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!!! 😀

Advertisements

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

IMG_6886.JPG copy

 

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)

IMG_0782.JPG

IMG_0783.JPG

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!

Jeffe Kennedy: A Personal History of an Emerging Genre (#fantasy #romance)

Today’s guest blogger is Jeffe Kennedy, who, among other recent successes, finaled in this year’s PRISM (FF&P’s published author contest) in the Fantasy category. She’s here to discuss how popular fantasy romance is these days..

I’ve just returned from the RT Booklovers Convention and – wow! – was it ever a great year for Fantasy Romance.

A number of us hosted the Mad Hatter Fantasy Romance Tea Party. We planned for 100 people, something like 150 came in for standing room only, and RT volunteers turned 30+ away. Next year RT suggests we plan for 200! What a rousing – and unexpected – success. I saw other signs of increased interest in the genre, with people snapping up my books, some after standing for hours in line! I’ve never experienced anything like it.

In fact, I had a long, winding (two-hour) conversation with Fantasy Romance author Grace Draven. It was fascinating to compare notes with her, because she was similarly blown away by the genre love. She said that, like me, she’s never been on the upsurge of anything in her life. We are both bemused and incredibly grateful.

What’s most interesting is our shared history, though we only just met at this conference.

Her book, Master of Crows – which was my Grace Draven gateway drug and I love, love, love – came out from Amber Quill in 2009. She told me it didn’t do well, largely because the cover wasn’t good. When she regained her rights to the book, she reissued it in 2011 with an amazing new cover and it took off from there. Meanwhile, my first book in the Covenant of Thorns trilogy, Rogue’s Pawn, finally sold after much muttering about how cross-genre it was, and came out from Carina Press in 2012. I think it’s salient that Grace and I both sold these “unmarketable” books to digital presses. We both reflected on our gratitude for those digital presses and the technology that allows these cross-genre books to find audiences, which allows new genres to emerge.

Amber Quill called Grace’s book Fantasy, but Carina classified mine, three years later, as Fantasy Romance – a genre I had never heard defined that way, before that moment. But in between the first publication of Master of Crows and mine for Rogue’s Pawn, something else happened. C.L. Wilson’s Lord of the Fading Lands was published in July 2010 by Harper Collins and debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. She, as Grace puts it, kicked the door down for Fantasy Romance.

This year, RT Magazine awarded the first of my Twelve Kingdoms books, The Mark of the Tala, the Seal of Excellence for stretching genre boundaries. The second book, The Tears of the Rose, was nominated for best Fantasy Romance of the year, along with books by C.L. Wilson and Amy Raby, and Grace’s book, Entreat Me, won the category. 2014 was the first time the magazine gave awards in the subgenre.

So, what’s ahead? I’m a big believer that a high tide floats all boats. More love for Fantasy Romance means more opportunities for writers! Bring it on, people!

the talon of the hawk

More About The Talon of the Hawk

A HEAVY CROWN

Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.

Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other—that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead…

Available at Amazon   BN

Jeffe Kennedy
Jeffe Kennedy

More About Jeffe

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

Thanks for guest blogging today, Jeffe, and congratulations! It sounds like RT Booklovers Convention was a lot of fun. 😀

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!

Jan DeLima: The World of her Celtic Wolves Series (#fantasy #giveaway)

Today’s guest is Jan DeLima, author of the Celtic Wolves series: CELTIC MOON, SUMMER MOON, and AUTUMN MOON. She’s here to share a little bit about the world her stories are set in, which was partially inspired by Maine and Celtic culture. She’s giving away some fantastic tour-wide prizes: one $100 Amazon eGC (U.S. and Canada) and five signed copies of the first two books (package set; international). Details below.

[As an aside, I wanted to introduce her as an author and as… someone from Maine… but I didn’t know what people from Maine called themselves (in Maryland, it’s easy; we’re Marylanders). So I looked it up: Mainer. Or possibly Mainiac, which didn’t sound right and gave me an immediate earworm — who remembers the Michael Sembello tune from Flashdance? — yep, I know it’s spelled differently 😀 ]

In any case, without further ado, please welcome UF author and Mainer Jan DeLima!

“There are rumors that wolves have been sighted…”

Celtic Wolves World 2

 The Environment of the Celtic Wolves World

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, and for participating in my first blog tour!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my Celtic Wolves series, just imagine a place where warriors are also wolves and reality isn’t always what it seems.  Set in modern day, the stories are a mixture of both urban fantasy and romance.  Written for adults, each installment has strong fantasy elements built around Celtic folklore, with a secondary romance between two new characters.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the history of the Celtic culture for my series, and nature was, and still is, an important influence for Celts.  The magic of my world is based on their beliefs; therefore nature is where my Celtic warriors derive their power to shift.  Because of this, I make sure the wilderness setting of the books is real, even if what the characters do within it isn’t.  I’ve positioned tribes across the globe conducive to the habitats of wolves, and I like to write about environments I know, so the setting for Celtic Moon, the first book in the series, is in my home state of Maine.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

In my travels, I’ve noticed that most people associate Maine with our coastal villages, but if you go an hour north of Bangor, you’ll find a beautiful mountain region. There are still isolated areas and small towns where an ancient Celtic tribe of shifters could easily hide for centuries, and where cellphones still don’t receive signals.

The environment is perfect for many wild creatures.  There are rumors that wolves have been sighted, but for now they are just rumors—our own local urban legend.  Wolves are in the woods of our Canadian neighbors to the north, and it’s not much of a stretch for them to migrate south if the environment supports their habitat.  Wolves, I suspect, don’t recognize state or country lines on human maps, only forests and food.  Perhaps one day that legend will be revealed as truth.

The above pictures are from my Celtic Wolves world.  You are welcome to read an excerpt on my website from Celtic Moon that I’ve posted for this articleNature is magic, as my very human heroine learns. This is the scene where Sophie witnesses her son’s father shift into a wolf for the first time… http://jandelima.com/celtic-moon-when-it-began/

All my best,
Jan

Celtic Wolves Series

 

More About Celtic Moon

Celtic Wolves Celtic MoonLike father, like son…

Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years.  Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized.  He’s going to end up being just like his father—-a man who can change into a wolf.

Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—-an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war.  Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe.  One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.

When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared.  For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp.  But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it…

Celtic Moon’s first chapter

Available at  Amazon and  BN

More About Summer Moon

Celtic Wolves Summer MoonShe won’t be ruled again…

Rosa Alban has been obedient her entire life. But when her alpha husband dies, she seizes the opportunity to flee the oppressive Guardians—the rulers of the secret shapeshifter world. Her flight instantly brands her as a pack traitor, and she has no choice but to seek protection from a neighboring tribe by marrying one of their sons.

Known as the Beast of Merin, Luc Black loyally plays the part of unwanted son and devoted brother. He realizes marrying Rosa will strengthen his tribe’s territory, but he has no intention of loving ever again. Still, he’s unprepared for the intense physical need the wild she-wolf awakens in him.

When the Guardians hone in on Rosa, Luc must fight to protect his new bride. And as war descends, the unlikely allies discover their destinies are irrevocably entwined…

Summer Moon’s first chapter

Available at  Amazon and  BN

More About Autumn Moon

Celtic Wolves Autumn MoonThe heart of a warrior, the soul of a wolf, and the desires of a man…

For centuries, Cormack has lived between worlds—a man trapped in the body of a wolf, shunned by humans and shifters alike. Only one person has ever welcomed his company: Elen, a kindred outcast who is feared by others of her ancient Celtic race for her strange healing abilities.

Cormack has always valued Elen’s kindness and understanding, but after a desperate act of friendship causes Elen to free him from his curse, he realizes he wants more. He wants all of her—completely and forever.Except before Cormack can win Elen’s heart, Pendaran, the evil leader of the Guardians, captures her, determined to manipulate her incredible power to aid him in his twisted war against the shapeshifting tribes.

Now Cormack must use all of his skills as a warrior and a wolf to save the woman he loves—before Pendaran’s vile schemes destroy them all…

Prequel for Autumn Moon

Available at Amazon  and   BN

Jan DeLima
Jan DeLima

More About Jan

Jan DeLima is the author of the Celtic Wolves novels, including Summer Moon and Celtic Moon. She lives in Maine with her husband and their two sons. Unlike many authors, Jan didn’t pen stories at an early age, but she has always been a dedicated reader. She loves stories and storytelling. It wasn’t until after her children entered school that she began writing. Raised in a military family, she lived in different countries such as Thailand and Germany, but home base has always been Maine.

More About the Giveaway

Jan is giving away: $100 Amazon gift card open to U.S. and Canada and 5 signed copies of Celtic Moon and Summer Moon (package set). For the Rafflecopter link, click here. For my compete giveaway rules, click here.

Thank you, Jan, for guest blogging today!

Celtic Wolves Series Banner

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!

Five Photographs: Rachel Leigh Smith (Crawfish & Cross-Stitch)

The next guest in my spring “Five Photographs” series is Rachel Leigh Smith. She’s here with another terrific collection of photos, a peek at her writing, and more reading and watching recommendations. She’s also giving away one signed copy of her first book, My Name is A’Yen. Details below. Welcome, Rachel!

Something that represents something unique about you

Rachel Smith Unique

This photo is me in a nutshell. My favorite flower, my favorite movie, my favorite country, and the blue postcard in the back says “Keep Calm, I’m The Doctor.” The book you can see under the Ariel music box is my crit partner’s first published novella. And I’m a cat person.

Something that represents where you live

Rachel Smith Crawfish

I live in Louisiana, home of some of the most unique food you’ll find in the US. Most people know these little babies as crayfish. If you call them that, it means you’re a Yankee. They’re crawfish, or even better, crawdads or mudbugs. We prefer them boiled. What you see is three pounds, and I ate every single one of them. My sister ate five pounds that night.

[Jill: Ha! I always open the photos first when I get these posts. I knew where you were from when I saw this. 🙂 ]

Your pet or plant or thing you care for

Rachel Smith Zoe

This is my Zoe. She’s gorgeous, so sweet, great around kids, my snuggle-bunny, and dumb as a rock. I’m constantly reminding my family I didn’t pick her because she was smart, I picked her because she was cute. How can you not love that face?

[Jill: I love cats with unique fur patterns on their face. She is adorable.]

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Rachel Smith Frustrating

This is what I call the damn hedge. It surrounds our property. And I’m allergic to it. I get a few days break from the pine pollen madness before this stupid thing starts up.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Rachel Smith Cross-Stich

Counted cross-stitch! This pattern is White Nights in St. Petersburg from Chatelaine, and I’m almost done with it. It’s massive, my fabric is 32” square.

[Jill: Beautiful! I’m not sure I’d have the patience…]

Interview

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

A’yen is crowned king, but it isn’t stopping his enemies. Someone is after Ro, and the woman he’s falling in love with is caught in the middle. A’yen races to save Ro before he can act on his deepest desire: killing his tormentor. Happily ever after can’t happen if Ro is dead.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently writing #6 in A’yen’s Legacy, and trying to figure out how to finish my other series opener novel while still writing on Essence of Loyalty.

What are you currently reading?

Keir by Pippa Jay and The Darkest Craving by Gena Showalter. I’m very much in the Kane club now, though I didn’t care for him before.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Criminal Minds, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Arrow, The Flash, The Musketeers, Broadchurch, Wolf Hall, and Call The Midwife. And yes, there is a distinct preference there for BBC shows, whether on PBS or BBC America.

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

The Raksura, from The Books of The Raksura by Martha Wells. They’re fantasy with a strong romance sub-plot in the first three, centered on a race of shape-shifters called the Raksura. They have a human form and a winged form. I read the main trilogy about once a year and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the second novella collection this summer.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Finding your readers. Everything is so saturated, and a lot of so-called promo opportunities don’t work. When you write in a niche genre like me, finding those readers is even harder.

How can we meet that challenge?

By writing the best damn book we’re capable of. Every writer should constantly be learning more about the craft of writing, how to structure and pace a novel, and strive to make each novel better than the last.

Rachel Leigh Smith
Rachel Leigh Smith

More about Rachel

Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. There may also be Netflix binging…

She’s a member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Romance Writers of America. She blogs sporadically at http://www.rachelleighsmith.com, hangs out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RachelLeighSmithAuthor, and can sometimes be found at http://twitter.com/rachelleighgeek. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

The Giveaway

Rachel is giving away one signed copy of My Name is A’Yen. Click here for the Rafflecopter form. Click here for my complete giveaway rules.

ALSO: My Name Is A’yen is on sale for 99 cents through 5/10! Sale price available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Coffee Time Romance Bookstore, and All Romance Ebooks.

Thanks for the interview, pictures, and giveaway, Rachel! Best wishes and happy Monday, all!

Five Photographs: Veronica Scott (NASA, SoCal, and Legos)

Today’s “Five Photographs” guest is SF/PNR author Veronica Scott, who is also the “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog. (For those of you that didn’t see it yet, she wrote a great post last Thursday on the appeal of fantasy romance.) She’s here today to share a little bit about herself and her writing. Welcome, Veronica!

Something That Represents Something Unique About You

Veronica Scott JPL

I worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (think Mars Rovers) in the Acquisition Division for a very long time. I was on the business side of the house, not a rocket scientist, but it was an incredible set of experiences! (I’m a fulltime author as of this past March.) This is a photo of the service award I recently received. There’s a tiny galaxy laser etched in the center!

[Jill: That is awesome! I think JPL would be an amazing place to work. I’m sure the business side of it was really interesting. Of course, it’s equally great that you’re now a full time writer. Congrats!]

Something That Represents Where You Live

Veronica Scott Garden

I live in drought stricken Southern California, so these nearby succulents and cacti represent our current state.

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

Veronica Scott Cats

Jake and Keanu, two very companionable and lively cats

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Veronica Scott Clock

Time! In three ways: I’m not a patient person at all, so I hate to wait for things. Second, there’s never enough time in a day for all the things I want to do, even writing fulltime now. And third, I spend too much time on social media (because I have so much fun there)!

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Veronica Scott Legos

Something that brings me joy is time spent with my grandson and we’re usually building Legos, so here’s one of our latest building projects.

Interview

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

My latest novel is Mission to Mahjundar, science fiction romance. “Special Forces soldier of the future falls in love with blind Princess of Shadows, places rescuing her above his mission objective.”

What are you working on next?

I have Ghost of the Nile coming out in late May, and I’m just finishing the first draft of my next SFR, tentatively entitled Star Cruise: Marooned.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been on an epic romance fantasy binge and just finished Radiance by Grace Draven, which I LOVED and can’t recommend highly enough.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

“Dancing With The Stars”, “Twelve Monkeys, “The Walking Dead,” Say Yes to the Dress,” “Madam Secretary”.

[Jill: my older daughter loves “Say Yes to the Dress” 😀 ]

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

Anne McCaffrey’s dragons from the planet Pern. I so want to be the rider of a golden dragon!

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

With all the wonderful books pouring out from authors these days, I think discoverability is the key. Finding your own audience!

How can we meet that challenge?

By being proactive on social media – whatever channels work best for the individual – and I love the way authors are helping each other, as with this guest blog opportunity of yours, forums, Facebook groups (and events)…sharing information and shining a light on each other’s books that we’ve enjoyed goes a long way. And of course, writing the next book, and the book after that is critical. So, it’s a juggling act but the books are always the most important thing.

Thanks for having me as your guest with this fun photo blog!

Veronica Scott
Veronica Scott

More About Veronica

Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog,  Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Blog   @vscotttheauthor    Facebook

Thank you, Veronica, for the interview and for sharing your pictures with us! I enjoyed getting to know more about you. 🙂

Five Photographs: Suzanne Johnson (Boeuf Gras, Pirate’s Alley, and a Terrific #Giveaway)

Today’s guest is Suzanne Johnson, author of the recently released PIRATE’S ALLEY, the fourth book in her Sentinels of New Orleans series. She’s been a guest blogger here at least a few times (more if you count her alter ego Susannah Sandlin) so when I heard she was doing a BBT tour to promote Pirate’s Alley, I signed up. We discussed several fun topics, all of which I would have been happy to hear her thoughts on, but in the end she said she wanted to do a “Five Photographs” post. (For anyone new here today, I’m doing a photo themed guest blog series this spring. It features a bunch of writers who write romantic, otherworldly/supernatural tales. They submit five photos and answer seven questions.) As part of Suzanne’s tour, she’s giving away one $50 Amazon eGC and two $15 Amazon eGCs. Details below. Welcome, Suzanne!

Something that represents something unique about you

Suzanne Johnson ADD Collector

I will call this “The ADD Collector.” I get on obsessive collecting kicks and then, just as obsessively, grow tired of it. Represented here are some previous collecting frenzies: a piece of Early American Pattern Glass with animal motifs, some early 1960s glassware with Greek characters that was given out at Texaco stations with a fillup, a mask and, from my current collecting binges, a wooden cigar box, an alligator, and some Mardi Gras throws. You could also add dolls and Fenton colonial blue thumbprint glass to this list. And music. And…

Something about where you live

Suzanne Johnson boef gras

Meet two version of “Boeuf Gras,” the plush version thrown from the Mardi Gras float and the “special” version acquired for me by a friend from a member of the Krewe of Rex, the original oldest Mardi Gras krewe. Boeuf Gras is my favorite Mardi Gras float—it’s a huge white bull the size of an eighteen-wheeler that’s a signature float in the Rex parade. But it also represents my current home city of Auburn, Alabama, where there are a lot of cattle and, at the university, a big meat sciences program. Alabama fans who hate Auburn call it “the cow college.” Them’s fightin’ words ’round here.

Something or someone you care about

Suzanne Johnson Shane and Tanker

I debated whether or not to use this photo. It feels a little like cheating, but these are the loves of my life, Shane (the Irish terrier mix) and Tanker (part black chow-chow, part golden retriever). Both of them were rescues I adopted in 2000. I lost Shane at age 16 about six months ago and Tanker, also at age 16, three weeks ago. I will have another dog eventually, but it’s still too raw and hurts too much.

[Jill: That’s rough losing them so close together. I’m so sorry. When you’re ready, I hope you find another dog. He or she will be different — I’m sure neither Shane nor Tanker can be replaced — but I’m equally sure the new dog will bring you just as much joy.]

Something that frustrates you

Suzanne Johnson Fiji House

The FIJI House. I thought about taking a shot of pollen on my car, or my office building where I spend my day job. But, in the end, I chose the Auburn University Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, aka the FIJI house. I’m sure they’re lovely kids, but the house sits just outside my office window and they’re always yelling and playing annoying music at full blast and hammering on some secret project in their courtyard. I have to work with earbuds stuffed in my ears.

[Jill: Ah, this one made me laugh. 😀]

Something that brings you joy

Suzanne Johnson art stuff

Um…remember all those collections? This isn’t exactly a collection, but it’s one corner of my sprawling art space, where I dabble in paint and have copious amounts of art supplies. There’s also a 20-drawer cabinet, two multi-level rolling carts, and three bookcase shelves full. It’s a sickness…but it makes me happy. That’s my happy space.

Interview

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

“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the preternatural world.” An unexpected interspecies pregnancy has the preternatural world on the brink of war, with DJ, New Orleans’ wizard sentinel, caught squarely in the middle—and who she sides with won’t be an easy decision.

What are you working on next?

WILD MAN’S BLUFF, the first book in a new suspense series (written as Susannah Sandlin) about a Louisiana game warden caught up in the case of a murdered voodoo priestess, a long-buried secret, and a woman who’s about to learned that you can take the Cajun girl out of Louisiana but the swamps stay deep within the heart.

What are you currently reading?

Better sit down, or the excitement might do you in: Game Warden: On Patrol in Louisiana, by Jerald Horst. LOL. Gotta do my research!

 What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Currently, I watch NCIS: New Orleans, The Amazing Race, Chicago Fire, and Cutthroat Kitchen, of which I’ve never missed an episode. I DVR the shows and watch them in 20-minute spurts. My attention span is the size of a gnat, which I blame on my iPhone and too many years of General Hospital.

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

I still wish I’d thought to animate a dinosaur. Jim Butcher did that in one of the Dresden books, and Harry Dresden rode the dinosaur skeleton from the Field Museum down the middle of Lakeshore Drive in Chicago. It was freaking brilliant.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Discoverability, without a doubt. The downside to authors having so many publishing options these days (which is great) is that it’s harder than ever for an author to find readers. The number of books released in the U.S. was about 300,000 in 2005; in 2009 it had grown to more than 1 million; in 2012, more than 2 million—including more than 500,000 self-published titles PER YEAR. That means a ton of authors and a lot of good books are getting lost in the noise while everyone (authors and publishers) are scrambling around, trying to figure out how to be “discovered” in that crowd. Meanwhile, the number of readers has not grown proportionately.

[Jill: that’s an insane number of books!]

 How can we meet that challenge?

I honestly don’t know. If I did, I’d be a very rich woman…or at least be able to give up my day job! 🙂 The same thing doesn’t work for every book or every author and technology is in constant flux. We’re all trying to figure it out.

[Jill: too true. The thing that keeps me from going batshit crazy is remembering that the majority of those 2 million+ books are not in my wheelhouse — either as a writer or as a reader.]

Suzanne Johnson Pirate's AlleyMore About Pirate’s Alley

From award-winning author Suzanne Johnson comes the fourth book in the smart and sexy Sentinels of New Orleans series.

Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal. Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband Quince Randolph is growing more powerful, and her best friend Eugenie has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back.

And that’s before the French pirate Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest “death,” returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ’s assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won’t be that easy.

Available at   Amazon   BN   Book Depository

More About Suzanne

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.

More About the Giveaway

Suzanne is giving away one $50 Amazon eGift Certificate and two $15 Amazon eGift Certificates as part of her Bewitching Book Tour. To enter to win, click here for the Rafflecopter link. For my complete giveaway rules, click here.

Suzanne Johnson Pirate's Alley Banner

~

Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your pictures, thoughts, and great giveaway with us!

Five Photographs: Beth Caudill (Dogwoods, Spaniels, Chainmaille, and Backlist)

This spring, I’m hosting a guest blog series called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures and complete a brief interview. Today’s guest is Beth Caudill. In her interview, she talks about the importance of backlist and I share two interesting self-pub links. If you like King Charles Spaniels, dogwood trees, and/or chainmaille jewelry, you’ll love her pictures. Welcome, Beth!

Something that represents where you live

Caudill Pink Dogwood

The first house I lived in in West Virginia had several white dogwood trees. I always thought they were beautiful and a home isn’t a home without one in the yard. Fortunately for me, I moved to a state that named the dogwood blossom as its state flower. In springtime, you’ll find dogwoods blooming everywhere.  It took awhile, but I finally have my own tree in the yard, although it’s a pink variation instead of the bright white.

Something that represents something unique about you

Space Art

Growing up, I loved everything space. All I wanted was to be an astronaut.  While that didn’t work out, my love of space hasn’t gone away. I decorate my walls with space art of all colors. My favorite is this print titled Ladies of the Lake by Kim Poor.  It’s based off the Pleiades star cluster.

Your Pet or Plant or Thing You Care For

Caudill King Charles Spaniel

This is Megan and she’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She acts as my shadow until my husband comes home from work, then the little traitor follows him around.  But don’t let those brown eyes fool you; she gets plenty of cuddles and treats.

Something that really frustrates you

Caudill Star Gazer Lilies

I love Stargazer Lilies but I can’t have cut blooms in the house.  The dark yellow pollen on the stamen gets everywhere and it stains. At least I can have them in the garden.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Caudill Flower Bracelet

A few years ago, I learned how to make chainmaille jewelry.  This flower chain bracelet is one I wear all the time.  I particularly love the feel of silver rings but also work with copper and stainless steel.  If you want to see my work, check out my website at Starlight Falls Designs.

Interview

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

Cursed at his birth by a dark elf, Rowe Calder avoids personal entanglements, especially his betrothal to Caliressa Bellehaven. Circumstances force them together and love won’t be denied. But the dark elf claims his vengeance and only the strongest enchantress can reclaim Rowe’s soul.  – Enchantress’ Destiny, Paranormals of Arilase – Novella 2

What are you working on next?

I’ve been waffling on this. ‘The Plan’ says I should be working on the Prequel to my Tales of Ellemarlene series but I haven’t been able to decide on the main character for that story.  I’m also having trouble determining the motivation for the female character in the 3rd Paranormals of Arilase novella.  So I’m revising a contemporary novella that didn’t go anywhere because it lacked conflict.  I’m turning it into a contemporary fantasy series.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m judging a few books for the PRISM contest sponsored by the FF&P chapter of RWA. I can’t name those stories but I did read Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey and Dropping Gloves by Catherine Gayle this week.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I caught up on my Arrow episodes and watched the finale of Face Off.

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

I love Elektra’s bladed sai.  I like to watch the scene in Daredevil where Jennifer Garner practices with sandbags before she goes after the man she thinks killed her dad.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Producing content quickly to keep your fans interested and finding new fans.  I first sold some short stories a few years ago and had decent sales.  Then I had a few slow years, completed stories didn’t quite work and then I started homeschooling my kids. My writing derailed and while I’ve released two novellas in the past year, I feel like my career has gone backwards.

[Jill: how can you say it’s gone backwards? You released two novellas! 🙂 Writing/publishing is a very tough business. I recently read two articles that seemed to realistically capture the challenges writers face while still being encouraging:

Rachelle Ayala’s What I Learned After Four Years of Self-Publishing (Thanks to Jami Gray for the link)

Forbes’ Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer (Thanks to Shamus W. for the link. The headline is clickbait, but the article itself seems fairly even-handed in its approach. I especially liked the one commenter who pointed out that self-pub doesn’t have to be an all or none experience.)]

How can we meet that challenge?

While I’m still struggling, the best thing is to develop a daily schedule and keep writing. A writer’s best asset is their backlist.

[Jill: “develop a daily schedule and keep writing” Agreed! 😀

I think both backlist and frontlist are equally important. Our best marketing tool is our next book!]

More about Beth

Beth grew up in West Virginia but now resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. She has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and previously worked as a quality assurance computer software tester. Reading has been her favorite activity for as long as she can remember and her home has more books than shelves to store them. While being a fulltime parent, she is pursuing a writing career. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter and her local chapter Heart of Carolina Romance Writers.

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

Five Photographs: Celia Breslin (Desserts You Can’t Eat + Disney for Adults)

This spring, I’m hosting a guest blog series called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures and complete a brief interview. Today’s guest is Celia Breslin. Welcome, Celia!

Hi Everyone!

I’m happy to be here today to participate in Jill’s new guest blog series.  And Jill, thanks for giving me a reason to peruse my photo albums. 🙂

Something that represents something unique about you

Breslin Tattoo

This is my tattoo.  I designed it myself. I was going for a primitive, moon-goddess-meets-silver-surfer kind of vibe.  Actual size: six inches.

Something that represents where you live

Breslin San Francisco Fog

San Francisco is a beautiful city.  I love watching the fog roll over the hills.

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

Breslin Cats

These are my cats Lenny and Hazel.  We adopted them from our local shelter when they were both a little over one year old. They’re loads of purring fun.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Breslin Dessert

This is made-to-order, molten chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream and delicious, creamy sauce at Moki’s Sushi & Pacific Grill.  I get to watch my family enjoy this dessert because I’m allergic to dairy and cannot eat it!  Frustrating, indeed. 🙂

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Breslin Vegas

I love going on vacation with my family. Last fall, we went to Vegas to celebrate our anniversary and stayed in a suite at the Wynn. We like to spend most of our time poolside then go to shows in the evening.

Interview

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

Human-wolf hybrid Darci wants a cure for her shifting problem not a Wolf mate, but Dominant wolf Ross intends to change her mind and capture her heart. – DIAMOND MOON, Black Hills Wolves series.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently editing the second werewolf story for the Black Hills Wolves (a multi-author series from Decadent Pub), writing the third wolf story, and also working on the third vampire novel for my Tranquilli Bloodline series (Champagne Books).

What are you currently reading?

21 Marine Salute, a collection of military romance stories by Heather Long.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Vampire Diaries and Originals.

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

Vampires and werewolves top my list of favorite fantasy creatures, along with the Fae. I particularly enjoy them all in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. And her vampire villain, Lothaire, tops my list of fun villains. For a weapon, I’ll go with the daggers in J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

I’d say it’s the same challenge pre and post publication: it’s important to keep writing while one attends to the other aspects of the business, such as promotion, conferences, queries, submissions, etc.

How can we meet that challenge?

Write every day. Lock in that writing time on your busy schedule and make it happen!

Thanks again, Jill, this was fun! Have a great day, everyone! ::waves::  🙂

More About Celia

Celia lives in California with her husband, daughter, and two feisty cats. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and has a particular fondness for werewolves, vampires, and the Fae. When not writing, you’ll find Celia exercising, reading a good book, hanging with her family, or indulging her addiction to Joss Whedon’s TV shows and movies.

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us, Celia! A dairy allergy would be tough, especially if it prevents you from eating chocolate desserts. (Although it would be tougher for me to give up cheese. I’m one of those people who prefers fruity/sour sweets to chocolate ones.) I’ve only been to Vegas once but I really enjoyed it. Went with a bunch of girlfriends that I’ve been friends with forever and we had a blast. I’d love to go back with my husband. Everyone was so friendly. Disney for adults! 😀

Now back to writing! 😉

Five Photographs: JC Stockli (Rescue Pup + Why to Join a Writing Group)

This spring, I’m hosting a guest blog series called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures and complete a brief interview. Today’s guest is JC Stockli. Welcome, JC!

Something Unique About You:

JC Stockli UniqueMy ring represents my marriage, but it is a unique ring, just like my relationship with my husband. He special ordered it because he wanted something out of the norm. The engagement ring did not have a matching band (because what guy thinks of that when he orders a ring), so the wedding band is literally one-of-a-kind, hand-carved to match the engagement ring. More than that, it is a representation of a truly unusual relationship. We were two very anti-relationship kind of people, but within 3 weeks decided to get engaged. That was 10 ½ years ago, and we’ve been married for 8 ½ of those years. Everything in our life together has happened fluidly. From the moment we met to the birth of our children, nothing has been a struggle for us. We are truly blessed. Life has naturally progressed since we found each other. How many young couples can say that these days?

Something That Represents Where You Live:

JC Stockli SunsetI have taken some real breathtaking photos of the area that I live in, but this one in particular makes me happy. This was my back yard a few weeks ago. I awoke to this amazing blood orange hue warming my bedroom, setting everything on fire. When I look outside, this is what I saw. I live in the country, but am a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. I can hear the sea gulls along the coast while watching hawks fly overhead. It’s amazing.

Your Pet or Plant or Thing You Care For:

JC Stockli Awesome Possum

~

This is my “Awesome Possum”. Ever since we rescued this boy after being found alone underneath the wheel well of a school bus in the middle of Kentucky, Possum has been the perfect addition to our New England family… and I haven’t stopped writing since he arrived. My husband says he is my muse.

Something That Frustrates You:

JC Stockli Frustrating~

The fact that I spend more time alone in my office rather than with my family or doing what I love frustrates me. I believe that you have to smile and/or laugh at least once a day at work. Such a feat is difficult to accomplish on days when your whole family is home and you’re not. My daughter wrote this on my white board in my office, and while I realize that she was just saying I’d be out to lunch, I can’t help but find the dramatic undertone beneath it. Work sucks!

Something That Brings You Joy:

JC Stockli Joy~

These little monsters are my ALL. I think being a parent is hands down the most difficult job, because at the end of a 9-5 it’s not about going home to a glass of wine with dinner, maybe a work out and then some writing. It’s about making sure we all sit at the table together to chat about how our day went. It’s about making sure homework is done and tubbies are set. Let’s be honest, it’s about relinquishing all rights to privacy in the bathroom and premature grey hairs. On the weekends, it’s not about warrioring through a couple of chapters, but what you can do as a family to make lasting memories. Writing is secondary, even when your daughter walks up to you and asks if you’re done with your book yet. It’s about turning her on to reading so that she may be inspired to follow in your footsteps someday. It’s a difficult balance when you have passion for your work, but it’s worth it.

Interview

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

The Nothingness is about an alcoholic waitress. It’s a dark, urban fantasy with paranormal elements, but the heart of the series is about the main character’s struggle to overcome her addictions. The first book in this series introduces the drug to the main character, where the remainder of the series takes her through the various stages of intervention, reveling in the high, over-dosing, hitting rock bottom, and finding ways to cope and recover.

What are you working on next?

Aside from working on the sequel to The Nothingness (The Saving, which I hope to release this July), I have a paranormal fantasy about witchcraft and a very intimate connection between two people. It was really just a story I wrote for myself, that literally flowed out of me in a month’s time. I feel it would be a shame not to share it with the world. I also have several other WIPs, another being a dark faerie fantasy / Gothic romance. I just sort of let my mind go with that one. It’s been amazing.

What are you currently reading?

Too much… Ha! But seriously, I have several “to read” books in my pile, I’m trying to wrap up The Shadow Fabric by Mark Cassell. It’s a great mystery/thriller based on witchcraft folklore, which I dig.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Not a cop-out, but I don’t watch a lot of TV. I probably should, but I really don’t. When I do, it’s usually Scrubs reruns with my husband, or Big Bang Theory reruns. If I’m going to watch TV, I usually like it to be an escape, effortless, and funny. Have you ever watched Drunk History?  100% hilarious!

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

I’m a Star Wars dork. I’m a fan of the Order of the Sith. Where I respect Darth Vader for the legend he is, I am partial to Darth Maul. His fighting style is just badass, and his death was a tragedy… but I realize there can be only two 😉

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Exposure. I think the digital age has been great for indies, but it’s a double-edged sword in my opinion. Social media is a useful tool, but it’s so immense of an undertaking to create a profile out of thin air. This is where I feel traditional publishing, even down to a small press has the upper hand. Indies don’t have a network of their own. They have to go out and make their own friends from scratch, not through a publishing house. It’s a daunting task for any introvert, even if we’re guarded by our digital cloak.

How can we meet that challenge?

Groups that aim to foster constructive, synergistic relationships between writers of all genres. The groups I have joined have been wonderful. They are full of supportive and positive criticism. They make it easier to build up the nerve to share ideas. And they say “sharing is caring”. No matter what stage of the game you are at in your writing career, we all need to pitch in and support each other. There’s a readership out there for all of us.

Thank you for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us, JC. Your little climbers are cute and your Awesome Possum is adorable! 🙂

Five Photographs: Carla Richards (Saskatchewan, Snuffaleupagus, and Summon the Sun)

Fun bloggy news: I’m starting a new guest blog series today called “Five Photographs.” I asked a bunch of writers to submit five pictures (all taken by them; no stock photos 🙂 ) and complete a brief interview. You all know how I love themed guest blog series AND how I love eclectic blog posts and photographs, so this idea sounded perfect. Carla Richards is kicking it off with five beautiful, cute, and/or creative photos. She discusses author branding in her interview. There’s also a Goodreads giveaway link for an anthology Carla contributed to. Details below. Enjoy! Welcome, Carla!

Something that represents something unique about you:

Carla Richards Unique

This is one of my paintings. Although, it was done intentionally in the style of Jackson Pollock, it also represents something about me. I once had an acquaintance psychoanalyze me based on this painting when he and his wife were over for supper. He was an engineer not a psychiatrist, but he had learned to do this in some kind of class. The analysis wasn’t terribly accurate, but it was still a lot like those horrible dreams of going to school naked.

Something that represents where you live:

Carla Richards Saskatchewan

This photo pretty much covers winters here in Saskatchewan. It’s beautiful and it’s cold. It’s hard to remember that it’s beautiful when winter is trying to take over for the other seasons, the streets are covered in mucky snow and ice, and there are days when the windchill can freeze your face in under a minute.

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

Carla Richards Pickles

This is Pickles. She loves to knead on the bed and purr. She’s incredibly loyal, but some people think she might be imaginary like Snuffaleupagus (had to look up how to spell that!) because she is very shy.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you:

Carla Richards Cords

Cords! Never-ending cords! I do like trying to photograph everyday objects in interesting ways, but cords are just ugly.

 Something that brings you joy (besides writing):

Carla Richards Quilts

This is a quilt my late grandmother made for me many years ago. It was soft, just the right size, just the right weight, and made with grandma-love. As you can partly see from the photo, sadly, it is falling apart. I had to take it off the bed and put it away, but I did take pictures first. Still hoping it can be fixed.

Interview with Carla

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

My latest published work is a short story called “Summon the Sun” in Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods, an anthology exploring faith through science fiction and fantasy. Right now you can enter to win a copy on Goodreads!

The pitch for my story: An irresponsible novice witch summons the Egyptian Sun God to help warm up winter. But how much can a deity accomplish with a present following of one part-time Starbucks barista?

 What are you working on next?

I have a short story coming out in a benefit anthology for Friends of Homeless Animals, and my Work in Progress is a funny urban fantasy set in NYC with a fashion design assistant and some slightly ridiculous demons.

What are you currently reading?

I am usually reading several things at once. Right now: Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin, and Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I’m catching up on the last season of Game of Thrones, and eagerly awaiting more Outlander. Jamie (sigh).

[Jill: Believe it or not, I haven’t watched Outlander episode 9 yet! We were out of town for Easter and now my kids are on spring break. Maybe tonight. And – yes! – can’t wait for GoT S5!]

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

My favorite villains are the ones that are sort of grey rather than black and white, or the ones that are on a redemption path. You are never quite sure if they are going to do something evil or something heroic, but your heart is in your throat every time they have to make a choice. Jaime Lannister is one of my favorite villains like this.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Author branding may not be the biggest challenge facing writers today, but it’s been on my mind, so it’s the one I’ll talk about. The part of it that concerns me is the expectation that, for marketing purposes, all of an author’s work will fit neatly into one genre category like widgets produced in a factory. We are not factories. The truth is that this kind of restriction can really derail creativity, decreasing the quality of the work or stopping the creative process dead in its tracks. It’s true. It’s a business. But, it’s a creative business. And that means we have to protect our inner artists too.

The other aspect of this for authors is the use of a new pen name for every subgenre they write in, and the time then spent maintaining websites and social media for three or four “different” people. Time not spent writing.

[Jill: I’m always torn about author branding. I was a marketing major in college so I can appreciate why products/companies should have strong brands. But as an author I often rebel (ahem, this blog. ‘nough said.) My most admired actors/actresses are people with excellent range, because I think they’re the ones with the most talent. So I think it’s interesting that writers aren’t judged by the same standard. Our medium is the written word and theirs is performance, but still… Should that matter? Just because you can hold a book in your hand, doesn’t mean it’s a widget. It’s a story.]

How can we meet that challenge?

One of the cool things I’ve noticed lately is using author taglines that are less genre-specific. Lots of authors use taglines–the quick little blurb that can set our work apart and make it memorable. But some of the ones I’ve seen in the past are really genre specific, letting the reader know that the author writes historical western romances or post-apocalyptic sci-fi for young adults. That’s fine if it’s the only thing an author ever wants to write. Lately though I’ve been noticing taglines that aren’t so genre specific. Taglines that promise the reader an experience, like: “She’ll keep you up all night” (Jackie Collins) or “All. The. Feels.” (Gayle Forman). These taglines can go with an author for the life of their career.

We can also use our website(s) to communicate. Neil Gaiman writes speculative fiction for adults AND he writes picture books (see Blueberry Girl–it’s lovely), all under his own name. Gaiman has two websites, one for adults and a separate one for kids. (He also has an agent who’s very successful at representing multi-genre authors.) When Courtney Milan released her first Contemporary Romance, she wrote to fans of her Regency romance on her website, telling them a bit about why she felt she needed to do something different. There’s a wonderful authenticity and connection to readers in writing under one name, and being open about the process of writing.

Another thing we can do is keep our novels within one genre and still play and experiment with short fiction, like author Mary Robinette Kowal.

Lastly, I think we should respect that readers are intelligent, and can look at the front cover, read the back cover copy, and say, “this is a bit different from her last book, but it sounds cool too.” Yep, not all of the readers of an author’s medieval fantasy trilogy are going to want to go with her on a space expedition, but I guess in the end, I feel like what we lose in branding when writing multiple genres will be gained back in creating more engaging stories that we, and our readers, are passionate about.

Does anyone have any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

Thank you, Jill, for having me. This was a really fun blog idea.

Carla Richards
Carla Richards

More about Carla

Carla Richards has had fiction produced for CBC Radio; and published in Ocean Stories, Spring, and Tesseracts 18: Wrestling With Gods. She still has a baby tooth, and believes it is keeping her young.

Thank you, Carla, for guest blogging today! I loved your pictures and enjoyed reading your interview!