Author Interview: The Charismatic Kimberly Richardson

For my final author interview this month, I am fortunate enough to have snagged some of the valuable time of the charismatic Kimberly Richardson, my friend and the editor of the Cycle of Ages Saga. Let’s get down to business, Kim. I’m sure the readers out there are eager to learn more about you and your work.

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J:  Judging from our conversations and your stories, you have a vivid imagination. Where do you find the inspiration to fuel this creative fire and turn your wild ideas into amazing stories?

K:  I get inspiration by simply observing the world around me. The world is filled with magick and wonder; all one has to do is simply open your eyes. Even a simple conversation between two people in a coffee shop can inspire an awesome story – several of my stories began that way.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

J:  You’ve reached some manner of acclaim in a short period of time as a professional writer. In fact, two of your novels were considered for the Pulitzer list a couple of years ago. Could you tell us more about that experience as well as your other accolades/honors?

K:  Being enlisted for the Pulitzer was quite a learning experience for me; it felt wonderful to know that my work stood a chance to receive such an honour. I do plan to enlist again very soon! I was also a finalist for several awards as well as edited several anthologies that later won awards through certain stories.

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J: Which of your fantastical tales has generated the most feedback from readers? What was their overall response to it?

K:  It is spread across the board; I get feedback from people about everything! Generally, the feedback has been great followed with questions of when my next work will be available. Either that, or they ask me if I’ve ever committed any of the “incidents” that are in my stories. I consider that to be a compliment.

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J:  What writers have influenced you the most? And which of their books are your favorites?

K:  That answer is very, very long but I will say that roughly 100+ writers have influenced me. The list of books is too long as well. I take little bits from those who inspire me and add it to my own mixture. The mixture is always changing and blending to whatever I’m either reading or writing.

J:  If you could talk to any of these writers, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you discuss?

K:  Actually, I really wouldn’t want to speak with any of them, strangely enough. They are in my mind in certain ways and for me to possibly speak with them might shatter that “image”. I know that sounds lame but it is the truth. Let them continue being that certain “thing” in my mind and I’m happy enough.

J:  Doesn’t sound strange to me at all. After having my own mental image of certain celebrities shattered by meeting them in person, I tend to avoid those who have had the deepest impact on me. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who would hate to be disappointed in the humanity of my heroes and idols.

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J:  In addition to writing, do you have any other hobbies or creative pursuits?

K:  Photography, tea blending, traveling, cooking, hiking, mycology, attending ballets, opera and the theatre in general, reading books (of course!).

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J:  Could you tell us more about your experiences as an editor for Dark Oak Press and others? Do you prefer to write your own material or help edit and shape the work of others?

K:  They are equal in my world. When I first began editing for Dark Oak, I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. After many bruises, scrapes, cuss words and failures later, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. With regards to my work – I still enjoy it. That will never die even as I continue my work as an Editor.

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J:  As a writer and editor, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to become published professionals?

K:  Don’t stop, no matter what. I can’t get any more blunt than that.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

Photo by Kimberly Richardson.

J:  What project are you working on currently? Without spoiling anything, could you provide us with a snippet from it?

K:  As of now, I’m working through the second round of edits for my Southern Gothic novel, Open A. The novel is about a Memphian named Graydon Fayette who is also a world renowned violinist. He is also a member of a very old family that more than just dabbles in the dark side.

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J:  Do you have any new or upcoming releases that you’d like to promote here?

K:  Open A should be out next year if not sooner. Tales From a Goth Librarian II was released this past February. Both are/will be through Dark Oak Press. I also have a short story called “The Master of Tea” that will be released in Asian Pulp through Pro Se Press this year.

J:  Thanks for sharing, Kim. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear more about you and your passion for writing and editing, as well as your other creative pursuits. I wish you all the best on your upcoming releases. Maybe we’ll be seeing you on the Pulitzer list again soon.

Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Interview: The Delectable Daisy Foxxx

For my first Cherry Sparkle Burlesque interview for the Spring of 2015, it’s appropriate that I welcome the vibrant, vivacious Daisy Foxx, a delectable young lady with a heart full of song and a spring in her step. She’s the original hooper for the CSBC and fast becoming a good friend, especially after offering to bake me cupcakes following my back surgery. Thanks, Daisy. Happy to have you here on the blog today. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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J: When you joined the company, why did you choose to be known as Daisy Foxxx? What does that persona mean to you?

D: Well, I’m sweet like a daisy but also foxy. 

J: Have to agree there. Definitely as sweet as a daisy. And the foxy part goes without saying.

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J: What prompted you to join Cherry Sparkle? And how long have you been a member?

D: I saw a post about it on facebook. I’ve been looking for a group like this for awhile. When you live in a small town full of people who don’t really get art and freedom of expression, it’s a bit tough. I love my group. I joined in August 2014.

J: Ah, the glories of Facebook. Happy that you found a match with Cherry Sparkle. They are some wonderful people. And very accepting. This area can be very draining for all creative types, but I hope that our influences can open people up to new experiences and forms of entertainment.

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J: Do you have a background in dance, theater, or performance art?

D: I do have a little bit of a background. I used to do chorus and drama in my church…till I was in high school. I have always been interested in dance; I think it’s so beautiful how our bodies can move and be used to create and express ourselves.

J: Well, in your case, Daisy, it’s a beautiful expression. For me, it’s more like a spastic rhino on the dance floor, so I’ll leave it to the professionals like you. 🙂

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J: What about other creative interests or hobbies?

D: I do photography on the side. I really do enjoy taking photos. You capture a moment that you can only go back to by looking at the photo itself.

J: You’re certainly in good company if you want to develop those skills. Joel did amazing work on the Cherry Sparkle calendar, and I know several of the dolls are photography hobbyists too.

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J: Could you tell us about your role in the company and your performance style?

D: I like to look sweet and innocent, but draw you in with my magical hoop and sexy ways.

J: Miss Daisy, you manage that with little more than a smile and a few kind words. The hoop is just icing on the cake.

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J: How did your hula hoop come by its name? And how long have you been performing together?

D: I used to hula hoop when I was a child. My school held a talent show and that was my first performance with a hula hoop. I did the cha-cha slide while hooping. It’s a connection, you just simply go with the flow and enjoy the movement.

J: Again, I guess this comes down to you being naturally fluid, flexible, and fantastically creative. With the addition of a second hooper to the company, I hope to see more complex routines from you and her in the future too.

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J: Given complete creative control and few limitations on budget, what song would you perform to onstage and what would you wear for this performance of a lifetime?

D: Gosh that’s a hard one. Hmm…let’s see…probably Lana Del Rey. She’s inspirational to me. I would probably also use a LED hoop. It lights up with different patterns pretty sick.

J: Sounds pretty trippy. And reminds me of your psychedelic photo in the new Cherry Sparkle calendar. I’d share it here but would rather people go out and buy their own copy.

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J: What’s your favorite part of a burlesque show? What’s your least favorite part of performing?

D: Honestly, everything. When we all get ready together and set up [for the show]. Tell each other how we all look great; we are really like a team. Yet all of us are all unique in our own way. Then the butterflies set in, but it’s so rewarding afterwards. It’s a wonderful feeling almost like a high. It feels good doing something you enjoy.

J: Performance art at its best. Sounds like group synergy at its best too, when the group become family.

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Thanks again for agreeing to this interview, Daisy. Great hearing back from you about your life and times with the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. Come check out her and the other dolls and guys of Cherry Sparkle at their next show at Caldwell Tavern (formerly the Crimson Tiger) in Anniston, Alabama on the 4th of April 2015.

Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with authors, artists, dancers, and more. It’s bound to be a busy year.

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Author Interview: The Magical Mindscape of J.L. Mulvihill

For our first author interview of the year, I have the privilege of probing the magical mindscape of J.L. Mulvihill, Southern Haunts editor and writer of fantasy, horror, steampunk, and more. She’s the author of poems, short stories, and several novels, including Lost Daughter of Easa, Boxcar Baby, and Crossings.

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Let’s start off with something basic but fundamental. How long have you been writing and what prompted you to go from amateur to professional?

Well, the funny thing is, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I found an old journal of my mothers and there is an entry there that said “Today Jennifer made up her first poem, ‘light, light, burning bright’.” Okay so I didn’t actually write that, I was only two years old but I think if I could have written it I would have. We will just say I have been writing poetry and short stories as long as I have been able to write. I just saw it as a hobby and sometimes therapy. When I got into bands, I started writing song lyrics too. One day however, about eleven years ago, I had a strange nightmare about being chased through the woods by a giant spider. The dream would not leave my head but kept playing over and over until characters started emerging. I told my family about it and they encouraged me to write the story down. I did and the next thing I knew I had 180,000 words down on paper. What to do with that now I wondered. Well, that was when I started the long trek to getting the story published and it became my first novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa.

Frankly, I find that story fascinating and a bit terrifying. I’m a bit arachnophobia too, but it’s more of an irrational hatred toward them. Too quiet. Too many eyes and legs. Bleh. But you’ve just sold me on reading Lost Daughter now. It’s bound to be a fright-filled tale.

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Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?

I, of course, am a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Robert A. Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. I could probably go on for a while since I read a lot when I was a kid that was all I pretty much did was listen to music and read books.

Apparently, you forgot about Stan Lee. I dug up this picture of you and him together at Dragon*Con 2014. 😉

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Name five favorite novels that either influenced you or have simply stuck with you?

The Strawberry Girl – Lois Lenski;
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien;
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradury;
Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey;
Lost Horizon – James Hilton

The Hobbit and many works by Bradbury would be on my list as well. I can see a lot of Bradbury’s influence in the coming-of-age aspect of Boxcar Baby, especially focusing on a gritty, darker side of it.

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I know you field this question on a lot of writing panels. But I’ll ask it again here. Always leads us into the mind of the writer. Where have you found inspiration for your stories/books?

Inspiration for my stories and books come from my dreams, parts of my life, my children and family, the world and people around me. Sometimes it’s something I hear on the history channel or Discovery and then develops into an idea. Maybe an object I see in a shop or on the ground. I guess most of my ideas just come from the twisted world inside my head.

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You have worked as an editor on Seventh Star Press’s Southern Haunts series as well as authored several stories and books yourself. Which work do you find more fulfilling, writing and editing your own stories or editing, and shaping, those of others?

I think I prefer to work on my own stories because I feel like I am invading on peoples’ creativity when I edit. However, there is a certain satisfaction one can achieve when an anthology is created and finished. Especially when the idea of the anthology like Southern Haunts was something you helped come up with from the beginning.

I agree wholeheartedly there, Jen. I always feel intrusive if I’m doing more than proofing someone’s work. And even then, you can run into subjective disagreements about exposition, dialogue, and basic grammar. I’d rather be writing than editing anyday.

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Your young adult fantasy novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa, and The Steel Roots series, which I’d term as a steampunk fairy tale and coming-of-age story, are rich worlds with descriptions and characters that fill them out in great detail. From outside appearances, both seem to involve heavy world-building and a lot of planning and outlining.

Could you tell us about your creative process with these pieces, with a focus on these topics?

When people say heavy world building, I feel like I am cheating because those worlds are in my head; and, yes, I guess I did create them but to me it is not such a hard task as it sounds. For Lost Daughter of Easa, I literally have a tri-board with sticky notes on it with regards to characters, places and things. I actually do have an outline, in fact an entire book filled with notes about everything from mythological creatures to the string theory and traveling between worlds. I follow my outline, and when I come to a creature or object, I look it up or research for good measure. Here is the trick though; I have books for this series. A lot of people rely heavily on the internet; I have books of all sorts about giants, and fairies and elves and dragons. The only things I do not have books on are spiders, because I hate spiders, and I will not even have a book about them. I look those up at the library or, yes, the internet. Now as far as the world, like I said it is alive in my head, so I just close my eyes and can go there. I see all my scenes as if they are really happening before me.

The steampunk series is a little different. I did a lot of research both in books and online about the 1800s and the Victorian era as well as the revolutionary time period, workhouses, and factories. The cool thing about this story is that it is in America, not a fictional place. Although it is set in my alternate history, I can look up these towns and see what they used to look like and then describe them, maybe altering bits and pieces here and there. Some the Steel Roots series has elements from my childhood as well that I have incorporated in the story to make it real. For instance, the very first sentence is taken from when I lived with my grandparents. I would hear the train whistle every night and every morning far off in the distance, and it would comfort me. I, of course, do a fair bit of research about trains, hobos, and the like. I go to museums and take notes. I immerse myself in so much research that sometimes I forget I am supposed to be writing.

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How many installments will we see in The Steel Roots series? And will we see a sequel to Lost Daughter on the shelves this year?

Crossings, Book #2 of the Steel Roots series was just released in December of 2014. The publisher is expecting another one from me this year, so I guess there will only be three, though I dare say with so many characters afoot there could be some spin offs maybe, I am hopeful. As for the sequel to Lost Daughter of Easa, I cannot guarantee it will be out in 2015, but I can guarantee I will be done with the manuscript in 2015.

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What are you working on currently? And can you provide us with a snippet from it?

I am currently working on both the sequel to Lost Daughter and the next Steel Roots book, as for a snippet, let’s just say in Lost Daughter the dragons will awaken. As for Steel Roots, I can only tell you that it will be the greatest invention ever. Spoilers, Sweetie, spoilers.

As winsome and evasive as River Song herself, eh, Jen? I guess that’s part of the mysterious allure that keeps readers coming back for more. Frankly, I’m looking forward to continuing AB’Gale’s journey.

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What new creative works will you have hitting the shelves or the web in 2015?

I know that the Steel Roots sequel is slotted for release sometime in 2015, as for the rest we will just have to wait and see what 2015 has to bring.

One last question before we go, Jen. Where can we read more about you and your works? Do you have a writing blog or website(s) that you’d like to promote here?

You can find out more about me on www.elsielind.com or go to jlsbooks.blogspot.com/

You can also find out more about Authora and some poetry at the following link: http://home.comcast.net/~mulvijen/site/

Or catch me on my Facebook pages:

https://www.facebook.com/JLMulvihill

https://www.facebook.com/mulvijen?ref=hl

https://www.facebook.com/TheElsieLindSeries?ref=hl

https://www.facebook.com/SteelRootsSeries?ref=hl

Jen cosplaying The Spider Witch from Lost Daughter of Easa.

Jen cosplaying The Spider Witch from Lost Daughter of Easa.

Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Jen. It’s been great chatting with you again and letting our readers learn more about you and what you have planned for the new year. Wish you the best in 2015. Hope to see you back on the Southern Fandom Convention Circuit soon.

If you would like to meet J.L. Mulvihill in person and pick up a signed copy of one of her works, you can find her at the First Annual Dark Oak Press Book Signing at the Barnes & Noble in Ridgeland, Mississippi on January 24, 2015. Alexander S. Brown, Kalila Smith, Kimberly Richardson, and publisher Allan Gilbreath will be in attendance.

For more details, find the event on Facebook HERE.

Stay tuned to this blog for more interviews, announcements, updates, and more.

Author Interview: Traumatizing Minds with Alexander S. Brown

When I first met Alexander S. Brown at a fandom convention, I had no idea that I was meeting the scariest man to pass through Vicksburg, Mississippi since General Grant. But after reading “Traumatized”, his self-published horror anthology, I was convinced. I was no longer just a friend or colleague but a fan as well. Today, I am happy to be able to shine some light on the dark, fruitful imagination of this wonderful writer and what he has in store for his fans in the future.

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When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? And how long did it take you to make that dream happen?

My senior year of high school was when I decided to be a professional writer. Although I have written books through the ages of 18 and 29, my actual dream hadn’t reached fruition until the last year. Although I was overly thrilled to produce short fiction for anthologies: Dreams of Steam, Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, Luna’s Children, and Capes and Clockworks, it wasn’t until I helped produce Southern Haunts volume 1 and 2, and published Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls that I finally felt my career had begun.

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Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?

My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and the list continues.

If you could talk to any of those writers, living or dead, which one would it be and why? What would you want to discuss?

I would pick Clive Barker. He is a brilliant name in the horror genre that provides a great diversity of being poetic and horrific. I also admire his fantasy themed horror: Imagica, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld, etc. I would want to discuss with him how different scare tactics captivate audiences. I would also enjoy speaking of story ideas.

Good choice! Barker’s Weaveworld is one of my all-time favorite novels. Ranks up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. Poe, Lovecraft, Kind, and Palahniuk have influences me as well. Koontz and Rice have too but to a lesser extent. I’m more of a fan of Rice’s works written under the Rampling pseudonym than her vampire novels.

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How did growing up in the Deep South affect the content and style of your writing? Have you worked any of those real-life experiences into your stories?

A lot of what I have written about has been inspired by actual places, events, or southern folklore. Growing up in the South has provided a great deal of opportunities for my writings, especially by living in a secluded, wooded area for the majority of my life. The Southern culture can be seen most in these following pieces: Syrenthia Falls, Southern Haunts 1 & 2, and Traumatized.

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What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Are there any that you avoid entirely?

I have no problems writing in any genre as long as I can keep the genre themed with suspense and horror.

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You started out as a self-published (or indie) writer but have transitioned to traditional publishing with the Southern Haunt anthologies from Seventh Star, the new edition of Traumatized from Pro Se, and your first novel (Syrenthia Falls) released by Dark Oak Press earlier this year. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route?

