Foothot Five the First

Frank's Foothot Five

The glamour and allure of the writing life!
Welcome to the first installment of a recurring feature which shall be named Frank's Foothot Five!

Today, I've ambushed -- er, enlisted the generous assistance of fantasy author Elyse Salpeter. Elyse has four novels out, and entries in several anthologies (all available from Amazon, of course). Her latest book, The Hunt for Xanadu, was just released Friday (I had an ARC, because hello, Evil Genius!). I read it, and loved it, and I recommend it!

Here's how the Foothot Five works. I ask the hapless author five questions, which the author answers as quickly as they can. Meanwhile, the bucket fills with scorpions and the counterweight mechanism slowly raises the door to the tiger den. It's all very simple, especially if you live in a mad scientist's abandoned Lair of Evil. Sure, the place is hard to heat, but it came with indoor acid pools and three old Soviet nukes!

Author Elyse Salpeter
That's Elyse above. She's written everything from YA fantasy (The World of Karov, The Ruby Amulet, Flying to the Light, The Sun and the Star) to modern-day thrillers filled with Buddhist mythology (her latest, The Hunt for Xanadu). You can visit her website, follow her on Facebook, or find her Twitter feed here. She maintains a weekly blog, Musings From a Type A Mom, which is always fun to read. Now it's my turn to shut up and let the author speak.
So here they are, the Foothot Five! My questions in bold, replies in plain text. Enjoy!

Frank's Foothot Five

Foot-hot. Adverb, archaic. "On the spot. See also hastily."

1. Let's go back to the beginning. Can you remember the moment when you first realized 'I want to be a writer?' If so, describe the circumstances leading up to that moment. If you can't remember, make something up, because after all you're a writer.

Elyse: I always had an active imagination as a kid and loved to collect things like buttons and stickers, to shells and rocks (yes, my desk was filled). I also loved to draw, but not sweet happy faces and cute little animals. I drew families of fifty kids (and the siblings were all twins, triplets and other multiples) and drew wild pictures of cars and houses, each with fifteen plus levels to them. They had movie theaters, carnivals, zoos and cafeterias. Then I’d draw stores and have floor after floor of different kinds of products ranging from the mundane, pants and shoes, to the more arcane (floors filled with wigs seemed to be a big theme for me as a kid)

<story takes a sad turn here, get out your tissues>  So, to get back to your question: One day I was in my ninth grade honors English class and I wrote an extra credit book report that I was immensely proud of. Instead of simply regurgitating the book, I decided I wanted to conduct it like an interview and I had a news reporter interviewing the main character.

When the teacher, (a bitter old woman who will forever remain nameless and will thankfully never teach a student again), gave it back to me, she wrote a big red zero on the top and told me (loudly, in front of the class) that it was the worst piece of writing she’s ever seen. (this was a creative writing assignment, mind you) She crushed me. Right in front of her I crumpled it up, threw it on the floor and said “I give up.” I stopped writing until college. Then, one day in my freshman year, I had this idea for a book and I remember saying to myself, “Don’t let that horrible lady control your life.” So, I didn’t. I wrote the book and that’s where my writing “life” started. Getting the guts to put the words and ideas finally on paper and not worrying about what other people would think.  
2. What do you find to be the most maddening aspect of being a writer today? With me it's snakes, but that's my fault because my writing desk is inside the cobra exhibit.  Describe your main source of frustration. Feel free to kick it in the shins. 

Elyse: I have a few frustrations. Personally, it’s finding the time to write while managing work and a family. The second is exposure. How to find the right people to read my stories? Third is social media. What aspects of that beast do I concentrate on? There are days I spend hours on social media and I cringe when I look at my WIP’s just sitting there waiting for me to open them up and get to work finishing them.  

3. Every book is a journey. What do you hope your readers experience as they travel with your characters and visit your fictional worlds?

I hope I can let my readers forget about all the stresses they have and for a little while they can disappear into the worlds I create. Now, these are not always happy little ditties where everything is a bed of roses, but I do try to create stories that are interesting and hopefully entertaining (at least they are to me!)  

4. You've just captured a leading New York literary agent in a trip-line net. In the 30 seconds it takes the agent to retrieve their cell phone and summon a SWAT team, pitch any of your books in a single sentence compelling enough to both get a read and have the charges dropped. GO!  

Elyse: I have a brand new idea to pitch to you. The Hunt for Xanadu is about a young girl on a mission to avenge the death of her parents, murdered in their quest to find the mystical land of Xanadu. It’s steeped in Buddhism, has an international flavor and I believe it’s something we’ve not read about in the field before. (I think that was under 30 seconds, but I talk fast – hey, I am a New Yorker!)

5. Every writer has a process by which words get put together. I use foolscap and a tattoo gun. Faulkner used whiskey and a manual typewriter. How do you write? Mac or PC? Word or Scribd? Morning or night? If you have any warm-up rituals (loud music, samba dancing, llama taunting) describe those too.

Elyse: I have an HP Laptop and write in Word. A few months ago my Dell laptop’s motherboard was slowly crashing and I had the big decision to go Mac or PC. After debating, living for days in the Apple store and grilling every employee, then appealing to the internet for suggestions, then living in Microcenter, I finally chose to keep the operating system I was comfortable with. It was the best decision I made. The company I purchased the computer from saved everything on the old laptop and transferred it to the new one. Seriously, within ten minutes of having the new laptop I was already working on my WIP. Best feeling ever! 

Click here to go to Amazon!
Thanks, Elyse, for joining us on the blog today! Everyone will be happy to know she got past the tigers, avoided both acid pools, and entered the shutdown code before the nukes went off, making her an honorary member of the Evil Genius Society. Mrs. Salpeter, your monocle, sinister white cat, and miniature (evil) clone are waiting by the umbrella stand. Hope to see you again soon!

What am I Reading Now?

I am mid-way through Neil Gaiman's and Dave McKean's The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book is the story of an orphaned infant taken in by the kindly residents of a graveyard. Young Nobody, Bod for short, grows up among ghosts, learning their ways, not knowing his life among the dead (and the undead) is anything but perfectly normal.

I won't post any spoilers, but if you haven't read this classic, you need to. Zelazny couldn't have done it any better.

Writing News

Progress continues on the new Markhat book. Of course I can't say much without spoiling any surprises the book holds, but I can say I've reached and surpassed the halfway point.

Here's a very short spoiler-free excerpt:


Mama Hog climbed atop a cannon, waving her cleaver, shouting words lost to the gunfire and the shouting. I saw vague shapes in the dark behind her, and wondered if I was seeing Darla and Gertriss make a desperate last stand.

Evis charged the monsters. The rotary gun chewed through their right flank, keeping Mama and the cannons out of the line of fire. Things went down in a tangle of legs and inky dark blood.

One of the halfdead tossed me a sword. The blade glowed faintly. I caught it as Slim hefted Alfreda into the back of the wagon.

"Die well!" he bellowed, and together we charged the left flank of the nightmares.

Season's Greetings!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Pancha Ganapati, Hogmanay, Yalda, Boxing Day, or Hanukkah, I wish you all the very best. May peace and joy not only follow you but make smooth the ways and fill your pockets with cash during the holidays and the new year!

And hey, if you're still looking for that perfect ebook stocking stuffer, I have a few titles out!