Today I’m on Indies Unlimited, and talking about the sound a deadline makes when you miss it (apologies to the late Douglas Adams)
Today I’m on Indies Unlimited, and talking about the sound a deadline makes when you miss it (apologies to the late Douglas Adams)
Today I’m excited to have prolific writer Jennifer Conner as my guest! Jennifer and I have known each other for years, ever since she left me alone on the fifth floor of a dilapidated old building during an earthquake here in Washington State in 2001…(okay, it didn’t exactly happen that way, but that’s what I like to tell people 🙂 ) She’s the person I credit with dragging me to my first writer’s group and urging me to get involved, something for which I can’t thank her enough. And, she’s an all-around terrific person who gives buckets back to the indie community. So now, without further ado, heeeere’s Jennifer…
D: Hi Jennifer! Thanks for joining us. Tell us a little about yourself and what you write:
J: I’ve been a professional author for eight years. I write contemporary romance, paranormal romance, historical romance and erotica. I have three full-length novels, 2 novellas and 30 short stories in print. I also help run an indie publishing company, Books to Go Now.
D: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
J: I’ve written since I was young. As I grew older, I wanted to feel passion about something. Writing was that for me.
D: Tell us about your new short story, I’LL BE SEEING YOU THROUGH TIME in two sentences.
J: It’s 1942, the world is at war when Glenn steps through a time portal and finds himself in 2013. Can the Dimension Keepers find a way to reunite them, or will Glenn and Jewel be ripped apart by the fabric of time forever?
D: Love time-travel stories! What compelled you to write this one?
J: In my mother’s old photos, I found a portrait of a young man my mother was engaged to marry. His destroyer was torpedoed in the South Pacific and he was killed. I wondered how different her life would have been if he’d survived and come back to her. I decided to give them a happy ending.
D: You have over 30 short stories available online. What do you like about the form? Dislike?
J: I like to write the length I feel the story should be. That’s the fun of being with an indie publisher. I get to write the story ideas I have and make it the length it needs to be to tell a good story.
D: Many of your stories are about the protagonist overcoming hardship and/or disabilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your characters?
J: What fun are perfect people? I love good angsty characters. In my novel, SHOT IN THE DARK, Devan is a police officer who was shot and now walks with a cane. In my REGIMENTAL HEROES series, the men have PTSD after returning from war in an era when they had no name for the disorder.
D: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?
J: Of course. 🙂 As the writer’s creed goes, watch out or you’ll end up in my book! My Christmas novella, DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR contains many real life horror stories that happened when I owned my own catering business. Grooms with guns. Workers slipping and breaking their arm with 600 people waiting to be served.
D: Yikes. Reality is so much stranger than fiction, isn’t it? What are you currently working on?
J: I am working on a paranormal romance called Fighting the Fire, about a Native American girl who has uncontrollable powers and starts fires. Who else to help her other than a hunky fireman? 🙂 Also, I am going to start a series revolving around dogs.
D: Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?
D: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
J: Richer and famouser 🙂 No, seriously, still writing no matter what!
D: Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?
J: I think the indie publishers who actually work with authors to achieve their success will displace the large houses. Self-Publishing will have better standards and higher quality work. Those that are ready will self-publish. And great stories will still be told. People still love a good book and read as much as they ever have.
D: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go?
J: Victorian England if I could be rich and part of the elite crowd. But, with no modern plumbing, central heating, modern drugs or dentistry, it would have to be a short visit.
D: I hear that! Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Jennifer. Good luck with your new release!
And here’s a little taste of I’LL BE SEEING YOU THROUGH TIME: Book 2 of The Dimension Keepers Series:
It’s 1942 and the world is at war. It’s difficult, but engaged couple Jewel and Glenn know they must say goodbye. Tomorrow, Glenn is shipping out to the South Pacific. That is, until he stops by the Second Chance Bookstore on the way back to the base.
Suddenly, Glenn finds himself in 2013 with the woman he loves half a century away.
Can the Dimension Keepers find a way to reunite them, or will Glenn and Jewel be ripped apart by the fabric of time forever?
The other day I realized how lucky I am to know so many incredibly talented writers. I’ve been the willing participant in several interviews on other authors’ blogs, and thought it would be fun to return the favor and spotlight as many as I could
bribe cajole into giving up some of their precious, hard-earned non-novel-writing time to answer my burning questions.
The first in the series is mystery author Jen Blood. I discovered Jen a while back when I read a review she did for BAD SPIRITS. I was impressed with her ability to pen a pretty bitchin’ review and was curious about her talents as a writer, so I downloaded the first book in her Erin Solomon mystery series, ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS. To say I was hooked from the first page is an understatement. Here was an indie author who knew how to write, and write well. She has just released the third book in the series, SOUTHERN CROSS. It’s another stellar mystery by an author who I believe is on her way to a long and rewarding career. So let’s get to it, shall we?
D: Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your new release, SOUTHERN CROSS?
J: A little about myself… I’m author of the Erin Solomon mysteries, the first of which was released in February of last year. I have an MFA in Creative Writing/Pop Fiction from the University of Southern Maine, and have worked as a freelance writer and editor (among many, many other jobs over the years) for a little over a decade.
SOUTHERN CROSS is the third novel in the Erin Solomon pentalogy, and finds Erin and her best friend (and sometimes more) Diggs investigating the murder of one of Diggs’ childhood friends, in rural Kentucky. But that single death is hardly the only bizarre occurrence in Justice—soon, power outages, explosions, standoffs, and conspiracy rock the small town, and fundamentalist preacher Jesup T. Barnel claims he knows the reason for the madness: The end times are upon them, and judgment will be fast and furious as the clock winds down.
D: The series character, Erin Solomon, is a wonderfully flawed protagonist who has to deal with the aftermath of having spent much of her childhood in a religious cult with a Jim Jones-style leader. As I dove into reading Southern Cross, I realized religious zealotry and its repercussions are recurring themes in your work. What prompted you to delve into the psychological fallout that occurs from blind obedience to an obsessive, charismatic religious leader?
J: Believe it or not, in early incarnations of the first novel, Erin Solomon was a theologian whose work focused on religiously motivated crimes. The vocation just didn’t work for the character—something I only realized after spending a decade or so working on that first novel. When I made the switch to Erin as a reporter instead, it made all the difference in the world… but I wasn’t ready to give up the lure of those charismatic cult leaders I’d been researching for so long. I’ve always been fascinated with the extremes of religious fanaticism, and as a kid actually attended a church where speaking in tongues and being felled by the holy spirit were par for the course. Those emotionally charged scenes made a big impression, and somehow those scenes found their way into my work today.
D: The over-arching mystery in the series keeps referring back to the original tragedy that occurred (detailed in the first book, All the Blue-Eyed Angels), and the reader is given clues throughout to a more sinister motive than what is revealed in books 1 and 2. Why did you choose to write the story this way? How many books do you envision to complete the series?
J: I knew from the start that the story I wanted to tell couldn’t be contained within a single novel. I’m a huge fan of serialized… everything. I love well-written TV (my graduate thesis was on television as modern literature), and I’ve been devouring every mystery novel series I could get my hands on since I was a kid. AND I love puzzles and conspiracy. So, I decided now was the time to play with all of those elements and make them come together in one colossal project. I’ve had the end game in mind from the beginning for this; I just wasn’t clear before on exactly how long it would take to get to that end game. Now, I know that this particular mystery will be resolved with the fifth book in the series, THE BOOK OF J. After that, I have any number of novels and series arcs in mind for the characters, but my focus now is on completing this pentalogy.
D: Now for some questions on process: SOUTHERN CROSS uses multiple first and third points of view (POV). How do you decide which POV to use in a book?
J: I listen to the characters, really. When I first started writing ANGELS, it was written in limited third person from Erin’s point of view. It didn’t work, though, because I wasn’t able to get the strength of her voice across that way. So, I switched to first and it made all the difference in the world. Diggs tells things from his POV, but in SINS OF THE FATHER (the second novel in the series) I have alternating chapters between Jack Juarez (Erin’s other love interest) and Erin. Erin is first person, Jack is third. It has to do with the way the character views the world: Erin and Diggs are strong, opinionated characters whose voices are deeply rooted in humor, inflection, and internal process. Jack Juarez is more about action, reason, and ordered thought. It didn’t feel necessary to go with first person with him, because his external actions typically reflect his internal thought process so thoroughly.
I love playing with POV, and I adore getting inside the characters’ heads. It’s a tricky process, and you always have to walk that fine line between doing too much and not doing enough to make the trip to another perspective worthwhile. Barbara Kingsolver does it masterfully in POISONWOOD BIBLE, which I’ve read about a hundred times. I always go back to that when I start to worry that I’m taking on too many voices at one time.
D: You certainly can’t go wrong with Barbara Kingsolver. Do you outline or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
J: I’m definitely, definitely, definitely not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. I greatly admire them, and I’ve done it in the past with less intricately plotted work. With the novels I’m writing now, though, I would get so tangled up if I wasn’t following an outline that I’d lose my mind within a day. I start with an intricate outline at the get-go, and that outline evolves as I get to know the story a little better. It’s always vastly different from the time I start to the time I finish, but at this point—because I’m solving a mystery with elements from five novels—it’s integral to the process that I have a clear idea where I’m going, where I’ve been, who I’m working with, what we know so far, and what needs to be resolved. There are so many threads to keep track of these days!
D: What are you working on now?
J: The fourth book in the series, BEFORE THE AFTER, which I’m tremendously excited about. This one answers a huge number of questions about the initial mystery in ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS, by relating the first days of the Payson Church of Tomorrow from Erin’s mom’s perspective. Meanwhile, of course, the majority of the novel is told in the present from Erin’s perspective. Lots of action, many secrets revealed, and the ending for this one changes the direction and flow of Erin’s entire character arc. So… yeah, I’m excited about this one. I feel like, of all of them, this is the most epic novel I’ve written thus far.
D: Give us a ‘day in the life’ of author Jen Blood.
J: A day in the life, huh? It’s really pretty dull. I get up at around seven, walk and feed the hound, do yoga, feed myself, and then hit the computer. I’m usually working on either writing or social media and marketing stuff from nine to five, with a lunch break in between. Then dinner, hound walk, workout, and I typically finish out the day with a couple of hours of free writing (longhand, working on the next chapters of the novel) before bed, at around midnight or so. That’s my schedule—with little variation—six days a week, and then on the seventh day I usually run errands and do a lot of free writing. Things look to be shifting now, though, as I’m starting to get more requests to do readings, signings, and seminars… For April, it looks like my ‘days in the life’ will be all over the place!
D: Where do you see yourself in five years?
J: Ideally, making a good living from my writing. That’s the hope, anyway. I have a bunch of other novels in the Erin Solomon series in mind going forward, but I also have a YA dystopian trilogy that I’ve been working on for a long time… I can’t wait to get to work on that again. So—Five years down the road, I hope that I’ll have a slew of publications under my belt, a solid fan base, projects in the works, and enough cash coming in to keep a roof over my head and the hound in dog chow.
D: Where do you see the publishing industry in five years?
J: That’s always a tricky question—especially right now, when everything is changing so quickly. I think independent publishing will continue to grow, and traditional publishers, literary agents, and any non-writing folks who have historically made their living from we lowly authors will continue to try and establish their role in this new paradigm. Now that the initial enthusiasm has worn off and most self-published authors have recognized that this isn’t actually a get-rich-quick scheme just waiting to happen, I think we as authors are more likely to recognize the importance the so-called “gatekeepers” in the industry play in helping us get noticed. So, while two years ago if you had six unpublished manuscripts in your sock drawer and you decided you’d just publish and wait for the cash to start rolling in, now it’s more clear than ever that you need a better plan than just hitting “Publish Now” on Amazon or Createspace.
At the same time that we are recognizing that agents and traditional publishing houses are not actually obsolete yet, I also think that this whole revolution has put untold power in the hands of the author. I’m currently seeking an agent and I wouldn’t be averse to a traditional publishing contract, but I know at this point that if I don’t get either of those things, I’ll still be all right. I can still make a living at doing what I love.
D: Anything I missed?
J: I think that about covers it, really. Thanks so much—this was so fun!!
D: Thanks for being here, Jen! How about giving readers a little taste of SOUTHERN CROSS ?
J: The following excerpt is from chapter four of SOUTHERN CROSS. Here, reporter Daniel Diggins (Diggs) has just returned to western Kentucky to bury his childhood best friend, who has been murdered. Predictably enough, madness ensues.
I spotted a dozen photo albums lined up on one of the shelves, and stepped inside the shed. It smelled of sawdust and cigar smoke, two of George’s favorite things. I grabbed a couple of the photo albums without checking the dates on the spines and strode back across the shed toward freedom. Since the caves and tunnels of the previous summer, enclosed spaces weren’t a favorite of mine. Something clattered against the outside wall. I whirled toward the sound, heart racing.
“Solomon? Is that you?”
I turned back around just in time to watch the door swing shut.
“Buddy? All right… Good one, guys. You’re friggin’ hilarious.” I reached for the door and tried to push it open. It didn’t budge.
Something scratched against the outside of the shed, just below the window—like someone was scaling the wall. The clattering could have been a ladder, I realized. And this was George’s idea of a practical joke: his way of welcoming me back to the fold. I wet my lips and reminded myself that panicking at this point was exactly the kind of story that would follow me to my grave, once the lights came on and the idiots pulling the prank were revealed.
Better to play it cool. Ride it out.
“All right, you got me,” I said. “I’m trapped in the shed. In the dark. You guys are comic geniuses.”
Something scratched against the windowpane. I trained my flashlight beam in that direction, but all that did was reflect the light back at me.
I realized then that there was no way Solomon was behind this—she knew too well what we’d gone through six months ago. And she wouldn’t let the others do anything like it, either. Sweat beaded on my forehead and the back of my neck. Just outside the window, I heard a faint rattling sound.
“Harvey?” I said quietly. If Sheriff Jennings had found out I was back in town, this might be the kind of thing he’d pull to welcome me back. “Is that you?”
The rattling got louder.
I pulled my cell phone from my jacket pocket and hit number one on speed dial. It went straight to Solomon’s voicemail. Perfect.
My pulse was racing.
The window opened, the sound of metal against wood like a scream in the stillness. I grabbed the closest thing I could find—a hammer hanging on the pegboard—and held it aloft, my back pressed to the far wall, waiting to see what would happen next.
D: Great excerpt, Jen! SOUTHERN CROSS is filled with heart pounding suspense that kept me up way too late reading 🙂 I’m now eagerly awaiting the fourth book in the series… To find out more about Jen and her Erin Solomon Mysteries, check out the links below:
Jen Blood is a freelance writer and editor, and author of the bestselling Erin Solomon mysteries. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing/Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine, and has publishing credits in Down East, Pif, Vampirella, Bark, and newspapers and periodicals around the country. Jen lives in midcoast Maine, where she scribbles madly, hikes with her hound, and leads the occasional seminar on online marketing and social media for authors in her spare time.
ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS*
Barnes and Noble/Nook
*ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS is currently free for Kindle, Nook, and on Smashwords
SINS OF THE FATHER
Barnes and Noble/Nook
For anyone who likes to win free books, I recommend checking out GoodReads Giveaways. It’s free to sign up and there are always a gazillion books to win. (Currently, all books given away are print copies. With Amazon’s recent acquisition of GR, this might change to include ebooks.) A lot of the offerings are ARCs, or Advanced Readers Copies, so if you win, you’ll be one of the first to read the book 🙂 And, many are signed by the author, which is always a good thing.
Publishers vary and include authors of traditionally published books as well as indie authors. At the end of the giveaway period, GoodReads randomly selects the winners and sends their shipping information to the author who then signs the book and ships it to the winner. It’s a great way to discover new authors and possibly win some great books in the process. Here’s the giveaway I’m doing through the month of April for Bad Traffick:
Have fun with GoodReads Giveaways, and good luck!
Fellow IU contributor Martin Crosbie posted a great article on how much misinformation about self-publishing still exists–even at a place where you’d hope they’d know better. Here’s a hint: they didn’t.