To say being self-published is the greatest nightmare alive would be untrue. When Traumatized was first published, I had no one to help or represent me in the world of publishing, so I used a vanity press that charged its authors to get published.

The only good thing that came from this was I now had a product that I could sell and I could attend conventions and promote myself. Had I never done this, I would have never learned about the con circuit and I would probably still be in the dark. With that said, I gained placement in three publishing houses: Seventh Star Press, Dark Oak Press, and Pro Se Press (Pro Se Press is now in control of Traumatized as it was pulled from the original press).

In this interview, my goal with this question is to direct unpublished authors to attend conventions and converse with other authors and publishers. If you are serious about your work, then this will give you the opportunity to fish it around.

I am in complete agreement there, Alex. Attending conventions is what led to me being published. Without the networking opportunities facilitated by conventions, namely meeting authors and publishers face-to-face, we’d never have hooked up with Dark Oak Press, much less Pro Se. In fact, this very interview series is a direct result of meeting authors, editors, artists, publishers, and others at these fandom conventions.

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Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing (or the process of polishing, editing, and publishing your stories), and how do you deal with this?

Writing isn’t the hard part, editing is. There are so many ways a sentence can be structured. Also there are plenty of times where less is more and I overdo it. Sometimes cutting multiple paragraphs to pages from my stories are necessary when I finish writing.

In my opinion, editing is what separates the amateur from the professional. Anyone can write. Anyone can write a story. But very few people are willing to take the time and effort, much less spend the money on a professional, to whip their story into shape for publication. Those of us who can slog through it, take the criticism from ourself as well as others, and make the changes necessary to turn out a polished product are the real professionals, whether we are published traditionally or self-published.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write your entire manuscript and while you’re writing it look for publishers who are small or medium sized. After you finish writing your manuscript, edit, edit, edit, and start building an audience on social media sites. Also, write blogs in regard to the subjects that focus on your writing genre.

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Are you working on anything currently? Can you provide a snippet from it?

I am working on a few things that are top secret, if I shared them with you, I would have to kill you. However, I’m happy to share a segment of the last ebook that Pro Se Press published and a segment of Syrenthia Falls.

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From Outhouse published by Pro Se Press, Story 3 in the Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out series

I crossed tha kitchen floor and gazed out left and right. I ain’t seen nothin’ scary and nothin’ ain’t sound spooked. Tha night was calm. Although that shoulda made me feel better, I wondered how fast I could run ta tha outhouse and back.

I took a deep breath and opened tha door. Tha rusted hinges hollered. Once I was on tha porch, tha cool wind blew in my face, causin’ my bonnet ta tickle my forehead and tha sides of my cheeks. I shivered out of fear and coldness, and also tha pressure in my bladder.

Tha screen door done slammed behind me, causin’ me ta jump. Then I shot off tha porch like lightenin’. I went left, round tha back of tha house that looked over some of our crops and that hill where Poppa and me done flew kites. In tha dead night, I heard it. It was a growl, lot like a riled mongrel.

I looked ta tha crops. No more than twenty feet away, thirty at best, was somethin’ that struck fear in my soul. Hidin’ in ‘em crops out yonder, crouched close ta tha ground was two eyes as big as saucers. And they were glowin’, jus’ like Poppa said. And they were red, jus’ like tha tobacco in his pipe when he smoked it.

Not far down from ‘em spaced eyes was a pulled back meat eatin’ grin. In that moonlight, I could see its teeth and theys were jus’ like a bear trap. Its skin was withered like Poppa said. It also had a saggy chest, remindin’ me of some of tha old ladies of our church, where ‘eir breasts dropped when they lost tha perk. Its stomach was a gross pot belly that dropped between its squattin’ legs. When tha wind blew, it caused its thin hair ta sway in tha night like moss.

Fer what seemed seconds, we stared at one another. It let out a tongue tha size of a cow’s tongue and lapped its lips. Not wastin’ anotha second, it charged at me.

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From Syrenthia Falls published by Dark Oak Press

“You guys are good storytellers,” chuckled Syrenthia.

“Speaking of which,” mumbled Blake with a mouthful of taco salad.

Blake swallowed, then chugged the carton of milk as if he had gone the whole day without a drink. He wiped the milk residue from his upper lip with an open hand as Syrenthia listened in anticipation.

“Okay, there’s a place called Owen Falls, it’s in the northeast part of town. You take Old Foster Road. After you hang a left, you’ll come to a concrete bridge. After pulling over, you follow a trail under the bridge into the woods, and then you see The Falls,” explained Blake while Syrenthia yearned for the punchline.

“Five years ago was when the murders started, and it only happens on nights of a full moon. But these aren’t just murders, they’re mutilations. Most bodies have been found so shredded that it takes dental records to identify them,” continued Blake as Lynn stopped eating.

“You’re joking,” claimed Syrenthia. “It’s an urban legend right? No bodies were really found were they?”

“No, it’s true. My cousin’s friend was one of the policemen that restricted the area,” insisted Danny.

“Isn’t that how urban legends start?” Syrenthia quizzed. “It always happens to a friend of a friend?”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “but the area is restricted.”

“That’s a useless defense,” interrupted Sarah.

Syrenthia’s eyes widened and her desire for more information grew. Blake returned to eating his food as if the story had no effect on him and Danny began speaking.

“You see, three months after the murders, a warden staked out the area. Story goes, the watchman for that night rigged up a hunting stand so he could see everything… What he saw made him stay in that tree the whole night. The next day, investigators came for him. When they found him, his hair had turned white and since then he has never said another word.”

“Why didn’t he radio for help?” Syrenthia questioned.

“The story is bullshit,” added Sarah.

“Does anybody know what caused the murders?” Syrenthia asked.

Lynn shivered. “No. Two summers ago, a couple went to The Falls on the night of a full moon. Story has it that when the police found the couple, every single body part had been mauled or ripped from their bodies.”

Danny interrupted. “They were some of the last victims, but the police discovered something. You see, out of the five years the murders happened, the victims had either slash marks or were mutilated beyond recognition. The murders could have been done with a machete or knife, but the couple that was ripped apart had something strange left with them.”

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Thanks, Alex. Let’s hope those teasers send our audience scrambling to order a copy of both from Amazon.

Do you have a new or upcoming release you want to plug here? If so, when and where can we find it?

Pro Se is publishing a short story monthly from my collection The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out. I’m writing Traumatized 2, editing Southern Haunts 3, and writing a sequel to Syrenthia Falls called Starla’s Moonlight. Southern Haunts 3 can be expected out in 2015. My other works such as Traumatized 2 or Starla’s Moonlight will hopefully see publication in 2016 or so.

I appreciate you sitting for the interview, Alex. I’m sure the readers enjoyed learning more about you, and I hope aspiring writers out there appreciate the advice. Best of luck with the next edition of Southern Haunts, your Pro Se Digital Short Series, and the sequel to Syrenthia Falls. Look forward to all of them. Thanks again and keep on writing, my friend.

For more about Alexander S. Brown and his works of fiction, check out his Amazon author page HERE.

To follow his blog, click HERE.

Author Interview: Dark-eyed, Light-hearted A.G. Porter, Author of The Darkness Trilogy

For my first author interview in December, I have the pleasure of sitting down with A.G. (Amanda) Porter, indie author of The Darkness Trilogy. On her blog, she lists writing as her favorite past time; and in this writer’s fortunate experiences with Amanda, she makes a great beta reader and an even better friend. Like me, she grew up in the hilly countryside of Alabama, where she resides today with her husband, stepson, and self-described furbabies.

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Could you tell us about your journey to the exciting, fast-paced world of writing fiction?

Oh gosh, where do I start? As cliché as it sounds, I know it began when I was just a little girl and I watched my mom typing away at her typewriter. Yes, a typewriter. She would writer the scariest stories! She still does and I can’t wait for her to put them out for the world to read!

I had always been an avid reader of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street Series. In high school, I carried around a 5-subject notebook that I would use to write my stories in. I wonder if my parents still have them because I’m sure those stories would be so funny to read now and probably really embarrassing!

After graduating from school I thought I had to get out in the real world and get a real job. I went to school, got a degree in business, and went into the corporate world. All the while, I was still writing. It hit me one day that I was never going to know if anyone would be interested in reading my books if I didn’t put them out there. Then in 2012, after being told “No” for the millionth time by literary agents, I decided to just do it myself and I’ve never been happier.

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Did you have someone helping you along the road to self-publication or was it an entirely self-taught experience?

I had plenty of encouragement from family and friends, but most of the process was just me. I had to figure things out on my own. For example, where to find a cover artist, how to convert the Word document into an ebook, etc. I thought once I was finished writing then that was it. I was so wrong. There is so much more to being an Indie Author than just writing a book. You don’t realize that you’re actually a small business and you’re not only an artist, but you’re a marketer, a personal assistant, a promoter and the list just goes on.

It would have been nice to have a mentor to help, you know, someone who had been through it before. I know many self-published authors who are more than willing to help now, but back then I didn’t know anyone! Ha! That is why if I see someone who I know is new I try my best to reach out to them or if someone reaches out to me I will drop whatever I am doing and help them.

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What have you learned about the rigors of the writing, editing, and self-publishing process from Book One of the Darkness Trilogy to Book Two?

Don’t rush it. Yes, you will have readers that want you hurry up and get those books out and that is get, but you will be doing them a disservice if you rush the books just to get them out of the door. Also, you can’t edit your own stuff. Let someone else look over it. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny to make your stuff look good, but not just to anyone. Do your research! There are some people out there who just want to take your money.

If you want to use Beta Readers, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, please make sure this person is trustworthy. I have heard so many horrors about Beta Readers being Book Pirates. I can’t imagine seeing my work online for sale by someone else just because I thought I could trust someone to read an ARC. Again, do your research.

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Do you have a preference in genres that you prefer to write? Any that you plan to avoid?

I have always loved the paranormal, so I will probably stick to that most of the time. One day I would love to try a Sci-Fi story. I love that genre, but we’ll see. I plan to try my hand in fantasy as well. I have a dragon rider series that I have been working for about 10 years that my stepson wants me to finish. We shall see!
I’m not too much into Romance. There are romantic elements in my books because I believe that people love to be in love, but I couldn’t write a book that is entirely centered on someone’s romantic relationship.

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You mentioned that you weave your faith and beliefs into your storytelling. How do you go about it without coming off like you’re proselytizing to your audience? Have your received any feedback, positive or negative, about it?

My faith is just a part of who I am, I suppose. It just automatically comes out into the words that I write. I’m not sure about most authors, but for me, my books reflect my mind when it comes to my faith. I’ll also say that my books have a lot darkness in it, but that isn’t me at all. I’ll put it this way because someone else approached me with a similiar question. This is how life is; you have goodness and darkness. Sometimes they come at you at the same time and you have to fight with all you have in you to hold on to the light. For me and my writing style, I fight with my faith.

However, I know that there are people out there who do not share my beliefs so I would never want to come across as shoving what I believe down their throats. The main character of my book, Rayna, is dealing with an evil presence, a darkness, so she clings to the light, her faith, to fight it off. She also knows that she has to find her inner strength as well. There isn’t one time in the book that she or anyone else says, “You better go to church or you’re going to Hell.” Haha!

There are many characters in the book that have no religious upbringing and mention nothing about faith because, again, we’re all different. I’ve just created a world where (think Supernatural or Buffy) demons roam the earth so you better watch out. So Rayna uses her gifts and her faith to fight that evil off. So far, the feedback has been positive and I think it’s because the readers know it’s a work of fiction.

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As with any discussion of faith and religion, my mind drifts to sin, to guilty pleasures. What book is your guilty reading pleasure? Why?

Hmm. I would probably have to Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and all her other vampire books. I guess it’s a guilty pleasure because Ms. Rice can get pretty dark. I started reading those books when I was pretty young and they were darker than anything I read at the time. So I felt like I being mischievous. Haha!

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Bringing the conversation back around to your writing, could you tell us a bit about your creative process? Are you much of a “plotter” or do you write by the seat of your pants…or tights as the case may be? 😉

Haha! I am not a plotter. I sit down and let it fly, for the most part, when it comes to my paranormal books. The fantasy book is something different though. That series has so many characters that I’ve had to create a list and have even drawn a map. It’s a terrible map because I’m not a cartographer! I wanted to draw it though so I could have a visual of the world I was creating. I haven’t really created an outline for it, but it’s more preparation than I’ve ever done for a book.

What other authors have influenced you the most as a writer?

R.L. Stine and Dean Koontz for sure are at the top of my list. I love their writing style and the strong careers that both of them have had. If I ever get the chance to meet them, I think I might just pass out. 😉

The Geek Gathering 2014

The Geek Gathering 2014

Are you working on anything currently? Would you provide a brief excerpt from it?

Why yes, I am working on book three of The Darkness Trilogy. I’ll be glad to share something. Here you go:

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. An ear splitting sound ripped through the night sky and blinding pain stabbed me in the back. A force, stronger than I had ever felt, kicked me in the spine and threw me across the yard. I landed hard on the gravel, skidding for a while before I stopped.

My back felt hot and my face was raw. I was fairly certain that more than one bone in my body was broken. I tried raising my head, but the muscles in my neck didn’t seem want to work. My eyelids were heavy and I really wanted to sleep. Something was telling that I shouldn’t, that if I did, I wouldn’t wake back up.

The Shadow descended on me, crushing my will to stay awake. He held me underneath his power, wrapping my broken body in his powerful arms. Using his strength, he pulled me up into the sky where I had a bird eye view of the carnage below. It was hard to look at, like something from a war zone.

Up here the air was cold and my breath turned to mist as soon as it left my mouth. My fingers and toes were numb and my nose started to run though I was unsure if it was blood or not. Tears turned to ice as they stung the corners of my eyes.

I saw my body lying on the ground; my left leg was twisted at a grotesque angle. My right arm was underneath my body and it looked as though I wasn’t breathing. A large chunk of my hair was burned and the back of my shirt was scorched off, revealing red flesh that would take time to heal if I lived that long.

The Forsaken book cover

Is there an upcoming (or recent) release that you’d like to promote here? If so, what’s it about and where can we find it?

My most recent release is Book 2, The Forsaken, of The Darkness Trilogy. You can find it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IP1DBCA

Thanks again, Amanda. Let’s hope the new year brings with it the final installment of The Darkness Trilogy. Best of luck on finishing it. I’m sure your fans are as eager as your friends to see this project brought to fruition.

For more about A.G. Porter and The Darkness Trilogy, check out her blog at the following URL:

https://agporter.wordpress.com

Stay tuned to this blog for more interviews. My next author interview is Alexander S. Brown, author of Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls. Plus, we’ll talk more with the sexy dolls of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque.

Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Interview: Introducing the Kickass Kittie Von Carnage

Let’s start this short week off on the right note, with something to give thanks about, the next installment of my interviews with the performers of Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. This week I’m talking with the kickass Kitty Von Carnage, a snarky sexpot with a mind as hypnotic as her dark eyes and disarming smile.

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I must say that I love your stage name, Kittie von Carnage. It conjures up the image of a hardcore, hard-edged woman who doesn’t take any shit from anyone. She embraces her sexuality and uses it to empower her, to embolden her and her performances.  Is that far from the truth? What does that moniker mean to you? And does that stage persona carry over into your daily life, once you’re off stage?

Your image of Kittie Von Carnage is exactly what I want to portray. Not only does the name empower me, but I hope to spread that confident and badass energy to anyone and everyone in the audience that needs it. Being a full figured woman I definitely want to embrace my sexuality and that women (and men) of all shapes and sizes have the power to be incredibly sexy. I won’t shy away from saying that  before becoming Kittie Von Carnage I lacked confidence, but I can honestly see a huge change in how I see myself daily and keep her in my mind every day to make sure I stay strong.

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From what I’ve come to know about you and your life, staying strong sounds like what you do best. With your indomitable spirit, strong work ethic, and sense of humor, I’m sure you’ll succeed at whatever you put your mind to in life.

How did you come to join Cherry Sparkle Burlesque? And how long have you been a member?

I was actually watching the movie Burlesque thinking to myself how I wish I could perform in that setting and I coincidentally saw a Facebook post advertising auditions for the company. I almost immediately messaged Kaitie for more information. I ended up not auditioning at that time because of fear that I wouldn’t be accepted being that I am a larger female. I finally decided a few weeks after that to give it a shot and I am so glad I did. I auditioned, got the job, and right off the bat I felt an amazing sense of acceptance and self-worth from this wonderful group of people I like to call my Cherry Sparkle family.

I have been with Cherry Sparkle only a short time now but I look forward to continuing on much longer. My first show was August 30th and it was a most intoxicating feeling to perform.

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With a few notable exceptions like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I never thought I’d be thankful for a musical, but I can see I’ll have to add Burlesque to the list for inspiring you to perform.

Did you have a background in dance, theater, or performance art before joining?

I performed in a few community theater productions at a very young age, but other than that I have no professional background in it. As far as dance background, I have only taken various classes at my gym for fitness purposes. But I do have an awesome group of people to ask for help if ever I get “dancer’s block.”

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How would you describe your role in CSB and your performance style?

I currently perform vintage burlesque dance, and I love every moment of the art of the strip tease. My performance style has not had a ton of chances to shine yet as I am still new to the company but it surely will soon. My first show I performed to The Dope Show by Marilyn Manson. I will be performing to that type of music mainly. I really like that hard, sexy music and may throw in a little tasteful shock value.

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One of my favorite caveats holds true here, great minds do think alike. Because I love the art of strip tease, especially coupled with hard rock and a sexy, shocking dancer like you.

What’s your favorite part of a burlesque show? What’s your least favorite part?

I love everything about the shows so far. I love the beginning of the process from picking a song and concept, to coming up with a costume and choreographing. On show days it is invigorating to get into hair, makeup, and full costume to perform for an always supportive audience.

I wish I could watch the performances because I know everyone does an incredible job, but I have no least favorite part about the shows.

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Besides burlesque, do you any other creative pursuits or hobbies?

I have a dangerous addiction to Pinterest. If I think I can DIY, I will more than likely attempt it. I love to paint, draw, any number of creative things. I have a love for learning how to do new things so I often find myself looking up tutorial videos. I can also cook the hell out of some food. I have been in chili cook offs most of my life and I often place in the competition. I make some killer pretzels too. It takes a lot of calories to keep my body in this shape so I obviously know how to cook. haha

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Whatever you’re doing, please keep it up. It’s worked to create one helluva Kittie Von Carnage!

You’re not only a self-described Disney fangirl, but you’ve worked for them as well. Given no budgetary or content restrictions, what character and/or scene from the vast Disney archives would you turn into a burlesque performance? And what song would you use while performing this fantasy piece?

You have stumped me with this question for sure. I would probably go with Disney’s darker side and do a villainous performance. I love the villains and it would tie in perfectly with my stage presence. Maleficent is my favorite villain so I think it would be awesome to use her character. I mean, she turns into a dragon so how is that not cool? J Add a little “Disney green” fire to the performance and I am set.

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Judging by our previous conversations, you’re also part of the unofficial lifetime learners club known as Nerdom. Given no budgetary, geographical, or temporal restrictions on your education, where would you go, what would you learn, and why? What would you do with your new found knowledge and credentials?

So many options, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would don a Sherlock Holmes hat and travel the world to solve Earth’s greatest mysteries. I’ve always had an interest in urban legends, myths, and anything unknown or unsolved. I would want to explore things such as Atlantis, and the Nazca lines. Just put me with Sherlock and Indiana Jones and send me on my way to explore. My mind just had a Nerdgasm so I think I’ll move on now.

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Getting back to the topic of burlesque, in my last interview with Phoenix Rose, she mentioned an upcoming Cherry Sparkle calendar. Can you tell us more about it, like what month you’ll be or when it will be available, or is that project top secret for now?

You know about as much as I do. I am super excited to find out what month I will be featured as. I can tell you that from the pictures I have seen, this calendar is absolutely something that people will want to own. We all brought our stage personalities to life in photo form so of course my photos show a dark side. And we have an incredibly talented photographer as well. There really are not enough positive words to describe what he is capable of capturing behind that camera lens.

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Finally, when will we be able to see you onstage with Cherry Sparkle again?

We actually have two shows coming up very soon in December. “Tits for Toys” is one that will be on Friday, December 12th and The Smoking Moose and it is a charity performance so the cover charge will be an unwrapped toy that we will donate. We want people to understand that we have generous and caring hearts to go along with these lovely faces and giving back to the community is a huge interest for the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company.

“Can-Can for Cans” is another upcoming show on December 20th at the newly opening Dark Horse Saloon. This place is going to be an amazing venue so I certainly hope plenty of people come to check it out. The cover for this show is either 5 cans of food or $5.00 all to be donated to a local charity.

We appreciate all of our supporters and I hope that people will help us make this a successful form of charitable action by coming to these shows and participating in giving back.

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Tits for Toys? Now there’s a Christmas charity that I can get behind. Or in front of. Hell, as long as I’m within eyesight of the tits or toys I’ll be fine. But in all seriousness, I think it’s a wonderful thing that your organization is reaching out to the community and helping bring joy to the disadvantaged for the holidays. It’s heartwarming.

Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Miss Kittie. I’ve had a great time getting to know you. And I am sure those out there reading this feel the same. The best part about this is making new friends and introducing them to the world. Good luck with your future performances and the rest of your creative, educational, and professional pursuits.

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Author Interview: The Awe-Inspiring Andrea Judy

Today’s interview comes with a disclaimer. Both for legal and ethical reasons.

I met Andrea Judy at the Pro Se Press booth at MidSouthCon 2013 in Memphis, and I was hooked. From her animated personality to her action-packed pulp tales, this author left a lasting impression. And became a good friend in the process. Since then, I have had the privilege of sharing a dinner table as well as a table of contents with the awesome Andi Judy, as she is known in some writing circles. I refer to her respectfully (and with her permission) as the Pixie Princess of New Pulp, because anyone who knows her knows that she, like her characters and stories, is larger than life, despite her elfin appearance. All while being one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. As she continues to evolve as a writer and storyteller, I look forward to the weird, wild tales that she’ll introduce to me and the rest of the world.

Without further adieu, I give you the awe-inspiring Andrea Judy.

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First of all, could you tell our audience what kind of stories you write and what kind of themes you explore in your writing?

I write stories that I want to read. I’ve had my writing described as colorfully morbid and I think that’s a good description for me. I tend to look towards the dark side of life and try to explore how there’s never really a clear good/evil divide. I also tend to favor writing stories with women protagonists because growing up, I didn’t have many stories that had a woman as the protagonist.

I think that’s a perfect way to describe you and your writing. Somehow you shine like a brilliant gem on a sunny day but still manage to explore the dark side of humanity with that lovely gray matter of yours.

For me, the strong female character has been one of the most striking features about your writing. From Senorita Scorpion to the Pulptress and her archenemy, The Bone Queen, women are kicking ass and taking names from the first page onward. Makes for exciting, empowering stories in my opinion.

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How long have you been writing? And what started you along this path?

I think I’m like most writers in that I always wrote. From a very young age I was a storyteller. I don’t know if I can pinpoint an exact moment that started me along the path of writing but the first moment I considered myself a writer was when I received my very first rejection letter.

Isn’t that the truth. But I agree. You’re not a real writer until you’ve submitted your work and had it rejected. Rejection, like mistakes and often defeats, are learning experiences that build character. And with writing, I find it leads me to closer reading and editing of my own work to find out what went wrong with my story in the opinion of that editor or publisher.

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What writers influenced you along the way?

I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, but I also love Lisa Mannetti, and Margaret Atwood.

If you could sit down and talk to any of those writers, living or dead, who would it be and what would you discuss?

I would love to just shoot the breeze with Margaret Atwood and listen to stories about what’s she seen in her life. I think she would have some wild and awesome tales to tell!

I must admit that that answer surprises me. I would have bet real money on Neil Gaiman. After our close encounter with Neil at his signing in Decatur, Georgia, not to mention him re-tweeting your blog post about it, I figured you’d want to sit down and talk with him again. But then again, I’m sure Margaret Atwood could provide a lot of insight on what it was like for female genre writers forging their way to the top in decades past. I imagine she’s as hard-boiled and iron-willed as any of your pulp heroines.

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What books have stayed with you over the years?

My top ten books over the years:
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
9. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
8. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
7. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
6. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
5. On Writing by Stephen King
4. The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti Author
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
2. The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux
1. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine

Excellent list. There are a few on there I’ll have to add to my reading list. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favs. And most anything by Gaiman, King, or Morrison makes for a good read.

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What advice would you give someone attempting to write professionally and seeking to be published traditionally?

Finish the book. Don’t get distracted by the shiny, great new idea. Finish the project you’re on and then go after the new idea. I think a lot of people get caught up in trying to write the PERFECT BEST MOST ORIGINAL IDEA EVER and never finish anything. You can’t edit or publish a blank sheet of paper.

You’ve mentioned your recent forays into riding horses on the weekend. And we’ve played Cards Against Humanity on occasion. What other activities or hobbies do you enjoy? And if you’ll pardon the pun, do you find that they help spur your imagination or work their way into your writing?

Honestly I have very few hobbies. Almost all of my free time is devoted to writing. Right now my hobby probably includes playing with my new cat, Kamala, and occasionally playing a video game.

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As I understand it, you handle marketing and promotions as a part of your day job. Has that helped you to promote your own material? And if so, what advice could you give to writers struggling to market their works on their own?

I work in a marketing department and run the social media accounts for my day job so I get to spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It has been helpful but it also leaves me a bit burned out by the time I get home.
It has helped me learn more about the dos and don’ts of social media, and it lets me experiment and see what works and doesn’t work. The difference is, marketing yourself as a brand is different than marketing a company so there is some crossover but there are still big differences.

I think my best advice for writers is to not try to do everything. You don’t need to be on every social media channel. Find the one or two you like the best and go to town on those. Social media is about building a community, so interact with people and have fun with it.

Thanks for the advice. I’m learning the hard way about stretching myself too thin on social media. Led to me burning out on the whole deal and neglecting all of my social network promotions for books and such. As I move back into the field of book promotions and building a community of dedicated fans, I’ll keep your experiences in mind.

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As part of the New Pulp movement, do you find yourself set free or more limited by the expectations of fans as well as publishers associated with this rising subset of the American fiction market?

I think that there are limitations with the pulp market, and that the audience wants a certain type of story. I like the pulp style of a lot of action and adventure, and I’ve enjoyed writing in it, but I’m looking forward to starting to explore other styles in the future.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I have had similar experiences while trying to meet the expectations of fans as well as publishers of this sort of material. In the end, I think we have to do what you advised and write what we want to read. Then even if no one else reads it, at least we enjoy the process and our final product.

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From what I understand, you were a finalist in a contest that involved writing a sequel to The Dark Crystal. Could you tell us more about that experience and the upcoming trip you will be taking thanks to it?

Well, The Dark Crystal was one of my favorite movies growing up. A friend told me that there was a contest for a prequel novel in the world of The Dark Crystal. I dove totally into it and worked really hard on my entry. I did not win, but I was in the top 25, and an editor’s choice. This September I received an email inviting me to a reception with the winner of the contest, and representatives from the contest, a small reception to acknowledge the hard work put into the stories. So, I’ll be heading off to New York to attend that reception, and to meet a friend or two who lives that way as well. I’m really excited about the trip and the entire Dark Crystal experience.

You should have a great time in NYC. Really sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. And who knows? If they do more Dark Crystal books, which is likely with the success of a prequel or sequel, the editor who liked your work might recommend you for the job. I’d second that recommendation in a heartbeat. 🙂

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What writing project are you working on currently? And can you provide a snippet from it?

I am currently edited the second Bone Queen novel, and working on an essay about fandom. The only snippet I’ve got is from my fandom essay.

“As I supervised the towering pile of tentacle hentai, my boss started cursing behind me. “Dammit, dammit! Sell it all, sell it all! They’re going out of business.” It was the first time I ever realized that conventions were more than costumes, and fun; an entire industry ran on the backs of the fans.”

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Last but not least, what is your latest release? And where can readers find it?

My most recent release is the short story, “Catching Steam”, in Capes and Clockwork which you can find on Amazon. I’m also working to get the second Bone Queen novel out before 2015.

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Thanks again, Andrea. I appreciate you taking the time for this interview. It’s always a pleasure when I have the chance to learn more about you and your writing. Happy to have had the chance to share you and your creative endeavors with the world. I hope the readers out there who haven’t experienced your storytelling prowess yet will feel the impact of your stories as deeply as I have. Because I’m not only a lifelong friend but a lifelong fan.

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To find out more about this super author and her amazing stories, check out Andrea Judy at the following links:

Judy Black Cloud WordPress Blog

JudyBlackCloud.com Blog

Andrea Judy’s Facebook Author Page

Andrea Judy’s Pro Se Author Page