Monday, May 24, 2010

Interview with Author Zoe Winters


Recently I had the pleasure of meeting an indie author through a mutual twitter friend. Charmingly charismatic Zoe Winters burst into my twitter life with a string of random and comedic posts and I found that I was instantly taken with her personality. Imagine my surprise, the one who is uber-picky over what I read, to find that she not only can talk the talk of an author, but she can walk the walk as well. I just recently finished her novella Kept, the first in a series of preternatural stories, and found myself practically foaming at the mouth for more.

I had the pleasure of spending some time getting to know Zoe and the wonderful world of her stories.

SDA -Your new book is slated to come out later this year, what would you like people to know about the story?

ZW: I think in order for people to really get hooked into Blood Lust, they should read the first novella, Kept. Blood Lust is a novella anthology which includes Kept, Claimed, and Mated.

Kept involves a sorcerer and a werecat. Greta (the werecat) discovers her tribe intends to sacrifice her on the full moon, and runs to Dayne (the sorcerer) for help. He's got quite an evil reputation and once killed most of her tribe, but he's her only hope, and it's that whole "enemy of my enemy" thing.

And I'll just give the back of the book blurb for Claimed and Mated because I don't think I could explain it better.


For a vampire, Anthony isn’t a picky eater, but he’s drawn to Charlee’s blood more than any other. Like a fine wine saved for a special occasion, he’s denied himself this pleasure. But one night, high from the potent magical blood of another, he claims his prize and loses control. Ashamed of almost killing the one woman who means anything to him, he wipes her memory of the event. When Charlee awakens with complete amnesia, Anthony is the only one who can clean up the mess he’s made.


Because of the vampiric blood that has run through her veins since birth, Jane has been a target for vampires who resent a human being “kindred.” She’s forced to disguise herself as a vampire groupie to appease them and safeguard her life. When she’s abruptly given to Cole, the leader of the werewolf pack, to satisfy a gambling debt, she discovers the blood running through her veins has a far greater impact on her destiny than she ever imagined.

SDA: What would you tell someone who was interested in the genre or reading fiction at all about why they should read your book?

ZW: I think if they are curious they should go to my blog page and read Kept free. Or read the first two pages. If it doesn't grab them, okay. But I really think if they aren't sold on it already, there really isn't anything I can say to sway them. But I think it can't hurt anything to click on the link to the free ebook and read the first page or two. That's five minutes lost, tops, if it's not for you.

SDA: How did the characters and/or story come to you?

ZW: Kept came about because Samhain Publishing was running a novella contest. I wrote Kept for that contest but missed the deadline. So really that one came about entirely based on the parameters Samhain had set for the contest. The idea that started it was basically... what if witches' familiars weren't standard housecats but werecats and they had magical blood? I know, not the most stunning place to start from, but idea generation is rarely as sexy as it seems like it's going to be.

Well, except for Save My Soul (the next book after Blood Lust), I was driving by this old house and the whole plot practically fell into my head. It was kind of creepy actually. I probably shouldn't tell that story if I don't want people to think I'm crazy.

Claimed came about because Anthony (who had a minor role in Kept) wouldn't shut up about how he wanted his own story. And since he'd asked about Charlee in Kept, she seemed like the ideal person to pair him with.

Jane, the heroine of Mated, snuck her way into Claimed. She was supposed to just be some goth chick that Charlee bumped into on the street. Her entire purpose in Claimed was supposed to be to give the amnesiac Charlee directions to the bookstore to go talk to Greta. But Charlee never made it to the bookstore. She wanted to follow Jane back into her building. So Jane ended up becoming a secondary friend-type character in Claimed and then got her own story in Mated.

SDA: Why this genre?

ZW: I used to be such a snob about romance. They weren't "real books." I spent years trying to write in every genre under the sun: fantasy, mystery, thriller, action/adventure. You name it; I tried it. Kids books, books for adults. Could never find what clicked.

Then I discovered the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I was totally a snob about that too, but I couldn't find the remote to change it.) I fell in love with it. It was SO funny and quirky. And I LOVED Spike. (Ultimately I think it's a toss up between Joss Whedon and James Marsters for how I ended up writing paranormal romance.) When the show was over, I read Buffy/Spike fanfic. I didn't really like Buffy on the show, but I wanted her with Spike cause he wanted her. And in fanfic people usually "fixed" Buffy so she wasn't such a big moron.

Then when I was burnt out on that, I wanted something "the same but different." So that was how I discovered the paranormal romance genre. It was through Buffy that I discovered that what I *really* care about in a story is the romance. (I used to be a snob about ebooks and self-publishing too... but we see I've gotten over that too.)

SDA: Do you have images of the characters in your head based off of people you know or do they just randomly come to you?

ZW: The characters just randomly come to me. And I'm not a super visual person anyway. This is probably reflected in the rather sparse details of my writing style. Though I think a lot of men that are considered "hot" are a little too pretty for me. I like that rugged sort of "scary" look. Not scary-ugly, but just... dark and sinister. Man, a therapist could have so much fun analyzing me.

SDA: Do your characters personalities tend to resemble people you know or parts of yourself?

ZW: I think writers pull from their life and experiences and people they know. My characters are a big mix of things. There is a lot of my husband in a lot of the heroes, and some of the villains. LOL. There is a lot of my best friends in some characters. There's some of me in some characters. But not "actual me" more like "me, if this were my history, and I was confronted with this situation."

I think what a writer is doing, is they're trying to pull an illusion. In reality, it all is coming from the writer's brain. So there is no way for it NOT to be infused in some way with who they are. But the illusion is to create these characters that have lives of their own and brains and thoughts of their own, while realizing that it all is having to come out of your own brain. If that makes any sense and doesn't just sound like woo woo rambling.

SDA: Did you have a defining moment that made you want to be a writer or was it multiple things that led you to be one?

ZW: Writing has been so much a part of my life for so long that it's hard to remember a time when I wasn't doing it. I know I was writing "seriously" (with an eye toward eventual publication) in junior high. I just know that stories have always been in my head and when I'm not writing I'm anxious and depressed.

SDA: Do you have a process you follow when writing such as must haves or do's and don't's?

ZW: I'm a crazy outliner. But I follow the story first, so if my story strays from my outline (which it always does), I rewrite my outline every time it strays to make sure I can still get to my ending. But other than that I don't really have much of a process. I just sit down and write. I wish I had a mysterious routine I could tell you about, but I just don't. I think too much of a formula creates "Dumbo's Magic Feather Syndrome" where you start thinking you "can't" write unless you have your special incense or whatever.

SDA: What advice would you give writers who wish to get published?

ZW: I'm an indie author. I have no desire for a traditional publisher so if trad publication is what somebody wants, I'm not the person to ask. I wish I could be more helpful, but even the concept of "seeking a NY publisher" has become fairly foreign to my worldview. I just don't "get it" as a goal anymore. Which isn't to say I'm badmouthing that way of doing things. If someone really wants that, that's what they want and I think they should go after it. But I don't, so I don't really waste time anymore looking at "how to get published." I'm happy publishing myself.

SDA: What's been the hardest lesson you've had to learn when it comes to writing a book?

ZW: I can't write without an outline. I tried it once. That book never got untangled.

SDA: Who is your biggest influence creatively?

ZW: Joss Whedon. I like the way he creates tension in a story. He may write television instead of books, but the rules of storytelling are the same no matter the format you choose.

SDA: If you could collaborate with any writer who would it be and why?

ZW: I don't think I could collaborate with a writer. I mean this is "me" we're talking about, Miss-I-Have-To-Do-It-All-Myself. But... in imaginary world, where I could give up some level of control and actually work with another human being on a creative endeavor, I would say Larissa Ione, Kresley Cole, or Joss Whedon. The first two are romance authors that I really love their writing styles. The latter, I think it would be cool to collaborate with him on anything.

Zoe Winters can be reached at the below links:

Blood Lust will be available in ebook, print, and podcast sometime in July or August at the latest.
Kept can be read free here:
The novellas are all also available individually in ebook. Claimed is available for 99 cents in the Kindle store and Smashwords, and will be available in B&N, ibookstore, Sony, and Kobo in the coming weeks.
Mated is set to be released Memorial Day Weekend

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Channeling Your Inner Smartass - Comedy in a Story


What makes a good comedic scene in a story?

This question has been plaguing me for some time. I don’t typically consider myself to be funny or comical, however ask those who know me and I’m a riot. It’s because I’m a smartass. I have a very quick wit and am queen of one-line zingers at just about any given time. But do I personally consider that comedy? No not really. Apparently others do.

I can’t say any one thing that makes something funny. I don’t prefer one style of comedy over another, however in most things I do not like corny or stupid humor. A lot of people think Will Ferrell is hilarious, I however do not. The only movie of his that I enjoyed was Step Brothers, which while it’s full of stupid humor, I happened to love it. I’m the oxymoron in almost all things so that’s not entirely strange. However I’m more a fan of slapstick humor, or visual humor, someone running into something etc.

So the problem becomes, when you don’t have a movie at your expense, a TV program, or some form of visual aid to help with facial expressions for delivery, how do you write a good comedic scene in a story that the reader will relate to or even sit there and laugh at while reading?

I’ve read a lot of things that I’ve found humorous, however nothing stands out more than dialogue. Two characters firing zingers back and forth at one another in witty banter. However, I do not feel that I am good at that. I’m decent when it comes to bitchy banter, but is it funny? To me it is, but might not be to an average Joe Schmo reader.

My boyfriend David, while I love him, our comedic tastes are VERY different. I’m talking like Jekyll and Hyde different. He will sit and dissolve into giggles over things that I class as typical guy humor, where I’m just sitting there shaking my head and rolling my eyes. Yet the things that I find hilarious, he is doing the same back at me.

So my question becomes, what scene in a book or story you’ve read, stands out as being the funniest? And as a writer, do you struggle with writing comedic scenes?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Casting Call

So yea. Mike went and put an idea in my head and of course, me being the anal-retentive nerd I am, couldn’t just write something up. Oh no, this took serious planning and plotting, thinking and decision making. Are you laughing at my inner dorkiness yet? If not you should be.

Anyway, as was asked, if the book you’re writing, or a book you’ve written, was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it, to create it so to speak, in hopes that it lives up to your dreams of how the book is written in your mind?

After much pondering I can tell you, the only thing that has stayed true to a quick generalization when writing the book The Devil’s Angel, due out in January 2011, has been the main character and one other side character. This question posed to me made me sit back and really think. Because even though I could tell you off the top of my head who was originally chosen in my mind to give you an IDEA of what the characters should look like, they still didn’t hit the nail on the head.

So here goes, we’ll start with the behind the scenes stuff…

Director – Ridley Scott


This director has wowed me on more than one occasion. Any of the behind the scenes interviews and things I’ve seen on him is that yes, while he can be an opinionated hardass, he has a very keen attention to detail. I feel whole-heartedly he would take the vision of the book, and bring the little things out of it that most wouldn’t bat an eye at but that he would be able to relate with my mindset of why it’s important.

Music – Hans Zimmer


I could sit and listen to the entire soundtrack for the Last Samurai all day every day. I may not care for the movie, but you put the song ‘Spectres in the Fog’ to any movie clips like you were making a trailer, and I’m sure it would probably be something I would want to see. He knows how to compose songs that make you feel the arc of a story that much deeper.

Special Effects/Stunts – Dominic Tuohy/Mic Rodgers


These two are responsible for the special effects and stunts done in the movie Wanted. This was one of my all time face action movies. If I wanted people to do stunts and special effects and such that I would consider believable as far as how real they made it look, these would be the guys.

Set/Costume Design – Michael Ford/Deborah L. Scott


These two were responsible for the set and costumes of one of the most detailed movies in my mind, Titanic. Ford took old photos and sketches of Titanic, rooms in it, the common areas etc, and built sets around all of that. Scott took the painstaking task of going through countless hours of costume design, picking which ones needed downplaying, which ones to embellish on further, all the way to every single bead on most of Kate Winslet’s gowns in the movie. If you can’t tell yet, I like people who pay attention to detail.

Makeup Artist – Shannon Coppin


Granted I do not believe that she has ever done anything in movies, I could be wrong, but almost weekly I have been amazed at the things she comes up with for the show Supernatural. She’s worked through the ranks on the show and now oversees the whole makeup/makeup effects team for the show. She is one of the few that I find her brand of illusion in the makeup industry to be believable.

Now for the fun stuff… the Cast…
Zarek Rousseau – Jonathan Rhys Meyers


I had originally wrote Zarek with the mindset of someone like Joaquin Phoenix. But the more I’ve written about him, the more a different image has come to mind. Jonathan fits that image, that menacing look, and yet a smile that can make most women melt. The appeal for Zarek is that there is something a bit darker just below the surface of his good looks.

Daniel Kaine – Bruce Willis


I had always picked George Clooney as someone who kind of looked like Devrynne’s father in my head, but the more I thought about it, the more what I’d written about him screamed Bruce Willis. He has that ruggedness to him, much like one would think Daniel would have from having lived the life he had.

Sebastian Monroe – Colin Farrell


Sebastian is Devrynne’s best friend, and is described in the book as a cocky man, but always just slightly off-kilter, as if he is a little out of his element. I can think of no one better would be able to play the part of Sebastian and stay true to the man who wants to live a peaceful life and save the ones he loves.

Nathan Valini – Oded Fehr


Valini is pretty much the driving force of Devrynne’s lifelong vendetta. He is the man who is responsible for setting her on the path that led her straight into Zarek’s open arms. He is an ancient, but is not used to any women rejecting him, until Devrynne. Oded has that foreign charm, a kind of mysterious, arrogant air about him that is very appealing for Valini in my eyes.

Ava Accalia – Jessica Alba


Ava is Devrynne’s confidant, her only female companion, and she owes her life to her. Ava’s character is a wolf, Zarek’s animal companion, bound to a man she hates, but is known for her beauty although being extremely humble about it. She has a hidden pain inside of her, one that I think Jessica could pull off more eloquently than just about anyone else.

Luc – Raoul Bova


Okay so this actor is a little bit of a leap to play Zarek’s psychotic boss, but sue me. The character Luc, without giving too much away, is as sadistic as they come, and yet there is that charm about him that while you love to hate him, you can’t help but love him, even if it is you only love hating him. He has a certain appeal, an Adonis of sorts, a god among mortals. There is just something about Raoul that I feel screams entitlement. The looks he gets on his face at certain times makes me believe he could be treating a woman like dirt and make them believe it’s exactly what they wanted the whole time, which is the essence of Luc.

And last but not least…

Devrynne Kaine – Kate Winslet


This one was a no-brainer to me. This picture of Kate was what started the idea for the character to begin with and it has been an amazing ride ever since. There is never anyone else I see when I write Devrynne. The red curls, the eyes, the eyebrow, the lips, the attitude, everything down to the way she walks reminds me of Kate. Even now, years after I first started writing about her, I can’t see Kate on anything and not first think of Devrynne.

So there you have it… my Casting Call for The Devil’s Angel.

Thanks for the idea Mike! ** Original blog that brought up this topic, posted by M.T. Murphy can be found below **

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In The Presence of Greatness

Wow, I am a slacker.

Anyone with a writer’s gene in them knows that procrastination is our Achilles’ Heel. At least with most of the writers I’ve met.
I am no different.

I have had a book in my possession since February that I have not finished. I could sit and make excuses as to why, but they are feeble attempts to hide the fact that I absolutely love to procrastinate. I am a friend to the author so the excuse of ‘oh he’ll understand, life is busy’ has crossed my mind quite often. Fact is though, once I actually quit making excuses and sat down to read it, I couldn’t put the damned thing down.

The book is called Lucifera’s Pet by a dear friend and fellow author, M.T. Murphy. It is right up my alley as far as darkness and genre goes, and his writing is done beautifully. Now I’m not just stroking his ego because he’s my friend, fact is, and Mike should know this, if I thought it sucked I would tell him so. It was more than I thought possible for a first time author, even one that I have had nothing but faith in for some time. The fact that a man, no offense, could reduce me to tears with words on a page, make me feel as if I’m watching the story unfold on a movie screen with the detailed imagery he writes with, is just astounding.

Having known Mike now for going on 3 years, and now having read his debut novel, written about characters I already knew and loved, I have been sitting back and reminiscing all weekend, taking detours down memory lane to what led me to know Mike.

Myspace is a platform for some amazing writers that I have had the pleasure of knowing. It was through Myspace that I met Mike, met his beloved Lucifera and her comically shaggy wolf. I will admit to being as judgmental as most when I found out he was the writer behind Lucifera, having never really talked to him or read any of his writing I remember quite well asking myself what kind of man writes mainly from a female character? Truth is, the first time I read his writing I was blown away. I had known male writers, all of them were interested in one thing, writing porn. But Mike was different, he touched on female emotions, mannerisms and so forth that made me question for some time if he wasn’t in fact a woman on the other side of the computer.

Add 6 months to that, and the birth of a storyline so close to my heart, and I found myself falling deeper and deeper in love with Mike’s writing. It takes a special kind of writer to take another person’s vision and while adding their own flair to it, manage to stay true to the story the creator had in mind. Mike is one of the very few I know who can, and he gave life to a truly remarkable character, one of my favorites he’s ever written, Cash Montgomery.

Without going into too much detail, which would undoubtedly leave me going off on a tangent of sorts, the story centered around a professor, who just so happened to be a werewolf, and a student, a woman forced to grow up in a world that was her destiny was engineered from the moment she took her first breath. It was a vision that I explained to Mike, in brief, giving him only a few key insights at the time, and asked him to write it out with me. What happened was the creation of a story that to this day, I have trouble reading without bursting into tears. Not from my writing, not even really from the story itself, but because I could see the story in my head, could feel the emotion behind it, and I know I gave very little insight of that to Mike, and he took it and ran with it, making that emotion come to life in a way that would have never been possible otherwise.
And I’m rambling again. Sorry. ;)

Anyway, there were glimpses in this book, characters that I could identify with, certain moments that I loved, others I felt that apprehension over, and moments so touching that I cried over them. An amazing read, one I would highly recommend to anyone.

So this is just a random blog, in short to apologize to Mike for taking so long to read it, and secondly to commend him on an amazing story, I bow to your greatness!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ramblings - Dilemmas and Negative Influences

I have been writing for some time now and through my experiences in the writing I've done I've never really been met with a roadblock larger than finding the time to write.
As I've stated to many people, as well as in the guest blog I wrote for my friend and fellow author, M.T. Murphy, writer's block hasn't been an issue for me personally. Lack of focus and the fact that I'm like an ADD kid hopped up on speed some days however, have been. They are minor annoyances but once I start writing I can typically keep going regardless of what is going on around me. Which is amazing when you live in a house that has four kids, 9 years and younger, a dog that is more a 120 pound Clydesdale than anything who loves to chase a cat that can curl up and fit inside his mouth if wanted, and nephews that love to play video games while encompassed in the awe and splendor of a 60 inch TV with theater quality surround sound found in our living room (would you believe me if I told you that even though I am female, I preferred the TV system over clothes and shoes just to be able to watch Football? Sad, but true.).
That being said, once I finally decided to write a book, it has been relatively smooth sailing. I laid out the chapters, decided on a plot, decided details that would need to happen from the start to finish of the book and began writing. To date, I have written more in the last three months on one idea, than I have when I was involved in the wonderful world on online storytelling. I took one main idea for the book and I threw all of my focus into it. Now I’m faced with a dilemma. A dilemma, that while some of you may have never had to face, I would value input on.
The dilemma would be of the amount of religious content in the book, and how much I twist the aforementioned content to serve a purpose for my story.
My sister, through a recent Twitter post to me, told me to push it as far as creativity will allow and yet I’m still hesitant. It isn’t because I am fearful of losing a grouping of readers who might otherwise enjoy the story, nor am I worried about dealing with anything religious in the story itself because let’s face it, the book is about a woman with ties to the Devil himself. Want to know the real fear?

My Father.

You have to understand that my father is a very religiously opinionated man, one who’s opinion the older I get, I seem to value more and more. It has led to certain decisions in my life to be made in a vague attempt of trying to gain his approval and commendation. Decisions that while they have led me to be who and how I am, some I am less proud of than others. You would also need to understand that I was raised in a home where the Devil was bad, God was great, and to speak Lucifer’s name would be reminiscent of the people within the Harry Potter books speaking of Voldemort. Something you just didn’t do. One with such a religious slant on an everyday life that you didn’t dare think Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, Ghosts, Goblins and Witches were cool. If you did you were pretty much damned to hell for being a devil worshipper.
Even though the older my father gets, his views on those things for entertainment purposes are leaning more liberal, still doesn’t matter. I mean come on, I’m talking about a man who in his later 50’s has read all 4 of the Twilight books start to finish, has seen the movies, and still tunes in every Thursday night to watch Supernatural. And for those of you who watch the show, with this season and last being all about a battle between angels and demons, all reference to God and what is written in the bible he has given me a spiel after every mention as to how they are wrong in the context they’ve used some vague Bible verse or something. And even though I know that the book I am writing is not necessarily something that my father will probably ever read, however, if the thought should strike him to do so, I cringe in fear of what he may say in reference to a particular passage I have just written.

Not to mention, this passage in question, I happen to love. Made me sit back like a mad scientist clutching my hands with a maniacal laugh and say, “Oooooh that’s interesting!”
I am slowly learning that the people nearest to us can hurt us the most. I am also learning that while the people closest to me love me, that in their brutal attempts to keep me ‘level-headed’ about writing and publishing a book, that they inevitably hurt me with their negativity. Perhaps it is in delivery of their advice or opinion, but either way, you can only take so many put downs before you just stop dealing with those people.
My best friend told me in conversation the other day whilst I was pushing her to take a story we collaborated on a few years back and turn into a novel told me she was scared. Not because of failure, because whether or not anyone bought it or not didn’t matter, but because the story itself is very near and dear to her. It was a story she created when she was in her early teens, one of the first few that actually got her into writing and every time she has put it out in the public eye there have been issues, drama to say the least. She said it would kill her if those same kind of people crushed her with it, said anything damaging about the story etc, ect.
My reply was simple. You either have to want it or you don’t. If you are happy having the story inside of your head and nowhere else then fine, but that is your choice as I think she is an exceptionally gifted writer, her imagination is one I can only hope to try to be as good as, it just amazes me that she doesn’t want to do anything with it.

But sitting here, I’m realizing that perhaps I am the same way. This story is my baby so to speak, when it comes to writing. The characters are extensions of me, pieces of my imagination that have kept me company for over 5 years now, and I’m not worried about publishers or agents or even my peers telling me it sucks, because to be honest, I don’t care if I get famous or rich off of these stories, I simply want to have a book, with my name on the cover and be like “Yea, I did that.”
So I guess I will turn this back over to you the readers… can you lend any insight as to what dilemmas you’ve faced that made you question how far is too far? What about negative people who influence your desire to keep writing?