~ interview with Sunny Martin from Watcher & Runner

Bonnie Phelps is a romance writer who works tirelessly to promote other authors in the genre on her blog, Bonnie Phelps, Author. With her Character Interviews and her First Kiss Fridays, she provides a great platform to help readers find new books and authors to follow.

Her latest novel is My Sexy Veterinarian, released last summer. And an earlier book, Julia’s Star, was just re-released this month as part of the seventeen-book bundle, Sultry Nights: a Limited Edition Romance Collection.

This week Bonnie’s blog is featuring an interview with Sunny Martin from Watcher and Runner, Books I & II of The Chosen. You can check it out here.

And trust me, that interview was not easy to obtain. It took quite a bit of persuasion to convince Sunny to do the interview, and she ended up bolting before it was done.

Go check it out, and be sure to check out Bonnie’s books while you’re at it.

~RM~

 

~ Runner: Book II of The Chosen – the journey, part I

RohMorgon_Runner_BookII - Copy

It’s finally here.

The day that I announce that Runner: Book II of The Chosen is available.

It’s been a long journey, filled with interruptions too numerous to count, medical issues, family problems, and repeated revisions.

It started eight years ago, when I finished writing Watcher: Book I of The Chosen. As the final words of the first book in the series hit the page in May 2009, I realized I needed to keep going. So I wrote the first section of Runner—about 20,000 words—and saved the file at what I felt was a good stopping spot. I then spent the next year and a half trying to learn how to write properly, and in October 2011, published Watcher.

Sometime in that eighteen months, I had a “shower inspiration“, also known as a “shower epiphany” or “shower thoughts.” (one study even noted that “72% of people get their best ideas in the shower“).

Anyhow, I had one of those moments. And in that moment, three characters walked into my head: a tall, massively built Native American male; a stocky, red-bearded Scot with a wee bit of an accent; and a diminutive, chocolate-skinned Creole woman every bit as lethal as the other two.

I had no idea who they were, or what role they’d play in Runner. I just knew they’d be pivotal.

And boy, did they turn out to be—in ways I never expected.

In June of 2011, I attended a self-publishing workshop in Oregon put on by Dean Wesley Smith. At the workshop, one of their recommendations for those of us working on a novel series is to write short stories that tie into the novels. The appearance of these stories in anthologies, periodicals, and other mediums provide an additional avenue through which to funnel readers to your series.

As my husband and I started the 16-hour drive home, I thought about that, and recalled the trio from my shower inspiration. The most interesting of the three was their leader, and so I decided to write his story about how he’d become a Chosen and how he winds up encountering Sunny, the series’ main character.

The result of that was The Last Trace, the first of three novellas that explore Taz’s life up to the time of Runner. But writing his story gave me more than just another book—it gave me a deeper insight into who he is and why he does the things he does.

But writing The Last Trace also delayed the writing of Runner, and the novel languished while I focused on historical research, editing, and publishing the novella.

Once Taz’s past was out of the way (at least the first part), I was able to dive back into Runner and made substantial progress on the novel.

A second major interruption (a wonderful one) was an opportunity to participate in a vampire anthology edited by Gabrielle Faust, noted author of the vampire series ETERNAL VIGILANCE and other dark fantasies. The theme centered on vampires and the games they play with both their prey and with each other, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to submit a story.

I didn’t even have to think hard about what to write. I had a ready-built world with The Chosen series, including characters. What I didn’t expect was the entrance of a character previously unknown to me—Colin O’Neill.

The story that ended up in 2013’s High Stakes: A Vampire Anthology, along with stories from nine award-winning authors, was The Games Monsters Play. And when the rights reverted to me after a year, I expanded the short story and published it as a novelette.

Again, all of that brought my work on Runner to a screeching halt. But I’m glad it did, because it allowed Colin to infiltrate my psyche, and he did it so surreptitiously that I was stunned when he walked onto the pages of Runner.

In early 2014, I sent the first completed draft to my core beta readers—Lex, Janine, Mellie, Edd, Earl, Vanessa, and Odette. The feedback was glowing, and contained wonderful suggestions for improvement, which I promptly incorporated.

But that draft was missing an early chapter—a chapter dealing with a complex medical emergency for one of the characters. I’d simply labeled it as “Surgery??” with the intention of researching that scenario once the first draft was finished.

That ended up being more complicated than I expected. And the more I researched, the more I realized I needed the expertise of a medical professional.

I found one later that year. Janeane was an emergency room nurse, and when I gave her the first part of Runner, she excitedly dove into her own research. Her critique of the chapters both before and after the missing one was invaluable, and I realized that I would need to completely rewrite the first section of the book in order to keep somewhat medically authentic.

That same year, and the one following it, was filled with my own medical issues, along with family problems and other distractions. The rewrite haunted me, and it wasn’t until 2016 that I completed it. I ran it past my sister-in-law, Gazelle, who is also in the medical profession, and after a few minor adjustments, she gave me the green light.

The second draft went out to another group of beta readers, including the wonderful Jeannie, my fox friend who read it several times and provided great insight and suggestions.

With a few changes and a last bit of polish, I handed the final draft over to a third group of betas, as well as my editor, Jodi Renee Lester.

At her suggestion, I sent it to a few readers who had not read Watcher. We wanted to ensure there was enough flashback and other references to the first book that someone starting the series with Runner wouldn’t feel lost—and yet, not be boring with too much rehash for current fans.

Another milestone in this journey was the discovery of a cover artist who captured the kind and quality of look I wanted for these books. I’d been looking for one for years, and though a couple were promising, I still kept looking. I was so thrilled when I found Deranged Doctor Design and fell in love with the covers done by Milo.

The timing couldn’t have been better—DDD was able to fit the first two books into their summer schedule in time for me to meet my publication deadlines in October. They’ve been awesome to work with, and I highly recommend their services.

And so here I am, with both of my main goals for the last six years just weeks away from achievement:

  • Watcher: Book I of The Chosen – with a professional, high-quality edit, additional content, and a shiny new cover, this book is finally what I’ve dreamed it could be, and, for the first time, I feel proud of it. The second edition premiers October 7. The ebook version is available now for pre-order.

What a long, strange trip it’s been. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

In Part II of this post, I’ll talk about some of the folks who’ve helped me along the way. Be sure to check back – you may find yourself in the story!

~ 50 minutes of fame

On Wednesday, July 26, I will be featured on Yvonne Mason‘s Off the Chain BlogTalk Radio podcast!

I’ll be sharing the latest news on The Chosen series:

  • Watcher is getting a makeover
    • The new cover is being worked on THIS WEEK and I hope to see the first draft by Friday
    • The revisions incorporating a professional edit and new material are nearly complete
  • Runner is with my editor
    • Its new cover will be ready at the end of August
    • Projected publication date – October 2017
  • Seeker is underway
    • Expect a Carpathian experience, courtesy of my trip to Romania last year

We’re gonna have fun on the show. I have all kinds of weirdness that I’m sure Yvonne will do her best to bring out. 🙂

~ a little history

I’ve been a reader since I can remember. I started with animal stories, and along the way fell in love with a magnificent Arabian stallion called The Black in Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion. I read the whole series, and anything else about horses that I could get my hands on.

My next phase was the Readers’ Digest Condensed Books for Children. Though they were shortened versions, without the RD books I probably never would have been exposed to such classics as Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and countless others.

When I was in junior high school, my dad signed me up for the Science Fiction Book Club. Every 30 days they would send their book-of-the-month. I read Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dune long before they were made into movies, along with many other science fiction classics.

I briefly dabbled in westerns when I spent a summer with my grandparents, and I fell head over heels for the steel-eyed, silent stranger who was fast with a gun and saved the day.

And then I discovered fantasy. Lord of the Rings opened up doors to lands even more wonderful that those in the wild west or on the faraway planets of science fiction, and I quickly immersed myself into realms ruled by magic and swords.

In the 1990s, the movie Interview with a Vampire introduced me to a new genre. After I read all of Anne Rice’s books, I consumed every vampire story I could get my hands on. Wonderful stories by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Elaine Bergstrom, Nancy Collins, Nancy Baker and many others showed me how a simple mythology can have so many different—and fascinating—interpretations.

Fast forward to 2008. Vampires had taken over pop culture, thanks to the Twilight books and movies. Stephanie Meyer brought a new twist to the genre, one I thought was actually quite clever in spite of the grumblings by critics about “sparkly vampires.”

And then, one morning in December, I woke up with this sad, lonely vampire woman in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and when I got to work, I quickly wrote a one-page lament in her voice. She talked about her isolation, her fear of killing someone, and her anguish at watching her daughter live out her life from afar.

I wasn’t sure what to do at that point. I’d always thought about writing books, but never felt I had the time. Writing was something I’d decided would have to wait until I was retired.

But this creature, this vampire woman, would not leave me alone. And I found myself wondering about her life, and how she spent her time, and what had happened to make her this way.

And so, in early January 2009, I gave in and started writing down the bits of her existence that she revealed to me. Sunny showed me her life as though it were a movie, and all I did was translate the film into words on a computer screen.

Nicolas entered the picture a week or so later. Together they were relentless, and as their story unfolded in my head, movie-fashion, I could do nothing but write.

They would start in on me late at night, at 10:00, or maybe 11:00 – just when I was ready to go to bed. The movie played, and I had no choice but to type.

Sleep was a reward they allowed me only after the clock showed 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and I would gratefully shut down my computer and stagger to bed. My alarm would go off the next morning at 6:00 a.m., and I would crawl to work. After a long day, I returned home, only to repeat the cycle again, and again.

Weekends became typing marathons, with 5:00 a.m. bedtimes and 8:00 a.m. wakeups. And the movie played, and my fingers could only comply with the pressure to get the story out.

And I learned what it’s like to live with vampires.

Five months later, the first draft of the novel was completed. I then spent the next eighteen months learning how to write (something I’m still working on), and in October 2011, Watcher: Book I of The Chosen was born.

Since then, I’ve written several short stories in the Watcher world, along with a number of stories in a new YA series.

But the vampires refuse to let me go just yet. Runner: Book II of The Chosen is scheduled for release in Fall 2017—and there are more stories about their world on the way.

~ Watcher re-boot

Watcher re-boot?

Yes.

It’s been six years since Watcher: Book I of The Chosen was released. In that time, the series has gained a small but dedicated following.

And so, with the pending release of Runner: Book II of The Chosen this fall, I thought it was a good time to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time:

Re-release a professionally edited Watcher, with new and improved content – and a brand new cover.

The editing was finished some time ago, but with my focus on completing Runner, it was necessary to delay actually incorporating those edits.

Runner is now with my editor, and Watcher is getting a serious makeover – one that I hope will make it more worthy to be the flagship of this series.

But even with snappier dialog, expanded scenes, and a flashy new cover, the heart of the story remains the same – a story about choice, about love and loss, and about coming out stronger on the other side.

 

 

~ 2017 update

2016 was a busy year that included a number of positive events in my life.

Most importantly, a serious health condition that has dogged me for much of my adult life has been resolved. I’m getting healthier by the day and that spark (which had been fading the last few years) has returned. I’m grateful to be alive.

My new lease on life motivated me to take a trip this past summer to a magical place featured in many of my favorite stories – ROMANIA. Even better, the trip was hosted by Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker.

As my husband and I visited Romanian villages and hiked the Carpathian Mountains, I realized our trip was not only to another place, but another time. I absorbed as many sights, sounds, and smells as I could, and hopefully I’ll be able to reproduce some of those experiences in my next novel.

Another significant life event was a change in my day job, which now brings me more satisfaction and will allow me more time – and energy – for writing. In addition, for the first time I can truly see retirement on the not-too-distant horizon.

My dream of writing full-time is now a little closer.

As for my writing itself . . .

*  “Saving Magic”, a young adult fantasy from my Forbidden Doorways series, will be released this spring. “Magic” was originally written for the Fresno Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Woadsbury anthology. Unfortunately, the anthology never saw publication.

*  “The Games Monsters Play”, a novelette of The Chosen, was published September 2016 and is now available on Amazon in both print and ebook formats.

“Games” is an expanded version of the story that first appeared in 2013’s “High Stakes: A Vampire Anthology”, edited by Gabrielle Faust and published by Evil Jester Press. The story follows a minor character from Watcher and introduces a major character from Runner.

*  “Runner: Book II of The Chosen”, after more revisions than I can count, is finally with my editor. I will not promise a publishing date (because that seems to be a promise I’ve been unable to keep so far), but I’m going to do everything I can to get it published this year.

*  “Seeker: Book III of The Chosen” is in development. All I can say about it is that my trip to Romania last summer has provided me wonderful backdrop material for Sunny’s continuing journey.

That’s it for now. It’s great to be back in the game.

~2016 update

New year. New determination.

I am writing.

I am editing.

Runner will be published by the end of the year.

The last three years have been a wild roller coaster ride. Every time I’ve thought I had control of my life again, or at least some semblance of it, some new challenge rose, frequently flanked by a couple old ones.

But everything feels different now.

My medical and family issues have slowly resolved, finally allowing my creative self to unfurl her wings and climb out from the protective cocoon in which she’s been hiding.

And it feels so glorious to stretch those wings.

My edit of Runner has morphed into a complete re-write of the first section, something that I hadn’t anticipated.

But it’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a great thing, and as it turned out, was absolutely necessary.

Runner‘s opening scene – about 20,000 words – hit the page in 2009, right after I completed the first draft of Watcher. It slowly evolved, 20,000-40,000 words at a time, until the initial draft was complete in late 2013.

Once the final chapter was done, it was time to turn my attention to an early chapter which I had purposely skipped. Medical research was needed to complete it, but that turned out to be much more difficult than I realized. I finally met an ER nurse who gave me a crash course in ER procedures (thank you, Janeane) and made me painfully aware that the scenes leading up to that chapter were completely unrealistic and needed major revision. Further discussions with my sister-in-law, a surgical nurse instructor, helped me fine-tune the scenes and keep them as medically accurate as possible.

And so the re-write began.

But like I said before, that was absolutely necessary. And not just because some of the details were wrong.

The writing was, well, not that great. I wrote those initial chapters five to seven years ago, and in the intervening years, something cool happened.

My writing improved. A lot.

And the first section of Runner is so much better now. There’s a maturity to the writing that even I can see, and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to write this story the right way BEFORE it’s published.

So for those of you who’ve been wondering if you’d ever see Watcher‘s sequel, believe me when I tell you this:

It will be well worth the wait.

And so I slowly step back into the writing world.

I was recently accepted as a featured author at the Great Valley Bookfest in Manteca on October 8th. And next week, I’ll be helping the San Francisco chapter of the Horror Writers Association with their booth at the Bay Area Book Festival.

And in July?

I’m traveling to Romania for an 11-day tour of the country as research for Seeker, my third book in the Chosen series. I’ll post more on that later.

Several weeks ago, I attended StokerCon, the Horror Writers Association convention and awards. I hugged writer friends I haven’t seen in three years, and made some great new ones. The workshops re-energized me, but it was being back in the presence of so much wonderful creativity that really strengthened my determination to finish my current projects and start new ones. That, and the belief in me and my writing that my close friends and family have, is giving me the drive and the energy to pursue my passion and my dream of someday being able to do this full-time.

Because I have so many wonderful stories to tell.

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~checking in

Thought I’d check in and give you an update.

I’m in the midst of a major revision to the first part of Runner. I know – I thought it was done. But after consulting with an expert on an important part of the storyline, I needed to make some changes. I thought it was going to be the simple addition of a scene and maybe some minor corrections surrounding it. But that’s not the case. It’s amazing how one little change creates a ripple effect, and the tiny blip that was on the edge of your radar is now dead center and staring you down through sights aimed right at your face!

So, yeah. Gonna be a little longer. But I’m halfway through it – finishing it depends on just how much time real life demands of me.

I am also working on another project, one a little more personal and something totally different for me. When my mother was a child, she was given the Civil War diaries of her great-grandfather. He was a well-known war correspondent who regularly wrote articles for the National Tribune, a weekly newspaper based in Washington, D.C.

It’s been her lifelong dream to publish those diaries in the form of a book, and she has been transcribing them – first on a typewriter, then on a computer – for much of her life. She recently started prepping the finished book for publication through Amazon/Create Space and was having trouble with the formatting. I volunteered to help her, and am slowly straightening out the many kinks that Word can throw into a document. And no, not interested in using Scrivener or InDesign – I’m pretty good at beating Word into submission and just don’t have time to learn to use new software at this point.

So anyhow, my latest foray into publishing is now in the realm of non-fiction. I love this business – there’s always something new to learn and new territory to explore.

And for those who are Civil War buffs, I’ll let you know when this book is out. It’s pretty interesting – my great-great grandfather was certainly in the thick of things. I’m enjoying getting to know him, too. It’s kinda cool to think I might’ve inherited some of his talent.

~writing

It’s been awhile since my last post – a long while.

So I thought I’d give an update as to why.

I’m writing.

And when I write, I need to separate from everything outside the story except my job and my family. Everything else—my horses, my friends, my blog, facebook—only get minimal attention. I just don’t multitask well.

Unfortunately, mastering the skill of multitasking is a requirement for writers these days, especially those of us who indie-publish. Editor, book designer, publisher, marketer, social networker—these are all hats we must wear in addition to writer. I’ve found that whenever I change hats, though, it takes me a little while to get the new one to fit. Once it does, I’m reluctant to take it off.

And right now, I’m wearing my writer hat.

Runner, the sequel to Watcher, is nearing completion. Currently at 80,000 words, the story is moving into its third and final act.

I realize this novel is way behind schedule. Without going into details, 2012 was a very difficult year for me and my family, as well as a few others close to me. A number of events, some quite tragic, made working on this story nearly impossible, and rather than have it suffer from the constant turmoil of my personal life, I elected to set it aside until I felt ready to return to Sunny’s world.

But I’m deep in it now. Sunny faces many challenges in this book, some old, some new, and like my readers, I am just along for the ride and never quite sure what might be around the next bend. Rest assured, though—even if the details of what, why, and when are a little blurry, I can see the end of the road and I know exactly where it’s going.

Unless, of course, The Chosen have other ideas . . .

As a token of my appreciation for your patience, here is an excerpt from Runner: Book II of The Chosen:

~~~~~~~~~

It’s Halloween night. The streets and clubs are filled with witches and zombies and vampires, but no Chosen. If there’s any night they’d prowl among the humans, this would be it.

I’ve spent hours drifting from club to club, searching for the real monsters beneath the elaborate costumes. A silver-sequined mask is my only concession to the holiday, though my hunting blacks and black leather jacket seem to blend in well enough.

Disgusted with my fruitless quest, I walk back to the Cat Club for one last look before heading out of the city to hunt.

The place is packed. Fortunately the music is loud enough to cover the constant growl rumbling deep in my chest. My aversion to being touched by humans has increased since I returned from the wild, and it’s taking everything I have not to clear a space around me.

I spot a gap next to the wall and work my way through the crowd to lay claim to it. A couple to my right dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy ease back to give me a little more room and I settle in against the cracked paint.

A black-caped figure to my left turns and regards me with eyes as dark as night. He flashes me a leering grin, his yellowish fangs in sharp contrast to the white of his teeth.

My breath catches, then slowly escapes.

Fake. His fangs are fake. Plastic.

Rolling my eyes, I turn away and stare out at the masquerade madness convulsing through the club.

The feel of the air surrounding us abruptly changes. I look toward the door and stop breathing all together.

A stir ripples through the masses as four costumed figures enter, drawing every gaze in the club. Their elegant 17th-century garments appear to be the real thing, with details that only my eyes are likely to pick out in the dim light.

Two stately females, blonde and brunette curls tumbling to their shoulders beneath broad-brimmed hats, glide into the room, their brocaded gold and ruby gowns sweeping the floor. Two males follow, sporting doublets and matching breeches in indigo and ivory. Their pale faces are bordered with shoulder-length hair, pointed goatees, and wide mustaches, no doubt the fashion of that time.

But it’s not the costumes that have stolen my breath.

The air shimmers around them, their auras pulsating in a tapestry of burgundy and black and grey. I’ve felt Chosen auras before, but this is the first I’ve seen them. I recognize the feel of Nicolas in them—these Chosen are of his lineage.

I push off from the wall and move toward my quarry.

As one, their haughty gazes shift in my direction and appraise me from across the room. Several lips curl, and the shorter male smiles, and with no further expression, they turn about-face and stroll out of the club.

Elbowing my way through the crowd, I reach the door and shove it open. As I step outside, I run into a broad, black t-shirted chest.

“Excuse me.” I start to push past him, but he steps in front of me again.

I look up into golden eyes perched above a hawklike nose and wide cheekbones. Full lips part and tug to one side, allowing me a glimpse of the fang behind them. Crimson flashes in his pupils and I ease back, hands up in surrender.

“Hey, I don’t want any trouble.” Instantly on guard, I yank off my mask and let it fall to the sidewalk.

The costumed Chosen behind him slip into a waiting limousine.

But they’re no longer necessary—not with this one standing barely three feet away.

I just hope he isn’t going to kill me.

~~~~~~~~~