Calico In Conversation: Eye-Candy with Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder
Maria V. Snyder

Meteorologist turned novelist, Maria V. Snyder has been writing fantasy and science fiction since she was bored at work and needed something creative to do. Over a dozen novels later, Maria’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, won a half-dozen awards, and has earned her Master’s degree in Writing from Seton Hill University where she’s now part of the MFA faculty. She also enjoys creating new worlds where horses and swords rule, ’cause let’s face it, they’re cool, although she’s been known to trap her poor characters in a giant metal cube and let them figure out how to get out.

Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published Tuesday June 14th and June 21st, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through May of 2016.

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Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?

We both attended Seton Hill University’s Masters of Arts program for writing popular fiction. I graduated in 2007 (I’m not sure if we were students together? – in my defense that was 9 years ago!). Then in 2008, I returned and am now on the faculty.

1192365I remember some overlap. I got to hear you read from Magic Study as your thesis defense, and I also remember seeing the very early pages in workshop that made up the opening chapter of Inside Out. But my favorite memory is this: attending my very first SHU class when you were handing out bookmarks promoting Poison Study. I saw the cover art and flipped out, because I’d drooled over the hardcover just weeks before in a Barnes & Noble! So tell me: what made you, a published author, apply for the SHU Writing Popular Fiction Masters Degree?

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Introducing Calico in Conversation

I’ve been working on some SEKRIT PROJECTS the past few months, and of the two, one is finally coming to fruition!

Back in February, I put up a side bar: Authors I Know. The purpose of this was to bring some recognition to the writers who labored in the trenches with me and have managed to get out there and get their wonderful words in the hands of the public. This post gave me an idea: why stop there? Why not highlight them individually? And how would I do that?

The result: Calico in Conversation: an organic interview where I would start off each interviewee with the same question, and then see where the conversation takes us.

So it’s with great excitement, and some trepidation, that Calico in Conversation kicks off next Tuesday, June 7th, with part one of my interview with Maria V. Snyder, author of the recently published Night Study, and one of the most prolific authors I know personally.

Yes, you read that right: PART ONE. Maria and I got into chatting so much that the interview has to be broken into THREE parts, so expect additional installments on Tuesday June 14th and Tuesday June 21st! Then in July, I’ll move onto another author. In August, yet another author. And so on and so forth until 1) I get bored and/or 2) I run out of authors to torment.

I won’t claim to be a professional journalist or interviewer, and I suspect my skills will sharpen as time goes on. But it’s great to get back in touch with these friends and colleagues of mine to talk shop, motivations, inspirations, and what life looks like outside of writing! I hope you’ll have as much fun with these interviews as I have, and if you’re wondering who to expect in the future, just take a gander below: if you have any questions for these fine folks, you can either comment here for me to slip them into the interview, or comment when the interviews go live for the authors to answer themselves!

Stay tuned!!!!

Sidebar: Authors I Know

For a while now, I’ve been meaning to put together a Links List of made up of authors I know. Pretentious sounding, right? But knowing, while also half the battle, actually means people I know in real life: people whose work I’ve critiqued, and/or who’ve critiqued my own work. People who’ve published books and/or short fiction and who have websites I can link to.

I’ve met most of them in person. We may have met at Hollins University, where I received my Bachelor of Arts. We may have met at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, where I spent six weeks in deep study of how to write science fiction and fantasy. We may have met at Seton Hill University, where I received my Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction.

I have not included authors with whom I’ve developed a camaraderie with online. There’s actually quite a few, thanks to my book blogging days at Calico Reaction. But I felt that would be, if anything, a bit presumptuous, and besides: I want to promote the people I know from the places that shaped me as a writer.

And these authors represent a wide variety of fiction, not simply science fiction and fantasy. I can’t make any guarantees that their work will hit your sweet spot, but I can guarantee their websites are worth checking out, just to see if you might find something that tickles your interest. Who knows? You may discover a new favorite.

So without further adieu, I now have a sidebar to the right listing all of the authors I know. Some of the names you may recognize, because I’ve reviewed their work back at Calico Reaction, or promoted their debuts on this site. Other names you may not recognize at all, because they’re either just getting started or are self-publishing. All names are worth sampling.

To those authors, I say congratulations and happy writing. I also ask that if you’d rather not be listed, or if the link to the website is wrong or I’m not using the correct author name, please let me know so I can make the corrections. Also, if I’ve left you out, accept my apologies for my faulty memory and provide the appropriate information in the comments below.

To my readers, please browse the names, click on links, and look for books that interest you. I know the authors would appreciate it!

 

Rhonda Mason: Happy Release Day!

Cover Art by Dave Palumbo
Cover Art by Dave Palumbo

This year has been chock full of friends publishing books, and I am absolutely THRILLED for them. So far, Jen Brooks released her YA Debut, In a Word Just Right, and then J.L. Gribble released her debut Urban Fantasy/Alternate History novel, Steel Victory. Today brings the Science Fiction Romance debut from Rhonda Mason: The Empress Game.

Unlike Brooks and Gribble, I didn’t beta-read Mason’s novel, so when I read my Kindle copy, it’ll be for the first time. But I’m confident it’s going to rock my world, because like Brooks, Rhonda Mason is a writer from Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program who graduated my first term there. She was one of the very first thesis readings I attended, and to this day I still remember the AWESOME first line of that novel. No, I won’t quote it here, and no, The Empress Game is not that novel. However, it bears many similarities: a kick-ass heroine, lots of fighting, and edge-of-your-seat writing, if the small sample I gobbled up is any indication.

Believe me,  I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Happy Release Day, Rhonda!

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage, it’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament–the Empress Game–has been called, and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reinumon, a supreme fighter, is called by a mysterious stranger to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a political dance that will shape the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

Rhonda-Mason-Crop-188x300Rhonda Mason divides her time between writing, editing, bulldogs and beaching. Her writing spans the gamut of speculative fiction, from space opera to epic fantasy to urban paranormal and back again. The only thing limiting her energy for fantastical worlds is the space-time continuum.

When not creating worlds she edits for a living, and follows her marine biologist husband to the nearest beach. In between preserving sea grass and deterring invasive species, she snorkels every chance she gets. Her rescue bulldog, Grace, is her baby and faithful companion. Grace follow her everywhere, as long as she’s within distance of a couch Grace can sleep on. Rhonda is a graduate of the Writing Popular Fiction masters program at Seton Hill University, and recommends it to all genre writers interested in furthering their craft at the graduate level.

You can find Rhonda at www.RhondaMason.com.

 

J.L. Gribble: Happy Belated Release Day!

Steel Victory
Cover Art by Brad Sharp

I feel like a bit of a shit. On June 26th, my good friend and fellow Seton Hill graduate J.L. Gribble published her debut novel, Steel Victory, and it completely slipped my mind. I can give you lots of excuses: the release date was on a Friday instead of the usual Tuesday; the month of June slipped by so fast I suffered whiplash, etc., etc. But let’s forget excuses and promote Gribble’s debut venture!

Steel Victory is special, because it’s not just Gribble’s debut novel — it’s also the novel she wrote for her Master’s thesis at Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. She was a term ahead of me, and we became fast friends. I had the honor of beta-reading the thesis before she turned it in, and that was…. a LONG time ago. So long that I can’t wait to see just how different the published version of Steel Victory will be, and that’s a compliment, because I vividly remember many scenes from the thesis draft! Steel Victory is now waiting patiently on my Kindle, so patiently that I’m debating about putting aside the current book I’m reading just so I can dive into Gribble’s world all over again: an urban fantasy set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell, and magic bleeds off the pages.

I can’t offer enough congrats, especially since I’m so late in doing so. Fortunately, Steel Victory is doing just fine without me, thanks to an awesome launch party at Seton Hill’s In Your Write Mind Workshop!

Steel Victory is the first book in the Steel Empire series, which is currently projected to be seven books. SEVEN BOOKS, people! Even I don’t know what’s ahead, and I can’t wait! It’s gonna be an awesome road, and I wish J.L. Gribble all the best as she embarks on it.

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.

gribble-photo-colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing.

Previously, Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and Steel Victory was her thesis novel for the program. This is her debut novel.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. You can find her online (www.jlgribble.com) and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

Jen Brooks: Happy Release Day!

Front-Cover-hi-res-In-a-World-Just-Right-500x750
Cover art by Nick Yarger

When you’re first starting out, you meet other writers. You read each other’s work. You learn from one another. You struggle in the trenches together and encourage each other. You push each other to be the best writers you know you can be, and then you give each other firm kicks in the ass and tell them to START SUBMITTING ALREADY.

I met Jen Brooks my first term at Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. She was finishing her last term, and her thesis reading is something I remember to this day. That we not only crossed paths but became friends is a defining moment in my writing career, because I’m not sure where I’d be today without her encouragement and insightful critique into my work. I am a better writer because of her, and one day, when I do get published, there will be a handful of people I owe everything to, and Jen Brooks is one of those people.

So it is with absolute and great joy that I announce the release of Jen’s debut novel, In A World Just Right. I’d read it back in the day, before it found a home, and I can’t wait to see how it’s grown and changed since then.

Happy Release Day, Jen! May this be the first in a long career!

Jonathan Aubrey doesn’t have to change the real world to have what he wants.

After an infamous airline disaster killed his family and scarred his face, Jonathan awoke with a magnificent power: he could create worlds at will.

He started by shooting aliens in Jonathan-is-a-hero, then learning sexy moves in Jonathan’s-smokin’-hot-dance-club. Eventually, his loneliness drove him to create Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, a world that gave him everything the real world didn’t—friends, passing grades, and the girl of his dreams.

But when Jonathan confuses his worlds and tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, everything unravels. The real Kylie not only notices Jonathan, but begins obsessing over him, and fantasy Kylie struggles to love Jonathan as she was created to do—with disastrous consequences. As his worlds collide, Jonathan must confront the truth of his power and figure out where he actually belongs before he loses both Kylies forever.

Jen-Brooks-casual-cropped-236x300Jennifer Brooks was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. After high school she matriculated at Dartmouth College to become a research scientist, but by the end of her sophomore year she felt a calling to the teaching profession. After graduation and fourteen years of teaching high school English, she answered a second calling to write full time while raising her new son. Her journey began with two theses (Prosorinos and Wishstone) for an MA and later an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University.

A competitive hurdler and jumper in high school and college, she coached thirty-one seasons of cross-country and track and field, which is why runners show up so frequently in her stories. Jen has also had a lifelong relationship with books – as a youngster checking out a dozen at a time from the library, and as an adult buying books to build her own personal library. She has always been attracted to the science fiction and fantasy genres and claims Star Wars is the single greatest fiction influence in her life. She also enjoys British literature and says Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is her favorite book of all time, which is why lighthouses also make appearances in her stories.

Running, hiking, traveling, and gardening are Jen’s favorite activities when she’s not writing. She lives with her husband and son on the North Shore of Massachusetts where she writes from her office overlooking their little backyard pond.

Steel Victory

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few days, and the less said about that, the better. Can we blame the weather? Yes, let’s blame the weather.

Steel Victory
Cover Art by Brad Sharp

What does it take to get me out of that funk? Why, the cover art of a good friend of mine’s debut novel! J.L. Gribble and I attended the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction Graduate program together, and Steel Victory was her thesis novel. It’s finally found a home with Dog Star Books, which is an imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. So what’s it about? Let me tell you:

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.

I can’t wait to read it. It’s been years since I read the thesis draft, and I can’t wait to see how the book has evolved since Gribble graduated!

To learn more about Steel Victory, author J.L. Gribble, and artist Brad Sharp (there’s a great gallery of his Dog Star covers!), just visit Dirge Magazine here. Or click the cover art.

Riding Off Into the Sunset: A Tribute to Uncle Pete

Yesterday, my Uncle Pete died.

He wasn’t technically my uncle. He was the husband of my grandmother’s cousin. But he’s always been Uncle Pete to me, despite his wife NOT being Aunt Mary Carol. When I was growing up, they frequently visited my grandparents (with whom I lived), and their visits were always full of excursions to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Cades Cove. Their visits were also full of card games and books.

They always brought a blizzard with them, and we’d end up snowed in for days. One of my favorite memories was waiting for the sun to break, for the snow and ice to melt so we could make it up the hill to get out of our driveway. We’d ride to town so Pete could refill the propane tank for his camper, and then we’d hit the mall. Uncle Pete would always pull out his folded up list of Louis L’amour westerns that Mary Carol had made for him, and he’d browse the Western section with care, making sure the books he wanted to buy weren’t ones he’d already read. And he’d always get me a book. Or two.

I loved how he and Mary Carol had a map of the U.S. on their camper, how over the years they colored in each state they’d visited, and yes, they managed to visit all 50 states in their retired years. I loved hearing stories of their travels. I’m still especially enamored of Uncle Pete getting “snockered” in Germany, but still managing to hold out against a German man who was determined to out-drink an American.

It’s been a long time since I’d seen Uncle Pete. Time, distance, and his health have all contributed to that. I’d known for a while that his health was failing, and had learned over the weekend that all treatment/medications had been stopped. I knew it was a matter of time.

I don’t regret that I didn’t get to see him in the end. I prefer the memories I have, seeing him in his element. I remember his big laughs, big smiles, and big hugs. I remember the smell of his aftershave, the way he’d relax into the recliner, feet propped up, the warmth of the yellow light shining on the pages of his latest paperback.

Wherever you are, Uncle Pete, may there be many books, many beers, and many, many adventures.

In a World Just Right….

You know what’s exciting? Book deals. Book deals are awesomely exciting. And no, I don’t have one, but I have the next best thing: my friend and critique partner Jen Brooks‘ debut novel, In a World Just Right is coming out next year, and there’s a cover and a giveaway too! You’ll forgive me for gushing a bit, won’t you?

First, the cover:

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