Author Interview, Mysti Parker

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Author Interview #44, with fantasy romance novelist and choco-holic, Mysti Parker!

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Hi Mysti! Please describe yourself in 5 words:

Wife, mother, writer, reader, choco-holic.

Please share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Seyrenyas_Song

Serenya’s Song (Tallenmere, Book Two)

Jayden Ravenwing, a heartbroken wood-elf secret agent, has finally met his perfect match in Serenya, a beautiful half-elf married to the cruel Earl of Summerwind. But, an ancient evil may destroy any chance they have at love and all of Tallenmere unless Jayden can find a way to stop it.

Excerpt from Chapter 21:

Jayden

I’m hunting something in the pitch black forest. Thick fog flows along the ground like a river of clouds and shrouds its dark outline. I mirror its movements, slinking along the wet detritus. It stops. The bowstring buzzes against my fingers, eager to release its energy. A gust of wind clears the fog. I fire. The figure turns. Serenya’s pale blue eyes flare, then fade into nothing.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

I really don’t have a single favorite, but one of the best books I read recently was Domingo’s Angel, by Jenny Twist. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1:

The angel came forward into the shadow of the algarrobo tree and he realised that the halo was, in fact, hair — very long hair — falling in waves down beyond her shoulders and almost to her waist. It was exactly the colour of oranges that have dried on the tree. Her skin was so white it was almost blue and her eyes were so pale they had no colour at all. “How could they think she was a dead person?” he thought in a confused fashion. “She is obviously an angel.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

Writing is the art — the blood, sweat, tears, and emotion, unique to each author, spilling out onto the pages. Some days the words flow. Some days, they don’t. But in the end, you have created your own special work and can be proud of your accomplishment.

The publication process, and even more so marketing, in my experience, is the grunge work. That’s when writing starts to feel like a job. Just like writing, it’s not all bad, but you’re dependent on others now to validate your work with either accepting it or buying it. Unless you’re patient and persistent, it’ll flounder. It’s rather like raising a child and sending him or her out into the world. If you do it right, chances are he or she will succeed.

Great analogy ;)! What is your definition of “good writing”?

I know what good writing isn’t. It isn’t over-writing. It isn’t overly simplistic, either. It’s writing that flows so well, I don’t see the words anymore. I only see the story, and the author is pretty much invisible. He or she has simply become a vessel for the personalities and settings that come alive on the page.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Please don’t write in a vacuum. Get critique partners, or at least a good editor. I’ve read a few submissions for a publisher before, and it amazes me how many people send in what looks like first draft material.

Yes, tight editing gives the final touch. Please let us know your websites/blogs/etc:

My blog: Unwritten
Twitter: @MystiParker
Facebook Page
A Ranger’s Tale
Serenya’s Song
Goodreads Page

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wood elf

Much thanks to Mysti for stopping by. Check out Mysti’s blog, Unwritten, for excerpts/reviews/interviews, and more info about A Ranger’s Tale, the first in a series from the fantasy world of Tallenmere!

Poet Interview, Gordon Ramel

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Interview #45, with English poet, Gordon J.L.Ramel!

gordon_ramel

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Poet, philosopher, ecologist, almost human.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Oh Lord, she looks so beautiful to me;

how is it that so many fail to see

the glory and the wondrous majesty

of Nature in her wild diversity

and the beauty that is Earth’s eternally?

Share an excerpt of your favorite poet’s work (10-100 words):

I have too many favourite poems, as an Englishman I am a great fan of the romantic poets, especially Wordsworth and Tennyson, but also very fond of Blake, Thomas and Eliot. From US poets I love Frost, Dickinson and Poe, but this leaves out so many.

I love Blake/Dickinson/Poe myself! Did reading a poem first spark the desire to write poetry, or was it an experience?:

It was my mother reading Nursery Rhymes to me, and then hearing “The Man From Snowy River” by Banjo Paterson read aloud in primary school — it was magic…

What goal do you seek through your poetry?

To perform magic.

Please share your #1 tip for poets/writers:

Be truthful, be honest.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

www.ramel.org

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Much thanks to Gordon for stopping by!

+ GORDON’S BIO +

Gordon was born in England, raised in Australia and is an Ecologist by training, from Exeter University in the UK. For most of the last 12 years he has been working as a teacher of English or Science in schools in Bulgaria, Greece, Thailand and currently in a University in China.

Gordon has published poetry in various places since the beginning of this century. His poetry collection, The Whispering of the Leaves, can be purchased at Cafepress (this book is focused on Nature and Mankind and the interaction between the two). Other poems can be found at Ecology Info, The Hypertexts, and The Hexagon at Point & Circumference (this features poetry pubished in the print magazines The NeoVictorian/Cochlea and The Deronda Review).

Gordon is also the author of The Earthlife Web, originally uploaded in May 1995 (one of the first sites for home schoolers!).

P.S. Be sure to check out his epic poem, Tears of Kharnoon, on my 13-years-strong website, Dragonsinn.net.

Author Interview, Nipaporn Baldwin

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Author Interview #42, with Nipaporn Baldwin, who writes about space dragons (AKA original and unique fantasy + science fiction)!

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Hi Nipaporn! Please describe yourself in 5 words:

Dragon, Gamer, Italophile, Simplistic and Artist

Please share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Society On Da Run

(Nipaporn: Since I have so many stories, I can share a blurb made specifically for all the books in the series)

Blurb: Earth has seen many visitors, from space dragons colonizing the planet in Pre Cambrian times to intelligent insectoids. Follow the adventures of a wide cast of characters as they encounter the dragons of the Draconizica empire, and Ashuton Karrucci, the god of dragons going about his daily life in Italy. From a story about a small town ravaged by an airborn dragon virus, to a story about a cruel dragon king on a terraformed Mars, to the story of a girl pregnant with a Dragon god, these stories are not bound by the norms of Fantasy and Science Fiction genres.

Excerpt:

“When the world stops spinning and the people I’ll die I will think of her and wish I had pie.”

Wish I had pie.

This was the thought that lingered in Anjou Merkrai-Kidogo’s head. His French cheetah was thinking of her home on the Sarenghetti, and his dragonling was thinking about the strange beams of light coming down from the sky. The burning car’s speed was dawning into the hundreds, but the dragon in the sky were still chasing after them. With the Dragon were several small Winter Wyverns, all of them focusing their ice breath on the speeding car.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

* An excerpt from Ravens by George Dawes Green:

When they got back to the Tercel, Shaw said he was wide awake and could he drive? That was fine with Romeo. He got in on the passenger side, and they descended into the North Carolina piedmont. His ears popped; the air grew humid. He tilted his seat all the way back and looked up at the moon as it shredded in the pines. Somewhere after Elkin, NC, he let his eyes slip shut for just a second — and then the highway started to curve beneath him, and he felt himself spiraling slowly downward, into a bottomless slumber.

* An excerpt from The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis:

At first glance he was an unremarkable man, short and stout with greying hair and the drab clothes of a commoner. I could not see his face from my vantage two floors above, but I watched him recoil as he emerged from the carriage and his foot first met the cobblestone; he signaled for his cane and reached for the coachman’s arm. Even with these aids, he moved gingerly, haltingly through the sultry morning, and I thought, aghast, He is a sick, aging man – nothing more.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

In my experience, the writing and publication is always fun. It’s the marketing that I have a problem with. Because I have so many stories, it’s hard to market them, and being an unknown author it’s increasingly hard. I try hard not to give up, and almost did several times.

Yes, “give in, give up, or give it all you’ve got” ;)! What is your definition of “good writing”?

If it does not bore the hell out of me, it’s a good story. Most novels bore me, that is why I stick to short stories.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Get to know your readers and what they like and don’t like in a story and strive to be completely different. Do not be bound by clichés! If you have to write a vampire story, try writing about an android vampire fighting Ninjas after the Apocalypse. Spice it up, don’t be gray!

