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2019 In Review

2019 has been an extremely busy year for me, and I am very pleased to have released a number of novels and shorter pieces.

Novels

Two more of my gothic mystery horror thrillers were released: The Irresistible Summons, which erred much more on the horror side, and Phantom Audition, which was more on the thriller side. Both feature nail-biting, page-turning spooky shenanigans, and were very well received. If you’re interested in picking up a copy as a Christmas present (or to read yourself) click here for The Irresistible Summons and here for Phantom Audition.

Shorts

Also this year, my short story Papercut was included in romantic fantasy anthology First Love, also published by Dragon Soul Press. Furthermore, three of my “Drabbles” (micro-fiction of exactly 100 words) were published by Blood Song Books anthology Curses & Cauldrons. These anthologies have also been very well reviewed. Check them out here and here, respectively.

Works in progress

Of the above works, Phantom Audition was a novel I wrote early in the year, and that was fast-tracked for publication. Compared with other years, I have written less than usual, outside of that, but there are still a number of short stories, and one novella, waiting in the wings. Indeed, delving into shorter works has been an agreeable change of pace for me, and the total word count of the above almost amounts to the equivalent of another novel. So I’ve not been that lazy.

On the blog

As ever, I’ve enjoyed covering lots of different topics on the blog. I love to write on subjects I am passionate about, and hopefully spark some discussion. You might have missed some of these, or want to re-read them, so here are three of my favourites.

Never Surrender to the Professionally Offended: A Rallying Cry for Authors

Uses and Abuses of Inner Monologue

Why Spoiler Awareness is Important

The Tangent Tree

Series three of The Tangent Tree – the film podcast I co-host with Samantha Stephen – is about to begin next week. Series two appeared earlier in the year. You can catch up on all episodes at the Tangent Tree website here – or listen on iTunes, Spotify, Podcast Addict and so on.

There have been many people who helped and supported me this year, sometimes through difficult things.

You know who you are.

Thank you.

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First Love: Papercut continues to get rave reviews

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Last February, I had a short story published as part of Dragon Soul Press’s First Love romantic fantasy anthology. This was my second published short story, as I usually stick to novels. What’s more I don’t usually write romance (here’s a rare exception).

My contribution, Papercut, is a poignant, heartfelt love story about a lonely teenage boy living with his ultra-strict Jehovah’s Witness mother. In his dreams, he is visited by a mysterious girl made entirely of paper, leading to a fantastical journey which I won’t spoil.

There have been several rave reviews for this story (and for the collection in general). Papercut also ended up in a top-three short story poll conducted by Dragon Soul Press. Here is the most recent of the unanimous five star reviews on Amazon:

“There are so many fantastic stories in this anthology, all with their own take on the theme of ‘first loves’, that it’s hard to decide on a favourite! I certainly think every story earned its place here, but I was intrigued by, and thoroughly enjoyed Simon Dillon’s Papercut. The gritty, perspective on everyday life in a strict religious household was interesting, and provided a stark juxtaposition to the strange magic that brings the Paper Girl into Gabriel’s lonely life. I’d absolutely encourage anyone looking for a nice mix of genres, and voices, to give this anthology a chance!”

First Love also features stories by AM Cummins, Kathryn St John, AR Johnson, DS Durden, Sofi Laporte, Meg Boepple, Melinda Kucsera, Edeline Wrigh, AD Carter, Zoey Xolton, and Galina Trefil. Pick up your copy here.

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All Dark Places: One Year On

Last October, I had a short story published as part of Dragon Soul Press’s All Dark Places horror anthology.

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My contribution, Once in a Lifetime, is a spine-tingling tale of existential dread. It concerns a man who wakes up in a strange London flat, in bed with a woman he doesn’t know, who insists he is someone else. More disturbingly, memories of his former life – including his wife and children – start to fade from his mind, and are replaced by memories of his the life he has awoken inside.

Here are some review snippets for my short story:

This one was WOW. I felt like I was LIVING the story – which is probably not always a good thing. I could feel his desperation, the desire, and then at the end…. Well you are going to have to read that for yourself.” – Rebecca Hill, Gothic Bite Magazine.

“With a combination of psychological and traditional horror… It had a unique spin to it that left me nearly sobbing at its horror and hopeless tragedy.” – Seraphia, Amazon.

“The mystery, the suspense, the strangeness of this story creates something unique… The author twists this story so well, and the ending, for me, is heartbreaking.” – Anna, Amazon.

All Dark Places also features scary and sinister stories by AM Cummins, Anna Sinjin, and Hui Lang. If you fancy picking up a copy, click here.

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Curses & Cauldrons out today!

The Curses & Cauldrons anthology from Blood Song Books – which features three of my “Drabbles” – is released today. It already has “bestseller” status, since it has topped the Amazon Australia chart for horror anthologies.

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What is a Drabble, I hear you ask? A Drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words. I don’t normally indulge in micro-fiction,  but when asked to contribute to this witchy anthology by editor Zoey Xolton, I couldn’t resist the chance to explore some of my familiar themes in this challenging format.

My three Drabbles are entitled The Burning, Losing My Religion, and More Than She Bargained For. What are they about? Get a copy and find out.

Curses & Cauldron is available now: www.books2read.com/Curses

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Title Announcement for my next novel (and other news)

As well as promoting new releases Spectre of Springwell Forest and my short story Papercut (part of the First Love romantic fantasy anthology), I’ve made good use of the grim winter months writing another spooky mystery novel entitled (drumroll…) Phantom Audition.

St Johns Museum, Warwick

I struggled more than usual to find a title for this particular novel, even resorting to testing a few suggested titles on social media. But in the end, my closest friend suggested this title to me, and it stuck.

Phantom Audition revolves around Mia Yardley, a recently widowed bit-part actress grieving for her much more successful actor husband in his ancestral family mansion (like the one pictured above). Cryptic runes, a strange diary, a mysterious medium, and ghostly visions gradually lead to the unravelling of a sinister mystery. Is Mia being given a message from beyond the grave?

This novel sits more at the supernatural/psychological thriller end of my gothic thriller/horror spectrum, though there are still plenty of suspenseful, skin-crawling moments. I intend to beta test it very soon, and once that’s happened (and it’s been through various publisher hurdles), it should be available this October.

Before then I have another scary novel to unleash, called The Irresistible Summons. This is a haunted house story of a very different kind about which I will say no more at present, other than you can expect to have it in your hands in July.

In between those two releases, I might just release another short story. It all depends whether my somewhat offbeat submission to my publisher’s upcoming Coffins and Dragons anthology is accepted. Watch this space.

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First Love Author Interviews – All of them

First-Love-KindleOver the last few days, I’ve been running interviews on this blog with all my fellow First Love authors, discussing their contributions to the eponymous romantic fantasy anthology from Dragon Soul Press.

My short story is entitled Papercut, and it concerns a lonely teenage boy living with his ultra-strict Jehovah’s Witness mother. One night a mysterious girl made entirely of paper appears in his dreams, taking him on a mysterious and magical journey that I won’t spoil here.

Whether you fancy reading about the dreamscapes of the religiously oppressed, or love stories involving forest nymphs, mages, selkies, Native American mythology, or, as one of my fellow writers pitched her story to me, “Bridget Jones meets Morgana Le Fay”, this is a must for those who like their romance with a fantastical twist.

For ease of reference, here are links to all of the afore-mentioned interviews (including a separate interview with yours truly):

Meg Boepple interview

Story: Message in a Bottle.

Story tease from the interview: “Boy meets girl on the beach. It’s instant attraction… but he’s already promised to wed the daughter of his king even though he’s never met the future bride… Meanwhile, the pretty girl looks at this handsome dude with a ring on his finger and assumes she’d never be in his league even if he were available… and just to add a twist, he’s pretty sure she’s a siren out to break his heart and destroy his life.”

Sofi Laporte interview

Story: Chestnut Woman

Story tease from the interview: “Imagine falling in love at first sight in a really mundane place: the crowded, stuffy metro. What would you do? My heroine, shy, introverted Pamela, can’t muster up the courage to make the first move. At home she runs into her superbly aggravating, gossiping neighbour, Mrs Schmid. Who is not at all what she appears to be. Mrs Schmid gives her three roasted chestnuts that will change Pamela’s life forever. Is she going to have a second chance with the mysterious, smiling stranger in the subway?”

Kathryn St John interview

Story: A Season’s Time

Story tease from the interview: “Whilst on a summer visit with his grandparents, a young man meets a strange young woman in a nearby forest. Over the course of the season, their feelings blossom into love, but there’s an obstacle looming in the distance that threatens to separate them. Is their love doomed from the start, or will they manage to find a way around their difficulties and remain together?”

Zoey Xolton interview

Story: Once in a Blue Moon

Story tease from the interview: “My story Once in a Blue Moon is about a girl called Faith. She is an orphan on the cusp of womanhood who comes face to face with her death, and salvation in the space of a single night, when she discovers vampyres not only exist, but rule over their small, Victorian harbour town!”

Melinda Kucsera interview

Story: Caught in a Glance

Story tease from the interview: “Ours was a friendship for the ages–an abused mage just trying to raise his younger brother and a gray-clad enigma who hides beneath a cloak and veil. (That’s me, Shade, your narrator for this interview.) We didn’t know it but the day Sarn and I met, we took the first step toward a perilous friendship that would unleash a demon and earn the ire of an angel. From the mines under Mount Eredren to the Gray Between life and death, follow the twisted paths friendship takes. Only one will survive when adoration turns to obsession. But not even death can sever some bonds.”

AR Johnston interview

Story: Twin Flames

Story tease from the interview: “Dragons, young love, and curses that need to be broken. Will fate tear them apart or will love be enough to keep them together?”

AM Cummins interview

Story: Savage

Story tease from the interview: “My story is a dramatic recreation of a family legend that was told to me by my grandfather. He was proud of his Native American heritage.”

Edeline Wrigh interview

Story: Of Seals and Storms

Story tease from the interview: “When a storm threatens the lives of several local fishermen, Elizabeth’s best friend – a selkie and the girl she’s in love with – comes up with a plan to save them. But there’s one little caveat: she has to return to the ocean for the rest of eternity. Assuming they can find the skin her father hid from her before he drowns, of course. Of Seals and Storms is a love story about hard decisions, sacrifices, and trusting fate.”

DS Durden interview

Story: Lonely Oni

Story tease from the interview: “An exiled woman in a futuristic city finds hope and love where she never expected.”

AD Carter interview

Story: A Forbidden Union

Story tease from the interview: “The story is about a young prince name Zander who sees a woman and instantly falls in love with her, but her fate is sealed. Now Zander must make a decision that could very well change the course of history for his kingdom as well as himself.”

Galina Trefil interview

Story: The Rusalka of the Murashka

Story tease from the interview: “The murder of an innocent spawns a seductive creature which stalks a Ukrainian village for centuries.”

Simon Dillon interview

Story: Papercut

Story tease: See earlier in this article.

First Love is out now, as a paperback or e-book, here (in the UK) or here (in the US).

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First Love Author Interviews: AR Johnston

First-Love-KindleIn this, my final interview with my fellow First Love authors, AR Johnston talks young love, curses, dragons, writer’s block and more…

What drew you to the First Love anthology?

In all honesty it was a fluke, I came across the submission ad mid-December and thought, why not? What do I have to lose since I had writer’s block on another story.

Give us a little tease for your short story for First Love.

Dragons, young love, and curses that need to be broken. Will fate tear them apart or will love be enough to keep them together?

Do you prefer your romantic fiction to end happily-ever-after, happy-for-now, tragically, or does it depend on the story?

AR JohnstonIt all depends on the story and where the muses take me.

What fantasy elements (if any) do you use in your First Love story?

