Saturday, 25 April 2015

Author Interview - Kassandra Lea

Long time friend and fellow writer, Kassandra, popped by a few weeks ago to talk about her latest story. Released by publisher Supposed Crimes, it'll appear in the Young Love, Old Hearts anthology which is set to be released in May.

Hi Kassandra! Welcome to the site! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Oh, gees, a little about me. I wanted to be Batman growing up; does that count as something about me? I live in southern Wisconsin where I can usually be found writing, hanging out with horses, or driving cars.

You have a new story out! Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about it? And where can we find it?

It’s just a cute little piece involving a May-December romance. Keegan is over thinking his dinner date way too much. The story is featured in an anthology put out by Supposed Crimes LLC. The title is Young Love, Old Hearts and it can be found on Amazon as well as their website.

What first drew you to writing? How long have you been writing for?

What first drew me…the inability to make up my mind about a career! There are so many fascinating opportunities in this world and it’s full of wonder that over the years I’ve wanted to be everything. Writing lets me do that. I’ve been writing more than a decade and actually still have the handwritten copy of my first attempt at a novel.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there any particular scenarios or situations you find yourself drawn to? Do you keep logs or notebooks for ideas and images? Or do you have other ways of keeping track of those important ideas?

Inspiration comes from life itself. A scene, a phrase, a simple thought of “what if”. I’m not sure if there are any situations I’m drawn to, but I’ve noticed over the years my characters tend to struggle with emotionally and at least half of them suffer some form of mental trauma. Most of my ideas get jotted down in a notebook that is extremely precious to me, go figure. I have a million flashdrives that continue all manner of writing related materials and it turns out they’re also great for keeping me more organized.

You've written in a number of genres, including supernatural and paranormal. You also have a host of interesting characters. What drew you to those genres? And how do you find your characters forming? Is there anything you look for in a character?

What’s not to like about supernatural and paranormal? Works by the likes of Jim Butcher and Simon R Green really taught me what it meant to write the likes of urban fantasy. Turns out I like the taste of it because of the familiarity of the present mixed with the unusual of supernatural/paranormal worlds. My characters tend to form themselves. I just sit down to write and they tell me their stories. The only thing I look for is that they remain true to themselves. Wait, does that sound corny?

How do you go about the process of writing? Do you set aside times? Write when the inspiration hits?

I try to write something every day just to keep the creative juices flowing. Most of my work gets done on Mondays and Wednesdays when I’m not pegged down at my day job. Sometimes I write with a laptop on the couch, other times it’s at the desk. I’ve been known to write on my phone while working.

What was the first story you had published? What inspired you to write it and send it off?

Grave Appeal was my first and sadly it’s no longer available. But you were the one that inspired me, technically speaking! You were the one that suggested I write something for your publisher and I gave it a whirl. Who knew I’d be good at romance? Though I might suggest people not make out with gargoyles in graveyards…

Becoming a published author is a massive, and exciting, step. How do you feel having your work out there for everyone to read?

Holy crap, people are going to read it! Will they like it? Will they trash it? Wait, is anyone reading it? The whole thing is exciting and also a little scary. But I’m eager to get more stories out into the world. They need to stop rattling around in my head.

For many of us, sometimes it's a terrifying experience having our life's work out there for all to read. How does it make you feel?

Ah, ha, seems I answered that above. I’m actually still coming to terms with the fact I’ve written romance and seem to be making my niche in that genre. It was never a genre I considered working with all these years and I actually swore I would never write it. So I guess to be perfectly honest I’m sometimes a little unhappy. At the same time I am immensely thankful for the opportunities presented to me.

Writing, and particularly publishing, aren't easy. Everyone goes through those moments of doubt and self loathing. Tell us about a moment when you thought about quitting and about how you decided to keep on going.

I think about quitting a lot. And self-doubt is my old friend. I’m constantly wondering if my characters are real enough, if the story is compelling enough to make the reader turn the page. Every time I get a rejection a little part of me cries out that I’m wasting my time. But I forge ahead because writing is what makes me happy. I love my characters for all their struggles and flaws and I want to tell their stories.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into writing or getting published?

Keep going. Try something new. You never know, the next story could be your golden ticket.

You have several published stories. Where can we can we find them?

Amazon! Under the name Kassandra Lea. They should all be there and buy them! I need to get my Mom tickets to see Wicked.

Any final words?!

This was awesome and fun. Your questions were great. Now if you don’t mind I’ve got some writing to do!

Young Love, Old Hearts will be released in May and is available now to pre-order on Amazon.
All of Kassandra's work can be found on her Amazon page.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Second Past Midnight - OUT TODAY!

In 1981, at the height of the Cold War, a single nuclear warhead sent America's technological capability back to the 18th century. Four years later, the shattered country is still struggling to put itself back together. Infrastructure has crumbled, the government is gone, and convicted criminals are hunted for food.

James lives in a small, Midwestern town. By day, he tends his family's farm, trading the food they grow for other supplies. By night, he dreams of being a musician. But with his world destroyed, music remains a frivolous dream.

That is, until he meets Flame. Convicted of drug dealing, Flame has become a part of the bi-annual Shoot to Kill hunting season. He has a dark past and people want him dead. Yet he has a strong determination to live and shares James' musical dream. James and Flame join forces, traveling first to New York and then to London, in spite of the numerous obstacles in their path and the shadow of death hanging over them. Will they be strong enough to escape it and find their dreams together?  

Available from:

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Record Store Day - 18th April 2015

Record Store Day has been running since 2007 and it's something I've always meant to attend. Unfortunately, I've missed the past few due to either being in transit or out of the country. So 2015 was going to be my year!

A quick internet search told me that it was probably going to be a long day and, for the UK version of RSD, this proved true.

In my case, that “bit of a wait” turned into three hours. Only a single store in our county was taking part, hence the huge queue at 8.30am on a Saturday morning. Hardly surprising considering that Leicester has quite a musical heritage. 

The queue at 8.30am. The store is somewhere in that arcade!

One of the beautiful things about RSD is that it not only gives people the chance to get their hands on exclusive, one-day-only-limited-print-run releases, but it also champions the little guy. Those stores that would otherwise go out of business thanks to the likes of Amazon, ebay, and HMV now get the chance to draw in new customers. And they got me hook, line, and sinker.

So, 8.30am on a Saturday morning in April, I joined the back of a very long line. I had a list of four of the day's releases and I knew that there were two I probably didn't have a hope of getting (and would probably have to resort to ebay later if I felt that I needed them). The line kept growing.

And growing.

And growing.

I have no idea how many people were waiting for this store to open but it was A LOT! Friends who attended other RSD events were shocked at just how long we queued for. But, when you finally got into the store, you realised why.

Rockaboom Records is TINY! Teeny tiny and perfectly formed with racks of records along the walls and a twin rack at its heart. RSD for them was a two man job as there really wasn't room for anyone else. Think your grandma's front room and you've probably hit the total floor space of this store.

But they took amazing care of the people standing in line. As well as a special queue area, they had staff members constantly walking the line to make sure that everyone was okay. They handed out cakes and generally made the wait as easy as possible.

Record Store Day is an amazing opportunity to discover new places, find new bands, and meet new people. As well as finding a new independent store to support, I know that I'll definitely be attending again as well as exploring the other record stores Leicester has to offer.

A few pieces of advice for if you are planning on going next year:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and take water and snacks. You might be in for a bit of a wait.
  • Releases are limited edition (normally to around 2000 or less) and not every store will have equal amounts of each release. Some may only have a single copy while others will have 30+. Some stores will tell you in advance how many they have in stock, some won't tell you at all so as to retain the hype and mystery. Don't get your expectations on what you want too high. Chances are, it'll be sold out when you get to the front of the queue (unless you were the first person in the queue, of course! But even that's not guaranteed if the store are holding copies of a certain release for someone). Go with a list that has back up records that you're happy to own. I wanted the Metallica and Foo Fighters ones but knew I probably wouldn't get them. Instead, I came home with Stone Sour and Slayer. I got to have a day out and a bunch of fun so I'm a happy bunny. It would be sad to spend time waiting only to leave empty handed, as I saw several people do. At the end of the day, you're helping an indie store stay in business. The more business they do, the longer they'll be with us.
  • Get there as early as you can. Because of the distance to my nearest participating store and the times that public transport started, I didn't have a choice but to get there when I did. I know that the people at the front of the queue arrived at 5am.
  • Everyone in the queue is there for the same reason so make friends with the people around you. I did just that (Hi, Dave and Hannah!) and had an absolute blast! The three hours absolutely flew by and I haven't laughed so hard in a long time! It also helps if you need to go for a bathroom/cigarette break or if you need to make a run for food and drink.
  • If you're not feeling sociable, take a book/MP3 player/phone.
  • Most of all, enjoy the day and encourage other stores to get involved for the following year! The more stores that do it, the more fun we can have!

Did you attend Record Store Day 2015? If so, what were your experiences? Feel free to leave them in the comments or on the Facebook page!

My "haul" from Record Store Day 2015

Friday, 3 April 2015

Life Lessons From Lil Bub

It's said that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In the case of Lil Bub, she opened a bottling factory to sell the huge amounts of lemonade that she's been making.

At a year old, Bub was diagnosed with osteopetrosis and her owner was told it was only a matter of time before she became immobile.

Yet she defied all the odds and a video posted in September 2014 shows her unwavering determination and amazing recovery.

So what can we learn from this brave cat?

  • What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? Would you climb mountains? Make movies? Trek to the North Pole? All to often we don't want to anything new because we fear failure. Don't believe that anything you do is doomed from the start. Follow your heart and see where it leads you.

  • Keep on going even if it seems like the battle is never-ending. Life gets tough. Life gets painful. But they're all experiences we can learn from. Take those unhappy moments and use them to build the life you want.

  • Never give up. The finish line may seem like a million miles away. But it gets closer with all that you do and with every passing day. Be determined and keep going. Rome wasn't built in a day.

  • Find your passion and walk, run, jump, or waddle with it. Love it with all your heart and embrace it as your own. It's not about making money or being famous. It's about finding that one thing that makes you smile every time you think about it.

  • Be confident, even if you think you can't. It'll get you a long way.

  • Positive mental attitude. Start every day thinking it's going to be the best day ever. Because you never know what's going to happen!

  • Be the light. Even if everyone around you is full of negativity and drama, be the one who makes them smile.

  • Happiness isn't a destination, it's a journey. 

  • Spread a little love, magic, and positivity along the way!

    You can view the video of Bub's miraculous recovery below. Be prepared to smile!

    Good job, Bub!

    Go and visit Bub at her site and help her raise lots of money for her Big Fund for the ASPCA!