Spotlight: Deadly Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Check out this romantic suspense novel by fellow Tirgearr author Kathleen Rowland!

deadly_alliance_by_kathleen_rowland-200Finbar Donahue, former Army Ranger, walked on the wild side in Iraq, but now he lives in the shadows. After his evasive partner, Les, was shot in a random drive-by, Finn discovers cash is siphoned monthly. He fights to keep his investment company afloat. When the late partner’s girlfriend, Amy Kintyre, applies for his bookkeeping job, Finn suspects she knows about his company drain and hires her.

Amy needs a nine-to-five with free evenings and weekends to get her fashion design business back on track. She unearths Les’ s secret bank account and alerts Finn. Freezing of the money laundering account sets off havoc within an Irish gang. Amy witnesses a gang fight between a brutal ISIS fundraising organization and the Irish. Desperate to escape a stalker’s crosshairs, she seeks refuge with Finn. As danger heats up, sparks fly hotter.

 


Chapter One

“You know I love your sportswear designs, right?”

“I’m glad you do.” Amy Kintyre sat opposite a buyer, none other than Kira Radner, at a coffee shop in Lake Arrowhead, California. This sudden opportunity to re-launch her sportswear designs gave rise to the jitters, and Amy clutched her hands under the table.

Kira pressed her face forward, Amy’s sketches drawn on figures in action poses. With the portfolio spread between them, she flipped it sideways to examine the fabric swatches stapled along the sidebar. Their earthy tones blended with the marred wooden table.

Amy stilled the chatty urge.

“You know your presentation is in two weeks.” Kira was giving her the green light with Recreational Sportswear, Incorporated.

“I appreciate this, Kira.” To get her business back on track, she needed blocks of time to sew mockups. Amy inhaled the spicy aroma of the raw cedar wood. The under-construction décor of wide, timber planks on the walls made her think of her new self. Crazy how thirty felt like seventeen when embracing life and freeing her artistic side.

“Then I beg you,” Kira said, “please, please, please have your product samples ready. Deadline is the first Monday of November.”

“Got it.” Fear over the tight time frame tasted sour in her throat, but this break called like no other.

Kira leaned forward. “Impressive functionality with the shorts. Who would have thought this pocket holds a Swiss Army Knife!” The buyer’s fingertips traced the pick-stitch hem, made with thread matching the fabric, appearing invisible. “Nice detail.”

Amy’s only mock-up kept their face-to-face meeting running like the hum of the fluorescent lights above.

“Oooo,” Kira said and raised both her eyebrows. “Classic nostalgia with a twist. A pocket knife for hikers!”

“Useful, I think.” The bright light flickered over associates who’d worked together in the past, but Amy didn’t share the difficulty of making the deadline. Her breathing shortened, and panic carved a hole in her chest.

“Gotta bounce,” Kira said. “Get to work.”

“I will.” She pulled out a notebook and jotted down a to-do list ending with the file with various size patterns. After a half-hour of regrouping and rethinking, she stopped tapping her pen. Kira Radner took a chance on her, but to turn this chance into a reality, she needed evenings and weekends to make the deadline.

Last Sunday while pouring over Craigslist classifieds, she’d zeroed in on Finbar Donahue’s bookkeeping ad. After her inquiry, his head accountant sent her a message. She still favored the toe she stubbed after her in-box pinged.

Thanks to what happened, the call from Kira, she needed Finn’s job. Her mind raced to her third interview for his nine-to-five. Tomorrow morning, if all went well, she’d land the regular-hours job, tailor made for her time frame. She ran a hand through her hair, picturing the arrogant know-it-all with a never-ending string of women hanging on his arm.

Handsome wasn’t the word to describe Finn, her late, ex-boyfriend’s partner. She’d been around Finbar Donahue enough to know he looked at his world as if he were the Almighty himself. The former Army Ranger made her way too nervous. She tensed up to such an extent, her voice broke.

Romance wasn’t part of this equation. Her dream to launch herself, stitch by stitch, came down to landing the job. On a mission, her goal was simple. She closed her eyes and prayed tomorrow she’d nail it.


Buy It: www.tirpub.com/DeadlyAlliance

[ File # csp7850808, License # 1386192 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise
[ File # csp7850808, License # 1386192 ]
Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php)
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise
How about romantic travel to Lake Arrowhead, California, where Deadly Alliance takes place? Fall colors mix with evergreens around this pristine mountain lake. Bring a picnic basket and rent a pontoon!

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Lily’s Pad and the Intervenus Series: A Brand New Address and Betrayal at Crater’s Edge are sweet. Deadly Alliance and her work-in-progress, Unholy Alliance, are contracted with Tirgearr Publishing and written for adults.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels. She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write. If you’d enjoy news, sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter at http://www.kathleenrowland.com/

Find Kathleen online at these sites as well:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/786656.Kathleen_Rowland
http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Rowland/e/B007RYMF7S/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1450835163&sr=1-2-ent
https://twitter.com/rowlandkathleen
https://kathleenrowland.wordpress.com/
http://www.kathleenrowland.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.rowland.50

Author Interview: Kristen Morie-Osisek

The-Sixth-Event-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage Today I’m welcoming author Kristen Morie-Osisek to the blog as part of my author interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Kristen Morie-Osisek: My name is Kristen Morie-Osisek, and I’m currently living in Connecticut. I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but I’ve also long been interested in prehistory and paleontology, which is what led me to write my book, The Sixth Event.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

KMO: Back in probably fourth or fifth grade, I was bitten by the writing bug. I had always been a voracious reader, and it was around the time I discovered the fantasy genre that I realized I could write stories of my own. I started trying to write by hand, and because I have a very hard time doing that, it didn’t really go anywhere. Once I learned to touch type, though, I began writing short descriptive scenes and short stories. Finally, once I had free time in college, I finished an entire novel. From there, I just kept going. I have to say that it all started through reading—I don’t think I would have begun had I not been a huge reader as a kid.

