June 9, 2016

Interview: A.J. Culey, Author of The Trouble with Antlers (a.k.a. Melvin’s Rampant Rack) #Excerpt

*What would you be doing right now if you were not an author? I’d probably be reading even more books than I already do!

*5 years ago: what were you doing? I was teaching English as a Second Language to 6th, 7th and 8th graders and working on my YA fantasy, Sehmah’s Truth.

*Do you have a certain writing ritual? For the longest time, I would reread everything I had written on a project before continuing forward. As my works have gotten longer, I’ve started simply rereading the previous scene or two. I somehow need that soft entry to get back into the world and the writing mode. Beyond that, I usually have a cat or two keeping me company, often blocking my view of the laptop by standing on or sprawling across the keyboard.

*What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? The advice to cut the majority of the first fifty pages of my epic fantasy was like a dagger to my heart. There was so much in that first draft that I was truly devoted to that was completely absent in the final draft. The journey toward acceptance of the loss of those pages was a long one, spanning years.

*Ever fangirled over another author? Who was it? Truthfully, I tend to fangirl over books, characters and series more than their creators. For example, I’m a smidge obsessed with J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series and pretty much all of Mo Willems’ picture books. So while I may not know much (or anything) about these authors’ lives, I could speak to you ad nauseum about their books, the worlds they’ve invented and the characters living there.

*Is there an author you'd like to meet? If I’m picking one traditionally published author, it would have to be JK Rowling. I didn’t even mention the Harry Potter series above because it’s just too predictable, right? But for this one, I really have to go with predictability. As for the non-traditional side of things, I love meeting authors who have chosen the indie path, to hear their stories and what’s working for them. So I wouldn’t necessarily single out any one author because honestly, there are just so many out there I’d love to meet.

*Biggest writing pet peeve? Interruptions. The cat walking across my keyboard at a critical moment. The phone ringing when the words are flowing. A text arriving in the middle of a climactic scene. And the biggest interruption of them all: research for the answer to one simple question leading to an hour’s loss of time.

* Do you read other's reviews of your books? I do read reviews of my work. I know many authors recommend not reading them, but I think it’s important to know as an artist whats being said about my writing. People have different reactions to different works and I think understanding what some of those reactions may be can help me become a better writer.

Fav Color: I wrote purple, then I erased it and wrote blue, then I erased it and wrote purple again. Tomorrow I would probably have a battle between earth tones. Basically, I like colors. All of them.

Fictional Character you'd like to spend the day with: Truthfully, if I could, I would go back to age 9 and spend a day with Trixie Belden, 13-year old schoolgirl shamus.

Fav food: ice cream

Fav song and/or singer: Sandra Boynton has several books of songs with accompanying CDs. The songs are for kids, they’re a lot of fun and are performed by a variety of artists. I’ve spent hours over the years singing along to these songs with my nieces and nephew. No matter how old they get, they still seem to love the books Dog Train, Philadelphia Chickens and Rhinoceros Tap.

Guilty pleasure: My guilty pleasure really is reading. Varaciously. For hours, even days on end. I spend my vacations, nose in a book half the time and when I surface, I wonder where all that time went. Maybe it’s why I decided to become a writer. To give to others what so many authors have given me: endless hours sunk deep in other worlds.

Coming Soon!!
Scheduled for release June 23rd!

In a high school full of shifters, it's the one inquisitive human who poses the biggest threat. 

When a human is the only applicant for town veterinarian and moves to Shifterville with his teenaged daughter, Amelia, the town residents conspire to keep the humans in their midst from discovering their secret. If only they can keep Melvin away from Amelia. 

Melvin Moose has a problem. Anytime a girl gets too close, his antlers go on walkabout, popping out of his human head at the most inopportune moments. As if that weren’t bad enough, a human girl just enrolled at his school, and if she catches sight of his unruly rack, it’s all over for Shifterville. 

Warning: This book contains typical teen language, which does include the occasional swear word. It is also full of rampant, teen hormones and the subsequent fallout. 

This is season 1, episode 1 of the Shifter High series.

Excerpt from The Trouble with Antlers (a.k.a. Melvin’s Rampant Rack)

Melvin was late for gym class. Again. Life kind of sucked lately.  Ever since he hit puberty and his antlers grew in, they were a huge load to bear.  Literally.  They’d already popped out twice this morning, once when Laney Queen-of-the-Universe Siamese gave him that haughty look and tossed her hair over her shoulders. 
It wasn’t his fault! Her silky hair brushed his nose and he got a headful of heady girl-cat scent and out they sprang. 
All the kids in the hallway laughed (except the two he knocked down with his headful of dorkiness… and the other two kids he flattened when his antlers pulled him to the ground in an amazing feat of gravity working against him).
The second time was when sweet, little Kelly Mole blinked up at him from her book as he walked by her in English class.  She was a naked mole rat for heaven’s sake, but did his antlers care?  Of course not!  They were moose antlers and they sensed girl and that was all it took.
Mrs. Saber snarled at him to get his rack under control and that sent the entire room into gales of laughter. 
It had taken him ten minutes in the bathroom to will those antlers into submission and now he was late for gym, where he’d be forced to dress out in fur, thus giving those antlers free reign again. 
Barreling down the hall, internally ranting at the horrors of his antlerhood, Melvin never even scented the new girl, the human, coming around the corner.
Every single adult in school had taken the time to lecture him about avoiding the new girl. One glimpse of his antlers and the secret of their shifter town, a secret their town had guarded for centuries, was toast.  But he wasn’t thinking about that.  He was worried about being late and cursing his antlers as he barreled around the corner. 
He caught a glimpse of bright blue eyes and then their bodies slammed together in a tangle of arms and legs.  He reflexively caught her in his arms, her scent barreled over him and BAM!  Out sprang the antlers from hell.  
The only good news? 
They knocked New Girl out with one blow, sending her unconscious to the floor, possibly ensuring she never knew what hit her, possibly ensuring the town’s secret was safe. 

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