I Get Zodiacal and Go Rogue with Paranormal Romance Author T.L. McCallan

Tamara. The “T” in the T.L. stands for Tamara, like marinara sauce. You know when I first met Tamara? Of course, I started out embarrassing myself. (He did [TL]) I was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, I was at a table, and in walks this smokin’ hot blonde (Aw, shucks) who sits down in this cool dress. (It was.) Before I know it, I say, “That dress has a fabulous neckline.” Well, it did. And it wasn’t about the cleavage. (There was no cleavage…it was a halter neckline that went up to my ears, for crying out loud…MEN!) Okay, maybe a little, but not for long because Tamara is a force of nature. (Only when I’m drinking or writing) She could be one of my daughters. (Wha?!) And if you know my daughters, that is saying something. (Okay) She went rogue and published a book last summer and she is rockin’ the house right. (I totally am.)

A little about the book here. Tamara, insert a short blurb about the book here. Just your normal, short synopsis.

The Eighth House is a steamy, action-packed, paranormal romance which revolves around several of the twelve houses (signs) of the Zodiac. Specifically, The Eighth House focuses on the sign of Scorpio. And in the world of astrology, the Scorpions, both male and female, rule the baby makers, which means, if they’re attracted to someone, they want to get them horizontal…and in a bad way.
Anyway, Nash Graffias is a womanizer. But it’s not his fault—he’s a Scorpio, and an Elemental, (not to mention, a man). Wherever he goes, he projects a current of erotically charged thoughts…thoughts that lure and trap any woman within a ten-foot radius. In self-imposed exile for betraying his fellow Scorpions, he is addicted to the energy of a water Elemental he cannot have.
The day he meets Rousseau, a hot Leon Elemental, things get steamy. She’s strong, she’s fearless, and she’s a redhead. (And who doesn’t love a hot, fearless, redhead?) From the moment he meets her, he senses the fire within her, but can he resist the call of his addiction to another? Furthermore, exiled Elementals are hunting…hunting for souls. Can he protect her? Can he protect her soul? But more importantly, can he find the strength to let go of his?
Each novel in the Elemental Series is loosely based on one of the twelve signs of the zodiac and the four elements with which each is associated. (fire, water, earth and air).

So Tamara and I talked for nearly an hour. (Because you wouldn’t stop talking.) My time, it is so very precious, but I gave it up to bask in the glory that is Tamara McCallan. (Oh, Lord.) This is what we talked about.

Aaron: Okay, The Eighth House is not the first book you wrote. The Twelfth House is the first book, which is actually going to be the second in the series. Is this sounding like a math problem? If The Eighth House was being read by an attorney in Chicago, traveling by train to Detroit…enough of that. (I’m sorry…what? You lost me at attorney.) Why did you go out with The Eighth House and not the Twelfth?

Tamara: Well, if I’m being honest, I thought my “starter novel” (The Twelfth House) sucked bad enough to strip the heat tiles off the Space Shuttle so I shelved it indefinitely. And I don’t think I’m in the minority with respect to writing a practice novel. Sometimes, you just have to write a 90,000 word work-o’-crap in order to prime the literary pump. You know, in the hopes that when the words finally do run clear, you actually have something people don’t want to nail-gun to the base of a tree, and then blow up with a cherry bomb or two.

What? You don’t do that with books you dislike?

So, The Twelfth House, after MUCH revision is being released at the end of May. But I may, just for the hell of it, nail-gun it to a tree and blow it up because explosives are just cool. Of course, that means I’ll have to buy a new laptop.

Aaron: You found Beta Readers from your audience. How did that work? Did you troll the local methadone clinics?

Tamara: No, but I did skulk around the local elementary school and may or may not have been seen casing a Catholic church or two. And in my defense, that arrest outside of that naval base in San Diego was a complete misunderstanding. (I should be cleared of all charges.)

Kidding. I’ve never been arrested.

But, yes, two of my beta readers were (are) fans of my work. One is a 3rd grade school teacher in Nebraska and the other, a Senior Chief in the Navy currently stationed in San Diego. They emailed me after they read The Eighth House and expressed how much they enjoyed the story. On a whim, I asked them if they’d noticed any issues with it. They were kind enough, at my request, to send me their thoughts. And that’s one of the benefits of e-publishing, because within 24 hours, I’d fixed the issues and had a cleaner, happier novel for my customers’ reading enjoyment.

Oh, and if any of you are considering this beta-reader option, in order to avoid enlisting psychopaths, shell out that $12.95 for a complete criminal history check. Totally worth it.

Aaron: How has the fan email flowing into your account helped you? Hindered you?

Tamara: Define, “flowing.”

Most of my contacts with fans are via that little known social media site called Facebook. I have a lot of Facebook friend fans who have almost instant access to me. Not that I’m really on Facebook all the time.

Why are you laughing?


Anyway, their interest helps me market the novel because they ask questions about it and I love when they want to know more, like: What’s up with Calypso and Athan? What’s their story? And will Night have his own novel? This makes me giddy and it affords me the opportunity to let them know that The Twelfth House will be released at the end of May. It also allows me to tell them a little about it like: it’s more fantastical, a little longer, and damn if it doesn’t have some REALLY hot sex in it…hotter, even, than The Eighth House.

So the contact I have with fans via Facebook and email is actually a big help. Word of mouth, as you already know, is one of the best forms of advertising. And just to give you an idea how great it is, I ran a free promo at the beginning of March. In just 4 days, I gave away almost 1,300 novels. Most were here in the States, but 134 of them landed in Great Britain, 4 in Denmark, and 1 somewhere in south-central Europe. I utilized my Facebook and email contacts to fan the flames and after a day or so of stalking my friends, family, and fans, and asking for their help in spreading the word, the promo took on a life of its own and became a huge success, ultimately reaching Amazon Best Seller rank #420 free in the Kindle store. (Up from #269,712)

Aaron: You thought, originally, your book would be for women. Chicks. XX’s. Can I say chick? (Yes) XX chromosomes is prolly okay, only I can’t add another X. No way. (Why?) Then it would be XXX. (Sweet!) But when we talked, you said you were surprised that dudes have been picking up your book. Has that changed how you are writing other books in the series?

Tamara: That’s true. I did think my main readership would be women between the ages of 30 and 50. It is, after all, a romance, and a paranormal romance at that. I mean, hell, why would a dude be interested in reading a girly novel?

Why? Because it appears that it is not a girly novel.

I discovered this when I ran the free promo on Amazon. It seems that dudes love free things. (shocker) And when they read the novel, I began receiving emails. Most said they went into the novel assuming it was a chick read because it had been recommended by a female and was touted as a romance. But much to their surprise, they came out the back side of it wanting to kick some ass, get laid, and buy firearms. (Not always in that order, but I got the picture.)

So yeah, men love the novel. Trust me. I am just as shocked about that as you are. But when it comes to dudes, I love dudes. And the dudes in my life know how much I love them. Since I can remember, I have associated better with XY’s than XX’s so it seemed inevitable that I’d write strong male characters that XY’s could easily relate to. It also helps that I’ve spent most of my adult working life in male-dominated professions. I was a law enforcement officer for just under a decade as well as a field risk manager in the powerline and utility construction industry for several years. Consequently, those experiences and subsequent relationships defined my writing style…a style that males seem to like.

As for whether I’ll change the way I’m writing the remaining books in the series, I don’t intend to. In fact, because of the outpouring of male interest, it’s sort of solidified and validated my approach for the remainder of the novels in The Elemental Series, half of which will read from primarily a male POV.

Aaron: You did a cover swap in April. One cover for XX’s. One for XY’s. How did that work? Were you the cover model? Can I be the next cover model?

Tamara: Again, the beauty of e-publishing. I changed the cover from a hot, half-naked guy, to a hot, half-naked chick in order to placate the “masses”. Meaning, all the men who wrote me asking: What does Rousseau look like? Even though I described her rather vividly in Chapter 2, we all know that men are highly visual. They like pictures. And that is how April’s cover swap promo was born.

And no, I was not the cover model. I bought the rights to a female model’s photo and while I can’t order her around or make her clean my house, she is mine to use at literary will for 250,000 copies. After that, I need to renegotiate my contract with her. When I do, she is totally cleaning my house and weeding my garden. But for now, she’s packed away and once again, the cover sports the half-naked hot guy.

As for the sales? They really didn’t change much, and I have no idea if males or females were behind the purchases that did occur. I will say that most of the sales came from Nebraska. (Wha?!)

And yes, Mr. Ritchey, you can be my next cover model, but you’ll have to let down your hair in order to cover your nipples. My work is a XX ½, after all.

Aaron: What is your zodiac sign, and if you could swap, what zodiac sign would you swap out for? For example, I’m a freakin’ Libra. Yeah, a scale, always caught up in the drama and indecision. (True) I’d swap out for Sagittarius and I’d have washboard abs and I’d totally be this athlete, ladies man, afraid of nothing. That was my brother. Dang Sagittariuses. Sagittariusi?

Tamara: Ha! You men! Always wantin’ to know a gal’s sign. Well, if you must know, I am a Pisces. (February 20 – March 20) We are the dreamers of the zodiac. We’re sensitive, imaginative, compassionate and supposedly ultra-popular. I haven’t noticed the popular part yet, though. Maybe that happens later in life. Like just before we die and people are suddenly swarming our hospital room. Maybe that’s when.

But hey, don’t let that all that sparkly stuff about us fool ya. We have our downsides, too. It’s seems we’re also gullible, temperamental, and prone to escapism through self-medication. It’s true. And it explains why I will never have a full wine rack.

And If I could swap zodiac signs, I’d totally be a Leo. Why? Because they have great hair, and they’re bad-asses. Plus, they’re a fire sign and it would be so cool to be a hottie all the time.

Aaron: You are one of the new breed of warrior writers, e-publishing and working it. What three tips would you have for anyone who wants to pioneer out on their own and sell it like it’s Amway?

Tamara: Tip #1 – Don’t compare anything you hope to sell to Amway.

Tip #2 – If you expect to write a book, throw it up on Amazon and become an overnight best seller, you’re hittin’ the pipe. Whether e-published or traditionally published, becoming even the slightest bit successful is a lot of work. Marketing and networking become your top priority and frankly, it is time consuming and at times, exhausting, but it is a necessary part of this business of being an author.

Tip #3 – Hold your head high when people say, “Oh, you’re not a “real” published author because you’re “only” e-published.” (I love when people give me an opening like this.) Because to that, you can say, “I’m sorry? I don’t believe I understand what you mean. I just received a royalty check that says otherwise. Not sure where you’re getting your information. Perhaps you should check your facts.”

And then have them call me. I’d be happy to set them straight.

Look, if you wrote a book and people are paying you real money for it, you are a published author. Period.

Aaron: Last question, and this is about a topic I love dearly. Fear. Terror. Despair. At your very first writer’s conference, where we met, you almost walked out. What made you stay? Are you glad you did?

Tamara: For clarity, I didn’t almost walk out after I met you. (Though, sometimes I wonder…) On Day One, I almost didn’t make it to the registration table at all because I truly believed I was out of my league. I mean, there I was, surrounded by gobs of people who’d actually finished their novels, had agents, and were offering their literary wares for sale…for real money! Not to mention, I have an irrational phobia about walking into places where I don’t know anyone, especially if I have to walk through large crowds where people may or may not be staring at me. (They aren’t.) To circumvent this ridiculous fear, I was supposed to be accompanied by an author friend of mine. At the last minute, she called and said she couldn’t make it. The tipping point? I had dipped into my retirement fund to pay for the conference and I just couldn’t stomach seeing that money go to waste. So, I picked up my nametag, my XXXL swag bag, (Remember how HUGE they were?) and proceeded to find someone to latch on to and then unintentionally stalk for the next two days. (Fellow author, Betsy Dornbusch).

Am I glad I stayed? Well, this year will be my fourth RMFW conference, so yeah, I am glad I stayed. Each year, I attend with the hope that after two and a half days, I will leave with a tolerable hangover, new friends, and more great tools to help me become a better writer. But it’s interesting, because every year I almost don’t make it to the registration table. So this year, as I walk through the lobby and force my feet to move in the general direction of the volunteers sitting between me and that coveted name tag, you might hear me whispering to myself. What am I saying?

Suck it up, pick up your swag, become a stalker. Suck it up, pick up your swag, become a stalker. Suck it up, pick up your…

Hey, don’t judge. It’s my method. Where’s Betsy?

Aaron: Thank you, Tamara, you warrior–woman you! And yes, where is Betsy? Inquiring minds and all that. Thanks again!


Tamara on Facebook
On twitter
T.L. McCallan’s website
Tamara’s Amazon author page
Buy The Eighth House on Amazon

Heavenly Fridays: The Angels of the 2012 Pikes Peak Writers Conference

As many of you know, I wrote a book about angels. Well, not really. I mean, my angels aren’t your typical winged (two syllables, please) creatures that come down from heaven underneath the watchful eye of some deity. Nope. My angels are real, yo. Like street.

So I know a thing or two about angels. At The 2012 Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I got to soar among the angels.

If angels are divine beings who watch over and guide us poor human schmucks, well, then, here is a list of angels who are doing God’s work because ain’t no more schmucky group of humans than writers. Oh, we are a wretched sort and we need as much love, encouragement, and donuts as we can get. Thanks to Laura Hayden, Bonnie Mandeville, Chris Mandeville, Todd Fahnestock, Pam McCutcheon, Bill May, Cathy Dilts, Julia Allen, Jennifer LaPointe, Mandy Houk, Mandy McKenzie, and Jodi Anderson for all the hours they spent, the sorrow, the tears, the joy, thank you so much for giving so many angels a place to roost.

Or can angels roost? My daughter asked the difference between a fairy and an angel. I told her it was generally a question of hypocrisy, theology, and dandelion milk. So what is the difference between a muse and an angel? Ask Bree Ervin because she is both. A muse, an angel, a writer, a publicist, an explosion of a woman. I am so glad to know her.

Let me pitch you real quick. High concept. Vampire Angel. Yeah, you got it. Julia Allen. Vampire Angel. Full manuscript please.

Aaron Ritchey, Julia Allen, phone

Everyone knows that angels are messengers from the gods, er God, er god, er Gods. And fiction writers are messengers as well. Congrats to Chris Devlin, Andrea Stein, and Lawdon for doing so well in the contests. Andrea Stein won in romance! I room with her at Pikes Peak. Yes, that woman knows all about romance. Cue porn music…brown chicken, brown cow. And Chris Devlin! She is my Girl Friday and her book is about Catholic School Alchemy. Didn’t wanna be pitched to? Too late. And yeah, full manuscript please. Props to my girl. And Lawdon? He’s like the Mary Tyler Moore of writers. He’s gonna make it after all.

It’s been said that God takes care of drunks, dogs, and babies. I’d add fiction writers to that list. Eve Morton, awesome. Betsy Dornbusch. Awesome. Terry Banker. Awesome. Angels of the bar! Angels of my heart! I signed their books, and no, Betsy, I wrote books, not boobs. Eve Morton has a fantastic screenplay about clones, Betsy Dornbusch’s first chapter of Archive of Fire rocks, and Terry Banker has a scene that has totally captured my twisted imagination. Angels all.

I opened the gates of heaven to my friend Becky Hodgkins, though I wasn’t there to escort her through. However, Gary Jonas was there, but wait, I don’t wanna get all Gary Jonas on you, but it was great seeing my friend Becky at a writers conference, hawking her wares. Shaking her moneymaker. Dang, I went all Gary Jonas. I’ll stop.

Contrary to some people’s opinion, agents are not demons. They are humans with the souls of demons. Kidding. No, literary agents are the angels of the fiction world, bringing stories out of the rabble and setting them upon the bookshelf of the gods. Unless you e-pub, then you can put your own stories on that lofty shelf. Mark Coker challenged me to really evaluate my life and he followed his vision to the heavens. God bless you, Mark Coker, wherever you are. And for those angelic agents, Kristin Nelson, Taylor Martindale, Weronika Janczuk, may you find the books that move the world. I would imagine that is the best part of your job.

I got to talk to Rob Killam. He’s writing a zombie book. Hmm, high concept, zombie angels. Okay, I’ll stop. Great seeing him again.

And I met John K. Patterson. With a name like that, well, total writer. John was my guardian angel at the conference, always around when I needed a smile. Thank you, John. May angels ride shotgun on your ride through this hard, old world.

After his keynote, who can argue the divinity of Donald Maass? Well, except for Mark Coker, no one. I watched Donald Maass stay up all night talking to writers. He’s a warrior.

I sat next to Jennifer Gottschalk and Jesse Kuiken in the Thursday session. Both writers. Both teachers. Both angels. Judith ‘Judy’ Robbins Rose? Angel with a cool book. Karen Emanuelson? Beowulf angel. J.T. Evans? Guy has angels working a wiki for his books, and those angels are working overtime.

Of course, angels serve God, I mean, like really serve, like sycophants. Angels are the ultimate YES beings. And do you know who I serve? Deb Courtney, Sue Mitchell, and Alicia Howie. I spent a lazy afternoon in the bar with those goddesses, and I’m a better man for it. I expect great things from all three. Someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be Deb Courtney’s pool boy, and Sue Mitchell’s peon, and Alicia Howie’s chauffeur. Next year, I’ll drive her out in the stretch limo from the literary mecca that is Danville, Illinois. Word.

Zack Bertha is possessed by a demon. That demon’s name? Awesomeness.

I watched Carol Berg talk a young author down off the ledge. She’s angelic.

Ian Thomas Healy fluttered down from heaven on wings of hair. We chatted. Hair wings, gotta get me a pair.

DeAnna Knippling moderated me. It was a thankless job. But lord, do I need moderating. My daughter is reading one of your middle grade books.  And loving DeAnna and her stories!

Ron Cree means angel in ancient Honduran Sanskrit. Look it up.

Do you know who is seated at the right hand of the Father? Well, it’s a critique group that meets on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday nights in Colorado Springs. Anita Romero, R. Powl Smith, Court Pearman, and a whole host of other angels hold court, write fiction, and prepare for the apocalypse. If I am anywhere near Colorado Springs on a Thursday night, I am going to that critique group. I can feel their power from here. Raw angelic power. And the dying monkeys, I can smell the dying monkeys. Or is it mind control? PTSD? I’ll stop. But dude, if my name was Court Pearman, I’d believe in God again.

I don’t know if J.A. Kazimer or Kirk Farber believe in God, but I sat with them and we signed books. I am a lucky, lucky man. You don’t have to believe in God to be a writer. But it helps.

At the conference, they put me in the back with all the rabble-rousers, and let me tell you, ain’t no rabble-rousers like librarian rabble-rousers. Kara Seal, Leah Parker, and LaTonya Frank sat with me and we killed it. That hotel is still shaking. Librarians are angels with a penchant for hushing. It’s cliché, but I used the word “penchant” so that excuses everything.

Yes, in the back of the ballroom, I hung out with other angels with dirty faces. I got to sit with Ed Raetz, a guy named Sander, and of course, I got to talk to Jene Jackson about her life and world. And Christina, Joanne, and Morgan Leigh, whom I am so drawn to. You can’t tell me there’s no God.

So yes, I am blessed, and yes, Virginia, there are angels. I know I missed people in this long, rambling list of divinities, but heaven can rage at me next year, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, 2013. Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad, the seas and what fills them resound!

I Get Sweaty, Scared, and a Little Demony with author Betsy Dornbusch

I gotta say, this latest interview had me sleeplessly walking the alleys and streets of the rougher parts of west Littleton. Westside, yo.  I was going to interview Betsy Dornbusch.  She’s not just a writer, she’s a veteran writer.  I’d seen her at writer’s conferences and she is ferocious.  But in a good way.  She’s tough, she’s smart, she has savvy.  And she writes, under a pseudonym–gulp–erotica.  Would interviewing an erotic writer tarnish my YA persona?  Could I keep my interview PG-13?  Would there be nudity?  Would I have to show some skin?  I’m okay with that last one, but really, would time and space break apart?

I am a small man, easily frightened.  Betsy was wonderful.  She has two, count ‘em, two new books out, with sequels in the works.  She’s one of those lifelong writers, completing her first novel at the tender age of 13.  When I was 13, I could hardly spell.  I was a deaf-mute at 13.  A fragile child, prone to spells of…well, never you mind about my spells. But enough about me.

From her Amazon bio.  Betsy Dornbusch’s most recent book is Sentinel: Archive of Fire, the first of her urban fantasy series featuring demons rebelling against Asmodai, King of Hell. Her short fiction has appeared in many print and online venues, including the anthology Deadly by the Dozen and, under the pen name Ainsley, Sexy Briefs; Tasty Little Tails. Also writing as Ainsley, she has a space “operotica” series, Salt Road Saga, the first of which is  Lost Prince. The second book in that series, Battle Royal, will be released in late 2012. She’s an editor with the ezine Electric Spec and is the sole proprietor of Sex Scenes at Starbucks where you can believe most of what she writes. In her free time, she snowboards and air jams at punk rock concerts.

So two books on tap.


