This collection of stories veered from a little girl finding out that unicorns can be evil murderers to a young husband learning that his mother-in-law is a goddess. Some were barely holding together as a story, and others just completely unraveled, such as the Guided Meditation, which was maddening to read. All in all, the writing style is generally interesting, and the good stories are really good. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Jamie Lackey through NetGalley.
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:
Amy Impellizzeri is a reformed corporate litigator, former start-up executive, and award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. Amy’s novels have won accolades including INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, National Indie Excellence Awards, and she has made the Finalist list for the STAR Award for Published Women’s Fiction. Amy’s fourth novel, Why We Lie, released March 5, 2019, and has been featured in Publisher’s Weekly and lauded by early reviewers as “timely” and “thought-provoking.”
She is a past President of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, a 2018 Writer-In-Residence at Ms.-JD.org, and a frequently invited speaker at legal conferences and writing workshops across the country.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.
My writing process is, in a word, fluid. I spend as much time thinking about my current work in progress as I do writing. I try to write every day and as deadlines approach, I try to write 5,000-7,500 words per week. But mostly, I try to live with my characters and my scenes so that the words on the page will be organic and cohesive. At least that’s the goal!
My inspirations come from everywhere. I like to imagine the story behind every news article I read and person I meet. I am also a big people watcher! I love to observe interactions around me and imagine what came before and what comes next.
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.
My “final” draft is usually the result of several years of drafting, workshopping, and editing by a developmental editor, a few trusted beta readers, and agent input.
After my publisher reads, we go through a few more rounds of edits, including copy edits, and then we start submitting for trade reviews and early blogger / reviewer reads.
The head of my publishing house, Nancy Cleary, of Wyatt-MacKenzie, is extremely hands-on when it comes to early / industry marketing, and has taught me so much about how to get my books into the hands of early and enthusiastic readers. The more buzz you can generate as your pub day approaches, the better!
Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders and about being a Tall Poppy.
Transitioning from litigator to novelist, the sisterhood of support I’ve received from fellow writers has been invaluable. I assure you there were no Tall Poppy lawyers! Seriously, though, without the Tall Poppy sisterhood, I’d still be traveling in the dark in this industry. So much is shrouded in secrecy and is just simply unknown. The generosity and shared experience among the Tall Poppies is amazing.
How does life influence your writing and vice versa?
For me, there is tremendous synergy between real life and the stories I tell. My books usually explore questions I’m grappling with in real life. The writing helps me answer those questions and usually leads to many more!
What do you love most about your creativity?
Well, like all writers, it’s a multi-layered thing. Not always accessible and beloved! But I love the writing process, and the creation of a full story from only an idea still excites me. I’d write even if no one was reading, but I’m grateful that my stories have found enthusiastic readers so far!
Connect with Amy:
A time travel criminal shot Kin’s Temporal Corruption Bureau retrieval beacon, stranding him in 1996. In the two decades it took his colleagues from 2142 to find him, he built a life with a wife and daughter. Regulations force him back to the future, where he’s been missing for only weeks from his work and his fiancee. His inexplicable disappearance, and her mother’s death, sends his daughter spiraling downward. He breaches protocol, reaching out to her digitally, endangering both. Chen brilliantly maintains time travel integrity, with its possibilities and limitations, placing his main character in an organization enforcing law throughout time, with strict safety policies for agents preventing him from aiding his daughter. This is a family drama that just happens to have a time travel element—a well-written, speculative suspense novel. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.
In 1965, time travel ignites Barbara’s manic depression, and the other pioneers—ambitious Margaret, compassionate Lillian, and social butterfly Grace—leave her behind to form The Conclave, an autonomous organization commercializing time travel. Multiple storylines converge to determine the identity of the woman found dead of four bullet wounds in a locked room. The investigation for this unique whodunit plays out in various timelines with characters’ ages often not corresponding chronologically. There’s manipulation, subterfuge, and espionage afoot throughout the nation and throughout time. The time travel details are concrete, with the fuel posing a danger if not handled appropriately. There’s even a time travel glossary included at the end, which makes one try that much harder to buy into the concept. Macarenhas gives the reader glimpses into the thoughts of characters, providing more depth to a story that might easily go astray with so much time-hopping chapters. Readers who like speculative fiction with compelling characters and complex relationships will appreciate this story that readily lends oneself to suspend belief, a realistic time travel story, if you will. It’s definitely worth the time! Ha! I was fortunate to receive a copy from the publisher through Net Galley.
When I asked the Tall Poppies for speculative authors, I was given Janie Chang’s name. I fell in love with her two novels; read my reviews on Dragon Springs Road and Three Souls, and eagerly anticipate her upcoming book.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations material and intangible, magic spells, and treats.
With only three books under my writing belt, I’m not sure that there is a defined process yet. Each has been a different journey. I’ve sold one novel on the basis of a synopsis, and then delivered a totally different book. I’ve also written a synopsis and stuck to it pretty closely.
I see stories everywhere, but when an idea keeps coming back, it’s the one I take seriously. It always begins with a “now wouldn’t it be interesting if…” or “but what if…” series of thoughts, and then I dive into research to determine whether I can make it work. For my first two books, the opening scene just came to me and that provided impetus. The third … well, I’m still revising the first chapter.
Research itself provides so many ideas, insights, and anecdotes that you pull into your work. I probably spend six months off and on for research.
When the writing begins, I treat it as a job. Its butt glue time. Or as Shilpi Gowda says more elegantly, ABC: Apply Bum to Chair. I write 6 days a week. My husband goes into “support the author” mode and makes dinner. Housekeeping standards nosedive. The cat thinks she’s finally trained me to sit still for hours so that she has a lap to sleep on. Because basically, you need to get words on a page before you know whether your ideas are any good. You can imagine all you want in your head, but without executing those thoughts, you really can’t tell. You have nothing to work with. You can always edit crap, but you can’t edit a blank page.
Describe your publishing process from final draft to final product, including publishing team, timeline, and expectations of you as the author.
Well, this is something I’m trying to change. I’ve been very much a loner during the writing process; mostly because in the early stages my manuscripts are so embarrassingly dog poop that I don’t want to inflict them on author friends, even the ones who’ve offered to be beta readers. Thoughtful reading and critique is time-consuming.
I’ve hired professional editors though, because you do need someone else to offer critique. You’re always too close to your own work. The first draft may not be 100,000 words yet ,but it needs to be the entire story from start to finish, so that the editor can see what you want to achieve with your story, characters, and themes.
Then I revise based on the editorial notes and a discussion with the editor to make sure I understand what she means. This is where the most extensive re-writing comes in. Many drafts. After that, I send the manuscript to my agent who gives it a yea or nay, whether it’s good enough to send on to my publishers. Then it’s working with the editorial teams at HarperCollins (my publishers)–substantive editing, line editing, copy editing (where historical facts are double-checked, among other things), and then the final proof reading.
But lately some author friends have managed to convince me that they really are OK with reading dog poop and I’m starting to think it would be better for my mental health to have writing friends to talk things over with rather than stew on my own while eating too much chocolate.
Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially how you (exciting!) came to be a Tall Poppy.
You definitely need to socialize with other published authors. They understand the business challenges, they nod sympathetically when you wail “But writing in third person is so hard compared to first person!”. I have a poet friend who is the loveliest, most non-judgmental person ever and we walk around the seawall talking about everything: adolescence, sexual abuse, the state of Canadian literature. I have a group of women novelist friends and we take turns hosting potluck dinners every 3-4 months. I love cooking, so whenever possible, I invite authors and friends from the publishing industry over. Sometimes my guests don’t know each other, so it’s a good way to help people network.
Social media is good for staying current, but email is the medium I use to exchange deep, dark thoughts with my really good author friends. And OK, it’s not all serious stuff. One of them has a new book coming out in 2019 and it’s going to be a killer. We’ve been sending each other ideas for which actors to cast in which roles for when someone buys the film rights.
As for Tall Poppies–I’m not sure of the process except that it’s by nomination. So I think my nomination might’ve been due to Weina Dai Randel. Then the others check you out. I first met her online when her duology about Empress Wu came out, when we were both part of an online group for writers of novels about Asia. Then she invited me to join her panel in Portland, at the annual Historical Novel Society conference, and that’s when we met IRL. I met about 20 Poppies in Chicago at PoppyCon and they’re all so smart and fun and NICE. It was like an instant sisterhood. You feel you can talk about any problem and everyone will care and offer good advice. The accumulated wisdom in that group is awesome.
