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