Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kerry Nietz and the Amish Vampires in Space

OK, well I have to say that today's interview will be a first for me. I mean seriously, Amish SPACE? Now I bet THAT caught your not knowing if garlic is of any use, but better be safe than sorry, let's get on with the interview!

Welcome Kerry...yea, that's right, you can sit over there -oh, no, one row back...yes! That's fine. OK, where were we...

Sooo, you write about vampires, Amish ones to boot. That's interesting. 

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
 I’ve been writing my whole life. My mom still brings me scraps of things I wrote as a child, little story ideas that didn’t go anywhere. There were a few times too in junior high and high school where an English teacher gave my class a creative writing assignment. I always relished those, and usually got encouragement and compliments on what I wrote.

I didn’t get serious about writing until much later, though. The tipping point came when I happened to sit beside an older gentlemen on a plane who was a published writer. When I mentioned I always wanted to write, he said “Well start early, you might get published before you die.”

Shortly thereafter I bought a computer and started to write. My first book, a memoir of sorts, was published in 2003. (FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software is the title.)

How much of your life is set aside for writing?
 I write in the afternoons. Mornings are typically for other chores and some form of physical exercise. I write until I have at least 600 words, with the hope of more. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I write from the seat of my pants, with little more than a theme and a vague plotline to guide me. So there are many days where each word requires a lot of contemplation. Like walking in mud. Now you don't want to be knee deep in mud when those vampires of yours come running!

Could you tell us a little about your novel? How did it come to be?
 Amish Vampires in Space was an intriguing mental challenge for me. Like grabbing three seemingly unrelated ideas out of a hat and trying to find a way to connect them somehow. Sounds like a party game, I like that.

The inspiration came from a joke title my former publisher (who has since sold the company) used to throw around at writers’ conferences. Since his was a speculative fiction house, he used to say that the only Amish fiction he was interested in was something on the order of Amish Vampires in Space. He even sent his authors a mock cover of the idea. At some point I told him someone should write And now I believe it is safe to say that you are the ONLY ONE who does!
that book. I didn’t think it was me, because it seemed campy and that’s not what I normally do.

Then I got some ideas about how it all might work and not be campy. I started writing. When I reached the 30,000 word mark I let him know what I was doing. He encouraged me to continue—with no guarantees of it being published, of course. (To quote Lia, "snort" of course)When I finished, over 100,000 words later, I sent the manuscript to him. He liked what he read, so here we are.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?
 Sure! Amish Vampires in Space takes place in a future where other planets have been terraformed to be Earth-like, and the Amish have settlements on a few of those planets.
(Now, I know what you’re thinking: The Amish don’t drive cars! How are they going to get into space? In actuality, though, the Amish have no problem with being driven somewhere, as long as they aren’t doing the driving. Same principle applies here, but with spaceships.)

One of the Amish planets is Alabaster. Jebediah Miller is part of the community there, but he has this family secret. He’s been given this charge by his father, a series of tests he’s supposed to perform. When he discovers a problem with Alabaster he has to defy some of the Amish rules to get the community help.

Help comes in the form of a non-Amish (Englisher) delivery ship. Eventually the whole community is on the ship headed for a new home. But they aren’t the only ones on board.

Think the movie Witness meets Pandorum. Or maybe Dracula meets Beverly’s Lewis’s The Shunning? Something like that.

I think it both fun, and meaningful.
Definitely something to sparks one's curiosity!

Who is the novel’s main character and why?
 Though there are many important characters in AViS, it is primarily about Jebediah. It is his journey. He’s a product of his culture, yet he’s faced with a situation where to survive and protect those he loves, he may need to forsake certain aspects of that culture. So it is not only a physical struggle, but a mental and spiritual one, as well.

What is the message behind the story?
 Books are a lot like Rorschach tests in that what people take away from them is largely subjective. For me, the interesting conflict of the story is the Amish practice of non-resistance when confronted by creatures and people that are, by definition, violent.

The Amish practice non-resistance primarily because, as Christians, they think they’re following Jesus’s example, specifically his charge “not to resist an evil man.” It is also the case, though, that Jesus befriended and even healed a fair share of people (centurions, for instance) whose job it was to resist evil men.

So what is the proper Christian stance on defence and self-defence? That’s the heart of Jebediah’s journey. Fascinating.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow?
I’m definitely a pantser, meaning I usually have no idea what I’m going to write on any given day.

There are downsides to that approach, obviously, because with no outline there is a danger that your plot will wander. Plus it is nearly impossible to estimate a completion date because you have no idea how long it will take you to get…wherever it is you’re going.

Writing is a faith walk for me, though. I like not knowing where it is going. It is a lot like life. You just keep prayerfully plodding along, trusting that you’ll arrive at the destination eventually.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
Let’s face it, this book is different from what anyone has written in the past. I mean, it has the Amish in space with vampires! Doesn’t get much different than that.

