Monday, December 26, 2016

Book Review of El Tiburon, by H. Schussman


I was super excited to receive this unofficial review from a reader up in Trinity County, CA

Be sure to send me a review if you want to have it featured here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Talk at the North Highlands-Antelope Public Library

Last year I did this event at the Rancho Cordova Library. It was pretty cool. A bunch of people showed up, some whom I've never met, and many friends from the community.

My book, El Tiburon, is set in Antigua, Guatemala. Before I wrote the book Joe and I went there for a month for language school. I was won over by the people and the history. After a month I had a good feel for the town's layout and the daily vibe. We were there during Semana Santa (Easter Week), which I used for several scenes. We returned for another month of language school and to be the Godparents for our Godson's wedding. That was a great event for us. We were able to be part of the community. We still stood out like sore thumbs, but it was really great. (Check out my travel blog; A Dashing Bold Adventure in November 2009 & August 2013).

I will bring textiles, photos of the city inside the garbage dump, and various items. I will also bring books for you to purchase IF you want to, but I would love it if you came to this event even if you already have El Tiburon. I will also be donating a book to the library.

I also want to remind my audio-readers that El Tiburon was released back in August. Let me know if you would like to review it and I'll get you a copy. I only have a couple of free copies, so make sure you get in touch with me.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

5 Copies of El Tiburon for Free

WOO-HOO !!!!

I can't tell you how excited I am... well actually I can because I'm a writer :) My publishing company, Vinspire Publishing, has just now started a promotional for El Tiburon.


To get signed up for the giveaway just go to the website and follow the directions... Here's the link to make it easier for you:

Vinspire Publishing 


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

H. Schussman interviews Jim Foster, Voice Over artist



Heidi: First, Jim, tell us a little about yourself.
Jim: Hmm… how much autobiography do you want? I’m 48, married to my wonderful wife Joellen, have five energetic kids (three girls, two boys) aged from 11 years to 2.
I live in Wamego, Kansas; home of the world-famous Wizard of Oz museum. I was born and raised in Kansas City. Though I’ve lived in Kansas most of my life, I have lived overseas for a few years, and traveled in Europe and much of the US.

Heidi: What made you decide to become an Audio-Book Voice Over?
Jim: I’ve often been told I have a face for radio. Seriously, I’ve been encouraged to do so by many over the years. Two folks’ opinions carried enough weight to actually push me forward: a pro audio engineer; and a co-worker who listens to audiobooks regularly. I ran across the ACX web site, and that gave me a place to start. I need to give a shout out to Brian Coles, a friend of mine who believed in me enough to provide gratis tuition for that first VO class.

Heidi: What genre do you prefer to work with?
Jim: I’m not sure yet. When I first started auditioning, I went mostly for non-fiction, thinking that would be a more natural fit. However the first two books I’ve done (one of which is El Tiburon) were both fiction. I’d still like to do some non-fiction, but I’ve found with fiction getting inside the characters and voicing them is a lot of fun.

Heidi: When did you start voice acting?
Jim: I’ve been involved in community and church drama productions for years, and done occasional VO work for friends and inside communications at my job.
I first started soliciting work about two years ago. When I decided to get serious, I signed up for training classes I’ve taken a couple from Bill De Wees (a talented VO and great teacher). For audiobooks specifically, I took the ACX Master Class with David H. Lawrence XVII and Dan O’Day.

Heidi: What are you working on now?
Jim: I’m just about to start The Ghostwalker File by Kevin Robinson, a contemporary novel. In the meantime, I do regular short-form voiceover work of Fiverr (e.g. podcast intros, explainer video VO, phone videos.) There’s also a full-time day job, and another side business as a gunsmith and armorer for the local police department. Add the large family, and I’m always working on something...

Heidi: Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
Jim: To give justice to each, I try not to identify with any one in particular. What I do is give each a physical place in my head. Sean was to my right forward, kind of leaning out the side. Gary was just to the left, and forward; Sport was center, just a little back. By giving them each a spot to “sit”, it made it easier to hold long conversations with myself.

Heidi: Where do you record? Describe your studio.
Jim: In all truth, it’s a just a walk-in closet off our master bath. It’s isolated with sound-deadening curtains; the clothes in the closet are the remainder of the sound treatment. Acoustically, it’s delightfully neutral, but it is a long way from being soundproof. As such, I record after about 9 pm, when kids are in bed, and my neighbors aren’t mowing lawns or driving about. My long-suffering wife gets banished to the family room in the basement.
The recording equipment is a mic, a monitor attached to the wall, and cords running to a laptop kept outside the recording space.
We’re in an age where advances in technology have replaced the need for a lot of specialized equipment in audio recording. It’s revolutionary.


Heidi: Do you practice outside of the recording studio?
Jim: Reading stories to my kids, for one. I work on building specific voices for characters. I also take webinars on performance as income permits. I’m saving up for one-on-one pro coaching.
In addition, I spend time taking classes and practicing editing techniques and audio sweetening. Making money as an independent narrator requires producing a high-quality product as efficiently as possible, both in performance and in post-processing.

Heidi: Who are your all-time favorite authors?
Jim: That’s a very difficult one. I’ve been a voracious reader from my very young years so there are many, many books and authors I love. Filtering by the list of books I re-read on a regular basis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Elizabeth Moon, Larry Correia and John C. Wright rank up pretty highly.
But there are always new authors with stories out there who surprise and delight. I have a bias towards science fiction, modern thrillers, mystery and (selectively) fantasy.


Heidi: Do VOs write query letters? If so, did you find writing a query letter a challenge? How did you overcome that challenge?
Jim: Not as such, at least on ACX. I do, however, audition. In some ways it’s easier than a cover letter: there’s no deciding what to say. I just have to decide how to say another’s words.
For me, the hardest part is setting aside the time to seek out and audition for the next book project I’d like to do. It’s really just a matter of setting goals and a schedule to keep moving forward.
After that, it’s the waiting. With rare exception, you never hear back from the rights holder directly; at some indeterminate time in the future, ACX gives you the polite, “Thanks, please try again” form letter.
Another challenge is learning not to take the rejection personally. I’ve auditioned for a lot of books I was sure I was perfect for… didn’t get the job. Sometimes I’d really like to know why.
In the end, I may deliver a perfectly good performance, but if the author/publisher wants a soprano, young female voice, that’s their choice. Nothing I can do will change that.


Heidi: What makes you choose a book to commit your voice to?
Jim: I research the book, read as much as is available, and look for indicators it would be a good “fit”. For example, when Vinspire offered me El Tiburon, I spent some time Googling you, reading your blogs, reading interviews by and with you; and also Vinspire’s website and reviews. That gave me a lot of confidence that this was a book I’d enjoy doing and could be proud to promote.

Heidi: I know my publisher, Vinspire, contacted you. Is that common for you?
Jim:  It’s happened a couple of times. ACX is a matchmaking service, essentially, so rights holders can hunt for narrators, just as I search for auditions. It’s not as common as I hope it will be some day.

Heidi: What advice do you have for an aspiring VO to be contracted by a publisher or author?
Jim: First, you don’t need to have a special type of voice. If you can read aloud clearly, you can potentially read an audiobook. Then do research on how to set up a home studio. ACX themselves have a Youtube channel with many helpful videos. Don’t think you need a huge amount of gear: your current laptop, a free copy of Audacity and a decent large diaphragm condenser mic with appropriate interface will do you. You can find mics that will work for $100 or less.
Establish an ACX profile (it’s free!) and start listening to other folks’ demos, and start paying attention to ones you like. See what you can learn. With an ACX account, you can also apply to the ACX Narrators and Producers group on Facebook, and read the wealth of information there.
Finally, get your gear together and start auditioning! You can’t truly learn, except by doing. You can also cut your teeth by volunteering with LibriVox, who record public domain books pro bono. Again, learn by doing.
Really, that’s the hardest part. It’s easy to get lost in always preparing to be “good enough”. There is no such thing. Have a bias towards action, but play it for the long game… start quickly, but don’t give up.
It’s pretty much the same battle a new writer or any aspiring creative hopeful goes through. Just do something, then work to do something again, just a little better next time. Keep doing, keep learning. Never assume you’re the best, but never let “them” tell you you’re not good enough.
Budget for and plan to get professional training at some point. That’s expensive, but it’s ultimately worth it. I highly recommend the ACX Master Class: they really teach how to leverage ACX; how to record well and record efficiently; and how to market yourself on ACX. Plus there’s a great community of ACXMC grads who are helpful and encouraging. I can’t imagine getting to this point without them.


