Thursday Spotlight: Crystal MM Burton

What is your name?

Crystal MM Burton. It used to be Marinaro, and I was proud of that name, but you try signing your initials with that! It’s a lot of squigglies on a page. Thankfully, I got married and inherited a much easier name to write (and spell).

What is your quest?

To seek the Holy Grail! Which, in writing, is to be published by one of the Big Five. My dream is Tor Fantasy. Worry not, dear readers. I’ll obtain my goals and see Camelot to glory!

What is the air/speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

What do you mean, an African or European swallow? (I much prefer cats anyway, you know. And Yorkies, which are dogs that are small enough to be cats, so they’re okay.)

Where are you from?

If you asked my fifth-grade self, she’d tell you I’m from the outermost ring of Saturn, (Greg's note: I think this is because her 5th grade self was more honest. She didn't learn to dissemble until her 6th grade year!) from the same small village Elvis still resides in. But most people are content with the answer “Orlando, Florida.” I’ve lived in Texas since 2008, though I’m not sure at what point I can say I’m “from” here.

What genre do you write in?

Fantasy, of course, and prose poetry when I’m feeling inspired. I tried writing contemporary fiction once, but no one believed me when I said the main character could control the elements. Not sure why that’s so unbelievable...but either way, I’ve stopped saying I write anything aside from fantasy, just in case.

Do you do anything besides write?

I breathe, does that count? No? Okay, well, I actually do a little of everything. I think what I do most is learn. Seriously, I’ve dabbled in it all. Freelance editing, crochet, cake decorating, taxidermy, hunting, painting, chicken whispering, gardening, canning, aquascaping, blogging—oh, wait, that’s still writing… Well, my point is, yes. When I have free time (HA!) I do stuff. I wish that stuff wasn’t overshadowed by gaming and fangirling. Those always drain what little time I manage to drum up. Though I suppose if I’m happy doing it, that’s what matters. Which I am.

If yes, where can we find your other creative endeavors?

Mostly in my kitchen or sprawled over the back of the couch. I have a few paintings hung on my living room walls, and the unruly chickens are outside (that whole whispering thing didn’t work out). If you check out my profile on Facebook (, you may see some of my cakes and crochet projects in my photos.

What is the first thing you ever remember creating?
Oh goodness. The first thing I ever created was a fantasy world. I was an only child until I was nearly five, so I spent a lot of time alone and way too much time with my head in the clouds. With the help of an amazing “imagination game” called Tales of the Crystals, I lived in a world more beautiful and adventurous than you could ever dream of. It’s a shame it was all in my head.
The first tangible thing I ever tried to create, however, was a novel when I was in middle school. Twelve years old, Tweety bird spiral notebook in hand, and over fifteen pages in #2 lead front and back. It was about two girls who discovered a friendly monster and had to protect it. I lost the notebook before I finished the story. That was a dark day.

What are your inspirations?
My dreams and my muse, usually. I dream often and vividly, and some of my best ideas came while I slept. The other great ideas I’ve had came to me while talking to myself (though saying that I’m talking to “my muse” makes me sound less crazy). I follow every plot bunny I find down their rabbit hole to see where they might lead. Then I talk it out with myse—my muse, until I have a solid idea.

Where can we find your work online?

I like to be adventurous, so all my best work is in the Amazon. You can get there from the internet if you visit here.. Most of my current works are collaborative or anthologies, but if you have a young kid (0-7) I highly recommend you check out my children’s book, Mommy, What Is the Moon? I hear it’s really good.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked. I’m currently working on an epic fantasy series called The World Soul. It’s going to be huge. Every publisher in the business is going to want it, movie rights will be haggled over in the first week of publication, and...I may be getting ahead of myself.
Have you ever heard the phrase “the eyes are the windows to the soul”? What if that soul wasn’t your own? There are five main races in my world, each with a different eye color and each linked to the heartsoul of an element...until Tarenya is born, with her color-shifting eyes. For ages beyond memory, the heartsouls were guarded by their respective races and maintained the balance and life of the world soul itself. But now, the world is dying. Thrown on a quest she didn’t ask for to save a world that abandoned her, Tarenya teams up with a dashing human pirate, a young stone giant, and a lovestruck mermaid to collect the heartsouls and restore the balance of the world.
The story is set to span four books and two standalones, but you won’t be hearing a publication date from me anytime soon. Like Tolkien, I take forever to get my masterpiece completed and when I do, it’ll be going to a real publisher who can do it the justice it deserves. But you can always follow my Facebook page (@crystalmmburton) to keep up with my progress.

What is something people should know about you?

