The Origin Key: Fantasy and Sci-Fi Collide

s-d-mcphail

I’m thrilled to feature another Alabama author on my blog this month. Susan is such a sweet spirit and has always been so kind to me. Sometimes when you meet people you automatically think, “I like her. We’re going to get along just fine.” Believe me when I say those types of people are in short supply.

With that being said, it doesn’t mean she’s too sweet to write a nail-biting fantasy book with a dash of science fiction because she did the thing. Are you intrigued? Good! Keep reading.

Susan McPhail spent years writing technical documentation and developing marketing materials for high-tech engineering firms. She is now a fantasy/science fiction author living in Huntsville, Alabama (aka the Rocket City) with her husband. When she’s not writing or catching the latest movie, Susan enjoys handcrafts like crocheting and quilting because it looks like she’s doing something useful while in fact she is pondering how to work out tricky plot points.

The Origin Key is her first novel, and is the first book in the Treasures of Dodrazeb series. You can find her online at www.sdmcphail.com and on Twitter @susan_mcphail.

 

the-origin-key

The Origin Key on Amazon

Author Questions

A. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

S. I’ve always been a voracious reader and welcomed opportunities to get creative with words in my work life. A few years ago when I transitioned out of a full-time job, I decided to challenge myself and see if I could write fiction. About halfway into the first draft of my first novel, I realized that I had also always wanted to be an author—I had just not taken the time to acknowledge that passion.

A. In what genre do you write?

S. My first published novel is Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key. It’s historical fantasy adventure, a heroic quest that I describe as “sword-and-science” because there is an element of sci-fi in it as well.

A. Is there a genre you haven’t written in, but want to?

S. I have plans for a humorous cozy mystery series featuring a smart wife/mom/working woman who reluctantly gets drawn into murder investigations. It’s set in a small, rural southern town filled with marvelously eccentric characters.

A.Oooo! This sounds so fun!

A. What is your writing process? Such as, outlining, freehand, computer vs paper and pen?

S. My process tends to be less outline-oriented and more seat-of-the-pants. I start out by jotting down notes about major plot points that turn into a somewhat vague synopsis. Then when I start working on a first draft, I develop new and better ideas as I go, so the story starts to diverge from my original notes. The basic story I had in mind remains the same, but taking my characters from the beginning to the end is a very satisfying creative endeavor.

I’m always jotting down notes about different ideas for different stories, so much of that is done with pen and paper (or notebook or napkin or whatever is handy when an idea strikes). But when I have big chunks of writing time, I like to be on my computer. I can type faster than I can write legibly!

A. Who are you writing inspirations, famous or not?

S. Stephen King has been a favorite author of mine for decades. I don’t like every book he’s ever written, but he is a master story teller. I love J.K. Rowling’s imagination and world-building skills. I was also influenced by lots of science fiction writers from H.G. Wells to Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. One of my all-time favorites is Anne McCaffrey’s science fantasy series Dragonriders of Pern.

A. YES! Rowling is an artist!

A. How much research, if any, did you have to put into your novel(s)?

S. Since my series Treasures of Dodrazeb is grounded in real human history, I have to do quite a bit of research. The hero is a third-century Persian warrior-prince, so I’ve done extensive reading about ancient Persia and that region of the world. In addition to historical research, it’s also necessary to get the details right on a hefty amount of science. While on a quest to bring a criminal to justice, the Persian warrior-prince discovers a hidden kingdom using what we consider to be modern technology in everyday life. That means I have to understand their technology and then be able to describe how an ancient warrior would react to it.

A. Do you listen to music while you write or edit? If so, who do you listen to?

S. No, I’m not usually listening to music while I write—I listen to the TV. It’s an old habit from when I was in school. I would do my homework in the living room with the TV on. Apparently, that works for me just like listening to music works for others.

A. Interesting. I’ve never heard that before.

A. When you’re not being an amazing author and writing away, what do you for fun?

S. What’s more fun than reading? I read a lot. I like going to the movies, too. Touring historical sites is fun. I recently got to tour the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. Her novel, Gone with the Wind, was an incredibly successful historical novel with vivid, unforgettable characters. I was able to celebrate a love of history, movies, reading, and writing all at once in one afternoon!

A. What has been the most exciting experience for you since starting your writing career?

S. Receiving the first print copy of my first novel was too awesome for words. Being able to hold an actual copy of a book that I had written made it real for me. I wasn’t just an aspiring writer any more—I was a published author!

A. There is no greater feeling!

A. Who created your amazing cover art?

S. I did! We tried working with a cover artist, but he just never could quite capture the look I wanted. So I put my years of marketing experience and working with graphics to good use.

A. That’s awesome. Maybe I’ll be hitting you up for some tips on that. 😉

A. Is there an artist, book blogger, editor or anyone else that you want to give a shout out to?

S. Absolutely! The Rocket City Lit Fest in 2015 was a major catalyst in spurring me to take the final steps and get my first novel published. Thanks to Ashley Chappell-Peeples and A.G. Porter, both wonderful writers themselves, for all your hard work on that event.

I also want to thank my amazing editor Molly Felder. With her help I was able to polish my pretty good story into a true gem of a first novel. I appreciate her patience, eye for detail, and willingness to teach me how to be a better writer.

A. The Lit Fest was amazing! Thanks for the shot out!

A. Give us a brief description of your WIP (work in progress) or your newest novel.

S. Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third century. While on a quest to avenge a horrific attack on his father the king, a Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. He thinks the villain is hiding there, but a sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden?

Halloween Questions

A. This is a Halloween blog post so you must tell us, do you enjoy Halloween? Why or why not?

S. I do enjoy Halloween. I like seeing children donning costumes and exploring the idea of becoming someone or something else for a little while. I like seeing the older kids and adults freeing themselves of their conventional identities for a time and getting creative. I like the idea of costume parties. Perhaps most of all, I like CHOCOLATE!

A. Do you have any Halloween traditions?

S. I like to watch favorite old spooky movies or fun ones like Hocus Pocus or Nightmare Before Christmas leading up to trick-or-treat night. Then we usually order in pizza and have fun answering the door to shower neighborhood kids with candy on Halloween night.

A. Do you believe in the spiritual realm?

S. Yes.

A. Have you ever had an encounter with a ghost or something happen that you just explain?

S. Yes.

A. What is your favorite scary movie and/or book?

S. Donnie Darko. Not necessarily scary, probably because I’ve seen it so many times, but that’s the kind of movie that haunts me.

A. Most importantly, what is your favorite Halloween candy?

S. Tootsie Rolls. Hershey minis. M&Ms. Milk Duds. Chocolate!

Reader Questions

A. What author would you geek out over if you met them in real life?

J.K. Rowling. She is my idol!

A. Yes! She’s on my list. I would probably faint. Haha!

A. Hands down, what is your favorite book of all time and why?

S. It used to be Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Reading it as a teenager introduced me to so many questions about so many things, I began to develop the ability to think independently, examining issues from many sides.

If you consider an entire series as a single story, it might now be Harry Potter. That story is just magical in so many ways with layers upon layers of meaning.

A. What book would you like to see in film or do you believe that books should be left alone?

S. Other than my own book? 😉 I think, if done correctly, any good book can be a good movie if filmmakers respect the source material. The book will always be better, but sometimes it takes a movie to get a person interested in a book. The Harry Potter series was done well as movies and I was also impressed with The Hunger Games films.

A. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

S. I don’t care too much for whiny, one-dimensional characters.

A. If you find you can’t get into a book, do you put it down or be a trooper and finish it?

S. When I start a book, I’m usually committed to finishing it. I keep thinking that if I stick with it, the book will eventually get better. This is not always the case.

A. Do you stick to one genre or do you like to read around?

S. My personal preference tends toward speculative fiction, but I’m game for lots of other genres. The one I tend to avoid is Romance, unless there is a strong element of mystery, suspense, humor, horror, or some other kind of genre mash-up.

A. Are you a book-in-your-hands reader, e-booker, or both?

S. I like to acquire autographed books, and there’s something about turning pages and never worrying about battery life that is appealing. But I also read e-books for their convenience, portability, and affordability.

Random Questions

A. Favorite movie?

S. Donnie Darko

A. Favorite TV show?

S. All time: Star Trek (every one of them). Currently: Game of Thrones, Westworld, Big Bang Theory

A. If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

S. That’s a tough one! If I could or if I had to? What keeps popping into my head as I ponder this question is pizza, so I guess that’s my answer.

A. You can’t go wrong with pizza!

A. What’s your favorite candy/dessert?

S. Did I mention chocolate already? Warm brownies with a scoop of ice cream!

A. What band or musician can you listen to over and over again? You can list more than one.

S. Beatles. Styx. Michael Jackson. Adele. Is my age showing yet?

A. What’s your hidden talent?

S. Sarcasm. No, wait—that one shows up pretty frequently. My hidden talent is appearing confident in public when I’m ready to shrivel up and die inside.

A. I know what you mean!

A. What is your dream vacation?

S. Leisurely touring Great Britain and Ireland, staying in castles that have been converted into 5-star luxury hotels.

Contact Information:

Author Name: S.D. McPhail

Blog: www.sdmcphail.com

Facebook: S.D. McPhail, Author

Twitter: susan_mcphail

Goodreads: S.D. McPhail

Book Links: https://www.amazon.com/Origin-Key-Treasures-Dodrazeb/dp/1533454116/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476817108&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Origin+Key

 

              

Advertisements

Saturday Snippets-How I Edit

I tend to work on my book throughout the week, but for some reason Saturday is usually a day that I get a good bit done. Considering that I’m finished with Book 3 (Heck Yeah!) I am heavily into edits. So, that is occupying a lot of my time.

In my house, I’m the early riser. I think it’s just a personality trait. I can’t sleep late. I actually hate sleeping too late. It makes me feel off for the entire day. Also, the quiet of the early morning hours are always the best times to work.

So, what did I work on this morning? Or rather, how do I work on edits for my book? I don’t do grammatical edits. Sure, if I see them I correct them, but what I do is check for consistency and make sure I didn’t write something out of left field that is out of character for the book and its residents. 🙂

I can’t do it all in one sitting and my memory is terrible so in order to keep up with where I left off, I highlight as I go. Example:

IMG_20160116_193257

There are other steps to this process. For the most part, I lock myself away from everyone so I can concentrate. Sometimes, I don’t listen to anything and read the story out lout, but then other times I want some sort of noise in the background so I listen to music. It could be instrumental or lyrical. There are so many artists that I listen too so it would hard to make a list!

I’ve found that Spotify is a great way to make playlists though. I have songs I listen to while I write or songs that get me into certain moods.

IMG_20160116_113114716

Louisa Wendorff is fantastic. You should listen to her!

I LOVE Spotify! I use iTunes for T-Swift though. I’ve always been a fan. I think she’s a poet who puts her magical prose to a beat. 🙂 I am loving this 1989 album. Y’all check out the song “Clean.” It’s amazing!

IMG_20160116_113006906

I usually put my earbuds in, too. Even if I’m alone. It just seems to help me focus.

IMG_20160116_131743

Don’t mind my bed head!

So there you have it! This is my editing process. Is it the right way? Who knows. It’s just what works for me.

Happy Saturday!

~A

Friday Favorites-Author Ashley Chappell

Hello everyone!

Has it really been that long since I’ve been on my blog? Um, maybe. However, I’m back and that’s all that matters, right? Besides, I’m back with something I hope you all will enjoy.

I’m launching my Friday Favorites! What is Friday Favorites? Well, it will mostly consist of books and authors. It won’t always be traditionally published authors either or massively popular books. Sometimes it will, but be on the look out for books and authors from the Indie world and small press.

Also, I might even throw in some movies, food, local restaurants, etc. The point is, you’ll never know what you’ll find here!

Not only is this a way for me to train myself to work on my blog, it’s also a fun way to showcase some books, people, and places you might not know about.

Today we’re talking about Author Ashley Chappell and her book, Of War and Taters. I met Ashley a little over a year ago and now I’m blessed to call her a friend.

Ash

Ashley Chappell

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up a copy Of War and Taters. I mean, you can like a person, but not like a book, right? What can you really, I mean truly, expect from a book called Of War and Taters with a giant potato sitting inside a circus tent on the cover?

Of War & Taters

 

Having met Ashley, I was pretty sure this book was going to be a lot of fun. Guess what? I was right!

I’ll backtrack just a little bit here. With an exception to a few genres, I’ll pretty much read anything. I normally stick to the Paranormal and Fantasy type books, but if it’s a good read, I don’t care what genre it is. Still, I’m apprehensive to a fault at times. Let me say that I am glad I convinced myself to read a genre that I normally don’t read all that much.

Of War & Taters is satire with Southern flair. Oh it has flair! It has ghosts, circus performers, children lead “gangs”, murder, mystery, romance, and, you guessed it, taters. Take all that, throw in some misinterpreted statements and you have the national media swooping down on a small down, claiming there’s a problem with racism. Never mind the fact that the “gangs” are kids who get along just great.

There are honestly too many things I love about this book to say, “My favorite part was…” However, I will say this for Chappell, she created characters and a world, not too unlike our own. We get caught up in what someone says, but never stop to ask what they meant. Sometimes we say things without thinking about the other person too. We assume a lot about people based on their appearance and not their soul. And that’s how you get the media taking a situation, an innocent or perhaps, localized, situation and blow it completely out of proportion.

Of War & Taters is a fun read, it truly is, but it is much more than that. Sure, there’s a ghost that people can see and they think nothing of it. There’s a very eccentric heiress who is trying her best to kill her husband, the sheriff. Did I mention that a circus set up shop on a potato farm and the ring leader is trying to capitalize on the craziness that has settled on the town? Oh, there is a murderer on the loose too.

Like I said, there is so much more to this fun story set in a small southern town where the days are hot and slow and the most exciting thing there is usually to talk about is the weather. I feel like it could be one of those books that we want to pass down to the next generation and then the next because of it’s underlying message.  What message is that? I think you have to find out for yourself.

My review: So what happens in a small Southern town when a false claim of racism, amongst children no less, reaches the national news outlets? Chaos! Not only does Sheriff Stanley Grace have to deal with his quiet town being invaded with news vans, including the smart and attractive Dana “the I is silent” Perki, but the circus has decided to set up shop on Mad Mother Hinkle’s potato farm. On top of that, the recently deceased actor, Monty, has come back from the dead, ghost form style. As if it couldn’t get any worse, there is a someone loose in the town who is a real danger. Stanley knows it’s up to him to keep his town safe, that is if he can avoid an untimely death by his wife.

I haven’t read a book that has made me laugh, touched my heart, and creeped me out at the same time until I read Ashley Chappell’s Of War & Taters. This satire novel is full colorful characters, strong female characters, who have their own individual stories taking place, but those stories are so entertaining you don’t get lost and they tie back to the main plot. Even the dog, Cud, had his moment in the spotlight! My favorite character, though she didn’t get a lot of word count, was Mother Hinkle. She was fierce!
I can’t get over how amazing this book was. I know that Ashley will continue to write amazing novels for us to read. I am officially a fan!

Amazon link: Of War & Taters
Ashley’s website: http://www.ashleychappellbooks.com/ 
Ashley’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AshleyChappellAuthor

YA Book Signing at New Hope Public Library; Meet Author A.G. Porter

A.G. Porter

A.G. Porter

I’ve introduced you to Melanie and Ashley, but now it’s time to get to know me a bit more. I use this questionnaire for my author interviews, but have never answered the questions myself. They’re a lot tougher than I thought. Ha!

