An interview with author T R Byron

You blog, you write short stories, you’re a novelist and a poet. Do you have a preference for a particular format? Do you find it hard to switch between them?
I usually have a general idea of where I’m going, but I usually don’t know exactly where the stories will take me. Blogging is a stress reliever for me. As for poetry, that is my biggest struggle. Staying structured makes me a little crazy.

How long have you been writing?
Since I was in grade school. I came across a few books I wrote as a child. They are horrible! But you could tell that I had a knack for putting stories together. I was in my late twenties when I really started writing novels and short stories. My first novel I wrote in twenty-four hours. I couldn’t sleep, the story wouldn’t let me get any rest until I had it all written down. That one book turned into a four book series. This was during my VC Andrews phase and that series really shows it.

What has been the hardest thing for you so far on your writing journey?
Probably believing in myself, in work, that it is good enough. Aside from the common issues with grammar and missing words, I tend to be a perfectionist, and am constantly editing trying to make it better.

What genres do you write in? Do you have a favourite?
Romance and erotica mostly. I love flawed characters with heart. If I had to choose, it would definitely be Romance.

Do you ever find it hard to admit that you write erotica, or to let close friends/family read your erotica?
Definitely. Most people think erotica is porn and cannot see the difference. They focus on the sex and nothing more. And then, of course, there’s that little flash I will see in their eyes where some people wonder if I’m just a tramp. If you write about it so openly, then you must be doing something dirty. What they fail to see is sex is as natural as breathing. If feel that if I’m going to write about love and romance, it’s a natural progression, and leaving the intimacy out downplays its importance.

So, can you explain the difference between porn and erotica, when it comes to writing/reading?
I see porn as having no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire. Anyone can do that. Plot isn’t required in Pornography, nor is the emotional connection between the main characters. The characters usually don’t grow emotionally, stay together, or even in some instances like one another. Readers of porn want to read about sex, plain and simple. Pornography’s concentration lays in the physical activity between the characters. You won’t find a happily-ever-after here, but do expect a wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Don’t assume the word choices will be nice or sensual either. They won’t be. They can get rather crude, distasteful and cringe-worthy, which all depends on your preference of what you want and prefer

The driving force behind Erotica is exploring a character’s sexual discovery. I see it as a romance. Sex is the common link between Erotica and Romance, but the outcome of the story can be completely different. Erotica can easily leave the door open to the characters staying together, or going their separate ways, while in romance the couple must come together by the end of the book. All Romances have a hero and heroine that strive to be together no matter what, the reader expects to root for both, and to have the happy conclusion. What set Romance and Erotica apart are the details in the sex scenes itself. My erotic scenes fall in the middle of Romance and Porn. The most important thing to me is making that emotional connection between my characters and reader, and letting my readers enjoy the journey with them as well.

Are there any difficulties particular to writing erotica? For instance, I find it hard to write erotica in first person because I end up feeling like I’m writing about my own experiences even if I’m not!
I’m like you there and usually write in third person. It allows me to step outside and visual the scene more clearly in my head as I write from my characters point of view. The most difficult for me was my first erotica novel, Distracting Duncan. I had this one character who used women, loved prostitutes and used his status to the fullest. I had to write a scene where he gets physical with the prostitute, and I struggled for weeks to write that one scene. I had to keep stepping away, but when I finally completed it, it made me hate that character, and that was the emotion I really needed my reader to hone in on.

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
I try to put a little comedy in my stories. I love to laugh. I don’t think I could write a real tale of horror.

Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
Yes. I am always looking for a good romance to read.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
People inspire me. I like getting to know people, what makes them tick, those little things that make them smile. I get my ideas everywhere. I find myself watching television or movies and thinking, I wouldn’t have written it that way. I love good dialogue, and will often write certain phrases in a notebook to use for my characters.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
I’ve read everything by VC Andrews and that is what really started me on my writing path. I am a huge fan of Linda Lael Miller and Maggie Shayne. Miller has great romances, a lot of them centered around cowboys. Maggie Shayne does supernatural. I like that even her darker characters have some endearing qualities.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Slow down and visualize the scene. In the beginning, I had a tendency to rush through just to get the story out. When I came to Writing.com, that’s when I really learned to slow the scene and work on painting a picture so the reader could catch a glimpse of what was happening.

What is your purpose in writing? Do you aspire to be published?
Being published is the dream. I even went so far as to pay $1500 for an editor who was supposed to shop my book around. After a year, and minimal editing, they sent my manuscript back. It was a good lesson. I’ve tried for years to find an agent, sending in manuscripts. Finally, last year, I decided to put my books out there on CreateSpace. Mostly family bought them, but I’ll never forget seeing my book in print.

What’s your favourite piece of your own writing?
My novel, A Perfect Fit. My main character has a lot of me in her. I think she’s the stronger, more outgoing version of me.

Anna flew out of the Boutique on cloud nine, ready to burst. In her excitement, she plowed right into someone on the street. Their hard figure was as unmovable as a brick wall. Her eyes focused on a chest covered in a light brown T-shirt. The man caught her at the elbow, preventing her from stumbling to the ground. When she looked up into his face, her knees almost buckled and her heart pounded at an erratic pace. Those eyes she knew so well looked down at her, and Nolan smiled for a change.

“Where’s the fire?”

Anna swallowed the hard lump in her throat. The mere sight of him, mixed with the feel of those strong hands holding onto her sent her pulse racing as she fought for control.

“Sorry. Guess I didn’t see you.” She couldn’t let that smile and those intoxicating dark eyes deceive her again. She refused to let him into her heart so he could take advantage of her emotions, not to mention her eager body. Their eyes met and locked, making Anna powerless to look away, even though she knew she should.

“That’s obvious. What are you doing in this part of town?” The softness in his eyes disappeared. The coldness returned while he continued to stare at her. One eyebrow lifted as he waited for her to respond. “Checking up on me or you just couldn’t stay away?”

“Try again,” she said taking a step back. Anna steeled her spine and stood tall as irritation flooded her. “If you must know I was offered a job, not that it’s any of your business.” The quick anger thankfully hardened her voice. This man was nothing but trouble, and trouble she didn’t need.

“So you are trying to get close to me, honey,” he said, moving closer.

Again with that word! The endearment rattled her mind and began to break away all her defenses, not that she had many when it came to him. The fact that he presumed she was following him galled her and reinforced Anna’s opinion about his massive ego. He did nothing more than irritate the hell out of her, knew it and enjoyed it.

“I’m not your honey, so don’t say it again. For your information, I don’t spend my days wondering where you are and what you’re doing.”

A Perfect Fit by T R Byron

Do you do anything in particular to promote your published works?
I did start a facebook page, and I had a few giveaways for my books, hoping that I would get some objective reviews from it, but sadly, nothing happened. I find it hard to try and promote myself, and I know I seriously need to look into doing that. I’ve considered donating a few of my books to my local library, but haven’t yet.

Is there a third book in the Endurance series, and when can we expect it to be available?
Books three and four are halfway complete. I started a big edit of Bride 2 Be, the third book in the series, and am hoping to finally finish it by the end of the year so I can complete book four.

You can find the first two books in T R Byron’s Endurance series, A Perfect Fit and Megan’s Man at her Amazon profile.

An interview with author S Jade Castleton

You describe yourself as ‘a novelist who is yet to finish a novel’. What’s stopping you?
Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure this out for YEARS. I think it comes down to three main things:

  1. I have this irrational fear that once I finish and/or publish something I’ll never be able to modify or add anything, and I hate that thought (generally because of point 2 below)
  2. I like writing my characters’ lives, so I just keep going. Generally each novel has a plot but I’m in no hurry to actually bring it to an end. And I can be found adding on short stories even while the novel itself is languishing.
  3. I write for myself. Means I’m not all hot and bothered about actually publishing anything and therefore I don’t have any pressure on me to finish.

Having said all that I’ve got one novel in the process of being finished so that it can be published. It’s been with a writing coach who is the only other person to have read it in its 21 years of life. Great feedback, and good tips. Does mean huge amounts of extra ‘life’ being cut, but I’ve almost come to terms with that. The published story is for the public, but I’ve still got the ‘real’ story for me.

A lot of authors publish extra chapters or short stories to accompany a novel, usually as freebies on their websites. This can be appreciated by fans. Have you considered doing this with your related short stories and/or cut content? It might help you accept that the story doesn’t really need to end with being published. Also, some authors publish novellas that are like extended epilogues, especially where there are multiple books set in the same world and the characters from multiple books can be featured in a single novella.
Ah yes, I’ve kind of done that. I have a piece from Watching Clouds and a piece from another novel linked under the Characters part of my website, and I’ve actually got Fire Red Leaf there too – under Snippets. I suspect I will put other things up there, almost like ‘cutting room floor’ pieces. I really should add a few more things but I have been entirely slack with the website (and even the blog).

Where do you get the ideas for your novels and short stories?
Dreams, mostly—for novels anyway. And, given some of the contents of my novels, that probably should worry me a bit. News items or even a single name have also inspired stories. Lately, I’ve been saving prompts on Pinterest but none yet has grown into something.

I generally only do short stories when I’m writing for a contest and, in that case, it’s the prompt that gives me the starting framework. But, I’ll only write if some sort of inspiration comes to me.

How much research do you do for your writing? 
Starting out? None. I need to get the story out before I figure out what might be wrong or right in terms of reality. However, for a story I’m serious about (as in publishing serious) then I’ll research – places, laws, food, weather facts. And in fact I love doing research; I’m a knowledge/trivia geek. I’m even learning Welsh via Duolingo.com because I’ve a story set in Wales! And I’ve been learning about famous Japanese swords lately because of a story that’s sort of set there but also isn’t. A lot of my novels are set in vague places and/or times so that lets me be lazy with regards to research. However, the novel I’m looking to publish is set in Chicago and talks a lot about the city. There’s no way that I can’t be serious about getting information right. I’m actually spending a month there early next year to write and research.

You’re a self-titled ‘pantser’, yet you do research. Do you store your information online or are you old school and have binders or notebooks filled with handwritten notes? How do you organise all the details and ideas?
Oh man, notebooks, notebooks, notebooks. One in every bag/handbag, one on my bedside table, one in drawers beside my couch etc. Can get a little messy when I’ve got sequential notes but in multiple notebooks! And the one in the bag I take to work is often filled out while on the train, so the handwriting can get tough to read. I also use little pieces of paper (often when at work when I daren’t bring out my notebook). I shove those in my glasses case so they can safely get home. Sometimes they get transferred to a notebook, sometimes they just get stuff in the notebook. Early on I used to use hardcover 1B5s to write my notes – though more for a particular novel than just general notes. I do like that way of keeping things together but I’ve not really kept it up. Sometimes notes are just on A4 and put into the binder that carries the rest of the story. For Watching Clouds I do actually have a research/notes binder that was split into notes, ideas, stuff for characters, dates etc. But no matter the notes these days, they’re pretty much always handwritten.

Of course, none of that means I plan. I don’t, though I love the idea of planning and I have tried several times but never really pulled it off.

Why did you choose to set your novel in Chicago? Why not a New Zealand city that would have been far easier and cheaper for you to research?
Because I fell in love with Chicago when I was there as an exchange student in 1993. And back then I probably also thought it would be a little more vague. You know, things can happen there that never make the news but which would here. I didn’t want to deal with all that. Also…. Owen’s age is a key factor in the story. 16 is the legal age here for sex whereas it’s 17 in Illinois. I could have made Owen even younger but thought that he’d be able to handle things at 16 (and get away with them) but not at 15. 15 was too young.

When I returned to Chicago in 2011 and then again in 2014 the city was so much more awesome, so I also didn’t have any trouble making my story leap forward from actually being set in the 90s.

Home will always be home, but Chicago has a big chunk of my heart.

As a New Zealander, what are the difficulties of writing for an international audience?
Well, when I read about the huge successes of New Zealand authors with international audiences (mostly the US, admittedly) I come to the conclusion there aren’t many difficulties. And definitely not with the rise of self-publishing.

However, language can be an issue. I know that my story set in Chicago will need to get the ‘u’ removed from ‘colour’ etc so as to be ‘truly’ set in the US, and of course the slang in that story is all very much Kiwi at the moment. My writing coach asked where my MC was from because he’s obviously not American, due to his speech/slang. Well, at that time he was only from Arizona but obviously that wasn’t going to wash. Fortunately, with a major plot black-hole now fixed I actually can get him to have lived in New Zealand much of his life and so I won’t have to change the slang. Kind of relieved about that, but I’ll still need to change the spelling.

Tell me about your passion for reading and writing gay characters.
I don’t consciously think of my characters as gay and I don’t write them as that. They’re just normal guys who happen to love other guys. Actually, I wonder why it’s even considered a genre.

My passion, though? When I look back over all the stories I’ve written with gay characters, it all seems to have started in about 1995. This was the year I met Antinous in Roman Art at university. Aside from the statue we were shown being so amazingly beautiful, the tragic tale of his life with the Emperor Hadrian really got my attention. I started looking for gay fiction (they were kept separate back then!) and read what I could. They tended to swap between being fantasy (female writers) and about the serious AIDS issues of the 80s and 90s (male writers). I don’t really remember any of them being simply about a guy who loved another guy. There was always something else.

Anyway, I just started writing gay characters (and my own version of Antinous’ life with Hadrian) and kept going. I do have some f/m stories but 90% now are with gay characters. It’s just what I write. But it wasn’t until I joined Writing.com a few years ago and found that people liked my stories and found others who wrote them that I really felt like I wasn’t doing something weird.

I like that gay fiction now (most of the time, in any case) treats the characters as normal, just going about their lives. If only some people didn’t think ‘porn’ when hearing I write gay fiction!

‘What caught your attention?’

Gale turned. ‘Huh?’

‘Josh,’ Eric clarified. ‘I guess he was cute but were the others ugly?’

‘You’re seriously asking?’ Gale got out. ‘Looks aren’t everything.’

‘Aren’t they, beauty queen?’

‘Shut up,’ Gale growled and glared out the passenger window.

Eric grinned and remained quiet.

‘His smile actually,’ Gale muttered at the glass.

‘Not the crap bowling?’

Gale turned his gaze on his friend. ‘If I was attracted by crap bowling I’d have gotten myself a harem.’

Eric snorted. ‘Well, worked in your favour, didn’t it? And the fact it was something you could correct… Though,’ he added in a drawl, ‘I didn’t notice you offering advice to anyone else.’

Gale simply kept up the glare.

Eric bit the inside of his cheek. ‘His smile, huh?’

Gale sighed, leaned his head back. ‘Yeah. I just happened to look up when he was smiling at something or someone.’ He closed his eyes. ‘Bugger, I’m screwed.’

He felt a hand touch his arm briefly. ‘Hardly the first or last, mate,’ Eric told him.

‘Great pep talk, cheers.’

Eric laughed. ‘And so the smile egged you on?’

‘No, it was the bowling that did that.’ Gale smiled briefly. ‘Like you said, worked in my favour.’

‘Helped by your own bowling.’

Gale snorted. ‘Made me legit, I guess.’

Eric cracked more laughter. ‘You made his legit.’

‘Well, as I told you, he listened to me,’ Gale said.

‘Ah so… a cute smile and a pair of ears.’

‘Do you know how dirty you just made that sound?’ Gale grinned as he saw the flush rise. ‘And look at this, home. We can stop the inquisition.’

‘Fucking A,’ Eric said with a grin. He applied the handbrake. ‘You know I’ve got your back.’

‘Jesus, Eric, I’m not gonna do anything stupid.’

‘Yeah well,’ Eric said. ‘That’s debatable but I meant the boyfriend. Now I know there is one, I really don’t think things are fully right there.’

Gale considered his friend, was pretty darn sure Eric wasn’t joking about this. Damn, had he really missed something? He swallowed. ‘I’m not going to steal anyone from anyone,’ he said. ‘That’s not my intention. If I contact him that’ll be clear.’

‘I hope so,’ Eric said. ‘But I meant what I said, you know.’

‘I know and I’m grateful.’ Gale got out of the car, then leaned back in. ‘You know you’re just like Morgan.’

‘Yeah, that thought crossed my mind too,’ Eric said wryly. ‘Wing man for the gay guy.’

Gale snorted and swung the door closed, but Eric saw him grin as he walked to the front door.

– Love is Complicated by S Jade Castleton

Many of your characters are male, yet you are female. What are the challenges of writing from a perspective you’re not familiar with?
I’ve never really thought of challenges, to be honest. I write my characters almost without specific thought to their gender, even though I know what it is. I do sometimes pick up where a response or action may be too ‘girly’ but it doesn’t happen much. If I need to check something then I go to my friend, the Internet, mostly to online manga. I’ve found that ‘seeing’ helps clarify things I might be struggling to write correctly. But, I’ve been writing male characters all my life so I don’t feel weird doing so. Even if I have a dream where the character is female, when the idea is fleshed out the character invariably becomes male.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Well, I collect series. Does that make those authors favourites? If so, I have a whole lot of them across many genres! I’m more likely to admit to favourite books, than authors, but I do consider S.E. Hinton as an inspiring author. I read The Outsiders back in about 1988 and ever since I’ve been addicted to first person narrators. But I also loved the way she told that tale, both serious and funny. There’s one particular section of the book that can still make me instantly tear up.

What is your purpose in writing?
My purpose is selfish: I write to keep calm and sane. I write only when inspired but if I haven’t written anything fresh in a fortnight or so I get anxious.

I do aspire to be published, despite what I’ve said. But I’m not really sure why. It’s definitely not to make money and it’s not even really to have others read my things. I guess it’s more so I can say ‘I’ve published a book. See, writing isn’t a waste of time.’ I want to feel vindicated for all those years people’s eyes have glazed over when I’ve told them that I write.

