Monday, May 30, 2011



GOGGLES, FLYING MACHINES and PUNKS, OH MY!





Several months ago, I signed up for a class called Writing Steampunk Fiction. Don’t ask me why. I’m still trying to figure it out. Was it curiosity? Boredom? Or, was I attracted by the notion of re-writing history and creating my own outrageous gadgets?  More than likely, it was all of the above.

Steampunk is hard to define—actually another reason I took the class—but I’ll try. First, plunk yourself down in the Victorian age with its spirit of idealism and high hopes for the future. Add the invention of steam powered engines, airships and bizarre clockwork devices. Toss in a handful of scientists with wildly eccentric ideas, mix well with men and women who rebelled against society’s rigid roles and you have a solid foundation for Steampunk fiction.


Never mind that some of the science failed. A steampunk author has the option of re-creating history in a new and fanciful way. That’s why it’s called fiction. Are you beginning to understand why I find this concept so fascinating?

Our instructor, Suzanne Lazear, even shared directions for making a pearl-encrusted ray gun as an accessory to a ball gown. How cool is that?

Is there a Steampunk novel in my future? Hmmm, let me think about that. Seattle, Washington. The wild, wild west. Time travel. The great fire. Steam locomotives. The Yukon gold rush. Sounds good to me! Stay tuned.

Okay, now it's your turn. Have you read any steampunk? If so, please share.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A CHEF'S JOURNEY

Lest you think the Book Blather staff is a bunch of rookies, I’d like you to meet Chef Jean Denham.  I have always admired people who do things well and Jean definitely meets that standard.

Picture this: Waay back before Julie and Julia, 20 year-old Jean Denham’s first dinner party consisted of recipes she found in the newly released book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. After successfully pulling off this feat, she continued cooking for family, friends and coworkers for another 40 years and then entered the American Culinary Federation’s program to become a full-fledged, accredited chef. The program was a three year commitment including 6,000 hours of cooking certification.

After graduating, she was appointed to the Board of Directors and spent two years as Apprenticeship Chair for the Capitol City Chef's Association, a chapter of the American Culinary Federation, in Sacramento, California She began her working career in country clubs and local hotels; then on to the job of Chef at Foresthill Lodge Hotel, in Foresthill, California after 3 years in the culinary field.

Along the way she became involved with the Chef Scholarship Fundraiser Dinner group and cooked with wonderful chefs and cooks from around the country and England. That program sponsored by Chefs4Students.com is still carrying on these fundraiser dinners and raising monies for scholarships. It was during the time of working with this group that her first book, Share a Recipe Cookbook (a collaboration) came into being. The book has already given a $1,000.00 scholarship to a culinary student attending Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Las Vegas, Nevada. All the proceeds from this book continue to sponsor Chef Scholarships.

In 2007 she turned her attention to writing cookbooks and sharing some of the dishes she has cooked over the past 50 + years, with the world. The second book, A Chef’s Journey…Home, is a collection of recipes she, her family and her friends loved growing up and is dedicated to the women in her family who passed on the love of cooking to her. This book was followed by two more books, Pizza, Pizza, Pizza! and Black Beans and Corn. She is currently working on books five and six, plus a volume 2 of Pizza, Pizza, Pizza! Please scroll down for Jean's recipe for corn fritters.

Please note: Jean’s recipes featured on Book Blather reflect Marilee’s demand for simplicity because Marilee as a cook is . . . um, simple. To learn more about our resident chef’s genius in the kitchen, please check out her books at www.achefsjourney.com

 

Old Time Corn Fritters
 
I love corn fritters and have since I was a very small child. And topping them with maple syrup just makes them all the better.  This recipe is from my book, “Black Beans and Corn.”
 
2 cup corn kernels, frozen and thawed       
3 eggs                                                            
2 T. buttermilk                                                
1 T. butter, melted                                         
1 1/2 tsps. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 to 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Corn oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar & Maple syrup (optional)
 
Preheat oven to 200°F.
 
Pulse the corn in a food processor 3 or 4 times just to crush the kernels. Set aside.
 
In a medium size bowl, lightly beat the eggs; add the corn, buttermilk, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add just enough of the 1 1/4 cups flour to hold the fritters together. You don’t want the dough too dry.
 
Drop by tablespoons in hot oil (365°F to 375°F) and cook 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Cook the fritters in batches, don’t crowd them. Keep warm in the oven while you continue with more batter.
 
If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with maple syrup. 8-10 servings
 
Chef Jean's tip#1. For an added corn flavor, use a combination of half all-purpose flour and corn meal.


Chef Jean’s tip #2. To bake: spoon on a greased baking sheet; bake at 375°F. 8 minutes, turn over and bake 5 to 6 more minutes.


