Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teatime Ten: Jennifer Becton

Jennifer Becton (aka JW Becton) has made quite a splash recently in the independent publishing world.  Her newest thriller, Absolute Liability, the first in the Southern Fraud series, is holding steady in the top 100 at Amazon.com!  
While at the same time, Jennifer is treating the Austenesque world to the continuances of the lives of Jane Austen's characters from Pride and Prejudice: with Charlotte Collins, and the forthcoming Caroline Bingley (as well as a short story about Maria Lucas!).  Jennifer is also the owner and founder of Whiteley Press, an an avid supporter of independent publishing (you can check out her many guest blogs from here).

Fortunately, Jennifer is a generous woman, and took some time to sit down with us for the Teatime Ten.
Hello and welcome to the Teatime Ten!  And congratulations taking the leap into being a full-time author - and your success in doing so!  Tell us a little bit about what brought you to this exciting (and nail-biting) decision?  How are things going so far?

Thank you for inviting me to the Teatime Ten! This is fun! And so are the changes taking place in my life right now. For more than thirteen years, I’ve worked as a freelance editor, and I’ve had one long-term contract, along with numerous other short-term projects. I’ve always loved my job, but I just don’t have time to edit and also write books at the pace I’d like.

Right now, I’m still transitioning from my former role, so nothing much has changed, but I’m looking forward to finding a bit more balance in my life.

You first burst on the scene with your Austenesque retellings Charlotte Collins, “Maria Lucas” (yay!) and the forthcoming Caroline Bingley.  What draws you to these women?  What theme carries them together?

Jane Austen’s minor characters are fantastic. There’s just no other way to put it. I was drawn to Charlotte and Caroline because they are examples of women who succumbed to unpleasant Regency social norms in ways that Elizabeth Bennet refused to do. Elizabeth certainly understood the pressures to marry, and she neither wanted to become a burden on her family, as Charlotte feared, or to hide her family’s low connections by social climbing, as Caroline Bingley sought to do. Charlotte married Mr. Collins because she felt she had no other option for a secure future, and Caroline aspired to Mr. Darcy because, though she was wealthy, she was also the product of trade and was desperate to shed herself of its association. I wanted to give both Charlotte and Caroline the chance to make a different decision.

3) It's no secret that although you've written continuations of Pride and Prejudice, the Austen novel you love best is Persuasion!  If you were to begin a Persuasion-based novel tomorrow, what do you think it might revolve around?

To be honest, I don’t think I would write Persuasion-based novel. The minor characters in Pride and Prejudice came alive for me, and I wondered what might happen next, as if their stories weren’t quite complete yet. Persuasion seems to me to be a more finished novel. After all, the plot brought finality to Anne and Frederick’s love story, so it was almost as if Persuasion was the sequel to a novel that Austen never wrote. (Although, I'd argue, there's a novel in there - a prequel perhaps?  Any takers? - ed.)

When writing continuations of Austen's work, what mannerisms of hers do you strive to retain?  What -isms of your own do you find creep through?

I really don’t try to replicate Austen—it’s impossible—so there’s a lot of me in my continuations. I do not retain her spelling, punctuation, or capitalization preferences; I write in modern English according to modern style guides. In fact, I rarely ever quote Austen in my sequels. I do, however, try to provide a Jane Austen experience by doing my best to be true to her ironic, witty tone and her humor and to focus on the themes she found important: money, marriage, and friendship. I also try to respect the characters she created while also allowing them to grow as a result of the action in Pride and Prejudice.
You recently launched a new, original mystery series, Absolute Liability which has taken off like gangbusters!  (Insert virtual parade here.)  Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the novel and what we can expect to see in the remainder of the series.

I am thrilled and thankful that readers seem to enjoy Absolute Liability. I’ve always wanted to write a murder mystery (and a spy novel, but that’s another story), but I wanted to feature a different type of law enforcement officer as a main character. (As you know, I like to go about things a bit sideways.) And I wanted to write it in a way that mimicked episodic TV series, which originally fostered my love of mysteries and thrillers. So, I chose to focus on Julia Jackson, an insurance fraud investigator for the state of Georgia, and to give her a long-term personal mystery to solve. Each novel will feature at least one strange case of insurance fraud that Julia and her partner Mark Vincent must investigate—and insurance fraud cases are some of the wackiest out there—and will also bring her one step closer to bringing her sister’s rapist to justice.

It can be quite a leap from writing the straight-forward plots of historical romances to the convolutions, concealments and reveals of a mystery.  Where did you find the two genres overlapped thematically or structurally?  What challenges did each genre present in the writing process?  What challenges and rewards did genre-hopping present your approach to marketing (e.g., your well-named pseudo-pseudonym!).

As my friend and writing mentor lately told me, all good books have elements of many genres in them. My Austen-inspired historical romances have a bit of mystery, and my thriller series has a bit of romance. The only difference is the concentration. And the setting.

When I first began my mystery, I believed it was about tricking the audience, and I worked myself into a frenzy trying to be clever. But then I realized that’s not true. Yes, misdirection exists, but my primary goal in writing a mystery is not trickery, but allowing the audience to watch as my character solves the crime in a logical fashion. Everyone should reach the same solution at the same time; otherwise, I haven’t been fair to my readers.

For my thrillers, I chose to use a pseudo-pseudonym (J. W. Becton) because they are so vastly different from my historical fiction. I did not want my readers to buy a thriller expecting a ton of romance, and conversely, I didn’t want anyone to buy an Austen sequel and expect gunplay. But I also did not want to hide my identity or lose the audience I had built as Jennifer Becton, Austen sequeler. A search of either name should yield a list of both genres of books.

I view genre hopping as a benefit to a writer. People don’t read in just one genre, so it makes sense that writers can also write in more than one. As far as marketing, the theory is that you can build two separate audiences, but also invite them to cross over to your other books. I hope some will find me as J. W. Becton and then try an Austen sequel, and maybe some Austen fans will give my thriller a try.

I have to confess that a few years ago, I was among those who didn't take e-publishing seriously.  Yet, recently there's been a seismic shift from looking at indie published books with a skeptical eye to a greater sense of entrepreneurial and pioneer spirit.  What do you think are the driving forces behind this brave new book world?  What hurdles still need to be overcome?  What would you say to those who are still doubtful?

A few years ago, I didn’t take self-publishing seriously either! Until recently, there just wasn’t a viable way to distribute effectively, but the ebook revolution has made it possible. And I am loving it! I see one main hurdle, which is the root of the doubt that still exists about this shift in the industry, and that is recognizing that self-publishing is actually a writer’s decision to take on all the tasks a publisher would normally perform: editing, proofing, interior design, cover design, and marketing. These tasks should be undertaken with the same care and professionalism of the largest publisher out there. It’s not just about self-uploading; it’s self-publishing. Putting out professional products will go a long way to assuaging the skeptics.
Among your many hats, you also run the publishing company, Whiteley Press.  What is the history behind Whiteley Press?  What do you have planned for it in the next few years?  And how do you juggle being both writer, editor, publisher and promoter?

I created Whiteley Press to show my potential readers that they should expect my books to be professionally done. I wanted to send the clear message that I view publishing as a business—my primary business—and not a hobby or side venture. Whiteley Press books are edited to the same standards and using the same process as most traditionally published works.

At the moment, Whiteley Press has published only my books, and I am planning on expanding slowly. My first expansion project is a nonfiction book about overcoming horseback riding fear that I had the honor of cowriting with Laura Daley, an expert horse and people trainer. After that, I’ve thought about anthologies, but I am considering various other avenues as they appear in this new book world.

Many of our readers are up-and-coming authors.  If you could give them six tips to publishing and promoting, what would they be?

1. Never give up. Work until you get lucky.
2. Write what you love. I’ve always taken the advice to write what you know too literally, so I say write what you love and learn what you don’t know. If I wrote literally only what I knew, I’d be limited, and having never killed anyone, I certainly wouldn’t be writing murder mysteries. Thrillers and mysteries are really about the conflict between good and evil, and I know about that. We all do.
3. Hire a proofreader. There’s little you can control about how a book will be received. You can’t make people like it, but you can make sure it is as free of grammar errors as possible.
4. Hire a cover artist. People judge books by their covers. Just sayin’.
5. Make friends on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Don’t look at social media outlets as places to sell, sell, sell. People don’t ever want to get the hard sell from an author, but they do want to know you are a real person and not some kind of literary cyborg.
6. Be professional. In all your interactions and choices, remember that you are in the public eye. What you do and say, even on the internet, will either help or hurt you. So act like the professional that you are.

Finally, what's next for Jennifer Becton?

Caroline Bingley will be out in the coming days, and the first chapter is already available on my website. Death Benefits (Southern Fraud 2) will be released in January 2012.

Thanks so much!

Thank you for inviting me, and I look forward to reading your Col. Fitzwilliam novel soon!

Jennifer Becton is a prolific author, and owner of the publishing house, Whiteley Press.  She hails from the Charlotte, North Carolina area.  You can learn more about Jennifer at her official site or JWBecton.com.

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook, and Twitter.

You can also buy her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashswords.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Charming the Moon: Good Criticism

Today, I'm terribly excited because my little novella, Charming the Moon was reviewed by Jeff Chapman!

I stumbled across his review on Goodreads, which led me in turn to his wonderful blog review and which he generously left on Amazon.  A snippet: 

Snyder tells her tales with a serious tone befitting mythic lore but also mixes in comedy. The "battle" scene between Brigglekin and the other dwarves approaches slapstick. It is difficult at times to follow who some of the characters are since the reader is dropped into stories without having the full context. Readers of J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion will know what I mean. Of the two tales, I found the longer story about Brigglekin the most rewarding. Brigglekin faces internal and external conflicts and must step beyond his comfort zone to resolve them. Snyder introduces a rich world in these tales and I am looking forward to a longer sojourn in Niamh and the Hermit

This is an example of how a good critic can help an author see her own strengths and weaknesses.  While I much appreciate the reference to the Silmarillion, I also appreciate its inherit criticism - and thoroughly agree that these stories presuppose either that the audience will 1) just go with it or 2) have read Niamh.  (I also agree that Brigglekin is my favorite of the two, although my sister and several others would disagree.)

What's the best criticism you ever received from a disinterested third party?  What's the worst?  How do you deal with reviews of your work?  Sound off in the comments below!  

And if you've read any of my work, please do consider leaving a review on either Goodreads or Amazon or your own blog!  Let me know if you have, and I'll make sure I list it here!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Publishing 101: You Can Do It!

In Young Frankenstein, there's this wonderful moment when Gene Wilder finds his grandfather's, Dr. Frederich Frankenstein's, enormous book of How I Did It.  Naturally, this revelation is accompanied by a convenient roll of thunder.

One of the big questions in publishing boils down to this sentiment: How I Did It!  How in the world does an artist get her foot in the door?  How in the world does the idea in the mind become the word on the page (cyber or solid)?  How did that first publishing break occur?

I'll share how I got my first publishing credit and then leave a comment about how you got your first big break!

Future blogs will focus on:

  • The best and worst rejection letters
  • Whether "breaking through publishing" is as important as "breaking through audience" (e.g., traditional publishing vs. indie publishing
  • Be your own agent, manager, and cheerleader
  • And I'm open to other suggestions, too!
In the meantime, make sure you check out Jennifer Becton's great blogs on publishing and promoting - the two most recent of which are here and here...and on Tuesday, here at the Teatime Ten!

Like most authors, I was writing from a fairly early age.  (You can read more about that here.)  But it wasn't until high school that I began to think about publishing.  Until then, I suppose I thought that somehow books just happened, like babies.  But my dearest friend, Kristen, gave me Mercedes Lackey's first Valdemar series, which introduced me to the world of Fantasy fiction.  (I had been, and still am, an avid fairy tale afficiando, but hadn't realized that the genre had come so far.)

This led to me scouring the shelves for more fantasy books, and in my travels I discovered Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress Anthologies, specifically Volume X.  In it was this wonderful and poetic short story by Francesca Myman, entitled: "Night, Who Creeps Through Keyholes."  I don't remember much about the story; it was metaphoric, it was glorious...it was written by someone my age.  It was published by someone my age!  I had no idea people our age could write that well...let alone pursue something so grown-up as publish!

This would probably be a good place to mention that I'm really competitive.

Imagine my wonder, then, when I discovered in the back of the anthology the submission guidelines.  I had never heard of submission guidelines!  They were very precise.  I like precision.  They taught me about margins and double-spacing and not sending in stories written in crayon.  They taught me that publishing was possible.

After that, I put together some truly awful and derivative pieces which have long been forgotten - lost or languishing in a file - and which were, one and all, wisely rejected.  Nevertheless, every year I faithfully sent in another submission, determined to be published by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Nor did I stop there.  My scholarly superpowers served me well.  I subscribed to Writer's Digest and read the articles avidly.  I read the classifieds in the back.  I read the ads for books from Writer's Digest.  I splurged and bought their Writer's Guide to Fantasy and Science Fiction.  (I still have it!)  I read it from cover to cover, underlining and making notes as I went.  (And even in this interwebby age, I still recommend their Writer's Market as something to purchase every few years.)  And I began sending out submissions to every magazine that would take stuff.

Around this time, my mother being a wise woman and concerned for her daughter who spent every waking moment reading or writing, invited our next door neighbour to come over and have a chat with me.  Now our neighbour was a struggling musician, and every so often I remember hearing his band playing.  They came caroling to our door every July dressed up in winter coats and knit hats.  They were the bohemians of central New Jersey.

