Tag Archives: fantasy

Published: Behind the Scenes (June 2018)

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Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had an update with this! Partially because hey it turns out debuting brings out a whole plethora of various doubts and weird quirks you didn’t know you had, made especially worse if you already struggle with these things. But also because not a lot has really happened. It is pretty mind-boggling how slow publishing works. But I digress.

If you’re not caught up: I sold my New Adult alternate-history fantasy series late 2016 to Glass House Press. Since then, I’ve been detailing my journey of what goes on behind the scenes for fun, but also in the hopes that someone might gain some benefit from it. My publishing journey will obviously be different than someone else’s, but there might be some inspiration or advice in my tale.

Just in case you need it, here is:

The last time I wrote on this subject, I spoke a bit about marketing in my perspective, and the start of designing Pridem’s cover.

Some updates about that! Pridem’s cover is still in the works. It’s hopefully going to be done in a couple weeks. We hit a few snags with designers, but I’m still very excited about what’s happening. There’s a lot of excited-waiting in publishing, that’s for sure.

Hell, if you’re interested, I’m going to be revealing sneak peaks in my newsletter that you can sign up for here. (You’ll also get snippets from Pridem and other goodies.)

Which leads me into marketing updates! I know, the concept of marketing is super scary. It’s sounds like a really dry, painful thing to do, and it’s not writing.

Honestly, I’m finding a lot of things about marketing is pretty fun (I think I’ve mentioned this before). Because while you’re going to have to put in a lot of work to make yourself successful as an author, I’m pretty against the idea that you have to do things you absolutely hate just because everyone tells you that you need to. In the same vein, it’s easy to get sucked into all of the information you can learn and have.

Maybe that’s me; I tend to get obsessive about something when I know I need it and it’s remotely interesting. And marketing is the kind of thing that never ends, so I’m fast reaching the burn out stage of it instead of just learning and moving on.

It’s causing a weird shift in my writing. Because I’m focusing on the Business side versus the Creativity side of authorship (as I should, but also, maybe a little on the unhealthy side), I think my approach to writing has changed. And it’s kind of uncomfortable.

I’ve heard that this is pretty typical. When you move from Writer to Author status (whatever that really means), you have to think about actually selling the books you write. For me, I wasn’t thinking about an audience or selling books for a looong time. I wrote because my skin itched if I didn’t. I wrote because the pictures in my head were so vivid I had to write it down. I wrote because it was an escape and a comfort. I was also a kid when I started writing, so most of my experience takes place in the fury and passion of teenagehood. Needless to say, this change to the reality of authoring may be particularly harsh.

I think the truth of it is you have to find a balance (my favorite word!) between the business and the creativity. Or maybe a more accurate word is a harmony. Because focusing totally on one or the other isn’t going to help garner success.

Well, I’d been figure out this harmony damn quick, because it seems to be having a very tumultuous effect on the actual writing part of writing. I realized the other day that I haven’t finished writing a book since I signed with Glass House Press. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, because before that I was fast on my way to finishing two books a year. The anticipation and excitement and frustration is immense, and I think I’m letting the stress of being successful overshadow all. Honestly, getting my book out is starting to become a relief simply because all this exciti-waiting is taxing.

Actually, hold up. I have completed a book since then. PRIDEM was completed under the guidance of my editor early last year (duh). That was my shortest novel yet, and it was under deadline, so that was definitely a different kind of getting a book done! I guess more accurately, I haven’t finished writing a novel in over a year.

I don’t think I can blame all my problems on debuting, however. There are a few personal issues that have cropped up over this time period, along with learning how to manage a mental illness and straight up learning how to be a friggin’ adult.

I think I might have had some unreal expectations about what writing would look like once I was an adult. As a homeschooled teenager, I could write as soon as I finished my work. In college, it was busier, but about the same. Now… with all this responsibility and my body saying hello to late 20s and life and adulting, writing time has to be squeezed out between responsibilities and exhaustion.

(Actually… I did delve into our perceptions of what an author’s life looks like in a blog post found here)

I wanted to mention this in my official Behind The Scenes In Publishing series because I think there should be some warning about how long publishing takes, and how much it messes with your head when it comes to creativity. You may not have as much of an issue – god, I hope you don’t! – but I did want to give a heads up.

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Jumping around a bit, I have a piece of advice I want to impart:

When you debut, I HIGHLY recommend that you find a debut-authors-of-your-year group and join. I joined #Authors18 late last year and it’s been a whirlwind partnership of advice, guidance, general support, and commiserating. Debut author groups are all in a similar situation of needing reviews, help, and someone to listen – often, everyone is willing to help you out if you’ll help them out. And it’s a serious boost to know people who are going through the same stresses you are.

Also! In case you haven’t seen from social media or from my newsletter, I got a pretty author logo:

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This is actually a present from my publisher, because GHP is super awesome. But I think it’s pretty dang cool and I’m glad to be using this to tie my writing presence together!

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Final updates:

My editor and I touched upon development edits in the actual content of Pridem. She’s trying to ease me in slowly and develop a good working relationship, so she sent me a taste of the first few pages instead of an overwhelming chunk. I’m already loving her insights and how she’s pointing out things I’ve overlooked, though I’m so hungry to really dive into it! She’s very good about layering in compliments along with suggestions for improvement.

Either which way, I’m so ready to make this book the best it can be. It might be easier to tear this book apart because it was technically written at my editor’s behest and isn’t as close to my heart as the rest of the series, but I’ve also been readying myself for constructive criticism for a long time. I’m itching to do this.

Oh, speaking of the whole series, it has an official name. My editor and I worked out a name for the whole series based off of some particularly crucial world-building events and overall themes, and it is officially: The Obsidian Divide series. I think it’s unique and catchy enough to do the job!

And! My editor and I almost have the back cover copy and tagline done (back cover copy: what’s on the back of the book that makes people want to read it). So I’ll be revealing the official description of Pridem and what to look forward to as soon as I’m able. (I have an unofficial version on my blog’s front page “Home” if you want to check that out.)

That’s probably where I’m going to end things, because this is getting pretty long already. I’m hoping to have cover updates and edit updates here in a month or so, and I’ll detail all those adventures next time!

 

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all my adventures and get sneak-peaks into my New Adult alternate-history fantasy, sign up here!

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Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: Carolyn M. Walker

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

I AM SO EXCITED AN URBAN FANTASY (which is probably my most favorite genre ever). I’m a bad, bad reader and author and have not made the time to read this yet (bad, bad Rebekkah), but I am SO excited to partake on the journey Ms. Walker has crafted.

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Carolyn M. Walker

– Book Title: Immortal Descent

– Book Genre: Urban Fantasy

– Release Date: 4/3/18

– Publisher: Clean Reads/Astrea Press

THE BOOK

Immortal Descent is about the mystery of immortality coming to the forefront in the modern world. A young man gets thrown into the underground world surrounding an age-old secret and he discovers he plays an integral part in a dangerous plot that has potentially epic consequences.

Teaser time!

He couldn’t explain it; he couldn’t justify it. All he could think of in that moment was it was all real. What he’d just seen in those memories had been real.

“The woman—what was she?” Ethan asked, still speaking just above a whisper.

“It was a Lorn.”

 

– Where did you get the idea?

The idea originally came from studying world religion. The notion of immortality and how it was portrayed across world cultures was fascinating to me. The more I thought about it, the more I thought “what if” and before I knew it I said, “why don’t I write a novel about it.”
– What’s the story behind the title?

I came up with the title myself. I love to play on words and the title has a dual meaning. Immortal represents immortality of course but descent represents the mysterious lineage of the Lorn creatures in my story, as well as the downward spiral into the unknown—a descent which the main character makes.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

There is an entire backstory to Ethan that plays an important role in the story. It will also come up again in future installments since this book is the first in a series.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

My favorite character is Rue. She is the main female character, opposite Ethan. Her sense of duty, strength, and ethics are deeply rooted qualities that make her memorable.


– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)

I would spend the day with Oryx, one of the oldest Lorns in the book. He is one of the most interesting characters with an interesting past, and the ability to see the future. He is very knowledgeable about the world of Immortal Descent and I know he’d be a most gracious host as is his personality!
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

I would say certain elements might have been plucked from a person or two but really just certain attributes from here and there. I didn’t base any character on any one person. The majority of their makeup was from my crazy imagination!

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

The mere notion for the story came as a partial short story idea way back in 2002. Shortly after, I shelved the idea for years before picking it back up in 2015. I finished writing it that year, began querying it out in early 2016 and a few months later I landed my publishing contract with Clean Reads.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I did TONS of research for Immortal Descent. I did a lot of reading of historical books, mythological texts, and scholarly journals. I also had to brush up on international travel because half the book takes place in Western Europe.
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I had a scene that was heavy foreshadowing of the conflict that comes to the forefront in Book 2. I found it to be ill-placed so early on in Book 1, so I omitted it and saved it for the early part of the next installment.
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

My favorite part is the research in the beginning because I love to learn and educate myself on new things. I also enjoy the editing process where I’m polishing it up for the final run. I love seeing the finished product, so I can sit back and just be proud.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The most challenging part for me is laying the groundwork in writing. There are times when the story comes to me like a flowing faucet and I can’t type fast enough to keep up. Other times (when the faucet seems clogged) it can be frustrating and challenging to keep plodding along.
– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

Normally I plan ahead in my mind with a goal, such as “I am going to write for two hours today.” Then I devote time to that writing without distractions in my home office. I tend to be a night owl, so a lot of the magic happens at night.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

If it means sitting and staring at a blank screen because I literally have no idea on how to start (or continue), then yes! I combat it by either skipping the troublesome area or throwing myself into research. Research gets me thinking about stuff and before I know it, an idea pops into my head and bam, I’m writing again!
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Do NOT doubt yourself! Thinking you cannot do something is as good as not doing it. Oh, and stop editing stuff to death—learn to let go!
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh boy. I’d say about a couple dozen!
– Do you have any writing quirks?

I talk to myself. I always read blocks of passages out loud before moving on. It helps me understand the writing beyond just what’s on paper.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself. (e.g. day job, family, pet, etc)

In addition to being a creative writer, I write professionally as a copywriter. I’m also a mom to a fast-growing teen girl and a loving wife to my hubby of 13 years! We have a long-haired chihuahua named Dixie. 😉
– How did you get into writing?

Writing has been a part of my life since childhood and will be for the rest of my life. I wrote my first short story at 6, won my first state-wide writing award at 12, and published my first short story at 19 in a small literary journal. My mom fostered my love for words with an endless number of books and writing tools at home.
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to read (surprise!) but I’m also a serious foodie and I like to recipe scrapbook! Making and cataloguing Halloween treats and holiday sweets are especially fun for me!
– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I sure do! I’ve worked many years as a professional copywriter, technical writer, and ad copy writer for several firms, nationwide. I also dabbled in ghostwriting for a brief time.
– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I’m 20% fluent in Japanese, ha ha! I took it as my foreign language of choice in college, and I’ve always admired the culture, food, music and fashion, alongside the language. Some day I want to become fully fluent; it’s a work in progress. 😊
– Which book influenced you the most?

Many books have influenced me, but I would say that C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe really got me fascinated with fantasy as a child. To this day, I still adore that story!

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of different projects right now. One is a heartfelt romance, another is a young adult thriller, and the third is a sci-fi story. I’ve always wanted to write a really good sci-fi story!
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Always keep writing. It’s simple but really means the most to me. As a writer, I must keep doing what brings me the greatest joy—write (even if it’s for 10 minutes in a day, never stop).

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

The Condition (book 1) by Alec Birri.

– What is one of your favorite quotes?

Smile. “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” – Dale Carnegie

 

PITCH

Ethan West knows what it means to be different, with a haunted past and a strange sixth sense he sometimes can’t control. When he’s brutally attacked and narrowly saved by a beautiful and mysterious woman, things quickly become strange.

Ethan learns an ancient race of immortal beings known as Lorns exist and he is to be reborn as one. Suddenly thrust into a dark and bizarre world of underground societies, ancient secrets, and an age-old war, Ethan becomes a target to some and a savior to others. With a dark faction after him, Ethan struggles to understand his own purpose and power—an ordeal that tests his loyalties, beliefs, and sanity in ways unimaginable.
– Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“Deep in the caves of rural Western Germany, the truth about immortality has remained a secret for centuries, but now that secret is about to break free…”

“Ethan West knows what it means to be different. With a haunted past and a strange sixth sense he sometimes can’t control, Ethan’s in search of a better future. Instead, he’s brutally attacked. Narrowly saved by the beautiful and mysterious Rue, Ethan quickly learns the world is darker and more bizarre than he had ever imagined. And sparing his life comes with a price: being reborn immortal. Now, a dark faction of ancient, cursed immortal beings known as Lorns are after him. And they want his rare, newly awakened soul.”

“Descended from the mythological Nephilim, Lorns are bound by either the divine force of order or the mortal force of chaos. Ethan is a rarity, bound by neither, yet he is ruled by both. Now, wielding an ancient and volatile power, Rue and her Alliance work to keep Ethan from spiraling out of control. At the heart of a terrifying underground war between Lorns, Ethan becomes the target of one side and a savior to the other. Amid everything, Ethan struggles to understand his own purpose and power—an ordeal that tests his loyalties, beliefs, and sanity in ways unimaginable. And the greatest danger is yet to come.”

 

BUY LINKS

AMAZON: https://amzn.to/2jEGjxZ

 

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BIO

Carolyn M. Walker is a California native and lover of all things literary. As an avid reader, she’s always enjoying new and exciting reads. Now as an avid storyteller, it is her mission to bring that same joy to her beloved readers. After earning her Bachelors in English Literature and Psychology, Carolyn went on to pen the draft for her first fiction novel and hasn’t looked back since. Aside from writing, she is also passionate about art, food, travel, history, and music. Carolyn now lives in sunny Florida with her husband and daughter. Carolyn’s debut novel Immortal Descent, comes out in April 2018.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: https://carolynmwalker.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolynmwalkerwrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MissWriteWise
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misswritewise/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/misswri/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17271041.Carolyn_M_Walker

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

 


Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: Cass Morris

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

WOW, am I freaking excited for this book. My interest was piqued just by the concept, but as I’ve read more of the content and the inspiration behind it, I cannot freaking wait!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Cass Morris

– Book Title: FROM UNSEEN FIRE: Book One of the Aven Cycle

– Book Genre: historical fantasy

– Release Date: April 17th, 2018

– Publisher: DAW Books

THE BOOK

From Unseen Fire takes place in Aven, an alternate version of ancient Rome where elemental magic has shaped society as much as law and war. In the wake of a brutal dictatorship, two factions compete to rebuild the Republic in the shape they desire. One side is protectionist and isolationist, seeking to preserve conventional morals and keep their nation small enough to easily control; the other side is expansionist and more permissive, looking to embrace the opportunities that allies and immigrants can provide. By law, the use of magic to influence politics is forbidden, but both sides skirt the rules where they can — and some are willing to step dangerously far over the line.
– Share a teaser.

Shadow and Water both moved in him, a blend that lent itself to a strange intuition, an ability to hear words unsaid and see things not-yet-done. Drawing energy from the dark corners of the garden, from the dimming sky above, from the water that flowed into the peristyle, Sempronius concentrated on what it was he needed to know, willing the answers to come to him, etched on the surface of the obsidian mirror. His heartbeat slowed; his muscles relaxed as he eased into that place where body and mind flowed synchronously with his Elements. Thus settled, Sempronius passed a hand over the dark glass and waited, all patience, for something to surface.
– Where did you get the idea?

I knew I wanted to write a historical fantasy with a different setting than the somewhat typical pseudo-medieval-western-Europe. I’ve had one foot in the classical world since starting Latin at the age of twelve, and so working with Rome seemed a natural fit. The Roman pantheon blended nicely with some ideas about elemental magic I’d been developing for ages, and from that, the world of Aven was born.
– What’s the story behind the title? 

I am the worst at titles. If I can’t steal it from Shakespeare or a song lyric, I’m totally useless. This was just called “Aven” for the longest time. Eventually my first editor had me try to come up with something more compelling. I liked the idea of something like Scintilla, which means “spark” in Latin, with subsequent books using words for increasingly large fires, but my publisher was worried the Latin might scare people off. So I started plundering Roman poetry for elegant phrases. From Unseen Fire was among those, but my then-editor didn’t go for it, and for a while the book was titled A Flame Arises instead. When I got switched to a different editor, however, she much preferred From Unseen Fire, so we went back to that.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

There are nine magical Elements, and the power to use them is seen as a blessing from the gods. About one in every thousand Aventans manifests some magical talent, but far fewer have strong powers.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

Vitellia Latona is the character closest to my heart. She’s a powerful mage of Spirit and Fire, but she’s never made the most of it, partly for lack of training and partly due to discouragement from various sources out of spite, jealousy, or just plain misogyny. In From Unseen Fire, she’s in the process of breaking free of all those restrictions and repressions, learning to own herself and take up the space in the world that she deserves.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I would love to let Aula Vitellia, Latona’s cheerful and irreverent older sister, take me shopping and then to a lovely dinner party.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

They’re mostly from my imagination, though they have some historical inspiration. Julius Caesar, Tiberius Gracchus, Germanicus and his wife Agrippina, Mark Antony, Fulvia, and many other Romans have not direct analogs, but correlations in my characters.

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book?

From Unseen Fire began life as a 2011 NaNoWriMo project. I was trying to kick myself back into fiction writing after having done little of it during graduate school and my first years working for a non-profit organization. By early 2013, I was ready to query agents, and I signed with Connor Goldsmith in October of that year. We spent about a year polishing the manuscript through several revisions and went out on sub in late 2014, then signed with DAW Books in October 2015. The book was initially supposed to debut in September 2017, but delays related to my editor switch-up pushed it into 2018. I am the poster child for the publishing world’s occasionally glacial pace.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

A lot of my research was reviving things I had studied in high school and college and then delving deeper. I had to get a lot more into the social history of ancient Rome than just the political overview and the “great men” narrative. Alberto Angela’s Day in the Life of Ancient Rome was supremely helpful, as were the works of Philip Matyczak. I’ve a full list of recommended resources on my website (cassmorriswrites.com/aven-cycle/the-world-of-aven/resources-and-history/). The most fun research, though, was taking a trip to Rome and spending a few days wandering around the Seven Hills!
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

This book has been reworked and restructured so much that I suspect I’ve forgotten most of the changes. The one that stands out is an enormous set piece that, during my revisions with Connor, I removed in a single 20,000 word slaughter. It’s a sequence I love, set during games at a festival, but it just no longer had a place in this book. I’m intending to rework it for Book 2, though!
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

By nature, a pantser. When I start a story, I tend to have a strong idea of who the characters are, and finding the plot is a matter of letting them collide into each other until something happens. As I work on Books 2 and 3 of the Aven Cycle, however, I’m having to work more to an outline, since it’s what my publisher has approved. It’s an interesting challenge — I have to remind myself that I’m not irrevocably wedded to that skeleton.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

The moment where pieces suddenly fall into place. It might be finding the plot element to connect two scenes, or figuring out the reasoning behind a character’s actions, or seeing a connection between two characters that I hadn’t seen before. When one of those hits, I’m prone to flailing my arms about like Kermit the Frog before returning my fingers to the keyboard.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Pacing. As a child who happily read the encyclopedia for fun, I don’t always have the best natural sense of how a story should move along. My inclination is to let characters wander into each other and have long conversations. My agent and editor did a lot to make sure that exciting incidents happen at regular intervals!
– Can you share your writing routine? 

I typically work at my standing desk in my apartment. I’m not well-heeled enough to afford a place where I can devote space just for writing, so it’s in my living room (which, in my current apartment, is also my kitchen). I tend to do my best work from about 7pm-Midnight, and I often enjoy a glass of wine to help lubricate the creative process.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

No. The ideas are always there. If I’m not being productive as a writer, it’s because I’m having trouble making the time or summoning the energy.
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Perseverance matters a lot more than almost anything else. Learn how to take a punch and stay on your feet.
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Dozens.
– Do you have any writing quirks?

I have to hunt down the words “somewhat” and “rather” and slaughter them. My copy editor also pointed out that I’m over-fond of ellipses and that I often use two prepositions where one would suffice.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself.

I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, and most of my work has been as an educator. I spent seven years at the American Shakespeare Center, where I wrote 22 guides to help teachers make plays exciting for their students. My parents and sister live in our hometown, so I revisit my old stomping grounds fairly regularly. I live in the mountains with two cats, a nineteen-year-old calico and a seven-year-old Abyssinian.
– How did you get into writing?

I literally can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a storyteller. I got interested in writing as a career after seeing Star Wars at the age of 11, and I’ve talked about that on my personal blog (https://cassmorriswrites.com/2013/12/22/how-star-wars-changed-my-life/).
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, visit wineries, attend conventions, play MarioKart and Civilization.

 

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’ve done quite a bit of academic writing, including those Shakespeare teaching guides and a number of papers and presentations for conferences. I’ve also been a blogger and fanfic writer basically as long as I’ve been on the internet.

 

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I am an utterly indifferent cook. I can make basic things like pasta, tacos, pancakes, but I just don’t have the interest in learning to make anything more complex. I can bake, though, and I make exceptionally good cookies.

