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Spotlight on Zoe Ambler

Last week author and blogger Zoe Ambler was kind enough to feature an interview with me about my writing and publishing adventures.
This week I’m turning the tables and inviting Zoe into my spotlight too answer some daft questions about her work! I’m hoping this will be the first in a series of posts featuring other writers who have books already out there in the world.
Ready Zoe? First question:

When did you start writing?

I started writing fan-fiction when I was in my early twenties…and then progressed to more detailed stories by way of role-play gaming. When I had no one as a writing partner, I wrote elaborate stories for my characters to flesh them out. I can get quite wordy…>_>

What was your path to publication?

My path to publication was more like trying to trek my way through a jungle or swamp with a machete. Set back after set back. I decided, with a lot of weighing of the pros and cons, to self publish. It’s not as easy as some make it seem. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from them, and with the next book, those mistakes won’t happen!

Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

Out of the authors out there, I’d say Stephen King and Anne Rice. I could really connect with the characters they set out. Now, on the personal side, a great influence was my mother and older sister. NAG NAG NAG…”You need to publish that!” was screeched at me a lot. :D

What was your favourite piece of writing advice?

Never rush things. Too many mistakes can be made. Also, write every day, whether it’s a blog entry, a gaming story, or reaching a word count on a story. If you don’t see fresh entries on my blog for a few days, you can pretty much bet that I’m working on a role play thread/story, or I’m working on my next book.

If you could send one Tweet back in time to your younger self, what would you say? And would you listen?

I’d tell myself “Slow down, you silly ass. Quit rushing.” And no, I probably wouldn’t listen. I’m a rebel like that. :D

What’s the logline for your book?

Vampires, demons, war and voodoo. One little fierce vampire defies all that might redeem her, until finally she meets her match. Not your typical vampire story!

Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

Hmm..not really. I mean, I role play game, that’s a little like a writing circle, but specific groups, no, I know I should. I’m shy around new people, and ooze low self esteem sometimes. I’m working on it!

and finally,

What’s the one word you always type wrong?
‘separate’ I always want to write ‘seperate’. >_<
Thanks for your honesty Zoe! Now, to learn more:
Author Bio:
Zoe Ambler hails from Enterprise, Alabama. She’s 44 years old and broke through into writing by way of role-play gaming, which she still loves to this day.
She has traveled the world, being a ‘military brat’, but always finds her way back home. Her hobbies include sketching, playing violin (badly), collecting oddities and office supplies. Zoe is often found spoiling her fat cat and obsessing over coffee and the coming zombie apocalypse.
Book cover
Zoe’s first book is called “The Road of Darkness”. Here’s what you need to know about it:
The Road of Darkness is the story of Addison. She’s a young Southern Belle in early 1700 Louisiana with a love for Voodoo. She’s a child of privilege, but never really let it go to her head. She was always a little odd.
On an innocent outing, Addison falls prey to a supernatural predator. A vampire. He attacks and turns her, then leaves her to lost and alone with this new hunger for blood. However, unlike most, she embraces this new ‘life’. She finds delight in it. A darkness grows within her.
Like any young vampire left to fend for themselves, she stumbles in her new existence. She meets others here and there, and the world of the paranormal opens up to her.
Due in part to her thrill of bloodlust, she becomes fascinated with war. Soon she is moving from country to country, war to war. Man’s evolution and technology in the art of warfare intrigues her.
Through her time and adventures, she has fleeting bits of both happiness and sorrow. The darkness within her will only allow her so much happiness.
Her link with all things Voodoo brings her into the servitude of the Baron Semedi, demi-god of the Underworld. A deal gone bad. It only serves to deepen that darkness.
Where can you find “The Road of Darkness”?
And where can you find out more about Zoe and what she’s up to?
Best of luck with “The Road of Darkness” Zoe, and I look forward to seeing the sequel soon!

Spotlight: Auther/Playwright Damian Trasler

Damian Trasler:

Honoured to appear on Zoe Ambler’s blog and website today! I’m here all week! Watch out for my return questionnaire appearing soon!

Originally posted on Zoe Ambler - Author:

We welcome our first playwright this week! Exciting for me!

Dim reads

Welcome Damian Trasler!

We’re going to get my silly questions out of the way before digging into the good meat of things!!!

10 Questions, Zoe style…
1. What is your writing process?
I sit at the keyboard and then make coffee. Then I sit at the keyboard and drink coffee. Then I look at the internet and drink coffee. At some point, usually while one of my kids has required me to go and sit in a cold ice rink for an hour, I write the words that are pounding round my head and then feel ridiculously pleased with myself. Sometimes those words are a play script that I send to my publisher, www,

2. What do you read for pleasure?
I love Science Fiction, and am a particular fan of John Scalzi, but any well-written book is good. I…

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This is Blue Monday?

The Terry Fox statue at Simon Fraser University BC. When you think you're struggling with an overwhelming task, read about Terry Fox and find a little perspective there. (The scarf and hat are later additions to the statue, but I like to think they show people care.)

The Terry Fox statue at Simon Fraser University BC. When you think you’re struggling with an overwhelming task, read about Terry Fox and find a little perspective there.
(The scarf and hat are later additions to the statue, but I like to think they show people care.)

My wife told me about Blue Monday a few years ago after hearing about it on the radio. It’s generally reckoned as the third Monday in January, the point where people’s resolutions have flagged and the Christmas euphoria has passed, and the Winter seems to have set in forever. The bright lights of Christmas are behind, the bright days of Spring are too far ahead, and your soul is buried in work, and gloom and misery.

This is what I told myself when I realised how cynical and negative I felt about this coming week. It’s the last week of January, and this month has been quite a success. I completed a long-standing play, dashed off a sketch, planned at least one more one act and finally started the re-write of my part of the new panto script for TLC. The kids have turned around their issues at school (for the most part) and we’ve begun the internal remodelling of the house with a truly Herculean effort that needed a rental van to get all the raw materials back from Home Depot. I’m even helping to clear space by digitising our old scrapbooks and photo albums, for Pete’s sake. All of this I know, and yet I was whining to myself about the need to achieve things and how impossible it seemed.

So here’s your positive message for the day : forget affirming energy flowing from the spirit of the universe, forget orienting your chakras to absorb the Chi flowing from your crystals. Just close your eyes for a second and say “This too shall pass.” It’s Blue Monday, it’s a blip on the calendar and better days are on their way.

Flash Fantasy Number 2: Non-Epic tales of other lands


Lomaeus lounged in the throne, using a fragment of ermine robe to clean the blood from Fangor, his serrated broadsword. The owner of both robe and blood had been dragged away several hours ago and handed over to a roaring crowd, who cheerfully dismembered the corpse. Lomaeus had no idea what happened to the pieces, nor any inclination to find out.

Sword clean, he heaved himself out of the throne to re-sheathe it, then strolled down the massive central aisle of the throne room until he reached a fireplace. He threw the bloodied rag into the flames. His stomach rumbled.

“DEEPS!” he roared. When no reply was forthcoming, he roared the name again, so loud that the echoes rolled for a full minute. Soon the scarred face of his second in command appeared at the entrance to the throne room. Lomaeus fumed during the five minutes it took the other man to stride the length of the room and meet him. Deeps bowed.

“My King.”

Lomaeus flapped a hand at him, secretly rather pleased.

“You don’t need to do that, Deeps. Unless there are people watching.”

Deeps straightened again.

“Of course. What was it you wanted?”

For a moment, Lomaeus thought how much better that question would have sounded if it ended in “Sire?”, but his stomach rumbled again.

“Food, Deeps. I’m famished! Think I missed lunch today… You know, when I was liberating a kingdom and dispatching a foul tyrant.”

Deeps nodded impassively.

“I remember, sir.”

Despite his hunger, Lomaeus couldn’t help but feel there was a note of reproof in his Lieutenant’s words. Well, he was king now, wasn’t he? Absolute ruler, at least. Liberator. That should be worth a cheese sandwich of anyone’s money…

“You couldn’t round up some decent scoff, could you Deeps?”

He was alarmed at the pleading tone in his voice, but decided that a correction would only draw attention to it.

Deeps shrugged.

“The kitchen staff have run off. They were slaves, and you announced that the death of the tyrant had freed all slaves. They all left right then.”

He looked up at Deeps.

“I don’t suppose you could…?”

Deeps raised an eyebrow that was bisected by an old sword cut.

“I’m supervising the burial troops, sir. And the distribution of the treasure. There was a good deal of looting and fighting until I stepped in there.”

“Well, good, that was the right… Sorry, hang on, DISTRIBUTION of the treasure? The treasure of the palace, as such?”

Deeps looked surprised.

“Well, yes sir, as per your orders sir.”

Lomaeus frowned, trying to remember giving any such order.

“I told you to hand out the fabulous treasure of the tyrant?”

“Not me directly sir. But you have said a number of times during the campaign that when the palace walls were broken down, the slaves would be freed and the wealth of the palace returned to the citizens, sir. They were being a bit zealous and undemocratic in their attempts to follow your orders, as it were, so I regulated things a bit. Made sure no one hogged all the good stuff.”

Lomaeus trudged back towards the throne, urgently feeling the need to sit down. Of course the treasure belonged to the citizens, that was obvious. And yes, he had said about freeing the slaves, because that was what you did, wasn’t it? But it would have been really, really nice to have freed the slaves and still had dinner, and maybe a chance to wallow in the treasure rooms for a while. He had seen the distribution of the wealth as more, you know, something he did himself. Magnanimously. Bit by bit. Endowing new buildings and things. Maybe the odd statue of…of…well, alright, of himself. But he was the liberator, wasn’t he? It was thanks to him that the bloody peasants were free of their shackles and able to bugger off home with armfulls of his bloody treasure, while he had to make his own bloody sandwiches.

“Will that be all, sir?”

Deeps’ voice echoed through the hall, as he hadn’t followed Lomaeus back to the throne. Would that be all? It was quite enough, Lomaeus thought. He waved the man away, then noticed another figure strutting down the aisle of the throne room. This bloody place is too big. I want a nice room with a door I can shut, thought Lomaeus. And a kitchen just off to one side.

The messenger huffed to a halt and threw himself flat on the floor in front of the throne.

“I bear tidings for the Great King Lomaeus, Liberator of Slaves and Giver of Wealth.”

Lomaeus grinned, frowned and growled at the messenger’s words.

“Get up, get up, man! What tidings?”

The messenger struggled to his feet and spoke, still averting his eyes.

“Sire, the peasants are flooding into the city from the surrounding countryside. Your army burned the fields around the capital to starve out the Tyrant, and now there is no food for the people. They are choking every gate, and there is panic in the centre of the city as people try to hoard the remaining food. Stores have been ransacked, Sire.”

Before the man had finished speaking, a second messenger was prostrate on the floor in front of Lomaeus. This man didn’t even get through his greeting before Lomaeus prompted him for his message.

“Sire, the Archmages of Westermount present their greetings and congratulations on your victory. They are concerned, however, that the slave trade between the city and their Magedom will be threatened by your determination to free the slaves here. They seek assurances that this is not the case, and to that end have dispatched a wing of Winter Dragyns to the South Wall.”

When the messenger had finished, the only sound in the immense room was the grinding of Lomaeus’ teeth and the slapping footfalls of a third messenger. Seeing the look on the Liberator’s face, and the way his fingers worked at the grip of his mighty sword, the new messenger gulped, skipped the formal greetings and ploughed straight into his message.

“Sire, several of the escaping…I mean, the liberated slaves took revenge upon their former masters. Fighting has broken out in some areas of the city between former slaves and masters, as well as treasure looters and food hoarders. Some of the former slaves that were leaving by the South Gate were eaten by Winter Dragyns, but then the starving peasants from the outer kingdom attacked the Dragyns, killing one and wounding two. The others retreated and the peasants are roasting the beast outside the walls. A goodly number of the food hoarders are said to be heading that way now. Also, a second wing of Winter Dragyns has been seen approaching from the West.”

All three messengers cowered in fear of Lomaeus’ response. He struck a kingly pose upon the throne, apparently deep in thought, then held out a gracious hand.

“Friends, give me leave to think on this. I shall send for you directly with orders that will set all arights. This day has seen a mighty victory, it shall not also see the dissolution of this mighty city. Be brave, my friends, and give me your patience.”

They exited with many bows and profuse thanks and blessings. Lomaeus smiled wisely and kindly until his cheeks hurt. Once the hall was empty again, he stood and walked behind the throne. Just before he had been run through, the Tyrant had been scrabbling back….here! There was a concealed lever behind the throne, opening a secret door. Whistling a merry tune, Lomaeus entered the dark tunnel. He didn’t know what was beyond the doorway, but the Tyrant had thought it a better option than facing a well-armed opponent, and Lomaeus was willing to bet he’d find a neat escape route, maybe some treasure and, possibly, some decent food.

The closing of the secret door made no sound in the suddenly empty throne room.

Working on the workplace

The outgoing Check Out Desk

The outgoing Check Out Desk

In my other life, where I interact with real people, I work in a library. It’s a brilliant job for a bibliophile, since you can borrow excellent books all the time at no cost (provided I return them before the due date or renew them online or by phone. What, you thought I wouldn’t pay fines?)

Libraries are an old idea (the library of Alexandria was constructed in the 3rd century BC and lasted until 30 BC), but there’s a reason they’re still around today. They provide access to knowledge, access to people that will help you find the way to ask the right question, collections of information that weren’t available in one place until the advent of the internet, and they have music and movies too. There’s also the crucial point that libraries provide free access to the internet for people who can’t afford their own computer or connection, or are away from home. They provide vital cultural information for new immigrants, and study materials for students of all ages.

The library I work at has an eye on the future. Things change, and it’s never smart to continue doing things the old way just “because that’s the way it’s always been done”. Over the next six weeks, we’re installing four new self-check out stations, allowing patrons to check out their own books. Why? Well, for one thing, that’s twice as many stations as currently exist, so lines will be cut down. There’s greater privacy for patrons too, since they don’t have to hand their books over to a clerk like me to check it out. We’ve improved the tagging system for better security and easier tracking.

Some people won’t like it. You can’t please all the people all the time (hey, that’s catchy…) Some people will hate it forever, and some will come to love it. That’s fine. We’ll have more staff over on the other desk, the improved customer service area, and we’ll be happy to manually check out your books there if you would prefer that. This isn’t a dastardly scheme to make patrons miserable.

In the meantime, I and my fellow workers are clearing back the library materials so that the contractors can get to work. We’re still pulling the books and dvds that you request by phone or online, and we’re still checking in the books that you drop off in the outside book drops or other branches. We’re still here, still working.

The DVD and CD shelves look ominously bare - because they're going to be replaced with better ones that hold the full collection.

The DVD and CD shelves look ominously bare – because they’re going to be replaced with better ones that hold the full collection.

So, in mid-January we should be cautiously open again – a reduced service while the finishing touches are put in place. We’ve only closed completely for two days, with access through the Programme Room for people to collect their holds or make renewals, or even check out the Speed Reads. We know it’s inconvenient, that many people love the library as a work space or study area, but this is an investment in the future. The library needs to stay relevant so that these peripheral benefits remain available into the future.

After NaNoWriMo

Not a winner

November did not seem to last very long. With my brilliant plan in place, I only had to find fifteen sessions to write my complete story. not fifteen days, just fifteen writing sessions. I was so confident in what I had prepared, that I didn’t even start on the first day.

The initial sessions were easy, reaching my quota of words and completing each chapter with time to spare for household chores. But a strange thing happened as time went by: I slowed down. It took longer to complete each chapter, and by the time I had reached the 30,000 word mark, I was struggling to stay focused.
Ordinarily, I would put it down to story fatigue, to being tired of figuring out this story as I went along , but I had already done all the heavy lifting in this story: I had an outline of the whole thing and a detailed outline for each chapter. All I had to do was expand that outline into the real thing.

Since I hadn’t been writing every day, I hit this wall around the 21st/22nd of November. I still had 20,000 words to write, and yet I was writing less for each chapter and getting it down slower and slower. I whined about it on social media, and appealed for help, but of course the only real answer was to sit down and get on with it.

By the last few days of November it became clear that I would finish the story by the deadline of the 30th, but I would not reach the NaNoWriMo word goal of 50,000 words. There simply wasn’t enough story to tell, and I wasn’t going to resort to padding just for an electronic certificate. The trial had been to see if the new method I was experimenting with would help me write more in each session and complete a project in a shorter time. The results are simple: Yes.

On average I wrote around 3,000 words in an hour and a half each session. I wrote a novella totaling over 47,000 words in less than a month, when the first e-book in this series (about the same size) took almost a year to complete.

It’s proved to me that planning a project out in advance is a time saver, and a more efficient way to work, which is great because I have ambitious plans for the coming year – 4 one act plays and 2 full length plays, along with at least 20 sketches. There’s also the fact that this book has ended on a cliffhanger that suggest a very exciting third- and final – Eddie and the Kingdom story.

Though I don’t get the certificate, the t-shirt or the commemorative mug, I’m content. I got the book I wanted, and the results I hoped for. I have a new way fo working, and that should be more rewarding than any certificate.

Eddie and the Kingdom” will be on sale at a reduced price until book 2 – “Murder in the Kingdom” goes on sale. After a new cover design and a lot of editing and beta reading. Volunteers for either task, sign up in the comments section.

What’s in a name?

Hello, my name is.....

Hello, my name is…..

At work the other day we were talking about unusual child names. It came up because a co-worker had met someone whose child was named “Absidy”. I said it sounded like a lovely name.

“It’s spelled “A-B-C-D”…” she said.

Absidy. Right.

I filed away the name, not because I was planning to write the adventures of Abcd anytime soon, but because I have real trouble picking names for characters in my fiction. Absidy would be a welcome change from the Rogers, Brians, Susans and Sarahs that usually populate my plays. In fact, I have such trouble picking names that I once wrote a short play where no one else refers to anyone by name. For the record, they were called Simeon, Colophon, Astrid, Bobo and Tabor, but no one in the audience ever knew.

But for regular writing, you only need pick a name that suits your story. If your tale is set in the Western Hemisphere anytime after 1940, Roger and Brian and company will do just fine. If you’re populating a space station, you can probably still get away with it. But if you’re writing historical fiction, or about aliens or the denizens of the Fantasyverse, then pick carefully*.

For example, I once wrote a good deal of a story about Lyan the Barbarian Wanderer, before realising that everyone would read his name as “Lion”, not lee-arn. I was reading it that way in my head, but it wasn’t the logical pronunciation. Douglas Adams once revealed that the character “Slartibartfast” began life with a different name, one that was very funny written down, but incredibly rude and offensive when spoken out loud. Since he was writing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” for radio at the time, the name had to change. And no respectable playwright should ever forget the disaster resulting from naming a character “Fanny”. Another character is concerned about Fanny’s sick friend and asks “Has the doctor seen her, Fanny?” There is no amount of emphasis that will rescue that line.

Whatever name you choose, make sure it’s spelled consistently throughout the book/script. If you are writing a script and your character name gets abbreviated by friends, don’t use that abbreviation to identify the character unless you have done so from the beginning, or you get something that looks like this:

DONALD:     Hey, Champ, what’s up?

MICHAEL:    Not much, Donnie, you?

DONNIE:       I was going down to the beach, join me?

CHAMP:         No time, gotta have my toes waxed.

Other things to watch out for are more to do with dialogue and whether or not it sounds natural. People don’t really use names very often in conversation (If they do, odds are they’ve just met someone and they’re using the name frequently to cement it in memory. It’s a good technique, but it sounds creepy when you’re on the other end of it.) The second major faux pas is something I  know my friend Lucy V Hay would clench her teeth over. It’s a favourite of soaps and it goes something like this:

DAVE gets up and heads to the door. As he reaches it, Delores speaks.

DELORES:     Dave?

DAVE turns back.

DAVE:            Yeah?

DELORES:    Thanks.

People do not do this.

What’s the worst name you’ve ever come across in a story? Clive Barker wrote one where a main character was called Hapexamendios, and the Ringworld books feature “Speaker to Animals” and Halrloprillalar Hotrufan. Can you do worse?

*If, at any point, you find one of your character names has an apostrophe in it, close down your computer, have a little lie down, then get up and find a new career.