You mention in your blog that none of your family have read your work. Do you think you’ll ever break that barrier between real life and your pseudonym? If so, when? What about friends and other people in real life?
Eek, I need to update that particular bit obviously as my parents and brother/sister know at least know I write gay fiction. My brother’s read a (non gay fiction) short story and my mum has in fact read a couple of my gay fiction short stories. No one’s batted an eye lid about it, and mum’s been good on editing too. Has never read my novels though and may not until they’re published. Could be because they’re darker, they have sex etc. It’s probably just me. I do have one friend who has read short stories and with whom I’ve talked about Watching Clouds. Was great to chat to but she has just retired so that link has been cut just a little. However, I’m writing a YA paranormal novel (parts thereof are actually on WDC) which she is keen to read the entirety of and so eggs me to finish.

As for breaking the barrier between real-life and pseudonym. No, not really. As daft as it is, all my gay fiction will be under the pseudonym. I don’t want it linked with ‘me’ and my friends who may just all freak out. Silly fear, I guess, but I also want to publish non gay fiction and I don’t want the two mixed up.

You can read more of Jade’s work, and her blog, at her website: www.sjadecastleton.com

Mid year book freak out

I found this quiz over at Maxxesbooktopia and thought it’d be fun to give it a go.

Just to be clear, I’ve excluded all re-reads. So this only covers books read for the first time in 2017.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2017?
Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle.

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It’s tells the story of Lou, who moves to a small, isolated town in the Rocky Mountains and joins the dive rescue team.  There’s pretty much everything you could want in a book – suspense, action, romance, humour…  This book has it all.  The humour was what made it a five star read in the end I think.  The rest gave it depth and made it a great read, but the humour elevated it above other books I’ve read.

Best sequel of 2017 so far?
I’m going to have to go with Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell. This is the third book in the Cyberlove series, and I wrote some more about it in a previous blog post – Cyberlove.

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It features two gamers, and although they know each other online (and we met their online entities in the first book of the series), this book is where they meet in real life for the first time. It’s definitely worth reading the first book in the series before reading this one. I’ll be honest though, I skipped the second book in the series. If you’ve read it, let me know how it was.

Anyway, the two main characters are wonderfully crafted, and the book has depth. Despite that, I found it a really easy read and flew through it. The characters lingered with me though, as all good characters do.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to read?
Ooh, really tricky.  I assume by new release it doesn’t mean ones that are releasing later this year.  See, if I’m waiting for it, I usually read it straight away.  So I don’t have any that jump out.  However, I went for a browse (yep, while writing this post) and realised that a novella epilogue to Katie Ruggle’s Search and Rescue Series was released earlier this year.

After the End (Search and Rescue) by [Ruggle, Katie]

It’s actually free on Amazon, so saying I ‘bought’ it is a bit misleading, but I’ve downloaded it, and am looking forward to reading it.  Apparently it gives an intro to her Rocky Mountain K9 Unit series too, so hopefully it will lead me into another good series.

Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017?
That would have to be The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream by Christina Dodd.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Merida Falcon is a world-class beauty, a trophy wife who seems to have it all…except she has no voice. For nine bitter years, she lived to serve her wealthy elderly husband. On his death, Merida vanishes…and reappears in Virtue Falls with a new name, a new look, and a plot to take revenge on the man who loved her, betrayed her and walked away, leaving her silent, abused and bound to an old man’s obsession.

I just hope I can get it in electronic format. I would read the earlier books in the series while I waited (nope, haven’t read any of them) but Amazon doesn’t seem to have any of the ebooks.  Does anyone know why?

Biggest disappointment?
That would definitely be Just One Touch, the fifth book in Maya Banks’ Slow Burn series.

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I’ve already written a review of this book so I won’t repeat all my opinions, but wow. A one star book that came with so much hype, and followed some great books earlier in the series.

Biggest surprise?
Hmm… I think I’m going to go with Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg.

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The blurb doesn’t really grab me, and I’m still not entirely sure what made me decide to give it a go. I had already read good books by the author, so there was that, and it had good reviews. Maybe that was enough. Anyway, it was well worth the read. The best part was definitely the humour. I love a book that makes me laugh without trying too hard or losing the connection between the characters. This was well done.

Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?
That would definitely have to be Katie Ruggle, whose Search and Rescue series I really enjoyed. Her first book was actually published last year, but I didn’t find it until this year. Interestingly, she released all six books (four full length novels and two novellas) in quick succession so that ‘readers didn’t have to wait too long to find out what happened next.’ Yes! I’m on board with that! Ha ha!

