#WritersLife: Ed Hoornaert (a.k.a. Mr. Valentine) shares his 5 PHOTOS (adorable animal pics, an update on my garden, and more!! :-D)

My guest today is Ed Hoornaert, a former principal oboist and current romance writer, who shares his Five “Writer’s Life” Photographs. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of mine. Loved this post and hope you do too!

Something that represents something unique about you

Two things about this pic. First, the beautiful lady is Judi, my high school sweetheart whom I married a week after graduation. We’re still living the HEA 48 years later. Lordy, I’m getting old.

Second, my first teaching job was a one-room school on isolated Gilford Island in British Columbia. Judi and I had to fly in on a floatplane; we had no television or radio reception; people lived on floathouses; and since there were no roads, the students came to school on a schoolboat.  A fisherman tamed the island’s deer and threatened to shoot anyone who hunted them—and people believed him. Judi is feeding a carrot to Sassy.

Jill: That is so neat! Gilford Island sounds beautiful, quaint, and charming (all except the man who threatened to shoot people 😉 ). The picture of Judi and Sassy reminded me of one my husband took of me a while ago in western Pennsylvania.

Something that represents where you live

Since I now live in Arizona, I considered a saguaro cactus or maybe the Grand Canyon—but no, too predictable. Instead, here’s a sunset pic taken from my front yard, with a mesquite tree in the foreground and palms in the background.  Sunset colors are caused by light filtered through particles in the air. Deserts have lots of dust, hence spectacular sunsets.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Behold my dog Twiggles, a tailless schnoodle whom we adopted from an animal rescue organization three years ago. Although she’s terrible at walking on a leash, she’s tempered, friendly, and loves my three-year-old grandson. We’ve had many dogs over the years, but Twiggles is one of the best.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Weeds! We have a corner lot with much space for errant plants, and I feel a modicum of pressure not to have the crummiest place in the neighborhood. You might think the southern Arizona desert wouldn’t support many weeds, but you’d be wrong. It’s a lush desert, with almost too much rain to be classified a desert. Weeds grow like, well, like weeds.

Jill: Weeding was a popular answer for this question this summer. (See Diane Burton’s and Renee Regent’s 5 Photos post.) I get it! Weeding drives everyone nuts!! In Diane’s post, I shard that the weeds in our back garden were so bad, we decided to just plant grass back there this year and take the summer off from growing our own vegetables. The grass is coming along. We planted morning glories along the fence (still growing) and there’s some mint left from the herb patch we had. Next summer, we’ll probably turn that area back into a vegetable garden, but some other ideas we toyed with were more bees, chickens, goats (I don’t think there’s enough room), and making the whole thing one big strawberry patch.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

This is a picture of a picture on my music room wall, my lone souvenir of the last time I performed a solo concerto. I’ve been a musician far longer than I’ve been a writer, serving as principal oboist of one orchestra or another for 40 years. As I said above, I’m getting old. These days I play for fun, not money. This weekend, we played Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony—and I loved every minute of it.

Jill: Awesome!! That’s fantastic that you still enjoy performing. Have you seen Mozart in the Jungle? I started watching and enjoyed the episodes I saw, but I’m very behind. If you’ve seen it, wondering what you think…?

 

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

She was born to kill. Not love.

Jo Beaverpaw is born fully grown, well-armed, and impatient to tackle her destiny … which is to kill her alien nation’s most wanted fugitive. Her life is pre-programmed and straightforward – until she meets the sexy bodyguard of her intended target.

Wonder what would happen if Schwarzenegger’s robot assassin in the original Terminator had been a bad-assed (yet petite) female?  Find out in Newborn.

What are you working on next?

The fourth novel in my Alien Contact for Idiots series is tentatively titled Rescuing Prince Charming.  Although it follows Newborn, both books stand alone.  The manuscript has been a real problem child; this is my third attempt to salvage it.  Sigh.

Jill: I feel like all of my manuscripts were problem children. 😀

What are you currently reading?

Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Sophia Henry, a New Adult novel that blends two things I love: hockey and romance.  So far I’m extremely impressed.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I recently finished watching seasons one through nine of Murdoch Mysteries.  In general, though, I don’t watch much TV.  I’d rather spend the time writing.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Standing out from the hordes of books and authors to get an audience.

How can we meet that challenge?

When I figure that out, I’ll let you know.

You can find Ed online here: 

Thanks, Ed, for guest blogging today!

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5 PHOTOS: Viola Carr, author of THE DASTARDLY MISS LIZZIE (#steampunk #giveaway #writerslife)

Steampunk author Viola Carr’s latest Electric Empire novel releases today! She’s here with her five writers life photos, more info about The Dastardly Miss Lizzie, and a chance to win the previous two books in the series. Welcome, Viola!

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

Viola: Well, I’m not sure it’s exactly unique, but I love to play my oboe. It’s a quirky instrument that I think was invented by the same people who decided it would be fun to make that ancient Greek bloke push his rock up the same hill for eternity. You have to learn to play it over and over again. For some reason, this is fun…

Jill: Neat! I’ve been watching Mozart in the Jungle lately, which has given me a new appreciation for oboists.

Something that represents where you live

This is the park just out the back of my place. Yes, we really do have kangaroos in the suburbs! We live on the edge of a nature reserve where they rehabilitate endangered native species, which actually involves keeping these handsome creatures out. Kangaroos are a pest in this area. But it’s nice to see them when I go for a walk.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

I have 2 pics here – is that cheating? Here’s the cat, Leeloo, having a nice sleep on my lap. And this is the dog, Arnie, looking sour, interrupted while chowing down on his bone. Writing is often a solitary job, and these two drive me insane…. erm, keep me company when no one else is home.

Definitely not cheating. You can never have too many pet pics! 🙂

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

This is my book nook at home. Don’t get me wrong – I love love love books! What’s frustrating is all the books in there I haven’t yet read. Nasty, insidious things. They whisper to me, accusing, late at night…

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

I love to travel! Last year I returned to Venice, one of my favourite places. I spent a few days wandering the streets and soaking up the sights and sounds. It has a unique, piquant atmosphere. There is no place like it.

More about The Dastardly Miss Lizzie

In the third book in Viola Carr’s fantastically fun and wonderfully edgy Electric Empire novel, set in the gritty world of alternate Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll must team up with her secret other half, Miss Lizzie Hyde, as her world comes crashing to a halt when a madman begins targeting the city’s most important scientists, and sorcerers threaten all she holds dear.

Crime scene physician Eliza Jekyll is trying to share a life with her rebellious second self, Lizzie Hyde. But being two people in one body isn’t easy, not when Eliza has a professional reputation to protect and Lizzie is veering headfirst into a life of debauchery and crime with an increasingly demented Mr. Hyde. Not to mention the difficulty of making a respectable marriage with Remy Lafayette–Royal Society investigator and occasional lycanthrope–while Lizzie enjoys her own dubious romantic entanglements. And with England on the brink of war, Remy’s secretive mission in sorcery-riddled Paris grows ever more sinister. Has he been an enemy agent all along? Or is Eliza finally going mad?

Now, she’s confronted by her most baffling case yet: an evil genius with a penchant for theatrics is murdering eminent scientists in the most inexplicable ways. Her investigation uncovers a murky world of forbidden books, secret laboratories and bleeding-edge science punishable by death–and a shocking connection to her father’s infamous experiments. Desperate to learn the truth about her past, she must infiltrate a cabal of fanatical inventors bent on a discovery that will change the world–or destroy it.

With London under attack by sorcery-wielding terrorists, and the Royal Society’s enforcers determined to bury her evidence for good, Eliza needs all the friends she can get if she’s to thwart the killer and keep her head. But when Lizzie’s criminal shenanigans get Eliza fired from the Metropolitan Police, and Remy is implicated in an act of bloody vengeance he didn’t commit (or did he?), she’s on her own.

Except for wily, resourceful, mercurial Lizzie. But Lizzie’s got her own life now. And she’ll do anything to keep it. Even if it means attempting the unspeakable and finding her own body. Even if it means throwing Eliza to the wolves, and letting the world burn…

Amazon     BN     HarperVoyager     BD    Kobo     iBooks

More about Viola

Viola Carr was born in Australia, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. She likes steampunk, and thought it would be cool to investigate wacky crimes with crazy gadgets…just so long as her heroine was the creator of said wacky gadgets: a tinkerer, edgy, with a dash of mad scientist.

Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook

More about the Giveaway

At the end of her blog tour, Viola is giving away one set of the previous two books in the Electric Empire series — The Diabolical Miss Hyde and The Devious Dr. Jekyll (US only). Click here for the Rafflecopter link and here for Jill’s complete giveaway rules.

Thank you, Viola, for sharing your pictures with us! Have fun on your tour!

Q and A with Jennifer Estep, Author of SNARED (Gin Blanco #16)

Prolific urban fantasy author Jennifer Estep is releasing her sixteenth Gin Blanco novel on April 25th. She’s here today to share a little bit about the novel, as well as what she’s currently reading, watching, and writing. She’s offering a chance to win 5 copies of SNARED and a $20 eGC. Details below. Welcome, Jennifer!

Q&A

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel? 

Snared, Elemental Assassin #16, will be out on April 25. I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, so I’ll just say that Gin Blanco, my heroine, is in a race against time to find a missing girl and battles an unexpected enemy along the way.

What are you working on next? 

As of right now, I’m planning to write three more Elemental Assassin books after Snared. That should let me finish out the story arc with Gin and the Circle. I’m also writing three spinoff books from my Mythos Academy young adult series, and I’m working on an epic fantasy book too.

What are you currently reading? 

I have several books in my TBR pile that I am looking forward to reading, including Deadly Silence by Rebecca Zanetti, Royally Matched by Emma Chase, and You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando.

What are you currently watching? 

I’m a big fantasy and superhero fan, so I’m watching shows like Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Agents of Shield, Once Upon a Time, and Iron Fist.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?  

I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I tend to like animal sidekicks, objects that talk, and villains with a lot of personality and charisma, like Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin from the Daredevil TV show.

Biggest challenge facing writers today? 

For me, one of the biggest challenges is just making time to write. Authors do so many different things – social media, answering emails, blogging, advertising, etc. – that it can sometimes be hard to find time to just sit down and write the book.

How can we meet that challenge?

I think it’s helpful to figure what works best for you as a writer. Are you more productive in the mornings? After lunch? At night? On the weekends? I think figuring that out can help you maximize your writing time and what you can get done.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Happy reading, everyone!

More about SNARED

If you don’t know Gin “the Spider” Blanco, you don’t know dangerous female heroines.

Irony 101—The Spider herself snared in someone else’s web…

Another week, another few clues trickling in about the Circle, the mysterious group that supposedly runs the city’s underworld. Gathering intel on my hidden enemies is a painstaking process, but a more immediate mystery has popped up on my radar: a missing girl.

My search for the girl begins on the mean streets of Ashland, but with all the killers and crooks in this city, I’m not holding out much hope that she’s still alive.

A series of clues leads me down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and I realize that the missing girl is really just the first thread in this web of evil. As an assassin, I’m used to facing down the worst of the worst, but nothing prepares me for this new, terrifying enemy—one who strikes from the shadows and is determined to make me the next victim.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | IndieBound | Kobo | iBook | Google Play | Audible

More about Jennifer

Jennifer Estep is a New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. She is the author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series, the Black Blade young adult urban fantasy series, and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

More about the Giveaway

There’s a tour-wide giveaway for copies of SNARED and a $20 Amazon gift card. Open to US residents only. Click here for the Rafflecopter link and here for Jill’s complete giveaway rules.

5 Photos with N.D. Jones, Author of BOUND SOULS (#writerslife #SFR)

Fellow Marylander N.D. Jones shares another batch of writer’s life photos, as well as information about her latest release, Bound Souls, a science fiction romance. Welcome, N.D.!


The Photographs

Something that represents something unique about you

nd-jones-baltimore

I was married at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Recently, my daughter was going through my wedding album. And, to my surprise, she had no idea her father and I were married at the museum, although she’s been there on field trips. Her older brother knew, so I assumed she did as well. Needless to say, that bit of old-new news led to a very nice discussion with my daughter while she flipped through the wedding album, asking questions and making remarks so typical of teenage girls who think themselves witty and cute.

Jill: My daughters like to look through family albums too. I wish I had more of them. I’ve been horrible about printing copies of my digital photos and putting them in albums.

Something that represents where you live

nd-jones-raven

I was born and raised in Maryland, and I love football. More, I love the Baltimore Ravens. Now, loving football and the Ravens does not equate to me actually enjoying watching my team play. Because, really, I don’t court that much angst and frustration in my life. Which, if you ever watched the Ravens play, you know precisely what I’m talking about.

Alas, no one in my immediate family is a football fan. Sometimes, we feel like we’re the only Marylanders who don’t watch fall football. 🙂

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for

(besides your human family/friends)

nd-jones-stuffed-animals

While I consider myself a wonderful mother and wife, (No, you don’t need to verify my claim by asking my husband and children. Just take my word for it and the rest of this interview will go smoothly.) I haven’t extended my stellar nurturing skills to plants or animals. I do, however, have a collection of stuffed animals I keep on my bed—gifted to me by various members of my family. The cute unicorn in the pic is the most recent addition, given to me this past Christmas by my daughter. So, in lieu of taking care of something I could actually kill through neglect, I take care of a brood of stuff animals, who require nothing more than to be picked up off the floor every morning and placed back on their throne at the foot of my bed.

Everyone should have a rainbow-colored unicorn. Adorable!

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

nd-jones-laptop

I have a love/hate relationship with my computer and Internet. I need both for professional, personal, and academic purposes—like most people. But the Wi-Fi in my home can be so frustratingly slow, at times, especially in the evenings when I need it the most. And I have this ridiculously large screen laptop with tons of features and great sound quality, which hardly matters at all because it’s obscenely slow. Not it’s-an-old-laptop kind of slow, because it isn’t, but overpriced-name brand-got-you-to-buy me-stupid kind of slow.

Would Pratt Library or BCPL work better for you some of those nights?

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

nd-jones-comics

I’m a big comic book fan. I especially love reading comics with positively-depicted African American characters, as well as comics with awesome couples. A few of my favorite comics were canceled, such as Superman/Wonder Woman. And the superhero couples I used to love to read are no longer a couple, such as Storm and Black Panther. Sigh. I miss those days. But I still have Saga, which is great. And I just purchased the first issue of Tuskegee Heirs.

Neat!


The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

A supernatural love triangle that tests the bounds of science, truth, and faith.

What are you working on next?

My goal is to complete the third and final book in my Death and Destiny paranormal romance trilogy. I love this witch/shapeshifter series. I’ve spent more time with the hero and heroine from this series than any of my novellas, the length giving me an opportunity to explore the characters and their unique world. For those interested readers, Of Beasts and Bonds, the second book in the trilogy, is free on Kindle Unlimited.

What are you currently reading?

Forever Vacancy: A Colors in Darkness Anthology. It’s a great collection of horror stories written by talented independent authors. There is a Colors in Darkness Facebook page and website that are platforms for fans of diverse, multicultural horror, dark fiction, and paranormal stories. If you haven’t checked out this one-of-a-kind book, I highly recommend the read.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

While I don’t watch television nearly as much nowadays, I started Emerald City a few weeks ago, which we watch, faithfully, as a family every Friday night. My husband and I also started watching Colony on Netflix. We just finished season one and are now picking up with season two on USA Network. Thus far, they are both well-acted and plotted shows, which is what I want in a television show.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

As a self-published author, my biggest challenge is getting my novels before interested readers—finding my niche audience. I wish I had a magical formula to solve the challenge, but I do not. I’ve read books on marketing, as well as participated in webinars, all with a theory to promote the author platform and/or gain email subscribers. It’s an uphill battle, and one I have yet to master or conquer.

It’s an uphill battle for all of us. Stay the course! 🙂

How can we meet that challenge?

My goal is to be more purposeful and strategic with my marketing, using the vast experience of others to help me make better, more informed decisions.


More info on ND Jones and her recent release

N. D. Jones lives in Maryland with her husband and two children. She is the founder of Kuumba Publishing, an art, audiobook, eBook, and paperback company. Kuumba Publishing is a forum for creativity, with a special commitment to promoting and encouraging creative works of authors and artists of African descent.

A desire to see more novels with positive, sexy, and three-dimensional African American characters as soul mates, friends, and lovers, inspired the author to take on the challenge of penning such romantic reads. She is the author of two paranormal romance series: Winged Warriors and Death and Destiny. N.D. likes to read historical and paranormal romance novels, as well as comics and manga.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

nd-jones-bound-souls

Regent Lela of Asiya is the most powerful person on her planet but she is powerless to save the life of her beloved soulmate—Zion Grace. For thirty years they lived as husband and wife, but Zion’s time is at an end. Lela must go on without him.

“There will never be anyone else for me.”

Despite having died, nothing can keep Zion from his soulmate. He’s back but not as the man he once was. Zion must help Lela move on with her life, lest he lose her forever. But how can Zion convince Lela to accept the love and affections of another man when he still wants her for himself?

“I love you, Lela. My heart is forever yours.”

Lela and Zion are bound souls, destined to live eternity together. For these lovers, death is not an end, but a fateful beginning.

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Inkterra | iBooks


Thank you, N.D., for the great interview and for sharing your photos. Good luck and best wishes!

5 Photos with Jasmine Silvera (#writerslife)

Five Photographs is back! 

Jasmine reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked if I was still doing my “Five Photographs” interviews. She told me a little bit about her book, Death’s Dancer — “Set in an alternate present in the city of Prague, it follows a woman who draws power from the gods when she dances as she must help a powerful necromancer solve a series of murders” — and then mentioned she started it during NaNoWriMo. I was intrigued.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my “5 Photos” interviews, I ask writers (both published and pre-published) to submit five of their own photos based on my prompts + a brief Q&A.


Jasmine Silvera’s 5 Photos:

Something that represents something unique about you

jasmine-silvera-unique

This is a view of the Prague Castle from nearby Petrin Tower.  We moved to the Czech Republic for work and lived there for almost two years.  It fulfilled my long-held dream to live abroad. Prague is an amazing city and it inspired the setting for my novel, Death’s Dancer. It has a grand tradition of being a haven for writers and artists, and I wrote the first draft in coffee shops close to places I was writing about. We also have the best “souvenir” from our time in Prague: our daughter was born there!

Something that represents where you live

jasmine-silvera-where-you-live

Seattle is my favorite city in the US. We moved back in the latter half of 2016 and I love calling the Pacific Northwest home. This fountain is at Seattle Center, and the water display is coordinated with music. In the summer, kids of all ages play in the base. The rest of the year, it’s a wonderful meeting spot for catching a show at one of the surrounding theaters, or a movie at the IMAX.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

jasmine-silvera-thing-you-care-for

This is “baby Groot.” I have a slight addiction to starting avocado trees from pits. My husband jokes that if I’m not careful I’m going to have my own forest.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

jasmine-silvera-thing-that-frustrates-you

Reading music. I can play back things I’ve heard, but sheet music is my nemesis.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

jasmine-silvera-joy

I started playing the cello when I turned 30, after a lifetime of loving classical music but not feeling particularly musically inclined. [REDACTED 😉 ] years later, I still feel like a beginner. Though my progress has been impacted by moves and the kidlet (not to mention book publishing) I still enjoy breaking out the cello and playing simple pieces.


Q&A

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Death’s Dancer shakes up paranormal romance with a thriller set in an alternate present-day Prague: a world ruled by an allegiance of necromancers in which humans can draw on the power of gods through dance.

Forced to work together to solve a series of murders, a dancer nearing the end of her career and a formidable necromancer learn that someone “higher up” may not want them to succeed. Failure will cost more than their lives, success will threaten the world’s fragile peace…and the only thing more dangerous than the killer they seek is the attraction growing between them.

What are you working on next?

There are at least two more books set in the same world as Death’s Dancer, and I’m chipping away at them.

What are you currently reading?

Lately I’ve been enjoying the style and efficient storytelling of comics and graphic novels. Both Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, and Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk books are on my nightstand.

I’m also slowly reading “The Thing Around Your Neck,” a collection of short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Finally Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is a favorite I return to on a regular basis. I love Lamott’s essays. She’s one of the few writers that can make me laugh out loud.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

This Is Us, The Grand Tour, and Mozart in the Jungle. We don’t own an actual TV, so I tend to binge shows (yay for online streaming) and always be a half-season to a season behind.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Does Dr. Strange’s cape count as a creature? 🙂

In the vein of “every tool is a weapon if you hold it right,” Hermione’s Time Turner is at the top of my list.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

To paraphrase Peter Parker’s uncle Ben: With self-publishing comes great power, but also great responsibility. I believe everyone has a voice, and a story to tell, and I am so grateful that we live in an age where you can do that without the gatekeeper of a publisher if you so choose. I think writers also have a responsibility to readers to produce the highest quality work. (It’s also smart business.)

Maybe there are people who can write and self-edit a book until it’s spotless, and market and distribute that book to thousands of 5 star reviews, but they’re unicorns. Anyone else have trouble catching your own typos? Everyone I know who is doing it well creates a team around them: beta-readers, editors, proofers, cover design, etc. Of course, that creates the additional challenge of how to identify your team, and it may take additional resources ($$ and/or time) but in my mind, worth it.

How can we meet that challenge?

There are millions of configurations for creating a team, from hiring freelancers to creating a circle of fellow writers and trading assistance at various stages. I do a little bit of both. It does take letting go of ego and valuing feedback. If you want a good chuckle, ask me sometime to show you the cover I did for Death’s Dancer before I swallowed my pride and reached out to the excellent folks at Damonza. At the end of the day, I still have creative control, but I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and when to step back and let someone with more professional experience make me look good.


More about Death’s Dancer

deaths-dancer

Isela Vogel is dancing on borrowed time: a degenerative hip threatens her successful career, bringing the favor of the gods to her wealthy patrons. One final job – and a big one – could set Isela up for life. If it doesn’t get her killed. As the newest member of a powerful Allegiance of Necromancers, Azrael has a lot to prove to his fellow lords of death. Previously assumed to be immortal, necromancers are turning up dead and Azrael must find an extraordinary killer. He’ll need to channel the power of the gods to succeed. For that, he’ll need a dancer. Isela discovers all-too-fallible gods and scheming necromancers are the least of her worries. If she and Azrael fail, it will cost more than her life. If they succeed, she will lose everything she loves. And then there’s the danger of falling for a lord of death.

Jasmine is giving away 10 signed proofs on Goodreads. Click here to enter.

More about Jasmine

jasmine-silvera

Jasmine Silvera acquired a love of sci-fi, fantasy, and comic books from her dad, who thought The Hobbit was a perfectly acceptable bedtime story for a ten-year-old. She filled long hours as a volunteer at the church thrift store by reading boxes of donated Harlequins. She’s been mixing them all up in her writing ever since. Inspired by and written during her two years living in Prague, her first book Death’s Dancer, was released on December 27, 2016 by Kindle Press. It was selected as part of the Kindle Scout Program. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their small, opinionated human charge. She can be found online here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Thank you, Jasmine, for sharing your photos and telling us a little bit more about Death’s Dancer and your writing. Best wishes to you!

Author Interview: L.D. Rose, Physician by Day, Writer by Night

Today’s guest is urban fantasy author L.D. Rose, whose latest book, BLACK BULLET, was released earlier this month. I asked her to share her thoughts on time management, superheroes, her vampire series, what it’s like to live in Rhode Island, and pictures of her pets. She gamely answered all my questions, provided adorable furry friend photos, and a chance to win a $10 Amazon eGC + a print copy of her first book. Details below. Welcome, Linda!

Being a doctor is a demanding job. How do you balance work, writing, and having a personal life? Do you have any time management tips for writers who are struggling to find time to write?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I do it, LOL! I don’t have children and it’s just hubby, our pets, and me so that helps. I tend to do most of my writing on my rare days off, weekends, and especially staycations (I enter total author mode then!). A lot of my promotion is on the go, during quick breaks at work and such. I designate time to study and keep up with doctoring, exercising, writing/revising/promotion, and spending time with hubby every day. Sometimes it’s hard to stick to a schedule, and sometimes one thing takes up much more than the others, but it’s all a matter of just MAKING the time in the end. If you truly want it, you have to fit it into your daily life.

As for finding time to write, many people use timers and such, but that’s never worked for me. I generally designate complete days to write. If I have a day off coming up, I say, “Hey, I’m going to write for at least half of it, then spend time with family/friends/hubby.” Granted, the rest of the week will fill up with my studies and other extraneous things, but I prefer to get a huge chunk out and focus solely on writing for that period of time (rather than a half hour here and there). I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worked well for me so far. Writing every day is essentially impossible for me, so I tend to designate writing time on a weekly basis.

Your bio says you’re a wanna be superhero. Tell us more! What would your backstory be? What superpowers, weapons, or tools would you use? What would you wear while fighting villains? Would you have any sidekicks? Did you see Doctor Strange? What did you think of it?

Oh my goodness, what a question, LOL!

Yeah, my superpower is asking long, rambling questions… 😉

Well, I grew up poor and my family (and I) had to work our asses off to have even simple comforts. Experiencing this definitely influenced my perception and overall views on life, so I definitely wouldn’t have taken the Bruce Wayne route, haha! I’d probably end up more along the lines of Catwoman or Jessica Jones, where they kind of just stumble in on being a superhero, LOL.

As for superpowers, I’d love to be able to heal people (naturally), but I’ve always had a thing for psychic powers such as telepathy or telekinesis. Although it would be a huge burden, I’m always questioning people’s motives, actions, and what the hell they’re thinking! Telekinesis would definitely cater to my intermittent laziness (haha), but since I lack physical strength in general, it would prove useful if I want to kick some ass. 😉

I’m pretty good with a gun (shhh), but that’s boring, so I’d love to use knives or daggers as my weapon of choice. A dart gun loaded with some interesting drug cocktails would be useful too. 😉 As for clothes, I’d definitely go the more comfortable route, much like the modernized version of Wonder Woman. Anything I could easily maneuver in along with sneakers or boots. I’d wear my hair up too, nothing more annoying than getting hair in your face while you’re trying to lay the beat down! There’s no way I could fight with heels and a catsuit, either, that’s outrageous.

Agreed!

As for a sidekick, I think I’d go with my dog, haha! Animals make the best sidekicks. I didn’t see Doctor Strange, but I’d love to, and will soon!

You’re currently writing a vampire series called The Order of the Senary. What is the Senary? How many books will be in the series? Do the books have other supernatural creatures in them?

“Senary” means anything related to the number six, so essentially “The Order of Six.” The Senary is a group of six male mercenaries assigned to protect NYC, all genetically engineered half-human, half-vampire hybrids with side effects that lead to each having a distinct “superpower.” I essentially took everything I loved about the paranormal and comics and mashed them together into this series. Each novel revolves around one of these fellas and both the internal and external battles they endure. Not to mention how they each find their one true love, whether human, vampire, or something else entirely.

I’m planning for seven books in this series, one for each hybrid and an extra for a certain “good” vampire (whose story is BLACK BULLET, incidentally!). Maybe I’ll do a spinoff revolving around a separate Order someday, but for now I’m drawing a hard line there. The novels are dominated by vampires in a dystopian world where they seize their place at the top of the food chain and actively hunt humans. The hybrids with their “traits” are their own breed, and I do plan for cameos of a few other types of supernatural creatures, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers! 😀

What’s it like to live in Rhode Island? What are some of your favorite things to do there?

RI is a great little state and grossly underestimated! My favorite thing about RI is the ocean; we definitely have gorgeous beaches here and I spend way too much time walking on them! There’s also plenty to do, with mountains, snowboarding and hiking nearby along with some FAB restaurants (thanks to one of the nation’s premier culinary schools being located in Providence). I live just outside of the city and it’s perfect for me—not too overwhelming with plenty of activities to do. I definitely miss NYC (where I went to medical school), and someday I might return, but for now I’m enjoying my little stint here in America’s smallest state.

I’ve never been to Rhode Island, but your description makes me want to go!

Does your dog get along with your cats? Names? Pictures?

She does, shockingly! One of my cats, Oreo, definitely gets along with her and they frequently play with each other. Milk, on the other hand, tends to be more standoffish with her, but I’ve caught them cuddling. Milk and Oreo (both brothers) are eight years old and Kaia (my Boxer) came along when they were two. She adores them both like siblings, probably because she doesn’t know any better, LOL. It also helps that both cats are very friendly and “doglike,” so they all probably think they’re human, haha. I absolutely love them and I don’t know what I would do without them!

They are adorable! Love their names!!

More about Black Bullet

black-bulletFledgling vampire Jonathan Kerr has just met his match.

Not even his past life as a former marine and FBI agent could prepare him for the battle against the monster inside him, struggling to take hold. After an old nemesis of the Senary surfaces in Brooklyn, unleashing chaos and terror in the battered borough, Jon sets out to take him down. Instead, he ends up with far more than he bargained for when he clashes with the beautiful half-vampire hybrid, Lawan Knight.

After escaping near death and suffering unspeakable horror at the hands of vampires, Lawan trusts no one, regardless of species. In between bouts of drunken stupor, her only goal is to exterminate all those who’ve wronged her, including every member of Jon’s vampire bloodline. But Jon’s soulful eyes and quick smile crawls under her skin, transforming her black and white world into a hazy shade of gray.

As the days rapidly grow darker, Jon and Lawan turn to one another, but their inner demons threaten to tear them apart. The only way either of them will survive is if they overcome their greatest fear—love.

Amazon     Goodreads

More about Linda

L.D. Rose is a neurotic physician by day, crazed writer by night, and all around wannabe superhero. She writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but she’s been known to delve into horror, sci-fi, and medical suspense on occasion. L.D. Rose is a PAN member of the RWA, FF&P, NEC-RWA and CoLoNY. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her studly hubby, her hyperactive boxer, and her two devious cats.

Sign up for her newsletter for the latest on the Senary, sneak peeks, giveaways, and other fun stuff.  You’ll receive a free horror short story with sign-up! You can also join her street team on FB for more shenanigans: DEVOUR THE NIGHT.

Where else to find her:

More about the Giveaway

Linda is giving away one $10 Amazon eGift Certificate and a print copy of RELEASING THE DEMONS. (U.S. residents can have the book signed). Click here for the Rafflecopter link. Click here for my complete giveaway rules.

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Thank you for the terrific interview, Linda! Best wishes for Black Bullet!

Author Interview: Juliette Cross on Dogs, Dragons, Romance, and Writing

My guest today is Juliette Cross, author of the paranormal/fantasy romance DRAGON IN THE BLOOD. Since Juliette and I both have labs, there are DOG PICTURES!!! I also ask her about some other fun topics: Gothic romance, worldbuilding, the biggest challenge of writing characters that are human-dragon hybrids, and the hero and heroine from her novel. She’s offering the chance to win a $25 Amazon eGC. Details below. Welcome, Juliette!


Jill: I read that you have a black lab, Kona. I have a chocolate lab puppy, Tug. Labs are known for their loyalty and their chewing tendencies, at least during the first year or two. Has Kona ever chewed anything she shouldn’t have? Feel free to share any Kona stories and a picture!

Juliette: OMG! Kona chews EVERYTHING! We’ve bought her several chew toys of her own, but she’s so playful, she loses them under furniture then steals stuffed animals and toys from my five-year-old’s room. We recently went on a family vacation and Jackson came back with a stuffed otter. The first day we were home, Kona was hiding in the corner with it. Jackson said, “Kona ate Bodie (the otter’s name) and now he can’t see anymore.” Kona chewed off the eyes first as she always does. Good thing we love her!

You’re a fan of Gothic romance. Me too! Have you written any Gothic romance stories? Any favorite Gothic romance authors or titles you can share?

Ooooo, my favorite topic. Actually, a good bit of my writing has dark elements, settings, and emotional threads, similar to Gothic literature. I’d say my historical paranormal THE DEEPEST WELL is the most Gothic of my romances that I’ve written thus far. Demons and darkness abound in that one. As for my own favorites, most of my friends already know that JANE EYRE is my favorite book ever written, and it’s also considered Gothic lit. The misty moors, the brooding hero, the unlikely heroine, the mystery in the attic—all of it appeals to my love of the Gothic romance.

I love to hear about how authors build their worlds. Are there any behind-the-scenes details you can tell us about Gladium Province, the Morgon Guard, Nightwing Security, or the Wastelands of Aria?

I think it’s important to know that while Gladium Province prides itself on its desegregation laws and mixture of the populations of humans and Morgons, just like in the real world, there are people who hate for no reason. And no law can change that. As for the Morgon Guard, I’d like readers to know this is the global police force for all Morgon provinces. However, it’s also their military. It is expected for all Morgon males to do service time in the Morgon Guard, but of course there are always rebels who don’t. Nightwing Security is a private security team started by the Nightwing family living in Gladium to protect the interests of Morgons living and working in the city. But they are now more than guns-for-hire. They work with the Gladium Precinct as well as the Morgon Guard to help maintain law and order.

As for Aria, I can tell readers that my inspiration for this frozen wasteland was the “Wild West” of America. Outlaws flee there to escape punishment and to live on the fringes of society. And just like in the old west, all those passing through must beware of dangerous predators and hostile natives.

What was one of the biggest challenges of writing characters who are Morgons—human-dragon hybrids?

The only thing I find difficult is during technical scenes where I must remember they have wings and so they move, sit, stand, even have sex differently than humans. And because of their wings, they even think differently, especially during travel. This inspired some interesting scenes, such as their conversation with the Morgon priest they meet on their first stop in Aria.

Sounds like your hero and heroine have some great chemistry! Can you tell us something about them that you haven’t yet shared?

Hmmm, I’d probably share that Valla wants nothing more than to give in to her desires for Conn, but she often resists because she’s afraid this will make her weak. She doesn’t think like most women because she never had a woman’s or a mother’s influence growing up. What she doesn’t realize (which Conn does), and it takes her a while to do so, is that Conn’s love will only make her stronger. Luckily, my heroines and heroes always learn from their mistakes.


Dragon In The Blood

More about Dragon in the Blood

When desire bites, there’s no patience for a slow burn.

While all seems quiet in Gladium Province, the Morgon Guard—the global justice force for the dragon hybrid race—knows their enemy is rebuilding its forces in the underground.

Valla Moonring, an assassin for the Order of the Morgon Guard, is ordered on a mission into the Wastelands of Aria—a formidable, icy wilderness fraught with all manner of dangers, including outlaws, deadly weather, and big-game predators.

To her great distaste, she’s partnered with a Nightwing Security operative, Conn Rowanflame, a Morgon with the aggravating ability to get under her skin. While she takes her mission seriously, Conn’s confident charm throws her off balance, a dangerous place to be in conditions like these. Especially when cold nights require close contact.

Sensual attraction binds them ever closer, igniting a passion of unexpected force—the soulfire. But when the hunters become the hunted, their bond could prove perilous. Even fatal…

DragonInTheBlood_Teaser2

Available at Amazon


More about Juliette

Juliette lives in lush, moss-laden Louisiana where she lives with her husband, four kids, and black lab, Kona. Multi-published author of paranormal and urban fantasy romance, she loves reading and writing brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.

You can discover more of Juliette and her books on her website.

More about the Giveaway

Juliette is giving away one tour-wide $25 Amazon eGift Certificate. To enter to win, click here for the Rafflecopter form. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thanks for a great interview, Juliette!

Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours: Interview with Roxanne Rhoads (#BookMarketing)

Today, my guest is the fantastic Roxanne Rhoads. As many of you know, Roxanne helped me to organize blog tours for all of my Noon Onyx books, as well as cover reveals for my second and third books. She was wonderful to work with. Her book, SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS is currently on sale at Amazon for $0.99. It’s a great overview — perfect for new writers considering their promo options.

After reading it, I asked Roxanne a handful of questions about virtual book tours, teasers, graphic designers, review copies, multi-author events, and how authors can support their local booksellers while promoting their books online. Her answers are below, along with an excerpt and TWO giveaway chances: one through Goodreads and one via Rafflecopter. Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments. Welcome, Roxanne!

Roxanne Rhoads Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours

Do you have any specific advice for authors who have already toured with you?

Stay visible, continue to network, and keep your social media up to date. I spoke with one author who has tried it all, ads, promotions, sales…she said the thing that worked best was to stay present. Remain visible online, keep interacting on social media whether you have a new book or not.

Author interviews, excerpts, and contests are a mainstay of virtual book tours. Your book points out that the most successful blog tours also include guest posts with engaging content and visuals. You mention “teasers” in particular. Can you share a few examples from past tours?

I am working on a Pinterest board featuring teasers, here’s the link:

Can you recommend a few graphic designers and/or programs or applications that authors can use to create these?

Canva is a good one for teasers, they have some fun templates to work with. If you want to make a collage Pixlr Express has a nice collage feature I use for putting together scene images.

Eva Talia is a Bewitching partner who offers discount graphics services for Bewitching clients.

You advise authors to provide a review copy. Is piracy a legitimate concern for those authors who share digital copies of their book with potential reviewers?

It seems like many people don’t see the value in digital content. They don’t even think it is stealing to share eBooks, music, movies…if it is not a physical object it’s not “real” and they don’t want to pay for it.

For authors, I think piracy can be an issue no matter how safe they try to keep their eBooks. There is always a risk. The sad thing is that some pirating seems to stem from the bookstore sales sites. If someone buys your eBook and returns it, that’s when you need to start checking pirate sites. Pirates will find a way no matter what.  I had a book end up on a pirate site and the only place I had posted it so far was Amazon. I hadn’t even sent any copies to reviewers yet. There’s no way it could have been leaked through an outside source.

Authors need the book reviewed, which means they need to get it into the hands of reviewers. Stick with trusted bloggers and reviewers to minimize risk. You can also add water marks and password protects to pdf review copies.

The sad fact is that digital content gets pirated and no matter how diligent we are it still happens.

I love that your book ended with a reminder that in-person events aren’t a thing of the past. What are some of the things authors might do to support local booksellers while they’re touring?

Always talk to local bookstores about live events. Many local stores are happy to support area authors. Authors can also work with local bookstores for author meetings and multi-author events. Some stores will even partner with authors to sell signed copies of books.

Kim Harrison is a great example of an author supporting a local book store. She partners with Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, MI and signs a bunch of her books that the book store sells both in store and online. If readers and fans can’t attend one of her live signings she points them to Nicola’s to order a signed copy.

Speaking of in-person events, I think the ones that are the most fun are those where authors join forces with other authors. Is there a blog tour equivalent? What sort of events do you and/or other blog companies offer that bring authors and readers together online in one place at one time?

Multi-author Facebook events are a great way for authors to join together and do a live online event. Each author gets a block of time to chat, do giveaways, play games, etc. Multi-author blog tours that coincide with Facebook parties can offer the best of both worlds. Online convenience and real-time event interaction. Bewitching offers custom packages for groups of authors wishing to set up this type of event.

Can you tell us more about Fang-tastic Books?

Fang-tastic Books started out as my vampire book review blog, though it now focuses on all types of books including paranormal romance, urban fantasy, horror, and cozy mysteries with paranormal elements. It is where I really started focusing on book blogging, reviewing, and paranormal book promotions. I started the blog in 2008 and have been running it ever since. My review quotes (often listed as Fang-tastic Books) are on covers and in the front of many books including those by Juliet Blackwell, Chloe Neill, and Annette Blair.

BBT has been in business since 2010. Do you occasionally add new services? Is there anything new you’re considering adding to your menu of services for 2016?

Bewitching is always trying new things to see what works, what draws in readers. Twitter parties, Facebook events, live video chats, chatrooms, our magazine, book swag creations and the radio show… some things we keep, others don’t seem to work so we move on to something new.

For 2016 I have some ideas I am tossing around but nothing solid that I have firmly decided on yet. I will say one option I am considering, is adding is the creation of Thunderclap campaigns.

I am always open to discussing options for custom tour packages or ongoing PR services.

SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL

VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS

Excerpt

The world of publishing is continuously evolving thanks to technology and the Internet. It is now easier than ever to publish a book. But with the growing number of new books being released every day it is also harder than ever to get your book noticed in the crowd.

If your line of thinking includes “If I publish it, people will buy it,” think again.

Indie publishing requires a dedication to self-promotion. Gone are the days an author hermits them self away to write, then hands the book to the publisher who does all the leg work for promotion. Even NYT Bestselling authors and those with contracts through the big publishers still have to do a certain amount of self-promotion.

There are many ways to promote:  social media, advertising on popular websites and blogs, print advertising in trade magazines, attending reader oriented conventions and events…but one of the best ways to get your book out there and build name recognition as an author is through a virtual book tour.

In this Quick Tips for Authors Guide, you will learn why a virtual book tour can be an author’s most effective marketing tool.

Roxanne Rhoads Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours Amazon Sale

More about Roxanne

Roxanne Rhoads has been working in the world of online book promotion since 2005. She has worked as a freelance writer, author, book reviewer, book blogger, editor, self-publisher and book publicist. She has a unique advantage of knowing how multiple sides of book publishing and promotion operate.

Roxanne understands how book bloggers work and what they want to make their jobs easier while also understanding that authors need promotion to be streamlined, easy, and less time consuming.

Roxanne shares some of her knowledge in her latest release, Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours.

More about Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours

Are you considering a virtual book tour?

Not sure where to start or exactly what an online tour will entail?

Roxanne Rhoads, book publicist and owner of Bewitching Book Tours, shares her virtual tour expertise in this Quick Tips for Authors Guide.

Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours will guide you in utilizing the best marketing tool available a virtual book tour, which can create online exposure for your book, jumpstart your book sales, help build your author brand, and expand your network.

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • what you should do before a tour
  • the components of a great author website
  • the best social media outlets for authors to utilize
  • tips for building your author brand
  • how to write great guest blogs
  • what to expect from an online book tour
  • the secrets of successful book tours
  • how to schedule your own virtual book tour

And you’ll receive in-depth details about what to do during a virtual book tour to guarantee success.

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Scribd | iBooks | Smashwords | Inktera | Createspace

Giveaways

Roxanne is giving away a Bewitching Book Tours Release Day Blitz or Cover Reveal (winner’s choice) and an ecopy of her book Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours at the end of her tour. For the Rafflecopter form, click here.

She’s also running a Goodreads giveaway. See the widget below to enter that giveaway. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours by Roxanne Rhoads

Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours

by Roxanne Rhoads

Giveaway ends March 28, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Roxanne Rhoads Secrets of Successful Virtual Book Tours Banner

Thanks for the interview, Roxanne! Wishing you and BBT the best!!

Burning Questions, Haunted Holloways, and Contest Winner

Contemporary romance writer and “professed book nerd” S.L. Marshall found me because my first novel shares a title with T.M. Frazier’s The Dark Light of Day (technically, Noon #1 lacks the the, but I digress…). We connected and she’s helpfully shared several of my posts. We’ve since swapped emails about writing and the writing life and then, a few weeks ago, Susan asked if I wanted to participate in her “5 Burning Questions” series of author interviews. She mentioned that paranormal romance writers weren’t her usual subjects, which sealed the deal for me. Of course I said yes!

Her first question was a question I’d never been asked before—

Kill, marry, or screw: Gideon Cross, Kellan Kyle or YOUR HERO?

Uh…

Susan was game enough to let me tweak the interview questions. Noon answers three questions (including that one, sort of) and I answer another three. I LOVED the interview. It’s been a while since I’ve done one and it was fun. It touches on my Anne Rice crush, her house in New Orleans, the type of stories I want to write and my writing process, as well as Noon’s favorite curse word and who she’d invite to a dinner party. Click here to read the interview. (Noon’s answer to the question I’ve never been asked is a small sneak peek at Pocket Full of Tinder).

Haunted Holloways

If you hop over to Susan’s place, you’ll see (as part of the discussion about The Rosegate House) a link to an Atlas Obscura post. This site/newsletter is my newest diversion. Many of you already know how I love reading and writing about places and buildings that change over time. Well, Atlas Obscura is right up my alley (pun intended)! In its own words:

Atlas Obscura is the definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places.”

There’s a road near me that I’ve always wondered about. It’s a deep-set narrow lane lined with tall, dirt walls instead of a berm. You can’t tell from my photo, but the road has a relatively steep grade. Turns out, it’s a holloway and I have Atlas Obscura to thank for finally helping me figure out its mystery and history. Click here to read their article “Holloways: Roads Tunneled into the Earth by Time” (their pictures of similar sunken lanes from various spots in France and England are much more beautiful than mine from Baltimore County).

WALKER ROAD | BALTIMORE COUNTY HOLLOWAY
WALKER ROAD | BALTIMORE COUNTY HOLLOWAY

Dark Light of Day Pinterest Book Board Contest Winner

My Pinterest book board contest winner is MISTY GEE. Misty, if you follow this blog, let me know whether you want a print copy of DLOD (if you live in the U.S., I can send you a signed copy) or another fantasy book up to $10 from Book Depository (you’ll need to tell me which one and your mailing address). Send me an email at: archer at jillarcher dot com. I’ll also try to reach you on Pinterest.

Putting the Pinterest board together was fun so I’ll have to do another one for Fiery Edge of Steel + another contest soon! 🙂

That’s it for today. Happy reading and writing, all!

Five Photographs: Jill Archer (#writing: challenges, frustrations, joy, and hope!)

No post last week because I was on vacation. We went to wonderful Cape May, a place I’ve blogged about many times. Did some new things there too, which was nice: biked to the lighthouse and climbed to the top, biked to the brewery (a good way to work off the calories of a seasonal sampler! 😀 ), and tried a few new restaurants/bars (among them, The Blue Pig at Congress Hall and 410 Bank Street). But now it’s Monday and time to get back to work!! Today’s Five Photographs guest is ME! 🙂 I share one of the things that brings me joy that I can’t believe no other writer picked. I dish on some things that frustrate me and I tally up everyone’s “biggest challenge facing writers today” answers and add my own. This will be one of the last posts this summer, so please give me a shout out in the comments if you’ve enjoyed this series!

Something that represents something unique about you

Mother Sculpture

My older daughter made this awesome sculpture for me when she was in elementary school. It’s me! There are two kids poking up from my head and arm, a tree growing out of my middle because I love nature, and I’m holding a pencil because I’m a writer — and because my daughter’s art has a practical side. Is that the coolest pencil holder you’ve ever seen or what? 😀

Something that represents where you live

Fly Fishing

There were so many pictures I could have picked for this (see below), but I wanted to share a picture that I hadn’t posted yet so I went with this one. This was taken in the Gunpowder Falls State Park during a hike. The Gunpowder Falls offers world-class catch and release fly fishing. Even though I don’t fish, it’s neat to see the fishermen quietly going about their business in the river as you hike along its banks. It’s an amazingly beautiful park. Hard to believe when you’re in it how close you are to urban centers like Baltimore and York, PA.

And, because I love Maryland so much, here are some links to other posts I’ve done highlighting just some of what Maryland has to offer:

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Panda Plant

I’ve shared lots of pictures over the years of all of my pets so I wanted to share something new. This is the Panda Plant that my daughter grew from a cutting in Ag Science class. It now keeps me company in my office. If you want to see pictures of all of my pets though, here are some links:

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

BUTTONS!!! Not the kind like “he really pushes my buttons” but the myriad, omnipresent buttons that you actually suspect do nothing. They’re smoke and mirrors. You press them and nothing happens (like the “Comfort” button in my car. Huh? What exactly does that thing do?! I notice zero difference when I press it.) And just look at all those buttons on my remote controls!!! (Yes, we actually use all of those. Yes, we probably need a universal remote. But that would just add MORE BUTTONS to my life.) Take my washing machine, for example. Fourteen settings. Fourteen!!! (Convenient that 14 can be divided by 2 so that each side of the dial has an equal number.) And, yep, I realize that my washing machine technically has only one button and the other settings are controlled by a knob. My old machine had half as many settings but they were all buttons. I’m not sure which is worse.

I saved the worst (best?) for last — my alarm clock!!! Retro is cool. This thing is like circa 1985 or something. It picks up weird signals when you leave your cell phone too close to it. And it’s called the “Dream Machine.” But. Really? As if! The thing lives to torture you with its hideous a.m. screech. The one good thing I can say about it is that there are only seven buttons and I know what each and every one of them does. See? They don’t make ’em like they used to. 😀

BTW — a quiz for writers — which buttons can we not live without?

[Hint: QWERTY 🙂 ]

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Coffee

Of course my family brings me joy!! And my friends. And all sorts of other stuff in my life like books, movies, hiking, biking, day tripping, etc. But I had to pick the one thing that I couldn’t believe no one else picked — COFFEE!!! We’re writers for crying out loud! Where’s the COFFEE LOVE?! 😀 Pictured above are three of my favorite coffee mugs.

I also had a runner-up I debated picking:

Pac Man

Yep, PAC-MAN! This is the real deal, folks. Vintage Atari. (My husband still has his old console, as well as about fifty katrillion cartridges. He was much better about keeping all his old electronics than I was.) When I was getting this post together, I was telling him about all of my choices. And before I decided to pick coffee, I told him I picked Pac-Man as the thing that brought me joy. And he was like, “Why?”

Huh?

Why?!?

Because it’s Pac-Man!!!

(In his defense, his question wasn’t because he doesn’t understand the appeal of old video games, but because Adventure is his favorite, not Pac-Man.)

Like vintage gaming? Check out these posts:

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Sometimes a reviewer can say it better than I can:

“A thrilling adventure that brings Noon and her Guardian Angel Rafe, literally to the gates of Hell…” The Qwillery

What are you working on next?

A YA duology and more stories set in Noon’s world.

What are you currently reading?

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Everything I usually watch (GoT, Outlander, Downton Abbey, and Mr. Selfridge) is on hiatus so I may go back to watching Vikings and/or Orphan Black.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Ah, so many choices! And, even though I’m the one who came up with this question, I’ll admit that “what’s your favorite” questions are always tough for me. My favorites constantly change depending on my mood, what I’ve recently read or watched, sentimentality, the season…

So here’s my answer to this question as of today:

Favorite fantasy creature: Temeraire from Naomi Novik’s HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON

Favorite fantasy villain: Lasher from Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR

Favorite fantasy weapon: the sharing knife from its eponymous series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I was curious about the final tally for this question so I went back through everyone’s answers. For the most part, there were six answers:

  • Discoverability (5)
  • Marketing (3)
  • Deciding whether to self-publish or traditionally publish (3)
  • Balancing writer demands like social media and marketing while writing the next book (2)
  • Pressure to write faster and produce more (2)
  • Digital disruption (1)

There’s no doubt these are all significant challenges facing writers today. But I’m going to pick something different yet familiar to all of you writers out there to talk about:

The challenge to KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON. It’s not a new challenge. It’s a timeless one.

How can we meet that challenge?

Challenges will always be there in one iteration or another. Anyone who sets a meaningful goal for themselves will have obstacles to overcome. The key to success is perseverance. Is it hard? Yes!!! Writers suffer rejections, bad reviews, low pay, long hours, self-doubt, and countless other buzz and bliss kills. Some days, meeting the challenge of “keepin’ on” can feel like you’re hiking up Mt. Everest with an anvil on your back.

When it starts to feel like that, take a breather. Do something else. Not for too long, but for a little while. When you return to the mountain the anvil will be lighter. Why? Because it’s not real. Yes, the challenges that writers face are real. But once you step back from them they merge and meld and blend and mix into the rest of what comprises a writer’s life (imagination, creative expression, immersing yourself in stories with emotional resonance, spending time with characters that make you laugh, cry, and/or admire them, the wonderfully rich dynamic between writers and readers, your love of the written word, narrative, drama, etc.)

You will realize that climbing a mountain is difficult but doable. The anvil is no more real than a knot in your shoulder, a cramp in your calf. Rub it out, smudge it out, and keep going!

Have fun and be proud of the fact that YOU ARE HIKING A MOUNTAIN!!! 😀

Five Photographs: Laurel Wanrow (“Without the next book, we are sunk!”)

My last Five Photographs guest is Laurel Wanrow. She’s here with a picture of her blind rescue turtle, as well as more about her debut steampunk fantasy THE UNRAVELING. Welcome, Laurel!

Hi Jill–What a fun way to have an interview! Thanks for extending it through June!

My pleasure, Laurel. I’ve really enjoyed this series and will be sad to wrap it up. But all good things must come to an end. 😀 I’ll be sharing my five pictures soon!

Something that represents something unique about you

Laurel Wantow cabin porch

A cabin built by my dad—with help from his parents—while he was in college. I think it’s unusual these days to have an entirely handcrafted house made by a family member. I’ve visited my entire life and my husband and I have taken our kids just about every year. I also sneak off for writing retreats. 🙂

[Jill: definitely rare and unusual. Looks like the perfect writing retreat!]

Something that represents where you live

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I walk on a nearby golf course and frequently see wildlife: fox, deer, geese and even turtles cross through our neighborhood.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Laurel Wanrow Clady

While working at a nature center I did a lot of turtle rehab and was given an Eastern Box Turtle who crossed the road at the wrong time and lost her eyesight. My daughter was little when she came to live with us and named her Clady. We’ve hand fed Clady for twenty years. She’s between 50 to 80 years old. (It’s hard to tell the age once they’re full-grown.)

[Jill: that is really neat. No one has shared a picture of a pet turtle yet. Clady was lucky to find a home with you.]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Laurel Wanrow door lock

Ohmygosh, our door lock! When we had a new door installed it was hard to work. My husband thought it would loosen up, and we had such a time getting the installer to caulk properly that I hesitated to call them back. Five years later I still hate the thing!

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

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Since my kids were really even too little to hunt fossils we have made family trips Westmoreland State Park along the Potomac River. At low tide we scour the beach for fossilized shark teeth, whale vertebrae and other oddities.

[Jill: hunting for fossils is more popular than I realized. Izzy Norse is also a fan of fossil hunting]

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

In The Unraveling, a steampunk fantasy romance, a proper Victorian artist must learn to use her bloodline’s wild magic to help the shapeshifter she loves, or become what she fears most: another cog in a magnate’s plan to control agriculture.

What are you working on next?

The Unraveling is the first volume of three in a serialized novel called The Luminated Threads. I’ve finished edits on the second volume and am starting them on the third.

What are you currently reading?

Penelope’s Song of Blood & Stone

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

The Big Bang Theory has been a favorite for years. Recently my daughter introduced me to Once Upon A Time, but I’m only in season one.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love Dobby the house-elf and his rather perverse way of ‘helping’ Harry Potter.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Balancing the demands of social media and marketing with keeping your head together to keep writing the next book.

How can we meet that challenge?

I’m not sure I have the answer, since I’m a debut author and just putting into practice the next techniques I’ve heard for years at RWA workshops. The message resonating with me as I approached my first release was Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ oft repeated line “Protect the work.” She usually uses this line when advising writers to get over their review angst, but it applies to all of your writing time. Without the next book, we are sunk!

Laurel Wanrow
Laurel Wanrow

More About Laurel

Before kids, she studied and worked as a naturalist—someone who leads wildflower and other nature walks. When not living in her fantasy worlds, Laurel camps, hunts fossils and argues with her husband and two new adult kids over whose turn it is to clean house. The Unraveling debuted June 23rd.

Thank you for the interview, Laurel, and for sharing your pictures with us today. Good luck and best wishes with THE UNRAVELING!

Five Photographs: J.Kathleen Cheney, Author of the Upcoming THE SHORES OF SPAIN

J. Kathleen Cheney is my next “Five Photographs” guest. I chose her book, THE GOLDEN CITY, as one of my picks for a December 2013 Mind Meld I participated in. The third book in her series, THE SHORES OF SPAIN, is out next month. She’s here with a peek at her writing process, a pic of her pets, and sea monster art. Welcome, Kathleen! 🙂

Something that represents something unique about you

Cheney Writing System

This is a photo of my filing system where I keep magazine/catalog clippings, and you can see on the wall what I do with them. Although other people do this as well, what probably makes this special is that I’ve been saving clippings since college. I have some clippings in these files that are 30 years old or older.  If there was a fire in the house, I would grab these before trying to grab photographs.

Something that represents where you live

Cheney Storm Safe

Storm Safe, a dank rusty hole in the ground. This one’s set into our garage floor and the plastic is usually over it because we park a car atop it. Supposedly, this can hold 5 people, but we’ve had 2 in there, and it heats up terribly quickly. But if you live in Oklahoma, you might end up thanking your luck stars you’ve got one of these.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for besides your human family/friends

Cheney The Dogs

Alwyn and Penelope. My fluffy masters, to whom the lion’s share of all revenues go in the form of dog food, treats, boarding, and fixing chewed-up furniture, wood trim, and blinds.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Cheney Frustration

See that? Right lane MUST TURN RIGHT. There are four signs before the intersection. 4! Do not cut into the right turn lane and try to zip around and cut off the people going straight. (This is at the large intersection nearest my house.)

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Cheney Lisbon Discoveries Monument

My husband really supports my writing, and that’s not the case for all writers. Not only did we use our first vacation in 5 years to visit the setting of my novels, he went as far as to get that sea monster tattooed onto his leg. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is ;o)

[Jill: Love the tattoo and its significance.]

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

I’ve got a new novel coming out in July, and I’d describe it as…In a world where the events of the epic poem, Os Lusiades, were real….wait, I’ve probably lost you there. When Spain and Portugal find themselves trapped in a conspiracy of magic, it will take a few honest men…no, women…no, wait, sirens!…to straighten things out.  

I stink at the elevator pitch.

[Jill: Sounds great! Elevator pitches are hard.]

What are you working on next?

I have a new series debuting next February (the Palace of Dreams Novels), and I’m actually working on the second book in that series (tentatively titled The Sins of the Fathers), although I expect to get edits to work on for the first book (Dreaming Death) any day now.

[Jill: Congrats! 🙂 ]

What are you currently reading?

Tex Thompson’s Medicine for the Dead, the second in her series set in a fantasy Old West with fishmen and a long-suffering fellow named Appaloosa Elim.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

It’s summer hiatus, so my husband and I are watching TV series on the Roku instead of live TV. We’ve just finished up Season 2 of Orphan Black, and started Season 1 of Vikings. Also, we pretty much watch any Mystery series on PBS, which currently means Father Brown Mysteries and Doctor Blake Mysteries. And American Ninja Warrior, because it’s fun.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Bane.  Not the one from Batman, but the one from P.C. Hodgell’s books of the Kencyrath. Bane is SO bad that I really want him to be reformed. Unfortunately, he’s dead.  Well, mostly dead. His body is currently made of bugs. However, he does have the Book Bound in Pale Leather right now, so there’s no telling what he’ll learn from it.

(BTW, I haven’t read the most recent book yet, so don’t spoil it for me in comments!!!)

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Trying to decide which path to take with which works. I think it would benefit most to try for both traditional publication and indie publication, but it’s tough to choose which works belong in which group. And there’s so much advice flowing in from all camps, that it’s difficult for a writer to stick to their guns and choose the best path for them.

How can we meet that challenge?

I think that it would be beneficial for both sides on the traditional publishing/indie publishing argument to quit vilifying the other.  I’m very grateful to have the publisher that I do, and they can do things I can’t. But I also have self-published works, so I get to see both sides of this argument.

More about Kathleen

Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, “The Golden City” was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The sequel, “The Seat of Magic” came out in 2014, and the final book in the series, “The Shores of Spain” will come out July 2015.

More about THE SHORES OF SPAIN

A brilliant new chapter in the Novels of the Golden City.

Even as the branches of peace are being offered, there are some who still believe those who are not human should be used as chattel. And they are willing to go to great lengths to retain their power.

Newlywed siren Oriana Paredes has been appointed Ambassador to her home islands now that communication between Northern Portugual and the magical races has been restored. But convincing her people that the new Portuguese Prince’s intentions are honorable after years of persecution is difficult. And her husband, Duilio, faces his own obstacles among the sirens where males are a rare and valuable commodity with few rights.

In addition to their diplomatic mission, the two hope to uncover the truth behind Oriana’s mother’s death. Evidence suggests that Spain—a country that has been known to enslave magical beings—may have infiltrated the siren authority. Unable to leave their post, Oriana and Duilio must call on Inspector Joaquim Tavares to root out the truth.

But even his seer’s gift cannot prepare him for what he will discover.

Thank you for the interview and for sharing your pictures with us today, Kathleen! Best wishes for THE SHORES OF SPAIN!

Five Photographs: Jami Gray, Urban Fantasy Author of the Kyn Kronicles

Today’s Five Photographs guest is urban fantasy author Jami Gray. Love fast cars, beautiful sunsets, and adorable labs? Then this post is a must! Since Jami watches Game of Thrones too, I also included my latest (and last) thoughts on GoT. *Spoiler alert* If you haven’t watched S5’s finale, skip the purple section below!]

Something that represents something unique about you

Jami Gray My Baby

I grew up loving classic cars, with my favorite being the 1968 Mustang. It only took forty plus years, but I finally got my own Mustang!

[Jill: love that it’s parked outside of Barnes & Noble. 😀 ]

Something that represents where you live

Jami Gray Sunset

I’m blessed to live in the Southwest, Arizona to be exact. While I’ve spent time in the Northwest, I found I missed the open skies, especially the spectacular sunsets.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Jami Gray The Girls

These are the two newest editions to our family, Lola (in a sexy black number) and Angel (in stunning white), affectionately known as the Fur Minxes.

[Jill: I’ve really enjoyed seeing everyone’s pet pics. That’s at least HALF the fun of the internet, right? 😀 ]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Jami Gray Cooking

Growing up in a very large family, cooking was not a fun endeavor. In fact, I loathed it. Fast forward years and years and still don’t enjoy it. Thank goodness I have a hubby who does…

[Jill: I hear ya. Me too!]

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Jami Gray The Boys

Every writer needs a great support team, and I was blessed with these three. Not only will they forgive me for walking around in a daze in the midst of a project, but they have no problems combining family vacations with my need for writing research. In this case, we hit San Diego when I was working on my PSY-IV Team series.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Beauty is a treacherous bitch, and her name is Natasha—but can a demon queen allow Darius, a mysterious interloper, to uncover truth from lies before betrayal claims her life?

What are you working on next?

 I just finished my second PSY-IV book, TOUCHED BY FATE, so now I’m putting together a collection of short stories set in the Kyn world for a Fall 2015 release. After that, I have two projects: the next Kyn book and planning a new series.

What are you currently reading?

Oh man, as I write these answers, I’m finishing up Christine Feehan’s CAT’S LAIR, but up next is Megan Mitcham’s Base Branch Series and finishing Kristen Ashley’s Colorado Mountain series. Plus, I have CONCRETE EVIDENCE by Rachel Grant I want to dive into, along with Joseph Nassise’s THE HERETIC. All before the summer titles hit shelves…

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I live with geeks, ergo we watch Marvel’s AGENTS OF SHIELD religiously. I’m an avid fan of BITTEN (love Kelly Armstrong’s books), CSI CYBER, NCIS NEW ORLEANS, CRIMINAL MINDS, BONES, CASTLE, and my hubby insists I watch GAME OF THRONES. Not sure why, since everyone dies on that show, the outcome is pretty moot.

*SPOILERS!*

[Jill: GoT… my last thoughts on it… I thought the finale was somewhat disappointing. Not saying I won’t be watching the show when it returns. Just that I’m way less eager for its return than I have been in past seasons. Is it fatigue? Maybe. Instead of feeling outrage after the final shot, I almost felt relief that the season was over. As for the different story lines… I was disappointed in Sansa’s season ending, of course. I’d mentioned earlier that I was looking for her to get her revenge, which sounds very unforgiving and bloodthirsty. But let’s face it, it’s GoT. That’s the type of show it is. What I really wanted was for Sansa to take charge of her own destiny. And she did… but only in the tiniest way. She picked a lock and lit a candle. Not exactly the big bang I was hoping for. And, frankly, I’m super sick of Ramsay. I was hoping S5 would be it for him. The thought of having to watch him again next season, ugh.

I thought Stannis’ ending was just. That worked for me. He deserved his fate, which included everything that happened to him in the show up to the point of his death at Brienne’s hands. Arya? I really liked that we finally got to see how some of the magic of the Many-Faced God worked. I’m not sure how I feel about her killing Ser Meryn Trant and going blind because of it. I’m patiently waiting to see where the writers are going with that one. The Dorne/Jaime/Myrcella story? Dorne was kinda meh, start to finish. The sand snakes never fulfilled their promise of being bad asses. I was sad to see Myrcella die, of course, but she wasn’t a character I really knew. And even though I know Jaime a lot better than I did in S1, it’s hard for me to forget that he’s the one who pushed Bran out the window. Cersei? To be honest, I got up during that part for a snack break. I didn’t pause and it wasn’t bc I couldn’t watch. It’s bc it went on for way too long. Maybe it felt different in the book. And finally, Jon Snow… if that’s truly the end of him, it will be massively disappointing. Yes, partly bc he is a favorite character, but also bc his story seems unresolved. Lots of set ups this season for things that didn’t get paid off.

Jami, I think I read somewhere (couldn’t find a link to share though) that George RR Martin has said that Song of Ice and Fire is a tragedy. I gotta admit, I’m not a huge fan of tragedy. Tragic plot points, sure. But I’m too fond of happy endings and tidy resolutions to fully embrace tragedy as a favored art form. In any case, I think the best thing about GoT is that it’s brought fantasy into the mainstream. One can argue that other works did that before, but there’s no denying its tremendous effect on pop culture.]

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Umm, again going back to the geek roots, I would hyperventilate to work with Wolverine. (Does that count for fantasy creature and weapon?) Villain would have to be Loki, because a man with a sense of humor is hard to walk away from.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

For me, marketing. While I mentally get the best way to market your books is to write the next one, there’s still pressure to keep your books out there. That’s not an easy feat considering today’s market.

How can we meet that challenge?

Perseverance. Do the best you can, try new options, find out what works, but don’t ever forget to get back behind the keyboard and write your next story. You owe that to your readers.

More About the Kyn Kronicles

Jami Gray Banner

SHADOW’S EDGE, Kyn Kronicles #1

Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

When the supernatural lurks in the shadows of the mundane, hunting monsters requires unique skills, like those of Raine McCord. A series of deaths threatens to reveal the Kyn community and forces her to partner with the sexy Gavin Durand.

As the trail leads to the foundation haunting Raine’s childhood, she and Gavin must unravel lies and betrayals to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

SHADOW’S SOUL, Kyn Kronicles #2

Some nightmares are born of love…

A simple assignment turns into a nightmare when Raine McCord follows Cheveyo to the Southwest on a consulting gig. When the most feared beings of the Kyn kidnaps Cheveyo and leaves Raine for dead, her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand.

Unraveling the Southwest Kyn’s web of secrets and hidden vendettas will either bring them together or tear them apart forever.

SHADOW’S MOON, Kyn Kronicles #3

Even wild hearts can be broken…

Tracker, Xander Cade, confronts an enraged Shifter in a crowded human nightclub, fraying the thin secrecy shielding the supernatural community from public scrutiny. Danger stalks the pack and she must protect her alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis, even if he doesn’t want it.

If they don’t find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond they risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.

SHADOW’S CURSE, Kyn Kronicles #4

Death and chaos can devastate even the best-laid plans…

After tragedy strikes the Northwest Kyn, leaving the houses in chaos and the Wraiths hungry for blood, the fallout threatens Natasha Bertoi’s carefully laid plans. When the Council sends Darius Abazi, the one man guaranteed to skew the odds, she faces her toughest opponent yet.

As death stalks the Northwest Kyn, can Natasha trust Darius, a man well versed in subterfuge, to uncover the truth before treachery destroys them all?

You can find all the buy links for both The Kyn Kronicles and PSY-IV Teams, in all formats at:

http://jamigray.com/kynkronicles/

http://jamigray.com/psyivteams/ 

Jami Gray
Jami Gray

More About Jami

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.

Thank you, Jami, for the interview and for sharing your pictures. Good luck and best wishes for the Kyn Kronicles!

Five Photographs: Isabella (Izzy) Norse

Today’s Five Photographs guest is Isabella Norse. Love dogwoods, dragons, cats, or hunting for fossils? Then this post is for you. Welcome, Izzy!

Something that represents something unique about you

Isabella Norse Shark Tooth

I love hunting for fossils! I’m not a strong swimmer and with my fair skin I sunburn easily, so unlike the rest of my family, I’ve never been a big fan of the beach. I began hunting shark’s teeth to kill time during our beach vacations and I’ve found hundreds of smaller teeth over the years along with other items such as fossilized sting ray barbs. I found the tooth in the picture during our vacation in May. It is by far the largest tooth I have ever found and it just fanned the flames of my desire to find more!

Something that represents where you live

I live in the Deep South where dogwood trees are endemic. Dogwood blooms are my favorite flower. It just doesn’t feel like Spring to me until the dogwoods are in bloom.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Isabella Norse Cats

I’m pretty sure I already qualify as a crazy cat lady. My husband and I have several indoor cats and socialize as many of the neighborhood strays as we can so we can have them spayed/neutered. I also give a percentage of the earnings from the sale of my books to support animals in need. Cricket and Toots (pictured) are the youngest in our furry herd.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Isabella Norse Junk Mail

Snail mail is my kryptonite – it just sort of drains the life out of me. I shred, file, toss, and when I turn around, there is another stack awaiting my attention. It drives me crazy!

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

 Isabella Norse Something That Brings Me Joy

It may sound cliché, but my husband brings me joy. We have been together over half of our lives and have come through some really tough times. He is my best friend, supports me in my writing endeavors and always loves me – even when I’m not very lovable.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

My latest published work is actually a short story – The Purrfect Partner. It is the first story in my Paws and Effect series.

[Jill: Paws and Effect. Love it. :-)]

Lorelei Stevens, newly certified veterinary technician, faces the future with a mix of excitement and dread. Freedom from the meddling of her well-intentioned friends is finally within reach. All she has to do is spend Valentine’s weekend dodging the unwanted attentions of strangers during the annual singles gathering at The Lodge. In return, her friends promise to never, ever set her up on another blind date.

Dalton Freeman, laid-back rancher, receives a getaway to The Lodge as a gift from his brothers. The catch? The gift is only good during Valentine’s weekend. So what if all of his attempts at online dating have failed miserably? There’s no reason for his brothers to play Cupid. Really.

When these two strangers pretend to be a couple for a weekend, will it be a disaster or will fate – and a half-frozen kitten – lead them to the purrfect partner?

What are you working on next?

I’m putting the finishing touches on a humorous, sweet, paranormal romance titled Dial V for Vampire. It is the first book in my Kudzu Korners series.

What are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz. I just started the third book, Brother Odd.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I have gotten hooked on the reruns of two series I never planned to watch – Castle and Criminal Minds.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Dragons. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series is responsible for my overwhelming desire for a dragon of my own. Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon movies has reinforced that desire.

[Jill: Love Toothless! Anyone wanna see my friend’s bearded dragon “painted” by me to look like Toothless? Click here. (And I love Anne McCaffrey too. Who doesn’t?! 😀 )]

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I think discoverability is our biggest challenge – especially for those of us that are fairly new to the party.

How can we meet that challenge?

The publishing world changes constantly and it is important to be a part of groups and organizations that can help us stay on top of the latest developments. I think it’s also very important that we authors support each other. Thank you for all of the opportunities you provide, Jill.

My pleasure, Izzy. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with, and learning more about, all of the authors I’ve hosted here. Thank you for the interview and for sharing your pictures!

Five Photographs: Terry Spear (teddy bears, wolves, Game of Thrones, and Outlander)

[Brief update before Terry’s post: I’ve got a few more Five Photographs posts for June, including mine. 🙂 Then I’ll be wrapping up this guest blog series. I’m also gonna be taking a summer hiatus from blogging. More on that later. In the meantime, enjoy my remaining June posts!]

Terry Spear shares her Five Photographs today. This post is (per the usual type of post you see here) a real assortment of stuff: rainbow teddy bears, Texas bluebonnets, Havanese puppies, and my thoughts on this season’s Game of Thrones and Outlander. *spoiler alert* If you’re not caught up, skip the purple text below]. Welcome, Terry!

Something that represents something unique about you

Terry Spear Rainbow bear and baby reclining

I’m an award-winning teddy bear artist, Rainbow momma bear and baby bear www.celticbears.com

Something that represents where you live

Terry Spear bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush

Wild Bluebonnets of Texas naturalized by the airport

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Terry Spear Max Tanner National Puppy Day

Max (7 mos old) and Tanner (4 mos old) Havanese puppies

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Terry Spear scorpion

Snakes and scorpions in the house

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Terry Spear daffodil dancing

Flowers and photography, picture of the daffodils in full bloom at my home

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

HOTTEST OF THE HOT ON THE NAVY SEAL WOLF TEAM

Paul Cunningham has eluded many traps in his long career as a Navy SEAL, but there’s no way out of this one. On a rare visit home, he gets “volunteered” for a local charity bachelor auction, and the community is counting on him. Then he discovers that the sexy she-wolf with the winning ticket is Lori Greypaw-the one woman he could never resist. And she has plans for Paul that go way beyond a simple date. For the first time in his bachelor life, this alpha wolf SEAL is going to have to prove his worth…

What are you working on next?

I just finished writing She-Wolf, the first book where the heroine runs her own pack alone and next up is A Wolf in Billionaire’s Clothing. Then a real change in the world with Jaguar Jingle Bells.

What are you currently reading?

I haven’t had time to read in forever, except for the Rita entries. Too many deadlines, both books and teddy bears.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Outlander, Supernatural, Game of Thrones

[Jill: *SPOILERS*

I’ve stuck with GoT despite the awful rape scene between Sansa and Ramsay and the stomach turning Shireen sacrifice because, as difficult as scenes like those are to watch, I’m willing to give the storytellers a chance. I’m not saying I’m going to quit watching if the finale disappoints, but one of the things I’m really looking for in GoT’s last episode this season is “Dark Sansa’s” revenge. I haven’t read the books, but my understanding is that the show deviated from GRRM’s novels with Sansa’s story line up in Winterfell. At the end of last season and the beginning of this one, I was really excited to see a new, improved — STRONGER — Sansa emerging. To me, that wedding night scene risks reversing her character’s development. I didn’t like the scene (who would?!) but I’m willing to see if there was a reason for it. If it turns out to be hyperbolic gratuitous sex/violence, then I’ll be a lot less thrilled with the show next season. 

For those of you who watch Outlander, you know that the finale on that show was worse than the Sansa/Ramsay scene. I’m not ashamed to say that I fast forwarded through some of it. This is actually a compliment to Tobias Menzies’ acting. He certainly convincingly plays sick and depraved. In any case, it’s interesting to compare and contrast the two shows, which have each showed horrible rape scenes this season, and analyze from a storytelling perspective. In order to justify viewer trauma, there better be a good reason for the traumatic events. With GoT, I’m still waiting to see it…]

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Deciding whether to indie publish, or hold on and try to get traditionally published.

How can we meet that challenge?

Know what it is that you really want in life. By learning the pros and cons, we make the best informed decisions. For everyone, it will be different.

Now it’s YOUR TURN:

Are you a fan of teddy bears, puppies, daffodils, bluebonnets, and rainbows? 

Do you love books about werewolves and shifters?

Do you watch Game of Thrones or Outlander? What do you think of this season’s shows?

Thank you, Terry, for the interview and for sharing your pictures today.

Five Photographs: Charlotte Copper (Moms and Daughters; Digital Disruption)

Charlotte Copper shares her Five Photographs today: adorable near-twin calico cats, making maple syrup in Canada, and spending time with family. As a cancer survivor, Charlotte reminds us to get our priorities in order. Figure out what’s truly important to you and spend time on that. In her interview, Charlotte also touches on the decline of print books and I share my thoughts (including recent changes in my book buying habits). Welcome, Charlotte!

Something that represents something unique about you

Charlotte Copper and husband

This is a photo of my husband and me. What is unique is my husband and I got engaged in university, but between the engagement and our wedding we…broke up, married other people, started families, and got divorced….A span of more than twelve years.

Something that represents where you live

Charlotte Copper Winter Maple Syrup

Canada, eh! My friend and his family make maple syrup at his parents’ farm. These buckets are hanging to catch the raw material. It’s amazing how much is boiled away before you are left with the pure rich maple syrup. No wonder the real stuff is so expensive!

 Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Charlotte Copper Rose and Angel

These calico sisters are Rose & Angel. Rescue kitties, who are now 13 years old, they are the friendliest cats and love to cuddle.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Charlotte Copper time

(This is not a photo for dead watch batteries, although it could be.) As a cancer survivor, I am grateful on a regular basis for the extra time that I’ve been granted with my friends and family. However, there is never enough of it. As a crafter, writer, reader, movie fanatic, wife and mother – who also holds down a full-time job and needs to find time to get to the gym – there is never enough time for everything I want to do.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Chalotte Copper daughter vball

Time with my family, especially The Daughter. Watching her play volleyball and grow into a beautiful (albeit stubborn) young lady, and knowing that I could have missed out on it.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

HEART SHIFTER ….For widowed teacher Sarah, an invitation to spend the summer up north is the perfect opportunity for her sons to get to know their father’s estranged family better and for Sarah to learn more about why her deceased husband left his childhood home at such an early age. Her handsome host, Mitch Mingan, has remained a bachelor because he doesn’t want any wife or children to have to suffer his family’s destiny. Their fate? Mingan means wolf! Heart Shifter is the story of how Sarah and Mitch discover that the biggest surprise is their feelings towards each other.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on the edits for REAL LOVE. It’s a light sci-fi romance (beautiful alien crash-lands on the way to her new mate and master, and is rescued by a handsome space soldier) that will be part of The Candy Heart series releasing from The Wild Rose Press in time for Valentine’s 2016.

I’m also very happy to announce that I recently signed a contract with Boroughs Publishing Group for my short Young Adult story, STRAWBERRY SUMMER which is scheduled for release July 10th.

[Jill: Congratulations!!]

What are you currently reading?

I’m trying to read DRAGONFLY IN AMBER (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon. I loved the first book and I really love Jamie…I mean Sam Heughan…I mean the television show.

But you remember that “time” photo up above…? Well, like I said, I’m trying to read it.

[Jill: They are L-O-N-G but worth it.]

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

In addition to OUTLANDER, which I watch alone, I’ve got a few shows that I like to watch with The Daughter. For some reason we’re into medical dramas right now, and we enjoy watching REMEDY and THE NIGHT SHIFT. We also like to watch FACE OFF when it’s in season.

[Jill: This season wrapped, right? I still need to watch the finale. My daughters are younger than yours but we love to watch movies together. The only TV show we currently agree on is Modern Family. Everyone in my family loves that show!]

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Vampire Bill from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books. Love those old, southern manners.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I’m one of those authors that is not affected by the decline of print books…mine are only in e-format…but some of the authors I know are absolutely horrified at the thought. (As a reader, I’ll miss them, yes, but I think I was more devastated by the closure of video stores.)

[Jill: I’m kind of the opposite. I do not miss the friday night video store runs. That place was packed and annoying. I was so in love with Netflix when they first intro’d DVD by mail. And now I love all the streaming services. I feel like my movie watching has really opened up in the last 10-15 years. 

As for the “decline of print” — ugh. well. hmm… 😀 I’d like to deny it, but that would be like denying climate change. I think the real question now is what happens next? Unlike Blockbuster, I still miss Borders. Barnes & Noble is too far for me to conveniently shop there. My #1 way to buy books is browsing in a bookstore. But I’ll admit it’s become harder and harder over the past few years and, for the first time ever, my most recent book buying binge happened online. I took a look at the list of recent releases that some of the blogs I follow had posted and made my choices that way. Doesn’t mean I won’t continue to support bookstores — of course, I will!!! And articles like this one BEA 2015: Resurgence of Indie Bookselling Continues are heartening.]

How can we meet that challenge?

I think authors need to accept that this is a digital world. Film cameras? DVDs? Authors need to prepare for and embrace the changing market. This doesn’t mean the end of books and authors. Electronic print is simply a new format that allows authors to reach out to readers that might otherwise never have had the opportunity to pick up their books.  And if you need a brighter side, think green and think of all the trees we’ll be saving.

[Jill: I don’t think I’m being unrealistic in saying I don’t think print will ever go away completely. But, yes, everyone (readers and writers alike) need to adapt to a digitally driven world. Maybe the better comparison with bookstores isn’t to video stores or record stores but to movie theaters. Hopefully, there will always be “physical showcase locations” where books, authors, and readers can meet, celebrate, browse, and buy.]

Charlotte Copper
Charlotte Copper

More about Charlotte

Charlotte Copper lives in Stouffville, Ontario – that is in Canada, eh – with her husband, daughter, and two part-time step-daughters. When she isn’t working at her full-time job or driving her daughter around for volleyball, Charlotte likes to craft, read, go to the movies, and, of course, write. Charlotte admittedly tries to juggle far too many balls at once, and hopes to have all of the stories published some day because, as a romance writer, she believes in happy endings!

Thank you for the interview, Charlotte, and for sharing your pictures with us!

Five Photographs: Nancy Gideon (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NANCY!)

Nancy Gideon shares her Five Photographs today. If you’re a fan of nutcrackers and groundhogs or want to gripe to a very willing audience about construction, commuting, or traffic OR IF YOU WANT TO WISH NANCY A HAPPY BIRTHDAY (it’s today) then this post is for you…

Something that represents something unique about you

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

I obsessively collect things I don’t have room for. I’m a Christmas-aholic with nutcrackers, music boxes and Santa Clauses of every shape and size. My desk is overrun with typewriters, tiny tea sets, shot glasses from places I’ve traveled, Tarot decks, favorite hero-inspiring actor of the moment’s video collections, lighthouses . . . and jewelry.  It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got great Bling!  Can you say OCD much?

Something that represents where you live

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

We have four Seasons in Michigan.  That’s the rumor. My favorites are spring and fall but unfortunately those only last a week before jumping right to humidity and mosquitoes or to ice scrapers and snow drifts. It’s either constant AC or blast furnace heat. There’s rarely middle ground.

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Nommer 2014

The harbinger of spring is Nommer, my apartment complex’s groundhog who provides endlessly entertainment with a yearly crop of babies and no maintenance for me.  Here he is checking to see what I’m grilling on my balcony – three stories up. I’m addicted to all thing fur, fin and feather both inside and free range,  and have pampered everything from tropical fish and aquarium frogs (left over from a Scouting badge) to guinea pigs, an Australian cattle dog and the wild birds I coax to my 4th floor balcony to entertain my cats Scotch and Stubbs (sounds like an ‘80s cop show!).

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Cone Zones

The minute snow is off the ground, up come the detours and the Cone Zones making that 15 minute commute to work into 30-45 every summer.  Patch it, dig it up, surface it, tear it up again, patch it, resurface until you just can’t get there from here.  I am not a patient driver. Especially when listening to Rob Zombie.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Jungle retreat

Making my 3rd floor patio into a pseudo-backyard oasis. No mowing, great for Vitamin D therapy while plotting that next chapter and just enough room for my new mini-grill. Now if we could just get rid of the freeze warnings so I could start planting!

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

For my Dana Ransom contemporary romance, FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (currently $1.99 (!) as an Amazon Big Deal): Feeling responsible for the tragedies that befell those they loved, two wounded souls don’t feel they have the right to happiness. Widowed on her honeymoon, Robyn Lee pours all her unfulfilled hopes into her wedding planner business, making priceless memories for others. The last thing she needs is for the irresponsible brother of her dream client to rock the boat . . . and her regimented life. A gritty news cameraman recovering from the loss of his coworker in the field, Kyle Travers doesn’t believe in the perfect world Robyn’s created to hide her own heartbreak, but he’s begun to think just maybe two fractured halves can make a stronger whole – if only he can convince her.

What are you working on next?

I’m about 400 pages into the next book in my “By Moonlight” dark paranormal shape-shifter series. I’m optimistic about a late summer release for UNLEASHED BY SHADOWS. Squee!

What are you currently reading?

Just finished Dean Koontz’s The City on the plane back from vacay in Arizona. He’s my go to guy for a good read. Reading copy edits and page proofs for the 9 books in my “Touch of Midnight” vampire romance series is currently consuming my life.  ImaJinn Books is reissuing a book per month starting in July beginning with the first three that have been out of print since the ‘90s!  Then I’ll be impatiently waiting for the 3rd book in Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic vampire series.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

My DVR runneth over with Penny Dreadful, House of Cards, Supernatural (I’m just starting Season 4 with 6 more to go!), Castle, and The Originals. All my other favorites – Blacklist, Secrets and Lies, Vikings, Gotham, American Horror Story, Ray Donovan, and The Strain are on hiatus – so now I have more writing time! I’m still mourning the end of Justified. Best-Writing-Ever.  And my law office co-workers and I just love watching Maury during our lunch hour (guilty pleasure!).

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I’m loving the monsters from Showtime’s Penny Dreadful!  They’re creatures taken from classic horror tales like Dracula, Frankenstein and Portrait of Dorian Gray with a fresh twist or a unique interpretation.  I can’t wait to see what (or who) turns up next! Of course Josh Harnett’s tortured werewolf is my favorite.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Breaking out of the pack – which is now HUGE due to self-publishing – especially when so many books are free.

How can we meet that challenge?

Making personal connections with readers through Social Media.  Facebook author pages that host events, street teams, blog tours and chats, giveaway Hops (there are always a few not just looking for free stuff!), active blogs and Twitter sites that aren’t just screaming “Buy My Book”, and web sites that offer extra content i.e. deleted scenes, sneak previews, and character galleries are all great, but raise the question of when can you find time to write while doing all that promotion?  So do what you love and what works for you. I have a fabulous “Nancy Gideon by Moonlight” Goodreads group that hosts events, chats and Buddy Reads, and I host a unique Haunted Open House in October that brings in a lot of traffic.  It’s a slow, time-consuming effort to build a reader base but worth it when you get that excited feedback regarding your next project. Give more than you expect to get back. Word of mouth is priceless.

Nancy Gideon
Nancy Gideon

More About Nancy

Nancy Gideon is the award-winning author of over 58 romances ranging from historical, regency and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormal, with a couple of horror screenplays tossed into the mix.  She works full-time as a legal assistant, and when not at the keyboard, feeds a Netflix addiction along with all things fur, fin and fowl. She also has written under the pen names Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West and Lauren Giddings.

Thank you for the pictures and interview, Nancy! HAVE A WONDERFUL BIRTHDAY!!!

Five Photographs: Anna Durand (Christmas in May, Baltimore Orioles in Michigan, and… Thomas Edison)

Anna Durand shares her Five Photographs today. Among them, a hand-painted miniature village and a Baltimore Oriole (for bird lovers, not baseball fans 🙂 ). And for anyone who’s struggling with whatever goal they’re currently trying to achieve, she’s got some great advice: DON’T QUIT!

Something that represents something unique about you

Anna Durand Unique

I own my own village. The residents live by my whims; they never eat or drink or sleep, but are always cheerful and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Like Brigadoon, however, they come out for only a brief time, then sleep again until their next awakening.

This is my Christmas village, hand-painted by me, piece by piece, over the course of 18 years. I love the holidays, and my village not only provides added cheer, but it’s also a conversation starter. Anyone who visits my house in December is instantly drawn to the idyllic little town and can’t help asking questions about it. Naturally, my village has a bookstore and a library.

The town’s name? Well of course, it’s Noël!

[Jill: beautiful and charming!]

Something that represents where you live

Anna Durand Michigan

My home is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where natural beauty is on display everywhere you look. We have a rich history of mining and lumbering, but my favorite part of the U.P. shows itself every autumn. The fall color here is spectacular — though often short-lived, thanks to our ever-present wind!

Your pet or plant or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Anna Durand Cat

My cat is my little shadow. He follows me everywhere around the house, and out in the yard. When I’m writing, he sits nearby keeping an eye on me — mainly to make sure I don’t forget to feed him his treats. I often have to fight with him for custody of my desk chair!

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Anna Durand Winter

Winter can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it refuses to leave on time in the spring. I hate house guests who hang around too long! Even the snow gets tired and starts to droop, but the cold sticks around until everyone’s ready to run winter out of town. But we make the best of it, with snow sculptures and spicy Mexican food (U.P. style) to keep us warm.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Anna Durand Joy

I love photographing birds, and with my bird feeders, I get to see many different species — even through the winter. Last summer, I snapped this photo of a Baltimore Oriole. I don’t see many of these, which makes it a treat. Soon, the hummingbirds will arrive and demand their sugar-water. They deserve it, though, after their long journey up from the Gulf of Mexico.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Ultimate power comes at the ultimate price.

Torn apart by their haunted pasts, Grace and David struggle to reclaim their passionate bond and defeat an enemy who wields unspeakable psychic power. As events drive them toward a battle of epic proportions, they must risk everything — their hearts, their lives, and even their souls — to protect each other and the entire world.

Intuition is the award-winning second book in the Psychic Crossroads series.

What are you working on next?

I have several projects in the works. Reborn to Avenge, the third part in my Reborn series, will release in late May. The Mortal Falls is a paranormal romance with magic and plenty of heat, and it will be the first book in a new series. I’ve also started work on a hot contemporary romance (a standalone book).

What are you currently reading?

I’m listening to the audiobook of Jayne Castle’s The Lost Night. I love her Harmony series! I’m reading (with my eyes, not my ears) Lisa Kessler’s Hunter’s Moon.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

It’s that slow time of year when all the good stuff is on hiatus. Bummer! Some of my favorite shows are Haven, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., and Jane the Virgin. Jane’s a romance writer, so of course, I have to watch that show.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love the fae, because they can be naughty or nice, sometimes without meaning to be either. They might’ve struck a bad bargain and now must do someone else’s bidding, or maybe they’re cursed. You just never know — and that’s half the fun!

Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series has two of my favorite types of characters — fae and sexy Highlanders. You can’t get much better than that.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

More than ever, writers must figure out how to market their own books. Even those traditionally published find their publishers expect them to shoulder the marketing burden.

How can we meet that challenge?

It’s a huge responsibility and a massive challenge. There’s no magic bullet, so you just have to keep trying different tactics until you find what works for you.

Don’t trust anyone who says they have the secret to becoming a bestseller. Those kinds of claims never pan out, and the person making them usually earns their living from selling nonfiction books about their magic method, not from selling their fiction. It’s easy to get discouraged when you hear miraculous tales of writers who dumped their first book on the market and sales exploded right off the bat, but these stories inevitably have a hidden backstory.

Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to try new tactics. Most of all — and this is the hardest lesson to accept — don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from it and move on.

Remember what Thomas Edison said: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

[Jill: Another reminder of that idea is the Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” There is ONLY ONE guaranteed way to ensure you never succeed.]

Anna Durand
Anna Durand

More about Anna

Anna Durand is a multi-award-winning writer, a freelance librarian, and an audiobook addict. She specializes in sexy romances, both paranormal and contemporary, featuring spunky heroines and hunky heroes. In her previous life as a librarian, she haunted the stacks of public libraries but never met any hot vampires hunting for magical books.

Thank you for the interview and pictures, Anna!

Five Photographs: Anise Rae (and the pressure to write at the speed of light)

The next guest in my Five Photographs series is author and marathoner Anise Rae. As with all of these posts, she touches on all sorts of things, one of which is the pressure we writers face these days to publish faster and faster. Love golden retrievers, but hate to clean your house? Know what vampires and baby powder have to do with one another (or want to find out)? Then read on! 😀 Welcome, Anise!

Something that represents something unique about you:

Anise Rae Marathon

Years ago I ran two marathons. At the time, I was a fairly serious–yet very slow–runner. This is a photo of me crossing the finish line at 4 hours and 58 minutes. It’s far from the most flattering picture, but I’d just run 26.2 miles. I keep it out not to rest on my laurels or reminisce about past glories, but as a reminder to ask myself what other challenges I might be able to conquer…and then to go out and do it.

Something that represents where you live:

Anise Rae Georgia

My screened-in porch is my favorite place to write. It’s like sitting in a tree house. The most frequently seen neighbors are birds, squirrels, and deer. Despite the risk of visiting bugs, I always keep that door cracked open. I’d say it was so the big story ideas have room to come in…that they don’t have to filter through the screens that way…but really it’s so the dog can come and go as she pleases without me getting up.

[Jill: when I saw this, I guessed you were from Appalachia. LOVE that area of the U.S., although I’ve spent more time in the northern part of it.]

Your pet or thing you care for (besides your humans):

Anise Rae Gylfie

Gylfie is the fluffiest golden retriever I’ve ever seen. When we got her as a puppy, I thought her fur would settle down and become silky and fine, but she stayed teddy bear soft. She loves attention from every single human who has the good sense to come see her. As for the name Gylfie, my daughter named her after a character in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky.

[Jill: Aww, what a happy face! You can tell what a friendly dog she is. 🙂]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you:

Anise Rae Frustrating

Cleaning! I like a clean house, but I’ve never enjoyed getting it that way. Right now, my house is up for sale, which means it has to stay as spotless as possible. That’s a challenge I really don’t appreciate living up to. The title of the book in the photo is a perfect representation of my thoughts on spotless houses: A Clean House is a Sign of a Misspent Life. For this photo, I’ve taken the book off my bookshelves and posed it in my front entryway. Maybe it’s best to give potential buyers an upfront view of the household’s current philosophy. Yeah…probably not.

[Jill: lol. I hear you. At the end of it all, do we really want to say, “but my house was always clean”? Though I admit to a deep-seated envy of those who have immaculate homes. 😀]

Something that brings you joy (besides writing):

Anise Rae Joy

I love swings. As a kid, I would pump my legs and get as high as possible. It was as close as I could get to flying through the air. These days, I still love to swing, even on playground swings, but I’m just as content sitting comfortably on the porch swing with my feet brushing the ground on every pass back and forth.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

My latest book is Enchanter’s Echo.

Edmund Rallis, heir to Rallis Territory, will play every game he knows to win back the heart of enchantress Aurora Firenze. But he inadvertently puts her on the frontlines of a new game, one with an enemy who’s determined to destroy his land and drive the Republic toward war. If the new enemy isn’t stopped in time, Edmund will lose his enchantress again—and this time there won’t be another chance.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on the third book in the Mayflower Mages series, which is Gregor’s story. He’s one of the warrior mages in the first two books…a soldier with the heart of a poet.   (Enchanter’s Echo is book two, but each book stands alone.)

What are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading Courtney Milan’s Proof by Seduction. It’s a historical, which isn’t my typical genre, but I love how the hero and heroine are so at odds with each other in the beginning.

What are you currently watching?

I absolutely adore Sherlock. I also watch Outlander, though I’m a few weeks behind. Defiance is another of my favorites. It’s on the Syfy channel.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I love the romance plot lines in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. I read them because I love how the men meet their matches. On the other hand, the lessers—the vampire killers who have no soul and smell like baby powder—freak me out. I can’t think of another villain that gives me the chills like those guys. The other day I was in a parking lot alone, and I smelled baby powder. I had to have a little talk with myself…the lessers are not real…the lessers are not real…. I hustled into the store anyway.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I think the biggest challenge is the pressure to publish faster and faster. I’ve seen a lot of writer friends who have to churn out story after story. Though I admire that ability a great deal, I’ve also seen a few of them burn out.

[Jill: I agree that there seems to be increasing pressure to produce more books with less time in between release dates, which is another interesting writer challenge to talk about.

Why is it happening? My guess is it’s a combination of these related factors:

the rise of self-publishing and digital books (which have a quicker to market time frame) so all writers, regardless of whether they are self-pub, trad, or hybrid, feel pressure to keep up;

an author’s best promo is their latest release;

the number of books released every year seems to be increasing exponentially and is at an all time high (other authors have mentioned that “discoverability” continues to be the greatest challenge facing writers today); and 

the nature of life (everything seems to get faster with each passing generation).]

How can we meet that challenge?

I believe there’s a well of artistic inspiration and creative ability inside everyone. As that juicy goodness is used up, that well needs to be replenished. It’s essential to find a balance between creating stories and keeping that well of creativity full. It’s easy to neglect that last part because it requires taking time for yourself. It requires time to play, whatever form “play” may take, even though it may use up precious time on the publishing calendar. I think any creative person neglects that well at their peril. For those who are familiar with Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, this probably sounds very familiar. I’m a big fan of her work.

[Jill: It used to be authors could put out a book a year and that was ok. It doesn’t seem that way anymore, although, of course, genre expectations vary. I’m certainly not immune to the pressure we all feel to produce work faster but I’m also really leery of producing something that isn’t the best I can do just to get something out there.

You’re right, Anise, that anyone who is suffering burn out needs to refill their creative well. I like to hike, bike, and do day trips, but lots of authors like to make jewelry, crafts, and other art.]

Anise Rae
Anise Rae

More About Anise

A native of Ohio, Anise Rae long ago moved south, armed with boxes of romance novels, notebooks of her own stories, and degrees in chemistry and library science. Creating chemistry on the page between two lovers proved to be a lot more fun than working with test tubes in a lab or searching patent databases. She refocused on writing.

Her stories revolve around heroines who dare to stand up to society’s expectations and be true to themselves and heroes with plenty of savvy to fall in love with such brave women. And her stories always include magic. Lots of magic.

She lives in Atlanta with her two children and a fluffy dog that has an amazing ability to find dirty socks.

Anise can be found online here:

Thank you, Anise, for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us today!

Five Photographs: Rebekkah Niles (and the “Us” versus “Them” mentality in #writing)

Today’s guest is Rebekkah Niles, who’s here with her five photos. (For those of you who missed earlier intros or who stumble across this later, I’m doing a “Five Photographs” guest blog series this spring. I asked a bunch of writers to submit five photos and answer a brief list of questions.)

In Rebekkah’s interview she touches on an interesting phenomenon in publishing today — the “us versus them” mentality. There are more than a few examples of this attitude out there, among them, self-pub versus traditional. I pose the question: Is trying to be a hybrid author really the biggest challenge facing writers today? 

Rebekkah also shares a little bit about her book Into the Tides and she’s offering a giveaway: one signed print copy and two ebooks. Details below. Welcome, Rebekkah!

Something that represents something unique about you

 

Rebekkah Niles Unique

I’m a geek, with a deep love of fantasy, and have a special appreciation for dragons. Plus, my friends and I like to joke that we each have an ‘inner dragon’–that little piece of us that’s easily distracted by shiny things, loves sitting the sun, and thinks giant shelves of double-stacked of books are an extension of a dragon’s natural hoarding instincts. Really, that’s why I have a collection of loose bulk gemstones (surprisingly inexpensive, actually)… I’m part-dragon; it’s in my instincts.

[Jill: ha! love it.]

Something that represents where you live

Rebekkah Niles Dogwood

North Carolina’s state flower is the dogwood, and these flowers trim the streets and forests everywhere you go in spring, right about until the wisteria and azaleas take over in late April and early May. In fact, North Carolina is a beautiful flower-filled state, with something in bloom from late February through early December (at the least!). On the downside, it’s also bug-heaven, so if you plan a visit, bring bugspray.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Rebekkah Niles Bard and Sonnet

Bard and Sonnet mostly ignore each other, and only snuggle if it’s on a lap–but for pets, they will cuddle.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Rebekkah Niles Bride

While my fiance is the delight of my life, and there are some fun things about the process, I have to say wedding planning is the most frustrating thing in my life right now. Tell me again why everything costs so darn much? Fortunately, my fiance makes it all worth it. Though now I understand why everyone always seems to joke about eloping…

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Rebekkah Niles Tea

I think this picture might be cheating, because it has four things that make me happy: tea, sunshine, plants, and spending time with my true love. Nothing like sitting outside on a beautiful day with our little patio garden, sipping a lovely coconut oolong and relaxing together!

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

In Into the Tides, a disaster causes magic to drown the American South, including Kelly’s parents. Kelly discovers her music magic might be able to save those lost… but she’s tone-deaf, and if she tries and fails, it will cost her everyone else she loves.

What are you working on next?

In the sequel to Into the Tides, former rockstar Trax tries to control an unstable magic to regain his music… but the magic is growing, and if he can’t master it, it will destroy him, the woman he can’t stop thinking about, and possibly everyone around them.

What are you currently reading?

Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. Angels in New York–Immortal creatures of immense power, they rule the world with little care for the mere mortals who inhabit it; but when one goes bad, an angel will have to turn to a mortal woman to save them all. I can’t put these down.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Castle! Oh my goodness, Fillion’s great in everything he’s in. It’s no Firefly, but it’s more than enough to leave me in stitches.

[Jill: I haven’t seen Castle but I loved Fillion in Firefly/Serenity. Doubt there’s anyone following this blog that hasn’t seen that show/movie, but if not… go stream!! So bizarre that it was cancelled. Movie was good way to wrap it up but more seasons would have been great. Such well drawn characters and a fun universe.]

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

The fire-lizards in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. Yeah, having a dragon would be awesome… but these tiny arm-sized dragonets are too cute, and quite a powerhouse of their own when they put their minds to it!

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I’d say the biggest challenge facing writers today is the temptation of the “versus” mindset: a lot of people say things like “self-publishing versus traditional publishing,” or “Amazon versus Barnes and Noble sales,” or “e-book versus print,” but the truth is, it’s not a competition. Publishing isn’t a one-size fits all venue, nor is it limited to just one approach. When we have more options open to us than ever, everyone wins; but when writers try to undermine each other or claim there is only one right way to do things, it makes all writers look bad and could well end up limiting our options in the future.

[Jill: This was a really interesting thing to pick as a writer challenge to talk about. I agree. There is definitely an “us versus them” mentality about some things. I can think of a few others… Lots of drama outside of our stories as well as in them. I’ve often thought about what produces that “to your corners” attitude. Maybe it’s just a reflection of our current culture. In the U.S. at least, it seems as if everything is becoming more and more polarizing. Is it because we live in uncertain times? I doubt it. Each generation and every industry has faced uncertain times.

Is it because we feel compelled to live life faster and more efficiently than ever before? Perhaps… Maybe it’s easier for people to just decide they’re in “this group” versus “that group” so that every time an issue needs to be addressed or a question needs to be answered they can look to the group for direction instead of taking the time to research the issue/question and analyze it for themseves. Do I think that’s right? No.] 

How can we meet that challenge?

The best way to rise up to the challenge is to educate each other while supporting one another. There’s more options to writers now than ever before, but if we undermine one another, no one wins. On the other hand, joining national writers’ groups, educating each other on best practices, and knowing the difference between “bad for me” (such as publishing method or genre choice) and “bad for all writers” (such as vanity publishing or rights-grabbing clauses in contracts) can make publishing better for everyone. The best thing writers can do is share information on what works for ourselves, while being welcoming to writers who offer new or different ideas. When writers help writers, everyone wins.

[Jill: Agreed! “Bad for everyone” is as different from “bad for me” as “bad for me” is from “bad for this book.” Regarding self-pub versus traditional: ideally, each writer will decide which method of distribution is best for each individual project.

For what it’s worth, I’m seeing less us versus them attitudes with respect to the self-pub versus traditional debate. I think many writers are starting to realize it would be great to do both. Maybe trying to be a hybrid author is the biggest challenge facing writers today? 😀]

Rebekkah Niles
Rebekkah Niles

More about Rebekkah

Rebekkah Niles writes contemporary fantasy with romance and a touch of geekery. She lives in North Carolina with her cats and her fiance. Her lair has more wall space devoted to bookshelves than clothes or desk, and several art prints from her favorite fantasy artist, Nene Thomas, fill up what’s left.

When not writing her own fiction, she daylights as an editorial assistant. Outside work, she can be found writing (of course), reading, drinking tea, playing video games, and trying not to kill her plants.

You can also find her on her blog or on her website.

More about the Giveaway

Rebekkah is offering one signed print copy (U.S. only) and two digital versions of Into the Tides. To enter the giveaway, click here for the Rafflecopter form. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Thank you, Rebekkah, for the great interview, giveaway, and fun photo collection! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. For those of you celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday, I hope you have a happy one!