A.G. Porter is the author of The Darkness Trilogy, a YA Paranormal Thriller. She is an Independent Author who enjoys writing scary stories as much as she loves reading them. A.G. enjoys writing stories about real people in supernatural situations. She also puts a lot of her faith into her books because she knows that without Christ she is lost and without God she is nothing. Currently, A.G. is working on the last book in the trilogy. When she isn’t writing, she’s either taking pictures, reading, making nerdy jewelry, watching movies, or spending much needed time with her family. A.G. lives in New Hope, Alabama with her husband, Billy, stepson, Brenton, and their 4 dogs.

The Shadow; Book One in The Darkness Trilogy

The Shadow; Book One in The Darkness Trilogy

Author Questions

When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I’m going to give the most cliché answer ever here. I’ve always loved writing. I feel like it’s been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. However, it wasn’t until I was in the 9th grade that the writing bug really sunk its teeth in and wouldn’t let go.

In what genre do you write?

I write in the Paranormal genre for Young Adults.

Is there a genre you haven’t written in, but want to?

There are so many different genres I’d like to try my hand at. I really would like to delve into Epic Fantasy. I actually started writing a series nearly 7 years ago, but it has gotten so in depth with history, characters, and location. Yes, I’ve even drawn a map!

What is your writing process? Such as, outlining, freehand, computer vs paper and pen?

I just free style it. I have an idea in my head, but I don’t outline. The fantasy book is as outlined as I have ever been and that really surprised me. With that series though, I had to write everything down. There is just too much to keep up with. However, my other stories aren’t outlined or any details written out prior to going into it. I just let it flow. I’ll start with a journal and then get it all transcribed on screen.

Who are you writing inspirations, famous or not?

I have met some great authors over my time “in the field.” So, there are definitely a few that have inspired me in different ways. Ashley Chappell, Brian Weimer, Jeremy Hicks, and Kyle Hannah, just to name a few. There are a few authors I have been reading for years that have been great influences, such as, Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and R.L Stine.

How much research, if any, did you have to put into your novel(s)?

Since my work is primarily fiction, I didn’t have to do much research. My books take place in a real town, so I at least studied the area prior to writing about it.

Do you listen to music while you write or edit? If so, who do you listen to?

I do listen to music while I write and edit, but it’s different for each process. When I’m writing I’ll listen to lyrical music, such as, Three Days Grace (before Adam left), Breaking Benjamin, Evanescence, Taylor Swift, Christina Perri, Our Last Night, and Andie Case, just to name a few. If I’m editing then I have to listen to something instrumental because the lyrics mess me up. I love listening to Lindsey Sterling.

When you’re not being an amazing author and writing away, what do you for fun?

I love photography! It doesn’t matter what kind. I also make nerdy jewelry, such as, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and I even make ribbon bookmarks. I try and touch many fandoms like Supernatural, Doctor Who, LOTR, The Walking Dead, etc. I sell them through my side company, Nerdy Deeds Jewelry. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerdy-Deeds-Jewelry-and-More/301073200078500?fref=ts

What has been the most exciting experience for you since starting your writing career?

I have had many memorable moments, but nothing beats hearing from people who enjoy my books. It just gives me butterflies every time someone loves my stories as much as I do.

Who created your amazing cover art?

I’ve worked with two amazing artists, Mel Gannon and TaniaART. They are simply beautiful souls and talented beyond my expectations. I have been so blessed to know them.

Is there an artist, book blogger, editor, or anyone else that you want to give a shout out to?

There are really too many to name, but I can’t thank all of the people who have been Beta Readers enough. Your feedback is priceless.

Give us a brief description of your WIP (work in progress) or your newest novel.

I’m in the final writing stages of Book 3 of The Darkness Trilogy. I do not have a “The End” on it yet, but after my rereading I know that there will be one. If you’ve followed Rayna’s journey up until this point then you know it has been a long and dark road. There is much more left of her story and things only get darker. Friendships are tested, love is challenged, and faith means more than anything if she and her group want to defeat The Shadow.

The Forsaken, Book Two in The Darkness Trilogy

The Forsaken, Book Two in The Darkness Trilogy

Reader Questions

What author would you geek out over if you met them in real life?

Dean Koontz, J.K. Rowling, R.L. Stine…Stine has been in my reading life for as long as I can remember. I really think I would flat out fangirl if I ever met him.

It’s completely impossible for a reader to pick their favorite book. However, if you were banished to a deserted island with no hope of returning and were allowed to bring 5 books with you, which ones would you choose?

When writing this question I didn’t realize how difficult it was! Ugh! OK, let me try. First, I would have to bring the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In my defense of combining the three books, Tolkien did want to make it all one big book. It was his editor who split it up. Next, Circle of Fire by R.L. Stine. It completely freaks me out. I love it! Though it might not be a good idea to read a scary book on a deserted island… The third book I would take would be The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. It isn’t my favorite book in the series, but it is the longest so it would take me longer to get through. I still love it even if it’s not my favorite. The fourth book would be The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, because it IS my favorite book in the Harry Potter Series. Lastly, I have to take Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas is my literary soul mate. 🙂

What book would you like to see in film or do you believe that books should be left alone?

I would love to see Garth Nix’s The Abhorsen Trilogy in a movie. I’m not sure how well received it would be considering that it is quite the fantasy ride, but if done well, it will be amazing!!

As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Unnecessary graphic language, violence, or sex. Even my own books have an element of violence to them since they are thrillers and there is a supernatural battle taking place. However, if you’re writing these things just for shock value then it is noticeable. I can’t stand that.

If you find you can’t get into a book, do you put it down or be a trooper and finish it?

Most of the time I finish the book, but there have been a few times that I couldn’t make myself do it.

Do you stick to one genre or do you like to read around?

I do have a favorite genre, paranormal, but I do read mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

Are you a book-in-your-hands reader, e-booker, or both?

Both, really. I love a real, in my hands book though, more than anything.

Fallen Souls; The Darkness Trilogy Novella

Fallen Souls; The Darkness Trilogy Novella

Random Questions

Favorite movie?

Jurassic Park, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare before Christmas, The Fifth Element, A Walk to Remember, Spider-Man (with Tobey Maguire), Alien, Corpse Bride…the list goes on!

Favorite TV show?

Supernatural, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Arrow, The Flash, Once Upon a Time, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, X-Files, Criminal Minds, Bones, again, the list goes on.

If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chicken Parmesan from Connor’s Steak and Seafood at Bridge Street.

What’s your favorite candy/dessert?

Reese’s Peanut butter Cups.

What band or musician can you listen to over and over again? You can list more than one.

Three Days Grace (before Adam left), Taylor Swift, Our Last Night, Breaking Benjamin, The Rolling Stones, Dashboard Confessional, The Killers, Vance Joy

What’s your hidden talent?

I think I’m a pretty good singer. Definitely not the next Whitney Houston, but I’m alright.

What is your dream vacation?

Going to Ireland and exploring all the old castles.

Contact Information:

Author Name: A.G. Porter

Blog: https://agporter.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TDTAGP

Twitter: https://twitter.com/agporter1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/agporter

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/agporter1/

Book Links: http://www.amazon.com/A.G.-Porter/e/B00IQL0P2S/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

YA Book Signing at New Hope Public Library: Meet Author Melanie Dickerson

Author Melanie Dickerson

Author Melanie Dickerson

I was lucky enough to meet Melanie Dickerson at the Rocket City NerdCon last year. As soon as I met her I knew that she was one of the most endearing people I’ve had the pleasure to know. I fell in love with her personality and especially her contagious smile. She’s one of those beautiful souls that you can’t help be drawn to because there seems to be a light emanating from all around her.

Melanie Dickerson is the author of Medieval fairy tale retellings, including The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter, both Christy Award finalists, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.

Author Questions

When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I wanted to be an author when I was in 7th grade, or around that time. I wrote all during high school and then put it aside when I started college and didn’t pick it back up again for about 15 years.

In what genre do you write?

I write YA, historical romance, inspirational/Christian, Medieval, and Christian adult Regency romances.

Is there a genre you haven’t written in, but want to?

I think someday I’d like to write contemporaries. Although I’m happy writing historicals for now.

What is your writing process? Such as, outlining, freehand, computer vs paper and pen?

I don’t outline. I come up with a story idea, write as short a summary as my publisher will let me get away with, and then I brainstorm the main points of the story, and start writing on my laptop. When I get stuck, I will bounce ideas off someone, whoever will stand still long enough, usually.

Who are you writing inspirations, famous or not?

As a kid, I was inspired by Harper Lee, since I grew up about 45 or 50 miles from Monroeville, Harper Lee’s hometown, and I was a Lee. I thought, if she could be so successful, perhaps it was possible for me too.

How much research, if any, did you have to put into your novel(s)?

I do a lot of research on Medieval Europe, the everyday lives of people then, the language, what words were used or not used, and current events of the time.

Do you listen to music while you write or edit? If so, who do you listen to?

I can’t listen to music when I edit because it’s too distracting, but I sometimes listen to Andrea Bocelli or Medieval and Renaissance music when I’m writing the first draft.

When you’re not being an amazing author and writing away, what do you for fun?

I like watching movies with my two daughters, cooking, and . . . well, I don’t do much of anything besides write. LOL!

What has been the most exciting experience for you since starting your writing career?

I guess just signing my first contract, and some of the awards I’ve finaled in and won. I got to accept the Carol Award for Young Adult fiction in 2012. That was pretty amazing.

Who created your amazing cover art?

Mike Heath of Magnus Creative did all five of my Zondervan books, and I’m not sure who to credit for my Thomas Nelson covers, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and The Golden Braid.

Give us a brief description of your WIP (work in progress) or your newest novel.

My next book, The Golden Braid, comes out in November and is a Rapunzel story in my YA fairy tales collection. I think my readers will like the surprise I have for those who have read all my Hagenheim stories. 🙂

10955795_1023955537621798_5701909981077774485_n

Reader Questions

What author would you geek out over if you met them in real life?

Harper Lee, Kate DiCamillo, and Judith Merkle-Riley

It’s completely impossible for a reader to pick their favorite book. However, if you were banished to a deserted island with no hope of returning and were allowed to bring 5 books with you, which ones would you choose?

The Bible, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Confident Woman, and In Pursuit of the Green Lion.

What book would you like to see in film or do you believe that books should be left alone?

Mine! LOL!

As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

If it’s boring, full of errors, or not believable.

If you find you can’t get into a book, do you put it down or be a trooper and finish it?

I put it down. Life is too short to read a bad book.

Do you stick to one genre or do you like to read around?

I read a lot of different genres.

Are you a book-in-your-hands reader, e-booker, or both?

I like an actual paperback.

Random Questions

Favorite movie?

National Velvet, Penelope, Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth version), Jane Eyre (the Toby Stephens version), Joe Versus the Volcano, and several other Jane Austen movies.

Favorite TV show?

Psych

If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Moussaka

What’s your favorite candy/dessert?

Lindt dark chocolate truffles

What band or musician can you listen to over and over again? You can list more than one.

Switchfoot!

What’s your hidden talent?

I am a genius at spelling.

What is your dream vacation?

Visiting old castles all over Europe, especially Germany.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Melanie Dickerson

Blog: www.MelanieDickerson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MelanieDickersonBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/melanieauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Melanie_Dickerson

Book Links: http://www.amazon.com/Melanie-Dickerson/e/B003BAAJG6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

YA Book Signing at New Hope Public Library: Meet Author Ashley Chappell

Ashley Chappell

Ashley Chappell

This Friday, July 24th, will be the YA Book Signing at New Hope Public Library in New Hope, AL. I’ll be joined by two fantastic YA Authors. One of them is Ashley Chappell, author of the Dreams of Chaos Trilogy. It feels as though I’ve known Ashley my entire life, but in reality it’s been just a short time. But that is just the kind of person Ashley is; she makes you feel welcome no matter who you are.

I was more than happy that she agreed to come to this signing and share her work with the people of New Hope and surrounding towns. And while I feel like I know her pretty well, I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper into her work. So, sit back, relax, and get to know more about one of the best YA Authors out there today.

Author Questions

When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

It probably wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that my love of books began in utero. My mother read constantly throughout her pregnancy and then read her books as well as mine to me from the time she brought me home to the moment she handed the reading reigns over to me as a kindergartner. However, I can’t say that there was a single moment in my life that I decided, ‘Hey, I should write one of these things.’ For me, writing was a natural step from my love of reading, although my motivations for writing have evolved over the years.

In what genre do you write?

Primarily Fantasy, but I love to step outside of the other-worldly on occasion for a good old-fashioned Satire. Mostly, I think, because it helps keep me the heavier cynicism out of my fantasy.

Is there a genre you haven’t written in, but want to?

I do have story lines that I want to pursue in Science Fiction, but I don’t have the time for the research yet. One day!

What is your writing process? Such as, outlining, freehand, computer vs paper and pen?

I think best when my fingers are flying across a keyboard and not giving my brain enough time to overthink a scene. My writing is always strongest when it starts out fast and ugly. As for pens… ugh. I get a hand cramp just signing books!

Of War & Taters

Ashley’s deep south satire, Of War & Taters

Who are you writing inspirations, famous or not?

Without a doubt, those would be Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. When the long nights and weekends of studying manuscript preparation, revising, editing, re-revising and editing my edits exhaust me while the characters for new stories are jumping on my back to get my attention it is always a dog-eared Pratchett novel that I pull down to restore my sanity. And let me tell you, restoring my sanity is no small task. But I’ve also fallen in love of late with Catherynne Valente and Patrick Rothfuss for their lyrical styles. They both can make a page flow straight into the canvas of the imagination.

How much research, if any, did you have to put into your novel(s)?

Most of my research has been into mythology and the study of historical cultures that were beginning to drift away from their classical pantheons. Granted, war and conquest were typical causes for a theological shift in a culture, but they seldom stood alone. Scientific advancement, easing societal taboos, and most especially prosperity were always key drivers in the shift away from devout pantheistic belief structures in which all natural phenomena were ascribed to the machinations of the gods. I wanted to create a society that was in that later stage of development and no longer “needed” the gods, but that were on occasion reminded of their existence through typically unfortunate events. I wanted to answer one primary question before I began writing a pantheistic culture endowed with magic and science side by side: What happens to a society that has evolved past blind faith in gods to make the sun rise every day, but can still be subject to the whims of otherwise disinterested gods? The Dreams of Chaos series explores that relationship across all three of the books.

Do you listen to music while you write or edit? If so, who do you listen to?

Rain Ambience! Although right now I’m listening to some soft instrumental paired with it. I need something to drown out the world outside, but if it has words I’ll forget what I’m doing and sing at the top of my lungs 🙂

When you’re not being an amazing author and writing away, what do you for fun?

What? There are other times? Ha! I read every chance I get, but I also love to be outside on the water. My husband and I go sailing and camp on the boat any chance we get – which are unfortunately far fewer than we would like.

What has been the most exciting experience for you since starting your writing career?

That’s an easy one to answer – it’s every single time I get a nice note or a great review from a total stranger. They have no ulterior motives for telling me they found and enjoyed my work, and nothing to gain other than my eternal gratitude, but it feels AMAZING. It makes every day cursing at a keyboard not just worthwhile, but absolutely a mission.

Is there an artist, book blogger, editor, or anyone else that you want to give a shout out to?

Specifically?? Oh lordy. It might sound like a cop out, but I can’t narrow down this list without doing hundreds of others serious injustice. The literary network is so much more than authors – although we’re certainly the neediest of the group. I’ve met a number of book bloggers, editors, and artists who are every bit as passionate about the written word and support the advancement of it in a million ways, whether they do it for a career or as a much-loved hobby. We owe them all so much!

Give us a brief description of your WIP (work in progress) or your newest novel.

I’m still working on my monster, the third and final book in the YA Dreams of Chaos series. A God of Gods: Dreams of Chaos #3 is going to wrap up Trotter’s story arc. She’s no longer able to hide from her role in the prophecies of Realm, though other entities, more ancient and powerful than the gods themselves, are trying to alter her role to suit their own ends.

Alice Will

Reader Questions

What author would you geek out over if you met them in real life?

Since I can no longer meet Sir Terry (cry!), it would have to be Neil Gaiman. I’d probably stand there like a moron and gape given the chance, however.

It’s completely impossible for a reader to pick their favorite book. However, if you were banished to a deserted island with no hope of returning and were allowed to bring 5 books with you, which ones would you choose?

Hmmm… time for a little creative cheating! 1. The Wheel of Time Compendium. It might way 500 lbs and be 5 feet thick, but I’m sure I can cram it all into one book 😉 2. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. 3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. 4. Ringworld by Larry Niven. 5. Can I make this a revolving slot? Picking one last book is giving me a stroke..

What book would you like to see in film or do you believe that books should be left alone?

I have the same answer for both sides of that question. I would LOVE to watch the Wheel of Time series on a big screen, no matter how huge and sprawling the films would have to be. On the other hand, I also know Hollywood would cut out hundreds of pages of the slower parts (aka, parts where nothing goes “boom”) and I’d spend the entire experience gnashing my teeth and composing hate mail that might earn me a place on a watch list.

As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Too much backstory. If the author can’t weave important information fluidly into the story without having to stop the story for an expository aside, I’m going to get bored because I’ll never fall into a rhythm reading that way.

If you find you can’t get into a book, do you put it down or be a trooper and finish it?

I can only think of 1 book I’ve ever finally given up trying to read. Of course, that means I’ve also finished some real turds, too. And no, I’m not sharing the name of the book I gave up reading.

Do you stick to one genre or do you like to read around?

I tend to stay with fantasy, science fiction, and satire above all else. I enjoy historical fiction (I am a huge Ken Follett fan), but it’s not a genre I crave in the same way as I do the others.

Are you a book-in-your-hands reader, e-booker, or both?

I swore for the longest time that they’d have to pry a bound book out of my cold, dead hands. My arthritic neck and bad eyes had other plans, however. I hardly ever read on anything but an e-reader now.

Tilt

 

Random Questions

Favorite movie?

Okay, now you’re putting me in stroke territory again.

Favorite TV show?

What is it with you? You’re a sadist! Too many possibilities!

If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Salmon Nigiri!!

What’s your favorite candy/dessert?

Reese’s Pieces. But only if you say it exactly like E.T.

What band or musician can you listen to over and over again? You can list more than one.

Nickel Creek, Zee Avi… those are two of my usual obsessions.

What’s your hidden talent?

I can out-belch my husband? Okay, I probably shouldn’t claim that, but it’s true. I still dabble in piano enough to write the music for my book trailers, but I’m rustier than ever.

What is your dream vacation?

I want to rent a quiet apartment on a Croatian island in the off season, maybe Hvar, and write in old-world paradise.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Ashley Chappell

Blog: www.ashleychappellbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AshleyChappellAuthor

Twitter: @AshleyNChappell

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ashleynchappell/

Book Links: http://www.amazon.com/Ashley-Chappell/e/B00AQIN99U

 

  

Migraines and Life: It SUCKS, but You Got This!

To say it has been a while since I have blogged is a major understand statement! That may sound cliche, but it is as true a statement as there can be. I have had a lot on my plate. I’m sure many of you can relate. Life gets busy and out of control; it takes so much out of us. I’ve been busy, sure, but there are other reasons that have kept me from my blog. I’ve debated with myself about posting this, but I’ve always said that I’d be transparent with my readers and anyone else who cared to read my blog so, there are a few things I’d like to share. Hopefully, in the end, it will help someone else and possibly myself.

For over a year I have been dealing with migraines. It isn’t something that I thought would ever happen to me. I’m not a spring chicken anymore, but I’m definitely not old. I’m going to be 31 on July 23rd and to me, that is still young! When I started to not feel quite myself I thought maybe I was finally pregnant! It turns out that wasn’t true. It took several months for me to finally realize that over-the-counter medicine wasn’t cutting it and I took my butt to the doctor.

Wounds

My migraine journey has been long, too long in my opinion. I was having pain in my neck and arm. My doctor thought I might have a pinched nerve in my neck. After an MRI, it was duly noted that there was nothing wrong with my neck. Still my doctor thought that maybe physical therapy would help. He was right, it did help my neck and arm, but did absolutely noting for my head. In fact, it made my head hurt worse.

That was when my therapist suggested I get an MRI on my brain and see a neurologist. Needless to say, that was a bit scary. No one wants to get an MRI on their head. Brain tumors run in my family so of course I was having terrible, pointless thoughts. My brother was actually diagnosed with a brain tumor nearly 7 years ago. Thankfully he is still in remission and we are blessed with many more days with him. I’m happy to say that MRI came back clear. According to my neurologist I have a very healthy brain. But, what did that mean?

Here I was, nearly 8 or so months into dealing with migraines, trying to write and trying to work, but will still no answers. That is when my neurologist diagnosed me with migraines. I had already had speculations that was what was going on with me. Believe me, you know when you have a migraine. It sucks! Now that I had a “reason” as to why I was feeling like my body was turning against me, it didn’t mean it was over. It was only the beginning.

I am thankful that God has blessed our world with so many bright people. I’m a firm believer that if a medication can help you then you should take it. Here is my dilemma, the medicine and I have not been friends. They would either make me sick or not work. At first they would knock me flat on my rear. I would come home at 6:00 PM and sleep until the next day. I would be walking around in a haze, but still have this intense pressure in my head. My doctor tried everything.

Now, I’m at the point where I’m going to try Botox injections. When I heard about Botox treating migraines, I was skeptical. I’m still skeptical. However, I’m at the point that I will try anything as long as it’s not immoral or illegal. I’ll be honest, there are days when even that is up in the air. I’ve told my husband on many occasions that I’d take a horse tranquilizer if I knew it would help. There have been so many times where I have stayed curled up in my bed, holding my head, praying that God would just take the pain away.

Psalms 61

I can say that if it weren’t for God, I would have lost my mind ages ago. He has blessed me with health professionals who are trying different methods of treatments. I have had amazing co-workers, both writing buddies and others, who are at the ready with words of encouragement. My family and friends have been a huge blessing so I know that He knew that I would be in this situation one day. He put those people in my life for a reason and I can’t thank him enough. You really start to realize who your true friends are when your health gets turned upside down.

That’s the bones of the experience I’ve had so far. You have probably heard a similar story from people you know that have migraines. What you probably haven’t heard is the other part, the part that people like me try to keep ourselves. What could that be? Well, the darkness that creeps in on you when your body is in constant pain on a daily basis. Migraines aren’t an illness that many people can sympathize with, if you don’t have it, because it’s not something you can see. It’s a silent sickness that a lot of people still can’t view as a true disease.

I don’t blame these people at all. There are still a lot of things the health community doesn’t understand about migraines. Treatments are a shot in the dark. It’s almost like you’re a guinea pig with the medicine and other treatment options. You literally go through phases of “let’s see if this works.” More times than not it doesn’t work and you’re back to square one.

There are so many people who can’t wrap their heads around this. I’ve heard it from so many of them, “Why haven’t they fixed you yet?” or “Well when I have a headache I do this, this, and this.” or “Have you tried blah, blah, blah, works for me every time.” Sweet Lord, baby Jesus, I wish it were that simple! I say that in a not taking the Lord’s name in vain sort of way. I ask Him a lot to let it be that easy. The truth is, as meaningful as people are with their suggestions, migraine (NOT headaches) sufferers will try anything, but you can’t just “fix” us. It’s a constant battle to find something that works.

Then you have your triggers. These triggers are different for everyone, but there are some that seem to affect the majority. It could be weather (Yes! The darn weather!), food (Chocolate…what a world!), scents, lights, heat, sounds…you name it, just about anything can trigger a migraine. It can seem like there isn’t a hope in the world. Your life is never the same. You can’t do things that you used to. Work, on a daily basis, is nearly impossible, you can’t hang out with friends, or go to family gatherings without looking like you’re about to pass out. You will spend many, many beautiful days locked inside a dark room with an ice pack on the back of your neck. It is a life changer for the worse.

Let me tell you, as with many chronic illnesses, if you aren’t careful, it can consume you. I have always been the type of person that would hold in problems with pain and emotions. Sure, I love easily and if I love you, you’ll know it. But, when it came to me, something that I thought made me look weak, I kept it to myself. This has really hit me where it hurts, my pride. I’m a control freak and a fixer. I want to fix all of the problems with myself and have always been foolish enough to think that I can do it on my own. Ha!

I got so down, further than I had ever been in my life. Saying that my head hurt got old to even me so I just stopped saying it. I held it all in and would only talk to those who were closest to me. Even then I’d say, “I’m fine.” when they asked me how I was feeling. I was lying to them and myself. I wasn’t fine. I was hurting and not just physically, but in my soul. This illness had taken not only my strength, but my spark, my joy. Holding in how I felt and denying myself the release of saying, “I hurt.”had stripped me of an outlet that I so desperately needed.

It took a simple spat with my husband about where we should move books to unhinge me. I realized that I was so angry and hurt that the slightest things would set me off. It hurt me that I had hurt him and then I broke down. It was the most disgusting, snotty cry of my life. It was a “Boo-Hoo” cry, as my mother calls it. Even though it was my fault, my husband held me the entire time, just letting me get it all out. That cry saved my sanity. It made me realize that I couldn’t hold this in and that it was OK to admit that I live with a pain that had uprooted my entire life.

To be honest, it does kick my butt most days. It hurts; I will never deny that. There are still going to be days when I feel down in the dumps. I’m not going to want to get out of bed or wash my hair or make dinner or clean the house. I will be irritable and grumpy; heck, I’m sure I’ll be down right miserable to be around. There is one thing I won’t be, afraid. I know I have a long battle ahead of me. Boy, will it suck, but I will not be ashamed to admit that I need help or that I am in pain.

Psalms 147

I will cling to God, to my family, to friends, to my supporters. I will hold on to the fact that this pain is only temporary and there are wonderful and jubilant days ahead for me. If you are where I am, I am praying for you and I send you all of my love, all of my positive thoughts. You will get through this. I am here for you. I am your sister in God; I am your sister in arms. We will fight this war together. No man or woman or child gets left behind.

If you have found your way out of this battle, remember those who still need your support. God bless you. Never take your pain free days for granted. If your loved is going through this, be kind, be understanding when they cancel plans at the last minute. Believe me, if they could be there they would. This doesn’t just go for those who have migraines, but anyone who is suffering, be it physically, mentally, or spiritually. Reach out with love in your heart and a warm hug.

Rowling