Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Author Bonnie J. Doerr was excited when her publisher, Leap Books, designed her book cover to match the yellow Key deer sign: Caution: Endangered Animal Area. Because her book's about a poacher, the cover artist added bullet holes, including one dripping with blood. Cool, right?
Well, maybe not.
The cover definitely has a lot of teen appeal, and Bonnie has worked up lesson plans so her book can be used in the classroom. What teachers wouldn't love to have a fast-paced eco-mystery about endangered animals that ties into the science, social studies, and language arts curriculum?
Maybe not all of them. Some, who cite teen violence, object to the cover because of the bullet holes and the blood.
So should the cover be changed to make it more palatable to teachers? Or should it stay the way it is--faithful to the contents of the book. Poaching is a bloody business, after all. Shouldn't the cover reflect reality?
Stop by my blog and leave your opinion. One commenter will win an autographed copy of the book when it comes out.
P.S. If you're wondering if the bullet holes go all the way through the book and exit through the back cover, you'll have to pick up a copy when it comes out on January 6, 2010 to see--unless you're that lucky winner.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I always love getting a sneak peek into authors' lives, so Sandy's been kind enough to answer some of my questions. Lucky you, you'll get to eavesdrop on our conversation:
When did you first decide to become a writer?
I started on this dream of being a writer when I was a little kid. I used to write stories for my great grandmother and she’d share them with folks in her apartment building. I like to say I wrote my first speculative fiction story when I was six or seven because one of those stories was about a spider that ended up haunting an old lady.
Ah. My beautiful great grandmother always supported my dreams and goals. She didn’t just share a six-year-old’s stories around a building, you know. I could devote an entire blog to her.
Tell us a bit about your road to publication.
That road is paved with frozen tears. Mwuahahahahaha. Seriously, I finished CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS the summer of 2003 and announced such at the summer Duran Duran party. My friend Steve Thomas said, “Now you need to get an agent.” An agent.
So I did some research online and bought that Herman book about agents. (Note the importance of that in this story…) I found a couple agents in that book who A) claimed they handled fantasy works, B) claimed they accepted new clients, and C) claimed they accepted writers who hadn’t been published before. I researched those further online and figured out which one seemed fabulous for me. I mean, she looked like the IDEAL agent for me to work with. We would totally click. I wrote a fabulous query letter according to all the research I was doing, mailed it to her with the SASE, and got a reply back requesting the first three chapters. I WAS ELATED. So I sent that to her formatted exactly the way her Web site said to.
The night that I got her “I’m just not suitably excited to represent you properly” rejection in the mail, I cried as if someone had killed my best friend. When the guy I was married to at the time got home from work, he found me sitting in the living room floor, leaning against the couch with the mail strewn out around me, a tumbler of amaretto in my hand, a box of tissues with wadded-up-used Kleenexes salting the carpet in a trail everywhere I’d been in the house, and sobbing quietly into the couch cushions. He was stunned, to say the least. I don’t remember if I waved the rejection letter at him or just pointed to it, but I said, “I got a rejection from (fill in name here).” I think he said, “I’m sorry,” before he tucked his tail between his legs and slunk off down the hall to his den and closed the door with a quiet click against the insanity unfolding in the house.
But, you know…the next day…I started researching who to send a new query letter off to. The thing is, I figured out on my own that getting a literary agent wasn’t the way I was going to get my foot in the publishing industry door. I stopped the query-rejection-letter blues a couple months into the exercise. After moving to
That's a wonderfully inspiring story and points out that persistence is the key. All of us have been down the rejection path, but isn't it wonderful when you find an editor or agent and you click? (For all you as-yet-unpublished authors, don't give up hope. Someday that "click" will be yours too.)
Now on to some nuts-and-bolts writing questions. How do you come up with your ideas? And what do you do when you face writer’s block?
My ideas come from anything and everything. People at Wal-mart really have to start being more careful around me…they’re turning into comic relief characters. Even though I can write under any conditions and at the drop of a hat, I know I have certain triggers that will get ideas flowing “on command.” When I was preparing for a recent timed contest, I set up my writing “area” with comfy pillows and certain candles and ornate bookends around my reference books and paintings of the type of dragon I wanted in the story and specific, moody songs on my iTunes.
Luckily, writer’s block is not something I have to deal with. I’ve heard other writers complain about it, but…you know…it’s just not in me. My brain is too full of bizarre crap. And funky dreams. I swear, I have vivid, bizarre, four-color, sometimes violent dreams. That’s why I keep a notebook and several pens next to the bed.
My author friend Jamieson Wolf has a non-fiction book that’s a guidebook for writers. It includes a chapter on preparing what he has coined an “idea jar.” It’s a fantastic idea that he’s come up with if you fear writer’s block may catch up to you some day. I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing this, because I’m giving away a majority of that chapter here, but you essentially write down ideas or characters or concepts that bombard you during your ultra creative times and stuff them in an “idea jar” for use during those dry spells. You can find Jamieson’s writer’s guidebook (as well as a ton of his fiction work) at his site www.jamiesonwolf.com.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I don’t think I get typical writing days. Now, having said that, I do work as the editor for a construction magazine, so I write (and edit) for that on a daily basis. Even that, though, requires writing some days, interviewing people and discussing article ideas some days, editing and assembling things some days, etc. For sure, every day, whether I’m going to write, edit, or do marketing work, the day starts with offering appeasement to the birds. I have companion parrots who are pretty smart, so they need puzzles and games to keep them occupied during the day. So the day starts with treats and foraging puzzles for the birds. The work day ends with me diving into marketing adventures. Then I write before I pass out at night. There are myriad other tasks in between all that stuff. That’s sort of a “general” writing day if not typical…
What hobbies do you have besides writing?
What? Besides writing? I don’t think I understand…He he he. To be serious, I’m passionate about sea turtle conservation (check the links section of my Web site to see the link to the group I volunteer with), Charlotte Bronte and her sisters (because they are amazing and awe-inspiring), Duran Duran (because they have provided the soundtrack for my life), companion parrots (because mine rule my life and provide TONS of entertainment), and probably many other things I’m neglecting to mention. You can become my friend on Facebook and see “some” of the craziness…
What books are you reading now?
Dragon in Chains by Daniel Fox; The Exodus Gate by Stephen Zimmer; Facets of Fantasy by Sarah Scheele; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
If you could be anyone throughout history or in the present day, who would you choose, and why?
You know…I’m kinda struggling with this. I don’t think I want to “be” anyone else. I don’t even want to say “Chariss” from my novels because I know what she has yet to go through.
Sounds as if you're content with your life as it is, Sandy. A rare and wonderful gift. :-)
What’s one secret that no one knows about you?
This isn’t really a secret, and my parents know it, but when I was in like second or third grade, I wanted to set up a science section in my room. I wanted to have a microscope and telescope and science books and gems and stuff.
What one question would you like to ask the readers of the blog?I have a presence on tons of Web sites and book-buying sites. I’d like to do more than ask where readers like to go to look for new authors or new books…I’d like to ask which sites you guys trust to give you good info about the author and the book? Thanks for sharing your opinions!
Thank you for a great interview, Lily. Good questions…my poor brain is really getting a workout on this tour! I hope your visitors are very kind with their follow-up questions, and I hope they weigh in with their opinions on book-buying sites they trust for info. Thanks for the opp to ask!
“Some days, you just want the dragon to win.”You're welcome. And readers, why not leave some answers for Sandy and give yourself a chance to win a copy of her latest book, Choices Meant for Kings.
To whet your appetite, I've included a blurb and excerpt below:
Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a friend’s marriage. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way.
When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe?
A Tense Little Excerpt From Choices Meant for Kings
By fantasy author
You won’t find this excerpt anywhere except
As the soldier stepped toward him, Nigel reached out his arm and caught him by the neck. He slammed the captain against the far wall. He pinned him there with his body, leaning against the man as if he could crush the wind from him with his presence.
He brought his face close to the soldier’s ear and spoke lowly, fiercely, so that no one could have overheard him. The menace and intent behind the words was as surprising to the captain as the words themselves.
“I asked you to accompany [Chariss] on this journey tomorrow because I have faith in your sword, and until this moment I trusted you to keep your distance from her. Now, I find her down here at your side with a look upon your face that suggests more than you realize. So help me, Naegling, the only thing that stays my hand is how displeased she would be if she learned that I sliced you open.”
“The look you see is merely my concern for her honor. Nothing more.”
“I’m not a fool. And I’ll use every last piece of Arcana’s treasury to pay the prophets to justify my reasons for marrying that woman, so you can unconcern yourself with her honor.”
Hrazon stepped off the staircase then and saw Nigel pressed against his guard.
“I still believe you’re one of the best soldiers Arcana’s ever seen,” Nigel continued, “and I want you at her side for this journey, but, so help me, Naegling, she comes back alive and well and not confused in the least about her affections for me, or I will string you up from a tree in the orchard and attach your intestines to your horse’s saddle before I send it—”
Hrazon cleared his throat. “Excuse me. Is there an issue here I should address?”
Friday, September 11, 2009
All her parents wanted was for Eryn to live a normal life...
Redgrave had its share of monsters before Eryn moved to town. Mauled pets, missing children. The Delacroix family is taking the blame, but Eryn knows the truth. Something stalks the night. Wade, the police chief's son and Redgrave High's resident hottie, warns her the Delacroix are dangerous. But then so is Eryn--in fact, she's lethal.
But she can't help falling for one of the Delacroix boys, dark, brooding--human Alec. And then her world falls apart.
Author Judith Graves has a fabulous book trailer for Under My Skin. Watch it and shiver...
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Today C.L. Talmadge, author of the Green Stone of Healing® series, is joining us today to share about how she does world-building. For anyone who wants to create a fantasy or sci-fi, these techniques are powerful, but even those who are writing contemporary or historical can pick up some tips.
Let's welcome C.L. and find out her insider secrets:
Creating Different Worlds
By C.L. Talmadge
Creating a different world, whether for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal romance, or any other speculative fiction, is not all that different from creating a contemporary setting for a novel of the here and now.
This “other” world cannot be so different or unusual that readers do not relate to or understand it. In fact, most of the elements of this different world will be very similar if not the same as elements of the world we know.
It’s the exceptions that mark a world out as alternative, or speculative.
One such exception might be the world’s technology. Yet-to-be seen gadgetry is usually the star of hardcore sci-fi, but not always. The Dune series, for example, boasts scads of way-out technology, but it always takes a back seat to the story and the characters. Maybe that’s why it has been such an enduring bestseller. Few readers are satisfied with nothing but pages filled with dissertations on future technology.
In my speculative epic, the Green Stone of Healing® series, much of the technology is similar to what we know now. There are cell phones (links), the Internet (the Grid), mobile computers called Gridbooks, and mechanized transportation (helicopters are called rotors). But there is also what I call spiritual technology based on the ability to perceive and manipulate something called kura (energy defined somewhat differently than sciences does).
In the past, this spiritual technology was the basis of the power of the dominant people in my series, the Toltecs. Most Toltecs are not aware that they live in a society that is not progressing or evolving. Instead, it is regressing, especially in technology. The ability to manipulate kura via thoughts and feelings gave the Toltecs transportation technology that was clean and needed no fuel to operate. These machines are called impellers. But they abused their powers and thus lost the ability to manufacture more of this technology. A lot of the plot later in the series hinges on this regression.
Another way to establish a speculative world is through its economy. What do people do for a living? How is their profit-making organized? This, of course, is closely related to politics. So, think about how this speculative society is organized. Is it tribal and rural? Urban and nation-state? Some blend of the two or something else altogether? Keep in mind our world today displays a wide range of ways to organize people, even if we divide politically into countries. Some nations are more coherent and homogenous than others.
In my series, the predominant setting is an island-nation called Azgard. It is a monarchy but there is a legislative body that the ruler, called the Exalted Lord, must consult. Much conflict and thus plot arises out of the power struggle between the king and this group, known as the Kinshazen.
This legislative body, however, does not represent all the people of Azgard. It consists only of the heads of the families that comprise the oligarchy that controls the nation’s wealth. Poor Toltecs and the Turanians, the conquered and dispossessed people of Azgard, have no political power and no representation. They fare little better than serfs. Later in the series a lot of action and conflict will arise out of this situation as future heroines seek to right this inequity.
Language is still another way to establish otherworldliness. The first-generation protagonist of my series, Helen Andros, is fluent in three languages. They are Atalan, the language of her mother’s people, the Turanians; Terzil, the language of the Toltecs, her father’s people, and Kydosh, the language of a vassal state far to the East of Azgard. Even the simple acts of naming a different language and providing a few words in that strange tongue helps imbue your setting with an otherworldly aura.
Last but not least, the characters help set the stage for a different world. Sometimes they are simply not human beings, like the mystical, alien mist-Weavers in my series. Aliens, elves, dwarves, werewolves, vampires are one dramatic way to establish a speculative world. But then, some of these nonhumans pop up in thoroughly contemporary settings, too.
Even the human characters, however, can contribute to the fantasy atmosphere by their beliefs and expectations about life and their world. They do not necessarily have an old-fashioned sensibility, but they are not totally modern or post-modern, either. In my series, for example, forget about women’s rights. Females are treated like chattel in Azgard, and my strong-willed first-generation heroine pretty much accepts her lot, even if she does not like it. Her warrior daughter, however, will raise an ungodly stink about it. Since my series is set in a theocracy, my characters’ religious beliefs and their national origin mythology are critical and very much interrelated.
Numerous ways exist to set a world apart and imbue it with a sense of otherness. Just don’t go so far afield that an audience cannot find some way to connect the characters and events they read about to their own lives.
C.L. Talmadge is the author of the Green Stone of Healing® speculative epic. The fourth in the series, Outcast, will be published Oct. 1. Vote for the first book, The Vision, through Sept. 25 and get a free e-book on healing, love, and spirituality. Details at her blog: www.healingstonebooks.com/stonescribe
Thanks so much for joining us C.L. You've given us a lot to think about. Readers who comment on the blog tour also have an opportunity to win the series of books. So leave a comment for C.L. or share your own techniques for world-building. If you're a reader rather than a writer, what's your favorite world and why?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wow, talk about buzz...
If you love werewolves and all things paranormal, which is obviously right up my alley, you're gonna love Freaksville by Kitty Keswick. Lucky me, I got a sneak peek at the title everyone's buzzing about and it's SENSATIONAL. Due out in January 2010 from Leap Books, this is one worth waiting for. Okay, it's classified as a YA, but I guarantee if you're an adult reader, it'll hook you too. What's not to love about werewolves, ghosts, and visions? Not to mention a romance and lots of mystery thrown into the mix. You'll fall head over heels for British hottie, Josh.
If you don't believe me, check out the book trailer. Does it give you shivers? A haunted theater, a full moon, and werewolves??
I'm starting the countdown 'til I can collect my autographed copy. Put it on your list. Lots of other people are:
It's been WOW'ed at Waiting on Wednesday, and featured at Reading Keeps You Sane, and Teen RC. And Kitty has a lot more interviews lined up, so check them out to find out more about her and her much-anticipated book.
Visit her at her website or at Leap Books or at The Wolfy Chicks blog that she shares with fellow paranormal author, Judith Graves. (More about Judith's upcoming release soon.)
Here's an excerpt:
Suddenly the lights failed.
The tunnel was shrouded in darkness.
A deep throaty growl vibrated a few yards away.
“Stay still,” I whispered.
This was the end. I wanted to grip Gillie’s hand for comfort. But didn’t want to see my best friend’s last moments in my head.
My strange list-making compulsion shoved at my thoughts. I didn’t fight it when my brain filtered through my mental catalog. It helped me process.
I knew three things:
1) That was a real growl.
2) It sounded hungry.
3) I was on the menu.
From somewhere on my right, in all the blackness, another wolf howled. Claws scratched the rough cement as the beasts darted toward us. Their heavy panting was as loud as my own. The slight clip-clop of nails scraped on the floor in front of me as this creature stalked forward. The smell of wet dog, raunchy, burned my nose. Hot breath wheezed out a moment before the wolf sprang.