Interview with Author Abigail Linhardt

Graciously offering to sit down and be interviewed by us again, Abigail Linhardt takes time from her busy schedule while earnestly awaiting the release of her audiobook for Revary.


What is the first book that made you cry?

I was 13 years old when “Order of the Phoenix”, the fifth book in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling came out. Just years earlier, I had fallen madly in love with Sirius Black. I loved him as a character because he was Harry’s only chance for a tradition wizard life and for familial love. When Sirius died in “Order of the Phoenix” I was crushed. I didn’t know that main, loveable characters could die. It was a chance for Harry and it was snuffed out. I cried for days. I was depressed. Changed my life and shortly after I wrote my own main character death.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

A have a couple. The first is too many story and character arcs—I get too excited, outline some and then get fixated on one and have to force myself to stop and outline the rest. This causes me to lose focus on the entire outline. Rather than filling in details later, I focus on one and then forget what my amazing conclusion was supposed to be! This leads to overdramatic scenes, too much action (which is a thing) and no rest for deep, psychological character development, which I believe to be very important. This also leads in to too many characters in one story. Which I try to fix by making more stories and the next thing you know, I have 20 MSWord documents open and no idea where my current WIP drowned.

Second is actually not reading in my genre. I read a lot, but I don’t read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, which is all I write. I end up instead reading reviews of fantasy stories and novels. Seeing what other people like or dislike about a major author. I don’t like a lot of major works, which makes me look like a hypocrite. But I also know that reading in my genre will make my writing stronger and more unique. Sometimes, I just buckle down and have to read a novel in my genre. But then the enormous number of books in one fantasy series always deters me and I stop.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yes! I want to write romance novels. But not your regular kind. I love the sword and sorcery genre (think Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard) and heavy fantasy elements. I have read a few fantasy romances and they seem light on the fantasy and the gore. So whenever I get around to that novel, a pseudonym will come in to play. Just in case.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I always try to write the books I want to read. Sometimes that is going hard into originality if I have a richly realized world to talk about. Sometimes, if what is popular something I like, then I will write that. Maybe readers don’t know what they want and I have a little something that might spark their interest! So I can never only bow to the whims of the people. There is also a chance that my original story uses well-known tropes just enough to draw them in. Then, before they know it, they are swallowed up in an adventure they’ve never had before!

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I am not a fan of the ten to fifteen book-long series. I know that my genres (fantasy and sci-fi) love to do that, but I do not. I do not want to start a book and realize that there are nine more to go. It rarely works and a plot can rarely be sustained over that length of time without boring the readers, or changing to vastly it’s hardly the same story it was seven books ago. I write stand-alones and I love reading stand-alones.

That being said, I am writing a sci-fi trilogy and I have plans to expand on the universe of two of my stand alone novels. But making those stand alone novels as well. Jim Butcher did a decent job with his Chicago wizard Harry Dresden. I started on book three in his series and it stood alone just fine. Because of that, I know I can safely pick up one of his books and not be forced to start the next one right away.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell her a few things: One, don’t stop writing, you will make it. Two, your confidence is not arrogance. Young, writing me suffered a lot from fellow teenage writers and I wish she hadn’t. Three, just because you do not keep journals does not mean you are not a writer. I thought I had to fill dozens of journals to be a writer. But I found by the end of the day, after writing a short story, a few chapters in a novel, and some personal thoughts, that I had no need to write in a journal. I said what I meant through stories and that was fine.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Yes and no. It’s healing for me to write some of the things I do. I cannot leave certain words locked inside me or they will kill me. I do not believe in bottling up something that needs to be said. There is magic and power in words—especially the written word. So I treat it with respect and always try to remember the power words hold.

How many hours a day do you write?

It really depends. On my blog, I write often about being organized and making time to do the things we want to do. My catch phrase is “You will never find the time; make the time.” I am a college professor with a weird and insane schedule as well as a day job as a marketing supervisor and manager. During the summer, like right now, I write for hours every day. I have the time and make even more! I write short stories, chapters, outlines, and ideas for most of the morning. As a long-time college student, I know I cannot sit in one mood for 8 hours a day writing. It starts to get weird, bad, and the prose gets ugly. So I make time to exercise, get up, move away, do grocery shopping in between. My writing hours need to be broken up.