That said, it really wasn’t that far outside of my comfort zone. He dares admit that out loud ;o)

I like to write books with big “What ifs?” associated with them. My first published novel, A Star Curiously Singing, had a lot of “What ifs” in it too. What if the whole world was under sharia (Islamic) law? And what if there was this class of technological slaves that the rich used to fix their toys? And what if one of them, these debuggers, got sent into space to diagnose a robot malfunction and found something larger?

Every novel is (or should be) the answer to some “What if.” I just like mine a little on the strange side. You don't say...   

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
The changes in present day publishing has meant a lot to me over the last year or so.

At the beginning of 2014, only a few months after AViS was released, my publishing house was sold, and the new owner decided he didn’t want the book as part of his new catalog. (Not because of the content, though. He didn’t read the book.)

So, I had a decision to make. AViS was selling well, there was lots of buzz, and I’d just spent over a year of my life crafting it.

Thankfully, because of the prevalence of POD technology and eBooks, I was able to re-release the book myself in only a matter of weeks. And it has continued to sell really well that way, enough that I’ll probably self-publish my next book as well.

It is a brave new world for writers. It also requires that authors become more savvy in many areas regarding formatting, publishing, marketing and the whole world of social media interaction...not to mention give up a large chunk of time for it.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
I wish I had some secret I could share here, but I really don’t. I’ve tried lots of things—blog tours, giveaways, interviews—but to be honest, the things that have worked best weren’t things I had any real control over.

Amish Vampires in Space was mentioned twice by Publishers Weekly and twice by Library Journal. Dave Barry joked about the title on his blog. It was written about in the Washington Post, and then, of all things, it was talked about by Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show. There isn’t a book publicist out there who could have made all that happen.

Someone emailed me the other day to ask who my agent was. I told him that right now God is my agent. Writing is a faith walk! Amen.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The only key I’ve found so far is perseverance, and that applies to all aspects of a writer’s life. You need to persevere in writing the book. You need to make time each day (or at least, every weekday) to sit down and write the thing. Set a daily goal for yourself each day and reach it. Push through the difficult areas. Take advantage of those times it is smooth going—write more! But get to the end. Then persevere through the editing phase, even if it means you need outside help.

When the thing is solid, you need to endure through finding a publisher. Submit, attend conferences, and meet other writers. Learn more, write more, and research more. Network, make connections, build friendships—and don’t be afraid of rejection! Persist. Be determined. Hold on.

Marketing the book takes special perseverance too. Try different things. Try lots of things. Watch what works for others, and do likewise. Continue to learn. Continue to be flexible. Know your market. Hang in there. If a handful of people like your story, if someone is willing to put their own money and time behind it, then there’s a fair chance that hundreds or thousands (or even millions) of others will enjoy it to. Find them. One at a time, if you have to.

I’m speaking from experience here. It took four years from the time I decided to be a writer, until the time I finally held a book with my name on the cover. After that, it took another six years to get my first novel in print. I plan to release my sixth novel this year.
Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts here, I like what you had to say.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now? 
In December I finished the second draft of the sequel to Amish Vampires in Space. Now I’m waiting for the editor to have a chance to read it, then I’ll be back working on it again. I’m shooting for an early spring release.

While I’ve been waiting, though, I’ve been scratching away at some short stories. I know most aspiring authors cut their teeth on short stories, but that’s not the way it happened for me. I dove right into novel writing at the start and have done little else since. All of the short stories I’ve written have been because someone asked.

So, it is fun to try to write some on my own just for the enjoyment and challenge of it. If they turn out okay, maybe I’ll produce an anthology someday.

Challenges are an important part of being a writer. If you can’t do something that’s never been done, at least do something you’ve never done. How true. Thank you, Kerry, for taking the time to stop by. It was fun, and definitely...unique!

Book blurb:
 Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space.

The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction. Then end up on a cargo ship bound for the stars.
But they are not the only cargo on board. 
Some of it is alive...or used to be.

Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.

Author bio:
 Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits, first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates's minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. Amish Vampires in Space is his fifth novel.

Contact and Purchase Links:
Amazon :
I also mention my novel A Star Curiously Singing. The Amazon link is here if you want to link to that:
FoxTales is here:
Facebook author page:

Some additional information on our guest:
author of A Star Curiously Singing (The Dark Trench Saga, Book 1)
2011 Readers Favorite Gold Medal Award winner
2011 EPIC Awards Finalist in Science Fiction category
2010 INSPY Book Awards Shortlist in Speculative Fiction category
2010 Indie Book Awards Finalist in Science Fiction and Religious Fiction categories

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ines Bautista Yao and Only a Kiss

Today we are leaving my cold Canadian office to chat with Ines Bautista Yao in the Philippines...where it is WARM, and SUNNY. Too bad the only thing travelling are the emails lol, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

We are going to take a look at her book, Only a Kiss and chat a bit. Maybe we can have some tropical fruit smoothies instead of hot cocoa!

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
Hi, Debbie! My name is Ines Bautista Yao, I live in the Philippines, and Im a wife and mother of two little girlsa six-year-old and a 15-month-old. I used to be the editor of a teen magazine called Candy and a childrens magazine called K-Zone. I also used to be a high school and college English and Literature teacher. Wow, that is quite impressive! So basically you have been collecting all sorts of information to use in your writing. ;o)

Ive always been writingever since I can remember. An aunt gave me a diary when I was a child and I remember asking my mom what to write in it. She told me to write about my day. So I began doing that, in my huge, curly handwriting. Then I got tired of it and started writing stories. Stories inspired by what I was reading, by what I saw on TV, by the nature around me. And since then, Ive been finding different opportunities to write.  I knew it!

When I got older, my writing focused more on feature articles for magazines, but I always wanted to write fiction. When my eldest daughter began napping for three hours straight and I was feeling like there was nothing else going on in my life besides being Mommy, I opened an old file I had written and stashed away three years before. I read all 13 pages of it and realized I wanted to know what happened next. So I continued the story and wrote every time my daughter napped. That became my first book, One Crazy Summer, which was traditionally published in the Philippines. Three hour naps! I want your secret. I am lucky if my daughter naps a whole hour per daythough it is getting better.
Sorry, back to your book! I love that you kept your writing and built upon it. I have taken high-school papers and short stories that I have kept and found book ideas there too. I know many authors who dont keep their stories and ideas. I think they just assume the ideas will always be there.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I am a full time mother. When I gave birth to my first daughter, I decided to stay home and raise her. I take on several freelance writing jobs at the same time. Now I combine that with writing my books. Its a lot harder now because I have a 15-month-old too, but I dont want to stop writing. The sad part is I only write when I get the chance: when the baby is asleep and when my eldest is in school. Its frustrating but I know that I should cherish these early years because they will be over before I know it! It does indeed go by fastmy eldest is 26, my youngest 18 months. And it seems like only yesterday I was taking Devan home from the hospitalnow, you can hear him sing on the radio!
Could you tell us a little about your novel?

Only A Kiss is my third book. Its actually a novella not quite a novel. Its about two best friends: Katie and Chris. The book is made up of five short stories that follow the main characters throughout their lives. It begins when theyre nine then moves along till theyre in their early twenties. Its also told from their alternating points of view. Its a simple story about best friends falling in love. I wanted to write a book that had loads of feels and I think I was able to pull it off.  I cant wait to read it. I love the different ways authors convey emotions and I am always looking for new takes on our basic human emotions.

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?
 Its funny how I began writing this book because I was pregnant with my second daughter and my goal was to finish the book before I gave birth. I was deathly afraid that after giving birth, I wouldnt have time to write anything and I wanted to come out with a third book before then!

My main character and the overall feel of the book resulted from the feedback I got from my last book, Whats in your Heart. Its focus was mainly family and my readers were telling me that they wanted more romance, more feels, or more (as we say in Filipino) kilig. So I created a main character who was totally different from the main character in my second book. Katie is strong, opinionated, bossymuch like my eldest daughter. And instead of finding a bunch of old letters her grandma had written in the past (the plot of Whats in your Heart), Katies life focuses on the relationships around herin the present. And when I finished the story, my early readers said it was indeed more romantic, more kilig than the last book. Mission accomplished!   Good for you!

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?

My entire story developed as my characters came to life. I know a lot of authors say that their characters dictate how the story will go, and Ive noticed that is also what happens to my stories. I start out not sure whats going to happen and the story and the characters take on lives of their own! Of course, I think about the story the whole day (I even dream of plotlines!), but somehow, when I sit down to write, something else comes up or if I follow an idea, it doesnt go exactly as planned.  In my opinion, that`s the best thing that happens to us as a writerhaving one of our characters take us by the hand and lead us on an adventure without the slightest hint of what lies ahead.

But of course, I always want the message to be inspiring and uplifting. Readers have told me that this book has reassured them that there is love in the world and that they will find it someday. I never set out to impart a particular message, but Im happy they were able to find that in this story.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
 I go with the flow. With this book, I was inspired by a line from The Killers song, Mr. Brightside: It was only a kiss. I typed the title on my laptop and let the story flow from there. Its so much fun (though nerve-wracking!) to write this way. It feels as if Im reading a totally new book!  Hahabut its the best way to write, dont you think?

