Category Archives: Storyteller Showcase

Jade Cinders—Author, Poet, Founder of Facebook’s Writing Bad

Tell me about your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations material and abstract.

Now that I’m a student, I write mostly during spring and summer breaks. I call these my “on” periods. During my “on” periods, I have a rigid schedule: work, gym, dinner, 1 hour writing, and then 1 hour reading (though, I often read for longer). During my “off” periods, I’ve been trying to introduce a simple 500 words a day to maintain momentum without interfering with my school work.

As for environment, I write in my bedroom on my laptop while sitting on my bed. I know, super classy. I live in a small apartment, so there’s not a lot of options, and this is the most comfortable spot to me.

I find my inspiration from everywhere, but my favorite source of inspiration is real life. I read a lot of news, history, mythology, and true life stories—and when I read these I get ideas for stories. It might just be from a person’s or town’s name, or maybe the local lore of a lake. I find that stuff to be a goldmine of inspiration. For example, I read about an ancient underground city that went seven floors deep that was discovered in the middle east. From that I built a fantasy story of a hidden magical city under San Diego.

Walk me through creating and maintaining Writing Bad.

When I first created Writing Bad, I did so because I was tired of the pretentious belittling I’d see in other writing groups. I would see more developed writers just tearing the newbies apart limb to limb, destroying their self-esteem, and it pissed me off. I wanted to create a group where everybody felt welcome to share their writing, regardless of their skill level. I wanted to ensure we branded the group properly. The colors were black and white, the atmosphere friendly, chill, laid back, edgy cool, with a bite. We weren’t afraid of profanity, and we didn’t censor. We allowed freedom of expression. That was what separated us, and what separates us. The first year I spent every hour checking in on the group. I have had to shift through some admins, though my lead admin Samantha has remained loyal and reliable (couldn’t have done it without her), until we finally reached today’s team. I’m not as involved today as I used to be, or as I’d like to be, but the group has continued to flourish and grow. It’s beautiful to see what it’s become.

Talk about your support system IRL and online—who are your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest support system would be my boyfriend and my lead admin & friend Samantha.

How have life experiences prepared you for writing and how does your art influence your life?

Hmm…I’m just going to say it’s been a journey. A long, crazy journey.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that my creativity allows me to see outside the box. I love to read, and I read so many different things. I’m not the type that only reads something that is in line with their beliefs—rather, I enjoy challenging my beliefs. I enjoy challenging the limits. I love reading fiction, nonfiction, politics, science, history, and more. I honestly just love to learn, and the more I learn, the more I love to share what I learn.

Connect with Jade:

Jade Cinders

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So Easy

Ann Garvin—Author, Professor of Health, Mentor

I met Tall Poppy founder Ann Garvin in Bloom. She is approachable, super supportive of other writers, and apparently has amazing stamina. She’s astonishingly friendly and unsurprisingly witty. She’s a Renaissance woman of our times. We’re lucky to have her, really.

Describe your writing process—schedule, environment, techniques / strategies / magic spells, and inspirations material and abstract (what’s in your office? who’s in your head?).

When I’m deep into a book, it’s all I can think about. I get behind on everything. I love to write early in the AM. I get up, get coffee and start to write, and I’m astonished to see how much time passes so quickly. I like quiet, sunshine and my dog at my side. Otherwise I just need a computer and an idea.

Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product: who does what when and what marketing you do as the author.

Oh Lord, it seems like the longest road. And sometimes I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. Eventually I get the cover idea, which seems like the most fun of the process, as long as I like the art work. Usually I love it. I’ve been lucky. Then it’s a lot of fact checking and proofing and waiting. I spend a fair amount of time figuring out what I’ll do for speaking, promoting, travelling and marketing. I line up readers for early reviews and call bookstores. I dream about what dress I’ll wear to the Oscars after the movie based on my book gets nominated. I write another book. I spend a lot of time hoping and praying.

Tell me about your support system online and IRL, including the steps in founding Tall Poppies and Bloom.

The Tall Poppies are a life saver. They are my tribe, my information base, my support system and my reality check. They really are my number one support system. I have a lot of wonderful non-writer friends, and while they cheer me on, they aren’t part of the publishing world, so don’t know how to help in that regard. I like keeping them a little separate, so that I am reminded that writing isn’t the only thing in my life.

It’s been six years since I started the Tall Poppy Writers and it’s been quite the learning experience. We went from a few writers helping each other to a much more organized system of support across the board. We started with a website, a few authors and a lot of energy, and we are still here today working to lift up women writers wherever we can.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa?

When my parents died last year I couldn’t do much of anything. My life has been so busy lately and it has slowed my writing down. This year I worked really hard to cut things out and make more room for writing. I’m hoping it worked and I’ll have more books soon.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that my impulse is to go kind of zany, but my style is a little more down to earth. I think that is a good place to be. Aim high, but hit a little less out of the park; it lends itself to a more balanced life and story.

Author Extras:

“Listen to Your Mother”

“The Fifth Semester”

Connect with Ann:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

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The Fifth Semester

Unreasonable

Jessica Strawser—Writer, Editor, and Speaker

Photo by Corrie Shaffeld

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations material and abstract.

I’m an organic writer—I think a lot ahead of time about the characters and what my story’s central questions will be, but don’t outline in detail or swear by any particular tools or strategies, beyond reading voraciously, as much as I’m able. I’m very disciplined, with daily and weekly goals, and believe firmly in the power of forward momentum once I get going on a manuscript.

I wrote my first two novels by night, as my babies/toddlers slept, while working a demanding day job as editorial director for Writer’s Digest magazine. Not long after signing the contract for Forget You Know Me, I scaled back my role at the magazine and shifted to writing by day as my primary focus. A writing career involves a fair amount of evenings and weekends for things like book clubs, conferences and festivals, so this is a much more workable focus for my family, which always comes first.

Describe your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including publishing team and timeline. How did your work in the industry prepare you for the writing world as an author?

It’s been a little different for every book, particularly as staffing changes at my publisher have led to a few editorial team transitions, but I’m working at the pace of about a book a year. I refine a draft until I think (hope) it’s close to working as what I envisioned for the story, then get feedback from a few trusted readers and revise yet again before turning it over to my editor. Then comes another round to incorporate the excellent suggestions from her professional eye.

My work in the industry taught me what a team effort publishing is; I have enormous respect for my editors, having been one, and deep gratitude for the efforts of the hardworking support teams—marketing, publicity, design and beyond.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders online and IRL, and how did you get into the Tall Poppies (beyond being an excellent storyteller)?

My family and friends—who’ve seen firsthand my dedication to this craft since long before I ever got published—are my biggest cheerleaders, and their warm support means the world to me.

Also, at the start, were my colleagues at Writer’s Digest—we were all writers with a genuine love for the work we were doing there, and it was humbling to have them so enthusiastically in my corner—as well as a debut author group called 17 Scribes—it was invaluable to be tapped into a network of other authors publishing their first novels in 2017, and many of us remain connected today.

I’d met some of the Tall Poppy Writers through conferences, WD, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and online, and had admired their collaborative spirit and talented body of work for years; I was elated when they invited me to join.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa? Please share fun details about being the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

While I don’t write directly from life experiences, of course we all are heavily influenced by the phases of life in which we find ourselves and the beautiful (and not so beautiful) aspects of human nature that turn our heads. I’d find it impossible to separate the two!

It’s a wonderful honor to be serving as the newly minted Writer-in-Residence for the Cincinnati library system this year; it encompasses more than 40 branches, and I’ll doing community engagement with local readers (visiting library branch book clubs and hosting a podcast) as well as aspiring writers (teaching free workshops and holding office hours, for instance).

What do you love most about your creativity?

Through dreaming up a story from pure imagination, somehow, I end up feeling more like me.

Connect with Jessica:

Jessica Strawser

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

Storyteller Showcase: Brian Barr…author extra!

I’ve been working on a fantasy collaboration with my friend, Shawn Michael Vogt, and I would love to share the introduction with you. It’s set in a fantasy world I created called Akasha, and it features Shawn’s character Kitsune no Akuma, a swordsman who dons a living fox mask, and a bounty hunter character I created who is named Jacquin. The story is called Overkill in the Chaos Cathedral.

Excerpt:

Jacquin the Jackal cut through the final bandit’s throat at the bottom of the steps, then ascended towards the Chaos Cathedral.

Overhead, blood rain fell in scarlet summer tears, thunder cracked, and lightning crashed from the fuschia skies as the ancient constellations sparkled in their fabric. The storm added to the Chaos Cathedral’s already intimidating structure, strange and mystifying in sight with its ancient vermilion stone composition and obsidian spires. The Cathedral’s bell tower sung, as if announcing the bounty hunter’s arrival. Those stairs leading towards the Chaos Cathedral were archaic, decked with cracks and broken ends, shaky under Jacquin’s boots of gold.

As Jacquin placed his sword into its golden sheath, his brown eyes gazed from the gaping holes of his gold-plated half-skull mask, the cathedral proud on that hill. Jacquin the Jackal knew the chaote warlock, Lucius of Kane, was waiting for him there.

