Monthly Archives: March 2012

Author Spotlight: Vanna Smythe

Ever since the eBook revolution started, reviewers complained about the lack of quality of self-published stories. They claim that too many of the available eBooks are badly edited, have confusing stories, or are plain boring. They are partly correct, but there are also wonderful new authors that deserve to be noticed (like my colleagues here on the Independent Bookworm). Therefore, I will present a new Indie author once a month; one that is worth being read.

Through the Magic Appreciation Tour, I got to know author Vanna Smythe. She has been writing creatively since her early teens, though one could say her creative writing efforts started long before that. While still in kindergarten, she once tore up a library book to make alphabet soup, and has been fascinated with what words can do, the pictures and worlds they can create, ever since. She is the author of “Protector”, the first book in the “Anniversary of the Veil” fantasy series. Book two, “Decision Maker”, is due out this autumn.

Protector by Vanna Smythe Kiyarran always wanted to be a Protector of the Realm. Untold magic and forbidden love for Princess Issiyanna awaken inside him once his wish comes true. Now the Priesthood that rules the realm from the shadows see Kiyarran’s extraordinary skill as a threat. Issiyanna is needed for a reaction on the other side of the Veil—a man-forged barrier separating the world in half. A Beacon and Answer gave up their lives to Don the Veil 1,000 years ago. Issiyanna is a Beacon needed to renew the Veil. When Issiyanna is abducted by a group of Keepers from across the Veil Kiyarran follows to save her. Will he choose to bring her back, or run from all he knows to follow her across the Veil? Will Kiyarran fulfill his duty as a Protector, or allow his love for Issiyanna to guide his future path? Magic, loyalty, childhood friendship, greed, and love all clash as Kiyarran is forced to make his decision.

I love Vanna’s cover. It’s so clear and uncluttered (although the delicate white swirls get lost in the thumbnail a bit). I’m looking forward to read more of her work. Now, enjoy her answers to my questions.

How did you get started? Was it a childhood dream?
I always liked to write, though I only started to get more serious about it in High School. But, yes, publishing a book is a childhood dream come true for me.

Why are you focusing on fantasy fiction?
As a reader, fantasy is probably my favorite genre. What attracts me to it is learning about whole new worlds, cultures, places, and people. The story I started with Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1) can only be told as a fantasy novel.
I am also ecstatic to be making my own contribution to this great and entertaining genre. Reading fantasy is a little bit like being a kid again, immersing yourself in a fairytale. I hope I’ve made a worthwhile contribution to the world of fantasy fiction with my novel, Protector.

Are you comfortable being categorized as a fantasy author?Vanna Smythe
Yes, yes I am.

Is there a kind of character, or an activity-like description, or dialog, which always seems alien to you?
Can’t think of anything off hand. Though I am not a very descriptive writer. I prefer to simply give only enough details to set the scene, and not go over the top with descriptions of settings, dresses, rooms, and so on.

What formats do you offer your readers?
Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1) is currently available as an Amazon Kindle eBook. I plan to release a print version next month. Other eBook formats will be available this summer.

What experiences have you had promoting your work. How about a highlight, an uplifting moment?
I have been promoting mainly through social media (Twitter, Facebook). One of the greatest things about it is people personally telling me that they liked the description and sample of my book, and are buying and reading it. That’s the true power of social media, it allows you to connect with your readers on a very personal level.

What’s your greatest obstacle in writing?
That would have to be sitting down and writing on a daily basis. But I have gotten a lot better at this since I started writing Protector.

Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite fantasy and sci/fi authors are Tolkien, of course, and George RR Martin, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and Patrick Rothfuss. But that list is growing everyday.

Tips for other Indies?
There has never been a better time to go Indie, so don’t worry too much about the stigma of self-published vs. traditionally published authors. All that is going away, and if you focus your efforts into producing a professional final version of your manuscript you can find success.

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Author Spotlight: Roger Eschbacher

Ever since the eBook revolution started, reviewers complained about the lack of quality of self-published stories. They claim that too many of the available eBooks are badly edited, have confusing stories, or are plain boring. They are partly correct, but there are also wonderful new authors that deserve to be noticed (like my colleagues here on the Independent Bookworm). Therefore, I will present a new Indie author once a month; one that is worth being read.

I’ve had the pleasure to get to know Indie author Roger Eschbacher. Currently, he is a professional television animation writer who’s worked for Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. He’s been traditionally published (with the picture books “Road Trip”, and “Nonsense! He Yelled” both for Dial Books) but decided to go Indie with his MG novel DRAGONFRIEND

If you think it was all good deeds and fancy ideals back in the days of Camelot, think again. Most people don’t know this, but for a time things went seriously bad; Arthur was imprisoned, Merlin had vanished, and a vile demon had taken over the throne. Young Leonard, page to a poor but kind knight, finds himself in the middle of this mess and now must do whatever it takes to set things right – even if that means doing battle with dangerous monsters, trying to outwit Camelot’s dark overlord, or taking a bath!

I found Roger to be a fascinating person, so I had him answer a couple of questions for you. I hope you find his answers just as interesting as I did.

How did you get started? Was it a childhood dream?
I think I always knew, at least on a subconscious level, that I would write books someday. I’ve been an avid reader all of my life and absolutely love books. After college, I moved out to Hollywood and eventually worked my way into writing jobs for television, mostly animation. I was working on a cartoon where a number of the artists were aspiring children’s book illustrators. This inspired me to try my hand at writing a picture book. I sent my first manuscript out to a bunch of publishers and, to my delight, an editor at Penguin bought it. I did another picture book after that. I’m very proud of the books, but let’s just say the sales on both were modest, so publishing and I parted ways for a while. Then in 2007, I ran across NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a wonderful event where you’re challenged to write fifty thousand words in the month of November. I signed up and a month later had the nearly completed first draft of DRAGONFRIEND, my middle-grade fantasy adventure novel.

Why are you focusing on speculative fiction?
To be honest, I only read fantasy and science fiction. They’ve been my go-to genres for pleasure reading from the very start and I have a depth of knowledge of each category from reading so many books over the years. Naturally, my first novel had to be spec fic.

Are you comfortable being categorized as a fantasy author?
Yes, I’m quite proud of the label, as a matter of fact.

Is there a kind of character, or an activity-like description, or dialog, which always seems alien to you?
Adverbs seem alien to me. I avoid them unless absolutely necessary as, to my eye, they’re a writing crutch. I’m also not a big fan of over description when it comes to character and location. I tend to write lean and think my best writing is when I can fully describe someone or something using as few words as possible. Not big on the flowery stuff.

What formats do you offer your readers?
DRAGONFRIEND is available in paperback and as an eBook (Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords).

What experiences have you had promoting your work. How about a highlight, an uplifting moment?
When my first picture book came out, I learned quickly that, aside from sending out review copies, publishers don’t really do a lot of promotion for unproven children’s authors. This was the case on my second book, too (although they did spring for some nice promotional postcards). What that meant was that I had to scramble to get any kind of attention for the books at all. I learned how to write a press release, how to set up an author website, who to talk to at bookstores to set up a signing, and which of the local newspapers were willing to do a story on me and my book. I’m a somewhat reserved individual so much of this took me out of my comfort zone. The uplifting part about all of that is that I found I really liked doing it! It was actually fun getting out the word about my books and easier than I thought because I was “selling” something I was very proud of. As you can imagine, those early experiences with promotions and marketing are really paying off as I move into self-publishing (and as publisher, I made the executive decision to print postcards and bookmarks).

What’s your greatest obstacle in writing?
Getting started. Once I type that first word, I’m golden. But there always seems to be something that needs to be done beforehand, doesn’t there?

Who is your favorite Indie author?
There are so many talented Indie authors out there these days. It’s truly an embarrassment of riches. One of my favorites is an author named Keith Robinson. He has an excellent YA fantasy series called Island of Fog about a group of “modern” shape shifter kids who travel into a dangerous world of magic and mythological creatures. A great read.