During the school semesters, it is harder to make that much time. I always strive for 2 hours a day though. It might not be much, but it gets the job done.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

I have a creative writing degree so I forced to think about fiction differently for a huge part of my writing career. I have read some weird books and multimedia novels as well. There was this one interactive, multimedia novel I found called “Nightingale’s Playground” that inspired me to try a project of my own. It was interesting to see stories told through words, video games, sound, and online interactivity. I created something inspired by that, using Mina Murray’s journal entries from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was not near as cool as I don’t have the computer know-how. But it opened the door to me for things out a hardback or an e-reader. It is very cool, but it also made me appreciate the tradition written word. And I probably like that better.  

Where can readers learn more about you?

My Facebook. I also have InstagramTwitter, Twitch. My website abigaillinhardt.com will be up in September.

Pitfalls to Avoid: Showing vs. Telling

As a writer, we have many expressions and mantras that both writer and reader alike have heard. Here’s another one you’ve probably heard ad nauseam: 

Show, do not tell.

However, a lot of amateur writers get this concept frequently wrong and why is telling so bad anyway?

Let’s start with an example of telling:

Grim unholstered his six-shot, pointing it at Sylvia. He felt angry and growled his fury.

Sylvia was unperturbed by his weapon, laughing defiantly. “If you plan on intimidating me, you’re sorely mistaken.”

He smiled cruelly, “The bullets in the gun are made from cold iron, demon. You’re finished!”

He opened fire, Slyvia screaming in anguish as each bullet tore through her violet flesh.

Is this bad? Isolated, no, not really, but it’s clearly amateurish and if the entire story is peppered with this style of writing, then it’s bad. The reason why is I’m telling the reader Grim is angry. I am telling the reader Sylvia was unperturbed. I am telling the reader Sylvia not only laughs, but how she laughs. I told the reader how Grim smiled and I told the reader how Sylvia screamed (okay that last part was really bad, but you get the point).

Understand that “show vs. tell” is a reader’s trend. At one point, it was perfectly acceptable for writers to tell the reader of the emotions and actions of the characters instead of showing. Read any 19th Century or early 20th Century literature. And if attention spans continue to get shorter and shorter, this trend may reverse itself and I may be writing a post about “tell, do not show.” I’ve been reading negative reviews of readers wanting just this thing (I’ll get into why in a moment)

So, how to avoid telling? Here are three rules to help you:

  1. Don’t use emotive words in the narrative at all. An easy test on yourself is if you have any emotive words. Angry, happy, sad, etc. Get rid of them.
  2. Use body language to describe the emotion. Instead of writing, He was angry, write, He grimaced, baring his teeth, nearly snarling. But you want the reader to feel a particular kind of rage, you say? Let the readers decide that for themselves. Don’t try to control that part of the process of writing for your reader.
  3. Mitigate or avoid adverbs. Adverbs are like salt. It’s okay to use one sparingly here and there, but overuse ruins the whole meal. A lot of adverbs is lazy writing. She laughed defiantly tells me how she laughed, and on top of it, how do I picture defiance? Instead, let’s go with, She folded her arms and proceeded to laugh, a raucous bellow that shook the room.

So, here’s the caveat of showing vs. telling and this is how I’ve seen this in the form of negative reviews. Showing increases your word count–considerably. It forces you to be more descriptive. Even if you chose a minimalist approach to describe an emotion, you’re still going to have more words than a simple, He was angry. In the example above, that was three words vs. seven. In the other example, that was three words vs. a whopping fifteen. Some readers hate this because you have writers who can literally spend a page and a half describing a gate-opening scene (George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you). It’s beautiful, it’s immersive, but it’s long. So be aware when you’re being descriptive or you’re laying it thick on the purple prose.

Happy writing!

Introducing Author Phil Penne

Dragon Soul Press is proud to present Author Phil Penne to our avid audience! Debuting through DSP with a non-fiction self-help book for when it comes to technology, more titles are sure to follow. Enjoy our interview with the author below.


 

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

      Hmmm… Going to have to go with “depends” on this one. A lot of factors come into play: my current state of mind and physical health are near the top. It also depends on what I’m writing; Non-fiction, like Geezer Tech don’t affect me one way or the other – I’m just relaying my work experiences. In fiction, writing passages that fit my personality can be energizing; writing about things out of my comfort zone tends to be more exhausting.

