Ask an Author

Find out more about the Authors. Click on an author’s name and see what others have asked and how the author answered. Also ask your own question below. It can be about an Author’s writing, their background, their hobbies–whatever you want to know (well somethings may be off-limits).

Judy Opdycke

My ideas always begin with the image of a main character who may come solely from my imagination or who may be a composite of people I’ve observed. As that image becomes a well-rounded character in my mind the story seems to unfold naturally.

Author: Judy Opdycke

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Marlys Collom

Yes, all of my writing is based on my personal experiences.

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My horse was a Tennessee Walker named Tigger.  He lived his life as a show horse before he came to live on our ranch.  I wasn’t interested in showing; endurance riding and trail riding were much more interesting and challenging, to me.  One day my husband Ken and my friend Cindy and I rode to a local horse show.  On a dare I entered one of the competitions, but since I had never attended a horse show before I didn’t know what the protocol was.  Upon entering the show arena I could feel Tigger’s body change its bearing.  He gaited straight to the judges stand, stopped to pay homage to them, then proceeded to do what he was trained to do without any direction from me.  It was a fun experience, but it was the last time in a show arena for us.

We usually rode the trails in our local mountains, the Pacific Crest Trail, on the beaches that allowed horses and rode trails in the local deserts.  We also trailered to the Mammoth  Mountains, Lake Tahoe,  and to Arizona.  Our horses loved their adventures and were game for anything.  My husband’s horse was named Midnight-Dancer, she was also a Tennessee Walker. 

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It was a tough decision.  For some reason I realized that my husband and I would grow older, but I never thought about our horses aging.  They were both filled with vitality and vigor.  The beginning of the end for Tigger was a diagnosis of cancer and Cushing’s Disease.  He endured three surgeries for the cancer and became steadily weaker from the Cushing’s.  A few months after his 30th birthday the Vet declared that it was time.  We had originally planned to bury him on our five acres, but heard about the Wolf Sanctuary in Julian.   Thinking about his cells continuing to live on in the body of a wolf comforted me.

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Inspiration usually hits when I am soaking in a bathtub filled with steaming hot water. I am not able to write on demand. When a memory or an experience moves me with emotion, I feel compelled to write about it.

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I attended a graduate writing class at SDSU with Jay Linthicum and Simon Ortiz as my professors. Jay and his wife, Maya, invited me to join them at a writing community in Majorca for a summer. Family obligations prevented me from going, but it would have been a wonderful experience.

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Michele Ivy Davis

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I was one of those kids in school who loved to write reports (yes, I know, not too many people do). Once computers arrived, it made writing so much easier, but I never thought about a career in writing. At first I wrote mainly because it was fun to do, and it was only later that I decided to try to get my stories published.

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Not at all. I was very quiet and shy in school. Maybe Evangeline is the kind of kid I wished I could be. That’s the fun thing about writing — you can be anybody you want to be.

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I’m sure it did.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s television had not yet come to India, and the radio played Indian music, not music you could sing along to.  Of course there were no computers, smart phones, or digital music either, so we had to amuse ourselves. We played board and cards games, hiked, and read…a lot.  The reading actually helped me learn to write, mostly on a subconscious level, I think–I simply absorbed how a good story is told.

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No, I don’t, although I took a Citizen’s Police Academy course that was open to the public to get familiar with what I was writing about.  For the law enforcement writing, I partner up someone who does have the experience, a retired police lieutenant. It’s important to team up someone who knows the “ins and outs” of an industry when writing about it so everything is accurate.

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Pete Peterson

Nothing other than a good shampoo.

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Many, many writers drink while writing. The alcoholic writer is almost a cliché. My experience in talking with those who had a drinking problem, and then quit drinking, is that they write more lucidly, need to do less revision, plot better, and submit more material after they stop abusing alcohol.

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I’ve never written about my family specifically, or used family members as ‘subjects’ in my stories, except in nonfiction where they look good. However, if my version of the truth causes family consternation or distress, I apologize, but I have to write what I have to write.

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I read a lot in my genre, and for many years I’ve kept a notebook handy where I record observations, ideas, descriptions, snatches of conversation, and other information. Once a month I put these into Evernote. I review these entries regularly. Often a story or a description or fact will suggest a story line or character. This is not my only source of ideas, but it gives me an authentic approach. Another source is to ask, what if. . . the novel I’m working on now started began with the question, what if a wealthy baseball club owner died and his only heirs were his young daughters? Bam. That started the tale.

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I got good advice from an A-list writer early on. He said if you’re serious about being published, you’ll need circulate 10 or 12 stories/articles all the time. I follow this suggestion closely. However, while I was in school and the Marines, I was published by well-known magazines. That was pure luck. I had no idea what I was doing or how.

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Certainly not professionally. I was on the Marine Corps boxing team in the ‘60’s but a shoulder injury ended that fairy tale. I use my Dad’s escapades in writing my fight scene. I was too big of a coward to fight in barrooms. I walked (or ran), instead.

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Write. Submit. Repeat.

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Peter Cruikshank

Yes. Building the world of Athule required that I also create different cultures, religions, societies and other features. The key to a good Fantasy tale is to make it believable. Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” Readers of Fantasy expect the story to be strange, but it must be possible in the realm of the world in which it exists. This means the world must feel real to the reader. They must be able to see the world–hear it, smell it, feel the wind and rain. To accomplish this I spent a great deal of time researching everything I could find on food; clothing; forms of travel; what trees, birds, animals existed for the area and time period; castles and other structures; common occupations; and hundreds of other facts. I incorporated all this, with some minor modifications as I developed my Fantasy world. To enhance this I even try to keep all the words I use, especially in dialogue, to words that originated before 1600. You will never hear one of my characters say ‘Okay’.

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For years all I read was Sci-Fi, but in recent years I have read a lot of Fantasy. I like the big epic stories that traverses three or more books. I also enjoy Alternative History–for instance I read a series once about what it would be like today if the South had won the Civil War. One of my favorites was a real good book called The Burning Mountain that told how the war would have gone in the Pacific if the U.S. had not dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. The story follows several fictional characters, both Japanese and American. The authors built the story line from research they had Japan’s actual plans for defending the homeland and the Allies plan for attacking the Japanese mainland.

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I base the stories on various Medieval lands (England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, and others). I research the myths of these lands for some of the names, but for others I create names from the language that mean something related to the creature. For instance there is an old Welsh name Tesni that means “warmth”. Today it’s pronounced Tesnee.  I named a dragon in the Dragon-Called series Tesne. Another example are creatures that I call Surikats. They resemble large Meerkats, but with human capabilities. The Dutch word for Meerkat is Suricate.

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I’m not sure exactly when I decided to become one. I remember reading books and imagining how the story line could have gone differently and in some cases how I would have written them. This got me thinking, ‘I might actually be able to do this’. Over the years the thought pestered me and I even attempted several novels, but life just got in the way—I didn’t have the persistence or fortitude to make it happen. At some point I think I just had to force myself to sit down and write. There were many times I thought, ‘I can’t do this’, but eventually I did. Then I did it again and again. And finally, after discovering the necessary persistence, I knew I wanted to be an author.

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That’s a tough question. A lot of it depends upon what is going on in my life, how long the book is, and probably one of the most factors is how much I am being bothered by another story. As I wrote the second book in the Dragon-Called series (Betrayal of the Covenant), my mine kept drifting off this character called Rylan, a trainer of dragons, and a sarcastic dragon named Emerald. So in the middle of writing Betrayal, I wrote a smaller (300 page) book entitled The Dragon Whisperer–sending that around to Agents and Publishers at the moment. Regardless, it took me 3 years to publish Betrayal, though I do have to caveat this by stating that my family and moved twice in those three years and I had a cancerous kidney removed.

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Fortunately or Unfortunately–depends upon the day 🙂 Normally I have several stories running through my thoughts. This was the case when I was writing the Second book of the Dragon-Called series, Betrayal of the Covenant. I kept picturing this dragon trainer. A solitary orphan who gets involved with a sarcastic dragon and draws an odd assortment of characters to him as he tries battles a demon to save a girl and a kingdom. So I wrote The Dragon Whisperer, though I am still submitting it to Agents for representation. I’ve started the Third book in the series, but interrupted it and wrote the Novella, Ashes of the Dragon when a female dragon hunter, who was much more than she even knew. Right now I have three other book ideas and a couple of novellas running through my mine, but I’m really trying hard to focus on the Third book. Wish me luck.

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When someone talks to you, I don’t see how you can think of them as anything other than real. I can be watching TV, driving to the grocery store, working on another book, or any other daily activity when I suddenly hear one character or another speaking to me. It wouldn’t be so bad except I tend to have an internal conversation with them as if they were another person. They tell me about scenes they want to be in and how they think it should go, or how they would feel in a specific situation I’m thinking of writing–their emotions, how they might react. Sometimes they comment on another character. I realize that this is just my Muse, Willow, talking to me. But since Willow constantly changes her appearance–sometimes a woman, sometimes an Elfin, and even sometimes a dragon–I doubt if this is a whole lot better.

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I think I’ve always wanted to be one, it just took me a while to figure that out. I got hooked on Sci-Fi as a preteen reading Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land—I believe one of the greatest Sci-Fir writers. Later I became an avid fan of Medieval Fantasy when someone gave me a copy of Lord of the Rings.

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First off I try to write whenever I can, but I’ve found its necessary to get away from writing occasionally to keep the creative juices flowing. At these times I like to play golf—not that I’m very good at it, but at least I keep trying. I think that is the goal of golf. I really enjoy movies—it is how I visualize my own books, so I am excited to see how others have translated stories to the big screen. My wife and I walk 3+ miles nearly every day, and while I’m not always excited about this, I know it’s worth the effort. Unfortunately, I like to eat out as well. Not sure why this is?

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At first I was trying to come up with an idea for switched identities, sort of like The Prince and the Pauper. However, the more I thought about it, just switching identities didn’t seem to provide enough conflict and obstacles for the main characters. That’s when I added the brother and sister aspect to the story. Not only do they have to contend with switching identities, but also the problems associated with pretending to be a different gender. This is somewhat more complicated for Willoe and provides for some rather humorous scenes, yet at the same time is critical to both Willoe’s and Rowyn’s growth.

I also modeled both of them after Emma Stone for their looks and also some of their personality after some of the characters Ms. Stone has portrayed (this more so for Willoe).

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