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you catalogueinformation to make it all work? 
I didnt really have to do research for this book, but I did for my last one. I interviewed my grandma about life when she was a teenager and I also read up on Manila in the 1940s. I wrote this all down in a notebook and I made outlines and outlines with my ideas scribbled in the margins. It was confusing because I had to align everything with what I had written so far. I even made diagrams and story maps just to be sure I had everything in place. I cant imagine how detective writers do it! But I would want to write a whodunit one day and I know I will need to do outlines again.   
Consider it whodunit training.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

My goal used to be to publish traditionally. I wanted to come out with a book a year, hoping my publisher would accept my books. However, an author friend has been encouraging me to indie publish because she says its an experience I must try! So Im doing it with Only A Kiss. And Ive found that I dont have to wait an entire year to come out with a book or even a short story. I can come out with as many as I want (if theres time of course) and publish them whenever I want! So I believe indie publishing is actually driving me to write even more than when I was only going the traditional route. Its scary but pretty awesome at the same time.   So all you have to do is teach your daughter how to format your work and you will have a great thing going.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
 Since this is my first time to indie pub, Im still learning the ropes. Im tweeting a lot, I have my Facebook pages up, and I have recently launched an author blog where I want to post mostly short stories, character posts and interviews, and so on. You can find it here:

Im learning a lot from the Clean Indie Reads facebook group (thank you, Lia London!) and Im hoping that one day, I too, can advertise on those reader sites and see my numbers rise. So far, its all one big experiment. And if (or when!) it starts to work, I will definitely share what I have learned so other indie authors (especially those in the Philippineswe have so many talented writers who want to get their books into the world) will know what to do and not have to go through all this stress and uncertainty haha! I think that this is how indie authors stand out, in the sense that they are part of a chain, taking a hand up to reach someone of experience while reaching back down to uplift the next in line. The CIR group is a wonderful place for authors to grow, learn and share with one another.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
 Yes! Just write. Write whats in your heart, write what you want to read, write what is burning inside you. Then after youve gotten that out, edit like mad. Make sure your work is properly crafted. Its
harder for indies because we dont have the resources to hire expensive editors, artists, and marketing teams, but there are ways to do this. There are people who are good who wont charge an arm and a leg. But publishing your work without taking care of your overall presentation is not the way to go. It will just give you and other indie authors a bad name. But if you arent there yet, start from the beginning. And that is just to write, write, write.  

Could you tell us what youre working on now?
 Im writing a short story about the two characters who get married in the first story of Only A Kiss. I was intending it to be a permafree short story that I will send to my readers as a thank you for reading or an invitation to get Only A Kiss if they havent yet. But as Im writing it, its slowly turning into a novella. I havent had time to add to the story because of the holidays, but I want to get back to it as soon as I can! Then I want to write my 50,000-word book that I will submit to BookBub again and again and again and again. Haha! You go girl!


Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival.

She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher.  She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at She has recently launched The Author Project, a section in her current blog devoted to the stories in her head:

She posts on Instagram and tweets @inesbyao and her author page is  

Only A Kiss blurb

When she was nine-years-old, Katie knew she wanted Chris to give her her first kiss. It wasn’t because she was in love with him (no way, he was her best friend! Besides, she was in love with his fourteen-year-old big brother), it was because she could make him do anything she wanted. 

Besides, it didn't really mean anything. After all, it was only a kiss. 

But things started to change. They grew up. They parted ways and went to different high schools. Then other girls and other boys—well, just one particular boy—came into the picture, throwing their lives upside down. 
 Told from the alternating points of view of Katie and Chris, this love story between two best friends will tug at your heartstrings and leave you thinking about how the simplest things mean so much. 


Twitter and instagram: inesbyao



Promotional Dates

At 99 cents: January 10 – February 14


Katie couldn’t get over what she had just witnessed. The kiss Kuya Ben gave her cousin wasn’t like the ones she’d seen in movies or on TV. It was quick and it was through a car window, but it was the most powerful one she had ever seen. It was as if he wanted to gift all the emotions coursing through him to his future bride, and the only way he knew how was through a kiss. 

But a few weeks later, while he was doing some groceries for his mom after school, something he actually enjoyed because he found it relaxing when there weren’t too many people, someone tapped him on the shoulder. “Haven’t been seeing you around.” He turned to see Iris, looking absolutely adorable in a blue tank top, skinny jeans, and orange Chucks. She had a faded yellow headband on and somehow, it made her entire face light up. He didn’t know how or why, he just noticed that it did. And right then, he knew he was powerless against her. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were avoiding me.” She tilted her head to the side and looked up at him prettily. She knew she was cute, he realized. She knew he liked her. And he didn’t care. She was talking to him, wasn’t she? Did that mean she liked him too?

Running into the waves, Katie shrieked as the cold water hit her skin. “Maybe this was a bad idea!” She was about to head back to the sand when Andrew started splashing her with water. “Hey, cut it out!” She splashed him back, laughing. She felt like they were in a romantic comedy, all she needed was a killer soundtrack and they were all set. When Andrew held his hands up and called for a truce, Katie swam up next to him, thinking she was most possibly living the best night of her life—with or without the alcohol dizzying up her brain.

