Guest Post: Juli D. Revezzo — “Changeling’s Crown”

This will be the first of two consecutive guest posts from fellow authors.  One of the (many) wonderful aspects of the WordPress community is the way we as bloggers can share our words, ideas, and inspirations on one another’s sites, a kind of creative cross-pollination that enriches the digital landscape.  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to share guest posts and interviews on other blogs over the past eighteen months.  Likewise, it is always fun to feature other writers on The Eye-Dancers blog.

Last summer, just over a year ago to the day, Juli D. Revezzo authored a guest post on The Eye-Dancers blog about her Antique Magic series.  And now, here we are again in high summer, and I am once again privileged to have Juli return to talk a little bit about her new novel, Changeling’s Crown.

Without any further delay from me, please welcome Juli!

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“What I learned writing a fun fantasy love story”

by

Juli D. Revezzo

 

Michael invited me here to talk about my newly released upper YA paranormal romance, Changeling’s Crown. For this novel, I decided to set the story on a horse ranch. Growing up my parents bought a house not far from a horse ranch—or at least the owner of that specific property owned horses. Still, I never paid much attention to the ins and outs of their property. I just oohed and ahhed over the lovely horses whenever we would pass.

Yes, I admit to doing that even still. I’m such a girl, I know. 😉

When the idea hit me to write what would become Changeling’s Crown, I decided to set it on an even bigger, truer horse ranch than the one I grew up near.

Now, truth to tell, I know next to nothing about horses or running a ranch so, yes, much research ensued. We have one nearby us and so I trotted down and observed for a while. One thing I learned is that sometimes, the owners put masks on the horses to keep flies out of their eyes. Another is that horses are much bigger than I realized they might be. This will tell you how short I am, but I could’ve walked under one of the stallions! I didn’t expect that. I’d never seen that of the horses down the way from me, (except for their size) so it surprised me. Yes, writing can teach you things, who knew? 😉

How about you, folks? Did you ever learn something from a book, or a school assignment that you never expected to?

 

Would you be interested to know a little more about the resulting book, Changeling’s Crown? Here’s the blurb:
When Ianthe began her career as a faery godmother, she stumbled so badly that Snow White will probably never speak to her again. After a long suspension, she’s finally been given a chance to redeem herself . . . but everything on this latest assignment is going wrong.

But why?

Worse, she definitely doesn’t need an attractive mortal man distracting her from her duties. Of course, needs and wants are two different things.

Briak has had his eye on Ianthe for a very, very long time, but he’s been waiting for just the right moment to make his move. Despite the fact all hell’s about to break loose on his watch, he can’t resist the opportunity to insert himself into her earthly assignment. Can he convince Ianthe of her true calling and thereby win her heart? Or will his subterfuge ultimately cost him her love?

changelingscrown

 

Buy links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Changelings-Crown-Juli-D-Revezzo-ebook/dp/B00KPJ27UW
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449603

and

In paperback from Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/4797366

 

About Juli D. Revezzo

Juli D. Revezzo is a Florida girl, with a love of fantasy, science fiction, and Arthurian legend, so much so she gained a B.A. in English and American Literature. She loves writing stories with fantastical elements whether it be a full-on fantasy, or a story set in this world–slightly askew. She has been published in short form in Eternal Haunted Summer; Dark Things II: Cat Crimes (a charity anthology for cat related charities); Luna Station Quarterly; By Blood, Bone, and Blade; Crossing the River, An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys; The Scribing Ibis; and Twisted Dreams Magazine. She’s the author of the Antique Magic series and the Paranormal Romance Harshad Wars series. Changeling’s Crown is her first YA novel.

She is a member of the Independent Author Network and the Magic Appreciation Tour. Come learn more about her at http://julidrevezzo.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/JD-Revezzo/233193150037011

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111476709039805267272/posts

Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5782712.Juli_D_Revezzo

Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/authors/a1002694572/Juli-D-Revezzo/

Pintrest: http://pinterest.com/jewelsraven/

Twitter: @julidrevezzo

Newsletter signup at: http://bit.ly/SNI5K6

JuliD

Thank you for inviting me here, today, Michael!

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Thanks so much for the great post, Juli!

And thanks so much to everyone for reading!

–Mike

Short Story — “The Gatherers”

Clearly one of the themes in The Eye-Dancers is learning to cope with mystery, with things beyond the scope of our understanding.  Marc Kuslanski, in particular, feels the need to explain every irregularity, every new experience that lies beyond the purview of his knowledge.  How he ultimately learns to deal with this is his great dilemma (and opportunity for growth) in the novel.

The protagonist in “The Gatherers,” a short story I wrote shortly before beginning The Eye-Dancers, is faced with just such a dilemma when he spots a small group of people linking hands, standing in a circle.  On the surface, this does not seem particularly odd or out of the ordinary.  But there is more to the story . . .

I hope you enjoy “The Gatherers.”

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“The Gatherers”

Copyright 2014 by Michael S. Fedison

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Christopher Burriss was frustrated.

He’d wanted to take a right-hand turn, head to the drug store, and buy the strongest over-the-counter pain medicine he could find. But he hadn’t. Instead, he had driven straight through the light, cursing and slamming his fist into the dashboard.

It wasn’t that the intersection had caught him by surprise, or came up more quickly than he anticipated. He just could not seem to make the turn. It was as if a force, an invisible presence, had locked the steering wheel in place.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said to the dust bunnies floating inside the car. He just wanted something to take. To dull the pain.

Yes. The pain. The flaring, mounting pain that had overtaken him without warning. He’d been driving . . . where? He couldn’t remember. Had he been shopping? Running an errand? Going to work? When, suddenly, his head began to throb, then to pound, as if someone had lobbed a grenade inside his skull and pulled the pin. And his side. His entire left side ached. A knifing, jabbing pain, spreading from his rib cage, up to his armpit and down to his hip.

He thought of turning around—the intersection, and the drug store, were still close behind. A driveway came up on the left, and he slowed down, signaled. Trailing him, a white Subaru, too close for comfort, waited for him to complete his turn.

But he couldn’t do it. The steering wheel wouldn’t budge. Was it stuck? Making sure that his foot was planted securely on the break pedal, he exerted more force, but still the wheel would not move. The car behind him honked its horn.

“Shut up!” he yelled back. “I’m trying! You think I’m doing this for fun?”

He pulled as hard as he could. Nothing. The driver behind him continued to beep, and now others joined in. A line of traffic was forming in his rearview mirror.

“Great. Just beautiful.” He pressed hard on the gas pedal, and sped forward. The Subaru followed, still closer than he liked.

The pressure in his head was unrelenting, and his side was a lit fuse. He didn’t think he could drive much longer. It was difficult just to stay in control of the vehicle, to keep it within the lines. He felt himself swerving into the wrong lane, toward oncoming traffic. The car behind him honked again, perhaps thinking he was drunk or falling asleep. He wished he were drunk. Anything to numb the pain.

He drove for miles. He wasn’t sure how he managed to, but he did, even as his condition became more serious. Houses, buildings, trees flew by him like mirages. He had no concept of time, of how long he’d been traveling. All he knew was that something else seemed to be in control. He had tried several times to pull over, onto the shoulder of the road, to let the traffic pass him. But he couldn’t. Maybe the wheel was stuck. Maybe it couldn’t be turned. But that was impossible. He had rounded a few curves, it had swiveled effortlessly then. It—

“Mom, Mom, why? . . .”

“Sssshh, honey. Be quiet. We just have to hope for the best. That’s all we can do.”

“But, Mom. Why? Why won’t . . . ?”

The voices weren’t clear. But he recognized them. How could he not? Sharon, and Mollie. Why was he hearing them? They weren’t here. Sharon was at work, wasn’t she? And Mollie. Mollie would be in school. She had just started the second grade. She was excited, eager to get back to her school friends, looking forward to new adventures, new vistas.

Another sheet of pain flared and exploded along his nerve endings. Had someone taken a razor blade and sliced open his left side? He actually looked down, checking for blood, sure that he would see the beige fabric of the seat stained with red. But there was nothing. No hint of a wound, no evidence of an attack.

He felt the car swerve again, and he righted his course just in the nick of time. An 18-wheeler whined past, in the other lane, honking an accusatory horn at him.

“What is this?” he said. “What’s happening to me?” He needed to get control of himself, right now. If he kept this up, he would be a candidate for a soft-cushioned room with calming pastorals hanging from the walls.

An intersection was coming up. He didn’t know which one, but it didn’t matter. He was determined to turn off of this road. He’d had enough of it.

But when he saw the street sign, he reconsidered. Blakely Avenue. Unless he had a good reason otherwise, he avoided Blakely. It was a nightmare—a congested mess, a snarl of traffic jams, of hot metal, bumper-to-bumper, broiling in the midday sun, matched by the hot tempers of the motorists. Every week, there was an accident. Better to wait until the next intersection, and turn off there.

For some reason, though, he merged into the left-hand turn lane, and flicked on his signaler.

“No!” he said. “I’m going straight.” He tried to turn the signaler off, but it was stuck. He fought with the wheel, trying to force it to the right. It wouldn’t budge. It didn’t matter anyway. The lane next to him had filled with cars. He was trapped. He had to take the left turn now.

“This is unreal.”

The left-hand turn arrow flashed green, and he turned onto Blakely, merging into the extreme outside lane, past a gas station with a sign by the road boasting of fresh sub sandwiches and soft drinks inside. He swore under his breath. This was unreal. Ahead of him, through the maze of cars, he could see a long line of fast-food restaurants, car dealerships, and chain stores. And, coming up on the right, the mall. The largest mall in the city. He hated it, and yet . . .

A hammer blow to his head sent him reeling. He desperately needed some painkillers. The mall would have a drug store inside.

He inched along, crawling with the traffic, before stopping at a red light. The mall’s entrance was just ahead now. He signaled for a right-hand turn, and, intuitively, knew that the steering wheel would oblige this time. A chill ran through him, as if someone had just poured five gallons of ice water into a gaping wound. Now the water rushed through him, mixing with his blood, freezing him to the core. There was something about this spot. Something familiar. Something . . .

“Something what?” he said. There were two cars ahead of him. As luck would have it, the car in front was going straight, blocking his chance for a right-on-red.

Anxious, fidgety, having a hard time just sitting there, not being able to make sense of anything, he glanced toward a strip of grass that lay just beyond the sidewalk, in front of the mall parking lot, and spotted a small gathering of people—about a dozen of them. (Where had they come from? Had they been there a minute ago?) They were all looking down, hands joined. Solemn. That was the word. They were solemn. And they were . . . He blinked. Again. And again. That confirmed it. They weren’t all there. It sounded crazy, but that was the only way he could describe it. He was sure he could see the sun rays hitting them, traveling through them, as if they were composed more of air than of flesh-and-blood organic matter.

He felt inexplicably drawn to them, almost as if they exerted a force, compelling him to join them. But he didn’t want to. The idea of it was intolerable. He wasn’t sure why, but he was determined to resist. He would just go into the mall, buy his pills, then get out.

The light finally turned, and he drove past the people who were there, yet not there, and pulled into the mall parking lot. His head was getting worse, if that were possible, and the pain in his side was unrelenting.

He struggled out of the car, the world losing its focus as he stood up. He grabbed his side, doubled over, coughed. He was in even worse shape than he’d thought. If he wasn’t careful, he’d pass out right here, on the asphalt. He had to pull himself together, buy those painkillers. He needed to focus only on that one goal.

But the people gathered near the lot entrance made that impossible. He glanced back in their direction, his view of them only slightly obstructed by a row of shrubs flanking the perimeter of the parking lot. He could see their bowed heads above the shrubbery, the specter-like quality of their skin. Again, he felt a powerful urge to go to them.

“No,” he said. “I can’t. I won’t.”

He closed his eyes, turned away from them, and then dared to open his eyes again.

“Don’t look back,” he said. “Just get those pills. You’re all right. You’re okay.”

But he wasn’t okay, and the mere act of walking was a struggle. He concentrated, willed his feet to move, one step, two, three. Left foot in front of the right, right in front of the left. He tried not to look too far ahead. He didn’t want to be discouraged by the distance he still had to cover. So he focused on the ground directly in front of him. A single step was an accomplishment, navigating a foot of pavement a victory.

Finally, he pushed his way through the doors of the mall. It was crowded in here, but at least the drug store was close—the second store on the left. He dodged a band of teenagers who seemed oblivious to anyone but themselves, and staggered into the drug store, heading straight to the nonprescription painkiller aisle. He wanted to find the most potent product on the shelf, but it was not possible to be discriminating. His head felt like it would blow up in a minute; his side was a minefield of live ammunition. He grabbed the first package he saw with the words “extra strength” written on it.

He leaned against the shelf, dizzy now, on top of everything else. The store was spinning, spinning. Another bomb burst exploded in his head, and a thousand nails poked and prodded his left side. He was aware of noises, sounds. Where were they coming from? Beeps. A soft, whirring hum, like a faint heartbeat. An antiseptic smell. And then voices . . .

“Christopher . . . can you hear me?” Sharon. Why was he hearing Sharon?

“Dad, Dad . . .”

“Mollie,” he said, closing his eyes. “Mollie, but you’re in school. Aren’t you?”

More voices, blurring, blending, like a musical score gone out of control.

“Faster! Hurry! Move!” A strange voice, this one. It sounded like a young man. “You gotta go faster! Hurry!”

“Good morning, Mr. Burriss.” A woman’s voice, one he had never heard before. Or maybe he had. He couldn’t tell. “Sunny today. About time, too. After all this rain.” And then he heard her footsteps, walking away, growing fainter, then coming closer, louder again. He felt her—how could he feel her? Fingers brushing against his forehead, slightly moist, the smell of soap . . .

“Dad!” Mollie again.

And then Sharon, “Christopher, honey . . .”

And the frantic screaming of the young guy. “Move it! Hurry, hurry!”

“Shut up!” he yelled. He rammed the palm of his hand against his head, once, twice, three times. “Just . . . shut . . . up.”

He tried to walk, the store still doing cartwheels in front of his eyes. He groped, like a blind man, using the shelves as support. Glancing at the checkout counter, he saw a ponytailed blonde in a blue smock ringing up a heavyset man. Two old women stood in line behind him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I can’t. I don’t have the strength.”

He wasn’t a crook, but there was no way he could wait for the cashier to check out those customers. He’d collapse right there in the line. He needed the pills now. He needed relief now. Pocketing the bottle of painkillers, he left, as quickly as he could.

Stumbling out into the mall, he found a nearby drinking fountain, and swallowed half a dozen of the pills. There. Hopefully that would take the edge off. But what could he do about his throat? Why was it getting so hard to breathe? And his eyesight. Why was everything spinning? Why were his surroundings growing hazier? The passersby were now two-dimensional, black-and-white. The color itself was being drained from the world.

“Need to get out of here,” he said. “I just need to get home.”

“Dad . . .” Mollie again, but her voice fainter now, farther away. “Dad . . .”

He wanted to follow that voice, go to it, but how could he do that? It was a hallucination. Wasn’t it?

It seemed to take hours to reach his car. He could barely see now. Shapes were merging together, blurring—so much so that the spinning had stopped, or perhaps it hadn’t. He couldn’t tell. He couldn’t be sure of anything anymore. Except that his side and head continued to torment him. The painkillers hadn’t helped at all. If anything, the pain was getting worse.

He looked straight ahead, through the mounting haze. Beyond the shrubs. the small gathering of people still stood there, heads bowed. And again, the force—he didn’t know what else to call it—urging him, prodding him to join them.

He shook his head, put his hands over his eyes. No. It was the only word he could think of. No. No. No. He wouldn’t succumb to their mesmerizing hold on him.

But then he was looking at them again. (How did that happen? He hadn’t remembered taking his hands away from his eyes.) Only, he wasn’t just looking. He was staring, riveted. Something was different about them now. They no longer looked like wraiths. They had fleshed out, like sketched characters who had received a finishing touch of paint. As the rest of the world dissolved, the gatherers became more solid.

“Dad . . . dad . . .dad . . .”

“Chris . . .Chris?”

The voices, fading . . .

As if tugged by a magnet, he walked toward the group. He could no longer resist their pull, had no strength left to fight it. There was a sense of inevitability now, of things coming to an end. Or perhaps a beginning. Somewhere overhead, he thought he heard a gull sqwauk, but maybe it had been a crow or a jay, or nothing at all.

As he neared the patch of grass where the gatherers stood, hands still joined, the pain in his head and side escalated to an intolerable crescendo. It no longer felt like knives cutting into him. Now it felt like metal, jagged teeth, rusty but sharp, gripping, biting, eviscerating. And his head. Was it even still there, attached to his shoulders? Or had it burst into pieces like shrapnel?

He fell to his knees, gasping—so hard to breathe. And finally the people let go of their hands, broke the circle, and approached him. He was aware, yet not aware, of the traffic noise in the road. It sounded like the hum from some other world, some gap in a dimensional barrier. But then another sound emerged, near, close, and horribly loud.

Tires screeching. Get out of the way! Too late, too late . . .

Impact. The feeling of being torn, broken, trapped in a heap of wrecked metal. Pain, flaring, shooting through his body. His head on fire. His side a shattered mess. And his last thought before the blackness came . . . Mollie. Sharon. What will they do?

The people were upon him, the only figures left that were real. And he understood now why this spot felt so familiar. Why he had experienced a chill of recognition when he’d reached the parking lot entrance . . .

“Hello, Chris,” a bald man with a gray mustache and a long, beak-like nose, said.

“How do you know my name?” he asked. And he realized, as he stood up, that the pain was gone now. Not lessened, not dulled. Gone. And his breathing had returned to normal, an easy, gentle rhythm. He had never felt better.

“We just do,” the man said. Apparently he was the group’s leader.

“What’s happened to me?” he wanted to know. The sound of the traffic was now completely muted. He could still see the cars, the road, the mall behind him in the distance, but they were outlines now, light pencil marks blending in with the empty white space of the blank page.

A middle-aged woman with short black hair and a pleasant smile said, “You know now, don’t you, Chris?”

He again remembered the screeching tires, the never-ending second before impact. He had been pulling out of the mall—he’d come here to meet an old friend who wanted to meet for lunch at the Food Court, a long-lost buddy, out of the blue. The other car never even attempted to stop, never slowed down. . . . He had been preoccupied, thinking about the visit with his friend, the way life sometimes threw curveballs at you, reintroduced you to people you knew once, and then almost forgot. He hadn’t looked left or right, he just went when the light had turned green.

“But the voices. The . . .” Then he stopped himself. It all came clear. Sharon. How he wished he could kiss her again, hold her, just one more time. And Mollie. Sweet, pretty Mollie . . .

“You fought hard, Chris,” the old man said. “Very hard. You almost made it, against the odds.”

“Who are you people?” he said.

“As you are all too well aware, Blakely Avenue is a busy road,” the old man said. “It’s taken its share.”

“You mean . . .?”

“I was killed in sixty-six, the year after they put the first shopping plaza in,” the old man said. “Hit right near where you were. Drunk driver got me.”

“I was blindsided about a quarter mile down the road,” a young guy, who looked no more than twenty, said. “Never even saw it coming.”

“I was hit by a truck,” the middle-aged woman with short black hair said. “My car was wrecked beyond recognition.”

On and on they went, a dozen accounts in all. And now, he would join them. When the next time came, perhaps next week, or next year, or three years hence, he would relate his story, along with theirs.

“We’ve got to stick together, you know,” the old man said. “Wouldn’t be right otherwise.”

“But Sharon. And Mollie. Will I . . .?”

The man nodded, smiled. “Yes. Of course. In due season.” He extended a hand. Chris, reassured, took it. Then the black-haired woman reached for his other hand.

They formed into a line, all thirteen of them, and, with hands clasped, walked away into the distance.

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Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

An Interview with Author Shannon A. Thompson

Nearly one year ago, I interviewed author Shannon A. Thompson here on The Eye-Dancers site, and it’s my pleasure to virtually sit down with her again for a second interview.  Shannon was one of the very first followers of The Eye-Dancers blog, back in the late summer of 2012, and I thank her for her ongoing support!

Last year, I asked Shannon about her great website, shannonathompson.com, which has now grown to include nearly 14,000 followers, and which I cannot recommend highly enough; her novel Minutes Before Sunset (the first novel of The Timely Death Trilogy), which debuted last spring; her views on writing; and the advice she would give to new, aspiring authors.  This time around, we’ll discuss what she’s been up to these past twelve months, the new novel she is about to release next month, and her views on the writing process and the way characters have a penchant to do and say things you would never envision ahead of time.

So, without further delay, I hope you enjoy the interview . . .

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1.  It’s been almost one year since our first interview.  How have the past twelve months gone for you?  How has your website, shannonathompson.com, evolved over this time?

Wow!  What a question.  It’s been a crazy ride.  When you last interviewed me in March of 2013, I didn’t even have a contract for my novels.  Since then, I have signed with AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc., and I’ve been published twice–one novel and one short story.  My novel Minutes Before Sunset has since become award-winning, and the next installment of the series comes out on March 27.  I’ve graduated college, and I also work for my publisher now.  Like I said, it’s been a crazy ride–a very enjoyable one.  My website is where I’ve shared all of my adventures, but I’ve mostly been amazed at how many other readers and writers I’ve connected with over the year.  I started off with no followers, and now I’m about to hit 14,000.  I am so grateful to be able to speak with so many readers, writers, and dreamers on a regular basis.

2.  You have a new novel coming out next month–Seconds Before Sunrise, which is a sequel to Minutes Before Sunset, and the second book in The Timely Death Trilogy.  Tell us a little bit about this.  Can you give us a summary of your new novel, and how it picks up the story from the first book?

The second book starts in August–one month after Minutes Before Sunset ended.  The beginning opens up with Jessica, who no longer has a memory, but it immediately shows how the characters have changed and what events are looming over them–the main event being Eric’s approaching birthday.  While Minutes Before Sunset revolves around the Dark, readers can expect a new focus in the second book.  Seconds Before Sunrise shows what it is like to be a human in a paranormal world, but don’t worry–there is plenty of action and love struggles to look forward to.  Here’s the summary on Goodreads.

3.  I am in the process of writing a sequel, too, and I find that it has its own inherent challenges.  What did you find to be the most difficult aspect of writing a sequel?  The most enjoyable?

Actually, I wrote the sequel, Seconds Before Sunrise, before I ever wrote the first novel.  It wasn’t until I realized that book 2 didn’t make sense without book 1 that I wrote Minutes Before Sunset.  I learned a lot writing the trilogy, but I mainly learned how much having a plan can help prevent confusion like this.

4.  While writing Seconds Before Sunrise, did you encounter any surprises?  For example, did any of your characters sometimes act in certain ways you wouldn’t have foreseen?

Oh, definitely!  They change so much from the beginning of one novel to the ending, let alone from one novel to the next, so guessing what exactly they will do is nearly impossible.  I always have a plan, but I am often taken over by their decisions.  The biggest moment in Seconds Before Sunrise that I didn’t plan for at all happens in the last three chapters.  Only Eric saw that coming.

5.  When, exactly, will Seconds Before Sunrise be released for sale?  Where can readers purchase it?

March 27, 2014–it will be available through all major retailers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

6.  Of all the many aspects of writing novels, editing them, revising them, publishing them, and promoting them, is there any one thing you enjoy the most?  The least?

Writing is my favorite part, of course, but I also look at editing as writing.  I find most of it enjoyable.  I rarely have moments in any part of the process that I don’t enjoy.  The closest I get to that is when I’m spending a day promoting when I really have the itch to write.  That can be a confusing bummer.

7.  If you could, in one or two sentences, sum up Shannon Thompson and what she stands for, and what she hopes to achieve through her writing, what would you say?

With my passion guiding me, my dream is to create wonderful worlds, aspiring characters, blissful love, and virtues for readers to complement their everyday lives with.

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shannon

“At sixteen years old, Shannon A. Thompson became the published author of November Snow.  At twenty-one, she was featured in Poems: a collection of works by twelve young Kansas poets.  On May 1, her paranormal romance Minutes Before Sunset was released by AEC Stellar Publishing.  In July, it was awarded Goodreads Book of the Month.  It’s the first novel in The Timely Death Trilogy.  Her first short story, ‘Sean’s Bullet,’ released in an anthology in October 2013, and her upcoming novel, Seconds Before Sunrise, is expected to release March 27, 2014.

“She’s lived in five states and moved over fifteen times, which she uses as inspiration for writing.  Shannon dedicates all of her published works to lost loved ones, and she encourages everyone to find their passion.  Shannon recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing.  She also works as a Social Media Marketing Manager for AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc.”

In addition to her website, you can find Shannon on Twitter  and on Facebook.

Please click here to purchase her novel Minutes Before Sunset.

Thanks so much to Shannon for doing this interview, and thanks so much to everyone for reading!

–Mike

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Author Interview — Joanna Wiebe

For over a decade now, I have been a freelance proofreader for a handful of book publishers.  I really enjoy it.  I have always loved to read, after all, and the publishers I freelance for offer a wide, eclectic selection of titles to work on.  Many are nonfiction, which I don’t mind at all.  I’ve always been a big nonfiction fan.  But, of course, as a fiction writer myself, I always feel excited when I am assigned a novel.  Such was the case late this past summer, when I was asked if I could proofread a Young Adult paranormal novel with the eye-catching title of The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant.

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And as I read the story, I literally forgot I was proofreading, that this was supposed to be a job.  I was captivated by the words, the plot, the characters.  It was a joy to read.  I reached out to the author, Joanna Wiebe, asking her if she would be willing to do an interview here on The Eye-Dancers blog, and she was gracious enough to accept the invitation.

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And so, without further delay, I hope you will enjoy the interview with Joanna . . .

1.  Your novel The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, published by BenBella Books, is due out at the beginning of next year.  It is also the first in a series of three novels, called the V Trilogy.  Please tell us a little bit about the book, as well as the trilogy as a whole.

Well, the first book, The Unseemly Education, describes the beginning of a series of pretty major discoveries that our hero, Anne Merchant, will make about herself and the people she loves throughout the series.  In the first book, we see her very focused on what a lot of teenagers focus on: getting the hell through high school and off to college, where ‘real life’ is supposed to start.  Anne has always been a top student, so she expects to become her class valedictorian, but she finds out quickly that all the Cania kids share her drive to become what they call “the Big V.”  By the end of the book, we learn why the Big V is such a big deal to these kids, but we don’t yet know why Anne, who is a far cry from the standard Cania student, has been allowed to come to Cania; we’ll learn that in the second book, and that’s when we’ll see Anne begin to live life instead of thinking life is something that happens after you’ve got through the muck and mire of being sixteen.

2. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant tackles the issue of regret, and the lengths parents will go to give their children a second chance.  How did you decide you wanted to write about this theme?  Did the idea for the book just hit you, suddenly, as ideas sometimes do?  Or was it something you had thought about for a while?

The lengths parents will go to was an issue I fought to keep central to the story throughout its evolution because, from where I stand, we read a lot of romantic love stories but not quite so many stories of the love between parents and their children.  I’ve experienced the way romantic love comes and goes—I mean, the guy I was crazy about in high school is essentially the opposite of attractive to me today. 🙂  And I’ve experienced how everlasting the love between parents and their children can be.  My dad essentially raised all five of us on his own, and when he died when I was in my early twenties, I felt a desperation to have him back from which I have yet to fully recover.  That said, I’m not suggesting romantic love takes a backseat to parental love—not at all!  They’re equally complex, and that’s what I hope to explore.  Of course, this book isn’t ‘about’ a girl and her parents—it’s a fantasy-paranormal-romance-suspense book. 🙂  But it does center around how desperate a parent’s love for their child can be and how vulnerable that makes them—to say nothing of the powerful feelings children have for their parents: desire to please, worry about disappointing, fear of being unable to be real with them, and ultimately, for some of us, understanding.

The issue of regret is really interesting—I love that that came through for you.  Certainly the parents here feel regret, and some of the kids do, too, but I’ll be exploring Anne’s regrets in greater detail in the second book.  So stay tuned.

3. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a wonderful title!  I am always fascinated by titles of stories, and know from firsthand experience that titles sometimes do not come until very late in the game.  Did you know what the title for the novel would be before you began writing it, or did it only come to you in the middle, or at the end, of the writing process?

So glad you like the title!  A few other writers have commented on liking the title, too, which is a great relief to me because I’ve come to understand that I am terrible at titles.  When I was a creative writing student, the other writers in class would tell me how much they loathed my short story titles, but I thought they were awesome!  Stuff like “Prep School Boy’s Last Chance to Dance” and “There’s a Hole in My Boat.”  They’d groan; I’d smile.  With this book, my poor agent and editor had to wade through my suggestions very patiently over a very long period of time.  I’m like, “Shadows and Tall Trees!”  And they’re like, “You realize this is supposed to be something people want to read, right?”  Yeah, I guess I’m brutal.

It was actually my partner, Lance, who suggested “The Education of Anne Merchant” just around the time I was surrendering the final manuscript to BenBella, which happened after the book deal and then-title had been announced.  My editor, Glenn, added the word “Unseemly,” and voila.  I had nothing to do with it beyond coordinating it.  Which is probably why people think it’s good. 😉

4. There are some very memorable characters in the novel.  Were any of the characters inspired by anyone you know, or have known?

Thank you!  I actually worked with a guy named Manish, so (spoiler alert, but not a biggie) when my old coworkers found out I killed him off, they were like, “I knew you didn’t like Manish!”  But I totally do like him!  This minor character just felt like a Manish to me . . . and he needed to die. 😉

The character Stanley is my dad.  No question about it.  One of the greatest things I’ve heard about my book is something my sister Sarah said after she read the chapter where Anne and Stanley reunite; she said it felt like I’d created a new memory of our dad for her.

Oh, and the Pomeranian, Skippy, is the name of my nana’s Pomeranian we grew up with.  That dog had the stinkiest breath on earth, but that didn’t make it into the book, to my dismay.  When you’re writing a story like The Unseemly Education, where a reveal is around every corner, all the little details become clues; so giving Skippy stinky breath might have confused readers, even if it would have made my siblings laugh.

5. The setting for the Cania Christy Preparatory Academy, where Anne Merchant goes to school, is Wormwood Island, Maine.  Is there a special significance to this setting?  Why did you choose Maine as the location for Cania Christy?

Maine is just one of those locations, isn’t it?  I think Stephen King has done something to it; it seems cloaked in mystery and paranormality.  The school needed to be remote and on the East Coast, so it really came down to the Boston area or Maine.  And Maine just felt right.  Wormwood Island is named after the character Wormwood from CS Lewis’s amazing The Screwtape Letters, the significance of which will hopefully make sense to people who read the book.

6. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant is a Young Adult novel in the sense that it tells the story of a teenage girl and her unusual experiences at the Cania Christy Academy.  (Though I believe the story will appeal to readers of all ages.)  Have you always enjoyed YA fiction?  Do you have any favorite YA authors?

I love YA.  When I was what I guess people call a “tween,” I read a lot of VC Andrews and Christopher Pike; prior to that, I read the Hardy Boys.  I guess around the time I was in grade eight or nine, I graduated to bigger books with bigger stories, like The Clan of the Cavebear series by Jean Auel and the novels that would shape my appetite since, with The Jungle and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn being chief among them.

It seems to me that the best YA writing ever is happening now and has been for the last decade or so.  I find I don’t have favorite authors as much as favorite YA books, which include The Book Thief, Fiend, and Miss Peregrine’s School—plus wonderfully indulgent reads like Smith’s Lockdown, Meyer’s Cinder, and Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood.

7. Have you always known you wanted to be a writer, ever since you were little?  Or did the calling to write come slowly, over time?

It has been a forever thing, but it really took form after my parents’ divorce, when I was eight and we moved in with my nana.  I was very shy then, and she had a typewriter.  Writing was the most natural response to where I was and how I was feeling, and that’s never changed.

8. If there was only one piece of advice you could give to a new or aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write with a deadline.  Start writing that f***ing book right this second, and tell yourself you’ll have it done exactly four months from now.  We writers make a lot of excuses, and you just know someone’s reading this right now thinking, “It would be so cool to hold my own book in my hands, but . . .”  No buts.  Just set a date, and write.  Don’t sleep.  Don’t watch TV.  One of my favorite writers (okay, I guess I do have faves) is the late Donald Barthelme.  His brothers also wrote and taught writing.  One of the Barthelmes—it escapes me which—was describing his rigorous writing process to his students; a student asked him when he found the time to sleep, and he replied, “Who said anything about sleeping?”  Carve out time to read, to work enough to cover your bills, to sleep enough to stay alert, and possibly to run outside just to freshen your head.  All the time left over is time you should be outlining your story, writing it, revising it, editing it, and ultimately querying agents.  That’s how you move from aspiring writer to published novelist.  At least, that’s what people kept telling me, and that’s what worked for me.

9. Please tell us when and where The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant will be available for purchase, and where readers can discover more about you and your work.

It comes out Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014, and it’s available in bookstores throughout Canada and the US.  If you’d like to keep up-to-date with news, new books, giveaways, and general awesomeness, join me on my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/joannawiebefiction

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Thanks so much to Joanna for doing this interview!

And thanks so much to everyone for reading!

–Mike

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