Monday, September 8, 2014

More on Overworking, and the Scurge of Ear Infections

Apologies for the brief blog lapse. I should blame Hawaii, but I'd rather wreak havoc on the ear infection I got while I was there.

Either way, I needed the break. I'd relapsed into my old habit of working too hard. To find out more, see my post on Operation Awesome this week.

And hopefully, by next week, this infection will have said Aloha and Mahalo. Until then, I rest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CROW'S REST, by Angelica R. Jackson

Long ago, Angelica was kind enough to critique a novel of mine that wasn't ready for prime-time--and her feedback really showed me where it needed work.

In exchange, I got to read CROW'S REST in its earlier stages, and when I did, I knew it would reach publication one day. That day will come in May 2015, but until then, here's a premise and some pretty cover art to entice you:

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel—and get him back—plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Here are Angelica's answers to some interview questions!

According to your bio, you dabble in a lot of creative mediums. What originally drew you to writing, and what about it gives you the most joy?

Hmm, I have to go back pretty far to think what originally drew me to writing—I was nine when I wrote and illustrated my first book for a fifth grade assignment. But even though it was schoolwork, I quickly learned I was onto something fulfilling. I was already an avid reader who had left behind chapter books in favor of novels (sci fi, fantasy, animal stories, and classics like A Wrinkle in Time) and wanted to take part in the storytelling I found in books.

I enjoyed writing from then on, even crafting some stories for the school literary magazine in junior high. Those were an interesting collaboration (battle?) between my partner's determination to write the gritty story of a troubled war veteran—and my enduring belief that every story is better with smart-aleck shapeshifters. In high school, a few other geeky girls and I formed a tight group where we exchanged artwork (mine was heavily of the unicorn variety) and stories (again, unicorns figured prominently—along with werewolves).

But those sharing sessions were where I first became aware that despite me having a very clear story and picture in my head, how I put the words down on the page determined what story and picture the other person actually received. That was a revelation to me—that even words like "tree" and "red" don't mean the same thing to each person.

If I could put on one of those science fiction helmets to let me experience other people's dreams and points of view, I'd likely never take it off. Instead, I'll have to settle for living in my characters' heads.

So I'm going to say that's what gives me the most joy—when I get the words right and I'm able to show what's in my imagination to other people, and yet it's still transformed and complemented by their own vision.

You do it really well! I loved CROW'S REST when I read it, especially the characters. What tips, if any, would you give to writers looking to improve their character development?

Thank you! I wanted all the characters—major or minor—to feel like genuine human beings (or Fae beings). It was originally the Fae who gave me the most trouble because their morality can be so fluid. As a race, they are inherently selfish and narcissistic, so having a Fae character who has become somewhat humanized made me think a lot about how his actions would differ from a less "enlightened" Fae. And how those differences might exhibit themselves in ways that seem contradictory to an observer, but make perfect sense to him and his worldview.

Once I started thinking in those terms, I realized that this doesn't just apply to one Fae character—humans are full of contradictions too. So I would advise spending some time thinking about places where there may be contradictions in the character's own belief system. What lies do they tell themselves to rationalize these breaks from their values? Or are they even aware of them? If another character "calls" them on a seemingly-hypocritical act, how do they react—with soul-searching or blame-shifting? These questions can help you round out your characters in unexpected ways.

I'll have to try that. And I love your book cover! What was the design process like?
Thank you, I love it too! The design process was, in a word, complicated. But you probably won’t let me get away with a one-word answer, so here’s a longer version:
My editor, Owen Dean, and I had talked about what we envisioned for a cover before we even started formal edits. We agreed that we wanted it to have a fantasy feel, with some tension or suspense also in the mix. The first cover mockup we saw was a compelling design but not quite a match for the book.
So I gathered some examples of covers I liked, along with artwork and models on Shutterstock which captured the feel of Crow’s Rest and Avery. We even got permission for me to do a test photoshoot with some models to see if they would be suitable for a custom shoot at Preston Castle (the real-life castle which inspired the setting of my book).
Then I submitted all those images and…waited. It should not be news to any of you, but publishing involves a lot of waiting! But on a day where I needed to feel like I was doing something, I stumbled upon NataliaMuroz’s artwork and the lush, surreal-looking forest with a dark bird flying through it. I was so excited—it was perfect!—that I created a mockup utilizing it as the backdrop for a seated girl.
Well, the higher-ups loved my concept, and for a while it looked like I was going to be able to do the complete design myself. But once I found out about the very tight timeline we were working with (one for me that also included appointments and commitments I couldn’t get out of, copyedits on the way, and work on the sequel that has its own schedule) I had to admit that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a cover we would all be happy with by that deadline. It was a hard lesson in acknowledging my limitations, but I don’t regret it—much better to fess up than cause delays.
Fortunately, I’d been in contact with Kelley York, another author who also has a visual-artist side with X-Potion Designs, and she let me know she could squeeze my cover into her schedule. We worked very closely on getting the main elements right (such as, it turned out the bird in the original backdrop was a vulture and not a crow—but it was only discovered once we downloaded the hi-res version, lol). So I ended up with a cover which I love—and like a new mother I find myself just staring at it, eclipsing the memory of the labor that came before!

