Out of This World

It’s the last of this year’s author interviews, and I’m ending it with a blast. Mary Davie’s main loves are reading and writing. Another interest, one that is the driving force in her writing, is science. Please give a warm welcome to Mary.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

I am probably thinking about this question more than I should have to. It’s just I am a bunch of different things. I’m that person that taught herself to read really early, that climbed the Apple tree (until we had to chop it down) to read books, maybe eat an apple.

Another part of me loves science; all we do know and all the questions that we still have. I also love the question ‘what if’. Put that with the science and I could write forever. And writing really is what makes me most happy; And reading. If I had nothing else in the world to do, I would just sit at a desk, write away; take a break, read, then write some more. Alas, it doesn’t work that way; Shame.

I am that person in the background, taking it all in; later it might show up in my writing.

Name one thing on your bucket list.

I’m not a bucket person per se – that is to when I get to the age where one might consider a bucket list, I hope I am done with everything so I can just stay home. BUT there is one thing which actually later in my life might become a possibility with commercial space travel hopefully opening up – I want to go to Mars.

Tell us about your published works.

My first three books make up the Sanacion series. It starts with Sanacion: The Black Hole Mission and that begins with all the calamities that Earth has to offer. Natural disasters and time is running out for Mankind. But Earth has a plan. 3 humongous ships built in the low gravity environment of the Moon: the Sanacion, the Memnoch, & the Clinton. This series follows the Sanacion & its passengers, the 10,000s of civilians on board, the servicemen & women, and their civilian workers. The mission of the Sanacion is to go out to V4648sgr a black hole, through it, into another Universe and find a new home. Whether it all works out that way or they take a detour, it leads to Sanacion II: We Are the Aliens and then the third Sanacion III: Remnants of the Dome. It seems to end there but after much demand, I am writing a fourth that follows the children of Admiral Stene Jensenn when they have grown up. Target Earth: You Only See What You Want To is my fourth book and was meant to be a stand-alone but early on my publisher got requests as did I through my web site for a second. I probably will as I am having so much fun with the question What if & what now?! They say Target Earth answers the question of are we alone in the universe, but it is so much more! It also looks at where the threat comes from … some might say from within!

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Chicken Pot Pie – the one where the top part is mashed potatoes!

Is there anything in particular that you love to write about, such as sex or mannequins?

My favorite thing to write about has more to do with a feeling than with an precise item. Sometimes when I write my mind just goes to the scene, like a movie but more – I am actually living, feeling, seeing what happens. It happens when I read a good book as well. So when ever that occurs (which is about ¾’s of any book I write) at that moment it is my favorite!

What is your preference when it comes to reading, paperback or eBook? Why?

I like an eBook when it is Fiction, if it is Non-Fiction I usually have two copies – one on eBook and one hard cover.

What is the worst comment someone has said to you about being a writer?

I guess I have been horribly lucky. I read someone’s review and felt torn to shreds and crippled. It made me question certain choices before I decided that no, I made the right choice. Then a friend read the review and asked me what was the matter with me – it was a good review that just said they would have liked more details about the characters physical description. Authors – we are kinda sensitive! But regarding that, I try to put in enough to paint a picture in your mind but not too many. I do check with my beta readers sometimes after they read a chapter – tell me what Steve looks like…

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

One book working title ‘Resurrecting Earth: The Mission the Save the Earth Starts on Mars’, another which takes my Sanacion series (includes three books) and adds a 4th – when Steve’s son & daughter are grown up, and then I recently started a Production Company (Space Geek, llc) and I am doing storyboards at the moment for a NASA piece about the Journey to Mars. I have a book on deck & I am having fun thinking about it but I try not to think too hard and distract me from my current projects!

When you’re not writing, where can people find you hanging out in the virtual world?

If I am hanging in the virtual world I’m usually checking out science articles or maybe a NASA site or checking Instagram out. Some are for fresh ideas, others to check who thinks what and what neat stuff is now out.

Don’t forget to stop by Mary Davie’s Author Website and Amazon Author Page.

What ‘if’s” and Science,
Baer Necessities

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An Underwater Dreamer

Let’s dive right into another author interview. Today, I’m introducing you to Jenny Burke, a woman who streams together her experiences, research, and dreams to create characters and stories. Passionate about the outdoors, exploring and imagining possibilities, please welcome Jenny and enjoy.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

octopusI’m an author, reader, artist, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. I write and draw the worlds that grow in my mind and research details to understand them. My Dragon Dreamer series has dragons and an undersea world. I toss colored lightning with my dragons and grow pearls beneath the waves with my shape-shifters.

My stories blend imagination with real science and author experiences. The Dragon Dreamer series grew from my years at sea, a fascination with the alien, intelligent octopuses, and a love of dragons. I live in Georgia. Visit my website at www.jennysburke.com to see some of the fantasy snowflakes that my dragons grow in the winter clouds!

If you didn’t decide to become a writer, what else would you like to be when you grow up?

I’ve worked as an artist, chemist, teacher, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. I’ve always been a writer, but more recently a writer of novels. I’m fascinated by all that goes into a novel and marvel at the variety of worlds within the minds of fellow authors.

Tell us about your published works.

The Dragon Dreamer by J.S. Burke has flying dragons, an undersea world, and unexpected friendship. It’s a science fantasy adventure layered for readers age 9 to 99.

Arak is a dragon misfit. Determined to prove himself, he leaves on a quest, flies far over the sea . . . and crashes. Badly wounded, he faces death. A fearless, shape-shifter octopus named Scree finds and heals him, and an unexpected friendship begins.

Arak returns to the Winter Festival, where dragons carve glaciers with fire and toss lightning bolts in the clouds. When an undersea volcano erupts, this triggers a towering tsunami and a deadly chain of events. Can Arak use his unique gifts to save the dragons?

Dragon Lightning by J.S. Burke is Book II of the Dragon Dreamer series, with ice dragons and a waking super volcano.

Drakor seems like a normal young ice dragon with a talent for making lightning swords. But he alone feels the changing heart of his island Volcano. It destroyed his beloved sire. Now he foresees their doom, but none will listen. As he seeks proof, the Volcano shakes him off into the frozen sea.

Meanwhile, Arak sails north with golden dragons and undersea shape-shifters. Dorali joins the quest, searching for adventure and escape as she struggles to cope with her terrible scars. The crew seeks a beautiful legend but discovers a terrifying reality when they rescue Drakor. Ice dragons are not what Arak expected, and Drakor’s waking volcano threatens all three realms.

Do you sing in your car? If not, where can someone catch you singing?

I sometimes sing in the car, and more often when I’m alone, anywhere. Every song I know is attached to strong memories.

What’s your biggest source of inspiration?

I have vivid memories of my experiences diving, sailing, caving, and hiking. I’ve read hundreds of research papers and I’ve known many people. I like to imagine “what if”, and then this all flows in to add detail. It’s extra fun to understand the science behind my science fantasy world.

Is it important for people to like you? Explain.

It’s nice to be liked, but not the most important thing. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes to understand their needs, and help if I can. Ultimately, it’s more important to do the right thing even if it means some won’t like you.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I’ve started writing Book III of the Dragon Dreamer series. I want to finish my Dragon Dreamer Fantasy Snowflakes Coloring Book, and also finish Crystal Book III.

What’s the one gift for writers that you would love to get for your birthday?

I’d like more #2 envelopes for mailing my books. I’d also like quality watercolor paper and brushes to paint my covers (this can be expensive).

When you’re not writing, where can people find you hanging out in the virtual world?

Amazon
Facebook
Twitter
Google+

I asked Jenny to send me one of her favorite underwater species with a little synopsis as to why it’s one of her favorites. Here’s what she had to say.

octopus2Octopuses are extremely intelligent and clever undersea beings. Some kinds can change their shape, color, and texture to match almost anything. Recently, a true undersea octopus village was discovered by scientists. I was prescient! Scree, the main octopus shape-shifter in my Dragon Dreamer books, has become popular.