 

– Which book influenced you the most?

Oh, gods. In my whole life? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, probably. Or the Witches books from Discworld. Or The Last Unicorn. Or Harry Potter. Or Dinotopia.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

Book Two of the Aven Cycle, as well as drafting a space opera with a rakish heroine loosely based on Julie d’Aubigny.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” – E L Doctorow

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

At the time of writing this, I’m in the middle of Glass Town Game by Catherynne Valente, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline.

PITCH

Super-short version: I gave the ancient Romans magic to see what they’d do with it.

Slightly longer version:

In the nation of Aven, Elemental magic has shaped the way of life as much as politics and war. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. When the Dictator who threatened her family dies, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people — if only she can find the courage to try.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate — but will that be enough, when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery?

BUY LINKS

Amazon — https://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Fire-Aven-Cycle/dp/0756412242

B&N — https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/from-unseen-fire-cass-morris/1125456861

IndieBound — http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780756412241

Kobo — https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/from-unseen-fire

GooglePlay — https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cass_Morris_From_Unseen_Fire?id=hyq2DQAAQBAJ

 

BIO

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Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: cassmorriswrites.com
Patreon: patreon.com/CassRMorris
Twitter: @CassRMorris twitter.com/CassRMorris
Facebook: facebook.com/cassmorriswrites
Instagram: instagram.com/cassrmorris/
Goodreads: goodreads.com/CassRMorris
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cass-morris-4509907a/

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS


A Change for AwakeDragon

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All right, so this week’s post is going to be short and sweet. Because I want to highlight a change happening to AwakeDragon.

I’m adding a whole new page, which will be set as the front page, consisting of a colorful and exciting description of my upcoming New Adult alternate-history fantasy series. I’d like to have a central place where all the info for my writing can be found, and really highlight it!

Instead of my blog posts holding the place of honor, my series is going to be the first thing seen when visiting my website. Not only because it’s awesome and amazing and you should totally read it when it’s here, but because it gives a more complete picture of who I am as an author.

Sooo… go check it out. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Obligatory “What am I doing for NaNo” Post

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Synopsis for the win:

The banished king of the Underworld has a plan: kidnap one of the Fertility Daughters, who’s magic powers the prosperity of the Overworld, and force her to marry his son to save his people from starvation.

Fox, one of the seven Fertility Daughters of her generation, wants more from life than to marry her Prince and make babies. She knows that her magic fuels the abundance of her kingdom — but she wants more than filling a prescribed role.

When she’s kidnapped to the alien and gritty Underworld, the harsh, pale-skilled prince is bad enough. Between the cruel military rule and the starvation, all she wants to do is go home and escape the hell of the Underworld.

Yet when she finds herself at the mercy of the people she can help the most… she finds herself falling in love in a way she could have never imagined. She’ll have to marry her alien prince, fight for survival, and now — prevent the Overworld from stealing her back.

ELYSIUM meets BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, this is an NA cyberpunk romance… with a twist.


“I am a White Writer”

I haven’t said much as the writing community attempts to cut open the festering, repulsive ulcer of racism and sexism in an attempt to heal and change. I’ve tried to be supportive, and listen, and pay attention to what is happening in the world. I’ve digested and pondered and discussed and…

The fear I now face is that I may never completely understand. I’ve never been the victim of abuse due to my gender or my skin. Even being a women, when my female peers talk about scary men and abuse and being insulted for their sex, I’ve never felt in danger because of a man. I don’t know if it means I am that sheltered or that lucky. Men have always been a source of comfort for me; my fathers, both biological and step father, both compassionate and well-meaning men; my loving partner; the older and younger men in my life, who have stood as friends and guides.

I listen to the world, and hear that remaining quiet about racism is wrong. I listen, and hear that defending authors of color is wrong too, because it’s my white privilege allowing me to have a voice louder then their’s. I listen, and hear that I can’t talk about the plight of women of color, because it’s my white privilege that allows my voice to be heard.

I listen, and I see the terrible hate that seems to come from everywhere, and I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know if I’m supposed to do anything.

This post isn’t supposed to be all about me, but it’s the only thing I know I can speak of without hurting or offending someone. I read an article about a man who hesitated most of his life to speak up about sexism, to be “that kind of man,” the one who uses his privilege to speak for the trampled sects of society. It gave me hope even as it destroyed it, that I, a white writer, could… do something.

He said that no matter what, speaking about issues such as these, it’s going to offend someone. He said it was inevitable. That everything was trial and error until someday we get it right.

My best friend is a bi-sexual woman. My partner is a gorgeous Filippino/Native American man. They both me stories of sexism and racism. Sometimes weekly. Or daily. It’s not like I don’t hear, or I don’t see.

I’m scared of it all. I’m scared I’m a worse person than I thought. I’m scared the hatred and pain will suck me in, and it’ll be all I can see, and I’ll become bitter and hating, too. I’m scared I’ll be able to do nothing.

The main character in the series I am writing is a part Romani — Gypsy — young woman. I didn’t choose her race because I wanted to create a non-white character. I don’t remember the exact point where I chose Romani, but I wanted her family’s history to be nomadic, outcasts, a little secretive, and a little magical. The Romani fit.

Yet. Her father is white. Her mother ran away from the Romani lifestyle to marry her father. Rumors follow her grandmother of an affair with a non-Romanian. My main character is ethnically Romanian, but she’s gadji — not living true to her culture. Raised in a white privilege household, she might as well be white. Because race isn’t just a skin color, it’s a culture and a history, and of that, she has little from her ethnicity.

I don’t address racism issues as a core theme, at least not in the first book. Sexism shows up as a theme, as a barrier to my main character’s goals. Maybe because it’s easier to write. Maybe because when I was first writing the series, that was issue swirling most in what I read.

Maybe my de-emphasis of her heritage is racist. Maybe I should be pushing it, showing more truths, educating the world on the reality.

But can I, without making it all worse?

Can I, without readers and reviewers screaming that I did it wrong?

My genre is alternate-history fantasy, which means I can play with history and time and culture, both as a plot device, and, as an excuse if I screw up. But I don’t want to it to be an excuse. If I do this, I want to do it right.

But more than that, should I? Am I, in my white privilege, simply showing my entitlement, or actually making the world a little bit better? Is it even my right to do so?

 

UPDATE:

After I wrote this, I got some responses and ideas to ponder. The basic gist was: write about diversity, but don’t write AS BEING gay/trans/POC/disable/etc if you’ve never experienced it. Let the people who have experienced it talk about it, and support them.

I don’t know if it should be the rule; ‘write what you know’ has never been my favorite advice. But at the very least it’s a starting point.

I’m still figuring out what that means for the character I mentioned above. But for now, I’ll do my best to be respectful and do what a writer does best: explore the unexplored, imagine the impossible, and touch the heart of humanity.


Thoughts from the Willamette Writers Conference: Part Four

In my previous post, I talked about the end of the first day of the Willamette Writers Conference, and the beginning of the second. In that post I discussed what I learned about making book promotion fun, horror writing, perfecting a final draft of your manuscript, and different applications that can aid you career in writing. If you haven’t read it, you should go check it out.

I ended on a cliffhanger, right as I entered the room where all pitches to agents, film producers, and acquisition directors were held:

All of the “buyers” (those that were interested in pitches and what you had to sell) were all seated at two person tables with their name cards. I scanned around briefly and then finally saw who I was looking for: Kisa Whipkey of REUTS Publications.

Kisa Whipkey is the acquisitions director of Reuts Publications, a boutique publisher that takes the traditional publishing method and puts a self-publishing spin on it. Basically, they do things traditionally, but give authors more control and more percentage of the royalties.

As I sat down, a sense of calm came over me, and I got through my pitch really well. I explained my Concept and then my Premise (go to my last post to understand!), and then set up my two main characters personalities in one sentence, and then ended on the final conflict.

I was rather impressed with myself, actually. I didn’t stutter or act meek! And apparently Ms. Whipkey was impressed too, because she asked for 50 pages to be sent to her for review!

I’m still between elation and dead calm, because I know that my manuscript has to be next to perfect if I want this relationship to progress further.

If nothing comes of it, it’s been an amazing experience and a serious boost to my confidence. Meanwhile, I’m editing the heck out of my manuscript (again) and pulling all comments possible from my beta readers.

After my pitch, I was in a daze, and got in line for lunch a little like a space cadet. I’d signed up for a lunch with a panel of NY Bestselling Authors, and during being fed, attendees could submit questions via Twitter. I got two of my questions answered! The panel was good overall, and I got to sit next to some amazing writer ladies, one of which I taught about how to use Twitter as a writer, and how to find other writers. That was fun.

After lunch I headed to How to Develop an Author Platform, which was… unhelpful. It was a lot of generalizations and me being really confused as to how the information was helpful at all. So I’m going to skip over that bit, because I’m not sure if I was just being oblivious or if the panel really didn’t know how to impart information.

Anyway, so after that, I didn’t feel like sitting through another business related class, so I didn’t end up going to How To Negociate Your Book Contract Like a Pro (which I probably should have gone to), and instead went to Dream World: The Irreducible Image by Susan DeFreitas.

That was an interesting class. DeFreitas was an amazing speaker, and the class was based around those images or symbols in fiction that you just can’t forget, long after you’ve forgotten the main points of the actual story. She examples such as Pennywise from Stephen King, Daenerys suckling baby dragons from George R. R. Martin, and several other images from other authors.

DeFreitas said that creating those Irreducible Images comes from using both the unconscious and conscious brain. The unconscious brain holds those images and feelings that have the power to stick in your mind, and the conscious brain is the part that can be used to implement those powerful images into your writing. Apparently, the best way to tap into the unconscious brain is by dreaming. Those strange things that stick in our mind after dreams are the things that hold power as images in fiction; by remembering those strange things in dreams and using them in your writing, you can create the things that people remember, long after they’ve forgotten the details of your story.

It’s something to think about.

After that, classes were done with. I headed for the ballroom, where they had food and a few other things going on. I ran into a guy I’d briefly explained my manuscript before, and we set up at a table with two other people we barged in on (it’s fun to barge in on people. You make friends), and were soon followed by two ladies who one of the group knew.

The talking began. We had to try to be quiet, as there was an award ceremony of some such sort going on, and after that they showed a short film that won the Willamette Writer’s short screenplay contest. The film was pretty neat, actually.

It took me a bit to realize it, but one of the guys that joined the party was an agent I almost pitched to (named Dongwon Song). I only ended up pitching once because of money constraints and because I wanted to attend classes, and Whipkey won out because she mentioned she loved snarky characters and complex narrative (of which my manuscript is filled with).

There was a funny moment where Song realized I wrote fantasy and he represented fantasy. I smiled slyly and told him I wouldn’t force my pitch on him, and he laughed and said he’d listen for free. I decided not to, because he’d just gotten through his story about how he and his fellow “buyers” were stuck in a room from 9 – 5, changing people every ten minutes, and after a while it was nearly impossible to absorb was people were saying (how many people is that? 9 – 5 is 8 hours… every ten minutes there’s a new person, so 10*8 = 80? That’s 80 people A DAY, and this conference is 3 days. Holy moses on a cracker). The last thing he really wanted was to be done with work and drinking a beer and have some overly eager unpublished author trying to get him to listen. Besides that, it sounds like he’s really looking for High Fantasy, which mine doesn’t really fit into.

Anyway, I was between Song and a gentleman who was an expert in self-publishing, and got to listen to them duke out the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing for almost an hour. That was very interesting. And somehow, talking about farming and goats came up as well (if you’re hanging out with me over a few hours, you kinda have to figure I pull out the goat pictures at some point). Needless to say, I found some new friends at that table.

But it was great: as Song went to leave, he handed me his card and told me to email him. I don’t know if he’ll be interested in my project and want to take on fantasy that’s more Urban than High, but hey, the personal contact always helps. And he was great to talk to.

The next hour and a half was filled with more talking about all things ridiculous and writer-y, including us finding a lady who writes adult children’s novels. She was freaking great!

And that, my writer friends, about concludes my Willamette Writers Conference adventures. I did not attend the final day of the Conference (Sunday) because of money constraints of because it was my mother’s birthday, so I don’t have much information to impart about that day.

But! I met some amazing people, pitched my ideas to all sorts of friends and professionals who thought my work sounded great, and learned so much about both writing and how to pursue a career in writing. I’d say the experience was invaluable, and not necessarily because of the classes and professional contacts. That might be about 60% of it; but the rest is because of the newfound friends and the, well, nourishment of being surrounded by such talented and like-minded people.

If anybody can afford it, I really recommend going. There’s a lot more there than just classes and professional contacts, at least in my experience.

Hey, thanks for reading through my journey! I hope it was interesting and that you learned a few of the things. Anybody have any questions?