Thursday, September 22, 2016

Guest Blog - Maya Tyler

Interview Questions
I am pleased to introduce Maya Tyler, author of the paranormal romance Dream Hunter.

Q: Tell us something about yourself.
A: I’m married to my high school sweetheart and we have two sons and a nine pound shih tzu. I love to read anything I can get my hands on, mainly romance these days. I have a strong interest in healthy living. I am active every day which helps when I decide to cheat on my diet. I have a weakness for carbs and I like a little cream and sugar in my coffee. I love being outside and outdoor living in my backyard (work-in-progress) paradise. We grew beans and broccoli this summer, but I didn’t help much… I have a completely black thumb.

Q. How did you get into writing?
A: As soon as I could hold a pencil, I was writing little stories. I have a box full of stories and poems I wrote as a child, mostly handwritten. These days my first drafts are electronic and saved on my laptop. I just find it easier to express myself in written (or typed) words. I love to read and writing is a natural extension of that love for the written word. Whether I’m blogging, plotting, writing or revising, I try to write every day.

Q. How do you develop your plots and characters?
A: I have an active imagination and love creating believable characters. For the most part, my plots just come to me. I start writing and the story appears in my mind like a movie. Dream Hunter, in particular, was inspired by a dream I had.

Q: What inspires you to write?
A: I write because I love a happily-ever-after. Life isn’t always lollipops and rainbows, it is unpredictable with ups and downs. When I read, I am drawn into a book and, for a time, distracted from life’s worries. I want to write a book which provides my reader with the same solace.

Q: Who is your all-time favorite character (from your books) and why?
A: Gabe, from Dream Hunter, will always have a special place in my heart. I wanted to create a sexy and strong hero, with a hidden protective and sensitive side, and Gabe appeared in my mind. What I didn’t expect was his rebellious and defiant nature, but it certainly came in handy when he met my heroine Cynthia.

Q: Do you prefer coffee or tea?
A: Coffee… I prefer a dark roast and I love Starbucks…

Q: What’s better than chocolate?
A: A lot of women swear by chocolate as their go to sweet. I, unfortunately, have been allergic to chocolate since I was a child. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other vices out there… I get my sugar fix from cake, pie and cookies (whatever’s in the house).

Q: If you believed in this sort of thing and could channel an artist from the beyond, who would it be and why?
A: I ask this question of the authors I interview as well. I would select a humanitarian, one who creates art, not in the traditional sense, but through their betterment of the world. Princess Diana has long inspired me with the grace and compassion she brought to the world.

Q: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: My plans for the future are centered on my health. I plan to continue to live a healthy life and strive to make the world a better place for my children. I see myself writing and publishing more paranormal romance novels.

Q: Any advice for those aspiring novelists out there?
A: If you are an aspiring novelist, keep writing. Write for the pure joy of writing, not to get published or become famous.


 
Biography:
 
Maya Tyler is a romance author, blogger, wife, and mother. She has a degree in Commerce. Over the past few years, she decided to unleash her creative streak and get serious about writing. So far, she has published a short story “Just for Tonight” in an anthology called With Love from Val and Tyne and her debut paranormal romance novella Dream Hunter. She has also written a few other books (Her latest, A Vampire’s Tale, is scheduled to be released in 2017). Writing mostly paranormal romances, all her books have a common theme – happily ever after. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing with Lego and watching superhero movies with her husband and sons.

Thanks so much for your time, Maya






Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four
brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the
University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing
most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the
Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-
line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National
Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and one of her
poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her novel, A Bend In The Willow, is scheduled for release by Tirgearr Press in January 18, 2017. 

Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Steampunk Contraptions of Dreamwielder

Diversion Books has put book one of The Dreamwielder Chronicles on sale for 99 cents in all ebook formats through September 13, 2016. To celebrate, author Garrett Calcaterra talks about the steampunk-inspired vehicles and contraptions in the series that have captured readers' imaginations and make the books stand out from so many traditional epic fantasies.


When I first started planning Dreamwielder, I knew I wanted it to move beyond the generic medieval fantasy setting. I don't know that I purposefully set out to make the book have a steampunk aesthetic, but a confluence of influences led me in that direction.

One of those influences was reading the work of steampunk progenitors James P. Blaylock, Tim Powers, and K.W. Jeter. Readers might be surprised, however, by how few steampunk gadgets and gizmos are actually in the works of those three authors. Modern steampunk has really gravitated towards having tons of cool steampunk gadgets and vehicles, but that's not the case with Blaylock, Powers, and Jeter. Sure, there are airships and time machines in there, but their work is more about the dingy, early-industrial setting of the Victorian era, and that's what I was interested in.

Artwork by Patrick Williams
The most stereotypical steampunk contraption I included in Dreamwielder is Siegbjorn's airship. His ship achieves buoyancy the same way a hot air balloon does, with...well, hot air. The only unique aspect to the ship is that the fuel source Siegbjorn uses in the furnace is hand-made by sorcerers.

In book two, Souldrifter, I introduce a new breed of airships. These airships achieve buoyancy the same way modern blimps do, with alpha ether (aka helium). They also have outrigger sails that are used to propel the ships forward with the aid of sorcerers known as stormbringers.

Another big influence that led me to adding steampunk components to The Dreamwielder Chronicles was my time working as an industrial hygienist, particularly my time monitoring the processes of oil refineries and then my stint doing air monitoring for cleanup workers during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Artwork by Patrick Williams
I saw firsthand the devastation that our reliance on fossil fuels leads to, and with that in mind I created the dark city of Col Sargoth. To Emperor Guderian, the city is a triumph of human ingenuity over nature and magic, but as the reader quickly learns, it's actually a once proud city that is now ravaged by industry run amok, with coal smelters belching out black smoke that blots out the sky and covers the buildings with soot.

Emperor Guderian's other "triumph" would be his war wagons. These steam-powered, armored wagons are essentially a steampunk version of tanks, and they prove to be unstoppable by traditional means of combat, as our heroes discover in Dreamwielder. The war wagons also play a role in Souldrifter, but to a lesser extent.

The last big influence on the steampunk aspects in Dreamwielder is the work of two more authors: Mary Shelley and Octavia Butler. Shelley's Frankenstein is the classic tale of humans taking technology too far by meddling with life itself. I played with this theme, but by adding magic into the mix of technology and life.

Artwork by Patrick Williams
The Dreamwielder Chronicles is first and foremost a fantasy series, so it's no big surprise that my steampunk aspects are blended with fantasy aspects. This is most apparent with the scenthounds—part human sorcerer, part hound, and part mechanical compass. Readers also get glimpses of a past war where other hybrid abominations were created by magic. In fact, it's these creatures that led people to abhor magic and allowed Emperor Guderian to come into power in the first place. Readers will get to see more of these hybrid creatures in book 3 of the series, which I'm in the process of writing. 

As for Octavia Butler, her novel Wild Seed was a big influence in creating my character Wulfram, the shape changing sorcerer who hunts our hero, the dreamwielder Makarria. Although, now that I think about it, shape changing isn't really a steampunk aspect, so I'll leave it at that!


Garrett Calcaterra is author of The Dreamwielder Chronicles and other works of dark speculative fiction. To learn more, visit www.garrettcalcaterra.com


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Choosing A Path That Matters


In fiction we writers create obstacles for our characters because we know it is through conflict they will reveal who they are and what they are made of at their core.  In life, the obstacles are often created for us. And it is our choice as to whether or not we surmount them.  Obstacles often come in the form of a person we perceive as difficult or a life challenge such as ill health, the death of someone we love, a divorce, a job loss, or for us writers--yet another rejection letter.  It's important to remember there are gifts in making the effort to step back, see the problem for what it really is, and start climbing up and over it. The view from the top is often different from the one at the bottom and the gifts received from our efforts to make the climb can be both life changing and life affirming. I often wonder how many people, writers especially, give up just before something wonderful is about to happen. 

My daughter and I begin each day with a telephone call (she lives in San Diego, I in southern Oregon) in which we take turns reading aloud a daily reflection by Mark Nepo in his work entitled, The Book of Awakening. The pieces are brief and followed by a short meditation. I was especially moved this week by one of his entries. When The Path is Blocked, Back Up and See More of the Way.  Our reading prompted me to stop and think about the way I sometimes judge a person or a situation without seeing the whole picture. In these times of political diversion when our country and often our families are divided, it seems especially appropriate to take that step back and realize what really matters most to all of us is love. 


All life is finite. We will all die.  And when that end comes, we won't be thinking about what we did or didn't accomplish in our lives or what political party or candidate we supported. We will be focused on the people we loved and how well we loved them. My work as a hospice volunteer has made me as certain about this as I am anything: Those final reflections on our joys and regrets will be centered on love and nothing else.   

Just as the mountain is clearer from a distance so are the people and obstacles in our lives. We have the choice to view ourselves and others in wholeness. We have the opportunity to see each challenge and each individual in their entirety. We can make the choice to keep climbing rather than give up and walk away. We can choose love over hate and diversion. We can keep our dreams alive, pursue them with every ounce of our being, and still choose the path of love. The path that matters most.  




Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four
brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the
University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing
most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the
Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-
line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National
Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and one of her
poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her novel, A Bend In The Willow, is scheduled for release by Tirgearr Publishing in January, 2017. 

Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, and more fictional characters than one person could count.     

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Race and Relevancy in Writing

Between my last deadline and the one that preceded it, it's become an especially and increasingly turbulent time to be black in America, and as an African-American writer, current events can dictate the shape of my work in ways that don't seem fair. Yet I can't tune out for the purpose of somehow preserving my artistic envisioning. Each day, I have to turn on the misery machine and read and watch all of what's happening so that I am aware of the dangers to me and mine. After that, it's pretty hard to go back to my imagination and fashion worlds that are free of the residue of this one. Each time I enter into that creative inner space, I'm followed by spectres of conscience that wail about responsibility. Would I have this voice and platform in this particular climate if it wasn't for me to respond to what we all see as grave problems? To be an African-American who possesses skill with words but refuses to write about race is considered by some a crime of selfishness.

Yet of deep concern for me is how, when a black writer contributes intelligently and poignantly to the mass conversation on race, they become, indelibly, a Race Writer, which may seem like a rare opportunity that is unique to the African-American, and one at which I should not scoff. Except I become a Race Writer, and my lot in life will be to wake up each day and attempt to be first to the pithy maxim. In every format and medium available, I'll have to offer wry observations that my pre-installed relevancy uniquely affords me. I'll be writing less for the benefit of mutual understanding than I will be to serve the choir that wants the perfect daily sermon, or give the well-intentioned but lazy-natured a regular boost of empathetic consciousness. Sure, when you're black, and you write well about race, you get noticed, but then that's all anyone notices, and then that's what you're writing about if you want to be well read, or read at all. Ice skating uphill is what the race writer does, and I don't want that gig, man. I dread it because I've seen what it does to authors whose work was once important until an exhausted and exasperated public put it down.

My latest work involves a protagonist who is a young African-American woman who reaches for a bright future in academia while contending with a history shaped by a family of outlaws. She wishes to hew to her own path but finds herself frequently returning to aid the souls of those who made her, regardless of her disagreement with them. By word 1000, I realized I wasn't just creating a new character and a world in which she could exist, but I was expressing my daily challenge to be true to myself and yet remain connected to the souls that made me. The words wouldn't fall on the page the way they do, and I wouldn't be published and invited to contribute to projects that want a poignant black voice, were I to remain in a bubble where I solely serve my own needs. So I write, sometimes for myself, and sometimes because that's what I gotta do. Or all I can do.

As I was writing this new piece, I came to know both my character and my own inner creative tension. I eventually allowed her encounters and experiences to mirror mine. A Black Lives Matter protest here. A brush with inner city violence there. Difficult choices with no clear winners and losers, over and over again. Then I realized what we all do, at some point, which is we only ever write ourselves. My words come from my black self, and my black self is a part of a world that is made up of so many elements, black and otherwise. It's an exciting world, and a frightening world, and pieces and parts from it make my work exciting, and frightening. And real, which is all any of us want of our writing. And while I cannot, and will not, allow myself to be a Race Writer, I will write lovingly and unguardedly about race, and I will ensure that it comes from the truest part of myself, damn the outcome.

That is my true responsibility.

Danny Gardner is an novelist, actor, director and screenwriter. His long form work has appeared in Literary Orphans Journal, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter and Noir on the Air. His debut novel, A Negro and an Ofay, is scheduled for publication by Down and Out Books in Spring 2017. He is represented by Elizabeth Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. He lives in Los Angeles and originally hails from Chicago.

On Race and Relevancy in Writing

Between my last deadline and the one that preceded it, it's become an especially and increasingly turbulent time to be black in America, and as an African-American writer, current events can dictate the shape of my work in ways that don't seem fair. Yet I can't tune out for the purpose of somehow preserving my artistic envisioning. Each day, I have to turn on the misery machine and read and watch all of what's happening so that I am aware of the dangers to me and mine. After that, it's pretty hard to go back to my imagination and fashion worlds that are free of the residue of this one. Each time I enter into that creative inner space, I'm followed by spectres of conscience that wail about responsibility. Would I have this voice and platform in this particular climate if it wasn't for me to respond to what we all see as grave problems? To be an African-American who possesses skill with words but refuses to write about race is considered by some a crime of selfishness.

Yet of deep concern for me is how, when a black writer contributes intelligently and poignantly to the mass conversation on race, they become, indelibly, a Race Writer, which may seem like a rare opportunity that is unique to the African-American, and one at which I should not scoff. Except I become a Race Writer, and my lot in life will be to wake up each day and attempt to be first to the pithy maxim. In every format and medium available, I'll have to offer wry observations that my pre-installed relevancy uniquely affords me. I'll be writing less for the benefit of mutual understanding than I will be to serve the choir that wants the perfect daily sermon, or give the well-intentioned but lazy-natured a regular boost of empathetic consciousness. Sure, when you're black, and you write well about race, you get noticed, but then that's all anyone notices, and then that's what you're writing about if you want to be well read, or read at all. Ice skating uphill is what the race writer does, and I don't want that gig, man. I dread it because I've seen what it does to authors whose work was once important until an exhausted and exasperated public put it down.

My latest work involves a protagonist who is a young African-American woman who reaches for a bright future in academia while contending with a history shaped by a family of outlaws. She wishes to hew to her own path but finds herself frequently returning to aid the souls of those who made her, regardless of her disagreement with them. By word 1000, I realized I wasn't just creating a new character and a world in which she could exist, but I was expressing my daily challenge to be true to myself and yet remain connected to the souls that made me. The words wouldn't fall on the page the way they do, and I wouldn't be published and invited to contribute to projects that want a poignant black voice, were I to remain in a bubble where I solely serve my own needs. So I write, sometimes for myself, and sometimes because that's what I gotta do. Or all I can do.

As I was writing this new piece, I came to know both my character and my own inner creative tension. I eventually allowed her encounters and experiences to mirror mine. A Black Lives Matter protest here. A brush with inner city violence there. Difficult choices with no clear winners and losers, over and over again. Then I realized what we all do, at some point, which is we only ever write ourselves. My words come from my black self, and my black self is a part of a world that is made up of so many elements, black and otherwise. It's an exciting world, and a frightening world, and pieces and parts from it make my work exciting, and frightening. And real, which is all any of us want of our writing. And while I cannot, and will not, allow myself to be a Race Writer, I will write lovingly and unguardedly about race, and I will ensure that it comes from the truest part of myself, damn the outcome.

That is my true responsibility.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tenacity is a Writer's Greatest Asset


Last week, while vacationing with my family in Delaware, I received an e-mail response from a publisher. I took a deep breath, prepared myself for a rejection. The e-mail said:

"Thank you for your submission of A Bend in the Willow, and thank you for your patience while our team evaluated the project. I've heard back from my team now and will share some of their comments with you...

The story hooked the readers from page one and had them reading well into the night. The story was intriguing, well-written, and the plot and characters well-developed.

On the back of this, the team is recommending the book for contract." I had to read it three times before I believed it. 

They sent me a 12-page contract. My son, a lawyer, reviewed it for me. And today,  with hands that shook a little, I signed and mailed it back. The novel I've worked on for more than a decade is going to be published. Did you hear that folks? MY NOVEL IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED.  Am I happy? If I had a cake I'd push my face into it just like my little grandson did on his second birthday. 

You may read a sample (the prologue) by going to the Book page of my website: susanclaytongoldner.com





can't remember a time when I didn't know I was born to be a writer. I suppose that makes me one of the lucky ones. I do know why I'm here. But as all you other writers out there know, it isn't always an easy life. In fact, it is rarely easy We writers receive so many rejections. We agonize over query letters and sample chapters, then send them out to agents and editors who often don't respond at all.  One time I received a letter from a small press I'd queried. It said, "I only publish my own work and I'd rather have a root canal than publish yours." If it weren't so funny (and almost always wins the worst response from an agent or editor award) I might have cried.

Tenacity is the most important quality for a writer. It is a gift I received from my father. Believe in yourself and the power of your words. Never give up. Keep sending out your work. And one day, you'll get an e-mail or a letter in the mail that makes you want to throw up your arms, leap into the air, and smash your face into a cake.    


Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four
brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She is a graduate of the
University of Arizona's Creative Writing Program. Susan has been writing
most of her life. Her novels have been finalists for The Hemingway Award, the
Heeken Foundation Fellowship, the Writers Foundation and the Publishing On-
line Contest where she received a thousand dollar prize. Susan won the National
Writers' Association Novel Award twice for unpublished novels and one of her
poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including Animals as Teachers and Healers, published by Ballantine Books, Our Mothers/Ourselves, by the Greenwood Publishing Group, The Hawaii Pacific Review-Best of a Decade, and New Millennium Writings.

Susan shares a life in Grants Pass, Oregon with her husband, Andreas, a blue-eyed feline named Topaz, her fictional characters, and more poetry books than one person could count.