Eleven Questions for: Axel Blackwell

TWW
Timeless love.
Brutal cruelty.
An impossible decision.
So, The Timeweaver’s Wager, you guys. This book. People talk about page turners all the time, but this sort of redefines the term. It’s also dark and lovely and haunting and will stay with you long after you put it down. Do yourself a favor, and check it out. But do not open it until you have time to read it, because you will be really mean to anyone who makes you close it to do other stuff.
I was lucky enough to convince author Axel Blackwell to answer eleven questions about The Timeweaver’s Wager, writing, publishing, and life in general.

Q:
The Timeweaver’s Wager is the very definition of “couldn’t put it down.” Pacing is something a lot of writers struggle with. What’s your best tip for keeping the reader turning pages?
A:
If it’s boring, skip it. That’s what the readers are going to do, anyway. Save them the trouble. Both of my novels had a huge brick of text about halfway through—long boring explanations of backstory. This information was necessary to move the plot forward, but it sucked. In both cases, I slashed about half the scene, then broke up the rest by interrupting with current events or using other devices to keep the reader interested while I slipped the backstory in. It’s kinda like hiding your dog’s meds in a wad of ground beef.

Q:
You are being sent to live in the fictional world of your choice for one year. Upon your return, you may bring one thing back with you from that world. Where do you go, and what do you bring back?
A:
I’d probably go wherever they have dragons and bring one of those back. If you have a dragon you can pretty much get anything else you want.

Q:
Your books can get pretty dark at times. Have you ever scared yourself while writing a scene?
A:
When I was 19, I actually stopped writing (for several years) because I upset myself. The story was about an introvert who finally finds love. Unbeknownst to our MC, his other personality was very jealous, so he takes his girl on a moonlit walk through fresh snowfall at his mountain cabin—then chops off her foot and leaves her to die. It all made this horribly beautiful picture when I thought it up—the white snow, her white skin, the silver moon and a bright red blood trail to add a splash of color. But once I had created her character and his character, I couldn’t bear to do that to them. Fortunately, I have matured since then.

Q:
Planner or pantser?
A:
I have always been a pantser. Half the fun is finding out what happens next. When I sat down to write my previous novel, Sisters of Sorrow, all I knew was that Anna was hiding under a beached rowboat while the world was exploding around her, and something on the island wanted her parts. I had no idea, whatsoever, what the rest of the book was about, and no other characters in mind. However, The Timeweaver’s Wager is a rewrite of a story I first wrote in 2006 or 2007. The original, which was only about 12,000 words, acted as an outline for the final version. I was impressed with how much faster and easier the process went when I had a map to follow. So I am planning on experimenting with outlining my next project.

Q:
Fill in the blank: I cannot write a book without _____.
A:
Coffee. A good playlist helps, too.

Q:
Indie vs. trad is always a lively debate. What advice would you give writers who are just looking into publishing for the first time?
A:
I would advise them to ask someone who knows more about it than I. Seriously. There is an unbelievable amount of information available in various forums and online groups. And I would tell them none of that information will do them much good until they have written and published wrong a few times. There is so much to learn, and things change so quickly, OTJ training is probably the only way to get the hang of this gig.

As far as indie vs. trad, if you are just starting out I would say the traditional publishing route is a good idea IF you are willing to wait years for your first book to be published, willing to accept a pittance for your years of hard work and waiting, and willing to accept the high likelihood that your book will never be presented to a single reader, even if it is an excellent piece of work. But that’s just my opinion for beginners. If you make it big and the trads come knocking on your door, it might be worth your time to talk to them then.

Q:
Without getting into spoiler territory, if you were to sit down with Glen at those railroad tracks at the opening of The Timeweaver’s Wager, what would you say to him?
A:
“Just eat the damn casserole.”

Okay, I’d probably say a bit more, but Glen was on a good path. He was putting his life back together. He had realized that his grief had gone from serving Connie to serving himself, and he had come to the point of decision. Most of the time, tragedy in the past cannot be repaired. One must learn to accept life on the terms it presents. Glen was just on the cusp of doing this, which is why the Timeweaver’s wager is really a dilemma for him. I guess if I had any words for Glen in the opening chapter they would be, “Hang in there, buddy. This is gonna suck. Big time. But you’ll be glad you did it.”

Q:
Which of your own characters would you have dinner with, and why?
A:
I’d have to say Alan. That guy is just a joy to be around, makes you feel good about yourself, laughs at all your jokes, and somehow, no matter what life throws at him, he always seems to come out on top. Also, he’d probably spring for dinner at a much nicer restaurant than I could afford. I’ll just have to remember not to ask him about his past.

