Tag Archives: books

A Day at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival

Poet Jevon Johnson - LA Times Book Festival
Poet Jevon Johnson – Spoken Word Performance
The Los Angeles Times Book Festival is the largest book event in California. It is speculated that 150,000 people come to the festival, located on the campus of USC, to partake of poetry, music, authors and celebrities. The event is a maze of author panels, book signings, book sellers, poetry readings and music that it would be easy to become lost in the sea of people and books, like drifting flotsam.

Although I’ve been a bibliophile most of my life, I have never attended a book festival before. When my writing friends spoke of forming a carpool to the event, I felt intrigued and eager to attend. There were four of us hearty souls on a journey of discovery, all piled into our friend’s comfortable van. On the way to Los Angeles, we spoke about tickets to the many events, which booths we wanted to visit and where we would meet up at the end of the day.

The weather was warm and sunny, but not with the bite of heat that Southern California is known for. I had armed myself with a wide brimmed sun-hat, plenty of sunscreen, and a backpack filled with granola bars and bottles of water. My day began at one of the ticket booths, gathering the needed print-outs to the panels I had selected to attend. Many had been marked as sold out on-line before the event, but I discovered that not only were the tickets free on walk up, but all the events that I thought I could not attend were now available. With undisguised greed, I accepted the free tickets before my friend and I rushed off to our first event.

As we hiked across the campus, I was reminded of my first days as a college freshman, my nose tucked in a map and a confused, lost expression on my face. My friend and I became misplaced near the poetry stage, where performance poets were reading for a small morning crowd and then wandered to a nearby book signing booth where volunteers were stacking novels in preparation of the first signings of the day. Books by Carol Burnett, the famous comedienne and actress were everywhere in the booth. At this point, we realized that we had gone the wrong way.

Making a quick course correction, we managed to slip into the back seats of our selected panel, Fiction: Setting and Story. The panelists were Jami Attenberg, Kevin P. Keating, Michael Lavigne and Maggie Shipstead. They spoke about how they developed the ideas for the settings of their novels and answered a few questions of the 200 or so attendees of their panel. It was not a writing workshop, more of an expression of what they did as authors and details about their books. Afterward, they were ushered by handlers to their book signing booth where I’m sure they sold many copies of their books to the audience.

I had a little time before the next panel started, so I stopped for lunch at the row of food trucks that had come to the campus that day. There was a wide selection of choices from burgers to pita sandwiches and salads. My friend and I managed to find a shady table in the pavilion set up on the campus track to enjoy our lunch. The springy feel of the track under my feet made me feel as if I could propel myself into flight; Only the best running surfaces for team USC.

I noticed there was a police presence assembling near the food trucks, mainly officers on horseback. Four of them had pulled up their horses in a row and were allowing two children to pet the horse’s noses. As I made a point to pass by in front of the horses, knowing better than to walk behind a horse’s rump, I noticed that in addition to the usual firearms, each officer had what appeared to be a sword near the pommel of their saddle. On closer inspection it proved to be a long ivory hued club with a carved hilt. Most curious. I had comic visions of LAPD officers, as samurai warriors, chasing evil doers at the festival with their wooden swords. Yet, I was also comforted by the officers presence due to the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon. This was a large public event and it could be a terrorist target.

The next panel I attended proved to be my favorite of the day. It was entitled Fiction from the 22nd Century and featured science fiction authors: Austin Grossman, Scott Hutchins, Lydia Netzer and Robin Sloan. Again, this was not a writing workshop, but authors speaking about a topic as it pertained to their own writing. The topic was about how speculative fiction has changed from the golden age of science fiction to today, where authors do not attempt to predict what is to come, but instead explain the ramifications of science in our current lives. Being a science fiction writer, I found the topic to be quite applicable to my own writing and found myself eager to take notes with my fountain pen.