Dragons and Dreamers,
Baer Necessities

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A Constant Flow of Creativity

Today’s author interview is from a fellow Chicagoan—Susan Bass Marcus—a woman submerged in creativity. From early childhood to years working at a museum, she has led a life that lets her imagination soar. Give a warm welcome to Susan.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

A creator of alternative worlds, from childhood on, I’ve explored many ways of expressing my imagination, including the visual arts, performance, and art education. Whether entertaining my younger siblings with shadow puppet stories (a babysitting strategy that distracted them from squabbling) during my adolescence, doing the same with my own children, performing with my puppet theater, or spinning archaeology into an accessible and interesting subject, I’ve been telling stories throughout my life. Since leaving a long career as a museum professional, I have found great satisfaction in writing fiction, and turning out blog pieces about the creative process and its outcomes, which I publish on my website www.malevir.com and on Goodreads.

Which do you enjoy most—character or plot development?

My characters drive the plot. I enjoy watching them unfold and reveal their inner life to me. Sometimes the narrative gracefully falls in place because a character surprises me with some action or response that I didn’t anticipate when I sketched the plot.

Tell us about your published works.

Malevir: Dragons Return is my first published novel, in the fantasy genre. I aimed it at both a middle-school audience (little violence and no sex) and adult fantasy fiction fans. Publishing the book was quite an education. My editor helped a lot at the time I was preparing the manuscript, but the real lessons sank in months after publication last November, 2015, and affect the way I approach my writing now. I am about 100 pages into the sequel, working title: Where Dragons Follow, and I must say the second book is tighter, the story arc is like a rainbow, and the characters have a depth not explored in the first work.

Otherwise, online journals have published three of my works: a supernatural horror story, a speculative dystopian short story, and a psychological fantasy. The latter also appeared in print this summer in After Hours Journal, promoted at the Printers Row LitFest in Chicago.

Do you belong to any critique groups?

I do. The first one I joined is a rather relaxed group of avocational writers who socialize more than critique, but it’s a great group for raising self-esteem. The other group I attend regularly is the Writers Group at the Union League Club of Chicago, a mix of serious writers and dabblers who do not hesitate to offer constructive criticism. Recently, members have proposed me for membership in the Chicago Literary Club, a venerable institution founded in the mid-nineteenth century.

If you were a picture, which room in the house do you want to be in and why?

We live in a very open, big loft, without many partitioned spaces. I’m tempted to say the bathroom, because it’s private and allows for contemplation, but since I like to be out front and noticed, probably I’d want to be installed along the long inner wall facing a line of windows that offer a great view of our metropolis.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I can’t say much that is original. For example, my first impulse is to advise practice: write something every day, parse out a story, devise a list of compelling prompts, caption cartoons, draw a comic book/story board, and if you’re up for the commitment take a class. The best preparation for writing is the practice of active observation.

What’s your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

Oops, I don’t eat them. But if I did, I’d go with licorice. I used to love Good N Plenty candy.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

A sequel to my first fantasy genre novel and a bunch of short stories, mostly in the surreal realm. Karen Russell is a big influence.

Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter: @AuthorSMarcus

Facebook Group

Chicago HomeTownReads

Chicago Writers Association

I asked Susan to send a picture of a place in history she would have liked to have been present.

Paris 1889, From the Library of CongressParis 1889, From The Library of Congress

Conversations and Creativity,
Baer Necessities

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The Writing Gene

Another special guest today, who has lived in some beautiful parts of the United States, and submerged herself in reading at an early age. Please give a warm welcome to Lenita Sheridan.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

I moved to Washington state from Alaska when I was in my twenties. I had graduated from the University of Alaska with a degree in English. I substituted in the Puget Sound Area and went to the University of Washington to study creative writing. I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Later, I moved to an island in the Puget Sound. I am now an active lady, interested in writing, reading, singing, listening to music, crafts, and walking my dog, a Japanese Spitz named Haley.

Has writing changed the way you read? Explain.

No. I was always writing from when I was old enough to read. I wrote a picture book in first grade.

Tell us about your published works.

