Category: Featured Author

Other authors/writers I’ve met and fallen over for. Meet them and read some of their work

Ink and Alchemy: Promoting Artists Since Before You Cared

That’s my tag line, not Robin’s. So don’t blame her. But do check out her site here.

If you haven’t given Ink and Alchemy a look, you should. The Ink and Alchemy idea, pieced together by its creator Robin Kalinich, is that the best way for artists of all genres to get noticed is to, well, notice them.

Robin is an active artist and writer herself, but she spends at least as much time patting the backs of other great up and coming and better known artists and writers.

Ink and Alchemy might be mostly about art in the form that most think of, but she has a sister setup (More Ink) that focuses on the more on the less visual writing side of art.

Why do I bring all this up? Really, it’s because you’re really missing out on great art if you’re not heading over and checking out Robin’s featured artists on a regular basis.

Author Interview: Robin Kalinich

I’m very pleased to introduce my readers to a fantastic writer and a serious Social Media soldier fighting for exposure for artists and writers everywhere. Robin Kalinich and I met online before we realized we were both Southwest Writers members. Since then, we’ve gotten to know each other and I can’t be more pleased with my new friendship.

Author/Artist/Social Media Guru: Robin Kalinich

I had a chance to ask Robin Kalinich, author of Cutting Your Losses and Social Media guru for artists and writers alike, a few questions. She talks at length about what she writes, how she writes, and why she promotes other artists/writers all over nearly every Social Media platform available.

      Tell us a little about yourself: as an author, an artist, and as a person.
I took the circuitous path to finding my creativity.  I’ve been a reader since as far back as I can remember, and have written in one form or another for many years – journals, lists, poems – but I never took myself seriously as a creative person. It sounds strange to me now, but I was exceedingly embarrassed to admit to anyone, even those closest to me, that I wanted to write. It made me feel exposed and vulnerable. My then-husband once found a writing notebook of mine in a drawer and I remember feeling physically ill. I was living a different sort of life back then, and these types of creative endeavors just didn’t seem common or practical.  About ten years ago, my life crumbled in upon itself. For various reasons, there was virtually nothing left of the life that I knew and I stood in the center of the wreckage at an important decision point. I made a choice to pick up the important pieces and leave the rest behind and it was this choice, this lesson in flexibility and change, which eventually allowed me to understand and acknowledge my urge to create. You can read more details about that transformation here, in a personal essay called Emerge, You Glorious Creature!, so I won’t go into too much detail here.
In my new incarnation, I am an author and an artist, and I’m not afraid to shout it to the world. It feels invigorating and freeing to be out of the closet. After many years of struggling to understand why I didn’t feel quite comfortable in my own skin, I’ve found my authentic self. It’s a wonderful place to be and I highly recommend it.
      Let’s talk about your short story collection.  I’ll ask you the same question that gets asked of me often: Why are all your stories so dark? And why can’t you write a Happily Ever After?
I’m glad you asked this question because I’ve wondered about that myself.  I’m not sure if I have a definitive answer for you, but I have some thoughts on it. I didn’t start out with the intent to write dark stories, and in fact the first time I heard someone describe my work as ‘dark’, I was honestly surprised. I tend not to put a label on it; it’s just my writing and I suppose the darkness creeps in along the way.
A wise woman recently gave me some feedback on my writing and during that conversation she mentioned that while the world can, indeed, be a dark place, she thought my writing could use an injection of hope. I think she’s right.
Believe it or not, I think my story collection, Cutting Your Losses, does offer hope. It’s slim and subtle, but it’s there. For the record, I do believe in happy endings. My own life is an example of happily-ever-after, but I’ve worked my ass off to get here and I expect there are many jolts and bumps that I’ve yet to encounter along the way.  Life’s just like that.
      How long have you been a writer? What possessed you to start writing?
I remember writing a story which won a contest in sixth grade and I loved the idea of being an author.
I would say I’ve been writing seriously, with the intent to publish, for about two years, maybe a little less. In that time, I’ve published numerous short stories and poems, fictional essays, and editorial interviews in online lit mags. My recent self-publication of a short story collection was a huge personal success for me and I expect to release some materials aimed at helping creative people get organized and use social media very soon.
      What spurs your creative juices flowing?
Life. People. I rode the Central bus here in Albuquerque to and from university and work for years, mostly so I could have more time for reading in my life. Often I became so fascinated with everything happening around me that instead of reading, I would record scraps of conversations in a small notebook. I loved to engage in conversation with people, the more different from me, the better. Just yesterday I had a very cryptic conversation at a hotdog counter with a man who introduced himself as three different people in the course of twenty minutes.  To me, these are the seeds of a story or a character.
      Are there plans to venture into full length novels next? If so, care to share any details?
Yes, I’m currently working on a novel, tentatively titled Spitting Sparks. It’s set in the future and the heroine is a bad-ass supercharged vigilante. I’ll also be participating in NaNoWriMo 2013 and expect a draft of a novel to emerge from that exercise.
      Tell us a little about your current social media platform. You tend to promote everybody but yourself. Why is that?
Once I’d made that important decision to create, I realized right away that I wanted to surround myself with other writers and artists. I wanted to immerse myself in interactions with people like this so that I could fuel my own creative fire. I thought that being around other like-minded people would open up their worlds to me.  I was right.
I love that Albuquerque has such a vibrant creative community and I do try to attend local events such as SouthWest Writers, and host salon-type events in my home, but I quickly realized that there are incredible opportunities for growth and promotion online. As I began talking to people, both artists and writers, it became clear that many creatives have a gap in their ability to effectively promote themselves online. The reasons vary from not understanding the process to not having the time or inclination to devote to it. Most of us have day jobs and it’s difficult enough finding time to write, let alone time for social media.
I believe that self-promoting is part and parcel of today’s creative market and I work diligently to help others achieve success in this area. I publish a newsletter which includes resources to assist in this area and maintain a website and a Feature program for both artists and writers. These activities are intended to promote their works, as well as serve as a guide and example so others can learn and begin to promote themselves.
I do promote my own work sometimes, but I find that self-promotion need to be done subtly or it can come off as crass and annoying. I believe in reciprocity, and while none of the creative people I feature and promote are obligated to promote Ink & Alchemy or More Ink, I secretly hope they shout my name from the rooftops.  (Hint! Hint!)
      Everyone who writes likes to know what other writers read, so tell me, what’s been on your book reading list lately?
My reading is usually of two types – reading for pure pleasure and reading as research for my writing. I like to expose myself to different genres in an effort to widen my interests and understand the current market.  I few books I’ve read and enjoyed recently:
·         Blue Blazes, by Chuck Wendig
·         The Outlaw Album, Daniel Woodrell
·         Donnybrook, Frank Bill
      Anything else you’d care to share that we didn’t discuss?
I’d like to extend an open invitation to your readers. Please join me in my quest for world dominance via social media and creative euphoria.  
I’d also like to thank you, Rene, for the opportunity to talk about my work. It’s very kind of you. I’m grateful for those in the creative community, both locally and in cyberspace, who give freely of their time and talents to enable and encourage others. You are one of those people.  Thank you for all that you do!

