Monday, December 26, 2011

You are here

There's just something about wanting to be there. Be a part of it. The whole Lost Generation, the beret-wearing allness of it.

The smooth jazz, coffee sipping, red-wine drinking, not caring about any of it It.

The whole, I believed. I gave everything I had. I've been lied to. I've lost it all. I have nothing left to lose...

I don't care if I lose it all. Just to be able to say I did...

The joy of it. The dance. The sipping and dipping and squeezing. The taste of eclairs or creme-filled croissants or seafood seasoned just delicately enough. Or meat, marinated for a good eight hours in garlic, red wine, onion, black pepper, and then cooked for another six hours on low heat...

The sounds of crashing waves and the feel of briny salt air on your face.

Nope. It's true. I still haven't seen Midnight in Paris.

But I have lived in south Louisiana and on the Gulf Coast, and well, I guess for us, that's about as good as it gets.

It's that weird break between Christmas and the New Year when anything's possible. When it's all suspended and everything's wishes and twilight.

I'd love to be in the writing cave, but instead I'm on the road. Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends. See you next week~ <3

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Second that Emotion

First, I'm still making Deja Vu (link) rounds--forgive me, bleeps. Being out of town threw me off.

As for today, I've been thinking about emotional blogging and saying what's on your mind on the web.

I've never been a blogger who put my personal stuff out there. (Out here?) I'm not sure if it's because I know how quickly my feelings change or if I'm just chicken. Or if I'm repressed. Suppressed? ... Sarah?

No, I know bleeps who do that, and they seem to have the most followers. I'm sure it's because they're sharing common fears, experiences, pain, etc., and it's good to know you're not alone in this.

I was also thinking about that poor guy who went on YouTube topless to rant against Simon & Schuster. Or his agent, I don't remember which. I confess, I couldn't watch it.

The conventional wisdom is "Don't." Don't put yourself out there, don't share negative experiences, don't seem to be complaining at all. Ever.

But is that real?

Personally, I have a pretty strong support group, so I just rant to them, bless their hearts. But what if I didn't (or if you don't)? You have to get negative emotions out, and it's not healthy to bottle them inside.

To me, though, it's like being the person who suggests entitlement programs need to be changed. Nobody wants to be that guy. (And who said they needed to change?)

I don't know. I'm just thinking. Is the prevailing wisdom right or wrong? Should we be more open with our thoughts and problems? If we did so, would it become less stigmatizing?

I do find I learn so much from hearing others' experiences--good and bad. And it is encouraging to know some people have a hard time in this business... even after they land that agent or get that book deal.

Have a great week, reader-and writer-friends! Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I wish you all many happy emotions~ <3

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blogfest Special: Deja Vu

My good friends DL, Lydia, Katie, and Nicole are hosting this fun fest in which we dig up old posts that didn't get much "play" or that are favorites or whatnot.

This was hard! And as a result, I might sprinkle in some recycled posts in the upcoming weeks.

But anyway, without further ado, a fun rerun and looking forward to seeing what I've missed!

Cups of Literary Tea, July 2010

I'm not much of a tea drinker. I wish I were, because it sounds so refined and elegant.

I mentioned in a previous post that my first boss when I was an editor at LSU was from England, and she observed a strict tea time every day, complete with cookies (biscuits). She taught me so many little niceties.

Anyway, so I've been thinking about books and genre and what appeals to different readers and what doesn't. Of course, I was also thinking about agents...

The other night I looked at JRM and me sitting up in bed reading. He was holding a block of wood entitled TRUMAN. I was clutching my shiny copy of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Being naturally curious, I leaned over to him.

LTM: What's Truman doing?
JRM: They're making the atomic bomb.
LTM: Sounds.... interesting. (Yik!)
JRM: What do you think it says about humanity that we've had the bomb for 60 years and it hasn't been used.
LTM: We love our children.

Personally, that sort of reading doesn't relax me. I start wondering if I'm getting credit for the course. But to JRM it's fascinating.

I boarded this train of thought because I needed a critique partner. (One of those non-relative, or husband or friend types.)

And I was pondering if it's really necessary for him/her to prefer the genre I write in. I think it is, but could I be wrong?

I recently "met" a fellow blogger who's writing fantasy books. This very imaginative (and good!) writer suggested I read his WIP, but I had to come clean--I think I'd be a terrible helper with fantasy fiction. (The true kind, I mean. The kind JRM devours.)

I felt bad. But I think my answer was correct. I've tried many times to read hard-core fantasy, and I always follow the same pattern: my mind starts to wander and I get lost (you really have to pay attention to that stuff). Then I'm faced with having to start over, and instead I just put the book down and grab a good-ole escapist YA romance.

(Not genre romance, mind you. I get the itch if I can feel the formula in a book I'm reading.)

But maybe that wasn't the right answer. Maybe having a critique partner who's not a big fan of the genre in which I write would make him/her more likely to catch problems...

I don't know.

Last weekend we hosted two of JRM's old law school buddies who are serious fantasy fans. I asked them what it is about the genre that appeals to them. Is it the descriptions? The worlds? The literary devices (e.g., time travel, quests, magic). They couldn't really say.

I don't think anybody can. That's like saying why you prefer chocolate over vanilla.

At the very least I like knowing there's a genre for everyone.

Mine's more the love story-anything genre, although I have to admit an aversion to creatures. LOTR was not my bag, baby. Sorry. So the love-story-anything-without-creatures genre.

JRM: There are no creatures in The Dragonriders of Pern.
LTM: Do the dragonriders fall in love?

That's all for today, kids. I'm actually on the road headed back home, so let's all thank Flower the cat for today's post.

My genre's anything I can bite.
Have a great weekend! And I actually am out of town til Sunday, so I'll be late making the rounds. But I'm coming! Til Monday~ <3

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hard Times, Good Times (for Writers)

Most of the friends who've hung with me the longest are artists. And all of my serious boyfriends/husbands have been musician-songwriters.

I don't know why--whether we just get each others' mercurial personalities or if I just have a strong aversion to money. As Michael Scott says, "Mo money, mo problems," right?

(Yes, I know it was Damon Wayans.)

Anyway, I thought of this because when we were in college, we debated how hard it is to be creative when you're happy.

What do you guys think? Yes/no? Were we simply listening to too much complaint rock at the time?

Regardless, it got me thinking. Things aren't currently ideal for me. And lots of other folks--in some cases worse.

In my case (new bleeps), over the summer we did a major relocation, and as is typical with such things, the adjustment period... well, it's a tough time fraught with stress, frustration, denial, anger, bargaining, depression...

But I was also thinking this can be a great time for writers.

Think about it: as writers we need hard times to draw on for future projects. If we never feel the extreme bad feelings, how can we possibly conjure them authentically for our characters?

Back in the day, writers used to put themselves in all sorts of terrible situations for their art. I do not recommend that practice. But I've decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

I'm headed back into the cave, and for the duration, I'll be blogging less.

I'm cutting my schedule down to once a week, except for special occasions like blogfests or announcements.

So my schedule is now Mondays only. And this Friday, I'll do a post for DL's Deja Vu fest (link).

In the meantime, I'll be thinking of you, and wishing you all the best. Naturally, I'll be making the rounds on Mondays as well, so I hope to stay in the loop.

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! I'm working, and when I'm not, I'm writing. Til Friday~ <3

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Catchup and Cool Blogfest Envy

Shew! Catching up after being out of town is hard work! Especially at this time of year. But I'm back, and I'm making the rounds.

Where was I? Well, I tagged along with hubs on a work-trip to Scottsdale, Az., and I have to confess. Part of my motivation for going was superstition.

Superstition Mtns
You might remember this post (link) where I shared how I started writing my first book after returning from Scottsdale and visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

Something about the story of him really getting into his life's work, his passion, and designing his most famous buildings when he was almost 60 gave me hope.

It's never too late to start.

And we talked about how he died at his drafting table still working, happily, at 90-something.

Taliesin West
Then I told you about my visit to the cool souvenir shop and the freak hailstorm-40-degree temperature drop that occurred while I was in the American-Indian artificats gallery.

I revisited that place, too, on the way to Sedona so hubs could see the Red Rock formations this time.

But what I'd never done before, and what was really fun, was climbing all over the Camelback Mountains that are located slap in the middle of Phoenix.

So that's what I did. In other news, have you noticed the cool blogfests going on lately?

Camelback Mtn.
My friend DL Hammons (link) is hosting "Write Club," which pits short passages from writers against each other. Everyone votes, and the winners move on to the next round in February. Check it out! (link)

Then my other friend Jen Daiker of Unedited fame (link) participated in the Heroine Challenge where she had to defend a fictional heroine against another writer's choice. Everyone votes based on their arguments. Very cool. (link)

I hosted a blogfest once with Dr. Kang (link) where we all told jokes. But now I'm wanting to do something literary.

Like everyone picking and defending their most satisfying reunion scene from a book. Or their favorite couple. Or best literary battle. (I threw that battle one in for my male followers. You all know I'm a romance junkie, so I'd be more interested in something along those lines.)
Cactus Santa hats

But I think it could be fun and educational. Like it would help me as a writer to see what's most appealing to readers.

So what do you think? What's a literary blogfest you'd like to participate in?

Now let me get back to digging. Christmas is coming, reader- and writer-friends! Have a great weekend; get some shopping done. Til Monday~ <3

Monday, December 5, 2011

Be Right Back!

I'm actually out of town this week, but I'll be back Thursday.

Don't do anything major while I'm away!

Okay, you can do something major. Just nothing super-fun. Or if it's fun, I want to hear all about it when I get back. With pictures...

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends!

Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blogfest & NaNo Writers, Need an Editor?

It's Dec. 1--all my NaNo and Nanner-split friends rejoice! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, link) has ended. How'd you do?

If you finished all 50,000 words (or more), super congrats! You're a rockstar.

Just remember the big mantra: "Don't query now!"

Now you need to enter the all important ReviseMo stage, after which you will enter the all-important critter/beta phase. And I'm taking this moment to remind everyone that I've hung out my shingle. I'm an experienced editor for hire (link).

(The short version is also in my sidebar over there -->)

I've never done NaNo. Mostly because it typically falls when I'm in the middle of revisions or just finished revisions. Last year, Dr. Kang (link) and I observed "ReviseMo" during the month of November, and now she has like a mega, 50-book deal!

So revisions are very, very important! You're not done. Yet.

Speaking of stuff I've never done, or never thought I'd do, my other good friend Vicki Rocho (link) is hosting a fun, "Well, I Never" blogfest today!

Here's my entry: I never thought I'd write a book.

Seriously, when I was growing up, I loved to read, and I always had little stories scribbled out with illustrations in spiral notebooks all over the place. Then I read a short story my older brother wrote.

It was so funny and insightful and moving, and I think I cried at one point. I clearly remember thinking, "One day I'll write like that."

But never a whole book.

I got my degree in English, taught 10th grade one year, went back to graduate school, got my master's in Mass Comm, worked in production at a TV station (CBS affiliate--WAFB, Baton Rouge, whoot!), did some association work, worked as an editor at LSU for 10 years, had two babies 11 months apart (!), started freelancing for seven years...

Then in Sept. 2009 I sat down and started writing a book.

And today I've finished four. Two are actually polished enough that they're with an agent (link). So there you go. Never say never.

What's something you said you'd never do? How's that working out for you?

Have a great weekend, reader- and writer-friends! Til Monday~ <3

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Countdown

For the first time, we're visiting a church that observes Advent. It began yesterday, and for the rest of the month, we'll be counting down to Christmas.

I kind of like it.

The topic of yesterday's sermon was uncertainty, which I thought was an odd choice. We know without a doubt that in less than a month it will be December 25.

But as he spoke, I changed my mind. My little daughters are waiting to see their first snowfall. The weather lady said it might happen tomorrow night, but it could be Wednesday.

They're also waiting to see what Santa will bring them. And you know the song, a lot of that depends on how they act. (As if.)

As for writing, we face uncertainty from start to finish. Is this idea any good? Is this query any good? Will I ever finish revising this MS? Will I ever find an agent? Will I ever get a book deal? Will anyone besides my mom buy it if I do? Will I ever write another book? Will it be as good as that last one? And so on.

The point yesterday was that one's faith is strongest in times of uncertainty. That made me laugh (internally, of course) thinking of all the prayers said at those times.

I pray a lot regardless, so for me it seems uncertainty brings out my inner control freak. I start trying to do everything I can to make whatever it is happen. Right now.

Patience is hard for me. I don't even like making my daughters (or husband) wait to open gifts I've bought them. Christmas typically starts around the 23rd at our house--or sooner!--because Mommy just can't stand it anymore.

So we're all in this time of waiting and expectation, and things are very uncertain everywhere. How do you guys deal with times like these?

My youngest said she likes to daydream to make the time pass quicker. I agree with her. Maybe it's time to start another book...

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! Til Thursday~ <3

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

Wow, the end of the year is zooming toward us. The holidays are here, it's time for family and for gifts... I haven't even started Christmas shopping yet. (o.m.g.)

I have to take off this week. Family's in town, the girls are out of school, and, well, I'm sure many if not all of you are in the same boat.

I'm so thankful for you, writer friends, for readers, for family, for good health, and for having the freedom to pursue an occupation I love. Even if it can be crazy sometimes.

Happy Thanksgiving, reader-and writer-friends. Til Monday~ <3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review - Daughter of Smoke & Bone

I have to confess, I resisted picking up Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (link). Hard.

Everyone's been going on and on about how great it is, but I'm not really a huge fantasy reader. And I just haven't been able to jump on the whole angel bandwagon.

Good news: This isn't really an angel story.

I mean, OK some of the characters are seraphim (angels) and some are chimera (part-man, part-beast or mixed-beast creatures), but that's more the backdrop for what is essentially a reimagining of the Romeo & Juliet tale.

Taylor uses these creatures to do some seriously impressive world-building, and why these two sides are at war and the different histories they've invented to justify their ongoing battle are thorough and well-conceived.

It's set in Prague, which is fresh on it's own, but Taylor also takes the reader to Paris and Morocco, all on the bizarre errands main character Karou is forced to run for her adopted chimera "father" Brimstone.

He collects teeth. Which he exchanges for wishes. But he doesn't give Karou good wishes, only little skimpy ones. Why, you don't know until the end, but it's worth finding out.

The opening is super-strong. Karou's on her way to art class when she's accosted by her ex-boyfriend Kaz, and an amusing, somewhat sexy scene is played out between them.

Then Taylor quickly introduces the mystery of Karou, a human, once-American girl now living in Europe, who's forced to run these strange errands for scary Brimstone. (Again, we don't know why--neither does she.)

When Akila, the (literally hot) seraphim shows up, it gets even more juicy. He's as confused about who this human girl is and why she's running errands for his enemies as Karou. He gets a big surprise. And it's very, very good.

The whole story builds to the Karou's true identity and purpose, and it's so intense, when I finished, I kind of wanted to turn around and read the whole thing again.

It's lush and beautiful, and at the same time it's ugly and horrible and violent. But it works. It's the perfect cozy-up-by-the-fire-and-get-lost book.

There was a point at about 30 percent (Kindle readers) where it got draggy, and I felt my suspension of disbelief slipping. A few times Taylor went a bit over the top with her descriptive language; she turned a few phrases too far...

But hang in there, hold that disbelief suspended, because the ride to the end is just fantastic. From the characters who've lost everything, to the ones fueled by jealousy, to those who're so sick of war, they're willing to try anything for a shot at hope, I was totally engrossed.

I didn't care for the end, I confess. It's very abrupt (there's a sequel coming), but I wouldn't let that be a deterrent. I had no problem losing a day reading this book, and I highly recommend it for older teens and adults.

There are some references to sexual situations and body parts (Moms), but it's not really graphic--one's in art class; they're sketching nudes--and there's I think two mild swear words.

So grab a copy reader- and writer-friends, here's the link again. Have a weekend lost in fantasy-land. Til Monday~ <3

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Quit Blogging

for the month of June. Remember that?

I was in the middle of moving 850 miles due north, and my life was insane. I wasn't sure how much access to the Internet I'd have, etc.

So a few weeks ago, several bleeps were posting about how blogging was getting them down. They were working hard, building up followers and whatnot. And they were frustrated.

There's not enough time to read all the blogs. There's not enough time to make meaningful comments. Some people still write pages and pages for a single post.

And some people still have word-verify on for comments... (*cough*Turn it off*cough*please.)

