Hopefully the dancing kitty will distract you enough to not notice that I didn't quite fulfil all my goals this week? It doesn't? Drat!
Oh well, it was a mixed week. I didn't get that second blog post written, but I did comment on as many #WriteMotivation posts as I found, and I nailed the 3,000 words goal by writing just over 4,000 and being on time for my Wednesday swap deadline.
Short stories ... haven't written a new one, but working on editing the two I wrote last week.
I have an author interview in the works which will hopefully count as next week's other blog post.
I also did some house-painting, celebrated a great review on my short story collection on Amazon, battled with swarms of evil moths and spent some quality time with the other half. Not a bad week all-in-all.
How did yours go?
I joined the #WriteMotivation crew again this month, because it's been great for keeping me working towards my goals, and the folks there are sooo lovely and helpful and I feel like I've known some of them forever.
So here are my goals for June:
I didn't quite make my 3,000 word goal (I was short by about 300), but I did get this week's writing off to my swap-buddy on time this week, unlike last week when I was two days late.
I also have two short stories in their first draft stage, ready to polish and send out. And I have two stories already out at pro-paying markets.
This is my first blog post this week, but I'm hoping to have another ready by the weekend, so goal three is looking good too.
Let's hope I can stay this productive throughout June! Feeling optimistic.
As a follow up to my interview the other day, Ashley Capes novel, City of Masks is now available on Amazon. If I could only recommend one book this year, this would be the one.
It has everything: danger, intrigue, fighting, humour and characters you can cheer for.
In another of my author interviews, I am delighted to be able to introduce one of my favourite writers and good friend, Ashley Capes. When he’s not writing, Ashley teaches Media and English in Victoria, Australia, where he also runs an editing service with his wife, Brooke: http://closeupediting.com/
Ashley’s debut novel, City of Masks, will be published in June 2014 by Snapping Turtle Books.
CJ: Ashley, how excited are you right now?
Ashley: Through the roof! It’s hard not to be excited each time I think of it. After working toward the goal of having a novel published for the last thirteen or so years, it’s a (wonderful) shock to be talking about having a book due!
CJ: I can imagine! I’m excited for you, who knows how giddy I’d be if it was my own novel. I know you're no stranger to publication, though. You have several poetry books out in the world, so how different was the process for City of Masks?
Ashley: Vastly – and yet similar too. Both required me to really put the nose (or was it the whole face?) to the grindstone and really think about the choices I make as an author. Loosely, for poetry it often comes down to word choices, whereas for City of Masks, I had to think on a larger, story scale. That’s a bit of a generalisation, of course, but it’s fairly apt.
The other difference was for poetry, I’ve built up a small catalogue. My next poetry collection will be my fifth and so it feels like familiar ground, whereas in fiction, everything feels newer. More daunting perhaps. And so I worry extra, about how the novel will be received, or whether I truly nailed a particular scene. After couple of years working on a project, your objectivity is quite hampered.
CJ: I think many of us can identify with that, as writers—objectivity is hard to keep hold of when you’ve worked on something for so long. However, having had the honour of beta-reading City of Masks, I can say quite objectively that it is an excellent read, and I can't wait to recommend it to everyone. I don't want to give spoilers, so please tell us a little about City of Masks.
Ashley: Thank you, Cheryl!
In brief, it’s an epic fantasy which follows a mercenary, falsely accused of a murder that draws him into a struggle for a bone mask of great power, set in an ancient city perched on an unforgiving coast. There’s what I hope are some interesting magic systems in there too and a question of conflicting loyalties that many of the main characters face.
CJ: Great summary. If I didn’t already know what the novel was about, that would definitely make me want to read it. That said, even though I do know, I’m still looking forward to reading the finished product. Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
Ashley: I think it’s easiest for me to answer in regards to the setting, which is directly inspired by the city of Amalfi. Both the idea of the historic one and modern day Amalfi, which my wife and I were lucky enough to visit in 2011. The lemon groves in the mountains and the sea, so close to the town, really captured my eye.
Elsewhere, I suspect I’ve been inspired by the struggles of people who try to do what’s right in the face of rough odds.
CJ: Your description of Amalfi makes me want to go there! And everyone loves to read about people trying to do what’s right, so I think you have a winning combination there. Who's your favourite character? I have to say, I have a soft spot for Notch. Although, they are all very well rounded and interesting.
Ashley: Tough question! (And thank you again – awesome to hear that about my characters :) )
I’m having a hard time – can I pick two? I thought I knew the answer to this question the moment I read it, but I’ve been thinking about a bit and I’ve changed my mind. One definite name now comes to mind – Lupo is one of my favourites. He’s one of the antagonists and it’s something about his drive and the fact that he’s difficult to ruffle that makes him a favourite.
I think I could add about five more names, but I Notch probably scrapes ahead. He’s not one to tolerate inactivity and he’s quite an open fellow beneath his stern exterior, which made him great to write.
CJ: Lupo is definitely an interesting character, I found him intriguing, even though he is an antagonist, which is always a mark of good characterization. I know that City of Masks is the first in a trilogy, how far ahead are you in writing terms?
Ashley: I’ve recently finished the first draft of Book Two, The Lost Mask and have my outline all set for Book Three (Greatmask). So not too bad I feel. There’s still a lot of work to go, but I’ve found Lost Mask a lot smoother to write, so I don’t anticipate it taking as long to whip into shape as City of Masks.
CJ: I’m glad to hear that! I can’t wait to read the next part of the story. And it’s great to see that you are finding the work going smoother as you continue with the story. I’m thinking that you’re putting into practice what you learned from writing City of Masks, is that correct?
Ashley: Absolutely, especially storytelling aspects like pacing or controlling the flow of information to the reader. So, when to hold back, and when to reveal. I think that balance is tough to strike and hopefully I’ve handled it well in City of Masks, but I feel I’m handling it better (or at least, with less revision needed) in The Lost Mask. In fact, having an awesome writing group for help and support really helped me with those things :)
CJ: With that in mind, what advice do you have for writers who are working on that first novel?
Ashley: To explore the writing process until you settle on a method that works for you.
Read widely about the way writers work, then try their methods. Adapt. Twist things around until it works for you – it took me a fair while to figure that out. There isn’t any one single ‘correct’ way to write. Only what works for you. Not to say adjustments to your process cannot be made, but perhaps don’t buy into one method wholesale. As an example, I’ve found that the percentage of my process that could be called ‘pantsing’ vs the percentage of ‘plotting’ has changed over the years. I’m now close to 60-40 with pantsing still being the dominant side. But I used to be a complete panster. Now, my current process allows for a comfortable level of output and discovery, so I’m pretty happy with it.
CJ: That’s great advice ‘only what works for you’ is an adage we all need to remember when reading writing advice. Well, Ashley, I’ve enjoyed our chat. Thank you for taking time to answer all my questions. Once you have a release date and purchase information, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. Meanwhile, if anyone would like to check out Ashley’s poetry, you can find it at the following links:
Continuing my interviews with fellow writers, I’d like to introduce Susan Stuckey.
Susan writes Kalieri Tales, a series of separate stories set in the world of Aldura, which in her own words are “stories of duty and honor, courage and sacrifice, with dollops of magic and loyalty tossed into the mix.”
I’ve just finished Stormhawk’s Warning and Alliandre, and I’m in the middle of reading On Treason’s Trail, which are all stand-alone stories of varying length that definitely live up to the description.
CJ: Susan, tell me about the world of Aldura.
Susan: Big question. A chunk of the creation history is told in Jezrei’s Justice. Aldura is the smallest of the words created by the Father and was chosen by the Twin Gods as their own. The people created by the Twin Gods are the Kalieri. There are at least 2 land masses on Aldura: Alarel (the Twin God’s land) and Ipsen (the Twin Goddess’ land). After the Twin God died, the land of Alarel was divided into five kingdoms: Alliandrae, Galdona, Vladesh, Klatinan, and Ryland.
Up to this point, only one story has been set on Ipsen (Alliandre).
There is magic, of course, but multiple kinds of magic:
Susan: It wasn’t really a conscious decision. In the first story I wrote (Kaserie’s Choice), the MC mentions a place where the invading enemy were stopped. In the 2nd story, the MC meets a little girl who reminded him of his dead wife. Both were really ‘passing comment’ type things in the original stories, but both ended up as stories on their own (Battle of Stryker Pass and Phaedra). Other stories were spurred by questions from people who critiqued my writing on writers’ forums. Their question(s) or comments would spur a new story idea. That’s pretty much how all the successive stories came about—nothing complicated enough for a novel but questions about the world or a character’s past or an historical event. Exceptions are Alliandre and Friends: both of those developed from writing prompts. Why individual publications? To be able to offer ‘samples’ to readers w/o asking them to commit to purchase a collection from an unknown storyteller.
CJ: That actually seems like a sound idea. I liked that I could see very different glimpses of the world through the eyes of the characters in the stories. When did the idea for Kalieri Tales first come to you?
Susan: Actually a critiquer thought up the title ‘Kalieri Tales’ so I cannot take credit for it, but the idea of the world was born maybe 15-20+ years ago and I dallied with it (either world creation, history development, or writing bits and pieces) off and on until the last few years during which I found time to focused more on writing.
CJ: I can see why the world feels so well rendered, if you’ve been working on it for that long. What do you do when you’re not writing about Aldura?
Susan: Read, crochet, research genealogy, take care of and play with my fur children (2 dogs, 4 cats), and spend time with my family.
CJ: You certainly keep your heart and mind busy. Who do you think Kalieri Tales will appeal to?
Susan: That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since I started writing. In truth I have no idea. If I only consider those who have consistently critiqued my stories/writing, the ‘target audience’ would be males of widely different ages (20s-80s). I think only one or two females have consistently read/critiqued my writing. However if I look at reviews, it is predominantly females.
CJ: That’s interesting. I think I tend to have a mix of male and female critiquers, but my reviews have all come women so far. I don’t know what that says about either of our writing. What other projects are you working on or planning?
Susan: I have one novel fully drafted and a lot of other works in various stages. I’m not sure what length they will be. I’m a pantser so the story becomes whatever length the story becomes.
The fully written novel takes places ages after the currently published stories, and its prequel is in the drafting stages. Others in various stages of completion are in the same era or much earlier than the published shorts/novelettes/novellas. Overview of some of the ones who won’t (probably) reach novel length: reuniting Galdona, story of how the Black Wolves became Black Wolves, the creation of the Njae, the conversion of the Dragons, and another one set in Ipsen tentatively called Fire Vision or Ariadne.
CJ: Wow, that’s a lot of work in progress. What’s the next book in the Kalieri Tales called?
Susan: My last story, published May 11th, is named Phaedra. After that there will probably be nothing for a while since I’ve been in a creative ‘dry spell’ as far as writing. Real life has stepped up to the plate for its time in the spotlight. After the medical issues are dealt with, I may bundle some of the stories together but I’ve not decided yet. If I do that it would largely be for my benefit (to get a printed copy) since I don’t have an e-reader, except kindle for PC. Also my inspiration to write the stories on paper comes from readers’ feedback that they enjoyed etc. If readers don’t read, why write them down since I already know what happens?
CJ: That’s certainly true—it’s all about the readers and knowing that people enjoy your work, isn’t it? Well, I’ve certainly enjoyed your stories and hope that they’ll continue. And I’ve enjoyed our chat. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
For those interested, Phaedra is available on Amazon now. Love the cover and those green eyes!
It was a difficult decision, because all the entries made me laugh, so I decided there would be three winners. Because that's how I roll.
Teri Cross Chetwood, Dino Laserbeam and Aubrey Wynne all get a copy each of Out of the Blue, and Phase 2. Please contact me at cjjessop (at) outlook (dot) com and let me know which e-book format you'd like for Out of the Blue, and I will also send you a code and link for downloading a copy of Phase 2.
Thanks for taking part!
I thought I'd celebrate my first foray into self-publishing with a competition, as well as promoting a new offering from the people who publish Dark Futures. The new venture is Phase 2 which will e-publish the best of the fiction from Dark Futures. I was honoured to be the first writer published in Dark Futures, back in March last year when they launched. So I'm really chuffed that they're including that story--His Plan--in their first issue of Phase 2.
So here's what I want you to do: make me laugh. That's all. In the comments below, tell me a joke, write a funny poem, tell me something hilarious that happened to you. Just make me laugh.
The two that make me laugh the most will win a free copy each of Out of the Blue, and Phase 2.
I finally decided to give self-publishing a try. I'm still not sure if I'll go that route with my novel-length works (although I'm considering the possibility a lot more seriously than I did), but I have released a collection of previously published works as an e-book, just to try out the process for myself.
The stories are mostly from indie magazines, published over the years, but there are a couple of extras that have not been published before--later works that just don't seem to fit a particular genre for submission.
My main reason for staying away from self-publishing so far, has always been 'well, how do I know if my writing's good enough?' and still is to some extent. However, with most of these stories, someone already thought they were good enough to publish them. That's just a little less daunting than putting out untested material.
The e-book is currently available in most formats, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. It should also be available on iTunes and Kobo, but so far I haven't seen it show up. It will be available as a paperback in the next week or so. I'll provide a link when that happens.
In the next post, I'll talk about my experience in publishing the collection, and what I learned about the process.
Ahem. Sorry about that. Got a little carried away there.
I'd like to thank my friend George Wells for giving me this prompt. You may remember George from my interview with the editor and some of the writers from Spark: A Creative Anthology's debut issue. George is now a writer in residence for Spark, having appeared in every issue so far and he's definitely a writer to watch.
Q: What am I working on?
All kinds of things!
I just finished putting together a collection of short stories (which I'm going to shamelessly plug in my next blog post).
I'm also working on the sequel to my sword and sorcery novel, 'The Lost Weaver', which is called 'Legacy', as well as an old work that I'm re-imagining, called 'World Builders, Inc.' In between those, I might find time for a project called 'Triskele'. You can find more details of all of those in this post, where I complain about the 'problem' of having too many ideas.
Q: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's a difficult one! I think it differs because it's written by me and I try to put my own slant, my own voice into my writing. There are similarities (genre conventions), but even there, I still try to do it my own way. I like to flip stereotypes, and I like reversals. So my big barbarian warrior type also likes to cook, and treats his daughter as an equal.
Q: Why do I write what I do?
What can I say? I love fantasy, have done ever since I was a little girl, reading Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree stories. I also love science fiction, because I love thinking up answers to 'what if?' questions. I also love to read classic literature, and literary fiction, but I think I'm more of a storyteller than a literary writer. I do try to use much of what I learned in my studies of literature when writing science fiction and fantasy, however. Because the more tools a writer has, the better.
Q: How does your writing process work?
I write best in the mornings, when I'm on my second cup of coffee and I'm rested from a good night's sleep. I concentrate better and get more done then. It has to be quiet, too; no music, no distractions or I can't get in 'the zone'. You know, that place where the writing just flows?
For longer works, I start with an outline. I learned long ago that if I write without an outline I fizzle out at 30,000 words or so. It's not a rigid outline and is always subject to change when I get a Brilliant New Idea (TM). But it does give me a path to stick to (or come back to when I invariably wander off course). Within each planned scene, I free-write, while keeping the points I need to hit (from the outline) in mind. So it's a combination of outline and free-writing that works best for me.
For short stories, I start with the idea in my head and just free-write and see where that takes me. It usually means more revisions and changes, but that isn't so daunting with 3 or 4 thousand words, like it is with a hundred thousand!
Q: Who will we meet next week
I'm really excited about this part. Next week we're going to meet the three other members of the Alchemy writers' group, and my writer 'besties'. They are a great source of support, encouragement and help me immensely with my writing. They are also lovely people. So without further ado:
Tess Grantham writes breathtaking speculative short stories in Papua New Guinea, as well as working on her first novel. A former editor, Tess was a guest judge on one of Spark: a Creative Anthology's recent contests.
Ashley Capes writes great poetry and speculative fiction in Australia. His first novel, City of Masks will be published in 2014 by Snapping Turtle Books and I can't wait. I'll definitely be recommending it to all the fantasy fans I know.
Rebekah Haskell is a talented writer and graphic artist, living in the US. Rebekah is working on her first novel, a wonderfully epic fantasy that I can't wait to see in print. It's one of those novels that you will give to your friends and say 'you have to read this book'. Trust me.