Happy Earth Day everybody!
Just a short post to let you know that March 1-7 is Read an eBook Week. My publisher, Twilight Times Books, celebrates Read an eBook Week by making several titles available as FREE downloads from their critically acclaimed catalog. You will find fantasy, mystery, science fiction, historical and a lot more at http://twilighttimesbooks.com/freebies.html.
Three Questions Answered for Sisters in Crime
My dear friend Eleanor Khuns, author of the fantastic historical mysteries Death of a Dyer, A Simple Death and Craddle to Grave tagged me to participate in the Sisters in Crime blog hop by answering the questions below.
Which authors have inspired you?
I’m one of those people who think that the human mind is influenced by every contact and every read, no matter how casual or light. I learn from every word I read. Heck, even when I don’t enjoy a writer, I’m still learning from what him or her. As a young woman growing up in the Dominican Republic, I was exposed to many different influences. I thrived on young adult novels from Louisa May Alcott. I loved Enid Blyton and blazed through The Famous Five, The Seven Secrets and The Malory Towers series. I think I wanted to be a student at Malory Towers as much as my kids wanted to go to school at Hogwarts!
But, talk about being a hybrid of many worlds! At the same time I was reading Louisa May Alcott and Enid Blyton, I was also reading the Latin American classics. Books such as A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosas, and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende left lasting impressions. I also tapped into my parents’ wonderful library, enjoying the Russians (I favored Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy), the French (Victor Hugo), the Germans (Eric Maria Remarque), the Spanish (Jose Maria Gironella), and the Americans (Hemingway, always Hemingway).
Later, when I came to the States, I discovered fantasy and was dazzled by J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, and George R.R. Martin, way before he became popular, I should add. I also fell in love with commercial fiction. Diana Gabaldon, Bernard Cornwell and Anne Rice are some of my all-time favorites.
What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?
The best part of the writing process for me is the writing itself. I love working on a first draft, laying down the ideas, characters and structure of a novel for the first time, discovering the full story in my mind. There’s something liberating about a blank screen, about the sentences turning into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. I love the evolution of a story, the transformation that occurs as the story progresses, the unforeseen twists and turns that defy the outline and provoke the imagination.
The most challenging part of the writing process comes at the end for me, after the manuscript is done. I’m not one for self-promotion and yet the current publishing environment requires a great deal of it. I love talking to readers about writing and books, getting to know them, listening to their ideas and reactions to the stories and reading and writing in general. But tooting my own horn? It doesn’t come naturally to me.
If you were to mentor new writers, what would you tell them about the writing business?
I enjoy mentoring new writers. I always tell them to educate themselves in the totality of the process upfront. It saves time if you have the basics covered, if the writer is proficient in grammar, punctuation, formatting and so forth. It also helps enormously if the writer has a good idea of how the industry works and how the market for her genre behaves.
I would also tell a new writer to submit their work to the highest possible standards of critical review prior to shopping for publishers. There’s a lot of stuff clogging the pipeline and a polished, edited manuscript can make all the difference in the world. Editors, critique groups, other writers and beta readers who know the genre can be invaluable to the new writer.
Above all, I would tell the new writer to write, to complete the manuscript from beginning to end, to edit it, to trudge through the entire creative process and learn from it. Your first manuscript may never see the light of day. Maybe your second and third won’t either, but no one can take away the treasure trove of learning that you gain each time you complete the creative process from beginning to end and the joy that comes from writing.
Thank you Eleanor for inviting me to participate in the Sisters in Crime blog hop. Hop on to the next blog and meet Barb Caffrey, the talented author of the comic, YA urban fantasy, An Elfie on the Loose.
The production of The Curse Giver‘s Audiobook version is almost complete, narrated by the talented Melissa Reizian-Frank.After spending a decade as an award-winning and twice Emmy-nominated broadcast journalist, Melissa entered the world of full-time voiceover 14 years ago.
Since then, Melissa has voiced thousands of TV and radio commercials, countless e-learning training narrations and more than a dozen audiobooks, including Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone and Stonewiser; The Lament of the Stone. Melissa has been involved in theatre her entire life. She believes in giving life to characters through voice. She graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she also minored in Theatre.
I asked Melissa a couple of quick questions about the project:
Hi Melissa! How did you become a voice actress? What are your favorite kind of projects? Why did you decide to audition for The Curse Giver‘s audible project?
Hi Dora! Thanks for having me! Well, I have been a full-time voice actor for about 15 years now. Before this, I was a television news reporter and anchor, but decided to switch careers to have more time for my then one—now three—sons. I do all sorts of TV and radio commercials, narrations, and e-learning trainings. But my favorite thing is to create audiobooks!
I didn’t really audition for Curse Giver as much as I begged you to let me narrate it, now did I, Dora? J I was still narrating your excellent Stonewiser trilogy when you started really promoting the paper version of Curse Giver. I knew I wanted to read another Dora Classic!
Aw. Thanks, Melissa. You’re making me blush! Tell us, do you enjoy narrating fantasy? And if you do, why? Is there a secret to making great fantasy audiobooks?
I LOVE fantasy! Sci-fi and paranormal too. You can have so much fun with other-worldly characters and sometimes you get to make up your own “language” for their accent. J
Hmm…a secret to making great fantasy audiobooks. Well, it starts with the BOOK part of “audiobook.” A well-written and well-crafted story ALWAYS translates better to the spoken word. An author who creates believable characters—no matter how fantastical their surroundings and situations are—and who writes them like real people no matter how many legs or arms they have is going to translate better to an audiobook. Period. Hey, I know someone like that! Eh-hem.
About Melissa Reizian Frank
After spending a decade as an award-winning and twice Emmy-nominated broadcast journalist, Melissa Reizian Frank entered the world of full-time voiceover 14 years ago with the aim of having more time to spend with her family. Since then, Melissa has voiced thousands of TV and radio commercials, more than a dozen audiobooks, countless e-learning training narrations (Need to know anything from minute details about cerebral palsy? How to be a good bowling center employee? How to spot a money-laundering scheme? She’s your gal!)
She’s a talking detergent dispenser (in English AND Spanish) at many Laundromats across the country, and will even tell you which cash register to go to at many national department stores! Melissa has been involved in theatre her entire life, and has done some community theatre recently as well. Melissa graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she also minored in Theatre.
A Guest Post
I’m delighted to welcome Christine Amsden to my blog. She’s the talented author of the Cassie Scott series, a set of four fantasy novels that—as you may have noticed—I have often and gladly recommended on this blog. I’m thrilled to be a stop in her virtual book tour, as she celebrates the release of the fourth and final book of the series, Stolen Dreams. Today, she speaks to us from the heart. If you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, listen careful to what she has to say.
So …. you want to be a writer? Are you a dreamer? A story teller? Do you simply love the way words feel when they come together to create a picture? Climb on the crazy train then, and get ready for a long, bumpy ride.
Besides being a writer, I’m also a writing coach. I’m exceptionally good at it for one reason that has come as a surprise to me: I’m honest. Now, I always knew I was honest; what I didn’t realize was how rare this quality is, even in a coach. I tell the truth as I see it because only by reflecting both beauty and flaws can I inspire growth in a writer.
With that in mind, let me tell you the hard, cold truth about being a writer. It doesn’t pay. The handful of bestsellers out there cluttering up the pop culture notion of what a writer is represent less than one tenth of one percent of traditionally published authors (I’m not even talking self pub here). If anyone has said, “Don’t quit your day job,” they weren’t trying to be mean. They were trying to be honest.
I didn’t listen.
I quit my day job ten years ago when I got married, urged by my husband (who made enough for the both of us to live comfortably) to follow my dreams. I took the risk; one of the biggest of my life, and I have no regrets. Children came two years after marriage, filling my days with a combination of domestic and writerly activities that I found perfectly compatible. In a way, diluting my days with a wider variety of activities helped inspire me and make me more productive. I have written six complete novels in the eight-and-a-half years since my son was born (this doesn’t include a couple of dead-end projects that were, nevertheless, learning experiences).
Creative work isn’t like other types of work. It isn’t linear. It isn’t easy to quantify. Forty hours of creative work may be enough to write an entire novel draft (under extremely bizarre I-officially-hate-you circumstances), or it may only be enough to learn one important lesson before going back to the drawing board. An inspired writer can take a few stolen hours and create magic. An uninspired writer … well, that’s the problem with the ideal of the “full time writer,” aside from the paycheck thing. Sooner or later you run out of things to write *about*.
That’s why I started coaching. It’s also why I’m currently looking for creative new opportunities for part-time work. I’ve got a gig as a judge in a cooking competition coming up soon. Should be fun!
I know a lot of writers. Their stories are all different, their day jobs all unique, but one common theme rings true: We all long for the day when we can write full time, when our income from writing will support us in a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. I think knowing this story so well is one of the reasons why I’m a fan of TV talent shows like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and (most recently) Rising Star. The acts all come on and say the same thing – that they dream of getting paid to perform. To do what they love.
You don’t want me to sing, but putting that aside, I understand. I really, really do.
And yet I understand one other thing, or at least, I am working towards understanding. (Self-actualization is more a journey than a destination.) I understand that I am a writer. Fame and fortune are not necessary for us to do what we love. We can do it just because we want to. Because, for whatever reason, these activities fulfill us.
One of the most common interview questions I get on tour is, “What advice would you give to aspiring writers?” I answer, “Only write if you love it.” The full answer is that if you’re writing for fame, or fortune, or for any external force, it’s not worth it. Writers write because the written word is our currency. It is an end in and of itself.
Between one thing and another, I lost track of that fact in the last year or two. I’ve taken the summer off from writing. I’m spending more time with my kids while they’re still young (6 and 8), working on promoting my Cassie Scot series, and still doing a little coaching. Writing will call to me again, sooner or later. It always does. I’ve already started to feel the pull of a project that would take me in a completely different direction from anything I’ve done before. It may pan out. It may not. Luckily, as an independent author I can write whatever I like. No one owns my time or my creativity.
If you want to be a writer, then write. It never even has to be something someone else sees. (Kind of like me singing in the shower where no one else can hear. ) If and when it grows to the point where you would like to share it, come seek us authors out on the Internet and join our circles of madness. But if you can, even then, try to keep it in perspective. There is always the dream; we are dreamers by nature, but don’t let the dream keep you from living your life now.
Stolen Dreams , Book 4 of The Cassie Scot Series
Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.
When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.
But things may not be precisely as they appear.
Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own?
Don’t miss the amazing conclusion to the Cassie Scot series!
About The Cassie Scot Series:
Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.
About Christine Amsden
Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that affects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
Contact Christine at:
We had a blast at the Tampa Bay Comic Con this last weekend. Along with my Twilight Times Books colleagues, Scott Eder and Maria DeVivo, we enjoyed an exuberant celebration of fantasy and science fiction in books, television, movies, and videogames. The Con was a triumph of the human imagination. It was fun, chaotic at times, but supremely entertaining. My favorite? The panels.
Maria, Scott and I sat on several panels together with authors Tracy Akers and K.L. Nappier, to discuss the best novel-to-movie adaptations, building believable worlds, and character development. It was the first time that writing panels were included at the Tampa Bay Comic Con, thanks to the efforts of Tracy Akers and Scott Eder, who organized the panels.
The result were great. Not only were the panels extremely well attended, but they were also full of clever readers who knew their fantasy, promising aspiring writers, geniuses disguised as kids, and a host of fascinating characters.
We had awesome discussions with amazing audiences. I really enjoyed hanging out with my fellow authors, meeting so many smart and interesting readers, and sharing my writing experiences with folks who love writing, reading and fantasy as much as I do.
Thanks to all of you who stopped by the booth to say hello, all the attendees of the awesome panels, and to the organizers, employees and volunteers of Tampa Bay Comic Con for putting together such a great event.