You all know my story. I started blogging because Janet Reid said to. Now I have an agent (I got through a blog) who is not Janet Reid, and she says for me to do what I want. It's not that important to my writing career at this point.

But I'll tell you a little secret... Blogging is that important to my writing career.

Writing's a tough gig. It's slow and it's isolating. It can make you unbelievably happy, and then it can make you just that sad.

In this blogging community, there's a group who've been at it for almost two years. A mere blink in publishing time.

We've been through all the trials and tribulations. We've been rejected again and again. We've become betas and critters and helped each other shine. We've landed agents or indy contracts.

We've scored awe-inspiring book deals. We've given up on traditional publishing and done it ourselves. We've launched books that landed in the Top 50 (or less) on the paid Amazon charts (whoot, Jessica!--link). We've gotten crappy feedback or mean reviews from "friends."

I could go on, but my point is, every time something like that happens, this community comes together virtually to rub a back, dry a tear, do a high-five, take part in chart rushes, blog tours, and release parties...

Remember how in times of presidential elections, they like to say, "It's the economy, stupid"?

Blogging is about the relationships, (not)stupid!

At least that's how it's turned out for me. You can look over there and see I don't have a zillion followers. But I've got many, many friends.

When I'm losing it with this writing thing, I've got at least two I can email on the spot. Writers who've been through it. Who are struggling, getting rejected, dusting themselves off, and going at it again.

Because as my good friend Matt (link) once told me about this time last year, "The only way to guarantee you won't make it is to quit."

So why are you still blogging?

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends. Til Thursday~ <3

Friday, November 11, 2011

Score Some Books, Win Some Prizes!

Special Edition! It's 11/11/11, and from what I hear many babies are scheduled to be born, Veterans are being honored, Lotto tickets are being bought...

And some great friends are releasing the paperback versions of their books! So Happy (book) Birthday, and bring on the bestsellers!

STRING BRIDGE (link to my review)

Buy the book Today, get the Sountrack for FREE!

Today is THE day to help STRING BRIDGE hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrackMelody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by author Jessica Bell, for FREE!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback or eBook), 11-11-11, and then email the receipt to


Jessica will then email you a link to download the album for free!

To purchase the paperback:
Amazon USA (and Australia)

To purchase the eBook:
Amazon USA (and Australia)

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

And be sure to Tweet about it using #StringBridge!

* * *

EXILED (link to website)

My friend RaShelle Workman (link) is teaming up some of her writer-friends (Dark C.A.R.M.A.) in a Twitter kickoff party for their books today at t 11 a.m. MST (1 p.m. EST), and then later at 6 p.m. MST (8 p.m. EST).

 to win cool prizes, including books by other Indelibles authors.  

Join them on Twitter or hop over now to the Dark C.A.R.M.A. blog to enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card! Follow these guys on Twitter at: @ali_cross, @AuthorCKBryant, @RaShelleWorkman.

Turn sixteen, become immortal. Live out eternity as a princess. If only life were that simple.

Stubborn, sixteen-year-old Princess Venus of Kelari wants one thing, to become a kelvieri, that is, until someone exiles her to Earth, kills her irrihunter and takes her family. Now she wants revenge. 

First she’s got to get home. But before she can return to Kelari, the Gods have commanded her to help an arrogant boy named Michael find his soul mate. Only she doesn't know the first thing about love. 

Rather quickly, her inexperience with human emotion is obscured by other matters—alien-controlled psychotic teens that are out to kill her, and a government group that is set on capturing and dissecting her. 

Worst of all, Venus will suffer a painful death-by-poisoning, thanks to Earth’s atmosphere, if she remains on the planet longer than one week. Still, Venus is a Princess and she's got a plan. Surely, with her help, Michael will fall in love with a human. 

But time is running out and Michael is falling for the wrong girl—her.

Available on ebook now; Paperback available Today!

SMASHWORDS.COM - Kindle, Nook, iBooks, any ereader

* * *

Fun stuff, great prizes. Grab a few books and have a lucky day, reader- and writer-friends! Til Monday~ <3

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When it's in Your Power, Just Do It

My parents are pretty smart. (Now you all know how old I am.)

Seriously though, my parents had my older brother and me when they were babies. Literally. My mom was 20 when my brother was born, and then three years later, here came me.

They were married of course. That was just what you did back in 1960s small-town Mississippi. You married your high school sweetheart. Lucky for them, they were right. They're still married after all this time.

But that's not my point.

My dad told me once about some men he worked with who didn't believe in helping their kids financially.

My dad worked for Exxon in Baton Rouge, so we were somewhat upper-middle-class. My brother and I both had nice cars in high school, but my mom also taught. It was a dual-income situation.

Dad's short-bed was a gold Chevy.
Anyway, dad told me he knew there was wisdom in that. Bootstraps and all.

But he also liked to tell how he and my mom moved from Liberty, Miss., with everything they owned in the back of a pickup truck.

A short-bed pickup truck.

My brother was two, I wasn't born yet, and my dad's point was that if his parents had been able to give them a little help at that time, it would've been far more meaningful than $100,000 now, when he's established, has a home, etc.

It's the timing of the thing, Dad said.

My parents also believed in reading the Bible to my brother and me every single morning. Most mornings, Mom would just read a chapter from the Proverbs.

My brother and I still laugh to this day how those darned verses are so lodged in our brains, one'll just pop out at any time. If I've been out late (or didn't sleep well), I often think of this one:

"He that (greets) his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him." (Prov. 27:14)

For the sake of this post, however, there's one that goes like this:

"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to help them. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow'--when you now have it with you. (Prov. 3:27-28)

Most everybody wants to give back and help others, but it's hard when we're so distracted by life, job worries, writing, kids, you name it.

But there are many ways to help and "do good." I've been thinking about what all I see if I just slow down and look around me. Little things. They make such a difference.

Have a great week-end, reader- and writer-friends! You guys always do me a world of good. Til Monday~ <3

Monday, November 7, 2011

Research: How I Cheat by Susan Kaye Quinn

I am so psyched to welcome Susan Kaye Quinn for my first-ever guest post!

Susan runs her eponymous blog (link), and she's just released her brand new book Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy). Right now the Kindle version is only $2.99 on Amazon (link). Run get it!

You might remember Dr. Q from when I reviewed her young-adult romance Life, Liberty and Pursuit last year (link). It was so great, I could not wait to get Open Minds the minute it came out last week. I'll post my new review ASAP.

But now for the guest post. Take it away, Susan!

* * *
I’ve written stories about wormhole-traveling clones a thousand years in the future, dimension-traveling fairies, and sailors going through boot camp (if you can find the common thread there, please let me know).

For every story I write, I do a lot of research, and my new paranormal/SF novel Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) is no exception.

Bob Mayer says the special forces unit he was a part of lived by the saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.” That saying really speaks to my creative urge to break the rules and do things differently.

(Note: I’m not in favor of cheating on tests, etc. You’re only cheating yourself when you do that.)

When I research, I cheat. I don’t have time to roam the earth and experience first hand the many settings, buildings, deserts, and national monuments where I place my stories.

That’s why God invented Google Earth.

(Did you know that if you type “Earth” into Google Maps, it gives you Earth, TX, population 1,109. Who knew the world was so small?)

I’ve walked around the small town of Rock Point, Ariz. (in Open Minds), strolled the streets of Amesbury, England (in The Faery Swap), and figured out the best route to break into the Great Lakes Naval Air Station (in Open Minds).

I actually drove up to the guard shack at Great Lakes one time, but only because we happened to be driving by and I couldn’t resist. Turns out the guard was working on a mystery novel. He still wouldn’t let me in.

I troll for images on the Internet to find people who have visited places that I want to set my story. I should no longer be amazed at what can be found online, but people post pictures of vacations, business trips, and their hometowns, conveniently labeled with titles and descriptions.

I’ve even used blogs written by other people (a naval cadet in boot camp, a fashionista attenting a fashion show) to get the voice and slang-usage right for a particular character.

If that’s cheating, I think there should be a class to teach kids how to do it. And I seriously wonder how writers did their thing before the advent of the Internet.

Then again, the flip side of the access to all this information is that everyone else has access to it to. And in a global world, you’re guaranteed to have someone read your story who actually HAS been there and done that. I had several (not one but SEVERAL) people who had actually gone through boot camp read my teen love story Life, Liberty, and Pursuit.

I sighed with relief when they were amazed at how realistic the gas mask training scene was. #thankyouSailorBloggerBoy

Sometimes you have to straight make stuff up. Even then, I find inspiration in Science magazine or Through the Wormhole, just a tidbit or two to get my creative engine humming.

And you’d be amazed what “Lightbulbs of the Future” will bring up on Google.

* * *

Awesome. Thanks again, Susan! Those are great links and information to make our research easier. I'll post the book information below again, and in the meantime, have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! Til Thursday~ <3

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves.

When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

STRING BRIDGE - the Interview

Welcome back for Part 2 of my STRING BRIDGE treats! On Monday, I posted my review of the book (link), and today we're chatting with Jessica Bell herself (link) about writing it, her path to publication, and how she gets inspired.

Let's get to it!

LTM: STRING BRIDGE deals with such difficult emotions and heavy situations. Yet it has lightness and hope at the same time. What gave you the idea for this story? And how long did you spend writing it?

Jessica Bell: I spent about five years writing it. It went through about seven different revisions. I don’t think there is one thing from the first draft that is in the final version, so regarding "getting the idea," it wasn’t like an idea just hit me and I started writing about it. It was gradual, and developed more and more with each revision.

The thing with this book is that I never really focused on plot. It was more about the characters and their emotions and their interactions with each other. This book is very much centered on the effect rather than the cause, so I think that’s why the emotions are so full on. Also, I’m a very emotional person, so I couldn’t really help but put them on the page.

LTM: Melody's a musician, like you, and STRING BRIDGE has such a nice rhythm and musical feel in the way it unfolds and in the descriptions. Do you think being a musician helped you write it?

JB: Most definitely. I think sound is a very difficult thing to describe so it certainly helped me with that. I spent a long time trying to perfect those parts where music is illustrated. It was quite a challenge to be honest. But what helps, in general, is the fact that I thrive on making sentences with cadence. I love playing around with different words and sounds and seeing how differently they roll off my tongue. It’s just like singing without a melody. It’s writing to a tempo.

LTM: Tessa was one of my favorite characters. She's such a funny, cute little girl, and her reactions to her parents' behavior is so authentic. I know you have no kids, genius, so where did she come from?

JB: I think I created her to be the daughter I hope to have. Haha. I’ve worked with kids her age before in a few English schools here in Athens, so I drew a few observations from that experience. But mostly it was guess work. Thank you for the “genius” comment! Ha! You’ve made my day …

LTM: Serena was also a great character--the loyal best friend who comes right in and carries Melody through her hardest time. I have a Serena, so I was wondering if there's a Serena in your life? Who is it?

JB: I actually have three back home in Australia. Knock on wood they never have to help me like Serena helped Melody!

