An interview with author S. H. Pratt / C. K. Brewer

‘“How goes the battle?” Spencer asked as he sat beside her with his own lunch.
“Not bad. Did you know that there is someone famous teaching here?” Rissa smirked.
“You know, I’d heard that rumor. I hope the fame won’t go to everyone’s head.” Spencer teased.
“I think we’re safe. Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Rumor has it that the famous person left fame and fortune behind because she’d lost all of her marbles and really needed to collect them.” Rissa sighed sadly.
“Oh no, not the lost marble syndrome! I wonder how successful her campaign to collect her marbles is going.” Spencer commiserated.
“Beautifully. She has settled down, found a nice man who kisses her like she’s the only soul he’s ever wanted, reconnected with her family, and found a possible direction for her life away from fame and fortune.” Rissa deadpanned. Spencer chuckled.
“Only soul, huh?” he arched an eyebrow over the frame of his glasses. “How do you know he isn’t kissing her like that because she’s the only soul who ever made him want to kiss that way?”
“I don’t, but that certainly raises some interesting points, doesn’t it?” Rissa snickered.
“Points indeed,” Spencer laughed.’
~ The Artist’s Touch Epic Romance Book 1 by S. H. Pratt

You’ve published a number of novels as S H Pratt. Tell us a little about them and your journey to being a published author.
The romance novels I’ve published are all heavily based in real life headlines and psychology. Many of them have a strong suspense thread woven through them as well as some humor to lighten things up. I began writing semi-seriously as a teen but shelved it in favor of attempting to find ‘a real job’. Turns out my ‘real job’ is being a full-time mom and a full-time writer. I attempted to conform to the standard of Harlequin Romance Publishing but was told that because my writing deals with such intense psychological matter, it was too dark for their readers. Because I love my stories and refuse to dumb them down or soften the subject matter, I chose to research my options which led me to publish my work independently. I love the freedom this choice has afforded me and have left the notion of being with a Big 5 publishing company in the dust.

There are a great number of self published books these days, and a common complaint is that they are not sufficiently edited. Did you edit your own books?
I say I edit my books myself, but this is not entirely true. I have a team of alpha and beta readers who read through each chapter as I write them. Then I read through the entire manuscript from the beginning and then again, starting from the end and reading forward. After that, I have a proofreader/editor who is a friend of mine read through it (we trade our editing services – I read her works and she reads mine) and then before I publish, I still read it through again, this time out loud as though to a group of people. Unfortunately, as a human, misspellings still get through, but I’ve found that I’m more thorough and picky than most editors I’ve come across.

Did you find that you had to bring in experts of any description (eg. cover designers) at all? Or did you do the whole process by yourself?
I began this crazy journey into self-publishing with the notion that a small self-publishing company would be better than me trying to do everything myself. Unfortunately, I found a company that was less than reputable with interests more in my money than my books. Their “editing” was horrendous and I hated the covers they did. Because I don’t use models of any sort on my covers, it seemed to flummox them. After my contracted two books were done, I fired them, took back control of my books and republished them. My husband is a photographer and doesn’t mind when I bring him flowers and an idea for a cover. Between he and I, we create covers that pertain to the story within that are different from the typical “Fabio” style of covers. I also have a fair number of professionals, like medical personnel, peace officers, etc. who willing read parts (or sometimes the entire book) to ensure that the facts I’ve used are correct.

Do you think that different skills are required for writing novels as opposed to short stories?
I do think that you need different skills for writing full length novels than you do for short stories. However, I believe the skills used for the short stories strengthen the ones necessary for novels. I actually use short stories, particularly those with specific word counts, to help me eliminate extraneous words and ideas. This then translates into stronger novels with less ‘fluff” in them.

Like me, you have gifted children. We both know the struggle of finding age-appropriate reading material that challenges our children, and both of us have taken it upon ourselves to ‘fill that gap’ by attempting to write a children’s novel. How have you found writing a novel for gifted children? What were the challenges for you? 
I find writing children’s fiction to be much more challenging, in general, than romance. In romance, my world around me is the world I use and the source of my inspiration. However in my kid’s fantasy work, I have to create the world including its flora, fauna, and details in minutia. Also, as my intention was to give kids around the age of ten and up content that is appropriate while still challenging them, I have to use extra caution to keep the content child friendly. It sounds easy but has presented me with the need to rethink my own thought processes. I love writing the fantasy stories though because it’s a refreshing and invigorating change and challenge from the romance.

‘The monumental stone vibrated, shaking the temple violently. Srÿche stood, bracing himself in the stone archway, struggling to stay upright through the intense quaking. He watched, his black eyes narrowed, as a blue haired imp Shimmered into being in the archway across from him. She was miniscule compared to his six foot height, but he knew she was his equal in power. He felt the Magic radiating off of her across the expanse of the room and it made his bones ache.
Safina stood in her archway, her arms stretched out wide against the stone in an effort to stabilize herself. She nodded politely to Srÿche, her azure blue hair bobbing. He ignored her, turning away with a scowl, and focused his attention back on the stone. Safina rolled her eyes and turned her gaze to the stone as well.
As they watched, the monolithic stone began to glow a warm amber color. Small pieces of the crumbling temple began to fall as the quaking intensified, nearly bringing the pair of Magicians to their knees. Just as the shuddering reached a tempo that threatened to destroy the temple and everything within it, the quaking stone split in two and an unearthly voice echoed through the temple.

“Under Marching Moon afar;
A humble child born;
Noble and Royal hence;
To seek the DragonStar;
Mend the sword t’was torn;
Save Velania from obsolescence.”

As the echoing voice died, the vibrations reached a new pitch that sent a massive shock wave emanating from the broken rock. As if drawing a deep breath, the air seemed to flow rapidly into the fissure. With an earth shattering explosion, a second, stronger shock wave burst from the stone. The entire temple exploded in a mass of stone and dirt leaving only the two archways standing.
Safina and Srÿche, both doubled over from the force of the Magic, fell to their knees and covered their heads as the temple fell around them. The Magical shock wave overcame them, making their bodies scream with pain and their minds spasm in agony. As the Magic ebbed and the quaking slowed, the two Magicians rose slowly. Breathing heavily, exhausted, and aching from the intensity of the Magic, they stood, surrounded by the rubble of what once had been the Temple of the Oracle. Without a word, look, or acknowledgement of each other, they Shimmered and disappeared.’
~ DragonStar by C. K. Brewer (to be released 2018)

Have your kids read your work? What did they think?
Obviously, they don’t read the romance, but yes, my two youngest children have read the first novel of my fantasy series, DragonStar. They were my first beta readers and according to their constant questions as to when the actual book will be in their hands, I believe they enjoyed it. They said they did anyway. *Laugh*

What made you decide to use two different non de plumes?
I write adult romance with extreme subject matter and occasionally strong language as S. H. Pratt. I really, really didn’t want kids of 10+ to pick up one of my romance books and be scarred for life. Therefore, prudence dictated a second name strictly for fantasy and science fiction. *BigSmile*

Is there a reason that neither of your non de plumes use a full first name?
My full name is quite long and I didn’t want to take up half the book cover with it so I shortened it to my initials and that is my romance author name. Also, I didn’t want to worry about privacy should the miracle happen and I suddenly become famous.
As I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants with the fantasy name but knew I wanted something that could not be confused with my romance author name, I took an old family name (Brewer) and then took my grandmother’s name on that side of the family and my favorite cousin on that side and used their initials rather than sounding weird with “Clara Kyle”.

Do you agree with the old adage ‘write what you know’?
I absolutely do.

Why?
It’s much more comfortable for me to write about things I have some knowledge of rather than trying to put my mind into a dark void of the unknown. Granted, I still heavily research things I know or have experienced because I don’t know everything about it, but I find it’s easier to put a bit of me into the story if my emotions are tied with the subject matter.

What’s the most important writing skill you’ve learned?
I think it’s to accept that writing is fluid. Every day is new and my skills shift ever so subtly. Without that constant change and growth, writing would become a bore and would cease to be a challenge. As a result, my editing skills, plotting skills, and imagination have all improved.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Don’t give up and don’t stop learning. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t and understand that in writing that story, you need to let yourself grow with the experience as a writer, editor, proofreader, reader, and person.

You can check out more of S H Pratt’s work here:
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Amazon

And you can follow C. K. Brewer on Facebook.

Rise Up

Each piece of armour, selected with precision and ridiculous overthought, sat in a pile on the corner on my bed. I stood in my underwear and tried to inhale peace and tranquility, but only managed to suck in a faint taste of dust and desperation. This was it. This was the point of no return.

I drew on a pair of jeans that were so tight they redefined the term ‘skinny jeans’. I nearly fell, and ended up in an ungainly sprawl across my unmade bed. I tugged until my fingers ached, inching the jeans up my thighs. There was something ridiculously satisfying about gliding the zip up and pushing the button through the hole. I stood up and did a few knee bends, reminding myself that walking like a bow legged cowboy wasn’t part of the plan.

A white crew-neck T-shirt followed. It had that brand-new, straight-off-the-shop-shelf blindingly white glow, but I’d run through it through a wash cycle so it had that comforting fragrance of fabric softener. It smelled like home, even if home was an illusion. Maybe I just liked the smell. Was it lavender? Jasmine? I tugged it on over my head, wondering at the train of my own thoughts. Was I really contemplating fabric softener perfumes right now? I smiled a little, kind of amazed that I even could.

I left the jacket for now, and reached for my pride and joy – a pair of knee high vegan-leather boots. They’d cost me a shitload, but they were perfect. As I slid one foot in, then the other, I felt my smile grow. Fuck yeah, I loved these boots.

I sat down on the chair that accompanied the desk in my room, and reached for the items I’d set out earlier. I started with the tinted moisturiser. I’d thought about using a proper foundation, but I found the moisturiser had a more natural feel. I could forget I was wearing it. Nothing about this look was supposed to be subtle, and comfortable wasn’t what I was going for either, but fuck it, I wanted to be… me. I wanted to feel real. Fan-fucking-tastic, but real.

I applied the eyeliner with a steady hand, grateful for the wonder that is Youtube and the people who put makeup tutorials on there. You really can find anything online these days.

I finished my makeup and speared gelled fingers through my hair. I was going for that carefully mussed look, the one that says I don’t mind getting dirty, but also screams ‘You want this!’

When I was happy with my hair, I anointed myself with a cacao and amber scent that made my senses tingle. I grabbed the jacket that matched the boots, and glanced around the room before sweeping the few items I’d used into a backpack and reaching for the door handle. Shoulders back, chin up. I looked amazing, and I knew it. Tonight was my night.

I walked down the stairs, and was nearly at the front door when my father yelled my name from the living room. “Liam!” I spun on one heel and cocked an eyebrow. “What the hell are you wearing?” he growled, looking me up and down. “You look ridiculous. Are you wearing makeup?” I nodded, smirking. “Boys don’t wear makeup! You look like a goddamn girl! Tell him, Margaret. Tell him he looks like one of those pansy sissy boys. I didn’t raise no goddamn pansy. Get back upstairs and wash your face.”

I reached for the handle behind, and swung the door open. “No,” I replied. I wasn’t wasting emotion on this argument. Tonight I was embracing myself, and anyone who didn’t like it could go screw themselves. I’d had enough of caring about other people’s opinions.

“If you walk out of here like that, you can forget about coming back,” he spat. I smiled. Goddamn predictable as always. Good thing I’d packed my shit and had somewhere else to stay.

“Don’t wait up,” I tossed over my shoulder as I sauntered down the drive. I ignored the blustering and smiled up at the evening sky. Oh yeah. Tonight was definitely the point of no return.

 

 

 

 

Cyberlove

Prompt: Go to a book you’re currently reading, and turn to page 56. On that page, go to the fourth complete sentence. That’s your prompt…at the end of your entry please list the title, author, and sentence.

This cracks me up. I followed the instructions and the sentence I got was ‘Was he there now?’ But you know what makes it so funny? It was preceded by so many more interesting sentences! *Facepalm*

‘Alone in my room, I could take off my pants – because fuck pants – sit on my bed in my briefs, and eat. My give-a-fucks were at level zero. And knowing Ian’s room was right down the hall didn’t make shit any better. Was he there now?’

*Laugh* See what I mean?

This book is the third one in the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell. The first one was Strong Signal, which I read in March and rated 4 stars. It featured a gamer who streamed on Twitch, and a soldier. It was an interesting read for me, because I had no knowledge of Twitch, and very little knowledge of gaming and streaming if I’m honest, and my husband started streaming on Twitch at about that same time. So yeah, I was quite fascinated by the insights into that world that my husband was entering.

The characters were really well developed, and Kai was fantastic. I loved him. He had these wonderfully extroverted traits, but also suffered from crippling social anxiety, to the point where he couldn’t even go to the supermarket. He hid behind his online persona, something I think many people online can relate to.

I must admit, I skipped the second book in the series. It featured another soldier, but seemed to deviate from the gaming world, which I found more interesting. The third book, Hard Wired, is back to the gaming. Cherry and Garvy are mods for Kai’s Twitch stream, so Kai and Garrett from the first book make a few appearances. That theme of hiding behind an online persona comes back – while Garvy is much the same online as he is IRL, Cherry is not like anyone expected. There’s a lot of soul searching going on, and I’m enjoying the book. So far it’s proving as good as the first.

‘Snow, tenderly caught by eddying breezes, swirled and spun in to and out of bright, lustrous shapes that gleamed against the emerald-blazoned black drape of sky and sparkled there for a moment, hanging, before settling gently to the soft, green-tufted plain with all the sickly sweetness of an over-written sentence.’ ~ To Reign In Hell, Steven Brust