Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Interview with Alex Cabal

Alex, thanks for sitting down to interview with us! Let’s dive right in: What inspired you to create Scribophile?

I've always been a big reader and very interested in the writing and publishing industry. I knew I wanted to work in the industry in some capacity, but I wasn't sure how that would happen—especially considering I was a computer guy! Then 2005 or 2006 rolled around, and the web started taking off in the direction of the web as we know it today. They called the web in those days "web 2.0" because all kinds of new technologies were being introduced that changed the way people made and interacted with web sites. Web 2.0 opened up a lot of opportunities for creating rich sites that had functionality nobody had ever seen before. I thought, why not put together a community where writers could meet other writers and exchange feedback, and put it all together in a nice package that took advantage of these new technologies? So I did!
Being users of the site ourselves, we’re very happy that you did. Without the site, we founders of A4A would have never met and we would have never formed. What, in your opinion, is the best thing about the site, or what unique ability does it offer?

The best thing by far is the community we've built. I might be a bit biased but I think the members at Scribophile are the friendliest, most helpful group of people I've seen online. This is something especially difficult to achieve in the context of peer critique, where people are putting their work and their feelings out there in order to improve themselves. There's a lot of opportunity for feelings to potentially get hurt. But despite that, our members write hundreds of thousands of words of critique for each other each day, and everyone comes and goes in the friendly spirit of helping each other succeed. It's really something special.

Our members regularly form long-term friendships, and we've even had a few relationships sprout out of the community too. It's our great community that makes people want to keep coming back.
There definitely is a sense of camaraderie when we’re all working toward the same goal—getting our work to be the best it can be before publishing. Are there any new developments coming for Scrib?

One of my long-term goals is improving groups in general: tweaking the group homepage a little bit, sorting and displaying groups in a clearer way, and improving the tools group leaders have at their disposal. Things like having the ability to have multiple group moderators, that sort of thing. A lot of this will come out bit by bit in the future, it's not something to release all at once.

Another thing on the long-term radar is improving the main homepage, where your various feeds and notifications are. The feeds are overdue for a rethink in how they aggregate and display items, to make them more useful to people. And the homepage itself needs to be organized better for mobile device users.

We’ll be looking out for the updates! Do you have any recommendations for new users?

I always recommend jumping in with a critique right away. Many new members get intimidated because they feel like they don't have the writing chops to give good critiques. But actually it's the other way around—good critiquers don't necessarily need to be good writers, but they do need to be good readers. And almost anyone who's looking at a career of writing is already a pretty good reader by default! So just jump right in—the most basic critique is just telling the author what you, as a reader, think they could have done differently to make the work better. That's all there is to it!
Jump right in—that sounds like good advice for a lot of things in life! I’m sure on the site you get a lot of brand new writers. What advice do you have for them?

I think there are two pieces of advice I would give to new writers. The first is that the best writers are always the most voracious readers. The more good (and bad!) writing you read, the more you start unconsciously picking up what it means to write effective prose. Voluminous reading also goes a long way to improving a writer's vocabulary, and word choice is critical to truly magic prose.

The second is that if you're just starting out, you'll see a lot of discussion about the "rules" of writing. The people on one side of the discussion will tell you that writing is all about rules, while the other side will tell you that it's all about breaking the rules. These two camps are constantly at war. But, I think effective writing lies, like many things in life, somewhere in between those two extremes. As you start your writing career, learning the "rules" is a good way to help shape your prose into something more acceptable than it would have been otherwise. Then, once you've developed a prose style you're comfortable with, you can start breaking those rules in creative and interesting ways. But the key is that it's not possible to break a rule if you never knew the rule in the first place!
That’s really great advice. We want to ask you one last question—well, two—before we let you go: Are you an avid reader? Do you have favorite books or authors? 

Yes, I read quite a lot. One of my other projects is a project called Standard Ebooks, at Our volunteers take books that are out of copyright in the US and produce commercial-quality ebook editions that are distributed for free. Consequently, I've spent a lot of the last few years reading public domain books. So many of them are really incredible. Some of the favorites I've read for the project are David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, and Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

As far as modern writers go, Dan Simmons' Hyperion books are my favorite sci-fi. I also really like Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series, and I think he's a consistently excellent sci-fi writer outside of that universe too. Nabokov is my favorite fiction writer. I also like Gore Vidal's historical fiction.
That’s a great undertaking, and something we hope gains a lot of traction! Thanks again for sitting down to talk to us! For those who are interested in Scribophile after reading this interview, the site is free to join though you have the option to upgrade to the paid version.  

We’re taking a little break for the holidays, and we’ll see you after the new year when we talk about audiobooks!

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Meet Our Newest Member

Meet Heather Hayden
As we grow and expand, so will our number of members. 

A Little About Heather
Fueled by chocolate and moonlight, Heather Hayden seeks to bring magic into the world through her stories. A freelance editor by day, she pours heart and soul into her novels every night, spinning tales of science fiction and fantasy that sing of friendship and hope. She is the president of Rowanwood Publishing, LLC, and the author of a YA science fiction novel, Augment, as well as many short stories. When she isn’t writing (or reading), she can often be found gaming with friends or walking around in search of small critters to catch in magical balls.

Heather’s writing projects

For her Senior Project in college, Heather decided to combine her love for writing, computer science, and genetics. The result was a fast-paced young adult science fiction novella. Here’s the blurb:
By Government-enforced mandate, genetic augmentation and implant technology cannot coexist in the same human body. Sixteen year old Viki's life has depended on her implants since she was five.
Now her implants are failing.
When Viki discovers that the malfunctions are due to illegal augmentation, she is determined to find those responsible. However, Agent Smith of the Search and Retrieval Bureau is also looking for the geneticists who augmented Viki, and his orders are to capture them by any means necessary--even if it requires risking Viki's life by using her as bait.
Viki's friend Halle, a rogue AI, is doing its best to help her search, but Halle has its own problems. Agent Smith had been closing in on the AI before being reassigned to Viki's case, and Smith's partner is still on the hunt. Searching for the geneticists risks exposing Halle, but Viki and her friend must find them first--they are her only chance for survival.
The process of writing and publishing Augment is what led Heather to start Rowanwood Publishing, LLC. More on that in a bit!
The long-awaited sequel to Augment, Upgrade will be releasing in early 2020. In this novella, Viki and Halle will face new threats when they are contacted by another rogue AI.
Upgrade gave Heather a lot of trouble during the editing process. In part, this may have been due to her starting it during National Novel Writing Month, but she also believes she just wasn’t quite ready to tell the story as it needed to be told. Revision round after revision round, she struggled to figure out why the story wasn’t quite clicking into place.
Then, a flash of inspiration struck—and she realized exactly what needed to be done. Another round of in-depth editing was required, but the results were a success, with her beta readers applauding the changes and asking when it would be published.
The story is now in the final stages of editing, and she can’t wait to finally share it with the world.
Moonlit Fairy Tales
Although every fairy tale retelling within this short story series can be read on its own, the tales are set in the same world and often feature a cameo—or larger part—played by a recurring character. Currently, there are five tales in this series, but more are always on their way!
Each story features a beautiful illustration by the talented artist Heidi Hayden. They can be found in their respective anthologies, available in paperback or ebook, on Amazon. They are also being released as standalone ebooks, and eventually, Heather plans to publish an omnibus edition as well.
"Beneath His Skin" (selkie myth) – When a young selkie befriends a human girl, a single mistake will cost him his freedom. Will he ever see her—or the ocean—again? Available on Amazon in the illustrated anthology From the Stories of Old and on its own.
"Solstice Flames" (mash-up of A Christmas Carol and The Little Match Girl) - Ben has no patience for the frivolousness of Solstice celebrations or the impudence of poor matchsellers. But when a mysterious visitor appears in his workroom, the miserly mage must face the truth of his life—or risk losing everything. Available on Amazon in the illustrated anthology Of Legend and Lore and on its own.
"Monsieur Puss" (Puss in Boots) – Pip has always had a knack for storytelling—and daydreaming. When his family sends him off with only his ginger cat for company, Pip would be more than happy to drift around the world, seeing new places and learning new tales. However, his cat has other plans… Available on Amazon in the illustrated anthology A Bit of Magic and on its own.
"The Frog Prince" (continuation of the fairy tale) – A young frog named Gil sets out to find his father, who abandoned their family years ago. Although Gil believes he is prepared to confront his father for leaving them behind, he is not ready for the truth that awaits within the castle walls. Available on Amazon in the illustrated anthology Fractured Ever After and on its own.
"The Phoenix Feather" – In this original tale, a young ribbon dancer named Eveline uses a magical feather to seek out the powerful phoenix. She needs her own magic to right a terrible wrong, but first she must prove she is worthy. Available on Amazon in the anthology The Magic Within. Although its anthology was not illustrated, “The Phoenix Feather” will be released in an illustrated ebook format sometime in 2019.
"The Tale of the Phoenix" – An original myth of how the phoenix came to be. Will be published in the Just-Us League’s ninth anthology in April 2019!
Other Works
Heather has also had several other short stories published in the Just-Us League anthology series. More information can be found on her website.

What made her start Rowanwood Publishing, LLC

As Heather was putting together her Senior Project plans in college, she realized that it would be impossible to publish Augment in a reasonable time frame if she pursued traditional publishing. She also knew she would have little to no say in the publishing process itself. For this reason, she started researching self-publishing.
When she brought up the idea with her sister Heidi, they soon realized that it would be a relatively simple matter to start their own micropublishing company. Through this, they could share the products of their imaginations with the world while maintaining complete control over the process through which their stories are released.
A bit of paperwork (by Heather) and some lovely logo design work (by Heidi) later, Rowanwood Publishing was born. It now boasts a lovely range of publications from Heather’s own science fiction novel to a variety of anthologies released by their writers’ group, the Just-Us League. More stories are always underway.
For those unfamiliar with the term, micropublishing is a variety of indie publishing that uses POD and e-book services to distribute books. Because Rowanwood Publishing doesn’t own and run a printing press, they save a lot of upfront costs—and also a lot of trees, because no more paperbacks will be printed than will be sold.

What made her join Authors 4 Authors Publishing

As a member of the Just-Us League, a private writers’ group that the founding members of Authors 4 Authors also belong to, Heather had the privilege to watch A4A develop from an idea to a full-fledged company. She has cheered them on since the beginning and offered advice whenever possible, though she is still learning the ropes of publishing, too.

When A4A approached her about becoming a member, Heather was delighted to accept. She will be serving in the capacity of an editor and is already diving into her first project with them. Like the others at A4A, she hopes to help make the world a better place, one fantastic story at a time.

Join us next week for an interview with Alex Cabal, founder of Scribophile.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Author Interview: Beatrice B. Morgan

Beatrice, thanks for sitting down with us today. Let’s dive right in, shall we? What inspired you to write Hard as Stone?

I’ve always had a soft spot for steampunk, but it wasn’t until I read Andrea Cremer’s The Inventor’s Secret trilogy that the idea for Hard as Stone really took root. I loved the world she built, with crazy-impossible machines and steam tech, and falling in love with that world and those characters gave me the final dose of inspiration to turn the “steampunk story” amalgamation of notes into a real story. 
Isn’t funny how one thing can just change things completely? Are there any themes in your story? 

There’s definitely the theme of flight, but not of airships—of the spirit. I know that sounds super cheesy. Raven, my main character, leaves home for the first time. Her flight opens her eyes to the world that she’s only heard about and daydreamed about. She learns that there are a lot of different people out there, not all of which have good intentions. 
I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. Can you tell me who your favorite character is?

This is a tough question. I love Raven—she’s a sheltered dreamer who doesn’t think she’s as smart as she is. She shares my love of adventure and pirates and the beach. I also have a soft spot for Ivy because she’s spunky and clever. 
Hmm...I’ve got a hard time picking my favorite too. So, how did you craft your world? 

I crafted the majority of the world and characters as I wrote the first draft (I had an abnormal streak of inspiration and creativity). I knew kind of where the story was going, so I had a lot of room to play with characters and places and magic. After that first draft, I started the good old notebook system where I write down everything I made up—names, places, rules, legends, etc. 
It’s always nice when things work out like that. Is this your first time writing Steampunk?

Yes, and it won’t be the last! I loved the dynamics of a world with over-the-top tech. It reminds me of Final Fantasy. I have very fond memories of Final Fantasy X and X2. 
That’s good to hear! How did you decide on a setting? Is it based off of anywhere you’ve been in real life?

Rhynweir is reminiscent of southern Illinois, namely the Shawnee National Forest - there’s a lot of trees, rocky cliffs, coves, and streams. Raven’s home of Silver Glen isn’t unlike my home town. It’s small, everyone knows everyone, and most are traditional in their way of thinking. 
It’s always nice when you can throw in those extra touches easily. Let’s switch gears—see what I did there? I’ll show myself out—a little. Who are your favorite authors? 

I’ll read anything by Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, or V. E. Schwab. Each has written a book that has kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. I’m also a big fan of Stephanie Garber. I loved Caraval!

We’ll add them to our reading list. Finally, before we take up too much of your time: What can we expect next from you?
Book two in my Stars and Bones series is dropping this spring, and then there are the next two books in the Hard as Stone trilogy. And, of course, there is the Aladdin retelling that I keep talking about that’s still sitting on my computer.  

Thanks again, Beatrice, for joining us. You can find her newest novel, Hard as Stone, here. Don't forget to join us for her launch party on December 7th!

By Beatrice B. Morgan

Seventeen-year-old Raven Thane wants an adventure...and she’s going to get one. Just not the way that she expected. Bored and disinterested with a routine life in her remote underground community, she fails to notice a thief during her turn at guard duty. Zander, a charming sharpshooter, tasks her with helping him retrieve the mysterious stolen item. Posing as a couple on the road, they’ll face deadly automatons and Gray Elite soldiers, entangle themselves in a complicated world of spies and freedom fighters, and hide secrets of their own. Can Raven fix her mistake and prove herself more than a simple country girl? Or will she create even more chaos?

Updated 4/2021 to reflect a change in penname. 

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