Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh Yeah...We're There

Oh boy! My brain (and eye balls) are ready to explode. It's the major editing saga of March, which will drone on into April. I'm just coming off of first round edits with my publishing editor on Duty and Devotion. Now I'm wading through the sluggish zone of "Editing Land" for Revelations of Tomorrow. It has to be done, and yeah, it's bad timing...but those are the breaks when you have deadlines to meet.

I'd wanted to get the first draft of Ending Eternity done so I could revise and edit all the Telomere Trilogy books together before having to submit the first to my publisher. However, my "Muse" decided to strike on me with the last 8K of Ending Eternity first draft. The reason? A conflict on the direction of the story. I feel someone needs to die, she feels I chose the wrong character to kill off, yet won't tell give me an alternative option.

I have mixed feelings about Muses. I know in reality they don't exist...not in the harps playing mirror looking human representation kind of way. I call my creative thought process my Muse. It's the little part of my brain that is always on imagination overload.

So, what do I do when my "Muse" and I are at odds? Well, it really means that two parts of my thought processes are at opposite ends of the spectrum. This usually means I'm not seeing the whole picture of the vision for my story. One or the other needs to share their little secrets so I can re-imagine what needs to be done.

With all the editing deadlines mentioned above, I know I have time to wait out this OK Corral moment and let it unwind itself in its own pace. It'll come to me...of course, at the most inconvenient time. But hey, don't look a gift muse in the mouth. Right?

What are you all working on right now? Mostly editing or mostly writing or some mix of both? (Of course, you could also be world building or outlining...don't mean to leave those two out.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Author Interview: Stephanie Burkhart

Hey all! Today I have the wonderful author Stephanie Burkhart back. She's here to talk about her latest story release, A Polish Heart, which is a contributed story in the Spring Easter Anthology by Victory Tales Press.

And with a really snazzy drum roll. Hey, you can't hear it...so I can call it snazzy, even though in actuality it may sound more like a seizure of finger tapping on my table...you'll never know...any-who, here is Steph!

Amber, thanks so much for having me here today. Let me just share a little about me: I was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. After graduating from Central High, I joined the US Army. I spent 11 years in the military, 7 in Germany. I left the Army in 1997 and settled in California, but my favorite football team is still the New England Patriots. I work for LAPD as a 911 dispatcher. I've been married for 19 years. I have two boys, Andrew, 8, and Joseph, 4. Little Odd fact: I went to High School with Adam Sandler. He was the class of 84. I was the class of 86.

Thanks for popping in. What is "A Polish Heart" about?
A Polish Heart' is a short story in the Victory Tales Press Spring/Easter Anthology. It is a "sweet" family/inspirational. Darrin Riverton is an architect that is hired by a Polish construction company to help work on the National Stadium. (Warsaw's Soccer Stadium") There he meets Sophia Buraczynski, his interpreter. As they work together, Darrin realizes he's attracted to Sophia. Will her faith give him his heart back?

Why did you choose Poland for the setting of the story?
I enjoy writing international contemporaries, so I knew I wanted an international setting. Since I'm part Polish, I knew from my own experience that Easter is an important holiday, that draws the family together so I tapped into my heritage and my knowledge of Polish customs to set the story in Warsaw.

Did you do a lot of research?
I did online research. I wanted the story set in Warsaw and did a Wikipedia search. From there I discovered the National Stadium and that's how I decided Darrin had to be an architect. I also researched the Easter basket, Polish customs, and a little about the language.

Have you been to Poland?
Once in 1997. I went to a Polish border town and visited a pottery factory there. It was like stepping back in time to the 1950's. The buildings were older, coal was used more frequently, and I saw a man delivering coal using a horse and buggy. Gas was delivered in above ground pipes.

Do you have an ebook reader?
I have a Kindle. I love the text to speech feature because then I can listen to books going to work.

Tell us a little about your day job.
I work as a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. It's a very stressful job. I hear a lot of stuff on the phones from a shooting in progress to a loud party. It's very rewarding work knowing I've been able to help people, but it also has an "unsung" quality to it because dispatchers usually don't get recognized for a job well done.

What's the last movie you saw?
The King's Speech! I absolutely loved it. It's a very inspirational story. George VI was a very courageous man.

Can you share an excerpt with us?
Steph. Sure. After this quick goodie time...Leave a comment and I'll pick one lucky poster to win an autographed print copy of the anthology. I'll be back tomorrow to announce the winner.

Sofia smiled and spoke to Dracek. Their conversation seemed to last forever and Darrin was impatient to talk to her. Finally, she gestured toward the door and they walked out.

He kept quiet, not quite sure what he should say to her. He had known her for less than twenty-four hours, but he wanted to discover everything about her.
As soon as they were in her little car, Darrin looked directly at her.

"Have dinner with me tonight."

It was bold, yes, but this might be his only chance to get to know her.

She raised an eyebrow. Perhaps that didn't sound right. It sounded too demanding – something his father would say – and he was not his father.

"I'm sorry. Will you have dinner with me tonight?" His voice was soft and gentle.

Sofia paused. "I'm quite tempted, but what about your work?"

"I'll stay up half the night slaving over these. I promise."

She pursed her lips, her expression softening. "We should maintain a professional relationship."

He held up two fingers in the boy scout's salute. "I promise to be on my best behavior."

"What time?"

"What time is best for you?"

"Six. Do you want me to pick you up?"


A sly smile graced her lips. "I bet you want me to pick the restaurant, too?"

"I promise to pay."


Afraid she might decline, Darrin reached out and placed his hand over hers. Her warmth traveled up his arm and he liked it. "Show me Warsaw through your eyes."

A sunny cheerfulness shined in her face. "Meet me in the hotel lobby at six."
Darrin's heart tripped with sweet anticipation. Sofia was sincere, honest, and had a smile that heated his blood. He couldn't wait for dinner to see her again.

"A Polish Heart" is a sweet inspirational/family romance in the Victory Tales Press Spring/Easter Anthology.

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC6_397PerU

When Darrin falls for his beautiful Polish interpreter, will Sophia's faith give him his heart back?

Buy Links
Print Book: Create Space: https://www.createspace.com/3579108
Ebook: Lulu: (PDF) http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/a-springeaster-collection-sweet/15166166
Smashwords: (multiple formats) http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/48682

The Anthology is also avail on Amazon as a Print & Ebook for Kindle.

Find me on the Web at:
BLOG: http://sgcardin.blogspot.com/
WEBSITE: http://www.stephanieburkhart.com/
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357922219
GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4031660.Stephanie_Burkhart

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

Lovin' this Six Sentence Sunday gig. It's super fun to read all the other snippets from participating authors. So, make sure you stop by the main site and check them out.

This week I thought I'd share a little from my currently halted SF-Mystery manuscript, Lilly's Journey. I started this one around the same time as Ending Eternity, to help break up the monotonous state of the series. It's also where I found out a trilogy will be about as long as I'll hang with the same characters. Though, I think I could do a series that swirls around a world, but just not a fixed set of characters.

So, here we go:

It should be raining, Lilly felt as she glanced up at the sky. The world should be raining to match her mood. Of course, as with everything else, the world defied her. Sun shone down from clear blue-green skies and basked them all with warmth that couldn’t reach past her skin to heat her aching heart.

Able Abe rested his big iron-like hand on her shoulder in a gentle manner. “It’s time, Lilly Girl," he mumbled.

I'll be finishing this up after I complete my current WIP and am looking forward to delving back into it.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Master or Mentor

What is it about us humans where we boil down the alien existence, purpose, or motivation to two things, Master or Mentor? For some reason these guys travel all these gazillions of miles to either control and hold power over us or guide us into a higher plane.

Don't get me wrong, when the subject of aliens come up my little conspiratorial mind always freaks out because I think they'll be coming in with their ray guns blazing in one hand and a "Human Pickling Jar" in the other. I have to scold myself and then vent about the box we have put ourselves in.

Because by assuming they will be either the Master or the Mentor, we are assuming they are in some way superior. Why do we so often and readily put ourselves in the inferior, victim role? Is there a lack of confidence in ourselves, our society, and our human race which is so overwhelming? Is the reaction of distrust so deeply seeded in our neuro make up?

