Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Amazing Christopher C Starr, and the Road to Hell

I'm back!
Bet you didn't know I was gone...well, in a way I was, back at Camp NaNo. Not to mention summer time. Ahhh, yes. Hubby is on vacation, schedules are up in the air, I'm packing picnics, beach bags, washing more towels a week than I own and chasing after the sun...just to be able to spend time with DH...and my kids, of course. But routine has once again befallen my household and I can let out a sigh of relief.

And now, back to business.

Allow me to introduce a fascinating author, one I hope will leave a lasting impression on you.

Meet Christopher C. Starr

Chris is the author of The Road to Hell: The Book of Lucifer, the first novel in the Heaven Falls series. These stories examine the God’s relationship with Heaven and Earth, told through the eyes of the angels. The next book in the series, Come Hell or High Water, is scheduled for late 2012/early 2013.

He makes it a point to look at the dark side of his characters, both heroes and villains, and his work explores the “grey”—that place where good and evil come together in all of us.

When he’s not being chased out of churches, Chris enjoys comic books and movies, staying away from cemeteries, and poorly participating in P90X. He lives in Seattle with his wife, two kids (The Boy and the Honey Badger), and his huskies, Rocky the Wonder Dog and his colorful sidekick, Leylah Redd. You can check out his blog at
Christopher is the founder of Sanford House Press, an indie publishing house.
Now, I did have the chance to interview Chris, and so I do want to share it with you...because he is quite interesting. So hold on tight, and let's go!
Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
Storytelling has always been a part of my life—writing is just my preferred medium. I saw Alien at 6 and it scared the crap outta me. I learned at an early age that I wanted to be able to do that to people, to make them laugh or angry or scared—I just wanted them to feel something through my stories. Then, in college, I saw a woman get shot next to me and it traumatized me enough to make the write just to make sense of everything. It made me understand the power of the written word, the ability to process this thing we call the human condition. I grew up as a writer through that experience.
Wow, now that is something I would not like to have to go through. I can understand you being traumatized.
Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
Nope. I’m a full-time training professional for a talent management software company, a father of 2 kids (the Honey Badger and the Boy), a husband to my Disney-loving wife, and best-friend to my husky, Rocky the WonderDog. I wish I could write full time but I have this horrible addiction to food and shelter, heat and light. So I’m relegated to writing after everyone goes to sleep, usually after 11pm. I’m in the middle of a novel right now, so I’m sleepy.
Unfortunately, I can truly relate. 
Could you tell us a little about your novel?
The Road to Hell is the story of the war in Heaven, the fall of Lucifer and the dawn of mankind, told through the eyes of the angels. What makes it different, compelling (I hope) is that it’s the words of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Lucifer telling this story. It’s an intimate, action-packed, gritty, gory look at the birth of evil.
An interesting twist, to say the least.
Would you mind taking us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?
Sure thing. This story is primarily Lucifer’s story and we walk through his experience with God, Heaven, and the other angels from the very beginning. In this novel, everything takes place in the hand of the Father (God) and the angels have the ability to impact their world. We learn from Lucifer why they have wings, how they can manipulate Heaven, what kinds of powers they have. And we learn the origin of doubt, fear, and that a rebellion was always seething beneath the surface.
Fascinating, do go on.
This isn’t a version of Heaven you’ve seen before—folks aren’t necessarily happy and I don’t give you a jewelled, gold-laden environment. Things are grittier, harsher, I guess bleak is a fair statement. And they’re not as happy as you’d expect.
Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?
I meant to write from Michael’s point of view. He was originally my hero. But the way I wrote him at first was boring and two-dimensional. Then I wrote an interview between Lucifer and me, just trying to get a handle on his voice and motivations. He was fun and mean and wicked and a lot of fun to write! I couldn’t resist. Not many have tried to write from his perspective. I thought it would have much more impact describing his fall from his point of view. Plus I got to be mean—really mean. What could be better than that?
Well, when you put it that way, why not? 
As far as inspiration goes, a very close family member provides Lucifer’s mannerisms and his cadence of speech. His wickedness, well, that’s all me. In the end, I just wanted to find a way to make the story plausible, to tell it in a way that you could understand how he ended up where he did.
What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
There are a couple of messages. At first, I really just wanted readers to think about the cost of our lives. To think about what it must have cost God and the angels for us to be where we are and hopefully make everyone pause and think about how we live our lives. As I was writing though and really getting into Lucifer’s point of view, I really got stuck in the gray of it all. No one is wholly evil or wholly good. Not even the Devil. It ended up being a real struggle for me—I couldn’t paint him as all evil: Lucifer started out as one the most beloved of the angels. There was a good side to him. I had to reconcile those two sides, his good and bad sides.
That's a good point, and I can imagine your struggle.
Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow?
I actually work from a screenplay. I used Viki King’s How to Write a Movie in 21 Days. Dialogue is generally my weakest area and this helps me with that. Not only that, I can work on pacing and make sure the plot is tight enough. That said, when I got into writing the book from the screenplay, Lucifer threw me a number of curve balls and really threw out my plot. I was a little mad at him for that. He laughed at me.
What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?
My novel actually spans eons. Like billions of years. Angels are immortal and time is no factor for them. They exist in milestones instead, following edicts and commands. I tried to thread the needle on this idea, working with both creationist ideas and evolution. The closest thing I could say is I took an intelligent design approach but I think it hits on all beliefs.
Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?
This is an intensely personal story in the end. We all have connotations of what angels, what they do, what God looks or sounds like. How He might act. Probably the biggest challenge was to omit things. It was really important that this book be accessible. I’m already flying in the face of people’s beliefs with my portrayals of Heaven and angels and God. I didn’t want to beat anyone over the head with my own convictions; I really wanted the story to pull you along, the characters to make their choices and explain their rationale and for you, the reader, to make your own decisions.
How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
I’ve generally written science-fiction and everything I’ve written in the past has been from the 3rd person POV. This is the first time I’ve tried to write from the 1st person. I’m kinda hooked now.
How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
It’s easier to get anything on the market these days. As a result, anything ends up on the market. I made the mistake of thinking I could just dive into this business and figure it out. It’s a business though and should be treated accordingly.
We like to focus on the writing side for the schedule but this is really a production business. I have to set deadlines for writing so I can hit my scheduled release date. Effectively, I have to act as a publisher. Specifically, for my schedule, I have to build in time to get the draft done, complete two round of edits (one for plot and continuity and depth—I expand my draft; and one for very brutal cutting), send it to an editor, get a cover designed, get the booked laid out and converted into an ebook, work on marketing blurbs, send out ARCs for reviews…I treat this like a project and have very real deadlines to hit.
How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
Aside from what I’ve learned in getting this book published, I got some professional help on the marketing front. Just to establish a plan really. I’m trying to be more judicious with my team and decide where I really have to be. Indie authors are conditioned to believe we have to be on all social media all the time to be effective. That’s awfully hard if you want to write anything. I’m choosing what I focus on: I have a blog that I love where I explore villains, a Twitter account (and only one), and a Facebook fan page to manage discussions on the Heaven Falls series.
That said, I’m still figuring it all out and I do often take it one day at a time. I’m not at the point where I can say, “I’m going to do these 4 activities to achieve this result.” Not yet. Hopefully on the next book.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Do it! Write it and write your heart out. But do it right. Don’t jump in because you can. Put your best foot forward and realize you are a business the moment you put your book on sale.
Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I am in the throes of Book Two in the Heaven Falls series, Come Hell or High Water. This is the story of beginning of mankind on Earth and Lucifer’s attempts to make God abandon humanity. He does a pretty good job too: this book covers the period of time from the temptation in the Garden of Eden to the Great Flood. Not a good time for humanity. I’m really excited about it. It releases on December 21—same day the world is supposed to end.
Well hopefully it will be the dawn of a new era and we will be able to enjoy your novel.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I really enjoyed the experience and I hope my readers do as well. Good luck with your writing.
Lucifer heard me: as soon as my feet touched the glass surface of his platform, he laughed aloud and doused all the light in Heaven.
“I know why you’re here, Raphael,” Lucifer said in the darkness. “You’re afraid.”
I was afraid but I wasn’t willing to admit it. Instead I said, “Why should I be afraid? The Father is with me.”
“You sure about that?” And I could see Lucifer’s teeth glinting in the light wafting from my body. He was smiling. “You think he’ll still back you up now that you’re failing him?”
His face was the color of fire, deep and red, and a haze made him seem like a mirage. Even in the darkness, in the heat of his rage, Lucifer was still beautiful. His thin face, the angular cheekbones, his wide, open eyes, his halo of shimmering hair—all presented a portrait of absolute perfection. Even in this dark hour, I envied the crude formation of my own round face, my pudgy nose, the softness of my jawline. 
I tried to sound as sure of myself, as certain as he was but my voice cracked, “I’m not failing—”
He pounced on me, laid long, thin fingers on my shoulders, pushed that gleaming grin into my face. “Sure you are! Why else would you be here, Peace Keeper? Angels are dead, Raphael. It’s slipping through your fingers. Sounds like failure to me.”
“This is your doing!” I pressed him back.
“Raphael, you insult me; finger pointing seems so…beneath you. Besides, I’m bound, remember?” He fondled the chains streaming from his wrists and ankles, smiled at me again. “You chained me up so I couldn’t cause any problems for the others. Weren’t those your words?”
He was right. And I hated him for it. “Yes,” was all I said.
“So you failed them or you failed him. Either way, you’re a failure, kiddo.”
“I want to talk about what we do next.”
He was walking around me now. I could hear the chains scraping the surface of the glass.
“And I want to talk about your fears,” he said and his voice sounded like velvet in my ears.
 “This doesn’t help us, Lucifer. It doesn’t help us end this nonsense. ”
“Maybe I don’t want to end it. Maybe this is exactly what we need.”  He got louder, bolder. Closer. “Does that scare you, Raphael, that you won’t be able to keep it together? Is that why you tremble in the darkness? Because when it’s just you and the Father and all the light and noise is gone, you know you’re going to have to tell him you failed?”
He had me. I understood in that moment how Lucifer could enflame the deepest of emotions. His words touched the very root of me; spoke directly to the futility flexing in my palms. It was out of my hands—I knew that much. Lucifer knew it too. By virtue of the fact that I was there, standing before him while he taunted me, it was out of my hands.
I tried to turn it back on him, “What about your fears? What about what you’re afraid of?”
“I’m scared,” he whispered, “that the Father won’t want me back once I’m finished.” The smile was gone.

Christopher was kind enough to provide a Guest Post


It is said, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but Heaven is full of good works.” And the biggest difference between the two is choice. That’s what this book, The Road to Hell, is all about.

The cost of choice. The consequence of choice. The power of choice. These were the themes I played with in the book and Lucifer gets the ball rolling early. He starts it all with a simple choice, with a want for something greater. He wants something for himself. He sees what he is and what he can and can’t do and wants something that belongs to him. Something just for him. It’s a small thing, really, and, as I was writing the story, it was the most personal of the choices I wrote about. Who doesn’t want something for themselves?

And it’s an intensely human want. We all want to feel and be special. Unique. In this way, Lucifer represents us. His intention is both good and understandable. But it isn’t the want that gets him in trouble; it’s how he chooses to react to the answer. Lucifer doesn’t take “no” very well and responds poorly. Very poorly. Could he have taken that response and just accepted it? Sure. He doesn’t. He’s not a “suck it up” kind of guy. A poor response becomes disobedience, punishment turns into defiance, petulance becomes anger and soon we have the makings of a rebellion. These choices propel him down a path he can never turn from but they also increase his power. They make him strong and destructive when all he wanted was to create.

Lucifer’s isn’t the only choice I wanted to examine. Michael the Archangel presented a different kind of challenge. My relationship with Michael is very personal and comes from a place of strength and admiration. Michael does what he has to do because it has to be done. This is the difference between Michael and Lucifer: Michael chooses to do what he must. Remember, Lucifer persuaded 30% of the angels to fall with him—what’s to say Michael wouldn’t have been one of them.

More than choosing to simply be obedient, Michael chooses to believe. We see the beginnings of this in The Road to Hell and it becomes a challenge that we’ll explore in the second book in the series, Come Hell or High Water (releasing December 2012). This book finds Michael is a very different place with newer, more difficult choices to make. You know how this goes: it starts with a temptation in the Garden of Eden and it ends with a flood. It rains a lot; everybody dies. Michael has to choose to believe this is right.
The Road to Hell is available at:
Barnes & Noble: (
Amazon Author Page:
Facebook Fan Page:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NaNo Nonsense

I have recently learned the terms “plotter/pantster”, in reference to those who either plot out a story before writing it, or those who take it as it comes.

I believe that if you are writing a mystery, then you, (in my mind), have no choice but to carefully plot it out. There are too many details and threads to keep track of, and too many fibers to weave into the final fabric of the story. So plot on…

Personally, I consider myself to be more of a pantster…with some exceptions. I research everything to death. If I use something, I want to know it is possible and exists, or is at least realistic and believable. I keep detailed charts of characters, from physical traits, to relationships, character traits, (habits and quirks), and whatever else might be pertinent. If I drop something into my story, I intend to follow up on it somewhere down the line. I have technological charts and food and drink charts, to name a few more.

That said…let me share my June Camp NaNoWriMo experience. As an incentive to write, I think Nano is great. Being at “Camp Nano” is an experience, and my cabin mates, at least this time, are fun, (with the exception of one. She’s writing “Lost and Confused” but since we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of her since the start, she must really be lost). Nano can help keep you motivated. HOWEVER, and this is not pleasant, although I did complete the 50K word count, I find my story some 80-100 pages short of what I had originally planned. In my mind I would write progressively, and after Nano, complete my story.

That’s not what happened. I wrote and wrapped up my story. I did not take the time to add background for those who had not read the previous novel, figuring I’d do it later. I did not get into in-depth descriptions of characters and setting because again, if you had read the first, you knew what they/it looked like. I was aware at the time that I was passing over these details, and told myself I’d go back and add them in. Well…easier said than done.

In real life, when I write, I go back and reread the last chapter or pages. I do a quick edit of whatever I catch, and this puts me back into the groove of the storyline. I continue writing, the flow relaxed and natural, not forced in any way. With Nano, I couldn’t afford to reread, I didn’t have the time, and so I simply kept on. For me, that’s not good (as I now know). After the whole Nano experience I went back and reread my story for the first time. I did like it, very much, and I even came across a scene or two that I had no memory of writing. But now the issue of missing background and details must be addressed. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?


I felt totally lost and confused wading through my story. My mind wasn’t able to figure the nitty-gritty details of my timeline and I wasn’t able to place myself to get an overview of the whole. I think wading through a swamp, trying to make sense of the floating pieces was how I felt.

So how come I am once again participating in Camp Nano? To write, laugh and exchange with the others. My pace is more laid back and I am aware of the “traps”.  As you may know, I am home during the day with a 4 year old. I work part-time, evenings and weekends as an officer with army cadets. So basically, unless you count the time wasted between midnight and 3:00 AM,  trying to sleep, I have no free time. None. But hey, it’s a life and I don’t regret it. I try and enjoy it because kids grow too fast, and things change unexpectedly. I do get to write, though not alone and undisturbed, at least not yet.

I have not had the chance to try or use Scrivener, the writing app the Nano group raves about. It’s supposed to help structure and organize, but I didn’t have the time while in Nano to go through the tutorials, and it’s not a user-friendly app. I might take the time after Nano…but I have submissions to tend to, final edits, book trailers, writing homework and more. So maybe one day I will get to try or even use it.