When Katie entered the living room in her midnight blue gown that showed off her shoulders and clung to all the right places, places he had never noticed before, his breath caught in his throat. Her hair was all wavy and loose down her back but it looked like she had done something to it because it looked shinier. And she was radiant. Her eyes were sparkling, her lips were glossy—it could have just been the illusion brought on by makeup, but still, he felt as if he were standing next to someone else. Someone he had asked to the ball, not because she was his best friend, but because there was something about her that he wanted to get to the bottom of—because there was something about her that was slowly reeling him in. And at that moment, he realized he wasn’t just anticipating the hype, he was already living it.

Katie took a deep breath, touched up her makeup, and stepped out of the stall. She had to see Chris sooner or later. Even if she had no idea how she felt about him anymore. But then again, what did she expect? It wasn’t as if he was still her best friend. Feeling like she had lost something (her mind, maybe?), she swiped on some lipstick and decided it was time to face the music. No matter what song was playing. 


Only a Kiss is a story about love—the joy of first love (and a first kiss!), the pain of heartbreak, the possibility of a new beginning, love for family and friends, and most especially, love for that special someone. I love how the author weaved the stories of her different characters together and how we saw them grow up and grow in love. I enjoyed reading this book because it reminded me that love comes in so many forms and that there is always hope for a happy ending. I highly recommend it! —Angela

I've been excited to read this book ever since I bought it. Not only was it very pretty to look at but I have also been following the author's works, all of which I've I enjoyed reading. I haven't read for a while now and Only A Kiss was just the right book to get me to start reading again. I enjoy reading love stories, especially those that make your heart ache a little, give you a good cry, yet still leave a smile on your face and the feeling of being in love after. You will experience all these with this book. It even made me wish that I had a guy bestfriend too :p Others may say that this is yet another predictable love story, but who doesn't love happy endings? I know I do and I wouldn't mind reading them over and over again. —Wella Javellana

It was cute, then funny, then it got serious, and sad, and painful, and EVERYTHING IS WORTH IT IN THE END.
I like it that the story was told in a way that shows the growth of the characters, both physically and emotionally. I so love the lessons about life and love that were shown in the book. There were a lot of quotable quotes, too.
What do I love the most about this book? It's sense of reality. The characters do what real people would do in real life. It's like I'm reading a story told to me by a friend. Everything felt natural.
I love how the characters saw their lives as children and how their lives changed as they grew older.
PLUS: I AM IN LOVE WITH THE COVER!!! —Elline Faye Sebastian

I finished this book in one sitting! I couldn't put it down. I loved the dialogue between Katie and Chris. I loved "watching" them grow up. Parts of the story made me laugh out loud. Parts of it made me teary eyed and all mushy. Having both the giggles and the sniffles, for me, are signs of a good book! I'm so so soooo glad I bought this book! —KC

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Rasana Atreya

You are just going to have to read through the interview, because today, we have an amazing person with us. I am very grateful to be able to share a little about Rasana Atreya and her writing.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
 Back when we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area I worked in IT. Then, ten years ago, we decided to move back to India. I had two kids under the age of three so an IT job was out of the question. In my kind of work, if the network goes down at 3:00 in the morning, you had better be at work at 3:00 in the morning. With little kids that wasn’t something I could do so I was forced to rethink my options. I’d always loved writing so I figured it was as good a time as any to switch careers.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
 Yes, I do write full-time but I’m terribly disorganised. I’m trying to force myself into a better schedule because if you let it, marketing and promotion of your books can take over your work-life. I think every author will agree with that comment!

Could you tell us a little about your novel?
 I have written two novels and one novella. The manuscript of my first novel, Tell A Thousand Lies, was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize. UK’s Glam magazine calls it one of their five favourite tales from India. I had a traditional publication contract for this novel but I chose to decline it in order to self-publish. I have no regrets because it has been such an amazing experience. Because I was one of the first people to self-publish in India, I get a lot of media attention. And, when Amazon set up operations in India, they flew me to New Delhi to be part of that launch, which was pretty cool. Wow! That's so great. Good for you :o)

Back to Tell A Thousand Lies. This novel deals with superstition in rural India. Most of my writing deals with issues related to women so if I had to pick a genre, I’d say Women’s Fiction set in India, though I do have some elements of comedy in most of my writing.

My novella, The Temple Is Not My Father, is about temple prostitution in India. Though the practice is officially banned, young girls are still dedicated to the Goddess, which often leads to sexual exploitation of these girls. This novella is also available is an audiobook now.

My novel, 28 Years A Bachelor, is also women’s fiction set in India (in that it deals with in-laws’ control over the lives of their daughters-in-law, arranged marriages etc.), but there is also lot of comedy in it. From what readers tell me, the comedy seems to work for them. Personally I am glad you added some humor, I can imagine the topic would be too heavy otherwise.
Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from? 
I happened to read two unrelated articles in the newspaper here in India – one relating to living Goddesses and the other to do with witches. The second article talked about a woman who was stoned to death for being a witch and I was like, oh my god! – in this day and age? Sadly the media is still guilty of fear-mongering today.

India is a land of crazy contrasts – extreme poverty and extreme wealth; female infanticide (babies killed at birth for being the wrong gender) and female engineers (I have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering); our ancient philosophy teaches us tolerance but we also have honour killings (women killed for marrying without the approval of their parents). I am one of the lucky ones in that I’ve had all the opportunities a women could ever want, so I choose to write about the less fortunate. That’s how Tell A Thousand Lies came about. 

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? 
My message is always empowerment of women but I don’t want to come across as preachy. I try to focus on the story and hope the message comes through. 

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
Like I said previously, I’m disorganized. Which also means I’m a pantster (one who writers by the
seat of her pants). I did try outlining, I really did. But it seems to suck the creativity out of me. When I start writing I have no idea where the story is going. I do meander in directions that don’t work, and often have to backtrack but, for me, that is part of the fun.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

In Tell A Thousand Lies, the timespan is 16 years, less in the other two.

I had to do some research for The Temple Is Not My Father because I had no idea about temple prostitution. In all my other books I have a lot of cultural detail. My source is my mother-in-law who, happily enough, is an acknowledged expert in this area.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
 One oft-repeated advice to be successful writers is to have a large body of work. While I admire writers who can put out a book every three months, that isn’t me. It took me seven years to write and publish two novels and a novella. Still, I want to see if I can cut down on marketing and promotion and pick up pace, writing-wise. I’m also experimenting with audiobooks. I commissioned someone to make The Temple Is Not My Father into an audiobook but I might try my hand at doing one of the other novels myself.
 A noble undertaking indeed. I can't imagine creating your own audio-book to be easy.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
 I’m the kind of person who likes to be in charge, so I do everything myself. I watch trends and try to make them work for me. Bookbub is this mega-marketing plan everyone swears by, but I wasn’t sure I could make it for me; after all how many people would be interested in reading about three sisters in rural India? Turns out, plenty were. Despite the hefty amount Bookbub charges for promoting your book, I was able to make my money back, and more. I have diversified, putting my book up on multiple platforms. I’m also a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. I think of this as a wonderful professional investment because I have learned so much there. This is good information for our fellow authors, thank you!

I’m one of the most visible faces in self-publishing in India; as a result I get a lot of media attention. This has resulted in a lot of opportunities for me. Despite this 95% of my sales come from the US/UK markets. This is because ebooks still haven’t picked up in India. My next goal is to work on paperbacks for my novels. I’m in talks with a distributer regarding this. Couldn't you just go through Createspace? If Amazon is now in India, you must have access to it, providing you have an ITIN number.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t rush to publish. Have beta-readers read your book to fix issues, then hire an editor. After the editor is done, also get people to proofread your book. 

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
 I’m working on a story on ‘honour killing.’ 

Rasana is the author of Amazon bestseller Tell A Thousand Lies, which was also shortlisted for the 2012
Tibor Jones South Asia award. UK’s Glam magazine calls this novel one of their five favourite tales from India (June 2014).  Her other works are The Temple Is Not My Father and 28 Years A Bachelor.

Now on to more personal stuff – Rasana would like to be able to tell her readers that she once stopped a robbery single-handedly, except she’s terrified of robbers. And geckos. And two-year-olds who throw tantrums. When she’s not running scared, she’s mother to a girl and a boy who were respectively six and eleven years-old when they wrote and illustrated The Mosquito and the Teapot. She lives with her husband and children in Hyderabad, India, where a lot of her stories are set.

Her author website:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Charissa Dufour, and Sucked Away

When I start my post telling you how amazing the beach and palm trees are, you'll know I've made it as a successful writer...for now, bear with me as I tell you that we're stuck in a perpetual deep freeze with the windchill hanging around -38.  Sigh...

Here's something that should stir things up for you. Please welcome charissa Dufour, and her novel Sucked Away, from the Just Plain Sucks vampire series. (Wait 'till you read about the books.)

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
My journey to become a writer began in 8th grade, when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and pulled from school to recover. During this time, I was left alone for hours on end and it was then that I discovered new friends within the pages of books. I also learned the blessing of creating my own friends by writing down the stories that plagued my lonely mind—as demented as that sounds. Therefore at the ripe age of fourteen, I wrote my first novel. It sucked! But I kept going and now I am finalizing my first indie novel, with sequels to come, and two other series along with a fiction based blog. I never imagined that first horrible novel about a man who crash landed on his long lost home world would turn into a lifelong passion.
I now live in Chicago, IL with my amazing husband and two rambunctious kittens, Groot and Rocket. 

