“The Eyes of March” by Jocelynn Babcock: The Interview

“The Eyes of March” by Jocelynn Babcock: The Interview

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of the writers I’ve met on Scribophile, the on-line critique group I belong to.  As Jocelynn carefully sifted through the words of my upcoming novel, she wrote the amazing “The Eyes of March”, the first book of the “Mantic” series.

Art cannot be created in a vacuum. While the act of writing may be solitary, the final process takes outside eyes and ears. Since I’m a DIY writer, I rely on my critique group. This site is more than just a part of the publishing process, it has turned out to be my support group. It’s a place where they understand staring at one word for an entire day because it doesn’t fit. Or having dreams about your characters. Finally, they cry with you, at the final words, because this created world was a place where we gathered to encourage each other as we honed our craft. Jocelynn is one of the small group of writers I’ve grown to respect and admire. Let’s go find out what makes her tick.


Give us a brief description of “Mantic”:

MANTIC Greek word meaning prophet or seer. “Of or relating to divination. Having the power of divination.” ~ Dictionary.com

“Valena Smith” is a psychic medium (necromancy) with amnesia. She trusts her inner voice that she doesn’t want to remember her past and surrenders to her amnesia. Haunted by visions, she meets the Wyrd Sisters, a divination circle trying to find a serial killer plaguing the state of Washington. Valena enters a life of psychics, tarot readings, prophecies, and a possible death of her or her new friends.

Mimi Molyneux is a tarot reader (cartomancy) and a nurse in the psyche ward at the hospital. She’s an African American single-mother of two boys, who makes extra cash providing tarot readings.

Kim Anderson is an astrologer (astromancy) and a social worker at a women’s shelter. Her wife died of breast cancer and she is still running from her grief.

Bryn Delaney is a tea leaf reader (tasseomancy) and paralegal who gives advice pro bono to the women at the shelter. She has M.S., so doctors will not help her with her infertility problems. Nor can she adopt.

Angel Zhirova is a palm reader (cheiromancy) and becomes Valena’s roommate. She has a warrant for her arrest and hides from the police surrounding Valena’s case.

Gabe Berkowitz is a police detective on the brink of losing his job, partnered with his ex-fiancé, Danielle Taylor, to solve the Eyes of March case.

The Eyes of March: Two women were murdered, one year apart, in the month of March. Both had identical tattoos of an eye at the base of their necks. Valena, a third tattooed woman, survives an attempted drowning.

When those from her past find her, how can she accept police help and hide from the killer if she refuses to remember?

I love your new title. Titles are always tricky for me – how did you come up with this one?

Not a lot of people know the original title was Soothsayer of the Scablands. Problematic, because it is difficult for some to pronounce. I had the new title in mind for over a year, but I keep my titles secret until ready for publication, because (as my college advisor used to say) “Good ideas are borrowed and great ones are stolen.”

I was at a women’s circle ritual in the month of March and we were discussing eyes, and how many of us thought the Ides of March was actually the Eyes of March. Julia Hayes is credited with inspiring the title change. I had this story with eye tattoos and March murders. The title was a chapter title, but it needed to be the book title.

Tell us about the contract you’re trying to land:

Kindle Scout used to be an annual competition, but is currently open all year. The first three chapters of your book are available to the public for 30 days and Kindle will contact you within 15 days after campaign end. If you are selected, Kindle has exclusive electronic rights to your story, including audio and foreign languages. The author retains print rights.

When deciding whether to self-publish or find an agent and attempt a “traditional” publish, I made a spreadsheet of all the books I felt were similar to my genre that I enjoyed reading. I listed the author, agent and publisher. One of those books, when I Googled the publisher, led me to Amazon’s imprint companies.

That led me to Kindle Scout. The publishing contract is fair. It is 5 years, with potential renewal for the book selected and you have the label and backing of Amazon Kindle. I knew I would enter the competition for the better part of a year and started making connections and marketing my book months before it was posted on the Kindle Scout site. I have one shot at this. Kindle Scout encourages authors to bring a professionally edited book with a professional cover in order to be competitive, and that is good advice.

Researching agents was discouraging, though I appreciate their honesty. They want authors with thousands of followers already established. There’s also a catch 22 when writing a trilogy. Agents don’t want multiple books from a new author; however, the style of book readers are looking for is a series. If the reader saw the trilogy as one big book, they wouldn’t pick it up. If you self-publish, there is a page limit for new authors. The publishing world reflects the need to break-up stories into sections.

How can we help?

Every vote counts. Visit https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2CEEUX2E9COXA If you like what you read, click the nominate me button. You will have to login to your Amazon account. You can only vote once, and Kindle tracks “unique” views, so if you love what is there, I appreciate you sharing the link through your social media outlets.

Every person who voted for me receives a free copy of MANTIC: The Eyes of March if the book is selected for publication.

You get to vote for 3 books at a time, and I hear romance, sci-fi and young adult don’t receive as many votes. While you’re there, give them some love.

You book cover is eye-catching. Who did this for you?

Alexia Purdy of Melancholy Muse Designs. I got a smokin’ deal too. I’d also like to give a shout out to Storytime Book Reviews who did the graphics for my teaser/ ads, so I could attend those digital marketing events before my book was released.

I don’t think people realize the length of time it takes to write a book. How long have you been working on this?

This is the part I don’t like to admit. The concept came about in 2010 and I began the research. After I graduated college, 2011, I put pen to paper and posted early rough drafts to Wattpad. I worked on the novel sporadically. I never believed I would finish it, though a friend kept me in check to keep moving forward. I put the book down while I was pregnant. I couldn’t get in the zone. Then, we tried to move and I had to stage the house every day and hang out at the park for showings. Life felt like a whirlwind and the book was on the back burner. My New Year’s Resolution was to finish the book in 2016, and I did. Now, I know I can complete a book and put it out into the world.

The research is complete. I built the world and the characters. Volume II is coming out November 13, 2017 (The Ides of November).

What social media forums can we follow you on?

All the good ones.

We’re now looking into the future. Your book has been published and the readers are wondering who’s this amazing writer. So who are you?

I am a technical/ grant writer by trade. I enjoy using my love of research and writing to improve my community. I write fiction because I have a story in my heart and characters in my head.

I am an avid reader and scrapbooker who enjoys travel and new experiences.

I talk too much, love fiercely and laugh often.

How long have you been writing? Why do you write?

Every writer will tell you, they’ve always written since they first held a crayon. I wrote stories with pictures on colored printer paper and binded them with my grandma’s yarn. As the recipient of her knitting supplies, I know why my needle is dull.

I wanted to be a writer since I was little. At family reunions, my extended family always said “You don’t want to do that; you won’t make any money.” (Please don’t discourage children from creative endeavors that fulfill them! They have plenty of time to have that worry thrust upon them).

I even wrote nonfiction reference books in high school, but I destroyed everything I ever wrote. When I went back to college and took a creative writing class, the teacher made me promise not to destroy my writing ever again. Now, even if I remove text from my work, I save it in a Word document. I’ve had to resurrect from the “dead words” on more than one occasion.

I write because I am inspired. I write because it brings me joy. I write because I have something to say and finally believe others may want/ need to hear it.

Where do you get your inspirations?

They come to me, or through me, but not from me. It feels otherworldly, that burst, that lightbulb. I have 9 books in my head (this and another trilogy and three standalone books). It all starts with a question: “What if…”

The Eyes of March was inspired by my husband. Returning from a ritual theater (screenplay) I wrote, I was doing homework in the car the day it was due. The assignment was a short story based on irony. I wanted to write a story about a psychic and asked my husband, “What’s ironic about a psychic?” He said, “What if she has amnesia?”

Your favorite book? Author?

Just one? At this moment I would say I’m digging Mary Sharratt. I love historical fiction about strong women who left an imprint. Daughters of Witching Hill was an amazing story about a woman I had never heard of. Seeing her story, her voice resurrected is a powerful experience as a reader.

You get a phone call and they want to turn your book into a movie!! Who are your choices for Director? Actors?

Ah, the daydream… I actually have a Pinterest board of my characters’ actor choices. I want an Amazon original series with Adam Sandler as director/ lead detective and recreational hockey player Gabe Berkowitz.

It took a long time to decide on who would best fill the MC, Valena’s shoes and I think Margo Harshman is a great fit. I thought this based on her performance in Betas, but you may know her as Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s assistant on Big Bang.
No one other than Fairuza Balk could be Angel Zhirova.
Yvette Nicole Brown as Mimi.
Jenna Elfman as Kim.
Kirsten Dunst as Bryn.
Sadly, I did want Anton Yelchin as the police captain Immanuil Zhirov, but he died in 2016.
Shirley McLaine as the tetchy landlady Mrs. Brauer.
Julian McMahon is such a good bad guy and Maggie Gyllenhaal could make Gabe’s life miserable as Danielle Taylor.
Because Adam Sandler brings his entourage, Kevin James can be Nathan Delany, David Spade can be Dr. Morgan.
Some one sexy needs to be Hunter Jordan (Chris Hemsworth) and Jett Nicola (James McAvoy)

The new year is coming up on us fast. What are your 2017 writing goals?

A few authors I know are pairing up to do a JanWriMo, or as my writing partner Tinthia Clemant is calling it JanOhWriMo. I am going to get the first 50,000 words of Volume II completed and spend the spring finessing the document and filling the gaps with the remaining 30,000+ words. I want that book to my editor (at Ink Slasher Editing) in July.

Speaking of leaving 2016 behind us, we have lost a great many icons this year. Which, if any, grieved you the most?

Alan Rickman. I was in denial about his death for all of January. I actually argued with my family that he wasn’t dead. God he was talented! And so versatile. Die Hard, Robin Hood, Sense and Sensibility, Dogma, Galaxy Quest, Bottleshock, Harry Potter… He didn’t make a bad movie. I really wanted to see more from him.

Anything else you want us to know about you?

I talk a lot, but I don’t like writing about myself. It is so… permanent. And I am continually evolving and changing. Though I keep telling my children, “Pencil is for quitters, chose ink.” I guess the only thing that doesn’t change is the optimism I carry, for myself, for the world. I try to find the silver lining, draw my lessons and keep walking my path.

Aren’t writers the coolest people? Remember to go nominate “Eyes of March” at https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2CEEUX2E9COXA. Let’s get this published. Books always make this world a better place.