Saturday, March 26, 2011

Process Interview #1: Untreed Reads Author Andy Frankham-Allen

Welcome back to the "Inspiration to Publication" series of interviews.  Now that the first quarter of the year is almost over, I've decided it's time to shove off the shore of the inspiration interviews (and we've had some GREAT ones...if you haven't checked them out, you need to go back and look at them) and tread into the waters of "the writing process".  And to kick off this new phase of the "Inspiration to Publication" series, I've asked Andy Frankham-Allen, author of numerous eBooks through Untreed Reads (among others) to step up the microphone and answer some of The Accidental Author's questions.  Andy sheds some light on his process and talks specifically about his new release, the first book of a four-book series.

Welcome...Andy Frankham-Allen!

The Accidental Author: Well, it's time to shift gears in my yearlong series of interviews, entitled “Inspiration to Publication”. I've spent the first quarter of the year covering the inspiration behind various authors' works, but now I'd like to focus on the actual process of writing. Andy, you just recently released the first in your four part series The Garden, entitled Seeker, and in addition, you've released a short-story prelude to the series entitled "Serere". Let's talk about that a bit. Once you have the seed of your idea, what is the first step you take in undertaking the task of writing your novel?

Andy Frankham-Allen: Coming up with a decent working title. Sometimes it survives, sometimes it does not. I’m one of these people who need titles and names before I can truly progress with the story, and will often be stumped for hours while I try to find the right title and name. For me, at the start the title is about giving me direction. A single word or phrase that conveys my intention with the story.

AA: In constructing the story arc for your book, Seeker, did you use any of the standard techniques like “mind-mapping” or generating an outline, or did you simply start writing in a more “shotgun approach”?

AFA: I’m not a synopsis kind of guy, although I do appreciate the necessity of such things. When I’m working for myself I tend to just write ‘off the cuff’. I have the core idea, I know the general direction, and then I just sit down and write. As the story progresses though I’ll start to take notes, and makes plans. It’s only after the first draft is complete that I really start to do intense research and start making more concrete plans, because by that point the story is all there before me.

AA: When you devise the main characters in your plot, such as Willem, do you set down a strict character outline, or do you let him evolve organically throughout the writing process?

AFA: All my characters evolve in the writing. I lay down a few basics for them; appearance, age, general stuff. Much like the story initially, I tend not to tie anything down too much. If a character is true, they will evolve on their own, to the point where it is they who are determining how the story will be told.

AA: What drives your writing process more: the characters or the story arc? In other words, do you find the strength of the characters molding the plot to their will, or do you find the plot bending the characters?

AFA: Everything is slave to the character. Well, okay, not strictly true. But all my stories tend to be character led. As I said, I’ll have the idea for the story, work out the plot as I go along, but allow the characters to propel the actual story forward. For it is in the characters where the real story lies. It’s like with The Garden, I know where each volume ends, and roughly how I’m going to get to each ending, but it won’t be until I write the books, and the characters lead the way, that I’ll discover exactly how I’ll reach each of those endings. Each characters needs to be at a certain point, say, by the end of book two, but the journey they take to get there is mostly down to them.

AA: Do you have a concrete schedule for writing, or do you just write when the mood strikes you?

AFA: I try to put aside time each day to write, especially when I’m working to a deadline, as with the current project. But I’m not a sit-down-and-just-write kind of guy. I have to get in the zone. Sure, I can sit down and just write if I absolutely need to, and have done, but I find the end product not as satisfying to me. So I’ll keep on researching, doing things that relate in some way to the project, until I find myself in the zone. And when that happens… well, I can literally zip through 10,000 words in a day quite easily. Which is why I don’t worry too much about deadlines. I always meet them.

AA: In terms of the prelude to the series, Serere, did you write it before, after or concurrently to Seeker? Why that order?

AFA: After. Serere didn’t exist at all until about two months ago, and was never in the big plan of The Garden. It all came about because I wanted to get Untreed Reads (the electronic publisher who handled the eBook version of Seeker) involved in the launch. As a print book, the launch of Seeker was primarily focused on that, since people like to see an end product, something to buy, to have signed, and carry home. Hard to do that with eBooks. But the team at UR had done a fair bit of work on Seeker, too, so I suggested to Jay that I write for them an exclusive eBook prelude to the entire ‘Garden Saga’, which I could then offer free vouchers for at the launch. The fun thing about Serere though, is because it deals with some key moments previously mentioned in Seeker I was able to explore them more fully. Which in turn led to a better understanding of said events, which had the knock-on effect of me altering certain elements in Seeker. Like Red Source, this came completely from a small scene in Serere, and is now a key thing in Seeker and will play out much more in the following books.

AA: Is the entire story arc of the four part series laid out, or does it still have some “growing room”?

AFA: Definitely not laid out in any great detail. I have notes of key events that need to happen, I know exactly how each book ends, and generally how the characters get to each point. But nothing too detailed. A lot of the plotting with come about in the writing, and I don’t want to tie myself down too much at this point, since the next three books will be written over the next three years, which in terms of writing is a lot of time for growth both in my technical abilities, and in the ideas that life generates for me. All that said, however, book two is planned out in some detail, mostly because I started working on that towards the end of last year, and have already written the first five chapters. One character, at least, will not make it to the end of that one. And many readers will be upset by this. Which is… good.

AA: Besides a computer (assuming you're not banging these manuscripts out on an IBM Selectric or a fifty-pound typewriter), what do you have in your writing space?

AFA: Books! Although not as many as I’d like, since a lot of my stuff is still boxed away as I’m currently between homes. But I do have a few books around me, CDs, and DVDs. Eventually I’ll have everything I need around me, but right now I make do. And with the net, research material is quite easy to come by.

AA: Do you need silence or music while you write?

AFA: Always music. I’m a very musically minded person (can’t play anything but a guitar, and that not very well since I stopped learning when I was a kid), and always have music on no matter what I’m doing. I even fall asleep to music. It inspires me a lot, puts me in the right kind of mindset, and just generally keeps me invigorated.

Indeed, such is my connection with music when writing, then I recently happened along a singer called Sam Tsui, and while doing the final rewrites on Seeker I heard Sam's new single, 'Start Again', and it contained lyrics that fitted perfectly with the end of the book. Sam, and his producer, kindly gave me permission to use those lyrics in the actual book. I suspect with the rest of the series I will also find a musical link in one way or another.

AA: Now, some more standard fare in terms of questions: What types of things do you like to read? What are you reading right now?

AFA: I try to read stuff that is against type every now and then. Although that doesn’t always work out too well, since I’m very picky about reading well-written works, and unfortunately there is a lot of badly written stuff out there. Especially now. Genres I tend to gravitate towards, though, include thrillers, supernatural, horror, crime, mysteries, real world dramas, and the odd bit of sci-fi. As for right at this moment; I’m reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and am discovering I don’t know the story as well as I thought. I’m also realizing that I absolutely adore her prose style, and that is inspiring me in my current project which is set in a similar time period.

AA: What are you working on right now? Part Two of The Garden series, or something else?

AFA: I shan’t get on to book two of ‘The Garden’ until around July, since right now I’m heavily involved in working on Untreed Read’s forthcoming steampunk series, Space 1889 & Beyond. And it’s proving quite a challenge. I’m learning all kinds of new things every day as I research and write the opening novel, and the authors of the series are constantly throwing new concepts and ideas my way. You see, not only am I writing the opening novel, but I’m the line editor for the series, so I’m involved in every tale that’s being written for the series. It’s quite a hefty amount of work, and very time consuming, which is why I won’t be getting to ‘The Garden’ until after 1889 is launched in June.

AA: When it comes to writing a series, are you ever overwhelmed by the enormity of the task you've set out on?

AFA: Yes! All the time. But such a feeling soon passes when I just knuckle down and get on with it. I get the same daunting feeling over Space 1889 & Beyond as I do with ‘The Garden’, as both are quite epic series to orchestrate. More so with 1889 as it is, ultimately, still someone else’s baby and I’m the foster parent who’s been given this awesome responsibility.

AA: Finally, if you had any piece of advice for the author that is trying to make the transition from “writing for fun” to “writing for fun and profit (such as it is)”, what piece of advice would you bestow upon them?

AFA: Just do it! I know so many people who want to write, and faff around with doing this and that but never really getting down to it. And as I always say to them, ‘don’t just sit there talking about wanting to do it, just do it’. Truth is you’re never going to know if this is truly for you unless you get on with it. Trust me, if you weren’t born to write for a living, you’ll soon work it out.

Welsh-born Andy Frankham-Allen has authored many short stories, some for Big Finish’s Doctor Who anthologies, and many more for Untreed Reads’ horror collection. He’s also authored novellas of all genres, and ONE audio drama; Seeker is his first full-length novel. It is the first in a series of four books, a new take on vampire mythology as well as a series about sexual identity and free will vs. predestination. When not writing, he’s Commissioning Editor and Creative Consultant for Untreed Reads’ Space 1889 & Beyond e-book series (and even then he wrote the opening story, and will no doubt write some more along the way – he just can’t help himself!).

Be on the lookout for my new release!

April is just around the corner, and that means that my newest eBook Short Story will be released in just a few short weeks.  A story of a young man who is challenged to emerge from his isolationism by a captivating young woman, "Collisions" is a story of unexpected infatuation, transformation and breakfast.

Check out the promotional video I put together here, and keep your eye on this blog...when I have the official release date, you'll be the first to know!

Here is the link to the video.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inspiration Interview #6: Untreed Reads Author Justin Kramasz

Upon first meeting Justin Kramasz at a wonderful little get-together with other Untreed Reads authors in January 2011, I was taken aback.  He looks young, (probably because I keep getting older, a phenomenon for which I have yet to find the antidote).  He claims to be "uneducated", but once you spend about 30 seconds talking to him, you find that not to be the case.  In fact, he has a rare mix of innate philosophical intelligence and tremendous wit that is far beyond his years, and as you will find out in his answers to my questions below, he brings that insight to bear on his own writing.  His new eBook novel, The Lights in Vegas, is now available through Untreed Reads and all major eBook retailers.  It is a highly enjoyable novel, and I recommend it heartily!

The Accidental Author: For the first part of my yearlong series of interviews entitled “Inspiration to Publication”, I'm focusing heavily on Inspiration. Regarding your fantastic new novel, The Lights in Vegas, can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your main character, Brigham Detroit?

Justin Kramasz: Brigham Detroit is partly a personification of the identity diffusion that I feel as an American adult male and the trials that led me to this point. Brig is in no way a carbon copy of me and my life, but for all intents and purposes I lived and breathed this character; I have worn his skin and sat at his table. The genesis for this character comes from a persona that I occasionally find myself taking on when I play poker. When I play in a live game with friends or whoever, real people, and my focus is great, I sometimes become this intense being who is juggling probabilities and outs and psychology behind a mask of varying shape. The thoughts that I think, the emotions I affect, the things that I say while in this state; that is Brigham Detroit. Everything is designed to gather knowledge and make judgments. You could write a master’s thesis in psychology based on one hour of observing a good poker game. So my “what if” moment was “what if someone did everything in this Zen-poker mindset?” What I did with Brigham Detroit is take this mindset, this persona, and gave it to him and let him run with it. This is all he is, his whole life down to his every last thought, Brig is working angles and running numbers. Brig is so imperfect in every other aspect of his life, but Brig is the perfect poker deviant.

AA: I'm wondering if the old cliché, “write what you know”, applies for this novel? Are you an avid Texas Holdem player?

JK: That is a complicated question. As an actor, I was once told to “always act from your own experiences, even if they’ve never happened.” I believe strongly in this advice. As writers, we act through our characters. Each character is a piece of our larger self, and as such, they share nuances of our id, ego, and superego; we are bound to play them truthfully or the story suffers. Writing what you know is great, if you can do it; far better to write what you love and let your technical advisors correct your mistakes and inconsistencies. That being said, I am not necessarily an “avid” player, but poker is something that is very close to my heart. I grew up playing poker and I have a lot of special memories attached to it. Here is a game that caters to all personality types and skill sets. A person may excel in poker because he has a special knowledge of psychology, a person may excel because he has exceptional math skills, a person may excel because he has great instincts, or some combination of the three. Poker is truly a game that imitates life, and the student is forever learning.

AA: You have a very incisive narrative, especially during the poker games. Where did you conjure up your voice for these scenes?

JK: My voice… This brings back memories of my senior year high-school English teacher, Ms. Young, who introduced her classes to various style guides; APA, MLA formats, Strunk and White, etc. as preparation for college. One of the most important things she taught her students was to develop a natural voice for their writing; she taught us that this was the way to speak through your writing as an extension of yourself rather than simply as a creative device or technical manual, as the case may be. Specifically, I try to write in a sort of semi-delirious waking-meditation. The more I can detach myself from the tangible, the brighter will be the tapestry of the world I am trying to project. For me, poetry has been an excellent tool for developing voice. I consider myself a short story writer first, each chapter in my book was written as such and it is my feeling that writing this way helps one to develop voice. Long ago I read a book called The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, and though I don’t necessarily recommend this book for anything more than an organizational tool, I took one great piece of advice from it that can help any writer who struggles with voice, and I’m paraphrasing; imagine your right hand as your creative hand and your left hand as your editing hand. One should only write with one hand at a time. I know it is sort of biblical, but the bottom line is this: Don’t edit your work as you write. The creative mind is a beastly presence that lurks in the darkness in between sanity and coherent thought. When you write, let the beast come forward.

AA: What was your major inspiration for the plotline of The Lights in Vegas?

JK: The non road-trip aspects are greatly inspired by popular fiction and my own reflections on our society, not as a whole, but on an individualistic level. I am a big fan of satire and self improvement. My greater inspiration comes from my own natural restless spirit. Consequently, most of my writing is anything but stationary. I fell in love with the great American road-trip long before I had ever touched H. S. Thompson or Steinbeck or Kerouac. Once the American spirit was of westward expansion and eminent domain, my spirit tells me to go back and rediscover. I have always gone west to east. My vision of America is shaped by this. Leaving the California desert by way of route 66 or the sprawling mountains through 80, you experience some of the same things. The country opens up and unfolds before your very eyes with fields of black volcanic rock or sprawling mesas and limitless skies. For me this has always inspired a sense of wonder and a feeling of contact with the great unknown. Naturally, my instinct is to jump in and see where it takes me. Writing a novel is like a road trip for your soul, I have always been captivated by the romance and promises therein.

AA: Besides a computer, what is necessary to have nearby when you are writing?

JK: Food, caffeine, quietude and some form of lesser inspiration. For some, this may be a physical activity, for others a painting, for others still it may be a Buddha shaped lamp in a San Francisco hotel room. Any of these lesser muses may suffice. My writing style is pretty demanding of me. I cannot simply write 1,000 words a day and be done with it. I often don’t write for a few days or weeks or more, and when I finally sit down I might be at the machine for upwards of eight hours. So I need to have something nearby to keep me flying. And I need to know I don’t have to go far for calories or a small jolt of inspiration. You shouldn’t have to leave the sanctuary of your inner psyche for something so base as chicken salad.

AA: Does it have to be silent when you are writing, or do you have music or some other background noise?

JK: Depends on how I feel that day. If I feel like listening to music as I write, the music must not have lyrics, which distract my focus and steal my attention. I choose classical music, which is believed by some to stimulate alpha brain waves, go figure. So if I simply cannot find quiet on the outside, I have to at least find quiet on the inside.

AA: What types of literature do you enjoy reading?

JK: I enjoy anything with an element of satire. I abhor romance, Emily Bronte eat your heart out. I once read a passage from one of the Twilight books, which I see as reprocessed bodice-rippers with fangs, and I’m done forever with the whole genre. To each his own, but that is not for me. Other than that genre, I run the gamut from Raymond Chandler to Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen King to H. S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk to David Gemmell. I am also fond of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing. Yeah, I may poke fun at romance readers and their “Authors” as paper recycling factories or cookie cutter novelists, but I am a sucker for Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Oh, the shame…

AA: What are you reading right now?

JK: I am almost through with Duma Key, by Stephen King. Somewhere, I am in the middle of The Rum Diary, by Hunter S. Thompson, if I can ever find it I’ll finish it. I am also reading a novel by a fellow [Untreed Reads] author, Tor Hansson.

AA: What's next from Justin Kramasz?

JK: Well I haven’t made up my mind yet. I have three different novel ideas that are rolling around in my head and I am waiting for one to come all the way forward. The one that seems to be asking to be written first is a thriller with a splash of horror about a cop who is trying to get a job in another state but during his drive for the interview, he falls asleep at the wheel and wakes up in a different world where he uncovers a secret that has him being hunted by… Well, I guess I have some writing to do, Goodbye for now, and thanks for the interview.

Justin Kramasz is an author, screenwriter, and poet. Justin was nearly born on the steps in front of Washington Hospital in Fremont, California when doctors turned away his uninsured parents. He was raised in various urban settings in the East-Bay Area. He won his first poker hand at the age of eight, and he finally beat his father in a heads up match when he was seventeen. After frequenting card rooms, casinos, pool halls and home games, as well as online poker games, Justin decided to write a novel that would capture the strange qualities and habits of the modern gambling mind in action. He currently makes his abode with his German Shepherd/Chow mix, Foxie-Moxie Karmalita, in the estranged Pacheco, California.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My effort to help the Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami/Radiation/Volcano victims

Yikes!  What a weekend for the Japanese.  This definitely falls into the "if it's not one thing it's another", but in this case, it was EVERYTHING all at once!

Listen, you and I both know that these people need our help.  So, until Friday night (midnight Pacific Time), if you purchase my latest short story, "The Annex", through the Untreed Reads store, 100% of the author royalties will go directly to the Red Cross for relief for the Japanese people.

Simply follow this link to spend the $1.99 on the eBook short story:

Then, get the word out to all your friends and family!  Let's do as much as we can for our friends on the other side of the Pacific!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Short Promo Video for my Upcoming Release

Check out my short video promo for "Collisions", due out the first week of April from Untreed Reads:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inspiration Interview #5: Award-Winning Untreed Reads Author K. G. McAbee

Next up on the virtual interview stage is Untreed Reads Author K. G. McAbee.  K. G. has had two published short stories through Untreed Reads ("Keep Your Friends Close" and "BLZ"), and an upcoming "Steampunk" series, soon to be published in eBook form through Untreed Reads as well.  K. G. talks about her inspirations for her most recent short story "Keep Your Friends Close", and also talks about her upcoming ventures, and answers the question:  "What the heck is Steampunk, anyway?"

And, as a special treat, K. G. provides a short excerpt from her upcoming Steampunk series "Bold As Brass", titled "Lady Abigail and the Audacious Aeronaut"!

Welcome...K. G. McAbee!

The Accidental Author: As has been the theme throughout the first part of the year in my “Inspiration to Publication” series of interviews, this interview will focus strongly on Inspiration. After reading your short story, “Keep Your Friends Close”, I was struck by a similarity to some of H. P. Lovecraft's short stories. Who would you say are your predominant literary influences?

K. G. McAbee: I have so many! As a child, I could not wait to learn to read. I was just dazzled by the process; it seemed so magical to be able to look at lines and squiggles on a page and turn them into adventures. Then, when I learned to read, I couldn’t—and have never been able to—stop. I read Jules Verne—in the fourth grade, which startled my teacher, I can tell you. Then I stumbled upon Heinlein’s juveniles, and Andre Norton; both enormously influenced me. I like their crisp, clear style and vivid imagery; perfect for younger readers. A friend turned me onto the Doc Savage reprints, which got me interested in pulp fiction of the 20s and 30s, which lead to Robert E. Howard and our mutual friend, HPL. That whole pulp era fascinates me! I’ve written pastiches of Howard and Lovecraft, and my e-reader is full of old Astoundings, which are free at Project Gutenberg, in case my fellow geeks didn’t already know. Other influences are Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Tolkien, Patrick O’Brian’s historicals; honestly, my list is enormous! And Stan Lee and Roy Thomas; I firmly believe they are demi-gods and I worship at their feet.

AA: Is the fact that you use two initials in any way an homage to good ol' H. P. Lovecraft, or merely coincidental?

KGM: I never really thought about that, but I’m stealing your brilliant idea henceforth. ‘Yep, the K.G., it’s an homage to HPL, that’s what it is, uh huh.” Actually, the K and G are just my initials and, if anything, I stole the idea from C.L. Moore, brilliant writer of the Northwest Smith series and Jirel of Joiry—another pulp writer. I believe she decided to use just initials because she thought a woman wouldn’t be acceptable as a writer of adventure pulp. Hah, is my response; likewise bah. As if gender has anything to do with good writing.

AA: With “Keep Your Friends Close”, you present a gothic tale with a delicious twist at the end. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for this plot (without giving away the twist at the end)?

KGM: I never really know where my inspirations come from, other than the bubbling fetid swampy morass which must be my subconscious. Someone in a writing class I was teaching once asked me if he should ‘write what I know’? I told him, if that were true, then according to my last few stories, I am intimately acquainted with giant squids, werewolves, black holes, carnivorous college students, brain-eating worms and Beelzebub. Most of my stories begin with images or characters, then I toss them on the page and see what they get up to. Sometimes I have an ending in view, sometimes not. Sometimes stories sit for a while, then I get a blazing ‘ah hah!’ moment and discover what I need to finish them. Sometimes a story presents itself fully formed, like Minerva from the head of Zeus. Who can really understand the creative process? And I’m not sure I want to; I’m superstitiously afraid to enquire, to be honest.

AA: One of the things that struck me about your short story is, in the span of 12 pages, you were able to create such an interesting dynamic among the major players in the plot. What are some of the major challenges you face in creating such vivid characters and relationships?

KGM: I think every story, every novel, every movie, comic, TV show, all rest solidly on character. Plot’s nice, setting’s cool, but the people are what we love and come back to visit again and again. It’s important—no, it’s vital—for the reader to be able to see how each and every character feels about each other and how they regard themselves. But, naturally, sometimes what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. I like the phrase ‘lying for a living’ to describe a writer, but really, we all lie to a greater or lesser degree, and not just to others but, even more, to ourselves. These layers upon layers of lies, and the process of untangling them, are what drive my writing, I think. ‘I love you’ really means sometimes, ‘I love me and you make me realize that’. So what happens when this falls apart? What happens when the blinders are removed and we really see ourselves, or someone else, for the first time ever? Stories. That’s what.
AA: Another thing I found particularly fascinating about your story is that each of the four major characters spent some time wearing the “antagonist” hat. Was this planned, or did the characters take on lives of their own?

KGM: I always seem to prefer the villain to the hero, I’m afraid. And I thought it would be an interesting challenge to make it unclear who was hero, who was villain, who was good, who was bad, and keep it up throughout a story. That said, I don’t really believe in clichéd evil-with-a-capital-E-villains. I like to have ‘villains’ who do bad things for good reasons, or reasons they think are good, anyway. And I like my ‘heroes’ to be forced to make hard choices; sometimes they have to choose the lesser of two evils. But who decides which evil is lesser, and what does that decision do to the one who has to make it?

AA: I have heard it through the grapevine that you will be publishing a series of Steampunk works through Untreed Reads. For those readers that aren't aware of what Steampunk is, could you enlighten them?

KGM: Yay! Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to coerce, er, convince Jay Hartman, brilliant editor of Untreed Reads and all around gentleman full of fabulousness, to accept a series of my steampunk short stories. Steampunk as a genre has been around for a long time: think Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Luis Senarens, who was often called ‘the American Verne’. But the genre didn’t receive its present name until 1987, when J.W. Jeter, author of MORLOCK NIGHTS, coined the term ‘steampunk’ in a letter to Locus magazine. Steampunk is science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction/alternate history set in the actual or some kind of quasi-Victorian era. Steam is the primary motive force instead of electricity, and travel, even interplanetary travel, is by airships or other lighter-than-air craft. There are a lot of interesting aspects of steampunk writing and the steampunk trend in general: clothing and jewelry and weaponry and such.

My steampunk series for Untreed Reads is called BOLD AS BRASS: The adventures of Lady Abigail Moran, thief and airship pilot, as told by her partner in crime, Simon Thorne Esquire. If you’ve ever read any of E. W. Hornung’s A.J. Raffles stories—who was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law, thus proving life is always stranger than fiction—about a ‘gentleman cracksman’ or thief, then that’s the feeling I’m going for. I just really appreciate Jay Hartman’s trust in me!

Let me share another bit of exciting news. My co-writer Cynthia D. Witherspoon and I—we write as Cynthia Gael—have just signed a contract with Carina Press, an e-division of Harlequin, for—you guessed it!—a steampunk series of novellas. The first is projected to be a fall 2011 release.

AA: Can you give us a tiny taste of the first planned release?

KGM: Sure! Here’s a smidgeon of one of the early stories in my BOLD AS BRASS series from Untreed Reads, ‘Lady Abigail and the Audacious Aeronaut’:

Ah, the Ascot Races! What true Englishman can keep the thrill from his soul, the pride from his heart, the joy from the very innermost depths of his being, when he but observes the crowds of rich and well dressed beings who inhabit this most ostentatious, not to say pretentious, event each year?
Well, Lady Abigail Moran for one.
“Simon, you know quite well how much I despise going to Ascot!”
We were in the cellar of our landlady’s house in Chelsea, in a small clear spot surrounded by veritable mountains of coals. Abigail had a most fetching smudge of inky dust on her aristocratic nose and her hands were absolutely filthy. I was not in much better condition, being rather dirty about the hands, while the knees of my flannel trousers—fortunately, an ancient pair kept for this very purpose—were beyond description.
Do not think, pray, that we scrounged in piles of coal as an amusement. The horror! We did, however, utilize certain secret cubbyholes in said cellar for our own purposes; to wit, we had a hiding place for certain valuables which we had not yet had time to dispose of. Our line of business, if you will, is relief. We relieve others far richer than ourselves of certain unneeded bits and bobs, chiefly jewelry, gold watches and such. We have been known to go for bigger game, mind you. Once there was this enormous painting of a plump lady with rather less on than was suitable for one of her obvious years and position in society—but that is a story for a different time. Let us return to our dank, dark and dusty cellar.

AA: What types of things get you in the mood to be creative? Music? People around you? Peace and quiet?

KGM: No noise, please, and definitely no music! Dogs, of course, are a strict necessity, however. I live in a 200-year-old log cabin surrounded by woods, near a tiny former mill town in upstate South Carolina. So the exterior quiet is pretty much a given, barring the occasional deer munching on my tomato plants. Also, I’m pretty much a butt in chair, hands on keyboard type, meaning inspiration isn’t a prerequisite for writing. My main problem is finding enough time to lock myself away in my office. Luckily, I’m really good at sitting and staring at a monitor; it has been suggested by some that this is my major skill in life. So, total silence…then I get bored quickly and start writing in self-defense.

AA: What types of books/stories do you enjoy reading?

KGM: It often depends on what I’m writing at the time. I read a lot of history and biography; I’m into the Victorian Age, hence my love of steampunk, but I also like to read about the Elizabethans and the English Civil War and the Napoleonic Wars and—well, lots of history. I am passionate about fantasy and science fiction, and I love urban paranormals, like the Dresden Files and Mike Carey’s series about Fix Castor, who’s an English ghostbuster of sorts. And I love mysteries! The classics: Stout and Sayers and Allingham, and then Elizabeth Peters and Laurie King and P.D. James. And horror! And thrillers! And and and and…

AA: What are you reading right now?

KGM: Book three in Mike Carey’s series, DEAD MEN’S BOOTS. I’m rereading George MacDonald Fraser’s FLASHMAN series, all of which are both hilarious and full of wonderful nuggets of yummy history. And a book about the British Raj in India called SOLDIER SAHIBS, not entirely because my next book is set in India but because I’ve always been fascinated by Victorian adventurers. Sir Richard Francis Burton is one of my idols.

AA: Finally, what one piece of advice would you offer to the fledgling authors out there right now who are thinking about jumping off the ledge of “writing for fun” into the abyss of “writing for fun and profit”?

KGM: The same thing I tell my writing students, “To be a successful writer is really simple; all you need to know are four words: Read. Write. Submit. Repeat.” You cannot separate the four; you have to do them all, all the time. But just look at what’s involved in those four simple words—enough to keep you busy for a dozen lifetimes! And of course, you have to be able to accept rejection, take anything valuable from it, and move on. So. Read. Write. Submit. Repeat. Go thou and do likewise. 

K. G. McAbee writes steampunk, fantasy, horror, science fiction, pulp, paranormal, gothic and Young Adult Fiction, and has had more than a dozen books and nearly seventy short stories published.  Her work has won a variety of awards, including the Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence from Reviewers International, the Independent E-Book Award for Best Reference Book, and the Dream Realm Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy.  She is also a Derringer Award finalist in mystery.

K. G. lives in upstate South Carolina in a haunted log cabin with her gorgeous husband and two black labs, all three of whom she lives to madly spoil.

