Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bright Side of the Road author Anne Marie Bennett

Today's interview is with Anne Marie Bennett, author of Bright Side of the Road: A Spiritual Journey through Breast Cancer.

I first came across Anne Marie in her articles at Creativity Portal, which led me to her website Kaleidosoul devoted to SoulCollage(R). SoulCollage(R) was developed by Seena Frost and is a process using collage to explore one's inner dimensions by creating cards for aspects of the self. If Seena is the High Priestess of SoulCollage(R), Anne Marie is one of its most enthusiastic acolytes. Her site is filled with a variety of delightful and accessible content about the process.

Reading Bright Side of the Road, I found myself in tears frequently. Not because the journey is harrowing, but because of Anne Marie's search to find grace in every moment of it. The book is illuminated with that grace and with her considerable courage.

Not surprisingly, her website is a wonderful resource for the cancer "journey" and is worth visiting as well.

Anne Marie took some time last week to answer a few questions about her writing. Hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did. (Thank you, Anne Marie!)


You published this previously as an e-book. Why a paper edition now? How is this edition different?

AMB: I was going through my “in process” writing projects about a year ago, feeling very led by Spirit to choose one and make a commitment to it to see it through. That was not an easy thing, since I have about ten manuscripts that I’ve begun over the years that have been “resting.” So I narrowed my choices down to 3 or 4 projects and then asked Spirit to guide me to choose which one to focus on. After several weeks it just became clear to me that Bright Side of the Road was the one to work with first. I operate very intuitively (most of the time!).

I spent many hours editing the e-book into its current format. After not having looked at it for a few years, it was suddenly clear to me what parts were not necessary for the story. The first drafts were more an emotional cleansing for me, getting it all out on paper, writing down every detail. This final version is clearer, sparer, more to the point.

What do you hope people will take away from this book?

AMB: I hope people will read Bright Side of the Road and begin to internalize the fact that “It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. --- Epictetus.” I knew that idea intellectually before my cancer diagnosis, but living it from day to day, I was actually able to really understand it, and I hope to inspire people to live from that place of inner responsiveness instead of focusing on the actual event.

I also hope that people will be infused with gratitude for their own lives when they read my book. Gratitude was a huge part of what carried me through the bright side of my breast cancer journey.

What is your writing day like?

AMB: Well, I’m not a full time writer (yet!), so I don’t really have “writing days” unless I take a few days off for a personal retreat! I find that I can’t sit for more than a couple of hours (writing) without having to get up and do something else for a while, so that fits in really well with my current schedule, which is divided between my SoulCollage® business, KaleidoSoul, family, and my part-time job at a bookstore.

How do you deal with writer's block?

AMB: I have SO many ideas flying around in my head, so writer’s block isn’t usually a problem! But when it is, I simply quiet myself and refer to this Anne Lamott quote that is on my writing desk: Writing: You simply keep putting down one damn word after the other, as you hear them, as they come to you. And having trust in the creative process, that is the foundation of my own creative process.

How does SoulCollage® feed your writing?

AMB: I LOVE writing with my SoulCollage® cards! They are a never-ending source of imagination and story for me. I didn’t discover the SoulCollage® process until three years after my cancer treatments ended, but once I made some cards about the inner parts of me who had been affected by my journey, I really felt a deep freedom within to write Bright Side of the Road and put it out there for other women. (You can see my breast cancer SoulCollage® cards and my writing about them here: www.kaleidosoul.com/breastcancer.html)

Could you share a writing ritual with us?

AMB: My Writing desk is next to the window in a small lavender room upstairs in our home. It looks out on our driveway, front yard, a small garden and trees. I feel very happy and centered there, which might be a feng shui thing, and it might just be that my inner child knows that she’s going to get to Write whenever we sit there!

On the desk is a small netbook (smaller than a laptop) computer that I use just for Writing (note the capital W). Also there is a lamp with a nautilus shell built into the base, the Anne Lamott quote (see above) and a small candleholder with “All shall be well and all shall be well…” engraved into it. This is a quotation that I write a lot about in Bright Side of the Road!

So usually, I sit down at my desk, light the candle, say a prayer of gratitude and intention, open the cover of the computer… and begin. This is enough of a ritual to keep me grounded and rooted in Spirit, from which all creativity flows.

As I am reading I am very aware of when the story takes place. (I was south of you, in Cohasset at the time.) Your diagnosis happens weeks after the events of 9/11, though you mention it only once, in passing. That was a very tense autumn and winter. Do you think it affected your experience and what you journalled about? If the pervading atmosphere hadn't been so traumatized, do you think the book would have been different?

AMB: What an interesting question! It’s also interesting to note that my breast cancer diagnosis came on December 11, 2001, exactly 3 months after 9/11. I was more involved right then with the diagnosis and surgery decisions and dealing with the groundswell of emotions that engulfed me at that time, so I wasn’t immediately aware of the connection. Several months later I noticed the connection and thought “Ah, my own personal inner terrorist attack.”

I really don’t think Bright Side of the Road would have been different if I hadn’t been diagnosed at that particular time. The experience I write about is SO internal, and during that time I stopped watching the evening news and reading the newspapers, just so my heart and soul wouldn’t be distracted from the awesome job of inner healing.

I like the useful appendix of suggestions for those who have a breast cancer patient in their lives. (I have a couple of friends going through the cancer journey right now.) What is the most important thing a friend or family member should keep in mind? Any additions to the suggestions you make in the book?

AMB: The most important thing for a loved one to keep in mind is that the breast cancer patient is not just a breast cancer patient. She is still the same beautiful, interesting self that she was before her diagnosis. She is so much more than just another cancer patient. Sometimes I got really tired of people asking me “how do you feel today?” because they were referring to my physical symptoms. So even though my life at that time did revolve around what was happening to me physically, it was really nice to be reminded now and then that I was more than that.

I really felt most loved and cared for by the people who remembered who I really was, beyond the part about being a breast cancer patient. Here are some examples of questions that people asked me that really helped me remember who I was: Have you read any good books lately? Can you recommend a good movie to watch? Are you planning any trips later this year? My daughter is having trouble at school… do you have any advice to give me?

And then there was my oncologist, who during one appointment, asked me “How’s your spirit?” That is one of my favorite Bright Side of the Road stories. Talk about a question to cut past the surface stuff and go right to a woman’s essence!

In the presence of questions like these, I was reminded of who I really was, deep down. I was reminded that I wasn’t just a breast cancer patient. I felt like I was being seen for who I really was.

In the book you describe digging out a box filled with fiction that you'd written and rereading it (and discovering it was pretty good!) What happened to all that fiction? What are your plans for it? When do we get to see it? :)

AMB: Thanks for asking about this, Valerie, because I have put all of those projects back into the filing cabinet for now. It’s lovely to be reminded that they are there. Right now, with only so many hours a day to give to my Writing, I am choosing to focus on the rest of the journey with my new baby, Bright Side of the Road. I feel sure that when the time is right to let go of Bright Side, I will be led to focus on my next big Writing project.


Anne Marie Bennett is a writer, self-taught collage artist, website goddess, cancer survivor and SoulCollage® Facilitator. She received a BS degree in Education from Southern Connecticut State University and has taught people of all ages throughout the East Coast. She has also worked as a bookseller, sheet presser, library assistant, computer consultant, and in theatre management. Anne Marie lives in eastern Massachusetts with her middle-aged husband (also a cancer survivor), two elderly cats and one very playful dog who keeps all of them young-at-heart. She is happiest when she is reading, writing, breathing salt air, dancing, and hugging her beautiful grandchildren.

For more information about Anne Marie’s book, Bright Side of the Road, please visit this page: http://www.annemariebennett.com/

To purchase the book, please visit this page: www.annemariebennett.com/how-to-purchase

Bright Side of the Road is also available on Amazon.com .

Monday, October 12, 2009

Zombie Cookbook Winners!

We have two winners!! Congrats, folks!

Swallowcliffs won the digital download of The Zombie Cookbook!

Barbara Ann won the extremely fine Damnation Books mousepad!

I will be in touch soon!


Thanks to Kim Richards, Damnation Books publisher extraordinaire,
for the fine prizes.
Thanks to our wonderful interviewees Lisa Haselton, Carla Girtman,
Lin Neiswender and Karina Fabian.
And thank you, Dear Readers, for reading and posting comments!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zombie Cookbook Writer Karina Fabian

Last up is Karina Fabian, who bravely volunteered to join us on this stop of The Zombie Cookbook Virtual Blog Tour.

I know Karina from her involvement in the Muse Online Writer's Conference (an annual even which falls this week). Karina teaches courses in worldbuilding, virtual blog tours and faith in fiction, including how to create a religion (not as easy as it looks) and how to portray a character's religious faith accurately, respectfully and effectively. She is also one of the guiding lights behind the Catholic Writers Conference Online, which brings an eclectic mix of writing workshops and Catholic publishers to those who might not be able to attend real-life conferences.

Her wickedly funny TZC contributions are "Wokking Dead" and "My Big Fat Zombie Wedding," about which I can safely say, Industrial-Strength 409 and Love Conquer All.

Here's her bio:

Karina Fabian suffers from an overdeveloped sense of humor and a twisted imagination. Little wonder, then, that she enjoys writing quirky stories for anthologies like Zombie Cookbook. In addition, she writes novels about a dragon detective working in the Mundane world. People have been warned not to read her DragonEye, PI, stories and books in the library. When she's feeling more serious, she writes and edits faith-filled science fiction and fantasy. Visit her website at http://www.fabianspace.com/. Check out DragonEye at http://www.dragoneyepi.net/. (Twitter: @karinafabian Facebook: Karina.Fabian)

Welcome, Karina!

How long have you been writing?

KF: Since I could put the words together on paper. Before that I told some veeeery tall tales to my sister about what Kindergarten was like. I stole from television shows, applied some wishful thinking, and lied like a big dog.

What are you currently working on/have coming out?

KF: Coming in April 2010 is Infinite Space, Infinite God II, and anthology of science fiction with Catholic characters and themes. I have three stories in it: in one, Sisters Rita, Ann and Tommie rescue a man from a spaceship full of snakes; in the next, a priest enters a virtual reality world to minister to people who have lost track of reality and fantasy and the morals thereof; the last is a flash-fiction sequel to the alien abduction story in ISIG I. http://www.isigsf.com/ for more details.

I'm finishing my first Catholic SF novel, which involved Sisters Rita, Ann and Tommie as they help explore an alien ship. The crew encounters a device that diagnoses the soul. Several, however are not ready for what they find. Can the Rescue Sisters keep the crew together? Or will they need rescuing themselves?

After that's done, I'm going to go play in the DragonEye, PI, world with a superhero spoof, Gapman! I'm also thinking of doing a children's book series with a couple of friends. That one's Catholic, too.

Sadly, however, none of these have publishers yet, nor do I have an agent. Any suggestions, folks? I'm glad to pick your braaaaaiiiins....

What's a nice (Catholic) girl like you doing in a place like this? :) Seriously, can you speak a little about how you fell into faith-filled spec fiction and horror?

KF: If you read my stories, you'll see that I didn't write horror. I wrote zombie humor. However, I agree with what Catholic writer Regina Doman said about Catholics and fiction: We want our fiction to be affirming, but we don't expect it to be "safe." Even among the slightly off-color (and off-odor) jokes and ridiculous situations, you are going to find in my stories the expression of love and self-sacrifice, statements against prejudice and for loving one's neighbor, and Good triumphs over Evil.

And yes, I do recognize the irony of associating with Damnation Books. Personally, I would have preferred Kim choose another name, but for dark horror, it's a good fit. Plus, I keep hearing the cheesy slogan: "Damnation! That’s a good book!" (Add fist wave for emphasis.)

What drew you to the Zombie Cookbook?

KF: Kim's a good friend. The title was too much fun to pass up. And Becca Butcher ("Beer-Battered Brains") nagged me into inspiration.

What was your inspiration for your pieces?

KF: Other than Becca? My noir dragon detective, Vern, refused to tell me any zombie cases. They weird him out—something about his leftovers taking on a life of their own. So I played with the noir voice until I got a zombie exterminator. Then I had such fun, I decided to parody "My Big, Fat, Zombie Wedding." I was laughing all weekend!

What's your writing day like?

KF: Actually, it just changed. I've not been good about concentrating on my novel, which shows in the pace of words coming out as well as the pace of the book itself. So I'm trying something new: I drop the kids off at school and go to daily Mass. I worship, pray and dedicate the next writing efforts to God. Then I go find a coffee shop or restaurant and write for an hour and a half before going home to deal with chores, requests, business, etc.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

KF: Pantster, definitely. I may do a bare-bones plot, but it gets thrown out pretty quick. My characters lead me.

You have a quick satiric mind. I've seen you in Writer's Chatroom prompt chats coming up with very funny stuff on the spot. How do you keep "in shape"?

KF: I married a man with a mind quicker than mine. I'm continually playing catch up, or just word-playing with him. Occasionally, I'll get a zinger that tops him. He's also brilliant and well-read in other areas, which rubs off on me. He's always telling me the most unusual stuff. This month, I'm doing 31 days of zombie tweets on Twitter. He found several of them just by accident.

I also tend toward humorous, satirical reading, television, and even card games. (Check out the Munchkin card games. They are a riot just for the pictures and card names.) The kids all have our same wit, too. It can get pretty geeky odd in our house.

How do you deal with writer's block, if you have it?

KF: I take a shower or daydream. If I know what I want to write but can't get the words to come, I give myself permission to write a sh***y first draft. It's usually full of (NEED PHRASE) and (WORD FOR...), but it gets out and I can fix it. Plus, when I get going, it usually improves.

What is the genre that speaks to you?

KF: Genres don't speak to me. Characters do. However, I do prefer science fiction and fantasy.

What themes do you return to over and over?

KF: Faith, morality, discovering the right thing and realizing it's what God wanted for you all along. Also True Love, and lots and lots of cliché twisting—especially in my humor.

Who are your favorite writers?

KF: Jim Butcher, Madeleine L'Engle, Terry Pratchett. I aspire to be the mixture of all three.

What's the scariest book you ever read?

KF: Some short story collection by Stephen King. I've blocked the title from memory, along with most of the experience. The story about the laundry machine that folds people freaked me out for weeks. I was in college then. Had to do laundry when I knew people were around. Never read King again. Can't watch his stuff, either.

Here's one from the Proust questionnaire: What are your favorite qualities in a zombie?

KF: Tenacity. Well, it sure isn't hygiene!

My links:

http://www.fabianspace.com/: My catch-all site and home of my marketing classes. Click on the covers to learn more about my books.
http://www.dragoneyepi.net/: the home site of Vern and Sister Grace, the detective team of DragonEye, PI. Here, too, I have stories and novels, plus stuff about the universe. Register for Vern's bi-monthly newsletter.
http://www.isigsf.com/: All about Infinite Space, Infinite God—though provoking sci-fi with a Catholic twist!
http://www.leapsoffaithsf.com/: All about the Christian SF anthology Leaps of Faith
http://www.virtualbooktourdenet.blogspot.com/: a general book site where I feature an eclectic mix of books. It's my way of giving back to the many authors who have supported me and giving forward to the great authors out there now.

Thanks to all our Zombie authors for allowing us to pick their formidable brains!

LAST DAY to leave a comment and be entered into the drawing on the 12th! A free digital copy of The Zombie Cookbook and a Damnation Books mousepad are on the chopping block!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Do Not Adjust Your Set...

Zombie Cookbook writer Lin Neiswender

Next in our lineup of undead authors is Lin Neiswender. I know Lin mainly from Dan Goodwin's CoachCreativeSpace, which is a wonderful network if you are an artist-at-large. Lin is not only a writer but also a talented collage artist and very supportive of other artists and writers. She belongs to or facilitates several groups online and in person, and has to be one of the busiest women I know.

Her short story "The Right Recipe" is a witty look at the life of a zombie food critic who offends the wrong reader.

You can reach her through her website The Land of Lin. Her collage work is here. Welcome, Lin!

Tell us a little about yourself!

LN: I knew from childhood, with the rich language of Alabama firing my imagination, that I was destined to be a writer but lacked the courage to follow through on my dreams until recent years. I now live in Central Florida and the climate must agree with me, as I have finally blossomed into a bonafide writer. My work has appeared in Flashshot, the short story anthology The Zombie Cookbook, and the poetry anthology "Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes: Zany Zombie Poetry for the Undead Head". I have a bottom drawer stuffed with novels in various stages of completion. I hope to be nudging (or bulldozing) them toward publication.

I spend my spare time collaging, cruising the Internet, and playing with my Shetland Sheepdog who thinks it is his job to try and kill the mailman.

How long have you been writing?

LN: I probably started scribbling on the nursery room wall as a baby! I had an active imagination and loved to read so writing was a natural for me. I can remember school papers being read to the class as early as 4th grade. I think that's when I knew I was supposed to be a writer. I just didn't believe it until I was an old lady!

What are you currently working on/have coming out?

LN: I'm working on some flash fiction pieces and- oh yes- another zombie anthology piece. There is just something about me and zombies this year, some simpatico connection. Perhaps I am just on a roll.

What drew you to the Zombie Cookbook?

LN: Zombies + Recipes = Fun! Struck me funny from the get-go and I knew I had to write for the anthology. Where else would there be such a combination? I responded to the challenge immediately.

What was your inspiration for your piece?

LN: I used recipes as the jumping-off point, and wanted to make them humorous. I thought about putting them in email format and the rest of the story evolved from there. I wanted humor to leaven the required zombie gore.

What's your writing day like?

LN: Sit in a chair, drink coffee, beat head on table, repeat till ideas come out. I seem to be more of a night owl than a day-timer, although when there is a deadline, anytime is writing time. I have to guard against the Great Evil: email. That is the greatest time-sucker known to humankind. If I'm not careful, it eats up my writing time and I wonder why I don't have anything finished.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

LN: I'm a pantser with designs on being a plotter. I know it would make my life simpler to have a plan for my writing, but it kinda sucks the thrill out of it to have it plotted too much. My greatest problem is not having enough of the plot done to give me a good sense of direction. That leads to some frustrating dead-ends and back-tracking. But it's all a learning experience.

How do you deal with writer's block, if you have it?

LN: Email. It was invented for writer's block. Also web-surfing and mindless tweeting. Seriously, I try to brainstorm my way out of it, if I can. Failing that I turn to my support group of friends for help. Talking it over helps me.

What is the genre that speaks to you?

LN: I don't know that any one genre trips my trigger so much as novels with great sweep to them, where stories of personal change and great storytelling meet. This can be in any genre- I like them all.

What themes do you return to over and over?

LN: The human spirit's capacity to evolve upward, the redeeming power of love, doing the right thing, how friendship sustains us in hard times.

I know you've been working on a novel which intrigues me, as it deals with COPD. Tell us a little more about that.

LN: The Three Marys explores the complex relationships of three women friends who wait for life-giving lung transplants. It's fueled by real-life interest on my part as I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and will be facing a lung transplant somewhere down the line. It is heartbreaking to see your friends die and life-changing to have to confront your own mortality. I wanted to explore those themes in the novel, but sometimes I have had to step away from the book when it became too personal. I had to get some distance from it. I want to resume work on it shortly.

You are also a collage artist--how does that feed your fiction?

LN: My collage work is intuitive, starting from an initial idea or impression and selecting and modifying images to work together to support the vision. My fiction works much the same way. I'm thinking of using some of my collage pieces as story cards for some fiction much like Tarot cards and seeing what I come up with. Probably something I can use- perhaps even this year's National Novel Writing Month novel. By the way, my Orlando writing group Wannabee Writers is hosting NaNoWriMo write-ins on Sundays in November from 5 to 7 PM. We will meet at Starbucks in Colonial Plaza, intersection of Bumby Avenue and Colonial Drive. Locals invited to stop by and write with us.

How long have you known Carla, and how does she support you as a writer?

LN: Carla Girtman and I go way back, almost 20 years ago to a little writer's group we formed after taking a creative writing class that changed my whole perception of myself as a writer. We've been good friends ever since and continued our writing association to this day. Carla is great to give a critique, help brainstorm, and offer moral support plus she's a funny and very talented writer. She's been a good regular friend too, and I am lucky to have her in my life.

You are insanely busy! How do you get it all done?

LN: Google Calendar and Tasks are my new best friends! I had to start writing things down because I was having too many embarrassing brain farts like forgetting special occasions, meetings and deadlines. Not cool. I still miss some and the house is a wreck, but what the hay, I'm pedaling this hamster wheel as fast as I can.

Who are your favorite writers?

LN: My Number One squeeze has to be Ray Bradbury. He marries superior storytelling with lyrical writing. Others are Larry McMurty, Pat Conroy, James Clavell, Stephen King.

What's the scariest book you ever read?

LN: A couple stand out- Bram Stoker's "Dracula" had me sleeping with the lights on for a good week after reading it under the covers as a kid. Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is right up there, as is Whitley Strieber's "Communion". George Orwell's "1984" made quite an impression on my young mind too. Those horrible rats!

Here's one from the Proust questionnaire: What are your favorite qualities in a zombie?

LN: Shaken not stirred, easy on the pineapple juice. Oh, not that kind of zombie... well then, one retaining most vital body parts and fresh enough not to be trailing a cloud of flies. Sense of humor a plus as well as a command of the English language beyond grunts and groans.

WE'RE STILL TAKING NAMES: Leave a comment for Carla or Lin and we'll throw your name in the hat for a download of The Zombie Cookbook or a fabulous Damnation Books mousepad! Winner announced Oct 12th!

Zombie Cookbook writer Carla Girtman

Next up in The Zombie Cookbook Virtual Tour is Carla Girtman. I am privileged to know Carla from the Muse Spec Flash Fiction Group. She is well-versed in speculative fiction and is a master, as she is in "Brain Food," of the twist ending. Her work touches on the trials of day-trading cockroaches, the superiority of cats in space, and of course Zombie scientists. Here's her bio:

"Carla lives in Central Florida with her family and two cats. When she isn't working undercover at an international airport or teaching online, she manages to write speculative flash fiction and poetry. She has successfully participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) for three years. Her work has been published in Clockwise Cat, Flashshots, Demonic Tome, Flashes in the Dark and a poem will appear in the soon to be released anthology Poems of the Dead. Carla is currently working on "Wordscapes" a collection of her published and unpublished work. (Her cats claim they write better than she does and want their work included.) She hopes to have her website up and running by the end of the year. "

Her publishing credits can be seen here. Welcome Carla!

How long have you been writing?

CG: I’ve been writing since sixth grade.

What drew you to the Zombie Cookbook?

CG: This story started off as a prompt from the Speculative Flash Fiction writing group. Then my friend Linda (also published in TZC!) sent me the call for submissions for Zombie fiction and well, the Zombie muse said "Hey, you got one. Submit that one!" Of course there's nothing like waiting until the night when submissions close. I am frantically editing using the critiques I got from the group and trying to meet deadline that is just seconds away. The Zombie muse breathing down my neck, "It's fine! Just submit the d*** story!!!" Less than fifteen minutes later, my story was accepted! It was just as exciting as getting my Master’s!

What was your inspiration for your piece?

CG: Sometimes I just take dictation from the Muse and edit after she’s done. The Zombie muse likes stories that relate to real life kind of like Philip K. Dick’s stories.

What's your writing day like?

CG: On a good day I get to write. Here lately, dealing two online classes takes a huge chunk of time daily – 3-4 hours. Sometimes at work when I’m handling phone calls for the airport authority, I’ll work on something. Believe it or not, being interrupted has been helpful to me in writing short fiction..

Often the way I write is I get a good idea and let it simmer for a few days, then the Muse will dictate a story and bada-boom I have a story.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

CG: Oh definitely a pantser. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to get the creative juices flowing!

How do you deal with writer's block, if you have it?

CG: If I’m working my novel, and get stuck, I’ll just write another section of the story.

What about that novel?

CG: My novel (I've been working on since Tallahassee over 20 years ago) was put aside for school and I haven't got back to it. It's pretty dusty. It's titled "Between Light and Shadow" has 3 main (Aria, Seth & Logan) characters who journey to renew the magic of Threadesh (planet). I've worked on it in writing classes and made a screen play out of it for a class. The best thing about the screenwriting class was one of my characters became more fully developed! There's also a romantic element between two of the characters. Each of the characters have to learn to "let go" of something that's been holding them back in life. It's all about relationships.

I've learned a lot more about writing and character development since I've started that project and hope someday that I can get it finished as a full fledged novel.

What are you currently working on/have coming out?

CG: I’m working on a type of noir zombie story for submission. Deadline is November with a minimum of 2500 words. And of course Nanowrimo is coming up. Oh yeah - my idea for my next Nano novel is tentatively titled "The Many Deaths of Mary Jones."

What is the genre that speaks to you?

CG: I’m very fond of fantasy and science fiction. These genres allow you to explore life themes in a different way than regular fiction.

What themes do you return to over and over?

CG: Relationships. And if you read any kind of fiction--science fiction, literature, fantasy—it’s all about relationships with people, the world, and yourself.

You have a background in tech writing. How have you found it helping your fiction writing?

CG: Tech writing has the same qualities as flash. Every word counts and you can’t waste the time of your reader.

You also teach online. How do you get it all done?

CG: Oh sometimes you just can’t. You have to prioritize, meet deadlines, write at lunch time and sometimes the dishes just don’t get done.

You know TZC writer Lin Neiswender in the real world. How do you and Lin support each other as writers?

CG: Lin and I brainstorm on questions. We meet once a month and work on prompts we get from "The Writer's Book of Matches: 1001 Prompts To Ignite Your Fiction." Or we make up our own. Sometimes we use tarot cards. We write prompts then read them aloud and comment on them about how we'd expand the story, make it better, maybe develop the characters more.

Who are your favorite writers?

CG: Robert Jordan, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, Greg Bear, Terry Brooks, Joan Vinge, David Brin, Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker to name a few.

What's the scariest book you ever read?

CG: 1984 was a scary book – almost prophetic in some ways. It's interesting how many of its concepts, words, and ideas have permeated society.

I also read intense books like Fahrenheit 451, The Thief of Always, and Kiln People are on my top ten of favorite books.

Here's one from the Proust questionnaire: What are your favorite qualities in a zombie?

CG: I like my zombies to be smarter than what the world gives them credit for. Sure, they may have not have the best communication skills and be obsessive compulsive about what their next meal is, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be intelligent.


Leave a comment and we'll enter you in the drawing on Oct 12th for either a download of The Zombie Cookbook or a stunning Damnation Books mousepad!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Zombie Cookbook Writer Lisa Haselton

The Zombie Cookbook from Damnation Books is a fun and satiric romp combining two subjects you wouldn't guess would go together in an appetizing way--zombies and food. I was delighted to see many old friends among the writers, and volunteered to interview them for the ZC Virtual Blog Tour.

My first guest is Lisa Jackson, who writes under the name of Lisa Haselton. She contributed "A Zombie Named Clete" and a unique tale of revenge, "The Secret Ingredient." I've known Lisa for almost three years, from various writing groups at the Muse It Up Club and Long Story Short's My Writing Friend. We belonged to a group called Muse It or Lose It, where we had to critique eight thousand words of each other's novels every month. Not for the faint of heart! Lisa is a professional freelance editor and has worked for several e-publishers. Her short fiction has been published in Mysterical-E, the Fiction Flier, Flashshot and Penpricks, and she has quite a few non-fiction magazine credits as well. And now I get to pick her brain a bit! Welcome, Lisa....

How long have you been writing?

– Since I could hold a pencil! Hee hee, okay, so maybe that’s not entirely true, well, it is, but not what you were asking. I have been writing stories since a young age. I remember ‘winning’ a trip to a local college for a day when I was in fifth grade because of a story I wrote. Really wish I still had that story somewhere, but I remember how it felt to have someone interested in my writing and to be ‘one of a few’ chosen to explore a college. I’d actually been writing since my first journal. The journal recorded thoughts and feelings, but my mind was awhirl with stories. I grew up in a rural area and had few neighbors. I’d spend hours outside exploring and making up stories as I found crevices in hillsides, and funny-looking creatures in streams. I also loved to read (still do), and those stories sparked my curiosity even more. So, to answer your question, over 30 years.

What are you currently working on/have coming out?

– I’m working on several short stories at the moment – I’m now addicted to anthologies and would love to get in several others. I have a paranormal thriller that absolutely has to see the light of day soon or I might burst. I also have a mystery set in a fictionalized version of the city I live in. I’m writing a history book using my real name (Haselton is a pseudonym) based on a town that existed in southern NH from 1746-1770. That book should be out in summer of 2010 if all goes well. It’s my first non-fiction book and I’m very excited about it. And I have another persona who writes hot romances. Second book due out in December, working on a sequel to my first (which released in June).

What drew you to the Zombie Cookbook?

– It was the fact that a friend of mine through The Writer’s Chatroom put out a call for zombie stories, poems, recipes, and what have you, for The Zombie Cookbook. I’d never written a zombie story before and it felt a bit too much for me. I love vamps and weres, but zombies weren’t on my list. I let ‘zombie’ toss around in my gray matter for a bit and I had a slew of poems come to me. All based off of names. I submitted my favorite one "A Zombie Named Clete" and it was accepted. Well, then, that just got me excited and so I wanted to develop a short story around the poem. It took a while. I mentioned it to a couple of friends and one told me that zombies are averse to salt (I had no idea until then), so I let that tidbit mix with my poem and then I went on vacation to a dude ranch and THEN the story finally came together. It took a while. I felt out of my element, but I wanted to craft something to see if I could. And that’s how "Secret Ingredient" came to be.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

– A punster for sure, but with my novels I have to become a plotter in order to make sure I have all the details correct. It’s a challenge for me to make the change.

How do you manage to turn "editing-brain" off?

– Excellent question! That’s my biggest challenge. I’m an editor by profession, so that side of my brain does not like to be silenced. I have found the absolute best way to turn it off is to do timed writings. And I discovered this by doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and participating in "word sprints". It’s where you sign up with others on a chat board to write for a certain number of minutes. For example "starting at :30 of the hour, I’ll write for 30 minutes". You post your name to say you’ll do it, and then at the end of 30 minutes everyone posts their word count. Some times only one other person may be in the sprint, sometimes several people, but I tell ya, after doing it a couple of times, I didn’t care if I was doing it myself, the quantity of words the came from my brain to fingertips blew me away! Giving myself permission to "just write" seems to only work if I set a timer and just do it. Without a timer, my editing side chimes in with "oh, come on, you can choose a better word than that" or "this is crap, just give it up", hee hee. It’s so much fun to have the editor turned off!

How do you balance multiple genres?

- I can’t tell you how many years I struggled with this. I kept hearing "pick a genre and stick with it", and so I tried and tried to pick a favorite one, but I just couldn’t. After my MBA I went to school for a degree in writing and literature, hoping to narrow down my interests – thinking whatever course I did the best in would be the winner. Well, I found I liked every writing course I tried, so I ended up having MORE interests! It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve come to terms with writing in several genres. I don’t think I balance them, I think it’s more that they balance me. I’ve always loved to learn and I have a lot of varied interests. I do my best to write down my dreams when I wake up. And I have so many notebooks and scraps of paper with ideas on them, too. Ideas strike all the time. My lifetime isn’t long enough to get them all down. ;) I write YA and adult; flash, short stories, and novel-length; mystery, horror, romance, sci-fi, historical, humor, time travel, paranormal, futuristic, and anything in between. And that doesn’t even get into my non-fiction writing side!

What is the genre that most speaks to you?

– Mystery speaks the most to me with horror a close second.

What themes do you return to over and over?

– Wow, this is a good question. I haven’t thought about themes before. But in thinking about it, I’d say the general theme is a person discovering that he/she is unique and stronger than he/she ever imagined. I think so many of us go about our lives and get into a routine that we don’t dig deep to find out who we really are or what we can do. We give up too quickly, depend on others to carry us, or decide "I could never do that". And I think this is a theme with me because there was a time when I climbed Mount Washington in NH and got seriously lost. I was dependent on my partner. Eventually I figured out he had no clue what he was doing or saying and I sat down and said "I quit". I was going to figure out how to survive on my own…no joke, the clouds thinned and I discovered I could almost stretch out and touch the corner of the foundation. The building was right there and we had no idea until that moment. I was lucky that day, but it gave me a glimpse of how strong I could be, and I think it’s a theme I use a lot.

Who are your favorite writers?

– I devoured Stephen King for several years in the 80s and love that he finished The Dark Tower series (definitely effects my writing now), I like Walter Mosley, JD Robb, JR Ward, Jessica Andersen, Archer Mayor, and so many others. I’m always reading and discovering new authors and then I have to go and devour all their books.

What's the scariest book you ever read?

- The Fog, I can’t remember the author’s name right now [James Herbert], but I had to read that book in the daylight. Many restless nights with that one.

How do you get it all done?

– One word at a time!

Here's one from the Proust questionnaire: What are your favorite qualities in a zombie?

– That they remain uninterested in me! Hee hee. My folks were excited to learn that zombies have an aversion to salt. Since I’m always on them (and so are their doctors) to cut back on salt, they feel they will never be appealing meals for zombies. Really made their day to know that. ;)


More about Lisa and her work here:

Lisa will be lurking like the undead today...leave a comment or a question for Lisa and she'll get back to you as soon as humanly possible :)

UPDATE: OH GOODIE, PRIZES! Also, if you leave a comment for our Zombie writers, your name will be entered in our drawing. Win a free electronic edition of the The Zombie Cookbook or a special Damnation Books mousepad! Two lucky winners will be drawn and announced October 12th!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zombie Cookbook authors coming soon...

Don't touch that dial! Here, starting October 9 I will be interviewing authors from Damnation Books' new release The Zombie Cookbook.

It would seem I know quite a few of the undead. :)