Friday, August 29, 2014

Interview with Science Fiction Author Linda Thackeray

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Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Linda. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your writing? 

Well, I’m a manager who works at a publishing company a stone’s throw from the Sydney Opera House in Australia but I live on the coast in a suburb called Woy Woy, which apparently means ‘big lagoon’ with my one cat, Newt. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and have never really stopped, although I haven’t written seriously for at least a decade. I had an epiphany moment a few months ago that made me decide to take it up again and now I’m dusting off all the work that I’ve let languished to take stab at e-publishing.


Although the answer may be as straight forward as something along the lines of, “The publisher where I work doesn’t publish science fiction, which is what I write,” why did you decide to self-publish as opposed to seeking to find a publisher for your work, especially the one you work for?

Well, I work for a publishing company specializing in Australian Standards so they don’t do fiction at all. I chose to self-publish because it seemed a lot less painful than attempting to go through a mainstream publisher. I attempted to publish The Guardian that way many years ago and was disappointed.

Can you tell us a little about The Guardian and what you did to prepare it (and yourself) for self-publication?

The story itself is about Peter, who starts off living a very idyllic and simplistic existence sheltered from the Citadel by his Uncle Cy who has some very big plans for his future. However, Cy’s premature deaths forces Peter to leave home where he discovers how terrible a galaxy run by the Citadel can be.

Peter meets Marc who is not sheltered at all and has experienced the worst aspect of the Citadel, leaving him emotionally disconnected. Despite their differences, their growing friendship helps them survive together as new people enter their lives. However, when Peter’s true destiny unfolds and his humanity begins to slip away, it is Marc who reminds Peter what it is like to be human. It is written in the vein of Star Wars as Peter meets the people who will eventually become the foundation of the force he creates to fight the Citadel.

I wrote this story a decade ago and it has been more or less sitting around on a shelf for all that time. Recently, I dusted it off after hearing good things about self-publishing and also because I wanted a book to use in order to explore the self-publishing world. In going forward, I’m taking advantage of the tools out there, such as formatting, editing and producing good book covers, so it’s been the platform on which I’m discovering this new world.

Who is one ‘traditionally’ published author that you enjoy reading and who is one self-published author that you enjoy reading? How did you discover each and what draws you to their works?
My biggest influence is Stephen King.

In his book IT, one of his characters asks ‘Why can’t a story be just as story?’ when confronted by a teacher who wanted to know what point he was trying to make with a short story that was written. That question has resonated with me because sometimes a story just wants to be told, there isn’t any particular point to it. Furthermore, while I don’t always agree with the pacing of his books, his characterization is standout. You care about the characters in King’s books and that what I’ve strived for in my writings.

I have just started reading books by self-published authors and I have to say my favorite at present is Paul Leone, who penned Mysterious Albion. It’s a vampire story but, after the glut of vampire material, thanks to Stephanie Meyer, that seemed to skew more towards sycophantic teenager girls and vampires who want to date, it’s nice to read something in the vein of Bram Stoker. The author has some religious leanings but he maintains a nice balance by not letting it turn the book into something preachy.

As a line from Stephen King’s IT has stuck with you, is there a line in one of your writings that really echoes with you, or you one think readers might appreciate?

It’s hard to pick one line from my writings but I think if there is one thing my readers might appreciate from my books is the depiction of friendship between characters, demonstrating that you don’t have to be a blood relation to be a part of a family. Good friendships can get you through the worst of things if you have people in your life that support and believe in you. I explore this theme in The Guardian and also in my upcoming book, Queen of Carleon.

What do you do, Linda, to recharge your “writing batteries”?

For me, the movie that sparked my interest in fantasy and science fiction was Star Wars. I was seven years old when I saw the film and that movie filled me with such a sense of wonder that I wanted to read more about it. When I couldn’t find anything else to satisfy, I started to write my own stories. Whenever I feel blocked, I’ll watch that movie or read a book that engenders the same feeling. I’ll reread IT, Dune, or Mists of Avalon to be reminded of what good story telling is like and it usually serves to get the creative juices flowing again.

What do your family, friends and co-workers think of your writing career, if they even know of it?

I have to admit I’ve kept the writing very private. My family knew I wrote but I’ve never volunteered anything for them to read. My co-workers knew I could write but once again I kept that to myself. It has always been my ‘thing’ although I do have one or two friends that read my work. To tell the truth, the people who knew of my writing were mostly online friends. However, my parents are supportive of the writing even if they don’t have any particular interest in science fiction and now that I’ve outed myself, my co-workers are similarly encouraging.

What can readers expect next from you and where do you see your writing career seven years from now?

I am presently working on fantasy novel called the Queen of Carleon. I have published it through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing but have done very little promotion for it because I wanted a few readers to give me an opinion on the work while I had it professionally edited. This is the book that I’m putting professional resources into, i.e. book covers, editing and formatting. It will be a part of series of books based on stories I wrote about a decade ago during my whole Lord of the Rings craze. While I loved Tolkien’s work I wished we had a bit of perspective from a female point of view. So the Avalyne series will be very female centric though I don’t like to forget my male audience either.

Seven years from now, I hope to have enough of a presence to be able to write full-time. I don’t think I need to be massively successful, just enough so I can devote myself to doing something I love without worrying about a nine to five grind.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Linda, is there anything you’d like to add or share with the readers of Up Around the Corner?

In dipping into the world of self-publishing, the biggest advice I can give to anyone starting out is to join groups like Authors Marketing Club and Goodreads. There’s loads of good advice from people who’ve done it all and that will save you a few months stumbling about in the dark. My final piece is that it is never too late to write that story that’s been rumbling around in your head for years. Chances are, someone, somewhere will appreciate it.

Thanks, Linda, for taking the time to participate in the interview.

For those interested, you can find out more about Linda’s works here:
http://www.scribe31oz.com/Originals.htm

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interview with Author Steven Campbell

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Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Steven. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, thanks for the interest. I’m a writer living in Los Angeles. My current genre is science fiction/comedy with a bit of noir and comic book sensibilities thrown in. The series is called Hard Luck Hank with a new audio novel adaption being worked on along with the third novel in the series.

What sparked the idea for the character Hank and the universe you created, including Belvaille?

 I came up with the name Hard Luck Hank about 25 years ago when I wanted to submit some ideas to a Fishing magazine, of all places. The ideas were about a guy who had bad things happen to him whilst fishing. The editor liked the concept but apparently didn’t like the writing of a teenager.

As for Belvaille, I grew up in a city called Beltsville, MD, which is where I got the name. There was a forest I used to walk in about every day where I did a lot of daydreaming about stories.

I wanted to write science fiction but I wanted it to be about the characters, not about technology. Not about space ships. Star Trek is really about the Enterprise. That’s a great crew and all, but if you put them on the U.S.S. Hunk of Junk, no one would know them. Having people stranded on that city at the edge of the galaxy was a way to make individuals be important. A person can have a lot of influence in a small city. And of course, having the city so far away let it take on its own character.

You’ve self-published two Hard Luck Hank novels and two novellas, one about Hank and the other about Delovoa. What led you to self-publish and what (besides good writing) has led to success in attracting so many readers?

Self-publishing wasn’t really a conscious choice. When I was growing up it was still referred to as vanity publishing. i.e., you did it because a “real” publisher wouldn’t take you on. But the economics and industry changed a lot. To allow a book or series to be profitable for an agent and publishing company, it has to meet certain criteria, because there’s a lot of overhead. As a self-publisher, there’s just me and those I hire. And I’m cheap.

I pitched Hard Luck Hank to agents and publishers. I was politely refused and often told that science fiction and comedy don’t go together because sci-fi readers are serious. I finally said, that can’t be true, because I’m a lifelong fan and I enjoy it. So I took a chance and put it out myself.

I’m not entirely sure why Hank has done (relatively) well. When I put out the first book I had a goal of selling 50 copies. Total. Because that would mean I sold to people I didn’t personally know and guilt into buying it. I think the first month of publication it sold about 3,000 copies. Obviously that’s not Best Seller material but for someone who was shooting for 50, it was a pleasant surprise.

I believe its unusual genre(s) have helped. Every time I say it is science fiction/comedy, people ask if it’s like Hitchhiker’s Guide—which is a great series of course. But the fact there is only one massive series out there in that genre shows it’s not yet stale or crowded.

The cover art for your novels are pretty sharp. Can you share how they came about?

I’m a huge comic fan and huge visual arts fan. I’ve known quite a lot of traditional visual artists in my life and have a lot of respect for them. I wish I had more patience and skill for it, but it wasn’t ever something I personally enjoyed. I searched online for artists who had portfolios and a style that I thought could fit my goals. I wanted to make a deadpan parody of the high fantasy and sci-fi works I saw growing up. Kind of like Frank Frazetta and Heavy Metal Magazine. My original email descriptions would be about 4,000 words and would have a (very) rough drawing to show composition. From there, I’d guess each one had about 30 emails back and forth as progress continued over the months. That said, you have to know when to back off and let the artist do his job.

In terms of financials and contracts, all the art I buy is work-for-hire. I’m not entirely happy about this, because I believe in artist (and writer’s) rights. But because of the nature of how it was going to be put out and advertised and the fact I’m not a lawyer, I knew I couldn’t restrict people downloading the images and distributing them and doing whatever else. For instance, the covers pop up when you browse the books on Amazon for free. It was just simpler for all parties.

The hyper-realism of the first two novels led to a more cartoony third (in progress) novel and short stories. Part of it was tailoring the cost of the work to what I thought I could recoup from sales.

A little off topic. If you could sit down to lunch with any three people (living or deceased), who would they be, where would you dine, and what would you hope to talk about?
 
Benjamin Franklin. Mark Twain. I can say those two without hesitation. Franklin is the person I’d aspire to be. He was a genius. A great man. A great writer. A noble man. And I could learn what he really meant for our country and come back with a big “I Told You So.” Mark Twain is someone I could realistically relate to.  While Franklin is an aspiration, I’ll never be Franklin and would probably be miserable if I tried. I could be a Mark Twain if I didn’t always have to wear white and didn’t have to be so damn clever all the time. But I think I could just sit there laughing and learning at the feet of Twain.

For the third person, you have a tendency to say someone like Einstein. But I wouldn’t know what the hell he was talking about, so what’s the point? I’m not sure offhand who I would pick for the last one. I’d have to think on it for a while.

A number of citizens in the Colmarian Confederation have unusual mutations. Some are useful and others seemingly pointless. As an author, do you create the unique mutation first and then build the character around it, or do you create the character and then the mutation follows or as a priority, do you develop the mutations to fit the plotline?

Hank’s mutation was very purposeful. I like violence-as-humor. But not slapstick. There has to be drama in the violence. Fear of it. I wanted a character who got beat up but kept doggedly persevering. I respect that. The problem is, especially in a science fiction world, when people get shot, they tend to die. So it can only be funny once. I was either going to have to change the physics of the universe, make the technology less grand, or have a character who couldn’t easily be hurt. I chose the last two. While there are space ships and Portals and such, they use firearms like on earth. Hank is very much a product of his particular mutation.

The other mutations aren’t nearly as important. It’s a big galaxy and they have explored much of it. Whether someone is a mutant or a completely different species with different attributes doesn’t particularly matter. I think of it like earth. Some people have red hair and some people are seven feet tall. One attribute is going to have more impact in day-to-day life than the other (red hair, obviously).

Of the characters written, which mutation did you find the most challenging to incorporate in the storyline?

I’ve gotten used to Hank, but someone who can’t be hurt by normal means is a very odd concept. So much of what we do as humans is based on instinct and fear. He is a guy who could literally fall down every flight of stairs he came to because it’s simply faster than walking. I didn’t put in much of that because I think it gets old, but I thought it was a funny concept.

