Thursday, February 24, 2011

"No Interviews, Please": A Guest Post by Stephen Brayton

Please join me today in welcoming Echelon Press author Stephen Brayton to The Fascination Files. His novel NIGHT SHADOWS debuted on February 15th, and since Stephen in now in the full court PR press, his words on interviews are quite appropriate.

No Interviews, Please

A while ago, one of my friends directed me to a particular blog where an author conceded to do a guest post. He started by saying how he didn't grant interviews anymore because he'd become successful enough to not want to do them and didn't want to answer the same questions asked so many times in previous interviews. He went on to defend his position and argue against his being forgotten by the public, then proceeded to give an interesting discussion regarding brick and mortar stores and tangible books, and eBooks. How he would still succeed in regards to competition with the 'big name' authors.

As I say, I found his discussion credible, but everything branched from his opening statements about not doing further interviews but how he made an exception to write this particular guest blog.

I read the post and made a few comments, including how saddened I felt to see an author refuse to give interviews. Now before everybody jumps all over me with arguments, let me explain my views. I may be a newly published author and learning the ropes of publishing and marketing. I'm sure some of the 'big name' authors shy away from interviews and, yes, they are in a position to pick and choose. To each his own.

As frequent readers of my blog know, I have posted a series of author interviews. In 2009 and 2010, I contacted many authors, beginning with the Echelon Press authors, introduced myself, and asked if they would mind answering a few questions for the series Around the Globe With... Yes, some of the questions are ones others have asked, although I have tried to be light-hearted and humorous. All but one author (not from Echelon Press) agreed and sent me their answers. I've put them in a folder and have pulled them out from time to time and posted them.

I felt, as a new author and editor for Echelon Press, I wanted to do my part to promote authors and their books. I mentioned I wanted to start with Echelon Press authors because it seemed only natural to first help my company succeed in my own little way. Except for a few exceptions, I'm working my way through those from EP, then I'll post others'.

In my promoting of NIGHT SHADOWS, I sought out various blogs and author sites, introduced myself, and requested consideration for a guest blog or interview. I was allowed to appear on many sites and let me tell you, I felt honored with each one. Was I asked some standard questions? Sure. But I took the time to answer each of them a little differently than the previous. I sincerely thank every author or blogger who accepted my interviews and guest blogs. On the dates my interviews were posted, I promoted that particular author's site. I thank every single person who bought my book and who are looking forward to Beta, available in July.

I never want to forget my friends, family, and fans, because you are why I succeed. I can write the best novel in the world, and I can somehow get a publisher to accept it, but if nobody buys it, what was the point of it all?

Am I looking for a little ego stroking, a bunch of compliments, and possibly some women giving me their phone numbers? Of course. But I will always be grateful.

Sure, I dream of being a 'big name' author one day. I would love to be successful enough to pick and choose my interviews and appearances, but I hope I never reach a time where I'm jaded enough to refuse to give an autograph to a fan, don't take a few moments to talk to the people who buy my books, or reject an interview question because it's been asked of me scores of times. People want to know my answer, that's why they ask. New writers crop up all the time and they're looking for guidance. There are vast numbers of potential fans I have yet to reach.

If I ever do fall into that mind set where I'm refusing to grant interviews or someone thinks I'm acting condescending because someone fires an oft asked question at me, or I push someone away from an autograph because I don't feel like giving one, then I grant permission for that person to smack me upside the head (gently, please, I bruise easily) and remind me of this post.

Thank you.

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Stephen Brayton is the author of NIGHT SHADOWS, out now from Echelon Press (click here for purchasing info) and BETA, debuting July 2011, also from Echelon Press. Visit his website at or check out his blog at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the Desert to the Snowpocalypse

So these are the extremes that bookended my very first stops on the wildly erratic couple of weeks that have followed the publication of The Dangerous Edge of Things.

My first stop was Scottsdale, Arizona, the Wild West, land of saguaro cactus and the black-tailed jackrabbit. The temperature hovered in the mid-seventies during the day, punctuated with clear sweet sunlight, and then dropped into the cozy fifties at night, under black skies so full of stars it looked like someone had thrown rhinestones up there.

That's what's called an organ pipe cactus over there (assuming my notes are correct -- there are cacti named after everything on land and sea: sharkfin agaves and jumping chollas and fishhook cactuses).

Sand and rocks everywhere. I brought back a pretty piece of rough chrysocolla from a gem shop. The turquoise looked lovely, but the real turquoise was very expensive and the cheap turquoise was probably dyed howlite. So I just admired it from afar.

Four days back in the 'Boro, and then off to Chicago, the Snow-decked City (I know what it's really called, but take a gander at the photo to the right -- that hunk of snowplow mountain blocked most of the wind. Except for that one night when the wind smelled like frozen iron and was so cold and liquid it poured right down into my thermal underwear . . . and for the first time in my life, I understood what COLD meant.

There's little visual reference to help you understand the massiveness of this snowbank. It's taller than you, that's for sure, even if you're a basketball player.

And oh yeah. I sold some books, drank some bubbly, met some dear fantastic people. But you know how it is -- in the end, we all talk about the weather.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Please join me in welcoming guest Nancy J. Cohen to The Fascination Files -- she's here to tell you all about world-building, an endeavor that has served her well as a writer of sci fi/futuristic romance. Read the excerpt she's provided and see what I mean.

By Nancy J. Cohen

A particular recipe for research is required when writing a sci fi or futuristic romance. About 3/4 cup of imagination starts the story rolling. Add in 1/8 cup of scientific accuracy and 1/8 cup of futuristic terminology. Mix it all together and let the tale flow forth.

Where's the best place to find the ingredients?


Television & Movies
The Star Trek universe is a widely accepted cultural phenomenon in the United States. Get familiar with the terminology. Words such as phasers, transporters, and photon torpedoes should roll off your tongue like water. These are part of the genre conventions and need no explanation. Watch classic sci fi shows for the same reasons. You’ll become familiar with the landscape.
Reference Books
Look for movie sourcebooks, video game guides, sci fi film technical manuals, and computer game magazines. These can be springboards for your own ideas when you're stumbling for authentic sounding technobabble.
Comics/Graphic Novels/Role Playing Games/Video Games
These genres have a wealth of sci fi materials. You might find something inspirational.
Newspapers & Magazines
Articles on futuristic technology can give you useful ideas for your own imaginary world. Or take a current issue and extrapolate what might happen in the future. Overpopulation? Create a world where birthing is strictly controlled. Or have overpopulation so rampant that no one has a moment of privacy. Pollution? Have your people wear gas masks to filter out the poisons in the air. Bigotry? Have two species warring with each other for so long that they’ve forgotten the original quarrel. Endless possibilities present themselves when you look at our world today.
Myths and Folktales
These can provide the basis for your story, as Norse mythology does for my paranormal trilogy.


After you've lined up your source materials, how do you create your particular universe? It's easiest to base a planetary culture on one of our own, either past or present. For example, I based the Souk culture in CIRCLE OF LIGHT and MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY loosely on the ancient Turks, so pashas rule and keep harems on their home planet.

In SILVER SERENADE, my latest release, interplanetary travel is commonplace and conflicts are based on the same problems we have now: lust for power, greed, etc. My heroine, an assassin, teams up with the hero, a convicted criminal, to catch a terrorist leader. However, Silver wants the man dead and Jace needs him alive as a witness in his defense. Who will win out when they catch the bad guy? While the story is character based, it takes place on other planets. So we start out with two sympathetic characters who each have their own goals, motivation, and conflict, and then we put them into outer space where their adventures take place.

The universe you create must remain consistent. Consider the type of government, ecology, religion, geology, cultural practices, education, communications, etc. when building your world. Regarding technology, for example, are your people at a pre-tech level where they use horses for travel, where a carriage ride takes days to visit a relative, and where messages are drafted by hand? Or does your society have interstellar comm networks and warp drives? Consider adding a glossary and other bonus features like I did for SILVER SERENADE in describing the weapons and warships.

As you write your story, twist the terminology to suit your imaginary world. Sprinkle in enough futuristic sounding words and your story will ring with a sense of reality, but don't overwhelm the reader with them. If you're having trouble creating new words, use the dictionary and look up word origins for whatever you had in mind. Then come up with a new twist on an old term. Or try the thesaurus for a likely synonym. Regarding character names, make them different but pronounceable. Be careful not to use American slang and phrases, or you'll jar the reader.

