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!

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Weather and Writing: Part II (How Building a Backyard Ice Rink is Like Writing a Novel)

It snowed today… AGAIN!!! And temps are low… AGAIN!!! Thursday, it’s supposed to get into the single digits… AGAIN!!! So I’ve decided, no matter what, this will be my last winter post. (I’m going to will spring into being!)

This is year 2 for our backyard ice rink. Last year, when my husband came up with the only slightly insane idea to build an ice rink in our backyard, I reminded him that we live SOUTH of the Mason-Dixon Line. And, truth be told, last year’s rink was short-lived, but not this year!

HOW BUILDING

A BACKYARD ICE RINK

IS LIKE WRITING A NOVEL

1. You have to lay a foundation, but it can be a flexible one.

We built our back yard ice rink from a kit. The company sent us the frame, liner, and building instructions and we supplied our own wood for the sides. Laying the foundation required some measuring and planning – not unlike the researching and outlining I do for my novels. But, like an author experimenting with technique from novel to novel, we’re able to tinker with our little rink’s building specs. Last year, its life was cut short by a huge wind storm. So this year we asked Boreas to spare it… and we reinforced the frame with rebar! 😀

2. It takes time to set up properly, which makes it a labor of love.

My husband starting building the rink just after the holidays. Since we have to rely on the weather to keep it frozen, our skating season is short – six weeks if we’re lucky. It usually takes him two weeks of working nights and weekends to make it operational. But all the work is worth it because it’s something he enjoys doing. Writers spend far longer than two weeks on a novel, but I think all of us would agree that spending four, six, or twelve months on a novel that we enjoy writing – which is then enjoyed by everyone else for another twelve, eighteen, or thirty-six months – is a pretty good deal.

3. It’s social and fun.

Once the rink is ready, we invite our friends and family to come skate. Like publishing a completed novel, this is the best part! Sharing the products of your work with others is its own reward. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that ice skating, drinking hot chocolate, and reading novels are three of winter’s greatest pastimes.

So how about you? Did you go skating this year? Snow tubing? How about sledding or skiing? Are you a fan of hot chocolate? How about spiked cider or Irish coffee? Are you sick of winter yet? Or are you one of the lucky ones posting about seeing signs of spring? Regardless of where you live or what the weather’s like, hope you’re all having a great week!

Ice Storm!

By now, I hope everyone has recovered from Nika, this winter’s latest lashing. Where I live, schools were closed for three days this week, we lost power and, unfortunately, lots of tree limbs. (One tree fell on our garden shed, but none hit our house). Things are pretty much back to normal today but, for fun, here are a few pictures I took while surveying the luckily-not-too-extensive damage on Wednesday.

There be dragons!

(and other things)

dragon

Crashing Wave
Crashing Wave
Frost Giants
Frost Giants

older

younger

Winter Wasteland
Winter Wasteland
Glad the power's back on!
Glad the power’s back on!

Wishing everyone a warm, safe weekend!

Fun #Winter Poll: Who’s Your Favorite “Winterbeest”?

Wildebeest

Wildebeests are majestic and all but they’re not magical or mysterious. I spend a lot of time researching supernatural beasts, as well as deities and other mythical creatures. So I thought it would be fun to share five of my favorite winter baddies with you. (Sometimes, I absolutely adore the research I do now – beastie research sure beats the hell out of legal research! Although I did love the law library and, believe it or not, used to love doing research in Land Records. Bonus Five => here’s the 5 careers I would love to have if I weren’t a lawyer or a writer: bookseller, librarian, land surveyor, title abstractor, monster slayer.) Cast your vote for your favorite “winterbeest” below!

#5 Boreas

Boreas

 The Cold North Wind. The Bringer of Winter. Read more about him here (including how King Laomedon’s preternaturally fast horses were allegedly sired by Boreas) and here (background on the eponymous 2013 Thanksgiving storm).

#4 Yeti

Yeti

Snowy Sasquatch (a.k.a. The Bumble in “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”). Click here for the Bigfoot Researchers Organization Geographic Database of Bigfoot/Sasquatch Sightings and Reports and here for The Museum of Unnatural Mystery’s page on the Yeti: Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas.

#3 Frost Giants

Frost Giant

Long before they became Hollywood villains, they were Norse legends. For the Marvel Comics Frost Giant wiki, click here. For Martin Hojbjerg’s Norse Mythology site (which includes an alphabetized list of giants), click here. And for my review of the audio version of Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants click here.

#2 The Lord of Misrule

Lord of Misrule

Known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots, the Lord of Misrule was the person appointed to preside over the Feast of Fools, which was a winter celebration that mimics certain aspects of the Roman holiday Saturnalia. I used the Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools as inspiration for some of the opening scenes in White Heart of Justice (Fitz plays Lord Lawless at St. Luck’s Festival of Frivolity).

I’m not the only writer who’s been inspired by this figure. See also Rachel Caine’s Lord of Misrule and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule, which I’m reading right now. (I’m aware of how odd it is that I’m reading the horseracing book and not the vampire one. But I stopped by my library just before our Key West trip and happened to see Gordon’s book. I loved Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit so I thought I’d give it a try. The two best things about it? Peeking inside the world of low-stakes horse racing and the author’s voice or writing style. It’s unique.)

#1 The Dark Mother

Demeter

Demeter, grieving, angry, and fierce. In winter, when Hades steals Persephone from her, she goes all Momma Bear on the world, sowing vengeance instead of seeds and reaping death instead of crops.

Honorable mention

Snowblower

A tie between winter storm Janus and our snow blower!

So, how about you? Do you have a favorite “Winterbeest”? Do you like doing research or is it a necessary evil? How did everyone do with winter storm Janus? I hope everyone had fun sled riding or reading inside today! Fingers crossed that everyone is in school and back at work tomorrow. Northeasterners, enjoy the snow!

Silhouettes, Shadows, and Sunsets

Knowing winter storm Janus was on its way (which has dumped a foot of snow on us already), we took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful weather and took a quick flight to Cape May. My older daughter and I decided that silhouettes, shadows, and the sunset would be our impromptu photo theme for the collection below. Hope everyone is having a great week!

Windy walk

Shadow 1

Shadow 2

Shadow 3

Shadow 4

Silhouette

Sunset 1

Sunset 2
Sunset 3

Cape May Mall SignIf you’re a new follower, check out my other Cape May posts:

Tomorrow, something for the fantasy fans… my 5 favorite “winterbeests.” Get ready to share yours! 🙂

10 New Things To Do Or Give For Valentine’s Day

Looking for something new to do or give for Valentine’s Day this year? I’m guest blogging at Alex Hughes (author of Clean and Sharp) for her February Love and Books event. I share 10 new things for you to do or give for Valentine’s Day this year. (There’s also a picture of our short-lived backyard ice rink and one from a sunset flight I took with my husband last summer at the beach). Would love to hear how *you* plan to spend Valentine’s Day! Northeasterners, stay safe & warm this weekend. If you’re trapped inside, grab a good book… 😀