Q:
The Timeweaver’s Wager is a very different book from Sisters of Sorrow, but at their core they have some things in common. What would you say draws you most to a story? What kinds of stories are you most interested in telling?
A:
The world is full of darkness. It is dangerous and it is scary and if you encounter the darkness you will be permanently changed. Violence and disorder are the default setting for the human race. The artificial safety bubble we are born into is fragile as frost. But with sufficient courage and love and the proper application of force a hero can repel the darkness. The life that acknowledges and confronts this truth is much more vibrant than one built on ignorance and wishful thinking. Kinda like how the blacker the black on your LCD TV, the more brilliant the colors. I love stories in which innocence and evil come face to face, in which the heroes struggle to the very last ounce of their existence in defense of innocence, in which—live or die—the hero knows they did not capitulate or concede to the darkness.

Q:
Who are your biggest creative influences?
A:
My biggest influence, by far, is Stephen King, which I guess makes me a bit of a plebe, but the dude is popular for a reason. He is a master of his craft and he understands people—which is critical if one intends to invent people and direct their activities. I am also a big fan of Dean Koontz. My early influences were Bradbury and Lovecraft.

Q:
Best writing snack?
A:
Right now I’m really into Costco muffins. They are necessary to soak up all the coffee I drink. I also like Costco trail mix. But I pick out the almonds—one of the little ways I confront and repel the darkness.


If you’re an indie author and you’re up for answering eleven questions, email me.

Grimness

I’m not reposting the cover because it’s huge in the post right below this, but I wanted to let everyone know that the Kindle edition of GRIM HAVEN is now live at Amazon. (I expect to release the paperback edition by May 10.)

If you’re not on my mailing list, you’ve missed your chance to show off your awesome trivia skills for a free copy, but you can still get it for 99¢ through the weekend.

Cover reveal for Grim Haven

Grim Haven 300x450
The cover for Grim Haven, book one in my new urban fantasy series Devilborn, is complete! Artwork by Christine Rasmussen, typography by WickedGoodBookCovers. I think these folks hit it out of the park. What say you?

Grim Haven is the story of a young witch, a dark secret, a creepy old hotel, and a hot guy who cooks. What more could you want? I’m in the final stage of the process, also known as Gain Five Pounds And Panic, and expect to release the last week in April or the first week in May. As always, my newsletter subscribers will be the first to know!

Five for bingeing

First of all, can we talk about how weird the word bingeing looks? I had to look it up and make sure it was right. Apparently both bingeing and binging are correct, although spellcheck doesn’t like either, and I can’t say I blame it.

Anyway. Sometime last fall, I began to realize that I had, not to put too fine a point on it, lost my shit. The problem with being self-employed is, you’re always at work. And since you could always be working, you feel guilty whenever you’re not. I’m also still a stay-at-home-mom, a job I value and that I’m not about to let slide (I mean, except for the laundry and the vacuuming, obviously). But apart from that and forcing myself to take time to read when I could manage it, I was doing nothing but working all the time.

Which is ridiculous and, frankly, self-important. Because while it’s important for an indie author to publish regularly and frequently (and I’m still not fast enough, more’s the pity), I’m not curing cancer, you know? There’s no reason to get burned out and strung out and all snappy with people and refusing to have lunch. Just saying.

But I was snappy and refusing to have lunch. I was also not spending time with friends, not gaming (gasp!), and one of the first things to go? TV and movies. This is where the I-never-watch-TV crowd will sniff, noses high, and say good riddance to bad rubbish. But, you know, I’ve kind of dedicated myself to storytelling. I value stories.

So one of the things I did this winter to add more balance back to my life was start carving out an hour at bedtime to acquaint myself with the delights of Netflix and Prime TV. Even if bedtime was 2 AM, I’d make the time for one episode, because it’s hard for me to go straight from work to sleep anyway. Here are five of my favorite discoveries.

Once Upon A Time. Wow, this show is bananas, in the best possible way. Just a big goofy mashup of every Disney movie ever made, every fairy tale trope ever invented, and every small town cliché ever to appear in a Frank Capra film. I was completely obsessed with it, often letting that one episode thing slide until it was, um, more like six. Now I’m caught up to the present season, and I can only get it once a week, which is a shame.

Of course, the problem with watching fantasy when you also write fantasy is, you get all mad when you see them using an idea that you also happen to be using at the time. But that’s okay, because trust me, if you’re seeing it on this show, it’s old news anyway. Their whole gimmick is that they’re not doing anything for the first time. They’re presenting you with familiar things in new contexts, and that juxtaposition is exactly why it works.

OUAT Protip: The first season is by far the strongest.

 

Dead Like Me. This show seems to be really old, so I guess I’m the only one who didn’t know about it? Looks like it came out when I had a newborn, so that probably explains that. Anyway, it’s like Office Space meets Dead Bridget Jones, and it’s hilarious. The performances really help make this one shine, and the writing is clever and spot-on, deeply irreverent yet always managing to reel it in and smack you over the head with something lovely just as you think they might go too far.

