Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Corsets & Crossbones summary and book cover reveal

I've been waiting almost six years for this.  I was 18 when I wrote this book.  Eventually, I published it on FictionPress under the name The Dead Man's Tale, and people followed it, reviewed it, liked it.  But I knew I had to redo it if I wanted it to be published.  For real.  So I worked hard, changed the title, and can say with pride that it's finished and ready.

As always, thank you for your support.  Thanks to my editor and book cover designer, Renee.  Tell me what you think!

At twenty years old, Brooke Cunningham should already be married to a wealthy older man of means, position, and power.  Instead, she's refusing rouge and powder, sassing potential suitors, and staring out her window at the sea, wishing for something more.  Enter Captain Charlie Colt, a branded pirate with charm dripping from his lips the way rubies drip from Brooke's earrings.  Charlie seeks revenge on those who forced him into this life of crime and Brooke wants to escape from a life she has labeled as mundane.  When Brooke finds an old treasure map, Charlie recognizes its value, and they set off on an adventure in order to acquire it.  But they aren't the only ones in search of the treasure. If they aren't careful, Brooke and Charlie could face the bottom of the sea, if the gallows don't claim them first.
If you're interested in getting a free copy, please send me an email with the subject C&C FREE COPY with a promise to review it on Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Goodreads, etc. and a link of a review you left for either FOUR SIDES OF A TRIANGLE and/or AWAKEN.  If you haven't reviewed either book but still want a copy of C&C, leave a review (links below) and send me the link to it, and I'll be happy to get you one right away.

AWAKEN on Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads
FOUR SIDES OF A TRIANGLE on Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An Unlikely Goddess Trailer

Hello everyone!

I am pleased to be hosting Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar's new book trailer for her new novel An Unlikely Goddess.  Click below to check the trailer out here, and buy it here:  http://www.amazon.com/An-Unlikely-Goddess-Mohanalakshmi-Rajakumar-ebook/dp/B00FVSP82Q
My website: www.mohanalakshmi.com
Twitter: @moha_Doha

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happily Ever After...

So sorry about the delay in updates guys.  But you know that super-secret secret I couldn't really tell anyone?

Well, the time has come for me to reveal it: I am married.  Like, for real.  And I've been married for a little over a week.

With the families we come from, the people (EX) we're dealing with, and the friends with their opinions, we wanted to make our wedding about what really counts: him and me.  So we eloped to Hawaii.  More specifically, we got married on Makapu'u Beach in Oahu.  It was absolutely beautiful.  As much as we wanted our families and friends there, it was perfect with just the two of us.

He was more nervous than I was, and he was a tad more emotional too.

I did my hair and makeup myself (the day we flew in was the day of our wedding so we were scrambling around to get our license, to get ready, to check in to our hotel) and my dress is a Victoria's Secret goddess-style maxi-dress I found on eBay brand new for $70.  We both wore sandals.

The ceremony was not too long, not too short (roughly 15 minutes), and it was spiritual, with both God and Hawaiin traditions (including the blowing of the conch, leis, and shells).  We have just under 200 pictures and a video of the ceremony.  We walked down the aisle together, we exchanged rings, he picked me up, we toasted in champagne glasses. 

At one point, a seal could be seen in the ocean behind us by himself - a sight our reverend had never seen before.  In Hawaiin custom, it's extremely good luck to see a turtle or a seal on your wedding day.

My wedding was perfect.  I am so incredibly lucky to have met my soul mate, the love of my life, and I get to share my life and grow old with him.  I wish all of you the same happiness that I'm going through.  :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The concept of friends

Something very important happened last night.  I can't reveal anything until Tuesday, but my friends noticed something, I told them what was happening, and they jumped into action, planning a last-minute party.

We went to Disneyland, danced at the Mad Tea Party, went on a couple of rides, and got some ice cream.

Listen, I'm not a big deal.  I promise.  But time is a very important to me, so if I make time for you, you're special to me.  My two best friends are the only people outside my family (and I include my boyfriend in that) that I seek to spend time with.  Yes, they're my best friends (Well, my boyfriend is my bestest friend, but my girls are my girls.).

And it's important to have best friends.  Because, to me, best friends are like boyfriends: you trust them, you share intimate parts of you, you hang out for long periods of time.  My friends are the best, and I appreciate them more than I can put into words.

I don't have a lot of friends.  My circle is relatively small.  But the ones I've surrounded myself are stellar, and they inspire me to be a better person, just like my boyfriend.  And I've never been a better person than I am today.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An actual website

So I didn't update the blog yesterday with an interview... because I posted it to my website.  Like, with a domain name and everything.  Feel free to check it out heathercmyers.com  It has my writings, a quick bio page, and tons of interviews.  I just posted an interview with popular self-published author, Krista Lakes and have sent interview questions (after they agreed!) to Erin Bowman (author of Taken), Marissa Meyer (author of The Lunar Chronicles), and more.

I wanted a website that looked professional and organized, as well as unique to my taste.  Thanks to the insistence of my boyfriend, we came up with heathercmyers.com  That picture is actually mine I took while I was in Hawaii.

Please check it out, tell me what you think.  If you're interested in being interviewed, feel free to fill out the form and send it to me.

I sincerely hope you enjoy it because it's something I'm really proud of.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


After much thought, I've decided to post Stranger in its entirety on Fictionpress.  You can find it here.  I plan to update it with one chapter every day (weekends might be excluded depending on what I'm doing).  But I need your help.  My publisher thinks there's more work to be done (and I agree), so instead of employing the use of a beta reader, I decided to ask for your critiques.  Please read the story and tell me your ideas.  I can't promise I'll listen to all of them, but I'll love reading all of them!