Link to Jim’s Fiverr gig: http://bit.ly/2acniAP
Link to Jim’s Narrator profile on ACX: http://goo.gl/DNgCty
At present Jim doesn't have a website, blog or a facebook page for my VO work. But folks are welcome to contact him at jimfostervo@gmail.com.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

El Tiburon- Audio Book

My book, El  Tiburon is officially released as an audio-book through Audible.com. If you are new to Audible, you can grab it for free by signing up with them as a first time member. Here's the link;

El Tiburon - Audible


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cordova Library's Meet the Author Event

I was invited to speak at the Rancho Cordova Public Library about my new release, El Tiburon. I can’t tell you the last time I went to a public library. It was actually pretty neat. The quiet hushed atmosphere, the respect for other people’s space and concentration. My event was called “Book Talk, El Tiburon by H. Schussman,” and I was warned that five to ten people would actually show up, mostly to eat the snacks.
Luckily for me, a fan set me up to be interviewed by the local newspaper. Margaret Snider from the Grapevine Independent wrote a great article about me being a local author and how people should come meet me. It worked! I had about twenty readers show up. They asked about Guatemala, the garbage dump, writing, and how to get published… I talked with them for a good hour and could’ve kept going!


I was especially intrigued by a lovely couple from India who were visiting their son in Rancho Cordova. They read the paper and decided since they were also authors, they should come see this American author. They were delightful, asking relevant questions and having their photo taken with me.  A week later found us sitting in their hotel room amongst children and grandchildren eating Indian snacks and drinking American wine. Both are doctors and opened a hospital in a small city in Western India. They specialize in Medical Tourism. By the time we left them (five hours later) we had promised we would come to India and stay with them. I can still see Rajeev’s face as he held out his hands and said, “You come to India, and we will show you the underbelly of our country!” For those of you who know us, you won’t be surprised that this sent a shiver of excitement through me. Visiting a nearby forest to meet an indigenous people-group and stay in a house on top of a hospital with two lovely doctors… oh the joy of a serendipitous meeting. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

H. Schussman interviews Felicia Bridges

H. Schussman interviews Felicia Bridges
Heidi:
So let’s just jump and get to know you. I’ve been looking forward to this since I heard you write adventure fiction around the very real adventure of mission work. Having been on mission trips myself, I know it’s fodder for great stories! What genres do you write? 
Felicia:
I’m releasing my first young adult novel this spring, but I’ve previously published a couple of non-fiction accounts in anthologies. The novel that launches May 30, 2016, CzechMate, has been called Action/Adventure, Suspense, and Fantasy depending on the reader’s perspective. It’s the story of a teen missionary in Prague who must prove her parents aren’t spies before it’s too late. It’s a little like Amy Carmichael meets Indiana Jones with a biblical worldview. It also incorporates a touch of romance and a healthy dose of the supernatural power of God.

Heidi:
When did you start writing?
Felicia:
I’ve been writing since I was a young Army BRAT learning to enjoy life overseas. At age twelve, we were deployed to Taegu, South Korea, and it was really difficult moving to the other side of the world and trying to make friends in a very different culture. For most of my life, I’ve written to entertain myself, or to process and cope with circumstances, or simply because a story popped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone until I put it on paper. I started writing with a goal of being published about five years ago.

Heidi:
What are you working on now?
Felicia:
I’m working on the second book in the International Mission Force series, BoliviaKnight, which will release December 15, 2016. The series was borne out of so many different experiences, but it was inspired by the mission trip I took with my daughter when she was twelve. Working with a family that served on the mission field opened my eyes to the excitement, danger and everyday challenges they face. I wanted to write stories that would pull people into the lives of my characters and allow them to learn about the history, culture, landmarks and folklore of exotic places around the world while enjoying a tale that kept them on the edge of their seat. 

Heidi:
Who is your favorite character in your stories?
Felicia:
I don’t have a favorite. There are aspects of each of them that I love… and some aspects I’m not so crazy about. I hope their less-than-endearing traits help readers relate to them, not as perfect heroes, but as sinners redeemed by grace. In the end, I hope my readers realize that they don’t have to be perfect, and that God knows all their flaws and loves them in all their imperfection. The heroine in CzechMate, Nicole, is especially close to my heart because she is the first fictional character I’ve created. She has the best characteristics of my two daughters and I love her passion for God, even though it sometimes gets her in trouble.

Heidi:
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Felicia:
I see something of myself in each of my characters, but none of them is just like me. Often my heroes are the me I wish I had been at their age – courageous, steadfast, loyal, loving, independent. Frequently their flaws are the things I find most frustrating in myself. Exploring how my characters discover their kryptonite and destroy it encourages me as I work through identifying and submitting various areas of my life to God.

Heidi:
Where do you write? Describe your workspace?
Felicia:
I should have a really great answer about how I have a special office, decorated with artifacts from around the world, where I play alternative music and watch the sunset as I create stories from all these exotic places. But then you would want pictures and I’d be found out. The truth is most of my writing is done on my laptop (now a MacBook Air that I love) sitting on our sofa in the living room, with my feet on the ottoman and a glass of sweet tea beside me. Frequently it also involves tuning out the TV if my family is watching something, but I’d rather be with them than holed up in a remote corner in perfect solitude.

Heidi:
Who are your all-time favorite authors?
Felicia:
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book I didn’t at least like, even if it wasn’t my particular style or preference. But I do have two authors that I absolutely love. I mean like "fan-girl, stuttering in their presence, somebody pull me away before I embarrass myself any more” love. The first is Jerry B. Jenkins, who was the keynote speaker at the first writer’s conference I went to. I was giddy as a teenage girl at a Bieber concert meeting him and have been so humbled by his encouragement over the past six years. The second is Ted Dekker, who I understand is the keynote speaker for the ACFW conference this fall that I’ll be attending for the first time. Hopefully I can pull it together and act my age when I meet him, but I’m not counting on it.

Heidi:
Did you find writing a query letter a challenge? If so, how did you overcome it? Do you think there was a key phrase or idea in your query letter?
Felicia:
I’ve actually never written a query letter per se. After attending writer’s conferences for several years, meeting with various publishers and editors and pitching my ideas, I finally had the courage this past spring to submit a proposal in response to requests from several publishers and Vinspire Publishing offered a contract on the first two books in the International Mission Force series based on that proposal. By meeting with the publishers at conference, your proposal can bypass the normal gatekeepers. However, in today’s publishing climate, that means you must have a completed manuscript if you’re a first time author.

Heidi:
What advice do you have for a writer aspiring to be published?
Felicia:
I highly recommend attending conferences, and Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in particular. The opportunity to meet with agents, publishers, editors and other writers and to learn the craft, practice pitching, find out what the publishers are looking for in a proposal, and network to build relationships in the industry is worth every penny. As in any creative field, talent, hard work and determination will only take you so far if your work never finds its way to the desk of the person who can get it published. Writer’s conferences give you the opportunity to meet those people face to face, to make a great first impression on them, and to share your ideas with them even before you’ve taken the time to flesh them out completely in order to determine if the idea itself generates any interest. If you have what you believe to be the next great American novel, but everyone you present it to thinks the idea is cliché, boring or offensive, you can save yourself a lot of heartache and time by moving on to the next great idea. 

Heidi:
Would you like to acknowledge someone for their help/assistance/faith in you/etc?
Felicia:
Absolutely! The most important acknowledgment is to God for his grace in saving me when I was eleven and for drawing me back to himself when I had wandered away. Any words you read that I’ve written that are good and pure and true have come from Him. Anything that falls flat is where I stepped in. I thank Vinspire Publishing and Dawn Carrington, in particular, for believing in the International Mission Force series and taking a chance on a new writer like me, and my agent, Julie Gwinn, for her encouragement, wisdom and patience! I thank my family for their encouragement, patience with all the time when I was in the room, but was actually thousands of miles away, and their unconditional love. And a very special thank you to my friend and writing buddy, Daphne, who wrangled me in to going to a writer’s conference the first time and has been my personal cheerleader ever since.

Ways to connect with Felicia Bridges:

Adventures that Inspire Action

Monday, February 15, 2016

H. Schussman Interviews Ronovan Hester

I’ve been looking forward to this interview, Ronovan. Your constant help to new aspiring authors has earned you a place among the leaders in the literary world. It’s a pleasure to interview such a great guy, but I have to say… You are so normal and approachable. All of us are forever in your debt and are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.


So, let’s get started:

Heidi:
What genre do you write?
Ronovan:
Historical Fiction seems to be my natural leaning. Although, I have been working on a Southern Contemporary Romance for a while now. For the most part history finds its way into my thoughts. I have several manuscripts that deal with something to do with the past.

Heidi:
When did you start writing?
Ronovan:
I guess it's been at least 20 years now, but the real sit down and do it part has been the last few years. That's when I began to pay more attention the craft of writing itself, in how to tell a story the right way.

Heidi:
What are you working on now?
Ronovan:
I'm working on the Southern Romance I mentioned. I also have a YA Historical Adventure I go to when my brain needs a rest from the Romance. The YA book is one I wrote in the present but it's gone back and forth between past and present in the idea stages. The manuscript is complete in the present version but I want to change it.

Heidi:
Who is your favorite character in your stories?
Ronovan:
In the book I just released, Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling, Captain Gabriel Wallace is my favorite for various reasons. I also like a character named Gimby, he's the helmsman for Wallace's ship and has a matter of fact way about him people can't help but like.

Heidi:
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Ronovan:
I put a lot of me into Wallace. I have a co-author, PS Bartlett, so she took some of me out of there when she added her details, but that's fine. The core of Wallace is still me for the most part. I don't think you can write convincingly unless you tap into some deep hidden part of you when you write the antagonist in a story. We all have those moments of utter dislike and frustration we can channel.

Heidi:
Where do you write? Describe your workspace?
Ronovan:
I write in my bedroom. Having some medical issues I tend to spend time in as quiet a place as I can. I suffer from migraines that don't stop, just vary in degree. They are present 24/7. Writing helps a little. I get the ideas that run through my head during those sleepless moments down on paper. It's one reason I can write as much and as fast as I do.

Heidi:
What was it like to be a co-author? Did you have to consult regularly with P.S. Bartlett regarding the story, or were you given a free reign?
Ronovan:
I had free reign writing the first draft. Then I past it over to her to add her touches and adjust here and there to match up with her future stories and ideas in a series she is writing that involves a couple of the characters. She would at times ask me about Wallace or other characters while she was writing her current trilogy to get some details she could use. I would only advise co-authoring if you work together through the process in outlining and getting the ideas down for direction and character basics. It will save a lot of pain and agony later.

Heidi:
Why did P.S. Bartlett choose you to write the prequel to her pirate series?
Ronovan:
After reviewing her book The Blue Diamond: The Razor's Edge, and then interviewing her, we became friends and talked a lot. We both felt her book deserved more attention than it was getting and I saw the world she had created as being filled with potential. The idea of a prequel series of how Ivory Shepard, her main character, became a pirate captain. At the same time the idea of the sequel to Blue Diamond was discussed with only a couple of basics thought of at the time. One character came up that had red hair, blue eyes, and would be the influence for Ivory in her pirate development. We thought we could get a lot more done if we both wrote. She worked on the trilogy, and I Amber Wake. From the physical description of a man named Rasmus, I created Captain Gabriel Wallace of the Royal Navy and the rest of the characters in the book. Only one character appears that came from any other stories already written. I thought the appearance of Ivory's love interest in The Blue Diamond would be a nice addition, and an awkward situation in the future.

Heidi:
What advice do you have for a writer aspiring to be published?
Ronovan:
Take your time and find your voice. Do that by trying to write different genres outside your comfort zone and you might be surprised at what you can write. Listen to those who have made it in the business. And know there is more than one way to get where you want to go. I never expected to co-author a book with anyone, and never a Historical Adventure involving some pirates. Although Amber Wake is not exactly a pirate novel. It's more of a war against an enemy novel.

Heidi:
Would you like to acknowledge someone for their help/ assistance/faith in you/etc?
Ronovan:
Pretty much all of those that follow me on my blog RonovanWrites have been encouraging. Florence Thum, a law professor in Australia has been a big supporter and honest. She doesn't pull punches. The beta-readers of the book, Colleen Chesebro and author Annette Rochelle Aben have been great. I recently connected with a writing mentor of sorts in Claire Fullerton who is guiding me along the way in suggestions. It's an informal thing, but I enjoy her writing and I would like to capture that feel in my Southern Romance, and she's southern like I am. We ended up having more things in common than we realized. And oddly my cat Spunky. When you need those quiet times to get away from the pain of writing and the world, it's nice to have something that is amusing and will just enjoy being with you. Spunky has appeared on my blog as well as a friend's blog and is kind of popular. For a guy with constant noise in his head from a concussion he suffered over 2 years ago, a quiet friend like Spunky is a blessing.

Here are some easy ways to purchase Amber Wake, Gabriel Falling.


You may connect with Ronovan through:
Amazon Author Page: Ronovan Hester
Amazon UK Author Page: Ronovan Hester
Author Site: RonovanHester.com
Book Review Site: LitWorldInterviews.com
Goodreads: Ronovan Hester
Twitter: @RonovanWrites
Facebook: Ronovan Writes
Google+: Ronovan Writes
LinkedIn: Ronovan Hester
About.me: Ronovan

Pinterest: RonovanWrites

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Amber Wake, Gabriel Falling by Ronovan Hester, co-author P.S. Bartlett

Review by H. Schussman
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Reader’s Point of View:
This prequel is written to explain an enigmatic pirate, Captain Rasmus Bergman, found in a series written by P.S. Bartlett. Author Ronovan Hester was selected by P.S. Bartlett to go back in time to develop the character of this fierce, yet protective man.

Set in the early 1700’s, Hester uses a very formal Old English dialogue and non-dialogue language style. The historical descriptions are done smoothly, and flow nicely without being to “teachy”.

A word of advice is to settle into the language as quickly as possible. It was a bit of a stumbling block for me, as I tried to mentally get the long slow phraseology to catch up with the fast scenes. Hester seems to settle into a great story-telling groove after the third chapter. After that I was along for the ride.

If you’ve read the other three in this female pirate series, you will be hungry for the story of Rasmus. If you haven’t read any of them you will find yourself wanting to find out what happens next. This is the making of a pirate! How did this noble (albeit bad-tempered) man become one of the most feared pirates in the Caribbean Sea?

It’s a little confusing, but I believe P.S. Bartlett wrote Blue Diamond first and it was a major hit. The novella, Ivory Dawn was written to give history on Ivory. Amber Wake, Gabriel Falling is the story of Rasmus. Demons and Pearls is how those two met, Jaded Tides is the second book regarding the duo. Oddly enough, Blue Diamond has a different pirate in Ivory’s life, Captain Maddox Carbonale. Hester also develops this man’s character from the main character’s POV.

According to Bartlett she wrote them backwards because she was curious about how they came to be the fierce pirates they are in Blue Diamond. Not having read anything but Amber Wake, I wouldn’t know how well she pulls all of that off, but I do like Hester’s development of Rasmus Bergman from his male point of view.

Writer’s POV:
As stated above, the language is Old English and a bit stiff at the start. I don’t know if I warmed up or if Ronovan Hester warmed up, but it flowed through my mind smoother after a couple of chapters.

In Amber Wake, Gabriel Falling, Hester takes on the challenge of writing first person and steers clear of some of the pit-falls of that style. He doesn’t describe what is happening behind him or on another boat. As a reader, you only know what Captain Rasmus Bergman knows, which is critical in first-person writing.

Another challenge is developing a character from someone else’s series. Hester takes this in stride and creates a back-story to explain the famous pirate. He includes history of what could explain Rasmus’ high moral standards (for a pirate) and his upper class education. At times the internal and external dialogue, and the actions seemed at odds, but it didn’t stop me from reading.

This is the first I’ve read of The Razor's Adventures Pirate Tales. It would be entertaining to get readers together, who read these books in different order, and see if we each have a favorite character based on which book we read first.


So in conclusion; Ivory Dawn, Amber Wake, Demons and Pearls, and Jaded Tides are all prequels to The Blue Diamond. Unlike Ivory Dawn, Amber Wake is a stand-alone novel, but barely.

Amber Wake, Gabriel Falling is available at Amazon


Sunday, January 3, 2016

H. Schussman interviews Janis Susan May (also known as Janis Patterson)

Heidi:
First, Janis Susan May (who also writes as Janis Patterson), tell us a little about yourself?
Janis Susan May:
You asked for some information about me… there’s not much to tell, as I’m really quite ordinary. I’m a seventh-generation Texan and a third generation wordsmith. I sold my first novel in 1979 and since then have been published in just about every format except for scratching on stone, and I’m up for that if the contract is good enough. I am one of the original 40 or so women who founded RWA in 1980 and am still a Charter Member. Currently I am the Texas representative to the Southwest Region of Mystery Writers of America and am a long-time member of Sisters in Crime, NINC and the Authors Guild, as well as several RWA chapters. I founded and published the Newsletter (now titled Menhedj) for the North Texas Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt, which for the nine years of my reign was the only monthly publication for ARCE in the world. I also got it archived in museums and universities as a scholarly publication. I have worked as a talent agent, a jewelry designer, an actress and singer, an advertising agent, a Supervisor of Accessioning in a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, a document checker in a cruise agency, and several other things. Yes, I do bore very easily.

I married for the first time at 54, after this wonderful Navy Captain (who is a number of years younger than I) proposed in the moonlit garden of the Mena Hotel across the street from the Pyramids. Yes, those Pyramids. I am a shooting enthusiast and a gun rights activist. English is my native tongue, but I am reasonably capable in Spanish and can speak some Italian, French and Arabic. Now I am self-publishing my books, as it is much less stressful than dealing with traditional publishers. I began my self-publishing career in 2014 after getting back the rights to all the books I would ever get back, and in an insane blitz brought them all and two new ones out, one every two weeks from 1 June to 31 October, each freshly edited and with a brand new cover. In March 2015 The Husband and I were invited to come stay in the dig house at the archaeological excavations at El Kab, Egypt – and civilians are never invited to dig houses! – in order to research a book. It took getting permissions from three Egyptian governmental agencies to be allowed to stay. That book, A KILLING AT EL KAB, is scheduled to be released in March 2016, exactly one year after our visit.  Now I am writing on four projects – a murder mystery, two contemporary Gothic romances and the first book of a mystery series about a contract archaeologist. And that’s about it.

Heidi:
Well, you are anything but ordinary, Janis Susan May. What genre do you write?
Janis Susan May:
Perhaps a better question might be ‘what genre do you not write?’ The problem is, I bore very easily, and the idea of writing every book in the same style and/or genre appalls me. So, to answer your question, I write romance and horror as Janis Susan May, light mystery as Janis Patterson, children's as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly and non-fiction as J.S.M. Patterson. I really can’t spread out into any other genres, because I’ve run out of permutations of my name!    

Heidi:
When did you start writing?
Janis Susan May:
I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was four, hand printed and illustrated on typing paper and, as Daddy had explained that a stitched binding was superior to glued or saddle-stapled, sewn together with Mother’s sewing thread. It was, as I remember, about a group of schoolchildren led by a heroic little girl who capture a lion escaped from the zoo before going home to dinner. Needless to say, it was not one of the backlist books I brought out in my 2014 self-publishing blitz! Seriously, I began working in my parents’ advertising agency when I was nine, and was promoted to writing copy when I was around twelve or thirteen. After graduating high school (I have no college degree) I began writing magazine articles and free-lancing while I tried different jobs. I sold my first book – WHERE SHADOWS LINGER, a romantic suspense – to Dell in 1979. It is also not one of the books I self-published; although I do have the rights back it now resides metaphorically ‘under the bed’ and will stay there!

Heidi:
What are you working on now?
Janis Susan May:
I’m just finishing a light mystery called THE NURSING HOME MURDERS (projected release date April 2016), though that title might change. MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT (projected release date February 2016), a light mystery, has just come back for the editor and I’m putting in the front and back matter so it will be able to go to the formatter soon. I’m getting ready to do the final run-through on THE MASTER OF MORECOME HALL (projected release date April 2016), a contemporary Gothic romance to get it ready to go to my beta readers. I’m also getting ready to do the final run-through on A KILLING AT EL KAB (projected release date March 2016), after which it will go back to my beta readers and my advisory committee, and from thence to the editor. Hopefully it will be ready for publication in March, 2016. I’ve done the first half-dozen chapters of A KILLING AT TARA TWO (projected release Fall 2016), the first in my mystery series about a contract archaeologist who works all over the world, and have worked out skeleton ideas for the next three books. I’m just getting started on an as yet untitled short Gothic romance set in Texas for an upcoming anthology; this will be real work, for as you can tell from this interview I do not write short easily. Sounds confusing, but it’s the way I work; I never have less than four and usually more projects going. Did I mention that I bore easily?

Heidi:
Who is your favorite character in your stories?
Janis Susan May:
Usually the protagonist of the book I’m currently working on. I’m just finishing up a light mystery called THE NURSING HOME MURDERS. I don’t say cozy, because there’s no cooking, no crafts, no shoe fetish and no intelligent talking animals, which currently seem to define ‘cozy.’ The heroine is Flora Melkiot, the elderly widow of a very wealthy jeweler; she is autocratic, sublimely self-confident, determined and totally disrespectful of any authority or rules not of her own making – sort of the dark side of Miss Marple. I not only like her, I would kind of like to grow up and be her. On the other hand, when I was working on A KILLING AT EL KAB I resonated to Sandra Caulder – a phony stage psychic on the run from her Russian gangster lover. She is beaten and overwhelmed by life and refuses to accept that she just might have some real psychic abilities. And when I was writing THE EGYPTIAN FILE my heart belonged to Melissa Warrender – an art historian and gallery owner tossed into a totally unfamiliar milieu when she has to go on the run from assorted thugs in Egypt after retrieving a file left by her late father, who telephoned telling her to get it. The odd thing was that he called two months after his funeral. Lily Wright in MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT engaged my attentions deeply enough to consider doing a series about her; I still may. In THE MASTER OF MORECOMBE HALL, it was Emma Morecombe, the spunky American wife of an aristocratic English landowner who still loved him even after she fled their stately home in fear of her life. I firmly believe that the main character of your current project should be your favorite character – at least until the book is finished. If you don’t care about your characters, who will?

Heidi:
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Janis Susan May:
I can’t answer that question. I do believe that a writer unconsciously puts a piece of herself, however small, into every character, but to recognize that piece is beyond me. My  characters are simply themselves. Some parts of characters and real people are identical, but to assign specific characteristics to specific people just doesn’t work for me. Also, I don’t like the practice of basing characters on actual people. Characters should be their own person and not a simulacra of an existing person. That’s not creative and it is unfair to the story.

Heidi:
Where do you write? Describe your workplace.
Janis Susan May:
Normally my ‘office’ is a small desk set against the wall in our guest room, but right now I am revamping it – changing out some of the guest room furniture, going through boxes that have been stored in the closet forever, that sort of thing. The resulting tumult makes working there impossible, so for the last couple of months I have been working at a big antique wooden desk in our den. As the television is also in there, I constantly fight the temptation to watch it – especially as one of our local channels has been running two back-to-back Jessica Fletcher episodes every weekday! However, the work is getting done. Our den is huge and is actually four rooms in one – the old library (the first one in the house – we now have three), the dining room, the tv/den area and a large sunroom. Our animals – two very neurotic cats and a spoilt, prissy little dog – also run free in here during the day and they are always a distraction. I can and have written just about anywhere you can think of, from the car when we’re traveling, to sitting in the pickup out in the back of beyond when The Husband goes to a rocket meet or a rockhounding expedition, to the dining table of the flat we rented in Luxor this spring, to any number of airports and hotel rooms.

Heidi:
Who is/are your all-time favorite author/s?
Janis Susan May:
Simple – Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters, who were both the magnificent Egyptologist Dr. Barbara Mertz. If I could be even half as good as she I would be over the moon happy. One of the most spectacular days in my life was when a respected reviewer said ‘if you like Elizabeth Peters you will like Janis Susan May’s THE EGYPTIAN FILE.’ My feet didn’t touch ground for days. Even better was that I was fortunate enough to have Barbara as a friend. Oddly enough, we met not through writing, but through our interest in Egyptology. It was at a the yearly international conference for the American Research Center in Egypt many years ago and we hit it off then, staying in touch until her death in 2013. In June 2015 I was honored to be invited to present a paper on “Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters” at the Historical Novel Society conference in Denver.

Heidi:
Did you find writing a query letter a challenge? If so, how did you overcome it? Do you think there was a key phrase or idea in your query letter?
Janis Susan May:
The only thing I detest more than a query letter is a synopsis, and the best thing about self-publishing is that I don’t have to waste time with either. My stories are complex and it hurts to pare them down to a few sentences, which to my mind takes all the life out of them. I began my career in the late 70s, when for a serious writer there was only traditional publishing and self-publishing was regarded as vanity publishing and the kiss of death for a career. Then you did all your contacts by snail mail – no internet at all, at least not for the general populace – and every book had to have both a query letter and a synopsis. I assume they still do in traditional publishing. I would rather write a full novel than a synopsis. As for key phrases, I have no idea. I just did the best I could. I always wanted to write a very simple query letter – “Buy my book or I will bomb your car.” In those days it was funny; now it most definitely isn’t. I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with either a synopsis or query letter today.

Heidi:
What advice do you have for a writer aspiring to be published?
Janis Susan May:
Read. Write. Read some more. Write some more. Repeat forever, even after publication.

Heidi:
What is your latest release?
Janis Susan May:
CURSE OF THE EXILE, (which you reviewed on this blog) a traditional Gothic romance set in 1860s Scotland which has been compared to the works of those Gothic icons, Victoria Holt and Virginia Coffman. Angelina Barstow is a spunky but proper young woman who shocks society by working as an assistant to her feckless, womanizing, librarian father. They are hired to catalogue the library of Sir Nairn MacTaggert in a remote Scottish castle. There is a handsome younger brother, an unknown enemy, a vengeful former suitor and a ghost that might not be a ghost. It was great fun to write. And, as you have probably noticed, I much prefer writing books to publishing them. That’s why so many are set to come out early in 2016!

Heidi:
Would you like to acknowledge someone for their help/assistance/faith in you/etc.?
Janis Susan May:
Most definitely. No one writes a book in a vacuum. I have been blessed to have wonderful beta readers and superb technical advisers, a fantastic editor (Laree Bryant) and a marvelous cover artist (Dawn Charles of Bookgraphics). Mostly though, I thank my parents and my husband. My parents were both ‘word’ people and from the beginning they supported and encouraged my writing. They are both gone now, and I miss their encouragement and advice to this day. They and my wonderful husband have been truly my greatest blessings. The Husband is a ‘science’ person and I think the writer part of me simply baffled him. Probably it still does, but he is incredibly supportive even though to this day I don’t think he truly understands what I do. He is, however, gradually taking over some of the mechanics of my self-publishing – doing publicity, etc. He also listens patiently as I work to construct the skeleton of a plot and acts as my armaments advisor even though he doubtlessly thinks I am reality-challenged. Which I am.


...always a good story!

...committing crime with style!