DLM Protip: Watch out for those moments when, right when you’re laughing and having a good time, George’s family makes you cry.

 

Reign. Netflix recommended this to me based on Once Upon a Time, which was weird because they are nothing alike, but I checked it out because I love history. Um, except there is no history here. It claims to be about Mary Queen of Scots, and there is actually a character named Mary. And a dauphin. Other than that, you’ve got a teenage love triangle and modern music and strapless gowns, and then along comes some sort of vampire in the woods and I don’t think the historical drama crowd is really the demographic they’re going for. But hey! The costumes are spectacular, and it’s not every day you get to see Anne of Green Gables playing a de Medici! Megan Follows, you are fantastic as always, and I will always love you.

Reign Protip: Watch this only when you are fully prepared to eat ice cream and take nothing seriously.

 

Grimm. This one wasn’t a late night indulgence, but an evening and weekend one with my daughter, who was equally into it. We love us some Captain Renard. A fun show about fighting monsters, with lots of possibly made-up German words and the occasional bit of trivia about clock-making. What’s not to love?

Grimm Protip: The episodes James Frain guest stars in are the best, because James Frain is awesome at everything.

 

Supernatural. My daughter and I moved on to this after we caught up with Grimm, and I can see we’ll be at it for a while, because holy crap there are a lot of seasons. I know it’s a cultural phenomenon, and it’s in my genre wheelhouse to boot, so it’s kind of a crime I haven’t seen it before. I predict it will become a household favorite.

Supernatural Protip: I don’t have one, because we’ve only seen maybe half a dozen episodes so far. I’m hoping one of you will tell me that Sam will cut his hair at some point, though, because I find myself distracted by how much it needs to get out of his face.

Win a free copy of Ghost in the Canteen!

UPDATE: All the prizes have been claimed. Thanks for helping with the test!

I’m testing out an Amazon giveaway. Starting now, the first eleven people who go to the giveaway page and follow me on Amazon will win a free copy of the Kindle edition of GHOST IN THE CANTEEN.

Follow this link to enter: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/5b4d32db12cae58f.

Already own the book? Send the link to a friend!

Sorry, only US residents are eligible; Amazon’s rules, not mine.

The giveaway will (or should, and please let me know in comments if it doesn’t) require you to follow me. If you find you regret doing so, you can unfollow me any time via my author page.

Time for a new round of search term Q&A

We haven’t done this in forever, but my longer term peeps know I like to occasionally go through the WordPress report on the search terms that have brought people to my site, and do my best to oblige them with answers to their burning questions. So let’s get to it:

mr. rochester is an asshole: You seem to have worked this out on your own, so why the search? If you’re seeking confirmation, then yes. Mr. Rochester is an asshole. We love him anyway though, because Jane does, and that’s good enough for us.

supernatural x reader lemon: Last time I did this, I had one that said mr rochester x reader lemon. Now this. I’m not quite sure I’ve got the proper decoder ring. Um, drink more Ovaltine?

scariest things: Spiders, clowns, creepy dolls, walking across your dark room to your bed when you just know a pale slimy hand is about to reach out from under it and grab you (No? Just me?), deep water, any vague unidentified problems that involve calling a plumber or an electrician.

terrifying jaws: Assuming you mean the shark, then yes, I can confirm that Jaws is terrifying. Human jaws are not even unsettling.

illidan wisely say: You are not prepared.

formatting messed up on createspace template: You’ve got to watch those guys, it’s true. Just double check the centering on your headers and footers; they like to leave the first line indent in there, so it’s not really centered at all.

the north remembers: YES IT DOES.

jen rasmussen: You’ve come to the right place! Except, there is another Jen Rasmussen who seems to be an expert bee keeper. I am not her, and I’m afraid my only knowledge of honey is as it relates to tea or baking bread. I’m not fond of bees.

jen rasmussen hawaii: Sign me up!

jen rasmussen porn: Do not sign me up!

jen is cow: Now you’re just being rude.

richard armitage nude: You again? Well, points for persistence. But I’m afraid I can’t help you.

gaming with jen facebook: I’m not into Facebook games, but if you want to do some WoW pet battles, I am your girl.

I also get quite a few visitors who arrive here after various searches having to do with Authors United, but honestly, I just don’t even want to talk about them anymore. It’s gotten too ridiculous to even mock.

Yay books! Including a few you should go buy right now.

Happy new year, everyone! Goodness, this appears to be my first blog post since early November. I’d make a new year’s resolution to blog more, but let’s face it: resolutions can’t be trusted, and neither can I.

My fall was so sucked up by work that I barely noticed Halloween, and Christmas didn’t get much better treatment. The lack of cookies was, frankly, appalling. But I finished the Trinket series, and I’m finishing edits on the second (and last) Hexing House book even as we speak, so yay books!

