Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meet Karen McCullough ~ Winner of an Eppie Award for Fantasy, and Four-Time Eppie Finalist

 
Please welcome Karen McCullough, both traditionally and indie published with her back list and new works.   

LA: Hi Karen, please tell us about your current series.
 
KMc: Thanks for having me L.A., it is an exciting time for authors. So far there’s only one book available in my “Market Center Mysteries” series, A Gift for Murder, but I’m working on writing the second book now. My tentative title is Wired for Murder. I have ideas for two more stories as well.
 
LA: What’s next for you?
 
KMc: I’m currently releasing backlist stories as ebooks, and I still have a few more to go. I’ll have a spooky Halloween story available soon, and a Christmas story in early November. These were originally titled Heart of the Night and Blue December, but I don’t really like either title and plan to change them.
 
LA: How much time do you spend promoting your books? What works best for you?
 
KMc: Not as much as I probably should. I’d rather spend my time writing than promoting, but I do try to do regular blog posts, both on my own blog and guest posts on others. One thing I want to investigate further is doing more with Pinterest. I have some ideas for putting up pictures related to my books and writing.
 
LA: How has your experience with self-publishing been?
 
KMc: So far, so good. I can’t say I’m making a fortune, but whatever I do get is more than I was earning with those books sitting on my shelf looking pretty. I recently self-published my first story that wasn’t a backlist re-release – The Wizard’s Shield. That book got a lot of nice comments from agents and editors, but ultimately all passed because they didn’t know how to categorize or market it. So now it’s published and available to readers who care less about genre category than about reading a good story.
 
LA: When your published rights reverted to you, did you change the book(s) much before you self-published?
 
KMc: It’s actually varied with the book. The first backlist book I self-published (A Question of Fire) had originally been written in 1986 and I chose to leave it as it was, since updating it would likely change significant parts of the plot.  
I was surprised to discover that The Night Prowlers didn’t really require much updating, but when I got to Programmed for Danger, which was first published in 1990 and was written around a heroine who is a computer analyst, I realized it would have to be pretty much completely re-written if it was to remain contemporary. So I did. 

The situation was a bit different with my current release, which is due just about the time this should go online. It wasn’t written long ago, but I was never happy with the way it was edited, so I did a complete overhaul of it as well.
 
LA: Which aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
 
KMc: I love the writing itself and planning a story in my head. What do I hate the most? Promoting! I’m not good at it and I’d really rather be writing.
 
LA: Any advice you want to offer our readers about the dreaded Blurb writing ?
 
KMc: The blurb needs to focus tightly on the major conflict(s) of the story. What does the protagonist want and why can’t she have it? At the same time it has to convey enough of the specifics of the situation to make it sound interesting. The way I approach doing a blurb is to try to boil the story down to three to five sentences.
 
For instance this is my blurb for The Wizard’s Shield:

“A powerful wizard with a physics degree and a checkered past invents a shield to ensure he'll never again be tortured almost to death. The wizarding powers-that-be fear the repercussions of such a device and send his former girlfriend, an accomplished wizard herself, to retrieve the device or destroy it.

When the shield is stolen by the magical mafia, Ilene McConnell and Michael Morgan have to set aside their differences and work together to recover it. Michael claims he needs the device as insurance against the kind of injury and injustice he suffered once before. Ilene maintains its potential to upset the delicate balance of power makes it too dangerous and that it needs to be destroyed. But none of that will matter if they can’t retrieve it before a ruthless, powerful wizard learns how to use it for his own ends.” 
 
 I tried to make sure I conveyed the multiple levels of conflict in the story as well as the unusual elements that made it unique – both hero and heroine are wizards; the hero is a scientist; there’s a magical underworld as well as some level of authority in their world; and the mcguffin itself, the shield.
 
LA: Grammatical pet peeve … sound off.
 
KMc: Oh boy… I spent almost ten years as an editor at two trade publishing companies. I’m a bit of grammar purist, so mistakes, especially patterns of mistakes in any published story drive me crazy. Misplaced commas, run-on sentences and misused words make me grind my teeth. One I’ve been seeing a lot of lately that really annoys me is the confusion of “lose” and “loose.” I don’t understand why it’s so hard to know which one to use.
 
Okay, here are some fun social questions I love to ask my guests.
 
LA: Someone has cut you off in the checkout line. How do you handle it?
 
KMc: I give them the Karen McCullough death glare. It’s impressive, believe me, even though I stand all of five foot one. Depending on my mood, I might even say something of the pseudo-pleasant variety: “I’m sure you have a good reason for your rudeness. I just hope it’s not lack of education.”
 
LA: Coffee, tea or other?
 
KMc: Coffee, all the way. I’m a bit of a snob about it. I love really good coffee and I’m willing to spend a bit more to get the best I can.

LA: Do you have a day job, too? 

KMc: I’m a web designer/developer, specializing in websites for authors and small businesses. My web design site is at http://www.karenswebworks.com.
 
LA: When writing, do you listen to music?
 
KMc: No. I can’t. I love music, but it’s too distracting to listen to. I need to sink into the world of the story I’m writing, and music will pull me out of it.
 
LA: Do you have a favorite quote, quip, or saying? What is it?
 
KMc: My favorite writing-related quote is the well-known one from Elmore Leonard: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” I use this quote in the self-editing process. For each scene, even each paragraph, I’m asking myself: will readers skip this part? Does something interesting or important happen here?
 
But then my favorite general inspirational quote is this one from James Russell Lowell: “Be noble! And the nobleness that lies in other men, sleeping, but never dead, will rise in majesty to meet thine own.”
 

 
 
BLURB ~THE WIZARD’S SHIELD:
 
A powerful wizard with a physics degree and a checkered past invents a shield to ensure he'll never again be tortured almost to death. The wizarding powers-that-be fear the repercussions of such a device and send his former girlfriend, an accomplished wizard herself, to retrieve the device or destroy it. When the shield is stolen by the magical mafia, Ilene McConnell and Michael Morgan have to set aside their differences and work together to recover it.
 
Michael claims he needs the device as insurance against the kind of injury and injustice he suffered once before. Ilene maintains its potential to upset the delicate balance of power makes it too dangerous and that it needs to be destroyed. But none of that will matter if they can’t retrieve it before a ruthless, powerful wizard learns how to use it for his own ends.
 
BUY LINKS:
 


 
BIO:
 
Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, four grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3 comments:

  1. HI Leslie -- I'm terribly late, but thank you for having me as a guest on your blog and the great interview!

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  2. Hi Karen, I'm so excited to see that you live in Greensboro. I used to visit it each year and loved the town from the small farm homes with chickens on the outskirts to the more city like homes near the campus. :) Such diversity!

    I am going the self-pub route with my back list that I just got back too. I think it's the way to go. :) I wish you much success!

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  3. HI Melissa -- Thanks for dropping by and congratulations on getting your back list rights back and self-publishing them. I actually live in one of those houses near the UNCG campus. Great area.

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