Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Illustrator: Duncan Long

What made you choose to work with literature and illustrations? What was your biggest inspiration?

My family encouraged me to read and draw – in fact my mother was reading to me from the time I have some of my earliest memories (and likely before). So it just was sort of a natural thing to step from reading and enjoying book illustrations to creating my own. In fact by the time I was in 1st grade I was busy creating little illustrated books, drawn and printed on little blank books my mom created by folding up typing paper and then stitching the tiny pages together after cutting apart the edges.

You have worked in so many different fields within the literary world. Which of the fields that you have been a part of did you find the most joy in?

Well, writing novels is nice and I enjoy that very much but don’t really have the time to pursue it with the publishing market as tight as it is these days. And I love illustration work even more, and it pays the bills, so that seems like the best “fit” for my time these days. My dislike is promoting myself and books. I’d rather be creating material than trying to sell it to folks. But that’s become an important part of the game, so it has to be done.

The publishing world has changed vastly over the last 30 years, you began writing and working in the literary world in 1980 but have managed to always stay a part of the industry when others were not able to. What was the hardest change to adapt to?

My start in the industry was pretty lame. I wrote how-to booklets and marketed them through the magazine ads. But I soon discovered niche markets that were looking for things to publish. And that proved the key over the years, especially with my writing: Finding markets that were looking for articles or books and avoiding those markets that were glutted with authors who were begging for work.
The other “trick” in my bag of tricks proved to be the ability to illustrate my non-fiction work. That made it possible to write books and articles that were unique because I could create the illustrations needed for them where other writers could not. 

I think another edge was simple pigheaded persistence. Sometimes the try, try again wins out over sheer talent, and that’s especially true in the publishing industry. It isn’t rare to see writers that have best sellers after having the same title rejected by many, many publishers. The only trait these writers had was persistence. They didn’t take “no” for an answer and instead just kept submitting the work to whoever would take a look at it. 

Right now the biggest upheaval is the transition from print to the Net and ebooks. I’m seen several editors take early retirement to avoid the confusion or – as some see it – impending disaster.

What was your most memorable experience in this field?

That’s a tough question. Probably the most memorable are those moments when the call or letter comes from an editor saying they want to publish your book. That never grows old, either. At least not for me.
Meeting some famous people with my ghost writing projects has been memorable. Getting into an argument early on with an art director over whether or not I could have created an illustration on a PC was memorable (ha); for some reason he had it in his mind that I must have used an Apple and was lying about the process I used. That was pretty surreal. 

Another was when a book editor asked me where I’d got the photos of a rare rifle. In fact they were computer illustrations I’d created. When I told him that, it floored him. And it opened my eyes to the fact that I was able to create photo-realistic pictures of things that weren’t really there. From there it was a logical jump to go from non-fiction illustrations to science fiction, fantasy, and other genre artwork. My illustrations are basically “snapshots” of the impossible. 

One other somewhat surreal experience was when the editor from the International Schools of Correspondence called to ask if I would write a couple of books for their gunsmithing course (at that time I was penning firearms books). When I answered the phone, he asked to speak to Duncan Long. “Speaking,” I answered. He said, “Wait a minute…” and then yelled to the office, “There really is a Duncan Long, and I have him on the phone.”

I asked what that was all about, and he said that I had written so many gun books that there had been an argument as to whether “Duncan Long” was a single person or a group of authors writing under one name. 

What is the Novel that inspired you most in your life?

I don’t think there was any one. Robert Heinlein’s books for young adults were pretty influential. As were Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars stories; some of the latter aren’t very polished, but he told some good tales and for a young reader, they inspired that feeling of awe and excitement that inspires a kid to want to be a writer. If I had to pick one book that was an eye opener as I learned the craft of writing, it would be Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. That is so beautifully written – each sentence is a gem. I think a writer could do worse than copy Bradbury’s style.

What is the Novel or story that was the most fun to read?

I could never narrow it down to one. There are two that I can remember making a big change in my life, and the time I was reading them made such an impression I can remember exactly where and when I was when I started them. One was Borough’s The Gods of Mars which I read when I was in fifth grade (in a tent in Colorado, in a sleeping bag, reading with a flashlight at night when my family was camping); the other was Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes the year after I got out of college. I was sitting on an old gravity fed floor furnace at my parents house; with the first paragraph I just felt a sense of amazement at how well crafted the words were, and how it took me to the time and place of that story. 

Which do you enjoy reading more: Hardcover, paperback or e-book?

With novels, ebooks on an ebook reader (not on a computer) prove to be a lot easier once you get used to the reader. The screen is easier for me to read than is a printed page, I can change the font size to suit my eyes, and I can hold it at a variety of orientations without having to worry about the book closing or such. With illustrated books, print wins out. But I think it is just a matter of time before ebooks overtake print as well. From a price standpoint, I suppose my Scottish nature prevents me from enjoying a hardback if a paperback is available – I can’t stand spending the extra money (ha).

Can you share one unique fact with us that we will never find in your bio?

For some reason dogs and cats seem to like me. It’s really weird, but often when I’m out on the street, visiting someone, or whatever, pets that normally have nothing to do with strangers will come up and want to be petted and paid attention to. I have suspected they mistake my fuzzy face for one of them rather than a human being.

If you would say anything to our readers what would you like to say to say?

Persistence. Learn your craft, tell a good story (whether in fiction or non-fiction). But above all, try, try again. I’ve seen amazing writers never get into print because they gave up trying. And I’ve seen less talented folks get into print because they kept at it. Learn your markets and then start submitting. And when you’ve exhausted all the presses, start over submitting to them, and if that still doesn’t get you into print, then go to self-publishing. It’s never been easier to put a book into print yourself, and that’s a route many writers are discovering will make money and get them noticed by fans and readers – and eventually by a big publisher (if they still desire one – pocketing the lion’s share of profits makes large presses less tempting by the day).
Until a writer starts trying to get into print, there’s no way it is going to happen by magic. An author has set out to get into print before that writer can get into print. That’s sounds self evident, yet many authors act clueless when it comes to this fact. Publishers and readers won’t discover you unless you get your writing out there for them to read. 

Thanks for some thought-provoking questions.
(Thank you for joining us!)

My books in print list:

My book illustration gallery:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest Author: Inara Scott

Have you ever gotten an idea for a book or part of one of your novels from something or somewhere unexpected?

Oh absolutely! Part of the inspiration for my latest adult novel came from looking at my daughter’s Barbie fairies – I would never have expected to find inspiration in a Barbie, that’s for sure. I often find inspiration when reading non-fiction, even things wholly unrelated to my subject. I was reading about duality in a C.S. Lewis book when I got the idea for Delcroix Academy. I realized that the traditional science fiction/fantasy book pits good guys versus bad guys, and it’s always really obvious which is which. I thought it would be interesting to write a book in which the two sides were blurred, and no one, including the heroine, was entirely sure which side she was on.

Did you always know you would write a novel? Why did you finally decide to write one and when?

I had dreams of writing a novel for as long as I can remember, but had never gotten close before I started high school, when my family got its first desktop computer. Handwriting a novel had never worked for me. I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with my brain, and I would get frustrated and give up quickly. Being able to type, edit, and see the words on the screen changed everything.

What are five things that are must haves when you are writing?

Honestly, because I have kids and had a day job for most of my writing career, I had to squeeze in my writing time whenever I could get it. I couldn’t afford to have “must haves.” But there are definitely things I like to have! Quiet (I don’t understand writing playlists – I stop paying attention to what I’m writing if a song comes on that I like!); my laptop (tried writing on my iPad but it wasn’t very successful); space (writing around people with constant interruptions drives me crazy) ; coffee (perhaps not necessary, but definitely helps). I guess that’s only four. ;-)

Is there one book that has had an impact on not only your writing, but on you personally?
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a beautiful memoir about writing, but also about living. Anne constantly reminds us not to judge ourselves, to let go of our fear, and to get the words on the page. Good reminders for anyone, writer or not.

What is the hardest emotion for you to convey?

Sadness. I get so deeply entrenched in my character’s lives that I have a very hard time torturing them and making them sad, the way a good author must. It’s my authorly Achilles heel.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you!
I have a Master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies (you didn’t even know you could get a Master’s degree in leisure, did you?). Before I went to law school, I moved around a lot, and worked as a guide for backcountry canoeing and kayaking trips, and taught kids to rock climb.

Which came first for you--the characters, the idea for the setting, or the plot?

