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: