Posted in authors, book covers, books, cover art, ebook, ebooks, fiction, paranormal, paranormal romance, Publishing, romance, writing

Author Interview – Karissa Laurel, “Touch of Smoke”

Today I am honored to interview Karissa Laurel on the release of her latest book Touch of Smoke, a paranormal romance available as both e-book and paper book.

Tell me about your book, and is it a standalone or part of a series?

Touch of Smoke is a paranormal romance that takes place in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. If the romance were taken out, the book would likely fall apart, and there is a happy ending, as required by the genre. However, the plot is heavily centered on solving a mystery (the death of the main character’s best friend), so there’s a lot more to it than whether the main couple end up together or not. There’s also a paranormal element that I hope readers find unique and original—but I don’t want to give anything away because it factors into the plot’s main mystery.

Touch of Smoke was written with every intention of being a standalone. I had just finished writing the final books in two different series, and I wanted a break (writing series takes a lot of energy and dedication for me!). However, after it went through editing, it ended up with a less definitive ending than the original version. The new ending finishes the story but also leaves several plot threads untied just enough to allow for a sequel. Several early reviewers have said they’d like to have sequel, but I haven’t made up my mind about it yet.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Research varies by book and genre. My first urban fantasy series was about Norse mythology. I did a lot of research for that, though it’s difficult to quantify how much or for how long exactly. I read a lot of the original Norse myths from several sources, and I spent a lot of time researching details on many, many, many different websites. While I read a lot of the original myths before starting, much of my research and fact checking took place as I was writing. I referred back to the original myths often.

For Touch of Smoke, however, there was less of a definitive body of knowledge to pull from for the mythology I used in this story (I don’t want to give too much away) so I found a few useful online sources, and I also read a few novels and anthology books focused on similar mythology to see how other authors had handled it. While I was writing, I also frequently depended on the internet to provide details, particularly about language and culture, and I asked a few people with specialized knowledge to verify if I got those things correct.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

In my personal life, I’m the only woman in a houseful of guys (a teenage son, a husband, a father-in-law, and a brother-in-law who lives across the street), so I feel like I have a pretty good grip on what men are like. But the main thing I try to remember is to check myself for stereotypes and assumptions and to rely on feedback from my beta readers and editors when they say something doesn’t work. Sometimes I ask my son: “What would you do in this situation” so I can have a guy’s perspective. He loves helping me write. Of course, romantic heroes tend to be a bit more idealized than the average real-life guy, so some things work in romance novels that might not work in other genres.

What did you edit out of this book?

Other than a drastic change in the ending, not much was edited out. A couple of new scenes were edited in, though, when my editor and I agreed that the relationship between the main couple needed more fleshing out and needed to take place over a longer period. It’s hard to say what I edited out of the ending without giving away spoilers, but let’s say that I had made the original ending too easy. My betas and content editors all pushed me to make things harder on my characters and not to tie up things so neatly.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh that’s a great question! I wouldn’t say I put any “Easter eggs” in Touch of Smoke, although I have put them in other books before. The town that is the main setting in Touch of Smoke is fictional, but it’s heavily based on a real town in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and I think anyone from that area will recognize several of the landmarks I mentioned.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Fight scenes and love scenes are always the hardest for me, and this book had quite a few of both. Fight scenes are hard because it’s easy to see in my head what the characters are doing but getting those details onto the page without being too repetitive, technical, or just plain boring is challenging. Love scenes are hard because intimacy can be uncomfortable and finding a balance between what is necessary and what is gratuitous takes a certain finesse. Although, anyone who knows me would say that I tend to be too cautions. My beta readers urged me to put in more details when I wouldn’t have, otherwise.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I have a few very dedicated readers who reach out to me often on social media and if it weren’t for them, it would be hard to keep going sometimes. They are super encouraging and supporting and generally ask me how soon I’ll have another book ready. I particularly like when they talk about my characters like they’re real people. While I have had my share of negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads (as does every author), I’ve been fortunate to never have received any negative comments directed at me personally.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written many more books than I’ve published. I’ve published seven full novels, one novella, and a smattering of short stories. I’ve written at least four novels that will probably never see the light of day and many short stories that were rejected and eventually abandoned when I realized they were beyond redemption. My favorite is hard to choose. I have ones I like less than others, but I think my favorite tends to be my latest release, until I have a new book to focus on.

What’s next for you? (i.e., another in this series, or something new?)

