Monday, August 3, 2015

RJ Mirabal, The Tower of Il Serrohe and Extreme Dust Storms May Exist, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR: RJ Mirabal
BOOK TITLES: The Tower of Il Serrohe (Book I) and Extreme Dust Storms May Exist (Book II) of The Rio Grande Parallax series
GENRE: Southwest Contemporary Fantasy (adult)
PUBLISHER: Black Rose Writing
BUY LINK: Amazon: 


Free Kindle and Nook version of the first book, The Tower of Il Serrohe (for readers who want to "catch up" without buying the print book):

*Please tell us about yourself.
I have lived in the Middle Rio Grande Valley—the setting for my books—for most of my life. I had a full career teaching English, speech, drama and computer literacy. I’m honored to say I won a state-wide Excellence in Education Award from NEA-New Mexico (teachers’ association) in 2007 as well as teacher of the year at my school, Los Lunas High. Now happily retired, I purse writing, music, volunteering and 4Wheeling.

*Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
When I taught full-time there was little time for recreation except for the summers while trying to catch up on home projects I neglected during the school year. Now retired, I enjoy splitting my time between writing part-time and other interests listed above.

My writing time is disorganized (which is a relief after a career of highly organized teaching!), catching as catch can. However, when I have a deadline, I get it done. Basically, once I have an idea I write a brief storyline that allows me to craft the plot, characters, and important details. I let that ferment for a while, then start writing the story, chapter by chapter, which is the fun part. Then comes the grunt labor revising, adding, subtracting, etc. Next, I turn it over to beta-readers who clue me into important plot/character weaknesses and strengths. More re-writing and then tedious passing the manuscript back and forth with my editor, Peggy Herrington. I marvel at how with a minor change here and there she can make the story more professional and readable.

*What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always loved the way fantasy and science fiction take my imagination beyond the ordinary. Realizing the obsessive creation of stories in my head meant I should be a writer, I set out to fashion a unique niche for my musings calling it Southwest Contemporary Fantasy, specifically New Mexico fantasy. Thus Don, Nersite, Raquela and all my other characters were born and sent out to their unpredictable adventures.
But like many children, they have their own ideas, and I struggle to keep up with them, attempting to tell their story as accurately as I can. I admit they share some of my life experience growing up in New Mexico with its unique culture, terrain, and climate. But at times, I wonder where these people came from!

*What are your thoughts about promotion?
I wouldn’t do it, if I didn’t have to! Honestly, I enjoy interviews, like this one as well as with local radio stations and print media, but all the social media routine is like pulling teeth—without Novocain! I have found face-to-face contact with potential readers and those who have read my books is more fulfilling than I expected. Small book fairs and markets are my favorite places to engage readers. The big national events are rather discouraging because I’m competing with hundreds of other authors, especially those who have large followings. Building my “platform” of web sites and social media numbs my brain almost beyond toleration. My dream is to have a solid following, so I’ll leave a legacy of literature that outlives me. I don’t need big money or accolades, only readers who are taken away to my different worlds which reveal the good and humane in all of us.

*Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
I learned there is more to becoming an author than simply writing a good story. I never thought about beta-readers and editors who are essential to creating not only a good story, but making it readable. Before I wrote for myself, since I wasn’t getting published and no one else read my work. Now that I have readers and a responsibility to my publisher, Black Rose Writing, to produce a decent work of literature, it puts a new reality to what was a pipe-dream before. I was ignorant concerning the nitty-gritty of marketing and promotion until I had my manuscript accepted. I owe a lot to my fellow writers of Southwest Writers (based in Albuquerque) who prompted me to “grow up” as a writer.

I also learned there was a lot more to my imagination and ability to visualize than I thought possible. Where did all these crazy events, characters, ideas come from, anyway?