PW: I think many writers do begin as readers, or at least good writers do. Writers who don’t read don’t write all that well in my experience.

What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

KMO: The Sixth Event actually started life as a short story. I had always had the idea of someone waking up at a previous moment in their life at much younger age and trying to change something that will happen in the future. I brought a draft of that story to a creative writing class in college, and while it needed work, everyone really liked the concept, so I kept it in my back pocket. In addition, I’ve always been fascinated by extinct animals—everything from the dinosaurs to giant mammals in the ice age. I combined the two ideas into one in The Sixth Event, where the main character gets thrown back in time to prevent another planet-wide extinction event. The idea evolved from there.

PW: Sounds fascinating. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

KMO: Hmm… probably something like “This time, extinction isn’t the end.”

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

KMO: This one’s a toughie since I don’t know actors or actresses very well. I would probably want new talent to come in! The characters are very down-to-earth, so it’d be neat to get some new up-and-coming actors to play the roles.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

KMO: My favorite book of all time is TailChaser’s Song, by Tad Williams. Its animal fantasy about a cat and cat society. Think Warriors but darker and more fantastical. As for favorite authors, I love Mercedes Lackey and Anne McAffrey. Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite genres.

PW: Oh my God, I love Tailchaser’s Song! I read Watership Down and then Tailchaser and just love them both. What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

KMO: At the moment, I’m reading The Storyteller Trilogy by Sue Harrison, which is fiction that follows Native American tribes that takes place in Alaska during the ice age, 800 years ago. It’s a really fun look back at the past. Up next, I intend to read some more YA, including the Maze Runner series, which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

KMO: I tend to write as inspiration strikes, sitting on my couch in between playing video games. I don’t have a set schedule, but I try to write at least 400 words a day.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

KMO: I’m a bit on the slow side—a book a year is my likely rate, with novellas or short stories added in on the side. As for readiness, I typically will finish the book, then take a break from it for a few months before going back and editing. Once a beta reader takes a look and I do one last editing pass, I call it ready.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

KMO: The Sixth Event had a lot of near misses before I heard the unfortunate news that no one wanted dystopian or apocalyptic books any longer. After about a hundred queries and 25 or so full requests, and two editor requests, I went with small presses. Evernight Teen snapped it up very quickly!

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

KMO: I have a YA portal fantasy series called A Ring of Stones in the works. Book 1 is complete and Book 2 is in the works, out of what will likely be three or four books. In Book 1, a young girl, Ryn, discovers she can walk through the veil between worlds and enter the fairy realm at will. The fairy world was closed off from the human world centuries ago, and Ryn has to figure out why she can travel the two worlds and how to protect the human world from powerful fairies who want to harm it.

PW: Cool! I keep hearing “portal fantasy” getting thrown around these days and had to look it up. Seems to mean a story that involves a magical doorway of some kind (in case anyone else was wondering).

What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

KMO: Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses, so it would depend on the person, but the old clichés still work. Practice makes perfect. Write every day. And most importantly, keep reading! Reading and enjoying other people’s books is the best way to keep your own creative juices flowing.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

KMO: Given academia these days, probably scrambling for grant money. 😛 Seriously though, I hope to keep finding success. I want to put out my YA portal fantasy with Evernight Teen, and hopefully have the whole series out by then!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

KMO: This was said at my middle school graduation (class of 2000!). It’s a cliché saying, but I love it. “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.”

PW: Favorite color:

KMO: Probably green.

PW: Favorite TV show:

KMO: I love The Simpsons, but the TV show that will always give me warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings is Dinosaurs. Yep, the old puppet show. And if we include anime, Trigun! I love space westerns.

PW: “Not the Mama!” (Nod to those who get it.) Favorite movie:

KMO: There are so many good ones! I think the most recent would likely be Rise of the Guardians.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

KMO: Einstein. I’d love to chat about the history of the universe with him.

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

KMO: My website, which I should update more often, can be found here: http://sfwrites.blogspot.com/

The Sixth Event can be bought from Evernight Teen here: http://www.evernightteen.com/the-sixth-event-by-kristen-morie-osisek/
Or at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sixth-Event-Kristen-Morie-Osisek-ebook/dp/B01FEEITZ4/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1472521826&sr=8-1

Blurb:

During Raquel’s first semester of college, she witnesses the end of the world, only to wake up in her old room at her parents’ house two years in the past. Even worse, it seems she’s the only one who remembers—until Chris Lyley, a boy Raquel always thought was a loser, tells her he remembers the catastrophe.

Before long, they both discover new abilities. They’re able to understand any language and teleport through time and space. If Raquel and Chris can figure out what caused the end of their world, maybe they can stop it.

WDC16 #9

Can you even believe how many sessions I attended over the WDC weekend? As far as bang for your buck goes, I have to say the Writer’s Digest Conference definitely gives you a lot of content. (They’re already scheduled to have it in NY again, same hotel, next August 18-20 if you’re interested.)

Okay, so after a lunch break I went to hear Jessica Strawser talk about 10 Essential Writing Lessons From 10 Years of Bestsellers. She’s editor of Writer’s Digest and was pulling wisdom from various bestselling authors she’s interviewed. I couldn’t write fast enough to get exact quotes, so everything here is paraphrased. For the exact quotes, I’m sure you could go look up the WD interviews directly.

1. A better approach to “write every day”

This is the answer to the fact that we’re not all disciplined enough to write every day, despite being told repeatedly that we should. The guilt we feel at not meeting that goal ends up hampering us further. (For those of you who do write every day, I guess this doesn’t apply.) Strawser said that Alice Walker told her it wasn’t so much about actually writing every day as it was about the possibility of writing—being ready for it when the time came. Having the time and space and being receptive. Walker likened it to being ready for a guest who might come to tea. The person may or may not come, but have tea in the house just in case, right?

