Welcome Message

Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Setting And Atmosphere

I'd like to talk about two topics connected with each other: setting and atmosphere. These two are important to a novel and can affect such things as the characters and the tone of the story.

Setting is where the story takes place. There are two basic kinds; general and specific. A general setting, for example, would be New York, the country of Japan, Dublin, the space station Deep Space Nine. As you can see, these are large and vague areas. Specific settings are just that, specific: a brownstone building, Tokyo Sky Tree, Quark's Bar.

When you are devising your story, setting will play an important part. It is something you will think about, and may use as a basis for your story. An American living in New York will act different, and thus have a different story, than an American in Tokyo. The first may be a businessman, one who travels the subways every day, sure of where he is going and what is around him. The second may be a businessman as well; but if he doesn't live in Tokyo he may feel lost, unsure, or angry. Stories can be crafted simply from places and how the characters act and react to it: a delivery man stuck on a deserted island, an innocent man thrown in prison, or an expedition to the Arctic. Setting will play a very important role.

Not only general settings, but specific places are important as well. A girl will act and feel different in the classroom than in her bedroom. Settings can evoke strong feelings in characters. If a character was shot during a convenience store robbery but lived, he or she may feel anger or fear at every convenience store they visit. Ever seen a Jackie Chan movie? Those are great to showcase how one can use a specific setting, like a supermarket, to craft a fight scene.

Atmosphere is related to setting. It's the tone, the feel, of the place. Depending on the description and word choice the author uses, the atmosphere of a setting will be different. It happens all the time in real life: a building may seem warm and friendly in the daytime, but become sinister and foreboding in the middle of the night. An author has to think of their words and descriptions carefully in order to evoke the proper atmosphere. Read crime novels, especially hard boiled detective books like The Maltese Falcon, or a Sherlock Holmes story. The atmosphere is very much a part of the story.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Japan: White Day

Last month, I talked about Valentine's Day in Japan, and left off with a mention of White Day.

On March 14, a month after Valentine's Day, men who received chocolate or gifts on Valentine's Day return the favor. Most of the gifts are white; either white chocolate, white clothes such as lingerie, cookies, or jewelry, and so on. Marshmallows are also an acceptable gift.

The holiday started in 1978, by the National Confectionary Industry Association, on the basis that men should pay back the women who gave them honmei- or giri-choco. But there is a slight caveat: the gifts men give should be two or three times the cost of the Valentine's gift they received. That general rule is called sanbai gaeshi, meaning "triple the return."

Like Valentine's Day; romantic movies, candlelight dinners, and romantic getaways are not the norm. While there are Valentine's and White Day cards, they are nothing like the Hallmark cards in America.

On a personal note, I don't celebrate White Day. My wife Yoko likes the American version of Valentine's Day, so we exchange chocolate and go out to dinner on February 14.

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Paranormal Legacy Blog Tour

Today, I'm hosting Caitlin Hensley as she tours the blogosphere, promoting her book Paranormal Legacy. The post below was provided by the author.


If you write science fiction, then at some point or another, in at least one story or novel, you're probably going to write about some type of time travel. Time travel seems to be a popular element in a lot of sci-fi movies, TV shows, comics, and yes, books. But before we get into all that, first let's talk about sci-fi versus fantasy.

Back when I was first getting into writing, I was a little confused about the boundaries between the science fiction and fantasy genres. In my mind, they basically equaled the same thing. I used the terms interchangeably. But as I found out, fantasy and sci-fi are NOT the same thing.

As explained on the blog Who's Your Editor

"This is science fiction: The sun has turned blue because a comet, made purely of cobalt, smashed into it and melted, mixing its naturally potent and sapphire colored minerals in with the sun’s fiery surface.

And this is fantasy: In my world, we have three suns. One is orange, another is red, and the final is blue. Each day a different sun shines over this beautiful country, smothering it in kaleidoscope colors, painting the land unnaturally.”

Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Or it does to me, at least. Another thing I've read is that fantasy usually has stuff that's magical, while sci-fi has scientific explanations for everything. Using those guidelines, you should be able to decide whether your book is science fiction or fantasy.

Now that we've got that all sorted out, back to the original topic: time travel. If you're writing a sci-fi novel, and it includes some sort of time travel, you have to set rules. You can't have one character accidentally change the future while stepping on a butterfly, then another character in the same story murder an important historical figure and return to an unchanged future. It simply can't be done.

That being said, here are a few rules you could establish for time travel in your book:

1. Don't interfere with any events, because even the slightest changed detail could horrifically alter your future.

2. Feel free to alter any events you like, maybe even killing, say, Napoleon, because history has a natural inertia, and will bounce right back on track no matter what happens.

3. When you travel back, you end up in the mind of someone in that time period. You live inside them and see through their eyes, but they have no idea that you're there.

4. You end up in the body of your past self, and can control every thought and action. Once you leave, your past self has no idea that anything out of the ordinary occurred.

5. You can only travel back a set number of hours.

6. You're invisible, so you can only observe, not interact with the past.

7. In the future, hardly anyone travels back, because just one trip can seriously weaken and/or kill you.

8. Traveling back means that you leave behind important things such as clothes, and end up naked in a different time.

9. Whatever you do, don't interact with yourself. That could cause a huge paradox disaster.

10. You can only travel back through time in a blue telephone booth. But on second thought, you probably shouldn't use that in your book. That's already taken.

Caitlin Hensley has been telling stories since she learned to hold a pen, and is pretty much obsessed with writing. She’s the author of The Inhuman Chronicles, as well as the novelette Together Alone. When not typing frantically on her laptop, she’s usually dancing, catching up on reruns of her favorite TV shows, or getting lost in a great book. She lives in rural Oklahoma with her family and a slightly nutty Chihuahua.


There you have it, people. Support Caitlin by clicking on her links and reading her blog and books. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Dream Project Blog Hop Archive

Here are the links for the Dream Project Blog Hop. It's a great opportunity to check out the posts you may have missed. I want to give a big thank you to everyone who participated. This was my first Facebook event ever and the first blog hop I ever organized. I couldn't have done it without the awesome authors who participated. It was a lot of fun: for the readers, I hope you enjoyed learning more about the authors, and authors, you guys had some wonderful answers. Thanks again.


1 Cody Martin Resonant Blue
2 Samantha Kay Samantha Kay
3 Jen Colafranceschi Jennifer Domenico - Guest Blog
4 K.D. Emerson. She was supposed to participate had to drop out. We gave a special shout-out to her. Please visit her awesome blog. http://digitus233.com/category/blog/
5 Donna R. Wood Butterfly Phoenix
6 Wendy Siefken Siefken Publications
Kai Wilson Bigger, Fuller Glass
8 (No post)
9 (No post)
10 Author Merita King Author/Novelist Merita King
11 Dan Peyton Out Of My Head
12 Aurora Martinez Crimson Flower Review
13 Lisa Cody AKA Little Blonde Girl
14 Sarah L. Wallace Crossroads Of Humanity
15 Allison Cosgrove Stan Brookshire
16 Brian Bigelow Life's A Journey
17 Ed Griffin Writers Write Daily
18 DeEtte Beckstead Anderton DeEtte Anderton
19 Laurie Boris Laurie Boris, Freelance Writer
20 Ellie Mack Quotidiandose
21 Colleen Rose Colleen Rose (Author) Facebook Page
22 Heidi Nicole Bird Official Blog Of Heidi Nicole Bird
23 Martin Crosbie Martin Crosbie
24 Sable Hunter Sable Dreams
25 Kevin Brown Creative Mysteries
26 Shelia Lytle Shelia Lytle
27 Abyrne Mostyn Abyrne Mostyn
28 Linda Bowers Bolton Romance Is In The Air


As Porky Pig says, "That's all, folks!" Everyone did great. There was a wide and eclectic group of answers. I hope everyone enjoyed this as much as I did. As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Japan: Hina Matsuri

March 3 in Japan is know as Hina Matsuri (雛祭り), either the Japanese Doll Festival, or more commonly, Girls's Day. It is a celebration for families with daughters, in hoping they will grow up to be prosperous and happy.

Small ornamental dolls, called hina-ningyou, are displayed on a seven-tier platform that is covered in red carpet. The dolls represent members of the Imperial court of the Heian Period (794-1185 A.D.), which is when the festival started. The top tier has the dolls of the Emperor and Empress. Tier two holds the three court ladies. Tier three has five male musicians and their instruments. The fourth tier has two ministers, one a young man and the second an old man. Tier five holds either three court helpers or three samurai protectors. Tiers six and seven often hold various items like furniture, carriages, and other items of court life.

Such sets can often be very expensive, so not every household has a seven-teir platform. If you can afford only one level, it is the top, with the Emperor and Empress. The displays are set up in February and taken down March 4, any later than that and the result will be a late marriage for the daughter.

There are not many activities associated with this day. One, however, called nagashibina, is sending straw hina dolls out to sea on a boat; the dolls are thought to be taking bad spirits and troubles away from the family. This custom is not practiced much today; the dolls used to be sent down rivers and were often caught in fishermens's nets. The Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto still does this, but sets the boats and dolls out onto the sea. When the onlookers have left after the festival, the people of the shrine gather up the boats from the water and burn them. 

There are several foods associated with the holiday: shirozake, a sake made from fermented rice. Colored, bite-sized crackers flavored with sugar or soy sauce are called hina-arare and are easily available in grocery stores, often in brightly colored pink packaging especially designed for the holiday. And hishimochi, a diamond-shaped colored rice cake. Chirashizushi, which is sushi rice flavored with sugar, vinegar, and topped with raw fish and other ingredients) is often eaten. A salty soup called ushiojiru containing clams still in the shell is also served. Clam shells in food are the symbol of a united and peaceful couple, because a pair of clam shells fits perfectly, and no pair but the original pair of shells can do so.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Author Spotlight: Sarah L. Wallace

For this month's Author Spotlight, I interviewed Sarah L. Wallace. 


Tell us a bit about yourself (short bio).

Hello! I'm one of those writers who believes we're stronger together than we are apart, and I guess that applies to my entire life, not just my writing. By day, I'm a teacher in a Montessori school. I teach a mix of 4th, 5th and 6th graders. A main focus in Montessori schools is learning to recognize our differences and helping each other by lending our strengths to the group. I'm also a descendent of William Wallace, so perhaps those ideals are in my blood.

Do you write under a pen name?

Yes, but although Wallace is a pen name, it's also a family name on my mother's side. I decided to use a pen name in order to keep my teaching career and my writing career separate. I chose that particular name because I respect my ancestors and appreciate what they did with their lives.

When did you begin writing and what inspired you?

I first decided to write with an end goal of publication when I began my Reliance on Citizens trilogy in February 2011, but I've always enjoyed writing. It's one way I've found to relax.

What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?

I never planned to be an author, but now that I have completed three books and am working on book four, I'm think it may not be a bad career switch at some point in my future. For now, I still enjoy being in the classroom too much to want to leave it. However, I have already left public teaching. Like William Wallace, there are some ideals that I will fight for, and I have taken a stand. I completely disagree with the way public schools in the U.S. are being run as corporations with the students seen as products rather than as proper learning institutions where the students are appreciated as unique individuals. I speak my mind whenever I have the chance, vote based on my ideals and refuse to return to the public sector until there is a complete overhaul with the U.S. system of educaiton.

What books have you written so far?

The Reliance on Citizens trilogy is set in the not so distant future. It tells of a world corrupted by greed. A Divide is kept in place by the powerful and wealthy Elite who control the Working Class. Each book has its own big question to keep it focused and can be read alone.

How might ordinary people respond and survive in a world so divided? In Price of a Bounty, Keira Maddock, a Working Class woman who works as a Freelancer (a thief and assassin who is hired by the Elite to take out their competitors) is hired to take out a man who is so much more than he appears. Sensing an opportunity, they decide to team up in an effort to close the Divide.  Price Of A Bounty Book Trailer

Can everyday people enact widespread change in a society so divided? Canvas Skies is more focused on the Resistance movement itself and on Keira's sister who is dealing with some pretty big issues of her own.  Canvas Skies Book Trailer 

Once such a divide has been closed, what will it take to ensure lasting change? Heart of Humanity  Heart Of Humanity Book Trailer 

Do you plan on being a full-time writer, or do you have other career plans?

As I said earlier, I love teaching, but if writing provided enough of an income to allow us (my husband, daughter and me) to move anywhere, I would be willing to give up teaching to move. I would, however, promote positive change in U.S. public education, no matter where I live.

Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?

I especially enjoy spending time with friends and family, going to an exhibit or the theater, playing sand volleyball, having dinner together or playing tabletop board games or role playing games like D&D or Serenity.

What do you write? Specific genres, ages groups, etc. Why that particular genre/age group?

I let my stories decide. Because I use writing as an escape from reality and since I write for enjoyment, I don't decide what to write based on genre or audience. The characters in the first two books of Reliance on Citizens are all adults, so I wrote the dialogue and scenes with that in mind. Although the last book has two children who are central characters, the purpose was for adult readers to see their world through fresh eyes, so I still consider it a book for an adult audience. I chose to place it in the future, making it a dystopian science fiction series because I had a political message I wanted to share, and I think some distance is good. Making it a science fiction series, allows people to consider big issues in our world without immediately putting up fences.

The book I am now writing is a dark supernatural urban fantasy with teenage characters. I'm sure it will be a YA novel, and I've only just begun.

Do you write about your personal experiences in your books? 

Yes and no. I think my writing is more authentic when I add elements from my personal experiences. Sometimes that means setting a book in a place where I've actually lived and spent some time. Sometimes it means reflecting on problems I've helped friends overcome. Other times it means writing about something that has never happened to me while tapping into similar emotions that the characters may be feeling.

Are the characters in your books based on people you know?

No. None of my characters are based on anyone I know.

How much of your books are inspired by real life events?

Just enough to keep the story moving.

Who is your favorite character from your books? Why?

The chapters that included Brody Delaney were the most fun to write. I liked thinking about events from the point of view of a character who is being kept out of the loop but who has enough sense to think for himself.

What is your favorite scene in your story?

This is from a chapter in Canvas Skies called “The In-Laws.” It's my favorite because I wrote it, didn't like it, took a couple of weeks to think about why that was, and finally rewrote it. My problem? Until I reflected, I didn't have a firm grasp of Guy's parents. The types of secrets he and Keira are keeping from the world are huge, big enough to eventually come out in the open. Until I really took the time to think about it, I didn't know how his own parents would react. Even though this chapter isn't when secrets are revealed, it was fun writing it once I really understood my characters. Note, Keira's alias is Kendra, and this chapter was written from Guy's point of view, his given name is Richard Burke, Jr. I hope you enjoy it!

Life fell into a comfortable pattern of work, recreation and rest, a balance of the mundane.  Meanwhile, Resistance activities continued to simmer.
On Monday mornings, Keira met with her committee.  Although she assured me she was being friendly, I didn't think she was exactly making friends.  The meetings seemed to stress her out a great deal.  Whether it was because of the ladies or because of my mother, she wouldn't say.
Monday and Wednesday evenings found us at the gym.  This was Keira's area of expertise.  She especially enjoyed the climbing wall.  However, she bemoaned the fact that we couldn't practice grappling, wrestling or tumbling.  Those simply weren't activities for a lady.  At least training seemed to relieve some of her stress.
On Tuesdays when the gallery was closed, Aimee and Keira focused on the orphanages of Tkaron.  They purchased much needed supplies: clothing, bedding, furniture, dishes and medical supplies, and donated it all in the name of the Resistance.  They forged alliances.
In the evenings, we enjoyed dinner together.  While Aimee and I prepared the food, Keira and Eberhardt set the table and kept us company.  One evening, I held up a green pepper and had a brilliant idea.  I grabbed a knife and a cutting board and demonstrated how to slice and dice.  It was as I'd expected, Keira was good with a knife.
A few times, Aimee invited Brody to join us for dinner.  I suspected he was also taking her to lunch more often than not.  In my opinion, he was good for her.  He made her laugh, and she began wearing brighter colors and trying her hair in different styles.
Everything was going so well, and then my parents invited us to dinner.
“I still can't get over this house!” Keira exclaimed as we drove under the canopy of leaves that welcomed us to my parents' estate.  “Did you always live in houses this...this extravagant?”
“Yes, but so do most Elite.”
“Oh, I know that.  But I still can't get over how different you are, how much you understand, how much you notice about...  Well, about everything.  About the world.  About people like me.  You see what's happening, how much pain the Divide causes.  How did you do that?  How did you break away?”
“I don't know exactly, but I'm glad I did.”  
“Me too.”  She tilted her head to the side and smiled at me.
Keira raised a good point.  Why had I started asking questions that most people avoid, and how could we get others to do the same?  Was it when my family moved to Tkaron, or had I begun asking questions much earlier?
My parents' butler, Simon, had been with them for 20 years.  He hardly ever smiled.  I'd been a mischievous nine year-old when he was hired.  As a child, I'd tried to make him smile at least once a day.  It wasn't easy, but I was determined.  I held open the polished wooden door for Keira and watched as Simon hurried over.
“Mr. Burke.  Please, allow me.”
“Oh, it's not a problem.”
“It may not be a problem for you, but you're doing my job.”
“Well, you may greet us and announce us to my parents.  Will that do?”
“I suppose.”  Simon frowned.  “Wait here.”
“Come on.”  I grabbed Keira's hand and pulled her along behind me.
“What?  But, he won't like it,” she whispered.
A minute later, Simon stopped in the entrance to the dining room.  “Richard and Miss Kendra James have arrived.  Shall I show them in?”
“Yes, please do,” my mother said.
Simon turned and bumped into me.  He sighed.  Not even a hint of a smile.  “You may go in.”
“Thank you, Simon.”  I slipped a packet of cigarettes into his pocket as we maneuvered past.  It was his favorite brand.
Keira squeezed my arm and whispered, “That was sweet.”
My mother hurried over when she saw us.  “Welcome.”  She grasped Keira's hands and kissed her on the cheek.
“Thank you for inviting me to dinner, Mrs. Burke.”
“My dear, you're to be my daughter-in-law.  You may call me Bea.”
I leaned over and kissed my mother just as my father entered the room.  “Good evening, Father.”
“Good evening, Richard.  Miss James, it's nice to see you again.”
My mother may be ready to drop the formalities, but my father was not.  I looked around.  It wasn't every day that my parents lit the dinner candles, brought out the best china and...I glanced at Cadence.  She blushed and looked down.  So the intricately folded napkins had been her idea.
I directed Keira to a seat and pulled out her chair.  My mother, now seated at the foot of the table, smiled in approval.
My father and I began as we always did, by discussing business.  My mother soon cut in with, “Richard!”  She spoke rather sharply and looked first at Keira and then at my father.  He started to sigh but caught himself and raised a napkin to his mouth instead.
“Son.”  I looked at him in alarm.  He rarely called me that.  My mother didn't say a word.  “You'll be married soon.”
I nodded and looked across the table at Keira.  Then I returned my attention to my father.
“When that time comes, you'll be receiving a promotion.”
I blinked in surprise.  “But what about you?”
“I'll keep some stake in the company, of course.  But I will no longer be taking such an active role.  Those duties will become yours.  Congratulations.”  Again, he gave my mother a look I couldn't decipher.
“Yes, congratulations, dear,” she echoed.
The air felt thick.  Is this his idea or hers?
“Thank you.”  I cleared my throat and changed the subject.  “This steak is delicious!  My compliments to the new chef.”
“Yes, it's wonderful,” Keira chimed in.
“It's why we hired him.  You know how much your father enjoys steak,” my mother said.
Again, a look passed between them.
Keira tactfully looked down at her plate.
“Have you heard?” my mother asked.  “Someone has been donating supplies to the orphanages in town.”
“That's wonderful!  It sounds like you've started a trend,” I said.
“To all of the orphanages.  Donations for all of the children.  Do you see what I mean?”
“Oh, I see.”
Keira was still staring at her plate.  She'd stopped eating.
“Yes, and people have been talking.”
I set down my knife and fork, and sighed.  “And what are they saying, Mother?”
“They're saying that the Resistance is helping the Working Class children.  The Gov really should crack down on things like that, don't you agree?”
“What's the problem exactly?” Keira asked, finally looking up to meet my mother's gaze.  “They're just children.”
“Well, it's an outrage, that's what it is.  All your hard work with the committee, gone.”
“But they're still receiving funding from us too, so I don't understand what...”
“It can't be allowed,” my father cut in, his voice deep and steady.
We all turned to look at him, and he continued, “If Working Class children receive the same privileges as the Elite, they'll expect more than is available.  Competition will skyrocket, and as the children mature into able bodied adults, Working Class citizens will begin to take on Elite jobs, leaving Working Class positions unfilled.  It cannot be allowed,” he repeated.
“Can you imagine?”  It was my mother again.  “The Working Class and the Elite working side by side.”
I looked at Keira, and she stared at me.
Somehow we made it through the rest of dinner.  Keira took my hand even before Eberhardt started the engine.  “Please say you're coming over tonight,” she pleaded.
“Better not.  I have an early morning meeting tomorrow.  Turn around.”  I nudged her gently.  As the car began to move down the drive, I squeezed her shoulders, gently at first, then increased the pressure.  I worked my way down her back.  “Better?”
She leaned her head first to one side and then to the other.  “Yes, thank you.  How often will we have to dine with them?”
“They'll expect it frequently, I'm afraid.  Probably about once per week.”
“Kill me now.”  Keira's voice was deadpan.

Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer. Where and when do you write? Do you have set times? How do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?

I think about my current work-in-progress a little bit every day, when I'm getting ready in the morning or driving home from work, really whenever I have a chance to let my mind wander. My husband and I have worked out a writing schedule. He writes for about two hours every weeknight after my daughter and I have gone to sleep. I write on Saturday and Sunday mornings from whenever I get up and get going until about 1:00. After work and sometimes in the morning, I have a chance to promote via FB or Twitter.

How long does it take you to write your books?

Six to eight months per novel.

Do have any writing rituals? Treats you have to have, places you have to be, etc.? 

Not really. Sometimes I write at home, sometimes I drive into work on a weekend and type in an empty building, sometimes I like to go to a local coffee shop. If the public library had better parking and hours that matched my writing schedule, I'd go there too. The only “ritual” I do is during my final edit, I need to read my work aloud to listen for errors.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to?

Sometimes. I prefer to listen to upbeat music that I don't know well. If I know it too well, I begin to sing along rather than write.

Do you have to be alone to write?

Sometimes. It depends upon my mood.

Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants?

I plan a linear storyline, but once that's ready, I write whatever scene is at the forefront of my mind. Sometimes that means I write a few chapters ahead and then go back later to fill in parts.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I must, because I think everyone does, but I like to try different perspectives and points of view. Reliance on Citizens was written in the first person and each chapter is told from a different main character's point of view. That was intentional because I wanted my readers to experience their world as if they were a part of it but yet to also experience it from different angles. My work-in-progress is being written from a third person omniscient point of view. It's an entirely different story and requires a different sort of narration.

What makes your writing unique?

I don't worry about following the rules. For example, some people told me I shouldn't write my story in first person, but I had a reason and stuck by it. I let the story define the parameters, and I keep my characters true to—well, their character.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

Be true to yourself, and do what you believe is right. At the same time, stand up for others when they need help.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Marketing. I hate marketing.

What have you learned about writing from reading the books that you love?

I guess I've internalized the structure of the English language to the point that writing feels a lot like breathing. It's easy for me to do. It's one of my strengths. I've also learned what I don't like. For example, I hate in stories when the captain or President or (any word for leader) charges in at the most exciting point in a battle. That's not how it's done. The leader goes in a little later, when things are pretty much secured. If you want readers to experience the excitement, then show it to us from a lower ranking character's point of view.

If you could do everything over (writing your book, or publishing, etc.) would you change anything?

Not yet. I've enjoyed the journey too much to change anything, although I am playing around with marketing strategies. If I could afford an agent to market my books for me, I would pay good money for that.

Is there anything particularly helpful you have found as you have written/edited/published? 

Other people help me to be a stronger writer. My books wouldn't be nearly as good without the help of beta readers and the wonderful support network I've found online with regards to Indie publishing. My husband has been a tremendous support as well.

Do you have to travel/do much research for your books?

Travel, no. Research, some.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members and friends in your writing journey.

I can name more than that. The advice and support I've received from Amazon, Create Space, Smashwords, Goodreads and Indie groups I've discovered via Facebook have provided more support than I ever expected. 

Did you learn anything from writing your books, and if so what was it?

People are willing to help you. You have only to ask.

Do you design your own covers, or have someone else help?

No, I've hired others to design my covers. Carl Graves at Extended Imagery - http://www.extendedimagery.com/ - designed the covers for Price of a Bounty and Canvas Skies. Yezall Strongheart at Covers by Yezall - http://coversbyyezall.weebly.com/ - designed the cover for Heart of Humanity.

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

Before I moved, I was part of a critique group that met twice per month. I really miss that! I also rely on a beta group with a wide variety of skills. I would never edit without having input from others.

Any advice for the editing process?

Send your manuscript to a lot of beta readers, knowing that 1/3 to 1/2 of them will get back to you with notes and comments. Consider their advice and corrections seriously. You don't have to make all of the changes they suggest, but if you don't, be sure you have a good reason for not doing so. Don't rush to publish. Instead, take the time to read your manuscript several times, with breaks in between so that you can get a fresh perspective. Reread your manuscript with different margins so that you see the words laid out differently. Do at least one read-through out loud.

What do you do to keep yourself going when you aren’t motivated? 

I take time to edit, do interviews, write for my blog or for my husband's blog, anything to keep writing while simultaneously taking a break.

Did anything in particular inspire anything in your book, or anything you have written?

I have been inspired by vivid dreams.

What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

I like the everyday type of hero, the one who isn't looking to be a hero.

What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?

Begin with some action, then add plenty of dialogue, a dash of humor, and some mystery (optional). Mix it all together. Heat it up with tension between characters, and let it simmer for weeks to months before publishing.

How do you go about naming characters?

Some names just come to me and feel right. Other times, I look up the nationality and meanings of names and choose ones that fit my characters.

Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

I write first, often with a lot of dialogue. Then, on a rewrite, I'll add more description, sometimes looking through images of people online, and often looking at images of clothing (especially when it's important to a scene) before describing what I see with words.

How do you pick locations for your stories?

For my Reliance on Citizens trilogy, I thought about what could be if U.S. politics continue in the direction they are currently going. However, I wanted to distance my readers from that, so I set my series in future Canada and Europe instead.

For my work-in-progress, I'm going to rely on places I've actually lived or visited and do a lot of research when that's not possible. Even though it's going to be an urban fantasy, parts will be taking place in the far past, and for that, I'll have to rely on research.

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?

I'm self-published. I like the control that I have. I'm able to set my own publishing schedule and prices, choose my own cover artist and retain all rights to my work.

How do you find the marketing experience? 

I'll say it again. I hate marketing.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Do what you feel is right for you. If you want more help from outside sources and are willing to exchange some of your control for that, then by all means, submit your work to a publishing house. However, you should never pay anyone to publish your work. Legit publishing houses will take a cut of the profits, they will not charge you. If you chose to self-publish, you will want to pay only for certain services. For example, if you know your strengths do not lie in the visual arts, pay a cover artist to design your cover. If you know you tell a smashing good story, but you need help with the technical aspects of editing, then find a good editor and pay for their service.

When you read, what is your favorite genre?

My favorites are science fiction / fantasy and historical fiction.

What books have most influenced your life?

To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Like Me, Maniac Magee, The Giver, Gathering Blue, American Gods.

Who is your favorite character from any book and why?

My favorite character is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird because she is living in a world in turmoil, yet she sees the truth behind the events taking place around her.

For reading, do you prefer ebooks or physical books?

I prefer ebooks because I can carry an entire library around with me.

What is your most favorite book and why? 

To Kill a Mockingbird is by far the best book I have ever read. It brings an entire society to life and made me really think about people and their motivations. 

What is the worst book you have ever read and why?

I haven't because I don't finish reading bad books. The worst books I've read are either poorly edited or slam me over the head by telling me what I already know about the characters or plot. There's a fine line. Not enough description or poorly written dialogue confuse the reader, but overdoing it, that can be even worse.

What tips would you give readers when choosing a book?

With physical books, read the back cover or inside flap prior to purchase. With ebooks and online orders, read the free preview or download the free sample prior to buying any book. If it doesn't interest you, don't buy it. Do you see why I'm so bad at marketing? I want people to read my books, and I have heard from many who enjoyed them, but I would never push my books on someone who knows they don't enjoy dystopian fiction.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Neil Gaiman. I love how he throws in little bits of humor here and there. 

Are there particular writers that you admire?

Neil Gaiman. I recently learned that he put his own book, American Gods, on piracy sites to see what that would do for his sales. He's a risk taker, and I admire that.
Gaiman on Copyright Piracy and the Web http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI 

If there was one author you could meet with and learn from one on one, who would you choose?

That's a tie between Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon. Whedon has a knack for writing individual characters who change and grow based on their experiences while remaining true to themselves. He also has a wicked sense of humor.

Who has most influenced or inspired your writing?

My life experiences and reflections of them are truly what inspire my writing. 

If you could write a book with any current author, who would it be and why? 

My husband who writes under the pen name Jay Merin, but he writes best alone.

Which authors would you like to take to the pub?

None. I am a non-drinker, but I would love to go to a coffee shop and hang out with fellow Indie writers, R.K. Ryals, Walter Eckland, Mathieu Gallant, Troy McCombs, and you, Cody Martin.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

See above, plus Sarah Williams and Rhodora Fitzgerald.

Please share a bit about your newest release without giving away any spoilers.

Heart of Humanity
Noah Maddock has spent his childhood in the prosperous and peaceful realm of Mediterra. With a change in leadership and assurances that the societal Divide has closed in his father's home realm of Terene, the family returns. But after a generation of mistrust, have the people truly changed? Diabetic Noah and his younger sister, Nadine, will see for themselves as they navigate their way through a school that still has bullies and through a society that still suffers from prejudice.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

I'm a teacher. Helping students learn to stand up for themselves and to foster an environment free of bullies is part of my job.

What genre does your book fit into?

Noah, his sister Nadine, and other members of his family are unique. This is a science fiction novel.

How long did you work on it until you felt like it was ready for publishing?

10 months.

Is there a genre you haven’t done before that you would like to try?

I would like to try a memoir at some point, as a way to share some humor and lessons I've learned from my real life experiences.

Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?

I think we're all still working on them. I can't imagine what life would be like without dreams.

Five book recommendations from you:

Corie, Universe Feeder by Walter Eckland http://www.amazon.com/Corie-Universe-Feeder-ebook/dp/B00520ICW6/ 

Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?

Yes, please stop by and visit! It's called Crossroads of Humanity – http://crossroadsofhumanity.blogspot.com  I write about current events and personal experiences and reflections on the state of the world. I also welcome guest posts on such topics. You do not need to be a writer to submit a guest post. You can reach me at author.slwallace@gmail.com 

I also have a permanent column called Indie Horizon on my husband's website. Each month (starting in March), I feature a review and brief interview with an Indie author. http://ingenre.com/ 

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I would like my book sales to be enough for me to decide whether or not I want to continue teaching or move exclusively into the field of writing.

What is the best review of your work you've received to date?

This is my favorite review to date. It was posted on Amazon on Sept. 18, 2012, by Shoshana Hathaway. 

I am not a connoisseur of distopian books, in fact, I tend to avoid them. However, this book, while it is distopian, has enough that is unique in it to move it from being strictly genre to being more universally appealing.

The writing style was captivating, with excellent sentence flow, good descriptive material, and natural dialog. The author uses the convention of telling the story from the perspectives of the 4 main characters, in alternating chapters. This is tricky ground, because the material can become repetitive, but the author travels it without stepping on one land mine, or falling into one pitfall. The overall effect is that it makes it much easier to relate to all of these people, and to get to know them in a way that is only possible with first person narrative. Once I got used to it, and it didn't take long at all, I really enjoyed this touch.

The plot is complicated, involving, as it does, several major elements, any one of which could have provided material for a full length book. Again, the author handles her themes with ease, and her action scenes are extremely well done. There's lots of action, but it never overwhelms the basic story.

The thing I liked best about this book, though, is the way in which the author presented her world. There is no long explanation. You enter the scene in the middle of the action, and you are given the information you need to understand this rather frighteningly possible world as you go, just enough so that you don't become confused. This, to me, is world building at its best! I did keep trying to figure out, at first, whether this was supposed to be a not to distant future Earth, or a fantasy world created by the author. I soon decided that the book was good enough that I didn't really care, though my instincts tell me it is Earth. If so, then the author has extrapolated her future strongly based on trends we are seeing now, and that extrapolation is more than a little plausible, which should give us serious pause.

But, in the long run, books, all fiction, at least, are essentially the stories of people. Settings may vary. Genres may vary. But people are at the heart of any story, and in this, again, the author excels. Yes, the issues are important, as is the fight for equality that we see. But at the heart of things, it is the people who matter, and, bless her, the author never looses sight of this. These folks are real, with real issues, and what motivates them at bottom is love. Love of family, love of mates, love of friends. Everything they do is rooted in that love, and that, I think, is why this book is special. It's also a whopping good read, and I am eager to start book 2 in the series. 

What format(s) are your books available in?

Ebook and paperback.
Currently, Price of a Bounty is only available for Kindle (as an ebook), but the others are also available in a variety of other formats at Smashwords.

Is there anything else you would like to share or tell us?

If you enjoy the books you read, and even if you don't, please leave reviews. It's one way people decide whether or not to purchase Indie books, and I welcome all honest reviews. Also, I enjoy connecting with other writers as well as readers on Facebook, Twitter and by email. Thank you, Cody! 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorSLWallace 


I'd like to thank Sarah L. Wallace for answering this (admittedly long) interview. If you like what you read, click on her purchase links, like her FB page, and her author pages. Independent authors need the support of their readers. As always, thanks for reading.