Holly Rae Garcia, Galaxy of Authors

Holly Rae Garcia, Galaxy of Authors

Holly Rae Garcia

‘Nolitete bastardes carborundorum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) ~ Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I wanted to see if I could write a book. And I know that’s a terrible answer, because I’m not one of those writers who have been writing since they were old enough to hold a pen. I have been a voracious reader all of my life, so I have always appreciated and loved the written word. I figured, what better way to learn how to write a book…than actually writing a book? The learning curve was steep and at times almost impossible, but I finished it and proved to myself that I could do it. It was tons harder than I ever thought it would be. Along the way I also fell in love with writing short stories and flash fiction. The short form is a fantastic way to flex your writerly voice, and learn which genres you prefer to write in. I continue writing books because I’m addicted to them. I never dreamed I would have this much fun challenging myself.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

I’ll be that clichéd author who says Stephen King, because that’s what was on my mother’s bookshelves. And he’s Stephen Freaking King… the man is a legend for good reason. That, and true crime about mothers who killed their children were usually on our coffee tables. I should have slept with one eye open. I’ve loved Poe for as long as I can remember, and of course my younger years were filled with Christopher Pike, RL Stein, and Mary Higgins Clark.

Tell me about your book / series.

A mother loses her grip with reality as she seeks revenge for her son’s death.

Rebecca Crow’s four-year-old son is dead, and her husband is missing.

Divers find her husband’s car at the bottom of a canal with their son’s small, lifeless body, inside. The police have no suspects and nothing to go on but a passing mention of a man driving a van. Guilt and grief cloud Rebecca’s thoughts as she stumbles towards her only mission: Revenge.

James Porter knows exactly what happened to them, but he’ll do anything to keep it a secret.

James didn’t plan to kill Rebecca’s son, but he’s not too broken up about it, either. There are more important things for him to worry about. He needs money, and his increasing appetite for murder is catching the eye of a local detective.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Unpublished: zero.

Outlined but not started: two.

Finished and currently with beta readers: one.

Surprisingly enough, I don’t have any that are half-finished.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

This is a tricky one because my first instinct is to say that I think it’s ridiculous. But some books are filled with racism, hate, bigotry, misogyny, etc., and probably deserve to be shelved forever. The question I suppose is whether or not we can still learn from those books. As for banning due to stuffy parents wanting to control what their little darlings take in, I have one word: PornHub. Or is that two? Either way, kids these days have access to far more damaging media than a book.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

James Porter is memorable because he’s the bad guy you can’t help but like. You wouldn’t want him to date your sister, but you would drink a beer with him if he was buying.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I went the route of a small press (Close to the Bone/UK) because there are much higher royalty rates, and a much more personalized experience. They were also great to work with in letting me design my own cover.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

Absolutely. I feel it’s important to immerse yourself in your craft. I always find it odd when writers aren’t readers and/or “don’t have the time to read”, because why would you want to benefit from a culture you don’t partake of? I do have to watch what I read while first drafting, as style and voice tend to bleed over.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The worst bit: It’s changed how I read novels and how I watch movies. My husband (also a writer) and I now discuss plot/character/etc. and why something is or isn’t working with other movies and books. It’s one of those bells that can’t be unrung.

The best bit: Having just written something and feeling like I’ve nailed what I was trying to do. I also love the subculture of writers, both Indie and traditionally published. They are incredibly supportive and encouraging.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

Plotter. I like to have a timeline and a chapter-by-chapter summary before I start drafting. Of course, it changes almost immediately as I write. I think writers should use whatever works best for them.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I don’t think so, not consciously anyway. I did put the number 1418 in Come Join the Murder on purpose, since it’s my photography studio’s room number at work. I think I used it as someone’s address but now I can’t remember.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

Photography is a big one, mostly macro stuff and food photography. I also like to watch cheesy B-Horror flicks with my husband (I’m looking at you, Zombeavers) and go to the beach.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m co-writing a horror novella with my husband featuring Bigfoot, tentatively titled Easton Falls Massacre. It is currently with beta readers.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I think Indie gets a bad rap by a few authors who want to skip the editing step, either because they can’t afford it or just don’t care. I’ve read a few poorly edited Indie books, but I’ve also read some fantastic ones. I think traditionally published books tend to all have the same “feel”, and Indies get to play around more and experiment with ideas and form. I like both.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I’d say it’s a tie between psychological thriller and horror. I love psychological thrillers for that in-depth headspace you have to immerse yourself in, and it’s fun to play around with people’s emotions (that probably makes me sound like a sociopath). Horror is fun because it’s something I grew up with, and it feels very natural to me. It’s stepping to the edge of those intense emotions, but with a safety net that you can close at any time.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

For Come Join the Murder, I basically already live there. I made the town a hybrid of Galveston and Surfside, TX. I was born in this area, and still live here now.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Not everything you write needs to be (or should be) published. Some of it is for the exercise, or fun, or a contest, etc. I put too much pressure on myself at the beginning to get that “published” stamp.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Oh, definitely. For Come Join the Murder it was a Van Morrison playlist on repeat. I pulled it up when I was trying to think of something Rebecca could listen to in the car while she was driving, and just kept listening. Morrison is very soothing. For the action scenes I did switch to atmospheric sounds (rain/crowds/highway/etc) to get in that space. For my current book, the Bigfoot horror novella, the playlist is a lot of Five Finger Death Punch, Alice in Chains, and Shinedown.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That it is 1,000x harder than I thought it would be. I have so much more respect for the process now.

Tell me three unique things about you.

– I’ve moved 21 times in my 40 years of life (I don’t like to sit still).
– I once met and photographed the President of Argentina (Mauricio Macri).
– I have an Advanced Open Water Certification from PADI (Scuba Diving) but haven’t been diving in years. One day I’ll pick it back up.

Holly, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

It’s not my job to educate you

It’s not my job to educate you

It’s not my job to educate you

…we’ve all seen that somewhere. And no, if you aren’t drawing a teaching salary, it isn’t your ‘job’.

My concern is that people asking for information is coming dangerously close to being seen as ‘entitlement’: as in, if you weren’t you and didn’t have the contextual awareness of a rock you should already know all this. Stop making me explain things you should know to you.

I get it. I’ve lived it all my life. It’s really annoying when people ask you about stuff you know and they don’t just to understand what the hell you’re talking about when that ‘stuff’ is every day for you. On the other hand, if you want people to understand, even if it isn’t your job, I put it to you that throwing a hissy fit about how it isn’t your job to educate people may not be the best possible alternative.

My context is that I come from somewhere no one’s ever heard of and my environment growing up was one that almost no one has. If someone wanders up to me to introduce themselves and asks me that innocent little question about where I’m from, I can either lie or get myself involved in educating them.

Since my school years, I’ve never been comfortable having this discussion. This means that while, no, it may not lose me a job or get me stoned in the street, about every other time I meet someone new I get to choose between lying or enjoying a nice bout of social anxiety and a rash of bad memories. And then, after that, I get to educate them.

This is how it tends to go.

Stranger: “Oh hey, hi, I’m so-and-so, nice to meet you!”

Me: *Oh, Jesus, should’ve ducked behind the buffet* “Hi, nice to meet you so-and so.”

S: “Hey, cute accent! Where are you from?”

Me: *ohshitohshit here we go again* “Oh, thanks! I’m from Gibraltar.”

S: “Gibraltar! That’s in Australia, right?”

Me: *argh* “No, it’s a British territory in the south of Spain. You might have heard of the Strait of Gibraltar, joins the Atlantic and the Mediterranean?”

S: “That’s so cool! Did you grow up there?”

Me: *oh god, now we’re for it* “No, my parents travelled a lot.”

S: “Oh, cool! So I guess you’ve got great  frequent flyer perks?”

Me: *please kill me* “Uh, no, we lived on a boat.”

S: *really gets their extrovert happy on* “A boat?!?!”

…and so on.

There is actually a Facebook group called “Yes, I’m from Gibraltar; no, I can’t be arsed to tell you where it is”, and I didn’t start it, which means that yes, I do absolutely ‘get’ not wanting to have to explain your personal context to other people. So, apparently, does almost everyone else from my country who’s ever left it.

However, if I’m speaking to someone who isn’t well-travelled, which a lot of people aren’t, or aren’t well-educated on non-*wherever* geography, which is most people, I can explain, or I can be an arsehole. The latter certainly comes easier, but is it really fair to blame some random person for not knowing something that’s every day life for me and not to them?

I can certainly walk off when they start asking stupid questions about boats, too, but again, is it really fair to expect that they should know? And if they don’t, which is, again, most people, then I can either explain, and they’ll go away better informed if not any wiser. And then, next time they meet some random weirdo who’s sailed, they’ll know that yes, such people exist, and that conversation will go easier. Not for me, of course, but for the next poor sod who shares any part of my personal context.

Is there a huge difference between someone asking for information and someone asking because they’re trying to get at you?

Yes, of course there is, and those people are at least partly why I hate having these conversations. Being ‘different’ is just tons of fucking fun with a cherry onna top in some situations.

However, I’m a firm supporter of giving people at least a sentence to hang themselves in. I’ll absolutely be an arsehole to someone out looking for a rise. Someone who’s merely trying to ameliorate their ignorance by asking someone else who’s just admitted to being a source of first-hand information, that I’ll hesitate to do unless I’m having a really awesomely foul day.

In other words, my attitude is indeed entirely dependent on you. It’s not my job to educate you, but if I want you better-informed it may be in my best interests, or if not mine, the next poor schmuck’s, to do so.

Heading into 2020

Heading into 2020

Heading into 2020

There’s a terrible, terrible joke that can be trotted out for the next little while when people ask me what my plans are for 2020 – the answer being that I don’t know, I don’t have 20/20 vision. (Groan.)

All right, anyone who’s still reading after that one…2019 was a year in which I changed almost everything about my life it’s possible to change. New day job, separation, getting my own place…2019 pretty much destruct-tested the saying that ‘the magic starts outside your comfort zone’. I’m happy to say that sitting here on the cusp of 2020, I’m healthier, happier, and more relaxed than I’ve been in a decade or more. I spent a lot of time thinking before, after, and during about the Benjamin Franklin quote that ‘Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ I’m not about to get it tattooed on my ass (well, get back to me on that after New Year’s Eve…), but I gave up being miserable in a familiar rut, took a leap, and so far I have got to say the water’s been warm.

Partly because of all the upheaval, I got precisely one novella published, and because I’m honest, I’ll admit I had no plans to write or publish a novella in the Cortii Mercenaries series, in 2019 or any other time. Irin Seviki, who shows up as a secondary character in Fighting Shadows, had other ideas. One of the dubious joys of being a complete pantser is that sometimes, shit just happens. That said, I’m working my way through edits on Cortii #5, which was the book I actually did plan to publish in 2019. That probably is going to happen closer to Midsummer 2020. It’s currently confessed to the title of Rebel’s Bargain, which may or may not be what it goes to print under. 

Numbers 6, 7, and part of 8 in the Cortii series are in various stages between my diseased brain and publication as well, and in case that wasn’t enough, I’m also getting intermittently hi-jacked by a half-siren, half-asshole (her description, not mine) acquisitions specialist on the trail of the Peaches of Immortality. It is almost certainly not going to publish under its current working title of ‘Peaches’, not least because the characters give me snark about it every time I open the file. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’ve seen a snippet from her already – if you aren’t, go sign up, I tell people where to find free books in pretty much every newsletter. There’s no way to go wrong with free books.

In part due to getting my own place, I’ve also been reading to the point where Goodreads whines pitifully every time I make it show me all the books I read this year (as opposed to, say, those I read in the past two weeks). Particular favourites, old and new, included When Demons Walk, by Patricia Briggs; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein; Missee Lee, by Arthur Ransome; Warrior, by Marie Brennan; and The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff. I have every intention of making GR beg for mercy next year, too. Among other things, I live with a pair of domineering Siamese cats, who approve of reading because it involves me sitting still and providing heat to my feline overlords.

As my local liquor store stocks a favourite treat I’m rarely able to get my claws on here, I’m going to be celebrating the incoming year with ginger wine. Yes, it’s a grannie drink. No, I really don’t care. More for me. Mmmm, ginger.

What’s your 2020 looking like? 

Wishing you all good things and many good books!

Indie author: it means we do all the hard shit as well

Indie author: it means we do all the hard shit as well

Indie author versus traditional publishing

I’m honestly not certain which annoys me more some days: the traditional publishing industry, busily running down indie authors and anything they produce and making noise about how they’re the gatekeepers of publishing (otherwise pronounced those that ensure that very little that’s actually new gets published), or on the other side of the coin the (fortunately rare) indie author stating loudly that just because they can’t edit and drew their cover art in MS Paint, it’s still, to nick a Pinocchio line, ‘a real book!’

Yes, I annoy really easily. 

So here’s the thing, publishing princesses and buttercups: suck it right the duck up. (Dear auto-correct: it really never is ‘duck’.)

Trad publishing is a great way to go if you have the time and stamina to send out fifty to hundreds of letters, teasers, synopses, and pitches to agents, publishers, and every stripe in between, and then let someone tell you how to write your story and all future stories (and when to stop writing them) for what adds up to about 5% of the actual profits on the book while you still mostly end up doing your own marketing.

Indie publishing is a great way to go if you happen to be able to write a story, edit the shit out of it (and please, get that part right, or pay someone competent to), figure out either how to make a professional-looking cover or research how to get a reliable and affordable professional to do it for you, and then figure out how to get the whole written, edited, and covered shebang out in front of the public – because you are still going to have to market that shit. Oh yes.

The hard truths

Trad publishing is not a free ride once you sign on the dotted line. A lot more regimented and much better connections, but at the same time your agency in your own book goes way down, and what’s more, if your Precious doesn’t sell sufficiently well, your publisher can choose to yeet that thing off shelves so fast your head will spin.

Indie publishing, and once more REALLY LOUDLY for those in the back – indie publishing is not a great excuse for putting a shit product out there because you didn’t pay attention to where the commas went in school. Indie publishing is where you get all the agency in your own book – and that means if you put a shoddily-edited, badly-covered, indifferently-paced compost heap up on Amazon, you have no one else to point the finger at. That brown smear down your ass was all, completely, start to finish, you.

So, trad people – congratulations, I look forwards to seeing your stuff when I get time to do something I enjoy and browse through a bookstore. If it’s badly paced, the tenth take on the same story I’ve read this year, or there are still editing mistakes in there, after pro dev, copy, and line editing, I am going to call that out come review time.

Indies, being an indie author is not a free ride. Independence, which is what the ‘indie’ in our name comes from, doesn’t mean you get to put a stinking pile out there and then stand on your soapbox and wail about how editing is hard and your book is still just as good as those where people put the actual brain sweat in. Independence means that your end product will reflect exactly how much effort you, and only you, were willing to put into it.

I’ve read some excellent trad books. But, and here’s the but, folks of both stripes – I have read equally well-written, equally well-edited, equally well-presented indie books. It’s possible. And from me, at least, the latter case gets more respect, because that indie author didn’t have a full publishing company corralling their plot holes, trimming their dialogue tags, and making sure they had a cover that might attract eyes-on. That indie author had to do all the legwork themselves, and either learn how to do everything themselves or do research and hoard money to pay other people to do that good a job on their work.

Do I think I’m perfect? Hell no, I do not. I read stuff I think is better than mine from both indie and trad folks on a regular basis. However, I also read much worse from both. I don’t think I’m some kind of ‘artiste, darling!’ because I didn’t jump on the trad wagon when I had the chance. I don’t think choosing to go indie gives me a good excuse not to hold my books to the highest standard I can. 

The real species behind the Matrix

The real species behind the Matrix

The concept behind the Matrix

If you’ve watched any films in the past 20 years, you’ve probably seen at least one of the Matrix trilogy. Essentially, to mis-appropriate a Jurassic Park quote, ‘God created man, man created A.I., A.I. enslaved man’.

The A.I. in the film created a convincingly imperfect human society in virtual reality, which humans are plugged into at birth and thereafter are kept as biological batteries, producing heat (power) for the A.I., and most are blissfully ignorant of it all due to being immersed in the Matrix. 

The first Matrix is a very good film, and at the time it was pretty ground-breaking. Unfortunately the second and third in the series are an exercise in ‘wow, the first one made us way more money than we thought, let’s cash in… plot? Who needs a plot?’, but the first one explores A.I., offers some excellent and disturbing metaphors for society, prods you to think about fate versus free will, etc., etc.

It’s not necessarily as original as it looks

My brain is fond of waking me up at oh-my-god in the morning and presenting me with things to think about rather than letting me go back to sleep, and one of the things it presented me with early one morning, as I lay immobilised under two cats, was that someone who participated in the writing of the Matrix was a genius, but not an original one. 

Humanity has yet to achieve A.I., being more than slightly hindered by its own lack of I.

However, lacking A.I., which always makes a convenient villain for anything sci-fi, there is nonetheless a species on the planet that’s been successfully cultivating humans for food and heat for millennia – felis silvestris catus, or the domesticating cat. Pardon me, my mistake – domestic cat.

Most of the population has either lived with a cat at some point in their lives, or knows someone who does. There’s a hairy old joke about dogs being pets for people who need to be worshipped as gods, whereas cats are more for those who can deal with their gods turning up on their chests at 0500 and demanding a sacrifice.

It is however interesting to note that where humanity domesticated wolves way back in the days when they were still hunting wild animals for food and sport and engaging in bloody conflicts (oh, hey, hang on…) as companions and burglar alarms, and dogs today have been bred into so many different directions that in some cases the common ancestor is hard to believe, cats moved in with humans pretty much as soon as human habitations were much better than caves. Domestic cats today, although a little gentler than their fully wild cousins, and in slightly more varied colours and coats, are completely recognisable at a glance as close relatives of the smaller wildcats. 

Essentially, cats moved in, and in exchange for warmth and a little care, handled the small and mid-size pest problems that plagued humanity’s moderately filthy communities. When the Catholic church declared them witches’ familiars, and thousands of cats were killed across Europe, the Black Plague followed.

The deal is still pretty much on today, except with better sanitation the workload is less, and cats can spend more of their time training their human heat sources. In fact, one of mine has just turned up on my desk to explain that this habit of staring at lit screens, when one could be making a fuss of a cat, is something that should be addressed.

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