Femmes du Chaos Blog Tour, with Kristen Duvall

Today my blog is visited by Kristen Duvall and her new book, Femmes du Chaos. She's sharing some information about her new book, and also giving an information about her writing in general.

Book Description:
They messed with the wrong girl this time.

From heroes to villains, Femmes du Chaos sets out to show the world what the fairer sex is really made of. You’ll meet women of all ages and from many different walks of life... Warriors and schoolgirls, side-by-side in one place. One thing connects them all, and that is their ambition. Whether they use their ambition for good or evil, well that’s for them to decide. Gritty, fantastical and sometimes uncomfortable to read, Femmes du Chaos is a tour de force that holds nothing back. There will be violence and there will be blood.

Q: Tell me about your book.
A: Femmes du Chaos is a book of short stories all featuring strong female characters, some of them heroes and some of them villains. I mostly write science fiction, fantasy, horror and speculative fiction, so those genres are the most prevalent, and most are pretty dark.

Q: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
A: That’s really hard to say... I wrote most of these stories in a span of three years for an online writing contest. There are some I prefer over others, of course, but I only picked the pieces I enjoyed the most for this collection. My favorite stories of the ones I did include? Bonnie and Clyde, a story about a female bounty hunter out for revenge and probably The Price You Pay featuring a dystopian world that is likely to become a novel at some point.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book?
A: I didn’t have to do much research at all, really.   

Q: Do you work with an outline, or just write?
A: Most of the time, I just write. Though I have a rough outline in my head at all times, things change and I let the story take me in directions I might not have considered before.

Q: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
A: I’m currently a full-time writer (I lost my day job a year ago), and currently my schedule is as follows... I wake up around 8am, I work out and eat breakfast and then start working around 10. I work until at least 5pm, stop for dinner and then work some more. I also own a small publishing company, so that takes up a lot of time as well, but usually I work well into the night on writing related projects.

Q: What do you do when you are not writing?
A: I have a few tv shows I like to watch with my boyfriend, so we make sure to schedule that time in together. I also like to work out, go on hikes, go to the dog beach with my Great Dane, Annabelle. I’d travel more if I could.

Q: What book(s) are you reading now?
A: I’m re-reading the Meredith Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton mainly so I can read them to my boyfriend. It’s a paranormal romance series, and generally speaking I don’t like romance, but I enjoy the world she created with this one and it takes place in both my hometown and the city I currently live in, so that’s pretty cool. It’s my third time reading the series. I’m also reading ‘Adrift” by indie author Dominica Malcolm, a time traveling pirate story that I’ve been waiting for!

Q: Is there any particular author or book that particularly influenced you?
A: Ray Bradbury. I am a huge fan of his and I love his style of writing. I’ve had ideas before and thought “wow, that almost sounds like a Bradbury story...” I’m also a huge Neil Gaiman and Stephen King fan.

Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: Convincing characters, a unique plot, and just the right amount of description to tell me what I need to know and nothing more. I like characters that are neither good nor bad, but a mixture of the two. Villains that aren’t villains simply because they’re bad, but perhaps it’s all a matter of point of view. I like flawed heroes too, not a fan of the chosen one trope too much. If everyone adores them except the bad guys (and the only reason they don’t like him is because they’re bad), there’s a good chance I won’t care for them too much myself.

Q: What project are you working on now?
A: I have several projects going on at once, actually. I have a novella titled “The Devil’s in the Details” that I want to edit and get out to the world soon. It’s just a fun little horror story about a man who works for the devil, running errands and collecting souls, but it’s a little more lighthearted than it sounds, trust me! I’m also finishing up a science fiction novel for NaNoWriMo that I call The Princess and the Piper (that’s a cheesy pun, so the title will change once I can think of one). It’s a futuristic utopian piece that I like to describe as The Prince and the Pauper only with lesbians. And finally, I am editing the first book in a series I’ve created. This book is titled The Caged Girl and is YA, set in a dystopian world. I joke that it’s a romantic story about a boy, a girl and decapitation.

Q: What’s the best thing about being an author?
A: I love creating worlds. Seeing other people enjoy my creations means the world to me, but even if no one read my work, I’d have fun writing them. Ever since I was a child, I loved making up characters in my head and telling their stories. It’s a way I can live out other lives all from the safety of my living room.

Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
A: My inner critic. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to writing. I can be mega-harsh on myself and expect nothing but perfection. I have so many written works that I’ve hesitated to share with the world because to me, they don’t feel ready. They’ll never feel ready because I expect way too much from myself. I’m starting to see this and go a little easier on myself.

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: Read above! I wrote The Caged Girl in a month for NaNoWriMo though it needs major editing and re-writes. I am a fast writer, but I always re-write and edit and re-write some more... So it takes me longer than it should to complete a project.

Q: What has been the toughest criticism (and the best compliment) given to you as an author?
A: I’ve gotten pretty good at handling criticism, so it’s hard to think of the toughest criticism I’ve received... My own brain is the harshest critic I’ve had, seriously.  The best compliments I’ve received are that people willing to buy my book. Not only that, I’ve had readers tell me that they want me to expand on my short stories and make them into books so they could buy them. To me, that is the best compliment of all.

Q: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
A: Develop a thick skin. Find honest beta readers and learn how to accept criticism from them. Learn to take the useful input and discard the rest, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference in those two things, but you have to learn to trust yourself and your abilities while also hearing insight from others. The only way to get better is to practice. The only way to get successful is to write.

About the Author:
Kristen Duvall is a writer of tales both real and make believe. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides in Southern California with her boyfriend, her Great Dane and her rescued calico kitty. She's been writing and sharing her work online for several years now, and has decided to take the plunge into publishing her work for the world to read. She dabbles in horror, science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction. She enjoys both Adult and Young Adult fiction and loves to write strong female characters.

Buy Links for Femmes du Chaos:


Kristen Duvall's Social Media Links:



Exploring Serial Fiction

I'm working my way through the edit and revise and re-read and edit and revise and re-read loop with my second novel, "Caretakers" (my second novel, a follow-up to "Here Be Monsters", and my other works).

I'm also looking ahead to what's next ... in my case, I think it's an exploration of the world of serial fiction.

Serial fiction has been around for a long time, but Amazon is helping to bring it back to the main stream by specifically supporting works of serial fiction for sale via their Kindle platform. I am hoping to develop a serial work for them, for the Kindle, and for you ... and for fun, of course.

My idea is to write something different from the sort of writing that I've been doing for the last year and a bit. I'll be leaving the Adirondack Park, leaving the investigations of a consulting detective, and venturing into a more fantastic (in a literal sense of the word) world ....

The Fractal Nature of Serial Fiction:

Part of what draws me to serial fiction is the fractal nature of the writing, from both a reader's and a writer's perspective. A single episode must stand alone and relate to other episodes and the series as a whole; the nested/related episodes, and the entire series must likewise relate back to, and support each individual episode.

The X-files is a pretty good example of a serial work that is fractal in nature, working at the episode level, in clusters, and over the course of the whole series to pull the audience in for the storyline (and hopefully to make a point about characters and themes and the way things work, or should).

Monster of the week
Every episode needs to have a beginning, middle, and end; a conflict that can be resolved (at least partly) by the end of the episode. These will provide the building blocks for the serial, and be exciting, compelling, and motivate readers to return for subsequent installments.

 The X-files, at least for the first few seasons, had a new monster/challenge for Mulder and Scully to face each week.

Ongoing or recurring themes/characters/conflicts
To maintain reader interest, there should be characters and story elements that continue beyond a single episode. This could be done as sequential and related episodes, or via a recurring element connecting a few episodes spread throughout the series. These grouped/related episodes, or clusters, allow for greater development of characters and themes than individual episodes permit, and can link different parts of the series together in interesting ways.

