Thursday, February 20, 2014

Introducing a Fantabuluous Author: C.J. Burright

Want to know what I fantasize about?
It’s a dream for a lot of us unpublished authors--getting the call, the moment when a publisher tells me, she wants my work.

Today, it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to my critique partner, C. J. Burright. She’s a fantabulous writer, who is about to see her first novel published. Her official biography reads as follows—

C. J. Burright was born and raised in Oregon and loved it so much she never left. While she has worked for years in a law office, she chooses to avoid writing legal thrillers and instead leans toward urban fantasy, paranormal romance, or—since all things medieval and magic fascinate her—fantasy romance. A member of Romance Writers of America and Secretary for the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal special interest chapter, C. J. also has her 4th Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and believes stories should always include a gratuitous fight scene. In what spare time she has, she enjoys working out, reading, gardening, and rooting on the Seattle Mariners with a nice glass of wine. She shares a house with her husband, daughter, and a devoted herd of cats.    

That said, I've asked C. J. to tell us about herself and share her experience.

  1. Can you describe your experience getting the call?
Honestly, I was equally excited both to gain my agent (the amazing Brittany Booker) and later the contract with Swoon Romance. After a lot of refining in the fires of rejection, my writer’s armor repels most blades, so when I queried Brittany and received a response that same evening, I sighed and thought ‘fastest rejection ever’. Instead, she asked for more pages. Woo-hoo! Then the full…and three days later, I had myself an agent. To me, that was the first step to feeling like a ‘real’ author – validation from a professional that maybe my writing didn’t totally suck. Of course, just because an agent shows you some love doesn’t mean a publisher will, so when the awesome Georgia McBride from Swoon Romance made an offer for Wonderfully Wicked a few months later, I was psyched beyond belief. It still doesn’t feel real.

  1. It’s very exciting that Wonderfully Wicked will soon be available for readers, but what are you working on now? Please share a little of your current work with us.
I can’t share an excerpt from Wonderfully Wicked (since edits are still in the works), but here’s a snippet from the sequel, Beautifully Burned:

“Who are you?” Ella’s voice trembled, and for the first time, she wished she had some mace on her keychain or a Beretta tucked in her waistband.
“Daxen v’al Solanis.” He watched her, unblinking.
“And V’alkara?” She swallowed hard. “What’s that?”
“Me.” His predatory smile made a snarling wolf look friendly. “Ready to talk now?”
“Talk, huh?” She straightened, keys gripped tight in her fist. Option two was looking better all the time. With a few alterations. “If that’s all you wanted, you could have chatted me up in the bar.”
“I wanted you alone.”
A fire bell warning clanged in her head, urging her to escape, yet she couldn’t peel her attention away from the line of his jaw. The start of stubble shadowed the hard angles, a darkness contrary to the pale skin of his throat. She had a sharp, nearly overwhelming urge to touch him there, to experience the disparity of prickly and smooth, to slide her fingers down the column of his throat to the ridge of his collarbone.
Ella blinked rapidly and gripped the keys in a death hold to stop her hands from acting without consent. What the…?
“Are you trying some hypnotic woo-woo on me?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Not cool and so not happening. I don’t go around pawing strangers and I don’t have the energy for a one-on-one bartender counseling session. It’s freakin’ three in the morning, dude. I need to sleep, so take a hike. Final warning.”
He cocked his head and his eyes flashed with either amusement or something more intense, she couldn’t tell. His voice emerged whisper-soft. “Don’t you want help with your nightmares, Danyella?”

  1. Where can we find your book?
Wonderfully Wicked should be available soon for preorder on Amazon, but right now you can check it out on Goodreads (I won’t protest if you add it to your TBR list!) or at Swoon Romance’s website.
  1. How did you get started writing?
I grew up in twang-twang banjo land, miles from any city (two TV channels), so boredom played a huge part in my love for reading and writing. I have a great imagination because we were forced to entertain ourselves. Scary, I know.

  1. How do you generate ideas for your stories?
My weird mind. Dreams. A twisted and active imagination.

  1. What excites you about your current work in progress?
Daxen, the antihero in Beautifully Burned, is so damaged. I’m loving learning his story piece by grudging piece, and I’m fired up (pun!) to see how the heroine, Ella, will impact his tormented past.
  1. How did you come up with the title?
Lydon (antagonist) calls Kalila (protagonist) ‘wonderfully wicked’ after a particularly sneaky move – even though he’s definitely the one with the wicked vibe going on.

  1.  What are you reading currently?
Once Burned by Jeanine Frost. I’ve heard ladies sighing over Vlad, so thought I’d get the experience for myself. Has nothing to do with Beautifully Burned. Total coincidence.

  1.  Do you experience writer's block? 
I’d call it more of a procrastination block – some days I have to force myself to write. Seeing it in my mind is so easy. Putting it on paper? Hard. Some days the words flow, others they don’t, but not writing isn’t an option.
  1. Do you write an outline before every book you write?
Ha! Never! I’m a plunger all the way, although I do force turning points on my characters. Otherwise, they tell me where to go.
  1. What books have most influenced your life most?
I’ll keep it to five, even though I could go on and on:  The Bible, LOTR, The Magic Garden by Gene Stratton-Porter, From This Moment On by Lynn Kurland, and The Black Jewel trilogy by Anne Bishop.

  1. What advice would you give other unpublished authors who hope to interest your publishing house in their manuscript?
Find critique partners you can trust, and before sending out your manuscript, make sure it’s the best it can be. Check everything:  pacing, tension, character arcs, the balance of dialogue, setting, introspection, and action. If you love it, someone else out there will too. Don’t give up.
  1. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
    It’s never too late to start fresh, and redemption is never beyond reach.
Redemption is never beyond reach. Wow, what a great message. I want to thank Coleen for her candid and fun answers and you readers, who’ve stopped by. Consider leaving a comment or asking a question. We’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Author Interview: Josh Hillyer

Today, we are very excited to welcome debut author Josh Hillyer to The Otherworld Diner!

Best. Author. Photo. Ever.

Josh and I were in the same grad class at Auburn (War Eagle!), and I am thrilled he's decided to enter the crazy world of publishing. He has such a unique, creative perspective, I have no doubt this is merely the start of what will be a long and successful publishing career. And I'm happy he's decided to share in the excitement of his debut with us!

Josh has very generously agreed to answer some nosey questions about writing in general and his debut sci-fi novella, Train of Thought, in specific. Without further ado, welcome to The Otherworld Dinner, Josh!

1) To start off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start writing fiction?

I'm in that odd late 20s/early 30s phase of life: I have a young child, sometimes have a job teaching college students, and I'm trying to figure out what's next. I have a history of being in mildly (and I do mean mildly) successful bands, attending Ph.D. courses, and recording podcasts about retro video games.

I ultimately started writing fiction because I am a storyteller by nature. I used to do it through lyrics and screenplays, but I've taken more of an interest in books over the last couple of years. 

Writing is necessary to my existence, I suppose. The medium changes but the desire to make sense of life continues. 

2) Where did you get the idea for Train of Thought?

I got the idea for Train of Thought from being overstressed and trapped in my head. I realized that it was difficult to explain what life felt like for me, so I started writing about it in the only genre that seemed fitting: science-fiction. The rest of it was pretty much lingering punk rock thoughts manifesting themselves in Geoff's (the main character) rigid, structured world.

3) What did you enjoy most about creating this story?

I most enjoyed writing the material about the Old World, which is actually present-day Earth. The idea of people and aliens in the distant future tattooing the NBC peacock logo on themselves is really funny and surprisingly believable to me. We all think the old days were better than today, after all. 

4) What was the biggest challenge?

The thing that I found most difficult was trimming Train of Thought to a suitable novella length. I knew that I didn't want it to be a full-length novel, but about two thirds of the way through the story I had to make myself hold back a bit. Length for any creative content is something I really struggle with, both as a creator and a consumer. I just feel like most books, movies, games, and even television shows overstay their welcome by drifting too far from what the creator imagined in the first place. Remember the majority of the second season of Twin Peaks? No? It had several pointless storylines, even with it being my favorite show ever made.

5) As a musical person, if you were to develop a musical playlist to accompany Train of Thought, which songs would you feature and why?

Interesting question! I'd include a few songs by the best band in the world, the instrumental duo El Ten Eleven: "Bye Annie, Bye Joe, Bye Michael, Bye Jake," and "Ian Mackaye Was Right." After looping those a few times, I'd end with "Thirteen" by Big Star, since I think Geoff would like that song. 

6) Do you plan to write any other stories set in this world?

I'd like to directly continue the story of what happens with Unitrak and the Yellow Jackets; I have tons of ideas on where it should go...I'm not sure many people care, though. If I realize that at least 10 people or so care, I'll probably write it. 

7) Any final things we should know about Train of Thought and the world in which the story is set?

I just want people to read this and remember to rest their brains from time to time. I know that sounds obvious, but we live in a society that is constantly finding ways to be busy, even for things that aren't necessarily important. Then when something important happens (or needs to happen), we don't know how to handle it due to how many other things are on our minds. Figure out what your train is, I suppose. 

I think that sounds like a wonderful take-away, and something many of us need to be reminded to do.

My thanks to Josh for joining us today! Josh can be found on Twitter. If you have not yet picked up a copy of Train of Thought, it is available now through Amazon. You do not want to miss this story! Go, buy, read, enjoy. And to help you with that goal, Josh is offering a free copy of Train of Thought to one lucky commenter. To enter, leave a comment on this blog with one activity that helps you clear your head of clutter and rest your brain a bit. Simple enough, right? (I'm not going to say mine is reading...but mine is totally reading.) You can also get additional entries by spreading the word about the contest on social media. So tweet, Facebook, Tumbl (is that the proper term?); do whatever verb means "to share" information on your site or sites of choice. One extra entry per each social media site used. Make sure you tally up how many entries you qualify for, and include links to the actual shares in your comment. Good luck!


Train of Thought by Josh Hillyer

Geoff was born to serve. He wakes up early, checks the train’s equipment (even though such checks are against Unitrak’s rules), and gives all of himself to his employer. And Geoff has more to give than any other member of his alien kind, the multiprocessing Cogitarians. He has the ability to carry out mental executions at the rate of eight brilliant human brains, a true gift. Like many gifts, however, it proves to be a blessing and a curse when he is promoted to the highest Cogitarian rank: Lead Energy Maker. As Geoff is tasked with providing enough mental power to move the train from one location to another, he must also address the inconsistencies in Unitrak’s messages of world restoration. How could the company that saved the entire Cogitarian kind and provided them with a permanent home be interested in anything other than rebuilding societies? In Geoff’s journey to regain trust in his employer and the worldviews they have given him, he begins to question everything: his day-to-day work, his father’s hidden rage, his mother’s unexplained disappearance, and the reasoning behind a rogue organization’s attacks on the train. Ultimately, he must decide where he will direct his intense mental abilities: into the train or into a new train of thought.

Fine Print:
Contest will run until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, February 16, 2014. Winner will be selected at random and notified following contest end. Winner will receive a Kindle ebook copy of Train of Thought. Contest open to US residents. Void where prohibited. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's Your Guilty Pleasure?

By Eilis Flynn

The definition of a guilty pleasure is something you enjoy, even though you’re embarrassed by it. With that relatively vague definition, it could be anything, ranging from pistachio ice cream bon-bons to repeated viewings of American Idol. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else, just that you derive enormous pleasure from it, despite being more than a tad mortified if someone finds out about it.

Of course, continuing to think about guilty pleasures, it really makes me wonder how stuffy you have to be. If you’re that much of a stick in the mud that you have a hard enough time admitting to having a secret vice as mild as bon-bons or American Idol, why are you that way? Sheesh, everyone needs to have some form of relaxation, right? If it’s not illegal and mildly embarrassing, enjoy yourself!

Now, you may be wondering why I’m railing about this. Why the big deal, you ask? Possibly because my husband is mystified by my devotion to the TV show ARROW. I am very fond of the show. I can even watch any given episode numerous times. Hey, it’s silly and fun! It is my own guilty pleasure. But not that silly, because I don’t care if anyone knows. I have other guilty pleasures—I do enjoy ice cream bon-bons, though I haven’t had any in years, and I thoroughly enjoy shows like GRIMM, because I find the mangled German they use hysterical.

Now, here’s what you need to do. Tell the world about your guilty pleasures. Tell everyone! Stop feeling guilty!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at or Since she was laid off recently, she’s also looking for a job, which is why she’s indulging in her guilty pleasures.