Thursday, March 31, 2011

Author Interview Patrick Shannon

Patrick Shannon is the author of a very amusing book titled Letters From Wheatfield. My review of the book will be up at I am grateful to the author for answering the random questions I send to the poor people who agree to be interviewed by me.

About the book: What do you do for fun if you live in a small rural town, dauntingly far from the nearest city's plentiful amusements? Upon what resources do you draw to spice up your existence? Letters from Wheatfield provides the answer - and it isn't always pretty.
      The fictitious town of Wheatfield is a tiny island in a vast sea of wheat fields and cattle ranges. Its nearest neighboring towns, similarly small, are well over the horizon. But its isolation has no effect on its inhabitants. Theirs is a society of mirthful, blithe, spritely wags - a condition abetted by the presence of not a few eccentric individuals.
      In Letters from Wheatfield, two transplants from Manhattan write to a cousin back home about the remarkable community that has assimilated and transmuted them - much to their amazement and great pleasure.

About the Author: Patrick Shannon, author of the young reader's book, Viva Cisco, currently resides in Conrad, Montana. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, he worked thirty-three years for a major oil company, bringing him rich experiences from traveling in Asia, the Middle East and the U.S. Born and raised in Southern California, Shannon attended East Carolina and Oklahoma Universities and UCLA. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi scholarship society.

First, let's start with the book you so kindly sent me to read, Letters From Wheatfield. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
   Actually, from living her in my adopted town of Conrad, Montana. Approximately 40% of the stories in the book are based on actual events here, gussied up by my imagination, or course.
   You see, Montanans, in general, are very witty people, and the residents of Conrad just seem to have a greater share of that trait. So when you have a town full of congenial, fun-loving characters like that, you have a community that is one heckuva good time.
   And there is another factor. Like my fictitious town of Wheatfield, Conrad lies within the "Pixie Triangle" - an area where loony things just sort of happen. For example, there was an incident recently, in a nearby town, that would have been a surefire candidate for the Wheatfield Book of World Record Vegetables. (I swear this is the truth. I have the newspaper clipping to prove it.) A black bear was trying to force its way through a woman's kitchen door, and she successfully beat it off wit ha giant, 14-inch zucchini from her garden. The article included a picture of the zucchini and a yardstick. Now, if you can live in a place like this and not write a book, there's something wrong with you.

Haha. I can only imagine. And it's nice to see someone else who would use the term "gussied up" in a sentence.
What about your book in particular do you think differentiates it from others in the same category?
I think the fact that so much of it is based on actual situations gives it an authenticity that otherwise wouldn't be there. Several of my reviewers who have small town backgrounds have commented on this.

I can attest to that, coming from a small town in Wyoming. The professor bit about Columbia and how the gossip got out of hand was something I could even relate to when it comes to small town gossip.
What is your publishing story? How did you go about getting your book published?
After years of trying to breach the impenetrable walls of traditional publishers, and because I was approaching my 79th birthday, I went the self-publishing route with Outskirts Press. I wasn't interested in the money or fame. I just wanted to leave something of my writings behind. Outskirts Press has done a fine, professional job of granting my wish.

Understandable. Sometimes it works for an author to go the self-publishing route and that sounds like a great way to celebrate your 79th birthday.
How long have you been writing?
I have been working at writing ever since High School, some 62 years now.  My ability to write didn’t really kick in until my retirement, though.  One day I took a look through all the stuff I had written over the years, and I was shocked.  It was just garbage, and I resolved then and there to start writing something better with which to replace it.  To my utter and pleasant surprise, I discovered that, at this late stage in my life, I had finally learned to write.

Ah, the looking back on younger writing. It's amazing what the years will do to how we feel about our own writing.
How many drafts do you normally write for a specific project?
Three, essentially.  The first draft is done on a letter pad, in pencil, with me ensconced in my contour chair.  I get solidly into a right-brain mode and just get the story line down as fast as it will flow.  I don’t worry about words, punctuation or sentence structure.  I just get the story line down. The next draft is done on that same pad or on attachment sheets.  In this one I do some correcting of sentence structure and a lot of word replacement.  This is where I give my old thesaurus a good workout to select words with exactly the connotation I want. The third draft occurs as I type the pencil draft into the computer.  Something about the pace and streaming of that process makes me sensitive to the “musicality” of my sentences – the lilt, the tempo – and I make some pretty significant changes to sentence structure at that time. After that, of course, there are countless passes at editing for spelling and punctuation.