Meanwhile, Patricia Cornwell told Strawser that a writer should treat writing like a relationship rather than a job. If you want the relationship to succeed, you put in the effort. And if you miss someone, you pick up the phone and call them, even when you can’t be with them. Cornwell said she at the very least “checks in” with her writing each night by looking over her WIP even if she can’t work on it.

2. Protect your candle

This idea comes from author Lisa Scottoline. She says that sometimes it seems like it’s not okay for adults to have a dream; they’re supposed to “grow up” and live in the real world. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with adult responsibilities: a day job, the family, etc. But Scottoline says your dream—your writing—is like a candle in an old-fashioned holder. You walk with it and must shield it with your hand to keep it from going out. Protect it. This is your light. She even keeps a candle on her desk to remind her.

3. Find your weakness

Author Susan Mallery says you should figure out what you’re bad at and focus on it. Get good at it.

For me personally I liken this to targeting a flabby area on your body. Maybe you like your arms and legs but think your tummy needs toning. Work on that. Keep working on your arms and legs, too, but work extra hard on the part you want to make more appealing.

Patricia Cornwell somewhat famously mentioned that a writer who thinks they have no weakness—a writer who talks about how great their book is—is probably not a very good writer at all. It’s the insecure ones, the ones who know it’s not perfect, that end up producing something special.

4. Learn to love revision

Khaled Hosseini had a great analogy for this. He said it’s like moving into a house. The first draft is when you bring in all the boxes. You unpack everything. It’s hard work. Revision is arranging all the stuff. It’s hard work too, but can be more fun and satisfying than just the unpacking.

Don’t try to be a great writer. Be a great rewriter.

5. Don’t be afraid to throw things away

You worked hard on it and you want to keep it—all of it. Because to throw it out would mean you wasted your time.

It happened to Garth Stein. He did years of research and wrote a 100k novel only to realize he’d really only written the backstory. All that work was just preparation for the story he actually wanted to tell. Sure, he could have kept the 100k novel and said, “Good enough.” But he didn’t. “We’re building mountains, not molehills. It takes time.”

Khaled Hosseini says nothing is every wasted, even if you throw it away, because we learn from everything we write.

6. Character and plot are the same thing

Whaaa?

Lisa Scottoline notes that how characters react is the key to the story. And that action (plot) reveals character. They are two sides of the same coin.

7. Take detours

David Sedaris notes that it’s important not to pressure yourself when you’re writing. Don’t worry about whether it’s marketable. Just go with the flow.

Garth Stein encourages writers to go out and have experiences. Similarly, let your characters off their leashes. You can always come back to where you were, but you may yet discover something new and better by letting them (and yourself) explore.

Don’t rush things and don’t force them. Readers can tell when the plot is forced. Be patient and let it come naturally.

8. Always aim to grow in your writing

Jojo Moyes says that it’s important to know what your story is really about. What’s the bigger question beneath the story?

It can help to ask readers: “Where did you laugh while reading? Or cry?” Challenge yourself.

9. Remember: It’s supposed to be fun

You shouldn’t be driven by the market or ambition. You should be driven by the passion you have for the project. Which is kind of the same as

10. Do it for love and never give up

Brad Meltzer says, “The moment you think you’ve made it, you’re done.”

Patricia Cornwell believes you can’t become a writer, you either are one or you’re not. It’s like a songbird—you can’t tell it not to sing. Whether they’re a success in the market or not won’t matter to a real writer. They just keep writing because they have to.

Guest Post: Danielle Belwater

Danielle Belwater’s book Of Blood & Snow was recently released by Evernight Teen. It’s the second in a series, and being that I am also now writing a second book in the Changers series, I was curious how Danielle found writing sequels versus writing a first-in-a-series or standalone novel. Here is what she had to say:

Book 1 of The Erlanis Chronicles, Of Fire & Roses was published two years ago. I hadn’t intended it to be so long between books, but throw two babies into the equation and all timelines, deadlines, planning and motivation went out the window.

But! I persevered and refused to give up and bit by bit Of Blood & Snow came to life.

The difference between releasing book 1 and the recent release of book 2 have been worlds apart.

I’m two years wiser, and also have two years of book 1 being out there, having readers get to know my name. While it hasn’t made the top of New York Times Bestsellers just yet, for me, it’s more about the accomplishment. If you decide to become an author for the money, you might want to rethink it.

When you only have on book out, whether it’s a series or a standalone novel, until you get your second book out (unless you’re Paula Hawkins of Girl On The Train fame) you’re not taken seriously. While getting a book published is a feat in itself, readers ultimately want an author with longevity, someone that will continue to deliver books that they can love and cherish.

With book 2, I already knew the characters. I know who they are, what their likes and dislikes are and how they act in certain situations. They are like close friends. I was able to dig deeper into their personalities and motivations and play a bit more with the story and perspectives.

One thing I haven’t done nearly as much of, is not stress as much. You’re first release you’re about as organised as a chook without a head. You’ve gone full deer-in-headlights as you hit refresh on your release to check your rankings every 2 minutes. That’s not to say that I’m not checking my second release for rankings, but I certainly am not stressing about it. I’ve just allowed it to go out there and make its way in the world.

I feel a sense of belonging now. A part of a community of friends, authors and readers alike.

I still have a lot to prove, but writing has become a part of who I am and what I do. When I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about writing and it’s now automatic to be thinking about my stories and where they are going to next.

So watch this space!



 

OF BLOOD & Snow
(Erlanis
Chronicles, 2)
by
Danielle Belwater
Paranormal/Suspense/Romance/Teen
Evernight
Teen Publishing/63K
Blood is thicker than water, or so
the story goes…
As
fast as Cora can run, there is no escaping the blood that ties her to an
ancient, evil past.
Amongst the
bitter cold and driving snow, Nate must find a way to protect the love of his
life, before the darkness falls and Cora is lost to him forever.
Buy Links:  ARe 
Evernight Teen
Amazon
 Excerpt:
14+ due to adult situations
Why? Why did I need to go home? Other than for shelter, no one needed me there. Nate was all I had left. He was my reason for breathing and now the sole reason I got up every morning. The thought of harm coming to Nate made my heart hammer in my chest even harder. I jammed my hands deep into my coat pockets and focused on letting oxygen flow into my lungs.
In a single moment of clarity, I knew. I mean, I knew I loved Nate; that was without question. But if I didn’t have him in my life, it would be nothing but vacuous space.
I brushed snow off the fallen tree trunk and sat down. My thinking tree. Nate and I came here often to sit and talk, read, or watch the day simply pass us by. I piled up handful after handful of snow, heaping them on top of each other until a small avalanche rolled off the log and into a heap on the ground.
You are the key.
I leapt off the log landing two feet together, crushing the peak of snow beneath my shoes.
“Who’s there?” I shoved my fists into my hips and squared my shoulders. If there was someone there, they didn’t know who they were messing with.
The rustling of leaves came from above and a sprinkling of disturbed snow flittered down in front of my face. The flapping of beating wings and the call of a solitary bird echoed overhead. I caught sight of white feathers tipped with black before they disappeared above the trees and out of sight.
“Is anyone there?” I called out again, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t get a response.
The softness of the voice rolled around my head as I lingered amongst the tall trees on my way back home.
I am the key. The answer is within my blood. What did that mean?
About the Author:

Danielle Belwater adores the concept of true love and that everyone has their Prince Charming or Snow White out there somewhere, even if they have to fight demons, ghosts, and wizards to find it.

Danielle has been having a love affair with words since she was young and in primary school, writing some rather imaginative tales. This love has followed her into adulthood. 
She lives in rural South Australia with her husband, young daughters and way too many animals to mention. She spends most of her time dreaming up characters, stories, ghostly tales, and watching Firefly re-runs.  She also cooks the odd meal for her family to avoid them looking like skeletons at official author functions!  
Danielle is passionate about reading and her interests include pretty much anything with words from rolling four volume epics to the daily newspaper. 
Giveaway:
$20 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Interview: Stacey Bryan

#6 in my author interview series. If you’d like to participate, please send me an email at the Contact link at the top of this page.

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Stace Bryan: I was born in San Francisco but raised from age 6 in the San Fernando Valley. I was extremely embarrassed when Valley Girl came out in the ‘80s because I recognized myself in there—at least a little bit. I’m mixed race and was adopted as a one-year-old, and I write about those issues a lot. I was a tomboy and have never grown out of it. I wiped out on my bike in Griffith Park a few years ago and have a nice scar on my left forearm that makes a good conversation starter. I met my husband in Brooklyn when I lived in NYC for several years. He’s also a writer but more of a film guy, and we both love movies.

PW: Already I’m fascinated, and since I also have a film/screenwriting degree, I totally dig that you guys love movies. But I’ll try to stay on topic here. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to write?

SB: I don’t remember being inspired, per se. I just remember being alone a lot—my choice—and reading all the time. I loved stories so much, I started to write them myself. I sort of just moved into it as the natural course of being a hermit. I also love the sound of words and love it when words and/or images that don’t ordinarily go together are forced together in a sentence.

PW: And what about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

DayForNightFinalRETAILCover700x1066p96dpiRGBSB: Day for Night is an urban paranormal comedy that I was inspired to write because of all the “serious” vampire/paranormal literature. Not that serious is bad, but I like to laugh. I had to work up the nerve to read “The Lovely Bones” because it’s about a serial killer, a monster which is all too real. In the paranormal, nothing is real. And anything can happen. I also thought all the non-ethnic 25-year-old protagonists in general needed some variety, so my protagonist is an “older” mulatto wannabe actress.

PW: You’re hitting a lot of my sweet spots here. I love stories about actresses and Hollywood. Plus an urban paranormal comedy?! That sounds too awesome to miss.

Speaking of Hollywood, do you have a log line for your book? (A log line is one sentence that sums up the story.)

SB: A 39-to-40-something wannabe actress walks in on an alien abduction taking place in a laundry room and turns to supernatural means and a little Jack Daniel’s in order to fight back.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

SB: Thandie Newton or Sherri Saum as Rae, the lead character. Raul Bova as Rex, her long-time-and-lots-of-sexual-tension-friend. Luca Calvani as Giancarlo, her date.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

SB: I’ve read The Descent by Jeff Long three or four times, A Certain Age by Tama Janowitcz three or four times, and all of T.C. Boyle’s short stories three or four times. I love Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and Diana Gabaldon (Outlander).

PW: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to stomach The Road, though I’ve heard it’s wonderful. How about current reads? Your TBR list?

SB: A hilarious novel called Blood Sucking Fiends by Christopher Moore to counteract the gloom and doom of the novelization of Alien. I’d love to get more of Richard Kadrey’s stuff and I’m always looking for really good time travel romances.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

SB: I need to be completely isolated with maybe only instrumental music playing when I’m in the early stages of planning and writing. So that’s the bedroom with the door closed and the soundtrack from The Hours playing in my headphones. Once everything’s laid out or I know where I’m going, I can go to a library or coffee shop with the laptop and not worry about distractions; I’m beyond them at that point. I usually don’t eat or drink while I’m working. Except for potato chips.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

SB: I haven’t written that many, but the ones I have completed have taken six months or under. Once I’ve shown it to writing friends and rewritten it to the point where I can’t stand the thought of it anymore, I basically regard it as ready.

PW: How did you get the agent/publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

SB: Day for Night is the first novel I’ve attempted to publish, and the road has been long and frustrating for me. I spent over a year querying agents and got two responses back. At some point I found a handful of publishers that accept un-agented manuscripts and began querying them, which is how I found my publisher. I wrote to the self-published author of the Breakers series a few times, and he told me he got so frustrated querying agents, he just gave up and did it himself, and he’s achieved a nice amount of success all on his own!

PW: What are you working on now?

SB: I’m planning the sequels to Day for Night. I was working on the novelization of a sci-fi screenplay (which is why I’m reading the Alien novelization; to see how Alan Dean Foster did his) but I think I have to put that on the back burner for now.

PW: I’ve found it’s good to have something simmering so that if you get stuck on one thing, you’ve got something else to jump to. What advice would you give to young writers, or writers just starting out?

SB: I hate to be a cliché, but try to write every day. And if you can’t write every day, try to do it every other day. And if you can’t do that, do it several times a week. Or at least once a week. Until you can get back to several times a week and then back to every day. I’m saying this because I stopped writing for a long time and then wrote intermittently, and I regret having lost that time. You can never get that time back, so keep writing. I have nothing to say about too many adjectives or get life experiences or write what you know. I say just do it. The rest will fall into place.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

SB: In the best of all possible worlds, living on Maui with my husband, freelance captioning for chump change, and writing for a living.

PW: Sounds divine! Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying?

SB: When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did–in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car. —Bob Monkhouse.

PW: Favorite color?

SB: Aquamarine!

PW: Oooh! I love that color, too! It figures as the wall color in a number of my novels. Okay, back to business. Favorite TV show?

SB: Man Seeking Woman

PW: Favorite movie?

SB: Your Highness

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet?

SB: Octavia Butler

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

SB: Please visit me at: https://staceyebryan.wordpress.com/

PW: Thanks so much to Stacey Bryan for taking part in this interview! Go check out her book!

Blurb:
When reality TV star Rae Miller is kicked unceremoniously to the curb by her back-stabbing cast mates, she quickly realizes that revenge fantasies and unemployment are the least of her problems after she witnesses an alien abduction in broad daylight. Worse, after escaping a terrifying almost-abduction herself, Rae succumbs to a sexy Nosferatu’s silky assurances, becoming undead in order to up her alien Ultimate Fighting skills. Life is hard as a 38-to-40-something aspiring actress in L.A. Thank God for Jack Daniel’s and denial.

About the Author:
Stacey was raised in the San Fernando Valley but born in San Francisco, where she left part of her heart. She has worked on a dude ranch, coached gymnastics, and captions for the hearing impaired. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines in New York and L.A., including Ginosko and The Rag. She is currently working on the sequel to her novel Day for Night. She lives in “beautiful downtown Burbank,” as Johnny Carson used to say, with her husband who is also a writer. Visit her at https://staceyebryan.wordpress.com

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Author Interview: R.K. Gold

Here is #5 in my author interview series! If you’re an author and would like to participate, click the Contact button at the top of the page and send me an email!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

R.K. Gold: My name is R.K. Gold, I am a novelist from Buffalo, NY. I am a dog lover and enjoy spending my free time walking my plott hound through the city. He is so manipulative and gives the cutest puppy eyes it’s impossible to not give him all your attention when he’s in the room.

PW: Awww. I grew up with dogs but don’t currently have any. Would love a Corgi, though! (Then I war with myself because I know it would be better to get a shelter dog, if I ever got a dog at all.)

Okay, enough of that. Back to you. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

RKG: I started writing in the end of January 2014. It was my senior year of college at the University of Maryland and I was in a bad car wreck. When I got back from the hospital, I realized that no matter what—even if you aren’t doing anything wrong—your life can end at any moment. So I made the conscious decision to pursue my greatest passion and haven’t looked back. I began writing novels in March the same year and signed my first deal at the start of 2015.

PW: Wow. Talk about motivation! What an inspirational story! And what about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

RKG: Just Under the Sky is—well it will always be meaningful to me because it’s the first novel I ever wrote. Though it’s only a little longer than The Old Man and the Sea I really touched on some themes of self discovery and our unknown impacts on the world. It is closest to the magical realism genre. I would like to thank Weasel Press for all the marketing and designing efforts they put into it, I really love everything they’ve done.

PW: How did you land Weasel Press for this book?

RKG: I found Weasel on PW.org and started talking to them on social media. I had a short story published in one of their anthologies and they liked my work so I sent them a query letter with my manuscript attached. They sent me back a contract and we enjoy working with each other so much I have signed on for two more books (three total).

PW: That’s awesome! Okay, going backward a bit, tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

RKG: I love sitting in my kitchen next to the window or in my family room by the fireplace. I don’t have a set time to write but I aim to write at least 2500 words a day when I am working on a rough draft.

PW: And how long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

RKG: Oof, depends. I have knocked out a 50,000-word manuscript in a week but editing normally takes me a while. My big problem is I start editing and then I think of a new idea and write a new book instead. I’ve been writing novels for exactly 2 years now (March 2014) and I have 10 completed manuscripts—only 3 have been fully edited.

PW: 50,000 words in a week?! @.@

What are you working on now?

RKG: Ha! What am I not. Let’s see I’m editing a manuscript following a high school girl’s friendship with a 79-year-old woman while being cyber bullied. I just finished two rough drafts since January for new manuscripts and I am prepping for my next two releases with Weasel Press (Brinwood May 6th 2016, and Lost Boys August 2016).

PW: Let’s go back to your most recent release, Just Under the Sky. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

RKG: Two journalists discover the truth of their village while trapped in a forest that’s trying to kill them.

PW: Definitely sounds intriguing. And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you envision as your main characters?

RKG: Daniel Radcliffe for Jasper and Donald Glover for McMichaels.

PW: What are some of your favorite books and authors?

RKG: Too many. Reading is so engraved in my daily routine—I feel incomplete if I don’t read. Off the top of my head I think Hell’s Angels by Hunter Thompson and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card are two of my favorite books. I can say I am currently reading The Dark Side by Jane Mayer and since January I’ve read Catch-22, Saving Capitalism, Swag, Race Matters, Skin Cage, On Writing, And Then All Hell Broke Loose, and I think Going Under but that might have been December.

PW: What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

RKG: Actually, I don’t mean to plug but here is a blog post I wrote on the 8 most useful tips I have discovered since I started writing: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rkgold/8-tips-for-indie-writers-1osct. I think that will do a better job at explaining than a couple sentences but I guess if I had to sum up the most important thing you could do—I would say read as often as you can and find time to write at least 6 days a week.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

RKG: Hopefully signed to a large publishing house. I also want to help encourage creative education with students from public schools that lack sufficient funding. STEM is amazing and very important to education, but the one thing all of the greatest minds in history have in common is an influence by art and literature. While sciences can help us find answers, the creative arts helps us ask questions we never thought of asking before.

PW: Those are admirable goals. Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying?

RKG: Ha, again too many. Oscar Wilde has always offered some good quotes to reference. I’m a fan of “There is no sin except stupidity.” “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” And “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

PW: Favorite color?

RKG: Purple.

PW: Favorite TV show?

RKG: Ink Master and The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness.

PW: Favorite movie?

RKG: V for Vendetta, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Midnight in Paris, and Wimbledon.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

RKG: Lin-Manuel Miranda.

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

RKG: Weasel Press: http://weaselpress.storenvy.com/products/14275899-just-under-the-sky

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Just-Under-Sky-R-K-Gold/dp/099729681X/

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/just-under-the-sky/id1053995353

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/just-under-the-sky-rk-gold/1122874676

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/just-under-the-sky

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/588646

Thank you, R.K. Gold, for being a willing victim! Find him on Twitter at @RKGold91 and online at rkgoldcreations.com.

Author Interview: Erika Gardner

Second in my new series of author interviews. If you’re an author and would like to be featured, please contact me via the link at the top of the page.

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Erika Gardner: I’m your basic California girl, except the NorCal version. I’m a sixth generation San Franciscan. I’m a complete peasant—no royalty in my family tree, just a whole lot of Irish, Italian, French and Scandinavian immigrants. I’m the proverbial mutt, aka an American.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

EG: I actually can’t remember a time when I haven’t been writing. I think most kids are born storytellers. (Parents are nodding their heads, remembering the tall tales their children have sprinkled through the years—sometimes on a daily basis.) Some have that behavior ground out of them, some are compulsive and can’t help it. I am the latter. I hear voices—it’s write down what the voices tell me or settle back and wait for the guys with the white coats. I started with pictures and then moved on to words. Even if I never made a cent, the stories would still come. Er, I would like to make a fair wage though, let’s be clear about that!

PW: Yes, there has been a lot of blogs lately about paying writers versus expecting them to supply content for free, or for “exposure.” I have definite feelings about that, but we’ll set those aside for now. Why don’t you tell us about this book. What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

The dragon in Erika Gardner's garden.
The dragon in Erika Gardner’s garden.
EG: The Dragon in The Garden began as a children’s book. In my actual garden I have a small statue of green dragon curled in a ball. One day I was weeding near it and I heard wind chimes in the distance. The breeze, the music of the chimes, the smell of the earth, and the statue—what if the statue wasn’t a statue? What if it were a dragon in hiding? Of course then a hot fallen angel and an even hotter King of the Fey cropped up and I quickly realized that this was no children’s book!

PW: In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

EG: Well, I’m no Hollywood insider but, I’ll give it a shot. Something along the lines of, “How does one person with a small talent, but no magic navigate the travails of an ancient war when all of humanity is counting on her?”

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

EG: [laughs] As it happens the character of Turel is physically based on the actor Oded Fehr as he looked playing Ardeth Bay in the film The Mummy, but with no tattoos. Of course, I make Turel Persian whereas Fehr is Israeli. (I’m sure I’ve offended someone there.) As to Siobhan, Alex, and Daisy the Dragon (in her human form)? No idea, but I love the idea of a casting call!

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

EG: I run the gamut. Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, Tolkien, Richard Adams, Lois Lenski, L. Frank Baum, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Shakespeare, I’m all over the map. Favorite fantasy writers? I love Jim Butcher, Glen Cook, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, Julie Kagawa, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Katherine Kurtz, and Kevin Hearne among a hundred others.

Top favorite go to read again and again books are: Pride and Prejudice, A Wrinkle in Time, Lightning (by Dean Koontz), Little Women, The People of The Book by Geraldine Brooks, and The Hobbit/LOTR.

PW: Ah, yes, Lightning was the first Koontz book I ever read and still one of my favorites as well. (If anyone wants a book about time traveling Nazis, go look it up.)

What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

EG: My list is a bit long and neglected at present, but eventually I’ll get there again. I have a stack by my bed: the latest Garrett Files book, Wicked Bronze Ambition by Glenn Cook, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones, and lastly, The Marriage Game—A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. I’ve started all three.

PW: Alison Weir does an amazing job with both her historical fiction and her nonfiction; I have several of her books in my library.

Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

EG: Most books begin with one magical idea or moment. It might be something I experienced or it could be a song lyric. Something that sparks my imagination. From there it’s a matter of letting the voices in my head get louder until the plot begins to form. I find that going running or working out helps my creative process immensely. I love red wine and French fries when I write. My critique group and I have several restaurants and coffee shops we frequent to work, but I also enjoy writing at home.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

EG: It varies from book to book. While Dragon is my first to be published, I have three others and two in process. My first took me twenty-two years (on and off) while The Dragon in The Garden took about a year, maybe a little less. My latest, Galliano Grays, has taken over a year, but mostly because life has been so hectic.

As to when to begin sending it out? That’s the hardest part. You think it’s ready, but it’s not. The polishing part, when you are dying to introduce the world to your new baby, is rough. I white knuckle it these days and wait until I get the green light from my critique partners—they know best!

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

EG: I finished Dragon in 2012 and it was published in 2016. Not a quick process. I initially tried the traditional query process. I had many requests for materials, even a revise and resubmit from the agent of my dreams. The feedback was always the same, “This is good. I just don’t know where I’d sell it.”

Last summer I participated in a Twitter contest. Put one line plugging your manuscript. Agents and editors of small presses would be watching at a certain time. Mine was, “What’s worse than battling fallen angels, demons, and hags? Your ex making cow eyes at you in the middle of it all.” I received three requests from small presses and contracts from two. On the advice of the agent of the dreams I mentioned above, I signed with Tirgearr Publishing in August and it’s been great!

PW: What are you working on now?

EG: I am finishing up a novel called Galliano Grays set in downtown San Jose, California which features a female P.I., Charlie Watts, working a case of a very supernatural manner. I have also begun the sequel to Dragon. It’s called The Gryphon in The Tree.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

EG: Hopefully still writing, still running, and still married to my adorable husband, Eric.

PW: I like to end my interviews with a little about the author in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

EG: “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

PW: Favorite color:

EG: Periwinkle

PW: Favorite TV show:

EG: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, and The Big Bang Theory (sorry, couldn’t pick just one)

PW: Favorite movie:

EG: The Princess Bride

PW: Someone (living, dead or fictional) you’d like to meet:

EG: The late, great Ronnie James Dio

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?TheDragoninTheGardenbyErikaGardner-500

EG: I’m available on all the eFormats. I’m including the link to my publisher which will lead readers to the format of their choice. Thanks so much for checking out The Dragon in The Garden!

http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Gardner_Erika/the-dragon-in-the-garden.htm

Erika is a sixth generation San Franciscan of Irish descent. She attended the University of California at Davis and completed degrees in Medieval History and Biological Sciences. A lifelong lover of books and a scribbler of many tales from a young age (her first story was completed at age five) she turned to writing full-time in 2011.

Erika resides in Northern California with her incredibly hot husband, their three amazing kids, and their chocolate Labrador named Selkie. To reach Erika regarding her books, wine recommendations, or to debate which Iron Maiden album is the best (clearly, it’s Brave New World), you can find her online at www.erikagardner.com.

Author Interview: Misha Gerrick

I’m very excited to have author Misha Gerrick as a guest today, kicking off a new author interview series on my site!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Misha Gerrick: My name really is Misha, but my surname (Gerrick) is a pseudonym based on how people pronounce my real name (Gericke) when they pronounce it wrong. I live near Cape Town, South Africa.

PW: Okay, so that begs the question: How do you correctly pronounce Gericke? (I totally sympathize given my own last name gets twisted a million different ways.)

MG: I think German people will argue that I’m pronouncing it wrong too, but I think the pronunciation changed in South Africa over two or three hundred years. Gear-uh-kuh is probably the closest an English speaker’s going to get. Afrikaans (my mother tongue) has a hard r (like Spanish) and a guttural g which is pronounced the way the Dutch pronounce their ch sound. (And if you haven’t heard that, I have NO idea about how to explain it. :-D)

PW: I have a friend from the Netherlands, and now I’m itching to go ask her! Now, tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long?

MG: I’ve been writing since I was thirteen. Although, I’ve been creating stories long before that. I’m now twenty-seven, which means I’ve been a writer for longer than I’ve not been a writer.

PW: In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

MG: An immortal woman wakes up in hospital suffering from retrograde amnesia, which is a problem because her doctor might want to kill her.

PW: Sounds compelling! What sparked the idea?

MG: This story is the fourth idea I ever had, actually. I kept thinking about an amnesiac immortal as a concept, but it took me about four years before I had my ah-hah moment that made it all came together. (Ironically, during a completely unrelated Assassins Creed playing marathon weekend with my friend.)

PW: What are some of your favorite books?

MG: The one I’m reading. Followed closely by the one I’ll be reading next. (I read really widely, so picking faves will take a few weeks.)

PW: A very diplomatic answer. But it’s true that there are always new favorites lying ahead, I think. How about this: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

MG: Right now I’m reading Roughing It by Mark Twain. Next up will probably be a few chapters of Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers) so I can brush up on my French.

PW: Classics! Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

MG: When I have a new idea, I put together a music playlist that reflects the feeling the story gives me. Then I pick a notebook (I collect them) and use a pen I reserve only for fiction writing to draft out the idea by hand.Once I’m done with that, I work on something else before rereading the draft and planning the outline for the rewrite to my computer.

I like sitting on my bed and writing, followed by a restaurant.

Favorite drink is water. I try and drink two glasses before I start writing because it helps me clear my mind.

PW: No caffeine?! I think that’s unheard of in writer history! How long does it take you to write a book (without caffeine)?

MG: Depends. My current record for a rough draft is eight days. My epic fantasy rough drafts tend to take me between three and four months to rough draft. I rewrote Endless in a bit more than two weeks. Epic fantasy… again, three or four months.

PW: That’s serious output. Maybe I should switch to water, too.

You self-publish. Are you happy with the way self-publishing has worked for you? What do you like about it? Would you recommend it to other authors?

MG: Happy? Yes. So far I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going. I like the fact that I can decide when I’ll publish, what price I’ll be publishing at and how I want the book to look. It takes up a large chunk of time, though, so I recommend it to authors who don’t mind getting involved in the business end. (As supposed to authors who only want to write.)

PW: Having done both myself, I agree that the control of self-publishing is nice. And you’re right; it’s time consuming. Formatting etc. takes a lot of patience. You need to know what you’re doing or have lots of help (freelance cover artists, editors, etc.)

What are you working on now?

MG: Right now, I’m working on the third book in my epic fantasy series, the rewrite to the record rough draft I mentioned, a dystopian, a historical romance and the sequel to Endless.

PW: That’s, like, five projects! Do you dedicate specific time to each one, or is it more whatever you’re feeling like playing with that day?

MG: It’s sort of a combination of both. I have a priority list for every single book I have pipe-lined at any given moment. The top priority book gets the most attention. Followed by the second priority book etc. But sometimes if I get stuck on the higher priority books (or for some reason I just don’t “feel” them on the day) I move down the list until I find something I can work on.

I find it’s a better system for me, because when I used to only work on one project, I would do nothing for the whole time I was stuck on it. Now I almost never have down time.

PW: Sounds smart. I know when I get stuck, I just sit there like a lump. I should probably have some other small projects to tinker with when that happens. Any other advice for young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

MG: Write what you enjoy writing. Don’t chase money.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

MG: I’m building myself a steady-flow of income over the next five years, which will hopefully allow me to have the option of writing full time.

PW: That’s right, your blog is called The Five Year Project!

Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

MG: If the voices in your head tell you you can’t paint, then by all means paint and the voices will be silenced. Vincent van Gogh said that, or some version of it. I remind myself of it when doubts and insecurities start whispering in my ear when I should be writing.

>PW: Favorite color:

MG: Lavender

PW: Favorite TV show:

MG: Right now… Masterchef Australia. Actually, it’s literally the only thing that falls in a time-slot on tv where I can spend time watching it. The rest of my time basically gets split between work, writing and (when I manage to squeeze it in) reading.

PW: Favorite movie:

MG: Tombstone, The Untouchables, The Man in the Iron Mask (which I prefer to the book) and Inception

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

MG: Oscar Wilde

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

MG: Endless is on pre-order at Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Scribd, Book Depository

Thank you, Misha Gerrick, for being such a good sport!

Note: This interview discusses Misha Gerrick’s book Endless, but I’ve linked above to her Amazon author page so you can browse all her titles.

_________________________________

Want to be featured in my author interviews? Send an email to the contact info at the top of the blog!

Guest Post: Kimberly Emerson on Character

“Where do you get your ideas?”

This is the question everyone asks when they find out that I write. Truthfully? I have no idea. Snippets of conversation pop up in my head, and eventually the characters saying them step out of the shadows and introduce themselves. Where the snippets or the characters come from, I don’t know. I also can’t tell you why I can’t make a bat hit a baseball, or why I can hear a tune and make my vocal cords reproduce it accurately. That’s just the way it is.

I don’t know about the people asking the question, but I find this frustrating. Order and reason make me happy.

“No wonder you love writing,” people say, grinning in triumph. “You can make things happen the way you want.”

It should work that way, yes. But it doesn’t.

I’ve been writing since I was young. I remember doing a series in Mrs. Walden’s class, using the other fifth graders in the class as character models. Every time we had a creative writing exercise, Mrs. Walden got another chapter in the adventures of Cindy and her friends. Every story got a title—“Cindy and the Big Adventure,” “Cindy Stays Home Alone,” and so forth. I even had a signature way of writing Cindy’s name in the title, so that it took up about a third of the page. There was indeed an element of wish fulfillment in these. Everything always turned out right for Cindy. Her friends adored her, and I don’t think she ever got punished. Likewise, the people who made trouble for her always got their comeuppance by the time the two-page story wrapped up.

I gave Cindy up at the end of the fifth grade. The stories in sixth grade featured her daughter – Sandra, I think was her name. Fortunately for us all, I let the family end with Sandra, or we’d be up to her remote descendant by now, dozens of generations later, who grew up hearing fairy tales about an ancient witch ancestor Cindy who turned children into toads.

Eventually, I gave up the pretense and started writing stories with myself as the main character, surrounding myself with the perfect mate and a fifteen-bedroom mansion outside of London. If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right.

Interesting thing about those stories, though—things didn’t always go right. I wrote one about myself getting cast as the lead in a professional musical, and had myself fainting in front of the theater and being discovered there, lying unconscious, by the director. This is not the sort of thing I fantasize about. I fainted once when I was fifteen, and it was really, really unpleasant. I lost all illusions about romantic swooning. But I put it in the story because, well, it worked in the scene.

Yeah. I made something lousy happen to myself in a story, and my fictional self wasn’t thrilled.

In my thirties, I wrote my first actual book about characters I made up, Ben and Kelsey. (This book is in a drawer, and will stay in there until I have time to give it a lot of work.) Something bizarre happened. I didn’t want Ben and Kelsey to have a perfect happy ending. They got together, the loved each other, but their careers hit snags and Ben’s extended family would remain pretty messed up. I couldn’t make everything okay for them. Stranger still, I didn’t want to. I couldn’t relate to idyllic endings. My life didn’t work that way.

It didn’t occur to me till later that maybe other people felt the same way.

Even stranger, suddenly I couldn’t bring my villains to a completely sticky end, either. Backstories for them kept popping up in my head. This one experienced verbal abuse from her father. That one spent his entire life competing with his Olympic athlete older brother. They whispered reasons why they turned into the people that they did. Once you start listening to the explanations of people in your head, it becomes a lot harder not to look for reasons why the three-dimensional people in your life do the things they do.

Now, in my forties, I am incapable of forcing characters to do anything. Once they materialize in my head, they become as real as fictional characters can be. They don’t act in a vacuum. They do things for reasons, and have to deal with their own demons. (Don’t worry. I listen to them, but I stop short of knitting them scarves.)

I think the real magic of writing isn’t that you can create a world. It’s that writing helps you better understand the creation that is the world around you.

KimberlyEmersonKimberly Emerson is the author of three novels besides the one in the drawer, and is currently seeking representation for her latest mystery No Accounting for Destiny. You can find her most recent musings at www.kimberlyemerson.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fbbykimberlyemerson/, and on Twitter @KimberlyEWriter. You might also run into her at random literary conferences, sipping chai lattes and discussing deep thoughts with her buddy M Pepper Langlinais.