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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Void



Is there a sadder state for an author than being between books?
I think not. I think there is nothing more bored, more vacant and vapid than an author's brain between books.
At least that's how it is for my brain. Maybe mine is exceptionally small to be that way, but it's true.
It's small enough to enjoy a few hours playing Farmville:




Picture this:
there she is, that elderly woman with too many pounds on her frame, sitting in the corner of the couch, her laptop on her knees, and her eyes are straying across the room, out of the window, into the middle distance, into the nowhere of not-writing.
On her headphones, she's listening to Mike Batt's Caravan Song, performed by Barbara Dickson, and images and ideas flit by, too small to be a story, too big to ignore, but her brain is in vacation mode.

Me, that author without a project, I'm that woman: a heart without a purpose, fingers in search of a keyboard, an imagination running wild.
The exhaustion from finishing the last project lingers, but somewhere deep inside, the drive to write is simmering, a small flame, but too close to the well of oil that's creativity to stay small for very long. All it needs to do is reach out one fire finger, and we'll be off, that imagination, my heart, my fingers, and I.

I wonder if there are writers who really feel well between books. Writers who can step back and enjoy what others call "life", that state that happens when you don't write.
But me, I'm not happy. I'm not unhappy, either. I'm just… not.

Last night, lying awake in bed, I heart Jon Stone talk to me.
You know who he is, I'm sure: the hero of my Stone Trilogy, the husband of Naomi, the rock star.
He said, "The heart has two chambers so that you can love more than one thing or person at the same time. If it had only one, I'd never have been able to love my children, because my love for my wife is so overpowering. Yes, you can love more than one thing, and without stealing from it."
Strangely enough, nearly at the same moment, my hubby asked me if I ever got up in the middle of night to write.
Little did he know that just about then I was nearly ready to do that, afraid that this likeness about the chambers of the heart would be forgotten in the morning.

It's true; I came to writing late in life, at the doorstep to the winter of my life. It doesn't change a thing, though. The pull is strong, and enticing enough to make me want to write nearly all the time.
And… I guess I must end the vacation mode soon.

There's only so much Farmville I can take.







Monday, April 7, 2014

FOLLOW THE BATON: A WRITERS' BLOG HOP!





The Follow the Baton blog hop is well underway!

I caught the baton from author friend Wendy van Camp.
When Wendy invited me to take up the baton from her, I immediately agreed. A writer should grab every chance at getting some exposure, and this blog hop is one of the nicest ways!
Let me introduce you to Wendy.



Wendy Van Camp is the writer behind No Wasted Ink. She makes her home in Southern California with her husband and an Australian shepherd. Wendy enjoys travel, camping, bicycling, gourmet cooking and gemology. Currently, Wendy has published two short stories in literary magazines and is working on a steampunk science fiction trilogy.
You can find her here: http://nowastedink.com




So here's my contribution to the Baton Blog Hop!


1.  What am I working on? 

I just finished a new project today, my first mystery, sort of mystery; it’s really more of a romance. After finishing the Stone Trilogy and its prequels Waiting for a Song (release: June 3rd.) and The Rosewood Guitar (release: September 2nd.) I was ready for a fresh setting, fresh characters, and for a new subject.
The Snows of Sunset Bay has a tie-in to the Stone books though. I couldn’t completely let go of Jon and Naomi. It’s fun to look at them through an outsider’s eye. They come across as nice people, fun people, but also as a couple that really doesn’t need anyone else in their dance of love. I’m forever lured to have normal people meet rock star Jon Stone in an everyday setting away from the stage, where he’s (of course) a more glamorous version of himself.
Sunset Bay is set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, which is totally different from my earlier settings, like New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto. It’s also written in 1st. POV, which was a new experience for me, but a very pleasant one.
The ideas for the sequel are all there, all I need is to open a new Scrivener file and write them down. I want to finish the sequel before I travel to Vancouver Island and the US in September.




2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

When my publisher and I had our first lunch together we talked about the genre thing. 
I said, "The Distant Shore isn’t really a romance.” My publisher nodded sagely and replied, “No, it isn’t.”
I also said, “It’s really hard to write a synopsis for it,” and again she readily agreed. So—we know what my books are not. They’re not romance, not mystery, not crime, and somehow, not even women’s fiction. They’re less than each of these pieces, and yet, taken together, more than all of them combined.
We never managed to really define my novels, however. They still run under the label “Modern Romance/Contemporary Fiction”. I think that’s as good as it gets, genre-wise.
Why aren’t my books Romance?
Because they aren’t. They are more than just romances, which follow a basic formula: people fall in love, they overcome some sort of problem, and then they get their happy ending.

