5 Questions for Kathryn Sullivan

I think I met Kathryn Sullivan at the Broad Universe Really Fast Reading in Kansas City, but I heard her work for the first time in Spokane at the 2015 WorldCon.  She’s one of my sisters in Broad Universe, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.

Kathryn writes young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her newest release is short story collection Agents, Adepts & Apprentices. Her Doctor Who-related works include the essay “The Fanzine Factor” in the Hugo-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords and essays in Children of Time: Companions of Doctor Who and Outside In: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers. She also has reviews in the Star Trek-related Outside In Boldly Goes and Outside In Makes It So. She is owned by a large cockatoo, who graciously allows her to write about other animals, as well as birdlike aliens. Kathryn lives in Winona, Minnesota, where the river bluffs along the Mississippi River double as cliffs on alien planets or the deep mysterious forests in a magical world.

From EPPIE Award-winner Kathryn Sullivan come stories of magic and off-world adventure sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Here are tales of wizards training apprentices and interstellar operatives protecting “primitive” worlds. How does one university cope with a student from very far away, and where do some wizards get their supplies? And what’s the deal with the cat whiskers?

Did something in the real world inspire Agents, Adepts & Apprentices?

Several of the short stories were inspired by things in the real world. “The Demons’ Storeroom” resulted after I was at a garage sale and wondered how a wizard might view the items there. “Transfer Student” was written while I was in college in the days before ADA and was my take on how an alien might try to maneuver around my campus. “Goodbye, Jennie!” was inspired by a newspaper article about a meteor shower.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

“Communication Difficulties” has my agent talking with an alien in a swamp while a flock of flamingoes parade back and forth. I’m a bird person and I always find that display walk by flamingoes — all the heads moving from side to side at the same time — funny. (In case you want to see one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW8GX2n4qbY )

What was your writing process like as you wrote Agents, Adepts & Apprentices?

The twenty-two short stories in the collection were written over several years.  Some were written for themed anthologies. Others were written while I was looking for a publisher for my first book The Crystal Throne and thinking about how some of the characters in that book first met or where some of the magical artifacts came from.  A lot of the stories were written when I could squeeze in time before work, during lunch hours, and late at night.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

The best thing was finding that short story collections seem to be popular again. 

What do you have planned next?

I’m working on a middle grade/lower YA book set on a colony planet where my main character wants to be an explorer like her grandmother, who discovered the planet.

You can pick up a copy of Agents, Adepts & Apprentices at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PD15LP.

Check out Kathryn’s other books at her Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2PEkPPt.

Or visit her webpage: http://kathrynsullivan.com.

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5 Questions for Lana Ayers

Lana Bookcase 2Lana Ayers is another of my sisters in Broad Universe, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.

Lana is a poet, novelist, managing editor at several poetry presses, and a time travel enthusiast. She facilitates Write Away™ generative writing workshops, leads private salons for book groups, and teaches at writers’ conferences. She is obsessed with exotic flavors of ice cream, Little Red Riding Hood, and black & white animals. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, as well as degrees in Poetry, Psychology, and Mathematics. She’s published nine poetry collections to date, one of which was nominated for a National Book Award. In addition to thriving in the book-loving culture, she enjoys the Pacific Northwest’s bountiful rain and abundant coffee shops. Her favorite color is the swirl of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Her first novel is Time Flash: Another Me:

The Granola Diet promises to turn curvy Sara Rodríguez Bloom García into a svelte, new woman in no time. Once it does, her husband’s rekindled passions will be unstoppable—she hopes. But “Holy molé salsa!” When Sara reaches for the box of cereal, she travels back in time to a childhood trip to the grocery store with her beloved grandmother. Seeing her dead grandmother alive and well again is wonderful, but Sara may be losing her mind, or much, much more. What starts out as another fad diet leads Sara on a time travel journey of perilous twists and turns—fraught with double-agents, lusty redheads, and a deadly serum. Sara’s possibly-magical cat, a sexy former crush, tasty meals, and vivid music enliven the darker moments. Fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will love Time Flash: Another Me.

cover timeflash

Did something in the real world inspire Time Flash: Another Me?

My first novel is a time travel adventure. It could not be otherwise. Because I grew up in a one-television household, my brother Alan, being six years older, controlled the TV. We watched lots of science fiction movies and shows, including Time Tunnel, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and The Time Machine. Time travel had me in its hooks thanks to Alan, so this book is dedicated across space and time to him. As one of the volunteer rescuers that fateful day in lower Manhattan, Alan died of a 9/11-related illness before my book was published.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene is the very first time heroine Sara travels back in time as a result of the experimental serum she’s been given. Sara doesn’t yet know she really is time traveling and experiences the incident as a very vivid dream—complete with the smell of baking pizza and the summer sun on her bare arms. The best part is getting to spend the day with her beloved and quirky grandmother, who died twenty years earlier. Sara’s grandmother is inspired by my own zany and unconditionally loving grandma. Writing her character was a bit like time traveling to my own past.

 What was your writing process like as you wrote Time Flash: Another Me?

The process surprised me quite a bit. Although I’ve written short stories, Time Flash is my first novel. I wasn’t sure whether I could write it the way I do short stories, just feeling my way through to the end without an outline. Once I began writing in Sara’s voice, her character showed me the way through. She even did some things that surprised and even troubled me a bit. It was like she was in control and I had to take a backseat. I’ve never had that experience before. It was both scary and exhilarating.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

I’d published nine collections of poetry prior to coming out with my novel. I wasn’t at all sure how my poetry colleagues would receive the news of my publishing a time travel book! However, my poetry friends and readers were very excited about me achieving my lifelong dream of completing a novel. Several even admitted that time travel had been a secret fascination for them as well.

What do you have planned next?

In addition to working on a couple of different poetry projects, I am beginning a Cozy Mystery series set in a small Oregon coastal town.

You can get a copy of Time Flash: Another Me from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2EcmgCC.

Follow Lana at her website & blog at http://LanaAyers.com or check out all her books at https://amzn.to/2PzNcyl.

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5 Questions for LJ Cohen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALJ Cohen is another member of Broad Universe, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.

LJ is a Boston-area novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, geek, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist specializing in chronic pain management, LJ now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. When not bringing home strays (canine and human), LJ can be found writing, which looks a lot like daydreaming.  

She is active in SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and Broad Universe, and blogs about publishing, general geekery, and other ephemera at http://www.ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com. A Star in the Void (book 5 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space) is her most recent novel.  Derelict, the first novel in the series, was chosen as a Library Journal Self-e Select title and book of the year in 2016.

She stopped by to tell me about A Star in the Void:

Control the wormholes, control the galaxy. 

For over fifty years, the Commonwealth’s lock on wormhole transit has enabled the military government to keep its grip on commerce, travel, and the community in diaspora off Earth. But everything changed once Ro Maldonado resurrected the damaged AI on a derelict spaceship. When she and her accidental passengers aboard Halcyone stumbled upon a hidden planet and Ada May, its brilliant but reclusive leader, they became entangled with her covert resistance. 

Behind the scenes of the Commonwealth lurks an even bigger enemy: the Reaction Chamber, a powerful shadow organization of politicians, business moguls, and crime cartels that has co-opted and infiltrated all levels of the government. The Chamber knows Halcyone is the key to finding and eliminating the resistance. As people close to Ro and her companions disappear or die, it’s clear their enemies are closing in fast. 

When May vanishes through an impossible wormhole, taking the leader of the Reaction Chamber with her, she abruptly shatters a decades-old stalemate. Now Halcyone and her crew must decode May’s revolutionary wormhole technology and locate the missing scientist before the Reaction Chamber obliterates the resistance and exploits its resources to seize complete control of the cosmos. 

This is the culmination of the series that began with Derelict, a kindle bestseller and award-winning science fiction novel.

A Star In The Void ebook Cover revised

Did something in the real world inspire the Halcyone Space series and, in particular, A Star in the Void?

There were a lot of elements from both current and historical events that inspired the entire series. One of the foundational elements of the series was my musing about how the colonies might have developed had England won the Revolutionary War. Not that the novels are anywhere near an allegory of that, but thinking about how central control of distant colonies creates political strife helped inform my world-building. 

Climate change also became a critical component to the politics of the series —particularly beginning with book 2 (Dreadnought and Shuttle) — and the relationship between the wealthy who were able to buy their way into the new cities and the climate refugees forceably resettled and contained in shanty-towns.

The shadow government in the series (the Reaction Chamber) was inspired by the real-life Boston based “Vault” — a secret group of politicians, businessmen, and crime bosses who met in a restaurant built in an old bank vault. They essentially controlled the direction of the city’s development for decades until the mid 20th century. 

What is your favorite scene A Star in the Void?

About midway through the book, there’s a quiet scene with Dr. Leta Durban and Dev Morningstar, where Leta reveals what had happened to Dev’s parents after they disappeared when she was a child. Dev’s parents had gone off-planet to a mining colony to earn money to support their family, leaving Dev and her brothers with their grandmother on the refugee settlement on Earth. No money ever came and they never heard from their parents again. 

Leta Durban was the mining colony’s physician. She’d tried to make the company pay attention to the terrible and unsafe work conditions, to no avail. After dozens of miners died through the company’s negligence, she thought things would change. But the mine operators were fined a pittance and she was fired for whistleblowing. 

It’s a small scene, but it acts as closure for both women, as well as catalyst for each of them to fight for what they know is right, regardless of the personal risk.

From the time Dev shows up in Dreadnought and Shuttle (book 2), I had been anticipating having these two women meet. The scene is as powerful as I had hoped. 

What was your writing process like as you wrote A Star in the Void?

Because this was the 5th and final book of a series, it was a lot more difficult to draft than any of my prior books. Every open plot thread from the prior volumes needed some sort of resolution. And the 5th book needed to have its own complete and satisfying arc. 

I started by listing all the open plot threads and all the characters’ goals and problems. I sketched out what I thought the endgame should be for all of that, paying particular attention to where things had ended with book 4. 

I think A Star in the Void is the most intense of the 5 books, because if you look at the entire series as one large story, this final book was like the final act of a massive novel. But it also needed to function as a standalone story with appropriate pacing. 

Some of my process was similar to any book I write: I do a very loose outline — more like a broad-brush model of the story — then set a goal of a thousand words a day. I do read back to what I’ve already written and do some structural editing as I go, but always with a sense of forward movement. 

I use y-Writer to draft my stories, as it has tools to allow me to keep track of each character and/or individual threads of the story.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Getting emails from readers who were simultaneously mad at some of the outcomes, but who also thought it had to be the way I wrote it. And the fact that many readers confessed to crying at the end! 

What do you have planned next?

I’m in the process of putting together the big picture view of a whole new story. New characters, new universe. It doesn’t have a title yet, but its broad themes are inspired from this verse by Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

I start nearly every project with an overview. It tends to change some as I discover the story, but having this “ten thousand foot view” helps me stay close to the heart of it. 

Multiple worlds are connected in the quantum realm. Most are safely sealed off. Most have no knowledge that they are but one in an infinite multitude.

A few people on a few scattered worlds can see though the multiverse. Most of those go mad. Fewer still are able to bear the burden of so many possibilities. Those are seers and are either considered cursed or blessed. The reality is some of both.

Perhaps one in a billion has the ability to slip from world to world and becomes a Traveler. Always, there is balance. A Traveler comes, a Traveler goes, never more than any world can bear, treading lightly to encourage balance. Until now.

Three individuals from three different worlds are drawn to one another through the thinning walls between the worlds. None of these three are Travelers in truth, but they are all that is left. They discover something is hunting Travelers and obliterating them and the balance they bring from the multiverse. 

Together they must rescue each other and fight a foe they cannot name to heal the worlds before the walls dissolve for good.

For more about LJ and her books, visit http://www.ljcohen.net or her Amazon page: https://amzn.to/2UuMIgm.

You can pick up a copy of A Star in the Void: https://amzn.to/2QKn8VO.

A Star in the Void - Cover Art

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Get Published podcast

Get Published podcast#185

In addition to talking about my 1-week book tour to my favorite bookstores in Southern California (including Dark Delicacies and Mysterious Galaxy) for 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, I got to talk about Shut Up & Write, NaNoWriMo, Writing Down the Bones, and how to get yourself motivated to do the work. Check me out on the Get Published podcast: http://traffic.libsyn.com/getpublishedpodcast/Get_Published_Podcast_Episode_185_Loren_Rhoads.mp3

Paul has done over 200 episodes now, covering an enormous spectrum of writing tips and tricks.

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5 Questions from Dianna Sanchez

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Photo by Felix Rust Photography.

Dianna Sanchez is another member of Broad Universe, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.

Dianna is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop, frequent participant in Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, the Author’s Guild, Broad Universe, and New England Speculative Writers, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Dianna has published two novels: A Witch’s Kitchen (Dreaming Robot Press, September 2016), and its sequel, A Pixie’s Promise, which came out in September 2018. Her short fiction appears in the 2017 and 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guides.

She describes A Pixie’s Promise:

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Petunia’s tired of being overlooked just because she’s six inches tall.

She gets lost at home among her gazillion brothers, sisters, and cousins. Her own parents don’t remember her name. When her best friend Millie offers a vacation at her house, Petunia jumps at the chance. Cooking for Millie’s witch of a mother and babysitting a tree should be easy, right? But when an epidemic of spickle pox hits the Enchanted Forest and Millie’s mother comes down with a mysterious illness, Petunia must pitch in to brew cures as quickly as she can, even if that means using up all her pixie dust. It’s a good thing she has friends to help.

Did something in the real world inspire A Pixie’s Promise?

While my immediate family is small – I have only two siblings – I have about ten bazillion cousins and grew up surrounded by a large extended family. My abuela just could not keep track of us all. When she wanted to call someone’s name, she often ended up running through the whole list of people in the room: “MaxDiannaCathyJim!” And then she just gave up, pointed at the person she wanted, and yelled, “You! Youyouyou!”

When I set out to write A Pixie’s Promise, I gave my protagonist Petunia a big family in which she feels lost and overlooked. The enormous bed that Petunia sleeps in with all her siblings was inspired by Abuela’s experience growing up with six sisters and only one bed for all of them. To this, I added the fact that Petunia is a six-inch-tall pixie who’s literally overlooked by most other folk in the Enchanted Forest, which drives her to distinguish herself any way she can. She gets into fights, she tells really bad jokes, but eventually she finds something she loves to do and develops more positive ways to make herself stand out.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

In one chapter, Petunia is kidnapped by a dragon alchemist who needs her to make a particular potion. Petunia refuses to cooperate and fights back as only a pixie can, by being faster and more clever, and by pelting the dragon with bad dragon jokes. This chapter was so much fun to write! It marks a turning point where Petunia pulls together all her skills and talents to overcome rather large obstacles.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

Ridiculously complicated! I have a bad tendency to kitchen-sink my novels: when I write, I get an idea, and I throw it in. When I first turned in A Pixie’s Promise to Dreaming Robot Press, they responded with, “Um, there is WAY too much going on in this book.” They asked me to split the novel into two novels, neither of which would be novel length. That was fine, because they wanted me to use that space to expand and fully develop the plot threads and character arc. I had to sit with this idea for a good month before I finally agreed with them. A Pixie’s Promise turned out really well as a result.

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 9.11.35 AMWhat was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

With A Witch’s Kitchen, my first novel, I really had to do a lot of legwork to promote my novel and get invited to local events and readings. Now that I’m an established author, I’m starting to get invitations out of the blue from schools and bookstores, which is really gratifying. No, I take it back: the best thing by far was the enormous hug I got from one of my young fans at my launch party.

What do you have planned next?

I’m working on finishing book three of my Enchanted Kitchen series, An Elf’s Equations, which was carved out the second half of that first version of A Pixie’s Promise. It’s been very tricky because I had to change protagonists. Petunia’s character arc was largely resolved in A Pixie’s Promise. My publisher pointed out that another character, Sagara, had largely taken charge for the half of the plot that I then set aside. It made logical sense to have Sagara, a math-loving elf, be the protagonist, but I hadn’t really done any of the work to figure out her character. I needed to do that in order to interweave her character arc with the existing plot. Of course, that has required some more changes to the plot. I got a lot of inspiration from an extended trip to Sweden and Finland last summer that I’m also integrating into the setting. It’s been quite challenging, but ultimately, I think it’s going to turn out great. And after that, on to book four with yet another protagonist, which will take place mostly in Atlantis.

You can pick up a copy of A Pixie’s Promise on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ryJZ8x.

Check out all of Dianna’s books on her Amazon page: https://amzn.to/2rydYxc.

Or follow her:

Web site: www.diannasanchez.com
Blog: www.diannasanchez.com/blog
Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannasanchezbooks/
Twitter: @diannabooks

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