What a great learning process--thanks for sharing! Speaking of sequels on their own schedules, what are some of your current projects?

I’m starting to compile video footage and photographs (some from my first-ever visit to Ireland and the UK) to use in the Crow’s Rest book trailer. I’ve already written the music for it, so now all I need to do is find the time to put it all together into a coherent whole. I also have some ambitious plans for a Crow’s Rest book launch at Preston Castle—anybody up for a tour of an abandoned reform school while they wait for me to sign their copy?

The sequel to Crow’s Rest, with the working title No Man’s Land, is coming along and I’m loving the opportunity to get back into Avery’s head. The events page on my website has some upcoming dates, including a spot on a fantasy-writing panel in January that I’m really looking forward to. Joining me on the panel will be some writers who might sound familiar to your blog readers: Jessica Taylor, Heather Marie, and Christina Mercer.

Thanks so much for having me, Karen, and for spreading the cover love for Crow’s Rest! And thank you too, Angelica! *Raises hand for abandoned reform school tour*

Author Bio:

Angelica R. Jackson, in keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, has published articles on gardening, natural history, web design, travel, hiking, and local history. Other interests include pets, reading, green living, and cooking for food allergies (the latter not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it). Ongoing projects include short fiction, poetry, novels, art photography, and children’s picture books.

In 2012, she started Pens for Paws Auction, which features critiques and swag from agents and authors to raise money for a no-kill, cage-free cat sanctuary where she volunteers, Fat Kitty City.

She’s also been involved with capturing the restoration efforts for Preston Castle (formerly the Preston School of Industry) in photographs and can sometimes be found haunting its hallways.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We Must All Keep Our Lights Burning

Like many, I was shocked and saddened when I heard about Robin Williams' passing. I'd only met him once, and when I did, I was so in awe I barely spoke. And even though he didn't know me from a hole in the wall, I felt like I'd lost a kindred spirit--someone who understood what we all face.

It's even harder for his family, particularly his daughter, who, adding insult to injury, had to deal with these asshats on Twitter. I hope wherever she is, and whatever she's doing, she's able to do what she so eloquently stated here:

She's right. In the darkness, we have to find the light. Build. Create. Renew.

While I've been knee-deep in edits, I've wrestled with a maddening shroud of darkness that tries to convince me there's no point to it. It's a voice that gets even louder when tragedy occurs. It laughs, and says, "See? Look how awful things are."

But there is a point, in everything we do. If we nurture our own lights within, and shine them brightly on others, we can perhaps keep the brightness burning. Interrupt the sadness, as Russell Brand so eloquently put it.

So that is what I am going to try to do. Find the good, the poignant, the important, and try to share it. And hopefully, in the process, make someone's day a little brighter. It's what all us writers do, whether we know it or not.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson

There's a possibility I'll be going dark for the first few weeks in August. We planned a trip to Hawaii, so barring any hurricanes, hopefully I'll be on a beach somewhere then.

But now, to business...

Long ago, Delilah S. Dawson was one of my first blog interviews. And after I saw her at Phoenix Comicon, I knew I had to interview her again, especially since she has a new book out, SERVANTS OF THE STORM. And speaking of hurricanes, the premise is fantastic:

From Goodreads:

A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey's best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she's started to believe she's seeing things that can't be real ... including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Dovey's running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can't see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly ... and everything to do with Dovey herself.

And here are Delilah's answers to some updated questions!

Since our last interview, you've finished two other novels in the Blud series: WICKED AS SHE WANTS, and WICKED AFTER MIDNIGHT. How have the characters developed throughout the series, and did the overall story evolve in ways you expected?

Well, since Pocket wanted a different romantic couple in every book, Tish and Criminy haven't evolved as fully as one might see in a series that follows the same two main characters. But the series does follow a universal timeline, so you get to see what happens to Casper, first at a low point in The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance (an e-novella), and then in Wicked as She Wants. The third e-novella, The Damsel and the Daggerman, takes us back to Criminy's caravan, where Wicked After Midnight starts.

