I’m pleased to welcome author B. L. Bates to TL’s DreamWorld.
Growing up reading speculative fiction, B. L. Bates received a BS in electrical engineering and worked for several years in the computer industry. When a head injury left her totally blind, she turned to writing speculative fiction to stay sane. With her youngest child in college, she lives with her husband in Massachusetts and plots ways to spend more time with her grandchildren.
But aside from all of that… this is super exciting as Barb is one of my critique partner’s and her debut novel, AsterIce was just released by Eternal Press on February 1st. Yay!!!!
Barb: Thank you for inviting me here today. We’ve been crit partners for a while now. I wanted you to know I’ve enjoyed our exchanging material, even though we write in different genres. Sometimes it’s good to read something you don’t write.
TL: Yes, we met when we were partnered during Savvy Author’s first ever Editpolooza and we’ve been CP’s ever since. (Here’s a nice article about Editpalooza at The Waterworld Mermaids.) I bet you didn’t think you’d be critiquing young adult romance (although it does have a speculative twist) when you signed up. I can tell everyone a little about you, such as: You’re a kick ass CP, incredibly insightful and you have a wonderful sense of humor. Can you tell us one little known fact about yourself?
Barb: I’m not sure how to answer this one. Some people know I’ve got a BS in electrical engineering. Some know I’m totally blind due to a head injury. Others know I used to be an artist concentrating in pastels and ink. It depends on who you talk to. But, I’ll let you in on a secret. I read with my eyes closed. (Shhh, don’t tell.)
TL: I didn’t know you were a painter!! So cool. And let me just share a little about our critique partnership because readers might be wondering how we exchange material if you can’t “see” what I send you. It’s the coolest thing. Barb has a reader that reads the words to her. Instead of using the comment or track changes feature in MS Word, we read make in-line comments signaled by asterisks and notes in capital letters. For instance, here’s an example from my manuscript that she critiqued.
“I dropped the mug you brought me back from Foot Locker Nationals.” She picked up a large jagged piece with the “San” part of the Happy Happens in San Diego slogan. With a *disappointed*D sigh *OF DISAPPOINTMENT*A, she dumped the glass into the stainless steel trashcan.
In this example, she’d “highlighted” with asterisks the word disappointed. The capital “D” after it means she suggests I delete that word. Then she suggested that I add “of disappointment” by using the capital “A”. It works really well. You’re very good with telling me if I haven’t explained the setting well enough. If you can’t visualize it, you lets me know.
On to the next question. What must you have on your desk when you write? (Ex: Coffee/Tea/Chocolate, bowl of trail mix, etc.)
Barb: I always have a water bottle with water with a slice of lemon squeezed in. Sometimes a cup of tea. But I usually don’t eat while writing. My Brailler is by my feet and a stack of index cards is to my left. If I’m the only one home, then the headphones are above the keyboard. If someone else is here, I wear the headphones. (It’s easier to ignore someone when you’re wearing headphones, you know.)
TL: Do you listen to music when you write? If so – what kind?
Barb: No. My computer speaks to me, so added audio input is annoying. That’s also the reason for wearing headphones, to keep out unnecessary noises. But, I appreciate fragrant smells or the odor of something baking. I’ll often have a scented candle or incense burning. And after I’ve baked something, I’ll get more writing done when I know there’s a treat waiting after a certain amount of time.
TL: Yes, you’re always making me hungry talking about the muffins or breads or other yummy thing you’ve baked. Can you tell us what authors and books you like to read?
Barb: I love most speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror). But I read most anything except war stories and westerns. When I first started reading a lot, about 6th grade, my parents, who read a lot too, let me read any books that were science fiction or fantasy. In those days (way, way back) those types of books had little sex and not much violence. Or at least the ones my parents read didn’t. I do read some romance, but had a bad experience when I first joined a romance critique group, and now don’t read them as much. So what do I read? Anything well written. I sometimes go through the best-seller list and pick out a title or two. But overall, I read spec-fic or detective novels. For some reason I haven’t figured out, a detective or police officer seems to turn up in a lot of my stories. But, like a small child, my curiosity is often piqued, and I have to have my questions answered. So I read. And I’ve started reading non-fiction too. Since I "read" audio books, I get most of mine from the NLS (National Library Service) which supplies me with audio books. They have an extensive collection. And I have a computer-Kindle. So I can read Kindle books on my computer. But this isn’t as convenient as my recorder, which I can take with me and read while my husband drives.
But I ignored part of the question. I love to read Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Lee Child, Linda Howard, J. D. Robb, and too many more to list. When I find a new author I like, I read everything I can find by them. I love well-written stories; the genre doesn’t matter as much as the writing.
TL: That leads me to your novel. AsterIce is a really cool name. How did you come up with the name and the story idea?
Barb: Originally, the title was “Alien Invasion”. But the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t like it. So, I thought about the type of invasion. I didn’t want aliens you could just shoot and kill. So I thought of something ingested. But what would you eat that came from an asteroid? Most of them are cold, frigid, and ore-laden. Except those covered with ice. And you put ice in drinks. And you drink those concoctions. So the title became "Alien Ice". But I didn’t like that one either. So after thinking some more it became "Asteroid Ice". Which I shortened to AsterIce. Sounds easy, but it took me months.
TL: I royally stink at coming up with titles. I’m going to seek out your help in the future. Tell us which character in your novel was the most fun to write and why?
Barb: Eric Locust, the villain. He’s someone you’ll love to hate. I wrote him as someone who thinks, says, and will do, just about anything that will benefit him. And someone (an author I’m sure, but I can’t remember who) said, "Every character is the hero of his own story." So, he sees everyone against him as wrong. But he was fun to write in the way you like to watch a fight, but not be involved.
TL: Oh yes, he’s cringe-worthy. On the flip side, if you could be any character in your novel, who would it be and why?
Barb: Tanya DuBonne. While the book is told in third person with 4 different POVs, I feel Tanya is the main POV character. She’ll worry something until it either gives up or falls apart. She’s determined and resourceful. (I get that from raising two children while being blind. You try it and see.)
TL: Thanks so much for stopping by. One last question before you go. What piece of advice can you give aspiring authors out there that you wish you’d been told when you were just getting started?
Barb: Write every day. EVERY DAY! When I started writing, my children were young and often I could barely string sentences together while watching them. (You try keeping two active children out of trouble while being blind. It’s not easy.) Now I have more time and I make sure I put my butt in the chair and write. Even if it’s just an email letter to family or friends. From doing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for years, I can do a first draft in about a month. But I can’t sustain this pace. So, I need downtime from time to time. And now my first book is published, I’ve found there’s so much more to marketing a book than I ever imagined. It’s really daunting at times. Since Eternal Press is a small press, they can’t do all the marketing I’d like. And being blind, I’m not about to do a country-wide publicity tour on my own. And I find I have more ideas than I have time to write them anyway. So, I just sit and write.
TL: Excellent advice and you never cease to amaze me with your ability to crank out those first drafts. Thanks Barb and congratulations again on your debut!! I’m so thrilled for you.
Drinking this ice from Heaven could open the gates to Hell.
Ice from an asteroid brought in from the belt contains vitamins and minerals invigorating the human metabolism and bringing improved health. It becomes the newest nutritional fad, selling world-wide.
The ice also contains an alien virus capable of altering human DNA, causing humans to lose their individuality, their will, and perhaps even their souls.
Can four infected individuals find a way to stop the process before humanity is lost?
Image Credits: Perkins Brailler By Movierain (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons