MEET THE MEMBERS

Susie Pruett has been a member of Writers’ League of Texas for about two years. She makes her home in Austin,Texas. She will be attending the Agents & Editors Conference in June.

Susie Pruett

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Susie Pruett: I write historical fiction with romantic elements. I don’t call them romances, because they don’t follow the traditional formula of the romance genre. But, really, don’t most stories have a love story somewhere in them? Currently, I am finishing a novel set in 1911 America and London. I have a wonderful story waiting to be finished set in early 1850′s Victorian London centered around the Crimean War. 

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

SP: Do you mean living or dead? Gee, there are so many. I am an avid reader of all kinds of books with always at least two books going at once, so I read a lot of authors. So, for the short answer, here goes. As for the living author I would like to have a chat with, the first name that comes to mind is Ken Follett. Honestly, his historical novels are some of the best I’ve read. As for a dead author, probably Edith Wharton. I’d have lots of questions to ask her about her world and the people she knew. I think I would probably order a Mexican Martini – the kind that comes in the shaker.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

SP: That is a loaded question with lots of possibilities. I mean, c’mon. Stranded on a desert island? Yikes! If I were stranded alone, I would want a book with some instructions about survival skills. If I was certain rescue was coming, I might like something about keeping my spirits up. But, if this is about pure reading pleasure and killing time, then maybe an anthology with lots of stories in it to keep from being bored. Can’t think of one single book, though.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers League?

SP:  So far, I’ve learned that writers of historical fiction can use real historical figures and make stuff up about them as long as the facts aren’t changed. Believe it or not, I didn’t know that. I learned this from the workshop I attended. Other than that, I have enjoyed connecting with other authors who are friendly and accepting – even when they hear the word “romance.”

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

SP: I am working toward publication. And I want to be listed as a NY Times best seller. Why not dream big, eh? I have had a request from an agent for my manuscript and hope to go the traditional route to publication. Whether or not any of that happens, I will always write because I have stories to tell. I won’t say I will continue to write for the joy of it, because as all writers know, it’s not all joy. This writing is hard work. I will continue to write because I must.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

SP: An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!  Thank you for this opportunity to plug the Historical Novel Society (HNS). The HNS is based in the UK and in the USA. There is a website (historicalnovelsociety.org) where you will find more information. The 2014 convention is in London and the 2015 convention will be in Denver. The conventions have dynamite speakers, costume events, live readings, workshops, opportunities to pitch to agents and editors and of course, networking with other writers of this genre. I am on the board in the USA and I urge all writers of historical fiction to join this fantastic society and attend the convention in Denver. 

 

 

MEMBERS REVIEW

QUEEN OF THE DARK THINGS

by C. Robert Cargill

Published in 2014 by Harper Voyager.

Queen of Dark Things

Reviewed by Bradley Wilson

C. Robert Cargill’s epic sophomore novel, Queen of the Dark Things, ambitiously sprawls across both time and geography. His omniscient narrator teases the reader into his fantasy’s world by opening with a gruesomely charming scene of a band of mutineers being executed on a beach in the Indian Ocean in the 17th century. From there we jump to contemporary Austin, Texas, where “the veil” between the physical and spiritual realms has been tattered by a well-intentioned, semi-depressed, frequently drunk wizard named Colby Stevens. Reminiscent of a Tom Robbins romp, Queen of the Dark Things features Central Texas hipsters, Aboriginal Clever Men, demons, genies, and a talking dog. And that’s just a small sample of the myriad creatures, supernatural or otherwise, you’ll find in this story.

It’s a fast paced, cinematic read. And it’s right up my alley as far as the subject matter goes. Cargill delves deep into questions about how much we humans take an active and ongoing part in the creation of our universe. He effortlessly manipulates divergent strings of arcana, philosophy, and myth to coax the reader into following along as he riffs on his high-flying humanist themes. Don’t be scared though; the author balances his deep intellectual and spiritual explorations with an irreverent, often downright raunchy narrative voice that’s lots of fun. Following in the paths of Vonnegut and Neal Stephenson, Cargill’s characters never take themselves so seriously as to become boring or unsympathetic.

His obvious love of the philosophical discussion sometimes gets in the way of the story. I often felt as if I was skimming along the top of his tale rather than plunging into it, like I was passively watching a film rather than actively reading a novel. No matter how much my intellect was titillated, too often the book’s omniscient narrator kept me from engaging emotionally and fully immersing myself.

Cargill’s world is incredibly complex and peopled with fascinating characters, each of whom has his or her own closely guarded agenda. He has built a fictional reality of incredible richness and diversity. In many ways the supporting cast is so vividly rendered it pulls focus from the protagonist. Too many times I found myself wishing the narrative would stay on a compelling supporting character’s arc, instead of cutting back to the hero’s. In all fairness, this may have been a function of Queen of the Dark Things being a sequel to his debut novel.

Still, I liked it. I had fun reading it. And I have officially put Cargill’s previous book, Dreams and Shadows, on my reading list. He has crafted a universe overflowing with metaphysical intrigue that’s piqued this reader’s interest and left me wanting more. I recommend Queen of the Dark Things to anybody who likes to laugh and ponder at the same time.

After a twenty-year career in theater, Bradley P Wilson returned to school in 2011 to pursue his passion for writing and editing fiction. He holds a Masters of Liberal Arts degree in Creative Writing from St. Edwards University and freelances as a writer, editor, and stagehand in Central Texas. Currently an Associate Editor at CBAY Books and the staff blogger at Yellow Bird Editors, Bradley also copy edits Stage Call, the quarterly newsletter of Austin’s stagehands’ union, and serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Physical Plant Theater. Manuscripts he has edited have garnered such accolades as Hunger Mountain’s Katherine Paterson Award for YA and Children’s Writing. Most mornings he gets up way too early to work on his YA fantasy novel, The Search for Stagehand Jesus. He’s the author of several award-winning plays, and his poetry has been featured in the Sulfur River Literary Review.

NEW FICTION CONFAB

An Interview with Tim Staley

Tim Staley is the executive director of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, the nonprofit support organization for the Austin Public Library.

Join Tim and the rest of the APLFF on April 19th for the 5th annual New Fiction Confab, an all-day literary event that invites critically acclaimed authors to spend a day in Austin reading their work, engaging in critical conversations, and leading writing workshops. For more information about one of the Library Foundation’s largest literary programs, and a schedule of the day’s events, visit the New Fiction Confab event page here and read our Q&A with Tim below.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about the mission of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation?

Tim Staley: The Austin Public Library Friends Foundation supports the Austin Public Library by increasing public awareness about the library and its importance to the community and by enhancing library collections, programs and facilities.  Many of our programs are devoted to literacy, reading and increasing Austinites’ access to information and knowledge.  Some of our programs include the Mayor’s Book Club, New Fiction Confab, Badgerdog writing workshops and the Texas Teen Book Festival.TimStaley

Now in its fifth year, how has the New Fiction Confab changed over the years and what new developments are in store for this year?

 TS: There are more local authors involved in this year’s program than there have been in the past which is more indicative of Austin’s growing literary scene than it is anything in particular about the Confab.  This program has always been committed and in large part even intended to promoting local literary talent and each year there just seems to be more and more Austinites publishing excellent fiction.  The Confab is devoted to keeping up with this burgeoning talent.

What can you tell us about this year’s featured authors? 

 TS: The Confab seeks authors who have with just one or two books established a distinct and unique voice and who, we expect, will continue to produce distinguished work for a long time to come.

Once again the Confab will feature the Austin Lit Fair, a showcase of local publishers whose contributions have helped shape the Austin literary scene. How have you seen the local literary scene grow and change, and how do you see the Confab and more generally the APLFF as part of this growth?

 TS: The Confab can play a role in connecting local literary journals with readers.  We hope that through the Austin Lit Fair we’re able to help raise the profile of the many local literary journals and publishers who are doing such good work.

What else can we look forward to from the APLFF this year?

TS: Don’t forget the Badgerdog writing workshops!  Check austinlibrary.org for the schedule.

Thanks, Tim!

Click here to learn more about the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.

Click here for more information about the New Fiction Confab.

MEET THE MEMBERS

Brad P. Christy has been a member of Writers’ League of Texas for about a year. He makes his home in Harker Heights, Texas. He will be attending the Agents & Editors Conference in June.

 Brad P. Christy

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Brad P. Christy:  Most of my work gravitates toward the macabre.  I’ve written a YA novel dealing with family and friendship, trust and betrayal, and the afterlife, and a horror novel based on collision of cultures/ancient vampire myths (both will be pitched at this year’s WLT Conference).  I had a post-apocalyptic short story entitled ‘Miseryland’ published, and have a few other short stories floating out there, which include a tragedy and a psychological horror spin on Krampus.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

BC: I would love to have a beer with Christopher Moore, author of ‘Fool’ and ‘You Suck: a Love Story.’  Not only has he successfully created interweaving storylines spread out over several novels and penned stories so well researched that you’d think he was channeling Shakespeare himself, but he is genuinely a very funny guy to correspond with.  I imagine bellying up to a bar next to him and swapping stories would be a hilariously enlightening time.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

BC: I’m not sure sanity is the route I’d want to go.  Certain aspects of humanity would have to be left behind.  With over nineteen years of military service under my belt, I’ve had enough survival training to assume that I could keep myself alive, what I would need is something to get me through the rough spots and give me a sense of accomplishment.  That being said, I’d bring a copy of Stephen King’s ‘It.’  I’ve been lugging it around since I saw the movie in 1990, but have always been too busy to finish the 1,138 page behemoth.  As an added bonus, it could be used as a pillow, a weapon, a tool, or for a bonfire to signal rescue ships.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers League?

BC: I confidently went into last year’s WLT Conference – maybe too much confidence – and was told by the Key Note that my pitch was terrible and was told by an agent that my protagonist could not be related to, therefore unmarketable.  It stung at first, but it was what I needed to hear.  Joining WLT has taught me that rejections are just opportunities to create a better product.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

BC: Everyone dreams of doing what they love for a living; I am headed in that direction.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

BC: I wouldn’t be pursuing writing as a career if it weren’t for the encouragement and support of my wife, Cindy.  She has pushed me along every step of the way from brainstorming plots to researching colleges that have the right degree program.  Without her, becoming an author would only ever be a dream and nothing more.

You can learn more about Brad P. Christy at www.BradPChristy.com.

MEMBERS REVIEW

WRECKED 

by Tricia Fields

Published in 2014 by Minotaur Books.

Wrecked

Reviewed by L.S. Miller 

If you’ve never been to far West Texas, it isn’t easy to understand the wide open loneliness of the geography, or more accurately, to depict the flavor of a landscape that to most people could easily be considered alien. But Tricia Fields not only captures the elemental beauty of the border-land between Texas and Mexico in her most recent novel Wrecked,  (the narrow snake of the Rio Grand is the only separation between two countries and two cultures), she also captures the essence of the people who choose to live there.

Her main character is Police Chief, Josie Gray, who is as tough as the land she resides in, but is also every bit a woman. When Josie’s lover is kidnapped, she has a range of emotions from tears to fear to rage but she must put aside her feelings and concentrate on how to get him back from the drug cartel that’s taken him in retaliation for something that he was not even party to, but that they believe Josie might rectify for them – and recover their stolen nine million dollars.

Tricia Fields is a good writer and I’m pretty sure you’ll want to read everything else she’s written after you read Wrecked. I do.

L. S. Miller is a Pennsylvania native and the author of the Pinnacle Award winning novel, A Death in Our FamilyHe is a graduate of the University of Delaware and has worked around the United States as a roofer, carpenter, architect, and construction executive. Miller now lives in the Texas Hill Country.

Meet the Conference Faculty

An Interview with Editor Erika Tsang

Erika Tsang is the Editorial Director of Avon and will be one of this year’s featured editors at the Agents and Editors Conference. To learn more about Erika, as well as our other featured editors, visit our Featured Editors page and read her Q&A below.

How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?

Erika Tsang: I’m very mindful of each of my author’s creative process, what each of them need from me as an editor.  I have authors who I don’t hear from unless it’s to tell me she’s late with a manuscript. And then I have authors who call weekly to tell me how her plotting is going and what I think of this happening to the character, or is it okay if she kills off the family pet in the first half of the story.

What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?Erika Tsang - Avon

ET: Know the editor you’re approaching.  What types of projects have they acquired recently? What have they published in the past?  What are they looking for now? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been pitched mysteries or poetry or memoirs when I’ve never acquired those types of projects before.  Writers should do as much research as they possibly can about the editors they’re targeting.  Not only will it show you’re professional and have done your homework, but you’ll also diminish the number of rejections you receive.

You often hear that it’s the first ten pages – or even the first page – that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?

ET: I look for energy in the narrative voice, that special spark.  And I want something interesting to happen in those first few pages, something intriguing.  I often read a book the way I watch television.  If it starts off with more than a minute of voice-overs telling me the back-story and nothing is actually happening, I’ll flip the channel.

If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

ET: Read.  Read what you enjoy, read what other readers are talking about, read what’s on the bestsellers lists.  Read People magazine or Entertainment Weekly or whatever you choose, but keep up with popular culture.

Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.

ET: Back in the day when chick-lit was popular, I had an Asian author who wrote The Dim Sum of All Things, which was a cross between Bridget Jones and The Joy Luck Club.  Years later when The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was sparking so much controversy, this author approached me with an idea: a rebuttal titled Tiger Babies Strike Back.  She told me stories about her own experiences growing up under the thumb of a Tiger Mom, how she rebelled against that, and how she’s raising her own daughter now in a completely different environment…all in her usual self-deprecating humorous way.  It’s not a project I would normally take on, but the proposal spoke to me from the very beginning and I just couldn’t say no.

Thanks, Erika!

Click here for a full list of our A&E Conference Faculty.

Click here for more information and to register for the 2014 A&E Conference.

MEET THE MEMBERS

Jeanne Guy has been a member of Writers’ League of Texas since 2007. She makes her home in Austin, Texas. She will be attending the Agents & Editors Conference in June.

JeanneLP2012Headshot

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Jeanne Guy: Usually in my non-fiction PJs. 

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

JG: I’d ply Janet Evanovich, Liz Gilbert and Jodi Picoult with some really good red wine in hopes they’d share all their writing secrets with me. If nothing else, we’d at least have a good time.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

JG: Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, hands down.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers League?

JG: They’re there for me. I am not alone, help is available and, published or not, I am a writer because that’s what I do–I write.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

JG: Since I’ve been working on my memoir for eight years, it’s too late to give up. I’m going for broke and finishing it sometime before 2019. I think that’s reasonable, don’t you?

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

JG: Find your tribe! And if you’re lucky, you’ll get hooked up with an outstanding critique group like mine–The Wednesdivas (we meet every other Wednesday. Get it?).  They’ve taught me to ask for help and be open to their inimitable words of wisdom and critiques. They’ve been a lifeline for me and helped me move forward with my memoir, Gone, — the story of how my children were stolen from me and how I stole them back.

Their support informs my other work–writing a monthly blog (http://www.jeanneguy.com/blog/) and facilitating self-discovery gatherings (http://www.jeanneguy.com/what-i-do/sessions/). I offer “Re-Story” retreats, workshops and classes, helping people reframe and rewrite the inner narrative that defines them, through reflective writing and story-sharing. We can change our self-interpretation from one that doesn’t help us to one that does; we can course-correct our own story. What’s your inner story? What do you want it to be? A Re-Story Circle may be in order. www.jeanneguy.com

I’m also funny unless I’m in a bad mood, then I don’t suggest hiring me. By the way, I’m in a really good mood today…