I have had a few people ask me some questions about Pilot's trick dog training. Although I have answered them individually, I would like to address them publicly, as I'm sure other people have similar questions running through their minds.
What is the point of the Trick Dog Title?
There are a couple of reasons for getting Pilot his TDT:
Do you have to pay for it?
That depends on what you want. You can teach the tricks to your dog for free. You can even print out the list of tricks he needs to learn for free. If you want to attend a Sparks Team on Facebook to get tips and training advice, then that is also free.
If you want to get your dog titled, you have to pay for it. If you want to attend live classes with an instructor who will work one-on-one with you and your dog, you also have to pay for it. If you don't have the books yet, then you will have to pay to get those.
All of those things are legitimate things to pay for. The title comes on nice paper for you to frame. The instructor is spending valuable time with you and your pooch. The books by Kyra Sundance are ALL WORTH BUYING. Next to Caesar Milan, I recommend all of her stuff.
What's the ideal age for a dog to really get into trick training?
This totally depends on the dog. Some get it early, and some get it later.
As a general rule of thumb, most dogs reach full maturity at 2 years of age. This means that, mentally, they are able to understand and retain more. So, I would say that 2 years old is the golden age.
However, the younger that you start a dog to training, the better, because they get used to exercising their brain with you. The younger they are, though, the smaller steps you must take. You can't expect a young dog to learn 15 tricks in a month. Probably not even in two months.
A puppy that is 8 months old or younger doesn't have the attention span or the desire to learn a lot of things. They just want to play games. So you must work with them gradually, repeating the tricks that they have learned over and over again and treating any new tricks like games. If they aren't getting a new trick, just stop and drop it for a few weeks, then try again. Young dogs can't retain quite as much information and they need longer spans of time to memorize what they have learned.
Eventually, one day, a light bulb will turn on in their head and you'll find that training suddenly gets a lot smoother. You'll also find that you are doing more "training" with them, and less "game play". This usually happens around the age of 2 years, in my experience. However, I have seen dogs as young as 11 weeks to 5 months old earn their Novice Trick Dog Titles!
If you would like a book to help you out with training your puppy, "51 Puppy Tricks" by Kyra Sundance is a great one. It shows you how to teach tricks from the puppy's perspective, gives great tips for those having difficulty, and it sorts the tricks according to Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced. You can also find all the same tricks, and more, in "101 Dog Tricks".
Another book that I personally found helpful in starting out Pilot was the "10 Minute Dog Training Games" by Kyra Sundance.
Pilot was about a year old when he was given to me and he still just wanted to play, not learn anything, and he was rather stubborn about sticking to that mentality. Reading this book, I learned to just "play" with him, and when I started playing with him, he started having fun learning. It helped a LOT.
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I'm sure you've heard that you "can't teach an old dog a new trick", right? Well, that saying is wrong. Senior dogs can earn trick titles too! Again, as with a very young dog, it is a slower process. They learn slower and are more stubborn, because they are set in their ways. Also because of their physical limitations, they can't do everything a young dog can, so you must keep this in mind. But, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!
A can of soft dog food being spoon fed to them will probably get their attention. You will have to use a lot of patience, because, by the age of 8, most dogs are used to training humans. Not humans training them.
How much time does it take?
This is completely dependent on the dog and yourself. On average, a dog could learn 15 tricks a month, which means that you could have an expert trick dog in roughly 4 months. On the other hand, for some, like Pilot, it may take a year before he is really ready to start learning.
Some dogs will eat trick training up, because they love the mental challenge and the bonding time with you. Other dogs will enjoy it, but it will take longer for them to mentally ingrain it. Some dogs will think it is a cute past time, but will not feel that they should really devote much of their valuable time and energy to it, except to please you on occasion. Do not feel offended if your dog is like that; it is nothing personal. It is simply the way he/she feels about the activity, and probably any activity that requires the use of their brain and energy. It does not mean that they are dumb, either. It simply means they are smarter than the rest of us and are content with their life at present.
Some breeds of dogs will do better than others, but over all, it depends on your determination and the dog's willingness.
What are some good beginner-level tricks?
All of the trick books by Kyra Sundance have difficulty levels and are listed by Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced, so as to make it easy to choose the difficulty level. They also sort them according to sport and tell you which ones you can build on and which ones have prerequisites. However, I have found that the difficulty level is very little help with Pilot. So, I choose tricks according to what he would like to learn or what he already naturally does or what I am determined for him to learn. For instance, "Roll-Over" is listed as Intermediate, but it has been the easiest trick Pilot has ever learned, and he loves to do it all the time. Thankfully, the book leaves room for you to pick-and-choose.
Aside from teaching your dog basic manners - sit, down, wait, stay, lay down, leave it - some easy tricks to learn are "Take A Bow", "Spin In Circles", "Peek-A-Boo", and "Hoop Jump". (Video Links)
This second week of tricks has been fun! The only one that I had previously taught Pilot was "Paws-Up". I'd also done a little bit of work on "Peek-A-Boo" with him. Otherwise, the other tricks were completely new, and he has really enjoyed learning them, especially the "Leg Weave". I think it is going to be one of his new favorites. It's a workout for me! My short little legs have to really stretch to accommodate him (and he's not even a big dog). Two of my favorite dog breeds are German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.... hahahahaha! Wow. I'm kinda glad he's not either of those sizes.
"Take a Bow" has been incredibly easy to teach. What you see in the video is how you teach it: just lure them down to their elbows and click/reward them as soon as their elbows touch the ground. He still hasn't started doing it on queue alone yet, but he is almost there. It is going to be so stinking cute once he gets it! (Yes, I geek out about my dog...)
By the way, if you have ANY questions regarding the trick dog stuff, feel free to ask! I am putting together a Q&A blog post about it and I would love to see your questions in it!
Anyway, without further ado, here is this week's tricks! Enjoy the video:
As I mentioned in my blog post last week, Pilot is working toward his Novice Trick Dog Title. Through DoMoreWithYourDog.com, I found a helpful group on Facebook who had a great plan to follow to teach my dog 15 tricks in a month (15 tricks are required to earn the title). Pilot already knew all of last weeks tricks, except one, which was the muffin tin game. In that game, I place bits of kibble and treats in the muffin slots and place balls on top of them, so that Pilot has to find the treats. In the video, I could only find 5 balls to place on the muffin tin, so that is all he had to search through. For the actual trick, I am supposed to put balls in all the slots, and have treats hidden under about half of them. So, we are working on acquiring more balls.
I was curious how Pilot would do with the game. He likes tricks, but he’s not exactly motivated when it comes to games, and I wasn’t sure if he would get this game. Lucky for him, he’s a chow-hound and he’s competitive. I showed him the trick with Lady and Hugo, the other two rescue mutts, present. Hugo’s little spaniel nose went right to work and he started finding the treats. Lady caught on and started following along. Pilot, of course, could not be outdone, so he started racing them. He quickly figured out that it was quite rewarding.
I can’t wait for my sister, Kristyn, to try the trick with her Golden Retrievers. They are all tennis ball nuts AND chow-hounds! I think it is going to be hilarious to watch them do it for the first time. The two items combined will surely fill their happy Golden minds with extreme conflict.
Here is a video of Pilot doing his first week tricks. He is already working on his second week tricks, so hopefully we'll have another video for you to watch next week.
Wow, first of the month already? And on a Monday. Ouch.
Well, it is a perfect day to scream, and allow me to be among the first to scream... WHITE RABBIT!
I must be the first person, you know. And, undoubtedly, I am the first person to White Rabbit you. Even if you are reading this late, even if somebody else screamed "White Rabbit!" at you today, I can promise you that I AM the first. Consider the time stamp on this post. What time did it post and/or deliver to your email? 1AM... Yeah. I AM the first person to White Rabbit you this fine 1st day of June.
I rule this game.
Okay, I'll shut up now.
Trick dog? Is that a thing?
Yes it is! And it's gradually becoming a very popular thing among dog owners.
Do you remember Lassie? Benji? Rin-Tin-Tin? They were all "trick dogs". Their owners and trainers taught them a bunch of tricks, which they would preform anywhere, even on camera. Not only did their tricks make them look heroic on screen (and make them rich & popular), but it made them great companions and useful working dogs, and their skills have made millions of people happy for many years.
Now days, it has become really easy to find content that teaches you to train your dog the exact same tricks - all by yourself!
This is what I am doing with Pilot. It's my hope to turn him into a titled trick dog. He's already well on his way!
Teaching dogs to do tricks is fun and rewarding, thus why it's become quite a popular thing for dog owners to do. It turns a dog from "a pet" into "a stinking awesome person I love more than my in-laws".
Okay, not really, but you get the point. Trick training makes your dog a valuable companion, and not just an annoying back yard door bell. Your dog becomes a joy for everyone - friends, family, and strangers - to be around.
Despite what you might think, it's not that hard to train a dog to do tricks, especially if he is willing to learn and you're willing to spend some time with him. It's actually a breeze, what with all the great content available on the internet to help you along.
There are some great books available that teach you how to train your dog. My favorites are by Kyra Sundance from Do More With Your Dog.com. Her books have detailed, bright, colorful pictures. They explain how to do all of the tricks so well, that even the children understand how to do it.
She has a few DVD's now that go along with the books, so you can sit and watch how to do it!
These three books by Kyra are the best, and they are my favorites. They've helped me a lot in my training of Pilot and other dogs (Amazon affiliate Links - read my disclosure policy):
Which dog is a Trick Dog?
Any dog can learn tricks. Rin-Tin-Tin was a German Shepherd. Lassie was a Collie. Benji was a mutt from the pound. So was Old Yeller. Pongo and Purdy were cartoons....
The trick for you is to choose a dog that has a willingness to learn and an eagerness to please.
Most herding breeds, like German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds, crave the mental exercise that trick training provides. Some terrier breeds, like the Rat Terrier and the Parson "Jack" Russell Terrier, thrive on trick training. As far as hunting breeds, I've never met a Labrador or a Golden Retriever who were not eager to please and willing to learn.
Bully breeds, guardian breeds, and little companion dogs are typically more stubborn and it takes a lot more work to convince them to do a trick, but they will do it if you have patience and persistence.
DON'T tell me that you have no patience. Nobody HAS patience. You learn patience.
If you aren't a patient person, get over it and start learning how to be.
Trick training isn't just for the dogs, you know...
The AKC website has great information about all the different groups and breeds of dogs. If you have a favorite breed, you can look it up on the AKC website and learn more, or you can get on YouTube and see if you can find a Dogs 101 video about it. Both give you a great idea of what it takes to properly care for that specific breed, and how easy they are to train.
If you aren't sure what breed of dog might best suite you, AKC has a quiz that you can take which will suggest a few dog breeds that would best fit your home, family, and lifestyle.
If you have a mutt dog and can guess what breeds it has in it, you can try out the AKC breed comparison tool and make a guess as to what independence level your dog will be/is. It's fun to play around with, if nothing else...
Otherwise, if you have a dog that loves to hang out with you, is playful, and wants to please you, then you have the makings of a trick dog. No matter how dumb or smart you might think your dog is, it all depends on how much time and effort YOU are willing to put into it, and how willing your dog is to do it with you.
Pilot as a Trick Dog
Pilot is a little more independent than what is ideal for a trick dog. He has his own ideas about how things should go. But, he is creative and energetic, and he really, really needs the mental exercise. So, before I started teaching him any tricks, I had to spend a lot of time convincing him that he wanted to learn.
Learning manners was the first stepping stone I took to teaching Pilot tricks. Before getting his breakfast or supper, he had to sit politely. Before he could go outside, he had to sit and wait for me to open the door. Before I would open the gate to go for a run, he had to sit. Once he had "sit" mastered, I moved it to "lay down".
Good manners got positive results and made him happy. If he forgot his manners, then nothing would happen and he wouldn't get what he wanted. He started paying attention and listening for queues, because he knew that good things would happen when he did the right thing.
I figured out pretty quickly that I had to give Pilot more exercise, especially before training sessions. I cannot begin to explain how much that helped him to focus. His energy level is set at FORCE-OF-NATURE, and if he doesn't get it out of system, then he won't focus on learning new things. He just becomes this really irritating ball of energy with sharp toe nails.
Seriously, if you have a dog that is out of control, he/she probably just needs more exercise.
The last few months, Pilot has come to the point where he loves to do tricks, anytime, anywhere. This makes me really happy. He is learning new tricks faster, and he enjoys doing his old tricks over and over again.
His favorite trick is "Roll Over". He does it all the time, whether I ask him to or not.
Some days are better than others, and some days are just horrible, but that's why it's called LIFE.
Here is a video I recently made of Pilot getting some exercise, playing with his little sheep friend, and finally doing some tricks with me.
White Rabbit Link Up
Don't forget to link up your newest, most recent blog post below! I love to read them!
(I do read all of them, so keep in mind that it should stay family friendly and it must be new. No more than 72 hours old.)
1. What thing in particular makes westerns appealing to you?
Faith: All of it! The ruggedness, the danger, the flexibility, the shootouts, the romance, the multiple redemption possibilities, and so much more. Sorry, I can’t pick just one.
2. Where did the idea for Hymns of the West come from?
Faith: It came after I had a beta-reader ask what the next book in the series was about. I wasn’t even planning a series, so I told him there wasn’t a second book. But his question got me to thinking and I eventually came up with the ideas for six or seven books in the series and I am now considering connecting this series to a contemporary fiction trilogy I have ideas for. We’ll see where that goes.
As for the name of the series, that came when I decided to make all the novel titles hymn titles. And since they’re all Westerns, Hymns of the West works perfectly!
3. What’s something about yourself that really annoys you?
Faith: My forgetfulness. I forget things way too easily and sometimes that is a very, very bad thing.
4. What’s the name of a book you’re reading?
Faith: “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. It’s a shortened version of his full-length book by the same name. I haven’t read much of it yet, but it is good.
5. What scares you?
Faith: Heights. Especially suspension bridges or manmade towers that sway in the wind. *shudders*
6. Bonanza or Gunsmoke?
Faith: Bonanza. There’s just something about those Cartwright boys that Gunsmoke doesn’t have. I like Gunsmoke as well, but not as much as Bonanza.
7. Why do you write?
Faith: To encourage and challenge Christians in their walk with God and to hopefully reach some non-Christians for the gospel as well.
8. What’s the last song you listened to on purpose?
Faith: Franz Schubert’s Impromptu Opus 142 number 2. It was on a CD I was listening to and I skipped ahead to it because I didn’t remember which one it was.
9. What is your favorite salty treat?
Faith: Dill pickles. They’re about the only thing I like that has a lot of salt. Even with potato chips, I prefer the no salt chips rather than the salted ones. I’m weird that way.
10. What makes you laugh?
Faith: Jokes. Sometimes. Other people laughing hysterically and unable to stop. Things like that.
11. Who’s your favorite cowboy movie star?
Faith: John Wayne all the way. Can you get anymore cowboy than him?
12. You just walked in the door after a long day. What do you do first?
Faith: Unpack whatever needs unpacking, take my shoes off, and then it depends on what else is going on. J
13. Here’s a free plane ticket! Where would you like to go?
Faith: Scotland! Or Montana, but I could, conceivably drive out there someday, so yeah, I’d pick Scotland. I’ve always been fascinated by Scotland. Of course, since I have some internet acquaintances in Ireland and England, I’d probably try to get there as well since I’m on the island.
14. Before we end, would you tell us a little about each of your books in the Hymns of the West series and what inspired each one?
Faith: A Mighty Fortress is about Joshua and Ruth Brookings and their encounter with Jed Stuart. It’s a story of trust and redemption. The idea for this story came from a picture and a short story contest. I was too old for the contest and the idea I had was too long for the contest anyway, but the picture inspired me to write this novel.
Be Thou My Vision is about Jed Stuart’s sister, Anna, and how the events in A Mighty Fortress affect her life and change it completely. Be Thou My Vision came about when I decided to write Anna’s story.
Amazing Grace is a continuation of Be Thou My Vision, but from Caleb Stuart’s perspective. After finishing one of the drafts of Be Thou My Vision, I knew I had to write Caleb’s story. Since Be Thou My Vision is in first person, I couldn’t do his story in there, so I wrote Amazing Grace.
About the Author
An avid reader, Faith Blum started writing at an early age. Whether it was a story about the camping trip that summer or a more creative story about fictional characters, she has always enjoyed writing. When not writing, Miss Blum enjoys reading, crafting, playing piano, Captaining on the Holy Worlds Historical Fiction Forum and playing games with her family (canasta, anyone?).
As a history enthusiast who has been fascinated for years with the Old West, Faith has endeavored to create a clean, fun, and challenging Western story. Faith lives with her family on a hobby farm in the Northern Midwest, where she enjoys the many cats they have.
You can find Faith on her Website, Blog, Facebook, and Twitter
Being a blissfully single woman whose got nothing better to do than blog and write books, I spend a great deal of time fussing over my fur baby: Pilot, my dog.
This year for "May The 4th Be With You" day, I wanted to make a Star Wars dog costume so my dog could geek out with me (who knows; I might use the costume for Halloween later as well).
I planned to make several really cool costumes all by myself, then have a photo shoot with my sister's Golden Retrievers and Pilot, and use the pictures to make a Geeky post for May the 4th #StarWarsDay.
Well, needless to say, that did not work out as planned. The only costume that came together in time was Pilot's X-Wing pilot flight suit costume.
The simplest two costumes were going to be Chewbacca and Han Solo:
- Chewbacca costume: a wide brown leather belt, strips of gray tape, and a little brown bag. Put the strips of gray tape on the belt at intervals, attach the little brown bag, and VIOLA! your furbaby costume is done.
- Han Solo: black vest, white shirt (unless your dog has white fur, then the shirt is not needed), a toy gun belt, and a toy gun. TA-DA! Slip it all on your dog and your pooch is now the dashing Han Solo!
It couldn't get any easier, right? Well, in our house, you learn that what should be easy is extremely complicated, and what should be difficult takes a few seconds to do, and what should be impossible takes only a few minutes... Yeah, any plans made in our house are bound to turn into one, gigantic, Firefly/Serenity mess (geeky fandom pun, in case you missed it).
Anyway, all that to say that I only got one costume done:
The X-Wing pilot flight suit was really easy to make, as long as I had a little imagination.
For the computer chest piece:
Small square Card Board piece (whatever size suits your dog)
3 pieces of light colored felt
2 pieces of dark colored felt
2 white, large Lego bricks
1 gray, large Lego brick
1 back of a cell phone case (or anything that's black and square/rectangle shaped)
1 stick of hot glue (using hot glue means that you can use most of the items again later)
12" of Elastic (depending on dog size)
I took the piece of cardboard and covered it in gray tape. Then I hot glued the Lego bricks side-by-side, followed by gluing the back of an old cell phone next to them. I took the quarter and glued it just underneath the camera opening of the cellphone back, then I took the dime and placed it down and a little to the left of the quarter and glued it there as well.
After that, I glued the felt squares in the remaining spaces, placing the two darkest ones above the Lego bricks.
After that, I literally stabbed holes in the top corners and tied the elastic through them so that the entire thing could hang from my dog's neck.
For the white vest:
This took more effort than I thought it would, because I couldn't find a piece of white fabric in our house to save my life.
Finally, I found an old toddler t-shirt. So, I just cut the sleeves off, cut the bottom off, cut the neck out (cutting makes me happy, can't ya tell?) and made a bib-like apparition. After that, I sewed the bottom corners together: right corner to right corner and left corner to left corner (sewing does NOT make me happy, so I don't put much effort into it).
TA-DA! There I have the vest thingamajig... it's a little bit big for Pilot, but nobody will notice...
The Orange Jumpsuit/Shirt:
Now, this is the most striking part of this suit, so I was a lot more picky about it; I pulled an old orange t-shirt out of my dresser and turned it into a shirt for my dog.
For this part, I will let you watch a video.
This particular video really, really, REALLY simplified making a dog shirt, and I did not watch it before I made Pilot's dog shirt.
My dog shirt was a lot more complicated... *cough, cough*...
BUT, I like how mine turned out better than the one in the video. However, I did not have the time to make a video explaining how to make a dog shirt (I'll save that for another time, I guess). So, for a simplified way of making your dog a shirt out of your old clothes, here is a really easy video to watch.
Once you have the orange shirt/jumpsuit for your dog, and the other two accessories all made, then your pet's X-Wing Pilot Flight Suit is all ready to go!
The Educational Link Up party is below. If you'd like to join, here are the "Rules of the Galactic Highway":
· Your post must be educational.
· Your post must fall into one of the following categories - Sci-Fi, Geekdom, or Science.
· Check out what your hosts are up to. - We have been having some great Science, Geeky fun this week and we would love you to check it out. The Hosts will be the first few spots on the link up.
· Follow the person above you or find your fandom and comment on at least one post. - Let's make the universe a little smaller by sharing the love!
Have fun! - If I know the Sci/Fi, Geek, Science world I know you will have tons of fun with this! Keep the fandom conflict out of it though. Trekkies and Wookies can coexist!
Meagan from More Than A Coupon Queen
Jess from Benoit Academy
Andrea from Waldorf Salad & Cottage Fries
Kassondra from Motherhood Community
Nessa from 2 Dorks In Love
Happiness. HAPP-I-NESS. H-a-p-p-i-n-e-s-s.
You know, once you spell "happiness" so many times, it starts looking like a really weird word. It starts sounding weird too.
One time, a friend asked me "What does happiness mean to you?"
That is a really in depth and broad question. The term "happiness" can cover so many different things on so many different levels. But, when my friend asked me, I didn't need to think long to find an answer.
People tell me all the time that I am such a happy person, that I light up the room with my smile, and that my happiness is contagious. I get the feeling that they often wonder how I do it.
Well, it's not my fantastic personality, I can promise you that. It is simply because I AM happy.
To be truly happy, does it mean that you have a perfect life?
To be happy, do you have everything you want in life?
Does a happy person smile all the time?
So, what does happiness look like?
True happiness results from contentment. When you are content with where God has put you, with the life He has given you, then you will find that you are happy. Whether you believe in God or not, if you learn to be content with where you are at in life, with who you are, then you will automatically find happiness. Trust me. Been there, done that, have a t-shirt.
Often, we believe that, to be happy, we need to "make more", "do more", or "be more".
I have struggled with this:
I have tried joining missions, only to have a road block thrown in front of my face.
I have created kids missions just to watch them fall through.
I have made an effort to improve my community only to have it thrown back in my face.
I have considered marriage, becoming a mom and a wife, but the longing has never taken root in my heart and the right man has never shown up.
I have come to the point where I have looked up at the sky and said "What more do you want from me?! What more can I do?!"
You know what I learned? God wants some people to be busy, go on missions, start community projects, and do "more". But for me, He wanted me to stand back. Why? It took me a while to understand...
I have 5 younger siblings. They are awesome. Used to, I thought they were holding me back, weighting my wings down with spit-up and drool and Legos and Tinkertoys. They were pain-in-the-butts and I thought I had better things to do, more important jobs, than taking care of them and cleaning up after them.
God showed me otherwise.
My siblings are some of the most awesome people on earth (yes, I am biased). I have a ton of fun with them every day! We hardly ever fight. We are best friends. Together, we can build skyscrapers and blow mountains up! It's so awesome!
I would have never known the full awesomeness of my family and siblings if I had flown the coop.
I have an incredible talent for writing. I have a gazzilion stories swimming in my head, barbarians pounding on the inside of my skull, demanding to be released onto paper.
If I were busy with missions, community projects, or kids (mine or otherwise), I would not have realized my potential as a writer. I would never have published a book. My siblings would not be eagerly telling the new friends they make that their sister is a published author.
I am still learning my full potential as a writer. I still have a lot of work to do to become better. I mean, at the moment, I only have one and a half books published... not exactly something that is noteworthy.
Happiness does not look like a life changing trip to Africa. Happiness does not look like big bucks or a masters degree, your own house and car, or your even your own published book. Happiness is a state of mind that you must choose to be in. Nothing can make you happy, but being content with your circumstances is a daily decision.
Just because you are not where YOU want to be, because you don't feel happy, does not mean that you aren't exactly where you should be, where God wants you to be. What your heart longs for is often quite the opposite of what God wants you to do.
For me, God kept me in one place because He wanted me to learn to be content where I was at. Once I learned that lesson, I found an open door that I had never seen before, and it led me to a room full of possibilities.
Am I always happy?
No. It is an ongoing learning process. But it is easier for me to be happy, now that I learned the important lesson of contentment.
Do I get irritated and discontent?
Yep. A lot. I also get depressed, feel like I am out of options, feel restrained and suffocated, and I repeatedly have to put grand ideas and dreams back on the shelf where I got them. But when I stop trying to push my agenda, and take a deep breath and focus on what God has me doing, it gets easier. Sometimes, I even catch a glimpse of a bigger picture that will result if I stay where God has planted me.
What is the secret to contentment?
Stop pushing. Start breathing.
It is simpler said than done, but it is that simple.
Your calling may be sitting right in front of you, like it was for me.
Does this mean you need to stop looking for opportunities? Possibly. God has this cool way of dropping stuff into my lap. Maybe He wants to do the same for you? Or, maybe He wants to whisper the plan into your ear, but how can He do that if you are struggling with Him?
The run down is this: a happy person is a person who is content. Contentment is a choice that the person must make.
Ambition and goals in life are good, but sometimes we just need to stop and take a look at the garden we have been set in, just to make sure we aren't missing a chance to smell the roses.
I am really happy to introduce fantasy author and artist, Shannon Pemrick!
