Author Interview: Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

I had the privilege of interviewing Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour about her writing journey, especially her Night’s Vampire Trilogy.

Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour is an award winning author living in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Her childhood dream was to become a great Canadian novelist. She attended Mohawk College and the University of Waterloo, and earned a Freelance Journalism Certificate, after which she wrote articles and a short story column for the Brantford Expositor.

Mary has published four collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, a biography, and the Night’s Vampire Trilogy – Night’s Gift, Night’s Children, and Night’s Return. She is the owner of Cavern of Dreams Publishing, and also edits and publishes books for other aspiring authors.

You can contact Mary and check out her books at:

www.cavernofdreamspublishing.com or www.marymcushniemansour.ca

1. Tell us a bit about your success journey. How and why did you start writing?

2. What sort of poetry do you write? Do you follow the same trend with your short stories? What about your serial mysteries?

3. How did you come up with the idea for Night’s Vampire Trilogy?

4. How does your story differ from other vampire stories? What would make me want to read Night’s Vampire Trilogy?

5. Who are your main characters–their backgrounds and why people fall in love with them?

6. What was the hardest part about writing this series, and do you plan on continuing the story?

7. Who do you think your ideal readers would be?

8. What is your feedback on the trilogy so far?

9. What advice do you have for new or old writers?

10. Where can readers find your books?

Night's Gift

Night’s Gift

Night's Children

Night’s Children

Night's Return

Night’s Return

5 Ways the Book Marketing Challenge Blew My Mind

English: Download from paper book to kindle (o...

I already loved marketing when I started the Book Marketing Challenge under the amazingly organized and inspiring D’vorah Lansky. I was excited, thinking I’d learn a few new techniques, maybe a new angle on what I already knew, and move on. After all, I’ve published three fiction books already.

But the Challenge blew my mind. Here’s how:

1. Lists are Gold, Jerry! Gold!

I knew lists were important, but I had no idea just HOW important. They really are gold. I had no idea there were so many ways to build the list. I’ve had a subscription to AWeber for over a year now, but never knew quite what to do with it. Sister, I do now!

2. Teleseminars Rock!

Oh, Lynne Klippel, I love you, you with your gorgeous view from your porch in Ecuador! I have to confess, as soon as I saw Lynne’s session, I was obsessed with teleseminars. I took her course and got just a bit distracted from the Book Marketing Challenge for awhile. Last night I held the second of four sessions of the beta-test of my webinar, “Maximize Your Marketing Impact with a WordPress Website,” and I’m loving it!

3. Kindle Possibilities Are Endless!

My second crush I’m confessing to here (no, third, because I include D’vorah) is Kristen Eckstein. I had no idea I could do so much with my Kindle books. I’m taking her series now, and it’s exciting too.

4. Nonfiction is Awesome!

I’ve always been a researcher; after all, my master’s is in library science. I decided at the beginning of this Challenge to put aside my fiction for awhile and focus on nonfiction. I’m having a blast!

5. Woman Power!

(I am really not an exclamation point person, but this Challenge forces me to do it, because I’m so excited about it.) I’m thrilled to see so many women speakers and participants in this Challenge. No offense, guys, but I’m so happy to see women taking charge of their lives and careers in such creative ways.

Thank you so much to everyone for making this the best money I ever spent on continuing education! (Yeah, that deserves one last exclamation point.)

Do you agree? Comment on your experiences below.

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Click Refresh, or 3 Things I Learned About Writing at a Sci-Fi Convention

Alabama Phoenix FestivalMy experiences this past weekend at the Alabama Phoenix Festival make me feel as if I’ve clicked the Refresh button on my life-browser. The Festival is essentially a pop culture convention, and featured tracks on anime, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, costuming, Star Trek and Star Wars, and comics, just to name a few. One of the stronger tracks was on writing. Here’s a summary of what I learned.

1. Editors at publishing houses only read the first sentence. If they’re not gripped then, they pass on to the next. This information came to me from my dear friend Janica York Carter who attended a panel on “What Are Editors Looking For?” featuring Lou Anders of Pyr Publishing. Another editor on the panel said he’d read a bit further, but that still means you need to hook the reader right away. Anders said (paraphrasing), “I love books. I spend all my time with books. I wouldn’t be in this profession if I didn’t love books. So if you can’t hook ME right away, you need to try harder.”

2. Marketing is crucial. Think creatively about it. This advice I derived from a wonderful conversation with Teal Haviland, author of the newly released Inception. My friend Janica told me about her booth, and when I visited, I was immediately drawn by the gorgeous cover of her book. Even before I spoke with Ms. Haviland, I could tell she was doing so much right with her marketing. She had a professional cover, in contrast to many others around her whose covers screamed, “I did this myself and don’t know anything about fonts.” Her “booth”–actually a four-foot section of a long cloth-covered table–displayed her book, business cards and bookmarks in an attractive array. Behind the booth, on the wall, were two posters for her book, one of them an enlarged version of the cover. Ms. Haviland explained that when it’s busy, people passing by may not be able to see the top of the table, but they will see the posters. The interior of her book was beautifully laid out, with decorations in the footer beside the page number and inside covers–all done (I believe) at CreateSpace. She sells her books at science fiction and fantasy conventions, because that’s where the fans of her fantasy books are, and feels it’s important to ask to be put on panels, to raise awareness of her books. In the program schedule, I noted she was on 6 panels. Ms. Haviland said she also attends book festivals, as that’s where the readers are.

3. Networking is vital. The Alabama Phoenix Festival is a young convention, and still relatively small compared to something like Dragon*Con, but that’s a good thing. Since the crowds are smaller, you aren’t pressed to hurry through the authors alley or the vendors’ booths. You can stop and talk with authors who have experience in the areas you’re working on. You can chat with prominent editors and small press publishers and pick their brains (while seeing costumed zombies ready to eat yours). You can meet new and talented artists (like the incredibly multi-talented Afua Richardson, who designed the festival’s badge and program artwork). Such lovely people, all ready to help and eager to talk.

Comments? What have your experiences been? I’d love to read them. Post below.

More excursions

I’ve neglected this blog in favor of the main blog at donnakfitch.com, but I’m currently working on a different novel than I was last time I posted here, so I thought I’d post a bit of information about that. Plus, I’ve written my first short story since “Detour” in 2008!

Dad, Christmas, 1964 001_cr

Dad holding the red guitar, Christmas 1964

First the short story. It’s called “Red Guitar,” and it appears in an anthology called An Alexandria Winter Story Collection, available at Amazon and Smashwords. It’s classified as fantasy, but it’s based on my father, who died on Christmas Day, 1988, and this wonderful photo of him receiving a guitar as a gift in 1964.

The collection is full of other wonderful stories by my colleagues at Alexandria Publishing Group: Jonathan Gould, Paul Kater, Stephen H. King (TOSK) and D. Kai Wilson-Viola, with an excerpt of Valerie Douglas‘ latest book, The Girl in the Window.

My work-in-progress is called Revival. It’s the novel I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo, and it’s on the (roughly) second draft. Maybe third. It’s the story of Elijah Grayson, a Baptist preacher with a dark past whose first sermon in rural Bishop’s Creek, Alabama, is interrupted by church members speaking ancient Sumerian. I’d love to have it published by the end of 2013. That’s my goal, anyway.

Pick up the APG collection and let me know what you think in the comments below!

A glimpse of Noora

I’m still raising money for the Clarion Foundation in the Write-a-Thon through August 5, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my story. Here’s part of the first chapter of the currently-titled Noora Tamarin and the Ring of the Mote. If you haven’t given already, please do so, or encourage someone else to help. I’m up to 5,425 out of the 20,000 word goal.

 

Noora Tamarin risked a glance back over her shoulder, clawing the green silk scarf from her eyes. The soldiers were out of sight at the moment, detained by the press of crowds in the market. She dashed around a cart selling samosas and nearly lost sight of her quarry. The brown flicker of a tail vanished behind a pillar at the last stalls. Ah hah! she thought with a smile. Noora plunged after him, the curved wood of the dotara slung across her back bouncing rhythmically. She could feel the faint vibrations of its strings against her skin.

The kananauka sped down the narrow corridor between the row of pillars and the wall of some administrative building. Noora’s breath echoed in her head. “Please—” she panted. “Stop—I just—want to talk—”

She caught a glimpse of the monkey man’s brown and tan face and wide eyes. “Who are you?” he demanded, but didn’t slow his pace. “Quit following me!”

“Your name’s Mathur, right?”

He leaped sideways at one of the pillars, his long fingers and toes grabbing the white stone, and slung himself up out of sight.

Noora skidded to a halt, her green slippers sliding off her heels. She twisted her feet back into the shoes and peered upward into the dazzling blue sky. The spire looked razored out of white paper. She saw the flick of Mathur’s tail over the edge of the roof.

The broad leaves of the tree formed a deep green curtain at the corner of the building. Noora spotted a low branch and pulled herself up into it, climbing as quickly as she could toward the roof. She swung off, resolutely not looking down. One of the fanciful spires of the building swept upward—I wonder if my father designed this one, she thought—and she glimpsed the brown body in the dun-colored worker’s shift leaping up onto it.

“Mathur! Wait!” she called.

On closer inspection, Noora noticed the spire’s surface wasn’t smooth stone, as the lower stories of the building were, but plaster sculpted into a motif of waves protruding at regular intervals. She knew her father must have designed this one; the wave was his signature. I must remember to thank him, she smiled to herself and stepped up onto the lowest level.

She climbed no more than a few meters when a chunk of plaster slid under her foot and spiraled far below to the streets of Ujjayini. She knew she shouldn’t look down, but scraped her toes around for another foothold. “Please, Mathur, wait!”

His long brown tail twitched as it disappeared over the curve of the tower’s fanciful architecture. She heard his voice float back, “I’m innocent!”

“I know you’re innocent!” The sweeping curve of plaster was caked with bird droppings. Noora hauled herself up onto it, wincing at the slimy feel of the substance. “But if you won’t tell me your story,” she said, wiping her hands on her blue cotton tunic, “No one else will know that.” She adjusted the dotara; it kept sliding around and getting in her way. Noora wondered briefly how her grandmother had managed it, but thought, Maybe she didn’t go climbing around the spires of Ujjayini after monkey men. The plaster creaked beneath her as she reached for the next handhold.

Mathur’s brown and tan face peered over the edge of the next curve, his large eyes squinted. Even though he could have easily scaled the tower and lost her, he hadn’t. “Why do you care?” he asked.

Craning her neck to look at him against the brilliant blue sky made her dizzy. She grabbed the protruding wave. “I want to tell your story.”

He twisted his wide mouth and spit off to one side. “Nobody cares about the kananaukas,” he said, the words sharp and bitter. “We harvest melambu all day and all night for the masters and work our digits to the bone—” Mathur wiggled his long, identical fingers and toes over the edge. “And if we stop to ask why or demand better treatment, we’re punished for it.”

Her stomach lurched at the sight of him squatting on the plaster outcropping, until she remembered he was far more in his element than she was. “Isn’t it time someone put a stop to it?” Noora asked.

A sudden gust of wind whipped her green scarf around her face. She stepped back with a gasp, blinded by the fabric. One slipper dropped off her heel and dangled. She clutched at the plasterwork with one hand as she swiped at the scarf.