5 PHOTOS: Libby Doyle (#amwriting from #Philly)

Libby Doyle is here with some fantastic writer’s life photos — one of a martial arts tournament in Japan; one of her cats, Mao and Neko; and a beautiful picture of the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. 

But before we get to Libby’s photos, a quick note about my recent guest post for Natasha Lane. She invites authors to share writing tips and I picked How to Write a Terrific Book Blurb. Writing book blurbs (or back cover copy) is hard, so it’s hubris on my part to think I’ve mastered it. But I had to pick something! Writing the post got me thinking about best practices for blurb writing, which isn’t a bad thing. If you are a writer currently struggling with your WIP’s blurb, check out the post and vent your frustrations in the comments. 😀

And now… Welcome, Libby!


Something unique about me

I have a black belt in Shorinji Kempo. Here I am at a tournament in Japan. I was a brown belt at the time. Learning martial arts in Japan was a fantastic experience. One thing is certain. I will never, ever forget the Japanese word for pain: itai. We used it as the signal when our sparring partner had effectively applied a technique, which usually meant we were face down on the mat.

Shorinji Kempo is great for dealing with attackers who are bigger and stronger than you because it uses joint reverses, pressure points, and escapes, techniques based more on physics than strength.

Unfortunately, I’ve let my skills fade. You need to train all the time to be good. It really is a way of life. I’ve may have retained a bit of the attitude, though. 😉 Also, the knowledge helps with my action-packed books. My training helps me write vivid fight scenes.

Something that represents where I live

Philadelphia City Hall, from the courtyard. One day my husband posted a meme on Facebook that said: “People in Philly whisper ‘What the—?’ to themselves twenty times a day.” I laughed, because it’s true.

I set my books in Philadelphia because I know it so well, but also because it has a rich history and the kind of character that comes with age, diversity, and a powerful (and infamous) ornery streak. Plus, its people have a truly world-class sense of humor. For example, one morning while I’m riding my bike to work, a gang of us are stopped at a red light. When it changes, some random portly guy with a mustache yells, “And they’re off! Cabbage Cabbage takes the lead on the inside!”

Something I Care For

Our cats, Mao (foreground) and Neko. Mao is the Chinese word for cat. Neko is the Japanese word for cat. We got them because we had mice, and boy, have they been effective. If it’s small and moves in our house they will catch it. Of course, at this point it hardly matters. We’ve fallen in love with their fuzzy cuteness and hilarious antics. Most excellent cats.

Something that really frustrates me

My day job. This is the view from my office. Yes, a nice view, but I’m so busy I can hardly look up from the computer screen. And the hours! I want more time to write, dammit!

Something that brings me joy (besides writing)

I love mountains. I took this photo while hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, a range that inspired a character. The heroine of the Covalent Series, Zan O’Gara, hails from the Sawtooths. She has the toughness and self-sufficiency that comes from growing up poor in a harsh climate, and the reverence for Nature that comes from waking up every day soaked in that beauty.

The Interview

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

My latest is The Pain Season: Book II of the Covalent Series. I like to describe the series as Highlander meets Paradise Lost meets The English Patient. It’s an epic love story between an emotionally damaged FBI agent and a superhuman alien warrior from another dimension.

What are you working on next?

The Vengeance Season: Book III of the Covalent Series, to be released this winter. Like all my books, this one is shaping up to be a real ripsnorter. Over the first two installments of the series, Barakiel (Bah-rack-ee-el), my hero, dealt with his father’s attempts to either kill or enslave him. His father is Lucifer, a mighty Covalent warrior who rebelled against the rulers of their world and was driven from their city. He fled to the Destructive Realm, where he learned to harness its power. The only thing that holds Lucifer’s attention as much as his desire to destroy everything is his dangerous obsession with his son.

Barakiel has also fallen in love with Zan O’Gara, my heroine. Their devotion makes them both stronger, but they’re put to the test when Barakiel’s love turns Zan into a target. At times this is a dark story, filled with political intrigue, violence, tragedy and war. But my heroes are equal to their challenges. And, I should mention, this story is high heat. Scorching hot.

What are you currently reading?

Feast of Fates by Christian A. Brown, Book One of the Four Feasts Till Darkness Series, a superior epic fantasy. Brown has created a rich world, so real I can taste and smell it. I’m in love with his characters.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

The Deuce on HBO

Outlander on Starz

Fear the Walking Dead on FX

Jill: How excited are you for Outlander S3, E6? I heard we have to wait until 10/22. NOOOOOO!!!

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

Hands down, the dragons from Game of Thrones.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Getting your books noticed in the sea of offerings, many of them excellent.

I’m also concerned about Amazon’s power in the market. The company can do anything it likes to independent authors. We are completely at its mercy. I think it’s a shame when books become more about the delivery system than the stories.

Jill: I don’t think a reader buys a story because of its delivery system, but delivery systems that are too complicated or burdensome can have a dampening effect on sales.

How can we meet that challenge?

I have no idea. I’m not in KDP Select. I chose wide distribution, but I do sell the great majority of my books on Amazon. Sigh. I would love suggestions, about getting noticed and about handling Amazon.

Jill: I’m not in KDP Select either, although I don’t rule it out for future books. (It didn’t make sense for the book I self-published, which was a follow-up to three trad published books.) For each book, an author should carefully consider all their distribution options. Having an income stream from multiple sources for at least some products is a wise choice for any seller.

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts!

Where to find Libby

Website | NewsletterAmazon Author PageFacebookTwitterGoodreads

Advertisements

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!

#Writing #Workshops for June (and a cat pic this time)

Below are the online workshops being offered in June by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

NUTMEG
NUTMEG

Advanced WordPress

06/01/2015 – 06/28/2015

Now that you have your website or blog set up, it’s time to get creative. This course will focus on advanced customizing of WordPress sites such as installing WordPress on your home computer, creating a webhost server that is not connected to the internet so that you can test ideas in a risk-free environment, troubleshooting your site when it crashes, creating custom menus, importing and exporting content from different sources, creating user-friendly permalinks, search engine optimization, and using the WordPress community forum. The class lasts four weeks.

Lessons include:

  1. Setting up WP on your home computer: working with local host for both Mac and PC.
  2. Working with menus: creating custom menus, putting menus in your sidebar.
  3. Playing around in the WP Content Folder and troubleshooting: what to do if you crash your site.
  4. Fun things you can do with your site: embedding videos and adding images from the web.
  5. Optimizing your site for search engines.
  6. Uploading your practice site to the web.
  7. Going live.

About the Presenter

Pepper O’Neal has a doctorate in education and has taught a number of adult education classes on many different subjects. She currently works as a freelance researcher and author. When she was told by both of her publishers that she needed to have a website, she realized she needed to finally join the age of technology. She also realized she had two options. She could pay someone to design the site for her, or she could to do it herself. As she hates depending on others for things involving her career, she decided to learn how to use the free web-design software WordPress and Joomla. She took classes, hired experts for tutors, and picked the brains of her web-designer friends. After designing her own websites, she decided she liked doing it, and now she designs websites for others.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.

The Never Ending Plot / Subplot Resource

06/01/2015 – 06/26/2015

Polti’s principle of 36 situations shows “There are no new stories.” This 8-session workshop from Sally Walker takes the writer through his situations and explains how to apply, twist and spark every story and its characters into unpredictable freshness, even with genre expectations.

About the Presenter

She eventually graduated from Papillion (NE) High School then nursing school at the University of Albuquerque and, eventually received a BFA in Creative Writing back at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  That degree was accomplished while working full-time as a Critical Care/ER nurse and raising a very active family of three daughters with her engineer husband.  Adeptly juggling family, nursing, civic and Episcopal church responsibilities, Sally founded in 1985 and has conducted the weekly meetings of the eclectic Nebraska Writers Workshop to feed her own hunger for in-depth knowledge and skills. The Workshop has grown from a few tentative to over 50 confidently publishing and produced writers. Her own goal-oriented writing ethic has resulted in a vitae packed with novels, short stories, poetry, magazine articles, stage plays, screenplays and a variety of writing seminars.  In 2000 she was hired as part-time Editorial Director at The Fiction Works and Script Superviser for the affiliated Misty Mountain Productions. After retiring from her nursing career of over 30 years, she was elected President of the prestigious Nebraska Writers Guild, serving 2007-2011.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.

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

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

Something that represents something unique about you

Anna Durand Unique

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

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

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

[Jill: beautiful and charming!]

Something that represents where you live

Anna Durand Michigan

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

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

Anna Durand Cat

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

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Anna Durand Winter

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

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Anna Durand Joy

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

Interview

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

Ultimate power comes at the ultimate price.

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

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

What are you working on next?

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

What are you currently reading?

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

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

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

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

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

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

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

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

How can we meet that challenge?

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Durand
Anna Durand

More about Anna

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

Thank you for the interview and pictures, Anna!

Five Photographs: 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!

Monday Morning Diversion: A Young Feline Huntress Stalks Her Prey

cats, kittens, monday morning

cats, kittens, monday morning quarterbacking
WHERE’S KITTY PURRY?!
TOM BRADY, BLAH BLAH BLAH
BRING ON THE GOLD LION/TIGER!!

Nutmeg also wants to know why everyone was talking about Puppy Bowl. Don’t they know there was also a Kitten Bowl? (“The Kitten Bowl is undoubtedly silly, but it’s a great cause—all 92 participating kittens have already been adopted” — Bleacher Report)

#Writing: The Elements of Southern Gothic Romance (and TWO #Giveaways for Readers)

THE ELEMENTS OF SOUTHERN GOTHIC ROMANCE

The popularity of Southern Gothic Romance ebbs and flows but its continued existence and entertainment value is never in doubt. Why? Because this is a subgenre with a potent mix of dramatic ingredients. In honor of the recently-released-stateside Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance (which includes my novelette “Dream, Interrupted”), here’s my list of What It Takes To Be “SoGoRom”:

Mandatory

Set in the South: exact geographic boundaries are debatable so, to be safe, stick with one of the five “Deep South” states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, or South Carolina.

Romance: perhaps an even more hotly contested definition than what states should be considered southern is what “romance” is, especially when the element is not a central part of the story (RWA, I’m looking at you).

Gothic: even trickier to define than romance. Gothic fiction has been around for centuries.

Gothic novels were labeled as such because their “imaginative impulse was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, such novels commonly used such settings as castles or monasteries equipped with subterranean passages, dark battlements, hidden panels, and trapdoors.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

But gothic fiction is more than just a story set in an old building. Notable authors who wrote gothic fiction include Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and Nathanial Hawthorn.

Strongly Advised

The Aforementioned Old Building: Encyclopedia Britannica doesn’t lie. It all starts with the setting. For SoGoRom that means, in addition to a Deep South state, you gotta set your story in a castle, an old manor house, a crumbling mansion, or the like.

Supernatural Creatures and/or Characters: Ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies (a la Frankenstein’s monster)… If there’s magic, it has its own feel; more magical realism than sorcery.

Graveyards: the older and creepier the better, even if you don’t think real graveyards are such. Mausoleums, memorial sculptures, and cemetery statutes too.

A Sense of Menace and/or Isolation: ofttimes there is a darkly handsome, potentially sinister man and a young, vulnerable woman. (The man usually has a hidden vulnerability and the woman inner steely grit).

Atmospheric: Related to the sense of menace but includes the entire “southern creepfest” milieu.

A Mystery: the reader doesn’t really know what’s going on. Not necessarily a whodunit, but something is amiss and part of the reason readers keep reading is to figure out what’s going on.

Eccentricity or Even Outright Insanity: Nearly everyone in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre. Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca. The Narrator from Tell Tale Heart.

Southern Drawl: Yeah, it’s hard to get this right if you’re not actually from the south, but it’s hard to take a southern story seriously if there’s not even a nod to this.

Optional

  • Spanish moss
  • Oak trees
  • Magnolias
  • Antebellum anything
  • Alligators
  • Wrought iron
  • A curse
  • A tragedy
  • Voodoo or folk magic
  • Dreams, portents, or omens
  • A swamp, bayou, or other body of water
  • Endless rain, heat, and humidity (a.k.a. “steaminess” – in the weather sense 🙂 )
  • Parasols
  • Gowns
  • Southern drinks and food (e.g. biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, mint juleps, sweet tea)

Did I get the mix of elements right in my novelette “Dream, Interrupted”? I’m not sure (which is acknowledged in the story itself).

But you know what the most important ingredient is? Having fun. So if you can twist these elements in a unique way that’s fun for you – do that.

Interested in reading more about southern gothic fiction?

More About the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance

gothic romance, dark fantasy

Set in a lush, steamy world of ceaseless rain, swamps, alligators, overgrown cemeteries, and home-grown magic, these are dark and scary, yet pleasurably thrilling stories that unfold sinister secrets at every turn. These paranormal, suspenseful Southern Gothic romances are by both bestselling authors and bright up-and-coming talents, including Erin Kellison; Jessa Slade; Laurie London; Shelli Stevens; Coreene Callahan; Bec McMaster; Jill Archer; Elle Jasper; Angie Fox; Kait Ballenger; Tiffany Trent; Michele Bardsley; Sonya Bateman; Shiloh Walker/JC Daniels; JD Horn; Dianne Sylvan.

BUY LINKS:

More About Dream, Interrupted

What if your snoring really did wake up the dead?

When Corelei Neverest ends up at a sleep disorder clinic, she’s searching for a cure for Apnea Anima, a rare sleep condition that occurs when a person’s snoring wakes the dead. But after countless therapy-filled days and terror-filled nights, Corelei’s almost ready to call it quits when an old crush shows up.

Alluring, irresistible, and beguiling, Caradoc Ambrose has had his eye on Corelei for years. When he hears Corelei is a resident at the Oneiroi Institute, he can’t resist meeting her at breakfast one morning. They’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship that feels like one big dream, interrupted to Caradoc. He wants a chance to convince Corelei to stay with him, forever.

Approx. 13,500 words, “Dream, Interrupted” is a stand-alone story.

Giveaway No. 1

I’m giving away one print copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. If you entered my previous MBOSoGoRom giveaway, you are automatically entered for this giveaway. This giveaway is open to international so long as Book Depository ships to your address. If you live in the U.S., I’ll send you a signed copy. The cover will be the one shown in this post. (I’m not sure what happened to the previous cover. I really liked it and it fit my story better, but I’ll admit that the cover pictured in this post in immediately tells readers that most of the stories are set in the Deep South).

To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love gothic romance! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #gothic #romance

I love dark fantasy! Win copy of Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #fantasy #anthology

Does Corelei Neverest really suffer from Apnea Anima? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #shortstory #mystery

Will Caradoc convince Corelei to stay? Win Mammoth Book of SoGoRom: http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M @archer_jill #fantasy #romance #mystery

Giveaway No. 2

So… my new kitten, Nutmeg, got into one of my boxes of books and chewed the corner of one of my copies of Fiery Edge of Steel. Bummer. But maybe it will be to someone’s benefit. I’m giving this slightly damaged copy away (U.S. only). I’ll sign it (or, if you wish, I’ll sign it on behalf of Nutmeg — kind of funny since cats were a big motif in the book 🙂 ).

Nutmerg-Gnawed FEOS
BAD KITTY

Fiery Edge of Steel  Final

To enter to win, comment below, use my contact page to send me a message saying you are interested in winning the book, OR tweet one of these tweets (one entry per person):

I love Nutmeg-Gnawed #Books! Win copy of @archer_jill’s Fiery Edge of Steel http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M #fantasy #UF

Virtute non armis fido. Courage over weapons; #cats over sanity.” Win copy of @archer_jill’s Fiery Edge of Steel http://wp.me/p1G39m-25M

Giveaways will be open until midnight EST on January 16, 2015. I’ll announce the winners here by January 23rd.

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to international participants 18 and over. For my official rules for website giveaways, click here.

Now go forth and purchase, tweet, read, write, etc. 😀

Hope everyone is having a great week!

 

Leela Lou Dahlin: Rosy Writer Ink Pen Bouquets (and Mockingjay!)

Today’s guest blogger is Leela Lou Dahlin, who makes pen bouquets. This post is part of a guest blog series I’m hosting featuring writers who create other things besides worlds and characters. Welcome, Leela Lou!

Rosy Writer Ink Pen Bouquets

Rosy Writer 3

 

A marriage of beauty and function. Does it seem odd that I would have this as a hobby when my first love is writing? Not to me. It’s very relaxing. Molding the clay, plotting my story line and creating something beautiful—the flower and the plot.

I love thick smooth paper and a pen that writes well. I’d rather send a hand-made card with a note of thanks than a text. There are so many ways to go digital today but sometimes it’s nice to feel a pen between your fingers as it glides along the page expressing your gratitude or your rage…depending on the mood.

Even though I love pens and I have way more than my fair share I don’t like the way they look sitting in a cup or holder. This is now how Rosy Writers got started though. My children and I moved to a wonderful school district when Christmas came my 5 children wanted a gift to take to their teachers. That was going to prove costly. Since I knew that teachers were another group of people who love pens so I took my love of making roses and found a way to make the pen look like a rose on a stem that would be a bouquet of flowers they could have throughout the year. The idea was a hit and soon I started getting orders for hostess gifts, thank you gifts, mother’s day, wedding and baby showers…practically any other time someone wanted a flower bouquet. Added bonus – no one can walk away with your pen and not realize it.

Making them helps me relax and gets my creative thoughts going, and thank goodness because sometimes they are quite in demand. I’m not sure what I like most…making them or hearing how happy the recipients are with the product.

More about Leela

Leela Lou Dahlin works undercover as an outgoing RN Case Manager by day, but at night her time is filled with kids, clay and computers…and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

She can be found online here:

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was fun. We have a new kitten. 99.9% sure her name is going to be Nutmeg. (My kids have named both of my cats. We adopted a stray last springGinger). So a big part of the weekend was spent hanging w the new kitty and trying to gracefully intro her to Ginger. Unsurprisingly, he isn’t exactly thrilled about her arrival, but I’m still hopeful they will become friends eventually.

Took my older daughter and a group of her friends to see Mockingjay Part 1 on Friday. It was opening night and I expected the theater to be PACKED, and it was, but it wasn’t nearly the mad house that opening night for Hunger Games was. [this next bit is slightly SPOILERY] Put me firmly in the camp of those who do not think the third book needed two movies to tell its story. I’m not saying the movie wasn’t good (it was and is well worth seeing in the theater) but the pacing/tension was definitely slower/reduced for this one. There was action and emotion but not as much as I would have liked. I also missed the juxtaposition of Effie’s wildly colorful dresses and all the gag-inducing excess of the capital against the bleakness of life in the districts. This movie takes place mostly in District 13, which is all gray, all the time. Don’t get me wrong though — I’m a huge fan of this series. The characters, world, and writing are so well done and the filmmaker’s version of the story has captured my interest while remaining true to its source. Only one of the girls I took had read the book. Which made Part 1’s ending more dramatic and surprising for them than it was for series readers. (If you’ve read it, you can guess exactly where Part 1 ends). Overall, despite Mockingjay Part 1 being the deepest, darkest movie yet, it felt less immediate to me. But it’s a solid film that ably sets up next year’s final installment. 

Saturday night my husband and I went to a hippie-themed birthday party for a friend of ours. Initially, I had misread the invite and thought the theme was 70s. Got this vintage disco dress and some boots to wear and then, last minute, saw that entertainment would include clips from Woodstock and songs by Janis Joplin, The Who, CSN, the Dead, Jimi Hendrix…. So I ditched the dress.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE... and a beard. Craig's growing a beard for the first time ever for No Shave November: http://www.no-shave.org/
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE…
and a beard. Craig’s growing a beard for the first time ever for No Shave November: http://www.no-shave.org/

Finally, if you missed Friday’s post… I’m giving away one print copy of the Mammoth Book of Southern Gothic Romance. International. Three ways to enter: comment here, contact me here, or tweet.

So… how about you? What did you do this weekend? Have you seen Mockingjay? What did you think? Which Rosy Writer Ink Pen Bouquet do you like best? I’ve given stationery as a thank you gift lots of times but haven’t yet given a bouquet of pens. It’s a neat idea, right?

Thank you to Leela Lou for guest blogging today! Happy Monday, all!

Bittersweet: A Tale of Two Cats

My Facebook friends and followers have heard this news already, but I thought I’d share here. Last month, my 19 year old cat, Pollux (you know, the awesomely adorably feline friend of mine who served as partial inspiration for Virtus) passed away. It was as heart wrenching as you can imagine (which is why I didn’t post about it here right away). Just think, I got him when I was still in law school! Still unmarried! He was with me when I bought my first house, had my first child, sold my first book! He lived with me in four different places… through six different jobs. When he was a kitten, he even traveled with me! So, needless to say, even though it’s been six weeks or so since he died, I still miss him terribly.

Pollux 1995
Pollux 1995
Pollux in a Bow Tie
Pollux 2013: He looked handsome, didn’t he? He was such a good sport!!

Nevertheless, the point of this post isn’t to grieve or cause sadness. I also wanted to share some fun, happy news.

Loving Pollux as much as we did, we were prepared for a summer sans pets. (Some of you may recall, we lost our beloved Labrador last year). But life hardly ever works out as you expect it to, which is probably a good thing. Days after we returned from Disney, this guy started showing up at our back door.

GINGER
“GINGER”

He was hungry and not shy about letting us know. He was also covered in ticks and fleas, poor guy. We fed him some tuna and immediately tried to find his owner. My girls put flyers in every mailbox in our neighborhood — and the one next to ours. I emailed all my neighbors to ask if they knew who he belonged to. Two people showed up thinking he was theirs, but it turned out to be a different cat each time. I took him to the vet for his first round of “deverminization.” No microchip.

After a month, I think it’s safe to say HE’S OURS. 😀

For a fun post from last February where I share pictures of Pollux and talk about Virtus and Fiery Edge of Steel, click here. And for another fun picture of Pollux lounging around with copies of Dark Light of Day and Fiery Edge of Steel, click here.

Hope everyone is having a nice Saturday!

Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West (a.k.a. the convergence of #cats and #books… pure bliss!)

Hemingway House

Last week, my husband and I went to Key West. I’d never been and it was terrific! Sort of “Hawaii meets New Orleans.” Duvall Street was as fun, crowded, colorful, and commercial as the French Quarter and the rest of the island was as beautiful, balmy, and restful as off-season Oahu.

My five favorite things: 1. Dinner at Louie’s Backyard (the back deck sits oceanfront, gorgeously lit with low lights at night; the menu and staff are equally impressive); 2. Breakfast at the Hot Tin Roof (the perfect spot for mimosas); 3. Ernest Hemingway’s house (pics below); 4. Biking/shopping on Duvall Street (mostly enjoyed the biking, but also loved peeking in the boutiques… the t-shirt shops I get enough of on the Jersey Shore); and 5. Watching the famous sunsets.

Flying into Key West... This wing's a bit bigger than the one I'm used to seeing out my window ;-)
Flying into Key West…
This wing’s a bit bigger than the one
I’m used to seeing out my window 😉
Hemingway Home and Museum
Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway, who wrote The Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Old Man and the Sea, among many other novels, short stories, and poems, lived in the house from 1931 to 1940. The man (prolific writer, WWI ambulance driver, adventurer, ladies man, fisherman…), the house (built in 1851 on the second highest point in Key West by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker), and the cats (at least 45 of them were roaming around the grounds, all carrying the polydactyl gene) make this museum tour A MUST if you go to Key West.

The outside of Hemingway's writer's loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn't it be grand to write somewhere like this everyday?
The outside of Hemingway’s writer’s loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn’t it be grand to write somewhere like this every day?
The inside of the loft. The old fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I'm lucky enough with my little writing nook. :-)
The inside of the loft. The old-fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I’m lucky enough with my little writing nook. 🙂

Even if you’re not a cat lover, it’s hard not to be charmed by the cats. The whole herd of them is given free reign over the house and grounds. They are everywhere! They are looked after by a full-time staff and a vet visits them once a week to keep them on their toes. 😉

looks like he's wearing mittensPolydactyl CatSix Toed Cat

The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway's bedroom
The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway’s bedroom
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.

What did I buy at the bookstore? Among other things, a book of cat poems.

In the beginning,
God created cats,
and then bugs.
Bugs grow up to be moths and butterflies,
which can be eaten.

From Kirby Congdon’s “The Cat’s Story”

The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).
The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).

Because my husband is an aviation enthusiast, we had to stop by Kelly’s — the bar located in the first Pan Am office building, which is named after former owner Kelly McGillis of TOP GUN fame — for a drink. Since it was happy hour, one drink turned into two… 😀

Sign outside of Kelly's Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Sign outside of Kelly’s Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Our bikes on Duvall Street I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Our bikes on Duvall Street
I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! :-D
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! 😀

So what about you? Have you taken any winter breaks lately? If so, where did you go? Writers, do you have a favorite place for writer’s retreats? Key West offers lots of inspiration! I hope everyone is having a great January!

Fiery Edge of Steel Update + the Archer Family Cat

Proof for Fiery Edge of Steel
Proof for Fiery Edge of Steel

I spent a lot of time this weekend proofing Fiery Edge of Steel. The proofing stage of a novel is kind of a neat stage. There’s no doubt it’s tedious. By the time you get to the proofing stage, most writers have read their manuscript 10+ times… and with novels being anywhere from 80,000 to 125,000 words… well, that’s a lot of words to review umptiump times, one word at a time… one comma at a time, one apostrophe at a time, one period at a time… But, on the other hand — WOW! — what a great stage the proofreading stage is. Because it means the book is almost finished! All of the heavy lifting (brainstorming, outlining, researching, drafting, revising, editing, etc.) is over!! 😀

I’ve mentioned previously that, in Fiery Edge of Steel, some characters from Dark Light of Day return while some new ones are introduced. One of the new characters is an animal character that was just as much fun to create and write about as the human and magical characters were. Considering the settings in the series and the plotline of Fiery Edge, I can safely say without spoiling anything that the new character is *not* a house cat. But my house cat, Pollux, contributed in no small way to the making of the character. So in celebration of his inspirational role, I figured I’d share a picture of him with everyone:

Who said cats don't dream of warmer weather during winter months?
Who said cats don’t dream of warmer weather during winter months?

Here’s an earlier one that my husband took of us one Friday night last fall:

Just Another Friday Night

Fiery Edge of Steel: coming to a bookstore near you on (or about) May 28, 2013!

Fiery Edge of Steel  FinalIndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Goodreads

Bookish

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope your week is off to a great start!

Ghosts as Paranormal Heroes by Juli D. Revezzo

Ghosts as paranormal heroes
The Artist’s Inheritance is available now

Juli D. Revezzo writes paranormal and urban fantasy stories. Her work appeared in DARK THINGS II: CAT CRIMES: TALES OF FELINE MAYHEM AND MURDER, which is a charity anthology of over twenty “cat-themed stories of dark mischief.” All proceeds go to The Cat House on the Kings, California’s largest no-cage, no-kill, lifetime cat sanctuary and adoption center. She’s here to talk about her latest release, THE ARTIST’S INHERITANCE. Welcome, Juli!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the last decade, you know that paranormal romance and urban fantasy is hotter than hot. Oh, the industry might be yawning over these tales of otherkin interacting with humans, but it seems every article and blog one can read on the subject, at least those written by the fans, proves otherwise. Vast majorities of these fantasies star vampires and werewolves.

But there are other creatures in the worlds of mythology to pick from. The most enduring critters, if we step back and look at the whole history of paranormal fiction, is ghosts. Right off the top of my head I can name a few popular ghosts stories from the beginning of popular fiction to today:

  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
  • The Time of their Lives (yes, the Abbott and Costello movie)
  • The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

So why is it this creature, who veritably defines the field of paranormal research, is so neglected in modern fiction? When we can populate our tales with heroes of the otherkin, vampire, and even those of the angel and demon persuasion, (and even zombies, for God sake) why not ghosts? Why are such stories relegated to some catch-all horror shelf? Just because they float rather than walk, and might be a little on the transparent side? Why can’t they fit into the tried and true happy ending requirement? Yet I’ve actually seen editors wrinkle their noses at the idea of a ghost hero, but why?

Stepping back and throwing out the requirement of an HEA, can’t it be done?

For the most part, that’s what I asked when the ghosts in my debut novel, The Artist’s Inheritance (and its subsequent burgeoning series Antique Magic) began taking serious shape. Who better defines ever after than those in the ever after? Those who wait for their beloveds on the other side, or those stuck here, pining for their loved ones?

When I did, my character made contact with an ancestral ghost, who lends a helping hand to save his descendents from a curse he couldn’t stop when he was alive.  What’s more romantic—or heroic, for that matter?

I hope you will take a look at my novel, The Artist’s Inheritance and see if you agree!

So, what do you think? Have you ever tried to write a ghostly hero? How’d it work out for you? Would you try it again?

More about The Artist’s Inheritance

Settling into their new home in Gulf Breeze, Florida, Caitlin finds strange changes coming over her husband Trevor. He seems obsessed with a beautiful chair he’s carving.

When the nightmares deepen and ghosts begin lurking—she knows something’s not right, and not just her newfound precognitive abilities. It’s the damned chair, she’s sure. Could it be just what it seems: a mundane piece of furniture? If so, why is it attracting dark forces—the forces she suspects drove Trevor’s siblings to insanity and suicide?
Before the same happens to Trevor, Caitlin must convince him to sell his art. But armed with only a handful of allies, and little experience of the supernatural, she must proceed with caution against the hellish forces besieging her family. If she succeeds, she will break the ancestral curse. If she fails, she may lose forever the one thing she cares about most: her beloved Trevor.

The book is available at Amazon and Smashwords and coming soon to paperback via Createspace.

More about Juli

Author of The Artist's Inheritance
Juli D. Revezzo

Juli D. Revezzo has long been in love with writing, a love built by devouring everything from the Arthurian legends, to the works of Michael Moorcock, and the classics and has a soft spot for classic the “Goths” of the 19th century. Her short fiction has been published in Dark Things II: Cat Crimes, The Scribing Ibis, Eternal Haunted Summer,  Twisted Dreams Magazine and Luna Station Quarterly and Crossed Genres‘ “Posted stories for Haiti relief” project, while her non-fiction has been included in The Scarlet Letter. She has also, on occasion, edited the popular e-zine Nolan’s Pop Culture Review… But her heart lies in the storytelling. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Tampa Area Romance Authors, and the special interest RWA chapter Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal.

How to contact Juli:

Writers, have you ever written about a ghostly hero? If so, we want to hear about it! (Don’t forget, I’m also over at Happy Tails and Tales today talking about the demons from Dark Light of Day and giving everyone a sneak peek at the scene where Noon meets a palm-sized demon for the first time).