Yes, I personally favor originality over something that’s rehashed and/or forgettable. Please let us know your websites/blogs/etc:

Short Story blog (where stories are posted): http://dragonshortstories.wordpress.com/

Smashwords (where you can read current stories from TSODR): http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/thedragongod

The 700-page omnibus edition: http://www.amazon.com/Dragons-Cicadas-Society-Omnibus-ebook/dp/B006ZDQH0I/

And here are my social media links:

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Much thanks to Nipaporn for stopping by! Her short story blog has more info about her unique stories written in a non-conventional Fantasy and Science Fiction setting. While you’re there, check out her Facebook conversation story, titled “Kitty Kat Wants to Sell Moar Drugs.”

Interview, Matt Posner / Tales of Christmas Magic

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Author Interview #37, with multi-genre writer (and NYC teacher), Matt Posner!

This is a customized Q&A in line with the author’s latest eBook: “Tales of Christmas Magic.”

matt_posner

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[Q&A with Matt Posner / Tales of Christmas Magic (7 questions)]

Jess: I like how the collection presents the magic that features in School of the Ages (magic which is based on the mind and spirit). What was the inspiration for presenting magic this way (realistically in “our world”)?

posner_xmas

Matt: I have read a lot about magic and the paranormal. Although I was interested in the subject from childhood, I took up the study more systematically when I was 21 as a result of feeling turmoil in my life. Learning to read tarot and understand Hermeticism gave me some structure at a time when other things weren’t helping.

Shortly I discovered the writing of Colin Wilson, beginning with The Occult and moving on to various other similar books, like Mysteries, Poltergeist!, and Beyond the Occult, and from these I became aware of how many amazing phenomena there were in the world that could be incorporated into fiction.

At first I tried to put them into an epic fantasy novel, which was agented for a while in New York around 1993, but then I left the subject alone for a while. When it came time to return to writing about magic, I used all that I had studied and learned to create the School of the Ages magical system.

Jess: Epic fantasy is a great foundation ;) I thought the underlying theme(s) in the story “Goldberry vs. Santa Claus” were very smoothly handled. Incidentally, the characters featured on the cover are from this story. Any reason for this? :)

Matt: I consider this the centerpiece story of the collection. It’s the one that is most Christmas-themed and has the strongest dramatic tension. Having a teen girl magician fight Santa Claus makes a good blurb also. Using that story enables me to get the school (actually Toronto’s Casa Loma castle) and Santa on the cover. Adding to that, my cover artist Eric Henty found a girl on a stock photo site who looks perfect as Goldberry, and then a boy on the same site who looks perfect for Simon.

What luck: the resulting image is just great!

Jess: Your School of the Ages project contains a very unique blend of elements (ranging from history, to religion, spirituality, and education!). Does it get confusing at times or does working with these themes come very naturally to you as a writer?

Matt: It comes naturally to me because of my multicultural past. My parents socialized with Indian immigrants beginning when I was a small child, and I read Amar Chitra Katha comics about the Ramayana and other Indian mythology.

In high school, I focused on Spanish classes as much as English. In college, I took a course in ethnomusicology and listened to world music while getting my bachelor’s in Humanities. It was one of my favorite courses.

Years later, getting married to Julie, who is from India, really strongly activated my desire to know more about non-Western cultures. Working in yeshiva high schools caused me to build some Jewish cultural identity (what they call Yiddishkeit).

Over the last few years, I have repeatedly taught a college course called World Civilizations (shoutout to my students!) which caused me to reflect on the vast range of cultural heritages there are and fed me ideas. I taught some art history in college too. I’ve been to some of Europe’s greatest art museums, although not enough of them yet in my opinion, and not to mention the great ones in New York City, where I live. These things have only whetted my appetite for multiculturalism.

Jess: Speaking about multiculturalism — something that I (and many other readers) like about the STA series is how it is multiculturally-inclusive. How would you define multiculturalism (along with its strengths and disadvantages, to be more specific)?