Shannon Pemrick was born in 1991 in a small city in the Southwestern corner of New Hampshire where she was raised with her younger sister. Thanks to her limitless imagination, she spent most of her days daydreaming about the impossible in hopes it could one day be possible. This imagination sparked a love of the arts that eventually lead her down the road to writing where she discovered her first book idea.
F.P. Spirit suggested that I send Shannon a friend request on Facebook, because he greatly admires her work and he thought that she and I needed to get together and read each other’s books (which we do, and haven’t done, because all we’ve done is basically say “how-do-you-do”).
As soon as Shannon’s status updates started showing up on my Facebook newsfeed, I felt like she was a part of my family. No. Seriously. She has the same sense of humor that all my family members have. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I haven’t decided yet. But it has definitely made me laugh more than once!
So, without further snickers on my part, I am very pleased to present Shannon Pemrick!
Thank you so much for joining me today Shannon! I am really excited about this. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Do you have pets? Family?
Shannon Pemrick - I'm from the northeast part of the United States where I live with my fiancée, three cats, and a dog who thinks she's a cat…a very large cat. My family is also in the area and I try to find whatever time I can to see them since family is very important to me. I'm an avid gamer (I play a lot of videogames) and I love animals. I'm particularly fond of horses, wolves and butterflies. I'm also an artist.
I would be an avid gamer if I took the time to be such. However, I spend too much time on the internet READING about all these different games than actually downloading or buying any of them to play. Tell us a little about your writing. When did you start writing, and why?
Shannon Pemrick - Writing wasn't something I thought I'd ever do. I was more into the visual arts and my reading and writing skills had always been subpar since I was a child. But one day I got an itch to write a fanfiction (fantasized story using characters from a favorite book, tv series, etc…) and while it wasn't all that great, it sparked an interest and I continued. Later, when I was in high school I attempted to write my own book but it died rather quickly. I didn't make another attempt until I was assigned a project in my senior year of high school that sparked the Experimental Heart trilogy.
Do you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres? If so, what is your favorite genre to write for?
Shannon Pemrick - My current genre is a cross genre of Sci-Fi and Fantasy but I have several book ideas waiting to be touched that are straight Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.
Are you a planner or a “pantser” – do you plan out your books meticulously or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Shannon Pemrick - I am definitely a planner. I write out outlines/timelines and plot out main events for my books and then place in minor events. I will deviate from the initial plan or add in more ideas as I go to improve my initial idea (like I've done with my trilogy), but in order for me to make a complete book, I have to plan it out from start to finish first.
Some of the best books and successful authors I know were planners! Unfortunately, that does not seem to be a skill I have. Planning? What is that? Is it contagious? OMG, keep it away from me!
Well then... where do you find inspiration?
Shannon Pemrick - Everywhere. They're in my dreams, in my conversations, random thoughts in my head, and in the world around me.
Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? Do you do anything unusual while your write?
Shannon Pemrick - I typically work best in silence but I will listen to music if I need some really nice inspiration. I can't have a TV on while I'm writing or I'll do more watching than writing.
TV is my bane. I can write during some shows, but notoriously, if I don’t have my headphones in, I will start typing what the people are saying on TV. Tim Conway drawl in a fantasy story = bad thing. *Facepalm*
Is there a message conveyed within your writing?
Shannon Pemrick - I believe all authors have some sort of message even if they don't realize it. Most of my messages happen to be about self worth and accepting being unique.
Messages about celebrating how unique we are seems to be growing in popularity. I think our culture is hungry for that.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading?
Shannon Pemrick - I haven't done a lot of reading lately. I've been rather caught up in my own writing and balancing a few other large life events. But the last three books I read (read them around the same time) were The Search for Mrs. Claus by Courtney Daisey, The Serpent Cult by F.P. Spirit, and A Week in New York by Louise Bay. The only one I actually enjoyed was The Serpent Cult.
The Serpent Cult ROCKS! Oh… did I just blurt that out loud? Well, it’s the truth.
Can you name your favorite traditionally published author?
Shannon Pemrick - Garth Nix. I love his work.
And your favorite indie/self-published author?
Shannon Pemrick - F.P. Spirit. He figured out how to make this YA hater to like his work.
YA hater? *takes a step back from you - hides my book* You frighten me, oh great wizard... But, Mr. Spirit does have a way about his books, doesn't he? We can fangirl over them together, if you want. *wink*
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
Shannon Pemrick - It really depends on the subject, but I like to make sure I'm as thorough as possible in my research because I want to make sure all aspects of my books are believable. My current trilogy needed quite a bit of research when it came to military and weapons. But because the world and natural laws for that trilogy is all made up, most of it came from my head and all I had to do was make it all feel believable even if it was only a tiny bit.
Military is my bane in research. I come from a family of proud veterans and, sadly, I never understand a word they say when they talk about military stuff. It’s one of those things that I need to SEE it in order to understand.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case?
Shannon Pemrick - Yes, I do. I'm not a professional editor and I can't rely on myself to catch all errors but going through the book before my editor does really help catch the silly mistakes and save me a bit of embarrassment. It also gives me time to look over my work to catch any inconsistencies or spots I want to elaborate on.
Self-Proof-Reading is very important in any form of writing. That importance only grows when it comes to one’s own novel though.
Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
Shannon Pemrick - Yes. There is only so much an author can catch before their brain corrects the mistakes automatically without the author realizing it. A professional editor not only brings in fresh eyes but also fresh opinions and…well…professional editing skills. They'll know more about editing than anyone else.
AHA! So that is my problem: my brain has auto-correct. I knew auto-correct had issues. Apparently it has taken over my mind! *grabs aluminium foil - wraps around head*
What was your experience with getting your book published? How did you start out? Did you have help?
Shannon Pemrick - I tried for a year to be traditionally published. After getting rejection letter after rejection letter I became discouraged and thought I'd never be published. Then I found some information about self publishing and did as much research as I could before pursuing that route. Do I regret going this route? No. This route may be hard, but I'm happier than I would have been with a big publisher breathing down my neck telling me what to do.
Yep. People still kind of snort at the “self-publishing” publishing idea, but I always tell them that I am happier with it because I am my own boss and I get more money. I’d like to see a Trad-publisher fork out 70% royalty!
So, sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order?
Shannon Pemrick -
1. Great World-building
2. Great Characters
3. Solid Plot
4. Technically perfect.
I chose this way to line them up because even though you can have the greatest plot idea, in the end, if your world is bland and your characters suck, the plot isn't going to matter.
I love how everyone always puts “Technically Perfect” at the bottom. I think it is because, if we get the others right, perfection comes a little more naturally.
If you could change anything in an existing book, or series, of yours, what would it be?
Shannon Pemrick - Funny you should ask because this year Experimental Heart: Pieces will be getting a small makeover. I put a lot of work into this book but didn't have the resources I have now and have found many problems that would benefit from being fixed (Plot holes, unneeded content, etc…). Am I ashamed to admit this? Nope, not at all. Personally I feel all books deserve a chance to be gone over and fixed after publication, regardless if they're written by indies or traditional published authors.
Once the changes are done, the book name will be condensed down to Pieces, matching how the rest of the books in the trilogy will appear.
That is the glorious part I love about independently publishing with CreateSpace: there is so much more freedom to go in and “fix” things later without a huge rig-a-ma-ro…
What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
My latest book is Experimental Heart: Pieces (soon to be Pieces), which is book one in the Experimental Heart Trilogy. Secrets, is the next book in the trilogy to come out this year, and the third book (Surrendered) is planned on coming out the end of this year to the beginning of next year. I'm also currently working on a fantasy that may become a series, a romance, and a few spin-offs for my current trilogy.
Cool beans! Lots of plans: that’s good!
Tell us a little about the world of your latest or favorite book or series.
Shannon Pemrick - My current running trilogy is Experimental Heart. Pieces, is the first in the trilogy that came out November 2013 and, Secrets, the second in the trilogy, is expected to come out this spring. The world of these books is called Lumaraeon and is a world that has been devastated by war and currently trying to rebuild to its former glory but is under threat of another devastating war driven by the tyrant Zarda who believes he is the only one worthy of running Lumaraeon and holds himself to a god status.
Lumaraeon itself, while struggling with this impending war, is a lush land with diverse creatures. The main races of the land are Humans, Nu Humans, and Elves. Dragons, Dwarves and Wogrons also live in this land but are far fewer in numbers and most prefer to keep to themselves. There were other races in the past but they were wiped out by either wars or Lumaraeon's volatile nature before it was stabilized by the gods.
The land itself is beautiful and diverse with snowy mountains in the North, vast deserts, meadows, and wastelands in the West and beautiful oceans in the South and East. The land's natural laws are governed by the elements, which can be harness by gifted individuals, spiritual plane, which can be access by certain chosen individuals, and the gods who all posses unique abilities that can help the mortal races when needed.
If it has dragons and elves, you know it has got to be a smoking awesome world!
Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Shannon Pemrick - The main two characters for my trilogy are Eira and Raikidan. Eira is a human war experiment of an advanced human race called Nu Human and former assassin with psychotic tendencies due to her gruesome past and lacks certain emotional understanding. Raikidan is a dragon that follows Eira around like a lost puppy. He's overprotective and lacks understanding of human culture and human nature as well as lacks understanding of the concept of personal space. The differences in these two create an interesting relationship that is rather volatile to begin with but becomes strong over time as the two realize they're more similar than they first believed.
There are also many support characters in this trilogy but the main two that stick by Eira and Raikidan's side the most are Ryoko and Rylan. Ryoko and Rylan are also war experiments that have stuck with Eira since they met in the military.
Ryoko is a Wogron (type of werewolf that doesn't go back to a human state but still carries some human-like traits both physically and mentally) and Nu Human hybrid and is a brute class (very strong melee fighter). She's one of the strongest out there and is one of the few female brutes in existences. She is also incredibly beautiful having most desired traits from their society but Ryoko lacks confidence because of it. She finds that her worth is superficial and doesn't believe people can see past her looks to understand the real her. This is where she connects with Eira. The two understand each other in this way and they try to help one another in only ways that they can. This has created an unbreakable bond that sometimes makes it look like they're arguing when they're just talking.
Rylan is a wolf-dog and human hybrid experiment that was an early attempt at creating shapeshifting experiments. He's an excellent shot making him a prime choice for a sniping position in the military and had ice elemental abilities that he's not proud of. Despite his good looks and nice personality, he lacks self esteem and wishes to be more normal than most people around him. Much of this is attributed to his animal DNA. But this esteem doesn't stop him from looking out for Eira much like an older brother would creating an impeccable bond that most don't understand.
I have a particular fondness for all of these characters because of their dynamics. They're all different from each other but it's their differences that bring them together and created a type of kinship that can't be explained or understood by most.
Awww… I love them all already!
Random note: You apparently like “R” names, huh? *snickers to self*
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Shannon Pemrick - I love all my characters but I do have a particular fondness for Eira and Shva'sika. Many would roll their eyes at an author for picking their main character as a favorite but I can't help it. Eira is so complicated and misunderstood even by herself. She doesn't realize how amazing she is and can only see her dark past. She struggles with seeing how she could possibly move beyond that and create a future for herself. But even while she struggles to like herself she still finds a reason to continue living even if she doesn't understand it herself. She's a strong woman that won't take crap from anyone and will be brutally honest when others would rather lie or sugarcoat a situation. She believes honest truths, while painful sometimes, are better to hear in the end than a half truth or a lie because they hurt less in the long run. She's the kind of person that goes through issues real people have to face and she's the kind of woman some people wish they could be. Even with her past and her abrasive nature, I just have to pick her as one of my favorite characters.
Shva'sika is another character that I love to pieces. She doesn't get a whole lot of face time in the first book of the trilogy but when she does get more later on, she's not someone you can hate. She's an Elvin woman who has lost her entire family but doesn't let her loneliness drag her down to cause her to be bitter. She is charismatic and has a big heart. She'd give you the shirt of her back without question. She doesn't let her beauty cloud her judgment and cause vanity or pride and she isn't the type of person you can just boss around. As big as her heart is, she won't be walked on.
Such strong characters are so easy to make favorites of. And, just a note, I don’t think it’s weird for you to pick your main character as a favorite. I can't exactly say the same for my main character, though. He is… well… special in my eyes. *glares at Keegan, who glares back*
Ahem! Anyway… do you have a character you hate/dislike? Why?
Shannon Pemrick - As much as I want others to have a character they hate and want dead, I don't have one. I know the histories of all my characters. I know what made them who they are. So it's impossible for me to really hate them. Even Zarda, as evil as he is, is so good at being twisted and evil, that I can't really hate him.
I totally understand you there. I think I’d actually feel guilty for hating my baddies. I mean, I MADE them that way. What kind of person would I be if I hated them?!
Well, anyway. Are your characters ever based on real people?
Shannon Pemrick - My characters aren't based on a single person but many of them do have traits from several people I know or have met. I believe this helps them feel more three dimensional.
I think all authors with well fleshed characters find that many of their characters have traits from real people, though not always from anyone specific. It is just the way our imagination works to make things real!
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?
Shannon Pemrick - While my more hated characters may deserve death (or may die), none of them have been based off someone that I've hated in life. Like my other loved characters, hated characters have personalities that are taken from multiple people.
What formats are your books available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
Shannon Pemrick - My books are available in e-book, hardcover, and paperback format. I'd like to get it into an audio format at some point as well because I know how useful that format is first hand as well as translated into other languages at some point.
Would you give a fun/silly fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book?
Shannon Pemrick - I'm a poor organizer except when it comes to my books. They have to be planned out while the rest of my life is a total chaotic mess.
Well, I am glad to know I'm not alone. I am of the opinion that chaos does do something wonderful for the twisted author mind…
Is there any advice you would pass on to those authors who are still just starting out? Do's and don'ts?
Shannon Pemrick - My first advice is to never give up no matter how hard it seems. There will always be hurdles and people telling you no, but that doesn't mean they're right and that doesn't mean the hurdles are too big to get over.
My next piece of advice is to make sure your book is sound before publishing. Make sure the book has had other (trusted) eyes on it and make sure you have a professional editor look it over. Also, don't skimp on a cover because that draws a reader in. Actually, just don't skimp on anything. Self publishing can get expensive, but the worst thing you could do is to publish prematurely and get the title most Indies dread…"Amateur".
My last piece of advice will sound a bit harsh to some but I feel it's necessary. Grow thick skin. As an author, I know a piece of work is your baby and you don't want it being torn apart, but if you plan to publish you need to understand that you will get criticism. If you can't handle that, then hide your baby from the world until you can. No one wants to deal with an author who can't handle honest critique and can't accept that not everyone will enjoy their work. Please, make sure you can handle this before you let the world see the precious piece of work you worked so hard on creating.
Amen! Publishing is not for the faint of heart!
Well, thank you so very much for joining me today, Shannon. This was a TON of fun, and I am glad to have gotten to know you just a little better!
For the rest of you out there, I would ask that you please give Shannon’s books and social media a look-see! And, if you find the time, please leave a nice comment below? There will be a dragon at every exit who will kindly inquire if you have done any of those things…
Web: Check out Shannon's website!
Facebook: Follow Shannon on Facebook!
Twitter: Follow Shannon on Twitter!
Amazon - http://getBook.at/EHPieces
Barnes and Nobles - http://goo.gl/335WDj
Toadstool Bookshop - http://goo.gl/wXPs74
Page Foundry: http://goo.gl/v18i7S
Hello everyone! Happy Monday!
Today I am really excited to introduce to you another Independent Published author, one who is local to my area.
During the summer, an acquaintance between the two of us contacted me and informed me that this author was going to be having a book signing at one of our local museums. I made a special point of going to introduce myself, since he was only the third Indie Author I’d heard about in my area at the time. After meeting him, it did not take me long to figure out that we both had similar tastes in geekisms.
However, I am getting a little ahead of myself.
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce author Dakota Kemp!
Yay! Mr. Kemp, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Do you have pets? Family?
I’m a twenty-four year old graduate student at Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, OK. I’m a colossal geek who loves good science fiction and fantasy, and I spend most of my time stargazing, playing sports, reading, writing, and spending time with my friends and family. I get absurdly excited about good stories, and I love storytelling in any genre, whether in literature, in film, in video games, or even a good ol’ fashioned campfire tale. I have two lovely sisters (Kaitlin and Emilie) and an older brother (Kaleb), and all three do their best to keep me humble.
Hey, what are siblings for? Well... not that I would know. I'm the oldest in my sibling group and I make sure that my little siblings keep my ego well fed AND groomed. *wink*
when did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when I was about fourteen – mostly variations on the King Arthur legends – but eventually decided it was too time consuming and difficult for my delicate teenage disposition. That period of writing resulted in the early ideas and groundwork for the first novel I ever completed, The Arrival, so I like to think back on my early writing forays as much needed experience for my current writing attempts.
It was about eight years later during my junior year of college that I started seriously considering picking up writing again. I’d always wanted to write a novel, and in the summer preceding my senior year and much of the first semester, I wrote my debut novel, The Arrival.
My own childhood inspired much, if not most, of the story in my own novel. My novel had to go through a lot of malicious editing though, because I wrote the story during my "delicate teenage" years. *gags, shudders* Yeah. Ugly things that were not supposed to be there appeared in that story.
Well, anyway. Moving on! Do you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres? If so, what is your favorite genre to write for?
I definitely cross genres. I’m interested in far too many topics, ideas, people, and theories to pigeonhole myself in a specific category. That being said, most of what I write is science fiction and fantasy, though I have written various short works that fall more in the mystery, drama, or non-fiction categories.
I have two books available at the moment – The Arrival, which is an epic, medieval fantasy, and Goddess, which is an action/adventure/romance science fiction novella.
Crossing genres are so much fun! It really just allows the imagination to go “BWAH! Lalalalalalalala! FruitLoopsTrippleDippedInDoubleWanka! Whoohoo!”
Ahem. Oookay... sorry about that.
So, are you a planner or a “pantser” – do you plan out your books meticulously or do you write by the seat of your pants?
A little of both, I suppose. I definitely lay down an in-depth, meticulous plan before actually beginning the writing stage, but I don’t shy away from opportune tangents or good ideas that strike me in the middle of a scene or chapter. Sure, those intuitive, lightning strike moments of inspiration may not fit well into the overall scheme, but then again, they might be the perfect touch I was searching for to bring out that special something in a character, scene, or plotline. I can always go back and remove the bits that don’t make sense or distract from the overall flow of a scene or plot. That’s what editing is for, after all.
Aha! So you are a schemer. Schemers are tricky folk who lay out a beautiful plan, then randomly begin to erase little bits of it when nobody is looking, thereby causing extreme chaos and mayhem! *squints at Dakota* I have my eye on you...
Well then... what do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write a little of everything. My two published works are firmly in the fantasy and science fiction categories respectively, but I enjoy frequently branching out to crime dramas, mysteries, non-fiction, and, yes, on great occasion, even romance. Though, of course, I try to incorporate many elements into any story I write, regardless of the ‘main category’ in which a work is written.
The music from Two Steps from Hell is awesome! Audiomachine is hard to beat though. But, when in doubt, always listen to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy music (it's my all time favorite).
So, is there a message conveyed within your writing?
To a certain extent. There is a great quote from one of my favorite books, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, in which a storyteller named Wit says: “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.” In a nutshell, this is how I feel about conveying messages in my writing. That being said, I often try to show the diversity of life and of morals by portraying everything from the most selfless, faultless of qualities to the most base, revolting aspects of existence. I’ve always felt it important to explore every facet of life, not just the parts with which I agree or feel comfortable. Of course, I do love to champion the values and themes I was raised to believe in, such as love, courage, friendship, hope, forgiveness, perseverance, justice, personal sacrifice etc., but to ignore the viewpoints, experiences, and activities with which I don’t agree would be to disregard a large portion of the imperfect, mistake-ridden, rollercoaster ride called life.
I absolutely agree with you. Because of the “imperfections” of life, there is always room for improvement. If you take those same imperfections away from a story and characters, what is there left to improve?
That is the rumor I’ve heard as well *whistles innocently*. However, I must back up and say that I do not think it is narcissistic of you to take pride in your hard work. I believe there are better words to describe it: gratification, satisfaction, conceit, egotism…
Anyway… Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
It depends on the book, honestly. Most of my stories take place in fictional worlds that I created from scratch, so I think it’s probably fair to say that I do much more research than the average writer to make certain that my worlds, cultures, peoples, characters, etc. appear realistic. That being said, I’m still creating my own worlds, which means I have the option to make stuff up or ignore reality if I feel like it.
That is the reason I love fantasy so much. I can input stuff that I know and stuff that I learn, but the rest of it I leave for the imagination to gnaw on.
I feel much the same way. Of course, there will always be the Nazi’s out there that will find SOMETHING wrong. But if indie authors wish to have a good reputation among the masses, then pro editing is a key part of building that good rep.
What was your experience with getting your book published? How did you start out? Did you have help?
I started out by applying to agents and publishing houses. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that the traditional publishing industry is incredibly exclusive. Being a good writer and storyteller just isn’t enough. You have to know people. The right people. If you don’t, you have next to no chance of being picked up. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning. I sent queries and applications to over seventy agents and publishing houses, and I never found a single person willing to read my manuscript. I’m an impatient person, and I quickly tired of the gatekeeping game. Luckily, I have great mentors, and when I announced that I was going the self-publishing route, they were more than willing to help out. Dr. Gaydosik, my literature professor, was instrumental in helping me get my manuscript for The Arrival ready for print.
I personally had no hope of ever becoming a published author. I felt like I could blow up a sun and not get a traditional publisher or agent to look my way, and all the “vanity” publishing companies charged an arm and a leg just for printing (they still do)! Thank God a couple of local authors pointed me to CreateSpace.
Did/do you find marketing difficult? What strategy do you use, if any?
Marketing is difficult, but it’s essential. Self-publishing is playing the long game, building a base of readers and fans slowly over time. Keep putting out solid work, making it visible and accessible, and you’ll see a gradual increase in readership and interest. I make sure to appear occasionally at book signings to promote my work, spread the word about my books on my website and on social media, and on great occasion set up promotions on Kindle Nation Daily or Bookbub.
Can you explain
A fact of life: people want to relate to people. People do NOT want to relate to trolls.
Yes. That was random. Do not worry, the first one is free.
If you have more than one published work, which book or series was your favorite to create?
Seriously, Fogleman? That’s like asking me to choose between my children…if I had any…which I don’t.
But in all sincerity, I’ve had good days and bad days on every project, but I’ve felt the same about them all at the end – proud to show off to the world, relieved to be finished, terrified of a crushingly negative response by my readers, and utterly exhausted and just ready to pass out for awhile. Pretty much exactly like parenthood, right?
Yeah. Just by having to help raise my siblings, I'd say that "parenting" and "authoring" are almost the same thing: teething, growing pains, sleepless nights, sad days, happy memories… diapers… minus the smell.
Wouldn't give it up for the world!
If you could change anything in an existing book, or series, of yours, what would it be?
Mostly it would be nitpicky things. There’s an old saying that a novel can be best described as a long piece of prose with something wrong with it. There have always been and will always be small things I feel I can improve upon in my novels, no matter how long I nitpick at them. But there comes a time when you’ve got to release it and move on. I eventually get around to that, but it’s never easy.
Ugh. Yeah. There have been several times lately where I have looked at The Dragons Son, groaned, then closed my eyes and forced myself to walk away. It is a FIRST book for a reason, after all.
Well, what is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Both The Arrival and Goddess came out this past year. The Arrival is the first book in my Ascension fantasy series, which I’ve projected to encompass four novels. Goddess is the first in The Shrike Chronicles, a series of science fiction novellas (short novels).
At the moment, I’m working on two different projects. One is a steampunk/sword-and-sorcery novel, and the other is the second installment in The Shrike Chronicles. Both are coming along well, and I’m estimating that I’ll have them both published around July or August, perhaps sooner.
YAY! You must let me know, so that I can buy signed copies.
Is there any project you started and are just completely stuck on? (No, don’t tell me… let me guess… *wink, wink*)
Oh, yes. Too many to count, which is when I set aside that project for a week or a month or a year and I work on something else. Then, when I come back to said project, I’m usually bursting with enthusiasm to get on with the story!
If I were paid for my unfinished stories, I would be bloody rich right now. I could afford my own Batmobile. *heavy sigh*
Tell us a little about the world of your latest or favorite book or series.
The Arrival takes place in the medieval fantasy world of Vrold. It’s a world filled with magic and adventure and myths and all kinds of extraordinary creatures. I drew inspiration for the world of Vrold from all my favorite mythologies (Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, Mesopotamian, etc.) and from the King Arthur legends. Vrold is really like a giant melting pot into which all the best fantasy creatures, races, monsters, and magics have been poured.
I've enjoyed reading and learning about mythology since I was a child, and I have a lot of fun seeing how people twist it into stories, such as you have done in The Arrival.
So, would you introduce us to some of your characters? What do you like about them?
The Arrival has many characters – certainly too many for me to go over in detail here – but the some of the main protagonists include a determined sorceress who is playing detective to unravel the mysteries behind a destructive war, an excitable history teacher turned investigator, a conflicted mercenary who is at some times brutal and at others kind, and a peasant boy bent on adventure.
Sounds like the perfect mixture of people for an explosion of grandeur! Do you have a favorite character among the many in your book? Why?
My favorite character in The Arrival is probably Jarwulf. There is just something incredibly fun in writing about a character who resides in the moral gray area – both in the readers’ minds and his own. A mercenary is the perfect place to explore the concepts of morality because ethical dilemmas crop up so often and in such extreme circumstances.
I have been working on a character in my second book who is "morally challenged" as well. It has been a lot of fun to write him, but he has also been really hard to work with because he can be so mean and unpredictable.
Do you have a character you hate/dislike? Why?
Not exactly – not really for their qualities, anyway. Korrigan might get on my nerves in real life, though. People who never stop talking drive me crazy. And people who are cheery about everything? Yep, being around Korrigan would likely be like banging my head on a desk all day.
Other than that, there were certainly characters about whom I had a tough time writing, because they were just difficult to write. They didn’t flow as easily as others.
Those characters who don’t move with the flow are really aggravating *glares at Keegan, hero of The Dragons Son*.
Are your characters ever based on real people?
Not entirely. Often I put certain attributes from people I know into characters, but I rarely make carbon copies. For instance, Barlgruuf talks, laughs, gestures, smiles, and does everything else imaginable very loudly – just like my friend David Schoenhals. Is Barlgruuf just like David? Nope. For one, Barlgruuf’s morals are about fifty times looser than David’s. But is Barlgruuf loud because David is loud? Absolutely. I specifically based that part of Barlgruuf on my friend.
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?
I haven’t…yet. Can’t say I haven’t considered it. My youngest sister, Emilie, who hates gerunds in English grammar, has often pushed for me to name a character Gerund – then, kill him off in the most gruesome way possible. People, though? You know, I can definitely see myself going that far…
I agree with your sister. Kill off those nasty gerunds! Make them evil minions of darkness that talk funny (ending every word in “ing”) and then kill them in horrible ways.
Anyway, back to the interview: what formats are your books available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these?
Both The Arrival and Goddess are available in paperback and on kindle as an e-book on amazon.com. I don’t have any audio or large print versions out unfortunately. Getting an audio book released would take some doing, but it’s definitely a good idea.
Yes. Audiobook = good idea.
Give us a fun/silly fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
When I’m at a point in my life that I have the time, I often spend as much as fifteen hours a week stargazing. I can spend hours and hours outside looking at the stars on a clear night. It’s as much of a time for me to reflect and think as it is for me to take part in an enjoyable activity.
That is excellent advice… advice that I must (reluctantly) put into use very soon on my second book. *cringes at the thought*
Well, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Mr. Kemp! I have thoroughly enjoyed it!
For the rest of you reading this, I and Dakota would GREATLY appreciate it if you shared this interview with your friends, checked out Dakota Kemp’s books, and perhaps left a comment. I have a few sweet dragons at the “exit” button with really big teeth who will inquire whether you’ve showed this to your friends…
Where you can find Dakota:
Dakota’s Books: The Arrival, Goddess
For my first author interview of the month, I am super-duper excited to introduce to you today one of my favorite Indie Published authors, Frank P. Spirit!
Frank and I met via a readers/writers group on Facebook. If I remember correctly, he asked me who helped with the editing of my book. I gave him my editor’s contact information and we pretty much hit it off from there! Honestly, I think between the two of us we could take over the world… BUT, that is another story entirely.
Mr. Spirit, I am so please to have you as my first author this month! Would you please tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Do you have pets? Family? Imaginary unicorn friend?
F.P. Spirit - I am from New Jersey, the Jersey Shore in fact. And no, I’ve never seen those TV shows, “The Jersey Shore” or “The Sopranos” before you ask. I live with my very understanding wife, and the two coolest teens anyone could ask for. Why is my wife understanding? Well, she married me. Why are my teens so cool? They put up with my wife and me without too much of a fuss. Seriously though, I have a wonderful family. My life mostly revolves around them. Other than that, I have a job which I really like, and a group of wacky, creative, fun friends.
Awesome family and wacky friends: what more could a person want in life? Other than a cookie? So, let’s talk a little about your writing. When did you start writing, and why?
F.P. Spirit - As I said, I really like my job. Still, I’ve been doing the same thing for over 30 years now. That’s a long time to do any one thing! I needed another creative outlet. My boys and I began roleplaying with our friends a few years back. They are very creative, even having their own worlds developed from years of doing so themselves. My friend, Tim, had created the world of Thac for just this purpose. When we started up, we created characters, backgrounds, family histories, and stories about them. There was a lot of sharing of those over the space of the last few years. There ended up being so much after a while that I decided to see if I could weave these all together into a novel. Three years later, with much encouragement and support from my friends and family, the Heroes of Ravenford were born!
Role Plays are pretty much the bomb! But I must say, until now, the thought had never occurred to me of turning one into a book… Hmmm. *puts thought on the shelf for later consideration*
Well, I am sure our audience would like to know if you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres? If so, what is your favorite genre to write for?
F.P. Spirit - I write basically sword and sorcery type fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy and sci-fi. It is fun and exciting to escape to different worlds and realities, to go to places where we could never visit and do things we could never do in real life!
*Unfurls my "Fantasy Rocks" flag and begins singing "We are the Champions"* Ahem... anyway. Are you a planner or a “pantser” – do you plan out your books meticulously or do you write by the seat of your pants?
F.P. Spirit - Planner. I outline my books before writing them out. I have a lot of stories about these characters and worlds amassed. If I didn’t plan it out, I wouldn’t be sure how to fit it all together.
A planner, huh? Excellent. You can be the brains of the operation when we take over the world... Moving on now! What is the most difficult part of writing for you and what is the easiest part?
F.P. Spirit - The most difficult part of writing for me is balancing out all the characters. I have quite a few in my novels and keeping it even is always a challenge. The easiest part is writing Seth and Donnie. I always can count on Seth to be sarcastic and Donnie to rush in headlong, d*mn the torpedoes!
Oof! Juggling all the different characters is proving to be a challenge for me as well. However, you have WAY more characters than I do and are very skilled at keeping them all involved, so I 've been taking notes as I've been reading your books.
Well, do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? Do you do anything unusual while your write?
F.P. Spirit - Oh, this will get me in trouble! I need quiet when I write. Sometimes I lash out when I’m in the middle of an important scene and somebody turns on the TV or something. That is why I set up a room upstairs where I can go hole myself up. It’s not fair to anyone else in the house to expect them to keep silent just because of the obsessive writer in the house!!
Yes. OWD: obsessive writer disorder. My poor siblings have taken the brunt of my OWD more than once.
So, is there a message conveyed within your writing?
F.P. Spirit - Compassion, tolerance, teamwork and doing the right thing. That is what the Heroes learn as the story unfolds. It’s what causes everyone to band together behind them.
I love reading stories about teamwork... and elves… which your book has both of in plenty. Speaking of reading, most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading?
F.P. Spirit - I am currently reading The Vision Stone, Book 3 in Natasha House’s Jade series. It is a great series, so creative and descriptive. The way she portrays characters and her world makes you feel like you are there. I so love her style.
I have read Natasha’s books as well! I totally understand where you are coming from. Her characters and story are very cool and so unique.
Can you name your favorite traditionally published author?
F.P. Spirit - David Eddings, hands down. His fantasy series the Belgariad and Mallorean are by far my favorites. I love the depth of his characters, and especially the way they interact. They are not your typical iconic fantasy characters. They are real characters with flaws and the like. And they are constantly “busting each other’s chops”. They are a very entertaining read no matter what the characters are doing. I always admired that, and try to emulate it in my own books.
David Eddings, huh? *scribbles note down on To-Read list* And now, to play devils advocate, who is your favorite indie/self-published author? *smiles deviously*
F.P. Spirit - You’re getting me in trouble again! I can’t name just one. I have three I like for different reasons: Natasha House for her lush, inventive style and worlds, Shannon Pemrick for her awesome characters who I’ve come to know almost as well as my own, and yourself, Kathryn, for your Tales of the Wovlen, the first in a creative series that has so much potential – I am so waiting for your second book!
*Blushes* Yeah. I’m waiting on my second book too… *glares at my uncooperative characters before shouting “Go play in the street, kids!”*. Ahem! Now then, where were we? Oh yes: Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
F.P. Spirit - A lot. I have been labeled as writing classic fantasy. Well in fantasy books with spells and monsters and fantastical places it is too easy to say “oh that’s magical so of course it works.” I don’t buy that and don’t expect my readers to either. I believe it should all make sense, that there should be some basic principles behind magic and the like. So I go to great pains to explain it all. Even visualizations are important. I mean, I could just say, Glolindir cast a ball of fire spell. Boring! That is why I describe things as if the reader is watching what is happening:
Glo reached into a bag at his waist and pulled out a pinch of sulfur. He began to move his arms in an intricate pattern, making a wide arc ending with his palms faced outward in front of him. A single word passed his lips, “Augue”, a small, bright red ball of light appearing between his palms. It hung there pulsing for a split second, then shot away up toward the top of the tower. The angry red ball streaked toward its target and in less than a second it traversed the distance to the catwalks above. As it reached its target, the ball suddenly expanded, now ten times its original size. It hung there for a fraction of a second longer, and then exploded! Bright red light flooded the top of the tower accompanied by the whooshing sound of the expanding flames.