The next event was to hear author Orson Scott Card interviewed by Aaron Johnston. Two of Mr. Card’s novels are on my favorite list: Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. I ended up being disappointed by this interview because the author was extremely focused on the filming of his novel, Ender’s Game, and his day of playing a bit role in the movie instead of speaking about writing. Still, I was able to get a sense of the man’s personality and a few thoughts about how he viewed his writing and his career. I noticed that the authors that he listed as his greatest inspiration were the same as my own.

I caught the tail-end of the word stylings by Javon Johnson, two-time National Poetry Slam champion and USC Professor, who was performing his poetry on the main stage and getting the crowd involved with his act. The cadence of his words were comical and yet thought provoking.

There were an astounding number of book vendors selling every sort of book you could imagine on the pedestrian walkway under the shade trees. Booths that specialized in indie authors were the most numerous. There were also several writer’s groups that offered book signings by their members; Murder, We Wrote and the Independent Writers of Southern California were the two that caught my eye. Both are local writer’s groups in the Los Angeles area. The most attractive booth was the Jane Austen Society of North America who were selling fanfiction Austen titles and promoting their local chapter in Pasadena. Inside the booth were hung Regency style costumes and the tables were draped with lace. You could almost believe that Jane herself was about to appear for a book signing of Pride and Prejudice.

Authors DeAnna Cameron and Greta Boris
Authors DeAnna Cameron and Greta Boris
I ended my day at the booth of Red Phoenix Books. My friends Greta Boris and DeAnna Cameron were both holding book signings there. Greta writes non-fiction about fitness and DeAnna is a steampunk and historical fiction novelist. Both reported a busy day and plenty of visitors.

Red Phoenix Books is owned by Claudia Alexander, a scientist who publishes not only a range of science books aimed at children, but also several steampunk novels. I was pleased to have a chance to chat with Claudia about steam engines and how to better understand this technology when writing Steampunk fiction. There is nothing like having a JPL scientist to ask a few questions of.

By this time, the festival was winding to its close. One by one, our foursome met up at the Red Phoenix Booth. We returned to the valet parking station to retrieve our vehicle. Once more we journeyed on, out of the city and back home, each recounting different tales of our day at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival.

Author Interview: Paul Ramey

Visiting old cemeteries can lead you to discover many interesting facts of the past. Paul Ramey takes his fascination with graveyard history a few steps further which resulted in the research for his YA mystery novel. I’m pleased to have him here at No Wasted Ink.

Paul Ramey - AuthorMy name is Paul Ramey, and I am a writer, graphic artist, musician, and unrepentant cemetery buff. I’m a Kentucky native. I’ve also spent a few years in Providence, RI. In 2006 I moved to sunny Jacksonville, Florida, where my feet have (for the most part) been much, much warmer. Not long afterward I met my beautiful wife, Tina, and two years ago we welcomed our first child, Sofia Alafaire.

I am 45 years old, a lifelong health nut, a huge fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury, and consider Old Rasputin to be the very finest of Imperial Stout beers.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began creating little comic magazines that I’d write, draw and staple together when I was eight years old. The creation of these zines continued and evolved all the way through college, and I credit them for being my first training ground in both writing and art, as well as marketing.

My first formal awareness that I could actually write well came about through a high school humanities teacher, who always called my style “Rameyesque.” I didn’t actually know what that meant, but it stroked my ego enough for me to eventually get a B.A. in journalism. I also had a wonderful, well-known creative writing professor during my college years (Gurney Norman of Divine Right’s Trip fame), who was especially motivating and illuminating as to possible future writing paths.

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

Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire revolves around an eccentric teenager and local amateur tour guide named Edgar Wilde. Edgar is seldom NOT seen in Victorian garb (he’s mocked at school for wearing Victorian-era apparel there, including top hat), and needless to say, he doesn’t quite fit in with his peers. In contrast, he connects easily with many of the adults around town, whom he finds closer to being his intellectual equal.

In an effort to make his amateur cemetery tours more enticing, he often researches old files at the town library looking for interesting facts. As the novel begins, Edgar has stumbled onto a strange mystery about a local public figure from hundreds of years ago. This leads quickly to hints of a centuries-old secret; a forgotten history that some in the town would rather stay hidden. The story is chock-full of cemetery clues, rumors of witches, and a legendary lost book of spells, as well as a number of memorable, enjoyable characters.