Ongoing or recurring story elements in the X-files included "The Smoking Man", alien abduction (sometimes on its own, or via Scully or Mulder's sister), broader conspiracies, and so on.

Overarching story elements
 Looking at the series as a whole, from a distance, should inform the reader about something larger than the individual episodes. The way that the individual episodes and the grouped/related ones work together to shape the world of the serial in a way that the smaller pieces cannot.

The X-files was a serial that looked at secrets, the people who create and protect them, the people who work to uncover them, and how people outside of the loop are affected by them.

All of the parts moving in unison
For serial fiction to be effective, it needs to work for its audience at every level. Each installment must be interesting and complete, but must also relate to other episodes, and to the series as a whole. A weekly adventure that doesn't link to bigger or broader themes will soon grow stale, just as long term character development that doesn't keep readers motivated from week to week will lose their interest before the payoff at the end.

I found the X-files a fascinating serial (until it jumped the shark) because the individual stories drew me in, the clusters helped hold it together over the long term, and the series as a whole gave me an interesting look into the people on both sides of the secret business over the years.

A balance has to be planned and maintained through storyline planning and mapping at each level: episode, cluster, and series. This is my big challenge in planning the serial fiction that I want to write.

What I'm thinking about:

I'm currently imagining a story that follows my character through a medical crisis that cripples Manhattan (and likely the rest of the country, or the world), and follows the collapse of the supply chain, infrastructure, and civilized society in relatively short order. Two works that have informed my planning are "The Stand", by Stephen King, and "I am Legend", by Richard Matheson.

My plan is to take a different look at biological and zoological causes and effects of this type of catastrophe from the perspective of my protagonist, who works at a zoo before the troubles begin, and finds himself in a unique position to research/study the messy and changed world in which he finds himself trapped. His challenge is to survive day to day in a hostile environment, while studying and interacting with survivors and the ones the sickness altered.

I'm just starting to map things out for this project, looking at episodes and clusters and the series as a whole. It may not end up coming to anything, but it's a fun and interesting mental exercise, if nothing else.




5 Tips for Successfully Juggling Multiple Writing Projects

Finding time to manage and balance all of the activities in your life as well as maintaining a productive creative writing schedule is tough ... don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Mostly I work on one writing project at a time, but on occasion (like now, for instance) I am juggling a few different projects.

I'm currently working my way through a first edit of my next novel, "Caretakers", and while it's exacting and demanding work, it does not provide adequate venting for all of my creative impulses and urges and juices. To keep my brain working in a creative manner, and give the voices in my head an outlet, I am additionally working on two novellas and a piece of serial fiction (not to mention my ongoing commitments to blogging, Facebook, G+, and other flavors of social media that all indie authors need to be engaged in these days).

To keep everything working as smoothly as is possible, I have a couple of rules/guidelines/tips that I try to follow, and thought that I would share them with you.

#1 - Write it Down!
 Often, especially, during the times when I'm editing mostly completed work, I will get ideas for new projects. It never works to hope that I will remember the idea(s), so I write them down. I keep a notebook with me at work and at home, but will also send myself emails, and sometime leave messages on the answering machine at home.

#2 - Talk it Out!

I have a couple of people with whom I share my ideas, and often find that talking about the projects I've been thinking about will help me refine the good ones and discard the bad ones; having to explain a story that I haven't yet written allows me to test the waters without a big expenditure of time and effort ... and I get to drink coffee.

#3 - Map it!

Once I've had an idea (or a series of ideas), and talked about it/them with my creative writing support personnel (guru, therapist, minion, etc.), I like to map out the story. Mapping the story allows me to see how the characters and conflict and such will work together (sometimes I know everything about a story before I start writing, sometimes I only know the starting point and a couple of markers along the way ... it varies ... a lot!). My maps range from elaborate software driven things to circles and lines on the backs of barroom napkins (yes, really) ... do whatever works for you in the moment.

#4 - Start Writing!

I'm a big fan of the "write it fast and fix it slow" school of creative writing and storytelling. Once I take an idea through the preliminary planning stages, I want to get writing. When I have time to dedicate to writing, I like to aim for at least 2,000 words per day (I often write more like 3,000 to 4,000 words per day, but I like to set a baseline of 2,000).

I'm not interested in getting the story 100% right the first time around, and generally don't go back to fix the previous day's writing (unless I got a name or place wrong, which is a simple detail-oriented fix, which I don't count). I like to get the whole story down before I go back to clean things up, preferring to maintain the flow over getting it perfect (I understand that Kurt Vonnegut spent days on each page sometimes, but that one he was done with it, it was ready for the printing press).

#5 - Maintain Your Focus

In some instances, I've found that multitasking actually translated to everything being done poorly. I wasn't able to edit my work very well, and the other writing projects I was working on weren't flowing well ... nothing felt right.

Sometimes, even if you're doing everything according to a formula or pattern that you've used with success in the past, it just doesn't produce results that you're happy with ...there's probably no metric for divining this, but you'll know (if you listen to the critics living in the back of your head ... what, don't pretend you don't have them).

If you find that your main writing project and/or the other ones you're working on are suffering as a result of you juggling multiple projects at once, then just drop the least important one(s).

In my case, finishing the first edit of my next novel is the most important of my writing projects, so everything else has to share space on the back-burner if I'm having trouble with that project.

The exception might be if a story was burning a hole in my head, trying to get out. If the story is so exciting to me, and so eager to shoot out of my fingers and into my laptop, then I might take a week off from the novel to get a first draft of the story out.

You'll be the best judge of how best to maintain your focus when juggling multiple writing projects ... keep long term productivity in mind.

My current plan is to keep editing my novel, and start work on each of the other three projects sequentially ... we'll see how that plan stands the test of time and work and life.




A Trip to the Multiplex

I'm down in NYC for a couple of days, and as always, it has me thinking about the road(s) not taken...

A Trip to the Multiplex

Every life is the product of decisions.
Big one, small ones,
even (especially?) ones that we're not aware of at the time.

Left, right, up, down, coffee, bourbon, him, her, city, country, dogs, cats, Bach, Mozart ....
Each adjusts the trajectory of a life, my life, your life, changing everything, forever.

Sometimes I catch glimpses of other lives I missed,
or dodged, through my choices.
Flashes brought about by something I see or smell
or a song on the radio or a place that I visit.

My other lives are all real, just not to me.
They're real to other Jamies,
on other trajectories, in other realities.

In one, I work at a zoo in Syracuse,
others have me with two children (or none), 
or with different (less and/or more) friends and family
in my life.

There are lots of lives that ended years ago ... in a shallow grave by the side of a road near Lago Agrio,
gnawed bones outside of a small town in northern Manitoba,
drowned in a cold and dark and forgotten cistern near Tahawus.

Choices that I made, or didn't make.
Mistakes that I made, or didn't make.
Each one a turning point,
a fork in the road, a branching, a new reality.

Sometimes I see them all, and the weight of what I've done
(or left undone) staggers me.
Other times I wish that I'd gone that way, instead of this ... stupid, but hard (for me, at least) to avoid.

I picture alternate me doing this or that, living here or there ... sometimes with funny accents/hats/food/dogs.
On good days I'm proud of my choices,
on bad days I resent them,
wishing I could turn back the clock.

I like my actual life, an amalgam of choices,
good and bad, hasty and considered.
It's a fortunate thing too ... the other ones are all interesting, but we can't live in the multiplex.

In this version of my life, I'm hanging with my favorite, and only, sister, and we're going to see a crappy movie this afternoon that we'll both love.