The theme, really – the question of what is good and what is bad, and how in real life you don’t get to make easy choices labeled “right” and “wrong”. Next came the title , Taking Sides (which was later changed to Delcroix Academy: The Candidates), because I knew my book should be about a character being forced to take sides in this muddy, grey world. Then came the plot. Superpowers, romance – I wanted my character to have to pick sides, pick boys, etc. Then I started writing, and the voice of my character came to life, really without much forethought. I think she was there all along.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Hello everyone! My name is Jamie Magee and I am the author of the YA Insight Series. I think every writer has a story (that becomes shorter and shorter) of how or why they began writing the novel they are currently promoting. Are you ready for the short version of my story? Ok, here ya go ---> It was New Year’s Resolution. From that statement I’m sure the thought crossed your mind that I had always dreamed of writing a novel or perhaps I had ideas lingering for months on how to create one and the New Year’s resolution was just a goal I set to accomplish this , but that assumption could not be more wrong.

Let me explain. The New Year’s Resolution was not thought over for days and days in fact in came to me as I was watching the ball drop in New York from my couch. There is something about the last moments of waning year and promise of new one that allows you to let yourself see your life in a new light. In that moment I wasn’t thinking about how I needed to exercise more or change my diet or even how to be more organized. I was thinking about where I was in my life. You see I was at the end of a ‘five year plan’ everything on my list was done and part of me was sad that I didn’t make my goals more challenging and the other was celebrating, but the one question on my mind is where do I go from here?

My entire life I had been a contestant daydreamer –and believe it or not, I thought this was a ‘bad’ habit so I never really let on that I had this problem. The only way that you would really pick up on this was if you pulled me into one those ‘deep’ let’s talk about the unknown conversations. Like always, the night I was watching the ball drop a little daydream was dancing in the back of my mind. I can’t really explain why I picked this daydream to write about or why at the time I was thinking about these imaginary people. All I can do is tell you that I am grateful for taking a leap of faith and trusting myself to step out of a ‘five year plan’ and just go with the flow of life.

After giving myself this random goal (and not really thinking that I would attempt it) I decided that if I was going to do this that I would not hold back. That within the word document I was writing I would not worry what others might think – if my story was to sweet, to dark, to weird, ordinary , extraordinary – I was just going to write.

With that freedom in place, the things I loved to daydream about came to life. The first was soul- mates; love is fun to daydream about isn’t it? Even If you are already in love it’s fun to watch others find what you are experiencing. The second was the Zodiac. This science has always baffled and intrigued me, and writing this novel gave me reason to explore it deeper. Past lives was also weaved into this story – this idea came from that feeling of déjà vu that I have felt in the past – which some might argue could be dreams forecasting the future so, for fun I added dreams into my plot line as well.

Those are just of few of the elements that are weaved into this series that is seen through the eyes of Willow Haywood, an eighteen year old girl who can feel the emotions of every soul around her. A girl that shares vivid dreams with a soul from another dimension. An artist’s that captures the images that appear before her and beg her to ease their pain. A girl that is determined to put the lives of her family and friends before hers. By far Willow Haywood has been one of the most intriguing characters for me to write – then again I may be bias ….she was the first character I ever listened to.

So, is there a New Year’s Resolution that had changed your life? Are you one of those people who stick to a plan or do you let life lead you to your dreams?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Genre Wars

There are two dominating factions within YA Fiction at the moment.




Out of all the genres  (contemporary, sci-fi, romance, fantasy etc), Paranormal and Dystopian fiction are taking lead in the bestseller lists in Young Adult.  First it was Twilight and then it was The Hunger Games and now we YA fans just can’t get enough of both. Some favour one genre over the other. Not me. I’d quite happily snack on either. However, over the last year, with the exception of one amazing paranormal novel – Wildefire by Karsten Knight – I have given my highest review ratings to dystopian books. Does this mean I enjoy dystopian more or just that I feel the quality of the dystopian books I’ve read this year have been better than the paranormal fair on offer? I think I love both genres equally so... I guess that answers that question. That's not to say I haven't read some pretty exciting paranormal books this year. I have. It's just that I've read some really explosive dystopians.
Unlike me, there are those readers who do prefer one of these genres over the other.
What makes dystopian and paranormal books so popular?
And what makes a reader prefer one over the other?

OK so there are three basic plots in fiction. An Idea story. A Character story. And an Event story.
Perhaps what draws a reader to dystopian and paranormal is the fact that they both utilize the same plot. Dystopian and paranormal books are unarguably EVENT stories. So what is an event story? An event story follows a particular pattern. Somehow something happens to put the world out of order - an evil warlord, a mysterious epic disease, rebel uprising, a paranormal war that threatens the mortal world etc - and the story is about the struggle to undo what was done either by making things the way they were or by establishing a new, better order. The main character will usually be the one struggling to do this and the story should follow to that conclusion. There are a few paranormal novels out there that are Idea and Character plot-based but for the most part in YA fiction we're talking epic chaos. And I'd be hard pushed to discover any dystopian novels that aren't primarily an Event story because a dystopian is pretty much a 'walking' definition of that plot.

So have I just answered both my questions? Are YA readers drawn to Event stories over and above the other two plots? If so, is this why some prefer paranormal over dystopian, because you’re more likely to find a character-based plot in this genre? Or is the idea of dystopia just too unsettling and frustrating for some readers? Because, unlike supernatural fiction, dystopian is actually speculative – it is taking our world and speculating on what we as a society could possibly do to mess it up in the future or in an alternate reality, through technology, social structure, greed, a post-apocalyptic rebuild etc.
Truthfully, I can’t answer this question because I love both genres. A future challenge of mine as a writer is to actually try and conquer Dystopia. It’s not something I would think about at present. Why? Well, writing is all about research. If you want your novel to come off realistic then you have to crack open the research books. For me this has been pretty easy because all of my mythologies and supernatural history is based on my research of actual legends, myths and real history. I have a degree in ancient and medieval history so this is not a problem for me, I know how to troll through the research and pull out what I need. But, like Science-Fiction, Dystopian books have to have a base in reality. Whatever premise you’re using – technology gone awry, a virus, a natural disaster and the post-apocalyptic rebuild, a government rebuild, a drug that removes whatever physicality within us that makes us love – a writer has to do the relevant research to make sure their world-building is logical and authentic.  That’s not the kind of research I’m used to and it’s pretty extensive so I’d really have to have a great idea (and a refreshingly original one) to take that step forward to begin asking the right people (the experts) the right questions.

Anyhoo... if I can’t answer the question, can you guys? Are you a dystopian or a paranormal Fan? Are you both? Which genre would you prefer to read or write? And most importantly... Why?

Here’s a look at my favourite picks in both genres...


Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Eden by our very own Keary Taylor
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter

Sam x

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Amazing Twitter Response!

As the engineer of The Writers Voice I am happy and proud to be the first to do a regular blog post! 

For those of you who have been following the team and getting to know them a bit better over the last week and a half thank you. A big shout out from all of us to all of our readers who make our lives so special and wonderful. This blog is for you. We have new amazing guest posts scheduled for the future and so much to share. (Check out the list of future guest authors in the side bar!) I hope you enjoy!

The posts on this blog will be the choice of each individual author and their prerogative so you never know what you might hear about next!

I was talking to a few of my fellow team mates and realizing that while we all are so different we all share one belief. We believe in the power of emotions. We asked everyone the day before yesterday to hop on twitter and share a bit about how books have effected their lives. The responses were so amazing. I got to know more about my fellow team mates and our readers. More than that, I got to know more about the potential that each member of this team has to touch the lives of others so I thought I might share a story with everyone. Some of you who have followed me on my personal blog for a while might know it but I will tell it none the less.

I didn’t like reading when I was younger. Until I was in the 5th grade I would read and I would get through a book so fast that I would get bored, so I wouldn’t read often. I would spend my time drawing, making up stories or studying. I loved text books but put a good fantasy in front of me and good luck getting me to crack the spine. Pretty much your average response from a child who didn’t have much interaction with literature and reading with others (other than the fascination with text books :p ).

Then I got sick. I have always had interesting health problems but that time was worse than normal. I wasn’t allowed to get up, I couldn’t leave the room and I was miserable. What was I supposed to do? So my grandmother took the opportunity to try and get me to read The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Yeah… DIDN’T work. It is like a family initiation to read it and I still haven’t. So she tried Anthony Trollope, to no avail. Then Pride and Prejudice. Nope. Queen Elizabeth? Finished it too quickly and got bored. So she asked me something I hadn’t been asked before. What do your friends read?

Tamora Pierce. So she got one book and set in on the nightstand. She didn’t ask me to read it or even say much. She just left it there and then went to take care of my brother. My grandmother knows me well. She had finally figured out how to do it! How to get me to love reading. I opened the pages and started reading In the Hand of the Goddess and fell in love with the story. It was like magic. A world opened before my eyes and I met a girl I could look up to and understand even though she was the opposite of me. Her finding that book and setting it down next to me may seem like a small action but it changed everything for me.
Naturally, it went on from there and three days later I had read most of the series! A few months later I was out of bed and slowly picking my way through the entire Young Adult library shelves. It gave me strength, reading a novel with a female lead who was willing to face anything for what she believed in. Once I realized there were so many other novels out there with lead characters I could look up to and learn from it was harder to find me without a book than with one.

Every time from that point on I felt like giving up I would tell myself that one day I could help someone the way I had been helped. I could tell someone a story that would give them strength and help them in their life. The night before last reawakened that hope in me so thank you. Thank you to everyone who participated, tweeted, commented, e-mailed and told us your story. Our books may entertain you but you are our inspiration.
 A giant fan of all readers,

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sharing some amazing twitter responses with you!

There were so many amazing responses yesterday that we wanted to share some of them with anyone who missed out! Feel free to stop by our hash tag #TheWritersVoice anytime and share your thoughts, feeling opinions or your story. 

Without further ado and in no particular order:

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Writers Voice on Twitter

I have been asked:
“Are you worried about the publishing industry?”
“Aren’t you afraid that books will no longer be needed?”
“Do you think that books will keep being made?”

My answer:
Let me tell you something I have learned in my so-far very short lifetime: There will always be a need for stories and for escape within the pages of a novel whether they are paper or electronic. Stories are like gateways to new world, no matter what form they come in. There are hardcover novels, paperback novels, short stories, picture books, e-books, stories told by mouth and more. You might look at this list and think about all of their differences but take a moment and think about all of their similarities.

They make you feel, they can make you believe again when you feel like your world has let you down, they bring you out of your life and let you live another life and learn from a character unlike you, they teach you more about other people and yourself, they help a person grow, they keep a person company when you feel utterly alone and they bring hope.

So I am going to ask everyone to do something for me.
On twitter use the hashtag #TheWritersVoice and tell me what reading can do for you. The way that reading has affected you. I don’t care what genre you read or your age, race, location, etc. For anyone who has ever been affected by a book. Tell us about it. We will listen.

The Writers Voice

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Swarm Trilogy

While retaining similar aspects of magic in a medieval world like the Cloud Prophet Trilogy, The Swarm Trilogy is a little darker and a little sexier.

Book One: Sleepers
An adoptee raised in a foreign land, sixteen-year-old Lianne was content with her life as handmaiden to the queen, until a spell cast on her at birth activated. Now she's filled with uncontrollable rage and access to magic she thought had been bled from her people years ago. Even her years of secret training in elite hand-to-hand combat and meditation can’t calm the fires raging inside her.

Her heart is torn between two boys, the one she’s always loved and the one who always ignored her. But when the kingdom threatens to tear itself apart due to rumors surrounding the queen’s alleged affair, who will Lianne protect and who will she destroy?

Options to purchase Sleepers
Add Sleepers to your Goodreads list.

Cloud Prophet Trilogy: Anathema, Oubliette & Severed

Anathema - YA Fantasy

Reychel is a slave girl surrounded by magic, lies and manipulation. Her best friend disappears in the middle of the night leaving Reychel to face her fifteenth birthday, the day her master burns his brand into the back of her bald head, alone. She's sheltered from the outside world and doesn't have any hope for escape, but when people desperate for freedom ask for her help can Reychel learn to believe in herself?

Read Chapter One!

Available NOW!

Options to purchase Anathema


Reychel thought she was finally free. She was wrong.

Everyone saw her gift of prophecy as a blessing, but her gift is uncontrollable. No one alive can teach her to manipulate her unique gift and the answers she needs lie buried within a madman’s journals.

She’s thrust in the midst of a brewing war and the only uniting factor for her people is their belief in the Prophet. Will Reychel learn to control her gift or will she be forced to deliver a false prophecy that could lead her people into a violent war?

Available NOW!

Options to purchase Oubliette 

Severed - YA fantasy
Coming, November 25th, 2011

Reychel knows her gift of prophecy will lead to madness and now she is at her most vulnerable. The enemy army will attempt to sever her from everything she's ever known: her homeland, her friends, Mark, and her gift. Even at her weakest, she refuses to give up on her desire to end the war between the Malborn and the Serenians. Reychel would do anything, even come back from the dead, to conquer the enemy and reunite with Mark.