Mine don’t. Mine don’t get their happy ending—or at least not always—and love is a hard, often painful, sometimes even destructive thing. They have to wrestle with it, endure it, and even abandon it, before they understand it. They also have to realize that what they thought was love often is just an illusion, and that the love that’s waiting for them is something else altogether.
There are no sex scenes in my books, at least not explicit ones.

I prefer to stop writing when the first pieces of clothes fall. I respect my characters too much to intrude on their intimacy. 
Don’t get me wrong—I can and did write erotic scenes. But I find that my novels are better without them, so I leave what goes on behind closed doors to the reader’s imagination.


3.  Why do I write what I do? 

Oh gosh, I have no idea.
I’m one of those writers who writes what pops into their minds. I don’t think or plan what I write. There’s a story idea, sometimes just an idea for a setting, and I start to write.
While I do enjoy writing the occasional SciFi short story, when I write a novel, it’s always about real people, and their real problems, dreams, and wishes.
When I began writing The Distant Shore, I wanted to examine the disparities in a celebrities life. I wanted to take the stage image apart and show a very famous, very adored rock star in the solitude of a dressing room before and after a show, and the loneliness that comes with having to live behind high walls to keep the fans away. And I wanted to show him as a vulnerable man with dreams and yearnings, battling with loss and depression. At that moment when he’s ready to give up on life despite all he has, he receives a letter that changes his life and gives him a chance at a new beginning.

I think in the end all stories and all novels are basically about this: new beginnings, new chances, and how they change a person.
The German literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki once said, “All novels are only ever about two things: love, and death. Everything else is humbug.”
I think the man has a point.


4. How does your writing process work?

Easy: I make coffee, open a Scrivener file, and write.
Really. That’s all. I don’t like making a drama about it. I wrote Distant Shore while I was supervising the detention room at a local middle school. Whenever I had a free moment, I added another sentence or paragraph. At home, after school, after doing my household chores, and cooking for my family, I’d write. Back then I didn’t have an office. I wrote on the couch in the living room, my laptop on my knees, headphones clamped over my ears, while my family watched TV, or the boys played on the xBox… if that’s how you start writing, nothing at all will ever bother you again while you write.
I’ve written chapters in the boarding area at the airport, on the train, at my publisher’s dining table, on an Airbus 380 en route from JFK airport to Frankfurt, Germany. 
I’m writing this on the couch, like my first novel, listening to Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck, conducted by Riccardo Muti.
My hubby brought me an after-lunch espresso a moment ago, and while I’m writing, he’s doing his Saturday afternoon Sudoku.


And as soon as I’m done with this interview, I’ll open that new Scrivener file and start writing the sequel to The Snows of Sunset Bay.


I'm passing the baton to two amazing author friends.

Please meet Faye Rapoport desPres, who's a fellow-author at Buddhapuss Ink LLC, and whose first book,  Message from a Blue Jay, will release this April.




BIOGRAPHY

Faye Rapoport DesPres was born in New York City, and over the years she has lived in upstate New York, Colorado, England, Israel, and Massachusetts. She has spent much of her professional writing career as a journalist and business/non-profit writer. In 2010, Faye earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College’s Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program, where she studied creative nonfiction.

Early in her career, Faye worked as a writer for environmental organizations that focused on protecting wildlife and natural resources. In 1999, after switching to journalism, she won a Colorado Press Association award as a staff writer for a Denver weekly newspaper, where she wrote news stories, features, and interviews.

Faye’s freelance work has since appeared in The New York Times, Animal Life, Trail and Timberline and a number of other publications. Her personal essays, fiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Ascent, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, damselfly press, Eleven Eleven, Fourth Genre, Hamilton Stone Review, Necessary Fiction, Platte Valley Review, Prime Number Magazine, Superstition Review, The Whistling Fire and the Writer’s Chronicle.

Faye currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul, and their four rescued cats. She is an Adjunct Professor of English at Lasell College. 

You can find Faye here: http://fayerapoportdespres.com





And please meet Cindy:


Cindy Zelman is a graduate of the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals including Tinge Magazine: Temple University’s Online Literary Journal, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Feminist Studies, Sinister Wisdom, The Whistling Fire, The Huffington Post, TMI Project.Org, and Cobalt Review. Her chapbook: What’s in a Butch’s Purse and Other Humorous Essays is available for pre-order in print or instant download for e-book from Winged City Chapbook Press http://www.wingedcitychapbooks.com. Her short story, “The Cross Dresser,” was recently accepted for publication in Steam Ticket: A Third Coast Review. To read her blog “The Early Draft” and to find a list of her publications, see www.cindyzelman.com.

Twitter: @cindy2zzz




Her chapbook What’s in a Butch’s Purse and Other Humorous Essays will be up for pre-order soon!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentine's Giveaway!

LAST CHANCE TO ENTER - ENDS TOMORROW!
Valentine's Day is right around the corner and we've got a link to a great Valentine's Date giveaway with chances to win a $250 pre-paid Master card, $150 pre-paid Master card, or a Kindle Paperwhite eReader!

Want more chances to win AND get a great read for next to no cash? Get 10 extra chances by buying a copy of Mariam's award-winning bestseller, The Distant Shore, AND for the next two days you can get it for just $.99! WOO HOO

It's a breeze to enter, just follow the link for more information!







Thursday, January 16, 2014

Michelle4Laughs- It's In The Details: Getting the Call: Mariam Kobras


The Story of my Life: 


"Some things in life happen when you least expect them.
When I woke up on that cold and dreary November morning in 2010 and decided to write a novel, I had no idea that only two years later, it would be published, and go on to win a Bronze Independent Publisher Book Award."

Read the whole story on Michelle Hauck's blog, where I'm a guest blogger today.
Thank you so much, Michelle! 


Michelle4Laughs- It's In The Details: Getting the Call: Mariam Kobras: Call stories come in all forms, but this one takes an unconventional path.  See how Mariam Kobras befriended her way into showcasing her talent for a publishing contract…





Monday, January 6, 2014

For the Love of Small Things






The other day, taking out the trash, I met one of my neighbors out front.
We said "hi" to each other, I asked her how her kids were doing, she asked me about mine, we chatted about the weather for a while, and then she looked at me thoughtfully and said, "Are you still writing books?"
"Yes," I replied, and told her about what I'd written in the past few months, and about the upcoming releases. I told her about my books on the shelves of our local bookstore, and how I'd won two Independent Publishers' Awards for The Distant Shore and Under the Same Sun.





Picking up her trash can, she emptied it, and said, "But you're only with a small publisher, aren't you? I mean, not a real publisher."

I laughed.
Yes, I answered, I'd signed with a small publisher, an indie house in New Jersey, and it was the best decision of my life. Well – maybe the second best, after saying "yes" when my hubby proposed, some thirty-five years ago.

And yes, Buddhapuss Ink is a "real" publisher, I said. Size doesn't always matter. Quality, though, always does.

I told her how from Moment One my publisher had taken care of me, how they weren't only interested in my book, but also in me, as an author, and how they gently and patiently guided me through the many pitfalls of suddenly being a public person.
I tried to tell my neighbor how being an author is more than just writing book, that it means marketing your product, giving interviews, doing book signings, and that from now on I'd have to watch what I said, and not offend anyone, and all this while staying myself.
I told her how, that day when I signed with Buddhapuss Ink, my publisher and I celebrated on twitter, how we laughed together about the serendipity that had led us to this point in our lives, and how I'd never regretted my decision for one single moment.

She grumbled something and walked away.
I called "Have a nice day" after her, but there was no response.
What a shame; I'd so have loved to explain to her what quality in a publishing house means for an author, and it certainly isn't size.

Here's my little list of important attributes for a good publisher, regardless of small or big, from an author's point of view:

A good publisher has excellent expertise. They know everything about publishing, they have experience, they follow the market sharply, and all the time.

A good publisher will know which marketing strategies are the best for their authors' books, and they'll develop them, together with their authors.

A good publisher takes care of their authors; they don't let newbie authors stand in the rain, or let them figure out their new job on their own.

A good publisher involves their authors in every step of the publishing process, including the cover design.

A good publisher encourages their authors to write more, get better, expand their skills.

A good publisher will let their authors grow, and develop their own personal and writing style, and not ask them to be someone else.

A good publisher will celebrate with their authors when things are going great, and they'll support them when things are rough. But they won't drop you.

A good publisher will be fun to work with!

A good publisher will even help you design the new header for your blog, because they want it to be perfect.

And: a good publisher (a REAL publisher!) will never, ever ask the author to pay for any services, because a good publisher is a real publisher, and not a vanity press!

My publisher is a small publishing house. My publisher is an excellent publishing house!

Take that, neighbor!




Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dear 2013

Dear 2013,

you were a good year.
You were also a long and often boring year, but that's okay. I missed traveling, that's why you seemed to drag a bit. But the good things far outweigh a few days of boredom. Really.

Let's see.
You started out as always, with a nice party and lots of champagne, and with disappointingly mild weather, when we all wanted snow for Christmas and NYE. You heard us ask for that, and you brought us the coldest spring in history, only you forgot the snow. I'm telling you, icy cold without snow just isn't fun!
The one thing that made your tantrums bearable – except hot chocolate and heating – was this:



My second book won the Silver Independent Publishers Award.
I'll not lie. It was totally unexpected. Under the Same Sun was my second book, and I felt totally insecure about it. My first book, Distant Shore, had been ripped out of my hands by my publisher before it was even properly finished; I'd written it for myself, and never thought of publishing, and there I was, in May 2013, with two published books, and both of them with awards.
Unreal.

In July, my third book was released by my publisher Buddhapuss Ink.
In a moment of quirkiness I'd asked them if the launch day could be my birthday, and they readily agreed. So that's what happened: we had double reason to celebrate!




My mom made that marble cake. The cream cake is a caipirinha cake, made by my daughter-in-law.
And yes, that's a theme cake, with my book cover on it! For those who want to know: there was chocolate cream cake under the marzipan.

I took a huge risk writing Song of the Storm. My publisher wasn't very happy when I first told them that I was going to write about 9/11, but once the book was written and the good reviews started rolling in they breathed a breath of relief, and I knew I'd done the right thing.
Readers posted pics of themselves, reading Song of the Storm:



and




and




and this is how my copies arrived: with the IPPY certificate, and the medal for Under the Same Sun as an extra-bonus!



And the coolest EVER for a writer is to see their books at the bookstore!



While all this went down, I wrote two new books.
They're prequels to the Stone Trilogy, and they'll be released next year.

No, wait. THIS year! It's 2014, and that makes THIS year the year these two will be published:




So all in all, you were a very good year, 2013.
I have a lot to be thankful for: my family is healthy and doing well, we live in a country where it's peaceful and we don't have to worry about bombs, persecution, hunger or repression.
I have wonderful friends, both near and far, and some of those far away I'll be seeing again this year.

This is what I wish for all my friends and family for the new year:
stay safe, stay healthy, have a lot of fun! Thank you for being in this world!











Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tales from Frewyn Blog Hop!



Follow the tour!



Once again, author friend Michelle Franklin rocks the boat with her Frewyn stories! Follow her on her blog hop to celebrate Tales of Frewyn Vol.2 and meet all the lovely characters as they stumble, wander and trot through their adventures!



Featuring appearances from thirty of the Haanta series' most beloved characters, Tales from Frewyn Volume Two pays tribute to the animals that inhabit the world of the Two Continents. From Mr Cluck, the rooster that refuses to crow, to Tuatha, the stubborn Westren longhorn, the series boasts a multitude of strange and wonderful creatures, including traveling mice, mischievous mares, vicious rats, and eloquent gulls. Join everyone in Khantara Ghaasta, the Diras Castle keep, and the far reaches of Westren and Haantaledhran in honouring their feathered companions and furred friends with this collection of their most daring and delightful episodes.

Buy the book atAmazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Smashwords

Read-Along: The Rat, Pt. 3

To the barracks they went, leaving Martje to fumble about in the wreck of pots and pans hunting for her new nemesis.
"Not another mouse is it?" said Sheamas, setting his consignment down.
"Worse," said Shayne.
Sheamas looked dreadful. "Gods be praised, it's never a rat, is it?"
"So I heard."
Sheamas removed his hat and held it to his heart. "May the Gods preserve us," he said solemnly. "Martje will tear the place apart lookin' for it, even if it's not in the kitchen anymore. Once, when Ma was just teachin' her how to cook, she found a rat scratching about in the pantry. It was a small one, but it scared her somethin' terrible. Lochan had been keepin' it as a pet for the winter and was lettin' it wander around the house. He kept it clean and it was harmless, but the moment Martje saw it, that was the end of all peace. She hollered and hallooed, and chased it round till she flattened it with her pan."
Shayne grimaced.
"Aye. She cleaned it up and buried it outside, but when Lochan heard about it, he cried for a week." Sheamas replaced his cap and scratched his neck. "On the farms, we all got mice, but they mostly stay in the barn or keep to themselves. Nothin' to be done for it in the country. Here in the city, though, a rat in a home means somethin' else. Worse on you, Shayne, if you ever got a mouse or a rat in your cottage."
"If I do somewheres, I hope she never finds 'em," said Shayne, with a horrified aspect. "She near broke the furnace when it wasn't heatin' proper. I can't think of what she's gonna do to the range if she sees a mouse a-scurryin' across it." Shayne mused momentarily, taking his pipe from the front of his overalls and chewing on the end. "But she grew up on the farm," he said, confused. "Mice are everywhere in the fields, a-runnin' across your feet and all."
"You're assumin' she ever left the house," Sheamas chuckled.
Shayne made a grave thrum and folded his arms, biting the end of his pipe.
Sheamas secured the lid on the consignment and prayed to the Gods, asking that the rat, wherever it was, have the good sense to leave the keep before Martje find it. His heart went out to the creature, for having seen how the business was handled when there was a mouse in their mother's home, he sincerely wished that no creature be put through such torment for doing what nature had designed. It was only cold and hungry and probably lost, but Shayne was asking Sheamas to come into the armoury and say hello to Tomas, and the rat must be left to its fate.
Word of the rat's presence soon spread throughout the keep, and from everyone's reaction, the small creature might as well have been a vulture, come to roost on the battlement and lay siege to the castle: the nobles locked themselves in their apartments with their card tables and tea, the servants lifted the hems of their skirts and hid in the servants' hall, and though everyone was in some manner or other aware of the creature skulking and slenching about, no one was more sensible of its presence than the king.
The moment the commander broke the news to him, the king replied with a slightly discomposed "Oh..." stood from his seat in the library, where he was looking over the matters at court for the day, and began inching toward the door. He looked under tables, around corners, behind chairs, even beneath his parchments. "Well," said Alasdair, after a moment's pause, "I'm certainly glad I didn't eat anything this morning."
"It probably wandered in from the square," said Boudicca. "It is collection day. It probably came from one of the waste carts."
Alasdair was instantly horrified. "That means it's going to bring all its filth and disease here." He shuddered in quiet anguish and sidled the commander, looking charily about his feet.
"Diras Castle is the cleanest home on the Two Continents, Alasdair," she laughed. "One rat shall not ruin your reputation as the shining master of Frewyn's premiere house."
"No, but the rat might find its way into my closet and gnaw on my jerkins and gnash through my bow strings."
"Poor you, Alasdair. And this is what discomposes Frewyn's king, not a declaration of war, not a rebellion, not even the sight of Rosse's unconscionably tight galligaskins, but a rat."
"As horrifying as Rosse's clothing choices are," said Alasdair, searching under the nearby tables, "they are not contagious."
"I daresay they are. Atrocious fashion is far more catching in the courts than disease can ever be."
"Rats can carry rabies."
"And nobles carry fatuousness, which is the worst of the two, I assure you. Bilar can treat illness, Alasdair, but no cleric's remedy can cure ignorance."
Alasdair sighed. "Perhaps you're right. Perhaps I'm overacting--" but just then, a skree was heard in the hallway, the shrieks of young girls echoed throughout the keep, and Alasdair nearly leapt on the commander. "I'm calling the trapper," he said, in a panic.
"I think you need not trouble yourself when you have many proficient hunters in the keep, Alasdair. Gaumhin or Brigdan might help you."
"They are in the yard training with the Royal Guard. I'm not going to trouble them for this."
"But their king is in distress, and it is their duty to protect him."
Alasdair gave her a flat look. "I might ask the whole armed forces to search for the rat for that reason."
"And why not? It should be an excellent exercise for them. The Royal Guard are so busy marching about the borders of the keep, they might be in want of a little amusement. And what of Ennan? It might be good practice for him to be shooting at such a quickly moving target."
"If the rat should bite him, I would never forgive myself."
"You might ask Soledhan to charm it out of the keep."
"I want none of the children near it."
"And Khaasta?"
"Martje would never allow that cat in her kitchen again after all the milk it spoiled."
"My mate can be asked."
"So he can skin it and gut it and wear it as a trophy?"
The commander shrugged. "It will be dead, at least."
"I want no one I love going near it--not even Rautu. I know Martje is determined to kill it herself, but I cannot allow it knowing what infections this thing might be host to."
"Alasdair," said Boudicca laughingly, shaking her head, "you are far too scrupulous."
"I think you mean endearing in this instance."
"That as well. And what of your queen, Alasdair? Her workplace is not far from the kitchen. The rat might be lurking about her tailor this very moment."

About the Author: Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.
Follow the author at: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway is open internationally and ends on December 25, 2013. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter and announced on the widget as well as emailed; they will have 48 hours to respond. Failure to respond will result in a new winner being selected. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter, or any other entity unless otherwise specified. Number of eligible entries received determines odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Paper Crane Books and sponsored by both the press and the author. Void where prohibited by law.
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