Friday, July 22, 2011

Pauline Baird Jones: Steampunk

My special guest today is Pauline Baird Jones, sometimes known as Perilous Pauline:-) Welcome to the blog, Pauline.
We’d be fascinated to know more about you.

Hello, Susan. I started my adventures in writing in the last century, penning my first, full length novel during the first Gulf War. When I started looking for a publisher, New York was the only game in town, but something exciting was already starting to happen. By 1998, I was sick of trying to crack New York publishing and submitted PIG IN A PARK (now titled THE SPY WHO KISSED ME) to a small, digital-only publisher, one of only three dipping their toes into digital publishing. It was accepted and released in 1998. Following the release, I spent most of my promotion time trying to explain digital publishing, but the book did well with readers (yay and thanks, readers!).
It was the first digital-only release to be nominated for a ROMANTIC TIMES Reviewer’s Choice award. And my next novel, THE LAST ENEMY, was the first digital-only release to win a ROMANTIC TIMES Reviewer’s Choice award.
Congratulations on the success!

Thank you. Since then my novels have won two Epic Book Awards, two RT awards, a Dream Realm Award, a Bronze IPPY, and a Dorothy Parker Award—all without New York’s permission or attention. (grin)

Obviously, I’ve never liked being told there is one way to do anything, or that I can’t do something because “that’s just the way it is.” I took a lot of flack in my early publishing days from other authors and a few readers, but am happy to have been proved RIGHT that digital publishing is the best thing to happen to authors since, well, EVER. (grin)
Pauline, how many books have you written and in what genre(s)?
In May I released my 11th novel (STEAMROLLED) and my eighth short story (STEAM TIME available in the DREAMSPELL STEAMPUNK anthology). They are both parts of my connected series that I call Project Enterprise.

I write, or have written in science fiction romance, SFR/.steampunk romance, romantic suspense, action adventure, humorous romantic suspense and a lone gothic. I have three non-fiction writing handbooks, too.
11? Wow! You're not only perilous but also prolific.

What prompted you to switch genres from romantic suspense to science fiction romance and then steampunk?
I started writing romantic suspense, because that’s what I read, but I also loved the action adventure novels of Alastair Maclean. I almost didn’t notice that my RS books were trending more and more into A/A and then I did notice and thought, whoa, that’s interesting.
After some pondering, I decided I liked this trend and wanted to pursue it. My first A/A book was called OUT OF TIME. The transition from this WWII time travel to outer space, well, no question it’s a bit odd and at the time, I didn’t think I was writing SFR. I thought I was just writing another A/A novel.
When reviewers and readers started calling it SFR, it kind of freaked me out. I didn’t think I did science (based on my grades in high school, though now that I consider it, I got those grades because I was making up my science back then….) Looking back at my life, I might not have read a lot of SF or SFR until recently, but my viewing tastes trended that way. I started with THE JETSONS, and worked my way through LOST IN SPACE, STAR TREK….I even liked the lame SF shows like LAND OF THE GIANTS. While I’m not a total geek girl, I do have some geek creds. J
The steampunk move is much more straightforward. I read a fun steampunk novel and thought, wow, that would be fun to write. If I hadn’t written a semi-historical novel (OUT OF TIME) I might have balked at the research, but I had and my plan at the time was to write a short story. It turned into a novella (TANGLED IN TIME) that built a fun bridge to STEAMROLLED, which is also an SFR/steampunk mashup. You can’t imagine my thrill when a review said my “soft SF was plausible.” Take that, high school science teachers!

LOL! Tell us about your latest release.
About STEAMROLLED: With all of time at risk, it’s a bad time to fall in love…unless it’s the only time…
Robert Clementyne is going on a transmogrification machine hunt. He fears finding the machine will be as difficult as pronouncing the name. How can the steam-powered device perform as advertised, and how useful can any information be, coming from a steampunk themed bowling alley/museum?
It’s pretty crazy, but he’s been there, done that, and thinks he can handle it.