I have published a trilogy. They are Guardian of the Gauntlet books. The books are about a special gauntlet, which only works if one has faith in a higher power and the young Princess Camari’s adventures with it.

Most authors dislike selling their books. To practice the art of selling, how would you try to sell me a box of tissues?

I would tell you that the tissues are incredibly soft and wouldn’t make your nose sore in the severest of allergies. I would also tell you they have the ‘flu vaccine in them, so you would be immunized.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I am working on a story about my dog for Guideposts.

Are you a confident or anxious writer? Explain.

I am confident. I wouldn’t have made it through the MFA program at the University of Washington without confidence.

What is your writing process?

I make notes first. Then I compose them into cohesive chapters with pen on paper (I usually write one chapter at a time.) This is my first draft. Typing the chapters into the computer, making changes as I do so, is my second draft. Then my writing group edits it. After using their editing notes to change my chapters, I come up with a third draft. Then I hire a proofreader. After going over the proofreader’s tracking changes, I come up with a final copy.

What specific moment or situation made you want to become a writer?

I made the decision to become a writer in fifth grade. I had been reading a lot of science fiction and wanted to be a published science fiction writer like my grandfather, Maxwell Sheridan, who worked with Ray Bradbury. I later changed to fantasy to utilize more of my imagination.

When you’re not writing, where can people find you hanging out in the virtual world?

They can usually find me on Goodreads or on Facebook. I also have a Twitter account: @lenitasheridan.

I requested a picture from Lenita of a place nearby where she has or lives now. The below is a picture of Mount Baker taken from Whidbey Island.

Lenita
Reading and Writing,
Baer Necessities

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In Constant Bloom

I’m back from a relaxing vacation, and kicking off this return with a breath of fresh air. I tell you, this is one of my favorite author interviews because not only is she full of life, she has so much to share, and behind the scenes, showed me her big heart. Laurette Long has spread her wings in life, and this is one interview you won’t want to miss. Please take a seat, enjoy a warm drink, and give a warm welcome to Laurette.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

I’m a gregarious hermit. A wobbling Libra.

The best of times: When not in hermit mode, locked in the study, daydreaming in the garden, I like to fling the doors open. A houseful of people-family, friends, different ages, nationalities, opinions, all enjoying wonderful food, wine, laughter and conversation. Throw in songs, a fandango and a brass band–perfection. I’ve been lucky to share many experiences like this, with my Yorkshire family whose doors were always open, in a graduate student community in the USA, and for several years in SW France where the tradition of hospitality is alive, well, and doing the cancan.

The worst of times: Any kind of disharmony. When the knives come out, I’m off. Though I must confess to being hooked vicariously–House of Cards, wow! Game of Thrones, ooh là là! So long as it stays on the page or screen.

Do you think book covers are an important factor in choosing a book? Explain.

As someone who loves art, a striking cover is the first thing to catch my eye when I’m browsing bookshelves, virtual or real, on the lookout for new authors. Certainly the consensus today is that they’re particularly important in terms of commercial success. A friend recently gave me a lovely present, a box of 100 postcards featuring book covers from the Penguin imprint. Fascinating to see how styles have evolved over 70 years.

Tell us about your published works.

I started off with non-fiction, a course book for Advanced Learners of English for Oxford University Press, then a translation into English of a work of literary criticism. Lots of fun, lots of hard work. But my first love, my childhood passion, had been writing fiction (those old notebooks are mouldering somewhere in the junk room) and a series of holidays in the French Basque country rekindled that flame. I’ve always been a fan of the Romantic writers and the way in which nature is such an essential element in their work. Gradually, as I got to know this part of France, its mysterious history, its stunning beauty, dramatic landscapes and changing weather, the idea was born to use it as the setting for a series of novels where it would be woven into the stories, become a part of their identity. Biarritz Passion, came out in 2014, followed by Hot Basque in 2015. They’re contemporary romances following the adventures of a group of women from different backgrounds, with different lives, different passions, who all at some point fall under the magical spell of le pays basque. (Go visit!)

If you didn’t decide to become a writer, what else would you like to be when you grow up?

I was torn between librarian and actress. The hermit loved the idea of becoming a phantom of the library, flitting about those warm, hushed spaces, surrounded by thousands of books opening up worlds of fantasy. The extrovert wanted to be on the boards, declaiming and showing off.

At one time or another, we’ve all received a poor review. How do you think authors should respond to them?

The minute we agree to let our precious ‘baby’ out into the big bad public world we must be ready for anything. But…ouch, the first one’s like a personal insult, isn’t it? A kind of slap out of nowhere. Who is this unknown person who hates me so much?? Then a blackbird tunes up in the garden and puts it all into perspective. After a while you notice there are two kinds of critical review. There are those where the reader says something genuinely helpful that enables you to do better next time. The others? I think ideally we should be noble and remain silent. Genetically speaking I’m supposed to have an advantage (the British stiff upper lip).

If you could meet any character you’ve written, who would it be? Why?

It’s got to be Antoine Arantxa, the Hot Basque himself, naturellement! Handsome, funny, warm, caring, spontaneous, generous, loyal, a sympathetic listener, a shoulder to lean on. Not to mention other assets, as heroine Jill reminds herself:

Antoine is waiting for you, in his wetsuit, with his smouldering eyes and sexual techniques known only to the Basque nation.’

Obviously I would only be meeting him for a friendly cup of tea and a literary chat. (Just in case the Master of the House is reading this…)

What comes to mind when you think of France?

France seizes the global imagination like no other country. It manages to combine the best of earthly delights-its cuisine, its fashion–while moving and inspiring us intellectually and aesthetically. In November 2015, after the 2nd terrorist attack on Paris in which 130 were killed and 368 injured, tributes poured in from across the world. I wrote a blog ending with a true story. During World War 2 Allied planes flew over Nazi-occupied France dropping weapons for the maquis, the resistance fighters. But not just physical weapons. Fluttering down from the sky came thousands of copies of a poem. Its title was ‘Liberté, j’écris ton nom’ (Freedom, I write your name). Written by poet and resistance member Paul Eluard, its famous celebratory stanzas end with the following lines:

And through the power of one word

I begin my life again

I was born to know you

To name you

Freedom.

(And I cry every time I read it!)

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

Last summer I made a start on the final book in the French Summer novel series, Villa Julia. Then I got side-tracked by the idea of a prequel, a novella, which is now in the editing stages. It tells the story of Alexandra, the mother of the two main female characters in the series, Caroline and Annabel. It’s been very challenging to write. Apart from the constraints imposed by the novella form, it’s almost like aanother genre, more dramatic, darker, a different narrative style. A lot of it is seen through the eyes of Caroline, aged 7. I am feeling afraid, very afraid…(Any tips about multi-genre writing, Denise??)

Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?

I’m on Facebook. But the place I like to be most of all is my blog. That’s where I chat about things that really get me going-books of course, but also animals, planets, art, music, aviation pioneers… It’s a real pleasure to hear from readers sharing their own passions.

Why do you like gardens?

garden 1Gardens are part of English nostalgia. There must be hundreds of songs about them, lilacs, apple-blossom, nightingales. Here in France, when we moved from city flat to country house in 2011, we finally got our ‘garden’. Actually it was a sort of warzone, impenetrable brambles and nettles covering a dauntingly steep slope. We had it cleared by a fearsome machine, then scratched our heads: can we really turn this into a dream, not an English garden but a Mediterranean one, full of lavender, rosemary, cypresses, poppies? We attacked. My partner ended up with a new shoulder and me with a new hip. But it was worth it. Watching things grow, sitting in the middle of all those colours and scents, there’s nothing like it. Endlessly fascinating. My favourite flower would have to be lavender (the perfume, the healing properties, the associations with the south, with the ancient world). At this time of the year we let it go mad. It’s home to an orchestra of bees and a dazzle of butterflies.

garden 3 garden 4In conclusion I’d like to say a big ‘merci!’ to Denise for inviting me to chat with you all on her blog. If you’re ever in SW France there is a beautiful garden waiting, with a glass of bubbles to say ‘Santé!

Writing, Conversation, and Wine,
Baer Necessities

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