So if you’re considering November Nano, take a few minutes to plot out your stuff, even if it's a very rough draft. Scrivener is supposed to help with all that, and it offers a free trial. If you meet the 50K challenge, you get a 50% discount of the purchase of the $40 program, so that’s quite reasonable. There is also a Nano template you can use.

You should also get in on the FB Nano page…they have word sprints often and it helps. It’s also fun.

Just make sure you know what you’re in for, and write on. I shared a few pics...writing in my front yard is almost like being at camp, my Nano cup and t-shirt (love them), and the certificate they give you when you're done.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing

Here's a first for far I have covered authors, editors and bloggers. Now if you'll indulge me, allow me take you into the world of a publisher.

Kitty Bullard, pictured here, was kind enough to do this interview, and as you can see by this picture, she's one busy (and very smart) woman.

-When I first come to know the Great Minds community, you were all about authors, books and reviews. What brought about your transition to publishing? 
You are right Deb we did start out as your typical run of the mill book club and that was as far as I had decided to take it. Then I suddenly realized there was a whole new world out there, one I didn’t know about before. I started to meet some of the greatest independent authors and I decided I wanted to help these wonderful people get the word out about their books. I began to delve into the world of blogging, doing interviews, guest posts, participating in blog tours and giveaways and I loved it! I not only met some interesting authors but I was also being introduced into the behind the scenes world of publishing and publicity. I met a lot of people and began to gain not only a great appreciation, but an interest in what they did for authors everywhere.  I continued on this course for over a year and then after Christmas of 2011 I decided to try my hand at publishing.  I was nervous, scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it and I had no idea what kind of time and dedication it took. However, I decided to bite the bullet, buckle down and just do it. It has been a learning process and still is in a lot of respects but one thing I did know that I did well was promote, and that is what I still do.  I have what I like to call a staff, a few editors, proofreaders, cover artists and a promotional assistant that help me a lot with everything the authors need. My editors have all been screened and I have seen their resumes as well as spoken with other authors they have done work for in the past. My cover artists are all very proficient in the best programs used for art design and also have been screened for professionalism.  There is no one that works for Great Minds that has not proven themselves to me as being efficient, hard-working, and interested in quality and integrity. I have 26 authors now and 21 titles with several more upcoming.  I can honestly say that I have some of the best authors out there and intend to find more!

-Could you share a little about the process in becoming a publisher?

I can tell you about my process and it was messy at first because as I stated before I was new, I didn’t really know much about what I was doing but it didn’t stop me from researching, asking questions, and making it happen. There were endless nights with little or no sleep and I still have some of those now, there were times I wanted to pull my hair out but what publisher doesn’t right? I can honestly say though that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I love what I do, I feel I do it well and the main thing that is most important to me is representing my authors positively, maintaining a great reputation for GMTA and making sure to always do my very best for everyone involved.  I uphold certain standards for quality of work, I believe if I’m willing to work hard for an author then they have to be worth mine and GMTA’s time and they have to have content that I believe in and feel readers will truly enjoy and approve of.

-I’m only guessing, but like turning on a light in the dead of night and attracting an endless number of moths, the onrush of authors must have been somewhat similar…
To be honest I had quite a few at first and a lot of them were turned down. Some actually failed to read my guidelines of submission and were turned down for that reason. Some had material I felt was not up to par for the standards I hold and the standard potential readers would hold and they were turned down as well. Within a month’s time I only had two authors and that was because I was very selective. The authors I have now have been taken on only because I approved of the material they submitted, and because they have shown me they want success.  They want the best and I want the best for them. 

-How do you go about selecting your novels to publish?
The selection of novels is based on content, storyline, plot, characters and character development, whether or not the story is one that I believe will hold a reader’s interest.  I also try to get to know the author before acceptance to be sure if I think I’ll be able to work with them and them with me.   I do not publish Erotica, not that I have anything against it but having authors that publish children’s books as well as other more light-hearted material I do not think it a good idea to publish titles that revolve more around sexual content.  I have no problem however, publishing novels that have some sexual content though the novel must have a plot and the aforementioned criteria for acceptance. 

-What are you looking for in a novel?
When I accept a novel or read a novel I look for a story, it can be a great story or even a good story, but story is first and foremost. I look for novels that will grip the reader, interest them and take them on a journey. I want people to read our novels and feel that they have been worth the time spent. 

-How do you deal with a novel you intend to reject?

When I send a rejection letter I am professional, straight forward and always try to give the reasons behind the rejection. I don’t like sending a letter that simply states they’ve been rejected without telling them why. The reason for this is, if I can tell them why and my reason is valid it could actually help the author hone their talents more so that the next time they submit their manuscript, whether to me or another publisher, they may be accepted.

As a publisher,
-Do you offer editing services? (Something becoming more of a rarity even with traditional publishing)
-Do you create the cover art? How much say does the author have in the final result?
-Do you create the book blurb?
-Do you create book trailers?

Yes, yes, yes and yes.  GMTA is not only a publishing company we have many spokes in our wheel. We do offer editing for our authors as well as, authors that are with other companies or self-published.  Our editing services are very affordable and we put the authors in touch directly with the editor of their choice or our choice so the process is easier all the way around.  I did start out doing all the editing for GMTA on my own but I soon realized that not only was it not my area of expertise but I had no time to do anything else. So now our editors handle our authors as well. We do create cover art and there is no charge for this. The process of cover art is usually three covers created and the author gets to choose the one they like best. If for some reason they do not like any they always have the option of finding another resource or of creating something themselves if they have the ability or know-how to do so.  However, we do work closely with the author every step of the way on every process and allow them the final decision in how their book will look, and how it will be published. We even work closely with them on promotions, always giving them the ability to give us ideas on how they would like their book to be promoted and what avenues they think we should take. Input from our authors is greatly valued and we try hard to work with them on everything so they feel satisfied with what we accomplish as a team. The idea of GMTA is working as a team, I have told my authors that I do not want them to feel as though they are my employees or vice versa, we are partners working toward a common goal and that goal is to put out a book they can be proud of as well as getting them and their work noticed on many different levels.

-How much marketing do you deal with?
We do all the marketing for our authors, both online, media such as newspapers, magazines, and various other options. We do blog tours, Youtube interview videos and are now looking into doing live podcasts.  My assistant has brought a lot to the table and she is helping greatly with the improvements to GMTA as we go along. We also offer these same services to authors outside of GMTA Publishing for reasonable prices.

-Do you offer both ebooks and print copies?
Do you work with POD? 
 Yes GMTA does both e-books and print, our e-books go through Amazon and Barnes & Noble we have done Smashwords though in the near future we intend to steer away from that avenue. Amazon and Barnes & Noble just seem to be the best choices for us. As for print, we use Createspace which is a hub of Amazon. So far this has been the best choice for our print books though in the future when we have more working capital we plan to go a different route. It’s our dream to eventually have our own printing house but just as with any other company that comes in time once we have the establishment and working capital we desire.

-What is the availability of the novels once published? Are they available worldwide or only locally?
Are the novels available only through online book stores or do they have shelf space in local book stores?
Books are all available worldwide! Createspace now has a European division so that has been a great change. So far they are only available online though we are hoping in the very near future that the books will be available in stores. It’s a goal we are working toward! J

-Do you deal with the ISBN numbers and copyright?
ISBN’s so far are done either through Createspace, Amazon, and B&N or they are purchased by the author. We do have an application with the LCN for Library of Congress numbers and copyrights are usually done by the author.  It is stipulated in our contract that the author always retains all their rights even though they are published through us.

I want to thank Kitty Bullard for taking time from her busy schedule to answer these questions. If you are interested in reading the guidelines established for submission to GMTA Publishing, you will find the link below. Take a minute or two to look around their site.

The link to the site's main page is: