Author Spotlight: Michelle Mogil

all-threeToday’s author writes science fiction and fantasy, short stories and novels. She’s also got some interesting thoughts on what it takes to be a writer.

Please give Michelle Mogil a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your most recent novel?

The Melancholy Man is the third novel in my Love Eternal Series.

The Blurb: Esther Blackwell thought she had written works of fiction: two novels about a middle-aged couple who, through an odd series of circumstances, become blood-sucking creatures of the night. Then, her characters start showing up in her life and stirring everything up. Esther finds herself drawn into their surreal world by one particularly long, lean ancient Irishman who can’t seem to keep his hands — or his teeth — off of her. It would seem she had finally found the love and devotion she’d always longed for. Unfortunately, he’s already bound to another mate, a green-eyed, red-haired beauty who is not ready to let go and more than willing to cause trouble.

2. When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

A number of years ago, my brother self-published his book about life on the USS Guadalcanal, and I realized how easy it was to put my stories out there. I was terrified when I pushed that “Publish” button, but was amazed when people — utter strangers, even — enjoyed my work. It encouraged me to put more out there. I now have three novels and short stories in four anthologies published. Currently, I have three projects in the works with a fourth one hatching in my feverish little brain.

3. What’s your favourite genre to write in & why?

Fantasy and science fiction, which are sometimes intertwined. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I spend a lot of time in it. My favorite leading question is, “What if?”

When I was in school, I nearly always had my nose in a book and the books I read were mostly science fiction: Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, and so forth. I was teased unmercifully, of course, because I was a nerd and nerds weren’t yet considered cool.

4. What modern author do you admire most and why?

I fell in love with Ursula LeGuin when I read “The Lathe of Heaven”. What a concept: your dreams can change reality! After that, I read every book of hers that I could get my hands on. She could write in fantasy AND science fiction, mix them together, and do it well. She created characters and worlds I cared deeply about.

5. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

I don’t really have a process. The writing pretty much does its own thing. Inspiration comes in spurts, usually at 3:00 AM. My brain will say “What if?” and I’m off on a weird journey. I’ll scribble or type furiously for a while, and then it will dry up and then my brain will say “What if… you suck at this?” I hate my brain sometimes.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The very hardest part is when my editor does a face-palm over something that I thought was terribly clever. Actually, no. The absolute hardest part is highlighting that offending thing and pushing the delete button. I make it easier on myself by challenging my imagination to come up with something better.

7. Do you ever find it difficult to move from one novel to the next? If so, how do you make changing projects easier?

I don’t find it difficult because, as I finish one, I’m already writing the next one. Things happen to my stories that suggest another story needs to be told. That’s probably why I find it difficult to write the ending for my novels. They simply don’t want to end…

8. You’ve also written a number of stories for Theme-Thology anthologies. Can you tell us a bit about this process?

I am always a little bit surprised by how difficult it is to write a short story. You have only a short period of time to develop characters and a plot and this “economy of words” thing often escapes me. I love the English language, so I use as many words as I can. I find it hard to limit myself to a set number of these beautiful, beautiful words.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Grow a thick, slippery skin. In other words, learn to take constructive criticism and let the nasty stuff slide off your back.

Some will praise your work, some will give thoughtful critiques. Then there are those who will slam your writing because… well, who knows why? Maybe they were neglected as a child or are caught in a bad relationship. Or maybe they have a painful, itchy rash on an unmentionable body part. Who knows? Never, ever respond to your critics. You will not come out in a good light if you start a snark war with one of these people. Write a nasty email about it and send it to yourself, make a voodoo doll and stab it repeatedly with hat pins, or burn them in effigy. Whatever it takes to make you feel better. But don’t ever respond in real life.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

As I said earlier, I’m currently working on three projects, two of which are related to the Love Eternal series.

The first is a novella (which is threatening to grow into a full-blown novel if I don’t rein it in) about the buffer period between Ana’s “change of life” in The Gentle Man (Book One) and Ethan’s attempt to rebuild his marriage with her in The Loyal Man (Book Two). I guess I should call this Book One-and-a-half…? Anyway, I’m focused on the difficulty of forgiveness in this one. Ethan needs to forgive Ana for what she did and Ana needs to forgive herself, except that she can’t help doing something stupid all over again. She’s created another situation after which she’ll have to seek forgiveness yet again.

Then there was a particular character in The Melancholy Man (Book Three) who decided her story needs to be told. So I’m beginning to outline a novel that features her. She’s delightfully snarky — my favorite kind of person — and she’s got something to say, usually in a sarcastic tone.

Third, I’m working on a solo anthology for HDWP Books featuring four previously published short stories and several brand-spankin’-new stories, all just a little bit weird, all just a bit twisted. Much like their creator…

authorphoto1Michelle Mogil is a late comer to the publishing world, but she’s working hard to catch up. She has three self-published novels thus far and four short stories in anthologies. Science fiction, fantasy and the supernatural are her first loves. Her Amazon author page is here:

http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Montague-Mogil/e/B00AAISZTK/

Michelle has always loved to write, filling notebooks and journals with her thoughts and observations, but has only just now found the courage to show it to complete strangers. She is humbled and gratified to find people like to read the words that come out of her brain. She posts some of those words for free at http://www.michellemogil.com.

Why patience is particularly important for writers

I waited 10 years to get back to Scotland and it was totally worth it!
I waited 10 years to get back to Scotland and it was totally worth it!

To write a great book, one that leaves emotional impact, you need a great many tools, but one of the most important tools is patience. In fact, patience is as important as passion.

Why is patience so important? Well, I think this quote explains it nicely:

“A good book isn’t written, it’s rewritten.” ~Phyllis A. Whitney

Rewriting is a natural part of the process, and every book needs a different number of rewrites to be transformed from a first draft into a great novel. Even the best writers sometimes go through seven or eight rewrites. And these rewrites often take varying amounts of time. Your first rewrite might take six months and your third rewrite might only take one–it all depends on how extensive the rewrite is and how much time you devote to it.

I like to joke that I’m often impatient with people because I’ve used up all my patience writing books, and to some extent it’s true. I don’t want to publish anything less than a great novel. So the only fiction I’ve ever submitted are a couple short stories and a novella. I have three novels in different stages of editing, and I refuse to let them go until they meet my personal standards.

A great novel requires you to feel with your characters. How else are you going to make your readers feel with them? When you’re crying during a death scene, it’s probably a sign that you’re on to something. If you can’t feel the anguish or joy of your characters, you’ll have a much harder time portraying those emotions successfully in your work.

This means taking the time to learn about your characters, how they feel about themselves, each other, the world. And to do it for all your important characters, not just the main character but the antagonist and the secondary characters as well, even a few of the tertiary characters.

And that’s just the work you need to do outside the novel. You have to do self editing and at least one edit with multiple beta readers. You might even want to hire a professional editor, whether you choose to self publish or seek out a traditional publisher.

Once you’ve finished rewriting, it’s time to write a query letter and a synopsis. These pieces might only each be a page long, but they can still take you a few weeks to perfect. And if they’re your first query letter and synopsis, you might want to get feedback on these too before submission.

When you send out your submission package, you’ll find yourself playing the waiting game. This can be frustrating when your novel is with a critique writer, and it’s a lot more unpleasant when you’re waiting to hear from a publisher. Traditional publishers can take one to six months to respond, and if they want exclusive submissions–meaning you can’t submit elsewhere until they respond–this can be six months of hope crushed in a two sentence form rejection.

I’m experiencing this first hand right now: I submitted a YA fantasy novella to an ebook publisher in March and every time I think about it I start to feel restless. This is the first time I’ve waited more than two months for a response on fiction, and it’s definitely a learning experience.

So how can you cultivate patience?

Unfortunately there is no easy one-size-fits-all cure for impatience, and it’s often a struggle spanning years or even entire lifetimes. In the fast paced world we’ve built it’s easy to want everything to be efficient, to obsess over how long everything takes.

But there are strategies we can use to build patience–or at least to stop obsessing over things we can’t control:

Submit often. The thing about submitting often is that you end up waiting often. In the age of email you can get a response within as little as a few minutes, but usually you’re going to wait at least a month. If you’re submitting to a big publisher, you’ll be lucky to hear back within three months.

You’re going to spend a lot of your career waiting even after your first publication. Working on another book? That means another submission process. Even submitting short stories and poetry can involve a long wait time, depending on the publication. And once you have a contract you’ll also have to wait for edits, galleys, ARCs and finally publication.

Remember that many great novelists take years. One of my favourite writers, Hope C. Clark of FundsForWriters, took 20 years to publish her first novel. A writer I worked with at Musa took almost 40 years to find a publisher. Many authors have devoted entire lifetimes to a single series.

If you’re trying to write great books, you have to be in this for the long haul, just like these authors.

Waiting should be a passive activity. It shouldn’t take up much of your mind at any given point. You should be concentrating on moving forward. Writing the next book. Working on your next short story. Getting a few freelance clients to supplement your income and keep you writing. Taking a writing class.

If you’re always working on the next thing, it’s easy to forget about the things you’re waiting for. Stay focused on the next project, the next goal, and by the time your response comes in you’ll be a better writer and maybe even have crossed some other things off your goal list.

Are you patient enough to rewrite a novel as many times as it takes? What about waiting to hear from a publisher? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Great writing isn’t about structure, it’s about emotions

 

I read this book in London!
I read this book in London!

What separates a great novel from a good one? What makes one book stand out in your mind forever while countless others drift off to be forgotten? What keeps you coming back to an author, time and time again?

Your first instinct is probably to say something very writer-y. Something about the kind of plot, the worldbuilding, the characters.

But it isn’t really any of those things. I mean, it is–these things are all important–but these are the superficial things. What really makes a great book stand out from a good one is deeper than that. It’s emotion, the emotion being poured out of the book and into you.

The best books can make us laugh in one chapter and have us crying in the next. They keep us awake at night, afraid or excited for what comes next. When you finally put the book down you’re exhausted, because the best books are like emotional roller coasters. You feel every success, every defeat as if it were your own.

Let me give you an example: Clariel by the amazing Garth Nix. Clariel is the fourth book in the Old Kingdom Series. Most of these books have been published for a while, but Clariel only came out last fall, right around the time I started re-reading the other books.

Clariel is actually a prequel. It’s a shocking glimpse into what the Old Kingdom was like before Sabriel, when you find the kingdom in dire conditions, but it’s more than that. It’s the kind of book where a character can die only a few sentences after you realize you really do like them.

About two thirds of the way through you realize exactly how this book sets things up for the future you encounter in the other books. It’s a heartbreaking moment, and I spent the rest of the book holding onto a faint hope that I was wrong. In fact, this book is written so well that right near the end I actually believed I had made a mistake.

By the end of Clariel I was in complete shock, with about four different emotions battling inside me. I actually had to take time to process it and come to terms with it, and I read the author’s note at the end (which explained a couple things, including the next book) about three times before I processed it.

But I wouldn’t think this was such a great book if it didn’t break my heart. The best books leave you with strong emotions, emotions you’ll have again whenever you talk about them. They don’t just have good characters. They make you feel with those characters.

What do you think makes an amazing book? Let me know in the comments below!

Author Spotlight: Ben Hennessy

WoD1Today I’d like to introduce Ben Hennessy, author of YA fantasy novel Queen of the World. He is also one of the final authors to be featured in my series of interviews  spotlighting Inspired Quill Press.

He’ll be sharing his journey to publication and some key advice for writers still on the quest.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Queen of the World?

Queen of the World is the story of a young girl named Sarene, who lives in a world where peace is maintained by the word of the Four, all-powerful mages with the ability to do anything they wish. The rulers of each nation act according to a single rule: if they wage wars with their neighbours or mistreat their people, the Four will punish them. As such Sarene has grown up to believe that her kingdom, Tamir, is a peaceful and safe place to live in and one she would like to explore for herself. However the further she travels from her childhood home the more she comes to understand that not everything is as simple as she was led to believe. This story continues on into my latest release, The Whisper of Dreams

2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Writing a novel was one of those bucket list ideas. I’ve always been interested to know if I could work on a single piece of fiction for an extended period of time and come out with something I was pleased with, but was of the opinion that my shocking attention span and lack of motivation would combine to ruin my attempt. I found myself with some spare time while travelling through several different countries in 2010 and decided to give it a serious try. I kept plugging away until it was finished and things have snowballed from there.

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?
I left a pretty solid career job to go travelling, and I knew I had to have something to show for it at the end aside from wicked stories and a bunch of digital photographs. Getting a dodgy back-alley tattoo somewhere in Thailand crossed my mind, but instead I thought to use the time I had to try and get a manuscript ready for when I returned to the UK. if I hadn’t finished it I doubt I would have tried. As to whether that could be determined a success… Well, it’s for other people to judge!

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
When I’m working on a project I try to get myself into a routine of starting around the same time every day, usually with a pre-ritual such as a cup of tea and a snack, a certain album or musical artist and the same chair. I tend to have a ‘book album’, so something which I play every time I work on a specific manuscript. It tells my brain that it’s time to work, and I hear the songs so many times I stop paying attention to them and distracting myself.

I try to get the first draft down as close to what I want it to be. I’m not the type of writer who blasts through a draft and then edits the hell out of it. I try to fix typos and grammar as I go along, take time to consider the scene I just wrote before moving on to the next, and generally stop myself getting too carried away. I think if I found I had to wipe half a manuscript for an error I didn’t see pick up on it would utterly dishearten me from continuing.

5. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The hardest part is always starting. There’s too much other important stuff for any writer to be doing, such as watching cat videos on YouTube or browsing crab recipes on your phone. The best way to get past that is to always remember that it doesn’t matter if you write ten words a day or ten thousand. Eventually you’ll get to the end and have a piece of work in your library.

6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Getting carried away and having your characters do or say things that you weren’t expecting. It’s weird, and it’s rare, but it’s completely fantastic.

7. Why did you choose to publish with a small press?

I got talking to Sara of Inspired Quill through a chance meeting on a literary website and talked about the state of fantasy at the time (when vampires and zombies were still huge). I mentioned I’d recently completed a heroic fantasy manuscript and she invited me to send it to her. IQ liked it, said they were interested in publishing and sent me the contract to review. I was really pleased with their focus on being a social media enterprise and future plans to include classes and local events, and thought it was a great place for a new author like myself to progress.

8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just write. Doesn’t matter if it’s a little or a lot. Keep adding to your work and the rest will take care of itself.

9. What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m working through Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. One of my favourite books as a kid. It was very sad to hear of his recent passing. I hope Death is treating him well after all those years together!

 10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?

I’m currently writing the third in the Queen of the World series. Check out www.hennessywrites.com for more information!

Ben Hennessy is an exciting new author from Essex, England. Brought up on a literary diet including the likes of Stephen King, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and David Eddings, he looks to take all these elements and create a unique style of fiction which blends heroic fantasy and a subtle sense of wry humour. Having spent the last decade working various jobs in locations such as Ireland, New Zealand and Vietnam, he is now hoping to forge a new career as a full-time writer.

Purchase your copy of Queen of the World today!

Do you have questions for Ben? Feel free to ask them in the comments below!

Why writers should support independent film companies, not just publishers

I’ve talked a lot this year about why it’s important for writers to support small publishers and how we can do that, but today I’d like to discuss why it’s also important for us to seek out–and support–independent film companies.

Here’s the thing: independent film companies and small entertainment companies hire writers. Sure, some of them are probably run by writers eager to make their stories come to life, but most of these companies are run by other industry professionals–in movies it’s often producers or directors–who have spent all, or at least most, of their lives studying and working in the industry.

These companies need people like us. Without a writer, there’s no script, and without a script, there’s no movie. They cannot do the amazing work they do if there is no story to bring to life.

They also need writers for a myriad of other things, unless one of the founders happens to be a skilled writer. They need somebody to write press releases, blog posts, web copy and other promotional copy. Many film companies, particularly in Canada, also rely largely on grants–and becoming a grant writer is a great way to make a living as a writer.

Whether or not you’ve ever written a script, I’m pretty sure we’ve all daydreamed about having our books turned into movies. A greater number of independent film companies means a greater chance you’ll sell your film rights. It also means more awesome movies, opportunities for newbie script writers and opportunities for other artists of all kinds. Many of the best films are a marriage of all the arts, with stunning visual effects, music and of course stories.

But here’s the thing: these companies need our support to create these opportunities. They don’t have the massive budget Hollywood does to send out a barrage of advertisements in every form imaginable. Of course any good film company will work hard to market their films, but these companies rely far more on word of mouth than Hollywood films do, especially because so many of today’s Hollywood films are already built on bestselling novels or comics.

If you watch a fantastic movie created by an independent film company, share it with the world. Review it, or just mention it somewhere on social media. If you truly loved a film, odds are you have a few friends who would enjoy it too, so why not mention it to them? Few people are upset when you introduce them to a good movie.

When it comes to an independent film company, every voice matters. They need every positive review, every share on social media so much more because there’s simply only so much money a small company can put into marketing.

So why do I have independent film companies on the brain?

Well there are a few reasons, including a course I’m taking and a film I’m actually working on–more on those will come later–but right now I’m thinking about it a lot because of an excellent independent film company I discovered recently, Arrowstorm Entertainment.