What is your writing Kryptonite?Phil Penne Facebook Profile Pic

      Never really thought about it, but considering the technical writing I’ve done, I’d have to say the word ‘deadline’ gives me goose bumps more than anything else.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

      I’d give up my self-doubt in an instant to be a better writer, but I don’t think I’m able to… and there’s the self-doubt again.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My writing tends to be all over the map in terms of subject, so I can’t really give you a hard number, since different genres take varying amounts of time. “Too long” is probably the closest I can come to an answer; I tend to procrastinate and am always finding excuses to do something other than write. Sometimes the excuses are valid, other times not so much. Considering I.T. tech support was something I had done for over forty years, I finished Geezer Tech quickly, by my standards.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

      Oh, big time! I even addressed that precise subject in one of the vignettes in my first fiction work, Forty Rabbit Holes: The Book of Daydreams. Being slightly ADD (self-diagnosed, mind you), I tend to think of plots for other books while working on my current book. Once that happens there’s a major log jam and nothing happens until I manage to clear my head. Usually photography is the panacea for that; when I’m behind the lens nothing else exists.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

      I’m going to include self-published under the umbrella of unpublished, so that would be four, not including two coffee table books and three books of sheet music transcribed for the Native American flute. Half finished? Well, I’m 8,000 words into my next fiction work (out of an anticipated 110,000 words). Two more are in the 2,000 word range (out of an anticipated who-knows-how-many total words). The total number of ideas bouncing around inside my skull? Carl Sagan couldn’t count that high.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

      Hmmm… tough one. Oddly enough, I’d have to say Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Even though it became hugely popular with the release of the movie Blade Runner in 1982, it should have been every bit as popular when it was published in 1968 – it shouldn’t have taken the movie to propel the book to fame.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

      In a nutshell, “Get used to rejection.”

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

   Never really thought about it much until recently when I toyed with the idea of writing a trilogy of artfully written books with erotic overtones. The closest I came prior to that was in my book Mama Root: The Old Woman of Loop Road, where I found it necessary to pen a Shakespearean style sonnet as part of the story, and ascribed its authorship to one “Royce Voithem” – which is actually an anagram for “My other voice”.

Where can readers learn more about you?

     Probably my website. There’s a little bit of a bio there, plus insights into my photography, graphic arts, storytelling, etc. That might give people at least a thumbnail sketch of what this Phil Penne character is all about.

I also believe you can tell a lot about a person by asking them what their favorite quote is. Mine? It comes from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.


You can also find this author at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Youtube, and DSP Author Page.

Author Interview with Simon Dillon

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Author Simon Dillon for his latest bone-chilling release, The Irresistible Summons. With the tagline of “How far would you go to bring the one you love back from the dead?” how could one resist the temptation? Especially when cutting-edge technology and evil meet.


How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I’d say it takes me about a year, on average, to write something like The Irresistible Summons or Spectre of Springwell Forest, if you include the initial inspiration, preparation and planning, writing the first draft, rewrites, edits, and so on.Irresistible Summons promo 8

Outside my usual psychological drama/supernatural thriller/horror spectrum, I’ve written some novels at record speed (my animal fiction adventure novel Echo and the White Howl, for instance), and others at a snail’s pace. I’ve got a fantasy epic I’ve been working at, on and off, for about twenty years. Still not sure if I’ll ever try and release it.

What was your hardest scene to write?

I can’t reveal that here, because it’s from a thriller/horror novel I’ve not yet published. Suffice to say, the scene in question was so disturbing and upsetting that I had to keep taking breaks every ten minutes to write that chapter. I’m made of pretty stern stuff, but that was fierce, even for me. It really had my stomach in knots.

From novels that are presently published, the finale of The Irresistible Summons was an absolute fiend to get right. Previous versions were either too gruesome, too repetitive, too bizarre, too long, or – incredible though it may seem – too optimistic.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I’m going to cheat and pick three books – The Bartimaeus Sequence (comprising The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate). This trilogy, set in a parallel London filled with powerful magicians, is particularly notable for witty first-person sections, told from the point of view of a highly intelligent and cunning demon summoned by the novel’s young protagonist. Highly recommended.