Settings are important in building your world. Use the five senses to bring these places alive for your reader. If you deploy a foreign-sounding word, put it in a context the reader understands so it makes sense. i.e. “A ruella crawled up her arm, its eight legs tickling her skin. She didn’t dare move as the deadly creature paused, twitched its small black body, then proceeded on a heading toward her chin.” Does that make you cringe? You may not have heard of a ruella before but you get the picture.

Research particular topics the same way you would for a contemporary novel. For example, in MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY, my heroine possesses a singing voice that mesmerizes men like one of the mythical sirens. I interviewed a former member of the New York City Opera to learn the proper terms for vocal exercises. In CIRCLE OF LIGHT, I perused an article in National Geographic on volcanoes for a scene on a volcanic planet. STARLIGHT CHILD includes an amphibious species, so I researched frogs. Make sure whatever you create is plausible or at least sounds like it could be real.

Futuristics are tremendous fun to write. Your imagination can soar to great heights, and anything is possible. You have more freedom than almost any other genre. Just remember that the story is first and foremost a romance. Everything we've talked about here is background and should remain so. Don't get so caught up in your imaginary world that you forget about the people you've put there. As a writer, you need to focus on the emotional reactions between your characters. Engage the reader’s interest, and then hijack them with you to your imaginary world.

Here’s an excerpt from SILVER SERENADE to show you how I set a scene in an otherworldly place:

Jace pushed open the double swinging doors to the saloon, his throat dry from the arid air in the ramshackle port town. Smoke from hakah pipes reached him along with a noisy din and the smell of grog. Spacers crowded the dimly lit interior, roughnecks who sported bristled jaws, muscled torsos, and loaded armament belts.
At his side, Silver touched his arm. “Do you see Gruber?
I can barely see my own hand. Let’s go to the bar. He’ll find us.” He hoped their disguises worked. If Gruber’s memory still failed him, the arms dealer wouldn’t remember what they looked like on Stacktown. When they’d contacted him, Gruber had reluctantly agreed to introduce them to Tyrone Bluth as potential recruits. But Jace worried whether they’d be recognized despite their dyed hair and false identities.
I’ll have a Stentorian ale,” he ordered, addressing the one-eyed bartender who needed to see a toothbrush once in his life. “Raven, what about you?” he asked Silver, who’d taken the code name after her new hair color.
She wore her thick tresses hanging loose down her back. If that wasn’t enough to draw male attention, her creamy flesh spilled out of a leather bustier that enhanced her generous assets. More than one roving glance aimed in her direction before assessing her companion.
The same,” she said in a tough-girl voice, sliding onto an empty stool and folding her legs for ample view. Posing as a sharpshooter, she adjusted the rifle slung over her shoulder. It wasn’t an idle boast. She’d explained how as a child, her dad had taught her to shoot sonic pellets at the knobbies eating their grain crops. They couldn’t get too close or the knobbies would feast on them instead.
Hey, sister,” said the large fellow on the next stool over. “Looking for some action?” He gave a gap-toothed grin.
Get lost.” Silver chugged her ale, turning her back on the guy. “I already got a man.”
Don’t look too manly to me. Bet his dick is the size of my little finger.” He wheezed with laughter while others joined in.
Jace stood straight. “Is that an insult?”
Mebbe. Wanna do somethin’ about it?” A knife appeared in the thug’s hand...

Can you visualize this scene? Smell the ale, breathe in the smoke? Can you sense the danger for my heroes if their cover is blown? If so, I’ve done my job.

Putting your lovers into a futuristic setting launches them into a world of excitement, passion, adventure, and danger. Add those ingredients to the ones discussed above and you'll have a recipe that's out of this world.

To learn more about Nancy, please go to:


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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Come Visit!

I'm guest blogging today at Nancy's Notes from Florida -- which is providing a nice respite before I head for the frozen wilds of Chicago. I'm discussing the finer points of short story writing. There is also talk of elephant jokes.

Come say hi: