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Guest Post: Meanwhile, In The Serengeti by Barbara Ann Wright

WildebeestStraight people are my wildebeests. I watch them from the grass, waiting. One little noise will send them into a stampede, hooves kicking the dirt into a cloud, making them harder to catch.

I creep forward, silent, downwind from them. I must catch them off guard. I take a deep breath, stand up, let them have a good look at me, and say, “I write fantasy novels about lesbians.”

Okay, maybe it’s not exactly like that, but pitching a novel starring LGBT characters to a straight audience has its pitfalls, but if I want the widest readership possible for my work, it’s something I have to do.

I love all my fans. From the LGBT crowd to the pansexuals and asexuals, those who are intersex, and those who eschew labels. And there are straight people who seek out diverse books. I love them, too. I usually don’t have to sell so hard to any of them. They’re the reason I wrote The Pyramid Waltz. Well, them and me, of course. It used to be that most LGBT characters in fiction faced horrific persecution and a tragic end. So I wrote a fantasy romance where being a lesbian was no big deal. It was just another kind of love.

A lot of straight people have to ease into the idea, though. They know of the books with horrific persecution and tragic ends. They cringe when they hear there are lesbians in my fiction, expecting characters who are beaten bloody by the very society they live in. “Don’t be scared,” I’ll say. “Being gay in my worlds is no big deal. It’s important to read fiction starring all kinds of people. The more diverse characters we see, the more our culture will come to see everyone as just another part of society. So don’t be afraid of the gay king, the lesbian princess, the trans wizard, or the bisexual knight. It’s still your kind of book.”

I go to quite a few science fiction and fantasy conventions, and the bulk of the people I’ve spoken to identify as straight. I’ve seen some people squirm when I tell them that my stories star women who love women. I’ve seen the occasional eye roll, like I’m trying to sell an agenda. I have to keep my cool, keep describing the book, be as funny as I can be, and assure them that it’s all right. The other shoe will not drop. It’s really no big deal. Lucky for me, many people believe me, read the book, and see for themselves. I’ve overheard some conversations where someone reassures someone else about the book by saying, “It’s not really about that.”

And it’s not, not for them, at least. But for those of us who don’t often see ourselves in fiction, it’s very much about that. It gives me joy to see someone who feels the way I do on the page. Anyone who has ever felt excluded knows what I’m talking about. Most of the lesbian, gay, or bi people I know learned long ago to enjoy fiction starring straight characters. Trans people are used to not seeing themselves on the page. Most LGBT people I know don’t look at straight fiction and assume, “That’s not aimed at me,” or have to reassure each other with, “The characters are straight, but it’s not really about that.”

So the next time you see a story starring a character with a sexuality or gender identity different than what you’re used to, go ahead and pick it up. It’s not a lion waiting in the grass. See if you like the story. Read a few pages. See what you’re in for. Go online and peruse the ratings. You might discover a new author to follow, a new world and characters to love. You might expand your horizons. You might join me in calming the wildebeests.

Author Barbara Ann WrightBarbara Ann Wright writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not adding to her enormous pen collection or ranting on her blog. Her short fiction has appeared twice in Crossed Genres Magazine and once made Tangent Online’s recommended reading list. Her first novel, The Pyramid Waltz, was one of Tor.com’s Reviewer’s Choice books of 2012, was a Foreword Review Book of the Year Award Finalist, a Goldie finalist, and won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy. One of its sequels won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Fantasy Romance. Her newest work, Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory, is a standalone fantasy starring lesbian and trans characters in a Viking-esque world.

Author Interview: Kasper J. Beaumont

Kasper J. Beaumont was born and raised in Australia and lives a quiet life with the family in a seaside town. Combining a love of fantasy and a penchant for travel in the Hunters of Reloria trilogy, Kasper started to write on the urging of friends and family and enjoys watching readers become immersed in the magical world of Reloria. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Kasper BeaumontG’day folks, I’m Kasper Beaumont, a fantasy author from Australia and I’m looking forward to sharing my dragon tales with you. I’m a mild-mannered healthcare worker by trade and when I’m off duty, I turn into a creative fiend, pushing the boundaries of fantasy writing. I juggle writing, work and my three young cherubs and enjoying catching up with my writing group, family and friends. Living the dream.

When and why did you begin writing?