Or did you mean my own novels? Some of my children’s adventure novels are definitely under-appreciated, because they are just as much for adults as for children.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Out of what I currently have published, with the notable exception of the George Hughes trilogy (my children’s science fiction novels), all my novels and short stories stand-alone. Even the George Hughes adventures are each stand-alone stories, though they should be read in order, as there are recurring characters and references to previous incidents.

Having said that, my horror/thriller novels do share a certain DNA and express variations on a theme. One reader I know jokes about “Simon Dillon Plot Bingo” (imperilled heroine, religious oppression, big central mystery, haunted locations, supernatural elements, cults and/or secret societies, melodramatic overdrive, big twist ending – apparently). I don’t see this as a bad thing. I think it means I’m getting known for a certain type of story. Just as long as I can keep surprising people within that format, I’m pleased to be stereotyped to a degree.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

That’s a good question, because it follows on from what I said above. Actually, I think there is nothing wrong with following a formula and giving readers what they want. Agatha Christie did it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did it. JK Rowling did it (all the Harry Potter books follow a very clear formula, except the last one). But within these formulas, the above authors consistently surprised and delighted the reader.

Every writer wants to be original and put their own stamp on the world’s literature. However, that isn’t at the forefront of my mind when I write. Rather, I want to master the form in whatever genre I am working with. To that end, I try to give the reader what they want – but not the way they expect it. That’s the clue to any fine dramatic writing, in my opinion.

Of course, you can’t please everyone. The Irresistible Summons and Spectre of Springwell Forest both have fairly clear-cut conclusions, but one or two readers would have preferred more ambiguity. On the other hand, my next novel Phantom Audition (due out in October) is a much trickier beast. The various ways it can be interpreted may frustrate those who prefer clear-cut endings. As an author, you have to decide what you think is the correct, most satisfying ending, and stick with it. In fact, I always do. I don’t write any story until I know the ending and love it. Then I work backwards from that point.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I’m not sure why I’ve been so foolhardy as to simply go by my real name, but I don’t really see what I gain by hiding behind a pseudonym. Privacy is the main reason cited, but if JK Rowling didn’t feel the need for one, I’m not sure I can be bothered either. I’d rather be loud and proud about what I put my name to.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

I often lurk on the event horizons of social media black holes and get sucked into vortices of very dark humour. Plus the internet in general is so distracting.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

A bit of both really. But I can’t not write. It’s like breathing. If I don’t write at least a little each day, I feel like I’m wasting my life.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Watership Down, which I read at the age of nine, just before I read the second book that made me cry, The Lord of the Rings. I find it hard to imagine any intelligent, thoughtful reader coming away from either of those novels unaffected or unchanged. The final chapters of both had an incalculable effect on my young psyche, and the bittersweet truth that in this world at least, all things end.

Both books conclude with death, whether the literal death of Hazel, in Watership Down, or the figurative death of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings (not to mention the passing of the Elves, and the melancholy end of the magical eras of Middle Earth). However, although sad, neither scene is negative. It is simply the way of things, and, as Gandalf puts it, “not all tears are an evil”.

Where can readers learn more about you?

I’ve got a blog,which has regular updates on all my writing projects. It also features film reviews, links to my film podcast The Tangent Tree (which I co-host with Samantha Stephen), and other book/writing related articles. On top of that, I have a Facebook page.

Introducing Author P.D. Dennison

Dragon Soul Press proudly announces Author P.D. Dennison and his upcoming dark fantasy series, Legends from the Land of Shaarn.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I would tell myself to be more diligent, to write more often and not to let outside interferences get in the way of my dream of getting published. I was always told I’d probably never get published and wouldn’t make any money as a writer so I kept it as a “once in a while,” hobby throughout my life instead of really focusing on it. My writing was only ever for my eyes. It wasn’t until I was forty-three that I learned this idea where you ask yourself what you would do without all the fears and anxiety standing in your way and the answer is of course that I would write stories until my fingers bled and become a published author, so I will tell myself to never give up!PD Dennison Facebook Profile