Lucius would know Jacquin as soon as the men met, Jacquin was sure, for the bounty hunter’s reputation preceded him just as much as the dark warlock he’d been hired to hunt. The Jackal was recognizable with that well-known skull mask that covered his shaved scalp, forehead, cheeks, and nose, with golden fangs hanging over his upper lip. He was also known from that blood-red cape that flowed behind his 6’1” frame, decked in golden armor, and the sharp spikes that lined his golden gauntlets and boots.

Jacquan the Jackal was known, and feared, as the greatest bounty hunter on the entire globe of Akasha. He liked to think that in Heaven and Hell he would be a frightening force as well.

Behind Jacquin were the corpses of the bandits he slain, littering the cathedral’s courtyard of sand and stone. They were great fighters, but not worthy, well-trained for robbery but lacking in strategic swordplay. Lucius of Kane, the necromantic mage, was an idiot for hiring them as sentinels to serve vigil at the cathedral’s gates. He should have stuck with more undead swordsmen like the skeletal bastards he sicced on Jacquin ten miles down the road, or the vicious hellhounds and violent winds he summoned to slow down the bounty hunter in his trek five nights before.

No worries. Jacquin didn’t need to think about those failed opponents now, not anymore. He was done with them. Lucius was all that was left. If the chaote was smart, he conserved enough of his magic power for Jacquin’s arrival.

Now that mighty cathedral waited, with its iron gates open, calling to Jacquin, the ringing bell in its highest tower mocking him. The skulls resting atop spikes were the only sentinels to serve vigil now, with the remainder of rotting meat cursing the air with a putrid stench. They grinned as skies of violet stretched overhead, clouds spinning in circular rings above the unholy place.

Jacquin stepped past the threshold of the ebony, scale-patterned double doors, which were already open for him.

In the darkness of that evil place, with its stained windows and empty hues, Jacquin could make the outline of Lucius at the alter. There was his man, his target, his coin, the warlock who committed the sin of dream murder. Lucius of Kane had entered Coral Deinera’s dream with the aid of his puissant chaos magic, depleting her essence to oblivion while she slept—Coral Deinera, the princess of Thorinia.

A death mage hiding under the protection of roughians, Lucius needed to die.

Jacquin was from the Micante islands, black as obsidian, wild as fire within his very being. He’d been raised in the ways of slaying sinners, those who felt above the law of the Joint Kingdoms. He answered to both the Kings of Thorinia and Drakia, on call whenever they needed a scoundrel to be punished, even to the point of disposal. Jacquin had no problem with getting his golden gloves bloody.

*

The man in the fox mask cocked his head, listening to the sounds of battle echoing up the stairwell. He looked down at the lifeless body laying at his feet, stabbed hundreds of times. There was no blood, but then, there never was.

His friends were always hungry, and he liked to keep them happy.

He reached down, pulling the last of his soul-daggers from the body, tapping it absently against the fox mask that covered his face. “Well, this is rather awkward,” the man in the fox mask said, seemingly to no one. And yet… “The bounty hunter made better time than I had expected. What to do, what to do?” He paced back and forth, only stopping to kick the body of the death mage.

“I have no wish to kill the fool,” the man in the fox mask continued. “He’s only doing his job. But I’ve slaughtered his target, and he won’t be at all happy about that, nor about the bounty that I’ve robbed him of. Perhaps, it’s best to just leave and let him sort things out.” His mind made up, he turned to leave, pressing the soul-dagger against his chest, the flesh yielding as the blade slid through, disappearing back into his body.

As his fingers began to trace through the air, carving a door out of the aether, his mask writhed into life, baring its teeth. Whispers filled his head, and he slowly dropped his hands, listening intently.  

He chuckled, shaking his head in amusement. “I like it, my love. But will it work?” The mask, his audience, mewled and the man nodded. “Fine, we’ll try it. I can always kill him if things don’t work out, I suppose…”

A growl from the fox mask was the only response its wearer received. The man stroked his fingers along the mask, and stepped back into the shadows, patiently waiting for Jacquin’s arrival.

Be on the lookout for the second book of my Carolina Daemonic series, Rebel Hell. It should be out this year.

Brian Barr Storyteller Showcase: professional story

I’ve always loved telling stories and writing since I was a kid. I would share ghost stories with my cousins and friends, write comics on lined paper, jot short stories, etc. I had a love for reading and fiction for as long as I can remember.

The first time I got interested in publishing or releasing my own work was when I saw my friend Matt Rowe releasing his own Xeroxed zines in a DIY punk fashion. I was impressed by Matt’s creativity in writing articles and poetry, and doing art; it awakened a need in me to create and put out my own work. At the time, I learned about different avenues, but it would be a while before I actually pursued serious publishing.

My books started to get published around 2014/2015. Carolina Daemonic was my first novel, released by J. Ellington Ashton Press, and I published Empress with Chuck Amadori through Comixology first. I published short stories, mostly horror, through a few small presses before my friend Jeff O’Brien got me into publishing stories on my own. I still publish with small presses and publishers, but I also like to release my own work. I mostly marketed on Facebook, where I was shocked to see so many writers, artists, and comic creators, and fans of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. I also did a little local promotion, and El Burrito, my favorite restaurant which is no longer in business, sported posters of my work and helped sell my book. I did a local showcase at Richland Library, and also collaborated with a bunch of local authors for a Make Your Own Adventure book the library hosted.

Doing Empress with Chuck Amadori has been a great learning experience for me. Chuck taught me how to write comics to the point, and how to best outline my scripts without clutter. We worked with the artist Marcelo Salaza and the colorist Matheus Bronca, who are amazing, and currently we work with artists Sullivan Suad, Zilson Costa, and Geraldo Filho. Matheus still colors a number of our covers and helps with flats, I believe. Without them, our comic would not exist.

I’ve learned that in order to be more successful, specifically in the areas you care about, you have to be true to yourself and connect to the right people. Not all audiences will appreciate your work, so you have to find the right audiences for what you like to do. You also have to engage with them, and be a fan yourself, loving, sharing, and appreciating their work genuinely. You can do this if you really care about what you do and the people you network with, and it comes to a great advantage without effort. I’ve also learned to know when an audience or direction doesn’t work and to keep moving.

My brain-saving technique is to listen to my brain when I’m writing. Basically, if I feel drained and uninspired, it’s time to rest. When I’m in the flow, it’s time to write down every idea that comes to me, to store it, and to get in the zone as I write. Just let it all come out, then revise and revise until I’m ready to send it to an editor and release a story as a finished project. But there are times when I need to recharge and it doesn’t help to push at that point. Sleep gives me the recharge I need.

Brian Barr Storyteller Showcase: teasers

The 3 H’s Trilogy: A mix of comedic bizzaro romance horror, cosmic horror, and occult dark fantasy, The 3 H’s Trilogy begins when a gardener discovers a disembodied head in her mother’s garden. What starts as an absurd love story turns into a gruesome inter-dimensional nightmare. Consists of The Head, The House, and The Hell.

The Head

The Head Excerpt

Elizabeth looked back at the house, the phone firmly in her mind. She needed to call 911. This was the authorities’ problem. Whoever placed this head there, whatever force possessed it with the power to speak, after death…

Elizabeth looked back at the house, the phone firmly in her mind. She needed to call 911. This was the authorities’ problem. Whoever placed this head there, whatever force possessed it with the power to speak, after death…

Elizabeth walked up to the head and picked it up in her pink gloves. She stared at it for a moment, before taking it into the house with her.

Carolina Daemonic: Confederate Shadows: The first novel of Brian Barr’s Carolina Daemonic series released in 2015, Confederate Shadows is an occult urban horror fantasy with steampunk elements set in an alternative dystopian world where the Confederacy rules America. Uncompromising and raw, Confederate Shadows takes us into a world of grotesque monsters, dark magic, and chaos.

Carolina Daemonic: Confederate Shadows

Carolina Daemonic: Confederate Shadows Excerpt

The redhead looked up at the skies, coaxing Wei to look upwards as well. Far off dark bodies could be seen, flapping and soaring like wild birds, closer and closer. Behind them, far off into the distance, Wei could see what looked like a weird blue portal, opened with lightning bolts dancing within its womb.

“My sisters come,” the beautiful porcelain skinned woman continued. “Migrating Madonnas. You awoke us.”

Wei slowly stood up, shaking uncontrollably. She didn’t know what to say.

The woman gazed back and stared with a smile. “You will join us in our realm. This place reeks of mundane and disgusting men. It is no place for those like us.

“Wh…who are you then?” Wei asked, truly curious, but afraid to really know the answer.

“I am Celeste, one of the Lilin.”

Carolina Daemonic: Confederate Shadows Excerpt

Descending from the heavens in the black pool of night, something came. Something more foreign, more of an “other,” an outsider, than any societal scapegoat could have dreamed of being in the eyes of a fearful oppressor. Something further removed from the normality of society, from the expected nature of life and existence in general. The creature was humanoid in shape, recognizable mostly in the fact that it bore a head and neck with extended fins, torso and limbs. The composition of this thing seemed flesh-like, if flesh were turned inside out, pinkish and vein-ridden, muscle spasming and pus fizzling with what looked like the result of viral diseases. Its eyes were round and popping out, the pupils dilated. Bizarre and uncanny, it seemed to glide with ease from the heights of the sky. It fell onto the back of the unsuspecting sailor, wrapping its legs around the gasping man’s torso. A strange black collar flashed with rainbow lights around the demonic thing’s neck. Its hands were outstretched with sharp, shiny nails, its jaws open as a long tongue licked the air with insatiable delight.

The woman watched the thing fall for probably three seconds, astonished by the sight, left thoughtless. Had the thing taken an extra second to descend, or even an extra millisecond, the strange drunk’s foot would have found its way to her gut. That cruel show would’ve kicked her pregnant stomach, risked the life or welfare of the living organism, or organisms, incubating inside her. For its timing, the unintelligible thing was a savior in some way, a knight in flesh tissue and demonic extensions of tongue and nail. A holy savage fiend, a living oxymoron of the highest degree. She couldn’t pinpoint what to call this angelic demon, feeling both awe and dread in one shattering moment.

She still screamed. Still screamed as the ravaging thing grabbed her assailant.

Empress: Co-created and co-written by Chuck Amadori and Brian Barr, Empress is a comic book series that centers around Zia, a famous Hollywood actress who goes missing in the early 20th century. She  returns to America as the embodiment of the chthonic goddess Hekate and ushers in a new age for the same world that oppressed her spirit and legacy.

Empress volume 2

Brian Barr Storyteller Showcase: bio and works

Born and raised in Hawaii, Arizona, and Maryland, Brian Barr resides in South Carolina and is the author of the Carolina Daemonic series, the 3 H’s Trilogy, the Nihon Cyberpunk collection (read my reviews of #2, #3, and #4), and the Brutal Bazaar collection. His stories meld fantasy, horror, and science fiction, with themes that range from the occult to the exploration of the human condition, art, music, societal issues and political concerns. As a small press and independent author, he is heavily influenced by DIY and punk culture when it comes to formatting and releasing his work. Brian has written novels, short stories, and comics. He co-created and co-writes the comic book Empress with Chuck Amadori, which features art by Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa, colored by Geraldo Filho. Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa have also collaborated with Brian to provide many of the art for his covers.

Follow Brian on his Amazon Author Page and purchase his works…

Carolina DaemonicNovel One (Second Novel Rebel Hell Coming in 2019) and Short Story Collection

Carolina Daemonic: Confederate Shadows: The first novel of Brian Barr’s Carolina Daemonic series released in 2015, Confederate Shadows is an occult urban horror fantasy with steampunk elements set in an alternative dystopian world where the Confederacy rules America. Uncompromising and raw, Confederate Shadows takes us into a world of grotesque monsters, dark magic, and chaos.

Carolina Daemonomaniac I: The First Carolina Daemonic Short Stories Collection: This is the first collection of Carolina Daemonic short stories. Along with the steampunk war comic The Tamed Tiger, Carolina Daemonomaniac includes various tales of Voodoo/Vudon spirituality, necromancy, weird science and the undead.

The 3 H’s Trilogy: A mix of comedic bizzaro romance horror, cosmic horror, and occult dark fantasy, The 3 H’s Trilogy begins when a gardener discovers a disembodied head in her mother’s garden. What starts as an absurd love story turns into a gruesome inter-dimensional nightmare. Consists of The Head, The House, and The Hell.

Brutal Bazaar: A horror collection of short stories, Brutal Bazaar includes The 3 H’s Trilogy, The Bloody Writer’s Trilogy, Badlam Betty, and various other bloodcurdling tales penned by Brian Barr. From slashers to occult horror, these tales include gruesome scenes mixed with dark humor and existential dread.

Nihon Cyberpunk: Nihon Cyberpunk is a collection of science fiction stories set in Japan. Inspired by Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone,Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and various other sources, Nihon Cyberpunk explores the human condition and probes philosophical questions in a dark and dystopian Japan ruled by technology. Includes The Kage Majitsu Trilogy and An American Otaku in Neo-Nihon’s Underbelly as bonus stories.

Empress: Co-created and co-written by Chuck Amadori and Brian Barr, Empress is a comic book series that centers around Zia, a famous Hollywood actress who goes missing in the early 20th century. She  returns to America as the embodiment of the chthonic goddess Hekate and ushers in a new age for the same world that oppressed her spirit and legacy.