Counting Down

It’s getting close now. In The Blood comes out July 1st. I’ve been working on this series for so long, and it’s down to the final few days before it comes to fruition.

I suppose I’m like a lot of authors, alternating between extreme excitement and panic attacks.

I go through all the “What Ifs” that plague every introverted creative person. What if no one likes it? What if there’s some horrible error I’ve overlooked? What if my best isn’t good enough? What if it isn’t perfect? What if on the morning after, I feel the way Victor Frankenstein did, looking on his creation not with love but with horror? That is the grown up voice of worry, born of a lifetime of self-doubt.

But then there is the excited childlike part of me that just wants to let it go with joy and wonder at having created something out of nothing, a world born of “what-if,” peopled with characters that leapt out of my brain fully formed. That child in me hopes other people will go along for the ride, suspend their disbelief and play the game of make-believe that I’ve created.

It’s the child in me that daydreamed of being a writer. That inner child is fueled by curiosity and enthusiasm and imagination along with a desire to share and find others who will join in for the love of story.

All my favorite stories were about imperfect people who stumbled and fell and lost their way on their journey. People who suffered and fought and loved hard and took risks, facing danger from overwhelming obstacles and foes. I sometimes felt sorry for the villain, even when I hated their actions. The best stories, for me, were ones that invoked empathy, that brought me to tears, caused me to shout in frustration, made me laugh out loud, and if I didn’t smile at the end, still I felt a sense of completion and satisfaction in the way the story reached completion. I didn’t need happily ever after as long as it brought a sense of closure to the experience.

That’s what books should be, after all. An experience.

There is a give and take between the writer and the reader. A shared collaboration between their imaginations.

When I read Jane Eyre, for example, though nearly two hundred years separate me from Charlotte Bronte, I’m still bringing my imagination to mesh with hers. I’m playing her game of make-believe. Letting her lead me into a world where a naive young governess and a lonely but rich gentleman who’s been disappointed by love and life can find an understanding between them, a kinship of spirit, that transcends the darkness they find in the world around them.

I don’t make any pretense to that sort of greatness. But the same basic rules of the game apply. I, as writer, create the story, while you, as reader, agree to believe the impossible and to care about people who never were.

I hope that I’ve made a good one. I hope you find it entertaining. I hope that when you finish In The Blood, you’ll want more. That’s the best that I can hope, and it’s certainly good enough for me. 15190222775_f14ef58a58_b

So to quiet the negative “what ifs,” I fill my mind with hope and with story, planning for the next adventure and trusting that you’ll follow where I lead.

That’s all any author can hope for.

Book Two, Out For Blood, is being edited with the plan of publishing this winter. Book Three, Trial By Blood, is partly written, and I intend to finish it sometime this summer so it can be published next year. I have several more outlined with ideas and possibilities for all these characters long into the future. But all of that depends on my book finding readers who are ready to join me on the ride.

I hope that you are one such person.


9781947181007-Perfect.inddIn The Blood

Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-947181-00-7

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-947181-01-4
Available for Pre-order from your favorite online outlet

Autographed Paperbacks can be ordered directly from Eagle Heights Press.


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In The Blood – Acknowledgements

18891862_1374521462631701_8327685668608727844_oWhen my review copy of In The Blood arrived,  I was a little overwhelmed by holding it in my hand and seeing it in person, feeling the weight of it, breathing in the new book smell of paper and ink.

Those of you who know me and have followed me for a while know that I was devastated last fall by the loss of my former teacher, Nicki Alexopoulos. I had already intended to mention her in the dedication to one of my novels, but I knew it had to be this one after the events of last year. I hope to present a signed copy to her daughter, and I do hope that she would be proud to see the work I’ve put in to make this book happen.

I started writing the book back in 2012, and in the spring of 2013, I made a first attempt to self publish it. After meeting with an editor at the World Horror Convention, however, I was convinced to take it down and do some major revision. He was right. The book was pretty good, but it wasn’t fully ready to be out there yet. Over the four years since then, I reworked the manuscript and spent time learning about the business side of being an author. I took some online classes, went to some writer’s retreats, and even took a course in forensics so I could bring that knowledge to bear in the novel as well. I also quit my job as a library supervisor and adjunct English professor in order to focus on my writing full time.

Though I could have gone the traditional route with an agent, there are very few who are willing to take a risk on a first time author who approaches them with a series rather than a standalone novel. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever be interested in submitting a manuscript that way, but for this series, starting my own publishing house and doing the work myself was a better choice.

Book Two, Out for Blood, will come out sometime next winter. The book is written and is in the process of being edited. Book Three, Trial by Blood will come out in 2018. I don’t want to make people wait too long for sequels. Those three books finish a story-arch. However, I have ideas and outlines for several more books beyond that, so if this series takes off, then I’ll definitely be working on those stories for a long time to come.

There isn’t room in the book to list everyone who’s helped me along on my journey. I’d like to list a few of them here, though the list is by no means complete.

  • My coworkers at Smiley Library – Cindy, Leasa, Carrie, Crystal, and John – who put up with six years of me talking about what I wanted to do and who were supportive throughout the process. They were inspiring, helpful, encouraging, and understanding, and they never made me feel that I was making a mistake when I decided to go pursue my dream. Thank you.
  • Crystal appears as a character in my novel, and I mention her in the afterward of the book. She asked to be in the book, and after I made the character and gave her life, it turned out she has some pretty tragic things happen to her. Sorry Crystal! I swear, the characters made me! And I promise, this won’t be the only time she’s mentioned. What happens to her will have a ripple effect in later books.
  • The students who became like my children were also a great inspiration and encouragement. John, Stazhia, Cameron, Denise, DaSean, Kelsey, Brenna, Cortney, Thomas, Jordan, Kayla, Jessica, Geofrey, Lindsey, Kelly Jo, Eldar, Megan, Tyler, Bailey, Cecilia, Mariah, Roger, Aubrey, Ginney, Wynter, Dani, Danielle, Shamika, Marco, Vin, Drew, Angelica, Darrell, Jane, Adam, as well as my fabulous student intern assistant Miranda….THANK YOU! I love you all dearly.
  • Keith Abernathy taught my forensics course and never failed to come by my desk just to chat and invite me to things. He passed away last month, and I miss him very much. He was so encouraging and helpful and such an inspiration to all his students. I intend to dedicate Book Two to him. I will be forever grateful for the things I learned from him.
  • My online friends are completely amazing. Those I met because of True Blood or through writing amazing characters together are truly some of the best people in the world. Thank you to Julie, Jenny, Louise, Emily, Susy, Shanda, Melissa, Mayra, Shawna, Shyanne, Suzanne, Cassy, Sharon, Joie, Jyoti, Michaela, Elizabeth, Sha, Latoya, Catherine, Tammy, Geena, Anitra, Kristie, Frank, Missy, Kim, Cyndi, Dawndela, Holly, Maxine, Misty, Rima, Rachael, Mimi, Sara, Tiffany, Renee, Dawn, Kira, Sarah, CeCe, Jennie, and especially Wendy and Andrea who are gone far too soon and I miss horribly. These are only a few. There are many more on Twitter, but I think they know I adore them. I try to tell them as often as I can.
  • My muse and favorite writing partner Bekah who makes me shine and feel inspired all the time, thank you for putting up with me, for supporting me, and for being so completely amazing. You make me look forward to every day.
  • My writing friends through conferences, retreats, and FB and Twitter groups, I thank you. You’ve taught me about craft, and you’ve been a constant source of help, inspiration, and encouragement. My writing buddies from Room 217, THANK YOU. I love you guys. You are all completely amazing. And thank you to the Horror Writers Association for being such a great organization. I’ve learned so much from all of you, and I couldn’t have finished this project without the connections I’ve made there.
  • My friends Erin and Anthony at Vamped and The Vampirologist, who have known me now for over five years, have been fantastically supportive throughout this journey. Thank you for the laughs, the research material, the help, and the friendship.
  • To the friends and family who have known me in the years before the internet and who have backed me up as I tried new things, THANK YOU! Your support means everything.
  • And to my parents for whom there are not enough words of thanks. I have been truly lucky in my life to have parents who understood and believed in my dreams. Thank you.

And with that, I’d like to thank you. If you’re reading this, you’re part of my journey too. Even if your name doesn’t appear above, I am no less grateful for you.

THANK YOU!

Signed copies of In The Blood are available from Eagle Heights Press.

Trade paperbacks can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or you can request an order from your favorite local bookstore.

Ebooks are available for Pre-order from your favorite online outlet.

If you’re reading it, I’d love to know! Find me on Goodreads!


Want to be interviewed on this blog? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!

Preorder Links for In The Blood (Release Date: July 1)

File Jun 02, 6 45 51 PMI am very excited to announce that July 1 is the release date of my upcoming novel, In the Blood: Book One of The Blood Royal Saga!

The ebook is now available for presale at several online retailers.

Paperbacks are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When others become available, I will post those as well.

Mixed Bag

Since In the Blood is at the printers, and a large part of what I have to do involves waiting, I thought I’d do a sort of cornucopia of things I’m doing or that I find interesting.

Editing

I’ve got some editing work lined up for a book by another author which I’m planning to publish later this year. It’s a sci fi novel, which is nothing like anything I would write myself, but it’s FANTASTIC, and I’m very excited to help this writer bring his story to readers.

Once we’ve done a contract and things are finalized between us, you’ll hear about that since I’ll be working with him very closely throughout the process. All I can say right now is that I’m thrilled, and I can’t wait to make it happen.

Family

My mom had knee replacement surgery three and a half weeks ago, so I’ve been caught up with helping her with her recovery from that. Things were difficult at first, but before the end of the week, home health will be discharging her, and she can begin outpatient physical therapy. By this time next year, I expect her to be much more active, and you will probably hear about some of our adventures together camping and traveling in our tent. She’s really looking forward to getting back to that level of independence, and it’s not far away now.

wordcloud

Word Cloud

I thought it would be fun to do a word cloud to show the most common words I use on this blog. Turns out, the biggest word is “writing,” which shouldn’t be surprising at all. “Work,” “book,” “write,” “story,” and “books” seem to feature prominently as well, along with “time”  and “can.” These all seem both appropriate and positive and exactly what I would expect from a writer.

Bullet Journaling

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I don’t know if you’ve heard about bullet journaling. I hadn’t until this past April, but man, now that I’ve started, I am obsessed with it.

18268357_1344017369015444_6365018956346299644_nIt’s revived my love of doodling and calligraphy, which I love, and I really do feel like it’s made me more productive and organized. Plus, it’s just plain fun. So much more so than keeping a regular planner would be. It’s like planner meets scrapbook meets coloring book meets journal, all in one. I bought myself a bunch of supplies for decorating it, and it’s really made it a much more entertaining and interesting hobby. Best of all, the bullet journal is literally whatever you decide to make it. You have total creative freedom to organize and create it in whatever way works best for you.

If it looks like something you’re interested in, googling “bullet journal” or looking it up on Instagram or Pinterest will give you a ton of cool ideas to try. I also bought some books on cool lettering techniques, and I’m still experimenting with them.

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Gardening

18519716_1356602831090231_572987840373548907_nI’ve become an avid hobbist gardener, and this year we decided to dedicate our garden specifically to food that we could use in a salad. We planted two kinds of lettuce, curly kale, spinach, radishes, carrots, peppers, and cherry tomatoes. In addition, we’re also growing peas and yellow squash.

The raised bed made of concrete blocks sits up high enough we can sit on the edge to weed or harvest without having to strain to reach things.

In the past, I’ve used upcycled wooden pallets, but now that we have the raised bed garden, it’s unnecessary. We are fast approaching a time when it’ll be too hot for the lettuce, so we’ll have to find something else to plant in its place.

This week, I’ll be picking all of the spinach and kale that remains so it can be blanched and then frozen for use in eggs later on.

Other Writing

Here’s a roundup of my writing plans for the near future:

  • In the Blood comes out July 1st.
  • Book Two, Out for Blood, is currently being edited, and I plan to have it ready to be published this winter.
  • Book Three, Trial by Blood, is well begun with about a third of the novel already written. It will be released in 2018.

But The Blood Royal Saga books are not the only thing I have plans to write.

  • I’m working on a hard cover coffee table book with my mother about our trip to Newfoundland. It’ll have photographs as well as our retelling of events. I’m hoping to have that book published this winter as well.
  • I have a YA novel I want to write that is Viking related. I don’t want to say too much and spoil things, but I’m very excited about the story.
  • A friend of mine and I are planning a collaboration that’s got to do with pirates and werewolves.
  • She and I are also discussing a collaborative vampire novel, and I’m extremely excited about this possibility.
  • I’ve got several urban fantasy/supernatural/horror short stories in the works. Some will be sent off to journals and anthology publishers, but others will be published by me.

Various and Sundry

For a summary of everything I’ve talked/posted about over the last week, here’s my Paper.li page with all the stuff in it.


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Time for a Different Hat

inthebloodmarketingAll last winter and this spring, I’ve been finishing my manuscript, and then setting up my business in order to get the ball rolling with publishing In the Blood: Book One of The Blood Royal Saga, the first novel in my vampire series. Now that the manuscript is out of my hands and July 1st is set as the publication date, it’s time for me to shift gears from doing behind the scenes work to doing things out in public.

Being an author is a very private undertaking. Most of the time, I write in my office alone (other than my dogs, of course). But gearing up to sell the book means putting on my publicist hat, and that’s a whole different mindset.

Stepping out of my hermit-like surroundings, I will be going out into the world and meeting with people face-to-face. I’ll be sending out emails and posting on social media.  I’ll be contacting reviewers and scheduling some events. I’ll be setting up book signings and attending any conventions or book events that I think will help me connect with readers who like the sort of book I have written. I’ll pay for some advertising. I will likely do a few podcasts related to the book. I’ll go to meet with bookstore owners and managers to ask them to stock copies of the book on their shelves, particularly those in my home state where I would be listed as a local author.

I’m also planning a big party to celebrate my hard work. Though I’ll have books on hand for those who want a signed copy, that isn’t the purpose of the party. I think it’s important to stop for a moment and recognize my accomplishment. Not because I want to be patted on the back by others, but because I think it’s important to acknowledge all that hard work for myself and to celebrate its completion.

I joked with my cousin today that I feel like I’ve just given birth, and it has been the longest labor ever. That deserves a party.

When the book is finally printed and in my hands, I hope that it’s a beautiful baby. But if it has flaws, I’m going to remember that it’s my first, not the only, book I’ll ever write. It may not be the best book I will ever write either, but it’s the best book I am capable of producing right now. There will be lessons I will learn from the process, and I’ll take that knowledge with me when I work on the ones that follow. I have done the very best I know how to do, and while it may not be perfect, that’s okay. It’s perfectly mine, and that’s enough for me. If I waited for perfection, I’d never finish a thing.

I hope that readers enjoy the story as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It’s been a joy and a struggle, and I hope that as a result of this book, people will be willing to go on future adventures with me as well.

In light of all that, here is the trailer for the novel.

That said, I’m also going to try to make sure that I’m not beating the drum too much. Nothing turns me off more than constant advertisement, so I won’t be doing that myself either. I plan to go on being myself and posting about things I care about. Sometimes that will be my books, but most of the time, it’ll be a lot of other stuff too.

Ways you can help me, if you’re so inclined:

There are a few things people can do to help me get the word out. I’m not going to beg for it. But if you are willing, these are things that can assist me in getting my feet off the ground.

  • Go to your local bookstore and request my book. If enough people do that, their computer system will see a demand and start stocking it on their shelves.
  • Tell a friend about the book if you think he or she would like to read it.
  • Write an Amazon review.

That’s it. It may not sound like much, but it’ll make a huge difference to me.

Vampire Novel, In the Blood, Available July 1st – Preorder Now!

I am very excited to announce that July 1 is the release date of my upcoming novel, In the Blood: Book One of The Blood Royal Saga!

The ebook is now available for presale at:

As soon as the paperback presale is available, I’ll provide links to that too!

Why I Joined the Resistance

Last year was touted as “the year of the woman” with film after film and book after book focusing on strong women in lead roles forced to save the world from dire foes against impossible odds. This year, it seems, we are being asked to put what we learned into practice in our everyday lives.

16194895_1232216776862171_3084717871104851966_nWe are only just reaching the end of the second week of Trump’s presidency, and it’s been a complete disaster – so bad, it seems like some sort of poorly written dystopian novel. Mom and I have gone to three protests in the last two weeks and will be going to another one on Monday. It’s that bad. So completely horrible, I can’t even list all of the things that shock me here. Every day is worse than the one before, and it is already making people exhausted by continual outrage and disbelief. As for me, I’m finding it very hard to concentrate and get work done or even have a semblance or normalcy to my day-to-day life.

I find myself reposting article after article, consumed with keeping up with the latest news.

It is easy to become numb, to lose oneself in escapist television or books and ignore politics altogether. But we have seen the world that results from apathy and shock. Letting oneself succumb to helplessness and stunned dismay until we are overwhelmed – that’s what happened to educated Germans in the 1930s. They couldn’t believe that their fellow citizens were so stupid, refused to believe that it was possible for those things to happen in their country. And then they were subsumed by tyranny and fascism.

I can’t let that happen to me, however difficult it might be. Being quiet and ignoring what is happening is not going to make it stop. Thought the reality is painful and repugnant, I must face it and act accordingly. I have a duty to humanity to do so. If those of us who disagree with what is happening do not speak up, who will? Who do we think is going to step up to save us?

We have to save ourselves. It is hard work. It is painful and discouraging. It is not going to happen overnight. But it is vital not to give in without a fight. I cannot. My conscience will not let me.

Mom and I have ordered t-shirts that read “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty – Thomas Jefferson.” I am taking that quote to heart. I need to believe that there are others who feel the same way and who will resist what is happening to our nation.

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I would like to wind back the clock a couple of years when my social media was full of silly memes and cat videos and kid’s birthday parties, but that isn’t the world we live in right now. And I don’t want to become complacent or tell myself I have to pretend this is the “new normal.” I don’t want to get used to the way our government is operating currently. I am not going to be quiet and accept it. I plan to do everything I can in order to make sure my voice is heard and to encourage others to speak out as well. This isn’t a time for being silent. This is about human rights. Human dignity. Human beings. I cannot in good conscience allow myself to sit quietly and pretend the house isn’t on fire. It’s time to sound the alarm and do what I can to fix what is wrong.

Digging into the Past, Writing into the Future

This past summer, my mother and I drove from our small town in Missouri all the way to the top of Newfoundland where Leif Erikson landed. The journey was absolutely an adventure, encompassing  over six thousand miles of driving and three weeks of camping in the rain. 

While we were there, I read the Vinland sagas alongside the book written by the woman who was the archaeologist who discovered the Viking site at L’Anse Aux Meadows which was their headquarters while they explored the land they called Vinland. 
Since my return, I’ve been fascinated to learn more about this exploration, and have been gathering and reading several books to help me in that quest. 

The map of Vinland has been something of a contentious quandary among historians and experts, but the controversy surrounding the manuscript doesn’t change the irrefutable evidence that the Vikings did indeed come to this continent in search of land and perhaps even to satisfy an innate curiousity about the world as well. 

My studies also made me curious about the women who went along in this voyage as well, and so I’ve been learning about them also. 

Is there a book in all this? You betcha. 

The landscape is beautiful, wild, and vast. It’s hard to capture the sweeping magesty of all that we saw, but I can easily understand how the Greenlanders, coming here on their longships, would turn it into a place of myth and legend. 

I am not yet sure what shape the book will take, or even if there will only be one. What I do know is that I am inspired, and writing is soon to follow. 

“What If….” Generating Story Ideas

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I’m a writer is “Where do you get your story ideas?” It sounds like a straightforward question, but answering it is much more complex, however, than I think most people realize.

The simple answer is “They just come to me,” but that makes it sound like some sort of mystical dreamlike process involving fairies or a magic spell or something.

Honestly, sometimes they do come in dreams, but the majority of them don’t, and I don’t know anyone who’s tried to write who didn’t struggle with this issue when they first began.

For me, every story begins with daydreaming about a “what if” scenario.

  • What if vampires were real and one sat down and told his life story to a reporter?
  • What if young medical student found a way to bring the dead back to life?
  • What if on the other side of the mirror, there was another world?
  • What if a poor girl meets a rich guy at a party and they hate each other right away because of bad first impressions?

All of those are the basic premises of books that went on to become wildly successful, but each started from a simple “what if” situation.

