There have been so many authors and books I’ve loved over the years, it’s really difficult to pick just one. In the romance genre, favorites are Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series and Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series. But I read other genres, too. I’m particularly fond of urban fantasy, even without romantic elements. My newest “favorite” author is Seanan McGuire. Her October Daye character is compelling. And of course, I love Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden. Who doesn’t?
I’m also strongly drawn to mythology and all things Celtic. The symbolism is just so rich. And the Arthurian legend has a timeless appeal. I think I’ve read most fantasy depictions of both Arthur and the grail myth. My favorites are by Marian Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart.
For most of my reading life, I didn’t write. Not fiction anyway. I’ve always been steeped in mythology, but that was as an analyst, not a writer. I’m not sure how I jumped the fence from reader to reader and author. I blame one of my other passions, mountaineering, for the transition. I’ve spent years’ worth of days in the backcountry. Even if I was part of a climbing party, people travel at different rates, so my time in the mountains has mostly always been by myself. That sort of solitude gives you lots of “head time.” What went on in my head were stories. Mostly urban fantasy, but high fantasy and science fiction as well.
I came back from a trip where we climbed Bear Creek Spire over Labor Day 2008 and did something different. I sat down at my keyboard. Three months later, I had a five hundred page novel. It wasn’t very good. How could it have been? Writing is a craft just like anything else. But it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that book and its sequel. At the tail end of 2009, my first short story, a hard science fiction tale set in Antarctica, was published. In the intervening three years, I’ve managed to get three novels (soon to be four) and over twenty pieces of shorter fiction published by a variety of webzines, magazines, anthologies and small presses. Just to keep things honest, I’ve had double that number rejected.
Along the way I’ve developed a huge respect for writers. Most of our time isn’t spent writing. Nope. It’s spent editing or marketing. Terry Brooks wrote a book called Sometimes the Magic Works. Apparently he writes his manuscript once, edits it once and it done. My jaw dropped open when I read that. By the time I’m done with any of my manuscripts, I’ve read them over so many times I know if a comma’s been moved. For those of you who might be curious, that’s between six and ten times, more if you count my back-and-forth writing style. It’s not so bad when it’s a short story or novella, but those hundred thousand word novels are an enormous time commitment.
Circling back to authors and genres, my very favorite blend is paranormal romance. I fell in love with the romance genre (no pun intended) when I was much younger. There’s nothing quite so good at sweeping me away as a strong, sexy alpha. It’s even better if he’s a shifter. The dual animal nature makes a guy that much more appealing. On the gal front, I like them with attitude: resilient and gutsy. No shrinking violets in my books. Also no “rescue me” maidens. Reading is a wonderful escape, so the characters need to be larger than life: brave, bold, and adventuresome, both in the bedroom and out.
Who are your favorite fictional characters? Why him (or her) and not a different one? I’d love to hear from you.
Guest Post by Author Ann Gimpel
By Ann Gimpel
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
Genre: Paranormal Romance
A ranger for the U.S. Park Service, strong, competent Moira Shaughnessy is in serious trouble. Fleeing from her cheating husband, a Native American shaman, she stumbles into the arms of a man she never thought she’d see again. He hurt her once by choosing his druid heritage over her. Can she take a chance on him now?
Pursuing very different motives, both men follow her deep into the backcountry. Moira is caught in the crossfire between Celtic magic and Native American shamanism. A freak blizzard compounds her problems, taxing her survival skills to the max. Against the specter of almost-certain death, the sweetest, purest love she’s ever known rises to the fore, engulfing her in unbelievable passion.
Moira Shaughnessy’s booted feet hit the ground in front of the Family Medicine Clinic. Slamming the door of the dusty white Park Service pickup, she considered ignoring her boss’s orders, peeling out of the parking lot, and heading for the Baxter Pass trailhead. She had a crew to oversee, goddammit. And a work project to complete. But her boss, John, had been painstakingly clear, both yesterday at Park Headquarters in Three Rivers, and just ten minutes ago on the sat phone. Granted, he’d been far more pointed on the phone.
“It’s not a suggestion, Moira,” he’d growled. “This is a directive—from me. I want to hear from someone with MD after his name before I authorize you to head up that work detail. Do not set one foot on that trail before you receive my orders, e-sign them, and e-mail them back to me.”
“But that’s usually a formality—”
“Not this time. No buts. I made you an appointment at the clinic in Bishop that clears some of our crews. They’re open until six. I already lost two rangers this summer in the Pinecrest fire. That was two too many in my book, so get your butt into that clinic.”
Moira had thought she could avoid dealing with the whole mess by leaving the office early yesterday and taking one of the northern passes over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but John had tracked her down.
Phooey. I ran, but guess I couldn’t hide…
It was downright annoying that her boss needed a doctor to reassure him she wouldn’t collapse or something in the backcountry. For the briefest of moments, she felt like pounding her fist into the nearest tree—then she pulled herself together. Nothing was wrong with her, except her slimy, cheating husband. Sure, she’d lost a few pounds since she’d moved out, but she hadn’t been all that hungry.
Problem was John remembered similar struggles from years ago when she’d first started working as a park ranger. She hadn’t eaten enough then, either, and had gotten far too thin. Just her luck, he’d been overseeing a backcountry work detail when she’d gotten woozy and fallen off one of the mules.
Understanding surfaced. Her boss cared about her. That wasn’t a bad thing. The anger bled out of her with a whoosh.
“May as well get this over with,” she muttered. Moira walked briskly to the clinic, pushed the door open, and went to the counter.
“Yes?” A young woman with dyed red hair looked up from her computer screen with eyes so green she had to be wearing colored contact lenses.
“Moira Shaughnessy. I think you’re expecting me. My boss called from Kings Canyon-Sequoia Park Headquarters.”
The receptionist clicked a few keys. “Your insurance card, please.”
Moira blew out an impatient breath. She dug through her fanny pack for her wallet, extracted the plasticized Blue Cross card, and handed it over. “I’m really in a bit of a hurry—”
“Here’s your card back.” The clerk gestured at the nearly full waiting room. “The doctor will be with you as soon as he can. He had a full schedule before he agreed to work you in.”
“Is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes? I need to lock my truck. I, uh, didn’t think I’d be in here for very long.”
“Sure. So long as we know where to find you.” The phone trilled. The woman picked it up, Moira obviously forgotten. “Family Medicine, how may I help you?”
Moira paced up and down the parking lot. Fall had turned the aspen trees lining Bishop’s streets to shades of red and gold that were really quite striking, but all she could think about were the minutes ticking by. It was twelve miles from the trailhead to the top of the pass, and a couple more to where her trail crew was. Leaving today would be foolhardy at this point. She’d never even make the pass before night fell.
“Damn it!” She glanced at her watch. How long was this going to take anyway?
“Ms. Shaughnessy?” A man’s voice sounded from behind her.
She spun, surprised out of her funk. And stopped dead. “Tim?” Moira stared at the tall, rangy man with long, white-blond hair and ice-blue eyes. He was dressed in teal scrubs and sandals with a stethoscope draped around his neck. A broad grin split the clean planes of his face. She’d forgotten how heartbreakingly beautiful he was.
“I saw the name and hoped it was you.” He held out a hand, but she felt frozen in place. “After all, how many Moira Shaughnessys could there be?”
She just stood there, flabbergasted. What were the odds? She hadn’t seen Tim O’Malley since they’d both graduated from U.C. Davis. When she realized her mouth was hanging open, she shut it with a snap.
“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” One corner of his mouth turned down in an expression she remembered all too well.
“It’s just … I mean I never expected…” She felt warmth rise from the open neck of her buff-colored uniform shirt. Heat suffused her face until she was certain every freckle was outlined in bright, living color.
“Hey, mo ghrá. I know we didn’t split up under the best of circumstances…”
“No shit. And you can skip the beloved part.” A familiar anger stirred, but she batted it aside.
“Moira, I’m sorry. I was sorry then, and I still am.” He sounded so sincere, it tugged at her heartstrings. Part of her wanted to believe him, and part of her was afraid to.
About the Author
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Three novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search, and Psyche's Promise are small press publications available in e-format and paperback. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers her solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.
Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.