Lost Prince  Okay.  Sci-fi/space opera/erotica.  I’m thinking Han Solo and Leia on Endor, the celebration fires burning low, the Emperor dead.  A kiss, a caress, a lingering, smoldering look.

And Sentinel: Archive of Fire, which has awesome cover art and hot twin demon guys, and is not, I repeat, not erotica.  It’s straight up Urban Fantasy, yo.




So we’re talking books, business, and babes.  Well, prolly not babes, but you never know.  I’m a married spud!  I’m a married spud!  I started out quoting Toy Story.  That should keep this exchange innocent.

Aaron: I’ll start off clean.  Do you prefer Times New Roman, or Courier New?  Please explain and keep your answer safe, innocent, and virginal.

Betsy: Actually, I like to rock it Bookman Oldstyle. Sounds like a smooth American malt whiskey, doesn’t it?  Oh, so much for innocent…

Aaron: Okay, frak the clean questions.  Let’s get dirrrty.  So the Lost Prince has sex, and the Sentinel: Archive of Fire, not so much sex.  But I’m assuming there is a love scene in Archive of Fire.  I mean, even Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer tried to seduce her werewolf boyfriend.  When you aren’t writing erotica, and you have a love scene, do you write the scene graphically first, then go back and take out key words and phrases, like tumescent (kidding), or do you write it with the shades drawn first time around?  Put another way, do you raunch it up and then cut back, or leave out the raunch in the very first draft?

Betsy: There is a love scene in Archive of Fire. I’d say it’s gone the other direction in that it’s gained some, er, detail since I started writing erotica. Everyone has a love interest in the Sentinel series but most of “it” goes on behind closed doors. That said, if I think showing the action in a love scene is integral to the plot, then I show it. That’s key in writing erotica…in Lost Prince the sex shows a progression in the relationship. (Actually, in most proper erotica, the story revolves around the sex).  Also, I write for adults primarily, though when I was twelve or so I’d launched into reading the adult market. Of course when I was twelve there was no real YA market, and very few middle grades with cool girl protags.

Aaron: If you wrote a crossover novel where the characters of Lost Prince fought the characters of Archive of Fire, who would win?  Ah, the seductions.  The intrigues.  The drama.  The bloodshed.  How would it all play out?  I mean, laser swords and blasters versus magic, fangs, and fear, well, is it an even match?  Any illicit love affairs?

Betsy: Funny that you say that, since I actually play-write with a friend in an online world in which characters from Archive of Fire and her book all mingle. They’ve gotten married, had kids (gulp), fight, and yes, sometimes have illicit love affairs. We also get to indulge ourselves with things like having them sit down and eat leisurely meals together, which is like the kiss of death in today’s quick-paced fiction market. It’s a free range playzone for us to develop characters. Saxen, a character who figures prominently in  AOF’s sequel, Archive of Earth, (see what I’m doing there…?) was invented entirely in this world.

As for tech vs magic… Aidan doesn’t have magic. He is a Seer. He can read minds and predict the future, though erratically because he’s immature and untrained. But those things make for a pretty handy skillset in a fight. The demons in Sentinel fight other demons… They are rebelling against Asmodai, a king in Hell who has 72 legions.  Sentinel is one of those legions, but they rebelled to protect humankind. They are trained to fight from a young age, have first rate modern weaponry, plus in the second book Aidan learns to wield balefire (think napalm from Hell).

While Katriel and Aric are a formidable fighting team, as regular old humans they’re ultimately much easier to kill than the demidemons who are immortal and tough as nails. I think the demons might win, especially given Kaelin is a crack shot. He’d say there are few problems a well-placed bullet can’t solve. Actually, he wouldn’t say it out loud, but he’d think it. And Aidan would read his mind and spout off about it. Then Kaelin would get mad and beat him up again…sigh. Sibling rivalry is so tiresome. The book starts out with them having an argument.

Aaron: If you met me, and thought I was brilliant (big if there, I know), and I was looking for a venue for my short stories, how would you pitch Electric Spec to me?  If anyone skipped your bio, those wretches, Electric Spec is an ezine where you work as an editor.  How would you entice me to submit to you?  If I were brilliant.  Big if.