Review of "Black Sheep: Letting Go of the Past" by Kia Zi Shiru

Remember two weeks ago I featured a burgeoning author on my blog? Kia Zi Shiru? In that feature, we discussed her writing and also talked about the release of Book Two in the Black Sheep series: Black Sheep: Loving in the Present. Because I tend to read more than one thing at a time, and am quite a slow reader, I finally finished Part One of that series: Black Sheep: Letting Go of the Past. Here is a review.

Anyone who knows my reviews knows that I don’t give summaries. Summaries are dull. When I read a review, I don’t care about plot. If I wanted that, I’d find the Spark’s Notes on the piece or go to Wikipedia. I want to know if I should read it and what I should watch for. Therefore, that’s what you get here. Check out Shiru’s page for summaries of each book and reviews that dig a little deeper.

As mentioned in a previous post, Black Sheep is a Young Adult novella series with an LGBT slant. But don’t let the LGBT slant scare you off. Vic, Jack, Anne, and the lot of characters draw you into the confusing world of all our teenage years regardless of one’s own orientation.

To be fair, however, this YA read might not be for all young readers. The language can get a little coarse for a YA read (as these are teenagers living in the real world) and adult themes like sexuality, self-destruction, and LIFE  play out. Then again, books that don’t skirt the line between YA and inappropriate don’t belong in the genre in the beginning. Parts some parents will find offensive are true to the core. Only parents trying to protect their children from life will find offense.

The dark realities of teen life come out in buckets. Shiru lets us into the Vic’s life slowly. But with each new sliver of information comes a torrent of pain. In a good way, if one can call it such. I had zero problem falling hard for these characters. I even had to put it down briefly on the bus to keep from tearing up at one point. In the comfort of my own apartment, crying is OK. Public transit is another story.

I look forward to reading Book Two. I can only assume her writing voice has sharpened since finishing Letting Go of the Past. After reading her first novel, I’m comfortable saying with authority that Shiru will be a name to watch for in the coming years.

Disclosure: Kia Zi Shiru and I are acquaintances as fellow Google+’ers and writers. She neither paid me for this nor gave me anything except a thank you for this review. However, I did win a contest several weeks ago…of which many participated…and I won an ebook copy of this book. 

Black Sheep: Book Release and ebook discount!

Burgeoning author, Kia Zi Shiru, just released her second dark YA novel in a series that follows the young Vic on his trek to find love while finding himself. Along with this Book Release comes a 66% discount on Book One!!!

Having chatted with Shiru several times, I’m honored to feature her newest novel, “Black Sheep: Loving in the Present“. I had a chance to ask Shiru a few questions about her book, her previous books, and even upcoming books!

What possessed you to write YA LGBT stories? 

I like to read them, and I often find it easier to identify with them. Don’t ask how that works, it does. Black Sheep hasn’t been my first try at gay characters but it is the first one the world got to see. But the lack of LGBT books in the library or to be found online was what made me push through with writing Black Sheep until the end.

Is this your first attempt at novel length writing?

Shiru: No, I’ve got a scifi story that reaches over 40k that I worked on for most of my teenage years. But since it’s written in Dutch I abandoned it when I realised there was no big market for them. English is a bigger market so that is why Black Sheep has been totally written in English.

Tell me a bit about your short story collection that’s also on Amazon?

Shiru: Magical Roads, yes. It’s a collection of stories about teens in a magical world. They are both realistic and magical at the same time. The stories deal with things like growing up, traditions and making your own choices. I wrote these stories for my classes at university and thought it was a good idea to share them since a lot of people seem to love them.

I know you’re rather busy with school, but do you have any plans for other novels or short story collections in the near future?

Shiru: Honestly? I’ve got a full year coming up. Not only am I doing my last year of my bachelor I’m also doing my masters next year. But that doesn’t stop me. The third book in the Black Sheep trilogy comes out in April and then the collection in May. After that I’ve got 2 series I’ll be starting during the rest of the year. Though they are for a slightly higher age range than the Black Sheep Trilogy.

Given the natural gravitation toward sexuality in your book, how do you think your books fit into the YA category? 

Shiru: I don’t see sexuality being a problem to being included in the YA category. There are more and more books published for LGBT teens. The thing is that sexuality doesn’t have a lot to do with actual sex. Black Sheep Trilogy deals with some shocking subjects but in relation to sex it doesn’t go any further than a bit of groping over each other’s clothes and some kissing. It wasn’t on purpose that I chose to do this, it seemed wrong to actually let them go further than that with all the body issues the main character deals with. Of all the books I think the first one is the most steamy one.

I don’t think there is a problem of putting Black Sheep in the YA category, since that category is full of teen mum books anyway. In comparison to that, Black Sheep is very clean.

Of course, what you all REALLY want is the DISCOUNT!!!!
EBOOK DISCOUNT: As an added bonus, “Black Sheep: Letting go of the Past” (Part One in the series) is will be a mere $0.99 starting today and running through February 25!!!

So, what is “Black Sheep: Loving in the Present?” Here’s it is in Shiru’s words:

Vic has taken a turn for the worse and is back in the psychiatric hospital. Jack gets kicked out of his house when his parents find out that he is gay. The reason Adam is not getting better is revealed. And that is just the beginning.

Everybody is lost and trying to not let it spiral out of control. Jack moves in with Vic’s family, making it his temporary home until he can move in with his brother and sister. Vic’s health doesn’t improve until he hears about Adam, at which point he put his mind to getting better. Adam on the other hand is fighting his own feelings about Vic’s illness and questions their friendship.

When Vic and Jack visit Adam and Tom for Tom’s birthday, it seems like a great way to let loose, but Vic is hiding more secrets than anyone knew and when they are exposed the situation explodes. Vic storms off in anger and seeks solace in dangerous places and, unknowingly, putting not just himself, but Jack too at risk.

EXCERPT: Get hooked now with a short teaser here

And who is this mysterious author???

Kia Zi Shiru is a Dutch girl studying English and Creative Writing in the UK. Amongst her interests she finds writing, reading, doing research and learning different languages (including but not limited to: English, Dutch, French, German, HTML, Java, PHP and Assembly). Her writing and reading habits include books with Young Adults, gay themes, strong female or minority characters and fantasy elements (more often then not all at the same time).

Too lazy to hunt her books down? Here are all the links!
Purchase Black Sheep: Loving in the Present from the following:
In the U.S.:
In the U.K.:
Anywhere: Smashwords or Kobo

As one might suspect, you can purchase Part One or Part Two in eBook and/or paperback forms. Shiru also has a short story collection available from the same sites mentioned above. 

Best of luck to Shiru! From my reading of Book One, this is only the beginning of a long and great novel writing career. If you’ve read this far, I strongly encourage you to support this new Indie author. 

Disclosure: Kia Zi Shiru and I are acquaintances on Google+ and fellow writers (though she’s published, I’m not). I received no compensation for this post (unless you count the ‘thank you’).