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Archive for the ‘Featured Author’ Category

The Story Behind The Briton and the Dane Trilogy

In Book of The Month, Featured Author, Thoughts on Publishing on January 3, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I fell in love with medieval England after reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” in my sophomore year of high school, but my interests soon turned towards the Dark Ages when the formidable Vikings harassed the civilized world once Hollywood released such blockbusters as “The Vikings,” “The Longships,” and “Erik the Viking.” Add to the mix “Alfred the Great,” “Prince Valiant,” and “King Arthur,” and an incurable romantic anglophile was born.

As time went on Hollywood changed its venue of period movies, but I found solace with the many British programs being aired on our local PBS station. With the advent of BBC America and History International, I was able to find great documentaries such as “The Dark Ages,” “Life in Anglo-Saxon Times,” “Dark Age England,” and “Viking Exploration,” to name but a few.

During this time, Erik the Viking was hovering in the cobwebs of my creative mind, waiting to escape oblivion, waiting to tell his story, waiting and waiting and waiting, but it was not until 2008 that I was able to find the time to devote to fulfilling my lifelong dream of writing my Erik the Viking novel.

Why did I focus on Alfred the Great and King Guthrum? I chose these two formidable characters because they are fascinating. This was a time of conflict and change, when Christianity was replacing the pagan religion, and the feared Vikings no longer plundered the fertile country of Britannia but remained and settled the land.

When King Alfred defeated King Guthrum in 878, one of the terms for peace was the Christian baptism of the Danish King. I wondered how this heathen King might have felt about denying the gods of his ancestors as he willingly accepted the Roman Christ God, and also wondered how willing his subjects had been to submit to the rules of the new religion.

In addition to the religious conflict, there were also petty Kings who coveted the throne, not only King Alfred’s crown, but King Guthrum’s as well. Throw into the mix, illegitimate offspring and you have all the makings for a great story.

While Erik started out as my main character, the supporting characters quickly sought to usurp the protagonist role. I had often heard the phrase, “but then my characters took over,” and suddenly discovered that the statement is very true. Erik had to share the limelight with the many prominent figures, and these characters refused to play a minor role in an ongoing saga.

The same holds true for our antagonist; there are many opponents as the story unravels, each with their own agenda, but each seeking power and wealth.

I delve into the minds of the characters as they deal with conflicts that are quite common today: father/son relationships and acknowledgement of paternity, religious confrontation, and warfare. The people who lived in the 9th century were flesh and blood as we are flesh and blood. They faced the same problems, made similar choices, and perhaps regretted their decisions.

I also wanted to reach out to the families of our modern day warriors, and to remind everyone that the only thing that has changed in warfare over time has been its weaponry. What has not changed is the anxiety as one awaits the fate of their loved one; waiting is difficult no matter which century you live in.

Since “The Briton and the Dane: Legacy” is the third and final installment of the trilogy, I should be willing to say goodbye…the key word here is should…but there are many stories still to tell, and many characters to meet, and enough passion, intrigue, treachery and betrayal to enthrall an audience…so fear not my faithful fans, the series will continue.

“The Briton and the Dane” trilogy has been a joy to write, and I trust a joy to read. Enjoy the adventure, it only gets better.

Mary Ann Bernal is not only an official member of LitU, but an author, a blogger, and one of the absolute nicest human beings walking the face of the Earth. You can find her personal website HERE.

Featured Author: Nina Perez

In Featured Author, Interviews on April 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm

LitU’s resident interview guy, Steven Novak recently sat down with author Nina Perez to discuss the release of her novel The Twin Prophecies: Rebirth. Not surprisingly the conversation turned to True Blood, Twilight, poo-filled trash cans, big girl panties.

This is one you don’t want to miss.

LITU: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is it exactly that makes Nina Perez tick?

NINA PEREZ: I’m a wife, mother, writer, blogger, and professional TV watcher. I don’t like leaving the house and for the most part, people annoy me. Well, real people. Fictional folk and I get along juuust fine.

LITU: All fictional characters? Even Lucy Wagner (For those of you unaware that’s Britney Spears’ character from Crossroads.)

NINA PEREZ: You know what really disturbs me about that question? You didn’t even Google that. I bet you knew her character’s name all along. Frightening. Very frightening.

LIT U: Don’t judge me. Don’t you dare judge me. Back to the topic at hand. How did you get started with writing?

NINA PEREZ: I think I’m a late bloomer. I hear a lot of writers say they’ve been writing since they came out the womb. I started in my teens. The first time I thought I might actually have some writing talent was when I was about 17 and my Dad found the first two pages of a story I’d written about a serial killer. I’d accidentally left it in his car. I remember he told me how confused he was because he wondered why I was walking around with the first few pages of a book typed out on printer paper. He didn’t realize I’d written it until I told him, and I was so proud of how impressed he looked.

After that, life got in the way. I’d start so many projects, but never finish them. Writing took a backseat to working, school, marriage and motherhood. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I decided to pursue it seriously and make it my business to finish what I started.

LITU: Where did the idea for The Twin Prophecies come from?

NINA PEREZ: I’d had this crazy dream that led me to an idea about a journalist who discovers she intimately knows a serial killer. I started doing all of this research and began writing an outline for that novel when my daughter (Kali, 11) asked, “How come you never write anything I can read?” So I asked, “What would you like to read?” She gave me the scene that later closes the first chapter of Rebirth. But from that one scene, I kept thinking, “What if…” The ideas just kept coming.

I’d be sitting on the sofa playing Halo with my husband, Donny, and I’d stop to write notes and ideas for this book. I couldn’t stop! Pretty soon I realized that I had too much material for one book and that it would probably be a series.

LITU: How did you get hooked up with the fine people over at LitU?

NINA PEREZ: As raggedy as that place is now, I have to give Myspace credit for putting some awesome people in my life. Because of the popularity my blog enjoyed there, I made great friends who were both readers and fellow bloggers. That’s how I met you, (Steven Novak) dork. When I saw what you were doing with the LitU on Facebook, I was hoping to be asked to participate, but my book was nowhere near being finished or good enough.

LITU: Shut up. You knew we’d come calling. Self-publishing, is it pretty much a big pain in the patoot, right? What has the process been like so far?

NINA PEREZ: It’s hard, but I get off on stuff like this. If I say I’m going to do something on Monday morning, by Monday night I have lists and spreadsheets on the project and I’ve already sent out two dozen emails trying to make it happen. Once I gave up the idea that querying literary agents and getting rejected made me a legitimate writer, and actually listened to what some of my friends who were independent authors had to say about the process, I knew it was the right move for me.

The world is changing and the way people receive their information and entertainment is a huge part of that. I like having the control over how this book is conceived, born, and shared. Of course, this means that I’m completely responsible for EVERYTHING including marketing, but I’m okay with that. Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but I love that this book’s success or failure is in my hands.

A lot of people turn up their noses at independent publishing, but I think the assumption is that the product will be crap. I think there are a lot of us out there taking great care and effort to ensure the books are the best they can be before release. We’re taking the time to make sure they’re edited and formatted properly. We’re collaborating with talented artists – like you – to ensure the covers are quality.

The hardest part is also the most fun (so far): figuring out the best way to get the book in as many hands as possible. I find I’m up late almost every night thinking of how much time and money it’s going to take to market this book. I believe in the book and the series so I’m willing to do whatever it takes. Independent publishing works for me because I don’t know anyone that will work as hard on my behalf as me.

LITU: What advice do you have for aspiring writers out there?

NINA PEREZ:

1. Keep writing – I wasted a lot of years not writing. I don’t regret the things I did instead (raising a family, going to school, marrying my amazing husband, etc.), but I wish I knew then that I could truly have and do it all. I’d be an even better writer if I had just consistently put in the time.
2. Learn to take feedback – This was a big issue for me. You have to be able to take a step back and see where criticism may improve your story. Also, you have to learn to trust your own style/voice and defend it. It’s a tough balance. I got a lot of feedback from trusted authors/editors (more on that in a bit) as Rebirth was being polished and though I think I took a bit of advice from each of them, I didn’t immediately take every suggestion by every one of them.
3. Read – I devour books. I’m always on the lookout for new books and I pay attention to what others are reading on sites like Goodreads.com. Reading helps you see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll find good examples of how to create tension, pace dialogue, etc. Then, hopefully, you’ll be able to duplicate that in your own style, telling your own stories.
4. Surround yourself with other talent – I have a super network of writers, editors, and artists. I think that is extremely helpful, but especially so if you’re going the independent route. Having trusted professionals that can help you with edits and feedback for free or at a discount is awesome.

LITU: Earning what I like to call your criticism callus can take time. Was there something specific that hardened you up?

NINA PEREZ: I think it was finally having pieces of work that I thought deserved better than my ego getting in the way. Also, like you said, time. After ten years, you realize that not everyone is going to love everything you write, the way you write it. I think as long as the criticism is coming from a good place and a place of authority (fellow writers who know the ropes and avid readers that know what they like and what works), then you’d be a fool not to just put on your big girl panties and find the value in what they say. Again, you also have to know when their advice is subjective and not right for your particular story. It’s tricky.

Also, I really hope you don’t have big girl panties.

LITU: Once again I’m going to have to ask you not to judge me. They’re comfortable. Enough said.

Dexter or True Blood?

NINA PEREZ: Dexter all the way. The Sookie Stackhouse books are on my list of books to read this year (I’ve pledged to read 60 in 2011), and I’ve been avoiding them because I didn’t want to spoil the show. While I enjoy True Blood, Dexter is smarter programming. It delves into questions that are deeper than, “Bill or Eric?” Besides, Sookie is so damn annoying.

LITU: Twilight or a roundhouse to the baby maker?

Twilight. Hey, don’t judge me! I liked those books. I found them after all four books had already been published and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I try not to judge other authors too harshly. I have a lot of respect for anyone that has an idea, nurtures it, and delivers a finished product. Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s okay. As a mother who had to force herself to get up every day at 5am just to MAKE the time to write Rebirth, I’m not gonna knock Stephenie Meyer for doing it while taking care of three little ones. I don’t begrudge her the success. The main people complaining about books like Twilight or Harry Potter aren’t the intended audience. But you know what they say: haters gotta hate.

LITU: You stumble onto a garbage can in a vacant lot filled with month old pudding that the local hobos have also been using as a toilet. At the bottom of it is a million bucks and a tag that says “If found, return to Scott Jorgenson.” It also has Scott’s address – which is across the street. Are you going to keep the million bucks? Are you even going to fish it out of the pudding-poo/pee?

NINA PEREZ: *sucks teeth* I’m going to fish that money out and use it to buy new hands. Forget Scott Jorgenson. I got kids to feed.

LITU: Take us out with something magical. Make us remember the name Nina Perez.

NINA PEREZ: Magical? I’m so pretty, I fart fairy dust. Does that count?

LITU: It’s a little gross, but magical. I guess. If nothing else it no doubt leaves your big girl underpants really sparkly. Nicely played.

The e-book version of The Twin Prophecies: Rebirth is available through the LitU store with a print to arrive soon.

Featured Author: Ryan O’Neil

In Featured Author, Interviews on March 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm

LitU’s very own Steven Novak sat down with author, Ryan O’Neil recently to discuss a wide variety of subjects. The pair touched on everything from the release of his Young Reader Novel, Plain Old Kirby Carson, to future projects, Batman, and all things bacon and bacon related.

Snag yourself a cup of joe, lean back in your chair and enjoy.

LitU: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes Ryan O’Neil tick – other than bacon, bacon grease, and BLTs without the lettuce or tomato?

RYAN O’NEIL: I’m assuming that I shouldn’t refer to BBQed meat here? 😉

LitU: As long as there’s no mention of bacon, I think we’re good to go.

RYAN O’NEIL: This may sound cliché, but I just like to have fun. I like to think that I make every situation as interesting as it can be. I like to spread my own brand of entertainment and hope to make people smile.

LitU: We’ve heard that you have a background in horror writing. If so, how was it making the transition to something like “Kirby Carson?” Where did the idea come from?

Ryan O’Neil: The idea for Kirby was born about 20 years ago. I’d written a couple of chapters and never completed the story. Then about 6 years ago I was writing a daily blog and making fun of my past when I posted a couple of sample paragraphs from the original Kirby story. I did it purely as a goof, but people wanted to know more about the character. That led to two months of updates where I literally created the story on the fly. At the end people seemed to enjoy it and someone suggested that it should be a book. I like being different and I saw writing Kirby as a challenge to do something really different for myself.

LitU: Any future plans to play around in the genre, maybe visit the world of Kirby again?

Ryan O’Neil: I have a brief outline in my head for a return to Brook Harbor to visit Kirby, Sue, and their friends for one more adventure. The entire Kirby process has been such a public journey that started with my blog friends and has grown from there. So while I have an outline, I wouldn’t make the trip unless my friends wanted to go back.

In the meantime I am developing another Young Adult / Middle Grade genre book in which the main character’s younger brother is on the Autism spectrum. My son has Autism, so this is more of a personal mission to both educate people and show them by example the ups and downs of having a friend or relative on the spectrum. It’s not all misery and gloom. These kids are just like everyone else and can be a lot of fun!

LitU: How about a return something more “adult,” any future interest?

Ryan O’Neil: Definitely! My true writing love is to scare people, make them uneasy, and sometimes just gross them out. There are some plans in the works now to release some of the horror stories that I’ve been sitting on. About a year and a half ago I was signed on to contribute five stories to a book, and unfortunately that project fell through. My goal is to get at least those tales released, if not more.

LitU: How did you hook up Auriferous Books and the Literary Underground? What’s the experience been like so far? NOTE: The editors of the LitU blog fully reserve the right not to include any comments that belittle or disparage the company in any way. We’re jerks like that.

Ryan O’Neil: So often I talk to writers who are brilliant, but get bogged down with tradition. In fact, so bogged down that they’ll never put a book out. It’s shame really. Their work is amazing, but no one will ever read it.

The experience so far has been great (Yes, your check cleared…LOL)! All kidding aside, Lit U is a great bunch of people who just want to help each other. Everyone has something to offer whether it be editing, beta reading, formatting text for e-books, etc, etc. They are all very supportive and honest. Lit U will help you get your work in progress to the point of publication and beyond. It’s like an old hippie co-op garden, except we’re growing works of literary art instead of pumpkins. Auriferous Books is a nice small up-and-coming publishing house. So far the experience has been fantastic!

LitU: Did Hippies grow pumpkins? I thought it was mostly hemp?

Ryan O’Neil: One man’s pumpkin is another man’s cannabis.

LitU: Not really, no. Trust me, I tried to smoke a pumpkin once. It didn’t end well. Anyway, 80’s hair metal—what’s with the obsession? I mean, seriously. Defend the things that bring you happiness or prepare yourself for ridicule!

Ryan O’Neil: 80’s hair metal and glam rock was just so much fun! Glam rockers put on a show like no other. There’s no standing there, staring at your sneakers and whining about how tough it is to be a rock star. Life is too short to mope around the entire time. Glam rock forces you to have fun, and look good doing it. I know not everyone can appreciate neon colors. It’s an acquired taste. 😉

LitU: What sort of advice would you have for the aspiring writers out there?

Ryan O’Neil: Believe in what you write. If you believe in yourself and what you create, then others will too. Frustration and rejection are a part of the game. Don’t let it get you down or stop you from following your dream.

LitU: Batman or Bruce Wayne?

Ryan O’Neil: Batman! While Bruce Wayne was smooth with the ladies, it was Batman who rocked the nighttime world … or was that Gene Simmons? I mean, come on, who wouldn’t like to someday punch someone and have a big neon colored “BLAM!” pop up? And don’t even get me started on that utility belt!

LitU: For every cool utility belt there’s a Robin though. How about this; Motley Crue or Poison?

Ryan O’Neil: Poison was prettier, but the way that the Crue was, was just bad ass. They were like skinny Elvis with brass knuckles. Not even Chuck Norris could take them down.

LitU: Freddy or Jason?

Ryan O’Neil: Michael Myers. Michael Myers scares the s#!t out of me! The dude is creepy scary … and simply won’t die!

LitU: Ham and cheese or turkey on rye?

Ryan O’Neil: Bacon!

LitU: We set you up for that one.

Leave us with something spectacular—the blog equivalent of Broadway jazz hands.

Ryan O’Neil: I’d like to thank everyone who is onboard with Kirby. The journey has been a long one, but fun nonetheless. It’s my friends who believe in the journey that fuel my fires. We still have a lot of adventure ahead of us so I hope to see you all smiling and having fun!

Ta da!

LitU: Well done. Your jazz hands need work though. Maybe put down the uncooked bacon next time.

The print version of Plain old Kirby Carson is available through the LitU store with e-books to arrive soon.