AuThursday – McKenna Dean

GOAC BannerPlease welcome, McKenna Dean to the Clog Blog.   

SignatureLogo_300x218McKenna, please tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’ve done a number of different jobs over the years: worked as a lab tech, in a vet clinic, as a dog trainer, an actress, a singer. I’ve always walked a fine line between my creative/artistic side and my scientific one. When I graduated from high school, I thought I had to choose—and so I gave up writing and focused on my career. Many years later, I discovered online fanfiction archives and I was obsessed! When I began writing again, it was like opening a floodgate. The encouragement I received from fandom allowed me to submit my first story for publication, but no one was more surprised than I when it was accepted!

Since then, I’ve written over 20 stories, but in so many different genres I didn’t have a recognizable brand. In 2017, I made the decision to re-brand myself and concentrate on just paranormal romance.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

I’m a die-hard panster—working from just the barest outline, a faint idea of where I want to go and trotting off in that direction. I love it when my stories surprise me! But the longer I do this, the more I realize I’d be more productive with more outlining. I’m trying to find that balance between outlining enough that it streamlines the process without becoming a story killer by taking all the spontaneity out of the writing.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

I have. Once when I attempted NaNoWriMo—it was a kind of pressure and writing style all wrong for me. But also when I’m too tired and emotionally drained to write. Sometimes a story stalls for weeks. I remind myself of Louis L’Amour’s quote to “Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

What genre do you write?

My focus these days in on paranormal romance and urban fantasy.

What draws you to this genre?

I love the world-building and the way the genre lends itself to political and social commentary. I love the magic of the supernatural, and the power of shifters.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I love snowed-in stories, so I wanted to set up a situation in which my main characters were pitted against each other but wound up having to work together for their survival. An inheritance with conditions seemed to be the ideal way to bring a fangirl with a secret and a shifter whose inner wolf is in hiding together. Add in a snowstorm, a stray dog, and a series of increasingly dangerous accidents, and you have Ghost of a Chance.

How are you publishing this book and why? (Indie, traditional or small press)?

I’ve both worked with a small press and done indie publishing before, and they both have their pros and cons. Publishers typically provide quality covers and reputable editing, and these are major perks when you are looking at paying for those services yourself. But working with a press means working on their schedule—meeting deadlines and so forth. It can take up to a year from the time you submit a story to seeing it published and getting royalties—which means you really need to be producing a new work once per quarter at the minimum.

As an indie author, I’m my only client. Yes, I have to pay for cover art and editing, but I can set my own price and launch dates. The amount of promotion is nearly the same in either case, though a well-known press can give you a leg up there too. Honestly, I like doing both. Sometimes it’s nice to turn over the reins to someone else. Sometimes you want to have total control. With the demands of my current job, indie publishing seems to be a better fit, but I intend to offer my next book to a press.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Writing is a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Read the kinds of books you want to write. Read good books. Bad books only teach you to imitate them. Don’t read your reviews. I know, no one listens to that one, but if you do read your reviews, try not to let the bad ones derail your process. Keep a folder of all your good reviews—you’ll need them when you are promoting the next book anyway—but more importantly, read those glowing comments when you need encouragement. Read the reviews of your favorite stories too. There’s comfort in realizing there are people who hate a story you know is brilliant.

Follow Chuck Wendig’s blog—he has some terrific things to say about writing. Read about improving your craft, but above all, take what you read with a grain of salt. If advice doesn’t gel with you, no big deal. Do what works for you and ignore the rest.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

The easiest way to find me is to go to my website. There are links to my social media on almost every page, but the most complete line up (including Instagram and Book Bub, as well as my newsletter) is on my blog page: http://mckennadeanromance.com/blog

As a matter of fact, you can just subscribe to my blog there, and you’ll get all the latest news when I post it.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

ghostofachance_finalThe light faded as they approached the dip in the drive leading down to the bridge crossing the creek. Long shadows were cast from the tree line onto the drive, and as they rode into the shade, the temperature dropped as though they’d walked into a freezer. Casey pulled Indy up as he inspected the tracks. He pointed at a trail going off to one side. “Someone made a break for it here. Didn’t want to cross the bridge, most likely.”

He urged Indy in that direction, following the tracks splitting off into the woods. Indy obliged, trudging through the deeper slow, icicles gathering on his feathered legs.

The other tracks crossed the bridge. That way led to the road. The thought of Athena or the other mares potentially ending up in traffic turned Sarah’s stomach. The horses aside, some driver could get killed if they rounded a corner and found the mares in their path.

Sarah closed her legs around King’s sides and urged him across the bridge. He didn’t want to leave Indy and balked at crossing the wooden structure. The bulk of the missing horses had gone that way, however, and Sarah thumped her heels against the reluctant gelding to follow their trail.

Ghost exploded out of the brush to block her path, barking furiously. The Shepherd favored one foreleg, and as Sarah watched, drops of blood flecked the snow around the dog.

King rocked back on his haunches, preparatory for a spin for home. Sarah pulled up on the reins and closed her legs around the spooked gelding. Behind her, she heard Indy crash through the vegetation. Casey must have turned him around.

“Go home,” she shouted at Ghost. “Bad dog!”

She clapped her calves against King’s flanks and the

gelding sprang forward. Ghost scooted to one side as the horse charged, flinging snow behind him in his wake. Sarah leaned across King’s neck as he galloped across the bridge, belatedly considering the slickness of the wooden planks. Too late now. Once they were across, she’d pull up and wait for Casey.

Halfway across the bridge, a terrible shriek rent the air. Wood splintered and failed. Boards separated under the weight of horse and rider and came apart. King screamed as the footing beneath him gave way, and he plunged into the icy stream below, carrying Sarah with him.

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AuThursday – Irina Shapiro

Irina (400x400) - CopyTell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born in Moscow, Russia, and came to the US when I was twelve years old.  Unlike many Russian immigrants, I had no trouble adjusting and becoming part of a new culture.  I found it extremely liberating to have choices in what I read and what type of music I could listen to.  My literary interests turned to British history, and it’s still one of my favorite subjects and the background for most of my books.

How do you make time to write?

I left my job ten years ago to focus on my autistic son, so I’m a stay-at-home mom.   I’ve always been a morning person, which means that I do my best work at the crack of dawn.  I sit down to write as soon as my son leaves for school and keep at it for at least three hours each day.     Sometimes I’m really not in the mood, or the ideas aren’t flowing, but when I open my manuscript and put my fingers on the keyboard, I instantly get sucked into the story, and the words just come.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I haven’t suffered from any prolonged bouts of writer’s block, but like any writer, I’m afraid of running out of ideas, and I think that one day I will.  We all tend to return to certain themes and time periods in our writing, and eventually, it becomes repetitive and feels regurgitated.  Once I think that that’s beginning to happen, I will either stop writing altogether or maybe switch genres and try my hand at something new.   I like cozy mysteries set in England.  That could be an option.  I could be the next Agatha Christie.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I write time-travel romance and modern gothic.  I love those genres because I can incorporate my love of history and travel into the narrative, enriching my characters’ experience and broadening their horizons and range of emotion.   Time travel opens up all kinds of new possibilities since my characters can go anywhere, anytime.  I can allow them to come back, or leave them trapped in a time period of my choice and watch them struggle for survival.

And with modern gothic, I can add a supernatural dimension without going full-on paranormal.    For example, the main character in my new series, Echoes from the Past, has the ability to see into the past when holding an object that once belonged to the dead.  As an archeologist and a historian, she finds this gift very useful, if at times frightening and unsettling, because she gets drawn into the stories of the dead and relives their tragedies.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

My newest book, The Lovers (The Echoes from the Past: Book 1) is a Kindle Scout winner and has recently been published by Kindle Press, the new publishing branch of Amazon.   I’m excited to see how it will perform against my self-published books, which I promote regularly.

Are you an Introvert or Extravert?  How does this affect your work?

I think I’m actually a little of both.  I love being around people, socializing, and getting involved, but I also enjoy being alone.  I spend a lot of time in my head, but I’m rarely bored.  I have all these thoughts and ideas that frequently find their way into my stories.  I also quite enjoy doing research.  I’ve learned so many new things since I began writing, and I look forward to learning more.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Just do it, because ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to.  We either do something, or we don’t.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My advice to aspiring writers is to stick with their projects, get professional, but affordable help, and grow a thick skin.  There will be many people who will criticize their work and hurt their feelings, especially in the beginning.  Bad reviews and cruel comments come with the territory.  If they truly want to succeed, they need to look beyond that and keep moving forward.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

You can find me at www.irinashapiro.com

https://www.facebook.com/IrinaShapiro2/

or on Twitter at Irina Shapiro Author@Irinashapiro2