This fellow, whose name I can't recall, stood in the door and attempted to dissuade me from the life of an artist. (I've mentioned my pigheaded competitive streak, yes?)  He said, "You're going to be rejected 99 times before you make one sale."  I nodded and thought that those were pretty good odds.  Our neighbour shrugged apologetically to my mother and went back to his band; my mother went to the kitchen; I went back to writing dreck.

True to his word, my high school and college career were chock-full of nothing but rejection letters.  (I'll write about those rejection notes in another post!)  It got tiresome after a while, and between discovering theatre and a social life in college, I wrote little and submitted less.

But in my junior year of college, one day I returned home after rehearsal to find my door completely covered in construction paper, with cheery markered notes congratulating the Real Published Author.  An acceptance had arrived at my home in New Jersey, Mum had opened it and telephoned immediately.  And since I was not home (theatre eats your life, but it's a nice digestion!), she had squee-ed at my household sisters, and they in turn had run out of magic markers to celebrate!

Ironically, and satisfyingly, I had finally sold to Marion Zimmer Bradley; more specifically, to her Fantasy Magazine.  I had broken through.  That spring break, I was in Kansas with my household sisters (they had a car, a destination, and a free seat; I went to Kansas), and signing my very first contract.  It was Heaven.

It was also a truly defining moment for me: I had broken through.  No longer would my cover letter try to cover the fact that 'til that point my publications were all school-related...or that I had been the editor-in-chief of everything.  I was being paid for my work.  I was being paid for my work by a tastemaker respected by her field.  I had learned how to take rejection and how to write for a market.  I was an Author with a capital Auth.  And it was worth every single rejection.

How about you?  What was your first publication?  What market are you especially eyeing?  Sound off in the comments below and encourage your fellow authors to keep on keeping on!

So, what's the importance of that first publication?  What else can it lead to?  For me, it led to a modest win as the "best story" of the Fantasy Magazine, and then an invitation to submit to Sword and Sorceress XIX, which for some reason actually published my Better Seen Than Heard.  And these two credits gave me the oomph to propose Niamh and the Hermit to Arx Publishing, LLC - which, although it wasn't written at the time, they accepted.  Which in turn led to them proposing that I write some short stories from the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, which led to Charming the Moon.

And if you're interested in the Sword and Sorceress Anthologies, you can thank the lovely Vera Nazarian (who recently stopped by for the Teatime Ten!) for continuing the series.  You can read more about the submission guidelines and forthcoming anthologies here!  Or check out some older volumes to read Vera's own wonderful work!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My deepest thanks!

Hullo you lovely lurkers, you!

First, I want to thank everyone who's made, and will be continuing to make the Teatime Ten interview series so exciting!  I'm grateful to all those who have and will participate (keep an eye out for Jennifer Becton appearing this upcoming Tuesday!).

In the meantime, you can read all of the Teatime Ten interviews here!

Second, my many thanks to those who took part in the Letters of Love & Deception book give-away!  And to those who have generously retweeted about my little collection of Austenesque short stories.  If you haven't already, check out the interview I did over at Girlebooks.com about what went into writing those short stories.  A small snippet! 

Regarding literary monster mash-ups: I'm not against monsters, but I'm against using them poorly OR arbitrarily.  Monsters are a metaphor; hence if you employ that monster, you are employing all their metaphoric meaning.  You can't have a sea monster just because your title has an "S" in it.  You can have a sea monster if you're at sea.  And even then, there's a variety of sea monsters.  Are you interested in exploring creatures that look charming but kill you?  Go for mermaids.  Are you interesting in exploring creatures that look human but are emotionally distant?  Go for selkies.  Are you looking for something that's all consuming and toothsome?  Have a kraken.  But for pity's sake, sea monsters aren't scenery; they're action.

You can read the full interview here!

I would also like to thank those who have encouraged me to keep revising my novel Presumption, about the romance between Colonel Fitzwilliam and Maria Lucas.  In particular, many thanks to the Indie Jane ladies for their Dueling Fitzwilliam series, with the most interesting set of questions for our Colonel yet!  As well as Jennifer Becton's continuing support for the project.  (And if you're looking for something Maria Lucas-y, make sure you check out her short story!)

You can read the first chapter of the Presumption here.  And the doodle of that moment is to the right.

Most of all, I want to thank the Austen community for all their warmth, silliness, and support.  In a particular way, thank you to Mags who believed in Nachtsturm when I didn't, Laura at Girlebooks.com who is everything one could hope for in a publishers, Meredith who invited me to the Austenesque Extravaganza, Nancy Kelley for loving Col. Fitzwilliam, Jennifer Becton for publishing know-how and general awesomeness, and the Regency Ladies for friendship - and you, you know who you are.  Have a lovely weekend - wish me luck as I interview to direct Macbeth in Boston tomorrow! - make sure you pick up a copy of my novels (shameless plug!) - and may your day be full of frolic!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Math for Actors: God bless America's Heartland!

A big thank you to America's heartlands for your theatrical support! It seems appropriate that this little play about the heart (and theatre, and math) is doing well in the Heartland of America!

I'm psyched because on Dec. 2 & 3rd, Batavia High School in Illinois will be putting on my play, Math for Actors, followed soon after by Great Bend High School in Kansas performance of it on January 17th!

If you're in the mood for a little bit of romance, you can either read an excerpt from the play here (and really, I'll brag and say that my plays are quite readable even without performance)...or you can see the first performance of the play below!

Need a laugh?

Check this out!  From Hark, a Vagrant, with love for fans of #hotdarcy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Letters of Love & Deception: Book Give-away WINNERS

Congratulations to the winners of Letters of Love & Deception!

Winners of Letters of Love & Deception
  • Patricia McMahon
  • Faith Hope and Cherrytree
  • Lauryl Lane
  • Erica McFarland
  • Nancy Kelly 
Winner of Nachtsturm Castle
  • Farida Mestek
I'll be contacting you via Facebook, Twitter or Email so that you can claim your copy!

THANK YOU to all who participated!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teatime Ten: Vera Nazarian

Readers of this blog may know Vera Nazarian primarily through her Supernatural Jane Austen series, but what you may not know is that Vera is also an accomplished fantasy author and publisher.  Her press, Norilana Books, prints original Austenesque and fantastical books, as well as classic literature.

In 2006, she took on the task of preserving the legacy of renown feminist fantasy author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, by continuing to publish the Sword and Sorcery Anthologies, (which gave this authoress her first break!), the twenty-sixth volume of which will be available this November.  She's also a terrific graphic artist!

And somewhere in the middle of all this and more besides, Vera found time to sit down with us for the Teatime Ten!

Hullo, Vera!  I'm so glad you could make it for the Teatime Ten!  I'll admit that I've been a fan of yours since your work in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress Anthologies, but most recently you've explored the world of Jane Austen paraliterature. What drew you to join in the fun of Austen?

As someone who's been soaking in classics of world literature from a very early age, both in my native Russian and then later in English, I've developed a natural old-fashioned writing style which meshes really well with nineteenth century works.  Some might call it quirky, archaic, stodgy, unusual, unpalatable for modern readers, eccentric, plain weird - I call it "Vera Nazarian." And since I love Jane Austen, humor, and fantasy, I think I've found my perfect niche - reworking the Jane Austen novels into supernatural hilarious parodies, imbued with heartfelt true love and romance. 

When that zombies parody of Pride and Prejudice came out, I was actually fired up. The idea was great but the execution sloppy. I knew I could absolutely do better, because I was already one step ahead - I was a true fan of classic literature and Jane Austen, I wrote in the subtle period style with great facility, and I admired and loved the spirit of Austen, with every intention of retaining it in my mash-up, and without breaking out of character (something I think the zombies parody did poorly by being generally crude and ignoring all real Austen sensibilities, while going instead for anachronistic pop culture shock value). 

My primary goal in the Supernatural Jane Austen Series is to remain absolutely true to Austen in style and tone, while adding in the period-appropriate fantasy elements and enhancing and ramping up the already funny elements with a sense of sudden joyful mayhem - such as baboons on the loose in the ballroom alongside mummies in Mansfield Park and Mummies, the attacking Brighton Duck that terrorizes Bath and other neighborhoods in Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons (the duck is a recurring character that appears in each novel, and usually teaches the "villains" a lesson or two), the shape-shifting monthly curse that strikes all the gentlemen in Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy's Dreadful Secret (poking fun in the satire manner of "what if men could menstruate"), and many others.

Note also, my own original fantasy novels might include a more explicit treatment of sexuality and erotic elements, but here I remain true to Austen in the sense of period "propriety" - nothing in my Austen novels ever goes beyond a kiss, and even such is mentioned in perfectly chaste terms that Jane herself would not even blush to use. I realize that many other wonderful Austen sequel authors successfully employ various levels of sensuality, but I prefer to keep my own books absolutely Jane-safe.

In short, I believe that Austen's common-sense "gentility" with its sharp wit and delightful warmth and outlook on real life and relationships, works really well in juxtaposition with the fantastic elements of horror, myth, and fairy tales. Altogether, a recipe for delight!

Please do tell us about your latest Austenesque novels! What surprises can we find in store?

The Supernatural Jane Austen Series is moving along, with the third book coming very soon, Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy's Dreadful Secret, which promises to be both heartfelt, romantic and hilarious.

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when the moon is full over Regency England, the gentlemen are all subject to its curse.

It is a peculiar monthly Affliction inducing them to take on various unnatural shapes—neither quite demon, nor proper beast—and in those shapes to roam the land; to hunt, murder, dismember, gorge on blood, consume haggis and kidney pie, gamble away familial fortune, marry below their station (and below their stature, when the lady is an Amazon), vote Whig, perform sudden and voluntary manual labor, cultivate orchids, collect butterflies and Limoges snuff boxes, and perpetrate other such odious evil—unless properly contained."

Read the complete first three chapters here. And coming in the next few months are:

Pagan Persuasion: All Olympus Descends on Regency - Ancient Greek gods start an apocalyptic war, and only the love of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth can save Regency England from Olympic mayhem...

Emma Enchanted - The Woodhouse residence is infested with all of Faerie, and the Faerie Queen herself is out to make some supernatural mischief by challenging Emma to an unusual matchmaking contest.

Sense and Sanguine Sensibility - Behold—the long-suffering Dashwood sisters and the hilariously Twilight-like vampires and werewolves who love them...

Lady Susan, Succubus - A certain horrid, demonic, yet unbelievably seductive Lady Susan is more than she seems...

If the titles of the last novel weren't obvious, (very exciting - there's too little Lady Susan paraliterature!), quite a few of your Austen novels are firmly tongue-in-cheek - almost a parody of a parody of the recent rash of monster mash-ups. Besides the original Austen novels and the recent monster mash-ups, what other influences find their way into those novels?

I love classic Japanese monster movies, and the classic comedy mayhem of the Abbott and Costello monster movies - such as A&C meet Frankenstein and A&C meet the Mummy.  The fun begins when there is a long creepy-fun buildup as characters are gradually exposed to weirdness, first disbelieving and then trying to fit the supernatural into their worldview and give it a logical explanation where none of course is possible. And then all the elements of normal life collide with the supernatural weirdness head-on, resulting in an explosion of delightful fun. I strive to bottle that mayhem and infuse it into my Austen parodies.
As for other influences - well there's the entire Faerie, all the world's myths and legends, and all the shivery delight that is invoked by a sense of wonder and the immortal human imagination found in history and folklore.  Add to it a wacky sense of humor that cherishes the absurd, and there you have it!

Your Austen novels are published under your company, Norilana Books. What's the story behind the name...and the story behind this venture?

I started my independent publishing house Norilana Books (and its various imprints) in 2006, because I've been working for other publishers for the last decade or so, in various capacities, and accumulated experience and perspective on how to run my own small press.  Originally I started with reissuing classics of world literature in both hardcover and trade paperback, and then began to acquire modern reprints and originals from such authors as Tanith Lee, Sherwood Smith, Modean Moon, John Grant, the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, and many others, under various imprints. I am proud to be publishing such anthology series as the long-running classic Sword and Sorceress, and the critically acclaimed Lace and Blade, Warrior Wisewoman, and Clockwork Phoenix.  Norilana Books has just celebrated its Five-Year Anniversary this August, with over 290 titles in print, and there are many exciting books coming down the pipeline - including the rest of my own Jane Austen titles. 

The name "Norilana" is a made-up word. I've spilled the secret recently - it's the name of a great and powerful sorceress and mysterious divine being in the very first (unfinished) epic fantasy novel I stared to write as a kid in junior high school. One of these days I might finish it, and then you will all find out more about Norilana and her magical wonder.  For now, I'm thrilled that Norilana simply means wonderful books by wonderful authors!

What is it like to be an author, publisher, artist and tech designer? How do you manage your time? What challenges have you overcome?

Great question! First and foremost, I have no life. I work in every spare moment and then I collapse and then I work some more.  I am very fortunate to possess the various skills and talents necessary to do everything, literally - from good-looking professional cover art, interior formatting, packaging, editing, and uploading files to the printer, to website programming, shipping of review copies to Publishers Weekly and other trades, bookkeeping, taxes, royalties, marketing, and every tiny little thing between. I've designed about 98% of the covers, and the only thing I can say with relief is that the anthologies - thank goodness - are all edited by other people.

You originally started writing in fantasy, being nominated twice for a Nebula Award! What overlap have you found between the two genres?

Fantasy already is, in fact, all fiction. In the grander sense, it constitutes all that is the product of the imagination. Even so-called mainstream fiction involves elements of fantasy to a great extent, and I simply choose to write beyond the edges of what we officially consider "real," to touch upon the other, the numinous, the "meta."

Recently, on your Twitter feed, you advocated a return to the true, good and beautiful in fiction - a sentiment with which I heartily agree. How is this exemplified in your works?

It may sound like a contradiction, but I write fantasy of light even when I write what appears to be on the surface dark fantasy - by which I mean, I write all things imbued with ultimate hope. And yes, I believe in meaning, in the fundamental force of good in the universe. 

Allow me for a moment to wax wildly philosophical. The only genuinely logical belief to adhere to is what I call "Schroedinger's Agnosticism" - a logic-based recognition of the eternal possibility of one thing or the other, a kind of permanent random probability field of all possibilities present at the same time. Without an ordered universe, a pattern or plan, a constant, such a probability field will lose cohesion and collapse, because there would be no way to constantly maintain the fine exact balance of absolute unbiased probability recognized by science.  This to me indicates an ordered universe, and calls for a belief in the Positive Principle and in Cohesion itself.  It is the most subatomic basic notion that something holds all things together.

And what exactly is that something? Call it greater Reason, God, unified sentience, the fundamental altruistic nature of the human spirit, a mathematically perfect ordered universe - it is all the same thing. And it by its very nature is a source of reason and meaning. So I write stories of meaning which in turn gives birth to hope - an end reason for suffering and redemption and sacrifice and love. My characters are all instruments of what might be called "doing the right thing" - regardless of belief or faith or absence of such.  In the end they always follow the bright star of inspiration.  Read my Dreams of the Compass Rose, or the soon-to-be reissued monumental epic fantasy Lords of Rainbow, about a world without color, to see how I handle this theme.

What would you love to see come out next from the Austen community? How about the fantasy world?

In the Austenverse, I would love to see more focus on books other than Pride and Prejudice, and possibly new continuations of The Watsons and Sanditon.  Because after I am done with the Supernatural Jane Austen Series, I expect at some point to do this myself.

In the fantasy world, let's go back to grand heroic epics of light, and enough with dystopias for as change.  It's so easy to write in gritty milieus where murder and war and destruction are commonplace, such as the real world. How about we imagine some positive utopias instead?  Not the creepy Stepford Wives kind, but some real practical ones with people loving each other and genuinely working together, that will help us visualize a bright future? Seriously, how come no one ever wants to write a perfect world? A really, honestly good world, as we would like this world of ours to be?  Is it truly so hard to imagine?  Maybe so. Maybe that's the real reason for all the bad things within our control - we cannot imagine a practical good world, so we live in a bogged-down, tragic, sorrowful one.  After all, our imagination is what creates the patterns of the future.  Time we got a grip on it!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

First, get to know the industry, and the people in it - both online and personally, if possible, by making professional contacts and attending events such as conventions and conferences. Try a good writers workshop at least once. Learn to handle constructive criticism and separate it from worthless criticism. Learn infinite patience, because literary submissions take forever. Do not rush into anything, including publication.  Read widely in all genres.  Maintain a social online presence. Write only what you genuinely love, and not what seems trendy right now - this may be the most difficult thing of all, since for many of us it takes half a lifetime to figure out what it is we love and want to write.  Learn the proper professional submission methods. Be polite, courteous, and professional. Learn about agents, editors, scams, the pros sand cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing (yes, this is new advice, because self-publishing has finally become a viable alternative, but only in some cases). Follow guidelines precisely. And never, ever, ever, ever give up.

What can we expect next from Vera Nazarian?

Oh dear, there are so many books and projects I have lined up. After the Supernatural Jane Austen Series (or concurrent with it), I plan to return to my fantasy roots and do Lady of Monochrome (sequel to Lords of Rainbow), Cobweb Bride, Airealm, and several others. Not sure which one will happen first, but likely one of these I just mentioned.

Thank you for everything!

And many thanks for the fun questions and for having me here!

Vera Nazarian is a prolific author, and owner of the publishing house, Norilana Books.  She hails from Vermont by way of California and Russia.  You can learn more about Vera by visiting her official site.

You can follow Vera on Facebook, Twitter, Google ++ and also find her on these sites:

You can also buy her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashswords.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Letters of Love & Deception: Book Give-away LAST DAY

Quiz the Sixth
of the e-book give-away of
Letters of Love & Deception 

To celebrate today's of Letters of Love & Deception on MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th, we're giving away six free e-books, in the format of your choice, in honour of Jane Austen's six novels.    

Comment below, and you'll be eligible to win either one of five copies of Letters of Love & Deception or a copy Nachtsturm Castle: A Gothic Austen Novel from Girlebooks.com!

The giveaway runs from Wednesday through to Monday, Sept. 19th, the official release date!  And don't forget that you can still comment in Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday's quizzes!

If you want a preview of the short stories in LOL&D, click here!