Who is your favorite traditionally published author?
Living: J.K. Rowling. Dead: J.R.R. Tolkien. Apparently, I’m fond of initialed authors as I’m also a big fan of C.S. Lewis and P.D. Eastman.

Tips for other Indies?
Make yourself and your book available for potential readers. I’m always surprised at the number of Indie authors I run across who don’t make the effort (whether through shyness, laziness, or lack of knowledge) to connect. Don’t be afraid to market your book. It’s all about getting your story, the story you worked so hard on, into the hands of a reader, right? That won’t happen unless you, the Indie author, make it happen.

Author Spotlight: Mysti Parker

As part of this month’s Magic Appreciation Tour, I’ve had the pleasure of an introduction to Mysti Parker, author of fantasy and romance who has the admirable honesty to title her blog “Unwritten” (an accurate description for most of my stuff). Mysti has graciously agreed to be interrogated about her latest work and the craft in general. Picture the scene with a single bare bulb swaying in a dungeon draft, the lone chair, the strappado on a table to one side… enter the Inquisitor.

Q: OK, straight to business. Confess- your mom and dad didn’t really spell your name “Mysti” did they?

MP: No, sadly. I was actually named Misty after the Ray Stevens song, “I Get Misty Over You”. I chose Mysti to match the fantasy romance genre I enjoy writing. ‘Misty’ sounds more like a weather condition.

Q: I’m a firm believer in choice during interviews. Choice One- should the picture next to this article show you, an avatar of you, or the cover of your book? Once you reach world-fame level, who will play you in the biopic, and will it be for what’s skin-deep or another reason?

MP: I love the profile pic my husband took of me. He won 2nd place with that photo. It’s much more mysterious and sexy than I really am. So, I’d have to go with that one. As for the biopic, I’ve been told I resemble Nicole Kidman (I think that person had severe near-sightedness), so we’ll have to go with her. She’d have to either slouch or have very tall costars though, since she’s nearly a full foot taller than I am!

(Aye-chihuahua. That photo can’t fly on planes because there’s no smoking!)

Q: Do you clearly recall the moment you became a writer? I’d love to know whether one fateful day you squared your shoulders, took a deep breath and started, or if you sort of looked back and realized it had already begun.

MP: I think it’s really only now that I’m feeling like a full-fledged writer as opposed to a madwoman who transcribes what her characters are saying. So far this year, I’ve got a second book coming out with Melange Books, plus I’m attending two book fairs (The Southern KY Book Fest & Horse Cave BookFest 2012) and Lori Foster’s reader/author get-together in Cincinnati. I’ve also got a gig as a bi-monthly book reviewer for SQ Magazine (an online spec-fic mag) and I run a busy writing blog (Unwritten) that was voted the #3 Top Writing Blog by eCollegeFinder.com. Not to mention I do a lot of reading, writing, reviewing, and critiquing. Add all that to my full time job as a wife and mother of three young children. Phew!

Q: Choice Two- are you comfortable being categorized as an author? Do you describe yourself as a fantasy, or romance writer, or does it change with each query letter? What’s the one driving force behind most or all of what you’ve penned so far?

MP: I’m getting more comfortable with the term “author”, though I still feel very green and have a lot of growing to do. As far as genre, I see myself as a romance writer with a penchant for fantasy, but I like to write outside of the box and toss conventional romance ploys aside. I’m not sure there is ONE driving force, but if I had to choose, I’d say it’s to write in such a way that people see the story, not the author. I want them remembering those characters long after they lay the book back on the nightstand.

Q: I wonder if you have moments in writing where you get truly stuck. Is there a kind of character, or an activity like description, or dialogue, that always seems alien to you? What’s your reaction if the pace of your writing slows down and you start to feel unproductive?

MP: Oh, yes, the dreaded writer’s block. I do suffer from it from time to time. Action and combat are the worst for me. And sometimes love scenes. I have to rewrite those over and over to get them flowing right. It can be frustrating, but when it’s finally readable, that’s a very satisfying feeling. When I get stuck, it helps to walk away for a while, do something manual, read for a bit, or even write a short story or flash fiction. That’ll often resurrect the writing bug!