...Well, what if these aliens are just average Joes and Janes? They could be another race just trying to understand and grow, both individually and as a civilization. Who knows, we could end up being the ones who are more advanced, break out of the Earth's hold, and venture out to explore...

Ah, there is a thought. Is our natural inclination of aliens coming in as Master or Mentor really an imposing of our very nature? Is it because if we were the firsts out of the gate we would take the superior role with anything or race we found out there?

It has some validity through history. Wars, distrust, and the need to "win" (whatever that constitutes) is prevalent in us. Of course, that doesn't mean we as a people are confident. I often find that those with the drive to always win, react in war, and be suspicious are those with the most self doubt. They assume the others are thinking they're inferior and have to prove themselves as superior.

I don't know the answer, and in actuality have only scratched the surface of the discussion here. What are your thoughts on this?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

Okaley dokaley...it's Six Sentence Sunday time. Let's see. Let's see...Oh! I know!

I'll pull something from my current WIP, Book 3 of the Telomere Trilogy, Ending Eternity. This'll be out next year. The first in the series will be out this October though, which is exiting. 'Kay, here we go...

"I'm not paying you all to be frightened, Rafferty."

He leaned forward, waiting for Reith to break eye contact. "It ain't fright that keeps people away from the demon planet…it's common sense." He sneered. "Ain't no one going to go near Asatru. I was lucky enough to get a couple vessels once they heard Bonney's made 'em allies."
I know, I know. You're wondering why our favorite gruff old cowboy's image is used for a space story...I can't help it. My Muse kept planting his face and voice in my mind whenever a scene involving Rafferty came up. And, really, what will our civilization come to if gruff old men like this died out?
Make sure to check out the other authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday. Some pretty cool quick reads.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reason and Motive

Reason and Motive. Both are important to a successful story, if not the most important things. You may think they are the same as they are often used interchangeably, but they're not. Reason, by definition, is a justification or explanation for a belief or action of a person. Motive is the driving goal/objective that causes a person to act in a certain way and/or do a certain thing. EXAMPLE:

The King of Mars declares war on Venus to set fear [MOTIVE-"GOAL"] into the hearts of the Venusians because the residents of Venus tease them too much [REASON-"BELIEF"] .
See? The reason gives justification to the action which gives purpose to the motive. People can have all kinds of reasons for believe things and never develop a motive to do something about it. But, most of the time, people working for something have a reason why they're motivated towards it.

"So, where am I going with this?" you're probably asking.

Well, I took this "ah-ha" moment and reviewed my antagonists to see if I clearly developed accurate reasons and motives for their involvement in the story. I found a couple antagonists with motives that don't tie to any clearly defined reason.

ACK! How do I fix this in a way that will both strengthen my story, yet also strengthen my storytelling ability for future works? Well, I had to ask myself a couple questions, which boiled down to this…What are the key roots of reason and motive for an antagonist? Or in another way, what things does reason and motive stem off from?

I came up with two main things. Temptation and Delusion.

I created this little visual for myself. Now, remember, it's not perfect and I am no expert. Don't assume I'm correct in this in any way…'cause you all know what assuming can lead to. (No? Just add a couple dashes and a few connecting words…it can make an ASS-of-U-and-ME).

Yes, the smiley face is Evil Joe Smoe the pre-evil mastermind, because face it, no one is born evil. He is an average human and somewhere along the line he experiences something(s) that trigger(s) his brain to turn against someone/a group. It's delusion in the sense that it becomes him against "him/her/them". For either minutes or years he goes along believing this and evolving it further into his favor.

Then the temptation arrives, either through an internal making of his own or an external opportunity to "prove himself right and the world wrong". The motive now becomes clear from tying his reason to his temptation…and of course the reward is the "enemy" (from a single person to the whole galaxy) either needs to suffer, be under his control, or be destroyed all together.

And, if you don't believe me that a regular guy can become a monster of his own making…just look at Charlie Sheen. Whether he was troubled from childhood or just developed from adult experiences, he went from "Well Meaning Bad Boy" to a "Him against The Man" mentality.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Sadistic Really

Yes, it is. I don't know what it is about writers (or maybe it's just me) but we are a sadistic and weird bunch.

...Let me explain before any odd ball notions get planted here. Too late you say? Oh, well...(heehee)

I sat down at lunch break and checked my personal mail.

What did I find?

The first round edits from my editor. I read through the email that contained overall pros and cons of the story and my writing. Then I peeked into the document and found all the red marks of the change tracker throughout the file.

What did I do?

I stood and did a little gleeful booty dance. That's what I did.

Now, why would I dance at the mark ups of my work? My precious piece of art that took a little sliver of my soul? There's a couple reasons. The first is my day job. It's a business setting where I work with management to come up with ideas that will keep the organization solvent. Then I build proposal and try to "sell" my executive team on them.

By its very nature this comes with a lot of technical review, political mumbo jumbo, and praise or criticism. They'll either love it or hate it. Rarely does the project fall into the middle "okay" ground. I've had to learn to accept this, and respond in a professional and non personal level. Sometimes that's standing my ground, sometimes it's compromising, and sometimes it's knowing when to let it go.

Writing is more personal. Yes, yes. I know you're thinking that. And you're right. Several years ago, I probably would've cried if this came back to me from an editor or critique partner. Okay...I did cry the first time this happened to me. It is personal. I poured out my creativity and tapped into emotions to make this story how I envisioned it.

But at the end of the day, I want this book in the hands of a reader, preferably lots of readers. To do that, like in my day job, means a couple specific things:
  1. Checking my ego at the door
  2. Putting my work into the hands and review of others
  3. Accepting those professionals have my work in their best interest
  4. Understanding the revisions of my work will result in a better portrayal of my vision

So far, these key points have not failed me. The end result of editing rounds has always been a better story.

Let's face it, I've read through Duty and Devotion hundreds of times. My eye is not catching another mistake or weird sentence. It's just not. The fresh eyes of my editor spotted things that, if published as is, would've been embarrassing or confusing (which leads back to embarrassing).

So, yes, I did shake a little excited booty and am ready to find out all the errors of my ways with Duty and Devotion. It's going to be exciting and challenging...and ultimately rewarding.

How do you all take criticism of your work? Are there specific points you follow to keep the experience positive?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

I thought with this Six Sentence Sunday I'd revisit my upcoming release, Duty and Devotion, that'll be out in June. Publisher edits started and a cover should be coming in the next month or two. Weeeee! So remember this isn't the final version, these sentences my be different in the final product.

Okay, here we go.

None of it sent her emotions into giddy delight and wonder as it had always done before. Tears streaked her face, and fear chilled her spine. Grief and guilt weighed on her heart.

Journey was dead.

Danny was missing.

I’m alone...

Make sure to check out the other participating Six Sentence Sunday writers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Feelin’ the Squeeze…And it Ain’t Resulting in Juice

A writer friend just posted an entry about her backlog of stories and understanding her feeling of stress last week. Her post was well thought out and got me thinking. Yes, that is the smoke you are seeing out here in Northern California. Any-who. I started thinking about my overall workload right now and how I’ve organized my life.

As I think most of you know, in my “day life” (which bleeds into evenings and weekends sometimes….okay, often) I’m a project manager. So, for the most part, I have organization, time schedules, productivity ratios, and all sorts of tips and tricks in my toolbox of life that keep me well balanced. (And, my brain is just kind of wired this way - It’s a sickness really.)

But lately, I’ve been feeling the squeeze.

I won’t go too much into here - in the public eye of the World Wide Web - but a lot is happening on the personal front which has impacted my ability to manage the workload. In turn, a lot of the peripheral activities and tasks are getting dropped. It sucks really, but it is the way it is for now. For the most part, everyone is very understanding and I have a super duper supportive circle which makes the slips easier to clean up and repair.

And that’s the core of it really, don’t you think?

As writers, sometimes we can become so zoned into the fiction inside our heads, we forget the real life stuff happening around us. And a lot of times writers don’t take the time to build on the core of their circle that is family, friends, and community. So, when the hard times hit, a lot of writers can end up in a very difficult spot…all alone.

My question for today is…Are you spending enough time in the real world? Are you making time for you or is it all going to the characters of your imagination?

If not, will the characters be there to help you when you need a helping hand?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

This weeks Six Sentence Sunday is brought to you by the letter "S" and my long ago published short story, Butterfly Cocoon. Butterfly Cocoon is now a Free Read. Here's a little summary of the story: To Marie Hadner it's a regular shift in the boondock space colony of Pluto C. That's until people started to disappear and a comet decided to defy all logic.

Okay, here they are:

Well, to be fair, stuff had happened -- just not the kind of stuff she thought was important. Hank and Todd's community garden feud, a long standing part of the colony's history, had yet again boiled over. This time over how many rows each vegetable should receive. The disagreement resulted in a sword fight of sorts, hoe versus shovel, with two concussions, a cut ear, and severely bashed up knees.

Oh, her old patrol unit was surely laughing at her now, Marie thought miserably. Of course, it was her own fault.
To find out more about Marie's coming mysterious adventure, click on the Free Reads link. The cover is my first attempt at my doing my own cover. I'm always telling myself to update it now that I have a little more practice with them...but, well, obviously I haven't done it yet.

Also, don't forget to check out the other Six Sentence Sunday participants for some samples of great reads.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Theresa Stillwagon on Rejections

I met Theresa through my current publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing. She's on today to talk about something all us writers are familiar with...rejections. The big "OUCH" moment when you click on the email and get the dreaded no on a piece you put part of your soul into.

I checked my e-mails and found another one.

Another rejection.

Of course it’s not my first, yet this one really hurt. It was a rejection for one of the books I’d previously contracted for with an electronic publisher. That particular publisher closed up shop for new releases and I regained the rights to the book. I guess I let myself believe the story was so wonderful no one could possibly pass it up. I was wrong. I actually cried after reading the e-mail. I literally cried. In fact as soon as I saw the editor’s name, I sensed I didn’t want to read it. I just knew it wasn’t going to be good news.

I got tired of it all. I’d been writing for over twenty years and I still had nothing to show for it. I felt like just giving up. Never before had I allowed another person’s words so much control over my emotions. Why bother writing anymore at all? Why put myself through the millions of downs for one tiny up? Why not just say ‘I tried’ and let it all go? Why waste the next twenty years of my life trying to fulfill a dream I should've let go of a long time ago?

Then I'd realized something important–I love writing. I could no more stop writing than stop breathing. It’s in my blood, in my heart and soul. I need to write.

And I’d realized something else–I’m not a bad writer because yet another person didn’t like my story. I’m not a bad writer because I’ve gotten yet another rejection. I’m not a bad writer. Even I realize now this particular book is not one of my best. I lost the last half of the book when my hard drive died on me so I had to rewrite it. While rewriting it, I decided to change a bunch of things around to make it shorter. My writing is so much better now because of all the extra work I did on this book.

And that rejection wasn’t all bad either. The editor had left me with some nice comments and articles on how I can fix the problems she found in the manuscript. The majority of which, thanks to a bunch of wonderful ladies who'd critique my work, I was already aware of.

No, I didn’t plan on giving up.

And I didn't.

That happened five years ago, and now I write for three different publishers. I have three books out and a fourth coming out in April. This book happens to be book one in a series of five.

So no matter what happens, never give up on your dreams. It may take a while to achieve them, but you never will if you give up trying.

About the Author:
Theresa Stillwagon has been writing most of her life. Since one of her teachers praised a poem she wrote for a class assignment, she's been putting words together in the hopes of seeing them in print. Not caring if anyone other than herself ever read them. Her dreams came to reality in 2008 when she signed her first writing contract. She's now just signed her fourth one and isn't looking back.

A former resident of the state of Ohio, Theresa now lives in her RV in the sunny city of Savannah, Georgia with her husband of twenty-seven years, Mike, and her two cats, Fred and Barney. She's currently seeking for a job while still hard at work on her next romance

Find out more about her journey at

What about your journey? Have you ever wanted to give up?