Author Spotlight – SF Benson

Today’s spotlight is extra fun because it’s Author SF Benson’s birthday! So we are wishing you a very Happy Birthday from the Debut Collective! Also, a HUGE congrats on being nominated for Best Debut Novel in the UTOPiA Awards!

The Debut Collective is a supportive tribe of authors (both published and aspiring), editors, formatters, and cover designers working together to foster a new generation of stories and authors. We will be publishing 5 short story anthologies in June 2016.

We are pleased to share the following interview with contributing author, SF Benson.

 

ShantellaPlease share a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a Michigan native, living in Georgia with my husband, a daughter, and a couple of miniature fur kids (two female short-haired guinea pigs). At one time our household included three Samoyeds, saltwater fish, a hamster, and three guinea pigs.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I had a hard time finding my niche. So instead of writing I had a variety of positions which ‘fed’ my creative brain—blogger/reviewer, customer service representative, veterinary assistant, marketing assistant, editorial assistant, receptionist, and even cashier for women’s clothing and shoes. I graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo with a degree in Communications. I guess I’ve used facets of my degree in everything I’ve done.

I believe my struggle with writing was due to writing in the wrong genre, women’s fiction. It didn’t suit me and I gave up. It wasn’t until my husband approached me after I quit my last job that I plunged forward. I was stuck in the job search, nothing was happening. He told me to pursue my dream, but do it 110 percent. No half-attempts. So I entered NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014 and completed my first rough draft.

I’m an avid bookworm, who appreciates a well-written book regardless of genre. As a kid, I read a little of everything from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Sylvia Plath. If it sparked my interests, which constantly changed, I read it. My longest obsession was probably with witches. I read a lot of nonfiction books on the topic.

regressPlease share information on any published or upcoming books.

My first YA book, Regress: the Alliance Chronicles, released in March 2016. It’s the first book in a post-apocalyptic series, which takes place after the fall of the United States in the year 2025. Creativity has been banned. The new government of the American Republic is run by scientists and technologists. There’s a mandatory vaccine, given to only seventeen-year-olds, that has weird side effects on Creatives. There are two teens with a shared past. They team up to uncover a government conspiracy.

The Alliance Chronicles is a series about fighting for what you believe in. Tru Shepard believed in her right to make her own choices in her life. She fought, and grew up in the process, for her belief. She had to step out of her own way, put aside her fears and doubts, and embrace the possibility of greatness. Sometimes we have to do things we’re uncomfortable with in order to achieve our desires.

I have a zombie short story, “The RELIC Experiment” which will be published in a Dystopian anthology, And The World Will Burn. Proceeds from sales will go to the Amputee Coalition of America. Cameo Renae has written the foreword for the collection. There are fifteen stories in the book. It’s currently on pre-order at http://amzn.to/1YpI0LG

Which Debut Collective anthology/anthologies will you be published in?

I have two stories in two different collections—Secret Identity (“Ever After”) and Against All Odds (“Cursed Hearts”).

 

Share a brief teaser or logline for your story/stories.

SF teaserHe wiped my lower lip and licked his thumb. “You are magnificent.” His canines were lowered. “I’d never tasted a succubus before.” –Victor from “Cursed Hearts”

SF teaser 2Ace stroked my hair. “You did good, darling. There won’t be much to clean up this time.” –Ace, “Ever After”

Share an insight into your main character. What made you want to write a story from their perspective?

For “Cursed Hearts”, I love stories about succubi, but all the ones I’d read were about adults. Playing the ‘what if’ game I thought about the plight of a teenager. Kelsie is like any typical teenage girl—interested in boys and seeking love. Well, love can’t be easy for a succubus.

For “Ever After,” I wanted a strong supernatural but I didn’t want a super hero. I thought back to the legends and I thought about unnatural pairings. That’s how Morgan came about. Her parents are related to Dracula and Morgan le Faye, strong supernatural beings. She has a foot in each of their worlds. It makes her a hybrid with strong, unusual powers.

What genre(s) do you write and what draws you to that genre?

I’m a speculative fiction author writing primarily dystopian/science fiction and paranormal. I love answering the ‘what if’ question and these two genres allow me the freedom to explore that question.

nomineeDescribe a typical writing day, or is there such a thing for you? Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? Write in Scrivener, notebooks, or on cocktail napkins?

No day is typical for me, but I do try hard to adhere to some sort of schedule. I try to get the social media things done first and then tackle business issues (right now those are marketing my book). After those things I work on whatever my goals are for the week. On my blog, The WordSmithe, I have a weekly featured entitled “The Soul of a Writer”. I post my goals for the week. So what I do each day reflects those goals. Right now, I’m re-reading “Rescue: the Alliance Chronicles, Book Two” before it goes out to beta readers. I’m also revising an urban fantasy, “A Demon’s Birthright”. It’s tentative release date is December 2016.

I am using Scrivener with the urban fantasy. Book Two of the Alliance Chronicles was written before I won a copy of Scrivener.

Are you a plotter (outline plot) or a pantser (prefer to run with an idea)?

I’m a recovering pantser! “Regress” was written as a pantser. I’m notorious for over planning things. I start out working on an outline for “Regress” and I got bogged down with it to the point where I wouldn’t have gotten words on paper. So I scrapped it and just started writing. Good for the rough draft, but terrible for a finished product. It took five revisions for that book. With “Rescue” I found an outline necessary to make sure I didn’t skip over details needed to be covered. I think that anything fantasy-driven requires some sort of outline. Being an urban fantasy, I needed a ‘map’, if you will, to keep the details straight.

What book(s) are you currently reading or would you recommend?

Oh man… tough question for a bookworm. I’m reading quite a few different things. Recommendations are definitely easier. When it comes to contemporary romance, three authors come to mind—Claire Contreras, Corinne Michaels, and Sunniva Dee. These ladies could write cookbook details and I’d buy them! Seriously. Their books are that good and I’ve read more than one. When it comes to the paranormal, I’d recommend anything by Stacey Marie Brown, Casey L. Bond, and Lila Felix. I love their writing styles. I just finished H.D. Gordon’s “The Company Store”. It’s a must read for fans of dystopia. Authors covering relative contemporary issues would be Venessa Kimball and Shawn McGuire.

What is your favorite writing/reading related quote?

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” From Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society

Tell us 5 random facts about you:

  1. I’m a Michigan native.
  2. I used to show Samoyeds (I was the groomer and my husband was the handler).
  3. I’ve worked in a variety of industries.
  4. I was a Girl Scout leader for nearly 10 years.
  5. I’ve lived in three states.

Does music influence your writing? If so, can you share a song that inspired your Debut Collective anthology story?

I love music when writing. I create a playlist for each story I write. For the Debut Collective stories, I stuck with my general paranormal playlist. For “Ever After” I kept listening to Aerosmith “Jaded”. For “Cursed Hearts” it was Evanescence. It didn’t matter which song from that group, they’re all good.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? How has participating in the collective and the anthology project inspired or pushed you creatively?

I know it’s cliché, but don’t stop writing—ever! I wish someone had told me that back in the day. I know everything happens for a reason, including all the numerous jobs I’ve had, but I feel if someone had said that to me I may have finished a manuscript before 2014.

Participating in the Collective gave me the support I so desperately needed. I had others to bounce ideas off of, which is vital to being a writer. This path is a solo one in so many regards. It’s up to the individual to find a tribe, a village, to help lift them. Without support, a writer can easily slip into depression and never accomplish anything. We need our solitude to create, but we need people to feed our creativity. We want to be alone, but being alone 365 days, 24 hours every day is not conducive to success. It’s another reason why I didn’t get much done before Utopia. I knew I wanted to publish my book, but I needed people to: 1) educate me, 2) motivate me, and 3) encourage me. Without those things, The Alliance Chronicles would be sitting in a box.

 

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website or Blog: https://www.authorsfbenson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BensonSF/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BensonShantella

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/shahben/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15019441.S_F_Benson

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/SFBenson/e/B01DI9Z58Q/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Instagram: @authorsfbenson

 

 

Author Spotlight – Kelly Risser

Today we’re introducing you to contributor and award winning Author Kelly Risser! She happens to be one of the nicest people ever as a bonus to her talents while putting pen to paper. And check out the opening to her story below… EEK! Love it! 

KellyRisserKelly Risser knew at a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up. Unfortunately, Fairytale Princess was not a lucrative career. Leaving the castle and wand behind, she entered the world of creative business writing where she worked in advertising, marketing, and currently, eLearning instructional design.

When Kelly is not immersed in the middle of someone else’s fantasy world, she’s busy creating one of her own. Never Forgotten is her first complete series, which includes Never Forgotten, Current Impressions, Always Remembered, and Sea of Memories, a novella collection. Kelly is one of the authors of award-winning Fractured Glass and 7: The Seven Deadly Sins. She also has a short story in the Twists in Time anthology. You can visit her at http://www.KellyRisser.com.

 

Please share information on any published or upcoming books.

Never Forgotten (Never Forgotten Series Book 1) is FREE!

“Risser keeps her focus on the little details of Meara’s everyday life, lending the book a nice, homey charm.” ~Kirkus Reviews

“NEVER FORGOTTEN is a sweet romance with a paranormal twist!” ~InD’Tale Magazine

USA BEST BOOK AWARDS (2014) AND INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (2015) FINALIST.

NeverForgottenSeries

Meara Quinn is about to find out there are worse things than moving to a tiny oceanside town before her senior year. Like discovering there’s a secret being kept from her and knowing it’s a life-changer.

After experiencing vivid visions of her absentee father, Meara decides she deserves answers. With the help of her new friend Evan, a guy she happens to be falling for, she embarks on a journey in the hopes of unlocking family history and finding her true self. But when she meets a handsome stranger at a local club who knows far more about her than he should, her world is again shaken. In him, Meara may have uncovered the key to the very secret that will reveal not only who she is… but what she is.

http://www.amazon.com/Never-Forgotten-Book-ebook/dp/B00LEZ92TA/

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/never-forgotten/id890209182?mt=11

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/never-forgotten-kelly-risser/1119879980?ean=9781940534534

http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Never-Forgotten/Kelly-Risser/9781940534534?id=6251632256155

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448751

 

B3_HostileTakeOver-1Which Debut Collective anthology/anthologies will you be published in?

Hostile Takeover

 

 Share a brief teaser or logline for your story/stories.

Here’s the opening to my story, A Rose.

The worms writhed and tickled as they slowly crawled across her skin. Could she still call it that? Skin was supple. Skin was alive. Not hers, decaying flesh hung from her bones. The scent of rot stung her nose. Skin and worms were the least of her worries, however. After years of sleep, why was she awake?

 

Share an insight into your main character. What made you want to write a story from their perspective?

I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say that I wrote that opening paragraph over a year ago. The words came to me, I wrote them down, and then I set them aside because it was the start to a horror story and I don’t write horror. Then, I saw the Debut Collective and the “hostile takeover” category, and that’s all I needed to get inspired and finish the story.

 

 What genre(s) do you write and what draws you to that genre?

I’ve written paranormal, fantasy, historical fiction and dystopian. With a few exceptions, my works have a strong romance element. What can I say? I’m a romantic at heart, and I believe in happily ever afters. Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, followed by romance. Blend the two, and I’m sold!

 

Describe a typical writing day, or is there such a thing for you? Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? Write in Scrivener, notebooks, or on cocktail napkins?

Nothing is typical in my world! I am a full-time instructional designer during the day, which means I do a lot of creative business writing to create online courses. There are days I come home and I am tapped out with nothing more to give to my muse. That’s okay. I don’t stress over it. For me, writing fiction is a joy, and if I try to turn it into another full-time job, I’ll burn out. I write when the mood strikes. If it doesn’t, I’m typically reading someone else’s book.

 

Are you a plotter (outline plot) or a pantser (prefer to run with an idea)?

I will occasionally plot. I do a lot of research, mostly online. But, ultimately, I am a pantser. I’ve already been surprised where the story goes, because I often don’t see where the characters want to take me until we’re on the journey there.

 

What book(s) are you currently reading or would you recommend?

I just finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, because I’m a firm believer in reading the book before you see the movie. I just started Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, and I can tell it’s going to be beautiful, but heartbreaking.

 

What is your favorite writing/reading related quote?

I’m a big fan of Anatole France quotes, and there is one in Never Forgotten. So, I will leave you with this one: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream. Not only plan, but also believe.” I have a journal with that quote on it.

 

Tell us 5 random facts about you:

  1.  My family owned a pizza restaurant, which they opened when I was twelve. I haven’t done it in a while, but I used to be able to handtoss pizza dough. I could also make a pizza super fast.
  2.  I have a tattoo just below my collarbone of the Irish Claddagh, which represents love, loyalty and friendship. When my son was a toddler, he used to point to it and say, “Froggy.”
  3.  I am a HUGE Disney and Harry Potter fan. Going to Orlando is the ultimate challenge – which park do I pick? In 2015, we went to Walk Disney World, and in August 2014, we went to Universal Studios.
  4.  I love making my own swag. I make bookmarks, necklaces, bracelets… you name it!
  5.  I have a candle addiction. I love the sight and smell of candles and tend to have too many burning at once. Luckily, I have an understanding husband.

 

Does music influence your writing? If so, can you share a song that inspired your Debut Collective anthology story?

Music absolutely influences my writing. I can’t give you any particular song, but I listened to a lot of Evanescence when I was writing A Rose.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? How has participating in the collective and the anthology project inspired or pushed you creatively?

I find that I am more creative when I can brainstorm ideas and work with others, so my advice is to find your tribe. Find your people. Those you can trust to talk through story lines, read your work and give you HONEST feedback, and those who will cheer you on. Also, read a LOT. Not only to expand your world, but also to support other others.

 

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: http://www.KellyRisser.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyRisser

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kar2b

Tumblr: http://kellyrisser.tumblr.com/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/kar2b

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kar2b

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Kar2b

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Risser/e/B00KOQY9SY/

Any other book links:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KellyRisser/

http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellyrisser

https://www.wattpad.com/user/KellyRisser

Author Spotlight – Michaela Mills

It’s been a while, but we have been hard at work getting everything ready for the anthologies. They are in final formatting. Whew! Now we can catch our breath & focus on more Author Spotlights.

The Debut Collective is a supportive tribe of authors (both published and aspiring), editors, formatters, and cover designers working together to foster a new generation of stories and authors. We will be publishing 5 short story anthologies in June 2016.

We are pleased to share the following interview with contributing author, Michaela Mills.

 

MM photo

I chose this pic of Michaela because um, WOW! Weird Al & Star Wars? What a fun day that had to be.

Please share a little about you and your background.

 

 

My name is Michaela and I’m from the Mile High City in Colorado, named for the fact that it is a mile above sea level and not because of the legal marijuana. 😉 I have two kids, three cats, and an amazing husband who is the best support system I could ever ask for. I’ve always had a love of reading and writing, for as long as I can remember. I’m finally at a place where I want to take that love of writing further, step outside my comfort zone, and see where I can soar!

Please share information on any published or upcoming books.

I have a novel that I am committed to releasing before the end of the year. My goal is actually to have it release on Halloween this year. Eep! I’m putting it in writing here so that you can all hold me accountable to this! Now, someone hold me, and who has the chocolate??

B2_UnderDogs-1Which Debut Collective anthology/anthologies will you be published in?

I am honored to have two stories being published in the Debut Collective: one in the Underdog anthology and one in the Love Against All Odds anthology.

Share a brief teaser or logline for your story/stories.

Underdog: The Geek. The Queen. The Jock. The Goth. The Loner. It’s high school thrown into one room, overseen by The Hard-ass. Sound like a John Hughes movie? This throwback to the beloved movies of the 80s and 90s has a unique and contemporary twist that will leave you wanting more.

Love Against All Odds: It’s hard enough when your parents dislike the boy you’ve fallen for, but what do you do when they don’t even believe he exists? Besides ending up in a psychiatric hospital, that is.

Share an insight into your main character. What made you want to write a story from their perspective?

Underdog: This is a tough one because there really isn’t one main character in this story. It is told from many perspectives in scene shifts. I’ll pick my favorite character and tell you a little about her. Sapphire—also referred to as The Goth—is quite a bit of my own personality, but with much more flare and charisma than I could ever pull off! (LOL) She is feisty, but aware. She’s incredibly misunderstood, despite attempts to make herself clear. But once she gets going… she really communicates quite well. What I love about Sapphire is that she’s not afraid to put people in their place, especially when it is utterly deserved. She’s the kind of feisty that I admire.

B5_AgainstAllOdds-1Love Against All Odds: Julie is struggling between what she knows to be real and what others keep telling her is real. Her sanity comes into play far too often, but she tries to stick to her guns in what she believes to be true. What I loved most about writing from her POV is that she has acquired a bit of sarcasm and snark—whether from her circumstances or just naturally isn’t determined within the story. But you also see quite a bit of her vulnerability and realize that the sarcasm and snark are shields, defenses against feeling so exposed and vulnerable. Her relationship with her mother is something she craves and yet pushes away from due to the fact that her mother refuses to understand what she’s going through. A beta reader of this story remarked that she felt a little too real. I think that’s a great thing!

What genre(s) do you write and what draws you to that genre?

I mostly write in Young Adult fiction, either paranormal or contemporary. I think a large amount of it is that I have kids that are in the age group to read these novels, plus they hearken back to days past when life was easier, though felt so difficult and misunderstood.

Describe a typical writing day, or is there such a thing for you? Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? Write in Scrivener, notebooks, or on cocktail napkins?

I write at least one day a week. I used to write every day for at least 20 minutes, but I have (unfortunately) fallen out of this habit and it’s proved to be a difficult habit to come back to. I’m often found at my local Perkins or Starbucks at least once per week to write for several hours in one block. Sometimes I am incredibly productive, and sometimes I struggle to find the words. I never know how the day will go until I try. One thing I do know is that I am there with my MacBook and my Scrivener app, ready to write!

Are you a plotter (outline plot) or a pantser (prefer to run with an idea)?

Umm… yes? LOL I’ve done both and I see the pros and cons to both. What I’ve found works best for me lately (at least for the last two stories I’ve written) is to have a relatively loose outline, with specific plot points lined out, but pants my way through the actual story to just get it out without feeling confined by a full outline. Then, once it’s done, I go back and analyze the story and do a full poster-board outline and rearrange/cut/add/etc. wherever necessary. So, I guess you could say I’m kind of a hybrid. Though, I will say, some of my best stories have come out of sheer pantsing. 😉

What book(s) are you currently reading or would you recommend?

I am actually currently beta reading a book for the lovely Natasha Hanova, another of the Debut Collective Anthologies authors. It is a very interesting story with characters that drew me in right away. I just wish I had more time to actually read these days! Dear Life: Please give me a day off so I can just read. KTHXBAI! Love, Michaela. 😉

What is your favorite writing/reading related quote?

This isn’t necessarily a writing- or reading-related quote, but it is my favorite quote from a literary work. It has stuck with me since I first read it when I was 13 years old (I won’t say how long ago that was *cough cough*):

If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice? –Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Tell us 5 random facts about you:

  1. I majored in Opera Performance. Music plays a huge role in my life, from creating it to listening to it. There’s a song for any/every situation.
  2. I have been a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Municipal Liaison for 8 years now. I LOVE the program, especially the Young Writers’ Program, and feel everyone should give it a try at least once in their life. The key, though, is to come to write-ins, which is why I kind of kill myself every November to make sure I personally host at least 3 write-ins every week.
  3. I LOVE cats. Big cats, small cats, snuggly cats, mean cats, furry cats, hairless cats… doesn’t matter. **purr** And they love me. In fact, one of my cats gave birth to her kittens on my stomach, under the covers, while I was sleeping one night. True fact! It was the sweetest—and grossest—thing ever.
  4. I am actually horribly introverted—I just fake being extroverted really well. Sometimes I push myself too much and become obnoxious (so sorry, guys… if I reach that point, just smack me—or just tell me LOL).
  5. I became a widow at the young age of 24. I got married again about 3 years later to my current (amazing) husband. My husband was my late husband’s manager, but we were all friends before he died. We keep my late husband a part of our life together, including having pictures of him around the house and the main diamond in my wedding set came from my original wedding set. It means so much to me to have a husband who is supportive in every way.

Does music influence your writing? If so, can you share a song that inspired your Debut Collective anthology story?

Absolutely!!! I always have music on when I’m writing. Sometimes it’s based on the scene I’m writing, sometimes it’s based on the book/style I’m writing, and sometimes it’s just random whatever iTunes tosses at me. As far as a song that inspired my stories…

Underdog: I’m not sure there’s a single song that really inspired this one. The one I recall listening to the most, though, was Cochise by Audioslave.

Love Against All Odds: There were two songs on repeat while writing this story, although the entire album that the two songs appear on was also listened to quite a bit. The two songs are Chameleon Boy and A Quiet Mind. Both are by the band Blue October. The album, History For Sale, is the third album release of the band, released back in 2003. If I’m being fully honest, Blue October is the band that picks me up when I’m down, keeps me going when I’m struggling, and has in many times helped me find purpose. If you’ve never heard of them, might I please take this opportunity to recommend you give them a listen-to? While I enjoy their main radio hits, there are many other songs that are so much better. In fact, I’ve put together a Spotify playlist of my favorites, if you’d like to go and take a listen: https://open.spotify.com/user/124765270/playlist/5o75fnNqp0dPBPOoV3s95g

Michaela LogoWhat advice would you give to aspiring writers? How has participating in the collective and the anthology project inspired or pushed you creatively?

First and foremost is to write. It’s what I love about NaNoWriMo—it’s not about if you’re writing the next Harry Potter, it’s about just writing and getting your story out. I believe that every one of us has a story inside us that wants out, but we’re too afraid to actually go there. We become hamstrung by our own inferiority complexes and excuses—we’re too busy, we don’t write well enough to publish, we aren’t sure how to write that perfect plot hook, etc. But you don’t become a master of something by thinking about doing it—you become a master by getting out and doing it… and doing it over and over and over again, learning from mistakes, focusing on things that make us better, etc.

For me, participating in the DCA really pushed me to stick to deadlines, something I’ve been horrible about. And it’s been amazing to write alongside some of these amazing authors that I met at UtopYA (now named Utopia). It really makes you raise the bar to see the talent that you’re writing with!

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website or Blog: http://www.michaelamillswrites.com

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/Mmills.writer

Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/michaela.mills.581

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mmills_writer

Tumblr: http://authormichaelamills.tumblr.com/

 

Thank you for participating, Michaela!

Anthology Pre-Orders for UTOPiA 2016

DC 3d covers - all

We are thrilled the day we’ve work so hard for is almost here! Here’s the link to pre-order copies of all 5 of the Debut Collective Anthologies!

Many of our authors will be attending & signing at UTOPiA. Our full list of authors can be found at: https://thedebutcollective.wordpress.com/our-authors/

Pre-orders are open until May 31st and with limited quantities on hand it really is your best option to insure we have your book(s) available at UTOPiA 2016! Full details & order form here: http://goo.gl/forms/DufQSQdaCs