Author Interview – Chrys Cymri

This time I head overseas and talk with English fantasy writer Chrys Cymri.

Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?

I’m Chrys Cymri, and I live in England. I mostly write fantasy.

Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.

I’m working hard on my ‘Penny White’ urban fantasy series. Penny is a rather flawed Church of England vicar, a science fiction geek, who stumbles across the magical parallel world of Daear when she is asked by a dying dragon to give him the last rites. I’ve written three books thus far, and I know I need to write at least another three to tell the entire story.

In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?

Humorous fantasy. I think we have enough serious stuff going on the world to worry about, so I want to give people something to read which makes them laugh.

“Humorous” and “fantasy” aren’t words you often find together. Beyond the obvious Terry Pratchet, what are some of your favorites in that genre?

Actually, I’ve never read any Terry Pratchet. I think I’d reach back to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, which I discovered when I was fourteen years old. I know the series are meant to be science fiction, but there’s very little science and a lot of hilarity between the pages. I’d put ‘Doctor Who’ into the same category. My preference is for humour which comes out of the situation and the characters, and I feel ‘Doctor Who’ sometimes does this very well.

Tardis

Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.

I usually have a particular scene that’s in my mind, and this drives the writing forward. I always have a small notebook and pen with me, so I can scribble down ideas when they come to me. Then I write, doing my best to get something done most nights (after work). After I’ve completed and done my own editing, I have several people who then do a beta read for me.

Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?

Morey, the small, sarcastic gryphon who has come to live with Penny. He is highly intelligent, and very witty, but also feels things deeply and will always stand by his friends.

Your series has (at least) dragons and gryphons – where do you look for inspiration for these and other kinds of beasties? And do you feel like you can do your own thing with them or do you keep fairly close to the traditional understanding of them?

I like to look into the traditions around dragons, unicorns, gryphons etc and then think how I could tweak them. So my dragons still love gold, and the gryphons lay eggs. But the dragons also have a culture based on the Vikings, and the unicorns prove to be less trustworthy than people might think. And the gryphons belong to clans and hunt in packs.

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What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?

How snails reproduce!

All right, I have to ask – why did you have to know how snails reproduced? And how do they?

Around six months ago, there was a new story about a ‘leftie’ snail who was looking for a mate. Seems most snails are ‘righties’—their whorls are on the right side of their shell. A ‘leftie’ needs another ‘leftie’ due to the positioning of the sexual organs in snails. So I decided that Clyde, the snail shark in my books, is a leftie. We find out the significance of that in the fourth book, ‘The Vengeance of Snails’, which I’m currently writing.

What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?

Watch out for all those who will find out that you’re self publishing, and will email you with all sorts of offers to market your book or to sell you schemes which will supposedly teach you how to sell lots of books. I’ve known some people to fall for the pitches made by vanity publishers.

If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?

I’d probably go part time at work, so I could write part time. Sadly, I don’t think even a million gives enough to provide a good pension!

What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?

The best book I’ve been reading is on line. It’s a fanfic based on Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. ‘Dragonchoice’ is superior to McCaffrey’s novels, and I’ve been devouring the weekly chapter releases. You can find it here: http://www.dragonchoice.com/

What do you think you’re next project will be?

When I’ve finally finished Penny’s story, I have a space opera I’d like to get back to. But Penny will keep me busy for awhile longer.

Find Chrys on the Web at http://chryscymri.com/

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Weekly Read: Perdido Street Station

My feelings about Perdido Street Station, China Mieville’s sprawling steampunky saga of a strange city and it’s even stranger inhabitants, can be summed up in the way I feel about one character in the book, Yagharek.

Yagharek is a part-man, part-bird creature with a fascinating back story and, were his story to be presented in a standalone short story, I think I’d love it. But within the context of the larger novel, it occurs to me that, aside from a couple of plot-goosing things that could be given to other characters, Yagharek’s story could be excised from the book without losing anything.

A lot of Perdido Street Station is that way. There’s so much going on in New Crobuzon that it would be a shame if Mieville just ignored it. After all, there’s not just magic and steampunk technology, but a host of non-human races (many based on folk creatures from around our world), creatures that can slip the very fabric of existence, and even a sentient trash heap! Like Yagharek they’re all interesting in their way, but the time we take observing these things doesn’t really pay off in the larger story.

That story itself is one that makes a hard shift about halfway through the book. Until that point it’s largely the story of Isaac, a renegade scientist (it’s via Isaac we meet Yagharek), and his artist lover Lin, who has the head of a scarab beetle but the body of a woman. Isaac works on Yagharek’s assignment to return him to flight, while Lin accepts a commission from a powerful (and powerfully weird) organized crime figure. Along the way we  learn some of the politics of New Crobuzon and generally get to know the world.

Around halfway one of Isaac’s beasties goes bad and the city is terrorized by a group of slake moths, giant creatures that hypnotize with the shifting patterns in their wings and then suck the victim’s dreams from their minds. The result is a shell of a person who is still alive, but hardly living. The book turns into a monster hunt for Isaac and others (Lin is absent, for the most part, being brutalized off screen for no good reason). The mechanics of the hunt are interesting (see, above, the sentient trash heap) but it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the first part of the book.

All this might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy Perdido Street Station. I did, but it can be very frustrating at times. There’s something of a perfect storm where Mieville’s imagination running wild (and overtime) matches up with his purple prose and love for description. There’s a scene where one character meets his state handlers in a seedy brothel. Naturally, we get a long, loving description of said brothel (and its bizarre employees) that has no relevance to the meeting the character is going to and doesn’t reappear later in the story.

To a certain extent, Perdido Street Station reminds me of Bryan K. Vaughn’s Saga, which is also overflowing with imaginative locales, creatures, and technologies. Maybe it’s because we get to see all that stuff it’s easier for me to process. In print it sometimes gets to be too much.

Which makes the reading difficult, but not necessarily unrewarding. In fact, if you’ve got the patience for a deep dive into a world where everything doesn’t need to be all that important, Perdido Street Station is the book for you. There’s more that’s interesting and bizarre and wondrous than there is frustrating and (perhaps) pointless. Recommended, even if I do so with caveats.

Perdido

Author Interview – Lisa McCombs

Join me for a discussion with award winner (and superhero!) Lisa McCombs.

Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?

I have always been a writer and can prove that by the five unfinished Harlequin-type romance manuscripts in my closet. The YA genre really speaks to me, though, now more than ever. After teaching teens for years, I retired two years ago and miss my young people. By writing about them, they are still in my life and because of my past relationships with them, I feel that I know what they want/need to read.

Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.

Bombs Bursting in Air was published in the fall of 2016 after winning first place in novel length fiction at the West Virginia Writer’s conference. To this day I have no idea how this story evolved so effortlessly, but I finished a completed first draft in less than two months. My goal is to create a young adult Christian series set in the same (imaginary) town of Ellison. All stand-alone novels are told in first person but will alternate between female and male perspective and will share references to characters and events in previous stories.

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In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?

My main writing genre is young adult primarily due to the fact that I taught teenagers for 33 years and have a strong relationship with that age group. As a language arts teacher I had the opportunity to share my love for books with many reluctant readers who taught me how to write for them.

Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.

I have kept a journal since diaries were the rage so my collection of ideas is never ending. When I latch on to a writing topic I am totally consumed and find myself looking at the world through my character’s eyes. The first thing I do is something Cheryl Ware (a successful WV children’s author) presented at a state conference years ago and which I continue to use in my own presentations. First I name my main character and assign the following attributes to that character: physical description, age and gender, at least one bad habit and/or fear, and an interest. I develop a setting to include geographic location, physical format, era, and time of year.  Next I make a list of possible conflicts faced by the main character as well as a complementary list of possible resolutions. Then I do a timed free write similar to what is done during NaNoWriMo (November is National Novel Writing Month and is an awesome way to jump start a writing project.) I am lucky to have several people in my life who usually agree to peruse my writing project(s) after I clean it up enough to share.

Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?

This is difficult because once I start writing about a character I pretty much become that character. I really relate strongly to Abby in my first YA novel by that same name. She attends the same schools as I and her life reflects a lot of my young years. Right now Lilah Rose is my favorite character. Probably because she is my newest character and we spend a great deal of time together.

What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?

Ironically, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001 and began a fourteen year quest to learn as much as possible about this disease. Since I never thought to be in the position of living with an incurable situation, I would never have thought to become as invested as I am in what I refer to as an alphabet disease: MS, MD, ASL. The more I read about my condition the more fascinated I became. I kept a journal of my daily life with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. When a dear friend actually died with complications due to MS, I realized that I needed to share my knowledge with other folks suffering from the MonSter. This resulted in the publication of I Have MS. What’s Your Super Power?: A Common Sense Guide to Living With MS in 2016. As an advocate of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I continue my research daily.

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What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?

Proofread, proofread, and proofread. Ask someone you trust to look at your work and proofread again.

Do you have a proofreading strategy that you’ve honed over the years to catch most mistakes?

I always read my work out loud to myself. I have done this for years, even back in undergrad school. Drove my roommates crazy. Fortunately I have a couple of people I can trust to read over my work and be honest in their critique. Proofreading is monotonous, yes, but obviously necessary. After I have edited my own work several times and a second/third party have done their part, I read it again. Then…I put it down for a few days before reading it again.

[back to things you’ve learned – JDB]

Learn as much as you can about self-promoting. I am NOT a business person but writing is a business so this is an evil necessity in publishing. Even Stephen King self-promotes.

Okay, these are TWO things I have learned the hard way, but they are so, so important.

Promoting often seems like the hardest part of being a writer (the actual writing is easy by comparison) – have you learned any particularly effective way to promote yourself and your work?

You are absolutely correct in stating that the actual writing is the easy part. I am not and never have been a sales person. I don’t even like to shop! Retail is not my specialty in any form. The best promotion tip I can give is be relentless in sharing your work, but do not threaten your self-respect in doing so. Reading a chapter or favorite passage from your work when in a public setting is the most effective promo I have found of late. Know your audience and cater toward their needs.

If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?

I would start my own writing retreat in the hills of Randolph County, West Virginia. I already have the location selected (It is for sale right now!).This would be a year round sanctuary for artists (writers, musicians, painters) seeking an inspirational setting for creating. I would hold writing camps and instructional opportunities for writers in the provided cabins. And, of course, I would reside there as well.

What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?

There are so many gifted hidden secrets in my little state of West by God Virginia. I am constantly discovering new writing talent. Danielle DeVoris probably my current interest. She lives and writes (long-handed!) in Morgantown. I love her character (defrocked -priest – turned exorcist) Jimmy Holiday.

I recently read Summer Haze by Michael J. Tucker and became totally infatuated with his story-telling prowess. Tucker is not from WV, but his story is definitely Appalachian. He isn’t really a new author, but new to me.

I could never recommend a favorite book, though. My favorite book is usually the last one I read. Fortunately I work closely with a West Virginia publishing house (Headline Books), so I get to rub elbows with many fantastic state authors.

What do you think you’re next project will be?

Right now I am working on what will be the third novel in my YA Christian series. This is kind of out of order, but the second book told in the male perspective is a very rough draft on hold because I have fallen in love with my new character, Lilah Rose, and cannot seem to get back in the head of that last character right now. But, he’s still there…and actually has been for years. I just want to get him right, so he is marinating for a while.

Did you envisage Lilah Rose as a major character when you created her? Or did she develop into one as she went along (to the point of taking over your next project)?

Lilah Rose has been the main character in my current project from the beginning, but as the story develops so does one other character. I like to bounce secondary characters off of the main one, experimenting with their dynamics, kind of testing their relationship. My plan is to develop my latest YA novel, Bombs Bursting in Air into a series of stand-alone installments that encompass an entire community. The characters will change, but they will also have a bond with familiar characters from other novels. For instance, Sacred Sanctuary (aka the Church of Go) has a HUGE role in all the books as the focal point of the town of Ellison. All of my characters attend the same schools and know the same town landmarks. The novels will alternate between female and male perspective in an attempt to attract all young readers, regardless of gender. (This means Lilah Rose is not the next book in the series. I am just stuck on her right now.)

Visit Lisa online at https://lisa-mccombs.blogspot.com/

Weekly Listen: ROSFest 2017

I’ve returned from my annual trek to Gettysburg for the Rites of Spring Festival – aka ROSFest. This was ROSFest number seven for me, which  is low compared to some folks, but it doesn’t seem like I’ve been going that long!. Kudos as always to George Roldan and the crew who keep things running smoothly year after year.

ROSFest Marquee

My thoughts on the bands:

Kyros – I liked them as Synathesia a couple years back and I think they’ve improved with (a little bit of) age. Their sound is heavy without being obnoxious and there’s lots of juicy keyboard work to go around (it’s a great ad for the Korg Kronos). Liked ‘em, bought the new album. Note – this was the first of three keyboardist/frontmen for the weekend – surely a record?

Moon Safari – I like, but don’t love, them (after about 90 minutes things just seem too sweet) but they delivered a good set, as expected based on their last appearance. The newer material didn’t thrill me. I continue to be amazed at their ability to harmonize after two hours.

Aaron Clift Experiment – I thought this was generally good, melodic stuff, although as somebody else pointed out it wasn’t particularly “proggy.” Only a few tunes really connected. I liked the fact that they brought a string quartet (once the sound guy saw they were there). But I disappointed that the keyboard player didn’t do more in a band with his name on it. Second keyboardist/frontman of the festival.

Unified Past –  These guys just didn’t work for me. Heavy prog with metal-style vocals with lots of instrumental pyrotechnics. Ephemeral Sun’s John Battema apparently stepped in at late notice to keep the band from having to cancel, so kudos to him – their material gave him quite a workout! I thought the Christ Squire “tribute” was odd, given that the bass player (with his Rick!) walked off stage for it.

dB Unit – The surprise of the fest for me. As other’s have mentioned, this was basically a few guys from Unitopia augmented by Steve Unruh (on violin, flute, and percussion). I only have one Unitopia album which is all right, so the idea of this collection of musicians didn’t thrill me. But the music was great and nice contrast from the metallic bombast of the rest of the day. Unruh is amazing. If they don’t make an album, I hope we get a recording of this set, at least. Slight demerit for using a bass backing track occasionally.

Neal Morse Band – Although I hadn’t heard much of Neal’s solo stuff going in, I knew what to expect musically from his days with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and, now, Flying Colors (whose second album I picked up). Aside from the prog-metal gloss on proceedings, it met expectations. Nothing stuck with me, but it was an enjoyable process as it went through. Neal and his band are all monster players and he’s a great frontman (number 3 in the . . . trinity of keyboard-based frontmen), so it was fun to watch.

The Fierce and the Dead – I suppose they were the “weird” band for the weekend, given the all-instrumental music. A great way to start Sunday. They reminded me of a heavier, more concise Forever Einstein (if that makes any sense). There were a few bits where they spaced out and kind of provided some breathing space. Great rapport with the audience. Pity they’re Arsenal fans!

Evership – This was another pleasant surprise. Young  band (they’ve been an actual band less than a year) cranking out adventurous (in terms of lyrical themes) symphonic prog with a heavy (but not overwhelming) edge. Lots of acoustic guitar work added a nice texture. Plus, they had cool toys on stage – a Theremin! a (pink) double-neck bass! a CP-80! Unfortunately, the lead guitar tone cut through my brain like a laser.

Edensong – Every year I skip out on one band (there’s only so much music a mind can handle) and I knew they’d be the one this year. I wanted to rest up for Anglagard and, having seen Edensong at 3RP long ago, knew their stuff really wasn’t for me. I hung around for a few tunes (all new, I think) and confirmed that thought. Major demerits for using obvious backing tracks (especially considering ACE’s string quartet from the day before).

Anglagard – This was my highest expectation of the weekend and they met it. They were a little looser (improvisational?) than I thought they’d be, but it worked. Loved bathing in the glow of real Melotron strings for the evening!

All in all another pretty good year.

This Argument Makes No Sense

Authorities in New Orleans have begun removing from public land a group of monuments dedicated to the Confederacy. It says something about how touchy a subject this is that the people doing the work had to be masked and protected by police snipers.

Among all the wrangling about this there’s one argument from the enablers of the Lost Cause that I just don’t understand, since it makes no fucking sense. It’s made repeatedly in the comments to this story in the Guardian. Here’s a representative sample, responding to the article’s point that this isn’t an issue of erasing history:

Yes it does. You have removed a piece of history from public view. Say you were walking past it with your young child and they said, “Daddy, what does that statue represent” then you could explain to them. Otherwise they are unlikely to learn about the past that has been removed, unless they teach it in school. But even then it’s not the same because it’s just words in books. It’s like removing fossils.

I can only figure that this is a post-hoc rationalization for a knee-jerk opposition to anything perceived as being done in the name of “political correctness,” because a couple seconds of thought shows is just doesn’t make a damned bit of sense.

Take this to its logical conclusion – once a monument of some kind has been erected, it can never be taken down without “erasing history.” If that’s true, we’re not exactly innocent:

IRAQ-BRITAIN-IRAQ-MILITARY-HUSSEIN-AUCTION-HISTORY-FILES

Then there’s the wholesale destruction of Nazi symbols and such in Germany following World War II. Or the toppling of statues of Stalin or Lenin following the end of the Cold War. The idea that monuments have infinite shelf lives simply isn’t rooted in history.

Beyond that, if a monument is history that can never be erased, does it create a perpetual obligation upon future taxpayers to keep it in good repair? Neither of those things can be true – they just don’t make any sense.

Let’s hypothesize using a silly example. In Futurama we learn that, sometime between Fry being frozen and thawed out, New York had a supervillain for a governor. Not only did he “collect” a bunch of famous monuments from around the world, he even added himself to Mount Rushmore:

Futurama_Mt_Rushmore

Now, years after the fact, are the citizens of New New York required to look at the face of evil everyday in the name of history? Do they have to pay to keep the super villain’s face looking crisp and life like? I’d say the answer is clearly no, but I’m not sure how those “this is erasing history” people could reach that conclusion.

Monuments and memorials are put up for a reason – because the people of that community at that time thought they were appropriate. There’s no magic in those intentions, nothing that shields the thing memorialized from future scrutiny. It’s entirely appropriate for future communities to decide that this thing is no longer worth celebrating.

Come See Me!

I wanted to let folks know about a couple of places I’ll be in the upcoming months. One’s fast approaching, the other’s more of a “mark your calendars, save the date” kind of thing.

Vandalia-Con

On May 26-28 I’ll be at the historic Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg, West Virginia for Vandalia-Con 2017.

VandaliaCon

Vandalia-Con is:

Vandalia-Con is a Steampunk/Science-Fiction Convention that raises funds to provide uninsured WV women with breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnostic and treatment services.

This will be my first experience with a “Con” and I’m really excited about it. It’s for a good cause, too, which is the cherry on top. Also, the steampunk vibe will go well with my next novel project (yes, I made a decision!)

West Virginia Book Festival

Two years ago the West Virginia Book Festival was reborn, just in time for me to participate as a published author. Unfortunately, I booked myself elsewhere before I knew the dates for last year’s version. No such problem this year!

2010_Bookfest_Logo

On October 27 & 28 I’ll be at the (in the process of being remodeled) Charleston Civic Center for the 2017 version! I’m looking forward to a great slate of writers being there and meeting and greeting plenty of readers over two days. Mark your calendar!

I’m hoping to have some other appearances scheduled this summer and fall, too.

Author Interview – S J Brown

This time I talk with an author who shoots first and writes stories later (mostly) – S J Brown.

Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?

I am S J Brown, a writer, wildlife photographer, grandma, wife, mother, spouse, and tree hugger. My home base is in West Virginia, but I tend to cross the state line constantly. I write about life, about me, and about critters.

Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.

I am currently in the finishing stages of a project my sister and I embarked on together. It is a memoir that covers 12 years of our lives. The working title is Sisters. It has been quite a journey that we can’t wait to share it.

How did you come to write a book with your sister? Were there any major squabbles you had along the way?

Our Mother wrote a book for family.  It accented the difference between her childhood and mine. So that got me thinking about writing a memoir.  Then at a Writers Conference I took a workshop on collaborative writing.  When I returned home I called my sister and learned that she had been thinking the same thing.

There weren’t any squabbles while we worked on the book.  We did most of our squabbling when we were younger. I admit from time to time I got impatient waiting for her to respond to my emails.  We live about 250 miles apart so much of the writing was done through e mail and over the phone.  We also spent a few weekends together just focusing on the book. There were times when we laughed until we cried.  There were serious discussions and agonizing about how much to share, where to end the book and if there would be another book to follow this one.

In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?

I primarily write memoirs. Early in my writing career a trusted soul told me to write what I know and I took that to heart.

I was at an exhibit talking to a patron about the story behind getting one of my photos. After our conversation a fellow writer tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “girl you have to write this shit down.” I went home that evening and put aside the manuscript I was working on and began Close Ups & Close Encounters, my first full length published manuscript.

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So what, in brief, was the story behind that picture (and do you have a digital one you could share)?

As you can see it is a pretty close shot. I was using a 300 mm lens. I stood behind some bushes and snapped a picture of the bear. Normally I would take a shot and then take a step closer to the critter I am photographing.  However each time I clicked the shutter button this bear moved closer to me.  We did this several times before my spotter got nervous and whispered that we needed to back out of there.  Of course I took a few more shots including this one before I backed out of the area. I used film when photographing wildlife.  I think the bear could hear the camera advancing the film and he was curious about the sound.

Bear

Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.

My writing process is a bit different than most writers. I begin with a photograph. My goal is to take the reader to that time and place. My first draft generally is just notes to myself. The second draft is actually sentences and paragraphs. The third draft I tweak the descriptions and emotions a bit. Then I set it aside for a few weeks before giving it one more read through before I place it into someone else’s hands. I always want a fresh set of eyes on the work. A fresh set of eyes will spot typos, and places where the story skips or lags a bit.

Since you start, generally, with a photograph, does that mean when you’re looking for good shots you try to get something that might make for good writing afterwards? Or do you just get lucky sometimes?

When I am in the field I’m not thinking about stories to write, I am concentrating on the critter in front of me. In the field the encounter is as important as the resulting photograph.    It is important to pay attention to the animal’s behavior so that I don’t get in trouble.  Wildlife photography involves skill, research, and a bit of luck  every time I go out in the field. To get the shot that I eventually used for the cover of “Close Ups and Close Encounters” I had to climb a tree and wait.  Sometimes I lay on the ground, other times I need to climb, or get into a boat to get a good shot. Since every picture tells a story the writing comes later.

Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?

I can’t really give you an answer to this question since I don’t create characters. I write about real people. Life truly can be stranger than fiction.

What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?

I haven’t really researched anything weird or strange for my writing. I do most of my research before photo trips. It helps to know as much as possible about my wild subjects before I encounter them in the field.

Before my first trip to Florida to photograph critters I researched alligators, manatees and a few other wild creatures. However when I was on the ground face to face with an alligator all that knowledge just disappeared when I knew I was too close to him.. I couldn’t remember how far he could lunge, how he would warn me to back off, or how fast he could move. So I took a few photos and began talking to him as I backed away.

Okay so I have gotten off topic here but your next question is probably what do you say to an alligator when you are close enough to hear him breathe. It doesn’t really matter he can’t understand what you are saying. You just have to keep your voice calm and pleasant so he knows you aren’t a threat.

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How do you select the subjects you photograph?

My spotter often says I will photograph anything that moves.  What critters I photograph depends on where I am.  I have traveled from Maine to Florida and as far west as Colorado  to capture critters on film. The extreme northern United States have Moose, and Puffins can be found at certain times of the year.  The extreme south eastern states have alligators. When I head west I can find Big Horn Sheep, and Prairie Dogs. Then there are white tailed deer, wild horses, raccoons, and a huge variety of birds, so I guess he is right I will photograph almost anything that moves.

Photographing wildlife has led to doing things I never dreamed I would do.  I have flipped horseshoe crabs, tagged Monarch Butterflies, and banned ducks.  I have met some fascinating people and been to incredible places.  Every time I return home I am ready to go out and do it again.

What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?

Don’t let life get in the way. There is always something else you need to be doing, or somewhere you need to be. Make the time to write, write often, and get your thoughts down. I began writing in High School, had my first piece published when I was 18 and then life got in the way, my writing was put aside and it was decades before I got back to writing.

If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?

I would get a laptop and write from the road.

What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. This book grabbed me from the first sentence and didn’t let me go. To me that is the true meaning of a great book. The words should put the reader in the scene and compel them to turn the page.

What do you think you’re next project will be?

My next project is already in progress. I am writing a follow up to Sisters. The working title is The Little Middle Sister. The select few that have read Sisters asked how I got from there to where I am now.  It has definitely been a journey I wouldn’t want to repeat, but I am happy to share the details.

This was fun. Thanks for having me here.

S J Brown on the Web