Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our first victim...(A very satisfying abuse.)

Exactly as warned; this blog changed during the week. Charlie and I were not finished. She has been kind enough to take the lead in defining my purpose, by defining my subject: Indie authors. She has done that at the very top of her interview, and then answers two more questions for me, just for fun....

Charlie Courtland is a shy, unassuming Indie author who blogs and reviews with the strength of three people. Known by thousands as the voice behind Bitsy Bling Books. She works a lot of marketing magic for authors in a wide range of genres, but, she writes historical fictions with very dark, haunted subjects. Her masterpiece work is the stunning tale of Elizabeth Bathory, the sixteenth century 'Blood Countess'.

Constantly active on the web (try and count the blogs where she's featured), Charlie seems to hardly sleep. According to her own admission, she works at her own pace, with nary a glance to any clock. Her time is controlled by her reading schedule, and her stack of waiting books is massive. Following her about on the numerous feeds that she haunts, one gets the impression that she reads and blogs simultaneously. And, somewhere in that storm of activity, she finds time to promote other authors with contests and expert reviews. A review from Charlie is a valuable gift to Indie authors who crave notice. Charlie attracts a lot of notice. Her 10 Best of 2010 list had publishers getting in touch. She was positively spot on with her #1 pick. Give her a Google, and watch more than ten pages flip by with her name in the listing.

She may enjoy more fame for her three sentence rants on Facebook, as likely about football as they might be about her neighbors. You get the strong impression that if you tried to join her for a televised game, and rooted for the wrong team, she would make you leave, and smile while holding the door. Charlie wouldn't be described as very cautious, I'll wager. (No. Not at all. Since this feature was posted Charlie demonstrated some raptor-like behavior on a few occasions. If she's marked you for death - buy your casket.)

You need to know, recently Charlie has been obsessing over this little tale on the right. 'The Secret of a Spicy Jalapeno' appeared as if by magic - she had been very quiet. I had only heard hints, but suddenly a beta copy was available, and I found myself in one of the most inventively macabre stories I'd read in a great while. And the gem is pure Charlie Courtland; she is very precise with her details. Very Precise. I won't reveal the one element that had me giggling like a little kid. If you can't find it on your own, then...tough on you. However, I will tell you this - she researched how something would smell.

Yes, that's what she did, and when I read that passage my jaw dropped. I've read a lot of details in novels, that just seemed mindless filler in the text. Not from Charlie.

Now available in the usual places - the link goes to amazon - you would do well to hurry and get this on your TBR. As I said, it is pure Charlie, but not at all like her amazing Blood Countess series, which is detailed just below. I loved this book, and wanted to share it by updating this post. (here is my review.)

Three years of research and obsession...


'Dandelions in the Garden' and 'The Hidden Will of the Dragon' are the result of those passions. Charlie found that little had been written about the notorious 'Blood Countess', who was descendant from Vlad Tepes himself. Such a powerful - yet unexplored figure - Charlie was drawn to Elizabeth Bathory and compelled to create a story that would stand up to the legends. She achieves that with genius - her imaginative account follows the Countess from her youth, to beyond her tormented life - through the eyes of Elizabeth's only lady-in-waiting, Amara. What those two endure, and survive together, is a lifetime on the very edge of madness.

Though Amara herself is a creation of the author's, the scope of the narrative is grounded in meticulous accuracy. Charlie has explained in several blogs how she endeavored to place real people in correct time and place around the Countess, in her sometimes sequestered life. Elizabeth may have been ignored most of her life, but she was royal. Even her tormentors were required to circulate her in proper society. From the real history of the courts and kings, Charlie weaves a story that is utterly believable and a masterpiece.

Here are the links to my reviews of both books: 'Dandelions' - 'Dragon'
It has become a dream of mine, to own a Charlie Courtland rating and review. Sadly, as of this date, she has steadfastly refused to read anything I've written...


I believe that writers should write for themselves. Then they should share what they have written. There are more ways to do that now, than have ever existed before. People who have that desire to write books, deserve to be read. Charlie explains why.

Would you please define, for our readers, what is an Indie author – and, why should they be supported?

I-N-D-I-E is short for independent and I'm told that the proper spelling is with 'ie' and not the 'y' (indy) which refers to Indiana or car racing. 

Indie Author:  An obscure person which you only learn about from someone slightly more hip than yourself.  Often associated with persons affiliated with small publishing and not under a contract of a major house.  In other words, an author with little financial backing so they can claim they are not 'sell-outs', while leering in disgust at those who have fat advancements.  What is the importance of being Indie?  And, why do some of us actually choose this route?  Like the trail blazers before us in the music and movie industry, Indie is a state of mind.  A writer maintains a certain sense of freedom and empowerment when maintaining control over their written word.
So let's break it down:
I = Inspired -  Your gut guides, your brain motivates.  It's what you are meant to do.
N = Non-traditional - Understand the 'rules' but are fearless and can veer from them.  If everyone wrote the same, books would be boring!  Example:  Mass media trends.  Yuck. Amen!
D = Determined -  You're going to have to market anyway, so why not do it yourself?
I = Innovative - Finding new ways to reach people, network and love what you do.
E= Empowered -  Control, control, control.  Own it.  Don't wait for someone else or something to magically come along and say, 'Gee, we might like you.'  Yeah, it takes guts, but you can't go Indie without them.

What I-N-D-I-E doesn't stand for:  I can't get published or have been rejected so I went this route because I had no other choice.  Unfortunately, some very misguided individuals share this way of thinking and misinformed definition. 

Believe it or not, and I know this is a total shocker, but I am one of those CRAZY author's who chooses to go Indie.  I have never written a query or submitted a 300 word synopsis followed by rejection notices.  I thought, I can either spend my day and money on penning query letters and licking stamps, OR I can pay a fraction of the cost, have my work edited and do the rest myself.  At least when I make that $.64, it will be MY $.64 -- no one gets a cut or chunk.  Do I sell millions?  Nope, but most authors whether Indie or mass market don't. 

Is there a lot of drudge out there?  Why, all areas of entertainment from music to movies and most certainly in books.  However, some of the best music and movies I've listened to or seen, are classified as 'Indie' -- take the Sundance Film Festival for example if you need proof.  I'm from Seattle, so the grunge scene is near and dear to my heart.  You see where I'm going with this, right?  As I compile my best of 2010 reading list I'm not the least bit surprised to find my top choices are by Indie authors.  Truly, they were some of the best works I read this year.

What are your credentials, as an author and blogger?
I have a piece of paper from the University of Washington claiming I'm qualified. They gave me a license to unleash my opinions onto the world. (translation: BA degree in pretty book words.)

How long have you been blogging?
I began my blogs in September of 2009. I currently administer 3 blog sites.

Did blogging evolve from your efforts as a writer, or was it the other way around?
I set up the first blog to help promote my independent publishing endeavors. However, I quickly realized I enjoyed promoting my opinions about other works more. Like most authors, I really don't like talking about myself - but feel free to buy my books.

What is the hardest aspect of your working day?
The daily household chores and infernal domestic demands of life. I'm easily annoyed by laundry, dishes, and figuring out what's for dinner. However, I'm also a very neat and organized person. The family calls it OCD, but I prefer delightfully quirky.

You sometimes teach creative writing; how often do you get to do that?
Not often enough! Ultimately, I'd like to teach a creative writing seminar at the university level. Recently, I've tutored several high school students.

Who has influenced your writing most?
My refreshingly progressive creative writing professor, Allison. I really lucked out when I enrolled in her class. The most influential author is, hands down, Flannery O'Connor. That woman had moxie.

Is there a genre that you would love to write, but have not tried?
I'm interested in Steampunk and would really like to develop a story suitable for this genre. It's the Victorian aspects that attract me to it.

Is there a genre that you will not read?
I prefer certain genres to others, but I'll try anything once, or twice.

What is the most shared bit of advice that you give Indie authors?
I tell them that every book will eventually end up being a 3 star. I'm a fan of the law of averages. In other words, some people will love you and some will dislike you. The people who dislike your work are deranged. In all seriousness, take critique in stride but don't let it eat you up.  Most writers are acutely aware of their flaws. The goal is to keep moving - perfection doesn't exist in the artist world because it's subjective.

What is the strangest question you have ever been asked?
What 3 adjectives best describe you? You can't ask a writer to use only 3 adjectives! This took me days to figure out.

In your Elizabeth Bathory series, which male character might you have loved?
George. Most definitely, George. I'm still in love with him. I never said I had good taste in men.

Do you think that love might be evident in your writing?
Absolutely. I have an ongoing argument with a literary friend. He claims that deep down I'm a hopeless romantic. I tell him I'm a cynical romantic.

Patrick Stewart, or Kevin Costner?
Without a doubt, Patrick Stewart. He's more my type. Personally, I think one of the sexy men alive is George W. Bush.  I know...but, I think he's adorable and really funny. He makes up words and that turns me on.

I've heard you hint at a new project; what are you willing to divulge?
I have two kicking around the story machine at the moment. I've been researching the history behind the Harvard Mansion in Seattle. I think there is a good story waiting to be told which is based on the house. The other project involves the vampire conspiracies investigated by the archduchess of Austria. I have a particular interest in the legend of Arnold Paole.
Image from Mesa Oak Productions

Charlie needs this for Christmas. (Don't know if the site has them, but they have a free Steampunk Game. Clickyclicky.)

Steampunk is such a visual art, almost fractal in the layering of details. How would you write, even in a Victorian prose, and make the result feel how steampunk looks?
Humm...I'm actually struggling with this concept.  I really want to explore Steampunk, but I question whether I have the talent and imagination to pull it off. I've recently compiled a list of must reads from Steampunk authors.  I need to become familiar with the 'rules' of the genre and then decide what I want to take away or what I will chuck.  The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a good example of the direction I'd like to take.  H.G. Wells and Douglas Adams will help with other details as well.  I first have to be a student.

Thank you Charlie, for sitting still long enough for my questions; and for using the nickname I gave you. There is a story behind it, that I might share - someday. Happy First Blog Guest Day! You have my permission to put up your Christmas tree now...and, I'm upgrading my crush on you, to full blown infatuation.. :)

Charlie asked this question in the comments: "Ok Joel, I've got a question for you! Recently, I was contacted by a gentleman who asked if my books would appeal to a 30 something male? What's your opinion?"
When I was 30, Elizabeth was exactly what I wanted to read. But, that is not a fair opinion; Classic subjects are my favorites. You wove a remarkable fiction out of a colorful, true history.

Anne Rice was re-vamping Vampires when I was that age, and I read all her works. 30-somethings now? They have been raised with Internet access nearly all their lives, I don't know how to judge their attention span. You take your time weaving the tale, and require your reader to let the two girls mature. Can those two characters be viewed in modern terms? Yes. To me, Amara is hot; Elizabeth is a party-girl without a party. It should work for younger men, because you brought those women forward in time with the narrative voice. Guys should still like women who kick ass. Far as I know, they always have.

For the record, Charlie hosts the blogs: Bitsty Bling Books; Bitsy Bling's Book Reviews; What's Charlie Talking About?; and A Writer's Corner. That counts on my toes as four. She loves followers, and follows back, making sure to see what friends are posting. Told you she seems to never sleep; I'll not let her rest much this week - constantly adding little bits and fixes as I grow more bold with these tools.

You know she has a crush on me, don't you? Yeah, a dozen or ten tweets a should follow her/ @bitsyblingbooks on Twitter. (you thought that was a link, didn't you?)

Weekly Meme's Charlie does each week:
Magic Mailbox (every Sunday).  I post what books I've received the previous week.
Follow Friday (every Friday).  Blog hop, Follow Me and Enquiring Minds Want to know.


  1. Well, lookyhere! Comments are functional! Who is gonna moderate me? :)

  2. This is a scary blog, with no one to moderate you things could get out of control!!
    But seriously, this was an interesting interview and you managed to let Charlie answer the questions without embarrassing her, so I'm quite looking forward to my interview :)
    I liked your answers, Charlie! Very witty. I knew about Bitsybling. I'm going to check out your other blogs too :)

  3. I became acquainted with Charlie a few months ago. She is great, isn't she? Great interview and great blog!

  4. Ok Joel, I've got a question for you! Recently, I was contacted by a gentleman who asked if my books would appeal to a 30 something male? What's your opinion?

  5. Question and comment pulled into the interview above....

  6. Comments! Yay!

    Loved the interview, Joel and Charlie.

    Charlie, I never would have figured you for a steampunk girl. You are full of surprises! :)

    About Charlie's books appealing to a man of 30, my older son is soon to be 28 and he is an avid reader. I don't know that this genre would appeal to him. He is into heavy fantasy, as well as Shakespeare and medieval history (nonfiction). But I do think that generation reads and is willing to commit if the topic interests them. Thankfully, the Internet hasn't totally disrupted their attention span. Now my 19-year-old is a whole different story!

  7. Thanks for the interview, Joel and Charlie! Wow, 3 blogs, Charlie? You sound like a busy woman.

  8. That is the coolest Christmas idea EVER! I'd love that for my office. Hum...adding to my wish list.

    Also, I did answer more questions, but my editor was busy sniffing the yard for a good place to do her thing --- so, dismiss grammar and typos. Hey, I'm raw, what can I say?

  9. Oh, to be rich...and cast about my wealth to impress Women. That would truly be fun.

  10. So who is the next victim? Can't wait to see who you interview next!

    Thanks for hosting!


  11. Some second year English Lit. major; calls herself DeeCee. She's been bugging me half a year to do a beta-read for her. (I figure, give her a couple of days and I can get on with stuff.)


You are more than welcome to leave a comment. We reserve the right to remove anything unseemly.