Thursday, July 28, 2011

Waiting for Karl Rove - Guest blog and interview with Jeni Decker and Kat Nove

 Self-Publishing Controversial Titles

by Jeni Decker

By "controversial" I mean, “books I can’t imagine traditional publishers taking a risk on in this dicey economy.” Waiting for Karl Rove is one of those books. It’s irreverent satire, chock full of politically incorrect content, and the “characters” are public figures, mainly in the political arena. Not to mention that it’s kind of a lampoon against the publishing industry, as a whole. Oh, and we (my writing partner, Kat Nove and I) wrote ourselves into the book as dueling protagonists - each writing a chapter in first person, alternately.

So, yeah, risky.

We did get some good feedback from a few agents and small publishers, who chuckled at the cheeky query letter and wished us good luck, Godspeed, and many happy returns (probably while deleting our initial query from their inbox after sharing it with everyone within a fifty mile radius and guffawing at our unmitigated gall). The industry doesn’t seem willing to take risks at this point, and with the economy the way it is, that’s understandable.

Because I have two books being traditionally published this year - Far From Happy (PD Publishing) and I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames (Skyhorse Publishing - available for pre-order now on Amazon) - we thought having this self-published title available when the other books come out might help sales.

We do have a plan. Is it a good one? Hell if I know. We’ll have to wait and see. We’ve been marketing on the Internet every day. I know it’s going to take a lot of work to get book sales moving. We’re prepared to do that work. I think the important thing for ANY author to know (self-published or otherwise) is that they WILL have to market their work. There’s no getting around that. The books won’t sell themselves.

Writers, in essence, must become Self-Promo-Ho’s. Did you ever see Glengarry Glen Ross? Well, those of you who have know you can’t be Shelley Levene. You have to be Ricky Roma and channel that used-car-salesman vibe - sell, sell, SELL yourself. Nobody’s gonna do it for you.

So, in the end, self-publishing this book was a chance Kat and I were willing to take. This book, given the political climate, has content that wouldn’t be as relevant in a few years (which is often how long it takes from query to store shelves). In fact, we were worried that some of the major players might die or end up indicted, requiring a major rewrite that neither of us were willing to undertake. That said, we’re comfortable enough to know the humor will stand on its own.

~The Interview~

What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?

Kat: I’ll let Jeni answer all the boring stuff…

Jeni: We used Createspace through Amazon. Yes, we’re happy with the service, thus far. Although formatting a book and getting it ready for publication yourself is a huge undertaking, it can be done. You need attention to detail and… patience. Lots of it. It helps that I have done a great deal of video production and know my way around Photoshop. (It further helps that Kat encourages my crack-like Photoshop addiction with reckless abandon.)

I think bad book covers are a big reason for low sales on Internet marketing sites. (Have you seen some of those horrible covers?) That goes for bad editing. I don’t suggest self-publishing before putting your work through a lengthy workshopping and editing process. Also, this book has over 600 footnotes, so formatting that hot mess was a slow walk through hell. But, we did it, and the book looks great.

I understand you two haven’t met in person. How did this collaboration come together?

Kat: We met on an online writers’ website and at some point, Jeni decided (without asking for my input) that we’re literary soul mates. One day when I was perfectly happy playing Bejeweled Blitz on my computer, she emailed me and suggested (demanded) we write a book about Karl Rove. After I finished throwing up in my mouth and having a flash-forward where Karl Rove had my tax return audited, I agreed.

Jeni: Kat and I met on an online writer’s workshop. I instantly loved her writing and sense of humor. TRANSLATION: I was jealous of her every witty phrase and clever bon mot. And continue to be so. She’s probably the reason for my debilitating self-loathing.

At some point a fellow writer said we should write a book together, given our similar taste in tasteless humor, political incorrectness and our all-around literary prowess. (My words, not his.) Because Kat works retail and I have two autistic kids, he further suggested we write a book based on our off-color e-mail correspondence entitled, “My Day Sucked Worse Than Yours, Because…”

Despite Kat’s negative influence on my chi, I acquiesced. But once we realized our e-mails weren’t exactly ready for prime time (or the eyes of anyone other than ourselves and possibly psychotics) I suggested writing a story about the two of us on a road trip where the mission was to track down Karl Rove and administer some estrogen-induced justice. (By tasering him till he peed himself.) The rest, as they say, is history.

Who do you read? Any favorite book or authors?

Kat: I love Jeni’s work. She’s an amazing author who can write in any genre, seemingly with ease. I have eclectic tastes, but I prefer humor and satire. Christopher Moore, Dan Jenkins, Patrick Dennis, David Sedaris, Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Leon Uris. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve read Mila 18 by Uris. Okay, 20. That’s not obsessive is it?

Jeni: Anyone funny right off the top, but I enjoy everything from literary to commercial fiction and really appreciate writers who elevate writing to an art form. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no reading snob - I’ve read everything from Charlaine Harris (don’t judge me) to David Foster Wallace - but what really gets my engine purring is a writer who steps over that line and revels in breaking rules while breaking new ground. I’m also keen on a thick historical biography where I can immerse myself in another time and place.

Some of my favorite writers: David Sedaris, Oscar Wilde, Augusten Burroughs, John Rechy, Edward Albee, Chuck Palahniuk…

From your book, who are the characters most like each of you or who is your favorite?

Kat: I’d have to say Kat Nove is most like me. There’s no way that idiot is my favorite character though. Black Elvis is most like Jeni for obvious reasons.

The Big Lebowski has to be my favorite character. I’m a sucker for a man that cool, which shows either a lack of judgment or a major character flaw on my part. I should stick with an accountant-type, especially if he embezzles all of Donald Trump’s money and takes me somewhere we can’t be extradited from. After that, I’d use some of those liberated funds to find somebody the exact opposite of the accountant. What were we talking about?

Jeni: The characters Jeni and Kat aren’t loosely based on us, they ARE us. Anything that happened in the book could actually happen if we were in the general vicinity of one another while hopped up on soda and Slim-Jims and headed to Las Vegas. Aside from finding both our characters funny as hell, I truly enjoyed how the character of “Geraldo Rivera” managed to turn himself into a total buffoon at every turn.

Tell us about your book.

Kat: I have a book? Sorry, what was the question? Oh, yeah. Well I’m gonna talk about the sequel to Waiting for Karl Rove. It’s is tentatively titled Waiting for Royalties. (Take a hint people!) It takes up where the first book left off. SPOILER ALERT: The first word in my first chapter is one of George Carlin’s seven words. At least I think it is. I’m too lazy to look it up. Now, Jeni will tell you about the current book…

Jeni: Waiting for Karl Rove is irreverent, politically incorrect satire masquerading as road trip memoir. Think Thelma and Louise—only Thelma’s menopausal, Louise is an erratic big-mouth with a penchant for discussing her hemorrhoids, and they’re on a road trip to wrestle an apology from Karl Rove by any means necessary.

The chapters are written alternately from each of our points of view. Most of the time we were writing, neither of us knew what the other would be writing in the chapter before or after our next one. We had a basic idea of where we were going and possible things we’d encounter, but the best part of writing together (for me) was the challenge of having to riff off what Kat would do next. The way we kept things under control was to say, “Okay, I’m gonna get us from the hotel to so-and-so, and you’ll take it from there.” We started our fictional ‘journey’ in Texas, drew out a road map, knew our route and then just let things happen organically. As a result, I think we came up with something pretty interesting because we let the “characters” run with it.

Where can people find you? (Don’t give out personal information; there are stalkers out there.)

Kat: Aren’t most stalkers strange? I don’t include stalkers like me who get a free baseball cap handed to them by bestselling author Christopher Moore due to their carefully crafted stalking skills.

NOTE: I try to encourage all stalkers because even the creepy ones can be potential book buyers. At the very least, a semi-harmless stalker can prove to be the beginning of a series of unfortunate events which land us on Nancy Grace - or talking to Anderson Cooper about the restraining order filed after our brush with death. Publicity, baby!

SHAMELESS PLUG: My memoir, I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames, is available for pre-order on and will be released on November 1st.

Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?

Kat: It’s hell out there…

Jeni: WORKSHOP, WORKSHOP, WORKSHOP. As many eyes on the work before publication, the better. Having said that, I think as a writer you must have developed the ability to take the advice that you know works for your story, and discard the rest. Also, I’m a big believer in “voice.” Voice is king. Plot, story arc, all that “writerly stuff” is important, but without voice, and without taking RISKS, it’s hard to get your work to stand out from the rest of the stuff out there. My favorite quote: There is no distinction without risk.

And now for your moment of Self-Promo-Zen - (because self-published AND traditionally published authors are nothing without promotion and if you thought you were getting out of here without us providing a link, you’re an idiot and don’t deserve to read our book.)

Waiting for Karl Rove available now on Kindle and in paperback on



(As a self-promotion tool, we’ve also written A Fit of Hissy: a schlockumentary, which is available on Kindle for $0.99 and has a three chapter sample of Waiting for Karl Rove at the end.)

For the full interview, please visit:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview with author Charles Whipple

Charles was born and raised in Show Low, Arizona. He worked on the family ranch/farm until he went to University. He came to work in Japan soon after graduation and spent eight years in marketing and advertising in Japan, Hong Kong, and Hawaii. As a writer, Whipple worked first at Waikiki Beach Press in Honolulu as a reporter. Then moved to Japan to work as a copywriter.

Charles has published four non-fiction books, including Seeing Japan from Kodansha International. Eight Western novels in the Black Horse Westerns line-up are either published or accepted for publication. The Snake Den, a western novel, from Solstice Publishing was published in February 2011. 

All the proceeds from A Matter of Tea, the winner of the 2010 Oaxaca International Literature Compeition, will go to help the victims of Japan's March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

What inspired you to write A Matter of Tea?

I gained an interest in Japanese ceramics soon after I arrived in Japan in 1961. Then, after spending time in Japan, I returned to the States to take up Asian Studies and Japanese History at university. I had read of the tea tournaments of Japan’s Heian Era where the nobility wagered on tea-tasting competitions and often lost a fortune or two. While the era of the priceless tea bowl and the tea ceremony as we know it now didn’t come until two or three centuries after the Heian Era, I transposed that thinking and mixed it with the tea tournaments and a little paranormal essence to bring emphasis to my story.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A Matter of Tea is the short story that won the 2010 Oaxaca International Literature Competition. It’s message is “greed can be deadly.” But more than that, when eastern Japan was devastated by an earthquake that rippled up and down the edge of the Pacific plate for 200 kilometers, moving Japan more than 10 meters closer to the United States and triggering tsunamis that sometimes reached 15 meters high and took the lives of more than 25,000 people, I felt the need to do something for them. Going to the disaster site personally and helping clean up the rubble is one thing, but I felt that using A Matter of Tea and other stories I had written about Japan to make a little book to sell and give the proceeds to help the recovery, if only a little bit, was something I could do. I contacted friend and publisher, Rebecca Vickery, who agreed to produce the little book, and to donate her income from the project to the victims as well. The message is, buying A Matter of Tea not only affords the purchaser with interesting stories, it also lets them participate in assisting people who have been deprived of everything but their lives.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Most of the book is made up of things I wrote for me. Mostly I write by assignment. These pieces were written from experience and desire. To me, they show parts of Japan that only I could have seen or imagined. They are part of me, part of my soul, part of my life, fiction though they are.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

All of my writing about Japan teaches me there is so much about this country and this culture that I don’t understand, that I can’t begin to interpret, and that I may find impossible to write about. The things I have written are only glimmers of truth seen through a glass darkly. I will write more in this vein. In the book, readers will have a chance to see a little of a saga I am writing that is set in an alternative of ancient Japan where all the mythical people and creatures are real. 

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Good question. I’ve kind of always written. You know, for school papers and such. But I had a midlife crisis in my early thirties. I threw away the old and started anew. I decided I wanted to write for a living, and went about learning how via correspondence courses. I sold my first magazine article shortly thereafter, then got hired as a part-time reporter for a tourist newspaper in Hawaii. A year later, an offer came from Japan (I speak fluent Japanese) to head up an English language creative team at a company in Japan. We moved here in January 1977. Shortly thereafter, I learned from the newspaper that a direct mail campaign I’d written and produced for the paper won first prize in the Editor and Publisher Magazine’s DM category for 1976. I wrote my first book in 1979 and entered it in a Louis L’Amour writealike contest. I didn’t win, and the MS went into the bottom drawer while I wrote prize-winning ad campaigns, newsletters, corporate brochures, and annual reports. I also wrote a ton of magazine articles.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Let me try to remember which was my first book. It might have been English for Travel Divers, which was published by Japan’s biggest diving magazine, but I don’t remember exactly when. Or it might have been Effective Business Letters, which I wrote for PHP Publishing at the publisher’s request. At any rate, non-fiction came long before I ever sold that novel I wrote in 1979. But I did sell it . . . a quarter of a century after I wrote it. It was published by Robert Hale Ltd. of London in 2005, some 18 months after it was accepted. Living in Japan and writing western novels has its drawbacks. But if I can write them in Japan, they can certainly be published in London. In fact, publishing westerns in London at Hale gives me better worldwide distribution than I’d get from Leisure or Berkley, because almost every library in the British Commonwealth stocks at least one copy of every novel I write for Black Horse Westerns, Hale’s imprint. So how do you get that first novel published? Keep sending it out. Keep revising it to remedy the defects publisher’s editors say you have. Keep on keeping on. Of course, these days anyone can publish at any time. Just be sure, be absolutely sure, that your novel is the very best you can do. Then, if you have an exceptional story to tell, readers will find you, I believe.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

Whew. I’m probably the world’s worst marketer. Not only do I live half a world away from my main market, I’m an introvert, a terrible pick-up conversationalist, not much of a techie, and woefully behind the trends of the times in terms of Internet skills. As I mentioned, my Hale books are intended for the British Commonwealth Library Market, and while they are available on Amazon and at Book Depository (free shipping worldwide), retail is not the main thrust. Hale has gone e-book on selected titles, none of them mine, and has done quite well with them. Surely they will expand that effort, according to Managing Director, Gill Jackson.

Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?

At present, my e-books are Vulture Gold, The Snake Den, The Prodigal, and A Matter of Tea. The process is no problem. Much much easier than legacy publishing (as Barry Eisler calls traditional publishing). That said, I’m not getting rich. That also said, authors have a lot more responsibility for promoting their e-books than was traditionally the case with print books. Ergo, I have not been promoting well enough, and my books apparently aren’t good enough to go viral. Nuff said.

Tell us about your novels and where readers can purchase a copy.

Vulture Gold, The Prodigal, The Snake Den, and A Matter of Tea can all be purchased on Amazon, SmashWords, CreateSpace, Solstice Publishing, and Rebecca Vickery Publishing.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

Wow. Right now I’ve been cajoled into writing a novel about someone else’s character. The character, Cash Laramie, was raised by Arapaho until age 15. My story picks him up at 19 almost 20 when he is appointed under-sheriff in Wyoming. The story is about a wagontrain of Chinese workers sent from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Rock Springs, where Union Pacific will use them to break a strike by Irish miners, who want more wages and better working conditions. The bringing in of Chinese workers by the Union Pacific in 1875 is factual. The story is fiction. I’m only on chapter two, so I can’t tell you much more about the story. Expect to see it out from BTAP Publishing before the year is out.

Where can readers find you?
Twitter: @chuck_tyrell

Thanks, Charles for stopping by to chat about your work. You're a very prolific writer and I wish you well on your altruistic endeavor with A Matter of Tea.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guest Blogger, Michelle Fayard - How to Tell if an Agent is Right for your Book

Michelle is excited to do a free critique of a query letter or the first 250 words of a manuscript to a random commenter. Comment within one week, and be sure to include your e-mail address. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before.

How can you really tell if an agent is the right one for your book? Do you pick an agent with a great client list, or will they be too busy for you? Or should you pick a new hungry agent with less experience?

Although there is no right way to spare ourselves this decision agony, the following has been successful for me. Whenever I read a book that resonates with me strongly, I do some research to see if I can learn who the editor and agent are. Then I see if they accept the genre I write. If so, I start reading books by the authors they’ve repped. I also rely heavily on and to get a feel about what others have experienced with my prospective leads.

I also look to see if they’re an editorial agent, as that means a lot to me. I’d also ask how many other authors they’re currently repping, because that probably would better address the concern of whether an agent with a great client list would have time for me; their client list could be hot, but the agent could have time to take me on.

I wouldn’t mind having a new agent if they met all of my other criteria; most new agents are in an agency with other, more-experienced colleagues, so I feel comfortable that my agent would be able to pick their brains if needed. Besides, passion and energy mean a lot.

Other questions to ask could include:

  • What publishers do you have in mind for my book?
  • How frequently do you update authors and what is your preferred communication style?
  • Why do you want to represent me? What do you like best about my work?
  • Would you be interested in repping my future novels?

In the end, I believe it is a matter of instinct. And the great news? Research has proven that 75 to 80 percent of the time our instinct is spot on. Believe in yourself, because you already are a winner no matter which agent you choose.

Pre-published author Michelle Fayard has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer and editor, and her nonfiction articles have been published internationally. Michelle lives in Northern California with her husband, Marcelo, and their 12 rescue cats. The first three queries for her historical young-adult novel, The Underground Gift, have resulted in a request for a partial and a full.

To read the first five chapters of The Underground Gift online, visit and click on Work in Progress.

I'd like to extend a great big thank you to Michelle for her very insightful comments and for taking the time to guest blog. Good luck to everyone who enters to win a free 250 word critique from Michelle, a very qualified editor and writer. Contest ends July 31, 2011.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview with author Karin Rita Gastreich

Karin Rita Gastreich was born near Kansas City, Missouri. After living and working for ten years as a tropical ecologist in Costa Rica, she recently returned to her home town and is now a Professor of Biology at Avila University. In addition to reading and writing, her past times include camping, hiking, music and flamenco dance.

Tell us a little about Eolyn. What inspired you to write it?

EOLYN is a fantasy novel featuring a strong female protagonist whose journey through magic, love, betrayal and war is woven against a rich tapestry of history and culture.  The main character, Eolyn, inherits a tradition of magic that has been forbidden to women in her world. As a young girl, she develops an important friendship with the boy Akmael, heir to the king who destroyed the Magas and killed Eolyn’s family.  When Eolyn and Akmael meet again as adults, they are leaders on opposite sides of a military conflict that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic. 