The rules in brief:

Post a comment with answers to the quiz below (making sure to leave contact info) and your name will be entered to win a free e-book.  Each time you comment, on any of the quizzes, your name will be entered again.  So answer early and often! 

And never fear if you don't know the answers off the top of your head!  You can look up the answers, or crib from the person above you (maybe even add some more information!), or just make it up and make us laugh!  It's all in good fun.

On Monday at midnight, the giveaway will close and six winners will be chosen!  Comment away!
Quiz the Sixth

Today, we're just going to ask you one question:

Please write a short letter from any of Jane's characters explaining why they should be the recipient of a free e-copy of Letters of Love & Deception!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Letters of Love & Deception: Book Give-Away Day FIVE

Quiz the Fifth
of the e-book give-away of
Letters of Love & Deception 

To celebrate the upcoming release of Letters of Love & Deception on MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th, we're giving away six free e-books, in the format of your choice, in honour of Jane Austen's six novels.    

Comment below, and you'll be eligible to win either one of five copies of Letters of Love & Deception or a copy Nachtsturm Castle: A Gothic Austen Novel from Girlebooks.com!

The giveaway runs from Wednesday through to Monday, Sept. 19th, the official release date!  And don't forget that you can still comment in Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday's quizzes!

If you want a preview of the short stories in LOL&D, click here!

The rules in brief:

Post a comment with answers to the quiz below (making sure to leave contact info) and your name will be entered to win a free e-book.  Each time you comment, on any of the quizzes, your name will be entered again.  So answer early and often! 

And never fear if you don't know the answers off the top of your head!  You can look up the answers, or crib from the person above you (maybe even add some more information!), or just make it up and make us laugh!  It's all in good fun.

On Monday at midnight, the giveaway will close and six winners will be chosen!  Comment away!
Quiz the Fifth

 Today will be for a free e-copy of  
(However, please do put all your answers in one post...!  THANKS!)

Novels: What is Austen's famous defense of novels in Northanger Abbey?

History: What was the Black Veil mentioned in The Mysteries of Udolpho?

Literature: How many Gothic literature tropes can you list?

Austen: Jane Austen parodies Gothic novels in Northanger Abbey.  Do you know which Gothic novels she might have been acquainted with?

Austenesque: While on vacation in Venice, you are abducted by the local Doge and imprisoned in a palazzo.  How does Henry Tilney rescue you?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Letters of Love & Deception: Book Give-away DAY FOUR

Quiz theFourth
of the e-book give-away of
Letters of Love & Deception 

To celebrate the upcoming release of Letters of Love & Deception and other Austenesque short stories, we're giving away six free e-books, in the format of your choice, in honour of Jane Austen's six novels.    

Comment below, and you'll be eligible to win either one of five copies of Letters of Love & Deception or a copy Nachtsturm Castle: A Gothic Austen Novel from Girlebooks.com!

The giveaway runs from Wednesday through to Monday, Sept. 19th, the official release date!  And don't forget that you can still comment in Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday's quizzes!

If you want a preview of the short stories in LOL&D, click here!

The rules in brief:

Post a comment with answers to the quiz below (making sure to leave contact info) and your name will be entered to win a free e-book.  Each time you comment, on any of the quizzes, your name will be entered again.  So answer early and often!

And never fear if you don't know the answers off the top of your head!  You can look up the answers, or crib from the person above you (maybe even add some more information!), or just make it up and make us laugh!  It's all in good fun.

On Monday at midnight, the giveaway will close and six winners will be chosen!  Comment away!
Quiz the Fourth

Novels: Can you list Jane Austen's novels...in backwards order?!?!?!

History: What is the difference between the Season and the Little Season?

Literature: What's one of your favorite quotes or passages from literature?  For example, I keep returning to Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, in Volume IV, Book Fourteen, Chapter 6, "The Agony of Death after the Agony of Life:"

"Now, for my trouble, promise me--"  And [Eponine] stopped.

"What?" asked Marius.

"Promise me!"

"I promise."

"Promise to give me a kiss on my brow when I am dead.--I shall feel it."

She dropped her head again on Marius' knees, and her eyelids closed. He thought the poor soul had departed. Eponine remained motionless. All at once, at the very moment when Marius fancied her asleep forever, she slowly opened her eyes in which appeared the sombre profundity of death, and said to him in a tone whose sweetness seemed already to proceed from another world:--

"And by the way, Monsieur Marius, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you."

Austen: Jane Austen felt that she recorded life as it happened.  If she could return from the grave, what do you think she would poke fun of and why?

Austenesque: If all of Austen's ladies (e.g. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, et al!) tried to enter a room simultaneously, who would win the honour of going first?