As I'd originally planned a 3-book arc for Tish and Criminy, I had to change modes and explore the world in new ways. It's been such fun, designing strong heroines and the men perfectly designed to sweep them off their boots--and, in many cases, frustrate the heck out of them first. Luckily, I just sold Blud 4, WICKED EVER AFTER, which will follow Tish and Crim to their inevitable conclusion...

Sounds like you've really expanded on the world you've built! Your forthcoming YA novel, SERVANTS OF THE STORM debuts August 5. Where did the idea come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished?

The idea came from the photo set of Six Flags New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  But I had never been to New Orleans and didn't want to dishonor the victims of a real tragedy, so I made up Hurricane Josephine and moved the story to Savannah, a place I know well. I wanted to write a creepy Southern Gothic that was a paean to the darkness of the South, but the story is just as much about the friendship between Dovey and Carly and how love makes Dovey willing to fight. I want readers to come away satisfied but wanting the next book. :)

Very intriguing! Your new website,, looks fantastic. What recommendations do you have for authors wanting to build (or rebuild) an online platform?

Aw, thanks! With my YA debut this summer, I wanted to make a site that highlighted the whimsical darkness that connects all my different genres… um, because I'm too lazy to keep up with separate sites for adult and teen work. I did what I always do when I'm stumped: went straight to Twitter and asked for recommendations for someone who wanted a simple way to build a sharp-looking site without a lot of fuss or fees. My dear friend Karina Cooper suggested Squarespace, which has worked wonderfully.

Seems like a great solution for writing in multiple genres. In our last interview, you mentioned were-narwhals as a possible "trend". What do you think a were-narwhal would do in its spare time?

I imagine they work as they hired muscle for were-walruses too bulky and lazy to do their own dirty work.

I bet they would! If stuck on a desert island, what books (or devices) would like to have with you? 

Definitely my iPad Mini with the Kindle and Nook apps utterly stuffed with books. And a solar panel to charge it. And my gigantic leather Jane Austen compendium for reading and crushing coconuts. And also my laptop. And… well, I'm glamping now, aren't I?

To grab SERVANTS OF THE STORM for yourself, click the links below.

And for more of Delilah's books, click these:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BLIGHTBORN by Chuck Wendig

A few years ago I stumbled on a wonderful blog, Terribleminds, and it totally shifted the way I thought about writing. Especially this post. And this one. And this one. And hell, there are just too many.

I finally had the chance to meet Chuck at Phoenix Comicon, where he predicted my death--crushed under books (judging by the overflow I cleaned out of my office last weekend, this is probably accurate).

I'm happy to announce that his newest book, BLIGHTBORN, the second in the The Heartland Trilogy series, is now out! Have a look-see:

Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.

Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move—one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.

The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?

They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.

Here are Chuck's answers to some questions:

You are a self-admitted pen monkey. When and how did the pen come to your monkey fingers?

I was born with a pen in my hands. My hands actually are pens. Just don’t put an i between ’n’ and ’s’ there, because that’s a whole different thing.

More seriously: I had my first short story published when I was 18 — and it was all downhill for the literary world from there.

I'm amazed at what you've been able to achieve with pen-hands (how do you drive?). And I love the premise of the Heartland trilogy. How does BLIGHTBORN expand on the world you've built? 

Blightborn takes us out of Boxelder, the town from the first book. So, we see a lot of what else is out there in the corn — depots, twisters, other towns. But we also are afforded a chance to go up, up, up, and spend a lot of time on one of the Empyrean flotillas! Plus: we get glimpses of what waits outside the Heartland, as well.

Definite intrigue. As mentioned above, I'm a huge fan of your blog, Terribleminds. How did the blog come to be, and how has it changed over time?

Terribleminds was a site I started Many Moons Ago as a place for me to basically rant at myself about writing. Back then it was just an HTML site with no metrics, no comments, nothing, so it was me (presumably) shouting into the void. Over time, it grew into a thing much bigger and wackier than all that, something that is hopefully useful to the writing and reading community and also useful for my own audience. ALL FOUR OF YOU.

Speaking as an audience member, it definitely is. Your online portfolio shows that you write everything from novels, to scripts, to short fiction. What do you like most about dabbling in multiple forms of media?

The greatest thing is that with other forms of media, you start to go beyond individual format and see the Matrix code behind it all — meaning, you start to see the architecture of story itself.

Very well put (and much less convoluted than the actual Matrix architect made it out to be). What are some of your current projects?

I am presently working on ZEROES, my “hackers versus an NSA hive-mind” book. I also just turned in the third Heartland book, tentatively titled THE HARVEST.

To get BLIGHBORN (and the first in the series, UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY) for yourself, click the links below.

And for Chuck's other awesome books, click these:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DRIFTING, by Katia D. Ulysse

DRIFTING by Katia D. Ulysse provides a unique lens into the Haitian experience, ranging from 1970-2010, including the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. It's an interwoven narrative of stories connected with a common theme: humanity.

From Goodreads:

Ulysse introduces us to a childless Haitian American couple risking it all for a baby to call their own; a Florida-based predatory schoolteacher threatening students with deportation if they expose him; and the unforgettable Monsieur Boursicault, whose chain of funeral parlors makes him the wealthiest man in Haiti. This daring work of fiction is a departure from the standard narrative of political unrest on the island. Ulysse's characters are everyday people whose hopes for distant success are constantly challenged--but never totally swayed--by the hard realities accompanying the immigrant’s journey.

DRIFTING is such a wonderful title. How did it come to you, and in what ways does it connect the interwoven narrative together?

KDU: The characters in “Drifting” weave in and out of place and time. Sometimes their travels are deliberate and lead them to one another; other times their travels are forced, and divide them. The characters travel to distant places, hoping to change their circumstances. They are like leaves from different trees that are being tossed around together in a storm. They don’t know their destination. They are constantly moving, running into or away from one another. They drift apart, only to find out that their lives are interwoven. One cannot escape the other, however vast the distance separating them. 

A wonderful theme. DRIFTING has such unique and poignant characters. Did they come to you fully fleshed or did they develop as you wrote them?

KDU: The characters in Drifting came to me fully fleshed. They were like old friends visiting after many years. Each time I sat to write, all I had to do was be like a fly on the wall and listen. The characters said: This is who I am. This is what I did. These are my family members. We don’t care for one another. This is the country where I live. This is the village. Come into my house. This is where I keep the deed to my father’s land... The characters knew who they were; my job was to bring them to the page. I spent such a long time writing Drifting that I got to know these characters better than I know myself.

I envy your ability to tap into your characters! You've been published in journals such as Caribbean Writer and anthologies like Haiti Noir, among others. What do you recommend to writers who are interested in submitting their work to publications?

KDU: I am fortunate to have had my work published in numerous publications. However, for each Yes I received, there was at least one No. The recommendation I would make to writers who are interested in submitting their work to publications is: Read the journal to which you wish to submit your work. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of the journal. It’s like being in school: if you’re in psychology class, you don’t want to submit work from your math class. The math work might be brilliant, but it has no place in psychology class. Also, follow the journal’s guidelines for submission. Do what is asked. Adhere to the deadline. If they specify "No Simultaneous" submissions, do what they say. In the beginning, and especially now, I respect the publisher’s guidelines. There are millions of writers out there trying to have one chance to be published. We will not get a publisher’s attention by ignoring the publisher’s guidelines for submission. Most publishers accept only “agented” work/writer. Focus on getting representation. That helps a ton.  

Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?

KDU: I am one of those people who cannot sit still. I always have many projects going on at once. I write constantly. (Just the other day, there was a mistake at the office store. They deleted the entire content of a flash drive. My most urgent projects and most current revisions were on that flash drive. They are irretrievable. That was a lesson learned the hard way.
Another current project involves making ceremonial flags in the Haitian tradition of sequins and beads. Between writing and flag-making, I don’t get to sleep much. But I love it. Another major project is to get my gardens in order. I am an avid gardener, but I would totally fire myself for the horrible job I’ve been doing this summer.
A third on-going project I’m working on is It’s an E-place that features the voices of those who would not have a platform to express their thoughts. Voicesfromhaiti is a work in progress. Currently, my goal for Voices is to open it up more. Although I love my birth country, I have to realize that Haiti is but a small part of the world. There are voices from around the globe which we need to hear. I look forward to expanding the blog and welcome voices from everywhere.

To obtain your own copy of DRIFTING, click the link below:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

INVINCIBLE WILD by Jessica Taylor

I met Jessica Taylor at a recent conference, and her upcoming book INVINCIBLE WILD sounded super intriguing! It will debut in Fall 2015, and the cover is coming soon! You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.

From Goodreads:

Raised by Wanderers, sixteen-year-old Tal travels the roads of the southern wild in her Chevy by day and camps in her tent trailer at night. Hustling, conning, and grifting her way into just enough cash to save her fifteen-year-old brother, Wen, from bare-knuckle fighting was once enough to keep her dreams of traveling the whole world at bay. Everything changes when the Wanderers set up camp in a little town called Cedar Falls.

There, Spencer Sway, a boy Tal tried to hustle at a game of billiards, keeps popping up into her life—and worst of all—into her scams. Buttoned-up, starched-and-ironed Spencer talks of places where Tal’s truck can’t take her. His promises of traveling across oceans are almost enough to shatter her love of the Wanderer life.

When a boy shows up at camp, ready to make good on a nearly-forgotten arranged marriage to Tal, Tal and Wen make a pact: No matter the cost, they will use their limitless skills of grift to earn the bride price and buy back her future—even if Spencer Sway gets used along the way.

According to your website bio, after graduating with your law degree, you realized, "I'd rather write my own stories than read dusty law books." Can you elaborate on this and tell us more about your journey toward publication?

 I started writing toward publication in May of 2010, when I was halfway through law school. By the time law school ended, I knew I couldn’t bear to practice law, and I knew being a young adult author was my dream job. I wouldn’t say that I left the law to be a writer, but I did decide to take two years to focus solely on writing and see where it took me. It’s always a little awkward to talk about how I made the transition from law to writing because I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to follow in my footsteps. What I did was a huge gamble, and while it paid off, I might be living in a cardboard box if it hadn’t. Really. Okay, not really. But close.

Fortunately, I had an agent within six months and a book deal within the next year. I’d love to tell you that not once did I look back and think twice about the choices I made, but that would be a lie. As if querying and going on sub wasn’t bad enough, not having a plan B was added pressure!

Yes, but it definitely shows the importance of taking risks! According to your website, you are represented by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency. What do you like most about working with Sarah?

 Sarah was the first person to read my work and say yes. When I queried the novel I wrote before WILD, which was a paranormal YA, a lot of agents passed and asked me to submit my next project because the current market wasn’t paranormal friendly. Sarah was the first agent to have faith that there were more good ideas inside me if the first novel didn’t sell. As it turns out, we decided to pull that project after I finished WILD, which went on to sell to Egmont. So, our relationship began on a great note and has continued to be fabulous. Sarah gives very honest feedback, which I appreciate, and she’s always willing to talk through any issues I’m having with my work. When she identifies problems in a manuscript, she'll often give me specific ideas for how to fix them. If I have other solutions in mind, she’s flexible and willing to listen. I so appreciate those qualities, and I’m certain Sarah’s thoughtful feedback has taken my work to the next level.

It sounds like you've developed a great level of communication. Your novel INVINCIBLE WILD debuts in 2015. I love the premise--where did the idea come from and what do you hope readers will take away from it?

 INVINCIBLE WILD is truly the book of my heart, so I could write a novella about my inspiration and what I hope it means to readers. It's all of my greatest loves rolled into one manuscript.

When I set out to write WILD, I knew I wanted to write about a character who lived an unusual life and had her beliefs in her world shaken. I've always been fascinated by Irish Travellers, so I saw the opportunity to combine the two. The Wanderers are a fictionalized version of Travellers, and I was inspired by the William Stafford poem, A Story That Could Be True to use the name "Wanderer."

If I have to get to the very soul of WILD, it’s about three characters who have strong ties to the worlds they’ve always known, and those connections threaten the dreams they secretly and sometimes not-so-secretly harbor. I think this is a universal conundrum for teens and adults alike. But WILD's message isn’t to take extreme risks or to be true to your upbringing. My hope is simply that WILD will make readers think about their worlds and their choices with a new perspective.

I can't wait to read it! What are some of your current projects? Will INVINCIBLE WILD have a sequel?

 I’m working on two projects, and I’m stoked about both of them. They are YA, of course, and both are magical realism. That’s unfortunately all I can say for now. I hope someday I can tell you a lot more about one or both!

 I don’t know what might happen with the world I created for WILD. I can say for certain that INVINCIBLE WILD will not have a sequel. I’m a firm believer that once my story is in the hands of readers, it’s not my story anymore. There’s a slight ambiguity in WILD, which a sequel could erase, and I wouldn’t want to rewrite the story readers have imagined. That said, there is one character who is particularly near and dear to my heart—and that’s Tal’s brother, Wen. There are no formal (or even informal) plans yet, but I’ve mentally written a lovely story about his journey after the novel ends.

Thanks, Jessica, for a great interview!