Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


On Absent Friends

My dear friend Tami made a mad dash to the store just before we left Disneyland last month and handed me this on her return:


Every morning, I have coffee or tea in this mug. I love it, not just because it’s silly and great and features the screaming gulls from Finding Nemo, although that’s a big part of it. It’s not just because it says MINE MINE MINE, even though that means my family members actually do keep their hands off it.

The reason I love it is because it makes me feel like I’m having coffee with Tami every morning.

The worst thing about moving so far away was having to leave my friends behind. To all of you back in Oregon and to all of you all over the world, you know who you are, I say let’s do coffee every day.

Change never really stops, does it.

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Eight Questions: Liana Mir

Today it’s my pleasure to bring you an interview with independently-published author Liana Mir.

Liana and I found each other at a drabble prompt community I used to run on LiveJournal. We liked each others’ work and now provide reading and editing services to one another, happily. Liana’s latest publication is called Dowse and Bleed: A Novelette of Kingdom and Thorns. I’m delighted to have left some small fingerprints on this book as Liana’s beta reader. I’ve read so many iterations of this novelette that it’s hard to remember where it began, but I know I’m very happy with what it’s become.

Here’s the jacket copy:

Rachelle Winslow was once known as the Database, one of the most powerful special human operatives in the military, able to read and process genetic material on contact. Now she has her own problems and trying to stay out of the business tops the list.

Then a professional informant vanishes from his city apartment, leaving shattered windows, blood on the carpet, and a frantic message that he knows who’s coming after him-a special. It’s just one more case, even if it could end up killing her.

I can tell you that Kingdom and Thorns is a complex world with strong science fiction and police-procedural elements. It’s also one where the characters verge on superheroic yet remain real and believable, and the dark nights of the soul are often plummeted. It’s available in paperback, for Kindle, for Nook, and as in other formats (PDF, epub, rtf, etc.) on Smashwords. I might be biased, but I recommend the print version. The cover is beautiful.

Eight Questions

How old were you when you started writing fiction, and can you tell us about the first story you remember writing?

Liana: I was four years old when I first started writing fiction and I wrote a tiny little story about a five-year-old Native American girl and gave it to my grandmother, which she graciously complimented as being good for someone of my age.

The worlds you create are incredibly complex. I know authors are frequently asked “where did you get the idea for that” and I hate to be cliche, but what was your inspiration for the world of Kingdom and Thorns?

Liana: Oh my! Big answer that I shall have to try and condense. I went through this stage of fandom where I was heavily into Roswell, Mutant X, and X-Men all around the same time (among other things), and I kept imagining this premise where 12 genetically-engineered kids escaped from the military facility that made them and created their own society in the jungle. This core premise with the many things that went with it later became the foundation for multiple storyworlds including Kingdoms and Thorn, Vardin, and others.

I never intended to write down the military backstory though and that only happened after I saw this book cover once for Fade to Black by Francis Knight. When I read the Big Idea post about the city, it gave me this idea of a city where multiple kingdoms were cheek by jowl in the same city. When I combined that with the other, Kingdoms and Thorn became what it is and was born. I could write that.

Who are three of your favorite authors? What about them makes them favorites?

Liana: Zenna Henderson, Terri L. Fivash, and too many to name who are awesome and tied for third.

These two though, they have this amazing ability to combine gorgeous language, compelling story, and breathtaking worldbuilding into one awesome whole. I especially adore their worldbuilding and characterization though. Their characters breathe on the page.

It’s the dread deserted island question! Knowing you’ll be stranded on a deserted island, what five works of fiction would you bring along to help pass the time?

Liana: Ingathering by Zenna Henderson, Joseph by Terri Fivash, The Brother’s Keeper by Tracy Groot, Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Emma by Jane Austen. They aren’t my five favorite fiction books (though there is some overlap), but they are five varied and interesting stories that give a whole lot on each rereading.

Tell us one secret Rachelle would rather you didn’t.

Liana: Rachelle has so many secrets, but I think the biggest one she never wants to look at it is that she’s actually very vulnerable: she can’t make herself say no when she feels she is really needed by someone she cares about. She cares about more people than she likes to admit.

What are your most and least favorite things about self-publishing?

Liana: My favorite thing about self-publishing is that I don’t have to wait for someone else to love it who also happens to publish. Most of the stuff I love is adored by people in fandom, but it’s really hard to find submission guidelines that are even close to a match for my stuff.

I love designing my own covers and formatting a new book. That is awesome.

I dislike how long it takes me to get a story to perfection and to get all the various formats set up and published. I really don’t care for the sheer number of formats you have to do or filling out metadata. To be honest, that’s just drudge work.

Speaking of self-publishing, do you have any tips to share with would-be authors looking to self-publish?

Liana: When it comes to self-publishing, my number one tip is to find something you love that it’s in the same genre as what you’re publishing and study it when you’re formatting your own work. Study the back cover, study the title and copyright pages and frontmatter. Study the margins and footers and headers. Study what makes the cover work for you. Make yours just as good as that and include the same elements as much as possible.

Poetry books don’t have BISAC on the back cover. Novels do. Put the country on the title page. Be creative with your table of contents. Don’t box yourself in, but really hold yourself to the standard of what you like to read.

Second big tip: study the BISAC codes and follow the browse paths on Amazon to get a feel for what those BISAC codes cover in genre. In fact, ignore self-published and most small press books when you do this. Just figure out BISAC. This is a free education in genre rules and all those subtle cues that tell a reader this book is for them. Then pop over to M. Louise Locke’s blog for a look at categories and keywords beyond the BISAC.

Price according to other books in your subgenre that have the same formats. There are a handful of usual format breakdowns: hardcover/trade/ebook, hardcover/trade/mass market, and trade/ebook are the most common. For “Dowse and Bleed,” a science-fiction procedural, I went on Amazon and studied scifi procedurals with a trade/mass market/ebook format breakdown and priced to match.

What’s your favorite world you’ve created, and why?

Liana: Seven Days. It’s my sweetest and everybody loves it and even though it has built-in angst, there’s none of this deep, heavy moral dilemmas, etc. It’s just not as heavy.

I’d like to thank Liana for her time and generosity. You can find her and her works online at the following sites:


If you’re a small press or indie/self-published author and would like to be interviewed, contact me via email.



A friend once told me she loved it when I stopped by to visit, because she never knew who she was going to get: me, or one of my characters.

I’m method actor-ish to the extreme when I write. I love inhabiting my characters. I love being able to see the world through their eyes. Isn’t that what writing fiction is all about?


After a break…

…I got back in the swing of things a little.

I’m afraid it’s all too expository, but I can’t have a flashback to something that happened before my protagonist was born when the whole thing is told from his point of view. I’m thinking this is why I stubbornly refused to work on this book the past week or so. I knew it would be difficult. And messy. An uphill hike.

Fret, fret. It’s what I do. Writing is hard! Getting words on the page can be easy, but getting good words on the page is another matter altogether. At least this is a start, and I have to remind myself it’s all very raw first draft. So it goes.

I hope you all enjoyed yesterday’s author interview. If you are or know of any small press authors who’d like eight questions of their own, send them my way.

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Eight Questions: Jenna Jones

Today it’s my pleasure to bring you the first in a series of interviews with fellow small press and independently-published authors.

I bumped into Jenna Jones a number of years ago via LiveJournal, and we’ve stayed in touch with each other since. The day her first novel was accepted for publication was an exciting one all around. It was also the first time I’d heard of Torquere Press. Since then, Jenna’s gone on to publish an astounding 24 titles with Torquere, some short stories, some novels.

In preparation for this interview I read Jenna’s novel Shooting Star, the second in the King’s Diamond series. To my delight, my enjoyment of the book didn’t suffer for not having read the first. It’s set in a fantasy world evocative of ancient Egypt and Greece, with a great deal of subtle worldbuilding woven throughout. At heart it’s both a romance and an epic journey. You can read the book’s description here.

Eight Questions

You’ve been a pretty prolific author the past five years. What are the best and worst parts of that for you?

Jenna: The best part is having stories to share with people. The worst part is if I don’t hit a certain arbitrary number, I feel like I’ve failed somehow.

What are the pros and cons of working with a small press?

Jenna: A definite pro is the personal attention and knowing my publishers and editors as people. A con would have to be the lack of the publicity budget that the Big Boys have. You do as much as you can, of course, but I’ll never be on an endcap at Barnes & Noble.

Tell us about the process of publishing with Torquere Press. Do you have any recommendations for writers who want to become part of the Torquere family?

Jenna: Be as fresh and original as you can. Torquere has been around for a long time and have published a lot of plots, and they look for unique takes on established tropes.

Build a platform and be prepared to use it. Interacting with readers will help bring awareness to your book.

Polish your book as much as you can before you submit. The editors appreciate clean submissions.

What first inspired you to become a novelist?

Jenna: I never wanted to be anything else. I had stories going on in my head for as long as I can remember, and I was about eight or nine when I realized two very important things: that books exist because people write them, and if other people did that, so could I.

Which authors (or artists) have influenced your writing the most?

Jenna: I discovered Charlotte Bronte when I was about twelve, and I think she did a lot to inform my tastes. I’ve enjoyed romance novelists like Jude Deveraux and Karen Robards, and in more recent years Jennifer Crusie has become a favorite too; and I read a steady diet of classics for school which gave me several other favorites, like E.M. Forster, John Steinbeck, and Jane Austen. I’ve gobbled up genre authors like Neil Gaiman and Peter David and Stephen King, and… I don’t know, it’s hard to say what I’ve forgotten and what I’ve kept from all the books I’ve read. But those guys are perennials.

Do you write to a playlist?

Jenna: Sometimes. Some characters lend themselves to music more easily than others.

The world of King’s Diamond seems very complete, with gods and rituals and societal expectations. A lot of times in works of fantasy we don’t get to see the whole world, but you’ve been very thorough, down to mythology and history, clothing and food. What were your influences for the world of King’s Diamond?

Jenna: I love history and I love the ancient world in particular, and I’ve read a lot of Greek and Egyptian mythology. Part of the original germ of the story was the theory that the Sphinx was once under water; so the story was an attempt to write a myth of my own and create a proto-Egypt when the desert had flowing water. Things like food and clothes came from that same Mediterranean starting place, and there are little bits borrowed from all kinds of ancient societies and beliefs.

When JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, she had Alan Rickman in mind for Severus Snape and Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid. Did you have physical models in mind for Ketu and Damal?

Jenna: Damal was inspired by Tutankhamen’s death mask, and has become a combination of that and Eion Macken in my mind, someone handsome and capable of being regal as much as being a big goofball. My image of Ketu has shifted a few times, though recently I learned of Avan Jogia, who is beautiful and has that same air of nobility to him that I wanted for Ketu. He’ll do.

I’d like to thank Jenna for her time and generosity, and leave you with a favorite quote from Shooting Star: “Don’t you see, Ketu? Our stories make us what we are.”

You can find Jenna and her works online at the following sites:
Torquere Press

If you’re a small press or indie author and would like to be interviewed, contact me via email.



In the hospital the night after surgery, stuck with tubes and needles pumping Dilaudid into my veins, drifting in and out of consciousness. 4am is my time to be awake, not a time of day to love or to hate, it’s just there, heavy and relentless. At 4am my mind likes to trick me into remembering everything I’ve done wrong and every injustice, real or perceived, large or small, because darkness lends itself to introspection. That night I fought against the narcotics, wanting to be rid of their vulgar unwelcome dizzying side effects. Little else to do, I turned on the television, the one tucked up into the angle of the ceiling. Flip: one channel. Flip: another. Flip: a third, a fourth, and so on, settling on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Watching television is a form of sleeping, I read once, I believe it was in that bible of wisdom Messages from Michael, and the statement resonated with me whether or not the book was channeled. That night television wasn’t a form of sleeping, not with Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on and as I watched, realizing it had to be the final episode and the rest of it would forever more be ruined for me — if I remembered what happened — I told myself that if I could just pinpoint the dub voice actors and remember their names, recognize their voices, convince myself who they were, I would make it past this post-surgery night into the next day. There, Crispin Freeman and there, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and so on. I had to struggle to put names to the voices but was proud of myself when I could because I’d just come through many hours of surgery and knew at least as far as useless trivia was concerned my brain would be all right after all. Night nurse Patrick stopped by and took a seat in the visitor’s chair and watched Ghost with me for a while before he turned to me and said in all my years as a night nurse I’ve never stopped in on a grown woman watching Cartoon Network at 4 in the morning and I thought two things. The first was welcome to my hell and the second was what a way to be a trailblazer for feminism: one anime at a time.


Writing a novel is like hiking.

I hike a lot in the park just outside my front door. The problem with living at the top of a canyon is that it’s an easy hike down, but it’s not as effortless getting back up to the top.

When I start any hike, I give myself a goal. A mile and a half, two miles, two and a half. Whatever I decide on for the day is good, and it varies based on how I’m feeling. The first part is always easy. I feel like I could walk forever. Inevitably I have to turn around and walk back home, though, and no matter which direction I head in the park, that means a hike back uphill. The return trip always takes two or three times as long as the first part. I have to stop along the way, drink some water, take a rest. Sometimes I can bull my way through it and hike back without stopping at all, going almost as quickly as on the downhill. More often than not, that’s a rarity.

It occurs to me that writing a novel is a lot like hiking. Once I’ve determined to get started and have a few things in order–the literary equivalent of a good pair of shoes, a bottle of water, sunscreen, my cell phone–I’m geared up and eager. Sometimes getting to the starting line is a push but once I’m there, nothing in the world can stop me. Words fly onto the page/feet fly down the path. Ideas are rampant. It’s fun, it’s energizing, it’s beautiful, it’s exhilarating.

Then I get to the middle, and I have to stop there for a while. I look at the way to the end and try to figure out if there’s a shortcut. There never is. The only way back is the way I came, but the work is a lot harder. A little while ago on this blog I talked about the middle being difficult. It is, but I’ve decided it’s fine to acknowledge that, take a little break once I’m there, and gear myself up for the far more difficult journey home.

Unlike hiking a predetermined path, the middle of a novel can be freeing. I don’t have to circle back on the same old route. I can start in my desired direction and see where the words take me. I can give the path free reign, instead of forcing it to fit my initial expectations. Writing as an organic experience is my preferred method, and while I might work from an outline, it’s really more of a suggestion than a requirement.

“And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.” – Captain Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

May we all have as much fun on the return voyage as we did getting to the halfway point.


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