Definitely fantasy elements in this story.

What major theme(s) are you exploring in this story?

Can young love survive something that seems rather devastating? Honesty, hope.

What inspired your story?

Not really sure honestly, lol it just seemed to come to me.

To what extent are your characters based on you or people you know?

Traits maybe but not usually anyone in particular and in this story, no one.

Do you know your ending when you write, or do you start and see where the story or characters take you?

Sometimes I know the outcome I want to head to. If I end up there is a completely different story.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Seeing my imagination come to a realisation in front of me. That the words flow and weave a fantastic web of a story. That others enjoy it and tell me to keep going is such an amazing feeling.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

Writer’s block when the muses don’t want to talk and you get stuck mid story, not knowing where to take things.

To what extent (if at all) do you agree with the statement “write what you know”?

There will always be some elements of that. I’ve often been told that people see bits of my personality in some of my characters and that they love it. Even when I step into a genre that I’ve never done I try to lend a bit of something that I know to it.

Are you promiscuous or monogamous with your genre of choice?

I often stick to one type of genre, urban fantasy mostly but, there will always be elements of paranormal, supernatural, romance. I have stepped out from these before too and even submitted dystopian and horror stories before.

Which writers inspire you?

There are so many!! Kelley Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Laurell K Hamilton, Tanya Huff, Anne McCaffrey, smaller time names but no less absolutely amazingly epic, JJ King, Candace Osmond, SL Perrine, Kindra Sowder, Shawna Romkey, Cora Kenborn, KL Ware, Alison Mello, Mickey Miller, Derek Adams, Christopher Harlan, Amy Cecil, P Mattern, ….I could keep going because there are so many fantastic writers that I am lucky enough to know.

What other books or short stories have you written?

So many but not published….yet.

What is your current work-in-progress?

Main piece is a series one, urban fantasy, different timelines, magic, mayhem, mystery….

What advice would you give someone who tells you they want to be a writer?

Do it! Just start writing and don’t stop.

To pick up a copy of First Love either in paperback or on Kindle, click here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

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First Love Author Interviews: Zoey Xolton

Today’s First Love Author Interview is with Zoey Xolton, whose short story Once in a Blue Moon rubs shoulders with mine in the afore-mentioned Dragon Soul Press romantic fantasy anthology. Oh – and I absolutely love her author logo, so I’m placing it below, nice and big. Take it away Zoey, and may God have mercy on your soul for reading those final chapters first…52911318_2094567414167972_7771570217750102016_n

What drew you to the First Love anthology?

Ironically enough, the gorgeous cover! It sounds cliché, but covers, I’ve learned, as an author, are often a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ kind of situation! In our world of Online marketing, a striking cover is crucial… I recognised which cover artist had designed the cover, and I found myself thinking “If this publisher is paying good coin like that, for a cover, they must mean serious business!” And so of course, it seemed like the kind of enterprise and project I wanted to be a part of.

Give us a little tease for your short story for First Love.

First-Love-KindleMy story Once in a Blue Moon is about a girl called Faith. She is an orphan on the cusp of womanhood who comes face to face with her death, and salvation in the space of a single night, when she discovers vampyres not only exist, but rule over their small, Victorian harbour town!

Do you prefer your romantic fiction to end happily-ever-after, happy-for-now, tragically, or does it depend on the story?

I love a romance where the spark, or relationship is so intense, and so undeniable, that the couple involved are willing, without question, to fight for each other, and if necessary, die for each other. As a result, I often mix my happily-ever-afters with strong lashings of tragedy.

What fantasy elements (if any) do you use in your First Love story?

Being that my story would fall in the Paranormal Romance genre, the fantasy element, of course, is the existence of vampires as a hidden part of the every day world.

What major theme(s) are you exploring in this story?

Time, and love. The quote “We’re never promised tomorrow,” has always resonated strongly with me. It evokes a sense of urgency and appreciation for every moment. It also encourages the idea of making the best of whatever hand we’re dealt in life. Sometimes, you just have to follow your heart, or your gut and follow through on your choices, for better or worse.

What inspired your story?

Once in a Blue Moon is a story I had partially started some years ago, and so when I found the call for submissions to First Love, I picked it back up. It was born of my undying love of vampires, and the idea that life may be ephemeral, but love is eternal.

To what extent are your characters based on you or people you know?

Not at all, my characters are purely works of fiction. If anything, they are most likely the embodiments of small pieces of myself. The things I dream and wish, the way I see the world, what I believe and how I’d deal with fantastical situations.

Do you know your ending when you write, or do you start and see where the story or characters take you?

I always know my endings. I know them before I even know the beginning! It’s always been a quirk of mine, but is just how I operate. I have a vision of the end, and I work backward from there. I figure out how the characters met, and how they came to be in the situation they’re in, and what they do about it. Apparently it’s a really bizarre concept to most writers, but it’s always been my way! Plotting a story from the start, working through the middle and then tying it all together in a nicely wrapped up conclusion is just such a foreign concept to me. I mean, I always read the last chapter of a book before I purchase it, to see if it’s worth buying! (So many people want to clip me over the ear for this!) To me, if the climax is not epic, I can’t bring myself to invest in it.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The being a writer part! Writing is my life. I live for it. I breathe for it. It’s always been my dream to be an author. I’ve been imagining, writing and sharing stories since I was little. I can’t not write. I can’t imagine a world in which the written word is not my all. It’s just inconceivable.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The frustration over lack of time. I’m a mother and business woman, as well as a writer, and I loathe the days I’m so busy and caught up in other responsibilities that I can’t wrangle the time to write. I often go without sleep to write, that’s how much it frustrates me! I figure I can sleep when I’m dead.

To what extent (if at all) do you agree with the statement “write what you know”?

Within reason, it absolutely makes sense. I read predominantly Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy and Horror. It’s what I know, it’s what I love, so it’s what I enjoy writing. I probably could write a Sci-Fi tale, but I’d feel uncomfortable about it, because it’d be unfamiliar territory for me. I don’t know a great deal about quantum physics, the laws of gravity and the engineering behind space stations, so I’d feel anything I could write, would most likely lack that sense of depth and realism it would really need to feel genuine. I think, ultimately, the better phrase would be “write what you’re interested in”, because the more interest you have, the greater your desire to learn and do that subject matter the justice is deserves.

Are you promiscuous or monogamous with your genre of choice?

Nice choice of descriptors, there! I’d say I’m loyal to three genres, though I may be tempted to dabble if something else catches my imagination!

Which writers inspire you?

My greatest inspirations and influencers would have to be J.R.R Tolkien, Terry Brooks, G.R.R. Martin, Wilbur Smith, Anne Rice, Anne Bishop, Cecelia Dart-Thornton, Mercedes Lackey, Jacqueline Carey, Melissa Marr and Holly Black.

What other books or short stories have you written?

There’s quite a number, and I’m constantly churning out more! My most recent short story publications, outside of Once in a Blue Moon for First Love, by Dragon Soul Press, are: The Eternal Masquerade for Echoes of the Past, by Fantasia Divinity, as well as Heart Song and Ancestral Magic for Spring’s Blessing. Also, my flash fiction tale Beneath the Blood Moon was published by Factor Four Magazine, just to name a few!

What is your current work-in-progress?

I’m working on a submission for Dragon Soul Press’s Coffins & Dragons anthology, one for Fantasia Divinity’s Summer Splash fantasy anthology, a couple submissions for Iron Faerie Publishing; as well as over a dozen micro-fiction pieces for Blood Song Books’ Tiny Tales trilogy!

What advice would you give someone who tells you they want to be a writer?

Just do it! Write your heart out. Bleed your soul onto the page until you feel brain-fried, and then get up do it all over again. Write what you love, but challenge yourself, and never give up! If you truly want it, if it really is your greatest passion and dream, you’ll find a way to succeed.

Check out Zoey’s blog here , her Facebook page here, and her Amazon author page here.