Newest fictional crush?
Ooh, I think I’m going to have to go with Zach from Dianne Duvall’s Immortal Guardian’s series. We get glimpses of Zach and I couldn’t wait to read his story which we finally get in Night Unbound.

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Zach is strong, both physically and mentally. He does what he thinks is right, regardless of what others think and he’s definitely got that mysterious vibe going for him. But ultimately, he won me over when the big badass sat on the roof with Ami, eating lollipops.

Newest favourite character?
I think that has to be Kai Bannon, from Strong Signal. That’s the first book in the Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell.

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Kai is a wonderful mix of contrasts – somewhat of an exhibitionist, and yet suffering from crippling social anxiety.  I just loved him.

Book that made you cry?
Hmm… I’m a little embarrassed to admit there’s more than one! Okay, first one is Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake.

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There’s the death of a secondary character that hits one of the main characters really hard, plus some really emotional scenes.  Definitely a tearjerker.

Okay, second one is Unforgiven by Ruth Clampett.

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This book comes with a trigger warning for a reason.  Jason is suffering serious trauma as a result of childhood abuse, and his breakdown is just heartbreaking.  He truly reaches rock bottom, and it’s so hard to read.  I challenge you to read it without shedding a tear.

Okay, and my final one for this question is Logan’s Need by Sloane Kennedy.

Logan's Need (The Escort #3)

Again, this one features the death of a secondary character which hits both main characters really hard.  As the story goes on, we learn more and more about the character who died, and there are some truly bittersweet moments that make you wish that character was able to play a more current role in the story.

Book that made you happy?
Interesting question! Let me see… I’ve already mentioned Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle and Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg. Both had great humour. What else? How about Be True by Stella Starling.

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Trevor was such a fun character, and this was a really easy read without too much angst and darkness.

Favourite book to movie adaption you’ve seen this year
Ooh, tough. I don’t watch many movies. Erm… Maybe Allegiant? Did I see that this year or last? The BFG? I think that was last year too. Erm… I guess you could count Beauty and the Beast, but I honestly didn’t think it was that great, so not sure I wanna count it as a ‘favourite’. I know it’s not a movie, but I’ve just started watching Game of Thrones from season one, so I’m gonna count that.

Favourite review you’ve written this year?
I guess that’d have to be The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher.

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Here’s what I wrote:
Grady is a white water rafting guide, and his cousin invites him to join up with his company. On his first trip in the new job, Grady’s raft hits a submerged log, killing a man and putting his cousin in a coma.
Grady is overwhelmed with guilt, and currently waiting to hear if his name is cleared or if he is going to jail. In the meantime, he is visiting his cousin in hospital and trying desperately just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Micah has experience with comas, and enjoys reading to coma patients. When he meets Grady, he offers to help him by answering some questions, talking things through and generally being a friend. But Micah works at a leather bar frequented by most of the guys that work at Grady’s job. The last thing Grady needs is for any of those dominant men to find out he has a submissive streak. No way can he work with them once they know that, they’ll never respect him.

This book was emotionally intense, and I got sucked in by both the main characters. They both have secrets and issues, which makes for a really well balanced book. Both characters grew and evolved over the course of the book, and both had to learn to accept themselves as they were and fight through their obstacles. Neither one was magically ‘healed’ of their issues, rather they had to learn to embrace themselves and figure out how to make their relationship work with those issues.

I’m not into the BDSM scene, but these characters are not heavily into it either. They’re more on the fringe of it. There are some scenes, but the actual relationship between the two men is very equal (which I liked). I think the next book will be heavier on that side of things, as the main character in the next book has already admitted to being a sadist. Whether the book is accurate about such things, I can’t say, you’ll have to form your own opinion.

Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year?
Does that mean the one with the most beautiful cover? If that’s the case then, maybe it’d be Wondering Sight by Melissa McShane.

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What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
I don’t really have a ‘to be read’ pile at the moment, but one thing I hate is having half-finished books. Currently I have two books that are sitting half-finished and I am determined to get them read. The first is Between These Sheets by Devon McCormack.

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This book has some great characters, some great scenes, but oh my god, so much sex! Every now and then I get a bit fed up of reading all the sex and take a break from the book. Need to just finish it and be done with it.

The other book is Play of Passion by Nalini Singh.

Play of Passion: Book 9 (Psy-Challenging) by [Singh, Nalini]

This is book 9 of the Psy-Changeling series, and it’s a fantastic series. I know it gets better too, because I went to the Auckland Writing Festival and heard Nalini read from what was then a new release in the series, but I haven’t got to it yet. I have a signed copy of the first book in this series too. So yes, I will read this. I just have to be in the mood for it.

Ha, this quiz took me way longer to finish than I thought it would. I’d love to hear your answers. Tag me if you do the quiz so I can see what you’ve been reading!

An interview with author Tina Weaver

“Mom, can I have an egg?” Jemma called to her mother.

“Whatever for, Child?” A voice asked from somewhere deep in the dark house.

“The man on the radio said it was hot enough to fry an egg and I want to try it.” Jemma sat on the milk crate next to the screen door. There was no answer. She couldn’t see into the house. On hot days like this her Ma kept every drape closed up tight. Even pinned closed in some cases. She’d asked her Ma once why she did it.

“I open everything up to cool the house down in the morning and then close it up to keep it as cool as I can all day.” She’d shooed Jemma out the door, then shut it behind her.

The screen door squealed open on its worn out spring. Ma stood there with a brown egg in her hand. “Come on. We’re gonna see if that weather man was right.”

Jemma jumped up to follow her.

She marched down the walk to the smooth sidewalk in front of the house. Jemma smiled remembering the city men had been there last fall and put a new one along the whole block.

Ma tucked her flowered dress under her knees. “I don’t want to get any egg splatterin’s on me.” She wiped the sweat from her forehead.

“Do you really think it’s as hot as a fryin’ pan on this sidewalk?” Jemma wore her rubber thongs so the heat didn’t bother her feet. She squatted beside her mother and touched the smooth cement. “It’s hot alright.”

“Whacha doin’ Jemma?” Ben stopped his bike next to the curb. He talked funny and not just because he had a lollipop in his mouth. He talked funny all the time. Ma said he had a hairlip. Jemma had looked at the scar on his lip and didn’t see no hair on it. Ma was wrong. she thought.

“Benjamin, we’re going to see if it’s hot enough to fry an egg on this here cement.” Ma motioned for him to join them. He dropped the bike on the curb and leaped to the grass on the opposite side of the sidewalk and knelt down across from Jemma and Ma…..
It was the 50’s by Tina Weaver

Tell us about your journey to publishing your first novel. How long did it take? What were the stumbling blocks?
After writing my manuscript I worried it wasn’t a good story. My family loved it, but they love everything I write. I reached out to an English teacher, through a friend, asking her to read my manuscript and tell me if she thought it was any good. My friend came back with, “Our book club wants to read your MS as a project.” WOW! I printed 9 copies with the instruction, “Get your red pens and pencils out. Mark up anything you don’t like or don’t understand.” I sent them off and all November I chewed my nails wondering what they thought. My friend came back to tell me she loved it. Then I went to their meeting and the response was amazing. They all loved it. Some read it all in one sitting, others took a few days and one lady said she read portions of it to her husband. They ALL loved it and thought it should be a movie.
Next I tried to find an agent/publisher. I sent off a token amount of cover letters and queries with no response. NOT ONE. Then I contacted writers on one of my Facebook groups and was directed to an indi publisher.
Here was the process. I sent a one page pitch, longer synopsis, bio and promotion pitch. They asked to read chapter 1, then asked for chapter 2, then asked for 3 & 4, then the rest of the novel. They loved the story and offered me a contract. The editing process began. We trimmed about 15K words, maybe a few more.
I picked a cover and they sent samples. I wasn’t thrilled. At a conference, I sat in on a cover class. I learned a lot and went back to change my cover design. Best thing ever. Never be afraid to change. Its eyecatching and a cover guys aren’t afraid to be holding.

What lessons did you learn along the way?
It was my first dip into the publishing world. It wasn’t horrible, but I learned a lot.
1) Don’t pay for anything. I didn’t.
2) Ask for references. If they have only published a couple books you might think twice.
3) Make sure you know what you are expected to do and what they are going to do. Get it in writing.
4) If you love your cover art, work out before publishing to pay for it. I was lucky to get mine at a very reasonable rate.
Through the 2 years I pushed my own book and practically only saw results when I did the work. I booked my own signing gigs, I ordered my own post cards, and finally got book marks. I bought my own books from them. They paid shipping, but I paid a higher price than what they bought them for. I guess that’s business, get a piece where you can.
My 2 year contract was up in January 2017. I did nothing. I had no idea what happened. They took the book off Amazon. But I still saw it there. I didn’t realize some one was selling my used books.
I talked to my publishers. We parted amicably. They wanted me to resign, but I said, I did most of the pushing. It was my contacts that bought most of the books. They told me they understood but wanted me to know that after going to two indi publisher conferences, they were told my book out performed any book that was out there. They were asked again and again how they did it. ME. I was the one pushing my book. I can’t sell Tupperware, Thirty-one bags or any of those type businesses. I can talk to almost anyone about my book. Once its back on Amazon under my name, I’m going to push it even harder.

You describe yourself as a plotter. What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of this approach?
I am a plotter when I start writing seriously.
Sometimes I just start writing with an idea and write until the muse stops then go and figure out what needs fixing.
I don’t write character pages in detail. I write a general idea and go back to fill in when I want to remember something important. I have plot points I write to keep things moving. They change as I write, but they are reference points. I’m not tied to them, but they are helpful.

Tell me about your experiences with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Would you recommend NaNoWriMo to other authors?
I have completed 3 and started 2 I didn’t finish. I wrote my first novel doing the NANO. It was helpful for me to get the story out on “paper” and keep writing. I spent the following January writing the next 50,000+ words to finish the novel.
I did the NaNo challenge on Writing.com (3 times) and it helped to keep me focused.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in?
I don’t know. Literary Fiction? I tell stories about people and their families. Mostly about relationships.

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
I have written short stories in Syfy and Horror just to try it. I stay away from poetry. I’d like to try Fantasy some day.

Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
Most times. I love thrillers, mysteries, but I don’t have the mind to write them. You need to have a detective mind, I have an idea for one, some day. I have read all genres, but find Scyfy and Horror don’t keep my interest. I read Stephen King’s first 4 books and IT when he first wrote them.. After that I found them to be too formulaic to read.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
This is a hard one. I used to have stories flowing through my brain. Then I discovered they needed to be more than just a random idea. They needed a beginning, middle and end. That’s when it got a little harder.
My novel came to me when I read a portion of a memoir. The incident had an effect on me and had me questioning WHY? Why would an entire town turn on one of their own? I remembered reading my favorite story by Shelly Jackson, The Lottery. I took the story in a different direction, but the story drove me to be told. I couldn’t write fast enough.
It was published in 2014. Here is my problem. I’m searching for a story that moves me the same way. One that drives me to tell it and I’m not finding it. The ones I’ve started don’t push me to tell it. I feel if I’m not excited about it, how do I make others want to read it? I often feel as though I’m a One-Hit-Wonder.

Do you have a favorite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
I have too many to list here. All for different reasons. Sometimes its their stories, genre, the way they hooked me or the series has elements I love.
I would classify Christine Feehan as my favorite author in this decade. I’ve loved her Vampire series as much as I did Ann Rice. She knows how to build a world, and create characters that stay true to their world through multiple books. She has witch books, and the Mind Games series about enhanced warriors. If you want to read good writing with depth that lasts through the many series she writes, try her out. She is my shining example of a great prolific writer.
M.Night Shyamalan is a fantastic story teller. His movie Devil had me in twists. The foretelling at the beginning, all the characters are intertwined and the end twist had me in awe. I love his style. While I’m not a horror fan, this movie hooked me good. Mostly because of how he weaves a character into a story with finesse.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Years ago I read Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict book. This was the start of formulating my writing for real. A short book but a powerful tool to follow.
Then I joined Writing.com in 2007. Now you may think this is an advertisement for the site, but I have to tell you as a very novice writer with great stories in my mind, Wdc has been my teacher.
No one person stands out, but a collective number of people read and reviewed my posts then directed me to take a Reviewer’s class. I did and I just discovered I’m on an accredited reviewers list. Others reviewed my stories. Some were very critical and others critiqued my work with positive advice. I put on my armor and took their advice, edited, cut and reworked until it was good. I try not to ever be MARRIED to my work. I have to be willing to cut to be better. There are some things I won’t change, if it changes the story-line or feel. The publisher wanted me to cut the slang/dialect spoken by my characters. I held my guns. I told her the father and sons spoke the dialect and she wanted to improve herself so tried to correct them. How could she if they all spoke perfect English? You have to know when to hold and when to fold.

What is your purpose in writing?
At first I wrote to share with my family. After a few years writing and winning awards on Writing.com I thought, “Maybe someone besides my family would read and PAY for my stories.” I submitted a story and it was picked up and published. I’ve had 5 other stories published. I haven’t had much luck with some of the monthly anthologies I’ve seen in Barnes & Nobel, and I haven’t tried any magazines. I continue to post stories and win a few contests on Writing.com. I want to find another story that people would be willing to read. My followers ask me when I’m going to publish another book. I’m scared it won’t be as good.

You can check out more of Tina Weaver’s work at her Writing.com portfolio, or you can read her blog here on WordPress.

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