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I guess you could say I write full time considering I don’t have a “day job,” nor do I have kids. Still, I try not to spend all day in front of the computer. I try to spend my mornings working on chores around the house and the afternoons writing.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?
My latest release is Sucked Away: Book 2 of the Series that Just Plain Sucks.
It is the continuing story of Ashley Hawn, a woman living the dream: working at a grocery store by day and writing sexy vampire novels by night. It’s the perfect life until her out-of-her-league boyfriend reveals that he’s a real-life vampire and turns her. Her life goes downhill from there as she realizes that life as a vampire just plain sucks. OK, I had to laugh, this was not what I would have expected from a vampire novel, I love it!

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?
I have two different series available, both in vastly different worlds. My vampire series is set in Olympia, Washington, the town I grew up in. I tried to keep my stories accurate to the city and culture. A reader could take a tour of Olympia based on my books. This is a point we have in common...accuracy is very important for me.

The other series is a medieval fantasy set in a fictitious world. The story takes place on a peninsula, divided from the mainland by a large body of water. The only connection between the two countries is a narrow stretch of land riddled with natural hindrances, such as quick sand, poisonous animals, and the like. Originally the peninsula was a quilt-work of many different nations, with their own vibrant cultures. Over the last decade, one king, Wolfric, conquered all but one. Dothan stand alone in the fight against Wolfric. Like the mainland, Dothan is protected through natural barriers including mountains and a wide, deep river. But will these barriers be enough to keep the power-hungry king at bay? This sounds interesting, and I see that in one instance you strive for accuracy, and here you can allow your creativity free reign.

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?
I originally got my idea for Sucked In sitting with my husband on our porch, talking about the Twilight craze. One of us said “what would happen if Stephanie Meyer got turned and discovered her stories were total crap?” By the end of the night we had a loose plot for the book. I confess it took years getting the book to where it is. No shame there, many authors take years to allow their stories to mature.

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?
Sucked In is just a story. Nothing more. Each reader can find their own message, or just enjoy it for what it is. The Dothan Chronicles, on the other hand, is a story of true, unconditional love. It’s hard to go home, thinking you’re dirty and corrupted. Is there anything greater than the love of a mother saying, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you. I will always love you.”

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
Originally I just went with the flow. The result was many, many, many rewrites. With each new book my outlining improves. My outline begins with just the main turning points and a few key scenes that I know will happen—in other words I outline everything I know will happen before I begin writing. Once I start writing, I often stop my writing and bulk up the next couple chapters of my outline as I go. Sometimes my characters surprise me, and the outline needs revising or adding.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
Each week I use a website called Hootsuite that schedules tweets, facebook posts, and google+ posts. I then use teams of other authors, each one helping all to market further. Being part of a group helps on many levels. CIR is the best of them all for authors, both and old, with or without experience, because they share their experience, knowledge, wisdom and silliness. (This concludes our `word from our sponsor`, now back to your regular programming...)

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Everyone tells me to write what you know. I say write what you want to read. If you’re not passionate about it, it will show in your writing. I write stories I want to read, and as I result I love writing them. The other little snippet of advice I have for aspiring writers is that this is hard work. It requires pushing through, even when you don’t feel “inspired.” You may rewrite something, but it’s import to push yourself to write every day. One day I am going to collect all of this advice and lump it together in a "So you want to be an author" book.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I am currently working on Lost, book 2 in the Dothan Chronicles. I am so excited for this book. The main characters go through some rather devastating trials, and their growth is astounding.

Book Blurb:
Sucked Away:
Barely surviving the resurrection of the warlock Sedgrave, Ashley has healed in body, if not in mind. As she slowly tries to piece together her mind, sorting past from present and friend from foe, the time of her joining- a ritual designed to bind her to her seethe-comes upon her. Before the ritual can be completed in full, it is interrupted by a ragged pack of werewolves seeking asylum and protection.
Meanwhile, a storm is brewing in the mystical world with Ashley at its center, and before she knows it, her calm existence is once more Sucked Away.

I was looking out my window, at nothing in particular, and didn't notice the giant statue until I had climbed out of the car.
Its sheer size would capture you if nothing else, but its contents grabbed you and took a bite out of your imagination. It was a giant troll, one hand reaching out toward you, the other grasping a Volkswagen Bug, and I mean a real VW Bug.
I stood by the car, not really interested in approaching it, though even from this distance I could see footprints all over the statue where tourists had climbed it. Before I was turned into a vampire I would have loved to climb all over the fake troll, but now that I questioned its reality, I wasn't that interested in such activities.
I couldn't tell why, but the statue reminded me of a giant, cold monster. Though, as a vampire I never felt the mundane cold of a Washington winter, I suddenly began to shiver. My body was a step ahead of my brain; I began to remember the monster picking me up and freezing my skin and then dropping me. I nearly toppled over as my body remembered the sensation of falling a great distance and landing on something that crunched under my weight.    
“You coming?” Periphetes asked from a few feet ahead of me, cutting into my memory.
Simply because I didn't want to tell him what was bothering me, I followed him to the very edge of the enormous troll statue.
“Is it real?” I asked.
Had I asked a human this they would have bound me in a strait jacket, but Periphetes knew what I was talking about. He was a fae, after all—unfathomably old and bound to a deeper magic than what made me a vampire.
He chuckled deep in his throat, shaking his head.
“I don't think so. After all, Seattle isn't that old; it was formed in the mid-19th century, around the time humans started building with iron and my people began to lose their power. It would have taken a very, very strong fae to capture a troll like this and keep him here this long.” Periphetes stopped talking for a few minutes to let me admire it, but a moment later he leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Besides, I'm pretty sure it was sculpted by some local artists in 1990, or there abouts.”
I glared up at him. He was teasing me and loving every minute of it. To show him my annoyance at being teased, I elbowed him in the gut. This also got him to take a step away. Other than Josh, being near people made me jumpy.
“Want to climb on it?” he asked after a moment of silence.
I was just beginning to shake my head when I spotted movement near the encased car. “Umm... Periphetes...” I pointed at the car, unsure what I had seen.
“What?” he asked, looking in the direction I was pointing, but unsurprisingly the car remained perfectly still, just as it had for nearly twenty-five years.
“Nothing. Let's just go.”
Periphetes frowned down at me, but graciously offered me his arm in an old-fashioned gesture and began to lead me away. I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a giant creature, much like the statue, burst forward and begin to charge down the street toward us. Evidently Periphetes noticed the small earthquakes that accompanied the monster's feet or maybe he noticed my gasp, but he turned and pushed me toward the car. The giant, vaguely man-shaped thing slowed his tread as he swung down with his clawed, three-fingered hand to scoop up Periphetes.
To my astonishment, Periphetes let himself get caught; in fact he practically jumped into the thing's grasp. Instead of retreating to the car, as he probably expected me to do, I rushed forwards, determined to help or hinder as best I could. Before I could reach it, Periphetes had frozen the troll’s hand and started clamoring his way up the beast's thick arm. This confused the dumb thing. It waddled around, trying to follow Periphetes' quick movements with its one enormous eye.
I grabbed hold of one of its thick legs as it took small steps, and began climbing up. I used my vamp-strength to plunge my hands into the squishy flesh to create hand holds.
“What an incredible smell you've discovered,” I mumbled to myself. (Hey, I'm a Star Wars dork; Don't judge!)
It took me a few, tiring minutes to reach the cyclops' hip via this method. I discovered, rather intimately that the giant thing wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing. This encouraged me to speed up. As I began to drive my hands into its midsection, it suddenly took notice of me. To my surprise, it ignored Periphetes completely and snatched me up off its abdomen. With a lot more power than I had given it credit for, it chucked me down the street. I hit the pavement, leaving a dent in the street much like Superman does when he lands.
Before I could haul myself out of my own little crater, the Cyclops had turned its attention back to Periphetes, who had reached its shoulder. I nearly vomited when Periphetes thrust his hand into the Cyclops ear all the way up to the elbow.
The Cyclops swatted at him as it turned in circles, trying to see what was bothering its ear, but Periphetes was too well planted between his arm in its ear, and his feet tucked into the troll’s armpit. In a moment of complete stupidity, the beast began jabbing at its other ear, as though maybe he could dig in there and scratch the itch of Periphetes' violation.
I had no idea what Periphetes was planning, but I charged forward, despite what I was sure were a number of broken bones and bruised innards. It's easier to ignore pain when you're super-human and when you're thoroughly pissed off!
I thought I was done with this life for good. After all, my enemies had already destroyed me in every way, other than actually killing me. What more did they want? Well, whatever it was, they weren't going to get it without a fight.
I used the hand holds I had already made and scampered up the troll’s leg just as Periphetes' efforts began to take effect.
The enormous Cyclops' movements, which had been nominally fast and efficient, began to slow, as though it was drunk. I reached its chest and held my breath in the hopes of avoiding the worst of its foul breath. As I started to reach for its one, gigantic eye, I figured out what the winter fae was doing—he was freezing the Cyclops' brain with the hand still encased in its ear.
Well, I wasn't about to be outdone by the fae. I began jamming my hand into its eye socket. In one swift jab I knew it couldn't see anymore. Another punch and it began to topple to the ground. I jumped off before it hit the ground, rolling with my landing and gasping in agony. Yep, definitely broken bones.
Periphetes rode the Cyclops to the ground and extracted his arm from its ear. From where I lay, I gagged as the fae tried to wipe the greenish-brown wax off his arm onto the Cyclops' small tuft of hair. He was far from finished when the beast began to twitch and shake. Before I could even make it to my feet, Periphetes climbed onto its head and jumped into its eye socket—I mean that literally!
One minute he was standing on the Cyclops' cheek, the next he was knee deep in Cyclops brain.

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