I'd imagine if we all counted each edit round the number would be insane as to how many drafts it would take to finish a novel.
What was the hardest part of the editing process once you started working with the editor?
I try to do my own editing as completely as possible before it gets into an editor’s hands.  It’s just a pride thing, I guess.  My biggest problem with that is maintaining concentration.  While I should be scrutinizing every word for spelling and punctuation, I get caught up in rereading for content.  I’m my own biggest fan, I guess.

I can understand that, wanting the book to be in as best shape as possible before someone else works on it but sometimes it's difficult to see our own mistakes. Focus can be tough but you seem to have done well.
Favorite genre to read in?
Fiction, but I divide my time between classic novels, spy thrillers and mysteries.

There are so many great fiction novels to read and many great classics.
What are some of your favorite authors?
Among the classics, I love Thomas Hardy and George Eliot.  Jude The Obscure, Mill On The Floss and Middlemarch are among my favorite stories.  For just plain escape, I read Le Carre, John Lescroart, Jeffrey Archer and Alexander McCall Smith.  On the serious side, to try to understand what is happening to our country and our world, I turn to Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Andrew Basevich and Chris Hedges.

Some excellent authors, some I have heard of and a few that I have not.
Do you have any other novels the readers might be interested in?
My first book was for young readers in the 10 to 14 age group. Its title is Viva Cisco and, in keeping with my style, it is humorous. I have a third book ready to go. It's called Viva Laughter, and I like to think of it as my tour de force as a humorist. If I can get the necessary releases for my use of a few well-known names, I will try to get it published.

Those sound great and you are indeed a humorous writer. I wish you luck in getting the third book published. Thank you for answering all of my questions and letting me read your fun book.

Patrick Shannon can be found online at the web site, Or by email at

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

End of MarNo and Results

We have reached the end. Yay! Another writing month reaches the last hours and once again, I'm not hurriedly typing to try to make every word count but that's partly because I'm not doing word counts and partly because I'm no where near my goal.

How did I do? I did okay. Didn't make my goal of writing a full first draft in one month, didn't even write half this time, but I don't mind the result. I still did write despite having issues of pain, infection and facial swelling. Any writing is better than no writing, right?

The novel has a new work in progress title. As the suggestions set with me for a month, one remained in the back of my mind. I have Susan Kane to thank for suggesting a catching WIP title. The kinda sorta dystopian, maybe a little horror, umm I might need to work on genre-fying this novel... that might not be a real thing. Anyways, the novel is now going to be called Lighting the Wall.

While I didn't write the entire novel in one month, I did managed to get 6 chapters finished. It's better than nothing and I'm still enjoying this novel. I'm going to get it done this year at least. Yay for writing.

How did MarNo go for you?
Make it to your goal?
Ready for new goals?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Coming Soon: A to Z

Yep, the A to Z blogging challenge begins April 1st and this blog is going to be a part of it. That means I'm going to be posting on this blog 6 days a week for the entire month of April. And the posts have to correspond with letters of the alphabet, starting with A. Over 700 blogs are signed up (I'm number 305 on the list). The image is over on the sidebar of this blog for anyone who wants to check it out.

And stay tuned for the first post because A gets the post of total epicness. My 2 year blog anniversary is coming up on May 1st and I'm going to post the start of the giveaway on day 1 of the A to Z challenge. It is going to be exciting. But don't worry, if that post gets lost in the sea of the A to Z posts, there will be one posted on Yep, my other blog. It's a two blog, two year giveaway of excitement.

It's going to be a fun month.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Author Interview Heidi Vlach

Today we have another special interview. This time the kind soul willing to answer my random questions is Heidi Vlach, the author of Remedy (a fantasy novel). Usually I have a picture of the author but I forgot to ask for this one. So we'll have to stare at the beautiful cover for her novel instead, which shouldn't be too hard. I seriously wish this was a paperback book just so I could have that a book with that cover, honestly. Okay, on to the interview.

First, could you tell my readers a little about yourself?
I'm a chef-trained waitress. I just love telling people the social background behind the food they're ordering. My hobbies include video games and their fandom, armchair biology study, costume design, paper maché sculpture, and reading a few bites of everything ever.

Writing-wise, I write secondary world fantasy focused on non-human characters. I'm exploring the idea that fantasy can be more than just an allegory for human society. Science fiction accepts alien beings as valid people and viable POV characters, and I think high fantasy can do the same.

Wow. That is quite the variety. That's very cool about the food part as I'm a fan of food. And the approach to high fantasy is one that has caught my attention for sure.
Now for the novel. What is Remedy about, in the shorter description style if possible?
Remedy is set in a magical secondary world, which hasn't been named by its citizens but I call it Aligare. This place has three types of people -- bird-like dragons, insect/mammal combinations, and weasels -- who live and work cooperatively. It's peaceful in the sense that no one declares war on anyone, but being a good person and doing the right thing can still be a challenge.

In the Remedy story, Peregrine, an aging, deaf avian, has come to rely on the weasel hearing assistants he raises like his own children. He decides that he's being selfish and that his current, doting assistant-daughter, Tillian, deserves a life of her own. That struggle -- Peregrine trying to back away from Tillian while Tillian doesn't want him to go -- is the main story arc of Remedy. The problem accelerates when Rose, an inexperienced mage of the insect/mammal race, needs other races' help to save her plague-stricken village. Peregrine needs to fly for supplies and Tillian needs to nurse the ill -- so, they need to live separately if they hope to save Rose's village.

I've read the book and can say it's really good. Loved Tillian in particular though the entire story was one that I enjoyed reading.
Was Remedy your first published novel? Was it the first one you've ever written?
Remedy is my first published novel, and my second complete manuscript. My first novel was a cliched quest story set in a less thoroughly developed version of the Aligare world. Sometimes you need to write a pig's ear just to learn what kinds of purses you can't make it into.

Ah the quest story. That is an interesting way to put it, having to write something not as good to learn first. Very interesting.
Could you tell my readers a little about the path you took towards publication? Which route did you take?
I began by querying literary agents with my first, then second manuscript. After Remedy got about fifty form rejections, I sought out editors to help me figure out why no one was biting. Those editors confirmed that the story structure wasn't horrible or anything -- the issue was that my premise was incompatible with mainstream fantasy norms. One editor basically said that if I wasn't willing to market Remedy as a talking animal book for young people -- which I was not -- then would be very unlikely to find someone willing to take on such an "unmarketable" project. So I did another editing pass on Remedy, to make sure the book's style was what I wanted it to be, and I began planning to self-publish an ebook.

Nowadays, there's a lot of pressure on genre writers to produce a novel that's massively popular within a few weeks of release. This approach disregards all the sleeper hits and niche-makers in publishing history. I think it does literature a disservice to focus on popular, marketable stories at the expense of trying new paths. The ebook market may have its flaws, but it does allow every work a chance to find its audience and spread slowly by word of mouth. I self-published because I want full creative control. I've never been one to sit around waiting, hoping someone else will make my goals happen. I want to see more non-human-focused fantasy for adults, so I'm writing some and I hope some people get enjoyment from it.

I've heard the anti-animal characters for anything but children's stories before and it does cause a hard decision for some writers. I'm glad you chose to keep going and hope that more follow suit because there is room for the characters in the fantasy genre, in my opinion.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing transformative fan fiction as a young teenager, just for fun. Borrowing someone else's scenario and characters was a great way to see what goes into a published work of fiction, and a way to celebrate the stories I enjoy. The process of tinkering with stories led me to build a world of my own. For the past eight years, I've been working on my original works. Mostly Remedy and the rest of the Aligare world, but I have some other partially-formed projects.

I've heard a number of people who started with fanfiction and it can be a good learning medium. You did a wonderful job with your world building, which I am fast learning takes a lot of effort to do right in fantasy.
How many drafts do you normally do per novel?
Oh gosh, I didn't count how many drafts went into my two finished novels. I just kept finding style, story and worldbuilding issues to poke at. I'm going to guess between three and five thorough editing passes, plus lots of extraneous tweaking. I never have a sure idea of what my finished story will be like until it's looking me in the face.

The edits can make the drafts blur together. Interesting that you seem to have a more develop as you go approach. I imagine having a finished product was a bit of a relief in a way.
Would you prefer to write in silence or have music/noise?
I work best in a quiet-ish public place like a coffee shop or the library. Somewhere with a bit of ambient noise and chatter. If that's not an option, I listen to lyric-free music. I like just enough sound that I need to consciously tune it out to focus on the words I'm writing. Complete silence weirds me out when I'm trying to work!

Sounds like a good mix, some noise but not enough to be a distraction, the ambient type. Lyric-less music is a good approach too.
Do you have a project(story) you are working on now, or want to start working on soon?
I'm working on Render, another story of Aligare. This one is about a mountain village facing strangely frequent wolf attacks. Definitely going to have more action and horror than Remedy.

Sounds like it will be another good book. I hope to be able to read that one as well. Thank you for answering all my questions and letting me read Remedy.
Where can my wonderful followers find you online?
Remedy can be found on Smashwords and Amazon. My website has some supplemental information on the Aligare world, for those who read Remedy and would like a companion guide to this non-human place. Or if you just want an objective explanation of what the non-human races look like.

As for me personally? I post every few days on my Blogger and mirror the content to Dreamwidth. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter, and you might see me drifting around Goodreads, LibraryThing and the Absolute Write boards. I invite your wonderful readers to drop by and say hi sometime!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the end of MarNo draws near

Hello all. I haven't posted a March Novel challenge update since the end of week 1. The month is almost over and for some it will bring forth a new challenge. April has its own special event known as script frenzy. I've tried it a couple of years and while script may look easier, writing 100 pages isn't easy and I've yet to make it. But this year I'm not taking part because I have too many unfinished novels that need my attentions and dedication.

After 20+ days of march writing how close am I to reaching my my goal? Well, I am working on chapter 6. So, not close to the finished first draft, as planned. Not really close at all, but I'm okay with that. I had some issues come up and that happens sometimes.

Am I giving up after the month? Nah. I have a new goal already. And I'm still writing.

The way I see it: even if I only get 15,000 words done (rough estimate since I'm not doing actual word counts but around 6 chapters) then that is more than I had at the beginning of the month. It still counts as progress. My new goal will be to get both YA novels (the second draft and this new novel first draft) finished by June 1st. That gives me two months. Along with a side project that has to be sent out during that time frame but still. I'll manage.

How is your writing coming?
Accomplish any of your goals yet?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gay Story v Gay Character

Clarification: by gay I mean homosexual and in the good way. I also mean more than gay but it's just easier to say that instead of list and explain the portion of the alphabet we have taken over. People get confused when I post glbtqai.... which can include but are not limited to: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transexual, intersex, asexual, etc. There are some books out there, though I hope more will be published in the future, many many more.

The question I'm presenting: what is the difference between a gay story (queer lit, glbt novel, etc) and a story that has gay main characters (or secondary and minor though main is better)?

The simple answer is: plot.

I say this because both stories have gay characters but it's the story that makes them not always the same thing. A "gay story" is one where the characters sexual orientation, gender, etc is a part of the plot. This includes stories about coming out and for transgender characters going through the transition. The main point is that the story focuses on the glbtqa aspect of the character; that is where the conflict lies. And we need these stories. Sure, sometimes coming out can seem overdone but there is always going to be a reader who really needs to see a new story that has a character going through what they are trying to face. Also, there are the different stages of coming out (to self, family(others), living out), which all can be used in different varieties within a novel.

Aside from the coming out stories, there are also transition stories. The ones that show, for example, how a person can go from one gender to another and the trials they face. This can include a slight mix of the two (character and story) because there is more to the story than the transgender identity but it plays a large role. This is just another example but I'm sure you lovely readers get the point.

On the other hand, a story with gay characters can be found in any genre and almost any plot line. Their orientation is a part of who they are and not so much the source of conflict. For example, in a hero plot instead of boy saves girl, it would be boy saves boy, or girl saves girl. The urban fantasy demon fighter (or demons) can be any sexual orientation or gender and still follow the main plot lines found in the genre. And some of these stories may have smaller plot lines like coming out to parents, but that is not the focus of the novel. It's easier to do with a character who is already in the "living out of the closet" stage but it's probably possible to have them at any stage.

I wish I had more reading done in order to give proper examples of each category. At this point, I've only read one but I am reading two that are in the character side at the moment and have several others in my to-read section now that I've discovered some of the books that are already available.

These books are actually more common than some might imagine. When I first started writing I really didn't know of many. I'd heard about the one mage series in the fantasy section and then a friend sent me Boy Meets Boy. But whenever I would go into a bookstore to browse, I wouldn't really find any. That is the hard part of both, though gay character can be a little more difficult if it's not shown in cover or mentioned in description. Lately I've discovered many other books. It's easier to do research first before going into the stores and sometimes buying online is better but they are out there. And more are getting published each year. But it can still be a pain. I love picking books by perusing the shelves of book stores and I rarely can do that  if I want a gay book, at least not in wyoming or colorado, where I currently shop. I can settle for the research part but I hope to see more on the shelves, visible for all to see, in the future.

Why post about this topic? Well, because it's one that is important to me. I write "gay" stories and "gay" characters in all of my novels. Most of the novels are character ones right now, because I've been focusing on the mutant series, but I have story ones waiting to be written and I am looking forward to those too. Sure, I've had a couple of people ask why I didn't write straight characters because they think it will be easier to sell a straight novel but *shrugs* that's just not who my characters are and I am happy with what I write.

And whether I ever sell a novel or not, I couldn't imagine writing anything else.

Anyone else write GLBTQ characters? (see what I mean about the letters)
Have a favorite book in either type that is already published?

Friday, March 11, 2011

10k In A Day Challenge

Hello MarNo members and wonderful blog viewers.

This is slightly short notice but on Sunday there is going to be a 10k in a day challenge where the goal is to write 10,000 words in 24 hours. There will be another challenge after during the week too, I just need to get my work schedule first before I pick a day. Won't be Monday though, I promise. More likely Wednesday or Friday but I hope to know by Sunday. For now: Sunday is the day. Twitter hashtag for the event is #10kInADay

Can you write 10k in a day?
Want to try?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Picture Book Blogfest

Check out the other entries over at:

I don't often post blogfests on this blog but this one seemed appropriate. Picture books are some of the greatest books out there because they are the start, the books that draws us into the magical world of reading.

Not only are picture books fun to read, they are also an interesting set of books to write but despite the shorter length and fun pictures, the books aren't easy to do. While I haven't been reading many picture books lately (no kids of my own and most my little cousins live in Utah) I have had a chance to see a few submissions as an intern.

The hard part isn't getting the words down, and I've even tried writing them before, but to make something in a short amount of words that is not only entertaining but also unique enough considering the number of people trying to write for kids makes it difficult. There are so many out there and yet there are only a few that stick within my memory. I may have to go back and read some others some day. But for now, I have a few favorites to post for this blogfest.

About the Blogfest:
"I challenge you to blog about your favorite picture book.  It can be what your favorite was as a child or what your favorite is as a parent, as a writer, as a teacher.  Tell us about it!  What made (or makes) you love it?  Tell us in two sentences or fifteen paragraphs.  Be creative or plain.  Just celebrate picture books with me!"

Basically, we are supposed to pick just one but I am going to not follow the rule and pick a few based on different parts of my life that I discovered them. I have never been very good at picking a favorite anything. Oh well.

Up first:  The Very Hungry, Hungry Catipillar

Who knew such a little book could have a big impact? The thing with this book is I still remember it. I can almost see some of the pictures even though I haven't read the book in ages, and until searching for the cover for this post, I hadn't seen the book in over a year. And I have a terrible memory. But I still remember this book. This is also what I think of when I think Picture Book because it's one of those hard surfaced, image on every page, not a ton of words types. The non-popup (yes there is a popup one) version had creative uses of design to make parts of the hard "page" seem like it had been eaten by a hungry caterpillar. It is just plain cute. Even the drawing of the caterpillar itself isn't overly realistic but it's close enough and cute enough with the colors and everything for little ones (and those of any age) to enjoy.