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Elric of Milnibone. This book was given to me by my much older brother back in the 80s. I absolutely loved it. I’d like to see Elric movies made. I think they’d blow people away.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I had a very detailed outline for a series of novels that I worked on for years but completely scrapped. Deleted all the files, threw out my notes. It was too close to the Prophesy movie series. I have a novella that I wrote in a weekend for a contest that never got judged because the hosting magazine went out of business. I’m very proud of it. It’s set in the future of my fantasy world the Land of Shaarn and is entitled Technomancer. (No it doesn’t have anything to do with the Technomancer novels.) I have a series of six short stories about a super hero I created called Skorpion X set in the 1980s that I’d love to develop into a TV series or a graphic novel some day. It crosses over with my fantasy world the Land of Shaarn as well in that the villain Graxxen makes an appearance. I have a ton of ideas for future novels in the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series after the first five books are written. I plan to take the history of the land through its “wild west,” days and then through industrialization, on into a modern era, an age of information and a future age. I’d really like to develop the history of the Land of Shaarn and I have a notebook full of ideas for it.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

I would definitely say I view writing as a spiritual practice. I’m revealing the most personal part of myself in my writing. I learn a lot about myself and my soul just as someone would during meditation. It’s a meditative practice for me and is very calming and relaxing. The rest of the world just fades into the background and it’s just me and the world I’m creating. My office which I call my den, is my temple and its filled with all sorts of geeky crap that I cherish. I have a collection of Batman stuff as I’m a huge Batman fan. I have a collection of Star Wars stuff, a small collection of Star Trek Stuff. Some LOTR collectables and best of all three book cases filled with all my favorite books board games and role playing games. So the place I write is even spiritual to me. It’s a very personal space filled with all sorts of things I’ve been interested in since I was a child and now I create things based off all those childhood interests that others will hopefully enjoy and cherish.

How many hours a day do you write?

It varies. I am off work at the moment for illness and have been trying to be at my desk by 7am. I write for 2 hours, take a break to give myself and the dogs some exercise, I write for 2 more hours, have lunch, write for 2 more hours and then I’m usually tapped out so about 6 hours. Some days more, some days less. I try to take off weekends to recharge my batteries. I’d like to get up to 8 hours per day and hope the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series gives me the financial freedom to make writing my full time job.

How do you select the names of your characters?

In different ways depending on what I’m writing.

For the Legends from the Land of Shaarn series, the mythology of Shaarn is closely based on Norse mythology with the names changed to protect the gods privacy of course. I’m one sixth Swedish so I try to pick Swedish names that would fit in with Norse mythology and then I might add a double consonant to give the name some Shaarnite flair.

For any modern short story fiction I’ve written I always try to choose names that would fit in with the region in which the story takes place.

In my Skorpion X series of short fiction I used the names of my close friends with fictional sir names and the characters are loosely based on us in our youth.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The hardest scene I’ve had to write to date was when I killed my favorite character, a dwarf named Postgaar Fireaxe. I rewrote it so many times. I kept rewriting it with him being raised from the dead by magic and then I didn’t like how it turned out so I’d rewrite it again. Finally I decided that it made for a better read if one of the main characters got the axe after that battle. It was a major battle and it didn’t make sense for all of the heroes to come out alive so Postgaar got crushed by flying debris from an earth wave spell, poor little bugger.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

My soul I guess? LOL Jimmy Page is rumored to have made a deal with the devil for his gifted guitar playing and I’m not above that. I want to write, I want to live off the proceeds of my royalties. I’d love it if movies and graphic novels were made based on my books, I’d like to see Funko Pop dolls of my characters, maybe even produce a line of toys or collectables. With a dream that big you’ve got to be willing to trade your soul I think. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Probably the first half hour each day when I sit down to write. I type so slowly the ideas feel like they’re mired in the muck of my brains and I have to shovel them out. Once I’m roughly thirty minutes into the process the ideas start to flow more freely and I really get rolling.

Aside from that, the toughest part of writing a novel for me is outlining it and sticking to the outline. I have so many ideas that when I start writing they just spill out onto the page and I often stray from my outline and have to make major changes to the story that I hadn’t intended. It’s usually better writing than what I’d outlined so I don’t mind making changes. But the other day I killed my favorite dragon in the Land of Shaarn, Arken and I’m a little pissed at myself for that. But I had no choice it was either kill Arken or kill the main villain in the novel in chapter four. It would have made for a very short book!

Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers can find me on my website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at Dragon Soul Press.