Sunday, July 28, 2013

Special Guest Post with Michelle Lowery Combs

I am very pleased to have a guest blogger today! I'd like to welcome Michelle Lowery Combs. Michelle's novel Heir to the Lamp is available in trade paperback and ebook via, and other online retailers. You can also find Heir to the Lamp on Goodreads.

What are you working on right now?

The second installment in the Genie Chronicles is called Solomon’s Bell, and I’m working hard to finish that.  I’m getting requests daily from readers of Heir to the Lamp for more about Ginn and her adventures.

What's your pre-writing ritual?

When I’m writing at home I prefer to do so in a room that’s been tidied—clutter distracts me and before I know it I’m cleaning instead of getting words onto the page.

What is one of the most surprising/interesting things you've discovered while doing research for a story?

I was truly amazed to discover how many fantasy/folklore/fairytale creatures can trace their origins to genies, or djinnis—as they’re called in some of the oldest traditions.  Angels, demons, ghouls, sprites, faeries, and even leprechauns are thought by some to be genies under a different name.

Tell me about your favorite story that you've published. What inspired it, and what does it mean to you?

In 2012 I won first place in a national writing contest for the category of First Chapter in a Novel for a coming-of-age story set in 1960’s Alabama called Daddy’s Girl.  The story was inspired by my mother and her siblings’ real life experiences after the sudden death of their father the summer of 1968.

The loss of my grandfather was very difficult for my 28 year-old grandmother, suddenly on her own with three young children to support and all the limitations that existed for uneducated women in the South, but she would be shepherded through this most difficult time in all their lives by an African American housekeeper named Queen Esther Crump that did ever-so-much-more than keep house.

Daddy’s Girl is a fictionalized account of a pivotal time in the lives of several members of my family and revisits an interesting time in the history of Alabama: the last year of the Civil Rights Movement.  It can be found in the 2012 edition of

You can have lunch with any writer, living or dead. Who would it be, and why?

My editor, Eileen Wiedbrauk. Eileen is also a writer -- I enjoyed her retelling of Rumpelstiltskin in Garbage to Gold Spindle very much. Living so far from one another, she in Michigan and I in Alabama, we've never had the opportunity to meet in person. I think it would be neat to sit across a table from her and listen to her talk about her own writing projects. I bet she's got some fantastic ideas and concepts!

What's one of the best novels and/or short stories you've read recently?

I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane and LOVING it!  It’s steeped in myth and old magic and I adore Gaiman’s style.  I’ve listened to so many of his audio books that I can practically hear him reading the novel in his delicious accent.

Writing is a sedentary endeavor. What do you do to stay healthy and active?

I coach little league soccer in the spring and fall. I live in a rural area with lots of winding roads I enjoy walking. Fellow WWP writer Susan Abel Sullivan happens to be local to me and a water Zumba fitness instructor. I've recently promised to join her classes.


Michelle Lowery Combs is an award-winning writer and book blogger living in rural Alabama with her husband, one cat, and too many children to count. She spends her spare time commanding armies of basketball and soccer munchkins for the Parks & Recreation departments of two cities. When not in the presence of throngs of toddlers, tweens and teens, Michelle can be found neglecting her roots and dreaming up the next best seller. She is a member of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave, Jacksonville State University’s Writers’ Club and her local Aspiring Authors group. You can find her online at MichelleLoweryCombs.comFacebook, Twitter @miclowery77Google+, and on her blog Through the Wormhole: Confessions of a Bookworm.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name

J.K. Rowling was recently ousted as the author behind a crime novel, The Cuckoo's Calling. According to the article I linked, the book had sold about 1,500 copies before the news broke. Now it's sold a heck of a lot more. So why would Rowling--or anybody--use a pen name?

I can't speak for Rowling, but I can guess at why she used a pen name. Maybe she thought people would say, "Oh, she's that fantasy writer, she can't write a crime novel. She writes for kids, not adults." Or maybe she wanted to see how her new novel would stand on its own. The novel received favorable reviews from critics before her identity went public. That has to feel good. Her work was judged for its own merit, without the preconceptions her name would have brought with it.

I haven't used a pen name yet. I was too excited to see my name on the cover of a novel, and associated with short stories. But, I plan on using a pen name for various reasons, depending on the books/stories I release in the future.

For one thing, I might not want people who know me to realize what I've published. I don't feel any shame about writing what I write, but some people might look upon certain genres much less favorably than others, and I'd rather avoid any potential fallout.

Then there's a matter of marketing. People might read my fantasy novel and pick up another series, expecting fantasy, only to find it's horror or science fiction or a thriller or a romance. I don't want fans to feel disappointed or duped.

There's also the matter that when readers look at certain genres, they expect certain types of names associated with them. For example, I've never seen a man's name on a romance novel, despite the fact that many romance writers are men. They either write under pen names, or they use initials. I'd love to see a man's name boldly splashed across the front cover of a bodice ripper.

On the other side of the matter, I don't see women's names on the covers of thrillers or hard science fiction as often as I'd like. Again, women write in these genres, but they choose pen names. I wonder, is it the audience that really has these preconceived ideas of who "can" or "should" write certain genres, or does the expectation lie with the marketing departments, or is it some combination of both?

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Need for Speed

I've been privy to some interesting conversations lately on writing fast versus writing slow. I don't think either way is inherently correct, but I'll share some of my experiences.

In the past year, it's gotten so that I need to write fast in order to write well. Last summer I started several short stories and finished none. I was fiddling around, taking my time, and my inner editor was sneering and laughing and pointing at the words and saying, "You call this art? What drivel!" Yeah, he's a real jerk sometimes. That's why I don't feel bad when I lock him in the dungeon for days at a time and play "It's a Small World" on endless loop.

So for NaNoWriMo last year, I ended up writing several short stories. I had a month to get fifty thousand words down, so I had no time to hem and haw over the words. Every day I just had to go, go, go. And it worked. I finished several stories and shut that inner editor up.

If I write too slow--if I think over the words and the story's direction too much--then I freeze up. The faster I go, the fewer changes I typically end up making later, and I finish what I started. This has become true for fiction and non-fiction. Even when it comes to this blog, I do better when I sit down and write something out quickly at the last minute. I never used to be a procrastinator, really....

There are as many different ways to write as there are writers. Some feel the need for speed; others linger over the words, choosing them carefully before moving on. What sort are you?