The vampire series I wrote began as “What if Marie Antoinette was a vampire and was still alive?” Everything else in the plot developed out of that with a series of reporter’s questions – who, what, when, where, why, how.

  • If she’s a vampire, where is she living now?
  • Why did she move there?
  • How did she adapt to the modern world?
  • What does she do for a living?
  • How did she escape the guillotine?
  • Who helped her?

Once I answered those questions, I  continued asking more “what if” questions to keep searching for a plot.

Asking “What if she still has enemies?” led to more reporter’s questions.

  • Who are they?
  • Why do they hate her?
  • What do they want?
  • Where did she meet them?
  • How long have they been searching for her?

My plot grew out of those questions/answers.

Whenever I find myself stuck, I return to asking myself questions to think through the next scene or plot point.

I keep multiple notebooks where I write down these ideas whenever they come to me. But I find that just waiting around for a muse to arrive doesn’t work. I have to give it a push. My muse is lazy, and she doesn’t seem to bring me story ideas in some magical way. For me, it comes from consciously seeking out story. Allowing myself time to daydream. Actively encouraging daydreaming, in fact.

If I wake up from a dream with an idea for a story, it’s because I’ve been asking myself those what if questions before bed, and my brain worked on the problem while I was sleeping. There’s nothing mystical about it.

There isn’t a trick to suddenly having good ideas for stories. You can’t just sit with blank paper and wait for the story to arrive. Generating them takes effort and practice. Not every idea is going to work, and not every story will become successful. But the more you actively train your brain to daydream in a productive way, the more you learn how to generate interesting stories.


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Interview with Kari Anne Kilgore

When I heard that my friend and colleague, indie author Kari Anne Kilgore, had three books coming out at the end of October 2016, I was both amazed by her productivity and excited to add them to my collection.

Kari and I first got to know one another a couple of years ago at a writer’s retreat. In addition to my good fortune in getting to know both her and her husband, Jason Adams, I had the opportunity to read some of her work and fell in love with her creative mind and her amazing characters.

I’m very happy she allowed me to interview her, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about her work, her process, and her life.

[Book descriptions and links for purchase are below the interview.]


First of all, congratulations on all your recent publications! I know you have three books that just came out, and there are more on the way. What was your inspiration for each of them?

Thank you, Delia! This has certainly been an interesting autumn. Until Death started out as a writing exercise during a horror writers workshop in Transylvania, believe it or not. Richard Thomas was the instructor, and if I remember correctly, he asked us to write a scene drawing from our surroundings. The dogs had been barking outside the night before, so I started with that.

For The Dream Thief, I was a backer for a project called Fiction Unboxed back in 2014. Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (and a bit of Dave Wright), all from the Self Publishing Podcast, had a goal of writing a novel from scratch in 30 days with the doors wide open. I listened in every day, and before they were even finished, I had a dream about the story. I woke up with the title and everything. I love it when that happens!

Songs in the Mountain started with scanning through the anthology calls listed in the Duotrope newsletter. My writer mind combined two of them, and I started with my own time spent scanning a bunch of glass plate photo negatives for a non-fiction publishing project. A couple of photos and stories from our postcard and photography book ended up in the story, too.

My main guidance for myself and other writers when it comes to ideas is you never know where and when the spark will come. I try to pay attention, stay curious, and never smother that idea before it has time to take root and grow. One of the Self Publishing Podcast laws of writing is there are no bad ideas. It’s what we do with the idea that matters!

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

These three are unrelated, but I’m absolutely a series sort of writer. My brain just goes there almost every time. Until Death and The Dream Thief will each have at least one more novel. I have three other series partly written, with ideas for several more.

Who knows? The characters from Songs in the Mountain may even end up with more stories in the future!

What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your books?

Until Death is the best example, so many things. From the inn we stayed in, the rooms themselves, the countryside, even a few characters that folks who attended the first workshop will definitely realize. That one was so much from that amazing trip.

Songs in the Mountain is set very close to home for me in every way. The main character starts out doing a lot of the same work I do, and the setting is a combination of a couple of towns close by. The coalfields of Appalachia is as close to my heart as you can get.

For a big contrast, The Dream Thief is set in a world someone else created. That was so much fun to play with. I got to read Sean and Johnny’s books as research, too. Talk about a nerdy avid reader’s dream come true! But then I was writing in areas of the shared world that no one else has written in yet. We consulted a little bit at the end, but mainly I had a fantastic time striking out on my own and fitting into the existing world at the same time.

In general, I use, add, subtract, twist, and adjust elements from the world around me all the time. An easy example is another novella that took root at the Stanley Hotel last year. I took strange occurrences in that creepy elevator and set it in a building in Manhattan. So much fun!

Tell me about your writing process. Did you work on these projects one at a time, or do you prefer to write on all of them simultaneously, going from one to the other as your muse dictates?

I generally like to work on one thing at a time, though NaNoWriMo months can be an exception. For a long time, I would start a project, then work on that until it was finished before moving on to the next thing. Last year when we had a family member in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, I would start a project, work on it for a while, then start something new. I’m sure that was a stress reaction of some kind. I’m truly pleased I was able to write at all with that going on. So this year has been a lot of wrapping up the half-finished stories from last year.

I hope to return to going straight through like I used to, but if not, I’ll adjust and keep moving.

I have heard you describe yourself as a “pantser” rather than a “planner,” letting the work develop organically as you write. Explain a little more about how that process worked with these projects.

It’s funny, I do consider myself a pantser, in that I write by the seat of my pants without knowing what’s next. The first two novels I published were written differently, though. Until Death had no plan or plotting whatsoever, like the vast majority of my writing. The Dream Thief is the only novel I’ve ever written from any kind of an outline. It was pretty loose, dictated into my phone on a long road trip to Maine, but it was an outline. I then proceeded to put it away and ignore it while I wrote during NaNoWriMo. Much to my surprise, it matched up pretty well at the end.

I may do another loose outline for the sequel to The Dream Thief because it worked so well the first time. And I’ve created loose outlines as homework for several writing workshops, so it’s not like I hate the idea of it. I do prefer the adventure of writing into the unknown, though. That feels like reading the story for the first time while I’m writing it.

I think one thing that scares writers about writing without an outline is worry that they’ll write themselves into a corner and have to back up and start over. The experience for me and every other pantser I talk to is that’s the exciting part. I love it when I have to stop and think “Huh. What are we going to do now?” It may take me a little while of pondering, but the solution is always there. Every single time, and usually very clearly hinted at earlier in the story. I may have to go back and do a bit of seeding here and there, but never more than a few minutes.

We all have our own process, of course, and that’s wonderful! When I’ve tried to do a strict outline, that shuts the story engine in my head down cold. For me at least, the time I’d have to spend creating an outline is far better spent just writing and telling myself the story for the first time.

What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

Oh, this is a big question! I deliberately chose to publish in different genres within a few weeks. Until Death is horror/dark fantasy. The Dream Thief has darker elements, but it’s steampunk for sure. Then Songs in the Mountain really is a romantic suspense story with more than a little supernatural twist.

I love writing in various genres, and I plan to keep doing just that. There are only a few that I can’t see doing. Regency romance would involve too much research for me, and my writing is too strange and often dark for cozy mysteries, for example. I write like I read, I suppose, and like I think. All over the place, and always wanting to try something new.

How long does it take you to write a book?

This varies about as much as my genres do, but I’m generally a pretty fast writer once the story gets going. I’d say on average three months for a novel. I really want to work on being more consistent with this! I’ve hit close to 80,000 words during NaNo before, so I should be able to shorten the time with better habits over time.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I tend to be an evening writer, and I’ve been a night owl my entire life. My mother tells me this has been the case pretty much since birth. I love the dark and the quiet, the easy step from daily life to the half-dream when the writing is going really well. I’ll often get in a couple of hours after my husband has gone to bed.

All that being said, I’ve been trying to get a few writing sprints done during the day when I can. What I’d like to do is get my word count goal done earlier, though I’m just not set up to be a morning writer (unless you mean 2 am). I figure if I get that 1000 or 2000 words in earlier, I’ll be even more motivated and eager to write more during my peak evening hours.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

It really is consistency. That’s been my focus over the last few months, trying to get that habit more established. The way it’s been in the past is when I’m writing, I write a LOT. Then like many folks, I can get into stretches when I don’t write much at all. I don’t feel good during these times, and I’m sure my husband will tell you I can be a bit crabby.

When I’m writing consistently and writing fast, I feel so much more connected to the story. My goal is to stay in that groove of the story telling itself, the characters insisting that I pay attention, more often than not.

I do best when I write from 1000-2000 words per day. I want to get there more often than not.

What is your advice to Indie Authors? On writing? Marketing?

The first thing I always say to myself and to anyone else is write the next thing. I heard Hugh Howey say that back in November of 2014, when I first discovered indie publishing. I took that to heart, and it’s made a tremendous difference for me.

Right now, for example, I have several projects that will be fairly easy to put into the publishing pipeline. I took the time to study and work on my craft, and I got a ton of words under my fingers. That not only built my confidence and my ability to write faster, but it also gave me more than one project to put out. I attacked the fear of publishing the second novel by doing it right away.

As far as writing, I’ll quote Dean Wesley Smith and say have fun! That’s the most important thing, just enjoy yourself and tell yourself a fantastic story. If what you’re writing isn’t fun and you don’t enjoy it, it’s nearly impossible to create something readers will enjoy.

As far as marketing, I feel like I’m barely at the beginning there. The Self Publishing Podcast has been a wealth of information for me, as have their books Write. Publish. Repeat. and Iterate and Optimize. I also loved Susan Kaye Quinn’s Indie Author Survival Guide, and she has another called For Love or Money for folks a bit further down the road. I’m normally a Kindle reader these days, but I have each of those in print so I can take notes!

What formal education have you had in creative writing or publication? How has that training influenced or changed the way you write?

Well, I was an English major for a while, but that was almost exclusively focused on how to go to the library and research things written before we were born. There was no opportunity to write original work, much less fiction.

As for publication, that was SO round about for me. I taught PageMaker classes way back in the 90s, so when my uncle asked if I could put together a book for him back in 2004 I said sure. Little did I know what I was getting into! We essentially indie published years before it was cool, and long before there were any resources for help. I asked an awful lot of questions, and I still do.

From that paperback science textbook for high school kids in our region, we put out another for a different watershed, then moved on to a regional print and online magazine. The big one that forced me to get really good at InDesign (PageMaker’s descendant) was a 320 page postcard and photography book. That had 1100 images and captions for almost every one, so I had no choice other than seriously increasing my skill level.

All of that combined to make page layout for a novel a heck of a lot easier!

The main thing that influenced and continues to influence my writing is reading. Writers must read, as much as we can, and as widely as we can. That’s how we fill the well, along with movies, music, travel, museums, conversation, whatever inspires us and lights up our imaginations.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what project are you working on?

I am! I’d planned to work on the sequel for Until Death, but as often happens I found myself drawn to another story when midnight rolled around on 11/1. I’m working on one of those half-finished projects, a kind of mystery, kind of steampunk story called Clockwork Voodoo. I thought it would be a novella, but we’re getting pretty close to that magic 50,000 word mark.

Once that’s finished, which should be before the end of the month, I’ll see what’s demanding my attention.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

This is a loaded question! I absolutely believe that from time to time, life simply gets in the way. We can be ill, have someone else we must take care of, have an insanely busy stretch at the day job, have depression, or any number of things that can slow down or stop our writing. I do my best to at least revisit the stories during these times. Write if I can, maybe make notes of what pops into my head, at least think about the work in progress. Anything to keep the connection alive as best I can during a down time.

As far as what most people call writer’s block, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I do not believe in it. The idea that some kind of muse or uncontrollable inspiration has to show up for me to write doesn’t make sense to me at all. When I get to the computer or recorder or page, I plan to be ready to write. Therefore, I am. And if I decide that’s out of my control and in the hands of something I can’t influence or define, I’ll lose the spark altogether. That’s all I’ll say about that.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Can you give a sneak peek into what’s coming next?

The finished novel count stands at seven! Two of those are out now, and the others are parts of series that I want to finish before publishing. I have three novellas that are just about ready to go as well, and several short stories I’m submitting to magazines.

Assuming Clockwork Voodoo turns out to be a stand-alone, which I think it will, that will likely be next out for me. Then it’s time to turn my attention to wrapping up the series. One is a post-apocalyptic story set here in the Virginia mountains and in Illinois where I spent my teen years. Another is wrapping up the first series I wrote, with two finished and at least one more underway. Those focus on a geneticist from Scotland who stumbles across a mystery in Wales that affects him, his wife, and their family more deeply than he could have imagined.

I know you have been on several literary pilgrimages. How have those influenced your writing?

That first novel I wrote set in Wales led us to visit there twice, and I’d love to live there for a while. That art definitely influenced my life.

I’ve mentioned Until Death and the two trips to Transylvania. For the second trip, we went through Prague because that will be a setting in the second novel. Then while we were in Budapest, I got the spark for another story that I’m excited to dig into.

The main way is having those experiences and feelings – and lots and lots of photos – stored up for use in ways I can’t imagine. It kind of feels like having an extremely well-stocked pantry, but you can wander in there without any idea what you want to cook and get the idea from what’s on the shelves.

More often than not, though, I’ll be in the middle of a story and one of those past drives or trips or even flights gives me the touch I need to bring a setting to life. A trip I took 10 or 15 years ago may show up in a novel today. Those experiences keep me from being afraid of a new setting, even one that doesn’t exist. A sleeping berth on a spaceship may come from a train trip across the US, or the magical palace in a fantasy world may come from a tour of a castle in Romania.

The open mind and curiosity are key! And again, having fun.

Tell me about the publication process for these books and about Spiral Publishing.

Spiral Publishing really started with those non-fiction print projects going back over ten years. Once I have the books designed, I work with a local printer who does wonderful work for us. Those are specialized print runs, often with a landscape 11 x 8.5 format that isn’t really possible with something like print-on-demand. That layout and proofing and overall experience has been invaluable to me, and I plan to continue that work when the project is one I care about.

Strangely enough for an indie writer, I had a bit learning curve when it came to ebooks! Most indies are reluctant to get into print, which is where I’m perfectly at home. A big lesson with Until Death, the first novel I published, was to do that print version first. That’s my natural instinct anyway. The reason is I will always, ALWAYS, see a typo or word choice problem or something in the print version that I missed in every electronic version. It’s so much easier to get those worked out before I have the ebook completed.

One thing about indie publishing is we get to work with a team that we choose, not one that’s assigned to us. I edit the non-fiction projects, but I’d never edit my own fiction. My husband Jason is a wonderful first reader and editor himself, which is a huge help. I’ve been lucky enough to work with three fantastic editors for these first three books, and I hope to work with all of them again. Richard Thomas, Jason Whited, and Ellen Campbell. We can potentially learn to do layout, design, covers, so many things, but I believe a good editor is essential.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer. I read constantly from the time I learned how, and I was always telling myself stories. I specifically remember using my crayons to act out a great drama when we were supposed to be having quiet time in second grade. Even without the crayons, I could use my fingers to act it out. On long hikes during Girl Scout camp or on long car rides, I always had a narrative going in my head. I’m the same way now on the rare occasions when I can’t sleep. That’s prime storytelling time!

I first realized it was possible after I read WOOL by Hugh Howey and discovered indie publishing. I’m not afraid of traditional publishing by any means, but the slow pace and giving up all of my rights for novels doesn’t appeal to me at all. I submit to magazines and will keep doing that, so I’m really a hybrid.

But the excitement of finishing a story, working with an editor, finding cover artwork, designing the book, and getting it out there is so satisfying to me. I’d lose so much of that joy with a traditional publisher, and the tradeoff is not worth it for me. It’s a perfectly viable path for those who want it. I love the adventure and excitement of doing more for myself, and of working with a wonderful team along the way.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Travel is at the top of the list, but I also love being at home with my dogs and my cats, and my husband Jason. I read as much as I can, and I like to sew and bake when I have the time. I love my day job work with page layout and design, though I don’t love having to make websites for those projects.

I also love and am inspired by communicating with other writers. It’s such a delight to realize I’m not the only one who sees the world a bit differently.

Do you have certain apps or websites or gadgets you recommend for other writers?

I’m like you in that I adore Scrivener for writing. I don’t know how I’d manage without it, truly. I tend to write out of sequence, so being able to have those mini-documents for each chapter is a lifesaver. I still use Word for short stories, but anything approaching novella length goes right into Scrivener.

Aeon Timeline is brilliant for keeping track of character ages, events, even fitting stories into historical timelines. As a pantser, I use it to make sure those kinds of things are logical, or to see where gaps may be in the timeline. I’d imagine plotters would get even more use out of the ability to see how events fit together. It can sync with Scrivener, but I haven’t played with that yet.

After struggling with ebook formatting for a while, I bought Vellum, and I could not be happier with that. It’s Mac only, which is just fine with me, and it makes formatting for the different platforms simple. And the ebooks really are gorgeous.

InDesign is a must for me when it comes to print. It can seem intimidating at first, but there are wonderful tutorials on sites like Lynda.com. You can get it a month at a time now from Adobe, so I encourage folks who want to learn to format their own print books to check it out. You don’t have to be an expert to turn out a great looking book!

For distribution of review, giveaway, or advanced reader copies, www.bookfunnel.com is fantastic. You upload your files and create a link, then send those out. Then the recipient can download whatever format they want. So much easier than trying to explain how to side load onto a Kindle or Nook, for writers and readers.

I use my iPhone all the time for recording notes and ideas with voice recognition and notes. I haven’t played with Dragon dictation as much as I’d like to, but it makes all kinds of sense to me. The idea of going for a walk or a hike and writing at the same time sounds fantastic! Monica Leonelle has a wonderful book called Dictate Your Book that I’d recommend to anyone who’s interested in trying that out. Monica’s 8-Minute Writing Habit is another great resource for fitting in your writing time in short bursts and enjoying it.

And one last thing is the book 5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox, and the app 5KWH that goes along with it. That’s made sprints so much more effective and fun for me. There are other apps like Wordly that other writers enjoy, too.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

Like so many other writers who get into horror, Stephen King is at the top of my list. I love how while his stories can be suspenseful or even scary, they’re always about the people rather than the monsters. And he crosses genres constantly, so it’s probably no accident that I do too.

Anne McCaffery and her Dragonrider books were another tremendous influence on me. Those worlds are so richly imagined, and I love the way the different series weave together.

Lately I’ve enjoyed Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books and Jeff Linday’s Dexter books just as much as the TV shows they inspired. They both give great examples of not being afraid of your subject matter or your characters! Jason Gurley is another indie I hadn’t mentioned yet. His book Eleanor is amazing, and it did cross over from indie to traditional.

Philip K. Dick’s short stories are some of my favorite reading, and they’re definitely an influence on my writing. He was so good at putting an ordinary character into an extraordinary situation. And the reader believes it because the other characters do. That’s how we know the strange thing is real, how we know it works. And what an imagination!

What writer organizations are you a member of? How have these writing communities helped or changed your work?

I belong to both the Horror Writers Association and the Romance Writers Association, as do quite a few writers I know. RWA in particular has some wonderful online classes, and they welcomed indies almost from the start. I’ve made great connections and friendships at HWA events, including you! Horror writers as a group are incredibly warm and welcoming.

I also belong to ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, and the IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. Both of those offer training, marketing resources, and support that’s been so helpful as I learn this crazy business.

What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

I’m working on building these up more over time, but a good place to start is www.karikilgore.com. I plan to keep book listings there, information about signings and such, and eventually sort of a travel journal with pictures. My publishing site is www.spiralpublishing.net. The purchase links will eventually be there for my fiction, Jason’s fiction, and the non-fiction projects. Both have email lists folks can sign up for.

I’m not much of a blogger, but I am on Facebook more than I should be. I’m on Twitter a lot less, but I’d like to get more into that habit (@spiralwriter). I may investigate things like Instagram and Pinterest, especially for the non-fiction projects, but not just yet.

I know you’ve done some book signings already, and you’ve participated in several writing retreats and events. Do you have any other events coming up that you’d like to let people know about?

Not a whole lot after one of the busiest travel years of my life! Jason and I are really excited to be attending a science fiction workshop on the Oregon coast early next year with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and we’ll go straight from there to the fantastic Smarter Artist Summit in Austin, Texas. After that, we’ll see what comes together.


until-death-ebook-cover-360x570Until Death By Kari Anne Kilgore