Monday, October 29, 2018

Rebecca Minelga

Here's my interview with the amazing Rebecca Minelga! So excited to host her on the blog today!

What first inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been a bit of an armchair writer and have dabbled in it for years. Writing a book has always been on my bucket list, but for a long time I didn’t feel like I had a compelling story to tell. When personal issues led me down a journey into advocacy and, later, speaking and teaching, I had the opportunity to convert a powerful Bible Study into book format and seized the chance. Since then, I’ve completed a second manuscript and am working on a third.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

In general, I’m pretty centrist. I tend to have a plan and an outline, often only in my head, but the details come as I sit down to write. Now, that being said, as I’m moving into my next project, which has series potential, I’ve done a lot more outlining. As my first foray into fiction, I have a lot more threads to keep track of, as well, so I’m finding I’m more of a plotter than I thought was.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Both! I’ve written about the Apostle Paul and also memoir, so obviously they’re pretty real. With my new project, most of the characters are imaginary, though pretty rooted in reality, and a few of the characters in possible later books in the series are more “inspired by” real people or stories.

What book have you read that has most influenced your life and writing?

I don’t think any writer or voracious reader could possibly choose just one, but if I had to, I think I’d point to a middle-grade book that I read in my early teens, “Follow My Leader.” It chronicles the story of a boy who is blinded when a firecracker accidentally goes off in his face and his struggles as he seeks to overcome his limitations. Eventually, he receives a guide dog and it revolutionizes his life. 

For me, it proves why our stories, real or imaginary, need to be told. That book still sits on my self today, binding stripped bare, pages dog-eared and torn, held together with packing tape and a prayer. And as I type this, at my feet lies my ninth guide dog puppy in training, TUSCON. A story I read twenty years ago has now defined my life for the last decade, inspired a memoir that I’m currently querying, and led to a full-length documentary film that is in theaters now.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?

I love dreaming about the future, but I’m afraid I’m a bit too much of a realist to ever let my imagination run away from me. In five years, I’d like to have three to five published books: my memoir, all three in my new series, and enough inspiration left over to be embarking on a new project. I’d also love to continue speaking and teaching, because I absolutely love sharing my journey with others and helping them achieve their own goals.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

I don’t know that she’s my favorite, but in my current project I have a main character named Abby who comes from a very tragic background and is grappling with how to cope. I feel like she’s a very courageous character for me to write in a lot of ways. She isn’t a strong character as strength is currently defined in our culture, especially as it applies to women. She struggles with codependency and coping with a traumatic background, but I’ve given myself permission to let her be self-destructive instead of “strong.” She is a complete contradiction in so many ways, and communicating that to the reader in a way that doesn’t create cognitive dissonance and kick the reader out of the story is really challenging. I love her and I hate her and I’d never want to be her.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?

Google! No, seriously, I google everything: querying questions, fact-checking, agents, all of it! I’ve also had a lot of luck building a writer community on Twitter, so I’ve enjoyed that, and I read a lot on Writer’s Digest and generally find it pretty good. I also enjoy Book Ends Lit’s YouTube channel and blogposts for their insider view of the agenting industry. Otherwise, I can’t say there’s any particular places that I regularly go; I tend to read everything and sift it for the wisdom I can gain from it.

What do you love most about the writing process?

When it all comes together! I think any writer just lives for those moments that what is in our heads comes out our fingertips and onto the page, and it’s beautiful, eloquent, well-written... It’s rare, but it’s my absolute favorite!

If you could spend time as a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I have a therapy dog in my current project that just loves life to the fullest. She is this happy-go-lucky character that brings a smile to every person she comes in contact with. In one particular scene, her handler wonders if she’s been unfair to her, making her work as a therapy dog and spend all of her time with sick children, instead of surrounding her with the life and love of healthy ones. She watches as the dog plays in the pool with a young boy and realizes that she has the chance to give her dog both, a job and a family. Seems like a “best day ever” kind of scene.

(Just for the record, I’d want to be the dog.)

What are some tips you can give other aspiring writers?

Hard work will outlast raw talent every time. If you have some talent, that’s great, but it will mean nothing if you don’t put in the hours, write the manuscript, revise, query, and all the rest. It can be a long, exhausting process, and it will sift the wheat from the chaff. Be the wheat.

And in the same vein, the only difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is that the published writer didn’t give up. I’ve read stories of writers who’ve waited two, three, four manuscripts to get published. I just shake my head and think, “I sure hope not.” But if that’s what it takes, I’m in his for the long haul. As long as I have stories to tell, I’m going to keep writing them.

Finally, to write is a privilege. One that not everyone has the freedom to pursue. Be kind; support each other; support marginalized writers, who have a taller mountain to climb; always be grateful and thank the people who make your writing possible.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently querying a memoir about the last ten years spent raising guide dogs and the intertwining story of my own battle with depression.

I’m currently writing the first in a potential series based around a variety of working service dogs. It follows an extremely broken young woman who has subverted her trauma into helping others through the medium of a therapy dog that she has raised and trained. When she helps treat a young boy, she discovers that his single dad could mean a new chance for her own future, but first, thy both have to face the demons of their past.

I’m also in the midst of publicity for our documentary film, “Pick of the Litter,” which follows a litter of five puppies from birth through their training to, hopefully, become guide dogs for the blind. It is in over sixty theaters nation-wide, now, and streaming on most on-demand platforms. Shameless plug: you should totally go check it out; it’s amazing!

Can you share an excerpt with us from one of your novels/projects?

My shared office included both the Family and Childcare Directors, and Sarita always enjoyed the opportunity to visit with children while their parents met with the appropriate director. One afternoon, a staff member marched an elementary-aged boy into the office and sat him down across the desk from the Childcare Director. "I just don't know what's up with him," she told her supervisor. "He's never been like this, but he keeps hitting the other kids."

His head was bent and he stared at his shoes, arms crossed and expression belligerent in the way only young boys can manage. When asked if he wanted to talk, he simply shook his head and grumbled. 

After several tries, the Director said, "Well, I'm going to need to call your parents. You'll have to hang out here until they arrive."

By now, Sarita was trusted enough to be loose in our office, only occasionally visiting the other directors, then returning faithfully to her bed. I stepped out, needing to make a quick copy for an upcoming meeting, and when I returned, Sarita was curled up at the boy's feet, head resting lightly on one dirty sneaker. I smiled, then reassured him, "You can pet her."

Moments later, he was out of the seat and laying on the floor, both arms wrapped around her. The Childcare Director and I locked eyes for a moment, but it was broken by the sound of a hiccupping sob. The story tumbled out in gulps and whimpers, the broken heart of a child who was different than his classmates and was paying the price for it. His family had lost their home earlier in the year, the economic downturn impacting our small community more than most. They were living in their car, his summer childcare costs being subsidized by the state, and there was no money for new clothes, school supplies, or even shoes to replace the ones that he'd outgrown and worn through.

Looking at his feet, tears welled in both our eyes as we realized his toes poked through the broken fabric and the heels were all but worn away.

"They're always mean to me," he whispered brokenly into Sarita's fur, fingers wound deep in her ruff.  "They make fun of me because my pants are too short."

She licked his face, wiping the salty tears from his cheeks, and he pressed himself closer against her. Later, she would do the same for me, comforting me as I shared the boy’s story with my husband that night.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?

I think it’s really important to be a part of a writing community, even if it’s a small one, but I also know it can sometimes be hard for people to put themselves out there. So, consider this your personal invitation (yes, you): come look me up. Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, whatever. I want to hear about your projects, and I want to tell you about mine. I want to commiserate when agents reject and celebrate that one yes we’re all waiting for. Let’s do this writing thing together!

About the Author:

Rebecca Minelga is a graduate of LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, where she studied liberal arts with an emphasis on the impact of Christian culture on history and literature. Now active in Hope Church’s Women of Hope, she uses those skills to present personal, accessible, and original Bible Study material on both topical and exegetical study material. She is an author, speaker, stay-at-home-mom, and is a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Her diverse interests inform her writing and help bring to life many complex Biblical principles in easily understandable terms.

Rebecca is currently working closely with KTF Films and Guide Dogs for the Blind to present “Pick of the Litter,” an award-winning, feature-length documentary following five puppies from birth through advanced training in their quest to become guide dogs for blind- or visually-disabled individuals. Her accompanying book, also called PICK OF THE LITTER, chronicles the last decade spent raising eight puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Rebecca and her family welcomed puppy number nine this summer, a yellow female named TICSON. She is the daughter of one of Rebecca’s previous puppies.

Published Books:
“To All the Saints: Paul’s Letter to the Church at Philippi”

Author Links:


Pick of the Litter:

Twitter: @RebeccaMinelga

Facebook: rebecca.minelga

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Becca Lynn Mathis

Tell me about yourself: 
Well, I write paranormal fantasy. I'm a Whovian, a Browncoat, a Ravenclaw, and a Stark (though not necessarily in that order). I love fantastical stories with happy endings, and have a particular soft spot for love stories. I'm generally quite friendly and easygoing once I've had my morning Dr. Pepper, and am a total extrovert. I am quick to try new things and love to go on adventures!

How long have you been writing?
I remember writing stories about unicorns when I was in elementary school. In high school, I actually got in trouble for writing in class even when my schoolwork was done and I was participating in class discussions. At that time, I was working on a sword and sorcery fantasy novel that I have since shelved. I hope to return to it after my Trials of the Blood series.

My current book came to me via an unrelenting muse one day in August 2011. That day, she made me sit and write a solid 10k words until the initial (garbage) draft was out. I then shelved it and let it roll around in my head for a while, occasionally picking it up to work a little on rewriting it before eventually getting distracted by some shiny object or another and ignoring it again. This year, I picked it up once again and have decided that it's time for it to be complete and out in the world! No more shiny distractions!
Where is your favorite writing spot? 
I write most often at my computer in the front room of my house. It isn't my favorite though. I love to write in places where there are a lot of people. I find it easier to write interactions when I can watch interactions happen. So it's not a specific spot, really, but just an atmosphere that I like. When I write at home, I have the family to compete with, so I usually put on my headphones and listen to music without lyrics.

Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? 
Hopefully, in five years, I will be publishing the fifth book in my Trials of the Blood series with the profits and proceeds from book four. I hope to be going to lots of writer conferences and other conventions where I can meet fans of my work. I don't need to be a bestseller; I just want people to have access to these stories. One day, someone is going to come up to me and tell me that I am their favorite author. The thought of that gives me chills and is what keeps me writing.

What literary world would you love to visit for a day?
I think I'd really like to visit Harry Dresden's Chicago, have a steak sandwich with him at MacAnally's pub, and meet all of his friends (including his very good boy, Mouse). If I could con him into it, I'd love for him to show me around his quarters in Mab's place too. I love the thought of magic in the real world and kind of have a crush on Mr. Dresden.

Who is your favorite character you've created and why?
Wow, this is hard for me. It's like picking your favorite child, but worse. I think I'm going to have to go with Alexis though. She's the main character of book six of my series. She's based off a character that I played in an RPG. She is so much like me, but has such a heartbreaking story that got her to the start of her novel, and is living in heartbreaking circumstances. She has so much power (she can manipulate fire and heat at will, can teleport at will, and can see the heat signatures of people within a city block of her), but all of that power can't save the love of her life from the cycle that keeps each reality separate from one another and his memory of her existence locked away.

If you could meet any character for a day who would it be? 
Any character at all? Jareth, the Goblin King of the Labyrinth. Probably my first (and forever) "bad boy" crush.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer? 
Honestly, the writing community of Twitter is a SHINING BEACON of support and awesomeness on the internet.

Beyond that, Chuck Wendig's blog post "25 Things I Want to Say to So-Called 'Aspiring' Writers" ( is the super helpful kick in the pants that I need while simultaneously reminding me why I'm writing in the first place. I also look to his "How to Push Past the Bullshit and Write That Goddamn Novel" ( post to remind myself that a tiny daily word count goal is probably smarter than a once-a-week word binge for writing.

I also have found that having the Emotion Thesaurus and the Emotional Wound Thesaurus to be fantastic resources to have on hand. Honestly, I would recommend keeping that entire series of resources by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi closeby when writing. 

Finally, I found this simple app called Writometer ( that I absolutely love. It has been tremendously helpful with reminding me to write daily and allowing me to track my word count. I can set a daily word count goal, or I can tell it my target final word count & finish date and it will then calculate how many words I need to write each day to achieve it.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing? 
The ideas. The thought of the story itself and how the characters move through it. Knowing it in your head and in your heart is SO MUCH EASIER than putting it into words. But the words are how we share these beautiful stories and images, so they are necessary. 

Do your novels carry a message? 
There is not any intended message to any of my novels, but I suppose you could find one if you looked. I think a theme that is likely to be a recurring one is the philosophy that no man is an island unto himself. We all need people to get through life. Even the most introverted of us still look to find a meaningful connection with another person. So while I don't necessarily write with that thought in mind, it's probably pretty easy to find that theme throughout all of my stories.

Have any new writers grasped your interest recently? 
I am rooting hard for many of my writer friends on Twitter (particularly A.C. Huntley, Mike Headley, Joshua Mason, Tiffany Easterling, and Kristell Redding).

When it comes to some less-new-to-the-game-but-new-to-me writers, I recently found that I am just a squishy fangirl for Jim Butcher. I also have Joseph Brassey's books on my TBR pile and look forward to reading them next.

Do you have any tips for other writers? 
JUST FINISH IT! Let the first draft suck if it needs to, but finish it. You cannot edit the blank page. If you hit a scene that you just can't make work, write down relevant details for that scene and move on to the next. You can fix skipped scenes in the revision process (and it may turn out you didn't even need that scene in the end).

Connect with the writing community on Twitter. Don't just post "buy my book" tweets; actually CONNECT with them! Follow people and comment on their tweets with silly gifs or off-the-cuff thoughts.  

Before you go, can you leave us with an excerpt?
            The doorbell rang right as Sheppard reached the door. He opened it wide and I could smell the newcomer – a tall, skinny blonde young man in wire frame glasses and army fatigues. He smelled earthy, yet cold.
            “First Sergeant Langley,” Sheppard smiled. “Good morning.” I was sure his smile was a ploy.
            Langley didn’t return Sheppard’s greeting. “Five days ago,” he said, “we lost the signal of the consanguinea’s phone out on the reserve. We picked it up again this morning, here, in a new device.”
            I stood from my seat and stepped over into the living room. Ian and Jamie’s game paused, Jonathan appeared at the top of the stairs, and the back door to the house opened and closed.
            Sheppard’s smile didn’t falter. “Of course, she’s here.” He gestured over to me.
            Langley’s icy blue eyes met mine and I saw his nostrils flare and his chest expand. He was smelling me. He was a wolf! “She’s been turned,” he said.
            I took a step closer to Sheppard.
            “She was attacked on the reserve five days ago,” Sheppard said flatly, the smile fading. I sensed a tension in him and raised my chin, not taking my eyes off First Sergeant Langley.
            “She’s ours then,” Langley replied, holding his hand out to me. I narrowed my eyes.
            Sheppard laughed. “My pack is not yours, pup.”
            Langley dropped his hand. “You would name her pack before you even know if she’ll survive the full moon?” His tone was incredulous.
            “She was pack before you ever knew her name,” Sheppard countered. “Your commanding officer knew what he was doing when he came to me about the consanguinea in my territory. He knew who I was then, and he knows who I am now. I and mine do not fall under your jurisdiction, Langley, you would do well to remember it.”
            Langley broke into a feral smile. “Let her choose,” he said, gesturing to me.
            Sheppard’s hand clenched into a fist and his jaw tensed. I stepped closer to him, positioning myself behind his left shoulder.
            Langley met my gaze again. “You would be stronger with us than you could ever be with them,” he said. “Your talents will be wasted here. We would ensure you reached your full potential and would ensure you did not lack anything you needed.”
            “Talents?” I asked.
            “Consanguinea wolves are cut from different cloth, Ms. Cartwright,” he explained, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “If you survive your first change, you will need help and guidance with the power that being of the blood will grant you.”

            “Of the blood is the literal translation of consanguinea,” Sheppard said over his shoulder. “The latin term is the more formal title, and – frankly – rolls off the tongue better.” He turned to me. “His choice is a ruse. They will take you to Rome, to the Vatican, and no one you have ever met will ever see you again,” he said. “They will turn you into a weapon while you figure out for yourself what it means to be a wolf.” His voice softened, “They will only ever value you for what you can do for them, and though you would undoubtedly do great things – you would never be more than their weapon.”

About the Author:

Becca Lynn Mathis has been writing since she was a little girl, and could often be found sitting among the branches of the tree in her front yard, reading a book. Today, she is a graduate student of counseling psychology at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL. On weekends, she plays Dungeons & Dragons (or Pathfinder) and trains with the Royal Chessmen stage combat troupe, who perform at renaissance festivals and pirate faires all across Florida.

Author Links:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Luke Maynard

Today we welcome Luke Maynard on the blog!

Tell me a little more about yourself:

I’m an over-educated Canadian writer from London, Ontario. I grew up in London, did a PhD in English in Victoria, British Columbia, and came out of the academy at a dire time for would-be professors in the Humanities. I scraped together some sessional teaching for a few years, and went into law school mostly as a survival mechanism. I’ve fallen in love with advocacy work since then: it’s just one more place where good writing can change people’s lives for the better. But being an aspiring lawyer hasn’t stopped me from writing; if anything, it’s finally given me the time management skills to make a proper go of it.

What inspired you to start writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t tell stories. I had a set of alphabet blocks as a toddler, just one of each letter, and apparently I used to cry when there weren’t enough letters to string words together. As a kid, I was embarrassingly derivative. I’d write stories that were pretty transparent rip-offs of movies, or cartoons, or video games. Other people’s stories always inspired me.

Maybe that’s why I’m less bothered by “fan fiction” than a lot of authors, who have a real disdain for it. I think we all start out by copying what we see and hear; our first real brush with originality is that happy accident when we fail to copy precisely. I just went through my copycat phase at an age when we forgive it. By the time I had adults to show my writing to, other than my parents, I was mostly past that stage.

Which teacher was your biggest inspiration and why?

It’s so hard to single anyone out. I just dug out my transcripts recently so I counted: I’ve had 79 teachers from kindergarten until now, and that’s just in the classroom. To be fair, I have to cite Larry Garber, the only formal creative writing teacher I’ve ever had, at the University of Western Ontario. Him, and Herb Hunter, my 8th grade teacher, who taught me how to edit my own writing, how to reconsider something after it had already come out on the page.

I don’t think they were necessarily “more inspiring” than the other great inspirational teachers of my life. But for me it wasn’t inspiration I needed: I never needed help with thrust or momentum; what I needed was help with steering. Instead of saying, “you can reach the stars,” they were the ones who’d say, “slow down a minute. Think about what your words are doing. Think about how you’re using these tools to do a job.” What I needed most was focus, as un-romantic as that is to say.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That depends on how I react to changes that are almost entirely out of my control. I’d love to be agented and I’d love to have a novel out with a major press, but that’s up to the gatekeepers. Having a bit of youth left and having persistence give me some control over whether that’s going to happen eventually, but nobody has much sway over what the timeline of their achievements will be.

What I do have control over is how much work will get done between here and there. In five years I’ll have at least two more novels in the can, whether they’re published or not; and I know for a fact I’ll have something in print, because this is a hybrid world now, and mixed models where we self-publish things written for that express purpose and audience while still pursuing the traditional model with other work, that’s absolutely a viable career path.

If you could have one wish, any wish at all, what would it be and why?

I’d like to be living somewhere I like, with the freedom and security to make art on my own terms, and it would be nice if all the friends and loved ones I’ve left scattered around the country could come and live nearby. But people with wishes always think small and selfishly. Why would I wish those things for myself, and not everybody else? I wish everybody was living in a safe place with their loved ones, and had the freedom to make the life they chose for themselves without having to worry about the rent. That seems like a pretty good state of affairs, but not so greedy that the wish would find a way to turn south on me.

That’s the problem with an aspiring lawyer who writes fantasy: we have a keen interest in how fairy-contracts work. The unspoken law of wishes is fascinating stuff.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It’s hard to ballpark; the answer’s changing quickly. I was working on my first manuscript the whole ten years I was writing my PhD. Really, I’ve had it in my head since 2002 or 2003, but I was one of those people insufferably “working on a masterpiece” that never seemed to arrive. When I had defended the PhD teaching dried up, I literally lived in my mom’s basement and about six months later, the thing was done.

If there’s one useful thing law school was given me, it’s that it has made me a “Finisher.” I’m busier than I’ve ever been, but as I adjust to managing my time differently, my productivity has gone up a lot.

Are you a plotter or pantser? (Do you like to outline, or do you like to fly by the seat of your pants?)

I’m a plotter by nature. Most of my fiction involves a significant amount of world-building, so even on rare occasions when I try to start from the beginning and write straight to the end, there’s always a lot of research and support material that gets generated.

Who is your favorite character that you've ever created?

Jordac of Travalaith, who is at the heart of the second book of The Crown and the Chain, is a favourite, and probably the most complex. In the first book all we get is his name and reputation as the hero of a great revolutionary war. By the time we meet him, he’s a prisoner of his own myth—something like the Wizard of Oz, except that the real man behind the curtain is more dangerous, not less, than the phony figure he projects. And so writing him in essence is always writing two different characters: I have to keep in mind not just who he is, but who this other person is that they imagine him to be.

A very big theme for me is the divide between the static masks people wear at any given moment and the truth of their long narrative, which can’t be summed up in a single image. I love the tension when the reader knows who someone really is, but the other characters don’t, or when the characters seem to be acting on information the reader hasn’t been given.

Which character in the literary world is your favorite and why?

I think often of shared characters who have been the subject of really fine & creative work. I might say Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson, or Batman “when he's written well,” but that’s really a function of favourite writers, not favourite characters. I’d have to go with Don Quixote, not just because Cervantes’s original is such a wonderful tragicomic figure, but because writers who have taken him up seem to “get” the central point of the character, never losing sight of the essential inner qualities that make him heroic in an unheroic world. People who take up the mantle of writing Batman frequently get him wrong. People who take up Don Quixote almost always nail the heart of the character. It's a delight that he's so consistently well-executed. To me, that speaks not only to the overall consistency of the character in all his stories, but also the lasting power of the original.

What genre do you most like to write in?

I lean toward speculative fiction—sci-fi and fantasy—but I run the full range of these, from urban supernatural to sword-and-sorcery to Lovecraftian horror to space opera. I normally wouldn’t say that I’m particularly influenced by animé, but one thing it’s done is make me rethink the whole idea of genre, as genres tend to exist very differently outside of our western Anglo-American literary traditions.

I love fables and fairy-tales, which are widely inflected based on their point of origin, and trying to read internationally really opens up my approach to genre-writing. Maybe it all falls under what Bruce Sterling calls “slipstream,” but writing like that existed a long time before he coined the term.

Is there another genre you are interested in trying out?

I’m interested right now in different “modes” within fantasy .The Crown and the Chain fits a pretty standard second-world sword-and-sorcery high-fantasy model. It owes a lot of its flavour and worldbuilding to some very well-established white guys with "R.R." in their names, but it’s important to remember that’s far from the only kind of fantasy available. That kind of writing is interesting to me in part because the demands of worldbuilding are so rigorous. If the value-by-weight of your coinage is off, your readers will know. If the names of your characters are inconsistent with the rules of your invented language, fans hold you to account over it. But the tradeoff is that your world is so immersive, and you get these really dedicated fans who come to inhabit that world in their imaginations. You can live in your mind in Middle-Earth or Westeros in ways that you can’t in the enchanted forest of Beauty & The Beast, for instance.

But the divide between those modes of storytelling, even though they’re both “fantasy,” is really interesting to me right now, and so I’m also working on what I’d call a romance in the fairy tale tradition. I mean romance in the medieval sense, not the Harlequin sense. It’s freeing because there’s something more dreamlike about the fairy-tale. Things always have to make internal sense; there’s always an internal logic to fairy-stories. But at the same time you’re not sketching meticulous maps of all the roads and waterways, charting the chief imports and exports of your warring kingdoms, developing all the minute details that seem to be the hallmark of sword-and-sorcery worldbuilding now. Tolkien did great things by putting a map in the back of his books, but the unfortunate side effect is that now everybody has to have a map. It’s a limitation, and remembering what it’s like to write in other modes of fantasy—going back to George MacDonald and William Morris—is very freeing after the demanding rigor of sub-creation.

What are you working on now?

I’m taking a two-pronged approach to publishing, trying to go the traditional route and the self-published route simultaneously. I think my fantasy saga, The Crown and the Chain, has real sea-legs to go the traditional publishing route, so I’m working on the second book, The Season of the Cerulyn, while The Season of the Plough awaits revision to make another go-round of the query circuit.

I’ve wanted to try self-publishing as well, which has lost a lot of its “vanity press” stigma in the past few years and is now a really legitimate model not just for emerging writers, but for full-time professionals. The money can be just as good, and there’s an immediate gratification to putting something in print a month three weeks after you finish polishing it, rather than three years. But you have to be careful; once you self-publish something, a lot of traditional publishers and agents won’t touch it.

Because The Crown and the Chain is kind of a lifelong project, and publishing the first volume might compromise the whole series, I don’t want to “waste” it on self-publishing when it might do very well in the mainstream. So instead of pushing a saga meant for traditional publishing into a model it’s not meant for, I’ve set out to write a series of one-off works specifically with self-publication in mind. That’s where my original fairy-tale, Heartblood, came from.

I think the strengths and weaknesses of both traditional and self-publishing models lend themselves to different works, and it behoves writers of all kinds—and at all stages—to think about what those differences are, and how they might each be served. I’ve fancied doing a sci-fi novella, and putting it in the same book as Heartblood, where you flip the book upside-down and there’s another novel on the back, like the old Ace Double pulp books. That’s the sort of thing a traditional publisher would never let me get away with. In general I’m determined to try both avenues of writing, depending on which one makes the most sense at the time.

All these ambitious are slow ones for me, though, as I’m doing law school in the daytime, and also just released a folk album. The CD, Desolation Sound, has been a major project of a different kind, and maybe it’s the biggest piece of work I have available right now.

Can you share an excerpt with us from one of our novels/projects?

I’ll share the opening of Heartblood, which—being an opening—stands up pretty well out of context.


Chapter One: Blackthorn and Bluebell.

In a far country across the sea, two kingdoms stood divided by a thundering river. Long ago, even before the first chieftains arose to broaden that divide with their vainglorious pride, a winding valley was carved out of the landscape by the mighty Mandeo: the Lord of Rivers ran, so say the bards, as fierce and cold as revenge.
The river roared down from the southeastern hills. He danced through twisting lowlands and skipped over the smooth stones of a few murmuring shallows; there, catching the salty scent of his betrothed, the river plunged with the eagerness of a young lover over the last few cliffs to the waiting sea.
First, after the tribal chieftains, came the Rhovain with their magnificent towers and walls of stone. After subjugating the old blood of the land, the river was to them no more than another beast to be chained. This they did, building intricate canals and immense bridges whose broken skeletons towered over the river long after their makers had turned to dust.
But for all their cunning, even the great builders had forgotten the secrets of the river known only to the wise. It was indeed clever men who tamed the river, men who brought his waters to a dozen villages, men who fed the growing cities and brought an age of prosperity to the twin kingdoms of Bergancia and Milesia. But it was the women who tended its secrets, who were in all the ages to come the quiet keepers of its old mysteries.
Just a short while ago in the memory of the river, but long ages past by the reckoning of the wise-women, a thick hedge of hazel trees overgrew a shallow ford in the river, just a few miles below the largest and strongest of the men’s bridges. It was a place of power—one of the old gatelands, if the stories are true—and it was here that the washerwomen came with their heavy loads, bent low under sacks of linen, their kneeling-boards laden with ash lye and bundles of fresh lavender. Always, it seemed, there was more work to be done than hours to do it; as the years passed, and the farming improved, there were soon twice as many surviving children to tend, which left the washerwomen even more pressed for time than before. But time, like the river itself, had a way of flowing differently at the ford. Life was never easy for a farmer’s wife, but those who crept down to the sacred place of hazel trees to do their washing never seemed to want for time to finish it. They came in the red light of dawn with their work-songs, and returned home with the day still ahead of them.
If there was any magic to be had in that place, they did not speak of it aloud. But the river was in the first language called Mandeo, the place of thought, and that name survived a thousand years and a dozen languages, until even the washerwomen called the river by his name, but did not know why.
Moriath was a stranger in those lands, but she knew the river’s name. She knew many things about rivers and magic and naming, and she knew the way to the heart of the hazel grove. The old ford was on no maps and had escaped the eyes of the Rhovani surveyors; it could not be found except by story or by song, and the dark-haired woman had both of these to guide her. The land here was foreign to her, but its stories were not, and in the dark of a moonless night she made her way from the City of the Crown to a place in the forest that was nigh to the ford. There she went about her secret art in ways that must not be written, until the dawn had nearly broken and the first of the washerwomen came to the ford and raised her voice in song.
Moriath followed the song on the air until she found the hazel grove. It was there she met the first of the washerwomen, who toiled alone in the blue haze before dawn.
“Good morning,” she said, and meant it.
The washerwoman’s face brightened. “And to you,” she said. “Fine weather for the harvest, if it lasts.”
“It will last,” said Moriath, who knew such things. She looked down at the riverbank with uncertainty, and the washerwoman stood and offered her hand.
“Here, old woman,” she said. “Let me help you down.”
Clutching the washerwoman’s hand tightly, Moriath stepped down from the grassy embankment to where the water met the stones. The washerwoman’s hand was rough from labour and hardship; her own was pale, delicate, and dove-soft, though there was some strength in it.
“You’ve not brought much,” said the washerwoman.
“I’ve not much to bring,” said Moriath. “My husband is dead.”
“And mine,” said the washerwoman. “You’re early, yet. You may be done ere the others come. Perhaps before the sun.”
Moriath said nothing but knelt to her work. She laid down her little bundle and unrolled a single garment, wrapped around a sheaf of bright blue plants.
“Have you enough lavender to spare a sprig?” asked the washerwoman.
Moriath shook her head. “Blackthorn and bluebell,” she said. “That’s all I have brought.”
The washerwoman shrugged. “Will’t please you if I sing, old woman?”
“As you will,” said Moriath, twisting the blossoms of the bluebells.
The washerwoman knelt on her board with a grunt and took up a stained and patched skirt with practiced hands. As she raised her voice in song, the wind rose in the trees and she shivered from the cold of the rippling water.
She knew not how long she had been at her chore when she chanced to look up. Several yards downstream, standing tall on a high rock, the old woman had taken down her mantle and cap. Under a brightening sky she was not old at all, but a dark-haired beauty in the summer of life, her long limbs steeped in a regal grace that was not soon forgotten. With fiercely strong hands she wrung the water from a single white garment, then unfurled it in the wind as she dried it with a shake.
The washerwoman dared not stop singing. There, in the hands of the stranger, was an exquisite little eslene—a sleeved burial shirt so slender and short that it could not have been made for a grown man. It was the death-shroud of a young child, and the sight of it stole the words from her song and left her wailing wordlessly as she threw aside her laundry and fled into the darkness.  Washerwomen, too, are women who know things, and what she knew deep within her weighed like a terrible chain around her heart.
It was another hour, by the reckoning of ordinary folk, before the sun was high enough to crest the hills with its proper face. With the light of dawn, a half-dozen more women came to the river, each bent double under their workload. The first washerwoman was nowhere to be seen as they set up their chore. Moriath, likewise, had gone from that place. Most of the women saw no sign that she had come this way at all, so light was her step. Only one, a young girl come to help her sister for the first time, caught sight of the crushed and mangled bluebell petals where they drifted on the river’s surface, floating gently southward against the current.

Do you have any tips for other aspiring writers?

When you’re a professional writer, even a pretty successful one, rejection is a daily reality of your life, and success is a very occasional byproduct of that. If success is your core motivator, you’re going to be delighted a couple times a year and miserable the rest of the time, and eventually you’ll get tired of that ratio and quit.

Instead, try to enjoy the daily reality of what you do. If you can learn to enjoy a life of failure, you’ll adapt very well to success when it happens. People who learn to enjoy a life of success don’t do so well with failure. If writing is just an endurance game, and you’re on a clock, you have to “make it” before you burn out. Find a way to stay in the game longer, and to enjoy it irrespective of the results. That’s what will keep you going long enough to strike gold

Is there anything you would like to share with us before you go?

About a year ago, one of my readers posted one of those Internet forwards on social media, a “birthday scenario” style meme called “What Is Your Animé Series Title?” You would read down the chart based on your initials, and it would spit out an unlikely made-up animé title. Mine, for L.R.J.M., was “Robo-Chef Sushi X.”

As an exercise, I made the huge mistake of telling my friends that if they would work out a title based on their initials, I’d come up with a treatment for their imaginary show. I got about forty responses, which was way too many, and spent the next six months working out what I now realize are fully developed outlines for about forty really eccentric novels. The titles generated really were like bad animé titles—“Mermaid Princess Memories,” “Bubblegum Bride Detectives,” “Death Moon Hunter”—but each one of them immediately evoked a genre and a setting, and a style of storytelling. Not all of them were good enough to run with, but I probably got the basic ideas for seven or eight workable novels out of that.

What it taught me was just how 

What that exercise taught me is how quick and easy it is to generate ideas. Ideas aren’t the writer’s commodity; execution is. One of the biggest “tells” of an aspiring amateur is the persistent fear that somebody’s going to steal your idea. It’s like opening a restaurant and being afraid that somebody else is going to see your menu, and steal the idea of selling hamburgers. Of course they are;


About the Author:
Luke R. J. Maynard is a writer, poet, musician, literary scholar, and student of the law in Toronto, Ontario. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous small-press anthologies, and his first CD, Desolation Sound, was released in the summer of 2018.

Social Links:

Twitter: @lukemaynard

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Lake Effect: Review

Lake Effect
By Nicole Tone

Publisher Pen Name Publishing
Published September 25th
Pages 308

After the death of her fiance, Sophie Daniels is struggling to keep herself together. Painting is the only way she’s able to clear her head and stay grounded. For her art isn’t a hobby — it’s her religion. With a semester away from finishing graduate school, she knows that, despite her loss, things are going to get better. In fact, her thesis advisor has even taken a special interest in her. Sophie’s convinced that she’s found the mentor that she’s been looking for. When he shows he’s interested in her in more than just a student/teacher way, she obliges him. Until his wife leaves him.

Sophie learns the hard way what happens when a man cannot take responsibility for his own actions.

Now she’s back to square one in pulling herself back together. She hasn’t just lost her fiancé anymore: she’s lost parts of herself she’s not sure she’ll ever get back.

Like her ability to create.

Lake Effect is a raw exploration of human emotion and what it takes to save your own life.

Purchase through Amazon

The Lake Effect is deep and emotional, painted on a beautiful canvas. The story follows Sophie whom is close to finish college, but her life is turned upside down from a tragic death of someone close. Sophie is an artist but struggles to find her footing again. The Lake Effect is like a ripple in the water and is very reflective. It's a story that I don't believe is for everyone, it deals with very sensitive subjects that may be a trigger for readers but I do believe it's a beautiful story that everyone should consider reading as it does really open up your mind and make you take a second look at things. It deals with one very important question: How does one continue forward after they've lost their other half? Sophie's journey is a broken yet powerful one. 

It's poetic, artistic, and at times, beautifully painful to read. It will make your heart ache at times. It's deep and thoughtful. And at the end of the road, second chance and a new beginning. 

Nicole Tone has always had a passion for writing. She has her BA in Creative Writing and Literature and an MFA in Writing. Nicole is a freelance writer and editor with pieces in Heels Down Magazine, Hello Giggles, Femsplain, and more. She is also the editor-in-chief of Pen Name Publishing.

When she isn't writing, she likes to dabble in photography, horseback riding, and traveling. She has a deep love for herbal tea, craft beer, and good coffee.
Nicole lives in Buffalo, NY, with her husband, three cats, and two very large dogs.

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