Spotlight on Kevin Eads

Today’s spotlight falls on novelist and teacher Kevin Eads, a fellow author of mine at Dark Moon Press.  Kevin’s an incredibly prolific guy with a lot of great, and frightening, ides–but I’ll let him tell you.

Tell me a little about how you got started writing.kevineads

I probably started writing when I was young as I had quite an imagination. It stemmed from growing up on a 40 acre farm in northern Indiana. I was drawn to the spooky and usual. I moved to the city in high school and started rapping. I even recorded three songs…two were used on an independent horror movie soundtrack. After finishing law school, I was inspired to start writing again, and I started writing horror screenplays.

 

After meeting Eric, (Eric Vernor, Dark Moon Press CEO and founder) I started to write short story collections and novels to submit to him, and now, 20 some books later, I am still at it.

You write in a number of different genres. Do you have any particular favorite authors?

While I write mostly horror, I have dabbled in pulp fiction as well, writing short stories with old 1940’s style private detectives.

 

My favorite author is probably Ian Fleming. I absolutely love the James Bond novels. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Mr. Fleming could tell a story.

 

I also enjoy Edgar Allen Poe. When I was teaching, I always read the Tell Tale Heart to my students before I started class.

 

One thing that I don’t like is an author who uses too many words to describe anything. I don’t want to read a book that is 1000 pages long. You will lose my attention. Keep it simple but keep it interesting.

 

How did you find Dark Moon Press?

 

 

Eric Vernor was a student of mine at the college where I was teaching. He had recently started Dark Moon Press. We started chatting after class and connected with a love of classic horror films. I talked to him about some of my ideas and he was interested in publishing me. I was happy to work with him.

 

I will never forget when my first book “The Amulet of Elisabeth Bathory,” came out. While it is not what I would consider one of my best books…as I have improved with each and every year, holding it in my hands was an amazing feeling. I don’t think I can ever really describe what it was like to hold that first book, only that it was amazing.

 

I actually hope to start my own little publishing company one day, having been inspired by Eric’s work here at DMP. It would be something completely different though, as not to compete against a good friend of mine.

Is there a type of writing you haven’t tried or a subject you haven’t tackled that you’d like to take a shot at?

I had started writing a coming of age comedy set in a grocery store, but I was not able to finish it. I also took a stab at writing an action story, but have yet to finish

I like to play to my strengths, which are largely horror. I add to it of course and have elements of comedy in the stories as I find horror amusing. I also have added romance and political thriller elements to other stories as well.

What’s your favorite way to promote your work?

 

I like to promote my works in whichever ways I can connect with the fans. I love doing radio interviews and podcasts. I also love going to book signings and horror conventions.

 

What’s the most important piece of advice you have for new writers?

The first thing that I would say is not to give up. Getting started is rough and can certainly crush your ego at times. The creative process is difficult, challenging and rewarding. Focus on the reward at the end…keep your eyes on the prize. Also, find a good editor, and listen to them. Don’t let it hurt your feelings, instead, use what they are telling you to create a great work of art.

Do you have a particular writing process, or does it vary depending on the genre or subject you’re working with?

It really depends on what I am writing. When I am writing fiction, I run certain ideas through my head at night before I go to sleep. As I have a wild mind and imagination…I don’t sleep well. I probably spend an hour or so at night running the ideas through my head. I do this many nights before I am finally ready to get behind the computer and start writing.

 

If I am working on non-fiction, much of what I am doing is research. Just like when I was in law school, I have to motivate myself to get behind the computer and pull up some books, and start the research process. Don’t get me wrong, when I get started, I enjoy what I am doing. It can just be a challenge to get started.

 

Do you have a favorite book?

A favorite book…no I do not. I have quite a few that I like. As I mentioned before, I love all of the Ian Fleming James Bond novels. I find them all an exciting read. I also loved the Raymond Benson James Bond novels that followed in the 1990’s. Mr. Benson tells a story that makes me feel like I am reading Fleming.

 

As far as horror book though, I would have to say Stoker’s Dracula. I find it fascinating how he told a story through letters, diary passages, and newspaper clippings.

 

What are some of your interests besides writing?

I enjoy watching old classic horror movies, which should come as no surprise. I enjoy making beer and traveling, especially day trips to wineries, breweries, zoos, amusement parks, and museums.

 

I think again all that I described as interests helps inspire me as a writer.

What do you think is your greatest strength as a writer, and what one area you most need to work on?

I think that my greatest strength is that I never have a lack of ideas. I have been told by many people, including those who have worked in Hollywood, that I have many outstanding ideas. That though leads to my weakness. I am not a patient person and in the past I had put together stories before they were ready. It is something that I have obviously worked on. I also lack patience waiting on editors.

 

 

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Spotlight on Eric Vernor

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This time, the spotlight falls on my friend and my publisher, noted author, occult researcher and Dark Moon Press CEO Eric Vernor.  Eric’s a kind and fascinating individual with a broad range of writing interests and an unbeatable work ethic.  Welcome to Portals and Pathways, Eric!

 

  • How did you get started writing? Do you have any specific literary influences?

 

I started writing back in 2004 with Embracing the Darkness: Understanding Dark Subcultures, when I interviewed people of different alternative lifestyles, like Goths, witches, Satanists and other interests like modern primitives, black metal enthusiasts and BDSM. This was in part to dispel misconceptions that ‘different than normal’ was evil, as a guide for parents, teachers and law enforcement in order to understand the people they might encounter in their careers and also partly a historic reference for those in the culture to better know the particulars of their own background. It took off and I kept researching and writing other dark genres, like the paranormal, vampire history and other related topics.

My literary influences are Gavin Baddeley, who wrote Goth Chic and Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship and Rock’n’Roll, because he tackles similar themes in a journalistic fashion. Other influences of mine are Michelle Belanger of The Psychic Vampire Codex, and the fiction series Conspiracy of Angels. I am a big fan of Rosemary Ellen Guiley also.

 

  • Do you have a process for researching a topic for a new book?

 

Since the vast majority of my work is academic research or ‘dark sociology’, I typically start with an introduction relating my own reason for having an interest in the topic, then I begin with the oldest known reference to the subject and bring it forward into modern popular culture, while citing various books for citations of my facts and in order to bring it down to a relatable level , I make mention of contemporary films for my reader to connect the with the material.

 

  • When did you have the idea for starting a publishing company of your own, and what do you think are the advantages of that versus publishing with someone else’s company?

 

It sort of happened by accident. I didn’t want the stigma of its time period in being a ‘self-published hack’ because I didn’t want an editor’s mighty red pen to strike out one of my interviewees section, so to keep my material mine, I created an imprint called Dark Moon Press. An early mentor, author and now dear friend named Michelle Belanger designed the logo so it would look like a publisher put it out. It became successful and I kept writing, which eventually attracted more authors. Now in twelve years, we have branched out from occult books to science fiction, true crime, romance novels and paranormal with over forty authors, and 240 titles and sell in fourteen countries that I know of.

 

In being a publisher myself, I have much more freedom in what my book looks like, when it comes out (six months as opposed to two years with a typical publisher) and since I have been published elsewhere, I have a better understanding of what my authors needs are, and what isn’t being done for them that I can provide. As a small press, I can be more directly in contact with them for input, as well as direct contact with distribution like Amazon, stores , and libraries, which translates to faster sales, which helps all parties.  My writers get to help develop their book, from fonts, cover art input and get networking resources like radio interviews, lists of conventions and writers tips from me I share, because most of the time it is a sink or swim job. New authors don’t realize that their career is in their own hands, no matter who publishes you. Being a New York Times level Stephen King is nearly impossible, so I created a writers’ success course and book, So You Want to Be a Successful Writer, to pass on my decade of experience learned the hard way on how to make a good living off being creative instead of working as a labor of love at a hobby, while slaving away at a day job you hate.

 

 

  • How would you describe your work ethic? How did you develop that?

 

My work ethic is roll out of bed, check email and social media, then after getting back with fans, authors and buyers, I place orders for the day and throw myself into cover designs, book formatting, updating my web designer so she can build the publishing site quicker, and then any free time after that I devote to writing my own books, which amounts to roughly six per year.

 

I developed my work habits by trying to create a system that was efficient for a business and yet gave me time late at night to free my mind of the demands of publishing, so I could be creative without distractions. I paint to be more free flow creative; to loosen up (and it sells via social media to fans), so I am not bogged down with research all the time. I tell people, writing the type of books I do keeps my interest varied, but the method of doing it is much like a thesis paper in college that never stops, so you need something to unwind with.

 

  • Do you have any particular music you like to listen to when you work?

 

I avoid music while writing because it takes all my focus to not make mistakes, unless I am painting, in which case I love Nox Arcana, Evanescence and Nightwish. Melodic Goth music helps my mood and art flows easier.

 

 

  • What about your artwork? How did you get started with it?

 

I was always interested in art.  I come from an artistic and musical family. I started off with the Bob Ross method around ten to master backgrounds, and then incorporated figure study and portrait techniques into it to create fantasy and Gothic art, occasionally erotica.

 

 

  • Do you have any particular influences in the visual arts?

 

My influences in art are classical Renaissance artists for realism, and in the modern age, my friend Joseph Vargo was an early influence who taught me his stone techniques (it was a proud moment in my life when he agreed to write the introduction in my art book), the artist Brom, Frank Frazetta, and Luis Royo.

 

 

  • Do you have any advice for someone who wants to have a successful career in a creative field?

 

Never give up on your dreams, first off. Master your skills; either find teachers and mentors or use books and YouTube tutorials to develop techniques. Read the life stories of successful people to get inside their heads; the motivational thinking they share will keep your chin up during the lean years. Do it because you love it, perfect it, and learn marketing and social media tricks. Nobody can just get accidentally discovered; they work hard and get noticed because they fought for it.

 

 

  • What are your goals for the coming year?

 

To grow my business so that 75,000 libraries carry my company’s titles, that all my writers earn a good living doing what they love, and to finish my eighth book of the year. I also want to finish a horror film starring one of my writers, Hollywood actor Robert LaSardo (Nip Tuck, Death Race) and convince Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, Z Nation)  he needs to take the role I offered him at a couple conventions ago! With Robert and John Dugan (Texas Chainsaws ‘Grandpa’)  already signed, Dark Asylum and its sequel, Hell Hospital, should take off in 2019.

 

 

  • What do you think is the best thing you’ve written?

 

I think Haunted Asylums is one of my best, but I also have a special place in my heart for Embracing the Darkness: A Decade of Darkness, which brought my debut book full circle in a retrospective new edition.

 

 

  • Bonus Question: You do a lot of personal appearances every year. Why do you think this is valuable?  Is it something you would recommend to other writers?

 

Absolutely needed. Without getting out there and meeting fans you miss that personal touch. Fans want to see you, shake your hand, and get that autograph with a smile to connect with you. The networking is vital to your career also, I have meet movie and television stars, the majority of my authors I sign were because I met them at events, and you can always learn tips at events from others who have been doing what you do.

Opening New Doors

Some of you may know that my publisher of the past several years, PDMI Publishing, announced its closing early this year.  Shortly thereafter, I began a search for a new publishing company.  It didn’t take long for me to remember that my friend of some years now, and fellow DragonCon panelist, Eric Vernor, was also in the publishing business, being the CEO of Dark Moon Press in Ft Wayne, Indiana.  Eric signed me without hesitation, and a new edition of my science fiction book “Annah: Children of Evohe, Book One”, is soon to appear from DMP, along with first printings of Book Two, “Annah and the Exiles”, and Book Three, “Annah and the Gates of Grace”, this fall.  Dark Moon largely specializes in horror and occult books, but they are dedicated to, as their website states, “teaching people that differences could be positive and frightening unknowns are merely adventures-in-waiting.”  That mission statement could apply to every book I’ve written.  In addition to this, I’ve known Eric for a number of years now and he is a kind man and tireless in his pursuit of creative excellence and success, for himself and the others he works with.  I’m happy to be a part of Dark Moon, and you should certainly check them out if you’re interested in the darker side of things or in diverse viewpoints and growth in thought.  You’ll find something to enlighten and entertain you.  darkmoonad

Checking In on Daven Anderson

daven2016

I met my friend and fellow author Daven Anderson when I was first signed to a publishing contract with PDMI Publishing.  Daven was already among the stable of PDMI’s authors, and, since he’s a personable guy and we both write in the same general areas of science fiction and horror, he and I hit it off quickly.  His “Vampire Syndrome”, first in the saga of the same name, is a masterful and innovative variation on the ageless idea of vampires, featuring a protagonist named Jack Wendell, who I can just about guarantee is the only vampire with Down’s Syndrome you’ve ever encountered. I’ve had some good conversations with Daven at book signings and particularly at the Birmingham Local Author Expo and Book Fair in Birmingham, Alabama, home to the historic Tutwiler Hotel, which Daven and I both share a fondness for.  But enough small talk—Daven’s here.

 

CG: It’s been a little while since we sat down for a chat, and while I wish this was the Tutwiler Hotel, we’ll have to settle for a blog.  So, tell me a little bit about what’s been going on for you in the past year?
DA: I left the day job I held for 26 years, and started a new one. I embarked on a major upgrade and restoration project for my 1960 Plymouth station wagon. I helped transition my 92 year old grandmother to assisted living. Each of these three events constitute more transition in and of themselves, than I’ve had to deal with for many years.

 

CG: What projects are you currently working on, writing-wise?

DA: “Vampire Invasion”, the concluding volume of the Vampire Syndrome trilogy. From there, I can build on the Vampire Syndrome universe as I please. For instance, the main trilogy never touches on the existence of werewolves, and I have that outlined as a self-contained story. I’m also outlining a story about a young man who lives on a planet where the population is 92% female.
 

CG: As authors, we are always influenced by things that go on in our lives. We touched on part of this in the first question. Have you done anything really fun, or learned anything new and interesting in the past year?

DA: I finally solved a decades-old mystery this year. When I was little, my great-grandmother said “If the world’s ending, head for Shamballa.” In this case, “Shamballa” being the small mountain town southwest of Sedalia, Colorado.
Adult me, when driving through Shamballa, had always thought it odd that my great-grandma thought this nondescript mountain town would survive the end of the world.
It turns out that the town was founded in 1953 as the Shamballa Ashrama ‘survivalist’ compound, by metaphysicist/occultist Dr. Maurice Doreal.  The compound’s underground cave complex is, of course, not visible from a casual ‘drive-by’ inspection.
It was intended that the residents of the hundred-odd homes in the compound could take quick refuge in the (naturally lead-lined) cave in the event of a nuclear attack sometime around “the year of the Avatar, 1956.”
In the October 1946 issue of “Amazing Stories” sci-fi magazine, Dr. Doreal stated in a published letter that he was moving from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust.  That same year, he told the Rocky Mountain News that he had foreseen the advent of harnessed atomic energy, years before it became public knowledge, during a visit with the (predecessor of the current) Dalai Lama in Tibet.
The compound complex remains closed to outsiders today. It is rumored that Maurice and Sonya Doreal’s vast library of science fiction books (over 30,000 books as of the early 1950’s) remains intact in the complex.

 

CG: What’s the latest book you’ve read?  Movie you’ve seen?  Do you still find yourself challenged or inspired by things you see , read or hear in the arts?  How, if at all, has this changed since you first thought, “I could write a vampire novel”?

“Auto Biography” by Richard Harris, a masterful fictional recounting of the 57-year life of a 1957 Chevy station wagon, through the eyes of its owners. With its present (2014) owner, outlaw felon Tommy Arney, attempting to finish restoring the car and tracing its owner lineage before the FBI closes in on him. The car’s ‘descent’ from the sunny optimism of 1957 to its current dark, decrepit world is an obvious but very enjoyable metaphor.

 

CG: I know that you’ve been involved in writing groups in your local area, and I’ve done a bit of this myself, in Knoxville and online.  How do you feel writing groups help beginning writers, or even established ones?  In what way can they be a hindrance?

DA: The goal of critique groups is to get to “the level”.  Almost no one is at “the level” right out of the gate, so you benefit from the sage observations of those who are, or are close to, “the level”. Once you get to “the level”, their input can become detrimental, the work will become over-analyzed, and that’s when you have to move on.

 

CG: I personally feel like I grow as an author with each new book I write.  I hope my readers feel Annah’s Exile is a step forward from Annah.  How do you feel Vampire Conspiracy reflects a growth in your ability and craft as an author?

DA: Sex, specifically the depictions thereof. Jack doesn’t hook up with his girlfriend in Book One (although the relationship is gradually building during the course of events), because I didn’t want the “love story” to be the main focus. Yet, I also wanted to show that a person with Down Syndrome can have a romantic relationship with a “regular” person. So, Book Two, we have the “hookup” and Jack losing his virginity.

In my universe, the first Human Vampires were created 25,000 years ago, after an exploration vessel from planet Sek’Met crashed on Earth. Since vampirism is transmitted via semen or vaginal fluid, this means the first humans who became Human Vampires had sexual intercourse with said aliens. And when those aliens are super-lethal carnivores who resemble the Nosferatu appearance archetype, one might wonder how a human could possibly find one of the aliens attractive, let alone have sex with them. The best way to answer this was, of course, to have one of my characters have a sex scene with an alien, and the character’s inner monologue during the intercourse makes it clear the experience was as erotic for this character as it was terrifying.
CG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Portals and Pathways readers?

DA: Our books (your “Annah: Children of Evohe”, and my “Vampire Syndrome”) are recent additions to Wal-Mart’s inventory.
Of course I am overjoyed at this turn of events, but it does also highlight another thing I never would have expected.
I think I can speak for you, me, and every other PDMI author when I state that one of the most important reasons why I chose to sign with PDMI, versus self-publishing my work, was to have print versions of my work be available for purchase.
In my case, I always dreamed of having my book carried in a certain ‘mom-and-pop’ bookstore in Denver (known for their large selection of vintage books). When I inquired about consignment as a local author, the owner informed me she was shutting down the store’s local author section.
The only new books that store now carries are all titles from the “Big Five” major New York publishing houses.
This was hardly the outcome I envisioned years ago when I first signed with PDMI, that my once-favorite “hole-in-the-wall” store would not carry my novel, but Books-A-Million and Wal-Mart do.
No matter how big PDMI’s distribution may get, or however many books of mine sell, it’s still bittersweet that my initial dream (to be stocked in my once-favorite small bookstore) never came to fruition. A metaphor for how books matter more than money.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Jack-Wendell-s-Vampire-Syndrome-Book-1-in-the-Vampire-Syndrome-Saga/53628570

 

CG: Thanks for chatting, Daven!  It’s always a pleasure, my friend.

DA: You’re welcome, Clay.

A Conversation with C.F. Waller

 

 

I first made the acquaintance of Charles “C.F.” Waller when we both appeared as guests on the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast hosted by author S. Evan Townshend.  He’s a personable and knowledgeable fellow, with a good sense of humor and a sharp knowledge of the craft of story. I knew then that I wanted to get ahold of him for a chat here on Portals, and he was kind enough to oblige me.  Waller is the author of six books, most recently a novel called Tourists of the Apocalypse, published in April of this year.

 

CG: Charles, I greatly enjoyed appearing on the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast with you back in May.  Since I’ve never featured you on Portals and Pathways before, tell our readers a little bit about what inspired you to become an author, the particular genres that inspire you, and one or two authors who are favorites of yours.

CFW: Michael Crichton is my favorite modern day author (Jurassic Park, The Terminal Man, Prey), although he recently died very young.  I adore Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Grey, Henry James The Aspern Papers, James Joyce’s The Dead or anything by Dashiell Hammett.

I started writing screenplays, then realized no one would read one from a guy with no resume. With seven or eight novels published, I am starting to get some traction, but sticking to books for now.  I may or may not have a screenplay file open on my laptop somewhere, but that’s classified.

CG:  Science fiction is a genre that has been around for much longer than most people realize, I think, and shows no signs of losing its appeal.  What do you think is responsible for the ongoing appeal of SF—not only in the literary realm but in other media as well?

 

CFW: I’d like to think we crave it because of astounding advances in science that open our minds to new possibilities #OPTOMISTIC.  In truth, we are deluged with Star Trek/Star Wars/Marvel Universe movies at present.  I enjoy them, but am always looking for the small budget novel/movie with something to say.  My favorite small budget science fiction movie of all time is Primer, written, directed and starring Shane Carruth.  If you haven’t seen it plan on watching it 20 times and after the first time turn the director’s commentary on to catch up.

 

CG: As authors, we don’t write in a vacuum.  I know I always find myself inspired by the art that I’m currently experiencing. What’s the most recent book that you read and enjoyed?  Most recent film?  Piece of music?

 

CFW: I read so many pre-release (Beta version) books for other authors that I almost never read the final polished product.  The best thing I have read/seen recently was a movie/screen play by Alex Garland called Ex Machina.  I was so taken by it, I downloaded the screenplay to read.  It’s one of the most thought provoking works of the past few years.  I have watched it 20 plus times.

 

I laughed when you asked about music.  I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift.  Yes, I saw you all cringe!  #SHAKEITOFF

 

CG: What are some of your pastimes and passions outside of the world of writing?  Is there something besides being an author that you’ve thought about trying, but never have?

CFW: My wife and I play Yahtzee and watch a lot of Gordon Ramsey cooking shows.

I have had several careers along the way, but am happy to stick close to home these days.  If I could have a do-over on life, I might try running for political office although that might be a carryover from binge watching seven seasons of The West Wing recently.

 

CG: What’s your advice for any beginning writers who might read this?  Also, is there a particular book on writing that you’ve found useful?

CFW: There are a few things I wish I had understood in the beginning.

The first thing you write will be rubbish so keep writing new things and laugh about it later.

Make sure you cover is poster quality/professional and don’t publish a manuscript that’s awash in grammar errors.  It’s sad, but true that people buy with their eyes.

Don’t try and find a publisher.  Self-Publish and then write something else.  Don’t spend a year trying to promote and sell an early work.  Put it out there and move on.

You will get bad reviews.  Instead of being upset, read them and try to learn something.  If a book has all 4-5 star reviews, then only friends of the family read the book.  I cherish my 1-2 stars’ reviews as it proves that on the whole, the reviews I have are factual.

The best writing book I have found is the Fiction Writing Journal Handbook by Robin Woods and Tamar Hela.   It’s key to my writing process at the beginning.

 

 

 

CG: What projects are you currently working on?

CFW: My November release is in final edit.   It’s titled The Conduit: A Tale of Resurrection (The name tells you all you need to know).

I am working through the first draft of a Spring 2017 release.  It’s an Aeronautical themed techo-thriller.  I have been doing a lot of flying in friend’s private planes and receiving back stage tours in airports this year in preparation.  If the books as much fun to read, as the research was to do, it will be great.  It’s tentatively titled Waypoint.

 

CG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Portals and Pathways audience?

CFW: Sure . . . Cats over Dogs, Onion Rings over Fries, Palm Trees over Evergreens and always eat a second piece of cake.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time and thought to answer these, Charles—it’s much appreciated.

 

If you’d like to read C.F. Waller’s work—and I want to read it all—you can find his Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/C.-F.-WALLER/e/B00CLV2CGG

His website is located here: http://www.cfwaller.com/home.html

And you can find the edition of “The Speculative Fiction Cantina” podcast, on which Charles and I were both interviewed, at this link: http://writestreamradio.com/2016/05/24/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-c-f-waller-and-clay-gilbert/

Keeping Up With Cindy Koepp

Today’s Portals and Pathways features a return visit with science-fiction novelist and editor Cindy Koepp.  Cindy’s a fascinating lady who writes fascinating stuff, and you can check out all her work at Amazon.com right here. https://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Koepp/e/B008QXR2QI

For this conversation, rather than the typical Q and A format, I used my initials, CG, for the questions, and Cindy’s initials for her replies.  Enjoy!

CG:  It’s been a while since we had a chat. What’s your year looking like? Any recent publications or current projects you’d like to tell us about?
CK :I’ve had a very busy publishing year so far.
– In January, PDMI Publishing released my science fiction novel Like Herding the Wind. WHOOT!
About that time, editing began on The Condemned Courier, a fantasy serial turned novel, also with PDMI. Yay!
– Bear Publications invited me to participate in an anthology called Victorian Venus. I contributed a steampunk (sorta) story about an Inuit dog-sledding team called “Chasing the Sun.” It should release soon. Happy Day!
– Bear Publications produced another anthology called Avatars of WebSurfer. I have 4 short stories in there: “Jewel Among the Stones,” “Interference,” “The Fall of the Invincible Man,” and “Hard Knocks.” *Round of Applause*
– Under the Moon will soon release The Loudest Actions, the sequel to my first novel Remnant in the Stars. *RAWKFIST*
– I started on the sequel to Lines of Succession, which I’m tentatively calling A Suitable Arrangement. Under the Moon published the first one, so I’m hoping they’ll go for Part 2.
Some of my editing projects have been going on, too.
– I completed edits for Lori Robbin’s Lesson Plan for Murder, which is now in Barking Rain Press’ queue to be formatted.
– I also edited Victoria Adams’ book-length analysis of the Book of Job: Why Me?
– PDMI has given me Lawayne Childrey’s book Peeling Back the Layers for editing; and Barking Rain Press gave me Sheri Levy’s Starting Over, the sequel to the MG/YA book Seven Days to Goodbye.
I feel like I’ve forgotten something, but I think that’s all of them.

CG:  The passing of time always brings new growth and new opportunities for people, especially writers. How have you grown the most as a writer in the past year? What’s the most exciting new opportunity that’s come your way recently?
CK: I tried my hand at writing flash fiction. *snicker* Yeah, that didn’t work. The shortest one was still 3000 words long, but that’s about 3000 words shorter than my previous shortest one. So, progress?
During the edits of The Loudest Actions, the editor at Under the Moon had me go do some research on how to show emotion and tone for characters, particularly in dialogue. I’ve now added a line to my self-editing checklist: “Watch out for Vulcans and Greek Stoics.”
The most exciting opportunity I had was an invitation to be on a podcast called Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards. I’ve done these blog interview kinds of things but never anything like that before.
Another exciting opportunity coming soon: A book signing at a Barnes and Noble near where I live.
An exciting editorial opportunity was starting my own freelance editing service: Time Koepp.

CG : Writers grow from all sorts of things—books we read, music we listen to, people we meet. Have you read anything good recently? Listened to any new favorite music? What other things do you find inspiring you these days?
CK:  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much of a chance to read for fun, and I only listen to music on road trips. I don’t go to movies in theatres very often these days because so many of them use flashing light special effects.
The vast majority of my reading has been from either my editing projects or doing research for my writing projects. The only music I’ve listened to lately was the soundtrack for Les Miserables and a Kansas album Somewhere to Elsewhere while road tripping to and from my parents’ place.
People often speak of things that inspire them to write or make other art, but I don’t know if I can identify anything that consistently generates ideas for me. Sometimes Scripture, sometimes a movie or old TV show I have on disc, and sometimes the ideas pop into my brain without a return address.

CG:  One of the things I enjoy personally about your work, Cindy, is that many of your stories deal with people learning to get along—humans and aliens, aliens and aliens, and humans and other humans. What do you think is the most important thing about getting along with others?

CK: When learning to get along with someone else, we need to avoid two very common pastimes: conclusion-jumping and keyword-listening.
For example, I’m a white, conservative, Christian (Southern Baptist, at the moment), 40-something, Texan female. This does not mean I hate homosexuals, despise the poor, whack people upside the head with my Bible, try to drag people to a baptistery, go hunting, or own a horse. In fact, none of those things are true, but different people have jumped to each of those conclusions.
Listening for keywords and jumping to the conclusions are often done to save time in our busy day. Arriving at the conclusion that I must be a deadly shot with a pistol because I live in Texas spares the listener the time it would take to find out if I actually own one. The problem comes when misconceptions develop.
The only real barrier to truth is the assumption we already have it. If we think we already know what we need to know about someone, we’re not very likely to pay attention to what really is true. Instead of assuming something is true, take the time to get to know the person. You might be surprised.

CG:  Anything else you’d like to say to our Portals and Pathways readers?

CK: As violence escalates between racial lines, class lines, and even job descriptions, more than ever, we need to listen carefully and demonstrate love for others. Remember, love is a verb, not an emotion. It’s a choice to put the needs of others first. The first step is listening, really paying attention to what other people have to say.
Truly loving someone doesn’t mean we must necessarily agree on everything. “I disagree with you” is not synonymous with “I hate you.”
Y’all stay safe out there!

CG: Thanks so much for being my guest!
:CK: Thanks for letting me come play again.

The Writer’s Craft: Doors, Open and Closed

Writing, especially fiction-writing, is a strange profession.  Of necessity, it isn’t the sort of work one usually does with other people around, turning to others and casually chatting between sentences.  It’s a craft that demands seclusion because it demands immersion–in our stories, in our characters, and in the worlds in which those characters live and breathe.  It’s work that depends on the creative act of opening a door between our world–the routine realm of the everyday–and the territory of imagination where the act of fiction-making takes place.

In Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, the author advises would-be writers that their workspace should include “a door which you are willing to shut.”  “The closed door,” King writes, “is your way of telling yourself and the world that you mean business: you have made a serious commitment to writing and are willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk (155).”

This idea of the closed door as essential to the craft of writing—as important as the open imaginative door that is also crucial to the process—is, I believe, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to beginning writers.

We live in a world saturated by social media, and our society constantly feeds us the idea of the need for connection.  Social media is not just a distraction for the writer, either: it’s an important business tool; a crucial part of the machinery of marketing and self-promotion.  And yet, having Facebook or Twitter open is akin to having the office door ajar, and makes it a temptation not only to get distracted, but for other people to think we’re available for distraction.

The problem exists on both sides of the office door, in this case.  Beginning writers may not really have mastered the discipline to treat writing the way they would going to an actual office building to sit behind a desk for eight hours.  There may be a tendency to see the time spent at the computer as a hobby, and no one gets mad if their hobby-time is interrupted by phone calls or prompts for Facebook chats, right?

So, as King says in that quote, if you’re serious about this craft we call writing, treat it with seriousness. It’s work.   It may be fun work, but it’s still work.  And if the world around you sees that you view your craft that way, eventually it will, too.

Forget about the cute stereotypes of the easily distracted writer; the one who writes for an hour and spends the other seven surfing the net or looking at the ceiling.  These images aren’t cute; they’re sloppy, and they’re nothing to aspire to.

If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, then write seriously.  And that’s not a comment about choice of genre: I write science fiction, fantasy and horror novels.  But I do what I do to get the stories told, and then to get the work out into the world.  I’m not filling up the page because I’m bored, or just because I think it’s a better use of my time than watching television. Choose a block of time each day to close the office door—keep it closed–and open the one in your mind. You’ll be surprised how much difference writing with intention will make.

 handpen