*What are your current projects?
Having completed my second book of the Rio Grande Parallax, I’m in the middle of writing the third, concluding book of the series. When I wrote The Tower of Il Serrohe, I intended it as a one book shot in the dark. But my editor wisely advised me to consider how I could develop a series. Once I’m done with the third book, I’ll focus more on getting wider exposure on a larger stage. If that goes well, I already have an idea for a prequel series to explain some of the mysteries of how the world of the Valle Abajo (the alternative world of my books) came into existence.
Beyond that, perhaps a mystery and a historical fiction based on my family background. Who knows?

*How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
RJ’s Blog/Web Site:
Buy Links for The Tower of Il Serrohe:
   Black Rose Writing:
   Barnes & Noble:
Signed copy from the author or other questions, email:

*What gave you the idea for this particular book? And what was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
The whole Rio Grande Parallax idea started in the 1980s when I wrote a fantasy short story about a battle between two armies: a small race of people, tough and unwilling to submit to a tall, lanky mean-spirited race. Instead of a sword or ring, the central object in the story was an adobe (mud-brick) tower that allowed the tall race to spy and dominate the smaller race who lived underground on a desert plain.

I purposely choose a New Mexico high desert setting because I didn’t want to write the typical Medieval European or Celtic type fantasy. Sure, I was a big fan of J. R. R. Tolkien who had inspired a raft of writers telling the same kinds of stories heavily dependent on that typical setting with magic as a central device. I liked all that, but I wanted to carve out my own sub-genre.

Since I knew New Mexico terrain and culture, I thought it would make a good setting for a fantasy story. The story was rejected by science fiction/fantasy magazines of the time, so I put it away. Later, I started writing a story of a troubled man whose life was rapidly going down the toilet, but it went nowhere, so I put it aside. Finally after 30 years, it struck me that I could put the two stories together. I set the novel in modern day New Mexico and, through the common device of a portal, sent my troubled man to a parallel world, called the Valle Abajo, identical to the Middle Rio Grande Valley. Except in the parallel world the life-styles were unique and a low-key magic was at work defying High Fantasy stereotypes. The battle in the original short story was embedded making the larger tale a combination of fantasy, adventure, psychological character study, and romance.

I developed back stories to explain how my anti-hero character, Don Vargas, was allowed to travel through the Portal. The tale continued to grow as I  explained how the two realms became connected in the past. And, in true fantasy form, I developed details about the people of the Valle Abajo (grouped in many very different clans), their history, etc. Every time the plot turned, the story expanded. Finally, I was persuaded to develop additional related plots to flesh out a second and third book. All from one little 5,000 word short story.

*Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?  Why or why not?
I’m not a violent person, but, let’s face it, violence attracts everyone’s attention. If it didn’t, books, movies, video games, etc. would not feature it. My challenge is to make it interesting and yet move the story forward. But I’m not into gratuitous violence or graphic blood and gore, so if anyone is looking for that, go somewhere else.

The same is true of sexual scenes. I have some of that in my books, but it is an integral part of the story and character development and not to titillate the readers. Again, if that’s what you’re looking for, read porn or soft-porn. I see it as an essential, powerful but beautiful part of life. Sex is also, according to way I was raised, private, so I don’t make a big display of it. I found writing about sexual relations to be a fascinating challenge. It’s my chance to attempt poetry in a work of prose.

*What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Creating the plot, inventing my characters, visualizing scenes and then finally writing it out in the first few drafts is satisfying and fun. The re-writing, background research, and hunting for inconsistencies, not so much. Proof-reading, re-phrasing, over and over and over is not! It reminds me too much of my years grading papers. Pure mind-numbing drudgery. But hardest of all? Promoting and marketing. I like communicating with readers, but not the rest of it.

*What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
Write! Anything. Plots, character descriptions, etc. If you’re inclined to non-fiction, pick your area of interest and write up reports about it. Poet? Write poems. Over and over. Again and again. No substitute for lots of practice.

Next, read everything you can get your hands on. Not only in your genre of interest, but good writers of all kinds. Look at how they form sentences, paragraphs, chapters. Note their word choices. How do they create imagery and emotional reaction in readers?

Go back and write some more. If you want an audience, do a blog. Someone will eventually read your work and, maybe if you’re really fortunate, they will comment. Finally write something with the serious intent of publication and send it out. And keep doing it.

If you want to self-publish. Beware. To be taken seriously, you first need to join a writers’ group to get feedback, take classes/workshops, share your work with other writers…

And finally, get a professional editor (one who has actually earned a living editing for magazines, newspapers, books, etc.). Let me say that again: Get a professional editor. There are things about your writing you and your friends will never see that a good editor will. Editors who write also get other editors to review their work. Trust me.

*What do you do when you’re not writing?
Seven years ago when I retired from teaching, I learned how to play the hammered dulcimer. I love how it sounds and the process of learning tunes and playing them with other musicians. A friend and I play little concerts at retirement homes and, though we’re not all that great, we try and we have fun. Our audiences always seem to enjoy what we do. Writing is a deliberate process producing continuously new material that ends with a permanent result. Music is repetitive yet progressive, but the result only lasts for a moment. I love the similarities but especially the contrasts to writing.

I volunteer for the New Mexico Dulcimer Festival and the Land of Enchantment BMW Riders. I also like to get on my Polaris RZR 4Wheeler and explore wilderness trails with friends. It’s a great escape from the computer screen and purposeful activity. It’s living in the moment.

*What was your most embarrassing moment as an author?

Most embarrassing was the moment I realized that my entire first book, on which I had labored for years, needed serious editing by someone who knew what they were doing. And this was after a full career as an English teacher. So, I swallowed my pride, got an editor and did what had to be done. Thus my insistence that every writer needs an editor. If you’re offered a contract with a major publisher that includes a good editor, thank God for it. If not, hire your own. It’s worth the money if you want to be confident of your work.

The Tower of Il Serrohe:
o   A man who has lost his way. 
o   A rundown casita near the Middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. 
o   A bat offering a formidable quest to this unlikely hero. 
o   A Portal to another valley called the Valle Abajo. 
o   Clans in the Valle needing help to overcome the evil Soreyes.
o   A Tower, the mysterious source of Soreye power.

Early in the past century Teresa, a young curandera, traveled to the Valle Abajo to bring down the Tower. But the Tower still stands and Don Vargas, an alcoholic looking for escape from failure, may be the only one to destroy it.

Don travels through the Portal to the Valle, encountering beautiful Raquela and feisty Nersite who join him to fight the Soreyes. Meanwhile Nightwing, the enigmatic bat, manipulates events behind the scenes. Many surprises and revelations await as this contemporary fantasy unfolds.

Extreme Dust Storms May Exist:
Five years after the explosive final events of The Tower of Il Serrohe—Esther, a sixteen-year-old honor student and athlete, suffers a mysterious accident and dreams of a valley much like her Rio Luna home, yet ominously different. Next, a bat constantly slams its body against her window during a powerful wind storm while she hears whispering in the darkness. 

It is the bat, Nightwing, who had persuaded Don to take on his mission in The Tower. Nightwing tries persuading Esther, Don’s younger cousin, that her intelligence and resourcefulness can drive away the terrifying Soreyes from the Valle Abajo—the valley of her dreams. After sharing these disturbing details with her best friend, Markey, they both worry she is insane.

However, new dangers threaten when word reaches the Valle about a murderous clan in the far away Mountains of Sky east of the Valle, while in the west another band of Soreyes lives. Meanwhile, a mysterious presence lurks in the background as the saga of the Rio Grande Parallax continues.

Page link on my web site devoted to the book's release:

Black Rose Writing (buy link for Extreme Dust Storms May Exist):

1 comment:

  1. Good advice about using an editor! No matter how proficient in English or literature one is, there are always typos, mistakes, and lapses in communication with our babies that escape the doting parents!