OWS CyCon 2019 World-Building Showcase – Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl

As part of OWS CyCon 2019, I’m hosting a stop in the World-Building Showcase Blog Hop. For this intriguing stop, we’ll be highlighting an Unbound to Earth tale (that is, the action is not necessarily set on Earth), but a full list of authors and topics is available on the CyCon website. I’m pleased to be hosting author Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl for this installment of the hop, where we’ll find out more about the world of Alice’s series, Misguided Minds.

Q: Before we dive in to the specific questions about your world, what is Misguided Minds about?

Alice: The series is about how a group of researchers and the people who pick up on their work later use physics to alter the very concept of reality. Their research ultimately leads to space travel which opens the world up to a whole new  reality.

Q: That sounds fascinating! Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?

Alice: Equations play a role and following the principle of Mathematics as a sort of language. They all speak equations. Obviously, the aliens that turn up in the later books have their own languages, but I don’t plan on writing any of the languages.

Q: So, what about the world (or worlds) in the series…what kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?

Alice: The climate on earth is the climate on earth, though as the years progress climate change affects the planet. In space, all planets have different climates, and, on each planet, the climate varies between places.

Q: Is there any kind of faith system in your world? Did you draw inspiration from any real cultures, living or dead?

Alice: No, most of the researchers are atheist. A few of them have their own beliefs, but they don’t placate them around.

Q: What do people in your world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?

Alice: There are a couple of amusement planets and the researchers always made sure to bring some sort of music they do, no matter what they do.

Q: What kinds of transportation and other interesting technology do your characters have access to? Are they ahead, behind, or a mix of different kinds of tech compared to where we are now?

Alice: Throughout the series, the development of technology is one of the key results of the research.

Q: Do you have different races or enhanced humans with their own unique abilities inhabiting your world?

Alice: Yes, there are aliens, both in the books taking place on earth and elsewhere. A few of the characters also develop cyborg technology that is later implemented.

Q: Let’s talk a little about your process. When you build a world, do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?

Alice: I am a research student. My favourite inspiration is research papers. Whenever I see something that would make for a good aspect to a story, I write it into the notes to my writing project. Another thing I use is pages from the vogue.

Q: How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?

Alice: I use setting as something that I set the characters into, not something else.

Q: When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? Do you tend to be upfront about things, or keep the reader in the dark and feed them only bits at a time?

Alice: I feed readers information one aspect at a time. Long expositions only bore everything.

Q: How much of a role does realism and hard scientific fact play in your world-building? Do you strive for 100% accuracy, or do you leave room for the fantastical and unexplainable in your world?

Alice: A lot. I don’t strive for 100% accuracy. What I strive for instead, is inspiration by research. Extra-information will turn up on my website though and that’s why I occasionally write short stories for.

Q: Do you have any specialized training or background from your “real life” that has informed your world-building?

Alice: I’m about to finish a BSc Genetics which helps with developing new species and I studied a little Physics in the past.

Q: How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?

Alice: I write all my books in LaTeX projects which allows me to have note documents. It’s like free Scrivener with programming.

Q: Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? Any facts that refused to cooperate or inconsistencies you needed to address while editing

Alice: It’s difficult to make sure that any new planet ends up being diverse in climate, species distribution, and culture. One thing I did was to design two species per new planet at least and to try having them not be too humanoid.

Alice, thanks so much for dropping by to chat! Where can people find you on the web?

Alice: If you want to find more about my science fiction stories, check out my booth for OWS CyCon. All my stories are available on Inkitt. The Hyperspace Hypothesis which is the first in the series can be found here. For more details on my science fiction check out my website and my blog posts on my science fiction books.

For more stops in the OWS CyCon World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website.

My Top 5 Sci-fi Series Worlds

Coming up May 15th-19th I’ll be participating in OWSCyCon, an online genre convention (all genres!),  for readers, authors, and others in the publishing industry. I’ll be hanging around the science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy sections, and I have a lot going on that weekend, including a Facebook takeover event, a world-building showcase blog hop, a big giveaway, some Cover Wars brackets, and a Character Battle! Whew, it’s going to be busy and fun.

In the leadup to the convention, some of the Sci-Fi participants are posting “My Top 5” blog posts, and this is mine: My Top 5 Sci-Fi Series Worlds. I love world-building and talking about world-building, so this seemed like a natural fit for me. However, I’ve read books set in many great fictional worlds, so this took some thought! In the end I’m not sure these are truly my “top 5” or if they’re more like “5 of my top favourites plus one,” but I tried. ;) Read on to see what I decided…

Honourable Mention: Gateway (The Heechee Saga)

Books: Gateway, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, Heechee Rendezvous, Annals of the Heechee, The Gateway Trip, The Boy Who Would Live Forever
Author: Frederik Pohl
Why it’s great: fabulous worldbuilding and intriguing aliens

It’s a long, long time since I read Frederik Pohl’s classic series, but the books, the world, and the characters have stayed with me in a way that many don’t. If I recall correctly, I first read Gateway during the university science fiction English course that had a big influence on my life. I think perhaps it made such an impression because it was one of my first introductions to a really believable alien encounter scenario. In Gateway, humans can take chances on piloting mysterious artifact spaceships without knowing where they will take them, and I realize there are echoes of this idea in both the wormhole-spelunking explorers and the types of aliens I try to write in my own Nearspace series–echoes that persisted in my brain for long years after I read the books. If you love a beautifully-realized future with intriguing characters and aliens and a relentless plot, you should give Gateway a try. It’s a classic, but it holds up pretty well.


#5 Mindspace (Mindspace Investigations Series)

Books: Clean, Payoff, Sharp, Marked, Vacant, Fluid, Temper
Author: Alex Hughes
Why it’s great: believable future worldbuilding and a perfect main character to guide you through the world

The “world” of the Mindspace Investigations series is our world, but in a future where telepathy is real, Tech Wars have torn the world apart, and telepath/drug addict Adam finds himself pulled and pushed in many directions as he tries to get his life back. I love this series in large part because this world is so well-imagined–I mean, what would humans do if some of us had telepathic powers? How would we react? And how would we function in a world where technology had been forced to fall back from its current prevalent position? It’s all very believably drawn and imagined, and there are so many storytelling possibilities inherent in the world itself! Of course, I’m also a sucker for books that mash up genres like science fiction and mystery, so it’s not surprising I’m sold on this series. If you like that kind of mashup set in a realistic sci-fi near-future, these books are for you.


#4 Rimway (Alex Benedict Series)

Books: A Talent for War, Polaris, Seeker, The Devil’s Eye, Echo, Firebird, Coming Home
Author: Jack McDevitt
Why it’s great: far-flung future worlds paired with intriguing deep space mysteries

While Mindspace takes place in our near future, the world of Rimway is far, far off–thousands of years in the future, in fact. Humanity has expanded across many planets and the far reaches of space, artificial intelligence is actually intelligent, and–finally–flying cars! ;) However, against the backdrop of this highly detailed and beautifully imagined future world, humans are still very much the same, which adds so much to the overall verisimilitude of the books. Despite our progress, there are still explorations to be made and mysteries to be solved, so these books offer just what I love in great science fiction.


#3 The Galactic Empire (Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse Series)

Books: Terminal Alliance, Terminal Uprising
Author: Jim C. Hines
Why it’s great: the twist of a future where humans are not on top, and the wonderfully imagined alien races

And now for something completely different…janitors in space! In the Galactic Empire of Jim C. Hines’ post-apocalyptic series, humans have been relegated to cleaning the toilets and tidying up after all the other sentient races who’ve fared better than we have through the march of history. I’ve been a fan of Jim’s for a long time and even had the pleasure of belonging to an online writer’s group with him long, long ago. However, it’s the exquisite combination of humour and world-building that really make this “world” a standout for me. I know, I know, there are only two books in the series yet! But that doesn’t stop it from being a definite recommendation from me if you love the lighter side of science fiction.


#2 Alternate History Earth (Oxford Time Travel Series)

Books: Fire Watch, Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, All Clear
Author: Connie Willis
Why it’s great: the unusual occurrence of time travel that actually works!

It’s a little difficult to actually name the “world” where these books take place, since it’s our world in an alternate timeline where time travel is actually possible. However, I have to include it on this list because in the Oxford Time Travel series, Connie Willis actually makes time travel work. This is no small feat and although it’s been attempted a zillion times, writers are rarely able to pull it off without issues. You may not agree with me that this constitutes a “world” but to me it does; and in addition, Willis deftly navigates multiple times and historical events to bring them to life for the reader, while still tying them all together with the timeline and experiences of the main characters from the “present.” I think this series is a magnificent example of world-building, and if you’re skeptical that time travel can really be done well, I suggest you give it a try. You can read almost any of them as a standalone book, although you should read Blackout before reading All Clear, since they’re really one book that was published in two volumes. To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of the few books I re-read on a regular basis.


#1 The Expanse (The Expanse Series)

Books: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, Nemesis Games, Babylon’s Ashes, Persepolis Rising, Tiamat’s Wrath
Author: James S.A. Corey
Why it’s great: the pure breadth of imagination in the world and civilization building

For sheer scale and imagination, I have to give the number one spot on this list to The Expanse. As I wrote in my original review of this first book on Goodreads, I fell in love with it because it had “grand-scale space opera, fascinating characters, tons of complexity and some great sense-of-wonder stuff.” The first book in the series is one of my favourites ever, in part because the world of the Expanse — the Belt, the Outer Planets, all of it — and the inhabitants of the world, are so brilliantly imagined. It all just works, drawing you in and not letting you go. The transition to a television series also seems to have captured this particular world-building magic, although I’ve only seen the first season. All in all, The Expanse has to be #1 on this list.

So, what do you think? Have you experienced any of these worlds? Do you want to fight me over my choices? (Just kidding, I don’t fight on the internets) However, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the science fiction worlds you love!


OWS CyCon officially runs May 17-19 with the CyCon website and Facebook events acting as the hub for all of our events. Sign up for our newsletter or RSVP to the event to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bookish goodness we have to offer. Plus, you can read more about our participating Sci Fi authors and their Top 5 favorites in Sci-Fi before CyCon starts. Visit the blog hop page any time leading up to CyCon for the latest posts and your chance to enter our MEGA giveaway (open May 10).

Author Interview: Felicia Fredlund (Eclectica Bundle)

Hello, everyone, we’re back with another author interview from the Eclectica Bundle, this time with Felicia Fredlund.

Sherry: Welcome, Felicia! To start, tell us a little about the story/book you have in the Eclectica bundle.

Felicia: The story is called “Dear Brother” and is about a young man who is trying to come to terms with his grief over the loss of his brother.

Sherry: Do you remember what sparked the idea for “Dear Brother”? What was it?

Felicia: I lost my mother when I was young, only six years old. When I became a teenager that loss hit me again as if it happened just then. I guess I finally understood she was gone. At that point I wondered how I could ever move on. I eventually had a moment that helped me move on. That moment was the inspiration for this story.

Sherry: Wow, that’s a very powerful motivation for a story. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Do you remember the first story you wrote? Tell us about it.

Felicia: I can’t be completely sure it is the first story I ever wrote, but it comes close. It was somewhere in first to third grade, I don’t know which because I didn’t write a date anywhere. But it was a picture book, and looked kind of like a book with a laminated cover and very simply sewed binding.

It was about a frog who lived in a shoe, and then one day his shoe was gone, so he had to go looking for a new home.

Sherry: That sounds adorable! Do you think there are certain themes that keep coming up in your work? If so, is it intentional, or something that just happens?

Felicia: I fairly recently noticed that almost all my main characters only have one parent left or they have one parent that doesn’t want to be a parent or who is absent in some other way. As I mentioned earlier, I lost my mother young, so I have a feeling that is where it came from. An unconscious bias I now always check for. Not that I always change it (if one parent is gone), but sometimes I do.

Sherry: It’s so interesting how we can do these things as writers and not always realize it right away. Do you think there were also early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

Felicia: Absolutely. The first book I remember liking, in fact the book that made me like (and later love) reading was Alanna – The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. Before reading that book, reading was a chore school forced me to do; after reading it, I devoured every fantasy book I could find. I love fantasy, but most of it I read growing up had male main characters (I don’t have anything against that, in fact my story in the bundle has two male main characters), except for Tamora Pierce. (I’m sure there were fantasy with more women/girls, but I wasn’t finding it.)

That fact, that so much epic fantasy (which is what I mostly read back then) tended to have mostly boys or men as main characters (and sidekicks), have made me always check what gender I’m making characters because I have unconscious biases from all I’ve read. If I don’t think about it, all bit-part characters tend to fall into gender stereotypes (healers are women, inn/shop keepers are men, etc.) and I would like to more consciously decide their gender.

Sherry: I completely understand that–I have to do the same thing. What we read when we’re young really imprints on us, I think.

Now, to more practical matters: do you keep a tidy desk/workspace, or a messy one? ;) Do you think one or the other helps your creativity?

Felicia: I do everything better with a tidy desk, but I tend to let it get very messy before I do anything about it and then I bonk myself on the head and wonder why I didn’t tidy up days ago. Hehe.

Sherry: I can sooooo relate to that! Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

Felicia: I mostly write fantasy and a bit of science fiction, but since I have a contemporary story in this bundle, let me point you to another contemporary short story: “At the Traffic Lights.” And if you lean modern, I also have urban fantasy, currently you can find “A Soul Calling,” but I have at least one more urban short story coming sometime this year. If you skew funny in your fantasy “You Can’t Walk Your Rabbit Without a Leash” would be up your alley. The darker side of fantasy comes out in the short story series Sorceress Islands.

Later this year a couple of fantasy novellas will come out, and I’m currently writing several short stories and longer works in a new series that I hope will start being published this year too.

Sherry: Thanks so much for dropping by to chat, Felicia! I’ve really enjoyed it.

Felicia Fredlund writes fiction about entertaining adventures and emotional journeys of interesting people. She currently lives in Japan after a period of traveling.

She writes one series, a dark fantasy series called Sorceress Islands. Her short stories have appeared in several Fiction Rivers.

She also edits. She edited Fiction River: Last Stand with Dean Wesley Smith.

Learn more about her on her website FeliciaFredlund.com, and join her newsletter for up-to-date information about all her books.

And don’t forget to grab the Eclectica Bundle while you can to read “Dear Brother” and many other tales!

Author Interview – Kari Kilgore (Cat Tales #2 Bundle)

Hey everyone, we’re back today with another author interview from the Cat Tales #2 bundle, this time with author Kari Kilgore.

Sherry: Welcome, Kari! Thanks for stopping by. Could you tell us a little about the story you have in the Cat Tales #2 bundle?

Kari: “Wicked Bone” is an Appalachian folktale or tall tale, but it’s one I made up. We start with a rather self-possessed black cat (aren’t they all?), her new-to-cats owner, and the things cats leave as “gifts” for the ones they love.

And things get strange from there.

Sherry: It sounds like fun! Do you remember what sparked the idea for this story? What was it?

Kari: My story “Wicked Bone” got its start when I heard my Mom talk about a person we knew having a wicked bone, in that they couldn’t help doing things that were hurtful. That stayed with me, but as usual it shifted a bit once my writer-mind got hold of it. I combined it with a sort of tall tale I’d heard when I was seven or eight, cast my own cat Loretta as the feline lead, and that was where it started and ended up. I was still quite surprised at how the story turned out!

Sherry: I should mention that’s a picture of Loretta herself with the paperback version. :) Why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

Kari: So many reasons! Love, yes, and the pure fun of writing them. They’re wonderful for answering questions during a longer story. I often need to know more about a side or offstage event, but I know it won’t belong in the novel. Rather than writing notes or some kind of outline, I tend to just go write the story. Sometimes that turns out to be a piece I can submit to magazines or anthologies. Sometimes it’s more just for me, but that also means I can use it for reader rewards for people who enjoyed the longer work. I took a Series Workshop with Kristine Kathryn Rusch earlier this year that was tremendously helpful for thinking of ways to expand a series with short stories.

Besides the fun and great practice, short stories are wonderful for marketing. When a story is in a magazine (or anthology, or a bundle like Cat Tales #2), your work is in front of many readers who get to discover you for the first time. If they dig your story and go looking for more, you may have a fan, and they may have a new favourite writer. Great combination!

Sherry: What’s the most perfect short story you’ve ever read?

Kari: I don’t believe anything in storytelling is ever perfect, but my favourite since I first read it back in the Eighties is “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” by Stephen King. It’s about women, driving, freedom, love, and magic, and it has never truly left my mind. Especially on long road trips or when I get behind the wheel of a fast, responsive car! He gets all kinds of well-deserved attention for his novels, but I love his short work as much if not a bit more.

Sherry: Have you written any series characters? What’s their appeal for you?

Kari: I have several series characters in all lengths of fiction, from short stories to novellas to novels. A few star in all three lengths, and I’ll be doing more of that. I enjoy seeing how the characters change and grow with each new situation, and with the different people they interact with. Even in different genres sometimes, like when characters from a mystery short story series recently encountered a pair from a contemporary fantasy short story series.

It’s fun for me because I already know the characters a bit, so I get to hit the ground running with the story. But at the same time, I’m going to learn more about them every time. I hope readers find characters they already know and relate to, and that they’re excited to follow along on new adventures.

Sherry: Would you say you’re more of a planner/outliner/architect or a pantser/gardener/discovery writer?

Kari: I’m definitely the pantser/gardener type. I was recently on a panel with three other writers who called themselves pantsers, and over the hour I realized I was the purest pantser, in that I truly have no clue what’s going to happen next while I’m writing. Most of them wanted to know the end, or the middle, or the theme, or some other aspect. Not me. I want to enjoy telling myself the story and being surprised the whole way through. I pretty much know what’s going to happen when it happens.

Sherry: I’m with you there! I’ve learned to outline a little when necessity demands it, but I’m pure pantser at heart.:)

Do you think the place where you live (or somewhere you have lived) influences what you write? In what way?

Kari: Absolutely. My husband Jason A. Adams (another writer) and I live in the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. We both grew up in other places, but we always came back here to visit and thought of this as home. Now we have an interesting insider/outsider perspective that allows us to really dive in and explore the culture, dialect, and fascinating and sometimes mysterious world that surrounds us. We have a mix of Scots-Irish, Welsh, Germanic, European, Middle Eastern, and African cultures in our mountain region because so many different people came here to work in mining or timber. That mix is reflected in food, oral storytelling traditions, superstition, place names, so many things.

We also both know and love the proud, independent people in our region, and we want to write about that. Appalachia and hillbillies have always been a bit of a punch line, largely because of myths and misconceptions. If a story I write can help people from other areas better understand us, that’s great. But more important to me is showing other native folks an image of ourselves that isn’t negative or derogatory. We have challenges here, yes, just like every other region. We have an awful lot to be proud of, too.

Sherry:  Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

Kari: Thank you! I write all over the place as far as genre and story length. Various kinds of fantasy, science fiction, a bit of horror, and even contemporary fiction and romance lately. My twentieth indie title will come out on April 20th of this year. And my first professional short story should be out in Fiction River anthology magazine in September.

As far as cat tales, I’ll have a holiday-themed sweet romance short story that features a cat in a collection from Kristine Kathryn Rusch out over the holidays in 2019. That story will have at least one sequel, since two of my cats haven’t been in a story yet, and they’re starting to wonder why. Another in that collection will be a fantasy short centered on a veteran of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Returning to Appalachia, I have a post-apocalyptic series that’s partly set here that will wrap up this year called Storms of Future Past.

Sherry: Thanks again, Kari, this was fun!

Kari Kilgore lives and works in her native mountains of Virginia. From that solid home base, she and her husband Jason Adams find adventures all over the world to bring to life in fiction. Exploring local legends and mythologies in particular delights and inspires them.

Kari writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and she’s happiest when she surprises herself. She lives at the end of a long dirt road in the middle of the woods with Jason, two dogs, two cats, and wildlife they’re better off not knowing more about. You can find her website at karikilgore.com.

And don’t forget to check out Cat Tales #2 while you can! :) I still have a few more interviews scheduled, so check back soon!

Author Interview – A. L. Butcher (Eclectica Bundle)

Hi everyone, we’re back with some new interviews this week! Today I’m chatting with Eclectica Bundle author (and curator!), A. L. (Alex) Butcher.

Sherry: Hi Alex, and thanks for stopping by for a chat! To begin, would you tell us a little about the story/book you have in the current bundle?

A. L.: “Tears and Crimson Velvet” is a short historical fiction based on characters from Phantom of the Opera; set in 19th century France the story follows Madam Giry and Erik (the phantom). She first meets him when he is a performer forced to sing and humiliate himself for the paying public in a travelling fair. They then meet again later, and Erik is in a desperate situation. Giry is the first person to show the confused and disfigured young man kindness, and he never forgets it. This is her story, and their story.

Sherry: That sounds like a fascinating exploration. Do you remember what sparked the idea for this story? What was it?

A. L.: I’ve been a Phantom fan since I was 11. My mother took me to see the stage show in London and I was enchanted. The original book, by Gaston Leroux is a masterpiece of tragic horror/mystery. There are dozens of adaptations of the story – some better than others. Madam Giry is an important character in a few, but a rather comical figure in the Leroux original. I wondered what if – what if she had met Erik before? What was she like as a young woman? What made her the lonely widow we meet? That was the basis of the story. I also have another ‘Legacy of the Mask’ Tale featuring Raoul De Chagny set twelve years after the events at the opera house. It’s sad, haunting and lyrical.

Sherry: I love how you’ve spun so much from this one theme. :) Now, imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

A. L.: My Archmage Lord Archos. He’s a powerful sorcerer, and handy to have around in a crisis.

Sherry: Yes, I expect he would be! Why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

A. L.: I write novels, poetry and short fiction. It depends on the stories wanting to be told. Some start as shorts and grow and some reach their peak as shorts. I like reading short stories, and they are fun to write, but in many ways more challenging than a novel. The author only has a short word count to introduce characters, build or describe the world, and get the adventure done.

Sherry: Do you belong to any writer’s groups or communities? Do you think these types of social interactions are important for writers?

A. L.: Lots! The indie author community is, for the most part, supportive and welcoming. Every author is different, and his or her work is different and many of us don’t have a broad skillset. There are some great writers out their who know nothing about marketing, or networking, for example. Or have the talent but not necessarily the technical skills. Communities and groups can offer support, ideas and teach a new (and experienced) writer some of the skills he or she doesn’t have. Networking is really important – you might have written a great book but if no one knows it’s there then no one will buy it. You may not know the proper genre, or key words, or how to source or make a suitable cover. You may not know that a particular group of readers is really keen on this genre or that.

I’ve made tons of friends, not just people I follow on FB. People I chat to, we share ideas and likes and dislikes, we compare sob stories and successes and we support it other.

Sherry: I have to say I love the collaborative idea behing BundleRabbit and these bundles, and the chance to meet and interact with other writers, as we’re doing now.

Have you had to deal with bad reviews? How do you manage them?

A. L.: Yes. I’d say most writers have at least one bad review. It happens. At the time I was upset – but now I am not that bothered. I have good reviews as well. Not everyone likes my work – and that is fine. I don’t like every book I read either. I may not necessarily agree with what a reviewer says or thinks but arguing over it is NOT going to help, if anything it will make things worse. It happens. Move on.

Sherry: Agreed. Do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

A. L.: Oh yes. I loved to read, and still do. My father and grandmother would make up stories to tell us, and I think that was a huge influence.

I think CS Lewis – Chronicles of Narnia helped to fuel my love of fantasy, and the classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights gave me the darkness of my own books. Not to mention Phantom – that has been a huge influence on my life – not least a ten-year career working in theatre after I worked on that tour.

Reading to children and story telling is so important. Kids have a vivid imagination and it is great if they are allowed to indulge that.

Sherry: Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. ;)

A. L.: Let me see: I have the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series (currently three novels and working on a fourth.) These are fantasy/fantasy romance with a touch of erotica (i.e. sexy scenes), they are dark – elves are slaves, and magic is illegal so my female lead who is an elven sorceress is in big trouble. Elves have no rights, women have few rights, mages have no rights. The land of Erana is run under martial law by the feared Order of Witch-Hunters and my gang have to avoid their machinations and heavies, whilst trying to bring some good – albeit beyond the law. It’s a dark world.

I also have several short stories set in Erana – the Tales of Erana series; a collection of short family-friendly fantasy stories; a book of poetry, two Legacy of the Mask Tales, and historical fantasy novellas in Heroika: Dragon Eaters and Lovers in Hell from Perseid Press.

I curate bundles too – so I have work in half a dozen bundles and curator only for a few more.

What is next? I am working on a story for Perseid Press, book 4 of the Chronicles and several short stories.

Sherry: Thanks so much for chatting, Alex! I look forward to reading more of your stories!

British-born A. L. Butcher is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as ‘evocative’.  She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.

Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror, including the Legacy of the Mask series. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.

She also curates for a number of speculative fiction themed book bundles on BundleRabbit.

Her short novella Outside the Walls, co-written with Diana L. Wicker received a Chill with a Book Reader’s Award in 2017 and The Kitchen Imps won best fantasy for 2018 on NN Light Book Heaven. Alex is also proud to be a writer for Perseid Press where her work features in Heroika: Dragon Eaters; and Lovers in Hell – part of the acclaimed Heroes in Hell series. http://www.theperseidpress.com/

Remember to grab the Eclectica Bundle while you can for stories from all these great authors!

Author Interview – Thea Hutcheson (Eclectica Bundle)

Welcome back, everyone! Today I’m welcoming Thea Hutcheson, one of the authors from BundleRabbit’s Eclectica Bundle, to the blog for a chat.

Sherry: Hi, Thea, and welcome! To start, please tell us a little about the story/book you have in Eclectica.

Thea: When Megan moves into her new house, things begin to disappear. Weird things like socks, and decorative pins, and a cheap class ring. Things she just saw recently and don’t have a lot of value, but she misses them all the same. She can’t decide whether to blame it on her cheating ex or a klepto ghost. When her best friend sends a geeky ghost hunter her way, Megan finds a new chance for romance and something she never expected in her wildest dreams.

Sherry: That sounds like a lot of fun (and I love that cover)! What’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

Thea: My current WiP is a lesbian urban fairy tale. I love fairy tales. I love to play with them. This one is the second in a series. It is based on the Crystal Orb, the story of a young man, part of triplets whose mother went mad and thought they were trying to steal her power. She had banished two of them and the third got away. He goes on an adventure, meets, giants, acquires a magic hat that takes him anywhere he wants and meets an enchanted princess.

In my story the boy who gets away is a teenage girl and she spends the next thirteen years trying to find a spell to cure her mother’s madness and break the banishing spell that keeps her from her brothers. There’s magic and love and more magic in it.

Sherry: Do you remember what sparked the idea for your story/book in this bundle? What was it?

Thea: I wrote a story a long time ago as an answer to a fellow writer’s claim that no one could make a story about laundry interesting. I flipped the idea and flapped silly thing about, and it became “Fishing”, a story postulating one idea about what happens to the socks in the laundry. It was also my very first professional SF sale. Jim Baen’s Universe published it and then included it in the first Best of Jim Baen’s Universe.

So, I thought it was time to flip that story again and look at it from the other side and came up with “Sock and Pins and Aliens”.

I will have you know, I never lose socks in the laundry anymore as I use these super fancy clips to keep them together. Except that there was this one pair I really like, lacy and slinky, that I never did find after I put them in the washing machine.

Sherry: I also love writing stories in answer to a challenge. :)  And I’m always fascinated by where we get our ideas. Do you remember what sparked the idea for another of your stories?

Thea: Oliver Sacks was a great neurologist and a super cool dude. He wrote a ton of books that, among other things, were full of fascinating anecdotes about people with brain diseases and injuries. He was a wonderful speaker and a frequent guest on Science Friday on NPR. One time, right before he died of cancer (I think or at least they aired it before he died), he told this marvelous story about tripping on acid when he was younger. He was sitting on the floor of his apartment facing a blank wall. “Show me indigo,” he commanded his tripping self. And it appeared on the wall.

After that episode, I wondered what it would be like to have that blob of indigo show up and then walk through it. Where would it lead? That became the kernel of “Seeing Indigo”. I always call it my homage to Oliver Sacks story, even though the only part that relates is the color indigo. But I loved him and I like to think he would have approved.

Sherry: What’s the most perfect short story you’ve ever read?

Thea: There was this story by Kit Reed. I looked for it online, but couldn’t find the collection it was in. It was a perfect set up story. She always had such a wicked sense of humor and timing. I think it was called The Nest. I loved her work. Also, anything by Robert Sheckley. He is wickedly sharp. I wish I could do wicked sharp. Or “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis. I adore her sense of humor and I love to talk politics with her. She is just about the most well-read human I know.

Sherry: I adore Connie Willis!  I wish I could write with the fun and complexity of her humorous stories, and the depth of character of tales like Blackout and All Clear.

So speaking of interactions with other writers, do you belong to any writer’s groups or communities? Do you think these types of social interactions are important for writers?

Thea: I belong to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and a couple of critique groups. I have a lot of writer friends. I think they are critical. Look, we spend hours in a room by ourselves, making shit up. Our writer friends can help us improve that shit and understand what we go through to get to that golden shit. Plus, they understand, or at least overlook, those weird little foibles we have.

Sherry: Agreed! I treasure my writer friends. Looking back even further, do you think there were early influences as a reader that have guided the stories you create as a writer? What were they?

Thea: Oh, Andre Norton for sure. I loved her books. The librarians would hold them for me and give me a new stack when I came each week. I collected them for a long time. Mary Stewart was another. I loved her books. Danny Dunn books too. I never cared that he was a boy. I took the message that I could do all that stuff myself and so my characters do, too.

Sherry: Do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

Thea: Music. I love music, especially love songs when I work. I am especially into Yacht Rock on Amazon Music right now. Great station. Blast from the past and all that.

Sherry: I’m always interested in other writers’ workspaces, too. Do you keep a tidy desk/workspace, or a messy one? Do you think one or the other helps your creativity?

Thea: I have a sign in my office that says, “Tidy people don’t make the kinds of discoveries I do.” I think that says it well.

Sherry: I know what you mean. When I tidy up, I take a picture so I can remember what it looked like. ;) Apart from keeping a messy desk, do you have any writing “rituals”? What are they (if you’re willing to share)?

Thea: I use The War of Art by Steven Pressfield like an AA Big Book, opening it at random now to get a reminder of how creative people combat Resistance.

Sherry: Great idea! So one more question: many writers also put their creativity to use in ways other than writing. Do you consider yourself a “creative person?” What other creative outlets do you have?

Thea: I am creative. I love to fool around with recycled materials. I make petroglyphs from rocks that I get on road trips. My boyfriend is so well trained that he just pulls over now when there are interesting rocks on the side of the road. I often grind up the rocks and mix them with glue and use them to fill in the lines in the petroglyphs. Beautiful stuff, even if I do say so myself.

Sherry: Thea, thanks so much for stopping by to chat; this was fun.

Thea Hutcheson explores far away lands full of magic and science with one hand holding hope and the other full of wonder.  Lois Tilton of Locus called her work “sensual, fertile, with seed quickening on every page. Well done…” Her work has appeared in such places as Hot Blood XI, Fatal Attractions, M-Brane Issue 12, Baen’s Universe Issue 4, Vol. 1, the Beauty and the Beast Issue of The Enchanted Conversation, Realms of Fantasy’s 100th issue, and Fiction River’s Recycled Pulp anthology.  September 2016 will see her latest story, “Hoarding” appear in Fiction River’s Haunted anthology. She lives in an economically depressed, unscenic, nearly historic small city in Colorado with four semi-feral cats, 1000 books, and an understanding partner.  She’s a factotum when she’s filling the time between bouts at the computer. You can find Thea online at her website, theahutcheson.com on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Author Interview – Danielle Williams (Cat Tales #2 Bundle)

Hi all, we’re back today with another author interview from the Cat Tales #2 bundle; this time I’m talking to Danielle Williams.

Sherry: Welcome, Danielle! First off, please tell us a little about the story you have in Cat Tales #2.

Danielle: Hi, my name is Danielle Williams, and my story What the Cat Brought Back (found in Cat Tales Issue #2) is about a woman whose klepto kitty stops stealing random socks and toys from around the neighborhood and starts bringing her some really creepy objects from parts unknown.

Sherry: I’ve read this story, and I can confirm that it’s definitely creepy! Now, I love to know where other writers work. Can you describe your current writing workspace(s)?

Danielle: I rotate writing stations depending on my mood. Some days I’m in our hobby room, sitting on the floor using my step aerobics bench as a desk (I write by hand in a jumbo Leuchtturm 1917 lined notebook, then type the stories up later), other times I’m at the kitchen table. My hands-down favorite place to write when I’m out and about, though, is the hair salon! They’ve always got some great dance tunes I can groove to.

Sherry: So I guess the answer to this question is at least partly answered: do you prefer music, silence, or some other noise in the background when you write? If music, what kind?

Danielle: Silence is fine, but some days I use music to set the atmosphere of a particular scene or overcome any hesitations I’m having in getting started…or to just drown out the TV running in the next room! My go-to ambience right now is “New Space Music” by Brian Eno. If I’m feeling really stuck, I put on Mannheim Steamroller’s “Fresh Aire IV”, or an album by Kraftwerk. They help me fall into the page when it’s difficult to break away from real life.

Sherry: I love movie and game soundtracks myself–anything without words! So, what’s your current writing project? How do you feel about it right this minute?

Danielle: I’ve always got a lot of irons in the fire. I just finished a short called The Witching License today. (I’d really like to know why the ending made me cry so much, I knew it was coming!) Once it’s polished, I’m going to submit it to some fantasy magazines. But now that it’s written, I can work on finishing another couple of fantasy shorts I started in February, including one about magical goats! So I guess you can say I’m feeling that “aaaah” feeling when you’ve done a good job on something.

Sherry: I always say my two favourite words to type are “the end.” ;) Do you remember what sparked the idea for your story in Cat Tales? What was it?

Danielle: There was a segment on TV once where night vision cameras caught a housecat stealing items (including a bra!) from around the neighborhood. That was rattling around my brain and got mixed up with some other ideas about technology and daytime horror.

Sherry: What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in 2019? What’s the best thing?

Danielle: The biggest challenge is all the distraction that comes from the Internet. Unlike a newspaper or a book, there’s never a “stopping place” when you read or watch something on the ‘net. It can quickly turn into a huge timesuck. That’s why I refuse to have a smartphone. My tablet is bad enough, even with an app blocker on there.

The bestest-best thing about being a writer in 2019 is how easy it is to get your work out there. If you can write, there are ways to get your formatting and covers done so you can sell. You no longer have to wait for a gatekeeper to pick you. Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Don’t wait to get picked, pick yourself.” Indie writing and publishing is how I’m picking myself.

Sherry: Many writers also put their creativity to use in ways other than writing. Do you consider yourself a “creative person?” What other creative outlets do you have?

Yup, I’m a “creative”, all right! Been playing piano since I was 6 and drawing and doing digital art since I was 11. (That background in digital art comes in REAL handy when I’m designing my own covers!) I also started coding webpages around that age, which is very similar to coding eBooks. And when I’m not writing, I teach piano lessons.

Basically I grew up to do all the stuff I loved doing when I was a kid!

Sherry: Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

Danielle: My website’s got a full listing of what I’ve written so far. But if you’re an animal fan, I’ve written a short novel called Love Potion Commotion! starring two talking French bulldogs who are the familiars to a fashionista witch who also fosters other dogs. It’s like a Hallmark movie, but with way more magic.

If you like PG-13 horror, I’ve written a short for anybody who’s ever wanted to burn down a call center, The Bureaucrat. If you want something longer, I wrote another novella called The Girlfriend Who wasn’t from Delaware, about a guy hearing strange noises from the apartment above him.

If you’re into sci-fi/fantasy, you’ll wanna keep an eye out for my science-fantasy Steel City, Veiled Kingdom. I’m determined to publish it this year ‘cuz I’m WAY excited for people to finally meet the fantastic characters I’ve come to love and see all the craziness in it (including teleporting rabbits… and Hawai’i in space?!).

The easiest way to keep up with my new releases is to sign up for my newsletter over at http://PixelvaniaPublishing.com, but you can also catch me (and art!) more casually at http://mastodon.art/@AesAthena. I’d love to hear from y’all!

And to anybody who reads CAT TALES ISSUE #2, thank you for reading my work! :3

Sherry: Thanks for stopping by to chat, Danielle!

Danielle Williams writes scifi/fantasy/horror/comedy/??! stories! The tagline on her website reads, “Wonder. Horror. Humor.” so that gives you a pretty good idea about her stories. She’s a BYU grad who majored in Visual Arts, then inadvertently double-minored in German and English. You can find Danielle online at her website, PixelvaniaPublishing.com, as well as over at Goodreads. Instead of tweeting on Twitter, she toots at Mastodon, and her official Amazon author page is right here.

But don’t get so distracted by following her around online that you forget to check out Cat Tales #2 while you can! :) I’ll be back with more interviews soon!

Author Interview – Donald J. Bingle (Eclectica Bundle)

Sherry: For today’s interview, we’re back to the Eclectica Bundle from BundleRabbit. Joining us this time is Donald J. Bingle, whose collection of four steampunk stories appears in the bundle. Welcome Don! Tell us a little about your contribution to this bundle.

Donald: I’ve written more than fifty published stories over the years, many of them for themed anthologies by DAW or other companies. Since I write in multiple genres, once rights revert I publish the stories in small groups by genre or setting. These are all steampunk or historical fiction pieces.

Sherry: I see one of them appeared in Mike Stackpole’s Chain Story project; I was part of that fun project, too! You’re very prolific, so you should have lots to choose from for my next question: imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

Donald: Dick Thornby, the main character in my spy novels series. Dick is a practical, no-nonsense guy, who does whatever needs to be done to accomplish the task.

Sherry: Do you remember what sparked the idea for any of your stories in this bundle? What was it?

Donald: My collection has four stories, so I’ll just talk about the first one, “Dashed Hopes.” When I was asked to contribute to a steampunk romance, I remembered a conversation I had with a client in the mining business. They have a gold mine on Admiralty Island in Alaska, which they said I could visit. Since I have phobias about both suffocation and freezing, I asked how much above sea level the mine workings were. They gave me an odd look and said the mines were well below sea level and that the English had been mining coal under the North Sea for well over a hundred years. That gave me a setting for my romantic adventure and an idea for a steampunk invention.

Sherry: Do you remember the first story you wrote? Tell us about it.

Donald: Not sure it was my first, but I still have an old story about sunflowers worshipping their god by turning their heads to follow his arc across the sky each day. The potential sentience of plants comes up from time to time in stuff I writer—mostly as a joke, but you can never tell.

Sherry: As someone with a long publishing history, have you had to deal with bad reviews? How do you manage them?

Donald: Like many writers I am more frustrated by a lack of reviews than by what people say in their reviews. One thing that irks me is when people assume things about me, my likes or dislikes, or my politics based on a story. Even though I am a big-time gamer (board games, card games, railroad games, and role-playing games) one reviewer said one of my stories proved I hated games and gamers. Nah, that story was simply written to fit the theme of the anthology it was originally written for.

Sherry: You mentioned the idea of plant sentience earlier; are there other themes that keep coming up in your work? If so, is it intentional, or something that just happens?

Donald: Recurring themes in my work include the nature of reality, causation/unintended consequences (everything is more complicated than most people imagine), time/time travel, and dark humor. Since I control my writing and my characters (I hate it when people say their characters just do what they want to), I guess it must be intentional.

Sherry: Tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

Donald: I have two books in my spy thriller series: Net Impact and Wet Work. If sales warrant, I’ll write a third (Flash Drive). If not, I’ve got plenty of other things I can write instead, from other novels to short fiction to screenplays to ghostwriting work. A Writer on Demand (TM) adapts to what the market wants.

Sherry: Donald, thanks so much for dropping by to talk about your work! I’m looking forward to your tales in the bundle.

Donald J. Bingle is the author of five books and more than fifty shorter tales in the science fiction, fantasy, thriller, horror, mystery, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. He has written short stories about killer bunnies, civil war soldiers, detectives, Renaissance Faire orcs, giant battling robots, demons, cats, werewolves, time travelers, ghosts, time-traveling ghosts, spies, barbarians, a husband accused of murdering his wife, dogs, horses, gamers, soldiers, Neanderthals, commuters, kender, Victorian adventurers, lawyers, and serial killers (note the serial comma). Of those subjects, he has occasional contact in real life only with dogs, cats, gamers, lawyers, and commuters (unless some of those are, unknown to him, really time travelers, ghosts, demons, serial killers, spies, or murder suspects).

Find Don online at his website, www.donaldjbingle.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

And don’t forget to pick up the Eclectica Bundle for Don’s stories and more!

Author Interview – Bonnie Elizabeth (Cat Tales #2 Bundle)

Sherry: We’re back today with another interview! This time I’m chatting with Bonnie Elizabeth, another author in the Cat Tales #2 Bundle from BundleRabbit. Welcome, Bonnie! To begin, please tell us a little about the story/book you have in this bundle.

Bonnie: “Familiar Trouble” was a short I wrote for a Halloween themed call. I have cats and blogged as my cat for years so I have a fan base that are all about cats, so I wanted something that featured a feline. This was from the cat’s point of view and has become one of my most popular stories. It’s got it all—a feline familiar who is the hero of a Halloween tale that could end in disaster.

Sherry: I’m getting the feeling that the Cat Tales bundle is a perfect fit for you! :) Now, imagine you’ve been kidnapped or trapped by a natural disaster. Which of your own characters (from any work) would you want to rescue you? Why?

Bonnie: My main series is the Whisper series, a contemporary fantasy series set in King County Washington. If there was a natural disaster, I’d love to have Peter rescue me. Beyond the fact that he’s very sexy, he’s also an earth spirit, so that gives him an edge on any type of natural disaster. I expect I’d be in good hands.

Sherry: It sounds that way! Why do you write short fiction? Love, necessity, marketability, or something else?

Bonnie: Short fiction is a way for me to practice something new, think about new characters. Many of my shorts end up not being shorts but they are sort of envisioned as shorts in the beginning! I like short fiction, but my mind tends to run to novels, always over-complicating the plot of my would-be shorts. I think they are great marketing tools, learning tools, and also help my subconscious figure out world building details for longer fiction.

Sherry: Speaking of world-building, do you think the place where you live (or somewhere you have lived) influences what you write? In what way?

Bonnie: I lived in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years. Whisper is set there. I love the landscape, the mountains and trees and that influences a lot of what I write. When I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, my next door neighbor was from a small town near Hickory, North Carolina. She loves my writing and as we talked, another contemporary fantasy was born set in that part of Appalachia. I like setting things in the Appalachians because I tend to write contemporary fantasy and there is something about those old mountains that lends itself both to that and to a kind of Gothic suspense that I also enjoy writing.

Sherry: What’s the most challenging thing about being a writer in 2019? What’s the best thing?

Bonnie: I think the most challenging thing for me about being a writer is getting noticed. I’m not much of a marketer and putting myself out there is tough but I’m learning things, though I feel like my learning curve is slower than most. But I keep working it. I love that I can write what I want and get it out there with eyes on it quickly, though.

Sherry: To finish up, please tell us about your other works, projects, publications, and what’s on the horizon next. This is the shameless self-promotion portion of the interview. :)

Bonnie: I write mostly contemporary fantasy. The Whisper series is currently at nine volumes, and yes, there’s a cat in it—well, sort of. Zari A looks like a cat and mostly acts like one, but she’s actually an alien who was studying our world. Her mistake was that she thought cats were the apex species. Oops. At any rate, she’s telepathic and helps out with all sorts of odd mysteries because nothing is quite what it seems in Whisper. I’m currently working on book ten and hopefully by June I’ll have it to the editor. It’s slow going as I’m also in the process of moving yet again (hopefully for the last time for a good many years!). I also have The Appalachian Souls Duology and two standalone contemporary Gothic novels.

Sherry: Bonnie, thanks so much for chatting with me today! I look forward to reading your story in the bundle!

Bonnie Elizabeth could never decide what to do, so she wrote stories about amazing things and sometimes she even finished them. Floating through a variety of jobs, including veterinary receptionist, cemetery administrator, and finally acupuncturist, she continued to write stories. When the internet came along (yes, she’s old), she started blogging as her cat, because we all know cats don’t notice rejection. Then she started publishing.

Bonnie writes in a variety of genres. Her popular Whisper series is contemporary fantasy and her Teenage Fairy Godmother series is written for teens. She has published in a number of anthologies and is working on expanding her writing repertoire.

She lives with her husband (who talks less than she does) and her three cats, who always talk back. Bonnie keeps a website at www.bonnieelizabeth.com, and you can also find her author page on Facebook to keep up with the latest news and releases!

Readers, I’ll be back with more interviews soon, but in the meantime, don’t forget to check out Cat Tales #2 while you can!