The stories you share of your ancestors and China on your website are fascinating. It’s clear that this drives your work; how does your writing influence your life?
When you know how much work it takes to write 100,000 words, you really need to focus on the story that pushes its way to the front of your brain, the one that’s important enough to sustain your interest through the long months of writing to come. And so far, it’s the China of my parents’ childhood and the history of that era that’s pushing the hardest.
Writing has changed my life totally. You recalibrate your schedule and your relationships. Fortunately, I have friends who understand that writing books is not a hobby; it’s serious business. So I can’t travel with them or do as much with them as before. You need time for writing and mental space to let the story grow.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I live for those moments in the creative process when your characters take over and take your story in a different direction than what you had planned. This is why we write and write, to get enough of the plot and the characters and their challenges onto the page so that your subconscious has enough to work with. Then you get the reward, of those flashes of insight when you realize “Well of course this is how that character would handle the situation”–and then the next few pages almost write themselves and another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. It feels like magic.
Connect with Janie and purchase her books:
Kate chose a lifemate over a soulmate. Her marriage comes to a crossroads in her mind, and she is given a literal chance for a do-over, a gift of time shifting via the Devil’s Triangle. She must choose between her soulmate and her wrecked life as a disillusioned wife and mother. Impellizzeri brilliantly portrays a woman who inadvertently contributes to the misery in her own life by refusing to let the past be and give herself fully to her present. She learns that no matter what choices are made, and invested in, some things cannot be controlled. There are so many layers to this story, including the parallels of the legendary tale told by the ship’s captain to Kate’s life and the tricky ending to her circular thinking, both impossible to escape from…or not. That ending, circling back to the beginning, is so clever. Fans of time travel, star-crossed love, and characters whose hearts grow three sizes will love this story.
Rachel wished her brother would get lost. And he did. So lost that their parents forgot him and explained him away as Rachel’s imagination, and then as her illness. Having repressed her wish-giving ability through to adulthood, Rachel runs away from her life when the wish-granting bursts forth to affect her best friend’s family. She ends up in Nowhere, NC, where she discovers others’ magic and how to control her own. Crispell’s talented in creating complex characters, with their roller coaster emotions and love-hate relationships with their talents. Like Sarah Addison Allan, the magic is a part of everyday life, including emotional trees and sometimes challenging townspeople. Readers who daydream of having magical capabilities can live out their fantasies through Crispell’s stories. Check out her website http://www.susanbishopcrispell.com/ to learn more about her and purchase her books.
Leiyin learns she has three souls upon her death, souls who explain they are trapped with her ghost until she atones for some egregious transgression in her mortal life. They witness her, through memories, rebel against the patriarchal traditions of her father, suffer the consequences, and live with regrets for her naivety. In the early 20th century, Leiyin controls little about her life, and this during a civil war and Japanese aggression. Epiphanies hit her hard and fast reliving her memories. She must communicate with mortals to appease the gods by rescuing the fates of her loved ones in order to ascend to the afterlife with her souls. Chang’s blending and bending of Chinese culture and history create a compelling narrative of inadvertent espionage and acceptance of one’s place in society. The speculative elements placing Leiyin outside her own story fascinate the reader as they astonish Leiyin. Chang’s novels are educational in many ways, to the anticipated appreciation of readers of historical fiction, speculative fiction, and fans of Tatiana de Rosnay and Laura Spinella.
These stories of young women—a step-daughter with an evil step-brother, a disillusioned intellectual, a literary feminist teen, a misplaced mother, and even a queen—trying to retain their spiritual essence in a patriarchal world are gorgeously written and illustrated. They read as fairytales, with villains and heroines, a defined delineation of good vs. evil, fantastic realms, a bit of magic, and even actual fairies. Fans of the Brothers Grimm, and especially readers of Angela Slatter, will appreciate the unique flavor of Pavlikova. I was fortunate to win this beautiful ebook through a Goodreads giveaway.