The villain in Basketful of Crap has a “mutation” that was very difficult to get my head around because it is contrary to nearly all life. I don’t want to spoiler it too much. They say those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, but history will repeat itself because humans are humans. We will repeat ourselves as long as we’re human regardless of whether you study history or not. You don’t have to live very long to notice the patterns.

Delovoa has changed the most. I stuck him in the novels as kind of a minor character because it’s a science fiction landscape and I couldn’t have Hank punch his way through tech problems. In the short stories, I really went wild and made him a sociopath. He’s probably my favorite character and it’s challenging to make someone so nutty be likeable.

Who are some of your favorite authors to read and what are some of your favorite movies/TV series? Have they influenced your writing and if so, how?

These are always hard questions and I was thinking about this yesterday. I’m not sure if I was “influenced” by something or I simply liked it because it fit my personality and tastes at that time. It’s rare that we finish a book, hold it up and proclaim, “Henceforth, I shall now emulate this style!” Some of the things I’ve liked and have repeatedly liked at different points in my life in no particular order: The Road Warrior movie; early Cerebus the Aardvark comic; Blade Runner movie; Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels movie; Raymond Chandler novels; Dashiell Hammett novels; Harry Potter novels; some Hemingway; Mark Twain nearly everything; Edgar Allan Poe; Dungeons and Dragons/Warhammer/Champions games; Pulp Fiction movie; Game of Thrones; Alan Moore comics; Miller’s Crossing movie; Amadeus movie, Family Guy and American Dad TV shows; Thin Man novel and movie.

Miller’s Crossing is based on Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and Glass Key. You see a lot of Belvaille in these and Raymond Chandler’s insanely corrupt cities and societies. Of course, I also grew up around Washington, D.C.

What can readers look forward to in the next year or so?

I have a new novel, Prince of Suck, that I’m working on. I hope it will be released in the later part of 2014.

Where do you see yourself as an author seven years from now?

I used to joke that I was going to die crushed under the weight of all my unpublished writing. One day it was just going to shift and I’d get buried under piles of paper. Now at least I can store it all electronically. I really don’t have a clue. I don’t plan that far ahead. I like to roll with the punches and keep a lot of irons in the fire and use as many idioms as possible.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, is there anything you’d like to add or share with the readers here at Up Around the Corner?

This is for my fellow writers. When I came to L.A. I can’t tell you how many people said they were writers. This was the heyday of million dollar options and screenplays. I couldn’t be sure who was a “real” writer and who just wanted fame and money but was too ugly to be an actor. So I came up with a question:

If the future you visited from your death bed, tubes hanging off, 123 years old, stained hospital gown, and s/he said: “I’ve been sent back at the end of our life to tell you something. You will NEVER sell any writing. You will never be a success at it. You will never get anything except ridicule for your words. Do with this information what you will.” If you knew with certainty the future you was telling the truth and it was your destiny no matter what…would you still write?

If you would, you’re a writer. If you hesitate or panic, then you’re writing for the wrong reason(s). The world doesn’t need more bad writers and it’s easier to become a famous hula dancer than a famous writer.

Once you’re sure you’re a writer, recognize not everything will be a Best Seller. Write what you love. If you love Romantic Thrillers between cat and penguin protagonists, by all means write it. You’ll be happy. There is a market for nearly everything. It might be a small market, but if you write because you love it and/or you have to, then it doesn’t matter.

The same goes for what genres you read or watch and activities you enjoy. Like what you like regardless of what anyone thinks. It’s now cool to be a geek and enjoy dorky things, but for…a long time it wasn’t. But who cares? If you’re into trashy romance novels, then read ‘em. Only Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin can judge our tastes and they’re both dead.

You can also get updates on my work and write me mail and opt-in on my website.

Thank you, Steven, for taking the time for the interview.

Thanks again for the interest.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

34th Annual Yellow Springs Book Fair

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I'll be one of the authors and book sellers participating in the Yellow Springs Book Fair this Saturday (August 16th). It runs from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Free and open to the public.

Location:
200 S. Walnut Street (Near Downtown Yellow Springs, Ohio)
On the grounds of Mills Lawn Elementary School

The book fair is sponsored by Dark Star Books and Super-Fly Comics and Games.

Hope to see you there!


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jeffrey Kafer on: How to Make Sure You Never Find a Narrator for Your Audiobook

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A short while back I interviewed Jeffrey Kafer (Link Here).

On his blog he's posted an interesting article (quite funny while being informative). For those interested in audiobooks, especially authors (and even small publishers) hoping to have works produced into audio, this is a worthwhile read.

Article Link: How to Make Sure You Never Find a Narrator for Your Audiobook
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Character Interview: Mr. Hood from Bound, Alex Cain Book 1 by Alan Baxter

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Mr. Hood, could you tell the readers a little about yourself, including your business?


Certainly. I run a company called Black Diamond Incorporated. We are an investment and acquisitions firm. I’m sure you’re more interested in the less mundane acquisitions side of my activities. Well, let’s just say that I seek arcana that the magical community might be prepared to pay very well for and I sell it to them. If they can afford it.


In general, Mr. Hood, could you describe some of your clients? And isn’t it dangerous to deal both with arcana and individuals in the magical community, especially those with access to magical powers and wealth?


Well, I know few people who control greater wealth than I do, and therein lies my ultimate power. My clients are many and varied, but confidentiality prevents me from telling you anything about them. Suffice to say that I can meet their many and varied needs well. Everything good in life can be dangerous, but that’s half the fun, no?


Understanding that client confidentiality is of vital importance to your business, might you be able to name and describe an example or two of the arcane items that you’ve obtained and/or sold through Black Diamond Incorporated?


There’s really very little I don’t sell through Black Diamond. If someone wants something, I’ll get it for them. I have people out there in the world who are experts at finding things. A lot of magical grimoires pass through our hands – people are always after that powerful tome. You know, the one that will make them more powerful than they ever dreamed. Very few such things exist, of course, but that doesn’t stop my business from making a good turnover on the desire. Ancient god icons tend to attract a lot of bidding too, but we usually source those for specific clients. The truth is, if it’s rare, and especially if it’s magical, we can get it for you. If you can afford it.


Can you describe a situation where one of your competitors did something foolish or unwise that cost them dearly and allowed Black Diamond Incorporated to profit?


Ah, well, you see, the problem with that question is the assumption that I have competitors. No one does what I do. Sure, there are various arcane dealers out there, but they trade in trinkets compared to me. And should they get their hands on anything of real value, I’ll soon relieve them of it and turn a proper profit on the thing. The most foolish and unwise thing any person can do is think they have any chance at competing with my company.


“Relieve them of it” is quite a loaded answer. Correct me if I am wrong, but what you’re indirectly relaying is that underhanded actions, which might be an understatement, or hiring someone outside the company structure to perform such actions, are part of your business model?


Business is business. My business is successful because I get what I want. We live in the jungle, we’re still animals. Don’t mistake this concrete and glass for anything other than a variation on the trees and vines of the wilds. Survival of the fittest. I will always make a viable business offer for anything, but believe me when I say that I get what I want. Nothing “underhanded”, of course, and yes, I have many outside subcontractors on my payroll.


Mr. Hood, as you view humanity as a form of animal, and actions animals take to survive and prosper aren’t generally classified as ‘underhanded’ in the animal kingdom, would it be accurate to say you’re a firm believer in ‘The ends justifies the means’?


Most certainly. The strong survive and the weak are subjugated. There’s no point in complaining about it. The only response is to become stronger, become the apex predator. Many people try to moralize all kinds of other positions, but the simple truth is that the strongest survive by feeding on the rest. That’s the end that justifies the means of existence throughout the animal kingdom. Man likes to think he’s more evolved, but look at the news any day of the week and you’ll see the truth.


Keeping with the animal theme, humans are animals that form relationships and communities. Who would you consider part of your social circle, be it family, friends, associates, subordinates, or others? What part do they play in your life?


I have many people in my social circle, from the purely business-related to rather more personal liaisons. But there’s no one I couldn’t do without. Reliance on anyone is a weakness. To continue your analogy with animals (or was it mine?) the greatest hunters hunt alone. Some work in packs, but the truly apex predator is solo.


What do you think of the Kin, and what sort of contact or business interaction do you have with them—if any?


They are what they are. Usually I have very little to do with them, but if they come to me for business, I will offer them the same service I would extend to anyone else. But in my experience, they tend to keep to themselves. Which is probably best for everyone.


From the following, in your experience, which type of client is the most risky to deal with and which would be your preference to deal with when they’re seeking an item that might notably enhance their power? And, if you could, provide some insight as to why


  1. An accomplished conjurer preparing to bite off more than he can chew
  2.
Someone else in your sales and acquisitions business, not necessarily one with magical abilities but is knowledgeable
  3. A Kin in a leadership position within their culture
  4.
A skilled witch that’s part of a powerful coven
  5.
A demon garbed in (or possessing) a mortal body

Ah, well now we get into the nitty gritty of the business! I’ll address each of your queries in turn. Number one is likely to be a once-only client, as people in that position tend not to survive a brush with the truly powerful items. Number two I would never deal with. One doesn’t fraternize with the enemy. Number three is usually represented by someone. A Kin leader coming directly to me is usually up to no good within his or her own Den. And let me tell you, I find that kind of internecine warfare quite delicious. Number four I’ve learned to be very wary of and deal in open and honest terms. Seriously, it is foolish to cross a powerful witch. Number five is unlikely to come to me and I don’t know if I’d recognize them for what they are if they did. And I certainly wouldn’t tell you.


Might you relay how you came to be aware of the magical community and provide your view on why it remains an unknown to the vast majority of humanity?


The thing about this world is that people only see what hey want to see. Very few people really want to know anything beyond their job, three meals a day and a roof over their heads. Anything that doesn’t fit the paradigm gets filtered out. Other people, very few and far between, do want to know more. The true seekers, the adventurers, and they will discover the wonders that are out there to be found. It’s also in the interests of those people not to publicize too much the wonderful world they know. There’s value in exclusivity, after all. And power. And I’m here to help facilitate that power to those who know and can afford it.


Mr. Hood, as we are closing in on the end of this interview, is there anything you’d like to add or say to the readers here?


Simply that if anyone out there requires the rarest of arcane treasures, then I’m the man you need to see. And if you can’t find me, you’re clearly not cut out to be my client.


Thank you, Mr. Hood, for taking the time from your business to answer questions for the readers.


(End of Character Interview)


Note: The Alex Caine books are currently only available in the Australia/New Zealand region, but should be available everywhere else before too long.


About the Author, Alan Baxter:


Alan Baxter is a Ditmar Award-nominated British-Australian author. He writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the dark urban fantasy trilogy, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series) published by HarperVoyager Australia, and the dark urban fantasy duology, RealmShift and MageSign (The Balance Book 1 and Book 2) from Gryphonwood Press. He co-authored the short horror novel, Dark Rite, with David Wood. Alan also writes short stories with more than 50 published in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France. His short fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts, Wily Writers and Midnight Echo, among many others, and more than twenty anthologies, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror (2010 and 2012). Alan also writes narrative arcs and dialogue for videogames. He wrote the popular writer’s resource, Write The Fight Right, a short ebook about writing convincing fight scenes.


Alan lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

How the Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended, Upended


Many of you may have come across the video showing how the Lord of the Rings Should Have Ended (using the Eagles instead of the long, arduous trek).

If you haven't, here it is:



Makes sense, right?

Well, maybe not so much:

Link: This Guy Just Changed The Way We See Lord of The Rings 

Okay, maybe what actually happened in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy makes more sense.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How Does a Writer Write a Book?



Here's a funny short video that tells how a book is written from the perspective of several kids.



You can find more videos like this over at the blog of Historical Romance author Sarah M. Eden.