Author Spotlight: Ruth Nestvold

Welcome to the second feature on other independent authors. We’ll throw a bit of a spotlight on how they think and create their fantastic works.


Author Ruth Nestvold

We met Ruth Nestvold through the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (more commonly known to members as the Oh-Dub-Dub) (and yes, there are a lot of OWW alumni who are fantastic writers). From her website’s biography, “She has sold stories to numerous markets, including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Scifiction, Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction, and several anthologies. Her novella “Looking Through Lace” made the short list for the Tiptree award and was nominated for the Sturgeon award.

In 2007, the Italian translation won the “Premio Italia” for best international SF novel. Her “Big Fat Arthurian Fantasy” Flamme und Harfe (“Flame and Harp”) appeared with Random House Germany in 2009, and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. The English original was published as Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur in 2012.”

What’s the inspiration for your story? (or What’s the thing that makes you say, “Ooo, this is a story concept I can hang a novel on!” instead of just a neat-o idea to file away in the Curiosity Cabinet?)

Even if it sounds pedestrian, most of my ideas get filed away first, where they ferment for a while (or just moulder…). It isn’t until I take them out and play with them for a while, tossing them together with other ideas I’ve stored, that I start seeing ways they can become the underpinnings for a novel. Combining ideas that I at first never thought had anything to do with each other sometimes leads to that flash: Hey, that would be cool! I think I can run with that one! My novella Looking Through Lace, for example, came from the idea that a story about a women’s language would be cool, combined with wanting to tell a story revolving around the kind of cultural misunderstanding that comes from one culture applying its own rules and norms to another.

How do you find your characters’ voices? (or how did they find you?)

I tend to start with the idea and develop my characters to fit the story. To stick with the example of Looking Through Lace, my main character had to be female, since the women’s language could only be spoken among women. In order to have a position with the Allied Interstellar Research Association, she had to at least have a Ph.D. in Xenolinguistics. But since I wanted to throw her into a situation for which she wasn’t completely prepared, she couldn’t be too experienced either. Then I just started brainstorming and tossing ideas at her to see what would stick. And that’s how Toni Donato slowly started developing her voice.

Do you have a process for world building or do you just wing it and fill in the blanks as you go along?

I’ve tried winging it, but that doesn’t work very well for me. I need to have at least a basic framework for my world before I start writing or else I get stuck. As I write, I tend to come up with more details for my world, so I do fill in the blanks some, but it’s definitely not winging it. 🙂

How do you keep yourself motivated to stay on target? (or How do you not get bored with your current WiP? or How do you not get distracted with something new and shiny?)

I am usually working on several writing projects at a time in various stages of completion. Right now, I’m working on the second draft of a prequel to my Pendragon Chronicles books, Ygerna. Before that, I was finishing the first draft of an urban fantasy, Dragon Touched. I do also have all kinds of new ideas that are screaming to be written, but having more than one project that I’m working on in parallel helps a lot to keep me from getting bored.

If boredom strikes anyway, I like to sit down with pen and paper and start writing out the reasons this particular project interested me in the first place. If that’s not enough, I start brainstorming things I might be able to do or add to make it more interesting to me again. I like brainstorming with pen and paper. 🙂

You can visit Ruth at her site Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures and find her books here:

Barnes & Noble:

Stages of co-writing (or why we’re past pub deadline)

Sometimes when the plot is not happening, the hunt for new ideas and ANYTHING to make the story work can make co-authors go off the rails. (Those of you who know us: Shhh.)  One of our many conversations recently:

J: I have an idea! Flabberwit, then gooleymoo!

K: Sounds good. What about ebielah?

J: Ebielah, then maybe fenlur.

K: Fenlur? I… ??

J: Fenlur, y’know. F.e.n.l… oh wait. You mean Fienlar?

K: Did I? Maybe. Sounds good. Let’s do it.

J: Oh wait. What about Flabberwit? Or was it flebenwat?

K: Flebenwat? I don’t even know anymore.

J: We forgot gooleymoo.

K: I think we need to rethink some things. Again. Still.

J: Color codes! Blocking! Figurines!

K: Squirrel!

J: What?

K: Who?

J: Skype on Monday.

K: I need more coffee.

J: Definitely.

Disclaimer: Yeah, we could have used Idea #1, Idea #2…but you get the gist. No brain cells were harmed in the making of this post. We wish.


Still writing

Things have been a wee bit slow around here.

There was a death in K’s family.

Then there was the crazy election.

And now we’re into the end-of-year shenanigans.

But there are buttertarts!


And the Seattle area had its first snow (which is super unusual as it’s in a convergence zone–snow falls to the north and east and in the mountains, of course, but not in the metro area much). Thankfully, the snowpocalypse that had been predicted fizzled out; we’re still experiencing wintry cold that makes midwesterners shrug, and we’ve got something to talk about other than political insanity and the Seahawks’ terrible game (but yay Sounders! Go sportzball teams).

We are poking away at Val Ferrel #3. Slowly. And we will miss our 2016 pub deadline. But we’ll get the book done and out as soon as possible. Thank you to those who’ve read and liked the first two Val Ferrel books; if possible, a review is always appreciated.

Happy Holidays and hope you enjoy tasty treats, yummy hot beverages, family, and friends.


What she said.


Who are your characters (and what do they eat?)

In a novel, there is a lot of information readers never see. Behind the scenes planning, plotting, and inventing (with lots of laughing and the occasional cackle. *ahem*). To help the characters come alive, we often spend hours discussing their upbringing, habits, history with each other, and anything else that pops into our heads.


A great way to make your characters “come alive” is to think about their likes and dislikes. Think about them like real people and eventually, they begin talk to you. Other times, we wander off on tangents that end up sounding something like:

K.: What do we write about?

J: How about the type of food our characters like?

(Two hours of perusing food blogs.)

K: Daniel may have a British background but he’s not a fan of fish and chips. Or mushy peas. He can make them better.

J:  Hmm, yes. I think Daniel claims to have refined tastes, but his real comfort food is a curry take away that reminds him of his university days. Oh, Val just told me she doesn’t particularly like cooked asparagus. Or cauliflower. Maybe cooked broccoli, too.

K: Why does she hate it? And can we use it in a scene?

J: Something about them being boiled to death–the smell of the cooking water? But she’d probably inhale a box of cream puffs… or cheesecake. Yes, definitely New York style cheesecake.

Philippe will do anything for those little lychee jelly candy things sold in Asian food markets. Or maybe just good brie. You think he’s a bubble tea kind of guy?

(and so the insanity continues)


Author Spotlight: S.K.S. Perry

Welcome to the start of our periodic feature on other independent authors. We’ll throw a bit of a spotlight on how they think and create their fantastic works.

We’ve known our first author, Steve Perry (no, not that one), for a number of years. S.K.S. Perry is a Sgt. currently serving in his 34th year in the Royal Canadian Air Force, is an avid martial artist, and a drummer in a rock band, amongst other things. We first met in the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (more commonly known to members as the Oh-Dub-Dub). We joke that he’s the most famous non-famous author we know, with rabid fans who write him on a constant basis.

S.K.S. Perry

He is the author of the urban fantasy series DARKSIDE, and the first book in his heroic fantasy series THE MOONLIGHT WAR.


 What’s the inspiration for your story?

The Moonlight War was inspired by the thought, “What if a movie like Pitch Black or Alien was written by someone like George R.R. Martin or David Gemmel, as a heroic fantasy? Or…um…by me? Since I couldn’t convince either of them to write it and share the profits with me (or even approach them without being thrown roughly to the ground by security) I decided to write it myself. For the most part, I write the books I’d like to read (or the movies I’d like to see.) In a way, you could probably consider the Darkside Series as almost a sort of fan fiction, as they are set in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-type universe, or at least have that same sensibility, but not so much that Joss Whedon could sue. As for The Moonlight War, there are not a lot of people writing heroic fantasy any more—it’s all elves and orcs, grim dark, and the long lost prince of whatever. I miss the old Sword and Sorcery genre, and figured I’d write my own and just update it a little in the hope that there are other people who miss it, too.

How do you find your characters’ voices?

Trust me, they find me. James Decker, the main character in the DARKSIDE series, was easy. He’s basically me. As for the others, a lot of them are friends or an amalgamation of friends—and I know a lot of weird people who make for interesting characters. Well, at least seen through my eyes they are.

Do you have a process for world building or do you just wing it and fill in the blanks as you go along?

Oh, I’m definitely a wing it kind of guy. That said, though, I insist on my worlds being logical and consistent. There are rules to the way things are, even if I am making them up as I go along. And to be honest, sometimes I’m amazed at the way things hang together, how I can take seemingly incongruous ideas and throw them at the wall and make them stick as if I’d planned it that way all along. I’m the same way with plotting. I really have none when I start out. I just write and see where it takes me. That it all makes sense in the end constantly amazes me. Of course being able to go back and edit certain bits for continuity and whatnot makes it somewhat easier. It’s not like I’m an idiot savant, or even just a regular old savant. The jury’s still out on the idiot part.

How do you keep yourself motivated to stay on target?

Um…I don’t. I’ll get stuck and not write for long periods at a time. I know that’s horrible, but it’s true. When I finally come back to it it’s usually resolved by just sitting down and insisting that I’m going to write, which I could have done from the beginning. I’m trying something new now, though. Now that I have a few different projects on the go, I’ve decided that when I get stuck on one book, I’ll just work on another. Of course I decided that about six months ago and haven’t really written much since. Luckily, I have friends and fans who have been nagging encouraging me to get back at it. So, any day now. Promise.

Darkside Series

James Decker just won’t stay dead. Slain while rescuing a young woman from a would-be rapist, he finds himself in a pseudo-life, caught between two realities, belonging to neither. Follow James and his new found friends as they battle demons, the Fae, vampires, minor gods, and an odd assortment of otherworld creatures, and hopefully save the world in the process—or at least the city of Kingston. And maybe Victoria.

The Moonlight War

Three caravans have vanished traversing the Cowcheanne Way. The truce between the warring Kael-tii and Ashai nations is put to the test when a caravan is outfitted and they are forced to travel cursed The Way together. As an ancient evil is unleashed upon them, a group of heroes, friend and foe alike, must band together for survival.

Can they set aside their differences in time to combat the menace that imperils them all, or are they doomed to join the ranks of lost souls claimed by the Cowcheanne Way?


You can find his books available in paperback and most electronic formats at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and Smashwords, to name a few.

Stories we’d like to write

Writing with a co-writer is a different experience than writing alone. We bring our individual life experiences to the table, which means we go about building the story in different ways. We started writing together because we wanted to write the type of stories we’d like to read. We set up a series of questions and answered them back and forth over email. This is the result.

What kinds of stories do you enjoy reading for fun?

J: I really enjoy stories with action, adventure, big world stakes or big problems to solve. I like escapism, a supernatural or occult flavor and a consistent world.

K: Action, adventures, heroic deeds. (I first wrote that as heroic deads. Okay, I’d read that.) Protagonists who struggle to do right where no choice is a good choice and all they can do is the best they can in the hopes of a decent resolution and a victory or two. They don’t have to win all the battles but they do have to be forged or changed as a result.

Does this affect the kinds of stories you want to write?

J: Naturally, yes. I’m going to be spending a lot of time eyeball deep in a project, listening to the characters argue for attention, and trying to figure out how to make it exciting and readable so I’d better enjoy the process or else  I should go start an alpaca farm. They’re adorable and their wool makes nice sweaters.

K: Yes.

Writing Meme
Okay, the real truth. (Source unknown but probably one of our writer friends. You know who you are.)

How do you go about pinning down a story idea?

J: K and I have never had a problem coming up with story ideas—characters, plots, problems, neat-o world things. Our challenge is settling on one and sticking with it. Since I’m usually the bus driver, I try and keep us on the chosen route, mostly after many many sessions of hammering out the ending and middle. But I admit I’m the one with the Google map, and sometimes I realize I’ve actually been giving K the older map that sends her into the river instead of down the off-ramp. Oops, my bad.

K: No, you actually do a pretty good job… the problem is I keep turning the map upside-down. Really, if people could see us mugged by all the cool, shiny ideas that pop along every two minutes, they’d marvel at how we actually managed to finish any books at all.

What types of characters argue the loudest (or want the most attention)?

J: The side characters. It’s always the characters that had a funny line or an attitude who think they’re the new diva. The main characters are the ones who keep mum. Stupid characters.

K: Oh wow, yes. How come they always have all the snappy dialogue? They know exactly who they are while the protagonist is all lumpy and stingy with the information.

What inspires you to make a dastardly villain or are they just misunderstood?

J: The villains I like best are the ones who don’t think what they’re doing is technically wrong; wanting to rob the world bank is nice, but logistically difficult, and who wants to rule the world—so much bureaucracy and red tape! The scary villains are the ones who think what they’re doing is the “right” thing or the “best” thing to fix a problem–their world view is different than those around them, and they have the charm or money or influence to make it happen. Those villains are more nuanced and more fun to read than the mustache twirling bad guy who can’t seem to stop telling the main character his plan for world domination.

K: Dastardly villains feel too one-dimensional for me. I like a complex villain who, just like the hero, believes he’s doing the best thing, even if it’s to gain all the power and take it away from the other “bad” guys. He or she should have items or people they care about or want to protect as well. The challenge is writing the kind of villain that one can simultaneously hate and feel sorry for at the same time. I’d love to write a villain like that.

Guess in some ways, we’re not so different after all. We have to get back to writing now. What kind of stories interest you?

Oil and Water? Writers and Social Media

Writers and social media

Authors are not social animals in the first place, except for K. who likes talking to everyone. She’s weird that way.

If we followed every bit of known advice currently available for writers, we should be:

  • maintaining a cool website
  • writing every hour on the hour in our blog
  • having lively and active discourse in our Twitter stream
  • interact with folks on Facebook
  • creating video masterpieces on YouTube
  • running a Pinterest page
  • gathering entertainment-worthy photos for Tumblr
  • meeting shady characters on SnapChat
  • joining at least one or sixty writing forums
  • tagging everything over on Google+ (Hasn’t that ship sailed?)
  • creating a witty newsletter and entreating one and all to join our mailing list
  • creating fun podcasts
  • being interviewed on a podcast
  • looking alert for every radio and TV opportunity out there (why?)



So, we’re curious: What do you expect from a writer you like to read? Should the answer be, “A good book” and leave it at that? Or do you search for your author online?


Writing inspiration

Out here in K. of K.J. Garnet Land (Northern California), it’s the start of jasmine season, hooray!  (The J. is currently whining burning up from the perfectly normal unseasonal warmth in the PacNW.) The sun is shining, the pigeons are cooing, the warblers are warbling, and the hummingbirds are periodically attempting to land on one’s head.


It’s a favorite time of year, and after all our welcoming spring rains, this year promises a bumper crop of flowers and heavenly jasmine scents. There’s nothing better than writing on the patio.

Unfortunately, it’s also the start of pollen season, and everything is covered in a fine dusting of yellow. Sneezing and sniffling are also a lovely side product (and by lovely, we mean not really, but someone on the interwebs made a pretty photo so win-win?)

spring pollen

If you write, where’s your favorite place?  (Achoo!)

No posts today – writing!

No real post today. We’re delving into our 3rd book outline of our next book, Oracle in Charge, in the Val Ferrel trilogy. A solid morning of brainstorming, and off we go.

In the meantime, we bring you WriterPig™ who is keeping us honest. Can you deny that face? We can’t.

Writer Pig

Please enjoy spring for those of you who have it.

We Talk Co-Writing

When we tell people we co-write, they’re often curious.

“How do you do that?”

This is usually expressed with faint skepticism, as if this couldn’t be, you know, fun.

But it can be with the right approach. Here’s what we’ve worked out over 2 books:

#1: No matter how similar your tastes, both bring something different to the table.

J grew up in the ‘burbs but spent most of her adult life in the big city. She brings urban skepticism to character development. K grew up so far out in the country that she should take over the Grizzly Adams title. Neighbors have to be trusted because there are only two and no one wants a 10-mile hike to the grocery store for milk.

If you don’t think this shaped some interesting arguments about character development, you’d be wrong.

We talk about 50% reader input on everything, and this applies to writing as well.


#2: Accept how your co-writer writes. Trust us ~ it’s not like you.

One of our biggest breakthroughs came from recognizing how different we approach our writing.  J is about the Big Picture (how all the little bits add up to one cohesive whole). K is about the Feelings (the emotions that drive the characters and grab the readers by the lapels). It took some time to see where the other was coming from when outlining the story.

J’s still not comfortable with K going off on just any scene that pops into her head, and K still feels like a deer in the headlights when J asks what the scene conveys in relation to the overarching story, but it’s getting easier all the time.

#3: No matter the differences, the goal is the same: write a fun-to-read story.

Neither of us are perfect writers. We like the same books for different reasons; we like different books for contrasting reasons. But we both agree that we want to write entertaining stories that are fun, exciting, and page turners, so we agree to disagree and then get down to solving the problem whether it be technical issues like structure, character voice, or emotional depth, because no problem is unfixable.

Onward and upwards!