Matt: I define multiculturalism as the view that the world is made up of many traditions, faiths, arts, languages, societies, and that all of them are interesting and have some way to contribute to the lives of other human beings. I want to write about the interaction of these cultures and I want to draw cool stuff from all of them to make the School of the Ages books distinctive.

I’ll give you an example. In Level Three’s Dream, the students go to Paris where they have an unexpected battle with a group of older students from Paris’ magic school, Citadel d’If. Some of them are fairly unsurprising French ruffians, based loosely on the gang in the original La Femme Nikita, but pumped up with magic powers. However, one is distinctive: Arnaud le Vampire is an Algerian Arab. I know from studying history about the long and uncomfortable connection between France and Algeria, which was so severe that it nearly caused a civil war in France, and I wanted to reflect this history by putting a French-speaking Algerian into the school. He’s not a typical undead vampire, either; he’s fully alive, about 18 years old, and has the abilities of a psychic vampire, who can drain your energy by staring at you. (Many people believe this type of vampire actually exists!) When he fights, Arnaud shouts the Takbir, an expression used by Muslims for both prayer and battle: “Allahu Akbar!”

There are loads of vampires in the books these days, but I feel sure that there are no others like mine, and that readers will be excited by Arnaud’s contradictions and want to read his future appearances in my narrative.

Jess: I wouldn’t doubt the existence of such vampires either :P. I enjoyed “The Sphinx” (the last story in the collection, written when Matt Posner was 16 and bored in Honors English!). What are some of the things you notice with regards to your writing at that age, and in the years thereafter?

Matt: When I go back to my much older writing, my juvenilia such as “The Sphinx,” I’m struck by the fact that my prose style — sentence construction and such — has not changed tremendously. That’s why you can read “The Sphinx” in the same book as stories I wrote in 2011. The themes and meaning are immature, but the quality of the prose is much the same.

Maybe I should feel bad that my style hasn’t advanced as much as my content has, but I’d rather say that I knew very long ago what kind of writer I wanted to be. The truth is that I wrote more fluidly and confidently then, when the troubles of the world and the brutal pressures of limited time to work didn’t distract me from my voice and ideas. I put this story into the collection for a lot of reasons, but one of them was to show that not only do I have it, but I always had it.

Like Lady Gaga, “I’m on the right track, baby. I was born this way.”

6. Excellent! Writers/creative types have to have confidence in their own work :) Please share your favorite excerpt from this collection:

How about this:

Santa Claus had stopped laughing and was now closing in on Simon, who was between them. “Out of the way, or I’ll feed you to Mrs. Claus,” he said, not very jovially. “She gains about ten pounds a year from eating children on the naughty list, you know.”
Tales of Christmas Magic, Matt Posner

7. Comment on writing versus teaching, in your experience (Matt is a teacher in NYC):

Teaching has made me a better writer in that I understand better what goes into literature structurally. I have gotten more out of teaching literature than having it taught to me, or studying writing in graduate school, where I found that my experience was more about politics and personality, both of which I wasn’t good at then. I use writing skills in teaching. The other day I needed a simple example of an ironic poem, so I wrote one myself and then put a fake author’s name on it*.

Writing is solitary, teaching very public, and I need to be public part of the time, or else I will become too self-centered; it’s the phenomenon of the only child at work there. All this said, I feel that if I could only do one of the two, I would much prefer to write. If I were suddenly wealthy enough to quit working a teaching job and focus on writing, I would still want to teach, but I would just be more selective about it: do less of it and exercise more control over the details of the job than I can at present. As a teacher, I work with special education students, who are needy in a lot of ways, and often, though not always, difficult. It’s important to me to feel I’m the kind of person who can love those who are hard to love and who can make a difference in the lives of those who are hard to help. I want to test myself that way and I want to prove to myself day by day that I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t think I should give up doing this, but I wouldn’t mind if I did it a little less…

* My Dog
by Alan Smithee

My dog smells sour.
My dog has fleas.
She barks at night.
On the floor she pees.
She’s the best dog
I ever had.
For how could such
A dog be bad?

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Now go check out some of Matt’s work(s) — after reading his eclectic bio!

Author Bio + Website Links:

Matt Posner is a writer and teacher from New York City. Originally from Miami, FL, Matt lives in Queens with Julie, his wife of more than ten years, and works in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Matt is also the Dean of School of the Ages, America’s greatest magic school, located on a secret island in New York Harbor, and is pleased to tell stories about its people in the five-book series School of the Ages, which will be published between 2010 and 2015.

As the child of classically trained musicians, Matt is a performing poet and percussionist with The Exploration Project, New York’s premier avant-garde multimedia club band, along with the painter Eric Henty and founding musician and impresario Scott Rifkin. Matt teaches high school English, with a fondness for special education students, and teaches world civilizations at Metropolitan College of New York. His interests include magic and the paranormal, literature, movies, history and culture, visual arts, world music, religion, photography, and professional wrestling history.

Website: www.schooloftheages.webs.com

Twitter | Facebook “School of the Ages Series” | Goodreads

Author Interview, George Straatman

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Author Interview #22, with fantasy author, George Straatman!

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Hi George! Please share a short excerpt and
blurb of your work (10-100 words):

Blurb:

The Converging: Closures in Blood is the concluding volume of George Straatman’s epic Converging horror trilogy. Populated by a cast of dark and richly detailed characters, Closures in Blood is a frenetic rollercoaster ride into the darkest depths of the Converging universe.

Excerpt:

The room was stifling and steeped in expectant tension. Beyond the open doorway, torrential rain pounded down on the teeming jungle, while howling wind bowed the massive trees as though they were little more than saplings. To the room’s two occupants, the monsoon was a distant event…something from a lesser reality of which they were not a part. Teacher and eager pupil, the two were naked, kneeling face to face at the centre of the small enclosure; attention riveted squarely upon each other.
The Converging: Closures in Blood, Chapter 1 (Dark Birth)

Is there one common theme that ties the three segments of the trilogy together?

This is first and foremost, a horror trilogy and its roots are fixed deep in the dark soil of the supernatural thriller genre, but the story transcends the genre to become more of an intense drama about one woman’s thirty-five year search for a degree of normalcy after the foundations of her life have been eradicated by cataclysm events. Elizabeth’s painful and often tragic journey is really a metaphor for perseverance and a sustained belief in the compelling power of hope. The horror elements merely serve as a vehicle through which this story is told.

How long did it take to complete the full Converging cycle?

The full cycle took twenty-five years to write from the first moment I took up a pen and began the first page of the original novel until the moment I decided that I was happy with the end product of Closures in Blood. The characters of the story become constant companions of sorts…who I’ve come to care about and develop an emotional attachment to.

Was there a single facet of this story that would stand out as the most difficult to write?

The segment of the story that dealt with the teenage runaway, Cassandra Jasic, was perhaps one of the most difficult that I’ve ever written. The scene in which she reveals the story of the abuse she suffered as a child was difficult to write…and equally difficult to read. Ultimately, horror is an emotional response and Cassandra Jasic’s hellish ordeal goes a long way toward justifying the depth of psychosis she demonstrates in the story. The tone of segments such as this one is critical — an author has to be attuned to the need for presenting this type of material in a way that does not make it gratuitous, or even worse, appears to condone the actions being depicted.

Are there any specific moral concepts contained within this final novel?

It would be difficult to write a two thousand page story without inculcating some personal philosophy into the fabric of the story. The story is violent and bloody, but beneath this, there resonates a subtle judgment on the nature of this violence. The story also holds an implied statement on the nature of seduction, and the way that an individual’s personal prejudices can ensnare them into accepting things that both dangerous and illogical.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Website: http://www.georgestraatman.com
GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3046802.George_Straatman

Much thanks to Mr. Straatman for being a guest today!