And then he meets the proprietor/curator…Emily Babcock.
Emily grew up in crazy, still lives in it—hey, it’s her freaking zip code. So no worries when Robert and his team walk into her bowling alley. The first visitors ever to her museum.
But neither of them is prepared for what happens when they open the door to the past…and the future. With a side trip through Roswell…and a face-to-face meeting with an evil genius/wannabe—who is on his way to becoming evil overlord-of-everything…
And a mini blurb about my short story, STEAM TIME: The man formerly known as Tobias Smith hadn’t planned to ride along with Dr. Everly and his Medicine Show. Grifters gave him a pain their elixirs couldn’t heal. But he was headed to Marfa, too. And Everly’s “son” turned out to be a really fine looking damsel—one in distress when the ghost lights of Marfa bump them into an alternate reality complete with an automaton gang and airships.
Intriguing, indeed.
Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

I’m happy to report that all my books are available in print and in a variety of digital formats. The fastest why to find them is on my home page:

Now Pauline, tell us how you develop characters.
Some years ago, I took a directing class (I’d written a stage play and was interested in learning how to be a better playwright by studying how a director and actors brought a play to life). For my final, I had to direct a one-act play. I picked a funny piece and convinced two of my friends to play the leads. I got a good grade on the assignment, but one piece of criticism really hit me where I lived. My professor pointed out that my two friends had played their parts exactly alike. The only way to tell them apart was their hair color! I took this criticism to heart and always try to create characters that have contrast and originality—particularly important in novels since the reader can’t always “see” the hair color. I don’t make them different just to BE different or weird, but strive for distinct. I was particularly pleased by a reader review on Amazon this week. The reader wrote:
Even more than the lovely and coherent mix of weird stuff, I loved the well-written interior narratives. Each character has a distinctive voice - enough so that changes of viewpoint don't have to be telegraphed with big rows of asterisks - and several of them are very witty as well.” (Paul Meyer)
Color me uber-pleased. To do this, I still use a lot of playwriting techniques in my character creation. I wrote an article about this topic that I posted on my website here:

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?
Oh, promotion! It is both pleasure (connecting with readers) and pain (feeling like that’s all you do!). I do most of my promoting online, though I do attend science fiction conventions that are within driving distance to promote my work and get support and encouragement from other writers. I also use the usual social networking sites, but I try to do soft promotion.

Instead of the constant “buy my book now,” I try to provide information and talk about elements in my books. I find this a more comfortable approach, because it reflects my own preferences as an avid reader. Buying a book is such a personal thing. How one connects with the way an author uses words, the genres they write, is personal. I have chemistry with some books and not others. I can personally like an author and not care for their books. So I don’t go into any situation believing that all the people will like what I write all the time.
I love that readers can now sample my books through kindle and other digital formats. I also try to post excerpts, so that readers can get a sense of my writing style and offer four, free stories through Omnilit/All Romance eBooks (links on my site).

Another thing I do, for fun and for my readers, is my “Behind the Book” interview with myself. I do it  right after I finish a book. This helps me capture details, trials and funny stories that I might forget for later interviews. It gives readers a peek into my creative process. I even have an interview of myself about what it is like to interview myself. Or something like that. These interviews can be found on my website by clicking on “For Readers.”
I also try to do regular giveaways, though I’m not sure how effective contests are. While I wouldn’t know what to do with “harvested” emails, people are still wary about that these days. I can’t even blame them when the spam piles up in my spam folder every morning.
I try different things, but in the end, I think the best promotion is to write the best you book you can. And then write another. And another. And another. Well, you get the picture. J
Can you tell us about current or future projects?
Right now I’m working on the next PROJECT ENTERPRISE book, which should release in Nov, 2011. After that, well, I’m mulling a new steampunk book and I also get requests for a sequel to OUT OF TIME. I would ask readers to vote, but I tend to commit random acts of writing, going where the Muse leads me, so not sure a vote would work with my Muse.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
You can find out more about me than you’d ever want to know at:

Thank you so much for having me here today, Susan. You have an awesome blog!
Why thank you ma'am. It has been a pleasure to have you. Continued success with your prolific endeavors, Pauline. Come back any time!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sylvia Dickey Smith

My very special guest today is Sylvia Dickey Smith, author of the Sidra Smart series. Sylvia, thank for coming over. Please tell us more about you.
 Hi, Susan. Thanks for hosting me on your blog. I would like to say I’ve followed your work and celebrate your success.
Thank you so much! I have read your books and own your cookbook, so I applaud your success as well.
Often, people ask me why my writing focuses on strong women. When I look back to understand that question myself, I think one of the most significant events leading to that was when—at 34—I moved to the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago where my curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension. Awed by the differences in customs and cultures, particularly as they related to West Indian women, I set out on a journey of study and self-discovery.
 Back in the U.S. at 40, this same curiosity propelled me to start college and didn’t stop until I achieved a B.A. in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling. This experience opened my eyes to missed potential—my own, and women in general. Over the years, much of my study, research, and pleasure reading has focused on the history of women and the effect patriarchy has had on such.
 So, I suppose writing strong women was a natural progression.
Indeed. What an interesting background you have.
Syvlia, how many books have you written?
 I have four novels published, plus a cookbook.

  • The Sidra Smart Mystery series: (available on Kindle/Nook &other e-books)The titles are: Dance On His Grave; Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets; Dead Wreckoning.
  • A War Of Her Own: My latest release is a historical fiction set during WWII homefront. It recently won 1st Place in the Press Women of Texas Annual Awards & 2nd Place in the National Federation of Press Women contest--2010.
  • Sassy Southern Classy Cajun: a cookbook
My writing features women who recreate themselves into the people they want to be, strong women who take charge of their lives and get things done. (If you've met Sidra Smart or Bea Meade, you know what I mean.) The stories dwell on the wondrous twists and turns of human behavior rooted in my background as a counselor before I became a novelist. The tales are fun, sassy, and (according to my fans) darn good reads. I hope you like these kinds of books, too! I look forward to adding you and your readers as fans.
How do you develop characters?
Having a split personality comes in handy! The best way to describe how I develop my characters is to say that I “become” each character. I crawl inside their skin, feel what they feel, think what they think, look how they look, smell what they smell, believe what they believe, talk how they talk. The difficult part of that is remembering who I am when I step outside their bodies/minds/spirits!
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
 I wish! My writing life would be so much easier if I did—but a lot less fun! I write organically. I start with a character, usually—but sometimes an idea—and head out. I discover my story much the way the story unfolds for the reader. The problem with that is it ends up requiring rewrites, plot corrections, new clues developed, and sometimes, even a new murderer for mysteries. When the person you think is the bad guy isn’t, then you have to go back and figure out who is and add new clues. However, my brain freezes when I sit down and try to outline.
 How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
 I’d have to say that my environment and my upbringing IS the color of my writing! My life experiences have crossed a broad spectrum of life, exposing me to any number of people, faiths, races, abilities/disabilities, psychological health/ill health, climates, accents, behaviors—you name it.  Each gifts me with much to pick and choose from—or, perhaps I should say—gift my characters much to work with which to pick and choose from as they reveal themselves to me, and I, to my readers. It is indeed a fun journey!
Can you tell us about current or future projects?
I am so glad you asked! I’d love to. My current project is a novel called The Swamp Whisperer. It is the tale of:
 An old woman with more curiosity than good sense.
  • A Paleo-Indian tribe rebuilding a lost civilization under questionable circumstances.
  • A greedy college professor threatening the swamp’s eco-system.
  • And an angry feminine spirit who has kept the swamp in balance for thousands of years—until now.
 This humorous yet serious tale of balance and imbalance is told through the eyes of a nosy old swamp woman who stumbles upon a plot to use ancestors of a cannibalistic Indian tribe to locate a long-abandoned silver mine, by whatever means necessary. Confused by the intermittent presence of a long-deceased, disembodied figure named Parahaia, and an old man named Shadrach who pleads she save the swamp from greedy treasure seekers, the swamp whisperer soon gets in over her head. 
 Where can folks learn more about your books and events, Sylvia?
 Websites:     Email:

Sylvia, it's been a pleasure. Come back any time.

Thanks much, Susan. I look forward to hearing from your readers.