Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - Elaine Isaak

Welcome Elaine Isaak, fantasy author

Amber: Why do you write fantasy? 

Elaine: Fantasy enables the writer to examine important issues of human interaction and morality from a slantwise direction that, I think, can cast light into some darker corners.  Often, if we tackle an issue from a contemporary, real-world perspective, it's easy to get angry or become mired in complexities that distract from the heart of the matter.  By removing the idea to a different realm, even if it's a similar place in which magic works or vampires walk the earth, we invite the reader to pretend that it's not real, so it doesn't matter--while we engage them in considering things they might otherwise avoid.  

Using the tropes of fantasy, we can create thought-experiments and moral dilemmas that illuminate our inner lives.

Amber: What are your favorite fantasy novels?

Elaine: Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Tim Powers' Anubis Gates, Tolkein's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks.

Amber: Why do you think readers love fantasy? 

Elaine: Readers want a book to be so enthralling that they can step inside and close the door behind them, and not come out until they're done.  Fantasy takes that desire even further by transporting the reader to fantastic places where they can experience things you just don't find in the real world.  Many fantasy books are written in series, giving the reader and writer lots of room to play together and build great things.  Fantasy is an imaginative adventure, not for the faint of heart, where the reader can try on different lives

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it? 

Elaine: I did for years. . . What many people outside the genre don't understand is the pure delight of discovering new places and characters, then revealing them through words.  
Gustave Flaubert said "It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself, but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."

I do think a story isn't quite complete until someone else has read it--that's when the magic really comes together.

Elaine Isaak dropped out of art school to found Curious Characters, designing original stuffed animals and small-scale sculptures, and to follow her bliss:  writing.  She is the author of The Singer's Crown (Eos, 2005), and sequels The Eunuch's Heir  (Eos, 2006), and The Bastard Queen (Swimming Kangaroo, 2010). 

Her new dark historical fantasy series will be starting in 2012 with DAW books under a pseudonym (shhh!) A mother of two, Elaine also enjoys rock climbing, taiko (Japanese drumming) weaving and exotic cooking—when she can scrape the time together.  Visit her website  to read sample chapters and find out why you do not want to be her hero.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - Janet Lane Walters

Welcome Janet Lane Walters, fantasy author with a touch of romance, adventure, and mystery!

Amber: Why do you write fantasy? 

Janet: Who isn't interested in magic and wishing for powers that could defeat evil? Part of the reason I write fantasy is that is how my mind works these days. As a child I grew up reading just about every book in the library and when I discovered the few fantasy books there were at that time I devoured them. Since I write in a number of genres, I sort of go where the spirit takes me. Fantasy is fun and creating an entire world is interesting. The first Fantasy I wrote was called the Jewels of Earda that went on to become a trilogy. I submitted it to many publishers who at that time told me they liked the story but there was no market for fantasy. So I went on to other things. Then came Tolkein and his stories and from my files I dug out what became The first of a trilogy and titled The Quest For the White Jewel. I have also always been fascinated with the idea of magic and having things not what they seem. I've also been interested in astrology and have rather combined the two loves in my writing.

Amber: How would you describe your subgenre?

Janet: Not sure I have a subgenre. Once again I sort of go all over the map. The Jewels of Earda is a fantasy that can be read by teens and forward. The Henge Betrayed series is definitely YA but I have adult readers for the series. Here the focus characters can control and use either Earth, Air, Water or Fire. My grandchildren are the models for the characters. Then we come to The Warrior of Bast the start of an alternate world series in an ancient Egypt. There is a romance in the book but the adventure is more the focus. Of course Mistress of the Moons is definitely an adult fantasy and is an alternate world and three romances since there are three heroines, three heroes and three villains. Then there are the Fyre duo, The Temple of Fyre and The Dragons of Fyre and they're very adult.

Amber: What are your favorite fantasy novels?  

Janet: There are more than I can count. Of course Tolkien series. I've been a fan of Andre Norton with her Witch World series had have all on my shelf. I enjoy the Mercedes Lackey series. Another of my favorites is Jane Toombs. Gloria Oliver and Margaret L. Carter. There are probably dozens more I could mention since I have an extensive collection that I read and reread.

Amber: Why do readers love fantasy?
Janet: Can't speak of all readers but of the books I've read and the feedback I've gotten from my readers. The magic enchants them and since most fantasies are involved with good and evil with good triumphing I think the hope that good would always win drives people to read fantasies. Often fantasy stories combine action with the magic. Fantasies also appeal to the child in us and we all yearn to return to those days when we believed in magic.

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it? 

Janet: Another tricky question. I very likely would because I write the things I like to read and since fantasies are among the things I enjoy reading I would continue writing in the genre. Actually I would just continue writing period.

Janet Lane Walters:
I've been writing since the dark ages, the days of typewriters and carbon paper. Actually there was a long period of time when I left writing to return to work as a nurse to help put four children through college. My career began with short stories in 1968 and moved to novels in 1972. I live in the scenic Hudson River valley with my husband of many years. I've four children and five grandchildren. Though recently fantasy has been my direction, I've written mysteries, romance from sweet to savory, contemporary to historical.

Books by Janet Lane Walters

The Temple of Fyre and The Dragons of Fyre (finalist in the Dream Realm Awards)

Find out more about Janet Lane Walters
Janet’s Contest!
Leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of
The Quest For The White Jewel
and also Mistress of the Moons

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - K.A. Laity

Welcome K.A. Laity, fantasy author, medievalist, and author of weekly serial fantasy!

Amber: Why do you write fantasy?

I have always been fascinated by myths, legends and fairy tales. There’s such a weight of history in those old tales yet they can be endlessly renewed. Even in stories where the mythic is marginal, it supplies a continuity with the past that anchors it to something bigger than itself.

Amber: You’re writing Airships and Alchemy as a blog. Why did you decide to do that? Can readers just go and read?

Yep, it’s also available as a text novel (you can have weekly installments sent right to your phone or mobile device). I have so many writing projects going on all the time, it’s good to have something light and fun to keep people entertained between publications.

AIRSHIPS & ALCHEMY: A novel of magic, mechanicals, mayhem and dogs of various sizes scribed serially by Kit Marlowe [AKA K. A. Laity, the award winning author of Unikirja, Pelzmantel and many other stories, essays and plays].

Amber: Tell me more about how your academic studies and teaching fit into writing fantasy.

Well, when I’m writing fantasy I’m actually pulling on a lot of reality as well: PELZMANTEL, for example, was based on a lot of actual medieval magical practices and medieval poems and sagas. In that respect it’s a bit like what Tolkien did, but I’m less interested in war and a lot more interested in what women were doing — and how the less prestigious people lived. UNIKIRJA involved not only research but a trip to Finland where I photographed ancient rock paintings, thousands of years old. I have done all kinds of research in dead languages, magical practices and medieval literature and culture. It lends a sense of authenticity, I hope.
Amber: What are your favorite fantasy novels?

I like many different kinds: I like the darkness and magic of Clive Barker’s books, the sweeping majesty of IMAJICA and the proto-urban fantasy of WEAVEWORLD but also the historical magic of the Books of the Art, GREAT AND SECRET SHOW and EVERVILLE. I love the sexy fantasy work of Storm Constantine, especially her Grigori trilogy, and the more folkloric urban fantasy of Charles de Lint, who also makes music an integral part of the stories.

Amber: Why do you think readers love fantasy?

The magic, the beauty, the possibilities. I get so bored by stories that reduce reality to mere human existence. It ignores the magical world that physics suggests we’ve barely begun to understand. Mimetic fiction seems a kind of blindness.

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it?

I have! For many years I did. My first published story was in 1995, but I wrote all my life, mostly fantasy. No one read it because I was afraid to show it to anyone. THAT IS WRONG! Get over the fear. Just share it. You never know what may happen. My first story resulted in a lovely letter from Clive Barker that I framed and hung on my wall.

K.  A. Laity writes so much that she had to create some <>  pseudonyms to keep her colleagues from thoughts of murder. A tenured medievalist at a small liberal arts college, she mostly tries to find ways to avoid meetings in order to write more.
Her books

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the  
which contains her story “Fear and Loathing in Deptford.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Prince Polo - Chocolate and Real Romance - My Valentine Story

Love, Serendipity, and Chocolate
by Amber Polo

           Once upon a time in1994. I was the marketing manager for a Boston conference taping company and my boss’s Polish wife decided to throw a party. Registered for a weekend regional Mensa conference at a hotel west of Boston, I was more interested in getting away from my co-workers than socializing with them. But, when your boss has a party, you go, even if the weather is awful and you know traffic to the west suburbs will be hell.

            So I ate Jolanta’s thick potato soup and dark bread and waited for the earliest polite moment to leave. At last, blocking the door, she told me I must take sweet treats with me. I opened my briefcase and she dropped in a handful of candy. I smiled and ran down the steps to head into Friday rush hour traffic.

            At the hotel Regional Gathering on Friday evening I met old friends. On Saturday morning I had my first ever tarot card reading. Still trying to make sense of the intricate cards, I walked into the Clear Thinking Workshop. I was not particularly interested in thinking; Thinking meant questions and I wanted answers. What did the future hold for me, my career, my fortune, and, most of all, my love life? Was it too much to hope to meet the love of my life? And soon?

            Sitting next to me, with obviously a more serious interest in clear thinking, was Vince Polo, an attractive, age-appropriate man from Maryland with a big smile. Vince and I left the workshop and over the next six hours drank a lot of coffee, discussed our lives, and shared personal stories and feelings. Vince’s intelligence, sense of humor, good looks, honesty, and his intense interest in me were irresistible. He stayed for the evening banquet, returned for sessions on Sunday and decided to stay in Boston for another day so we could have dinner on Monday evening.

            Sunday night, as I was unpacking my weekend luggage, I up-ended my bag and out fell two “Prince Polo Krunche wafel z kremem Kakawym oblewane naturalna Czekolada” candy bars in gold foil wrappers.

Had I found my prince?

Here's a photo from our Arizona wedding!

            A Polish deli near Sedona’s Well Red Coyote bookstore stocks Prince Polo chocolate-covered wafer candy bars. And like all the Polish people I've questioned, the deli owners agree the candy bars have been around forever and the name has no significance.

Amber's Contest!
Leave a comment for a chance to win
a .pdf of one of my fictional love stories! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - Nicole Zoltack

Welcome Nicole Zoltack, Medieval Fantasy author and Renaissance Faire bride!

Amber: Why do you write fantasy? 

Nicole: I write fantasy because I love the idea of being able to create a new world, especially magical ones. My fantasy novels tended to be grounded in history, the Middle Ages. I love the idea of knights and magic.
Amber: I love your romantic Renaissance wedding photos. Tell me about your wedding.

Nicole: Thank you! :) I’ve always been obsessed with knight and the Middle Ages. After my boyfriend proposed to me and we set a date, I asked him what he thought of a Renaissance themed wedding, and he agreed! I was so happy. 

I planned the wedding myself. I had my gown made. It wasn’t the traditional white color. The bodice had a faint blue color to it – blue was the purity color in the Middle Ages. I made the wedding invitations myself. Used parchment-like paper and included the line Medieval attire admired not required. Our wedding rings are Claddagh ones. Our wedding party rented costumes. We had a wonderful castle wedding cake and cut the first piece with a dagger. Our outdoor pictures were taken at a historic park that had stone arches. They made for an awesome backdrop. One of my coworkers (back when I had a ‘real’ job) performed music in a Renaissance band, so they played during the reception. And our wedding favors were floating castle candles.

Amber: In Kingdom of Arnhem Book One: Woman of Honor your heroine is a female knight. 

Nicole: Yes, Aislinn wanted to become a knight to take her dead brother’s place. She’s very big on tradition despite her wanting to do something only boys have ever done in her kingdom. She’s strong and brave and loyal, all great qualities for a knight. She also has a big heart. Despite being a knight, there is a definite feminine side to Aislinn. She’s definitely one of my favorite heroines from my stories.

Amber: What do you read and why do readers love fantasy? 

Nicole: I read everything I can get my hands on: fantasy/paranormal, historical, mysteries, science fiction, the classics, YA, romances, true crime. I’m not too choosey.
Readers love fantasy because it provides an escape from the mundane. People love to imagine worlds in which magic and other races exist. I think people are drawn to magic because it seems so powerful. After all, who wouldn’t want to use magic to make their lives easier?

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it? 

Nicole: Yes, definitely. I write for my readers, but I also write for myself. Writing is very therapeutic for me. And I love fantasy stories because it's a means to escape to a magical world where not all of my friends have to be human.

Nicole Zoltack is obsessed with the Middle Ages so it comes as no surprise that her first novel was about a girl who wants to be a knight. She writes fantasy/paranormal, romance, historical, horror, YA… she refused to be boxed in my genre. She might be claustrophobic! She enjoys spending her free time with her loving husband and adorable sons, riding horses, collecting swords, and going to the Pa Renaissance Faire, dressed in period garb, of course!

Learn more about Nicole & her Books
Nicole's Website 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Editing and Writing Anthologies - Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Welcome Danielle Ackley-McPhail, anthology editor and fantasy author! 

Amber: Tell us about the difference between editing a book by one author compared to an anthology. 

Danielle: Well…first off I have to say that I’m not a copy editor, mostly I am a project editor combined with a critiquer. The main difference is that I know I am not perfect when it comes to grammar and such, but I generally have a good eye at how to polish and improve a story. All of the novel work I have done has been critiques for friends.

I would say the main difference between novels and anthologies is style and experience levels. Novels you work with one author—or perhaps a writing team—and the work is pretty much consistent throughout. With an anthology you are dealing with many authors with their own ways of doing things. The editor’s challenge is to clean everything up and meld the collection together so that things flow smoothly and logically from the beginning of the anthology to the end.

This is one of the reasons the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies are broken down into sections. When we did the first one we had a lot of variety, with the exception of three really good stories that were all written in the Noir detective style. Other than that the plots were completely different, but it was difficult at first to decide how to deal with them. We were afraid we were going to have to let one of them go when it occurred to me that there would be no problem having all three of them at all…if they were their own section so that it made sense to have a bunch of them. So, my co-editors and I looked at all of the stories and tried to find a pattern that would allow us to create five evenly divided section. We’ve been doing it ever since!

Another challenge is coming up with enough different material on a very focused topic so that each section…each anthology even, is unique and interesting. Our answer to that is two-fold: first, we have a secondary theme for each book. The first one didn’t have one…well…because it was the first one. The second one, however, was titled Just Plain Bad. The theme for that one was that all the villains had to be faeries, regardless of what other faeries were in the story that was a must. In the third anthology, In All Their Glory, all the stories had to have a combat/military theme. And in the next one, Bad-Ass Faeries 4: It’s Elemental, all of the authors must chose an existing type of elemental faerie and base the story (whatever it is) around that. We’ll see how successful that one is. It will definitely pose a challenge to the editorial team as it means that we have to judge stories by section (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit) rather than judging all the stories and then dividing them up afterward. Because of this we have opened up submissions for the first time ever for this series…we expect competition to be fierce. Anyone interested in details can go to

Amber: Any tips for writers to help get a story accepted into an anthology?
1)  First and foremost…read the guidelines thoroughly and make sure you follow them.
2)  Always be professional when communicating with the editor.
3)  Do not be difficult, if the editor wants changes and they are reasonable, work with them; don’t take it as an affront to your creative process.
4)  If the collection is a themed anthology, ask the editor if there is anything in particular they were looking for that was not submitted, and then do your best to provide a story matching what they were looking for.
5)  Think beyond. If it is an open call, the editor is going to see a lot of carbon-copy stories. Consider the theme and look for the most unique twist you can put on a story to fit that theme. Don’t just think of what would make a cool story, think what would make a distinctive one.
6)  Proofread. Proofread. Proofread! And then have someone else proofread for good measure. Authors are too close to their own work to catch every mistake because their mind automatically fills in the missing or incorrect details.

Amber: Is this a good path for a writer who wants to sell a longer work?
Danielle: I look at it this way: novels take a long time to write. Then they take a long time to revise. Then they—usually—take a long time to sell. And finally, they definitely take a long time to produce. With that in mind, even if you are a very prolific author there are going to be gaps in there where nothing new is coming out. This is, of course, assuming you already have your start. So, how do you keep your name out there while you are writing or waiting for the next novel to pub? Originally it was magazines, and to some extent it still is, though there is an awful lot of competition. Unfortunately, a lot of print magazines have not survived the electronic age. However, a lot of mainstream and small press publishers have turned to anthologies to increase their title list. With that in mind I think anthologies have great potential to both give the beginning author their start, as well as to keep the established author’s name in the public eye.

I myself have three novels published (Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale) but collectively they represent about five years of my life spent writing. The first two took two years to come out in print after they were accepted by publishers. The second took considerably less than that, but only because I am the production staff.

If I depended on the novels to make my name, I would be sorely disappointed, mostly because there is a lot of time invested there, and I am a small-press author so distribution and marketing are something of an issue. But since I am one of those authors that can write short or long, I have used anthologies—I am published in over thirty at this stage—to increase my visibility and ensure I always have something new coming out each year.

Another benefit of anthologies is filling out your list of publishing credits. In that manner they most definitely have the potential of increasing your chances of selling a longer work because publishers always look at previous publishing history…which means it’s awful good to have one to show them!

Also, if you are the type of author likely to sell your own works at conventions anthologies are a nice way to fill out your table space and make you more appealing to the customer. It is always difficult to sit there with just one title…because it means you either grab them, or you don’t. With multiple titles to offer you can always guide them toward something else if the first book isn’t to their interest.
Finally, anthologies let you reach markets you wouldn’t normally on your own because each author in the book—hopefully—has their own following, so you reach your fans and their fans.

Amber: What else to writers want to know?
Danielle: I am quite sure the main thing writers want to know is about the money. I can’t speak for the large publishers, other than to say I’m positive they pay better than small press.

I have a lot of experience with small presses. Enough to warn everyone that unless you are selling the books yourself (most publishers give an author discount that makes this feasible) you aren’t going to get rich on anthologies. Small presses have about three different ways they pay, in one combination or another:
1)  Comp copies and an author discount
2)  An equal share of X royalty per book sold
3)  A per-word advance/flat fee

If you do a lot of anthologies you can get a nice bit of change, but for the most part, this venue is for the exposure, the publishing credit, and the hope that maybe one of your stories will catch the eye of a Best of editor, or an award judge/nominator.

In a semi-related note, one of the benefits from the standpoint of an editor who is also an author, I get to work with some of the best authors in the industry. I not only pick things up from them, but I’ve formed friendships with them and have shown them what I am capable of when working on a project. That alone makes the experience priceless for me!

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over fifteen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She has edited the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series and No Longer Dreams, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, Space Pirates, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and New Blood.

She is a member of The Garden State Horror Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. 

She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). 

To learn more about Danielle's work,