Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Day in the Life . . .

A day or two ago, I was digging through a pile of papers on my desk and discovered a gift card for a $10 iTunes download. Time for a new contest! If you follow this blog, I assume you love books as much as I do. Think about one of your favorite books. Wouldn’t it be fun if you could step into that book and become one of the characters for a day? After thinking it over, I settled on Claire in Diana Gabaldon’s time travel series, The Outlander. Why? Because Claire, a nurse in World War II, goes to Scotland with her husband and, while wandering around a group of standing stones, finds herself whisked back in time to the 1600’s where she meets the true love of her life, Jamie Fraser. Why would I choose Claire? Think hunky Scot in kilts. Any more questions?    

Remember, this contest is not limited to works of fiction. Nonfiction and biographies work too. As for me, I was tempted to be Eleanor of Aquitaine for a day. This remarkable woman was married to two kings, the mother of three kings and lived to the ripe old age of 82 in the 12th century. What fun it would be to go back in time and see the world through Eleanor’s eyes.

If you’d like your name in the drawing for the $10 iTunes gift card, here’s what you have to do to enter: Click on the comment button and tell me the name of the book and which character you’d like to be for a day. That’s it! Good luck.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Creating Hewhay Hall

You may recognize the name Susan Roebuck. She’s a regular and reliable contributor to Book Blather. From time to time, I send her a frantic email saying, “Yikes, I need a post. Can you send me something?” She always comes through. Now that’s what I consider a true friend. Sue was born and raised in the UK and now lives in Portugal with her husband. Her first book, Perfect Score, was an Epic Ebook 2012 finalist and garnered rave reviews. Her new book, Hewhay Hall, is her first venture into the paranormal and I just had to know the story behind it's creation. Welcome, Sue.

“Fire-fighter Jude Elliott loses part of his leg trying to rescue a family held hostage during a terrorist attack. He journeys to mysterious Hewhey Hall, where it is told there are wondrous, magical cures. Little does Jude know that his destination is Slater The Prince of Envy's lair where demons reside and courageous souls are tormented... Can Jude escape Slater's house of horrors, or will he suffer for all of eternity?”

Hewhay Hall, my new novel, was born out of a challenge. With just one or two prompts a group of friends and I challenged each other to write a story in a genre that we hadn’t tried before. I opted for paranormal and I do believe I’ve found my niche.

It does make sense, when I think about it. I’ve read so much paranormal romance, dark gothic paranormal and horror. I devoured Stephen King’s early work (“Carrie”, “The Shining”) and Ann Rice’s Lestat the vampire novels. But my favorite book of all time is the “Gormenghast” Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (http://www.mervynpeake.org/gormenghast/).  It’s one of the few books I can read over and over because it’s populated by peculiar, quirky characters (think Swelter the cook and Steerpike the crook). With every read I peel another layer off and find pure genius underneath.

Back to that original challenge. We had just a couple of prompts: a house that the protagonist had never seen before, and a neighbor called Slater.
From just those two, I envisaged the whole novel. That’s how Hewhay Hall was born. Of the group, only two of us finished – me and Ute Carbone (http://www.utecarbone.com/). Ute’s “The Whisper of Time” is being published later this year.

It wasn’t so hard entering the paranormal genre. Some people may be surprised because I am a practicing Catholic. But that means I believe that there is great evil in this world and I also believe in the Afterlife - and therefore the supernatural.

I have no experience of seeing ghosts, although a medium once told me my grandmothers (who she described perfectly) and an aunt were all looking out for me. That’s been comforting to know so many times in my life. And my mother once witnessed the death of a neighbor which upset her greatly. Shortly after, she was in a supermarket and a complete stranger turned to her and told her that Jack (the neighbor) wanted my mother to know he was OK.

While I was writing “Hewhay Hall” it was strange trying to imagine an
evil, cruel and maniacal demon. I’m basically a peaceful person who hates violence, but I loved pushing my imagination to what is hopefully acceptable limits. The only drawback where the nightmares I had during the writing. Those characters just wouldn’t leave me alone.

Here's a peek at Hewhay Hall:

Jude stared down the hill at the glint on the water and then across to the fields baked hard by weeks of sun. He’d followed the directions to the letter, so this was the right place. But where was Hewhay Hall?
A row of swallows balanced on a wire stretching overhead, each facing the same way as Jude, who rested against a five-bar gate. They too seemed to be eyeing the fallen tree trunks that littered the overgrown path down the rocky hillside. They were lucky—they could fly, but Jude had to hobble.
The air moved on the other side of the marshland. He didn’t imagine it. A definite ripple, the kind that alters your vision when a migraine’s about to start. Although the shift was fleeting, he had the idea something was down there after all, very faint and hard to describe. The outline of a building? Or maybe just heat haze. Whatever, he’d come this far—he’d go and investigate.
The latch and hinges on the gate were so rusted, Jude couldn’t open it. Nothing for it, then, but to climb over. He propped his crutches against the wooden bars, placed his hands on the top, and hauled himself up so his right leg got a footing on a lower rung. Now he could sit on the top. He bent down, picked up what was left of his other leg, and maneuvered it over until he straddled the gate. It creaked under his weight. As he swung his right leg over, he teetered, tried to grab the top bar but lost his balance and fell headlong into a bramble patch.
Prickles stabbed him as he lay on his back, his whirling gaze locked on a wiggly jet trail in the cloudless sky. Once the world righted itself, he pushed himself up on his elbows and extracted some of the more painful brambles before rolling onto his right knee. His bum in the air, he hoped no one was looking and that he retained a shred of dignity as he balanced on his right leg and wobbled his way upright. As he tried to stand, his knee locked. He was a second away from landing back on the ground but he grabbed an oak tree trunk for support.
Bloody hell. Wasn’t it about time they gave him a prosthesis? He bent to rub his stump, still raw after all this time. Why wasn’t he healing?

Friday, May 18, 2012

First Year Indie

Alle Wells’ journey to publication has been filled with twists and turns. It has also been a journey of self-discovery. Now the author of three books, she graciously agreed to share the lessons she's learned . Welcome back to Book Blather, Alle.

One spring morning in 2011, I read an article in my local newspaper about self-publishing on Amazon. By that afternoon, I had an idea for my first story. Since the story was so magically inspired, I envisioned that it would be an instant success. Even though I had no credentials in journalism other than writing for small town newspapers and non-profit newsletters, I thought that Amazon would welcome me as a writer. After all, I had been one of their best customers through the years. After reading numerous how-to books about self-publishing, I finished my first heart-felt novel in less than three months and paid three times the going rate for a bad book cover. It took me an hour-and-a-half to copyright my first book and a three-day weekend to upload it to Amazon, Smashwords, and B&N.

The thought of social networking sky rocketed me out of my comfort zone. I created a Facebook page and joined the Amazon Thread network because the how-to books told me to do that. I’ve never been a very sociable person and felt awkward talking about myself on Facebook. I thought that Twitter was something that only celebrities did. “Talking” to people on the Amazon Thread introduced me to other struggling, newbie authors. Each one of my new friends said that if I purchased their book, then they would purchase mine. So I traded reviews with four people and that was it. A couple of months went by. My book was ranked 654,824 on Amazon, and I’d sold nothing on the other sites. I pulled it off the shelves, unable to face the thought of failure, the pressure of social networking, or tediousness of marketing. 

While sulking and crying in my soup, I re-read the motivational guides to self-publishing and continued to hang around on the Amazon Thread. Thinking that the bad cover was the culprit of my demise, I began talking to a cover design artist on the Thread. He was kind enough to share his marketing experience with me and designed a fantastic new cover for my book. I added a previously deleted chapter to the text with my new cover and re-published Lame Excuses.

 I learned how to tweet like a bird and forget my self-consciousness while online. I sold twenty-five thousand copies of Lame Excuses and began writing Railroad Man. Then the bad reviews came. Even though my very well-educated daughters helped me edit the book, the reviews painfully noted that I “needed a better editor." Lame Excuses was pulled from the shelf again and re-published as Lame Excuses, Revised Edition. The importance of having a professional editor is the most fundamental lesson I’ve learned during my first year as a writer. My editor is my valued friend. She has my back and keeps me afloat.

One year later, I’m not at the top of the charts on Amazon, but I’m gradually gaining speed. My three books are available only on Amazon, and I have a review blog dedicated to Amazon’s Indie Authors. My southern stories tell the story of one life and how society, beliefs, and culture shape the outcome of that life. Each ebook is approximately 140 pages.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to Marilee Brothers who was the first person to befriend me on Twitter and extend an invitation to her blog. People like Marilee inspire newcomers and make social networking worthwhile.

Book links:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness BLITZ

A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the world of books.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who read my books, follow and contribute to this blog and write reviews. Without you, I would exist in a vacuum.  If you're a writer, take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook.

Kindness ROCKS!

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ. And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

When I started writing Midnight Moon, I needed information about the juvenile justice system and detention facility in Yakima, Washington. I contacted detention manager, Jennifer Knight. She took me on a behind-the-scenes tour and answered all my questions. Now comes the bummer. When I wrote the synopsis, two editors looked it over and cut that particular plot element. Well, dang! All that research for nothing. However, I noticed a lot of the incarcerated teens reading in their cells. Jennifer told me they always need books. For my random act of kindness, I'll sign and donate the first four books in my series to the Yakima Juvenile Detention Center. When book 5, Midnight Moon, comes out next fall, I'll make sure they get a copy of it as well.

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge? Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round. :)

Becca and Angela have a special RAOK gift waiting for you as well, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness?  Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Twilight Effect


At the beginning of the Unbidden Magic Series, Allie Emerson is fifteen. In book five, Midnight Moon, Allie is seventeen. In the first book, Moonstone, she acquires her first sort of boyfriend, Junior Martinez. Nothing heavy. A few chaste kisses. In the second book, Moon Rise, Junior is among the missing. Allie is still fifteen and suffering from paralyzing guilt because she had to kill a bad guy in the first book. Her healer is a hot, half-demon teenager named Beck Bradford. Beck definitely wants more than a few chaste kisses. Allie does not. However they transition into a couple. In book three, Moon Spun, sixteen-year-old Allie is disgusted with the entire male gender, more specifically, Junior and Beck. Enter Ryker Matheson, bad boy biker/ faery prince. Let me make this perfectly clear. Allie does not consider Ryker to be boyfriend material even though he insists she is to become his bride in Boundless, aka faeryland. She is put into a position where she has to trust Ryker, but considers him a friend, not boyfriend material.

Allow me to share some of the comments made by reviewers regarding Allie’s alliances. Bear in mind, we are talking about a teenage girl.

“My first thought on this novel is that Allie must have pheromones that smell like Godiva chocolate to boys. Brothers could be a billionaire if she bottled it up and sold it as perfume.”

“I didn't like that Allie was with a different guy in this book.”

“Another boyfriend? Oh, please! Is Allie turning into a skank?”

"With a third love interest, Allie looks like a boy hopper."

Okay, call me crazy, but I blame it on Bella and Edward. It’s the Twilight Effect. From the moment Bella first caught sight of Edward’s marble brow, it was true love. Forever love. Vampire-wedding-in-the-rain-forest-love. Consequently, we now have a bajillion readers of young adult fantasy who think teenage girl protagonists are supposed to fall in forever love with the first boy they meet and never look back.

My turn to say, “Oh, please!” Have teenage girls changed that much since I was fifteen? I don’t think so. I tried to portray Allie as a typical teen with typical teenage angst even though her situation is far from normal.

 After spending many years as a high school teacher and counselor, it’s been my observation that most teenage girls change boyfriends regularly. There’s always the exception, of course, but if we’re going to keep it real, most girls aren’t labeled “skanks” if they don’t pick one guy and stay with him until they both qualify for Medicare. So, let’s give Allie a break and let her grow up before she picks a mate for life.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fantasy Author Renee Rearden

Our guest today is Renee Rearden, author of Moonlight Bleu and the soon to be released, Crimson Sunset. Because our birthdays are only 1 day apart and we both love to write fantasy, I consider Renee my Gemini sister from different mister. I’ve wanted to interview her for ages and finally managed to pin her down. Welcome, Renee.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I suppose I have. When I was ten I tried to write a song. Since I couldn’t play a musical instrument and I knew nothing about love—other than a brief fourth grade crush—the result was a miserable flop. But reading had always been my passion. I devoured books. Every librarian knew me by name. Then I grew up. Got married. Started a career. Had children. Learned to play the piano—and still couldn’t write songs. Music doesn’t move me. Words do. So when I ran out of books to read by my favorite authors, I decided to write a story I’d want to read…and I’ve never looked back.

You have a family and a demanding day job. How do you carve out the time for writing?

Any way I can! Finding creative me time is a battle. In my job as an official court reporter, I spend my days in the courtroom creating a record of the proceedings and more time outside of the courtroom transcribing that record upon request. So, time is a commodity I need more of. Thankfully, my husband works rotating shifts and we only have two teenagers at home now. They’re all pretty self-sufficient.

Oh, and the short answer to your question: I’m an insomniac. I write instead of sleep.

What was the most influential book or author you’ve read? Tell us how it affected or influenced you.

The most influential book I’ve ever read? Jaws. I was in the fourth grade when I filched my mom’s Reader’s Digest copy. Read it in one night, under the covers with a flashlight. She never knew…until we went to the beach that summer on vacation. I refused to get in the water. Eventually I came clean. She extracted a promise: I would ask about adult books before I read them so she could make sure I didn’t read anything that would scare me.

That wasn’t what you meant was it?   =D

My answer is still Jaws. The action and suspense sucked me into the story. Each character had these personalities that just popped. I cared about them. I rooted for them. I cried for them. And the terrifying shark attacks? They fed my growing interest in the frightening realm of bloody horror.

As an author, I try very hard to bring all of those elements into my own novels. If I don’t create an interesting world filled with characters that draw attention, readers won’t care enough to root for them. So the seed for writing was planted early. Finding my voice came later.

What are your favorite books? What are you reading right now?

Wow, what a tough question. Am I going to duck this? Kinda.

I LOVE to read, and I’m not exclusive to one genre. I enjoy any book that’s well written. Having put that out there, I am partial to anything that falls in the realm of the paranormal, supernatural or fantasy. (I think because my day job is so “real life” the escapism is necessary.)

I’m currently reading Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick.

Tell us something about yourself that people wouldn’t guess.

Several days a week I dry my hair in the car vents at stoplights on my way to work. Yes, I’m that driver Allstate warns you about.

Okay. How about I’m an introverted extrovert? No, seriously. Even though I’m an outgoing gal that loves to talk (you already know that), I’m sort of shy.  At my job I work around a lot of people, but I don’t really interact with many of them. When I’m in a crowd of people I don’t know, I tend to sit back and watch. Get a feel for the personalities. Of course, once I’m comfortable around a person, watch out!

Crimson Sunset, the second book in your series is about to be published. How many books do you plan in the series?

Right now, there are six plotted. Depending on how the story and characters are progressing, there could be more. I haven’t planned for more. I love books that are a series. But eventually a series reaches an ending point, and I’ll make sure the Tueri Fated Souls series finishes at the right time.

Do you relate to a specific character in your books? Maybe Saari?


Is it that obvious? I definitely relate to Saari. Nearly everyone feels like an outsider at some point in their life. Whether one is searching for their identity or a specific path to follow, that lost feeling and lack of control is familiar to us all.

Do you consider yourself a romance writer?

*more chuckling*

I didn’t when I started writing. In fact, I was told my stories didn’t have enough romance in them. Do I now? You bet. I love urban fantasies and paranormal romance. The cool part about writing is mashing genres together and adding elements I want into each story. It’s working so far anyway…

What are you working on now?

I have several projects in the works. I’m currently writing a novel for an in-house line with Crescent Moon Press. I’ve already started book three in the Tueri Fated Souls series. I’m also about half finished with a young adult novel. Hoping to have all three of those completed this year. Then there are the two other series and multiple short stories taking up space in my head. Boy, do I hear voices!

What advice do you have for writers? Any mistakes that you want others to avoid?

Huh, advice for writers. Okay, two things.

First, exercise your creativity daily—yes, write something every day. Imagination is a muscle. If it’s not used and flexed regularly, it atrophies. Writer’s block becomes the norm instead of the exception.

Second, read. Read often and vary your genre. Not only is it important to read in the genre one writes in, it’s helpful to read other genres and see what ideas, styles, and voices are resonating with readers. Writing is hard work—but oh, what a rush!

  Renee Rearden had such a passion for the written word, she changed her major in college and received a Court Reporting degree. Now, instead of just writing down what everybody else says, she spends some of her time writing paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, where she is currently working on her latest novel. 

For more about Renee, her books and reviews, please go to her website: www.reneerearden.com.

 You'll also find her in the following places: www.twitter.com/; ReneeRearden, 

 www. facebook.com/ReneeRearden and

Friday, May 4, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog

It is my pleasure to welcome the newest member of the Book Blather staff. Cheryl Dale has published in multiple children’s and adult magazines and is currently working hard to get that first book contract. Shel writes Christian fiction and non-fiction, young adult and middle grade novels and loves to dabble with picture books as well.  She is trying to keep up with the social media explosion but still resorts back to a number two pencil and a lined tablet to get her jumbled thoughts out and in order. Be sure to check out her blog, Climbing Out of the Valley.

To Blog or not to Blog – That is the Question

If you are anything like me you resisted starting your own blog for a long time, knowing it would be a lot of work, take a lot of time and probably not be read by anyone anyway.  I finally got tired of resisting the constant nagging voice in my head that kept telling me to just do it. 
I gave in a few weeks ago and can honestly say I’m glad I did.   Blogging has helped me as a writer in several ways.

1)     Discipline:  I decided I would post twice a week, on Monday and Friday.  That hasn’t always been easy.  I didn’t consider the fact that Monday and Friday are often the busiest days of my week.  But, I’m doing it.  Some days a hundred excuses come to mind for why I should skip it just this one time.  I have not given into the temptation and the discipline has helped me develop a great habit called plant it and write it – before you tweet, surf or do anything else.

2)    Education:  I am learning so much about social media by developing my own blog, checking out other blogs for examples, challenging myself to try something new, and troubleshooting when I get in a bind.  I’m the original “all I need is a pen and paper” girl but through this activity I am moving into the new world of writers.  It’s been enlightening, exasperating and fun.

3)    Encouragement:  There’s nothing like feedback to get you pumped up (or not depending on the flavor of the feedback).  My experience is that, for the most part, people are kind and only respond when they have something nice to say.  And isn’t that fuel for every writer – the knowledge that someone is reading your stuff and liking it?

4)    Friends:  I am meeting like minded people and being invited to read their blogs.  I’m finding some great stuff out there to inspire and nurture my own creativity.  As a writer yet to snag an agent or get a book in print, I’m finding so much support from first time authors, prolific authors and authors striving just like me for that big break.

5)    Satisfaction:  I’m seeing my writing in a new dimension when I call up my blog.  Instead of just the typed page in my computer, or the scribbled page in my notebook (I still revert to pen and paper now and then) I am seeing it in a published format.  I’m proofreading better.  I’m critiquing better.  I’m spending more time making sure there is depth and purpose in what I write.

6)    Marketing:  I am taking a small step in the area of marketing myself.  I don’t think this part of being an author comes easy to many.  Some of us struggle more than others promoting ourselves.  The blog has me stepping out a little more.  I started by sending the link to a few friends and my voice was kind of “hey, you might want to read this”.  I’ve advanced to mentioning it on Twitter and including my web address in correspondence.  My voice is more “Hey, check this out.”  Who knows, I might get to the “Hey, you don’t know what you’re missing!” stage one of these days.

Here’s my encouragement to anyone thinking about blogging.  Do it.  Don’t worry about how many people read it or follow it.  Do it for yourself as a tool in your writer’s tool box.  Just be willing to take suggestions.  I recently had a friend tell me my picture was too matronly and I needed to exchange it for one of me in my Harley garb.  I’m thinking about that.  Be critical of what you put out there, check out other blogs, ask for advice, ask for help.  And if you are like me, pray a lot.  My best inspiration comes from divine intervention. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Today's Guest: Wine and Cheese.

How about some wine and cheese to go along with your current read? Plus a recipe for wild mushroom risotto. If so, you came to the right place. Many thanks to Durella DeGrasse, certified wine professional, and Chef Jean Denham for the following contribution to Book Blather.

An Informal Wine's Uncomplicated Charm
I was so happy when my local Costco, where I work as the Wine Specialist, began getting some Italian, French and Spanish wines in stock. We've had a very poor selection of these countries' wines as long as I've been an employee. Realizing that the warehouse is situated at the beginning of wine country in Washington state, this Costco has made a real effort to showcase Washington wines. But there are knowledgeable and sophisticated wine buyers in the region, so I was excited that with our new offerings we would have a better global wine selection.
I guess there are some really rich people who love wine and have plenty of money but are still looking for house wines: straightforward, inexpensive and tasty and which require little money to buy and little effort to enjoy. These are the kinds of wines to keep around at all times, simply to pop open and enjoy when you get home from work. Which brings me to the title wine: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. This is an inexpensive wine that is charming, so easy, and so drinkable that it seems like part of the family as soon as it's opened.
Montepulciano d' Abruzzo is made from the Montepulciano grape from the Abruzzo region of Italy. This is a wine "to drink," not "taste." So instead of swirling, sniffing, tasting... just enjoy it! These wines are generally pillow soft, with raspberries, blueberries and sometimes blackberries on the nose and on the palate. Many of the Montepulciano d' Abruzzos are not oaked but there is often minerality. The minerals give the wine depth and call out for food and/or more wine. This is a great wine with pizza.
Because the wine is so affordable, I am happy that people are trying an Old World wine instead of just picking up the least expensive wine from the new world (California, Washington or Australia).

                       WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO
Makes 3 to 4 servings

1/2 ounce (about 1/2 cup) dried mushrooms, diced
3 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup (8 ounces) arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1/2 cup parmesan, grated 3/4 cup
fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Soak dried mushrooms (porcini and morel work great) in 1 cup cold water for 30 minutes, then drain and dice. Heat stock in small saucepan and leave on low heat.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan and add onion. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add Arborio rice and continue to stir until grains are coated. Stir in diced mushrooms and add 1/2 cup stock while stirring continuously until liquid is almost gone (add wine now if using).

Continue to add stock 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until all stock has been used up. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan and serve! Garnish with extra Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Cook’s tip: to add flavor to the dish, add peas just as the risotto is almost ready to serve.

Basil and goat Cheese Dip
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
1 cup soft goat’s cheese (Chèvre)
3 Tablespoons garlic-infused oil

Process the walnut pieces, scallions & basil leaves, then add the goat cheese and oil; process again to make a grainy paste. Transfer to a bowl. You can use feta in place of goat cheese.

a Chef’s Journey tip: for easy infused garlic oil, heat the 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauce pan with 1 large clove of garlic minced. Just bring to a simmer, don’t allow to boil, and remove from heat. Let sit until cool before using.