Also, I've had so much fun with the Aspiring Writers Series that I've decided to expand it into next month.  I've secured interviews with success, amazing and talented chick lit/romance authors who will tell us their methods of writing, more about their books, and give advice of publishing.  Some are self-published while others are more traditional, so we'll get a balance of advice.

So, if you've been thinking about being interviewed no matter WHO YOU ARE or WHAT YOU WRITE, please send me an email with the subject line Interview, and I'll be happy to send you some questions.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series #10: A.S. Thompson

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a southern California native who loves living. And I don’t mean that in the hippie sense, I mean that I try to make the most of every day. I've had the opportunity to test many different career paths and even live out of state but eventually I landed on the right career and made my way back to California- at least for the foreseeable future. 

I love traveling and being active: trying new sports, testing my fears, watching new movies, seeing new bands- anything. Honestly, if it sounds remotely fun, I’m in. I always seem to have my hands full with different projects, throw in writing, and I wonder where all my time goes and how I still manage to be as active as I am. 

That’s probably good for now.

What type of books do you like to read? What type if books do you like to write?
Is it bad to admit that I spend more time watching movies than I do reading? Well, when I do read, the topics are across the board. Of course I check out other horror authors, I like to see what the latest zombie developments are, action is always a safe bet, but I also dabble in how-to stuff, well-being material, old school literature and some other random topics. 

I enjoy writing about an array of subjects and genres. I have two horror/zombie books out right now called “The Longest Road” and sequel “The Change” with a third in the works. I’m definitely not restricted to zombies or survival horror, though. I have side stories I’m building plots for right now, some involving apocalyptic themes, a few comedies and sci-fi, others just action hero-type stories. Most of these involve elements of physical struggle, psychological challenges, and tend to be dark in nature...maybe I’m trying to bring back the tragedy, maybe I have a dark mind, maybe it’s just a phase or maybe it’s something else- I’m not sure. If I find out, I’ll let you know. 

What are your top 3 books? What are your top 3 authors?
Top three books?! And authors?! Eesh. If I have to choose, I’d say Paradise Lost, The Iliad/Odyssey and Sherlock Holmes are some of my favorite books. I realize those are across the board, but there is something about each of those that I enjoy reading and find myself coming back to. The mystery, in-depth plots and originality are unreal.

I won’t be lame and say that my favorite authors are the authors of the aforementioned. So, in an effort to divulge something new, I’d say some favorite authors of mine are Brian Keene, Z.A. Recht and Dean Koontz. They are all horror authors, but I appreciate their individual fortes in story-telling.

What inspires you to write?
A combination of my dreams and life life events. I might wake up from an intense dream and be like “that would make for a kick-ass story!” then jot some notes down and build it up over time. Or I might be driving down the coast or in the mountains snowboarding and a thought will come to me out of nowhere and I’ll see where the story takes me. There are, on occasion, times where I’m just tired of seeing the same stuff in Hollywood and I want to create something unique. Conversely, I might go see an original film that is truly inspiring. Just depends. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
I have never thought about this, but I would probably say I am both. For the most part, I’ll write down a very generic plot to give myself some structure, then sit at the computer and let the creative juices flow. I never had any formal education in writing (beyond college papers) so I just let it happen naturally. Similarly to when I write music, I like some structure, but I don't like to feel restricted by norms or "standards." I like having the freedom to test the waters and make something new. So, by nature, my stuff might not be for everyone and I'm cool with that.

What time of day do you write?
Anytime. I might wake up in the middle of the night after a thought hits me and make my way to the computer to write down a particular sequence. Or I will make some breakfast and get ready for a long day of typing. Generally, I’ll just write until I feel burned out. I seem to always hit a point where I can tell when it’s time to call it quits.

What tool do you normally write with? (A pen, computer, phone, etc.)
Most of my writing takes place on the computer- let's be honest it's just easier. But there are many occasions when I bust out a pen and paper and jot down thoughts. I do a lot of traveling, so often times it's easier to make notes or write out a particular plot/action sequence on some scratch paper. Having records and files stored on a hard drive, accessible whenever I want it, makes life and writing so much easier. But I will say that staring at a computer screen for hours on end, sucks.

This is semi-off topic, but how did writer's do it back in the day? No auto-saving, no backspace, no white out. They had to make it count when the pen hit the paper. That's commendable.

Have you ever dealt with writer's block? If so, how did you combat it?
I think there are degrees of writer's block. Have I ever been completely stuck on trying make a new story or outline? No, not really (knock on wood). But I have gotten stuck sometimes when, say, I write an action sequence and it just seems dull. When that happens, I'll leave it for the time being and move on to a different part of the story or go work out and get my mind off it. Eventually, I work through it, get the right idea and write it down. 

*Throwing things or threatening your computer don't seem to be effective.

Please tell us a little bit about your work.
As I mentioned above, I have two books out right now. The first is called "The Longest Road" and the sequel is entitled "The Change." I am in the process of writing the third book in the series, that I am hoping to have released by the end of the year. At its base genre these are zombie books, but they are about so much more than that. 

The story follows five cousins surviving after the outbreak of an unknown disease (I know, I know, the premise of almost every zombie book, but trust me it's not the same). Picking up a few months after their own forced departure, the cousins travel from the east coast to California where there is a rumored safe haven. But the story is about more than just battles with the dead. I try to focus on elements of hope, humanity, love and the strength we get from our close friends and family. Furthermore, the fact that survival is a mental game, meaning brawn and preparedness don't always beat out the ability to make quick, calculated decisions. Also, I attempt to convey how much we rely on others even when we might think we are better off alone. Last, I wanted to show the lengths at which a person will go to protect his or her own and the grey area in moral decisions people make when living in a world ruled by anarchy. 