There there is: The Giving Tree

I don't quite remember this book as a kid. I want to think that I had it at my grandparents house but it's hard to be certain. I do know they have a copy of the book now. It's definitely a great book. How often can someone manage to make a Tree into a main character; not often at all. And this one did it so well along with the message the tree represents. I may not be certain that I read the book as a child, but as an adult I have read the book a number of times (in a row) to my little cousins when I was living in Utah. They love it.

Finally, I can't leave out: Dr. Seuss books

They have a lot more writing than the first book I mentioned but the pictures are fun and the stories vary in difficulty. While I don't remember them either as a kid, I started to appreciate them more in high school when one of my friends used a couple books for competing in Speech. And I soon followed. Among my favorites for right now are: Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax, Oh The Places You'll Go, And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, and of course Green Eggs and Ham. Then there are the other version inspired by Seuss such as Seussical the Musical (which is a combination of stories like Horton Hears a Who, Horton Hatches and Egg, and a mixture of others) or the crazy fun version of Green Eggs and Ham by Moxy Fruvous. Because Seuss picture books and the things they inspire are a symbol of fun. I even have some of the books already along with a couple stuffed animals (from Kohl's) already set aside for when I have kids. Because they should know the joy that picture books can bring.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

MarNo Week 1 Completed

Week 1 is done. How did everyone do?

This was a slow first week for me. I had plenty of time to write but spent part of my time sleeping or doing nothing. I did get a job this week and that will start to affect things but this next week I only train for 2 days. So, I should still have time to work on the novel. Feels weird not really focusing on word count this time around. Sure I'd like the novel to make 60k but as long as it's close I won't mind what the end result becomes. Just no more 23k first drafts, lol.

I am roughly 4 chapters in. 3 finished with the 4th is started and I hope to have it done today.

Might be up for attempting #10kInADay on twitter for anyone who is interested this next week at least on one day. The goal there is to write 10k in a single day. I haven't made it in one day but it's worth a try and anything is better than a zero. Each word gets us closer to the finish line.

What about everyone else?
Ahead of schedule?

Keep Writing!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Coming Soon: Epic Giveaway for blogiversaries

This blog is going to be 2 years old on May 1st. I would love to have 200 followers by then for this blog and my other blog. That blog ( is only going to be 1 years old March 17th but right now they are close in number of followers thanks to blogfests for sure. I want to host a combined giveaway for both blogs and will soon. Every follower will be invited to take part in the grand giveaway.

So, I am holding a joint giveaway with... myself. But I need a little help. I'd love to make part of this giveaway international. And if people are willing to donate prizes, then I can give even more stuff away because I'm definitely not rich so resources are limited. Some of the prizes will be online gift cards for books because we all like books. There may also be special packages, depending. Mostly, I want this to be fun.

This massive giveaway has a couple of purposes. Blogiversary, of course, since this blog is going to be 2 and the other will be 1. And then there are the followers. I get excited with each new follower I gain and on both blogs I am close to 200 followers. Wouldn't it be cool, if by my 2nd anniversary of blogging I had 200 followers on each blog? I think so. Less than 40 per blog to make that goal and even if it isn't until after this blog turns two, that will be okay too. Even better than followers will be if more than 20 people enter the giveaway. I haven't had a super successful giveaway yet and this epic one could be the One.

Right now I'm considering for prizes:
e-cards for book depository
special packages (pencils, journals, maybe something from specialty store in town, other)
maybe critiques, not sure from whom
candy? I don't know, might avoid the food this giveaway, not sure
The only specific books I'll give this time will be if someone donates and at least a couple prizes will be the gift cards so that people can purchase what they want. Choice is usually a good thing.

I am open for suggestions.

How long is too long for a blogfest? I am considering starting at one blogiversary and ending at the other but that's a long time. March 17th to May 1st is over a month long. But it does make sense for a double blog giveaway.

Any other ideas on how to make the prizes international? Right now we have the book depository idea because it has free shipping anywhere. I don't know much outside of the US, so if someone with experience knows of some other great options, I'd love to hear them.

I look forward to the start of the giveaway in the future. All are invited.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 1 Starts Now

MarNo is now.

(image link: