My home is a balloon forest. Balloon trees grow in every room. Throughout the day, Mike loves to admire the Mylar fruits that blossom on them. No one suspects at first glance that he is being haunted by a vampire called Parkinson’s disease.
I can’t recall when Mike’s war with Parkinson’s began, only that he became the prisoner. Back in 1996, when Mike received his diagnosis, his neurologist assured him the disease would not kill him. He went about his business earning his potatoes, hanging out with his buddies, never understanding until later about Parkinson’s scorched earth policy.
The docs have come up with a lot of magic drugs to fight off this vampire. Mike is allergic to most of them. He realized his relief in 2003 when the docs performed deep brain stimulation. They did this by implanting rods in his brain, and pacers, if you will, in his chest. These pacers cause the rods to release dopamine where it counts to stave off the motor symptoms.
Those who have read my chapter serial Dark Side of the Moon and related books may wonder why I got my idea for the Kryszka medical technology. This was one of my sources. Mike had his surgery for the left brain in 2001 and the right in 2003. We learned about the disease’s scorched earth policy after his second operation, when worsening fatigue forced him to miss more and more days at work. Finally, rather than lose benefits, he retired on disability, and that was when the disease whispered “scorched earth” for the first time.
The speech and swallowing difficulties came next. In 2005 his disease demanded that he take all liquids with thickener. On the heels of that came the loss of his license. Finally, as of the last year, problems with mobility and the health insurance quagmire. Somewhere behind the balloon trees you’ll find hand grips and the like, along with calculators and spreadsheets. Mike has been taking it all in stride, having done time in the Navy back in the 60’s.
I continued on with my day job and writing projects. Still do. My next book will in fact feature a protag who is fighting rheumatoid arthritis, another disease that practices the scorched earth policy, and at the same time, she must slay monsters to stay alive. You don’t know how strong you are until necessity demands it.
And so I carry on, but have been silent on a lot of my old authors’ forums. Some of my buddies have asked where I’ve been, and they ask about Mike.Â I’m here to assure everyone NTD is doing well, and to thank everyone for their sentiments. But Mike could use some thoughts and prayers.
Tonight, I’d like to talk with Minnie E. Miller, author of The Seduction of Mr. Bradley, Forever My Love, and Catharsis. Having worked for San Francisco’s Mayor, Atlanta’s City Council, and Chicago’s WMAQ TV’s newsroom, Minnie has acquired a strong interest in politics which blends in with the fiction / fantasy on her printed page. Mr. Bradley has earned several 4 and 5-star reviews. I’ve had the pleasure of reading her books and found them entertaining and at the same time thought-provoking. Minnie will be discussing her books and marketing strategies, so let’s hear what she has to say.
BARBARA: What motivated your writing of The Seduction of Mr. Bradley? Can you give a brief summary?
MINNIE: I had a conversation with a gay man about alternative lifestyles (because I’m nosy) and in thinking back, discovered I knew a man who was bisexual and put what I understood in the novel. I did not interview the man. Bisexuals will not publicly admit their lifestyle.
Bill Bradley is adopted and mentored by Ted Grassley from high school to manhood. Ted is a CEO with deep pockets. Although married for forty years, he is bisexual. Bill, caught in the throws of Ted’s lifestyle, complicates matters when he meets Jina Cook, a straight, attractive young lady. The two feel an instant attraction toward each other, but both try to pretend it is not happening. Finally, Jina makes the first move, and Bill knows he can’t live without the woman. Unfortunately, Bill has a big secret; he is bisexual and finds himself torn between Jina and Ted – his male lover and father figure. This spontaneous and deeply gratifying tryst throws him off balance. When Mr. Bradley reveals his bisexuality to the only woman he’s ever loved, an emotional war erupts.
BARBARA: You’ve done so well with your characterization in Mr. Bradley and Catharsis. Where did you get your ideas for some of these characters?
MINNIE: I answered where my my idea for Mr. Bradley came from in question 1, above. Also I started writing Mr. Bradley from a female POV, but when his voice became stronger, I switched the protagonist to Bill. I also researched bisexuality and visited many Bi sites. The novel does not bash alternative lifestyles; it’s about love and humankind.
Catharsis, three short stories, was my first book ever. Looking back, I think it came about because I was angry about slavery and with corporate America – corporations are one group listed under vampires! The last short story in Catharsis, “Connecting,” was taken from another MS I was working on and came from my heart.
BARBARA: Could you talk a little about your forthcoming releases?
MINNIE:Whispers From The Mirror is a paranormal novel. Protagonist Brianna Deville is a feminist/activist. Mother Belle raises her to be a strong, independent woman. In deference to her mother, she lives most of her life hiding behind the mask of a feminist until she learns mother abandoned her for a career she tethers Brianna to. She hears her biological clock ticking and knows she is at a crossroad in her life. Mirror-lady, an apparition, counsels Brianna and tells her the truth about her role as a feminist and how it has inhibitedÂ her. The ghost is a strong sub-character who nearly steals the story. She has quite a sense of humor.
I’m rewriting “Forever My Love” into a novel. It’s an Amazon Short and still available online. Vampire Lucien is lonely and searches the world, looking for his soul mate. He finds Christina in an opera house in California and mentally seduces her. During their many visits together, she is unaware that he is a vampire and falls in love with him. Unbeknown to her, he stalks her, enters her bedroom in the night and telepathically plants his lovemaking into her mind. Christina has no idea what awaits her. Lucien vows to have her at any cost.
I would like to release both novels in mid-2010.
BARBARA: You’ve talked about editing on your blog and website. What tips can you give on how an author should approach an editor?
MINNIE: Areas of expertise, price, and schedule are all-important in choosing an editor.Â Learn how the editor charges and compare it with your budget. I think it important that you discuss your plot. Some editors will not work on certain stories. Also, ask about their clients – most will put their client list on their website. Ask friends for references. IMO, an editor is very important to your work and I won’t slack on the cost, but I demand the best results for my work.
BARBARA: The economy has had a big effect on publishing houses – staff cutbacks and the like. Do you think that more and more authors will opt for self-publishing?
MINNIE: I’ve seen this happening. I’m even looking at e-Publishing, but haven’t found the connection yet. However I publish, I’ll use three avenues: paperbacks, eBooks and reading machines like Kindle. When publishing houses come out of their tortoise shell – understand that publishing is a business that requires a profit – like the turtle, they will be slow in taking on new authors. They more than likely will work from their “A and B list” and new authors are rarely on these lists.
BARBARA: Have you given any thoughts to e-Book publishing? As the economy changes, will e-Books become the wave of the future?
MINNIE: No doubt e-Books are now. The future is now. I’m going to look into it.
BARBARA: What advice would you give an author hoping to market their books?
MINNIE: Get a website; a blog would also help. Work within social net sites. I would save enough money to hire a public relations person unless you’re good with marketing. You will need a book distributor; they are expensive but necessary. Get on online talk shows; there are hundreds out there! I don’t do too many book signings unless they are in my city. Rarely will a book signing cover the cost of table, transportation and hotel room. You could spend as much as $1,200 and sell maybe five books. That said, try to make at least one book fair a year so that people get to know the face connected with the book. Make your book information and website a permanent part of your e-mail, a tag line.
BARBARA: What would you consider to be the most challenging part of your writing?
MINNIE: Personal editing and rewriting after a professional edit. Understand that you cannot see your errors, but you can try to clean up the MS before sending it to a professional editor. I use two editors: developmental and proofreader. It would work well if you could find an editor who will copy edit and proofread. Your next challenge is marketing – it’s your job regardless as to how your book is published. Publishers WILL NOT market your book for you. Yeah, they’ll put you on their list of authors but beyond that, it’s your job to push your novel.
BARBARA: Do you have any signings or radio interviews coming up?Â When?
MINNIE: A friend has asked me to have a book signing of Mr. Bradley at her boutique this September. Her boutique is seven blocks from my apartment. Ha! I also plan to have two online radio interviews when my new books drop in 2010.
BARBARA: Where may people get copies of your books?
MINNIE: As of this year, The Seduction of Mr. Bradley is no longer available on www.amazon.com, and Catharsis is not carried on B&N any longer. I have copies of both books in my apartment. Contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.millerscribs.com. I accept PayPal payments or money orders.
Tonight, I will be chatting with Author Denyse Bridger, whose tales and characters have enchanted many readers. A prolifice writer, she has penned close to 400+ short stories and novellas. Her dark fantasy works have earned her Eppie finalist in 2006; finalist for 2008 Prix Aurora Award, Book Lovers Cover Best Book Award (2009) and others. So let’s hear what Denyse has to say about her creative genus and methods to her success.
BARBARA: I understand you’ve partnered with Branscombe Richmond to write motorcycle adventures (modern-day Westerns). How is that going, and how does it feel writing in a different genre?
DENYSE: This isn’t really a different genre for me, I’ve been in love with traditional Westerns for most of my life, so it’s relatively smooth to take the adventure and mindset, and project it forward to the 21st century. As Branscombe said when he proposed this, just replace horses with motorcycles and go from there. It’s working beautifully!
BARBARA: I see you’re working on a tale set in Italy. I’ve been there myself and find it a perfect atmosphere for romance. Have you gone there for your research/ How do you research other settings?
DENYSE: I have not been to Italy, but again we’re talking about something that has been an on-going love affair for me virtually my entire life. There is something so perfect about this country, the culture, and the amazing spirit of the people of Italia. They embody romance on all levels, with their passion for art, and love, and ‘la dolce vita! I hope one day to visit this dream place, so hopefully one day I can sit on a balcony in Sorrento, look out at the Bay of Naples, and write the magic. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that. For the moment, I use pictures, read many books, rent DVDs, and drive my Italian friends crazy with questions that they graciously answer for me.
BARBARA: What do you see in the future for e-books versus paperbacks?
DENYSE: I think the e-market is slowly expanding and becoming more legitimate in the world of books, but there will always be a special kind of attachment to books that you can hold in your hands and touch. For me, I’ve been reading my whole life, and there is nothing quite like the feel of paper and texture in your hands as you settle in to escape to a different world. My first major release was absolute magic to me, to touch it and see it stacked on the table at the launch, walk into stores and see it on the shelf. It’s a feeling that can’t be captured with eBooks, honestly.
It is a general consensus that eBooks are the future of our industry, and it makes sense. Environmentally it’s logical, and from the traveler’s standpoint, it’s amazing. You can take your eReader and carry a hundred books in your hand, and you don’t have to worry about the weight limit from the airline!!
BARBARA: I’ve heard that “horror” has become a taboo label, and people are now calling it dark fantasy or supernatural thriller. What are your feelings on that?
DENYSE: Horror conjures up such negative images, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the label has become somewhat taboo. Not all dark fantasy is about blood and gore, and that tends to be what people think of when they see the word horror, something that will terrify and sicken in some ways. There’s a brutality to the genre’s subconscious in many people’s minds, and that may be why many authors want a different classification. I think if you are writing supernatural beings, etc., that there is in most cases a redeeming humanity to those characters, and for that reason alone many authors don’t want it called horror. Because it’s not meant to inspire fear but emotional empathy. Horror brings to mind the cinematic kind of mindless violence that makes many stomachs turn, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Chainsaw, things of that nature. I’d rather be thought of as a dark fantasy author than a horror writer, and perhaps many others feel the same way.
BARBARA: What would you recommend for an aspiring author to hone their writing?
DENYSE: Write. Ultimately, that’s the best training there is. Persevere, and keep learning with each piece you write. Don’t listen to your friends and family, listen to what other authors have to say, and what editors have to say. Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect book, just the best book you can produce at the time that you write it. Once it’s done, leave it, take what you’ve learned from it, and make the next one better for what you’ve taken from the experience. If you constantly revisit old books and tweak and work them, you’ll never discover the new adventures that are waiting to be told. None of us are so good that we can’t benefit from honest and constructive opinion. You have to learn to take what works for you, and benefits you, and leave the rest behind. Bad reviews are a way of life, because there is no such thing as a book that is universally brilliant to every person who reads it. Accept that early and you’ll be a much happier author!
BARBARA: What is the once piece of advice you would give to authors trying to market their books?
DENYSE: Take your time and find the right publisher for your book. There is always a niche for what you create, and sometimes a smaller specialized publisher is a better fit than a big publisher, especially early in the writer’s career. So, take advantage of the internet resources and libraries, see where you think your book would find the best editorial acceptance, and fit with the catalog and reputation of the press. It wouldn’t make sense to submit a fantasy tale to a romance publisher, or a thriller to a children’s press, so make sure you’ve chosen well and appropriately.
Once you’ve found the right publisher, you have to then be prepared to be your own biggest cheerleader. The promotion and saleability of your book is in your hands, really. It’s a major job and requires dedication and a lot of time and work, so you have to be prepared to put in a lot more hours than you may realize. It’s a competitive market, and authors abound, so you will be one of many people vying for a reader’s hard-earned dollars and interest/time. Make it worth their time, and they will be loyal and supportive of all you do. Give them a shoddy product and it doesn’t matter if your second effort is worthy of a Pulitzer, you’ve already lost the audience. Treat your readers with respect, and they will never desert you.
BARBARA: I found your “coming soon” attractions intriguing. In particular The House of Secrets. When will this book become available?
DENYSE: With a little luck this book will be available next Spring. There is one more story to finish from the group of contributing authors, then I have to write my part of the tale. Ideally, it will all flow into one smooth, connected story. The Italian title is ‘La Casa di Segreti. And the idea is one that has been in my mind for a couple of years. When I made the decision to propose it to a group of authors, and turn it into an anthology of different voices, they were amazing, and very detailed in their research and dedicated to making the whole thing dovetail nicely. I’m very proud of what they’ve done, and I think readers are going to enjoy a really wonderful book!
BARBARA: Here in the USA, the economy has had a big impact on the way publishing is done. People seem to favor e-books because they are cheaper. Are you noticing this in Canada also?
DENYSE: I really don’t know if there’s been as much impact on the Canadian market, because the stats here show that people are buying more print books than ever, so whether that also means more eBooks, I really couldn’t say with any reasonable certainty.
BARBARA: You’ve been very prolific with your tales. How many hours a day do you spend at the keyboard, and where do you get your energy to keep going?
DENYSE: I tend to spend approx. 12-14 hours a day at work, interrupted by breaks of course. And real-life, which tends some days to make the days turn into 16 hours!! Seriously, I do spend a lot of time dedicated to either writing, or doing all the things that have become part of the process and are now routine. The promotional posts, blogs, guests, coordinating it all takes time and energy. If you maintain a MySpace, or FaceBook page, those things also eat into the time. It’s all become part of the day to day routine, though, and at the end of it, if I get a few hours of actually writing time in, and see some progress made on a story, then I consider the day a success!
BARBARA: Which book won the Best Book Award, your latest?
DENYSE: Yes, the latest release, Whom Gods Have Favored. It won Best Book Cover in the month of May, and the cover is rather stunning and eye-catching. It was also nominated for The Covey Award in June, so that cover alone is getting lots of attention! I’ve been fortunate, really. This isn’t the first time a book of mine has been in the running for an award. My fantasy novel was a finalist on the ballot for the very prestigious Aurora Award here in Canada. Another erotic contemporary was a finalist for an Eppie; I have won Fan Quality Awards for my early fan fiction, and an international poetry award. My first professional contract was won in a competition, and I haven’t looked back since. Just as my first original fantasy tale was voted Best in Issue in the Reader’s Choice poll for the magazine it was featured in. I’ve been very lucky to have my work recognized and appreciated in this way. Just as I’ve been extremely blessed by the excellent reviews for virtually everything I’ve written.
One of the thing I was most proud of was being asked to be the feature in Sable Grey Magazine, which debuted in February. It was an honor to be part of something so widely read by so many readers. Sable is a wonderful and talented lady, and her friendship is an added bonus to a great professional introduction.
Thanks very much, Barbara, for having me as your guest. I’ll look forward to chatting with your readers, and answering any questions they may have. I hope they’ll drop by my website too. There are lots of fun things on the Freebies page and the Extras! Plus, I co-own a magazine of my own, designed for Readers of Romance. That’s on the links page, Sensual Treats Magazine. All in all, I keep pretty busy!!
Marge Simon has mastered many talents – poetry, art, editing, short stories, and…cooking. She edits the journal Star*Line. Her collaboration on Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet with Charlee Jacob won a Bram Stoker Award in 2008. She has received the Rhysling Award for her poetry, and the James award for her illustrations. When she’s not writing or painting, she enjoys catering to the monsters we know and love and will be happy to share her recipe for Zombie’s Delight. So tonight, I will chat with Marge about her writing and other talents.
BARBARA: That meal you’ve got going is a zombie’s delight. So yes, you’ve got me curious about the recipe.
MARGE: All right, Barbara, Zombie’s Delight is a secret family recipe which I’ve been given permission to reveal only once:
Purchase hand fresh from your local Hand Stand. Make sure it is tender by pinching the skin. A male hand, bone in, is best; some female hands, if adequate, will suffice.
Prep hand with garlic salt. Boil five minutes on medium heat. Drain juice, put aside.
Place in large kettle. Combine 2 cups chopped celery, 1/2 cup diced liverwurst, 6 used bandages (preferably gauze), 1/3 cup toenail clippings, 1 egg, slightly beaten, 5 cups watery plasma, 2 tbsp. Saki, 1 cup wallpaper paste. Pour over hand. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. You’ll know when it has the right consistency. Remove from heat. Chill one hour. Pour or scrape into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 hours, or until the aroma becomes overwhelming.
Serve warm with the au jus you set aside and probably forgot about.
BARBARA: Moving onto writing – I noticed you used your own illustrations for Vectors as you did with Artist of Antithesis. Many publishers prefer to assign their own cover art to their books. How did you approach the publisher about using your own?
MARGE: In both cases you mention, the editor/publisher knew I was/am an artist. In fact, I’ve never had a problem with providing cover art for my collections. As fate may bring luck, I’ve also illustrated five Bram Stoker winners. But I don’t for a minute think that it was on the strength of my art that the publication won.
BARBARA: How did collaborating work out for you and Charlee Jacob during your work on Vectors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration?
MARGE: Here’s how it happened. Charlee had written a series of poems about an apocalyptic virus that went global, infecting every mortal on this planet. In May of 2007, she invited me to join her as a kindred voice in this collection, as I have written numerous poems along the same lines.
Problems with collaborations? Charlee and I had no problems between us. If you want me to make this more exciting, Charlee and I had crazed fits and vowed to never to speak to each other again. I refused to change a single word, and so did she. But that isn’t so.
BARBARA: From what I’ve seen in Night to Dawn, you wear several hats: illustrator, poet, and fiction writer. Which one do you like best?
MARGE: I like them all. I also wear an editor’s hat (for Star*Line, digest for the SF Poetry Association). Then there is my TV talk show: DEADLY SURVIVORS and my Food Channel show: DYING TO EAT.
Oh, as for the other hats–I love multitasking. I’m happiest having something going in all departments.
BARBARA: I notice that you’ve collaborated with other artists for the Night to Dawn illustrations. How does collaborating work for illustrations, especially if you and the other artist live miles apart?
MARGE: Cathy Buburuz (Saskatchewan, Canada) and I “met” thanks to ETOU magazine, about 1989. I was so intrigued by a cover she did, I had to get acquainted. We started collaborating long distance snail mail in the 90’s. I thought her excellent designs would work well with my (then) stylized pen/ink line and vice versa. She agreed, and for about a decade, we continued to work on art–mostly dark fantasy. She would send me about five or more unfinished compositions or vice versa. Cathy marketed our collaborations both in the USA and abroad. It was a wonderful experience, which continues with our work that she still has available.
Today, you don’t need to wait weeks to do collaborations, thanks to the Internet. I can’t think of anyone else that I’ve collaborated with in a long time, and I don’t do digital art, though I now use Photoshop for enhancing my paintings/illustrations.
BARBARA: What has been the most challenging part of the writing/illustration process?
MARGE: Leaping off very small buildings (outhouses) to get attention on U-Tube. Singing shocking songs in London Square. Pointing at my own paintings/book display, saying, “OMG!!”
Seriously, “challenging” is a personal word for me. I challenge myself. I know what I think I can do. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. Other times, I see I’ve gone over the top and need to scrap it.
Writing a novel would be a real challenge for me. But I’ve always tended to write flash fiction–that’s a fun challenge. A book would be too much like work, and besides, I’ve a short attention span. (That is my excuse, anyway!)
BARBARA: When did you first get into writing? Where did you get your first credit?
MARGE: If you mean professionally, that’s hard to say. I’d guess somewhere in the mid-80’s. Which makes me old enough to be a witch. My first big (to me) credit was Bradley Strahan’s Visions, Black Buzzard Press. It was an all SF theme, and I’d never written a SF poem until that time –never even heard of one. Wrote one anyway. He took it. After that, I got into Amazing Stories with poetry. Around the same time, I started doing pen/ink stylized art –mostly dark which was well-accepted. My style and media are constantly evolving; I prefer watercolor with oil or watercolor pencils nowadays.
BARBARA: Which contemporary authors would you recommend to readers who love dark fantasy?
MARGE: Peter Beagle, Harlan Ellison, Charles Beaumont, Ted Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Boston, Gene O’Neill, Stephen King, Elizabeth Massie, Cormac McCarthy, to name a few writers of dark sf and fantasy. I know this may be contradictory, considering my recipe and lifestyle, but horror per se doesn’t appeal to me.
BARBARA: What do you believe the future holds for dark fantasy and supernatural thrillers? Will ebooks replace paperbacks, do you think?
MARGE: Don’t know. But as for what I hope–NO. A book is to be held and cradled, if you will. A book can be laid down on a surface where you know what it is by the cover and then you pick it up and start reading it again. You can have a personal relationship while reading it. A book has its own smell. It gives you secrets.
BARBARA: What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators?