WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES: Cait Ashwood

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Hello Space Cadets! Today, I wanted to introduce you to another author from my WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES.  This one will be slightly different, as Cait Ashwood was an Army wife, rather than a veteran. Those who stayed at home, managing the hearth fire also served in my book.  I know it isn’t the same, but to me they’re the ones who ran the daily affairs that let the warriors do what warriors do.  I couldn’t have been as effective while serving at the tip of the spear if I didn’t know that things were solid at home.  My wife gave me that peace of mind, so I know it has intrinsic value.  Further, I’ve seen what happened to soldiers with crappy spouses.  To keep this blog as clean as this old grunt is capable of, let’s just say it didn’t end well.

 

So without getting lost in the weeds, let’s talk about today’s subject. Cait’s an amazing author, wife, mother to furry kids and works as a ‘post closer’ at a law firm specializes in real-estate. Yeah, I know… one of those titles that could be anything or nothing, but don’t shoot the messenger!! We met at my local Hampton Roads NaNoWriMo group this past year, something for which I’m grateful. She has been kind, encouraging and just generally friendly. Her 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo has been put to use helping many of our local authors perfect their hand to hand combat scenes, including one in the upcoming Operation Breakout.

 

Aside from the boring real life stuff, Cait is a writer who feels like getting her first novel published is a dream come true. I’m delighted to have her here so we can go along for the ride. When she’s the next big thing, we can all say we knew her when!  And hey, maybe she’ll slip us a free latte! OR she could pimp our books so we can be as cool as her too!  “Do you fancy my book? Awesome, then try JR’s book in a totally different genre!” Bam!  See how it’s done?  Take notes Cait, seriously!

 

So, more about this fine author!  Fantasy and science fiction have been her lifeblood since she was too young to stay up and watch the complete episode of Star Trek: Voyager.  Yep, she worships at the wrong church… a Trekie. Sigh, we will let our Force wielders turn her from such a dark and turbulent path and back to the welcoming embrace of the Church of the Star Wars. She has several fandoms that she follows with varying amounts of rabid foaming, but it’s all in good fun most of the time. Except that Star Trek part, don’t try that at home kids! According to Cait, if she had to pick a favorite, The Princess Bride would right at the top.  Subject to change of course, because who knows what’s around the corner?

 

Aside from writing, Cait’s also a classically trained violinist.  She has a few students she teaches weekly, and really enjoys working with them.  Those kids need to save their billing invoices, they could be worth money someday.  But I digress… Cait also crochets, plays D&D with friends, and, of course, reads her ‘innocent’ little heart out.  Further, she has a small menagerie she manages with her husband; including three dogs, two cats, and six chickens.  If you ever get the opportunity to keep chickens, she highly recommends them.  They’re a lot more entertaining than you might expect. Plus, you know, free eggs.

 

Finally, the all-important touchstone to judge a person by, their favorite authors.  Some of Cait’s favorite authors include: J.R. Ward, R.A. Salvatore, Anne McCaffrey, Tad Williams, Mercedes Lackey, Jean Auel, and Sherwood Smith.

 

If I’ve perked your interest, keep reading as I interview this lovely Army wife.

 

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Without further ado, let’s get this interview cranking!

 

 

JR:  Tell me a little about your time as a military spouse?

Cait:   I was a military spouse to a member of the 82nd Airborne division, with a home in Fayettenam! We married before he went to basic, so I was with him from the start, including two failed attempts at Ranger school. I have to say one of my favorite memories was being forced to jump out of the 35’ airborne training towers on Spouse Day. I was so scared my knees were knocking and his 1st Sergeant started smoking him until I jumped. As he was somewhat in the doghouse with me, I will admit to some intentional stalling at that point! While that marriage didn’t end up working out for us, I am now happily married to a veteran (again from the Army).

 

JR:  How do you feel that your affiliation with the military has influenced your writing?

Cait:   If anything, I think my time with the military lets me know exactly how much I don’t know when it comes to writing more military related or battle scenes. At least I understand the lingo and can find people to pester, and know what questions to ask. That’s a huge help when it comes to, say, wondering what kind of explosive a medieval society would have access to when attempting to penetrate an underground compound.

 

JR:  Do you think your military lifestyle, and more specifically your meeting all kinds of people, adds to the realism in your books?  If so, how?

Cait:   I do believe it’s been a great help. From observing the CoC at work, it really helps me to get into the frame of mind of my commanders, and see risk analysis from a leader’s standpoint. Being intimately familiar with the banter and camaraderie among enlisted troops is also beneficial when writing my squad’s interactions with each other. Then there’s always those pesky officer’s wives and the petty competitions there. Seriously spouses. Your spouse wears the rank, not you.

 

JR:  Do you feel like there is any bleed over from your husband’s work, into your books?

Cait:   Directly? No – I don’t have helicopters in my books. Have I been known to wander into the living room and start asking him questions to get a realistic military point of view answer to questions and issues I’m dealing with? Absolutely. I love picking his brain.

 

JR:  When did you start pursuing your writing more seriously?

Cait:   I’d have to say last summer. The first draft of The Seekers took me about two years to draft, and sat in a stagnant mire of “No, really, I’m editing,” for about six months.  I got some feedback, got fired up to write with a few motivational pages, and re-wrote the entire manuscript in two and a half months. Two months later after editing and formatting, here we are, ready to release.

 

JR:  Of all your work, which was your favorite to write?

Cait:   squints at JR     You know I only have the one book out currently…is this a trick question?

 

JR:  How many of your characters were inspired by your exposure to all things military?

Cait:   Let’s see… counts …     Named characters would probably be around six or seven. I have the Seekers in the main squad we follow, Hound, Ace, Deuce, Trio, and Quad, then the commander of the Seekers, Tops, and his second, Kendrick. There are plenty more Seekers where they come from, but those are the biggest roles.

 

JR:  How many of the scenes you wrote were inspired from your experience as a military spouse?

Cait:   There’s one really big battle scene in The Seekers, and a few others that deal with emergency evacs, tactics, and the ever-fluctuating chain of command.

 

JR:  Do you feel like your writing has served any therapeutic value for you?  Has it helped you process your experiences?

Cait:   As I’m not a veteran, most of the traumatic experiences in my life have stemmed from being a female and the nasty things that happen to women in our lifetimes. There are several issues with the main character, Audrey, and instances of sexual assault. She goes through varying stages of mental recovery from her experiences, and while the events in my life have already been processed and I feel victorious rather than victimized, I do feel that having experience in that realm myself has added an element of reality to her mental struggles.

 

JR:  If you could serve with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

Cait:   Without a doubt, Hound. He’s a hardass who doesn’t tolerate even a hint of insubordination, but you also don’t mess with his men. If I know one thing about myself, it’s that I do best in a structured environment. In a leader, you always want someone who leads from the front, and that’s where Hound prefers to be. He may have high standards for his men, but it’s nothing to his personal standards.

 

JR:  If you could pick one of your characters to be your husband’s battle buddy, who would it be and why?

Cait:   Oh.  Oh dear, this is a horrible question.  I would say Deuce, but as a medic, his combat skills aren’t as advanced as some of the other guys, and I want a good fighter with my hubby to ensure he comes home safe. Quad is the best fighter, but also young and somewhat annoying. I suppose I’d have to go with Ace. He can be serious and buckle down when needed, but also provides an element of comedic relief that I think my hubby would appreciate.

 

JR:  If you would want to avoid serving with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

Cait:   Trio. Because he’d likely be oogling the ladies too much to actually focus on his job, something Hound is always after him for…

 

JR:  What are you currently working on?

Cait:   I’m currently working on the sequel to The Seekers, Order of the Lily. I have one more book planned in this series, Raven’s Flight (working title), along with a few novellas. After that, I’m looking at a more paranormal series, but that’s at the whim of the muses as to which project I’ll tackle next.

 

JR:  How can people find you?

  1. Amazon
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Instagram
  5. Website
  6. E-Mail: cait@caitashwood.com

 

 

If this convinced you to find out more, look up Cait Ashwood and become a fanboy like I did!  Hey, I’ve yet to read her book but if it’s as awesome as she is she’s gonna be HUGE!  And if she can do that BEFORE the book launches today, just wait until the novel takes the literary world by storm.  I hope you all had a great time getting to learn about Cait, don’t be afraid to say hello here or on her plethora of social media platforms.  If she doesn’t respond quick enough, glitter bomb her!  Mwahahaha!!  Wait, the little birdie tells me she might’ve already used this evilness in one of her books.  Send her fake books, just to tease her?  Would that be cruel enough to motivate contact?

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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World Building: Book Dictation

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Hello Space Cadets, today I bring you another World Building Wednesday.  This one will be about my use of the Dragon Dictation Software to write.  I hurt my hand while I served in the Army, the infantry school combative classes aren’t anything to sneeze at.  Right now, it alternates between being fine, tingling numbness and no feeling in two fingers on my left hand.  I can type now, but if I want to think long term as an author I need alternatives.  Hence audio dictation.

 

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Since I struggle to overcome the limitations of my injuries, I went looking for answers.  It was suggested that I might benefit from using audio dictation software to write, so I started researching.  I went on to purchase the Dragon Pro software, bought a decent microphone (Blue Yeti) and plowed forward towards that goal.  The program is very intuitive and easy to use, however, I’ve found that actually dictating my books to be harder than I imagined.  Towards that end, I’ve bought a few books on the subject, which I will try to write about later.  I also read this insightful article about audio narration by the ATMAC group.  They’re a group dedicated to helping people overcome their disabilities with technology, though they seem to advocate for Apple specifically.  While reading the ATMAC ideas, I took them all with a grain of salt but loved the individual ideas so why not.  I hope that it helps you as much as it helped me!

 

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Now that we’ve talked about what we have, let me tell you about how I use narration.  First, I use them to get my handwritten notes, outlines and other supporting documents because they’re mostly bullet points and brief ideas of the progression of the story.  Then I use the program to get the basic structure of the scene written.  Afterwards, I’d revert to the traditional method of typing to clean it up.  Ideally, I would like to get to the point where I could use the program exclusively but I’m a narrator in progress.  My narration hero, Monica Leonelle, is able to crank out over a novel a month using this method.  Someday I’ll get there, but I’m not there yet.  Dramatic sigh, someday.

 

Finally, let me pass on some of the advice on dictating that I was given.  Everyone will tell you that it’s difficult at first but it is a skill you can learn and they’re correct.  I’m constantly getting better and it helped sustain my word count during NaNo when time was short and I was behind.  First, to do narration well you should probably outline the scene before you get started.  Some people will call this your beat, or beating out your scene.  I just call it an outline, but whatever you call it, they help.  Another thing I did at first was writing the scene by hand and then reading it out loud to the microphone.  I found that once I was in the groove, I would be able to keep going past what I’d written by hand.  Not where I want to be, but I’m getting ever closer.

 

I hope this gave you some insight into my process and motivated you to consider the audio narration process.  If you do, pop back by and let’s talk about it!

 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess JR

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are owned by JR Handley.

   

1.      Dictation: Dictate Your Writing – Write Over 1,000,000 Words A Year Without Breaking A Sweat!

2.      Dragon NaturallySpeaking For Dummies, 4th Edition

3.      5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter (Volume 1)

4.      The Productive Author’s Guide To Dictation: Speak Your Way to Higher (and Healthier!) Word Counts

5.      The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon: Using Speech Recognition Software to Dictate Your Book and Supercharge Your Writing Workflow

6.      Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter

NaNoWriMo Update

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Hello Space Cadets, I’m sorry for the delay in posting lately. I AM still alive; my alien overlords haven’t called me back yet.  I took a few days off for Thanksgiving, and then had to play a crazy game of catch up to finish the NaNoWriMo event.  It has been insane!  Long days, longer nights and loads of coffee.

 

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Okay, as for the NaNo… let me give you a recap. I finished the rewrites for book two, Fortress Beta City.  It’s now with my copy editor for the last pre-publication pass.  This was a lot of work, hours of conference calls giggling over pizza, but it is done.  It is, hands down, the favorite book I’ve written.  My former editor, and boss, was so close to the story that together we missed some ways it could’ve been better.  I imagine that many authors who let outsiders play in their sandbox experience these issues.  I think book one, The Legion Awakes is good, but I’m even happier with book two.  And let’s face it, there is also the element of my improving skill at storytelling.

 

In addition to Thanksgiving, I had my 35th birthday just after Thanksgiving and it was wonderful.  My wife is very supportive of my work, so she bought me a fancy dancy ergonomic desk chair.  Stand back boys and girls, she’s mine and I’m keeping her!!  My birthday present to myself was finishing book two, Fortress Beta City.  Like I said earlier, the final structural/content editing pass is done, and I don’t tend to worry about the copy editing!!  Hey, I’m just not too overly attached to the commas and whatnot.  Now we wait for the final formatting before it’s off to the presses!!!!!  Okay, maybe beta readers too…. but IT IS DONE!!!!

 

Now that I’ve mentioned the editing, I need to pretend my momma taught me some manners.  I’m not an ungrateful frakker, so thank you Corey Truax!!  You do good work, glad we hired you!! Tim C Taylor will love the finished product!!

 

Sorry literary world, he can’t be your editor…. HE’S ALL MINE!!!!! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

 

Continuing on my NaNo writing journey, I also pushed past book two and wrote over 36,000 words into book three, Operation Breakout.  I’m loving this book too, it’s full of action and has improved upon the mistakes I made in earlier novels.  I feel like Operation Breakout is the fulfillment of the promise of high action that was made in Fortress Beta City, and as a writer I always want to honor the implicit promises I make.

 

Growing, always growing (and not just my belly) towards being a better novelist.  That’s what I hope I’m doing anyway.  Hopefully readers will agree; I’m sure I’ll find out soon.  I’ve not done it alone, I’ve had great mentors and support.  I won’t list those mentors today, but I will write a post about who they are since they are so very supportive of new writers.  They host podcasts, webpages and Facebook groups that are very supportive environments.  Another noob would be welcome, the Fire Marshal just extended our digital capacity!  Again, more to come!!

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are personally owned by the author of the Human Legion Universe.

NaNo Kick-Off Party

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Hello Space Cadets, today I wanted to tell you about a NaNoWriMo kick off party I attended at my local public library.  The meeting included a brief overview of what NaNoWriMo was and then a quick introduction to navigating their website.  We quickly jumped into a few fun writing prompts and I wanted to share mine.

First we got a blank comic strip and we had to write the dialog for ours.  Here is what I came up with in the three minutes provided.

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Then we were told to pull several plot points out of a bucket; an action, a character and a location.  We were given these plot points and told to write a short story in under three minutes.  Here is what I pulled out of a bucket.

And without further ado, here is the story I came up with!

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Not much else to say here, but if you wanna have fun you could use the prompts and write your own story?  Would love to read them in the comments section!!!

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

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JR

 

—> As usual, the two images I used today can be found under Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.