Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Official Website Unveiled!

If you haven't visited it yet, please pop over to my new website.

It's a work in progress, but I've got a good start on it. It includes a blog (although I'll keep this one running, too),  a complete publications list with read/buy links, cover images, an appearance calendar, and eventually pix and video from events.

I have a reading from Green Light Delivery coming up very soon, but I don't have the exact date yet. Please check my website for that sort of info. This blog will be continue to feature my own and my guests' essays about writing. Hope you'll keep coming back here to join in the conversations about this wonderful world of fiction.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Of Publishings and Editings

Greetings, all. Just a round-up for the week. Several things to report:

1. The zombie anthology So Long, and Thanks for All the Brains, containing my story "Stir-Fried Cerebrum," has been released. You can purchase it here.

2. My fractured fairy tale, "An Exceptional Clothier," has been accepted for publication in Enchanted Times, to appear sometime in 2012.

3. I've received first edits for my middle-grade paranormal mystery novel, Ebenezer's Locker. Nice to have that process up and running.

4. I'm three-quarters finished with the first draft of the sequel to my middle-grade medieval mystery novel Trouble at the Scriptorium. This new novel, featuring several of the same characters, is called The London Hurdy-Gurdy.

5. My story "Cheering Up a Friend" is published on Knowonder! You can view it here.

6. My story "Sisters' Sight" is published in the pagan anthology Etched Offerings, from Misanthrope Press. You can puchase it as print or e-book here.

I hope you're all having a productive December. I'll be taking next week off from blogging, so I wish you all a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guest blogger: SF novelist Susan Jane Bigelow

Please welcome today's guest! Susan Jane Bigelow is the author of Broken, a dystopian sci fi superhero novel from Candlemark & Gleam. Its sequel, Fly Into Fire, is due out in January. I asked Susan to talk about writing superhero characters.

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Hi. I'm Susan, and I write about superheroes. Sort of.

Superheroes, or any kind of super-powered character, can be a great vehicle for incredible storytelling. The problem, unfortunately, is that we tend to think of superheroes in terms of heroic archetypes in tight costumes Doing Good Things, because that's the image we usually have of them from comic books, cartoons and movies. If you don't read a lot of superhero stories, or even if you do, this is likely where your sense of them begins and ends. The challenge, then, is to turn a type of character that most people expect to be cardboard and cartoonish into someone they can relate to and understand.

Lots of writers and directors have done this well. Peter David's run with Supergirl was one of my favorites for just this reason, even though a lot of other fans don't like it. Supergirl is this impossible character to write, but David's reboot of her allows her to become more human (how, you ask? Well, it involves a pile of pink goo and... um, maybe it's better not to know), and he lets us see her ambivalence alongside her pride in who she is, and her desperate need to belong and fit in. The final arc of his run, with its mix of the human and the heroic, is one of the better superhero stories I've read.

That's the kind of thing I strive for when I'm writing these kinds of characters. I like to make lists, so here is a list of questions I start off with when creating super-powered people in my stories:

1.      Powers – what are they? What exactly can this character do/not do? It's good to know about limits. Can they leap a tall building in a single bound? Two or three? And how tall is “tall,” anyway?

2.      Powers – what's it like having them? How does the character feel about different aspects of their power? As in, if they can light fires, is that comfortable to do emotionally? What about physically? How does it feel to shoot fire from their fingertips? Is it hot? Do they mind if it is? Are they kind of a pyromaniac, or do they want to hide under the bed when someone lights a cigarette?

3.      Super-visibility or super-stealth? Is being a superhero or a differently-powered person visible? Do other people around the person know? Is there a lot of hiding going on? What's that like? Bruce Wayne seems to get a kick out of hiding his “true” bat-self from board meetings at the Wayne Foundation, but not everyone might react in the same way. If there is a secret identity, which one is the mask and which is the real person? Is it some mix of the two? Is it more difficult to hide, or more difficult to be seen?

4.      What's it like being different? And that's another important thing: super-powered people are going to be markedly different, sometimes in extremely visible ways, from everyone around them. How does this character react to that? How does anybody react to being different from the “norm” in some fundamental way? I think this is one of the questions that matters the most, at least in the stories I write.

5.      Are you a hero, a villain, or something else? Is this character heroic? Evil? Avoids the subject altogether? Never uses their powers except to get that can of applesauce open? Can a healer walk past a hospital and not help? Can a firestarter walk by a camp full of shivering people and not make them warm? What do we do in moments where we're tested? This is such a key question, and it's often central to the best stories. When the moment comes, whatever that moment may be, what do you do? Do you run away? Stand your ground? Set a city block on fire with your mind? The answer may surprise you.

There are other questions, of course, but it's the intersection of humanity and super-humanity that I think makes for the most compelling and interesting stories. After all, it's not the alien birth of Superman that interests us, but the human he's become.

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You can visit Susan Jane Bigelow on her website.
You can purchase Broken on Amazon.
You can find the pre-order Kickstarter campaign for Fly Into Fire here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Revision Vision

Today I'll finish proofreading revisions that my editor requested for my science fiction novel, Green Light Delivery. Doing these revisions has been a fascinating experience, and the first time I've revised a novel under editorial instructions, rather than in the pre-submission stage.

The editor asked me to flesh out a character who doesn't actually show up until the end, yet on whom the story hinges. Therefore, although the bulk of my changes were in the last fifth of the novel, I needed to prepare the reader better to meet this character by leaving hints and stepping stones throughout the earlier chapters.

At first I worried that inserting and changing elements all the way through would be like wiggling bolts and nails in a building structure: it could make everything fall down. But instead, it made me rethink every sentence with this new purpose in mind and make changes that shored up and strengthened the work overall.

At least I hope it did! Currently I'm at that stage where I've stared at it so long that it all looks ridiculous.

How do you feel about the process of novel-revision?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest blogger: Pat McDermott Writes about Fairies

Please join me in welcoming the delightful Pat McDermott, whose new novel Glancing Through the Glimmer is a paranormal young adult fantasy. It's now available from MuseItUp. I asked Pat to discuss what it's like to write on the ancient topic of fairies in Ireland.

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Fairies and their cousins appear in the folklore of every culture in the world. They’ve inspired many tales, including Glancing Through the Glimmer, my new young adult adventure. The title is a phrase from The Fairy Thorn, an old Irish poem by Sir Samuel Ferguson. The story, a blend of alternate Irish history, romance, and fairy magic, has been a joy to research. I’ve found countless web sites devoted to fairies, faeries, fae, fay, etc. and have added several volumes on the “Other Crowd” to my personal library.
Most fairies are small, benevolent beings, but in Ireland the “Good Folk” aren’t the cute little Tinker Bell types we know and love. Many are man-sized, and they can be downright mean. Mortals foolish enough to annoy them risk losing their hair, eyes, teeth, even toenails. (As I still have mine, I trust that the fairies in Glancing Through the Glimmer were happy to join the cast.)
I had always thought of Irish fairies as leprechauns. Not so, I learned while exploring the wealth of literature depicting these elusive beings. Leprechauns belong to the class of Solitary Fairies, which includes cluricauns, dullahans, pookas, merrows, silkies, and banshees.

Then we have the Trooping Fairies, bands of rascals who live beneath the hills and lakes of Ireland. One of these troops, the Connaught Fairies, inhabits a crystal palace beneath Knock Ma, a gentle hill in Galway. Their king, a frisky rogue named Finvarra, likes a good dance now and then, though he prefers mortal dancing partners. Over the centuries, he’s stolen quite a few, and he’s still at it, as American teenager Janet Gleason learns to her dismay in Glancing Through the Glimmer.

During a recent trip to the Emerald Isle, I decided to visit Knock Ma. My husband and I drove to Tuam, a small town 20 miles north of Galway City. The town’s name comes from the Latin word tumulus, which means burial mound. Thousands of years ago, the people who lived there used the area as a burial ground, which no doubt gave rise to the local fairy legends. In one of my favorites, an Irish chieftain sets his men to work digging into Knock Ma to rescue his wife, whom Finvarra had kidnapped. The trench they supposedly dug, known as The Fairy’s Glen, is still visible.
We found Knock Ma, and though Finvarra and his troop kept to themselves that day, the postman assured us they were there. “Ah, they’re all over the place,” he said.
Perhaps we’ll meet them another time. It’s their decision, of course.
Many roads twist in Ireland because the builders refused to cut down fairy trees. My grandmother once told me that when she was a child in County Sligo (around 1910), her father would set out a row of stones before erecting any outbuildings on their farm. If in the morning the stones were still where he’d placed them, he knew the fairies had no objections, and he was good to go. If not, then the Good Folk had disapproved of his choice, and he had to try again.
Superstitious nonsense?
I’ve heard too many strange things to be sure. What do you think?

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You can purchase Glancing Through the Glimmer here,
and visit Pat McDermott at her website.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Big Rock in the Big Slime River" published in Knowonder! e-zine

Here's a link to my latest published children's sci fi story. Please leave a comment on the Knowonder! site if you get a chance to read it.

Big Rock in the Big Slime River

In other news, the release date for the charity anthology Resilience has been pushed back to January, but the cover is done.

Also checked on the Etched Offerings anthology from Misanthrope Press. They're behind, too, but do seem to be moving forward.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest blogger: SF novelist Bryan Thomas Schmidt

I'm very happy to welcome today's guest, science fiction author Bryan Thomas Schmidt. He categorizes his new novel, The Worker Prince, as a space opera, so I asked him to discuss what that means.

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Thanks to Anne for the opportunity to guest post today. My debut novel, The Worker Prince, came out last month. A space opera, like Star Wars, it retells the Moses story with a unique setting amongst colonists from Earth who settled the stars. It departs quite a bit from some aspects of the biblical story. In part, this came from a desire to keep it surprising and original. And in part, it resulted from the nature of the space opera setting.

According to Wikipedia: “Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale.” Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, Babylon Five, these are all space operas you might be familiar with. Filled with larger than life characters, space ships, flying craft of all sorts, laser guns, space battles and lots of action in a battle between good and evil, The Worker Prince frequently evokes memories of Golden Age science fiction stories amongst readers. The similarity is deliberate.

When I set out to write the story, I’d had it in mind for twenty-five years. I wanted to capture the sense of hope, wonder and fun of the stories which had delighted me as a youth and first made me fall in love with science fiction. Given our dark times, I also wanted to write something hopeful and encouraging with a  happy ending and good triumphing over evil. So much of the nihilism of our times leaks into our storytelling, and yet, I still believe there’s hope; that one person can make a difference by doing what’s right. So I wanted to tell a story which echoes those beliefs.

When writing a genre like space opera, there are tropes one must reckon with. Readers who are fans of the genre, expect certain things. I mentioned several above: laser guns, space ships, flying craft. My story also has robots, high tech computers, and planets far away. The solar system I created has twin suns and thirteen planets. It’s both similar and different from our system in many ways, with humans only one of many species inhabiting the worlds.  I also have a romantic subplot, themes of family, political scheming, and themes of ideological differences.

While the story is intended primarily to entertain, the theme of bigotry is a big part of it. That came naturally from the Moses story itself but also was drawn from present times where we see people of opposing views so often in conflict and fighting with each other. Space opera and science fiction are great mediums to examine contemporary themes through a distant, fresh lens. And certainly as writers, we tend to work in things we are passionate about. Our characters often reflect our beliefs and values and speak into situations we have opinions about. The advantage of doing this from a setting different and distant from our own is it enables readers to distance themselves in ways that allow fresh perspective. And space opera being full of action and high entertainment value, the stories deliver any messages lightly without hitting readers over the heads.

My goal above all, as with any good space opera, is to provide readers with an escape and entertainment to take them away from the worries of their world. I’m told The Worker Prince delivers that in spades, which is gratifying to hear because we all need an escape these days. I’m happy the adventures of Davi Rhii and his friends can provide that for many.

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
THE WORKER PRINCE is available for Kindle and Nook , or in paperback.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview about Ebenezer's Locker

Please pop around to C.K. Volnek's blog, where she interviews me about my middle grade paranormal mystery novel, Ebenezer's Locker, and about writing in general.

Click here for C. K. Volnek's blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Rule of Exceptional School

In my upcoming novel, Ebenezer's Locker, an ordinary public school has some unruly spirits floating around. I've been thinking a lot lately about the prominence of schools in middle-grade literature. On the face of it, you'd think kids wouldn't want to read about schools. I mean, reading fiction is their chance to escape. So why pray for snow days even in April, yet choose books---especially books with fantastical elements---that take place in school?

But I've noticed a recurring theme in the more popular MG novels about schools: They all make schools into an extraordinary thing. Look at Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society, where a handful of students are specially recruited into this boarding-school-cum-adventure-operation. The same sort of thing happens in Gitty Daneshvari's School of Fear, in which the kids' oddest characteristics are turned into their greatest strengths.

Oh, and I've heard a few mentions of another series that's met with some success... Something about a school for wizards?

My theory is that kids long for the day when going to school is an amazing experience. They want it to be a place where they feel special, as if they have unique abilities that are necessary for saving the world. Of course, they really do, but schools don't always make kids feel that way.

What other middle-grade fantastical novels have you read that are based in schools?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Autumnal Re-Assessment

It's a typically cold, wet late-October day, and I'm reminded of how close we are to the end of 2011. I guess that meditative mood has inspired me to think about how things are going with my writing career. I also realize that I need to catch up on this blog and report some October developments:

1. After a nearly two-year wait, I finally saw galleys for my first novel, Trouble at the Scriptorium. Although there are a handful of corrections, it's very close to ready for release.

2. My contract with Candlemark & Gleam for Green Light Delivery was announced in Publishers Weekly.

3. My Halloween story, "The Lowly Soul," was published on the MuseItUp blog.

4. I started on the revisions of Green Light Delivery that I'd discussed with my editor before I signed with Candlemark. I think this is the scariest fiction-writing project I've ever done.

5. I started work as a volunteer judge at the new site, Rate Your Story, which offers a free rating and short critique to new writers.

6. I finished my first-ever work under a pseudonymn. It's been through three beta readers, and will be ready for submission in a week or so. (No, I won't give any more clues.)

7. I saw covers for two upcoming anthologies that include my work.

8. I got my author's copy of Greek Myths Revisited.

9. I formulated some solid plot ideas for a new novel involving the Green Light Delivery world and characters. (I posted recently about sequels.)

10. I wrote the first five chapters of a sequel to Trouble at the Scriptorium.

It's been quite a month! When I list it all like that, I see how incredibly lucky I am. I couldn't ask for better progress toward becoming a full-time writer.

How about you? Any writerly good news to share? Any frustrations you feel are holding you back?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More and Better: Thoughts on Sequels

"The sequel is never as good as the original."

That maxim makes me shudder, now that I'm at the point of planning and writing sequels to two of my novels. Will the readers love them like they loved the first ones? Heck, will the publishers even want them? Which characters do I continue? How many successful elements of the first story should I re-use in the second to keep it consistent but not repetitive?

The good new is that sequels in literature don't have the same poor-cousin reputation as sequels in Hollywood. Publishers have been smart enough to market books as series rather than sequels. "Series" is a term with considerably more cache, since it implies a set of equals rather than an original followed by hangers-on and imitations.

There's also the honorable history of the sequel/series, dating back to ancient literature. If you liked Oedipus Rex, you'll love Oedipus at Colonus. Enjoyed Horace's Odes? Well, rush right out and buy a rolled papyrus copy of Horace's Epodes.

Oh, and then there's The Iliad, followed by The Odyssey. Wait, you're one of those nay-saying types who think they were written by two different people? Ah, the ghost-written sequel. Definitely a topic for another day.

What has been your experience reading (or writing) sequels?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest blogger: Author Jane Richardson

I'm delighted to welcome Jane Richardson, author of the humorous urban romance story Edinburgh Fog, recently published by MuseItUp. Jane has offered to tell us about her process in writing dialog that both sounds authentically Scottish but is comprehensible to everybody.

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Writing The Scots I Know

Thank you so much, Anne for letting me visit your blog today! For your readers who don't know me, my name is Jane Richardson and I live in the south-east of England.  I write contemporary stories with a delicious dollop of romance in them, and let me see, what else?  Oh, yes, there's one more thing - I'm Scottish.

Why did I hesitate, you ask?  What's wrong with being Scottish??  Well, nothing of course!!  Except maybe....well, look. Let me explain.

My latest publication is a story called Edinburgh Fog.  It's a story I almost didn't submit.  Why?  Because I'm aware that when the words 'Scottish' and 'romance' are used in the same sentence, certain expectations are - shall we say! - aroused. 

There’s an enormous market for 'Scottish romance,' particularly with the Highlander-type stories - they're hugely popular.  In recent years I've also seen a move towards more contemporary Scottish stories, very often with an American heroine and Scottish hero, or vice versa.  Nothing wrong with that at all, I know many people adore them, and I've written a novel myself in the past with an American hero and UK heroine.  There's something about that old 'special relationship' between Britain and the UK that carries beautifully into romance stories.  We are two nations divided by a common language, and it seems we love noting better than making that division just a little smaller, while still highlighting our wonderful differences.  That's great with me!

When it comes to me being Scottish, however, that often raises another issue - the way we Scots actually speak.  There does seem to be a generally accepted Scottish-romance-speak, and it's very genre-specific.  Again, there's nothing wrong with that.  Readers know what they like, and I'm full of admiration for authors who are savvy enough to give readers exactly what they want.  But the way the characters in those novels speak is not how I speak at all.  All the characters but one in Edinburgh Fog are Scots, and so naturally, they speak with Scottish accents.  That's where my difficulties began!  Do I write in this universally-accepted Scottish romantic fiction language, or do I stay true to myself and write what I'm familiar with and know to be true, while still keeping as much Scottish flavour as I could?

Well, of course, dear reader, I went with what I know.  I could have 'translated' my characters' speech into 'book Scottish' - instead I tried to keep the flow and the rhythm of the way Edinburgh people speak, without using too many dialect words or trying to write out an accent.  The key is to try and make the speech as understandable as possible while still keeping it Scottish.  I personally don't like it when I have to slow down my reading speed just to try and make sense of what a character is saying, and I'm sure I'm not alone.  That has to be the major consideration for any writer who's thinking about employing dialect or characters' accents in their writing - first and foremost, the reader has to understand it.

Here's an example from Edinburgh Fog - Ben Hardie is a big, tough, beer-swilling, rugby-playing, typical Edinburgh lad.  Here he is expressing his disgust at the male companion of a couple of women Ben's got his eye on.

“Look at him! Manky wee ginger git, and he’s got those gorgeous babes with him. What’s he got that I haven’t?”

Now, if I'd written Ben in storybook-Scottish, he might have sounded a little more like this:  

"Tak' a gaunder at him, manky wee ginger git, and they gorgeous babes wi' him. Whit’s he goat that I hivnae?"

I don't know about you, but I find the second example pretty hard to read - and I wrote it!  The first example is of course the one you’ll find in Edinburgh Fog.  Does Ben sound any less Scottish in that example?  I don't think so.  The inclusion of just a few understandable dialect words - 'manky wee ginger git' - helps to underline Ben's Scottish-ness without rendering him unintelligible. 

Here's another longer example of three of the main characters in conversation.

"It’s frickin’ freezing out there. Frickin’ Edinburgh.” Ben’s muffled voice emerged from the coils of the scarf wound around his chin. “Freezing fog everywhere, ice all over the pavements. They’ve stopped the buses going down Hanover Street in case they can’t stop and tip right into Princes Street Gardens. I had to walk in to work. Did it warm me up? Did it heckuzlike. Slid all the way, fell over three times and dented more than my pride, I’ll tell you that for nothing. I’m no’ taking anything off till I thaw out.” His shivering, grateful hands took the coffee from Greg. “Thanks, boss. Feels like it’s been winter forever.”
Greg laughed. “I thought you rugby players were tough. Out in all weathers, rain or shine.”
“That’s merely a myth we perpetuate to make us look macho. Only a certified headcase would get down to his shorts in this weather.”
“Wimp,” Chrissie called from the other end of the bar.
“Oh, aye, right,” Ben retorted, “coming from someone who got a taxi to work. I saw you going past like Lady Muck. You might have given me a lift.”
Chrissie grinned, screwing the pourer into the top of a new bottle of vodka. “Don’t take your coat off yet, big man. I need a crate of bitter lemon up from the cellar, and if you think it’s cold outside, you wait till you get down there. It’d freeze the funny-shaped balls off a rugby team.”
Ben and Greg exchanged looks. “Do you actually employ her for real money,” Ben asked, “or was she a free gift with the beer delivery?”
Greg laughed. “Nothing but the top staff for Tellers’.”
Here it's the rhythm of the speech that marks them out as Edinburgh natives.  I hope you'll agree that exchange doesn't make them sound any less Scottish than they actually are! 
But of course, it's more than just the way characters speak, isn't it?  I hope in Edinburgh Fog, I've managed to convey everything I love about a city that was my home for many years; not only the people and the wonderful, idiosyncratic way they speak, but also their wit and humour - and of course, beautiful, extraordinary Edinburgh itself. 

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Edinburgh Fog is available in all e-book formats from MuseItUp Publishing. Click here.

You can visit Jane Richardson at her blog, Home Is Where the Heart Is.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Help me, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

I decided to start working again on a middle grade mystery novel I'd shelved 18 months ago because I got involved with other projects.

Today I printed out the four drafted chapters and the projected synopsis I'd written for the other twelve chapters, and took the bundle over to a coffee shop to read while I had a muffin. As I paged through, the prose was looking pretty decent, or at least salvageable, but I couldn't for the life of me remember the story. So, with great curiosity, I skimmed the synopsis.

When I got to the description of chapter 9, I laughed out loud and choked on my muffin. It said, "Something must happen to give them a clue. WHAT??? And how would they know?" And the last sentence was in red ink: "This plot ain't working."

And that's my ninth chapter! Weirdly, there's a lot of detail for chapters 10-16. But I've got a hole in the middle of my mystery, apparently. Do you plot around problems and sort them out later?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest blogger: MG author C.K. Volnek

GhostDog_Cover200x300.jpgWe have a special guest today! C.K. Volnek's new novel, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, combines the historical and the paranormal. I asked her to talk about her research process.

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Thanks for allowing me to visit your blog today, Anne.

Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is a tween ghost story, with a twist of Native American folklore, and based on a true American mystery…the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. In 1587, 117 colonists disappeared from Roanoke Island without a trace.

I don’t remember studying the Lost Colony. For years I thought the first colonists landed at Plymouth. After reading an article on the mystery of Roanoke Island, my muse perked up. What could have happened to them? I had to know the when, where, why and how it all happened. I had to research.

Some may groan. Research means reading, studying, examining facts. I used to hate history. I was awful at it. I could never remember or keep all those dates straight. And besides, what did history have to do with today?

Now I have found research interesting, fascinating, captivating. I can get lost in the past’s events. And I’ve found history has everything to do with today. Every situation has a cause and effect theory. What we do today, can and will determine what happens tomorrow.

As in my research for Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, I found I had to go back a few years before the Lost Colony to understand the full story. Cause and effect…If Queen Elizabeth had not granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the colonization of the land she called ‘Virginia,’ none of this would have happened. If

But it did. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh dispatched two men to explore the Eastern coast of North America. It proved fruitful and a second expedition with a hundred men was sent out, headed by Sir Richard Grenville. The men built a fort and a number of small houses but soon abandoned their adventure. Grenville, however, left a very hideous crime behind. In his exploration, a group of Native Americans had been invited on board one of the ships. A silver cup came up missing and the Indians were blamed. Grenville sent his men to destroy the entire village of Aquascogoc.

Despite the mystery of the Lost Colony, without this crucial piece of history, my story of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island would never have been born. I was so appalled at the intolerance and prejudice my muse grabbed hold of the details and formulated her story. It drove my muse to research even more, even searching to find original manifest of the colonists, digging up pictures and facts of early colonial and Native American life, and details as to why Governor White, after going back to England for supplies, returned to Roanoke Island three years later to find a deserted fort and no clues to the whereabouts of the colonists.

My muse then turned to research the flora and fauna of Roanoke Island. A writer must know details of the area to make the story enchanting and believable. I studied what plants grew in the area, what the terrain looked like, and the layout of the island.

Once I pulled all my research together, added my characters, and threw in a ghost and Native American folklore, the plot of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island became visible. A story, emphasizing how the pain of intolerance and prejudice affects people, flowed from my fingers.

I hope you’ll check out Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island and find out how research built my tale. Even though my story includes a ghost, the history of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island is first-most present and factual.

Thanks again for letting me visit your blog. It’s been fun. I’d love to hear from your readers.

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You can visit C.K. Volnek at her website
and purchase Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guest blogger: YA horror author Araminta Star Matthews

Kids save the world from their undead parents! This mind-blowing premise is the idea behind Araminta Star Matthew's YA novel Blind Hunger. I'm delighted to have her as my guest today. I asked her to talk about character development in her work.

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First off, let me thank Anne for asking me to be a guest blogger. Thanks, Anne!   My writing process for Blind Hunger played out very differently than it has for other novels and short stories I’ve written. First off, the story was originally a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) winner a few years back, so I whipped the original draft out in just thirty days. It took another two months to finish the first draft, then a full year of editing before I felt it was tidy enough to submit to a publisher. Normally, my process is very different: I write and plan as I go, adding details and revising/refining my words for months at a time, then allowing my manuscript to sit for a while collecting dust before I start on it again.
                You asked how I’m able to write compelling and believable characters, and thanks for that. That’s quite a compliment. I think that’s about the one place my training as a classic literary novelist comes into play. I have both an undergraduate and graduate degree in creative writing which prepares you to write the next Gatsby, not the next Carrie, if you know what I mean. While I wouldn’t say Blind Hunger is very literary (that is, a story driven by characters and not plot), I would argue that my characters certainly benefited from all that classic training. As a result, they’re three-dimensional with unique personalities. I owe this to an insatiable curiosity and study in psychology and sociology: you have to know what makes a person tick (or what might make a person tick) in order to write that person in a believable way. For example, I’ve never been a teenage boy with abusive parents—far from it; my parents were mostly loving and supportive. So, to create the characters for this novel, I actually drew on my theatrical background—a skill riddled with psychology and sociology--to bring them to life. I literally would sit at my computer and tense up my shoulders, or start gasping for breath, trying to find the right way—the angle—in which my individual characters would react to a given moment.
Their idiosyncrasies required a little more research. I spent time with some local teenagers, asked questions of my students (I teach college writing) about what kind of music the Emo or Goth kids listened to when they were still in high school, and I watched a lot of film and television adaptations of youth culture. Then, when I was sitting at the keyboard entering their personalities into the ether of my hard drive, I would add to my list of theatrical actions whatever I gleaned from that study. Then I was punching away at my keyboard with black nail polish on, or I was playing with this chemistry set my mother got me for my birthday (yes—she still buys me children’s toys, and I love it). It was a good time.
Acting out scenes and characters was kind of a reverse literature lesson for me. In a literature class, I would task my students with pulling out what was important in a scene or amidst a stack of character dialogue in order to write little scripts to play out in class. In this sense, I flipped it. I now acted out scenes before I wrote them down. It allowed me to achieve stronger sensory details if I was, for instance, tensing my own shoulders or gasping in the way my characters were; and, it also helped me to identify what really mattered—that is, what I really needed to show in a given scene.

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  You can visit Araminta Star Matthews here.  Buy Blind Hunger at Amazon and elsewhere.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Global Blog Tag: 10 Random Facts about Anne E. Johnson

Have you ever played a GLOBAL game of tag?
Well, I'm It.
I've been tagged by children's author Miranda Paul.

Rules (if you're tagged): You must be tagged by someone; list 10 random facts about yourself; tag four more people.
Ready or not, here I go!

1. I've been teaching music history and music theory for 15 years.

2. In 1984, my mother made me a birthday cake in the shape of K-9, Doctor Who's robot dog. This picture of it was published in the Whovian Times.

3. My father is a journalist. I think that's why I can write so fast.

4. I'm a pretty good tap dancer.

5. Although I never rode in an airplane until I was 16, as a child I traveled all across the U.S. on car trips with my family.

6. I'm married to a playwright, Ken Munch. A lot of writing goes on at our house!

7. In college I majored in Ancient Greek and Latin. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. There's no better way to get to know how language works and how it developed.

8. When my mother was in the Peace Corps, I got to visit her in Morocco. 

9. In July of 2012 I will have lived in New York City for 20 years.

10. Because I've lived in NYC for so long, a trip to a suburban shopping mall is an exciting and exotic experience for me.

And I tag the following four unsuspecting writers:

1. Debra Brenegan
2. Gueh Yanting Claudine
3. Roseanne Dowell
4. Cat DeLallo

You're it!
And everyone else: tell me one thing about you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guest blogger: Suspense author S.L. Pierce

Please give a warm welcome to S.L. Pierce, who knows how to make you sit on the edge of your seat and jump at a plot twist.  Her new novel is The Devil's Game. I asked her to discuss how she fills her writing with suspense. 

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What makes a good thriller?  I thought I might answer that today with an example.

1)  The noise was coming from the bedroom.  But that was impossible.  No one else was home.

2)  It was faint.  Just the slightest creak.  But it was enough to pull her from a deep sleep.  Out of habit she got up to check the baby, but stopped herself short.  Michael was gone.  Forever.  And the house was empty.  Wasn't it?  

Do you find yourself drawn in by number two more than number one?  Why is the baby gone?  Who is in the house? 

There are two things that make a good thriller (in my opinion).  The first, of course, is making the reader curious.  But just the right amount of curious.  You have to give them little crumbs; just enough to keep them interested but not so much they figure out the mystery too soon and lose interest.  It's a fine line and a good writer has to find that balance. 

Second, and more important, is making the reader care about the character(s).  You can write the most edge of your seat, nail biting, thrilling story and yes, that will get people to start reading, but if they don't care about the character, they won't keep reading.  Look at the example above.  Aren't you just a little more curious about the second example?  Aren't you a little more invested? 

Not convinced?  It really hits home with me when I think of one of the bestselling and prolific writers out there today.  I'm sure you know who I mean.  I used to love his books, but for the last few years I haven't been able to read them.  Why?  Because he hasn't made me care about the characters.  His story plots are great – fast and fun.  But the characters are flat.  Boring.  Unrealistic.  And I just don't care about them. 

