I want to take the time to introduce two people that I think are totally awesome. When I was first starting out and was having a few teething panic attacks both these wonderful authors talked me through the rough patches and gave me the courage to give me the incentive to go on and for that I will be ever grateful.
They also have the Babe's in Boyland Blog which you can find located in my list of awesome people to checkout at the bottom right hand side of my blog but just in case I will and the link here.Babes in Boyland They have both been kind enough to answer a few questions for us all. MJ has also given us an excerpt in one of her WIPS
How long have you been writing?
PV: On and off since I was around eleven. Started with originals as a kid, moved into fanfics in my late teens, and now I'm back to originals. :)
MJ: Officially, since 2010, but unofficially for years! I started making up stories in elementary school, and wrote the most awful and flowery romances in middle school and high school that only Piper and one or two other people will ever see. I cringe just thinking about it :)
How do you choose which genre and flavour your story line will take, and what influences your choice?
PV: Normally the characters pop into my head first. Based on who and, more importantly, what they are, the genre is already established. I think the only time I've ever intentionally chosen a genre is when I'm responding to an open sub call. For example, when I wrote my historical pirate story, it was in response to a call from Dreamspinner Press. It could have gone in any number of directions, from sci-fi to fantasy, but I chose to write a historical romance to complement the story my co-author, M.J. O'Shea, had written. Outside of those circumstances, I'd say the genre follows the characters and I never really decide.
MJ: I think each story kind of names its own genre, even though some day I'd like to do some genre mixing: werewolves in sci-fi, or steampunk with paranormal. That kind of thing. For now, I've been deciding as I went if the book would be completely realistic contemporary, have some paranormal elements--or even in Sci-Fi like Dark Sun. I decided that story would only work in a setting where things were very different than they are today.
What is your specific writing style, if any?
PV: That's a tough question. I'd say maybe minimalistic. I'm not prone to heavy description, especially for settings, and I typically find myself having to go back and add that sort of stuff during revisions.
MJ: Hmm, I'd say it's very casual. My characters talk like me and my friends a lot of the time. I try to incorporate humour and sarcasm. Other than that, I don't know! I hope it evolves with every book and keeps getting better:)
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about bringing a story to life?
PV: Sometimes it's difficult for me to transcribe clearly what I see in my head. I might have this grandiose vision of something and struggle to put that into words so that the reader can envision it like I do. Also, I tend to suffer from writer's block on occasion, and sometimes I really have to fight that, and there might be several days at a time where I don't get even a word of writing done. That's tough on me because the need to write never actually goes away, it's more that when I sit down to try, the words won't come.
MJ: Depends on the story. Sometimes I realise I've gone halfway without describing the setting hardly at all, or one of the main characters. I think sometimes things are so entrenched in my head I almost assume the readers can see what I see and I forget to let them know what's going on:) I also tend to get ahead of myself. My brain works faster than my fingers.
Who is your favourite character you've written to date and why?
PV: Nick Ventura, from my upcoming book with M.J. O'Shea, entitled "The Luckiest." He's a complicated character. He's irreverent and he has a very crass exterior that most people can't see beyond, but underneath he's really this wounded little boy who got thrust into the limelight at a young age and never fully matured. He kind of has that Peter Pan quality, where he never wants to grow up because it might mean giving up his fun. Writing him was a great experience.
MJ: Nick Ventura. Hands down. I love his sense of humor, and the fact that he's a little bit damaged but still funny and not completely sour. He's difficult and whiny and it was a lot of fun to redeem him. His smart ass one liners came really easily to me (sometimes too easily. After I wrote him for a few weeks, I'd find myself saying that stuff out loud to people, replying like he would. It got me a few dirty looks from my mother. Oops!)
Which character in your body of works was the hardest to write?
PV: I would say Erik Van Nuys, who is a character from a different book M.J. and I have coming out next May, titled "One Small Thing." Erik is socially awkward, a bit OCD, a little agoraphobic. He suffers from an anxiety disorder and has to be on medication to control his panic attacks. In some ways, due to his inexperience, he can come off as innocent or maybe even childlike. I wrote him in first person, and it was hard to keep that mindset going during his scenes. I think he definitely is the character that gave me the most difficulty up to this point, but he's also my favorite after Nick.
MJ: I have a hard time with villains in my paranormals. It's hard for me to write an archetypical evil character. I keep wanting to make them turn good or be misunderstood and conflicted. I'll have to work on letting them just be bad:)
Which stories have you enjoyed working on the most and why?
PV: I had a lot of fun on the projects I've co-authored with M.J. because co-authoring is an entirely different experience and it's cool to be able to bounce ideas around and work together to create something. Of my own solo stories, I really enjoyed writing "Zombie Wonderland" because I have a bit of a thing for zombies and I've always wanted to write them. I also had fun writing "Wanting," which is a freebie I wrote for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group's "Hot Summer Days" anthology. It was interesting coming up with a story based on someone's request rather than my own vision.
MJ: You know, I end up getting into all of them after a few chapters and being really involved in the characters. I loved working on Nick's book because I love him so much, but it's just as fun making up rules for sci fi and paranormal universes. I can't really pick a favourite.
What will people come away with after reading your books?
PV: Well, first and foremost I would hope that they enjoyed the story and will remember it for a long time after they've finished. More than that, though, I'd like for them to have come to love the characters the way that I do, for them to have rooted for them during the hard times, empathized with their difficulties, and cheered at the end when the characters finally got their happy ending.
MJ: Hopefully a smile and that feeling of "I'd like to be in love like that". It always makes me happy when readers tell me that because it means that I conveyed the emotion believably.
What are you currently reading?
PV:Right now I'm actually in the middle of beta-ing for a couple of people in my critique group, so I'm not currently reading anything just for pleasure. (Not to say that reading their work isn't a pleasure, but I read in a different way when I'm proofing than I do when I'm reading for fun.)
MJ: I hate to say it, but nothing. I'm trying to cram and finish two different projects.
What music is in your stereo at the moment? And does it influence the way you write?
PV: Oh, wow, I can't even list all of the music I have in my iPod. There are several thousand songs. I can say my library is made up predominantly of alternative metal and indie bands, though. I usually come up with a playlist for each book I write, and, yes, the songs in that playlist can and do influence certain scenes and the way I write them. However, I don't always listen to music when I write. Sometimes the biggest help to my writing is just silence or maybe some kind of white noise in the background, like the whir of a fan, or something like that.
MJ: Oh, lord. Everything. I have a 1600 song iPod, and my old c.d. Collection. I vary from hip hop and dance music to straight up alternative to classical. The last song I listened to, unfortunately, was Ice Cream Shop (that Cazwell song). My friend has the hots for him and now that song is stuck in my head. Sigh.
Are you still as passionate about writing as you were when you first started?
PV: Yes. Definitely. :)
MJ: Probably more so now that I realize I really can do it for real! Before it seemed like a pipe dream so I didn't take it too seriously. Now I'm constantly planning new books.
Name three Authors you read over and over again?
PV: Jane Austen, Juliet Marillier, Amy Lane
MJ: I'd read anything Amy Lane wrote, same with J.K. Rowling, and I've probably read the Belgariad series by David Eddings nine or ten times.
Can you share any of your current WIPS?
PV: Currently I'm working on two WIPS. One is a paranormal novella, the second book in the "Little Magic" series started by M.J. O'Shea. The other is a contemporary romance I've just finished planning with a new co-author, which is the start of what will potentially be a 5-book series.
MJ: LOL, which one? I've been in sequel city for months and don't plan to leave it any time soon. We wrote Nick's book from the Lucky Moon series, I'm putting the finishing touches on Cold Moon, the third of my Moon trilogy (Blood Moon, Hunter's Moon, Cold Moon), then I'm on to an un-named sequel to Coming Home, which is going to be released from DSP later this spring. I'll put a little excerpt of Cold Moon, since that will most likely be my first full length release of 2012 (depending on scheduling of course!)
For those readers that have yet to know you please tell us something about yourself.
PV: I was born and raised in Chicago and the surrounding area, but I've also lived in Madison, Wisconsin and Anchorage, Alaska. One thing I miss most about Alaska is the mountains. I hope to live on the West Coast of the US someday, preferably in Washington State, so I can have mountains in a more temperate climate. I went to visit M.J. there last summer and totally fell in love with it. :)
MJ: Hmmm. It's hard to talk about yourself! I'm from Washington, near Seattle but not in the city. I paint, write, play the piano, draw, and LOVE to dance. I have an older brother who's one of my best friends, and I hang out with my mom all the time. I love old houses, and am actually in the middle of buying one that was built in 1895:) I have some refinishing work ahead of me this spring if the seller likes the offer!
This is an excerpt from Cold Moon (coming Jan/Feb 2012). It's from a scene where Charlie, the main character, finds out that Xan his best friend isn't quite who he always assumed he was:-
I tagged behind Xan, a reversal of our usual roles. In our little twosome, I’d always been the one in charge, Xan had been happy to follow. Things seemed different lately. They’d shifted sometime over the weekend and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that shift. I liked the stronger Xan, the one who didn’t necessarily kowtow to my every want and need, but it was disconcerting. My mom had made a few faces, but eventually let me go with him into the woods. Anyway, like I said I wasn't going to take no for an answer.
The road ended at a trailhead. It wasn’t anything new. I’d been there with my dad when he wanted to take me out to look at leaves, or go fishing (something I’d never quite understood the pleasure of).
“This is it?” I must’ve had a strange look on my face.
Xan led me further into the woods, where the late afternoon light dappled the ground and the air smelled fresher and damper the further we went. I heard the sound of rushing water, and recognized a waterfall and the small pool where my father and I had spent so many hours fishing when I was a little boy.
“We’re going behind the water?”
Xan nodded. “You’ll see. I promise.”
I followed him along a ledge of slippery rocks and behind the mild roar of the small falls. Behind, there was a sort of cave, and Xan turned into it.
“Are you taking me back here to chop me into little pieces or something?”
I sure as hell hoped this cave wasn’t where my best friend had grown up.
“No, dork. Just follow me. It gets better.”
I followed him through the cave, until the small opening grew the the point where we had to crouch. I couldn't see how we’d be going any further—until Xan made a sharp turn to the right. One that I would’ve never seen. The dark passage opened up slowly until we were back out in a section of the woods that I had never seen before. I had a feeling that nobody would see it unless they were expressly invited.
In a word, it was beautiful.
The trees were trees, the same as they’d been on the other side of the falls, but they were brighter somehow, more multi colored. I couldn’t stop staring. The leaves were green tipped but gold and red and orange, and all the flaming colors of fall were intensified by the warmth of a pleasant summery sun. I’d had a sweater on before we went through the falls, and I’d still been shivering in the late afternoon autumn chill. On Xan’s side of the world I stripped it off and was perfectly comfortable in a t shirt.
“Is it ever winter here?”
Xan shook his head. “No. This is about how it always is. Not too cold, not too hot. The trees change, and it gets cooler at night, but that’s about it.”
“How do you do it?”
He shrugged. “That’s just how it is in the forest. This...isn't your world. I don't know how to explain it. Things work differently here. The children just take it for granted. They've never seen snow or big storms. So many of them have never been to the human realm.”
There were children. Curly haired little girls and boys with hair that matched the autumn leaves, red and gold and walnut brown. Their skin was glowing and healthy. I noticed Xan looked different in the woods as well. He was always pretty, warm and healthy looking, but in the forest he seemed to take on a cast, like there was a light coming from under his skin.
“X’andrien!” One of the little girls cried—a tiny thing about three or four with brilliant red hair and elfin features.
“Hello, Xara.” He picked her up and tickled her. The child’s laugher pealed through the trees, bell like and magical.
“X’an who is this?” She pointed at me. I knew I must look strange in the world of golden skin and angelic curls. I noticed she said his name differently too, like Xan was two syllables instead of one.
“I’m Charlie,” I told her.
Xara, the little Dryad girl wrinkled up her nose. “What sort of name is Charlie? I don’t like it.”
“I don’t like it much either Xara, but my mother named me that. Your name is much prettier.”
She looked at Xan. “His mother named him? What tribe does that?”
Xan made a tsking noise in his throat and kissed the little girl on her cheek. “Go find your brother, love, and tell him that we’ll work on his archery tomorrow. I have a guest tonight.”
Xara looked at me with her big gold eyes and nodded. The tip of her thumb crept into her mouth, and Xan batted it away gently. “You know your mother doesn’t want you doing that anymore. Do you want the sap on your thumb again?”
She made a face and shook her head. Then she wiggled out of Xan’s arms and hopped to the ground with more grace and ease than any human child. Xara sprinted off into a stand of trees. I marveled at her speed and agility.
“We have this sour sap that we had to put on her thumb. It was the only way to get her to stop sucking. She needs to start learning her bow and arrow soon. Can’t do that with a thumb in her mouth.” Xan was talking partly to me and partly to himself.
“Bow and Arrow? That child can’t be more than four!”
“She’s eight, actually. The females tend to run small. But we do start young. There is much to learn.”
“And you’re good?”
Xan blushed and dipped his chin. “I’m one of the teachers for the tribe. I stayed back when the other boys my age went to live with the men across the forest.”
“The men—” I didn’t know where to start with that, so I didn’t even ask.
“It’s a long story. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“So you stayed behind so you could teach the young children.”
“Yes, and—” He stopped and blushed again. Xan’s blush had always been bright, filling his cheeks with a wash of pink.
“It’s nothing. Let me show you where I live.”
Xan gestured with his arm to the left and across a clearing. The clearing seemed to be a town square of sorts perhaps mixed with a school and a general store. There were Dryad women and children sitting at rough hewn tables, trading, teaching young, making things. It was fascinating—like I’d stepped into another world. I guessed that I had stepped into another world. And it all existed less than a mile from my plain old house on a meandering old street. It was mind boggling.
We got to a rather large tree in the corner of the clearing.
“You live...in the tree.” The three was large, but not that large. And it seemed to be living. There was no way it could’ve been hollowed out.
“Not quite,” Xan answered with a smile. “Look up.” I looked up, straight into the leaves and saw nothing. At first. The longer I looked though, I started to notice shapes up in the branches.
“Seriously?” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and the kid in me who hadn't quite grown up was insanely jealous. “You live in a tree house?”
“I guess you could call it that. You want to go up?”
“I usually just climb up that rope, but when I have a lot of stuff with me, I take this.” He kicked a stake out of the ground and caught the rope that went slithering away. Then he lowered a people sized dumbwaiter of sorts until it hit the ground with a soft thump.
“That’s pretty badass. How can you be so in love with my xbox if you live somewhere like this?” I climbed on the platform and scooted over to make room for Xan.
“It’s different—just like this is different for you. And your mom’s cookies.” He sighed. “Out here, we eat pretty much what you’d imagine we would eat.”
I looked around. “Twigs?”
Xan chuckled. “Wild game, mushrooms and vegetables we grow…”
“Hippy food,” I said with a smirk.
“Yeah. Hippy food.” I’d been teasing him about his granola lifestyle for as long as we’d been friends. Instead of mocking, I’d grown envious.
Xan started pulling on the rope that was attached to the rough hewn elevator, and slowly we began to rise into the air.
“You want some help with that?” I asked. I felt bad that he was doing all the work.
“Nah, it’s no biggie. You’re little.”
If he wasn’t holding the rope that was keeping us in the air, I would’ve elbowed him in the ribs. The ascent was gorgeous, as we rose higher and higher into the air through the leaves and the warm, sweet air. I could see the clearing spread below me, and more trees as far as the horizon.
“Where’s New Haven?”
Xan smiled. “New Haven doesn’t exist here. Once you crossed through that cave onto my side, you’re in the Forest. It’s a place where no average humans can come. And neither side is visible to the other.”
“But, I’m here.”
Xan smiled at me again. “When are you going to learn that you’re far from average?” I smiled back. My stomach felt light, like we’d gone to fast up the side of the tree. “And here we are,” Xan said, as he tied his rope off on a stout T shape, carved out of wood and shiny with use. The platform had landed at a small gate which led to a wooden balcony that wrapped around what I assumed was Xan’s family’s house…