I was really keen on writing as a youngster and teenager, then I discovered travelling and a whole new world opened for me as I backpacked my way across Europe with a bunch of friends. Needless to say there was much partying involved and apart from keeping a journal with self-drawn pictures, my writing was on an extended hiatus. When I finally returned home, I was focused on saving for a house, then marriage and rugrats took up my world. After the 3rd child I was needing some ‘me’ time and an outlet for my creativity, so a whole new career beckoned and here I am, a thrice published author. Sweet!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably not until I published my first book in 2013, so I still consider myself a newbie and am hanging out for a 3 movie deal with Peter Jackson. A girl can dream.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest release is Dragon’s Revenge, which finishes the Hunters of Reloria trilogy. As the title suggests, my badass dragon is majorly peeved when the Cyclops enemy destroys his homeland. He is hell-bent on revenge and must gain the help of the Hunters of Reloria to defeat his nefarious foe. The Hunters of Reloria are a mixed group of heroes, with halfings, dwarves, elves, a mage, a knight and of course, the dragon. They rally to fight the invading forces of Vergai lizardmen and Cyclops giants who shoot laser beams from their eyes. There is magic; battle action with lasers and dragons; romance and sweet fairies in the series – something for everyone.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been planning the trilogy a long time and I’m glad to see the culmination. I’m a big fan of fantasy and all things dragon-related so I guess it was natural that I would write fantasy books. I draw inspiration from the fabulous fantasy artwork I see all around and Anne Stokes is my favourite dragon artist. Many of my young fans send in fantasy artwork as well and I love to hear their feedback and ideas for my new work.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I let the characters write the story and give them a gentle nudge here and there. It’s interesting when they go in a completely different direction to where I think we are headed, but the plot twists make it exciting, so I just go with it. ‘Flying by the seat of my pants’ writing is the only way to go for me.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Magic happens.

If you believe in something enough and work together to utilize your companions and resources to their full strength, then you can achieve anything. Sometimes it is the most unlikely person who can perform an extraordinary act of bravery to save the day.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No. I’ve yet to have my homeland invaded by laser-wielding Cyclops, thank goodness!

What authors have most influenced your life?

Tolkein, Eddings and Clive Cussler

What about them do you find inspiring?

The way they can all make the most incredible adventures believable and realistic. You leave reality at the door and buckle up for a roller-coaster ride of excitement. If I can give my readers that experience, then I consider my job well done.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?

No, I wouldn’t say a mentor, for I haven’t met any of my favourite authors. How cool that would be to have them pour over my first draft and make a few suggestions.

Who designed the cover of your book?

I employed a local spray paint artist to do the covers for the trilogy. His name is Scott Patterson and I really admire his work. He threw me a curve ball with the Dragon’s Revenge cover because he changed from spray paint to digital. I was a bit worried at first that the style would be different to the others, but I am really stoked with the end result. Some artists can do anything.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just the advice that I keep telling myself: remember to write every day. Life is so busy that you really have to make time for the things that matter. Oh, and find a good editor when you’re done. That’s very important too.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love to get feedback, so please do a review or send me a message to tell me know what you think of the Hunters of Reloria trilogy and what you would like me to write next. Always happy to oblige.

Book Cover Dragon's RevengeKasper Beaumont
near Brisbane, Australia

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Dragon’s Revenge – Book 3 in the Hunters of Reloria series

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Author Interview: Lauren Lynn

Lauren Lynne is a young adult author of action adventure, contemporary fantasy stories and an educator of children and adults. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Lauren LynneMy name is Lynne, Lauren Lynne and yep, I’m a James Bond fan. Seeing as how I’m not nearly as cool as the British secret agent, I write adventure stories. When I began writing it was intended for young adults but luckily for me my stories draw a much wider audience. I’m more than a published author. I’m also a certified teacher in Oregon and I work with students from kindergarten to adults. This last year I even started doing some technical editing but my passions will always be engaging readers in vibrant stories. I do more than just teach, write and edit. I love hanging out with my boys, our looney golden retriever and our array of cats. I’ve come to believe that “sucker” is tattooed on my forehead since we have four furry fosters at our house right now. So, when I’m not scooping cat boxes, I may be reading or taking scenic pictures.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing for fun in elementary school. As I’ve gotten older I can write a wider variety of things but as a kid growing up it was all fiction. I hated everything else.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I started a novel in college but I never did anything with it. I hope to revisit it, finish it and publish it. I was playing Dungeons and Dragons with my college buddies at the time so guess what the basis of that story is. I was definitely a writer by 2011 when I began in earnest on my journey to publication.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My current work is to finish the fifth and final book in my Secret Watchers series. I have very mixed feelings as my time with Owen comes to an end. He has been a part of my life since 2011 and it will be hard to let him go. With the exception of the first book in the series I have not worked on only one book at a time so I am also working on a dystopian young adult novel and a children’s Christmas book.

What inspired you to write this book?

To talk about what inspired me to write Destiny, the last book in the Secret Watchers series, I have to go back to Visions, the first in the series. My life was in turmoil and I had the strong desire to make some changes. In real life there are some things we cannot change, so I invented a pretend world where I could decide what would happen. If I could not be the master of my own destiny for the moment, then I would control someone else’s.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I understand that it is unusual, but I very much like to put the reader right in the protagonist’s head. This style has its difficulties in that you can only show the reader what the protagonist literally sees, hears and experiences, but I feel that readers gain a closer connection.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The final book in this series is Destiny. All the other titles had to do with how we experience our world (Visions, Whispers, Insights, and Perceptions). Visions are Owen’s special ability and now in this final book it is his Destiny that he must face.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I’m a teacher. My first goal was to reach out to male reluctant readers. Through the years I have also witnessed a change in our students and so my second goal became to encourage them to be the best that they could be and to try to always do the right thing even if it’s hard.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The experiences in the book are from all around me. I am constantly writing down the way that someone says something to asking if I can use their story to weave into my own. When Owen split open his chin; it was inspired by my neighbor who had just done the same thing. The way Owen looks at the world is a little bit me but mostly my boys and our favorite characters from literature. When I write for Owen’s mom; it is exactly how I would talk to my boys.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

For me it is less about the author and more about the work. It is the characters they build that really speak to me. I read cozy mysteries and all kinds of young adult novels. One of my favorite series is Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling but I’m also a fan of Rick Riordan, Anthony Horowitz, Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare and Cleo Coyle. This eclectic collection has characters that move me and I can connect with.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I would choose Rowling. I admire how she raised herself up from humble beginnings and seems to listen to her audience. She seems to be a likable person and I believe that is just as important as creating a good product.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I am published by BookBaby. I gave the design team a brief description of book one, color ideas and told them how much I liked a clock face they had used on another book. I also sent along a picture I had taken at Heceta Head, Oregon. Their first try was amazing and all I did was suggest a color change. Since then we have kept my picture from Hecta Head and the clock face because Owen’s watch is vital to the plot line. In the last three books we added outdoor pictures I took of local high school students. So who designed them? We did.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up and keep writing. Whatever we choose to do regularly, we get better at. Don’t expect to be a best seller in the first week your book comes out or even in the first year; that is something that only happens to a lucky few. Stay positive; our day in the sun will come. I’ve read several places that the best way to make money is to keep producing more works, so get going, I know you have something to say!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Big hugs friends and follow your dreams. If there is a story in you, get out there and share it!

Book Cover VisionsLauren Lynne
Milwaukie, Oregon

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Visions (The Secret Watchers book one)

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Guest Post: An Interesting State of Mind by M. Garnet

Fantasy Woman

Being an author is an interesting state of mind. As I give talks or meet people, I am asked the same questions. Where I get my ideas? How do I write a whole book? How did I get my books published? There are none who ask the important question. What are the technicalities in writing a book?

WHAT A BORING QUESTION.

Being a published author I can say with a big sigh that the whole process is a learning business, a learning business that never ends. Let’s start with the easier questions.

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

I treat this as a serious question so I give a serious answer. I get ideas from the very people who ask me that question. I have a wild imagination. I am one of those people that look up at clouds and see rabbits that change into dragons. The guy sitting next to me just sees the clouds.

For me, to be an author or to write a full book, you have to take an idea such as a storm planet and then not only put people on it, but decide how those people would have survived as indigenous natives in such a harsh environment that led me to wonder what kind of plant and animal life would also cling to this harsh world. There it is folks, one idea leads to another idea and then to a whole book full of ideas.

My thought and what I share with my listeners is that if you can’t take a single cloud and see several shapes you are going to have a hard time taking an idea and finish a book. Now remember I am talking about fiction not reality topics.

How do I write a whole book?

This was partially covered in the paragraph above. You need to expand on your idea and take your characters into situations that you enjoy writing about. Did I mention that you had to enjoy writing?

You need to look forward to getting your fingers on a keyboard, to add to those ideas. If you get tired or bored, you need to talk to someone else, to see what is the problem with your writing ability.

Books come in all sizes from all authors with only a few exceptions. I do know of one who only writes very short novellas. We all know of a couple like Hemingway who only wrote very long books. Still most authors write both sort and long stories.

How did I get my books published?

Here is where I wish I had a fairy godmother. I can tell you that a small author like me and a big time author like Stephen King had the same problem, that very nice refusal letter.

You are never going to be published until you have written a book, edited it, re-edited it, asked for help on editing it and then submitted it. Like all the rest of us you will submit it to every publisher you can find on the Internet, through Google and by reading the NY Times or Reviewers in California. You will get the same nice refusal letter back. I got enough to cover the walls in my bathroom, that is where I began to hang mine. Not as regret, but to remind me to keep trying.

So can we believe some of the words in those refusal letters? This leads to the boring last question.

What are the technicalities in writing a book?

Good English learned in Lit. 101. When we write, most of us are using the English language where there are rules. We can break those rules when our characters talk slang, but when we are describing plants clinging to a storm chased planet, we must use proper English.

We also have to very careful how we use proper names or refer to brands. A number of those refusal letters were because the editor that looked at the first Chapter found so many errors in punctuation, quoting, numbers, and most important POV (Point of View).

Writing the story with your idea was fun, it was for all of us. Then reality hit us all as we went back to school to write our books correctly, so we could get past that editor who kicked out the first Chapter.

Get your story down and then find some help on the editing before you go back and re-submit it to all the same publishers. You might have a surprise, I did.

Author A. GarnetAfter raising a daughter, running an International Business, traveling the world and only finding time to write a few minutes in any twenty-four hour period, I now am retired in Florida and can write all day and all night, which I often do. Under the pen name of M. Garnet (Muriel Garnet Yantiss) I use all the experiences I gained and without any hesitation draw information from my long list of friends and acquaintances worldwide.

With over 30 books published through two active publishers and a couple of independent books (indies) at Amazon I love the email that the Internet brings me from all over the world.

I write SciFi, Fantasy and Contemporary Mystery. But I like my stories to end happy ever after.

A fan wrote me about liking a planet I wrote about in TWIN’S SLAVE so I dedicated the second story about the planet AN ASSASSIN FOR THE SLAVE to her. I have had others writing me about this storm planet and am now working on my third novel about the water and caves and intrigue that tempest brings to the planet of GigasVenee.

Just to make sure I am really busy, my other publisher has put in a request for a contemporary story with the same type of turmoil but between two people. I just can’t resist a challenge. Visit my web site at www.mgarnet.com to see other books I’ve written.

Author Interview: Barb Caffrey

One of the aspects of being a writer is that we are in tune with that inner voice inside us, what the ancients called “a muse” and we now know to be our sub-conscious. When I asked Barb why she became a writer she replied, “I write because I must; the stories won’t wait.” I think that this writer is definitely courting her muse. Please welcome author Barb Caffrey to No Wasted Ink.

Author Barb CafferyMy name is Barb Caffrey, and I’m a writer, editor, and musician from the Midwest. I’m the widow of writer/editor Michael B. Caffrey, and am continuing to do my best for his stories as well as my own — this is one of the driving purposes of my life. I believe in the values of persistence and hard work, I read voraciously in just about every subject under the sun, and I love sports.

When and why did you begin writing?

Originally I started to write because I had stories in my head that I needed to tell, much the same as other writers. I remember a story I wrote at age 11 about a young girl being a ballgirl at old Milwaukee County Stadium (this was before there were any ballgirls, the people who pick up the baseballs when they’re hit foul — only boys did that job when I was 11). My young pre-teen girl was given her own bathroom to change in and otherwise tried to make friends among the ballboys. Eventually she changed at least one boy’s mind…at any rate, I anticipated that market by about fifteen years, so I wish I still had the story today to put up at Amazon!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve considered myself a writer since at least age 11, if not before. But I did put it aside for a while in college due to needing to work on my music career. Eventually I found a way to bring the two together in harmony (I just couldn’t help but make that comparison), and actually have a transgender urban fantasy/romance coming in 2015 called CHANGING FACES that’s about two classical musicians (they both play the clarinet, and music is extremely important to them).

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is the first half of the ELFY duology, and is about Bruno the Elfy, a young, short being from a parallel Earth known as the Elfy Realm. He’s sent to Knightsville, California on our Earth by the Elfy High Council and told to watch for unusual magic, but before he can start to do any of that, he’s captured by two enigmatic humans — the parents of his love interest, Sarah. Both Bruno and Sarah think they’re younger than they actually are (they’re both teens, roughly); Bruno also thinks he’s far less powerful than he is, and that he has no enemies. He’s are wrong on all counts, and must make common cause with Sarah against first her parents, then a Dark Elf who’s trying to corrupt the local humans for the Elf’s own, nefarious purposes and has started first with Bruno’s mentor, Roberto the Wise. How will these two youngsters try to rescue Roberto? Why was Bruno sent to California at all? And what will falling in love mean for them both?

So it’s a coming of age tale with some age-appropriate, sweet romance, there’s much magic and suspense, and there’s a good amount of mystery along with all of the comedy and urban fantasy going on.

Or in other words: AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is relentlessly cross-genre. I wrote it because I had Bruno the Elfy in my head, telling me that Elfs were not like that (they don’t like to be called “Elves,” thank you, as that’s a swear word in their language), and that he, as an Elfy, was not a rhyming, blithering fool even if the rest of them wanted to be called “Elfy-welfies.” There even are ghost characters who have major roles, and a haunted house that’s almost a character in its own right.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote ELFY (part 1 of which being AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE) because of my late husband, Michael. When I had the idea for the story that turned into AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (part one of the ELFY duology), he encouraged me to run with it — and he had the skills as an editor and with world-building to help me write it to my best ability.

It’s because of Michael’s faith in me and encouragement that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE even exists, because I wouldn’t have known enough about true love before I met him to be able to write it at all, much less write it well.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m closer to a “pantser” than a “plotter,” though I have been known to write character sketches and I certainly have sketched rough outlines of books. But with both the ELFY duology (book 2 coming in 2015) and CHANGING FACES, I wrote the stories I heard, and edited them in situ…I’d read over what I had, add whatever else was needed, and then went right on. So all of that is consistent with being a “pantser,” even though most of the short stories I’ve written have been closer to plotted out than seat of the pants-type writing.

And with regards to my late husband’s work (which I’m trying to finish up for him), it’s much more a half/half mixture between “pantser” and “plotter.” I already know where he wants these stories to go, you see; I just have to add things that are faithful and consistent with his already established stories. This isn’t necessarily easy, as it’s a combination of retrofitting for action and adding in just enough character hints so it feels more like my work (and can thus do it at all), but I view it as vitally important.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Coming up with a title for the first half of ELFY was rather interesting, actually. I wanted ELFY to be in that title, and I wanted the title to be reflective of a comic fantasy. So a number of good friends read the first half of ELFY, and one of them said, “I think the title should be AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. Because he’s a young guy let loose in the Human Realm (our Earth), and no one knows what he’s going to do — including himself.”

I liked it, my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, also liked it, and we both ran with it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I’m not sure if I’m a messaging sort of writer. I think mostly I want people to believe in themselves and keep trying, even if all seems lost — that’s my own, personal message, and of course that’s reflected in Bruno’s storyline. But I also think if there is another message in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, it’s that the people you meet can be every bit as important as your family — perhaps even more important, as they understand you better and want to be around you because they like you for yourself.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The only part of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE that’s based on anything in real life is the romance between Bruno and Sarah. My late husband Michael and I were deeply in love, and we had to work through a good deal of misunderstandings before we got there. Michael was witty, and loved to make me laugh; the way Sarah behaves toward Bruno somewhat reflects how Michael was around me. Everything else is my own invention.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The authors who’ve most influenced my life are: My late husband Michael, obviously, is the biggest influence of all. Andre Norton, because without her stories, I don’t think I’d have taken to the F&SF genre. Rosemary Edghill, Stephanie Osborn and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel have read my stories and given me excellent advice.

All of these writers tell stories that show people in difficult situations that use their wits and talents to get back out of them again, and become wiser, stronger and more skilled people in the doing, regardless of genre.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I can’t choose only one mentor. I’ve actually had four — my husband Michael, Rosemary Edghill, Stephanie Osborn and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. All of them have influenced me and my writing because they’ve given me cogent commentary (sometimes very blunt commentary, especially from my late husband and Rosemary Edghill), and their advice was always excellent.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover of my book was designed by Lida Quillen, publisher of Twilight Times Books, and artist Malcolm McClinton. I did give them the idea of Bruno running across too-green grass while attempting to go through a World Gate in order to get back to Sarah (you can see Sarah in the blackness, very faintly), so I had some input. Ms. Quillen picked Mr. McClinton because his artwork seemed to match the style of Bruno’s story, and I agreed with her on all counts.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice for other writers is very simple: Keep writing, and do not give up. If you do these two things, you will improve your craft and tell the stories you want and need to tell — and your audience will eventually find you.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To my readers: Thank you for being willing to take a chance on a new and mostly unknown writer. (And the second half of Bruno and Sarah’s story is coming soon…promise!)

Book Cover An Elfy On The LooseBarb Caffrey
Racine, WI

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AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (Sample Pages)

Artist: Malcolm McClinton
Publisher: Twilight Times Books

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