#Twitterfiction Festival!

The Association of American Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Twitter will feature authors during the third Twitter Fiction Festival scheduled May 11-15, 2015.
Margaret Atwood, Jackie Collins, Lemony Snicket, and Chuck Wendig will participate through creative posts.
Check into it. It’s bound to be fun and inspiring!

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson #review #novel

A riveting read! This fantasy offers a heroin who is very much a normal young woman. She’s the younger of two princesses, and despite her royal blood, feels that she can’t do much of anything right. So mired is she in despair over what she’ll never be, she punishes her body by eating to excess. Her marriage to a king is a political move, but when he asks her to keep their marriage secret for a bit, her sense of self-worth isn’t bolstered. It doesn’t take long to discover that her husband has a mistress, and that he in part wants to keep the marriage secret from her.
Then she is kidnapped. After being dragged across a forbidding desert, she discovers that the people who have kidnapped her are more desolate than she has ever been. Her initiation into palace politics allows her to understand the larger movements threatening this tenacious band of survivors, and she throws in her efforts with their cause.
What follows is a beautiful blossoming. She discovers untapped layers of talent she never knew existed. She has relied for so long on the godstone, the jewel placed in her navel that sets her apart, for her internal sense of value. Now she discovers that the stone is not the full measure of her worth. A story of redemption in the only eyes that matter: her own.
5 stars!
To read another story about self-worth and self-exploration, try He Drinks Poison, a novel shortlisted for several national awards.

Author Interview: Phil Harvey Plus Free Ebook #giveaway #amreading #litchat

Phil Harvey is the multi-award-winning author of Show Time, a psychological suspense thriller. He’s offering a free copy of one of his short story collections on Amazon through Mar 29. Click here for your copy.
ABOUT PHIL:
Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His dark fiction and controversial ideas have broadened debate on violent entertainment, relationships and sexuality. At the core of his fiction stand the motives, methods and goals of the characters. Here he talks about his latest novel Show Time and the release of three new collections: Wisdom of Fools: Stories of Extraordinary Lives, Devotional: Erotic Stories for the Sensual Mind, and Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart.

LC: Your three new books are collections of short stories in which characters touch something important in themselves or in others.
PH: The centerpiece of my fiction is always the individual. I like to put characters in demanding physical/psychological settings that force them to respond. Frankly this saves work and imagination because some responses are fore-ordained. Other ideas come from experience. Fly fishing. Sex. Upbringing. And so on. Some ideas even spring from other books. Really, the stories run the gambit. A few end in death, one in time travel, a few in redemption.
Show Time engages with seven people and their idiosyncrasies, lust, belligerence, and desire to survive. How they are attracted to each other, how they fight with each other, how they sometimes undermine and then strengthen each other. They boil, they confer, they fight, they make love—but overall, they must survive.
For all my characters, life goes on but is changed.

LC: Tell us about Show Time. The novel challenges seven reality show contestants with the possibility of starvation or freezing to death.
PH: My book explores the use of violence and death as entertainment. We already have real-world examples like the potential fatal violence that helps fuel the popularity of car racing. We like violence. It fascinates us. That’s why it leads the news every night. My idea is that policymakers someday will, perhaps without knowing it, encourage certain kinds of violence to keep people satisfied. Presidents like wars—even though they won’t admit it. Wars unify us. We always support the troops. So deliberate steps to encourage controlled violence are not so farfetched.

LC: Your fiction is occasionally threaded with darker impulses. Why delve into the shadow side?
PH: A wise writing instructor once said, “People don’t read nice. It puts them to sleep.”
I write dark-side fiction because that’s the only kind people read. I am not especially interested in venality, violence (which I really do not like), human weakness, etc. but these are essential elements of fiction. Of course we’re all fallible, and some of my fiction reflects this theme.
In Show Time, the producer arranges for a murder to happen on the show because her entire focus in life is on her ratings. Nothing else matters. We humans can get blinkered that way and occasionally take desperate measures to keep things on track. That’s true reality. But overall, I write in this vein because it is artistically satisfying and readers demand it.

LC: In Beena’s Story an Indian woman is disfigured by acid, in Virgin Birth a surrogate mother is attacked, and Show Time explores personal and social violence. How do you address violence without becoming graphic?
PH: Writing that is too graphic turns people off. Different readers (and writers) have different limits; mine are probably about average. Some would say I’m too cautious but bodies run through and guts spilling out simply seem unnecessary and distracting. It comes down to a matter of style. A very clear case is the “cozy.” There’s always a murder but never a body.

LC: These three new books include one that has a more erotic tone yet you don’t shy from sexual activity in stories that aren’t specifically erotic. Is there a line here, too?
PH: As to sex, I think I provided the appropriate amount of detail in Show Time and, very differently, in Vishnu Schist, Swimming Hole, and Devotional. Sex scenes can be sexy, even graphic as in Devotional, but clichés must be avoided like the plague. In Charlie Stuart’s Car got a little close to that, I think. I’ll let readers decide.

LC: How do you align your dark fiction with your Huffington Post article about the world getting better?
PH: The reality is that dark impulses, especially violence, will always be there. The world is getting better in part because we are learning to curb our natural violent instincts. We sublimate by watching violent sports. Boxing. Football. NASCAR. We punish. Murderers and rapists are jailed. And so on.
Backing this up must be the rule of law. People are capable of unspeakable horrors. And that includes nice, civilized people. See the enforcers of the Holocaust. See Uganda. See North Korea. The fact that the government has a monopoly on legal violence (wars, executions, etc.) is a good thing. The great majority of citizens want violence curbed, and only a governmental entity can do that consistently.
So, yes, humans will always love violence (see video games), and in the societies that function best, violence will be sublimated. Hence my novel Show Time. Hence my short story Hunting Dora.

LC: You support the rule of law but some of your stories demonstrate abuses of power. Should readers beware authority?
PH: No society can exist without rules that prevent people from harming others. But the government can be a poor purveyor of justice. Where’s the justice in the War on Drugs? Where’s the justice in taking (by force) billions from hardworking taxpaying Americans and giving it to rich farmers and agricultural corporations? And on and on.
The government is necessary for some things, and I appreciate that. An army. Rule of law. Enforceable contracts. But it is not such a stretch to depict the government as complicit (behind the scenes!) in a brutal scheme to satisfy Americans’ lust for violence as in Show Time. Readers should worry, because government’s perfidy is backed by government force. The worst perpetrators of violence have been governments. Stalin. Mao. Hitler. Pol Pot. Dystopian fiction is perhaps popular because in the digital age it seems more feasible. Big brother is watching.
On the other hand, people are generally very good about making decisions for their own lives. Over two centuries or so we’ve seen that life can be pretty successful and satisfying in democratic, free market societies. That’s why messy democracy is so terribly important.

LC: What’s the takeaway for readers of your fiction?
PH: I would hope they have journeyed to a place they would not have seen without the novel or one of the stories…that they experienced it and enjoyed being there, became engrossed, and had the pleasure of a good read. I always welcome emails with serious and thoughtful questions. I invite readers of Show Time to think about the complexities of violence. Perhaps this is worth considering: “War unites us. Love divides us.”

LC: It’s interesting that some of your stories revolve around activists. Your own efforts range from philanthropy to utilizing social marketing to distribute birth control, yet some of your characters view “do-gooders” with sharp cynicism.
PH: We compassionate humans so love to think highly of ourselves that we do “good” things without using the brains god gave us. For a decade the U.S. sent huge amounts of grain to India. Result: Indian farmers couldn’t make a living, Indian agriculture stagnated, Indians were generally worse off than they would have been without our “help.”
Doing stuff that feels good instead of stuff that will acutely help is something I really abhor. Feel-good giving is self-indulgent and occasionally cruel. It’s great to feel superior to that panhandler on the corner, so give him a dollar (and assure the future of panhandling) and think how morally superior you are. Whatever you do, don’t think about how you could actually be helpful. Not emotionally satisfying!
So the cynics in my stories are right, only it’s not really cynicism. It’s clarity. It’s intellectual integrity. If you want to help people then empower them to take control of their lives. And don’t expect gratitude. You’re doing your job; they’re doing theirs.

LC: What’s next for you?
My most promising novel is Just In Time, in which a Wall Street trader is deposited back in the Pleistocene era. The other, Indian Summer, follows a Peace Corps volunteer’s transformation fighting famine in India during the 1960s. I plan to write more short stories focused on the transformative powers of sex and alcohol.
As for myself, I will continue enjoying my married life, being a stepfather, and nurturing my very promising grandkids. And, of course, I’ll continue organizing projects that promote civil liberties through the DKT Liberty Project, work to end the War on Drugs, and debunk yahoos who ignore the reason and science behind immunization and the genetically modified crops that can relieve suffering worldwide.

Lawsuit Against Author Solutions #wana #amwriting RT to Protect Fellow Authors Please!

Check out the actual complaint here.
This is brought by two primary individuals who spent $25K and $10K on their books. Basically they talk about all the stuff we’ve heard about Author Solutions in the past: AS makes their money off authors, not for authors; AS sells “marketing” packages that do nothing to market books; AS grubs and grubs for services that are very poorly delivered and end up giving no value to the manuscripts.
The fact that this company is owned by Penguin Random brings shame on one of the world’s largest publishers.
When the two companies joined, I was in disbelief. But perhaps, I thought, PRH will reform the company and make it useful and valuable to indie authors. Perhaps this is a sign that traditional publishers and indie publishers can find ways to work together for the benefit of both.
Apparently not.
As long as these types of places exist, authors are at risk. And the longer these types of places are associated with traditional houses that otherwise have long records championing literature, the worse off the entire publishing field is going to become. A stain on such a venerable institution is a stain on the entire industry.
Please share and RT to help protect your fellow authors!

Top Publishers Open to Direct Submissions #pubtip #getpublished

HarperCollins, Jonathan Cape, Little, Brown, and Tinder Press are all opening up to submissions from authors who do not have agents. ~Gasp!~
Why on Earth would these leading companies suddenly change an age-old gatekeeping mechanism to allow anyone to submit?
Could be finances. Authors who aren’t represented usually receive offers that have lower advances, lower royalty percentages, less lucrative royalty breaks, and lower marketing budgets. Add all that up, and publishers could save quite a bundle.
Trust me. The 15% authors save by not paying an agent is not going to pay off under these circumstances.

Job at HarperCollins Christian #nowhiring

The Designer III position will be responsible for designing and composing/typesetting multi-purpose Bibles and academic-level titles for various outputs including print and digital. Routinely involves complex designs where handling immutable content is structured to accommodate the integration of ancillary text from multiple sources. Position also requires project-related administrative work (production workflow).
Click here for details.

Interview with Marion Grace Woolley #whattoread #mustread

The author of the stunning Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, available from Ghostwoods, chats with Laine Cunningham of Writer’s Resource about her stunning debut novel. For the review, see Monday’s post (3-23-15).

LC: Tell me about the idea for Those Rosy Hours. What sparked the seed concept?

MGW: Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran is a reference taken from Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera. It refers to a period in the Opera Ghost’s life before the Paris Opera House was built. As a young man, Erik is said to have travelled extensively, learning to throw the Punjab lasso in India, and eventually becoming playfellow to the daughter of the Shah of Iran.

It’s a story that is hinted at, but never fully told. There have been previous attempts to piece it together, most notably Susan Kay’s novel Phantom, but I wanted to take a different approach. My interest lies with the Little Sultana and her world. She was born into ultimate wealth and privilege, yet found her closest companion to be a travelling conjurer with a lust for blood. I wanted to give her a voice, to see what made them similar and what brought them together.

LC: How did the idea develop once you’d latched onto the seed?

MGW: In the grand style of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, it was really about taking a very minor character from a much loved classic, and putting her centre stage. The existence of The Persian in the original novel, and reference to both the Sultana and ‘those rosy hours,’ would suggest that something deeply significant happened all those years ago.

The first part of developing the plot involved working out roughly when those years ago actually were. By taking the completion of the Paris Opera House as an anchor, and assuming Erik, the Phantom, must have played a part in building it, I was able to work backwards, leaving him enough time to meet Christine and to have left home at an early age. That brought me to around 1850.

From there it was a case of researching the times. Thankfully, there was a vivid cast of historical characters to draw inspiration from.

LC: What was your primary challenge writing this work? Is this usually a challenging area for your other writing projects or did this come as a surprise?

MGW: It’s always difficult writing historical fiction. You’re constantly at risk of tripping yourself up, having your characters see something that hasn’t been invented, saying something out of context for the period. I like to spend the first few weeks completely immersing myself in the time, looking through picture archives, listening to music and watching documentaries on YouTube. But there comes a point where you have to turn off and let the story speak for itself. Anything you’re not sure about you can look up along the way.

That’s fairly standard, I think. The part that proved more of a challenge was taking on an established novel with a cult following. Anyone who loves classic literature tends to feel a strong sense of ownership over the characters. Some fans are willing to follow you into new territory, others are not. Those who see Phantom as a tragic love story are unlikely to enjoy the young Phantom I present them with, who is deeply rooted in Leroux’s dark, Gothic original.

LC: What was the part you enjoyed most about writing this work? Was this in line with your other works or was it a surprise?

MGW: Growing up, I always wrote stories to entertain myself, but it wasn’t until around 2008 that I attempted to write my first novel. I was a VSO volunteer in Africa, and there wasn’t much to do in the evenings. I didn’t have a television, radio, or many books to read.

Up to now, most of what I’ve written has been practise. It’s been about me exploring my interests and my style of writing. I’ve dabbled in horror, historical fiction and romance. I’ve learned something from each novel I’ve written, yet when I look back on them, I see so many of the mistakes writers make in the early days. With Rosy Hours I feel as though I have finally come of age.

LC: Tell me how you connected with Ghostwoods.

MGW: I was accepted by Ghostwoods Books via the submissions process.

I’ve been published in the past by a couple of small presses, Green Sunset Books and Netherworld Books. They were both enthusiastic, but neither had a marketing budget. Once you get over the buzz of being published, you quickly realise that selling books is a much harder mountain to climb.

I felt that I’d written something good with Rosy Hours. I knew that it was better than anything I’d written before, and I didn’t want it to follow my other novels to the grave, so I decided to run the gauntlet of submissions again.

Ghostwoods came back to me almost immediately. I was bowled over by their appreciation of the manuscript, and by their fair trade 50/50 split of profits. The problem was that I was in a first refusal contract with another publisher. I didn’t think they’d want Rosy Hours because it’s quite a dark story and they’d turned down a previous manuscript on those grounds. It turned out they did want it. We have a good working relationship and, after negotiating, they were gracious enough to let me take up Ghostwoods’ offer.

LC: Since a number of the readers of this blog are authors, tell me the process the book went through to get endorsements from other authors.

MGW: My publisher is really on the ball with pre-release blurbs and early reader reviews. It’s because of their existing contacts that we got it in front of people like Kate Harrad and David Southwell.

My own personal contacts came into play as well. A few years ago I did a turn at booQfest in Northampton, UK. I met authors who remained friends, including the incredible Will Davis, whose work I very much admire, and crime writer Adrian Magson, who is the editor for Writing Magazine’s new writers feature. Will agreed to review the book, and Adrian offered me an interview.

Usually it doesn’t hurt to ask. If people have the time and they’re interested in what you’re writing, they might just say yes.

LC: What are you working on now? Are there other books already in the process of being published that we should watch for?

MGW: I’m currently halfway through my next novel. It’s a retelling of an ancient Irish legend that I’ve always liked. As with Rosy Hours, I’m trying to take it out of its original context and put a slightly fresh spin on things.

I love folktales and legends, but, due to the times in which they were written, they can often come across a bit dry in the telling. I’m going for multi-character first person, and weaving in a few other legends and characters of that time.

It’s a bit of a leap from 1850s Northern Iran to Iron Age Ireland, but I enjoy the challenge.

LC: Which books are you reading now (fiction and/or nonfiction), and why?

MGW: I’m currently reading Red Phone Box, which is a story compilation by my publisher Ghostwoods Books. It’s a bit of dark fun, and I’m reading it because my editor Salomé Jones, cover designer Gábor Csigás, and Ghostwoods’ media guru Tim Dedopulos each contributed. I know them professionally, it’s nice to get to know them creatively.

I’m also working my way through Game of Thrones, in the hope of catching up with the TV series, so that I can finally know what it’s like to read the book before watching the episode.

LC: What are the typical things you do during the day to enhance your creative process?

MGW: Honestly, I don’t really push myself. I spend a silly amount of time on social media, I’m also reading quite a bit at the moment and holding down a day job in international development. I’ll go through fits and starts of creativity. Some weeks I’ll go for days on end without writing anything, other days I’ll sit down and bash out five thousand words in a couple of hours. I really don’t worry about it too much. Writing is pleasure. If it turned into stress I’d probably stop doing it.

LC: What do you love most about being a writer?

MGW: I love the free-flow exchange of ideas. I love knowing that something I’ve written might just inspire someone else to create something else. The knock-on effect of art. For instance, I was inspired by Gaston Leroux to create Rosy Hours. From that, we’ve already had cover art featuring a picture, To The End, by Iranian photographer Babak Fatolahia, a drawing by cartoonist Stephanie Piro, and even jewellery. It’s fascinating how inspiration spreads and stories gather life. As a writer, you stand at the gateway between thought and form.