My thanks to the readers who’ve suggested I work on a longer series; I am always so delighted when readers care what I’m doing! And I’ll be taking your advice with the Verity Thane series (tentative series title: Devilborn), which is coming this spring and set in the same universe as the Trinket books. I won’t swear to it until my outlines are more detailed, but right now I’m planning on five books for that.

Twiceborn-Endgame-smallAnd while I’m cheering for books, how about I stop being all ME ME ME about it, because there are so many others to cheer for. Marina Finlayson finished her Proving series last month with TWICEBORN ENDGAME, so if you haven’t gotten into it yet, now you can read them all! This series has everything you look for in an urban fantasy: dragons, werewolves, mystery, kickass action, a touch of humor, a lovable love interest, and a smart, relatable heroine I defy you not to root for. You can’t lose with these books.

51dMIAuFeLL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_If you prefer your fantasy to be more epic than urban, Pauline M. Ross’s THE FIRE MAGES’ DAUGHTER is coming soon, and the pre-order is still only 99¢! I’m so excited to be getting a sequel to THE FIRE MAGES,  I can hardly wait; but if it’s new to you, I’d highly suggest picking up the first book in the meanwhile. This is not your average epic about a farm-boy-slash-chosen-one saving the universe from the dark overlord. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Instead Ross gifts us with a smart, ambitious heroine navigating political intrigue and magical mysteries in this well-paced story set in a wonderful, richly detailed world.

I can’t think of a better way to begin a new year than by making a nice cup of tea and curling up with a great story. Happy reading!

Crook and candy

Crook of the Dead
Look at that spooky cover, just in time for Halloween!

Lydia Trinket is all adventured out for the time being. CROOK OF THE DEAD is now available in both Kindle and paperback editions, completing the trilogy. I’ve got mixed emotions about finishing, because Lydia has been so fun to write. And I’m so appreciative of the emails from folks who’ve also found her fun to read!

As is often the case with new releases, my mailing list subscribers have been enjoying a 99¢ sale on the Kindle edition of Crook. Now that there are less than 24 hours remaining on that special price, I’m letting you fine folks in on it as well. It goes up to $3.99 on Tuesday 10/20, so don’t wait!

GHOST IN THE CANTEEN and PEAK OF THE DEVIL are celebrating Lydia’s sunset ride with Kindle Countdown deals, and are priced at 99¢ all week. It’s a great time of year to get into the series, if you haven’t already.

Speaking of a great time of year, who’s doing NaNo? I sort of am, but I’m cheating. I’m drafting a project right now and can’t sit on it until November 1, so it’ll be partly done by the time NaNo arrives, and the draft will be finished somewhere around mid-month. I may or may not use the latter half of NaNo to play around with something else, depending on how rigorous my revision looks to be.

Either way, I’ve already broken into the Halloween candy. Obviously. I’m kind of into the Three Musketeers this year, which is unusual for me. What’s your position on the best fun-sized candy bar?

Three awesome indie novels you should be reading right now

I’ve got two and a half releases this fall, so I’ve been busy, and neither posting much nor reading as much as I’d like. But I’ve been slowly creeping my way through my TBR pile, and I wanted to give a shout-out to three exceptional indie novels I’ve read over the past few months. They’re very different, so there’s something here for a wide range of tastes. Check them out!

51REmDft85L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Wrecked & Yours, by CeeCee James
Family saga/romance about three homeless teens, the things that drove them apart, and what brings them back together.

Already known for her gripping memoirs, this is CeeCee James’s first novel, and at $2.99, it’s a steal. James’s writing is lovely, and I defy you not to shed a tear for these well-drawn characters. But don’t worry, those teary moments are deftly balanced with terrific dialogue and moments of humor. This story has the depth to deal with weighty issues, yet never feels heavy to read.

 


 

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Insylum, by Z. Rider
Horror tale of two buddies taking one last thrill ride before one ships off to Afghanistan, into the Hotel California of haunted attractions.

For those who like their touching stories about the power of friendship to be a little, you know, bloodier. And sometimes maggotier. I became a Z. Rider fan when I read Suckers, so my expectations were high, and Insylum did not let me down. I’ll warn you though, this book is graphic and not for the faint of heart. Z. Rider knows what scares you, and is not afraid to use it.

 


 

51NMivVa83L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Sisters of Sorrow, by Axel Blackwell
YA dark fantasy full of suspense and mystery, about teens abandoned in a world of sinister secrets, monsters, witches, and evil nuns.

Don’t let the YA tag fool you, this story is gripping at any age. From edge-of-your seat action to beautifully rendered description to engaging, likable, but appropriately flawed characters (Anna is not your average YA Mary Sue), it has it all and then some. The only downside is you might feel a little guilty for how much fun you have being drawn into such a creepy world. Make sure you don’t start it until you have time to finish it.