Thriller readers, think about that the next time you read the first few pages or download a sample.  What makes you keep reading and what makes you put the book down or delete the sample without buying.  I'll bet it's lacking one if the items mentioned above. 

Writers, look at your opening; can you make the reader invest a little more in the story with just a few extra words?  Take a few sentences and give it a try.

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You can visit S.L. Pierce at her blog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Buy links for Greek Myths Revisited

Greek Myths Revisited, an anthology published by Wicked East Press, is now available. It contains my story "Table Manners," a sci fi re-telling of the bloody, crazy myth of Tantalus, which is all about how jealous the gods get when men are too proud and ungrateful.

You can buy it from Pill Hill Press Shoppe

or from Amazon

(This is definitely not for children!)

Friday, September 2, 2011

New children's sci fi story published!

Delighted to have a link to "The Silver Visitors," just out in the new issue of Spaceports & Spidersilk. This is my third piece for them.

You can read it for free HERE!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

MuseItUp MG/YA Blogathon Schedule

Fun, fun, fun! Don't miss a single post!
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on C.K. Volnek 
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Barbara Bockman

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Kim Baccellia
Kim Bacellia - “Crossed Out” on Shellie Neumeier
Barbara Bockman - “Driven” on Pembroke Sinclair
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on C.K. Volnek

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Lawna Mackie
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Meradeth Houston

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Marva Dasef
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Rebecca Ryals Russell

Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Kim Baccellia
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Barbara Ehrentreu

Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Marva Dasef
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Lawna Mackie
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on C.K. Volnek

Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Kim Baccellia
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Shellie Neumeier 
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Rebecca Ryals Russell

Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Kim Baccellia
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Shellie Neumeier 
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Marva Dasef

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Sue Perkins
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on C.K. Volnek

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Shellie Neumeier 
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Chris Verstraete
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Pembroke Sinclair

Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Kim Baccellia

C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Shellie Neumeier 
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Lawna Mackie
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Sue Perkins
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Pembroke Sinclair
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Meradeth Houston

Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Sue Perkins
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Chris Verstraete

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Shellie Neumeier 
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Chris Verstraete
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Meradeth Houston

Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Marva Dasef
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Lawna Mackie
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Sue Perkins

Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Barbara Bockman
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Pembroke Sinclair
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Meradeth Houston
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on C.K. Volnek

Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Barbara Bockman
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Sue Perkins
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Chris Verstraete

Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Marva Dasef
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Shellie Neumeier 
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Pembroke Sinclair

Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Pembroke Sinclair
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on C.K. Volnek

Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Shellie Neumeier 
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Sue Perkins
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Meradeth Houston
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on C.K. Volnek

Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Barbara Bockman
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Marva Dasef
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Pembroke Sinclair
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Chris Verstraete

Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Barbara Ehrentreu
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Shellie Neumeier 
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Sue Perkins
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Meradeth Houston

Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Kim Baccellia
Kim Baccellia - “Crossed Out” on Marva Dasef
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Lawna Mackie
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Rebecca Ryals Russell
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Pembroke Sinclair

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Barbara Bockman
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Sue Perkins
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Meradeth Houston
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on C.K. Volnek

Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Marva Dasef
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Lawna Mackie
Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Shellie Neumeier 
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Meradeth Houston

Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Kim Baccellia
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Barbara Bockman
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Marva Dasef
Shellie Neumeier - “Driven” on Lawna Mackie
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on Chris Verstraete

Chris Verstraete - “Killer Valentine Ball” on Barbara Bockman
Lawna Mackie - “Enchantment” on Barbara Ehrentreu
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Shellie Neumeier 
Barbara Bockman - “Wounds” on Chris Verstraete

C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Kim Baccellia
Barbara Ehrentreu - “If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor” on Marva Dasef
Pembroke Sinclair - “Life After the Undead” on Lawna Mackie
Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Sue Perkins
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Chris Verstraete
Sue Perkins - “Spirit Stealer” on C.K. Volnek

C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Barbara Bockman
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Meradeth Houston
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on C.K. Volnek

Meradeth Houston - “Colors Like Memories” on Kim Baccellia
Rebecca Ryals Russell - “Prophecy” on Marva Dasef
Marva Dasef - “Bad Spelling” on Barbara Ehrentreu
C.K. Volnek - “Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island” on Lawna Mackie