To pick up a copy of First Love either in paperback or on Kindle, click here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

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First Love Author Interviews: DS Durden

Continuing this series of interviews with my fellow First Love contributors, next up we have DS Durden, whose science fiction tinged short story Lonely Oni proves a fascinating entry in this eclectic romantic fantasy Dragon Soul Press anthology.

What drew you to the First Love anthology?

Romance is fun to write every so often. I mostly write very serious and tragic sci-fantasy, so a happy little romance is refreshing at times.

Give us a little tease for your short story for First Love.

An exiled woman in a futuristic city finds hope and love where she never expected.

Do you prefer your romantic fiction to end happily-ever-after, happy-for-now, tragically, or does it depend on the story?

It wildly depends on the story. I tend to lean toward some tragic themes that turn into a happily-ever-after, though.

What fantasy elements (if any) do you use in your First Love story?

Sci-fi technology, sentient subterranean beings.

What major theme(s) are you exploring in this story?

Misinformation perpetuated by government officials, xenophobia, and a bit of rebellion.

What inspired your story?

It just kind of came to me. I was taking a shower one day, thinking about some ideas for some cool graphic design titles, and “Lonely Oni” passed my mind. It just had a ring to it. As for the story plot, I’m not really sure. It just kind of came together.

To what extent are your characters based on you or people you know?

Absolutely none for this story. I rarely base characters on people I know, but sometimes I do base characters on different aspects of myself. Every now and then, I’ll make a character that is everything I wish I was, but still sprinkle in enough troubles to make them realistic because I absolutely loathe Mary-Sue-type characters.

Do you know your ending when you write, or do you start and see where the story or characters take you?

Most of the time, no, I have to work really hard for the ending. Every now and then, an ending just kind of falls into my lap, but it’s rare. Generally I try to identify the main point of the story, then figure out how I want whatever conflict to be resolved, then work an ending around that concept.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to breathe life into ideas to make them something somewhat tangible to share with others and being able to chronicle those ideas.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

Deadlines, writer’s block, and being overly critical of oneself. I have this awful habit of not doing something if I feel it won’t be good enough, which is something I’m working on.

To what extent (if at all) do you agree with the statement “write what you know”?

Given that I do a lot of sci-fi, this is huge for me. I greatly admire sci-fi, but I’ve always struggled to remember more finicky things from the media I’ve consumed. Although I have also been fascinated by science most my life, science was not my best subject in school. It was one of my worst, actually. But my appreciation for it is what drives me to double-down on my research whenever I’m dealing with a subject that I really don’t have a clue about and fear I’ll make amateur mistakes on. But one thing I’ve found especially helpful is given that I do sci-fantasy, I can make-up a lot of the stuff I wouldn’t normally have an explanation for. Creativity and problem-solving has really been my strong suit. There’s no better feeling than finding a legitimate reason for why something happens in a story, how something works, or how something is related to another thing, and then it all fits perfectly together like a puzzle. Another aspect of “write what you know” that I very thoroughly stand behind is when you’re writing characters with particular difficulties that they face. I hate when a character has some sort of struggle or mental illness and they don’t handle it in a realistic way. But whether you’ve experienced said struggle or illness yourself or not, if you research hard enough and/or interview people with similar issues, you should always be able to make a decent representation if you’ve studied up and are able to really show that in your work. I may write sci-fantasy, but I need my characters and conflicts to be believable, and I can’t enjoy media to its full extent when characters and conflicts are poorly written and inaccurate.

Are you promiscuous or monogamous with your genre of choice?

Oh ho ho… I’d say I like to experiment a bit. Heh. Although sci-fantasy is my foundational genre, I’ve been dabbling in a bit of political dramas, thrillers, and I’ve been musing a few attempts at horror for a while now. I also really want to get into westerns, oddly enough. My father was big into western films and although I don’t watch them nearly as much anymore, I have a great appreciation for the Old Wild West aesthetic and am looking forward to spinning my own twist onto the genre.

Which writers inspire you?

Given that I don’t actually read nearly as much as I should and am even worse at following the real lives of people outside of my own circles, I think pretty much any writer that overcomes obstacles and follows their dreams no matter what. Also, writers with entertaining writing styles. I tend to write very straight-forward while still descriptive, so whenever I read an author’s piece that has an air of whimsy, I just really admire it.

What other books or short stories have you written?

My piece for First Love is actually my first publication, but I’ve got a ton of works in progress that just need some final worldbuilding details and they can get written out. I almost had a sci-fi short story published a year or two ago but I hit some snags. In a way I’m kind of glad for it, though, because now I can make the story way better and really do the story justice.

What is your current work-in-progress?

Way too many to count, but right now the story that’s got most of my attention requires a TON of worldbuilding, still. It’s a blend of science and magic with an emphasis on machinery and I am so, so, SO excited to finally bring it to life. Funny enough, when I first wrote Lonely Oni, I didn’t think it would tie into anything else of mine, but I figured out where it fits in and it’s actually a small piece of a much, much larger story in the works.

What advice would you give someone who tells you they want to be a writer?

Do it. Just do it. Don’t listen to anyone giving you doubts. Just practice, a lot. Write whatever comes to mind, on paper, on your phone, whatever makes you feel more comfortable. Get a second opinion on the things you make. Ask for gentle honesty. You want real opinions but you don’t want to get discouraged if you’re a sensitive person, but you need that feedback to get better. Read things you like and dissect why you like it and what’s good about it. Mimic it a little and do that with everything you like until you find your own voice. Experiment with different writing styles, genres, themes, and even point of views. I actually get a lot better with my writing every year or so despite not writing much at all during that time. I usually just throw myself out of my comfort zone with zero expectations and I usually really like what I make. You also gotta find what works for you, too. I struggle with the concept of short stories because I tend to invest a lot into my characters and settings, so sometimes I’ll watch movies and compare the pacing and what sort of things I learn from an hour and a half movie and figure out how I can translate that into a short story. It’s been really helpful for me given that I’m significantly more visual of a person.

To pick up a copy of First Love either in paperback or on Kindle, click here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

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First Love Author Interviews: Meg Boepple

First-Love-KindleMy series interviewing my fellow First Love authors continues. Meg Boepple has contributed a romantic fantasy tale for the eponymous Dragon Soul Press anthology entitled Message in a Bottle. Here are her thoughts on her story and more…

What drew you to the First Love anthology?

I’ve been a fantasy fan since junior high and a reader of romance since high school. In college I read an essay by JRR Tolkien where he basically said we humans have an innate yearning for fairy stories, happy endings, good news. And I took that as total validation for my penchant for fantasy and romance. So…fast forward… First Love is a fantasy-romance anthology. Totally my cup of tea.

Give us a little tease for your short story for First Love.

Boy meets girl on the beach. It’s instant attraction… but he’s already promised to wed the daughter of his king even though he’s never met the future bride… Meanwhile, the pretty girl looks at this handsome dude with a ring on his finger and assumes she’d never be in his league even if he were available… and just to add a twist, he’s pretty sure she’s a siren out to break his heart and destroy his life.

Do you prefer your romantic fiction to end happily-ever-after, happy-for-now, tragically, or does it depend on the story?

Oh, totally HEA. There are way too many sad events and okay-for-now moments in real life. I want to escape to a better place when I pick up a book or go to a movie.

What fantasy elements (if any) do you use in your First Love story?

There are significant themes of Celtic mythology in a very modern setting, such as Manannan Mac Lir (the god of the sea) who weaves his magic throughout the story as well as heads up a multi-billion-dollar global enterprise…. The hero Sean is a Selkie (Seal/human shifter) and Moira might be a mermaid. Or a siren. Or just a pretty girl with a thing for rescuing sea turtles and cleaning their habitat on her spring break vacation.

What major theme(s) are you exploring in this story?

Love. Destiny. Identity. Faith. And a few others.

What inspired your story?

I think it started with something someone said to me in church, of all places… “We’re all daughters of the King. It’s just that most of us don’t think of ourselves as princesses. And we definitely don’t see ourselves as worthy enough to be pursued by the heroes.”

Next, a friend on Facebook shared an article about how ancient Inuit kayakers lost in the currents and washed ashore in northern Europe might have given rise to legends of Selkies and Mermaids. A few other random things came together and suddenly I had these two sweet young characters with issues and instant attraction and a story I really wanted to tell! About the only thing it wasn’t inspired by was a recent DCU movie. I didn’t even see a trailer, much less the movie, until after I’d finished the story story and submitted it. I think any resemblances to that are purely products of our culture. Or maybe the magic of Manannan Mac Lir, shaping our reality around us?

To what extent are your characters based on you or people you know?

These characters are totally out of my own head. Although some of Moira’s insecurities might be similar to mine, I absolutely can NOT sing and you’d never want me to try karaoke. Not ever. Even my cat gets upset when i sing in the shower!

Do you know your ending when you write, or do you start and see where the story or characters take you?

I usually know the ending in a general sense, but I’m more a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) than a plodder. And in this case the characters surprised me with this ending (Although the original ending I had planned is the basis for a sequel story).

What is the best thing about being a writer?

From the creative perspective: Asking “what if,” and being able to say “I don’t like that answer.” And from the communication perspective, hearing that something I’ve written has resonated with or impacted someone I otherwise would never have met.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

For me…The years it takes to bring a project to completion of the first draft, and then looking at the beginning and realizing that my skills have grown to the point that it needs a complete re-do…which will take another year or so again!

To what extent (if at all) do you agree with the statement “write what you know”?

Meh. I really don’t. Homer did all right imagining the fall of Troy even though he wasn’t there. Jules Verne and HG Wells went pretty far from their personal experiences with their time machines and journeys to impossible places. Madeline L’Engle took me to Farandolae, battling Echthroi, on unicorn rides, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t “writing what she knew.” Imagination counts for a lot, in my book. (Pun intended, of course).

Are you promiscuous or monogamous with your genre of choice?

I write 2 very distinct genres under 2 different names. So… you make that call. Monogamous but with split identity disorder?

Which writers inspire you?

Madeline L’Engle, definitely. I adore her children’s books, but also her deep spiritual connection to the soul of the artist. Then there’s those in my writing community, my circle so to speak, lesser known but still inspirations to me like Jessica White and Lena Nelson Dooley and Lisa Miller Crane. I’d give a shout out to a jillion more, too, but that will do for now.

What other books or short stories have you written?

Well, let’s see… A novella Explosions and Fireworks was published in a collection titled Summer Fireworks in 2017 which I’m hoping will be re-released as a stand-alone this summer… I had a short story Intentional Consequences in Forbidden Rites in 2016 … and I’ve written some drama pieces ranging from monologue to full three-act musical that were performed in local churches several years ago.

What is your current work-in-progress?

I’ve got a couple irons in the fire, including that sequel to Message in a Bottle. I’m about half or ⅔ through the first draft of a magical realism romance set on a horse ranch in Oklahoma called Horsing Around. And I’m also the same distance through the first draft of a women’s fiction, about a refugee/survivor of a civil war in an African country and her need to deal with the past in order to embrace the opportunities of the future – working title Out of the Desert.

What advice would you give someone who tells you they want to be a writer?

Oh, I’ve got lots of advice! First… It’s not something you WANT to be, it’s something you ARE the moment you write or type that first word on the page, so go for it! Second …To be a good writer, a strong communicator, takes practice. You can’t practice until you start…so go for it! Third, the first draft is for you; the revisions are for your market/readership/audience. Since you can’t edit till you’ve got a draft in front of you, just go for it, and write! I guess you could sum it all up as: “Go for it!”

Read more from Meg Boepple here.

To pick up a copy of First Love either in paperback or on Kindle, click here (in the UK) and here (in the US).