Author Spotlight: Simon Graeme

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Simon Graeme

 – A dark fantasy writer and artist.


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Simon Graeme

Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, Simon. A dark-fantasy writer and artist for well over twenty years. He has a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and was awarded an Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest in 2015. In March 2018, he survived a stroke that spurred him to get his writing career back on track and actually start aiming for publication.

He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Simon, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I would kinda like to have a luck dragon. The Neverending Story was a big influence on me as a kid and Falkor was the shit. Part giant-pink-dog that could talk and a freakin’ dragon. Can we add cleaning up its poops to the no worries list?

I’m a huge fan as well. I realized last year that a- they were super cool and b – there was no reason NOT to add water-dragon-puppies to my world (inspired by Falkor), so I did.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write fantasy and dabble in sci-fi but everything I write ends up with a touch of horror, hence claiming the genre dark fantasy.

I was twisted by likes of Clive Barker and Stephen King as a teen and grew up in a haunted house so it only makes sense that I would lean to the dark side. I was also a kid that was terrified of the dark (still am) and I had to have this strong sense that good would triumph over evil. You learn a lot about faith when you have to pray and keep a Bible on your bed at night just to be able to close your eyes long enough to sleep. I clung to the notion of guardian angels as a kid really hard. I think you can find all these influences in my work.

Over-active imaginations are good things for writers to have. But they are bad when paired with nyctophobia. I think I developed a curiosity about the dark and the things that hid there as a coping mechanism. That curiosity expanded into an obsession with the paranormal in my early adult life.

Perhaps my writing is a later stage of learning to cope with all that trauma.
Who knows. I still struggle with one question: is it really fear of the dark if you live in a real haunted house?

I started writing in high school when I became obsessed with comic books and decided to create my own. I’m a decent artist but I’ve never mastered the comic book style. I did write backstories for all my characters and I really enjoyed that. It evolved into long-form prose in college but I didn’t get serious until my late 20s. I’m 42 now.

It took me five years to finish my first novel. It was a vampire horror novel that explored the question, “What monsters would vampires fear?” It was an interesting concept but total garbage, but it taught me a lot.

One piece of writing advice I always offer to newer writers is to get to work and write a shitty novel. Maybe the first one will be good but it’s doubtful. You’ll learn so much about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer that you will know what to work on.

Read read read about the craft. Any and everything you can get your hands on. I recommend screenwriters focused stuff for learning to plot effectively. Then go write a less shitty novel. Chances of this one being good are so much increased. If not, write more books. Pro tip: don’t self-publish any of the shitty ones. Just let them die. It’s harsh advice but the best thing for your writing development. I promise.

After the stroke, I decided to finish the last novel I was working on. I took it from 23k words in April to 105k in July. That book is my debut novel, Dark Lament and is the first book in The Black Crusade series. It is a dark fantasy novel in a fantasy setting loosely based on the crusades period of our world.

Great advice. If I didn’t love my first manuscript so much, I might even have followed it. But yeah, write progressively less-shitty novels seems pretty good advice to me. I’m sorry about your stroke, but yay for letting it remind you to focus on your goals.

What do you like to read?

I read a lot of non-fiction related to the business of indie publishing and the craft of writing. I’ve probably got fifty books on mythology and history. I enjoy reading about military structure and strategy throughout the ages and I think that shows up in my writing. Brian Lumley, a British horror writer, Stephen King, and Anne Rice were authors that I spent much of my twenties with.

I really enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series, which has been renamed The Last Kingdom to match the Neflix series of the same name, (I really like that too).

I am intrigued by Patrick Rothfus and the Kingkiller Chronicles. He proves that voice and characters can a best seller make. I defy you to tell me the plot of Name of the Wind. You can’t. It doesn’t have one. But I’ve read that book three times and curse him daily for not getting the third book out there fast enough. There is a lesson here but I think it is only meant only for experienced writers, ones who have at least one shitty novel in the trunk.

A pretty solid list of books. My main complaint with the Kingkiller Chronicles is that he gave Kvoth Every Background Possible. Orphan, raised by gypsies, street orphan, child prodigy, musician, magician, teacher’s pet…

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

I don’t accept that plotters and pantsers are all that different.

If you are to finish writing a decent book, which means multiple drafts and editing done, then you will have plotted at some point. It could be on the front end, middle, or after the first draft is finished. The drafting process is different but all writers plot before it’s done.

Also, those who outline heavily at the beginning almost always end up writing something different than planned by the end of the first draft. Characters worth having will always drag you off course. There will be plot holes you didn’t consider at first.

Besides imagination and drive for telling stories, I’ve learned that all writers have mad problem-solving skills in common. That’s the magic of writing a novel.

That’s fascinating! People always talk like those who plot are completely different people than those who pants. But, as a plantser, that’s my sweet-spot anyway, so I’m inclined to agree. 😉

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Master the concepts of character, conflict, setting, and resolution (I add the fourth in there).


These are the keys to writing a compelling story.

When I’m developing a story idea it usually starts with setting. Fantasy and sci-fi both have to have a sense of awe or wonder about the setting. Then I develop conflicts for that setting. Dark Lament looks at religious conflict as it is loosely based on the Crusades Period.

Which leads to factions. Who are the major factions driving conflict for the setting?

Next, who in those factions has the most interesting story to tell? Following this, I will never have a story that is uninteresting to someone.

Lastly, the story has to have a satisfying resolution where all promises to the reader are paid off and all major plot threads tied together. You can leave some for the sequel if you do it well. I like to connect things mentioned earlier in the story to things that are now required to finish the story well.

Quality components, made for every story. From chapter books through historic tomes.

Shameless self-promotion.

My first book was just released onFeb 1st, 2019. It’s called Dark Lament and is the first book in The Black Crusade series. It is a dark fantasy novel in a fantasy setting loosely based on the crusades period of our world. You can find it here!

I also have a prequel short story out for free and plan to have book II of the series out by April. I’m writing it right now. There will also be a prequel novel out in April or May which  goes back further than Scion of Darkness.

Please visit my webpage to get a free copy of Scion of Darkness, a short prequel to Dark Lament. It focuses on the characters of Baelen and Marten, when they were younger and tells the story of how they saved a child prophesied to be the doorway through which darkness will one day reclaim the world, the main character of Dark Lament.

You can get Scion of Darkness HERE!

If anyone wishes to interview me, as the wonderful, talented, and beautiful Morgan Hazelwood has, please contact me through one of the avenues listed below:

Simon E. Graeme at Facebook  | TartarusBound | simongraemeauthor@gmail.com

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Author Spotlight: P.M. Hernandez

Today’s Author Spotlight is: P.M. Hernandez

 – A writer of YA paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction!


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P.M. Hernandez

Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, P.M. Hernandez. She lives in Virginia but travels the globe, finding inspiration in the colorful, mysterious, and sometimes spooky corners of it. Also, check out more about her writing at http://www.pmhernandez.com, and explore a a world where gargoyles take flight, aliens visit Earth, and magic is real.

She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

P.M., thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Definitely a dragon. You can ride them. They’re great protection. They excel at gathering and hoarding valuable objects. You’d save money on heating your house. What’s not to love?

You’re right in line with Zoe, from last week! I’ll just repeat my warning that I gave her. Many are sentient. Who would be the pet and who would be the owner?

What do you write and how did you get started?

I mostly write YA paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction. I say mostly because my editor told me my latest series is NOT young adult, or at least, only recommended for 16 and above. Who knew I could be so dark? Ha!

I got started the same way a lot of other authors did. I’ve been writing most of my life. Pretty sure my first book was for a middle school project. I wrote and illustrated a children’s book about a teddy bear. My first published book came out in 2016.

Exactly what I love and read. Now I’m curious about that teddy bear book. Is it available on Amazon? *winks*

What do you like to read?

I love anything paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction. That’s my jam. But sometimes, I break out into contemporary or historical fiction, or even non-fiction. I don’t discriminate, but I also am quick to set aside a book that isn’t thrilling me because my TBR pile is HUGE.

Doing something about my to-read pile is definitely something I’m working on this year. I’m not great at setting aside books, though. Maybe I should practice.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write what you know”

I have no idea who said it first, but clearly, that person didn’t write high fantasy. I’m willing to admit, though, that there’s a kernel of truth in it. All the best made-up stuff has a touch of the real world. Otherwise, how can we connect with it? So in that sense, we’re writing about what we know, just adding trolls and magic and whatnot.

Once again, you’re agreeing with last week’s author. AND! Giving the very same caveat I gave. In far fewer words. I’m right there with you.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Writing is a lonely hobby.

Writing isn’t the solo affair we think it is. We need people, and not just friends or family who will lie to us and tell us everything we write is gold.

We need people in our lives who’ll tell us difficult things and help us get better at our craft. Some of your writing circle will eventually be friends; others will be professional contacts.

Never think you’ve arrived, that you can’t learn anything new; your writing tribe will help you be a continual learner.

Everyone is a resource.

As an ambi-vert who runs several writer support groups, I’m a huge fan of finding your support people. There surely are SOME people out there who do fine solo, I just don’t know any of them (which, I’m sure is the point).

Shameless self-promotion.

I have a new science fiction series coming out this year.

It’s kind of a departure for me. Dark and Bright is my take on Frankenstein, if the monster were a teenage girl and the doctor had access to modern tech. The book is available for pre-order now, and will come out on February 1.

Fortunately, if you like it, you won’t have to wait long!

Book two, Darkening Night, will release in May. Book three, Blazing Light, will release in late fall.

Both the Dark and Bright Series and the Whitewood Journals (YA paranormal) are in Kindle Unlimited.

My YA science fiction series, Earthborn, will be in KU soon.

And finally…you can meet me in person at Roanoke Author Invasion (April 2019 in Roanoke, VA), Penned Con (September 2019 in St. Louis, MO), and Royal Book Bash in the DMV (October 2019 in Woodbridge, VA).

Author Spotlight: Zoe Ashwood

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Zoe Ashwood

 – A debut supernatural romance writer!


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Zoe Ashwood

Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, Zoe Ashwood, a translator by day, a romance writer by night, and a reader always. Her stories feature grumpy men, kickass heroines, and lots of kissing.

She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Zoe, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

If I could have any pet, I’d have a dragon. No, seriously. It would cut down on travel time significantly, I could have it scare my enemies (or eat them if need arose), and also dragons are wicked smart, so I could learn loads.

As I am occasionally a BookWyrm, in all my red scaley dragon glory, I’ve gotta agree that Dragons are pretty awesome. Just be wary. Many are sentient. Would the dragon be the pet, or would you be ITS pet?

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write paranormal romance, though I have a couple of contemporary romances stashed deep in my computer. I used to write diaries and really bad teenage poetry, then sort of stopped when I was studying English at the university (go figure!), then started again after I’d been blogging about books for a couple of years. I participated in one NaNoWriMo and that was it!

I don’t write romance, but paranormal romance and I became good friends years ago. Except the studying English bit, that sounds like my background and entry into the writer’s life.

What do you like to read?

I read mostly romance and fantasy these days. I’m not particular about the genre of romance – paranormal, contemporary, historical, sci-fi, pretty much anything goes. I love fantasy for its endless creativity and imagination – I read both adult and YA books. Bonus points if there’s kissing involved! I also read a lot of children’s books because I have two kiddos (4 and 2 years old).

I definitely read my fair share of paranormal romance – and straight fantasy, too.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write what you know”

I don’t like “write what you know.” If that was a good piece of advice, fantasy wouldn’t exist. And the world would be a sad, sad place without fantasy.

I know I’m being literal, but in this day and age (ie the age of Wikipedia and Google), there’s really no limit to what you can write about. My research has included searches about black bear eating habits, revolvers, Canadian national parks, exsanguination times for arterial wounds, and NYC diners. I had zero to little knowledge about those, and yet I wrote books with those elements (the success of those books is still undetermined, haha).

Ah, this bit of advice is, by turns, both complete bull and the truest bit of advice. You might not know black bear menus and how long it takes to bleed out, but all of us are people. But. You write love stories and that’s something most of us want to be able to share with someone else. The events and settings might be beyond reality, but the people and the emotions behind the motivations are the same in your stories as they are for people you know in the real world.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Outline your stories!

It’s a controversial topic, as not everyone’s brain works the same, but writing without an outline terrifies me. I tried it (for that first NaNoWriMo) and ended up with 50,000 useless words that had to be dumped. I’ve never been happier than when I realized I could prepare for writing beforehand. I write faster and cleaner drafts when my outlines are detailed.

I’m a plantser myself. My outlines are pretty loose and mostly ignored until I get stuck, but provide a good compass for when I’m starting out.

Shameless self-promotion.

I’m super bad at shameless self-promotion. But if you’d like a free shapeshifter novella, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter. And I’m most likely to be found on either Instagram or Facebook these days.

My debut novel, Trust the Wolf is out on January 24 – I hope you’ll give it a try! You can also find it on Goodreads. Here’s the blurb!

A shirtless white young man looks to the ground beside him. In the background, a wolf stands just behind where he is looking among the trees. The trees foliage is red for high fall and the sky is overcast, with a slight brightness peeking through, suggesting daytime. At the bottom, it reads: "Trust The Wolf" by Zoe Ashwood

You never forget your first wolf.

Emilia’s first encounter with Jason is memorable: it’s not every day you see a stranger change into a wolf. Her attraction to him is undeniable, but the secret he shares shakes the foundations of her life.

Jason’s need for Emilia unnerves him. It’s his job to report shifters without proper ID, yet he can’t make himself do it this time. The decision bites him in the tail when he discovers exactly who she is. He must keep his distance—or there will be hell to pay.

Their fates entwine when rogue shifters learn of Emilia’s identity and will stop at nothing to get to her. Emilia and Jason will have to fight together or risk losing everything.

But most of all? Emilia must learn to trust the wolf.



Author Spotlight: RobRoy McCandless

Today’s Author Spotlight is: RobRoy McCandless

 – An award winning urban fantasy writer.


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Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, RobRoy. Born under a wandering star that eventually led him to life as a writer both professionally and creatively. He’s the author of the urban fantasy TEARS OF HEAVEN, winner of the 2014 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Preditors & Editors Readers Poll, and a 2015 EPIC eBook finalist with HELL BECOMES HER and THE CLOCKWORK DETECTIVE (available 2019).  His shorts have appeared in IN SHAMBLES (with Kevin J. Anderson) NINE HEROES, and GEARS, GADGETS AND STEAM.

He’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

RobRoy, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

From my old gaming days, I was always intrigued by the idea of an animal companion, one that provided some degree of communication and mutual safety. I’d want a big cat—either a cheetah or a tiger, but I wouldn’t mind a dire wolf or some other canine variant

Oooh, a mind-talking, predator cat? I’m a fan, too.

What do you write and how did you get started?

Fantasy, urban fantasy, and most recently steampunk are my preferred genres, although I’ve dabbled in a bit all genre fiction.

I’ve always been an avid reader, starting way back when a family friend gave me a copy of THE HOBBIT. I was so floored by it, that I immediately rode my bike down to the local book store and bought everything else by Tolkien. I had no idea I was getting the seminal fantasy series of all time. Later, I devoured anything even remotely fantasy-related, but when the stories didn’t meet my desires and expectations, I started writing my own.

I might not write urban fantasy or steampunk, but I DEFINITELY read them. I’m always in awe, hearing of people discovering genre fiction. With my parents, I can’t remember NOT reading (or having it read to me). So glad you found it and fell in love.

What do you like to read?

I’ll read anything with a strong character-driven narrative and a bit of fantasy or science magic. Most recently, I’ve been eating up cyberpunk novels, a genre movement I missed when I was more interested in fantasy.

There’s a movement to retell some of the classic horror stories from different views, like Victor LaValle’s THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM which is great.  Even more recently, my wife gave me a book club membership for Christmas, so I’ve been reading some very interesting things like THE CLOUD ROADS by Martha Wells.

I admit to a bias for character-driven novels as well. Thanks for the recommendations!

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Jonathan Frazen

I respect the hell out of Franzen, and of course he’s in a much better position to lecture, but I love my internet connection, allowing me access to research and expects that years ago a writer could only dream of.  I appreciate the ability to post up a question in a social media group and get a dozen responses in as many minutes.

Not all of them may be useful, but there’s usually a handful that will meet the needs.

Ah, the internet. The biggest source of distraction a writer can have — and the biggest resource a writer can have. Research and writing support at the click of a button. I’ve got to agree with you, it’s a mixed bag, with only self-control being the deciding factor.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Beta readers. I’ll come back from the grave for my beta readers. I have a dedicated core of people, most of whom aren’t writers. Their advice is beyond measure, and I won’t release a word without it passing them first.  They’re worth their weight in gold, and I wish that I could give them that ten times over.

Thank you!

Oooh! Good choice. Beta readers and critique partners are a key part of my process and I don’t think we’re the only ones.

Shameless self-promotion.

Banishing demons is only slightly more daunting than raising a pre-teen. All things considered, Del has it pretty easy these days. She takes her orders, does her job, and goes home to kiss her daughter Jordan goodnight.

But when Jordan is kidnapped, Del learns the world is even more dangerous than she believed.

Lost in the deserts of Northern Nevada, confronted with myths and legends thirsty for her blood, Del may have to fight an entire army to get her daughter back.

She’ll pull down the pillars of Heaven is that’s what it takes.

HELL BECOMES HER is Book 2 in the FLAMES OF PERDITION series


AUTHOR LINKS

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |iTunes | Goodreads | Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Author Spotlight: Dawn Husted

Today’s Author Spotlight is: Dawn Husted

 – A writer for both young adults and women writers, and the owner/operator of the independent press Yaupon Berry Press.


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Picture

Readers, let’s welcome to my blog, Dawn. Writer, publisher, and small business owner. She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Dawn, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I’m a huge animal lover, but I’d love furball Crookshanks (from Harry Potter) as a pet! His face is adorable and he’s smart too.

I like a person who knows not only what type of pet but which one they want! Very decisive. I should have expected nothing less from you.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write in various YA genres, and I recently released a non-fiction “how to write” book for aspiring, female authors. Surprisingly, the series that jumpstarted my passion for writing is Twilight.

I know, I know. I can hear all the grumbles from other writers, but I was never a huge reader prior to 2008. My friend suggested I read those books, and as soon as I started, I couldn’t put them down.

Soon after that, I dove into writing some really terrible stories that should never see the light of day. It took a couple of years for me to learn how to write better!

I’m a huge fan of YA myself, so I’m always happy for more writers there.

NOTE: Long-time-readers of this blog should be familiar with my smack-down of Twilight bashing, but for the rest of you: there are tons of popular authors with more questionable books than you find Twilight, but instead of being judgemental, as a librarian’s daughter, I see popular books as gateway drugs.

What do you like to read?

I mostly read YA (sci-fi, paranormal, contemporary, dystopian, etc.), however, I enjoy an Adult book every so often. I also enjoy reading a good memoir, such as Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Currently, I’m reading Imposters by Scott Westerfeld

Ohh! They sound pretty solid, so I’ll have to look those up. Glad you still make time for your reading. I know it can be hard when there’s always the internal (and/or external) pressure on you to write-edit-market.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Advice: “Let the chapters be however long your story needs them to be.”

I’m not a fan of that advice. I’m extremely strategic when I begin writing a new book. I like to have a word count for each chapter so that I can target an overall word count goal for the whole book. By the time I finish writing, I’ll toggle with chapters as I revise, but I like the chapter length to remain consistent.

A plotter! I’ve done some editing to make my chapter lengths more congruent. But! I’ve read advice that short chapters read faster–both literally and figuratively–so I often add more breaks in my more action-packed chapters, for both cliffhangers and pacing. As a reader, though, I do appreciate even chapters. It makes it easier to figure out how much book is left on my kindle.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can’t pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Outlining

I enjoy outlining my books prior to writing them. If I don’t outline, my stories stray into dead ends and stop making sense.  

A-ha! I knew it. I’m a shameless plantser, but I do understand the appeal.

Shameless self-promotion.

In 2018, I filed with the county and opened a small, independent press: Yaupon Berry Press. Since then, I’ve released two books and will be opening an online shop for female writers that includes many products with the empowering phrase: Wordy Woman. I want these items to inspire women in the industry by giving them a way to display their writerly confidence to the world.

You can get an early sneak-peek at the Wordy Woman products (prior to the official grand opening on November 1st) HERE. (And here’s a 15% off discount code: WEEKDAYTREAT).

Plus, in February 2019, I’m speaking as a nominated panelist at Teen BookFest by the Bay, so stop by if you live near Corpus Christi, TX! My books are located on my website.

Girl Gone Ghost: A Psychological Thriller by [Husted, Dawn]
Girl Gone Ghost by Dawn Husted (YA Psychological Thriller)
A Wordy Woman's Guide for Writing a Book by [Husted, Dawn]
A Wordy Woman’s Guide for Writing a Book by Dawn Husted (Non-fiction and includes a chapter-by-chapter outline at the end)