Thursday, January 26, 2012

The J.R. Turner Interview

Jenny Turner (aka J.R. Turner) is a fellow author who has written many books of various genres, from young adult novels to adventure fantasy and seemingly everything in between. She is also the primary editor at Quake Publishing, the young adult imprint of Echelon Press, and edited this writer's first two novels. People who wear more than one professional hat are always interesting, and she was nice enough to share her thoughts on her own writing, editing the work of others and the publishing business in general.

Thanks for taking the time for an interview at Free Kittens. If you don’t mind, I’ll start with the dumb questions, such as, do you remember what first inspired you to become a writer? Was it another author, a particular book, or something else entirely?

Julie Garwood inspired me. Well, truthfully, she ruined me. I remember when For the Roses came out. I couldn’t hardly wait for the release because I’d devoured all her books more than once. On release day, I was there with money for a hard cover. Yes. I bought my first full-price hard cover—which was about half my weekly grocery budget at the time. I devoured it just as quickly—in one single day.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover and that’s exactly what happened over the course of that long, long year waiting for another book from Garwood. I chose one bad book after another. I decided I’d rather spend my time writing the book I wanted to read, instead of reading a terrible book.

I know I’ll never forget getting that first acceptance letter for a story. What was your first publishing credit?

I had an essay published in a charity anthology with proceeds going to an abused women’s shelter. The book was Crumbs in the Keyboard and I wrote about the craziness of motherhood.

You’ve written and published stories in a variety of genres. Any particular genre you enjoy more than others?

I usually really love the book I’ve just completed or had released so I’m not sure if it’s because this book really is special, but Redemption, my urban fantasy novel, has made me fall deeply in love with the genre. A reader recently compared the ending to The Stand and I was walking on cloud nine. I loved the post-apocalyptic element—the struggle for survival against evil. All of it was just a blast.

Your most recent young adult novels are the three (so far) in your Extreme Hauntings series. How would you describe these books to those who are curious?

Kaylee, the heroine, is such a superb character to work with. These books led me toward the more paranormal/supernatural aspects of writing. After having such a fabulous time working with ghosts, demons, and monsters, I wondered why I waited so long. The quest for internal understanding when the whole world has gone wacko, and everyone thinks Kaylee’s gone wacko, is a really cool dichotomy to work with.

Did you always intend Extreme Hauntings to be a series, or did you start off thinking the first would just be a stand-alone novel?

I had been invited to write a YA series for Quake, so I knew in the beginning there would be six books total.

I’ve been fleshing out the concepts and outline for the fourth book. This one takes place in a boot camp for teens. Kaylee and Davey are convicted of arson and assault, and the courts are not happy with them considering the legal trouble they’ve faced in the past. I’m looking forward to seeing how the authority figures in this book handle what happens when the supernatural entities begin to make themselves known.

What are some of the challenges in writing young adult horror, a genre where it can be easy to cross the line between what‘s acceptable and unacceptable for kids?

My biggest concern is making sure the horror feels real to the reader. I don’t rely on the gross or the morbid to make them squirm. These are ghost stories and I really want to convey that spookiness, that terrifying moment when those eyes you feel on you in an empty room prove to belong to an unknown, unseen entity. That’s not an easy task, but it’s one I hope I accomplished.

What is the one book you’ve published you are the most proud of? Why?

Gosh, this is so hard. Every book is different and every book has reasons to be my favorite. I’m proud of My Biker Bodyguard because it was based on my family and it won awards. I’m proud of DFF: Dead Friends Forever because it was my first YA book, my first published horror novel, and the first one I wrote for my kids. I could go on and on!

You are also one of the editors Quake Publishing, Echelon Press’ YA imprint, which I’m assuming takes a lot of time. How do you manage to find time for your own projects when you aren’t busy editing the work of others?

I love editing and fortunately, Quake has a lot of really great authors who make my job easy! Mostly I have the time because I’m one of the lucky few who doesn’t have to have a day job. Because of this and a passion for the work, I’m able to accomplish many things. I rarely take a day off, not even weekends, because when I wake up in the morning, I’m eager to get to my computer and work on my current project. Vacations can be tough on me because half my brain is working on a novel or seeking solutions for an editing project.

As an editor, what do you look for when considering a manuscript submission? What makes a good young adult novel?

A strong style and voice will conquer almost any initial plot or character difficulties. I’ve avoided manuscripts where the author proved to be difficult or too emotionally invested in the current draft. I respect an author’s ownership of the work, but I also respect our in-house style-guide and if the two can’t meet—then we’re both out of luck. The best books in the YA genre go where they need to go and not shy away from plot points one might feel are offensive. Any subject matter can be handled delicately.

Young adult fiction is currently a huge market, with a glut of authors jumping on the Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rawling bandwagon. Is there a type of YA novel you’d like to see more of besides wizards and vampires?

I’m open to anything as long as it oozes imagination, passion, and admirable writing.

What advice would you give to would-be authors in terms of writing and submitting?

Don’t submit too early! Great ideas and great books can be lost because authors are unaware the book still needs a good solid editing. Don’t expect editors to do it for you. I’d rather work on a stellar novel with solid writing than a potentially extraordinary novel that’s in dire need of a second pair of eyes.

As we both know, having one’s work accepted is just the beginning of a long process, especially in terms of promotion. What are some of the most effective ways you use to get word out about your books?

Social media and face-to-face contact. Those two can work wonders and create a lot of buzz for a person. I think there are two ways these ventures can fail, however: interacting only with people you know and lack of follow-through. Don’t cancel your book signings, don’t ignore your blog and other accounts. Just because you have them, doesn’t mean they will be any good unless you work at them!

I just recently bought a Kindle and I love it. I’ve been able to buy books by my favorite authors at a fraction of the price, and I’m more willing to take a chance on new authors. However, I’ve also noticed that the current explosion of e-books has resulted in a lot of stuff out there that may not have ever seen the light of day through traditional publishing. What’s your take on the impact of e-publishing on both writers and the publishing industry?

I think it’s fantastic. Anything that puts the control and profits into the hands of the people who do the work is awesome. With the way e-books are taking off, I think we’ll begin seeing a lot more first-time authors build a following and gain recognition where they may have been unable to breakthrough in the past.

Finally, where are the best places to find your books, as well as places where readers can learn more about you?

I’m converting my website over to my wordpress account right now. The address for my wordpress account is: and my website is:

All my books are available at and on Smashwords. Thank you so much for this opportunity to share with your readers!

Free Kittens would like to thank Jenny for sharing her time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011 in Review

Fox News Channel recently claimed the latest Muppet movie has a communist agenda. On a related note, Free Kittens has recently discovered Bill O’Reilly likes to pleasure himself while watching the film, Air Force One.

In the land of douche bags, The Situation is their king. He’s such a douche bag that Abercrombie & Fitch, the official clothing line of douche bags worldwide, offered him money to stop wearing their clothes for fear of tarnishing their image. Now THAT’S a douche bag.

With the release of their collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu, Metallica now owns the world record for most career suicide attempts. Not to be outdone, previous record-holder George Lucas plans to reclaim the title by making The Phantom Menace the first film of his Star Wars saga to be re-released in 3-D. Really???

In an effort to promote awareness and raise money to help preserve the dwindling environment of the polar bear, Coca-Cola released a special series of white soda cans. Weeks later, the cans were discontinued because people were mistaking them for Diet Coke. I’m not sure what is worse, the fact that no one bothers to read the freaking label, or the fact the Coca-Cola basically said, “Screw the polar bears…no one’s buying Coke!”

A woman, thinking she was paying to see an action film similar to The Fast and the Furious, sued the producers of the film, Drive, for false advertising. Inspired by this idiot, the staff of Free Kittens has decided to sue any studio that ever used the meaningless term, ‘beyond imagination,’ in promoting their films. After all, these films are obviously not beyond imagination because someone freaking imagined them. Hence, false advertising.

A woman sued Wal-Mart after she was overcharged two cents for a package of sausage. She won $100. Once again inspired by one American’s attempt to collect a check without doing anything to earn it, the staff of Free Kittens (me) sued his wife for spending too much at the grocery store. She now owes him nightly backrubs and complete control of the TV remote.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, Free Kittens has learned that ESPN will stop broadcasting boxing matches, claiming it would be far less expensive to simply set up cameras in any Wal-Mart store on Black Friday and record the mayhem.

A nine year old student was suspended two days for sexual harassment after he was overheard calling one of his teachers ‘cute.’ On a related note, Free Kittens has learned that a recent newborn child was arrested for having the gall to emerge from the womb with an exposed penis.

Former wizard apprentice Harry Potter just recently discovered that a degree from Hogwarts, while impressive, doesn’t provide him with any actual employable skills.

Around the world, thousands of kids who became experts at games like Guitar Hero suddenly realized they could have better spent all that time actually learning how to play the guitar.

Millions of Tweeters worldwide suddenly came to the realization that nobody gives a damn about what they have to say.

Kim Kardasian’s marriage and immediate divorce was headline news in 2011. Meanwhile, the death of Anne McCaffery, one of the most prolific and best-selling sci-fi writers of all time, went by nearly unnoticed. I’m sorry…I have no punch line for this one.

Jersey Shore Christmas ornaments. Seriously. I saw them at Walgreen’s. There’s one of The Situation lifting his shirt to show off his six-pack. I have no punch line for this one either.

After a news story broke that a children’s book available on, The Trinity of Superkidds, was authored by a convicted serial killer who likes to write naked in the dark, sales to the book briefly increased dramatically, outselling books by struggling writers who never even got so much as a parking ticket (and, yes, I’m referring to me).

The video game series, The Legend of Zelda, was the first to be inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame. I guess that means such games as Pong, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong had absolutely zero impact of the gaming industry. On a related note, Free Kittens has learned the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has announced that all their previous inductees have been removed to make room for Britney Spears, since it is obvious only the past twenty years truly matter in the course of human history.

Michael Jackson is still dead, and has been for almost two years, The maggots have since picked his carcass clean. That hasn’t stopped millions of born-again Michael Jackson fans willing to forgive high-profile cases of child molestation accusations. I guess, when you’re dead, all is forgiven. The powers-that-be even managed to convict Jackson’s doctor in order to free Jackson from blame for his own death. Yeah, that makes sense…the previous 30 years of never being told no had nothing to do with it. Hey, everyone…the guy is DEAD. He was a once musical genius, but he also liked young boys, got hooked on drugs and fell in love with his own celebrity. Get over it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in Perspective

New Year’s Eve, 2011, and I’m currently sitting in my office by myself, SyFy’s annual Twilight Zone marathon blaring in the background. My 16-year-old daughter is upstairs doing her usual cyber-socializing, and the wife and youngest daughter are out at the movies. New Year’s Eve doesn’t seem to be a big deal anymore. Okay, maybe New Year’s Eve was never that big of a deal, but like a lot of folks, I used to make it a bigger deal than it really was, using it as an excuse to get completely blotto and engage in behavior that, if I were 20 years younger and 30 pounds lighter, I would be deemed, in modern vernacular, a douchebag. Yeah, those days were fun, but I don’t really miss them. My New Year’s Eves may not be all that exciting, but it is kind-of nice waking up on New Year’s Day without dry-heaving and feeling like my head is going to fly apart.

I don’t ring in the new year with the hubris I once did, but I’m actually thankful I have a new year to ring in at all, and really, I’m enjoying how I’m spending it tonight. I used to lament getting older, but now I know getting older is much better than the alternative. Last year at this time, I had just been released from the hospital after a life-threatening illness and spent much of the year recovering.

Gotta pause to catch this Twilight Zone episode - one of my favorites - where a man condemned to live on an asteroid is provided a female robot companion.

I also turned 48 this year, just a couple of years away from 50, yet somehow, it doesn’t bother me as much as turning 30 did. Because of my illness, I’ve taken a good hard look at the past year, and my life in general. I never became a big rock star, never raced in the Daytona 500, never married Jodie Foster. Even after my longest-held dream of being a novelist was actually fulfilled with the publication of my two novels so far, Killer Cows and Shaken, the actual financial returns of those books assures me that writing will likely always remain just a pleasurable pastime.

Despite being a teacher with a newly-acquiried master‘s degree, I still live paycheck-to-paycheck. Retirement is probably not going to ever be an option. I’ll probably never own that mid-life-crisis muscle car I always wanted. I’ll probably never get to travel abroad. I will probably never get out of debt. I’ll probably never have the social life I did 25 years ago.

But at the same time, I have a beautiful wife who loves me for who I am, despite my quirks, hang-ups and occasional delusions of grandeur. I’ll probably never provide her with the worry-free life she deserves, but she sticks with me anyway. We are going on 23 years, and with the exception of my parents and her sister, we’ve been married longer than anyone else in our immediate families. At this point, it’s truly looking like a case of ‘till death do us part’, and I feel good about that. She’s my best friend and I never feel like I’m missing out on anything by being married to her.

I have two loving daughters who I wouldn’t trade for the world. It seems like only yesterday when they were just born, yet I sometimes have trouble recalling my life without the two of them around. They are funny, charming and have been a joy to raise. My youngest is my new ‘horror movie buddy’, and my oldest is at that really interesting age when I may always not be her first choice of people to pal around with, but when we do, hilarity ensues.

Another great Twilight Zone episode. This is the one with an assortment of people are trapped in a cylindrical room, only to discover later on that they are just dolls.

And even though my job as an educator is currently in utter turmoil (district budget problems, reduced pay from furlough days, increased workload, etc.), I still love what I do. On those days when I don’t, I now try to remember two things: 1) that I’m alive to have a job to complain about, and 2) no matter what, teaching beats the hell out of what I used to do for a living (flipping omelets at a hotel restaurant).

As a writer, I’ve made almost no money from the two novels I’ve gotten published. Okay, so I’ll likely never wake up in a coastal beach house overlooking the Pacific and retreat to my office with a cup of coffee to continue work on my next bestseller. I still enjoy making stuff up, and one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me was having students come up to me to sign copies of my books. Maybe respect is better than money.

I’ve reached the point where personal vanity is no longer a priority. I’m no longer someone women take a second glance at, and I’ll never again be in the same physical shape as I was in my 20s. This is actually pretty liberating. I do not think I’m a hideous human specimen, and my wife finds me desirable, so that’s really all I care about. And you know what? I’m pretty sure I have a LOT more sex than most single guys my age, and I don’t have to work that hard to get it.

I also reached the point where I truly do not care what inconsequential people think of me. I’m 48 years old. I love heavy metal music. I love wearing my hair long. I love playing Mario Kart. I love throwing on my ripped-up and sleeveless Motorhead T-shirt on weekends. I love the fact I’ve not used (or needed) my cellphone for over a year. I love horror movies with gratuitous violence. I love wasting entire days reading my Kindle when I could be walking-off some pounds on the treadmill. And I love the fact I don’t feel like I have to grow up and act my age. And, in a way, that is growing up, isn’t it? Sorry, folks. I like my life, and your approval of how I live it is no longer needed.

Sure, a lot of 2011 sucked, but I am also reminded of the important things that were uber-awesome about it. If fact, when it’s time for me to leave this world, 2011 may end up being one of those years for which I’m the most thankful. This was the year I first became truly happy to be alive, surrounded by people who love me for who I am.

Well, I gotta stop here. The next Twilight Zone episode is the one with a woman in her apartment dealing with the sun getting closer to Earth. My oldest daughter loves this one, too (a girl after my own heart). I’ll call her down to catch it with me. Another great New Year’s celebration, likely to go down as one of my favorites.

Maybe your perspective will have you feeling the same way.