I’m a gamer and a fangirl, and I procrastinate like it’s an Olympic sport. Combined, this means I talk about what I love, I don’t shut up, and I get easily distracted. Keep this in mind if you ever reach out to me. Want to play Neopets and watch a Doctor Who marathon? Me too!
On a more serious note, I’m bipolar and have what I’ll call “mild” OCD. When I say “mild,” I mean that what you see on TV is over the top. Most of mine is entirely in my head (as in, not physical symptoms, thanks to an overwhelming amount of instilled self control), but a lot of time would be saved if I didn’t have to reread everything so damn much to keep myself calm.

A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?

“This isn't where I parked my car!” When he sees his humorous line hasn't made me laugh (because, hello, a penguin in Texas?) he motions behind himself and whispers, “Smile and wave, boys.” Then he slowly backs out the door again, closing it behind him, never breaking eye contact. I don't see any other penguins with him, but I can only assume he's wandering with his companions, looking for Cheezy Dibbles.

(In my defense, I have three kids under the age of eight and Benedict Cumberbatch does a voice in the movie.)(Greg's note: I don't see why she has to defend herself for watching "Penguins of Madagascar"... they are awesome!)

Anything you'd like to add?

2+2 would be nice. In my book, that is. There are a few plot lines I'm still adding up in the overall series arc. They feel like they should be simple but my mind isn't connecting the dots just yet. But, I digress (as I warned you I would)
Additionally, I do need to shout out to my favorite writer's group, Authors’ Tale. I'm one of the admins over there, and we're really friendly and helpful. But don't take my word for it...actually, yes, take my word for it. If you want to grow as a writer, come join us. We'd love to have you. (Greg's note: I'm a member. Crystal is an okay admin... HAHAHA!)

What does ‘to glomp’ mean?

You know how sometimes you want to hug someone, but you're so excited that you pounce on them and throw your arms around them and practically knock them over with your embrace? Yeah, that's glomping. Ask my husband, he experiences that word all too often. Hehe.

Why do you know the answer to the previous question?

We all have our secrets. (i.e. Read as: She's a nerd)
Just kidding. I hung out with a few people in anime circles in high school (class of ‘05!) and glomping is actually in some mangas. It's very popular in those circles and those art styles, and for good reason. A lot of anime as a form of expression is exaggerated, and glomping is a great way to show affection. Plus it's funny when the person being glomped wasn't expecting it.

Who was the most influential author of your young life? Someone you would use for say the security questions on your old email account.

You have no idea how much I wish I knew the answer to that question. I did my final debate on Tolkien in senior year, so I'm very surprised it's not hi
Damn. Had a thought, but it's not Dumas either.
Anyway, back to this. If anyone happens to know the answer and wants to hack into my old email, be my guest! You can keep the email address! Just please let me get the password reset for my Neopets account, okay? It's driving me crazy. I've tried something like fifty authors already. I'm running out of ideas and I don't want to resort to Dr. Seuss and P.D. Eastman. (I've already tried them both; nothing.)

Describe the color yellow to somebody who is blind.

You're laying out on a hot day, and you feel the sun’s rays penetrating every pore of your skin. You are happy and energized, full of life, and you feel like nothing can knock you down today. A peppy song comes on the radio, and there isn't a single lyric that describes anything negative. It fills you with inspiration and positivity and even your heart beats to the rhythm. As you reach for a cool glass of lemonade, the sweet, tart flavor makes you wrinkle your nose and you laugh.

That's yellow.

What is your writing process? How do you come up with ideas?

It's tedious. Every pantser in existence will read this and say, “That's not pantsing!” (Greg's note: As an avowed pantser... That isn't pantsing!) But honestly, I plot some of it and wing the rest. Coming up with the ideas is the easy part. My brain never sits still, never stops asking “what if,” never stops imagining. My dreams give me the inspiration and the initial baseline almost instantly, but it's my thought process that ties it all up in a neat package with a fancy bow on top. That process is where my OCD comes in.
First, I do an eight point plot outline ( This is extremely important, because it ensures my story is dynamic and well-rounded. As an editor, I always recommend people use this outline on their story after they've written it, as a sort of reverse outline, to make sure they have all the aspects they need.
Once that's down, if I'm writing a short story, I use a quick program like talk-to-text to get out a super-rough draft. I explain it to myself as if I'm telling a friend the full story. Then I sit down with a blank document and fill it out, detailing the story and giving it the actual “story” quality it needs.
If I'm writing a novel, I number a page from one to thirty and label each with a brief summary of what I'd expect to see in that chapter. It doesn't have to be detailed and I'm usually wrong by the time I reach the later chapters, but it helps to give myself a good idea of the pacing between major planned events. Then I just sit down and write each chapter, and as long as I include the basic storyline I planned, everything else is free game. It's in this freewrite period that I tend to add my best plot twists and subplots.
It's a long process and it's not for everyone, but for me, it's the easiest method that gives me a perfect balance between organization and freedom. Being a writer is hard enough without a mental illness on top of it, so I'd advise writers to find a method that works for them with as little stress as possible. Your stories will turn out best if you don't force them. I know mine do.