Next, I have a short romantic historical fiction story, featuring a highway woman and a French blockade runner during the American Revolution, appearing in a pulp fiction anthology from Crazy 8 Press that should be released sometime this summer.

I’m currently working on a YA contemporary fantasy novel set near Asheville, North Carolina focused on bluegrass and traditional music. It was inspired by a random idea to gender-flip the Lost Boys movie from the 80s and substitute sirens for the vampires.

Where can readers find your book?


Barnes and Noble



Google Play


Thanks, Karissa! And best of luck with the new book.!

You can find Karissa’s website here and follow her on Twitter @KarissaLaurel

Posted in random thoughts, religion, Tarot, writing

Thoughts on Mortality

Decks pictured (clockwise from top left) Bohemian Gothic, Sacred Rose, Arcus Arcanum, Starchild, Tarot of Prague, Wild Unknown, Sun and Moon, Wildwood, Alexander Daniloff; center – Alchemists Oracle: Connected and Free, Celestial Stick Figures

I’m inspired to put some thoughts down by a video Katey Flowers posted on YouTube of her year with the “Death” card from the Tarot, and her musings on aging and life and death. I decided to post this here rather than on my Tarot blog because this isn’t necessarily a Tarot post (maybe I’ll cross-post it).

I’m at the age where I spend a great deal of time thinking about death (a great deal) and how much closer I am to my own end than to my beginning. I have far more days behind me than ahead of me. I’ve started planning out what sort of instructions I want to leave for my heirs, make sure they have access to all my accounts, both online and offline. I think about how much crap I have that I need to get rid of to spare my kids having to clean it all out. I think about people I’ve lost so often. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wished my dad was still alive to see some new technology (he was an electronics engineer) or a movie or show I think he would have liked. He died when he wasn’t much older than I am now.

Of course everyone dies, it’s not that I expected to live forever. I don’t actually think about how I might die, that’s not the part that concerns me. It’s the idea of winking out of existence, passing into oblivion, that disturbs me because I have no belief in an afterlife. This is it, here and now. Please spare me any platitudes about the inevitability of dying and accepting with grace. Maybe the day will come when I can, but not now. Right now I feel no more ready to accept that than a teenager. Intellectually I am perfectly aware that the day will come, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’ve lost both of my parents, all my aunts and uncles, a cousin, friends so it’s not like I’ve never experienced losing someone. I know it happens, but that doesn’t change my frustration.

Part of my raging against death may stem from the feeling that I haven’t accomplished anything with my life, that I will never feel done, ready to die. There are so many things I would have liked to have been and done and learned in this life that I will never have the chance for. Maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated with Tarot. I look to the cards for a deeper understanding of the nature of existence, some reason to believe this isn’t all there is. How can we live, exist, breathe, think, be self-aware, and not be able to somehow do something about the terminal nature of life? It seems cruel for the universe to give us the capacity to understand we will cease to exist, doesn’t it? And yes, I understand the contradiction embodied in the idea of seeking a spiritual understanding if I don’t have any belief in an afterlife.

I know I’m not alone in this dread, and that it’s why some people cling to religion, or a belief in ghosts. We’re hoping to find some proof of something beyond this world, that physical death is not really the end. I’ve had unexplained occurrences that seemed ghostly, but they’re not definitive proof. Not yet. I need more.

I guess for now I will continue to search. I’ll let you know if I find enlightenment, or at least acceptance.

I did feel compelled to pull a card from the Druid Plant Oracle, and interestingly got the Celtic Bean, which is associated with death, reincarnation, the ancestors, and the Otherworld. A message?

Posted in Christmas Eve, Holidays, writing

Welcoming the Doldrums

Now that the holidays are over, we coast into the doldrums of January, February, and March, that long stretch with no holidays or long weekends (well, some of you get Presidents Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) that feel like they go on for six months, rather than three. Spring break looms for those with kids. For those without, life will go on pretty much as usual.

And I’m so there for it.

I have a complicated relationship with the end-of-year holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. There’s a melancholy to them threading through the mirth. People who had happy childhoods have unhappy adulthoods, forever trying to recapture the joy of those happier years.

I had a large-ish family: Mom, Dad, and four sisters. In general, Christmas was a magical time, as indeed all of winter was for me. What child doesn’t love playing in the snow? And we got a lot of it. Holidays in our home were exciting and fun, even though for most of my childhood years we were quite poor. Mostly I remember Christmas lights glowing warmly on snowy evenings, electric candles in each window of the house. In those days nobody was doing those garish, hideous displays with tens of thousands of lights, trying to rival Disney’s Electrical Parade. There was one house in town that put up a homemade animated tableaus of large, 3-foot-tall elf dolls in working ski lifts, riding around on a carousel (elf-sized), working in Santa’s workshop, and all manner of things. It was a wonder, and it was charming. People came from all over to see it. It was written up in the local paper year after year.

But mostly I remember the warmth of Christmas, a child’s memories of it as magic. We always decorated the tree as a family on Christmas Eve (a tradition of my mother’s Norwegian upbringing), my dad singing “O Tannenbaum” in his baritone voice as he put tinsel and ornaments on the branches my sisters and I were too small to reach; Dad pulling out the old reel-to-reel tape player and cueing up the Christmas music. I will forever associate “The Troika” with my dad. One night when putting the youngest 3 of us to bed, my second-eldest sister (who has an incredible voice) sang “Silent Night”. Even then it made me cry.

I have moments when the music helps. My local classical music station does a 4-day “Festival of Carols” full of ancient music, familiar tunes done well, carols from around the world (the Finnish are some of my favorites), and it’s just glorious to listen to. Shame it’s only 4 days on the regular broadcast frequency (they have a new HD station that starts earlier, but I don’t have an HD radio). Now even the music has lost its spell. It’s been the one thing I’ve looked forward to over the years, the main thing that I could take solace in now that both of my parents are long dead, I’m estranged from most of my sisters, and all my aunts and uncles are gone. I’ve spent many Christmas Eves alone, put up and decorated trees by myself, because even though there was no one else to do it with, it was still a link to those happy days. This year the tree was put up without me, and taken down without me.

Christmas lights no longer cheer me; in fact they leave me cold. Maybe they’re just too pre-packaged and processed for my taste (don’t get me started on the inflatables). As I writer this, there are still a few folks who have their lights up and on even now, after the new year. I see them as I drive to work in the morning, and come home at night. The season just seems to have moved so far away from the gentle family celebration it once was I start to wonder if we’ve simply outgrown the spirit of it in the 21st century. It feels like if you didn’t get a new car for Christmas you’re doing it wrong. Maybe I just want to be a child again. I miss my mom and dad so much, even after all these years. There’s so much family drama and stress now, and most family traditions have gone by the wayside.

So I, at least, am glad the holidays are over, and I welcome the looming doldrums.

Posted in books, fiction, Holidays, self-publishing, Vampires, witchcraft, witchcraft, writing

New Year, New Focus

So the new year is approaching and while I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, the timing coincides with a resolve to stop wasting time and get more writing done and submissions sent out, as well as work on the sequel to Revenants Abroad, and finish the romance I started and have been posting at a glacial pace on Wattpad.

My problem (ok, one problem) is I have too many interests, but not the time to indulge in them. There’s a Star Trek:TNG episode in which an alien woman named Kamala (played by Famke Janssen) wows Capt. Picard with her knowledge of archaeology (a passion of his). He expresses surprise and admiration at this, and she tells him that she tries to stay informed on a wide range of topics. I envy people who can do that. I’ve always tried to read widely and learn as much as I could about whatever piqued my interest. Lately I’ve had to be realistic and acknowledge that I don’t have the luxury of time Kamala did. I can either spend tiny bits of time on a million things or I can focus more on my writing, which I’ve let slide to some degree while being distracted by politics and other things on Twitter. Oh my god I waste time on Twitter. My Craft studies have ground almost to a complete halt, with the one exception being my Tarot collecting. But collecting isn’t studying. I have a number of Tarot books that have been waiting for longer than I can say for me to get around to reading. And for Christmas I received a lovely new book on herbs which I’ve added to the TBR pile, Blackthorn’s Botanical Magic

While Twitter opened a wider world to me, and indeed can be a great help for writers with all the practical advice and wisdom, resources, and moral support, I have to learn how to put the brakes on. Maybe a time limit per day, or per week.

My aim this year is to devote the majority of my free time to writing, and things that help me along that path: reading more for pleasure and books on the craft of writing. Let’s hope I can stick to it.

Wishing you all a very Happy 2019. May you all prosper and reach your goals in the coming year.

Posted in writing

When Door Knobs Attack

My house is old. 

It was built in 1957, and has had precious little updating since. With an old house you expect things to go out and need repairs/replacement. It’s had lots of plumbing issues over the years (although the worst turned out not to be anything specifically to do with the pipes in the house, but something called orange pipe that connected the house line to the city sewer lines. The city actually fixed that a few years back, but before they did boy howdy every flush of the toilet or load of laundry made me hold my breath to see if it was going to back up into the bathtub. Good times.) along with other issues, like the roof, gutters, water heater, furnace… but I digress.

Now, if you’ve ever had to pee at 2:30 in the morning, you know you don’t get out of bed until you really need to, and the last thing you want is to find yourself effectively locked into your own bedroom, as I was last night. So not amusing.

The old doorknob had been tough to open for a while now when the door is fully shut. The knob could only turn one way to retract the latch (that’s the part that generally goes into the strikeplate on the door frame, which is what keeps it closed.) Like so:


So at 2:30 I had to use the bathroom, and wouldn’t ya know it, that latch wasn’t playing. Ten minutes I stood there, trying to wrangle that thing open to no avail. By then I was starting to get a little panicky. Clearly something had failed inside the latch assembly, and with the screws to remove the door knob on the outside of the room I couldn’t even try to remove the knob or take the thing apart. 

My next idea was to take the door off the hinges. The top hinge pin slid up and out just fine like it was waiting to be relieved of duty, but the bottom hinge wasn’t budging, clearly in league with the door knob. I tried to find something, anything, in my bedroom that I could use to try to pry the hinge pin up and out and remove the door. The first thing I found that was strong enough to use as a lever was an incense burner, one of those long, flat brass ones for holding joss sticks (am I the only one who doesn’t keep tools in the bedroom?). Good thought, but no dice. Somehow there was too much space between the top of the hinge pin and the knuckles (that’s what those things are called that the pin sits in) that hold it to get enough leverage.

It finally occurred to me that the latch was retracting most of the way, so I pulled it back as far as I could, then jammed the incense burner into the slight space between the door and the the door frame, and managed to push the latch the rest of the way in and open the door. FREEDOM! 

So I now have a shiny new door knob that works the way it’s supposed to. I guess the moral of the story is to burn incense, or maybe fix things before they completely break? Something like that.

Posted in writing

Spirit of Halloweentown 2018

Fans of the Disney series of movies “Halloweentown” are surely familiar with the filming location in St. Helens, Oregon. We heard tell of someone who had come out from Boston specifically for this event. Admittedly, I’m not as huge a fan as some (not that I don’t love the movies) so this was my first trip out to St. Helens for the annual celebration. The town goes all out for this. I don’t know how much of a money-maker it is for them, but I’m sure it’s a much-needed infusion of cash for the local businesses. 

We had perfect weather, which is always touch-and-go around here. It rained all day Friday, and is raining again today as I write this, but yesterday (October 6) was sunny and warm, with a little breeze. We couldn’t have asked for more. I got the “All Access Pass” ($35) which gets you into the Festival of the Fairies, Museum of Oddities, the Alien Landscape. I didn’t make it to the Alien Landscape, the tractor that tows the shuttle broke down at one point in the middle of the road where the parade was going to come through later, but luckily they got it running again later and out of the street in time for the parade 

Jack Pumpkin

This pumpkin is not as big as the one in the movie, although it does light up at night. 

The city hosts a scarecrow contest for the local businesses, so they almost all have some kind of scarecrow outside. The driver of the shuttle that took us out to the Museum of Oddities was filling us in on some of the nuts and bolts of where the money goes from the All Access tickets (not to the city coffers, apparently, but to scholarships sponsored by the Rotary Club and other organizations). 

The gargoyle in the pics above was being playful and obliged me by posing menacingly for pictures. At first he looked like part of the display, but started creeping up on another kid looking at the skeleton. He was clearly having a lot of fun. 

A lot of people were dressed up in costumes, but not as many as I’d hoped. I had planned to dress as a witch myself, but didn’t finish my cloak in time. Next time…

The parade for some reason was very late getting down to the Plaza. It was supposed to run from 6-7, but didn’t even get going (at least didn’t reach the plaza) until very late, nearly 8:00. By then the crowd on the sidewalks was spilling into the street where cars are typically parked, leaving a relatively narrow route for the parade to move through when it finally arrived. A couple of small children almost got trampled by a horse, but their mother managed to pull them back in time. 

Everyone was in a good mood and friendly and cheerfully taking pics for others while they posed in various places. There was a line to get a photo with the big Jack pumpkin most of the day, so I was very lucky to get a shot of it with no one standing next to it. 

We didn’t see any of the actors from the films, but I understand several of them were around somewhere. 

The paving stones pictured above run all through the plaza park. Some are plain, but many have snippets from the diaries of Lewis and Clark. 

While waiting for the parade, my party and I took up a spot on the sidewalk in front of the local repertory theater, and were lucky enough to be standing next to one of the people involved in it, who was telling us about some upcoming performances. They’re called The ShoeString Community Players.  They’ll be doing a re-enactment of Orson Welles’ broadcast of “War of the Worlds” in a couple of weeks that we hope to go back for. I’m not sure how that’s going to be done, but sounded like fun and affordable at $5 a ticket. 

It was a fun day, and there’s lots you can do and see for free. More info on their Facebook page. I plan to go back and explore St. Helens a little more, it’s a nice little town. 

Posted in Office Life, Oregon, writing


I’m still trying to settle in to my new job. I started in late October, and it really took awhile to even begin to feel like I was “one of them.” I’m still paranoid about everything I do. There have been some shakeups in the upper echelons already just since I’ve been there (one right before I started resulted in me working for a different person than I was originally going to), which makes me a little uneasy. My boss assured me that we’re fine, there won’t be lay-offs, but my PTSD after the last couple places I was at have me ready to polish up my resume again, just in case.

Just getting to know my new co-workers feels so odd. I didn’t expect to be starting over again at this point in my career. I usually make friends pretty quickly, generally find one or two ladies that I hit it off with quickly, but I’m not finding that here. Everyone has been very nice, though I’m missing that sort of instant connection, if you know what I mean. For the first time I feel very alone at work, out of my element. I realize I haven’t been there long, and the older we get the harder it becomes to make friends. Maybe I’m expecting too much.

At the same time, the senior admin has organized a half-day off for the admin team on Administrative Professional’s Day (sometime in April) which frankly I could do without. We’re going to lunch, then to some craft shop to make signs with the initial of our name, and “date established.” For most people that would be their wedding day, when their ‘family’ was established. I jokingly suggested 1692 (the date of the start of the witch trials in Salem). Nobody got the joke. One of the other ladies poked me in the arm and said, “When did you get married?”

“I’m not married.”


I must be the only single person here.

So now I have to go out and make this thing that will likely go straight in the garbage when I get home. It should look something like this:

I was hoping we could have gone to a movie instead. Oh well.

I don’t seem to have much in common with anyone here, or really anywhere else for that matter. There’s a younger woman who recently started, 30-years-old, who told me she feels very comfortable with me and has confided things about herself to me already that quite frankly I could have lived with not knowing. I’m not sure if it’s her age, but I hope she calms down a little. She seems to have this intense desire to prove herself to everyone here (not a bad trait, necessarily) but I think she’s going to alienate others because she’s trying so hard to be right about everything, rather than listen and learn. Although she does frequently ask me for help with things. She keeps telling me she’s an “over-achiever.” Well, we’ll see. She doesn’t consider herself a “millennial” because she hates millennials, and thinks them very stupid and selfish and lacking in manners. She’s awfully opinionated for someone so young. Is that a trait of youth? Was I like that at her age, I wonder? I probably was, to some degree. Makes me cringe now to think of it.

Anyway, this non-millennial millennial may yet end up in my novel.



Posted in Outerspace, science fiction, Space, writing



Time is not my friend.

Every day that passes makes me that much more frustrated that I spend my life using all my energy and time in the pursuit of other people’s dreams. Time I can’t get back. I can only spend it once. Like that Daffy Duck cartoon where he keeps trying to outdo Bugs Bunny on stage, and finally blows himself up. He gets the audience’s cheers, but it’s a trick he can only do once. Like life. There’s no reset button, there’s no do-over. Every day is a mini-explosion that can’t be repeated.

The only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do in life was write. But I had to table that dream while making a living, raising children, surviving after divorce, and being everyone else’s safety net. Maybe it comes from being a middle-child; always looking after others seems to be my fate. So I take jobs that pay the bills, and always the writing comes last.

And still I continue to work on my writing in the blips of time between running the house and mowing the yard and commuting to and from work, and earning a paycheck to keep food on the table and lights and heat on. Am I ungrateful? Millions would be thrilled to have what I have. I’ve had periods of unemployment (laid off three times) and part of me rejoiced at being free, at having time suddenly. Did I write? No. The practical side of me was too stressed, too terrified of losing everything I’d worked for, afraid of losing my home, not having money to put food on the table. It’s hard to be creative when you’re not sure if you can pay bills. Those days went by in a blur of combing the want ads, registering with placement agencies, going on interview after interview for jobs that would further deaden a soul. Maybe someone reading this can relate.

Is that the curse of being human, being sentient? Always wanting more, always wanting to be more? We dream, we desire, we hope. I haven’t given up, despite moments when I despair. Too bad we can’t jump through a wormhole and gain back the years. That’d be my superpower, time travel.

Posted in authors, book covers, books, ebook, fantasy, fiction, Publishing, writing

Author Interview – Paul Magnan

Today I am delighted to present an interview with a writer acquaintance, Paul Magnan. His debut novel,  Kyu, The Unknown: The Coming of Dis (Book 1) is the first in an urban fantasy series set in an alternate world.

Kyu, The Unknown by Paul Magnan


The Territories have been unified for a thousand years, brought together under the sword of Harra Ardrassis and the sorcerous power of his immortal sister, Haena. But the Unification has always been contentious; hostility and distrust grows stronger every year. Surrounding the Territories is the Disian Curtain, a desolate darkness filled with ravenous, twisted horrors beyond imagination. Ruled by Infernals called the Diaboli Domini, these terrors desire nothing more than to devour the flesh and souls of all humanity…

  1. Tell me about your main character. Did he spring into your head fully-formed? Or did you get to know him little by little?

The main character, Kyu, has had a long and eventful journey. Kyu as he is shown in Kyu, The Unknown: The Coming of Dis is the final incarnation of a few character variations. He first sprang into being in 1980, when I was a senior in high school. Back then, he wasn’t prose; he was a comic I created for art class. I drew him as a creature hidden within a hooded robe; he had claws for hands, and his face couldn’t be seen. I gave the name “The Unknown Flurg”. He was an arena fighter who battled all sorts of strange creatures and beings. The violence was graphic, which meant that my classmates loved it and my art teacher hated it. Fast forward a few months. I have always loved reading, and dabbled in writing short stories. A friend recommended that I write a book with Flurg as the main character. I loved the idea, and started writing. Fast forward to 1983. I finally finish the novel. It was 153 single-spaced pages of crap, but hey, at least I wrote it. Then life took over. Years went by without me writing. Flurgwas all but forgotten. Then, about ten years ago, he came back to me. I started in short bursts, changed his appearance (his name was changed at the request of my publisher), and built a brand new world for him. He is still an arena fighter in an alternate world, but he has a conscience now, and several other characters to interact with.

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

I can’t go into detail, because it’s a spoiler. Let’s just say it’s a loss I felt as keenly as the characters involved. I wanted to get it exactly right.

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both! I am in my element when I am writing, but you know as well as I how hard it can be. People who aren’t writers don’t realize how much work goes into the process. They think we just throw a few words onto the page and voila, out comes a perfectly formed story. Mm, not quite. There is research, and editing (and more editing, and more editing…), and the process itself is time consuming. When a writer is in the zone, hours can go by unnoticed. That’s the energized part. If a writer is struggling, frustration takes its toll. That’s the exhaustion part.

  1. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

There are several, and they are insidious. Sometimes experienced writers still fall into them. They include info dumps (is that backstory really necessary? If so, “show”, don’t “tell”), repetition, “head-hopping” (switching character POVs without a scene break), “purple prose” (confusing pretentious suckage for eloquence), overuse of adverbs and adjectives…the list goes on. Experience and a willingness to learn helps put these behind beginning writers.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

The same as probably every other writer out there: social media and the Internet, which has reduced my attention span to that of a squirrel. It seems I put a lot more hours in writing “back in the day”, when I had a Smith-Corona electric typewriter and my biggest distraction was the anime cartoon “Star Blazers”. I miss that show.

  1. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Right now, I am writing a series that I project will be four books in total. Kyu, The Unknown is Book 1. I’m now finishing the edits to the sequel, The Oracle of Xiaroc Isle. Once these four are done, I have plans for another series. I may write a stand-alone book someday, but now I’m busy with this.

  1. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Oh, so much. The main one being, “Chase that dream! Don’t sell out because everyone says you’re wasting your time!” My younger self also needs to go to college for English and writing, and be willing to put in the work and learn from those who have already walked this road. Don’t go thinking you already know it all, younger self, because you don’t! Put in the time! Polish your craft! Never give up!

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It informed me of the business aspect of writing, from contracts to promotions. A publisher may like your work, but they publish it because they think it will sell. They put money into it, and they expect a return on this investment, which is obvious and understandable. A big part of that selling process is promotion, and while the publisher will do what they can, it is up to the writer to do the lion’s share of this, especially if they are just starting out. Working with a publisher has also taken the blinders off my eyes in regard to my work, especially when it comes to editing. Those “darlings” get killed, believe me. As they need to be.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

My book is a fantasy/alternate reality that shares some contemporary aspects with this world. One of the things I researched was how swords are made today compared to how they were made in medieval times. I learned the composition of the ore, and what carbon content is best for this type of steel, along with contemporary forging processes. Quite often I realize I need research when I hit a certain scene and realize I have no plausible way to write it, so research happens before and during the writing process, at least for me.

  1. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

This presents many challenges. Obviously I have no idea what’s it’s like to be female, so I just try to be honest about human feelings, emotions, and motivations. As far as physicality goes, I try to keep that to a minimum when using a female POV, and hope I’m bringing something accurate and worthy of respect to the table.

  1. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The total process takes about a year. Six months to write, another few months for editing, then working with the publisher for a release date.

  1. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Probably to be not overly influenced by writers I admire, which is tough. I see what they have done and think to myself, That’s what I want to do! At that point it’s a balancing act. One can’t help but be influenced by others, but it cannot come at the expense of your own unique voice. It’s your voice that makes the mark, not a distilled version of someone else’s.

Posted in Office Life, Oregon, photography, Portland, random thoughts, self-publishing, writing

Non-conformist Introvert


This is so much on my mind right now. As some know, I was laid off from my job back in March. I took it pretty well, this being the third time now I’ve been through this. I knew the struggle to find a new job awaited me, but deep down inside somewhere I welcomed being freed from the tyranny of Corporate America.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my job, my co-workers, and my boss. The environment was pleasant enough, the pay, while not great, was sufficient. And in 2 1/2 years there I never once dreaded going in in the morning. I never had those Sundays that were ruined by the thought of the inevitable arrival of Monday. The only thing that got me down about this lay-off was the idea that I would not end up in such a good atmosphere again. It was pure luck to land in that situation and I know it and am grateful. I’ve been in the other place so I really do know how fortunate I was this time. Despite all that, as an introvert, the idea of having to deal with people all day long exhausts me. But society has no use for introverts.

As fate would have it, I came down with a nasty flu the week following the lay-off. It was that lingering flu that seemed to hang on for a month when anyone caught it. The first week I was just flat on my back in bed, hardly even ate. So I had that excuse for not beginning the job search right away. I thought at the time that if I’d still been employed they would have had to put me on short-term disability. I got a little severance from the job to tide me over so I had some time to pull myself together, though not as much as I would have liked.

Now I am on the dole, drawing unemployment (received first check yesterday, May 18). The longer I’m away from Corporate America, the happier I am. As much as I’m a creature of habit, I. Am. Tired. Of. It.

I am, however, dutifully applying to jobs as required by the Employment Dept., but I admit I have no enthusiasm for it. I don’t know how anyone can have enthusiasm for some of these awful jobs. I don’t want to spend my days creating Powerpoint presentations for a marketing department because I really don’t care what they’re selling. I don’t want to answer phones and listen to angry customers. I don’t want to sort and distribute mail. I don’t want to take meeting minutes. So much of what people do is useless drudgery. And yet, we must eat so off we go.

I am tired of trying to pretend I fit in with corporate culture. I’ve never managed to pick up the corporate jargon that comes so easily to others (“ask” as a noun, for instance). I put on my happy face in the office, when really all I wanted was to be home writing. I despise the conformist attire as much as the attitude. If I showed up in the office dressed like Stevie Nicks circa 1978 with my Tarot cards and crystals, I’m pretty sure they’d have a problem. Conform conform conform. I used to risk wearing my pentacle or goddess pendant in the office because I figured most of them would never know what either one was.

Am I old enough to be a crazy old lady now? Probably not quite. But I may yet decide to run around  dressed like Stevie Nicks anyway. This is Portland, after all.