LTM: I really liked Alex despite his shortcomings. Your depiction of him trying to be modern and "equal rights" in spite of his upbringing and the paternalistic Greek society in which they live was perfect. (Confession: I did not think Alex was acting Greek; I felt he was acting Male.) How'd you approach that dynamic?

JB: Yes, I think I would have to agree with you on his attributes being primarily “male.” Hahaha. Sorry, guys …  But (and I’m totally generalizing here) I think Greek men are nurtured to the extreme when they’re young, and remain dependent on their mothers for quite a long time, which I suppose creates a quality in them in which they crave being ‘looked after,’ and/or maintaining traditional, even out-of-date, views and values primarily because it’s what they grew up with and trust to be ‘the way’ to behave. This is a total generalization and is by no means a definition of the Greek man. It’s just my surface interpretation, mixed in with having known a few men that were quite patriarchal. And I must add, not all of them were Greek. Sorry, I’m rambling here ...

In answer to your question, I wanted to make sure I didn’t create a clichéd Greek man, and so decided to make Alex a little more ‘new wave,’ so to speak, regarding his attitude to male/female egalitarianism. But at the same time, those patriarchal attributes still needed to be ingrained in him. Basically I needed him to want to be all pro equal rights, but when things got difficult, to not be able to control letting the traditions he grew up with override his desire to ignore them.

LTM: I told you reading STRING BRIDGE kept making me think of the Margaret Atwood book CAT'S EYE. The stories aren't similar, but your writing style is a lot like hers--gritty and authentic. Was there a particular book, song, or movie that influenced you into STRING BRIDGE?

JB: Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, so I’m not surprised her style has rubbed off on me. I’ve pretty much read every single book of hers. But no, there isn’t a particular anything that influenced me into writing String Bridge. I really just wanted to write “art.” To be true to myself, to write the way I’m most comfortable with and flow with it. I love reading books that go beyond telling a story. So I guess that’s my primary influence: writing that delves deeper than plot.

Now for some business questions!

LTM: You published STRING BRIDGE through a small, independent publisher (Lucky Press). What led you to that decision? Are you happy about it? Can you tell us a little about that journey and what it was like?

JB: This is a whole other blog post. Luckily, for those who are interested, I’ve already written one about it! Here's the (link).

LTM: Finally, what's next for you? Any advice to other writers out there at any stage of the game?

JB: My next novel is called, Bitter Like Orange Peel. It’s about a twenty-five year old Australian archaeology undergraduate named Kit, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. She feels misplaced and comes to the conclusion that meeting her father, Roger, will make some sense of her life, despite him being worth the rotting orange rind in her backyard. Well, at least that’s what she’s been conditioned to think of him by the three women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clichés, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed professional archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania, who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and who named her daughter after intravenous. Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger, but in doing so, discovers he is not the only rotten fruit.

My advice for debut authors: Learn the rules until you can recite them by heart. Then learn how to break them without people noticing. And ultimately, trust your instincts. I learned that one the hard way. I spent five years trying to write like other people were telling me to write until Janice came along. She encouraged me to be true to myself. Being true to myself is what got me published.

Rock on! Thanks, Jessica! And now you're wondering how to get it? Glad you asked:

eBook (link)
Amazon UK (link)

Paperback (link)
Amazon UK (link)
Barnes & Noble (link)

Jessica also created a soundtrack for the book, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, which contains her own original songs and an original song written by Jessica's mother.

It's diverse and interesting, and worth checking out. Although I'd say do it after you read the book. It might spoil the story!

iTunes (link) (link)
Amazon UK (link)

Enjoy the book; enjoy Jessica's lovely singing voice; and have a super weekend, reader- and writer-friends! (Geaux, Tigers!) Til Monday~ <3

Monday, October 31, 2011

STRING BRIDGE - Book review

Happy Halloween, bloggy friends!

Special treat for you all: today I'm helping kick off the STRING BRIDGE (link) blog tour for our good friend, musician, and talented writer Jessica Bell, a.k.a., The Alliterative Allomorph (link).

Jessica sent me an arc of STRING BRIDGE way back at the beginning of June to read, but I have to confess. I was scared to read it.

I've known Jessica more than a year now, and I can tell you, she is an amazing, evocative writer. Her descriptions are so real and intense, and she can conjure a difficult scene and fill it with so much emotion, you'll be crawling for the door...

But I'm so glad I finally did read it. STRING BRIDGE is fantastic.

Yes, it's got a few dark moments, but Jessica has infused her debut novel with so much hope. By the time I finished it, I was squeezing my family members, telling them I loved them.

Yep. It's that good.

Here's my review:

Main character Melody is dealing with a promotion in her job as an editor, a husband who loves her, and an adorable, precocious four year-old daughter, who is just too cute.

Life is good, right? Wrong. She's miserable.

Melody decided after daughter Tessa's birth to stop playing the occasional musical gig and focus on being a good wife and Mommy. The only problem is music is her passion. It feeds her soul, and without it, the monotony of daily life is killing her.

She's spiraling into depression, every little thing her family does sends her into an internal rage, and she's battling fears that she's secretly becoming her bipolar mother.

Melody's mother is a whole other aspect of the story. She's a difficult, strong personality, who during Melody's childhood subjected her to sudden, unexpected bouts of abuse while in her dark times.

Jessica establishes Melody's inner turmoil so well. Her guilt over wanting her own life, and her relationship with her husband and her mother. Melody longs to remember the good days before her mother got sick, and her intense self-analysis is so familiar, you feel like you're working through her struggles with her.

And that's only the first quarter of the book!

There's a lovely scene where Melody recalls visiting her parents' island home while her grandparents were alive. It's so gorgeously detailed, you can feel the water on your feet.

Actually, every observation and memory Melody has ties the characters together and builds to the story's ultimate conclusion.

Jessica does this expertly. You don't even notice as you flow along with her.

The office where Melody works is a nice source of comic relief, and it helps our main character confront her problems. She finally asks husband Alex, a concert promoter, to help her start playing music again, and he agrees.

They draw closer as a result, but too bad their relationship victory is colored by a secret Melody discovers about Alex. She's still deciding what to do when she's faced with the biggest challenge of her life...

I can't tell you any more without spoiling the story, but I can say Jessica's written one of those books that's so real and familiar, it opens the door to great discussions.

For instance, how much turmoil do we create in our own lives? Are there are really any wrong choices or simply choices that lead to different outcomes? And do we control our view of the world by what we choose to focus on in our relationships?

Great stuff.

These characters are flawed, but they know they're flawed and they're trying to find a way to overcome their shortcomings, find healing, and ultimately be happy together.

I highly, highly recommend this book to adult audiences.

Jessica's a frank, realistic writer, so there are clear descriptions of real-life events and F-bombs peppered throughout. Still, I think it will make you sit and think long after you're finished reading.

Here's the links for purchase:

eBook (link)
Amazon UK (link)

Paperback (link)
Amazon UK (link)
Barnes & Noble (link)

On Thursday, you'll get a second treat. I'll be interviewing the author herself! So have a great week, and come on back for my chat with Jessica, reader- and writer-friends~ <3

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Who's Gazumping whom?

Nerd alert: I confess one of the things I love most about being back in Indy is the 24-hour NPR. There's this one show "A Way With Words" (link) that I think is just the bee's knees.

I had it on Saturday on the way to my hair appointment, and they were talking about unusual words. The word in question was gazump, which means to swindle someone at the last second before signing a contract--usually in real estate.

For example, you agree to buy a house for $200K, but then at the last minute, right as you're about to sign, the seller says, "Oh, the trees on the property are worth more than I thought. That'll be another $20K."


Then they went into a discussion of how to indicate sarcasm in text. This piqued the writer in me, as I'm always looking for creative ways to avoid adverbs in dialogue tags. My little writer-ears perked up.

Apparently there's this site that's promoting left-leaning italics to indicate slang. (She said, not sarcastically.)

The problem is all the typefaces will have to be redrawn (or whatever) to make that work. Too bad, because I think that's a great idea.

Digression: While searching for sartalics, I also found the Sarcasm Society's website (link), which is worth a look. Hilarious.

Back to Sartalics! It raised a problem I've encountered in my writing before. I mean, I'm pretty good at indicating the way people are delivering their lines based on what's gone before and body language, but sarcasm is tough.

How do you guys indicate sarcasm in dialogue without resorting to adverbs? I'm just curious.

In the meantime, have a great weekend, reader- and writer-friends! If you're celebrating Halloween, have fun and be safe.

I'll have a special TREAT for you on Monday. Til then~ <3

Monday, October 24, 2011

A SCARY GOOD BOOK Review by a Special Guest

Since it's getting close to Halloween, I asked my nine-year-old daughter Catherine to read Anita Laydon Miller's middle-grade mystery (link) A Scary Good Book.

Anita did a blog tour about a month ago to promote it, and it sounded then like a fun mystery. It involves a kidnapping and clues left in library books. And the cover looks super-exciting.

Anita also has a great middle-grade blog (link), which I'd encourage you to check out and follow.

So without further ado, here's Catherine's review!

I think A Scary Good Book (by Anita Laydon Miller, link) is good because it's a mystery with a touch of romance, which is my favorite kind of story.

The story starts with (main character) Hannah helping Mrs. Beechman with a five-gallon Colorado blue spruce and two bags of mulch that Mrs. Beechman bought from Hannah and her mom’s nursery/house.

Hannah Stone’s father, Louis Stone, had been killed when a car hit him when he had been walking across the street, and people from all over Colorado came to the scene of the crime.

No one knows what caused the accident… until the end of the book. (LTM edit: I had to explain not to give away the ending.) The other mystery is about Katie Lyon.

About a year before that, Katie Lyon was abducted. Hannah saw marks that Katie left in books that she had checked out from the library telling that she had been abducted by a madman.

The rest of the book is about Hannah trying to find out who put the marks in the book. Then she finds out it was Katie, then Hannah gets abducted.

Reading at the dentist's office.
I can’t tell you any more or it’ll ruin the book. But it really was a scary good book.

My questions for Catibug:

Who is your favorite character?
My favorite character is Katie Lyon because she reminds me of my little sister Laura. She is smart for using her eyeliner to mark the books because she didn’t have a pencil. That’s something I could see Laura doing if she had eyeliner.

What was your favorite scene?
My favorite scene was when Hannah and her friend Oliver “Ollie” Ortega broke into the library to see if they could find out more about who marked the books. It is cool to think about two 12-year-olds sneaking into the library.

What was the scariest part?
The scariest part was when the kidnapper set his house on fire.

Would you recommend this book to other kids your age?
I would recommend this book for kids at least eight through twelve, because it is a scary mystery with a little bit of romance. (The romance is between Hannah and Ollie.)

And there you have it folks! Straight from Anita's (almost) target audience. Seriously, Catherine read it in less than 24 hours, and then asked if she could borrow her dad's Kindle so she could read it again.

Grab a copy, and have a scary-fun time reading, reader- and writer-friends. Til Thursday~ <3

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another reason to tell your story

So I was catching up on my Entertainment Weekly reading, and it was that "reunions" issue. I'm sure most of you've seen the pictures.

They reunited the cast of Family Ties, Romey and Michelle, Glen Close and Michael Douglass for Fatal Attraction, and of course The Princess Bride.

I never knew the backstory of Princess Bride. That it had once had Robert Redford attached as director. That it almost didn't get made.

That Rob Reiner had to cut everyone's salaries, had to cut all the expenses for sets, basically had five guys portray the "army of Guilder."

And it didn't fare very well at the box office.

But it became a cult classic. Who under 40 can't quote at least five lines from that film?

The starter, "As you wish," to the ender, "You'd make a great Dread Pirate Roberts." Or my favorite... Heck, I don't know if I can single out a favorite!

Anyway, it got me to thinking about movies that "shouldn't" have done well, for whatever reason. Or the movies that no one would get behind that everyone ended up loving.

Since we're getting close to Halloween, I'll toss out two scary ones: Blair Witch Project and Halloween.

I mean, seriously. Nobody believed those movies would be hits? NobodyHow does that happen?

Then my thoughts went down a different path. Can you imagine how different Princess Bride would've been if Robert Redford had directed it?

I doubt it would've been as silly-funny as it is, and I'm not sure it would've become the cult-classic it is today.

I feel like there's a lesson here. See what you think about this: We've talked about telling your story before. What if these examples illustrate why you're given the stories you're given.

Other writers might be just as good as you, possibly better. But no one else can tell your story the way you can.

What do you guys think?


Have a great weekend, reader- and writer- friends! Til Monday~ <3

Monday, October 17, 2011

Don't argue with Yosemite Sam

So Anne Kenny (link) and I were swapping Zombieland quotes last week, and since it's almost Halloween, I had to rent the movie.

Upon rewatching, I remembered Cardio and the Double Tap and Avoiding Bathrooms... You know, The Rules to survive in Zombieland.

JRM asked me if he'd laughed as hard the first time Woody Harrelson asks Jesse Eisenberg if he wanted to see how hard Harrelson could punch.

That got me to thinking about characters and character development.

When I was a little kid, I didn't talk a lot. I'm making up for it now. (insert laugh-track)

Anyway, as a child, I spent a lot of time watching and listening to the adults around me.

I try to impart this wisdom to my two young daughters, who like to ignore the adults in their lives. You can learn a lot by just watching and listening.

One of my relatives is a lot like the Woody Harrelson character in Zombieland. Heck, I'm from south Louisiana. I have several relatives who are like that character.

My point is, when I was a kid, he might've been a bit... intimidating.

Don't get me wrong. He's sweet and loyal and would give you the shirt off his back. But this character-type is not the Scarlett O'Hara, swoon, "dropped mah hankey" sort of gentlemen.

It's making me want to get back to that little south-Mississippi sci-fi I've got sitting in the drawer.

I've written two books involving gentlemen. And trust me, I love the gentlemen.

But sometimes it's fun to hang out with Yosemite Sam. You know, the guy who just needs a Hummer and some hollow-point ammo on a quest for a dang Twinkie.

Characters. All sorts. Just keepin' it rill.

Til Thursday. Have a great weekend, reader- and writer-friends~ <3

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mother Superior Pays it Forward

Matt Rush, *cough* MacNish, (link) and I have been friends for a while, so when he mentioned this blogfest, I gave him the virtual pfft.

He immediately blamed Alex J. Cavanaugh (link), who I sort of know, as he's Mr. Sci-fi, and I'm Ms. ... not sci-fi...

What's all this about, you ask? 

Me kicking off the supercool "Pay it Forward" Blogfest (link) a day early (b/c I post M&Th)! It's OK--they said I could.

Here's how it works: we're supposed to list three blogs we follow and think are awesome, and that we think you should follow, too!

This is a really great idea, but I have to confess: it's REALLY hard for me.

I would automatically send you to my beta/critter's blogs because I love them all, and they are all super-great ladies with super-great blogs.

(That would be Tami-Hart Johnson, Carolyn Abiad, Anne Kenny, Jen Daiker, and Jessica Bell.)

But those ladies are established rock stars, and I think we're supposed to showcase bloggy buddies who might be more new or less known. (Still, if you haven't, check out those guys--they're fantastic.)

In that spirit, I'll toss these guys in the mix:

Elle Strauss (link) is not really a newbie, but I was surprised by how many of you *aren't* following her. She recently published her debut novel Clockwise, which I read and gave two enthusiastic thumbs up--here's the link to my review--and she's just a great writer who typically posts really cool writing tips and advice.

Liz Fichera (link) also has fun posts about stuff. (Yep, I just wrote a sentence that would make my sophomore English students proud.) But Liz has a few new books coming out, and I recently finished her book Craving Perfect. It was really cute and fun, and I think you'll like Liz.

Finally, (last but not least)

Old Kitty (link). I just can't tell you how much I love Kitty's quirky little blog. Maybe it's her pictures of Charlie (her cat) or maybe it's just her little cottage in England and her short posts on writing or baking or rain or people who don't act right. Or maybe it's just that she's so encouraging to me. Everyone should follow Kitty. I know her real name, but I'm sort of an Old Kitty myself, and I forgot.

But that's not even mentioning Tracy Jo (link), who is just the most amazing, strong person and takes gorgeous pictures, or Carol Riggs (link), who perks my little chin up all the time...

Now I'm frustrated that I can't list more than three... Malex!

Have a great weekend, reader- and writer-friends. Til Monday~ <3