Category Archives: Storyteller Showcase

David Simms—Author

David Simms lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia after surviving life in NJ and Massachusetts with his family, three furballs, and one ghost. When not writing to earn grocery money, he teaches English, Psychology, and Creative Writing. His current side gigs include working as counselor for teens, guitar teacher, ghost tour guide, book reviewer, and guitarist for a sketchy authors’ band. He sold his first story back in 2003 and has placed short stories in various anthologies, along with scribbling on walls everywhere since. Fear The Reaper and Dark Muse are his first two novels.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

My writing process is an amalgamation of chaos. I fight for the blank spots between the minutes. Waking up at dawn, you’d think I might have a few minutes, but a crazed seven-year-old senses my every move and is there to thwart my muse, often smothering her until he passes out that evening. I teach high school which means I may have a planning period or might have a minute to run to the bathroom. When my classes are testing or writing, I might sneak a few paragraphs or a page. Mostly though, I’m a night owl, no matter how hard I try to heed the advice of my heroes and be creative before the sun rises. My muse goes bonkers once the moon rises for some reason. I prefer to write on the back porch in spring and summer, while in colder weather, I hide in my man-cave/library. I also keep random notebooks everywhere. I constantly text myself with thoughts about characters or plot twists. When does the inspiration hit? When I’m on the move—whether it’s on the treadmill or driving. I don’t recommend taking notes in either situation, but something kickstarts that muse who loves to screw with me. As for spells, I do live on the top of a big hill. Plenty of room for shallow graves.

Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with Crossroad Press for two novels. David Wilson, owner and CEO of the publishing company, set me up with two kickass editors who took that “final” draft and forged something so much better out of it. They allow great flexibility for the covers, which can sometimes make or break a book and walked me through whatever I didn’t know—which is plenty.

As for marketing, that’s when it all gets ugly (for authors). Hunting down blurbs is akin to sliding down a cheese grater for anyone with a soul. It’s so tough to ask for, especially when you realize writers are so swamped. Thankfully, I’ve been so lucky to have people such as Heather Graham, Elizabeth Massie, Steve Berry, Brad Meltzer, and others say a few kind words. That alone had me walking on air. I’m not a business guy, but playing in a band where romance writers were the core audience (victims?), I learned a ton from them about how to publicize one’s work, how to utilize social media without being too annoying, and luring jaded readers to one particular book out of thousands of others. In my experience, nobody markets better than romance authors. Finding that niche is key if you want to break out of the horde.

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

A writers’ support system is more than a lifeline. It’s a therapist, best friend, tackling dummy, and mentor, all rolled up into one—sometimes into one person. Again, I’ve been blessed with having some of my favorite writers give me tips along the way, often steering me clear of potholes I never knew were there. Thank you F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, Deb Leblanc, David Morrell, and K.J. Howe—you’ve helped that last brain cell off the ledge many times over the years, along with countless others.

I’ve been part of a few writers’ groups with varying success and highly recommend it. Right now, I run a monthly workshop where I’m teaching various topics—yet learn just as much as I teach. The group has become strong allies and friends even though we’re incredibly different. My immediate family has helped, always, yet I’ve been just as bewildered by who doesn’t read my novels as who does. It’s a sobering experience to find a close friend won’t read it, yet a coworker shares it all over the state. Many times, logic does not apply to art.

Finally, my students have been amazing—they let me know their true feelings, which I love and need. If something sucks, they’ll tell me!

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

Good question! Having a couple of degrees in psychology helps as I often find myself in odd situations. I started off my career as a behaviorist in a school where kids typically were headed to residential placements, juvie, or on the way back…not all, but many. I saw some frightening and very sad things that taught me plenty about the human condition, sometimes about the horrors of the parents who watched them. I made sure to travel plenty around the country, partially to absorb the landscapes of National Parks (learning to write them in descriptions that don’t go on for chapters is a great task!) or to learn the people of each region. Expanding my repertoire of body language, dialect, and customs was invaluable.

Then there was the day I discovered I was living less than a mile from one of the darkest secrets in American history. That became Fear the Reaper. Finally, music worms its way into most of my work, either overtly in Dark Muse, or in themes or minute threads.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love everything about my creativity. It’s yanking it from my head and getting to the finished product that’s the problem. Once I can get past my own insecurities and anxiety about the novel (thinking about editing, publishing, a dream deal or agent, or if someone will actually enjoy it), it’s a fun thrill ride. There’s a song by The Foo Fighters I often think about after writing a story or song—“Something From Nothing.” It amazes me that artists of any media can see, hear, or sense something that never existed before and with some bit of magic, it becomes a reality. I explored this in Dark Muse (along with where songs come from) as I’ll never get used to that moment when a cool idea erupts, germinates into a story or character, and then when I feel I’m the most terrible writer in the world, I watch my fingers bang out something that I can’t figure where the hell it came from. Then there are those days when I can’t spell for my life or write a sentence that my kid wouldn’t spit on. It’s magic—until it’s work.

Connect with David:

https://davidsimmsmuse.com

https://www.instagram.com/dsimms_muse

https://www.facebook.com/David-Simms-387821161334451

Sara A. Mosier—Author and Poet

Sara Mosier is a Nebraska author and poet, who received her BA in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her writing focus is fiction and poetry, which she enjoys typing on an old 1950’s typewriter. She has poetry published in several issues of Laurus Magazine, Cocky-Tales anthology, and University of Nebraska Press’s 75th Anniversary edition of “Voices of Nebraska.” Her romantic short stories “Sparkling Human Conundrum” and “Summer Dilemma” can be found in the anthologies Love Dust and Salty Tales on Amazon. She was also recently published for her short drabbles in Oceans by Black Hare Press

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

My schedule for writing varies; it all depends on when my muse strikes, but I would have to say that it’s mainly during the evening when my house is quiet. My inspirations comes from other books, poetry, and music. Music is probably my main source of inspiration, because I can hear a chorus and see an entire scene in my head. Troye Sivan has been a great writing tool as of late, given that the majority of what I write is m/m LGBTQ fiction.

Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

I usually always have a beta reader look over my work after I’ve combed over it a thousand times. I have three people who are my go-to betas: Jensen Reed, Melissa Snell, and Olivia London. They have helped me with countless short stories that I’ve seen published—that includes over-all plot and grammar. As to my marketing techniques, I promote on Facebook and my Instagram. Just recently I started a tumblr as well.

Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders? I mentioned all my betas in the previous question—they really are my biggest cheerleaders. Also my sibling Caleb and sister Jenna always read my short fiction. My Dad, although he’s not a fan of queer fiction (lol), has read all my published works, and I really appreciate that more than he knows.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

Well, things have been pretty stagnant lately while being in quarantine, but people I meet and talk to influence the shaping of characters. I tend to people-watch at coffee shops, parks, etc.

What do you love most about your creativity?

What I love more than anything is when an idea pops into my head so suddenly and so fully that I get butterflies in my stomach. When a character comes to life right off the page and I feel as though they’re a real person that I created—it’s the best feeling when that happens—also when I dream up locations and I can see them clearly in my mind’s eye.

Connect with :

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaraAMosier

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/Sara_Mosier

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sara-Mosier

Instagram: Sissy1031

Micah Castle— Weird Fiction and Horror Writer

Micah Castle is a weird fiction and horror writer whose work has appeared in various anthologies, magazines, and websites, and currently has three collections available. When away from the keyboard, he enjoys spending his time with his wife, his animals, and his books. With any other free time he may have, he loves aimlessly wandering in the woods.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

My daily schedule is I wake up at 6:30AM, spend about an hour letting the two dogs out, making (decaf, unfortunately) coffee, eating breakfast, checking social media—essentially getting everything out of the way and out of my system before 7:30AM when I begin writing. From then until 9:00AM, I write or revise whatever I’m working on that day: a story, a writing prompt, a novella, etc. After 9:00AM, there’s no more writing until the following morning. Though I may get an inkling of a potential story throughout the day, which I jot down in the Google Keep app, but I won’t flesh it out until my current work is finished.

Most of my work is heavily inspired by nature: forests, flowers, mountains, stones, etc. Nature is extremely important to me, and I love my time in it and being outside. Unfortunately, I don’t get enough of it, so if possible, I typically will place a story within nature or it’ll incorporate nature in some way.

Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

For a short story, I will revise it about three times before I’ll consider it “finished” (though, no story ever is, is it?). The first revision will be about a week after the first draft, the second about two weeks after that, and the third about a month from the second revision. I’ve found distancing myself from my work helps me see it with fresh eyes each time.

For a collection or novel, I’ll revise it also three times, but it’ll go through alpha and/or beta readers, then I’ll revise it about three more times after that, a few weeks to months apart. I’ve been working on a novel for about two years now and I’m finally on the last revision (for now), if that gives you an idea.

I believe the best marketing is word of mouth. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with that. I’ve done Facebook and Amazon ads and those are just beasts that take time and money to tame and master. Facebook, for me, seems to do well if I only want to build my Facebook page audience, instead of directing people to other websites. Amazon ads have done well in the past, but it’s a money sink if you don’t know which keywords are the ones that’ll lead to readers and sales, and the amount you ought to bid for each keyword.

Besides those, I seldomly promote on Twitter and Reddit.

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

That would be my wife, Nicole. Although she’s not a fan of weird fiction or horror, she has supported me since I started writing, and has no issue with telling anyone who’ll listen that I have stories published or that I write.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

Life influences my work sporadically. Obviously spending time in the woods influences my work, but even little things do in ways you wouldn’t think. An argument, grocery shopping, a song lyric—anything at any time can trigger a story idea that may or may not come to fruition.

What do you love most about your creativity?

That I’ve always found it easy to think of story ideas, but that could also be the thing I hate the most of my creativity, because creating a plot for that idea sometimes feels impossible.

Connect with Micah:

https://www.micahcastle.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheMicahCastle

https://twitter.com/micah_castle

https://www.reddit.com/r/MicahCastle/

Freida Kilmari—Fantasy Author and Poet

Freida Kilmari, an author, writer, and editor from south-west England, has been writing and publishing works of fiction and poetry for the last five years, and has found many homes for her pieces over those years, including ‘Advaitum Speaks Literary’, ‘The World Poetry Movement’, ‘Fairy Tales and Folklore Re-Imagined’, and ‘Rejected’. Her debut collection published in February of 2018, Man VS Happiness, and since then she’s been working on worlds of fantasy, magic, poetry, and romance, taking a special interest in LGBTQ+ and mental health representation in literature.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

I’m a messy writer; I have notes written on scraps of paper, edges of napkins, and old shopping lists littered everywhere. It drives my husband mad! But I do have an office where I try to contain most of the madness. There, I’m surrounded by books, inspirational quotes and images, and my project notebook with my ideas jotted down (it’s a Harry Potter notebook, of course). I write whenever and wherever I can; there’s no limit. But I do find myself being more of a nighttime writer, when the house is silent and my imagination can run wild. There’s something about a quiet, happy, peaceful house that I find magically inspiring, like witching hour for writers.

Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

I have a rigorous process for my writing. When writing the first draft, the main thing is that I get the words onto the paper and keep a small notebook handy for things that will help when revising, but once I’m finished I put it away. Usually for two-three months. Before I print it off and do a read-through on paper, where I doodle, note-take, and red-pen the entire thing. After applying those edits and going through the digital copy a few more times, I hand it over to my beta readers, who are great at both encouraging and critiquing. They’re always my first fans. I apply their feedback where appropriate and then run it through ProWriting Aid before submitting to my proofreader. It’s a huge process, and the editing usually takes twice as long as the writing.

LISTEN TO A STORY BY FREIDA KILMARI AT ADVAITAM SPEAKS LITERARY

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

I’m quite a solo writer—I much prefer being my own cheerleader. But I’ve always been quite an internal person who prefers their own company to that of others. However, that means I can often get un-confident and self-conscious of my work, but I always pick myself back up. I do have some amazingly supportive friends, and my husband will sit for hours and listen to my plots, characters, and world ideas, and ask questions, poke holes, and be the most amazing support system. I’m part of a lot of writing circles and critique groups online, too, and I’ve found that support from people who, like me, are writers, is vital to my process. As great as my friends and husband are, sometimes I need the opinions of other writers.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

It does and it doesn’t. On the one hand, I’m mostly a fantasy author, so I write things that are supposed to be farfetched and not similar to life, but on the other hand, I’m a big supporter of including LGBTQ+ characters in my stories (whether the main character/s or not), and I guess that’s influenced by the largely heteronormative stance literature seems to take. I also like including mental health representation in my writing, which is what a lot of my poetry is about—that’s been influenced by my own life experiences. I used to feel so alone, and I think if I could have read characters who suffered like I did, it would have helped make me feel more ‘normal’, and less like I was failing as a human being.

Writing is one of the most important aspects of my life; I wouldn’t be here today without it.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love those moments when you latch onto an idea and let it pull you away into the dead of night, and you can’t stop your fingers from typing out the movie you’re seeing in your head—even if you wanted to. It’s like, for that moment, you’re living an extraordinary life, and you get to watch your characters mess up, cry, laugh, and cause world-ending disasters all on their own. And knowing that it’s coming from my head, my thoughts . . . it’s like watching a personalized movie that’s writing itself as it plays.

Connect with Freida:

https://eannawebb.wixsite.com/freidakilmari

https://www.amazon.com/Freida-Kilmari

https://www.goodreads.com/Freida_Kilmari

https://allpoetry.com/Freida_Kilmari

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/eanna-roberts-aka-freida-kilmari-76157290

https://www.facebook.com/pg/penmanshipediting/

Melissa Sell—Author

Melissa has written many short stories, novels, and poems, but her favorite creations are the ones who call her “Mama.” The mother of four was born and raised in Kentucky, residing in the city of Louisville, and is married to her favorite nerd. When not writing she loves to beta read for fellow authors, bake delicious treats, and watch Doctor Who.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc., and how you track character development, logistics, and details throughout a series.

My writing schedule is more of moment stealing adventures. Usually when the kids are asleep, or busy with a craft, is when I find my writing moments. My bedroom is my main writing area, and usually on my bed, with either music playing, or I have the TV streaming one of my fave shows for background noise.

Dreams and music give me the most inspiration, and I do keep a journal for all the ideas they inspire. Sometimes it’s just a scene, a specific character, or even one line of dialogue. I keep a separate and detailed notebook for every story. It starts with the full synopsis and then goes into each chapter and what will happen within them. I have a binder with character names, (some are used and some aren’t) and their backgrounds. Anytime I see or hear a name I like, I add it to my collection for further use.

As for magic spells…lol, well, you’d have to get your hands on my Book of Shadows for those. 😉

Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

For Stormy Island Publishing—it’s a team effort in a rotating process. (We have taken a break from the company during this time and hope to resume once life has calmed down.) We read submissions when we were able. During free time we read submissions. All submissions were download to a site we have in order to read and vote on them without knowing who wrote them. This goes for our own stories if we chose to submit something. You have to get the majority of votes to pass through to the next round. Decisions were based on plot first, so we read them as a reader not a publisher. Once we narrowed those down, we read them as editors. Something authors overlook more often than not is the editing part. There were submissions we didn’t accept because they contained major editing issues and as much as we may have liked the story, editing it would have taken major work. If the story was strong enough, we would invest the extra editing time. All editing takes a lot of time and slows the process down quite a bit when a story doesn’t read well. There are authors that can make that process difficult, and as an author I understand why that can be, however, good editors won’t change your story or your voice; they will help you build it instead.

One rule we have at Stormy is if you edited a piece for submission you can’t vote on it which keeps it from being biased.

Three of us at SIP are editors, so we all look them over to be sure we catch as much as possible. Sometimes those pesky mistakes still make it through—no one is perfect—and that’s okay; you just go over it again.

I hate editing my own work since, as all authors know, you read what you think you wrote and not what is actually there. A couple decades ago, when I was in my early teens, I met a local romance author. She was the mother of a friend of mine and a delightful lady. She told me to write the story and put it away for at least a month. Forget about it and go back to it only when you can’t remember all its contents. Reading it after that time is like reading it for the first time and if you don’t love it, either scrap it or fix it. Repeat the process until you have something you feel is great.

I still do this. However, I prefer to have my computer read it to me. Reading aloud or by text speech option on your computer is a great tool to use when editing for yourself. You catch a lot during this process. I’m not one of those authors who gets offended by critique, because honestly, in this business you need a thick skin, or you’ll crumble. I’ve worked with the public for decades so not much bothers me, and I know not to take anything personally. It’s important to know you will never please everyone and it’s okay. If you love it then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Also, it’s a good reason to be thankful for online publishing places such as Amazon.

I edit for authors and others in my own side business as well. I do love helping people with their work. I have a couple regulars who come to me when they have submissions they want tightened up before they send it off. I love that they also keep me informed when the work is accepted or rejected. You become a part of their world and that’s my favorite part of it all!

Marketing is very time consuming for all areas. My author friends, family members, and followers share my posts as much as they can. I post things in groups on shareable days and on other pages where I’m able. Whenever I see an opportunity to share, I do it. I had more luck doing local advertising, but now, with the virus, things have changed. I have put books in little book-nooks here and there for free reading since exposure is key. Put yourself in every area you are able, even if you think nothing will come of it, do it anyway.

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

Online I have several author friends who are absolutely amazing! Honestly, if we lived closer to one another we would most likely cause a lot of chaos. Lol. They are wonderful to bounce ideas around with and I love their honesty when it comes to what they do or don’t like about a story.

At home, I have a longtime friend that reads everything I write and so does my mother-in law. I know I can send them stuff and ask their opinion and get an honest answer. They are big cheerleaders for me and advertise my work as often as they are able. I appreciate them more than they know.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

I’ve had a semi-interesting life according to my oldest child, and so there are experiences I have incorporated into my work. Sounds odd since most of my stories are fantasy, but it’s true. The Chronicles of Fey started as a dream and is the same dream my main character, Kesta, has in the first chapter. Her name is also from the same dream. Writing is my therapy. I’ve always loved to read, but writing has been a passion since I was in elementary school. No matter what type of day I have had I can write and feel 100% better afterwards. It centers my mind and calms my soul. It relaxes me more than a glass of wine does. It was my escape as a child, just like reading, and always will be.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love the way you can create something that evokes emotions in someone else. I cried writing a scene in Death’s Door and I know several who read it cried at that same scene—not that I enjoy making people cry (lol), maybe a little, but knowing they felt what I did is rather remarkable. Authors are all a part of their story and reading their work is just like reading their spirit. It was once said we open our hearts and bleed on the pages, and it’s true. I write mainly for myself, since I need to get it out of my head, but I love sharing my world of words with others. If I’ve made some smile, or brightened someone’s day with my work, well, then that’s all its about, isn’t it? 😊

Connect with Melissa:

https://www.melissawillissell.com/

https://www.instagram.com/melissa.willissell/

https://www.facebook.com/auhormelissasell/

https://www.twitter.com/SellMelissa/

Erin Crocker—Novelist, Award-winning Short Story Author, Editor, Creative Writing Coach, Actress, and Women’s Advocate

Erin was born in Missouri and moved to the East Coast in 2007. She holds an A.A.S in General Studies with an emphasis in Police Science, a Certificate of Education from Germanna Community College and a Bachelor’s of English, Linguistics, and Communications from the University of Mary Washington. She enjoys writing, acting, dabbling in the stock market and cryptocurrencies, and playing instruments. An introvert to the core, Erin self-identifies as a doughnut enthusiast and in her free time if she’s not price shopping for lye, she enjoys long walks in dark forests carrying her favorite shovel.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

Most of the time I write between phone conferences with various celebrities while I’m traveling on my private jet. I find that it’s the optimal place to write, up in the clouds, on my way to a tropical coast. Joking…

I can’t say that I have a process. I write. That’s pretty much it—one word and then next and the next. I never force myself to write; I don’t keep a set schedule or judge myself on the plethora of days and times I should be writing and I’m not.

On warm days (spring, summer, early fall) I have an outdoor spot where I write. It serves as fantastic inspiration, but I won’t say where it is.

As far as magical spells go, the fairies keep stealing them. Every single time I concoct a new one those thieving little jerks come along and take it from me. So, I would be more than happy to divulge the spells, but I no longer have them. Perhaps interview the fairies. They will tell you…maybe.

Walk me through the publishing process as an editor of anthologies, from soliciting submissions to marketing the final product.

I wouldn’t call the publishing process ‘walking’. The better term would be stumbling. It’s not an easy feat. Publishing an anthology would be my excuse for turning to alcoholism. But really, I think it’s a matter of being very clear on the submission call…VERY clear in terms of what I’m looking for, what I expect in terms of formatting, word count, content, etc. Doing this seems to help.

It’s working with a large number of artists, all with different tastes, styles, and trying to combine everything into a single volume; it can be fun and challenging particularly because it is multi-genre. I’ve really been fortunate to have worked with extremely talented authors and poets which has helped make publishing both “Cocky-Tales” and “Rejected” wonderful experiences.

Marketing is always a tough one. I approach it a bit differently. I don’t do what they call “link drop”. I’ve always worked to build a relationship with my audience from participating in real-life events to going Facebook Live, I appreciate everyone who takes time to leave a comment or follow my page, and I enjoy interacting with them as much as possible. When I market an anthology, I want my audience to also get to know the authors here and there—bios are important to me. I loved posting the rescue pet photos that a few of our authors had sent in.

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

I feel like I have a larger support system online than in real life. Per the last question, I’ve taken time to try my best to build genuine relationships and express my appreciation because, wow(!), sometimes the interaction blows my mind! I’ve made a number of great online friends who are also authors or aspiring authors, and they are wonderful.

In real life I wouldn’t say I necessarily have ‘cheerleaders’. Although, I’m not opposed to cheerleading uniforms (i.e. Dallas Cowboys…anyways, that wasn’t the question. Was it?) I have a handful of friends, and I think if I ever wanted to quit writing, they’d probably try to talk me out of it, lol.

Purchase series at Amazon

How does life influence your writing and vice versa? Feel free to share anything you want about When She Walked Away. Also, blatantly exploit this opportunity to advertise all your freelance work.

I think every piece of fiction is sourced from bits and pieces of reality. My life influences my writing in significant ways. While the experiences don’t exactly parallel, I think there’s parts of me in overall situations or traits in characters. If it wasn’t personal on a certain level, I wouldn’t write it.

When I write I also find I’m discovering myself. Maybe not in the initial piece, but once I am finished and I step back and see the complete picture, I find something new within me that I hadn’t recognized. Art is cool in that sense.

Purchase series at Amazon

What do you love most about your creativity?

It’s a good way to escape. My creativity allows me to process situations in abstract and escapist dynamics; otherwise, I don’t know that I could deal with some things through the lens of “normal society”.

Author Extra: Tell us how you get acting roles! Don’t leave out the unglamorous, hard work parts.

Luck? Accident? I turned down my first role two times. I felt I was gracious and polite about it, having recognized the opportunity to be involved in something as big as Netflix, but it wasn’t where I thought I wanted to go in life. Finally, I ended up taking it.

After that, I decided I’d do some background roles. I only ever meant to stand in the background as ‘popcorn eating patron number 137’, but at my second job which was “Unmasked”, the director pulled me and gave me a speaking role. Then and there I made an important decision: Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t scare the hell out of me.

Acting is practice, practice, practice…it’s investing time and finances into the craft. It’s driving to audition after audition, most are spur of the moment. It’s coming home from the gym, sweaty, at ten o’ clock at night, changing my shirt, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, and self-taping an audition or several.

It’s rejection after rejection, and sometimes you don’t even hear that “no”. What I do is submit and move on. Dwelling and checking email every second of the day is like concrete. It holds you back. Submit, move on, move forward, let go, because if it is meant to be, it’ll happen. And when I do hear a “yes” (YES!) it is so worth it, the entire process is worth it.

Connect with Erin:

http://www.authorerincrocker.com
http://www.facebook.com/authorerincrocker
instagram: @authorerincrocker
IMDb: imdb.me/erincrocker

Umair Mirxa—Fantasy / Sci-Fi Author

Ello. My name is Umair Mirxa. I live and write in Karachi, Pakistan. To be a published author is a dream I have long held and cherished, and it has finally, slowly come true over the past year or so. I have the honour of being published in several international anthologies, but there is much yet to achieve, including my first novel, and hopefully, an epic fantasy series. More recently, I have taken up drawing as a secondary creative outlet. When I am not writing, I spend my time on Netflix, reading, and watching football as an Arsenal FC fan.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.

The greatest and most ever-present inspiration for me is, and forever has been, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read my favourite passages from The Lord of the Rings whenever I’m stuck with my own writing or even generally if and when something has me down. Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Christopher Paolini are just a few of the other authors who have inspired me.

I don’t really work to a strict schedule unless faced with a looming deadline. I do, however, make a point of writing every single day, even if what I produce turns out to be spectacularly ridiculous rubbish. If the muse is singing, I have been known to write for 14-16 hour sessions without food or sleep. There are, of course, plenty of days when even a 100-word drabble seems like the most horrible chore. I write digitally using a desktop PC, sitting at a desk which has a notepad, a pen-holder, an ashtray, several mugs of coffee, and snacks and smokes in a room which contains my bookshelf, a TV, a PS4, plenty of light, and a couple of extremely comfortable leather sofas.

Walk me through your publishing process from final draft to final product, including services hired as a self-published author, and marketing.

While I have been published in nearly three dozen anthologies recently, I have yet to self-publish a book. Once it is ready, and hopefully the day is not too far off, I plan on seeking out a couple of author friends to beta-read the final draft, and then upload the final product to print-on-demand platforms like Amazon and Lulu. I am lucky enough to have professional experience as a graphic designer and a digital marketer, thus eliminating the need for hired services. I hope to create a decent cover myself, and I will definitely be doing my own marketing, at least for a while yet.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

I feel I have been truly blessed when it comes to having a support system as a writer. My wife does everything possible to facilitate my process and schedule, and has been the greatest, most constant source of motivation and encouragement. My mother, both sisters, brother, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law and even their husbands have all cheered and spurred me on, and I have the greatest group of friends a guy can ask for in my corner, always. They have supported me, encouraged me, chastised me when necessary, and contributed ideas and advice for my stories.

Lastly, and most certainly not the least, I have been incredibly fortunate to have a rather remarkable group of author and publisher friends online who have beta-read my work with honest feedback, shown me submissions opportunities, encouraged me to write and submit, and given me excellent advice not only for writing but for life as well. They include, and I apologize in advance if I fail to mention someone I should, authors such as Steve Carr, Shawn Klimek, David Bowmore, Bruce Rowe, Mark Kuglin, Patt O’Neil, Mehreen Ahmed, Pavla Chandler, Aditya Deshmukh, Nerisha Kemraj, Ximena Escobar, Kelli J Gavin, Arabella Davis, and Dawn DeBraal, and publishers/editors Grant Hudson, Dean Kershaw, Zoey Xolton, Madeline L. Stout, and Stacey Morrighan McIntosh.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

In every way possible, I imagine. For most of my life, reading fantasy stories has been a way of escape, and now I write them myself, more often than not, for the very same reason. Yet no matter how fantastic a landscape I portray or how outlandish my characters, the essence of my own personal experiences permeates all of my writing. My characters, therefore, and much like I do myself, will generally hate racism and discrimination in any form with a vengeance, and they’ll tend to be quiet and introverted, with only a small group of close friends. They will have experienced loss and adversity, will enjoy books and food and travel, music and solitude, and the all the simple pleasures of life.