Submitted by Chef Jean Denham

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Power of Humor





When I was a guidance counselor in a yuppie, white suburb of Yakima, Washington,I desperately needed a change. I’d had my fill of smothers, women who reacted to their whiny offspring’s complaints by ringing me up and making loud demands. “You need to change Jeremy’s English class. Mr. Mean Teacher doesn’t understand him. He actually expects Jeremy to have a No. 2 pencil with him at all times! And, oh, by the way, do you have any scholarships available? Just mail the forms to me where I work.”

I’d bite my tongue when I really wanted to say,  “Think about it! Maybe  Mr. Mean Teacher wants Jeremy to stop screwing around and actually learn something. And, hey, Jeremy’s smother – I know you’ll be writing the essay required on scholarship application.”

After considerable thought and a good many misgivings, I left the smothers behind and moved on. Into a new world. My new world was a scant eighteen miles from the old but in terms of language, culture and customs, I might as well have been on the moon. I’d been hired as the first ever counselor at an alternative school located on the Yakima Indian Reservation, a public school serving Native Americans, migrant students, gang bangers, discouraged learners and petty criminals. No problem. I was up to the challenge. Watch out, kids, I’m here to fix you!

I bounded through the door and set up shop, ready to capture the hearts and minds of this challenging clientele with my magnetic smile and winning ways. All they needed was somebody who cared. Right? Wrong. My surly students made no effort to hide their disdain. Daily, I heard, “Who’s the skinny white woman? Oh, she’s the new counselor. Yeah, Bro, she’s going to counsel us eh?” (I have to admit, part of me liked the “skinny” comment because I was considered a real porker in anorexia land. Amazing what a few miles can do.) However, it soon became obvious the very students I was hired to help regarded me with suspicion and distrust.

I backed off. How could I reach these kids? While I pondered this question, I decorated my tiny hole-in-the-wall office with Far Side cartoons. A big fan of Gary Larson’s quirky, off-the-wall humor, I had all of his books lined up in my bookcase. So what if I didn’t have any students to counsel! I had talking cows, dorky scientists and tether-cat.

It’s been a while but I still remember the first kid who came to my office. His name was Kevin. (Months later, he told me he’d been bored and  wanted to get out of class.) He was a big kid, Native American and tough as nails. He came through the door silently, walked to the bulletin board and started reading the Far Side cartoons I’d posted. I stifled my usual chirpy greeting, “Hi, I’m Marilee.” ( The use of first names was encouraged to make the staff more accessible to the students. HA!) I waited. He started to chuckle, helped himself to a Far Side book and settled in for the duration. Kevin was the first. Soon, I had a steady stream of students popping in to read the Far Side. Though it was against my pro-active nature, I bided my time. And then it happened. One day, a former gang banger shut the door and said, “Can I talk to you? In private?”
 My students at this tough alternative school taught me more in two weeks than I’d learned in my prior twenty-two year career. Here’s what I learned:
1. Shared laughter can work miracles
2. Patience is a learned virtue.
3, Trust has to be earned.
4. “To everything, there is a season.”

So, what does my moment of ignominious glory have to do with writing? Read the last four sentences. How can we apply these principles to our writing? When I started my first book—I should say one of the many times I started my first book—I had the most dreadful, dark and dreary plot one could imagine. I could barely drag myself to the computer each day. When my output dwindled to nada, I finally realized I was fighting my nature and consequently hated what I was doing. I came up with a new recipe. Add a dash of magic, sprinkle it with humor and see what rises to the top. I started to have fun, found my voice and completed my first book. Along the way, I learned a valuable lesson.  As writers, as human beings, we all have to be true to our natures. When we aren’t, we’re fighting a losing battle that manifests itself in stress-related illnesses and depression as well as incredibly bad writing.

Humor is almost impossible to define because it different for each of us. Some of my students (mostly of the female pursuasion) thought The Far Side was the stupidest thing ever. What makes you laugh? Figure it out, distill it down to its essence and add it to your daily output of words. And, don't forget to laugh! A belly laugh a day adds years to your life. Would I lie to you? 




Thursday, May 19, 2011

PLEASE WELCOME DEBRA DIXON


Debra Dixon knows her way around publishing.  She's worked with major publishers, written ten books and contributed to twelve anthologies.  Her popular GMC:Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop spawned a book that has become a how-to bible for writers and is now in its nineth printing.

She’s also President/Publisher of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.  In the last eleven years they’ve had an author on Oprah, sold books into foreign markets and seen their titles picked up by major New York publishers in subrights deals for mass market paperback, book club, audio and large print.  In early 2008 they launched the Bell Bridge Books imprint which covers SF/F, young adult, horror, women’s fiction, and more.  They now tackle a broad spectrum of genres and publish their titles in print as well as all e-book platforms (Kindle, Nook Apple, etc.)  They publish the popular Parker Blue Demon Underground series (young adult) and Kalayna Price’s Haven series. They’ve published work from NYT’s bestselling authors: Anne Bishop, Susan Addison Allen, Deborah Smith, Patti Henry, Sabrina Jeffries, and Jill Barnett.  This summer they’ll have original fiction from Jill Marie Landis and Sharon Sala.

For more about Bell Bridge Books, please visit http://www.bellbridgebooks.com/ and http://www.bellbridgebooksblog.com/.




Here at Book Blather, we adore all things “bookish.” You, Ms. Dixon, are the epitome of “bookishness” since you are a writer, a reader, an editor, a motivational speaker and one of the original founders of BelleBooks. How do you wear so many hats without losing your freaking mind?

I gave up sleep.  Well, most of my sleep.  It also helps that all of these things are connected and feed off of each other.  I don’t have to actually take my hat off.  I just have to wear it at a different angle!

I love “story” and I’m fascinated by structure and puzzles.  For me, speaking about writing is something I do because I love craft.  I love story.  I read because I love story.  Editing is all about story (and a few more things!) plus the puzzle of “getting it right.”  Publishing is about carving out a niche for fabulous books that bring an incredible story to the reader.  Publishing is also about structure.  Publishing is a puzzle.  Especially today  with the challenges we’re facing in the industry.  See?  All of these hats fit perfectly on my head.  I’m lucky to have found this path.


As a reader, if you could pick your three favorite books, what they be?

Seriously?  Three?  Are you crazy?  No.  What I can do is pick three that come to mind quickly.

I’m a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss’ THE NAME OF THE WIND.  I haven’t read his newest but not because I don’t want to!  I’ve just been too busy, but it is on my Kindle.  I’ve waited years for this new book.  His first was incredibly imaginative.  A completely serious “send up” of all things high fantasy while being an engrossing read that satisfied all my high fantasy expectations.

I remember being captured by (fittingly) I CAPTURED THE CASTLE by Dotie Smith (101 Dalmations).  It’s a brilliant piece of fiction, written in diary form, first person narrator, and written in the 1930’s-40’s.  I love the way she put words on paper.  This was her first novel, and it’s not a crackin’ action plot.  Just a charming coming of age tale.  There is a grim reality, but one that is made bearable by the narrator’s acceptance of that reality and how she sees the world.  This book would not be everyone’s cup of tea.  There is some romance, but not necessarily the happily ever after the romance reader might crave.   And who doesn’t want to read about living in a castle that’s falling down around your ears when your youth has nothing to do with being—maybe—the most mature individual in the place?

And, finally, there’s this chick, Marilee Brothers who has an amazing voice that I never forgot after reading only 8 anonymous pages in a contest.  Once we determined we’d be publishing YA fiction, I tracked her down with nothing but an odd character name and the name of the book.  God Bless Google.  Once I ran her to ground, that book became MOONSTONE.

Do you still find time to write? If so, what is your latest book?

Again, with the crazy questions?  I don’t have much time to write.  I do write about one short story a year either for our own Mossy Creek series or for something like WITCH HIGH which was a DAW anthology about a magical high school.

As a publisher, you must be extremely proud of Belle Books. It is growing steadily and was well positioned to jump into the e-book market. Care to make any predictions on the future of publishing?
My crystal ball is on order, and I cannot wait for it to get here.  But seriously. . . the future is here in terms of how we’re going to be reading.  That’s e-ink.  Readers are going to continue to evolve but Kindle has such a large jump on the competition that we have to consider them as the 800 lb gorilla in the marketplace.  Competition is a good thing.  So, 800 lb gorillas are always a little troublesome when you look into the future.

I think that by the time the middle of January, 2012 rolls around, we’re going to see even Big 6 publishers heavily dependent on the e-book channels for the majority of their revenue.  Amazon is reporting that ebooks are outselling paperbacks.  (Ebooks have been outselling hardbacks for a while.)  Obviously, shelf space will shrink.  Print runs will continue to drop.  They’re dropping already.  We might as well face it.  I think most publishers will continue to publish books in print.  We all want to have the book available however the reader wants to buy, but the reality is that the market driver in fiction is the ebook.

How we buy books will no longer be heavily weighted by going to the bookstore to “see what is there.”  Our buying methods and habits will change.  They’ll have too.  They already are.  We’re going to lose a lot of bookstores in this bloodbath.  Bookstore shelves will be repurposed to other merchandise that works well with a small mix of titles.  We’ve seen implosion before. It happened in wholesalers about ten years ago  when market conditions forced consolidation.  This sort of change happens quickly.  I think this will happen much more quickly than Big 6 and consulting pundits are predicting.

Authors with brand names may try getting into the game with original fiction and “self-driving” books as opposed to putting out “publisher driven” books.  We’re seeing a few do that already. (Connie Brockway has announced she’ll be in the driver’s seat for her next original, and won’t be partnering with a publisher.)  We’re seeing a great many published authors doing the “Reprint Rush.”  (i.e. rushing to get their backlist up ebook form)

Despite all this opportunity for authors, I don’t think quality publishers are in any danger whatsoever.  There is a reason Amanda Hocking signed a contract with traditional publishing.  Trying to do everything by yourself interferes with the writing.  Most writers actually need editing.  (Crazy, I know.  But there you go.)  Most writers aren’t equipped or don’t want to do the kind of marketing publishers do.  Technology is changing every day and writers don’t necessarily want to keep up with who’s got what format where and if they need to turn everything around again to the new industry best practices.  I could write for days about what publishers bring to the table.

Most smart writers who aren’t Dan Brown or Nora Roberts with a readership already queued up are going to continue to want and need traditional publishers to help them drive their careers so they can get to that broad readership.  The “unknown author coming out of nowhere” is a great story, but of the million books put up every (every!) year now. . .that is not the common story.  “Unknown author makes it big” is the uncommon story.  There were one million traditional and nontraditional books published in 2009 according to Bowker.  And that’s before everyone jumped on the “I’m publishing my own book bandwagon.”

The noise out there is deafening.  Publishers help writers put out books that are ready to be loved and help cut through that clutter.

Are you open for submissions? What are you tired of seeing?
We are open for submissions for the most part.  We occasionally close for submissions because the queue of people waiting is just too long for us to even get to agented submissions in a reasonable time frame.  Right now we really aren’t looking for women’s fiction and general fiction.  Just temporarily.  That will change.  My queue of Fantasy/SF/YA and Horror is back to being quite long.  I’ve just been to a conference and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the pitches, so my queue just got longer!

I’m tired of seeing unoriginal urban fantasy or romance pretending to be a fantasy/paranormal.  When the world building and mythology is lacking, you can’t cover it up with dialogue and action.  An urban fantasy is first and foremost a very rich world in which the character operates and is operated on by the rules of that world.  The writer can’t hit pause and ignore the world for chunks of the story.

What would you like to see more of?
Personally, I would love to see epic fantasy, strong urban fantasy, gaslight or fantasy steampunk, great science fiction with characters you care about.  In Young Adult I’d like to see some inventive, edgy books.  We publish a broad range of books at Bell Bridge, which is our multi-genre imprint (*not* Southern like BelleBooks).  Other editors are looking for mystery/suspense, etc.  But my list is the SF/F/H/YA list.

Any advice for new writers? (Hint) A good answer here would be “Buy Goals, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon.” Anything else?

Yes. . .exactly.  You all need to buy GMC:  Goal, Motivation and Conflict. No editor will every pay you money for a book unless you’ve actually read GMC.  It’s a must have.
The other advice I have is to finish the book.  Such simple advice.  The more you write, the more you understand.  FINISH THE BOOK.  There is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.  Key learning takes place when you commit to a plot and a character and see them through to the end.

The last advice I have it to read.  Read widely.  Read out of your genre.  If you want to bring something fresh to what you love, find more things to love.  Expose  yourself to the reader expectations of other genres.  How do their genres start?  How do those genres use point of view differently than yours.  Why is lit fic celebrated for its prose?  Find out what you can learn from other books.  Spend some time not just reading and loving, but also analyzing.

As a publisher, what  part of your job do you like best? Your least favorite?

As a publisher (not editor), I’m involved in 1,001 things that will never interest most writers, but for me, I like the ever changing landscape.  Solve a problem?  Wait ten minutes.  There’ll be another one.  This is an industry that keeps you on your toes, your brain engaged and takes no prisoners.  I like a challenge.  

My least favorite part of the job as Publisher is saying, “No” to opportunities.  We’ve been around quite a while.  We got here because our company has great folks with great minds and an inexhaustible supply of passion for what we do.  Even so, any company has to control its growth.  That means saying no sometimes.  I don’t like the “no.”   Even when it’s in our or my best interest!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Please Welcome Our Own Sue Roebuck

Book Blather's foreign correspondent, Sue Roebuck, author of the highly acclaimed novel, Perfect Score, is not only a prolific reader and writer, she reviews books as well. Please scroll down to read her thoughts on the art of reviewing. Her blog post is followed by a review of Carolyn Rosewood's book, The Last Soul. Trust me, you won't want to miss it! 

Sue On Reviews


BECOMING A BOOK REVIEWER

As an author and reviewer I guess I sit on both sides of the table. Neither is an easy job and both should view the other with sympathetic eyes. Both jobs take up a lot of time, and both need to have the basic question ever present: who is going to read my work?

Today I’d like to look at what makes a successful review and why anyone would want to be a reviewer.

A reviewer gets free books to read – usually those you choose – and there are benefits. If you review for http://www.longandshortreviews.com/  you get an option of free advertising space or an Amazon token after X amount of reviews. Likewise, http://www.theromancereviews.com/. Both are currently seeking reviewers and they’re both great “learning your art” places to start. It’s not a bad choice for an author to be a reviewer too because reviewing helps a writer see the pitfalls and successes in stories.