As the story continues into the second and subsequent novels, the reader learns more about the infection that caused the pandemic. New characters are introduced, some good, some straight up despicable, and some who have yet to reveal their true nature. The cousins are tested at every turn, and their deep-rooted familial bond and love for one another might not be strong enough as their lives are ripped apart again and again. 

Life is no longer about surviving, though. With new information and allies, the cousins find themselves in the middle of a global conspiracy. Their actions, and in some instances inaction, could prove detrimental on a global scale. 

I'll leave it at that for now. Feel free to follow this link to my amazon page, where you can see full synopses and view other reader's thoughts. 


Where did you get your idea for this story?
How this story came to be is pretty interesting and never at all anticipated. The concept started when I was in a film class in college. We were tasked to write a treatment (kind of like a screenplay) about anything we wanted. Some people chose rom-coms, others action stuff, but me, I wanted to do zombies. As if it hasn't been suggested enough, I'm a HUGE zombie fan. 

Anyway, the story elements were created then and there- at least the main premise of cousins surviving through a zombie apocalypse. Over the years I took that treatment and went with it. I added things, took away certain sequences, ultimately designing a story that I thought would be interesting and new. Eventually, the A+ treatment (I don't remember what grade I really got) was converted into a novel that became "The Longest Road." 

What challenges have you faced with writing this story?
Staring at a computer screen for hours on end. I really don't like that. At all.

But to give a better answer and probably geared more toward the question being asked, my biggest challenge has been the characters. By nature, zombie novels and movies don't have a lot of people who "make it". Like any horror story, people die. So, when making mine it is about maintaining a healthy story line but incorporating surprises that the reader won't see coming. More than that, about making these surprises original, well-timed and stunning. I took a similar approach to Game of Thrones, where just because someone is a lead character doesn't mean he/she is safe and won't be killed off.

Who is your favorite character to write?
Taking away the mains, I really enjoy writing about the character Nick Stronghead. He isn't introduced until the second book, but his presence is something that stands out and his character traits will continue to resonate throughout the story. Nick is a Native American man, who before the outbreak and leading into it, was a Sheriff whose life was always centered around helping people. He does come from a troubled past, and throughout the story much is revealed about his life and motivations. But what is known upfront is that Nick is all about serving his fellow man; from search and rescue operations to creating a safe haven in upstate Washington. He is a man filled with invaluable wisdom and at his core, a good man. He is the manifestation of hope and determination to the people who call him leader. His spirituality, never forced, is inspiring and grounding. Finally, his Sioux background has been incredibly beneficial in terms of survival practices. Like everyone, Nick has his flaws, but despite them, Nick is the guy you would want on your side- in battle or times of peace.

What are you currently reading?
I am not currently reading anything because I just finished the novel "Jordan's Brains" by a friend and fellow zombie lover J. Cornell Michel. Michel's story is incredibly unique and takes place from inside the mind of a mental patient. Jordan has been waiting for the zombie apocalypse to come and is so excited when it does. But the costs and everything Jordan knows about zombies might be too much or radically different. 

Jordan's Brains is tough to write about it without giving away major plot points, but if anyone is even remotely interested in zombies, check it out. I recently posted my review of it on amazon, so you can hear my full thoughts there. 

Why zombies?  What about the horror genre inspires you to write?
Why zombies? That is a good question. I love all things horror, but when it comes to zombies there are way more frightening elements that a character has to worry about. First is survival, obviously, but it is more than just staying away from un-dead mouths. A person living in a zombie infested world has to be weary of the basics: food, water and shelter. Often times there are no services left, no power, no going to a grocery store to get food for the week. You are on your own. Life is brought back to a more primal state of being and you have to fend for your yourself. Then throw in zombies on top of scavenging for those basics and life gets exponentially tougher. 

There is something to be said about the ability to survive, to make decisions that could affect the safety of both yourself and loved ones. Do we stay put and ride it out? Do we hit the road and stay moving? Each choice has long term ramifications that could ultimately lead toward your demise or success. On top of making those decisions, most people have never taken a life, but when dealing with zombies, could you imagine having to gun down your friends and family after they have been infected? Or how about a child who the misfortune of being bitten? What about turning away a hungry mouth?

The worst of it might just being living with yourself after surviving it all; dealing with the psychological torment of life during and after. In other words, survivor's guilt.

I get inspired by the people who have the fortitude to move forward despite terrible loss and grief- the mentally strong. The people who want to live, but, and this is a big point, the ones who aren't willing to sacrifice their good human nature to do so. The ones who are still willing to help others in need; to see the good in others. I understand that in these particular survival situations tough choices need to be made, and you can't save everyone, but I love reading books and watching movies about characters who are driven by a general good and aren't willing to let their lives be dictated by self desires or self-serving needs.

If you don't mind, what is Severed Press and what have you learned from posting your work there?
Severed Press is an Australian publishing company who specializes in horror. "The Longest Road" was originally published by a smaller independent publishing company, but due to unfortunate circumstances that company closed. Not long after, I sent my work to Severed Press and signed with them. I have had a great experience with them and their ability to promote my works has been incredibly beneficial. My only qualm is that they are based out of Australia so they aren't exactly a quick phone call or drive away. That being said our communication, though delayed by time zones, has been generally efficient and fluid. We are able to contact one another via email and get answers/updates. 

Since I'm still relatively new with them I'm still learning the tricks and ways of the published world and don't have any "wisdom" to divulge. When it comes to writing in general, I have learned that I have to be involved on social media, I have to do events, and be available to fans and critics. 

All in all, it's been a fun ride! 

Finally, what are the ingredients to your favorite book? (A dose of action, a splash of romance, etc.)
Hmm, the ingredients to my favorite book…I would have to say, and simply put, action, comedy of situations and dialogue, surprises in plot, and an ending that I didn't see coming. Romance is fun to have and makes for an excellent motivator. Suspesion of disbelief is almost standard when writing about zombies but for my favorite books realism is key.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series #9: Christina Lee

Hey guys.  So today, we're going to do something different today.  I'm interviewing an author, yes, but instead of answering general writing questions, we're going to focus on the New Adult subgenre.  Don't know what that is?  Read on to find out!
1) What is the industry's official definition of new adult? How is it similar or different to yours?  I don’t think there is an official definition. Writers, industry professionals who are market savvy, and avid readers of the category are probably most clear on what it is—and what’s it’s becoming. In my opinion, it’s the combination of: The characters ages (roughly 18-26), the voice of the characters (older than YA, younger than a mature adult, usually written in first person POV) and the conflicts they’re faced with (self-discovery, first-time independence, sexuality—all in the setting of college, military, career, etc.). 

2) Did you classify your novel as new adult or did someone else? I did. I set out to write a New Adult novel after reading tons and falling in love with this category of books.

3) What are some of the myths of new adult and how are they debunked? Some of the myths I’ve come across are: That NA is just sexed up YA. That it’s all sexy contemporary romance, with shirtless guys on the cover. You can debunk the myths by reading NA across all the different genres (contemporary romance, sci-fi, paranormal, dystopian). You’ll find varying degrees of emotional and physical connection—it’s out there, just look for it.

4) Is age really a deciding factor in the labeling of new adult? Could you have 17, 18 year old protagonists dealing with adult/dark themes and still label it new adult? Of course, there’s cross-over in every category of books. Examples: Colleen Hoover’s HOPELESS is considered New Adult because of the issues in the book, even though the MC’s are in high school. And Trish Doller’s SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL is classified as Young Adult, even though the characters are well past high school.

5) Do you think new adult as a subgenre will spark a trend and the industry will have an onslaught of new adult releases or do you think it's more of a passing trend? The onslaught of New Releases has already begun. The major publishing houses have recognized it. New Adult is pretty much here to stay.

6) Finally, please tell us a little bit about your work and where we can preorder it. My New Adult contemporary romance ALL OF YOU releases on September 17th from InterMix/Penguin.  You can view the blurb and order information on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

7) Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Mother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina lives near Cleveland with her two favorite guys. She's addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything.
New Adult/Young Adult author. NA Contemporary Romance, ALL OF YOU, releases September with Penguin. BEFORE YOU BREAK in 2014. Repped by Sara Megibow. 
Also the creator of Tags-n-Stones.com jewelry.
You can find Christina's blog here.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series #8: Wendy Higgins

Does that name appear familiar to you?  Yes, no, maybe?  Well, it should!  Wendy Higgins is the author of the Sweet Trilogy and the upcoming self-published novel, See Me*.  I happened to follow her on twitter (because I'm nearly finished with Sweet Evil) and she followed back!  Not only that, but she responds to tweets and is happy to talk about anything!  I'm incredibly honored she took the time to be interviewed (since I threw many questions at her) and would recommend her writing to everyone!

The Sweet Trilogy grapples with the concept of good and evil.  How did you come up with such a universal theme and make it so unique?
~ "Good and Evil" are never black and white for me. I've always believed we're each capable of both. Life is hard enough, and then our vices are always pulling us down. I thought it'd be interesting to show a girl who has that inherent goodness and bad urges, just like humans, only on a more severe level. At the time I hadn't read any other YA angel novels, so I thought it'd be a fun subject to explore. 

On your site, you discuss writing the first book as bits and fitting them all together like a puzzle.  How was it like writing that way, and do you still do it when writing today?
~ I try not to write like that anymore because it requires heavy rewriting, which is very time consuming. That first book came to me in such a passionate rush - I had no choice but to write it as it came to me, in fear that I'd lose it all if I didn't! But subsequent books have been a steadier process. I've had to think and plot and plan ahead. Honestly, I don't have a method. Every book is different, and I just go with it!

You posted your story on inkpop before publishing it.  Many of my readers have accounts on FictionPress, and it's also where I got my start.  What is your personal opinion on posting stories online as opposed to writing a book and trying to get it published without using platforms like that?  What did you learn from your experience there?
~ It really depends. Some people don't need to post/share online because they have reading friends or writing groups who can critique them. I didn't have that, so I found people online who could give me feedback, and I'd give them feedback in return. It was an extraordinary experience, and I'm still close friends with many of the people I met on Inkpop. Working on your project "babies" together, and sharing the joys and struggles of writing/publishing is a bonding experience.

Did you learn anything about your personal beliefs tackling themes like good and evil, God, and religion?  (My book, AWAKEN, tackles similar themes, meshing biblical themes and mythology together, and the more I wrote, the more I discovered about my own personal beliefs which had originally been pretty generic.  It's actually why I started reading your book, because I love the different way writers interpret things like redemption, being damned, forgiveness, etc.) 
~ I've always been a spiritual person, so I didn't shy away from the Bible angle and mentioning God/Lucifer. It just seemed natural to me to bring those elements into a story about angels and demons. I worried that people would be turned off by it, but most seem to enjoy the lore. I think every person in the entire world asks themselves questions about life and creation at some point. I don't think a fictional book can change anyone's core beliefs, but there's no harm in pondering things.

Who is your favorite character to write and why?
~ Anna is the best friend I wish I'd had. It's sweet and endearing to be in her mind. But my favorite scenes by far are the ones with Kaidan in them. He really makes me push myself as a writer - trying to balance the sensual tension he brings - that love/hate relationship we have with him. I have to reveal just enough of what he's thinking/feeling, but not too much. He's a challenge.

What is your favorite scene you wrote for any of the books in the trilogy and why?
~ Chapter 17 - First Sacrifice - when Kai says "no." That was the very first scene that came to me when I first imagined this angel/demon girl and the son of Lust who she'd fall for. I felt this passionate connection between them right away. I had no idea where the scene would take place (I originally imagined them on the couch at her apartment!) or at what point of the story it would happen, but I knew it would be the pivotal scene in the book - the big moment when everything changes.

What inspires you to write?
~ Life.  And an active imagination that's always craving something.

How do you deal with writer's block?
~ I allow myself to take a step back. Do some beta reading for friends. Then try to dive back in. It's hard. I've had to force myself to write one slow word at a time.

What are you reading now?
~ Legend by Marie Lu

How does it feel concluding a trilogy?  Should we expect to see the characters again?
~ It feels amazing, and so much more emotional than I expected. I'm already brainstorming possible novellas I can write with the Sweet characters!

You have a new YA book entitled See Me.  Since I'm Irish, I obviously can't wait to read it.  Could you please tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it?  Can we preorder it anywhere?
~ It's not available for preorder since it's a self-publication. It'll hopefully go live on October first!  :)
~ See Me is set in Ireland, but it doesn't really deal with modern Irish people. It's fantastical creatures, so their language is more like Ireland a few hundred years ago, lol. I've always been obsessed with Ireland, even though I've never been (I'm dying to go!)  I knew I wanted to write a story set there, so I started researching the mythology of the country and voila!  I got an idea.  I wanted to write something very different from my Sweet books. I wanted to color outside the lines and conventions of usual YA fantasy, and I think I did, but it's definitely different. Not everyone will love it, but I hope everyone will have fun with it.

Any advice on how to make something stereotypically unsexy (like leprechauns) into dashing, believable heroes readers will legitimately fall in love with?  Was it difficult or easier than you expected? 
~ If you focus on building your characters individually, bringing out every nuance of their personality, and playing off the emotions of your main character, the feelings will *hopefully* come to life for the reader, regardless of what type of creature you're dealing with.

From my experience with your writing, you tend to write things that wouldn't normally fall within the category of what's trending in YA.  Does it scare you to be left of center, or does it thrill you that your work is so unique?
~ I'm not kidding when I say that I don't think of trends AT ALL when I'm writing.  I write what's fun for me.  I write what I think is sexy.  If I think an idea is intriguing, I run with it and think about category, etc, afterward.  It's both thrilling and frightening to be out of the norm, though.  The publisher took a big chance on the Sweet books. They weren't willing to put it in hardback or anything like that, and I think they've been surprised by the positive reception.  I know I certainly have!  :)

Please describe your daily writing process.
~ I get nothing done in the summer.  But during the school year I run my daughter to elementary school and my son to preschool. I then dash off to write/edit as much as possible during the few childfree hours I have.  After that I have to wait until evening when the kids are in bed to work again.  Unfortunately I need complete quiet to write, and I have to be alone.  It's hard to get quiet time around here, lol.  

How did you acquire your agent?
~ Through the online query slush pile.

What did it feel like, getting the news that you would be a published author?
~ It was beyond thrilling.  I bawled my eyes out from the disbelief and joy.  Being published was a childhood dream come true.

Do you have anything you're working on now?
~ I'm finishing up the final revision of See Me this month, and then I have a new story idea that I'd love to begin working on!  It's a YA contemporary.  We'll see if the inspiration stays with me or leaves. Or if something else raises its head.  I'm up for anything

Why did you decide to self-publish?
~ My publisher passed on my Irish fantasy titled See Me, and I figured most of the other publishers would think it's too risky, as well. I have several great writing friends who are enjoying self-publishing success, so I wasn't afraid of those waters. I've been there through their experiences, and I'm excited to give it a try myself!

How much creative license did you get in terms of editing, book cover, and release dates?
~ Through my traditional publisher (HarperTeen) I am given a lot of freedom when it comes to editing. My editor and I make a good team as far as seeing eye to eye on the story content.  But in terms of book cover and release date, I have no say-so in any of that.  My editor will generally show me the covers to see if I like them, but if I don't it's not like they're going to spend the money to change them, you know? The editorial and design teams at the publisher work their magic as best they can.

How do you plan on marketing it?
~ Well, I'm lucky to already have a fan base from my Sweet Trilogy, so I don't have to start from scratch like many self-published authors.  I don't plan to market any differently than I already am.  My plan is to be available to readers - to interact and have fun with them. Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook are wonderful platforms for self-published authors to get the word out about their books.

Would you self-publish again?
~ Yes.  It's been nice to have the control.  And I love being able to get a book out in months rather than years.  I hate making people wait.  

Was there tension between your publishing house and yourself once they passed and you decided to take the self-publishing route?
~ Not at all, actually. The only contacts I have at the publishing house are my editor and my marketing girl. It's a professional relationship, and lots of books get turned down. My editor felt bad that she couldn't get See Me through acquisitions. She tried. All is well, and she said she'd be happy to read anything else that I write, especially if it's contemporary.

What about the story did you feel needed to be told? It's incredibly inspiring that despite rejection, you're pushing on and saying, "No, this is a good story.  I believe people will benefit from reading this.  I want to get this out there in my own way."
~ It's just a neat story for me because it's unconventional and different. It was so incredibly fun to write. I got lost in the magic and fantasy, and my beta readers adored it. They've been pushing me to get it out there for two years now. It took a whole year before my agent would even sub it.  (She was  wary for many of the same reasons as the publisher was, lol.)  

What are major differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing?  Where does your agent fit into all of this?
~ Normally an agent doesn't go on board with a self-publication, except to handle foreign rights, etc. But since my agent helped me revise and subbed it for me, I felt like she should get a cut from the self-publication profits. 
~ The major differences are that traditional publishing can take 12-24 months, while self-publication is more like 3-6 months. Traditional publishers can get books on shelves of B&N and The Book Depository, while self-published authors cannot. Self-published authors have to search for hours on stock image sites to find possible covers, and then pay someone to design it, or do it themselves (this is fun, but tiring - there are positives and negatives to both sides of the cover creation.)  With traditional publishing you get a whole editing crew and several editing passes. This is awesome.  I love the editing process. Self-published authors need to have critique partners to give feedback and help edit. Then you can either pay someone to do line edits, or you can put it out there as is. (I'm having mine edited by a brilliant editing friend.)  I got lucky because I have friends willing to help me out for free at every stage of the process!
The biggest difference is the pay.  I get 6% on paperback sales and 25% ebook sales from my traditional publisher.  As a self published author I'll get 70% of the ebook royalties!  And I'm not sure what percentages are for paperback, but I know I'll be getting close to $2 per paperback sale vs. $.50 that I get from traditional paperback sales. 
It's crazy.  Writing is not about the money, but it will be nice to financially contribute to my family.  Especially since I spend tons of money on swag and mailings each year (a good chunk of my income goes right back to fans, as do the incomes of many authors, and we don't get paid nearly as much as people assume, unfortunately.) 
So, as you can see there are good and bad elements on both sides of publishing. Nothing is going to be perfect, and no two authors' experiences are the same.

Thanks for having me, Heather!


About Wendy
After earning a bachelors in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford, Wendy taught high school English until becoming a mommy. Writing Young Adult (YA) stories gives her the opportunity to delve into the ambiguities of those pivotal, daunting, and exciting years before adulthood.
She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and son. Sweet Evil is her debut novel.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series #7: Steve Bargdill

Let's jump right into it, shall we?

But first, if you know any writer - any writer at all - interested in being interviewed, please have them email me at heather.myers@ymail.com with the subject INTERVIEW and I'd be happy to do so for you.

Please tell us a little about yourself (if you can provide a picture, feel free to do so).
Originally, I’m from New Knoxville, Ohio. A small little town. My graduating class numbered 18, but I’ve bounced around since then. I’ve lived in Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, and now in Laramie, Wyoming. This August begins my first year as a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. That’s after twenty-two years of working towards my bachelor’s degree. So I’m pretty excited.
I’ve worked a lot of different jobs. Truck driving, pizza delivery, gas station attendant, newspaper reporter, marketing consultant for a real estate company. Always though in the background there has been writing. My wife tells the story of our first Nebraska winter. The heat went out, and she tells people I was down in the basement on the computer typing away with fingerless gloves and a winter coat on. I don’t remember that all—just that it was cold.
What type of books do you like to read?
Well, this is a tough question. When I was in high school I mainly read science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and my mom’s romance novels. I even wrote a letter to Roseanne Bittner. She wrote back and was incredibly supportive. I was a weird kid.
Today, I read about anything that comes along my way. Last year I read Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Crazy thick book that was recommended to me. I also read Lolita last year, which was just mind-blowing. Lolita had been on my to-read list for a while, because everyone said I had to read it. I had a difficult time wanting to read it because of its subject matter. Very glad I read it though.
Anything by Patricia A. McKillip—I think I’ve read all of her books. She kind of delves into Russian folklore, which is pretty cool.
Crow by Ted Hughes was also mind blowing. Never thought I could get into epic poetry, and I would say to anyone who doesn’t like to read poetry, they should still read Crow.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

I could go on. But, really, I don’t think I have a type. If it has words, and it was recommended by a friend or it catches my fancy at the library, I read it.
What type of books do you like to write?
The Wasteland Series is about a man dealing with grief after his wife died of cancer. Breath: An American Story is about the American dream gone horribly wrong. Currently, I’m working on The Yellow Mountains of God about a pastor who shoots an eighty-three year old man, and Banana Sandwich about a bi-polar pizza delivery driver who lives in her van.
All of these stories have strong character. They delve into the psyche of the human soul. That sounds like I’m full of myself, but what makes a person tick, what makes a person a person? How does a person relate to his or her environment?
I wrote this short story years ago: Neighborhood Mums. It’s for sale on Amazon right now, but in a few weeks I’ll be posting it to Wattpad for free. But it’s about this incredibly racist guy who lives in an incredibly multi-cultural neighborhood, and how does he deal with that? How does he deal with knowing who he is, and yet having to interact with all of these different people on a day to day basis?
Even The Dead Must Be Carried—a flash story I posted to Wattpad—it’s about a guy who steals a pair of shoes off of a man ready to be shot to death. Who does that kind of thing?
Well, we do. And that’s what I attempt to explore in my writing. I don’t think I get it right all the time, but it’s an attempt.
Beyond that, I really want to entertain. I want to write a book that the reader comes away from going, “Wow!” I want to make people cry. I want to make them laugh. I want to write books that show the readers a good time.
What are your top 3 books?  What are your top 3 authors?
These are such unfair questions. If you ask me this question a few weeks from now, a few days from now, I’ll give you totally different answers.

But right now, top three books:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Top three authors:
Zadie Smith, oh how I aspire to her level of writing!
Ursula Guin – I love her Earthsea series and wish I could create a fantasy world like that.
Amitav Ghosh –even though I didn’t grow up Indian or British, Shadow Lines really reminded me of my twenties.
Real quick, I’d like to add Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi, but off the top of my head I can’t remember who wrote it.

What inspires you to write?
Again, writing has always been a part of my life. When I told my parents that my wife and I were returning to college, that we were majoring in English, my dad asked what the heck we were going to do: correct each other’s’ grammar? My brother-in-law asked if we had enough education to be able to spell our names’ correctly.
I have to admit, both comments were pretty funny. But stories weave through every aspect of life. Stories are a part of our very being. Understanding what has been written, what is being written, that sheds light on our own circumstances. Writing is a way for me to understand my life and the lives of those around me.
Wasteland was inspired by a very dark period in my own personal life. Breath was inspired by the town I grew up in, how people dealt with economic and personal downfalls. How people even rise up against those downfalls.
Each story I write has its own inspiration. My current work in progress—Banana Sandwich—inspired by all the weird stuff I’ve seen delivering pizzas.
But writing itself, there is nothing about it [the act of writing] that inspires me to tell these stories. A lot of days, it’s sitting down at the keyboard and punching word after word. It can be monotonous sometimes, the act of writing. It’s hard work, and sacrifice. Losing sleep, getting up early or staying up late or sometimes both. Ignoring my wife, my kids, to tell a story I believe in. A story that I trust. A story that has always been there, in the back of my head, itching to get out.
It’s not inspiration. It’s a I just have to. I’m lucky that I do have such a supportive immediate family. My extended family—my mom and dad, my in-laws, they’re supportive in their own way. When I put out my short anthology Color of Hope—I make fun of it, calling it my e-pamphlet—my sister-in-law was the first person to congratulate me. I’m lucky because people put up with me and put up with my idiosyncrasy.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
It depends on the story. Wasteland was extensively plotted. Banana Sandwich is pure seat of the pants work.
I think, or at least it has been my experience, that the story dictates how it is to be written. It’s weird that I have included this bit of mysticism too, because in the past I have always always plotted. However, I took a creative writing class from Brad Watson, and it was something he was trying to teach me—that the story takes on its own life, that you as the writer are not always in control of what you write.
And I thought just what balderdash, right? What complete horseshit.
Then about two months after the class had ended I was doing something super mundane. I think it was in Wal-Mart staring at bottles of aspirin. So many brands staring back at me and do I get the extra strength Tylenol or the generic ibuprofen. Do I get the fifty pills or the hundred and fifty pills. You have these moments. We all do. And right there in that moment, I was like “That’s what he was trying to tell me!”
I said it out-loud and people kind of stared a bit. Like here’s another crazy Wal-Mart shopper….

But you know what I mean. You have those moments of brilliant deduction, and It was then that I knew whether I outlined or didn’t outline, writing was about exploration, and sometimes you just have to follow the rabbit trail.

What time of day do you write?
I know that a lot of writers have rituals. They have their little cup of coffee and they sit down and play a certain kind of music or whatever. That is awesome and I can really really appreciate that.
However, I have a job. Pizza delivery for now. In a few weeks I’ll be transitioning from food service to the writing center at the University of Wyoming, but it’s still a job. Still takes time. I go to school full-time. I have a twelve year old daughter. I have a four year old son. My wife has a job and she also goes to school full-time. It’s not unusual for our apartment to be filled with neighbor kids. The TV is always on. The door is always slamming shut or banging open. Kids running in and out. Final exams to study for. Academic papers to be written.
I mean, it is crazy and I have a sneaking suspicion that this is how most people live. Everything going on at once.
So when do I write?
I write when I can. Ten minutes here. Five minutes there. A one or two hour stretch is a luxury. Sometimes, my daughter is on the computer and I dictate to her. And that annoys the heck out of her, but she does it for me and I think that is so cool.
What tool do you normally write with? (A pen, computer, phone, etc.)
For the most part, I use Scrivener. It is such an amazing program and I’m not sure what I did before without it. Microsoft Word if the story is fairly straight forward. The backs of paper napkins do in a pinch, but I always carry with me a notebook and a pen. A Uni-Ball  Signo bold 207 to be exact. Black ink. Sometimes I will get crazy and buy multiple colors, but green doesn’t flow as well for some reason.
I used I think five different colors while editing Wasteland, and that was fun. Each color meant something different. I had this whole system.
Have you ever dealt with writer's block? If so, how did you combat it?

What is writer’s block?
I have periods of time when I don’t write. But I mull a story over in my head during those periods. The plot, the characters, they’re marinating.
But it is just one word in front of another word. And then another word and another word. Even when you don’t feel like it. I think Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame said it was a lot like being a mule.
Please tell us a little bit about your work.
Well, as I said before, the Wasteland Series inspiration comes from a very dark period of my life. I was in my early twenties. I lived in Columbus, Ohio on Twelfth Avenue pretty much across from Ohio State. It was this tiny boarding house. I had one window that was perpetually stuck open, and I was witness to some of the football riots. The last riot they [the police] dropped tear gas from helicopters and the stuff seeped into my room.
I worked at a bar. I didn’t have a car. I was struggling with my spirituality. My girlfriend was on the brink of leaving me and I knew it. And I hated it. I really wanted to understand that period of my life. Somehow make sense of it.
I also want to note that each of those stories right now cost 99 cents apiece. Around about August 15th I’ll be compiling the whole thing into a single volume for 2.99. Also, I’ll be offering the first story in the series End of Winter for free on Wattpad & for download on my website stevebargdill.com

Where did you get your idea for this story?