That is what I like to do, paint a picture with words for the reader.
Fiiiire… wait, what? You paint? Sorry. I got distracted by the fire ball exploding. I like fire. Fire is my friend. And this scene in the book was just awesome...
Okay, back on target… so, Frank, do you self-edit? If so, why is that the case?
F.P. Spirit - I do a double, or sometimes triple pass myself. Then I pass it off to my “alpha” reader. She catches stuff I don’t see and sets me straight if I goof on continuity issues and the like. Once done, I send the draft out to a few beta readers to get their opinions. When all is said and done, I send it to my great editor/cover artist, Melinda Tipton Martin.
I tried self-editing my first book and… well… *gives Melinda a virtual squeeze hug* I love you Melinda!! On the same topic, do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
F.P. Spirit - Yes. I do. A good pro editor will point out things that an untrained person will not see. Another writer is also good, but they need some experience with editing at the very least.
How true that is! I didn’t even realize my issues had issues in my book until Melinda got a hold of it. So, I am curious, what was your experience with getting your book published? How did you start out? Did you have help?
F.P. Spirit - It was a disaster the first time through. The cover was amateurish, it was too long and there were lots of grammatical mistakes and run on sentences. I lucked out by connecting with Natasha House and her Robot Review club. I met a few other folks there, and that led me to Melinda. She reedited my book, I cut it in two, and got a great pro cover done. Now, book one is doing pretty well on Amazon. It has been in the top 10 a few times in Fantasy > Sword and Sorcery.
Top 10?! Man, that is awesome! Did you find marketing difficult? What strategy do you use, if any?
F.P. Spirit - It is the worst! I’ve tried ads at a few different places, and also some free giveaways through KDP select. I also joined Clean Indie Reads last month and Tamie Dearen gave a great presentation on how to use Twitter for ads. I’ve been doing that ever since and it has worked pretty well for me.
Ugh. I missed that class… drat! So, sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…)
F.P. Spirit - Great characters, solid plot, world building, technical perfect. The characters are the most important. Without interesting characters to identify with, no plot is going to keep a reader’s interest for long. With great characters, you now need a plot to lead them through. Even if the reader likes your characters, without a strong plot, they are not going to read an entire novel. Worlds paint the background for the characters and the plot. Without a solid built world for the characters to live in, the plot will eventually break down at some point.
I would have flipped the first two around and said solid plot THEN great characters. But I see your point there!
Now, if you could change anything in an existing book, or series, of yours, what would it be?
F.P. Spirit - The Ruins on Stone Hill, Book One of the Heroes of Ravenford. I got tagged a few times for not having strong female characters. If I were to rewrite it, I would probably have changed one of the character’s genders. How does Glolinda sound instead of Glolindir? Seriously, I gave thought to changing Delgron to a female warrior similar to Alana from the end of book two. Alana is a really big part of book 3 by the way.
Glolinda? No. No way. I wouldn’t have the fictional crush that I have now if that were the case! (elves are my weakness. Note to Mom: find me an elf, and I might get married) Anyway, speaking of book 3… What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
F.P. Spirit - My current series is Heroes of Ravenford. The first two books are The Ruins on Stone Hill and The Serpent Cult. The third book, The Dark Monolith, is scheduled to be released in 2015. It takes up where book two left off. Just when our heroes think it is safe, dark things start rearing their heads again. It looks like the Serpent Cult was not vanquished after all. The cult is still very much around and is after the works of the great Golem Thrall Master, purported to be hidden in an ancient monolith in the Darkwoods far to the west. But first, our heroes must clear their good names, for the Duke of Dunwynn has accused them of a crime that could have them banished or worse. Get ready for an epic battle between Lloyd and Sir Fafnar, the haughty Lieutenant from the City of Dunwynn. Add some new and mysterious allies, with secrets of their own. Mix that with a long journey, dangerous monsters and treacherous traps and you have a wild ride that leads our heroes far away from the town of Ravenford on a mission that could affect all of Thac.
AHG! The excitement is about to kill me! I am totally rooting for Lloyd in the fight! *screams “BUST ‘EM UP BRO!” and waves a little “Go Lloyd” flag*
Okay: pull myself back together.
Tell us a little about the world your series, Heroes of Ravenford, is set in.
F.P. Spirit - This story is set in the fictional world of Arinthar, on the island continent of Thac. Arinthar is a world of magic. It is populated by a combination of humans, mystical races and monsters, all of whom uneasily coexist together in this world. Arinthar has survived many ages and numerous wars over the millennium, the last being the Thrall Wars nearly 100 years ago. The world has experienced an unusual period of quiet since then, but recent events have indicated this may be coming to an end.
The end of peace... I love it! Mwahahahaha! *chokes… coughs… gags* Ahem… okay. So, please introduce our audience to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
F.P. Spirit - Lloyd is the tall, red armored Spiritblade from Penwick who wields his fiery swords like a whirlwind. Tough as he seems, he is a very caring guy who would give his life to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Glolindir is the blonde haired elven wizard from the hidden City of Cairthrellon. He is still new to the uses of magic in the "outside" world, and makes many mistakes. However, he learns and grows as the series unfolds, trying to help his friends and prove that people of different races can work together.
Seth is the mysterious, dark clothed halfling who may very well be an assassin, his knives only slightly sharper than his acid wit. He is always verbally jabbing his friends, but Seth will go to the ends of Thac to protect them if he must.
Aksel is the serious little gnome cleric whose healing hands are only matched by his love for all living things. He is wise and strategic minded, the role of leader falling squarely on his small shoulders. It is a heavy burden though, and it is sometimes difficult for Aksel to carry the burden.
Elladan is the always effervescent white clad bard whose good looks and sylvan voice are only rivaled by his skills with musical spells. The consummate showman, Elladan lives to perform. But when he meets the Heroes, Elladan stands by their side through peril after peril, helping however he can.
*Giggles like a fangirl* I love all of them! But, I think Glolindir is my favorite. Do you have a favorite character? *smiles deviously again*
F.P. Spirit - You’re getting me in trouble again. I cannot pick a favorite main character. They are all far two special to me in their own ways. However, I can pick a favorite support character. Ruka, hands down. The sarcastic teen appears to be a female copy of Seth at first, but we quickly find out there is far more to the fifteen year old than meets the eye. She is butt kicking in a fight, not someone you want to p*ss off, as Donnie soon finds out in book three.
An excellent reminder: don’t cross a sarcastic chick. Bad things WILL happen to you.
Do you have a character you hate/dislike? Why?
F.P. Spirit - Sir Fafnar. I think that was obvious. He is the ultimate pompous politician, trying to worm his way up the ladder in the Dunwynn chain of command. He is also quite obviously after the hand of the Lady Andrella. Fafnar is very easy to hate for all his intolerance and arrogance. He is the perfect foil for the Heroes as well because he is not someone they can just take out in battle. He is a noble of Dunwynn and has as much right to be in Ravenford as they do.
Political men and stuffy noblemen always make me snarl like a dragon. I will gladly lend a dragon out to the heroes to scorch the pompus windbag, simply for the pleasure of watching (though I have a sneaking suspicion that they will have a dragon friend of their own soon...)!
Anyway, back onto the subject: Are your characters ever based on real people?
F.P. Spirit - Funny question. My sons developed both Lloyd and Seth. They put a lot of their own personalities into those characters. So yes, I guess those two are loosely based on my sons.
Aha! That explains the great personalities those two characters have! And, have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? *Laughs like a wicked witch*
F.P. Spirit - Not yet. Debating on Fafnar though. Wink. Wink.
Do it. Like I said, I’ll lend you and the Heroes a dragon if y’all need it…
What formats are your books available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
F.P. Spirit - Ebook, and paperback. Audio would be fun. I have a friend who does voices (Matt, are your ears ringing?) I would love to have him read my book aloud.
GASP! That would be totally awesome! If you do it, I hope to be one of your first customers for the audio version! *grins*
Well, thank you so much for lending some of your valuable time, Mr. Spirit, and answering my questions. I had a blast! Oh… I had popcorn, by the way… did you want some popcorn? I eated it all, but… it’s the thought that counts, right?
For the rest of you reading this, thank you for visiting, and please feel free to leave a comment below! There is a dragon at every exit who will ask quite politely if you have left a comment… after that, you should totally go look F.P. Spirit and his books up! Here is the information:
F.P. Spirit’s Books on Amazon: http://bit.ly/FPSpiritAmz
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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