It’s hard to pinpoint what inspired me to write EOLYN; the story has had a very long gestation period, so the influences have been many and complex.  I suppose at the heart of my motivation was a desire to write a fantasy in which a female character could play a meaningful role without necessarily wielding a sword (or simply being the romantic interest of the hero).  I also wanted the story to reflect something of the reality of women’s history, especially during medieval and renaissance times in Europe.  I’ve read much of women’s history from those periods, and I have always been fascinated by how certain extraordinary women managed to exercise a lot of power, despite their lack of skill on the battlefield and the rampant discrimination that characterized those societies.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Much of what inspired me to write EOLYN also provided information and ideas.  In addition to the books about women in history already mentioned, I looked to many classic examples of fantasy fiction. For example, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as well as the works of T.H. White, J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, gave me ideas not only about content but also about different approaches to storytelling. Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction was a great resource when I was just getting started.  I also had some sources that might be considered unconventional for a fantasy writer, such as Gioconda Belli’s memoir The Country Under My Skin, and works of other great writers and poets of Latin America, such as Mario Benedetti.  The system of magic in Eolyn’s world has an ethnobiological foundation drawn from my experiences as a field ecologist in Costa Rica.  Brian Todd Carey’s Warfare in the Ancient World and John Clements Medieval Swordsmanship gave me some sense of the logic of battles and warfare. 

Funny -- I often claim the reason I don’t write historical fiction is because I’m too lazy to do the research.  But I actually had to do a lot of research to be able to write EOLYN in a way that made the story authentic.

In addition to these and other diverse sources, I work shopped the manuscript through two great writers groups, The Dead Horse Society, based in my home town of Kansas City, and, which is an on-line workshop.  Without the help and advice I received from authors and experts in both these groups, EOLYN would have never made it past the half-baked stage.      

Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one?

Well, it depends on when you start counting the weeks, months and years.  It took about three and half years from when I first started writing EOLYN to the moment in which I felt comfortable beginning the query process.  From the time I started querying, it was about ten months to when I received an offer from Hadley Rille Books and decided to sign the contract.  During that time, I sent queries to both agents and publishers, but I did not use a ‘shotgun’ approach.  I spent a lot of time researching the places I submitted to, and tried to make sure they would be interested in the kind of story I had written.  In truth, my road to publication was much quicker than I expected it to be.  When I first started querying, I was prepared for about five years worth of rejection slips.

Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?

EOLYN just became available in Kindle format about two weeks ago, and is slated to appear on the Nook any day now.  So I can’t speak to my experience with the eBook process just yet.  But I think eBooks are great, and I can only hope that having EOLYN available in electronic format will help get the word out about the novel.

What’s your writing schedule like?

I am a full-time professor of biology at Avila University, so my writing schedule varies depending on where I am in the academic year.  While the semester is in session, I basically write whenever I get a spare moment, which of course is not nearly often enough.  During summer (and occasionally winter) break, if I am at home I try to write regularly in the morning, putting out at least 500 words a day, and/or revising previous work, before I do anything else (including activities related to marketing).  If I’m at a field station doing research, I complete my field work in the morning and write in the evenings. 

Finding time to write has become more complicated since I landed the contract for EOLYN, because what used to be just ‘writing time’ has now become ‘writing and marketing time’.  And of course, I can’t give up the day job just yet – I’m not even sure I would want to give that up.  The good news is that I have a better handle on the craft of writing now than I did when I first started EOLYN, so I like to believe that the time I have for writing – while it isn’t as much as before – can now be used more efficiently.

What’s your favorite / least favourite thing about writing?

Everything about writing is my favourite thing about writing.  I honestly can’t think of anything I really do not like.  I enjoy rewrites, because it’s like going back to a wonderful exotic country that I love visiting.  And during rewrites, I often get to explore new and surprising territories.  Even editing and proof reading is fun for me.  I especially love interacting with other authors during the writing process – there’s just so much creative impulse to be found in the exchange of ideas.  And for all the horror stories one hears about editors, my editor – Eric T. Reynolds – is awesome.  He’s been great to work with; fully dedicated to making EOLYN a success without compromising any aspect of my vision for the novel. 

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

Oh, please don’t ask me that!  Every time I say where I hope to be in 5 years, I end up in some place completely different.  [sigh]  Okay, I’ll take a chance.  Five years from now, I would like to be living half the year in the USA and half the year in Costa Rica.  I would like to have two more novels finished and another on the way.  I would like for the sales on EOLYN (and its sequels) to be strong enough to renew my contract with Hadley Rille Books, or to seek a new contract with another press.  I’d like to have an agent whom I can trust and who can give me solid support and advice while building my career as a novelist.  I’d like for George R.R. Martin to call me up next time he’s in town and invite me for a cup of coffee.

How much of the marketing do you do?

A lot.  I run two blogs, one dedicated entirely to EOLYN, and a Facebook page.  I also do book signings, readings, workshops, and tell everyone I meet about the novel.  I have business cards with the novel’s cover design and website that I leave on tables in places like Starbucks, or drop into the purses of unsuspecting potential readers.  I attend conferences whenever time and budget allows. I enjoy marketing, as I never get tired of talking about this novel.  I truly believe everyone should read it, and that everyone would enjoy it.

Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book(s)?

Being published by Hadley Rille Books has been important for marketing my novel, as I’ve been able to make use of their existing networks as a source of readers for EOLYN.  They also did a wonderful job with the cover art and cover design, making the novel an attractive product that I think anyone would like to see on their bookshelf.  And the support of other Hadley Rille authors in getting the word out about my novel has been invaluable.

Hadley Rille also made sure to submit the ARCs to different magazines that review novels.  As a result, EOLYN earned a favourable review in the April 2011 issue of Publishers Weekly.  A professional review makes a big difference; people really sit up and take notice when that happens. 

Where can readers find you?

To learn more about EOLYN, including previews of the first three chapters, the best place to go is my blog for the novel,

I also provide regular updates on the novel, including announcements about events such as signings and conferences, on my Facebook page for EOLYN at!/pages/Eolyn/110814625640244

I keep a personal blog about my life as a writer on livejournal at
Livejournal is also a great place to network with other authors.

And I’ve opened up an author’s page at Amazon,

Last but not least, I recently started uploading audio recordings of excerpts from EOLYN onto YouTube,

I love to have visitors, and hope your readers will stop by one or more of these sites!

Thank you, Karin. I very much appreciate your insightful answers. Best of luck with Eolyn.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interview with author Courtney Vail

Courtney Vail's debut novel, Kings & Queens is now available as an ebook.

Tell us a little about Kings & Queens. What inspired you to write it?

Um, it’s kind of weird, okay, a lot weird, but my first spark came from the movie Drive Me Crazy with Melissa Joan Hart. The two romantic leads lived next door to each other and I thought that was cool. So my ever-cranking mind introduced me to this tomboyish type girl, Majesty, a manager of her high school’s baseball team. She had two guy best friends, Derek and the other one was Smart Aleck as a placeholder, so he ended up being Alec.
Derek was the one she lived next to and crushed on and I had this love triangle in mind, but I’m not a romance writer, I need plot. So that buzzed around aimlessly until I dreamt I went running in the woods and overheard these guys planning a church massacre. I escaped them in this town. Boom. There was the seedling for my plot as well as the setting. And then, it grew bigger and bigger from there.

Incidentally, she doesn’t end up living next to Derek. They landed on different sides of the river, which are different worlds really. Majesty is not poor, but she’s not rich either, and those in the rich section are of a completely different mindset, with a sense of self-importance and prominence. The demented direction the story takes sprang right from my characters as I wrote it.  And the whole royal thing that emerges took me by surprise, and though it seems precious that my MC is Majesty, nothing else fit. Having a weird name actually gave her strength, since she had to defend herself every day, and that factors in when she overhears the plot.

How long have you been writing? What influenced you to start?

I’ve always loved writing, from little stories to poetry. Many women have these crying jags where they weep out their pent-up emotion, but I’m not much of a crier. I cry if someone dies or is sick or there’s otherwise like bad news, or I cry in the moment if someone hurts my feelings, if I’m in extreme pain or watch a sad movie, but crying is not my go-to release. Writing and physical exertion have always been my outlets. I have some friends who can spend hours in bed with tissues, and I think they believe I’m emotionless, but I just exude frustration differently.

Even though I’ve always written, I’d never thought about writing a novel until my husband took a creative writing class with the Stafford Institute. He received these books on craft, I read them and they sparked my mind. My first effort was cute but not that great. It needs a major overhaul to be publishable. The second novel I wrote was Kings & Queens and now we’re here.

Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Do you have an agent? In your opinion are they even necessary?

The longest part of my journey was the editing. I am super picky with my writing, and although I wrote this book in 2005, I put it through two critique circles and several editing rounds. I intended on finding an agent, so I hacked 106,000 words down to 88,000, closer to YA range. I never intended for Kings & Queens to be YA, but everyone who read it, saw it as YA. I’m sure a big publisher would have too. So I made it more YA in tone and style, but its depth and intricacy still give it strong crossover appeal. I queried for over a year, and got a little bit of interest, but my concept wasn’t really resonating. It’s a good book but the fun is in the surprises not in some ooo-factor, and agents are looking for that MUST-READ pitch. I am so glad no one signed me. It gave me the opportunity to evaluate what I really wanted, and, surprising to even myself, traditional publishing was not it. Not for this book anyway.

There was Sapphire Reign, the sequel, to consider which opens ten years later. Although it has an eleven-year-old’s POV and a fifteen-year-old’s, it also has three adult POV’s and it’s so not YA. It’s darker and grittier. It’s way too good to stuff in a drawer forever. No big house would ever let me split genres. If they offer you a two or three book deal for a series, it’s for one imprint, one genre, one market. Always. You find a market for Book One and you keep on building from there. I wanted more control over the series than traditional publishing would allow. I wanted to be able to call the shots and put out two or three books if I wanted to. Screw the market. My child character Crystal in SR deserves to dance in ink. She’s just too inspirational to never get that chance. And Kings & Queens was too skeletal at that shrunken size. So I decided to pull out of the rat race and go with a small indie company instead.

Now, with Little Prince Publishing, I’m publishing my works the way I want. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best fit for my quirky works. K&Q is at a much-needed 96,000 words and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s hard to let go and be done, but I’m proud of it. I don’t get an advance but I get to keep all my royalties. I’ll make a little over $6 on every paperback sold and about $3 on eBooks. There are minimal fees with LPP, but I only had to pay setup for Lightning Source. I’m going to buy my own Advanced Read Copies when I need them and run my own giveaways and blog tours. An LPP designed cover is $150, but I’ve designed covers already, so I just did my own and saved myself that cost.

As far as agents go, I think they’re great, but they’re quickly becoming obsolete. If you really want your book in a big house, having one is the only way to get in. But many agents are now retooling their roles because of the rapid changes in the industry, as more writers are now finding the backing of a big house unnecessary. Even some big-name writers are going off on their own so they can call their own shots.

How much of the marketing do you do?

I’m going to do the bulk of it. LPP writers will cross promote each other also.

Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book(s)?

My eBook just came out, so I have nothing to say about sales numbers yet. But I think blog tours can be very successful because nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising. I did a tour with Teen Book Scene. They set everything up for FREE and ran it for four weeks.

I did a giveaway at Goodreads for FREE, well, just the cost of the ARCs. Now 1,000 people know about my book that didn’t before. I’m going to send out press releases to newspapers in my area. I’m hoping to find a local bookstore to stock signed copies of my book, so I’ll have a place to send people to buy them. I’m offering 50 free eBooks at Librarything. I’m also going to post the first five chapters of my book on every post-it site I can find. You never know where you’ll find potential readers. It costs me nothing and can’t hurt. I’m also going to wrap up another YA and offer the E-version for FREE. If people like that maybe they’ll buy my other books. I was also a part of a Kindle giveaway with other indie writers.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?

That my work is not my own. My characters usually know the best direction for the story, so I let them drive it wherever. It’s so bazaar how beings you created can be so powerful and real-seeming, but with good development, they almost come alive, and through your diligence, they actually do.

What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it. 

Hmm. Well, I’m working on two more YAs. I’m three-quarters done with my giveaway book, StarStruck, to try to boost sales for Kings & Queens. It’s about an eighteen-year-old starlet on the run from a stalker who finds herself in deeper hell when her nightmares start popping into reality while she’s awake. She’s one of the few people in the world with special dreams that act as a gateway between realms and her dreams pop when beings traverse from their realm into ours. Gypsies are always seen as dregs of society, but I thought what if they’re just misunderstood, and intentionally so? It would be cool to make Irish Travellers unsung heroes that really work to save the world. So, I gave them this family tradition that rids the world of dreamweavers in order to reduce catastrophes. But the Traveller charged to kill the young movie star falls in love with her and is then faced with a moral dilemma.

And my other YA, Dropping Like Flies, is about a teen who mysteriously receives this list of names after waking up from a coma. She tries to shrug it off at first, until the people on it start dying and the list keeps showing up everywhere, in mirrors, in sneaker tread, in blood smears. The guy she loves is at number nine, so she works even more fervently to find a way to end the curse. I’m half done with it.

And I also need to finish editing SR.

I always like weirdness in my books. Can you tell???

Where can readers find you?

Book site:
My blog:
I also have an author page, but it’s new. I haven’t really worked to get it noticed, but it’s

Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?

My eBook is available at Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Nobel. I had my eBook set up weeks ago but my PC got zapped in a tornado storm so I had to redo it. Once I got that done, uploading was super easy. For Kindle, I used a program called Mobipocket Creator. It generates the .mobi/Kindle file for you. And the other sites were easy too. Much less troublesome than I anticipated.

Where can readers purchase a copy of Kings & Queens?

My paperback will be out in August and available from Amazon and Barnes & Nobel.

Thanks so much or having me and for asking such excellent questions! Sorry for all that gabbing … but I am a writer after all.

Thank you Courtney. I very much appreciate your taking the time to stop by for a chat. Very cool cover art by the way!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Interview with author Sheila Dalton

Sheila Dalton was born in England and came to Canada with her family at the age of six. She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Toronto. After dropping out for a year she sold arts and crafts on the streets of Toronto.

Sheila was a Contributing Editor for OWL magazine, and a Project Editor for a kids' science magazine called Discovery. Somewhere along the way, she earned a Masters of Library Science degree, and currently works as an Adult Services Librarian for the Toronto Public Library. She lives in Newmarket, Ontario with her husband and two cats. 

Tell us a little about Girl in the Box.
It’s a story of redemption. A traumatized, mute Mayan girl is rescued by a psychoanalyst, and kills him. His long-term lover, a journalist and meditation student, sets out to discover why. She’s pretty traumatized herself by it all.
What was your road to publication like?
It took a long time to place the book, but even longer to write it. I kept working at it, off and on, for ten years. Sometimes, I would put it away for months on end, to get perspective, and also to work on other projects.
Was it a long one?
Once the book was completed, it didn’t take too long. But I did send it to several publishers before it was accepted by RendezVous, who then sold it to Dundurn.
Do you have an agent? If not, how did you find your publisher?
I used to have an agent. I found her when I first started working on this book, and Doubleday Canada had expressed interest in it. However, it took me so long to finish it, she dumped me! By the time I’d completed it, Doubleday Canada wasn’t accepting un-agented fiction.
I did try to find another agent, both in Canada and England (where I was born) but then I decided to send it to RendezVous who had published my teen novel, Trial by Fire. They’d seen an earlier version which they didn’t like, but they were encouraging, and when they saw the final version, they told me they really liked it.
In your opinion are agents even necessary?
I’m not sure. Here in Canada, they aren’t totally necessary. I’ve had over ten books published, and not one was placed by an agent. I’d like one, though, as I think they up your credibility and open otherwise closed doors. They also take some of the hard work of submitting a ms. off your hands. My English aunt was a writer, and she told me that she’d had an agent, but found she did a better job of selling her work than they did. So, it depends, I guess.
Tell us something about yourself and how you became a writer.
I’m just one of those typical writers with a Gothic childhood and an oversensitive nervous system who took refuge in books, seemed to have a natural way with words, to a certain extent anyway, and loved stories. Books were practically the only things that didn’t scare me, back in the day. Writing runs in my family, too. I’m sure it’s partly genetic. I just kept slogging away at it because I loved it, and needed it.
Where readers can purchase a copy of Girl in the Box?
The Girl in the Box can be purchased through, or, or directly through the publisher, Dundurn.
How much of the marketing do you do?
I’m on Facebook, and “Girl” has a Facebook page of its own. In the past, I’ve done readings and been on radio and television. I do what I can. I just hope the professionals know more than I do about these things. I don’t feel like a marketing expert, I just try hard.
Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book(s)?
I wish I had some spectacularly helpful pointers, but I’m afraid I don’t. There was a twelve-year gap between my last book, and this one. The Internet has changed things a lot in the meantime. I’m hoping it will help me reach more people, through sites like Goodreads and Library Thing, among others. Goodreads allows you to run contests with your book as a giveaway; Amazon gives you an author page. I think all these things will help. I hope so. I like reaching out to people online. I also workshopped “Girl” on two writing sites, and that helped me reach other readers and writers. It placed in the top ten on both sites. “Girl” was also a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  I think all these things help.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I’d suggest joining one or more of the online writing sites, to make connections, and get feedback on your writing. The critiquing “Girl” received online was a huge help, and an important source of encouragement. When ready, enter contests, for more exposure. And don’t give up.
What have you had published to-date?
Trial by Fire, a mystery for teens; Doggerel and Catalogue, kids’ picture books, Tales of the Ex Fire-Eater, a novel for adults; Blowing Holes Through the Everyday, a poetry collection for adults, and several other kids’ books, mostly non-fiction.
What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.
I’m working on an historical novel for adults, set in the early 17th century, the age of exploration – and pirates. Its working title is “Slavery in Black and White: My Life as a Kept Woman and Most Peculiar Pirate”. I hope it says something about freedom and choice, as well as tells a rollicking good tale.
Where can readers find you?
The Facebook page of The Girl in the Box is at
I have a website, but I’m not good at keeping it up to date. It’s still pretty amateur:
You can find me on Amazon, and also at Dundurn:
And my Goodreads author page is:
Thanks for asking me these questions. I think they’re good ones.

The pleasure was all mine, Sheila. Thanks for stopping by to answer my questions!