As a genre, Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire fits in well at the older end of the young-adult category, but I believe adults will also find it to be a very entertaining mystery.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have a passion for old cemeteries – the history, the iconography. To me, they’re really beautiful outside museums. So I wanted to write a novel that communicated this fascination, and to educate the reader a bit concerning cemetery history, symbolism and even various materials used to make the markers. Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire goes to great lengths to weave these aspects into the plot.

In an interesting twist, the book was also inspired by my new daughter, Sofia. I’d been working on a number of other creative projects, almost all of which were completely sidelined when the new baby arrived. The music and art both required huge amounts of solid time – 3 or 4 hours at a sitting – which was just impossible. But with writing I found that it was easy to step away often when parental duties required, and then return when I had another 10 or 15 minutes. In fact, the stepping away and returning every so often became an important part of the process, as it gave me a constant fresh perspective.

So the book project quickly became my creative passion, and a book now exists where almost certainly none would have had my daughter never shown up. I may never have even tried to write a novel if I’d continued to focus on all those other shelved projects. So, thank you, Sofia! Understandably, this book is dedicated to her.

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

From the beginning I’d considered this novel as the possible first of a series. I was very inspired by the “Harry Potter and the…” format, and wanted to create a similar structure of continuity that people would recognize instantly. The “Lost Grimoire” refers to the core mystery of the book, which is a legendary lost book of spells.

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

It is loosely based on a few places I’ve lived, and some people I’ve encountered, but no particular person or place. In fact, the location – St. Edmund Island, Massachusetts – is a place I invented. So don’t go looking for it!

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

Steve Berry and Dan Brown have both had a huge impact on me in terms of structuring a mystery and using existing historical facts in thrilling new ways. The art of connecting the dots is a craft I hope I can use to make the Edgar Wilde books especially enjoyable. Stephen King, as well, for his exceptional wordcraft.

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

I am actually the graphic designer as well as the author. As it happens, I’m a graphic designer by trade, so I have a real advantage in visualizing and creating the promotional elements of my stories. As it happened, I came up with the design for the cover quite early on in the writing process, and it helped greatly in visualizing the path of the story. I often work this way; it helps to have a mock-up of your final product so that you have something relatively solid to aim for. People make fun of me sometimes for creating mockups of my “end product” before doing the actual hard work of the beginning and middle, but that’s how I roll. I need to see ahead to visualize the now. As I worked on Edgar Wilde I’d keep the book mockup on the table next to me, and whenever I was stuck I’d let my eyes stray over the cover for inspiration. It really helped!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My one bit of advice I’ve been saying to everyone lately, is simply to show up for it. You have no idea when the brilliant turn of phrase or plot twist will show up. For six months I met my manuscript every single night, and let my typing fingers listen for whatever might be there. There were many, many nights when nothing good showed up, or stuff that was crap. But in the meantime, the real stuff – the meat of the final draft – was also arriving. It’s like panning for gold. Eventually (hopefully!) you get a whole story, but you have to actually be there to meet it. You have to have faith in your story AND the respect and discipline to give it the attention it deserves. And that’s entirely up to you.

Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire Book CoverPaul Ramey
Jacksonville, Florida


Writer/performer/producer of the two-CD goth/rock opera album, Veil & Subdue, and writer/illustrator of Zen Salvador, a limited-edition book of zen-styled dog wisdom featuring a number of ink-brush illustrations.

Publisher: Nine Muse Press
Cover Art: Paul Ramey

Edgar Wilde and the Lost Grimoire

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksThis monday I am focusing more on the act of being creative in our writing. From chosing the right words, to advice from famous authors and tutorials on how to use your software a little better. There should be something here for everyone. Enjoy!

The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words

Notes from NorWesCon: What to Look for in a Small Press

27 Pieces Of Advice For Writers From Famous Authors (photo intensive)

Encouraging Words

The Phenomenon of Creativity

Why Writing Fluently Is Hard

YouTube: Scrivener-Annotations

Why Won’t Men Read Women?

YouTube: Twitter for Authors: Part One – Build Your Tribe

On Editing: You May Be Doing It Wrong

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksI decided to get back to the basics with this week’s writing links. Articles about how to write, what inspires us as writers and other similar subjects are the focus this week on No Wasted Ink. Enjoy!

When science fiction has an expiration date

The Writing Biz: Six Lessons from Star Trek’s Mr. Spock


Readers – What Will You Pay For An eBook?

Should Writers Follow the Rules?

Neil Gaiman and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (video)

Why are fountain pen sales rising?

4 Things To Consider When Creating Endings

9 Marketing Tips From A Writer Who Hates Marketing!

Falling in Love with Writing Again

Author Interview: Tash Jones

Author Tash JonesMy name is Natasha Jones, I’m from Portsmouth, Southern England and I’ve by the seaside my whole life. I love nature and travelling. I have a fondness for astronomy. I obsessively watch TV shows. I love a good musical. Period literature has, I think, the most fascinating language. I make silly jokes – ALL THE TIME.

When and why did you begin writing?

I used to parody pop songs and before that I used to make up my own magazine and write the articles for it (on lined paper – I still have the magazine). I took writing seriously when I was 18 and I started to pen this novel.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Does one ever? Don’t we all create stories in our minds on a regular basis? I can call myself an author soon though, which is pretty cool.

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

It’s a tragedy with a little romance. It’s historical fiction set in London in the late 1800s. The story revolves around Alexander Vile and is retold through his Journal entries. There’s some ambiguity, so that hopefully different readers take different things from it.

What inspired you to write this book?

I read a lot of Gothic fiction and that spurred me on to conclude the novel. I mainly started out of boredom on my work lunch breaks – I didn’t know this would become such a passion for me.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like a lot of imagery. It’s a very self-reflexive language style, declarative I’d also say. I’m trying different styles for my future novels though.

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

We were studying Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway‘ at University and my lecturer described Clarissa (the lead character) as having these Luminous moments, luminous thoughts – that phrase stuck with me.

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

I would like people to not take things at face value and question more (even if silently). Too many people will read something on a social networking site, in a newspaper or on a celebrities blog and will just accept that as fact. In general I think people should think more before they start arguments and debates too.

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

Some of the thoughts expressed are my own ponderings. It is entirely fictional thought. I’ve started writing a second book which features a character who is very similar to me.

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

Jane Austen – she really opened my mind and made me interested in history – I was stuck in the modern world before I discovered her. Jeff Lindsay and Stieg Larrsson got me heavily into Crime Fiction – which is now my favourite genre of Television. Oscar Wilde is the main reason I wanted to write and release this book. His intellectual words were something I desired to be able to replicate. Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ fuelled my love of poetry and Jonathan Safran Foer first opened my eyes to intercultural fiction.

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

The two that are alive from that list – Lindsay and Safran Foer, I would love to meet them and quiz them on their novels.

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

I initially approached two illustrators. The first design turned out to convey the wrong theme, it was a little dated. The second really took my instructions and made it his own. His name is Colin Strain.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I don’t think advising on the writing process is entirely essential – if you love writing, you’ll write anyway! Editing (though can be repetitive and tedious) is probably more important than the execution of the writing. In this market, I think networking is equally, if not more important than the editing and writing put together. If you want to build as a writer, network – the more varied people you talk to, who advise, review your work, the better the product you release will be.

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

I’m one of those annoying optimists – so – I think everyone should smile now, it’ll make you feel better.

The Luminious Memories of Alexander Vile Book CoverNatasha Jones
Portsmouth, England

I’m sucker for romance and metaphors. I like to leave things to the readers interpretation so an element of ambiguity features in my work. I like writing the nasty nasty characters the most.

The Luminous Memories of Alexander Vile

Cover Designer: Colin Strain