Author Interviews, Essays, Guest Blog, Misc, Stories

A Clash of Clans ~ An Excerpt From Author Dyane Forde: Guest Post

Author and blogger TA Miles has graciously chosen to feature an excerpt of my debut book, The Purple Morrow on her blog. The book is scheduled to be released within the next few weeks, so please check out the post and see what I’ve been slaving over for the last few years…yes, years. 🙂 And leave me a note! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

A Clash of Clans ~ An Excerpt From Author Dyane Forde: Guest Post

 

Author Interviews, Essays, Misc

Writer Chicks Talk Character and Inspiration

So, as promised, Writer Chicks returns with more from my discussion with author, blogger and micro-publisher TA Miles. What follows is a compilation of some of the larger themes pulled from our 8 page chat, where we touch on subjects such as where we find inspiration for our stories and characters and just what these characters mean to us…

We pick up the discussion on the subject of sequels…

 TA: Sequels in books tend to gain depth the way movie sequels don’t, lol. I think they do come more alive simply for the fact that they (the characters) and their circumstances become more familiar. They begin sharing more and in greater depth. And this isn’t just between you and them, but among themselves as well.

The inspiration for my stories seems to always be by chance circumstances. I’ll happen to be listening to a piece of music that has someone show me something in vivid detail, or I’ll look at a picture, or be out walking and I’ll hear someone’s voice or their personality will manifest. One aspect of the Bhast series was inspired by a racing video game. One of the characters showed up while I was playing it and told me that they’re an athlete. For Immarcescible, it took meeting several characters all sharing various stories (some of them on Bhast) for me to finally meet the person who all of the stories are essentially revolving around. So I have folders of pieces from different times and places, and they kind of worked me backward to the starting point. My personal interests…the things I believe draws these characters to me lie strongly in spiritualism, history, and culture along with things metaphysical/paranormal. You’ll find if you explore that ghosts, spirits, angels, and various entities appear frequently and even in worlds not Earth there’s always a lot of demonstration/presence of culture. I think the last and probably more important thing to them is my fascination with and willingness to understand psychology…not in just clinical terms, but sociological. I learn a lot through them and through myself, and through people in general. I love to observe and ponder humanity.

And now I get to ask you…what do you think draws your characters to you? 🙂

 Me: In terms of the characters…I think they are built or manifested based on the story that needs to be told. When I was thinking about the themes for The Purple Morrow, I really wanted to write about redemption and how a person comes to that place, if they can. Somehow I knew the main character had to be a man even though I had never really written from that POV before. I had no idea what he looked like really or much about him until I started to write. Then he became a hunter, was from the Wolf Clan which was a part of a Mother Clan and a sister to two other Clans. Sort of like connect the dots. In regards to Kelen, the other MC, I sort of had a ‘vision’. I was walking home from the bus thinking about what my book needed next and I knew I wanted to highlight a particular Rover to create a main villain. Then Kelen’s whole introductory scene popped into my head. I was soooo excited to write him! To this day people tell me he is one of their favorite characters. Secondary characters seem to crop up when they are needed and take form based on what the story is telling me. The more I write and the more I get to know this particular story the easier it becomes to hear each character’s voice. So, I write intuitively often starting from the beginning and writing right through to end, just making it up as I go along based on what feels right at the moment. 🙂 

TA: I remember hearing about how you met Kelen, which was one of the things that let me know what style writer you are. The style you and I go with I call an organic style. We just let things grow naturally. That isn’t to say that the other end of the spectrum is ‘processed’. I consider the planners and outline writers to be landscapers or architects. They envision something in advance and then build it to suit that vision. And, of course, there are many styles that would fall in between. It’s all personal and ultimately doesn’t matter because the end result is someone’s piece of art. I don’t know why people think writing is any different than any other art form. You have an inspiration or a vision, you develop a style, and you work it.

I love to start at the beginning and go, not knowing the outcome. It’s so much more engaging for me. I’m a naturally curious person and I love to solve puzzles and explore. 🙂 Currently, we have a significant mystery stacking up on us in the sequel to Blood Lilies. I have no idea what they’re going to do about it.  

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Me: Yes! The mystery! I’m taking a pause from my dragon story because even though I know what follows in terms of a loose outline, I don’t know how to get there yet. So I’m waiting for the story to work itself out. One day I’ll sit at the computer bursting with ideas and I’ll continue it. It’s really cool to run into someone like you who understands and can relate to the process that works for me. I suspected from the time we met on the sci-fi group that was the case. 🙂 We should start a group for ‘touchy-feely’ writers lol 

 TA: Lol! We could be our own therapy group. I had similar suspicions when we met. It’s great to stumble into a kindred spirit. 🙂 I know what you mean with having to step away for a while sometimes. It’s why I have several WIPs. Sometimes the characters in one world or story just need to take a break. I’ll go spend time with other people for a while and get back to them later. The last thing I want to do is force them. And some of them get irritated with that kind of pressure anyway. They’ll tell me when they’re ready…or when I’m ready to comprehend what they have to say in some instances. And, of course, when I’ve been away from one group of characters for a while and get back to them I get all sappy and ‘I’ve missed you guys!’….which is a good feeling and provides the energy to get writing.

Me: Oh! That’s cool. You do get it! I remember reading an article where the writer listed the pros and cons of not writing multiple WIPs at the same time, concluding that only writing one at a time was best. But not for me. I get burned out when all I do is work on the same thing for a year or more at a time, which is a truth I just discovered. Now that I have multiple things going on, granted it takes longer to finish a project, but I feel more interested and stimulated about writing. Plus, it’s fun to dabble in different styles and formats instead if just books…

What I loved about this discussion and why I chose to post it, is that it highlights the fact that everyone finds passion and inspiration in different ways and that it’s okay! It’s great to meet others who may have similar or even different ideas and be able to share on these subjects. Not just about the technical stuff but also about the heart of the craft we so love. After that discussion, I felt so energized and inspired, and even now, months later, I still feel that way. 

So what about you, Reader? Have any thoughts or comments you’d like to share? How do you go about finding your characters or stories to pen? How do they develop from your initial idea to the full-fledged final version? Who do you talk to about writing and what do you usually discuss?  

For those who wish to learn more about TA Miles and her work, you can find her at Raventide Books

Essays

Writer Chicks Dish About Writing

I’m posting this because I love to talk about writing! It’s one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place. What follows is an edited version of a discussion I had with fellow writer TA Miles in response to one of my blog posts on critiquing. ‘Edited’ because at 8 pages it’s just too long to post it all! Still, I hope to post the rest at some point because I find the discussions on the other topics, character developmentpublishing and writing in general, to be equally worth sharing. To me, this was one of the most honest and deep conversations I’d had with someone on the subject, to the point where months later I still think about it. So here it is! (It might help to click on the link above to read the original post first. Oh, and maybe picture us ladies in a cafe, sipping giant coffees while chatting it up . 🙂 )

 Dyane Forde, authorMe: Hi TA! …Since I’ve been posting about critiquing you’re the first person I’ve come across who has shed a personal and entirely relatable perspective of why they prefer NOT to accept other people’s opinions. I agree that everyone has their own way of doing things and I can’t and won’t judge anyone for how they choose to work. When I came back to writing, I was so lost and fragile in many ways it took the combined effort of sheer determination and a community to get my feet planted straight. What I was expressing above is my appreciation of that experience. I guess what I’m saying to you is that coming from that place of personal experience, I can now see and understand why someone wouldn’t need it. 🙂 And now that I have gained that understanding, I feel as though I have truly communicated. 🙂 Does that make sense? (Thanks so much for sharing, btw) 

T. ATA: It makes perfect sense. 🙂 I respect the fact that you’ve had experiences that have helped you come to your own method and that you choose to share in a positive and constructive light (versus telling everyone what the best method is). In other words, you’re not just doing what everyone has told you is the right and/or only way, and then telling everyone else the same thing (it gets to be a vicious chain). It drives me nuts when people use that ‘serious writer’ line. No one can gauge or understand how serious someone is about their craft without knowing them personally. But anyway…staying on topic…probably one of the main reasons no one hears much from the solitary writers, working alone in their dark places is because…they’re working alone in their dark places, lol. Also whenever we come out and let everyone know we do things differently, we tend to get told we’re not serious about the craft. Thanks for being open to all sides of it.

A great piece of literature can come from anywhere, from anyone. Some of the best stories are told by many voices, as in many voices having contributed to its growth, whether through encouragement, criticism, etc. Conversely, some of the best stories are also told by an isolated voice that projects from a lesser visited place. The variance of humanity is what makes it so fascinating and what keeps it going, and what keeps creativity on the whole fresh and meaningful. 

Me: 🙂 So well put as usual. The thing is that at this point, after having gone through a ‘revival’ of sorts, I have come to a place where I rely less on others than before. I no longer rewrite my drafts a billion times, or second guess every other word. By the end of the chapter or story, I usually know if it’s good or not, and if its not, I know what I need to fix. So perhaps I’ve evolved to a point where you and I aren’t so different after all. 🙂 

TA: Thanks! 🙂 And I think that you and I are not very different at all. In fact, one of the reasons I’m stalking your upcoming book is because I see our similarities, particularly regarding emotion. I could tell before you ever mentioned how emotional you are about writing that you’re an emotional writer. It bleeds into your characters (whom I therefore want to meet). I think that the only times they stumble are the times you second guess them, not because there’s a genuine problem. And for me that’s another reason why I don’t seek input. It would open up the greater possibility to second guess…it would create a clutter and I would be unable to function. But I think our largest difference, which galvanises our similarities, is that when you slipped into your dark place you found a better time having hands to lift you out. I stayed in the darkness and made it my own (I’ve always been especially curious about dark places anyway, lol). Having seen that darkness, you’re stronger, less afraid of it, and regaining that confidence. That ‘darkness’ (since I’m on that metaphor) became a strength for both of us. 🙂 

Me: Yes, I have to agree with your assessment. And you have a point about letting voices get in and mess up your work. It happened to me and totally discouraged me from my first book. I didn’t know who I was as a writer, I had no confidence in my skills and listened to everybody. So I put it aside and wrote Morrow because I couldn’t look at the other one anymore. That is a pitfall of bring critiqued; it’s easy to be swayed if you don’t know who you are. But as I wrote Morrow and asked for crits, I learned to be more discerning about what feedback I did get. Finally, at one point I said, ‘To hell with this! I’m doing what I want.’ And it was pure freedom. I still asked for beta readers but because I was more certain of myself I could field through the comments better. Wolf’s Bane, the sequel, has had the least amount of feedback but I think it’s the strongest book yet. But then again, I worked myself up to being able to write it with less help.

TA: “It’s easy to be swayed if you don’t know who you are.” That is precisely true. That is what has me emerge from the depths to (occasionally) breathe fire at the masses who think they know it all. I can’t stand to watch people and their dreams get beaten down and pinned to the ground before they’ve even begun to discover themselves. When I see that happening…well, first I make sure to get myself mostly in check…and then I let them have it. I’m glad you strengthened yourself against that and decided to do things your way. Feedback is optional on the giving and taking (as you tend to point out when you offer it).

To me, even if it’s considered feedback, if it’s to do with content or characters (the cutting of a character or rearranging your plot or something), really how far can that go? It has the potential to become a mess, because what one person suggests as a weakness another might see as a strength. How do you decide whose suggestion is more or less viable? There’s no such thing as a unanimously agreed audience and that’s why you have to write for you/your characters first, in my opinion.  Also in my opinion, character and content suggestions are not helpful. My answer to ‘I think character A and character E are too alike, lose one of them.’ would always be, ‘Yeah…no. People can be similar in life, and it’s their story. I’m telling it how they want it.’ I also would be wary of putting my work up for that sort of critiquing from people equipped mainly with ‘writing community’ trends and mentality. Definitely, as you said, important to discern just who you’d have critique your story. Of course, if the writer just has misgivings and can’t pin down what it is, someone may help them see what the issue is, but it should be someone familiar with you/your style, who won’t have their checklist of standard ‘do’s and don’ts’ ready just to let you know you’re not perfect.

Me: …It was a tough road and I went through lots of insecure moments trying to find my identity as a writer. But that’s the process I need to go through. In the end I figured out the people I could trust to be real with me with both good and bad comments and tend to stick with them. But you’re right. No one can really tell you how a book should be because they didn’t write it. They don’t know my endgame. I don’t tend to get into discussions about cutting characters and such but I do listen if people say a section was slow or if plot points don’t add up. That’s usually the kind of stuff I’m looking for because it’s easy to miss those things. If people don’t like my style, well that’s personal preference so I don’t pay that too much mind…

Ach, I hate to end it here. There’s so much more good stuff to read! But I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. What would you like to add to the discussion? Join in!

 

Author Interviews

Through the Looking Glass with T.A. Miles: Author Interview

tumblr_lsep9dlLfG1qf6if3o1_500  I’m so excited. For my first author interview, the planets have aligned, resulting in the wonderful T.A. Miles accepting to be my first…victim, er…rather, interviewee. In some ways, I’ve always felt as though I’d found a (writing) kindred spirit in T.A. In chats and discussions, her views on writing and of her writing process always connected with me in a fundamental way so that I always left our chats excited and inspired. So it gives me great pleasure to have her on board with me today, and I hope that you, Reader, come to  know and appreciate her and her work as much as I do.

I invite you to hang around and to slink on down the rabbit hole with us as we explore the marvelous mind of T.A. Miles.

T. A T.A Miles, author, artist, musician, dreamer

1-   Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m an author, an editor, an illustrator, a dreamer, a crazy person, a partner in a life partnership, a lover of animals, and a devourer of music. I have Alice syndrome, which is curiosity to the Nth degree, which  greatly fuels my imagination, my learning, and my randomness. I’m also a very independent person who likes to promote independence in others, especially regarding emotional freedom and creativity. I like to encourage and support others trying to share one of the most delicate and sensitive, and powerful aspects of themselves, which is their creativity. I think sometimes part of the reason I decided to publish independently was to show others that it can be done without remorse.

Some technical details about myself: I’m from the American Midwest, raised for a bit in California. I’m formally educated in music and history, and independently studied in life and the things in life that pique my interest especially, such as languages, spirituality, and culture. I’m married to my best friend and together we’re raising a dachshund and a beagle.

2-   From what I’ve seen, you seem to like to dabble in different forms of expression. Where does writing fit in, and why are you drawn to it? How did you get your start and what keeps you motivated/inspired?

I’m someone who likes to try to do everything. I get inspired by something and then I want to pay tribute to the inspiration or express it in every way imaginable; writing, drawing, music…etc… I’ve been involved in literature, art, and music from a young age. I was frequently brought to the library and checked out books by the stack. I have difficulty sitting still mentally, so I would always have paper with me to draw or write on or I would have a book to read, or something wherever I went.

When I’m reading, my characters are often reading with me or I’m considering how one of my characters might respond to the situation or character I’m reading about. Music really gets my characters going. Visual art pokes and prods along the threshold of my imagination, always stirring something up or inciting reaction from a character. Puzzles and games…video games…  Really, it’s all about the characters. And they’re kept constantly at the front of my mind by everything that catches my interest. In fact, I go so far as to consider that some of the things catching my interest are, in fact, catching theirs and that’s why I noticed it at all. Part of keeping motivated and inspired is to literally carry these people with me everywhere. I never stop thinking about them because writing for me isn’t a hobby or a career even, it’s an all- encompassing passion. It’s such an intrinsic part of my emotional being that to not do it, or to not be thinking of it is not like taking time off of work or stepping away from something fun, it’s like trying to take some time off from breathing. I wasn’t an only child (I have three siblings) and I wasn’t lonely, so I’m not quite sure why I developed this sense of spiritual connection to characters…this habit of regarding characters as people I know across some planar divide, who I must write about…but it was something that formed very naturally and automatically. Maybe having a constant chemical imbalance (I’m bipolar), I’ve been seeking a way to explore the various sides of my emotional being, through the emotions of others (those observed in life, through reading and living, and eventually my characters).

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3-   What forms of writing (short stories, poetry, novels, etc.) and genres do you prefer and why?

I don’t really have a conscious preference. Novels are what usually happen. Typically, I’ll meet a character who has something to say, then they start going and intersect with other characters, who also have things to say. Their threads begin weaving and creating this massive tapestry that spreads and spreads until they’ve covered one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand words. It just never occurs to me to stop them any earlier. That said, I do have some short stories, only they’re not really mine. By that I mean, a character wrote them. (~watches everyone back away slowly~ )

Something about my characters being full-dimensional people is that they have whole lives. I think I’ve written a total of two short stories myself when it was recommended to me that I try to publish via magazines and such. I don’t really like either of them and oddly enough the short that was nearly purchased(but turned out to be too long for the magazine) was one of the stories written by my character. What that let me know is that writing with an agenda in mind or for the sake of writing isn’t my best form. It has to come directly from the characters.

4-   I’ve read books which annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw them across the room. As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What is it that makes you want to stop turning pages?

The weird thing about me and books I want to throw is that I love them. If I’m riled up enough to throw it, the author did a good job. Of course, that’s only if I’m riled up over things the characters have done. If I’m annoyed with the style or the lack of feeling in a book…the lack of people interacting…I tend to just stop reading it and don’t get very worked up about it. Unless I try to make myself finish it, or something continues to bait me into reading further until I just can’t take it anymore.

So, for me a page turner is a book where the characters feel like people, and I feel like I’m seeing and feeling people interact and grow. Honestly, books fraught with intentional symbolism and structure, or any element that was put into the story on purpose tend to not impress me. I can be impressed by the ability of the author to do that, but it’s not really what I’m looking for in a read. Symbolism also tends to get preachy or heavy-handed if it isn’t done just exactly right and typically when an author is thinking about it too deliberately they’re not feeling it(in my opinion). The best messages can be delivered incidentally or by way of something else rather than by deliberate intent. We all relate to different things, so to set out to tell a story about one thing specifically runs the risk of escaping or excluding part of your audience. That doesn’t mean that the author can’t follow the course of things that speak to them the most, but I also believe that the author should learn these things in progress. I believe that characters should be observed and discovered, not made or created. When an author has done the former, I can tell and that’s when I love it.

5-   As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

As I sort of said in the prior ramble, I don’t believe in ‘including’ things deliberately. It’s just not how I write. For me, doing things too deliberately is orchestrating and constructing. In some cases it can lead to processing and packaging. I try to be more raw and organic. Whatever happens, happens. Whoever tells it, tells it. I think, by that philosophy and practice, my greatest strength is in characters. I believe that many of my readers respond to the characters first and foremost, whether they like them or don’t. Even not liking them is positive and precisely what I hope to accomplish; an emotional reaction to the people in the story. Not everyone likes everybody. Successful populations of characters will have people who aren’t unanimously liked or disliked, but who garner a variety of responses and receptions from the readers, just as people do one another in life. So, you will never hear me say that ‘so and so’ was written to be disliked. Even the worst, most destructive antagonist is simply an individual, who happens to be doing destructive and antagonistic things. I’m so sure they have a reason for it. Let’s find out through them and through those around them and affected by them. So, to sum it up, I think my strengths are in conveying people and emotion, and in allowing a natural course.

My weaknesses are in planning and in keeping a story at a reasonable length. I’m not worried about planning, since it doesn’t fit with my style. I don’t know if I’m worried about keeping a story at or under 100,000 words, but there are times when I think it limits my audience. They have to stop and consider whether or not they want to invest that much time, which is a lot to ask of anyone.

6-   How often do you write? Do you hold to the idea that a writer must write every single day?

I write every day; a few hundred to a few thousand words. I do not believe that every writer must write every single day. Everyone works differently. I write because I can’t not write, so writing every day is just part of daily life for me. There was a time in my life where I wrote for 8 to 12 hours straight every single day. This was when I lived alone and didn’t own dogs. People have to develop writing habits that fit their lifestyles and they’re not any greater or less an author for doing it their own way, regardless of how long that has them at their desk.

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7-   Can you tell us about Raventide? What other projects are you working on?

Raventide is the first novel I decided to publish independently. There was no special reason behind it, except it was written and I needed a sacrifice. We (my partner and I) chose Raventide. After the fact, we decided we should have a label. Raventide seemed like as good a name as any and with it being the debut novel, it seemed appropriate. It quickly grew up into a micro publisher. All that really means is that we publish very selectively and not in mass. For now, I’m the only author on the roster, though we do plan to bring in more authors in the near future(as soon as it becomes viable). We branded ourselves as a genre publisher, specifically fantasy and sci-fi with emphasis on sociological and emotional. What we really want is to create a reputation for introducing readers to people, Four (or full)-dimensional characters, we call them; characters who have a physical presence, a mental presence, an emotional presence, and a spiritual presence. These are the characters who you invest your concern in. When they’re upset, you cry with them or want to comfort them, or maybe you want to shake them because they cry too much and you can’t stand to see them being upset all the time. When they laugh, you laugh with them…or you don’t think what happened was funny, so you tell them to shut up or you roll your eyes at their terrible jokes that are kind of endearing anyway. Whatever the case, you’re right there with them.

Raventide Books is on the lookout for these types of authors. We’re also hoping to support other independent artists in whatever ways we can, so Raventide Books will often help promote other authors or musicians, sometimes filmmakers, at random. We’re also running a contest through my blog, The Immarcescible Word. The premise behind it is simply to provide another place for writers to showcase their imaginations and also we hope to eventually have other published authors or independent visual artists donate prizes, which also helps gain them attention.

Apart from the development of the publishing as a business, I’m working on several novels at once. Blood Song, the sequel to Blood Lilies, will be out this fall. Dreamdance, the sequel to Darkside, will be out shortly thereafter. We also have a couple of stand-alones to get ready and the next in an epic fantasy series. That means I have a lot of cover arts to get done as well…and trailers to put together, ugh.

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8-   What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?

The most difficult aspect of writing is time management. The days where I did nothing but write all day long are a thing of the past. Now I have to be involved in life(marriage, hound raising, running a small business…). I have to maximize my time for writing while still getting all of the other things done.

9-   Who are your favourite writers and why?

For a writer to catch my attention as a writer they typically just have to be sincere and humble. If an author is too busy about the ‘business’ of writing or too self-assured that their work is awesome with a side of sauce, I will probably pass on their books. Oddly enough, with independent publishing being an up and coming option, it’s much easier to get an idea of ‘who’ is behind the book than with traditional publishing. While I want to say that’s not important, I can’t deny that I have a better feeling about purchasing and reading a book when I can sense the enthusiasm and spirit behind it.

That said, as a child my favorite authors were Lewis Carroll and John Bellairs. They’re still among my favorites for the balanced innocence and courage in the young protagonists and the elements within the story; Alice’s dealings with nonsense that may have been her own subconscious in the Wonderland stories and the air of mystery and supernatural in the Bellairs books. As an adult, I found a similar spirit to Carroll in Neil Gaiman; Neverwhere in particular. I’ve also read a lot of Poe, whose writing is interesting to me for its exploration of emotional and mental health. I feel that there’s a lot to be read between the lines of Poe as well as stated directly. The only author, other than Bellairs, whose work I’ve bought simply because they wrote it is Paula Volsky. I’m not even certain what it is exactly, but there’s something about her stories and her storytelling style that connects. I feel immersed in her world and involved with her characters.

10-    What advice would you give to new writers?

I’ve said and will continue to say to new writers, write. Hone your skills. Practice, practice, practice. Put emotion into it. It’s the same as learning to play an instrument. Even if you have natural talent, if you don’t practice, you’ll never bring it to its full potential. And when/if it comes to publishing, choose the path that feels right to you, whether traditional or independent and go at it fearlessly. The worst that will happen is someone will tell you you’re writing isn’t good. The best that can happen is that you’ll defy that person’s opinion by continuing to write and ultimately sharing your art however you choose to share it.

11-    How can readers get into contact with you?

Email (tamilessheehan@gmail.com), Twitter (@Jossaryn), Raventide Books directly(raventidebooks.com), G+ (T.A. Miles), pan-dimensional emissary, whatever works. I love to hear from readers, but be warned I’m liable to ramble about characters and you never know when one of the characters might do the talking instead of me.

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T.A. thanks so much for sharing with us today! The more you reveal about yourself and your writing, the more I want to find out. I think I’ll have to book you for a Part 2. 🙂 I also hope that new Readers will look into Raventide Books and The Immarcescible Word to see how they can get involved. Best wishes on all your future endeavours!