, writing an 80,000 word story is a different skill set than a 500 word piece of ad copy – and that’s almost what a synopsis is.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

A LOT. Books on Amazon are impulse buys. If you don’t have good cover, you won’t sell, period.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Fave: Pizza!!! I would eat that every day, even for breakfast.

Least favorite food? Oh, lots of stuff. I’m a picky eater. Let’s go with mushy vegetables. Yuck. And plantains SUCK. Ask my wife – she will give you a list.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

I have to admit, I’d sneak into the women’s locker room wherever the Buccaneers cheerleaders work out. Sorry.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Money. I can be friends with anyone rich. I am very open minded that way.

Care to brag about your family?

I have the best family in the whole wide world. I wrote a bestseller about how fun it was to have my baby daughter around. One day she’s going to realize other daddies don’t all write books about their kids. My wife gave me the coolest idea for a YA fantasy that is probably the best idea I’ve ever worked on. It gives me chills, some of the plot twists!

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

I met my wife in my first year of graduate school and thought she was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen, and I was amazed that she would even talk to me. I fell in love on our first date and immediately knew I’d marry her, which I did.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That whole typing with two fingers thing is true.

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CHAT WITH THERESA SNYDER

TheresaSnyder

Theresa Snyder is a multi-genre writer with an internationally read blog. She grew up on a diet of B&W Scifi films like Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still. She is a voracious reader and her character-driven writing is influenced by the early works of Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard. She loves to travel, but makes her home in Oregon where her elder father and she share a home and the maintenance of the resident cat, wild birds, squirrels, garden, and occasional Dragon house guest.

Time to chat with Theresa!

What is your latest book?

My most recent publication is Shifting Agony & Ecstasy, the second book in the Twin Cities Series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

I have three series I am writing – the Twin Cities Series, my paranormal series, The Farloft Chronicles, my fantasy series, and The Star Travelers, my science fiction series. Each has its own particular challenges.

The Twin Cities are novellas, very fast paced. In those I want to not only tell a story with each, but I also endeavor to give the reader more information with each book about the setting, which is a place called The Realms. Several Indie authors and I got together to create The Realms. We wanted a setting we could all write in with some of our own characters and some cross over character – like the authors who write the Star Trek books. We all hope to write in this series for many years to come. Right now between all the authors there are seven books in the series and we have only been writing for a year as of this December.

JamesAndTheDragon_CVR by Sarah

Farloft, my dragon from the fantasy series is very well known on Twitter. He tweets the last Friday of the month. Folks know him, they look forward to his visits, they expect the same Farloft in the books as they find on Twitter. Because he is in his own kingdom in the books and not in modern times I have to be vigilant and not let his character drift far from how he would react to any question on Twitter. It has made his tweeting very interesting. He is over a thousand years old and very wise. He has been asked to solve problems, mediate disagreements and give sage advice on Twitter.

The major challenge for my science fiction series is consistency and continuity. I have been writing in that series since 1990. There are so many characters, that age at different speeds due to their alien heritage, and places they have been, that they go back to periodically from book to book. I have made a huge glossary of hundreds of terms, places, characters, plus a star map. Their universe is astronomical.

How did you choose the genres you write in? Or did they choose you?

I write science fiction because I love creating characters and building new worlds. Science fiction is a great genre to play in. My works are not highly technical. They are character driven like Josh Whedon’s Firefly series.

Farloft was created out of a desire to teach, but not preach to my nine-year-old nephew. What are the consequences if I steal? How do I be the best friend to someone? How is honesty and truthfulness rewarded? I mean, who wouldn’t listen to a wise old dragon?

My paranormal chose me. When we authors got together and started brainstorming The Realms we all decided paranormal was the way to go. The Realms is the place where all things humans think are paranormal, mythological or fanciful live. The other authors picked vampires. I decided I wanted to write a shape shifter. Cody changes from human to wolf – not werewolf, just wolf. I really enjoy my time crawling into a wolf’s skin and seeing the world through his eyes.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I used to think I had to write in order, but then I woke up one morning and had this great idea for a scene totally out of order – much later in the book. I debated with myself about writing it or not, but the characters were talking to me, so I wrote. You know, it worked out just fine. When the time came in the regular flow of the story, I just inserted it.

Since then I have purchased a program called Scrivener and it literally has you write in chapters that can be physically moved within the program to rearrange as needed. I hate to sound like an advertisement, but it is far superior to Word or any other word processes program for writing books. I would never write with any other program now that I have used it.

How important is the choosing of character name to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

I simply cannot write a character unless they have a name. I cannot get words down on paper, or think of the way that character should act unless they have a name. I am the same way about a book’s title. I cannot write it without it having at least a working title. My latest book went through three different working titles before I settled on Shifting Agony & Ecstasy.

I don’t think I have ever changed a character’s name once I wrote about them. It has to be right from the start.

TS_Cover

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novels as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I have fifteen published books. Every synopsis I have written has been like pulling a dragon through a keyhole backwards. A synopsis is extremely difficult for me. If there was a service I could subscribe to that would write mine, I would pay a fortune to have someone else do them. It is so hard to put into three to five sentences what you have been writing on for months. To consolidate it down, make it interesting and yet not give anything away. It is an exercise in futility. Yes, they are inherently evil!

Please tell us about your experience with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

Before I became a published author last year in May of 2013, I did a little Facebooking and that was all. I would rather speak with my friends personally then post something. When I published my first book my students at school (I run the print shop at our local community college) told me I should get on Twitter to promote and build a community of followers for my books. They said it would be a perfect medium for me. I love to chat. They were right. It is like a constant party. I stroll in and someone is always there waiting to chat about anything from dragons to what they had for lunch. I love it. You dip a toe in the pool and the ripples spread. I have been on twitter less than a year and a half and have over thirteen thousand followers. On Facebook I have a couple of hundred and most of those are ones who followed me over from Twitter. Facebook is just not my style. I heard someone compare Twitter to a cocktail party and Facebook to having friends over for dinner at your home. I far prefer cocktail parties in social media. If I want to have someone over for dinner, I will invite them.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I would tell that reader, as an indie author in particular, we need their reviews to help us find our audiences. When you do a review for an indie author you are giving them one of the biggest boosts they can have to promote their work. So, if you love something you have read, write a line or two, it doesn’t have to be a huge review. We authors are all taught the list of things a reader looks at once you get them to your page to buy your books: 1) The cover 2) The description 3) The reviews. If the reviews are not there a great book will often not sell.

What is the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

About a month or so after I published my first book that was The Helavite War in May of 2013, I received a message on my Facebook page from a man named Max in Italy. He said he was lying in bed reading my book. Imagine that? A guy halfway around the world lying in bed reading My Book! That was the coolest. Still makes me smile.

HelaviteWar_Final_Kindle

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I am probably older than most of you think from looking at my photo, even though the one posted here is only two years old. I have had the opportunity to do many interesting jobs in my lifetime. Those jobs, and the people I met through them, have provided a wide range of experiences for me to pull from to write my books.

I used to say I had everything, but been in prison or been a nun. Now I just say I have never been a nun. I have held the follow jobs to today: dog groomer, zoo keeper, Fotomat attendant, hostess in a restaurant, make-up artist (this is where I went to prison to do the make-up for a documentary), retail store manager, retail toy buyer, book buyer, jeweler, diamond salesman, bookstore manager, teacher, dispatcher for an elevator company, librarian, law librarian, dispatcher for a Ford dealership, bookkeeper, paperback book distributor’s sales rep, legal assistant, marketing coordinator, print shop manager, and always in the background, ever present, author.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?

YES: What do you believe sets your work apart from everyone else’s?

All of my work is very character driven. I also think it is very well rounded. They all contain elements of humor, romance, adventure, and reflection. Like a fine wine you can savor on many levels.

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