For more information, please visit her website at: or email here at

You can also find her works through Untreed Reads available here.


I'm on my way to Austin, TX...just stopped off at a Starbucks about a half an hour north of my destination, and I'm sitting in the parking lot looking out on I-35, and a thought hit me about coincidences and our connectedness.

Not just connections between people and places, but connections between our past, present and future. I grew up near Kansas City, and I-35 goes right through the heart of downtown KC. Now, here I sit on I-35 years displaced from my childhood. But I know, if I turn and head north for 600 miles, I'll be right in the midst of the skyline that I remember vividly from my formative years.

There's more...

Last week, I was in Boulder, CO, and I was on US Highway 36. My small, rural hometown of Chillicothe, MO sits right on the nexus of US 36 and US 65. So I know if I hopped on 36 and headed 14 hours east, I would return to my childhood home. Maybe not step back in time, but the connection is there.

Wait...there's more...

About a year ago, I was in Miami on I-95, headed South towards the airport, stuck in atrocious traffic. And it made me pause and remember the hours or my life spent stuck in traffic on I-95 commuting into (and out of) Washington, DC.
It seems like so many aspects of our lives are connected in circular periodic motions.

And not only that, but in this day and age, we are connected through technology. Have you ever paused to consider how many people you are connected to on FaceBook? I have just over 500 FaceBook "Friends", and on average, those people have about 200 friends. Now, since I'm a math guy at heart, I have to consider that about 40 of those are "Mutual Friends" and therefore overlap with mine. But that's still 160 friends of friends. Do the math...that's 80,000 people that I'm directly or indirectly connected to.

That's insane.

What's the point? Consider everything you do. Consider not only the ramifications to your future in this crazy journey, but also consider how your actions might affect those people who are connected to's sobering.
Just like ripples on a pond when you drop a pebble in...those waves can travel feet, yards, and miles. But the ripples caused by our lives can traverse time and space, affecting people and things in ways we cannot even imagine.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's "Read an eBook Week" (and other updates)

Yes...that's's "Read An eBook Week", March 6 - 12.

So, in honor of all those who have been interviewed on The Accidental Author, I'll make it easy for are links to their eBooks at Untreed Reads.

Neil Plakcy

Benson Phillip Lott

Lesley A. Diehl

Linda Frank

Jack Bates

Darryl Forman

Herschel Cozine

June Whyte

And, of can find my three short stories (the bestselling "A Summer Wedding", "5" and "The Annex") right here:

Jesse Greever

For a limited time, if you purchase my most recent work ("The Annex"), you can get my previous works for a 40% discount when you purchase directly from Untreed Reads.

Also, keep an eye out for my next interview with K. G. McAbee, an award-winning author over at Untreed Reads (among other places).  She'll be talking about her recent eBook release, "Keep Your Friends Close", as well as some upcoming Steampunk works from Untreed Reads!

So, go and invest a few bucks in an independent eBook publisher and support the artists that are publishing through them!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Inspiration Interview #4: Untreed Reads Author June Whyte

Time for another interview in the 2011 interview series, "Inspiration to Publication" on The Accidental Author.  Untreed Reads author June Whyte joins us in the interview e-chair today and gives us some insight on the inspiration to her mystery novel, Chasing Can Be Murder which can be purchased directly from the Untreed Reads store, as well as all major online retailers.

The Accidental Author: June, since the first part of the year on my blog is devoted to “Inspiration”, I'd like to ask you who or what inspired you to create your main character, Kat McKinley, in your mystery novel Chasing Can Be Murder?

June Whyte: Kat McKinley is like a bag of licorice allsorts. A little bit of me and bits and pieces of friends I know, who, for obvious reasons, shall remain anonymous. 

When I began writing this book it was more a matter of ‘write what you know’. After having my third child I gave up my job as a school teacher and became a greyhound trainer, first as a hobby, and then professionally. Two reasons – I could work from home and I figured training animals had to be easier than training kids.

Being horse-mad, I’d always wanted to write a book about a female race-horse trainer and call it ‘Trainer in Pantyhose’. I decided I knew more about training greyhounds, so I guess that’s how Kat was born and Chasing Can Be Murder unfolded.

AA: In the blurb for the book, Kat is (presumably) sarcastically described as a “soft touch”. However, it is clear that she has a certain depth and complexity that gives her both tough and soft dimensions. How did you strike the balance between those two extremes?

JW: As you say, Kat is a ‘soft touch’, rather naïve at times and doesn’t like to hurt people’s feelings. However, by the end of this, the first in the Chasing series, she toughens up considerably. Time spent locked in a coffin with the villain contemplating pressing the button to send her off to the crematorium usually does that to a girl!

AA: Since we're on the subject of inspiration, what types of things get you in the mood for writing? Music? People-watching? Reading? What stimulates to start putting pen to paper?

JW: Routine. I don’t particularly like music or any noise while I’m writing so I try to lock myself in the bedroom with my laptop at 10 o’clock most mornings and write until 1pm. This doesn’t always work, of course, because I’m a care-giver for my 90 year old mum, I have a horse called Honey who needs to be worked, a husband who hates his own company and I work as a muscle-person, checking greyhounds after they’ve raced for other trainers.

AA: You have a new release upcoming on Untreed Reads. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

JW: Sex on Tuesdays, is a humorous murder/mystery/romance with the sleuth a wannabe sex-therapist on the lookout for her own Mr. Right.  Although Dani writes a daily sex column for the Tribute newspaper, she has no certificates or qualifications on her wall.  Instead, she gets all her facts from the internet, self-help books and her friend, Megan, a retired prostitute who’s had sex with thousands of men.  However, when Dani’s column is mysteriously sabotaged and her client’s wife turns up dead, she and her long-time friend, Simon Templar, are forced to slip into gumshoes and investigate.

AA: What inspired you to write it?

JW: I love writing about the absurd and Sex On Tuesdays is a fun read.

AA: Do you enjoy reading mysteries? Who are some of your favorite authors?

JW: I read anything, Jesse – even bus tickets. But yes, I love reading mysteries. In fact I’ve downloaded a heap of cozy mysteries onto my Kindle, like Judi McCoy’s dog walking mysteries and Lois Greiman’s laugh-out-loud psychologist mysteries. However, my favorite mystery writer has always been Dick Francis. I have every one of his books on my shelves plus the last few which his son, Felix, helped him write. Let’s hope Felix can continue where his dad left off so I can fill another shelf in my lounge room. Having said all that, my two favorite authors, Jenny Crusie and Janet Evanovich aren’t mystery writers at all – but I adore their sense of humor.

AA: What are you reading right now?

JW: Funny you should ask that. I’m reading a category romance called, The Forbidden Enchantment by Nina Bruhns. Why? Because I’ve enrolled in Nina’s online workshop: Tips on Writing Category Romance. It’s been years since I’ve read a category romance so thought I’d better do my homework before the class started. So, of course, I downloaded one of the lecturer’s romance books onto my Kindle. Wow! It’s brilliant. If this is what category romances are like now – I’m off to download more. The male character in The Forbidden Enchantment is Captain Sullivan Fouquet, a pirate who’s been reincarnated after 200 years to exact revenge on the heroine’s dying baby brother. I found the character of Fouquet so alive, so real - he leapt off the page at me.

AA: If you don't mind my asking, what are you working on right now?

JW: I’m a third of the way through the next in the Kat McKinley Chasing series and tentatively called it, Chasing Can Get Deadly. There are more adorable racing greyhounds. More laughter. Another villain. And hopefully more romance.

AA: Finally, you obviously have a love for animals that shows through in the character of Kat McKinley. Do you have any pets of your own?

JW: I love animals and I’ve always had pets. Most have just wandered into my yard, set up house, liked the food on the menu and decided to stay. Over the years there have been wild rabbits, snooping guinea pigs, a white rat, a bedraggled toothless Chihuahua and dozens of stray cats who’ve wandered in off the streets. And of course I’ve had lots of greyhounds. If they’re too slow or when they’ve finished racing, these dogs make the best pets. Honestly, if you invite a greyhound into your house you’ll have love and loyalty until the moment the dog stops breathing. Okay, he’ll probably take over the most comfortable chair in your lounge room but that’s a small price to pay for gaining a soul mate.

June Whyte lives in Elizabeth, South Australia with her husband, Jim, a horse named Honey and a soppy white whippet named Ralph.

June has worn many hats over the years (so many that she says she should have opened a hat store).  She's been a kindergarten, primary- and high-school teacher, and office administrative assistant, and a professional greyhound trainer where she trained a number of winners in very prestigious races.  She has published books on greyhound training with Rigby and text books on both racing greyhounds and horses for TAFE SA colleges.  In her spare time, she has competed successfully (and sometimes disastrously) in dressage, show-jumping and one-day-events.

Now, June write fiction.  After two humorous children's mysteries, Murder Sucks and Suck Eggs which were published by Zumaya, she's become an e-author in the innovative Untreed Reads stable.  With Untreed Reads, she has published Chasing Can Be Murder, the first in the Kat McKinley greyhound series (which hit online bookstores in September 2010) and Sex On Tuesdays, another humorous mystery which comes out some time in March.  In these eBooks, she straddles two genres:  mystery and chick-lit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Sale at Untreed Reads for March!

It's the MARCH BACKLIST SALE at Untreed Reads!  Buy the most recent title from an author with multiple titles, and receive a 40% discount on previous title by the same author!

What a great deal!  Head on over and support your favorite author (me, of course) and your favorite independent eBook Publisher (Untreed Reads).

Here is a link to my most recent title ("The Annex").

Also, stay tuned:  my new title "Collisions" comes out next month (early April), and a new interview with June Whyte (author of the full-length mystery "Chasing Can Be Murder") will be coming to The Accidental Author next week!