Thursday, November 24, 2011

Interview with Published Author Calista Taylor

Today I have an interview with Calista Taylor an agented author. I say “agented author” as if it is a badge of pride. It is. (I am looking for an agent myself.) She has published two e-books. She is a Moderator at AQC, has her own blog and is a contributor to The Write Angle Blog. Yes a very busy lady and she was gracious enough to agree to an interview. So on the other side of my virtual mike is Calista:

Why did you choose to write steampunk?

I've always read stories that take place during the Victorian time period, so steampunk was a great fit. It let me explore writing in a time period I really enjoyed, but also allowed me the ability to be more creative and build my own world.

What are some of the challenges of writing steampunk?

I think the research can offer some challenges, depending on how historically accurate you decide to keep your story, but that's actually one of the advantages of writing steampunk versus a traditional historical-- it's your world to tweak and make your own.

How much research is required for your genre?

Since I've always read books that were placed in that general time period, a lot of it came naturally. As for the rest, there are so many incredible websites out there. But again, because you're creating your own world, it's really up to you how close you want to stick to being historically accurate.

You have three books in the works, two are e-books Viridis which is a free book, just download. The next book in the series is now available Death on a Sparrow's Wing. (This one is not a free book.) Fox Chapel Publishing will be releasing Everyday Steampunk craft book in the Spring of 2012. Three different methods of publishing. What are the pros and cons of each of your approaches?

I think the two ebooks need to be looked at as one approach to publishing. I released the first book for free, knowing many wouldn't take a risk on an unknown author. The hope was with no risk, they'd download the book if it sounded interesting. Then if they liked the first, they'd be willing to pay for the second. So far, this seems to be working pretty well. As for the third book, I think trying to self publish something that has so many pictures, would be a formatting nightmare for the novice. The con is the royalty rate is that of a traditional publishing deal, versus the much higher percentage that accompanies epublishing.

Do you have more stories in mind in the Viridis series? Any hints or spoilers you want to share?

Definitely!! As long as my characters are happy to keep chatting and getting into trouble, then I'm happy to write their story. As for hints and spoilers, I think we'll see more of the secondary characters as they tell their story.

Did your query letter work to get your agent?

I did indeed query my agent with my fiction novel. Unfortunately, that relationship dissolved when the agency changed the genres it was representing. As for my non-fiction agent, he approached me to take on the steampunk craft project after seeing the blog I posted on wearing the leather corset I made to a steampunk event.

Did you have beta readers for your steampunk books? Where did you meet your beta readers?
I've had several beta readers, in addition to critique partners. I've met most of them via Agent Query Connect.

For your self published works, how did you do the editing and proofing?

For Viridis, my agent went through multiple edits and proofing with me, in addition to my critique partners and betas going through the manuscript.

What do you have to say about the negative critiques Viridis has on Amazon?

I'll admit, some of the negative reviews have been frustrating. There are a couple reviews that commented on editing errors, when the truth of the matter is that I believe most of what they're referring to are stylistic choices, such as fragments, or clipped sentences, designed to stress a certain scene or emotion, or in some cases due to the style of language that I've tried to convey as being of that time period. I try to look at it objectively though-- I know my book isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, so I try my best to focus on the positive. It can be hard though.

How much time do you set aside for writing and research?

I tend to write every day for several hours. If I have free time, I write or edit.

How do you balance your life?

I find it's hard to get that balance right. I do have two young kids and a crazy dog, so they make sure I take time away from my lap top.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Just keep writing. It really is as simple as that.

What do you think the key to your success is?

I think I'm passionate about my writing, my characters and my stories, and I hope that comes across in my writing.

And there you have it. Calista has a website, a blog, and is a contributing writer for The Write Angle.

Calista Taylor is an agented author of steampunk/gaslight romance and non-fiction, with a steampunk romance series currently available, and a steampunk clothing craft book due out in May 2012.

She lives in New England with her husband, her two girls, an ancient cat and a crazy dog.

When not running things over with a sewing machine or lacing herself into a corset, Calista can be found tapping away on her laptop, tormenting her characters, and riddling the streets of Victorian London with dead bodies and heaving bosoms.

She's also a creative cook who can't follow recipes, a versatile crafter, and a happy geek.

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a note today.

Enjoy the day with your families, loved ones, and friends . Stop and think about what you are truly thankful for.

Taking some time to reflect may help with putting things into perspective. Figure out what is most important in your life. Knowing what is important in your life can help with setting your priorities so you can accomplish what is important to you.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

Coming up I've three author interviews, three different approaches to getting their stories out. I'm excited about the interviews and I think they will be well received.

Again hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest post over at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire

I have a guest post over on Mindy's blog (aka BBC). What Color was the Horse? Check out her blog.

After the Storm

There is a line in The Princes Bride that I just love, well many actually, but this one comes to mind for this post. Let me set it up: The Man in Black and Indigo are having an epic sword fight on the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. Back and forth they battle, and Indigo realizes his skills have been bettered asks, "Who are you?"

"No one of consequence," the man in black answers.

"I must know."

"Get used to disappointment."

And that is the line I love, "Get used to disappointment."

It is so true, life is too full of disappointments, and on a larger scale tragedies.
I am not making light of tragedies and life's storms. I've seen devastation first hand.

I've dug out from huge snow storms. I was on site after the Oklahoma City Tornado ripped through a section of the city. I saw 2x4's imbedded in trees, where all the grass was sucked out of the ground. Where the only thing left of someone's home was the foundation.
I was in New Orleans after Katrina. I was one of the first into a home after the flood waters receded. The odor of the mold was so bad... But we managed to salvage some photos and some keepsakes that had stayed above the flood waters. I helped to haul debris from the homes and tear out the molded sheet rock and prep houses to begin rebuilding. I helped to cut downed trees from homes and schools in Baton Rouge after Gustav came through. I've seen devastation first hand, and lent a hand in rebuilding.

Each of my children, and my dear wife have had traumatic events in their lives. Cut tendons, torn mouths, traumatic amputations, depression, and yes, even death. I share this to make a point.

The sun always comes back up. The storm passes. Life goes on.

We are then left with a choice. Do we let the disappointment, the tragedy, the set back defeat us, throw up our collective hands and say, "I'm done?" or do we dig in, reach deep down inside us and find that inner strength and move on?

I remember all the devastation Katrina left behind. There wasn't a place untouched by ruin. Trees were cut up and stacked along the road, trees and trees and trees! There wasn't a business sign that wasn't blown out. Bent polls, blue tarps on homes, and general mayhem and disruption the storm left behind.

However everyone rolled up their collective sleeves and dug in. Little by little things got better. Six years later things look better than before. True there are scars, but overall things are better.

I've recovered from my set backs. Others have too. The thing I've learned is this: The sun always comes out after the fury of the storm has passed. Hope comes with the sunrise. After a spring shower, the air feels fresh and smells clean. True, I've dug out after the snow storm, but things feel new. It is so peaceful outside in the cold air with the snow shovel. It is peaceful, time to think, and when I'm done the walkway and driveway look great. The sun dries out the cleared area, and things are "as they should be."

A friend's home burned to the ground. They rebuilt and have a better home than the one they lost. I lost a job, but the new jobs have taken me to places and done things I wouldn't have done if I had kept the job I had.

I read a book several years ago, The Greatest Salesman in the World. There was a section in it that said, "This too shall pass."

Great thought. No matter how bad things are, they will pass. Enjoy the good while it is with you as it too will pass. Life is full of ups and downs. Enjoy the good, and remind yourself the sun will rise after the storm passes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time Tip - Another tool to keep your life organized and effective.

I’ve covered using a calendar, having one to put all your activities on. I’ve also talked about color coding activities to help keep yourself organized. There is another tool at your disposal, if you are on line a lot and are always into your e-mail and love getting updates. This nifty online gadget is the Google Calendar.

If you use Google a lot check out their calendar. The advantage with online calendar it will work with you online systems. It sends e-mail reminders for your appointments. It has colors so you can color code your activities.

Because Google Calendar is online you can access it from any computer. This gives added flexibility and ease of use, two key factors in using anything. True there is a learning curve, and yes it does take up some time to use it, however, the benefits outweigh the time frame. So if you are wired and busy, take a look at using the Google Calendar, it may be the tool you need to finally get it all together.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Congradulations Mindy!

Last week's guest blogger, Mindy McGinnis just nailed down her first contract for her first book. I've talked a lot about Agent Query Connect (AQC) and this is why. She was able to get an agent, and the agent landed her a publishing contract. Check out her blog where she tells her story

Congratulations BBC - that is what she goes by over at AQC, that is how I met her, so she is BBC to me! Here is the official blurb about her book(s):

Mindy McGinnis's NOT A DROP TO DRINK, the story of a teenage girl surviving in a rural America where an ounce of fresh water is worth more than gold and death wanders the countryside as thirst, cholera, and the guns of strangers; when her mother dies in an accident, the girl must decide between defending her pond alone or banding together with a crippled neighbor, a pregnant woman, a filthy orphan, and a teenage boy who awakens feelings she doesn't understand, to Sarah Shumway at Katherine Tegen Books, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary Services (World).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday's Time Tip - Sticky Notes

Last week Mindy aka BBC was talking about how she organizes herself. She mentioned sticky notes and had a picture of her desk and noted her sticky notes. That reminded me of this picture.

The sticky note is a great temporary permanent tool. Yes, an oxymoron. I use the post-it/sticky note when I do interviews. I cannot write on the applicant’s application but I can write on a sticky note and post it on the application. It doesn’t fall off and it stays with the file – permanent. Yet if I decide to hire the individual, I can pull the sticky note off the document and throw the note away, thus temporary.

The sticky note can be used as a tool. I don’t recommend it as the way to organize, but they can be used as “note to self” type things. Reminders in conspicuous places, such as the bottom of your computer monitor, bathroom mirror, or on your calendar. I recommend having a calendar/planner where you put all your appointments, but there are times where you don’t have access to that. The sticky note works for a quick note to put somewhere to remind you of the event. You can put them in your planner for a quick jog when things are hectic. Then when you have a moment, or when you organize your day you can refer to your temporary note and move the information to the calendar/planner. My current job does not lend itself to having a planner on hand. So I too use some sticky note system for some reminders on the bottom of the computer screen. Phone numbers for one time calls. Or like Mindy aka BBC does, web address to do research with on the monitor.

That about covers the sticky note idea. I’ve another tip in mind for next week. What do you use sticky notes for? Please share.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Last month in the AQC Spec Fic forum we had a little contest. Write between 800 and 1500 words from the POV of an animal. The animal finds it is able to reason as a human and speak. The animal must go to a carnival or some other function. The animal must be looking for something or someone. At some point your character will need to talk to a human.

So with those parameters here is my story. At one point it was tied for first but was eventually edged out by Tom and Jerry.

So here is the short story, just for fun.


This time man-scent didn’t mean danger. Lobo was amazed to feel the pain fade away. His eyes snapped open and he saw the man stand and turn. He would have lunged and clamped his jaws on an arm or a leg, except that the man spoke to someone else, and Lobo understood the man sounds.

“What are you doing, Nilrem?”

That voice sounded harsh to Lobo.

“I thought the wolf was dead, but he isn’t. Best to leave before he awakes, wouldn’t you agree?”

Nilrem had done something. The pain was gone. He had lost the fight, he had severe wounds. But now he was healed, and he could understand the man sounds. He didn’t smell fear on the one called Nilrem.

“The king wants you out of the kingdom, so I’m getting you out of the kingdom you rouge wizard!”

The men mounted the horses and rode away.

Lobo got up and walked to where the men had been a few moments earlier. He could smell horse, man, and ink. Ink? Yes it was ink. There was a parchment left on the ground near a bush, the source of the ink scent.

Lobo looked at the parchment and saw the man marks, but he could read the man marks! Astonished Lobo read, “You must warn the king. There are men who will kill him at the carnival tonight. I cured your battle wounds, you are in my debt. Payment is warning the king.”

A note to a wolf? Yet things looked different to Lobo. Now scents had names. Sounds had more meaning.

The man place wasn’t far. Lobo avoided the place. No hunting there. The pack didn’t go there. The pack…

The pack, his pack. Lobo turned to return to his home, note forgotten. He didn't know who the king was anyway.

Pain seared through his shoulder. His back twisted. Lobo dropped to the ground. The anguish raked his body. Lobo gave up trying to go home. Once decided the spasms and throbbing passed. Slowly Lobo climbed back to his feet. The man place wasn’t that far.

He turned and began to go down the canyon towards the man valley. The pain lessoned with each stride. The wolf stopped and turned back. Throbbing agony erupted once again, stronger than the last episode. Lobo passed out.

He awoke later. He felt whole again. He thought about returning to the pack, but his shoulder began to throb. So he turned back towards the men’s habitation. The throbbing faded. Lobo decided that he would find this king and warn him. Then he could return to the pack and get his revenge…

Lobo began to trot as he followed the scent of the horses. He followed the trail then slowed. He sprang to a low rock outcropping and sniffed the air. Fire! He sniffed the air, no not a wild fire, a man fire. He perked his ears. Man talk near the fire, not far, down the ridge, but off of the trail. Trial, yes that was the name for it. Lobo sprang from the ledge and into the brush. He worked his way down the ridge and crouched by a large outcrop of rocks. He settled down and laid his head between his front paws and perked his ears.

It was a large collection of temporary dens. There were many fires, and many people around. There was a larger group near a fire close to his vantage point.

“Tonight during the carnival.”

“Too many people around,” a second voice said.

Lobo could see two of the men sitting near a small fire. He could smell burning meat. There were other odors Lobo couldn’t identify, but it was other man food odors. Man had many smells. The two men had different colors of head fur. One was dark brown; the other man had a tail on the back of his head. No, not a tail, his fur was very long and black. He also had fur covering his face.

Furry face poked a stick in the fire. “King has to die, but why during carnival?”

“I can get lost in the crowd,” Brown Tuff explained.

“How are you going to do it?”

“Knife,” Brown tuff held up his blade. Man had strange claws and teeth. That was what made man so dangerous. Brown Tuff had a steel fang in his paw and could throw it.

The fire scent was strong, but Lobo caught Brown Tuff’s scent as well.

Suddenly several dogs began to bark.

“What has them riled up?”

The men got up and began to look around. Lobo decided now was the time to leave. He trotted towards down the canyon heading to the valley where there were many man dens. The sounds of the barking dogs faded as he lopped towards the mouth of the canyon.

The sun was setting as Lobo entered man pack territory. A huge dog barked and growled, the fir along its back stood on end. Lobo growled back, and barred his fangs. The dog whimpered and backed down. Lobo crossed into their land.

Lobo heard the rhythms and sounds of music. He could smell spices and meats. He could smell sweat, fear, love, and misery. The number of competing odors was nearly overwhelming. There were dark canyons with sounds and smells coming from openings. Caves? The dens of men were strange to Lobo. He walked down one canyon and came out into a large open area. It was lit with fires on the ends of sticks. There was a higher area near one end of the open area. Several humans were on the higher area making the rhythmic sounds. There were brightly colored banners, and several places with cloths stretched over poles. Meat scents and other smells of what Lobo supposed was food odors wafted from several of these.

More people were entering. There was a lot of laughter and talking. Lobo walked around the perimeter. No one seemed to notice; to them he looked like one of the many dogs that he had encountered.

How to find the king? Who was the king? Lobo sniffed the air. There was another scent, a clean scent. A man in purple with something on his head was on the raised section. Everyone was bowing. Ah! The Alpha Male. That was who the king was!

Suddenly Lobo smelt Brown Tuff. He was walking towards the king, and he had his steal fang in his hand. Lobo growled and ran forward. Brown Tuff was pulling his paw back, raising the fang. Lobo was at a full run now and with his powerful hind legs launched himself. With a growl and snarl Lobo bit down on Brown Tuff’s exposed neck.

Sweet blood filled his mouth. Flesh gave way and Lobo tore out Brown Tuff’s throat. A woman screamed and people fell back. Brown Tuff fell dying to the ground. Lobo rode the body down. When they landed the steal fang fell from the assassins’ lifeless paw.

The Alpha Male’s eyes were wide eyebrows raised. His mouth was agape.

Lobo looked up at him and said, “You should listen to your friends when they warn you someone wants you dead, instead of banishing them from your kingdom.” Then Lobo turned and began his journey back to his pack.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Today's guest is Mindy aka Big Black Cat 97 or BBC to her friends over at AQC. She is one of the moderators over there, she blogs over at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. She also contributes to the blog, From the Write Angle.

I'm grateful that she agreed to do a guest post here. She has an agent and is actively seeking a publisher for her book. I'll let her tell her own story. So here is BBC.


I’m slightly OCD. It’s one of the qualifications for librarianship.

OK, not really, but I find that the hyper-responsibility side effects are valuable in all three venues of my life – home, work, and writing career.

I could spend every hour of each day on one of these aspects, but that would mean the other two falter and die. The first type of death means that no one in my household eats or has clean clothes. The second would translate into a pile of books on the bookcart and hundreds of cranky, panicked teenagers. The third means no forward motion towards my goal of publication. None. No new blog posts, no networking tweets, no AQC downtime, and definitely no additional word count on the WIP.

None of these things are acceptable.

So I give a little to all three each day, and the only way to keep myself straight on what needs to be done is by taking a very simple, yet highly effective time-management step. I make lists.

I use a Stickies program on my laptop to manage my three-ring circus. The yellow sticky lists my household duties for the day, which I try to manage one thing at a time. Monday is vacuuming, Tuesday dusting, dishes are done every other day and laundry waits for the weekend. The pink sticky directs my attention to the most pressing needs in the workplace, listed by priority. The wall above my desk serves as a big-picture amalgamation of stickies telling me what needs to be accomplished long term.

Interesting genetic factoid: my sister (also a co-worker) pointed out that the wall above our Dad’s desk at the homestead looks exactly the same.

And lastly, my green sticky tells me what I need to be doing in writing-career land. And it doesn’t say – HEY YOU! WRITE A BOOK! There are many ways to keep the literary brain cranking, and I need quiet and uninterrupted stretches of time to nail down that WIP.

So what does the green sticky say?

It has links to various web pages that are helping me out with my research, so that I can easily hit up information during short downtimes. There are reminders about critiques that I need to get back to betas, ideas for blog posts, names of people I want to contact for interviews, and titles of books that I want to read and review.

Sounds like a lot, but all of those little steps are furthering me down the path of my writing career, and they can be addressed during the brief moments during the day that chance sometimes allots to me. I guess in the end that’s the secret to my time-management; knowing to address the little goals during little moments, and constantly reminding myself that the big goal for the evening is to crack out another 1k.

The other secret isn’t such a secret – don’t be lazy.

Sure, I’d rather watch Firefly reruns sometimes, but I’m reminded of a sports t-shirt I had in high school that read – “Whenever you are not practicing, somewhere, your opponent is, and when you meet, s/he will win.”

I might not actually wear a t-shirt that says, “Somewhere another writer wants to watch Firefly too, but they’re writing instead. And they’re published.”

But you get the idea.