I’ve now watched almost all the Arrowstorm Entertainment movies and decided that they are, if not the best independent film company focused on science fiction and fantasy, certainly the best one I know of. I’ve loved every single movie I’ve watched by them, and I’m excited to watch the two I haven’t seen yet.

I’m also really excited about the upcoming sequel to their most recent movie, Mythica: A Quest for Heroes. The sequel is already completely filmed and they’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund all the special effects they need to pull off a great final fantasy film.

I’ve already funded the Kickstarter campaign for Mythica 2, and I’m eagerly awaiting my signed DVDs. And I’m already hoping to contribute more to their next campaign, because I believe they’re doing amazing work and because someday I hope to work with a company very much like them to make movies of my own.

Have you thought much about supporting independent film companies? Are there any small film companies you particularly love? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Why I submit to small publishers first

ereadersFirst off, let me confess that I have daydreamed about getting a contract from Simon and Schuster, Random House or another one of the big publishers. In these daydreams I get a five figure–sometimes six figure–advance and my book appears in every bookstore throughout Toronto.

I suspect you’ve had similar daydreams. What writer hasn’t? We might be satisfied with making a decent living from our work, but every writer at some point imagines what it would be like to make as much money from their books as J.K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin.

And yet years of researching–and working in–the publishing industry have convinced me that a contract with a big publisher is rarely as grand as one imagines it to be.

Big advances mean lots of time waiting for your first royalty check unless you’re a big name who can sell books like candy. If you go with a big publisher you’ll also be extremely lucky to get more than 10-12% royalties.

Small publishers often offer much higher royalties. Many small publishers offer 30-50% royalties on ebooks and a 15-20% royalty rate for paperbacks. Most of these publishers won’t offer you an advance or will only offer a small advance, but that means you’ll see your first royalty check sooner.

Another reason authors used to flock to big publishers is because they used to pay big bucks for their authors’ marketing campaigns. These days the big publishers have drastically cut their marketing and chosen to focus the remaining advertising budget on books they already know will sell, books by big name authors like Stephen King.

Many small presses will put more effort into marketing your book than the big five. They often publish fewer books, allowing them to devote a higher percentage of their marketing budget to each book. With the current popularity of social media small publishers now have a wide range of free tools to market their books, allowing their small marketing budget go much further than it would have thirty years ago.

If you sign a contract with a big publisher you also give up all influence on what your book actually looks like. You can push back during the editing process, but you won’t have much–if any–influence over what the cover looks like.

Many small publishers give you some power over your book cover. Some will even let you design the cover entirely yourself if you can prove you have the skills. Some small publishers do take complete control over the cover, but many will ask you for suggestions and actually listen to what you have to say. After all, nobody knows your book better than you.

Last but not least, many small publishers have a smaller slush pile. Certain large publishers only accept queries from agents, but those who do accept unsolicited submissions are usually drowning in them. As a result, your query could sit in the slush pile for three to six months. Small presses aren’t as well known and there are less writers attracted to them, so you might hear back within a couple of weeks. Most small presses will respond to your query in less than three months.

Thanks to the internet there are dozens of small presses. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages of course, but most small presses are more author focused and many even focus on publishing debut novelists or authors near the beginning of their career. They range from tiny non-profits to fairly large for-profit companies that publish a couple dozen books a year.

Big publishers still do offer some advantages–like getting your book into physical stores all over the world–but the advantages of small publishers hold more appeal for me. I believe an author-focused small press will treat my books better than a big publisher ever would.

What do you think? Small press or big publisher? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

The first page of my novel — Care to critique?

I was having a hard time coming up with a blog post for today, then I remembered that I haven’t posted any of my personal fiction or poetry here in a long time. I debated sharing some of the background work I’ve done for the novel I’m editing right now, Moonshadow’s Guardian–I’ve actually shared some of the work done on my main character–but then I had a brilliant thought:

Every writer needs critique, preferably from writers with varying skills and experience. And my readers happen to be writers, all with different skills and experience levels.

So today I’d like to ask you, my loyal readers, to critique the first page of the YA fantasy novel I’m editing right now in the comments below. If you want, I’ll even critique the first page of your current WIP–details below.

And without further ado, here’s the first page of my novel, Moonshadow’s Guardian:

Chapter One

Riana

Loki’s dungeon stank of urine and sweat. The toilet in my cell was just a bucket which gremlins—short, green creatures with screwed up faces and pointy ears—came to dump and replace every once in a while. There were no windows. No chairs. No bed. Just a small room made up of four stone walls that didn’t care.

Still, Loki saved me from a worse fate. Nobody escaped the wrath of the demons’ Head Family physically or mentally intact. The smallest crimes were punished as brutally as the worst. I had avoided my fate for almost a thousand years, and they would torture me for an equal number of years. Demons didn’t believe in simply killing traitors the way humans did.

Loki stole me from their court room and brought me here. He seemed to be punishing me with boredom. Time spent braiding my long, black hair—my shape shifting ability didn’t work here—or pacing around the room. Pacing kept the silence at bay. In silence my mind went wild, imagining every possible punishment Loki could inflict. After what felt like several days of contemplation, I had concluded the worst punishment would be sitting in this dull room for another thousand years. My kind couldn’t exactly kill themselves easily. It would be the worst kind of existence.

Footsteps. I stared hopefully at the door. The footsteps didn’t sound like gremlins. They sounded heavier, like a person’s, a genuine person, the lady with wings who came in occasionally to offer me scraps of food, or Loki himself. I hoped it would be Loki. The woman with the wings who fed me was silent and stone faced and the gremlins just giggled to each other, as though I didn’t exist.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below. Any and all advice is appreciated. I can’t wait to see what you have to say!

If you’re interested in having me critique the first page of your novel–or critiquing all of Moonshadow’s Guardian–email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com. I’m always on the lookout for new critique partners.

Author Spotlight: Matthew Munson

FallFromGraceI’m extremely proud to announce that I’ve partnered up with Inspired Quill Press to present a number of debut authors here on The Dabbler. Each author will share some of their journey to publication and advice for those of us still working towards our first book contract.

Matthew Munson is the first Inspired Quill author to join us, here to discuss his debut fantasy novel Fall From Grace. 

Please give Matthew a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Fall From Grace?

Absolutely. Fall From Grace is all about a trio of friends – Paul, Joseph and Lauren – who are caught up in the middle of a two-thousand-year old heavenly war. Paul is an ex-priest who is struggling to find his purpose in life, Joseph is a complete sceptic about anything otherworldly, and Lauren is the most spiritual out of the three, who wants to believe but also needs to know. During their exploration of what’s happening to them, they discover the secret truth about a very old rebellion.

2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

When I knew that I was allowed to! As a child and teenager, I always thought you had to have special qualifications in order to qualify as a writer. Well, that’s true, in a way, but the qualification you need is creativity, and you can’t necessarily study for that; you develop your creativity by reading, practicing your art through writing and discussion about books and words that you care about.

I discovered that this passion I had – that had always existed as a flame in the pit of my stomach – could be turned into a career by tenacity, hard work and creativity. I was in heaven!

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?

I was 10 years old, and I was in my final year of primary school. I hated geography, and I suspect that my displeasure was fairly obvious – so my sainted teacher, Mrs Cooper, allowed me to write a short story instead. It was about a cowboy who flew into space on the back of a dinosaur. When I’d finished writing it (and illustrating it too), no-one laughed at me or called me stupid; in fact, they encouraged me to continue and improve my writing.

Even before that, however, any moment that I was encouraged to read, voraciously, was a good time in my life; it showed me what I wanted to read, what styles I admired and what good writing looked like.

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

You know, I really admire people who completely plan out their story before writing the thing. I can’t do that – and believe me, I’ve tried. No, I’m far more of a “pantser” – I write and develop the characters and plot as I go. It feels more natural and creative that way.


Being literal for a moment, I like to write at the “extremes” of the day; usually between 7am and 8am and then again between 7pm and 10pm. I can usually pound out 2 or 3,000 words in that time, and I spend the time in between on other things – usually making notes, emails and everything else that pays the bills!

5. Your novel centers around the concept of a war in heaven. Did you do much research into mythology before writing it?

Oh, very much. I went to a Catholic high school, so can honestly say that I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover and understand it from a textual point of view. I’ve also moved from a Christian to an spiritualist to an atheist, so I’ve been very much able to experience different points of view all within my own head.

I’m friends with people who are religious, spiritual and atheist, and they’ve all given me a lot of things to think about. I consider myself fairly open-minded and willing to accept other points of view, so it’s given me a lot of contextual information for the book and its sequel.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The ending, as I hate to see the back of characters I’ve grown to love and care about. Paul, Joseph and Lauren were all expressions of different parts of my own life and journey, so it was hard when I wasn’t writing about them anymore. I initially coped with that by writing a sequel, but now that’s over to, I’m having to write something completely different so I can try and move on with the end of my baby!

7. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

The blank page. Seriously, I love it. There are so many possibilities ahead of me there, and it excites me beyond measure.

8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?

Read everything. Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre just because it’s your favourite; I’m a sci-fi / fantasy geek, but I read thrillers, crime and adventure books as well; they help expand my mind and my writing ability. It’s how you learn.

9. What are you reading right now?

I’ve just started reading 11.22.63 by the sublime Stephen King; what a great writer that man is.

10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?

I hope so! I’m currently working on three books; a non-fiction book on dyspraxia, a condition I have, which is a collaboration with a friend of mine; a thriller provisionally entitled Darkness Falls and a sci-fi book – the first draft of which I’ve just had back from an editor I work with, Lin White. Life is very busy right now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

MatthewMunsonMatthew Munson is a book hoarder and inveterate writer. There have been times when he’s realised that he hasn’t been listening to anything another person has been saying because he’s been planning a chapter in his head. He lives in south-east England by himself, which is probably for the best, as he spends a lot of time muttering to himself to see if dialogue works …

Purchase your copy of Fall From Grace today!

Don’t forget to leave any extra questions or comments you have for Matthew in the comments section below!

Why I believe in celebrating life instead of mourning death

Sir Terry Pratchett, April 1948-March 12th 2015
Sir Terry Pratchett, April 1948-March 12th 2015

Mourning someone we care about is natural, and we have to experience it to work through it, but our eventual goal should be to celebrate life instead of mourning death.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Sir Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, passed away last week. His long term struggle with Alzheimers was no secret, and although his death was premature and I do believe the world has lost one of its greatest minds, he died with dignity in his own home–not something a lot of Alzheimers patients get to do.

He also left behind a legacy of more than 70 books, most of them in the hilarious and yet deeply powerful Discworld series. His books inspired millions of readers across several generations. I don’t know anyone who picked up a Discworld novel and didn’t enjoy it–and I’ve convinced numerous people to pick up his books over the years.

I’ve read 10 of the Discworld novels, but I still have lots of Terry Pratchett to discover and plenty of world to explore, and I’m extremely grateful for that. Terry Pratchett himself is gone, but his extraordinary body of work remains for us all to enjoy.

Most people don’t leave behind that kind of legacy–even I’m not sure I have 70 books in me–but I still believe it’s important to focus on celebrating life instead of mourning death. The people we’ve lost might not have been successful authors and artists with a massive creative legacy, but everybody leaves something worth celebrating behind. There is something worth celebrating in every life.

Acknowledging death is important, but death–and the struggle of dealing with a long term illness–shouldn’t be the thing we remember about our loved ones. We should remember their lives, their smiles, their hugs and their accomplishments. The things that made you love them in the first place.

For this reason, I celebrate my dad’s birthday every year. I’m normally vegetarian, but on my dad’s birthday, I get a meal I would have eaten with him–usually a chicken dish from Swiss Chalet. Some years I also go to the movies, if there’s one he would have liked in theaters. Otherwise I go home and watch shows we used to watch together online. Either way, I spend the day celebrating his life, not cooped up in my house mourning his death.

Off the top of my head I don’t know Terry Pratchett’s birthday, but I do know how to celebrate his life: by reading his books whenever I have the opportunity and cherishing every one.

Death is part of life, the price we pay for the miracle of being born, the miracle of life on this planet. Everyone dies sooner or later, and it’s entirely possible to find yourself mourning forever, but a life spent mourning isn’t a life spent moving forward.

Choose to celebrate the lives of the people you’ve lost instead of mourning their deaths. If they made you happy during their lives, focusing on the happy memories is the best way to honour them when they’re gone.

Do you celebrate the lives of people you’ve lost? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Special Author Feature: Liz DeJesus

morganOne of the first books I ever read from Musa Publishing was First Frost by Liz DeJesus. I was thrilled to discover her unique twist on fairy tales and even more thrilled to interview her back in 2013.

Musa has now closed its doors, but the careers it started will continue for many years. Liz is one of many Musa authors who not only already had books published elsewhere, but has also found a home for the series she formerly published with Musa.

Today Liz has returned to share her accomplishments in the last two years and the lessons she’s learned as her writing career grew.

1. We last spoke in January 2013. Can you talk a little bit about where you were in your writing career at the time?

It’s hard for me to remember exactly where I was two years ago. But I believe I was working on the edits for Glass Frost and I remember being extremely excited for the sequel to be released. People were just starting to discover First Frost, it was getting positive reviews and people were enjoying the story.

2. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about writing since then?

Definitely write for yourself. I have to be sure I’m happy with the story and not focus so much on what everyone will think. I think that stops a lot of authors from moving forward with their work. Worrying about what other people will think, if it’s good enough or what people will say, all of that fear, anxiety and worry is a killer of creativity. So I ignore my inner critic and focus on what my heart is telling me. As long as I’m having fun writing the story that’s all that really matters to me. When I send it to my editor that’s when I worry, but by that point I’ve already worked on the story for a couple of years so it’s a matter of making sure everything makes sense.

3. How do you balance your schedule between writing/editing/marketing?

I have kids and a hectic family life so there really is no ‘schedule’ per se. I steal little pockets of time here and there and that’s how I get everything done. I write the old fashioned way, notebook and pen. That’s easier for me because all I have to do is throw my notebook in my purse and I can write anywhere which is especially helpful if you’re in the car waiting in the parking lot or at the doctor’s office. So I’ll transfer those notes when my kids are napping or I’ll wake up a little early in the morning and get some work done.

As far as marketing goes, I’m always promoting my books. When I pay my bills (I still write checks) I’ll stick one of my business cards in the envelope, I’ll post on facebook, twitter, Instagram and tumblr. I schedule book signings, go to comic conventions, book festivals and hand out bookmarks. There is a lot that goes into promoting a book.

I’m extremely lucky in the fact that I have a supportive family that understands that being a working author is my dream and they go out of their way to ensure I have the time to do what I need to do. It’s not always easy but knowing I have their support means the world to me.

4. What’s your favourite social media network and why?

Definitely Facebook. I’m on 24/7. I love interacting with my friends, family and fans. A close second is twitter.

5. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been most successful?

Purchasing ads at websites like bookbub.com and websites and blogs that are in the same theme as my books. I purchased an ad in Faerie Magazine’s website and that definitely boosted things for my books (specifically The Frost Series).

6. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?

I would like to be signed with a traditional publishing company, but so far I’m happy with independent publishers and I’m happy with where my career is at the moment.

7. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

That I’m thankful to Musa Publishing, Indie Gypsy, Arte Publico Press and every editor that has taken a chance on me and my work. I’m grateful to my fans for taking a chance on my books. To the bookstores that have accepted me with open arms and allowed me to have book signings in their stores. I’m thankful, and blessed to have the love and support of my family and I’m humbled by the fact that I get to write for a living.

I’m blessed in more ways that I can imagine.

Bonus Question: Would you like to share any last thoughts on Musa’s closure?

Musa Publishing has closed their doors. I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for me over the past 3 1/2 years. I am the author I am today because these incredible people believed in me and my work. I cannot forget to thank Kathy Calore Teel who was the Euterpe (YA) head editor at the time I submitted First Frost to Musa Publishing. So from the bottom of my heart thank you for seeing the magic and whimsy that so many others didn’t see at the time. And of course thank you to Celina Summers, Jeanne De Vita, Kerry Mand, Kelly Shorten, and Dominique Eastwick for all of their hard work and sacrifice in order to make Musa Publishing a success (because even though they are closing their doors they are doing it with grace and with their heads held high). So thank you so much for everything.

While I am heartbroken about Musa Publishing, I can’t help but be excited about the next chapter that’s opened up right now. My dear friends at Indie Gypsy have graciously accepted the Frost Series. So worry not, Bianca Frost fans, you will get to see what trouble she gets into next. They will release First Frost, Glass Frost and (the long awaited) Shattered Frost. Release dates, covers and other exciting news will be coming soon.

As one door closes another door opens…here’s to the next chapter for everyone. Looking forward to what the future will bring.

Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico.  She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 2011) First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 2012), Glass Frost (Musa Publishing, July 2013), Morgan (Indie Gypsy, July 2014) and The Laurel (Musa Publishing, November 2014). Her work has also appeared in Night Gypsy: Journey Into Darkness (Indie Gypsy, October 2012) and Someone Wicked (Smart Rhino Publications, Winter 2013).

Liz is currently working on a new novel and a comic book series titled Zombie Ever After (Emerald Star Comics, Fall 2014).

www.lizdejesus.com