Simplicity is perhaps the greatest lesson taught to me by the art and practice of writing. Too often, we complicate our lives beyond reason by chasing after material and financial gain at the cost of all that is good and pure in our time on Earth.

What do you love most about your creativity?

The ability to bring to life characters and things and places, and entire worlds which I can visit and explore at leisure. To be able to have conversations with people I would never actually meet, to give them lives and loves, experiences and friendships. To dream of a world which has never been and might never come to be but still be able to envision and set stories within, and then to share them with the world that is.

I love how my creativity means I am never, ever bored and can comfortably be alone for days, even weeks on end if necessary. I enjoy discovering potential stories when I’m out at a restaurant, mall or park, and can create characters of the people I see and meet. More recently, since I have taken up drawing, there is the additional joy of studying light and shadows, form and shape and perspective, and then to try and apply all of it to a blank canvas.

Most importantly perhaps, and I know all authors crave an audience, but I absolutely love when someone tells me they enjoyed reading one of my stories. It is one of the greatest pleasures in life, I believe, when your work is the source of joy for another.

Connect with Umair:

Website: http://umairmirxa.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Umair-Mirza/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show\.Umair_Mirxa

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/umair-mirxa

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UMirxa/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UMirxa12

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mirxa.umair/

Author Extra: Write a 50-word story right here, right now!

Brynhildr withdrew her sword from the fallen warrior’s chest, swayed, and collapsed herself. Slowly, the dark descended, and she felt herself ascending. Strong arms around her. A gentle caress. The weight, the pain, the fear. All of it, gone.

She opened her eyes, and with a smile walked into Valhalla.

Author Extra Extra: Art Gallery

Katie Rose Guest Pryal—Non-Fiction Author, Novelist, and Advocate

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is the bestselling author of novels, including Entanglement, Chasing Chaos, and Fallout Girl, and non-fiction, including Life of the Mind Interrupted: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education and Even If You’re Broken: Essays on Sexual Assault and #MeToo. She writes for Catapult, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other magazines. She lives in North Carolina.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, and how you determine whether you’re writing a non-fiction book or a novel, and if that changes your process.

Thank you for asking me such thoughtful questions. First—I’m very lucky because I get to write full time. I do teach one course a year at our law school here in Chapel Hill, and I give talks (about one per month). But otherwise, I’m writing. I write lots of different things: I have three different regular magazine columns. I write books for academic and professional audiences (mostly on professional writing). And, I write trade books: novels and nonfiction books. Basically, I’m writing all of the time. I don’t have a choice.

What all of this means is that I have to plan my time very carefully to account for the many deadlines I am responsible for, and to be sure that the important parts of my personal life are also taken care of. I’m a wife and a mother of two young children. I also have discovered (way too recently) that it is important to take care of myself as well.

I tend to focus on one project at a time. On my calendar, I will mark out a period of time to work on one project until it is finished, and then I will move onto another project. Right now, for example, I have edits back on my next novel. The editorial process will go much better if I do them all at once without lots of breaks. So: I will clear my calendar for a week or two (however long it takes), and I’ll do this revision until it’s done. Stopping in the middle means I might lose threads or forget important things that I need to fix. That’s not efficient. Essentially, this process is just a writer’s version of “no-multitasking.” Once I get my 4 hours of efficient writing in, though, I will still have time for daily tasks, like answering emails and pitching stories, things that must happen to keep the ship afloat. But I won’t try to write two books at the same time. That’s not efficient, at least not for me.

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

On average, I publish one trade book a year.

(Note: I usually publish more than one book a year because I’m also publishing academic/professional books, too. However, my academic/professional book publication schedule depends a lot on other people because I work with co-authors and because the publication dates depend a lot on strange things like the academic calendar. The point is, sometimes I publish more than one book a year, but let’s not worry about those other books right now.)

Back to what I was saying: I usually publish one trade book a year. I’m not unusual in this. Many excellent authors and author teams publish 2-3 books a year (and I wish they’d publish more, Ilona Andrews). I’m on a one-book-a-year schedule. How I write, though, is in bursts. I’ll write my first draft (70-80k words) in a matter of weeks, maybe 6 weeks. I realize that sounds fast, but you should see the steaming pile of nonsense that comes out in 6 weeks. Then, I set it aside for a while. I go back to it, take some anti-nausea medicine, and revise. After that first revision, I send it to my most trusted editor-friend. I trust her because she’s a great editor and also because she won’t share with the world how terrible my early drafts are. Then I wait a while more to let the book “sit” (think: aging whisky), and then I revise again with her comments. I usually send it back to her to make sure I did it right (mostly because I’m neurotic and worried) and she sends it back (with lots of encouragement and few more comments), and then I revise once more and send it out to my beta readers, people I trust to read it on their e-readers and give me their honest feedback on the story. ONE MORE REVISION with that beta feedback (or maybe three or four), and I’m done. Again, I think my process is pretty normal. I want to emphasize how group-oriented writing is. I literally could not do this without my trusted people.

And, because I publish one book a year, I am always writing a book. Always, always writing. I’m grateful that I have time to do it. But also, I’m working on setting some boundaries. Maybe one year I’ll go crazy and skip publishing a book.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders and how you became a beautiful blooming Tall Poppy.

I have a great support system. My husband and kids are incredible. I also have some great hobbies (including a new one!) that are both outside-hobbies and physical so I’m sure to get away from my desk. My support system of fellow writers and readers I described in my writing process. And of course, the Tall Poppy Writers is a wonderful community of supportive writers. I’ve made some of my best friends through that group.

Dear Readers can clearly feel your essence in your writing, especially your essays; how does your writing in return influence your life?

I figured out when I was very young (like, age 12) that writing things down would help me figure things out. I still have my journals from back then—somehow they survived all of the moves and purging I’ve done over the years. I still using writing to help me gain perspective on my world. A lot of my essays began as me trying to solve a problem in my life. Often, the problem seemed so huge and unsolvable. And then, after writing about it, I was able to find a way to intervene, to make things better. And after I was able to make things better for me, the essay became something I could share with others. In fact, my non-fiction books (on mental health, on career changes, on sexual assault) all started that way. Me: “I feel like I don’t know what to do. I think I’ll write about it.” *scribbles a lot.* “I think I have an answer. Let me share it with literally everyone.”

In fact, being able to write myself out of problems is one of the things I love most about being a writer in the first place.

What do you love most about your creativity?

[I just got to this question, and I answered it in my last one!]

Connect with Katie:

twitter.com/krgpryal

facebook.com/krgpryal

instagram.com/krgpryal

goodreads.com/krgpryal

website: katieroseguestpryal.com

Mike Chen—Sci-Fi Author

Mike Chen writes science fiction with feelings. His debut novel Here and Now and Then was part of Bookbub’s Best Science Fiction of 2019 and the Goodreads Choice Awards shortlist. His upcoming book A Beginning at the End (January 14, 2020 from Mira/HarperCollins) has received multiple starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and more. Mike also covers geek culture for outlets such as Tor.com, StarTrek.com, and more, and posts many photos of his dog on social media. Follow him on Twitter/Instagram @mikechenwriter.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic tricks, etc.

Well, I have a day job and a feisty 5-year-old daughter, so my writing process is basically whenever I can around that. I write a lot on my phone (and I read a lot of ebooks on my phone) because Google Docs allows for anywhere/anytime access. This works in whatever block of time is available, so if I’m waiting at a doctor’s appointment, I can edit a short section, and if I’m in bed, I can draft for 30 minutes or so. At some point, I imagine I’ll have a little more structure to my schedule, but I think it’ll have to wait until my daughter is a little older and doesn’t want my company anymore! As for actual process, I just need quiet (only video game soundtracks or instrumentals if I have music), though someday I’d love to have a dedicated home office just for writing.

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

It’s pretty standard. There’s the editorial process with my editor; then the marketing/publicity side gets involved. I do a lot of freelance writing for geek and pop culture media (e.g. Tor.com, StarTrek.com, TheMarySue.com) so I’m always game if I need to write an essay or something specifically for publicity purposes, but it’s generally out of my control; I just nod and smile when asked to write something or show up to an event.

A few steps back from that, I find that I’m not one of those writers who can sell with just a sample chapter and an outline. Writing a full novel from that is far too daunting, but you don’t want to sink too much time and energy into a manuscript that won’t go anywhere. For my second contract, I’ve found a good happy medium to be writing a fairly polished first half and a detailed synopsis for editorial acquisition. That way I get a good sense of character and world but I haven’t worked through the time necessary for a full manuscript. And if/when they buy it, I’m in a good starting point to finish it off because so much of the groundwork is already done.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My agent Eric Smith is my biggest industry cheerleader. He’s probably the biggest cheerleader in publishing, honestly. He cheers everyone on, which is always good to have in those moments of self-doubt (there are many). He’s also very editorial, which I appreciate in an agent. He lets me bounce ideas off of him and provides early critique reads, even for projects he’s not involved with. Oh, and he lets me know when there are good sales on video games, which is very important!

My wife and non-writer friends are all very supportive but the logistics of this industry are so unique and weird that it’s hard for them to empathize with the specific minutia of it all. I think for all writers, it’s really important to get peers whom you can vent to in private, and I am lucky that I have those. There are too many to name, and I’m afraid I’d probably accidentally leave someone out, but if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see me interacting with a lot of them—cheering each other on but also talking about geeky stuff like Star Trek and video games.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

Well, I realized the other day that many of the relationships and characters I’ve written about are lifted unknowingly from personal experience. There are moments when you draw on that intentionally, like a scene that looks like the coffee shop you like or the character that tells a joke that your spouse did. And then there’s the realization that a shade of a character is totally someone you know. I think every writer deals with that, so everyday life certainly influences my writing. I think it’s impossible not to.

From a conscious perspective, a friend told me a few weeks back that my writing was “hopepunk,” which is a term I recently discovered. A lot of my worldbuilding choices and character demographics stem from crafting a world that I want to see. As creators, we have a choice to bring some level of normalization into the real world via exposure in our imaginary world—I think that’s very vital. Even if a story isn’t overtly political, the messages imbued in it are inherently charged with a political point of view.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I remember the first creative writing class I took at UC Davis. I’d already done some journalism at that point in my life, but I felt this strange sense of freedom creating a fictional world. That creativity was unlike anything I’d ever felt, and I ran with it. My teacher told me to keep writing at the end of that class, and obviously I did.

That teacher, by the way, is named Wendy Sheanin and she’s an executive at Simon & Schuster. She’s the first person I sent an advance copy of my debut.

Connect with Mike:

www.mikechenbooks.com

www.twitter.com/mikechenwriter

www.instagram.com/mikechenwriter

Linda Niehoff—Author and Photographer

Linda Niehoff is a portrait photographer by accident and chronic notebook scribbler by choice. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous publications both online and in print. She lives in a small Kansas town where she is probably right now looking outside to study the light or watching an old episode of Scooby Doo.

Describe your creative process—schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.—compare and contrast writing with shooting.

I write daily—almost without exception, though I’ve grown a little lax in the last few years and will occasionally take a day off. This means I write on holidays, weekends, and while on vacation. I’ve written in hotel lobbies, waiting rooms, moving cars, trains, planes, surrounded by crumpled up wrapping paper. And I don’t do that out of some weird puritanical discipline. I do it because I love it. I do some of my best thinking, analyzing, and daydreaming on the page with a pen in hand. For me, writing is a blanket fort I build daily and climb inside.

Read Like Magic Waiting in TriQuarterly

Photography (even though it’s my money-maker) is like a bratty kid brother who doesn’t eat vegetables, who doesn’t take a bath when he’s supposed to. I never had the dreams for photography that I’ve had for writing, and so I’ve always had an ease with it. Much of what I shoot is done on my phone. I like the idea of keeping it a game. Of fooling around. When I shoot clients, I use my big expensive camera, but I’ve dreamed of doing an entire photo shoot with just my phone! I think that’d be so fun to try! I’m also in love with instant photography and have a (growing) collection of Polaroid and toy cameras. I love the hazy, nostalgic look of instant film.

Read Elsewhere in WhiskeyPaper

I’m mostly a morning writer (I like to make sure it actually gets done!) though sometimes I squeeze it into other areas like late afternoon or late at night. And I almost always shoot in the golden hour when the light is low and slanted and mellow. (I could shoot early mornings, but that’s writing time!)

I’m interested in the same types of themes in both writing and photography. I love old timey. I love nostalgia. I love graveyards and the woods and tiny towns with silver water towers and old run-down motels. I love places that feel haunted with old, imperfect memories. Things that are slightly unkempt and almost forgotten. And I love that shadowed time that’s halfway between light and dark.

Read Rock Creek in New South Journal

I love writing and photography because they are the same, and they are opposite. One is words and one is wordless. But writing is, hopefully, painting a picture, and photography is , hopefully, telling a story. It’s all about the story. That’s the key for me and why I love both so much.

Tell me how the final products—stories or photos—reach the consumer, including marketing.

Mostly online! When I shoot for clients, I use an online gallery or I share images I take on social media. The stories I’ve had published have mostly been in online venues—though a few were print only. As for marketing, I’m a big believer in just sharing what you’re doing. My entire photography business was built simply because when I first joined Facebook, I uploaded pictures I took. People started asking me if I’d do portraits for them. Or asked if they could buy things I’d posted. I’ve always loved photography and would be taking pictures regardless of whether or not I made money from it. But Facebook is what got it started as a business.

Initially, I was a lot shyer when it came to writing, and a lot of people didn’t even know I wrote. It was easy to share pictures. You could just upload something to Facebook and have instant feedback. I wanted a similar experience for writing, so I decided to start a blog. I figured it’d be an easy way to get used to having people read my words. And it did help. I got more confident about sharing my work and submitting it for publication.

Read We Do Not Need Wings in Pea River Journal

I really do think that if you put yourself out there and share what you’re doing, you’ll find your people. And most people, when they love what you’re doing, want to help you—by hiring you or buying or sharing your work. Probably I could be way more successful if I took out ads or ran specials or really worked at marketing or even indie published some of my writing. But for where I am in life right now, this works.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

First and foremost, I’m very lucky to have been raised by an artist and a physicist. My mom taught me to love words and layers and symbolism. My dad taught me to love the mystery of it all and to dream. They were my first cheerleaders.

Read The Way of Things Now in SmokeLong Quarterly

And now, I’m also lucky to have married someone that has never once questioned why—even in motel rooms on roadtrips or at home on holidays—the very first thing I do is write. He’s made sure that regardless of any success or failure (99% of what I work on won’t ever be published—so much of it is either practice or first drafts or just for me) I have the time and space to get writing done. And he’s helped me guard it. My kids (who are older now) are the same way.

Read When You Carry Him Home in Necessary Fiction

I also have a great writing group that I met online almost 5 years ago in a writing workshop. We all stayed writing together after the workshop and have stayed in touch both online and in real life. I’ve gained a couple of really close friends through that. It helps to have others sharing in the same struggles and (hopefully joys and successes) as you.

How does life influence your creative work and vice versa?

Sometimes this is a danger zone. Because for me, it’s too easy to let my self-worth get tied up in something I’ve created. There’s always a natural ebb and flow and there are always days where the work is easy and days where the work is hard. I fail often in separating how I feel about myself based on how the work is going, but I’m trying to improve! Even so, everything I do is setting up for the creative work—how I spend my time and how much I schedule all revolves around leaving enough space to make stories and art. And often, places I go and things I do are done with an eye toward asking myself, “How would I write about/photograph this?” I’m always looking for an opportunity to be inspired.

What do you love most about your creativity?

With creativity, I’m never bored. Everywhere I go, I’m watching the light and shadows, I’m framing something in my mind. Now that phones have cameras, it’s easy to snap quick pictures and edit them on the fly. But even before that (or if I’m without my phone), I am always looking at the picture of something. How it could be framed. And I love that. I love being an audience of one and finding secret moments that maybe everyone else has passed by.

Read It Wasn’t Supposed to Snow in Literary Orphans

But stories are the same way. Sometimes I’ll see a stand of trees against a purple fading sky and think, why does that make my heart ache? And I know only a story will answer the question. So I start casting about for character to go into the darkening trees. To turn it into a story and answer it for me.

Writing and shooting are a way to stay inside moment just a little bit longer. A way to hold onto something that is, every second, slipping away. It’s finding something to fall in love with. To swoon over. That’s why I love creativity; it makes the ordinary important. It makes everything you see a possibility. And when you have that inside you (and I truly believe we all do in some form or another), it’s like having the best stories and the best photographs with you all the time.

Connect with Linda:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lindaniehoff

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lindaniehoff

Blog: www.thewrittenpicture.typepad.com

Photography website: www.lindaniehoffphotography.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kckenlin/