So what are the techniques of reviewing? Remember that a book review is a critical analysis and evaluation of what did and did not work for you: how did you feel about the characters; was the plot believable; was the pace too fast or lagging? The goal is to inspire readers, not to put them off no matter how bad you thought the book. This means you must be fair, not sarcastic and, please, never snark. You may find that the heroine was too stupid to live, the plot was full of coincidences, there was too much telling instead of showing, or the points of view were all gummed up. But if you have to say something you didn’t like, try to couch it with something positive.

Another definite no-no is to repeat either the blurb or the synopsis and, under no circumstances, give the plot or ending away (no spoilers in other words).

Just like an author must “hook” a reader from the start, so must a reviewer. Never start with “I liked this book”, because if you do, your reader will probably say, “So what?” and turn to the next page. Ask yourself the famous Wh questions: who, where, when, why – oh! and how.

Coincidentally (ahem) my hook on Marilee’s book, Castle Ladyslipper, was quoted as a successful hook (on this excellent blog that gives reviewing advice: http://thechrysanthemumconnection.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html )

Can you imagine how a knight and his men from the court of Henry II feel when they ride up to Castle Ladyslipper (or Fairfield) to find that it is inhabited in the main by beautiful, single women? 
An e-reader is a must because it makes your life so much easier: you can make notes as you go along or highlight relevant parts which you might want to quote when you write your review. It will also help you remember the main characters’ names –another essential.

Do think of the authors. Try to help them discover where they fall down as nicely as you can and they’ll reward you, that’s a promise. But don’t forget to tell them where they shine too. Is it really valuable to an author to say that the book depressed the hell out of  you or that you didn’t like the ending? Did you ever think the author’s intention was to depress you J, in which case she succeeded? And please say why you didn’t like the ending.

Reviewers can go onto greater things once they’ve learned their craft. Take a look at www.bookcritics.org, http://www.midwestbookreview.com/ or go to your local newspapers and check out their reviews and crits pages. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll see you in the national papers.



The Last Soul by Carolyn Rosewood



Carolyn has an enviable writing style which is straight to the bull’s-eye. No superfluous nattering for her.

In The Last Soul, I was plunged headlong into the action with heroine Faina (who’s been dead for 150 years) being bullied by her demon “boss” Mastema – a hideous creature you never wish to meet. Faina’s “job” is to seduce evil humans into signing their souls away and she’s very proficient at her job. This will be her last assignment, after which she’ll be made human again which is her dearest wish. All she has to do is seduce Jace Blackmon. The only problem is, he has a squeaky-clean past. Oh, and there’s another difficulty: Faina falls in love with him - not a good sign if she has to get this handsome hunk to sign his soul away.

Carolyn is skilled at witty repartee and this short novel had me grinning from ear to ear. Faina’s sassy character puts an intriguing spin on the plot and there are no clear answers until the story romps to an end. If you like sizzling sex scenes then you’ll not be disappointed, but for those who prefer “subtlety”, these episodes (and there are more than a few of them) are also romantic, loving and sweet and never become tiring. The author has managed to combine the two styles with success which I think will please everyone. The plot has been tightly woven and trundles along at a fine pace to provide a roller-coaster of a read.
I had a wonderful time throughout this story but I had to have a fan close by (and that’s a warning!). Carolyn has created characters you’ll care about and remember forever. I thoroughly recommend this as an excellent read for all lovers of paranormal romance, both erotic and main-stream. But read it when you have a whole day free because you won’t be able to put it down.
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

REVIEW FROM REBEKAH JENSEN

A hearty Book Blather welcome to Rebekah Jensen, our resident expert in middle grade fiction. Rebekah is active in the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently breathing life into a fabulous new book for middle graders. Welcome, Becky!

This is my first post for Book Blather! I’m so excited to start blabbing about my favorite genre- Middle Grade Fiction! I work with school age children, write for school age children, and am always looking for great MG fiction to read. I LOVE finding solidly written MG books with a strong hero/heroine that draws me into the story, and makes me incredibly sad when I’ve read the last page.

Today I read an article on The Telegraph titled, “Children's books are 'sexist and enforce gender inequality'” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8494392/Childrens-books-are-sexist-and-enforce-gender-inequality.html) that basically said that a large-scale study of children's books published between 1900 and 2000 revealed that they were almost twice as likely to feature a male central character than a female one. Interestingly enough I’m writing a story that features a strong female heroine, and I’ve just read a series that features a wonderfully strong, and incredibly endearing female heroine.

I’ve been furiously reading the last few weeks getting through a series called THE LAND OF ELYON by Patrick Carman. The heroine is Alexa Daley, a 12 year-old girl who longs for adventure, and of course, she finds it in abundance. There are five books in the series- involving many of the same characters throughout the series. There is a strong sense of good vs. evil, as Elyon (the Creator) through a series of events/characters lead Alexa, and her companions on several adventures to bring down Abaddon (the evil force behind all things bad), and his followers. At the same time Alexa discovers the history behind the Land of Elyon, who she is, and her role in the world.

Some of the themes in the series deal with nature/animals, adventure, discovering self-worth, humor, family, loyalty, discovering how to help others, death, and after-life. There are several characters that do “die” but get to go to the Tenth City, where Elyon lives, and welcomes those who are worthy and good. It can be quite sad, but there’s also a sense of recognizing death is part of life, and there are more adventures to be had. These themes are all interesting topics of conversation to have with children who read the books (or better yet, read with their parents).

It’s a great series full of adventure (talking animals), giants, a few twists and turns, and overall has a satisfying ending. The series definitely contradicts the Telegraph article because Alexa constantly saves the day, her friends, and the Land of Elyon (and beyond). A good read for kids, and adults (or “kids at heart”). For writers it’s a good read for seeing how characters develop, and grow through a series, and how to make characters endearing to readers.

Rebekah Jensen is an aspiring children's literature writer. She is fairly new to writing children's books (but received her first rejection letter last year, so she now feels like she's part of the club). She currently lives on a little pear orchard in Zillah, WA (which is the ideal place for the ongoing writing, and revising process). She works at an after school program, produces the Chinook Update, SCBWI, Western Washington blog for authors and illustrators of children's literature, and writes blog posts for the Seaside, Oregon Tourism Department, Pulse, and O2 Racing Technology. She loves children’s literature, and always beelines to the children’s section first. When not working with children, or plotting her next middle-grade novel idea, she's running, walking the dog, or planning a trip.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

MEET ELIZABETH SINCLAIR



Elizabeth Sinclair sold her first romance, Jenny’s Castle, in 1993 to Silhouette Intimate Moments. It reached #2 on the Walden Bestseller List and won a Georgia Romance Writers’ Maggie Award of Excellence. Since then, this multi-published author’s books have sold in ten foreign countries and been translated into seven foreign languages. Welcome, Elizabeth.

1.     You’ve had many novels published. Do you have a favorite and why?

I love all my books, but my favorite is EYE OF THE DREAM.  I always loved the Native American culture, the Navajos in particular, and the paranormal.  This gave me the opportunity to combine romance, paranormal and the Navajo culture into one book.  And I’ve always thought the tewa cover art for this book was stunning.  I was honored by a member of the Navajo Nation by him making a pendant for me that is a replica of the tewa on the cover.  It’s a treasured possession.

2.     Hawk’s Mountain, your latest book published by Belle Books is the first in a series. What made you write this particular story?

A while back, I read a book by David Baldacci called Wish You Well and was captivated by the setting, the people of the Appalachian area and the general feel-good climate of the book. Although Baldacci’s book was set during the 1940’s depression, I decided to set my series in present day. Once I began Book #1, HAWKS MOUNTAIN, which I had intended to be a stand-alone book set in Carson, WV, I fell in love with my characters, especially Granny Jo and Davy (aka Dr Littledo), and wanted to write more about them.  So the series was born and I was lucky enough to find Belle Books was interested in it.

3.     What part of yourself did you include in the characters (hobbies, attitudes, background)?

Nothing that I did intentionally.  That said, however, I guess most writer unconsciously add aspects of themselves in their characters.  I’d like to think that a little of Granny Jo’s kindness, love and wisdom comes from me, and also her snarky wisecracks abut that “horse’s behind” (as Granny Jo calls him, Mayor Collins.

4.     Is there a message in your work?

All my books carry one message . . . with the love and kindness of those around us, we can all find a way to heal the emotional wounds we receive from society and the hurtful events in our lives.  We just have to open our hearts to it and believe.

5.     In your fantasies, who stars in the movie of your book?

Granny Jo – Doris Roberts
6.     Why did you set your book in that part of the world?

As I said above, Baldacci’s book had a lot to do with it.  However, I come from a small town in Upstate NY that’s very much like my fictitious town of Carson and am familiar with the type of people who populate it, the small-town atmosphere and the goings on within the society of the town. So I had a good bases for creating the types of people who live in a small town and how they think.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I have two critique partners, Dolores Wilson and Vickie King, who come from that area and who were an endless source of information to make sure that I was depicting their home state and its people accurately.

7.     Tell us about your writing schedule and describe your perfect work spot.

I normally get up anywhere between 7AM and 8AM.  I then head for the coffee pot, which is set the night before to start brewing before I’m up (I don’t do well without my morning injection of caffeine), pour my coffee and watch the news for about an hour.  Then it’s off to my office, check my email, check FaceBook (of course) and then down to the work of writing for the day.  That usually brings me to about 10 o’clock. By about 3 or 4 in the afternoon my brain is fried, and I quit. However, if I’m on a roll, it’s not unusual for me to keep writing until supper time around 6. I never write in the evening.  That’s my time with hubby.

My perfect work spot is the beautiful office my husband built for me when we moved into our home about twelve years ago. It’s my haven, complete with a bird feeder right outside the window and my Golden Retriever (Lily) and my Collie (Ripley) laying beside me and keeping me company.

8.     Tell us about your plans for future books, or books you dream of writing one day.

First I have to finish the next two books in the Hawks Mountain series, then I plan to go to my first love, light paranormal romance with a twist of humor, and write a series of books peopled by three witches, Hermione, Arabella and Millicent (think the Golden Girls) and their familiar, a cat named Beryl who needs a serious attitude adjustment. The witches, who will be recurring characters in all the books, run a small curio shop complete with magic artifacts that the hero/heroine purchase and which influences them in finding their soulmates. The her and heroine will change in each book, but the witches and the cat will appear in all of them.

9.     Tell us one thing about yourself that might surprise readers.

Hmm That’s a toughie. Perhaps it’s that I believe we are visited by the spirits of loved ones after they have passed on.  This became a belief for me one day, when I was talking to my friend about an emotional problem I was facing, and an eight-day mantle clock that my dad had given my mother chimed six ties.  Not so unusual?  Well, considering that it hadn’t been wound for 25 years, and its innards were rusted solid and hands that hadn’t moved in years were set at six o’clock, it was very significant for me.  Added to that was that six weeks to the day later, my problem was solved.  It made me a believer.

10.  What was the last book you read?

Live To Tell by Lisa Gardner – an amazing, edge-of-the-seat read with more ups and downs than a roller coaster

11.  What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favorite?

What I like most is when my stories start writing themselves, and I’m sitting in the stands watching the story develop and come to life. Seeing my characters flesh-out and take on lives of their own in which I just follow along putting the thoughts and actions on the page.  Love it!

What I like least is a draw between the business end of publishing and writing the dreaded synopsis.

12.  Please share a favorite quote with us.

My favorite quote personifies the message in all my books . . .

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain.
-- Anonymous

Elizabeth co-founded and is a member of the Ancient City Romance Authors of St. Augustine, FL and First Coast Romance Writers of Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to having authored the widely-acclaimed instructional books, The Dreaded Synopsis and First Chapters, she has published a total of twenty romances. Her latest release is Hawks Mountain, the first book in a series of the same name for Bell Bridge Books.

Elizabeth and her husband share their Florida home with their two furry children: Ripley, a six-year-old Collie, and Miss Lily, a four-year-old Golden Retriever.  She’s the mother of three children and the grandmother of six with another on the way in October.

NEW RECIPE FROM CHEF JEAN

SLOW-COOKED CHICKEN AND BURRITOS

This recipe is so off the wall, I just had to try it - and if frozen burritos are one of your favorite junk foods as it is mine, you'll love this!!

4 frozen burritos, beef or bean & cheese
2 to 4 boneless chicken breasts
14 1/2 oz. can Enchilada sauce
Cheddar cheese
TO TOP:
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, onions and sour cream, and a little more grated cheddar cheese.

Spray the bottom of a slow cooker with cooking spray and layer the frozen burritos in the bottom. Place the chicken breasts on top and cover all with the enchilada sauce.

Cook on low 5-8 hours - it's very forgiving - the last few minutes sprinkle some grated cheese over. When ready to serve, shred the chicken and serve with the above toppers.

Recipe from: Jean Shelledy Denham, CC ,  ‘Share a Recipe,’ a Chef’s Journey book

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH SKYLA DAWN CAMERON

Our guest today is reader, writer and editor, Skyla Dawn Cameron. Here at Book Blather, we consider the term "bookish" to be the ultimate compliment and Skyla certainly qualifies on all counts. Her first book, River, was published when she was only twenty-one. Incidentally, Skyla was subsequently hired by Mundania and is now Senior Editor and Chief of Operations for the company. You may purchase Skyla's books at Mundania Press and Amazon. An excerpt from Bloodlines follows her interview.

Welcome, Skyla!

 
1.     Tell us about River, your book that won the 2007 Eppie award for Best Fantasy.

River is about an alpha female wolf who was bitten and turned into a teenage human girl, and the trials and tribulations as she locates the werewolf who turned her and attempts to go back home. It was the fourth book I’d written but the first I’d submitted and had published anywhere; I signed the contract for it with Mundania Press in 2004 when I was twenty-one.

2.     I understand Bloodlines is your new series. How is it different from River?

The two are as different as night and day. River is a much quieter book, character driven without a conventional plot arc; Bloodlines is more balls to the wall fun, traditional urban fantasy with an ass-kicking vampire as the lead. Bloodlines was originally published in 2008, but was going to be re-released with a new cover alongside the sequel; I’d asked if I could rewrite it at the time and my request was granted. The new version is over twenty thousand words heavier, and print copies along with the ebook that’s exclusive to Mundania have a bonus short story included.

3.     Can we look forward to a new book or series in the future?

The sequel to Bloodlines, Hunter, will be out this summer (after a self-imposed limbo—it was originally scheduled for publication February 2009). I’m at work on the third book in that series, Lineage. I also have a few other unpublished series in the works.

4.     As a reader, if you could pick your three favorite books, what would they be?

My very favourite book I could read over and over is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Beyond that, I have trouble picking just one from my many favourite authors; I love everything by Louise Cooper (though I’ve read Sacrament of Night about six times over the years), and I don’t think I could ever pick just one Lilith Saintcrow novel as all of hers are must-reads for me.

5.     As an editor, how do you see the future of publishing?

I’m hesitant to say anything because it’s one of those subjects where even the most uninformed people have an opinion and I don’t believe any of us can be certain—I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to presume to know. I do, however, think the rumours of its death have been highly exaggerated, if not altogether fabricated.

6.     Is there anything you’re so sick of seeing you feel like your head will explode?

Twilight clones—I don’t find very old men stalking teen girls terribly romantic. Also, there are bigger problems in life than love triangles (and if I had two hot, paranormal guys fighting over me, I would not be whining about it—I’d start a harem). I’m finding YA paranormal as a genre very exhausting right now.

7.     What would you like to see more of?

At Mundania, non-European mythologies used in fantasy (but please, please get them right—readers can tell if you haven’t done any research), and new twists on old tropes in paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I get a lot of books that read like Lord of the Rings fanfic, and at the risk of having rotten fruit thrown at me, I didn’t like the original and have no interest in carbon copies. At Awe-Struck, I’m looking for more non-erotic romance with same-sex couples, and other “non-traditional” romances; love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colours, and I’d like to see more of a variety.

Thank you for having me!

------------

Bloodlines Excerpt:

The phone rang. I met Nate’s eyes as it continued to ring; he gave a slight nod. I was closer, so I lifted the receiver to my ear and listened.
Silence.
Another glance at Nate; he gave me a questioning look and I shrugged, then let out a heavy sigh.
“I’m kinda busy burglarizing someone’s house right now and don’t have all day,” I said. “Talk.”
Nate muttered something I couldn’t entirely make out, but it sounded like his rich boy education taught him a great number of expletives.
“Would you kindly put Nate on?” a man asked on the other line.
“Gladly.” I passed the phone over.
Nate listened for a moment, then leaned back in his chair and exhaled loudly. “It’s Peter.” He gestured to the web cam on the computer. “He’s watching us from another location.”
“Well, here’s hoping he hasn’t called the cops yet. Or his neighbors haven’t. Could you maybe hurry this up?”
They spoke for a few minutes and I wandered toward the back window, winding around stacks of books as I went. I parted the curtains, peered out into the dark—
Then stepped back swiftly, curtains fluttering into place again.
Two figures in black circled the house, guns drawn. Skulking the perimeter, wearing black ski masks... Shit.
“Our friends are here,” I quietly called to Nate. “Make it quick.”
“While I appreciate the need to speed things up,” Nate raised his voice loud enough that I knew he spoke to me and not Peter, “this isn’t The Zara Lain Show and you’re not calling all the shots.”
I rolled my eyes. “‘You’re not the boss of me?’ Really? What are you—five?”
He didn’t miss a beat. “Says the bossy eight-year-old.”
Ugh, we so didn’t have time for this. I spun away from him again, my long ponytail of hair whipping my shoulder, and unholstered a gun. Either I’d shoot him or the people circling the house. Hadn’t decided yet.
“Yes, Lain,” he said in a lower voice. “You do? Interesting.”
“Tea and hugs later, girls—like maybe when we’re not about to be attacked.”
An irritated sigh. “Top shelf, green binding, and in the corner—got it. I have a disposable cell; I’ll call in a few days.” The chair creaked as Nate rose and returned the phone to its cradle, then he joined me at the window.
“He recommended a book for us?” I peered between the space in the curtains, acutely aware of Nate right there, warm, breathing, and smelling of faintly of wintery soap and a spicy aftershave over my shoulder.
“Mmm-hmm.”
I glanced back and up; he looked out the window instead of at me. “‘Mmm-hmm?’ Well, what’s it say? Does it have our demons in it?”
“It’s a book on vampires. Killing them with magic, specifically.”
I opened my mouth to snark about how we weren’t dealing with vampires, then caught his drift. The prick. “Aww, you wouldn’t kill me, Nate.”
“It’s crossed my mind, if only for the blessed silence it would bring.”
“Nope.” I batted my eyelashes dramatically. “I’m just too pretty.”
His gaze shifted to look down at me, blue moonlight etching the strong lines of his face. Tension simmered in the air and a little chill walked my spine. One of his dark brown brows rose skeptically.
“Constantly disagreeing with me on this point would probably hurt my feelings if I had any.”