So Wasteland wasn’t originally titled Wasteland. The original title was Twelfth Avenue. And I also think for a while I had The Demon Hunter of Twelfth Avenue as a working title. I knew this cab driver in Columbus, and his house had burned down. He moved into the boarding house. He swore up and down he was being hunted by demons. The more I got to know him, the more I realized he was actually suffering from PTDS, even though I wasn’t really familiar with that term back then.
I was taking a creative writing class at the University of Iowa, and thinking about him, and wrote this short story. And at the end of this story, a mysterious woman shows up, saves the cab driver, then disappears.

About four years ago, I was looking at some of my old stories that I didn’t think were quite up to snuff, and I rediscovered this short story. And I started working on it, and then I stopped because I thought, I can’t write this—if my family gets a hold of this, they’ll think I’ve gone completely Looney Tunes. But then we moved to Wyoming, and the story wouldn’t let me alone, so I wrote it. Showed it to my wife. It took me two and a half years to write it. Every bit of it hard.
What challenges have you faced with writing this story?
Letting go was the hardest challenge. Like I said, I was—am—really afraid my family will get a hold of Wasteland and decide that it’s a book worth reading.
The book has got a lot of just weird shit in it. Stuff I refused to write for a long time because it wasn’t “proper” to write about that. BDSM, heroin, acid trips, drinking cat blood, eating the head of a live bird, suicide, Highway 80 in Kuwait, Viet Nam, depression, loneliness, the Catholic Church, serial killers...  I mean, who writes about all that kind of stuff and still goes about everyday life just being normal?
Apparently, I do.
Who is your favorite character to write?
There are specific plot archetypes that have been around for a long time. Man versus nature, man versus man, man versus environment, man versus machine, man versus supernatural, man versus god, and man versus self.
Personally, I think any story worth its salt though boils down to the man versus self. And that is my most favorite character to write. In Wasteland, Jack—the main character, the hero (if you can call him that)—he struggles internally with the death of his wife. Markus, the cab driver, he struggles internally with the death of his brother. Everyone in the story struggles against themselves. In my work in progress The Yellow Mountains of God, Pastor Brown struggles against God, but really he struggles against his own lack of conviction and passion. In Banana Sandwich, Carol struggles on a daily basis with her bi-polarism, how she so desperately doesn’t want to be lonely, how she fears she is becoming like her mother.
Those that struggle against themselves, those are the characters I deal with and what happens in the end, whether they change psychologically or rather they simply and finally accept who they are.
What type of romantic relationship do you like to read? (Hate/love, best friend, forbidden, etc.) is it the same type you like to write? Why or why not?

In Ghosh’s Shadow Lines, the main character was in love with his cousin Ila. She married someone else though. In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth—well, it’s complicated. Archie married totally out of his social class and a much younger woman at that too—which is just the tip of the relationships found in White Teeth. In Waiting for the Barbarians, the narrator falls in love with a native that he was partially to blame for having blinded her.
Nothing is easy in any relationship, and I like to see that kind of dynamic exposed in stories. In Wasteland: Death of Day, Lil’ begins by using Jack as a stress reliever, but falls in love with him, and then is left simply alone and hopeless when Jack rebuffs her. In Breath, the main character has an affair with the richest man in town’s wife. In The Yellow Mountains of God, Pastor Brown heads for a divorce while his wife carries on an affair with his best friend.
My own relationship to my wife has involved some turmoil—a friend of ours no longer speaks to either one of us because we got married. At one point in our marriage we sought out marital counseling.
Relationships real or fictional are simply complicated, and that’s the kind of romantic relationship I like to read about and write about as well.
What draws you to a book (to read)?

Recommendations from friends. Author interviews. Browsing book covers. My mood at any given time. All of that probably sounds superficial, but I’m a voracious reader. I’ve been known to devour a four hundred page book in a day.

But I’m also picky. If the writing isn’t up to a certain level, if I can’t get past the first page, the first paragraph, I stop reading. I don’t have the time for that kind of book.
What characteristics do you look for in your ideal heroine? Your ideal hero? Are they the same characteristics you employ when you write your heroine and your hero? Why or why not?
Jack in Wasteland is kind of the anti-hero. But not even an anti-hero because he is in a state of immobilization. He’s incapable of any kind of action. He sits there on the porch of the boarding house and smokes cigarette after cigarette and can’t even bother to clean his room to the point where he has become a hoarder—unable to even throw away the wrapper off a candy bar. I wrote the less than ideal hero in Wasteland. In Breath, however, Tulula is absolutely brazen.
Diaz created an incredible protagonist in the character of Oscar Wao, who is both sad and beautiful at the same time.
I don’t read or write for the ideal. The ideal is boring. And not real. And stories are real—fiction or not.
What are you currently reading?

I am currently rereading Terry Brook’s Sword of Shannara trilogy. The last time I read the series I was in high school. My university classes are around the bend though, and I will be diving into 18th Century British literature and taking on another foreign language, and it’s going to be pretty wild heavy deep reading. And lots of reading. Brooks I think is currently cleansing my palate.
It’s also like comfort food. I know the story. I know how it’s going to end. It makes me smile when I open his books and read about Shea and Flick.
Finally, what are the ingredients to your favorite book? (A dose of action, a splash of romance, etc.)

Favorite book. How can I choose one?
The books I’ve already mentioned in this interview—Un Lun Dun, Liar, White Teeth, Daniel Half Human—what makes them great books are the characters.

In Daniel Half Human and the Good Nazi, at the end of the book, Daniel is confronted by his childhood friend Armin, and sentences Armin to an almost certain death. I hated the way this book ended—but it could not have ended any other way, and I loved the book because of how much I hated the decision the protagonist made in the end.
Character. It’s all about character and the wretched decisions they are forced to make that show who they really are; who we as readers really are.