Q: I haven’t had the privilege of reading A Ranger’s Tale yet, but no one is better at jumping to conclusions without evidence than me, so here’s my gut reaction. It’s a pirate romance! Object all you like, but here comes Choice Three. Is it more like a) Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean, b) Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood, or c) Jim Henson’s Muppet Treasure Island? (Oh yeah, and tell us about the story.)

MP: Since I am a huge Orlando Bloom fan, I’d have to choose choice a). I can totally imagine Galadin looking like Will in Pirates. Of course, most of my inspiration came from Mr. Bloom’s portrayal of Legolas in Lord of the Rings. To be fair to the other choices, Galadin is a bit of an Errol Flynn, doing good deeds along the way. And you know, if I close my eyes, I can picture the trolls on the dock of Yggrich in Muppet form.

But, since you asked…A Ranger’s Tale is the story of a high-elf noblewoman who was expected to take her father’s place as the head of Leogard’s Mage Academy. Caliphany is a century old, she’s beautiful, rich, and one would think she has it all. Yet, she’s been kept on a short leash since her older brother died on the battlefield. She isn’t confident of her wizardry skills at all and longs to see the world.

Everything changes during a kidnapping attempt on the docks, when half-elf ranger and sea merchant, Galadin Trudeaux, intervenes and saves her life. Caliphany decides the only way she’ll ever get out of Leogard on her own is to ask Galadin to train her in the ways of a ranger. He’s reluctant at first, but a hefty sack of gold helps to seal the deal. From there, the two of them embark on the journey of a lifetime, filled with more ups and downs than they ever thought possible.

Q: Sorry, still geeking about Muppet-trolls… I would love to hear something about the experiences you’ve had promoting your work. How about a highlight, an uplifting moment? Is there an anecdote about dealing with agents and publishers, or crafting your website and blog, perhaps the feedback you get that really stands out?

MP: Anytime I get feedback from a reader, it makes my day. I’ve gotten about 45 written Goodreads reviews for A Ranger’s Tale, and I’m so thrilled that people have taken the time to read and review my work. Many readers, including men, have loved it. One of the BEST reviews ever occurred just recently. The reader included pictures of Orlando Bloom!! Can you believe it? The very guy that helped inspire this tale in the first place. I’ve shared the link since it still makes me giddy.

Q: I perused the covers of your tales and of course the artwork in romantic stories really stands out. Do you have a deal with a specific artist, or how did you seek out the ones you’ve used so far? Follow-up question: music, with Ranger’s Tale by chapter? Really? Tell us about that.

MP: I credit Mae Powers from Melange Books for her fantastic cover work. She’s great about working with me to get things just right, including making stock image ears pointy for my elves! And music—absolutely! So far I’ve got a playlist for both A Ranger’s Tale and Serenya’s Song. I’m currently collecting songs for my third book, Hearts in Exile. Music is essential for me when I’m in the early drafting stages. The lyrics really inspire the right emotional setting. For instance, in A Ranger’s Tale, the song “Over My Head” by The Fray very accurately portrays a scene when Galadin has second thoughts about leaving Caliphany alone in Faewood after she stowed away on his ship, forcing him to outrun her uncle’s (King Leopold’s) navy. His crew knows he’s gotten in “over his head” with Caliphany, but his first mate convinces him that she’s not really better off on her own, so Galadin literally jumps right in the water and…well you’ll have to read it to find out what happens next!

Q: Don’t think I won’t! Though I hate swimming… Thanks so much for giving us a peek into your craft, Mysti. Be sure to fill us in with the dope on where to find your works, and when to look out for the next piece you have on tap.

MP: Alrighty, then!

You can find A Ranger’s Tale at Melange Books, Amazon.com, Smashwords, or B&N.

Check out my Goodreads page to see the fantastic reviews!!

There’s always something going on at my blog, Unwritten. I love visitors, so skip on over to: http://mystiparker.blogspot.com/

I’ve even got a fan page over at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mysti-Parker/103786449704221

And I do the occasional Tweet: @MystiParker

Thanks so much for having me here!! ~Mysti Parker

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