Betsy: The magazine stands on its own merit and I invite anyone to check it out. As for pitching to writers, each of our issues gets thousands of hits, so you’ll be read. But mostly, we’ve been around six years and we know our shi—um, we know our business. We edit every story and our slush pile is growing with every issue and is very competitive. Electric Spec aside, writers have traditionally cut their publishing teeth on short stories. It does several things: hones your writing, keeps you current with releases—(last year I had 3 short stories, I think, and two books, this year…not so much). Short story sales show agents and editors you’re serious and career-minded. Also novelists are frequently asked to be in anthologies so writing them is a good skill to cultivate. I was asked to be in a free anthology last year and had to write a story in two days for it. The anthology has since been downloaded over 10,000 times in the past few months, resulting in an upsurge in sales for me. I wouldn’t have been able to bang out a story so quick if I hadn’t spent a solid year writing and selling short stories only. Short stories are something I want to get back into writing, but they are excruciating for me for some reason. And being a pureblooded creative, I’m a procrastinator, natch. Hence, Facebook and the blogging scene. Even books are easier to write cuz they can meander. Finishing books is hard.

Aaron: You’ve been blogging since 2004.  In blog time, that is roughly 3.5 million years.  Right around the start of Facebook (2004) and well before Twitter (2006).  Did it take you long to jump into the new social media, or did you know, right away, yes, this is the future?

Betsy: I think I knew. I tend to jump in (I got on gmail back in the day, and Google+ more recently, as soon as I could wrangle an invite and yes, I’m terribly behind on adding folks to my circles, sorry!)  I think G+ is the wave for the truly creative among us, especially the technically creative. (There, a prediction.) Facebook can’t scale and hasn’t for a long time…most people have no idea how much they’re missing from their internet based feeds. I got on Facebook in Aught-6 or 7 I think, and found it to be a huge timesuck so I dropped my account. I reestablished an account in… 09, I think? It’s still a timesuck and it alternately annoys and amuses me. Like this morning someone got waaay too serious about something political I posted. Annoying. But then people say the funniest things. I’m on Twitter but more as a “post-through” as it’s set up to hit my other social media. I rarely read Twitter. It consists of nearly all links. Yawn. It does come in handy at the huge cons to figure out where the parties are though! I use social media (SM, soc-med, so-me…what are the cool kids calling it these days?) to establish myself as a brand. Social media does not sell books. It doesn’t have that kind of reach. G+ is set up differently with the circles and may yet achieve the reach traditional media has; I think that might be one of the goals, knowing Google.

The demise of blogging saddens me. Not that blogs are going away, there are still more badly written blogs than awful self-published Kindle titles, but I miss the in-depth discussions on blogs. Facebook doesn’t compare and anyone who says it does never really blogged in the heyday of it, when friendships were formed. I made one of my bffs online through blogging, back in the day. But it does amuse me that you think I started so long ago. I have tech friends who were blogging almost 20 years ago!

Aaron: Speaking of social media, did you ever make a mistake that you thought might be devastating to your writing career? The reason why I ask is that I’m terrified of breaking internet etiquette rules.  No, seriously, terrified.  See the intro. Scared, little man here.

Betsy: I always cringe when I get into hotheaded political discussions (and I often remove them from Facebook).  I was anon for a number of years at Sex Scenes, which lent me a certain freedom. We all were anon, and it was all free-love and free-hate all the time, man. When I started selling stories, my names started getting linked up in the googles (Sex Scenes at Starbucks and my real name). Then my picture was put online in a Locus spread so I was well and truly blown. Now I’m pretty out there, figuratively and literally, and I don’t make apologies for it. People who don’t share liberal social politics wouldn’t like my stuff anyway.

That said, I am very conscious I have to manage a public persona (to a small public but still). Some of that persona is a little out-there; I can push the limits online and I find it enhances my popularity. And I’m pretty liberal socially. If you aren’t you probably wouldn’t like my stuff so much anyway. I try not to worry about it too much.

Aaron: Do you think writing and the desire to write is a curse, or a blessing?  A burden, or a blessing?  A wretched task we are enslaved to do every day whether we want to or not, or a blessing?  Not that I have any strong opinions.  Just curious about what other, happier writers might think.

Betsy: It’s both a disease-riddled, spouse-annoying, compulsion on par with digging our own graves and a holy, God-given redemptive gift. I find both chains and wings on the empty page. But mostly for me, writing is a license to be weird. The worst part is the demons keeping me up at night. I’m not big on sleep anyway so I get a little territorial about my shut-eye. The demons could care less. They just barge right in. Typical demons.

Aaron: I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, obsessively.  Okay, well, maybe not obsessively, but I’ve been streaming it off Netflix for 72 hours straight.  Is that obsessive?  Anyway, in Archive of Fire, are your demons like the demons coming out of the Hellmouth on Buffy?  If you haven’t watched the show, hum for a little bit, while I shuffle my index cards.  Or, explain how demons work in the world of Archive of Fire.  Are they spirits that take corporeal form?  Or are they physical beings that come into our world from hell?  Or a mix of both?

Betsy: They are demidemons, half demon, half human, though our twins’ family have been bred through the ages to be almost pure blooded demon. Mostly they look like super-hot, tall humans with eyes that get a little glowy sometimes. Oh, and they are very bitey. During sex, during fights, their inner animal comes out.

Aaron: What rule of internet etiquette pisses you off the most when someone breaks it?  So I can avoid such a gaff at all costs.

Betsy: When some guy I don’t know (usually a guy…well, most of the time) IMs me on Facebook for the express purpose to hit on me, and especially when they deny it when I call them on it. I’m ten years older than I’m told I look and I’ve been married for twenty years. Don’t waste your time.

Aaron: Speaking of internet etiquette, I got busted for saying I’d want to date Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Now, I meant, if I were in high school, and I was that age, and not married, but still, the emails I got.  I shudder.  If you were in the same situation as Aidan and Kaelin from Archive of Fire, which one would you go for?  Or would you go for both of them?  Naughty, it’s so naughty, both of them.  I try and delete, but my fingers keep re-typing.

Betsy: Why is that naughty? I’m pretty much about free love between consenting adults, however it pans out. I’m especially for it in fiction, and if I may climb up on a soap box for a second and direct readers to a blog post about PayPal’s recent efforts at censorship.

As for your question: Two for the price of one, man.

Actually, I don’t know how well Aidan and I would get along. He often annoys the hell out of me. Kaelin would probably feel more comfortable with me because he likes people who talk a lot so he doesn’t have to. In that same vein, there has been some discussion as to which twin is on the cover of the book. I know what I think but we’ll see what readers say.

Aaron: What is an image that comes to mind when thinking about Lost Prince?  For example, when I think of The Empire Strikes Back, the central image I have is Han Solo being frozen in the carbonite.  “I love you.”  “I know.”  And me, crying in the audience.  What pops into your head when you think about Lost Prince?  Uh oh, um, well, within reason.  I mean, don’t get too graphic.  This is me, blushing.  Garsh.  If it’s all too difficult, um, what image do you think of when you think of The Empire Strikes Back?

Betsy: I think it’s when Katriel and Aric are fighting together in her little Salt transport skip that’s retrofitted with guns and some crappy battle tech. First: dogfights in space! Who doesn’t love that? Also, she’s the pilot and he’s the gunner and they’re perfectly in sync. For them it’s almost like sex… maybe it brings them closer than sex, actually. Their real sex is kind of…combative.

Aaron: Last question.  Huge Hollywood producer calls you up, and says ,”Betsy, babe, we wanna make one of your novels into a movie, big movie, and you get to decide which one?”  Would you go with Lost Prince, or Archive of Fire? Which would you choose and why would you choose it?  And would you tell the guy not to call you babe?

Betsy: The Sentinel Series, hands down. I think the arc is interesting and original and the characters are compelling. I’ve been told often it would make great film. Lost Prince is too much a purposeful riff on Star Wars, of which I’m a huge fan. I wrote Lost Prince in homage to that story which gave me so much joy as a kid. (17 times in the theater that summer, baby, most in my school.)  While I’m doling out homage, I’d give a shout out to THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton. That book greatly informs my work as well. When I put Aidan and Kaelin and their cousins Marc and Jason together in a house on the beach, it’s me trying to relive Ponyboy and Co. all over again. Each of the four books has an artistic theme from pop or old culture. In Archive of Fire it is a painting called “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey.” (google it if you like—like Kaelin says, it’s creepy).

In Archive of Earth it’s Lost in Space. (the boys are watching old episodes on their phones and refer to it a lot). The Outsiders will get its turn too.

Thanks for having me. Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

I can only hope to stay gold if I continue to be inspired by such fabulous people as Betsy.  Thanks again, Betsy, for the interview.  In the words of Johnny Beels, “It was spicy good.”

Thanks again.