It’s that time again!
This week we have a fantasist with a new book out! Let’s meet M.H. Woodscourt, a writer of fantasy, magic weaver, dragon rider! Having spent the past 20 years devotedly writing fantasy, it’s safe to say M. H. Woodscourt is now more fae than human. All of her fantasy worlds connect with each other in a broad Universe, forged with great love and no small measure of blood, sweat, and tears. When she’s not writing, she’s napping or reading a book with a mug of hot cocoa close at hand while her quirky cat Wynter nibbles her toes.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing short stories around age nine or ten, though I’d always been a storyteller. By age eleven I knew I wanted to be a novelist, though I didn’t decide to write fantasy until I turned thirteen. That’s when my first novel concept began to take shape.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Everywhere! Movies, books, work, travel, dreams–especially dreams. I wake up exhausted, having lived an alternate life all night long. But I love it! Usually my take-away from dreams comes through characters living inside my sleeping brain. I then flesh out those characters, and they start to reveal their stories. After that, it’s all world-building and researching medieval facts on Google as I tackle the first draft!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t like writing books using a laptop. I prefer to use a desktop computer, like my iMac. I don’t know why, but the stories just come to me better when I’m sitting at a desk, with a full-size ergonomic keyboard, rather than a tiny laptop. I also must have chocolate, which I use to reward myself every thousand words. No Lindor truffles for me if I don’t hit my word count goals! Haha.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I completed my first novel at age seventeen. That is largely thanks to my creative writing teacher in high school, who learned I was writing a novel and told me to forgo all other in-class and homework assignments and focus instead on my book (twenty minutes per day, at least!). She let me turn it in as my finals project, too, believe it or not. Her encouragement helped pave the way to my dream!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m an avid fan of camping in the mountain forests near my home. And when I say camping, I mean in an actual tent. On the ground. Haha. I love spending a week or more every year disconnecting from the world; hiking, cooking with my dutch oven, napping, making s’mores, reading, daydreaming, dabbling in photography. It’s pure bliss.
I also love to watch old movies; and by that, I mean classic silver screen movies from the 1940’s. I’m a devoted Cary Grant fan. Along the same vein, I love listening to all kinds of music: from Mozart and Beethoven, to Big Band from the 1930’s, to a lot of the music of today. The only music I don’t enjoy is Country and Death Metal.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family is marvelous about the whole thing! My parents and several of my siblings are always my first readers of any new manuscript, and they’re not afraid to be honest. I’m eternally grateful for their patience and enthusiasm!
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I’ve completed eighteen distinct novels at the time of writing this. By the end of 2021, I should have twenty completed manuscripts in total–if all goes well! But picking a favorite is so hard. I love them all for different reasons. My Paradise series taught me perseverance and how to overcome writer’s block. My Wintervale duology is a tribute to my hero, George Washington. Crownless is the easiest book I’ve written to date. It gave me no fits. The words just flowed! But if I must pick a favorite, it might be Prince of the Fallen, which was my first fantasy concept, and finally came to life at the end of 2020–nearly twenty years after its conception. We’ve grown up together. I’m planning to release that book in the coming months, or perhaps early 2022. Stay tuned!
What do you think makes a good story?
Solid and memorable characters! You can have an engenius plot but if the readers don’t care about the characters, it’s got no real substance. When I get down to it, characters are the soul of a story, plot is the heart, and good edits make up the flesh. Having all three brings a book to life!
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I think the easiest trap to fall into is editing too soon. At least, it always was for me. I’d nitpick paragraphs as I tried to write, and that broke up the flow, which created discouragement. I’ve learned to shut my inner editor off until the first draft is complete. Afterward, that pesky editor can have at the thing. But to finish the story, avoid edits. If I need to make a change to the narrative, I scribble a note in the notebook assigned to the work-in-progress and come back to it AFTER I’m done writing the book.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
All of my stories connect in the same broad Universe. While the names of magic, places, races, deity, etc., might differ from book to book, and series to series, the same overarching rules apply to all. It’s a blast, and really complex, as I’ve been building my Universe for twenty-some-odd years.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Covenants by Lorna Freeman. In fact, her entire Borderlands series. I adore the main character, Rabbit, and Freeman is masterful at writing 1st person narrative in an engaging way. Her world-building is top-notch! My only grievance is that the fourth and final novel has never been published. It breaks my heart.
What’s the best way to market your books?
That’s an area I’m still striving to master. In my efforts to try, I’ve participated in webinars, read books, and observed/mimicked authors on Social Media who engage with their audience much better than I do. Social Media isn’t my favorite thing, but I recognize its advantages, and I do love to interact with fellow authors and readers of fantasy! Using my author website, Social Media, and Amazon Ads has been the best way to market my books so far! Oh, and using reader magnets, like free short stories and novellas, to build my active newsletter list. I love communicating with my readers every month!
And here’s a special treat for you! An excerpt from Crownless:
There was nothing special about him.
He traveled with a satchel over one shoulder, his gait slow, ignorant of the world rushing on without him. His clothes; threadbare, vest open, every button gone, shoes worn out. The traveler didn’t appear to mind, meandering as he was through tall meadow grass beside a trickling stream. He strolled with a full smile on his lips, eyes bright as he gazed all around. Rarely did he look ahead, yet his steps were certain, and he never stumbled. When he looked forward, there was a light in his face that left no room for doubt: He knew his destination, but he was in no hurry to get there.
Crouched against a hillside west of the stream, Yeshton watched the man. One hand gripped the pommel of his sword.
ne thing Yeshton didn’t understand: How could this man have a price on his head? Not that Yeshton would receive any reward for bringing the traveler in. As an Amantieran soldier under Duke Lunorr’s banner, this was duty, not fortune. But by capturing the wanted man himself, no one else could claim the reward either. Two hundred gold kana was a lot of money.
Yeshton’s eyes narrowed. Is he from Shing?
The black hair and short stature implied it. Was this simple man a spy for the KryTeer Empire? In that case, the price was too low. But the Shingese weren’t really of the KryTeer Empire. Shing had surrendered only five years ago. Odd that a loyal spy would come from there so soon. A paid informant, then? Not duty-bound but seeking profit or maybe a decent meal. The latter was probable, judging by his apparel.
You’re a soldier, man. Do your job. Yeshton raised his hand, bracing to signal the other men stationed in the shadows around the point of ambush. The traveler approached the sloping path between two steep inclines. Yeshton had guessed right. This was the way toward Kavacos of Rose Province, the Royal City of His Majesty King Jetekesh the Fourth.
The rabbit strolled toward the snare. Yeshton pressed against the slope. Patience. No mistakes. The traveler stopped before he reached Yeshton’s position and turned to study a large elm. Had he seen Brov hidden in the higher branches?
The traveler whistled up at a nesting bird. The bird trilled a reply. Hitching the satchel higher on his shoulder, the man continued walking.
Three more steps. Two. One.
Yeshton signaled and his men appeared around the hill, three wielding bows and arrows, the rest with their swords unsheathed. Yeshton stood tall and folded his arms as the traveler stopped to gaze up at the eight armed soldiers.
“Jinji Wanderlust,” Yeshton said. “By order of Her Majesty Queen Bareene, you are under arrest.”
The man turned to look up at him, a gentle smile on his lips. “What is my crime, sir?” His accent was faint. His eyes were a teal blue color. Perhaps not from Shing after all.
“Rabble-rousing,” Yeshton said.
Jinji blinked. “I can’t see how that is so.”
“Contend with the queen if you dare. You’re to come with us.”
“I will come.” Jinji hitched up his satchel again.
Yeshton nodded to Kivar, who slung his bow over his shoulder and moved down the slope. Near the bottom he stumbled. Jinji darted forward and grabbed the man’s arm before his feet caught even ground.
“Take care. The dew is abundant this morning.”
Kivar jerked from his grasp. “I don’t need your help, spy.”
Jinji held out one wrist. “Do I go in irons?”
Yeshton looked him up and down. Pale and thin, white threading through his hair, though he appeared little older than Yeshton; perhaps thirty years. “I doubt that will be necessary.” He trotted down the hill and started along the path. His men followed, Jinji at their center until they cleared the hills and reached the horses tethered to several fallen trees. Yeshton untied his horse and swung up into the saddle. “Can you ride, Wanderlust?”
The man studied the horse. “I’ve never tried, but I can learn.”
“We don’t have time. Nallin, help him up behind me.”
The young soldier helped Jinji to clamber onto the horse’s back. He rested his hands against Yeshton’s shoulders, his touch light as a breath. “I am ready.”
“Move out!” They rode in single file, following the rough path to straighter, wider roads, where they spread into two columns. Twenty minutes later signs of civilization appeared along the King’s Highway. Yeshton’s eyes darted every which way. Amid the wagons and peddlers, he found several unsavory faces, but none looked ready to hinder an armed company; not even for a royal reward.
Jinji Wanderlust began to hum.
Yeshton glared back at him. “Stop that.”
“Is something amiss?” asked Jinji.
“Yes, you. Are you so unconcerned with your fate?”
“What, pray, is my fate; do you know?”
“Sedition usually ends in death.”
“Indeed, so do all things. But I am innocent of inciting crowds in Amantier.” The man’s tone was not the whiny protest of other condemned men. His smile remained.
“Say what you will. Queen Bareene feels otherwise.”
“Her Majesty does not know me yet.”
Yeshton snorted. “Will that make a difference?”
“I should think so. Is a man condemned before his trial?”
“You’re a foreigner,” Yeshton answered.
“My mother was of Shing,” Jinji said. “My father, Amantieran.”
“Then you had best hope your father appears at your trial.”
That wouldn’t help the man’s case.
“What is your name?” asked Jinji.
“Because in my head I cannot help but call you ‘the man who frowns,’ and I think it would be better to call you by name.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Yeshton. I am Jinji, as you know.”
Yeshton tightened his fists over the reins. “Stop that.”
“It’s not a pleasure. Your situation is bleak. Don’t hum, don’t smile, don’t exchange pleasantries. You’re going to die. Do you understand, or are you mad?”
Jinji laughed. It was a soft sound, like water. “Such a dismal outlook. Of course I will die. Everyone will, someday. But today, in this moment, I am alive. That is enough for me.”
Yeshton stared at the road ahead. “You are mad.”
“Perhaps,” Jinji said. “Or perhaps you are mad, not I. Who can say?” His voice was still smiling.